With over 20 years under their belts and this being their 9th album, Sweden’s Amon Amarth are now their nation’s premier Viking death metal band. Continuing their style pretty much uninterrupted “Deceiver Of The Gods” has the same sound that we’ve all come to recognize and love from Johan Hegg’s deep growling vocals to the swashbuckling guitars of Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg, not forgetting Fredrik Andersson’s relentless power drumming! Conceptually focusing this time on the mischievous Norse god Loki, there may be something in this as well as the album’s title as although possessing a more dynamic and ‘live’ production songs like ‘Father Of The Wolf’ and ‘Blood Eagle’ see the band moving into a more heavy metal sphere. It’s still Amon Amarth no doubt, but the melodies, arrangements and even harmonies seem to give a nod to some of Maiden and Accept’s swaggering grooves. If that wasn’t coincidence, then none other than Candlemass’s legendary Messiah Marcolin provides guest vocals on the slow n heavy ‘Hel’. It’s a very prudent move indeed and subtly intended to add even more mainstream metal fans to their swelling legions on their monstrous tours. Nevertheless, there’s still something for fans of Amon Amarth’s more traditional high speed rape n pillage in ‘Coming Of The Tide’ with all it’s Nordic brutality meets melody proving that the band after all these years have not forgotten their roots and are still more than able to shake it!
A legendary German producer, bassist and vocalist, Mat Sinner has been doin’ his thing since the early 80s from Voodoo Circle to Primal Fear. Funnily enough, “Back To The Bullet” is his only solo album in all that time – but what a corker it is! Recorded in 1990, it pretty much takes its inspiration from the best of 80s US stadium and hair rock rolling it all into catchy numbers like ‘Tear Down The Walls’, ‘Down Undercover’ and ‘Crying In Wires’. Chugging rock guitars, wailing solos, Mat’s gravelly voice and plenty of air punching shout outs unashamedly mix with sultry ballads and pretty boy rockers in this out of print gem now remastered by Achim Köhler (PRIMAL FEAR, BRAINSTORM) with bonus tracks, videos, and a completely redesigned cover n booklet!
This is the highly awaited sophomore from LA’s occult HM band, Huntress. Fronted by four octave range vocalist Jill Janus, “Starbound Beast” owes more than a nod to 70s Judas Priest with it’s trippy proto metal sound that Huntress have now amped up and modernized for today’s age. Janus certainly has a fine voice and in many cases she’s used it in a very sexless way i.e. not being typically female in being able to also handle growls and screams on songs like ‘Blood Sisters’ and ‘Destroy Your Life’. Whilst not being a sonic siren along the lines of Battle Beast’s Noora Louhimo, Janus’s style is aggressively suited to the meat n potatoes metal of Huntress – proof no further required then the Lemmy penned ‘I Want To Fuck You To Death’ where like a lioness she bays ‘…I am a huntress, when I want you here, you’d better not fail..’. Definitely a case of beauty is the beast!
Bon Scott lives! Well, the ghost of him does at least according to vocalist / guitarist Junior Figueroa, who also thinks he’s Angus Young lol. Actually it’s not a bad package if only these blokes (well actually they’re just lads) came from Down Under. Except 42 Decibel are from Argentina. Still, if you can get over that then these guys sound remarkably close to Scott era AC/DC especially in Figueroa’s voice, which is a dead ringer for the late but still legendary Bon. Add to this Billy Bob Rile’s slide guitar work and it’s an irresistible addition along the lines of Rose Tattoo that has all the blues based, smoke filled bar room atmosphere definitive of Aussie pub rock. If you’re a fan of AC/DC’s early material like ‘TNT’ and ‘Dirty Deeds…’ then the likes of ‘Long Legged Woman’, ‘Rocker Soul’ and the aptly titled ‘Gimme A Drink’ should bring back all the memories and a hearty smile that Bon is doing just that as he looks down (or up – Ed) contented that his spirit lives on in 42 Decibel.
