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Travis Green
MMA Special Collaborator · Power, Symph and Prog Metal Teams
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2144 reviews/ratings
DYNAZTY - Renatus Power Metal | review permalink
DRAGONFORCE - Maximum Overload Power Metal
ADRANA - The Ancient Realms Power Metal
EVERGREY - The Inner Circle Progressive Metal
EVERGREY - In Search of Truth Progressive Metal
BLIND GUARDIAN - Imaginations From the Other Side Power Metal
ANCIENT BARDS - Soulless Child Power Metal
ARMORY - Empyrean Realms Power Metal
SABATON - The Art Of War Power Metal
SABATON - Heroes Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Beyond Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Eternity Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Stairway to Fairyland Power Metal
CIVIL WAR - Saint Patrick's Day Power Metal
XANDRIA - Neverworld's End Power Metal
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

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Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 834 3.99
2 Progressive Metal 317 3.89
3 Symphonic Metal 216 3.90
4 Traditional heavy metal 149 3.52
5 Thrash Metal 98 3.68
6 Gothic Metal 91 3.91
7 Folk Metal 70 4.26
8 Melodic Death Metal 63 3.83
9 Hard Rock 44 3.85
10 US Power Metal 35 3.77
11 Alternative Metal 33 3.35
12 Non-Metal 29 3.48
13 Metalcore 26 3.50
14 Death Metal 20 4.00
15 Industrial Metal 17 3.97
16 Metal Related 16 4.06
17 Groove Metal 11 3.05
18 Technical Death Metal 11 4.00
19 Speed Metal 8 3.94
20 Doom Metal 8 3.94
21 Atmospheric Black Metal 8 4.06
22 Symphonic Black Metal 6 4.67
23 NWoBHM 5 4.50
24 Melodic Black Metal 5 4.00
25 Death-Doom Metal 4 3.88
26 Deathcore 4 3.38
27 Glam Metal 4 3.88
28 Nu Metal 4 3.75
29 Avant-garde Metal 3 3.67
30 Black Metal 1 0.50
31 Brutal Death Metal 1 4.50
32 Crossover Thrash 1 3.00
33 Sludge Metal 1 4.00
34 Stoner Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

HEAVATAR Opus II - The Annihilation

Album · 2018 · Power Metal
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Usually going into a new year, I have a pretty good idea of what bands will be in contention for my album of the year, but it seems every few years I’m thrown a curve ball and a band I would have never even thought of comes out and completely blows me away, leaving more anticipated albums far behind them. Obviously, it’s way too early in the year to tell if that’s how things will work out in 2018, but going into the year if anyone were to have told me that after a month my top album for the year would come from German power metal band Heavatar, I likely would have shook my head and said “not in a million years”, but somehow that’s exactly what happened. Heavatar was formed in 2012 by Stefan Schmidt, the mastermind behind a capella metal band Van Canto, who I happen to be quite a big fan of, so naturally when I heard one of their members was starting a new band, with a full metal sound, as well as some added classical music influence, I was excited. For whatever reason, though, Opus I: All My Kingdoms never really grabbed me, aside from a couple standout tracks, and I quickly forgot about the band. They’re now set to release Opus II: The Annihilation, an album which wasn’t even on my radar just a few weeks ago, and yet surprisingly enough it completely blew me away on my first listen, and has only grown on me more ever since, emerging as an early year favorite to possibly end up as my 2018 album of the year.

Stylistically, not much has changed on this album, as the band still plays an aggressive, guitar-driven brand of power metal, with a ton of classical melodies thrown in for extra flavor. As with Opus I, there are plenty of sections which clearly take classical pieces and create metal versions of them, with the likes of Puccini, Chopin, and Beethoven being cited as influences for some of the tracks. Sometimes these classical pieces are easy to recognize, such as on the title track and “Into Doom”, while on other tracks the classical influence is a lot more subtle, but it’s definitely there throughout the album. Honestly, it’s tough for me to pin down exactly why this album works for me in ways the debut didn’t, but I guess what it comes down to is more consistent, at times more adventurous songwriting, and the fact that the music constantly strikes a perfect balance, both between heaviness and melody, and also between being blazing fast at times, and slowing down to a more relaxing pace at other times. Many tracks go through tempo changes, especially during the four-part suite that closes the album, and I find overall the songs deliver everything I could ask for as a power metal fan, offering some awesome guitar riffs throughout, as well as big choruses on every track, huge, epic vocal melodies, plenty of great solos, which are often the points where the classical influence comes in, as well as a ton of other surprises. There simply isn’t a single dull moment on the entire album, where I found the debut to be very inconsistent. Obviously, the production is top notch, and the musicianship is great, with excellent guitar work from Stefan Schmidt and Sebastian Scharf, while former Stratovarius drummer Jörg Michael is explosive and exciting as always.

