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Travis Green
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2636 reviews/ratings
DYNAZTY - Renatus Power Metal | review permalink
DRAGONFORCE - Maximum Overload Power Metal
ADRANA - The Ancient Realms Power Metal
EVERGREY - The Inner Circle Progressive Metal
BLIND GUARDIAN - Imaginations From the Other Side Power Metal
ANCIENT BARDS - Soulless Child Power Metal
ARMORY - Empyrean Realms Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Beyond Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Eternity Power Metal
CIVIL WAR - Saint Patrick's Day Power Metal
XANDRIA - Neverworld's End Power Metal
DARK MOOR - Ancestral Romance Power Metal
DAWN OF DESTINY - Praying to the World Power Metal
DREAMTALE - Epsilon Power Metal
MINDMAZE - Back from the Edge Power Metal
VANDROYA - One Power Metal
DALRIADA - Jégbontó Power Metal
DALRIADA - Kikelet Folk Metal
DALRIADA - Ígéret Folk Metal
GRAVE DIGGER - Rheingold Power Metal

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 1026 4.05
2 Progressive Metal 381 3.96
3 Symphonic Metal 243 3.93
4 Heavy Metal 185 3.63
5 Thrash Metal 116 3.67
6 Gothic Metal 92 3.92
7 Folk Metal 81 4.28
8 Melodic Death Metal 79 3.91
9 US Power Metal 65 3.84
10 Hard Rock 41 3.70
11 Alternative Metal 41 3.41
12 Metal Related 34 3.99
13 Non-Metal 23 3.52
14 Technical Death Metal 21 4.10
15 Death Metal 21 4.02
16 Melodic Metalcore 17 3.50
17 Symphonic Black Metal 17 4.53
18 Trance Metal 17 3.65
19 Industrial Metal 16 4.22
20 Groove Metal 16 2.78
21 Technical Thrash Metal 12 4.38
22 Speed Metal 11 3.82
23 Metalcore 10 3.95
24 Atmospheric Black Metal 8 4.06
25 Doom Metal 7 4.00
26 Deathcore 6 3.67
27 Heavy Alternative Rock 6 2.67
28 Nu Metal 6 3.83
29 NWoBHM 5 4.50
30 Melodic Black Metal 5 4.00
31 Heavy Psych 4 3.75
32 Glam Metal 4 3.88
33 Death-Doom Metal 4 3.88
34 Avant-garde Metal 3 3.67
35 Traditional Doom Metal 3 3.83
36 Brutal Death Metal 2 4.50
37 Stoner Metal 2 4.00
38 Sludge Metal 1 4.00
39 Neoclassical metal 1 4.00
40 Crossover Thrash 1 3.00
41 Black Metal 1 0.50
42 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 1 3.50
43 Viking Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

FLOURISHING The Sum of All Fossils

Album · 2011 · Technical Death Metal
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Metal Music Archives Reviewer's Challenge: June 2022

Technical death metal is a genre I have a bit of a mixed relationship with. I find the more ultra technical side of the genre can sometimes be tough for me to get into, with the music often getting so lost in technical precision that it's hard to find anything to grab onto. However, there are some bands in the genre who offer up a good mix of heaviness, technicality and melodic death metal to help make things easy to get into. Then there's a band like the now defunct American band Flourishing, who offer up their own unique take on the genre for their debut (and sole full length release) The Sum of All Fossils, throwing in a mix of sludge and post-hardcore elements to go along with the main tech death sound. But while the album may have a distinct sound, the most important thing is whether or not that results in an enjoyable album. Well.......

I've had a somewhat mixed experience with The Sum of All Fossils, to say the least. Initially, it took me a few minutes to adjust to the rather raw sound, since I tend to be more inclined to genres with cleaner production, so my first experience of the album wasn't too great. Once I adjusted to it, though, I found myself hooked in, and started enjoying the music. However, by the end of my first listen I found myself a bit confused, as while parts of the album instantly impressed me, there were other parts that seemed to go in one ear and out the other. Several listens later, and unfortunately not a whole lot has changed.

Lets get to the basics, first. In terms of style, Flourishing play a rather interesting brand of tech death, with a very aggressive sound, utilizing frantic drums and down-tuned guitars (the tone reminds a bit of Fear Factory on occasion), and they like to throw in a lot of different sound effects, including some high pitched screeching noises, as well as what appear to be some audio samples every once in a while. The guitar work can get very intense at times, but there are also quite a few more atmospheric passages, and these are the parts I tend to grab onto the most, as they stand out a bit more. That being said, it is a fairly heavy and intense album throughout, often staying at a fairly moderate pace, and there are several extended sections of repeated riffs, along the lines of Gojira, though it also speeds up occasion, and those sections also help offer up a bit of variety.