Searing power metal from Saxony! Yep, Victorius are German and are the next generation of power metal bands to be churned out faster than Volkswagens ha ha. Despite their tender age, this is actually their second album, with their debut having to work its way across the world to Japan for a release before gaining some home grown recognition. One of the reasons might be that Victorius don’t have the traditional look of a power metal band (check out that eyeliner – Ed) and also upon closer inspection that they utilize a lot of modern metal and rock harmonies. As such, there may have been doubts as to where their true market lay although they seem to have something for everyone in my opinion. David Baßin has a fine youthful voice that ably complements the melodies of axemen Sebastian Rasch and Dirk Scharsich – not to mention their blitzing solos – backed by the blazing double bass rhythm on songs like ‘Kings Reborn’, ‘Lake Of Hope’ and ‘Starfire’. For such a young band the song writing is mature with plenty of catchy arrangements, Accept like wailing choruses and lots of uplifting energy so it may be time indeed for the rest of the world to awaken to the sound of Victorius!
Southern Germany’s Larceny could be forgiven for their name as they do indeed borrow heavily from a number of genres, although they it a fine style of their own! Formed nearly a decade ago, they literally rose from not being able to play but with a fierce desire to become a band and “My Fall” is their eventual debut. Based on a strong Metallica thrash base come the beauty n beast femme vocals of Anna Rantou also enhanced by Oliver Gaupp’s growls – it’s not unlike Kittie at times, with sultry vox that suddenly go into feline rrrowls – until the powerful melodies and harmony vocals come flooding in on songs like ‘Love You Dead’, ‘Eat Me Alive’ and ‘Still’. Whilst the thrash stuff is fairly commonplace the melo metal works a treat given its powerfully evocative emotions so in this case Larceny can be forgiven their crime in this daring mix.
It’s been 20 years since guitarist Criss Oliva passed away though his music has lived on thru his brother Jon (aka The Mountain King) both in Savatage and Jon Oliva’s Pain. This solo album, the first for the vocalist, contains the last of Criss’s music along with compositions of Jon’s friend Dan Fasciano. Together they have raised the curtain on this album and right off I’ll say that while containing prog elements, it is not an extension of both his prior bands being so much more! Pretty much handling all instruments (with assistance from Dan and Chris Kinder) Jon shows us his full measure from covering funky 70s rock in ‘Father Time’ to the theatrical rock of ‘Ten Years’ featuring trumpets – hell there’s even a 60s anti war ballad complete with hippy flute in ‘Soldier’ – although he won’t disappoint both new and old proggies with ‘Big Brother’ and especially the electric ‘The Witch’, my personal fave. It’s a very impressive effort indeed in further showcasing Jon’s talent as well as bringing closure to the talent of Criss. With Matt LaPorte’s (JOP guitarist) recent passing Jon once again faces a testing period and uncertain future but whatever the case, this solo album is yet another high point in his illustrious career.
Despite being named after a quaint English village, this symphonic band are actually from Austria! Formed in the late 90s and centered around the exquisite voice of Sabine Edelsbacher and guitarist / keyboardist / founder Lanvall’s orchestral compositions, Edenbridge’s music is indeed a beautiful representation of it’s namesake. It’s been three long years since we heard from the band and that has been down to personal tragedy with losses to both Sabine and Lanvall’s families, hence this album’s title dealing with human connection and moreover a universal energy connecting us to mother nature (these guys are also Trekkies – Ed). Considering what has happened, “The Bonding” is an outstanding achievement if anything owing to it’s overwhelmingly passionate and radiantly uplifting feeling through masterful songs like ‘Star Crossed Dreamer’, ‘Into A Sea Of Souls’ and ‘Death Is Not The End’. It’s easy to dismiss Edenbridge as romantic luvvies in search of pristine fields filled with unicorns but that really is how their music is from Sabine’s angelic voice to Lanvall’s delicate melodies – and most of all, their powerful passion through which they have touched my heart with their undying love.
