Travis Green
MMA Special Collaborator · Power, Symph and Prog Metal Teams
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2198 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
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
DARK MOOR - Ancestral Romance Power Metal
DAWN OF DESTINY - Praying to the World Power Metal
DREAMTALE - Epsilon Power Metal
MINDMAZE - Back from the Edge Power Metal
VANDROYA - One Power Metal
DALRIADA - Jégbontó Power Metal
DALRIADA - Kikelet Folk Metal

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Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 848 3.99
2 Progressive Metal 326 3.90
3 Symphonic Metal 218 3.91
4 Heavy Metal 157 3.53
5 Thrash Metal 93 3.63
6 Gothic Metal 91 3.91
7 Folk Metal 69 4.26
8 Melodic Death Metal 64 3.81
9 US Power Metal 37 3.78
10 Alternative Metal 34 3.38
11 Hard Rock 32 3.67
12 Non-Metal 29 3.48
13 Death Metal 20 4.00
14 Metal Related 16 4.06
15 Melodic Metalcore 15 3.27
16 Groove Metal 14 2.89
17 Symphonic Black Metal 13 4.38
18 Metalcore 11 3.82
19 Technical Death Metal 11 4.00
20 Technical Thrash Metal 10 4.45
21 Heavy Alternative Rock 9 4.67
22 Trance Metal 9 3.50
23 Industrial Metal 8 4.50
24 Atmospheric Black Metal 8 4.06
25 Speed Metal 8 3.94
26 Doom Metal 5 4.00
27 NWoBHM 5 4.50
28 Melodic Black Metal 5 4.00
29 Heavy Psych 4 3.75
30 Death-Doom Metal 4 3.88
31 Deathcore 4 3.38
32 Glam Metal 4 3.88
33 Nu Metal 4 3.75
34 Traditional Doom Metal 3 3.83
35 Avant-garde Metal 3 3.67
36 Black Metal 1 0.50
37 Brutal Death Metal 1 4.50
38 Crossover Thrash 1 3.00
39 Stoner Metal 1 4.00
40 Sludge Metal 1 4.00
41 Neoclassical metal 1 4.00
42 Viking Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

ELVENSTORM The Conjuring

Album · 2018 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
One band I’ve always been aware of but never fully been invested in, up to now, is French power metal band Elvenstorm, who I first discovered in 2011 with their debut Of Rage and War. I remember at the time thinking it was a pretty solid album, with a very classic speed metal sound to it, as well as having some rather unique and somewhat unorthodox vocals, but otherwise the release didn’t really stick with me over time, and I never really spent much time with the band’s seconds release Blood Leads to Glory when it released in 2014. With the band largely going under the radar for me over time, I certainly wasn’t aware they had a new album coming any time soon, nor did I expect to have much interest in it when it arrived, but now that their third release The Conjuring is here, I’ve given the band another chance and this time I’ve come away much more impressed than I did before, to the point where it makes me want to revisit their previous albums again to see what I was missing before.

Despite what their name might suggest, Elvenstorm aren’t a fantasy power metal band at all. In fact, even their lyrics are much darker than fans of the genre would expect, with this album in particular having some very dark themes. Musically, though, they’re even further from what fans may expect, as instead of having a modernized, symphonic or folk influenced sound, they play a very classic speed metal influenced brand of the genre, coming much closer to the likes of Grave Digger and early Running Wild than to any modern power metal bands. They have a very direct, hard hitting style with no symphonic elements, no modern elements or no nonsense: They just play classic metal, the way it’s meant to be played, and they do an excellent job of it! For the most part, the songs are very fast paced, with verses building up in intensity while the choruses go full throttle, though there are the occasional slower sections, as well as some excellent galloping riffs and more melodic guitar work at points. Musically, this is an excellent classic power metal album, with some amazing riffs, great solos and the instrumental sections are definitely the highlight of the album. The overall songwriting is consistently strong, though I find the album starts out with a few killers right out of the gate and while the second half is still very good, nothing towards the end of the album can match the highlights of the first half. The production is solid, having a bit of a raw sound, but everything comes through clearly and powerfully, and it manages to sound authentic, while still being a bit more polished than most albums from the period the band is clearly emulating.

One potential turn off for some folks could be the vocals of Laura Lombard F, who has a very unique approach to her vocals that certainly takes some time to get used to. She has a very raw and aggressive approach, sounding somewhat like a mix between Dora Pesch and Marta Gabriel, except somehow managing to sound even more wild than either of them at points. Her lower register is very powerful and generally quite effective, and thankfully she tends to use it the most throughout the album. On the other hand, her higher register can be a bit irritating at times, and she tends to go a bit over the top and sometimes leans towards shrieking and screaming, which comes off as a bit unpleasant, especially when she does it during some of the more melodic choruses, which contrasts badly with the music. Most tracks have some backing vocals and these are well done and help add some melody into the choruses, which takes a bit of the sting away from some of the more irritating vocal moments, so that’s a good thing. Overall, I’d say Laura does a good job and she’s definitely very fiery energetic, but sometimes she gets a little too carried away and that can be rather unpleasant to listen to.

