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Adam Gardiner
Forum Admin Group · Black Metal, Prog/AG Teams
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2837 reviews/ratings
WINTERHORDE - Underwatermoon Melodic Black Metal | review permalink
SONIC PULSAR - Playing the Universe Progressive Metal | review permalink
STAR ONE - Victims of the Modern Age Progressive Metal | review permalink
IRON MAIDEN - The Number Of The Beast NWoBHM | review permalink
DREAM THEATER - Images and Words Progressive Metal | review permalink
REBELLION - Miklagard - The History of the Vikings Volume II Power Metal | review permalink
BEYOND TWILIGHT - Section X Progressive Metal | review permalink
IMMORTAL - At the Heart of Winter Black Metal | review permalink
DARKOLOGY - Altered Reflections Progressive Metal | review permalink
CRUACHAN - Folk-Lore Folk Metal | review permalink
ALICE IN CHAINS - Black Gives Way To Blue Alternative Metal | review permalink
AYREON - The Final Experiment Progressive Metal | review permalink
BLIND GUARDIAN - Imaginations From the Other Side Power Metal | review permalink
EPICA - The Divine Conspiracy Symphonic Metal | review permalink
AYREON - The Human Equation Progressive Metal | review permalink
EPICA - Design Your Universe Symphonic Metal | review permalink
ASTARTE - Quod Superius Sicut Inferius Melodic Black Metal
AVANTASIA - The Metal Opera Power Metal
AYREON - 01011001 Progressive Metal | review permalink
REBELLION - Arise: From Ginnungagap to Ragnarök - The History of the Vikings Volume III Power Metal | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 372 4.15
2 Progressive Metal 293 4.16
3 Heavy Metal 220 3.88
4 Atmospheric Black Metal 199 4.08
5 US Power Metal 157 4.21
6 Black Metal 155 3.88
7 Folk Metal 106 3.97
8 Symphonic Metal 106 3.81
9 Thrash Metal 99 4.04
10 Death Metal 86 3.95
11 Non-Metal 85 3.83
12 Technical Death Metal 80 4.21
13 Metal Related 79 4.11
14 Gothic Metal 62 3.73
15 Doom Metal 56 4.04
16 Hard Rock 56 3.91
17 Melodic Black Metal 52 4.14
18 Melodic Death Metal 52 3.91
19 Speed Metal 41 3.88
20 Stoner Metal 40 4.15
21 Alternative Metal 38 3.46
22 Death-Doom Metal 28 4.11
23 Symphonic Black Metal 28 4.09
24 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 27 4.11
25 Groove Metal 24 3.65
26 Heavy Psych 24 4.33
27 Pagan Black Metal 23 3.87
28 Viking Metal 23 4.11
29 Heavy Alternative Rock 22 3.27
30 Avant-garde Metal 21 3.90
31 Depressive Black Metal 20 3.77
32 NWoBHM 18 4.42
33 Traditional Doom Metal 18 4.33
34 Sludge Metal 16 4.03
35 Stoner Rock 15 3.97
36 Funeral Doom Metal 14 4.11
37 Technical Thrash Metal 14 4.14
38 Brutal Death Metal 13 3.27
39 Melodic Metalcore 13 3.35
40 War Metal 11 4.09
41 Proto-Metal 7 4.14
42 Metalcore 6 2.25
43 Industrial Metal 5 3.80
44 Neoclassical metal 3 3.83
45 Drone Metal 3 3.50
46 Deathcore 2 1.75
47 Death 'n' Roll 2 3.00
48 Crossover Thrash 1 3.50
49 Crust Punk 1 4.00
50 Trance Metal 1 0.50

Latest Albums Reviews

IRON MAIDEN Senjutsu

Album · 2021 · Heavy Metal
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Senjutsu (2021) is the seventeenth full-length studio album by UK NWoBHM legends Iron Maiden. The album marks a close to what has been their longest gap between studio albums to date, the last being The Book of Souls (2015). The same line-up that has been present since Brave New World (2000) still remains: Bruce Dickinson (vocals), Steve Harris (bass), Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers (guitars) and Nicko McBrain (drums). Like The Book of Souls before it, Senjutsu is a double album. Similar design in cover artwork would also suggest an intentional relationship between the two, with mascot Eddie evolving from a tribal incarnation to one inspired by Japanese Samurai.

