Metal Music Reviews from Kev Rowland

PARADISE LOST Medusa

Album · 2017 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 4.57 | 8 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Formed in 1988 in Halifax, West Yorkshire, Paradise Lost are not only known as one of the most distinctive acts in metal - their music arguably defined the gothic subgenre and raised doom metal to a new level - they are also considered pioneers of an entire musical generation. Never ones to hesitate to explore undiscovered paths, they have encompassed many genres during their career - from their death metal beginnings to the more mainstream electronic dark-pop album ‘Host’, electronic influences on ‘Symbol Of Life’ alongside majestic gothic moments. Vocalist Nick Holmes, guitarists Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy, along with bassist Steve Edmondson have never ceased to follow their own vision. The quartet has been an inseparable unit since its inception, with only the drummer's position changing hands several times. The latest incumbent, Waltteri Väyrynen, is only 22 years old, while the band have now been in existence for nearly 30!

With their last album, they showed that they were starting to return to their roots, and that has journey has progressed with ‘Medusa’, which is certainly one of, if not the, heaviest album they have ever released. Here we have doom and gothic metal hitting head on and being brought to live with vocals that owe more to the death scene than any other. There is a quality here that is hard to define, as they bring all the misery of Northern England to bear in 43 minutes of depressing, intense, music. Here is a band that is refusing to rest on their considerable laurels, but instead continue to push boundaries, and to my ears this is easily the most complete work they have ever produced. The drum and bass are crushing, the riffs are solid slabs of lead, while the solos are uplifting and almost cathartic while Nick Holmes shows no sign at all of mellowing in his middle age. I discovered that the more I listened to the album, the more I kept turning up the volume, until the neighbours the other side of the neighbours could share it as well. This is certainly one of the finest metal albums to come out of the UK this year.

KADAVAR Rough Times

Album · 2017 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Two years on and the trio are back proving that they fully understand their niche and feel no need whatsoever to move away from it. The slight change in the sound is that the bass has been given more prominence and a far richer sound, but apart from that it is another album straight from the Kadavar playbook, namely doom, psyche and hard rock with major influenced from the likes of Sabbath, Cream and Atomic Rooster. Somehow, they always manage to imbue the music with a vitality, a real energy, and it is this that really makes them standout from others following a similar musical journey. This album has moved them more into classic Sabbath territory than ‘Berlin’, but for someone who grew up cutting his teeth on those albums that’s never going to be a bad thing. But whereas many bands appear to emphasise the doom-laden riffs of that group, Kadavar never forget the need for balance, and this album comes across as refined and polished, as well as raw and grungy all at the same time.

This is their fourth studio album, and they continue to mine a rich vein of material, and although it may never be the most fashionable forms of metal, they are experts at what they do and it is of little surprise that their third release gained some chart success on both Germany and the States, and this one will do the same I’m sure. There is much here for any fan of the genre to really get their teeth and ears into.

KADAVAR Berlin

Album · 2015 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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The cover to the German trio’s third full-length studio album has a very Seventies feel about it, and the music on offer definitely belongs to the first part of that decade, if not earlier. But, given that the first two albums looked as if they belonged firmly in the Sixties, possibly the band are coming more up to date? By now bassist Simon ‘Dragon’ Bouteloup was fully ensconced in the band, having only contributed to a few songs on the previous album, joining Christoph ‘Lupus’ Lindemann (vocals, guitars) and Christoph ‘Tiger’ Bartelt (drums) in making a glorious sound that owes a great deal to the few years either side of 1970. The guitars are distorted when they need to be, or clean and fine at others, while the drums are solid and the bass moved between hitting a solid single note and going off at tangents.

Somehow the band manage to mix Cream, Black Sabbath, Atomic Rooster (although with no keyboards) and others in a celebration of bell-bottomed flares, long hair, and loud music that is exciting, invigorating and undoubtedly honest. This is music guaranteed to get the sweat running down the walls, and turn even the most svelte and sedate manner rocker into a greasy mess of hair and snot.

Music guaranteed to make lovers of the Seventies and Sixties smile, their version of doom, psyche and straight ahead hard rock is a joy from start to end. If you like the genre then this is essential, but if not then I suggest you pass quickly by while the rest of lose our dandruff.

CRADLE OF FILTH Cryptoriana - The Seductiveness of Decay

Album · 2017 · Symphonic Black Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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It is hard to believe that Cradle of Filth have now been making a nuisance of themselves for more than 25 years, but here they are back with their 12th album, their second for Nuclear Blast. True, they have been through one or two musicians during that period (okay, so it’s the best part of 30, but who’s counting?), and while Dani has been there since the very beginning, only drummer Marthus can also claim to have been with the band for more than five years. Somehow it never seems to matter, as Dani has a very strong view on what the band should sound like, and the image they should portray, and to my ears it seems like all the travails and efforts have been leading to this point as to my poor abused ears this is the finest thing they have ever done.

For me there has always been a fine line with CoF as to whether they really mean it, or if they are in danger of becoming a parody of the very thing they are trying to represent, but here their blend of symphonic gothic black metal hits every mark, every time. I just can’t fault this album, as from beginning to end I found myself deep inside the dark world of Dani’s creation, where the drums pummel when they need to, the guitars are clean and melodic or distorted and riffing as the need arises, the symphonic histrionics are just right, the female vocals create just the right amount of balance (congratulations to Lindsay Schoolcraft who has large shoes to fill – I was always a huge fan of Sarah Jezebel Deva – but here she gets it spot on) and then there is Dani. Now solidly into his forties, young(ish) Mr. Filth has created an album that takes the bands to new heights, and while I have always had a soft spot for ‘Dusk...And Her Embrace’, I know this has taken the #1 slot for me. If you love CoF then rush out and get this now, as it is everything you have ever enjoyed about the band, just taken to the next level. If you have never been too sure, then now is the time to give them another try.

BLINDFOLDED AND LED TO THE WOODS Modern Adoxography

Album · 2017 · Deathcore
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Christchurch is the third largest city on New Zealand, with a population of approximately 450,000. For those who are unaware, Christchurch was struck by two earthquakes in September 2010 and January 2011, which caused considerable damage to the city and the loss of 185 people. Since then the city has been rebuilding, both physically and emotionally, and the result is a community that is incredibly close and bonded together. I live some 30 minutes outside the city, near the township of Oxford, and have been here for a couple of years now. All of this makes me feel incredibly annoyed that the only way I have managed to discover this death metal outfit is by being sent a digital copy by an American PR company!

Apparently, “Adoxography” is a term coined in the late 19th century, and means "fine writing on a trivial or base subject". That these guys have been inspired by Dillinger Escape Plan, and have been supporting them on their recent NZ tour, is of little surprise. Here was have death metal with a crazed edge, music that is abrasive, sharp and twisted, while losing none of the brutality that one would expect from the genre. Here we have ten relentless tracks in thirty-five minutes of crushing riffs, technical wizardry, and merciless vocals. While the band's musical foundation is built upon brutal death metal, elements of demented grindcore and bizarre sci-fi tones weave their way into the complex structures, resulting in an engaging and damaging listening experience.

I can only hope that the guys are able to tour outside Aotearoa, as music as good as this needs to be heard by a much wider audience than the restricted population of New Zealand can afford. This is brutal, uncompromising, and very, very good indeed.

ALUNAH Solennial

Album · 2017 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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This is the sort of album that just shouldn’t exist in 2017, as its roots are so firmly entrenched in the early Seventies that it is quite hard to realise that this was only released this year. Hailing from Birmingham (it would be hard to think of them coming from anywhere else to be honest), these guys have been more than a little inspired by Sabbath, the major difference being that in Sophie Day they have a female singer who knows exactly what is needed for the music. No screaming high pitched soprano classically trained style here, but instead someone who knows instinctively what is needed for each song, whether that be a lower contralto or a voice that is full of innocence and loss.