While the vocals are a bit inconsistent, the songwriting is luckily very good throughout, with no less than great tracks, though as I mentioned earlier, my favorite tracks happen to come towards the beginning. After a brief voiceover filled intro, the album gets off to an incredible start with “Bloodlust”, which begins with some classic heavy metal flavored melodic guitar leads before speeding up after a while and going full throttle with some pummeling riffs during an opening verses that showcases Laura’s strong lower register. The chorus is very fun and energetic, even if a bit basic, as Laura provides powerful vocals on top of some epic gang vocals, which are used very effectively. As with many tracks on the album, the instrumental section is the highlight and again brings a very classic metal sound to the table, in the best way possible. Next is “Ritual of Summoning”, a slightly more restrained track by this album’s standards, though it’s still pretty intense. The verses are as close to mid paced as any of the vocal tracks get, and the guitars have a nice rhythm to them, while Laura sounds very intense and powerful during the verses, but unfortunately she gets a bit carried away with higher notes during the chorus, which sinks the track just a bit. The faster paced section before he chorus and instrumental section in the second half are the highlights of the track. My favorite track on the album is the very heavily Running Wild influenced “Into the Night”, which gives listeners a full throttle speed metal assault from start to finish. The guitar work sounds almost uncannily similar to the aforementioned band in their early days, especially during the instrumental section, and even the chorus is more epic and melodic than normal, and while Laura’s vocals are a bit irritating again, the backing vocals more than make up for that and help make the song a classic.

After such a strong start, the rest of the album unsurprisingly takes a bit of a downturn, though the remaining tracks are all still very good. Next is “Devil Within”, a longer track which has a soft and very dark extended instrumental section, which leads in nicely to another fast and furious track, with some of the most intense verses on the album, while the chorus is also quite good, and one of the rare times where Laura’s higher vocals don’t bother me in the slightest. After that is “Chaos from Beyond”, one of the shorter and more direct tracks on the album, which has a slightly more melodic sound than usual, though it still has some hard hitting riffs and still very fast paced and fun, with a very catchy chorus, only slowing down during a nice instrumental section in the middle. Speaking of instrumental sections, the one curve ball on the album comes in the form of “Stellar Descension”, a full length instrumental track which is very slow paced throughout, as well as being very atmospheric. The track has a slight doom metal feel to it, and is certainly very dark and ambient, in a nice way. It’s very well done, and serves as a nice change of pace.

The final run of tracks kicks off with “Evil’s Dawn”, another track with classic heavy metal flavoring, while being very fast paced and hard hitting, as usual. The chorus is a bit more restrained than normal and Laura sounds a bit less intense, but still quite good. It’s a fun and simple track, which gives way to the longest and most complex song on the album in “Cross of Damnation”. This one starts off slowly, with some nice acoustic guitar work, before settling into a nice groove with some more melodic guitar work, before finally speeding up and becoming the kind of super speedy, aggressive power metal track found throughout the album, except with several twists and turns throughout, as well as a great chorus and some of the best and longest instrumental sections on the album. It’s definitely the strongest track on the second half, and is quite excellent overall. After such an epic track, it makes sense that the album would end with a more straight-forward, all out aggressive track, and that’s exactly what “Dawn of Destruction” is. The Running Wild influence is again strong throughout this track, and the chorus is very fun and melodic, while the instrumental work is great always and even Laura is consistently great throughout.

Overall The Conjuring is excellent, speedy and very hard hitting album from Elvenstorm, which continues with their classic power metal sound and takes it to the next level. Fans of classic metal are sure to love this album for its raw intensity and pure metal sound, while fans of the genre looking for a heavier, more guitar driven album with some fittingly intense vocals are also highly recommended to give this album a go. The vocals take some time to get used to, but are pretty good overall, and everything else about the album is top notch and very easily recommendable.

Originally written for Myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/07/14/elvenstorm-the-conjuring-review/


Album · 2018 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Before 2017, Cryonic Temple was a band I had enjoyed in the past, but I had never even come close to considering them a favorite. I was introduced to them with their third album, In Thy Power, which is generally considered their best and that one and its predecessor, Blood, Guts & Glory definitely impressed me, but they never quite blew me away. Obviously, their fourth album, Immortal, was a total disaster, which led to the band going away for quite some time, but even those more acclaimed albums, while being consistently entertaining, never quite hit me in the way any of my favorite power metal albums do. Everything changed in 2017 with Into the Glorious Battle, which saw the band returning from their long hiatus with a renewed focus, as well as changing to a more melodic but still epic and intense sound. I was instantly blown away by the melodies throughout the album as well as the more dynamic and versatile songwriting compared to their past albums. Now with their latest album, Deliverance, the band has only taken things further, producing by far their most varied, yet also their consistently engaging album to date, making it a slight step above even its amazing predecessor.

Unsurprisingly, some folks were a bit disappointed with Into the Glorious Battle, as while it was an unarguably better effort than Immortal, some missed the more epic, heavier sound of their first three albums. At this point, I think it’s safe to say those days are over and they aren’t ever coming back, though, as the band has clearly moved towards a more modernized and more melodic sound, as well as breaking new lyrical ground with a multi-part Sci-Fi concept, which started on the previous album and continues with Deliverance. For those like me who loved the previous album, this one is sure to be an absolute treat, as it continues with the same melodic, guitar-driven sound, while at times getting slightly heavier and more intense, as well as occasionally being a bit more fun and pop-ish, with a couple tracks, in particular, having some pop melodies to them, as well as being more driven by keyboards and orchestras. In fact, the orchestral elements are in full force throughout this album, showing up on many tracks, and especially being noticeable during the two ballads, as well as on some of the lighter tracks. The best thing about the previous album was how it had a perfect balance between speedier tracks, slower, more melodic tracks, ballads and some nice, melodic mic paced tracks, and if anything this album is even more varied, never falling into predictable patterns and instead constantly finding ways to surprise, all while being consistently excellent the whole way through. There’s definitely a few excellent speedy tracks that should please classic power metal fans, as well as a couple ballads and a ton of surprises.

