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Ravenheart Music: Album Reviews

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MERKABAH...'UBIQUITY'

(Maple Metal) Reviewed 22nd April 2014

Quebec City, Canada based female-fronted Symphonic Power Metallers, MERKABAH has released their third album ‘Ubiquity’. MERKABAH, were established in 2002 as a quintet, and self-released 2 albums: ‘Shadows Never Forget’ in 2005, and ‘The Realm of All Secrets’ in 2007. Fronted by Jacinthe Poulin, this release offers 8 tracks of the aforementioned Symphonic Power Metal accompanied with awesome keyboard arrangements and of course the great voice of Jacinthe. The songs are of a lengthy nature, 'Divine Sparks' the shortest track on the album running in at a little over four and a half minutes, and the closer and epic progressive tinged instrumental title track that hits the twelve minute mark. I would have preferred some vocals on this number, but that is just my opinion. Difficult to pick out a favourite track, but 'Brothers From The Seed Of Cain' hits the spot with me, a mid tempo melodic pounder. All in all a very good effort from these Canadians, the band themselves having shared the stage with such acts as Lacuna Coil, Hammerfall, and Gamma Ray in recent years. Check out their rather cool song 'Red Letter Days' at www.youtube.com/watch?v=_r9cyf7w41g&feature=youtu.be... 8.5/10 (Aimee)

LACUNA COIL...'BROKEN CROWN HALO'

(Century Media) Reviewed 14th April 2014

Lacuna Coil is like a good wine, the older it gets the better it gets and to put it simply, this is what can be said of this awesome band. This record, the band's seventh simply follows the male/female dual vocal formula which we associate with these Italians, coupled with some trademark catchy anthemic Gothic Metal that keeps this band well and truly in the premier league. There are eleven tracks here and none disappoint, a truly memorable listening experience. I am pushed to mention any fave track, but the catchy 'I Forgive (But I Won't Forget Your Name)' may just edge it for me at the moment, but repeated listens may well see that honour change. The album ends with the track 'One Cold Day', dedicated to their deceased ex-band member, guitarist Claudio Leo, a dark and moving tribute indeed. You know what - "if it ain't broken why fix it". Yep, I agree, well recommended and long may Lacuna Coil continue to make good music... 9.25/10 (Dave)

LIPSHOK...'SOUL OF A BROKEN MIND'

(Self Release) Reviewed 11th March 2014

LIPSHOK is a female fronted band from California playing progressive symphonic metal that is unique, gothic, haunting, melodic, ethereal and highly commercial. This their latest offering is rather good. Fronted by Scarlett Dark (Debbi Douglas) who also takes care of keys and is the main songwriter, the band kick the album off with the pouding 'Path Of Stone' (video link), which to me offers up an 80s feel with pouding guitars, a great guitar solo (compliments Art Cox) and liberal use of keys. Second up 'Just The One You Love' is an awesome power ballad, keeping that 80s retro feel going. This siegues very nicely into 'Evil Lost' - great use of keys and synths within the intro to this track. 'Against Me' is a massive power ballad with a huge guitar lead by guest guitarist, Glen Avelais, who toured with Testament and Forbidden. 'It's Over Now' keeps the momentum going, almost a bluesy feel incorporating another great guitar solo. 'Is It Far From You' sees the band slowing it down and going acoustic, while 'I Am No One' starts off with haunting keys, before turning into a pounding rocker, this number being a duet with Norman Skinner (Imagika, Skinner, and Dire Peril). The closing duo of 'Rain Of Fire' and 'Melancholy Madness' end the cd in an awesome fashion, the latter being an intimate song featuring piano, keys, and vocals only, and a rather nice way to end the record. Recorded, Mixed, and Mastered by Brad Barth at Audio Voyage Studios, Livermore, California, this album is rather good which to me offers modern day melodic rock & metal with an 80s influence. This is well recommended from the Ravenheart team. The band's Facebook is here... 8.75/10 (Dave)

LYXX...'RUN AWAY' EP

(Self Release) Reviewed 26th Feb 2014

LYXX is an all-girl hard rock band from North-East England, and here we have a rockin' three track EP to blow away the cobwebs and confirm that girls in rock do just that - "rock", and with attitude! Three tracks running in at just a little under 9 mins. Imagine a female Motley Crue or Danger Danger and that will give you an idea where these young lasses are going. Their Facebook is here - these girls have more balls than most guys - so check them out...8/10 (Dave)

LENORE S. FINGERS...'INNER TALES'

