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Old 10-08-2013, 12:02 PM   #1931 (permalink)
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I'm all out of tampax but I have some pads that you can use.

Sounds of a Playground Fading sounds right up my alley and I'll give it a listen today or tomorrow.
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Old 10-09-2013, 08:55 AM   #1932 (permalink)
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As mentioned, over the life of this journal I have reviewed quite a few metal albums, some of which would fit well into this celebration of all things heavy. In this section I'll be linking back to some reviews, sections and articles you may not have read, or even know exist. There's no point in me rewriting them, or copy-and-pasting them, but you can follow the links to read them if you wish. These are the earliest ones; for convenience's sake I'm doing this chronologically. More to come later.

Brave new world --- Iron Maiden

http://www.musicbanter.com/members-j...ml#post1049293

Tyranny and Room V --- Shadow Gallery


http://www.musicbanter.com/members-j...ml#post1051517

Rising --- Rainbow


http://www.musicbanter.com/members-j...ml#post1053427

Paradise in flames --- Axxis

http://www.musicbanter.com/members-j...ml#post1053869

Perfect balance --- Balance of Power

http://www.musicbanter.com/members-j...ml#post1054801

Thunder and lightning --- Thin Lizzy

http://www.musicbanter.com/members-j...ml#post1077103
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Old 10-09-2013, 09:03 AM   #1933 (permalink)
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Damnation --- Opeth --- 2003 (Koch)

Yes, I can hear it now: the mocking laughter as you all point and say "Look! He went for the least metal Opeth album! What a pansy!" Pansy I may be, but I've consistently been advised to check out Opeth and been put off by the death vocals. Here I'm told there are few if any, and the music leans far more towards the progressive metal side of things, so I'm hoping it may be a good choice for me. Sure, I could have chosen "Blackwater Park" or "Heritage", but I didn't, so sue me. The average settlement is ten thousand dollars.

Written at a time when his grandmother died in a car accident, the album is dark and doomy, the first and longest track more even progressive rock than metal, with soft guitar and a very clean vocal, mellotron coming in and even the percussion gentle. Nice Santanesque guitar solo from Peter Lindgren, and that mellotron apparently is played by none other than Porcupine Tree's Stevie Wilson. This could be very good indeed. I really like "Windowpane" and it's a great start to the album, though again I suspect ardent Metalheads and fans of the band will be fuming at my choice. Meh, as Jarvis Cocker once remarked, it had to start somewhere, so it started there.

Great keyboard work and some spooky effects from Wilson, Mikael Akerfeldt's voice very sombre and reserved, and some nice vocal harmonies in the song too. "In my time of need" is slow, brooding ballad with an almost robotic-like vocal in the verse, introspective guitar and some solid keyboard from the Porcupine Tree man. There's almost an acoustic backing to "Death whispered a lullaby", with a harder edge breaking through from time to time, pehaps showing echoes of Opeth's roots. An interesting kind of dual vocal then to "Closure", with a powerful and dramatic instrumental in the second minute, taking us right into a sudden stop, acoustic guitar and the resumption of the vocal, quiet and gentle. The guitar from Lindgren then goes all sort of eastern, bringing the song to its conclusion.

More soft acoustic guitar greets us as "Hope leaves" opens with a sort of metallic, mono vocal (not like the robotic one of "In my time of need"; that referred more to the phrasing, the way it was sung than the actual voice used), the settles down into another low-key, mid-paced song, while the way "To rid the disease" opens puts me in mind of Floyd's "Nobody home", and again the keyboards play a significant role in creating the soundscape here. There's quite an ominous sound to them, and then in about the third minute Lindgren kicks in with an emotional guitar solo that gives way to single piano from Wilson before the percussion joins in and full keyboard pushes its way to the fore.

A really nice, again quite Santana-influenced guitar instrumental before we end on "Weakness", a bleak, stark little tune seemingly driven on mellotron and guitar, very progressive as has been this whole album. Hardly anything to rock out to but a whole lot to listen to. Very impressed, and surprised.

TRACKLISTING

1. Windowpane
2. In my time of need
3. Death whispered a lullaby
4. Closure
5. Hope leaves
6. To rid the disease
7. Ending credits
8. Weakness

Yes, I know: this is not metal. Well, it is, Jim, but not as we know it. Opeth have for a long long time been associated in my mind with screaming vocals stopping me investigating what I had been told was really good progressive/death metal. Having heard this album, I'd say I'm well ready to go further, but I must bear in mind that most of the rest of their discography is probably unlikely to be like this. In fact, much of it may not be to my taste. I'll find out I guess when I start listening to their other albums.