The area where I’m most pleased with this new era of Cryonic Temple is the vocals. While I enjoyed their first three albums and thought Glen Metal did a great job, I always found his vocals to be just a bit too over the top for my taste, while current singer Mattius Lilja has a softer and much more restrained voice, which puts extra emphasis on the melodies and really allows the choruses to soar, the way a great power metal vocalist should. At the same time, he does get a bit more intense at points on this album and does a great job of that as well, so it’s safe to say he fits the band’s current sound perfectly. I also notice some rather different sounding vocals at a few points on the album, which I’ll go into detail about below, but these are generally done quite well and I assume they’re done by other members of the band, as they certainly don’t sound like Mattias. Either way, though, the album has some amazing vocal melodies throughout, and they’re all performed perfectly.

After Into the Glorious Battle managed to be such a strong album in the songwriting department, I was excited to see what the band would do with a follow up, especially one that came so shortly after Thankfully, while the band has clearly continued with the sound they established on the previous album, they have managed to take things to the next level here, coming up with some even better songs than before including a few that stand out as sounding rather surprising and very different from anything they’ve done in the past.

The album gets off to an unsurprisingly strong start, with a nice intro track making way for “Rise Eternally Beyond”, which starts off with some soft guitar work before the rest of the band kicks in, along with the orchestra, and the track quickly turns into the kind of fast and fun power metal anthem fans would expect from the band. It’s a very fun and energetic track, which would have fit in perfectly on the last album, complete with verses that feel quite similar, though once the chorus hits it proves itself to be best and most melodic part of the track, with huge, soaring vocal melodies, to help kick the album off in an amazing way. The instrumental section is strong as expected and shows off the kind of excellent, very melodic guitar leads that have become an important part of the band’s sound in their current form, with some excellent leads and solos throughout the album, and this track is a great example of that. Next is “Through the Storm”, a more surprising track, with a slight cinematic feel to it. The intro to the song is quite interesting, with heavy keyboard effects as well as some rather eerie sounding voiceovers, and the song itself is much more relaxed than the opener, moving at a more laid-back pace, while still having some heavy riffs, but it feels more driven by keyboards and orchestras, especially during the chorus where we enter into pop territory but in an amazing way, with some truly epic vocal melodies. The track is quite surprising, being somewhat heavy but also fairly laid back and extremely catchy and melodic. It’s definitely one of my favorites on the album.

A more typical track follows in “Knights of the Sky”, a fast-paced guitar driven power metal track, where the excellent melodic leads are on full display. It’s another very energetic track with a strong and very catchy chorus while having more power to it than the previous track. It’s probably the most traditional power metal track on the album, and it has another great series of solos in the second half. Next is the slightly unconventional title track, which moves along at a fairly upbeat tempo, but it has more of a classic heavy metal feel to it, with some of the heaviest guitar work on the album. It’s the chorus where the song really gets weird, though, as the smooth vocals of Mattias are replaced by some wild falsetto vocals, which I initially found off-putting, but over time they’ve grown on me quite a bit, and I find the track to be quite fun overall. One of the biggest strengths of the previous album was how well written the ballads were, as it had three of them and yet all of them were excellent and served as a change of pace, without stalling the momentum at all. This holds true for both ballads on this album, the first of which is “The Loneliest Man in Space”, a nice piano-driven ballad with some added orchestral elements and soft guitars. It moves along nicely during the verses, with some strong vocals, but it’s the chorus where Mattias really shines, delivering a powerful and emotional performance, which really brings the lyrics to life. The solo in the middle is very emotional and well done as well, and overall it’s simply a very well written track, which can’t always be said about ballads on a power metal album. And yet, this is actually the slightly lesser of two on this album, which I’ll get into a bit later.

Next up is “Pain and Pleasure”, perhaps the heaviest and most intense track on the album. It’s another very fast paced track, but the riffs have a slight thrash edge to them and the vocals throughout the track are more animated and slightly wild, especially during the epic and super catchy chorus. The vocals are quite surprising compared to the rest of the album, but they’re very well done and fit the more aggressive tone of the song perfectly, which helps to make the track another instant highlight. A softer track is next in “Temple of Cryonics”, which of course comes close to being a self-titled track. Either way, it’s the most epic and cinematic feeling track on the album, with a heavy use of orchestral elements. It’s a rather soft and slow-paced track, but I wouldn’t quite call it a ballad as it has some slight heaviness to it at points, and it’s also a bit more epic and eventful than what you’d expect from a ballad. It has another strong chorus, as well as an excellent guitar solo in the middle, and while it’s not one of my personal favorites on the album, it’s an excellent track and shows how dynamic the band has become in their current form. My favorite track on the album is next in “Starchild”, an extremely fast-paced, incredibly melodic track which blazes through its verses at a frantic pace, setting the tables one of the catchiest and most melodic power metal choruses I’ve heard in quite some time. It’s seriously so damn fun and energetic, it brings a smile to my face every time, and is definitely a perfect example of the genre at its finest. The guitar solo is very melodic and well done as expected, and overall the track is simply pure power metal perfection from start to finish.

