DippoMagoo

Travis Green
MMA Special Collaborator · Power, Symph and Prog Metal Teams
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2053 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 - Primo Victoria Power Metal
SABATON - The Art Of War Power Metal
SABATON - Carolus Rex 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
POWER QUEST - Blood Alliance Power Metal
DARK MOOR - Ancestral Romance Power Metal
DAWN OF DESTINY - Praying to the World Power Metal

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 807 4.00
2 Progressive Metal 301 3.90
3 Symphonic Metal 206 3.90
4 Traditional heavy metal 141 3.50
5 Thrash Metal 96 3.69
6 Gothic Metal 89 3.90
7 Folk Metal 65 4.23
8 Melodic Death Metal 61 3.82
9 Hard Rock 42 4.00
10 US Power Metal 36 3.81
11 Alternative Metal 32 3.34
12 Non-Metal 29 3.48
13 Metalcore 22 3.55
14 Death Metal 19 4.00
15 Metal Related 16 4.03
16 Industrial Metal 13 4.12
17 Technical Death Metal 10 4.10
18 Groove Metal 9 3.00
19 Doom Metal 6 3.92
20 Atmospheric Black Metal 6 4.17
21 Speed Metal 6 3.92
22 Symphonic Black Metal 6 4.67
23 NWoBHM 5 4.50
24 Death-Doom Metal 5 3.80
25 Melodic Black Metal 5 4.00
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 2 2.50
31 Brutal Death Metal 1 4.50
32 Crossover Thrash 1 3.00
33 Sludge Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

BROTHERS OF METAL Prophecy of Ragnarök

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
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Vikings and metal tend to go together very well, and the idea of combining the two has obviously been made popular by the likes of Swedish melodic death metal band Amon Amarth and German power metal band Rebellion, and now a new challenger has arrived to prove themselves worthy of fighting for Odin. That band is Brothers of Metal, from Sweden, and they have unleashed their debut Prophecy of Ragnarok, which is not only an incredibly addictive power metal album, with varying influences from other genres and a ton of different exciting elements, but it also happens to be perhaps the very best Viking themed metal album I’ve ever heard, as the band takes familiar ideas and mashes them together perfectly, while also managing to create their own distinct sound that really has to be heard.

On the surface, comparisons to Sabaton are pretty obvious, as the band puts the same emphasis on anthem like choruses, huge symphonic elements, including the use of epic backing vocals at times, and their songwriting is insanely catchy and often does feel similar to the aforementioned band. At the same time, while the main concept is themed around Vikings, lyrical comparisons can also be drawn to Manowar, particularly when it comes to the kind of true metal attitude the band often displays, which can at times come across as a bit cheesy, but the band displays so much energy that one can’t help but smile and have a great time through it all. One thing that separates Brothers of Metal from either band, though, is the use of folk elements, which are quite prominent and are used very effectively. At times this comes through the simple use of epic folk melodies in the guitar work, but there are also many sections where folk instruments come in and take over for a while, and these sections are pretty epic. On a compositional level, this is an outstanding album, as there’s a ton of variety in the songwriting, ranging from epic fast paced tracks, to more mid paced crushers, slow and melodic tracks, ballads, and songs which aren’t overly fast, but move at a pretty decent pace and include folk elements. One last thing that has to be mentioned is just how confident this band seems already, as everything from the guitar riffs, to the vocal lines to the way symphonic and folk elements are used even to the simple things like how the drum beats sound, all exude confidence, and it really feels like that band know exactly what they want to do with every song, and they’ve done it perfectly, which is truly impressive for a band on their first album.

For everything this album does right, the one area where I’m most impressed has to be the vocals. There are three vocalists in the band, but they’re used much differently than in a band like Amaranthe. Instead of three leads, we have Mats Nilsson providing some epic backing vocals at points, as well as doing various vocal effects throughout, which is pretty epic, while the other two vocalists carry the bulk of the load. First up, Joakim Lindbäck Eriksson has a gruff and very deep voice that certainly reminds me of Sabaton’s Joakim Brodén, though he often sounds a lot wilder and more intense, almost coming close to a growl at times, and his delivery is generally quite fiery and very energetic. His co-lead is Ylva Eriksson, who has a very powerful voice and often stays in an alto range throughout the album, though she can go higher at times as well, as she provides some epic soaring vocals throughout and does a great job of bringing out the melodies in the songs. Vocal duties are split very evenly between the two, with many sequences letting one take the lead for a bit, then letting the other singer take over, and there are also many parts, especially during the choruses, where the two sing in harmony and these are generally the best parts on the album, as while they’re both excellent on their own, they sound incredible when paired together. In fact, while many bands in recent years have utilized dual lead vocals, I think this pairing may be my favorite of all, they sound that impressive together.