Well at least I can say with certainty that I like one of Opeth's works, and who knows, maybe I'll enjoy some of their other album, though the chances are that for that to work it will more than likely be the more recent stuff, as it seems they only really started to soften their approach in the last decade or so. For all I know, they could have gone back to the style of their earlier albums.

Apologies then for this slight deviation off course on our journey through heavy metal and its many associated sub-genres. We hope you enjoyed it nevertheless, and without further ado we return you to your regular programming schedule.

Read more here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opeth
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Old 10-09-2013, 02:48 PM   #1934 (permalink)
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I'm not quite sure how to take Kreator. At least on the basis of this album they seem more almost doom metal than thrash; certainly few of their songs hit the kind of speed even Maiden practice, and I always thought (correct me if I'm wrong Batlord) that thrash metal was traditionally played as fast as possible?
Kreator have never been one of my favorite bands so I'm not familiar with a lot of their stuff and almost none of their nineties material, but I do know that they didn't really play thrash at that time in their career. I've heard "Phobia" off that album, so I'm guessing they were trying to follow Metallica and Megadeth. But back in the day they were as vicious a thrash band as has ever existed. This right here is pretty much what they were about...





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Seven churches --- Possessed --- 1985 (Relativity)


Normally a band with a name like Possessed would have me running in the opposite direction, but I'm reliably, I think, informed this band is not Black Metal but Death Metal. Oh joy! Thank Satan for small mercies, eh? But since I've already heard a few Death Metal records this can join them. It's also said to be one of the most influential on the genre, and the band are credited with, whether intentionally or not, coining the very phrase "death metal", perhaps in the same way that Venom unleashed the idea of "black metal" some years prior.

Another band that I can't say is my favorite, but I've had a burned copy of this for dogs years so I'm a lot more familiar with Possessed. Honestly I think they're more of a first wave black metal band than an honest-to-god death metal band. Obviously they're not black metal in the same way Darkthrone are black metal, but back in the eighties before the genre lines became solidified the line between thrash, black, and death metal could be very blurry. When I think of eighties black metal I think of the chaotic noisiness of bands like Hellhammer and Bathory and in my opinion Seven Churches has more in common with them than Death or Obituary. Of course those bands certainly have more in common with Hellhammer and Bathory than they do Cryptopsy or Suffocation, at least at first, but that's another story.
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Old 10-09-2013, 06:03 PM   #1935 (permalink)
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To the In Flames post:

Very good album. It was a good listen when I heard it for the first time. I've heard some of the songs live when I saw them at Mayhem, and they perform so well!

To the Opeth post:

Easily one of my favorite Opeth albums. If you want another one like it, check out Heritage.
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Old 10-10-2013, 05:18 AM   #1936 (permalink)
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Formed in Varese, Italy in 1997, Doomsword were a band born out of a project called 1014AD, which was a historical/classical music project based on the theme of epic battles, which more or less metamorphosed into the band Doomsword. Heavily influenced by US band Warlord, the members of Doomsword assumed titles, with Deathmaster and Guardian Angel being the founders, and after some strife with the original Guardian Angel leaving the band his replacement took the name Guardian Angel II. Nice.

Doomsword have released five albums to date, but this one caught my eye, dealing as it seems to with ancient Celtic legend, so let's give it a spin.

My name will live on --- Doomsword --- 2007 (Dragonheart)


You know, our own Music Banter crash-course on metal puts Doomsword in as Doom Metal, and with a name like that you'd surely not be surprised to find that were the case, but just now I don't see it. As the album opens there's a far clearer, faster, more power-metal almost feel to the music as compared to the slow, plodding, often dragging element I have so far heard in DM. But whatever the sub-genre the music is good, with "Death of Ferdia" kicking off the album in fine style. Now I know my Irish legends, and Ferdia was the brother of Cuchullain, the Ulster hero who defended the North against the red queen Maedbh and who is immortalised in the Irish legend "Tain Bo Chulainge" (Cuchulainn is pronounced "koo-kull-in" and the book is pronounced "tawn bo kul-inga", for those who want to know). Ferdia fought for the South and faced his brother, being killed by him.

