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Travis Green
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2281 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 894 4.00
2 Progressive Metal 334 3.89
3 Symphonic Metal 223 3.91
4 Heavy Metal 164 3.55
5 Thrash Metal 95 3.63
6 Gothic Metal 92 3.92
7 Folk Metal 72 4.27
8 Melodic Death Metal 70 3.81
9 US Power Metal 38 3.78
10 Alternative Metal 35 3.39
11 Hard Rock 33 3.64
12 Non-Metal 29 3.48
13 Death Metal 18 4.00
14 Metal Related 16 4.06
15 Melodic Metalcore 15 3.27
16 Groove Metal 14 2.89
17 Symphonic Black Metal 13 4.38
18 Metalcore 12 3.83
19 Technical Death Metal 11 4.00
20 Technical Thrash Metal 10 4.45
21 Speed Metal 10 3.80
22 Trance Metal 10 3.50
23 Heavy Alternative Rock 9 4.67
24 Industrial Metal 8 4.50
25 Atmospheric Black Metal 8 4.06
26 Melodic Black Metal 5 4.00
27 Doom Metal 5 4.00
28 NWoBHM 5 4.50
29 Nu Metal 4 3.75
30 Heavy Psych 4 3.75
31 Death-Doom Metal 4 3.88
32 Deathcore 4 3.38
33 Glam Metal 4 3.88
34 Avant-garde Metal 3 3.67
35 Traditional Doom Metal 3 3.83
36 Stoner Metal 1 4.00
37 Sludge Metal 1 4.00
38 Neoclassical metal 1 4.00
39 Black Metal 1 0.50
40 Brutal Death Metal 1 4.50
41 Crossover Thrash 1 3.00
42 Viking Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

DREAM THEATER Distance Over Time

Album · 2019 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
When I first started getting into metal, one of the very first bands I checked out was American progressive metal band Dream Theater. They were the ones to really get me into prog, as I enjoyed many of their albums, starting with Octavarium, Awake and Train of Thought, before eventually checking out their full discography and loving most of it, with Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory, in particular, being one of my all-time favorite albums. While I’ve become a fan of many other prog bands over the years, DT are the ones who started it all for me, and so every time they release a new album I get excited, waiting with bated breath to hear what they will come up with next. Their previous release, The Astonishing, was an extremely polarizing release, to say the least, as it took the band in a much lighter, more rock-infused direction than normal, being a massive 2+ hour concept album that at times even felt like a Broadway musical. I personally loved it and considered it to be possibly their very best effort to date, but to say most fans disagreed with me, would be a major understatement. Following such a divisive release, it’s no surprise that the band decided to re-think things a bit, which led to a tour where they focused on classic releases, particularly their breakthrough album Images & Words, and then when it came time to release a new album, they looked to the past to help create a new release that could hopefully win back folks who were disappointed with the previous release. That upcoming release, Distance Over Time, is now almost here, and while it’s been teased as a “return to the roots”, it has turned out to be an album that has the elements fans would expect from the band and does a solid job of providing some entertaining songs, but it doesn’t quite capture the magic of many of the band’s classic releases, nor does it push their music forward in a significant way.

If I could describe Distance Over Time with one simple phrase, it would be “back to the basics”. Compared to The Astonishing and some of the band’s other more ambitious releases, this one feels surprisingly simple and straight-forward, focusing on all of the band’s main aspects at their surface level, without digging too deep or without throwing in too many surprises. Fans who’ve been disappointed with some of the band’s recent albums may enjoy this one a bit more, as it’s by far their heaviest release since at least Black Clouds & Silver Linings, with almost every song having some pretty heavy, chunky lead guitar work from John Petrucci. At the same time, the band has always done a great job of mixing together heavy and melodic passages, with all of their classics featuring a perfect blend of the two, and so obviously that is still true of this release, with Petrucci providing some excellent melodic guitar work to go along with the heavier passages, as well as some typically excellent keyboard work from Jordan Rudess. I find the band is at their best when allowing one element of their music to dominate for a while, without losing sight of the rest of their sound, which is something they’ve pulled off wonderfully in the past, while this release doesn’t really go one way or the other for very long on most of the tracks, instead opting to blend heavy and melodic passages together near seamlessly. This has led to some mixed results, with some tracks pulling it off a whole lot better than others. One thing’s for sure, though: Petrucci and Rudess, along with bassist John Myung and drummer Mike Mangini, are exceptional musicians, among the absolute best in the world with their respective instruments, and so everything is performed to perfection, with the sound production being equally flawless.

One surprising aspect of Distance Over Time is its length. Looking through the band’s discography, it’s their shortest album since their debut, When Dream and Day Unite, and is only their third release to clock in at under an hour (excluding bonus tracks, that is), which is quite surprising for a band known to make their albums over 75 minutes. Even more surprisingly, it joins the aforementioned debut and The Astonishing to become just their third release in 14 albums to not have any tracks over 10 minutes (though the latter can be disqualified from this, as it’s a concept album meant to be treated as a whole, where the other two are entirely song focused.) For a band known to make epic, long and complex tracks, this comes as quite the surprise, to say the least. With all things taken into consideration, it feels to me like the band went out of their way to make a more accessible album, without turning to outside sources as they did on the previously ill-fated Falling Into Infinity. There’s still plenty of excellent, highly technical instrumental work, of course, and a few tracks do have some of the more complex arrangements longtime fans would expect, but it definitely feels like the band has stripped their sound down to its bare essentials at this point, which has made for an entertaining, but somewhat disjointed album. Songwriting is fairly hit and miss, though most tracks are at least solidly enjoyable, and it certainly isn’t as wildly inconsistent as the likes of Systematic Chaos, Octavarium or the aforementioned Falling Into Infinity. However, the most disappointing thing about this album to me, is that by going back to the roots of their sound in such an extreme way, it feels like they’ve both ignored any of the evolution they’ve gone through over the years, as well as taken away a lot of the things that make their music so special.

Another area where the release is a bit mixed is the vocals. Unlike many fans, I’ve always considered James LaBrie to be an excellent singer, and he has contributed heavily to some of my favorite works by the band, with The Astonishing, in particular, is one of my favorite performances from him to date, as it allowed to really showcases many different aspects of his voice, and he was clearly fully invested in the lyrics, which led to some amazing vocals from his all around. On this album, I find his vocals to be a bit all over the place, though some of this has to do with an increased use of vocal effects on his voice, which seem more noticeable than usual, as well as the fact that some of the vocal melodies on this release just aren’t that great, unfortunately. However, there are still some tracks where he gets to shine, and there are moments where he’s clearly invested in the lyrics and gets to deliver some great vocal melodies. If anything, his vocals, like the album, on the whole, are simply a bit more inconsistent than I’d like, though they’re still quite good, more often than not.

