Please also visit our comprehensive reviews storage library at Ravenheart Music Archived Reviews.
(Ravenheart Music) Reviewed 14th June 2013
Reviewing a cd on the Ravenheart label is not easy, because it is on my label, and of course I may show bias towards the band concerned. But lets do it folks! UK band Curvature is well known on the scene, I have seen them live on more than one occasion, and I have known guitarist Matt Jones for some while now. As stated rather nicely on their Facebook page, the band play a kind of Symphonic/Gothic/Synth/Pop/Metal which has a sort of commercial appeal that should entice a wide range of listeners. This four track EP serves up a taster as to what the band offers, and it is not a bad little offering from this Buckinghamshire based combo. Rather good I hasten to add, and for anybody that has already seen the band live, this is a good addition to one's cd collection, plus for anybody that wants to hear some cool synth laced Pop/Metal, this is the biz. The vocals on this EP were recorded by ex singer Lisa Swatton, but there is a new singer waiting in the wings. The band's Facebook is here
... 8.5/10 (Dave)
CADAVERIA...'HORROR METAL - UNDEAD EDITION'
(Bakerteam Records) Reviewed
After five years of absence from the Metal scene, Gothic/Black Metal band Cadaveria released their new album 'Horror Metal' in 2012, collecting tons of enthusiastic reviews worldwide and touring relentlessly in support of it. Bakerteam Records and Cadaveria will celebrate the success of the album with this Special Edition of 'Horror Metal'. 'Horror Metal - Undead Edition' which I am reviewing here, features two unreleased bonus tracks, 'Whispers Of Sin (Ancestral Remix)' and 'Hypnotic Psychosis (Chaotic Remix)'. Being somewhat unfamiliar with the previous output from the band, I was interested to give this cd a spin to hear what I have been missing in the past. From what I hear, it is plainly obvious that the leading lady with whom the band takes their name has the ability to growl like a demented monster one moment, and then sing in a classically trained style the next. I do not have any of their previous releases to make comparisons, but this record I suppose will appeal to many metal fans, those that like their music rather more extreme, to those that like their music a little more commercial with melody, many of the songs on the album include both of these attributes. On the down side, I did begin to find my attention wandering at times as some of the songs can begin to sound a little samey. Three of my fave numbers however are the melodic 'The Night's Theatre', the bouncy 'The Days of the After and Behind' (great title) and the pounding 'Hypnotic Psychosis'. And the two bonus tracks aren't bad either :) This record may not be quite my cuppa tea, but to be honest, I do think this is rather good, and I feel that they could give both Arch Enemy and Cradle of Filth a run for their money with what Cadaveria has released here. Well worth checking out if you are into the above bands coupled with a good dose of Horror Metal to boot... 8/10 (Dave)
(Self Released) Reviewed 7th May 2013
SECRET SULK, the hotly anticipated debut album from DOLLS (Aka Nikki Awesome) has hit Ravenheart Towers here in the SW of the English Midlands. Nikki (FaceBook
) came to London from Toronto after splitting with Warner Music Canada, and the result of that is a self released album that seems to go down well with my ears as the sun shines very brightly outside. Haunting atmospheric Syntho Pop may be one way to describe the music of Dolls. Indeed, the album (written and produced by the self centred singer - songwriter) features recurring themes of money, sex and violence, aiming to deliver a darker, dirtier pop for an evolved listener; bubblegum bisected by industrial synthesizers bringing to mind the electro scene of the 80s. I love the sultry, sensual near hypnotic vocal style of Nikki too, that comes to the fore on tracks like 'Enemy Lines' and 'Tasty', while there are more upbeat floor filler tracks like 'Now Now' and 'Erase You'. A fave of mine however, is the catchy 'One On One'. Imagine the music of Dolls being the result of a threesome between Madonna, Depeche Mode and Joy Division, and that may give the prospective listener an idea as to where Dolls are at. Not for the metal heads I am sure, but a rather enjoyable listen nonetheless.. 8/10 Dave
CELESTIAL RUIN...'THE AWAKENING'
(Self Released) Reviewed 29th April 2013
Celestial Ruin come to us from Vancouver in Canada, and provide the listener with a good dosage of epic hard rockin' Melodic Metal with lyrical themes drawn from fantasy and horror, sometimes implying deeper meanings, sometimes just celebrating the subject matter. As their bio states, their music is styled along European Symphonic Metal ideas, but with a decidedly North American feel, and very good it is too I hasten to add. Featuring members from 3 different countries, Celestial Ruin's sound combines heavy rock rhythms and riffs with catchy, singable melodies and rich symphonic textures. And the lady that fronts this awesome band is Larissa Dawn, who has a fine set of lungs within her, her vocal style more rock than operatic, although she does occasionally flirt with the operatic vocal style, the awesome 'Asylum' being one such track. In-fact the word "awesome" could be used several times here as there are some humdinger tracks like the rocking 'Apocalypse', the superb 'Goddess', the rather nice keyboard orientated 'The Hunted' and the atmospheric piano and string led ballad 'Underground', that closes the album rather nicely. Having listened to this album a few times, I found it to be a grower and indeed is a very good release overall. Hear for yourself HERE
(Napalm Records) Reviewed 15th April 2013
