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Travis Green
MMA Special Collaborator · Power & Neo, Goth & Symph, Prog/AG Teams
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2356 reviews/ratings
DYNAZTY - Renatus Power Metal | review permalink
DRAGONFORCE - Maximum Overload Power Metal
ADRANA - The Ancient Realms Power Metal
EVERGREY - The Inner Circle Progressive Metal
BLIND GUARDIAN - Imaginations From the Other Side Power Metal
ANCIENT BARDS - Soulless Child Power Metal
ARMORY - Empyrean Realms Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Beyond Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Eternity Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Stairway to Fairyland Power Metal
CIVIL WAR - Saint Patrick's Day Power Metal
XANDRIA - Neverworld's End Power Metal
DARK MOOR - Ancestral Romance Power Metal
DAWN OF DESTINY - Praying to the World Power Metal
DREAMTALE - Epsilon Power Metal
MINDMAZE - Back from the Edge Power Metal
VANDROYA - One Power Metal
DALRIADA - Jégbontó Power Metal
DALRIADA - Kikelet Folk Metal
DALRIADA - Ígéret Folk Metal

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Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 919 4.01
2 Progressive Metal 335 3.89
3 Symphonic Metal 224 3.92
4 Heavy Metal 175 3.58
5 Thrash Metal 96 3.63
6 Gothic Metal 92 3.92
7 Folk Metal 76 4.28
8 Melodic Death Metal 71 3.89
9 US Power Metal 42 3.82
10 Alternative Metal 37 3.45
11 Hard Rock 33 3.64
12 Non-Metal 29 3.48
13 Death Metal 19 4.03
14 Technical Death Metal 16 4.06
15 Metal Related 16 4.06
16 Melodic Metalcore 15 3.27
17 Industrial Metal 15 4.20
18 Symphonic Black Metal 15 4.47
19 Trance Metal 14 3.64
20 Groove Metal 14 2.89
21 Metalcore 12 3.83
22 Technical Thrash Metal 10 4.45
23 Speed Metal 10 3.80
24 Heavy Alternative Rock 9 4.67
25 Atmospheric Black Metal 8 4.06
26 Doom Metal 6 3.92
27 Nu Metal 6 4.00
28 NWoBHM 5 4.50
29 Melodic Black Metal 5 4.00
30 Deathcore 5 3.60
31 Glam Metal 4 3.88
32 Death-Doom Metal 4 3.88
33 Heavy Psych 4 3.75
34 Avant-garde Metal 3 3.67
35 Traditional Doom Metal 3 3.83
36 Brutal Death Metal 2 4.50
37 Stoner Metal 2 4.00
38 Sludge Metal 1 4.00
39 Neoclassical metal 1 4.00
40 Crossover Thrash 1 3.00
41 Black Metal 1 0.50
42 Viking Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

HAMMERFALL Dominion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SABATON The Great War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TURILLI/LIONE RHAPSODY Zero Gravity (Rebirth and Evolution)

Album · 2019 · Symphonic Metal
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Rhapsody has been around in one form or another since the early 90’s, and at this point, trying to keep track of all their different incarnations could become quite the headache. Needless to say, the band themselves have gone through quite a few changes over the years, while things were only made more complicated in 2012 when former guitarist/keyboardist/songwriter Luca Turilli formed his own version of the band, called Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. Well, things only became even more complicated in 2018, with the birth of yet another new version, called Turilli/Lione Rhapsody. Yes, indeed, the biggest selling point for this particular version is the reunion between Luca and longtime Rhapsody (of Fire) vocalist Fabio Lione, who parted ways with RoF in 2016. The rest of the lineup consists of other former members of the band, including live guitarist Dominique Leurquin, bassist Patrice Guers and longtime drummer Alex Holzwarth. With such a stacked lineup, expectations were obviously sky high for the latest take on Rhapsody, and now that their debut Zero Gravity (Rebirth and Evolution) is here, it certainly lives up to expectations, while in some ways being quite different from what one may expect.