Fast rising up the ranks of the French extreme metal league comes Dagoba, who on the strength of this album look set to be right on the heels of Gojira! Having seen these guys over the years at various festivals I’ve never questioned their ability to deliver par excellence extreme metal, however, “Post Mortem Nihil Est” is something altogether different. Produced by none other than Machine Head’s Logan Mader, Dagoba have taken a step back from flooring the pedal (bet that was difficult being French lol – Ed) and instead gone for the quality in their song writing, which is heavily influenced by Machine Head’s heavy groove metal along with a dose of symphonic black metal a la Dimmu Borgir. Hoarse vocals, dirty twisting dervish riffs, and blasting drum work define songs like ‘The Realm Black’, ‘Kiss Me, Kraken’ and ‘The Day After The Apocalypse’ which at times are delivered with hyper speed whilst at others using slow, crushing brutality. As I said, there’s a strong groove throughout the 11 tracks on this 5th album from Dagoba, who also sensibly use subtle keyboards to add even more background atmosphere on what is undoubtedly their finest hour.
Following in the recent revival of 70s hard rock n heavy metal comes Scorpion Child – an’ all from Texas y’all! If I thought The Answer and Rival Sons sounded like Zepp then vocalist Aryn Jonathan Black is probably one of Robert Plant’s unplanned tour creations so close is he to the legendary singer. Besides the heavy take on the 70s with plenty of raw rock guitar graced with wah, deep bass and solid drums (not forgetting those hippy afros lol – Ed) Scorpion Child also try to corner the psych rock market with plenty of trippy riffs thru songs like ‘King’s Highway’, ‘In The Arms Of Ecstasy’ and the simply chooging ‘Paradigm’ with its upbeat tempo – not exactly pure stoner although you’d certainly appreciate it if you were down to your last weed heh heh. I haveta say that of all the revival bands these guys are the best as their music has a very natural feel to it and isn’t really retro but sort’ve a modern take on those 70s classics – so can you dig it man?
Well, it’s certainly been a busy year for Arrayan Path – these guys (minus keyboardist George Kallis) already released a heavy metal album under their sister project Astronomikon – and fabulous it was too – and now comes Arrayan Path’s fourth album! If I were to compare the two bands then I’d say that whilst both are epic but Astronomikon is straight up HM whereas Arrayan Path is more of a melodic power metal band. Indeed, as Nicholas Leptos soaring vocals come wailing in, brother Sokratis piles in an intense mixture of power riffing and heart rousing melodic solos, and George Kallis’s keyboards add to the dark atmosphere of biblical songs like ‘Disguising Your Soul’, ‘Cursed Canaan’ and ‘The Bible Bleeds’ you know this is one epic album! Added to this comes the magnificent orchestral arrangements handled by Vagelis Maranis (ex-Sanvoisen) who also created some beautiful choral harmonies using his voice as well as guest appearances from Armageddon’s Jimmy Mavrommatis on vocals and guitar solos by Kikis Apostolou amongst others. All in all you’ve got one helluva book of battle hymns!
Pure heavy metal mayhem from Finland! Despite their unassuming name and no frills style, Helsinki’s Payload play a surprisingly addictive brand of HM successfully captured on this excellent debut. Formed in 2008 by lead guitarist Vic Lausas & vocalist Risto Sundberg, the two have already seen their fair share of lineup changes in their rhythm section but have soldiered on regardless to produce this fine mix of Iron Maiden riffing, Megadeth rhythms and hard rock melodies. Raw vocals, even more raw chugging guitar and a neck snapping rhythm will have you headbanging in glory to steam hammer songs like ‘War Machine’, ‘Unleash’ and ‘Poison Cure’, made all the more lethal by the equally raw production! All in all an excellent debut from this unassuming band deserving more recognition!
”An Uncertain Collision”
For some reason I have a very good eye towards the Mexican metal scene. I have had so since the 90s when I got in touch with a couple of people that were into the whole fanzine/label thing.
This might sound like me complaining but I never really got the whole idea of releasing an EP. I understand the economical side of going into a studio but why not spend that extra cash on some extra studio time and end up with a full length album.
“Mangled By The Machine”
I gotta say that I’m very skeptical when it comes to this band’s name. At worst they are a less fun President Of The United States. At best this proves to be a grandiose metal album.
I know that there is some sort of merit to being the most obscure and mystic when you play black metal. I don’t get that that.
