Adam Gardiner
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2454 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
BEYOND TWILIGHT - For the Love of Art and the Making 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

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 346 4.13
2 Progressive Metal 249 4.10
3 Traditional heavy metal 212 3.87
4 Atmospheric Black Metal 168 4.09
5 Black Metal 150 3.81
6 US Power Metal 128 4.22
7 Folk Metal 108 3.94
8 Symphonic Metal 103 3.77
9 Hard Rock 98 3.85
10 Thrash Metal 91 4.02
11 Non-Metal 81 3.85
12 Death Metal 71 3.82
13 Technical Death Metal 65 4.16
14 Doom Metal 63 4.06
15 Gothic Metal 60 3.78
16 Melodic Black Metal 57 4.08
17 Melodic Death Metal 45 3.84
18 Metal Related 45 3.83
19 Speed Metal 41 3.88
20 Alternative Metal 34 3.44
21 Symphonic Black Metal 28 4.09
22 Death-Doom Metal 23 4.09
23 Groove Metal 23 3.63
24 Stoner Metal 23 4.13
25 Depressive Black Metal 20 3.85
26 Metalcore 19 3.08
27 Avant-garde Metal 17 3.79
28 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 16 3.94
29 Sludge Metal 15 4.10
30 NWoBHM 12 4.46
31 Brutal Death Metal 12 3.25
32 Funeral Doom Metal 12 4.08
33 Industrial Metal 6 3.25
34 Neoclassical metal 3 3.83
35 Drone Metal 3 3.50
36 Death 'n' Roll 2 3.00
37 Deathcore 2 1.75
38 Crossover Thrash 1 3.50
39 Hardcore and crust 1 4.00
40 Proto-Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

REBELLION A Tragedy in Steel Part II: Shakespeare's King Lear

Album · 2018 · Power Metal
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I'm sure that I can't have been the only one surprised when German heavy/power metal act Rebellion revealed their eighth studio album. It's not that the band was in a situation where a new album was either unexpected or past due; it'd been three years since the release of Wyrd Bið Ful Aræd – The History of the Saxons (2015), their usual length between albums for a few releases now. No, it was the title. The album was revealed as A Tragedy in Steel Part II: Shakespeare's King Lear (2018). Shakespeare's MacBeth - A Tragedy of Steel (2002) was Rebellion's first album and who could have expected that after sixteen years the group would return to the works of Shakespeare?

I for one did not and I have to admit, the move made me a little apprehensive. After all, MacBeth is undoubtedly Rebellion's weakest album; the very textbook definition of a record where the artist is still finding their sound. But not only that, the flow of that record was really disrupted by heavy use of narration elements, which unlike on other albums that make use of such weren't separated into their own tracks but inserted into the actual songs of the album and not always at the beginning or end of a piece. Of course it's obvious given the subject matter why they'd do that – it adds a feel of the theatre to the album, but for me at least, it really didn't work.

As a band Rebellion has obviously come a long way since then, producing an incredible run of albums starting with Born a Rebel (2003), their only non-concept and/or theme album, and going right up to the most recent release Wyrd Bið Ful Aræd. But even so, it seemed a really odd move for them to make. So now comes the burning question: were my concerns justified?

Yes, I think they very much were.

But with that said, positives first: it isn't like King Lear is a total bust for Rebellion. They still have their signature sound intact, with lots of heavy and power metal riff work on display, along with Michael Seifert's distinctive sung yet harsh vocal style. The album even actually breaks the band a bit of unexpected new ground with several tracks, usually the more heavy metal based ones, displaying an undertone of traditional doom metal, something that can be clearly picked up upon as early as opener A Fool's Tale. It's just a bit of flavour rather than a overt change in direction, but it's enough to differentiate the album from the band's others.

