Metal Music Reviews from Windhawk

RHODE ISLAND RED Kerosene

EP · 2011 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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This initial three track EP by UK act RHODE ISLAND RED bears testimony of a band with rather sharply honed commercial instincts. This isn't a band that seems to look for any true metal badge to proudly present to a handful of followers. At least musically the material on hand here seems to be made with the charts in mind. Having a female lead vocalist is always a good thing if you plan for success, in particular if she's a talented. And Lyla fits that description rather well I believe.

As far as the music goes, Rhode Island Red comes across as a bastard child sired by late 80's The Cult and early 90's alternative rockers Garbage. Opening effort Kerosene kicks off with dampened verse passages sporting a dark, slightly distorted bass, energetic rhythms and vocals, while just prior to the chorus section massive, compact riffs hits the speakers big time, continuing onwards into the chorus itself which is of the melodic singalong variety. The contrast between the melody, lead vocals and massive guitar sound is a feature the band explore rather well, and in particular on Kerosene the lead on back to the verse with a slightly less massive riff cascade supported by a gentle, light and clean guitar motif is stunning. And most likely familiar sounding to any Garbage fans that encounter it.

Second track Beige is the one I noted down as the most promising item. Not yet realized in my opinion, cutting off some atmospheric laden inserts and an elongated outro would transform this into a killer tune in my amateur, non-expert opinion. Other than that the contrasting elements previously described has been utilized on this song too, and with a real tasty guitar solo detail attached to the chorus which suits it perfectly.

Final effort Stalemate is another good effort, this time around with a gentler, ballad oriented verse followed by an aggressive yet melodic riff dominated chorus with a strong emotional emphasis on vocal delivery. Good stuff.

Those with a taste for metal with a strong commercial sheen and female lead vocals should find plenty to enjoy on this EP. Comparisons towards The Cult have already been mentioned, and if the sound they explored on an album such as "Sonic Temple" is to your liking Rhode Island Red is band I suggest you spend a few minutes investigating.

DIRTY PASSION Different Tomorrow

Album · 2010 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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Swedish quartet DIRTY PASSION was formed back in 2006, and since then they have been an active quantity in the local and European live scene, steadily building themselves a fan base. Come 2010 and they decided it was time to record and release their debut album, apparently at least partially due to request from their fans. The end result became the 10 track disc "Different Tomorrow", which was issued by Transubstans Records imprint Denomination Records in December 2010.

Pop metal, hair metal, glam metal, AOR, melodic hard rock. Beloved children have many names it's said, and these five different monikers describing music sharing many similarities but with subtle differences avid fans of them will readily point out can all be used to describe the stylistic approach pursued by Dirty Passion.

Short to midpaced songs sporting melodic guitar riffs as the main feature is the dominating instrumental aspect of this production, backed by steady beats and with the main limelight shining on the lead vocalist. The songs are rather straight forwards affairs, no fluff and staying well away from any artsy sidetracks. Good, old fashioned hard rock in other words, but with the customary vocal harmonies and more often than not the trademark singalong chorus parts we heard by the thousands when metal had it's commercial heyday back in the 80's and early 90's.

It's a type of music where it's difficult to make a grand impact. The musical palette is limited, and extensively explored by everybody, their brother, sister, uncles, parents and (in some cases) grandparents too. Crafting less than impressive results with this type of music is much easier than crafting any material of note, and with that in mind I find this debut effort from Dirty Passion to be a pleasant production. The only piece that makes something of an impact for me is A Trip to Paradise however, featuring nifty contrasting guitar motifs in the verse parts, a clever percussion insert and sporting an energetic pace increase in the instrument solo passage at the midway point. Subtle variations to the sound and approach that makes this track stand out from the rest here. The other songs at hand are pleasant enough too, but more as good examples of the genre to be enjoyed by avid fans to a much greater extent than songs that will have an impact beyond the reach of their and their genres fanbase in my opinion. A thumbs up to the chorus on We're All Gonna Fall is also worth mentioning. The slight dramatic effects on this track doesn't quite work but the delightful guitar motif chosen for the chorus on this creation is a pure delight to listen to. Again, again and again.

Dirty Passion have chosen a tough field to be active in, and from what I can gather from their initial disc they have a lot going for them. Most likely an act better to experience live than on CD I suspect, but for fans of 80's melodic hard rock of the guitar and vocals driven kind this should be a pleasant acquaintance. For those keen on references I presume Dokken is as good a name to toss out as anything - if you like them you'll most likely enjoy the tunes of Dirty Passion too.

EFFLORESCE Shades of Fate

EP · 2009 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 2 ratings
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Nice initial effort from this German five-piece, taking their cues from the Dream Theater school of progressive metal but expanding it with gentle flute soloing, clear female lead vocals, the occasional growls to contrast it and some nifty features from the rhythm department.

The compositions as such have more of an emphasis in moods, atmospheres and resonances than pace-filled technical virtuosity however, and the slow to midpaced compositions are generally of the darker variety in sound. A few gentle passage inserts contrasts the otherwise rich and massive cascades provided by the riff constructions quite nicely, and while a few details short of impressive this is a fine initial effort by a band that comes across as creative and talented.

