Travis Green
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2376 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

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Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 925 4.02
2 Progressive Metal 336 3.90
3 Symphonic Metal 225 3.92
4 Heavy Metal 175 3.57
5 Thrash Metal 96 3.63
6 Gothic Metal 92 3.92
7 Folk Metal 76 4.28
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

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/

ASTRALIUM Land of Eternal Dreams

Album · 2019 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
While I always enjoy music from many different countries, I find Italian bands, in particular, tend to have some kind of special touch, some kind of special knack for coming up with the absolute most wonderful melodies possible, and this is something that has been proven over and over again throughout the past several years, by many different bands. Joining that list of bands is the up and coming symphonic power metal band Astralium, whose debut release, Land of Eternal Dreams, has left me completely stunned and blown away!

Astralium was formed in 2014 by vocalist Roberta Pappalardo and bassist Giuseppe Pappalardo, and over time they have brought in guitarist Emanuelle Alessandro and drummer Salvo Grasso, to complete their lineup. The band plays a brand of epic symphonic power metal along the lines of early Nightwish, with some Epica influence, as well as having some slight prog elements in their music. Instrumentally, all musicians do an excellent job, with the guitar work being equal parts melodic, heavy and very technically impressive at times, with some excellent solo sections and punishing riffs, while the keyboards are quite prominent and very epic, as expected, and there’s a constant use of orchestral elements throughout the release, which greatly increase the scale and scope of the tracks, while also adding some extra flavor. Everything sounds fantastic, and even just judging the album on a purely instrumental level, my enjoyment is extremely high, thanks to the quality of the performances as well as due to how beautiful the melodies are on every track. Songwriting is also impressive, as there’s quite a bit of variety, from more straight-forward power metal, with slight symphonic elements, to epic symphonic power metal in the vein of early Nightwish, to more extreme symphonic power metal along the lines of some Epica songs, including the use of growls on a few tracks, as well as the occasional slower track, a couple more progressive tracks, and an excellent ballad. Every song is amazing in its own way, and there are no less than excellent moments on the entire album, which is extremely impressive for a debut!

The highlight of the entire album, though, has to be the vocals. Simply put: Roberta Pappalardo is a fantastic singer, with a powerful voice, and she’s able to alternate fluidly between being very smooth, very beautiful in a very accessible way, to at times being much more aggressive and intense, as well as varying nicely between low and higher notes, and holding some pretty impressive long notes, at times. Her performance across the album is flawless, but she’s also backed up quite a bit, both by some excellent guest vocalists, and some equally excellent choir vocals, which are used rather sparingly, but they’re quite impressive whenever they appear. There are also some very theatrical, very impressive operatic vocals at times, and I’m unsure whether or not they’re performed by Roberta or the choirs, but either way, they sound fantastic, especially on the very beautiful track “The World of Unknown”. As impressive as the performances are, a band needs to be able to write some great songs to really stand out, and thankfully, Astralium has certainly delivered on that front. Following a brief but very nice intro, that sets the mood with some nice orchestral arrangements, opening track and lead single “The Journey” kicks in, with some very epic symphonic arrangements, before slowing down a bit and giving way to a nice opening verse, with some excellent vocal melodies, and then the chorus kicks in and it’s extremely fun and catchy. The track never goes full speed, but it moves along at a nice pace, and while it’s one of the lighter tracks on the album, it still has some great instrumental work, especially during a nice orchestral section in the second half, which is followed up by some heavier guitar work that brings the song towards its end. As great as that track is, though, it’s only a small indication of what’s to come, with “Rising Waves from the Ocean” being bigger, heavier, faster and yet somehow even more melodic, and it’s an absolute killer of a track! It moves along at a rapid pace, with huge symphonic arrangements, more powerful vocals from Roberta, and it has one of the catchiest, most addictive choruses on the album, which certainly brings classic Nightwish to mind, in the best way possible. Things only pick up later on, first with a brief but awesome guest appearance from Reinxeed vocalist Tommy Johansson, which is then followed by a nice guitar solo, some awesome orchestral sections, an epic choral vocal section, followed by an atmospheric, very effective vocal section from Roberta, and then eventually followed by an epic final run through the chorus, where Tommy returns and joins Roberta for an epic duet. All in all, it’s an absolute stunner of a track, and one of my favorites of the year, for sure!