It is the use of atmosphere that definitely makes this, their fourth, album stand out. The riffs are solid slabs, but sometimes they can be too repetitive even for this style of retro doom, but Sophie and her presence always manages to turn it into something quite special. It is an incredibly immediate album, and quite melodic, two things that I don’t normally associate with this style of metal. This is an impressive album, one that has been making regular returns to my player since I came across it, and I am sure that all those into doom will feel that same way. Well worth investigating

ACCEPT The Rise of Chaos

Album · 2017 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.49 | 4 ratings
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Accept’s last album, ‘Blind Rage’, reached #1 in Germany and Finland, as well as several top 10 positions; Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and last but not least, the US. For a band that released their debut back in the Seventies, and have been following a fairly uncompromising path ever since, that is quite an achievement. So why change something that obviously works? This is straight forward basic heavy metal that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on 1983’s ‘Balls To The Wall’, but they know what their audience wants. One thing I have always liked about Accept is that one knows exactly what the album is going to sound like when the CD gets into the player, and by using Andy Sneap as producer one is also guaranteed that the production quality is going to be of the very highest order.

If you like Accept then you’ll enjoy this, and if you haven’t come across them before as you have been residing down a hobbit hole, then basic HM doesn’t get any better than this. Good and solid without being essential.

MAYHEM De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas Alive

Live album · 2016 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 2 ratings
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There is no doubt that ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ is one of the most important black metal albums ever released, and was awarded the #40 spot on Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 Greatest Metal Albums Of All Time, where it stated “…Mysteriis… remains a singularly potent document, its expressions of alienation and nihilism lent an icy severity by Aarseth’s lacerating guitar buzz, session vocalist Attila Csihar’s arcane croak and presentation of Dead’s lyrical gothic terror and the pummelling drums of Hellhammer (Jan Axel Blomberg).”

Captured in Norrköping, Sweden in 2015 during the band’s headlining set at the Black Christmass Festival, the show marked Mayhem’s first time ever playing ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ in full, and luckily even if we weren’t there we can now share the experience. It was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Tore Stjerna and NBS Audio and produced by vocalist Attila Csihar and guitarist Teloch. I was lucky enough to catch Mayhem at their first ever NZ gig a few years ago, and Attila has lost none of his power to shock and control an audience, and that is very much in evidence here. The album has not been over-produced, so it is still full of the raw and bleak sound that has made them so many fans. Available in digital and streaming formats as well as vinyl, this is a truly essential release for any fans of the genre.

END OF GREEN Void

Album · 2017 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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End of Green have been deploying their own styles of Goth, Doom, Metal, doleful Alternative metal for some twenty-five years, and with their ninth full-length album they are still desperate to find hope: based on this, I don’t think they’re going to find it any time soon, although they’re not going to give up hope just yet. Michelle Darkness sings touching and intimate dirges about aging, loss and loneliness, and on “Darkside of the Sun” he comes across so much like Pete Steele that I had to look to see if it was a Type O number. This is dark music, with a sense of bleakness permeating every note, yet Michelle is also trying to be optimistic as he says in “Unseen”, "Together, we are less alone.”

What is apparent throughout this album is that it is packed full of quality and thoughtfulness, this isn’t something that has been rushed, but instead each lyric has had the sweat poured over it, and then the music has been polished to ensure that it is all working together at its optimum. It is gothic, it is dark, yet there is that slight tinge of light that makes one think that although the band are inhabiting a very dark place indeed, there may be some light for them the other day of the cellar door. I wouldn’t recommend playing this album under the influence of anything, as this is music that needs to be played in the light of day, yet “Crossroads” shows that they can be lighter when they want to be. Commercial, yet never compromising this is a mature album that shows that even though they have been around for quarter of a century they are showing no sign whatsoever of slowing down yet.

DYSCARNATE With All Their Might

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.25 | 2 ratings
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This is the third full-length for UK death metal trio Dyscarnate, and their first on Unique Leader. Since they released their debut EP back in 2008 the guys have been steadily gaining much critical acclaim with their debut album getting them named “best new death metal band in the UK, without question” by none less than Terrorizer magazine, while the second saw Metal Hammer crowning the band, “the new kings of UK death”. It has been five years since that release, during which time they have been honing their craft onstage, playing gigs with the likes of Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, Fear Factory, Gojira, and Decapitated, but at long last they are back.

With Matt Unsworth keeping everything solid at the back, it is down to Tom Whitty (guitar, vocals) and Al Llewellyn (bass, vocals) to demonstrate that they are still one of the best bands around when it comes to true brutal death metal, and this they do with aplomb. Having two singers, both in the death style but different from each other, gives the band an edge, while the number of hours they have played together comes through in that they are so tight. Bass and guitar is often as one, driving the sound into the cerebral cortex. Death metal in its truest form rarely gets much better than this.

DAWN OF DISEASE Ascension Gate

Album · 2017 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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When it comes to death metal, most bands either seem to get heavier as their career progresses, stay the same, or go off and do something completely different that is either a major success (Opeth) or disaster (At The Gates). So, it is interesting to hear German band Dawn of Disease trying to do something just a little different. They have been around since 2003, but only really started becoming a solid cohesive unit in 2009, and this is their fourth album. Singer Tomasz Wisniewski is convinced that he is still fronting the same band he always has, and his gruff vocals are very much a trademark, but musically here is a group that in many ways are far removed from what many would consider to be death metal yet also still staying true to the cause.

Yes, there are blastbeats, and yes there are quick passages, but there are also many more that are slow in terms of the genre, and packed full of melody. These guys have been listening more to the likes of Iron Maiden than they have to Cannibal Corpse, and the album is all the better for it. As a whole, this is still incredibly heavy, but with plenty of great tunes and the feeling that here is a band that isn’t afraid to go out on a limb and stretch the genre. They have created an album that will be of interest to those into death metal and also to those who many not normally listen to the genre. True, there are times when they go firmly back to where people may expect them to be (“Akephalos”), but this in itself only reinforces what they are doing on the rest of the album. Overall this is a heavy, melodic, really enjoyable album.

IN FLAMES Battles

Album · 2016 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 2.82 | 6 ratings
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It is always interesting to research bands such as In Flames on the web, as to say that they have upset a few people with their change in musical direction is something of an understatement. Like many others, I was incredibly impressed with these guys when they burst out of Sweden in the Nineties, so it was something of a shock to come across them again many years later and discover just how far they had changed. Now, change isn’t necessarily bad, and it can often be good, but then there are also the concerns that the band haven’t changed so much as having left the planet altogether and gone into a new universe. Possibly one where they have been starved of oxygen which could explain what they are doing now.

But, I think the largest issue here is that the band is called “In Flames” and there is a skull on the cover. If one discounts those two then it is possible to view the band in a quite different light, and think of them more as a strange My Chemical Romance and Killswitch Engage hybrid. This is Alternative Metal with a larger emphasis on the former than the latter, and the result is something that feels created and false, as if it has been written solely for radio play and charts, as opposed to anything that the band believes in. They may say “we are the truth that hurts the most” in “The Truth”, but the real truth is that here is a band that has lost their way and while they have probably gained a great deal of new fans as a result, the old ones are long gone.

EDGUY Monuments

Boxset / Compilation · 2017 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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here can’t be many bands around that can lay claim to be celebrating their 25th anniversary with three original members who have yet to reach forty years old, and to have had the same line-up for more than twenty years. But, that is the case with Edguy, who were formed when singer Tobias Sammet and guitarists Jens Ludwig and Dirk Sauer were just fourteen years old. To celebrate reaching this milestone, Nuclear Blast have released a double CD compilation containing five new songs, plus a collection of “greatest hits” plus B-sides and rarities. They have also released this as a limited-edition package which includes a DVD of a 2004 show plus all their promos, and a book crammed full of photos. But, I’ll put up with a digital download of the music, as Edguy always know what they are doing, and they do it mighty fine.

Tobias may keep going off to work with his other project Avantasia, but Edguy allows him to return to what he does so well, providing stunning vocals on the top of a traditional heavy metal attack. The first song that gained Edguy some acclaim was of course “Vain Glory Opera”, and it still sounds as good now as it did when it was released nearly twenty years ago! The music may have become more complex since then, but there is always room for anthems, and apparently, they have played this song at every show since then. Edguy have never pandered to what people feel they should look like to sound like, and even have a name that annoys some people (as with Lynyrd Skynyrd, they are named after one of their teachers), but they’re still going strong. They will be out on the road again soon promoting this album, but if you have ever wondered what these guys sounds like, then this twenty-eight track two-and-a-half-hour long collection is a great way to do it.