Dutch Symphonic Metallers DELAIN thank their loyal supporters by presenting them with a special release. 'Interlude' released 3rd May is a fantastic blend of brand-new songs, special versions & mixes of popular DELAIN tracks, covers (e.g. 'Smalltown Boy' or 'Such A Shame') and the beautiful single 'Are You Done With Me'. Thanks to the new mix, this well-known anthem shines with a new-found splendor. The new songs 'Breathe On Me' and 'Collars and Suits' are great catchy numbers that typify what Charlotte and Delain do so well, and if these songs are an example as to what the band will be releasing in the future, then I cannot wait! The covers are ace, the ballad version of 'We Are The Others' hits the spot, and the six live numbers are totally enjoyable. The album includes a special bonus DVD featuring exclusive live footage and all clips from the band’s career. 'Interlude' is not only a must for loyal DELAIN fans, but also for those who have not so far experienced the music by Charlotte Wessels and her band members. It is the perfect introduction to the world of DELAIN and the starting point to an emotional and bombastic journey! Lovely! 9/10 (Dave)
DORRN... 'UNPLUGGED RELOADED 2012'
(Deaf Dog Records) Reviewed 15th April 2013
I have just reviewed album 5 from this rather good German band (see below), and this is album number 6. Eleven of the numbers from Dorrn's previous releases are given the unplugged treatment with two tracks coming from the album 'I Don't Fit' that I reviewed below. A nicely done well produced laid back listen from this rather good band that until now has escaped my radar. As I say below, check them out! 8.25/10 (Dave)
DORRN...'I DON'T FIT'
(Deaf Dog Records) Reviewed 15th April 2013
Dorrn is a nu metal band from Hamburg Germany fronted by a young lass called Jackie. The music from this young band is heavy with clean and screamo female vocals, but maintains a sense of melody throughout. There are male vocals too (I am sure), but I am not sure which member of the band contributes those. After having given this album a couple of listens, I rather like it. The record rocks throughout the 13 tracks, and we even get Dorrn's rendition of 'Scarborough Fair'. Fave numbers include the aforementioned 'Scarborough Fair', the catchy 'Painkiller', the rocky and equally catchy 'Sexuality', the heavy and raptastic 'Gollum' and the superb pounding 'Noisy Neighbours'. The largely autobiographical lyrics ('Living A Lie', 'I Don't Fit' or 'In My Mirror') give the whole album a dark and earnest touch. So anybody who likes their music heavy with catchy melodies, melodic vocals and powerful shouts, should most certainly check this band out here
. Play it and play it loud, this is rather good!... 8.25/10 (Dave)
CRYPTIC AGE...'SOUNDS OF INFINITY'
(Self Release) Reviewed 2nd April 2013
Cryptic Age were founded in the Viking city of Jorvik in 2010, and appropriately their music is inspired by the tales of yore and the hoards from the north. They describe themselves as folk metal which conjures up terrifying images of hairy berserkers screaming, brain numbing umpah umpah, and those infernal accordions parping away, the sort of cacophony that has me losing the will to live after 10 minutes, and longing for the Valkyries to take me to Valhalla. However, thank Odin, they are far closer to the folk and progressive tinged symphonic metal of bands like Whispering Wood, Whispering Tales, Materdea and Lyriel, with a touch of Horslips and Renaissance. Their sound rumbles and thunders like a marauding raiding party down the gangplank, with Jenny Green's truly remarkable high siren like voice, that reminds me of Annie Haslam, floating airily above the melee of Hallam's guitars, Jenny's keys, Tom's booming bass and Alex's drums that sound like the mass beating of shields, supported by their own Cryptic Choir and Orchestra, to create a suitably mighty onslaught with loads of terrific musical escapades. After the atmospheric scene setting intro 'Sheean Ny Fearnid', come a quartet of songs that would be perfect for a feast, with foaming jugs of ale and mean, and tall tales of heroic daring do, “Stoke the fires and raise the barrels high, Guests have arrived and they're here to stay! This is the tale of the horsemen of the vale, The last men alive and the land's brigade!” ( Norsemen of the Vale). The plaintive folk ballad 'Sea Invocation' based on an ancient Manx tune brings some calm to the proceedings before you gird your loins for the four part epic 'Sounds of Infinity' which gives the band plenty of room to brandish their brilliant musicianship. Crytic Age have produced an enormously impressive, adventurous and enjoyable romp with moments of beauty and brutality that provides the perfect soundtrack for some serious battleaxe wielding. Set sail, leave no man alive, and sack their web shop at their website here
, a marauding 8.75/10 (Phil)
DAY AFTER RULES...'WHATEVER HAPPENS NO REGRETS'
(Self Release) Reviewed 27th March 2013
Get your pogo sticks out folks and lets welcome the band Day After Rules from Italy. They play Melodic Punk Rock that will get your feet tapping and have you bouncing around the room as if Punk Rock had never gone away (has it really gone away?). The album offers up 9 tracks of music that I am sure will go down very well in a live scenario. Fans of The Ramones et al will lap this up. Singer Giulia is one not to be messed with as she sings and screams through the numbers on offer. And in typical Punk fashion, they are all up tempo, short and sweet, and hideously catchy in the process - no ballads here. And 'Stone' has hit single written all over it! The nine numbers run in at around 27 minutes, their FaceBook is here
, so go on, check them out...8/10 (Dave)
DIVIDED WE FALL...EP
(Digital - SoundCloud) Reviewed 11th February 2013
Divided We Fall is a female fronted Symphonic Metal band based in Stafford (UK), and they have made this three track EP available via their SoundCloud
. I must thank my mate Les Barclay for bringing this band to my attention. Fronted by the pop/rock vocals of Philippa Ricketts, there are three rather cool tracks here of Melodic Symphonic Metal that should strictly speaking propel this band to bigger things. If they was to release a full length album of the quality of the three on offer here, then it would I am sure be an awesome release. It is difficult to score a three track ep, but a full length album (and one is due later this year!) based on what is here would deserve at least an 8.75/10 (Dave)
(Singed Records) Reviewed 10th January 2013
