Freedom Call – “M.E.T.A.L”

Freedom Call – “M.E.T.A.L” (Steamhammer / SPV)
Battle Helm Rating
Celebrating their 20th anniversary comes the 10th album from heavenly power metallers Freedom Call! Formed by vocalist / guitarist Chris Bay (a self confessed ‘light person’) and Gamma Ray drummer Dan Zimmermann, who incidentally makes a special guest appearance on “M.E.T.A.L” performing as a double drummer alongside recording sticksman Kevin Kott (Masterplan) (!), Freedom Call’s unashamed message of positivity, love and hope inherent in its music and words will no doubt be as seen as something of a contradiction to the more common perceptions (no matter how unfounded) of metal. Indeed, the album’s title is tongue in cheek, not to the derision of fans or to the genre, but rather to acknowledge their own brand of anthemic melodic metal, which after so many years has built the band an impressive loyal following. So, as you might expect, the 11 tracks on “M.E.T.A.L” simply ooze light and joy, so much so that many of them are easily comparable to the songs on the band’s 1999 debut “Stairway To Fairyland”. Indeed, the cryptic lyrical and musical references to it on tracks like ‘111’ and ‘The Ace Of The Unicorn’ are no coincidence given Bay’s birth date being the same as the number of angels in western esotericism! Mysticism aside though, this is one helluva release whether or not you’re a fan of the band, with absolutely massive melodies that will hold you starstruck before the undeniable love in their grooves just melts your heart while simultaneously rocking you out with power – I mean, nobody said these guys were lightweights! Bay has equally recruited an exciting new band in guitarist Lars Rettkowitz and Italian bassist Francesco Ferraro, both of whom show their true measure by gelling splendidly with Freedom Call’s DNA to ensure that speed, moving atmospheres and boundless amounts of enthusiasm continue to stretch emotions – not to mention neck muscles! It’s all over tracks like ‘Spirit Of Daedalus’, with its fast dazzling guitar melodies, pumping keys and blurring double bass drums that lead up to an incredibly soaring singalong chorus backed by bountiful heavenly choirs and not forgetting a blinding neo classical solo – utter bliss. Then there’s ‘Sail Away’, by no means fast at all, but with its massive guitars and big choirs adding huge atmospherics into a very classy and catchy mix of rock, prog and metal, all to the flowing tender vocals of Bay, has an appeal all to itself showing the band are no one trick pony. Taking it right back to those early days though is the aptly titled ‘Days Of Glory’, fast-ish with the double drummer double bass beat although it’s once again the huge but tender melodies that as always capture the heart, uplifting and leading to a soaring harmony chorus that I’d dare anyone to deny.  Happy. Clappy. Even cheesy. But there’s no denying the continuing appeal of Freedom Call even after all these years!

Elvenking – “Reader Of The Runes – Divination”

Elvenking – “Reader Of The Runes – Divination” (AFM Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Formed 22 years ago and now onto their 10th record, Elvenking are the best known of Italy’s folk metal bands, forged over countless tours with bands like Blind Guardian, Gamma Ray, Edguy and Virgin Steele. But “Reader Of The Runes – Divination” is something else, indeed a first for the band as it’s a concept album and an ambitious one at that, with “…Divination” being only the beginning of the “Reader Of The Runes” saga that is set to unfold in continuing releases! While some would’ve welcomed this a lot sooner, I think the band have chosen wisely to do this at this point in their career, as the new material is both deep and mature, and incorporates plenty of epic aspects along with touches of symphony reflective of their experience, composing and musicianship talents to date. In this first chapter you will get to know the characters of the story through huge, heart grabbing melodies, sung through soulful vocals and backed by a powerful rhythm and all told true thanks to the massive sound befitting the stature of this monumental new chapter. Indeed, from the fast, ultra catchy folk guitar melodies backed by double bass drumming, ‘Heathen Divine’ is simply irresistible thanks to Damna’s tender tones and huge singalong chorus made all the more dramatic thanks to the big background vocals that totally succeed in transporting you on an adventurous journey into Elvenking’s new world. Slowing down but getting even deeper with an equally addictive main melody, ‘Under The Sign Of A Black Star’ is somewhat reminiscent of early In Flames thanks to the passionate and powerful twin guitars of founder Aydan and Rafahel throughout, and again backed by those hammering drums from Lancs adding plenty of fire to the suave ice work of the axemen – truly impressive! Balancing it up on the mid tempo ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’, the chest beating epic fury of Sabaton has definitely made its impression through its undeniably stirring singalong chorus, although its Damna’s soul that still keeps it in tune to the unique sound of this incredible band. Indeed, true to their name, Elvenking are even more majestic than ever before!

