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Travis Green
MMA Special Collaborator · Power, Symph and Prog Metal Teams
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2128 reviews/ratings
DYNAZTY - Renatus Power Metal | review permalink
DRAGONFORCE - Maximum Overload Power Metal
ADRANA - The Ancient Realms Power Metal
EVERGREY - The Inner Circle Progressive Metal
EVERGREY - In Search of Truth Progressive Metal
BLIND GUARDIAN - Imaginations From the Other Side Power Metal
ANCIENT BARDS - Soulless Child Power Metal
ARMORY - Empyrean Realms Power Metal
SABATON - The Art Of War Power Metal
SABATON - Heroes Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Beyond Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Eternity Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Stairway to Fairyland Power Metal
CIVIL WAR - Saint Patrick's Day Power Metal
XANDRIA - Neverworld's End Power Metal
DARK MOOR - Ancestral Romance Power Metal
DAWN OF DESTINY - Praying to the World Power Metal
DREAMTALE - Epsilon Power Metal
MINDMAZE - Back from the Edge Power Metal
VANDROYA - One Power Metal

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Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 828 3.99
2 Progressive Metal 318 3.88
3 Symphonic Metal 214 3.90
4 Traditional heavy metal 147 3.52
5 Thrash Metal 98 3.68
6 Gothic Metal 90 3.91
7 Folk Metal 69 4.25
8 Melodic Death Metal 63 3.82
9 Hard Rock 41 3.96
10 US Power Metal 35 3.77
11 Alternative Metal 34 3.32
12 Non-Metal 29 3.48
13 Metalcore 25 3.50
14 Death Metal 19 4.00
15 Industrial Metal 17 3.97
16 Metal Related 16 4.06
17 Groove Metal 11 3.05
18 Technical Death Metal 11 4.00
19 Speed Metal 8 3.94
20 Atmospheric Black Metal 8 4.06
21 Doom Metal 6 3.92
22 Symphonic Black Metal 6 4.67
23 NWoBHM 5 4.50
24 Melodic Black Metal 5 4.00
25 Death-Doom Metal 5 3.80
26 Deathcore 4 3.38
27 Glam Metal 4 3.88
28 Nu Metal 4 3.75
29 Avant-garde Metal 3 3.67
30 Black Metal 1 0.50
31 Brutal Death Metal 1 4.50
32 Crossover Thrash 1 3.00
33 Sludge Metal 1 4.00
34 Stoner Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

AMBERIAN DAWN Darkness of Eternity

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
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Finnish symphonic power metal band Amberian Dawn has long been one of my favorites in the genre, but at the same time, I’ve always felt they had potential to be even better than they are if they could just be a bit more consistent with their songwriting quality. They’ve released some excellent albums in the past, to be sure, with 2009’s The Clouds of Northland Thunder, 2011’s Circus Black and 2015’s Innuendo being my personal favorites. However, I find even their best albums always manage to fit in one or two tracks that don’t quite do it for me, as the band often goes for some oddball tracks, some of which deliver big time and end up as major highlights, while others fall flat and end up stalling momentum on their respective albums. I’ve said all this to say, out of every album Amberian Dawn has released so far, Darkness of Eternity, their seventh full-length release, and one I was highly anticipating, is easily their most frustrating, inconsistent release to date, with some tracks that match their career highlights, while others simply feel odd and out of place on a metal album, and it all makes for a release where you can have songs placed together that conflict with each other and are so strikingly different, it feels like you suddenly switched to a different album. With all that being said, the high points of the album are good enough to make it easily worth enduring the low points, and it’s still a quality album overall, but it’s also incredibly frustrating.

Every Amberian Dawn album to date has a had a mix of different styles, ranging from speedy symphonic power metal with excellent guitar riffs and epic keyboard solos, to slower, more theatrical tracks, all while mixing in some classical flavoring throughout. All of this is true on Darkness of Eternity, however, while the speedy power metal portions are still intact on a few tracks here, a couple of which can be considered among the band’s best work to date, I find some of the slower songs here to be a bit off-putting and not really in line with what I want from the band. Obviously, they’ve never been the heaviest, most guitar-driven band in the world, as keyboards and orchestras have always been the most dominant elements of their music, however, some of the tracks here fall into straight up 80’s pop territory. Again, this is something they’ve briefly hinted at on past albums, with “The Court of Mirror Hall” from Innuendo being perhaps the most obvious example, but even a track like that felt more metal and more epic than a few of the tracks on this album. Take, for example, the second track, “Sky Is Falling”, a track dominated by bouncy vocal hooks, cheesy, pop-inspired keyboard lines and a catchy, overly pop-infused chorus. There’s absolutely nothing in that track I consider metal in any form, and even the brief flashes of guitar work sound so light as to have no effect, plus I don’t even notice any symphonic elements at all, effectively making the track feel more like a dance-pop track than anything else. I will admit, it’s a decent track in its own right, but I really don’t think it belongs on a metal album, even coming from a band that tends to stay on the lighter side of the genre most of the time. The song especially feels out of place when coming after such a classic sounding power metal track like “I’m the One”, and it’s the first sign that band leader Tuomas Seppälä is perhaps overreaching a bit in his attempts to be creative and ambitious.