I mentioned the production earlier, and I must say, despite my initial impressions on it being negative, after more experience with the album I think the sound quality is actually very good and fits the album perfectly, giving the music a raw sound, while still allowing room for everything to be heard. This certainly isn't one of those underground sounding black metal albums where you can't hear a lick of guitar, thankfully. Vocally, Garett Bussanick does a solid job, delivering the kind of deep, aggressive death growls fans of the genre would expect. There are also some rather weird clean vocal at times, such as some sorta rap sounding vocals on “The Prospects of Rejection”, and some very strange sounding screams on “By Which We're Cemented”, and while these are interesting, they aren't really used often enough to leave much of an impression.

In terms of sound, while this album may not be my usual style, I do think everything is performed very well, and the sound quality is quite good. Where I find the album suffers a bit, however, is in the songwriting. Honestly, trying to break this album down song by song is very difficult. I find while most tracks have memorable moments, such as methodical marching drums at the end of “By Which We're Cemented” (an overall more atmospheric track than most), the aforementioned sections with weird vocals, an intense tempo change near the beginning of opening track “A Thimble's Worth”, and some intense riffs and weird sound effects on closer “As If Bathed in Excellence”, it's hard to really point out a single track as being memorable in full. I do think “By Which We're Cemented” is probably my favorite here, with its slower paced, more sludge metal sound, while the second half of the album on the whole is fairly forgettable aside from a fairly solid closing track. Otherwise, it's hard to really say much about any of the tracks, as they all tend to blend together. Sometimes, that can work fine, such as on both full length albums by one man black metal band Aquilus, where everything feels like a cohesive whole and I'm constantly engaged the whole way through, but sadly this is an album where aside from a few memorable points throughout, I'm rarely all that engaged by the music, and it often passes me by largely unnoticed.

In the end, The Sum of All Fossils is a tough album to judge, because I think it is a very well made album, by a band who clearly has talent, and it's clear there's an audience for it, but on a personal level I find well over half of it simply goes in one ear and out the other. It's an enjoyable listen, but at the end of the day, I'm remembering very little of it even immediately after listening to it. The band has since split up, though Bussanick and bassist Eric Rizk have since gone on to form a new band called Aeviterne. Even after giving their full length debut, The Ailing Facade a single listen, it's clear their music is both more refined in terms of overall performance quality, and much more memorable when it comes to the songwriting. So, while this album in particular didn't leave me overly impressed, it did lead to me discovering a potentially great band with a very promising future.

SPHERIC UNIVERSE EXPERIENCE Back Home

Album · 2022 · Progressive Metal
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One thing I’ve always found interesting is tracking the evolution of a band throughout their career, seeing how much or how little change their sound goes through overtime. Being willing and able to evolve your music is very important, to avoid becoming stale, but there have certainly been many cases over the years where trying to evolve has led to great disappointment for longtime fans. I also find it interesting to see how bands respond after releasing a particularly divisive album, one that alienates many of their longtime fans, while attracting some new ones, seeing whether they decide to shift away and make it and done deal, or if they double down and try and make it work in the long term.

One particular band that attempted a rather big shift in sound years ago is the French progressive metal band Spheric Universe Experience. The band started as a fairly traditional prog band along the lines of Dream Theater and Symphony X, with slight hints of power metal here and there, and their first two releases Mental Torments and Anima were particularly well received. I noticed a slight change in direction to a more modern sound on their third release Unreal, but then in 2012, with their fourth release The New Eve, the band changed, switching to a somewhat alternative metal influenced sound, with more down-tuned chugging guitars, and an attempt at more straight-forward, accessible songwriting, with some very pop, influenced choruses. Needless to say, the album was very polarizing, with many longtime fans being quite disappointed, and the band went quiet for quite a long time afterward. Skip ahead nine and a half years to 2022, and the band has just released their fifth full-length release, Back Home, whose name is both a reference to the space-themed concept, involving humans who left Earth long ago finally returning home, as well as being somewhat of a metaphor for the band themselves, looking to come back home to their prog metal roots. As someone who enjoyed their last two albums somewhat, but wasn’t overly impressed, I was quite intrigued by Back Home, and was hoping it would be a return to the glory days of Anima, while having an identity of its own. Needless to say, the band did not disappoint me!