The album gets off to an excellent start with the exciting opener “Death of the God of Light”, a track which opens up with some epic folk melodies and moves along at a pretty quick pace, while having some great riffs and an excellent chorus, which showcases the two lead singers very nicely. It’s a very fun, extremely catchy song that serves as a great introduction the band’s sound. Next is the slower, heavier “Son of Odin”, which opens with a brief voiceover, before the guitars kick in and it turns into a slow moving, but still very epic track with another excellent chorus and has a cool vocal section in the middle where the folk elements take over, and we get some epic backing vocals. One thing I really like about this track is that the drums are made to sound like a blacksmith’s hammer, which is a pretty cool effect.

Songwriting is clearly a big strength of this band, as every song here is outstanding, and offers a ton of variety for listeners. Fan looking for some speedy power metal have a ton to look forward to, starting with the epic title track. This track is one of the fastest paced songs on the album, and has excellent verses, with great riffs and great alternating vocals between the two leads, and of course, the chorus is super catchy as always and includes some cool gang vocals. The section near the end is also epic and uses narration quite effectively. In fact, while the album does have some occasional narration, especially on the brief interlude track “Concerning Norns”, it blends in nicely and is used seldom enough that it never because distracting, but instead adds extra flavor. Moving on, “Siblings of Metal” is another super fun speedy track which has an epic choral section at the beginning, before speeding up and becomes one of the most epic tracks on the album, with one of the most addicting choruses. Right after that is “Gods of War”, another speedy track which slows down for its epic symphonic infused chorus, but also stays epic throughout. Perhaps my favorite of the faster songs is “Sleipnir”, a track which stays heavy throughout its verses, with some very powerful near growls from Joakim, and then it speeds up as Ylva takes over and provides some epic soaring vocals for the chorus.

On the slower side, “Yggdrasil” is an amazing ballad, which has some subtle folk elements throughout, and it’s a very enjoyable track overall, and has a nice vocal section towards the end, but it’s the chorus that really stands out, as the two leads harmonize together so wonderfully and it is just an absolute treat to hear. There’s also a really nice guitar solo in the middle, which leads into the epic vocal section later on. As amazing as the rest of the album is, this may actually be my favorite, though it’s tough to tell as I could make that claim for basically any song on the album. Similarly, “Freya” is a fairly slow and laid back track, which has enough heavy sections that I wouldn’t call it a full on ballad, though it’s certainly on the softer side and Ylva provides some very beautiful vocals throughout the verses, while Joakim comes in during the chorus as usual, and it’s another folk influenced track, with some symphonic elements as well. Lastly, closing track “We Believe in Metal” is another fairly soft track, which has yet another epic and super addictive chorus, as well as an excellent guitar solo. It’s a very upbeat track and certainly ends the album in a great way.

In the realm of not overly fast but also not particularly slow, we have songs like “Tyr”, “The Mead Song”and “Fire, Blood and Steel”, which move along at a decent pace and are all pretty hard hitting tracks, while still providing the same epic vocal harmonies and great choruses as usual, with “The Mead Song” in particular being a very silly track with strong folk elements throughout, and it has an especially epic section in the middle where the folk elements really take over. One more heavily folk influenced track is “Defenders of Valhalla”, which opens up with a nice folk section and moves along at a pretty nice pace, while once again providing an insanely epic sing along chorus, complete with excellent harmonies from the two leads and some super epic backing vocals. This track is perhaps the catchiest and most fun track on the entire album.