Moving onto the biggest positive element of the album, Capri’s vocals remain as strong as they’ve been since she first took over vocal duties on the excellent re-recordings compilation Re-Evolution in 2013. As always, her voice is very powerful and deeper than many other female vocalists in symphonic bands, and she sounds as impressive as ever, be it during the heavier tracks like “I’m the One” and “Dragonflies”, or the lighter, more pop-infused tracks, all while sounding as varied in her approach as ever. In fact, she briefly does some semi-operatic vocals on “I’m the One”, making it an instant highlight. She’s also very effective on the two ballads, as expected, and her vocals are definitely the band’s biggest strength at this point.

Unfortunately, the area where the album struggles the most is in perhaps the most important area of all, that being the songwriting. The band at least gets things off to an exciting start with “I’m the One”, a very speedy, classic sounding symphonic power metal track with some excellent guitar leads, epic symphonic arrangements, a huge, catchy chorus with awesome operatic vocals, and an amazing keyboard solo. For all the flaws in the songwriting department, the band still displays some great musicianship throughout the album and this track is certainly one of the best examples of that. It’s also extremely catchy, while still sounding metal and it would definitely feel right at home on one of the band’s earlier albums. While that song is probably my personal favorite here, “Dragonflies” isn’t too far behind. It has some pretty heavy guitar work throughout, with a darker feel than many of the other tracks, though Capri’s vocals still help add a lighter tone to the track, and she excels throughout as always. It has incredible instrumental sections, with some very chunky guitar riffs and epic orchestras accompanying an excellent keyboard solo, and of course, the chorus is spectacular as well. From a purely instrumental standpoint, I think this is probably the best track on the album, and I love how the guitar manages to have come excellent neoclassical flavoring while still being very heavy. Also in the speedier category, are“Golden Coins” and “Abyss”, with the former again having a very classic Amberian Dawn vibe throughout, with epic keyboards and some very impressive, classical flavored melodies, while the latter is brief but very fun and perhaps the speediest track on the album, with some more excellent keyboard work and vocals.

On the slower side of things, we start with the previously mentioned “Sky is Falling”. I’ve already mentioned why I’m not so fond of it, with the biggest reason being that it really throws off the pacing, being thrown in there right next to such epic speedy tracks as “I’m the One” and “Dragonflies”. Well, I wish I could say it was one-speed bump and that the album fully recovered afterward, but sadly that would be a lie. Two tracks later, we get lead single “Maybe”, another very pop inspired track, with some cheesy keyboards, bouncy vocal lines, a catchy chorus and a general lack of anything resembling metal. Again, I know the band has done tracks like this in the past, but this feels very pop like even by their standards, and while I do slightly notice symphonic elements on this track, they aren’t enough to prevent it from having an “Abba with guitars” feel, and the thing is, if I wanted to hear dance pop, I’d listen to dance pop, not a symphonic power metal album. Even worse, the track feels like it’s cut off at the end, as the keyboard lines simply fade out instead of actually reaching a conclusion. I’ll admit it’s certainly a catchy and well-written track, but it simply isn’t what I want from the band, and that ending does come across as a bit sloppy.

Moving into the second half, there are two ballads and two tracks which feel like a blend between the two dominant styles on the album. Firstly, “Luna My Darling” is a pretty solid track, starting with an epic vocal section before moving onto some bouncy, pop-infused melodies during the verses, which give way to a slightly heavier, more epic chorus. The highlight of the track is in the second half when the music speeds up and we get epic dueling guitar/keyboard solos. See, if I’m going to get obvious pop elements in my symphonic metal, I prefer it to be done in this way, as at least this track has a nice blend of both pop and power metal, and is a nice track overall. Similarly, “Ghostwoman” is a speedy track, which also has a power metal feel to it, though it sounds a lot bouncier than the other up-tempo tracks on the album, especially during the verses, and even the chorus is pretty pop like as well. It’s a fun track, and the chorus is very catchy, though not really one of my favorites. The highlight is the epic guitar solo in the second half.

Lastly, we have the two ballads which close out the album. Yes, just in case the overall flow of the album wasn’t already completely out of whack, the band decided to end with not one ballad, but two ballads! First is “Breathe Again” which starts out slowly and calmly, serving as an excellent showcase for Capri’s vocals, before the music picks up in the second half, with some epic orchestral arrangements and some heavier guitar work at points. It’s an excellent track overall and probably the better of the two ballads. After that, we have the closing title track, which also happens to be the second part of “Symphony Nr.1”, the epic sequence the band started on Innuendo. Where part 1 was an epic, complex symphonic metal track, with many twists and turns, this track is a pure ballad throughout, with some nice classical piano serving as the main focus, though there are also some nice orchestral elements in the background. Capri does a wonderful job as always, and it’s a nice track overall, but because part 1 was so epic and especially because this one serves as a title track, I was expecting a bit more from the track overall.

