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Adam Gardiner
Forum Admin Group · Black Metal, Prog/AG Teams
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit 13 hours ago

Favorite Metal Artists

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2681 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
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
TO-MERA - Delusions Progressive Metal | review permalink
WITHIN TEMPTATION - The Silent Force Tour Symphonic Metal | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 360 4.14
2 Progressive Metal 267 4.13
3 Heavy Metal 232 3.90
4 Atmospheric Black Metal 187 4.09
5 Black Metal 144 3.84
6 US Power Metal 132 4.22
7 Folk Metal 106 3.98
8 Symphonic Metal 103 3.79
9 Thrash Metal 95 3.99
10 Non-Metal 85 3.86
11 Death Metal 83 3.92
12 Technical Death Metal 75 4.19
13 Gothic Metal 62 3.85
14 Doom Metal 54 4.03
15 Hard Rock 54 3.87
16 Melodic Black Metal 51 4.14
17 Melodic Death Metal 49 3.87
18 Metal Related 48 3.88
19 Speed Metal 41 3.88
20 Stoner Metal 39 4.14
21 Alternative Metal 34 3.47
22 Symphonic Black Metal 28 4.09
23 Death-Doom Metal 26 4.17
24 Groove Metal 24 3.67
25 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 24 4.21
26 Heavy Alternative Rock 22 3.27
27 Heavy Psych 22 4.34
28 Viking Metal 22 4.07
29 Pagan Black Metal 21 3.86
30 NWoBHM 18 4.36
31 Avant-garde Metal 18 3.86
32 Depressive Black Metal 17 3.82
33 Traditional Doom Metal 17 4.29
34 Sludge Metal 15 4.10
35 Stoner Rock 15 3.97
36 Funeral Doom Metal 14 4.11
37 Technical Thrash Metal 14 4.14
38 Brutal Death Metal 12 3.25
39 Melodic Metalcore 12 3.38
40 War Metal 11 4.09
41 Metalcore 7 2.57
42 Industrial Metal 5 3.80
43 Neoclassical metal 3 3.83
44 Proto-Metal 3 4.17
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

DARK FOREST Dark Forest

Album · 2009 · Heavy Metal
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Dark Forest (2009) is the self-titled debut album by UK heavy metal act Dark Forest. Although the band went on after this to be more familiar as a five piece act, this debut sees them as a four piece with the vocals performed by guitarist Christian Horton. This is a retrospective review written shortly after the release of the group's fifth album Oak, Ash & Thorn (2020).

The songs on Dark Forest number among the best that the band has ever put out. This is a quality heavy metal album with some power and folk references, that really channels the genre history in the UK, specifically the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. If it has been released at that time this debut record might have gone on to put Dark Forest on the same status level as Iron Maiden or Saxon. There's just one problem, which would have applied then just as much as when the album was actually released in 2009.

Christian Horton cannot sing.

This album unfortunately isn't one of those cases where a band had a singer less liked than their classic singer at the start of their career, but who was still pretty good. Horton is just plain poor as a vocalist. Credit where it is due, you can really tell he is trying his best to carry the album, to moderate success in spite of himself, but sadly he's just not cut out for it. It's no surprise that after this Dark Forest managed to recruit Will Lowry-Scott and then Josh Winnard (who remains their vocalist to this day) to take over this duty from Horton. I've seen some voice the opinion that someone, somewhere once told Horton he could sing and he believed it, but I find it more likely that he sang on Dark Forest out of necessity rather than hubris; a young band who couldn't find the right vocalist and wanted to get music out there. Of course, either theory is pure speculation unless Horton himself clears this bit of band history up, but regardless despite the issues regarding his vocals here, the band got it together in time for their next album Dawn of Infinity (2011) which as an aside, remains one of my personal favourite heavy metal releases of the decade just gone.

The album itself is actually quite good even with the vocals because as I stated earlier the songs themselves number among the best Dark Forest ever wrote. One of them, The Wizard of Alderley Edge, was actually re-recorded with Will Lowry-Scott as part of the Defender (2009) EP and alone shows what really might have been with this first album – possibly the best Dark Forest record. It's really surprising that the band has never re-recorded more tracks from it. Not least the self-titled song Dark Forest, which to me at least seems like it should have been a must. With the position of lead vocalist now seemingly stable with John Winnard, one can only hope that the band jumps on the golden opportunity to revive these tracks, if not completely re-record the whole album. If they did that I can't see any situation where the 3.5 star rating it currently gets from me wouldn't morph into a 5.0.

