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Travis Green
MMA Special Collaborator · Power, Symph and Prog Metal Teams
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1980 reviews/ratings
DYNAZTY - Renatus Power Metal | review permalink
DRAGONFORCE - Maximum Overload Power Metal
ADRANA - The Ancient Realms Power Metal
EVERGREY - The Inner Circle Progressive Metal
EVERGREY - In Search of Truth Progressive Metal
BLIND GUARDIAN - Imaginations From the Other Side Power Metal
ANCIENT BARDS - Soulless Child Power Metal
ARMORY - Empyrean Realms Power Metal
SABATON - Primo Victoria Power Metal
SABATON - The Art Of War Power Metal
SABATON - Carolus Rex Power Metal
SABATON - Heroes Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Beyond Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Eternity Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Stairway to Fairyland Power Metal
CIVIL WAR - Saint Patrick's Day Power Metal
XANDRIA - Neverworld's End Power Metal
POWER QUEST - Blood Alliance Power Metal
DARK MOOR - Ars Musica Symphonic Metal
DARK MOOR - Ancestral Romance Power Metal

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 788 4.00
2 Progressive Metal 298 3.89
3 Symphonic Metal 205 3.90
4 Traditional heavy metal 134 3.51
5 Thrash Metal 96 3.69
6 Gothic Metal 89 3.90
7 Melodic Death Metal 55 3.82
8 Folk Metal 53 4.27
9 Alternative Metal 34 3.75
10 Hard Rock 32 3.78
11 US Power Metal 32 3.75
12 Metalcore 22 3.55
13 Non-Metal 22 3.70
14 Death Metal 20 3.95
15 Metal Related 18 3.75
16 Industrial Metal 13 4.12
17 Technical Death Metal 10 4.10
18 Groove Metal 8 3.13
19 Nu Metal 7 3.64
20 Speed Metal 6 3.92
21 NWoBHM 5 4.50
22 Death-Doom Metal 5 3.80
23 Deathcore 4 3.38
24 Doom Metal 4 4.13
25 Glam Metal 4 3.88
26 Melodic Black Metal 4 4.13
27 Atmospheric Black Metal 3 3.67
28 Avant-garde Metal 2 4.25
29 Black Metal 2 2.50
30 Symphonic Black Metal 2 4.25
31 Sludge Metal 1 4.00
32 Brutal Death Metal 1 4.50
33 Crossover Thrash 1 3.00

Latest Albums Reviews

AYREON The Source

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
All music fans have certain bands or certain musicians, who whenever they announce a new release, they’re instantly excited and immediately consider hearing it as soon as it’s available their top priority. For me, that musician is Arjen Lucassen, and especially his Ayreon project, which first blew me away with the 2004 release The Human Equation, my all time favorite album, and has yet to let me down ever since. I’ll admit, after the rather lengthy break and several side projects Arjen made in between 01011001 and The Theory of Everything, I was actually a bit surprised when he announced the eighth Ayreon album, The Source, less than three years after the release of its predecessor, with the release coming roughly three and a half years after that one, only doing one side project in between. I can’t complain, though, because while I have enjoyed all of Arjen’s other works in the past, I find I prefer him when he’s at his most dynamic and using the widest range of sounds he can, which is exactly what he does with Ayreon. After The Theory of Everything ended up being one of my all time favorite releases, I was excited to see if The Source would be yet another masterpiece, and suffice to say, it is!

As always with Ayreon, I’ll talk a bit about the concept of this release first, before going into the music. I find lately Arjen has fallen into a bit of a pattern, where one release will be focused on the overarching Sci-Fi concept he has going on, while the next album will be more of a side story. For example, The Human Equation was totally it’s own thing, then 01011001 ended up feeling like the end of the main Forever/Planet Y arc, which led me to think all future Ayreon releases would have to either side stories or a whole new story, and indeed The Theory of Everything was another side story, but to my surprise he has actually gone back to the main story this time around, with The Source being a prequel to 01011001.

As always, there’s a lot going on here, but the basic gist of the plot is that a planet called Alpha has been overtaken by machines, with the main beings of the planet, ancestors to humanity, losing control to the point where a group of them (the main characters of the album) make the decision to leave on a spaceship, to seek out life on another planet. This, of course, leads to the beginnings of Planet Y, which longtime Ayreon fans should be very familiar with by now. While the album still has its fun moments, including several references to various prior Ayreon releases, I find the tone to be a bit darker than usual, as many tracks talk about the guilt the characters feel over having to leave the rest of their people behind on a dying planet while they survive somewhere else. It’s a compelling tale as always, and of course there’s some great back and forth exchanges, most notably between Russell Allen’s “The President”, who made a mistake which led to the machines taking control, and Tommy Karevik’s “The Opposition Leader”, who claims to have been against the machines from the start. Though overall, I find the characters don’t conflict with each other as much as on previous releases, probably because there’s a common goal for all of them this time around.