And that about sums up my feelings towards Darkness of Eternity on the whole: It’s a nice enough album, which at times has some big standout moments that equal some of the band’s best works, but overall it’s simply a messy, inconsistent album that left me wanting a whole lot more. Power metal fans, in particular, are likely to have mixed feelings, as “I’m the One” and “Dragonflies” are sure to get them excited, while many of the more pop-infused tracks are likely to frustrate them just like they frustrate me, and the overall focus on bouncy keyboards over epic symphonic arrangements on many tracks here is a rather puzzling choice, as is the decision to end an already oddly paced album with two ballads. Overall, longtime fans are sure to find some songs here to be satisfying, but I consider this to be Amberian Dawn’s weakest album to date, and I have a hard time recommending it to my fellow metal fans.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2017/11/12/amberian-dawn-darkness-eternity-review/

BURNING WITCHES Burning Witches

Album · 2017 · Traditional heavy metal
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Classic heavy metal is not a genre I've listened to much in recent years, outside of personal favorites like the legendary Iron Maiden and the last three releases from Dark Forest, but I can still enjoy new releases in the genre from time to time. The latest such release to win me over is the self-titled debut from Swiss all female band Burning Witches. I had listened to a couple songs earlier in the year and was already impressed, but never got around to giving the album a full listen until recently, and I have to say, I'm very glad I did, because this is some enjoyable classic heavy metal, with quite a bit of power metal mixed in, as well as occasional melodic death metal influences.

Stylistically, Burning Witches play a very aggressive, fairly old-school brand of heavy metal for the most part. One can certainly notice similarities to the likes of Judas Priest at times, with many tracks having some rather raw sounding and heavy riffs, and musically I'd say the album is very high energy throughout. There's a nice mix of speedy and mid tempo tracks on the album, and as mentioned above, I hear some power metal elements at times, though this mostly falls on the rougher side of the genre, with some of the riffs reminding me of the likes of Grave Digger and Primal Fear. There are also places where I detect some melodic death metal elements, with some of the guitar work having a more modern and more extreme sound at times, while there are also some occasional harsh vocals, though these are mostly used in quick bursts and are mixed in with clean vocals. I also notice a fairly dark tone to the music on many of the tracks, especially on some of the slower songs, and this helps add extra flavor to the music. Regardless of what kind of song the band is playing, the instrumental work is quite solid throughout, with some very good riffs on every track as well as some nice solo work, and the production is top notch as well.

Vocally, the album is also very strong, with lead vocalist. Seraina Tell proving herself to be a very capable singer. I had actually heard her before with melodic metal band Rizon, but she sounds so different here at times, I never even noticed it was her until I looked it up. I'd say she's definitely improved over the years, though, as her performance here is both much smoother and much more varied than what I remember hearing from her in the past. When she sings normally, she has a very deep and powerful, yet also very smooth voice that especially shines during the choruses and softer moments, though she tends to be pretty animated at times, occasionally mixing in some death growls and classic heavy metal wails. The former are quite good, while the latter took some time for me to get used to, but are done decently enough.

An album can't be considered fully enjoyable if the songs are no good, but thankfully that isn't the case with Burning Witches. Right away, the band brings it with opening track “Black Widow”, a speedy track with some heavy riffs and some very animated screams from Seraina during the verses, though she uses her normal voice during the chorus to bring some melody into the song, and does a great job of it. The guitar solo in the second half is very good, and overall it's an explosive, very fun track that serves as a pretty good indication of what to expect from the album. Next is the self-titled track, another fairly up tempo track with some more classic heavy metal riffs and more slightly over the top vocals, though once again, the chorus is more melodic and quite catchy. There's a slightly sinister tone to the guitar throughout the track, and this carries on throughout much of the album.

Also on the speedier side, “Dark Companion” is the first track on the album where death growls appear, and it has very aggressive riffs, which certainly give a melodic death metal feel, and the mix of clean and harsh vocals is done very nicely, making it an immediately engaging track, and certainly one of the standouts on the album. The melodic death metal riffing continues on “Metal Demons”, another speedy track, though the vocals are clean throughout that track, and the chorus is very melodic and quite catchy. The most traditional power metal track on the album is “Creatures of the Night”, which has slower moments during the verses where the riffs give it more of a heavy metal feel, but the chorus is very speedy and sounds like classic German power metal, while the vocals there are very clear and melodic, and the guitar work is generally very melodic throughout, aside from a couple points. Another speedier track is “Deathlist”, the last of the original tracks, here, and it's another fun track, with a mix of very heavy verses, a melodic chorues, and some nice melodic guitar work at times, and a very nice extended guitar solo in the second half.

On the slower side of things, “Bloody Rose” a hard hitting track, with a very dark tone to the guitar work, and the vocals are very deep and powerful on that track, with one particular repeated phrase coming across as very intense, though the chorus is still nice and melodic, as usual. One song that took me a while to open up to is “We Eat Your Children”, which aside from having an off putting name, also opens with some really over the top wails that initially annoyed me, though I've grown used to them by now. Otherwise, it's a slow and heavy track, with some very punishing riffs, and another pretty solid chorus. It's probably my least favorite song here, but it's still pretty enjoyable. In a similar vein is “Creator of Hell”, probably the slowest out of the heavier songs here, and it has some very mean sounding riffs, as well as some very intense vocals, and the music has a very dark and sinister tone throughout. It's a quality track overall, with a very strong chorus. Lastly, we have “Save Me”, the one ballad on the album. It's a very nice track, with some nice melodic guitar work throughout, that helps set the mood, while Seraina uses her softest vocals of the album during the opening verse, before opening up more as the song goes on, and she gives by far her most powerful and emotional performance of the album on this track, making it an obvious standout. There's also a very memorable guitar solo in the second half, and overall it's definitely one of my favorites on the album.