Visions Of Atlantis – “Wanderers”

Visions Of Atlantis – “Wanderers” (Napalm Records)

Battle Helm Rating

Rising from the ashes with a new line up now cemented in the success of “The Deep & The Dark” in 2018 and its stupendous live follow up “The Deep & The Dark Live @ Symphonic Metal Nights” this year, “Wanderers” is now set to continue that breathtaking spectacle on the 11 magic tracks here. With the vocal duet of mezzo soprano singer Clémentine Delauney and Italian male lead Michele Guaitoli firmly established through touring, their stellar performance is reflected throughout this 7th album in symphonic bliss graced by melodic majesty. If you’ve not heard Visions Of Atlantis before, then prepare for deeply passionate songs that reach out to your heart backed by metallic fire tempered suavely by the ice of flowing orchestrals – an awesome experience of drama and moving emotion that will not leave you untouched. With a visual concept realised through a stunning photoshoot along the North Atlantic coast, it’s easy to see where the inspiration came from for songs like ‘Heroes Of The Dawn’, where deep rock riffs collide with stirring celtic pipes as Delauney and Guaitoli launch their irresistible vocals to immediately draw you in and hold you captivated as the heavenly sounds tantalise your emotions time and again. Touching onto pirate filmscore on ‘The Siren & The Sailor’ complete with plucked strings and piano, founder Thomas Caser’s double bass drumming and the slick but thick dirty riffs of Christian Douscha soon reminds us (thankfully) that its Visions Of Atlantis we’re listening too and when the plentiful pipes of Delauney and Guaitoli take an even more soulful level, the affect is nothing short of hypnotic! Closing with the more metallic but no less moving ‘At The End Of The World’ with its strong modern rock beat and utterly alluring chorus laced by tantalising synths, it’s pretty clear that Visions Of Atlantis have not just pulled themselves out’ve the abyss, but are on a rocket ride to higher levels than ever before – in short, resistance is futile!

Isole – “Dystopia”

Isole – “Dystopia” (Hammerheart Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Synonymous with funeral doom since the 90s, a change of label in more recent times saw Isole take a more progressive direction but “Dystopia” returns them to their gloomy past, albeit with a few tinges of sunshine here and there! Mixing harsh and trippy soulful, if melancholic vocals, the award winning formula of slow, grim riffs all played to moribund tones at depressive pace has taken this Swedish band through 6 prior full length releases, all with epic length songs. Despite its dark title, “Dystopia” is something of a hybrid, certainly full of all the aforementioned signature sounds of the band, but on some of the 7 songs, shimmering melodies, passionate wailing solos and even shoe gaze soundscapes also play a role in allowing the non initiated to pull away from the abyss. Just. Me? I just love the old stuff and thanks to the impressive sound that adds even more atmospheric power to the likes of ‘Written In Sand’ where syrup thick doom riffs drenched in reverb plod the death march through ghostly whispers and angelic voices, only the sorrowful wailing solo offers any path to salvation. Even more mustier though is the aptly titled ‘Forged By Fear’ with its dramatic contrast of foreboding growls and lamentable wails given afterlife from the harsh, chundering background incorporating dark harmonies befitting a perfect eternal rest in the crypt. Closing with ‘Nothingness’, its slow, thick dirty riffing contrasted impressively by a variety of vocal styles from growling to angelic soul and haunting melancholy and backed by the imposing power of the rhythm brings an excellent and lasting end to this excellent album. As such, “Dystopia” is something lovers of early Candlemass, Paradise Lost and Anathema will undoubtedly take to as Isole once more bring to the fore their unforgettable style in proving yet again they are masters at what they do.

