Victorius – “The Awakening”

Victorius – “The Awakening” (Sonic Attack / SPV)

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! Continue reading

Larceny – “My Fall”

Larceny – “My Fall” (SAOL)

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. Continue reading

Oliva – “Raise The Curtain”

Oliva – “Raise The Curtain” (AFM Records)

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. Continue reading

Edenbridge – “The Bonding”

Edenbridge – “The Bonding” (Steamhammer / SPV)

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. Continue reading

Dagoba – “Post Mortem Nihil Est”

Dagoba – “Post Mortem Nihil Est” (earMusic)

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. Continue reading

Scorpion Child – “Scorpion Child”

Scorpion Child – “Scorpion Child” (Nuclear Blast)

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? Continue reading

Arrayan Path – “IV: Stigmata”

Arrayan Path – “IV: Stigmata” (Pitch Black Records)

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! Continue reading

Payload – “Odyssey Dawn”

Payload – “Odyssey Dawn” (Shadow Records)

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! Continue reading

Megadeth – “Super Collider”

Megadeth – “Super Collider” (Tradecraft / Universal)

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. Continue reading

The Black Dahlia Murder – “Everblack”

The Black Dahlia Murder – “Everblack” (Metal Blade Records)

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! Continue reading