Travis Green
MMA Special Collaborator · Power, Symph and Prog Metal Teams
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit 97 minutes ago

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1957 reviews/ratings
DYNAZTY - Renatus Power Metal | review permalink
DRAGONFORCE - Maximum Overload Power Metal
ADRANA - The Ancient Realms Power Metal
EVERGREY - The Inner Circle Progressive Metal
EVERGREY - In Search of Truth Progressive Metal
BLIND GUARDIAN - Imaginations From the Other Side Power Metal
ANCIENT BARDS - Soulless Child Power Metal
ARMORY - Empyrean Realms Power Metal
SABATON - Primo Victoria Power Metal
SABATON - The Art Of War Power Metal
SABATON - Carolus Rex Power Metal
SABATON - Heroes Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Beyond Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Eternity Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Stairway to Fairyland Power Metal
CIVIL WAR - Saint Patrick's Day Power Metal
XANDRIA - Neverworld's End Power Metal
POWER QUEST - Blood Alliance Power Metal
DARK MOOR - Ars Musica Symphonic Metal
DARK MOOR - Ancestral Romance Power Metal

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 780 4.01
2 Progressive Metal 297 3.89
3 Symphonic Metal 205 3.90
4 Traditional heavy metal 133 3.52
5 Thrash Metal 96 3.69
6 Gothic Metal 89 3.90
7 Melodic Death Metal 55 3.82
8 Folk Metal 53 4.28
9 Alternative Metal 34 3.75
10 Hard Rock 32 3.78
11 US Power Metal 24 3.81
12 Metalcore 22 3.55
13 Non-Metal 22 3.70
14 Death Metal 20 3.95
15 Metal Related 18 3.75
16 Industrial Metal 13 4.12
17 Technical Death Metal 10 4.10
18 Groove Metal 8 3.13
19 Nu Metal 7 3.64
20 Speed Metal 6 3.92
21 NWoBHM 5 4.50
22 Melodic Black Metal 4 4.13
23 Deathcore 4 3.38
24 Doom Metal 4 4.13
25 Glam Metal 4 3.88
26 Atmospheric Black Metal 3 3.67
27 Avant-garde Metal 2 4.25
28 Black Metal 2 2.50
29 Symphonic Black Metal 2 4.25
30 Sludge Metal 1 4.00
31 Brutal Death Metal 1 4.50
32 Crossover Thrash 1 3.00

Latest Albums Reviews

CELLADOR Off the Grid

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
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It’s always exciting to see bands that have either been long thought dead or have been on a very lengthy hiatus, seemingly quiet for years, make a sudden comeback and release a new album. That isn’t entirely the case for American power metal band Cellador, admittedly, as they had been hinting at a new release for quite some time, but after their highly praised debut Enter Deception was released in 2006, they weren’t heard from again until they reappeared in 2011 with a new lineup and released an EP, Honor Forth. Since then, the band had largely been quiet again for a while, but now after over 10 years of anticipation, they are finally set to unleash their second full-length album, Off the Grid, and I can assure fans that it most certainly delivers!

A lot has changed for Cellador over the years. Obviously, the previous vocalist Michael Gremio left before Honor Forth was released and guitarist Chris Petersen, the only original member remaining, has taken over the mic. No other members who played on Enter Deception appear on Off the Grid, so obviously, it’s safe to expect a much different sound this time, but while I certainly wouldn’t call this album a carbon copy or even a logical continuation of its predecessor, it’s not exactly a radical departure either. Instead, it feels like the band has retained their focus on pure, speedy power metal and their knack for neatly balancing between heavy riffs and melodic vocal lines, but their approach feels a bit more polished and more mature this time.

Where Enter Deception fell on the more extreme and silly side of the genre, often being compared to the likes of Dragonforce, as while it was entirely guitar driven a lot of the melodies felt similar, this release actually feels closer to classic Euro power metal in how a lot of its riffs sound, though the band has also included some keyboards to give the album a bit of a modern feel. With that being said, while keyboardist Diego Valadez does a nice job and gets to do some great solos, for the most part his keyboards feel more secondary, mostly in the background and giving way to the duo guitars, which dominate with some pretty heavy riffs at times, though there’s also some very melodic playing at points as well. There isn’t much experimentation here, with most tracks being straight-forward speedy power metal with addictive choruses, and all tracks fall around the 3-5 minute range, so it’s a very focused, no nonsense kind of release, that certainly doesn’t waste the listener’s time.

