Archive for Power Metal

Quinphonic Festival 4 – Birmingham, UK

Posted in Festival, Live, Metal with tags , , , , , on 22nd April 2017 by mickbirchy

Quinphonic Festival
Bands: Temperance, Serpentyne, Metaprim, Dead of Night, Fourth Circle
Venue: The Roadhouse, Birmingham, UK
Date: 16-APR-2017

 

Another year, another pilgrimage to Birmingham for Quinphonic Festival. I wasn’t able to attend the third edition of the festival in the October of last year. Yet, I was more than ready for the fourth one. This one had a stacked line-up with too. Including Italian hard-hitters, Temperance. The UK debut of, Fourth Circle. Along with three of the best live bands that the UK have to offer in Dead of Night, Serpentyne and Metaprism. A spectacular day of music lay ahead and I was pumped for the day to come. Quinphoinc Festival is all about quality over quantity. Five band all given a headline sets worth of time to show off what they can do. This allows the bands to breathe on stage and the crowd can experience what they’re actually like.

Before I talk about the actual day itself. Let me take you back to the night before, at the Barge and Barrel is Tipton for the Pre-Festival showcase night. A night that I won’t soon be forgetting. It was a great night of music featuring three fantastic UK up-and-comers. Darkest Obsidian, A Clockwork Opera and The Loved and Lost. All three bands were on top form and delivered a great performance. That really showed off their styles well. As a night it really came together with a great crowd. I really enjoyed all three acts, from the pageantry of A Clockwork Opera. To the soaring choruses of Darkest Obsidian with the finesse and energy of The Loved and Lost. It was a great night had by all and I hope to see more from all these bands sooner rather than later.
Now on to the festival itself. I got to the venue early to soak in the atmosphere. It was going to be a great day. All the bands have their own respective niche so there should have been something for every type of fan. As for myself I was looking forward to hearing something new. The only band I was really aware before going to the venue was, Temperance. So no matter the result of the day. I was going to hear something different and new for certain. Now, onto the review!

Fourth Circle

What a firecracker of an opener. This was exactly what was needed to start the day. The French band, Fourth Circle were debuting in the UK and let me say, what a way to make and entrance. The band were energetic and and fun. Their presence was in your face and and bold. Their live production great with every element of the band working outstandingly well. I have to say I was taken completely off guard by their performance. With pomp and pageantry, their music sounded huge with bombast. The music was filled with excellent hooks sinking into your head and this made their songs easy to remember. The band’s on stage chemistry really made these songs larger than life. They seemed to be having a lot of fun up there and this made it easier to enjoy their set. I only had a couple of problems with their set. Firstly, their set felt a little repetitive and it got a little tedious at times. Although those hooks constantly drew me back in. The only other thing that let their set down a bit was that the crowd started to thin out throughout the set, which ruined the atmosphere a little bit. Overall I had a fantastic time watching them. I would say their UK debut was successful and I for would welcome them back anytime!

Dead of Night

Next up was British newcomers Dead of Night. This was a really good set. Even if the songs were a little bland in composition, they more than made up for it in their theatrical stage presentation. Their sound was nice and I enjoyed some of the songs. Their stage presence was exciting and their chemistry was excellent. Really giving a complete package of a show. The vocals were clear and frontwoman, Briony Featon was an exciting presence on the stage. With light up black angel wings she truly gave the band that little bit of an edge. Their music had a decent atmosphere to it and the songs felt well put together. Their music had this really slick vibe to it. More of an old school rock ’n’ roll format to the songs rather than your typical symphonic metal or power metal sound. The centrepiece of the set for me was a gorgeous ballad that invited imagination and let the band really breathe. In all honesty they really won the crowd over. I did feel that their songs were just bland on a compositional level and that let them down a bit for me. However, I will concede that they were incredibly likeable and they presented themselves really well. I thought they were pretty good and I hope they evolve and grow in the future.