For the closing track, the band decided to include a cover of the classic Judas Priest track “Jawbreaker”, which proves to be a great fit for their sound. Their version is very faithful to the original, with everything from the main riff to the chorus being instantly recognizable, though I think I actually prefer Seraina's smoother vocals, as well the much more polished production. It's definitely a very strong cover, that doesn't lose any of the intensity of the original.

Overall, Burning Witches is a very strong debut from the Swiss all female band, with a great mix of classic heavy metal and power metal, as well as occasional flashes of melodic death metal. It's a very heavy album, with one exception, and it features strong performances all around, as well some consistently good songwriting. Fans of classic heavy metal are especially recommended to check this out, while power metal fans should also find much of it to be to their liking. I'm definitely looking forward to hearing more from the band in the future.

EASTERN HIGH Garden of Heathens

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
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When thinking of metal bands from Sweden, I generally tend to think of either power metal or melodic death metal, as those two genres seem to be very popular in that country. However, I have heard a few great Swedish progressive metal bands as well, and the latest to attempt to add themselves to that list is Eastern High, a two-man group featuring brothers Ola and Johan Svensson. Both men are veterans of the metal scene, having played together with the melodeath/thrash band Wasted Shells for nine years, before that group disbanded and so the brothers decided to start their own band, called Eastern High in 2016. Earlier this year, they released their debut Garden of Heathens, which is a very promising debut, that should please fans looking for a more modern take on prog.

Before listening to this album for the first time, I had no idea what to expect, having no experience with any previous work from the two members, and knowing very little about the project beforehand, except that it was categorized as prog. Well, as far as the genre goes, Garden of Heathens is a fairly straight-forward album, with no song going past the 6 and a half minute mark, and the arrangements aren’t terribly complex. At the same time, this definitely isn’t the kind of melodic prog bands like Pyramaze are playing either. Instead, this is a very modern sounding kind of prog, with an emphasis on very thick, heavy guitars, atmosphere, and vocal melodies. The tone of the music is very dark and moody throughout, with the guitars often being used for atmosphere, especially during the slower, more vocal driven sections. There’s also occasional speedier sections, as well as parts where the guitars are very heavy and give more of an alternative metal feeling at times, with the vocals only enhancing this feeling. As far as the genre goes, there’s a pretty nice variety of the 8 tracks, with a good balance between more intense tracks, more mid-paced but fairly heavy tracks and a couple of nice ballads.

Perhaps the strongest element of Garden of Heathens is the vocals. Ola Svensson has a very deep voice, which works well when paired with the often dark and atmospheric feel of the guitar work, and he does a great job of alternating between calm and smooth vocals, some very soft vocals on occasion, and getting a bit more intense at times. There’s also a few moments where his vocals take a slightly dark and sinister tone, and every once in a while he throws in some death growls, though those are only used in quick bursts, and aren’t very prominent on the album. They are very effective whenever they appear, though.

The album gets off to a nice start with “Bottled Insanity”, a heavy, mid-paced track which sets the tone nicely and gives listeners a good idea of what to expect from the album. It starts off with some heavy guitar work right away, before slowing down during the verses, and the opening verse does a nice job if introducing the more atmospheric guitar work and darker vocals found throughout the album, while the chorus is nice, if not particularly catchy. There’s a brief section in the middle where the music gets even heavier and some harsh vocals are used, leading into a nice solo. It’s a pretty heavy and moody track overall, with some great guitar work and vocals, and it serves as a strong indicator of what the album, on the whole, is like. Next is “Eyes of Heaven”, which starts off with some heavy riffs before again toning down a bit during the verses, where he got some very deep vocals from Ola. The chorus is the highlight of this track, as the music speeds up and the vocals get a bit more intense, making it one of the more memorable moments of the album. Next is “Evil Inc.”, a speedier track where the duo’s melodeath background comes through, as it’s a very dark yet hard-hitting track which moves at a fast pace, with great riffs, and while the vocals are still mostly clean sung, Ola sings with more intensity than normal throughout, and there are some death growls used in quick bursts. It’s definitely one of the more fun and catchy tracks on the album.

Following perhaps the heaviest song on the album, we get the second softest in “Ghost of the Sea”, which mostly feels like a fairly typical ballad throughout, where the soft guitars are used to set the mood, and add atmosphere to the track, while the vocals are the main focus and are very good as always. It’s a solid song throughout, with a nice chorus and some great vocals, but the highlight is definitely in the second half when the guitars really kick in and the track gets heavier, making for an explosive finish. Next is the title track, which opens with an extended softer section where the moody guitars set the tone for the music get heavier, and this track has a very alternative metal feel to it, with everything from the extra chunky guitars and the vocals. Speaking of which, there are times throughout the album where Ola’s vocals remind me a bit of Corey Taylor and this track is the most obvious example of that, as during the opening verse he sings with a soft but very sinister voice that especially brings to mind the Slipknot track “Vermilion”. It’s a very dark and heavy track throughout, with a nice contrast between heavy verses and a more melodic, subdued chorus. I find the album to be consistently very good, but this track is probably my favorite, due to the different extremes and contrasting tones throughout.

