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314 reviews/ratings
DREAM THEATER - Metropolis, Part 2: Scenes From a Memory Progressive Metal
SAVATAGE - Streets: A Rock Opera Traditional heavy metal
TESTAMENT - First Strike Still Deadly Thrash Metal
JUDAS PRIEST - Painkiller Power Metal
EPICA - Design Your Universe Symphonic Metal | review permalink
SYMPHONY X - The Divine Wings Of Tragedy Progressive Metal
AMASEFFER - Slaves for Life Progressive Metal
JUDAS PRIEST - British Steel Traditional heavy metal
DREAM THEATER - Live Scenes From New York Progressive Metal
NIGHTWISH - Once Symphonic Metal
SYMPHONY X - V: The New Mythology Suite Progressive Metal
DREAM THEATER - Train of Thought Progressive Metal
SAVATAGE - Poets And Madmen Progressive Metal
TESTAMENT - The New Order Thrash Metal
TESTAMENT - Live in London Thrash Metal
THRESHOLD - Surface to Stage Progressive Metal
VANISHING POINT - The Fourth Season Progressive Metal | review permalink
SYMPHONY X - Paradise Lost Progressive Metal
THRESHOLD - Subsurface Progressive Metal
DREAM THEATER - A Dramatic Turn of Events Progressive Metal

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Progressive Metal 119 3.47
2 Thrash Metal 49 3.58
3 Symphonic Metal 38 3.49
4 Traditional heavy metal 30 3.57
5 Power Metal 21 3.52
6 Folk Metal 20 3.45
7 Metal Related 8 3.50
8 US Power Metal 5 3.50
9 Non-Metal 4 3.63
10 Hard Rock 3 3.17
11 Melodic Death Metal 3 2.50
12 Alternative Metal 3 3.00
13 Proto-Metal 3 3.83
14 Speed Metal 3 3.50
15 NWoBHM 2 4.00
16 Atmospheric Black Metal 1 3.00
17 Death Metal 1 2.50
18 Groove Metal 1 3.50

Latest Albums Reviews

MAYAN Quarterpast

Album · 2011 · Death Metal
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[review originally published on http://thecennsor.wordpress.com/]

I’m listening to MaYan‘s Quarterpast for the second time right now, desperately trying to find some reasons why I shouldn’t just follow the instinctive need I felt when I first heard it, to blurt out my utter disappointment and humbly try and bash it as harshly as possible. And no, none found so far.

I apparently can’t help expecting more from the main guy behind my own 2009 album of the year, Epica‘s Design Your Universe. Guitarist Mark Jansen is a vulcanic music prodigy and composer whose creativity can be easily tamed. And that’s just wonderful. In my mind, that equates him to those few musicians that general underground music community’s consensus usually regards as musical geniusses: Arjen Lucassen, Tuomas Holopainen, Dan Swanö, Devin Townsend.

So it’s all the more disappointing to hear what he came up with on his solo/supergroup (yes, it’s both) project MaYan. Mark‘s penchant for death metal is well known, and it was atleast fair to assume his solo writing would go in that direction, especially after Epica replaced two of their former members with death/extreme metal musicians (drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek and guitarist Isaac Delahaye, who not by chance were recruited by Mark for MaYan). Nor should it surprise anyone that MaYan also attempt to reconcile said death metal spurts with Epica‘s symphonic heart.

What does surprise, and in a negative way, is what such an attempt led to. Quarterpast is, at best, an easier-listening version of Sons of Seasons‘ recently released Magnisphyricon: a clot of black-scented furious drumming and nonsensical “lyrical” snipets coming out of nowhere. It may be no coincidence the two projects, comprising members of bands related to one another by means of an on-and-off the stage friendship, actually ended up with similar efforts. I would want to call them “dead ends”, but that’s just wishful thinking: who knows they’ve actually set some stepping stone for future bands to come? Or even, God forbid, for what they’re going to do from now on?

Magnisphyricon is Sons of Seasons‘ sophomore release, and as I tried to phrase here, it takes a none too good debut even further down. MaYan‘s Quarterpast is just a beginning, and it may as well have no lasting consequence on the band’s (possible) future work. Nor, and that’s an old Epica fan’s hope, on the “main” band.

The album’s structure pretty much sums up what I wrote about MaYan‘s style: a frenzying drums-driven death metal song is followed by an ethereal wanna-be lyrical piece, again followed by crazy hyperfast drumming and guitar walls coming out of, and leading to, nothing. One might think a well pondered mixture of these two sides on the same song could give better results, but songs like Bite the Bullet, though not extremely weak, completely shatter such hopes. The final Sinner’s Last Retreat actually comes close to being a sufficient song, but that’s about all the good Quarterpast can offer.