I must admit to being a little confused as this 5 track EP by British Band Dyonisis has been presented to me digitally for review. It showcases 4 tracks from the band's 'Intoxicated' CD and 1 number from their earlier S/T cd. So I am not totally sure why I am reviewing an EP of tracks that have already been featured on earlier Dyonisis releases. Anybody familiar with the band will already know what is on this EP - the featured tracks are 'Arachne's Song', 'Eve's Song', 'Of The Fear', 'Smart Mouth' and 'Hunter'. I would suggest that this recording will be the perfect introduction to anybody unfamiliar with their music - Dyonisis fuse elements of rock, electronic and folk into deceptively gentle, hypnotic landscapes out of which the dual vocal harmonies of singers Nel and Lou strike forth with intensely personal lyrics coupled with a flair for melody. Personally though, I am not quite sure of the point of this release, but I like Dyonisis nonetheless, so what is here is damn good and if you are unaware of the band, check them out now! 8/10 (Dave)
CRIMSON CHRYSALIS...'CRIMSON PASSION CRY'
(Sting Music) Reviewed 9th January 2012
This is, as far as I know, the first album to appear in these illustrious annuls from the country of South Africa. For those of you expecting Paul Simon, it will come as no surprise that René van den Berg started her career performing Afrikaans folk music, however over the last couple of years she embarked on creating something totally utterly different. What we have here is sumptuous symphonic rock, which sounds more like it is from France, as Rene has that unique French chanson tremor in her voice, and the music has a touch of the tempestuous torch song about it. I have written and rewritten this review countless times, because whatever I do, it does not do justice to this collection of classic, jaw dropping, dramatic, passionate, stirring 'ballads', and I use that word very reluctantly, as it conjures up images of soppy love songs that will send you to sleep, but nothing could be further from the truth. If you imagine the sort of songs from musical theatre shows like Les Misérables or a more rock/metal Sarah Brightman, it does remind me of 'Time to Say Goodbye' at times, mixed with epic soundtrack music with wonderful orchestrations, performed by a powerful band, and topped by Rene's warm rich voice, then perhaps we are somewhere roundabouts, but this is music without boundaries, it's strong enough to appeal to symphonic metal fans of bands like modern Nightwish, but familiar and accessible for classic rock listeners as well. Opener 'Angels and Demon's' featuring Adolph de Beer (video on Female Voices) really steams along and kicks the album off in great style before you settle back in your seat for the show, and midway through you get clarion call for all jilted lovers, 'F-Off and Die!”. There are so many terrific songs like 'Letters From the Edge' and the title track 'Crimson Passion Sky' (video on Female Voices) that my recommendation is, just sit back and enjoy the whole album experience. This really is an album that will sit comfortably in anybody’s and everybody’s record collection, a timeless and universal set of classic chanson symphonic rock/metal songs perfectly performed and produced. Their crimson chrysalis emerges at their website here
, a passionate 9.5/10 (Phil)
DEAREST PINKY...'BLOOD & SCARS'
(Self Release) Reviewed 11th December 2012
Do not be misled by the name thinking Dave has gone all poppy, because this rather attractive American girl Dearest Pinky (Lindsay Gardner) together with her pink hair, fronts a band that delivers guitar driven melodic, progressive rock that actually pushes the borders of several genres (AOR and the like). And not only does this Boston lass offer us lead vocals, she also takes care of the rhythm and acoustic guitar, plus all the words and music with the exception of the final track (that being the work of band member Mark Dailey). The album kicks of with an atmospheric intro 'Blood Over Time', that leads into the heavier 'Slip Your Lie' that has more of a Symphonic feel to it. 'Behind The Lines Of Reason' also features vocals from her guitar teacher Mark Cherone and is a more laid back track (although it still rocks) that could filter into the mainstream if given the chance, as could next up 'Last Stop', which is a hideously catchy pop rock number. The previously mentioned Mark Cherone pops up on other numbers too, including 'Shed Your Skin', which is another tune that should be deserving of radio airplay. This is amazingly good stuff from an artist that has totally slipped my radar screens. Other cool numbers from this LP include the mid tempo rockin' 'Bleed Like Mine' (great guitar solo), the guitar orientated and progressive 'Everything Short Of Nothing', and the slower 'Smile Upon Me'. I rather like this album, and you get your monies worth as Dearest Pinky throws at us 16 songs of music citing influences as diverse as Guano Apes, Paramore, Dream Theater, The Police, Evanescence and Within Temptation. Get your teeth around that little lot. Anyway, anybody who likes their music not too heavy but still with a little ooommmph, and is into any of the above mentioned acts, this just may be for you. Dearest Pinky's Facebook is here
.... 8.25/10 (Dave)
(Hammer-Nail Records) Reviewed 27th September 2012
Dharma was founded in January 2007 in Budapest and to be perfectly honest, they have produced a rather good album in the interestingly titled 'Dharmageddon'. This is indeed their 2nd full length album with 2 EPs also in the can. Their music is a mix of Gothic Metal and Hard Rock with an electro undercurrent running through the music, and rather good it is too. There are ten tracks on this offering, all very uptempo and melodic with some terrific foot stomping stuff to boot. Vocally, the band's leading lady Ani Ritzel's poppy style (this is her first album with the band by the way) reminds me of someone but I just cannot think who, while musically the band do strike up resemblances to Theatre of Tragedy when TOT went through their Electro/Rock faze, and possibly Asrai too. The album runs in at 38 minutes, and perhaps could have done with a couple more numbers, but what we have here are all killer with no filler. Listening to the album, you would not get the impression they are Hungarian, but no matter where they are from, I must highly recommend this record too all and sundry. Check the band out here