For some reason, I didn’t like Stefan’s vocals too much when I first listened to Opus I, but his voice has grown me a lot since then, and he has certainly delivered a strong performance on this album. He has a very deep and powerful voice that fits the music well, especially during the heavier sections and he can be very intense and animated at times, sometimes coming pretty close to using death growls, and his vocals add extra intensity to some already energetic and heavy tracks. Obviously, coming from an a capella band, he’s a great singer all around, though, so he can also sing very smoothly during calmer sections, which there are a ton of, especially in the second half of the album.

My biggest area of contention with Opus I was the songwriting, but thankfully this time around the band has delivered nothing but excellent music from start to finish. There’s nothing that clearly sticks out in a bad way like the acoustic “To the Metal”, and there are certainly many tracks that surpass even the best track on that album, the 11-minute epic “The Look Above”. Starting things off is “None Shall Sleep”, an absolutely stunning opening track that immediately had me collecting my jaw off the floor the first time I heard it. It opens with a brief keyboard section, before quickly giving way to some pummeling riffs that lead the way through the verses, which move by at a breakneck pace and bring a ton of energy, and then the chorus appears and is equal parts catchy, melodic, epic and just plain awesome. The best part, though, comes in the second half, with an excellent and very melodic guitar solo followed up by a classically influenced vocal section that is simply stunning and lifts the track to all new heights. All in all, this track is easily the best power metal track I’ve heard so far in 2018, and I won’t be surprised if it goes down as my favorite even at the end of the year, as it not only delivers everything I want from the genre, but it goes the extra mile with that one choral section to completely blow me away.

While that opening track is tough to match, the rest of the album certainly leaves nothing behind. Next is “Into Doom”, another fast-paced track, which has more of a classic power metal sound, compared to the somewhat thrashy riffs of the opener. It’s certainly still a heavy hitter, though, and it again has some huge classically influenced melodies throughout, as well as a blazing fast and super addictive chorus. Stefan changes things up during the verses with a soft and extra deep delivery, which works great. The big classical melody of the track comes in during the solo section in the middle and is both very obvious and quite awesome. After that is “Purpose of a Virgin Mind”, one of the tracks where I don’t notice the classical influence as obviously, but it’s certainly still an awesome track. It’s another up-tempo track, though slightly slower than the first two, with slow, but hard hitting verses with some great riffs, though it has some nice melodic leads, as well as one of the biggest and most melodic choruses on the album.

The first slower track of the album is the hilariously named “Hijacked by Unicorns”, which has some great lead riffs and some fun vocals during the verses, but it’s the chorus where the song really picks up, as the vocal melodies are excellent, the tune is super catchy and the lyrics are every bit as amusing as the name would suggest. It’s another track where the classical influences are quite easy to spot, coming in during the solo section later on, and it’s quite the fun track overall. After that is the title track, where the opening has a classical reference that is just as obvious as the one on “Replica” from Opus I, and it’s another heavy hitter, moving at a rather slow pace early on before picking up the pace in a big way, leading to an explosive and very epic chorus. Stefan comes very close to death growls later on in the track, and the choral section that follows is amazing, as is the guitar solo after that. The last normal song on the album is “Wake Up Now”, a mid-paced track and yet another heavy hitter, with slow but fun verses, excellent riffs throughout and yet another huge and super catchy chorus. This track changes things up a bit in the middle, with an epic keyboard solo, before the expected guitar solo, which is great as always.

After six amazing tracks, the band decided to go extra big for the grand finale, delivering a near 14-minute four-part suite, divided into four separate tracks. There’s a lot of ideas throughout the four tracks, but there’s one chorus that constantly shows up throughout, used in various forms, and it’s a very memorable one. Each part sounds different, though one thing that is constant is the use of symphonic elements, which help make the music even more epic and compared to the rest of the album these tracks are much more melodic and more complex. The opening part “A Broken Taboo” in particular goes through many tempo changes, and is quite the treat, introducing the main chorus in a big way, while also surprising me with some great female vocals, which appear later on, before again appearing briefly on the second part “An Awakening”, which is a more relaxed and melodic track, with some nice folk melodies. It’s definitely the closest the album comes to having a ballad, and it’s a very beautiful track. The most explosive section of the suite is “A Battle Against All Hope”, an epic, super speedy symphonic power metal track, which has some of the heavy riffs found on the first six tracks and it again moves at a breakneck pace and delivers a huge chorus, except this time the epic feeling is enhanced by the symphonic elements. I love all four parts of the suite, but this track is easily my favorite. Lastly, we have “A Look Inside”, which mostly serves as a softer, slower reprise of “A Broken Taboo”, and it’s a very nice ending to the main portion of the album.