And of course, the most important aspect of any album is the songwriting, which is where this album is solid, but not up to par with any of the band’s best releases, or even most of their albums in general. Unlike most fans, I’ve quite enjoyed each of their past several releases, with Systematic Chaos being their last release I would consider less than great. This album is considerably better than that one, thanks to the songwriting never falling as low as that one did in places, but it still rarely reaches the heights the band is capable of. They sure were spot on with their picks for lead singles, though, with opening track “Untethered Angel” being a very fun, hard-hitting track that strikes a perfect balance between heavy and melodic, while “Fall into the Light” is just as good. The former opens with some very melancholy guitar work from Petrucci, before quickly exploding and turning into a heavy mid-paced track, with the keyboards lending a dark atmosphere to the proceedings. Vocals are solid during the verses and pick up big time during the chorus, which speeds up and has some excellent vocal melodies, managing to be very catchy and melodic. As always, the track has an extended and highly impressive instrumental section in the middle, as well as a very nice outro performed mostly by Petrucci. The latter track is almost the reverse of the opener, in that it starts out with some very heavy riffs, clearly inspired by Metallica, as many of Petrucci’s riffs are, before speeding up and turning into a pretty fast-paced and fun track during the verses. Once the chorus hits, though, the track slows down and gets very melodic and atmospheric, with some excellent vocal melodies and more strong vocals from LaBrie. The track does an excellent job of blending metal and rock, with some excellent soft passages in the second half, where Petrucci showcases some beautiful, highly emotional guitar work, to go along with the already soft chorus. In between those two tracks is the slightly less successful “Paralyzed”. It’s a more modern sounding track, opening with some very heavy, modern sounding riffs. It moves along at a rather slow pace and feels pretty basic throughout, like the kinda song that could be played by some random band off the streets. Don’t get me wrong, though, it’s a solid track, as the verses are solidly engaging, and the build-up to the chorus is great, but overall, the track just feels like it’s far beneath the band’s capabilities, with the end of the chorus, in particular, being incredibly underwhelming, and it only gets worse at the end of the track, when it becomes highly repetitive and annoying. The verses and a really good instrumental section, with more melodic and beautiful soloing from Petrucci, are enough to salvage the track, but not nearly enough to make it particularly special or memorable.

Moving along, the band follows up “Fall into the Light” with another excellent track in “Barstool Warrior”. This one has a very classic DT feel to it, with some very melodic guitar work that definitely would have fit in great on Images & Words, mixed in with some even more beautiful melodies where the guitar tone feels similar to the outro to “The Ministry of Lost Souls”, which is one of my personal favorites by the band, despite being on a largely uneven album. The track is fairly laid back throughout, being one of the band’s more melodic and more prog rock infused tracks, but it’s very beautiful throughout, with some excellent vocal melodies and a very strong chorus, as well as the always great instrumental work. If the band wanted this album to be a return to the roots then this track is definitely one of the best cases of them pulling that off to perfection. Next is “Room 137”, the first song written by Mangini since he joined the band. In fact, with Mangini and Myung contributing to the lyrics, that leaves Rudess as the only member not to do so on this album, which is interesting, as the past three releases have been largely written by Petrucci, with a song here and there written by LaBrie, so I guess it’s nice to see this album being more of a team effort. Anyway, “Room 137” is, unfortunately, the worst track here. It starts off inoffensively enough, with more dark and heavy guitar work during the first verse, which only gets better during the second verse where its enhanced by some excellent backing keys. The chorus is also pretty decent and very atmospheric, and obviously, the instrumental section is great. Sadly, there’s one vocal section that pops up a couple times, where it sounds like LaBrie’s attempt at the intro to the Queen classic “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and between bad sound mixing and just poor arrangements in general, the result is unbearably bad, and is easily one of the worst things I’ve ever heard from DT. It’s bad enough to completely ruin an otherwise solid (if not great) track. Thankfully, that is the only real dud of the album, and things pick up again with “S2N”, another very classic DT sounding track, mixed in with some weird voiceovers near the beginning. Once it gets going it’s a mid-paced track, with some fairly heavy guitar work, though it has a slight rock feel to it. The track moves along at a nice pace, being fun and somewhat upbeat, but not particularly fast. It has a great chorus, as well as some excellent keyboard work from Rudess throughout, and it has a very heavy, outstanding outro from Petrucci, that helps close things out in a great way.

Moving towards the end, the band delivers an absolute masterpiece in “At Wit’s End”, which is one of the tracks written by LaBrie. I mention that only because it’s by far the best-sung track on the album, with some very emotional lyrics, as well as a strong, very powerful performance from LaBrie, where he’s clearly fully invested in the lyrics. The track, which is the longest in the album, clocking in at 9:20, is very much a mini-epic, in that it packs in about as many highlights and surprises as one would expect from a lengthy track, without actually going over 10 minutes. It opens with a long, hard-hitting intro from Petrucci, before slowing down with a nice, melodic opening verse, which then gives way to an amazing, very melodic and beautiful chorus, where LaBrie is in absolute top form. The pace picks up for a heavy, very intense second verse, with some very hard-hitting riffs, and this gives way to a kind of secondary chorus, which is also very nice, though much more intense than the main chorus. After that, we get an excellent extended instrumental section, with some of the best work from Rudess on the album, as well as more excellent shredding from Petrucci, and then the music calms down for a bit, leading to a very nice almost ballad-like sequence, with more very soft and excellent vocals, and of course more amazing guitar work, and then the track has an extended intro, with more great vocals and melodic leads, before a long, dramatic fade out. It’s definitely the kind of complex, dynamic and highly engaging track I love from the band, and it’s easily the best on the album.

Following the longest on the album, we have the shortest in “Out of Reach”, a nice ballad with some more soft and melodic guitar work, as well as some strong vocals from LaBrie. It has a very strong chorus and is a nice track overall, but it feels like it just starts to pick up steam, before suddenly fading out and then ending, before it has time to fully develop. Closing out the album is “Pale Blue Dot”, the second longest track on the album. It isn’t quite as epic as “At Wit’s End”, but it’s still an excellent track in its own right. It opens with some nice ambient keyboards as well as some voiceovers, which lasts for around a minute, before some more chunky guitars kick in, as some more epic keys from Rudess, which have a slight symphonic feel to them. The song stays heavy during the verses and moves along at a good pace, though the highlight of the track is the epic symphonic keys from Rudess, which actually get even better as the song goes on. The chorus is rather subdued, but also very nice. It’s a fairly straightforward track, with a fairly standard structure, though it has an excellent, extended instrumental section in the middle, as well as one last amazing outro from Petrucci to close out the album. The digipak version of the album has a bonus track called “Viper King”. It’s a rather upbeat and fun track, with a bit of a classic rock feel to it. In fact, I initially wondered if it was a cover track, but it’s actually an original, written by LaBrie. It’s a fun, fast-paced track, with a really catchy chorus. It’s another more accessible track, which doesn’t really showcase the band’s talents, but for a bonus track it’s a lot of fun, so I can’t complain.

