Archive for Netherlands

Epica – Storm The Sorrow [Single]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , on 23rd January 2012 by Nico Solheim-Davidson

Band: Epica
Single: Storm The Sorrow
Release date: 20th January 2012
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast


I was first introduced to Epica’s music, by my brother, shortly after the release of their album “The Divine Conspiracy” but that didn’t stop me from falling in love with the stuff they released before that album. “Design Your Universe” felt like a let down compared to their previous albums, so obviously I’m hoping that the next album “Requiem for the Indifferent” [due for release early March] will be an improvement. Just a few short days ago, Epica released “Storm The Sorrow” as a single from the aforementioned album.

Straight away, the song begins with an overpowering symphonically beautiful tragic sound that pave the way for Simone’s vocals (which are on top form). Mark’s and Isaac’s guitar workings are well structured, carrying the use of symphonic melodies and choir vocals well throughout the song while the rhythm sections [drums and bass] offered up do much to keep the track sounding solid. Mark’s vocals make an appearance quite unexpectedly, with Simone’s vocals (At least I think her vocals – I could be wrong). the piano-vocal section that follows creates an oddly soothing aura within the music. “Storm The Sorrow” ends in a similar fashion to its beginning – staunch and symphonic.

Epica have proven themselves to be one of the finest symphonic metal acts on the European – and possibly the international – scene. If “Storm The Sorrow” is anything to go by then “Requiem for the Indifferent” might be the greatest Epica release to date. I don’t know about any of you, but I’m certainly looking forward to it now after hearing “Storm The Sorrow”.

Nico Davidson

Interview: Alex Brandsen [2011]

Posted in Interview with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 14th July 2011 by Nico Solheim-Davidson

Nico sits down with the “Dutch Drumming Machine” Alex Brandsen, talking about Cryptic Age’s tour and other things.

Nico: Good evening, Alex. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. You’re a drummer in two bands, Ravenage and Cryptic Age, how do you find it drumming for two bands? Is it something that’s naturally easy for you or have you, at times, struggled with it?

Alex: I really enjoy being in two bands, because even though Ravenage and Cryptic Age are relatively similar, I can express different styles and a different overall feeling in the two bands, with Ravenage being more straight, aggressive and fun drumming and Cryptic Age being more subtle, symphonic and ‘intelligent’ if you will. I generally don’t have any problems with drumming in two bands, although I did accidentally started drumming a Cryptic Age riff at a Ravenage rehearsal once…

N: That must have being embarrassing. Speaking of Ravenage, you’re due to tour with them [and Cryptic Age] later this year on the “Warhorns over Aengland” tour. Are you excited about it or are you feeling nervous?

A: Very excited! Really looking forward to touring with Nothgard, and doing some gigs outside of Yorkshire. Not nervous about it really, the nerves usually only kick in 10 minutes before a gig!

N: That’s usually the worse time for the nerves to kick. You recently played Metieval Requiem with both Cryptic Age and Ravenage while sharing the stage with Hecate Enthroned and Skyclad. How was it for you personally to share the stage with two big name bands in the underground metal scene like them?

A: It’s of course a great honour to play with big bands like them, especially Skyclad, as they practically invented folk metal.

N: Speaking of folk metal, Cryptic Age are unique within the folk metal scene due to having a female vocalist. Since the scene is more male-orientated, do you feel that this might be help Cryptic Age become more known?

A: Well there are a couple of folk metal bands that have female vocalists (e.g. Arkona), but the thing that makes Cryptic Age special in my opinion is that Jenny’s got a very wide vocal range, and sings entirely clean. We don’t use any harsh vocals, and that is quite unique I think. I definitely think this is something that works in our advantage, and may well get us some more fans along the road.

N: Cryptic Age recently released the “Homeland” EP. Is there any sort of concept or theme running through the entire EP?

A: Well there isn’t an overall theme or concept to the album, but most of our songs are based on either fantasy and/or mythology, especially Manx mythology and folklore.

