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Ravenheart Music: Album Reviews

REVIEWS U-Z

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WHAT THOU WILT...'ARGENTUM' EP

(Self Release) Reviewed 22nd August 2017

What Thou Wilt is a rock band with heavy metal tendencies. They hail from the rainy, but beautiful city of Seattle in Washington, being led by songstress Serena Thomson. The band includes diverse guitarist/songwriter Michael Bell, rock steady bassist/designer Abbey Stroud-Martin, and multi-talented Patrick Carroll on drums, synth and also the recording engineer. This little package kicks off with the heavy and upbeat 'In A Zoo', being followed by the mid tempo and catchy 'Terror'. 'Illuminated' is an asweosme number with the synths providing an atmospheric backdrop. 'How What Why' is a tune where I don't give a fuck Lol...this little album sounds good! The band's website is here... 8/10 (Dave)

XTASY...'SECOND CHANCE'

(The Fish Factory) Reviewed 26th June 2017

Xtasy is a Melodic Rock band hailing from Noain (Pamplona) in Spain. And what we have is basically what it says on the tin - 12 tracks of prime time Melodic Rock goodness, taking one back to a time when Melodic Rock/AOR ruled the airwaves. This is good inoffensive catchy rock music fronted by the vocals of Silvia Idoate. If AOR/Melodic Rock floats your boat, then this album will be the biz... 8.5/10 (Natalie)

WE ARE RIOT...'NO SAINTS'

(Self Release) Reviewed 13th June 2017

Hailing from Bremen/Berlin in Germany, We Are Riot is an up-and-coming band committed to playing Female Fronted Rock with Blues and Hard Rock influences! Lead singer Jennifer Bothe has one of those powerful earth tremoring voices that suits this kind of music down to a tee. There are eight tracks on this album and basically they are absolute belters with a melodic sensibility, closing with the acoustic based and rather catchy ‘Young & Reckless’ which is classed as a bonus track. The band doesn’t want soft pop; their aim is to trigger the ultimate rock power. Influences by strong female fronted rock bands such as The Pretty Reckless and Halestorm can be felt at any moment and comparisons with the young Queen of Metal Doro Pesch can be heard. The band's facebook can be found here. This album is worth checking out… 8/10 (Dave)

YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS…’FIRST NIGHT BACK IN PORT’

(Napalm Records) Reviewed 10th June 2017

Hoist the Jolly Roger! YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS take no prisoners. With 'First Night Back In Port' a loose merger of ruffians and raiders will take you back into the cruel world of the 18th century. Be prepared for rough times where pirates dominated the seven seas. With the help of Irish and Scandinavian folk as well as raw punk they brew stormy sea chanties. YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS count 30 crew members with at least a dozen of these buccaneers arming themselves to the teeth with fiddle, banjo and accordion and this album is damn awesome as a consequence. There are a lot of musicians involved including Monkey Boy, Eva the Navigator, Sickboy McCoy, Meatstick Nick and Bloody Liz (sound like wrestlers to me Lol) among many others. This is catchy Pirate Metal straight out of the top drawer from the catchy opening track ‘Annabel’ to the closer ‘Mermaid’s Kiss’. In summary, Ye Banished Privateers be a band, a crew an’ a soup kitchen playin sea shanties, bastardized Irish folk an' 17th century punk. So raise your tankards, it is one of those albums when upon first listen you do not quite know what to expect next – so hideously catchy and I simply love it. Released 30th June… 9/10 (Dave)

VIENNA...'EARTHQUAKES TO REARRANGE'

(Self Released) Reviewed 5th June 2017

Vienna is a Melodic Power Metal band from Brazil fronted by Patricia Fernanda. This cd offers 8 tracks of catchy Power Metal, the final cut actually being a radio mix of track 4 'Be'. It all kicks of in powerful fashion after the brief intro track 'Masquerade' with the powerful and melodic 'Mistakes', while 'Temptation' that follows maintains the momentum and keeps up the melodic sensibility. 'Be' slows it down a tad with the following cut 'Together' being a 7+ minute power ballad with a progressive feel - awesome! The pace resumes with 'Vienna', the duo of 'E.G.O.' and the radio edit of 'Be' closing this rather awesome cd. I like this record and it came as a pleasant surprise. The band's facebook is here... 8.75/10 (Dave)

UNLEASH THE ARCHERS...'APEX'

(Napalm Records) Reviewed 12th May 2017

10 years of UNLEASH THE ARCHERS! These heavy metal heroes fronted by Brittney Slayes, are celebrating this honour with an exhilarating feast on this their fourth masterpiece, that will be released 2nd June. This one will take nerves of steel; from its opener 'Awakening' to the closing title track, the listener will partake in a furious adventure, weaving through elements of the strongest metal genres of our time. This is a blistering record full of fist pumping anthems clutching you with a fervor that lingers well beyond the last cymbal decay. This an orgasmic release including heartrending choirs, that will hammer your senses leaving you screaming for more. All hail heavy metal! This is a must buy.. 9/10 (Dave)

VANDROYA...'BEYOND THE HUMAN MIND'

(Inner Wound Recordings) Reviewed 17th April 2017

The long-awaited new album 'Beyond The Human Mind' from Brazilian band Vandroya is set to be released on April 28th. With a more evident progressive influence but without giving up the weight and virtuosity of power metal, the new album brings a more mature band, a more balanced sound and reflects the musician's technical and artistic evolution since the last album 'One'. The album concept within the nine blockbusting tracks revolves around the journey we all go through in search of fullness, inner peace and ourselves. Lead vocalist Daisa Munhoz vocals are not overpowering and I do rather like her vocal style. The track ‘Last Breath’ is the customary ballad and should be heard on mainstream radio – a sure fire hit if ever there was one! And the 6 minute + number ‘If I Forgive Myself’ also gives a brief respite to proceedings. Overall, a good release of Melodic Power Metal and well worth looking into… 8.5/10 (Dave)

THE WINTYR...'FURY'