Moving towards the end, we get one of the more progressive tracks in “Clandestine Hunger”. This track has many tempo changes throughout, starting out soft and moody and staying there for a bit, but then later on it starts to get heavier and we get some harsh vocals, and then after that the track speeds up for a while, and the solo section that follows is another one of my favorite moments on the album. After that, the song settles down again until the end. After that is “The Pretender”, another fairly heavy track, which has some great chunky riffs and a nice melodic chorus. It’s another track that has more of alt-metal feel to it and is pretty enjoyable overall. Lastly, we have “Afterglow”, the softest track on the album, and also the longest. It starts off as a mostly acoustic ballad, where the guitars are equal parts relaxing and moody, while Ola’s vocals are deep and smooth as ever. It stays fairly calm throughout, with some epic vocal melodies and nice guitar work, but towards the end, it gets heavier and there’s a really emotional guitar solo right near the end. It’s a great track overall, and a nice way to end the album.

Overall, Garden of Heathens is a very strong debut from Eastern High, which offers some fairly straight-forward and heavy prog, with a focus on chunky riffs, moody tones, and soft, deep vocals. There’s nothing here that blows me away, though the contrasts between soft and heavy passages are nicely done and the occasional sections with death growls are very cool as well. It’s the kind of album that stays consistently engaging throughout, with occasional explosive moments. Recommended for fans of more straight-forward, heavier prog and alternative metal.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2017/10/28/eastern-high-garden-heathens-review/

ELVENKING Secrets of the Magick Grimoire

Album · 2017 · Folk Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Being a huge power metal fan, and someone who likes it equally when in its purest form and when mixed with other genres, one of my absolute favorite genre combinations is power/folk metal, a style which has sadly not been done a lot in recent years, but the best band in the style continues to go strong. Of course, I’m talking about Italian band Elvenking, who stormed onto the scene with their incredible debut Heathenreel in 2001, and they haven’t let up ever since. The band has managed to come up with a very diverse sound while sticking with their two main genres, and they’ve certainly surprised folks throughout their career, sometimes going for a more aggressive, almost metalcore sound, sometimes completely toning down the power metal in favor of pure folk, and sometimes striking a near perfect balance between the two. Their previous release, The Pagan Manifesto felt like their best and most perfectly balanced release to date, serving as a perfect summary of everything the band is capable of, so I had high expectations for their next release. Three and a half years later, they’re back with their ninth full-length album Secrets of the Magick Grimoire, and if its predecessor felt like a mission statement, this release feels like the band continuing to execute that mission to near perfection.

Compared to past releases, Secret of the Magick Grimoire doesn’t feel like a big departure from previous albums. Many times in their career, just when it seemed like their fans had them figured out, Elvenking would manage to surprise them, with no release sounding very similar to the previous release. However, after The Pagan Manifesto managed to be such a perfect blend of everything the band had done before, it really felt like they didn’t have much room to develop their sound further, and so it’s no surprise this album feels like a direct continuation. What this means is, anyone who loved the previous album is almost certainly going to love this album as well, as the band has once again struck the perfect balance between speedy power metal, epic folk melodies, huge choruses, heavy riffs, occasional sections with harsh vocals and huge symphonic arrangements at times. Basically, everything the band has done on previous albums is here in full force and executed just as brilliant as always. I thought the songwriting on The Pagan Manifesto was both extremely varied yet consistently perfect, and aside from a couple tracks in the middle that don’t quite seem up to par with the rest, Secrets of the Magic Grimoire follows suit. There’s a nice mix of more straight-forward power metal, more relaxing tracks that put extra emphasis on the folk elements, tracks that strike a perfect blend between the two, alternating between heavy, fast-paced sections and calmer, more folk-infused sections, and even a couple full symphonic power metal epics where the band dials everything up to 11. As with the previous album, the band has struck a nice balance between having a polished sound, and some excellent musicianship, including some excellent solos, while also having a raw energy to the music, with very high energy performances all around.

Another area where the band has always excelled is the vocals, and of course, Damna is as great here as he’s ever been. As always, he has a unique delivery that sounds a bit rawer and a bit more wild compared to a typical power metal vocalist, and he brings a certain kind of passion and intensity to the songs that fit the music perfectly. He uses some surprisingly deep and creepy sounding vocals on this album at times, as well as the occasional softer vocals, as usual. There’s also the occasional use of harsh vocals. These are very good and are used quite a few times, though they’re often kept in the background, adding extra flavor to the songs without getting in the way of Damna’s always stellar lead vocals.

In the songwriting department, while I wouldn’t quite put this album on the same level as its predecessor, it’s still a consistently satisfying release, with several songs that do reach the masterpiece status of the band’s career high point, while even the couple exceptions are still excellent tracks in their own right, which simply don’t quite blow me away as much as the others. The album gets off to an amazing start with “Invoking the Woodland Spirit”, a track which only clocks in at a little over 6 minutes, but it definitely feels like an epic, as orchestral elements are in full effect, and it’s a very fast-paced, super epic symphonic power metal track with slight folk leanings. It’s definitely on par with some of the band’s absolute best work to date, with the verses being fast-paced and very engaging, while the chorus is absolutely phenomenal, and the guitar solo in the second half is very melodic and very impressive as well. Overall, it’s the kind of track where it feels like the band went all out and delivered one of their absolute best songs to date. Following that incredible opener is the lead single “Draugen’s Maelstrom”, another fairly speedy track, which has an excellent lead guitar melody and again has fun, energetic verses to go along with an insanely catchy chorus, where some death growls are used nicely in support of Damna’s lead vocals, and it makes for a pretty cool effect. The instrumental section gets really speedy and intense and is a definite high point of the album. Overall, another instant winner, and of the band’s best singles, for sure.

