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Ravenheart Music: Album Reviews

REVIEWS U-Z

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XANDRIA...'SACRIFICIUM'

(Napalm Records) Reviewed 15th April 2014

Xandria, a band that I have followed since their debut, is back and back with a vengeance. Featuring new vocalist Dianne van Giersbergen, whose vocals on this album are massive and operatic, the band offer up a record of monumental proportions. There are twelve tracks here and if you are going to kick off an epic album, then why not get started with an epic track, the 10 minute plus title track. A Symphonic masterpiece in it's own right, and that is just the opener. 'Nightfall' follows in a similar style, and surely Xandria's position within the premier league of female fronted metal has been cemented with this release. After that bombastic opening, we then get the catchy and commercial 'Dreamkeeper' and the heavy 'Stardust' the latter thundering along like a bull on steroids. Further highlights are a plenty including 'The Undiscovered Land' (a lovely power ballad), the powerful 'Until The End', the bouncy 'Come With Me' and the Folk inspired 'Temple Of Hate'. I am not sure whether this actually betters the previous album 'Neverworld's End', but whether it does or not, this sure is a Symphonic belter of an album.. 9.75/10 (Dave)

UNSCARRED...'100 LASHES' EP

(Contorted Records & Artist Management) Reviewed 3rd March 2014

UNSCARRED is a powerful pounding-groove machine, Wild and crazy “Thrash metal” band formed in 2002 in France, Paris. Fronted by Nelly the mysterious Persian metal princess, this band power their way through five numbers on this EP, which in turn provide enough energy to light up most the cities of Europe. What we have here is breathtaking wall of sound offering up power, aggression and stax of energy. The twin guitar attack of Boris and Nico are complimented by the rhythm section of Brice on bass and Franck on drums, and of course, we must not forget the powerful vocals of Nelly. Unscarred is one of the best bands on the French metal scene right now, their Facebook is here... 8/10 (Dave)

WITHIN TEMPTATION...'HYDRA'

(Dramatico) Reviewed 10th February 2014

I have stalled reviewing this album until I got a second opinion from my partner in crime, Aimee. I will make it common knowledge that to my ears (and to Aimee's as well) this band can do no wrong. However, is that about to change? Well a "yes" and a "no". This record is good, indeed very good. Within Temptation seem to be steering away to an extent from the Symphonic Gothic Sound that has put them where they are and the sound that I so adored. But to the band's credit they are are moving on, leaving a void that other bands now seem to be filling. Sharon Den Adel is on top form although to be honest, I am not totally sure about some of the vocal collaborations, but that may change in due course. 'Let Us Burn' is a powerful and pounding way to kick the cd off, together with it's hideously catchy chorus and showcasing Sharon's fine vocal prowess. Next up is vocal collaboration number one - the galloping 'Dangerous' featuring ex-Killswitch Engage frontman Howard Jones - indeed that collaboration does work rather well and I like the synths. Some rapper called Xzibit (never heard of him) pops up on 'And We Run' - rap ain't quite my thing, but overall this track is good. Symphonic Metal Queen Tarja (ex Nightwish) appears on 'Paradise (What About Us)', and this is one of the better numbers from the album - a Symphonic Metal blaster. The next five tracks are Sharon and Within Temptation through and through and as one would expect, are damn good. These five include the atmospheric and powerful ballad 'Edge Of The World' - wonderful. The closer 'Whole World Is Watching' featuring Dave Pirner from the band Soul Asylum finshes the album on an awesome note - this in-fact being another fave of mine from the record. 'Hydra' is a slick piece of commercialism and a very good record, but I think I perhaps just may prefer the Within Temptation of old - the jury is out on that. And my edition has a bonus cd, tracks 1-4 being covers being featured on 'The Q Music Sessions', coupled with four 'Evolution' tracks of numbers featured on the main disc. 18 tracks - I whole heartedly recommend this, a top drawer release... 9.5/10 (Dave & Aimee)

VANITY BLVD...'WICKED TEMPTATION'

(Noisehead Records) Reviewed 7th Feb 2014

The Swedish female fronted sleaze/hardrock quartet VANITY BLVD fronted by Anna Savage has now released 'Wicked Temptation', the bands long-awaited and anticipated second full-length album. VANITY BLVD (pronounced "boulevard") was formed in the city of Avesta in 2005 and took the sleaze scene by storm with two selfproduced EP´s of dirty hardrock with the energetic and charismatic fronwoman Anna Savage behind the microphone. This their second full-length was recorded at Deep Blue Studios with producer Nicko Di Marion (STEELWING) during May 2013. And what a release, this showcases the style of music I found myself into during the 80s. There are 11 melodic thumpers here of the highest quality reminding me of the good old days of US rockers Danger Danger and the like. Damn awesome and if you are able to sit still during this type of music, may I suggest you get a life. All the songs here are of the highest quality with a production to boot. There is one stand out to track to my ears however, the extremely melodic and radio friendly 'Desperate Heart', but if you like your music sleazy and hard with guitar solos and choruses to die for, this is for you. Great stuff and well worth the purchase money.. 8.75/10 (Dave)

VARIOUS...'CATHEDRALS OF DOOM'