There are two extra tracks here, the first being a cover of the Manowar classic “Metal Daze”, which is a very faithful recreation of the track, with a much better-sounding production than the original, while still hitting much harder and having more energy to it than Manowar’s own recording from Battle Hymns MMXI. Stefan uses some very over the top falsetto vocals at points, which are very cool, and it’s definitely a fun cover overall. One other bonus is “The Look Inside (Orchestral Version”, which is an instrumental version of the four-part suite, and while I obviously prefer hearing it with vocals, this version is quite good on its own, and it’s nice to have the whole thing on one track, which is perhaps the only thing I would have changed about the main version.

Overall, Opus II: The Annihilation is a huge surprise for me, as I didn’t care much for Opus I at all, but somehow Heavatar has really stepped up their game, offering some amazing and aggressive classically influenced power metal songs, which give me everything I could possibly ask for from the genre, while also managing to surprise me several times along the way. Obviously, fans of the band’s debut need to hear this, and I’d highly recommend it to any power metal fan looking for something just a bit different, as well as to any metal fan who wants to hear something with a classical influence, without being overly symphonic or using operatic vocals. A huge surprise, for sure, and while it’s still early in the year, I won’t be surprised if this ends up being one of my top five albums by the end of 2018, if not even my absolute favorite.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/02/03/heavatar-opus-ii-annihilation-review/

LIONE/CONTI Lione/Conti

Album · 2018 · Power Metal
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In 2005, multi-instrumentalist Magnus Karlsson worked with elite vocalists Russell Allen and Jorn Lande to create a special collaborative album, titled The Battle. I’m guessing at the time people weren’t expecting it to be as big a hit as it was, but needless to say, it was so well received, it not only got a follow up two years later but to date, the two singers have released four albums together. More importantly, label Frontiers Music realized it was on to something, and so since that release, there have been other attempts at collaborative releases by the label, with the latest of these being Lione/Conti, due this coming week. I tend to not be the biggest fan of this kind of album, as I generally find the songwriting to be unimaginative and predictable, but this album is one exception to the rule, as I find it to be quite the enjoyable vocal driven power metal album, with some surprisingly strong instrumental work and songwriting at times.

Obviously, fans of both singers should notice the main connection between the two fairly easily, but for those unaware, a bit of background information is in order. Basically, Fabio Lione was the original vocalist of Italian symphonic power metal band Rhapsody/Rhapsody of Fire. After the release of their 2011 album From Chaos to Eternity, guitarist and main songwriter Luca Turilli left the band to form his version called Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. The vocalist he ended up recruiting for his band was, of course, Alessandro Conti, and the rest is history. While those two are the clear stars of the album, one other very important member of this group is DGM guitarist Simone Mularoni, who was chosen to be the songwriter and producer for the album.

Simone is a very interesting choice for this kind of project, as he has a pretty aggressive style to his playing, and his band is much more progressive than most bands on his label, which made me wonder whether he’d be allowed to properly showcase his talents with this project, or if he’d be shoved into the background and forced to write some cliché and boring melodic metal tracks, where only Fabio and Alessandro could shine. Thankfully, the result is much better than I would have expected, as while many of the songs are vocal driven, as one would expect from this kind of album, there are quite a few speedy power metal tracks on this album where Simone gets to show off some of his heavy riffs, and the majority of the tracks have some excellent guitar solos from him. Obviously, the songwriting is more straight-forward than what he normally does, but there are a couple of nice surprises on the album, and I’d definitely say this release is a cut above most collaborative efforts of this nature when it comes to the musicianship and songwriting. Production is top, notch as fans would expect from Simone, and everything sounds perfectly crisp and clear.

The most important aspect of this album is obviously the vocals, I mean, the two singers’ names are used as the title, after all. Thankfully, both singers are in top form, with both of them being given plenty of great material to work with, and neither of them either fades in the background nor steals the show from the other. Fabio Lione needs no introduction at this point, as his voice should be familiar to just about any power metal fan, and he sounds as smooth as ever on this album, mostly staying in mid-range throughout the songs and he definitely has some huge moments, as always. Alessandro Conti generally sings in a higher register and his voice is a bit softer during some of the slower tracks, but on the more power metal driven songs he sounds very powerful and is at times a bit animated, very much reminding me of the great Michael Kiske.

I usually struggle a bit with the songwriting on this kind of album, but thankfully every song on Lione/Conti is enjoyable in its own way, with a few in particular clearly standing above the rest. Opening track “Ascension” was chosen as the lead single and I can see why, as it’s speedier, light and very catchy power metal track that has a fast-paced chorus as well as a great solo from Simone, while also giving both singers some excellent vocal melodies to work with, which they take full advantage of. It’s a very fun and catchy track, which gets the album off to a great start. The other single released so far is “You’re Falling”, which does a nice job of showing the softer side of the album. It’s a fairly slow paced and very light track which is mostly driven by keyboards and slight symphonic elements, as well as having another excellent chorus. It feels more like the kind of melodic metal one would expect from this kind of project, but again the guitar work is very nice, with the solo, in particular, being excellent, and both singers sound great, so it ends up being an enjoyable track, if not one of my personal favorites.