Following such an impressive opening, the remainder of the album mostly follows suit, with other early highlights including “The One We Shall Follow”, a slower track with some excellent melodies, more symphonic elements, epic choir vocals and another fantastic chorus, as well as the second single “The Horned Ghost and the Sorcerer”, a mid-paced, folk-infused track which again has some incredible melodies, fun verses and perhaps the catchiest chorus on the album. It definitely brings to mind “Pagan Revolution” from the previous album and is almost as fun and catchy as that song, with the folk melodies perhaps being even better than on that track, and it’s definitely another excellent choice for a single. It has an excellent softer section in the middle where the band uses some tribal drums as well as some epic acoustic folk instrumentation for a bit, and it’s definitely one of the highlights of the album. After those two, we have “A Grain of Truth” a track which has some slower paced, heavier verses, mixes with a speedy chorus where the harsh vocals lead the way. I think the excellent, melodic pre-chorus section is my favorite part of this track, though the chorus is nice as well, and overall it’s one of those tracks that doesn’t quite impress me as much as some of the best on the album, but it’s still very good overall. Rounding out the first half is “The Wolves Will Be Howling Your Name”, a track which blends power and folk metal elements seamlessly and is a fantastic track. It starts off with some epic folk elements and has a nice use of violins throughout. The verses alternate between slow and speedy passages, while the chorus is slow and calm, with some of Damna’s best vocals on the album. The track has some amazing folk melodies throughout and is definitely another highlight.

The second half begins with two very good, but not quite outstanding tracks in “3 Ways to Magick” and “Straight Inside Your Winter”. The former again has a nice blend of power and folk elements and the chorus is amazing, but it feels like it loses focus at times, trying to fit a bit too much into it’s 4 and a half minute runtime, so it ends up not being as memorable as some of the other tracks on the album, while the latter is the slowest full-length song on the album and it has some nice folk melodies and a nice chorus, but it simply doesn’t quite reach the heights many of the other songs reach.

The remainder of the second half, though is perfect and very much represents some of the best music found on the album. First up is “The Voynich Manuscript”, a near 6 and a half minute track, which has a perfect blend between speedy power metal passages and calm folk passages, as well as one of the best choruses on the album, some of the most energetic and exciting verses, and a ton of memorable moments. The music gets darker and more epic in the second half, and from there the song just gets insanely good, with the ending sequence having some of the best harsh vocals on the entire album. Next is “Summon the Dawnlight”, the shortest and most relaxed of the final three full songs, though it’s still fairly fast paced and has some excellent lead guitar melodies and some verses which, while not overly speedy, move along at a nice enough pace and are very fun, while the chorus is simply fantastic as always, and the instrumental section is perhaps the best on the album. The last full song is “At the Courst of the Wild Hunt”, which starts off with a very folk-infused section, featuring some dark and kinda creepy vocals, performed by guest Snowy Shaw, before the track speeds up and turns into another very epic, symphonic power metal track, with another excellent chorus, extremely energetic verses, an amazing middle section where the folk elements appear again, and some nice surprises in the second half. It definitely feels like the band packed a lot into this track, but everything works perfectly and it’s up there with “Invoking the Woodland Spirit” as one of my two favorite songs on the album. Lastly, we have “A Cloak of Dusk”, an acoustic outro which features some nice violin melodies, as well as some of the softest vocals ever performed by Damna. It’s a nice little track which ends the album effectively.

Overall, Secrets of the Magic Grimoire is another outstanding album from Elvenking, which builds off the momentum they gained from their career high point The Pagan Manifesto, and at times even reaches the same level of perfection. I wouldn’t quite put it on the same level as that release on the whole, but it has its moments for sure, and overall it’s another fantastic blend of power and folk metal, with occasional symphonic elements and harsh vocals, as usual. Fans of past Elvenking albums are sure to enjoy this one, especially those who loved the previous release, while anyone looking for a nice blend of power, folk and symphonic metal is highly recommended to give this album a try.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2017/11/01/elvenking-secrets-magic-grimoire-review/

BEAST IN BLACK Berserker

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
It’s always interesting to see what happens when an important songwriter for a well-established band suddenly splits up with his bandmates and goes his own way. In such a scenario, it’s interesting both to see what direction the remaining members will take with their sound, and also see what the departing member will do with any future projects. The latest case of this happening is with Anton Kabanen, main songwriter of Finnish heavy/power metal band Battle Beast for their first three albums. After having disagreements with his bandmates over which musical direction to take, following their third release, Unholy Savior, he left the band to pursue his own vision, while the remaining members decided to keet the band going. Two years later, Battle Beast has already released Bringer of Pain, their first album without Anton, and it proved to be a solid release that took the band in a catchier, more melodic direction, while Anton has started his own band Beast in Black, who is now set to release their debut, Berserker, in early November. I had high expectations for this album, as Unholy Savior is my favorite Battle Beast album to date, and I’d been waiting to see what Anton would do next. I’m happy to report, Berserker does not disappoint in the least, and manages to both continue with the sound established on Unholy Savior, while also continue to explore new territory, sometimes going in shocking directions, but somehow managing to make all of it work.