Speaking of songs with insanely fun and catchy choruses, next is “End of Days”, which has an almost dance-like beat from the keyboards at the start, and is a very upbeat track, with a slight metal edge to it. It’s a fairly fast-paced and very melodic track, with a huge chorus that has a slight pop feel to it, but it’s so damn fun and catchy I certainly can’t complain about it! Another instant highlight and one of my favorites on the album, though it certainly sounds a bit light and more modern than anything the band has done before, so some folks may hate it. The second ballad on the album is next in the form of “Swansong of the Last Emperor”. It’s mostly led by soft guitars and pianos again, though its vocal melodies and lyrics are the most inspiring elements, for sure, as it’s a very emotional track with an insanely good chorus and an excellent performance by Mattias, which takes it to the next level. Both ballads on the album are great, but this one feels just a bit more epic and more inspired. Shifting gears once again, we have “Under Attack”, a fast-paced and aggressive track, with some of the roughest riffs on the album, as well as another fun and catchy chorus. It has a great use of the orchestras in the second half and is certainly a very fun track overall. The last main track on the album is also my least favorite, that being “Blood and Shame”, a slower paced and very hard hitting the track. It has a heavy metal edge to it, for sure, and while the verses are energetic and fun enough, the chorus gets a bit rough for my tastes and lack a real melody or hook, making it the weakest on the album. It’s still a good track overall, but it’s certainly not on the level of any of the other tracks here. Lastly, there’s a bonus track called “Insomnia”, which starts off with a very Iron Maiden influenced acoustic guitar intro, before picking up speed and turning into a fun, speedy power metal track with slight traces of classic heavy metal. It’s definitely a better note to end the album on than the previous track, so I’m glad the band included it as a bonus.

Overall, Deliverance is an amazing power metal album, which shows Cryonic Temple picking up where they left off on Into the Glorious Battle, and continuing their resurgence as one of the best current bands in their genre. It has a mix of everything fans of the previous album would expect, with some of the most varied and dynamic songwriting in the band’s career, while still delivering tons of great speedy and melodic power metal. It slightly edges out its predecessor to become my favorite Cryonic Temple album to date and is definitely one of my favorite power metal albums of 2018 so far.

Originally written for Myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/07/15/cryonic-temple-deliverance-review/

POWERWOLF The Sacrament of Sin

Album · 2018 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
One question that frequently comes up among metal fans, is how long can a band go sticking to a familiar formula? Over the years, different bands have offered different answers to this question, even among power metal bands, with the likes of Iron Savior and Primal Fear mostly sticking to an established formula from album to album, while bands like Edguy and Sonata Arctica have branched out and tried many different experiments in their later years. One of my favorite bands that have up to this point managed to stick to an established formula is German band Powerwolf, who I discovered in 2009 with their breakthrough release, Bible of the Beast. Many of their fans may not know this, but their debut, Return in Bloodred, actually had a much different sound than what they are known for, going for more of a classic heavy metal sound, with their second release, Lupus Dei, marking the beginnings of their now famous anthem-like, super catchy power metal sound, featuring lyrics about werewolves, vampires and other nocturnal, otherworldly creatures, blended in with religious themes. With Bible of the Beast, they achieved perfection, and every release since has stuck to the same formula, with minor differences between albums, as the band continued to stick with what brought them success. Now with their upcoming seventh full-length release, The Sacrament of Sin, scheduled for release in the second half of July, can fans expect more of the same, or will the band finally change things up and try something different? Well, this time around, the answer isn’t so obvious, as it feels like the band has indeed changed things up quite a bit on some tracks, while still delivering their classic sound fans have come to expect on other songs. As a result, this is their most varied, most engaging and perhaps altogether best release to date. I think some fans may be a bit disappointed, if they’re expecting a certain sound to dominate the album, as usual, but most folks should be very pleased with it overall.

One thing I never expect to change when it comes to Powerwolf is their overall sound, in particular, the way they use keyboards in a unique way to create a church organ sound, which immediately gives their music its own atmosphere you won’t hear from any other metal band. This element is of course as present as ever on The Sacrament of Sin, with the organ being a driving force throughout many of the songs. In the past, I’ve seen some people mistake the band as being symphonic, due to affect the organs have on the music, but for the most part, the band has never really had many orchestral elements before, outside of intros or in quick bursts. That is one thing that has changed, as on this album the orchestras are out in full force, appearing throughout the album and giving the songs a strong symphonic element that was never there in the past. The orchestras blend in wonderfully with the organ, to create an epic, at times cinematic sound that takes the music to new heights, and if anything this album is even more epic than sounding than anything the band has done before, which is certainly saying a lot.

With all this talk about the organ and symphonic elements, though, I will say that fans of the band have nothing to worry about when it comes to anything else being removed or reduced, as the guitar work is still as present and as melodic as ever, and while the album isn’t especially heavy, there’s definitely some great riffs here as well as some nice melodic leads and solos. Songwriting has always been a strong point of Powerwolf, with their albums having some extremely catchy choruses, while managing to be addictive for their entire duration, and this is once again the case with this album, as tracks are shorter than ever before, but they flow wonderfully and breeze by at a pace that makes it very easy to get hooked and want to keep playing the album over and over and over again, something that’s always been the case with this band. As usual, there’s a mix between classic speedy power metal, as well as some slower, more melodic tracks, but fans expecting the former style to dominate may be in for a rude awakening, as unlike past albums, this one is actually quite a bit more restrained when it comes to the overall tempo on many tracks. Obviously, there are still a few tracks here where the band goes full speed ahead, and those songs are as energetic and fun as ever, but there’s actually a surprising amount of slow to mid-paced tracks on this album, including the band’s first attempt at a full ballad, which is something I certainly wasn’t expecting. I’ve always thought of Powerwolf as having some similarities to Sabaton and on this album that comparison is stronger than in the past, as while the organ helps assure the band’s sound is still recognizable, some of the beats and melodies in the middle section of this album remind me a lot of the Swedes, and it’s certainly a very melodic album, even by Powerwolf standards, while still being as epic and catchy as ever.