(My Kingdom Music) Reviewed 11th Feb 2014

Coming from the southernmost region of Italy, Lenore S Fingers is a band formed in 2010 by five people with very different styles, influences and musical approaches. Roman Dirge’s comic “Lenore, The Cute Little Dead Girl” and David Firth’s fantasy character Salad Fingers, are the basis of their monicker, but it also represent the roots of the music made by dark and melancholic atmospheres with Metal distortions and rhythmic structures. The band is now ready to debut with a 9 track album showcasing the intense work and dedication of this group of musicians. Standing at the deep heart of each tune are the dolcet and angelic tones of singer Federica Lenore, and she is accompanied by the band which offers up a rock solid wall of distorted guitar riffs coupled with an intense groundbreaking work made by the rhythmic section, all this being in the great tradition of bands like Katatonia, Anathema and The Gathering. I must say that everything melts together with the most intense and melancholic melodies of the alienating and decadent young voice of this lass, bringing on an absolutely soulshaking contrast. This album is magical with the heaviness of opening duo of 'Inner Tales' and 'The Last Dawn' coupled with the beauty of numbers like 'Cry Of Mankind' and 'Song To Eros'. This is a stunning masterpiece of a recording from this band, so may I suggest you enjoy the musical journey too and buy this record, which is available from 24th February. The band's Facebook can be found here...8.75/10 (Dave)

LESBIAN BED DEATH...'THE DEVIL'S BOUNTY HUNTERS'

(Self Released) Reviewed 13th November 2013

Another rather good album we have here from Midlands UK based band Lesbian Bed Death, who is fronted by the awesome vocals of Kittie Racchea. The funds for this album was raised by the fans via PledgeMusic.com, and I must say that anybody who has pledged any of their hard earned cash, will not be disappointed by what is on offer here. And I would also like to add that the band is donating 10% of the cash raised in excess of what was required for the album, to their nominated charity ‘Dogs For The Disabled’. Totally awesome guys and gal!! This indeed is cool Gothic Punk as the band like to call it, but I would like to add that the album despite it's Gothic Punk status, has a host of accessible and radio friendly tunes, including 'Soul Sucker' (from their previous cd 'Riot Of The Living Dead'), 'Ghost In The Mirror' ( a fave of mine) and the ultra commercial 'Broken', amongst a host of other real gems. The musician ship throughout from all band members is from the top drawer, and there are even three un-plugged versions from previously recorded numbers - 'Seven Days', 'Bela Lugosi's Back' and 'Everybody's Dead'. For those who pledged money to the campaign, the album is now available, otherwise one will have to wait until January - well worth the wait however, I hasten to add. The band's website is at www.lesbianbeddeath.net/ - recommended!... 8.75/10 (Dave)

MADNESS OF THE NIGHT...'THE ASGARDA'

(Massacre Records) Reviewed 7th November 2013

This is the debut album from Swedish gothic rock/dark wave duo MADNESS OF THE NIGHT. The band features Daniel Dante, former member of the Swedish gothic metal band Soulgrinder, and female singer Abir Blackshadow. Daniel from Sweden, deeply rooted in 80’s metal, met Abir from Beirut, Lebanon, through the internet. They shared love for gothic and dark wave bands - such as Sisters Of Mercy, Dead Can Dance or The Cult, which eventually led to forming MADNESS OF THE NIGHT in 2011. This their debut album, goes way beyond being the satisfying musical offspring of their collaboration. It is also the intimate soundtrack of singer Abir, holding on in times of hostilities and oppression. The attempt of leading the self-confident life of a woman within the confined space of an Arabian metropolis. This ideology is well represented in opener 'Oppression', just listen to the lyrics! 'The State of Madness' and 'Theatre of Life' are bouncy melodic numbers and the Sisters Of Mercy influence begins to shine through, again lyrically dark tracks, although the latter I believe may be sung in Abir's native tounge. 'The interestingly titled 'We Are Gothrockers And We Don't Care', is another uptempo track, and well we don't care, do we? Vocally on this track, I even hear influences to Russell Mael of Sparks fame - remember them?, those falsetto vocals! Those influences even spring up on the slower 'She Is The Demon'. The second half of the record is equally as awesome and as lyrically dark, it sets you thinking, with 'Voices Of The People' showing real aggression against oppression! Produced by Andy Horn (Mortal Love, Darkseed, Edenbridge), it was he that created the album‘s tight and oomphy 80's Goth Rock sound. Furthermore, the record represents and reveals all these pent-up emotions and suppressed aggressions in a very intense way. This musical expression of pain, helplessness and the rage evoked by intolerance and acts of violence grabs the listener instantly - simply because of it‘s authentic nature. Nowadays Abir and Daniel are married with two children and live in Sweden, far away from big city madness. Due 29th November and well recommended, and I very much doubt this will be available in any Arab countries!!... 8.5/10 (Dave)

LEGEND...'SPIRIT'