“Beneath Inanimate Grime”
I like band names that are in Latin. It gives the band a whole different aura of mystique. It is as if they take on a whole different character when you don’t really know what the name means.
“Victims Beyond All Help”
When you consider the amount of bands that exist it is strange how few it is that really make it big. For every Metallica there are thousands of bands struggling.
BLINDED BY FAITH
For some reason I expect this to be a very positive encounter. For some reason I have a feeling that this will be one hell of a metal album.
“Abysses Of Seclusion”
I’m not the one to complain about band names. I know how hard it is to come up with a cool name for your band. But some names makes me wonder what the band thought when they named it.
“The Killing Floor”
I can’t say that I jump up and down from excitement when a record by an English band land on my steps. That ship has sailed a long time ago.
There used to be a time when dying freaked me out. When I was about 11 years old I came to terms with my own mortality. I realized that death is inevitable and that there was nothing I could do about it to stop it from happening.
I don’t get people that buy hybrid cars only to use the petrol part of the car. What’s the use? Do they feel good about themselves for buying a supposedly environmentally friendly car?
JUST BEFORE DAWN
“Precis Innan Gryningen”
Another Swedish band. Yippee. There seem to be no end to the stream of Swedish bands that keep feeding the pond that is metal. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again.
“The Strange Inconvenience”
This French band is on their third album (second for Avantgarde) yet I have not heard of them before being sent this album.
“Documentaries Of Dementia”
If this bands sing about the birds and the bees I’ll buy a hat and I’ll eat it without ketchup. This just got to be some of the gorier variant of death metal that is around.
PROGENIE TERRESTE PURA
I will willingly admit that I find joy in listening to ambient music. There is a soothing aspect to it that I at times can find a need for. But ambient black metal or post black metal ambient I’m not so sure about.
RED TREE RELIGION
”Sparking Night Lust”
RED TREE RELIGION, Blue Script Revelation. I guess that a band name could be any combination of words. If it looks good why not use it.
SCIENCE OF SLEEP
I often curse myself for not being more interested in hardcore. But I haven’t really found time to get into it. I’ve tried on numerous occasion to explore it further
This Polish act is being described as experimental black metal. I get the general idea of being labeled experimental. I just don’t know what’s wrong with being labeled just black metal.
“Scouring The Wreckage Of Time”
(Shadow Kingdom Records)
It is nice to see that the doom metal scene is still alive and healthy. I have a special place for doom in my heart. I used to paint everything black.
YOUR LAST WISH
In my world there used to be no melodic death metal. Then along came bands from the west coast of Sweden and showed me that there could be melodies on death metal.
Let’s face it, Dave Mustaine isn’t a man that has ever been without controversy. In fact, some might say the two go hand in hand! Earlier this year, Mustaine announced that Megadeth would be parting ways with Roadrunner and his 14th album would instead be released on Tradecraft, his own label. Seems they both musta known something. “Super Collider” has caused huge controversy since its release and it’s easy to see why: this isn’t the Vic Rattlehead thrash that Mustaine has been dishing out since 1983 that made his name legendary. Rather, “Super Collider” lives up to its name in every way – a veritable melting pot of different styles (yeah, he said styles – Ed) from the slide geetar country rock of ‘The Blackest Crow’ to the 70s hard rock of ‘Burn!’ to the old school HM of ‘Built For War’. So what happened to da thrash?! Well, if you can bring yourself to get over your initial shock then look closer at the epic ‘Dance In The Rain’ – which has gotta be one of the best Megadeth tracks I’ve heard in years in all Vic Rattlehead’s classic glory – or the piston pounding ‘Don’t Turn Your Back’, which again has classic ‘deth written all over it. It’s all still Megadeth and certainly identifiable from Mustaine’s drawl which has gotten deeper and darker, and there’s still heaps of sarcasm and cynicism plastered all over the 14 tracks here so even the keyboards on ‘Dance In The Rain’ do little to lighten it up ha ha! Additionally the technical musicianship is still up there as Mustaine does fine justice to a cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Cold Sweat’, but I guess if you’re not used to the idea of Megadeth actually doing covers then of course it’s gonna cause unease. And that’s it really, after nearly four decades of dishing out the thrash the fifty something Mustaine has tried to do something a little different – and once again courted controversy – so I’m up for giving the guy a break cos “Super Collider” is indeed a fine all around metal album.