This track rocks along on a fine bouncing epic metal theme, not quite power metal but maybe like a slower Manowar, with some punching guitars and a fine vocal from this Deathmaster fellow. Cuchulainn's lament at the death of his brother is heartfelt: "Fate wanted us to live as brothers/And die as foes /Woe unto Éireann, /For the greatest of warriors has fallen!" Somehow Deathmaster manages to sound like he has an Irish accent, which is quite a feat given that he's Italian. He also delivers a nice little acoustic lament at the end of the song, attended by a fading chorus of sadness for the fallen warrior. A nice epic start to the album, and it continues with "Gergovia", in which Deathmaster again displays his prowess on the acoustic guitar.

Then with the sound of thunderous hooves approaching electric guitar cuts in as Sacred heart lets fly with a dark, heavy riff before kicking it up a notch as the song strays a little into Maiden territory, just a bit. Nice marching drumbeat from Wrathlord and some fine solos from Sacred Heart go together to create a really powerful song, this time apparently based around a recounting of a battle against the Roman legions by Vercingetorix, the Gaul warrior chieftain, in which hundreds of Romans were killed and the legion driven back. With a big Thin Lizzy style guitar opening, "Days of high adventure" delivers what it promises, a riproaring tune that rocks along like nobody's business, although it mixes metaphors of very different legends. All great fun.

And therein lies the fundamental dichotomy behind Doomsword. If they're to be considered Doom Metal, well there's very little doomy about them. There's no dark brooding, no depressing lyrics, no grinding guitars or slowly pounding drums; this is all about energy, perhaps not the energy of power metal but certainly a sort of energy. Maybe it's the epic nature of their music that pushes Doomsword into the Doom Metal category, but if so then it's a tenuous link at best. "Steel of my axe" would be at home on a Virgin Steele or Hammerfall album, and rockets along like no doom metal song I've heard, the likes of Sabbath's "Children of the grave" excepted. Probably the fastest song on the album so far --- what am I saying, probably? Definitely.

"Claidheamh solais" (claw-iv sull-is) slows it down again but the track still crunches along faster than any doom metal song I've heard up to now. Another powerful vocal allied to a twin guitar attack that again hits Lizzy grooves along the way, also reminding me of a slower "Only the good die young". More in the Metallica or even early Sabbath vein is "Thundercult" (let's not have any unfortunate misspellings now, shall we?) , a much slower song and almost in the Doom Metal arena here, and perhaps weirdly comes across to me as the most boring and unadventurous, almost as if Doomsword think they should be doing a doom metal song, (yeah: I don't know if it's meant to be capatilised or not so I keep swinging from one to the other as the fancy takes me) rather than doing a song they like.

Big vocal chorus in very much a celtic mode to "Luni" and it's another slow grinder, though once the guitars get going it sort of hits into almost an Irish trad reel type of thing. Odd, but fun. Pretty clear from the lyric this is a song about Vikings --- "Let me avenge my fathers/ By holding this priest's head/ Go forth now my warriors/ And burn this town to the ground./ May I die in Odin's name/ The monks shall be tortured and slain." No great thought put into this song I'm afraid, again a bit doom Metal (hah!) by the numbers. Bit disappointing really. "Once glorious" is much better, starting off on a nice slow acoustic guitar run, which after a minute gets electrified as we power into what is in fact the longest song on the album, just short of eight and a half minutes.

It re-establishes the faster pace that characterised the first part of the album and pushes any Doom metal influences, as I understand them, to the background and out of sight as Doomsword go heads-down power/Viking metal on one of the better tracks on the album. "The great horn" (ooerr!) then closes the album in powerful and dramatic style, with an imagining of some sort of last great battle where all the warriors from history come back to fight, presumably against evil. Some great solos here and Deathmaster is on top form vocally. Very entertaining and a good closer, with some real old-school metal elements in it.

TRACKLISTING

1. Death of Ferdia
2. Gergovia
3. Days of high adventure
4. Steel of my axe
5. Claidheamh solais
6. Thundercult
7. Luni
8. Once glorious
9. The Great Horn

Having listened to this album through I would stick to my original contention that I do not consider this doom MeTaL (OK, I'll stop messing now!), if what I've heard up to now can be described as that sub-genre. Doomsword, to me, at least on this album, bear little if any resemblance to Solstice, Candlemass or even Sabbath. They're far more in the power, even prog metal bracket to these ears.

That said, this is a decent album and while I wouldn't go mad looking for the rest of their material, I wouldn't be averse to hearing more. I like their themes, and even if the idea of using character names is a little cliched and silly, they certainly deliver a good product here.

