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2248 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 875 3.99
2 Progressive Metal 331 3.89
3 Symphonic Metal 222 3.91
4 Heavy Metal 163 3.54
5 Thrash Metal 95 3.63
6 Gothic Metal 92 3.92
7 Folk Metal 69 4.26
8 Melodic Death Metal 67 3.84
9 US Power Metal 37 3.78
10 Alternative Metal 34 3.38
11 Hard Rock 33 3.64
12 Non-Metal 29 3.48
13 Death Metal 18 4.00
14 Metal Related 16 4.06
15 Melodic Metalcore 15 3.27
16 Groove Metal 14 2.89
17 Symphonic Black Metal 13 4.38
18 Metalcore 11 3.82
19 Technical Death Metal 11 4.00
20 Technical Thrash Metal 10 4.45
21 Speed Metal 10 3.80
22 Trance Metal 10 3.50
23 Heavy Alternative Rock 9 4.67
24 Industrial Metal 8 4.50
25 Atmospheric Black Metal 8 4.06
26 Melodic Black Metal 5 4.00
27 Doom Metal 5 4.00
28 NWoBHM 5 4.50
29 Nu Metal 4 3.75
30 Heavy Psych 4 3.75
31 Death-Doom Metal 4 3.88
32 Deathcore 4 3.38
33 Glam Metal 4 3.88
34 Avant-garde Metal 3 3.67
35 Traditional Doom Metal 3 3.83
36 Stoner Metal 1 4.00
37 Sludge Metal 1 4.00
38 Neoclassical metal 1 4.00
39 Black Metal 1 0.50
40 Brutal Death Metal 1 4.50
41 Crossover Thrash 1 3.00
42 Viking Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

SIRENIA Arcane Astral Aeons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARION Life is Not Beautiful

Album · 2018 · Symphonic Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
One of the most promising bands to come out of Finland in recent years is symphonic power metal band Arion. I discovered them in 2014 with their debut, Last of Us, and was immediately impressed by their strong vocal melodies, varied songwriting and their ability to blend softer tracks nicely with speedy power metal tracks. They’ve gone through some changes since then, with original vocalist Viljami Holopainen leaving and being replaced by Lassi Vääränen, who they quickly put to work with a new single, At the Break of Dawn. After that, the band was mostly silent for a couple years, while quietly working on a full album, and now, over four years after their debut, they’ve returned with their second full-length release, Life is Not Beautiful. I was excited to see where the band would go musically, as well as to see whether the new vocalist would fit in well, and while I have some mixed feelings on the latter, overall Life is Not Beautiful is another excellent release, which definitely moves the band’s sound forward, while still feeling familiar enough to keep existing fans happy.

Fans of the band’s debut will likely notice a slight change in the music direction between albums, as while the guitar tone and symphonic elements still feel familiar, the actual songwriting has changed a bit, moving towards a slightly more modernized sound, with crunchier guitar work in places, as well as an increased focus on harder hitting, speedy power metal, over some of the more relaxed material Last of Us had. There’s still some softer passages, for sure, including two ballads, but overall there’s a definite push towards heavier material on this release, and there is a time where the guitars overtake everything else, with the symphonic elements still being strong, but not quite as dominant as on the debut. Musically, everything sounds as great as before, with guitarist Livo Kaipainen, in particular, turning in a strong performance, with some excellent crunching riffs and strong solos, while the keyboards add some extra flavor, and the symphonic elements make everything feel more epic, especially on tracks like “No One Stands in My Way” and “The Last Sacrifice”. Songwriting is strong throughout, though none of the ballads grab me nearly as much as “You’re My Melody” from Last of Us, which may be at least partially because of the vocals.

Speaking of which, the aspect I was most concerned about going into this release, was, in fact, the vocals. Original vocalist Viljami Holopainen had a very smooth voice and he really excelled during the softer sections, while still doing a great job on the heavier parts. New vocalist Lassi Vääränen, on the other hand, has a much deeper and much rougher voice, which alone makes for a big change in direction. That’s just the beginning, though, as Lassi has a very wild, over the top delivery throughout the album, rarely toning it down, instead coming close to screaming at the top of his lungs most of the time, with a very energetic vocal performance that works great on heavier tracks, but not so much on the more melodic tracks. Worse, he fails to put in any kind of touch at all, taking some choruses that could have potentially been amazing, and instead of turning them into nearly incoherent scream fests. He does a pretty solid job throughout the album, and it must be noted he sounds very good on the three bonus re-recorded tracks from the debut, so part of the problem may be with the vocal melodies themselves, but either way, his vocals really bother me from time to time, and I feel he’s the one thing keeping me from potentially enjoying this release even more than Last of Us.

