Paladin – ‘Ascension’ – Review

Released By: Prosthetic Records

Release Date: May 17th, 2019

Genre: Power Metal

Links: https://www.facebook.com/paladinatl/

Line Up:

Taylor Washington – Guitars, Vocals
Alex Parra – Guitars
Andy McGraw – Bass, Vocals
Nathan McKinney – Drums

Tracklist:

  1. Awakening
  2. Divine Providence
  3. Carpe Diem
  4. Call of the Night
  5. Black Omen
  6. Fall from Grace
  7. Bury the Light
  8. Shoot the Sun
  9. Vagrant
  10. Dawn of Rebirth
  11. Genesis

As someone who’s always looking out for promising new power metal bands, one band that managed to catch me completely by surprise when seeking out new promo materials, is American power/thrash/melodeath band Paladin. I had never heard anything about the band going in, but apparently they released a demo in 2017, went through some lineup changes afterward, and now they’re ready to release their debut, Ascension later this week, and it is one heck of a killer album!

The band is led by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Taylor Washington, who is clearly the star of the album, though the other three members also do an excellent job, of course. Musically, Ascension is quite the interesting release, as its two singles may make it seem like fairly typical power metal, except with a slight thrash edge to some of the guitar work, but there’s actually quite a lot going on throughout the majority of the tracks, with some very thrashy instrumental work at times, as well as some extended harsh vocal sections. In fact, while quite a few power metal bands do use growls on occasion, I struggle to think of many who do it quite the way Paladin do, where a song can start off feeling like thrashy power metal, with strong, soaring clean vocals, and then suddenly a huge, explosive melodeath section will come with some epic growls. And of course, it often goes the other way around, too, with “Carpe Diem” in particular starting out with a thunderous, powerful opening verse that brings classic Swedish medlodeath to mind, before opening up with a soaring, very melodic, cleanly sung chorus. And on top of all of that, the instrumental work often switches from very melodic, albeit guitar driven, power metal, into all out thrash territory within an instant. Suffice to say, the band does an excellent job of genre blending, and while the core of the music is definitely power metal, there’s quite bit of thrash and melodeath to find, often showing up seamlessly into a track, and everything is executed to near perfection.

Performances are excellent across the board, with Taylor and Alex Parra in particular delivering some excellent guitar work, which often switches from very melodic, to quite crunchy or quite aggressive and then back again, in a hurry, while Nathan McKinney’s drumming is generally frantic, to stay on pace with the generally speedy tempos of the tracks, but it’s also very well done. Taylor’s vocals are also impressive, alternating seamlessly between soaring, powerful clean vocals, and some deep, intense death growls, which fall somewhere in between classic death growls and blackened rasps. His clean vocals are smooth, and he does a great job during the epic choruses, while at times having a slight edge to his voice, which also works very well, and is especially effective during the thrashier sections. The songwriting is also impressive, with most songs doing a great job of incorporating different elements, though the couple of more straight-forward power metal tracks, “Awakening” and “Shoot for the Sun”, the two singles for the album, are also both excellent, immediately engaging tracks. Production is top notch, with everything sounding crystal clear and powerful, and for a debut, the band sounds very tight.

Songwriting is one area that can take time for bands to master, but Paladin has nailed it down quite well on their debut, with every song being excellent. It all starts off with opening track and second single, “Awakening”, a very speedy, melodic power metal track, which alternates between frantic, intense verses, and a soaring, melodic chorus, where Taylor really shines. It has some excellent melodies, especially during the chorus and excellent solo in the second half, as well as some riffs that slightly hint at a thrashier sound, though that doesn’t fully emerge until later in the album. Speaking of which, the next track, “Divine Providence”, introduces the band’s full sound, starting off at more of a relaxed mid tempo, before some powerful growls enter in early on, during an atmospheric section that introduces the band’s melodeath side, and then for a while the track alternates between clean and harsh vocals, as well as frantic sections and more mid paced sections, until a big instrumental section later on, where some obvious technical thrash elements appear. And thus, Palandin’s full sound has been properly unveiled, in all its glory, by the time the track is over.

The melodeath elements only get stronger on “Call of the Night”, which opens with a very speedy, melodic, growled chorus that certainly brings many classic Swedish melodeath tracks to mind. This continues on for a while, before Taylor brings back his clean vocals for an epic chorus, and then the track continues to alternate between melodeath and power metal as it goes on, which makes for one explosive, highly addictive track. Fans looking to hear the thrashier side of the band need look no further than “Call of the Night“, another frantic track, which kicks off with some very hard hitting, thrashy guitar work, and while it does throw in more growls during the chorus, it’s pretty much an unrelenting power/thrash assault from start to finish, with some very powerful and intense clean vocals from Taylor, as well as an incredibly fun and heavy instrumental section in the second half. It’s definite one of those tracks where the band does an amazing job of alternating between their wilder, heavier side, and their more melodic power metal side, with both aspects coming through perfectly. While the album has some great vocals, the more instrumental side of the band comes through strongly on “Black Omen”, another speedy, very hard hitting track, which has some great extended instrumental sections, and the guitar work gets very technical in places. There are some vocal sections, as always, including both clean vocals and growls, but it’s the instrumental sections that standout the most, most notably during the first minute, as well as an extended section in the second half, which alternates nicely speedy, heavy guitar work, and a very nice slower section.

The album moves into slightly more straight-forward material for a while, starting with “Fall From Grace”, another speedy, very melodic track, with an extremely strong chorus. It has a slight thrash edge to it during the verses, but it also has some very nice melodic guitar work, as well as one of the best choruses on the album. Next is “Bury the Light”, one of the band’s earlier songs, as it appeared on their 2017 demo, and it’s another track which brings some classic melodeath to mind, with some very melodic guitar work early on, before speeding up and unleashing some intense growled verses, which give way to a slightly slower, very melodic chorus, which alternates between the two styles. It’s a simply, yet very fun track, which again shows both the heavy and more melodic sides of the band quite well. Perhaps the most straight-forward song of all is lead single “Shoot for the Sun”, a fast paced, hard hitting track which has very technical guitar work, as well as some classic speed metal influences, with intense rapid fire verses, and a simple but fun chorus. It brings the first two Hibria albums to mind, and is definitely a very fun, catchy track, as well as a great display of heavy, guitar driven classic power metal.

Moving towards the end, “Vagrant” is another track which does a great job of incorporating the band’s various styles, with fast paced, slightly thrashy verses, a very melodic, cleanly sung chorus, and some growls here in there, as well as more thrahsy guitar work in the second half. Next is “Dawn of Rebirth”, another one of the more thrashy songs on the album. It has a nice mix of both vocal styles early on, as well as some great melodies during the verses and chorus, and then it the second half it has an extended instrumental section where the band goes into full on technical thrash territory again, and it’s absolutely glorious! Closing out the album is “Genesis”, the longest and most epic track of the bunch. It has some nice melodic guitar work throughout, and starts off with some powerful harsh vocals, during a nicely paced, though not terribly speedy section. It carries on at this pace for a while, before slowing down in the middle for some of the most melodic and beautiful guitar work on the entire album, and Taylor alternates wonderfully between his two vocal styles, delivering some of his best vocals with both styles, before the music picks up one last time to close out the album. It’s an epic track on its own, and it’s definitely an excellent way to close out the album.

Paladin is one of those bands that kinda crept up on me from out of nowhere, and they managed to make a strong first impression with their debut, Ascension. It’s an excellent blend of speedy, melodic power metal, aggressive, technical thrash and some epic, powerful melodious death metal. While the power metal elements are the most prominent and are on every track, the band does an excellent job of blending the three styles together on most of the tracks, which helps make it quite a unique album. Fans of all three styles are highly recommended to give this album a listen, as it’s an amazing debut on all levels, with excellent musicianship, great songwriting and a killer vocal performance. This is a band I could see doing really awesome things, so hopefully they can gain a large following with this album, and have the success they deserve!

Ratings: 9/10

Written by: Travis Green

My Global Mind – Staff Writer

Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.

Steel Prophet – ‘The God Machine’ – Review

Released By: Rock of Angels Records

Release Date: Out Now!

Genre: Heavy/Power Metal

Links: https://www.facebook.com/SteelProphet/

Line Up:

R.D. Liapakis – Vocals
Steve Kachinsky – Guitars, Keyboards
Jon Paget – Guitars
Vince Dennis – Bass
John “JT” Tarascio – Drums

Tracklist:

  1. The God Machine
  2. Crucify
  3. Thrashed Relentlessly
  4. Dark Mask (Between Love and Hate)
  5. Damnation Calling
  6. Soulhunter
  7. Buried and Broken
  8. Lucifer – The Devil Inside
  9. Fight, Kill
  10. Life = Love = God Machine

Once in a while, a band might get a total makeover, where they change their sound to the point of becoming nearly unrecognisable. The latest band to have this happen is American heavy/power metal band Steel Prophet. I was introduced to them with their 2014 release, Omniscient, which left me with mixed impressions, as musically it was quite a dynamic, varied and complex US power metal album, but it was dragged down by some rather nonsensical lyrics (it seriously had a track called “Aliens, Spaceships and Richard M. Nixon”, for example) as well as a rather inconsistent performance by longtime vocalist Rick Mythiasin. Almost 5 years later, the band is back with a new vocalist, and while the lineup largely consists of longtime members, their sound has changed quite a bit on their ninth full length release, The God Machine, to the point where I can see some longtime fans of the band being disappointed, though for anyone approaching it with an open mind, it’s certainly a thoroughly entertaining album.

Steel Prophet has been around since the early 80’s, and their classic sound was rooted in US power metal, being very raw and hard hitting, while also being quite complex at times, with strong prog elements. The God Machine is a whole different monster, being a mix between a much more modernized power/thrash sound, as well as classic heavy metal. Obviously, the most immediately noticeable change is vocals, with Mystic Prophecy’s R.D. Liapakis taking over the mic, and delivering his usual mix of gritty, powerful vocals, with some more soulful moments on the couple of softer tracks, but even musically, things have changed quite a bit.

The approach to songwriting in particular has changed a lot, with a switch to some much shorter, more straight-forward songs, with less complex arrangements and a less dynamic sound overall. There’s still a decent amount of variety to the songs, of course, with the heavier, speedier tracks generally being the best, but there certainly aren’t any long or more challenging tracks like some of those on Omniscient. This approach works well, though, with all musicians doing a great job, as always, and there’s certainly some excellent thrashy riffs throughout the album, with nods to classic thrash at times, as well as some classic heavy metal galloping riffs and melodic guitar work on some tracks. Obviously, a lot of the changes to the sound were made to help Liapakis fit in, as some of the tracks certainly do remind me of Mystic Prophecy at times, and he sounds as great as always on the album, taking no time at all to settle in and deliver some excellent vocals. Production is top notch, and everything sounds a bit more modern and polished compared to previous releases, which is another big change.