(Ravenheart Music) Reviewed 6th November 2013

I get a little nervous when reviewing an album on my own label for this website, even more so when that particular record is so damn good, that I can't help liking it no matter what label it is on. 'Sprit' by these UK Progressive Rockers, who have been on the scene since 1988, is one such album and it is their seventh! - and it is damn awesome to boot! Okay, one may look at the cover and say, 5 tracks running in at just over an hour? Are we in for a feast of Progressive widdly diddly shenanigans? The answer to that is a firm "no". Okay, these amazing tracks are lengthy, the shortest 'Wood For The Trees' runs in at just under 7 minutes, while 'A Tangled Skein' runs in at 18+ minutes. But I must say that there are more hooks on this release than a Japanese whaling fleet and I can not get at all bored listening to anything here. Okay, the bands Progressive roots are still firmly entrenched in the music that is on offer, but what they also do is introduce a grand Melodic and Symphonic element to the music, and they do that very well, very well indeed. Another plus factor here is vocalist Becks Sian, who so happens to be related to Kate Bush, and you can actually hear Kate Bush influences shining through in the girls awesome vocal approach. The diversity of sound on the cd has encouraged comparisons to such luminaries as Jethro Tull, Within Temptation, Rush, Renaissance, Jefferson Airplane, Nightwish and Loreena McKennitt. I have to say again that this record is very good and it will appeal to the Progressive Rock/Metal fan, as well as those that like their music rather more Symphonic. It is easy for me to say this, but nonetheless, I whole heartedly recommend this album to all and sundry, so buy it!.. 9.25/10 (Dave)

LEAVES' EYES...'SYMPHONIES OF THE NIGHT'

(Napalm Records) Reviewed 5th November 2013

Leaves' Eyes including the husband and wife team of Alexander Krull on vocals & programming and Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull as the lovely front lady, present us with their new release and as we would expect, it is another melodic corker to add to the ever growing music collection. The new album brings the listener into a world of legends! Majestic and sweeping songs coupled with beautiful melodies that will you breathless, and offering a massive amount of catchiness as well. Clad with a perfect sound – featuring a real orchestra, choir, Uilean pipes, Irish whistle, fiddle and dulcimer – LEAVES’ EYES present musical fireworks of the highest level. Kicking off with opener and leading single 'Hell To The Heavens', this record is Symphonic Metal of the highest calibre and I do not think I have heard Liv Kristine in such good form vocally. We have some storming songs throughout including 'Symphony of the Night', the majestic 'Saint Cecelia' and the thumping 'Angel and the Ghost'. The heart of the album however, is the bombastic 'Hymn to the Lone Sands' that combines all of the band's trademarks and is magical!. The two bonus tracks on the LIMITED EDITION are a special treat too! 'Eileen’s Ardency' is a sensitive duet featuring Liv Kristine and her sister Carmen Elise Espenæs (MIDNATTSOL), and 'One Caress' which is a fantastic cover of DEPECHE MODE’s classic song. This album is awesome - enough said - released on various dates in various territories from mid to end November.. 9.5/10 (Dave)

MAGION...'A DIFFERENT SHADE OF DARKNESS'

(Self Release) Reviewed 1st November 2013

Hailing from The Netherlands, Magion fronted by the voice of an angel Myrthe van Beest, bring you their second album, containing 10 epic tracks of sheer Symphonic Metal bliss. And 'Beloved Enemies' is a monumental way to kick off such a fine album - a very gradoise start and I love it. And before you can catch your breath, second up 'Masquerade' powers it's way out of the speakers with some awesome growls from Chris Vrij..the guitarist, composer and producer - a talented guy obviously. 'Ever And A Day' is powerful, a little folky and reminds me of Leaves' Eyes to some extent, as to some of the other numbers presented here. 'Shallow Grounds' is another epic Symphonic masterpiece, while 'Out Of Time' is a collosal number, simply a master stroke in Power Balladry - one of my faves from the album. And if the first five tracks of the album leaves you breathless, then the second five will too. 'Chance To Change' and 'Break The Silence' being two such songs that really push this band into the Premier League, while 'Untrue' shows no let up, Symphonic Power Metal from the top drawer. The closing duo of 'Body's Betrayal', another epic atmospheric power ballad and the powerful and bombastic 'Neverending Winter', end what is a very good album from this Dutch band. And I think there are some people that will be having some severe cashflow problems, as I have been receiving some very good cds of late. Anyway, the record offers a dark and bombastic sound, top-notch performances, massive production and breathtaking artwork, that in turn should impress any true fan of powerful, melodic music. Go for it and buy at CDbaby and other internet locations - well worth it.. 9/10 (Dave)

LEAH...'OTHERWORLD' EP

(Self Release) Reviewed 18th October 2013

Let's put it simply, this is awesome and to be frank, this Canadian girl should be picked up by the likes of Napalm Records, enough said. Her last full length album 'Of Earth & Angels' was absolutely massive and should by right have propelled the girl to stardom. And now she releases this little gem which to my ears proves that her last cd was not just a one off masterpiece. Five massive numbers here mixing Within Temptation with Enya, and on the last track titled 'Dreamland', LEAH really ups the ante. I am lost for words but I love every moment of this! Order it here.. 9.5/10 (Dave)

LEVANIA...'RENASCENTIS'

