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Ravenheart Music: Album Reviews

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SEVERNICA...'LONG LOST LONGING'

(Self Release) Reviewed 15th July 2014

Another interesting release from Finland and a band that is showing promise from what is on this EP. Fronted by Maarit Nieminen, ' Long Lost Longing' from Severnica (www.facebook.com/SevernicaOfficial is a mini cd of four crafted tracks of Symphonic/Melodic Metal, which although following a tried and trusted formula, are still worth a listen if you ask me. Maarit's vocals take on a poppy style bordering at times with the operatic without really becoming operatic if that makes sense. 'My Journey' sees the addition of gruff male vocals, which indeed enhances the listening pleasure. I would like to hear more from this band in due course, but this is not bad for starters... 8/10 (Dave)

THE CHEEK OF HER...'ADULT ANGST ANONYMOUS'

(Self Released) Reviewed 8th July 2014

London based Helen Dooley is basically The Cheek of Her, and what we have here is an interesting collection of tunes that form the album 'Adult Angst Anonymous'. I like something a little different that veers away from the in yer face rock & metal scene and this 12 track recording (including three live & acoustic tracks) does just that. The album is mainly guitar/piano driven rock with the poppy upbeat track 'Write Me A Letter' having already been aired on BBC Radio 2 here in the UK. I do also like the number 'Stuck Stuck' that has one rather good catchy chorus, and Helen lets rip with the closer, the Bob Marley song 'Three Little Birds'. Helen has been compared to Lily Allen, but to be honest I think she is better! Helen deserves success, so give her a listen! Her Facebook can be found here - 8/10 (Rachel Louise Smith)

TANTAL...'EXPECTANCY'

(Mazzar Records) Reviewed 23rd June 2014

Tantal is a Melodic Death Metal band hailing from Moscow, and here on their latest offering, they supply the listener with 10 tracks of blistering metal to awakening the senses. And despite the heaviness of the music on offer, there is always a sense of melody bubbling under the surface, just like their previous album 'The Beginning of the End'. With angelic female vocals from Milana Solovitskaya and Death vocals on this release from guest vocalist Vlad Lobanov, the band set the pace with opener 'Through The Years', a blistering start, with a catchy chorus to boot. 'Expectancy Pt1 (Desert In My Soul)' and 'Echoes of Failures' continue the assault on the senses, with both offering yet further bouncy choruses featuring the vocals of Milana. This album so far is sure damn good. 'In Times Of Solitude' is an acoustic instrumental that enables us all to catch a breather before 'Nothing (Selfish Acts)' ups the ante yet again. And the momentum continues with the remaining numbers 'Pain That We Must All Go Through', 'Expectancy Pt 2 (Despair)' and 'Under The Weight Of My Sorrow I Crawl'. But there are actually two additionl tracks in Russian to compliment that to my ears is a very good album. Track nine and ten are indeed the opening two tracks of the album sung in Russian. This record is heavy, it is melodic and it sure damn rocks like hell! I will be the first to admit that Death Metal would not be my music of choice, but with the combination of male and female vocals, combined with melody, this is good. And despite the band being Russian, the singing is near accent free. Their Facebook is here... 8.75/10 (Dave)

SAKARA...'BEAUTY AND BRAVERY'

(Ravenheart Music) Reviewed 12th June 2014

Sakara - yay! It is very difficult to review an album released on your own label, but when that musician is also a damn good friend, then trying to be impartial is further difficult, but nonetheless here goes!. Okay, Sakara released her debut 'Blood & Stone' on the Ravenheart label in 2012 and indeed, it became a well received album in many quarters, with some jolly good reviews. Now mid way through 2014 and we have 'Beauty and Bravery' about to hit the stores. Now, I have always liked a woman with attitude, and Sakara (Laura) has just that. And this comes out in the rockin' opening track 'Fearless', where she lets rip with the lyrics "Fuck You, Fuck You, Fuck You, hahahahaha". The momentum and indeed to an extent the angst continues with 'Weave My Web' (video here), a nice quiet choral interlude to start the track, before it all kicks off - great operatic vocals during the chorus too, this girl rocks. Next up 'Angels And Demons' offers great vocals and simply an awesome slow and atmospheric number with strings - beautiful as is the magical track 'Shield Maidens'. The album kicks back into rockin mode with 'Memories' and the metallic and damn heavy 'Orca', the latter being a fave track of mine from the album. 'Sea Priestess' slows down the momentum but increases the atmospherics, while the shortest number on the album 'Mystery' is an acoustic led folky number. 'Don't Back Down' has that wild west twangy guitar intro, where you expect John Wayne to appear on his horse at any moment, and then in comes the guitars and drums, and we are off on another melodic ride of heavy awesomeness. 'Serenity' is the official closing track but there is one more...the quality, epic and rather lovely 8+ minute hidden bonus track 'One'. Furthermore, and again the services of the awesome Stephen Clarke who worked on Sakara's first cd is utilised, he lays down painstakingly constructed layers of guitars and synths to great effect on this follow up release. Using Laura's own words, the album is a journey of beauty and bravery, mystical and magic, ancient and modern with shamanic influence. Songs about bravery, warrior women, goddesses, priestesses, nature, water and courage. It's about the rising power of the feminine both beautiful and fierce, gentle and passionate, yin and yang. I have known Laura for a long while, through thick and thin too and I am dead proud of what she has achieved. A varied but well recommended record - kinda imagine Leaves' Eyes mixing it with Rage Against The Machine, seems good to me.. 9/10 (Dave)

SECOND EMPIRE...'SECOND EMPIRE'