But the there's the issues with the album that put a real dampener on anything positive I can say about it. While it's not as extreme, the band did fall into exactly the same trap with the narrative elements on King Lear as they, way back when with a largely different line-up, did with MacBeth. Then there's the songs themselves. They're not bad and there is a few highlights to be had such as Dowerless Daughter, Storm and Tempest, and Battle Song, but there's an inescapable feeling that for the first time in a while Rebellion aren't coming close to knocking one out of the park and that despite those new doomy undertones, the album is very much Rebellion by numbers and that they went through the motions of getting an album out at the time they were expected to. As such it's difficult to really get invested in it as an album or get too excited by it.

It's still a solid enough release to avoid being considered bad, but there's no room for doubt in my mind that King Lear is the band's weakest album since MacBeth itself and I'm actually unsure which really deserves the dubious honour of being considered the actual weakest. I would say it's still worth picking up if you're a fan of the band and already have all their other work (and the price is right), but otherwise there's a choice of six other Rebellion albums out there that are considerably more powerful than this one that deserve your attention first. This one already feels like it's just there, a part of the band's discography that you're aware of and may listen to on occasion along with their other albums, but it won't ever be the one you reach for first.

THRESHOLD Legends Of The Shires

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
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Back when I was discovering metal I moved through hearing bands in multiple genres before one genre stood out for me. That genre was progressive metal. That was the first metal genre I could really say I loved. I discovered both big names like Dream Theater, Ayreon and Opeth and lesser known acts such as Anubis Gate and Darkology. One band that I know I became aware of early on in my journey of discovering progressive metal was the UK band Threshold. This would of course have been through the Ayreon connection, as vocalist Damian Wilson guested on multiple releases and other projects of mastermind Arjen Lucassen.

Wilson was fairly recently re-inducted into the band at that time, for his third stint with them, so the then current material I heard from Threshold instead featured vocalist Andrew "Mac" McDermott, who sadly passed away in 2011, and was from their Dead Reckoning (2007) album, at the time their latest release. For some reason, it didn't grab me. I remember one of the songs I heard quite distinctly though. Slipstream. It seemed a far cry from the kind of stuff that I was listening to at the time and didn't inspire me to explore the band much further than that. I therefore remained largely incurious through the release of a further two albums with Wilson, though I did hear the band's third album Extinct Instinct (1997), also a Wilson fronted release, in that time through a friend and enjoyed it without being completed won over by the band.

With Wilson departed from Threshold once again, they've re-inducted another previous vocalist, Glynn Morgan, who to date had only sang on their second album Psychedelicatessen (1994). If that had been the one album I had heard in full by this point, I may have been more curious when this new line-up released Legends of the Shires (2017), their eleventh album. But no, what really made me decided to check this out was a twofold thing: it's a double album and ever since Ayreon I've always been a sucker for a double progressive metal album. But also was how well regarded it was quickly becoming, being ranked higher on 2017 progressive metal lists than even the likes of Ayreon, Anubis Gate and Mastodon. So I checked it out.

Man, am I ever glad that I did! Legends of the Shires is not only a great album, but it also made me realise that for over ten years there's been a Threshold sized hole in my album collection. This one will proudly be the first one, of what I plan to be many, to plug it.

The two disc release spans a total of just over eighty minutes, so it's only just over what a single CD can fit. This will no doubt make it seem a bit less daunting to approach than some double albums that can last for over two hours. Things are kicked off with The Shire (Part 1), a short acoustic introduction, albeit one that does feature vocals, before the first metal song, Small Dark Lines, really gets the album underway. This is a good one, quite catchy but with a real proggy solo section, but if there's a track here that's going to sell you early on, as it did me, it's the epic third one The Man Who Saw Through Time, which at just shy of twelve minutes is the album's longest song. This is a exemplary example of the progressive metal genre, featuring twists and turns, heavy and soft passages, plenty of soloing with both guitar and keyboard, but linked together by a strong vocal and lyric so it still sounds like a song instead of aimless noddling.

