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AXEL RUDI PELL Into the Storm

Album · 2014 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.05 | 2 ratings
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Into the Storm (2014) is the sixteenth album by German guitarist Axel Rudi Pell. Though a solo project Axel Rudi Pell has always operated as a band entity, the line-up of which has largely been stable now since 1998, though the drummer changed to Bobby Rondinelli in 2013, who makes his debut with Axel Rudi Pell on Into the Storm.

Despite going since 1989 and having sixteen albums Into the Storm is actually the first time I have tried Axel Rudi Pell's music. I have to be honest, at least through this album it doesn't make the best of impressions. Into the Storm contains ten tracks of the style that I usually consider to be completely inoffensive traditional heavy metal crossed with hard rock; that is to say that while there's nothing inherently bad about the music it doesn't get my head banging or my blood pumping in any way either.

Vocalist Johnny Gioeli makes good impressions though and allowed the album to stand out a bit more than I think it would otherwise. Axel Rudi Pell's been around a while of course and something like this released back at the start of his career would no doubt have set a different impression, but as a first album to hear from him and his band in 2014 Into the Storm just ends up feeling a bit flat. The ten minute title is the most adventurous number here by the album's own standard, but much like the overall sound the middle-eastern melody style used here is something that just seems to have been done to death by rock and metal artists so what may be a bit different in album terms doesn't do much to standout once the bigger picture is looked at. A few of songs tend to overstay their welcome too and coming in at nearly a full hour of playing time there simply isn't much here to alleviate the blandness of the whole thing.

It would be a fair argument to say that such an assessment is a problem with me not hearing earlier Axel Rudi Pell albums (and so not knowing what to expect) rather than a problem with the music itself but I can only appraise Into the Storm based on what experience I have and I've heard recent traditional metal albums in both old school and modern styles that managed to sound a lot fresher than anything Axel Rudi Pell offers up on Into the Storm. Still, anything lower than a 3 star rating would probably be unfair.


(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/axel-rudi-pell-into-the-storm-t3698.html)

ORGIA PRAVEDNIKOV Вперед и вверх / Vpered I Vverkh

Album · 2014 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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I discovered the Russian band Orgia Pravednikov in 2005 when by accident I've found their first album in a Russian musical website. I was so impressed with that album (Oglashennye Izydite - Оглашeнные Изыдите) that I ended reviewing it to the first version of Progshine website, back in 2006. This review, by some miracle, was found by the vocalist/acoustic guitar player of the band Sergey Kalugin, that impressed with my review and the fact that a faraway person from Russia was able to understand their music, contacted me and sent me all of the band's CDs. Since them I receive all of their albums for review and I can say I'm Sergey's friend. The last studio album by the band (Dlya Teh, Kto Vidit Sny Vol.1 - Для тех, кто видит сны. Vol.1) was a bit of a different step from their previous three albums and the EP Шитрок (Shitrock) was just but a taste. The fact is, the live album I review now shows exactly this change of sound.

Вперед и вверх ? Vpered I Vverkh (2014) ? meaning Onward And Upward ? was recorded in 2010 in the release concert of Dlya Teh, Kto Vidit Sny Vol.1 (2010) and it comes in a beautiful (as every of their albums) cardboard/papersleeve box with 2 CDs and a DVD, the art emulates the artwork of that studio album too.

To say that Orgia Pravednikov is an extremely competent band is being redundant. The professional side of things, like the execution of the songs, are just perfect and even the overall feeling of the concert can be felt through the audio of the CDs and later on confirmed on the DVD. The band in this concert, as it could not be different, plays Dlya Teh, Kto Vidit Sny Vol.1 (2010) in its entirety in the CD 1 of this live release. Just the order of the songs are a bit different here (to be honest didn't understand why). My favorite tracks on this first disc are 'The Catcher In The Rye', 'По тонкому льду' (Po Tonkomu l'du), 'Дорога ворона' (Doroga Vorona) and especially the fantastic 'Гимн' (Gimn). Another track from the CD 1 that is a surprise is 'Скименъ' (Skimen) because of its aggressive feeling but at the same time full of flutes, also the closing track on the CD 1 'Школа Мудрости' (Shkola Mudrosti) is a great track, upbeat and a perfect ending!