The band wastes no time in demonstrating their switch to more modernized riffs and more simplified songwriting, with the title track kicking things off at a furious pace, instantly launching into some very thrashy power metal riffs, which instantly bring Mystic Prophecy to mind (it most likely is one of the songs written by Liapakis, who split songwriting duties with longtime guitarist/keyboardist Steve Kachinski.) The song has fun verses and a very catchy chorus, and it’s a very fun, hard hitting track overall. Next is another speedy track in “Crucify”, the lead single for the album. It still has a modernized sound to it, though the lead guitars are a bit more melodic during the verses, before getting thrashy again during the chorus. It’s another hard hitting, fast paced track, with its biggest highlight being an extended instrumental section with some thrashy leads and excellent solo work that brings classic Metallica to mind. Next is the slightly slower, though still decently fast paced, “Thrashed Relentlessly”, another track with some great, heavy guitar work. It’s another modern sounding track, with powerful riffs and a strong, melodic chorus, with excellent vocals.

On the slower side, “Dark Mask (Between Love and Hate)” is a very classic heavy metal sounding track, with some nice melodic leads during the verses, as well as a very melodic and catchy chorus. Despite having a classic sound to it, the song still feels more polished and more simplified than most other songs I’ve heard from Steel Prophet, though it’s definitely a great track. Next is “Damnation Calling”, the first of two power ballads on the album. This track at times feels like an Iron Maiden ballad, with how it alternates nicely between very soft passages, and some darker, heavier passages. It opens calmly, before some heavy guitar work kicks in, and from there the song switches seamlessly between heavy verses, and a nice, melodic and very powerful chorus, with a particularly speedy section in the second half being the biggest highlight. After that is “Soulhunter”, my favorite on the album. It has some classic Maiden style galloping riffs, and is a fast paced track, with a mix between heavy riffs and some great melodies, with the chorus in particular having some incredible vocal melodies, as well as being very fun and catchy. The track has a great instrumental section in the second half, as well as an excellent speedy section near the end, which takes it to new heights.

The second ballad on the album is “Buried and Broken”, which starts off with more Maiden style guitar work, before slowing down and turning into a very soft, vocal driven track, only getting heavier during the chorus, and an intense sequence towards the end. It serves as a nice vocal showcase, with Liapakis alternating nicely between soft and powerful vocals. Next is another slower track in “Lucifer – The Devil Inside”. It has some great heavy riffs, as well as a nice groove, and a strong chorus. It has a slight doom metal atmosphere to it, though it does get more upbeat in the second half, with a fast paced and intense instrumental section. It’s a very good track, overall. Next is “Fight, Kill”, which begins with some soft, very epic guitar work, before turning into an excellent melodic heavy metal track, with some fairly fast paced riffs, and another fun, catchy chorus. It has an excellent instrumental section in the second half, and it’s a great classic heavy metal track, overall. Closing out the album is the weirdly named “Love = Life = God Machine” which, despite it’s unwieldy name, is actually a very good track, with more classic heavy metal style guitar riffs. It has a slight hard rock feel to it, with a fairly laid back sound, while still having some great riffs during the verses, which give way to a very melodic and powerful chorus. The instrumental section in the second half especially has a strong 80’s feel to it, and overall the track is a lot of fun, and is a great way to close out the album.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect from The God Machine, as I wasn’t too thrilled by the previous Steel Prophet album I had heard, but the band has made quite a change on this release, switching to a more modernised sound, with some power/thrash elements, while still having strong influences of classic heavy metal, which takeover more and more as the album progresses. The songwriting is a lot more direct and satisfying, and R.D. Liapakis sounds as great as ever, so I think newcomers looking for some fun heavy/power metal are actually more likely to be pleased with this than longtime fans of the band, as I feel this album might be a bit too different to appeal to that crowd. Either way, though, it’s a strong album, and it certainly leaves me looking forward to seeing what the band does in the future.

Ratings: 8/10

Written by: Travis Green

My Global Mind – Staff Writer

Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.

Frozen Crown – Crowned in Frost Review

Released By: Scarlet Records

Release Date: March 22nd, 2019

Genre: Power Metal

Links: https://www.facebook.com/frozencrownofficial

Line Up:

Giada “Jade” Etro – Vocals

Federico Mondelli – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals

Talia Bellazecca – Guitars

Filippo Zavattari – Bass

Alberto Mezzanotte – Drums


Tracklist:

1. Arctic Gales

2. Neverending

3. In the Dark

4. Battles in the Night

5. Winterfall

6. Unspoken

7. Lost in Time

8. The Wolf and the Maiden

9. Forever

10. Enthroned

11. Crowned in Frost



Some bands like to waste very little time in between albums, looking to pump out some great new music at a quick rate, to please existing fans and possibly to gain some more. One such band is Italian power metal band Frozen Crown, who introduced themselves to the world in February of 2018, with their excellent debut, The Fallen King. It was a very fun and exciting album, with a mix of speedy, melodic power metal and some strong melodic death metal elements on a few tracks. Barely over a year later, the band is back with their second full-length release, Crowned in Frost, which sees the band focusing their sound a bit while continuing to deliver more of the same great music as on their debut.

The Fallen King was an impressive debut, both for how great it sounded for a new band, as well as for how strong the songwriting was, with a nice variety of tracks that hinted at a few possible directions the band could take. Crowned in Frost has a similar sound, with the same style of fast-paced, melodic power metal, led by the strong voice of frontwoman Giada “Jade” Etro, as well as the excellent guitar and keyboard playing of Federico Mondelli, who also serves as a second vocalist and the main songwriter. Fans of the debut should know what to expect from the performances, as the keys are as dominant as ever, while occasionally leaning towards more of a symphonic feel, the guitars are very melodic, with some slight Iron Maiden influence, while occasionally getting a bit heavier, and Jade’s lead vocals are as deep and powerful as ever, while occasionally getting a bit lighter and higher pitched. The production quality is about the same as the debut, with the mixing being a bit on the loud and thin side, though everything sounds pretty good, overall.

The biggest difference between the two albums comes from the songwriting. Where the debut had quite a bit of variety, Crowned in Frost feels like a more focused album, where the majority of songs all follow a specific direction, with the only real exceptions being the intro and interlude tracks. The tracklisting is a tad misleading, in that it makes it seem like the album should have one more song than the debut, but in truth, it actually has one less. This is because, out of the 11 tracks, one is an intro and two are instrumental interludes. The intro track is very nice, with a bit of that Maiden-like guitar work setting things up nicely for the true opener, “Neverending”, but the two interludes are a bit less exciting, with “The Wolf and the Maiden” in particular lasting for over three minutes, yet it’s an entirely soft, ambient track, mostly consisting of light keys (as well as a wolf howl, right at the start.) The track is okay, but it feels drawn out, and because it and the other (similar, but much shorter) interlude, “Enthroned”, are the only real changes of pace on the album, as opposed to the wide variety of tracks found on the debut, it ends up feeling a bit disappointing.

With that one negative out of the way, though, all full-length songs here are excellent, starting with opener and lead single “Neverending”, which has a fast-paced, extended instrumental opening, before Jade takes over during the verses, and the song flies along at a rapid pace, leading to a very melodic and catchy choruses, with some excellent vocal hooks. It’s a very speedy, very fun track, with an excellent guitar solo in the second half, and it’s a great indication of the direction the band has taken on this album. Next are two similar tracks, “In the Dark” and “Battles in the Night”, with the former alternating nicely between very fast verses and a slow, but beautiful chorus, with the highlight being a very rare clean vocal section from Federico, whose clean vocals are otherwise largely relegated to serving as vocal harmonies, while the latter stays at a fast pace throughout, and has a nice solo in the second half.

The first of two longer tracks on the album is “Winterfall”. It’s a very epic track, where the keys have a slight symphonic feel to them, while the guitar work is a bit heavier and harder hitting at times, while at other points it switches to some of those epic Maiden style galloping riffs, with the vocal melodies also have a strong Maiden influence. It’s a very epic, fast-paced and melodic track, overall, and it’s one of the two tracks here to feature some of Federico’s intense, powerful harsh vocals. They come in quick bursts throughout the track, with Jade leading the way through most of it, but the harsh vocals are very effective and help make the track even more epic than it otherwise would have been.

Moving into the second half, “Unspoken” is another speedy, but pretty light track, with small traces of that classic heavy metal sound to the guitars, though for the most part, it’s a more modernized, melodic track, which reminds me a bit of some Temperance tracks, particularly with the trance-like keys, and the chorus. It’s a very fun track, overall. Next is the lightest full song on the album, “Lost in Time”, which is a bit slower and more keyboard driven than all the other songs here, though it still moves at a pretty fast pace, and it still has some nice guitar work. It also has some amazing vocals, as Jade sings a bit lighter and at a slightly higher pitch than normal, but she completely nails it, especially during the amazing, super melodic and catchy chorus, which only gets better during the amazing final run. It’s the most accessible track here, as well as one of my favorites.

In between the two previously mentioned interludes is “Forever”, another fast-paced and very melodic track, with some epic backing vocal harmonies from Federico, as well as another excellent chorus, and a great guitar solo in the second half. Closing out the album is the title track, which is another speedy, hard-hitting track, which moves at a blistering pace early on, alternating nicely between clean and harsh vocals, before slowing down for an epic, very beautiful chorus. It’s a track that alternates very nicely between fast and slow passages throughout, as well as making equally great use of Jade’s smooth and powerful clean vocals, and Federico’s intense harsh vocals. It brings back a bit of the melodeath elements from the debut and is definitely one of my favorites here.

Overall, Crowned in Frost is an excellent sophomore release from Frozen Crown, even if I feel it could have been slightly better. It’s clear the band has figured their sound out at this point, and the more focused power metal sound works very well for the band, while allowing Jade to fully take over the leading role, as she deserves, but it also still gives space for Federico to occasionally come in with his own excellent vocals. However, the lack of variety is a bit disappointing, and I’m not too pleased by the fact that 3/11 tracks are purely instrumental, with the intro being the only one that fully works, and doesn’t feel distracting. Overall, though, it’s an excellent release, which should please fans of the debut, and I’d definitely recommend it to any power metal fan looking for a great release, with some excellent, melodic guitar work, some great, epic keys, and some excellent female vocals. I think the band still has room for improvement, but they continue to show promise, and while I slightly prefer The Fallen King, both of their albums so far have been excellent.