(Indie Release) Reviewed 3rd December 2013

This project is completed thanks to common work of 5 outstanding doom metal bands: a raw, varied, atmospheric and brutal as well as full with sincere emotion compilation. We have 9 gems from the genre here featuring such bands as Eclipse of the Sun, Les Memoires Fall and our very own Weeping Silence. Okay, this is not a Femme compilation as such, but as Weeping Silence are here, I thought this has to be worth a mention. Plus also the band Les Memoires Fall possess a female vocalist by the name of Naimi Stephanie. The Weeping Silence track 'Love Lies Bleeding' to be honest is damn awesome, and when you hear this number within the context of this compilation, it really shines. And it features of course Draconian's very own Anders Jacobsson. Other bands that I like the sound of are the aforementioned Les Memoires Fall, Eclipse of the Sun and also Spirit Descent - and these bands are not all growlers either. We have here 9 long, magical and doomy works and all of them are true diamonds from the doom metal underground. The album will be available as a free download from December 13th, so visit the website - www.cathedralsofdoom.wix.com/vol1 .. 8.5/10 (Dave)

VANITY RIOTS...'AMBULANCE' EP

(Self Release) Reviewed 30th October 2013

Vanity Riots hail from Sydney in Australia, and this EP presents us with five tracks of rather good in yer face Rock from down under that will blow your mind! Rick from Altered Frequencies.com stated: "Why bands like this remain unsigned and so many lousy bands continue to have success is beyond me." And to be honest it is beyond me too. Fronted by Monica Strut, the band kicks off with the punchy and infectious duo of 'Ambulance' and 'Bloodsucker'. 'The rather cool titled 'I Love You Almost As Much As I Love Me' keeps the momentum going, while the number 'Your Poison' sounds instantly familiar to me - I am sure I have heard this song somewhere before. Closing with the bouncy 'Revival' - great guitar solo by the way, this band surely is going places with their punchy infectious syle of Rock with Pop sensibilities. Their website is here, and if you like the sound of say Paramore mixed in with some Velvet Revolver and Motley Crue then check this band out - this ain't bad! 8/10 (Dave)

VASELYNE...'THE FIRE WITHIN'

(Echozone) Reviewed 25th October 2013

We have a slippery creature here - the band goes by the name Vaselyne and they come from Holland. However, this is not the normal Gothic Symphonic fare that we normally associate with those shores, this is more a Progressive, Alternative, Ambient and occasionally atmospheric offering. Basically, the band comprises of Yvette Winkler on vocals and Frank Weyzig covering all the instruments. This is a laid back album that at times takes on an edgy characature and overall is a very good effort. Reminding me at times of Factory Of Dreams, Porcupine Tree and the like, there are some mammoth tunes here with six of them running in at over 6 minutes. Opening with the awesome atmospheric sounding 'Earthbound', there are standout tracks a plenty including the 6 minute plus 'Fragile' and the amazingly good synth infused 'Allright' (one of the shorter tracks on the cd). Lets us not forget either the rather beautiful 7 + minute 'Fall From Grace', while the album closes with the string infused instrumental 'Earthbound (the Profane Mix)'. I must say this is rather good, the band's website is at www.vaselyne.com, check it out - 8.5/10 (Dave)

WICKED FAITH...'UNDER NO ILLUSION'

(Self Released) Reviewed 10th October 2013

Wicked Faith come from Norwich (Norfolk) here in the UK. Norfolk is rather well known for it's Broadland and associated wild life, but now perhaps we should add Wicked Faith to that 'list'. I have known about this band for some months now, eagerly awaiting this their debut album in anticipation, and now it is here in my grubby paws. Was it worth the wait?, well yes it was! Fronted by the awesome vocals of Jade Murray, Wicked Faith throw at us 10 massive hard rocking melodic numbers, offering elements of classic rock coupled with huge riffs and some massive guitar solos to boot from Tom Jordan. And on top of that, not a filler in sight. Effectively, the band has taken classic rock music, grabbed it by the balls, added a modern sound and are dragging it through the first quarter of the 21st century as if there is no tomorrow. By and large a hard rockin' masterpiece! On this showing, they are surely going to be a band to keep one's beady eye on, I am under no illusion of that (excuse pun!). Their Facebook is here and you can also hear the track 'Just This Once' by clicking - www.reverbnation.com/wickedfaithofficial - check 'em out! 8.5/10 (Dave)

WINTER STORM...'WITHIN THE FROZEN DESIGN'

(Self Release) Reviewed 23rd September 2013

Winter Storm (Facebook) is a band very local to Ravenheart Music and 'Within The Frozen Design' is their second album. I will admit and say that I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the band's first record 'Serenity In Darkness', and I must say that this pretty much follows on from their debut. However, I do feel after repeated listens that this release is an improvement on the debut, though having said that, the debut is still a very good release! The album sets it's bench mark with the opening trio of 'Cold Creation', 'Wasted Feelings' and 'Shadow Weaver' - a great start!! 'Symmetric Flow' and 'Afraid To Speak' have perhaps a little more commercial appeal in their make up, with great melodic guitar solos to boot, and these are becoming my fave tracks on the album. 'Beneath The Mystery' returns to a more darker theme, while 'Broken World' is an instrumental that breaks the proceedings up rather nicely. 'Universal Design' regains the momentum with other highlights to my ears being the Gothy and melodic 'Gatekeeper' and the closer 'The Frozen Siren'. This is another very good effort from a band that is on the rise, offering up catchy and melodic songs with a Gothy and Symphonic undercurrent, and is another release that is well worth checking out...9/10 (Dave)