Speaking of which, while previous Ayreon albums have had some impressive casts, this has to be the best one yet! There’s some great returning singers here, such as James Labrie (Dream Theater), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot), Simone Simons (Epica), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Michael Mills (Toehider), Russell Allen (Symphony X) and Floor Jansen (Nightwish), with all of the above having prominent roles and being given a ton of room to work with. Simone Simons, in particular, has a much larger role than she had on 01011001, which is great as I had thought she was underused there, where on this album she gets to showcase her voice a ton more, including some operatic vocals on “Deathcry of a Race”. The real show stealer may be Michael Mills, though, as he plays the machine “TH-1”, which allows him to show off his crazy vocal range in some impressive ways, and he’s often used for some background effects which is also pretty cool. Moving on to newcomers, we have Tommy Rogers (Between the Buried and Me”), which at first glance may not be a choice some folks would expect, but he actually has a very clear, soft singing voice which works great for an Ayreon album and he sounds great here, especially on “The Source Will Flow”. Less shocking choices include Nils K. Rue (Pagan’s Mind), who has a very deep and powerful voice that fits his part well, especially shining during the chorus of “Sea of Machines”, where he really gets to show off his power, Michael Eriksen (Circus Maximus), who has a very emotional delivery that fits his character perfectly, and has his shining moments on the opening track and “Into the Ocean” and Zaher Zorgati (Myrath), who only has a very brief part on “Deathcry of a Race”, though he does a very good job on that part.

Perhaps the most shocking of all, though, has to be Tobias Sammet, and there’s an actually a bit of a story there as in the past some people assumed there was some kind of rivalry between the two because they were both doing rock opera projects, but it turns out they actually enjoyed each other’s music a lot and even did a cover of Alice Cooper’s “Elected” together in 2008, then Arjen contributed some guitar work to the 2013 Avantasia release “The Mystery of Time” and now Tobias has been given a fairly prominent role on this album. I was excited when heard about this as I’ve long been a fan of both men and their projects, so seeing them work together feels very satisfying, and the result is as great as I would have hoped for.

Musically, The Source is a diverse album as fans would expect, though I find in comparison to The Theory of Everything it’s definitely a much more metal oriented album, with a lot of more guitar-driven sections and some of the heavier sections remind me of the Star One album Victims of the Modern Age, with some of the chunky, groovier guitar sections. There’s also some a couple surprisingly speedy tracks, with small traces of power metal on one track in particular. Obviously, though, this is still an Ayreon release, and so fans can still expect tons of synth effects, as well as unusual metal instruments like violin, cello, and various wind instruments, and there are certainly some nice softer sections and some more prog rock moments as always. Where the last Ayreon release was a departure in terms of structure, this one feels more traditional, in that while it can still be divided into four different phases, there’s a much greater focus on individual tracks here, and the songwriting is more fun and catchy, while still giving room for the plot to develop. If anything, I’d say the release feels like a more focused version of 01011001 and is basically what that album would have been if it didn’t take any weird detours, seemingly to fit in as many side roles as possible, but instead focused entirely on the main plot. Basically, it has a slightly smaller cast, but I find everyone has an important role and no one feels underused, aside from the one exception I noticed, and Arjen has stated he’d like to give that person a larger role sometime in the future, which would be great.

Moving onto songwriting, and that’s an area where Arjen has never been anything short of brilliant, with The Source being especially impressive even by his standards. First up, man is “The Day That the World Breaks Down” ever an impressive opener! Like, you could pretty much consider that track its own EP or mini album, it has that much going on! The track opens up with some calm but somber sounding synth effects before James Labrie introduces us to the concept of the album, and from there the violin, cello, and flute all kick in, before the guitars eventually take over we get some pretty killer riffs early on. From there, the track feels like highlight after highlight, with both Tommy’s and Simone Simons getting into a great vocal section early on, then Nils K. Rue appears to steal the show for a bit, and after that we get one of the best parts of the track, where heavy guitars collide head on with a hammond for an incredibly epic sound!