MOTHER MISERY Standing Alone

Album · 2010 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Swedish act MOTHER MISERY has been around since 2004, issuing full length albums in their formative year with a sophomore effort appearing in 2007. Come 2010 and the band has been through a line-up change, and have chosen to sign with Swedish label Transubstans Records for the release of their third full length production "Standing Alone", issued in November 2010.

The basic premise of this disc is in your face metal. At least initially. Steady, powerful rhythms, circulating richly sounding riff patterns with a tendency to utilize harmonic riffs and melodic overlays, and compositions with a fairly repetitive structure in general. High pace and energy combined with brief tracks see to it that none of the ideas are overly explored nor exploited, and in addition the vocals of John Hermansen are given plenty of space to add emotion and power to the proceedings, as most compositions are rather vocal heavy.

As the disc unfolds many more or less subtle alterations of the basic formula are explored, from tight and punk-tinged efforts like Dying Heroes to darker, sophisticated numbers closer to Soundgarden's territories as exemplified by Fade Away. Dampened riffs, quirky rhythm inserts and other features of a more sophisticated nature makes the odd appearance on a more regular basis too, and while not what one might describe as experimental there is a strong alternative streak to this album following the initial couple of numbers. The energy and momentum is maintained throughput however, and the band takes care to keep the songs short and compressed. Some bands fall into the trap of loosing their way amidst such additional features, but that is not the case on his occasion.

All true metalheads appreciate a well made ballad, even if some wouldn't admit to that even under the threat of torture. Be that as it may be, whether openly enjoyed or treasured in secret, final track State of Grace is a haunting ballad showcasing just how much power and emotion a good voice, an acoustic guitar and a cello can craft, with additional strings making the odd appearance to emphasize the emotional aspects of the song and, eventually, taking the song and album to a fitting closure.

"Standing Alone" is a strong slab of contemporary metal that should appeal to a wide cross section of people, as long as they don't mind the occasional sophisticated feature appearing now and then. When that is said, the emphasis is on high energy and momentum, so while this CD might appeal to fans of styles such as progressive metal it is not an example of that genre nor of music from a closely related to it.

TOMBSTONES Volume II

Album · 2010 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Norwegian outfit TOMBSTONES has been around for a few years now, actively gigging and and finding time for the odd recording session now and then too. "Volume II" is the so far most recent of their efforts, and was released by Swedish label Transubstans Records in 2010.

My main impression is that this is a band belonging to the second generation of Black Sabbath inspired bands plying the doom metal sound. Plenty of references to Tony Iommi's doom-laden creations can be found, but I'd be rather surprised if these guys haven't listened to their fair share of albums by Electric Wizard and Candlemass as well.

Downtuned guitars is the order of the day, slow to midpaced compositions dominated by guitar riffs moving at the speed of cooling lava with the odd ventures out into slightly pacier territories but also to the real slow and sludgy guitar riff universe of the kind where the resonances are given good time to oscillate before the next riff comes thundering. And these guys know their heavy riffs, in terms of massive guitar sound this is a CD that is right up there with aforementioned Electric Wizard's "Dopethrone". Sans the psychedelic and droning exploits of that classic production however, with a more purebred variety of vintage inspired doom metal as far as stylistic expression and detail go.

Clever use of clean and acoustic guitar pop up on occasion, expanding the canvas nicely and crafting some nice contrasts explored thoroughly. But melodic resonances and subtle use of harmony riffs are the main weapons in Tombstones' fight against the repetitive aspects of the doom metal sound, and they do manage to add quite a few nifty details that manage to convey an impression of variety throughout. Different riff pattern constructions is another detail used to good effect, to the point of a few tracks veering off in rather unexpected directions.

The lead vocals could probably be better, and that is arguably the weakest point of this band presently. A lead vocalist able to carry and lift compositions of a more average variety.

Those with a soft spot for guitar riffs as dense as granite and heavier than the footfalls of a Brontosaurus should probably be considered the main audience for this Norwegian band. Those who recognize themselves in that description, or who generally tend to like bands inspired by the heavier parts of Black Sabbath's back catalogue, better check out what this fine act has to offer. A fine and solid, not to speak of massive, slab of doom metal from a fine and talented band.

STONEWALL NOISE ORCHESTRA Sweet Mississippi Deal

Album · 2010 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Swedish outfit STONEWALL NOISE ORCHESTRA has been an active unit since they started out back in 2004. Mostly in the European live circuit, but in between gigging they've also managed to find the time to hit the recording studio. "Sweet Mississippi Deal" is their latest studio effort, and was issued by Swedish label Transubstans Records in October 2010.

Musically this production opens with heavy compositions residing somewhere in between Soundgarden and Black Sabbath in overall expression. Steady drums and heavy bass underscore dark but warm and organic sounding guitar riffs, massive and distorted but with somewhat of a glossy and slick overall expression. The defining blues base of metal is given something of an emphasis early on, in particular on third track A Song for the Fool.