DYING FETUS Wrong One to Fuck With

Album · 2017 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 4.10 | 5 ratings
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Dying Fetus have created quite a stir over the years, releasing some important albums on the way, and finally having a stable line-up is paying dividends as the trio are back with what is to my poor abused ears, easily their most comprehensive album to date. John Gallagher (guitar, vocals) formed the band in 1991, with bassist/vocalist Sean Beasley joining in 2001 and “new boy” drummer Trey Williams keeping the seat warm since 2007, and there is never any room to hide in a trio and when a band has been together for ten years they know what they are doing, and that is very much the case here.

Brutal death metal is what Dying Fetus have always been about, and with both the band name and album title they are showing that there is no change this time around, and why should there be? They have obviously been influenced by Cannibal Corpse, yet Nile have also had an impact, as has Napalm Death as the guys keep their form of death metal just this side of grindcore. It is intense, it is over the top, with absolutely no room for compromise, yet somehow the ten songs all feel quite different and don’t wash out in the way that some albums tend to when they follow the same musical path throughout. There may not be much room for light on this album, but somehow the different shades of brutal black convey enough power and difference to make this album stand out.

There have been some incredibly strong and powerful death metal albums coming out recently, and this is another to be added to the list.

DECAPITATED Anticult

Album · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 4 ratings
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When a band is formed at music school, the chances are that the guys behind it know what they are doing with their instruments, and this is how Polish technical death metal act Decapitated burst onto the scene more than twenty years ago. Since then they have released albums, suffered tragedy (in 2007 their tour bus collided with a truck, and drummer and founder member Witold "Vitek" Kieltyka died from his injuries) and been through line-up changes, so that only guitarist Waclaw ‘Vogg’ Kieltyka is still there from the beginning, but they show no signs of slowing down. There has been a slight line-up change since the last album, ‘Blood Mantra’, with bassist Hubert Więcek (Banisher), officially replacing Paweł Pasek last year. Hubert is normally a guitarist, and that is his role in Banisher, so he has a different approach to many bassists and has really locked in with both Vogg and drummer Michal Lysejko, allowing singer Rafał ‘Rasta’ Piotrowski to get on with what he does best.

Although this is still death metal, it isn’t nearly as “pure” as could be found in the band’s early days, as they have combined death, thrash, rock ‘n’ roll, even black metal, and atmospheric parts together. I am also convinced that it was no accident that they chose Daniel Bergstrand to be involved with the mixing and mastering, as there is a distinct Meshuggah flavour to much of this. It is heavy, it is loud, it is raw, and it is most definitely passionate. This is music with balls, attitude, attack, and a refusal to conform, and all power to them for that. They included many first takes on this album, including many of the solos, and the vitality and power shines through in everything they do. They are planning on touring throughout the world to promote this album, and I can only hope that they include New Zealand in that list as this is a band I really want to see. This is superb.

BLIND GUARDIAN Live Beyond the Spheres

Live album · 2017 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Blind Guardian have been at the top of the power metal game for quite some time now, having been formed as long ago as 1984, and they show no sign of slowing down just yet. A decision was taken to record all the shows from their 2015 European tour when they were promoting ‘Beyond The Red River’, and then from those gigs they selected the best versions of each song and have now released it as a triple CD set which is more than two and a half hours long! This is their third official live album, but is going to be viewed by many as their most complete due not only to its length, but that the setlist is one which includes virtually all the songs that any fan could want. Is “The Bard’s Song” on there? Of course, and “Mirror Mirror”, “And Then There Was Silence”, “Nightfall, “Wheel Of Time” – all up there are twenty-two songs on the set, all played as only Blind Guardian can play them, and performed in front of avid audiences who wanted to sing just as much as Hansi Kürsch.

These days the band may only be Hansi (vocals), André Olbrich (guitars), Marcus Siepen (guitars) and Frederik Ehmke (drums), with the line-up being completed by session musicians Barend Courbois (bass) and Mi Schüren (keyboards), but these guys are refusing to sit back and relax, and instead keep waving the power metal flag for everyone to see. When it comes to this style of music there is no-one who does it any better, and this album captures them in their native element, onstage in front of their fans. This album is simply indispensable if you like this style of music. www.nuclearblast.de

ATTILA Chaos

Album · 2016 · Deathcore
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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So, Attila are back with their seventh studio album since their debut in 2007, and they are still peddling the same brand of deathcore that either makes them a great band or not, depending on your opinion. To say they are immature is probably one of the politer ways of describing them, as they roll out a string of words designed to offend in “Public Apology”, and I just kept thinking that it might appeal to me if I was fifteen years old again – although I still think I had better taste in music when I was that age. Their music also owes a great deal to Korn and bands such as Limp Bizkit, although not nearly as good (and I must confess to not being a fan of LB either).

Some of the songs do show some promise and even some originality, with the more death-oriented “Obsession” being a case in point, but there is just too much banality and pandering to hopeful radio play to make this an album that I will ever suffer again now I have written about it. That they have made it to the seventh album says something their perseverance, and possibly something about the target audience, but this isn’t for me.

AENAON Hypnosophy

Album · 2016 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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I remember reviewing the album released by Aenaon prior to this one, ‘Extance’, and saying that the Greek Black Metallers had a lot going for them as they refused to conform to what was expected, and this 2016 release has continued that progression. There has been a slight line-up change, and far less use of guests than before, but while some of it looks normal and as expected, there are some subtle differences. So, we have Astrous (vocals), Achilleas C. (guitars, bass, keyboards) and Anax (guitars), which are all straightforward. But, Nycriz is listed as providing drums, percussion, saz, bouzouki, sitar and oud – certainly not one would expect from a drummer, and some of these would never be expected on a black metal album. The newest member is Orestis, who of course provides saxophone. Saxophone? On a black metal album? The only guest is Giorgos Papagiannakis who provides some clean vocals against the gruff.

On hearing this album, one wonders why not more bands are using a sax in a metal setting, as it works incredibly well, providing a different edge while the guitars are riffing away which feels much more integral to the overall sound than keyboard sometimes do in the same setting. This isn’t the only difference within the album as the guys refuse to sit within any particular form, so although sometimes they are set squarely with the black metal genre there are other times when it is just an influence, and others where they drop it altogether where they move more into the mainstream. This is an even more balanced, exciting and adventurous album than ‘Extance’, and is one that I highly recommend, even if this form of metal isn’t normally to your liking.

BEASTMAKER Inside the Skull

Album · 2017 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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Formed in California in 2014, this is the second full-length album from the doom/stoner trio. Now, I like doom as much as the next metalhead, and have lots of stoner in my collection, but I can’t get out of my head that this is NWOBHM-tinged doom as opposed to the real thing. Now, back in 1979 I was sweet sixteen, and fell into the genre wholeheartedly but even in the early days it was easy to see what bands were going to make it, what bands might make it, and what bands were probably just going to release one album or single and then vanish, and Beastmaker fall into the last category. They are currently touring with Zakk Sabbath, and I can imagine that they would be a great warm-up band, but never anything more than that.

This is an okay album, but there isn’t enough in the way of good songs for me to want to keep returning to it, and there is a feeling that they have a lot to do if they ever want to break out of the second division.

MESHUGGAH The Violent Sleep of Reason

Album · 2016 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.90 | 9 ratings
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When one buys a Meshuggah album one knows exactly what to expect, and this 2016 is no different to the ones that have come before. What we have here boys and girls is djent, but in a complex downtuned and aggressive form like none other. It is just not possible to state how brutal this album is, from the very first crunch to the last. Singer Jens Kidman has a great deal of work to do to make himself heard, as the rest of the guys are just so tight, so precise, that it is incredible that he manages to find a melody line at all. This is complex stuff, and no-one does this style of music better than the Swedes. True, they are somewhat lacking when it comes to dynamics, as there isn’t a great deal of light to play against the shade, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for them as they just paint the shade somewhat darker. Polyrhythmic is the only way to describe a band who haven’t worked out that 4/4 is often thought to be a valid time signature in metal. Why do that when they can groove in 5/8 instead?

There really is no other band like them, and that they continue to tour the world (they even turned up down here not long ago!) and release albums (this is their ninth) shows that while this may not be to everyone’s tastes, there is simply no-one who can do this any better. Meshuggah, djent, metal, intense, superb.