Three more excellent tracks take us to the end of the first disc, with some symphonic elements appearing starting with Trust the Process. Disc 2 then kicks off with The Shire (Part 2), which is musically and lyrically a throwback to the first part, though it's over twice the length and more like a full song in its own right this time and unlike Part 1, turns metal after a time. There's another brief recursion of this, The Shire (Part 3), later in the second disc. I do find the second disc to be a bit weaker than the first but there's still plenty of enjoyable material on offer, including another ten minute plus number, Lost in Translation. Despite the eighty-plus minute total length, it's a pretty easy album to take in one sitting, though can just as easily be broken into two chunks with each disc if preferred.

One thing's for sure about the whole thing though, Threshold know their craft, with plenty of riffs, melodies, progressiveness and most importantly memorable songs making up the album. Glynn Morgan, who let's be fair has to be thought of as that guy who sang on one Threshold album over twenty years ago and whose name isn't near as often associated as the voice of the band as much as Damian Wilson or Andrew "Mac" McDermott, proves to be something of a dark horse. His melodic voice is pretty stunning from start to finish, which really helps those lyrical hooks stay with you.

Threshold are old hands at this game now, and they're really showing the young guns how its done with Legends of the Shires (and maybe a certain founding father too after their own still recent double effort). I'm just sorry it took so long for me to catch on to how good they are. Legends of the Shires is undoubtedly deserving of all the praise it can get.

ELVENKING Secrets of the Magick Grimoire

Album · 2017 · Folk Metal
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Italy's Elvenking are pretty much a staple band of the folk metal and power metal genres by this point. While for a long time I've considered their peak to actually be their first album Heathenreel (2001), they've remained an incredible consistent band for me. Their fourth record The Scythe (2007) was one that took a while to appreciate, but most of their work has been easy to enjoy, with the primarily acoustic record Two Tragedy Poets (...and a Caravan of Weird Figures) (2008) also ending up a surprise highlight of their discography. They had a brief period where their releases tended to focus on either the folk or power metal aspect of their music more, but with their last album The Pagan Manifesto (2014) they returned to the fused folk-power metal sound that they started with. This reunification of their elements continues on Secrets of the Magick Grimoire (2017), Elvenking's ninth album.

The Pagan Manifesto was a great album. Certainly the best metal album that Elvenking had done since Heathenreel (though for my money I retain a great deal of affection for Two Tragedy Poets). The band have lost none of the momentum that made it so great in the three years since it's release, a recording gap that saw them release their first live album The Night of Nights (2015). It is fair to say that in terms of the elements used that Secrets of the Magick Grimoire is a more of the same kind of release. It's folk-power metal with a dash of symphonic elements, the latter being one of the elements that distinguishes this period of the band from the actual Heathenreel days, as well as it's follow-up Wyrd (2004). While some listeners may prefer a band who are more unpredictable with every release, which could be said of Elvenking for their 2006 – 2012 releases where everything from The Winter Wake (2006) to Era (2012) showcased something a bit different each time, on Secrets of the Magick Grimoire it's actually exactly what the doctor ordered. This album isn't so much a rehash of the previous but a refinement of its sound.

It's difficult to explain in words exactly why that is. The best way to realise it is to listen to the two releases back to back. While nothing can diminish how excellent The Pagan Manifesto was or that it had more than a few of its own nods to the early days, Secrets of the Magick Grimoire just feels even more like a throwback to their roots. Naturally it's better produced and polished being their ninth rather than their first album, but otherwise it would actually be easy to mistake this as an older release of the band, it sits so comfortably with their earlier material, while also being a natural follow-up to The Pagan Manifesto. While not necessarily untrue of the previous as well, the song-writing here really seems tailored to appeal to the old school fan.