The massive creation that is One Hundred marks a shift on this CD. Apart from being a standout track in itself, and the only track where droning, psychedelic laced textures slowly crawls forth with only occasional mid-paced interludes, this track also heralds the start of a more psychedelic tinged approach for the remaining songs on this album. While the opening efforts resides pretty well inside a stoner or doom metal description, the increasing use of psychedelic details and a growing tendency to include lighter and more groove-oriented themes kicks off at this point, and in the second half of this disc there's a fair few items where the metal contents are evenly balanced out with a more distinct 70's stoner rock expression. In a case or two arguably with more of an emphasis on the latter.

The album is an engaging affair from start to finish, the band mastering their metal excursions just as well as their stoner rock flirts, and may arguably be at their best when incorporating psychedelic details in a fairly liberal manner. Stoner metal and stoner rock fans should make up something of a core audience for this act, but liberal-minded doom fans should also add this band to their list of acts to check out at a later stage. And for some reason or other, I suspect that seeing them live would be the best way to check out their booty, so to speak.

NYMF Nymf

Album · 2010 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Formed in 2007 and with a well received demo from 2008 under their belt, it would take a further two years before Swedish band NYMF had a settled line-up in place and were ready to follow up the initial interest by Swedish label Transubstans Records.

Released in October 2010 their self-titled debut effort is one that first and foremost points back to classic bands such as Black Sabbath and Candlemass in stylistic expression, at least to my ears. Connoisseurs of the doom metal universe will most likely be able to pull up additional probable influences. Massive resonating riffs and slow to mid-paced riff patterns is the name of the game throughout, with a thundering bass guitar and steady rhythms beneath and an at times curiously talk-like vocal delivery courtesy of Niklas Sjögren. His voice is rather close to good old Ozzy but comes across as slightly less powerful.

Spicing up the proceedings are occasional up-tempo passages, some nifty melodic overlays courtesy of the guitarists and effective energizing bass drum details. Somewhat less successful are the psychedelic guitar textures applied in the second half of the album, as are their ventures into compositions beyond the 5 minute mark that is a common feature in the very same excursions. Nymf aims to add a touch of sophistication to the proceedings on these pieces, but will have to develop that part of their repertoire to manage to produce material that makes a lasting impact in my opinion. But their shorter excursions are solid efforts through and through. The occasional use of growling may not suit die-hard fans of the genre, but as that is a minor point on a select few occasions only most should be able to tolerate this. Personally I found it to be a nice and welcome detail to an album venturing into realms heavily explored by others.

A good production in general, not adding anything new nor groundbreaking to the doom metal universe but worth investigating by those who have a soft spot for acts such as Black Sabbath and Candlemass.

DANTE The Inner Circle

Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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Impressive debut album from this German outfit.

They are one of many bands following the Dream Theater school of progressive metal; but instead of following the rulebook to the letter this band has used it for general guidance only, and have worked hard to make something unique.

Some segments are typical Dream Theater still, rough guitar riffs mixed with epic keyboard textures is the element most often popping up in the compositions. But the warm, gentle and emotional vocals, the inclusion of warm and gentle mellow sections as well as darker, more ominous atmospheres done with subtle nuances rather than melodramatic overkill, the inventive use of many keyboard sounds and layers of those; small details like a fanfare-like keyboard theme at the end of a long tune; and having small details adding textures to the songs in general really sets these guys apart.

Slightly weak production and some compositional weaknesses are the only weak aspects of this release; but neither of them should keep fans of the genre away from checking out this one. Overall a very good release, and one of the best debut albums I've come across in this genre.

DANTE Saturnine

Album · 2010 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.96 | 3 ratings
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With Saturnine we're served the second effort from talented German prog metal band Dante, and while not quite as impressive as their initial effort it is a well made production that should please fans of the genre.

The main characteristic trait of this album is variation. The longer compositions in particular move from sound to sound and atmosphere to atmosphere constantly, and it will take many runs through the album just to get familiar with it. The richness in textures, arrangements and motifs should keep the avid listener busy for weeks on end. Another trait peculiar to this creation is the downtuned guitar sound, distorted to the point of almost sounding electronic at times.

Apart from that, progressive metal of a Dream Theater inspired school is the name of the game here, but sans the emphasis on instrumental virtuosity and mostly residing within a low to midpaced structure. There aren't too many challenging features overall, rich arrangements contrasted with parts more sparsely crafted instrumentation wise one of few effects of a more sophisticated nature that's showcased.

All in all a solid, well made and well produced affair.

DYNAHEAD Antigen

Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.01 | 5 ratings
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Impressive debut album by this Brazilian act. At least if adventurous and inventive progressive metal of the dark and at times brutal variety suits your tastes.

Chugging, grinding, hammering, swirling and circulating riff patterns can all be found aplenty on this disc, be it more or less subtly dissonant in character or intense and aggressive with hardcore inspired passion similar to vintage bands like Nuclear Assault. But amidst the riff cascades and frenzied thrash-inspired landscapes you'll also encounter gentle passages featuring clean wandering guitars, melodic jazz-inspired motifs and even a few nods in the direction of prog metal masters Dream Theater. And soaring above it all is the lead vocals of Caio Duarte, providing gentle melodic delivery with the same ease as intense aggressive growling.