(WormholeDeath) Reviewed 10th October 2013

Levania (meaning "moon" in Hebrew) is fronted by the awesome LIGEIA on vocals and they are a Gothic Metal band conceived in Ferrara (Italy) in March 2007. Their songs are based on several inspirations and influences. It therefore may not be totally proper to label them as a pure "Gothic Metal" band. Perhaps "Gothic-Epic-Death-Metal" is a more appropriate definition for Levania's music and composing style. There are 12 tracks being offered to the listener on this release and although I did make a mention of "Death Metal", I myself would not say this a total Death metal release, the songs taking on perhaps more of an epic Symphonic Gothic Metal feel, with female vocals coupled with occasional growls and some clean male vocals as well. And to be honest, if I had to aptly describe a Symphonic Gothic Metal record, this album would be it. And very good this package is too with standout tracks a plenty and some numbers of colossal beauty too - one such grandiose number being 'My Writings Of Hope' which indeed is one of my faves from this, the band's second 'proper' record. Take a trip to Levania's website here, this album being well recommended by us here at Ravenheart...9/10 (Dave)

LEAVES...'THIS IS THE TIME' EP

(WormholeDeath) Reviewed 9th October 2013

Leaves fronted by a young lass called Rachel is a band from Barcelona that plays music with powerful guitar lines, a good rhythm section and a melodic female voice. I reviewed their debut full length cd 'While The Light Continues Spinning' back in March 2010 and that was and indeed still is a very good effort. The band has now been picked up by WormHoleDeath who has released this 6 track EP. This record very much carries on where the full length cd left off. Six tracks of mid tempo and at times laid back rock music that still to me bears strong resemblances to The Gathering (their earlier stuff I hasten to add). Leaves offer up here a very powerful but sensitive sound and I well recommend this release, with a fave track of mine being the laid back 'Ahora Yo'. I am informed however, that at the moment, the EP will only be available digitally. The band's Facebook is here... 8.5/10 (Dave)

LATELESS...'WAY OUT'

(Self Released) Reviewed 23rd August 2013

I must admit to rather taking a shine to Lateless, the rather good band from Saint-Petersburg in Russia. It seems to me that Russia is quietly becoming the hotbed of Gothic Rock and Metal, and this album just serves to prove the point. 'Way Out' offers 10 tracks of uptempo Melodic Gothic Metal with electro elements to set feet tapping, and have you dancing around the room in no time at all. Onto the album itself, and the opening salvo of 'Farewell' and 'Artificial Girl' are good enough, but then along comes the song 'Ôàëüø'. Sung in Russian, I have no idea of translation, but yay, what a catchy bouncy number that one is I must say - rather cool. And you will not be allowed to recover as next up 'Let Go' maintains the momentum. 'Vampire' slows it down a bit initially, but once the band kick in, we see the tempo being raised. The title track is damn awesome, while 'Óëåòàþ' is another Russian song that is the album's power ballad. Again, my Russian is a little rusty, but musically, this is excellent! 'Against', 'Korosu (To Kill)' and 'Queen of Hearts' bring the album to it's conclusion, and to be perfectly honest, there is not a duff track to be found if you like this style of music. The album bounces along like a demented Kangaroo, their Facebook is here and I must say, this is rather good! 9/10 (Dave)

MOJAVE...'RAINY GHOST'

(Black Canvas Records) Reviewed 2nd August 2013

Voted one of Vancouver’s best bands by readers of the Georgia Straight and named “promising newcomers” by Billboard Magazine, Mojave are set to release a 3rd album ‘Rainy Ghost’ through their own label Black Canvas Records on August 7th. I have had the real pleasure to have known front lass Lisa for some while now, while at the same time she has been supporting what I do. Indeed, the Mojave sound continues to take Lisa and Paul's (her partner in crime) hard rock roots and winds it into a quieter intensity. Lisa’s clear and impressive vocals soar over delicate acoustic guitars & instrumentation and eclectic percussion – weaving melodies and telling stories all at the same time. This album is damn beautiful and Lisa's vocals hit the spot with me - the angel with those totally awesome vocals actually lives in Canada, now you know! All the numbers here are fantastic and I am not going to bother to name any standout tunes as they all standout. If you have had a hard day at the office and want a soothing and comforting album to listen to when you get back home, this is it folks. Produced by Geoff Johnson and recorded in Tofino BC, 100% of all proceeds for this recording will be donated to three amazing animal charities – Stillpointe Llama Sanctuary, Catskill Animal Sanctuary and Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary. It is a download only release, but please support this band and their chosen charities. A track from the album can be heard here..9/10 (Dave)

LAPIS LAZULI...'LOST'