One area I wasn’t too worried about was the songwriting, as that’s an area the band had proven themselves to be great in on their debut, as well as the terrific single At the Break of Dawn, and so it’s no surprise to find that every song on this album is excellent musically. Following a nice orchestral intro track, opener “No One Stands in My Way” kicks in, and is a very epic, mid-paced track, where the symphonic elements dominate. It would have fit in pretty well on Last of Us, though it does have some of those extra crunchy guitars in bursts, as well some very energetic vocals from Lassi during the verses. The chorus is also epic, and Lassi’s vocals fit in pretty well on it, so it’s a strong start to the album, overall. Next is the single, “At the Break of Dawn”, and of course it’s still as amazing as ever. It’s a speedy, hard-hitting track with some great guitar work, epic keyboards, especially during the chorus, and while Lassi himself sounds pretty solid, the highlight of the track is Amaranthe vocalist Elize Ryd, who really shines the during the chorus, as expected.

The first song where the vocals really start to irritate me is “The Final Sacrifice”. It starts off slow, with some nice atmospheric keyboards, as well as some quiet vocals from Lassi, which already feel slightly off-putting. Once the track gets going, it picks up the pace and turns into a speedy power metal track, with some nice melodic leads, but the big moment is the chorus, which is very melodic musically, with some epic orchestral work, and it leaves room for some big vocal melodies, except Lassi falls back to his screaming, and the result is not exactly the most pleasant. It’s still a nice track overall, but it feels like the vocals hold it back a bit. Next is “Through Your Falling Tears”, a soft piano ballad, which is very beautiful musically, and while Lassi doesn’t excel in the way his predecessor likely would have on this track, he does a solid enough job on the chorus, not overdoing it too much with his screaming, so it ends up being a solid, if not quite amazing ballad.

One song where Lassi does excel is the hard-hitting “Unforgivable”, a very speedy track, which feels similar to “At the Break of Dawn”, except the guitars hit just a bit harder, and Lassi is the only vocalist here. His screams actually work very well during the chorus here and help make it super intense and epic. It’s a very fun, extremely catchy track, and easily my favorite on the album. Sadly, the same can’t be said for “Punish You”, which is probably the worst song on the album, just because of the vocals. Musically, it has a very modern sound to it, with the guitar work, in particular, feels like it would fit great on a modern melodic death metal track, and during the verses Lassi’s deep, rough vocals work quite well, but as is a common theme on the album, once the chorus hits, things go downhill in a hurry. He switches to a higher register, which is in one word: disastrous. The less said about it the better, really. The song itself is still very good, thanks to the verses and some excellent instrumental work, especially during the solo section, but the vocals bring it down quite a bit. Another track I have mixed feelings on is the title track. It’s another song with some very modern sounding, crunchy guitars, almost going into metalcore territory, and it’s excellent musically, with an especially melodic and beautiful solo towards the end. As usual, the verses are strong, but Lassi’s nasally screams get on my nerves once again during the chorus, almost as much so as on “Punish You”. Closing out the album is one more ballad “Last One Falls”. This is the one track on the album where Lassi tones it down completely and sings softly, with pretty good results. He isn’t the most emotive vocalist, but his deep voice fits the sorrowful tone of the song nicely, and he gives a solid performance. As mentioned earlier, the album features three bonus re-recorded tracks from Last of Us, including the softer title track, where Lassi sounds good, but a bit off, as well as the speedier tracks “Seven” and “I Am the Storm”, where he actually sounds great, particularly on the latter, where I’d even say he takes the song to new heights. Musically, the tracks sound pretty much identical to the original versions, so it all comes down to which vocalist you prefer.

Overall, Life is Not Beautiful is a bit of a frustrating release, as it’s a brilliant album musically, continuing with the epic symphonic metal of the band’s debut, while pushing towards more of a power metal direction, with quite a few speedier songs as well as some harder hitting, more modern sounding guitar work, but new vocalist Lassi Vääränen isn’t the best fit at times, and brings my enjoyment down on a couple tracks in particular. At the same time, he does bring a new intensity and energy that can help the band in the future, and I think if they write material that’s well suited to his voice, they could reach the next level. It hasn’t happened yet, but Life is Not Beautiful is still an excellent album overall, which I can easily recommend to fans of their debut, as well as anyone looking for some great symphonic power metal, with great songwriting, great instrumental work, and some good vocals, especially during verses and heavier sections.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/10/20/arion-life-is-not-beautiful-review/

ORION'S REIGN Scores of War

Album · 2018 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
There are some bands I will follow for a while before hearing anything substantial from them, just out of the sheer promise they show in bursts. The most recent case of this is Greek symphonic power metal band Orion’s Reign. The band has been around for over thirteen years, releasing their debut Nuclear Winter in 2008, but they had escaped my attention completely until a few years ago when I saw one of their many yearly Christmas music videos. These tracks have always been equal parts silly, epic and just plain entertaining, and so when I heard the band was working on a new album in their current form, I was excited to see what they would be capable when writing their own material. Now that Scores of War is here, it’s safe to say, the band has shattered all my expectations, and delivered one of the absolute best power metal albums of the year!