ZOLTAR SPEAKS...'SAVE AS I SAVE'

(Self Release) Reviewed 23rd September 2013

Somerset (UK) based Zoltar Speaks released a rather good EP some months ago now, and that was a hard rockin' affair to confirm that the west country here in England is not only good at producing cider, there are some decent rock and metal bands down there too. And the awesome work of the band is carried over to this, their debut full length release. Fronted by the awesome powerhouse of Louise Body, the album kicks off with a piano led intro, that leads into the number 'See You In Another Life' - a heavy thundering number proving that this band means business. And they power their way through further bombastic tunes like 'Last Man Standing', 'Cannot Be', the thumping metallic 'Face The Claymore', 'Nothing In The World' and the 8+ minute epic 'I Can I Can't'. And there is a sensitive side to the band as well with the songs 'Braver' and 'Treatment' (Treatment being featured on the EP). Throughout the album, Louise is ably backed up by Ollie Smith and Jason Coles (guitars), Simon Roocroft on bass and Ben Dean supplying thunderous beats, confirming that Zoltar Speaks is a powerhouse melodic metal unit that are well worth checking out, so check them out HERE, then buy the album that is due in November... 8.5/10 (Dave)

WISE GIRL...'YOU'LL JUST HAVE TO WAIT'

(Self Release) Reviewed 16th September 2013

I reviewed a three track EP by New York PowerPop/Rock outfit Wise Girl back in May and I did rather like what I heard. So now we have a full length cd that has now come my way, following hot on the heels of the EP. Fronted by the rather quirky 6 foot tall Abby Weitz who also plays guitars and writes the tunes, this cd consists of 10 tracks of hideously infectious tunes that will have you tapping your feet and bouncing around your living room in no time at all. 'You'll Just Have To Wait' is a fine way to kick the album off, but second track 'I'm A Freak' is a catchy and memorable tune that caught my attention right away. Another fave track from the album is 'Leave Me Out Of It' which to me shows mass cross over appeal and screams radio airplay. Indeed, with further cool tunes like 'Little White Lies' and lead single 'Stuck In This', the band has set the bench mark for the future, while the closing duo of 'Wishful Thinking' and 'Roles Are Reversed' were featured on the EP. Overall, all ten numbers here are damn good and deserve to be heard on any radio station across the planet. Okay, the all out Metal fan may disagree and not be too keen on this album, but for anyone who is open minded regards their music, and loves catchy, modern and melodic Pop/Rock music, check WISE GIRL out, as to me the young Abby is a very wise girl indeed writing stuff like this. Their Facebook is here ...8.75/10 (Dave)

VANDROYA...'ONE'

(Inner Wound Recordings) Reviewed 11th September 2013

Vandroya could be one of Brazil's best kept secrets until now that is. The band was conceived in 2001 and it has taken this long for them to come up with their full length debut - but you know the saying, "if it is good it will be worth waiting for". And this is!! The band fronted by Daisa Munhoz (Soulspell) deliver 10 striking tunes of what can best be described as Epic, Progressive Power Metal. Opener 'All Becomes One' is an atmospheric instrumental before one of the standout tracks 'The Last Free Land' kicks out of the speakers, like a Japanese Bullet train. It is all bombastic Power Metal coupled with outstanding musicanship all the way to track 6 with outstanding vocals from Daisa, and then things slow down for the power ballad 'Why Should We Say Goodbye'. This is actually one of my fave tracks from the album, but as I have said many times before, I am a sucker for a good power ballad. After our little break, it is back to Power Metal business with 'Change The Tide', which is in-fact a duet with Leandro Caçoilo - great stuff! Despite all the energy and complex musicanship that is going on, the band can find the time for the second ballad and closing number (non bonus track version), the complex sounding 'Solar Night'. Fans of bands like Kamelot, Symphony X, Angra and Sonata Arctica will love 'One'. Vandroya is definitely a force to be reckoned with during years to come. Recommeded... 8.75/10 (Dave)

UNVEIL...'CODEX NOCTEM'

(Self Release) Reviewed 13th August 2013

Unveil is a Canadian Dark Rock band from Sherbrooke, Quebec. They formed in 2004 when good friends united with one goal in mind: play live shows. In 2010, they presented a daring event called “The Story of Sarah”; a multimedia production combining a short film within a rock concert. This got the band working with a small team of very creative individuals including a local folk-rock singer named Jow. The following year, she joined Unveil on stage for a fund-raising event and left the band speechless. Her unique voice and energy gave Unveil a new drive and she was asked to officially become the new lead singer. Onto this EP, and the six tracks that make up this CD are I must say rather good! Kicking off with 'Hide', the vocals of Jow remind me a little of Amy Lee, while the track itself is a thumping rocker with a progressive undercurrent - an awesome start! ''Camera' and 'Why' keep up the momentum, both being luscious Gothic Rockers with an element of crunch - great stuff! 'Empty' is a pounding rocker showcasing the sheer brilliance of the musicianship on offer. Closing the CD with 'The Fall' and 'Winter', Unveil prove that this band has got what it takes to compete with some of the European heavy weights within the genre! Their BandCamp site is here... 8.5/10 (Dave)