(Self Released) Reviewed 25th June 2013

Lapis Lazuli hail from Sweden, and with this their latest release, they offer up a rather nice healthy dosage of Symphonic Metal, not too far away from Tarja era Nightwish, although perhaps not as bombastic. Now fronted by Cecilia Kamf after the departure of Frida Eurenius in January, we have 13 rather tasty numbers here to sink your teeth into. My only gripe is the track 'No Escape' that features male growls and nothing but male growls. There is nothing wrong with that, but it just seems a little out of place on this release. Anyway, there are a host of corking Symphonic tunes here including the openers 'Overture' and 'Floating Away', the 7 minute plus and one of my faves 'Darker Shade Of Me', the catchy 'Forgive, Never Forget', and 'Illusions' with vocal duties on this number shared with keys man and founder member Timo Hautamäki I believe. Overall, this is a good release from the Swedes, and to be perfectly frank, I am surprised that they have not as yet caught the attention of a bigger label. And just as a footnote, while writing this review, I am in-fact chatting to ex vocalist Frida on Facebook about the weather and other not so musical themes, plus her new EP due this coming winter :) - I digress however, 'Lost' by the way is recommended... 8.5/10 (Dave)

LA-VENTURA...'WHITE CROW'

(Self Release) Reviewed 3rd June 2013

My initial flirtations with the Dutch band La Ventura is a long story, after I bought a sub standard cdr of the band's rather good debut 'A New Beginning' from cdbaby. This sub standard copy was nothing to do with the band or indeed cdbaby, just some unscrupulous record label trying to make a quick buck! Five years or so have lapsed since then, but now the band present to us their latest recording, the rather tasty 'White Crow'. The debut album was more keyboard orientated but very catchy with very accessible melodies. This record sees the keys pushed more to the background, giving the guitars more room to provide some added crunch to the music on offer, but still with the emphasis on strong melodies and catchy tunes. And it all works very well indeed! Opener 'Falling Down' offers an immediate taste as to the path this band is now treading, heavy and abrasive, and surely one of the heaviest songs they have put onto disc since their awesome debut. And there is not a duff track to be found as the cd powers through 'Human Vanity' and the rather good 'Close To You'. Now then, I do have a soft spot for a catchy melodic tune, and the superbly titled 'Song For An Idiot' will have you singing along in no time - surely a potential live favourite. From then on there is no let up, as further songs power out of the speakers, the title track is a solid crunchy number with the powerful 'Drowning' seeing Carla Van Huizen's (formerly Douw) authoritative vocals commanding affairs. Indeed Carla's vocals are massive throughout and I feel that she has made the band her own, in other words without Carla there would not be La Ventura. 'Time and Time Again' is a massive tune, while 'Neverending Story' begins to make you wish that this cd would never end! The closing duo of 'The Only One' and 'Watch Me Go' end what is a rather good record that to my ears deserves to do very well. I have to say that since having received this cd, it has been a regular visitor to my cd player with the tracks also safely installed on my iPod. I have read a review elsewhere where the debut is preferred to 'White Crow', but I beg to differ :) All I will say is get this album as it will not disappoint! The band's Facebook is here, go on buy it! 9/10 (Dave)

MARVEL...'BLACK STONE' EP

(Self Release) Reviewed 23rd May 2013

Marvel fronted by a young lass called Olga, is an alternative progressive metal band from Kiev in Ukraine and they here serve us a feast of three tracks of rather good Progressive Metal. I rather like what the band offers here - the title track is a good way to kick the EP off, heavy, melodic, progressive and coupled with a great chorus. 'Revolution' maintains the sheer intensity of the previous track showing more progressive elements, while closer 'New Way' just wants you screaming for more when it has finished. Indeed, I will say again that this is a very good and mature release from a band that look so young. Check them out at their myspace...8.5/10 (Dave)

PAMELA MOORE...'RESURRECT ME'

(Ratpak Records) Reviewed 15th May 2013

Known by millions as "Sister Mary" for her role in Queensryche's platinum selling 'Operation Mindcrime' cd, Pamela Moore’s latest release is a full length offering that combines the best elements of heavy metal music, both past and present. Featuring Jeff Loomis (Nevermore), Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear), Brooke Lizotte (Jennifer Hudson, Leona Lewis) , and popular Chicago based metal guitarist Michael Posch, 'Resurrect Me' brings an uncompromising wall of sound while showcasing Pamela’s three and a half octave range and melodic vocal arrangements. Four years in the making, this is a solid and very well-polished powerful 10 track album, that most certainly stands on its own against anything in today’s metal marketplace! All the tracks here shine and will knock you back as they come steamrollering their way out of your speakers. Opener 'Acquiescent' is one such mind blowing track, and before you can literally pick yourself up from the floor, the ultra melodic 'Melt Into You' beats you into submission and will have you screaming for more! 'Paranoia' just keeps the awesome momentum going and indeed, that momentum like an out of control express train just does not let up. Every track here is a dead cert winner (although I do rather like the title track), and this lass from Seattle who has now been on the scene for over 30 years, has recorded what deserves to be a massive record. Anybody into Melodic Hard Rock/Metal has to check this out, you would be a fool not too, totally brilliant, 9.5/10 (Dave)

