Travis Green
MMA Special Collaborator · Power & Neo, Goth & Symph, Prog/AG Teams
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Favorite Metal Artists

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2384 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
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
DALRIADA - Ígéret Folk Metal

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 931 4.02
2 Progressive Metal 336 3.90
3 Symphonic Metal 226 3.91
4 Heavy Metal 176 3.57
5 Thrash Metal 96 3.63
6 Gothic Metal 92 3.92
7 Folk Metal 76 4.27
8 Melodic Death Metal 71 3.89
9 US Power Metal 50 3.88
10 Alternative Metal 37 3.45
11 Hard Rock 33 3.64
12 Non-Metal 29 3.48
13 Death Metal 19 4.03
14 Technical Death Metal 16 4.06
15 Metal Related 16 4.06
16 Trance Metal 16 3.63
17 Symphonic Black Metal 15 4.47
18 Melodic Metalcore 15 3.27
19 Industrial Metal 15 4.20
20 Groove Metal 15 2.83
21 Metalcore 12 3.83
22 Technical Thrash Metal 10 4.45
23 Speed Metal 10 3.80
24 Heavy Alternative Rock 9 4.67
25 Atmospheric Black Metal 8 4.06
26 Doom Metal 7 4.00
27 Nu Metal 6 4.00
28 NWoBHM 5 4.50
29 Melodic Black Metal 5 4.00
30 Deathcore 5 3.60
31 Glam Metal 4 3.88
32 Death-Doom Metal 4 3.88
33 Heavy Psych 4 3.75
34 Avant-garde Metal 3 3.67
35 Traditional Doom Metal 3 3.83
36 Brutal Death Metal 2 4.50
37 Stoner Metal 2 4.00
38 Sludge Metal 1 4.00
39 Neoclassical metal 1 4.00
40 Crossover Thrash 1 3.00
41 Black Metal 1 0.50
42 Viking Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

VISION DIVINE When All the Heroes Are Dead

Album · 2019 · Power Metal
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I have a bit of a strange relationship with Italian power metal band Vision Divine. Unlike many, I was never too impressed by their earlier works, with the acclaimed album The Perfect Machine, in particular, failing to grab my attention. Also unlike many, the album that finally hooked me in and got me to take note of the band was 9 Degrees West of the Moon, a very light and melodic album, with some outstanding choruses and vocal melodies, as well as some nice progressive arrangements.

Following that album, the band released Destination Set to Nowhere, a heavier, more modernized album with a strong progressive feel to it. That release, in particular, impressed me and stands to date as my favorite release by the band. When I heard they had parted ways with Fabio Lione and had brought in Derdian vocalist Ivan Giannini, I was excited to see how their sound would change with him as a vocalist, as he’s become one of my favorite Italian singers in recent years. Late in 2018, the band released a single titled “Angel of Revenge”, which instantly blew me away, and raised the bar for any future releases, as well as my expectations. Now, the band is set to release their eighth full length album, When All the Heroes Are Dead, and while it falls a bit short of what I was hoping for, based on the single, it’s still an excellent album, and stands as one of the band’s better releases, for sure.

Compared to Destination Set to Nowhere, When All the Heroes Are Dead feels like a slightly more straight-forward release. It does still have traces of the prog elements found on its predecessor, as well as the occasional use of symphonic arrangments, but the songwriting is generally fairly simple, with no song going much beyond the 5-minute mark, and there aren’t any huge surprises. Instead, it’s a heavy-hitting, largely guitar-driven power metal album, with some nice sounding modern sounding keyboards, that certainly brings later Stratovarius to mind. That comparison holds up particularly well on many of the speedier tracks, which are fun, melodic and very catchy in ways that bring the Finnish band to mind, while the slower tracks are generally solid but a little bit lacking, by comparison.

The entire album is high energy, with excellent performances all around, both from long-time members like guitarist Olaf Thörsen and bassist Andrea Torricini, as well as the two new members, Ivan Giannini and veteran drummer Mike Terrana, with the latter sounding excellent no matter what band he’s with, and this album is certainly no exception. Ivan also sounds great, as always, alternating nicely between some very powerful, gritty vocals and much lighter, soaring power metal vocals, as well as singing very softly on occasion. He fits the band perfectly, and especially excels on some of the more explosive choruses, though he sounds great on softer sections as well, of course. Production is also superb, with everything sounding clear and powerful, and that is no surprise, seeing as DGM’s Simone Mularoni is responsible for mixing and mastering.

The only area where the album doesn’t fully meet expectations is the songwriting. There aren’t any weak songs here, to be sure, but I find aside from a couple of particular highlights, a lot of the album is just lacking some kinda spark, some special quality to make it stand above the pack. I mentioned “Angel of Revenge” earlier, and that song has that special something. It’s a very epic, speedy symphonic power metal track, with some very epic orchestral arrangements, heavy guitar work at times, and it’s a very bombastic track, but it also alternates nicely between some very soft sections and heavier sections, which is something it does wonderfully. Verses alternate between slow and mid-paced sections, while the chorus goes full speed ahead, and is absolutely incredible, with some very epic vocal melodies, where Ivan goes all out and sounds spectacular, especially during the final chorus, while the instrumental sections are equally excellent, with a wonderful guitar/keyboard solo sequence in the second half, and overall, it just feels like everything really came together to help make it quite possibly my favorite Vision Divine song ever. Unfortunately, that track is only a Digipack bonus, so some versions of the album don’t even have it at all, which I consider a big disappointment, as while there are some other excellent tracks on the album, nothing else quite reaches the levels of perfection that song does.