(Self Release) Reviewed 21st March 2017

Cape Town/London-based, alt-folktronic trio THE WINTYR fronted by Evelyn Hart has just released this rather cool album. The band offers Synth-infused electro folk sounds that carry Evelyn Hart's soaring vocals through the moving tracks. The synth contributions give the album a dynamic cinematic feel and the overall effect is totally captivating to say the least. It is atmospheric and has a kind of uptempo Enya feel at times. The album sure has a certain chart potential and although not the kind of thing I would normally listen too, I must say that I do rather like this album. Standout cuts to my ears include the synth pop 'Followers', the atmospheric title track and the catchy 'My Kind'. In summary, this record is not one for any of you metalheads out there, but if Electro/Pop is up your alley with a subtle injection of Folk, then this release is worth looking into further...8/10 (Dave)

ZUBEROA AZNAREZ...'BEYOND THE THRESHOLD'

(Self Release) Reviewed 11th March 2017

Here we have a beautiful album from a beautiful young lady and I hope she does not mind me saying so. Zuberoa is a singer, composer and flutist. She is also the founder, songwriter & co-producer of the symphonic metal band Diabulus in Musica and also member of the World/celtic music trio Dryades. I haven't heard any of Dryades music, but I would imagine this little platter follows the style of that band, being a more laid back and rather beautiful piece of Folk/Celtic inspired music, that I am really enjoying listening too, similar to Enya as one example. Other similarities include LEAH, but overall, this a a good listen to help soothe away those winter blues and welcome in Spring. If you want an album similar to Diabulus In Musica, you will not find it with this release, but if you want some music to chill out too after a long day at the office, this is well worth checking out further. Zuberoa's website is here... 8.5/10 (Dave)

WALK IN DARKNESS...'IN THE SHADOWS OF THINGS'

(Self Release) Reviewed 10th March 2017

Walk in Darkness is a mysterious faceless Gothic Metal Band with epic lyrics.The dark sound (with symphonic, melodic and epic elements) perfectly blend in with Nicoletta Rosellini's (Kalidia) evocative voice. The band is mysterious alright, no one knows who they are except for Nicoletta. Kicking off with the initially Draconian paced 'Heavy Wings Of Destiny', the track really kicks into gear midway, leaving you pinned against the wall with male growls and Nicoletta's angelic voice. A great heavy but melodic number that takes us to 'Last Siren', a quirky bouncy track with subtle progressive elements sufacing at times and featuring just the female voice. 'Chance In The Storm' is a thumper that hammers along, with again just the vocals of Nicoletta to please the listener. 'Eternal River Flow' is a slow to mid tempo near folky/progressive number with clean male vocals putting in a brief appearance and a damn fine catchy chorus to boot! 'Walk Like Heroes' is a slow brooding tune initially before it kicks up a gear into a bombastic number, while 'Carthage' maintains the momentum in what is turning out to be an awesome record. The closing salvo of 'Dance Of Time' and the bouncy 'Alexandria' (also featuring Magdalena Lee) close what to me is a very good album. For those listeners not too keen on growls, they only pop up on the opening cut - check out the band's website here...recommended... 8.75/10 (Dave)

UNRULY CHILD...'CAN'T GO HOME'

(Frontiers Records) Reviewed 10th March 2017

Unruly Child fronted by Marcie Free is a Melodic Hard Rock band founded in 1991 and based in the USA. This, the band’s latest album is an eleven track feast of Melodic Rock/AOR that will appeal to lovers of this style of music and more. Marcie Free is a talented vocalist who started life on this earth as Mark Free, who I in the past have seen live in Manchester (1992 I think). Without saying much more, this is an awesome album from very talented and well established band, and well worth checking out as a consequence... 8.75/10 (Dave)

XANDRIA…’THEATER OF DIMENSIONS’

(Napalm Records) Reviewed 16th January 2017

Xandria is a German Symphonic Metal band, that was founded by Marco Heubaum in 1997. The band's music combines elements of Symphonic Metal with light electronic elements. This is the band’s seventh full length studio album, although they have released a ‘best of’ that appeared in 2008. This band has been consistently good at delivering the goods from day 1 and this latest offering is of no exception. With Dianne van Giersbergen at the helm, this release being her second album with the band, Xandria are at the top of their game, delivering an awesome platter of Symphonic Metal that surely confirms that this band of musicians has taken over the mantle as the best in the genre or sub genre, or whatever you want to call it! Nothing to fault here, just an awesome slab of Symphonic Metal to wrap your ears around. The whole package ending with the epic 13 minute plus title track. Release is due in the shops 27th January and is well recommended… 10/10 (Dave)

VALHALLA LIGHTS…’MY GRACIOUS HIGHWAY’

(Self Release) Reviewed 9th January 2017

Australian Band Valhalla Lights throw at the listener on this album 12 tracks of Alternative Rock. This is their 2nd full length album, but their first with vocalist Ange Saul. 'My Gracious Highway’ is in-fact a slow release album with one track being digitally released per month on the first day of every month for all of 2016, and a final track on 31st December 2016 to make a whole year of Valhalla Lights and therefore a complete album. This is by and large corking up tempo stuff, great vocals, a great overall performance from the band, and music to play loud in the car with the sun roof down. This is great Alternative Rock, plain and simple…their facebook is here…8.25/10 (Dave)

WORDS UNSPOKEN...'INSIDE EMOTIONS'

(Self Release) Reviewed 28th December 2016

Words Unspoken, founded in 2015 by composer and bassist Diego Heero Maaginen, is an international Symphonic Metal band with it's members being from 6 different countries. Portugal, U.S.A, Mexico, Costa Rica, Slovakia and Chile, combining a symphonic orchestra and the classical elements of heavy metal, thus obtaining a unique and original sound from the band. With vocals shared between Erica Bianca and Alonso Zo Donoso, the band offer up ten tracks of catchy Symphonic Metal utilising flutes aswell as the rather more conventional metal instrumentation. The vocals of Erica are from the operatic school while Alonso offers up clean male vocals. Some good stuff here and some quirky tracks too like 'Mirrors and Masks' and 'My Emblem Soul', while the up tempo 'My World' and the total 15+ minute epic 'This Is Me' flirt subtly with Power Metal territory, although the latter has a strong symphonic feel virtually being an album within an album - totally awesome. There is also beauty conveyed in the 6 minute plus 'In This Moment', making overall for a pretty decent album. I like this record, it is good and with the six musicians involved all from different countries, I shall say it again, musicians should run the countries of this world, not politicians! The band's facebook site is here...8.5/10 (Dave)