I was initially worried about the change in vocalist, as I wasn’t too pleased with Chris on Honor Forth, but on the new album, I find he does a pretty solid job. He has a fairly deep, powerful voice and mostly stays in mid range, only occasionally stretching for some higher notes. His voice fits in pretty well with the music, though I find he’s best when using his grittier vocals, as sometimes when he tries to go for higher notes he ends up sounding a little bit over the top, such as on “Good Enough”. It’s the sort of thing that fits in well for power metal, though it doesn’t sound all that great. Aside from that, though, he does a pretty good job throughout the album and carries the melodies well, especially on tracks like “Shadowfold”, “Wake up the Tyrant” and “Swallow Your Pride”.

The songwriting is fairly straightforward, with few surprises, though in this case that works fine as every song is great and everything flows together well enough that it’s certainly an easy album to listen to in its entirety over and over. Opening track “Sole Survivors” instantly kicks in with some classic metal riffs and moves along at a breakneck pace right out of the gate, making it the kind of instantly satisfying track you’d expect to hear at the start of a power metal album. The riffs are great and Chris does a solid job on the chorus, so it gets the album off to a flying start. I won’t list all tracks on this album in detail, as most tracks are fast, hit a nice balance between being heavy and melodic and have addictive choruses, so to mention everyone in detail would be pointless, but suffice to say even tracks I won’t mention much like “Break Heresy”, “Shimmering Status”, “Swallow Your Pride” and the title track are all excellent tracks.

Moving on to highlights, the first track that really impresses is “Shadowfold”, which starts off with a thrashy lead riff that carries on through the opening verse, before giving way to a very melodic chorus, and then in the second verse the keyboards actually take over for a bit, which makes for a nice change of pace, and the solo section features both guitars and keyboards and is excellent. Probably my favorite track on the album. Right after that is “Wake Up the Tyrant”, another track which has some slightly thrashy riffs, and as usual moves along at a very fast pace, with intense verses that give way to a very epic and super catchy chorus. Another one of my favorites and the solo section is awesome, probably the best on the album. Coming after the one oddball track on the album, which I’ll get to in a bit, “This Means War” is back to business and is another one of the faster, heavier tracks, feeling very much like a classic power metal track. Closing track “Running Riot” is another super fast track, where the verses are very addictive and fun, and the chorus is frantic and very enjoyable, though I do think it’s one of the times where Chris goes a little bit overboard with vocals. Still a great track, though, and a fun way to end the album.

Lastly, we have “Good Enough”. This track immediately stood out to me as feeling a bit weird, as it starts off at mid-tempo, with some bouncy rhythms and is much more keyboard driven, so I instantly knew something was off. Then the chorus comes in and while it’s super fast paced as always, Chris sounds extremely over the top and it feels like a pop track. It made me wonder if the track was a cover of some sort and after a bit of research I discovered that it is, in fact, a cover of aa Cyndi Lauper hit, which makes sense. Reviewing it on its own merits, the track feels like a bit of an oddball, though it did eventually win me over, and when you consider it’s a cover of a pop song, I think the band did a nice job of keeping some of the feel of the track while also sticking somewhat within their usual sound. So overall, a pretty cool cover.

Overall, Off the Grid is a great comeback album for Cellador, which retains the core power metal sound of their debut, while also feeling much more polished and more mature. It’s hard to say if I think it’s a better release than Enter Deception on the whole, but it’s definitely a logical release for the band to put out right now, and I think longtime fans of the band should be happy with it. I’d recommend it to all power metal fans who want something straight-forward, fast and furious, and with some great vocal melodies, as that’s what this album delivers.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/03/15/cellador-off-grid-review/

MANILLA ROAD Crystal Logic

Album · 1983 · Traditional heavy metal
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MMA Reviewer's Challenge: Album Selected by Warthur

80’s Metal is not exactly my specialty. In fact, aside from some of the obvious suspects like Iron Maiden, Metallica and Helloween, my knowledge of classic metal is perhaps alarmingly bad, as I tend to prefer the modern production and use of keyboards found more often on newer metal albums. With that out of the way, then, it’s no surprise I had never heard any of the earlier albums from US heavy metal band Manilla Road until recently, though I did have previous experience with the band, hearing some of their more recent albums and getting a decent amount of enjoyment out of them, especially their 2013 release, Mysterium. From what I gather from reading reviews online, their newer releases are considered much weaker compared to their classic, with their 1983 release Crystal Logic in particular often considered their best, and so I was interested to give this thing a listen and see if it really would end up being my favorite by them. I’ll go into more details further into this review, but In short, it did not disappoint.