With over 10 years under their belts, it’s hard to talk about melodic death metal and not mention this Michigan crew. Driven by relentless blast beat drum work, fast chopping riffs and the screech / guttural vocals of Trevor Strnad, “Everblack” continues the band’s six album career with no signs of any wimp outs or compromise! Since we last heard from ‘em there have been a coupla replacements in bassist Max Lavelle (formerly of Despised Icon and Goratory) and drummer Alan Cassidy (formerly of Abigail Williams) who have certainly added value especially in Lavelle’s dirty, growling bass lol! Brian Eschbach still brings out the most amazing melodies to add soothing splendor to the raging torrent of songs like ‘Phantom Limb Masturbation’, the Evil Dead inspired ‘Raped In Hatred by Vines of Thorn’ and opener ‘In Hell Is Where She Waits for Me’, which sees the band for the first time lyrically tackle their infamous namesake unsolved 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short (aka Black Dahlia) in vivid prose as it’s written from the point of view of her killer attending her funeral. “Everblack” sees The Black Dahlia Murder come of age in all aspects and in many ways even more blissful and brutal than they ever were!
Formed at the turn of the century when guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch were asked to leave Helloween following discussions about a side project, whereupon their destiny came into being – hence Masterplan! Driven principally by Grapow, the band has featured a variety of line-ups although always made up of high calibre veterans including Riot’s Mike DiMeo as well as their on again off again relationship with vocalist Jørn Lande, who was himself replaced in 2012 by Rick Altzi (At Vance, Herman Frank etc) and joined by drummer Martin Škaroupka (Cradle Of Filth) and ex-Stratovarius / Devil’s Train bassist Jari Kainulainen. Together, this solid line up embodies Grapow’s master plan to get the band touring a lot more and if anything, “Novum Initium” reflects this in its epic, melodic songs like ‘Keep Your Dream Alive’, ‘Pray On My Soul’ and ‘Return From Avalon’. Soaring vocals, powerful rhythms and most of all, heavenly guitar and keyboard melodies executed to perfection by superior musicianship are the order of the day here, yet graced with a catchy and in some cases singalong feel. Altzi’s vocals are not a million miles away from Jørn’s and if anything they are rockier, indicating once again Masterplan’s desire to get moving on the live front. With Grapow demonstrating his finger talents equally off the fretboard in mixing and mastering the album in his own studio in Slovakia, “Novum Initium” wipes the slate clean in favour of a new start.
Metal from ancient Persia! You really haveta admire people who struggle against the odds to follow their dreams: such is Sina, the creator behind the one man metal project known as From The Vastland. If that wasn’t enough then when I found out that he’s based in Teheran – that’s in IRAN by the way folks – then you gotta be wondering if he’s risking life and limb to do this?! Well, Sina’s been at it for the best part of 10 years and escaped so far to produce this amazing album, which took the best part of a year to achieve. Playing all instruments, singing, as well as handling all the technical aspects I’m astounded by how good “Kamarikan” came out and truly puts some bands in the free world to shame. From The Vastland is raw black metal from the mix of cat screeching and belching vocals to the evil fretboard warblings and of course, plenty of blast beats! Amidst all the furor Sina has sensibly chucked in melodies and slow Marduk-esque riffs that take songs like ‘The Ahriman Wizard’, ‘Vortex Of Empty Cosmos’ and ‘Night Sentinel’ to a very high standard indeed and up there with his international compatriots, enjoying the support of Thor Anders Myhren (Morbid Angel, Myrkskog, Zyklon), André Kvebek (Pantheon I) and Vegard Larsen (Keep of Kalessin) in delivering his live set at the Inferno Festival this year! Drawing heavily from Persian history, mythology and Zoroastrianism, Sina has wisely stayed away from the traditional anti religious stance normally associated with black metal, which may be why he has remained tolerated by the Iranian authorities. Given this I would have liked to have seen more of his country’s musical influence coming across in the music, which for the most part is typically western, but it’s a minor gripe given to have even gotten this far should be gratitude in itself.