With his previous Rhapsody project, Luca Turilli already moved in a much different direction from the classic Rhapsody sound, going with a much more keyboard focused, heavily orchestrated sound, filled with progressive elements and complex arrangements, and while the old power metal sound was still fully intact, it was toned down a bit in speed and intensity, for the most part. Much of that is true of Zero Gravity, with the keyboards and orchestras certainly dominating most of the tracks, and the use of choir vocals is extremely prominent, once again, especially on the interlude track “Origins” and the ballad “Amata Immortale”, but they can be found throughout the entire album, and are used very effectively, as always. Keys are also very prominent, and come in various forms, from a more modern, almost trance infused electronic style on some tracks, to some classical piano at times, as well as more atmospheric keys. Guitars are obviously still there, as well, with some pretty solid rhythm guitar work throughout, as well as some excellent melodic solos, but listeners definitely shouldn’t expect a ton of neoclassical shredding, or a ton of really heavy power metal riffs, in general, as this is very much an epic, extremely melodic symphonic metal album, with the power metal elements being somewhat dialed back, even compared to Turilli’s previous two albums.

Stylistically, the songs are a bit tricky to describe, as they generally aren’t as ambitious or complex as most of Ascending To Infinity or Prometheus, but they also aren’t nearly as speedy or energetic as classic Rhapsody. Instead, this is actually a very fun album, with a ton of huge, catchy choruses, and epic orchestral/choral arrangements, but the tempos are generally fairly restrained compared to normal, with most of the tracks being fairy upbeat, without ever really going full throttle. It almost feels like a deliberate decision not to ever go that fast, as even during the various sections where tracks do speed up, they never get past a certain speed, which would be considered much slower than max speed on most previous Rhapsody releases. Not that this is a problem, though, as the songwriting is generally amazing, as always, with the choruses and symphonic arrangements being especially impressive, but anyone expecting a more traditional power metal album may be disappointed. Performances are obviously top notch, with Luca doing some amazing work, as always, and of course Fabio sounds in top form, with his powerful, soaring vocals being as strong as ever, while his softer, dramatic vocals are also impressive, and he gets to showcase some stunning operatic vocals on a couple tracks, which are amazing to listen to! Production is also fantastic, and sounds more powerful and dynamic compared to Prometheus, which I always found to be a bit weak sounding, as the keys and symphonic arrangements sound amazing, without having to sacrifice any of the guitar sound, so that’s one area where I can say this album is a big improvement over the two Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody releases.

No matter how good an album sounds, though, it doesn’t matter if the songs are bad, but thankfully, Zero Gravity largely delivers with excellent songwriting, as well. Kicking things off is lead single “Phoenix Rising”, which has a brief intro, with some fairly non distracting narration, before the main melody kicks in and it’s an epic use of keyboards right from the start, as well as some nice rhythm guitar work. The track moves along at a nice pace, with fairly slow, quiet verses, before setting up an amazing, epic chorus with massive vocal melodies and an amazing performance from Fabio, as well as the choirs. The second half of the track has a very beautiful guitar/keyboard solo, and overall, it’s an excellent opener, as well as one of the best tracks on the album. Next is second single “D.N.A. (Demon and Angel”), a track dominated by choirs and keyboards. It kicks off with a tease at its chorus from the choirs, and quickly moves on to some very electronic, trance style keyboard melodies, which stick around throughout the whole song, while the verses are fun, but slightly repetitive, with how it constantly alternates between Fabio, the choirs and Amaranthe vocalist Elize Ryd, who makes a guest appearance on the track. The chorus is extremely catchy and addictive, and is easily the highlight of the track, as well as being one of Luca’s catchiest, most playful choruses to date. The song in general has more of an accessible feel to it than normal, while still being extremely epic, especially with the choral section in the second half.

The first non single on the album is the title track, and it’s another stunner of a track, opening with some beautiful female operatic vocals and light, atmospheric keyboard backdrops, which pick up intensity when Fabio makes his entrance, with some very theatrical vocals during the verses. The track quickly speeds up a little while before the chorus, and the chorus is very upbeat, and extremely epic, with some of the best vocal melodies on the album, as well as some excellent guitar work. The track overall is brilliant, alternating between soft and heavy passages, as well as having a really nice folk infused middle section, and of course a great guitar solo. The only track that has yet to fully win me over is “Fast Radio Burst”, which in contrast to its name, is actually one of the slowest paced tracks on the album, though that isn’t actually my problem with the song. It opens up with some weird sound effects and a bit of narration, before settling into a nice rhythm, with some pretty good riffs, and it then turns into more of mid paced progressive metal track, with a nice groove to it. The verses are quite good, and the buildup to the chorus is great, but the chorus itself is plagued by some rather irritating harsh vocals (which are made more puzzling by the fact that they only appear on this track and feel hopelessly out of place) as well as a pretty weak ending. The track effectively feels like a whole lot of build up, with no payoff, aside from the usual great instrumental section in the second half, and so it ends up being a bit of a disappointment