On the speedier side of things, power metal fans have quite a bit to look forward to on this album. After the great opener comes to the even faster paced “Outcome”, a heavier track where the main riff very much feels like it could have been taken from a DGM track, while keys are used nicely for extra flavor, and it’s a very speedy track with a ton of energy, where both singers excel as usual, and Simone in particular stands out, delivering some of his heaviest riffs on the album, as well as another great melodic solo. Another speedy track is “Misbeliever”, my personal favorite on the album. It’s a blazing fast track with slight symphonic elements, and again it has some excellent driving guitar work, powerful vocals from both singers and an excellent chorus, which feels like a classic Kamelot song in the best way possible. The guitar solo here is very beautiful and easily the best on the album, and overall it’s simply a stunning track from start to finish. Right after that is the slightly lighter but still fast-paced “Destruction Show”, a more melodic and catchy power metal track with another strong chorus and some excellent melodic guitar work. Two more speedy tracks are “Glories” and “Gravity”, both of which are heavy, high energy tracks with great guitar work, great choruses and some excellent melodies, with both songs having heavier sections that feel like they came straight out of a DGM track.

On the softer side, melodic metal fans have quite a bit to enjoy on this release as well. Right after “You’re Falling” comes “Somebody Else”, an excellent ballad which starts off as a piano ballad with some very soft vocals, before building up intensity as it goes along and allowing both singers to go all out, delivering some of their most powerful vocals on the album during the chorus, while Simone once again delivers an excellent guitar solo in the second half. It’s the kind of track I’d normally greet with a yawn on this kind of album, but here it’s pulled off to near perfection and is one of the best tracks on the album. Later in the album, we get “Truth”, a more mid-paced track which is fairly calm and melodic throughout, though there’s still some great guitar work at points, and it’s another solid track with an excellent chorus. Lastly, we have the closing track “Crosswinds”, another mid paced tracks which comes close to prog territory, again feeling very similar to DGM with its heavy main riff and its more complex rhythms. It’s definitely one of the more interesting tracks musically, with Simone really going all out during an incredible solo near the end, and the two singers are given some great vocal melodies, as usual, helping to make it a great end to the album.

I wasn’t expecting too much from Lione/Conti, but thankfully it turned out to be a pleasant surprise, offering up some great speedy power metal tracks, to go along with the expect melodic metal and great vocal showcases. While the two singers are clearly the main focus of the album, as one would expect, guitarist Simone Mularoni has managed to produce some great tracks here, managing to strike a nice balance between keeping things melodic and catchy enough to showcase his two singers, while still giving himself enough room to showcase his talents. Obviously, fans of everyone involved need to hear this album, as well as anyone who enjoys this kind of collaborative project, and fans of power metal and melodic metal are also highly recommended to give this a go, as they may be pleasantly surprised like I was.

Originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/01/21/lione-conti-lione-conti-review/

FROZEN CROWN The Fallen King

Album · 2018 · Power Metal
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It seems every year without fail, I hear an album within the first two months that blows me away, either from a band making their debut or from a band who previously hadn’t impressed me much. This year my first truly exciting album comes from Italian power metal band Frozen Crown, who are set to release their debut, The Fallen King, in early February. The band is led by vocalist Giada “Jade” Etro and vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Federico Mondelli, who are both very experienced with other genres, and now they’ve come together to create their own brand of melodic power metal. I was instantly impressed when I first heard the lead single “The Shieldmaiden”, and thankfully The Fallen King is a case where the entire album proves to be on about the same level as the single, providing listeners with some amazing speedy power metal from start to finish.

Frozen Crown play a very melodic and high energy brand of power metal, that’s certainly inspired by classic European power metal, and for the most part, fans can expect some very speedy power metal, with some excellent melodies and vocal lines throughout. There’s a lot of keyboards, as is typical for the genre, though the guitars are quite prominent as well, with some heavy riffs and, some very nice melodic leads and occasionally some very good shredding, especially during the instrumental sections. At times, the album reminds a bit of Canadian band Unleash the Archers, or at least that band’s faster songs, as a few of the tracks here throw in some melodic death metal elements, which come in the form of some extra heavy and more modern sounding guitar work, as well as the occasional use of harsh vocals. Songwriting is excellent and quite varied, with many of the tracks being fast-paced, though there’s the occasional slow and mid-paced track, as well as one ballad, and even among the faster tracks there are those which are pure power metal and those which throw in some melodic death metal elements, as well as slight symphonic elements, so every song ends up standing out in its own way.