After that amazing track, the momentum keeps up with “My Life is My Eternity”. The track kicks off with some nice atmospheric keys and orchestral arrangements, and then the pace quickly picks up, before slowing down for the verses. The track alternates between mid-paced verses and a speedy chorus and features some nice, smooth male vocals at points, which I believe are performed by drummer Salvo Grasso, though I’m not completely sure on that. Either way, it’s a great track, with nice varied tempos, great vocal performances, fun verses, an excellent chorus, and an amazing instrumental section, which contains some very chunky guitar work. Next is “Whisper in the Silence, another speedy, heavier track, which does a great job of mixing in epic symphonic elements and speedy power metal, with some very heavy guitar work. During the verses, Ancestral vocalist Jo Lombardo makes an appearance, and he delivers some very strong vocals, sounding pretty close to Serenity’s Georg Neuhauser, except with a bit more of an edge to his voice.

Both vocalists do an excellent job, along with the choirs, and it’s another epic, very fun and catchy track, with some outstanding vocal melodies and another amazing chorus, as well as an amazing end sequence, where the tempo goes into overdrive, and there are more epic vocals.

The pace slows down for a bit, first with “Hope is Gone”, which is book-ended by two epic speedy passages, but it’s a fairly slow, melodic and very symphonic track in the middle, with fairly relaxed verses, and a calm but very powerful chorus, with some excellent vocals. It’s a calm, atmospheric track, and is quite excellent. The band also included a bonus orchestral version of that track at the end of the album, which is entirely instrumental, and non-metal. It’s a very nice piece, and makes for great background music, though I prefer the normal version. Following the normal version of that song is the lone ballad of the album, “Breath of My Soul”, and it’s a very beautiful piano ballad, with calm verses and an amazing chorus. It serves as an amazing vocal showcase for Roberta, who is stunning throughout the track, starting very softly, but pouring tons of emotion into the track, especially during the chorus, and her performance gets stronger and more intense throughout, with the final run through the chorus being absolutely incredible.

Following that slower section, the pace picks up again with “A Dream’s Elegy”, another song which has a very strong Nightwish feel to it, though the band pulls it off perfectly, with epic symphonic arrangements, a huge chorus, and some very powerful vocals from Roberta, who sings with an extra level of roughness compared to normal, and does a stunning job, as always. It’s a very melodic, fun yet fairly relaxed track, which moves at a nice pace, without going full throttle. It has some epic moments towards the end, alternating between some awesome death growls from Metatrone vocalist Davide Bruno, as well as some epic choral and operatic vocals. Next is one of the most explosive tracks on the album, “Seven Seas, Seven Winds”. It’s a very eventful track, with many epic moments and it goes through many different phases, packing a ton of ideas into just over 5 minutes. It has speedy sections, some slower sections, some epic theatrical operatic vocals, some choirs, powerful lead vocals, and some intense sections where it moves towards the black metal territory, complete with some awesome blackened rasps from A Hill to Die Upon vocalist Adam Cook. It’s an intense track, with a lot going on, and it’s definitely one of the best here.

Moving towards the end, “Ethereal Voices from the Forest” is a very beautiful interlude track, mostly featuring some atmospheric keyboards and symphonic arrangements, as well as some hauntingly beautiful choral chants in the background. It’s a very nice track and sets the mood nicely for “The World Unknown”, which starts off with the same haunting choral vocals for a bit, before moving back into epic symphonic power metal territory. It’s another amazing track, with some epic symphonic arrangements, as well as some slight prog leaning, especially in the guitar work, and the overall pacing, which alternates nicely between mid-paced verses and a fairly mid-paced chorus, with the occasional speedier section. The highlight of the track is the use of operatic vocals, especially near the end, where an amazing male vocalist joins in, and does an absolutely incredible job, along with the usual female operatic vocals and choirs. Closing out the album is “Hidden Conspiracy”, the longest and most progressive track on the album. It alternates between speedy and slower passages, as well as having some softer, more symphonic passages, and some pretty intense, more guitar-driven sections. There’s more of the nice clean male vocals, as well as the typically amazing lead vocals and some more growls from Davide Bruno, who does an excellent job once again. While a lot is going on, the song still has an amazing chorus, and it’s a very epic, very intense track, with a ton of memorable moments.