The energy of the power metal genre is fully evident, while the folk melodies are very tastefully integrated. Yet the album is no less excellent during those parts where the band do dial things back a bit, such as during The Wolves Will be Howling Your Name. Vocalist Damn is on fine form throughout, his distinctive voice as always acting like the icing on the cake within the band's sound. He's joined here by a few guest vocalists, such as female vocalist Elisabetta Furlanetto. Elvenking have regularly had guest female singers on their albums and some of their best material has come out of those collaborations, which is true here as well. There are also growls, maybe a few less than on The Pagan Manifesto overall, this time performed by Angus Norder of the bands Nekrokraft and Witchery, rather than former band member Jarpen. The most high profile guest though has to be Snowy Shaw, known for acts such as Notre Dame and Mad Architect as well as several guest appearances with Therion, who appears on At the Court of the Wild Hunt.

There's nothing here that won't be able to convince you that Secrets of the Magick Grimoire isn't another excellent album from Elvenking. There are no dull moments, with every track on a par with the rest. There's a couple that stand out early on, for me being A Grain of Truth and 3 Ways to Magick, but repeat listens will assert everything to be on the same level. I'll always admit whenever I review an Elvenking record that my favouritism for Heathenreel has a bit to do with nostalgia – it was through that record that I discovered this wonderful thing called folk metal – but there's a good chance that with continuing exposure I'll come to regard this one even higher. For now though, it's absolutely in the top three albums from the band.

Additionally if you don't mind spending a few extra quid, it's well worth picking up a special edition of Secrets of the Magick Grimoire. This will net you an additional four tracks. The first two of these are Petalstorm and The Open Breach, both of which were previously Japanese bonus tracks on prior albums. The real draw of the bonus material though is the 2010 version Jigsaw Puzzle. This song originally appeared on Wyrd, the only album in Elvenking's back catalogue not to feature the voice of Damna, so it's a window into what might have been had he not had a couple of years out of the band. Finally there's the 2008 version of Skywards, which is an acoustic version of the song originally from Heathenreel, undoubtedly from the Two Tragedy Poets sessions, though it doesn't appear to have been released before as far as I can tell. All are very much worth having.

EVILFEAST Elegies of the Stellar Wind

Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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It's been quite a while since the release of Wintermoon Enchantment (2011), the last full-length release by Polish atmospheric black metal solo project Evilfeast. Although there's been both an EP and a demo in the meantime, musician GrimSpirit has emerged back in full force at the tail end of 2017 with Elegies of the Stellar Wind, an album that may just upset any established lists of the best black metal releases of the year once you hear it.

Comprised solely of long songs (the shortest is over eight minutes) with no messing around with separate intros, interludes or outros, Elegies of the Stellar Wind is clearly written with being immersive in mind and it's very effective in succeeding at that. This is the kind of atmospheric black metal record where it's almost like a paradox against what metal music is usually about, featuring traditional raw and cold riff work that often merely serves to lay the groundwork for an even colder ambience (actually the first thing you'll hear when the album kicks off with The Second Baptism... Shores in Fire and Ice), to do its thing.

There are plenty of parts where the ambient elements are withdrawn and the focus is purely on the raw riffs and growling vocals of course (which every so often are switched to clean singing, which features prominently when used, especially in the final track Inclinata Resurgit... Rebirth of My Noble Dark Kingdom), such immediately following the ambient introduction of the opener. The album's certainly at its best and most majestic when the two worlds combine though. I'm reminded of a mix of the likes of Striborg and the raw yet atmospheric sound heard on albums such as Autumnal Melancholy (2008) and Midnight Odyssey through the majestic ambient parts such as on the Shards of Silver Fade (2015) album.

While the extremely raw sound of the album may prove a detriment to all but the most fervent of black metal listener, to those among us who appreciate the style that Elegies of the Stellar Wind delivers the record is quick to establish itself as being something special. The mood captures both the winter season that the album was released in while also giving off some dark, medieval vibes. It's enough to be drawn in straight away, then keeps hold of my attention throughout, despite the considerable total length of 67:24 minutes. The first listen can easily be spent just revelling in all the fine details coming off the synths that it's only on the next go around that an appreciation starts to form for the real old school black metal guitar riffs that GrimSpirit has crafted. I usually prefer my black metal to sound a bit less fuzzy than this, but I have to admit that anything more would throw the combine atmosphere of guitars and synths off kilter. It's a delicate thing to balance, but one which is handled to perfection here.