Read more here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doomsword
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Old 10-10-2013, 05:31 AM   #1937 (permalink)
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Monotheist --- Celtic Frost --- 2006 (Century Media)

The final album by a band whose fans believed had sold out on their "Cold lake" album of 1996, came back strongly with Vanity/Nemesis and then broke up but reformed in 2006 to produce just the one album, which they claim is the last they will record and release.

There's a squealing guitar and a big dirty sound to launch us into "Progeny", with a growled but understandable vocal from Thomas "Warrior" Fischer, pounding drumbeat from Franco Sesa and a grindy bass from Martin Eric Ain. Actually, it could be Ain singing, as Fischer is credited as "voice" whereas Ain is shown as "lead (and backing) vocals". Hmm. Very doom metal I would say at this point. Slow but crunching, almost suffocating at times. "Ground" continues the big heavy guitar sound, another slow, crushing track with a very angry vocal which basically runs along the lines of "Oh God! Why have you forsaken me?"

A slow morose bassline then as "A dying god coming into human flesh" changes everything around, almost ambient in its way, dark and melancholic with a very low-key vocal. Some heavy guitar breaks through then and the vocal becomes a screaming growl as the song gets harder and heavier, though no faster. Xandria's Lisa Middlehauve then takes guest vocals for "Drowning in ashes", another downbeat, slow, restrained piece with a dark but clear vocal from either Ain or Fischer on the verses. Middlehauve sounds like an angel trapped in Hell, her clear soft voice rising against the Cave-like growl of I think I have to say it's probably Fischer, though it was Ain on the previous track.

Much of this track is driven by Sesa on the drumstool, and he directs it very well. Guitar from Fischer screeches and rages almost in the background but forms a great backdrop for the two vocalists to perform against. There's supposedly a heavy influence on this album from the work of Aleister Crowley, and "Os abysmi vel daath" is the title of one of his books, another slow grinder with a snarly vocal and equally snarly guitars. Very Black Sabbath, this one. In the fourth minute there's a sound like the earth cracking and dark tortured voices issue forth as if from out of the mouth of Hades itself, Fischer's guitar adding to the cacaphony, then from nowhere the vocal punches back in. Effective, if a little knickers-shittingly-sudden!

"Obscured" is one of the longer tracks, just hitting over the seven minute mark --- though by no means the longest --- and opens on feedback guitar and military drums before the bass kicks in from Ain and a laconic, lazy vocal which is joined by Simone Vollenweider as power chords from the guitar crash over the melody. Here the singing (the male vocal) reminds me more of Andrew Eldritch from Sisters of Mercy, very ominous and dark. There's very much a sense of gothic opera to this song; I'm almost surprised not to hear cello or some sort of orchestral instruments added in here. Great dark atmospherics here, and the double vocal works really well.

A seriously grinding guitar then opens "Domain of decay", which then speeds up for about the first time on the album and sounds a little more thrash than doom, though it then kind of slows back down for the vocal, back up for the guitar riff, down for the vocal, and so on. By the midway point it's kind of settled in to a slow to mid-paced tempo with a serious solo right at the end. The tempo seems to be on the rise though, and "Ain Elohim" rocks along faster than anything Celtic Frost have done on this album so far. Hmm. Considering that "elohim" is a word for god, can it be said that Martin Ain has something of a divinity complex? This track isn't long about slowing down into the familiar grind though, and the angry, gutteral vocal that these guys utilise is just the right balance for me: tough and snarly but not so much that you can't understand the words being sung. If more "extreme metal" bands sang this way I think I might listen to them more. Oh well. I'm sure they're all just crying into their bank balances.

The album then ends on a three-part, three-track epic called "Triptych". "Triptych I: Totengott" is darkly ominous with deep bass and growling guitar (you would expect keyboards but no) and a scary-sounding screeching voice more or less speaking the vocal, getting more agitated, evil and incomprehensible as it goes on, trailing off in a malevolent laugh as the music takes over. Slow, doomy drumming and scratchy, keening guitar carry the rest of the tune until the voice comes back in with another horrible screech, as if of a creature in pain, or one of pure evil. I wouldn't play this loud late at night I can tell you!

As the voice and music fade out "Triptych II: Synagoga Satanae" (who needs that translated?) opens on a big feedback guitar, and is by far the longest not only of the parts, but of the tracks, clocking in at a massive fourteen and a half minutes. The first two minutes are basically a buildup on the guitar, which then kicks in properly and takes the melody in a slow, dark, doomy rhythm until vocals come in, dark and grindy but nothing as unintelligible as in "Triptych I". About halfway through there's a dark spoken vocal, almost whispered, which is apparently Satyr from Satyricon. I'd have to say fourteen minutes of this is a little hard to take, as there's no real changes in the melody, which is not to say it stays the same all the way but there are not that many sections, as it were, so it seems to just drag on. To me. I guess if this was to be their final album they wanted to go out with a bang, but this just seems stretched beyond the breaking point.