WINDSHADES...'CRUCIFIED DREAMS' EP

(Atomic Stuff) Reviewed 3rd December 2016

Windshades was founded in May 2015 by singer Chiara Manzoli and drummer Carlo Bergamaschi, two musicians with opposite but complementary features: Chiara is an opera soprano with choral and theatrical experiences, while Carlo has an essentially Punk/HardCore formation and joined for several months Horror Rock band Splatters as their live drummer. This is their debut EP offering up three strong numbers that I would fit into the Alternative Rock/Metal mold, with closing track being the title track, almost flirting with Power Metal territory - possibly the heaviest number on the EP. This EP should provide a solid foundation for this Italian band to move onto bigger things. Their Facebook is here...8/10 (Dave)

XIPHEA...'ONCE UPON A TIME'

(Self Release) Reviewed 10th November 2016

Xiphea is a German metal band. Renè, Neil, Thamas and vocalist Sabine started the project in 2011. Since then the band released one EP 'Masquerade' and the full length album 'From the uncharted island'. This is their second full length record that has just hit the stores and the band describe their musical style as fairytale metal. What we have then are ten tracks of melodic fairytale metal about witches, dwarfs and other Fairy Tales on this album. Magical melodies and Sabine's innocent angelic vocals make for a catchy mix of music coupled with a certain amount of heaviness. Fave tracks a plenty, but the hideously catchy 'The Shrine Of Ama' is one of my faves from this cd as is 'The Little Mermaid'. Xiphea's website is at www.xiphea.com. This little album is well worth checking out... 8.75/10 (Dave)

WINTER'S END...'LOST IN THE LIGHT' EP

(Self released) Reviewed 10th November 2016

I do sometimes find that Symphonic Metal bands from the USA do not quite reach the dizzy heights reached by their European counterparts, generally as bands there tend to go for a more heavier guitar orientated sound without the keys. However, Winter's End are trying to change all that with this their recently released 5 track EP. Classically trained Berklee graduate Jessica Frost's impressive range, soars above layers of sounds to create a sonic experience that is as familiar as it is unique. This is a decent effort from the Boston based band and overall this ain't arf bad. If the band keep the faith and remain a functioning unit, who knows! Check out their Bandcamp here, but it is my pleasure to review new material by up and coming bands and as a consequence, this EP is well worth looking into.. 7.75/10 (Dave)

VEIL OF MIST…’DISENCHANTMENT’

(Valkyrie Rising) Reviewed 25th October 2016

Veil of Mist was founded in October 2004 in Reims (North-Eastern France). After a few line-up changes and now in 2016, the band earlier this year, released this, their first cd proper, although they have previously released 2 demo cds. Fronted by Amandine Rosselle, they ply their trade by way of Melodic, Dark, Progressive Metal and rather good it is too. Fané kicks things off, a six minute melodic blockbuster and indeed the earlier tracks on the cd kinda have that Gothenburg melodic metal sound (We Are The Catalyst?), ‘Scarecrow’ being one example. ‘Sham Existence’ is a rocking tune but with an atmospheric Spanish guitar interlude that slows things down a bit – awesome. I hear bagpipes briefly on the‘Heiress To Melancholia’, while the album does tend to maintain a melodic metal feel throughout, although we do see the introduction of male growls on, ’Shareholder Of Your Ruin’. The closing atmospheric and haunting ‘I Shall Not Die Alone’ is damn awesome, especially with the introduction of a choir that adds to the atmosphere. This is a good album and is a worthy addition to one’s cd collection…8.5/10 (Dave)

VALENTINE WOLFE…’A CHILDS BESTIARY’

(Self Released) Reviewed 22nd October 2016

Formed in 2006, Valentine Wolfe from South Carolina is the combined effort of the Lady Sarah Black and Braxton Ballew. Imagine Sarah Brightman being backed by Francois Rabbath blowing through a Marshall stack at midnight. Having dubbed their music "Victorian Chamber metal", the duo have synthesized a love of metal, classical and industrial, infusing them with a Victorian sensibility that evokes the likes of Bram Stoker and Edgar Allan Poe. The ethereal soprano vocals of Sarah Black, which call to mind not only the aforementioned Brightman, but also Dianne van Giersbergen of Xandria and Tarja Turunen. They are buttressed by the thunderous growl of Braxton's electric upright bass, and the two coalesce over pounding rock and electronic grooves punctuated by a maelstrom of synthesizers, keyboards, samples and sound design. The album offers nine tracks of macabre oddities from the imagination, an exploration of a grotesque menagerie. This album is musically good and with titles like 'Wynken Blynken and Nod', is lyrically however a little different, lurking under the guise of a child's innocent rhymes. And Alfred Lord Tennyson even provides the lyrics for the mythical 'Kraken'. The bouncy 'Ouroboros', brings the collection of songs to a close, with some words from the band's favourite poet, Edgar Allan Poe. I would certainly recommend this album – check out the band’s facebook here… 8.25/10 (Dave)

VEIL OF DELUSIONS…’ECHOES OF DAWN’

(Self Release) Reviewed 21st October 2016

Dutch metal band Veil of Delusions headed by frontwoman Zoë Tilly, is delivering a diverse range of songs on this album that contain influences from many bands with styles that range from symphonic to melodic death metal. The album within its 11 awesome tracks is filled with furious metal riffs, copious melodies, catchy vocals and pounding drums. In-fact, there is some good stuff here, check out the up tempo melodic belter ‘Together for Glory’ (I am sure a live favourite), the galloping ‘The Chase’, the melodic ‘Desperation’, the bouncy ‘Across The Sky’ and the ultra heavy closer ‘They Wonder’. This is certainly another one to be added to the shopping list and with several gigs being planned in and outside of The Netherlands, the band is ready to hit the stage again and take it to the next level. As a consequence, I believe they have got what it takes to become BIG. Check their Facebook out here…8.75/10 (Dave)