Fans of the genre should have a good idea of what kind of material to expect here, as this is very much fantasy themed symphonic power metal in its most epic form, with the main focus being on symphonic keys and orchestras, with guitars serving mostly as rhythm for any sections, though when they do come to the front of the sound, they can be quite strong, with some classic heavy metal leads at times, in the vein of classic Maiden, as well as some excellent shredding solos. For the most part, though, it’s the symphonic arrangements and drums that carry the songs, and both of these elements are very well done, with the drums doing an excellent job in setting the pace, while the orchestral elements and symphonic keys are grand, sweeping and epic in every possible way, at times creating the atmosphere of a film score. There’s occasionally the use of folk elements as well, such as fiddles and bagpipes. While there’s always a lot going on, with most tracks containing multiple layers of orchestral elements, everything works together perfectly, and the actual songs are fairly straight-forward and always engaging. There’s also quite a bit of variety in the songs here, with the expected speedy power metal tracks being balanced out by a couple slower tracks, including a ballad, as well as a couple more folk-influenced songs, and other surprises. The album always manages to stay fresh and consistently amazing from start to finish. Performances are excellent all around, and production was handled by Jens Bergen, who did an excellent job as always.

The band has gone through a few lineup changes over the years, with their latest addition being vocalist Daniel Vasconcelos, who joined in 2015. For a while, the band had no vocalist and was just using guests for their various singles, but now with Dan in the group, they are ready to forge ahead. Thankfully, Dan is an excellent vocalist, with a rather deep and powerful voice, which fits the music perfectly. His vocals are often theatrical, somewhat operatic, and fit in well with the overall epic feel of the album, adding an extra layer to everything. He can sometimes get a bit more intense and uses some falsetto every one in a while, to great effect. There’s also a ton of choir vocals throughout the album, which are used quite effectively, as well as a few guests, who I’ll mention in the song by song descriptions.

Having only heard the band performing covers coming into this album, I was interested in seeing what their songwriting skills were like. Needless to say, they do not disappoint, as every song on Scores of War is fantastic in its own way, as the album manages to be both varied and consistently amazing the whole way through. Things kick off with the super epic opener “Elder Blood”, which starts off with an epic orchestral section, accompanied by choral vocals, before the metal instruments and Dan eventually kick in, and then the song speeds up and turns into an epic speedy symphonic power metal track, with excellent verses, an even better chorus, and some excellent rhythm guitar work throughout, as well as an excellent solo. Next is “Together We March”, another speedy track, where the symphonic elements are very prevalent throughout, with guitars mostly serving as rhythm, though they do so effectively. The song has fun verses and another strong chorus, this time with some excellent guest vocals from Tim “Ripper Owns”, who uses his signature falsetto vocals throughout the verses and chorus. There’s also an extremely epic vocal section in the second half, giving way to a great guitar solo, and overall it’s an absolutely wonderful track.

The first slower track is “Gravewalker”, another very epic track, dominated by symphonic elements and choir vocals. The verses are slow but have some rather hard-hitting guitar work, as well as some excellent orchestral sounds, and the chorus is huge, with Dan accompanied by some very epic choir vocals, making for one of the catchiest and most engaging choruses on the album. The track gets intense in the middle for a while, with a great instrumental section, and overall it’s one of my personal favorites here. The highlights keep coming with lead single “The Undefeated Gaul”, one of the fastest, hardest hitting tracks on the album. The riffs are extra aggressive here, and Dan gets very intense during the verses, giving way to a catchy, but frantic and very heavy chorus, which eventually leads to the heaviest instrumental section on the album, with some great shredding guitars. It’s a wild and intense track but still manages to be very epic and fun at the same time. Speaking of fun, “Adventure Song” is a slightly lighter but still fast-paced track, with some excellent choir vocals throughout. It has the vibe of a tavern song and features various folk instruments throughout, that give it the feel of a classic folk song, except with heavy guitars. It’s a fast, melodic and very catchy song, and certainly one of the cheeriest metal songs you’ll ever hear, with an especially great instrumental section, where several different folk instruments are used. The band returns to a more familiar symphonic power metal territory with “Freedom is not Negotiable, which has slow verses, but a fast and intense chorus, filled with more epic choir vocals, and as well as another intense instrumental section with some very heavy guitar work.

