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BATTLE BEAST...'BATTLE BEAST'
(Nuclear Blast) Reviewed 12th June 2013
Let's rock! Finland's Battle Beast is back with a new album and a new vocalist offering the listener 14 tracks (on my copy anyway inc bonus) of in yer face melodic keyboard laced metal with great choruses. And like the band, new gal Noora Louhimo kicks ass as she roars on opener 'Let It Roar'. The thumping 'Out Of Control' is the next number with a chorus so hideously catchy it belies belief :) 'Out On The streets' is equally as good with further awesome numbers including the bouncy 'Neuromancer', the all out metal assault of 'Raven', the power ballad 'Into The Heart Of Danger' and the rather good 'Black Ninja'. Overall, this is a good release from this band, a metal party album if ever there was one - great stuff so go and get it! 8.75/10 (Dave)
BLACK STARS FALLING...' A MEMORY - A MELODY'
(Self Release) Reviewed 10th June 2013
This German trio is the creation of one man band Lars (capital A), and it fronted by two luscious ladies, Regina and Jasmine. They have a unique style, light symphonic metal that bounces along joyfully, like a jollier Silent Force era Within temptation, or Nightwish in their merrier moments. Regina and Jasmine sing along cheerfully with their innocent young voices, and normally in unison which again is unusual. It's all very enchanting, charming, enjoyable and easy to listen to, a million miles away from brain bashing metal with screaming vocals, they obviously had a great deal of fun recording the album, with a real love of this type of music. LArs's orchestration really are superb, it must have been a real labour of love that took countless hours, and you get a second CD with just the music. Opener is like the intro music for a Hollywood fantasy blockbuster, and this sets the frolicking fairytale tone of the whole album, in fact one song is called 'Fairytales' (without an I) and they give their address as SunDownCity, Arcadien. Each song is short and sweet and all jolly good, the piano motif to 'Starlight' is frighteningly close to Nightwish's Nemo, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and 'Orkland' has a very atmospheric spoken bit. If you like you music merry and melodic rather than hard and heavy, then you will be captivated by the charm of this album. Gambol along to their Facebook www.facebook.com/BlackStarsFalling
to find out more, a frolicking 8.5/10 (Phil)
BLACKMORE'S NIGHT...'DANCER and the MOON'
(Frontiers Records) Reviewed June 10th 2013
DANCER AND THE MOON is BLACKMORE’S NIGHT’s 8th original studio album, and is a distinctive album, that is both melodic, rhythmic and full of classic influences. Led by the dynamic and signature alto vocals of Candice Night and the phenomenal fret work from one of my heroes and a much respected icon Ritchie Blackmore, this is another awesome effort from this married couple who since the release of their last album, have produced two lovely children, Autumn Esmeralda and Rory. Sticking to the tried and tested formula of placid but rather quirky folk songs, this is a very good album from this duo and their band. There are some covers on this album too, with proceedings kicking off with Randy Newman's 'I Think It's Going To Rain Today', which is given the Blackmore's Night treatment and very good it is too. Uriah Heep's 'Lady In Black' is included plus the rather beautiful 'Temple Of The King', which is in fact a Rainbow cover and sees Ritchie letting rip! We also hear a version of the rather familiar 'The Ashgrove', which is a traditional Welsh Folk Song whose melody has been set to numerous sets of lyrics over the years. The album closes with the number 'Carry On...Jon', an instrumental dedicated to the late Jon Lord. This is a very good record and it seems that the tracks 'The Moon Is Shining (Somewhere Over The Sea)' and 'Dancer and the Moon' are being pushed out to radio stations, so expect to hear these cool tunes on the radio soon (hopefully). DANCER AND THE MOON continues to establish the band that has been growing its following steadily in the jam, pagan/wiccan scene, new age, folk and progressive worlds, as well as the classic rock community. This release is very good and well worth the spend if you like your music at the lighter end of the scale, so light up those camp fires and bring out the ale!. Due June 14th.. 8.75/10 (Dave)
(Wormholedeath/Dreamcell11) Reviewed 5th June 2013
Agharti hail from Croatia and what can I say about this their debut release? This is a record that offers up 13 tracks of awesome Melodic Metal spanning 43 minutes, that has simply blown me away. Fronted by the Pop/Rock vocal style of Tina with male vocals from guitarist Alen (I think), I can find very little to fault with this record. From the moment the cd kicks off with the one minute intro 'The Voice of Freedom', to the closing orchestral style of 'The Voice of Change', we are treated to a formidable array of songs that do not let up from start to finish, and we do not have a filler in sight. It is difficult to make comparisons, but I suppose Lacuna Coil may spring to mind on certain tracks perhaps mixed in with a host of other Melodic Gothic Metal Bands, that simply give us Agharti. Iva, the keys girl with the band tells me that the album has kinda two themes running through it; one is more personal and covers their own experiences through life, and the other one is turned outwards and is a sort of critique of modern society - therefore the album name 'Change'. To be honest, although the record may not offer anything that much different to other female fronted metal acts playing this type of music, you will never here me complain as this is simply stunning! I can only suggest that you punters out there check this out when it gets released...this is very good, very good indeed!!! Here is their website www.agharti.eu
, so go take a peek! Just to add, a release date for the record is still to be confirmed, but watch this website for news!!.... 9.5/10 (Dave)
(Spinefarm Records) Reviewed 15th April 2013
Here is the somophore release from this Swedish Band fronted by Elize Ryd, with growls from Andy Solvestrom and clean vocals from Jake E Lundberg. And it will be plainly obvious upon listening to this, that if you enjoyed their debut outing, you will most certainly lap this up! And if you have never heard their debut, then there is something wrong with you and you are missing some awesome stuff! This is a great mix of up tempo songs with choruses to die for, kinda Pop meets Metal. And with only two songs exceeding 4 minutes, and they both run in at 4:01, the numbers are short, sweet but wield a punch worthy of Mike Tyson knocking you for six! And we are even treated to a power ballad, the superb 'Burn With Me', while the track 'Electroheart' has more of a synth driven dance floor beat to it. There is so much addictive stuff on this album, loads more than the local drug dealer could supply in a year, that I must simply recommend 'The Nexus' to all and sundry (and it's legal!!). Like I have suggested above - Pop meets Metal and this release should propel Amaranthe into the Premier League if they are not already there!! ....9/10 (Dave)