WE ARE THE CATALYST…’ELEVATION’

(Ferocity Records) Reviewed 22nd August 2016

Swedish band We Are The Catalyst released their debut album during the latter part of 2014 and now it is the time to review their second offering, the rather cool 'Elevation'. Basically, with their previous cd 'Monuments' picking up a positive review from us here at Ravenheart Music, it is obvious that the band has applied the "if it ain't broken why fix it" formula here on this their newie. Fronted by the melodic vocals of Cat Fey, the band throw at the listener some further pounding Alternative Metal, continuing more of less where 'Monuments' left off and as a consequence, remains right up my alleyway. Indeed, it is quite likely to these ears that this album is a wee bit heavier than its predecessor and that step forward is certainly not a bad thing. I just love everything here on this release, I suppose you could call it Evanescence on a heavy dose of steroids :) Catchy choruses are in abundance as the band hammers through numbers like 'A Million Claws', 'Alive' and then a fave of mine from the album, the melodic and tuneful 'Askja' . Then we have further favourites of mine including the first single 'Open Door', the second single ‘Delusion’ and the track 'One More Day', the latter proving the band can slow it down just a touch but still maintain a certain heaviness - awesome! This album is certainly the biz and if you liked 'Monuments', then you will like this record, but if you have not listened to the band before, why not start now? Well recommended, it will be elevated into record stores on 2nd September!! 9/10 (Dave)

WONDERONCE…’FREEDOM ODYSSEY’

(Self Release) Reviewed July 18th July 2016

WonderOnce is a metal band created by the Swiss/Italian/Spanish composer, vocalist and drummer Andrea Montalbetti in late 2014, almost after 10 years in the making. Inspired by bands such as Nightwish, Epica or Rhapsody (of Fire) and great composers such as Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Alan Silvestri, Ennio Morricone or Igor Stravinski, WonderOnce is a metal band which varies from the basic "metal band with synth/orchestra" to a more ambitious project, which is to create an epic movie score mixed with harsh and light metal as well as elements from other genres. The band is composed of Liss Eventide and Drakon Nahr as lead vocalists, Andrea Montalbetti as vocalist and drummer, German de Sotomayor as guitarist and Nel Löse as their bassist. Now how about the music? Each song has its own lyrical theme varying from legends across various cultures, songs about fantasy elements or downright original stories, including a full live choir, a complete orchestra and collaboration from various European musicians. So a rather ambitious musical project? Yes and a good one too, but certainly an interesting listening experience I hasten to add :) I myself do particularly like the bombastic epic track ‘Wolfmoon’ – awesome, but everything here ticks all the right boxes! Get a taster here… 8.75/10 (Dave)

XANIMA…’EYES ONLY’ EP

(Self Release) Reviewed 15th July 2016

Xanima is a dramatic and visual Art Rock band from Stockholm, Sweden. Fronted by the angelic and seductive vocals of Jade Ell, the band on this 4 track EP ply their trade as in their previous 2 full length albums, by way of Electro Pop/Rock with subtle Symphonic influences. Opening number that so happens to be the title track is a corking start, maybe some Prog influences surfacing at times, but offering up one helluva catchy chorus. The catchy electro feel continues with ‘Stone Age Minds’, a song that I was humming ages after this track had finished. ‘The Sharpness of a Knife’ is more guitar orientated but is another awesome tune, while closing number ‘When The Weakest Speak’ closes a damn good EP. This band seem able to consistently produce the goods and this EP is of no exception. Xanima’s website is here. Well worth checking out!.. 8.25/10 (Dave)

ZEPHRYRA...'AS THE WORLD COLLAPSES'

(Inverse Records) Reviewed 14th July 2016

Here we have the second full length album from Swedish band Zephyra, I having followed this band since their conception in 2009. Their brand of Modern Melodic Death Meath metal adding elements of thrash, really do hit the spot with me. I am a sucker for melody and despite the band's heaviness, melody is never in short supply on any of their releases. With this new album, the band wants to show a bigger and more atmospheric sound than before and they succeed. The music on this release offering up a heavy and rhythmic sound, being awash with keyboards, coupled with Åsa's full ranged, diverse vocals that really do drive this record along. To be perfectly frank this album is an absolute belter, there is not a duff track to be found, as every one of the nine numbers drive along at a thundering pace. This band gets better with each release and it is my pleasure to know these guys. Their website is here...due August 5th and well recommended!! 9.25/10 (Dave)

VIOLET JANINE...'BETWEEN RED & BLUE'

(Lions Pride Music) Reviewed 24th June 2016

'Between Red & Blue' see’s the debut release from awesome Swedish melodic rockers Violet Janine. And anything from Scandinavian climes tends to catch my attention. Fronted by the raspy vocals of Janine Nyman, the band throw at the listener 9 tracks and 35 minutes of prime time Melodic Rock/AOR. There are also guest appearances too, the brooding and bluesy 'So Much More' sees Janine dueting with Tony Martin (ex Black Sabbath), while closing number, the upbeat 'Down On My Knees' features Pontus Snibb from Bonafide. This is a damn fine record that if it had been released in the 80s, would have propelled the band to super stardom. The band's facebook is here, but facebook or no facebook, if you like top drawer AOR, buy this, well worth it! 8.5/10 (Dave)

MELISSA VANFLEET...'METAL LULLABIES'