Another change of pace comes with “Nostos”, a very melodic mid-paced track, with a slight folk feel to it. The symphonic elements are dominant once again, and it’s a very light, upbeat track with some amazing vocal melodies throughout. It serves as a duet between Dan and Youtube cover vocalist Minniva, who had previously worked with the band on their past few Christmas carols. She fits the track perfectly, with very light but powerful vocals, that capture the vibe of the music wonderfully, and her higher vocals serve as a perfect contrast to Dan’s deeper voice, making them a great duo. The chorus is probably the catchiest and most engaging on the album, and overall it’s simply a wonderful track, and probably my favorite on the album. Next is “Warrior’s Pride”, a faster, more classic power metal feeling track. Guitars lead the way through most of the track, with heavy, driving riffs, and the chorus is fun and catchy, without being quite as grand as usual. The symphonic elements are still there but feel a bit less prominent than usual, and overall it’s a very fast and heavy track, with the occasional growls thrown in for some extra flavor. The lone ballad here is “Withering Heart”, which starts out as a soft piano ballad, but gradually develops into something much more epic, with a great use of choirs and orchestral elements, as well as having by the best vocals from Dan on the entire album, as he really steals the show, especially during the final run-through of the chorus, where he goes all out and absolutely nails it. One last speedy track is “Last Stand”, which certainly feels like the kind of song Rhapsody of Fire would have released in their prime. It’s very fast, intense and makes great use of symphonic elements, while still having some pretty heavy rhythm guitar work, as well as an excellent keyboard solo in the second half, performed by Firewind’s Bob Katsionis. Most vocals on the track are performed by Mark Boals, who does a great job as always, especially during an epic vocal section right at the end, which feels like it could have been a perfect end to the album. Instead, the band chose to close the album out with “Ride Into War”, a slow but very epic track, with a very classic Maiden vibe to the guitar work. It starts out with some classical piano, and stays soft and theatrical for a while before the guitars kick in and that classic heavy metal feel takes over for a while. It’s another very epic track, with great guitar work and an excellent chorus, and it does a nice job of alternating between soft and heavy sections throughout, making it an appropriate ending track.

Overall, Scores of War is an incredible album, from a band I had been following for a while to see if their original material could live up to their cover work. It’s safe to say, Orion’s Reign has not only lived up to my expectations, but they have also completely shattered them, and have produced the best symphonic power metal album of the year, as well as one of the best in recent years. It’s a consistently excellent album, with nicely varied songwriting, a great use of symphonic elements, and excellent guest vocals on a few tracks. Highly recommended for any power metal fan looking for something especially epic, as well as symphonic power metal fans looking for something similar to Rhapsody of Fire at their best, while still doing more than enough to stand out.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/10/19/orions-reign-scores-of-war-review/

DIRE PERIL The Extraterrestrial Compendium

Album · 2018 · Power Metal
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American power metal band Dire Peril is a group I have known of for over four years, first hearing their second EP Queen of the Galaxy back in 2014, but they had never made such an impression on me up until now. First off, a lot has changed since my initial experience with the band. For three EP’s, mastermind Jason Ashcraft had been working with a full band, including Imagika vocalist Norman Skinner. I only heard the one aforementioned release and found it to be solid, but unspectacular. However, in 2015, Jason took some time away from the band, before eventually regrouping and decided to work as a duo, bringing in Judicator vocalist John Yelland. I have experience with both current members of the band from other projects, discovering Jason’s other band, Helion Prime with their solid self-titled released in 2016, as well as hearing John in three different bands, with the most recent Judicator release, The Last Emperor, being one of my favorite power metal releases of 2018. With these two working together, along with some guest musicians, and two major guest vocalists, I was excited to see if Dire Peril could finally reach their full potential. Now that their full-length debut, The Extraterrestrial Compendium, has arrived, it’s safe to say I won’t be forgetting about this band again any time soon!

Based on the EP I had heard, the band had initially been more of an all-out aggressive power/thrash band, where The Extraterrestrial Compendium is a much more varied, more challenging and more dynamic release. There’s definitely still traces of thrash in many of the riffs, particularly on tracks like “Total Recall” and “Roughnecks”, but there’s also a surprising amount of softer sections, including two ballads, as well as a fair amount of classic heavy metal guitar work, which often brings to mind classic Iron Maiden. I can definitely see the aforementioned band, as well as Iced Earth, being two major influences on this release, but there’s certainly enough fresh ideas here for the album to stand on its own. For the most part, this is an album full of hard hitting, fast paced power metal, with the guitars being the main focus, and often being very aggressive as well as quite technical. Jason’s lead guitar work is excellent throughout the release, and there are also several solos from guest musicians, which are all very well done. This is a very heavy album overall, but it strikes a perfect balance between more intense passages and calmer passages, sometimes within the same track, or sometimes with some very wise track placements. Songwriting is excellent all around, sometimes being direct and instantly engaging, other times being a bit more subtle, and there’s a couple tracks with some slight prog leanings, particular the closing track “Journey Beyond the Stars”. The key, though, is that each song is amazing in its own right, and they all flow nicely together. There’s an overall concept, with each track featuring lyrics based on classic Sci-Fi films, such as Predator, E.T., Starship Troopers and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