, while I am inspired to award a 8.75/10 (Dave)
DOWNCAST ART...'FORBIDDEN MEMORIES'
(Self Release) Reviewed 16th August 2012
Croatian band Downcast Art blew me away with their three track demo that I reviewed back in July 2009, and to be honest, I have awaited with bated breath for their debut full length cd, and this is it! And does it live up to expectation? the resounding answer has to be yes!! Previously fronted by Iva Grdić and now with Jelena Mužar at the helm, I will be totally honest and say that on this showing, this band has the potential to hit the Premier league, and hit the Premier League big time too. This is mindblowing stuff with the operatic vocals of Jelena fitting in with the music so well, and aided by a choir on some numbers too. The listener is drawn in with the atmospheric instrumental opener 'Everlasting', that leads us into the pounding and symphonic 'Bloodred Ink', that sets the tone of the nine tracks that follow. Not a ballad in sight as the band and Jelena let rip on numbers like 'Moris Prosloti' (totally awesome), the melodic title track, which also features the vocals of guitarist Kristijan Radeka, the catchy and symphonic 'Face Without A Name' and the instrumental 'Chants From The Deep'. We even get treated to a piano version of the track 'Home Of Silence' which well and truly showcases Jelena's awesome vocal style and allows it to shine. With top notch production, the music on 'Forbidden Memories' is a reflection of complex themes and motives, a fusion of alternative and classical influences, heavy riffs and ornamental elements. I therefore highly recommend this release to all and sundry - the band's website is HERE
, please check it out!... 9.25/10 (Dave)
(Danse Macabre/Alive) Reviewed 6th July 2012
DESDEMONA is considered one of most popular dark alternative acts in Poland. The band has recorded 3 albums and in 2008, started work on this, their 4th. However, in October of that year the band announced their split up with the lead singer Agata Pawłowicz. The band seeked a change in musical direction and it seemed that Agata was not fond of those changes. So in stepped AGNIESZKA LEŚNA, and she is the current front voice of the band. The band on this release give us 10 tracks of Electro infused Rock and Metal, kinda like a female fronted Apoptygma Berzerk or VNV Nation. Indeed, the band has already opened for VNV Nation in December 2009 in Warsaw. The opening salvo of 'Bring In All' and 'Desdream' show the direction this band is taking musically, and myself being a fan of the above mentioned acts, I do admit that although not to everybody's liking, I myself do like this style of music. 'Poison' is a slower number, with Agnieszka's vocals taking on a rather more seductive tone! The pounding 'Jealous Sky' ups the tempo yet again, and a lot of these numbers would go down well in clubland. The pace does not really let up through numbers like 'Devil's Game', the slower 'Sorrow' and one of my album faves, the foot stomping 'Let's Play Love'. I can see remixes of most if not all of these tracks coming along through the months that follow - the lead single 'Bring In All' has already seen various remixes. For anybody into the Electro/Darkwave scene, this album is well worth checking out. Impressive stuff... 8.5/10 (Dave)
DARKEN THE NIGHT...S/T
(Self Release) Reviewed 13th June 2012
Darken the Night is a two person team of composer Ryan Spann on all instruments and cute Kelly Miller with her superb professionally trained light operatic voice. Despite their very European sounding light symphonic metal and the impression given by the European city scene on the cover (the location is unknown, even to the band, answers on a postcard please), they actually hail from the wonderfully and very appropriately named town of Rockaway in New Jersey. They have an unusual style based on classical piano motifs, arpeggios and chords, I was surprised to learn that the piano is mostly programmed rather than played, and there is also an element of musical theatre, baroque classical and ecclesiastical choral music, perhaps similar to bands like Keys of the Light, Astray Path, Inner Shrine, and Edenbridge's piano ballads. This is a restful collection of hugely melodic dusky darkly moody numbers that is more for late night relaxation and reflection, as befits their name, exemplified by the opening dramatic epic 'Before the Light Arrives', the almost folk tinged lead single 'Looking Through the Past', and the very attractive 'Stand Alone', together with the delightful ballads ‘Samantha’ and ‘Loyal’. Kelly has a lovely and most pleasing voice and the choral arrangements by Ryan are excellent, but the production is a bit mixed, the vocals and keys are as clear as a bell, but the other instruments are a touch muffled, adding to that misty air of approaching darkness. A most distinctive and striking début album that’s perfect for candlelit evenings and it promises much for the future. The dusk approaches at their Facebook which is here
, a reflective 8.25/10 (Phil)
DEAD END AMELIA...'THE SOUND OF AWAKENING'
(Clinger Music Management) Reviewed 11th June 2012
Dead End Amelia had an EP reviewed by us last May, and I was highly impressed with what I heard. Now we have their debut full length album, and this is highly impressive stuff from this California band fronted by Krista Lee. I was rather eager to hear this, and opener 'Impossible' has tons of crossover potential, and confirmed to me upon listening to this one track, how this band has come of age. A fairly laid back way to start the record actually, but it works amazingly well and this track alone deserves to be a smash hit - radio stations take note! 'Wasted Light' ups the tempo and takes on more of a Paramore type vibe, while 'So We' slows the pace again, another dynamic number, great vocals from Krista and indeed, it is this type of Pop/Rock path that the band adopts on this release - totally awesome! 'Better Of This Way' is a killer tune that also screams radio station airplay while the track 'You're Not Alone' offers up 6+ minutes of laid back rock music - Krista's vocals nail this type of music, seductive and sexy if I may say so! There are plenty of other numbers here that scream one's attention like 'Slowly', which adopts a near metal vibe towards the end of the tune, the title track, another 6+ minute epic and closer 'Simple Boy', a heavy number and again the 'seductive' vocals come to the fore. This is a very professional recording of commerical and at times laid back Pop/Rock from this band, it screams attention from a major label, the production is spot on, and the all round musicianship is of the highest calibre. Although perhaps not appealing to the all out metalheads out there, this cd is well worth looking into from my point of view, and I am very honoured to know of this band, and so should all the readers of this website. Check out their facebook here