METAPRISM...EP

(Self Release - digital) Reviewed 14th May 2013

A three track offering of Dual-fronted prog-laced metal from Bournemouth, UK. Featuring current and past members of FuryBorn, Silent Prophecy and Dead By Dawn, we have here music that features beauty and the beast style music - female vocals courtesy of Theresa Smith (Silent Prophecy) with male vocals from Jut Tabor (Furyborn). Basically, if you mix the melodic style of Silent Prophecy and add the harshness and heaviness of Furyborn, that gives you an idea as to what Metaprism sound like. So overall, not a bad effort from this band from the south coast of England. Their Facebook is here, so if this is your style of music, then check them out... 7.75/10 (Dave)

LYCANTHIA...'OLIGARCHY'

(Hypnotic Dirge Records) Reviewed 16th April 2013

Formed in 1996, Lycanthia carries with them a history spanning 17 years and are one of Australia's oldest surviving doom metal bands. A six piece band hailing from Sydney, Lycanthia play traditional gothic death-doom metal with a strong emphasis on atmosphere, melody, and the captivating use of alternating male growls (courtesy Lee Tassaker) and female soprano vocals from violinist and keyboardists Vanessa Black and Megan Tassaker. Comparisons could be drawn between Lycanthia and the sound found in the early "golden age" works of classic gothic doom bands such as My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Draconian, and Theatre of Tragedy. A flagship of this particular sound is the contrast between dark, aggressive, and heavy death-doom and softer moments courtesy of female vocals, keyboards, and violin arrangements, and Lycanthia does this extraordinarily well within he eight tracks on offer on this release. The 9 minute plus epic 'The Essential Components Of Misery' kick things off, and the title alone should tell you what path this band takes - Atmospheric Gothic Doom that the band does rather well. And the fact that the 9 minutes flies by suggests to me that the opener is pretty good! There is a short string instrumental before the captivating 7 minute plus 'Forgone' springs out of the speakers and I must admit this is rather good! 'Ablaze The Wheel Turns' maintains the doomy momentum as does effectively the remainder of the record. Some further epic numbers here including the near 10 minute 'Despondency In Crescendo' complete with a chiming bell. The vocal work is complimented nicely by six very competent musicians, with the whole affair being mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios (Opeth, Katatonia). The release of Oligarchy comes in a digipack format with an 8 page foldout booklet, while I would certainly recommended this to lovers of heavy, despairing, and powerfully melancholic music, otherwise it may not be quite your cuppa tea... 7.5/10 (Dave)

MARKIZE...'A PERFECT LIE'

(Self Release) Reviewed 1st April 2013

In the world of metal their is a reluctance to embrace 'fashion' and court 'popularity', black is the uniform and if it's not underground, it's not cool. Ravishing Alina Dunaevskaya and her band on their second album fly in the face of convention, and have created an album and image that is designed to bring the masses kicking and screaming into the world of alt/gothic metal. The booklet in the rather swish digipak looks more like the pages of Vogue than a paean to the dark side, and the video for the lead single and signature song 'Mechanical Hearts' (on Female Voices) has, shock horror probe, dance routines instead of the normally compulsory head banging or running around creepy woods/houses looking lost. The result is a real guilty pleasure, like a box of Belgian chocs, packed with catchy tunes and hip sounds, but with a steel spine that will appease hardcore metalheads, a mix of Delain, Evanescence, Rammstein and Madonna. Alina is part Russian, part French, and fluent in English, and so there are songs in all three languages, the ones in English like 'New Era' and 'Perfect Lie' tend to be the more bouncing electro dance floor fillers, those in French like ' Laisse le temps s’eteindre' and 'J’erre' more symphonic alt-metal, and those in Russian like 'Все пройдет' (please don't ask me to pronounce it) more rocking, but she catches you out with 'Dance With Me' which turns out to be a ballad in English. To be brutally honest, I love 'pop-metal', and I'm a big fan of Sirenia, so this album is tight up my Champs-Élysées. Strut down the cat walk to their website www.markize.com/index_en.php to order this little beauty, a hip 9/10 (Phil)

LAID8...'THESE FADED LINES'

(Self Release) Reviewed 11th March 2013

Hailing originally from Israel and now based in London, the rather good Laid8 fronted by the powerful vocals of Tal Itay, play hard pounding melodic music to scorch the ear drums and leave you screaming for more when the cd has finished. Some melodic and dramatic stuff here including 'Flush', the heavy 'You', the bar room vibe of 'Ode To You' and 'Hopelost', which kinda reminded me a little of something Suzanne Vega may record. We are also treated to re mastered versions of numbers from their 2010 EP. With influences from known bands such as Tool, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Lamb of God and Faith No More, and reminding me at times of Worcestershire band This Wicked Tongue, there is a lot here to tickle the taste buds of many a rock fan. The band can be found here, so why not check them out... 8/10 (Dave)

MASTERCASTLE...'ON FIRE'