(Self Release) Reviewed 28th May 2014

Second Empire hail from Pittsburg Pennsylvania, and they have sent me their second self titled EP. You wanna know what?, this is damn good. Fronted by Alex Lindsay Roth who I hasten to add is just 16 years old, the band give us five tracks of European sounding Symphonic Metal. I say European, as there is a liberal use of keys throughout the sound on offer. The opening salvo of 'Everlasting' and 'Hold Me (Til We're Both Dead)' shows the direction the band is taking, the latter being a catchy number that tends to stick around in your head - love it. The remaining three tracks maintain the awesome momentum, and being a sucker for the odd power ballad, I do like 'Sorrow My Saviour'. It is of no surprise that Second Empire has been compared to Delain, Lacuna Coil and We Are The Fallen amongst many others. This is worth a punt - check out their Facebook here - great stuff…8.75/10 (Dave)

STREAM OF PASSION...'A WAR OF OUR OWN'

(Self Released) Reviewed 16th May 2014

The flow of good music continues to hit Ravenheart Music to an extent where it is difficult to keep up with it all. Stream of Passion is Marcela Bovio (vocals and violin), Johan van stratum (bass), Jeffrey Revet (keyboards), Eric Hazebroek (guitar), Stephan Schultz (guitar) and Martijn Peters (drums) coupled with guest appearances from Ben Mathot (violin) and David Faber (cello). This 13 track and one hour spectacle of an album is independent from any record label, being funded by one of those campaigns that we see so much of now. But the popularity of this band is such, that the funding campaign only took a couple of weeks or so to reach and indeed exceed it's target. Being free from any label gave the band 100% artistic freedom, and this comes to the fore well on this album. Kicking off with 'Monster', this is a monster (no pun intended!) of a song with a catchy chorus too, a great way to kick things off. Next up, the title track is another awesome and powerful number with the piano being one of the main instruments that drive this song along. 'The Curse', a fave of mine is a familiar song from their live shows, while 'Autophobia' starts slow and emotional but turns into a powerful number, again the piano plays it's part - a great song. The heavy 'Burning Star' with it's progressive undercurrent pounds along and to be honest, so far there is little on what I am hearing, to fault. And that is how it continues, with further classic songs like the rather nicely presented 'For You', the heavy, melodic and riff tastic 'Exile' and the song 'Secrets'. But despite mentioning the above mentioned tracks, as you would expect from such a fine band, generally the whole cd is good from start to finish and is yet another must buy for that ever increasing collection of music - could be their best yet!... 9.25/10 (Dave)

SAVN...'SAVN'

(CDR Records) Reviewed 1st May 2014

Norwegian goth metal legends The Sins Of Thy Beloved have been dormant since 2000 - following the release of their second album 'Perpetual Desolation' - and after years of a rumored reunion, Stig Johansen and Anders Thue have instead risen from the ashes with a new band, SAVN, and a new vision to go with it. The seeds for SAVN (translated: Deprivation) officially took root when multi-instrumentalist Stig contacted Midnattsol vocalist and long-time friend Carmen Elise Espenæs about singing one song for the planned SAVN album. Carmen agreed, and Stig and Anders (keyboards) were so pleased with the final result they invited her to sing on the entire record, and here is the result. And this is rather good I hasten to add. We have eleven tracks of pounding quality melodic Gothic Metal that will appeal to fans of Gothic and Symphonic female fronted Rock & Metal (and beyond). And guess what? - Liv (Carmen's big sis) puts in an appearance on 'I Am Free'. I mention eleven tracks, but the final two numbers are "growling" versions of two other tracks on the album - 'Hang On' and 'The Demons In Me'. As previously mentioned, this is very good quality stuff indeed, being mixed and produced by Alex Krull (Atrocity, Leaves' Eyes) at Mastersound Studios in Germany. This I must say is well recommended to all and sundry... 9/10 (Dave)

TEMPERANCE...'TEMPERANCE'

(Scarlet Records) Reviewed 1st May 2014

Yet another Italian band graces us with their pleasure and what a pleasure it is. Temperance is born from musicians with more than 10 years of experience in the heavy metal music scene, who have already worked with and supported live acts like Rhapsody of Fire, Dragonforce, Parkway Drive and Leave's Eyes. The band offer an amazing mixture of tight guitars, metal riffs, electronic and folk music elements, bounded together with melody and power. They are a five piece combo fronted by a young lady called Chiara and managed by Truck Me Hard and I did say "Truck" peeps :) We have eleven tracks here that kick off with 'Tell Me' that offers the listener a foray into Power Metal territory. Second up 'Heavens Above' is a rather catchy number to say the least with some ooommmppphhh in the ooommmppphhh department coupled with some more serene moments, a rather nice number actually. A rather powerful start to the album and it continues with further bombastic and catchy tracks like 'Hero', the Power Ballad 'Stronger', the pounding and electro influenced 'Scared and Alone', the Symphonic 7+ minute epic 'The Fourth Season' and the catchy closer and a fave of mine 'Relentlessly'. And that is just a broad selection from what is on offer on this superb cd. Chiara reminds me at times of Charlotte from Delain and that cannot be a bad thing. So go and visit their Facebook page here, as everything here graces the very good category. Temperance is seriously challenging the heavyweights of the genre - 9/10 (Rachel)

SHARKMUFFIN...'1097'

(Self Release) Reviewed 28th April 2014

Want a band with a shark like attitude? Sharkmuffin was born when Tarra Thiessen awesome shredder and vocalist discovered bassist/vocalist Natalie Kirch at the Jersey Shore and joined forces on July 4, 2012 only months before the very beach house in which they met was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. After a run with a few various drummers, Janet LaBelle stepped up to complete the sonically-crushing trifecta. There are four tracks here on this EP offering up a raw punk like sound, with Thiessen not only wailing on guitar and vocals, but incorporating a Theramin. Seven and a half minutes of playing time - imagine The Ramones having fun with The Slits - these girls don't give a f**k. 'Ten Ten' will blow your mind and the final number 'Soft Landing' rocks in a hard rockin'sorta way - great guitar solo and rather good I think. Their Facebook is here... 8/10 (Dave)

TIMO TOLKKI'S AVALON...'ANGELS OF THE APOCALYPSE'