Equilibrium – “Renegades”

Equilibrium – “Renegades” (Nuclear Blast)
Battle Helm Rating
This is probably an apt title for this 6th release from a band hardly in stasis as their name might suggest! Formed in 2001, Equilibrium have gone through many evolutions, being folk based in their early career to evolving more recently to include more symphonic black metal aspects. And now comes the next evolution! Joining longstanding guitarist / keyboardist René Berthiaume are new keyboardist Skadi Rosehurst and bassist / clean vocalist Skar so prepare for a new sound. With no less than a doubling in the synths and a trebling in the vocal dept, the sound on “Renegades” is absolutely massive, which suits a lot of the new material given its EDM based. I mean, the dual keyboards and electronica are dominating in every regard, driving huge melodies and even catchier dance beats although to the band’s credit, it’s still very much Equilibrium – just with an upgraded platform so to speak! Robse continues to unleash his roars and soothing soul, but with Berthiaume and Skar also adding in their talents, the overall sound is amped to the max. Driven by Hati’s fast precision kick beats, the Germanic synth melodies and electronica mixed with unclean Neue Deutsche Härte vocals on ‘Himmel Und Feuer’ certainly have a catchy appeal, and when the style takes a heavier and more epic direction on ‘Path Of Destiny’ with Hati’s hammering drums adding the furore of Germanic rap, screams and clean soulful vocals, it’s pretty clear that Equilibrium are onto another winner. Still, not forgetting their roots, ‘Moonlight’ nods towards early In Flames with its fast, dexterous melodic guitars and gruff vocals bringing some more catchy and even more stirring tones, while the dark, symphonic bombast on ‘Final Tear’ with its blast beating and throat shredding roars is definitely a wow moment! Pushing the envelope, I was quite taken (aback) by ‘Kawaakari – The Periphery Of The Mind’ with its contrast of asian electronica and explosive hardcore, and even more so, the pure pumping adrenaline of ‘Hype Train”s overflowing electronica contrasted by ugly throaty drawls, black metal screamo and guest vocalist Julie Elven’s sultry tones – I think Avicii would’ve been proud! Truly living up to its title of “Renegades”, Equilibrium once again prove they are beholden to none and exuding masterful talent, challenge all to take on yet another new frontier.

Saint Deamon – “Ghost”

Saint Deamon – “Ghost” (Ram It Down)
Battle Helm Rating
At last – the return of Saint Deamon!!! Formed in 2006 by former Dionysus drummer Ronny Millianovicz in a line up that included singer Jan Thore Grefstad (Highland Glory), guitarist Toya Johansson (Bjurström) and bass player Nobby Noberg (ex-Dionysus), the band was soon signed to Frontiers Records and released 2 albums “In Shadows Lost From The Brave” (2008) and “Pandeamonium” (2009). Touring across Europe, Saint Deamon also appeared at ProgPower USA but then experienced a long quiet phase. Until now. Continuing to work on new songs, the band have now returned with 14 of them in “Ghost” and man, it doesn’t sound like Saint Deamon have lost any of their touch! From fast power metallers to melodic metal and even touches of AOR, this veteran band show they’re more than capable musicianship across the material that features tender but powerful vocals, deep melodies, catchy hooks, prog nuances, and epic infused hard rock. So set sail on the pirate metal of ‘Captain Saint D’ with its catchy tones and massive singalong chorus complete with jolly whistling and landlubber shout outs while ‘Call My Name’ is full speed power metal with double bass hammering and fast chugging guitar although the incredible soul of Grefstad and deep chorus definitely make this a stand out track in both furore and finesse. Keeping up the momentum like a band on fire ‘Return Of the Deamons’ features some very fast guitars, swashbuckling through rapid riff changes and chainsawing as new drummer Jarle Byberg (ex-Shining) sets fire to his double bass pedals ha ha! Although slightly slower, ‘Land Of Gold’ more than makes up for it through its epic atmosphere, resplendent with power riffs, Noberg’s slick bass runs, prog melodies and not in the least, Grefstad’s magnificent soulful, soaring vocals really adding the passion as he does indeed, across the whole of “Ghost”. For the slower tunes, then ‘Somewhere Far Beyond’ definitely sticks in my mind (not to mention my heart) thanks to its building emotions abundant in the atmosphere where Grefstad’s highs are matched by both acoustic and electric guitar bliss, unhurried in their moving fret board work that only adds to the passion of the song, although the track is by no means a lightweight thanks to its stirring main riff backed by Noberg’s deep bass and the muscly drum work of Byberg. “Ghost” is the comeback that many didn’t see coming, although longtime fans had hoped for, and now Saint Deamon have returned with what must be their strongest album ever!