The biggest strength of the band is their vocals, as they have three different vocal styles, all of which are done very well. First up is the lead vocals, performed by Jade, who has a deep and very powerful voice that at times reminds me of Brittney Slayes, except a bit lighter and more melodic. She has a voice that carries melody very well, while still having enough power to excel during the heavier sections, and she sounds amazing on every track here, with her vocals easily being my favorite element of the band’s music. Next is Federico Mondelli’s clean vocals, which are fairly animated and intense. These only appear on a few tracks and are mostly used during verses, but they’re very effective when they appear. Lastly, we have Federico’s growls, which are very deep and powerful. These only appear on a few tracks as well and are also mostly used in quick bursts, except for on the closing track “Netherstorm”, where they’re a lot more prominent, and they sound quite epic.

Another huge strength is the songwriting, which is consistently excellent throughout the album, as well as being varied enough that every track is memorable in different ways. First up is the amazing opener “Fail No More”, which charges out of the gates at a breakneck pace, with some excellent lead guitar work as some nice use of keys for extra flavor. The verses are explosive and have great leading vocals from Federico, while Jade provides some great backing vocals, and then the chorus kicks in and Jade takes over, immediately stealing the show with her powerful voice, and delivering an instantly catchy and epic chorus that gets the album off to an excellent start. The track has an excellent shredding guitar solo and is an explosive, melodic and very catchy track that gives listeners a great idea of what to expect from the rest of the album.

On the slightly calmer side is “To Infinity”, a very melodic and more keyboard driven track, which still moves at a pretty fast pace, but is definitely lighter and less intense than the opening track. This track is the first true taste of Jade’s voice, as she leads the entire song on her own, aside from backing vocals, and she delivers an amazing performance, especially during the epic final run of the chorus. The chorus itself is very melodic and one of the catchier ones on the album, for sure, while the melodic guitar solo in the middle is also very nice. Staying with calmer material, “I Am the Tyrant” is the first more mid-paced track on the album, and it has some great lead guitar work, as well as being another track where Federico uses his clean vocals quite a bit, as well as a few growls during the chorus. It’s a very melodic track with another amazing chorus, as well as some great guitar work and nice use of keys throughout. In similar territory is “Across the Sea”, another lighter more keyboard driven track like “To Infinity”, except this one is slightly slower, and again it’s Jade who steals the show here, with very light but deep and powerful vocals, that especially shine during probably the best chorus on the entire album.

The instrumental work on this track is a bit simple but very effective as well, as it’s definitely one of my favorites. The one ballad on the album is “Chasing Lights”, which unlike most ballads, is actually largely instrumental, with some very light keys used throughout as well as some beautiful guitar melodies, with the main melody, in particular, serving as the starting point for the next track, “Queen of Blades”. It has some great vocals from Jade and Federico in the middle and is a very nice track that serves as a change of pace in between two of the most epic and intense songs on the album.

On the speedier side of things, we have “Kings”, a more straight-forward and classic sounding power metal track, with the guitars, in particular, having a very throwback sound to them, while Jade handles all the lead vocals on this track, and excels as always. It’s a speedy, heavy track that should definitely please most power metal fans, with its excellent guitar leads and powerful vocal lines, as well as another great guitar solo. I already briefly mentioned “The Shieldmaiden”, which is probably my favorite song here, and it’s definitely an amazing lead single. It’s for sure the most epic track on the album, with an extended intro that briefly starts off with some nice keys, before the guitars kick in and the song speeds up, mixing in some slight symphonic elements, before the vocals finally take over, and Jade delivers a powerful performance as always, especially during the unforgettable and super epic chorus, while Federico’s growls are also used in quick bursts throughout the track. It has a very nice extended instrumental section in the middle, and musically I’d say it’s by far the most epic and most interesting track on the album, while the vocal lines are amazing as always, making the song an instant classic. Another excellent speedier track is “Queen of Blades”, which builds off the main melody of “Chasing Lights” and speeds it up, turning into a fast-paced power metal track with slight melodic death metal elements, enhanced by some excellent growls. It’s another excellent track with a great instrumental section and is definitely one of the heavier songs on the album.

Moving on to the final two tracks, “Everwinter” is another speedier track and has a very classic power metal feel to it, with some excellent keyboard melodies, as well as some excellent vocal melodies as always. It moves at a frantic pace and is one of the more pure power tracks, with Jade leading the way throughout, and the chorus is absolutely fantastic and super catchy. Lastly, we have “Netherstorm”, which very much feels like a melodic death metal track, with more frantic and intense sounding drums than normal, and it’s the heaviest track on the album by far, as well as being the track with the most growled lines. It’s a very fun way to the end the album for sure and has excellent melodic guitar work throughout, as well as another great chorus.