I always have high expectations for Dream Theater, and while Distance Over Time is a very good release, overall, it doesn’t fully meet those expectations. I’ve admittedly been a bit hard on the album, so much so that the final score below may be hard to believe, but that’s large because I love the band so much and I expect better from them. With that being said, as a “back to basics” sort of album, it’s a highly enjoyable release, and it certainly contains traces of all the elements fans of the band have come to love, even if it doesn’t have anything over 10 minutes, or any instrumental tracks. The songwriting is a tad more inconsistent than I’d like, but there’s definitely more winners than losers here, with even the worst track being mostly fine outside of one huge misfire, while the four best tracks are all amazing, and every bit as good as I expect from the band. Overall, it’s an album I’m sure any longtime fan of the band will enjoy, and those disappointed with the direction the band took on The Astonishing will most likely enjoy this one a lot more, while any prog fan who’s somehow never heard of the band should find this a good enough place to start, as it has all of the band’s main elements, while being a bit more accessible than most of their other albums. Personally, I hope this more restrained approach is a one-time thing and that they dial up the epic again next time around, but for what it is, I’d still take it over anything from most other prog bands, so it’s still a winner, in my book.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/02/09/dream-theater-distance-over-time-review/

BEAST IN BLACK From Hell With Love

Album · 2019 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
The combination of heavy/power metal is one that’s obviously been done a lot over the years, originating with the likes of Grave Digger, Primal Fear and others, but while some bands within that style can be fairly predictable, others have found ways to innovate and throw in many surprises to help take their music to the next level.

One of my favorite composers in the field is Anton Kabanen, who started out making three very strong releases with Finnish band Battle Beast, before parting ways with the band in 2015, and then starting his own new band called Beast in Black. While Battle Beast has moved into a slightly lighter, more accessible direction,

Anton has continued evolving his sound and managed to create possibly his best album to date with Berserker in 2017, an album that picked up from where he left off with his former band, while also moving in a new, more keyboard driven direction, and throwing in a ton of surprises to help make it feel equal parts fresh and familiar, in the best way possible.

Now, nearly a year and a half later, he’s back with the second Beast in Black release, From Hell With Love, and this time he has taken things even further, creating his catchiest, most consistently entertaining album to date, and one that builds upon everything that made the previous release special and improves upon it, resulting in the first masterpiece I’ve heard in 2019!

Fans of Berserker, as well as the second and third Battle Beast albums, should have a pretty good idea of what to expect here, as From Hell With Love is very much in line with any of Anton’s previous releases, stylistically.

So, you can expect to hear a nice mix of heard hitting guitar work, speedy power metal tempos, some more mid paced rhythms, extremely fun and catchy choruses, and an extremely wide range of keyboard work, with everything from more modern electronic keys, to classic 80’s synth and even some parts that go into disco territory. Yes, Anton clearly loves 80’s music, and so his albums always have a ton of that influence to them, with this one being no exception.

Apart from the weird dance elements, there’s also hints of classic AOR on a couple tracks, which was also true of the debut. At the same time, fans of heavy metal can still expect some heavy guitar work at times, as well as some more epic, melodic heavy metal, to go along with all the catchiness and keyboard insanity. Performances are absolutely amazing across the board, with the keyboards in particular standing out, once again, though the guitar work is also impressive, being equal parts heavy and very melodic at different times, with some of the solos in particular being technically solid, but also quite beautiful.

Songwriting has proven to be one of Anton’s biggest strengths over the years, and so it’s no surprise that this album is both consistently engaging, and extremely varied, with some faster tracks,some more mid paced tracks, a ballad, a couple of tracks that lean heavily into that kinda disco mixed with AOR sound I described, and in general the songs are just ridiculously fun and addictive, just like with the debut, except where that release had a couple tracks that didn’t quite impress me, this one is absolutely flawless. In fact, that’s the one real difference here: Stylistically, it’s very much in line with Berserker, and it doesn’t have anything as surprising as “Crazy, Mad, Insane”, but on a song to song level, the level of energy and excitement never slips even in the slightest, and so that’s what helps make it an even better release than the band’s already amazing debut. I think track placement is the key, here, as there are no points where the pacing slips off, thanks to the tracks being placed in such a way that you’re never getting too much of one sound right together, which was the only slight complaint I had with the debut. Obviously, the production is absolutely perfect, and everything sounds amazing, as usual.

One other area that’s as reliably great as ever, is the vocals. Yannis Papadopoulos had his major breakthrough performance on Berserker, after being with a couple other bands previously (most notably Wardrum), and doing a solid job, but he was certainly never as dynamic or as exciting before as he was on Berserker. This continues on From Hell With Love, as his full vocal range is once again on display, with him doing everything from crazy falsettos, to lighter, more melodic vocals, to some very soft, almost feminine vocals, to some pure, intense heavy metal vocals. The amount of range he displays is spectacular, and the fact that he can pull everything off so fluidly, so seamlessly and with so much skill in every area, just goes to show how great a singer he truly is. While the music is already excellent, Yannis definitely takes the songs to the next level, and is one of the absolute best things about the band, along with the keyboards and songwriting.

Speaking of songwriting, the album wastes absolutely no time at the start, opening up with one of its best tracks in “Cry Out for a Hero”, a speedy, epic, bombastic power metal track, with an insanely catchy chorus, with a great mix between some of Anton’s heavier guitar work, as well as some 80’s sounding synths. Yannis mostly sticks with his wild heavy metal vocals and falsetto on this one, and excels during the chorus, while Anton provides a very melodic and beautiful guitar solo in the second half. Overall, it’s a very fun track, and an excellent way to start the album. Things start taking a (not so surprising) turn for the weird with the title track, with some very 80’s sounding synths, and a beat that certainly falls into disco territory. Yep, this is a fun, mid paced stomper of a track with a very retro sound to it, mixing some occasionally heavy guitar work, with disco beats, cheesy keyboards and a very fun, insanely catchy chorus. It’s the exact kind of thing that Anton has proven to be an expert at with his past couple of albums, as well as being very unique in the metal world, and being one of the things that helps make Beast in Black distinct from any other metal band, as it’s certainly not something you’ll ever hear from anything else.