The closer, and third and final part of the trilogy, "Triptych III: Winter (Requiem, Chapter III: Finale") is an instrumental, sounding like it's on violin but I don't see any credited so will assume it's just guitar. Hardly any percussion and a rising, very dramatic and almost classical keening guitar which sounds just like a synth --- maybe it is, and not credited? --- and provides a really classy end to the album.

TRACKLISTING

1. Progeny
2. Ground
3. A dying god coming into human flesh
4. Drown in ashes
5. Os abysmi vel daath
6. Obscured
7. Domain of decay
8. Ain elohim
9. Triptych I: Totengott
10. Triptych II: Synagoga Satanae
11. Triptych III: Winter (Chapter three: Finale)

Definitely at the more epic, gothic end of the spectrum, at least as far as this album is concerned, this is music I could listen to but not necessarily an album I would choose to experience. The musicianship is first rate and the vocals are generally very capable, and there is additionally a sort of sense of dark gothic fantasy running through "Monotheist", parts of which could work very well as a movie or even videogame soundtrack.

No doubt this is not how they always sounded and if I were to dig into previous albums I'd find a totally different band, but as a swansong this album is pretty damn cohesive and I suppose having had basically fourteen years to plan and write it it was going to have to. If the fans were upset about the guys selling out with "Cold lake", then they should be reassured that the glam metal tag that offended them on that album has been well and truly laid to rest on this, and if you need a headstone to mark the grave of Celtic Frost, you would go far to do better than this.

Read more here Celtic Frost - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 10-10-2013, 12:27 PM   #1938 (permalink)
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What the ---? All I can assume is that the Metal Gods are either extremely pleased with me for running Metal Month (unlikely; I doubt they're readers) or are distracted by something, because the VERY FIRST random band I select this week turns out to be not only a power metal one, but one that has a discography! Now, hold on: I'm a little confused. It says they're unsigned .... oh wait: independent too. All right, so they released all their own material. That's allowed. Who are they? Oh yeah...

meet "Between the Lines". No, not the most metal of names, and not a name you'd associate with this sort of music if you heard it out of context, but as one of the other sections in my journal asks, what's in a name? Originally conceived as Burning Pyre (MUCH more metal!) they were formed in 1994, but seem to have only released two demos under that name before being resurrected in 1996 as Between the Lines, or BTL. Under this name they released their debut album, but according to their bio they were "brought back to life" in 2003, so I guess we can assume "Step high", released in 1998, did not exactly set the world alight.

Now, we come to something of a recurring problem. With the band being unsigned there is nothing on Spotify or Grooveshark for them, and YouTube comes up empty. Even my attempt to buy an album from my usual vendor is thwarted, so I suppose it's time to move on. These guys were German, by the way. But if there's no music to listen to then we can't feature them. So for I guess the third time it's a no-show for BTL!

Perhaps the Metal Gods weren't so blind after all. They will have their little joke, won't they?
Yes they will.
Next up is

who are, like our delightful thrashers of last week, Violator, from Brazil, but they too are unsigned. So, can we find any music from them out there on t'web? Let's see: Spotify? No. Grooveshark? No - oh wait a sec! No albums, no, but they seem like they might have two tracks, which is better than nothing. Let's just check YouChoob... yeah I think I see one or two. All right then, let's do this thing!

Band name: Iron Woods
Nationality: Brazilian
Subgenre: Pagan/Black Metal
Born: 2001
Status: Active
Albums: Ancient faith (2004) Journey to the paganism (2008)
Live albums: None
Collections/Boxed Sets/Anthologies: None
Lineup: Holykran (Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Flute (flute??)
Hammer (Bass)
Guerriera Nox (Drums)
(Again, I can't get too much information and their own website is in Portugeuse, and from what I can gather seems more interested in explaining what their band name means than anything about the members other than macho pictures of them standing looking menacing with axes and swords, so I guess with three members chances are they all founded the band. Maybe.)

Describing their music, apparently, as "Pagan Battle Metal", there's not much else I can tell you about these guys, due to the language barrier, but they do have two albums so let's have a listen to what we can. Incidentally, wouldn't you think a guy who chooses Hammer as his pseduonym would be a drummer??