Overall, The Fallen King is an excellent debut, which delivers the kind of fast-paced, melodic power metal fans of the genre are sure to love, as well as occasional melodic death metal elements and some excellent vocals. The songwriting is varied enough that each song stands out while being consistently amazing throughout, and overall it’s an amazing album, which makes me very excited to hear more from Frozen Crown in the future. Highly recommended for fans of speedy, melodic power metal as well as folks who like having some melodic death metal elements mixed in with their power metal, and anyone looking to hear some great, very powerful female vocals.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/01/13/frozen-crown-fallen-king-review/

LEAVES' EYES Sign of the Dragonhead

Album · 2018 · Symphonic Metal
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It can be hard for longtime fans of a band when a founding member suddenly departs, especially when that founding member happens to be a singer with a very distinctive voice like Liv Kristine. Well, that’s exactly what happened with Leaves’ Eyes in 2016, and while I won’t go into details (because that sort of thing is best left kept between band members) it sure sounds like the two parties didn’t part ways on good terms, which makes the situation even harder for fans to take. Personally, I’ve always found Leaves’ Eyes to be one of those bands who I can always rely on to deliver a solid album, but they rarely blow me away, outside of their 2011 release Meredead, which surprised me with its extensive focus on Celtic folk, and while I always enjoy their music, I wouldn’t put them up there with the likes of Nightwish, Epica, Within Temptation or Xandria as my favorite symphonic metal bands. With that being said, I am a fan of both Liv Kristine and her replacement Elina Siirala, and so I was interested to see what this new lineup would do all their first full-length release, following the Fires in the North EP in 2016. After waiting over a year, the band is finally set to release their seventh full-length album, Sign of the Dragonhead in 2018, but does it represent the start of a new era, or is it a sign that the band should call it quits? As usual, the truth is somewhere in between, in that there’s nothing here that truly blows me away, but it’s definitely a solid album that’s sure to please fans of the band, as long as they’re willing to give Elina Siirala a chance.

For their first few albums, Leaves’ Eyes seemed to be changing things up slightly each time, with Meredead in particular feeling like a shift into longer songs as well as being the album to put the most emphasis on folk elements, while its predecessor Njord, was perhaps the band’s heaviest and most gothic sounding album. Ever since Meredead, though, it feels like the band has started blending the two sounds together, with Symphonies of the Night and King of Kings both providing a steady mix of symphonic, gothic metal and Celtic folk, as well little bits of power metal here and there. I was curious to see whether or not the change in vocalist would also lead to a change in musical direction, but at least so far that isn’t the case, as Sign of the Dragonhead feels very similar to its two closest predecessors. Fans can expect some heavier tracks which mix in some gothic elements, including the expected death growls, as well as some lighter tracks, a ballad, some more folk-infused tracks, one speedy power metal track, and an 8-minute epic that closes out the album. Which is to say, this is quite the varied album, so at the very least it should keep most fans of the band happy, and the songwriting is fairly solid all around, with one exception. Musically, everything sounds tight as always, and while there’s nothing overly flashy going on, at least from the metal instruments, everything is well done and there are some good riffs and a few nice solos here and there. The symphonic arrangements and folk instruments stand out the most, as usual, but on the whole, it’s a nice sounding and well-produced album, as expected.

Obviously, the biggest point of interest on this album is the vocals, seeing as it’s the debut of Elina Siirala. I’ve reviewed both albums she’s done with her other band Angel Nation, so I was familiar with her voice before hearing this album and was already a fan, so it’s little surprise that I enjoy her vocals on this album a lot. She uses an operatic approach, like what Liv Kristine had been doing for a while, though her voice is a bit deeper and has a slightly darker tone. She doesn’t sound as distinct as Liv Kristine, but her voice is very nice and she does an excellent job throughout the album, sometimes using her operatic vocals in a very light and accessible way, while other times opening up a bit more and singing with more power, but she sounds equally great on every song and definitely fits in very well with the band. As usual, keyboardist Alexander Krull provides some growls, and once again, while his deep growls are powerful, they sound a bit forced to me, and there’s just something about how he uses them that I find a bit irritating, so the harsh vocal sections tend to be my least favorite parts of the album, just as they’ve always been.

The album gets off to a strong start with the title track, a rather fast-paced and epic symphonic metal track, which makes great use of its symphonic arrangements throughout. It has some pretty heavy lead riffs as well, and is definitely one of the harder hitting tracks on the album, as well as having one of the better choruses, where Elina instantly shines and proves herself to be a worthy vocalist for the band. There’s a brief harsh vocal section later on, which doesn’t bother me too much, and overall it’s an excellent start to the album. Next is “Across the Sea”, which opens up with some nice folk melodies, and it’s a very folk-infused track, where Elina’s vocals are very soft throughout in a pleasant way that carries the melodies well and blends in nicely with the music. It has a very catchy chorus and is one of my favorite tracks on the album. After that is “Like a Mountain”, a slower track which opens with a soft piano section where Elina uses some very strong operatic vocals. Once the song gets going, though, it’s a fairly standard symphonic metal track. The vocals are great throughout and there are some nice melodies, but it’s a fairly unremarkable track overall, aside from that great opening, and a similar section in the second half.

