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

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Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 1020 4.05
2 Progressive Metal 376 3.95
3 Symphonic Metal 242 3.93
4 Heavy Metal 184 3.63
5 Thrash Metal 115 3.67
6 Gothic Metal 92 3.92
7 Folk Metal 80 4.29
8 Melodic Death Metal 78 3.93
9 US Power Metal 65 3.84
10 Alternative Metal 40 3.41
11 Hard Rock 38 3.72
12 Metal Related 25 3.74
13 Non-Metal 23 3.52
14 Death Metal 21 4.02
15 Technical Death Metal 19 4.16
16 Melodic Metalcore 17 3.50
17 Symphonic Black Metal 17 4.53
18 Trance Metal 17 3.65
19 Industrial Metal 16 4.22
20 Groove Metal 15 2.83
21 Technical Thrash Metal 12 4.38
22 Speed Metal 11 3.82
23 Metalcore 10 3.95
24 Heavy Alternative Rock 9 4.67
25 Atmospheric Black Metal 8 4.06
26 Doom Metal 7 4.00
27 Deathcore 6 3.67
28 Nu Metal 6 4.00
29 NWoBHM 5 4.50
30 Melodic Black Metal 5 4.00
31 Heavy Psych 4 3.75
32 Glam Metal 4 3.88
33 Death-Doom Metal 4 3.88
34 Avant-garde Metal 3 3.67
35 Traditional Doom Metal 3 3.83
36 Brutal Death Metal 2 4.50
37 Stoner Metal 2 4.00
38 Sludge Metal 1 4.00
39 Neoclassical metal 1 4.00
40 Crossover Thrash 1 3.00
41 Black Metal 1 0.50
42 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 1 3.50
43 Viking Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

RHAPSODY OF FIRE Glory for Salvation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BURNING POINT Arsonist of the Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALESTORM Curse of the Crystal Coconut

Album · 2020 · Folk Metal
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During these dark and trying times, music can be a good distraction, especially anything on the more fun and upbeat side, which is certainly an accurate description for British pirate metal band Alestorm. I’ve been a fan of them since just before the release of their third album, Back Through Time, which is when they really stepped up their game, going from a solid, amusing band, into an excellent, often hilarious band, with some of the most over the top, yet irresistibly addictive and catchy metal tracks imaginable. They followed up that album with two more wonderful albums in Sunset on the Golden Age and No Grave But the Sea, and they are now set to release their sixth full length album, Curse of the Crystal Coconut (a title inspired by the videogame series, Donkey Kong Country), and suffice to say, the band has once again delivered some of the most epic,silly and wildly entertaining metal tracks I’ve ever heard!

Anyone who’s heard Alestorm before should know exactly what to expect from Curse of the Crystal Coconut: The band has a clearly established sound, and they’ve found their winning formula at this point, so anyone familiar with the band should already know whether or not they’ll enjoy this particular album. As usual, there’s a steady blend of hard hitting, fast paced power metal (with the occasional hints of thrash riffs thrown in) some very fun and playful folk metal, and some epic, cinematic sounding symphonic metal, with the various elements often coming together for glorious results.

I found No Grave But the Sea toned down their power metal elements a bit, compared to usual, but this album seems to have brought it back to around normal levels, so fans can expect a nice variety in the tracks, with quite a few fun, upbeat power metal anthems, as well as some slower paced, more folk-infused tracks, some mid paced tracks and some tracks where everything comes together, as well as one particularly strange and hilarious oddball track. As always, Christopher Bowes strikes a great balance between performing an excellent pirate impersonation, while still singing well, while musically everything sounds great, with the guitars hitting hard at times, while the folk elements are done very well, and the symphonic arrangements are very epic, and help add extra flavor. Performances are flawless across the board, with the vocals, keys and folk elements being the highlights, as usual, and production is absolutely perfect, as expected from the band.