In the CD 2 we have the classic tracks of the other Orgia Pravednikov albums, we have 'Офис' (Ofis), 'Das Boot' and 'Армагеддон FM' (Armageddon FM) from the album Уходящее солнце - Ukhodyashcheye Solntse (2007) and 'Туркестанский экспресс' (Turkestanskiy Ekspress) from the debut album Оглашенные изыдите - Oglashennyye Izydite (2001). We also have a track that would be recorded only 2 years later on the EP Шитрок ? Shitrock (2012). Oddly we don't have any songs from their second studio album, the experimental Двери! Двери! ? Dveri! Dveri! (2005).

In the DVD we can see very clearly what a concert of the band is all about, not to mention that the video/audio are from excellent quality, redeeming the band from the medium quality of their previous DVD Солнцестояние ? Solntsestoyaniye (2008).

Вперед и вверх ? Vpered I Vverkh (2014) for sure closes a cycle for Orgia Pravednikov and we can see that they're pointing to new directions with their music and, to be honest, I hardly can wait for their next studio album!

Вперед и вверх ? Vpered I Vverkh (2014) is simply essential for the fans of the band and it's a perfect introduction to the new ones. If you like music that don't see any problem in not being labeled and if you like to know new quality music I can highly recommend this album for you!


(Originally posted on progshine.net)

HELSTAR This Wicked Nest

Album · 2014 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Helstar-This Wicked Nest

For me, Helstar is one of the most underrated metal bands I can think of. Ever since they re-grouped and released 'The King of Hell', I have found their recent releases flawless and this is no exception.

On 'This Wicked Nest, Helstar brings us their normal Thrash/Power metal style with some progressive elements mixed in. The opening track, 'Fall of Dominion', is one of the strongest album openers I've ever heard. Rivera's cold vocals at the beginning combined with the pounding drums and kick-ass riffs are crafted beautifully. Michael Lewis brings us so much double-bass it's hard to even keep track. The lyrics are great, and Rivera's vocal performance is outstanding. His shifts from low to high-pitched screams are perfect on the entire album.

Other standout tracks are songs like 'Cursed', with it's progressing melody. 'Souls Cry' is probably my favorite next to the opening track, Rivera's ominous vocal work during the chorus flows just right and compliments the guitar and drums very well. On 'Defy the Swarm', Rivera's vocals are very strong and the drums and guitar are great. The instrumental 'Isla de las Muñecas' is Helstar's forst instrumental since 'Perseverance and Desperation' from 'Nosferatu', and they sure haven't lost their touch with that.

The lyrics are among Helstar's best in my opinion. They are bringing in more political lyrics and it fits with Helstar's music. 'Fall of Dominion' is obviously one of the most politically charged songs, the lyrics are about government oppression and it is certainly true for today. The title track and 'Defy the Swarm' are other political based songs. There are their normal dark personal lyrics as well though, in songs like 'Eternal Black' and 'Cursed'.

The production is what you would expect, it's a very loud production which is perfect for some nice headbanger thrash metal.

Overall, If you're looking for some new kick-ass thrash metal, look no further. Helstar's got you covered.

Hope you found this review helpful --------------------------------------------------------------------- Feel free to leave a comment and tell me your opinions on the album.


Album · 2014 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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QuantumX (2014) is the second full-length album by Swedish power metal act Celestial Decay. It's been several years since the band released their debut album Contradictum (2010) and a lot has changed in regard to how Celestial Decay functions. Whereas Contradictum was a band effort of six members the core line-up on QuantumX consists of just two musicians, guitarists Hobbe Houshmand and Freddy Olofsson with everything else handled by guest performers. Of those two only Hobbe Houshmand also performed on the debut. One might expect a multi-vocalist metal opera with that sort of setup but that isn't the case; the album is fronted by Aeon Zen's Andi Kravljaca with growls added by Within Y's Andreas Solveström on a couple of tracks.

QuantumX has been released in two versions, a CD version which comes in a DVD size case and an extended digital version. I must admit I find it a questionable practice to release a physical copy with edited versions on it, which is what the case here is judging from a picture of the CD version's track listing which is the same as the promo copy I received only with certain songs shortened in length. Fortunately to balance that buyers of physical copies will also get a digital copy free of charge. Still with that said at least they've been open about it, though I know that if I'd brought a CD instead of reviewing a promo copy I'd expect to hear the full unedited album on the media I choose to pay for.