MYRKUR Folkesange

Album · 2020 · Non-Metal
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Folkesange (2020) is the third full-length studio album by Danish atmospheric black metal solo act Myrkur (Amalie Bruun). This one is a bit different though: it's a non-metal folk album, embracing else elements from Myrkur's black metal work. Most of the album is not sung in English. This isn't Myrkur's first major non-metal release as the live album Mausoleum (2016) was also folk based.

Myrkur's take on folk music is a blend between Scandinavian folk sounds with some dark folk. Folkesange often reminds me of what the Swedish band Fejd would sound like if they had a female vocalist instead of a male (and before they went metal, obviously). Myrkur has always used folk influences in her black metal sound, so this album doesn't feel like a major step away from what she did before, including vocally, since Myrkur for the most part performed black metal with the unusual take of nearly exclusively using clean singing (to surprisingly good effect).

If you're reading this review as a metal fan who doesn't like non-metallic folk you might not enjoy Folkesange too much. But as a metalhead who's actually very partial to the odd bit of non-metallic folk, I find myself very impressed by the results of Myrkur's Folkesange. If I were to describe it in three words I'd pick gentle, pleasant and beautiful. I especially like that she didn't record it in English bar a couple of tracks. I always think folk music (and I include folk metal in that grouping) sounds more authentic when language is used to directly tie it to the musician's homeland.

I'm not sure if Myrkur intends Folkesange as a one off in between black metal albums or whether this album marks a more permanent shift in direction for the project, but upon conclusion of the release, it actually seems rather irrelevant: Myrkur is adapt at either genre of music so whatever she decided to do next, I'm awaiting it eagerly.

ALLEN / OLZON Worlds Apart

Album · 2020 · Heavy Metal
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Worlds Apart (2020) is the debut album by collaborative project Allen/Olzon, named for it's two vocalists, Russell Allen and Anette Olzon. The main instrumentalist of the project is Magnus Karlsson with drummer Anders Köllerfors completing the four piece line-up.

Allen/Olzon is about as manufactured a metal band as you can get. But at this point what do you expect from a Frontiers Records project? If it wasn't enough that they've previously paired Russell Allen with Jørn Lande (a project previously also helmed by Magnus Karlsson before being replaced by Timo Tolkki) but they've also put Michael Kiske and Amanda Somerville together, again under Magnus Karlsson's instrumental work and now we have Russell Allen (Symphony X, et al) for a second time, this time with Anette Olzon (ex-Nightwish). The whole concept feels rather stale by this point. But of course, the music should be allowed to speak for itself, regardless of how it came to be created.

Only, it doesn't really say much. Worlds Apart sounds exactly like you'd expect a project of this nature to sound like: commercialised metal designed to show off its singers. It's basically pop dressed as metal. Despite some different influences in there including symphonic and some very minor power metal elements against the primarily melodic heavy metal sound, it's altogether a very bland release that results in a boredom induced coma long before it's managed to get even close to the half way point of its near hour long duration. Sure, it's also totally inoffensive and even listenable if you're feeling jovial enough, but pap is still pap.

To elaborate, there really doesn't seem to be a single thing about this release that could be deemed interesting or exciting. The music is about as basic in its ideas as it could get, merely serving the purpose that there needs to be something there for Allen and Olzon to sing over and is totally generic in its execution, with no risks taken (one has to wonder if that's Karlsson's choice or if he's given creative direction directly from the label). It's an album that's all about its two singers yet the only thing Worlds Apart really proves is that you need more than a good voice, or even two of them, to make a quality album.

That's not to say they do a bad job. They don't. We all know by this point that Russell Allen is one of the greatest male metal vocalists around. He is a vocalist that doesn't have anything to prove to anyone. Anette Olzon has more of a mixed reputation in the metal scene due to her Nightwish stint which saw her replace Tarja Turunen, a very different vocalist to herself. It was one of those situations where the gig of a lifetime turned out to be a hand badly dealt and it was after just two albums that the band sent her the way of Tarja. But there was never any doubt that Olzon was a good singer, just not the singer Nightwish fans wanted. Although actually for my money her second Nightwish album Imaginaerum is actually one of the group's best and most interesting albums so I look back on her tenure more fondly than some might do. Regardless, she's been back on the metal scene with The Dark Element prior to this Allen/Olzon project and although I haven't heard them personally I've seen some good reports. So I don't really think Olzon has anything to prove here any more than Allen does and hardly needs this to get back out there.

It certainly seems to be the case that both singers have much better projects out there (including Allen/Lande for Russell) for people who like their voices to listen to, that the only possible draw to Worlds Apart would be that they are together and I don't find it the most obvious pairing. Allen/Lande at least made a kind of sense. This one just makes the whole process feel too close to what pop music does: putting a male and female artist together and expecting results. But this isn't pop, it's metal and you need much more than all the parts checked off a list to make an album work.