Manilla Road play a very melodic brand of epic heavy metal, with most tracks being mostly mid tempo, though they do speed things up from time to time and many of the tracks on Crystal Logic have some pretty fast paced sections. There’s some really great heavy metal riffs to be found throughout the album, as well as some occasional nods to classic hard rock, and even some more atmospheric, slower sections that sound like doom infused heavy metal. The latter element is something I recognized from hearing it quite a bit on some of their more recent albums, most notably the poorly received Playground of the Damned, though those elements, while not as prominent on this release, feel better defined and more like a natural part of the music, and really help add to the overall feel while also adding some variety. Speaking of which, this is probably the most varied Manilla Road album I’ve heard, as their newer releases are generally slower paced and more relaxed throughout, where this one has a nice range of sounds going on and the songs are more individually recognizable. It’s an album that stays consistently entertaining throughout, while still having a few huge standout tracks.

One element I was interested in was the production, as the band’s later albums sound very rough, and honestly, I think this album has slightly better sound quality than some of their albums released in the 2010’s, which sure is a testament to how rough those albums sound. This one sounds perfectly fine for an 80’s album, and it has a very bass heavy sound, which is cool. I’ve seen some criticism of the guitar work, but while it can be a bit rough in some spots, I find overall the riffs are very good and there are certainly some nice melodic solos here. There’s really only one trouble spot, which I’ll mention later on.

Another element that tends to be love or hate is Mark Shelton’s vocals. That makes sense, as he is also the same guy doing all the guitar parts, so I guess it’s just inevitable that his vocals would be polarizing as well. His voice isn’t overly high pitched, though he has a bit of a unique tone that works especially well on some of the calmer and more melodic sections, though he generally makes it work on the heavier parts as well. There’s a couple parts where he sounds a bit irritating to me, but for the most part I like his vocals quite a bit, and I find when he’s less animated and focuses more on singing the songs naturally, that’s when he tends to be at his best.

The album certainly gets off to an incredible start, as after an atmospheric intro track featuring some rather cheesy but charming voiceovers, listeners are immediately treated to the best track on the album, “Necropolis”. This is a fast paced track with very fun verses dominated by some great riffs and smooth rhythms, and then that chorus is very melodic and features some great vocals from Mark. Even the solo section is very melodic and really cool. Easily the best Manilla Road song I’ve ever heard. Next is the title track, which is actually almost as good. It starts off as another fairly speedy track with some great rocking riffs, before slowing down a bit around the halfway point and turning into more of an epic, mid paced heavy metal track. It has some great instrumental work and from a compositional standpoint is perhaps the best written track here, as it goes through quite a few changes throughout, while never losing track and remaining rather fun and catchy throughout. The darker tone to the guitar adds a bit of an atmospheric feel to the chorus, which is cool. Another early favorite is “Feeling Free Again”, another fairly upbeat track where the riffs feel more like classic hard rock to me. In fact, the track feels to me like a slightly speedier, more metal take on a classic AC/DC track, and it has a very fun, if cheesy, chorus. I know some people think of it as a weak link, but I actually think it’s one of the most addictive tracks on the album.

Moving in to the second half, and things slow down a bit. We have a more typical classic heavy metal track in “The Ram”, which is a solid mid paced track with some great riffs, but that one comes in between the two slowest and most doom influenced tracks on the album. The first of these is “The Riddle Master”, a mostly slower track with some great guitar work early on, before it speeds up towards the end, and honestly the instrumental work on that track is excellent, but Mark gets a bit carried away during the chorus, and so that brings the song down a bit for me. Still a solid track, but not as great as it could have been. The other slower track is “The Veils of Negative Existence”, a very dark and atmospheric track where the guitars have a very doomy sound to them and some of the riffs sound very dark and quite interesting.