Metaprism

Now for the best band of the day and no, I do not make that statement lightly. Metaprism burst on to the stage with life and excitement. They were probably the “heaviest” band of the day and I feel they were the band with the best set. Their songs were high energy and filled with awesome riffs and well executed solos. Their presence had a sense of command to them. When they were performing, the audience were definitely paying attention. Their set was really an intense atmosphere upon the venue and the contrasting duel vocals of the band really gave them that little bit of an edge. It’s like they took the European standards of this style of music and added the British elements to it to make this sound. They came across a really likable people, they were very genuine and humble on the stage as they tried to get the crowd involved more and more into the set. Their set built up and got slowly better and I was completely enthralled with their set and I immediately rushed to the merch table right after their set was over. Which I guess was a good sign. Yes, this was definitely my favourite band of the day. Everything about them was excellent, from their songs to their personalities. They were an exciting and dynamic band, and I can say for certain that I became a fan.

Serpentyne

British folk-rockers Serpentyne took to the stage with finesse and and grace. This had to be one the most interesting sets of the day. On a pure technical level they were incredible but I really couldn’t get into it. Maybe it just wasn’t my sort of music but there was just certain aspects to their performance that turned me off. However, I did like parts and ideas used in the set. The musicianship was excellent and every instrument was played to an expert level. I also really enjoyed the dancer that was in the crowd it added to the enticement of the band. The music had these really good rock n roll elements mixed with the fantastical folk music to make something truly inventive. All of the songs were character piece with stories of vikings, medieval society and fantasy characters which were rich and engrossing. This really peaked my interest. However after the energetic, high pace set from Metaprism, this set felt a little deflating. Also I felt the vocals were a bit overdone. The singing could have been toned down a little. The set ended on a over of the Game of Thrones theme tune which was really well done for what it was. I like this band but I didn’t love it. They are all incredible musicians and the performance was well done, it just may have not been my type of music.

Temperance

Now for the main event of the evening and the only band that I came to this show with any familiarity. Temperance, are one of those band that just use everything at their disposal to entertain a crowd. Their songs are catchy and their energy are infectious. Other than some tech issues with the microphone they set went down without a hitch. The band blasted through their set with great songs. Coming hot off their third album “The Earth Embraces Us All” the set was a great mixture of all three albums. The crowd was really into it as was I. I mean I put down my notepad and just watched the show. The live production was really good, although the drums were a little loud at times. Also the backing tracks they were using didn’t come through the best at times. Frontwoman, Chiara Tricarico was an engaging presence on stage as was guitarist, Marco Pastorino. You really couldn’t keep your eyes off of them. Also with the sheer technical ability of them they made an impressive show as the final band of the day. They really were the cherry on top of an excellent day.

Words by Mick Birchall
Photos by David Sarah
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Iza’s Highlights of 2016 (Part 2: Metal)

Posted in Editorial/Opinionated, Metal, Misc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 31st December 2016 by izaforestspirit

Time for the second part of my highlights of 2016, the metal edition. This part was much harder to write than the first because it took me a long time to chose my top ten metal of albums and even longer to decide on the winner. So here are my top ten favourite metal releases of 2016:

1. Vader – The Empire
Genre: Death Metal

This year, Vader strikes back with ‘The Empire’… Let’s face it, they were kind of asking for comments like this with that kind of an album title. Star Wars jokes aside, this is a really good piece of work. If you’re looking for some new death metal to check out, I would strongly recommend this album. Unlike their previous work, the masterpiece that was ‘Tibi et Igni’, ‘The Empire’ shows a back to basics approach. No complex structures or atmospheric intros, just good, old-school thrashy death metal. Best tracks: ‘Iron Reign’, ‘No Gravity’ and ‘Army-Geddon’.

2. Rob Zombie – The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser
Genre: Hard Rock/Industrial Metal

This year’s runner up deserves an award for coming up with the one of the longest album titles in years. I tend to refer to it simply as ‘The Electric Warlock’… Whilst still no match for his first two albums, ‘The Electric Warlock’ is Rob Zombie’s best work in years. Favourite tracks ‘The Hideous Exhibitions of a Dedicated Gore Whore’, ‘In the Age of the Consecrated Vampire We All Get High’ and the ultra cheesy but super catchy ‘The Life and Times of a Teenage Rock God’.

