Sympuls-E – Mirror City (Review)

Sympuls-ESympuls-E are a Russian melodic death metal band and this is their third album.

Apparently a rerecording of the band’s 2011 demo Зеркало Города, Mirror City is bright and shiny metal, but not without bite. Continue reading

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Epica – The Solace System (Review)

EpicaEpica are a symphonic metal band and this is their latest EP.

One of the things I like about Epica is that although they play Symphonic metal with luscious female vocals, early on in their career they managed to carve out their own path and identity in this well-worn genre. Continue reading

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

Scardust – Sands of Time (Review)

ScardustScardust are a symphonic metal band from Israel and this is their debut album.

Scardust play sumptuous symphonic metal with some progressive elements added in to enhance proceedings.

Usually I find a lot of this kind of thing very generic and I usually lose interest quickly, but bloody Hell Scardust are an exception to this. Sands of Time is a very professional, accomplished, and well-realised release, with both catchy appeal and memorable depth. Continue reading

Oniricide – Revenge of Souls (Review)

OniricideThis is the debut album of Italian symphonic metal band Oniricide.

Oniricide ostensibly play Nightwish-inspired symphonic metal, but there’s more than just this going on here. The music here has a nice, earthy feel to it that reminds me of some doom metal bands as much as symphonic/melodic ones.

The Nightwish influence is only a starting point, as Continue reading

Delain – Moonbathers (Review)

DelainDelain are a symphonic metal band from The Netherlands and this is their fifth album.

Delain are one of those bands that I feel I should have heard a long time ago, but Moonbathers is actually my first encounter with the band’s material.

Within Temptation and Nightwish are the obvious reference points for a band like this, and 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

Avantasia – Ghostlights (Review)

AvantasiaThis is the seventh album from this German Symphonic Power Metal band.

At over 70 minutes in length, there’s a lot of music on this release. Also, featuring guests from such notable bands as Queensrÿche, Twisted Sister, Nightwish, Within Temptation, Unisonic, Edguy and many others, this lives up to the title of Rock Opera with very little effort.

For all the different guest singers, the album has a coherent feel to it, partly due to the cohesive songwriting and partly due to the brains behind the outfit’s voice, which is a near-constant of these tracks in some capacity or other.

The music is bombastic, dramatic, emphatic, symphonic and suitably epic in nature. Unless you just don’t like this kind of thing it’s extremely hard not to enjoy Ghostlights. Great musicianship, high production values, quality singing and well-written operatic Metal…it’s a feast for the ears and proudly espouses the most extravagant side of European Power Metal.

Combined with the effervescent guitars, the orchestral elements are ever-present and a big part of what makes Avantasia so epic. These tracks have such a flair for the theatrical that every song seems to tell a story in bright, colourful pictures, writ large against a suitably ostentatious backdrop. Although the album does have darker elements it’s largely a performance of colour and fantasy, providing the listener with ample opportunity for escapism via the very textured world that the players portray.

Returning back to the guitars; it’s important to remember that this is, ultimately, a Metal album. Thankfully the band remember this too and have included a fair amount of tasty riffs among the orchestration.

Ghostlights evokes various different emotions, as all good operas should, but ultimately I’m left with the feeling of being uplifted and happy. Such larger-than-life music should be celebrated and it’s only appropriate that its lasting impact is a positive one more than anything else.

70 minutes of pure escapist showmanship. Loved it.

Favourite Track: Seduction of Decay. Geoff Tate, (Queensrÿche), has always had one of my favourite voices, and on this track he shines. The music backs him up to the hilt and the entire song is glorious.

Jaded Star – Memories from the Future (Review)

Jaded StarJaded Star are based in Greece and play Melodic Heavy Metal. This is their début album.

Featuring former members of Iced Earth and Visions of Atlantis, you know straight away that this is going to be competently and professionally played before you even hear it.

This is modern Melodic Heavy Metal with a state-of-the-art recording and songs that are catchy and memorable. Electronic enhancements are subtle and don’t detract from the Metal core of the band.

I quite enjoyed Cast Away by Visions of Atlantis, but it suffered under the shadow of the mighty Nightwish. I never heard them after that. Fast forward 11 years and The now ex-singer of Visions of Atlantis has come into her own and the performance on Memories from the Future is faultless. She has a great voice that combines power and melody in the right amounts to bring these songs to life with anthemic vigour.

She also doesn’t play it entirely safe, as she injects more variety into these tracks than a lot of similarly-styled singers try to do. Commendable.

Musically you might expect Metal-by-numbers, but the sound, although professional, is surprisingly organic and fresh for a band within this genre. The musicianship certainly is first rate and there are enough leads and solos to provide a meaty feast but without becoming ostentatious as can be the case with some European Power Metal.

These songs are energetic bundles of hummable Metal that don’t commit the cardinal sins that a lot of bands of this style do – overly commercial, weak guitars, generic songs, etc. – Jaded Star avoid all of these by providing a much more personal take on a style that is, by now, well-worn at best.

This kind of music is never going to be innovative or new, but that’s not the point; there is, however, a much needed injection of individuality and true passion into the genre, as a lot of bands of this ilk can sound same-y and boring. I’m extremely pleased with Jaded Star though as they remind me of what I first loved about female-fronted Metal when I first started listening to it in earnest over a decade and a half ago, (gulp!).

Jaded Star have reaffirmed my love for this kind of music and I can honestly and heartily recommend Memories from the Future. Had your fill of this style? Weary of the same old stuff? Give Jaded Star a try and watch your passion re-ignite.

Jaded no more.

Tothem – Beyond the Sea (Review)

TothemItalian Gothic Metallers Tothem have released their début album Beyond the Sea.

This is a stirring and spirited album, with angelic female vocals layering a solid Metal base. Sometimes with this type of genre, with so much focus on the vocals, the underlying music can seem left behind a bit; the guitars especially can be left to sound quite weak. Not so for Tothem; thankfully they have kept the guitars nice and loud and pleasantly thick.

Musically we have a modern Power Metal foundation with liberal keyboards and sweeping feminine harmonies soaring over the top of everything.

If you have heard bands such as Within Temptation, Evanescence, Nightwish, et al then you know what kind of songs are on offer here. Of course it’s easy to say that we’ve heard this all before, but if you like this kind of music then that’s no barrier to enjoyment. The differentiation comes of course from the nicely heavy music and above all from the songs themselves. 

This is an enjoyable album with good songs and where the music doesn’t play second-fiddle to the, (admittedly impressive), vocals. Try them out and see if they can win you over.