After this, we get a bass-heavy section where Tobias Sammet makes his first appearance and does a great job, then Michael Mills adds in some vocal effects, in his first appearance before he reappears a bit later on and sings the binary code for “trust TH1”, but he uses his own creative vocal melodies, adding in an epic deep voice at the end, and he shows some incredible vocal abilities on just this one section. In between that, Hansi Kürsch shows up for a bit, sounding awesome as always. Early on in the track is a beautiful violin solo, which Arjen later recreates on his guitar, to amazing effect. Moving along, past the epic Michael Mills section, we get a bluesy section, where Russell Allen makes his first appearance, Fans of later Symphony X may be in for a shock, as on this album Russell mostly uses a more soulful, kind of bluesy hard rock approach to his vocals, which is actually refreshing as he sounds more like he did on older albums and does a great job. This section is mixed in with a softer section where Michael Eriksen sings beautifully, and then after that, we get one of the most gorgeous sounding guitar solos I’ve ever heard, performed by Arjen himself, and then finally a return to a heavier section where Floor Jansen appears and knocks it out of the park. She’s another singer who seems to be given more to work with every time she works with Arjen, and on this album, she really gets to showcase her power on some tracks and does an incredible job.

After that track, “Sea of Machines” starts off quietly, before picking up once the chorus kicks in, and it’s a pretty awesome one, then, later on, we get a section that starts off calmly before building up intensity, and turns into one of the better vocal sections, as well as the foundation for a later track. The next big standout track is “Everybody Dies”, where Michael Mills shows his insane range for the first minute, with everything from the usual effects, to epic high notes and some incredibly menacing deep vocals, then both Tommy’s show up and we get to the foundation of the track, which is to say some verses that are seriously catchier than most choruses on some albums, though the actual chorus is also amazing, performed first by Russell, then Hansi and then finally Floor right near the end. An epic, incredibly catchy track that alternates between fun and cheesy with the keyboards, to some pretty heavy riffs. An instant prog classic, for sure. We have a couple slower tracks after that, with “Star of Sirrah” starting off quiet before picking up the intensity after a bit and getting pretty heavy later on, reminding me of a Star One track, then later on it has an impressive guitar solo by Paul Gilbert. Meanwhile, “All That Was” is a calmer track with some slight folk elements. It has some impressive instrumental sections in the second half, while early on Simone Simons is given a chance to show off her always beautiful voice.

We then get into another big standout in “Run! Apocalypse! Run!”, probably the speediest track on the album and one that has some clear power metal elements, though the way the synths are used still give it a prog feel, and it certainly has the same addictive quality as the rest of the album. Tobias provides some great vocals during the chorus, and it’s a really fun track overall. Closing out disc 1, we have “Condemned to Live”, a darker track filled plenty of epic vocal sections, most notably from Tommy Rogers and James Labrie, though Tommy Karevik and Floor Jansen also get some great moments right near the end, and the instrumental part at the end is epic. Disc 2 gets off to a theatrical start, with some epic vocals from Michael Mills out of the gate on “Aquatic Race”, and then the track gets heavier and darker, again bringing Star One to mind. It’s actually a fairly calm track overall, though, and Michael Eriksen and Russell Allen have some great vocals in the middle, then Tommy Rogers takes over later on. Next we have a couple more ballad type tracks, first with “The Dream Dissolves”, where the beginning parts give us a nice duet between Simone Simons and Floor Jansen, as well as nice folk music, then later one we get two great solos, first a nice synth solo from Mark Kelly and a great guitar solo from Marcel Coenen. I already mentioned the two big moments on the next track, so after that, we have “Into the Ocean”, more of a hard rocking track where Michael Eriksen gets some big moments and Hansi Kürsch delivers big time on the chorus. Later in the track, Tobias Sammet and Nils K. Rue both get big moments and the instruments pick up big time, turning into a pretty epic prog track, with some huge vocal melodies. Next is “Bay of Dreams”, another ballad with some great synth sounds and great vocals from Tommy Rogers and James Labrie, before the track eventually gets heavier later on and Nils K, Rue delivers some epic vocals.

Following that, we get to perhaps my favorite sequence of the album, which brings us to the end. First up, “Planet Y is Alive” is another speedier track, which features a great exchange between Russell Allen and Tommy Karevik early on, as well as an epic chorus, though I prefer the later version of it when Floor Jansen takes over. In the middle, we get a calmer section with the last big guitar solo of the album, performed by Guthrie Govan. After that, “The Source Will Flow” is another ballad, starting with great vocals from Tommy Rogers and James Labrie before it picks up a bit of steam later on and Simone Simons gives us some of her best vocals on the album. The last full song on the album is “Journey to Forever”, an upbeat track which alternates between softer parts and a fast paced, epic chorus, starting off performed by Michael Mills, then later on performed by a group of singers. It’s definitely refreshing to hear such an upbeat and happy track on an album that can be very bleak at times, and it’s a very fun track that certainly stands out as a favorite. After that, we get “The Human Compulsion”, which takes a section from “Sea of Machines” and using it as the building block for the kind of section Arjen always loves to include, where all the main singers get one last chance to shine with some epic vocal moments. The song starts off calm before gradually picking up the intensity with each vocal line, and Floor Jansen’s final line is simply stunning. After that brief but awesome track, the album ends with “March of the Machines”, an outro track which uses some heavy synth effects and robot sounding voiceovers, as well as some more binary code in the background, before Michael Mills takes delivers some epic vocals near the end and closes the album with a big reference, sure to excite fans of a certain Ayreon album, and it makes this album’s place in the story all the more obvious.