Up next is another 80’s sounding track in “Sweet True Lies”, the lead single. It has a classic AOR sound, with some very melodic guitar work, as well as an extensive use of synths, though not in the kinda bouncy way of the title track, but in a more relaxed way, as is common for the genre. It has a slight hard rock edge to it, and the main melody certainly reminds me of some Bon Jovi tracks. It’s a very fun, insanely catchy track, with an amazing chorus, and it shows Yannis expertly alternating between his softer and more powerful vocals. The second single, “Die by the Blade” is also very old school, with more of those cheesy, yet absolutely delightful keyboards, though it’s a slightly more upbeat track, feeling like 80’s music mixed with modern power metal, in an absolutely amazing way. It moves at a slow pace during the verses, before speeding up and becoming quite intense and epic during the chorus, and it has another melodic, technical and beautiful guitar solo in the second half. In between those two tracks is “Repentless”, which must have had the band borrowing a dictionary from Slayer. Anyway, it’s another insanely fun, very epic track, with an extensive use of sytnth horns, as well as having a slight symphonic feel to its keyboards. It’s one of the more modern sounding tracks here, and it moves at a great pace, with a pretty fast, heavy and insanely addictive chorus, while Yannis stays mostly aggressive with his vocals, getting slightly theatrical during the chorus. It’s a really fun track overall, and probably one of my favorites.

The lone ballad of the album is “Oceandeep”, and it’s another track with a slight use of symphonic elements, while being a very beautiful, mostly acoustic guitar led, track with some amazing soft vocals from Yannis, where he uses some of his more feminine sounding vocals to great effect early on, before opening up with some more powerful vocals towards the middle, which gives way to an absolutely amazing, very emotional, guitar solo, before the song closes out fairly quietly. I find it to be slightly better than “Ghost in the Rain”, from the debut, though perhaps having it in the middle of the album, instead of the end, is a part of that.

Moving towards the end, we have “Unlimited Sin”, which is yet another song driven by 80’s sounding synths and a slight disco feel, with a very cool rhythm to it, while still having a metal edge and having some strong vocals during the verses, which lead into one of the catchiest, and most amazing choruses on the album. It’s yet another insanely addictive track, and probably one of my favorites here. However, things only get better with “True Believer”, a song which combines classic AOR and power metal in the absolute most delightful way possible. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Dragony’s cover of the David Hasselhoff song “True Survivor”, except it’s somehow even more epic and more insanely fun and catchy than that was, with the keyboards just sounding amazing, and Yannis totally steals the show during the chorus, being slightly edgy, yet still melodic and very smooth at the same time. It’s one of the most hopelessly addictive songs I’ve ever heard on a metal album, and it manages to be equal parts retro and cheesy, yet still heavy at the same time. I think only Anton would be crazy enough to attempt such a thing, but I sure am glad he did! Moving back into heavier territory, “This is War” is an epic, mid tempo heavy metal song, with some heavy guitar work during the verses, before opening up for a very melodic and catchy chorus. It’s one of the more guitar driven tracks here, with another great solo in the second half, while still having some nice sounding keyboards, during the choruses, and in a really beautiful section near the end. It also references Battle Beast’s debut in the lyrics, which is pretty neat. After that is “Heart of Steel”, which is every bit as epic and cheesy as its name would suggest, bringing in some more delightful 80’s sounding synths. It’s a more relaxed track, moving at a fairly slow pace during its verses, while picking up slightly for a heavy, yet very epic and fun chorus, where Yannis shines, as always. It gets more epic as it goes along, with the second chorus being more eventful than the first, bringing in some choral elements, and then the solo section is quite amazing, as usual.

Closing out the album is “No Surrender”, a fast paced power metal track, which manages to strike a perfect balance between heavy guitar work, light sounding keyboards and some amazing vocals from Yannis. In fact, the chorus might be some of his best work on the album, as he’s equal parts intense, epic and very melodic at the same time. Of course, the chorus itself is incredible as well, and the song has some of the best melodies on the album, while also being one of the heavier and faster tracks. It’s probably my favorite, just because I love speedy power metal when it’s done perfectly, as it is here, though every song on the album is fantastic. It, of course, has another very melodic, and very beautiful guitar solo, with some of Anton’s best work on the album, and overall it’s a much stronger finish than what their debut had, which is probably another reason I’d give this album the slight edge over that one. The physical digipak edition includes two bonus tracks, which are covers of “Killed by Death” by Motorhead, and “No Easy Way Out” by Robert Tepper, though neither of those are on my promo copy, so I can’t comment on them.

I was expecting a lot from Beast in Black, after their debut proved to be amazing and by far my favorite release from mastermind Anton Kabanen up to that point, but I was not prepared to be as completely, utterly floored by From Hell With Love as I have been! It’s an absolutely flawless album, which seamlessly blends together elements of heavy/power metal, with some classic 80’s sounding synths, some disco beats, and all kinds of epic, crazy melodies. Fans of the debut, as well as the first three Battle Beast albums, shouldn’t need me to tell them this one’s a must hear, while fans of heavy metal and power metal looking for something fresh and unique, as well as anyone looking for an incredibly fun and addictive album, should definitely give this one a try. I’m sure there will be many great releases to come in 2019, but Beast in Black have certainly set the bar very high!

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/01/25/beast-in-black-from-hell-with-love-review/

LOVEBITES Clockwork Immortality

Album · 2018 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Japan’s power metal scene is something I’ve gotten some enjoyment out of in the past, mostly from the likes of Galneryus, MinstreliX and Aldious, but I’ve never been fully hooked on it. The latter of those three bands is an all female power metal band, which has almost become its own scene in and of itself in Japan, with that particular band leading the way, while others have risen up to follow suit. The latest such band, emerging in early 2017, is Lovebites, who released a four track EP in May of 2017, before releasing their full length debut, Awakening from Abyss, in October of that same year. Just looking at promotional photos of the band, and seeing five beautiful women in white dresses, one certainly couldn’t be blamed for thinking the band isn’t out to break any trends. However, overlooking the band and lapping them in there with the likes of Aldious and Cyntia would be a massive mistake, one which I thankfully managed to avoid making, as after seeing glowing reviews for their debut, I decided to give it a listen for myself, and suffice to say, I was not disappointed! The band has their own unique sound, which I’ll go into more detail about in the following paragraph, but essentially, they play a mix of Euro power metal and speed metal as well as some classic heavy metal elements, with just a tiny amount of the kind of J-Pop influences one would expect from the scene, to help keep that distinct Japanese flavor fully in tact. They made quite the splash with their aforementioned debut, before quickly following it up this past June with another four track EP, Battle Against Damnation. Unlike their first EP, which was essentially a mini preview of their full length debut, this one contained four new and entirely separate songs, which to date have not been reused, so it’s very much worth collecting on its own, especially since it very much kept up with the songwriting quality of their debut and some stunning moments of its own. By this point, the band had already established quite the worldwide following, and they managed to sign a deal with Arising Empire to release their second album in Europe, which should help them branch out even further. Between that and a recent European tour, it seems that band has come a long way in in just over a year and a half! Moving on, though, their second full length album, Clockwork Immortality is now here, and it’s every bit as awesome as I was hoping it would be!