BEEF SUPREME...'ROYAL BITCH' EP
(Self Release) Reviewed 8th April 2013
This band from from the SW of the USA plays no frills rock and metal music with balls and a fair share of melody. Fronted by the attractive Niki BelGrande, I reviewed an EP of theirs last October, and this is their latest offering that has dropped into Ravenheart Towers and continues where their previous effort left off - well if it ain't broken why fix it? However, after hearing the two EPS back to back, I think 'Royal Bitch' takes a slightly more melodic route, and the music sounds as if it has benefited from a better production. This is great music with great vocals by the young Niki, well backed up by the remaining members of the band. All four numbers here kick ass, with their influences taken from Grunge and Stoner Rock. This is highly infectious stuff nonetheless with bags of attitude, the fave track to my ears from this little foursome being the catchy and bouncy 'This Is My Money (And This Is My Mouth)' - great title. I like this little offering, and the band are well worth checking out here
. The EP gets released June 4th so make a note in your diaries... 8.5/10 (Dave)
BELLADONNA...'SHOOTING DICE WITH GOD'
(Self Release) Reviewed 4th April 2013
Italian quintet Belladonna have this uncanny knack of producing albums chock full of cracking tunes, not heavy songs by any means, but heavy enough to suit the appetite of the unsuspecting rock fan, while at the same time having enough crossover appeal to satisfy the mainstream, if that mainstream was to give them a chance. And it has to be said that their latest offering is no exception. 'Shooting Dice With God' gives us 11 tracks of corking music. 'All Is Vanity' is the opener, and you immediately know this is Belladonna by the awesome vocal style of Luana Caraffa. And a great way to start the album, a mid to high tempo number with the trademark catchy Belladonna chorus. And we have other catchy and up tempo numbers including 'Karma Warrior', the metal sounding 'Ishtar Blues', the rather good (and one of my faves from the album) 'In My Demon's Name' and 'Primal Dream' (another fave). Ballads are well represented on the cd and they include 'Abduction', the acoustic based 'If I Was God' and 'Wonderlust'. 'Multiverse Love' is epic and bombastic in the true sense of the word, while closer and the wonderfully titled 'I Set My Controls To Overdrive' offers up a foot tapping way to end the cd. This album is damn good and will be well worth checking out when it gets released on April 18th, although it can be purchased from HERE
now. Great stuff.. 9/10 (Dave)
BLACKLANDS...'A NEW DAWN'
(Self Release) Reviewed 2nd April 2013
Blacklands from Germany was founded in 2006 by drummer Thomas Kelleners, with keys player Manfred Reinecke and lovely singer Moja Nardelli joining shortly afterwards. Many different guitarists and and bassist came and went until they finally found in 2010 bassist Rüdiger Sartingen and Michael Stockschläger on guitar and vocals. Moja has a premier league rich soulful voice and when Michael's excellent vocals and various guests join her here and there they combine with terrific effect. They music lies at the point where classic rock/metal meets prog rock/metal, so you get top quality songwriting allied to terrific instrumental solos, outstanding vocals combined with exemplary musicianship, in the same general area as Flaming Row, Beyond the Bridge, Roswell 6, Ayreon, Pendragon, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Touchstone. Opener 'Cold Embrace' sets out their signature style, building from poignant ballad sections to powerful peaks, rising and falling, rousing and easing seamlessly, with highlights including the Celtic infused 'Dance of the Witches', the dramatic 'A New Dawn' featuring Giles Lavery from Dragonsclaw, the awesome anthem 'I Can Hear Your Heart' which you will be singing for weeks, and the rocking 'Floating Pictures'. The album would be incomplete without a closing epic, the mighty 15 minute middle eastern flavoured 'Power Play' written by Thomas based on the events of 9/11, with guest appearances from singer Lennie Rizzo of Exxplorer and guitarist Terry Gorle of Heir Apparent. It's rounded off with the lovely reflective piece 'The Meaning' sung by Michael. You get 80 minutes of top quality music without a moment of weakness rammed into the grooves, all impeccably produced by Michael. This album bridges across multiple genres and is a must buy for fans of prime quality classic/prog rock/metal. Head across the blacklands to their website, www.blacklands.de
, a building 9/10 (Phil).
ALLEGRO FOR MY REQUIEM...'CHAPTER 1'
(Self Release) Reviewed 30th January 2013
Spanish band Allegro From My Requiem were founded by guitarist Tony Master, he gradually built the line-up until they started recording this début album last year. Tony has distilled the essence of European power metal, bands like Rhapsody, Visions of Atlantis, Ancient Bards, and brought in two premier league rock singers to front the band, the mighty lungs of Javier Vega Moyano who reminds me of Damian Wilson, and Ekate who reminds me of Maree from Awaken Solace. The result is mighty sword waving anthems that do not break the mould but do absolutely everything right. The songs have plenty of variation from more subtle moments to majestic to dramatic to putting the double pedal to the metal, the twin voices giving them tremendous flexibility, with lots of recurring themed and motifs to tie the whole album together. It's packed with terrific numbers from the key song 'Look At Me' to 'Lost in Paradise' to the epic signature song 'Allegro from My Requiem' to the theatrical 'Requiem', but the stand out track is the jazzy ballad 'Dark Temptation' where Tony manages to make his guitar sound like a blues saxophone. The top draw production is by José Garrido and Daniel Melian and mastering by Jens Bogren, who has worked with the likes of Opeth and Symphony-X. If a Martian lands in your back garden and asks what symphonic power metal sounds like, just play them this ultra professional, top quality, classic sounding album, you really cannot go wrong, and I hope that this is the first of many more chapters in their story, and certainly not their requiem. Allegro fortissimo to their website here
, a top draw 8.75/10 (Phil).