As much as I love Alestorm, I was a bit nervous about the songwriting going into album, as one of the first two singles left me less than impressed. Thankfully, though, this proved to be an outlier, as aside from one other questionable track, the songwriting here is excellent, as usual, with a few tracks in particular standing out as some of the band’s absolute best work to date. Kicking things off is lead single “Treasure Chest Party Quest”, a mid paced, but fairly upbeat track, with some nice rhythm guitars, a great use of folk elements, fun verses, and an extremely catchy chorus, complete with funny lyrics, as usual. It’s not one of the band’s all time best tracks, but it’s quite a lot of fun, and gets things off to a strong start.

Next is “Fannybaws”, a very upbeat track, with a nice main folk melody, as well as some great guitar work throughout. It alternates nicely between heavy and melodic throughout, with very fun verses, an insanely catchy, epic chorus, awesome pirate themed lyrics, and an excellent instrumental section in the second half, with an impressive, yet very melodic guitar solo and more wonderful folk melodies. It’s pretty much a classic Alestorm song, in all the best ways possible, and stands as one of my personal favorites. I remember when I first heard the track, I thought it should be a single, and then about a week later it was released as one, so I was very happy! Another instant highlight “Chomp Chomp”, one of the band’s classic, thrashy power metal tracks. The song moves at a frantic pace, and features a nice blend of thrahsy guitars, more wonderful folk melodies, intense verses and a very fun chorus, as usual, to go along with more hilarious lyrics, and one of the best solo sections on the album, where the music gets quite intense. It also features some excellent harsh vocals, performed by Finntroll’s Vreth.

I mentioned being a bit concerned about the album, and the reason for this was second single “Tortuga”, which simply did not impress me much, even after several listens. My main issue has to do with the main beat, which I find rather irritating, and once the keys are layered on top, it quickly starts to grate on my nerves. The chorus is actually very melodic, and stands as the clear highlight of the track, but it simply doesn’t show up often enough to save a track I otherwise don’t really enjoy. The big elephant in the room here is the inclusion of a rap section just over a minute in, performed by Rumahoy vocalist Captain Yarrface. I initially hated that part (because I tend to hate rap in general), but over time it’s grown on me, somewhat, to the point where I now find it tolerable, and even slightly funny. It and the chorus still can’t save an otherwise weak track, though.

Picking things right back up is the brilliantly titled “Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship”. I was expecting something completely wacky and out there, but for the most part, that’s not what the band did here. In fact, I’d say the band in general has a more fun side to them, where they can be super wild and silly, as well as a more complex, epic side to them, and if anything this track feels like a perfect blend of the two, with some of their most cinematic sounding symphonic arrangements ever, and an absolutely beautiful sounding, super melodic chorus, to go along with a wonderful middle section, featuring guest vocals from Patty Gurdy (who also plays hurdy gurdy throughout the album.) Musically, the track is quite nice, and has an epic feel to it, but on the other hand, the lyrics are every bit as silly as one would expect from looking at the name, complete with keyboardist Elliot Vernon screaming out some rather humorous lines throughout. It really feels like a perfect combination of everything I love about Alestorm, all in one track, and it’s definitely one of my favorite songs by them, to date!

The highlights keep coming with “Call of the Waves”, the fastest paced track on the album. It’s a very speedy, melodic power metal track, with more nice folk melodies, nice symphonic arrangements, and yet another very strong, catchy chorus. It’s less silly or intense compared to many of the other tracks, but it’s still an excellent, very fun track on its own. While there’s no title track, there is in fact a Donkey Kong Country themed track, as the band did a cover of “Pirate’s Scorn”, from the animated TV series, and they absolutely nailed it! Aside from the expected changes, such as making it much heavier and more metallic, the band also added in plenty of nice folk melodies, to freshen things up, as well as a really nice, entirely new instrumental section in the middle, while the track on the whole is quite faithful to the original, except with much stronger vocals and much better sounding music overall, while still maintaining the same level of silliness, complete with the absolutely incredible lyrics. In case that wasn’t silly enough, the band follows it up with “Shit Boat (No Fans)”, which is essentially their take on a fight song. I won’t go into full details on this one, as it’s only 74 seconds, and I wouldn’t wanna spoil the effect, but needless to say, it’s one of the most delightfully over the top and silly things I’ve ever heard! Following that is another fun track in “Pirate Metal Drinking Crew”, another fairly upbeat track, with great lyrics and a super fun, curse filled chorus. It feels like another classic Alestorm track, and is yet another winner.