It's an album filled with contrasts, with technically and compositionally challenging material and stylistic blends not that often encountered. Very well made and performed, but perhaps just a tad too complex and challenging for your average metal fan. Fans of bands like Celtic Frost and Cynic would probably top my list of potential followers of this act, and personally I really like what these guys are doing.

SIDEBURN The Demon Dance

Album · 2010 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.52 | 2 ratings
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Swedish act SIDEBURN was formed back in 1997, and issued their debut album in 2002. A sophomore effort followed in 2007. "The Demon Dance", recorded in 2008, is the third production of this band and was issued in the spring of 2010 by Swedish label Transubstans Records.

When looking up information on this band, I found it curious to see that they are generally regarded as a stoner metal act. It's been many years since I followed this scene and genre closely, but unless rather radical changes have occurred to what constitutes this stylistic expression in the meantime, I'd say that Sideburn represents a rather sophisticated example of the genre. If they actually belong within his segment at all.

When that is said, the influence from bands like Black Sabbath is notable. Sludgy, grimy, heavy and distorted riffs are churned out with ease, in a manner almost more similar to 90's doom masters Electric Wizard than to what Tony Iommi & Co. created back in the 70's. At least when it comes to overall sound, as the style itself is still closer to the latter. But added to this are a few subtle sophisticated features, like organs popping up now and then and even what sounds suspiciously like a mellotron but might just be atmospheric backing vocals, the placement in the mix makes this hard to decide.

The latter is a much more frequent aspect of the other half of this band's repertoire though. Because this disc is just as much about hard rock with distinct touches of Led Zeppelin, with a focus on the more art-tinged aspects of their discography. There's a couple of tunes here that should sit right at home with anyone who thinks that Kashmir is a brilliant number, and the bluesy side of Zeppelin is given a nice homage as well, in the shape of Shining. Added to these ventures are more or less subtle touches of the doom and stoner variety, basically resulting in an album combining the styles of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath in two different manners. At least if you'd like to describe it in a fast and easy manner.

Touches of grunge is a part of these proceedings as well though, and while melodic guitar soloing and the occasional shedding will be encountered, the psychedelic oriented guitar sound is given ample room throughout as well.

Personally I found this album a bit so-so though. Many songs never manage to rise above an ordinary level of interest for me, but the tracks that does inspire my curiosity does so very well. By and large I'd imagine that this is an effort that should find a good home amongst those that generally like both Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and who enjoy listening to vintage inspired metal with an above average level of sophistication.

APHELION Franticode

Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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Instrumental progressive metal is a genre offering more variety to it's listeners than one might surmise, and Italian band Aphelion presents a strong example of one take on this genre on this initial effort of theirs.

Mixed by a certain Derek Sherinian, we're treated to a beautiful album from a technical point of view. The sound is excellent throughout, and "Franticode" is a shining example of just how good an album can sound if handled by the right people.

Musically we're served 7 compositions, quirky and shifting constructions with a plethora of details and nuances to get familiar with. The opening three numbers are pretty distinct jazz-tinged numbers, with the bass most central in adding jazzy elements to the quirky progressive metal soundscapes. The last four numbers have more of a space-tinged atmosphere to them, and while the nods towards jazzrock and fusion are still present they do take more of a back seat on these excursions.

While arguably not a true classic this is a strong effort, and those looking for a good example of brilliantly produced, quirky instrumental progressive metal should seek out this production.

SCALE THE SUMMIT Monument

Album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.90 | 6 ratings
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US-based quartet Scale the Summit has made a very frustrating album here.

The guys are talented musicians, and play tighter than the proverbial duck's arse. They are fond of complex playing as well; no run of the mill chops and riff patterns here used by a score of other bands. Instead, quirky riff constructions and pretty challenging material is what's provided.

But their mix of fusion and metal; although technically excellent; lacks mood, atmosphere and melody.

If listening to talented musicians showing off their skills is of interest this one is worth checking out; if moods and melodies are your thing chances are that this one may not appeal.

CIRRHA NIVA For Moments Never Done

Album · 2009 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 3 ratings
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A really strong effort from this Dutch band, that arguably may have crafted the best progressive metal album of 2009 with "For Moments Never Done". At least for those who appreciates bands residing in the challenging and most sophisticated territories of this stylistic expression.

The seven tracks here are all elaborate and quirky, at least to some extent. From sophisticated riff patterns to highly detailed and carefully crafted sonic tapestries the album as a whole seems to be thought out and planned in minutest detail. Smooth transitions from leaden riff barrages with more than a touch of thrash metal to gentle atmospheric themes with an emphasis on melody and beauty as well as most variations in between are constant, and subtle as well as dramatic alterations in expression, tempo and intensity keeps surprising positively the more you get familiar with this production.

Excellent performances in general and by vocalist Legrand in particular are the final ingredients on a disc which should find it's place into the collections of any serious collector of progressive metal.

A CHINESE FIREDRILL Circles

Album · 2006 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.67 | 3 ratings
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A surprising collection of tunes from veteran bass player Joey Vera on his "A Chinese Firedrill" project.