and then buy this album....9/10 (Dave)
DELAIN...'WE ARE THE OTHERS'
(Roadrunner/CNR Entertainment) Reviewed 3rd June 2012
We finally get to see Delain's 3rd album that will send fans of Female Fronted Metal all a flutter! On this little platter, the band serves up 12 tracks of awesome that I would call Pop/Metal, plus four bonus cuts of live tracks featuring the 100% live fave 'The Gathering'. Obviously me calling it 'Pop/Metal' may have some people asking as to what I am talking about. But I wouldn't call it Gothic Metal, and I honestly feel that it is Charlotte's totally wonderful and goose bumping vocal style, that adds the Pop into Metal. Some people may disagree, but what I am sure we all will agree on is that this record is mind blowingly awesome, and I beg anybody to come to me and say anything different! The cd kicks off with the riff-tastic and mighty 'Mother Machine', what a start and Charlotte's voice is as strong as ever. The Within Temptation' ish 'Electricity' follows and is a melodic number with a such a catchy chorus that it will bang around in your head long after the album has finished. The title track is another song that will refuse to leave your head - the lyrics are about the tragic and very sad case of English girl Sophie Lancaster, who was murdered in 2007 just for the way she looked. I could rattle on all day and night about the songs on this record. But what I will say is that they are catcy, heavy and intense, with every cut a standout, with 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot' being one of my faves amongst and album of faves - this particulary track being one example of the crunch of metal mixing very nicely with Charlotte's Pop vocal style, and with such a radio friendly chorus, it belies belief! 'I Want You' is a heavier number despite the piano led intro, and 'Where Is The Blood' offers up a duet - a great track with Charlotte's vocals contrasting so well with those of Fear Factory's Burton C Bell. The second half of the album continues as strongly as the first half with no let up - 'Generation Me' is an uptempo melodic masterpiece, the dynamic 'Are You Done With Me' leaves me totally speechless and 'Get The Devil Out Of Me' has been released as a single. As I said earlier, I could talk about this album for ages, but it is simply dynamite, Delain has come of age, and I am not sure how they are going to better this - mindblowing!! 10/10 (Dave)
DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA...'PANDORA'S PINATA'
(Candlelight Records) Reviewed 9th May 2012
Put on your dancing shoes and don your tux as the zany Swedes invite you to sashay your way onto the dance floor for their third outing of Balrog Boogie. They have now expanded to include a brass section with added strings as well, to create a true rock / metal / swing / mariachi big band that is like nothing on earth, a sort of James Last / Herb Albert / George Melly / Ennio Morricone / Muse / Nightwish mash up. Annlouice has toned down her voice for this new one, more 40's screen siren than opera diva, although she does enjoy a couple of full Brunhilda moments, and Daniel does sounds rather like Matthew Bellamy. Their Pandora's Piñata of devilish delights opens with the quickstep 'Voodoo Mon Amour', if it doesn't get you cutting a rug, then you must be 6ft under, or as the Mask would say, it's “ssssssssmokin'!”. 'Guerilla Laments' sees them in full carnival mariachi mode, followed by the super swing waltz 'Kevlar Sweethearts'. A brief moment of Johannes's mournful cello in 'How to Organize a Lynch Mob' (where do they get these titles?) segues into the surf boogie of 'Black Box Messiah' with some Pinky and Perky / Chipmunks wacky vocals. The next song 'Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball' is incredible, something like a souped-up mix-up of 'Supermassive Black Hole' and 'Always On My Mind'. 'Aurora' showcases Annlouice in a operatic symphonic classical ballad that's amazingly inventive, then they are off to Bollywood with 'Mass Rapture' complete with sitar, followed by the almost Jamiroquai esque swinging jazz funk 'Honey Trap Aftermath'. 'Of Kali Ma Calibre' is like something out of Carmen as done by Tim Burton, and the final orchestral epic 'Justice for Saint Mary' is probably the finest and most adventurous song they're ever recorded. These guys don't fool about when it comes to recording and performing to the highest professional standards, including drumming by former Therion stick man Petter Karlsson. This is certainly their most consistently well executed and ingenious album so far, putting everything they do well into one easy to open Pandora's Piñata, so waltz you way to their ballroom
, a ssssssssmokin' 9.5/10 (Phil)
CRY FOR EDEN...'THE 11th Hour'
(Self Release) Reviewed 7th May 2012
It has taken keyboardist and composer James Borst from Portland four years to realise his dream, during that time no less than eight singers have passed through his band, until he finally found the perfect choice in singer Lisa Mann and her deep powerful voice. Lisa is a successful artist in her own right, 2009 recipient of the Cascade Blues Association's Muddy Waters Award for Vocalist of the Year, and she was elevated in 2010 to the CBA Hall of Fame with her third win in a row for Bass Player of the Year, her website is here