The music on Senjutsu is unmistakeably that of Iron Maiden in their modern day incarnation. Perhaps a little less overtly influenced by progressive rock/metal even in the album's longer songs like the trio of ten plus minute closers, Death of the Celts, The Parchment and Hell on Earth, but the progressive subtleties are there for those prepared to listen for them. Subtle is a good word to describe the entire album. It's not in your face. It's more of a slow burn than the band's most well known back catalogue, even when you compare the lead single The Writing on the Wall to its counterpart from The Book of Souls, Speed of Light. Iron Maiden have opted to avoid their more faster paced material on the album as well.

While in all Senjutsu actually sounds like a rather unique entry in the Iron Maiden discography, there are certainly hints present in the release that conjure up recollections of past Iron Maiden albums. Personally I hear moments that could easily have been part of A Matter of Life and Death (2006), The Final Frontier (2010) and even Virtual XI (1998), the latter most obvious in the aforementioned Death of the Celts, which could easily be a companion song to The Clansman.

One thing that Senjutsu does extremely well is how well the material flows together. Iron Maiden are not typically one of those bands that can be called 'album artists', as no matter how good the albums taken as a whole are, there are always songs that stand out individually, be they the singles chosen to promote it, or otherwise. I feel like it would be saying something negative about Senjutsu to suggest that it is otherwise here, but this definitely comes across as more of a work that functions best when considered as a whole. Greater than the sum of its parts, if you like.

The band's instrumental performance is on point and Dickinson is also on fine form. As always, the production values of Kevin Shirley may leave something to be desired compared to those of the late Martin Birch, but the production of the album is consistent with that of other post-Birch Iron Maiden, to the point that I would not even think to mention the production in this review if I didn't keep seeing grumblings about it since Senjutsu was released. I don't get that. Senjutsu sounds exactly like I'd expect an Iron Maiden album to sound like in 2021.

While it is perhaps clear that Senjutsu won't become the favourite Iron Maiden album of either myself or many others, at this point in their career, seventeen albums in and over forty years since the release of their debut Iron Maiden (1980), I don't need it to be. I need it to be another great album that proves that the lads have still got it. And guess what?

They have.

PHARAOH (PA) The Powers That Be

Album · 2021 · US Power Metal
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The Powers That Be (2021) is the fifth full-length studio album by US power metal act Pharaoh. It has been almost a whole decade since we last got an album from Pharaoh, that being Bury the Light (2012), so The Powers That Be is very much a comeback release even though the band has never been officially inactive during that time. The same band line-up is still in place as well, that of Tim Aymar (vocals), Matt Johnsen (guitars), Chris Kerns (bass) and Chris Black (drums). Pharaoh have been rocking this same line-up since before their first studio album, After the Fire (2003).

When a band falls off the radar for whatever reason, there must surely be a lot riding on their comeback. No band wants to go almost ten years without new material for their fans to say something like 'we waited this long, for this?' There should be no danger of this happening to Pharaoh however, as they haven't just delivered a great album with The Powers That Be, they've got something here that may just be their best album to date.

The sound of the album is unmistakeably that of Pharaoh, but this is a Pharaoh that feels somewhat rawer and harder than we've heard previously. They have always existed more on the melodic end of the USPM genre, with plenty of Iron Maiden-esque classic heavy metal influences also coming into play, while Bury the Light also saw them referencing seventies hard rock, but The Powers That Be seems to exist to make a big impact: riffy USPM, hitting hard and fast across the duration of the nine new tracks. There's a progressive sensibility and complexity in there as well, blended with aggressive playing to perfection to result in an album that not only seems like Pharaoh are screaming 'we're back!', they're screaming 'we're back, bigger and better than ever before'. To top this off, the changes in sound seem to suit the voice of Tim Aymer more than ever.