The rest of the album is quite varied and is fairly solid throughout, with a few standouts here and there. Going into some favorites, we have three folks infused tracks in “Jomsborg”, “Völva” and “Riders of the Wind”, which are all right next to each other. The first of these stands out to due to some very effective gang vocals, which add to the overall feeling of the track and help make it more epic, though musically it already has some great Celtic folk melodies, moves at a nice pace and has an excellent chorus, so it’s a very strong track overall. The middle track here is probably the least memorable of the three and is the slowest paced, though it has some great melodies and a great chorus as well, where the harsh vocals work effectively as backing vocals, though one harsh vocal section later in the track is a bit annoying. Lastly, “Riders of the Wind” is the most upbeat of the folk-infused tracks here, and it probably has the strongest Celtic folk influence, with some very nice melodies throughout, as well as some epic backing vocals and another amazing chorus. It’s a very fun and extremely catchy track which uses the folk elements particularly well, and the use of marching drums, later on, is pretty awesome. One last favorite is “Shadows of the Night”, a speedy symphonic power metal track, with great riffs and excellent vocals from Elina. Even the harsh vocal section, later on, is quite effective, and overall it’s the fastest track on the album, as well as one of the heavier songs, and it’s definitely one of the catchiest and most fun as well.

On the less memorable side of things, the ballad “Fairer Than the Sun” has some great vocals, but it never really gets going, with even the chorus not being overly strong, and aside from a nice guitar solo in the middle, there isn’t much about it that stands out. Fans may have already heard “Fires in the North” from the EP in 2016, and while it’s a solid mid-tempo track with a nice chorus, it’s another one of those songs which feel like fairly run of the mill symphonic metal to me. Lastly, we have the closing 8-minute epic “Waves of Euphoria”. To me, this track feels like the band’s attempt at a heavier, more extreme brand of symphonic metal in the style of Epica and newer Xandria, but while it has its moments, particularly the chorus where Elina really shines, the track overall comes up well short of its ambitions, unfortunately. Musically, the riffs are decent but nowhere near as strong as Epica’s guitar work, and on a compositional level, the song is decent but not as complex or impressive as what either band I mentioned has done in recent years. Worst of all, Alexander’s harsh vocals seem especially irritating on this track and really get on my nerves at points. There’s one really memorable guitar melody around halfway through, and Elina sounds excellent throughout, but otherwise, I find the track to be a fairly disappointing ending to the album.

Overall, Sign of the Dragonhead is a solid symphonic metal album which starts a new chapter for Leaves’ Eyes in much the same way as the last one ended, meaning it’s another enjoyable album, which mostly meets expectations, but musically it doesn’t quite reach the heights of some of the elite players in the genre. It does provide a nice blend of symphonic metal and Celtic folk, as well as strong gothic elements and occasional power metal elements, and I think it should please most fans of Leaves’ Eyes who are willing to give Elina Siirala a fair chance. I’d say it’s roughly on par with King of Kings and Symphonies of the Night, but not on the same level as Meredead.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2017/12/07/leaves-eyes-sign-dragonhead-review/

DEVIL ELECTRIC Devil Electric

Album · 2017 · Doom Metal
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Doom metal is not a genre I'm very experienced with, as I don't even know many of the more famous bands in the genre and in fact, for a long period when first getting into metal, it was a genre I struggled to listen to at all, simply finding it too slow and plodding. However, over time I've come to enjoy two particular styles of it, that being death doom in the style of bands such as Novembers Doom and early Katatonia, as well as the the more recent wave of heavy psych and classic hard rock influenced bands, usually led by female vocalists, such as Blood Ceremony and Avatarium on their first two albums. Falling into the latter category is Australian band Devil Electric, who released a 4 track EP in 2016 called The Gods Below and are now back in 2017 with their self-titled full length debut. Out of all albums I've heard in this style, Devil Electric is definitely one of the best, and is arguably the most doom infused of all.