For a debut, Prophecy of Ragnarok is an absolutely stunning achievement, as it provides an extremely entertaining mix of power, folk symphonic and heavy metal with a wide variety of insanely catchy songs, as well as introducing an excellent vocal duo that instantly impresses, all while delivering an epic Viking themed concept. Fans of Sabaton, in particular, should find a lot to enjoy here, but I’d highly recommend this album for any fan of power metal or just epic Viking themed metal in general, as there’s enough variety here that it should please a wide group of metal fans. Brothers of Metal have certainly stormed onto the scene with an impressive debut, and I really hope they catch on and have the success they deserve because this is definitely one of the most fun and instantly satisfying metal albums released in 2017 so far.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/07/22/brothers-metal-prophecy-ragnarok-review/

ANTHRIEL Transcendence

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
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As a reviewer, it’s generally best not to overdo it when making comparisons between bands, but sometimes a band will come along that wears their influences so clearly on their sleeves, that such comparisons are unavoidable. In the case of Finnish progressive metal band Anthriel, one only needs to hear brief samples of their music to know they were clearly influenced by Symphony X, particularly the more neoclassical flavored sound they had going on classics such as The Divine Wings of Tragedy and V: The New Mythology Suite. This was obvious on their 2010 debut The Pathway, an album that didn’t get a lot of attention but was largely praised by fans of the genre who heard it, and now on their highly anticipated sophomore effort, Transcendence, this influence is only all the more obvious. However, just because the band uses a familiar sound, that doesn’t mean they can’t deliver their own take on it and do something hugely impressive, which is exactly what Anthriel have done. Just as on The Pathway, they have taken a sound that worked well in the past and have put their own stamp on it, making easily one of the best prog albums of the year.

As on their debut, Anthriel has delivered the mix of prog, neoclassical, symphonic and power metal elements one would expect from a Symphony X album, and they’ve also included two epic length tracks, something the latter hasn’t done so much recently. At a first glance, Transcendence may seem like more of the same, but in reality, it actually has a much different feel from its predecessor. Where The Pathway generally leaned towards the softer, more melodic side of their influence, with even some prog rock elements at times, Transcendence is definitely a much darker, harder hitting album. If anything, I’d say this album feels like what could have happened if Symphony X had evolved into the heavier sound of their later albums a bit more naturally, while keeping the neoclassical elements in, as well as continuing to use longer compositions. Basically, where The Pathway leaned fully towards the old, Transcendence almost feels like it gives listeners a welcome middle ground, combining the best elements of both eras, while still being distinct enough to feel like its own work and not just a copycat.

Either way, you look at it, Anthriel are definitely top notch musicians, with the guitar work, in particular, being out of this world good at times, with some incredible solo work and complex, yet hard hitting riffs, as well as tons of neoclassical flavored guitar work. Of course, the use of keyboards and symphonic elements for atmosphere is also quite prominent in their music, and the softer sections are still as impressive as on the debut, even if they aren’t quite as frequent this time around. In the songwriting department, everything is excellent, with a nice mix between more straightforward and speedier tracks, as well as more epic, drawn out compositions with varied tempos, as fans would expect.

One element of the band that really stands out for me in a positive way is the vocals. Simo Silvan definitely has the kind of gruff and powerful voice needed to deliver the songs, but I find his voice is a lot deeper than most prog or power metal singers, and he goes especially low on various sections of this album, sounding quite impressive. Some of his more powerful vocals come from these deeper sections, on tracks such as “Oath of Darkness” and “Rhapsody of Fire”. At the same time, he can certainly deliver higher, soaring vocals on the choruses as well, and does an equally impressive job during these sections. He’s able to vary his approach expertly to fit in with both the heavier and more melodic passages on the album, and his vocals are always a definite highlight.

The album gets off to an interesting start, with the intro track “The Calling” mostly using acoustic guitars and keyboards, and the vocals on this track are much softer than they are anywhere else on the album. It feels a bit weird to have a light sounding track leading into something as heavy as “Under Burning Skies”, and initially it felt off putting, but over time it has grown on me, and it does its job of serving as a nice intro. Speaking of “Under Burning Skies”, though, that track is an excellent opener, with an immediately recognizable guitar sound and lead riffs that should sound familiar to many listeners, with epic keyboards used in the background. As the song gets going, it moves along at a fairly brisk pace, speeding up for its epic chorus, which showcases Simo’s talents greatly, and then there’s a nice softer section in the second half. It’s one of the more straightforward tracks on the album, but it serves as a great introduction to the heavier sound the band has gone for this time around.