While I enjoyed The New Eve the first few times I heard it, an attempt at revisiting it in advance of this album immediately failed due to the abysmal opening track “Shut Up”, so I was hoping this album would help make me forget about that and be a fresh start for the band. Thankfully, that is very much the case, as this feels like a slightly updated take on their Anima sound, representing a return to a classic prog sound with a bit of a futuristic feel to it, complete with some very technical, often aggressive guitar work and a pretty strong focus on ambient keyboards. As expected, there are a ton of extended instrumental sections, including a few entirely instrumental tracks, and these bits tend to be very impressive, with some very technically impressive work from the musicians, while also having some great melodies and some of the solos are truly breathtaking. At the same time, there are also plenty of hard-hitting riffs, upbeat keys, and soaring melodies to help hook the listener in, and I find the band strikes a nice balance between being complex and showy, while also having slightly more accessible songwriting than on their first two albums, with some very strong vocal melodies and some excellent choruses. There are also plenty of speedy power metal passages, often with a slight thrash feel to them, and there’s quite a bit of variety to the album, with a nice mix of very heavy tracks, some lighter tracks that fall into more melodic prog territory, and some very complex tracks. The band pulls everything off wonderfully, and despite clocking in at over an hour, the album stays consistently fresh and engaging the whole way through. I’d say while it’s mostly a return to their classic sound, the band has learned a bit from their experiments on The New Eve, especially when it comes to making some more memorable vocal sections, and obviously, Frank Garcia sounds excellent, as always.

While the rhythm section has been changed since their last album, with bassist John Drai and drummer Romain Goulon joining the band and both making a strong first impression, the core of the band remains the same as ever, and they’re certainly in top form on Back Home. The guitar work, in particular, stands out as being some of the best I’ve heard on a metal album in quite a long time, with Vince Benaim delivering plenty of awesome riffs, often falling somewhere between the crunchy, shredding style of Michael Romeo and the heavier, darker side of John Petrucci, especially reminding me of his work on albums like Train of Thought and Black Clouds and Silver Linings. The riffs are consistently great throughout, as are the solos and everything else he does. Keyboardist Fred Columbo also does a fantastic job, often being more in the background and providing extra flavor to the tracks, but there are times when his spacey keyboards become the center of attention, and they always sound incredible. I also love the more retro sound he uses on occasion, most notably a solo section on “Senses Restored”, where he goes for a sort of NES videogame style sound, which is cool! And of course, vocalist Frank Garcia has always been an important part of SUE’s sound, and he stands out even more on this album, being given plenty of room to showcase his smooth, powerful, sometimes animated vocals. He mostly stays in a mid register, but he does get to for some high notes on occasion, and they can get pretty epic. The production is also perfect, and everything in general sounds fantastic.

I won’t do a fully detailed song-by-song review here, since there are plenty of tracks and fully discussing some of them would take a long time, but I will list some highlights, as always, as well as give a general overview of the album. Following The New Eve, this album needed a strong start to avoid one of the biggest issues that the previous album had, and thankfully the band pulled through this time, with the brief intro track doing a great job of setting the tone with some very nice ambient keys, before giving way to some heavy guitars near the end. The opening track “Final Fate” is also fantastic, offering a mix of some very aggressive riffs and some strong vocals, with a very hooky chorus, as well as excellent instrumental work all around. The first huge standout, though, is the lead single “Where We Belong”, a progressive power metal track that alternates very fluidly between intense, guitar-driven verses that move along at a frantic pace, as well as a soft, very melodic, and catchy chorus with some fantastic vocal melodies and a very strong performance from Garcica. It also has a beautiful instrumental section with a bit of a Queen feel to it, which is also fantastic.

Next, are two more classic prog-sounding tracks in “Transcending Real Life” and “Senses Restored”. The latter has that excellent keyboard solo I mentioned earlier, and is an excellent track all around, while the former has some very tricky rhythms, which enhance an excellent chorus, as well as some very memorable riffs. Both are more moderately paced, but with a few explosive sections, and they alternate nicely between heavy and calm passages, which is a recurring theme for the album. The second single “Legacy” is a case study on the latter, being equal parts heavy, calm and melodic, with furious verses and a very wonderful, laid-back chorus.

The second half in general is a bit more laid back and melodic compared to the first half, though it does have two very strong heavy hitters in “Defenders of Light”, perhaps the most aggressive, most power metal influenced track on the album, as well as “Of the Last Plague”, which has a very angry feel to it, and it’s quite dark and intense throughout, with some very heavy riffs. Otherwise, there are plenty of instrumental tracks here, including the mostly ambient “Synchronicity”, which gives way to “The Absolute pt. 1”, a brief intro of sorts for the following track, which is largely ambient and keyboard-driven, though it introduces some choir vocals and symphonic elements, which are very prominent on both pt. 2, as well as the closing track “Dreams Will Survive”. Both of these tracks do a great job of alternating between heavier and soft passages as usual, and I find the latter has some of the strongest vocal sections on the album, especially a final chorus of sorts right near the end, following a stunning extended solo section. While the first two instrumental tracks are brief and mostly keyboard-driven, the four minute “Rebirth” is a true showcase of Benaim’s talents, as he alternates between furious riffs, epic solos, and some wonderful melodic leads throughout the track, with a bit of symphonic accompaniment for good measure.