. The message behind this symphonic melodic progressive rock/metal album, perhaps similar in style to Roswell Six and TSO, is of paramount importance to James, and indeed all of us, so I will cover it in some detail. The World and it's people are at the Eleventh Hour as we head for destruction through war, hatred and environmental catastrophe, the only way out is an awakening that leads into a New World of understanding, tolerance, and selfless service to others. Appropriately all proceeds from sales go to charitable causes that promote World Peace. 'The Prelude' opens with a child being sung to sleep with a lullaby by her mother, her mother then goes to watch the news report about the Highway of Death in the Iraq War, but soon after her daughter awakes with terrible nightmares about the end of the world, leading into a foreboding thunderous prog metal instrumental. The dramatic title track 'The 11th Hour' takes up this theme leading into the powerful emotive ballad 'One Last Hope', can mankind find the soul and truth to save themselves and awaken to a higher consciousness? The uplifting dynamic driving 'Echoes of Eternity' echoes the act of awakening, but there are always dark seeds of doubt as expressed by the stormy instrumental section. The gentle piano instrumental 'Eve of Revelation' reflects this moment of change, leading into the rocking rousing 'Truth Behind Reason', based on a Buddhist poem about the moment when truth is found, and then we can become, in the words of the final glorious ballad, 'Finally Free'. Everything is done to the highest standards, the production, the performances by the band, and the artwork by Chase Velarde. An enormously dedicated album of inspiring music that will appeal to anyone who enjoys symphonic melodic rock/metal and prog. The importance of their message contained in the wonderful booklet means that this is an album to buy as a CD rather than download. Their superb website is here
, an inspirational 9/10 (Phil)
CRYSTAL VIPER ...'CRIMEN EXCEPTA'
(AFM Records) Reviewed 13th April 2012
Crystal Viper is a Female Fronted Traditional Heavy Metal act from Poland, founded in 2003 and led by the singer & guitarist Marta Gabriel. After doing 3 full length studio albums, several single and EP releases and appearing on a bunch of compilations, the band managed to establish their position on the underground music scene. Now we have their heaviest, most dark and aggressive album - a concept effort about holy inquisition, black magic and witches, where fiction is mixed with historical facts. Having just reviewed the debut Huntress record, I suppose there is a resemblance here between the two bands, but to be perfectly honest, I much prefer this recording, which I think has a little more commercial appeal, despite the aforementioned heavy and aggressive stance. On this cd, the band has also recorded a cover version of a classic Death Metal anthem, their version of the classic Vader song 'Tyrani Piekiel' (Tyrants Of Hell) - which will be available as the bonus track on the limited edition of this record. This track also features Vader mainman Piotr "Peter" Wiwczarek, so you can hear their amazing vocal duet of Marta and Peter. How to sum up this album? Well with classic metal tracks like opener 'Witch's Mark', 'Child of the Flame', the awesome title track and 'Medicus Animarium', and then throw in the catchy 'Hope Is Gone Here's New Law', we have a heavy and dark album, but still from the old school of classic Metal. Influences of bands such as Mercyful Fate are apparent, and are mixed here with riffs that could land on some classic Iron Maiden record - and let's not forget the amazing vocals of Marta Gabriel, who sounds like the younger sister of Chastain's Leather Leone. One more thing - the additional bonus track 'Ghosts of Sherwood', a very commercial number, great stuff! Welcome to the world of CRYSTAL VIPER: a world full of Flying Vs and tube amplifiers..released 27th April! 9/10 (Dave)
DARK PRINCESS...'THE WORLD I'VE LOST'
(Out Of Line) Reviewed 6th April 2012
Dark Princess from Russia is a fave band of mine. Earlier recordings have received favourable reviews on this website, with their catchy Evanescence style of Gothic Metal. Previous vocalist Olga Romanova has been replaced with Natalia, whose vocal style is similar. And with regards Dark Princess, "if it ain't broken why fix it" certainly applies, as this new release follows a similar pattern to their previous works. There is some very good material here with every song offering a mix of catchy melodies and charismatic vocals. 'We Cannot Fly So High' is already being previewed on YouTube (here
) and offers a good example as to what to expect on this album. 'Fields Of Use' takes a slightly heavier route, but still very commercial and catchy, with Evanescence style male backing 'rap' vox. 'The Key' is a track that appeared on the 'Cruel Game' cd from 2007, that album was sung in Russian apart from two English Language tracks that included 'The Key', while the number 'Paradise Land' has a Russian Folk vibe. Every number on this record is a standout. Great stuff and well recommended for lovers of lightweight, catchy and commercial Gothic Rock and Metal...9/10 (Dave)
CULT OF WHORES AND DOGS..'MURDER LANE'
(HTT Single) Reviewed 5th April 2012
Cult of Whores and Dogs hail from the Newcastle area, and have over the past several months become very good mates of mine. Collectively, the band list their musical influences as Cobain, Hendrix, Hetfield, Dream Theatre, Opeth, Evanesence, Marilyn Manson and The Sex Pistols, amongst many others. A musical minefield so as to speak. There was an EP in the can, but it seems the band has decided not to release this. Instead, they will release a single 'Murder Lane', that would have been one track from this EP, but there will be a video to accompany this single in due course. To anybody who may be familiar with COWAD, 'Murder Lane' is a real commercial departure from the heavy crunching and aggressive sound of their earlier EP 'Brass Knuckle Bondage and Morgue Rules'. Indeed, Jessica adopts a near operatic apparoach to proceedings on this single, which in turn sees the band taking a more Gothy route, which I think would personally appeal most certainly to the European market. 'Murder Lane' really does show what this band is capable of, and on this showing, well who knows. I like this...difficult to give one song a mark, but this band is well worth keeping an eye on. Their Facebook is here
CAPRICIA..'FOOLED BY THE HEART'