(Self Released) Reviewed 9th June 2016

Melissa VanFleet is a young Philadelphia based metal singer/songwriter. Her album METAL LULLABIES is an intimate yet powerful collection of original songs and metal covers on piano, showcasing the crystalline and unique clarity of Melissa's vocals. Let me just say that this is an awesome collection of songs. Do not expect a blistering assault of guitars as you will not get it here. This is an album from Melissa, the songs sung with such emotion and using just her piano and occasional strings. But she can rock out however, having teamed up with three musicians for her forthcoming single, 'ODE TO THE DARK'. That single release will feature Scott Rockenfield of QUEENSRŸCHE (drums), Douglas Blair of W.A.S.P. (guitar) and Nick Douglas of DORO (bass). With influences ranging from classical to rock & metal, Melissa is certainly an artist that is well worth checking out. This album may have been out for some weeks now, but her PR people have kindly sent us a review copy and I am glad they did. Melissa's website is at www.melissavanfleet.com/. Settle down, relax with a drink or two and enjoy...8/10 (Dave)

WICKED REALM…’NO MORE FAIRYTALES’

(Self Release) Reviewed 30th May 2016

Wicked Realm began in the summer of 2010, though some of the current members have been playing together for much longer with various other music projects. Their sound, which appeals to fans of many different genres, has been compared to other female-fronted groups like Evanescence, Nightwish, and Lacuna Coil, although that assumption may be down to an individual’s take on their music. Fronted by the powerful vocals of Lindsay Jensen, this Wisconsin 5 piece Metal band throw at the listener 10 tracks of melodic metal music, with the opening track, the awesome and melodic ‘Demise’, sounding rather familiar to me, maybe I have heard it somewhere before – great start, great vocals. The band on this release tend to mix the Gothic with the Hard Rock with a tsunami of pretty good tracks such as ‘Zombie Tonic’, the pumping ‘Remember London’ and ‘Out of Reach’ with its catchy chorus. This is a fairly impressive release from this American band, so support hard working independent musicians and check this lot out. Their Facebook is here... 8/10 (Dave)

VEIL OF MIST…’DISENCHANTMENT’

(Valkyrie Rising) Reviewed 19th May 2016

Veil of Mist formed in 2004 is a French Symphonic/Gothic/Progressive Metal band, this being their debut full length album, the band having released Eps in 2006 and 2008. And this is yet another band that has sneaked into the confines of Ravenheart Music that so happens to be rather good. There is some strong, intense and dynamic stuff on this record that runs in at around the 51 minute mark, reminding me at times of a heavier Mandrake. Fronted by new vocalist Amandine Rosselle, the band sure do belt out the tunes on this release, and we even see some extreme vocals putting in an appearance on the final two tracks, ‘Shareholder Of Your Ruin’ and the awesome atmospheric closer ‘I Shall Not Die Alone’, the latter turning out to be one of my faves on this album. Overall this is a massive album, the tracks upbeat and damn powerful, and to my ears there is not a filler to be found. Great musicianship all round and some awesome guitar work. Recommended so get it! – facebook is here… 9/10 (Dave)

VISIONS OF ATLANTIS…’OLD ROUTES - NEW WATERS’

(Napalm Records) Reviewed 4th April 2016

Visions Of Atlantis set sail for uncharted waters in 2013: Thomas Caser – the only remaining founding member – he completely overhauled the ship with vocal duo Siegfried Samer and Clémentine Delauney plus returning veterans Chris Kamper, Werner Fiedler and Mike Koren on board. Now, these reborn symphonic power metal giants have only one thing on their minds: to revive the glorious sound of the band's first three albums, 'Eternal Endless Infinity', 'Cast Away' and 'Trinity'! Heralding an upcoming full-length album is this EP, which features classic fan favourites from the aforementioned records – completely re-recorded, remixed and remastered. The tracks featured are ‘Lovebearing Storm’ (Eternal Endless Infinity), ‘Lost’ (Cast Away), ‘Winternight’ (Cast Away), ‘Seven Seas’ (Trinity) and ‘Last Shut Of Your Eyes’ (Cast Away), all given an overhaul. Released 29th April, this record is worth checking out for all and sundry, and if you are unfamiliar with Visions of Atlantis and want a taster, most certainly check this EP out.. 8.5/10 (Dave)

VOLKER...S/T

(Kaotoxin/Seasons of Mist) Reviewed 28th March 2016

Formed in 2015 by three OTARGOS members and ex-NOEIN singer, VOLKER is all about mixing Cold Wave, Dark Goth/Death Rock and Cold Metal, playing with dead things in the darker of night during the cold of winter, yet with the unstoppable strength of cold flesh just revived from the grave and having a certain gothic fetish for filthy pleasures. Mmmmmmm, filthy pleasures eh? well that is what it says on the press release anyway that Dave gave me, that is not me saying that LOL. Four tracks on this EP that will either have you over the moon with Gothic joy or hiding behind the sofa looking for a visit from a dead thing from the dark of night. Indeed, opener 375 405 is a haunting near 40 second intro before track number 2 'Bitch' blasts out of the speakers, an up tempo blast of Gothic/Death Rock to welcome you to the land of Volker. And to be honest, it is rather good with a sorta melodic feel as it pounds along at a near unstoppable pace. 'Pavor Nocturnus' slows it down a bit, more of a darker feel, screamo/growly vocals in the chorus, but still surprisingly good I must add. Closer 'Zombie Heart' ups the ante again and is another up tempo number that again despite the heaviness that this band and number possess, still exhibits a melodic sensibility. Whether this is the intention of the band or not, I do not know, but what I do know, is that this EP showcases the immensely broad spectrum the band aims at covering with their forthcoming debut full-length, tentatively planned for early 2017. Watch this space! 8/10 (Hannah Cooper)

VISIONATICA…’FORCE OF LUNA’

(Dr Music Records/Soulfood) Reviewed 24th March 2016

Led by the almighty singing she-wolf Amara Avodem, VISIONATICA from southern Germany are heading straight into the premier league of Symphonic Metal. With Amara’s fantastic crystal clear soprano vocals, combined with the powerful grooves, melodic guitars, as well as impressive orchestral elements of her allies, this musical pack blows up a lot of dust in the scene with this their debut. The band has created an album that tells stories about wolves, visions, lies, myths and much more. They underline the whole thing with epic arrangements, formed from mighty orchestral parts, demanding guitar riffs as well as bass lines and precise drumming. Above all of this Amara’s wonderfully concise soprano singing is enthroned within the nine tracks showcased here. Kicking off with the awesome ‘Swamp of the World’ this band means business, vocally the opener (as do others) reminding these ears of Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation). And the band starts how it means to go on, a further 8 awesome cuts of prime time Symphonic Metal that will have fans of Xandria, Within Temptation and Nightwish (among others) enjoying fits of total orgasmic pleasure. In summary, Visionatica has recorded an album chock full of impressive Symphonic Metal music that will cast a bewildering spell over everyone who listens to it. Well recommended – note the release date in your diaries, 20th May! The band’s facebook is here… 9.25/10 (Dave)