VINTERSORG Till fjälls, del II

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.93 | 3 ratings
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This is quite a special album in many ways, as it not only looks back to the debut from 1998 both in title and style, but even includes music from before the very first EP. As bandleader Andreas "Vintersorg" Hedlund (vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, programming) says, “To write a sequel to the first Vintersorg “Till Fjälls” album was something that many people wanted me to do after its release. The second album “Ödemakens Son” was in the same direction but still something different. So, throughout the years that same mantra was often mentioned again and again “you need to do another album like Till Fjälls”. As an artist I’ve always followed my heart much more than my mind, so inspiration and passion has taken us on a journey through different atmospheres and different musical spheres. From the very folk- music-drenched metal in the beginning, to more progressive and complex textures and structures. As time passed by I just started to write more folk music oriented music again, just out of that same inspiration and passion. On the last three or four albums, we’ve in a way spiraled back to the starting origin, but with new experiences and a different stronghold to rest our art upon. So, I wrote some music and it came over me that it was somewhat “Till Fjälls del II” (part II) and after that fire was lit in our hearts it was a very easy choice to put it in that perspective. It’s not an attempt to do a classic sequel, much more like a lost twin finds its other half after many years. They’re connected to each other but with different experiences and perspectives. The included EP “Tillbaka till källorna” (Back to the Sources) is an attempt to portray the time before Vintersorg was Vintersorg. The songs are written in that transition period when Vargatron was put to rest and Vintersorg was given life. Still, these songs didn’t make it to the first EP “Hedniskhjärtad” due to different reasons but has survived in the back of my head, and on some worn-out tapes. When we decided to do the part II of “Till Fjälls” it came to me that it would be nice to really do a new take on these songs, trying to keep the basis of them but just put them into the Vintersorg perspective.”

Joining Andreas was Mattias Marklund (guitars), who joined not long after the debut, and Simon Lundström (bass), who has only been there a few years. This is classic folk/Viking metal, with strong riffs and walls of sound, although they do also bring in some black metal influences here and there. The result is an album that is incredibly powerful, and although I would much prefer a ‘live’ drummer (as they use when they gig), even I must admit that the programming has been done well and isn’t too painful to listen to. They remind me more of classic Dimmu Borgir than Amon Amarth, but that isn’t a bad thing in my book, as this just screams class from start to end. That one man is responsible for all the writing and much of the instrumentation is quite something, and by singing everything in Swedish they add some mystique. They can be emotional and ambient, or powerful and in your face, often within the same song, and it is the use of dynamics which really make this album stand out from the rest.

It has been three years since their last release, but it has been time well spent, and this is an album that any metalhead could do well to discover.

42 DECIBEL Overloaded

Album · 2017 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland


This is the third album from Argentinian quartet 42 Decibel, who currently comprise Junior Figueroa (vocals, guitar), Nicko Cambiasso (drums), Billy Bob Riley (rhythm & slide Guitar) and Matt Fraga (bass). This is classic AC/DC with some slide guitar, nothing more, nothing less. Junior sounds uncannily like Bon Scott, and their approach to music is the same as the Aussies were doing some forty years ago. True, when they bring some slide guitar into the mix it does give them a different edge, but for most the time they are channeling music and times from the past. Personally, I’d rather hear the real thing, but given that Bon left us many years ago, and AC/DC have finally given up the ghost as well, this could well be worth investigating by any diehard fans, especially when Junior can also do an Alex Harvey impression.

SUFFOCATION ...Of The Dark Light

Album · 2017 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 4.48 | 4 ratings
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Kev Rowland


Suffocation have been creating a storm for the best part of thirty years now, and show no signs of slowing down just yet. This is brutal technical death metal at its very finest: it just doesn’t get any better than this. Singer Frank Mullen has been there since the very beginning, and keeps being persuaded to turn out for just one album and tour, but with a family he can’t commit as much as he used to, so his successor, contributing vocalist Kevin Muller (The Merciless Concept / ex-Pyrexia) is also involved on this one. Of course, guitarist and songwriter Terrence Hobbs has been there since 1990, and bassist and lyricist Derek Boyer since 2004, so they know exactly what needs to be done to keep the band true to the Suffocation sound. It has been four years since the last album, due mostly to the band being on tour so much, but there are also a couple of new boys in guitarist Charlie Errigo (also in The Merciless Concept) and drummer Eric Morotti. Together they have linked in and created another monstrous sound, while Chris “Zeuss” Harris mixed and mastered the album and has created something that is powerful, delicate, and full of rage.

I was a big fan of their last album, ‘Pinnacle of Bedlam’, but this one is better. Whatever one wants from a technical death metal album is here in spades. Brutal, over the top, this is amazing.

SECRET SPHERE The Nature of Time

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.33 | 3 ratings
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Some twenty years after their debut, Italian melodic symphonic act Secret Sphere are back with their ninth studio album. Very much at their heart is founder guitarist Aldo Lonobile, but with singer Michele Luppi (also currently serving as keyboardist and background vocalist for Whitesnake) coming on board in time for their 2012 release ‘Portrait Of A Dying Heart’, the band have changed so that there are also now some more progressive elements to their sound. Italy seems to produce many strong melodic rock bands, and Secret Sphere are very much in case point. This release highlights their skill in composing highly orchestrated songs and introducing their foray into a new age of heavy rock and metal music. High class songs with amazing choruses, big vocals, majestic orchestral arrangements, and amazing, mind-blowing, guitar heroics are the order of the day. ‘The Nature Of Time’ explores the "back to life" concept, an inward looking search of the self that can positively impact everyone's everyday life.

It is polished, and produced to within an inch of its life, and that is possibly the only really flaw for me, in that the band never breaks out of the self-imposed constraints, so that the spark is often missing. That can’t take away from some great performance and some wonderful songs with superb vocals, but it needs some additional vitality and forcefulness. Some will probably view this as a masterpiece, but I could do with something a little more raw.

MUNICIPAL WASTE Slime and Punishment

Album · 2017 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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I’m not sure just how long I’ve been a fan of these guys, but it’s been a while. In some ways, they remind me of Tankard, in that people only see the humour and fun they have, and forget that behind it all there is a damn good band who know exactly what they are about and what they want to achieve. It has been quite a while since their last album, but they’ve still been on the road and have also added an additional guitarist to their ranks to provide them with an even harder and punchy sound. They are still playing thrash/speed metal with a large nod to hardcore, and I have no problem with that at all. To me they always sound as if they have straight out of NYC, even though they’re from Richmond, Virginia, as they have the same sort of feel as many of the bands from that city.

The recording process was different this time around, in that bassist Phil Hall engineered it so the band could record the album themselves before sending it off to Bill Metoyer (known for his work with Slayer, W.A.S.P., Lizzy Borden and Dark Angel) to be mixed. They certainly sound tight, and the result is an album that may not be driving any new boundaries, or even be fashionable any more, but when it comes to recreating the scene of the late Eighties the n few do it much better than this. Turn it up.

IN FLAMES Sounds from the Heart of Gothenburg

Live album · 2016 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 2.05 | 2 ratings
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Like many metalheads I’ve always had a soft spot for the melodic death metal of Swedish band In Flames. They have built a massive reputation over the years, and their live shows are renowned for their intensity. But, due to living at the end of the world, and not having easy access to music magazines, I don’t always keep up with the scene as I should, and it has been a while since I last heard any of their material. What we have here is a live album, released in 2016, of a 2015 concert from their hometown, so I settled down, plugged in my headphones and turned it up.

A few songs in and I started searching the web to see what other people were saying about this album, and everyone seemed to be agreed that this is just a tad short of awesome, and mighty fine on so many levels. This means that I must be the only one who thinks the guitars are too low in the mix, and that the drums and vocals are taking too much prominence, and that the material simply wasn’t what I was personally expecting. Much of this is from the latest albums, which admittedly I hadn’t hard, but I swear there are times when they morphed into a heavy version of My Chemical Romance, which isn’t what I was expecting at all! Of course, they aren’t the first band to change since they first started, and they have been around for a long time (and have released a couple of other live albums to boot), but this isn’t an album I could get into and enjoy. Looks like I’m in the minority, won’t be the first time, and I doubt it will be the last. For fans only.