Going into this album, Spheric Universe Experience is bad I largely had mixed feelings towards it, despite loving their second album Anima. For some reason, their two albums following that one left me with rather mixed reactions, and so I wasn’t sure whether or not the band just wasn’t for me or if those albums were just missteps. After hearing Back Home, I can officially confirm whatever went wrong with those two albums has not been repeated here, as this is easily their best since Anima, but I’d say it even surpasses that and is their best album to date. It offers up everything fans of the band should expect, with plenty of fantastic, super technical instrumental work, some very heavy riffs, wonderful vocal melodies, strong performances all around, and quite easily their best, most engaging songwriting to date. Longtime fans who were a bit disappointed with The New Eve should be very pleased with this one, while any prog fans, especially fans of Dream Theater or Symphony X, are also highly recommended to give this a few listens, as it’s sure to be one of the absolute best prog albums released this year.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2022/06/01/spheric-universe-experience-back-home-review/

EVERGREY A Heartless Portrait: The Orphean Testament

Album · 2022 · Progressive Metal
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Over the years, Swedish progressive metal band Evergrey have proven themselves to be one of the most unique, as well as most productive and consistently entertaining bands in their genre. While early works such as In Search of Truth and The Inner Circle are likely never going to be topped as their overall best albums, they’ve been consistently putting out great music over the past two and a half decades, and as they move ever closer towards celebrating 30 years of existence, the band shows no sign of letting up any time soon. After finding their 2019 release The Atlantic to be solid but not quite up to their usual standards, the band immediately won me over again in 2021 with Escape of the Phoenix, an album that contained a mixture of all the different elements I’ve come to love about their music. With their 13th full-length release A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament), they’ve released quite possibly their best album since my personal favorite, The Inner Circle, and it should please any longtime fan of the band.

Aside from a brief period of turmoil in the late 2000’s/early 2010s, seeing different band members moving in and out, and releasing albums of varying quality, Evergrey has always had a signature sound, which they’ve maintained throughout their career, and A Heartless Portrait is no exception. They play their distinct brand of prog that is at times a bit too aggressive and dark to be considered melodic prog, while simultaneously being a bit too melodic and vocal-driven to be considered a more typical prog band. Instead, their sound can best be described as a distinct style of atmospheric prog, where the music and lyrics always have a dark, somber tone to them, with the lyrics often being very introspective, while the music alternates between rough and heavy, to sometimes being very soft and hauntingly beautiful. All of this is true of A Heartless Portrait, which almost feels like a summary of the band’s career, featuring bursts of some of their heaviest material in quite some time, while also having some of their softest tracks, as well as some surprisingly catchy tracks, and even some of their most complex tracks to date. Fans of any previous Evergrey album should find something to love here, as there’s plenty of variety to the tracks, and it feels like instead of trying to take things in a specific direction, the band made an album that fully represents all aspects of their sound, and everything is pulled off wonderfully.

As always, the one most defining feature of the band is vocalist/guitarist Tom S. Englund, whose voice remains as distinct as ever, often staying if a fairly low range, though he does go for pretty big high notes at times, and as fans would expect, he gives a very powerful, very emotional performance throughout the album, sounding fully invested in the lyrics, which are dark and sorrowful as ever, with the closing track “Wildfires” in particular almost being too depressing to listen to. Everything else also sounds fantastic, with lead guitarist Henrik Danhage delivering his typical mix of intense riffs and nice melodic solos, while keyboardist Rikard Zander largely provides backdrops to the music, occasionally becoming the main focus on a few tracks, and the rhythm section is excellent as usual, as is the production.

One aspect I’m always a bit concerned about with Evergrey is the songwriting, not because they’ve ever been particularly bad at it, which is far from the truth, but because I find while some of their albums are consistently excellent, others have a few big standouts while the rest isn’t quite up to par, and then there’s stuff like Glorious Collision and The Atlantic which I find enjoyable the whole way through, but without any real highlights. Thankfully, A Heartless Portrait is both one of their most consistent albums in quite some time, while also having some pretty huge standout tracks, and those are spread out pretty evenly throughout the album, so there’s always something exciting to look forward to as the album progresses.