Next is the first of two epics, the 11-minute mammoth “Oath of Darkness”. This track opens up with a fairly soft and atmospheric instrumental section, but it doesn’t take long for it to get heavy, and once it does it goes full force. The verses here are extremely intense, with Simo using his deepest and most powerful vocals, almost coming close to death growls at points, and these sections are very dark and super epic. Eventually, this gives way to a huge chorus, where Simo again shines, and then as the song moves on we get some epic instrumental sections before the song slows down and we get an extended softer section, with some very beautiful guitar work. Eventually, the vocals come back in, and this leads into an incredibly epic finale. This track may take a couple listens to open up, but once it does it’s an incredible track and definitely one of the best prog compositions I’ve heard in recent years.

The next few songs are a bit more straightforward, though there’s still some interesting stuff going on through each of them. First up, “Siren’s Song” is another more atmospheric track, with some very nice sounding keyboards and it definitely has a strong classic Symphony X feel throughout, leaning towards the more melodic side of this album. It moves along at a nice pace and has one of the best choruses on the album, and it serves as a nice change of pace because while the guitar work is still great, especially during the solo section, it’s the keyboards that really dominate and steal the show on this track. The most neoclassical flavored track is next, in “Painted Shadows”, where the guitars and keyboards have a very classical feeling to them throughout, as well as the symphonic elements being more prominent than normal, and this is definitely the fastest paced track on the album, with some strong power metal influences. It’s also one of the heaviest tracks and certainly one where the guitars dominate, with some excellent riffs, though there’s an outstanding keyboard solo in the middle and the chorus is outstanding as well, as is the epic vocal section that comes near the end. Simply put, this track is one of the absolute best on the album. Next is “Rhapsody of Fire”, and despite its name, it isn’t really a power metal track or even all that symphonic. It’s a more mid paced track, and again the guitars dominate, with excellent riffs and an absolutely stunning solo section in the second half, and I think this track has probably my favorite chorus on the whole album, with Simo delivering epic soaring vocals. The second half of this track is simply incredible, and enough to make it my absolute favorite on the album, even though there isn’t a single less than excellent track here. Next is yet another instant favorite in “My Dark Morning Star”, another heavier track which stays fairly slow and subdued throughout, though it has a speedy and very catchy chorus, as well as yet another amazing solo section.

Last up, we have the massive 19-minute epic closing track “Fallen Souls”. This track is very slow building, with a ton of extended softer sections throughout, as well as some very lengthy instrumental sections. It moves at a fairly slow pace throughout, though it does have a few tempo changes in the middle and it does get pretty intense at points. The vocals are once again a highlight, as Simo delivers some very epic vocals throughout, and does a great job of varying his approach as always. As the name would suggest, it’s a dark and very atmospheric track, with some of the riffs even having a slightly sinister feel to them and the keyboards are used very effectively to add a creepy feel, while even some of the solo sections feel a bit sad and are of course brilliantly done as always. It’s one of the more challenging and less immediately engaging tracks for sure, but it’s a very well written track that gives the album the grand finale it deserves.

Anthriel fans had to wait almost seven years for a follow up to their excellent debut The Pathway. But at last Transcendence has arrived and it is an absolutely brilliant album for sure, providing some of the best prog metal to be released in the last few years. It continues along the same path as its predecessor, while a delivering a darker and heavier sound, that is sure to please fans of early Symphony X in particular. For fans of that band, this album is an absolute must hear, and I’d also highly recommend it to any fan of prog, power and neoclassical metal, as it expertly blends all those elements together for an incredible album that I would even say is a big improvement over the band’s already impressive debut.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/07/16/anthriel-transcendence-review/

DARKTRIBE The Modern Age

Album · 2015 · Power Metal
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Back in 2012 I reviewed an album called Mysticeti Victoria, the debut from French power metal band Darktribe. I remember being very torn about it at time, instantly impressed by the strong instrumental work and overall sound, but also a bit disappointed and frustrated, mostly due to the weak vocals and inconsistent songwriting. Nonetheless, I was excited when I discovered they had a new album coming out this year, titled The Modern Age, even more excited when I received my review copy, and that excitement had only grown by the end of my first listen, because this time around the band has taken a huge step forward, and delivered one of the most enjoyable power metal albums of the year.