This Austrian duo have been going since the mid 90s when this type of dark ambient or atmospheric black metal was being pioneered by the likes of Mortiis. Heavily keyboard driven, it sorta reminded me of some of the early programmed music on computer games back then, although it ultimately evolved into a style of its own that Summoning still purvey to this day – this being their 7th album – which coincidentally took 7 years to make! With a heavy Tolkien presence always inspiring both the band’s music and lyrics the overall atmosphere of songs like ‘The White Tower’, ‘Earthshine’ and ‘Of Pale White Morn’ is very earthy and based on folk sounds like horns and violins albeit ironically reproduced using synthesizers. Still, as with all solo / duo projects, Silenius and Protector focus their strength of composition into creating wonderfully epic songs that don’t rely on power as such, but a poignant blend of heavily reverbed sounds from black metal vocals to creatively programmed drum work also integrating guitars as well as those aforementioned traditional influences. Delicately mixed so that no one sound is overpowering, “Old Mornings Dawn” presents its multi faceted effects both majestically and in a style befitting Middle Earth!
Diamond Drive hail from Denmark and seem to take inspiration from their bigger brothers in Volbeat. Playing a fusion of aggro metal mixed in with powerful melodies, they have been growing steadily since their inception in 2007. Troels Pedersen’s vocals happily shift between screamo and soulful to the max whilst the rest of the band follow suit mixing brutal riffing with magnificent melodic warblings amidst a punchy aggro beat. It’s not unheard of, but Diamond Drive’s success comes from wrapping all of this in a catchy and commercially appealing package that has garnered them music awards, touring Europe several times and being invited to play the big summer festivals, where songs like ‘Soaking Wet Sun’, ‘Nineteen Eighty Fear’ and ‘Down The Drain’ seem engineered to perfection for! Now working with some of industries best, “Temporality” was produced by Jacob Bredahl (The Burning, The Kandidate, Koldborn), mastered by Tue Madsen ( The Haunted, Sick of It All, Mnemic), with cover artwork by Mircea Eftemie (Soilwork, Strapping Young Lad, Nevermore) and photos by Stefan Wessel (Rammstein, Chris Cornell, Timberland) – now that’s Formula One in my book.
BEYOND MORTAL DREAMS
This band I remember from a package that I was sent many years ago from Australia. If you browse the archive section of the site you might find a review of it.
“Ov Qliphoth And Darkness”
I get a doom vibe from the name alone. I have no idea how true it will turn out to be but based on what label it is that is releasing this we can at least expect it to be heavy.
“The Healing Powers Of Hate”
In many ways I miss never having had the chance to be a part of a band. But in as many ways I’m glad that I am not. I think I’d be a pain in the ass to work with seeing as opinionated I am.
This gotta be one of the better band names that I’ve come upon in a very long time. The band must have thought long and hard to come up with the name.
To me ECHOTIME is all the time. There is no specific part of the clock set aside for the echo. You just throw it out whenever you feel like it. Hopefully I’ll feel that same about ECHOTIME’s music.
For some reason, no matter what your religion is, the stories of the Bible seem to fit doom metal very well. There is something upheaval about many of the stories in the Bible.
I like the fact that so many different styles of metal co-exist alongside each other. I would really hate if I had to choose one of two styles and then stick to them for the rest of my life.
(Quality Steel Records)
I don’t know how correct melodic death metal is on the latest trendometer but to my ears a great metal album is always a great metal album no matter when it is released.
“Blood Moon Rise”
I gotta admit that I too was caught by the hype JEX THOTH drew upon themselves with their debut album. And the hype was well deserved. That album was a grand display of how to do things well.
“Paraiso Sin Fe”
It is often that I find myself staring at a record by a band that I have never heard a single note from before. And I love it. The chance of getting to know of new bands is the most fun part of doing this for Battle Helm.
“Immortal Daughter of Aesthetics”
I can with a clean heart and clear consciousness say that I have absolutely no idea what djent is and how it sounds. I can’t even tune a guitar correctly.