The longest track on the album is “Wooden Leg Part 2 (The Woodening)”. Yep, the band seriously thought to make an 8 minute epic, as a follow up to one of their absolute silliest songs ever. As expected, this track feels like a longer, more stretched out take on the original, brilliantly reprising certain passages, while adding in epic symphonic arrangements, and updating some of the lyrics as the track goes on, while adding in some really epic choir vocals. I won’t spoil it, but things take an insanely goofy twist towards the end, and the final sequence is absolutely wild and ridiculous, in the best way possible! Overall, it’s a fantastic track, and would have made a great ending to the album. However, the band instead decided to close things off with “Henry Martin”, a cover of an old folk classic. The band performs it well enough, mostly performing it as an acoustic folk track, but I find the main melody a bit irritating, while the constant repetition of the lyrics drives me insane. Unfortunately, the track doesn’t work for me, but I won’t fault the band for it, because my biggest issues with it seem to come from the song itself, and not from anything the band did with it.

While I was initially a bit worried, Curse of the Crystal Coconuts has turned out to be yet another excellent Alestorm album. At this point, fans know what to expect, as this is yet another collection of insanely goofy, wildly entertaining pirate themed tracks, with a steady balance between power, folk and symphonic metal, as well as the occasional more epic sequences. Despite a couple weaker tracks, the album is amazing overall, with some of the band’s absolute best work to date, spread out fairly evenly throughout the album. Fans of the band are sure to love this, while anyone looking for fun pirate themed metal would be highly recommended to give this a listen, as it’s every bit as good as any other Alestorm album.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2020/05/17/alestorm-curse-of-the-crystal-coconut-review/

DYNAZTY The Dark Delight

Album · 2020 · Power Metal
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With some albums, my expectations going in, based either on early release singles, previous releases from the band, or a combination of both, can end up being either a bit too high or a bit too low, with the resulting album either blowing me away beyond expectation or falling a bit short. And then there are albums like, The Dark Delight, by Swedish melodic metal band Dynazty, where I immediately have a feeling something special’s coming, and the end result ends up being everything I was expecting, and more! To be fair, this is hardly my first rodeo with Dynazty, as I’ve been a fan of the band since their outstanding fourth release, Renatus, and also greatly enjoyed their two most recent releases, Titanic Mass and Firesign, so just knowing they had a new album coming this year was enough to get me excited. As soon as I heard the lead single, “Presence of Mind”, though, I immediately had the feeling this could be their best album to date, and after giving The Dark Delight several listens, I can safely say: I was right!

At this point, Dynazty has their current sound completely mastered, now four albums into this phase (as well as being seven albums into their career), so fans of the previous few albums should have a good idea of what to expect. The same mix of hard-hitting guitars, uplifting melodies, and huge, catchy choruses is still fully intact, with Rob Love Magnusson delivering some of his grooviest riffs to date, with the lead melodies and solos particularly impressive. That’s not to say Love has all the fun as Mike Laver is also very prominent on this album, the pairing between the two works very very well.

There’s great use of the keys as well. They had already been used a lot on Firesign, and if anything this album places a bigger emphasis on them, with a lot of the tracks having some strong trance beats and melodies, as well as the occasional use of more ambient keys. And of course, Nils Molin’s vocals are every bit as smooth, powerful and epic as always, with him slaying it on some of the band’s best choruses to date. His performance alternates between calm, emotional and very intense throughout the album, and he does so fluidly and perfectly, as always.

One element that has been reduced quite a bit on this album is the band’s power metal sound. There are still traces of it at times, most notably on “Paradise of the Architect” and “Apex”, but a lot of the tracks fall on the slower side. Usually, I’d consider this a disappointment, but the songwriting still manages to be varied enough, with a mix of some very heavy tracks, some softer tracks, many that blend both together seamlessly, and even a couple more surprising tracks. More importantly, though: Every track is fantastic. On Firesign, it felt like the heaviness had been dialled back a bit, but that isn’t the case this time around, as this has some of the band’s heaviest material yet, while also having some of their best melodies and choruses, as well as some excellent calmer sections. While the power metal elements are reduced, they’re still fantastic whenever they show up, so I feel the band has struck a perfect balance between all aspects of their music. The sound production is perfect, as always, and performances are amazing across the board.