3. Devilment – II- The Mephisto Waltzes
Symphonic Gothic Metal/ Groove Metal

For those of you who read my highlights of 2015, you might remember my comments on the latest Cradle of Filth album. This year their vocalist Dani Filth has been busy working on the second album for his other band Devilment. ‘II- The Mephisto Waltzes’ is a delightful opus which happily mixes a variety of metal genres including Gothic, symphonic and groove metal. There’s even a touch of humour in the lyrics and several references to horror movies, modern horror literature and art – most notably Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King. Best tracks are ‘Hitchcock Blonde’, ‘Dea Della Morte’ and ‘Full, Dark No Stars’.

4. Mortiis – The Great Deceiver
Genre: Industrial Metal

Ever since the Norwegian musician Mortiis started his own band in the mid ’90s, there has been some debate as to what category their music fits into. The older works are very much dark ambient, followed by the synth-pop period of ‘Smell of Rain, turning into the latest era of industrial rock. Their latest effort, the ultra creepy -sounding ‘The Great Deceiver’ is undoubtedly their heaviest and most complex album to date which is why I chose to include it in my metal top 10. Best tracks: ‘Doppelganger’, ‘Demons are Back’ and ‘Shining Lamp of God’.

5. Moonsorrow – Jumalten aika
Genre: Pagan Black Metal

Moonsorrow caught my attention after I saw them live at Tampere Metal Meeting Festival in the summer. I like some of their older material and after hearing some of the new songs live I decided to check out their newest album ‘Jumalten aika’. This is one of those releases where there are no real outstanding tracks, but rather the whole album is worth listening to in full. It’s one of the best pieces of pagan black metal that I’ve heard in a long while.

6. The Vision Bleak – The Unknown
Genre: Gothic Horror Metal

German Gothic horror metal duo The Vision Bleak are back with a new album. ‘The Unknown’ struck me as being somewhat “Lovecraftian”, both in the visual concept of the cover art and the the lyrical themes. Musically it is in every bit that you can expect from a Vision Bleak album; eerie Gothic horror metal with some doom influences added creating the soundtrack to your worst nightmare. Best tracks ‘The Kindred of The Sunset’ and ‘Into the Unknown’.

7. Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct
Genre: Thrash Metal/Heavy Metal

Just in case anyone is wondering why the new Metallica is so low down on this list, the truth is that I expected it to be better than it turned out to be. After all, it’s been eight years since their last studio album. Needless to say that the expectations were high. I wasn’t expecting this to be another ‘Master of Puppets’ or ‘Ride the Lightning’ but I was hoping for something along the lines of ‘Death Magnetic’ which I really enjoyed. Luckily ‘Hardwired…To Self-Destruct’ isn’t as bad as ‘St. Anger’ but it’s hardly a masterpiece. To be honest I think that it would be have been better off as an EP with just four or five tracks instead of the 12 songs and 13 music videos. I definitely like the first disc more than the second one and my favourites include: ‘Moth To The Flame’, ‘Dream No More’ and ‘Spit Out The Bone’.

8. Sabaton – The Last Stand
Genre: Power Metal

Sabaton are one of the very few power metal bands that I like. I’ve always enjoyed their live shows and I’m very fond of the concept album ‘Carolus Rex’. As with all Sabaton albums, their latest piece of work doesn’t disappoint as far as the historical themes go. This one tells the stories of eleven defensive “last stand” battles. Each song focuses on a different battle from various historical events ranging from ancient Greece, medieval Scotland, the two World Wars to Japan at the time of the samurais. That sounds awesome in principal, if only the actual music was that good. Sadly it isn’t. It’s ok but not great and most of the time Sabaton are just recycling old ideas, changing the themes but making similar music. The only tracks that I liked are: ‘Shiroyama’, ‘The Last Battalion’ and ‘Blood at Bannockburn’.

