Archive for Symphonic Metal

Caelestia – Thanatopsis

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 4th January 2018 by izaforestspirit

Caelestia
Thanatopsis
Released 8th December 2017
Symphonic Gothic Metal /Melodic Death Metal
Released via EMP Group/SPV Europe

Caelestia - Τhanatopsis

Thanatopsis’ is the second album from the Greek symphonic metal band Caelestia. They have been around since 2012 and they have toured with bands such as The Vision Bleak, Arch Enemy and Draconian. This latest opus was mixed and mastered at Fredman Studio, Gothenburg Sweden by Fredrik Nordström.

My knowledge of the Greek metal scene is limited to just two bands: Astarte and Rotting Christ. I’m particularly fond of the latter…This however doesn’t really sound like either of these. What we have here is an interesting fusion of female-fronted Gothic metal with hints of melodic death metal and symphonic elements. Depending on the song, their music can sound very melodic and pleasant e.g. Dancing With The Demons or harsh and aggressive with elements like death metal growls, abrasive drumming and guitars mid-way through Devil’s Game and the opening of  Travel to Eternity.

If it wasn’t for the melodic death metal elements, I would have probably dismissed this as yet another Nightwish clone. Admittedly their female singer Dimitra Talamamtes Vintsou has a similar voice to that of Tarja Turunen but that’s where the similarities end. Their unusual blend of styles is what makes Caelestia stand out. The mixture of symphonic Gothic metal with melodic death metal maybe a little too much for your average Gothic metal fan. Luckily my taste in metal is more diverse than that. I actually like the contrast between the harsh and the melodic sounds and the dual vocal configuration works surprisingly well. The closest thing I can compare this to would be mid-career Therion; melo-death with symphonic elements but without the choir.

In summary Caelestia’s album turned out to be a lot different from what I expected. Their music doesn’t really fit one specific genre but they do a good job of taking the best elements of various styles to create something memorable. So if you’re bored to listening to Nightwish wannabe Gothic metal or melo-death bands still trying to replicate the “Gothenburg”-sound, then I suggest you give ‘Thanatopsis’ a go.

4/5
Iza Raittila

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Headliners announced for Northern Symphony 2018

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on 23rd September 2017 by Nico Solheim-Davidson

Coming up to its fourth year, Northern Symphony – the UK’s premier symphonic metal event – is set to take place on Saturday 21st April at its home The Venue in Selby North Yorkshire. Having featured the likes of Winter In Eden, Alwaid, Old Corpse Road and more on its line-up in the past, Northern Symphony is already looking to have another great line-up following the announcement of French philharmonic metallers Whyzdom as the headliners for the 2018 edition.

Whyzdom was founded by guitarist and orchestrator Vynce Leff in early 2007, already well known in the progressive sphere having produced several successful albums for the British label Cyclops Records. After recruiting the band members, a first EP Daughter Of The Night was recorded less than 6 months from the band’s inception. It got instant acclaim from reviewers and music fans around the world.

Although still a young band, Whyzdom were invited to play in several festivals in France – most of the time as headliner – and won the Metal Female Voices Fest Contest in Belgium in October 2008. They played in the 7th edition of this great Festival and also played as official support to Delain to launch their début album in 2009, released by the British label Ascendance Records.

In June 2010, Telya Melane, lead vocalist left the band. Lisa Middelhauve, former Xandria singer, accepted to be “guest lead vocalist” for performances at the Raismes Festival in 2010 and for their concert in Paris as support for Tarja.

While touring in France, Belgium, UK, Switzerland, the band composed their new album BLIND?. Elvyne Lorient joined Whyzdom in February 2012 and recorded all the songs as lead vocalist. The album was released late October, by one of the most important European metal label: Scarlet Records.

The band are now fronted by the talented Marie Rouyer, who joined in 2013, starting with the “Blind?” European tour. Since then, Whyzdom have gone onto play various festivals around Europe including The Dames of Darkness.

Tickets for Northern Symphony 2018 can be found at this location for £15.

Epica – The Solace System

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , on 4th September 2017 by mickbirchy

Epica
The Solace System
Symphonic Metal, Progressive Metal
Released 1st September 2017
via Nuclear Blast Records

Epica have been on a roll as of late. Last year they came out with one of their most commercially accessible, biggest sounding and most fun album to date. They have followed this up with another little taste of this sound. The Solace System is the new EP that continues the big bombastic sound that they created on The Quantum Enigma and The Holographic Principle. When Epica are truly behind something they put their damnedest into making it sound its best.

They manage to effortlessly weave together beautifully poetic lyrics with brutally harsh and excellently composed and layered musical production. The production is simply phenomenal and every track really hits home. The tight chemistry of the band really shines through on the production, creating some really memorable tunes that feel more complex and interesting. The duel vocal stylings that they are known for sound great once again impress me as they seamlessly dart between the two. Although the EP sounds great, it does come across as a little formulaic.  The more I think about it, the more it feels like they’re treading the same water again. At times it just feels a little too… Expected of them. They really haven’t thrown much into this EP to give it it’s own identity. Maybe if they experimented with a few new ideas but there’s nothing here which isn’t territory they have covered before.