One reason I wasn’t overly thrilled by Queen of the Galaxy back in 2014, was former vocalist Norman Skinner, whose voice and style just didn’t match my tastes at all, and so I struggled with most of the vocal parts. Thankfully, that is not an issue here, as I’ve been a fan of John Yelland since I first heard him with Disforia, back in 2011, and his vocals have only improved greatly ever since then. While I’ve enjoyed his vocals on the past few Judicator albums, I think his performance on this album is by far his best to date, as he gets to show more aspects of his voice than ever before, and he does an excellent job throughout. His usual, super smooth mid-range vocals are in full effect here, but he also gets to sing a lot deeper than normal on many of the thrashier sections, singing very powerfully and fitting the music perfectly, and he also throws in some epic falsettos from time to time. On the ballads, he sings softer than usual, and puts a lot of emotion into his performance, to help enhance the songs. Overall, this is easily the best, most dynamic performance I’ve ever heard from him.

While I wasn’t overly fond of the vocals on the one EP I heard in the past, I found the songwriting to be fairly enjoyable, and so I was hoping Jason could do a great job of writing songs for a full-length album, especially now that he was working with a singer I prefer. It’s safe to say, he succeeded big time, as the songwriting on this release is both consistently excellent and quite varied, managing to keep me fully engaging throughout, without ever feeling predictable. Opening track “Yuatja (Hunter Culture)” gets things off to a great start, opening with some nice classic heavy metal guitar leads, before picking up the pace and turning into a full throttle, hard-hitting power/thrash track, which definitely brings Iced Earth to mind, in the best way possible. It’s a fast-paced track, with some very good thrashy riffs, and John instantly gets to show off some deep and powerful vocals, which give way to an epic chorus, where some of those classic heavy metal leads return, and then they become a focus once again during a great solo section. It’s an awesome track overall, with a perfect blend of power/thrash and classic heavy metal. Speaking of heavy metal, the next track, “Planet Preservation” has quite a bit of that, especially during its epic, slow but very melodic chorus, where the guitars have a strong Maiden influence to them. Throughout the verses, it’s a slow paced, hard-hitting crusher of a track, but it opens up big time for an amazing chorus. Next is “Enemy Mine”, which starts off with some nice soft guitar work, before settling into a nice rhythm, moving at a somewhat fast pace, without ever fully going all out. It’s a more mid-paced track, with some hard-hitting riffs and powerful vocals throughout the verses, which lead into another very melodic and catchy chorus. In fact, it’s one of the more fun choruses on the album, for sure, and the extended guitar solo is also quite strong.

The first big change of pace comes next with “The Visitor”, the first of two ballads on the album. It’s a largely acoustic track, which moves along at a nice pace, with some very soft yet very emotional vocals from John, where he pushes for some higher notes during the chorus, and does a great job, as always. The song manages to stay engaging throughout and ends with some excellent guitar work and some very powerful vocals, which help bring the song to the next level. Following that track, the pace picks up considerably for the next while, starting with “Total Recall”, an all-out speedy power/thrash assault, based on the film of the same name. It’s one of the heaviest, most furious tracks on the album, with blistering lead guitar work and a great, super fun chorus. Next is “Queen of the Galaxy”, a song I had heard before, as it was the title track of that particular EP. It’s a mid-paced, slightly upbeat track with some nice melodic guitar leads, fun verses and a very melodic, super catchy chorus, which certainly works much better now, with John singing it. Throughout the verses and chorus, John is accompanied by Unleash the Archers vocalist Brittney Slayes (who was also on the original version) and the two sound great together, with the latter lending her powerful, yet super smooth vocals to the track. Next is another fast and furious track in “Roughnecks”, which if anything is even more intense than “Total Recall”, as John uses some crazy falsetto vocals during the verses, and the riffs are just as fast and as violent sounding as ever. It’s definitely an extremely fun, if brief, track, and it sure packs in a ton of energy and power within a short amount of time. From shortest to second longest we go, as “Blood in the Ice” is next, and it’s a sort of mini-epic, based on The Thing. It has a very thick atmosphere to it, starting off with some soft but slightly sinister acoustic guitar work, before picking up the pace and turning into an epic, hard-hitting progressive power metal track, with some more excellent guitar work. It largely moves at more of a mid-paced tempo, before going all out for another very fun, super catchy chorus. There’s a lot of tempo changes throughout, as well as some extended softer passages, which are very effective, and help make the heavier passages all the more effective, by providing a great contrast. Overall, it’s definitely one of the best tracks on the album, as well as one of the most epic, and the vocals are very dynamic and absolutely terrific throughout.