Things quickly pick up, once again, with “Decoding the Multiverse”, a very beautiful, epic track, which starts off with some nice piano work, before speeding up and turning into one of the heavier, more guitar driven tracks on the album, while still having some very nice piano work throughout. It alternates between soft, slow verses, and a more upbeat, fun chorus, and it has the perhaps the speediest passage on the album during an excellent guitar/keyboard solo in the second half. It’s a very fun track, overall, and is definitely one of my favorites on the album. Following that is the short but sweet interlude “Origins”, which makes full use of some amazing choir vocals, and then comes “Multidimensiona;”, another excellent, mostly mid paced track. It has a nice rhythm to it, with some more very modern sounding keys, some pretty chunky riffs, and epic symphonic arrangements, as usual. It moves along at a fairly slow pace during the verses, before picking up for the chorus (a recurring theme for the album in general) and the chorus is again excellent, with huge vocal melodies, awesome keys, and very effective drumming. It’s a very epic, fun track, while having a slightly darker tone than most other songs on the album.

The lone ballad on the album is “Amata Immortale”, and it’s an excellent one, almost feeling like a full on opera, with some nice classical piano used throughout, to go along with Fabio singing in Italian and going full operatic style, along with some absolutely stunning accompanying choir vocals during the chorus, which is one of the highlights of the album. The track on the whole is absolutely stunning, though some metal fans will likely be bored by it. The longest track on the album is “I Am”, which clocks in at just over 7 minutes, and it’s also the most complex, most fully packed track on the album, with some excellent instrumental work, and a nice mix of soft, slower passages, and heavier, more upbeat passages, including more piano work, more epic keys, some saxophone, and a ton of epic symphonic arrangements, as always. It also has a guest appearance from DGM vocalist Mark Basile, who’s especially prominent during the second verse and chorus, and he gives a very powerful, emotional performance, which takes his parts of the song to new heights. The music becomes very theatrical at one point in the second half, giving off some Queen vibes, before going into a great instrumental section, and overall, the song is another stunner. Closing out the album is “Arcanum (Da Vinci’s Enigma”, which is also sung entirely in Italian, as far as I can tell. It starts out softly, with some beautiful keys and symphonic arrangements, before speeding up turning into another full scale, epic symphonic metal track, with slight power metal leanings. It’s another track which alternates nicely between some very some passages, and a very upbeat, extremely epic chorus, and it has some more outstanding choir vocals as well as some more operatic vocals from Fabio, and it’s definitely a fantastic way to close out the album!

There’s always going to be high expectations for anything Rhapsody related, and of course Luca Turilli and Fabio Lione both have a large following, and so expectations for this first offering from Turilli/Lione’s Rhapsody were sky high. Thankfully, the band has delivered an excellent debut, and while power metal fans may be a bit disappointed, anyone else should be very pleased, as it’s an amazing album that largely builds on the more epic, cinematic style Turilli has used on his previous couple of albums, while at times being a bit more accessible, and having some of his catchiest choruses ever. Fans of his epic symphonic arrangements and usage of choir vocals, as well as fans of Fabio Lione, should be especially pleased with this album, and fans of symphonic metal in general are highly recommended to check this out, while obviously fans of Rhapsody, in all its forms, will need to hear it, while power metal fans who aren’t overly into Rhapsody may want to take a pass. Overall, though, it’s an amazing album, and one I am very happy with, even if it doesn’t quite reach the heights of some of Luca Turilli’s all time best works.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/07/03/turilli-lione-rhapsody-zero-gravity-rebirth-evolution-review/

MAJESTY Legends

Album · 2019 · Power Metal
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It can sometimes be very shocking, when a well established band, known for a very specific sound, suddenly decides to shift gears seemingly out of nowhere. It’s happened with countless numbers of well known bands before, and will almost certainly happen countless more times, as bands continuously look to evolve and distinguish themselves from everyone else. One band who always had a clear, distinct direction to their music is German heavy/power metal band Majesty, formed in 1997, and with eight albums in their discography (or nine, if you include their Metalforce album, which had a different name, but was largely similar to their other releases.) While the band had made some very subtle changes on some of their albums (such as the more laid back Sword & Sorcery, or the pure, intense knockout of an album that was Hellforces) their main sound was always immediately noticeable, falling somewhere in between classic Manowar and early Euro power metal.