7 songs all with different musical foundations, tied together by strong atmospheres and songs interlocking; as well as some subtle details in the soundscape repeated throughout.

Mainly experimental in style, but the heavy use of synths as well as the laid-back vocal style here gives this release strong similarities to OSI - one of numerous bands and projects Joey Vera has bean involved in. The blend of metal tinged and ambient elements also resemble this other side project he's been involved in.

Recommended to fans of OSI, especially those that liked their second release "Free".

TORMAN MAXT The Problem of Pain (Part 1)

Album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 1.54 | 10 ratings
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This third outing from Christian US band Torman Maxt have apparently created some debate in various circles.

While not to everybody's taste, their mix of King's X, Rush and Iron Maiden grooves come across as rather good actually. The tunes are short, slightly complex in performance and very much so in structure, with skilled use of layered guitars enhancing the moods in the individual composition, as well as a distinct emphasis on the music underlining the lyrical mood in each song. The most unsettling facet of this release will probably be the lyrics for many; if you're not a Christian they may alienate the listener quite a bit.

If you don't mind religious lyrics it's worth checking this one out though. As the album is available as a free download on the band's website; it won't cost you anything but a little time to check out whether or not this is a release to your liking.

VOTUM Time Must Have a Stop

Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.88 | 9 ratings
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Impressive full-length début by this Polish act.

Progressive metal is the name of the game for this creation; and a rather dark and ominous-sounding variety of it as well. Not metal all the way though - fragile and mellow passages have their place here - especially in the opening segments of the compositions; and breaks to calmer water ambient as well as industrial-tinged appear in most tunes.

The guitars dominates the proceedings though; and the band have opted for a massive, wall-of-sound placement of riffs and riff patterns on this release. A bit overdone according to my tastes, as details and textures tend to drown in the loud cascading guitar sounds. Synth layers melodic or majestic in scope flesh out the sonic tapestries; and a capable, powerful vocalist delivers the lyrics in an OK manner.

Personally I was most intrigued by the drum-work on this production though. Very much different in approach to what is common in the genre, his at times quirky and most times highly fluent delivery really added some nice twists to this experience.

A strong début overall, where the main weaknesses are syrupy chorus segments at times; and the massive guitars may not be to everybody's liking.

MARULK Marulk

Album · 2010 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Yet another Swedish hard rock band bringing on the heritage of the 70's has arrived, this time in the shape of power-trio Marulk. They've been around since 2007, and made their début available in February 2010 courtesy of Transubstans Records.

What's showcased in the 9 compositions featured are a driving variety of hard rock, often sounding like vintage Black Sabbath playing tunes by AC/DC or vice versa, early doom metal Sabbath style but with the livelier riff patterns and boogie rock tendencies of the electric band from down under as the structure and shape of heavy downtuned guitar sound is placed in.

Add in some touches of blues and folk music, with vintage psychedelic sounds flavouring the proceedings now and then, and this disc is pretty much covered as far as content goes.

This début effort shows promise and talent, especially when the band heads into more sophisticated waters, and while the more sparsely crafted tunes mostly sound pretty interesting at best too it is when these guys gets to be a tad more elaborate that this albums gets really interesting.

Standout track: I See You in My Dreams

KING'S X XV

Album · 2008 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.92 | 9 ratings
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More than 20 years have gone since King's X started releasing music, and they are still able to make good albums. The band has a distinct sound, once you hear the start of a tune you know who's playing, but even so there has bee a slight development of style.

In their early days influences from The Beatles as well as some leanings towards psychedelic rock was present in their compositions. These days there's not many traces of those specific influences left. True enough, vocal harmonies still is a feature here, but the voices of the band members have changed a bit over the years, so whereas the style is similar the sound isn't.

On this album hard rock is the name of the game, contemporary in sound but with leanings towards the 70's. Soul and gospel influences are audible in the tunes but never to the extent of being prominent or dominant. The all mighty blues is more of a major influence, and the bonus track "No Lie" showcases that quite a bit. Some funk and alternative leanings can also be found.

This is a good album, fans of hard rock in general might want to check this one out.

DEVIN TOWNSEND Ki

Album · 2009 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.78 | 40 ratings
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Canadian artist Devin Townsend is a productive guy, with more albums to his name than the number of years he's been recording music. "Ki" is one of two releases from him in 2009.

And for a guy mostly associated with metal, this album is a rather surprising venture. Most of the songs are rather mellow and laid-back, with acoustic guitar just as if not more prominent than the electric. Distorted riffs are few and far between as well. In fact, in terms of style many of the songs here to a lesser or greater extent made me think of Chris Isaak.

Many of the songs do contain a brooding darkness though, often provided by some rather nifty synths, but also slightly distorted echoing bass and guitar sounds are used to good effect to create slightly disturbing atmospheres. And on a few select occasions, these moods evolve into brief, highly effective brutal-sounding metal parts invading the almost pastoral landscapes created.

It's a well made album, and while a progressive metal audience might have a hard time with this one those who appreciate sophisticated pop/rock and art pop might be a surprising, new audience for this artist. At least as far as this particular album goes.