Ratings: 8/10

Written by: Travis Green

My Global Mind – Staff Writer

Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.



Iron Fire – Beyond the Void Review

Released By: Crime Records

Release Date: March 8th, 2019

Genre: Power Metal

Links: https://www.facebook.com/ironfiredk



Line Up:

Martin Steene – Vocals, Bass

Kirk Backarach – Guitars

Gunnar Olsen – Drums



Tracklist:

1. Intro

2. Beyond the Void

3. Final Warning

4. Cold Chains of the North

5. Wrong Turn

6. Bones and Gasoline

7. Old Habits Die Hard

8. Judgement Day

9. To Hell and Back

10. One More Bullet

11. The Devil’s Path

12. Out of Nowhere



There are some great power metal bands who seem to be going largely unnoticed, despite consistently making great albums, with one of my favorites being Danish band Iron Fire. I’ve been a fan of the band since their 2010 release Metalmorphosized, which marked the beginnings of a more modernized sound for the band after their past releases were all fairly traditional European power metal albums. They especially blew me away with the more progressive, symphonic and just plain epic Voyage of the Damned, though sadly that one wasn’t too well received, and the band took a bit of a break afterward. However, over four years later the band returned in 2016, with Among the dead, a hard-hitting collection of heavy/power metal tracks, that while being more straight-forward compared to its predecessor, was still intense and left me extremely satisfied.

Now, the band is set to release their ninth full-length album, Beyond the Void, and it is yet another killer! Fans of Among the Dead should know exactly what to expect, as the lineup remains unchanged, and musically this is a direct continuation of that album, with the same kind of raw, hard-hitting power metal, mixed with some classic heavy metal and some occasional thrashy riffs. While Among the Dead was a concept album revolving around a zombie apocalypse, Beyond the Void deals with many different lyrical themes, but otherwise, it’s pretty much more of the same, to the point where a couple of tracks feel eerily similar to tracks from the previous release, though the songwriting is consistently strong enough for that to not be a big problem.

Performances are as strong as always, with the guitar work being as heavy as before, though there are some more melodic passages compared to the previous album, and these are very well done, drums are mostly fast and furious and well done, and of course Martin Steene’s deep and raspy vocals are as strong as ever, with the faint hints of extreme metal vocals he showed on the previous album continuing to creep in from time to time. Production is also top notch and powerful sounding, as expected. Songwriting is generally fast-paced, intense and plain fun, with the occasional slower track and one ballad to offer up some variety. This is the kind of album, though, where you won’t be surprised very often, but it’ll keep you consistently entertained, with excellent riffs, some great melodies, powerful vocals and just some really fun, highly addictive songs.

Following a brief intro, the title track kicks in and is very similar to the title track of Among the Dead, with everything from the lead riff to the chorus feeling oddly familiar, to the point where I wasn’t enjoying it much at first, but over time it has grown on me. Anyone who hasn’t heard the previous album should be entertained immediately, as it’s a fast paced, hard hitting power metal track, with fun verses, thrashy riffs, and a strong, catchy chorus. On the more interesting side, “Final Warning” is a slower building track, featuring a pummeling main riff, heavy verses which march along at a decent pace, and a light, melodic chorus, which picks up the pace as it goes along. It has great, emotional lyrics about destroying the Earth, and is a very good song overall. My favorite song on the first half, and probably the whole album, is “Cold Chains of the North” a fast, hard-hitting track which has more of those thrashy riffs, as well as a frantic, but very melodic chorus, with some pretty cool gang vocals, and some excellent lead vocals from Martin. It’s a very fun, catchy and highly energetic track, which just gets everything right.

Keeping the momentum going, “Wrong Turn” has some of the thrashiest riffs on the album, along with hard-hitting verses, and a basic, but the very fun chorus. Two more speedy tracks are up next, with “Bones and Gasoline”, which has soft, melodic passages during the intro and verses, which remind me a bit of some classic Metallica songs, while the chorus is speedy and fun, and “Old Habits Die Hard”, a more melodic but very speedy track, where Martin uses some of his harsh vocals throughout, and does a great job, as always. Both songs are straight-forward, and pure fun, just like pretty much every song on the album. The lone ballad of the album is “Judgement Day”, which has some beautiful, melodic guitar work, calm verses where Martin uses some of his softest vocals ever and sounds great, and another powerful, epic chorus. It has a great solo in the second half, but the highlight comes a bit before that, with a more intense, yet still melodic section, with some of the best vocals on the album, along with the line “recreate a world without hate, and bring me back to 1998”, which cracks me up every time I hear it.

Moving into the final sequence of the album, “To Hell and Back” is another frantic, hard-hitting track, with some very heavy and intense verses, as well as one of the more traditional power metal choruses on the album. It’s yet another very energetic, highly addictive track, of the sort the band excels at in this stage of their career. My favorite of the final four tracks is “One More Bullet”, a slower, heavier metal based track, with heavy verses, and an intense, but very melodic and catchy chorus, with more nonsensical, but fun lyrics and the guitar solo near the end is really cool, as well. The track has a classic heavy metal feel to it, in an awesome way and is one of the catchiest and most addictive tracks on the album. The last full speedy track on the album is “The Devil’s Path”, another thrashy power metal track, with a great mix between clean and semi-harsh vocals, as well as more excellent thrashy riffs, and a fun chorus. The track sounds pretty similar to “Tornado of Sickness” from the previous album but still manages to be great in its own way. Closing out the album is “Out of Nowhere”, another classic heavy metal sounding track, with more laid back, but enjoyable verses, and an upbeat, very fun chorus, with some excellent vocal melodies. It speeds up towards the end and gets very epic during the final run through its chorus, before closing out softly and ending the album on a high note.

Iron Fire is one of those bands that will probably never get the attention they deserve, but they manage to consistently put out great, hard-hitting power metal albums at least once every few years, and Beyond the Void is no exception. It largely builds on the more modernized, somewhat thrashy sound they started on Among the Dead and offers up the kind of heavy, energetic and highly addictive power metal the band specializes in, while also mixing in a bit of classic heavy metal on some tracks. Fans of the band’s previous album should love this, while fans who prefer their earlier albums may again be disappointed, but anyone unfamiliar band and looking for some hard hitting, fun heavy/power metal with a slightly modern twist, should definitely give this one a shot, as it’s definitely one of Iron Fire’s finest works to date!


Written by: Travis Green

Ratings:  9/10




The Atlantic – Exclusive Evergrey Double Feature Pt. 2

In part two of our Evergrey The Atlantic double feature, we look back on a recent interview with Tom Englund and Jonas Ekdahl, as they reflect on the band, the album, and the future.

ED: It’s been two years since you gave us your last album, “The Storm Within”, arguably one of your best albums to date. It also continued a theme that started with “Hymns For the Broken”. Is it safe to say that “The Atlantic” has now brought this story to its conclusion, or does this album open the doors to a different view of the concepts you’ve been exploring? Has it taken a detour even further abroad?

Tom: I think it’s all of that..

Jonas: Yeah..

Tom: I think it’s getting closer… I don’t think conclusion is either… it’s either not the word, or it’s not sort of the aim either…

ED: So, evolution?

Tom: Yeah, I think it’s just about moving forward and sort of going where life wants you to go… and not staying in a position that potentially could be unhealthy for you…

ED: Yes I can understand that…

Tom: So I think it’s done. I think it’s going… and then like, The Hymns For The Broken, the first album in this trilogy of albums, was discovering that something needed to happen… like a revolution, you know, of your inner thoughts… Discovering that ok, this is not going to work. Or is it? [laughing] You know? The doubts. While The Storm Within for me was more about the darkness, and the realisation of knowing that you have to leap. This is where you sort of embark on that journey for real, in the deep, deep, wide ocean. I’m not sure that we’ve reached the new shore…

ED: but you’re certainly on the right journey.

Tom: Yeah, so, I don’t know how the journey ends. It might be another album.

ED: Hopefully. That’s always the thing that people want

[laughter]

This album has not been without its obstacles, both private and public, what effect has that had on the creative process when it came to finishing the album? – And do you feel it has galvanised the band, and its determination to produce the best music you can?

Tom: Like the break-in and all that you mean?

ED: Yeah…

Jonas: Yeah.. right in the middle of everything.. you were super stressed, and we were all super stressed already…

Tom I had written three songs?

Jonas: It was three songs, yes.. and we were like, OK, you need to deliver the recordings to mix in like a couple of weeks, and you were going to LA and you needed to be done before that and the break-in happened and they stole a bunch of sh*t, and we were like, “How is this possible, where is the karma in this?”

Tom: Yeah, what the f**ck did we do? Who was I in a past life?

Jonas: And then we had to create… some.. some kind of plan just for the moment, so that we could say, ok, so how can we keep going somehow and make it through this?

Tom: But that’s where really your routine, and experience of being in this business, not only, but also being older, you know?

ED: Yes, having the discipline to pick back up…

Tom: Yeah man, and it makes us follow through, and ok f**k this, that happened, and now we go and solve it…

Jonas: Yeah…

Tom: So even though being in that position sucks, and also being, you know, like the personal…f**king… thing that I was going through at the same time… that was also sort of put on hold. So everything was just put on hold and it was a case of what do we do to get through this?

Jonas: You know from that moment, just everything change in a second, from when you called me, and we had a break-in and they stole a bunch of sh*t…ok… I’ll be there in like 20 minutes. I got there, and we were supposed to write and record that day, and instead it was talk to the cops, talk to the insurance companies..

Tom: Yeah when can we get new equipment so we can actually record something?

Jonas: Yeah, what do we do until then? They’ve taken everything, even the backup hard drives.

Tom: Yeah so we didn’t know how much of the recorded music was stolen, and I don’t know if we told anyone, but the computer that had everything on it was also stolen, but the cops, they found it. So after I came back from LA, they were like, hey we found your computer… which is lucky, but by that time we already recorded it elsewhere.

ED: So would you say that, that galvanized the band and your determination to make sure the album was the best it could possibly be?

Jonas: You know looking back, the irony is that you actually got more time in LA to work and focus on lyrics, and I think that actually benefited the album…

Tom: Yeah, certainly… it surely did

Jonas: I’m not saying that I’m glad that it happened, but it f**cking sucks [laughing] but we made the most of it… and yeah, we f**king did!

Tom: Yeah and it affected the way it sounded, no doubt as it wouldn’t have sounded the same without this…

ED: So would you say that the album is heavier as a result? Because it is quite heavy compared to some of the previous ones.