TANKARD One Foot in the Grave

Album · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Back in 1982, four longhaired metal maniacs from Frankfurt, Germany, decided to found a band, and as they weren’t going to be around for very long they also created a new form of music, Alcoholic Metal! Some thirty-five years later they are still going strong, and kicking up a storm with thrash metal, and have just released their seventeenth studio album. Unlike some, the line-up has been incredibly stable, with singer Gerre and bassist Frank Thorwarth there since the beginning, drummer Olaf Zissel since 1994, and guitarist Andy Gutjahr since 1998, and they’re not showing any sign of slowing down yet.

It is easy to dismiss Tankard as a comedy act, because of their innate sense of humour, and fondness of beer, but behind all that there is a band here that know what they’re doing, and see no point in changing now. This is thrash metal that could have come out of the scene back when it was starting, furious and over the top with riffing guitars and a drummer that refuses to quit, and vocals that are gruff and totally fitting. True, there aren’t many blistering guitar solos, but they have a style that has worked for them for a very long time, so why change it now?

If you have never partaken of the joys of Tankard, yet enjoy thrash, then now could not be a better time to put aside any preconceived ideas and raise a glass.

ORIGIN Unparalleled Universe

Album · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
For twenty years, Origin has engaged a full-blown sensory assault of tight, taut, and technical death metal amplified by flashes of grindcore and groove. The quartet of Paul Ryan (guitar, vocals), John Longstreth (drums), Mike Flores (bass, vocals), and Jason Keyser (vocals) are now back with their latest album, following on from 2014’s ‘Omnipresent’. The last three years has seen a lot of touring, with the likes of Aborted, Exhumed to Immolation, Marduk and Belphegor, and they are showing no signs of slowing down. The album was recorded and mixed at Chapman Studios in February 2017 alongside long-time collaborator and engineer Robert Rebeck (Tech N9ne). The band emerged with ten new songs including a cover of Brujeria's "Revolución", that were mastered in March 2017 by Colin Marston at Menegroth - The Thousand Caves (Altar of Plagues, Jarobe, Krallice).

Paul Ryan says “It feels like an Origin album, but it’s unparalleled to what you might expect if you haven’t heard us for 10 or 15 years. To me, it’s a true reflection of ourselves. I compare it to an action movie. Our earlier material is filled with action from beginning to end. Now, the idea is to add a little more depth and dynamics. You could say there are some twists in the plot musically”. This is brutal death metal, with more in common with grindcore than many other purveyors of the genre. The blastbeats keep coming, the guitars are tight with the bass, and Jason wouldn’t sound out of place fronting Cannibal Corpse. This is awesome on just so many levels, and is one of the best death metal albums I have come across. If you want to lose your dandruff and get severe neck ache then this is the one to get.

WEDNESDAY 13 Condolences

Album · 2017 · Glam Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Wednesday 13 released five albums with Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13, but it was when he joined forces with Joey Jordison from Slipknot in the latter’s side project Murderdolls that most people became aware of him. Their 2002 debut album, ‘Beyond The Valley Of The Murderdolls’ redefined the horror punk genre, and when they went on hiatus in 2004 he started his solo career, releasing albums that saw him hailed as the bastard son of Alice Cooper and The Misfits. He even found time for an outlaw country project, Bourbon Crow, and a one-off glam metal act, Gunfire 76, before Murderdolls reconvened in 2010. After the ‘Women And Children Last’ album and tour, they again went on hiatus and he revived his solo career, and his latest album ‘Condolences’ is now on the player.

He has moved away from punk, and now this is much more straight forward heavy metal, although still with huge swathes of Alice Cooper influences. Part of that is down to his vocal style, as Wednesday 13 sounds as if he has been gargling whisky before laying down the tracks, providing a rough rawness that works well with the music which also owes a great deal to early W.A.S.P.. He says that he feels that there are no longer any boundaries for him, and that he can perform whatever style he now wishes to, but to be honest there isn’t a tremendous deal of variety among the songs on offer. This is a basic album, with little to lift it to anything special, with the result being that while I may not walk across the room to take it off the player as it’s okay, I may not actually have put it on in the first place. He’s good at what he does, but just not what I want to hear.

DECREPIT BIRTH Axis Mundi

Album · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 3 ratings
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Formed in 2001, these guys can’t be said to be the most prolific act as this is only their fourth album, and the first since 2010. Their line-up is Bill Robinson (ex-Suffocation) on vocals, Sean Martinez (ex-Rings Of Saturn, ex-Decapitated) on bass, Sam 'Samus' Paulicelli (ex-Goatwhore, ex-Abigail Williams) on drums and Matt Sotelo (Deprecated, Soulside) on guitars, so it’s no surprise that they all know what they are doing given their experience. This is technical death metal, based on incredible drumming, and on the concept that anything is possible. This means that they refuse to stick within what people would normally think of death metal, bringing in progressive metal influences, and hooks that are way more mainstream. Something else that is unusual within the genre is that this doesn’t feature any guitar solos in the normal sense, they’re all really fast palm-muted riffs.

Apparently, the guys haven’t been touring for the last three years, but they are coming back with a vengeance, and their forthcoming trek with Cryptopsy sounds like a show not to miss. I feel incredibly fortunate to have heard two of the best death metal albums I have ever come across in just one week, and of the two Decrepit Birth just have it over Cytotoxin. Released on July 21st, this is one for the diary as if you are a fan of bands such as Suffocation, Death, Origin, Obscura, The Faceless, Fallujah, Nile, Decapitated, Cryptopsy you can’t afford to miss out on this

THUS DEFILED A Return To The Shadows

EP · 2017 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland


It’s twenty-five years, since Thus Defiled came screaming into the world, drunk on sacrificial blood and aflame with blasphemy. They cut a blazing path through the black metal underground, releasing a series of unholy, Christ-crushing albums and EPs and sharing the stage with the greatest extreme metal has ever produced – Mayhem, Blasphemy, Rotting Christ, Cradle Of Filth, Dissection, Cannibal Corpse, Immolation and many more. A year ago, they crept back into the light with a deluxe reissue of a couple of their more sought after releases under the title ‘An Unhallowed Legacy’. This was their first release since 2011’s ‘Swine Of Hades’, and the response saw them decide to get back together for one last time and now we have ‘A Return To The Shadows’, a new EP featuring one never before heard original track and four cover versions from Death, Metallica, Morbid Angel and W.A.S.P.; reinterpretations of the songs that first helped inspire them right at the beginning.

Mike Browning (Nocturnus, ex-Morbid Angel) and Donn Donni (Vesperian Sorrow) make guest appearances, with Mike revisiting “Demon Seed”, which he originally sang on more than thirty years ago! The five songs show a band that are at the absolute peak, with a brutal death metal/black metal crossover that is as relevant today as it is has ever been, and the only problem I have with this five song EP is that it should be a full album! Whether you want powerful drumming, crunching tight guitars, or a strong vocal attack, it is all here, and then some. This is Black Metal at its very finest, it honesty doesn’t get much better than this. For fans of Venom, Immortal, Cradle Of Filth, Morbid Angel or Death.

WARRANT Louder-Harder-Faster

Album · 2017 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
Warrant was one of the most popular and successful rock bands to emerge out of Hollywood, CA in the late 80's and early 90's. In 1989, they released their debut ‘Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich’, which immediately entered the charts and launched the hit singles “Down Boys,” “Sometimes She Cries”, and “Heaven”, which climbed up to number two on the US charts. They toured hard and soon that album had racked up sales of more than two million within the States alone. In the summer of 1990, their second album ‘Cherry Pie’, was released with even greater success and the singles “I Saw Red” and the rock anthem “Cherry Pie” received massive airplay. Fast forward to 2017 and the boys are back with their tenth album, and incredibly the line-up is only slightly different from those early days with “new boy” singer Robert Mason (Lynch Mob, Cry of Love) joining original members Joey Allen (guitar), Erik Turner (guitar), Jerry Dixon (bass) and Steven Sweet (drums). Mind you, the new boy has been there since 2008, so it is no surprise that he sounds at home.