(Lion Music) Reviewed 7th March 2013

On Fire is the smouldering new album from Mastercastle. Consisting of 9 tracks of melodic heavy metal with neo-classical influences, from a band that has rapidly forged a glowing reputation thanks to their previous 3 releases. Led by the amazing and powerful vocals of Giorgia Gueglio, the virtuoso guitar of Pier Gonella and driving bass lines of Steve Vawamas, On Fire marks the first release with one of the world’s most respected drummers, John Macaluso (Ark, Yngwie Malmsteen, and James LaBrie). This new addition has given the band a kick up the proverbial backside taking their unique brand of metal to an even higher plateau, and this is proudly displayed by the tracks on offer here. 'Silver Eyes' is the opener, and a kick ass rocker it is too, other corkin' tunes include the pounding and very catchy 'Chains' and 'Platinum' that bounces along rather nicely with another catchy chorus, and that is just the opening threesome! 'Quicksilver' hits Power Metal territory with some great fret work, before the rather cool power ballad 'Gold Violet' slows things down to enable us to catch a breather. 'The Final Battle' is an instrumental showcasing the fine talents of fret master Pier, with next up, the melodic 'Leaden Roads' seeing the return of Giorgia after her little 'tea break'. The closing duo of 'Titanium Wings' and the instrumental 'Almost A Fancy' close what is a very impressive release from this established Italian combo. The release is scheduled 19th April by a band that is on fire! Well recommended.... 8.75/10 (Dave)

LIBRIA...'IMMORTAL DAUGHTER OF AESTHETICS'

(Wormholedeath -Dreamcell11) Reviewed 4th March 2013

LIBRIA is the new project/band born from the mind of Marianna Alfieri (Spectra Paris, Kirlian Camera, Dark Lunacy). The original idea of LIBRIA was inspired by 'Equilibrium', a Kurt Wimmer’s film (2002). All songs of LIBRIA first full-length album have been composed and arranged by Marianna (electric & acoustic guitar, piano, synth, electronics). She recorded the debut album with the collaboration of Fabio Palombi (Nerve, Ritual of Rebirth), who recorded and mixed vocals and drums (played by Massimo Marandino - Nerve, Antropofagus) at his Mela Zeta Studio (Genova, Italy). What we have here is an aural assault on the senses, with Fabio's vocals screaming like a drug raged Rhino, with additional vocal contributions from Elena Alice Fossi (Kirlian Camera, Spectra Paris) and Alessia Cavalieri. And if that is not enough, we have a violinist, Francesca Dardani who adds another dimension to the heavy and rather extreme music that this record throws at us. 'Dies Natalis' is one of the more commercial tracks with progressive elements, while the brief 'Midsummer' takes a more sedate classical route leading into the title track with it's awesome violin intro, before the number kicks into life. The album's final three tracks end on a serene, atmospheric orchestrated note compliments of Marianna, kinda like Tangerine Dream mixing it with Jean Michel Jarre, and rather nice too I hasten to add. Despite it's apparent heaviness, this is flippin good and to be frank, is well worth checking out by people who like their music on the heavy side, or alternatively would just love to annoy the neighbours. Not bad, not bad at all... 8.25/10 (Dave)

MANDRAGORA SCREAM...'LUCIFERLAND'

(Lunatic Asylum Records) Reviewed 7th February 2013

The Italian Vampires are back with what I believe to be their 5th studio album, and it shows the band on good form, with the seductive vocals of Morgan Lacroix still the main focus of attention within the unit. Perhaps not as commercial as their previous offering although after a slow, dark atmospheric start to proceedings, the track 'Persephone' does up the ante somewhat, and is one of the up beat numbers on the album. 'The Illusionist' has a bouncy industrial feel, while 'Medusa' has a poppy chorus that I actually found quite enjoyable. Generally the album takes the Gothic Metal path with Industrial and Classical elements surfacing on occasion. The second half of the recording offers an up beat mix of songs - 'Six Grains of Pomegranate' is a bouncy Gothic Metal song as is 'Night's Master (Azhram & Sivesh)', 'Lamia' and 'Love For Endymion'. 'Lucifer's Ballade' has a string led intro making you think that the song is just that, a string led ballad, but it turns out to be a catchy little number with symphonic elements coming to the fore. Closer 'Lucifer's Lullaby' is a slower seductive song, a good way to end a good record. Overall, I enjoyed this 14 track album that I can recommend to the punters out there, great stuff.. 8.5/10 (Dave)

LOVELORN DOLLS...'THE HOUSE OF WONDERS'