Closing out the main album, we have “Dreams of Eschaton”, a 10 minute epic which is mostly a mid paced epic heavy metal track. It moves along at a pretty good pace and has some nice melodic sections and some great vocal work, though the highlight is the second half, where we get some of the best guitar work on the album and some excellent solos. Which leads into the closing “Epilogue”, another atmospheric instrumental track which is very similar to the opening track and brings the voiceovers back. Some versions of the album contain one last track titled “Flaming Metal System”, a fairly interesting song as overall it’s another faster track with some very fun vocal sections, and in fact the song itself is great. Sadly, it has an intro lasting about 70 seconds, where the guitars get really screechy and this sound hurts my ears, so I have a hard time even sitting through that part. When I do manage it, though, the rest of the song is great.

Overall, Crystal Logic is a great classic heavy metal album that sounds a bit heavier and more varied to me compared to the more recent Manilla Road albums I’ve heard, and it’s certainly highly recommended for any fan of epic heavy metal who somehow hasn’t heard it yet. Definitely the best Manilla Road album I’ve heard so far, and it makes me interested to hear some of their other classics.


Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
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Great music can come from all over the world and from any country, no matter how major or obscure it is. For example, Andorra is not exactly the first country I’d think of when discussing metal bands, but one of my favorite bands happens to be from there, that being Persefone, a progressive death metal band that first blew me away with their sophomore release Core, and everything they’ve done since has been nothing short of excellent. The band has changed their lineup several times since then, and their sound has evolved over time, but through it all, they have managed to be easily the most consistently satisfying band in their genre, and certainly a band I always look forward to hearing new material from. Their fifth full-length release, Aathma, is now out and once again the band has delivered some of the most complex, most technical, most engaging and most satisfying progressive death metal you’ll ever hear.

One thing I’ve always liked about Persefone is how while they have certain elements that are always a part of their music and they never do massive genre shifts, each of their albums brings something new to the table. For example, Core was a massive 70 minute concept album broken down into just three tracks, over 20 minutes each and both structurally and stylistically it very much reminded me of classic Opeth, while the following album Shin-ken felt a bit more accessible, modernized the music a bit and added some unique Japanese flavor, which immediately gave the album its own feel. Compared to those two albums, Aathma doesn’t feel like as massive a leap from its predecessor, Spiritual Migration, an album which felt like the band went into overdrive, featuring some of their most adventurous and most technical instrumental parts, as well as some of their most extreme death metal sections, and some very atmospheric and melodic clean vocal sections. By comparison, Aathma feels rather similar in that it does hit the same kind of balance between all extremes, but the biggest difference is that it feels a bit more subdued in its tempos, with the music never really speeding up the way some tracks on Spiritual Migration did, and the extreme vocals feel a little bit more restrained. Other than that, though, I’d say it very much feels like a natural evolution of its predecessor, where each previous album tended to feel quite a bit different. Not that I’m at all disappointed, though, because Spiritual Migration was an excellent album that at times showed potential to be even better, and I’d say in some ways Aathma manages to be better, even if the end result is about the same quality overall.

Musically, this is a very complex album with quite a lot going on. Obviously, keyboardist Miguel Espinosa is a very important part of the music, as he adds a lot of atmosphere and texture to the music, both with keyboard effects and some very creepy piano notes at times and this is especially noticeable on some of the soft interlude tracks, but also very much an important part of the heavier tracks as well. Guitarists Carlos Lozano and Filipe Baldaia also have a lot to do, of course, and some of the guitar work on this album is extremely technical and very impressive, as always. Just like its predecessor, this album has a ton of heavier instrumental sections where the musicianship really shines, as well as some excellent riffs during the extreme vocal sections, but the softer sections are just as impressive, if not even more so, and there’s just the right balance between heavy and melodic sections on this album, as well as a perfect balance between great musicianship and cohesive songwriting. In fact, on a musical and compositional level, I’d say this album may be the band’s best work to date, and it is just about perfect.