Sometimes, amazing albums seem to come completely out of nowhere, which is exactly what has happened with Land of Eternal Dreams. Just a few short weeks ago, I had never even heard of Astralium, and now they have proven themselves to be yet another in a long line of excellent Italian metal bands who have managed to completely blow me away! Fans of epic symphonic power metal along the lines of early Nightwish and some Epica tracks, are highly recommended to give this album a listen, and anyone interested in symphonic power metal, in general, should give this a shot, as its easily the best of its kind I’ve heard so far in 2019, and it’s an absolutely incredible debut, overall! Hopefully, Astralium can get the success they deserve, as judging by this first release, they have the potential to be something pretty special!

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/08/24/astralium-land-of-eternal-dreams-review/


Album · 2019 · Power Metal
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Swedish heavy/power metal band Hammerfall have become very reliable over the last 22 years, releasing one great album after another, without showing any signs of slowing down. They first splashed onto the scene in 1997 with their critically acclaimed debut, Glory to the Brave, and ever since they’ve been both very prolific and consistently entertaining, proving themselves to be one of the absolute best in their field. While I tend to enjoy some of their albums more than others, they always manage to have their fair share of excellent tracks on every release, and so I always look forward to hearing new music from them. I was particularly impressed by their previous release, Built to Last, which proved to be a big return to form following the much-reviled Infected, and the solid but somewhat underwhelming (r)Evolution. Their eleventh full-length release, Dominion, is nearly here, and after several spins, I can safely say it not only improves upon its already excellent predecessor, but it’s an amazing album in its own right and one that can easily stand toe to toe against any of the band’s best works!

Hammerfall has a pretty distinct sound at this point, striking pretty much a perfect balance between 90’s-early 2000’s Euro power metal, with slight modernization here and there, and some classic heavy metal. The only album that didn’t quite fit that description was Infected, which had a much darker, slightly heavier and more modernized sound, overall. Dominion, however, continues where Built to Last left off, showing the band at their most melodic, and the most energetic they’ve been in quite some time, channeling their younger selves at times, while still having some sight modern twists, as well as a couple of their heaviest songs to date. The guitar work is, of course, excellent, as always, with some amazing melodic lead guitar work, some great solos, and some very heavy riffs, and while there are times where the music takes a slightly modern twist, for the most part, the songs have a very classic feel to them, which works perfectly. There are a few points where the music approaches Infected levels of heaviness and darkness, but the band always counters it with some excellent, uplifting vocal melodies, and so anyone turned off by that release should not be disappointed by this one. As far as pacing goes, the album is very much what any Hammerfall fan should expect from the band, with a perfect mix between speedy power metal, some slower, hard-hitting heavy metal, a couple of tracks which alternate between the two, and a couple of ballads. Perhaps the strongest aspect of the release, though, is the vocals, with Joacim Cans sounding clearly at the top of his game, delivering the kind of epic, soaring power metal vocals he’s always excelled at, and especially shining during the choruses, which are easily some of the band’s catchiest, most melodic and just plain best in quite some time. Production and performances are of course excellent across the board, as always, and everything sounds perfect.

Leading up to the release, the band has delivered three singles, all of which would suggest a move away from their typical power metal sound, though all three of them are excellent tracks, in their own right. First up, lead single “{We Make} Sweden Rock” is a rather upbeat, moderately paced heavy metal track, with a slight hard rock feel to it. It has some nice heavy riffs throughout the verses, which give way to a very melodic, extremely catchy chorus, and while the lyrics may be a bit cringy for some, the performances and overall songwriting are more than strong enough to help make it a winner, and the guitar solo and chanting in the second half are quite excellent. The second single is “One Against the World”, which starts with some pretty cool modern sounding keys, before slowing down and turning into one of the band’s heavier tracks. The verses plod along at a slow pace, but with some very powerful guitar work, and they do a great job of building towards the typically great, uplifting chorus. The track picks up in the middle, with an epic speedy section that brings classic Iron Maiden to mind, and then it only speeds up further from there, going into full power metal territory for a truly awe-inspiring final run through the chorus. The third and most recent single is the title track, another very hard-hitting track, with a killer lead riff that falls somewhere in between Black Album era Metallica and classic AC/DC, as well as being some of the band’s most brutal guitar work ever, aside from Infected. The track moves along at a fairly slow pace, with calm, melodic verses, enhanced by some cool choir vocals chanting the name, and then the chorus comes in and is beautiful, with some of the band’s best vocal melodies of all time, and some very funny lyrics. The solo section in the middle is also epic and brings back some of the heavy riffs from early on. Overall, it’s my favorite song on the album, as as well as probably my favorite heavy metal track they’ve ever made, aside from maybe “Patient Zero”, from Infected.