So, when the first single for their upcoming ninth album, Legends, was released and proved to be a dramatic change in direction for the band, fans were shocked, and in some cases disappointed to hear the band seemingly abandoning their usual sound. Personally, I found the change interesting, as I do love the band’s earlier releases, and found their previous album, Rebels, to be easily their best since Hellforces, but a potential shift in sound didn’t bother me one bit, as long as they could pull it off well. Now that I’ve heard Legends several times, I am left with mixed feelings, as there are moments where the new sound works wonders and takes the band to new heights, but there are also some misguided experiments, as well as times where trying to mash old and new elements together don’t quite work out. The album ultimately feels like a new beginning for something that could pay off on future releases, but at least for now, the band hasn’t quite nailed their new sound down as well as their old one.

Longtime fans of the band were certainly in for a shock when they heard the rather cheesy keyboards used on lead single “Burn the Bridges”, and while not every song falls in line with that one, there’s certainly a lot more where that came from. On each of their previous albums, Majesty played a style of music that could best be described as a mix of classic Manowar and Euro power metal, with a bit more speed and intensity compared to the former, while at times being a bit more laid back than the latter, while still being very epic and melodic at all times. Their lyrics were often in line with their heroes, as indicated by such album titles as “Keep It True” and “Reign in Glory”, and so Legends is already a big chance of pace, being a concept album centered around a post apocalyptic wasteland, complete with little bits of narration. This is the first sign of trouble, as the album lacks some of the fun and wackiness of their past albums, while the narration is very forced and irritating, especially on the very skippable intro track, which gets the album off on the wrong foot.

Musically, the band still has traces of their classic metal sound, but the songs all have a more modernized feel to them, with keyboards aplenty, and some of the guitar work has a slightly chunkier, more modernized sound to it. I actually find the album works best when the band goes all in with their new sound, as they do have the ability to write some very fun, energetic tracks with a slightly more modern sound, and the speedier, more power metal focused tracks are especially strong on this one, while some of the tracks where they try inserting some of their classic elements to go along with the keys and overall more melodic approach, just don’t quite work out too well. Performances are still strong across the board, with the guitarists having some great moments, especially some really beautiful, melodic solos on many of the tracks, while vocalist Tarek Mahgary still sounds like a slightly lighter singing, deeper voiced version of Eric Adams, and his vocals are as excellent as always, while the production is also top notch.

The biggest area where the album comes up short is in the songwriting. There are some excellent songs here, but there’s also a few that come up just a bit short of greatness, as well as one that could only be described as a total disaster. Following the terrible intro track I already mentioned, the band comes out full guns blazing with “Rizing Home”, a speedy, hard hitting power metal with some great lead riffs, an excellent solo in the second half, fun verses and an absolutely incredible anthem like chorus, the likes of which they’ve always excelled at, though this may be one of their absolute best, especially with the infectious hook of “ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh Rizing Home”, which will never get old! It’s also a perfect example of how to pull off their new sound effectively, without fully abandoning their past, as it’s still very much a heavy, energetic metal track, but it mixes in some keyboards, though the key is they’re largely kept in the background and used to add an extra layer of epic, to what’s already a great track, and so they’re never dominant or distracting. Overall, it’s an absolute masterpiece of a track, and one which, sadly, the rest of the album can’t quite live up to.