Vocals have always been the biggest sticking point for me with this band, as no matter which album I listen to, there are some parts where the vocals amaze me and some parts where they just don’t quite work. Spiritual Migration was especially notable for this, as Carlos did an excellent job with his smooth, deep clean vocals and every section where he sang impressed me, but lead vocalist Marc Martins while sometimes solid with his extreme vocals, occasionally got to be a bit irritating as he’d launch into some overly screamy metalcore type vocals I wasn’t a big fan of. This time around, both are actually in fine form as Carlos sounds excellent as always and for the most part, Marc is a little more restrained with his vocals, often using some deeper, yet still powerful death growls, and even the more extreme screamed sections feel a bit better than I was expecting. There are also two notable guest performers, who I will be talking about a bit further in the review, but suffice to say, one of them is a very important reason for my overall score being what it is.

Moving on to songwriting, and this is where Persefone has really delivered this time around. Every track here is brilliantly written, from atmospheric, instrumental interludes “Cosmic Walker” and “Vacuum” which do a great job of calming things down and setting the mood, to heavier tracks like “Spirals With Thy Being” and “No Faced Mindless”, everything here is just about perfect on a compositional level. After a brief opening track, dominated by keyboard effects and voiceovers, which I’ll discuss in more detail later on, we get “One of Many…” the first full instrumental track and it immediately sets the tone, mostly with atmospheric pianos, but also with some nice riffs and a great guitar section near the end, and it serves as a great lead-in to “Prison Skin”, as the overall atmosphere carries over into that track, before the band goes into full prog mode for an extensive instrumental section with excellent musicianship. As the track moves on, we get some great death growls from Marc and some excellent clean vocals from Miguel and the track is relatively straight-forward for a bit, until pausing for an atmospheric section and from there the track is just brilliant, making excellent use of all elements of the music and serving as a great first full song.

It’s really hard discussing individual tracks here, as everything flows together so well, but another early standout is “Spiral Within Thy Being”, which starts out with a nice instrumental section before slowing down and giving us some of the most atmospheric death metal sections on the album. Meanwhile, “No Faced Mindless” speeds things up a bit during the first half and has some melodic death metal elements early on, before becoming a bit more technical in the second half, as we get some very proggy instrumental sections and more great clean vocals. The longest individual track (at least on my promo) is “Stillness is Timeless”, an excellent song which goes through many different phases and does a great job of alternating between many different styles, before slowing down near the end and building up for the four-part, 20-minute title track. I’m not sure if the song is meant to be broken into four tracks or presented as one, but my promo has it split up, so I’ll judge it as four parts, Anyway, each part of the title track serves its own purpose, with parts 1 and III representing the bulk of the song, giving us some heavier parts and growls, to go along with Miguel’s clean vocals, while part II is a largely instrumental track, mostly on the softer side, with a brief voiceover section from guest Merethe Soltvedt, who also sings on part IV, a soft closing track played entire on keyboards and piano. Her vocals are very pleasant and fit the music well, giving the album an amazing ending.

One last track I haven’t mentioned yet is “Living Waves”. Its second half is absolutely brilliant, featuring some great extreme metal sections as well as some of the best clean vocals on the entire album. However, it’s the first half that really stands out and that makes an impact on my overall impression of this album. I mentioned earlier that the opening track features some voiceovers. Well, those voiceovers are provided by another guest, Cynic vocalist Paul Masvidal, whose voice I’ve always struggled with as I tend to not like an overuse of vocal effects in metal. Unfortunately, he goes overboard with those effects on this album, greatly distorting his voice on both the opening track and “Living Waves”, and in case that wasn’t enough, the latter track has a brief part where his voice gets high pitched and whiny, and when you combine that with the distortion effects….. Let’s just say my ears disagree terribly with the result, and so the first half of that track is very unpleasant for me to sit through. I hate to harp on this, but when the rest of the album is pretty much perfect, and especially when there are two other vocalists on this album who provide excellent clean vocals without needing to use annoying voice effects, I just can’t help but wonder why the band thought this was a good idea. This is made all the more frustrating by the fact that, as I said earlier, the rest of that track is so amazing, and so I never end up skipping it, instead of forcing myself to endure those painful 2-3 minutes in which Paul appears.