HELLOWEEN – United Alive

Everyone is clued in: From October 4th, 2019 we can all revisit the PUMPKINS UNITED WORLD TOUR every night without even leaving the couch. What is served, is no less than the greatest hits from 30 years and a breakneck trip through the entire HELLOWEEN repertoire – a 14 month metal quake, featured on the cover of almost every metal magazine including the world’s biggest metal magazine, Japan´s BURRN!, which dedicated an unbelievable four cover stories to this tour. In other words: clear the ring for the next round of PUMPKINS UNITED madness!

‘United Alive’ & ‘United Alive In Madrid’ – The video- & audio-releases
With the releases of ‘UNITED ALIVE’ & ‘UNITED ALIVE IN MADRID’ on Nuclear Blast, the band presents stunning audio and visuals of the epic tour. Every single solo, every spontaneous gesture, and every emotional encore of the PUMPKINS UNITED WORLD TOUR is evoked and made immortal. Band interviews and plenty of background material included. The artworks for the various formats were once again created by photographer and art designer Martin Hausler, who of course stuffed lots of previously unreleased live images into the 36-page booklet and high-end packaging.

‘United Alive’ – DVD/Blu-Ray
The DVD/BLU-RAY ‘UNITED ALIVE’ captures the phenomenal sets with recordings from Wacken in front of 75,000 metalheads, 14,000 fans in the Madrid arena, and topped off by the legendary gig at the Espaço das Américas in front of 8,000 fans in São Paulo. In total, there’s over three hours of live material in stereo and premium 5.1 surround sound plus a movie compilation with the essentials of the concert’s LED content, all cartoon clips of Seth and Doc, further surprises, and the very personal 30-minute band interview about the past, present, and future.

‘United Alive In Madrid’ – Live-CD/Vinyl
As pure as it gets – the LIVE-CD/VINYL ‘UNITED ALIVE IN MADRID’ has nearly three hours of unbridled PUMPKINS live pressure up its sleeve – including bonus tracks of the shows in Prague, São Paulo, Wacken, and Santiago de Chile.

‘United Alive’ & ‘United Alive In Madrid’ will be available in the following formats, and can be pre-ordered here: http://nblast.de/HelloweenUnitedAlive

2DISC BLU-RAY DIGIBOOK
Disc 1: Live concert, Disc 2: Bonus material – intro movie, interview, LED compilation, Seth & Doc animations & more
3DISC DVD DIGIBOOK
Disc 1 & 2: Live concert, Disc 3: Bonus material – intro movie, interview, LED compilation, Seth & Doc animations & more
3DISC LIMITED DIGIBOOK LIVE AUDIO CD
Live concert Madrid plus bonus tracks: ‘March of Time’, ‘Kids of the Century’, ‘Why’ and ‘Pumpkins United’
5DISC VINYL BOX
Live concert Madrid plus bonus tracks: ‘March of Time’, ‘Kids of the Century’, ‘Why’ and ‘Pumpkins United’
8DISC EARBOOK BLU-RAY & DVD & CD
Complete contents of Blu-ray, DVD, and CD in premium packaging

Live dates:

21.09.  BR       São Paulo – Rockfest (w/ SCORPIONS, WHITESNAKE, EUROPE)
23.09.  BR       Uberlândia – Roadfest (w/ SCORPIONS, WHITESNAKE)
25.09.  BR       Brasília – Rock ao Vivo (w/ SCORPIONS)
28.09.  BR       Florianópolis – Rock ao Vivo (w/ SCORPIONS)
01.10.  BR       Porto Alegre – Rock ao Vivo (w/ SCORPIONS, WHITESNAKE)
04.10.  BR       Rio de Janeiro – Rock in Rio (w/ IRON MAIDEN, SCORPIONS, SEPULTURA)

Lizzy Borden – “The Scar Across My Heart Lyric video”

Lizzy Borden launches lyric video for “The Scar Across My Heart”; set to kick off North American tour with Demons & Wizards, Týr this weekend. Set to kick off his North American tour with Demons & Wizards and Týr this weekend (August 17th), Lizzy Borden is now launching a new lyric video for “The Scar Across My Heart” for fans.