In all honesty, I keep flipping back and forth on this album. As much as it feels passe and ineffective, I’m still enjoying the work. It sounds really pretty. Simone’s vocal work is gorgeous, it sounds really clear and is filled with emotion. That is something that she can always do, she jsut throws herself into her lyrics. The music is tight and well written so I can’t complain. However, I wish they would have tried something a little different rather than give us the scraps of what probably didn’t make the cut on The Quantum Enigma or The Holographic Principle. As most of the songs sound like they could have been ripped straight off of one of them. None of the songs are bad by any stretch of the imagination and maybe these songs are different in theme. So yeah giving their own EP makes sense on that front but they could have used this as a platform to try something new.

I’m trying so hard not to make it sound like I don’t like this EP, I do. I really do. There’s some fantastic tunes and well written songs here. However, I’m one of these people that like artists to at least try something different on every release. Yet, after 15 years maybe they just know their market and know how to make the most out of their audience. As for my final thoughts on this EP… It’s good and let’s face it, if you’re an Epica fan… you’ve already bought it.

3.5/5

Mick Birchall

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

Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 24th March 2017 by izaforestspirit

Ex Deo
The Immortal Wars
Released 27th February 2017
Symphonic Death Metal
Released via Napalm Records

Ex Deo - The Immortal Wars

Ex Deo is a side-project band of Maurizio Iacono from Kataklysm. Since their formation in 2008, the band has released two albums before going on a short hiatus in 2014. They returned again the following year to embark on their third venture – a concept album about the Punic Wars. They were fought between Rome and Carthage and took place between 264 B.C. and 146 B.C. This album is entitled ‘The Immortal Wars’ and include epic tales of two history’s most famous generals, Hannibal and Scipio.

I must admit that I’m not that well versed on ancient Roman history so this album gave me an excuse to do a little background research about the Punic Wars and general Hannibal. Thanks for the history lesson guys! Impressive battle scenes featuring armed war elephants and a clash between two generals renowned for their strategies and tactics of warfare sounds like a pretty good topic doesn’t it? Well let’s find out… Ex Deo are known for their grandiose, symphonic intros and the opener The Rise of Hannibal doesn’t disappoint. It’s a skilfully executed mixture of melodic death metal not too dissimilar to Iacono’s main band Kataklysm only with a certain cinematic atmosphere due to the additional orchestration provided by Clemens Wijers.

Each track tells a story ranging from the faster, more energetic yet still symphonically-enhanced Hispania (Siege Of Saguntum), the aggressive tale of destruction Crossing the Alps to primarily orchestral intermission Suavetaurilia (Intermezzo) all the way through to the end. The aforementioned Crossing the Alps is probably the most brutal-sounding song on here mostly due to Iacono’s growls and war cries which seem all the more ferocious thanks to the powerful guitar riffs and the drums mimicking “sounds of battle”. Speaking of war cries and chanting, that’s one of the things that ‘The Immortal Wars’ has in abundance. The tale of Hannibal’s defeat in Ad Victorian (The Battle of Zama) is a good example of this. You can almost picture the armies marching on to the battlefield and the noise as the battle commences.

Overall, ‘The Immortal Wars’ is without a doubt Ex Deo’s most ambitious and impressive album to date. I honestly couldn’t find any weak tracks on here and as with any good action-adventure movie, this album is best enjoyed as a whole. As long as Ex Deo maintain the balance between melodic death metal and historical themes without overdoing it on the orchestral elements, they have a long and bright future ahead of them.

4.5/5

Iza Raittila

Forbidden Lore – Forbidden Lore EP

Posted in Metal with tags , , , on 6th January 2017 by izaforestspirit

Forbidden Lore
Forbidden Lore EP
Released 13th October 2016
Symphonic Metal
Self-Released


‘Forbidden Lore’ is the first EP from the Greek symphonic metal band of the same name. Forbidden Lore describe their style since as a mixture of symphonic metal with progressive metal and soundtrack music.

There are only three tracks on here, which is just about enough for the listener to get an idea of what this band is all about. First up is the melodic Endless Run which definitely has that fantasy soundtrack feel to it. Nightwish and Epica comparisons are pretty much inevitable due to the melodic female vocals (please note that “melodic” in this case doesn’t mean “operatic”). Luckily Georgia Mavrantza has a good voice which suits the music. There are some progressive elements audible in the guitars. Shadows on Ice is a much more straightforward piece of symphonic metal with equal emphasis on both the vocals and the orchestration. There is only a small portion of the song that features the progressive guitar parts. Last one is Grace In Our Fall, which really brings out the high notes in the vocal department demonstrating the singer’s impressive range. This is probably the most symphonic, orchestral and the most fantasy soundtrack -esque song on the EP.

In summary, it’s difficult to judge a band based on just three tracks. I now have a better understanding of what Forbidden Lore are trying to be. Their music can be described as being metal in the same vein as the more established bands Epica and Nightwish. So if you like these then there is a very good chance that you will enjoy Forbidden Lore.

3/5

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