Label Roundup: Nuclear Blast Records – Northtale, Suffocation, & Hammerfall (Reviews)

Wonderbox Metal gets sent a lot of new music, (which is great), but there’s no way that everything can get covered unfortunately, (which is not so great). This new column hopes to redress this balance, if only slightly, by taking a look at a handful of releases that a record label has recently sent out that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.

Nuclear Blast is a record label that should need very little introduction, as the label has released so many classic albums over the decades. As such, lets just dive right in to some of their latest releases… Continue reading “Label Roundup: Nuclear Blast Records – Northtale, Suffocation, & Hammerfall (Reviews)”

Distant Sun – Into the Nebula (Review)

Distant SunThis is the second album from Distant Sun, a Russian power/thrash metal band.

2015’s Dark Matter was an enjoyable slab of metal, in which Distant Sun, (featuring members of Shadow Host and Starsoup), showed the world what they had to offer. Continue reading “Distant Sun – Into the Nebula (Review)”

Savage Wizdom – A New Beginning (Review)

Savage WizdomThis is the second album from US Power Metal band Savage Wizdom.

This is ambitious Heavy/Power Metal with long songs and an epic feel.

The band have an earthy sound that’s strong enough to showcase the band’s skill but gritty enough to lend the music an aggressive air.

The songs are a blend of Traditional Heavy Metal and European Power Metal influences. Think of a mixture of Iron Maiden, Dio and Gamma Ray.

The songs are catchy and memorable, with plenty of hooks to grab the attention.

Savage Wizdom make their music in a very accessible manner that’s easy to digest. It’s Metal that seems to roll out of the speakers in a very pleasing way, like honey being poured. It’s tasty and filling, yet leaves you wanting more.

The vocalist has a decent voice that has echoes of the singers of Iron Maiden and Queensrÿche, tempered with a more earthy edge, similar to the album as a whole. He has good range and can hit the high notes when needed. He knows his style inside out and gives a spirited performance.

The musicianship is well-played, with all instruments made the most of. Riffs, leads and solos are abundant and the rhythm section of drums and bass is a tight one.

The album could do with a little polish here and there, but this is largely a small issue as overall A New Beginning is a very enjoyable slab of Heavy Metal.


Unisonic – Light of Dawn (Review)

UnisonicUnisonic are from Germany and this is their second album. They play Power Metal.

Confident and mature Power Metal floods the speakers when you play this album. It’s the product of absolute veterans who know their genre and know their roles. Even more importantly, however, they also know how to write good songs.

This is the kind of Power Metal that’s distinctly European in flavour and is powered by upbeat drums and high vocals provided by Michael Kiske of Helloween/etc. fame, no less. Also featuring other past members of bands such as Helloween, Gamma Ray, Pink Cream 69 and Krokus; you can see the calibre of the people involved in this project.

The vocals, as would be expected, are typically professional and flawlessly delivered. The choruses soar. The musicianship, also as would be expected, is tight and proficient. The sound is professional and slick, and nothing is left to chance.

For the most part the songs are in the 5 minute mark, with each track feeling like an epic-in-miniature. These are rocking, catchy tunes with highly memorable sections and hooks aplenty. In their competent hands, even the dreaded “power ballads”, (BloodYou and I), are handled well.

This is an album of greater depth than some might credit it with; on first listen it’s obviously highly accomplished and very good, but the more you listen the more the melodies seep into your consciousness and the more you want to listen to it. It’s downright addictive! The vocals in particular are deceptive. Michael Kiske is known for his exceptional voice of course, and Light of Dawn is no different, but the impressive thing is that there’s no showboating or ostentation with his voice; his talent is born from simply being a great singer and having a voice that flows smoothly like the finest wine.

Light of Dawn is an exemplar of the European Power Metal style. There are no surprises here but if you’re a fan of European Power Metal then there’s a wealth of treasure contained in this album.

This is a band destined to do well.

SuddenFlames – Under The Sign Of The Alliance (Review)

SuddenflamesSuddenFlames are from Canada and play Power Metal. This is their second album.

Opening with an instantly catchy riff, I have high hopes for this release from the outset. My fear, as is always the case with this kind of band, is that they’ll ruin things by having a sub-standard singer. I’m pleased to report that this is not the case and SuddenFlames have a very, very good singer who has charisma and capability. Top stuff.

Bands like this live or die by the quality of the songs – judging by this standard SuddenFlames should have a very long life indeed.

The tracks are catchy, Metal and written to a high standard. Predominately of the Euro-Metal Power Metal style, they also have elements of Thrash, Heavy and even a bit of Progressive Metal incorporated into their sound. They don’t do things by halves; this album is the full Metal package.

Emotive and stirring, heroic and edgy; the band dip into all manner of feelings in their songs and the overall experience is of a fine collection of tracks that put to shame many of the more established names in the genre at the moment.

Double-bass leads the charge and melodic guitars duel and Thrash their way around the playing time. There are so many vocal hooks that you can do yourself an injury and the solos are free-flowing and played with fervour.

This reminds me of the kind of quality Power Metal that Angel Dust did so well, and I also hear a bit of Gamma Ray in there as well.

A sharp production and punchy sound seals the deal; this is one band who I’ll be enjoying for some time.

Canada seems to be unleashing a whole clump of talented Power/Progressive Metal bands on the world at the moment, and I love that they are as each one I hear is a pure joy. SuddenFlames are no exception.

Gamma Ray – Empire of the Undead (Review)

Gamma RayGermany’s Gamma Ray are somewhat of a Power Metal institution. This is the band’s 11th album and I must confess I’ve been looking forward to it.

As soon as I noticed that the first track Avalon was the rather epic length of 9:22 I was excited, and the song is exactly what I was hoping it would be. Epic, stirring and memorable in all of the right ways.

After more than two decades of creating quality Metal, it’s great to see that Gamma Ray are not wanting for ideas or passion. They still have the hunger and devotion to Metal that is not commonly present in bands who have been around for half this amount of time.

So what do we get then? State-of-the-art sound? Yes. Rousing anthems? Yes. Guitar wizardry and fretmanship? Yes. Catchy and memorable hooks and melodies? Yes. Sing-along choruses? Yes. Riffs to pound chests to? Yes. Keyboards that enhance but don’t overpower? Yes.

The band spend time emphasising their Speed Metal aspect on some of the tracks, with Hellbent in particular showing a Judas Priest influence. The next song Pale Rider has an almost AC/DC feel to it, albeit heavier and with a distinctly non-AC/DC chorus. Time for Deliverance is more in the power ballad territory, with even somewhat of a revival feeling to it in places.

These are good demonstrations of the fact that Gamma Ray may have a distinct style but within this they vary things and keep things interesting so that they’re not simply playing what is effectively the same song over and over again.

The best songs are the bookends of the album – Avalon and I Will Return. This doesn’t invalidate anything in the middle of course, as taken holistically this is a thoroughly enjoyable slab of Heavy Metal.

How many other bands are on their 11th album and still capable of shredding with the best of them? Not many.

Gamma Ray still have a lot to offer the world. Empire of the Undead is the latest, and a top listen at that.