The music on QuantumX is a mix of power metal, symphonic metal and progressive metal for the most part but there are also forays into other ideas to a lesser extent such as traditional metal and I even detected a thrash bit at one point. Some of the symphonic ideas have a vaguely folksy quality to them too. I'd say the backbone of the release is power metal though but listeners shouldn't expect an album that focuses on speed all of the time. Andi Kravljaca proves a great choice for lead vocalist bringing the clean and soaring melodic tones that power metal fans lap up. Andreas Solveström's growls by comparison are only really used for backing purposes, which is quite effective too. There is also some female voiced narration used in a couple of places. The band really reminds me of Ancient Bards work in these instances. The sound of the album can be a bit generic at times though, for all the stuff the band gets right. Despite the progressive elements Celestial Decay throw in there isn't really anything that out of the ordinary here, making the appeal of the album limited in my opinion.

It's competently done and enjoyable album from start to finish all the same but if anything the real issue with QuantumX is that it's ambitious to a fault. The reason for this is because of its very long running time which is over the eighty minute mark, with a total of fifteen tracks, not all of which stand out as good as ones like Blinded, Ashes of Decay and Life & Death, which are all excellent. The album simply doesn't manage to fully hold my attention if I try to take it in a single listen and that's definitely a detrimental issue on any kind of release. Their cover of Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart is also pretty cringe worthy. I do enjoy their power metal arrangement of it but it's the one place on the album where Andi Kravljaca's singing just doesn't work for me. Ironically it's actually the longest track Final Symphony that stands out as the best on the album despite overall timing issues, though unfortunately it's one of the ones that appears to have received an edit on the physical copy judging by that image I referred to earlier listing an 11:30 duration for it when the version I have is 12:50.

QuantumX is an enjoyable enough power metal release but there are some issues that Celestial Decay need to overcome for future efforts. For this one a rating in the 3.5 stars bracket seems fair.


(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/celestial-decay-quantumx-t3687.html)


Album · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Splinters" is the 2nd full-length studio album by UK death metal act Vallenfyre. The album was released through Century Media Records in May 2014. Vallenfyre is down to a four-piece on "Splinters", as guitarist Mully has jumped ship since the release of "A Fragile King (2011)". The lineup therefore now features lead vocalist/guitarist Gregor Mackintosh (Paradise Lost), guitarist Hamish Glencross (My Dying Bride), drummer Adrian Erlandsson (Paradise Lost, At the Gates, The Haunted, Cradle of Filth...etc.) and bassist Scott (Doom, Alehammer, Extinction of Mankind, Hellkrusher).

Stylistically the music on "Splinters" pretty much continues down the same path as the music on "A Fragile King (2011)". That means old school death metal with some excursions into doom/death territory (like on "Bereft", which sound very much like early Paradise Lost, or "Aghast"). It´s predominantly old school Swedish death metal that I´m reminded of though (especially Dismember), with crushingly heavy buzzing guitars, melancholic and gloomy lead guitar themes, D-beat drumming and some brutal yet intelligible growling vocals in front. Vallenfyre are not a one-trick pony though, and they are pretty successful in varying their riffs and their rhythms throughout the album. Everything from blast beats to D-beats to slow and doomy beats and just about anything else that you would regularly hear on an old school death metal album are represented on this album. So while "Splinters" is through and through an old school death metal album, it´s a pretty diverse one within the boundaries of the genre.

The sound production is massive, brutal and raw, which suits the music perfectly. I never get tired of listening to those buzzing über distorted guitars. Pure early 90s nostalgia right there. The musicianship are solid and the material are well written and effective, so all in all "Splinters" is another great album release by Vallenfyre and along with Bloodbath they are arguably among the elite contemporary retro death metal acts featuring prolific musicians from other acts. The surprise element that was part of listening to "A Fragile King (2011)" when it came out is naturally not there when listening to "Splinters" and probably as a consequence of that, I rate the debut slightly higher than "Splinters", but "Splinters" is still a high quality release by Vallenfyre deserving a 4 star (80%) rating.

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IMMORTAL Sons of Northern Darkness

Album · 2002 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.45 | 22 ratings
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The seventh Immortal album Sons of Northern Darkness was their last to be released in their original run of activity (it wouldn't be followed up until All Shall Fall in 2009). Officially it bears the same three-piece line-up as performed on Damned in Black, however bassist Iscariah later revealed that he only actually played on the song One by One and the bass on everything else was played by Abbath.