While Dynazty albums always deliver when it comes to the overall sound and performances, The Dark Delight is especially impressive when it comes to the actual songs. There are no songs here I wouldn’t consider perfect, so much so that even trying to pick favourites is nearly impossible, with one exception. Kicking things off in style is lead single “Presence of Mind”, which opens up softly, with a brief tease at its killer chorus, before the guitars kick in, and the song settles into a nice groove, with some very heavy guitar work, and a nice rhythm, The verses are very fun and go by quickly, while the chorus is awe-inspiring, with a combination of excellent lyrics, incredible melodies and of course a flawless vocal performance from Molin. Even the narration in the middle is interesting enough to keep my attention, and the solo section that follows is quite epic. Overall, this song is incredible, and the first time I heard it, I just had a feeling this album had a strong chance of being my favourite yet, from Dynazty.

Thankfully, the rest of the album very much lives up to that stunning opener, with the following track “Paradise of the Architect” in particular picking up the pace, and delivering more of an epic symphonic power metal sound, with some nice symphonic keys, speedier tempos, more hard-hitting riffs, and another unbelievably catchy chorus, with some excellent vocals melodies, and nice use of trance keys. Next is “The Black”, a slow, but very hard-hitting track, with more epic keys, especially during the rather calm, slow-building verses, while the chorus is once again spectacular. The highlight, though, comes from some spectacular guitar work in the second half, with one of the band’s heaviest riffs to date, followed by a beautiful, very technically proficient solo section. Initially, “From Sound to Silence” seems like a fairly typical track, moving at a moderate pace, with a nice mix of atmospheric keys, hard-hitting guitars and a very melodic and catchy, if slightly subdued, chorus, but the second verse features some very intense and powerful growls, which add an element of surprise and help lift an already great track to new heights, while the solo section has a slight folk feeling and is also quite epic. The lone ballad on the album is “Hologram”, and as expected from Dynazty, it’s fantastic. It alternates between some very light keys and some beautiful acoustic guitar work, with Molin leading the way with some very soft, yet also very emotional and powerful vocals. He starts calmly and gets more intense as the track goes on, with the bridge, in particular, featuring some fantastic high notes, while other parts of the track have him singing at his lowest, and so the track does a perfect job of demonstrating his huge range. There’s also a gorgeous guitar solo in the second half, while the final run through the chorus is stunning.

After some slower tracks, the band speeds things up again with second single “Heartless Madness”, a very trance infused, up-tempo track, which also happens to be quite possibly the catchiest metal song I’ve ever heard! It moves along at a fast pace throughout, with the keys and vocals leading the way through the verses, while the chorus has a very bouncy, slightly pop-infused feel to it, but it’s just so damn catchy, while also being incredibly melodic, and having some outstanding vocal melodies. The highlight of the track, though, is the seamless transition from the second chorus, straight into a very nice melodic guitar solo, which features some of the best guitar work on the album. Overall, this track is by far my favourite song released in 2020, so far, and one of the absolute best melodic metal songs I’ve ever heard.

While the first two singles were absolute barn-burners, the third single “Waterfall” is slightly more laid back, but still awesome, in its way. It’s a fairly slow-paced, very melodic track, and it places a huge emphasis on trance keys, which are very much the driving force throughout the track. The verses are very quiet and calm, while the chorus opens up a bit, with more outstanding melodies, and while it’s one of the more laid back choruses, it’s still excellent, as always. The keys are the main focus here, as well as the unsurprisingly excellent guitar solo in the second half. Another very keyboard-driven track is “Threading the Needle’, the longest track here, clocking in at just under 6 minutes. It has some very light, atmospheric keys during the verses, which are slow and methodical, while the chorus is quite loud and epic, as usual. The song is excellent throughout, though the solo section is the highlight, with more outstanding riffs, as well as a great extended guitar solo. Another lighter track is “The Man and the Elements”, though this one is actually very guitar-driven, with some excellent lead melodies, which give the track slight a folk feeling, while the keys have a very symphonic feeling, which helps give the song an epic feel, especially the during the chorus, where the pace picks up slightly, without fully speeding up. It’s a fun track throughout, with the chorus, in particular, being very epic and catchy, and the instrumental section is quite awesome, as usual.