The guys always had some similarities with bands such as Poison, Quiet Riot and even Motley Crue and Faster Pussycat, and this album just reinforces that. I have no idea why it has taken them six years to follow on from “Rockaholic”, but let’s just hope that it doesn’t take so long for the next one as this is a blast from start to end. True, it does appear that grunge, black metal or thrash has never taken place, and that we have been transported back to mid-Eighties America, but I don’t have an issue with that. This is American hard rock that is quite naïve in its innocence and bubblegum joy, but it’s as infectious as hell and even the obligatory power ballad doesn’t seem out of place. This is hard rock for people who don’t like hard rock, music destined for the airwaves in the States, and for large arenas where people can hold up their iPhones showing that stupid candle app (so that they don’t have to hold up lighters) during “U In My Life”. There is even a song played on acoustic guitars!

It is cheesy, it is out of date, but most of all it is bloody good fun. When I finished playing it I immediately dug out some Poison and put that on for a change, two bands whose music can be enjoyed without really thinking about it. ‘Louder Harder Faster’ may be full of music that isn’t fashionable any more, if it ever was, but Warrnant know exactly what they are doing, and they are doing it very well indeed.

LOST SOCIETY Braindead

Album · 2016 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
It took until 2016 for the Finns to come back with their third album, and even though it is the same quartet who played on the first two, this feels like a totally different band. Yes, they are more polished, as one would expect from a band that now knew what they were doing in a studio, along with the fact that they had been playing live a great deal, but none of that explains why they are now performing fairly standard heavy metal, with a few slight thrash influences. Samy Elbanna has never been the best singer in the world, but he got away with it when the band were trying to beat the sound barrier. Now it has all been slowed right down from where it was, and as someone who really enjoyed how the band used to sound, I found myself being incredibly disappointed. Lost Society used to have a real shot at breaking through some barriers with the way they approached the thrash genre, but with this album they have lost their way. Now, we all know that Megadeth has released the odd duff album, and Metallica haven’t done anything worthwhile since Cliff passed away, so maybe there’s hope for them yet. Let’s hope there is a significant return to form for the next one.

LOST SOCIETY Terror Hungry

Album · 2014 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 2 ratings
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2014 saw the mad flying Finns return with their second album, following on from ‘Fast Loud Death’ which came out the previous year. In my review of that album I said, “If you want something that allows you to lose the dandruff, that combines passion and polish with power and raw naivety then this will be of interest,” and to be honest not much has changed. This is good old fashioned thrash that sounds as if it has come straight of the Eighties Bay Area, but with a modern sounding production. Both guitarists can really play, and they have plenty of aggression and punch which means that the listener tends to forgive them for playing at warp factor 9 for the whole album.

The difference between this and some of the other thrash albums around is that these guys have decided that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, so no new modern sub genres being brought to play, but rather taken Raven and Megadeth and mix it with some hardcore punk attitude, plug in, and see you at the end. This is thrash, nothing less, and just possibly a whole lot more. These guys may only be doing one thing, but they do it incredibly well indeed.

AVATARIUM Hurricanes and Halos

Album · 2017 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.08 | 11 ratings
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Kev Rowland


Although the band was only formed in 2012 by Soen guitarist Marcus Jidell and Candlemass chief Leif Edling, the guys are already back with their third album. The label describes them as where Black Sabbath meets soul and The Devil’s Blood meets Old School Rock, but they’re wrong. Produced by Marcus Jidell himself, while David Castillo (Katatonia, Bloodbath, Opeth) recorded and mixed it in the famous Ghost Ward Studios, and mastering undertaken by Jens Bogren (Soilwork, Sepultura), here we have an album that was probably a little dated forty-five years ago. What we have here boys and girls, is classic Uriah Heep, with Rickard Nilsson’s Hammond Organ linking with Marcus Jidell’s guitar in a way that is so very reminiscent of Ken Hensley and Mick Box, while Jennie-Ann Smith is different in her approach to the great David Byron, but channels him alongside her Maggie Bell approach.

This is warm, it is heavy, it is comforting and to someone my age also incredibly familiar in its approach. Those first five Heep albums were all classics in their own right, and this should also be judged in the same vein. The absolute standout is “Medusa Child” which twists and turns in many directions during its nine-minute long journey, even bringing in some children singing, while the guitar moves between leaden Iommi-style soundblasts into lighter territory, diving and swirling so that the listener isn’t always sure what is going to happen next. It almost seems as if a few different songs have been taken to pieces and then thrown back together as one, but it works incredibly well. Overall, this is a really enjoyable album, one that any fan of Seventies rock combined with Sabbath doom and a great production would do well to seek out.

SEVEN KINGDOMS Decennium

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.80 | 5 ratings
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Kev Rowland
On their 2007 debut these guys had a male singer, but he was replaced by Sabrina Valentine for the second, and the band moved much more into power metal territory, something the band are still providing with this their fourth. Having toured with the likes of Blind Guardian, Stratovarius, Amaranthe and metal queen Doro, they have been building a strong reputation over the last ten years, with elements of these bands, as well as others like Helloween, having an obvious impact on their music. This is all about hitting hard, then hitting again, with Sabine staying above everything with a strong melodic soprano that never veers into the operatic.

But the guys behind her aren’t going to wimp out, but rather keep it all focussed with plenty of strong harmony guitars and riffs. There is no room for a keyboard player in this band, with the double bass drum blasting away and the band almost moving into thrash territory, this is all about guitars and vocals. Heads down and see you at the end, but with loads of harmony and melody. It is interesting to hear just what an impact the singer has here, as with a different approach they would be a very different band altogether, even with the rest of the band playing the same.

Apparently they crowdfunded this release, and all power to them, as it certainly sounds as if they had a major label behind them. Hopefully this will get them the recognition they deserve as anyone into metal in general, power metal in particular, will find a lot on here to enjoy.

KOBRA AND THE LOTUS Prevail I

Album · 2017 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.67 | 3 ratings
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Kev Rowland
It's been three years since Kobra And The Lotus' last studio album ‘High Priestess’ was released back in 2014. Since then the Canadians have completed multiple tours worldwide (with the likes of Kamelot, Sonata Arctica and Demon Hunter to name a few), and are now back with their fourth release. Only singer Kobra Paige is still there from the 2009 debut ‘Out of the Pit’, and I am amazed that I haven’t heard her prior to this album, as here is a singer with plenty of power and passion, very much in the style of Doro. Musically this is a mix of traditional heavy metal with some power metal, while also at times slightly moving into symphonic, but they don’t stay on the last for too long.

This is all about punch guitars, great melodies and hooks, with some sublime singing over the top. Produced by Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Amaranthe, Epica etc) and mastered by Grammy award winning Ted Jensen, the sound is as strong as one would expect, and I actually found this to be a refreshing approach to the genre as here Kobra is very much part of the band, and not someone pushing herself to the forefront at the risk of taking away from the impact of the songs overall. ‘Prevail I’ is full of blistering guitars, pounding rhythms and haunting vocal melodies, and will be appreciated both by those who enjoy the more melodic side of metal and those who like the (much) heavier side of AOR. Apparently ‘Prevail II’ is going to be released in the near future, and I for one look forward to that with great anticipation as if it is as good as this it will be one to grab.

GHOST BATH Starmourner

Album · 2017 · Depressive Black Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 6 ratings
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Kev Rowland
I was sent this by the record label to review, but still know virtually nothing about the band. I know it’s their third album, and that they were formed by Nameless (vocals, guitar, piano), but even though they are touring and there are five of them in the band the guys aren’t listed on the press release, or the band’s own homepage, or their Facebook page (I tried, honest). In addition, their debut EP was released on both a Russian and Chinese label, and I don’t even know what country they’re from! Apparently the stories, or parables, look into Jewish angelology and the hierarchy of angels as found in the bible and other religious texts," says Nameless. Although the album has a definitive joyful and hopeful feel, it is still drenched in depression and sorry, as any true Ghost Bath record should be."

So, they’ve put a lot of work into staying anonymous, apparently so that listeners aren’t distracted from their brand of depressive black metal. And I can understand why listeners might easily be distracted, as in all fairness this isn’t all that good. Easily the best parts of this album are the artwork (and apparently the CD booklet has each track accompanied by a beautifully crafted painting as well as a "parable" to read alongside), and the first song which is a delicate piano instrumental. The rest of it is well-recorded and produced but these are the only positive comments I really have. In “Ambrosial” the same chord is repeated so many times that I felt like slashing my wrists or turning the album off, whichever I could get the most energy for.

Black Metal as a genre contains many groundbreaking and inspiring bands, this isn’t one of them.