(Frontiers Records) Reviewed 25th April 2014

It is 2020 A.D - The Elements send 4 Angels to observe mankind and its actions in the last century. There are 4 Angels, but still they are One. Fire, Wind, Earth and Water are their names. With the Elements they observe in unimaginable sadness and anger the primitive events that take place in the last 150 years as they have the ability to go back and forth in time. As they give their final warning, Mankind sees unimaginable destruction that shakes its core foundations. Pandora`s Box is opened and the forces of Nature are unleashed. Is this the prelude for Judgement Day! The concept of the Avalon Metal Opera was born in the second half of 2012, when the Finnish composer and producer Timo Tolkki, former STRATOVARIUS guitar player and one of the true forefathers of the Power Metal genre, decided to move forward with his career and work on a project which could allow him to express his musical creativity without any boundaries, within the Classic Metal genre. The debut 'The Land of New Hope' was released in May 2013 and the album featured performances by numerous internationally acclaimed singers and musicians including Timo Tolkki himself of course. Tolkki resumed the work for this second album with the concept of developing the sound and the music in an even more grandiose and symphonic metal mood, even though from the beginning there was the idea to go in a heavier and darker direction which better fits the Apocalyptic scenarios described in this album. The amazing vocal cast appearing this time include the new NIGHTWISH singer Floor Jansen – handling lead vocals on the grandoise track and first single 'Design The Century' (here is a link to the video 'Design The Century' - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VO49X_Ie4A) – along with Simone Simons (EPICA), Fabio Lione (RHAPSODY OF FIRE), David DeFeis (VIRGIN STEELE), Zachary Stevens (ex SAVATAGE, CIRCLE II CIRCLE) plus Elize Ryd (AMARANTHE) who appears again after the first album, and the stunning Chilean singer Caterina Nix, who is working on her debut album which is also produced by Tolkki. This album is an exceptional piece of work from start to finish, awesome Power Metal, awesome Symphonic Metal and some rather cool Power Ballads. To be honest, I do not have the space to describe this in detail. But all I can say is buy it when it gets released May 16th here in Europe (May 20th N America) cos this is something special, rest assured!!... 9.75/10 (Dave)

SHEAR...'KATHARSIS'

(Lifeforce) Reviewed 17th April 2014

There is some really good music coming my way at the moment and Shear is no exception. Indeed, they could well be the next big thing to come out of Finland, with Katharsis being their second full length offering. Fronted by Alexa Leroux who I must add has one helluva set of pipes, the band hurl at us 11 tracks of what can best be described as awesome Melodic Power Metal with subtle Prog, Gothic and Symphonic undercurrents. OOhhhh, this is so good and thunders along at some pace. I am struggling to dig out any highlights as all the tracks are that good, with some damn good performances from all the musicians involved. But tracks I currently do dig are 'Hollow, Black & Cold', the melodic 'A Hopeless Tragedy', 'For The Restless', the powerful and melodic 'Not Myself' and the dynamic closer 'Turmoil'. This is a very good record from a very promising and fine band and should be lapped up by fans of the genre.. 9.25/10 (Dave)

TIGER BELL...'DON'T WANNA HEAR ABOUT YOUR BAND' (single)

(Platinum/WIFE/Sony) Reviewed 12th March 2014

Punk is alive and well and living somewhere in Stockholm. Here we have a two track single featuring 'Dont Wanna Hear About Your Band' and a cover of the Plastic Bertrand number 'ca plane pour moi'. Two tracks totaling just a little over 4 mins. Punk how we like it! It is difficult to score a two track single, but if this kinda music floats your boat, check this all girl band Tiger Bell out here. (Dave)

SINHERESY...'PAINT THE WORLD'

(Bakerteam Records) Reviewed 20th Feb 2014

SinHeresY officially came to fruition in May 2009 in Trieste when the bassist Davide Sportiello met the guitarist Lorenzo Pasutto and the Friulian singer Cecilia Petrini. In the following months, the drummer Alex Vescovi and the male vocalist Stefano Sain joined the band. This indeed is their first full length effort believe it or not, and what we have here is ten tracks (inc bonus) of solid Symphonic Metal music in a style not too disimilar to Tarja era Nightwish, together with the added benefit of clean male vocals to compliment those of Cecilia. And this is a real treat to the ears I can assure you! 'Last Fall' is an epic way to start the record and it continues with second up, the bombastic 'The Gambler'. Awesome with the opening salvo packing a real punch! The title track is hideously catchy and if you are able to sit still during this song, you have a real problem! The ballad 'Roses & Thorns' is simply great while 'Made For Sin' is a pounding heavy number. The highlights continue through the second half of the album with the massive 'Breakpoint' (great use of keys) and 'Our Angel', which are other stand out tracks in what is a very impressive release throughout. I well recommend this, a very strong album indeed...9/10 (Dave)

SIRENIA...'PERILS OF THE DEEP BLUE'

(Nuclear Blast) Reviewed 20th Feb 2014

This review is a little late as we here thought it had already been done, but I am tying up a few 'loose ends' so better late then never I suppose! Morten Veland is a genius! Sirenia fronted by Ailyn who has been their vocalist since 2008 came together in early 2001, when Morten parted ways with his former band Tristania due to musical disagreements and personal differences. Fast forward to current time and after a few personnel changes together with some musical ups and downs, Morten and Sirenia throw at us their 6th studio release. Fans of Sirenia's early output will possibly still not consider this as quite their "cuppa tea", but come on peeps, one has to be open minded regards the music they listen too. This record is good, a little on the long side but good. My copy has thirteen tracks which include 2 bonus numbers and fave tracks that have emerged over the weeks are 'My Destiny Coming To Pass' which incorporates all the elements of a Gothic Metal song - awesome, the rather good and catchy 'Ditt Endelik' (sung in Norwegian) featuring Joakim Næss on vocal duties, the heavy 'Cold Caress' and the industrial sounding 'Profound Scars'. There are other highlights too which to me make this a good album, although I feel that the haunting 'Stille Kom Doden' again sung in Norwegian is a little on the long side at nearly 13 minutes, but it is cool nonetheless. Many of you who are reading this would have already purchased this album and you would already have formed your own opinions (good or bad). To me this may still not be the Sirenia of old, but it is good! 9/10 (Aimee)