9. DevilDriver
Trust No One
Genre: Groove Metal

DevilDriver - Trust No One

The only real groove metal entry on this list, ‘Trust No One’ is DevilDriver’s best work in years. It is an aggressive beast of guitar-driven groove metal made all the more powerful thanks to Dez Fafara’s vicious growls. Best tracks: ‘Trust No One’ and ‘Daybreak’.

10. Theatres des Vampires – Candyland
Genre: Gothic Metal

It’s been a while since the Italian Gothic metal band Theatres des Vampires have released anything new. I’ve been a fan of their music for many years and so I was keen to get my hands on a copy of their latest piece of work. ‘Candyland’ is somewhat more metal-sounding than its predecessor ‘Moonlight Waltz’. There are notably less vampire themes on here compared to the previous album but other than that not much has changed. Sonya Scarlet is still the key figure in Theatres des Vampires. Whilst I still prefer their older works, back when Lord Vampyr was still a member of the band, I did enjoy this album. Best tracks ‘The Morgana Effect’ and ‘Resurrection Mary’.

 
Biggest New Discovery: Powerwolf
Best live show of 2016: Powerwolf live in Tampere
Most anticipated albums of 2017:
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
New albums from Cradle of Filth and (hopefully) Behemoth.

That’s all from me for now. Happy New Year!

Civil War – The Last Full Measure

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 10th November 2016 by mickbirchy

Civil War
The Last Full Measure
Power Metal, Heavy Metal
Released: 04 November 2016
via Napalm Records

My God, this has been a great year for power metal. It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to Civil War, they’re a band that I’ve seen live and I think they’re a lot of fun. Mixing the traditional power metal formula with other musical ideas to make a new tone. So  when I heard there was a new album on the way I was quite interesting. I’ve like their previous work so hopefully the new record The Last Full Measure works.

Well I like this one. It’s definitely their sound. That heavy handed power metal with a noticeable twang that brands their signature. The grooves and riffs are fun and build to their respective choruses. These are usually pretty grandiose. The sheer presence that these guys have it great. Everything is full force, the songs don’t such worm their way in as the band beat the melodies in. Songs like A Tale That Should Never Be Told and Tombstone are brilliant tracks. They definitely hook in listeners for a fun ride. I can imagine getting pretty hyped during these songs at a concert.  

Although I have praised this album it has a few shortcomings. I will admit as much as I like some of the songs, this album was such a chore to get through. The album plateaus in intensity and there a lot of moments where I should be getting amped. Yet, I never get true satisfaction as the song has lost the luster. Gangs Of New York has this problem. I want to just love it but I get bored quite easily.

This isn’t the best album. With the slew of great power metal this year. This album just gets lost in the shuffle and in my opinion doesn’t do enough to dig itself out. There are some great songs but the album as a whole is just OK. I’d recommend it if you’re interested. If you’re looking for something massive an album experience that sticks with you. Then maybe look somewhere else. It’s OK.

2.5/5

Mick Birchall

Hammerfall – Built To Last

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 5th November 2016 by mickbirchy

Hammerfall
Built To Last
Power Metal, Heavy Metal
Released 4th November 2016
via Napalm Records

Hammerfall return once again with their brand of power metal. Their tenth album Built to Last is a pretty fun romp and is another fantastic piece to their legacy. Their musicianship and chemistry shines through. They really prove why Hammerfall are Built to Last.

The album opens with the old school style tune, Bring It. A fun way to open proceedings. Quickly followed up with the anthemic Hammer High. A song that I feel should become their new anthem. Built To Last really has a immense feel to it. With big choruses and well excited music. The guitar solos are beautiful and the when the music swells for a big chorus it’s a wonderful sound. The production has this flair of old school metal, like Judas Priest or Grim Reaper. The riffs are so defined and the rhythm is so tight when it all comes in together. It makes for one hell of a listening experience. The vocals of Joacim Cans ring beautifully as the intense metal bubbles below. The infectious sound worms it’s way into your ear and definitely keeps you hooked. The soulful ballads are particularly good. As they usually are in power metal. The creativity and imagination paint epic mental pictures in your mind. You don’t want that feeling to end.