VERONA SEPTIMA...'WHAT IS DEAD MAY NEVER DIE'

(Self Release) Reviewed 8th August 2013

I have been sitting on this single for a while now wondering whether I should review the one song or not. But why not I thought so here it is :) Verona Septima fronted by Veronika Toivokoski is basically a Symphonic Metal Band from Finland, yep Finland folks, a country that sure has belief in this style of music. This single is a tasty morsel of Symphonic Metal, great musicianship throughout and catchy to boot. Veronika Toivokoski's vocals verge on the operatic and we have some nice melodic guitar work from Esa Mikkola, with whom I must thank for sending me this single. I cannot really score a single song, but an album based on what we have here (one is due later this year I am told), will sure be a must buy! Check them out here. (Dave)

UNSHINE...'DARK HALF RISING'

(Massacre Records) Reviewed 31st July 2013

Unshine fronted by the elegantly voiced Susanna Vesilahti, was formed during 2001 in Helsinki. In the very beginning the band was invited to a European-wide pop-contest in Bilbao, Spain. Then in 2004, a Finnish company offered a record deal to the band. The self-recorded and self produced debut album 'Earth Magick', was released during 2005 both in Europe and in North America. During the following years, the band toured and prepared the second album, 'The Enigma Of Immortals'. That album gained official chart positions in Finland and the songs on the album received airplay on number of radio stations, including Bruce Dickinson's BBC Friday Rock Show here in the UK. Now we have their latest offering compliments of Massacre Records, and this is another good album from this Finnish Druid Metal band. 11 tracks of very catchy Folk and at times Gothic inspired Rock & Metal music that will have you dancing around the camp fire in no time at all. Awesome stuff here - listen to the wonderfully titled 'The Oath To Wilderness of Unredeemed Nature', the catchy 'Spellbinder' and the even more catchier 'Defender Of His Faith', very good indeed. But the icing on the cake on this very good album has to be the near 13 minute epic 'Ikuinen Taistelu' - wonderful! If you like your music melodic and folky with some amazing vocals from Susanna that to me make this album and band what it is, then you must buy this when it gets released (23rd August)! 9/10 (Dave)

UNDER HEAVEN...'NOCTURNES FOR THE DIVINE & THE DAMNED'

(Ravenheart Music) Reviewed 29th July 2013

Under Heaven from Toronto, Canada, were formed in the summer of 2006 by composer Matthew Binks, who performs all the music, and his search for the right voice that would capture all the elements he envisioned was fulfilled when he was introduced through a friend to gorgeous Tammy Everett, with their début album 'What Lies Between' released back in 2007. Now after a long gap this brand new album is at last released, was it worth the wait? Matt's musical vision encompasses European symphonic gothic metal, mixed with Celtic, classical and even some electronica influences, floating around Mother Earth/Silent Force era Within Temptation, Liv Moon, and modern Nightwish. Tammy has a delightful light operatic style, but she can also let loose some Akane Liv esque screams, Matt really has found the perfect voice. The whole album is a panoply of prime cuts that runs the full gamut of flavours from fragile to fearsome, packed with more hooks than a burlesque dancer's corset, tons of glorious choruses, laced with Matts guitar licks, featuring his outstanding orchestrations that sound extremely realistic, and all perfectly produced. Fast and furious numbers include the opener 'Let's Play', 'Don't Hold Back' (with its “come on, come on” hook), and the fun 'Day at the Races' (nothing to do with Queen) that's a real tongue twister for Tammy. Celtic and folky numbers include the jolly 'O' Sweet Claire' (no, not Gilbert O'Sullivan), the ballad 'The Tale' with its very authentic sounding bagpipes, the inspirational 'Realm', the gorgeous ballad 'The Ghost I Am' and the plaintive closer 'SpiritScape', plus there is even a superb Chopin style piano piece 'Nocturne in A Flat'. My two faves are the numbers that encapsulate their sound, 'Inner Demons' with its terrific refrain, and 'Sinergy' (note the I) with its electronica groove. This is an album of divine nocturnes, pure and perfect symphonic gothic metal, if you enjoy this genre, or just damn good music, then this will fill your nights with pleasure, just ascend to their heaven at www.under-heaven.com/ . This just about sums up everything I love about this type of music, romance, passion, drama, melody, sound, not too heavy, not too light, in fact just right, a faultless 10/10 (Phil)

WINDFALL...'TALES OF AN ORDINARY LIFE'