Aside from that one horrible miscalculation, though, Aathma is a brilliant album from a band that continues to impress me, and I don’t want that one paragraph to scare listeners away, or even to upset fans of the band, as on a musical and compositional level this is progressive death metal at its absolute best, and every section not featuring Paul Masvidal is about as perfect as music gets. Persefone have long been one of my favorite metal bands and I hope they can continue to be great for many years to come, and I highly recommend this album and all their other album to all fans of extreme prog metal who like their music to be complex and adventurous. One frustration aside, this is still an early highlight in 2017, and in many ways some of the best work the band has done yet.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/02/26/persefone-aathma-review/

STAMINA System of Power

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
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Italy is known for having some excellent power and progressive metal bands, but for every big name band from that country, there are several other bands who consistently make quality albums that tend to go largely under the radar. One such band is Stamina, led by guitarist Luca Sellitto. They have released three albums to date, with their previous album Perseverance being my introduction to them, and it was quite the stellar release. Now they’re back with their fourth release System of Power, with a slightly revamped lineup as well as a slightly different sound than what I remember from Perseverance, but if anything I’d say this new album is even better.

With Perseverance, I remember having a difficult time trying to nail down an overall genre for the music as I was hearing traces of power metal, hard rock, heavy metal and even some AOR to go along with the supposed main sound of melodic prog. With System of Power, though, that isn’t so much the case, as most of the lighter hard rock elements have been removed, in favor of a more predominantly melodic progressive metal sound, mixed in with quite a bit of power metal and the occasional symphonic elements. On the whole, this is a much heavier, more guitar-driven release and it’s definitely a more clearly metal album than its predecessor, though it’s still a very melodic album overall, and the new singer is given a ton of space to work with. There’s some very impressive instrumental work on this album and the musicianship is very technical at times, much more so than I remember from the previous release, with Luca especially shining during some epic solos, though keyboardist Andrea Barone does some pretty impressive work as well, and there are still many sections where the keyboards dominate. It’s a very well balanced and great sounding album overall, with a nice mix between faster tracks with power metal elements, and slower, more progressive tracks.

The area where the band has changed most, though, is the vocals. On Perseverance, there was no lead singer, as the band instead used various guests for all the vocals. In between albums, they recruited vocalist Alessandro Granato, who does all the lead vocals on this release, and he does one hell of a job, for sure. He sings with a very deep and aggressive voice at times and he can also be very animated at times, occasionally using some higher pitched vocals that especially work great on the speedier tracks. In fact, on the whole, I find his vocals work great for power metal and so he does an especially great job on the tracks that focus more on that side of their music, although he sounds very good all around.

Opening track “Holding On” immediately feels like a change to more of a prog sound, as it begins with some excellent keyboards before the guitars eventually kick in and the pace picks up, turning into a more power metal oriented track. This is a fairly heavy, fast paced track with some great instrumental work all around, especially from Andrea, and it also does a great job of introducing Alessandro, as he sounds excellent throughout and especially during the chorus. I mentioned previously that he excels on faster songs, and my favorite of these is definitely “Love Was Never Meant to Be.” The track begins with a rather lengthy intro where the keyboards dominate and help give the track a very playful, sort of theatrical mood right from the start, and the verses are a lot of fun and do a nice job of alternating between fast and mid-paced, but it’s the super speedy chorus that stands as the clear highlight, and it’s there where Alessandro delivers his best vocals on the entire album.

Other great faster tracks include “One in a Million” and “Why”. The former begins with a nice orchestral opening, before turning into one of the heavier tracks on the album. The guitars feel a bit chunkier than usual on this track and add an extra dose of heaviness to the verses, while the chorus is more melodic and fun as usual. “Why” also begins with an extended symphonic intro, though on this track those elements are rather prevalent throughout, which gives the music more of an epic feeling throughout, and the chorus is once again outstanding.

On the slower side, the title track and closer “Portrait of Beauty” are two very solid mid-paced tracks, where the prog elements are more dominant. Both tracks do a nice job of switching between guitar parts and keyboard parts, with both musicians doing an excellent job and they both deliver some great solos. Those tracks are both very good, but I find they pale in comparison to “Must be Blind”, probably the most progressive track the on the album, and certainly the track with the best instrumental work. Right from the start, the guitars sound just a bit heavier and more complex than usual, and that little keyboard flourish at the end of the main riff is a nice touch. The track also has a fun, fast paced chorus, but it’s the instrumental section in the second half where the track really picks up as the musicians go all out and the result is quite stunning. Lastly, “Undergo” (Black Moon Pt.2)” is a very nice ballad, though it’s also the one track where Andrea’s keyboards feel the least prominent. It begins with a nice acoustic guitar section before Luca adds a really nice melodic section with the electric guitar, and then throughout it’s mostly a vocal driven track that serves as a great showcase for Alessandro, and then in the second half, Luca gives himself plenty of space to deliver a nice solo section.