The singles may cause fans to expect less power metal on the album, but thankfully that is not the case at all. First up, we have the explosive opener, “Never Forgive, Never Forget”, which starts with a nice soft intro, where the music immediately gives off a slight old Western vibe, and this remains throughout the entire track. Following that intro, the tempo immediately picks up, with the verses galloping along at a fast pace, while the chorus is very fun, melodic and quite fast-paced, with the track only briefly slowing down for some nice instrumental work in the second half, followed by an extremely fun and intense vocals section, which gives way to some great solos. Two tracks later, “Testify” is the heaviest of the power metal songs here, moving at a fast pace throughout and delivering some pretty crushing riffs, with a slightly modernized sound, overall. The highlight of the track is the chorus, with some pretty cool gang vocals delivering the title. It’s very fun and intense track, overall. On the more melodic side of things, “Scars of a Generation” has a very classic Hammerfall feel to it, moving at a nice pace with some moderately paced verses, before going full throttle for a very speedy, yet extremely melodic chorus, which is sure to please many power metal fans. It’s a very fun track, with some awesome vocal melodies, and is one of my favorites. The last two speedier tracks on the album are “Bloodline” and “Chain of Command”, both of which strike a nice balance between being fast-paced, melodic and having some heavy riffs and very melodic, catchy choruses, as well as some great instrumental work during the solo sections. Both tracks also have some excellent choral vocals throughout, and both are excellent tracks, overall.

Aside from the singles, the only real heavy slower track is “Dead by Dawn”, which has more of a classic Hammerfall sound to it, with some pretty heavy riffs during the verses, but with more of a traditional feel to them, while the chorus is quite fun and intense, and has some more great choral vocals. On the softer side, Built to Last ended with the incredible power ballad “Second to None”, which the band decided to follow up on this release with “Second to One.” While this track isn’t quite as epic as the aforementioned masterpiece, it’s still a very nice ballad, starting with some nice piano work and vocals, which remain throughout the first two verses and chorus, before guitars take over for a very emotional solo. The chorus is excellent, and the verses do a good job of building up to it, while the instrumental work is excellent. It doesn’t have any speedier passages or any real metal elements, at all, unlike “Second to None”, but it’s an excellent ballad, in its own right. Closing out the album is the second ballad, “And Yet I Smile”. This one starts with some excellent melodic guitar work, and it’s a slightly heavier track, overall, with some nice bursts of heaviness, particularly in the second half, while still clearly falling into power ballad territory. It balances nicely between soft and heavy sections, with Joacim delivering some brilliant vocals throughout, especially during the chorus, the instrumental section is extremely well done. Overall, it’s a very strong, if somewhat predictable, way to end the album.

For the longest time, I used to consider Hammerfall as one of those “singles” bands, where each of their albums would have maybe 2-5 excellent songs I played over and over, while ignoring the rest, but over time I’ve grown to enjoy almost all of their work, and while some of their albums do still feel a bit inconsistent, the band has proven their ability to deliver some great, more consistent releases over the years. Dominion is yet another triumph, with some of their best tracks to date, including some excellent speedy power metal, some slow, crushing heavy metal with excellent vocal melodies, and a couple of excellent ballads. Longtime fans of the band should be very pleased, while anyone looking for some fun heavy/power metal is highly recommended to give this album a shot, as it’s one of the band’s best works to date!

Originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/08/10/hammerfall-dominion-review/

SABATON The Great War

Album · 2019 · Power Metal
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Sometimes, even my favorite bands will leave me a bit disappointed, which happened with Swedish power metal band Sabaton in 2016. They’ve been among a short list of my few absolute favorite metal bands for close to 10 years now, so I always have sky high expectations for them, which means even an album that could merely be called “very good” instead of “incredible” will leave me feeling somewhat disappointed. Sadly, that’s what happened with their sixth full length release, The Last Stand, as while it was still a highly enjoyable release, with a few particularly amazing tracks, it felt a little low in energy and inspiration compared to normal, and it had some songs that simply never grabbed me the way the band usually does. Despite that slight setback, I was excited when I heard the band had a new release coming in 2019, and I was hoping they could get back on track and blow me away once again. Early indications, from the first single as well as hearing the concept of the album, had me very optimistic, and now that I’ve listened to their seventh full length release, The Great War, 20+ times, I can officially say that whatever happened last time did not happen again, as this release represents the Swedes at their best, most energetic and most fun, while also having some truly powerful and awe inspiring moments!