Lizzy Borden comments: “I wanted the ‘Scar across my heart’ lyric video to have that translucent, cloaked in a visual lie look to it. A barrage of negative hard rain flooding down on those hollow words ‘we’re gonna make it now’, an exercise in futility for a doomed from the start connection.

We are extremely excited to finally hit the road with Lizzy Borden’s ‘My Midnight Things’ show. This new show is a bombastic, high energy theatrical production. From the start of ‘My Midnight Things’ to the end of ‘Long May They Haunt Us’, we will flash through the decades playing classic songs from each and every Lizzy Borden record to-date.  Sharing the stage with Demons and Wizards, as well as our label mates Tyr, can’t help from being one of the most interesting and entertaining combined forces in a very long time. All three bands are very different from each other and yet oddly compatible. This is a ‘can’t miss’ night! See you there, I’ll bring the blood; you bring the screams!”

See below for all dates!

Lizzy Borden tour dates
w/ Demons & Wizards, Týr
Aug. 17 – Wiltern – Los Angeles, CA
Aug. 20 – Showbox SODO – Seattle, WA
Aug. 21 – The Commodore – Vancouver, BC
Aug. 22 – Roseland – Portland, OR
Aug. 24 – Summit Theater – Denver, CO
Aug. 26 – Gas Monkey Live – Dallas, TX
Aug. 28 – Concord Music Hall – Chicago, IL
Aug. 29 – Skyway Theater – Minneapolis, MN
Aug. 31 – Danforth Music Hall – Toronto, ON
Sept. 1 – Corona – Montreal, QC
Sept. 4 – The Palladium – Worcester, MA
Sept. 5 – Playstation Theater – New York, NY

Lizzy Borden will be touring in support of My Midnight Things, which was released last year via Metal Blade Records. His first full-length in over a decade, the record earned the #11 spot on Billboard’s Top New Artist Albums, #17 on the Current Hard Music Albums, #43 on Top New Artist Albums Consumption, #46 on Independent Current Albums, and #148 on Top 200 Current Albums upon its first week of release.

My Midnight Things was produced by Lizzy Borden, with co-producer Joey Scott (who also handled all drum duties), mixed by Greg Fidelman (Metallica, Black Sabbath, Adele, U2), and mastered by Tom Baker (David Bowie, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Tom Petty). To preview and purchase My Midnight Things, please visit: metalblade.com/lizzyborden

GWAR – announces EU & UK 2019 tour

People of Europe!!!  It has been over 10 years since your Alien Overlords GWARfeasted on the souls of the Old World. At last, the wait is finally over. The time has come for GWAR’s insatiable thirst for blood to be quenched. Yes, you heard right!  Your Lords and Masters GWAR will make their triumphant return across the pond late this November into December on their “Use Your Collusion” 2019 European & UK Tour.  The attack begins in Bochum, Germany on November 22nd. They end their invasion by storming Zurich, Switzerland on December 14th, and by that time the continent will be little more than a smoldering pile of poo. Main support for the whole tour are metal legends VOIVOD! All tickets will be available for purchase at http://www.gwar.net. Pre-sales begin today and the general public on-sale is set for August 16th, 9:00am GMT.

“GWAR has waited long enough to terrorize youth across the pond. What better way to spend a winter than pillaging and copulating across Europe, says guitaristPustulus Maximus.

Lead singer The Berserker Blóthar chimes in, “All of Europe will bow to the majesty of GWAR! We will destroy your cities and consume all of your drugs. We will bring welcome death to the most depressed, emotionally and sexually repressed people on Earth. I cannot wait to wreak havoc on your infinitely inferior plumbing.”