The overall style of the album remains similar, though with subtle changes to the sound to improve things further. Like the debut, The Modern Age is for the most part a traditional European power metal album, filled with speedy songs, catchy melodies, and some extremely happy sounding choruses, though this time around the band has decreased the symphonic elements and instead replaced them with some very modern, at times electronic sounding keyboards. This is most noticeable in the surprisingly strong intro track “Humanizer”, but can also be heard throughout the album, often serving as a backdrop to the guitars. Speaking of which, this album has some surprisingly heavy guitar work for this kind of power metal, as well as some very good solo work, and a few tracks have subtle prog elements as well. But for the most part, this is some very catchy, ultra melodic power, which should easily please most fans of the genre. Another big improvement over the debut is the production, which sounds much clearer and more powerful compared to the debut. The guitars sound especially impressive.

Perhaps my biggest concern for Darktribe after hearing their debut, was that I didn't think Anthony Agnello was a good enough singer to carry the band. Boy was I wrong! Where before he often sounded a bit weak and unsure of himself, this time around his voice sounds much stronger, and he sounds much more confident. I think part of the problem from before may have been that he was uncomfortable singing in English, because it often sounded like he was mumbling on the debut, making it hard to comprehend the lyrics more often than not, but on this album his voice is very smooth and crystal clear the whole time, and the lyrics come through perfectly, so whatever problem he had before has clearly been dealt with. He now sounds like a perfect fit for the band, and on songs like “My Last Odyssey” and “A Last Will”, his vocals are the definite high point.

I remember saying in 2012 that the band seemed to have a hard time putting full songs together, instead having the occasional memorable section thrown into otherwise mediocre and forgettable songs for most of the album. Well, that's yet another area where they've greatly improved, because the songwriting on The Modern Age is excellent the whole way through, with no less than enjoyable tracks. There's still a ton of big highlights, though, starting with the opener “Red House of Sorrow”. This track starts off with slow and surprisingly heavy section that instantly impresses, and while the rest of the song is mostly more upbeat, the instrumental part in the middle brings back the heavy guitars from the start, and that section is perhaps my favorite moment of the entire album. The following track “My Last Odyssey” is a much more melodic and more traditional Euro power metal song, with a more noticeable keyboard presence, and a fantastic chorus, where the vocals really shine. That's probably my favorite of the speedier tracks, though other highlights include “No Train to Earth”, which sounds like it could have come from the 90's, “Rainwar” and “Anthem for a Planet”.

The first slower track on the album is actually the title track, more of a mid tempo song, which again features more keyboards, to go along with the occasional heavy riff. It's definitely one of the more progressive tracks, though the most progressive is probably “Wild Call”, which has a calm extended intro, and then it fluidly blends together fast and slow parts as it moves on. Closing track “Darkside of Imagination” is similar, except much heavier and with a darker tone. The lone ballad of the album is “Holy Water Day”, a nice enough vocal showcase, although it seems to end before it can really get going. Perhaps the oddest track is “A Last Will”, a very calm and melodic track, where the vocals really dominate. I wouldn't quite call it a ballad, though it's definitely one of the softer tracks, and I think it would sound great on the radio, so it makes sense that the band chose it as the first single. The guitar solo in the middle is absolutely fantastic, though the chorus is the highlight, and it really demonstrates how much Anthony has improved over the past three years.

When I first heard Mysticeti Victoria, I thought Darktribe had potential to be a great power metal band, but I knew they had a lot of work ahead of them. With their second release The Modern Age, they have stepped up their game in a huge way, and delivered one of catchiest and most enjoyable power metal albums of 2015 so far. Highly recommended for fans of melodic power metal, with occasional prog elements.

Note: An old review that somehow never got published, so I decided to dig it up and publish it myself.