THE ACORN PEOPLE...'SECRETS'

(Self Release) Reviewed 18th Feb 2014

The Acorn People is a rock band made up of four individuals who met during college. They all shared this pressing need to rock faces off the masses. The lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Grace Jermusyk, started writing punk inspired rock music and then met a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy that wanted to incorporate his southern blues influence. He (Kris Cagle) ended up becoming the lead guitarist and introduced the drummer, Quinten Thornton, to Grace as well as the bassist, Rocco (Brendan Herr). The vocals from Grace are awesomely suited to the style of music that the band throws at the listener, no operatic leanings here, just a rock band with a punk and southern blues influence, coupled with a subtle organic and maybe retro feel to their music. The album is good and I myself cannot pick out any standout tracks as they are all consistent, although the album does close on an acoustic note - three of the final four numbers are all acoustic songs, including the number 'Hold On' and 'Maybe Someday' that I rather like. The album kicks back into life with the closer 'Monster' to end what is a good effort. The band can be found on Facebook here .... 8/10 (Dave)

SEVENTH SIN...'WHEN REALITY ENDS'

(Self Released) Reviewed 30th January 2014

Holland throw another beast at us and it would be a sin to ignore this lot! They are Seventh Sin and this is another band that cannot and must not be ignored - they could well be the next big thing to emerge from The Netherlands and you read it here first. Fronted by Monique Joosten with occasional grunts by Roy Geelen, this release deserves to be massive. And furthermore they are looking for a label. With powerful lyrics, Symphonic tunes and a beautiful voice, this is right up my alleyway and there is very little I can fault here. Just listen to the opening salvo of 'Hysteria' and the melodic thumper 'Alone Again' and you will be hooked, guaranteed. The remainder of the album continues in a similar vein, so if the opening duo does not have you hooked, just listen to the catchy 'Wings Of Despair', the power Symphonic balladry of 'The Well', the Power Metal feel of 'The Choice', the Edenbridge sounding 'Silent Tears' or the Within Temptation'ish balladry of 'Just An Ordinary Day' and I am sure you will feel there is something special on show here. Having shared the stage with (among others) Epica, Delain, Leaves Eyes, Asrai, Kamelot, Revamp and Stream of Passion, this has given the band a comfortable headstart to what should be on this showing predictable success. A tour in February on UK soil with Edenbridge is one of the things in the near future to look forward to. Their website is here and this is well recommended by the Ravenheart team,- so if you like Within Temptation, Delain, Edenbridge amongst many others, then go for it, you know you should... 9/10 (Dave)

SCANDELION...'NONSENSE'

(Self Released - download) Reviewed 22nd January 2014

Scandelion is the name of the ruins of a Greek fortress at Jerusalem's coast. The band was created in 2002 in Canary Islands (Spain) by Jorge Afonso (keys & vocals) and is now based in London. The band I understand is by and large Jorge together with a group of guest musicians, with a large proportion of the vocals done by Jorge. What we have here is a good old dose of Gothic Doom Metal with occasional clean male and a large portion of death male vocals, with occasional powerful and rather awesome female vocals from Natalia Falcón. This record which I must say is rather good, at times reminds me of Cradle of Filth in the vocal department, while at same time, offering up a fair dose of melody and ooommmppphhh! The rather cool spoken voice opener (words originally by Edgar Allan Poe) leads us into the thumping and Symphonic 'My Darkest Thoughts' with harsh and clean male vocals and this sets the scene for the record. 'Dusk In Your Dreams' sees the female vocals of Natalia entering the fray, while 'My Tears Drown Your Heart' is a soaring ballad showcasing the really powerful vocals of Natalia coupled with those of Jorge. 'Asleep In The Embrace Of Death' is a great Doom Metal song and the momentum continues with 'Die....Or Die (Your Choice)'. All good stuff up to and including the closer and tenth track 'Pain Of A Dying Soul'. This is rather good and is available for download from their website here... 8.25/10 (Dave)

SILENT OPERA...'REFLECTIONS'

(Massacre Records) Reviewed 7th January 2014

The French Epic/Melodic Progressive Death Metal Band Silent Opera have been known to me for a while. I even had a promo copy of this album long before many other people had heard it, and even chatted to the band on Skype some months ago. This is in-fact their second album following 'Act One' which was released in 2010. Fronted by the female voice of Laure Laborde and the death growl of Steven Schriver, this brand new album from the band consists of nine tracks full of rawness and strength, enlightening all inner troubles that people can suffer throughout their lives. Some thumping stuff on this record, the opening five numbers show no mercy as they hammer their way out of your speakers, mixing up a recipe of aggressiveness, plaintive melodies and effective riffs, the vocals of Laure and Steven combining together really well. Apart from the slow, beautiful and brooding 'Chronicles Of An Infinite Sadness', the remaining numbers including the 11+ minute closer 'Sailor Siren and Bitterness' carry on the momentum, offering the listener totally uncompromising raw death metal, perfectly blended with a pure and epic atmosphere, gothic music and melodic symphonic elements. This cd will be well worth checking out when it gets released on 21st February by Massacre...9/10 (Dave)

STEELEYE SPAN...'WINTERSMITH'