(Melodic Revolution Records) Reviewed 14th March 2012
This Israeli formation were founded back in 2002 by guitarist Arnold Nesis, but various problems and events halted their progress and led to many changes in line-up. The name comes from 'the caprice', described in Wikipedia as “a piece of music, usually fairly free form in nature and of a lively character. The typical caprice is one that is fast, intense, and often virtuosic in nature”. This perfectly sums up their very theatrical and dramatic music, mixing together elements of symphonic, gothic and prog metal and rock which at times owes something to musical theatre, I am sometimes reminded of something like Equilibrio by Xystus. The album comes on two CD's with different artwork, the first CD is called 'Fooled by the Hush' with 5 songs, the second is titled '24' with a 24 minute self contained rock/metal opera. A variety of singers are used, including ladies Naama Waisel and Vidi Doleve, gentleman Aviv Hadar who uses a variety of voices, and current member Shelly Seaffer who is also a singer-songwriter in her own right, you can find her here
. They begin with the symphonic gothic 'Recline in the Fire' with its superb choir which reminds me of Weeping Silence, then 'Before the Storm Arrives' which is more prog with a real swagger, and the multifaceted ballad 'Melodic Scream'. The next two meld various different parts together in a most fascinating way, the more gothic 'Chaotic', which even has some brief growls, and the theatrical dramatic 'Something's Wrong', preparing you for their masterpiece. '24' is the story of a day in the life of a person who has a painful past, when they awake they have the choice to face the pain of reality, or live in a dream, the five passages reflecting their state of mind, whether real or fantasy. Each minute of the song equates to an hour of the day, as they run through a whole gamut of musical styles from Renaissance to Therion in this quite extraordinary piece of work that has taken five years to create. A highly distinctive and imaginative album that has been years in the making, with a broad spectrum of music that will appeal to anyone who enjoys a diverse pallet of rock, prog and metal. Spend the day at their website here
, a theatrical 8.75/10 (Phil)
(Self Release) Reviewed 29th February 2012
This French trio of vocalist Lorraine Young, guitarist, keyboardist and drummer Steven Francis and bassist/keyboardist Emmanuel de Saint Meen are proud to present the eagerly awaited sequel to their début. In the first instalment we heard how The Mother was a woman who had broken free of the virtual reality life created by the AI's (Artificial Intelligences) and had re-established human civilisation on the planet. In this second we discover how over the centuries a religion had grown up based on her, but it was a faith that had distorted her message, twisted her legend, and contained many misconceptions, including the false belief that she had forced the AI's to go, when in fact they had simply left to explore the universe. By mistake someone triggers one of the machines left behind by the AI's which recreates an army that is intent on destroying the humans and re-establishing AI rule. This army includes a clone of the original Mother who at first has no memory of her later life, but she slowly begins to get flashbacks. The people call her The Usurper and she is caught and put on trial, but what will be the consequences? Their music is as engrossing as the story, although in nine easily digested songs, it is best heard as a complete listening experience. There are comparisons with modern prog bands like Porcupine Tree and Ayreon, but I can also hear the likes of Patrick Moraz, Vangelis, Yes, Camel and Absolute Elsewhere in the mix. They have matured as a band and this is a more rounded and diverse album with a lovely balance of songs, like the driving rocking 'Double Visions', the syncopated 'Recipe For Disaster, the ballad 'Veridical Paradox', and the dramatic bluesy 'Revelation'. Lorraine has a calm effortless angelic voice, the very embodiment of the purity, gentleness and kindness of The Mother. Musicianship is exemplary, they are more concerned with mood and melody than flash showing off, and the synth sounds are awesome with lots of very distinctive atmospheric effects and faultless production. Although their music and lyrics are artistic, intelligent, thought provoking and adventurous, this is a highly accessible, easy to listen to and very melodic album with no weirdness, just great atmosphere. They await your listening pleasure at their website here
, an engrossing 9/10 (Phil)
(AFM Records) Reviewed 24th February 2012
Dalriada is a folk metal band from Sopron, Hungary that was formed in 1998 as Echo of Dalriada, but shortened their name to Dalriada in late 2006. Their third studio album Kikelet and all subsequent albums were successful in the official Mahasz music charts, with 'Szelek' (Hammer Music/Nail Records) peaking at the second position in 2008. The band has taken it's name from Dalriada (also Dál Riata), which was a Gaelic overkingdom on the western seaboard of Scotland with some territory on the northern coasts of Ireland. In the late 6th and early 7th century it encompassed roughly what is now Argyll and Bute and Lochaber in Scotland and also County Antrim in N Ireland. Okay, history lesson over with, the band is fronted by Laura Binder, with help in the vocal dept from guitarist András Ficzek, with some harsh vocals into the mix from keyboardist Barnabás Ungár and drummer Tadeusz Rieckmann. They offer basically 11 tracks of Folk Metal sung in their native tongue on this, their seventh studio album (released last year in-fact), and a unique listening experience this is aswell. Some corking catchy tracks on here that would have the Folk Metal fan in wonderland, and yet one of my fave tracks is possibly more conventional metal, that track being the bouncy 'Leszek a Csillag' (meaning 'I’ll be the Star'). Indeed, Ígéret (which means 'Promise'), with it's mix of guitars, violin, violas, double bass and tambourines amongst other Folk/Rock paraphernalia, offers up a mixture of Epic melodies and power coupled with passionate vocals, and sure is worth a listen. And with another album 'Napisten hava' due this year, this band seem to be a rather busy outfit in the studio. A good listen, and thanks to Aimee by the way for the translation! 8.5/10 (Dave)