Usually I’d save the bonus track for near the end of a review, but in this case, I felt I had to bring it up early, both because of how good it is, but also because it feels like other tracks on the album try to match it, without quite getting there. In particular, “On the Ides of March” feels very similar, with some nice keys and it alternates between soft and heavy passages nicely, but it just doesn’t quite do it in a memorable way as “Angel of Revenge”. It does have an excellent, speedy chorus, though, and is still a great song, overall. Other songs that don’t quite reach the level I expect from the band are “Fall from Grace”, a solid but unspectacular mid-paced track, with more nice keys and fairly heavy verses. It’s a nice track, overall, with the verses being quite fun, but the chorus feels a bit weak, and overall, the song doesn’t leave much of an impression. Likewise, the two ballads on the album “While the Sun is Turning Black” and closing track “The Nihil Propaganda” are both nice tracks, with some big vocal moments from Ivan, but neither of them quite come together as well as they should, with the former in particular having a nice guitar solo and some great vocal moments, but it just never fully takes off and lacks anything really impressive, while the latter is a light piano ballad, which feels like it gets cut off a bit too quickly, so it isn’t really given enough space to fully develop, though what’s there is pretty nice, with some particularly soft and deep vocals from Ivan.

Moving back to the positive side of things, following a nice intro track, “The 26th Machine” is an absolute killer of an opening track, with more epic symphonic arrangements, blistering fast-paced verses, hard-hitting riffs, and an amazing chorus, with some of Ivan’s absolute best vocals on the album, while the solo section towards the end is fairly brief, but also quite excellent. Overall, it’s an extremely fast, fun and very addictive track and is probably my favorite main album track here. If that one isn’t my favorite, then it’s “300”, the second last track on the album. This one starts with some nice acoustic guitar work and nicer modern keys, before fully speeding up in time for the first verse. This is another very explosive, very heavy guitar-driven track, with some of the best riffs on the album, as well as another epic chorus, where Ivan shines, and a very fun instrumental section, where the keys bring Stratovarius to mind.

Sticking with the highlights, lead single “3 Men Walk on the Moon” is another high energy, speedy power metal track with some very melodic guitar work, as well as more nice modern keys. It slows done slightly during the verses, for more of an atmospheric feel with the keys, but then fully speeds up during the chorus. I love the instrumental work and the verses, but I find the chorus lacks any real memorable hooks, which is why I couldn’t quite put the song on the level as the above-mentioned highlights, even though it is still an excellent track, overall. In similar territory are the “almost” title track “Now That All the Heroes are Dead” and “The King of the Sky”, which are both excellent speedy power metal tracks, with great choruses. The former again goes for some softer sections during the verses, and does a nice job, but it doesn’t quite have the same magic as “Angel of Revenge”, while the latter is perhaps the most straight-forward track on the album, just going all out with heavy riffs, frantic drum patterns, epic modern keys, a fun solo section, and a very strong chorus. It’s another excellent track, that falls maybe a slight step below the best on the album, but it’ll please anyone looking for some fun, classic power metal. Lastly, while I find most of the slower tracks on this album to be solid, but unspectacular, “Were I God” is an exception to the rule. It’s a rather light, slower-paced track, with a heavy reliance on some rather melancholy keys, and it has some very downbeat verses, with a huge, catchy chorus, where Ivan provides some of his best vocals on the album. The lyrics are dark but fit the music well, and it’s very catchy, if bleak, track overall, and is a big step above all other slow-paced tracks on the album.

Overall, When All the Heroes Are Dead is another great album, which takes Vision Divine into a slightly more straight-forward, heavy-hitting direction compared to its most recent predecessor, largely cutting back on the prog elements, while fully doubling down on their classic power metal elements. This results in an album that doesn’t quite have enough memorable or special moments to make it stand out from the pack, but it’s still a consistently entertaining release, with all songs varying between solid and amazing. Fans of the band should be pleased, as Ivan Giannini fits in perfectly and does a wonderful job, while newcomers looking for some fun, speedy melodic power metal with a bit of an edge, should also find a lot to enjoy. I think Destination Set to Nowhere remains my favorite from the band, but this release isn’t too far behind, and I get the feeling they’re still capable of eventually topping that release, in the future. I just hope that next time around, the best track isn’t cut from the main album.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/10/20/vision-divine-when-all-the-heroes-are-dead-review/

METALITE Biomechanicals

Album · 2019 · Trance Metal
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In 2017, Swedish melodic metal band Metalite quietly released a very impressive debut, titled Heroes in Time. The album could best be described as modern melodic metal along the lines of Amaranthe and Temperance, with a blend of power metal and trance elements, and while there were some traces of heavy guitar work, the main focus was on the big, soaring melodies. While the album didn’t quite reach the heights of my favorite albums by either of the aforementioned bands, it was still a very fun release, and so I was excited to see what the band would do on future releases. Their second full-length release, Biomechanicals, is now almost here, and the band has taken everything that worked on their debut and expanded upon it, to make an even better album, that certainly does rival the absolute best albums in the genre! Stylistically, not much has changed, as Biomechanicals is still a very modern sounding album, with a huge focus on uplifting melodies, huge choruses, and some of the best vocal melodies I’ve ever heard on an album of this kind. The trance elements from the debut have been expanded upon even further, with the digital effects being pushed further to the absolute front of the sound, and while perhaps my one complaint would be that a couple of sections go a tad overboard with these effects and sound a bit off-putting, the approach works great for the most part, with the keys adding a ton of flavor to the music, and they certainly work well more often than not. Obviously, though, this is still a metal album, and so while the vocal melodies and keys are the main focus, there’s still some very solid guitar work, with some occasional heavy bits, sometimes pushing close to djent territory, (though always doing so in an effective way that doesn’t sound grating in the least), while there’s also a ton of excellent melodic guitar work, especially during some excellent solos.