Moving towards the end of the album, one of the most intense tracks here is “Apex”. It again has a strong trance feel to it, with some very modern sounding keys, but it also has some very dark, sinister-sounding guitar work, as well as some crushing riffs. It’s a pretty fast-paced track, with the chorus alternating between a fast, very melodic buildup, followed by an equally fast, but very aggressive and powerful ending, which very much brings some of the best tracks from Renatus to mind. From heavy to soft we go, with “The Road to Redemption” being easily the most unique track on the album. It starts out very calmly, with some very light, but beautiful guitar work during the verses, as well as having a unique vibe, falling somewhere between country and southern rock. The pace picks up slightly during the chorus, though, which is very epic, and there are some heavy sections towards the end, during both a very epic bridge, with some stunning vocals, as well as an equally impressive final run through the chorus. While I suspect some fans may be turned off by the first half of the track, I actually quite love it, as it’s a very welcome change of pace, and I think the band pulled it off perfectly. Overall, it’s yet another perfect track. Closing out the album is the title track, and it’s yet another track which alternates wonderfully between some heavy, dark guitar work, and some very light, trance infused keys. It’s a fairly mid-paced track, with subdued verses and a very epic, powerful chorus, with Molin getting especially intense towards the end, closing the album out in spectacular fashion.

When I first heard Renatus, I was simultaneously blown away, while also a bit nervous about whether or not Dynazty could top that, or even match it. While their previous two releases didn’t quite reach those same heights, they were still excellent, and now with The Dark Delight, the band has delivered another masterpiece, with some of their absolute best songs to date. Fans of the band are almost guaranteed to be pleased with this release, while anyone looking for some excellent melodic metal with a mix of heavy guitar work, excellent use of trance keys, slight power metal elements and a spectacular vocal performance, is highly recommended to give this a listen, as I don’t see any similar bands putting out a better album than this any time soon!

Originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2020/03/29/dynazty-the-dark-delight-review/


Album · 2020 · Symphonic Metal
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It seems almost every year, within the first couple of months I’ll encounter an album from a band I’ve either never heard of or not thought much about before, sneak up out of nowhere and leave me speechless. With perfect timing, comes Emerald Seas, the second full-length release from American symphonic metal band Seven Spires… I vaguely remember hearing their debut, Solveig, back in 2017, and I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it, though it never really stuck with me over time. Needless to say, I now have the urge to suddenly dig much deeper into that one, because after giving Emerald Seas several listens, it has left me floored, in ways no other symphonic metal album has managed to do since at least the last two full-length Epica releases!

Solveig was an epic concept album, centered around a lost soul who’s fallen prey to a demon, and while Emerald Seas builds on this concept, it’s not a sequel but a prequel, instead of telling the story of what happened to the main character in the past. On this album, the main character is a sea captain, seeking eternal life. The tracks go into pretty heavy territory, (including the details of their eventual demise,) though there’s also some happier tracks, with a more adventurous and romantic feel to them, as well as some more sorrowful tracks, and some filled with hope. Basically, the album deals with many different moods, and as such, there’s a lot of variety to both the music and vocal approach, with each track standing out in its way. At the same time, the band uses the lyrics and atmosphere to great effect, ensuring that everything comes together perfectly, as the album flows seamlessly from track to track. As a result, this is an album full of highlight after highlight, while also being as cohesively tied together as an album can be.