(Self Release) Reviewed 26th July 2013

Windfall come from Italy and they play Melodic Metal with a Symphonic and Progressive undercurrent, featuring the rock style vocals of Francesca Tedeschi. I was first introduced to this band back in 2011 when I reviewed their EP 'Crush'. The four numbers from that EP are all featured here, and the other five all gel well to give us a rather good 9 track album to sink our teeth into. 'Crush', being the title track to their earlier EP kicks this record off, and well and truly sets the scene for what lies in wait. Great vocals and great keys on this track compliments Tommaso Buzzegoli. And we even hear an accordion! The keys continue to be a dominate force throughout the album with lots of keys/guitar interplay, but let us not forget the workmanship of guitarist Lorenzo Nardi, bassist Marco Patracchini and drummer Matteo Bresci. The pace refuses to let up through the early numbers such as 'Rage, Love & Sex' and the melodic 'Dad Show', with it's guitar solo ), guitar solos till exist - yay! A symphonic and at times Power Metal style also appear on some of the tracks here such as 'The Hunter' and 'Life Forever'. Closer 'Windfall' has an awesome laid back intro before the band kicks in and the track takes off in awesome Power Metal fasion! This album took more than one listen to get into, but if they keep going like this, they could soon be up there with the top guns. Their Facebook is here and not a ballad in sight!...8.5/10 (Dave)

ZOE ANN...2012 EP

(Self Release) Reviewed 8th May 2013

Zoe Ann, an award winning rock/pop, singer/songwriter/musician from Dallas, has dominated many indie charts over the past three years and continues breaking chart records. She has a consistently growing fan base, in the U.S. and abroad, and a rapidly growing repertoire of radio friendly music. This EP is her 2012 release and consists of three rockin radio friendly Pop/Rock tunes that will rock ya sox off and have you demanding more! And the girl can belt out a ballad too, 'Wake me Up' is being helped to raise money for the documentary "Battlefield of the Mind", which exposes the problem with war Vets and the issues with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, among other problems they face when arriving home. This is good stuff in the style of Paramore, Avril Lavigne and the like, and is well worth checking out HERE. .. 8/10 (Dave)

WISE GIRL...S/T EP

(Self Released) Reviewed 6th May 2013

Wise Girl is a melodic power pop/ rock outfit crafted and fronted by songwriter Abby Weitz, hailing from the heart of Manhattan, New York. A native New Yorker, Weitz earlier led the adrenaline-fueled punk group, the Lookaways, which became known for playing notorious clubs around the city such as Sin-E, Lit Lounge, Don Hill’s, including the legendary CBGB’s, as well as playing the Van’s Warped Tour. Here, Abby and the band present us with a three track EP of Quirky Power Pop - 'Set In Stone' being the opening number and the single which in itself is receiving rave reviews, and just shows the awesome musical direction Abby is taking this band. Next up 'Wishful Thinking' is in-fact one of my faves from the EP, a great mid tempo melodic plodder, while closer 'Roles Are Reversed' is a quirky song that sticks around in your head begging to be played again. Indeed, all three songs here have this uncanny ability to stick to you like glue. Their FaceBook is here and the EP can be purchased from iTunes. Good stuff... 8.5./10 (Dave)

VARNA...'THIS TIME IT'S PERSONAL'

(Self Release EP) Reviewed 6th April 2013

Here we have an interesting three tracker that if the quality here was extended to a full length album, then we would be talking massive. Varna hail from Los Angeles and is fronted by Tiana Woods, with Rossen Pinakas on guitar and Rob Shin on drums. Musically, let us assume Kelly Clarkson meets Evanescence, throw in bags of attitude and we are more or less there. The three tracks here simply rock, and remind me to an extent of Florida band Faces Of March, who Ravenheart Music has been associated with in the past. All I can say is check this band out HERE and have a listen. This is rather good, it should not be ignored and as a consequence deserves one's attention... 9/10 (Dave)

VAJRA...'PLEROMA'

(Self Release) Reviewed 2nd April 2013

New York based Vajra was formed by Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Annamaria Pinna, and their music is hauntingly dark and hypnotic, weaving Eastern Indian themes with melodic, progressive rock creating foreboding and mysterious lullabies. Sylvia Massy (Tool, System of A Down, Prince, Johnny Cash) co-produced the vocals and mix. Tom Baker (NIN, Foo Fighters, Ministry, Prince) mastered the whole affair. And you know what, this is flippin' good. Opener 'Inside The Flame' shows those aformentioned Eastern Indian themes being mixed with some high octane rock, and is a damn good way to start this very impressive album. Just when you recovered from the opener, 'Almost One' is a hypnotic mid tempo number with a rather catchy melodic chorus, while 'India' is a haunting, atmospheric, synth infused instrumental, just listen through headphones! The vocals return on 'Blind', great vocals by the way compliments of Annamaria, while 'Intuition' is another mid tempo number, melodic, thought provoking and totally awesome! The first five numbers have left me spellbound, with the second half of the album equally as good. 'Erode The Will' continues the mid tempo melodic theme, and indeed is a fave of mine from this recording, while '3.14' to my ears has crossover potential, another great song from this release. The quality doesn't dip with the songs 'See Through You' and the instrumental 'Akkord Pleromy', with the latter showing further mystical Eastern Indian influences. Closer the 8 minute plus 'The Apple' is an epic way to end this little epic of an album. Vajra’s music has left me and will leave you spellbound and hypnotised, so go and check them out here! 8.75/10 (Dave)

VISIONS OF ATLANTIS...'ETHERA'