Of course, yet another standout feature of the band is the vocals of Attila Dorn, and that’s another aspect I never expect the band to change. As always, he’s in top form on The Sacrament of Sin, flawlessly mixing together his classical training with his rougher, more metallic vocals, and carrying already great vocal melodies and choruses to greater heights than just about any other power metal vocalist would be able to take them. I’ve always loved his deep voice and his unique singing style, and as much as I love the band overall, his vocals have always been my absolute favorite thing about their music, so it’s no surprise that on an album that leans more towards slower and more melodic songs, he has managed to reach new heights, and has delivered an absolutely incredible performance.

Songwriting has always been a big strength for Powerwolf, so every time I hear a new album from them I expect nothing but perfection. Unsurprisingly, they have once again delivered 11 songs that are absolutely phenomenal on their own, while flowing together perfectly. However, as I mentioned before, the pace is slightly different this time around, which may throw some folks off, though I certainly took no time to warm up to it. One thing’s for sure: If you don’t enjoy the opening track “Fire & Forgive”, you probably aren’t nor ever will be a Powerwolf fan, because if you are a fan, this is the exact kind of song that will knock your socks off! The track opens with some orchestral backing, before the organs kick in and Attila delivers some of his epic classical vocals, delivering the customary intro to a Powerwolf album, before the guitars and drums kick in, and the track starts moving at a blistering pace, delivering the kind of upbeat, hard-hitting but fun and epic power metal fans have come to expect from the band, highlighted by one hell of a catchy chorus, that I actually had stuck in my head for hours straight, after hearing it just once, that’s how catchy it is! That track seemed like an obvious pick for a single, and indeed it was the second single for the album, but the lead single is the much less obvious pick “Demon’s Are a Girl’s Best Friend”. This is a much lighter track than usual for a Powerwolf single, and it has a slight pop/rock feel to it, except that the organ and some epic keyboard effects are on hand to help give it a unique, somewhat creepy atmosphere. The track moves along at a nice pace, with the verses being fun and breezy, while the chorus is ridiculously catchy as fans would expect. While it’s not a hard-hitting track by any means, I really like the overall feel of it, plus that chorus is absolutely amazing, so I’m definitely glad they made it a single, even if it’s not the kind of song that will please all fans of the band.

Speaking of songs which may not please fans hoping for the usual Powerwolf sound, that brings us toward the middle section of the album, where the pace drops off quite a bit, giving room to a group of more restrained and melodic tracks, which still nonetheless manage to be as catchy and fun as usual. I mentioned earlier that I hear a fair bit of Sabaton influence on this album, and one needs to look no further than “Killers of the Cross” to instantly pick up on that, as it’s a mid-paced, very light track, where the drum patterns and overall rhythm of the music sound like they easily could have come from the Swedish band. Of course, it’s the organs and Attila’s voice that help make the track stand out, and it’s definitely as fun and epic as anything else on this album, with some absolutely terrific vocal melodies, and a great guitar solo. Next is “Incense and Iron”, another slower track, though this is one where the symphonic elements are in full effect to help give it more of an epic, cinematic feel, especially during the verses, where some cool chanting vocals are added in the background. It’s one of those tracks that isn’t fast at all but still manages to breeze by and have a ton of energy to it, with yet another spectacular and super melodic chorus, as well as another great guitar solo.

The biggest surprise of all is next in the form of “Where the Wild Wolves Have Gone”, the first real ballad the band has ever attempted. The symphonic elements are again out in full force, being one of the main elements along with some piano and of course the vocals. It’s a very epic, slow-building track where the verses help set the tone, and then the chorus absolutely knocks it out of the park, being one of the best and most epic choruses I’ve heard all year. In fact, I’ll just go ahead and say this may be the best metal ballad I’ve ever heard, and if not, its certainly the best one I’ve heard in many years, with the piano and orchestra setting the mood perfectly, and Attila absolutely kills it on vocals, putting his classical training on full display and showing why he remains the band’s MVP, despite the rest of the music already being amazing. The solo in the second half is just icing on the cake. Surprisingly, it’s my favorite track on the entire album. Another surprise is next with “Stossgebet”, another slower paced track, which starts off almost like a ballad, driven by vocals and the organ, before the track gets a bit heavier in time for the chorus. It’s a very moody and atmospheric track, while still having some wonderful melodies, as always, while once again using some symphonic elements. What makes it stand out, though, is the fact that it’s sung entirely in German, which is a nice touch, and allows Attila to excel, singing in his native language. Rounding out the middle section is “Nightside of Siberia”, the most typical sounding track of the bunch, which moves at a pretty nice pace without going full throttle, and it’s probably the track where the symphonic elements are most notable, really blending well with the organ to create some unique and epic melodies. It definitely has the fun and energy of a typical Powerwolf track, speeding up at some points without going overly speedy, and it has the kind of fun and addictive chorus fans would expect, as well as a pretty amazing guitar solo towards the end.