Tom: Musically, the music was already recorded… but vocally… the theme was set already, but you know, bringing the frustration into something, but like you said… I was calling the label and I was like, “f**k this man, this is not gonna work”… We were going to be postponed for like two months or something because I was also leaving for LA to do some other work, you know? But then I worked it out somehow, and I would work on that in the mornings, and then Redemption after. So actually it worked out well, and when I got home from the US, we just went into the studio and recorded all the ideas that I had.

ED: As a drummer, one of the things that always stands out for me on an album, is technical prowess of the drummer, and how they help drive the sound the band is trying to create. You’ve been lucky to have had some excellent drummers behind you over the years, but do you feel that the dynamic has particularly changed after Hannes Van Dahl left to join Sabaton and Jonas stepped into the role?

Tom: Don’t forget, since Jonas was there before Hannes, and Hannes came in… same thing there… it was like f**k this, they left, ok what do we do now? Do we want to continue or not? So me and Rick, who was the keyboard player, we were like let’s just prove it to everyone that we can make and album without them.

ED: And you did, you definitely did…

Tom: Yes, we did. And Hannes came in, and became one of my closest friends, and he still is today. And then you know, things changed, and he left for Sabaton, while we were on… you know I was actually thinking of not doing this anymore. So I said, yeah of course, go to Sabaton. And then by coincidence, he couldn’t do a show, so I asked the only other two people in the world who knew the songs… can either of you step on in and do either of these two shows. And then I was set you know, and we had a good 20 years, hey let’s do these last two shows. Great to do it with them, and then that would be that. But we had so much fun doing these two shows, even with all the bullsh*t… do you remember that? [laughing]

Jonas: [laughing] Oh fuck yeah.. the first thing that happened was, our bus with everyone and everything on it was pulled over by the traffic cops in Germany.

ED: Yeah because you really want to be pulled over by a German police officer

Tom: yeah, right? [laughing]

Jonas: Yeah they weren’t happy with the weight of our bus, apparently we were overweight, light a lot overweight

Tom: We had like 5 – 600 kilos with all the gear and everyone on the bus

Jonas: Yeah and we were on our way to the first show, and me and Rick were sitting in the back and he was like “nothing’s change”, and we were like how the f**k is this happening? How is this possible?

ED: This is when you read bios of musicians, it’s always the stories on the road that are some of the craziest or most bizarre.

Tom: Yeah [laughing] so we had so much weight that I thought to myself, all of the guys probably weigh around 90 kilos each, so if they leave the bus and I drive by myself that should be ok, and of course the cop was ok with that. So I had to drive for six or seven hours on my own, and they had to get on a train and walk to where we were performing.

Jonas: Yeah from the middle of nowhere

Tom: On a highway

Jonas: Yeah and from that place we needed to find a train station, to get to Belgium where we were playing. So while we’re walking along, we’re all shaking our heads, thinking what the f**k this is crazy

Tom: This is karma, get the f**k out…

Jonas: We were only there for like 12 hours, and this is what happens. And we were so late to the gig that we couldn’t even do a sound check and Tom had to unload everything by himself.

Tom: Yeah I carried all the shit in

Jonas: The opening act set up the drums, and everything, and we just walked in and basically walked out on stage

Tom: And despite all that it was fun and that’s why we’re here now.

Jonas: Yeah

ED: Fair enough, I can see how that might bring everyone together.

ED: I know in a previous interview with us you mentioned Peter Gabriel as a musical influence. As a fan of him and his writing style, I can understand why he would inspire you, given his ability to paint pictures with words and his music. And I get a lot of that with all of your albums, but it’s particularly strong with the new one. Were there any particular influences that helped drive the sound of “The Atlantic”?

Tom: I think we were influenced… we’re always gonna be influenced by the things that we have been influenced by. You know for all the years we’ve been doing this, but then of course you get new influences and thinking new ways… But the thing that we have done, me and Jonas, when we sit down to write these albums, for the last three albums, is that we try to find out… let’s find a sound, or let’s find a mood… a place in the world where we can sort of step in and out of

ED: As no stranger to depression myself, I often find writing and particularly music, as outlets for those inner demons I struggle with on a daily basis. Do you find inspiration there yourself?

Tom: Always. The three albums are about that. It was not evident to me at first that I was writing about myself, but that’s what I was doing. The albums may be a fiction, but that fiction is always based on what I have felt, or somebody was close to me had gone through at the time. So it’s always been like that… Looking back at it now, it’s always been like a sort of diary of the time… where I was at the time. So yeah, writing music and lyrics have apparently been even more therapeutic than I knew at the time I was writing it. Which is sort of a magical thing. And that’s the thing.

ED: Do you have any rituals to help you get into the zone for writing, or can you literally write on the go, jotting things down as they come to you, so you can develop them later?

Tom: It’s about creating the mood, finding the sound, and being in that vibe. It’s very helpful and it’s inspiring… and you know as soon as we get there, we just feed on each other’s inspirations…

Jonas: It has become very natural, and it feels… it’s comfortable, which is good… It’s very comfortable in that… in that place you know you’re doing the right thing, and things start going good… Yeah it’s a cool way of writing

Tom: It’s us… and it’s mostly me and Jonas, in that vibe, which is fine. And Johan is also sometimes super indulged in there, and for the other guys, they come in and they give their stuff, which is of huge importance to the album… you know, their knowledge and their view on things…

Jonas: Yeah… and then we put their stuff into that work…

Tom: Into context

Jonas: Yeah, the context, yeah…

Tom: So for the Storm Within we said, wouldn’t it just be great if we just pictured this in outer space, and we can go to Iceland and film a video, and we did. And so for this album, we just put up a big screen of like, a stormy Atlantic sea… So yeah, we had that rolling on one of the screens in the studio…

Jonas: And we did the same thing for a Storm Within, and we found that sound that kind of sets the tone for that album, together with that picture in our heads and plan everything. And we found that sound for this album as well, and it’s one sound

Tom: Yeah it’s one sound, and you can hear it at the end of the ‘All I Have’ song… they all have a bass keyboard…

Jonas: Like a Moog bass

Tom: So that’s the sound for this album, and for the last album, it was like a lead sound, through the song ‘Disconnect’… so yeah, ok, this is gonna be the song, great, now we start everything from that, and then it’s not every song, but it’s in a lot of songs… So yeah for us, you know, recording an album is becoming… and it’s more evident to me every day, that we’re painting a picture, it’s not a mosaic, it’s a full picture, a complete thing

ED: The first thing that struck me about “The Atlantic” is how heavy it is at times in contrast to previous albums, but also the depths of darkness explored throughout the songs. Would you consider this to be the darkest material you’ve ever written?

Tom: I would say Monday Morning Apocalypse is one of the darkest albums, but I do think this is darker, just in a different way.

Jonas: I don’t think it’s the most… like, aggressive album we’ve done… yeah like not in total, but in parts maybe, and that’s probably from the frustration from the robbery coming out…

Tom: So while it may feel like and aggressive album, song wise it never gets out of hand, it’s controlled aggression…

Jonas: Passive aggressive [laughing]

Tom: No seriously, that’s what it is… so it becomes tense, and then erupts, and becomes darker… and like the ending of the albums is like… that is probably the darkest piece of music we have written

Jonas: And that for me is probably one of my favourite parts… listening through from the ending to the beginning, and you’re left wondering what happened, and then what’s next…

Tom: And that what I mean, you know, when setting off on a journey like this, taking the decisions that it takes to… to recreate yourself. You have like a… projected this is where I’m going, and it’s going to be like this, but then you’re ending up somewhere else… Yeah, I’m not saying that I ended up in a better place, but I’m saying that being able to recognise that, and get there, and get where you need to go, that’s the important thing…

ED: You worked with film company Revolver for the stunning music video for “The Paradox of the Flame”, what was it like working with them, and filming in Iceland? Can we expect to see anything similar for “The Atlantic”?

Tom: Yeah we do all videos with Patrick and have done since the early 2000s. Patrick is our friend, and he also grew to be almost like a part of the band, and part of creating the full picture of what we’re trying to express in our songs. He understands us, which is the important thing, and creates the visuals that go with the music. So yes, there will be videos and they’ll come out in a sort of chronological order.

Jonas: He also makes me look even better [laughing]

Tom: [laughing] What?

ED: Such modesty [laughing]

Tom: F**k me.. [laughing] even better…

Jonas: He knows what we want and understand our vision

ED: And make you look even better..

Tom: And it’s hard…

Jonas: So hard…

[laughter]

ED: Now you’ve worked with Jacob Hansen on number of albums, and he certainly seems to get your sound, and the production values are always top-notch. Was it a no-brainer to work with him again?

Tom: Oh yeah, until we write an album that is totally different… we are going to stay right there. We record everything, and get it sounding pretty much the way it should sound and then he adds his magic which makes it an album, and also makes it an Evergrey album… Because he’s super involved in making us sound the way we sound. He’s also a part of that family, like Patrick is with the videos.

ED: It’s an impressive album and I am certain fans are going to embrace the deep and epic nature of the songs, and while it sounds great with the volume cranked, up, I can only imagine how excellent this album will sound live. Do you have any plans to tour with the album in 2019? Will you bring the tour to the UK?

Tom: We’re gonna tour as much as possible. We’re starting a European tour with Kamelot in March, and then we’ll be doing our own headline tour in connection with that. After that we’ll be doing a number of summer festivals, as well as South America in between all that, and then USA in the fall, before a bit more Europe. But we should be here in the UK in March as well.

Jonas: I think it’s going to be one of our busiest years

Tom: Yeah definitely

ED: Reflecting on your long career, what is the Gothenburg scene like today versus what it was like when you first started out over twenty years ago?

Tom: We’re bigger bands. I mean we have In Flames, Hammer Fall, Dark Liquidity, At The Gates, parts of King Diamond, parts of Meshugga, The Haunted… there’s so many bands. I wouldn’t say we’re all leaders in our genre, but we’re certainly healthy in our genre

Jonas: The thing about it is that the rock and metal scene is still really, really solid, and influenced by the bands and the music so it keeps growing and evolving.

Tom: Yeah and they see us, and they see that it’s possible, and it inspires the next generation

Jonas: It feels like a big family. You can hang out with anyone, have an awesome time with your idols, and that is exciting as well. I get inspired just hanging out with all these great musicians as well.

ED: And finally, and this sort of goes back to the first question I asked you, where would you like to see “The Atlantic” take Evergrey, and what does the future hold for the band?

Tom: We want to take it to more places… I mean basically, we want to progress, and do so in the most comfortable way possible, but we’re eager to get out there and promote it and do the work that we need.

ED: Yeah because this is work, and not enough people appreciate that sometimes, especially in our current society

Tom: Yeah and we are very fortunate to be able to play music that people listen to, so we just want to get out there and play as much as we can. We’re not taking this for granted, which is important as well, for so many different reasons, you know?