The album gets off to a strong start with the lead single “Save Us”, which features a very memorable, hard-hitting main riff, accompanied by some energetic verses, and a very melodic, catchy chorus where Englund gets to show off his voice. There’s also a very beautiful guitar solo in the second half of the track, as well as some epic choral vocals provided by some fans the band invited to help with the recording of the track. This continues with “Midwinter Calls”, which features some haunting backing vocals throughout, once again performed by fans, and I especially love the effect here, as there’s a somewhat creepy feel to the vocals, which blends in nicely with the atmosphere of the music. The track has a bit of a gothic feel to it, is fairly laid back and mid-tempo, with rather subdued riffs, while still having the occasional heavy parts, as well as another excellent guitar solo and a nice chorus.

Perhaps the most complex track on the album is “Ominous”, which alternates between some slightly up-tempo heavier sections and softer, almost ballad-like sections with some very haunting lyrics and excellent vocals, mixed in with a fantastic chorus. The track also has a slightly different structure, with an extensive guitar solo taking up most of the middle of the track, and there is quite a bit of moving pieces to it. In similar territory is the first of two title tracks “The Orphean Testament”, coming two tracks later. It’s another fairly complex track, with a very heavy main riff and rather up-tempo verses, mixed with a much more downbeat, sorrowful chorus. Like “Ominous”, there’s quite a bit going on here, and it too has a rather extensive solo section, alternating nicely between an atmospheric keyboard solo and a very beautiful guitar solo. In between those two tracks is “Call Out the Dark”, a more straightforward, softer track with a power ballad feel to it. While there’s some nice guitar work on the track, it’s one of the more keyboard-driven tracks overall, with some very atmospheric keys leading the way, along with the vocals, and it has another very catchy chorus.

While the lyrics throughout the album are very dark and often depressing, the closest it ever comes to showing any optimism is on “Reawakening”, a more upbeat, somewhat power metal influenced track. It features some fairly slow and relaxing verses, where the keyboards lead the way, but as the chorus approaches the tempo picks up in a big way, and the chorus itself is one of the most upbeat and catchy sections on the album. It’s not one of the heaviest tracks on the album, but it has a lot of energy, and is very fun and catchy, making it a standout among the pack. Next is “The Great Unwashed”, another softer track that somewhat falls into power ballad territory, with a powerful but rather subdued main riff, mixed with more dark, atmospheric keys and a chorus that is very somber but also quite beautiful, with some of the best vocal melodies on the album.

Perhaps my favorite track on the album is “Heartless”, a track that alternates between speedy verses, where the keyboards have a slight trance feel to them, and a slow, laid back chorus, which is perhaps one of the catchiest, most radio-friendly chorus the band has ever written. It’s another very emotional track, with an incredible performance by Englund, and the contrast between the speedier verses, and the outright devastating chorus is quite breathtaking and helps make it one of my favorite tracks the band has released in quite some time. The momentum continues with “Blindfolded”, a more mid-paced track that has some of the heaviest, most crushing riffs on the album, and it’s another track with an excellent mix between aggressive guitars and atmospheric keys, as well as having another excellent chorus. Closing out the album is “Wildfires”, an absolutely beautiful, largely acoustic ballad that has some wonderful melodies and yet another fantastic vocal performance, but the lyrics are downright hard to take at times and leave the listener with a bitter feeling. At the same time, it’s a very fitting ending for the album and is an excellent track in its own right, but man, those lyrics hit hard.

At this point, Evergrey fans should know exactly what to expect from the band, and A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament) delivers exactly that, while also being their best work in quite some time, showcasing all aspects of their music wonderfully. It’s a very dark album, with some very hard-hitting lyrics, as well as some of the band’s heaviest material at points, to go along with some very atmospheric tracks, and a few softer tracks, so there’s certainly a bit of something for everyone. Longtime fans of the band are sure to love this, while newcomers also highly recommended to give this a listen, to get an idea of what the band is all about since it’s a perfect representation of everything the band is and always has been, while also being one of their best albums to date.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2022/05/18/evergrey-a-heartless-portrait-the-orphean-testament-review/

RHAPSODY OF FIRE Glory for Salvation

Album · 2021 · Power Metal
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Over the past decade Italian symphonic power metal band Rhapsody of Fire have had quite their share of big ups and downs, including two big shifts, each involving the loss of an important long time member, the first being guitarist/keyboardist Luca Turilli and the second being vocalist Fabio Lione, as well as the fact that some of their more recent releases weren’t exactly highly regarded. Setting all of that aside, though, the band managed to bounce back in a big way in 2019 with The Eighth Mountain, their first new full-length release featuring current vocalist Giacomo Voli. I would have been relieved if it had merely been a solid album, but instead, it represented both a recapturing of past glories, as well as the beginning of a new era, and was easily their best album in quite some time. After being blown away by that album, I was excited to see what the band would do next, and so I was quite hyped to hear their upcoming release, Glory for Salvation, and whether or not it would continue their creative resurgence. In short: Yes, it does, though I would say it’s a tad less consistent than the previous album, and it doesn’t seem to flow quite as smoothly. Still, it’s another excellent album, and one I’d rank within the top half of the band’s rather large discography.