Following that epic opener is lead single “Burn the Bridges”, another fine example of the band’s new sound. This one immediately gives off some Sabaton vibes, with the very cheesy keyboards, and it has a lighter sound overall, though it still moves along at a fast pace, with some very fun verses, an epic build up and then the chorus comes in and manages to be simultaneously a whole lot of fun, while also being one of the most annoyingly repetitive things I’ve ever heard on a metal track. I eventually came to love it, but the fact that it has to follow “Rizing Home”, which manages to be equally energetic, while having a much stronger chorus, does end up hurting it just a bit. The solo in the second half is excellent, though, and it’s a very fun track overall. Next is “We Are Legends”, and this one is a bit of a mixed bag. It has traces of the band’s classic sound, with an epic, fun chorus that brings “Rebels of Our Time” to mind, but at the same time, the chunkier guitar work during the verses feels a bit out of place, while the keys are a bit awkward sounding, and don’t mesh well with the overall classic vibe of the track. It’s a case of old and new clashing together in a way where everything just comes off feeling a bit muddled.

The album picks up for a while after that minor letdown, with second single “Wasteland Outlaw” laying down the blueprint for how to make a slower paced, more laid back heavy metal track with the band’s new sound, as it’s very light, very keyboard dominant and is one of the most relaxed and more melodic tracks on the album, with guitars playing a very minor role. At the same time, it’s a very enjoyable track, with an excellent, irresistibly catchy chorus and an excellent melodic guitar solo. Next is “Church of Glory”, another very keyboard driven track, though it’s a more upbeat track, with some very bouncy keyboard hooks during the verses, while the chorus has more of a classic feel to it, with some nice melodic guitar work, some insanely epic backing vocals, and awesome vocal melodies all around. It’s definitely one of the best, most fun tracks on the album, though some fans may be turned off by the over the top keys. Another strong track is “Mavericks Supreme”, which is very much in line with the previous track, though the keyboards are a bit more restrained, and if anything the chorus is even more epic and fun. It’s another fun, upbeat track, with incredible backing vocals, an excellent, very melodic guitar solo, and a nice use of keyboards. The final speedy track on the album comes two tracks later, with “Last Brigade”, and it’s another massive highlight, probably the best on the album aside from “Rizing Home”. It’s a fast paced, hard hitting track with some very aggressive guitar work, fast and furious verses, and an unbelievably uplifting, insanely epic chorus, with some more incredible melodies and backing vocals. It’s one of those tracks that fits in perfectly with the new sound, while still managing to have a slight throwback feel to it, and it’s absolutely amazing from start to finish.

Unfortunately, the worst moment of the album comes in between those last two tracks. Majesty are usually pretty good at ballads, with “Across the Lightning” from Rebels being particularly excellent, but it’s safe to say, “Words of Silence” is by far their weakest ballad ever, if not their absolute weakest song, period. It’s largely a piano ballad, with slight symphonic elements, but it struggles to get going right away with some rather awkward vocal melodies, and more alarmingly, an F-Bomb shows up early on, with more to follow later in the track. The thing is, swearing can be effective, if used on an angry, aggressive track, but on such a tame sounding ballad, it just feels forced and hopelessly out of place. Worse though, the second verse has an attempt at some very bouncy vocal melodies that come close to rap, and it’s just pure torture to listen to, while the chorus is better, and feels close to being good, but it just doesn’t quite get there: Something about it just feels a tad off, and so it never gives the emotional feeling it should. A nice guitar solo in the second half is really the only redeeming quality the track has, but otherwise (and I really hate to say this,) the track is an outright colossal failure, and one of the worst tracks I’ve heard so far this year, if not the absolute worst.

With that downer of a track out of the way, we move to the final two tracks, both of which are solid, but unspectacular. First up is “Blood of the Titans” a slightly upbeat, hard hitting track, with solid verses and a pretty epic, fun chorus, though it doesn’t reach the heights of most of the earlier tracks on the album, aside from another excellent guitar solo in the second half, as well as a great use of keys. Closing out the album is “Stand As One”, a very modern sounding, more mid paced track, with some very chunky riffs, an overuse of keys, and decent verses, helped somewhat by yet another very fun, epic and catchy chorus, with more outstanding vocal melodies. Its not the strongest way to end an album, but it’s a pretty solid track, and it doesn’t reach the lows some of the other tracks do, so it’s a fine enough ending.