Perhaps more so than with any consecutive two Immortal albums since Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism and Pure Holocaust, Sons of Northern Darkness really does seem to pick up where Damned in Black left off. This is black metal with very strong thrash metal elements. If this had ended up the last Immortal album though they'd have really gone out on a high as it's the closest they've ever come to matching the perfection that is their 1999 album At the Heart of Winter, to the point that despite my firm belief that At the Heart of Winter deserves the recognition as their best it's sometimes really hard to pick between the two. Damned in Black was excellent but Sons of Northern Darkness perfects what the band set out to do with that album and is excellent from the opening thrasher One by One to the lengthy closer Beyond the North Waves.

Attribution: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/immortal-sons-of-northern-darkness-t3702.html

MUDVAYNE Lost and Found

Album · 2005 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.19 | 6 ratings
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One day, I was walking around my favourite store, which usually has a healthy supply of all different genres of music. As I was taking my usually hour looking through the thousands of titles, I saw the eloquently written Mudvayne inscribed on a jewel case. I took it out to see that it was their third studio album, "Lost and Found". I decided to take it home with me that day and give it a listen.

Mudvayne has a tendency to combine different styles of metal, including progressive, alternative, and traditional metal genres. When bands do this, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In the case of "Lost and Found", it totally works. And the vocals give us a small dose of blacker-metal noises, making for a four piece genre fusion, making for Mudvayne's album, "Lost and Found".

Several tracks give us a mix of these genres, such as 'Fall Into Sleep', 'TV Radio', 'Choices', and my personal favorite from the album, 'Rain. Sun. Gone'. The vocals have the black metal sound I mentioned before, but have a Breaking-Benjamin feel to the instrumentals.

The music has a way of being consistent and inconsistent at the same time, giving for a flowing, rhythmic kind of album. Along with this shifting style, the vocals are absolutely stunning. Chad Grey is amazing when it comes to shifting between notes and simply yelling (artistically). Giving a sort of blend of dark and light in this album.

Certified 'GOLD' by the RIAA, "Lost and Found" deserves it's popularity, and is definitely a good album from Mudvayne.


Split · 2010 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Oslo We Rot" is a double 7" EP split release featuring tracks by four different Oslo, Norway based death metal acts. The split was released through Unborn Productions in April 2010. "Oslo We Rot" is limited to 500 copies. The title of the release is of course a pun on the the title of the legendary debut album "Slowly We Rot (1989)" by Florida based death metal act Obituary.

The split features material by Lobotomized, Obliteration, Execration and Diskord. The Execration track and one of the Diskord tracks were later featured in re-recorded versions on the "Odes of the Occult (2011)" album by Execration and the "Dystopics (2012)" album by Diskord respectively. The rest of the tracks on the split are, as far as I´ve been able to find out, exclusive to this release.

"Oslo We Rot" is a relatively varied split although all four acts are rooted in old school Scandinavian death metal. Lobotomized is probably the act that sticks out the most as they employ a heavy dose of hardcore punk in their filthy take on old school death metal. They play an original track titled "Piss on My Grave" and two cover tracks. One Mentors cover and one Autopsy cover. The absolutely caustic vocal delivery is a great asset to their energetic and punked death metal style. The Obliteration track is sligthly more standard death metal. Both the Execration and the Diskord tracks are more technical in nature but without sacrificing filthy old school death metal darkness.

The sound production on most tracks are murky, dark and filthy, which suits the music on the split well. Overall "Oslo We Rot" is quite an entertaining release to my ears and especially Lobotomized and Diskord stand out as very convincing at what they do. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

REDEMPTION The Fullness of Time

Album · 2005 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.87 | 18 ratings
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"The Fullness of Time" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Redemption. The album was released through Sensory Records in June 2005. Redemption started out as the brainchild of main composer/guitarist/keyboardist Nick van Dyk and the debut album "Redemption (2002)" sounded like a project more than a real band effort IMO. There were lots of prominent guest appearences on that album like Ray Alder from Fates Warning on vocals (who sang lead vocals on one song) and Jason Rullo from Symphony X on drums. It´s not an album that impressed me much, so I approached "The Fullness of Time" with some caution. As it turns out my fears were unfounded. "The Fullness of Time" sounds much more like a band effort compared to it´s predecessor and is overall a much stronger release. Ray Alder is now a full-time member of the band and lead guitarist Bernie Versailles (Agent Steel, Engine, Fates Warning) has also opted to become a full-time member. New members of Redemption are drummer Chris Quirarte (Prymary, Roswell Six) and bassist James Sherwood (Prymary).