ED: Definitely. Thank you for your time, and I wish you all the best with the release of the album and subsequent tour. It’s been a pleasure.

Tom: Yeah, nice meeting you… maybe see you on the tour.

Jonas: Yes, good meeting you. Thanks.

Haven’t checked out our review of The Atlantic? You can find it: here

Written by: Erik De’Viking

Photos by: Patric Ullaeus

My Global Mind – Reviewer / Music Journalist

Erik De’Viking is a freelance music journalist based in the South of England. His musical interests include blues, rock, and metal in all its forms, and he is constantly on the lookout for new bands and genres to discover and later preach about to the masses.

Socials: Twitter: @Erik_DeViking Instagram: @Erik_DeViking Last.FM: @Erik_DeViking Spotify: Erik De’Viking

Kalidia – Frozen Throne Review

Released By : Inner Wound Recordings

Release Date: November 23rd, 2018

Genre: Power Metal

Links: http://www.kalidia.com/

 

Line Up:

Nicoletta Rosellini – Vocals

Federico Paolini – Guitars

Roberto Donati – Bass

Dario Gozzi – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Frozen Throne

2. Circe’s Spell

3. Black Sails

4. Orpheus

5. To the Darkness I Belong

6. Myth of Massada

7. Midnight’s Chant

8. Go Beyond

9. Amethyst

10. Lotus

11. Queen of the Forsaken

 

I’ve reviewed quite a few bands in recent years, who have managed to make pretty big improvements from album to album, and now the latest band to pull this off is Italian power metal band Kalidia. When I first heard their debut, Lies Device, back in 2014, to say I was unimpressed would be a pretty big understatement. There were moments where it clicked for me, but the songwriting left much to be desired, and the overall sound was, honestly, quite amateurish and close to what one might expect to hear from a demo. When I saw the band had a new album coming out this year, I wasn’t exactly in a rush to hear it. In fact, I had initially planned on ignoring it completely, but then a friend linked me to the video for the title track and first single, and I was so impressed, I ended up giving the album a shot in the end. Now that I’ve played Frozen Throne several times over, I’m happy to say Kalidia has taken a massive step forward, probably one of the biggest I’ve ever seen from a band going from their debut to their second release, and this new release is sure to win them many new fans.

From what I remember, Lies Device was some fairly straight-forward power metal, with slight gothic leanings, where Frozen Throne is a much more epic release, with a ton of symphonic elements thrown in. I wouldn’t quite say they’ve moved to a full symphonic power metal sound, as those elements aren’t always present, but they’re certainly an important part of several tracks like “Black Sails”, “To the Darkness, I Belong” and “Queen of the Forsaken”. There’s still a ton of straight Euro power metal here, but there’s a lot more energy to the music than on the debut, and the overall sound is much stronger and more polished. There are many sections where keyboards and symphonic elements dominate, and it’s a very melodic, vocal-driven album on the whole, but there are sometimes where some heavy guitar work kicks in, and it can be very good. The instrumental sections are especially impressive, with some very explosive and fun, yet also very melodic guitar solos. Most tracks alternate between speedy passages and slower passages, and there are quite a bit of tempo changes throughout, though the songs are generally fairly simple and easy to follow, highlighted by some very catchy choruses. Many of the songs use a basic pattern of slower verses and fast choruses, which is the kind of thing that can get tiring over the length of a full album, but the band manages to pull everything off well enough to keep me fully hooked the whole time, as well as changing the formula up just often enough to keep the songs fresh for the album’s duration. If anything, I think the band could maybe be a bit more ambitious with future releases, but compared to their debut, this is a huge step forward, with every song being consistently engaging, and the overall sound is massively improved, with the guitars hitting hard in bursts, drums sounding good, and the epic symphonic elements add an extra layer to several tracks, and really enhance the sections where they appear.

One aspect of Kalidia’s music that already showed promise on Lies Device was vocalist Nicoletta Rosellini, who stood out with a much deeper voice than one would expect from the genre, and while her vocals weren’t fully polished yet, they were already pretty good, and she was easily the best thing about the album. Four years later, she sounds much stronger and more confident on this release, and she helps enhance some already great songs. Her excellent lower register has only gotten better over the years, and she can alternate from singing soft, almost pop-like vocals at times, to being more fiery and aggressive during some heavier passages, and she does so fluidly and very effectively. Her voice can be absolutely beautiful at times, but when she gets more intense it’s fittingly powerful, and no matter the song, she always does a great job. The one issue I have with her vocals is her Italian accent can get in the way at times, and some words sound slightly off, but that’s a common thing with Italian singers, so it’s no big deal. Otherwise, though, she’s easily my favorite thing about Kalidia once again except now everything else also sounds great, and so she gets to shine even more.

While Frozen Throne would have already been a big step up for the band just based on the overall sound, one of the most impressive things about it is how consistently excellent the songwriting is. It gets off to a strong start with the title track, which I already mentioned also serves as the lead single, and it’s an excellent one, starting off with some beautiful melodic guitar work, before the full band kicks in and the song speeds up, moving at a fast pace for a while, before slowing down during some fun verses, where Nicoletta takes over with her super smooth, deep voice. While the verses are slow paced, they have a lot of energy to them and are quite enjoyable, but then when the song speeds up again for the chorus, it becomes all the more epic, as the chorus is equal parts fun, catchy and super addictive, and already shows signs of the band taking a big step forward. The instrumental section is also great, with an excellent guitar solo, which has a very classic power metal feel to it, and overall the song is one of the best on the album, as well as being a great indication of what to expect. Next is the third single “Circe’s Spell”, which has a slight Middle Eastern feel to it, mostly from the symphonic melodies early on, as well as some of the melodies. It follows roughly the same formula as the title track, with slow verses giving way to a speedy chorus, except it’s a bit lighter and more melodic overall. It’s another excellent track, overall, and makes a bit more use of the epic symphonic elements. Speaking of which, second single “Black Sails” is one of the tracks where the symphonic elements are most notable, as it has an epic, sweeping arrangement that immediately gives it a pirate feel. It’s the most relaxed of the first three tracks, with more slow verses, and even the speed increase during the chorus is a bit more subtle. It’s still an epic track, with some great vocal melodies, and the pirate theme is cool.

After a strong the start, the album keeps the momentum going with “Orpheus”, which starts off slow and soft, with some nice atmospheric keyboards, and it actually stays rather calm for a while, until the guitars kick in just in time for the chorus, and it charges full speed ahead, with some epic classic power metal at its finest, and that gives way to an epic solo, which keeps the classic power metal feel. It’s a short, but very fun track which makes effective use of tempo changes throughout. Next is another favorite in “To The Darkness, I Belong”, which makes use of a violin for its symphonic elements. It starts out as another softer track, with a slight pop feel, before speeding up for an intense, but the super catchy chorus, and it makes great use of symphonic elements again in the second half, where the music gets really epic. In case the album wasn’t already going strong, my personal favorite comes next, that being “The Myth of Massada”. It’s a darker feeling track, where the symphonic elements have an extra level of tension to them, and it’s a song that stays fairly fast throughout, with some the darkest, heaviest guitar work on the album, which gives way to another super fun and catchy chorus, as well as one of the most intense and epic solo sections on the album. To take it to further heights, the track features guest vocals from Victorius singer David Bassin, who sounds as great as always, lending his intense and powerful vocals during the second verse.

After an excellent sequence of songs, the pace slows down briefly for “Midnight’s Chant”, the lone ballad of the album. It starts off as a nice piano ballad, with some symphonic backing, and it serves as a nice showcase for Nicoletta’s voice, starting out soft early on, before opening up with more powerful vocals later in the track. The full band kicks in for the first chorus, and while it remains soft throughout, there’s some nice instrumental work, including a great guitar solo. Next are two speedier tracks in “Go Beyond” and “Amethyst”, which are both classic power metal sounding tracks with minor symphonic elements. They both stay fast-paced throughout, and have a mix between great guitar work and excellent vocals, especially during the choruses, with the latter being a tad more intense and slightly more memorable, though both are excellent. Closing out the album are two tracks which follow a familiar formula, with “Lotus” starting out soft and slow during the verses, before opening up with a speedy chorus, while closing track “Queen of the Forsaken” does the same, except its heavier throughout, with some very powerful vocal during the verses. It also has one of the best choruses on the album, as well as an excellent solo section, to help make it a strong closing track.

I had very little expectations for Frozen Throne, at least until I heard the title track, but it certainly turned out to be a pleasant surprise and is actually one of the best symphonic power metal albums I’ve heard this year. Compared to the debut, everything sounds more powerful, more epic, more polished, more fully fleshed out, and just plain better. Newcomers to the band can expect some very well played classic power metal, with some great guitar work in bursts as well as some epic symphonic elements, consistently catchy and fun songwriting, and some excellent female vocals, which strike a nice balance between being soft and powerful at different times. For a band, I expected nothing from Kalidia managed to come up big with Frozen Throne, and so I hope they can keep the momentum going and produce more great music in the future!

 

Written by: Travis Green

Ratings:  9/10

 

 

Dire Peril – The Extraterrestrial Compendium Review

Released By: Divebomb Records

Release Date: November 9th, 2018

Genre: Power Metal

Links: https://www.facebook.com/direperil

 

Line Up:

John Yelland – Vocals

Jason Ashcraft – Guitars

 

Tracklist:

1. Yautja (Hunter Culture)

2. Planet Preservation

3. Enemy Mine

4. The Visitor

5. Total Recall

6. Queen of the Galaxy

7. Roughnecks

8. Blood in the Ice

9. Heart of the Furyan

10. Altair IV: The Forbidden Planet

11. Always Right Here

12. Journey Beyond the Stars

 

American power metal band Dire Peril is a group I have known of for over four years, first hearing their second EP Queen of the Galaxy back in 2014, but they had never made such an impression on me up until now. First off, a lot has changed since my initial experience with the band. For three EP’s, mastermind Jason Ashcraft had been working with a full band, including Imagika vocalist Norman Skinner. I only heard the one aforementioned release and found it to be solid, but unspectacular. However, in 2015, Jason took some time away from the band, before eventually regrouping and decided to work as a duo, bringing in Judicator vocalist John Yelland. I have experience with both current members of the band from other projects, discovering Jason’s other band, Helion Prime with their solid self-titled released in 2016, as well as hearing John in three different bands, with the most recent Judicator release, The Last Emperor, being one of my favorite power metal releases of 2018. With these two working together, along with some guest musicians, and two major guest vocalists, I was excited to see if Dire Peril could finally reach their full potential. Now that their full-length debut, The Extraterrestrial Compendium, has arrived, it’s safe to say I won’t be forgetting about this band again any time soon!