UNTIL RAIN Inure

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Well, it has been four years since their second album, which I raved over, but I can see that there has been quite some movement within the band between ‘Anthem To Creation’ and ‘Inure’ as only Theodore "Teo" Amaksopoulos (guitars) and Lef Germenlis (keyboards) are left from that line-up. But, it must be said that in the new members they have some real finds. I rated previous singer Yannis Papadopoulos very highly indeed, but Cons Marg is quite a find with a superb range. They have also brought in a second singer in Donna Zed who provides backing vocals where appropriate, and this allows for some powerful harmonies.

Teo and Lef are continuing to drive the band strongly in progressive metal, with some interesting time signatures and syncopation, and music that goes through the gamut of incredibly melodic through to intensely metallic and everything in between. They work together incredibly well, often both playing complex lead lines at the same time, and then each of them taking turns to provide backing for the other. There is a great deal of space within this album, and there is a great deal of light and shade, so that when they do turn up the riffs and intensity it has immediate impact. Incredibly polished, this is yet another great release from this Greek outfit, and I can only hope that with a settled line-up, which is currently on tour, that we don’t have to wait so long for the next one. More to the Threshold end of prog metal than Dream Theater, just listening to this left me with a huge smile on my face, and who could wish for more?

SVARTSYN In Death

Album · 2017 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.76 | 3 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Here we have the follow-up to 2013’s, ‘Black Testament’, and is again basically a solo album with Hellhammer providing drums, and Ornias everything else. Ornias has of course been there since the very beginning back in 1991 when the band was known as Chalice, and he has been through a few different line-ups since then. Here we have black metal in its truest sense – no hammer house of horror keyboards or ambient rubbish to be found, what we have are a wall of riffing guitars, bass right behind it, drums punishing them all, and a singer trapped in a dungeon of pain.

Musically this moves from mid-paced to fast and sinister tempos, featuring a dynamic melodic range injected into an overall feeling of obscurity and brutality. What makes this album work so well is the variety between the songs, as well as within them as well. Hellhammer knows when to keep it brutal and also when to turn it up a notch or ten and blast the double bass drums as if he is in a grindcore outfit instead of black metal. Ornias hearkens back to the classic times of Mayhem, Darkthrone and Emperor, blasting it out as if the last twenty years never happened. If you want to listen to black metalthat is rightly reclaiming its place at the feast, and is relevant, dramatic and crunchingly powerful then look no further.

LABŸRINTH Architecture of a God

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.48 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
In the spring of 2016, the band's founding members, Andrea Cantarelli and Olaf Thorsen received a call from Frontiers asking them to discuss with vocalist Roberto Tiranti the possibilities of a reunion, some six years after their last album. After much discussion, the guys agreed, and a new version of the band was brought together with the addition of drummer extraordinaire John Macaluso (TNT, Riot, Ark etc.), Oleg Smirnoff (Vision Divine, Eldritch) on keyboards, and Nik Mazzucconi (Aleph, Edge of Forever) on bass. Many people still feel that their finest album was released as long ago as 1998, with ‘Return To Heaven Denied’, but that is only one of seven studio albums released by the band prior to this one. I haven’t heard it, but it is going to have to be something very special indeed to beat this.

What we have here is power metal which is in a very similar vein to Stratovarius, played at great speed with guitars and keyboards both shredding when they need to. Andrea and Olaf have been playing together since 1994, and this really comes through in the way that they harmonise and combined their runs in perfect harmony. But, they do know when to take a step back, as on “A New Dream”, where they use a quite different style to break things up. Roberto is also an amazing vocalist, who sings in a melodic manner for most of the album but also knows when to really life it by hitting even higher notes. In some ways this album is quite dated, but in others it is very much for today. If you enjoy melodic hard rock played by guys who really know what they are doing, then look no further.

HATE Tremendum

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland


Hate was formed in Warsaw, Poland, in 1990 by guitarist and vocalist Adam The First Sinner (real name Adam Buszko, now normally abbreviated to ATF Sinner), guitarist Qack and drummer Mittloff. Between 1990 and 1995 they recorded three demo tapes before signing their first record contract. Over the years, they have been through various line-up changes, but the death of bassist Slawek "Mortifier" Arkhangelsky from natural causes while on tour in 2013, and the departure of drummer Stanisław "Hexen" Malanowicz the following year had a major impact, with just AFT Sinner and guitarist Konrad "Destroyer" Ramotowski left. Paweł "Pavulon" Jaroszewicz joined on drums for the 2015 album, ‘Crusade: Zero’ but things were still not right within the band, and ‘Tremendum’ finds just ATF Sinner and Pavulon from the last album, with two session musicians in Paweł "Apeiron" Michałowski on bass and Dominik "Domin" Prykiel on guitars.

Hate have been known for playing a type of blackened death metal that has also found favour with countrymates Behemoth, but for me this album finds them far more solidly within the black metal genre, but with some death influences. It perhaps isn’t surprising that even though they have been through some trauma, that all these guys know what they are about, and this feels like a major release from a major band. The production is superb, capturing a band that are tight and firing hard. Some black metal relies too much on pomp and ceremony, but here the balance is just right, with the reverb allowing the mid to think of black candles and ceremonies, but the guitar and drums are there in the foreground to keep bashing the listener on the head while ATF’s growls are perfectly pitched to work with the music, not against it.

They have been releasing albums for more than twenty years, have had more than that in terms of musicians in their ranks, but let’s hope that this quartet can hit the stage and show everyone that Hate are a force to be reckoned with, as they have come of age with this album.

DIMMU BORGIR Forces of the Northern Night

Live album · 2017 · Symphonic Black Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland


It has been way too long since we last heard from Dimmu Borgir, and they have returned with a double DVD set, of which I have been sent the audio (and surely will be released on CD as well). Back in 2010 they performed with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and a full-scale choir in their hometown of Oslo, and this release contains that entire show plus their performance at Wacken Open Air with the National Czech Symphonic Orchestra (as well as an in-depth documentary with behind-the-scenes footage of the massive stage production in Norway). By now the band was down to just a trio, with Shagrath (vocals), Silenoz (guitars) and Galder (guitars) joined by session musicians Daray (drums), Cyrus (bass) and Geir Bratland (keyboards), plus of course everyone else! I always felt that ICS Vortex was a key part of their sound, with his vocals complementing those of Shagrath, but he certainly isn’t missed here with everything else going on.

Their over the top symphonic black metal sound lends itself to the orchestral treatment, and the result is something that is quite extraordinary. The crowd also know that they are seeing something very special indeed, and are vocal in their support of what they are seeing and hearing. It is over the top, it is bombastic, and simply excellent. It is hard to pick a favourite moment among the seventeen songs on offer, but one must admit that “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse” has been lifted to even greater heights with the combination of Dimmu Borgir’s attack, the orchestra providing the backdrop, and Shagrath riding the maelstrom to its natural conclusion. This type of music just doesn’t get any better than this, and this will tide over the fans until the new album is released that they are currently working on.

WITHERFALL Nocturnes and Requiems

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.81 | 4 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Based out of Los Angeles, Calif., Witherfall is the collective brainchild of guitarist Jake Dreyer (Iced Earth, Kobra And The Lotus, White Wizzard), singer Joseph Michael (White Wizzard) and the late Adam Sagan (Circle II Circle, Into Eternity). The recording line-up is rounded out with the addition of acclaimed bassist Anthony Crawford (Allan Holdsworth, Virgil Donati). Adam Sagan passed away on December 7th, 2016, during the final stages of production, and the rest of the band have released this album in tribute to him.

This doesn’t sound like a debut, but also doesn’t sound like a project. This is a band where everyone is kicking in out at full blast. Adam was obviously fond of his double bass drum pedals, and used every opportunity to show them off, while Anthony calmed down his more progressive and fusion influences to tie it all together and let the other stake centre stage. Jake is a fine guitarist who knows when to riff, when to shred, and when to double-track his lead lines, but can also bring an acoustic guitar into the mix for a few bars when it is the right thing to do. Then on top of it all we have the vocal prowess of Joseph Michael who can calm it down when it is necessary, or can power through like Ripper Owens if that is the right thing to do.