It may not be pretty or polished, yet Elegies of the Stellar Wind resonates high up on the levels of creativity. It's an excellent release and even surprising work that despite it's late year release has quickly cracked my black metal top five for the year. It's because of that late in the year release date that I nearly missed it in time to include it in my annual best of year list. That would have been a shame, so don't make the same mistake I almost did.

NIGHT VIPER Exterminator

Album · 2017 · Traditional heavy metal
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Sweden. As far as metal goes it's probably best known for its death metal, a lot of it of the melodic death variety, especially the Gothenburg scene. It's also got a strong heritage in both black metal and doom metal through acts such as Dissection and Katatonia respectively, among others. What it's less known for it's it's output of classic heavy metal bands, especially in the eighties. There's Heavy Load who are likely the best known band unless one counts the more hard rock chart bothering Europe, the neoclassical metal virtuoso Yngwie J. Malmsteen or the relocated Oz (who are Finnish), Swedish heavy metal in the eighties is mostly made up of lesser known acts who you're most likely to have only heard of if you either A) are Swedish or B) have extensively researched the scene.

In spite of this, Sweden does keep turning out modern bands that fly the flag for traditional metal, old school sound included. So arguably the country actually has a better heavy metal scene now than it ever did, which in times where modern traditional albums continually get overlooked in favour of their eighties counterparts is quite something. Night Viper, a female fronted act who released their self-titled debut album in 2015, is the latest of these to come my attention and they've really got me excited about what their country has to offer the heavy metal genre. Exterminator (2017), is their second full-length effort.

If you've previously heard the Night Viper self-titled effort, then it will be quickly apparent when Exterminator kicks off with No Escape that the band have had a little bit of a shift in sound in the couple of years since the first album's release. They're still playing old school heavy metal with a nice, crisp production sound that really highlights the riffs, but it's been tempered with an often pronounced edge of speed metal or thrash metal, depending on the song. This starts off right away with some speed metal references in No Escape, but is most prominent in the following track, the short but powerful Summon the Dead, which is the closest the album comes to having a full on thrash metal song. These additional influences give Night Viper's material a faster and more aggressive edge than traditional heavy metal usually has, while still being more about classic galloping rhythms.

Starting with Never Win we start to hear some more straight heavy metal from the band like that found on their debut, which while not as hard hitting is still just as satisfying work. Following this we hear the speed/thrash edge again in tracks such as the Exterminator title track, Ashes, Lady Bad Luck and All That Remains, while the rest is more classic old school heavy metal. Regardless of whether the song in question has this or not though, the one thing that's uniform across the album is the band's growth as instrumentalists. They come across as a real tight unit across the board, while vocalist Sofie-Lee Johansson has a strong melodic voice that carries the songs well; making them easy to follow and to keep the choruses going around in your head.

Whether the speed/thrash metal edge heard on and off on Exterminator is an indication that Night Viper is evolving more towards that kind of sound remains to be seen – the kind of thing that will only be answerable with the hindsight of time and another release from the band – but one thing's for sure: they've delivered a heavy metal highlight of 2017 in this one. Exterminator is the kind of release that's fun to listen to and doesn't inflict anything that a metalhead of any taste shouldn't want to hear: if you like heavy metal, you should like this album. And if you don't like this album, then I'll have to presume you don't like heavy metal.

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  • Posted 2 hours ago in The Video/PC Game Discussion Thread
    I tried, the exploit does not work any more. I'm about ready to chalk up this game as a waste of time and money. 
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    I usually hate using exploits but I may have to look into this one to see if its still possible so I can just enjoy the story. 
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    Hamferð didn't grab me too much when I tried it but I will give it another sometime. What I've heard of Tribulation sounds very promising though. 


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