All of these projects – Allen/Olzon, Allen/Lande, Kiske/Somerville - do make one wonder though why Frontiers Records doesn't make these projects around much more unknown vocalists. Vocalists who could actually really benefit from such a showcase album. Oh right, we know the answer to that. Money. Worlds Apart is just another Frontiers Records release built around money making names and it won't matter that it's also a release that lacks any substance or originality – it will sell copies based on the names alone. In that, it will no doubt be a success. But this reviewer expects more than that from an album to consider even giving it a middling score. Instead, as painful as it is to say for something that Russell Allen put his name to, it's likely to remain one of the lowest ranked albums I'll hear in 2020.

MARE COGNITUM Wanderers: Astrology Of The Nine

Split · 2020 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine (2020) is a part split and part collaboration album by US solo project Mare Cognitum and Greek solo act Spectral Lore. Both acts belong to the atmospheric black metal genre. Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine is the second release that the two have got together for after Sol (2013), to which Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine can be considered a thematic sequel; with the former being about our Sun, and Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine taking a journey through the planets themselves, openly owing a nod to Gustav Holst's Planets Suite in conception. And yes, the planets do include Pluto, so take that International Astronomical Union. In fact, Pluto gets not one but two tracks to its name here, with both acts collaborating on them.

Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine is a gargantuan release. The pair's prior offering Sol was already a substantial effort – a near seventy minute release spread across just three tracks, but Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore have really outdone themselves with this one. While no individual track comes close to the 29:10 and 25:53 long beasts that were their individual contributions to Sol respectively, there's a lot more tracks overall. Ten, to be exact. That's four each for each act on their own and the two Pluto tracks working together. It all comes together as a double album that is almost a full two hours long. Even without each other and their collaborations there is more than enough material here apiece for each to have released an individual studio album. Perhaps more than any other split that either has taken part in, including Sol, Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine, really does feel like it could serve as the fifth studio album of each act.

Our journey though the planets isn't told in sequence. We start with Mercury, but then skip to Mars, backtrack to Earth and Venus, before passing the asteroid belt and reaching Jupiter to complete the first disc of the album. Disc two picks up at Saturn, before going ahead to Neptune, back to Uranus and finally to the two part Pluto. Thematically it seems a little odd that they didn't follow the planets in order of distance from Sol, but then Holst didn't follow the traditional order either. I expect this was done for reasons of musical flow, because the order of tracks on the album does present something that feels very natural. I'll have to re-order the album sometime to see how it works by switching the tracks around. The ordering does also mean that the album does not follow a strict baton pass between the two acts, with Mare Cognitum getting two consecutive tracks on disc 1.

The burning question over the release, at least for those who don't make atmospheric black metal or even black metal in general one of their main listening interests, is whether almost two hours is too much for one release even with two artists performing and does it outstay its welcome? After all, it's well known that Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore are on very close pages with their takes on atmospheric black metal and that's been even more apparent since they first released Sol together. Well, if it was two lesser bands attempting this then the results might be very different. But Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore both happen to be acts that are among those are the very top of their game in the current scene. Both have released albums of the top tier like Phobos Monolith (2014) and III (2014) respectively. Working together they produce the kind of music that is a clear example of something being better than the sum of its parts. And when the parts were top notch to begin with you're dealing with something really special.

Are both artists evenly matched or does one get an edge over the other? Honestly that will come down to prior personal preferences I think. First impressions told me that Mare Cognitum had a split edge on Spectral Lore here, but the latter closed the gap after several listens to the album and the Spectral Lore tracks proved themselves to be growers. Of the Pluto tracks the first one, subtitled Exodus Through the Frozen Wastes, sees the duo instead performing space ambient music, as they did on Sol's collaborative track Red Giant. Ambient undertones can be found across the whole release, but this is the only time they fully embrace it. For the second part of Pluto, The Astral Bridge, the pair debut their music metal full collaboration together. Perhaps not unexpectedly it's one of the album's very best tracks.

Arguably Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine is the most essential release of either Mare Cognitum or Spectral Lore to date. Quite possibly it is the first masterpiece that the black metal genre has produced in the 2020s, setting the bar that others will have to aim for from this point forward, the acts themselves included when they release new material without the other's support. It's very rare that could be said about something which is primarily a split, a format that for most artists I personally don't pay any attention to. But with Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine it feels like maybe more like-minded artists should get together for releases like this. For my money it may be the greatest split ever released.