WORSHIP OF KERES…’BLOODHOUNDS FOR OBLIVION’ EP

(Self Release) Reviewed 15th March 2016

Worship of Keres from California is a melodic doom metal band formed by lead guitarist Matthew Woods Wilhoit and collectively joined by Elise Tarens (vocals), Mike Riot (rhythm guitar), Robert Lander (bass), and rounding out the line up featured on the EP; Trevor William Church on drums. The classic influences of the band through heavy and doom metal bands are in the way of Angel Witch, Candlemass, and Judas Priest. Of the modern and more recent influences there are notes of Witchfinder General, Pagan Altar, Coven, Uriah Heep, and Blood Ceremony. This is the second album I have reviewed today that swings towards the heavier end of the metal spectrometer, and like Universe217 is a rather cool album (EP) with clean female vocals from Elise. Only three tracks though simply titled 'Book 1', 'Book 2' and 'Book 3'. I must also add that Matthew on lead guitar can sure shred it when he wants too. Check them out here… 7.75/10 (Hannah Cooper)

UNIVERSE217…’CHANGE’

(Van Records) Reviewed 15th March 2016

In case you didn’t know, the Greek rock & metal scene has been thriving during the last few years. Universe217 is one of the best and most vibrant bands in the particular scene, with lots of gigs and steadily frequent record releases. Since 2007 the band has released 3 full-length albums, 2 EPs and 2 split-7" singles. This, the band's new fourth album is going to be released on CD & LP by Ván Records throughout Europe, on Friday, March 18th. Consisting of seven tracks, the band has frequently heard their music linked to doom, post rock/metal, drone, psych, atmospheric, ambient etc. However, this is not regarded by this Greek foursome as “protective shells” under which it can feel complacent about its music, but more like “creative playgrounds” where Universe217 can express freely, experiment or even confront genre limits and standards. This specific mentality combined with the band’s baritone, heavy sound and the amazingly outstanding voice of female singer Tanya, results in a highly distinctive, personal music style. And having listened to this record, Tanya sure has a fine set of lungs, although I will tend to use the term “thinking person’s music” when trying to describe what is on this album. Just sit down, enjoy a few beers, a smoke and enjoy! You certainly won’t be dancing around your dining room on your pogo stick LOL. Check Bandcamp out here…well worth looking into for those that like their music on the heavy and atmospheric side… 8.5/10 (Hannah Cooper)

UNIVERSAL MIND PROJECT…’THE JAGUAR PRIEST’

(Inner Wound Recordings) Reviewed

Founded in 2012 by guitarist and composer Michael Alexander, UNIVERSAL MIND PROJECT began as a collaborative project between musicians from all around the globe to finally shape into a band with a solid nucleus, consisting of Elina Laivera and Henrik Båth [Darkwater] on vocals, Michael Alexander on guitars and growls and Alex Landenburg [Luca Turilli's Rhapsody] on drums. In a mix of perfectly executed modern progressive/power metal combined with the unique diversity of male and female vocals that stylistically spread from lyrical and fragile to soothing and powerful, as well as the use of growl vocals at parts. The album was composed by Michael Alexander and Elina Laivera and a lot of hard work was put into writing the best possible vocal lines for each guest vocalist gracing different songs on the album. The result is truly rewarding. Apart from Elina Laivera and Henrik Båth, the album also includes performances by Nils K Rue [Pagan’s Mind], Mark Jansen [Epica, Mayan], Charlie Dominici [ex. Dream Theater] and Diego Valdez [Helker] -forming an incredibly powerful team of vocalists, each of whom add their own distinctive style to the songs. And those songs kick off with ’Anthem For Freedom’, and this is an awesome taste of melodic Prog Metal with a rather nice catchy chorus, whilst second track ‘Truth’ ups the Power Metal ante and maintains the awesome start to the record. And it continues through the metallic ‘The Bargain Of Lost Souls’, the beautiful ‘Awakened By The Light’, and the piano/string led ballad ‘A World That Burns’ (lovely vocals from Elina). There are also epic progressive tracks that include the title track ’The Jaguar Priest’ and ‘The Force of Our Creation’, both running in at over 8 minutes - awesome stuff! Expressed through catchy hooks, bursting riffs, killer guitar and keyboard duets, as well as super melodic choruses performed by top names of the metal scene, the sensational power-sound of UNIVERSAL MIND PROJECT has come to blast your speakers off and is destined to capture full attention within the metal music community. Released 29th April, everything on this record is well worth the anticipated spend… 9.25/10 (Dave)

ZHIVA…’EVELYN’S LETTERS FROM HELL’ EP

(Digital distro by Spinnup) Reviewed 18th February 2016

ZHIVA is a metal/hard rock band from Sweden formed in 2002, with the main members Mats Edström and Anette Johansson. 3 albums were released during 2002-2006: SHIVA - self titled (2002); SHIVA - Desert Dreams (2004); SHIVA - The curse of the gift (2006), after which the band decided to take a break. But for the love of the music created from the great co-operation between them, Anette and Mats came together again in 2015, now under the name ZHIVA. The reason to spell the name a little different was to mark the start of something new but still the same. In 2016, 10 years after the break, ZHIVA is now releasing their first EP called 'Evelyn´s letters from Hell'. And with Anette's awesome powerhouse vocals at the helm, this is one helluva 4 track release it has to be said! Every number here is a real corker in its own right, from the blistering melodic feel of the opening track ‘Haunted’, the pounding title track, the symphonic sounding ballad ‘City of Stone’ and the closing track ‘Broken’ with its catchy chorus. This little release should please lovers of female fronted melodic metal and indeed a wider fan base too. Zhiva’s website is here, this is recommended… 8.75/10 (Dave)