DARK MOOR Project X

Album · 2015 · Symphonic Metal
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Sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than that moment where an album finally finally connects with you for the first time after multiple attempts, when previous reservations are put aside and you’re just swept away by the music. I had one of those experiences with Project X, the tenth full length album from Dark Moor, one of my absolute favorite symphonic metal bands at this point. Most previous Dark Moor albums managed to impressive me right away, with their two most recent efforts Ancestral Romance and Ars Musica especially leaving strong first impressions, so I was a bit concerned when by the end of my first listen, Project X had left me scratching my head, wondering what in the hell I had just listened to. A couple listens later and I was already starting to get into it, and then by the end of my sixth listen I finally understood what the band was going for, and from that point onwards it has become one of my favorites by the band.

For longtime Dark Moor fans, their previous album Ars Musica may have seemed like a big departure from their normal sound, toning down the power metal elements which had been dominant on their earlier albums and taking the band in a much lighter, more dramatic direction with an even bigger focus on symphonic elements and choirs. I was curious to see whether the band would continue with this style or go back to their older sound, so I was somewhat caught off guard when the brief intro track of Project X started off with modern sounding keyboards, and the rest of the album only proved to be even more surprising, on first listen. I will say it right now, to get it out of the way: Power metal fans hoping for the neoclassical symphonic power metal style of their early days will probably want to avoid Project X, as at this point that style seems to be a thing of the past and the band is clearly moving on to new things. For anyone else, though, and especially for fans who prefer their epic symphonic arrangements and choral sections, the album is a must hear.

After that rather surprising intro, the first full song “Abduction” is a fun little opener that mostly sticks to the band’s formula of upbeat power metal with symphonic backing and choir vocals, and in comparison to the rest of the album, it feels like a more modernized take on the usual Dark Moor sound, complete with cheesy but fun sci-fi lyrical themes, which carry on throughout the album. After this point, though, the album takes a turn for the weird with the super theatrical track “Beyond the Stars”, where the choirs are in full force, and along with the piano and symphonic elements, they overpower the guitars, making for a much lighter track than one would expect so early on the album, though the melodies are fantastic and Alfred Romero’s dramatic vocals work incredibly well with the choirs, which have more of a gospel choir feel to them than usual. Yeah, you read that right: At times the choirs sound like they’re coming straight from a church and this feel is only heightened as the album goes on, and is one of the things that initially left me feeling confused. This song also serves as a great example of where the band is now, as the music is constantly driving along at a reasonable pace, so much so that calling it slow or mid tempo would be wrong, but it certainly doesn’t match the speed or energy of classic power metal, either. It’s more of a light symphonic infused brand of melodic metal, which works very well for the band.

The next track “Conspiracy Revealed” is a bit faster and the guitar riffs at the beginning give it a slight edge, which carries on throughout the track. Which brings me to one element of the band I’ve always appreciated, that is very much a factor on Project X: The guitar work of Enrik Garcia. As always, his guitars can be very understated, allowing room for the keyboards, vocals and symphonic elements to be the main elements, but on every track he allows himself to shine for brief periods, and he does an amazing job of it. Songs like “Abduction”, “Beyond the Stars” and “Bon Voyage” have some fantastic melodies and melodic solos, while on “Conspiracy Revealed” and“Gabriel” he injects a bit energy to the songs with some great riffs. The latter in particular starts off with the heaviest guitar work on the album, and it turns into one of the faster, more power metal oriented tracks, as well as one of my favorites.

Most tracks have at least occasional heavy sections and bursts of speed, but it’s the vocals and symphonic elements that win out most of the time. Another personal favorite is “I Want to Believe”, a ballad where the early sections allow Alfred to showcase his ever improving vocals, and then as the song goes on the choirs become more and more central to the song, until it turns into something incredibly epic and larger than life. Some of the songs have a bit of a broadway musical vibe to them at times, as well as some Queen influences, where everything just gets insanely over the top and cheesy, but in delightful ways.