Moving towards the home stretch, lead single “Heart of the Furyan”, again starts off with some dark, soft guitar work, before quickly speeding up and turning into another all-out power/thrash assault. It’s another very hard hitting, blazing fast track, with aggressive verses and a very melodic, epic chorus, again doing an excellent job of mixing together thrashy riffs, epic solos, and some great melodic leads. The highlights keep coming with “Altair IV” The Forbidden Planet”, another fast-paced track, which again has some great melodic leads. It never quite gets as intense as some of the other faster songs, but it still has some great guitar work throughout, as well as bursts of aggressive riffs, and another strong chorus, as well as an outstanding guitar solo. The second ballad of the album is “Always Right Here”, where the guitar work has a very Metallica feel to it, starting out very soft, yet kinda cold, before slowing building up to an intense and epic chorus. John again does an excellent job, and it’s yet another excellent track, with an amazing guitar solo from Christian Münzner.

My most anticipated track going in was 9 minutes closer, “Journey Beyond the Stars”, not just because I tend to love epic length tracks, but also because it features Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen, who provides some guitar work, as well as some lead vocals. It is indeed the most progressive track here, starting out with an extended instrumental section, before settling into a calm, slow pace. It’s a fairly slow paced song throughout, with some extended softer passages, and it has another very melodic, fantastic chorus early. Around the midway point, there’s a sequence with some intense guitar work, and from there the song changes a bit, becoming a bit heavier, while still maintaining a fairly slow pace. It’s a track filled will some great instrumental work as well as a great chorus, but I was most interested in Arjen’s contributions, and as a fan of his singing, who has been disappointed with how little he’s been using his voice in recent years, I must say this track had me absolutely thrilled from the first time I heard it! Arjen gets to sing quite a bit, using his soft, warm voice during the early parts, before getting a bit more intense in the second half, singing with more intensity than I’m used to hearing from him, and it works wonderfully. John is, of course, fantastic as always, and overall, it’s definitely an amazing track in its own right, as well as being a perfect way to end the album.

Sometimes, a band I expect very little from at one point in time will go all to produce something truly amazing in the future, and that is exactly what has happened with Dire Peril! When I first heard the band in 2014, I saw some potential for greatness, but I wasn’t sure if they could ever fully get there. With their full-length debut, The Extraterrestrial Compendium, they have gone above and beyond my expectations, producing one of the best power metal albums of the year, which manages to be both very dynamic and consistently engaging throughout. I especially recommend it for fans of the harder hitting, more guitar driven side of power metal, as there’s a ton of thrash influence here, as well as a fair bit of classic heavy metal and some slight prog leanings. Everything is done well, with vocalist John Yelland giving the best performance of his career, and overall, it’s an amazing album from start to finish.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/11/10/dire-peril-the-extraterrestrial-compendium-review/

SEVENTH WONDER Tiara

Album · 2018 · Progressive Metal
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Some things are worth waiting eight years for! Yes, it has really been that long for fans of Swedish progressive metal band Seventh Wonder. The band started off with a pretty good debut, titled Become, before bringing in vocalist Tommy Karevik in time for their excellent second release, Waiting in the Wings, and from there it had been nothing but pure magic for four years, with the band releasing the highly praised, masterful concept album Mercy Falls in 2008, followed by The Great Escape in 2010, which featured six amazing tracks and one mammoth 30 minute epic title track, which has gone on to become my all time favorite prog song. With the kind of creative peak the band had reached, it seemed it would take something from outside to slow it down, and of course, longtime fans know what would happen next: In 2012, Tommy joined Kamelot, and the rest is history. That band has since gone on to release three albums over the last six years, including The Shadow Theory earlier this year. This has left Seventh Wonder fans craving new material from the band for a long time, with the only release during this period being Welcome to Atlanta Live 2014, which contained two new tracks, both of which were very much up to par with the band’s usual work. Well, it’s been a long, slow process, but after eight years, the band is finally set to release their fifth full-length release, Tiara, and it’s another absolute masterpiece, which takes the band’s sound to a whole new level!