Songwriting is largely similar to the debut, with a nice mix of mid-paced tracks, some upbeat tracks with a large focus on the trance elements, some speedier tracks with a strong power metal influence, some slower parts and an excellent ballad. All songs are straight-forward, very melodic and extremely catchy, with all choruses being incredible. In my review of Heroes in Time, I said the band had room to experiment with more complex or experimental songwriting, and that still holds true, but the performances on this album, as well as the overall melodies, take things to such a high level, the lack of anything complex isn’t as noticeable, as the band simply does an incredible job at writing fun, engaging, catchy and incredibly melodic songs. Everything sounds extremely polished, powerful and crystal clear, so I’d say the production and overall performances are both perfect.

The one notable change in between albums is the departure of vocalist Emma Bensing, with her role now being filled by Erica Ohlsson. While Emma was a very capable vocalist and gave a solid performance on the debut, Erica takes things to a whole new level, and her performance is perhaps the biggest difference between albums, as she manages to take some already excellent vocal melodies, and turn them into some of the absolute best I’ve ever heard! She has a deeper, more powerful voice than her predecessor, while still sounding very smooth and being capable of singing in a way that sounds accessible, and somewhat pop-ish, which fits perfectly with the overall sound of the band. She alternates between low and high, soft and powerful notes flawlessly, always performs with high energy, and whenever she’s called upon to step up her game towards the end of a track, she kills it every time. This is probably the most excited I’ve been by a vocal performance on an album of this type since hearing Nils Molin on Dynazty’s Renatus, and while the overall album doesn’t quite reach that level of brilliance, Erica’s vocals are perfect!

While the performances are certainly top-notch, the songwriting is also excellent, with no less than great tracks, and there are a ton of huge highlights to be found. Starting things off is lead single “Far from the Sanctuary”, which is fairly similar to “Afterlife” from the band’s debut, and is a perfect indication of what to expect from the album. It’s a fairly fast-paced, quite upbeat track, with a nice blend between modern-sounding trance keys and some nice rhythm guitar work, as well as an excellent, very melodic solo in the second half. Erica shines immediately, nailing the verses and then knocking out the chorus with some intense, yet very smooth vocals, while the chorus is itself is very fun and catchy, making it a perfect fit both as a lead single, and an opening track. Next is the second single “Apocalypse”.

This is one of two tracks I initially struggled with a bit, as the digital effects are a little bit distracting during the verses, and some of the sounds feel a tad overdone, but the vocals are still more than good enough to keep the verses enjoyable, while the chorus is slow-paced but very catchy, and the track overall has a very strong Amaranthe feel to it, and there’s a nice groove to the track. The highlights are an absolutely beautiful, technically proficient guitar solo towards the end, as well as the final chorus, where Erica goes all out and sounds incredible!

In similar territory to that one is the title track, which has some very heavy, somewhat djent-ish guitar work early on. It starts slow and heavy but opens up with some nice melodies before the first chorus kicks in, and from there it speeds up, with some nice trance keys that aren’t too overpowering, and of course, the vocal melodies are excellent, and the chorus is very catchy. The first real speedy track on the album is “Warrior”, which briefly teases some very modern sounding trance keys, before some nice melodic guitar work kicks in, and while the verses are more mid-paced, the track speeds up quite a bit for the chorus, which is equal parts intense, catchy, tons of fun and absolutely unbelievably melodic. Like, this track is pretty much as light and melodic as a song can get, while still clearly being a metal track. It’s a wonderful track, overall, but the final run through the chorus is stunning, with the melodies almost being overwhelmingly beautiful, while the vocals are incredible and very powerful. While I love the entire album, this is easily my favorite track the band has released so far.

Following up that stunner, “Mind of a Monster” is another light, very upbeat track, with some strong pop sensibilities and heavy trance elements throughout. It’s fairly fast-paced, but never fully speeds up, and it’s a very light, melodic track, with a strong focus on the keys, and again, the vocals are the clear driving point, and are amazing, as always, with the chorus being extremely addictive and catchy. The momentum continues with “World on Fire”, one of the faster-paced, more clearly power metal influenced tracks on the album. It’s still fairly light, upbeat and highly trance infused, but it also has some nice driving guitars, more intense drumming, and moves at a very quick pace throughout, with very fun verses, and another super catchy and melodic chorus, as well as a very strong guitar solo towards the end. Rounding out this sequence of speedy tracks is “Eye of the Storm”, which starts out a bit slow and heavy, with an equal balance between thick guitars, modern trance keys and powerful vocals, but it speeds up dramatically for the chorus, which is another absolute winner, though the keyboard sequence that comes right after maybe the highlight of the track, along with a very speedy, heavily power metal-infused solo section, and the final run through the chorus, which is stunning as always.