(Napalm Records) Reviewed 12th March 2013

The band revolving around the enchanting and strong-voiced front lady Maxi Nil did not rest on their laurels after releasing their successful album 'Delta' and playing numerous concerts (e.g. Wacken Open Air, Novarock, Masters of Rock). Instead, the musicians focused on the songwriting sessions for a new longplayer. The mystical title 'Ethera' stands for an extraordinary and diverse Symphonic Metal masterpiece. And as a consequence, presents the listener with bombastic and orchestral tracks such as the opening duo of 'The Ark' and the catchy 'Machinage', plus 'Avatara' and 'Burden of Divinity' as well as touching and dreamy power ballads like 'Vicious Circle' and the wonderfully titled and synth driven 'Cave Behind The Waterfall'. Other fave numbers on this release include 'Hypnotized', the interestingly titled and atmospheric 'Bestiality vs Integrity' and the closer 'Clerics Emotion'. The band as confirmed on this release is a master in capturing varying and different moods within their music and thus creating a tightly arranged album, that offers a magical atmosphere from the first to the last song. It is important to point out that the vocal performance of Maxi Nil and Mario Plank sounds so harmonic and sweeping, just like they have been singing together for years. 'Ethera' is a mythical and bombastic journey into the heart of Atlantis! This is well recommended when released end of March/beginning of April, but most fans of the female fronted metal scene would know that anyway :) 8.75/10 (Aimee)

ZEPHRYA...'KAMPAGLOD' EP

(Self Release) Reviewed 26th February 2013

Zephrya hail from Sweden, and this is another offering sent my way by the band, and I must say that I am falling in love with these guys and gal. With influences widely spread from Slayer and early Metallica to Evergrey, Dark Tranquility and Iced Earth, the band has created to my ears quite a unique sound. If you are expecting Gothy Operatics, then this will not be your cuppa tea, but the band do offer up some Melodic Thrashy Metal, with a progressive undercurrent occasionally making it's way to the surface. Lead Growler/Vocalist Asa Netterbrant certainly proves she is no person to be messed with, but there again, she has the versatility to swich from growls to clean vocals at the flick of a switch. Tony Netterbrant provides the male vocals on a release that is rather impressive. There are six numbers to sink your teeth into, with opener 'Route 611' kicking off proceedings, showcasing the versatility that is shown within the vocal department. 'Forced Family' is next up, and vocally on this song, Asa reminds me in her less aggressive moments of Summer from the UK band Vampyre Heart. 'Pessimist' and 'Release My Anger' continue the attack on the senses, and then comes my fave from the EP - 'Imprisoned Queen' with it's catchy chorus is rather good, and I would imagine could be a live favourite with those in the mosh pit. The EP closes with the instrumental Kämpaglöd. If you like your metal Thrashy and aggressive but still maintaining a sense of melody with subtle use of keys, this may be right up your alley way. www.zephyra.net/Official/home is the band's website... 8.5/10 (Dave)

VORTIGYN...EP

(Self Released) Reviewed 22nd February 2013

Vortigyn is a band from Belgium, and a few days ago, a three track EP dropped into the office here. The accompanying pictures suggested to me that this band were an Indie Pop/Rock band, but there is a saying that says "never judge a book by it's cover". Indeed that is the case as Vortigyn actually offer up three tracks of Melodic Metal with awesome pop/rock vocals from front lady Ester Bortels, accompanied with some subtle grunts from guitarist Joris Jacobien. I actually really enjoyed what was offered here and has actually left me wanting more! Opener 'In Control' is a catchy Melodic Metal number, and second track up 'Words' maintains the momentum and is another catchy song that sees Ester break into operatic mode on occasion - great vocals. Final track 'Lost' starts a little subdued before the guitars and drums kick in. Another melodic number, and I am sure will be a fist pumper when played live. I like this band and they are certainly worth looking out for - their FaceBook is HERE..... 8.75/10 (Dave)

VESPERA...'DESERT OF THE REAL'

(Self Release) Reviewed 30th January 2013

Music comes and music goes, many bands leave a lasting impression, few don't, but welcome VESPERA who hail from Transylvania, which is a historical region in the central part of Romania. I must say that this band has left an impression on me with this release, I can assure you. Mixing styles that cover a wide variety of musical genres, ranging from rock, industrial, electro and hardcore, but maintaining a huge melodic sensibility in the process, Vespera throw at us 11 tracks of hideously catchy music. The interestingly titled 'Mary of Bethany' kicks the album off, the synths blatantly apparent from the off, as this keys driven and very catchy number bounces along, with vocals here being shared between guitarist Dorin Panduru and leading lady on this album Teodora Bârla. Teodora however, has since left the band and her shoes are now filled by a guy named Dudu Isabel. The synths continue to dominate on 'Fame' that maintains the catchiness of the opener, while there is no let up with the heavier and more metallic 'Behind My Smile'. This so far is a very impressive start to the record. There are further highlights a plenty on this release, including the slower and radio friendly 'Close To Madness', the animated 'Through The Neon Lights' and the awesome and addictive 'Afterglow'. And closer 'Overture (Cupid's Birth)' is a peaceful way to end such a spirited album. I must say that I like this record a lot, and this band are well worth checking out here. I understand that a second album is in the making, I can't wait! 9/10 (Dave)

WILDESTARR...'A TELL TALE HEART'