Despite the long gap in between releases, it feels like the band has picked up right where they left off, almost literally, as opening track “The Everones” certainly sounds very similar to a particular track from The Great Escape, which I’ll get to in a bit. As expected, the band’s unique brand of melodic, technical prog is in full force here, striking the perfect balance between being heavy in bursts, while being extremely technically proficient, as one would expect from the genre, without losing any of the band’s usual knack for writing some of the absolute best melodies in all of metal, both musically and vocally. Stylistically, this is still the same mix of prog, power metal, and symphonic metal as usual, though the power metal elements are surprisingly held back for most of the album, only to make a grand appearance in a flurry of speedy, explosive tracks right at the end. It wouldn’t be fair to say the album is a slow starter, as every track here is excellent in its own way, but it does take a bit of time to really get going, as expected. A more accurate statement would be that it’s a very backloaded album, as once you get roughly 40% of the way into the album, it goes from excellent to absolutely stunning, and never looks back. One thing I’ve always loved about Seventh Wonder is their ability to write some of the most emotional music I’ve heard from any prog band, and that’s another thing that’s fully intact here, as everything from the guitar tone at times, to the vocals to the lyrics, and even orchestral arrangements, all have a special feeling to them that really helps sell the story.

Speaking of which, Tiara is a concept album, and very much feels like a spiritual successor to Mercy Falls, in how it takes a while to set things up, before delivering a mix of explosive moments, big emotional payoffs, and some more introspective moments throughout the middle and second half. At times it reminds me a bit of Dream Theater’s The Astonishing, in that the band is willing to use more extended softer, somewhat theatrical passages than one may expect from the genre, as well as having a similar approach where one vocalist portrays different characters, but I feel the band has pulled it off in a more convincing way than the latter did both lyrically and musically. I won’t spoil the story, as it’s one of the main highlights of the album, but I will give a brief summary. The plot focuses on an alien race, called the Everones, who are unimpressed by the human race and are set to bring judgment upon them. A young girl named Tiara, the only human who can understand messages the aliens are sending is chosen to travel into space to communicate with the aliens, in an attempt to save humanity. As always, the band does a great job of exploring some dark themes, while managing to throw in an occasional lighter, more uplifting sections, all while delivering some very emotional passages. The story keeps me engaged from start to finish every time I listen to the album and is definitely one of my favorite things about it. I also love how the band constantly makes callbacks to previous songs, but with slight alterations, with one such example being a particularly epic moment during: ”Tiara’s Song”, that calls back to the previous track, “Victorious”. I always like when concept albums feel cohesive and well linked together, while still allowing room for individual highlights, and this album is a perfect example of that.

One of my most anticipated things about Tiara was getting to hear how Tommy Karevik would sound back with Seventh Wonder, after spending three albums with Kamelot, using a much more measured approach, focused largely on his lower register. I find with Seventh Wonder, he tends to be more diverse, still occasionally singing lower, but he has a lot of room to really stretch for some huge high notes, which allows him to show his full talents, as well as giving him room to really fully invest himself emotionally in the songs, as I find his deeper voice doesn’t quite resonate as well. It’s safe to say, he hasn’t skipped a beat, as he sounds absolutely perfect on this album, going for some bigger notes than ever, while still excelling on some of the quieter, more emotional passages, as usual. He’s asked to portray a young girl at times, and he pulls this off much more convincingly than James Labrie did, singing high, with subtle changes from his normal voice, but still sounding sincere and convincing the whole time, which allows to fully sell the lyrics, and get the most out of the songs. This only happens occasionally, though, and for the most part, he’s still singing like he usually does with the band, getting to be as dynamic and intense as ever, delivering both some of his most powerful vocals ever, as well as some of his most beautiful. Every album he’s done with Seventh Wonder has a been vocal tour de force, and Tiara is certainly no exception, being perhaps his absolute best yet.

It’s hard to really go into detail about the songwriting of Tiara and what makes it click without spoiling the whole experience, so I’ll keep descriptions to a minimum here, as much as I can. The album has the expected brief intro track, meant to signal the arrival of the alien race, before triggering into the first full song, “The Everones”. Right away, anyway who’s heard The Great Escape should recognize the guitar notes, as they sound nearly identical to “Wiseman”, though the keyboards have a much more sinister tone to them, which helps give the song its own feel. It’s a dark, heavy track, with some very hard-hitting riffs compared to the band’s usual, while still having some excellent vocal melodies, especially during the chorus, where Tommy really excels. There are also some pretty interesting digital effects used, to give some of the vocals a mechanical sound, though these are thankfully used in short bursts, so as to be effective, without becoming intrusive. Next is “Dream Machines”, another slower, heavier track, which has a nice groove to it. The verses are heavy, while the chorus is soft and extremely catchy, in an epic way, and it’s a great track which mostly serves to introduce the concept of the album, along with the previous track. One last setup track is “Against the Grain”, a softer track, which has some nice acoustic sections and is probably my favorite of the first three songs. It has some extended softer passages, with some beautiful vocals, as well an upbeat, very fun chorus, which foreshadows a big passage to come later on the album. It’s a very eventful song, with a lot of different passages, and it’s by far the most instrumentally adventurous track in the first half, while still having some emotional lyrics and excellent vocals from Tommy.