While the album is excellent the whole way through, the quality drops off very slightly for the final four tracks, as none of them quite reach the heights of earlier tracks. The lone ballad of the album is “Breakaway”, a very pop-sounding track, with some rather bouncy keyboards and drums, and it serves as a nice vocal showcase for Erica, who of course shines as brightly as always, particularly during the final chorus, where she pours in a ton of emotion, and sings with a lot of power, helping to make it a memorable moment. The very beautiful, emotional guitar solo in the second half is also excellent. The final upbeat track on the album is “Social Butterflies”, which never fully speeds up, but it has some nice heavy guitar work, as well as some very nice digital effects, and it’s a very bright and upbeat track, with an extremely catchy, pop-infused chorus. Closing out the album are “Rise of the Phoenix”, a fairly light and melodic track which feels very similar to some slower Amaranthe tracks, with the chorus being its biggest highlight, and “Victory or Death”, another slower track, which alternates between some heavy guitar work and more very bouncy keys, which manage to sound quite nice. The chorus is quite fun and catchy, and it’s a nice way to close out the album, but I find it doesn’t hit quite as hard as most songs in the middle of the album, with tracks 4-7, in particular, being my favorite sequence, by far.

With Heroes in Time, Metalite announced their presence and established themselves as a potentially great band, and Biomechanicals shows them pushing their sound further, and represents one of the best modern melodic metal albums I’ve heard in the past few years. While there isn’t anything overly complex or surprising here, the performances are incredible across the board, while the songwriting is consistently excellent and full of some amazing choruses, as well as some of the best vocal melodies I’ve ever heard on a metal album, while new vocalist Erica Ohlsson is fantastic. Fans of their debut should love this, and I’d also recommend it for fans of Amaranthe, Temperance or the last three Dynazty albums, as well as anyone looking for some light, melodic metal with excellent vocals. I still think the band could potentially make an even better album, but this release shows them unleashing more of their potential, and they’ve already proven themselves as a band to watch out for in the future.

originally written or myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/10/20/metalite-biomechanicals-review/

WIND ROSE Wintersaga

Album · 2019 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Two of my favorite releases over the past five years have been Wardens of the West Wind, an epic symphonic power metal album along the lines of Rhapsody of Fire, except somehow even catchier, more fun and all-around more enjoyable, and Stonehymn, a wildly entertaining power/folk metal release, with some symphonic arrangements. What do those two albums have in common? Well, both of them were made by Italian band Wind Rose, who showed promise with their progressive metal debut Shadows Over Lothadruin, before completely blowing the roof off with the two aforementioned albums. With the band impressing me so much on two consecutive albums, and largely doing so in different ways, I was excited to see what they would try next and whether their latest full-length release would live up to my expectations. Two years after the release of Stonehymn, the band has now unleashed their fourth album, Wintersaga, and unlike its two most recent predecessors, it feels less like evolution and more like a victory lap, but in a very enjoyable way.

Fans of Wind Rose, and especially those who enjoyed Stonehymn, should have a good idea of what to expect from Wintersaga, as it largely feels like a continuation of that album, while also having slightly more symphonic influence, to bring it a bit closer to Wardens of the West Wind, at times. I loved both of those albums, and so I greatly enjoy this release as well, but I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed that it doesn’t push the band’s sound further, in the way those two albums did. Instead, it feels like the band took everything that worked previously, and built on it, to create a varied, extremely fun and catchy album, with a ton of memorable moments, though a lot those moments do feel a bit familiar.

For new fans, each of the band’s first three albums was remarkably different from each other, each containing elements of prog, power, symphonic and folk metal to varying degrees, but each release had its distinct feel, with the band evolving and showing different sides of their music on each new release. Shadows was a rather complex, long-winded prog album, while Wardens was a super fast-paced, catchy symphonic power metal release, and Stonehymn had a style that felt close to Ensiferium or early Turisas, except with more of a power metal foundation, and without the use of growls. Wintersaga largely picks up where that album left off, with the folk melodies and gang vocals being the most prominent elements, while most tracks are very fast-paced, with hard-hitting riffs and some excellent musicianship all around.

All tracks have huge choruses, where vocalist Francesco Cavalieri shines with his deep and powerful, yet very smooth voice, which can sometimes get a bit wild, but in an effective way that fits the music, while the gang vocals and choral elements are also quite epic and well done. Songwriting is rather varied, with some tracks being more power metal-based, while others are largely folk-infused, with hints of power metal, some blend the two together, and others incorporate symphonic elements, though that side of the band never fully takes over, the way it did on Wardens. With Stonehymn being a huge success for the band, (to the point where they were picked up by a major label) it makes sense that they would largely continue with that sound, and everything is performed as perfectly as on that album, performances are as energetic as ever, and while the album doesn’t quite have the freshness their previous two albums did, it’s still an excellent, consistently enjoyable release from start to finish.

While the material feels familiar, the songwriting is still very high quality, and there aren’t any less than excellent songs throughout. Following a nice intro, which splits pretty evenly between folk melodies and symphonic arrangements, the title track (as well as the third single released) kicks in, and it’s a very explosive track, that gets things off to an amazing start! It opens up slowly, with some nice folk melodies, and epic gang vocals, but the pace quickly picks up with some explosive blast beats, and from there the band goes into full speedy power metal territory, with hard-hitting, high energy verses and an extremely fun and catchy chorus, with some excellent choral vocals. It combines all aspects of the band wonderfully, mixing some symphonic arrangements in with the usual power/folk sound, and is a very fun opener. Next is second single “Drunken Dwarves”, a very folk-infused track, which feels like a tavern song sped up severely, and set to power metal. It’s extremely fun, very epic and incredibly addictive, with an awesome speedy pre-chorus section, before slowing down for a wonderful chorus, where Francesco showcases some of his smoothest vocals to date. It’s another instant winner, and one of my favorites on the album.