ETHEREAL ARCHITECT Dissension

Album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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Interesting début album by this Texas-based outfit.

The main sound of the band seems to be power metal European style, but with complexities and changes of style and pace that makes prog metal a better description of the music here than power metal. In addition to tunes with complex structures, restrained and melodic vocals, neo-classical guitar soloing and harmony guitar soloing; the last of this seemingly influenced by Iron Maiden; and well thought out use of keyboards to add textures to the songs are central elements of the tunes here. In quite a few tunes slightly arrhythmic riff-patterns is a noticeable element as well.

In style I think this band overall sounds pretty similar to Age of Silence - more complexities in the tunes overall, but style and compositional structures aside this is pretty similar to that band in sound.

Ethereal Architect still lack brilliant songs as I see it, and the production on the album, although adequate as it is, could have been a tad better. Overall a promising début album from what appears to be a talented band.

ABRAMIS BRAMA Live!

Live album · 2007 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Live release by Swedish veteran stoner rock/metal band Abramis Brama this one, and it is an interesting release.

Musically the band know their Sabbath, but also other 70's band have influenced them a lot; which gives the band a wider register to play upon than many other stoner bands. And you can tell that they are a good live band as well.

Unfortunately being a good live band doesn't automatically mean that live recordings will be interesting as well. Although the band has been recorded well here, there are many aspects of a live setting that can never be transferred onto a CD, and in this case that results in what probably has been a killer live show sounding slightly boring on CD.

Fans of Abramis, especially fans that has attended their concerts, will get a lot out of this record. Others should check out their studio releases before this one.

ABRAMIS BRAMA Smakar söndag

Album · 2009 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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When it comes to bands exploring the sounds of yesteryear, Sweden has become quite the supplier of those. Abramis Brama are among the veterans in this movement, and with Smakar Sôndag they have issued a strong effort.

Heavy riffs, relatively simplistic in execution, is the mainstay of these ventures. Black Sabbath comes across as an obvious inspiration, in particular on the heaviest efforts here, but nods in the direction of acts like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple are just as easily found.

No big surprises in the tune department here either - perhaps apart from the piece Med Ont Försät, a 10 minute number with lots of shifts in style, and the gentle ballad N.E.J.

A strong album courtesy of Abramis Brama, and one that should appeal to many vans of vintage hard rock and metal.

AGENT STEEL Skeptics Apocalypse

Album · 1985 · Speed Metal
Cover art 3.61 | 13 ratings
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Windhawk
Agent Steel is a US-based thrash/sped metal band with a long and quirky history. Skeptics Apocalypse is their début album, and it caused quite a stir when released in 1985.

Musically Agent Steel play some sort of speed metal or thrash metal. Fast paced, melodic riffing over simple and at times primitive rhythms, with fast paced melodic soloing in the middle and John Cyriis melodic wailing combined with aggressive sneers is what's on offer on this release. Speed is more important than complexity on most tracks here; and the melody lines are simple and quite straight forward. This limits the bands opportunities when writing songs, as there are few options to create variations here. The band tries to slow down a bit on a few songs, but at this point in time are unable to utilize the slower pace for much more than showing that they probably are quite familiar with NWoBHM in general, and Iron Maiden in particular. Which probably are among the bands greatest influences musically.

The songs on this release are varied. The limitations of the bands style and songwriting skills makes the short songs the most interesting on this release; as the songs ends before the melody patterns becomes repetitive and uninteresting. The pure energy and enthusiasm of the band also sees to it that these rather limited songs comes across as interesting rather than primitive; and ultimately results in a release worthwhile adding to your collection if speed metal or thrash metal is to your liking.

On newer releases of this album a couple of bonus tracks is added. None of these are any good though; but should be of interest to fans of this band.

AGE OF NEMESIS Psychogeist

Album · 2006 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.05 | 3 ratings
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Windhawk
Age of Nemesis hails from Hungary; not a country known to be a hotbed for progressive music.

Musically, they play prog metal; with major inspirations from Dream Theater's early recordings, especially the guitar has a similar sound to the crunchier riffs found on DT's Awake album. In addition to that, several songs are spiced with elements that seem to originate from jazz and fusion.

The musicianship is good, the individual members give each other space to contribute individually as well as being good at supporting each other.

What I found wanting on this release were really good songs. Apart from the tracks "Mommy's Crying" and "Abraxas" most of the songs here just aren't very interesting.

Competent prog metal well performed by good musicians.

AGE OF SILENCE Complications: Trilogy of Intricacy

EP · 2005 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.32 | 3 ratings
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Windhawk
Age of Silence is a Norwegian project group, consisting of more or less famous musicians from different black metal bands. "Complications" is an EP released in 2005, to satisfy fans awaiting their second full length album.

Musically the band members background from (modern) black metal isn't very noticeable. Although several details and nuances in the soundscape are recognizable from this genre of music - synths barely heard fleshing out the soundscape, slight nuances when changing tempo, melodic overlays from guitars tuned way down to create a very subtle effect - the music on this record has more similarities with doom metal than with black metal. The guitars are the main instrument here, but played mostly with long, drawn-out chords rather than the fast-paced aggressive riffing you'll find in black metal. The second most noticeable element here are the vocals, actual singing with clean vocals, most often harmonic and at times layered vocals as well. The overall soundscape is dark and gritty though, with the vocals bringing light and beauty into a rather grim and dark - but epic - soundscape.