Very little has changed in between albums, with the only lineup change being drummer Manuel Lutter being replaced by Paolo Marchesich, who does a great job and fits in nicely with the band. Otherwise, the overall sound, production quality, and performances are exactly what fans of the previous album would expect, which is to say: It feels like a mix of classic Rhapsody, while having enough of its ideas to stand out. Where I found the previous album felt like classic Rhapsody in all its glory, this album feels a bit more diverse, capturing different elements from throughout the band’s career, including hints of some of their darker, heavier material, some folk elements, and some more epic, mid-paced symphonic metal. It’s quite the varied album, with points where I feel the overall flow can be a tad awkward, as it tends to jump around from mood to mood quite quickly, which is rather surprising for a concept album. With that being said, the songwriting is excellent, with only one track I feel lags behind the rest, while everything else is fantastic, with a few particularly big highlights.

Performances are of course excellent across the board, with keyboardist Alex Staropoli once again taking lead in setting the tone and atmosphere for a lot of the tracks, while Giocomo Voli shines just as much as he did on The Eighth mountain, demonstrating equal amounts of power, emotion and smoothness in his vocals as needed. A couple of tracks, in particular, have some of his most aggressive vocals I’ve heard to date, falling right along the border between clean and harsh vocals, and he delivers these just as well as anything else. I admit to being worried at first when the band parted ways with Fabio Lione, but these past two albums have proven Voli to be a wonderful fit for the band, and he only seems to be getting better over time. I find the guitar work to generally not be all that noticeable, though it is very solid throughout, with some nice melodic work and solos, as well as one particular track with a very heavy main riff that sounds great. Keyboards, vocals, and symphonic arrangements generally carry the album, though, which shouldn’t be too big a surprise for Rhapsody fans.

The album gets off to a strong start with “Son of Vengeance”, a very epic mid-paced symphonic metal track, with some huge orchestral arrangements, nice melodic guitar work, and a nice mix of choral and lead vocals from Voli, who once again leaves a strong impression right from the start. The track has an excellent, very catchy chorus, and a nice melodic guitar solo in the second half. It never goes full speed, but moves at a nice pace, and is a very epic, fun opening track. Next is “The Kingdom of Ice”, a very classic Rhapsody-sounding track, with nice melodic guitar leads, more epic symphonic arrangements, and a significant increase in the tempo, moving along at a fast pace throughout, which should please many power metal fans. It has another strong, catchy chorus, excellent vocals, and instrumental work, and is a very high-energy track, making it one of the better offerings here.

Leading into the album, one track I was surprisingly disappointed with was the title track. Right from the beginning I find the tone of the keyboards just a bit off compared to normal, as they give off a bit of a hostile tone I wasn’t expecting, especially with the name “Glory for Salvation”, plus they just don’t sound as good as usual, and while the choral vocals are great, I find the song overall somehow doesn’t work for me. It does move at a fast pace, the verses are solid and the chorus has a strong buildup, but I find it doesn’t go anywhere interesting, and it leaves me underwhelmed, especially knowing it’s the title track. Within the context of the album, it still doesn’t impress me much and feels a bit disappointing coming off the strength of the previous tracks, as well as what comes immediately after.

That, of course, would be a brief instrumental interlude “Eternal Snow”, which has some nice folk melodies and gives a bit of background narration to help introduce the next proper song, and another single, “Terial the Hawk”. This one has a very warm tone to it, and while it’s fairly mid-paced, it’s still very fun, very upbeat, and has an amazing chorus. It’s one of the band’s most folk-infused tracks to date, with folk instruments leading the way, and the main melody is absolutely beautiful, while Voli shines as always, especially during the chorus, and the instrumental section goes even further on the folk side, to help cement it as easily my favorite track on the album, as well as a personal favorite Rhapsody song in general. The momentum continues with “Maid of the Secret Sand”, another classic Rhapsody-sounding track, moving at a fast and furious pace, with some epic neo-classical shredding, intense verses, and a very fun, melodic chorus, which is one of the best on the album. It’s another personal favorite and gets me hyped up going into the longest track of the album.