VAN HALST…’WORLD OF MAKE BELIEVE’

(Self Released) Reviewed 31st January 2016

Van Halst is a fierce, empowering force of hard rock fused with metal. Although their name draws the image of a European band, this ensemble hails from Edmonton, Alberta. The band’s influences stay true to Goth Rock, leading lady Kami Van Halst demonstrates an agile vocal delivery in combination with occasional pummelling growls. Lyrically, the band draws from black metal due to its focus on people suffering from isolation and rising to overcome the preconceptions of a judgemental society. This is a rather good release offering up 10 tracks of hard hitting Rock & Metal infused with a strong melodic sensibility. The vocals of Kami Van Halst are just incredible, similar to Amy Lee of Evanescence, plus we have the shredding hooks that are sure to make you bounce your head up and down! If you're a fan of bands like In This Moment, Evanescence and Halestorm, then with highlights galore, I highly recommend checking Van Halst out - released March 4th but get a taster here … 9/10

WORMHOLE…’SONGS FROM THE COUNTER ISLAND’

(Ghostrecord Label/Crash Sound) Reviewed 9th January 2016

Songs from the Counter Island is a refined collection of postcards from the Milky Way, in which Wormhole take one step forward to experimentation and one step back to the essential atmospheres of the gothic/wave tradition applied to a wall of sound which is consistently heavy. A concept album which follow a cosmic ellipsis, from the broken dreams of Ylla (the main character of a tale by Ray Bradbury), to the counter island of the title, which is a tribute to a legend rooted in the band’s homelands. Noteworthy, the final speech that brings Ylla back into action quotes again the planet where it all started, that third stone from the Sun from which we all hail. This five piece band is fronted by Valentina Marvulli and they offer up nine tracks on this record of rock/metal music that follows the concept mentioned above, all with a little progressiveness thrown into the mix. Kicking off with the mid to up tempo ‘Dawn of Deimos‘, this record is good. ’Lost In The Blue’ is a lovely track featuring strings with the tempo resuming with the number ‘Traveller In Darkness’. ‘Death Star Nemesis’ is a pounding rocker while overall, I think it must be said that there is not really a filler on this, Wormhole’s second full length album, as they are all killer tracks. Worth checking out… 8.75/10 (Dave)

UNDER SOCIAL…’LONG STRANGE TRIP’

(Self Released) Reviewed 5th January 2016

This is the long awaited debut album from USA (West Virginia) based Under Social who came to fruition in 2012. This album being influenced by classic rock and old metal looped in with a current spin and with female vocals to boot, compliments of the rather kool and may I say rather poppy vocal style of leading lady Stacee Lawson, who also takes control of the rhythm guitar. And I must say that there are some real crackers here, with the opener 'Shallow' setting the bench mark. Other rockin' tunes include ’I Don’t Care’ and the blistering closing title track. They can also slow it down too with the acoustic driven 'Second Hand Girl' and the awesome ‘Away‘. This 9 tracker is a real band effort, with some awesome guitar solos from Tim Armstrong and it comes well recommended from us here. Form your own opinion here... 8.5/10 (Dave)

JESSICA WOLFF...'GROUNDED'

(King Records) Reviewed 29th December 2015

Jessica Wolff comes from Finland, and she serves up some glorious helpings of Pop/Rock coupled with glorious melodies and more hooks than a Scottish fishing fleet, on this her second record (as she did with her first). This album to date is a Japan only release as far as I am aware, offering up 12 tracks of the aforementioned Pop/Rock, that include the now customary Japan only bonus track (track 12 - Memorylane). To my ears, this is damn good and well worth checking out - it can be purchased via Amazon UK but they will import from Japan albeit at import prices unfortunately. However, if you like catchy Pop/Rock with a little ooommmppphhh, check out the title track as an example, together with the odd ballad or two ('Under Your Spell' and ‘Saving Someone Else'). This record from this Finnish lass is most certainly well worth checking out, well recommended... 8.75/10 (Dave)

UREAS…’THE BLACK HEART ALBUM’

(Hansel & Gretel/SPV) Reviewed 30th October 2015

UREAS was founded in 1999 by Per and Heidi Johansson, starting as a Pop/Rock band, although over the years, they have become more metal. Their first album was released in 2006 and was titled 'The Naked Truth'. This, their newie is indeed a fine album featuring the vocals of both Per and Heidi, although Per I believe is the main vocalist. But by virtue of the presence of Heidi on vocal duties on some of the tracks as well, this will be treated as a female fronted album! This record that features musicians from SYMPHONY X, EUMERIA, XERATH etc., is technically Power Metal with a keyboard nucleus, offering up melodic guitar riffs, haunting melodies enriched with influences from Gothic, Dark Wave and Black Metal. There are eleven awesome melodic metallic tracks running in at around the hour mark, so you could say that one gets their monies worth with this release. Some of the tracks exhibit a certain quirkiness like the number ‘Seal This Moment’, although it does go on a bit at over 8 minutes. The album was produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by the Danish studio whiz kids Tommy & Jakob Hansen, best known for their affiliation with Danish superstars VOLBEAT as well as their work with AMARANTHE, JORN and PRETTY MAIDS, amongst others - a little different but this is an album worth checking out...8/10 (The Nugget)

WEEPING SILENCE…’OPUS IV OBLIVION’

(Massacre Records) Reviewed 28th October 2015

WEEPING SILENCE from Malta with this their fourth album, bring doom and gloom with their latest effort and boy, it ain’t ‘arf good! With female vocals from Diane Camenzuli and growls from Dario Pace Taliana, the music on this awesome long player lies at the crossroads of Gothic and Doom metal. Flippin’ heavy,totally melodic, and downright aggressive and melancholic all at the same time. There is a tsunami of good music within the nine tracks here, numbers like the pounding ‘Hidden From The Sun’ (Diane’s vocals kinda reminding me a little of Sharon from Within Temptation), the ballad ‘Bury My Fairytale’ and the closing track ‘Gothic Epitaph’. I have to say that with all this, Weeping Silence give the maestros of the genre Draconian a run for their money with this album. Full of ambience and doom-laden riffs, this album will undoubtedly leave its mark, well recommended.. 9/10 (Dave)