One thing I was interested about when hearing this album for the first time, was whether or not it would have the same feeling of the debut, or if the band would reduce the heaviness a bit and become more like their peers. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened in the least, and so fans who were blown by the band’s previous work, should be just as pleased with this album. For those who’ve never heard the band before, they play a surprisingly hard hitting brand of power metal, led by dueling guitarists Midori and Miyaka (with the latter also playing keyboards), and the two of them are clearly the stars here, playing everything from some crushingly heavy thrash riffs, to straight Euro power metal melodies at times, to some classic Maiden style galloping riffs, to some absolutely incredible solos, where the two constantly go back and forth trying to outdo each other, and the results are always epic and absolutely stunning to listen to. Bassist Miho and drummer Haruna originally played in the now disbanded Destrose, and so they already have experience in the scene, and they both do an excellent job with the rhythm section, with the bass in particular being very noticeable in the mix, and so fans of the bass should be pleased with that.

I first discovered the band with Awakening from Abyss, and started the album from the very beginning, so I was immediately blown away by the thrashy riffs presented near the start of the first full song “The Hammer of Wrath” on that album. While there isn’t anything quite that aggressive on this release, the guitar work is still as impressive as ever, and there’s definitely still some very hard hitting riffs, especially on the likes of “Mastermind 01”, “M.D.O” and “Journey to the Other Side”, which are conveniently placed together to make for one awesome trio of heaviness. The songwriting is just as impressive as on the debut, with a perfect balance heavier tracks and more melodic tracks. The majority of the songs are very fast paced, as expected, but the band does throw in a couple of surprises, including one lighter track with some strong J-Pop influences, as well as an epic ballad, which closes out the album. Everything here is amazing, with the heavier tracks all being equal parts heavy, epic and catchy, while some of the more melodic sections are absolutely beautiful, and of the course the instrumental sections are absolutely stunning. The album is an absolute delight from start to finish, just like their first album was, and everything is perfect, from the performances to the songwriting and the production.

Another area where the band might surprise some people is the vocals, for a couple of reasons. First off, most bands in this scene tend to favor lighter, more pop infused vocals, where lead singer Asami has a very deep and powerful voice, which fits perfectly within a metal backdrop. She’s equally impressive singing on frantic, hard hitting thrash infused sections as she is singing lighter, catchier sections. While her voice is pretty deep most of the time, she does hit some really high notes on occasion, and these sound just as impressive as everything else. One other way in which the vocals differ from many Japanese bands in general (and one thing which I think helps me enjoy the band even more), is where many Japanese bands either sing entirely in Japanese, or use some kind of mix between Japanese and English, Asami sings entirely in English (with one exception on their first EP) and her pronunciations are generally quite good, with her accent being more charming than distracting. Usually when I listen to Japanese metal bands, I have to focus entirely on the music while ignoring the vocals, but with Lovebites, that isn’t the case, as Asami does an excellent job, and I find her vocals to be consistently charming, engaging and at times beautiful.

Obviously, going into this album I knew I loved the band’s overall sound, and so the one area that had even the slightest chance of coming up short was the songwriting, especially given how quickly the band has been working lately. Thankfully, any worries about a rushed release or a lack of strong creative ideas are quickly thrown out the window, as the songs here are just as engaging and as fully fleshed out as anything the band has done in the past. Obviously, the opening of Awaken from Abyss is going to be near impossible to top, but the band sure gave it their best effort here with “Addicted”. The track starts out with some very nice acoustic guitar work for close to a minute, before the full band kicks in and the heavy riffs fire up for the first time. The song moves along at a blazing fast pace and has a very classic Euro power metal feel to it, with fast, driving guitar work, fun verses, and a fast, addictive and very catchy chorus. Obviously, once the solo sections kicks in both guitarists go all out to great effect, and overall it’s an amazing track, which gets the album off to a flying start. Next is “Pledge of the Savior”, which keeps the momentum going. It’s another very fast paced track, with faint traces of those galloping riffs I mentioned earlier. It’s a slightly lighter, more melodic track than the opener, but it still moves at a blazing pace and it still has some great riffs, as well as another super fun chorus, and an excellent instrumental section. The guitar work in between verses is particularly awe inspiring, and overall the song is amazing. The lead single for the album is “Rising”, another very fast paced track, which is the lightest track up to this point, with some absolutely beautiful melodies. It’s the first track here to include some symphonic elements, mostly in the main melody and a bit during the chorus. It stays fast for most of its duration, only slowly down briefly for an epic bridge section, featuring piano work which Miyako says was influenced by the legendary Frederic Chopin, and this combined with Aaami’s vocals, help make for an epic lead in to what is probably the best solo section on the entire album, with Miyako and Midori both going all out and unleashing one stunning solo after another. Overall, it’s an absolute stunner of the track, and so the fact that it probably isn’t even one of my top three favorites here, just goes to show how amazing the album is on the whole!

The first surprise of the album is next, as “Empty Daydream” is one of the lighter songs here, having quite the distinct J-Pop feel to it. It’s a slower track, with some very nice, melodic lead guitar work, and it has slow verses, as well as an extremely light and catchy chorus. It’s one of the softest tracks the band has ever done, and yet it still has some excellent guitar work, especially during the solo section, which is the only point where the track starts to approach their usual heaviness. It’s such a fun and catchy track, though, I can’t help but love it the whole way through.

Fans hoping for more of the band’s heavier side will be quite pleased with the next portion of the album, especially the next three tracks in particular. First is “Mastermind 01”, which has a lead riff that brings the likes of Grave Digger to mind, and it stays quite heavy throughout the verses, while still giving room to a very melodic and catchy choruses. It definitely showcases the band’s heavier side very well, though, with some very hard hitting riffs and another stunning solo section. Next is my personal favorite, “M.D.O”, an absolute killer of a track, which comes charging out of the gate with some very thrashy guitar work during the verses, and it moves at an exhausting pace that doesn’t let up for a second, with a chorus that remains hard hitting, while managing to throw in just a bit of that J-Pop charm, to help make for something absolutely irresistible, and impossibly addictive! The solo section remains very heavy, and is of course amazing as usual. The softest of these three tracks is “Journey to the Other Side”, which still manages to pack in some heavy riffs during the verses, before giving way to a melodic, emotional and absolutely beautiful chorus, where Asami gets to shine. These three tracks all perfectly demonstrate what makes this band so special, as they have a classic metal edge to them, with slight thrash influences, while still staying within Euro power metal territory, as well as mixing in just enough of that distinct Japanese charm to help them stand out from the pack. The fact they have stunning guitar solos to top it all off, is just icing on the cake.