(ParkRecords) Reviewed 12th December 2013

With a career spanning six decades, Steeleye Span are not just a legendary name in British music, but are a link to the days of classic rock and folk music. Being a well established band on the scene, they have now found inspiration in the work of British author Terry Pratchett, a long term fan of the band. This album is a brand new project based on Pratchett's Wintersmith novel - a tale of ancient rituals and secret folk dances that perfectly compliments the band's previous work whilst taking it in new directions. The band is still fronted by the distinctive vocal style of Maddy Prior, who herself has been in the band for close on 40 years and remains on very good form. The 16 songs on this release (male and female vocals) are instantly likeable, energetic and hideously catchy like 'The Dark Morris Song' and the title track. We get pipes and whistles on rather nice ballads like 'You' - damn awesome if you ask me!! 'The Good Witch' features spoken voice from Terry Pratchett, while the folky vibe of 'Band Of Teachers' and 'The Wee Free Men' will have you dancing around the camp fire before you can say "camp fire". Foot tapping stuff indeed. Other extremely likeable songs include the progressive sounding 'Hiver', the very nice 'Fire & Ice', the brooding 'First Dance', with it's lovely violins and closer, the very beautiful 'We Shall Wear Midnight' which like 'The Making Of A Man', was sung by the awesome stalwart Peter Knight, who himself will be leaving the band after their current tour. Pratchett and Steeleye Span fans will lap this up, but overall, this album is solid, very good and well recommended from the Ravenheart team for music fans in general... get it! 9/10 (Dave)

SLEEPING ROMANCE...'ENLIGHTEN'

(Ulterium Records) Reviewed 22nd November 2013

Formed in Modena Italy, Sleeping Romance (once known as Enlighten) is another rather fab Gothic Symphonic Metal band to hit the airwaves. An epic cinematic intro to the cd takes us into the title track that kicks this cd into gear in a way I have not heard in a while. An absolutely massive start to what to me is a very good record. And then having barely recovered from the opener, 'The Promise Inside' comes along. A bombastic Symphonic song with a huge chorus and this could be one of my tracks of the year - great cello too. The upbeat and melodic 'Soul Reborn' and the Symphonic 'Free Me' maintain the tempo, and at the halfway point, I know we are onto a winner here! Great stuff!! 'December Flower' is a beautiful and heavily orchestrated power ballad, again showcasing some rather lovely cello work within it's framework. There is no let up during the final stages of the cd - four further awesome songs that will leave you gasping for more once the album has finished. Fronted by the emotional vocals of Federica Lanna and the epic songwriting from the very good guitar player Federico Truzzi, Sleeping Romance has created something really special here, that I know will appeal to fans of this style of music - Nightwish, Xandria and the like. Their Facebook is here and to my ears, this is a must buy!.. 9.25/10 (Dave)

THE FALLACY...'THE SLEEPING MOON'

(Self Release) Reviewed 21st November 2013

The Fallacy from Chile has released their first acoustic album. The whole idea started when they performed an acoustic show in Winter Park, FL during their first tour to the US at a beautiful cafe named 'The Sleeping Moon Cafe'. It was a big challenge to create good studio acoustic versions of their songs but they have done it. This is a beautiful album of 10 songs, 5 of which featured in their original format on their previous album 'Love Division'. Although unfamilair with their debut 'Falling Roses', I assume the other 5 numbers are acoustic versions of songs lifted from that album. The Fallacy has decided to share this conquest with all of their fans, so it is available for FREE download from their website www.the-fallacy.com/.The band also made 100 physical copies. For those who would like to purchase it, contact the band on their official Facebook page or send them an e-mail to: contact@the-fallacy.com. 8.5/10 (Dave)

SAINTE OMBRE...'CORNELIA'

(Back UP Records) Reviewed 31st October 2013

Sainte Ombre hail from Vendée in France and is fronted by a young lass called Celine, whose vocal style is more akin to Pop/Rock than Soprano. This is the band's second release and to describe the music on this release, I would say this a good old dose of Melodic Metal with Gothic and Symphonic influences. And it so happens to be yet another good release to come my way, one of many just recently. The opener 'La belle ou la Bête' is an epic 7+ minute Melodic Symphonic belter and before you can catch your breath, second up 'Maléfice' hammers out of the speakers. Third up, another 7+ minute epic 'Décadanse' starts up like a child's lullaby before the song kicks in proper and becomes a lighter waving crowd swaying power ballad - awesome. ' Le Monde Selon Cornélia de Beaujoy' and 'Keiko' that follow are further Symphonic Melodic thumpers, with the latter making awesome use of choral arrangements, something that is however, apparent throughout the record. 'Par le Sang' is a catchy bouncy rocker featuring the vocals of Nicolas Blaizeau together with those of Celine, while 'Le Chemin' is a mega piano, orchestra led ballad. 'Amazone' ups the ante again, another hideously catchy rocker, while closing duo of 'Sainte Ombre' and 'Elixir Lacrymal' close what is a very good album from this French band. The band's website is here (you may need google translate). A worthy effort...9/10 (Dave)

SPEKULUS...'TERRORISTIAN'

(Self Released) Reviewed 18th October 2013

Yay - a UK band with attitude fronted by a young lass who goes by the name of Amanda Amorphic. Having chatted on Facebook she seems ever so nice, but on record she spits venom and has loads of that aforementioned attitude! Indeed, this is a totally mind blowing release we have here from the Leeds based band. If you are expecting Nightwish or are of a nervous disposition, then I suggest you turn away now, as what I am reviewing here is a total awesome slab of Industrial Rock and Metal that should be played real loud to let's put this politely, piss off the neighbours! With awesome tracks that have titles like 'Skin & Tonik', 'Dirtier', 'Spit' and 'Pain Junkie', you will not find any soppy ballads here. They list their influences as "NIN, Ministry, Rammstein, Genitorturers, Depeche Mode + a shit load of others". And it has been pointed out to me by a member of the Ravenheart team based in the USA that at times vocally, Otep springs to mind, although there is also an occasional sexier and poppier side to Amanda's vocals. The production is top notch for an indie release and this style of music makes a change from what I normally review. Amanda and the gang has nailed it with this record - I am highly impressed. Their website is at www.spekulus.co.uk, and the last track has an interesting band conversation tacked onto the end, plus a brief quirky musical outro ... 8.75/10 (Dave)