SPECTRAL LORE Wanderers: Astrology Of The Nine

Split · 2020 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine (2020) is a part split and part collaboration album by US solo project Mare Cognitum and Greek solo act Spectral Lore. Both acts belong to the atmospheric black metal genre. Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine is the second release that the two have got together for after Sol (2013), to which Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine can be considered a thematic sequel; with the former being about our Sun, and Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine taking a journey through the planets themselves, openly owing a nod to Gustav Holst's Planets Suite in conception. And yes, the planets do include Pluto, so take that International Astronomical Union. In fact, Pluto gets not one but two tracks to its name here, with both acts collaborating on them.

Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine is a gargantuan release. The pair's prior offering Sol was already a substantial effort – a near seventy minute release spread across just three tracks, but Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore have really outdone themselves with this one. While no individual track comes close to the 29:10 and 25:53 long beasts that were their individual contributions to Sol respectively, there's a lot more tracks overall. Ten, to be exact. That's four each for each act on their own and the two Pluto tracks working together. It all comes together as a double album that is almost a full two hours long. Even without each other and their collaborations there is more than enough material here apiece for each to have released an individual studio album. Perhaps more than any other split that either has taken part in, including Sol, Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine, really does feel like it could serve as the fifth studio album of each act.

Our journey though the planets isn't told in sequence. We start with Mercury, but then skip to Mars, backtrack to Earth and Venus, before passing the asteroid belt and reaching Jupiter to complete the first disc of the album. Disc two picks up at Saturn, before going ahead to Neptune, back to Uranus and finally to the two part Pluto. Thematically it seems a little odd that they didn't follow the planets in order of distance from Sol, but then Holst didn't follow the traditional order either. I expect this was done for reasons of musical flow, because the order of tracks on the album does present something that feels very natural. I'll have to re-order the album sometime to see how it works by switching the tracks around. The ordering does also mean that the album does not follow a strict baton pass between the two acts, with Mare Cognitum getting two consecutive tracks on disc 1.

The burning question over the release, at least for those who don't make atmospheric black metal or even black metal in general one of their main listening interests, is whether almost two hours is too much for one release even with two artists performing and does it outstay its welcome? After all, it's well known that Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore are on very close pages with their takes on atmospheric black metal and that's been even more apparent since they first released Sol together. Well, if it was two lesser bands attempting this then the results might be very different. But Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore both happen to be acts that are among those are the very top of their game in the current scene. Both have released albums of the top tier like Phobos Monolith (2014) and III (2014) respectively. Working together they produce the kind of music that is a clear example of something being better than the sum of its parts. And when the parts were top notch to begin with you're dealing with something really special.

Are both artists evenly matched or does one get an edge over the other? Honestly that will come down to prior personal preferences I think. First impressions told me that Mare Cognitum had a split edge on Spectral Lore here, but the latter closed the gap after several listens to the album and the Spectral Lore tracks proved themselves to be growers. Of the Pluto tracks the first one, subtitled Exodus Through the Frozen Wastes, sees the duo instead performing space ambient music, as they did on Sol's collaborative track Red Giant. Ambient undertones can be found across the whole release, but this is the only time they fully embrace it. For the second part of Pluto, The Astral Bridge, the pair debut their music metal full collaboration together. Perhaps not unexpectedly it's one of the album's very best tracks.

Arguably Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine is the most essential release of either Mare Cognitum or Spectral Lore to date. Quite possibly it is the first masterpiece that the black metal genre has produced in the 2020s, setting the bar that others will have to aim for from this point forward, the acts themselves included when they release new material without the other's support. It's very rare that could be said about something which is primarily a split, a format that for most artists I personally don't pay any attention to. But with Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine it feels like maybe more like-minded artists should get together for releases like this. For my money it may be the greatest split ever released.

Latest Forum Topic Posts

  • Posted 17 hours ago in Fixing the Confessions
    Artist: Hannes GrossmannAlbum: The Radial CovenantVerdict: A very solid prog/tech death metal release that's always competent and sometimes displays a flair for brilliance. An act to pursue more. Would I Buy It? Yes. 
  • Posted 20 hours ago in Fixing the Confessions
    Artist: Virgin SteeleAlbum: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part OneVerdict: Virgin Steele is one of those bands I had a phase with, but have since soured a lot on. Possibly due to their more recent records sucking so much. This one is from their USPM period, which is their best period, and I actually own Part 2 of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and have a high rating on it so obviously liked it at the time. This one seems merely OK though. Some excellent riffs here and there, but overall a very bloated 70 minute album.Would I Buy It? Maybe if it was a £1 or something. 
  • Posted 1 day ago in Recently Watched Films

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