ACELSIA...'DON'T GO WHERE I CAN'T FOLLOW'
(Quietude Productions) Reviewed 22nd January 2013
The debut full length album from Norwegian rockers Acelsia has arrived. The band is essentially vocalist Malene Markussen and Odd Henning who plays just about everything else except drums. This is an album where the band has dragged Melodic Rock and Metal into the 21st century and given it the Acelsia treatment. Totally awesome! I reviewed the 'Quietude' EP two years ago, and that four track offering left me rather impressed and gagging for more! And now I have more, 11 tracks of awesome Melodic Metal. The opening salvo of 'Roads' and 'Stitches' sets the scene as to what is to come. Two up tempo melodic numbers with Malene's Pop/Rock and at times sexy vocal style nailing it perfectly. 'Up On The Roof' slows it down as does the power balladry of 'The Most Important Fight', two numbers showing the band's more sensitive side. The single 'The Mender' is a catchy number, that starts slow and then kicks into gear with it's soaring vocal melodies, heavy guitars and throbbing drum patterns, whilst next up 'Blue Knell' is a heavy thumping number. The second half of the album shows no let up although slightly slower in pace. 'Haven' and 'Hold My Breath' being those aforementioned slower and rather sensitive numbers - great stuff I hasten to add. 'Before I Fall' instrumentally in the chorus reminds me a little of Draconian amongst others, whilst the closing duo of 'Another Day' and the laid back 'Left Alone' end what is a very good album. Maybe I would have preferred one or two rather more up tempo numbers, but nonetheless, I am very happy with what I have heard. A great album with a great production - their Facebook is here
... 8.5/10 (Dave)
KERSTIN BISCHOFF...'PROJECT AVA'
(Self Released) Reviewed 22nd November 2012
Kerstin Bischoff (ex Axxis and ex Xandria) has unleashed her 12 track offering onto the listening public, and to be honest, this is an album that should be well received into any female fronted music fan's music collection. 'Midnight Earth #1' opens the album, a piano intro from Kerstin herself, while 'second up 'Crimson' is a great mid paced rocker with a catchy chorus. Next up 'Frozen' is a another cool guitar driven alternative rocker, and like the previous track is one of the more heavier numbers on the album. 'Over The Stars' showcases Kerstin's awesome vocal style, and proves what a great drummer Guido is, plus we are graced with a choir that adds substance to the song - lovely and one of my album faves. 'Wish' rocks ala Evanescence/Xandria fasion, and five tracks in, this album is proving to be a worthy winner! 'Keep You From Harm' is a slower number with great vocals, and I can hear this on mainstream radio if given the chance. The awesome rockin' 'Shrink' is the single, of which there are two verions on this album, the video version and the long version, great stuff! 'Battery Eyes' drops the tempo in the verse, but ups the ante in the chorus, while the mellow 'In Contemplation' is another album fave of mine. 'Enough' is a mid paced number that I also rather like, the album closing with 'Midnight Earth # 2' and the long version of 'Shrink'. I like this album, I have mentioned those tracks that are faves of mine, but to be perfectly frank, this album overall is a good release and is a must buy to my ears. 8.75/10 (Dave)
AZYLYA...'SWEET CEREBRAL DESTRUCTION'
(Wormhole Death/Aural Music Group) Reviewed 5th November 2012
A trip to Azylya'a Facebook page (click here
) describes their music as Insane Female Fronted Metal. And to be perfectly frank, that is possibly a pretty good summary of the music on offer here. It starts quietly enough, 'At The Beginning' is a Gothy haunting intro before 'Incest' kicks in...wow! A quiet piano intro but let's not be misled. 19 year old Jamie-Lee's angelic vocals are then shot down by the growls of Yohann, who it seems takes no prisoners. This track is B&B at it's best and will no doubt send the growl haters running behind their sofas :) 'Incest' is in-fact an awesome number with it's quieter interludes coupled with it's heavier more extreme moments. Third track in 'Woodscape' is another track that starts all so quietly and innocently enough, before the music comes alive and jumps out of the speakers knocking you backwards in the process. 'Delirius' offers a little more of the Symphonic and indeed Progressive and features just Jamie-Lee's vocals without the grunts. The opening foursome is a good start to the record, and the ferocity continues with 'Azylya', while 'Within My Cell' takes a pounding Melodic Symphonic route again featuring just the vocals of Jamie-Lee. 'Electroconvulsive' is another rather up tempo pounding B&B number, while 'Death Of Oedipal Love' starts with a cool orchestral intro (like many of the numbers in-fact) before becoming as heavy as a raging rhino! The awesome and one of my faves 'Darkness Ascending' (totally cool choral intro by the way) and Rise Of The Wicked' close this 10 track opus, that to be honest, is possibly better than I had expected - don't ask me why! To summarise then, this Belgium band offers up an awesome Symphonic Metal package accented with touches of filmscore and death where the angelic and melodic voice of the young singer and the various instruments and grunts combine to create a dark atmosphere of suffering and sad sweetness. This is a good effort from the band, and for all you people here in the UK that may want to see the band live, they will be at the Dames of Darkness next May... 8.25/10 (Dave)
ASYLUM PYRE...'FIFTY YEARS LATER'
(Massacre Records) Reviewed 3rd November 2012