(Scarlet Records) Reviewed 28th January 2013

Californians Wildestarr fronted by the awesome and powerful vocal prowess of London Wilde, is the brainchild of ex Vicious Rumors bassist Dave Starr, and is their second release, their first seeing the light of day in 2009, subsequently being reviewed on this very website. The first thing to notice about this release, as with their previous ('Arrival'), is the stunning vocals of London. She is up there amongst the best of them, in the style of say Rob Halford or Geoff Tate. This album falls into the Melodic Power Metal category, and this is confirmed by the opening threesome of 'Immortal', 'Transformis Ligeia' and 'A Perfect Storm'. 'Valkyrie Cry' slows it down a touch, but the first real breather comes with 'Last Holy King'. Even so, this number still exhibits power, and maintains the awesome quality that this release is beginning to show. 'In Staccata' blew my mind, the vocals are massive, while 'Not Sane' has a slightly more progressive edge. 'Seven Shades Of Winter' is a powerful but slower melodic number, with the tracks 'The Pit or the Pendulum' and 'Usher In The Twilight' closing things down. This is a well recorded and well executed release, with Dave showing that not only was he a good bassist in his previous job, he can shred it with the guitar on this release, as well as covering bass duties, with Josh Foster covering drums. For you Melodic Power Metal Heads out there, this is well worth checking out... 8.75/10 (Dave)

YOUR ARMY...'IGNITE'

(Intono Records/Rough Trade)

Here is a UK band from Brighton offering a set of 12 tight and aggressive songs. Produced by Ace of Skunk Anansie, 'Ignite' showcases the band's raw energy and passion with a tirade of punchy and exciting songs. It is representative of the years of writing and gigging as well as the blood, sweat and occasionally the tears, that the band have shed to get to the point that they are now at in their musical careers. Formed in Brighton in 2009, YOUR ARMY fronted by Lucy Caffrey has gained a strong following by playing killer headline shows throughout the UK as well as supporting some top bands; Feeder and We are Scientists to name a few. This album is a high energy asault on the senses, just listen to opener 'Without Regret', the debut single 'No Good', which picked up radio airplay here, the catchy and familiar sounding 'One Last Time' (I swear I have heard this tune on the radio here as well), 'Sleeping With Her' and the closer 'Chase The World' to name just five! Imagine a good old dose of Hard Rock coupled with some Pop sensibilities - kinda like Halestorm or The Pretty Reckless and that is the route Your Army is taking. This band is well worth checking out so visit their FaceBook and find out for yourselves... 8.5/10 (Dave)

WINGS OF THE FALLEN... EP

(Self Released) Reviewed 10th January 2013

Here we have a band from Belgium that give us a dose of metal that will awaken your senses and kick your butts into gear. Fronted by Dana Del Favero, the band steamroller 5 tracks at us. Opener 'Shadow of Sorrow' has the word "metal" stamped all over it and by the time you pick yourself up off the floor, 'Vengeance Burns' will put you back down there again, great stuff! Music that is meant to be played and played loud! 'Godless Resurgence' is another up tempo number but with an element of quirkyness added to it. 'Fall From Grace' is more Power Metal while the interestingly titled and laid back 'First Class Musician' ends this little platter. To summarise, this is metal with melody offered to us by a band that has recorded this record themselves and they even manage themselves, therefore keeping it all in the 'family'. Their Facebook is here.. 8/10 (Dave)

VAMPYRE HEART...'THE GHOST OF TIME'

(Ravenheart Music) Reviewed 3rd January 2013

It is time to rock folks as the rockers from Bournemouth bring us their debut offering - 14 tracks and two cds of Electro Gothic Rock that I guarantee will have your feet tapping, and if it doesn't, then you need to get a life :) I have seen Vampyre Heart (click here for their Facebook) develop over the past few years, and I hope that vocalist Summer will not mind me saying that she was once involved in a nasty bike accident. This accident only made her and the band more determined to succeed, and succeed they are doing. The band is amazingly popular on the underground circuit, and I must say that they have kept their fans happy with this release. Many punters that have seen them live will be familiar with many of the songs on this album, and I feel immensely proud to be associated with them. They typify hard working musicians knowing that fame and popularity won't come to you, you have to get out there and work your butts off to get it. The title track kicks things off, and I am almost reminded of Massive Attack with regards some of the instrumentation. And to be perfectly honest, if you like the opener, you will like the album, period. 'Devils Mercy' is the next up, and I can see Summer on stage dancing around to this one like a demented Rhino LOL! There is no let up to the awesome music, which continues with the rockin' and more metallic 'Hell Raised Why', through the slower 'Crazy Maybe', the upbeat 'Why Did You' and the closer on Cd1, the up tempo 'Evil Eyes'. CD2 gives us four numbers totaling roughly 28 mins and is equally as good, from the 9 minute plus opener 'Afraid' through to the 8 minute + closer 'Come Love Me Tonight'. I have already ensured that copies of this cd have sneaked their way to people I know in the USA, a country where this band could and should do well. I know I have praised Summer, but the man basically behind all the noise is Summer's hubby D Soul. All tracks to-date have primarily been composed, produced and mixed by D Soul, and mastered by Rich ‘Mixer’ Ott (USA). And let's not forget bassist Taff amongst all this too! I know this release is on the Ravenheart label, and I also know that I am good buddies with the band making my review perhaps a little biased, but having spoken to Ravenheart Aimee who has also listened to this cd and lived with it for a wee while, we have decided that this album is well worthy of a 9/10 (Dave & Aimee)

