Seven Sisters – The Cauldron and the Cross (Review)

Seven SistersSeven Sisters are a heavy metal band from the UK and this is their second album.

They say you should never judge a record by its cover, (do they say that?), but it was the album cover of The Cauldron and the Cross that made me want to listen to it more than anything else. Continue reading

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Ruins of Elysium – Seeds of Chaos and Serenity (Review)

Ruins of ElysiumRuins of Elysium are an international symphonic metal band and this is their debut album.

The music on this release is bold, bombastic, and grand, with many different feelings and emotions explored; all of them epic, over-the-top, and quite infectious. It’s an ambitious release that hits more than it misses.

If you think of the comprehensive and Continue reading

Lost Opera – Hidden Sides (Review)

Lost OperaThis is the second album by French symphonic metal band Lost Opera.

Lost Opera are a symphonic metal band specialising in a modern take on the genre, heavily accentuated with orchestral keyboards and with a side-order of extremity. This manifests via heavier-than-average guitars, (for this kind of thing), and the Continue reading

Epica – The Holographic Principle (Review)

EpicaEpica are a symphonic metal band from the Netherlands and this is their eighth album.

Epica are famous for their epic, (ahem), symphonic sound, all larger-than-life melodies, ostentatious orchestration and luscious, enticing vocals. And it works. They’ve made a career out of it and currently sit as one of the biggest bands in the style. Continue reading

Elyria – Reflection and Refraction (Review)

ElyriaElyria are a symphonic metal band from Germany. This is their début album.

With a Classically-trained female vocalist in the ranks, you already know that her singing is going to be first-rate. With her Classical training it’s clear from the off that she really knows what she’s doing. How well this works for you depends on your take on the style and how you feel about these kinds of vocals.

There are some really nice vocal melodies strewn about these tracks, reminding me sometimes of older Kamelot in their delivery, and her voice is very enjoyable.

The music is largely of the Gothic/symphonic variety, but interestingly Elyria spice Continue reading

Last Frontier – Theta Healing (Through the Poison) (Review)

Last FrontierThis is the second album from Italian Heavy Metallers Last Frontier.

This is Atmospheric Heavy Metal with keyboards and a modern delivery that still pays homage to the classic style. There are elements of Power Metal here, although Heavy Metal is the main genre out of the two.

The songs are enjoyable Metal anthems that pass the 51 minutes quite pleasantly. They’re easily absorbed and digested and don’t cause bloating.

Ever-present keyboards accompany the tracks, but tend to enhance rather than annoy. The modern sheen of the riffs and the delivery in general is well-judged so that the band come across as polished, but not overly so.

The singer has a decent voice that effortlessly carries itself well. To my ears he comes across as a curious mix of the singers of Queensrÿche and Kamelot. With some good melodies it’s clear he can carry a tune well.

I enjoyed this. Give them a listen and see what you think.

Esotherisst – Voyage (Review)

EsotherisstEsotherisst are a Progressive Metal band from Poland. This is their début release.

Esotherisst’s Progressive Metal is polished and has a modern sound and production.

You Have Never is the first song. It’s the shortest of the three and it has a kind of Threshold-style, although this is mainly in the music rather than the vocals. The guitars are rhythmic and solid, with the leads and melodies used to add colour to this strong base. The singer has a good voice; it’s relatively low in the mix and used in an understated way throughout.

The second song is How to Fly and this is the longest track here at 6 minutes in length. This has more of an epic feel than the first one, with stronger keyboard backing and reminds me of Kamelot in some ways, although a more restrained, Progressive version and still tinged with a Threshold feel. Frenetic guitars and hyperactive keyboards are the centrepieces of this track and really drive home the Progressive tendencies of the band, like the 70s have been dragged into the modern day. This is bookended by lighter, more relaxed sections where the singer really comes into his own.

The final song is In Winter’s Arms. This continues the feel of the second track with an epic introduction and then a lighter verse, (although without the extended Progressive workout in the middle that the second song boasted). This is a theme developed throughout the 5 minutes playing time, ending on a softer note to finish.

The weakest link for me in this is the singer, although that sounds worse than it is. It’s not that he has a bad voice, quite the contrary in fact; I just feel he is slightly lacking in confidence and needs to develop a little more presence and force in his delivery. This is not insurmountable though and he has the necessary attributes for success, they just need to be brought to the fore a bit more. This is only a minor quibble though, and might actually be less about the singer himself and more due to the recording – the music has such a strong production that he can sometimes sound overshadowed.

Overall, Esotherisst have impressed me with this release. With a few tweaks to the songwriting and vocal delivery their début album should be an extremely strong release if this is any indicator.

Give them a listen.