There was a slight lineup change in between albums, with guitarist Thobbe Englund departing and being replaced by Reinxeed singer/multi-insturmentalist Tommy Johansson, who of course does a fantastic job, as always. I’m not sure if it’s specifically because of his presence, or just a general burst of inspiration, but the performances on this release feel even stronger than normal, with some otherworldly good melodies at times, as well as some of the most inspired solos I’ve ever heard from the band. They’ve always been known to have some incredible memorable choruses, but on The Great War, even the verses are infectious, as well as the bridges. In fact, there really isn’t a moment on the entire album that isn’t memorable or epic in some way or another. With all that being said, though, it’s still fairly similar to their previous few releases stylistically, in that the tempos are generally a bit more restrained compared to some power metal bands. In fact, the tempo rarely goes full speed on this release, aside from on a couple tracks, but instead, most tracks end up feeling fairly upbeat and move along at a pretty nice pace, without fully speeding up. It very much reminds me of Heroes, with how the songs are short, straight to the point and move along at a good pace, with each track having plenty of memorable moments, while all going by quickly enough to let the album flow from highlight to highlight.

As with many of their previous releases, The Great War is a concept album, and in that regard, the band has really gone above and beyond with how well they’ve covered their main theme. Obviously, all Sabaton songs (with a few exceptions) are about historic battles in one way or another, with most albums tending to focus on one specific theme. This time around, they’ve chosen to make an entire album focused on World War I, which is obviously a very important, logical topic for the band to tackle, and they’ve done it perfectly, covering many important moments, as well as historical figures, units and the like. While all their albums have very good lyrics, I think this one might have their best yet, just due to the important of the topic, as well as because of how well they’ve covered it. The album really feels like it flows together perfectly, and the concept helps everything to feel unified, while still allowing each track to stand out in their own way, which is pretty much exactly what I want from a concept album. Obviously, the production is as perfect as always, all musicians do an amazing job as always, and Joakim Brodén’ deep, powerful yet melodic vocals are as epic and amazing as always.

While I’ll always love Sabaton’s core sound and Joakim’s voice, their songwriting tends to be one of their biggest strengths, as well, so I was hoping The Great War would deliver in that area, after The Last Stand was a bit disappointing, and thankfully it does. Similarly to Heroes and The Last Stand, it’s a fairly short album, containing 11 tracks and clocking in at just under 39 minutes, which causes the tracks to fly by in a hurry, and of course that also makes it very easy to play the album several times over in one sitting, to really dig deep into it. Kicking off the album is “The Future of Warfare” a fairly slow paced, atmospheric track with some excellent keys throughout. The verses move along fairly slowly, but are filled with some very strong vocal melodies, while the chorus opens up and is very fun and epic, as always, while the solo section in the second half is very energetic and a lot of fun. It’s a very catchy, very enjoyable opener, and it kicks the album off quite well. Next is “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”, a slightly speedier track, with a very classic feel to it, including a main melody that feels like it could have come straight from the band’s “Metal” trilogy of songs, spread across their first two albums and Coat of Arms. This feel is especially true for the main keyboard melodies, and it sticks around for most of the song, while the guitar work is a bit heavier than on the opening track, the verses move along at a pretty nice pace, the chorus is extremely infectious and catchy, the bridge is awesome and very inspired, and of course the guitar solo in the second half is excellent. It’s an awesome track, overall, and an early album highlight.

Things only get better with “82nd All the Way”, another speedier track with some excellent keyboards, as well as some nice melodic guitar work. It moves along at a slightly relaxed, but nice pace during the verses, with more excellent vocal melodies, and then the chorus is quite fast and it’s simply a treat, with some awesome keys, awesome vocals and some amazing melodies, and just like the previous track, there’s an excellent bridge, which gives way to a very melodic and fun guitar solo in the second half. The first real slow track on the album is “The Attack of the Dead Men”, and it has a slightly unique feel to it, with much darker, more atmospheric sounding keys, and indeed the track has a fairly grim feel to it overall, and the band pulls it off quite well, with slow, but heavy verses and a fairly strange but quite interesting build up to the chorus, which is of course every bit as upbeat, melodic and super catchy, as always. The track has a particularly inspired instrumental section, which goes on for quite a while, with some very classic sounding melodic guitar work, as well as possibly the heaviest, most technical passage on the album and it’s one of the highlights of the album for sure. Next is “Devil Dogs” and it’s yet another instant classic. It again has a familiar feel, opening with an epic tease at the chorus, before the pace picks up during the opening verse, which contains some very epic choir vocals, as well as some heavy riffs, and the song moves along at a nice pace, with another huge, epic chorus, as well as a very fun instrumental section, preceded by an epic, triumphant vocal section, which is followed by an over the top, but quite funny voice over, as well as more excellent solo work.