I’ve said a lot already, so I’ll cut make this conclusion short: The Source is yet another outstanding rock opera that once again proves Arjen Lucassen’s ability to tell a compelling story, while still giving his fans memorable songs and some excellent instrumental work, to go along with a truly impressive cast of singers. It falls on the heavier side of Ayreon, while lining itself up well with past albums in the story, and is certainly up there with some of Arjen’s best work to date. Easily my 2017 album of the year so far, and highly recommended for all Ayreon fans and prog fans in general.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/04/11/ayreon-source-review/

CRYONIC TEMPLE Into the Glorious Battle

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
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Less than four months into 2017, we already have a very strong contender for the comeback of the year! Swedish power metal band Cryonic Temple has been through some troubling times recently, after showing a ton of promise early in their career. Their first three albums were all great examples of epic power metal done right, with their 2005 release In Thy Power, in particular, showing how much potential the band had in their early days. Unfortunately, vocalist Glen Metal left the band in 2008 and was replaced by Magnus Thurin, which led to the band trying out a more aggressive, thrashy power metal sound on their fourth release, Immortal, that didn’t work well at all, and Magnus in particular stuck out like a sore thumb. I’ll be honest: I almost never dislike power metal albums, but Immortal is a rare example of such an album I really can’t stand to listen to the whole way through, due to both the vocals and lackluster songwriting. Suffice to say, I had no expectations for the band going forward, and so I’m both shocked and happy to report that roughly eight and a half years after their downfall, the band has not only returned with their fifth release, Into the Glorious Battle, but they have produced possibly their best album to date!

It’s clear the band needed some time to regroup and plan out exactly what they wanted to do after their fourth release bombed so hard, as Into the Glorious Battle feels like a different band entirely when compared against any of their previous releases. Obviously, fans of the first three albums may be disappointed, but I think it’s clear the band felt they had gone as far as they could with their old sound, which led to them experimenting and failing big time on Immortal, and so, by comparison, this album feels like they decided to rein it in a bit and go for a much more relaxed, melodic power metal sound. There’s certainly still some moments where the music gets pretty epic and there are some really impressive vocal melodies, but on the whole, this album is definitely more restrained and feels like a more traditional power metal album compared to their previous work. The guitar work is very strong throughout, though there aren’t too many heavy riffs, as the guitars are mostly used for melodic leads and solos, which are pretty much fantastic all around. This is some of the most melodic guitar work I’ve heard on a metal album in quite some time, and it’s certainly a refreshing change of pace after how rough Immortal sounded. Keyboards are also used very effectively, mostly in the background serving as atmosphere, though they do come to the front of the sound at times and sound very nice. There’s a good variety of the tracks here, with the expected up-tempo power metal tracks, as well as some more mid-paced tracks and a few ballads, and everything works out great, with all but one track fitting in perfectly, which makes sense as this is the band’s first concept album, focusing on a futuristic setting.

Obviously, the one element that had me the most nervous was the vocals. Glen Metal was a huge reason for why the band’s first three albums were so good, while Magnus Thurin was one of the main reasons why their previous album was such a failure, instantly making me wish Glen Metal was back, and so I was a bit scared the same thing could happen with new singer Mattias L. Thankfully, that is not the case. Compared to both his predecessors, Mattias has a much more relaxed vocal approach, mostly staying in mid to low range, and while he can add a lot of power when he needs to, he has a much smoother delivery than either of his predecessors, and he’s actually a big reason why this new sound works out so well. He especially excels on the calmer tracks, with his performance on the ballads being especially impressive, though he does sound excellent on the speedier tracks as well. I actually think he’s my favorite Cryonic Temple vocalist to date, though that’s more a matter of taste. In any case, he’s certainly the perfect singer for this new version of the band.

After a solid intro track, opener “Man of a Thousand Faces” kicks in and is an absolute killer track. The song has a brief orchestral intro before the excellent guitar leads kick in and the track speeds up and turns into one of the heavier, more intense tracks on the album, with great riffs during the verses, and then when chorus comes Mattias gets to show off his great voice, especially when the incredible full version of the chorus comes about 2 minutes into the song, immediately casting away any doubts that the band still has the ability to write great songs.