The annoying fillers would perhaps deserve a mention, also being an effective sum of the album’s inconsistency; but suffice it here to say there’s three of them, all of course equally useless.

That said, the album still remains appealing (sad as this may be) to: casual fans of “alternative” kinds of death metal, uncritical supporters of side projects, Epica (or Dutch symphonic metal in general) fangirls and fanboys, and lovers of “new and fresh” sounds at all costs. No doubt this kind of vaguely symphonic, poorly syncretic death metal is something new on “the scene”, and it won’t fail at attracting followers and enthusiasts. Question is: is this a direction worth exploring? Haven’t we been disappointed enough already? Time, and selling figures, will tell.

THUS SPAKE THE CENNSOR: The Cennsor‘s own view (’cause I can’t really provide much more than that) is that it takes more than a couple randomly inserted Italian-sung opera lines and rhythmic brutality all clogged up together to make an album worth listening (and writing, for that matter). Quarterpast was obviously born of Mark Jansen‘s own creativity, in a way the ideas that ultimately led to it probably just needed to see the light. Otherwise they’d be still lingering among his musical thoughts, and that could’ve led to much worse results for, and under the name of, Epica. If there’s something I’d save about Quarterpast, and this whole MaYan project, is that it will probably prevent Epica from going down the same road. And to me, that’s relieving. 5/10

LOST IN THOUGHT Opus Arise

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
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[review originally published on http://thecennsor.wordpress.com/]

Let’s be honest: I do like this album, and I do think British Lost in Thought have a lot of potential they’re already exploiting to some measure of success. Furthermore, there’s no band without influences, and sometimes it’s just hard to conceal them – provided the band’s out to prove they have their own style and so on, and emerging acts like Lost in Thought usually do.

What kind of annoys me is when the influences are there for anyone to hear, and there’s still people trying so hard to deny it.

Lost In Thought may not be “just another Dream Theater clone” in the ever-expanding galaxy that contains them all, but that they play in the very same vein as the much acclaimed American band is a pure fact. Not only; some echoes are blatant (just check out the opening track, Beyond the Flames, or Lost In Thoughts‘ final section) as if cut straight off from a Dream Theater pre-Black Clouds record.

If truth be told, the power metal cloaking Lost in Thought veil their songs with can sometimes be deceiving. The resulting sound is heavier than Dream Theater‘s, and somewhat (feel free to read “far” instead) less complex. The choir on Assimulate, Destroy comes immediately to mind as an instance of that. Then again, a very much (DT‘s) Home-like section slams the evident truth in your face again: the band’s main influence hangs all over the place, from not-so-carefully hidden to simply manifest.

On the other side, an undoubtedly skilled musicianship, the good sound quality, and bits of well-channelled imagination do play in Lost In Thought‘s favour. True creativity is lacking, but some could argue that’s a much more general issue going much further than this album/band. Here, the revisitation of the American prog heroes’ work gets cleverly combined with a personal touch, or different influcences atleast. Blood Red Diamond comes very close to some of Dutch “symphonic” power metallers Delain‘s stuff, as also Delusional Abyss does to some extent (I couldn’t bother checking which songs exactly, but you can trust me on that).

What can be said in Lost in Thought‘s “defence” (by the way, no-one’s accusing anyone, this just being a worn out listener and music explorer’s two cents), and helps this review’s rating go a bit higher, is this: the guys are young, this is just their debut (besides an EP no-one heard of before anyway) and they come from the United Kingdom. Not to deny that land’s just as good as any when it comes to musical talent, but it’s no Scandinavia after all, and it’s also not like prog metal (with a stress on “metal”) has a long, lasting tradition over there. So, that they managed to put such a debut album together is already worth some praise, or encouragement atleast. Plus: it won’t hurt anybody’s ears to give this stuff a listen; just set aside your desdain for Dream Theater heavily influenced acts and you’ll actually enjoy Opus Arise.

THUS SPAKE THE CENNSOR: All in all, Opus Arise is well written and executed, if perhaps a bit ill-conceived (if, and I’m taking it that was the case, the band’s intent was to dissimulate the aforementioned influences). The end result is a pleasant listen to all fans of prog-power, especially for those who don’t mind a rest in a progster’s everlasting quest for “original” and non-recycled music, to settle for a semi-clone that can still provide some 50 minutes of none too complex prog. 6/10

RIVERSIDE Memories In My Head

EP · 2011 · Metal Related
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[review originally published on http://thecennsor.wordpress.com/]

If this blog had readers, they would know the Cennsor usually don’t deals with EPs. So if I am, it must mean one or more of the following: I especially like the band; it’s really good stuff; it’s a nice way to get introduced to the band’s grander-of-scope works. Memories In My Head is actually all of them.