Moving towards the end of the album, “The Final Collision” is slightly lighter than the previous three tracks, and has more a classic Euro power metal sound to it, with more of a focus on keyboards, slight symphonic elements, and another super catchy and very melodic chorus, as well as another excellent solo section, as always. Out of all other Japanese power metal bands I’ve heard, Lovebites come closest to Galneryus in their sound, and while nothing here quite invites that comparison as much as “Under the Red Sky” from Battle Against Damnation, “We the United” is in similar territory, with a slight neoclassical feel to the guitars and keyboards, as well as an overwhelmingly upbeat feel to the main melody and chorus, which of course the aforementioned band is notorious for having. The chorus is the kind of epic, super catchy and uplifting music fans would expect from the scene, and the band delivers it perfectly, while also throwing in some classic heavy metal style riffs at times, as well as yet another stunning solo section. Closing out the album is “Epilogue”, a seven minute ballad which is actually very atypical, both for the band and for ballads in general. It doesn’t really have a chorus, so much as it has a slow buildup during the first two minutes, with Asami leading the way with very soft vocals, accompanied by Miyako’s piano, before slowly giving way to an epic solo section, featuring some absolutely beautiful work from both guitarists, where the music has more feeling to it than any lyrics could possibly convey. This eventually leads to a section with some very powerful and absolutely beautiful vocals from Asami, before again going back to some more amazing solo work. Overall, it’s an absolutely stunning and beautiful track, which closes out the album perfectly.

I was expecting great things from Clockwork Immortality, as Lovebites managed to become one of my favorite bands almost overnight with their previous full length album, and I’m happy to say they have not disappointed me in the least, as this release is every bit as intense, beautiful, super fun and fully fleshed out as anything they’ve done in the past, with the same perfect blend of Euro power metal, classic heavy metal, some slight thrash influences and the kind of J-Pop charm fans of the scene would expect. The band has been working very fast as of late, so you’d think they’ve more than earned a bit of a break at this point, but whenever they put out more new music, I’ll certainly be excited for it, because they have proven themselves to be one of the most promising and most refreshing power metal bands in the world over the past year and a half, and I hope they can continue to do so for many more years to come!

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/01/13/lovebites-clockwork-immortality-review/

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM The End of Chaos

Album · 2019 · Thrash Metal
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Sometimes, knowing little about a band’s past, and their legacy can be a good thing in helping me to enjoy their newer releases without any expectations or preconceived judgments. Such was the case with American thrashers Flotsam and Jetsam when they released their 2016 self-titled release, which served as my introduction to the band. With nothing else to compare it against, I was pleasantly surprised by the energy, intensity, and overall strong songcraft the veterans were able to deliver on what appeared to a comeback album of sorts. I’ve since briefly checked out some of their past works, and suffice to say, their first two albums, Doomsday for the Deceiver and No Place for Disgrace, are considered classics for a reason, being pure, raw thrash at its finest. Unfortunately, things went downhill after that, with some of their later albums incorporating elements of heavy metal and groove metal, with varying success, and between that and constant lineup changes, nothing the band has done since has even come close to matching their first two releases. It wasn’t until 2016, with their aforementioned self-titled release, that the band finally seemed to be back on track, as it was a full on return to their thrash roots while having a more modern and more polished sound. With that release serving as a great introduction to the band, I was excited to see what they would do next, and thankfully their upcoming 13th full-length release, The End of Chaos, is almost upon us, and it’s certainly a treat!

Like its predecessor, The End of Chaos sees the band continuing with a full thrash sound, except that where the previous release still contained faint traces of their heavy and groove metal elements, this one is nothing but pure thrash from start to finish, rarely letting it up or slowing down in the slightest. If anything, it feels even closer to the band’s origins, while still being as polished and having the modernized sound of its predecessor. There are some slight tempo changes on some tracks, and some of them move at a more moderate pace, but for the most part, this is pure straight-forward, speedy and very hard-hitting thrash, with some excellent riffs, great solos, and fun choruses. There are times where the band injects a bit of extra melody into the songs, which is a nice touch, and overall the album strikes a perfect balance between heavy, uncompromising thrash, while still being accessible and having some excellent vocal lines. It has a very “dumb fun” feel to it, with some of the lyrics being pretty silly and kinda dumb, but in a way that works well for the genre. Thrash obviously isn’t known to have particularly well thought out lyrics, and this album is the same, so fans can expect a ton of F-bombs, a strong tough guy attitude, lots of anger, and just overall nonsense, but in a fun way that fits the music quite well. There’s nothing overly complex or experimental here, as it feels like the band just wanted to make a pure thrash album, and in that regard, they sure succeeded, as the album is consistently great and it moves at a fast pace throughout, with one crushing riff after another.

One thing I especially enjoyed on the previous album was the voice of Eric “A.K.” Knutson”, as he has a very deep, very powerful voice with a ton of grit to It, and it fits the music perfectly. He’s certainly changed a lot over the years, as his voice has become much lower and deeper, but he retains the same power and intensity as ever, and he certainly sounds just as great on this release as he did on the previous one. There are bursts where he tries singing a bit higher, and these are the only times on the album where his voice feels a bit strained, as he just can’t quite pull it off convincingly anymore, but aside from that, he does a great job throughout, and his lower register is certainly as awesome as ever.

While I greatly enjoyed the self-titled release, I found it had a couple spots where it dragged just a bit, as it seemed to peak early, lose a bit of momentum and then it got back on track again in time for the end. The End of Chaos doesn’t have that same problem, as while it does get off to an excellent start, once again, it manages to stay very consistent, with its biggest highlights being spread pretty evenly throughout the album. Opener “Prisoner of Time” is certainly one of my favorites, as it starts off with a nice jam session for the first 40 seconds, before going full throttle and never looking back. Once the song gets going, it settles into a nice rhythm, moving at a moderate to slightly high tempo, with the kind of hard-hitting riffs one would expect from the band, before opening up a for a strong, melodic and very catchy chorus, where Eric really shine. Next is “Control”, a faster song with some even harder riffs, where the band masterfully demonstrates their thrash chops. It moves at a relentless pace through its verses, with some especially nasty riffs during the lead into the chorus, which proves to be one of the most melodic and most catchy on the album. It also has a nice solo section in the middle and is a very fun track overall. The first single is “Recover”, a slightly more melodic track, which still moves at a nice pace and has some great riffs during the verses, as well a nice but very brief solo. My only problem with this track is the chorus, which has a nice main melody, but it keeps repeating the same line over and over, and that’s something I don’t quite like, unless it’s on a particularly hard-hitting thrash chorus, which isn’t the case here, as it’s more melodic, and it just gets too repetitive for my tastes. The song is still great, overall, though.

Next is one of my favorites in “Prepare for the Chaos”, another faster-paced track with some particular punishing riffs. It has an excellent lead into its chorus, with some very hard-hitting riffs and some simple but fun vocal lines, before the chorus itself proves to be more melodic and epic. The verses are very fun, with the second in particular being a perfect example of the kind of “dumb fun” lyrics I was talking about, almost falling into guilty pleasure territory, except the music itself is far too great for it to fully earn that description. The momentum keeps up with “Slowly Insane”, a brief but extremely fast and very aggressive track, with some of the best, most classic thrash sounding riffs on the album. It’s a pure thrasher from start to finish and has an excellent extended solo section, where the two guitarists really get to show off their skill. Overall, it’s definitely one of the best tracks on the album. After that is the darker, but still heavy “Architects of Hate”, which moves at a good pace during its intense verses, before slowing down for a darker, more sinister chorus. It’s not as immediately engaging as some of the other tracks here, but it’s still a great track in its own right. The second single of the album is “Demolition Man”, and it’s another one of those very simple, yet fun, pure thrashers, where the lyrics are kinda silly, but in a fun way that works out well. It’s also another example of strong, heavy verses paired with a melodic and very catchy chorus.