As for the songs on this release, they are all good - especially if nuances and details are to your liking. The songs are too monotonous and repetitive though; at least for me. The first and last of these three songs have most variation, and due to that are better than the one in the middle for me.

APOLLYON SUN Sub

Album · 2000 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Windhawk
Switzerland is known for it's clocks, banks and chocolate. It is also the home country of Thomas Fischer, mastermind behind highly influential groups Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. Apollyon Sun is the group he put together a few years after Celtic Frost disbanded in the early 90's; where Fischer explored music much different to what was issued under the Celtic Frost moniker.

Musically it is relatively easy to put the Industrial Metal stamp on this release. Which is correct, the overall sound certainly fits that tag. But as always with Fischer, there are subtle details that makes this one rather different from others. Musical inspirations are probably many, but Prodigy and Gary Numan seems to be safe bets for artists that influenced the overall sound here. As well as Fischer's old band Celtic Frost, of course.

The structure of the tracks here are mostly something like this: Electronic sounds start song; then there is some sort of verse and chorus set-up where the track moves from extremely heavy phases to slightly calmer phases and back again; somewhere in the middle of the track there's usually a calm, ambient sounding section before the song returns to the earlier more brutal sounding phases.

There's lots of electronic sounds in the music. Samples and loops all over the place, electronically enhanced noises and some melodic synth sounds to enhance the soundscape as well. Very much like Prodigy actually; but more sinister and eerie sounding. The bass guitar is often the dominant instrument; rumbling like a brutal distorted earthquake underneath all other noises in the soundscape. The guitar is used to deliver slow, heavy riffs or drawn out chords - kind of a doom metal sound but heavier and more brutal. In some songs the guitar sound is more slick and less distorted though, delivering more melodic aspects to the song as well. Adding stability to it all are drums, played solidly and at times creatively.

Tom Fischer's vocals adds atmosphere to it all. His mixture of singing and talking, and the general world-weary feel of his voice, creates a distinct mood to this music. Although brutal and heavy the music doesn't come across as aggressive. This isn't music by angry men that want to change the world or complain of their destinies. Rather, it's more like the music of lost souls; music from the deepest pits of oblivion made by souls living there and accepting their fate.

In other words; this is not happy music.

The songs here are rather good as well. The moods and atmospheres are unique in their totality; and I wouldn't recommend anyone getting this release before having listened to a track or two to see if this is likeable. As for the ones that should consider checking this out: People into Prodigy and Gary Numan that also like heavy metal should be an audience with a good chance of enjoying this release. And fans of industrial metal should perhaps consider checking this out as well.

AYREON 01011001

Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.19 | 64 ratings
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Windhawk
Arjen Lucassen sure has evolved big time since his days as a guitarist in Dutch hair metal band Vengeance. 01011001 is the seventh regular release from his Ayreon project, and arguably the most developed of these projects so far.

Ambient and electronic music has a clear influence on the sound here, folk music influences are used quite extensively too; and the songs come across as well structured, planned and executed.

Less dramatics and less metal than in the previous releases; and not as pretentious as previous releases either. It's a concept album as the previous ones; some songs still suffer from being parts of the story more than songs as such; but overall this is a release that generally can be said to be better than his previous outings.

Some fans may be disappointed in the slightly more accessible approach musically here; but personally I think Ayreon will gain new fans with this release due to that; and in my opinion this is a very good release - highly recommended.

BLUE ÖYSTER CULT Agents Of Fortune

Album · 1976 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.82 | 29 ratings
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Windhawk
Blue Oyster Cult is a legendary US-based hard rock band; known to play "heavy metal for the thinking man" back in the 1970's; although few would call any of their songs heavy metal in this day and age when even Black Sabbath are considered mainstream rock by many. "Agents of Fortune" is the fifth release by the band, and commercially one of their most successful releases.

Musically this album is all about rock and hard rock; played and performed in a traditional manner. Few of the songs are adventurous in structure or form, and many are clearly aimed towards being radio friendly. The AOR tag fits quite nicely on this release due to that.

With melodic tunes, extensive use of piano, synths and Hammond; melodic and mostly calm vocals as well as a mostly laid back guitar sound the end result is an album clearly aimed at the mass market.

The songs are a mixed lot here though. "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" is the clear highlight here, sounding just as good as ever. "This Ain't the Summer of Love" and "E.T.I." are also strong tracks; sounding as good now as they did in 1976.

"The Revenge of Vera Gemini" and "Tattoo Vampire" are nice tracks as well, but the rest of the songs here really doesn't sound too good in my opinion. Worst of the rest being "Tenderloin"; which in my opinion is a song best forgotten.

BOOK OF REFLECTIONS Chapter II: Unfold The Future

Album · 2006 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Windhawk
The sophomore release from this Finnish based project is very much of a so-so affair overall.