GRACE SOLERO...'HUNDRED YEARS APART'

(Self Release) Reviewed 17th October 2013

We have here one helluva talented lass who goes by the name Grace Solero and she is based here in the UK. This is her second album, her previous 'New Moon' having first appeared in 2007 I believe - certainly the copy I have has (c)&(p) 2007 on it, although I believe the debut may have been officially released in 2009. And Grace and her multi talented and multi national band on this her latest record serve up a healthy dose of raw and explosive rock music, with the opening salvo of 'Riptide' and lead single 'Electro' showcasing this to a tee - a great way to kick off a great album. And that continues with tracks like the powerful 'We Don't Wanna', the Alanis Morrisette sounding and very catchy 'St Ives', the thundering 'Once Again', the massive sounding 'Yard Of Blonde Girls', the power ballad 'Far Away' and the acoustic 'The Woman By The River'. But having said that, the whole record is premier league stuff! I suppose one could compare Grace at times to the aforementioned Alanis Morrisette, but with a little more ooommmppphhh in the ooommmppphhh dept. However, I will say that this is a Grace Solero album through and through and is damn frikin' awesome. Take a trip to her website www.gracesolero.com/store/ to buy the album or get it from all the usual digital outlets. This is very good, very good indeed and I must whole heartedly recommend it... 9.5/10 (Dave)

THE DEAD GOOD...'THIRTEEN POLAROIDS' EP

(Self Released) Reviewed 9th October 2013

The Dead Good formed by Isabella Knight (vocals) and Sonny Lanegan (guitar/vocals), formerly frontman of the electronic rock band White Pulp, is a German-Italian alternative rock duo based out of Los Angeles. They come across on this EP with loadsa female attitude and raw sounds. This band not only has the aforementioned attitude, they have the image too, but furthermore, the six tracks on this CD ensure that you won't be able to sit still and could well become massive dance floor favourites. And opener 'Junk Nation' is testament to that, a great thumping high energy Electro Rock opener, kinda Glam Rock meets Electro meets Punk! Next up 'Saws, Drills and Glue Guns' keeps the momentum and slams out of the speakers in an aural assault of Rock/Metal mayhem. 'Room 106' is a slower number with a early 90's guitar feel to it while 'Crush' has a bluesy feel and is damn awesome in the process, with it's fuzzy guitar sound. The closing duo of 'I Put A Spell On You' and 'Through My Bones' just do not let up, the former being a 1956 song written by Screamin' Jay Hawkins and having been covered by Nina Simone. 'Through My Bones' by the way being a fine way to end the cd, a great Electro/Rock track. In summary, this is a rather good raw sounding record from this duo, and makes a refreshing change from the run of the mill female fronted music that comes my way rather frequently nowadays. Anybody into dirty, sexy, aggressive music with rough guitar riffs and a steamy Punk attitude, coupled of course with the nice amount of melody, check their BandCamp out HERE... 8.25/10 (Dave)

TRAINING ICARUS...'STAND ASIDE'

(Ravenheart Music) Reviewed 1st October 2013

Training Icarus is a band from around London that has been causing quite a stir on the UK music scene for the last couple of years, and at long last they are about to unleash their debut album. They are fronted by Leigh Turner and her remarkable, powerful, rock voice, with guitarist Martin Eldon the musical brains behind the band. They quote a wide range of influences from traditional to symphonic metal and classic rock, but their signature sound harks back to big bands with the big sound, big drums and big hair of the 80's like Heart and Jim Steinman's roster. The first two tracks caught me off guard, being almost straight for the jugular metal, the title track 'Stand Aside' and the more gothic inflected 'Nightmares'. 'No Chance For Life' takes them back to their core style for the rest of the album, big dramatic songs packed with light and shade as they take it down and then build it up, rock out and then calm, featuring songs like the classic lighter waver 'Inamorata', the catchy rocker 'Taking What is Mine', the eastern infused 'Try', and the closing epic 'Set Them Straight'. The sound is suitably big, but I feel keyboards lack punch and volume, the synths should rattle the rafters, and the 80's exploding drums are very big, at times it's like being at Waterloo. This is a big record for people who love big rock and metal that should go down a storm on both side of the Atlantic. Fly close past the sun to their website www.trainingicarus.com/, a big 8.75/10 (Phil)

SORRONIA...'WORDS OF SILENCE'

(Bakerteam Records) Reviewed 1st October 2013

First conceived in 2011 by vocalist Anna Király and keyboardist István Biró, Hungarian band Sorronia released a promotional video for the song 'Enemy Of Yourself' in January 2013, soon attracting a very strong response. And now on this their debut album, the nine tracks combine a wide range of influences, resulting in a striking Symphonic album made of grandiose melodies and hard rockin' riffs, neo-classical solos and gothic elements. The lyrics offer references to delusion, love, tragedy, anger and anything a human being can possibly experience throughout life. This is a consistently good album and has even attracted the attention of Tuomas Holopainen (Nightwish), or at least someone who is/was blogging on his website. It is difficult to pick out any fave tracks as they are all damn good, but the mid tempo folk influenced 'Seranade of Memories' is a good one to my ears. Sorronia is a band for all melodic and symphonic metal fans and they are well worth checking out. The album is released 28th October, but meanwhile, why don't you check out the video to the track 'Enemy of Yourself' here... 8.75/10 (Dave)

SWORDS OF DIS...'TIDES OF MALEDICTION'