XOCH…S/T

(Self Release) Reviewed 16th October 2015

I have known Xoch for some while now, the gal from Poughkeepsie NY State who now resides in Las Vegas. She has consistently produced some damn good music since her early ‘Now&Then’ recording years. This self titled offering is her latest album, giving us 7 tracks of pure and catchy Pop/Rock to feast your ears on. This is to put it quite simply damn awesome. Everything from the catchy opener ‘Summer Vacation’, through tracks like the rocking ‘Slide’ to the closing Blondie cover ‘Rapture’ (great guitar solo), will have you in raptures (excuse the pun). This is inoffensive radio friendly Pop/Rock from Xoch, and guys, don’t mess with her, as her other ‘arf who is in the band is a guy who goes by the name of Vince Ripper, he is the guitarist. Joking aside, like Xoch, he is a great character. Feast your ears upon this cd, well recommended - website is here .. 9/10 (Dave)

WINTERBREED…’FACING THE VOID’ EP

(Self Release) Reviewed 6th October 2015

Winterbreed is a Symphonic-Melodic metal band that come from Vicenza in Italy. With the current line-up, they have just released this record which is their first EP. The current line-up is: Mattia Todescato: guitars/backing vocals, Irene 'Eva' Scapin: lead vocals, Martina Tomasoni: drums, Filippo Bergamin: bass. And a jolly good job they do too. Basically they do what is said on this package of goodies - four tracks of Melodic Symphonic Metal with subtle flirtations with Progressive elements. Screamo male vocals pop up very briefly on the third track 'R.I.P. You Farewell', this track possibly falling more into the Alternative Metal category. But whatever style you wanna call this music, it is worth checking out, so what are you waiting for? Get it here for only 1 Euro, now come on, you know you should, 1 Euro, the cost of a choccie bar here in the UK, that is all!... 8/10 (Katie McIntyre)

VOICES AT MIDNIGHT...'FOREVER ALIVE' EP

(Self Released) Reviewed 27th August 2015

Voices At Midnight is a Christian Rock Band fronted by the awesome voice of singer Joan, come from Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. They bring a unique and dynamic sound and always have a positive message to convey to their listeners and fans.This EP features four tracks of pounding Alternative Rock Music with similarities to Fireflight, Halestorm and the like. This is good musically and lyrically and I like it, offering melody, passion and ooommmppphhh! Wanna have a listen? here you go: www.reverbnation.com/voicesatmidnight - check them out!... 8.75/10 (Dave)

XTASY...'REVOLUTION'

(Melodic Rock Records) Reviewed 13th July 2015

Spanish band Xtasy was born in 2011 as a Studio Project between Jorge (guitar, bass, keyboards) and Silvia (vocals, keyboards). This their first CD was released a few months ago through Melodic Rock Records, and it has just dropped into Ravenheart Towers. What we have here is a rather tasty serving of 10 tracks of prime time radio friendly Melodic Rock, the type of music that would send the Americans into wild extasy (excuse the pun). Just imagine driving down the highway with the roof down and this blasting out of the in-car stereo system. This I must say is pretty good stuff and well worth the purchase money, if this type of music floats your boat - it sure floats my boat btw :) Their website is here where you can get a taste of some of the music for yourself... 8.5/10 (The Nugget)

XANDRIA...'FIRE & ASHES'

(Napalm Records) Reviewed 9th July 2015

Following the release of the universally praised studio album 'Sacrificium' which also marked the impressive debut of charismatic vocalist Dianne van Giersbergen, the new EP 'Fire & Ashes' rises like the proverbial phoenix. With full symphonic force, there are three brand new songs, all of which possess the 'wow factor' and two special re recordings of all time XANDRIA fan faves, 'Ravenheart' (Ravenheart, 2004) and 'Now & Forever' (India, 2005), these showcasing the band at its very best. On top of that the band have recorded for this EP two exclusive cover songs - 'Don`t Say A Word' (Sonata Arctica) and an overall, fave song of mine, 'I would do anything for love (but I won’t do that)' (Meat Loaf), which have both been rearranged and now gleam in full symphonic glory. This EP is bombastic and magical from a band that has been a fave of mine for years. It gets released via Napalm on 31st July and is as always with this band, well recommended to all and sundry... 9.25/10 (Dave)

VALENTINE WOLFE...'THE NIGHTINGALE: A GOTHIC FAIRYTALE'

(Self Released) Reviewed 25th June 2015

Braxton Ballew and Sarah Black have been composing and performing music together as Valentine Wolfe since 2006. Their scores have been heard in productions of The Merchant of Venice, The Tempest (Warehouse Theater), The Winter’s Tale (Furman University), and Twelfth Night (The Distracted Globe). Both hold graduate degrees from the University of Georgia, where they studied electronic composition with Dr. Leonard V. Ball. Their Gothic Metal music is heavily inspired by all things Victorian, including TV shows like Penny Dreadful and of course literature and poetry from that time period. Sarah's mainly dreamy/operatic vocals are awesome throughout, and Braxton plays an electric upright bass that has a high C string that allows him to sound like a cello or even a violin in some instances. There are some good tunes on this their 4th album I believe, including 'Dark Desire', the bouncy 'Twisted Melody' and the number 'Precious Moments', to name just three from a tsunami of great tunes. In summary: The music is based loosely on 'The Emperor and the Nightingale' by Hans Christian Andersen and is set in a Poison Garden. The soundscape of the music features haunting, ethereal female vocals and virtuosic bass layers.This is indeed music in it's full beauty and recommended if you like acts like Apocalyptica, Emilie Autumn, Nightwish and Within Temptation. Well worth checking out and it can be bought here - impressive... 8.75/10 (Dave)

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