Before the release of the album, the band generated a ton of hype with lead single “Diggy Diggy Hole”. The track is based on a popular meme, dating back to February 2011, when Youtube channel Yogscast came up with the tune while playing Minecraft. Three years later, they turned it into an official song, and this past June Wind Rose released their cover of the track, which quickly went viral, with Yogscast acknowledging it near immediately. The video currently has over 6 million views on Youtube! Anyway, the song itself is certainly worthy of those crazy numbers, as it takes an already excellent song, turns it into an epic blend of folk/symphonic metal, with an increased of symphonic arrangements and folk melodies, as well as obviously incorporating some heavy riffs, and it essentially turns the track into one of the catchiest, most stupidly entertaining metal songs released in quite some time!

Following that is the rather similar track, “Mine Mine Mine!”, a fairly slow-paced track, alternating nicely between epic orchestral arrangements and folk melodies while having some excellent gang vocals, slow-paced bu enjoyable verses, and another awesome, sing-along chorus, which is incredibly catchy and epic. The band brings back the power metal elements on “The Art of War”, which alternates nicely between more mid-paced keyboard-driven sections, and an explosive, speedy chorus, which showcases the band’s power/folk sound perfectly. It’s another very fun, fairly straight-forward track, with some excellent folk melodies, some great riffs, and excellent vocals, as always.

The second half of the album is a lot more keyboard-driven, overall, and it brings back some of the band’s prog elements, which are especially noticeable on “There and Back Again”. The track alternates between some very soft, keyboard-driven, symphonic infused sections that bring early Symphony X to mind, and some explosive, heavier passages. It’s mostly a fairly slow-paced track, more focused on the melodic side of the band, and it has an excellent chorus, as well as some great, emotional vocals from Francesco. On the more fun side is “The King Under the Mountain”, which feels pretty similar to “The Breed of Durin” from Wardens. It’s a very fast-paced, wildly fun track with tons of epic gang vocals, folk melodies, some screams, and an extremely fast-paced, intense and insanely catchy chorus. It’s one of the fastest, heaviest tracks on the album, while still having a ton of folk elements, and it’s definitely one of the best here. Closing out the album is “We Were Warriors”, a track which alternates between some slower-paced, heavily folk-infused verses that have a very early Turisas feel to them, as well as some speedier, more intense sections, some softer, more keyboard-driven sections, and some extremely epic symphonic arrangements and choirs. It’s the longest track on the album, at over 9 minutes, and it feels like a suitably epic way to close things out.

Wind Rose caught me completely off guard with each of their last two releases, and while Wintersaga isn’t quite as immediately impressive as either of those, instead feeling more like a celebration of the band breaking through, it’s still a highly engaging, consistently entertaining release, which expertly blends together elements of power metal, folk, symphonic metal and some prog elements here and there. Longtime fans of the band should be very pleased, while anyone looking for some great power/folk metal, with some symphonic and prog elements are also highly recommended to give this a listen. I was hoping the band would evolve their sound further, but I certainly can’t complain about them deciding to settle down a bit, especially when they’ve managed to create another excellent album in the process!

originally written for myglobalmind.com:https://myglobalmind.com/2019/09/29/wind-rose-wintersaga-review/

DRAGONFORCE Extreme Power Metal

Album · 2019 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
“Extreme” and “Power Metal” generally aren’t words one would expect to see placed together, as the genre is generally known to be on the light, catchy and fun side of things, as far as metal goes, and yet one band has deemed themselves as being so daring, so adventurous and so far ahead of the pack, that their music is worthy of being called “Extreme Power Metal.” That band is, of course, British band Dragonforce, who has always been a very divisive band, most notably for the fact that their first big success came when their song “Through the Fire and the Flames” was included in Guitar Hero III. Jokes aside, though, while the band is certainly an acquired taste, they picked up a rather large fan base over the years, releasing seven albums to date, with each of them being highly enjoyable. While I’ve always struggled with some of the band’s earlier works, I’ve been very pleased with their past three releases, especially Maximum Overload, and so I always look forward to hearing more from them. Their eighth full-length release, the indeed boldly titled “Extreme Power Metal”, is almost upon us, and it sure lives up its name, as it’s equal parts extremely fun, extremely fast, extremely catchy, extremely melodic and extremely cheesy, in all the best ways possible!

For better or worse, Extreme Power Metal represents everything Dragonforce stands for, while at the same time allowing a bit of room for experimentation, so listeners can certainly expect a ton of very high speed, high energy power metal, with some heavy riffs, some insanely upbeat melodies, some excellent choruses, some occasional cheesy moments, some very retro sounding keyboards, and of course some very lengthy, technically impressive instrumental sections. There has been one lineup change since the release of Reaching Into Infinity, that being the departure of longtime keyboardist Vadim Pruzhanov, and while he hasn’t been officially replaced yet, the band brought in Epica’s Coen Janssen to record the keyboards for this release, and obviously his contributions are excellent, and very much up to par with what fans would expect. If anything, he at times give the music even more of a cheesy, 80’s feel than ever before, which fits in perfectly with the overall direction of the album.