The first big highlight is “Victorious”, a smartly selected lead single. It’s another mid-paced track, but it has a nice rhythm to it, and it has that familiar Seventh Wonder sound to it, with fun, quick moving verses, a huge chorus, and some truly inspiring vocal melodies and lyrics. It’s a very melodic track overall, with one excellent heavy burst in the second half, as well as an incredible chorus, especially the last time through. I already mentioned that chorus being revisited in “Tiara’s Song”, the first of a three-part suite titled “Farewell”. That particular section comes towards the end of the track and is one of the most awe-inspiring moments on the entire album, but right from the beginning, it’s an epic, upbeat track with excellent keyboard melodies, slow but engaging verses, another huge chorus, and some incredible vocals from Tommy. It’s another track which manages to pack a lot in, and it’s the song where the album officially starts to take off, and become the kind of masterpiece very few bands are capable of producing. The second part, “Goodnight”, is a softer, largely piano-driven track, with more excellent vocals. While the first part is send off for a Tiara on a larger scale, this one has a much more personal feel to it, making it more emotional and heartfelt, with the chorus, in particular, is absolutely stunning, as Tommy uses his softer vocals to amazing effect. Closing out the set is “Beyond Today”, a shocking highlight, as it’s a full piano ballad, but it’s extremely effective one, as Tommy gives us a look into Tiara’s feelings, both on what she’s asked to do as well as contemplating whether she’ll ever have the future she wanted. It’s a very emotional track, where Tommy absolutely kills it on vocals, and the band takes it an extra level higher with some amazing backing vocals from his sister Jenny, who’s provided some vocals on each of their albums since Tommy joined. This album is probably the best use of her so far, particularly on “The Truth”, a very pivotal track in the plot, as well as the most epic, cinematic track on the album, with a film score, feel to it. The track is amazing the whole way through, but Jenny steals the show in the second half, with an absolutely stunning performance.

From that point on, the album goes all out, with “By the Light of the Funeral Pyres”, in particular being the closest to straight-forward power metal the band has ever come. It’s a very fast paced, hard hitting track with some excellent riffs and an extremely intense chorus where Tommy gets to show us his power metal chops. It’s a brief track, but still manages to include some excellent instrumental work, and is a definite highlight. Next is “Damnation Below”, and while it’s another fast-paced, explosive track, it’s interesting to note a very subtle shift between it and the previous track, as while it’s still intense, it doesn’t sound quite as urgent, instead allowing for more the band’s prog tendencies to come through, with some nice grooves, as well as giving more room for lighter vocal melodies, as usual. It has an excellent chorus and strikes the perfect balance between melodic, epic and intense. After a brief interlude, the band closes things out with “Exhale”, the lightest, most upbeat of the last three songs. It’s still fast paced and still has that driving power metal feel, mixed with some prog rhythms and great instrumental work, but it has by far the most uplifting chorus of the three and is another instant highlight. I especially love the triumphant sound of the orchestra at the end, as well as the incredible vocals from Tommy during the final chorus. It’s an absolutely stunning ending to an absolutely stunning album.

Some bands just always manage to rise the occasion, even with insane expectations, and Seventh Wonder is definitely one of them. I had sky-high hopes for Tiara, both because of how much I loved the band’s previous three releases, and because I was excited to finally hear Tommy Karevik fully unleashed again, but even then, I could not have in my wildest dreams expected the end result to be as glorious as it is! Suffice to say, this is a must hear for any fan of the band, as well as any fan of prog or anyone looking for a masterfully done concept album, and this is simply perfect on every level, with fantastic musicianship, great melodies, some huge emotional moments, intense power metal sections, great lyrics and one of the very best vocal performances I’ve ever heard on a prog album. Easily my album of the year, and it’s safe to say it’ll have a place in my personal top 5 favorite albums for quite some time, possibly forever!

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/10/13/seventh-wonder-tiara-review/

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  • Posted 2 hours ago in The Upcoming Albums Thread
    How to (partially) ruin excellent power metal:[TUBE]Ujq1bBi7sYU[/TUBE]Basically, the song itself is mostly amazing, Sara is obviously amazing, but the growls are incredibly bad and distracting, and the stupid metalcore-ish breakdown after the chorus just feels totally out of place. The beginning and ending are great, but the middle brings it down, basically. I already thought their last album tried to do too much, and sadly this one seems to be going the same way.
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