As we reach the final stretch, we enter the portion of the album where the band most relies on their usual formula, starting with the epic title track. Aside from some choral chants at the start, this is a very typical Powerwolf song, moving along at a frantic pace during the verses, with double bass drums going all out, and it’s a fast-paced, hard-hitting track with some great guitar work throughout, as well as yet another super addictive and catchy chorus. The song never relents and is definitely one of the fastest and most pure fun tracks on the album. Next is “Venom of Venus”, which follows suit, starting out with some epic classical flavored vocals from Attila, before slowing down a bit during its verses, but then speeding back up again for a super fun chorus, which sure to get stuck In the heads of many fans. It’s yet another super catchy and addictive track that is sure to please fans of the band. The slowest song during this part of the album is “Nighttime Rebel”, a track where the organ dominated early on, before giving way to guitars orchestra later on. It’s a fairly calm and slower track, but still has some excellent vocal melodies and a fantastic chorus, as well as an excellent and very melodic guitar solo. For the last few albums, Powerwolf has followed a predictable formula for the closing track, with a slow paced, slow-building yet super epic track that ends with a long fade out. Well, this time around they’ve changed things up with “Fist by Fist (Sacralize or Strike)” a track which comes firing out of the gates, only slowing down a bit during its extremely epic first verse where the orchestra is again on full display, with some inspiring melodies building up to a chorus that picks up the pace and again shows the band speeding along, with super catchy vocals and melodies, as usual. Once the song gets going it’s the exact kind of super speedy, super epic and just incredibly addictive power metal track fans have come to love from the band, complete with an excellent guitar solo in the second half. It’s a very high energy track which ends the album on a very high note and is certainly a welcome change of pace compared to how they ended their past few albums.

I always have high expectations whenever I hear Powerwolf is coming out with a new album, and they never disappoint me. With The Sacrament of Sin, the band has not only kept their winning streak going, they’ve produced possibly their best album to date, striking a perfect balance between giving fans what they want, and experimenting just a bit, creating some songs that aren’t quite what folks may be expecting from the band. I suspect fans hoping for a mostly fast-paced album may be a bit disappointed, though hopefully the high-quality songwriting will be able to win them over, but everyone else, whether they’re already a Powerwolf fan or just a fan of power metal, symphonic metal or melodic metal in general, should absolutely love this, and I’d definitely consider it a must hear for fans of the genre. Easily my favorite album through the first half of 2018, and I really don’t see anyone being able to top it any time soon.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/06/26/powerwolf-the-sacrament-of-sin-review/

CIRCLE OF SILENCE The Crimson Throne

Album · 2018 · Power Metal
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Power metal is often known to be a very melodic and lighter genre compared to most types of metal, but there are some bands out there who like to play a more aggressive, thrashier version of the genre, most notably coming out of Germany. One of the better bands to emerge from this side of the genre in recent years is Circle of Silence, who impressed me a lot with their previous release The Rise of Resistance, a very in your face kind of album, loaded with tons of punishing thrash riffs, speedy power metal rhythms, and great choruses. After taking a long break in between albums, the band is finally back almost five years later with their third full-length album, The Crimson Throne. With this album, the band has picked up where they left off, giving listeners some of the most brutal and intense power metal possible, while still managing to mix in a ton of great melodies and vocal sections.

For those who’ve never heard Circle of Silence before, they play a very rough brand of power metal, with a ton of thrash elements in their music, as well as some very aggressive vocals at times. They do a good job of varying the tempos, with a nice mix of faster tracks and more mid-paced tracks, as well as occasionally changing things up partway through a song. For the most part, The Crimson Throne feels very similar to their previous album, though a couple tracks felt surprisingly lighter to me at times, with some heavy metal style melodic guitar leads at points, which add a bit of extra flavor, and these are quite effective. At the same time, this is definitely a very hard hitting album overall, and the heavier, speedier passages are definitely when the album is at its best. For the most part, it’s a consistently engaging album, with no weaker tracks to be found, though it doesn’t quite have anything that matches the masterpiece “The Architect of Immortality” from their previous album.

One element that took time for me to get used to the first time I heard a Circle of Silence album was the voice of vocalist Nick Keim. He fits the band quite well, to be sure, but he has a very deep voice and rough voice that’s a bit atypical for the genre, and he can at times be very in your face with his vocal delivery. He certainly delivers some fiery vocals that match the intense thrashier portions, though, while being able to rein himself in a bit and deliver some big vocal melodies during the chorus. While his vocals took some time for me to get used to, I now think he’s a great singer and he fits the band’s sound -perfectly, with this album especially doing a good job of letting him showcase both his more aggressive vocals and his smoother, more melodic vocals.

Another area where I’ve sometimes struggled with the band is in the songwriting, though thankfully that has proven to be an area where they’ve improved a lot over the years, with their debut The Blackened Halo being very inconsistent, while The Rise of Resistance was a mostly consistent album with one huge highlight, and now The Crimson Throne is their most consistent album to date, to the point where it’s hard to pick a favorite, not because there aren’t any great tracks, but because every single track is in very good to great territory, with nothing quite on the level of the best track from its predecessor, but the majority of the tracks here are slightly better than most other tracks on that album.