VRAK...'I DREAM' EP

(Self Release) Reviewed 29th December 2012

Vrak is an upcoming Swedish alternative act featuring the inimitable voice and sound of Josefin Finér. This EP offers up 4 tracks and 13 minutes of mid tempo rock music that has that kinda commercial feel - not too heavy and quite listenable. 'Targets' to my ears is one of my faves on the EP, while closing track 'Sister' has a heavier feel to it. This is not a bad effort by this Swedish Band and is one to put into the "keep an eye on" folder. Their Facebook is here ....7.75/10 (Dave)

VALFREYA...'PATH TO ETERNITY'

(Maple Metal Records) Reviewed 13th December 2012

Canadian Viking/folk/Melodic Black metal band VALFREYA is a six member band from Montreal, Canada. The band’s frontwoman, Crook, has a vocal range of symphonic clean vocals to that of guttural growls. Crook is indeed the main composer of ‘Path to Eternity’ (that was released earlier in the year) along with key contributions from guitar player Graz’zt, keyboardist Shark, and all the band members. Influenced by bands like Moonsorrow, Equilibrium, Arkona and Wintersun, VALFREYA portray a more aggressive and energetic take on the folk metal genre. The title track is a short intro that leads us into 'Deity's Grace' and it becomes immediately apparent how versatile Crook's vocals are - a great heavy Folk metal number with heavier moments interspersed with quiter more solitude elements. The heaviness and folky aggression continues with 'Inferno' and 'Beyond Illusions' that may have some of you running to the hills for solitude! The aural onslaught continues with 'Oceans Assault' and 'Confront Immensity' and indeed there is no let up as we hit the 10th track, the outro 'My Glorious Death'. This album is a very heavy and intense listening experience, and I did find the music on offer a little overpowering at times and also a little samey, and I felt relieved when Crook's clean vocals came to the rescue on occasion. However, for fans of Black/Pagan Metal with Folk elements, this I imagine will be a must buy, so light up your camp fires folks... 7.75/10 (Dave)

ZOE SCHWARZ BLUE COMMOTION...'GOOD TIMES'

(33 Records) Reviewed 28th November 2012

Wanna taste of the Blues? How about giving Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion a listen? 14 tracks of music to send fans of the Blues all into a dither. The band is a UK based six piece, drawing upon the melting pot of popular music past and present. I must admit myself that I am not a total fan of blues music, but I can tell upon listening to this record, that there are some good tunes here. Listen to 'Fine and Mellow' as one example. The hammond organ is to be heard in all it's splendour throughout the album, plus the good old harmonica - great stuff. And the vocals of Bournemouth based Zoe - awesome! For all you Blues fans out there, check them out here! 8/10 (Dave)

WHISPERING TALES..'AD ABOLENDAM, ASHES, BLOOD and STARS'

(Self Release) Reviewed 19th November 2012

I thoroughly enjoyed doing the special review of this French symphonic metal bands début album, 'Echoes of Perversion', available to read here. They have now recorded a special EP containing a trilogy of epics based on the atrocities carried out by the medieval Roman Catholic Church against people they saw as heretics and their desire to retain their almighty power and total authority, with the intention to draw parallels with the events of today where terrible evils are committed by people who are supposed to be men of god. The issues and themes are a very important part of the album so I will cover them in some detail. The EP's title comes from the Ad Abolendum (on abolition) which was a 1184 Papal Bull by Pope Lucius III outlining the Church's measures against all they considered heretics, which resulted in the events covered by the songs. The first is about the Cathars, a Christian sect that grew up in the 11th century, they were a simple people whose religious beliefs were in sharp contrast to those of Rome. Rome saw them as a threat to their power, especially the Cathar's anti materialistic views as Rome enjoyed great wealth, and so they responded by sending the Albigensian Crusade to destroy them in their main heartland in the Languedoc region in the south west of France. In the resulting war around half a million people died and 'Ashes In The Field' is about the infamous massacre of the Cathars at Montségur Castle, where 250 men, women and children were burnt alive in 1244 for refusing to give up their faith. It is shocking that this level of intolerance and cruelty based on beliefs is still so prevalent, this is about an historical event, but it could have been written about today. 'Limpieza De Sangre', which means 'Cleanliness of Blood', is about the notorious Spanish Inquisition, and the laws against anyone who they consider to not have 'pure' Christian blood, for example those with Jewish or Muslim ancestry, which has terrifying comparisons with modern fascism, racism, and ethnic cleansing. 'Sidereus Nuncius', Starry Messenger, takes it's name from the 1610 book by Galileo Galilei, where he first suggested that the Earth was not the centre of the universe, an observation first made by the ancient Greeks, which was in stark contradiction to Rome's Aristotelian world view, where the Earth, and in particular the Vatican, was the centre of the universe. In 1633 Galileo was put on trial by for heresy for suggesting that the earth revolved around the sun, this had nothing to do with faith or science, but everything to do with politics, Rome was the centre of the universe and therefore power, and anyone who suggested otherwise must be stopped at all costs. This truly superb, thought provoking EP can be downloaded for free from their website here, pick up a copy of their album too! A remarkable 9/10 (Phil)

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