All musicians are in top form, with dual guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman delivering the same blistering leads, glorious melodies and insanely impressive solos they have always been known for, while the keyboards are cheesy but very effective, and everything sounds perfect, as always. Vocalist Marc Hudson is also in top form, at this point proving himself to an excellent power metal vocalist, being equal parts intense and epic at times, while also being able to sing very smoothly during some surprisingly soft tracks. In fact, contrary to what the name might suggest, this album is actually fairly tame at points, with some slower than average Dragonforce tracks, including a couple of ballads, both of which are excellent, emotional and driven by incredible performances, both from the musicians and from Marc, who just sounds incredible on both songs. Otherwise, fans can still expect plenty of high octane power metal moments, as well as some rather surprising moments on a couple of tracks, which help bring the “Extreme” part of the name back into focus. Overall, the songwriting isn’t quite perfect, but there’s certainly a lot of variety, compared to some Dragonforce albums, and the band has struck a nice balance between the overall simplified, more melodic approach of their first two albums with Marc, and the more extreme, adventurous sound of their first four albums. I’d say this album is slightly more accessible and less complex than Reaching Into Infinity, but it still has a ton of stuff going on, and there are quite a few fresh ideas here, while still giving longtime fans everything they want to hear.

Songwriting is an area where the band has greatly improved over the years, managing to make their last three albums more varied than their first four, while still providing a ton of fun, speedy power metal, and this latest release is no exception. Starting things off is lead single “Highway to Oblivion”, which starts off with a very light, keyboard-driven vocal section, before the guitars kick in and the track quickly speeds up and turns into a very classic Dragonforce sounding song, except with a much stronger chorus than most of their earlier songs had, while also having the kind of frantic, super intense verses fans are used to. It’s a very speedy, very melodic track, and while it’s fairly straight-forward overall, it does have a rather lengthy instrumental section in the middle, where the two guitarists show off their skills. Overall, it’s exactly what fans of the band would expect, and it opens the album up with a huge bang! Next is “Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shredding Machine”, which opens up with a nice guitar melody, as well as some rather cheesy retro sounding keys. The track has a slight symphonic influence, while still being another blazing fast power metal track, with more heavy riffs, fun verses and one of the best choruses on the entire album, where Marc shines, especially near the end, where he hits some very impressive high notes. The instrumental section in the middle is unsurprisingly amazing and has some very retro sounding keys, that almost sound like they came from an NES videogame, which is pretty neat. It’s another excellent track, overall, and one of my personal favorites.

Another personal favorite is “The Last Dragonborn”, the first of two ballads on the album. One would expect a band like Dragonforce to shy away from ballads, but they’ve proven themselves to be pretty good at them, with the likes of “Trail of Broken Hearts” from Inhuman Rampage and “Silence” from Reaching Into Infinity. However, this track is a big step above those two, as it’s a surprisingly beautiful track, with some wonderful melodic guitar work (including the expected excellent instrumental section), as well as some epic symphonic elements, but the two biggest highlights of the track are the unbelievably epic chorus, which Marc absolutely slays, and the overall feel of the track, which has some nice Japanese folk melodies. It’s certainly not something I ever expected to hear from the band, but they nailed it, as the Japanese melodies sound incredible and help give the track a distinct feel, while everything else is executed to perfection. Over the years, I’ve heard some very weak ballads, some solid ballads, and even some great ballads, but I rarely hear a ballad I’d consider my favorite track on an album, which makes “The Last Dragonborn” a rare exception, as it’s just such an absolute masterpiece of a track, I can’t help but wanna listen to it over and over again, sometimes even repeating it while listening to the album.

Following up that impossibly good track, second single “Heart Demolition” is perhaps my least favorite on the album, though it’s still an excellent track, with a few rather surprising moments (plus the video for it is absolutely hilarious and totally worth looking up on Youtube!) The track moves at more of a moderate pace, and the guitar tone during the verses actually reminds me a bit of some Dream Theater tracks, though this quickly changes, as the pace picks up and the riffs become more intense in the second half of the verses.

The one part of the track I don’t love is the build-up to the chorus, which has a bit of a classic hard rock feel to it, and I find this rather annoying. The chorus is excellent, though, with a bit of an upbeat 80’s pop feel to it, and Marc, of course, nails the vocals. Overall, the track is a lot of fun and feels fresh, while still having that distinct Dragonforce sound, so even though it’s not one of my favorites, I’m still glad the band made it. Next is “Troopers of the Stars”, which opens up with a rather surprising sequence, with some screams, some thrashy guitar work, and some intense blast beats, which do feel a bit “Extreme”. Following that, the band uses some epic keys and an incredibly epic, upbeat vocal section, which quickly launches into the opening verse, where the band goes full speed ahead, with more heavy riffs, uplifting melodies, and some intense drumming. The chorus is the kind of super cheesy, upbeat and just pure fun the band is known for, and while the track is full of cheese, it always puts a smile on my face, and is probably my favorite of the speedier songs on the album, with the instrumental section in the second half, in particular, feeling like one of the most inspired sequences on the album.