The band does a great job of letting listeners know exactly what to expect within the first few tracks, as following a brief but nice intro, the first three full songs all cover different elements of the band’s music quite nicely. The first of these is “Race to the Sky”, the most classic power metal sounding track here, though with a slight edge to the riffs. Still, compared to most tracks on this album, it’s both speedy and melodic in ways fans of the genre would expect, with some great riffs, nice melodic leads and an excellent chorus. The extended solo section in the middle is amazing, and overall it’s an excellent track. Next is “Destroyers of the Earth”, one of the hardest hitting songs out of the bunch. It immediately charges out of the gate with some pummeling riffs, and this keeps up throughout the verses, where Nick delivers some of his most fiery vocals. There are some great melodies during the pre-chorus section, but then the thrash edge kicks in again and the chorus is short but intense, and the most melodic section of the track is during the solo section, which is quite good. After those two faster tracks, the pace slows done a bit for the first time with “The Chosen One”, a slightly heavier metal influenced track, which moves along at a decent pace, with some great melodic leads and some of Nick’s smoother, lighter vocals. It has one of the most epic choruses on the album and is definitely another great track.

While I enjoy all elements of this album, I especially prefer the thrashier tracks, as these are more unique for a power metal band and Circle of Silence has always excelled at them. After the first group of songs, the next real hard hitter is the title track, a slightly more mid-paced affair, which nonetheless brings back some of the powerful thrash riffs from “Destroyers of the Earth”, and it again has a nice melodic vocal section leading into an intense chorus, though this time around even the instrumental section is quite vicious, and overall it’s a very hard hitting and satisfying track. Right after that is “Into the Fire”, a more upbeat song with an epic and more melodic chorus, though it too has some excellent thrashy riffs, and is quite a heavy track overall. In the same vein as the title track is “A Kingdom Divine”, another more mid-paced track with some very hard hitting riffs, though it has a slightly more modern sound to it, and well as occasional points where the vocals come very close to death growls. It has an insanely epic and catchy chorus, as well as a great solo section, and it’s definitely one of my favorites on the album. The last real heavy track here is “Possessed By Fire”, where the verses start off a bit slow but pick up speed as they go along, all while being heavy and intense throughout, while the chorus is frantic and intense right from the start, with some great gang vocals. It’s definitely another great thrash infused power metal track, which delivers exactly the kind of sound I want from the band.

On the more melodic side, we have “Lionheart”, which starts off with a great melodic guitar section, before speeding up quickly, and it actually starts off feeling like it’ll be another power/thrash hybrid track, but it actually get much lighter and more melodic as it goes on, with the second half being almost entirely instrumental and having some classic heavy influences. The chorus is a bit weak, but otherwise, it’s a great track overall. A few tracks after that is “Endgame”, which starts off with some beautiful guitar melodies, before picking up the pace and turning into a more mid-paced power metal track, with an excellent chorus, featuring some of Nick’s best vocals on the album. The closing track is “Wild Eyes”, a mostly mid-paced track, with another excellent chorus, though its highlight comes in the second half, during a speedy instrumental section which gives way an epic final run through the chorus, to the end the album in an extremely epic way.

Overall, The Crimson Throne is another great album from Circle of Silence, which delivers more of their hard-hitting brand of thrash infused power metal while mixing in a few more melodic sections every once in a while. I’d say it’s slightly better than their previous album overall, and I’d definitely recommend it to fans of the band, as well as any power metal fan who prefers the heavier, more guitar-driven side of the genre, with no presence of keyboards whatsoever.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/03/31/circle-of-silence-the-crimson-throne-review/


Album · 2018 · Progressive Metal
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Out of all types of metal, one genre I’ve long struggled with and only managed to enjoy in quick bursts over the years is djent, a particularly rhythmic, repetitive and at times overly harsh sounding offshoot of progressive metal, which of course is one of my favorite genres. The band many consider to be the pioneers of the genre, Messhugah, have certainly never impressed me, while other famous bands like Periphery and Textures have managed to hook me in on occasion, but never entirely. So far, the one band in this style that has managed to keep me interested over the course of multiple albums is British band TesseracT, who I first discovered with their excellent second full-length release, Altered State, in 2013. Their next release, Polaris mostly eluded me, though I did eventually give it a listen and quite enjoyed it as well, so while their upcoming fourth full-length album, Sonder, wasn’t one of my most anticipated releases the year or anything, I was interested to see how it would turn out. In the end, if their previous albums hadn’t already won me over and convinced me that djent can work on a consistent basis when done correctly, then Sonder surely would have been the one to do it, as it manages to be equal parts accessible, hard-hitting and atmospheric, and it’s easily the most engaging and consistently impressive release I’ve heard from TesseracT to date.

One aspect of djent I tend to not be too fond of is the constant use of repetitive chugging guitars, which can grate on my ears badly if done the wrong way, with even a band such as Periphery sometimes falling into that trap. Thankfully, TesseracT have always been good at knowing just how far to take their heaviness, without pushing it to the point where it gets irritating, and they also do a great job of letting the guitars and drums settle into a nice groove, that allows the atmosphere and vocals to take and over and really push the songs to the next level. Which brings me to one aspect of the genre I do enjoy, and another thing TesseracT does amazingly, and that is the contrasts between the rough, aggressive sections, and the dark but rather calm and atmospheric, sometimes even ambient, sections. On Sonder, TesseracT have really perfected that side of their music, with almost every track seamlessly switching from loud and violent to calm and more introspective seemingly out of nowhere, and they handle these transitions perfectly. There are many extended softer portions on this album, where the electronic elements are used nicely along with more melodic guitars to add atmosphere to the music, and this goes along nicely with the lyrics, which deal with themes of insignificance, and it is definitely a very emotional album, with very strong performances all around. At the same time, fans looking for the more aggressive side of the band’s music still have a lot to look forward to, especially on tracks like “King”, “Juno” and “Smile”.