Based on the EP I had heard, the band had initially been more of an all-out aggressive power/thrash band, where The Extraterrestrial Compendium is a much more varied, more challenging and more dynamic release. There’s definitely still traces of thrash in many of the riffs, particularly on tracks like “Total Recall” and “Roughnecks”, but there’s also a surprising amount of softer sections, including two ballads, as well as a fair amount of classic heavy metal guitar work, which often brings to mind classic Iron Maiden. I can definitely see the aforementioned band, as well as Iced Earth, being two major influences on this release, but there’s certainly enough fresh ideas here for the album to stand on its own. For the most part, this is an album full of hard hitting, fast paced power metal, with the guitars being the main focus, and often being very aggressive as well as quite technical. Jason’s lead guitar work is excellent throughout the release, and there are also several solos from guest musicians, which are all very well done. This is a very heavy album overall, but it strikes a perfect balance between more intense passages and calmer passages, sometimes within the same track, or sometimes with some very wise track placements. Songwriting is excellent all around, sometimes being direct and instantly engaging, other times being a bit more subtle, and there’s a couple tracks with some slight prog leanings, particular the closing track “Journey Beyond the Stars”. The key, though, is that each song is amazing in its own right, and they all flow nicely together. There’s an overall concept, with each track featuring lyrics based on classic Sci-Fi films, such as Predator, E.T., Starship Troopers and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

One reason I wasn’t overly thrilled by Queen of the Galaxy back in 2014, was former vocalist Norman Skinner, whose voice and style just didn’t match my tastes at all, and so I struggled with most of the vocal parts. Thankfully, that is not an issue here, as I’ve been a fan of John Yelland since I first heard him with Disforia, back in 2011, and his vocals have only improved greatly ever since then. While I’ve enjoyed his vocals on the past few Judicator albums, I think his performance on this album is by far his best to date, as he gets to show more aspects of his voice than ever before, and he does an excellent job throughout. His usual, super smooth mid-range vocals are in full effect here, but he also gets to sing a lot deeper than normal on many of the thrashier sections, singing very powerfully and fitting the music perfectly, and he also throws in some epic falsettos from time to time. On the ballads, he sings softer than usual, and puts a lot of emotion into his performance, to help enhance the songs. Overall, this is easily the best, most dynamic performance I’ve ever heard from him.

While I wasn’t overly fond of the vocals on the one EP I heard in the past, I found the songwriting to be fairly enjoyable, and so I was hoping Jason could do a great job of writing songs for a full-length album, especially now that he was working with a singer I prefer. It’s safe to say, he succeeded big time, as the songwriting on this release is both consistently excellent and quite varied, managing to keep me fully engaging throughout, without ever feeling predictable. Opening track “Yuatja (Hunter Culture)” gets things off to a great start, opening with some nice classic heavy metal guitar leads, before picking up the pace and turning into a full throttle, hard-hitting power/thrash track, which definitely brings Iced Earth to mind, in the best way possible. It’s a fast-paced track, with some very good thrashy riffs, and John instantly gets to show off some deep and powerful vocals, which give way to an epic chorus, where some of those classic heavy metal leads return, and then they become a focus once again during a great solo section. It’s an awesome track overall, with a perfect blend of power/thrash and classic heavy metal. Speaking of heavy metal, the next track, “Planet Preservation” has quite a bit of that, especially during its epic, slow but very melodic chorus, where the guitars have a strong Maiden influence to them. Throughout the verses, it’s a slow paced, hard-hitting crusher of a track, but it opens up big time for an amazing chorus. Next is “Enemy Mine”, which starts off with some nice soft guitar work, before settling into a nice rhythm, moving at a somewhat fast pace, without ever fully going all out. It’s a more mid-paced track, with some hard-hitting riffs and powerful vocals throughout the verses, which lead into another very melodic and catchy chorus. In fact, it’s one of the more fun choruses on the album, for sure, and the extended guitar solo is also quite strong.

The first big change of pace comes next with “The Visitor”, the first of two ballads on the album. It’s a largely acoustic track, which moves along at a nice pace, with some very soft yet very emotional vocals from John, where he pushes for some higher notes during the chorus, and does a great job, as always. The song manages to stay engaging throughout and ends with some excellent guitar work and some very powerful vocals, which help bring the song to the next level. Following that track, the pace picks up considerably for the next while, starting with “Total Recall”, an all-out speedy power/thrash assault, based on the film of the same name. It’s one of the heaviest, most furious tracks on the album, with blistering lead guitar work and a great, super fun chorus. Next is “Queen of the Galaxy”, a song I had heard before, as it was the title track of that particular EP. It’s a mid-paced, slightly upbeat track with some nice melodic guitar leads, fun verses and a very melodic, super catchy chorus, which certainly works much better now, with John singing it. Throughout the verses and chorus, John is accompanied by Unleash the Archers vocalist Brittney Slayes (who was also on the original version) and the two sound great together, with the latter lending her powerful, yet super smooth vocals to the track. Next is another fast and furious track in “Roughnecks”, which if anything is even more intense than “Total Recall”, as John uses some crazy falsetto vocals during the verses, and the riffs are just as fast and as violent sounding as ever. It’s definitely an extremely fun, if brief, track, and it sure packs in a ton of energy and power within a short amount of time. From shortest to second longest we go, as “Blood in the Ice” is next, and it’s a sort of mini-epic, based on The Thing. It has a very thick atmosphere to it, starting off with some soft but slightly sinister acoustic guitar work, before picking up the pace and turning into an epic, hard-hitting progressive power metal track, with some more excellent guitar work. It largely moves at more of a mid-paced tempo, before going all out for another very fun, super catchy chorus. There’s a lot of tempo changes throughout, as well as some extended softer passages, which are very effective, and help make the heavier passages all the more effective, by providing a great contrast. Overall, it’s definitely one of the best tracks on the album, as well as one of the most epic, and the vocals are very dynamic and absolutely terrific throughout.

Moving towards the home stretch, lead single “Heart of the Furyan”, again starts off with some dark, soft guitar work, before quickly speeding up and turning into another all-out power/thrash assault. It’s another very hard hitting, blazing fast track, with aggressive verses and a very melodic, epic chorus, again doing an excellent job of mixing together thrashy riffs, epic solos, and some great melodic leads. The highlights keep coming with “Altair IV” The Forbidden Planet”, another fast-paced track, which again has some great melodic leads. It never quite gets as intense as some of the other faster songs, but it still has some great guitar work throughout, as well as bursts of aggressive riffs, and another strong chorus, as well as an outstanding guitar solo. The second ballad of the album is “Always Right Here”, where the guitar work has a very Metallica feel to it, starting out very soft, yet kinda cold, before slowing building up to an intense and epic chorus. John again does an excellent job, and it’s yet another excellent track, with an amazing guitar solo from Christian Münzner.

My most anticipated track going in was 9 minutes closer, “Journey Beyond the Stars”, not just because I tend to love epic length tracks, but also because it features Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen, who provides some guitar work, as well as some lead vocals. It is indeed the most progressive track here, starting out with an extended instrumental section, before settling into a calm, slow pace. It’s a fairly slow paced song throughout, with some extended softer passages, and it has another very melodic, fantastic chorus early. Around the midway point, there’s a sequence with some intense guitar work, and from there the song changes a bit, becoming a bit heavier, while still maintaining a fairly slow pace. It’s a track filled will some great instrumental work as well as a great chorus, but I was most interested in Arjen’s contributions, and as a fan of his singing, who has been disappointed with how little he’s been using his voice in recent years, I must say this track had me absolutely thrilled from the first time I heard it! Arjen gets to sing quite a bit, using his soft, warm voice during the early parts, before getting a bit more intense in the second half, singing with more intensity than I’m used to hearing from him, and it works wonderfully. John is, of course, fantastic as always, and overall, it’s definitely an amazing track in its own right, as well as being a perfect way to end the album.

Sometimes, a band I expect very little from at one point in time will go all to produce something truly amazing in the future, and that is exactly what has happened with Dire Peril! When I first heard the band in 2014, I saw some potential for greatness, but I wasn’t sure if they could ever fully get there. With their full-length debut, The Extraterrestrial Compendium, they have gone above and beyond my expectations, producing one of the best power metal albums of the year, which manages to be both very dynamic and consistently engaging throughout. I especially recommend it for fans of the harder hitting, more guitar driven side of power metal, as there’s a ton of thrash influence here, as well as a fair bit of classic heavy metal and some slight prog leanings. Everything is done well, with vocalist John Yelland giving the best performance of his career, and overall, it’s an amazing album from start to finish.

 

Written by: Travis Green

Ratings:  10/10

 

Arion – Life is Not Beautiful Review

Released By: AFM Records

Release Date: October 19th, 2018

Genre: Symphonic Power Metal

Links: https://www.facebook.com/

 

Line Up:

Lassi Vääränen – Vocals

Iivo Kaipainen – Guitars

Gege Velinov – Bass

Arttu Vauhkonen – Keyboards

Topias Kupiainen – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. The End of the Fall

2. No One Stands in My Way

3. At the Break of Dawn

4. The Last Sacrifice

5. Through Your Falling Tears

6. Unforgivable

7. Punish You

8. Life is Not Beautiful

9. The Last One Falls

10. Last of Us (2018 Version)

11. Seven (2018 Version)

12. I Am the Storm (2018 Version)

 

One of the most promising bands to come out of Finland in recent years is symphonic power metal band Arion. I discovered them in 2014 with their debut, Last of Us, and was immediately impressed by their strong vocal melodies, varied songwriting and their ability to blend softer tracks nicely with speedy power metal tracks. They’ve gone through some changes since then, with original vocalist Viljami Holopainen leaving and being replaced by Lassi Vääränen, who they quickly put to work with a new single, At the Break of Dawn. After that, the band was mostly silent for a couple years, while quietly working on a full album, and now, over four years after their debut, they’ve returned with their second full-length release, Life is Not Beautiful. I was excited to see where the band would go musically, as well as to see whether the new vocalist would fit in well, and while I have some mixed feelings on the latter, overall Life is Not Beautiful is another excellent release, which definitely moves the band’s sound forward, while still feeling familiar enough to keep existing fans happy.