A few words about Riverside: it’s a very talented band hailing from Poland, a country, or so it seems to me, abounding (especially in recent years) with rock talent in general, and a penchant for both the most extreme styles of metal and, on the other side, the most challenging meanders of prog. Riverside belongs to the latter, and let me clear some ground here, if a bit hastily: in spite of what you’ll hear about them, they actually don’t have much to do with Opeth. Or so they sound to me (subjectivity in musical taste is never too much stressed on).

To be honest, I didn’t give many chances to Opeth after a few brutal disappointments, nor I’ve listened to any of their most recent work which, so I hear, marked a shift in the band’s style, not sure in which direction. But from my (tiny) knowledge of earlier Opeth and (deeper) acquaintance with Riverside, I can safely state they don’t have much in common. Or let’s put it this way: what Opeth do in a disorderly (some would say: “experimental”) way, Riverside do with grace and much more taste in melody. Relaxed to “depressed” to aggressive vocals punctuate a soft yet absorbing keyboard+(generally) soft guitar layer, woven into a solid (but never too thick) thread of “oniric” sound, if I may call it so. What Riverside are masters at, is to gently force you to a musical walk along the most impervious of all grounds, i.e. the human mind.

Again, they do it with grace: their music is nowhere near a crazy mess you might expect from such a concept. Instead, they kind of take you step by step, and even the extremes you find yourself taken to sound natural, just like the right evolution of the sounds you’re surrounded by. So it’s with a good pair of earphones and a relaxed context (read: lying on a bed, thinking of nothing) that you’ll get the most out of what Riverside can offer.

That’s also the case with Memories In My Head, and that’s why I deemed it “good stuff”. Personally, I also like the heavier direction they took on their previous full-lenght Anno Domini High Definition, a characteristic their sound has always had, also masterfully combined with their general softness and care for melody. But Memories In My Head, except for a good half of Living In The Past, has no massive presence of that. On this EP, the softer tones definitely prevail, and that’s partly also why it does a nice introduction to the band.

Affectionate listeners will likely point out the biggest differences with any previous Riverside work are to be found, like I said, on Anno Domini High Definition. For when you compare Memories In My Head to the older stuff, a safe sense of relief finds its way into you: the band’s not taken any “experimental” awkward new directions. Riverside‘s music is still the same old, never tiresome (I’m obviously appealing to like-minded fellow listeners here) journey into our conscious-with-whatever-prefix. Sometimes placid, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes angry, sometimes psychedelic in the good old way.

THUS SPAKE THE CENNSOR: The nice triplet Riverside has offered us (amounting to more than half an hour of music, which alone deserves high praise) on this Memories In My Head doesn’t go very far from what they’ve accustomed us to, which to me (and many of you, I’m guessing) is nothing but good news. When you’re feeling like you need to relax (or already are and don’t wanna let the feeling fade), and don’t mind exploring some well hidden recesses of your mind through music, Riverside is still the best choice possible. Memories In My Head will as much please the old fans as hopefully acquaint many new ones with them. 7/10

EPICA Design Your Universe

Album · 2009 · Symphonic Metal
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[review originally published on http://thecennsor.wordpress.com/]

Being to the premiere concert Epica put out in Amsterdam a few days prior to the release of their new full-lenght Design Your Universe was probably the worst idea I could come up with – in order to keep this review objective. Too late, I guess. And besides being witness to hell of an output (the show, even choreographically speaking, was great), I had the chance to hear how the (almost) whole new album sounds like on stage. And that falls nowhere short from its studio value: magnificent.

For those who might be wondering: the addition of Ariën van Weesenbeek on drums did bring a whole new approach to the songwriting. So did the add-on of guitarist Isaac Delahaye (to be held responsible for the unexpected appearance of several solos here and there). As a result, Epica‘s sound has (finally?) become much heavier and aggressive, yet of course still awesomely balanced by their trademark penchant for symphonic melody.

This whole new attitude also carried an impact to vocals. Fear not: our beloved operatic Simone can still hit quite some high notes. But you’ll have to appreciate the variety to her singing style, to be heard (I’m picking my own favourite example, but many more are possible) on Martyr of the Free Word, which moreover features a gregorian-like choir of exquisite quality. Mark‘s grunts are also still there, as well as Ariën‘s. We might as well mention Tony Kakko‘s contribution on the duet-ballad White Waters — again, a good effort, even in the ear of a non-fan of Sonata Arctica‘s like me.