A record occasionally comes along that blows my mind. Well this is one of those recordings! Mixing influences and styles, French band Asylum Pyre can't be shut in a closed and predefined universe. From Speed Metal to Progressive, passing through lyrical or ambient metal, Asylum Pyre draws elements from multiple genres so as to create its own identity. This band's trademark is to build songs around catchy melodies and rhythms that alternate quiet parts and powerful tempos. All the tracks are well thought out and offer a succession of simple and complex parts, where melodies and lyrics, sung by the voices of Chaos Heidi and Johann, carry messages full of meaning all the way through. Indeed, the album is almost a concept album as most of the songs tackle the same subjects and follow an evolution...From the failure of the conference of Copenhagen, to the total destruction (Fifty years later) through : - the will to fight for the earth (These Trees, Against the sand), - doubts (The Frozen Will), - people who watch without doing anything (The Herd) - the first to fall (Fisherman's day), - existential questions (Any hypothesis) - and the killing of ecologists (Just Before The Silence). There are some great catchy melodic rockers here? - listen to the aforementioned 'Dead In Copenhagen', 'These Trees' and 'Against The Sand'. We have Power mixed with the Progressive? - 'The Frozen Will' and 'The Herd' as examples. Things slow down too - the beautiful 'Fisherman's Day' having a Celtic/Folky feel about it. And I also want to add that the last three tracks on this record span almost 22 minutes, the 9 + min 'Any Hypothesis' being a totally cool quirky Progressive number, with a cool acoustic interlude, while 'Just Before The Silence' hits Power Metal territory coupled with cool keys. Closer, the title track is an overwhelming Power Ballad, complete with a choir towards the end running in at 7 + mins, and this is currently one of my fave tracks of the year, period!!. This is the band's second release if I am correct, their debut was released independently and I considered it a powerful and beautiful album, this is even better having been picked up by Massacre Records! Like any good concept album, it has twists and turns that will keep your ears glued to the cd player until you hit the repeat button. It is due December 7th so check it out when it appears, you will not be disappointed - damn frikin' good if I may say so!! ...9.5/10 (Dave)
ASHES YOU LEAVE...'THE CURE FOR HAPPINESS'
(Rock'n'Growl Records) Reviewed 3rd November 2012
When Ashes You Leave was formed back in ’95, all the odds were against them. Back in those days, dreaming about music success in war torn Croatia was just one step away from being classified as a total lunatic. A few young doom metal fans had a different idea however, and they actually decided to beat the odds and formed what later became the biggest Croatian metal band of all time - Ashes You Leave. Fast forward to the back end of 2012 and the band’s 6th album, 'The Cure for Happiness', is scheduled for release, and the record will see the enchanting Ms. Giada “Jade” Etro behind the microphone. This mesmerizing and amazingly talented singer comes from Italy and this will be her first release as a lead singer of this awesome band. And a very good release it is too. The opener 'Devil In Disguise' is a belter and showcases rather well the new vocalist's style, while the grunts of Bero first appear towards the end of the second track 'Only Ashes You Leave'. Indeed, there is quite a cool melodic undercurrent running through this record with the grunts tending to be kept to a minimum for much of the album. 'For The Heart, Soul and Mind' is another cool melodic number, and indeed, although classed as Doom, this record mixes some decent Gothiness into the mix as well, possibly appealing not only to those Doom merchants out there, but perhaps also to those people that like their music a little more melodic and tuneful. Other standout numbers include the stomping 'Meant To Stray', the commercial sounding 'Summer's End', and the progressive and heavy 'Reality Sad'. Check the band's website here
, and I can safely say that this album is well done and is a satisfying release - due Nov 29th... 8.75/10
The BIRTHDAY MASSACRE - 'HIDE AND SEEK'
(Metropolis/Out Of Line/Rough Trade) Reviewed 31st October 2012
The Birthday Massacre is one of those acts that I just love. I have known this band since their early days, I have all their releases and I have even seen them live in Birmingham. This is their 7th release (if you include everything they have put out) and it follows the same formula as previous albums by this band. If I have one criticism, it is that their music can sound a little samey at times, but why fix something if it ain't broken. 'Hide And Seek' does not really depart from the band's already tried and tested formula. Some great atmospheric and catchy stuff here, and if you love The Birthday Massacre, you are gonna just love this! Where do I begin? I do not even think I am going to bother, just go to your local retailer, or visit Amazon or wherever and buy this little album. It only runs in at around 35 mins being perhaps "darker"lyrically than previous records, but you know what they say - "all killer, no filler" and that is what we have here. I also understand from the band that during the recording process, vocalist Chibi had developed polyps, which in effect, altered some of the qualities of her voice during the albums final recording, but it sounds amazingly fine to me - a totally awesome lass fronting a totally awesome band that has produced another totally awesome record!! Recommended... 9/10 (Dave)
AJANA...'Home In Decay'
(Self Released) Reviewed 24th October 2012
In summer 2003 Ajana as a musician was brought into existence, and in March 2010 she recorded her first EP called 'Ruins'. It was released in October 2010. Now in 2012, this debut full length album I have here was professionally recorded, mixed and mastered in the Iguana Studios near Freiburg/Germany by Christoph Brandes during February and March 2012. Cornelius Heck on the drums and Simon Schillinger on the bass and guitars appear as guest musicians, and Ajana took over the vocals and keyboards herself. There are 11 tracks here that could be best described as Metal with various influences, especially from the Doom genre offering up a rather dark tone. Interestingly enough, the clean vocal style kinda reminds me of Molly Sirenne ex of USA band Rott. Opener 'Air' has that doom feel about it, while second up, the Rott sounding 'Nightfears' has a more upbeat metallic feel, pounding along rather nicely. 'Carrion' is a rather more atmospheric song, while the church organ intro on the doomy 'Grey' sent shivers down my spine. 'Not To Be' is an upbeat melodic and catchy number, I can hear this being played on the radio - great keys and great guitar. 'While' gets you thinking that it is a piano led ballad until the remainder of the band kick in together with orchestration and subtle choral backing, and this is another fave track of mine together with the aforementioned 'Not To Be'. 'Rituals' and 'Recreate' are further upbeat melodic numbers that I rather like, whilst 'Hollow Bliss' gives us another shot of Doom. The closing duo of the more laid back sounding 'A Mine's End' and the atmospheric doomy 'Homeless' end what is a rather cool album, although there is a hidden track 12 - I only have eleven listed :) In summary, this is an interesting release from this artist and is a little different for the run of the mill female fronted stuff that normally comes my way. If you like the doomier side of the music spectrum, but still with plenty of metal and melody, may I suggest you check this artist out here