“In Europe they call me doner kabob because that’s all I eat there. I Love European culture. Can’t wait for the tour, adds drummer JiZMak da Gusha.

Footage of the band announcing the tour has leaked from their fortress in Antarctica.

GWAR “Use Your Collusion” Europe & UK 2019 Tour:
Nov. 22: Bochum, DE @ Matrix*
Nov. 23: Vaureal, FR @ Le Forum*
Nov. 24: Mannheim, DE @ MS Connexion*
Nov. 26: Cologne, DE @ Live Music Hall
Nov. 27: Kortrijk, BE @ De Kruen
Nov. 28: Tilburg, NL @ 013 KZ
Nov. 30: Manchester, UK @ Club Academy
https://myticket.co.uk/artists/gwar

Dec.1: Glasgow, UK @ The Garage
https://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/artist/735222

Dec. 2: Wolverhampton, UK @ Steel Mill
https://www.seetickets.com/event/gwar/kk-s-steel-mill/1419679

Dec. 3: Newcastle, UK @ Riverside
http://bit.ly/GWAR-Riv

Dec. 4: London, UK @ Islington Academy
https://myticket.co.uk/artists/gwar

Dec. 5: Antwerp, BE @ Zappa
Dec. 6: Bremen, DE @ Schlachthof
Dec. 7: Copenhagen, DK @ Pumpehuset
Dec. 8: Berlin, DE @ Festsaal Kreuzberg
Dec. 9: Prague, CZ @ Meet Factory
Dec. 10: Ziln, CZ @ Masters of Rock Cafe
Dec. 11: Graz, AT @ Explosvi
Dec. 12: Ljubljana, SI @ Kino Siska
Dec. 13: Pinarella di Cervia, ITL @ Rock Planet
Dec. 14: Zurich, @ Komplex

VOIVOD Main Support All Dates
*- Downcast Collision (from…The Netherlands) opens Nov. 22-24
– Childrain (from…Basque Country) opens Nov. 26- Dec.14

Atlantean Kodex – People Of The Moon (Dawn Of Creation)

Ván Records proudly presents the highly anticipated third full-length album of ATLANTEAN KODEX!

Almost nothing certain is known about this enigmatic outfit from the northern forests of the kingdom of Bavaria. Formed around 2005/2006 by Trummer and Kreuzer, the band quickly managed to become the centre of the new European epic metal movement. Their disturbing “Pnakotic Demos”, released in 2007, gained them much praise and a fanatic following. After playing shows at most of the renowned European underground festivals like Keep It True, Up The Hammers or Hammer Of Doom, in 2010 the band released their debut album. “The Golden Bough“ proved to be a massive slab of regressive Epic Metal, which won “Album of the Month” – spots in magazines around the world, for instance Rock Hard Magazine Germany, Heavy Magazine Germany or Metal Hammer Greece.

2013 marked the zenith of ATLANTEAN KODEX’ career so far. Already a renowned headlining act by now, the band released their now-legendary album “The White Goddess”, which even took them to the top 60 German album charts. A colossal monument of dramatic and epic metal, the album took the world by storm. The album was praised by journalists and fans all over the world as one of the best Epic Metal albums ever. Deaf Forever Magazine (D) elected the album as „Best German Album of the new millenium“. Numerous top spots in magazines all over Europe and the USA marked the enormous impact the album had and a new epic metal scene formed around it with newer bands like Visigoth, Gatekeeper or Lethean quoting “The White Goddess” as a major influence.

After a longer hiatus the year 2019 marked the departure of long-standing lead guitar player Michael Koch, who was soon replaced by Coralie Baier. Even more important, the work on the long awaited third album was finished. Titled “The Course Of Empire” it is an monumental behemoth of molten Epic Metal and a more than worthy successor to “The White Goddess”. Darker, heavier, more raw and more complex might be fitting descriptions to provide an impression of mercilessly pounding of hymns like “Secret Byzantium” or “He Who Walks Behind The Years”. With thoughtful lyrics drawing from countless literary and mythological sources, “The Course Of Empire” is a feast for both the soul and the mind. It’s another masterpiece by one of heavy metal’s currently best and most original bands, both a proud creative statement of a defiance and a fist in the face of commercial mediocrity.