DIABULUS IN MUSICA..'THE WANDERER'
(Napalm Records) Reviewed 15th February 2012
With their latest 12 track album, the Spanish quintet proves that impressive gothic metal need not hail from Scandinavia. The musicians revolving around vocalist Zuberoa Aznárez, have refined the trademark sound first heard on their debut album 'Secrets', and brought their latest work to a whole new level. Diabulus in Musica unite heavy riffs with sensual melodies and appealing refrains. The backbone of the band is its powerful rhythm section, and most importantly a drummer who knows how to properly embellish songs with the finest of details. The guitars and keyboards build upon this sturdy foundation to reveal the band's strength: uniting musical prowess with irrefutable appeal. This desirable concoction becomes most apparent on tracks such as 'Blazing a Trail', 'Hidden Reality', and 'Sentenced to Life'. 'Ex Nihilo' is one of the more catchy numbers that springs to mind, while the album offers occasional harsh vocals from Adrian M. Vallejo and Gorka Elso, and some great choral backing that reminds me to an extent of Sirenia. Indeed the album at times reminds me of latter day Sirenia with catchy and melodic numbers coming to the fore. Even the heavy 'Shadow of the Throne' that fully utilises the extreme vocal formula, comes across really well with it's choral backing, while 'Sentenced To Life' is a particulary good and rather atmospheric ballad. This latest offering from this band is not a mere collection of songs, but rather a passionate and sweeping gothic metal album that will mesmerize the listener from beginning to end. On this showing, these Spaniards are proving to the world that they are wanting to be up there with the top guns. Whether they can do it with this release remains to be seen, but I am convinced that great things will beckon for them if not now, certainly in the future, especially with the Napalm stable now backing them. Highly recommended! 9/10 (Dave)
CRYPTIC AGE..'HOMELAND' EP
(Self Release) Reviewed 17th January 2012
Cryptic Age is a band from York here in the UK and class themselves as a Folk Metal Band with dynamic female vocals, heavy guitars and traditional Celtic tunes. And if you add a progressive twist into the mix, then we have an interesting release here. This in-fact is the second Folk Metal album I have reviewed today, and like the offering from Russian band Grai, this is good. The 'Homeland' EP is heavier than the album from Russia however, Cryptic Age tending to blend the Folk elements with a more powerful style of metal, with the vocals from Jenny Green leaning more towards soprano. Some good musicianship all round here, and I can imagine Alex Brandsen really hammering his drum kit in a live scenario (mind you, he hammers it anyway). This cd is good with the track 'No Folkin' Way' (great title) an in yer face Folk Metal instrumental. Their Facebook is here
, while this is a release that this UK band should be rather proud of, and it is well worth checking out...8.25/10 (Dave)
CARDAMON..'SUN AS NEVER'
(Digital Release Only) Reviewed 3rd January 2012
Cardamon is yet another band to come out of Holland, which to me is now becoming the mecca of all things relating to female fronted rock and metal. But they are not another Within Temptation, tending to follow a similar path that is being trodden by fellow countrymen Only Fate Remains and to an extent Autumn, Kingfisher Sky and The Gathering. 'Sun As Never' is the band's second offering, and is more guitar orientated than their debut 'The Primrose Path'. What I like about this type of music however, is although it has a certain heaviness, you can find yourself playing the cd when you have friends visiting, and it can play in the background and remain inoffensive. Some good stuff here, 'Spanning The Distance' has a certain crunch as has 'All You Were Meant To Be'. Floortje Donia's vocals are crystal clear, whilst Kevin Storm creates a storm (excuse the pun) on guitar together with Koen Romeijn, but they sure do give this album the aforementioned crunch in the guitar dept, coupled of course with some beautiful melodies I hasten to add - just check out 'Walk On By' as one example. This so happens to be a very good album, and is worth checking out, and furthermore, it so happens to be available as a FREE download from HERE
. Get it! 9/10 (Dave)
DIRTY HABIT..'MENTAL EXECUTION'
(Dirty Records) Reviewed 21st December 2011
Habitants of Manchester, dynamic duo sexy Scarlette Sin, vocals and bass, and guitarist Daniel Mucs deal in no holds barred, full throttle, kick ass, nice 'n' sleazy heavy power rock, sort of Suzie Quatro meets Motorhead, but with a funky groovy undercurrent. This baby doesn't hang around, opener 'Hell' hits you straight between the eyes and they don't let up during the course of the next 10 driving rockers, this ain't for shrinking violets. Choice cuts like 'Alcohol', 'Car Wreck', 'Gold Digger' and on 'Dirty Little Habits' Scarlette sings, “I do it good, I do it well, but I'm not ashamed of what I do …. I've got a dirty little habit”, I don't know what dirty habits Scarlette has, but I'd sure like to find out. The deep down and dirty production suits them mighty fine, although it''s a little dense at times. It's loaded with what they eloquently describe as Daniel's prodigiac guitaristry, pounding drums that turn out to be programmed, you'd be hard pushed to tell, Scarlette's rumbling bass, and her attitude filled vocals, I bet they really rip the place up live with their new drummer Toby. Perhaps a slower or acoustic number would have been good in the middle, just to give the old ears a rest while you went to the bar for a shot of Bourbon, before heading back to the fray. Curiously, when they have such a great image, the cover artwork looks like schoolboy doodle, makes it look like a wimpy indie record, not a mighty slab of rock. If no frills dirty rock 'n' roll is your tipple of choice, then mosey on down to their Facebook
, but beware, this may be habit forming, a nice 'n' sleazy 8/10 (Phil)
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