Kouzin Bedlam – Longing for the Incomplete (Review)

Kouzin BedlamKouzin Bedlam are a Finnish Heavy Metal band and this is their début album.

This is expressive Heavy Metal that’s enhanced with keyboards as well as some Progressive Metal and Power Metal streaks.

Their sound is a very enticing one that mixes elements of bands like Queensrÿche, Iron Maiden, Kamelot and Queen. It’s very listenable and has instant character and appeal.

Longing for the Incomplete is a very strong collection of songs. The band know how to play and everything comes off silky smooth and ultra-polished, but with the important accolade of not losing the band any of their life or colour.

The music is textured, rich and involving. There are lots of hooks and bucketloads of catchiness. The songs have memorable melodies and tunes as well as many interesting ideas and a great deal of variety.

All in all these songs are ridiculously good! In some ways it’s hard to believe that this is a just a début album as the level of songwriting here is stellar.

The singer has a great voice that’s capable of dealing with anything that’s required of it. Pretty much any style is within his range and his performance on this album is staggeringly good.

When this style of Metal is done well it takes me back to when I was getting into music for the first time and everything seemed so exciting and new. Kouzin Bedlam fill me with the same kind of feeling; not so much because of nostalgia, but just because of how damn good this is!

This puts me in mind of Trinity Road by All Seeing Eyes; Kouzin Bedlam don’t particularly sound like All Seeing Eyes, but the comparison is apt as both bands have recently released a pure blinder of an album. Had I listened to this album earlier then it definitely would have featured in my 2014 end of year list.

What a great album by a great band. Essential listening.

Kattah – Lapis Lazuli (Review)

KattahKattah are a Power Metal band from Brazil and this is their second album.

This is Power/Heavy Metal with varied and exotic world influences and an Iron Maiden flavour. Mix in a bit of Kamelot and Queensrÿche and you have a good idea of the area Kattah inhabit.

The singer does his best Bruce Dickinson/Geoff Tate impression and for the most part pulls it off admirably. It allows him to have an instantly recognisable charisma without sounding like a clone.

Kattah have an ear for a good chorus, with plenty of the songs having decent hooks and catchy melodies. The band obviously have well-developed songwriting skills and they put these to good use.

The songs are able demonstrations of the Power Metal style with the Heavy Metal influence reining in the more extravagant tendencies that Power Metal seems to have. The songs are not devoid of ostentation, however, and the musicians are definitely a capable lot.

There are lots of good riffs and more than enough leads and solos to appeal. I’m very partial to some good shredding and this album features enough to satiate.

Another strength of this release is that it’s certainly no one-dimensional affair; it may stick within the Heavy/Power Metal template but it’s a much more varied release than most offerings from similar bands.

At 56 minutes in length there is a lot of material here and the band obviously have both ambition and talent. Given the right exposure Kattah have the potential to make quite a mark on the Metal scene, as they have both extravagance and accessibility in their favour.

Overall it’s a good collection of songs and Lapis Lazuli is a strong album.

Have a listen and see what you think.

Lalu – Atomic Ark (Review)

LaluThis is French Progressive Metal group Lalu with their second album Atomic Ark. Helmed by just one man, the album boasts a plethora of well known names from the Progressive/Power Metal genres as both band members and guests.

Big sound, big songs. It’s like Threshold and Kamelot have collaborated together with the express purpose of making an album to please just me.

It’s also heavier than you might expect. The drums are solid and the guitars are thick. When they’re not being used for lightning molten-Metal solos of course.

A huge amount of talented people are involved in this album, and it would be a disappointment, (to say the least), if it was all for nothing. I’m pleased to say that all the hard work, years of development and obvious enthusiasm and ability of the contributing musicians has paid off handsomely and this is as fine a slab of Progressive/Power Metal as you’re likely to hear.

With the exception of the final track, (the hugely epic 19 minute extravagance that is Revelations), the songs are all relatively short. The vast majority barely worry at the 4 minute mark, but not a single second is wasted. Efficient and concise; the songs are instant hits yet retain enough meat to the bones to satiate for some time.

The vocals are highly accomplished, as you would expect, and the melodies and harmonies of the songs are very pleasing.

The keyboard-work on this album merits special mention and is more than just an atmospheric addition; certainly they fulfil this purpose admirably but they are also integral to the songs themselves.

One interesting thing about this release is that for all of the calibre of the musicians who contributed to it, the technicality is never too overt or flashy. It’s there of course, just beneath the surface, enhancing the songs and playing its role. Rather than attempting to play centre stage and steal all of the limelight; the playing never attempts to upstage the actual songs.

Achieving the rarest thing of being both catchy and full of depth, this is an exemplary example of just how brilliant and life-affirming Progressive Metal can be when done right.