I especially notice this on “Bon Voyage”, which starts off as more of a laid back mid tempo track, until about halfway through when the choirs kick in and it turns into something very theatrical and super cheesy. I was initially put off by this, but over time I’ve found myself blown away by just how impressive the arrangements are and just how epic the whole thing sounds, in a delightfully cheesy sort of way. Likewise, the closing track “There’s Something in the Skies” initially turned me off, as after its soft piano driven first half, it suddenly takes a turn into musical like territory, with an end sequence that may bother some people with its rather odd and unexpected lyrics, though after several listens the song has grown into one of my favorites, even though I’d consider it about as far away from usual Dark Moor as they could possibly get, without outright trolling their fans. If anything, it just shows the band fully willing to evolve and take risks, as this track in particular, as well as much of the album in general, is certainly not something I would have imagined the band doing around six years ago when I first heard their music, but in some warped kind of way it just works.

Even the weird extended intro and outro of “Imperial Earth” work, and the itself is another excellent mid tempo symphonic track with occasional heavy bursts and an extremely awesome chorus. The one other song I haven’t mentioned yet is “The Existence”, a super melodic mid tempo track that would have fit in great on “Ars Musica”. It’s less theatrical than some of the other tracks, but it’s an excellent track and it fits in well with the overall modern style Dark Moor is going for nowadays.

While I was initially disappointed by Project X and its experiments with gospel choirs as well as its increased emphasis on a more theatrical sound, several listens have left me blown away by what the band has pulled off, and if anything I now consider it one of my favorite Dark Moor albums. Fans of their earlier albums may be in for a rude awakening, but fans of symphonic metal and melodic metal in general are highly recommended to give it at least a few listens, as it’s proven to be by far my biggest grower of the year.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: (http://myglobalmind.com/2015/10/30/dark-moor-project-x-review/)

Note: This is actually an old review I wrote a couple years ago, yet somehow never got around to publishing here until now, which is odd for me.

ALTAIR Descending: A Devilish Comedy

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
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Sometimes I’ll hear an album from an up and coming band and think to myself that I’d better take note of them now and keep them in mind for if and when they release future albums, to make sure I’m constantly up to date with their music. One such band is Italian power metal band Altair, who released a pretty solid debut in 2013, titled Lost Eden. That album was a case where it was clear the band still had some work to do when it comes to distinguishing themselves from other bands in their field, but otherwise it was a very strong album in all areas, with solid vocals, catchy songs, great instrumental work and it had a nice variety, mixing in symphonic and prog elements to go with their main sound. After hearing that album, while I wasn’t blown away, I enjoyed it enough that I was curious to hear anything the band would do in the future, and so when I unexpectedly saw I had access to a promo for their sophomore effort, Descending: A Devilish Comedy, I was excited and immediately jumped at the opportunity to review it. Suffice to say, the band has delivered in a big way, with an album that builds on everything they had going on their debut and expands on it greatly while presenting a more clear direction for their music that helps them stand out a bit more

On Lost Eden, the band played a more traditional brand of power metal, very much focused on the melodies, and while it did have some progressive sections and some heavier parts, it never strayed too far from what fans of the genre would expect. This is not so much the case with Descending. Not much has changed with their lineup in between albums, with the only change being guitarist Gianluca Ferioli departing and being replaced by Albert Marshall, while another guitarist Gianmarco Bambini remains, to keep the dual guitar attack in place. I’m not sure whether this one change is responsible or not, but either way this is definitely a much heavier, more guitar-driven album, and while there are moments where the keyboards stand out, such as on the chorus of “Flame of Knowledge”, it’s definitely the guitars that lead the way most of the time. While the power metal elements from their debut are fully intact and there’s certainly plenty of speedy sections throughout, this time around the band has gone for a much more progressive sound, in the vein of a band like Symphony X, especially with how some of the lead riffs and solos sound. Make no mistake about it, this album features some excellent guitar work, with everything from the leads to the solos all being very impressive and there’s a ton of great extended instrumental sections. At the same time, the band has remained very good at writing songs, and there’s a nice variety here, as well as a good balance between more challenging songs like “Seven” and closer “A Lesson Before Ascending”, which requires multiple listens to fully open up, and more accessible, catchier songs like opener “Path of Worms” and lead single “Seed of Violence”, which are more immediately engaging.

While the album has some fantastic musicianship, vocals are still very important, and thankfully Simone Mala can definitely hold his own along with his bandmates and does a great job throughout the album. He has a very deep and powerful voice and can be very animated at times, adding some extra power and emotion to the songs. He also has a very impressive range, sometimes able to go much lower than a typical power metal vocalist, while at the same time also being able to hit some very high notes, and many of the songs are well written to fully take advantage of his capabilities.