Legends is an interesting album, in that it shows signs of being incredible at times, with the new keyboard driven focus working wonders on some tracks, while the vocal melodies and choruses are generally amazing, the speedier sections tend to be equal parts intense, melodic and pure fun, while the solos are excellent, as always, and yet there are enough weaker points to drag the album down, to the point where it ends up being a bit of a mess. I think Majesty need to decide whether or not they’re willing to fully commit to this new sound or go back to their roots, as the tracks that lean more towards one way or the other tend to work out the best, while tracks that try and mix the two together often see the two styles clashing in ways that cause the song to turn into a muddled mess. I can definitely see longtime fans of the band being disappointed, though I can also see people turned off by their Manowar influences being more willing to give this album a chance, thanks to the more modernised approach, while newcomers are likely to find some enjoyment, as there’s enough variety and enough outstanding moments for the album to be worth a shot. It’s not as good an album as I was hoping it would be, but it’s still very fun at times, and it does show potential for better things in the future, if the band can figure out how to pull everything together. At the vary least, it feels like a potential start to a new era for Majesty, and it leaves me very excited to see what they come up with next. It may not be the total knockout I was hoping for, but it certainly isn’t a total failure, either. It’s more of a fascinating near miss, than anything.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/06/26/majesty-legends-review/

PALADIN Ascension

Album · 2019 · Power Metal
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As someone who’s always looking out for promising new power metal bands, one band that managed to catch me completely by surprise when seeking out new promo materials, is American power/thrash/melodeath band Paladin. I had never heard anything about the band going in, but apparently they released a demo in 2017, went through some lineup changes afterward, and now they’re ready to release their debut, Ascension later this week, and it is one heck of a killer album!

The band is led by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Taylor Washington, who is clearly the star of the album, though the other three members also do an excellent job, of course. Musically, Ascension is quite the interesting release, as its two singles may make it seem like fairly typical power metal, except with a slight thrash edge to some of the guitar work, but there’s actually quite a lot going on throughout the majority of the tracks, with some very thrashy instrumental work at times, as well as some extended harsh vocal sections. In fact, while quite a few power metal bands do use growls on occasion, I struggle to think of many who do it quite the way Paladin do, where a song can start off feeling like thrashy power metal, with strong, soaring clean vocals, and then suddenly a huge, explosive melodeath section will come with some epic growls. And of course, it often goes the other way around, too, with “Carpe Diem” in particular starting out with a thunderous, powerful opening verse that brings classic Swedish medlodeath to mind, before opening up with a soaring, very melodic, cleanly sung chorus. And on top of all of that, the instrumental work often switches from very melodic, albeit guitar driven, power metal, into all out thrash territory within an instant. Suffice to say, the band does an excellent job of genre blending, and while the core of the music is definitely power metal, there’s quite bit of thrash and melodeath to find, often showing up seamlessly into a track, and everything is executed to near perfection.

Performances are excellent across the board, with Taylor and Alex Parra in particular delivering some excellent guitar work, which often switches from very melodic, to quite crunchy or quite aggressive and then back again, in a hurry, while Nathan McKinney’s drumming is generally frantic, to stay on pace with the generally speedy tempos of the tracks, but it’s also very well done. Taylor’s vocals are also impressive, alternating seamlessly between soaring, powerful clean vocals, and some deep, intense death growls, which fall somewhere in between classic death growls and blackened rasps. His clean vocals are smooth, and he does a great job during the epic choruses, while at times having a slight edge to his voice, which also works very well, and is especially effective during the thrashier sections. The songwriting is also impressive, with most songs doing a great job of incorporating different elements, though the couple of more straight-forward power metal tracks, “Awakening” and “Shoot for the Sun”, the two singles for the album, are also both excellent, immediately engaging tracks. Production is top notch, with everything sounding crystal clear and powerful, and for a debut, the band sounds very tight.

Songwriting is one area that can take time for bands to master, but Paladin has nailed it down quite well on their debut, with every song being excellent. It all starts off with opening track and second single, “Awakening”, a very speedy, melodic power metal track, which alternates between frantic, intense verses, and a soaring, melodic chorus, where Taylor really shines. It has some excellent melodies, especially during the chorus and excellent solo in the second half, as well as some riffs that slightly hint at a thrashier sound, though that doesn’t fully emerge until later in the album. Speaking of which, the next track, “Divine Providence”, introduces the band’s full sound, starting off at more of a relaxed mid tempo, before some powerful growls enter in early on, during an atmospheric section that introduces the band’s melodeath side, and then for a while the track alternates between clean and harsh vocals, as well as frantic sections and more mid paced sections, until a big instrumental section later on, where some obvious technical thrash elements appear. And thus, Palandin’s full sound has been properly unveiled, in all its glory, by the time the track is over.