The momentum keeps up with “Razorblade Meltdown” and “In a Skyforged Dream”, which are two more super speedy, hard-hitting tracks, filled with epic melodies, impressive guitar work, and super fun, catchy choruses. They’re pretty much exactly what Dragonforce fans would expect, and are both excellent tracks. In between those is “Strangers”, a bit of an oddball track, in that it’s fairly slow-paced and very keyboard-driven, with modern electronic keys dominating throughout, while the guitars generally provide rhythm and not much else, aside from the usual instrumental section. I find the verses a tad boring, though they get the job done fine enough, while the chorus starts slow, but speeds up a bit as it goes along, becoming extremely epic in the process. The track has a strong 80’s pop feel to it and feels like one of the more adventurous tracks on the album, and while it’s not exactly what I was expecting, it’s a lot of fun.

Coming towards the end of the album, “Remembrance Day” is the second ballad, which starts with some very epic bagpipes. The track has a pretty epic feel to it, overall, with some awesome melodies throughout, and while it lacks the unique feel of “The Last Dragonborn”, it makes up for it with some very impressive guitar work, some strong symphonic elements, and another awe-inspiring chorus, where Marc really shines, as he pours a ton of emotion into the track. For a band not known for ballads, this album sees them going 2 for 2, not just for making “good” ballads, but for making amazing ones, so that’s quite a pleasant surprise! Speaking of ballads, the band chose to close the album out with a cover of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie Titanic, and while the opening teases at a soft, keyboard-driven track, the pace rapidly increases in a hurry, and it turns into the kind of super fun cover they did with Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” in 2014, taking a song from a totally different genre, and expertly turning it into one of their own tracks, managing to nail the overall melody of the track, while putting their unique touches on it, and flawlessly executing it within their own style. It’s certainly an impressive cover, as well as an extremely fun way to end the album.

In spite of its rather comical name, Extreme Power Metal is yet another excellent Dragonforce album, and one which at times feels like a victory lap, with the band fully demonstrating everything their fans have come to expect from them, while at other times it takes some chances, going in some rather surprising directions, with almost everything working out very well. Obviously, I expect to see a lot of people poking fun at that name (and the band in general), but while the album really doesn’t feel all that “Extreme”, it is an excellent, surprisingly varied album, with a tons of speedy, hard-hitting power metal, as well as some lighter, more melodic tracks and two amazing ballads, and of course everything is brought together by the usual mix of excellent musicianship and fantastic vocals. Fans of the band should be most pleased with this release, and I think it would make a great starting point for newcomers, as it showcases everything the band is great at, while also having some surprises. I think Maximum Overload is still my favorite Dragonforce album, just for how consistently perfect it is, but this release isn’t too far behind, and it continues the band’s winning streak, which started with The Power Within.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/09/23/dragonforce-extreme-power-metal-review/

ELVENKING Reader of the Runes - Divination

Album · 2019 · Folk Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
While it is generally believed that most bands get worse over time, either through failed experimentation or because their music has gone stale, I find that to not be entirely accurate, as there are certainly many bands out there who have not only aged well, but have arguably put out some of their very best works to date, in recent years. One such band is Italian power/folk metal band Elvenking, who have never released a single album I would call less than great, and they have been on a particularly impressive run over the past seven years, with the trio of Era, The Pagan Manifesto and Secrets of the Magick Grimoire all being among my favorite releases by the band. Every time I hear they’re releasing a new album, I get excited, because I trust in them to always deliver something special, and so when I heard their tenth full length release, Reader of the Runes – Divination, would be coming this year and that it would be the start of a multi part concept, I was beyond excited, to say the least! Now that Reader of the Runes is here, I can safely say it continues the band’s ongoing winning streak, and manages to be possibly their best release to date!

At this point in their career, Elvenking has settled into their signature blend of speedy, aggressive power metal and epic folk metal, and while some releases towards the middle of their career were a bit experimental, their past couple of releases have felt like a seamless blend of all aspects of their music, with everything coming together perfectly. This trend continues with Reader of the Runes, as it feels like the band has figured their sound out completely, and they know exactly what they want to do, so fans of any of their previous releases, are definitely in for a treat! The album explores their sound to every extreme, with some very aggressive speedy passages, some more relaxing, uplifting folk passages, some more epic mid paced passages, and plenty of tracks that bring everything together, for one awesome package. The songs are generally straight-forward, with very catchy choruses, but between the excellent guitar work, symphonic arrangements and all kinds of different folk instruments, there is a lot going on at times, and many of the tracks alternate between different movements, with frequent tempo changes throughout. Instrumentally, the release is equal parts hard hitting, epic and very melodic, as always, and performances are fantastic across the board, while vocalist Damna sounds as distinct, intense and memorable as always, singing very powerfully at times, while also being able to rein in it and carry some epic melodies. He remains one of the most unique features of the band, with his very distinct voice, and while everything about the album is amazing, his vocals are my favorite part of it, as usual.

Songwriting has always been a strength for Elvenking, so it’s no surprise Reader of the Runes is yet another triumph, with nothing but greatness from start to finish. While I found the previous release, Secrets of the Magick Grimoire, to be book-ended with excellent tracks, and let down a tiny bit in the middle, this album is balanced all around, with my enjoyment never slipping off at all, throughout the entire release, across several listens: Just like The Pagan Manifesto, this album has a perfect a start, a perfect middle, and a perfect end.