OK hold on just a minute: there is rather a lot of YT about them, so I wonder if I can cobble together a full album? Hmm. Let's see. Okay then. All except one track. That'll do. Pity it's the title but hey ho, there ya go!

The journey to the paganism --- Iron Woods --- 2008 (Self-released)

Well, leaving aside the fact that the title doesn't make proper sense --- these guys are Brazilian after all --- the album opens on "Battle glory", with the sound of wind, horses' hooves and a dark chant of some sort, with moody synthesiser in the background low but beginning to swell. Then the vocal literally screams at you and the guitars and percussion kick in, taking us on a heavy ride into what would probably be better termed Viking Metal. Can't make out the lyrics at all, another vocalist who uses death metal techniques, but I had a clue from the "black metal" tag. Oh well. The guitars riff well and set up a very decent melody, unlike our friends Violator from the previous session. Oh wait, about halfway through the vocal gets much more distinct, dropping down several octaves. Whether it's our pal Holykran or not I don't know but I really prefer that vocal. Doesn't last of course.

Ah wait a minute! This song is over ten minutes long! Oh dear. What about the other tracks? Well mostly they're pretty long, with another one clocking in at eleven minutes, though I suppose I should thank my lucky stars because there is a TWENTY-SIX-MINUTE one, but it's the title, which I haven't been able to find, possibly because it overruns the time limit for YouTube. Saved by the rules! Decent dark keyboard line coming in here now, really adds something to the song as it slides into an instrumental section with some muttered spoken words. If you didn't get it from the sound of crows cawing at the start of the next track, it's "Twilight of the ravens", with a heavy pounding guitar and more unintelligible vocals. Ah but soon the more understandable vocal takes over and the song improves for a short while.

"Samhain night" (pronounced "sow-un") is up next, and starts with , of all things, an acoustic guitar intro and my preferred vocal with some soft lush keyboard work from Holykran, then it kicks up in tempo and he screams his way through the track, though the other vocal is still singing too. Birdsong, droning synth and, er, flute open "Amantikir", with some choral vocals on the keys. Yeah well I'm not fooled guys. Even though the synth is now rising into a higher octave, I'm just waiting for the blastbeats from the drums and the punching guitars and there they are. No surprise at this point. Nice opening though. At least the "good" vocal is carrying this and it's very listenable, trundling along at a reasonable pace, and in about the fifth minute of the seven that it runs for it falls away to single acoustic guitar, more birdsong and surely that flute is coming back in? Um, no. Back into hard guitar riffs and galloping drums. Still, at least "Mister Screamy" didn't make an appearance. Favourite track so far.

Next up is "Hail beer" (can't argue with that) with acoustic guitar and a deep, almost Nick Cavesque vocal, then fast screaming guitar and hammering drums as the song takes off with a sort of beer chant --- this must go down great at gigs. Great fun. "Sons of mother Earth" has more birdsong and flute --- not sure if these guys are serious or if this is meant to be a pisstake but that guy sure can play the flute --- low humming keyboards and soft percussion till the guitar breaks in and the keyboard goes into a kind of organ sound, the beat a slow march, powerful and dramatic. Then it picks up in tempo and again we have the "good" vocal, which I wish they'd just leave as the main vocal. So much easier on the ear.

Now it's slowed down and the flute is back, soon joined by a much slower, grindier guitar and ponderous drumming, increasing in tempo a little until it all comes together nicely for a decent conclusion, the flute still in the mix there. As I say, the title track is next and it's the epic, but I can't find it anywhere so I can't feature it here. There, as they say, endeth the album.

TRACKLISTING

1. Battle glory
2. The twilight of the ravens
3. Samhain night
4. Amantikir
5. Hail beer
6. Sons of mother Earth
7. Journey to the paganism

Once you get past, or preferably, as in the last few tracks, exclude, the screaming hoarse vocal of Holykran, this band are pretty damn fine. Their music is certainly a mix between mid-to-fast Viking Metal and some sort of new-age metal, if such a thing exists. The use of flute and keyboards, and the taped birdsong in some of the tracks is quite innovative and lends to the idea of a paganist, naturalist sort of band who just happen to rock like anything. I'm not that sure I'd listen to their other album without a good reason, but I certainly didn't hate this.