The melodeath elements only get stronger on “Call of the Night”, which opens with a very speedy, melodic, growled chorus that certainly brings many classic Swedish melodeath tracks to mind. This continues on for a while, before Taylor brings back his clean vocals for an epic chorus, and then the track continues to alternate between melodeath and power metal as it goes on, which makes for one explosive, highly addictive track. Fans looking to hear the thrashier side of the band need look no further than “Call of the Night“, another frantic track, which kicks off with some very hard hitting, thrashy guitar work, and while it does throw in more growls during the chorus, it’s pretty much an unrelenting power/thrash assault from start to finish, with some very powerful and intense clean vocals from Taylor, as well as an incredibly fun and heavy instrumental section in the second half. It’s definite one of those tracks where the band does an amazing job of alternating between their wilder, heavier side, and their more melodic power metal side, with both aspects coming through perfectly. While the album has some great vocals, the more instrumental side of the band comes through strongly on “Black Omen”, another speedy, very hard hitting track, which has some great extended instrumental sections, and the guitar work gets very technical in places. There are some vocal sections, as always, including both clean vocals and growls, but it’s the instrumental sections that standout the most, most notably during the first minute, as well as an extended section in the second half, which alternates nicely speedy, heavy guitar work, and a very nice slower section.

The album moves into slightly more straight-forward material for a while, starting with “Fall From Grace”, another speedy, very melodic track, with an extremely strong chorus. It has a slight thrash edge to it during the verses, but it also has some very nice melodic guitar work, as well as one of the best choruses on the album. Next is “Bury the Light”, one of the band’s earlier songs, as it appeared on their 2017 demo, and it’s another track which brings some classic melodeath to mind, with some very melodic guitar work early on, before speeding up and unleashing some intense growled verses, which give way to a slightly slower, very melodic chorus, which alternates between the two styles. It’s a simply, yet very fun track, which again shows both the heavy and more melodic sides of the band quite well. Perhaps the most straight-forward song of all is lead single “Shoot for the Sun”, a fast paced, hard hitting track which has very technical guitar work, as well as some classic speed metal influences, with intense rapid fire verses, and a simple but fun chorus. It brings the first two Hibria albums to mind, and is definitely a very fun, catchy track, as well as a great display of heavy, guitar driven classic power metal.

Moving towards the end, “Vagrant” is another track which does a great job of incorporating the band’s various styles, with fast paced, slightly thrashy verses, a very melodic, cleanly sung chorus, and some growls here in there, as well as more thrahsy guitar work in the second half. Next is “Dawn of Rebirth”, another one of the more thrashy songs on the album. It has a nice mix of both vocal styles early on, as well as some great melodies during the verses and chorus, and then it the second half it has an extended instrumental section where the band goes into full on technical thrash territory again, and it’s absolutely glorious! Closing out the album is “Genesis”, the longest and most epic track of the bunch. It has some nice melodic guitar work throughout, and starts off with some powerful harsh vocals, during a nicely paced, though not terribly speedy section. It carries on at this pace for a while, before slowing down in the middle for some of the most melodic and beautiful guitar work on the entire album, and Taylor alternates wonderfully between his two vocal styles, delivering some of his best vocals with both styles, before the music picks up one last time to close out the album. It’s an epic track on its own, and it’s definitely an excellent way to close out the album.

Paladin is one of those bands that kinda crept up on me from out of nowhere, and they managed to make a strong first impression with their debut, Ascension. It’s an excellent blend of speedy, melodic power metal, aggressive, technical thrash and some epic, powerful melodious death metal. While the power metal elements are the most prominent and are on every track, the band does an excellent job of blending the three styles together on most of the tracks, which helps make it quite a unique album. Fans of all three styles are highly recommended to give this album a listen, as it’s an amazing debut on all levels, with excellent musicianship, great songwriting and a killer vocal performance. This is a band I could see doing really awesome things, so hopefully they can gain a large following with this album, and have the success they deserve!

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/05/13/paladin-ascension-review/

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