Fans of the band’s debut will likely notice a slight change in the music direction between albums, as while the guitar tone and symphonic elements still feel familiar, the actual songwriting has changed a bit, moving towards a slightly more modernized sound, with crunchier guitar work in places, as well as an increased focus on harder hitting, speedy power metal, over some of the more relaxed material Last of Us had. There’s still some softer passages, for sure, including two ballads, but overall there’s a definite push towards heavier material on this release, and there is a time where the guitars overtake everything else, with the symphonic elements still being strong, but not quite as dominant as on the debut. Musically, everything sounds as great as before, with guitarist Livo Kaipainen, in particular, turning in a strong performance, with some excellent crunching riffs and strong solos, while the keyboards add some extra flavor, and the symphonic elements make everything feel more epic, especially on tracks like “No One Stands in My Way” and “The Last Sacrifice”. Songwriting is strong throughout, though none of the ballads grab me nearly as much as “You’re My Melody” from Last of Us, which may be at least partially because of the vocals.

Speaking of which, the aspect I was most concerned about going into this release, was, in fact, the vocals. Original vocalist Viljami Holopainen had a very smooth voice and he really excelled during the softer sections, while still doing a great job on the heavier parts. New vocalist Lassi Vääränen, on the other hand, has a much deeper and much rougher voice, which alone makes for a big change in direction. That’s just the beginning, though, as Lassi has a very wild, over the top delivery throughout the album, rarely toning it down, instead coming close to screaming at the top of his lungs most of the time, with a very energetic vocal performance that works great on heavier tracks, but not so much on the more melodic tracks. Worse, he fails to put in any kind of touch at all, taking some choruses that could have potentially been amazing, and instead of turning them into nearly incoherent scream fests. He does a pretty solid job throughout the album, and it must be noted he sounds very good on the three bonus re-recorded tracks from the debut, so part of the problem may be with the vocal melodies themselves, but either way, his vocals really bother me from time to time, and I feel he’s the one thing keeping me from potentially enjoying this release even more than Last of Us.

One area I wasn’t too worried about was the songwriting, as that’s an area the band had proven themselves to be great in on their debut, as well as the terrific single At the Break of Dawn, and so it’s no surprise to find that every song on this album is excellent musically. Following a nice orchestral intro track, opener “No One Stands in My Way” kicks in, and is a very epic, mid-paced track, where the symphonic elements dominate. It would have fit in pretty well on Last of Us, though it does have some of those extra crunchy guitars in bursts, as well some very energetic vocals from Lassi during the verses. The chorus is also epic, and Lassi’s vocals fit in pretty well on it, so it’s a strong start to the album, overall. Next is the single, “At the Break of Dawn”, and of course it’s still as amazing as ever. It’s a speedy, hard-hitting track with some great guitar work, epic keyboards, especially during the chorus, and while Lassi himself sounds pretty solid, the highlight of the track is Amaranthe vocalist Elize Ryd, who really shines the during the chorus, as expected.

The first song where the vocals really start to irritate me is “The Final Sacrifice”. It starts off slow, with some nice atmospheric keyboards, as well as some quiet vocals from Lassi, which already feel slightly off-putting. Once the track gets going, it picks up the pace and turns into a speedy power metal track, with some nice melodic leads, but the big moment is the chorus, which is very melodic musically, with some epic orchestral work, and it leaves room for some big vocal melodies, except Lassi falls back to his screaming, and the result is not exactly the most pleasant. It’s still a nice track overall, but it feels like the vocals hold it back a bit. Next is “Through Your Falling Tears”, a soft piano ballad, which is very beautiful musically, and while Lassi doesn’t excel in the way his predecessor likely would have on this track, he does a solid enough job on the chorus, not overdoing it too much with his screaming, so it ends up being a solid, if not quite amazing ballad.

One song where Lassi does excel is the hard-hitting “Unforgivable”, a very speedy track, which feels similar to “At the Break of Dawn”, except the guitars hit just a bit harder, and Lassi is the only vocalist here. His screams actually work very well during the chorus here and help make it super intense and epic. It’s a very fun, extremely catchy track, and easily my favorite on the album. Sadly, the same can’t be said for “Punish You”, which is probably the worst song on the album, just because of the vocals. Musically, it has a very modern sound to it, with the guitar work, in particular, feels like it would fit great on a modern melodic death metal track, and during the verses Lassi’s deep, rough vocals work quite well, but as is a common theme on the album, once the chorus hits, things go downhill in a hurry. He switches to a higher register, which is in one word: disastrous. The less said about it the better, really. The song itself is still very good, thanks to the verses and some excellent instrumental work, especially during the solo section, but the vocals bring it down quite a bit. Another track I have mixed feelings on is the title track. It’s another song with some very modern sounding, crunchy guitars, almost going into metalcore territory, and it’s excellent musically, with an especially melodic and beautiful solo towards the end. As usual, the verses are strong, but Lassi’s nasally screams get on my nerves once again during the chorus, almost as much so as on “Punish You”. Closing out the album is one more ballad “Last One Falls”. This is the one track on the album where Lassi tones it down completely and sings softly, with pretty good results. He isn’t the most emotive vocalist, but his deep voice fits the sorrowful tone of the song nicely, and he gives a solid performance. As mentioned earlier, the album features three bonus re-recorded tracks from Last of Us, including the softer title track, where Lassi sounds good, but a bit off, as well as the speedier tracks “Seven” and “I Am the Storm”, where he actually sounds great, particularly on the latter, where I’d even say he takes the song to new heights. Musically, the tracks sound pretty much identical to the original versions, so it all comes down to which vocalist you prefer.

Overall, Life is Not Beautiful is a bit of a frustrating release, as it’s a brilliant album musically, continuing with the epic symphonic metal of the band’s debut, while pushing towards more of a power metal direction, with quite a few speedier songs as well as some harder hitting, more modern sounding guitar work, but new vocalist Lassi Vääränen isn’t the best fit at times, and brings my enjoyment down on a couple tracks in particular. At the same time, he does bring a new intensity and energy that can help the band in the future, and I think if they write material that’s well suited to his voice, they could reach the next level. It hasn’t happened yet, but Life is Not Beautiful is still an excellent album overall, which I can easily recommend to fans of their debut, as well as anyone looking for some great symphonic power metal, with great songwriting, great instrumental work, and some good vocals, especially during verses and heavier sections.

 

Written by: Travis Green

Ratings:  8/10

 

Orion’s Reign – Scores of War Review

Released By: Pride and Joy Records

Release Date: October 19th, 2018

Genre: Symphonic Power Metal

Links: http://www.orionsreign.com/

 

Line Up:

Daniel Vasconcelos – Vocals

George Thanasoglou – Guitars

Michael Batistatos – Guitars, Bass

Kirk Gazouleas – Keyboards

Noel Kardaris – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Elder Blood

2. Together We March

3. Gravewalker

4. The Undefeated Gaul

5. An Adventure Song

6. Freedom is not Negotiable

7. Nostos

8. Warrior’s Pride

9. Withering Heart

10. Last Stand

11. Ride to War

 

There are some bands I will follow for a while before hearing anything substantial from them, just out of the sheer promise they show in bursts. The most recent case of this is Greek symphonic power metal band Orion’s Reign. The band has been around for over thirteen years, releasing their debut Nuclear Winter in 2008, but they had escaped my attention completely until a few years ago when I saw one of their many yearly Christmas music videos. These tracks have always been equal parts silly, epic and just plain entertaining, and so when I heard the band was working on a new album in their current form, I was excited to see what they would be capable when writing their own material. Now that Scores of War is here, it’s safe to say, the band has shattered all my expectations, and delivered one of the absolute best power metal albums of the year!

Fans of the genre should have a good idea of what kind of material to expect here, as this is very much fantasy themed symphonic power metal in its most epic form, with the main focus being on symphonic keys and orchestras, with guitars serving mostly as rhythm for any sections, though when they do come to the front of the sound, they can be quite strong, with some classic heavy metal leads at times, in the vein of classic Maiden, as well as some excellent shredding solos. For the most part, though, it’s the symphonic arrangements and drums that carry the songs, and both of these elements are very well done, with the drums doing an excellent job in setting the pace, while the orchestral elements and symphonic keys are grand, sweeping and epic in every possible way, at times creating the atmosphere of a film score. There’s occasionally the use of folk elements as well, such as fiddles and bagpipes. While there’s always a lot going on, with most tracks containing multiple layers of orchestral elements, everything works together perfectly, and the actual songs are fairly straight-forward and always engaging. There’s also quite a bit of variety in the songs here, with the expected speedy power metal tracks being balanced out by a couple slower tracks, including a ballad, as well as a couple more folk-influenced songs, and other surprises. The album always manages to stay fresh and consistently amazing from start to finish. Performances are excellent all around, and production was handled by Jens Bergen, who did an excellent job as always.

The band has gone through a few lineup changes over the years, with their latest addition being vocalist Daniel Vasconcelos, who joined in 2015. For a while, the band had no vocalist and was just using guests for their various singles, but now with Dan in the group, they are ready to forge ahead. Thankfully, Dan is an excellent vocalist, with a rather deep and powerful voice, which fits the music perfectly. His vocals are often theatrical, somewhat operatic, and fit in well with the overall epic feel of the album, adding an extra layer to everything. He can sometimes get a bit more intense and uses some falsetto every one in a while, to great effect. There’s also a ton of choir vocals throughout the album, which are used quite effectively, as well as a few guests, who I’ll mention in the song by song descriptions.

Having only heard the band performing covers coming into this album, I was interested in seeing what their songwriting skills were like. Needless to say, they do not disappoint, as every song on Scores of War is fantastic in its own way, as the album manages to be both varied and consistently amazing the whole way through. Things kick off with the super epic opener “Elder Blood”, which starts off with an epic orchestral section, accompanied by choral vocals, before the metal instruments and Dan eventually kick in, and then the song speeds up and turns into an epic speedy symphonic power metal track, with excellent verses, an even better chorus, and some excellent rhythm guitar work throughout, as well as an excellent solo. Next is “Together We March”, another speedy track, where the symphonic elements are very prevalent throughout, with guitars mostly serving as rhythm, though they do so effectively. The song has fun verses and another strong chorus, this time with some excellent guest vocals from Tim “Ripper Owns”, who uses his signature falsetto vocals throughout the verses and chorus. There’s also an extremely epic vocal section in the second half, giving way to a great guitar solo, and overall it’s an absolutely wonderful track.