Overall, System of Power is an excellent album that will hopefully bring more attention to Stamina, as it’s a great blend of melodic progressive metal and power metal, with some excellent musicianship, great vocals, and consistently strong songwriting. More importantly, it represents a slight step up from the band’s already very good previous release, and now with a new lineup I’m hoping for more great things from the band is the future. Highly recommended for power metal fans and prog fans who prefer the more melodic side of the genre.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/02/22/stamina-system-power-review/

BLOODBOUND War of Dragons

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
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I’ve made it no secret over the past few years that Swedish power metal band Sabaton are one of my absolute favorites in the genre, but I’ve found myself surprised recently as offshoot band Civil War has managed to seemingly beat them at their own game, while other bands have been effectively incorporating elements of their music into their own sound to make for something a bit more unique. Which brings us to their fellow Swedes Bloodbound, a band who I’ve enjoyed a lot over the years and who especially impressed me with their 2014 release Stormborn. That release felt like a full return to the band’s classic power metal roots and on some tracks they seem to be influenced a bit by Sabaton, while still retaining their own sound. Now, not quite two and a half years later the band is back with their seventh full-length release War of Dragons, and if anything those influences are stronger this time around, with almost the entire album feeling like something I can best describe as “Sabaton on steroids.” But does this sound actually work out for the band, or are they better off going back to the drawing board and trying something different? Short answer: It works brilliantly and is easily my favorite Bloodbound release to date. For the long answer, I’ll go into more detail below.

I’ll try and avoid name dropping too much as I go along, but suffice to say on this release Bloodbound has taken the core power metal sound of Stormborn, and dialed it up to 11 on all fronts, resulting in an album full of extremely fast paced tracks, with huge anthem-like choruses, huge choral vocal sections, an increased use of symphonic elements, and of course the sound wouldn’t be complete without keyboards and that’s one area where the band has really gone all out on this release, as on past releases they played more of a minor role, where on this track they lead the way quite often and are extremely prominent throughout. But of course, one element the aforementioned band has been lacking in recent years is those heavy guitar riffs, something Bloodbound has always had. I’m sure the previous couple sentences will have some longtime fans worried that the guitars have been toned down to allow for the other elements I mentioned, but thankfully that is not the case as there are still a ton of great riffs and excellent guitar solos here, and on some tracks the guitars definitely add more of a classic metal edge, which is the one area where the band really refreshes the formula and brings something new to the table, compared to other bands who use a similar sound.

At this point, not much needs to be said about vocalist Patrik Johansson, who by now has earned his place as the voice of the band. His vocals are as powerful as ever and he can certainly deliver strongly on the heavier sections, but I find he has always excelled at the more melodic sections as he happens to be one of the best in all of metal right now when it comes to choruses, and on War of Dragons he once again delivers, singing some of the best vocal lines I’ve heard on any album in recent years. The supporting choir vocals are also extremely epic in some sections and help add to the overall symphonic feel of the album.

Songwriting is an area where the band usually does well, but up to this point, they had never released a batch of songs I’d consider perfect. That has changed with “War of Dragons”, though, as not only are there no songs I’d ever consider skipping, there aren’t any songs here I don’t absolutely love and get excited to hear every time I play the album. After a brief voice over intro, opening track “Battle in the Sky” does an excellent job of showing the listener what to expect from the album, as Patrik briefly introduces the epic chorus, before the track speeds up and the keyboards and symphonic elements quickly take over, then the guitars appear and get pretty heavy during the fast-paced verses. It’s a typically up-tempo and very fun track with a huge, instantly memorable chorus and it’s certainly a song that blew me away immediately and has stayed stuck in my head since the very first listen. Next is “Tears of a Dragonheart”, another speedy, slightly more straight-forward track where the keyboards are once again quite prominent, and it’s another really fun track overall, though its highlight comes in the middle where the choirs take over and a singer with a really deep voice briefly takes lead and the way his voice sounds makes the main inspiration for this album even more obvious.