Next is “All the Kingsmen”, which starts off with a nice acoustic melody before the riffs take over and it turns into one of the heavier tracks on the album. It starts off mid-paced for a bit, but when the chorus kicks in it speed up and turn into a more traditional power metal track, and one that should definitely please fans of the genre. Other speedy tracks include “Mighty Eagle”, a brief but amazing track with one of the best choruses on the album, the title track, “Flying Over the Snowy Fields”, which is probably the fastest and most classic power metal sounding track on the album, “Can’t Stop the Heat” and “Heavy Burden”, which starts off as a slow, calm track before speeding up after a bit and turning into another stand out. All these tracks are excellent, with an emphasis on the great guitar work and vocals. One more somewhat speedy track that feels a bit different to me is “Mean Streak”. This is the one track of the album where melodic guitars aren’t really present, as it instead has a more classic heavy metal feel to the riffs and the chorus seems very simplistic compared to the rest of the album It’s a fun and solid track, but it feels very different. I immediately thought it was a cover track, that’s how out of place it feels, but I haven’t found anything to confirm that. Either way, it’s the one track on the album that doesn’t quite fit for me.

On the softer side, the album has three ballads in “Heroes of the Day”, “The War is Useless” and “Freedom”. Even on these tracks, there’s some great melodic guitar work, with each of them having some great solos, especially the latter as it’s a near 8-minute epic that closes the album. All three are excellent tracks and have some great vocal work from Mattias, but “The War is Useless” especially stands out for me, as it’s more of a piano led track, with some symphonic elements as well, including a lengthy orchestral section in the middle that is very nice, and it also has my favorite chorus of the three ballads. My favorite chorus on the whole album, though, is on “Prepare for War”, a mid-paced melodic metal track that speeds up a bit in an epic section towards the end. I mentioned that this album has some of the most melodic guitar work I’ve heard in quite some time, and that statement is especially true for this track, as the guitar work is just incredibly beautiful and melodic, with some of the best leads I’ve heard on a power metal track in a very long time. Easily my favorite song on the album, and probably my favorite Cryonic Temple song ever.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but needless to say Into the Glorious Battle has proven to be not only an amazing comeback from a band I once thought might be gone for good but also feels like it could be the start of a new era for Cryonic Temple. I sure hope so, as it’s a nice change into a new, more melodic sound that works great for the band, and it has some of the best guitar leads I’ve heard on a power metal album in recent memory, as well as some great vocals. Highly recommended for fans of the band who thought they were done, and for any power metal fans, especially those who prefer the lighter, more melodic side of the genre.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/04/02/cryonic-temple-glorious-battle-review/

ALDARIA Land of Light

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Back in 2001, there was a huge game-changing release that made a major impact on the power metal landscape, and ended up being a major influence on future releases: That release was The Metal Opera, created by Edguy frontman Tobias Sammet as the beginning of his own special project, Avantasia, which has gone on to be just as big a name as his main band, if not even bigger. Obviously, there had been many rock operas released before that one, and there had been many metal albums with guest appearances, but that release showed what could happen when someone brought many metal singers and musicians together and made them part of a narrative experience, without losing any of the energy or catchiness of power metal. Needless to say, the album was very well received and since then there have been many similar projects trying to recreate that success, such as Heleno Vale’s Soulspell, which remains my personal favorite, Marius Danielsen’s Legend of Valley Doom and Timo Tolkki’s Avalon. Some of these projects have been successful, while others haven’t, but suffice to say Avantasia remains the most popular and is still going strong over 16 years later.

At this point, the field has become rather crowded, with any new project needing something special to stand out. The latest artist to attempt this feat is Frode Hovd, guitarist of the lesser-known Norwegian act Memorized Dreams, with his new project Aldaria and its debut release, Land of Light. But has Frode managed to deliver something on par with his clear main inspiration, or has he fallen short? Well, the answers to that are a bit mixed, but in short: Land of Light is certainly not the game changer The Metal Opera was (nor do I think it was intended to be) and I wouldn’t quite rank it up there in terms of quality, but it’s still a damn fine release with some great guest work and some fun songs.

First off, comparisons to Avantasia are absolutely unavoidable in this case, as everything from the naming scheme to the way certain songs sound to the overall concept and even some individual lyrics, all feel like obvious nods to the German project. Perhaps the most blatant example of this comes early on, as the opening track “Another Life”, otherwise a really fun track and an excellent opener, has the line ‘Reach out for the light” as the opening of its chorus, and obviously anyone who’s heard The Metal Opera will know why that feels like more than a mere coincidence. There are obviously many other similar lyrics throughout which, intentional or not, definitely made me think of a certain album.