N: Is there any reason for the influence from Manx mythology and folklore or is it just something that occurred naturally?

A: It definitely came naturally, although the main reason for the Manx influence is that Jenny is from the Isle of Man. We didn’t really have any influences or themes to go on before writing the songs on the EP. The first part of Homeland (sung in Manx Gaelic) was originally going to be a 1-min intro to the EP, and by then the lyrics of Homeland hadn’t been written yet. Then we put it at the beginning of the track and when we did that the rest of the lyrics about Jenny missing her homeland fell into place. We’ve sort of kept the mythology thing going ever since. Also, instead of writing songs about Norse mythology like most folk metal bands, Celtic mythology comes more naturally to us because it’s closer to our origins, and gives the songs a unique twist I think.

N: Well, Celtic and Manx influences certainly are refreshing for some who are bored of the whole Viking based form of folk metal. Just a few more questions now. Before joining Cryptic Age and Ravenage, did you play in any other bands?

A: I was in a mathcore band for a couple of years when I was still living in the Netherlands, but had to quit that band because I moved to York for my degree back in 2009. I didn’t play in a band for a year, but when I finished my masters in the summer of 2010 I wanted to play live again, and started looking for a band. I found Cryptic Age on gumtree, and soon joined Ravenage as well via Tom, who just joined as their new bassist.

N: You certainly don’t look like a mathcore drummer. Regarding Cryptic Age, are there any events you’re looking forward to partaking in with the band? Aside from the EP release show.

A: We’ve got the Metal 2 The Masses final coming up on the 24th, quite excited about being able to play in front of the Bloodstock judges, and really hoping to win it of course. And then there’s a gig with Old Corpse Road in September, which I’m really looking forward to, as OCR are one of the best local black metal acts out there in my opinion.

N: Sounds like it’s going to be a great year for you and the rest of Cryptic Age then. Final question, are there any bands from both the UK and Dutch underground metal scenes that you’d recommend that our readers check out? Or at least keep an eye out for? Also, thanks again for taking the time to talk with us today, Alex.

A: Except for Old Corpse Road mentioned before, I’d recommend giving Onheil a listen, a blackened metal band from the Netherlands. For a band in the local underground scene, I’d recommend Lost Effect, a melodic metal band from York, who will be supporting us on our EP release gig this Friday.

Cryptic Age will be performing at Stereo in York tomorrow night [15th July] with support from Windrider and Lost Effect. £5 OTD. Doors open at 7.30pm

MaYaN – Quarterpast [2011]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 3rd June 2011 by Nico Solheim-Davidson

Band: MaYaN
Album: Quarterpast
Release Year: 2011
Genre: Symphonic Death Metal/Progressive Metal

Dutch symphonic death metal sextet is the latest project by Epica guitarist Mark Jansen.  Their debut album is “Quarterpast” which features some well known names from the European Metal scene including Simone Simons [Epica], Floor Jansen [ReVamp, ex-After Forever] and Henning Basse [Sons of Seasons]. The subtitle for the album is “Symphonic Death Metal Opera” which promises a brilliant story behind the songs.

The album begins with “Symphony Of Aggression” which already hints at pure death metal styled brutality. The intro riff pulls no punches, bringing a heavy barrage of double bass drum and distorted, skull-crushing guitars. The introduction of Mark’s grunts completes the track. The symphonic sections add a certain calm to the storm that is “Symphony Of Aggression” whilst the whispered section brings a touch of eeriness to the track. The most shocking thing about this track is the use of Simone’s vocals soon into the album, however, it doesn’t take away from the brilliance of the musicianship or composition of the track. “Symphony Of Aggression” is perhaps one of the best opening tracks ever to have been written and recorded.

The second track, “Mainstray Of Society – In The Eyes Of The Law Corruption”, begins where the previous track finished, bringing melodic riffs to the album rather than beasty riffs. Mark’s grunts work well with the symphonic and guitar sections. The highlight of this track would definitely have to be the drums and vocals. The album soon takes a turn into a more gentle track which takes its name from the album title “Quarterpast”. The track is a Gothic-sounding orchestral track, which unfortunately doesn’t last too long.