Moving towards the end of the album, “Unwelcome Surprise” is my absolute favorite, as it’s a frantic, very heavy and very powerful track, with excellent thrashing riffs, powerful vocals, and a stupidly catchy (and maybe just plain stupid, but awesome) chorus, where Eric constantly proclaims “I bet you didn’t see that one coming”, and no, I probably didn’t, as it’s certainly an awesome and ridiculously fun track. It has excellent verses, a great instrumental section and probably my favorite chorus on the album, just because of how silly, yet fun it is. After such a big highlight, “Snake Eyes” proves to be solid, but not quite up to par with its predecessor. It’s still as fast, hard-hitting track, though, and it has some excellent riffs and is generally a ton of fun to listen to, I just find it doesn’t really stick with me much in between listens. The only other song here I have the same issue with is “Good or Bad”, a song which alternates nicely between slow verses and a fast chorus. I find the verses enjoyable, but the chorus just doesn’t really hit me the way most other songs on the album do, and Eric’s vocals feel just a bit strained compared to normal, so I usually end up forgetting about the track when I’m not listening to it. In between those two is “Survive”, which does not have that problem at all, as it has a somewhat slow, but very melodic and catchy chorus, which proves to be one of the best on the album, as well as some fast, heavy and intense riffs during the verses. Closing out the album is the short but awesome “The End”, another very hard hitting track, which moves at a blazing fast pace during its verses, before giving way to a slow, melodic and very enjoyable chorus. It’s a great track and it closes out the album in strong form.

I may not have much experience with Flotsam and Jetsam, but I certainly enjoyed their previous release a lot, as well as the bursts I’ve heard of their first two, and The End of Chaos is definitely another killer release, featuring just under 50 minutes of pure, hard-hitting thrash from start to finish. It picks up where the self-titled release left off, and if anything it’s even faster paced and more aggressive throughout. If this album is any indication, 2019 could be a great year for thrash, and either way, it proves again that Flotsam and Jetsam still have a lot left in them, so hopefully, they can keep the momentum going for a few more albums yet!

originally written for myglobalmind.com:https://myglobalmind.com/2019/01/06/flotsam-and-jetsam-the-end-of-chaos-review/

SIRENIA Arcane Astral Aeons

Album · 2018 · Gothic Metal
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It’s no secret, I’ve been a big fan of Sirenia mastermind Morten Veland for a very long time, probably well over a decade, at least. When I was first getting back into metal after a long break in the mid-2000’s, Tristania was one of the first bands to impress me, and they introduced me to the whole gothic metal scene. Obviously, Morten left the band shortly after their breakthrough album, Beyond the Veil, and has since gone on to create Sirenia. His current band has gone through many phases, including some ups and downs, but one thing that has always remained true is that Morten Veland has always been a master of his craft, and when it comes to knowing his genre in and out and being able to create some of the best songs possible, while being willing to push his sound further with each release, Morten has never disappointed. While the band had largely been just a female vocalist and Morten himself doing pretty much everything for a long time, they’ve become more of a full band in recent years, with other members being given a bit more room to work with. Obviously, Morten remains the main songwriter and leader of the band, but their previous release, Dim Days of Dolor, felt more like a team effort, and the same can definitely be said for the band’s ninth full-length release, Arcane Astral Aeons. Where its predecessor felt like a great beginning to a new era, Arcane Astral Aeons feels like a full leap forward, combining the best elements of previous releases, while continuing to push things further, especially when it comes to the epic symphonic elements, to create possibly the band’s absolute best release to date!

I mentioned before that Sirenia has gone through many phases, and while part of that was due to frequent changes in vocalist, a lot of it also has to do with the musical direction itself. The first two releases felt like a direct continuation of Morten’s work with Tristania, while The 13th Floor and The Enigma of Life felt much more accessible, even coming close to pop sensibilities, at times. More recently, he’s done a great job of blending aspects of different releases together, and that’s once again true for Arcane Astral Aeons, except this time it feels like he’s made a strong effort to push things even further, to create his most diverse, most epic and possibly best release yet. The previous two releases had already gone pretty far with incorporating epic symphonic elements, with strong orchestral sounds throughout, and at times this release goes even further with that, with choirs and orchestras being used to even greater effect than ever before, to give the music an epic feel, while still maintaining the dark, gothic atmosphere of the past. Keyboards are obviously still very prominent, used largely for atmosphere and to give the music a suitably dark tone, which is done very effectively, as always. At the same time, I notice the presence of guitars very strongly, perhaps even more so than on Dim Days of Dolor, as some of the solos are very melodic and absolutely terrific, and almost every track has some hard-hitting riffs, to help add to the already very full sound.

In fact, this release is quite perplexing at times, in that the songs initially seem straight-forward and are generally very easy to get into, but there’s actually a lot going on at all times, with many different layers to the music, as well as most songs having a ton of different passages, sometimes tempo changes, and quite a few explosive sections that switch between vocal styles. Basically, it’s Morten Veland working at his absolute best, using vocal and music dynamics to constantly surprise the listener, while still writing consistently engaging tracks with very catchy choruses, great riffs, and some outstanding melodies. The overall songwriting is fantastic, as usual, with many songs having some of the lighter, catchier choruses found on some of the more accessible Sirenia albums, except now they’re accompanied by some much more complex arrangement, more interesting verses, and a ton of extra layers and surprises that add up to make the songs more complex and dynamic, just like on all of Morten’s best albums.

As always, vocals are a very important part of why Arcane Astral Aeons works so well. After an impressive debut on the previous album, Emmanuelle Zoldan is even better here, sounding fully at home at this point, and she once again does an excellent job of utilizing her different vocal styles, fluidly switching between epic operatic vocals and lower clean vocals on many tracks. She mostly uses a lower register on this album, which works well and especially helps her clean vocals to stand out, as opposed to the mainly higher pitched vocals used by previous singers. A lot of the time, her vocals have a pop sensibility to them, being very smooth and carrying the melodies flawlessly, but she can get fierce at times and does powerful vocals very well. Her operatic vocals are again used in bursts and help bring a classic Sirenia feel to some tracks, along with Morten’s growls, which are again not used as much here as on older albums, but do show up from time to time, mostly in quick bursts, and they’re still just as powerful and intense as ever. I’d say he shows up slightly more than on the previous album, but perhaps still not as much as some would like. There’s also a ton of choir vocals here, as well as a couple of surprises, and everything is done very well while offering a ton of variety.