But anyway, aside from the obvious comparisons, there is some great music here. As expected, there’s a great variety of the tracks, with some very speedy power metal tracks, some more mid-tempo and melodic tracks, a couple ballads and a huge epic length title track to close it off. The songwriting is consistently strong all around, choruses are almost all catchy and fun, every track has memorable moments and huge vocal sections, and the overall concept, while cheesy, works out fairly well. Really, the only thing I can say about the songwriting quality is that it does at times feel very familiar, but for what Frode’s doing, he’s done a very good job of it and everything sounds great. There are some great musicians involved on the release, including keyboardist Mistheria, former Helloween guitarist Roland Grapow, Symphony X bassist Mike LePond and many others.

Obviously, vocals are very important on a metal opera, and that’s the area where Aldaria does not disappoint. There is a really huge group of guest singers on this album, far too many to list in a review, but even those I don’t recognize all sound quite good here, and obviously more well known vocalists like Rick Altzi (Masterplan), Mathias Blad (Falconer), Fabio Lione (Rhapsody of Fire) and PelleK all sound great and many songs feature several singers together, which sounds impressive. As far as metal opera casts go, Land of Light has a pretty damn solid one.

After a brief and rather cheesy intro, opening track “Another Life” kicks in, starting off with a nice classic metal riff before slowing down a bit and letting Rick Altzi carry the track for a bit. After a while, the track speeds up and we’re treated to the chorus, and while the aforementioned line is a blatant reference, the chorus itself is very epic, very catchy and gets the album off on the right track. I’m not sure who sings the chorus there, but whoever it is, he does an excellent job. There are many great vocals and instrumental sections throughout the track, and it’s a great upbeat power metal track that gets the album off to a great start. Next is “Guardians of the Light”, a more mid-tempo track with some great keyboard work. This isn’t one of my favorites on the album, though it’s still solid overall and the chorus is very fun. I don’t recognize any of the singers here, but the singer during the chorus is very animated and brings a lot of the energy to the track, and there are some pretty cool sounding death growls in there as well.

Focusing on the speedier side, some highlights include “Lost in the Darkness Below”, a very fast-paced track where PelleK and a very nice sounding female vocalist lead the way through the verses and chorus, and the track overall is a great power metal track with awesome melodies, “Test of Time” which has one of the best choruses on the album and some great vocals from Tommy Reinxeed Johansson, mostly showing his lower register, which is a nice change of pace from his normal vocals and sounds great, “Where Reality Ends” which has another great chorus and perhaps the best vocal section on the album and “From the Ashes”, which has some of the more animated vocals on the album and another excellent chorus.

On the softer side, we have two ballads in “Sands of Time” and “Trail of Tears”. Both are very nice tracks with some great vocals and nice melodies, the former being a duet between Vasilis Georgiou (Black Fate,) his soft and expressive voice reminding me a lot of Roy Khan as usual, and Mina Giannopoulou, who has a very pleasant voice that fits the track wonderfully, while the latter is sung entirely by Falconer frontman Mathias Blad, sounding brilliant as always with his ever smooth and wonderful theatrical style. Lastly, “Answers in a Dream” is a fairly light mid-paced keyboard driven track, which serves as a nice lead-in to the grand finale, the near 12-minute epic title track. As expected, this track goes through many stages, starting off fairly slow and calm with an excellent chorus sung by the ever prolific and always great Fabio Lione, There are many other great singers on this track including Dragony’s Siegfried Samer and Dragonland’s Jonas Heidgert. The track speeds up a bit as it goes along and there are certainly some very memorable passages to be found. It’s a great song overall, making great use of its many guests and it certainly serves as a worthy finale for the album.

Overall, Land of Light is a very strong debut, with some excellent guest vocalists and musicianship, plenty of fun and memorable tracks, and it serves a nice start for Aldaria. Hopefully, Frode Hovd will continue with this project in the future and work towards separating it just a bit more from the competition, as my only real criticism here is that while everything sounds great and the songwriting is consistently solid, there really are a lot of times where it reminds me of other metal operas. Still, for fans of this style and for power metal fans in general, this is an album I can easily recommend.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/03/27/aldaria-land-light-review/

STORMHAMMER Welcome to the End

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
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Even as a huge fan of the genre, there are always going to be some bands I miss along the way, one such example being German power metal band Stormhammer, who I hadn’t heard of until their 2015 release Echoes of a Lost Paradise, despite the band being around for over two decades up to that point, and having released four albums previously. That release was fairly solid, if a bit standard at times, and I found the heavier moments were generally the most interesting, and that proves to be even more the case on their upcoming sixth full-length release, Welcome to the End, another solid release that shows potential towards being excellent at times, but doesn’t quite get there.