Anton’s songwriting has evolved quite a bit over the years, as Steel, the debut from Battle Beast, was largely an old school heavy metal album, where the guitars dominated and keyboards were very minor, but with the self-titled sophomore release, and especially with Unholy Savior, he started branching off into different sounds, adding in a ton of keyboards on the latter album especially, while also including more power metal influences, as well as some oddballs, like the surprising 80’s synth pop-infused track “Touch in the Night”. I was interested to see what direction he’d take with Berserker, with it being the beginning of a new band and all, but in the end it’s turned out to be a mostly logical continuation of what he had been doing in recent years, continuing to add in power metal elements as well exploring new sounds, sometimes going even further into pop territory than he had previously, all while writing some of the catchiest songs he has ever written. It really shows how much his songwriting has changed in just six years, because where Steel was very much a guitar driven album, Berseker still has moments where the guitars take over, but they’re largely more in the background, with the keyboards leading the way a lot of time. In fact, anyone who was turned off by the extensive use of keyboards on Unholy Savior is likely to be driven mad by this release, as the keyboards completely run wild most of the time, often teetering the line between extremely epic and incredibly cheesy 80’s style synths, but I find they’re used very effectively throughout the album and help add to the catchiness and wild fun of the songs. This is indeed, the catchiest and most melodic album Anton has written by far, and it’s also easily his most varied release, with everything from mid-tempo heavy metal, to slower melodic metal, speedy power metal tracks, a ballad and one rather surprising track which I’ll describe in greater detail later. For only having 10 tracks, Berserker certainly never fails to surprise, and yet perhaps the most surprising thing of all is how well everything works, with every song being entertaining in its own way.

One crucial aspect of this release is the vocals, and this is where Anton has made his biggest change, switching from female to male vocals, turning to Wardrum vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos, who has proven himself to have an incredibly wide range on this release. He manages to hit some incredibly high notes throughout, using everything from heavy metal wails to the kind of softer, pop-ish vocals current Battle Beast singer Noora Louhimo often uses, and he manages to emulate the latter with surprising effectiveness. He also gets to use some much deeper grunts at times, and some rather deep and powerful lower notes, as well as some extremely animated classic metal vocals. In short, when it comes to powerhouse vocals, he pretty much does it all on this album. Yet, on the rare occasions where he’s asked to sing more softly, he also manages to deliver there as well, especially on the closing ballad “Ghost in the Rain”, where he displays some excellent singing ability, while also putting in a very emotional performance. All in all, this is the kind of breakout performance that should really make listeners take notice of his talents, and throughout the album, he manages to enhance some already excellent songs.

Which brings me to arguably the most important aspect of any release, that being the songwriting. The album gets off to an excellent start with the self-titled track, which starts off with some great guitar work and wild screams, before the track speeds up and Yannis dominates with some deep grunts throughout the verses, which he then turns into some wild heavy metal wails during the chorus. Right away, he sets a strong impression, delivering some wildly entertaining vocals throughout the track, while musically the song is fairly up-tempo and is definitely one of the heavier tracks on the album, though keyboards and symphonic elements are still present. It’s an extremely catchy, wildly fun track that gets the album off to an excellent start. Next is the lead single “Blind and Frozen”, which for many fans was their first chance to hear the band, and it certainly sets a strong impression. It opens with some very cheesy keyboards before the lead guitars take over and it settles into a nice mid-paced groove throughout the verses. Right away, the song shows how keyboard driven the album will be, with some very cheesy but awesome 80’s sounding synths, which dominate the verses, while Yannis opens the track with some very soft, almost feminine sounding vocals, before opening up and going all out during the chorus, where he really showcases his talents. As expected, the chorus is extremely fun and catchy and is definitely one of the highlights of the album. But for me, the best part of the track is the instrumental section, which starts off with a nice guitar solo, before we get an extended synth solo where the synth has a very 80’s sound and is definitely cheesy, but very epic and brings a smile to my face every time. Towards the end of the track, we get the first signs of Yannis’ soft lower register, leading into the final run through the chorus. All in all, while the rest of the album is excellent, this track is for sure my favorite and is probably my absolute favorite song Anton has ever written.

After that, we get our first softer song in the album, with “Blood of a Lion”, a slower, keyboard-driven melodic metal track. I was initially thrown off by the sudden switch from more upbeat territory to something this calm and slow, but over time the track has grown on me, as Yannis uses some very effective soft vocals during the verses, while opening up with wilder vocals during the chorus, where the guitars kick in and the melodies are fantastic and very epic. The song gets heavier as it goes on, with guitars showing up during the second verse, though it’s still a fairly calm and melodic track overall, with the catchy chorus being its strong point. Next is “Born Again”, another softer track where the keyboards are even more dominant, and again while the verses are fun enough, it’s the chorus where the song really takes off, with Yannis going all out with over the top screams, which are extremely epic and greatly enhance an already fun and catchy track. One last track that falls into melodic metal territory is “Eternal Fire”, where the triumphant sounding keys give a very Sabaton feel, and it’s a very fun and upbeat track, which moves at a slightly faster pace than the other two tracks mentioned in this paragraph, but it’s still fairly mid-paced and very melodic, with an extremely catchy main synth line as well as an excellent chorus, where Yannis really shines. There’s also a nice guitar solo in the second half, but overall the keyboards are the highlight of the track, and the song has some incredible melodies all around, making it another one of my favorites.

