NVC – The Deleted Scenes (Review)

NVCNVC are a Canadian progressive metal band and this is their debut album.

This is modern and emotive progressive metal that marries some latter-day Anathema influences with a melodic death metal side; think Ensiferum and Wintersun for a starting point. The resulting Continue reading

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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.

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.

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.

Recommended.

Albatross – Fear from the Skies (Review)

AlbatrossThis is the début album from Indian Heavy Metal band Albatross.

We’ve met Albatross before, on their split with Vestal Claret. This is their first full length so it’s a pleasure to be reacquainted with their particularly interesting brand of Heavy Metal.

The songs on this release are all full of character and Albatross certainly put their own spin on things.

It’s the intention of Albatross to tell a story; while some bands who do this do it purely through the lyrics, Albatross strive to ensure that the music talks just as loudly as the words.

This is an album of two halves, with each half having its own story and theme. In line with the album cover, there is somewhat of a carnival feeling to the music on occasion, at least to the first half of the album. The second half is more straight-faced but just as compelling. Albatross are talented song-smiths and have a good ear for a good tale.

Quirky Heavy Metal is the name of the game and here Albatross are playing in the big leagues. Iron Maiden, King Diamond, Queensrÿche and bits of Thrash Metal are all melted down and consumed in some sickly-looking broth, only to be regurgitated in multicolour and in new and glorious ways by the band.

Taking these starting points, the band inject their own colourful personalities and passions into this lively release, resulting in an album that is a feast of delights. It’s extremely well-played and delivered, with some choice solos and vocal performances.

The track record of albums with concepts such as this is chequered at best, but Albatross have produced a winner here.

Sonic Prophecy – Apocalyptic Promenade (Review)

Sonic ProphecyThis is the second album by US Power Metal band Sonic Prophecy.

Sonic Prophecy play Heavy/Power Metal with grand ambitions and enough rocking riffs to fell a house. Think a mixture of Iron Maiden, Iced Earth, Manowar, Blind Guardian, etc.

The songs are rousing and catchy. Galloping guitars and upbeat drums mean Apocalyptic Promenade is powered forward at a good pace and there is enough variety and interest throughout to stop the listener from becoming bored.

The songs concentrate on good structure and composition rather than being concerned with technicality or speed purely for the sake of it.

The musicianship is polished and tight with plenty of leads and solos included. Keyboards work well with the guitars to create the themes and atmospheres that the band employ. The Heavy Metal component of their sound stops the Power Metal from becoming too ostentatious but that doesn’t mean they lack creative flair or passion.

The singer knows how to carry a good tune and has the ability to back this up. To my ears he reminds of the Queensrÿche singer with a bit of Iron Maiden mixed in.

Sonic Prophecy have released an impressive and ambitious 73 minute album chock full of Power/Heavy Metal goodness. Highly recommended.

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.

Malpractice – Turning Tides (Review)

MalpracticeMalpractice are from Finland and play Progressive Metal. This is their fourth album.

On first listen you think, “Wow, this is really good!”, and on subsequent listens you realise that it just keeps getting better and better.

The singer has a voice that drips off the songs like liquid silk. His voice is effortlessly melodic and flawlessly delivered. Power and emotion seem to come easily to him and his voice acts as a real focal point to these energetic and emotive songs.

Malpractice have a clean, minimalistic sound that captures all of the nuances and power of the songs. The tracks are all skilfully crafted and revolve around the clear voice of the singer and the masterful rhythm guitar work.

These guitars really do provide a lot of energetic feeling to the tracks and it’s really easy to get carried along with their obvious fervour and passion. They don’t slouch in the solo/lead department either, with plenty of dazzling fretwork to capture the attention.

Reference points? Think somewhere between Threshold and Queensrÿche.

This is a very impressive album from a band who have clearly refined their art over the years. There are no missteps here and every song has something to offer. If you like catchy, well-performed Progressive Metal then you could do a lot worse than checking out this album.

This really is a stunner. Top marks.

Hard Tension – Fear and Guilt (Review)

Hard TensionThis is the second EP from Portugal’s Hard Tension.

The band play Heavy/Power Metal with plenty of steel and melodic edge.

The guitars are a mixture of Rock-y riffs, Iron Maiden-esque licks and lots of well-played solos.

The band court an almost spaced out aura on occasion with the keyboards and synthesizers, and use these in both prominent and subtle ways depending on what they believe the song needs.

The singer has a good voice. Not as clean as a pure Power Metal vocalist; he has a rougher edge to his voice that lends his voice an authority that it might otherwise lack.

Overall the songs are a good collection of rocking Metal tunes with added effects and keyboards that play to the bands strengths of simple songs and good beats, all backed up with some old-fashioned fretboard wizardry.

Although the band could do with polishing up their sound in a couple of places this is not a band release at all. The more I listen to it the more I enjoy it. Hopefully their début album will be even better.

Check them out.

Favourite Track: Heading for the Light. Reminiscent of a mix between early Queensrÿche and Iron Maiden; it’s got a strong chorus and is just a great tune.