The title track is another fast paced track, that once again delivers a great chorus and plenty of fun moments throughout, but it’s actually the slow paced, very epic lead into the chorus that stands out as the highlight, as Patrik does an especially fantastic job during this section, and the marching drums are pretty awesome. Next is “Silver Wings”, the first track that stands out as sounding a bit different, and it’s another instant winner, with its nice folk melodies leading the way, especially during the very upbeat and epic chorus, and while it’s a bit more mid-tempo compared to the first four tracks, it still moves along at a nice pace and is another very fun track. The first real mid-tempo track of the album is “Stand and Fight”, another track which wears its influences on its sleeves, as the keyboards are very prominent again and the chorus feels familiar, while still being incredibly addictive. It has another epic section with marching drums, but once again it’s the middle section that really steals the show, as first, we get a really epic vocal section, then a nice melodic solo where the pace really picks up and then we get a super speedy final run through the chorus which is just absolutely glorious and one of my favorite moments on the album.

Staying on the speedy front, “King of Swords” is probably the heaviest and most guitar driven track on the album, and its main riff has more of a raw, classic metal edge to it, though the chorus is still super melodic and catchy as always, and the keyboards are still in full force. The folk elements from “Silver Wings” are back for this track, and add a bit of extra flavor, though overall the track is definitely one of the more pure power metal tracks on the album. Likewise, “Guardians At Heaven’s Gate” is easily the most traditional power metal track on the album and probably the fastest, as well as being more guitar driven than much of the album, while once again still having a fantastic chorus, which is obviously a theme on this album. After that comes “Symphony Satana” and as that name would imply, it’s the most symphonic track on the album and the choirs are also in full force, with some very epic choral sections especially in the second half, though it’s still a very speedy track and is certainly one of the more addictive tracks on the album. Next is “Starfall”, another more mid-paced track, that again has some heavy riffs during its very enjoyable verses, while the folk elements are prominent during the chorus, which is fantastic as always. The album closes with “Dragons Are Forever”, yet another very speedy track with strong symphonic influences, though anything some of the guitar melodies here reminds me more of Dragonforce, especially during the solo section, though obviously, the song is much catchier and more straight-forward than anything by that band.

I only left out one track during that rundown, that being “Fallen Heroes”. The reason for that isn’t because I think it’s a weak link. Instead, it’s because I think it stands out, both as being the only really slow track on the album, but also as possibly my favorite. Right from the opening keyboard notes and brief tease at the chorus it becomes obvious it’s the kind of track a certain band wishes they could have written first, as the keyboards are even more prominent than on any other track on the album and while it does very much fall into the formula of the aforementioned band, everything here just feels better and more epic, with those keyboards being more epic than usual, the choirs being fantastic, the verses being fun and that chorus being just absolutely spectacular, especially during the final run through.

Overall, War of Dragons is a fantastic power metal album and while Bloodbound has clearly been influenced heavily by other bands this time around, they have managed to take those influences and fit them in perfectly with their own sound, making for easily their best and most addictive release to date. In fact, I’d say this is one of my favorite power metal albums of this decade so far, and I’d highly recommended it for any fan of the genre, especially anyone who doesn’t mind a heavy use of keyboards and symphonic elements, as all songs here are amazing and some of the vocal melodies just have to be heard.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/02/11/bloodbound-war-dragons-review/

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    It's been getting hammered pretty hard on the reviews, but I played it for about 4 hours last night, and honestly: It's a Bioware game. So if you've liked their past work, there's really no reason you should like Andromeda, at least on what I've played so far. Some complain about the writing, but I think it's been perfectly fine so far, and the setting and characters have been interesting as always. Combat also seems really cool so far, a lot more active than in past ME games. The facial animations are bad, though, but that and their insistence on throwing multiplayer options into singleplayer are my only issues so far (it can be completely avoided, obviously, but I still would have rather had them focused on other areas instead of that.) Funniest scene so far: One character says "Sorry, my face is tired", and sure enough, her face does look insanely tired, lol.
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