Here we have a bit of an oddity, as when I first saw the name “Abyss of Pain II” I didn’t quite recognize the name from any previous albums. After searching for a while, I found out why: It was a very brief intro track for The Eighth Mountain, which I likely blocked out of my mind because intro tracks generally aren’t the most memorable, no offense intended. While making a 10+ minute sequel to a 48-second intro may be a bizarre choice, the song itself is excellent, though it once again feels like a big style shift, moving away from two more upbeat tracks to a much darker, more epic track filled with some of the heaviest riffs and darkest atmosphere found on the entire album, while Voli provides some of those intense, almost harsh sounding vocals I described earlier, before giving way to his typical soaring vocals during the chorus. The track stays at a moderate tempo throughout but does have a few big moments, including a very memorable instrumental section in the middle, and several great vocal sections. I wouldn’t rank it among the band’s absolute best epics, but it’s an excellent track the whole way through, and never loses any momentum along the way, which is always important with a longer track.

Following that, we’re now into the final stretch of the album, which holds up very well. First is “Infinitae Gloriae”, another very fast-paced track, with yet another wonderful chorus and a strong vocal performance from Voli. Next are two singles, the first of which is “Magic Signs”, a very solid ballad with excellent vocal melodies, a strong chorus, and a great guitar solo in the middle, though overall I wouldn’t quite say it’s one of the band’s best ballads (I preferred both “Warrior Heart” and “The Wind, the Rain and the Moon” from the last album, personally). It does serve as a nice showcase for Voli’s voice, though, and is a very solid track. The other single is “I’ll be Your Hero”, which now has a very epic 65-second intro leading into it, which helps set the mood for what is one of the band’s most fun, upbeat, and triumphant sounding tracks to date. It has a bit of a lighter feel to it than usual, while still moving at a very fast tempo, and having probably the best chorus on the entire album. It’s most likely my second favorite track, behind Terial. I already loved it on the EP the band released earlier this year, and that instrumental intro section only enhances it further on the full album.

The album ends rather curiously. The actual closing track, “Chains of Destiny”, is a rather short, yet fun fast-paced symphonic power track, which delivers everything fans of the band would expect, along with more of those semi-harsh vocals from “Abyss of Pain II”. It’s an excellent track overall, though it almost feels a bit too short and too “normal” I’d say, to be a closing track for this kind of album. It is wonderful on its own, though, and does have an amazing chorus, but at least to me, it feels more like a track that should be in the middle of the album, instead of being a closer. Even more curious, is the band’s choice of bonus tracks: Italian and Spanish sung versions of “Magic Signs”. Voli sounds amazing on both versions, of course, but the album ends up feeling like it lacks a bit of a climax, at least compared to most Rhapsody albums.

Despite my issues with the title track and a few odd decisions here and there, I still greatly enjoy Glory for Salvation, and consider it as yet another excellent Rhapsody of Fire release, as well as one of their better albums to date. It’s a very diverse album, with many different sounds and many different moods, and it does an excellent job of showcasing Giocomo Voli’s vocals, as well as Alex Staropoli’s keys and symphonic arrangements. Songwriting is generally excellent, performances are excellent across the board, and there’s a good amount of variety to it, that fans of the band with different tastes should all find something to like here. A definite must-hear for longtime RoF fans, and an easy recommendation for any fans of symphonic metal or power metal who somehow haven’t heard the band’s music yet. While I slightly prefer The Eighth Mountain, this is yet another great album and continues with the forward momentum the band has had with their current lineup.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2021/11/13/rhapsody-of-fire-glory-for-salvation-review/

BURNING POINT Arsonist of the Soul

Album · 2021 · Power Metal
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I’ve known Finnish power metal band Burning point ever since their 2012 release, The Ignitor, an album I found to be highly enjoyable, though not quite top tier in the genre. Ever since I’ve enjoyed some of the band’s older work as well as their two new releases (the self-titled 2015 release and 2016’s The Blaze), and consistently found the band to generally be solid, but not quite elite. I heard a couple of singles for their eighth and latest full-length release, Arsonist of the Soul leading up to its release and found myself quite hyped to see what the band would deliver. Now that the album is here, I can say it’s my favorite by the band and brings them a step closer to being a top contender for power metal fans.