Unlike other bands that fall into similar territory, Devil Electric clearly allow their doom metal elements to dominate their music most of the time, with some very heavy guitar work, dark atmospheres, and some very groovy rhythms, with some often complex and quite interesting drum patterns. Most tracks on their debut fall into the heavier side of the genre, with the guitars especially being dominant, and there's some very interesting riffs here, often with a sinister tone and the guitars are often used to add to the overall tone of the songs, as well as at times being used for some great melodic solos. While the more doom infused tracks tend to be fairly slow paced, there are some tempo changes at times, as well as some slightly more upbeat hard rock influenced tracks, which have some added energy to them, so there's never a point where the albums drags or I start to lose attention. Of course, the rather short 36 minutes running time also helps with this, though curiously, this release is only about 15 minutes longer than the EP the band released previously, which feels a bit odd, especially when considering one of the tracks from that release appears on this album, keeping the new material at just over 30 minutes. For the most part, heavy psych elements are kept to a minimum, though I do occasionally notice some slight psychedelic tones to the guitar, and one particular track definitely feels like a 70's psych rock inspired track.

While there's some excellent instrumental work throughout the album, the band's biggest star is definitely lead vocalist Pierina O'Brien, who feels like an absolutely perfect fit for this style of music, and she delivers a show stealing performance on every song. She has a fairly deep and very powerful, aggressive voice that works perfectly for the heavier sections, and she also has a certain sinister quality to her voice a lot of the time, which works perfectly with the dark atmosphere of the album. She also has a voice that exudes confidence and energy on every track, and while it doesn't happen very often, most noticeably on “The Dove & the Serpent”, she also has a very beautiful softer voice that helps a lot during the more melodic sections. There's also some occasional male backing vocals, most noticeably on “Lady Velvet”, and these are nicely done and work well in harmony with the lead vocals. All around, this is an amazing album vocally.

The area I tend to be most nervous about when listening to a doom metal album is the songwriting, but Devil Electric has done a nice job here, with every track being enjoyable, some standing out a bit more than others for sure, but there's definitely no filler. Opening track “Monologue (Where You Once Walked” has a nice atmospheric guitar intro, before picking up the pace a bit and turning into a pretty fun track with some heavy riffs and it has a nice tempo to it, as well as some very good drum patterns that have a nice groove to them, and excellent guitar work all around. It's a great introduction to the band, and of course Pierina shines throughout with her excellent vocals, especially sounding great during the slow and powerful chorus. Next is the brief but very memorable “Shadowman”, a heavier track where the guitars give off a very sinister tone, which is enhanced by the vocals, and it's definitely one of the more doom infused tracks on the album.

After that comes the most heavy psych influenced track in “Lady Velvet”, a very melodic, mid paced track where the guitars have a 70's psych rock feel to them, but with just a slight metal edge added, and of course Pierina's rocking vocal manage to fit the style perfectly, and the drum patterns are very interesting and add a nice groove to the track. The vocals get more intense in the second half of the track and this section is incredible and easily the highlight of the album, while the guitar solo near the end is also great, and the track is probably my favorite on the album overall. Following one of the lighter tracks, it of course makes sense that “Acidic Fire” is a slower, more doom infused track, with some heavy riffs, dark tones and more excellent vocals. The song is great all around, but in the second half when the tempo picks up and the vocals get more intense, it reaches a whole new level, with the following guitar solo only making it even better. Definitely another one of my favorites on the album. After that we get the first of two instrumental tracks in “Monolith”, which is the heavier of the two, featuring some great guitar work. It's brief, but quite enjoyable while it lasts.

Next is “The Dove & the Serpent”, another very doom infused track, which starts out heavy and intense, before slowing down for a while, and it's during this softer section where we get some of the best vocal work from Pierina, as she sings a bit more softly than normal, but still adds in a bit of power and still maintains her dark tone throughout. The chorus is very nice, and showcases her voice wonderfully. At the same time, once the tempo picks up and the riffs kick in during the second half, her powerful vocals shows up again and are amazing as always, so overall it's simply an incredible performance from her, and is probably one of the best songs I've heard all year, when it comes to the vocals. Next is the brief but very enjoyable track “Sacred Machine”, a more hard rock infused track with a slight psych rock feel. It has some heavy riffs, but doesn't feel dark as most of the other songs here, and it moves at a nice pace, while of course having great vocals as always. After that is the softer of the two instrumentals, “Lilith”, which feels like an atmospheric interlude, and then we get the excellent closing track “Hypnotica”. This is the longest song on the album and is another slow and heavy doom meta track, with some nice atmosphere, great guitar work and drumming, as well as of course some excellent vocals as always. The instrumental section that closes out the album is especially great, and it's another one of the more memorable tracks on the album, for sure.

Overall, Devil Electric is an excellent debut, which offers up a nice blend of doom metal, hard rock and a bit of heavy pysch, with some excellent guitar work, great drumming, an excellent dark atmosphere, and one of the best vocal performances I've heard all year. It's definitely an impressive release and one of my favorite albums in the genre to date, so it certainly raises expectations for anything the band releases in the future, and I highly recommend it to any fan of this particular style of doom metal, as well as anyone looking to hear an album with some amazing, powerful female vocals.

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