“Course Of Life” bombards its way on to the album next, starting with a heavy and aggressive yet melodic and beautiful guitar riff mixed with some intelligent drum work. Henning’s vocals are the first ones to be heard on this track and they are as strong as ever, bringing a whole new sound to the album. Mark’s grunts and Simone’s and Floor’s vocals work well as backing vocals on this track, though the track could have been better with some more vocals from Mark. The symphonic sections, like the first two tracks, work well with the guitars and drums, adding a tragic sound to the track. The track finishes with a very tense and dramatic symphonic outro. “The Savage Massacre – In The Eyes Of Law Pizzo” is the fifth track. Its intro is composed of ear-splitting riffs, melancholy symphonic sections and heavy drums. Mark’s grunts seem to have become more aggressive and angry-sounding for this track. The guitars also seem to have become more heavy, whilst some of the symphonic sections sound repetitive of the previous tracks. The soft section half way through, composed of people talking with strong operatic vocals singing over them adds mystique to the track before the heavy onslaught of riffs, drums and grunts returns.

“Essenza Di Te” is one of the more softer tracks on the album,  featuring vocals from up-and-coming opera star Laura Macri. This track is beautiful composed, featuring a lot of classical-styled music mixed with very strong vocals which bring a very touching essence to the album. “Essenza Di Te” leads into the aggressive and melodic intro of “Bite The Bullet”. This track has more of a power metal sound to it, in terms of the music and the vocals of Henning add to the power metal sound. Mark’s grunts can be heard a fair bit on this track as well, which brings that needed death metal element. The guitar solo on this track is the best one on the album. The next track is “Drown The Demon”, which is more of a ballad-styled song. It begins with a dark symphonic intro which brings about a very tense musical atmosphere. The guitars soon follow, while not as heavy as previous tracks, they still pack a punch combined with the drums and bass. The combination of Mark’s grunts and Floor’s vocals are reminiscent of After Forever, however this track is far from been an After Forever track. The guitars work beautifully with the symphonic sections. In fact, the guitar riffs are almost hypnotically catchy. The guitar solo is epic and the voice over just after it brings a whole new level to the track.

“Celibate Aphrodite” brings the aggression back to the album with a thrash-sounding intro riff. The piano sections that follow the intro add a very Gothic touch to the track, which works brilliantly with Mark’s grunts and the guitars. The voice over, followed by the female vocals is an astounding touch to the album, especially as it’s followed by a short but expertly played solo. A longer solo comes after another section of female vocals, adding a very aggressive sound to the track. This track is one of the best ones on the album. The orchestrated intro of “War On Terror – In The Eyes Of The Law Pentagon Papers” comes next, with a very Romanian gypsy sound before the brutal assault of guitars, drums and bass begins. This track seems more fast paced compared to the previous ones and Mark sounds as if he’s struggling to keep up with the music in some sections, which is the only flaw with this track. The symphonic sections would have to be the most impressive thing about this track, followed by the guitar riffs. “Tithe” is next, been composed of a piano medley which sounds a tad like the Harry Potter theme to begin with. This track is the last soft track of the album, bringing it with an eerie sound. The bonus track, “Sinner’s Last Retreat – Deed Of Awakening” comes blasting next, with a heavy intro combined with strong vocals. The orchestration seems to have become heavier, virtually matching the guitars and drums in brutality and aggression.

“Quarterpast” has proven itself to be a most impressive debut album. Mark Jansen has outdone himself with this album. Each track leaves the listener wanting more and with an array of big names from the European metal scene, it’s no wonder that this is a brilliant album. For those who are worried that this is going to be an “Epica-sounding album”, you need not worry. This album has more bite and aggression, a true jewel in today’s death metal scene.

4.5/5

Nico Davidson