Fans of speedy power metal have a few tracks to look forward to, the most obvious of those being “Zodd the Immortal”, a very speedy, hard-hitting track with some slightly thrashy guitar riffs. This is the one song on the album where I barely notice a keyboard presence, as instead, it’s very heavy and guitar driven, and it’s a fairly straight-forward but catchy power metal track, with great vocals, a solid chorus, and a nice guitar solo. It definitely feels like it would have fit in perfectly on Unholy Savior, though here it serves as a nice change of pace after a pair of slower songs. Right after that track is “The Fifth Angel”, another track which would have fit in great on Unholy Savior, with a nice blend of heavy guitars and cheesy, melodic keyboards. It’s another upbeat track with a very fun and catchy chorus, as well as probably the best guitar solo on the album. Lastly, “End of the World” is the most keyboard driven of the faster songs here, with an excellent main synth line, similar to “Eternal Fire”, except it’s a much faster track, and it does have some heavy guitar work during the verses, while Yannis is wild and awesome as always during the chorus, which is very catchy and fun as usual. Out of this group of tracks, this one is probably my favorite, since it comes the closest to the overall feel of the album, while still being very fast paced.

Finally, we have two more tracks to talk about, one being a ballad, the other being a total oddity. First up, closing ballad “Ghost in the Rain” is a very nice track which uses keyboards and soft guitars throughout to set the mood, while Yannis uses his softest vocals on the album, expertly switching from high to low notes, and he puts in a ton of emotion, making for an incredible performance that takes what could have been a fairly bland song and makes it an instant highlight. There’s a nice guitar solo in the middle, but it’s the vocals that drive the track, with the final run through the chorus, in particular, being absolutely stunning. Last, and not least, but certainly weird, we have “Crazy, Mad, Insane”, and I could see some fans thinking Anton must have been all of those things in order to write this track, as it’s certainly the last thing anyone would expect from him! Basically, it uses heavy electronic effects, some very cheesy sounding keyboards and dance rhythms throughout, while also using robot voices in the background at a couple key points, as well as using the kind of drums you’d be more likely to hear on a dance album than a metal album. In short, I’d best describe the track as some kind of hybrid between electropop rhythms and techno beats, which is just about the last thing anyone would normally want on a metal album, and yet somehow it works out brilliantly, with the chorus, in particular, being stupidly fun and catchy, and even the techno elements are used so effectively it all just kinda works, in a weird, warped way.

Overall, Berserker is an extremely fun and varied debut, which expertly blends together elements of heavy metal, power metal, melodic metal, and even techno, and it very much continues along the lines of Anton’s work with Battle Beast, while at times going in new and surprising directions. It’s the kind of album where some tracks are sure to turn off certain people, but everything is done extremely well, and it’s certainly going to appeal to a wide audience, just due to how incredibly varied the songs are. As a fan of Anton’s work over the years, I’d say this might be his best album to date, and fans of his should definitely be excited for Beast in Black. Highly recommended for fans of the first three Battle Beast albums, as well fans of heavy metal, power metal and anyone looking for a fun album with a wide mix of elements that all somehow come together in a weird way.

originally written for myglobalmind.com (https://myglobalmind.com/2017/10/25/beast-black-berserker-review/)

Latest Forum Topic Posts

  • Posted 1 day ago in Reviewer's Challenge Xmas/New Year Sign-Ups
    Devil Electric looks good, yeah. Looks like another band along the lines of Blood Ceremony and Avatarium on their latest album, which I tend to like. Which gives me at least two albums to work with, which I'll either pick between or do both. Also, do you have any deadline in mind for this? Because I want to get at least one more promo review before the years ends, so I wouldn't be putting any serious work on a challenge review for another week or so, at the very least.
  • Posted 1 day ago in Reviewer's Challenge Xmas/New Year Sign-Ups
    After a brief sampling, I can confidently say Godflesh and Saturndust are both definitely out (I can't stand the vocals on either for more than a few seconds, lol) but Vinsta looks promising, so I can definitely review it. As I mentioned before, I'll also probably review one of my selections if they don't get used, which right now only Rage has been selected via randomizer. 
  • Posted 4 days ago in Reviewer's Challenge Xmas/New Year Sign-Ups
    I'm in.As for album suggestions:Bare Infinity - The Butterfly Raiser (No reviews yet, and I'm the only one rating it. Is on Spotify, at least for me.)Keldian - Darkness and Light (No reviews yet, and it's on Spotify, at least for me.)Persefone - Aathma (Is on Spotify, at least for me, and I'm currently the only one reviewing it.)Rage - Seasons of the Black (No reviews yet, and I know for sure it's on Spotify, at least for me.)I'll stop there, to allow for more variety. I've actually come close to reviewing all three of those (aside from Persefone, which I did review) so I'd definitely be willing to do any of them as part of the challenge, as well as one other album, if no one else does them.

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