The music on the album is progressive metal. It´s rather traditional with heavy guitar riffs, keyboards, a tight and technically skilled rhythm section, and a skillful vocalist with a strong voice. There are influences in the music from acts like Dream Theater, Fates Warning (...well it´s hard not to sound like them when you share lead singer) and Symphony X (only when the piano kicks in. But when it does there´s an audible similarity). So far... so good. Nothing out of the ordinary there. What is out of the ordinary on "The Fullness of Time", is that the compositions are of an extremely high compositional quality for the genre and the musicians are some of the more skillful players in that genre too. The development that´s taken place since "Redemption (2002)" is impressive. Many progressive metal acts tend to overuse keyboards, but the use of keyboards on "The Fullness of Time" is very tasteful and helps create the hauntingly beautiful and at times desperate dark atmosphere on the album. The guitar riffs are heavy and powerful but cleverly played and sophisticated when that is called for.

The choice of Ray Alder as the lead vocalist in Redemption could have been a dangerous one (comparisons to Fates Warning will forever cling to Redemption), but his performance here is so strong that any critique of the choice of him as the lead vocalist will be hard to justify. The new rhythm section is also a great new asset to the band. Drummer Chris Quirarte shines throughout the album and a comparison to Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Transatlantic, OSI...etc.) is not far from the truth.

There are 8 tracks on the 57:28 minutes long album. The first 4 tracks are individual tracks but the last 4 tracks ("The Fullness of Time Suite") seque into each other and form a concept. As mentioned above all tracks are of a high musical, lyrical and compositional standard. "Parker´s Eyes" with it´s TV-reporter samples from the September 11th terrorist attack is for example a stunning goose bump inducing piece. The sound production by prolific Danish producer Tommy Hansen (who used to be a musician himself and play with The Old Man & The Sea) is professional, powerful and clear. A very suiting sound for the music on this album. Overall "The Fullness of Time" is a top notch progressive metal release and a 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.


Album · 2006 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.46 | 4 ratings
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Shot To Hell is the seventh full-length studio album by the American Heavy Metal band Black Label Society, the biker-themed band started by ex-Ozzy Osbourne virtuoso guitarist Zack Wylde.

It was their first release on Roadrunner Records, and it was released in 2006, one year after their successful Mafia record. The album was co-produced by band leader Zakk Wylde and Michael Beinhorn (of Korn, Marilyn Manson, Soundgarden and Ozzy Osbourne fame).

The band are purveyors of big meaty riffs, frequent guitar slide and squeals, and Zack’s blistering solos. The mostly guitar based songwriting is accompanied by Grunge-tinged singing, solid uncomplicated rhythms designed for head-banging and fist-pumping and a mixture of fast or mid-paced Metal songs with acoustic numbers (often with a slight Southern Rock hint or the inclusion of piano).

The vocals here have gone from a sort of blend between Neil Fallon and Layne Staley to having a larger Ozzy influence this time around. Other than that, this isn’t one of the band’s most talking-point albums. Not the rawest, the fastest, the doomiest, the most quiet, or anything else. This is just Black Label Society, doing their thing (meaty, simple, enjoyable Metal songs). It could be argued that this is a slightly more commercial effort due to the mostly shorter song durations and frequency of ballads, as well as the inclusion of the MTV friendly hit single “Concrete Jungle.” So; if you aren’t into the bands rawer, doomier side, skip their debut and start here, and vice-versa; if you want the band at their gnarliest start with the early stuff and work forwards.

No matter what direction you prefer from the band however, there are some really killer BLS songs on here; especially towards the end of the record. “Faith Is Blind,” as well as the acoustic-but-bouncy “Blood Is Thicker Than Water,” and especially the speedy “Devil’s Dime” are all particularly strong.

If you are a fan of Clutch, Alice In Chains, Pantera, ‘90s Corrosion Of Conformity, ‘90s Metallica, ‘90s Ozzy Osbourne, or even Soil then Black Label Society are well worth your time checking out. This album, while not boasting any easy descriptive label, is a good addition to the collection. I would also recommend Sonic Brew and Order Of The Black too if you haven’t heard them already.

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