While the lyrics are a major highlight of the album (both in terms of the overarching concept, as well as some amazing isolated lines on each track) the overall sound is also very impressive. A lot is going on musically, with the use of symphonic arrangements and Adrienne Cowan’s beautiful, yet fierce voice, being the two constant presences throughout. Some tracks fall into more traditional symphonic metal far, except with a slightly darker atmosphere and more intense riffs than usual, while others are on the softer side, some go into full speedy power metal territory, with some incredible melodies, and some fall into gothic or even symphonic black metal territory, with some very intense drumming, hard-hitting guitars and the use of harsh vocals. The musicians are all excellent, with guitarist Jack Kosto and keyboardist/vocalist Adrienne Cowan standing out the most, along with the epic symphonic arrangements, of course. Everything sounds perfect, though, with all aspects of the album sounding amazing, and the production is very crisp and powerful, as expected.

As great as the music is, the star of the album is Cowan, who’s delivered by far the best vocal performance I’ve heard from her to date. Aside from Seven Spires, I’ve also heard her with Light & Shade, as well as on a couple of isolated tracks with other bands, and in general, I’ve had a mixed reaction to her, finding her vocal range quite impressive, with her mid register being especially strong, but I’ve always found her more piercing, high pitched screams to be a bit irritating. However, on this album she has stepped her game up to a whole new level, delivering both some of the softest, most beautiful vocals I’ve heard on a metal album in recent memory, as well as some of the most intense, powerful vocals, with some tracks doing an excellent of showing how aggressive her voice can be. However, for the first time so far, I find all her vocals here to be brilliant, with the more animated vocals fitting the tracks perfectly, while the softer vocals showcased on ballads are perfect, and the light, smooth yet oh so subtly powerful vocals she uses on the more power metal-infused tracks are fantastic, and probably my favorite style from her. She also performs some very deep, extremely intense harsh vocals, which again fit the tracks perfectly, and are performed flawlessly In fact, they have a very theatrical feel to them which fits well with the storytelling style of the album. Her high pitched screams are indeed here, as well, though they’re limited to fairly short bursts, and are used quite effectively.

The album is already quite impressive, just based on the overall sound, performances, and concept, but it also excels in the songwriting department, with each track building onto the overarching concept effectively, while also each being very engaging on their own. Following a brief but very nice intro track, the first full song is “Ghost of a Dream”, a fairly mid-paced track, with very nice melodic guitar leads. It moves along at a nice pace, and immediately gives the feel of an epic adventure, with a slight folk feel to it, as well as some epic symphonic arrangements, of course. The verses are nice, while the chorus is very melodic, and serves as a great showcase for Cowan’s vocals, along with a very slight hint at her harsh vocals, while the lyrics are excellent, and serve as an overview for the concept. Next is “No Words Exchanged”, a slightly more upbeat track, which alternates nicely between some beautiful melodic guitar leads, as well as some pretty heavy riffs. It slows down early on, for some soft vocal passages, but it speeds up nicely as it goes along, with some wonderful guitar work, epic symphonic arrangements and some excellent vocals.

The first power metal-infused track is “Every Crest”, which has a strong adventurous feel to it, with furious drums, some wonderful guitar leads, and some of Cowan’s smoothest singing on the album, as well an incredibly upbeat, very fun and catchy chorus. The verses have a nice atmosphere to them, which is unique, being fairly relaxed but also epic, while the rest of the track is a much faster pace, and while it has some heavier sections, it’s mostly a very melodic track, with some excellent melodies throughout. The first extensive use of harsh vocals comes on “Unmapped Darkness”, another track which alternates nicely between some very heavy guitar work at times, as well as some gorgeous, upbeat melodies, with the chorus, in particular, being amazing and having some more very light, beautiful vocals from Cowan. The track serves an awesome showcase for her, overall, with the chorus being rather upbeat and epic, while some other sections are a bit faster and more intense, but the highlight is the occasional more aggressive sections, where her harsh vocals come to the front of the sound, and they sure are quite intense and wild, in the best way possible!