The album opens with a brief intro, “Perthro”, which has various folk instrumentation and some epic chanting, as well as slight symphonic arrangements, and it’s a very relaxing, beautiful piece, which sets the tone wonderfully for what’s to come. Opening up the album in full force is “Heathen Divine”, which begins with more nice folk instrumentation before the guitars kick in and the pace picks up, never looking back. Verses are fairly fast paced, with some hard hitting riffs and fun vocal melodies, while the chorus goes full throttle and is the kind of epic, triumphant sounding chorus the band specializes in, except here it’s dialed up to the max, to somehow be even more awesome than usual. It’s certainly a wonderful way to kick off the album, and is one of the best choruses the band has ever written. The second half of the track mixes in some slightly slower passages, more epic vocal melodies and a great guitar solo, as well as an extra epic final run through the chorus. Overall, it’s an amazing song, and possibly my favorite on the entire album. The momentum doesn’t let up, though, as the first of two title tracks, “Divination” (also the third and most recent single,) is a fast paced, hard hitting track with some excellent riffs, furious verses, and a very fun, catchy choruses, which is a bit on the repetitive side, but in a way the band pulls off perfectly, so it ends up being energizing instead of annoying. There’s some nice folk melodies throughout, especially in the middle, to help make the track a wonderful blend of power and folk metal, like the band is capable of.

The first slower track on the album is second single “Silverseal”, a more relaxing, heavily folk infused track with some wonderful melodies. It moves along at a fairly slow but nice pace, with some relaxing, enjoyable verses, and the chorus is very melodic and warm, with some excellent vocals from Damna, but the highlight of the track is the wonderful folk instrumentation, especially in the middle, with some very nice melodies to accompany an epic guitar solo. Despite being on the slow side, it’s a very catchy track, and showcases the softer side of the band perfectly. Back on the heavier side of things, “The Misfortune of Virtue” starts off with more nice folk melodies, before turning into one of the heavier tracks on the album, with some pretty extreme sounding guitar work, and furious blast beats, at points. It’s mostly a fast paced track, with very heavy verses and instrumental sections, though the chorus is actually very soft and has some beautiful folk melodies, so it’s yet another case of the band blending the different aspects of their sound together perfectly. Once again on the softer side, “Eternal Eleanor” has some very soft, melodic guitar work, as well as a ton of folk instrumentation. It’s the calmest, most relaxing and most beautiful track on the album, with Damna singing very smoothly, and yet with a ton of emotion, giving a stunning performance. It feels like a classic folk tale set to music, with minor metal elements throughout, as well as slight symphonic arrangements. It has very nice verses and a huge, epic chorus, which only gets better towards the end, as it the sound gets bigger in scope and scale. Overall, it’s an incredible track, and one of my personal favorites. Following that is the brief interlude “Diamonds in the Night”, a largely acoustic folk infused ballad, which teases the chorus of the album ending second title track. It’s a brief, but very nice track, and serves as a nice interlude.

The lead single is “Under the Sign of a Black Star”, another softer, more folk infused track, though it has a bit more bite to it, thanks to some slightly heavy guitar work. Verses are fairly laid back, but still engaging, while the chorus is the kind of upbeat, epic and heartwarming material the band excels at, with some excellent vocal melodies, as always. The track has some heavy instrumental work in the second half, but it’s still a very nice, melodic folk metal track, overall. Getting back on the speedier side, “Malefica Doctrine” is one of the heaviest tracks on the album, and it does a nice job of alternating between speedy verses, with some very flashy guitar work, and a slower, epic chorus, with more wonderful vocals and folk melodies. The track varies in tempo a lot throughout, as well as alternating between heavy power metal passages, and lighter folk passages, to help make it another excellent blend of the band’s two styles. Next is “Sic Temper Tyrannis”, a more straight-forward track, which stays at a more moderate pace throughout. It has some epic symphonic arrangements, and is another heavier track, with a very epic, catchy chorus. The folk melodies are a bit more downplayed, compared to normal, but they’re still in there, though the track leans more towards symphonic power metal, overall, and does an excellent job of it.

Back on the more complicated side of things is “Warden of the Bane”, another track which alternates between some heavier passages, and some more melodic, epic folk passages. It gets a bit dark during the verses, before the uplifting melodies kick in for the chorus, and it alternates nicely between fast and slow passages, while being pretty heavy in spots, and beautiful in other sections. It’s another excellent track, overall. Closing out the album is the second title track “Reader of the Runes – Book I”, a near 11 minute epic, which takes everything the rest of the album has going, and dials it up to the absolute max! It has some fast, heavy passages, more amazing folk melodies, epic symphonic arrangements, and one of the biggest, catchiest and best choruses on the entire album. It alternates nicely between soft and heavy, as usual, and has some great extended instrumental work, while still having plenty of excellent vocal melodies. It’s an epic track, overall, and an amazing way to close out the album!

Elvenking are one of those bands that always deliver an excellent album, every time, and Reader of the Runes – Divination is no exception. It contains the same seamless blend of speedy, hard hitting power metal, and epic, uplifting folk metal as usual, while having some epic symphonic arrangements, and plenty of memorable huge, epic choruses, as always. This band has only gotten better with age, and while I initially thought The Pagan Manifesto could be unbeatable, this album may have just proven me wrong! Either way, it’s an absolute must buy for fans of the band,a s well as anyone looking for some truly special power/folk metal, as there really aren’t any other bands in the world who can pull this sound off nearly as well as Elvenking can. And with the promise of a direct follow up, I can’t wait to hear what comes next!

Originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/08/31/elvenking-reader-of-the-runes-divination-review/

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