The Powers That Be is an album that was well worth the wait and a tremendous pay off for Pharaoh. That said, I really hope it also marks a return to some sort of regularity for them, since based on this, we definitely need this band to stick around. An album of the year 2021 contender for me.

MARE COGNITUM Solar Paroxysm

Album · 2021 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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It has been almost ten years since US atmospheric black metal solo project Mare Cognitum, the brainchild of Jacob Buczarski, released its debut album The Sea Which Has Become Known in 2011. In a decade there are many things that have not changed, such as Buczarski's continuance as the project's sole member and his apparently eternal dedication to the spacey atmospheric black metal music that has been Mare Cognitum's shtick since day one. What has changed though, is how much increasingly stronger a musician he has become in a decade, which has seen Mare Cognitum release four studio albums and three major split/collaboration releases, two of them being with Greek I, Voidhanger Records labelmate Spectral Lore. The most recent of these was 2020's Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine with Spectral Lore, a mammoth double album that held many claims to being the best work from both artists involved.

Still, nothing could really have prepared anyone for the release of Mare Cognitum's fifth main studio album Solar Paroxysm, released in 2021. In short, this is an album that even on the first spin managed to floor me with its sound and level of creativity in such a way that it was like listening to Mare Cognitum for the first time again, which for me was with third album Phobos Monolith from 2014. Although objectively Mare Cognitum has shown improvement with every release up to Wanderers, Phobos Monolith, as with many of the albums we discover artists with, had a bonus nostalgia factor for me that has always made it my personal favourite. However having given Solar Paroxysm a few spins now, I believe we may well be dealing with a release that defeats nostalgia. We are certainly dealing with a record that shows off its album of the year potential from the get-go.

Mare Cognitum has always favoured long tracks and there isn't an album out there that has more than half a dozen on it. On Solar Paroxysm Buczarski has delivered five, each of them passing ten minutes. The total running time of the record is a little shy of one hour. And that's an hour that just seems to fly by so fast that you'd be forgiven if you're left wondering if you accidentally leant on the skip button of your player. There is no song here that feels like it's anywhere near as long as it actually is. At no point does it feel like the writing has been purposely elongated or that the album has become pretentious. The balanced sound between spacey atmospheric melodies and more aggressive tendencies in the riffs is about as divine as this genre can probably ever be, while Jacob's growls adds a primordial edge on top that invokes the extremity of space and the formation of strange alien worlds. This will be a familiar vibe to existing fans, but the immediacy of the record is unprecedented.

Anyone who has been listening to Mare Cognitum this last few years knows already that Jacob Buczarski is a man who knows his craft. But he is also a man who shows that no matter how good his last work was, there's always room to keep honing that craft and against all expectations of reviewers like yours truly, who have already graded his work in the top tier, that improvement can be achieved. And yet Solar Paroxysm is not just good or even simply better than Mare Cognitum's previous releases. It is next level good: an album that's very easy to listen to multiple times back to back and certainly one that will keep being come back to again and again. It is true that only time, much of which is still needed to truly judge such a record, can tell whether something will remain as good once the honeymoon period is over, but I for one, have really good feelings about Solar Paroxysm.

SWEVEN The Eternal Resonance

Album · 2020 · Progressive Metal
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A few years ago there was a Swedish death metal band called Morbus Chron and their second album was called Sweven (2014). It was a gem combining death metal with retro progressive rock and psychedelic music, something that had been heard in black metal based acts like Hail Spirit Noir and Oranssi Pazuzu, but was still a rare element for metal to use (outside of the more obligatory stoner metal genre of course). It was the kind of album that showed its band off as something unusual and special. But then Morbus Chron disbanded in 2015. But now they're back, well, at least frontman Robert Andersson is and since his new project is also called Sweven you know that the new band is going to be more or less a continuation of where Morbus Chron left off. The Eternal Resonance (2020) is the group's debut album.