. This is a grower and I like it... 8.75/10 (Dave)
BEEF SUPREME...S/T EP
(Self Released) Reviewed 19th October 2012
Stoner rock band Beef Supreme hail from the southwest United States. Drawing from influences such as Black Sabbath, The Sword, Queens of the Stone Age and Fireball Ministry, Beef Supreme fuses retro-metal with desert rock. Indeed, this EP offers up four tracks of music that throws into the mix some doom, classic metal, sludgy guitar riffs, some heavy drums and let's not forget the rather cool melodic vocals from leading lady Niki BelGrande. I must say that this is rather good, some great musician ship here with my fave number being Amasia - great suitar solo to boot! Beef Supreme offers their music free via their website
, so go check them out as I myself look forward to hearing more - 8/10 (Dave)
ARMONIGHT...'TALES FROM THE HEART'
(Ravenheart Music) Reviewed 21st August 2012
Italians Armonight were born in 2007 from the idea of guitarist Lara to find a band to play her friend Fjord’s compositions, soon they were joined by seductive singer Sy to recorded their first full-length, ‘Suffering and Passion’, released in November 2010 to rave reviews from around the world. Their live appearances throughout Europe have brought them a legion of fans who have been so impressed with their professionalism, determination, dedication, talent and sheer class that takes them onto a higher plane, this is a band that has the courage and conviction to take their music out there into uncharted waters. Their British tours have certainly coloured this new album, they toured with Welsh rock band S.E.X. and their singer Phil Jones does a brief Richard Burton esque narration in the spooky intro ‘Into The Deepest Dreams’, and there are a lot of references to rain and the weather in the lyrics, with Sy even singing “On this bloody rainy day” like a true Brit. They have a universally attractive style that holds an original place between symphonic/gothic metal and melodic/gothic rock, mixing shimmering and crunchy guitars, appealing to a broad spectrum of fans of bands that range from The Mission to The Reasoning to Theatres Des Vampires to Delain. Sy has a unique slightly folk tinged voice that suits their music perfectly, powerful, strong or soft according to the mood of the song, with lashings of Lara's distinctive highly skilled guitar playing, and it's all brilliantly recorded in Fjord's studio. There is a beautiful blend of songs in this superbly constructed set, catchy driving rockers 'With You Knife' (video on Female Voices), 'Dancing With Ghosts' and the bouncing 'Rainy Days', dramatic dynamic numbers with a darker edge 'I Will Be There (... For You)' and 'Coraline', and powerful swaying ballads 'When You See Me Cry', 'Once More' and the poignant closer 'A Kiss in the Snow'. The old adage is that time flies when you're having fun, and the whole album is so cleverly put together it seems to be over in flash, despite being well over 40 minutes long. Armonight have produced a passionate album of captivating gothic tinged melodic rock/metal that will capture your heart. Their Facebook can be found here
, a heartfelt 9.5/10 (Phil)
AONIA...'CITY OF SHADOWS' EP
(Self Release) Reviewed 7th August 2012
"Aonia” is the place near Helicon mountain where the muses dwell. While this image sounds serene, the band’s sound is the polar opposite. Driving, almost thrashy riffs juxtaposed against melodic, almost operatic vocals, offering up a sound that is a blending of the very old and the very new, tempered steel in a velvet glove. In February 2011, I reviewed a 3 track demo from this Midlands based Metal band fronted by Melissa Adams. And at the Ravenheart Fest in July, she so kindly gave me the full 6 track EP and I am reviewing it here. The demo kinda reminded me of Tarja era Nightwish mixed in with a little Siouxsie Sioux at times. Anyway, the three tracks from the demo are the first three tracks represented on this EP, while track 4 'Liberate Mae' (not a spelling mistake) enters Iron Maidenish Power Metal territory, and pounds along rather nicely thank you. The vocals of Melissa still tend to vary between the operatic stylings of Tarja, to the occasional near Punky vibe of the aforementioned Siouxie Sioux. The wonderfully titled 'Down The Rabbit Hole' knocks on the door of Progressive Metal without totally being allowed in, while the final track simply entitled 'The Song' maintains the up tempo Power Metal style of previous numbers. The band mix Symphonic Metal with Power Metal and pull it off in style. So, if you like artists like Nightwish, Within Temptation, Epica or Tarja, then mix it with a little Iron Maiden, then perhaps you should take a look at Aonia here
... 8/10 (Dave)
ALPINE FAULT...'IRAENA'S ASHES'
(Self Release) Reviewed 30th July 2012
The origins of this band go back to it's formation in 2005 in New Zealand under the name Iraena's Ashes, then in 2008 linchpins guitarist/vocalist Ant Royal and violinist Yvette Van Wyk decided that to further their ambitions they had to move to Australia, changing their name to Alpine Fault in the process. If your are a European who is as geographically confused as me, the Alpine Fault does indeed run down the spine of New Zealand's south island. The theme of the album is inspired by the strange events surrounding the mysterious disappearance of Iraena Asher in 2004, who was last seen heading towards the treacherous waters of Piha Beach near Auckland. Musically, their violin infused melodic metal is similar to a more progressive Lumus and Regicide, in particular the singing style and vocal interplay of Ant and lovely lead singer Nadia Vanek does remind me of the latter, although Ant does also remind me of John Payne, giving them an Asia Mark II vibe at times. This is a series of songs that have been honed over the years into perfectly formed tour de forces that combine great song writing with space for them to display their instrumental prowess. There is a distinctive yin and yang to their music as Ant and fellow guitarist Kalen's ripping rocking riffage propels the songs along while Yvette's dramatic violin gives it a suitably plaintive haunting edge, all brought out by Adam Merker’s faultless production that is of the highest professional standards. They open with a trio of terrific numbers starring Nadia including the awesome lead single 'I'll See You Soon' (video on Female Voices), before Ant takes the mike for the rampaging 'Mourning Has Broken'. The swaying 'Requiem' builds into a towering refrain, followed by the an instrumental and then the dynamic 'The Watcher Beneath'. A rocked up version of Palladio's 'March of the Tides' takes us to the dramatic final song 'Under a Dying Sky'. You also get a DVD with the music video for 'I'll See You Soon' as well as a documentary interview with the band, I do enjoy these as you get to meet the people behind the music. Alpine Fault have produced an exceptional album that can take them onto the world stage of top melodic/gothic/progressive/symphonic metal bands. Their website is here