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Old 10-11-2013, 05:12 AM   #1939 (permalink)
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All right then. We've looked at Doom Metal. We've listened to Death Metal. We've had a peek at Thrash Metal and we've even ventured into the murky, scary, noisy world of Black Metal. There is of course plenty still to come, but right now I want to feature the kind of metal I generally like, Power and Progressive. So coming bang up to date with one of the big names in the field of the former, here's the very latest from Finland's finest.

Nemesis --- Stratovarius --- 2013 (Edel)

One of the leading power metal bands in the Finnish scene, and acknowledged as one of the greats in the world, Stratovarius have been around since 1989 and have released a slew of albums during that time, making them synonymous with the power metal and symphonic metal genres.

A big guitar chord and rippling keyboards with choral vocals kick us off as "Abandon" opens proceedings, and the familiar hard and heavy rhythms we associate with this band are there in abundance. Great backing vocals really up the dramatic stakes and like most Stratovarius songs this one has a great hook to drag you in. Superb keyboard solo as even from Jens Johansson, matched by burning fretwork from Matias Kupiainen and it's a great start, matched easily by "Unbreakable", which is the first single released from the album. Beautiful lonely little piano line and synth backing is quickly joined by hard guitar and the tempo ramps right up. Easy to see why this was chosen to lead in the album: extremely catchy without being poppy, rockets along but still very airplay friendly and with a hook that lodges in your head and just won't let go.

Singer Timo Kopipelto has just the right shade of an accent in his voice, not annoying but not sounding too Americanised either, and it's certainly a powerful voice. "Stand my ground" is the fastest track so far, with a touch of industrial thrown in there, just a smidgeon, the vocal sort of mechanised in parts. Again it's a winner of a chorus as Timo sings "No-one can bring me down/ I will defend my beliefs" then a fast and dramatic progressive-style piece in "Halcyon days", with Johnasson excelling himself on the keys. Each track just seems better than the last, and this certainly continues that trend. So many hooks in this album I had better be careful not to snag anything!

Strange little industrial sounds on the synth again, dark voices and then choral vocals as the song hammers to its conclusion, taking us into "Fantasy" with a big keyboard intro and punching guitars but somehow with a sense of electonic pop about it in the keyboard riffs. Could be another single. This album is just jam-packed with great tracks. The stately, majestic, anthemic "Castles in the air" has power and pomp, opening with a deceptively laidback neoclassical piano line, and should go down well onstage, while there's more almost electropop synth in "Dragons", though with plenty of hard rock guitar from Matias to keep it firmly in metal territory.

A slow rock cruncher then in "One must fall", again very anthemic with dark synth and grinding guitar, and a very nice bluesy end section with slow guitar and warbling keyboard, again very progressive in feel. Finishing on a big chorus and sharp guitar it leads into the only real ballad on the album, "If the story is over". Opening on soft acoustic guitar and fluty keyboard it has a gentle vocal from Timo and is a perfect power metal ballad. Orchestral synth swells in the background while choral vocals add in to the mix, and a stronger, more passionate vocal takes the song as it reaches its climax. Definitely see this featuring in "Velvet Fist" at some point.

The title track is the closer, and it does not disappoint, delivering a final wake-up slap upside the head in case you were falling gently to sleep after the last track. A big bubbly excited keyboard intro, choral vocals and hammering guitar rock along at a great pace for nearly a minute before Timo comes in with the vocal, strong and powerful. To be honest, I would have preferred this track to be at the opening of the album, as it's a little unsettling to have such a rocker after a ballad which I think should really have closed it. Nevertheless it's a great song and certainly ensures you'll be singing the title cut as you switch off the computer, pack the album away, or shut down your ipod.

TRACKLISTING

1. Abandon
2. Unbreakable
3. Stand my ground
4. Halcyon days
5. Fantasy
6. Out of the fog
7. Castles in the air
8. Dragons
9. One must fall
10. If the story is over
11. Nemesis

Although it's only been two years since their last album, it seems like ages since we heard from Stratovarius. In their absence there have been pretenders to the throne, but now they're back in a big way. Another triumphant album full of songs you can sing, pump your fist to, shake your head to. So move over, Sonata Arctica, Wintersun and Nightwish, and make way, cos the boys are back in town, and they never sounded better!


Read more here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratovarius
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Old 10-11-2013, 05:21 AM   #1940 (permalink)
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All is one --- Orphaned Land --- 2013 (Century Media)

Known for fusing the music of their native Israel with progressive, death and doom metal, Orphaned Land are one of the best known metal bands in that country, and their efforts to help bring about a peaceful solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict has led to calls for them to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. At the time of writing, this has not yet happened, nor really is it likely to. But it shows the deep committment and passion the band have not only to peace as an end, but to ridding their homeland of hatreds and prejudices that have hung over the Middle East for almost seventy years now. I really like the cover, with its melding of three religious symbols: the Star of David, the Turkish crescent and of course the Cross. Says so much with one image, and really brings the idea of the title of the album to life.