Another aspect I often struggle with is the vocals, as djent is a genre often known to use a ton of screaming, metalcore style vocals, and those are the kind of thing that can often grate on my nerves if done poorly, which I sadly find to be the case a lot of the time. Thankfully, that is yet another trap TesseracT manages to avoid, as vocalist Daniel Tompkins only uses screams in quick bursts, often during some particularly intense and powerful sequences where that kind of approach is necessary. When he does use them, he sounds fittingly intense, but certainly never grating or irritating. For the most part, he uses clean vocals and he is certainly one excellent singer, seamlessly going from high notes to low notes within the same sentence, with his lower range especially sounding very smooth and really fits the atmosphere of the music, though his high notes are also very nice, of course. He sings very calmly during the soft parts but can get his voice to sound rough and intense without screaming during some of the heavier parts, and this is used to great effect throughout the album. Overall, he simply does an excellent job and puts a ton of emotion into his performance, which helps to enhance an already great album even further.

One last area where djent can often be hit or miss is in the songwriting, as I find there isn’t really that many bands can do while sticking to their overall sound, so often times the songs will blend together, with few standouts. This is again an area in which TesseracT delivers, as while there is a consistent feel to the whole album and everything flows together perfectly, each track can definitely stand on its own, and it certainly never gets boring. Opening track “Luminary” does an excellent job of setting the tone, opening with some brief atmospheric electronic effects, before the dissonant guitars kick in, and then the music calms down again and Daniel enters in on vocals. It’s a great track which does a great job of briefly showcasing the heavier side of the band, while overall being a very melodic and surprisingly accessible track, with a very strong chorus, and a great use of atmospheric sounds throughout.

The first big standout is “King”, the longest track on the album at just under 7 minutes, and it’s a mammoth track, entering in with some very overpowering riffs that set a dark and ominous tone right out of the gate, and this is one of the tracks where Daniel showcases his screams, seamlessly mixing them in with his various types of clean vocals, with everything sounding perfect, of course. The track is definitely one of the heaviest on the album, getting especially intense during a screaming section in the second half, though it still manages to throw in a ton of calmer and more atmospheric moments both in the middle and ending of the track, and it has another strong chorus. After that is the interlude track “Orbital”, a brief but very nice ambient track, which uses some nice electronic sounds in the background, while Daniel sings very softly. It manages to be an emotional track, while also being very quiet, and despite being only 2 minutes, it is quite memorable. The next full song is “Juno”, which starts out heavy before settling into a nice groove, with some pretty nice guitar work as well as some cool electronic beats, that add a nice rhythm to the track throughout. This is one of the grooviest tracks on the album, for sure, and it moves along at a nice pace and manages to represent somewhat of a middle ground between the heavier tracks and the calmer tracks, and it does so quite wonderfully.

The second half begins with “Beneath the Skin”, a very dark and mostly soft track, which has an extended atmospheric section early on that uses minimal sounds very effectively, creating a thick atmosphere with very few sounds used, and it is quite the interesting track overall. It does get heavier as it goes on, with the typical djent chugs and grooves kicking in later on, though it’s still one of the slower and more melodic tracks on the album, with some wonderfully smooth clean vocals from Daniel, as well as an excellent chorus, once it shows up in the second half. Another soft track is next in “Mirror Image”, which is the closest this album comes to having a full ballad. It’s another track which uses some nice electronic effects and vocals to create a dark atmosphere, and it’s certainly one of the most vocal driven and melodic tracks on the album, with another very emotional and powerful performance from Daniel. It gets slightly heavier in the second half, and the guitar work towards the end is amazing, but it’s definitely a surprisingly calm and beautiful track overall. The last real heavy track on the album is “Smile”, which again starts with some dark and heavy riffs before settling into a nice groove, with a nice use of electronic effects to set the tone for the music. It’s somewhat similar to “Juno”, except a bit darker and more intense, with a very sinister feel to it, and the guitars have a very aggressive, alternative metal feel to them throughout the track, which is somewhat on the rest of the album, but it’s especially noticeable here. The screamed section towards the end is extremely intense and epic, and overall it’s definitely one of the highlights of the album. After such an intense track, closing number “The Arrow” is a suitably mellow and atmospheric track, with haunting vocals and very dark lyrics, as well as some beautiful but twisted sounding melodies. It has a slight heaviness to it but is another surprisingly soft and calm track for this style of metal. While it’s one of the shortest tracks on the album, it’s also one of my favorites, due to the vocals and lyrics working together so effectively with the music.

Overall, Sonder may be the best djent album I’ve heard to date, and while that’s not saying a whole lot, it definitely is an excellent album in its own right, with an excellent mix of heavy, punishing guitar work, a great use of atmosphere, and some very powerful vocals. Fans of the band are sure to be pleased, and anyone like me who has previously found this genre to be a bit too rough on the ears to handle may be pleasantly surprised, this is a very nicely balanced album that certainly has some excellent melodic and calm portions, to go along with the expected intense bursts. I was expecting to enjoy this album, but it greatly exceeded my expectations and become one of my favorites of the year so far, and I’ll definitely be looking forward to hearing anything else TesseracT does in the future.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/04/21/tesseract-sonder-review/

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