, a faultless 9/10 (Phil)
AVRIGUS...'BEAUTY AND PAIN'
(Self Release - Digital) Reviewed 24th July 2012
Here we have the first studio release from Australian Band Avrigus. In-fact, I understand that this is the first studio release in 10 years, and is the first featuring the new vocalist (and composer) Megan Robins. The EP offers up five tracks of Atmospheric Gothic Doom Metal. Kicking off with the melodic slow to mid paced title track, this sets the tone of this release. Indeed, I quite like the opener and it does tend to stick around in your head for a while afterwards. There are a couple of instrumentals as well on this EP that combine well with the other three tracks, but overall, I find the album offers up a rather soothing listening experience. 'Banquet of Souls' is a nice Symphonic Doom number featuring Vanessa Black, courtesy of Lycanthia on violin, while closer 'Reborn' is an awesome mid paced and at times acoustic number. Megan's has a beautiful vocal style, while the EP should appeal to fans of Draconian, Opeth and the like. The EP was actually released in August 2010, but has escaped my radar until now. Their Facebook is here
... 8.5/10 (Dave)
ANTALGIA...'PERCEPTION OF REALITY'
(Self Release) Reviewed 16th July 2012
Antalgia started out doing covers of notable prog and metal bands like Dream Theater and Sonata Arctica, but in 2009 they began writing their own material, however problems recruiting dedicated musicians slowed progress, until they finally found beautiful Bella Dianez and began recording this album in 2011. Stylistically, they are progressive gothic metal with some symphonic flourishes, somewhere between Delain, Lacuna Coil, Anthropia and Akribi, with that fantastic million dollar professional studio sound courtesy of guitarist Igna Jover's home studio, which shows what an independent band with limited resources can really achieve if they have the talent. What set them apart is that there is a real funk and groove, bump and grind to their music, with Bella Dianez superb seductive sultry voice, between Ailyn and Charlotte Wessells in style, set against Igna's fast and furious riffage aided by a superb guitar sound, Xavi Sanchez's cinematic keyboards and Carlos and Alberts grooving rhythm section, good grief can these guys play. In short, this is sexy catchy melodic prog metal that rocks like a hurricane. They tear their way through eight concise, consistent but expansive tracks that never let up in quality, all except the closing epic around the five to six minutes mark, with a perfect balance between their strong song writing and the instrumental flourishes. The lads never outstaying their welcome as they blitz their way through their carefully constructed solos, and a nice variety in sonic dynamics within each song, from delicate lighter sections to full on rocking, makes the 47 minutes fly by in a flash. If push comes to shove, I'd have to pick the soaring opener 'The Invisible Mechanism' and the terrific 'Lines of Life' with it's wonderful melody as the stand out tracks, but it's a tough call, with the final track 'Memories' starting out as a powerful ballad before they cut loose in fine style. An ultra professional album with a tremendous sound that's got enormous commercial potential for the gothic, melodic prog and symphonic metal markets. In reality their Facebook can be found here
, a perceptive 9/10 (Phil)
AWAKEN SOLACE...'IN NIGHTFALL'S EMBRACE'
(Self Release) Reviewed 9th July 2012
Awaken Solace are a brand new young band from Brisbane in Australia, a country not exactly known for symphonic power metal, who had never played live before releasing this début. With this in mind I am staggered that not only have five such talented and like minded individuals been able to find each other, but also that they have produced an album of this outstanding quality and ambition. They were formed in 2010 by the key triumvirate of stunning singer/lyricist Maree Nipperess, keyboardist/composer Robert Russell and lovely guitarist Elspeth Johnson, later joined by Rodrigo and Taylor's rhythm section. This is full on symphonic power metal that floats around Amberian Dawn, Wildpath, Ancient Bards and Edenbridge, featuring Robert's most impressive orchestral arrangements, a select group of classical musicians and two choirs, their own full adult choir and a children's choir as well. What really hits you first is the way Maree's gorgeous warm lilting semi-operatic voice, which has a touch of the Goddess Sabine Edelsbacher about it, blends with the backing vocals and choirs to sublime effect. Musicianship is incredible, featuring Elspeth's glittering guitar work, Robert's flying keyboards and Rodrigo's skilled drumming, with his double peddling used judiciously to propel the music. There is a wonderful diversity in the songs, dynamics and tempos in this beautifully constructed set that carries you effortlessly through the no less than 70 minutes of stupendous music. The album opens with the awesome 'Moonlight's Wake' and a duo of scintillating speedy stompers, 'Escaping the Beast', and 'Tomorrow's Child', before the soothing 'Gentle Breezes' allows you to mop your brow. They ease the pace a touch for the next threesome of rip-roaring rhapsodies, 'Return to Avalon', 'Path Untaken' and the menacing 'The 'Slaying of Shallow's Queen'. Taking it down into more restful waters, the beautiful aria 'Dream Walker' segues into the delightful waltz 'Eternal in Time'. Bassist Taylor steps up to the mike for the battle hymn 'Dear Evelyn', sounding uncannily like Neil Hannon, followed by the sweeping soaring 'The Passing'. The foreboding orchestra and piano piece 'The Approach of Dawn' heralds the climax, but whereas most great albums end with a mighty epic, well, on this album you get two!!.. the mystic east flavoured 'Temptress of the Desert Eye' and the outstanding and very appropriately titled 'Final Chapter'. The sound by Brazilian producer Caio Cortenesi is excellent, it's comes packaged in a most splendid digipak, and you get second CD of voice and orchestra versions as well that's perfect for relaxation (a la Sonata Arctica), highlighting Maree's wonderful vocals and Robert's remarkable symphonic arrangements. From out of nowhere this unknown band from the most unlikely of places have released an album that will have symphonic metal fans in a state of fevered excitement. All I can say is kidnap them, stick them on a plane, launch them on the unsuspecting symphonic power houses of Europe, and then let them take the world by storm. The time of awakening has arrived so head here