I’ll admit, even though I hadn’t remembered much about the band’s debut, I did have high hopes for the album going in, just based on the quality of lead single “Succumb”, which may be my favorite track of 2020 so far. It’s a blazingly fast, cheerful, upbeat power metal track with more wonderful leads, some especially memorable and epic symphonic arrangements, and a stunning chorus. While the track has a lot going on musically, with everything sounding perfect, the vocals and lyrics are the highlight, as the track has a romantic feel to it, which Cowan pulls off perfectly, both with some of her most beautiful, yet fierce vocals, as well as with some extremely beautiful lyrics, especially during the chorus, which has a very poetic feel to it. In complete contrast to that masterpiece is the second single “Drowner of Worlds”, which showcases the band at their absolute darkest, heaviest and most atmospheric. It’s a very moody track, with an overwhelmingly dark feel to the symphonic elements, while the choirs add an extra level of creepiness to the track. Musically, the track has a very theatrical feel to it, very much falling into symphonic black metal territory along with the likes of Dimmu Borgir, with a slightly gothic feel. The highlight, of course, is Cowan, who delivers some vicious growls, and they suit the tone of the track perfectly. While she mostly uses her deeper growls, there’s an especially furious section around halfway through, where the drums turn to blast beats and the track explodes, and at that point, she switches to some of her higher-pitched screams, though here they fit perfectly, and sound awesome.

Once again shifting gears, the band delivers two ballads next. First is “Silvery Moon”, a wonderful track, with a slight folk feel to it. It represents the gentler side of the concept, with the main character looking back to happier times, following his physical death on the following track. It has some beautiful guitar work, including a stunning solo in the second half, and the symphonic arrangements are perfect, but once again, the highlight is Cowan, who delivers some of her softest, most tender vocals throughout most of the track, slowly building up to a brief outburst of some of her most powerful, emotional vocals, and she sounds incredible. The other ballad is “Bury You”, a slightly heavier track, which falls more into power ballad territory. It alternates nicely between some very softer sections, with nice use of soft keys and light guitars, as well as some slightly heavier sections, with the chorus being very nice and melodic, while having a slight hint of heaviness. The music is very beautiful, but unsurprisingly, the vocals are the best part, especially during the middle where they get very intense, once again.

Coming towards the end of the album, “Fearless” is another darker track, with a strong gothic metal feel. It has a very sinister atmosphere to it, with some fairly heavy but subtle guitar work, which gives way to more intense growls from Cowan, though unlike “Drowner of Worlds”, this song does have some softer sections, with the chorus, in particular, having some very soft, very theatrical sounding vocals, with a slight operatic quality to them. The track is awesome, overall, and does a nice job of alternating between soft and heavy sections. Next is a very brief, yet beautiful interlude track, with very nice use of piano, as well as more great vocals and lyrics, which gives way to “The Trouble With Eternal Life”, the last full song on the album, and yet another instant classic. This track opens up with soft piano for a while, before slowly bringing in the symphonic elements and then the full band, with more wonderful guitar leads, as well as a slight heaviness to the riffs. It’s another very upbeat, fast-paced power metal track, though it has a slightly more sorrowful tone compared to earlier power metal tracks on the album, while still retaining some hopefulness, especially during the very melodic, catchy and fun chorus, with some more very light and beautiful vocals. The album closes with the title track, a very nice orchestral track, full of reprises from throughout the album, The way it recreates melodies in a softer, more beautiful way helps to demonstrate just how amazing these tunes are, and it’s a great way to end the album.

At this point, it seems inevitable that one band or another will come almost completely out of nowhere to leave me stunned and blown away early on in the year, and in 2020, that band is Seven Spires! I was somewhat interested in hearing Emerald Seas, based on the little I remembered of their debut, and I’ll admit “Succumb” sure made me curious to hear the overall album, but I could have never expected the full release to be such a beautiful, yet intense, dark yet at times upbeat and hopeful, concept album, which goes in many different directions, yet manages to come together perfectly. Fans of the band’s debut need to hear this, and I’d also recommend it to any symphonic metal fan looking for the potential next big thing, as after hearing this album, I certainly believe Seven Spires have the talent and songwriting capabilities to become one of the very best in their genre!

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2020/02/15/seven-spires-emerald-seas-review/

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