The band has gone through several changes since their last release, with original member Pete Ahonen and his fellow guitarist Pekka Kolivuori being the only remaining members, with the remaining positions all being filled in between releases. Despite the big lineup changes, the band’s sound remains fully intact, and fans can expect an album full of classic-sounding Euro power metal, along the lines of bands like Helloween and Stratovarius, with small nods to more modern bands such as Sabaton and Bloodbound on a couple of tracks.

For the most part, the band leans towards the more guitar-driven side of the genre, with duo guitarists Ahonen and Kolivuori leading the way through most tracks with some killer riffs and solos, as well as some nice melodic guitar work. Keyboards are a constant part of the music but are largely pushed to the background, serving more to enhance the music than to be a driving force, and while they sound nice throughout the album and never become a distraction, they also rarely stand out much, instead of letting the guitars dominate. The rhythm section is very solid, and the tracks offer a varying mix of tempos, sometimes alternating even within a track. Sound production is top-notch, and performances are strong across the board.

Songwriting is also excellent, and while leaning towards more of a pure power metal sound, compared to some of the band’s past albums which had equal amounts of heavy metal, this album still has a nice variety to the tracks, with some being on the thrashier side (“Out of Control” especially”), some being more melodic and keyboard-driven (“Persona Non Grata”, “Fire With Fire”,) and some are pure classic duo-guitar power metal, like opener “Blast in the Past” and “Hit the Night”. All songs are excellent, and there’s a nice mix of speedy tracks, and slower to mid-paced tracks, with the tracklist flowing nicely and moving at a good pace. Despite containing 12 tracks, I’d be hard-pressed to point towards any particular track as being filler, and enjoy each one every time I listen to the album, which is always a good sign.

The biggest change for the band is the new vocalist Luca Sturniolo. The band has previously had two different vocalists, the first of which was Ahonen himself, who had a very deep voice that fit the music quite well, before giving way to Nitte Valo in 2014, and she had a very unique voice that also fit the music nicely. Sturniolo is somewhere in between those two stylistically, having a wide range that can get pretty intense at times, while also being able to sing smoothly in his low to mid register. I find when he goes all out with his falsetto he can get a bit carried away, which leads to a few choruses falling a bit flat, but in general, he sounds great during verses, and when he sticks with his low to mid register he sounds very smooth, while still having a good amount of power to his voice. He especially sounds right at home on the power/thrash track “Out of Control”, where the aggressive riffs and energy of the music fit very well with his low to mid-range vocals. There’s a couple of moments where his voice can get a bit over the top for my liking (most notably on the choruses of “Rules the Universe” and closing track “Eternal Life”) and he sounds a bit awkward at times (the chorus of “Off the Radar” slightly brings down an otherwise awesome track), but overall he does a great job, and I think he has potential to be a perfect fit for the band if they stick with him for future albums.

I mentioned earlier that the songwriting is excellent across the board, so I won’t do a full song by song section like usual, but instead, highlight some particular favorites. Opener “Blast in the Past” is a fast and furious, high-energy opener that showcases the band’s overall sound, while allowing Sturniolo to stick to his strengths as a vocalist, making it a strong start to the album. Out of the faster tracks on the album, I’d say my favorites are “Persona Non Grata”, a very melodic track with a fantastic chorus and more prominent keys than usual, the previously mentioned power/thrash assault “Out of Control”, and the very classic sounding “Running in the Darkness”, which has perhaps my favorite chorus on the album, as well as a very epic guitar solo. It’s also a track where Sturniolo’s voice is at its absolute best, nailing the higher notes on the final run of the chorus perfectly, to help cement that tracks as a favorite.

On the slower side of things, the title track is a big highlight, alternating between some nice mid-paced melodic metal during the verses, and then going for a more classic Maiden-inspired sound during the chorus. It’s an epic track throughout, with strong performances, but the highlight is a sped-up section towards the end, which takes it to a different gear. Another instant favorite is “Calling”, a more restrained, but very catchy track, with another very memorable chorus, as well as an epic bridge with some very powerful vocals. Lastly is “Fire With Fire”, which moves along at a nice pace and is another track where the keys have more presence than usual, with the music overall having some Sabaton influence. It’s a very fun, catchy track with a great chorus, and the band pulls that sound off quite nicely.

Overall, Arsonist of the Soul is a very fun, high energy power metal album with consistently impressive songwriting and performances throughout, to help make it my favorite Burning Point album to date. New singer Luca Sturniolo shows great promise overall, and while I think he has some room to improve, he fits the band’s sound very nice, and I think in the future he could prove to be the perfect fit for the band. As is, this album is a very easy recommendation for any power metal fan looking for some mostly classic sounding Euro power metal, with a few modern touches here and there.

originally written for Myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2021/11/13/burning-point-arsonist-of-the-soul-review/

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