The first slower track is “Gravewalker”, another very epic track, dominated by symphonic elements and choir vocals. The verses are slow but have some rather hard-hitting guitar work, as well as some excellent orchestral sounds, and the chorus is huge, with Dan accompanied by some very epic choir vocals, making for one of the catchiest and most engaging choruses on the album. The track gets intense in the middle for a while, with a great instrumental section, and overall it’s one of my personal favorites here. The highlights keep coming with lead single “The Undefeated Gaul”, one of the fastest, hardest hitting tracks on the album. The riffs are extra aggressive here, and Dan gets very intense during the verses, giving way to a catchy, but frantic and very heavy chorus, which eventually leads to the heaviest instrumental section on the album, with some great shredding guitars. It’s a wild and intense track but still manages to be very epic and fun at the same time. Speaking of fun, “Adventure Song” is a slightly lighter but still fast-paced track, with some excellent choir vocals throughout. It has the vibe of a tavern song and features various folk instruments throughout, that give it the feel of a classic folk song, except with heavy guitars. It’s a fast, melodic and very catchy song, and certainly one of the cheeriest metal songs you’ll ever hear, with an especially great instrumental section, where several different folk instruments are used. The band returns to a more familiar symphonic power metal territory with “Freedom is not Negotiable, which has slow verses, but a fast and intense chorus, filled with more epic choir vocals, and as well as another intense instrumental section with some very heavy guitar work.

Another change of pace comes with “Nostos”, a very melodic mid-paced track, with a slight folk feel to it. The symphonic elements are dominant once again, and it’s a very light, upbeat track with some amazing vocal melodies throughout. It serves as a duet between Dan and Youtube cover vocalist Minniva, who had previously worked with the band on their past few Christmas carols. She fits the track perfectly, with very light but powerful vocals, that capture the vibe of the music wonderfully, and her higher vocals serve as a perfect contrast to Dan’s deeper voice, making them a great duo. The chorus is probably the catchiest and most engaging on the album, and overall it’s simply a wonderful track, and probably my favorite on the album. Next is “Warrior’s Pride”, a faster, more classic power metal feeling track. Guitars lead the way through most of the track, with heavy, driving riffs, and the chorus is fun and catchy, without being quite as grand as usual. The symphonic elements are still there but feel a bit less prominent than usual, and overall it’s a very fast and heavy track, with the occasional growls thrown in for some extra flavor. The lone ballad here is “Withering Heart”, which starts out as a soft piano ballad, but gradually develops into something much more epic, with a great use of choirs and orchestral elements, as well as having by the best vocals from Dan on the entire album, as he really steals the show, especially during the final run-through of the chorus, where he goes all out and absolutely nails it. One last speedy track is “Last Stand”, which certainly feels like the kind of song Rhapsody of Fire would have released in their prime. It’s very fast, intense and makes great use of symphonic elements, while still having some pretty heavy rhythm guitar work, as well as an excellent keyboard solo in the second half, performed by Firewind’s Bob Katsionis. Most vocals on the track are performed by Mark Boals, who does a great job as always, especially during an epic vocal section right at the end, which feels like it could have been a perfect end to the album. Instead, the band chose to close the album out with “Ride Into War”, a slow but very epic track, with a very classic Maiden vibe to the guitar work. It starts out with some classical piano, and stays soft and theatrical for a while before the guitars kick in and that classic heavy metal feel takes over for a while. It’s another very epic track, with great guitar work and an excellent chorus, and it does a nice job of alternating between soft and heavy sections throughout, making it an appropriate ending track.

Overall, Scores of War is an incredible album, from a band I had been following for a while to see if their original material could live up to their cover work. It’s safe to say, Orion’s Reign has not only lived up to my expectations, but they have also completely shattered them, and have produced the best symphonic power metal album of the year, as well as one of the best in recent years. It’s a consistently excellent album, with nicely varied songwriting, a great use of symphonic elements, and excellent guest vocals on a few tracks. Highly recommended for any power metal fan looking for something especially epic, as well as symphonic power metal fans looking for something similar to Rhapsody of Fire at their best, while still doing more than enough to stand out.

 

Written by: Travis Green

Ratings:  10/10

 

 

Guardians of Time – Tearing Up the World Review

Released By: Rock of Angels Records

Release Date: October 19th, 2018

Genre: Power Metal

Links: http://guardiansoftime.no/

 

Line Up:

Bernt Fjellestad – Vocals

Paul Olsen – Guitars

Jonkis Werdal – Bass

Jan Willy Aaraas – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Tearing Up the World

2. Raise the Eagle

3. We Bring War

4. Burning of Rome

5. Kingdom Come

6. Valhalla Awaits

7. Brothers of the North

8. Light Won’t Shine

9. As I Burn

10. Drawn in Blood

11. Masters We Were

12. Empire (Live Bonus Track)

 

Over the years, I have discovered quite a few bands that failed to make much of an impression on me at first, only to come back to them somewhere down the road and suddenly find myself hooked on their music. One such example is Norwegian power metal band Guardians of Time. My first time hearing the band was with their 2011 release A Beautiful Atrocity, which initially did very little for me, and left me quite unimpressed. However, when the band released their next album, Rage, and Fire, in 2015, I decided to give them another shot, and this time around I found myself instantly wowed by their brand of hard-hitting, fast-paced power metal. It turns out, that one release I tried before had been a bit experimental, and even to this day, while I certainly enjoy it more than I did initially, it still remains my least favorite by the band. Now, three years after me becoming a fan, the band is set to release their fifth full-length release, Tearing Up the World, and this one is certainly more of an instant classic than any of their others I’ve heard, so far!

The band has changed their sound quite a bit over the years, but on their previous album they played a very aggressive, guitar-driven brand of power metal, similar to what one would expect from a German band, and this has continued with Tearing Up the World. In fact, this is definitely the fastest paced, most intense album I’ve heard by the band so far, with the majority of the tracks being very up-tempo while striking a perfect balance between frantic verses and very melodic, catchy choruses. There’s some slightly thrashy guitar work at points, as well as brief bursts of harsh vocals, most notably on “Valhalla Awaits”, but for the most part, this is about as pure a power metal album as you’ll ever hear. Performances are strong across the board, with the crunchy guitar work, in particular, being a highlight, with a mix of excellent riffs and grand solos, while the drums are also quite interesting and rather complex at times. Songwriting is excellent across the board, and while the songs are generally fast and straight-forward, there are a couple slower tracks to serve as a nice change of pace, as well as just enough surprises thrown in to keep the album feeling fresh and inspired the whole way through.

One element of the band I needed some time to get used to is vocalist Bernt Fjellestad. At the time I first heard the band, I was not really into rougher power metal vocals, which was obviously a problem, because that’s exactly what Bernt does. He has a rather deep voice and can get very animated at times, coming pretty close to screaming at the top of his lungs on occasion, while generally being quite fiery and powerful. He can deliver choruses nicely and does so frequently on this album, and he also does a good job of singing softly from time to time, but for the most part, he sticks to being very intense, and he isn’t afraid to throw in some epic falsettos, either.

I’ve found past Guardians of Time albums to be a bit slow starting, but it’s safe to say, that’s not the case with Tearing Up the World. The album gets off to a blistering start with the explosive title track, which opens up with some hard-hitting riffs that would feel right at home on a modern melodic death metal album, and indeed we get our first glimpse at some brief harsh vocals during the second verse. The song overall is fast, intense, and has an excellent chorus, as well as a fun solo section, and it certainly gets the album off to a strong start. The pace drops slightly on “Raise the Eagle”, a lighter, more melodic track, which introduces some light keyboards. It has a very classic power metal sound to it, alternating between mid-paced verses and a fast, very melodic chorus, and it has one of the most melodic and impressive solo sections on the album. Next is “We Bring War”, a hard-hitting song, which also had fairly slow verses, before speeding up for a frantic and intense chorus, which stands as one of the bands on the album.

The album only picks up further with “The Burning of Rome”, one of the fastest tracks on the album, slowing down briefly during the first verse, before picking up the pace and never looking back. It has probably the catchiest, the most epic chorus on the entire album, as well as one of the more relaxed performances from Bernt, which ends up paying off in a big way. Following that, “Kingdom Come” is even speedier and doesn’t slow down at all, with some excellent rhythm guitars and drums throughout, as well as a very frantic but melodic chorus. It’s short, but definitely one of the most addictive tracks on the album. The first curveball comes next, during “Valhalla Awaits”. The song itself is typical high energy power metal, as always, with some very fun, melodic verses, but it’s during the chorus where it takes a surprising turn. The guitar work stays very melodic throughout, but the vocals are performed by former Immortal vocalist Abbath, who uses his usual blackened growls. Honestly, I usually don’t mind harsh vocals in power metal, but I find the vocals really clash with the melodic chorus here, and if anything would fit better on the verses, or even on one of the heavier tracks on the album, such as the title track or “We Bring War”. To have placed them on such a melodic track feels like a bit of a mistake to me, and causes the song to be my least favorite, even though the rest of the track is still up to the excellent quality of the rest of the album.

After that slight disappointment, the band bounces back with yet another super fast track in “Brothers of the North”, this time offering up some very intense verses, before giving way to one of the most melodic and well-sung choruses on the album, making it an instant favorite. The last run through is especially inspiring, and overall it’s simply an addictive track. In case anyone thought the band was incapable of slowing things down, “Light Won’t Shine” comes in to offer a sledgehammer to the head of that theory. Indeed, it’s a slow but very hard-hitting crusher of a track, with some especially hard riffs during the verses, giving way to an excellent chorus. It’s both a nice change of pace and an excellent track on its own. Next is “As I Burn”, the other track on the album to feature guest vocals. It’s another speedy track, with slight thrash influences to the guitar work, which fits perfectly as the guest here is Tim “Ripper” Owens, using his typical falsetto vocals to great effect. There’s a nice guitar solo near the end, with some slight Maiden influences, and overall it’s another excellent track. The second and last slower song on the album is “Drawn in Blood”, a very folk-influenced song, with some folk melodies thrown into the guitar work. It’s the most relaxing track on the album, with some excellent melodies, as well as some more lighter vocals from Bernt, and while it’s fairly short-lived, it’s certainly a very fun, catchy track, and stands as my personal favorite, just because it’s such an effective change of pace, and because I love the folk melodies. Closing out the album is “Masters We Were”, another fast-paced track with an excellent chorus, and some excellent melodic guitar work, as well as probably the best solo section on the album. It closes out the album in great form and is another one of my personal favorites. As a bonus, the band has offered up a live performance of “Empire”, a track from Rage and Fire, and it’s a fine performance, with everything sounding near identical to the studio version.

I was hoping for Tearing Up the World to be a fun, hard-hitting power metal album, and it’s exactly that, except with a few nice surprises thrown in, as well as one slight misfire. Aside from that one chorus, though, the album is excellent the whole way through, giving listeners plenty of excellent fast and furious power metal moments, as well as a couple very effective slower tracks. It’s my favorite Guardians of Time album to date, and one that can easily be recommended, both to fans of the band as well as to anyone looking for some great guitar driven power metal, as it’s definitely one of the best released this year.

 

Written by: Travis Green

Ratings:  9/10