and prepare for the symphonic thunder from down under, 9.5/10 (Phil)
ANGELICAL TEARS...'THE ELEVENTH HOUR'
(Blue Freya) Reviewed 2nd July 2012
Since forming in October of 2006, Angelical Tears has stood as a unique musical voice within the Oklahoma music scene. The band's heavy but melodic sound is the result of a variety of musical influences such as Goth, Classical, Metal, and Electronica. These elements all combine to create a powerful metal sound with strong symphonic Goth elements, coupled very nicely with the angelic vocal tones of leading lady Julia Flansburg. They list their infuences as Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation, Evanescence and Nightwish amongst many others, and those influences are there for all to hear. Opener 'Inceptum Finis'is a brief intro before the awesome 'Pool Of Sorrow' fires it's way out of the speakers. I love the vocals of Julia, that lean more towards the poppy side of things rather than the operatic. 'Queen of Hearts' takes a more Symphonic, Power Metal direction, some great orchestration from JC. 'Missing' is a piano led ballad which is totally beautiful, while 'Falling'and 'Another Day' are awesome Gothic Metal numbers with a great chorus. 'Seperate Ways (Worlds Apart)' is yep, you've guessed it, the Journey cover. I am an avid Journey fan, so maybe I could be hyper critical here. I won't be, but perhaps this could have been a 'bonus cut' - it is good nonetheless. 'Sunrise at Sunset' and 'With The Shadows' return to a more heavier Symphonic Power Metal sound with great use of the piano on both tracks. 'The Eleventh Hour' maintains the up tempo pace while tracks 11 'Ненавиcть' (Hate) and 13 Одна (Alone) are sung in Russian, but bloomin' good I have to say. The combination of the ethereal vocals of Julia Flansburg, heavy guitars of Steven Bittle, pounding bass of Glenn Flansburg, and thundering drums of JC (who also does the Orchestration and Sequencing) give Angelical Tears a style and sound that sets them apart from their peers in the Oklahoma music scene. Check out their website here
, this is a worthy 8.75/10 (Dave).
AKPHAEZYA...'ANTHOLOGY IV, THE TRAGEDY OF NERAK'
(Code666/Aural Music) Reviewed 2nd July 2012
French band Akphaezya was born in 2002 as a project of guitarist Stephan H, later joined by vocalist and keyboardist Nehl Aëlin, drummer Loic Moussaoui and bassist Stephane Beguier, releasing their début album 'Anthology II, Links for the Dead Trinity' in 2008. The albums are based on another world called Akphaezya, each album covering a part of its story as Stephan finds out more about it in his research which is currently incomplete, so at the moment there is no Anthology I or III. This one is about a complete play in the style of an Ancient Greek tragedy he has recently discovered about a town called Nerak, the city of elements, and the tragic love story of an Ayzeahpka girl Nimim Ninnom and the human boy Sor-Dna, with a prelude, four acts of two songs each, an interval and epilogue. They are described as an avant garde band, if this conjures up images of mass weirdness, don't worry, although slightly similar to the likes of Stolen Babies and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, they are far more akin to a mix of Therion, Stream of Passion, Gathering and Diablo Swing Orchestra, I would it 'Eccentric Metal'. On the occasions when they do hop around is is very well constructed so it's a natural progression, not thrown together, and the music is very accessible and enjoyable with Nehl's superb Anneke Van Giersburgen type voice, although she does other styles as well as contributing wonderful rippling piano. Act 1 Spring is more gothic metal, the terrific rocking 'A Slow Vertigo' and 'Sophrosyne' which contains some touches of death metal. Act 2 Summer heads towards DSO, the catchy wacky 'Utopia' which sounds a bit like a Wilson, Keppel and Betty sand dance featuring Betty Boop, and 'Húbris' that starts out dramatic before an injection of swing jazz. During the interlude 'Transe H.L.' instead of popping out to the rest room and getting an ouzo I would recommend staying and listening to Nehl's beautiful classical piano. Act 3 Autumn heads towards prog with 'Genesis' sounding like Muse propelled by massive riffage and the sublime mellow acoustic 'Dystopia'. Finally Act 4 has 'Nemesis' which sounds like modern metal version of a 1920's silent movie ccompaniment, appropriately they have used it for their animated video (on Female Voices), and the powerful dramatic 'The Harsh Verdict'. These are all approximate descriptions as they love to put into the songs all sorts of musical escapades from Spanish acoustic to American jazz. A most fascinating, creative, artistic and entertaining collection of music is on offer here, and like with DSO, as long as you are fairly open minded then you find it extremely enjoyable. Their legendary land is www.akphaezya.com/
, an animated 8.75/10 (Phil)
(M & O Music) Reviewed 29th June 2012
Anwynn hail from Belgium, and they tell me their music is Celtic influenced with the guys in the band wearing kilts on stage, having swords and a drinking horn. Seems interesting! The band have existed since 2007, they have played many gigs and have even been on the same line up as Pythia and Manic Movement amongst many others. The band also tell me that they will make official very soon, their participation in summer festivals during 2013 across Europe. Musically they combine female operatic vocals with male grunts, similar I suppose to Epica, perhaps to an extent Leaves' Eyes and maybe even a more upbeat Draconian. Although the Celtic influences are there, I detect more of a straight forward Symphonic Melodic Metal approach, throwing a few Progressive elements into the mix as well. The grunts courtesy of Bouc combine very well with the operatic vocals of Amandine to bring us 11 awesome, upbeat and rather catchy tracks. The guitars, keys and drums are all perfectly mixed, and to be perfectly honest, this is a pretty damn good effort from a band that until now, I didn't even know existed! I won't list any individual numbers although the Celtic Influenced and very catchy 'Across The Seven Seas' and the slower ballady 'Lost In Avalon' are becoming faves of mine upon repeated listens. Check the band out here, but the more I listen to all the tracks on this cd, the more I want to recommend it to you people out there. The bands website is www.anwynn-official.com/band.html