(Self Release) Reviewed 25th September 2013

Swords Of Dis come from our own shores here in the Uk and to be perfectly frank, I have never heard of them before. But that is what I like about doing the occasional review, bands come along that are totally alien to me, but the music they offer up is rather good! There are nine songs on this release that runs in at almost 40 minutes and I suppose one would put the music into the Doomy, Atmospheric Gothy Dark Metal category. But what may keep it apart from other bands that explore a similar territory is the fact that we do not have any harsh/extreme male vocals here - the clean female vocals belong to a certain Ms Alice Collins. Her partner in crime being Richard Corvinus who covers all the instrumentation. The album sometimes ventures onto Death Metal turf regards the heavy riffage, and I upon first listen was expecting to hear male grunts, but keeping the vocals clean actually makes the record rather more accessible to the listener, and that gets a thumbs up from me. I rather like this recording, and it is a cd that despite it's gloomy dark atmosphere that it portrays, has became a pleasure to listen to, being not too over bearing in it's intensity. Their Facebook is here so check them out - rather good! 8/10 (Rachel Miller)

TARJA...'COLOURS IN THE DARK'

(E.A.R. Music) Reviewed 7th September 2013

I suppose the one problem Finnish soprano Tarja Turunen has is that she will always be known as the former singer with Nightwish, even though she is forging ahead with a solo career, and being rather more productive on the music front than her Finnish counterparts. This in-fact is her fourth solo studio album, that mixes very well Metal with the Operatic and succeeds where some others have tried and failed miserably! Now then, I shall admit that I was rather good at music while at school, but back in those days, the music studied was more of a classical vein. Therefore, I instantly recognised the intro and outro to the opener 'Victim Of Ritual' being an interpretation of Ravel's 'Bolero', and what a corker of a metallic opener this is. Totally awesome and Tarja's vocals - just take a listen yourself but the wow factor is well and truly there, I can assure you. And with the opener barely leaving you time to catch your breath, '500 Letters' kicks in, and I very much doubt you will hear a better chorus this side of Christmas - it will stay stuck in your head guaranteed - sheer brilliance! 'Lucid Dreamer' is 7+ minutes of musical inspiration, and with headphones, you can quite easily lose yourself mid way where the music takes on a near hypnotic and psychedelic feel just as if you was in a dream - magical! These opening three numbers have totally taken my breath away and it continues through tracks like 'Never Enough', already a live fave and having been featured on Tarja's 'Act 1' CD, the cover of Peter Gabriel's 'Darkness' complete with an Industrial feel coupled with distorted vocals, the classically infused 'Deliverance', the bombastic and melodic 'Neverlight' and the haunting ballad 'Until Silence'. With every track an utter winner, Tarja has found her own style with this release. It is heavy and bombastic, it has touches of the Classical and Operatic, it doesn't sound like Nightwish (for those that may be asking), and it is simply superbly stunning. I have a strange feeling that Tarja is leaving Nightwish well behind in her wake with this release! Well, at least if you are the vocalist in your own band, you haven't got to worry about the vocalist quitting!! 10/10 (Dave)

THE LAST YEAR...S/T

(Shanachie Entertainment) Reviewed 6th September 2013

The Last Year, fronted by singer/songwriter Niki Barr and her partner in crime Scott Ensign (guitar, bass, synth, percussion, programming), has released its new EP and it features five brand new songs, including the single 'Sugar'. Describing the new release as “limitless” with “everything from buzz saw synth to airy atmospheric ambience to 80s drum sequence loops”, this Baltimore based group says that their latest songs come from the dark place Niki Barr is almost known for, and the release showcases the band's perfect blend of natural and synthetic sounds. And that is perfectly true. Indeed, I have known about Niki since the early days of Ravenheart Music and this release is rather good. And to be perfectly honest, this EP should open the band to a wider audience. Opener 'Not The One' is an awesome synth infused rock number with a chorus to die for - what a start! And it continues with next up and the chosen single 'Sugar'. There to me is certainly a cross over appeal here! 'Imagining' should have you bouncing around the floor while 'Kill Me Now' takes on a more rocker vibe. And 'Flying' is a rather cool atmospheric way to close the EP. In summary, this is a very good effort from Niki and Scott and this again is another release that I see myself fully recommending. Their FaceBook is here .... 8.75/10 (Dave)

SACRIFICE TO SURVIVE...'SINGULARITY' EP

(Self Release - digital only) Reviewed Sept 3rd 2013

If you like bands like Dream Theater, Threshold and the like, I would imagine you would like Sacrifice To Survive. The band fronted by Emily Aldridge come from Florida, and offer up a feast of Progressive Metal. There are five tracks on this EP giving us 20+ minutes of some rather tasty Metal music. It is progressive, it is technical and there is a lot going on within the music on offer. But what I like about this band, is what they do, they do so well. Emily's vocals are possibly more reminiscent of those of Amy Lee, but we do have some male grunts compliments Cory Stewart (guitars and him with the ginger beard LOL) added to the awesome mix of music. Tell you what, this EP may not hit the spot the first time you hear it, but on repeated plays, it unravels more musical marvels. As I say there is a lot happening on this release, but it is very good and I would well recommend this to the lovers of mucic that is a little more technical and progressive in nature. The band can be checked out here ...9/10 (Dave)

SIRGAUS...'SOFIA'S FORGOTTEN VIOLIN'