I don’t remember too much about Echoes of a Lost Paradise, except that it was a fairly heavy power metal album at times, and that the riffs tended to be the most memorable parts of the tracks. Welcome to the End is similar in that regard, though I find it does have more memorable songs overall and it has a nice variety between tracks. This is very much on the harder hitting side of power metal for most of the album, and it also has occasional elements of classic heavy metal on some tracks, and obviously there’s quite a bit of thrash influence in the guitar work at times. The vocal melodies are solid, though I find the best tracks are the ones that strike a nice balance between the thrash riffs and big melodic power metal choruses, and those tracks tend to be excellent. Otherwise, the instrumental work is solid all around and the production is solid, though not a lot stands out on the slower and less aggressive tracks.

Vocally, Jürgen Dachl does a pretty solid job throughout and he can vary his voice quite a bit. He usually sounds a bit rough, but with a powerful voice that fits the music well, and he can do a very good job of carrying the more melodic sections and choruses. Sometimes he sings with a really deep voice that sounds a bit cheesy, though it still works in a weird kind of way. There are also many sections where he reminds me a bit of Hansi Kürsch, except his voice sounds a bit rougher and not quite as smooth. I especially notice this on “Watchmen”, which is probably my favorite track on the album, and the track where I think Jürgen sounds at his best.

The songwriting is where the album struggles a little bit, though it’s still mostly good. Opening track “Northman” is a solid track that I wouldn’t call overly speedy, though it moves along at a decent pace and it has some good thrashy riffs and powerful vocals. Next is the title track, a rather slow to mid-paced track which has more of those thrashy riffs during the verses and very deep vocals, though for me this track kinda drags for the most part, with only the fast paced and fun chorus being particularly enjoyable. Following that is “The Heritage”, one of the more heavy metal influenced tracks on the album. It starts off with a calm, slower passage before speeding up a bit and leading to a section with solid backing vocals from guest Natalie Pereira dos Santos, and then the chorus has a very melodic guitar line that feels straight out of a classic heavy metal track and is actually the highlight of the track. A very solid track on the whole, with some obvious Iron Maiden influence.

The rest of the album mostly varies between the three different styles, though the power metal elements are the most prevalent throughout. Some of my favorites include “Watchmen”, a mostly mid-paced track with some very thrashy riffs during the verses and a very catchy addictive chorus, “Soul Temptation”, one of the faster paced tracks and one where the thrash elements dominate during the verses and the chorus is very melodic, and the speedy, classic power metal tracks “Road to Heaven” and “The Law”. The latter of these is the longest song on the album and has a very epic feel to me, as well as one of the best choruses on the album. The only track I’m not overly fond of is “My Dark Side”, a power ballad where Jürgen uses his deeper vocals, but while they work fine elsewhere, here they sound comically bad and feel terribly out of place, which brings the track down. The chorus is actually quite good, but those deep vocal sections are just very strange and off-putting. The rest of the tracks are solid, if unremarkable, with “Black Dragon” in particular being a little bit underwhelming for a closing track. It has a nice chorus, but otherwise, it just feels a bit bland and forgettable.

Overall, Welcome to the End is a solid album which features a nice blend between speedy, melodic power metal and some aggressive thrash riffs, along with occasional heavy metal elements. It has a couple weaker tracks and I wouldn’t consider it an album of the year contender or anything, but it’s still a solid album overall and one I’d recommend to power metal fans looking for something a bit heavier and who don’t require all songs to be really fast. Hopefully, Stormhammer can develop this sound further on future releases and produce something even better in the future.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/03/22/stormhammer-welcome-end-review/

CELLADOR Off the Grid

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
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It’s always exciting to see bands that have either been long thought dead or have been on a very lengthy hiatus, seemingly quiet for years, make a sudden comeback and release a new album. That isn’t entirely the case for American power metal band Cellador, admittedly, as they had been hinting at a new release for quite some time, but after their highly praised debut Enter Deception was released in 2006, they weren’t heard from again until they reappeared in 2011 with a new lineup and released an EP, Honor Forth. Since then, the band had largely been quiet again for a while, but now after over 10 years of anticipation, they are finally set to unleash their second full-length album, Off the Grid, and I can assure fans that it most certainly delivers!

A lot has changed for Cellador over the years. Obviously, the previous vocalist Michael Gremio left before Honor Forth was released and guitarist Chris Petersen, the only original member remaining, has taken over the mic. No other members who played on Enter Deception appear on Off the Grid, so obviously, it’s safe to expect a much different sound this time, but while I certainly wouldn’t call this album a carbon copy or even a logical continuation of its predecessor, it’s not exactly a radical departure either. Instead, it feels like the band has retained their focus on pure, speedy power metal and their knack for neatly balancing between heavy riffs and melodic vocal lines, but their approach feels a bit more polished and more mature this time.