You’d think after 10 albums and two decades of writing they might be short of ideas. Well in my opinion, there are very few original ideas anymore. Yet, if a band can get.me to hear something in a new way then it’s much appreciated. Hammerfall deliver the music with a sharp and crisp tone. Nothing sounds muddy or distorted. It’s beautifully clear. Every note and every beat is felt and it’s effective. Not a second is wasted on the album at all. In all honesty I don’t have that much more to say so I’m going to end it there. Otherwise I’d just be covering ground I’d already done. It’s an excellent album and I recommend it.

5/5

Mick Birchall

Powerwolf live in Tampere

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Iza Raittila

Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , on 14th October 2016 by mickbirchy

Sonata Arctica
The Ninth Hour
Power Metal, Symphonic Metal
Released: 7th October 2016
via Nuclear Blast

The last time I talked about Sonata Arctica on this site I gave them a relatively positive review. I enjoyed “Pariah’s Child”, it was a fun record with a lot of good tunes. It got me into the band and I’ve considered myself a fan ever since. So I snapped up the opportunity to take a listen to the new record, “The Ninth Hour”.

Straight from the first song, “Closer To An Animal”, I knew I was listening to a bolder product with more focus and solid songwriting.  Every element of the album is alive and energized. The synth is just uplifting and makes for a nice atmosphere with its diversity. The songwriting is beautiful and is filled with emotion and passion. From slow and somber songs to the heavy and faced paced straight up metal songs. They just make an impression on every song.

The lyrical content is pretty simple when you think about it. The message of the album is life a good life, be kind to people and stop killing the planet. It sounds simplistic and something you’d sing to your kids. Yet, just because you learned it when you were young it does make these morals false. Sometimes you need simple things just said to you and Sonata Arctica really sell it. Tony Kakko’s voice sounds absolutely amazing on this album. He always seems to manage to match his voice to the emotion of the song and it sounds so sweet every time.

This is an excellent album. In my opinion, Sonata Arctica are the undisputed kings of power metal. If I were to recommend songs from the album, firstly “Life”. This is a belting track with a genuinely inspiring and cheerful chorus that sounds glorious. The other song I’d recommend is “We Are What We Are”, which sound sorrowful and passionate.  It’s a beautiful album that really live up to their reputation as one of the best. I love it

4/5

Mick Birchall

Twilight Force – Heroes of Mighty Magic

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , on 26th August 2016 by mickbirchy

Twilight Force
Heroes of Mighty Magic
Power Metal
Released 26 August 2016
via Nuclear Blast

This is one spectacular album to try and sum up, but I’ll try my best. Twilight Force bring us their second offering in the form of, Heroes of Mighty Magic. With shades of Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia, Sonata Arctica and DragonForce, Twilight Force have crafted an epic and bold album that completely plays to their strengths. It’s ultimately a fun record that has the right balance of dignified quality and having that sense of fun. I’m not a fan of when power metal bands take themselves too seriously.

The album covers the usual topics that you would expect – mythical warfare, questing and just your usual dungeons and dragons template lyrics. You know, all that good stuff. So not a tonne different in this department. It still works though, without getting tiring. Vocalist, Chrileon just sells what he’s singing with such conviction that it’s hard to think he’s from another dimension.  The production does everything to make him sound awesome and when the choir comes in on the choral parts it really gets you going.

The music is really good as well, don’t think that I’d forgotten. Not only is the metal instrumentation excellent with belting guitar solos and well incorporated synths. When the orchestral instruments swell around the songs it just makes them so much more epic. Seriously there isn’t a dead spot on the entire record. Everything in the production truly comes together to make an entertaining epic. I also have to briefly mention how good the album art is. The design is amazing and the colours just leap out at you. The artist Kerem Beyit has really crafted something beautiful and imaginative

Overall. Wow, just simply wow. This album took (and is continuing to take) my breath away. It’s entertaining in all the right ways. I’ve not wanted to put this album down since the first listen.

5/5

Mick Birchall