Sweven's The Eternal Resonance is not a mere rehash of their namesake album, but all the same elements are there: death metal, prog and psychedelic rock. While Robert Andersson brings a growling vocal style to the music it often feels like a bit of stretch to call this a death metal record. The instrumental work transcends death metal far too much to even pigeon-hole as progressive death metal; instead it falls more into the category of extreme progressive metal, a term often reserved for big names like the Opeth of old and Ihsahn and few others. And even that doesn't completely describe Sweven's sound, because there's just far too much retro progressive rock and psych in here as well to say its merely 'just' one thing. It's an album sitting on a bridge between two worlds, not torn between them, but in harmony.

The big difference in how the elements are balanced between The Eternal Resonance and the namesake album Sweven is that Morbus Chron used the psych influences a lot more than Sweven the band do here, but those are still an integral part of the new album's sound and it wouldn't be quite as special without them. Though if there is a fault here then it's that I really would have liked to hear the psychedelic element a bit more like in the previous band. Psychedelic metal is such an untapped well of potential that few bands seem willing to embrace, and fewer still the fans that seem to be able to recognise it, such as seems to have happened with this year's Hail Spirit Noir album Eden in Reverse, which to my knowledge could well be the first true psychedelic metal album that isn't stoner or extreme metal based. It's a shame that Sweven dialled this back on The Eternal Resonance, but they still make a really excellent record that has a rather unique sound, so I can't complain too much about that.

I find The Eternal Resonance to be one of 2020's finest debut metal records. Creating a unique sound in 2020 is no easy feat and while Sweven do lift a lot from their frontman's previous outfit one can hardly cast blame on the man for continuing to peruse a musical vision that produces an album this good. I can only imagine that Sweven will go on to impress even more if this is what they serve as the appetizer. Let's hope though that they make more albums than Morbus Chron did.

WAKE Devouring Ruin

Album · 2020 · Black Metal
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Canadian act Wake first hit the metal scene in 2010 with the EP Surrounded by Human Filth, playing grindcore, a genre that they've stuck with through their first decade of existence. While their last album Misery Rites (2018) was noted by some for bringing a blackened approach they were still a grindcore band. So it might come as a surprise to some that their fifth and latest album Devouring Ruin (2020) has seen them pretty throw all their grindcore roots out of the window and have instead released their first actual black metal record.

Of course that's selling the sound of the release shorter than a lot of grindcore albums are. Wake didn't just go black metal, they've expanded their sound in a number of different directions, with everything from technical death metal to post-sludge being found on Devouring Ruin. The change in direction has also resulted in an album of greater quantity from Wake; in true grindcore fashion the longest any of their four prior albums latest for was just shy of twenty-seven minutes, while the four albums between them could only claim two tracks that broke three minutes. Here we have a much more substantial not quite forty-six minute album, complete with a song, Torchbearer, which breaks the ten minute barrier. Grindcore is of course a genre where the very idea seems to be to go in and get the point across as quickly as possible, but with the new sound Wake have been able to change their approach to song-writing and new ideas are given room to be expressed.

It's a powerful sounding record, only really ever letting up for a couple of shorter interlude style tracks (sorry to disappoint those who thought the short tracks would be grindcore numbers), which are oddly placed to either side of just one song (and not even the real long one) rather than more effectively break up the record. Wake's take on black metal has a rawer sound to the vocals of Kyle Ball, approaching more death metal style and avoiding the cold, necro roots of black metal, though the riffs themselves retain a black metal atmosphere throughout, with other genre details hidden in the album's subtleties. Listen casually as your own peril, for there's a lot to dig into and explore here.

Existing fans of Wake who were expecting them to continue on with the grindcore may be disappointed in the change in direction, but for me Devouring Ruin is the release that has put the band on the map. Of course I listen to a lot more black metal than I do grindcore (by which I mean none at all), but they certainly seem to be making more waves with the album since it's release than they did before, which can only be good for them. They're obviously a talented band, based on what Devouring Ruin has to offer, an album that reaffirms for me my love of the black metal genre and it's continual ability to produce such high calibre albums. I hope we'll get to hear more of this kind of thing from Wake.

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