Where Enter Deception fell on the more extreme and silly side of the genre, often being compared to the likes of Dragonforce, as while it was entirely guitar driven a lot of the melodies felt similar, this release actually feels closer to classic Euro power metal in how a lot of its riffs sound, though the band has also included some keyboards to give the album a bit of a modern feel. With that being said, while keyboardist Diego Valadez does a nice job and gets to do some great solos, for the most part his keyboards feel more secondary, mostly in the background and giving way to the duo guitars, which dominate with some pretty heavy riffs at times, though there’s also some very melodic playing at points as well. There isn’t much experimentation here, with most tracks being straight-forward speedy power metal with addictive choruses, and all tracks fall around the 3-5 minute range, so it’s a very focused, no nonsense kind of release, that certainly doesn’t waste the listener’s time.

I was initially worried about the change in vocalist, as I wasn’t too pleased with Chris on Honor Forth, but on the new album, I find he does a pretty solid job. He has a fairly deep, powerful voice and mostly stays in mid range, only occasionally stretching for some higher notes. His voice fits in pretty well with the music, though I find he’s best when using his grittier vocals, as sometimes when he tries to go for higher notes he ends up sounding a little bit over the top, such as on “Good Enough”. It’s the sort of thing that fits in well for power metal, though it doesn’t sound all that great. Aside from that, though, he does a pretty good job throughout the album and carries the melodies well, especially on tracks like “Shadowfold”, “Wake up the Tyrant” and “Swallow Your Pride”.

The songwriting is fairly straightforward, with few surprises, though in this case that works fine as every song is great and everything flows together well enough that it’s certainly an easy album to listen to in its entirety over and over. Opening track “Sole Survivors” instantly kicks in with some classic metal riffs and moves along at a breakneck pace right out of the gate, making it the kind of instantly satisfying track you’d expect to hear at the start of a power metal album. The riffs are great and Chris does a solid job on the chorus, so it gets the album off to a flying start. I won’t list all tracks on this album in detail, as most tracks are fast, hit a nice balance between being heavy and melodic and have addictive choruses, so to mention everyone in detail would be pointless, but suffice to say even tracks I won’t mention much like “Break Heresy”, “Shimmering Status”, “Swallow Your Pride” and the title track are all excellent tracks.

Moving on to highlights, the first track that really impresses is “Shadowfold”, which starts off with a thrashy lead riff that carries on through the opening verse, before giving way to a very melodic chorus, and then in the second verse the keyboards actually take over for a bit, which makes for a nice change of pace, and the solo section features both guitars and keyboards and is excellent. Probably my favorite track on the album. Right after that is “Wake Up the Tyrant”, another track which has some slightly thrashy riffs, and as usual moves along at a very fast pace, with intense verses that give way to a very epic and super catchy chorus. Another one of my favorites and the solo section is awesome, probably the best on the album. Coming after the one oddball track on the album, which I’ll get to in a bit, “This Means War” is back to business and is another one of the faster, heavier tracks, feeling very much like a classic power metal track. Closing track “Running Riot” is another super fast track, where the verses are very addictive and fun, and the chorus is frantic and very enjoyable, though I do think it’s one of the times where Chris goes a little bit overboard with vocals. Still a great track, though, and a fun way to end the album.

Lastly, we have “Good Enough”. This track immediately stood out to me as feeling a bit weird, as it starts off at mid-tempo, with some bouncy rhythms and is much more keyboard driven, so I instantly knew something was off. Then the chorus comes in and while it’s super fast paced as always, Chris sounds extremely over the top and it feels like a pop track. It made me wonder if the track was a cover of some sort and after a bit of research I discovered that it is, in fact, a cover of aa Cyndi Lauper hit, which makes sense. Reviewing it on its own merits, the track feels like a bit of an oddball, though it did eventually win me over, and when you consider it’s a cover of a pop song, I think the band did a nice job of keeping some of the feel of the track while also sticking somewhat within their usual sound. So overall, a pretty cool cover.

Overall, Off the Grid is a great comeback album for Cellador, which retains the core power metal sound of their debut, while also feeling much more polished and more mature. It’s hard to say if I think it’s a better release than Enter Deception on the whole, but it’s definitely a logical release for the band to put out right now, and I think longtime fans of the band should be happy with it. I’d recommend it to all power metal fans who want something straight-forward, fast and furious, and with some great vocal melodies, as that’s what this album delivers.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/03/15/cellador-off-grid-review/

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