The album begins with the title track, which is a fairly typical intro, using a mix of orchestral sounds, guitars, and drums. It does a nice job of building up the tension until opening song “Path of Worms” kicks in, and immediately we get some very heavy guitars, which carry on throughout the song. The track moves at a fairly fast pace throughout, and is a great introduction to the band’s new sound, as it has a mix of great riffs, powerful vocals, and an excellent chorus, as well as having some nice keyboard effects, symphonic elements and a very impressive solo section where the musicians really get to shine. On the whole, it’s a fairly straightforward track, but it does show signs of the more progressive direction the band has taken on this album. The next track “Limbo” is a bit more complicated, using some interesting keyboard sounds that help establish the theme of the track and fit in well with the dark tone of the album, and while it’s still a fast-paced track, it’s definitely a bit more complex than the opener, and it has some great instrumental work once again, as well as some more progressive arrangements.

Things get really interesting with “Seven”, easily the most complicated track on the album. Simply put, there’s a whole lot going on here, as the track starts off with a fast paced riff, before slowing down for a section where it feels like a ballad, with Simone going very low with his voice for a nice atmospheric section, and this carries on for a while before the guitars kick in and the tracks get heavier for a mid-paced section which leads into the closest thing the song has to a chorus. As the song continues on, there are several tempo changes throughout as well some great instrumental passages, with the highlight being a brief speedy section in the middle. This track does an excellent job of showing the band moving into more of a prog direction, while still maintaining some of the band’s power metal elements, and it’s definitely a highlight, though one that may take listeners a few listens to fully appreciate, due to how much is going on. After that is “Godless”, more of a mid paced track, which is full of some very heavy guitar work and is again a very progressive track, with some of Simone’s most powerful vocals on the album, and it has a very nice chorus.

Next, we have a group of more straight-forward tracks, starting with “Seed of Violence”, which is probably my favorite on the album. It starts off with a complex instrumental section, which gives way to a very heavy, super speedy first verse, and on the whole, this is a very accessible, super fast track with great lead riffs and a great chorus. This track feels like a more straight-forward power metal track, while still having some of the heaviness and prog elements of the rest of the album and it’s definitely a great pick for the first single. Similarly, “Frozen Graves” might be the heaviest on the album, with some pretty thrashy riffs, and it’s another super fast paced, fairly accessible track with an excellent chorus and some great instrumental work. In between those is “Flame of Knowledge”, a slightly calmer, more mid-paced track that still moves at a pretty good pace throughout, and is certainly the most keyboard driven track on the album. It still has some great guitar riffs though and still has a slight Symphony X feel at points during its instrumental sections, while the chorus has Simone singing some of the highest notes he sings on the entire album, and he does an excellent job as always. All three of these songs are very catchy and I think placing together like this in the middle of the album is a smart move, as it gives listeners a bit of a break in between the two complex tracks that come before them, as well as the more progressive closing track, “A Lesson Before Ascending”.

Speaking of which, that track is the most symphonic track on the album, using some orchestral elements throughout to help give it an epic feel, and it begins with an epic instrumental section, before giving way to another softer section that sounds a bit like a ballad, though this time Simone’s vocals aren’t nearly low as they are on “Seven”. It’s a mostly mid-paced track throughout, with more great instrumental passages and some excellent arrangements as always, and it has an excellent chorus as well as an excellent instrumental section near the end, which leads to a calm closing section where the orchestral elements become the main focus. It’s an excellent track overall and a great way to end the album, for sure.

Overall, Descending: A Devilish Comedy is an excellent album which takes the melodic power metal sound Altair had established on their debut and adds in some extra heaviness and a more progressive direction, to help set itself apart more from the competition. It’s a big improvement over the band’s solid debut, and has a great mix of more accessible songs and complicated songs, and is sure to please fans of prog and power metal looking for something a bit heavier and more guitar driven than the norm. I’m definitely excited to hear anything else the band does in the future.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/06/30/altair-descending-devilish-comedy-review/

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