One area where I can always count on Morten to deliver is the songwriting, and if anything Arcane Astral Aeons is one of his absolute most consistent releases ever, with every song being nothing short of amazing, while still being quite varied, and each having their own amazing moments, as well as quite a few surprising moments. Opening track “In Styx Embrace” is exactly what one would expect from the band at this point, kicking off with some atmospheric keys and huge choral vocals, before the guitars kick in and it turns into a heavy, epic and upbeat track, enhanced by orchestral arrangements and some excellent operatic vocals from Emmanuelle, as well as quick flurries of growls from Morten, especially during an intense part in the middle of the track, which gives way to a beautiful softer passage, followed by an amazing, very melodic guitar solo. Overall, it’s an amazing track and the perfect way to start the album. Even better than that, though, is the stunning second single “Into the Night”, a full-on speedy symphonic power metal track, with some excellent atmospheric keys giving way to some very intense orchestral arrangements, more choirs, and some fun verses, where Emmanuelle sings more normally, but very smoothly. The chorus is the highlight, though, as it’s an excellent mix of choir vocals and Emmanuelle’s lead vocals, and it manages to be equal parts epic, beautiful and extremely catchy. The song honestly feels closer to classic Nightwish than it does to any Sirenia track, but it’s done so well and still manages to fit the album perfectly. It also has an absolutely stunning solo in the second half, that helps take it to an even higher level. My favorite on the album, and one of my personal favorites from the band, for sure.

Next is the lead single “Love Like Cyanide”, a seemingly simple track which manages to pack in a ton of ideas, all of which work surprisingly well together. The track opens with a brief tease at the very radio friendly, somewhat pop-infused chorus, before the guitars kick in and the track settles into a nice groove, with some great work from the rhythm section, while the biggest surprise of the track comes in the form of some aggressive, but non growled male vocals, performed by Beast in Black vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos, which help add an extra dimension to the track. The chorus is super catchy, and there’s an especially dark, intense growled section in the second half, leading to a complex instrumental section, and so the track manages to fulfill every criteria of what fans would expect from the band, while also throwing in a cool surprise, to help it make it another stellar track. Next is the slightly more typical “Desire”, a more classic sounding track, which has some very eerie, but cool keyboard effects leading the way, along with some very smooth, clean lead vocals. For the most part, it’s a fairly calm mid-paced track, with heavy riffs in bursts, but its biggest surprise comes in the second half, as the music suddenly becomes more theatrical, and the vocals change the style to follow suit. Eventually, Morten’s growls kick in, during a very heavy section, and so once again, the track manages to pack a lot in, while initially seeming simple and having a catchy chorus. This trend continues with “Asphysxia”, a track which starts out with an extended atmospheric softer section, before the guitars kick in and it settles into a nice groove, with heavy guitar work accompanying some creepy atmospheric keys, and some powerful lead vocals, which eventually gives way to an upbeat, super catchy chorus. It’s yet another track where the instrumental arrangements are rather complex and very eventful, filled with little tempo changes, but the vocals manage to be engaging and the chorus is super melodic and catchy, making it both challenging and accessible at the same time, in a kinda warped way.

A more classic Sirenia track follows next, with “Queen of Lies”, the most old school sounding track on the album. It still has some heavy orchestral work, but it’s a more guitar driven track overall, with some heavy riffs and a ton of atmosphere, as well as being the one track where Morten’s sinister growls lead the way, eventually paving the way for an epic, upbeat chorus where Emmanuelle uses some of her best operatic vocals. It’s a very fun and intense track, overall, and is sure to please fans of Morten’s older works. After that is the softest track on the album, “Nos Heures Sombres”, a more mid-paced, very melodic track, which has some bouncy keyboards and it very much would have fit in on The 13th Floor, is a much more accessible track, where Emmanuelle sings in French, her native language. It’s an excellent vocal showcase while being a fun and catchy track as well, with an excellent instrumental section in the second half. As expected, the band follows the softest track up with one of the heavier tracks, as “The Voyage” is a slow but hard-hitting track, filled with some crushing riffs throughout its verses, along with some very powerful, yet beautiful lead vocals, which give way to an excellent, very melodic chorus. This is one of the tracks where the instrumental work is the highlight for me, though, as the guitar work is amazing throughout, especially during the solo section in the second half, as it manages to be equal parts heavy, intense, technical and very beautiful at different points.

Moving towards the end, “Aerodyne” is another lighter track, which moves at a pretty nice pace, and the verses have a nice rhythm to them, as well as some very light, but fun vocals, while the chorus is upbeat and very catchy. It largely feels like a simpler, more accessible track, but it has some interesting passages in the second half, as first there’s a very nice acoustic section, featuring some low clean vocals from former Tristania vocalist Østen Bergøy, and then there’s a very heavy section, with some intense growls. Overall, it’s an excellent track, which again shows the many different sides of Sirenia, all in one go. Next are another fun and upbeat track in “Twilight Hours”, which has some excellent melodic lead guitar work, along with some very epic orchestral arrangements, and some excellent operatic lead vocals. The verses fly by quickly and are a lot of fun, while the chorus is epic and very catchy, again coming close to power metal territory, and the guitar solo in the second half is amazing, as expected. Closing out the album is “Growing Embers”, a slower paced track, which alternates between soft and heavy passages brilliantly. It starts off with a beautiful acoustic section before the choirs, orchestras, and guitars kick in, and it turns into a heavy, epic and very melodic track, where Emmanuelle especially shines during the chorus, with some of her most beautiful and highly emotional clean vocals on the entire album. There are a few surprises, first with a sudden fast-paced, heavy instrumental section coming towards the middle, and then with another slow, but also very heavy section later on, with some of the best riffs on the album, before the track closes off with another run through its amazing chorus. It’s an excellent track overall, and it closes out the album perfectly. There’s an edited version of “Love Like Cyanide” as a bonus track, which I personally never even listened to once, as I find the original is perfect as is, and I generally only listen to edits if I feel there’s any filler that could be cut from the original version, so I have no clue as to any differences between the two versions.

Overall, Arcane Astral Aeons is yet another excellent album from Morten Veland, and it very well may be the best Sirenia album to date! It’s certainly by far the best symphonic/gothic metal album I’ve heard in years, and it manages to deliver everything I could possibly ask for, with a perfect mix between the heavier, darker sound of older albums, along with the lighter, super catchier sound of some of the middle albums, the more complex arrangement of the previous three albums, and even a few surprises along the way. It’s certainly a very diverse and explosive album, with tons of memorable moments throughout, and it shows the band at their absolute best. Obviously, a must hear for longtime fans of Sirenia, as well as anyone looking to hear the absolute best albums in the genre, as this release certainly deserves to be mentioned alongside some of the all-time greats.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/11/04/sirenia-arcane-astral-aeons-review/

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