But the force of this album lies in the way a couple of elements have fallen into place, even more than before. Epica have been building on a very unique style in the direction of a more and more mature symphonic sound, rising out of a rib of the now dead After Forever to develop into a yardstick in their genre. Whoever would’ve looked up at Nightwish, some years ago, as the quintessence of symphonic metal, has now a younger act to reckon with — and that does say something.

Design Your Universe is a testament to Epica‘s well-deserved leading role in the sub-genre of symphonic metal. Slashy guitar riffs, majestic arrangements, far crunchier rhythms and more varied vocal lines, all merged into a very mature songwriting, couldn’t but lead to very worthy nominee for “album of the year”. Yeah, you’ve heard me. Here’s more than enough to earn the Cennsor‘s greatest honor for 2009. Coming out straight after one of my favourite bands’ most recent output (see previous review), that again means quite something.

Let me stress on but one of the elements leading to a perfect album that I’ve credited Design Your Universe to possess. It’s the positioning of the songs throughout the record. Not to overrate it, but it can certainly help an album gain a steady spot on your playlist. The scheme short intro+bursting opener with the long title track as a closer still finds its place here. Resign to Surrender in fact already sets the tone for the rest of the album: one definitely gets the impression (the hope?) a new, higher level of heaviness is what we’re going to deal with here. Which is definitely the case, as shown by the couplet Martyr of the Free Word – Our Destiny and again, later on, by yet another pair of pretty heavy pieces, Deconstruct and Semblance of Liberty, the latter being sort of Epica‘s own reprocessing of Fear Factory‘s Replica they had covered on their previous album.

After Our Destiny, the 13 minute long epic Kingdom of Heaven pinpoints the album’s coordinates (heaviness on a symphonic note, with very proggish syncopated riffs in between), to give way to an interlude followed in its turn by the TDC-styled Burn to a Cinder. Time for a tender piano ballad (Tides of Time), then back to some heaviness, and finally the aforementioned White Waters and the title track.

The owners of the album’s limited edition will be further pleased with Incentive, a great combination of grunt vocals, hammering drumming and very epic cues.

THUS SPAKE THE CENNSOR: To try and go into even further details couldn’t however replace the great experience, filled with what is really an epic feeling, you’ll undergo if you actually listen to Design Your Universe. The Cennsor advices to go have a listen, for if you already liked Epica, you’ll now stick with them much tighter. 9/10

VANISHING POINT The Fourth Season

Album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
[review originally published on http://thecennsor.wordpress.com/]

Instant q&a: how many of you aren’t fascinated with the picture to the right? A blindfold girl playing a violin on the shore under a dark cloudy sky: now that speaks of poetry – here’s what I thought when I ran into it. And of course, that could as well be but a decoy, luring you into believing what’s inside matches the beauty of what’s outside, and then leaving you disappointed. Fortunately, that’s not the case.

Little had I heard by this band before; but to those of you who are already familiar with them, I can say our Aussies are keeping up what they’ve been doing so far. And to those of you who are new to them, I specify: what they’ve been up so far, is very good music. Sure, but what does it sound like then?

Imagine a heavier kind of melodic rock – let’s just say melodic metal. You may as well take AOR as a starting point; add some heaviness, and an orchestral-driven sound, and you come quite close to guess what kind of music Vanishing Point make. So far, so banal – lest you’re into AOR and the such, and if you are, this album is a must-have. What makes something more out of The Fourth Season though, is that it can appeal to the AOR non-lovers as well. The symphonic approach to it, the thickness of the sound (which at the same time is very melodic), even the vague lyrics make it a dense, compact, prime quality work. But before I turn this from a simple appreciation into a quest for the most alluring definition (yeah, even i got better things to do), I’ll try to give you a quick stare at what’s to be found on the album.

Surrender is the first hit. No wonder it was also made into a videoclip. Its start does a nice testimony to the spirit of the whole album. Refrains and verses are equally catchy; and that also applies to the rest of the album, most evident on the following Hope Among the Heartless and on a consistent bunch of other songs too. To name some of the songs’ unique features, I might mention the epicity of I Within I (introduced by an awesome short instrumental), as well as the prog-flavoured gait of Ashen Sky, or the “cloudy” thoughtfulness of the final Day of Difference, closing the album in a slowly, peaceful fade-out which is just the most fitting of endings.

THUS SPAKE THE CENNSOR: The Fourth Season‘s melodies will lure you in a convincing way; once you’re caught, the power of the sound which has come to surround you will not easily let you escape. And you will probably not even want to. I have honestly not heard so many, but this is the first AOR (or quasi-AOR) record to sort of win my cold, icy, heartless soul of a progster. That alone should mean something. 8/10

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