- check them out and consider buying!! ...8.75/10 (Dave)
DORIS BRENDEL and LEE DUNHAM...'NOT UTOPIA'
(Sky Rocket Records) Reviewed 20th June 2012
Doris Brendel, one of the most unique female rock singers of the last decade is set to release this little opus on July 1st. The daughter of famed classical pianist Alfred Brendel, her rather distinctive vocals so happened to be the driving force behind 1990s alt-rockers The Violet Hour, who were in-fact signed to Sony. After her highly acclaimed 'The Last Adventure' that was released in 2010, Doris forges ahead with the next chapter of her recording career. Already being described as a collection of Progressive Pop Songs, the commercial sounding 'Not Utopia' spans pop, rock, prog and acoustic, confronting happy and sad topics with a humorous angst ridden style, while the album itself was recorded and produced by Lee Dunham, guitarist with Rock/Metal band Primary Slave. Opener 'No Lonely Girl' is the heaviest number on the album, kinda mixing Evanescence with Garbage if that makes sense. 'Ebay' is rather quirky, while 'Drawing The Line' sees Doris and Lee in full flow - quite a catchy number. I can actually imagine Avril Lavigne singing this one. 'Going Out' ups the tempo, adding an electronic feel to proceedings, kinda like Blondie, with the title track also adding an electronic pop feel! There are also the aforementioned acoustic elements - listen to the numbers 'Beyond Words' (that cries hit single) and 'Kind To Be Cruel', while the awesome 'Passionate Weekend' and 'Conflicted' take the more progressive although still very commercial route. This is a good album, and the smokey bar room vocal style of Doris nails it perfectly. Connect with her on Facebook
ARIA..'DON'T MAKE A FOOL OF ME'
(Single Release) Reviewed 18th May 2012
Aria is fronted by Ana and hail from Venezuela, and in the early days was a side-project of guitarist Adrian. The side project became the main focus for Adrian in 2006. Some personel changes later, and in 2012, they have sent to me the single 'Don't Make A Fool Of Me'. Okay, I am not in the habit of reviewing singles, but this is an okay kinda tune. Crunching guitars and a great sax as well. The chorus although a little repetetive, is very catchy and will bang around in your head for ages. I cannot really score just one song, but judge for yourself by visiting their myspace
(Scarlet Records) Reviewed 25th April 2012
Auburn is a UK electro-acoustic ensemble featuring singer songwriter Liz Lenten. The band has re united after a 10 year hiatus, and this is the group's new cd, featuring 10 tracks of laid back music mixing up-beat and slower tempo electro-acoustic pop, but borrowing from the roots, country and blues genres, even throwing into the mix a touch of reggae too. Liz has a rather sweet innocent voice with varied musical influences from artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Billie Holliday, Rikki Lee Jones, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin and Kate Bush to name just a few. The bluesy sounding title track one can imagine being sung in a smokey bar, but we don't have any of those over here anymore. Then we have the rather nice 'Free Spirit' with it's rich cello lines, a song that I seemed to have heard somewhere else before. There is the reggae sounding 'Day Dreamin'', while 'Only You' is the fave for me on this cd. This is not one for the rock or metal freaks out there in music land, but 'Indian Summer' offers up some nice laid back music nonetheless, for those quiet nights in, with each song telling it's own story. An easy listening, inspirational and a rather relaxing 7.75/10 (Dave)
(Heckmann Sounds) Reviewed 19th April 2012
Astray Path from Ulm in Germany were founded in 2003 and have released two albums, Follow The Path in 2006 and the The Hidden Line in 2008, now they are pleased to present their new album Desert. Their hugely appealing music is very hard to define, it's classical piano inspired, sometimes folk tinged, light, lyrical, lilting melodic gothic rock/metal, treading their own astray path between bands like Keys of the Light, Lyriel, Elane, Rick Wakeman and Renaissance. Perfectly in harmony are the two founder members, captivating Kathrin Kaifel with her light operatic voice and main composer Simon Kaifel with his outstanding rippling melodic piano playing, forming the core elements of their songs. After the mystical instrumental introduction 'Breeze Over Dunes' comes the rocking 'The Call' in which Kathrin sings “He hears the call of a foreign land. Listening to the words of this catchy band”, which perfectly sums up this album as they take you on a most enjoyable journey to faraway places accompanied by Niklas Mühlich's brief poetic narrations. The three other three enormously attractive numbers 'Hate', 'An Empty Shell' and 'Endless Sleep' are set around the two epics, the Arabian flavoured title track 'Desert' and and the remarkable multi faceted 'Night' with it's haunting 'Sunset' prelude featuring ethereal didgeridoo. There are two songs in German, the folky 'Körperklau' in the middle which reminds me of 'Scarborough Fair', and the beautiful piano ballad 'Stell Dir Vor' (Just Imagine) with Kathrin's voice lowered to a hushed whisper by the end, totally enchanting. I'm not surprised they live in a town with 120 days of fog, there is a stillness and beauty to their music that is most delightful and refreshing with the lyrics having that atmospheric air of mystery and melancholy. It's all enhanced by the subtle clear sound from producer and guitarist Elmar Heckmann and mixer Manu Staib, there's not many albums where you can hear a whisper, less can be more. If like me you enjoy beautifully crafted light classical rock/metal, take the path without being led astray to their website www.astray-path.de/
, a most delightful 8.75 /10 (Phil)
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