There's no mistaking the arabic influences on the opener, and title track, and there's a real progressive metal punch to it as it rocks along with hard guitar and keyboards along with some other instruments I can't name but are probably ethnic to the region. Great vocal choir adds a sense of drama and triumph to the song, and the singer, Kobi Farhi has a nice clear voice. I think it's bouzouki, or oud maybe that opens "The simple man", a slower, more restrained piece with chugging guitar and measured, military drumming. Then it hits its groove and it's very arabic indeed. I believe Orphaned Land use belly dancers on stage, and I can see one gyrating to this certainly.

The first ballad is also I think the B-side of their current single; "Brother" sways along nicely with a sort of orchestrated feel, while "Let the truce be known" is also slow but more of an anthemic feel to this, with eastern keyboard touches and riffs, a lot of power and drama and a sense of building frustration I would think too. "Through fire and water" has some very ethnic instrument opening it, maybe oud or saz, or even chumbush, if I had any idea what any of those are! Well, I know an oud is a sort of lute-like guitar, and saz? Another guitar/lute thing. Chumbush I don't know. But there are great female vocals and some orchestration with what sound like Israeli lyric making this one of the standouts on the album so far.

A hurried, angry spoken vocal to "Fail" over harsh guitar and a rising sense of tension, with for the first time growled vocals and I have to say they don't grate; they actually fit with the overall atmosphere of this song. I don't mind them because I know the singer can and does sing, so on this occasion, though I probably would have preferred not to have any, I can overlook death growls. Excellent work on the guitar from Chen Balbus or Yossi Sassi, can't say which as they're both axemen in addition to Balbus playing the piano and, er, xylophone! Sort of Iron Maiden feel to the guitar here, and of course a very arabic sound.

I must say I'm really enjoying this album, a lot more than I thought I would, though I had a feeling I would like it. I'm listening to it on Spotify for this review but I intend to buy it for myself. Next up is an instrumental, the only one on the album, and it's a mixture of guitar, oud and saz from what I can hear, called "Freedom". Impressive. The next two tracks are in either Arabic or Israeli, don't ask me which, but it's definitely a language with a lot of squiggly lines and dots! "Shama'im" is a slow traditional-sounding song, not too much of the metal about this: almost puts me in mind of Eurovision songs, though it's not that bad! Great effort again from the choir, and if I could speak whatever this language is I could tell you what it's about, but I can't so I can't.

There's certainly a metal influence in the second one though. "Ya benaye" is driven on hard guitar and with a kind of crooning, chanting vocal from Farhi. "Our own messiah" then takes us back into English, with a snarly, gutteral vocal for a few seconds before it settles down in a hard rock grinder with some really nice vocal harmonies and keys. We end on "Children", the longest track at just over seven minutes and with a really nice lush keyboard introduction, very classical sounding which then explodes with both hard guitar and what sounds like violin but I think may be synth, stomping drumming and a great vocal. Excellent buildup near the end with a choir and vocal harmonies then a superb guitar solo and the whole effect is really of something coming to a triumphant close, which is definitely how I see this album.

TRACKLISTING

1. All is one
2. The simple man
3. Brother
4. Let the truce be known
5. Through fire and water
6. Fail
7. Freedom
8. Shama'im
9. Ya Benaye
10. Our own messiah
11. Children

Like many of the bands reviewed here this month, this is my first taste of Orphaned Land. They've immediately impressed me, both with their humanity and dedication to peace, and with their musical talent. I have a feeling I will be ordering some if not all of their albums before long. Israel is not usually a country you look to when discussing heavy metal: the Middle East is generally religiously and politically predisposed against such music, from what little I know of the region, viewing it both as "the devil's music" and being of "western influences". But if those who put the music down would only stop and listen to the lyrics, they might manage to see beyond their own blind prejudices and preconceptions, and realise that in a wounded, orphaned land, music can be the healing agent.

You know, in the end, it may not be presidents or the United Nations or even Bono who brings peace to the Middle East. If they could only get all these guys to strap on strats and jam together, well, you know, music is the universal language, and sometimes it can just about make miracles happen.

Read more here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orphaned_Land
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