(Self Release) Reviewed 13th August 2013

Italian band Sirgaus was founded 2011 by bassist and composer Mattia Gosetti with his wife Sonja on vocals, and Massimo Pin on guitar. They released an EP last year called Sofia Returns, and then Mattia started work on this concept album based on a gothic fantasy drama. As I have the only English copy of the story, and it's download only at the moment, I had better explain the story briefly. Sofia is an orphan living in an orphanage covered by creepers, which have a special significance, when a mysterious violinist starts playing outside. Sofia is drawn to discovering her past and her half forgotten memories of how her and her family were cured of sickness by a magical violin melody played by her grandmother. A mad priest had tried to play the melody, but he kept getting it wrong, causing terrible events, Sofia must find a way to free herself from the enchantment. The music fits the story perfectly, dark, dramatic, haunting but rocking symphonic gothic metal with a gritty, windswept, reverberating sound, if you start somewhere between The Gathering, Materdea and Therion, and then add some classic heavy rock and a touch of prog, then you will be roundabouts. Sonja has a very expressive sexy voice, she is inspired by American grunge singers which gives their music a distinctive vibe, with the superb violin of Elvingking's Lethian a key feature, as befits the subject matter. This is a consistent set of songs that reflect the mood of the unfolding story, exemplified by the opener 'The Orphan's Letter', but I will highlight a few notable tracks. The powerful emotional 'Through the Creepers' is a duet with Mattia showing he too has a fine rock voice, and he accompanies Sonja on several numbers. 'Evening Lessons' has a nice prog grove, like Under Heaven the drums are programmed, but it's very difficult to tell (in fact I asked Mattia who the drummer was!), they do their job perfectly and never over elaborate or intrude. 'Believe in You' is a classic arena anthem, like a gothic Bon Jovi, and it ends with the rocking 'Real Angel' and the bright funky 'Sofia's Memories'. Mattia has produced a hugely imaginative and atmospheric album that is a distinctive take on symphonic gothic metal, and it's a real grower, you cannot capture it's full essence in one take. It's available of various download platforms, and you will find their Facebook here - a beguiling 8.75/10 (Phil)

THEATRUM MUNDI...'THE EYES OF THE REALM'

(Self Release) Reviewed 29th July 2013

Theatrum Mundi, literally World Theatre, inspired by Shakespeare’s “all the worlds a stage”, is a book and rock opera tie in created by guitarist Michael Ray Gould and keyboardist Li'anne Drysdale from Springfield Missouri. The 'Eyes of the Realm' was the name given by Elizabeth 1st of England to her circle of spies led by alchemist John Dee (1527- 1609), the first man designated the codename 007, he liked his mead shaken but not stirred. They were an unlikely bunch of anti-heroes, including a pirate, a jester, an assassin, a masked vigilante, a priestess and a beautiful master thief. The baddies are the Spanish Inquisition, a sort of medieval S.P.E.C.T.R.E. but with added torture, and together they are both after an ancient relic that can tell the future of mankind. It would make a fantastic film, blending fact and fiction, full of colourful characters and a fascinating plot, a mix of James Bond, Indiana Jones, Zoro, Merlin and Lara Croft, but with lots of codpieces and corsets (Daniel Craig in tights for the ladies, now there's a thought!!!). Li'anne and Michael are obviously avid students of European symphonic gothic rock/metal, British musical theatre and British melodic prog, in the general realm as later Therion, Apparition, and Whispering Tales (who also did a concept album about the Inquisition), blended with some Alan Parsons, Rick Wakeman and Elizabethan theatre, but given their own unique spin. Rock opera style vocals by Christy Campbell and Gina Ronat are most excellent, and they are supported throughout by the superb Springfield Chamber Choir, who give the music the appropriate ambience. Fittingly the whole album is a rip-snorting romp with ten terrific top tunes full of super instrumental passages, the rocking title track 'The Eyes of the Realm', the dynamic 'Test Your Metal', the ballad 'It's a Mystery to Me', the moody 'Rescue', the throbbing groovy 'Dance With Me Tonight' and the dramatic tango with death 'A Plan For the Universal Happiness of Man' to name just a few. Every so often a project comes along from the most unlikely of places that really captures the imagination, an album that is more than the sum of it's parts, with enormous appeal to fans of European symphonic gothic rock/metal, rock operas and melodic prog, this is music just 'as you like it'. Their Globe can be found here, where you can partake of their digipak, a romping 9.5/10 (Phil)

SAD ALICE SAID...'YESTERDAY'S TOMORROW'

(The Leaders Records) Reviewed 19th July 2013

Anybody who is into Sad Alice Said from Ukraine and has bought their EP 'Clock of Eternity', will be familiar with some of the numbers here, but I will do a full review anyway of this, their debut full length offering, and what a corker it is too. After having just updated the Cryoshell S/T cd review from the same label, and now reviewing this Sad Alice Said album, it seems to me that The Leaders Records certainly have two winners here. I suppose the style of Sad Alice Said is similar to an extent to that of Cryoshell, so if you like the Danish band, then this is another sure fire winner to add to your collection. The hideously catchy 'Open Your Eyes' kicks the cd off and the vocals of Alisa Shakor are an angelic treat. 'Alive' is a heavier number with pounding guitars joining the fray, while Alisa continues to sing like an angel - a sure fire start to the record, and it continues! 'Fade' being a cool rocker with an equally cool guitar solo, while 'Clock of Eternity' is a catchy mid paced rocker. 'Tomb-Like Silence' is a melodic pounding guitar/piano based rock song that just maintains the excellent quality of this record. Soldiering on, 'The Son Of Nightmare & Pain' is an awesome mid paced Gothic Metal number and is one of my faves and possibly one of the more heavier and complex numbers on the record. The album closes with the six minute plus 'Door In Autumn' and 'Garden Of Our Thoughts', the latter being a formidable string led ballad. This album gives us 8 tracks and 42+ minutes of music and not a filler in sight - go here to buy it...9/10 (Dave)

SISTER SHOTGUN...'FOR THE LOVE OF HATE'

(Self Release digital EP) Reviewed 25th June 2013

Sister Shotgun is a five piece female fronted Rock band based in the West Midlands UK. On this EP they create a furious yet catchy mixture of hard rock and metal. 'Riots' is an up tempo rocker with a kinda 80s retro feel to my ears about it. Next up 'Saving My Soul' is a melodic hard rocker with a great chorus, while 'Dirty Minds' is another pounding rocker with Chloe Ozwell getting down and dirty singing "I've got a dirty mind, you've got a dirty soul'. 'Interlude' is simply that really, an instrumental break from proceedings before the title track, a gentle ballad ends the show. This little EP is good and should appeal to fans of Melodic Hard Rock with an 80s sheen. I would very much imagine that this band are good live, but check the music out first here at their reverbnation.. 7.75/10 (Dave)

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