Next is second single “The Red Baron”, and some fans may not have heard the normal album version yet (for reasons I’ll explain near the end of the review), which contains an epic hammond organ recreation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Little Fugue in G Minor” during the intro. Following that, the track introduces a rather playful keyboard melody, that has a bit of a swing feel to it, and it carries on throughout the track, giving the track a very cheerful feel. The song moves along at a fast pace, with very fun verses, one of the catchiest choruses I’ve heard so far this year, and it has yet another excellent instrumental section, with more playful keyboards and some excellent melodic guitar work. Following that is third single, “Great War”, which is one of the slowest, yet also most epic tracks on the album. It moves along at a slow pace during the verses, with more atmospheric keys and strong vocals from Joakim, and then the chorus is of course unbelievably powerful and epic, with strong symphonic elements and some excellent choral vocals, to help give it a more dramatic feel. The pace picks up again with “A Ghost in the Trenches”, which is one of the faster tracks on the album, with a nice gallop to the verses, as well as another very upbeat, very fun chorus, and more great instrumental work throughout. It’s definitely one of the catchier songs on the album.

The band did something which I think may be unprecedented with lead single “Fields of Verdun”, by having cello metal band Apocalyptica record a cover, and then releasing that cover a couple days before the release of the original track, itself. The cover was actually an amazing, very beautiful and atmospheric piece, with a nice use of varying tempos, while the Sabaton version is fairly straight-forward, very fast paced and quite fun, with an excellent, super catchy chorus, a very strong guitar solo, and fun verses. Both versions of the song are excellent, and it’s easy to see why it was picked as the first single. The last full length song on the album is “The End of the War to End All Wars” and it’s another very epic track, opening with some soft piano and slight symphonic elements, before turning into a full blown symphonic metal track, which gets more and more epic as it goes on, complete with some orchestral elements and some very epic choir vocals. It’s definitely one of the most epic, cinematic tracks the band has done, while still fitting their style perfectly. Verses are fairly dark, atmospheric and a bit heavy, while the chorus is extremely fun and theatrical, with the choirs taking full charge, and there’s a very epic, classical flavored guitar solo in the second half (I suspect it is taken from a classical piece, but I can’t figure out which it is) and overall it’s a very beautiful, powerful track, which gives way to an outstanding ending to the album. This outstanding ending comes in the form of “In Flanders Fields”, a choral performance of the classic poem, written by Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. It’s a very beautiful cover, done entirely a Capella, with a choir, and it’s an absolutely wonderful way to end the album.

Before concluding this review, I’d like to point out that there are actually two version of the album: A normal version, which has all tracks uninterrupted, as well as a “History Version”, which includes some narration. The latter effectively makes the album feel similar to The Art of War, with a woman briefly introducing the topics for each track, and these narrations are fairly brief, so as not to disrupt the flow too much, while giving a bit of insight and historical context for each track. For the most part, the songs themselves are exactly the same on both versions, except that the History Version removes the Hammond organ intro for “The Red Baron”, and that’s the version the band used for their video. I generally prefer the normal version, for its overall flow, but the History Version is definitely worth a listen or two, for the narrations.

Sabaton will always be one of my all time favorite bands, with even a disappointing album like The Last Stand still managing to entertain me time and time again. Thankfully, though, The Great War is a big return to form, containing the same mix of speedy and slower tracks as Heroes, along with the seamless flow of that album, moving from highlight to highlight, while also having a very important concept, and executing it to perfection, with optional narration, excellent lyrics, and a stunning ending sequence. At the same time, there are plenty of amazing individual tracks here, as well, so anyone just looking for some addictive power metal, with little care for the lyrical themes, will also find a lot to enjoy here. It’s too early to say where it ranks among my all time favorite albums, but The Great War is definitely one of my top three favorites from Sabaton, along with The Art of War and Heroes, which is already saying a lot, and it’s far and away the best album I’ve heard in 2019 so far, with any upcoming releases having next to zero chance of topping it.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/07/15/sabaton-the-great-war-review/

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