Prog Metal? Power Metal? A mixture of both? Well, they have more in common with Stratovarius than Dream Theater, but it is the polish, professionalism and power that really makes this album shine. It is impossible not to fall in love with on the very first time of playing, and repeated listenings only make it that much better. This is definitely worth seeking out.

AXEL RUDI PELL The Ballads V

Boxset / Compilation · 2017 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.48 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
So, here we are with the latest in APL’s long-running compilation series. This one takes in the last six years, along with a couple of new songs, and some live ones to close with. I first came across his singer, Johnny Gioeli, when he was part of the Hardline project and he has always had an incredible voice, which is an essential element when performing a power ballad, and this album is packed full of them. If you haven’t come across this series before, it is a Ronseal album, namely it does exactly what it says on the tin. Axel had always produced some ballads on his albums, and then when the time is right he releases an album that brings the latest ones together. That they are popular among fans is never in doubt, as the last one entered the German charts at #29, but for me it is just too much sugar at once.

I have never enjoyed albums when the songs are all performed at the same level; no matter if it is heavy or soft, there must be light and shade. When one ballad follows another for a whole album, no matter how well performed, it is just too much for me. Now, that’s a shame, as while I do have some problems with the album, there are also some real highlights contained within it. Undoubtedly, one of these is opener “Love’s Holding On” which he wrote for Bonnie Tyler, and here she performs it as a duet with Johnny. I have always felt that she has been an incredibly overlooked artist, and that she should be given far more credit than she has ever received, and yet again she proves that she is a wonderful performer. The second song is a cover of Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire”, which I found okay as I don’t know the original, but it was the next cover I found most interesting, “Hey Hey My My”. This begins life as a solo performance, with Johnny being accompanied only by piano, and it is quite something. It is a more measured and less fraught version than the original, but the way it builds and stays true, while also being something that has been re-arranged and developed is definitely of note. The other song that should be mentioned is “Mistreated”, which was recorded at his twenty-fifth anniversary show in Balingen in July 2014 with Doogie White (ex-Rainbow, MSG) on vocals, and erstwhile Rainbow keyboard legend Tony Carey. Axel shows that he knows how to provide the perfect Blackmore blues-soaked guitar riffs, while Tony is channelling Jon Lord. Doogie does a fine job, but it must be said that he doesn’t have the same breadth and depth as Coverdale.

Although the compilation itself isn’t really to my liking, there are some great songs and performances contained within it, and is worth seeking out.

MY SILENT WAKE Invitation To Imperfection

Album · 2017 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.93 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland


Oh. My. God. I just have no idea to where or how to write about this album, which is one of the most incredible releases I have ever come across. My Silent Wake have been around for quite a few years now, making quite a reputation for themselves in the doom field, although I have managed somehow to totally bypass all their other albums, so I have no idea if this how they normally sound. What I do know, is that from the very first song to the very last twenty-one-minute epic I was entranced. It’s not doom as such, or dark ambient, or atmospheric black metal, but somehow brings all those influences and many more into something that is completely engaging and essential.

“Volta” starts life with a harpsichord, then turns into a dance were the black masses congregate: it certainly doesn’t sound how a Volta normally does (which as you all know originated in either Italy or the medieval Provençal courts, was introduced in Paris in around 1556 by Catherine de Medici, and required highly intimate contact between two partners of the opposite sex.). Then there are others where the music is far about creating an atmosphere than creating melody. I firmly believe that the only way to play this album is as a solitary adventure, either played when there is no-one else around to interfere with its enjoyment, or on headphones when the rest of the world can be shut out. To my ears, it is an incredible achievement, and one of the most perplexing and entrancing albums I have ever come across.

MAXDMYZ Alcehmical Metal

EP · 2017 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland


According to their website, Maxdmyz is a London based 5-piece band consisting of Twister (vocals), Roger (guitars), Jay (drums), A’Zedd (bass guitar) and Vortex (keyboards). They released their first recordings in the late Nineties and is well established in the UK scene having built its reputation over the years with stunning live performances and recording some of the most innovative and original alternative metal ever to come out of the UK music scene. One of the band’s highlights include past collaboration with Eminem, and their influences are wide and varied, from Lou Reed and Black Sabbath, to Squarepusher, Pantera and 80’s electro pop.

To be honest I had never come across them prior to being sent this four-track EP to listen to, and I can certainly see why the label says that fans of Rammstein, White Zombie, Ministry and Sisters Of Mercy should check them out, but there are a whole host of others that could be added to that. They describe their style of music as ‘Alchemical Metal’ and that’s probably as good a handle as any, as I have no real idea on how to describe it. There are definite industrial influences, but mathcore also rears its head, yet is also melodic and poppy at the same time, and there are elements that would fit in a techno/rave scene. The only way to really experience this band is by listening to it: whatever words I write just won’t do it justice, and I am certainly intrigued enough to want to hear a full album from these guys.

EMPIRE Trading Souls

Album · 2003 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Empire was a melodic hard rock band, and were the brainchild of German guitarist Rolf Munkes (ex Majesty, ex Razorback, Crematory). They released four albums between 2001 and 2007, of which this was the second. Pride & Joy Music are planning on reissuing all four albums during 2017, and they have started with the second album for some reason. While the debut ‘Hypnotica’ featured two singers in Mark Boals (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen) and Lance King (ex Nightmare), this release found them both replaced by Tony Martin (ex-Black Sabbath, The Alliance). The rest of the line-up all played on the debut as well, Neil Murray (bass, ex Whitesnake, Brian May Band, Black Sabbath etc.), Gerald Klos (drums) and Don Airey (keyboards, ex Rainbow, Deep Purple).

Given those involved, it’s no surprise that this is a polished album, with plenty of 80’s AOR stylings. It is catchy, it is fun, and without ever being essential, is an album that can be enjoyed the very first time it is played. This is a project as opposed to a band, and the result is that it almost feels as if the guys were playing their parts without ever giving absolutely everything they had. I would have liked to have had some more passion from Tony and if those involved had been really vested in the music then it could have been something special. As it is, it is still a good listen.

PALLBEARER Heartless

Album · 2017 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 4 ratings
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Kev Rowland


This is the third album from the American doomsters, and they certainly have a very different approach to the genre than what I am used to hearing. Yes, the riffs are often like leaden slabs, but Brett Campbell is a singer who is extremely confident in his abilities and is both powerful and melodic. No gruff spoken or strange singing for him, just right down the middle vocals that would be suited to any good mainstream band. They aren’t afraid to bring in musical elements from other genres, yet always tie them back to doom, so the result is something that is incredibly easy to listen to while at the same time also being quite unusual. Having played the album quite a few times I’m still a little at a loss as to how to describe it, just because it is bringing together all these influences and making them work in a doom setting.

The production is superb, and it doesn’t matter of guitars are being gently picked as at the beginning of “Lie Of Survival”, or crunched as they are later in the same song, it is all mixed to perfection (step forward Joe Barresi from Tool, Queens of the Stone Age and others). Vocalist/guitarist Brett and bassist/secondary vocalist Joseph D. Rowland also provide synthesisers when the time is right, and the use of a wide musical palette also adds to the overall feel of the album. While not essential, this is well worth hearing, and it will be interesting to see what direction they move into next.

EMMURE Look At Yourself

Album · 2017 · Deathcore
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland


If you ever wanted to hear hardcore taken to a whole new level then you need to look no further than Emmure and their latest release. This is hardcore mixed with death and nu-metal influences, as if Slipknot, Biohazard, Cannibal Corpse and Korn decided to breed. This intense, over the top, and as tight as hell. The anger and venom coming from singer and founder Frankie Palmeri is matched by those behind him, and although they may not be in quite the same area as Napalm Death they probably share the post code. After their 2014 release ‘Eternal Enemies’ the band suffered some line-up changes, and Frankie found himself left with just guitarist Joshua Travis, but it certainly doesn’t sound like a brand-new rhythm section as what we have here is a band that know what they want, and heaven help anyone who gets in the way of them.

They’ve been touring a great deal, and I would have loved to have seen them with Five Finger Death Punch and with We Came As Romans as they would have been great gigs, but can’t imagine who thought that it would be a good idea to put them with Parkway Drive, as the Aussies must have been taken to the cleaners by the guys from Queens. Brutal, uncompromising, over the top hardcore metal, this is one violent and angry beast that needs treating with respect.

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