(AlfaMatrix) Reviewed 6th February 2013

One can listen/review cd after cd and they will all be good. Then one will come along that will completely take the wind out of your sails, and this unsurprisingly (I say unsurprisingly as I knew this was going to be good!) is one such album. Lovelorn Dolls formed after vocalist Ladyhell (the lovely Kristell Lowagie) and Corpus Christi (B. Daubresse) met for the Road To Consciousness project in 2009.Their love and passion for nice melodies brought them to work together on a common project. Initially that project was Lovelorn, and then it became Lovelorn Dolls. On this album, Lovelorn Dolls lead you into an extraordinary dark but romantic universe, where The Birthday Massacre collide with Marilyn Manson, creating an exciting musical landscape mixing alternative, electro and rock. This in turn bringing to mind acts like Lacuna Coil, Evanescence and Garbage. All I am prepared to say is that the band has released 14 commercial and ultra catchy tracks spanning 50 minutes, that bring to mind all the above mentioned acts, that must surely put Lovelorn Dolls at the forefront of the genre together with say The Birthday Massacre. And this is just their debut!! If I was to mention any highlights on this album, they would in-fact be the highlights of the highlights, because to put it quite simply, every track here is a damn good highlight! But if I was to pick out a mega highlight or two, the riff-tastic and Birthday Massacre sounding 'Afterdark' which is the single would be one, the hideously catchy 'Frozen Inside' being another, and let's not forget other faves of mine including 'No Life', 'Aux Dieux', 'In Your Room' and 'Euphoria'. Anyway, what the frikin' hell, they are all faves! But please, one would have to listen to this album to draw your own conclusions. However, my conclusion is this: 'The House of Wonders' deserves to be massive. It gets released March 15th as a single cd and limited edition double cd, and already has to be an early contender as one of my top releases of 2013 - get it from the Alfa Matrix Shop as one such source!! 9.75/10 (Dave)

MYTHODEA...'MYTHODEA'

(Self Release) Reviewed 5th December 2012

Mythodea is a project by Greek composer and guitarist Christos Nikolaou, and he has gathered together an all star line-up to appear on this début album, including bassist Steve DiGiorgio who has played with countless bands, including Death. Their cinematic epic symphonic progressive metal is akin to bands like Serenity, Consortium, Neverland, Dorian Opera and Roswell Six. This is mainly male fronted, starring the voice of American John West (Royal Hunt etc.) who also writes the lyrics, but is does feature some guest appearances by a selection of lovely ladies. Following the grand orchestral intro, the orchestral arrangement throughout are superb, you get treated to five mighty symphonic numbers and the gorgeous ballad 'Nostalgia'. Then Sarah Nakkach takes the lead on the awesome suitably eastern flavoured 'Asia', Alexandra Samouilidou and Sapfo Stavridi are the sirens for the sweeping tempestuous 'Sailing on a Stormy Sea', and Sarah Turk duets with John on the massive emotional roller-coaster 'Stay'. This is a hugely impressive wonderfully produced album with exemplary musicianship, if you like your metal massive, powerful and sweepingly epic, but with an emotional emotive underbelly, then look no further. Their mythic land can be found here, a sweeping 8.75/10 (Phil).

LADY FUEL...'PLEASURE ROOM'

(Brennus Music) Reviewed 28th November 2012

Lady Fuel is a French Rock Band formed in Clermont, France in 2010. The essence of the band lies in the deep and strong voice of leading lady Steph Tinayre. What the band throws at us here is 12 tracks of Alternative Rock with a strong organic and retro vibe, encompassing styles such as Progressive, Funk and Heavy Metal. Indeed the voice of Steph is certainly one that makes you sit up and listen, deep and powerful! This is not a bad effort from this French Band and for anybody into the above mentioned musical styles, or for the more curious amongst you, this is worth checking out. Their Facebook is here...7.75/10 (Dave)

The MIMI BURNS BAND...'BRAVE JOURNEY'

(Self Released) Reviewed 19th November 2012

Celtic Rock from Fort Wayne, Indiana. That's right, this is what the Mimi Burns Band has to offer, performing a mixture of Irish folk music and progressive rock. The band has graced stages in Europe, the U.S. and the U.K. This epic show includes members who have played with artists such as Steel Eye Span, Pete Townsend, Hawkwind, David Gilmore and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Opening track on the album 'Stone of Scone' relates to a stone that is also known as the Stone of Destiny, and often referred to in England as The Coronation Stone. It is an oblong block of red sandstone, used for centuries in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland and later the monarchs of England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom. After a rather chequered history, it is now kept at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. 'Gypsy Dance' is a great Folk Rocker with cool violin from Derek Reeves (who also performs with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic by the way). Indeed, the violin playing of Derek is brilliant throughout! Further great tracks follow including the superb 'Don't Forget Me' showcasing Mimi's powerful vocal style, 'Jack and Jill' (remember the nursery rhyme), the atmospheric acoustic 'Spirit Mountain' and the beautifully sung 'Enchanted Night'. 'Women of Lockerbie' is an instrumental which defines the word "wonderful" while closer 'Exalt' rocks in a style that Mimi has defined as her own. 'Brave Journey', which I believe is Mimi's 4th album was four years in the making, and has been quoted as delivering a “fresh new sound” with “soaring vocals” and “fantastic songwriting arrangements.” I can second that. This album may not be your normal rock or metal fare, but the band do list amongst their likes Marillion, Iona, Thin Lizzy and Maiden. This is different to what I may normally listen too but I like it, check them out here. I am now going to light up a camp fire - great stuff! ... 8.5/10 (Dave)

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