The main style here is generic power metal. Not sounding very much like any artists I remember, but sounding like a record that could just as well have been recorded in 1986 in terms of style and mood.

The musicians try to create an identity here by making songs with slightly odd and quirky patterns and structures; fast-slow-fast drum patterns and/or riff patterns, a high degree of variation in pace in each individual songs, and even some asynchronous rhythm/guitar patterns.

It's skilfully done, but doesn't make the songs any better. Okayish power metal is the end result; fans of the genre - especially those that enjoys technically skilful playing - are the ones that will get the most pleasure out of this release.

BURNING SAVIOURS Nymphs & Weavers

Album · 2007 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.02 | 2 ratings
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Windhawk
Nymphs & Weavers is the third release from this Swedish band.

And here they take the listener on a musical time travel 30 years back in time. With early Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep and Jethro Tull sounding like main influences, they fuse these influences together with other sounds and styles from the 70's; ranging from the symphonic Hammond driven prog of early Eloy to the faster metal of Motorhead from the end of the decade.

A great album for anyone heavily into early 70's hard rock. The main negative aspects are limited vocals and a slightly lacking production; fans of early 70's hard rock won't find it any worse than some of the other stuff they like though.

CELTIC FROST Monotheist

Album · 2006 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.38 | 37 ratings
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Windhawk
Monotheist marks the return of highly influential Swiss veterans Celtic Frost after a 14 year absence.

The music is dark, heavy and aggressive, with touches from Goth as well as from industrial metal. The tempo is way slower than what it was last time they were around, and the music in general is more experimental as well. The experiments here are more subtle than what they were in the past though; it takes time before the finer details buried in the soundscapes are drawn to your attention.

A worthy comeback from one of the most influential bands in the extreme metal scene.

CRUACHAN The Morrigan's Call

Album · 2006 · Folk Metal
Cover art 4.14 | 10 ratings
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Windhawk
Cruachan were an unknown band for me until I got hold of this release.

Their mix of traditional Irish folk music with classic heavy metal and modern black metal is quite intriguing though, creating some interesting and at times slightly original moods. The contrasts between the lighter, positive vibes of their folk music excursions and the dark, grim moods of the metal and black metal parts of their repertoire are nicely utilized - enhanced by the just as contrasting lead vocals. And most of the songs as a whole are good as well.

Worth checking out for people into Irish folk and metal.

DEEP PURPLE The House Of Blue Light

Album · 1987 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.81 | 36 ratings
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Windhawk
Deep Purple are one of the classic bands from the 70's. Although starting out in the late 60's, the 70's were the decade when the band rose to fame and fortune, releasing a series of classic albums before the band disbanded in the middle of the decade. The House of Blue Light is the second album released by the band after their 1984 reunion.

Musically they continue doing what they are best at here. Classic hard rock is the name of the game, with a regular verse and chorus structure, usually with some soloing in the middle of it all. The band has upgraded their sound quite a bit though.

On this release several members of the band have discovered new toys - synths. There were synths available back in the 70's as well, but in the mid 80's they were better, gave more and better options, and these options are used quite a lot here. Which results in a very slick and smooth sound; smooth to the extent of almost eliminating the hard in hard rock on this album.

The production further enhances this; the guitars of Blackmore are pushed back in the mix, and have a less dominant role in the overall soundscape than what they did last time around.

The songs are still mostly on the good side though. There's a couple of fillers here, but the rest of the songs here are highly enjoyable. No classic tracks, but quite a few good ones.

DOL AMMAD Ocean Dynamics

Album · 2006 · Symphonic Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Windhawk
Dol Ammad's second release Ocean Dynamics is a fascinating release.

Combining electronic music in many of it's varieties - from trance to new age - with operatic vocals and choirs, and with a musical foundation of metal mixed in most of the time, this band has created a rather unique musical niche. A crystal clear, sharp production adds a nice tinge to the proceedings as well.

With some tracks with strong trance flavouring and others sounding kind of like Dimmur Borgir meeting up with Tangerine Dream in an opera, this won't be to everybody's taste. Fans of dramatic and bombastic metal in all it's varieties will undoubtedly enjoy this one though.

DREAM THEATER Black Clouds & Silver Linings

Album · 2009 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.57 | 124 ratings
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Windhawk
24 years after their formation, Dream Theater is still a force to be reckoned with, even if their ability to create the truly magical moments doesn't pop up too often these days.

In this latest studio effort the band serves up a production best described as a good example of solid craftsmanship. The compositions are well written, well performed, have a good fluency throughout and should cater for most of their fans yearnings as far as new music goes. Add brilliant instrumentalists and a vocalist thankfully restraining and controlling his voice in a manner other metal singers should take not off, this in itself makes for a very good album. It's also rather interesting to hear how the works of bands like Megadeth and Metallica have influenced the sound of Dream Theater, in particular in the first two tracks, while there's quite a few nods in the direction of Canadian trio Rush in the final two efforts here, especially on The Best of Times.

But while this is a good example of high quality progressive metal - especially if skipping the rather clichéd ballad Wither - the songs are predictable, and the number of passages that serves up breathtaking moods or sounds are mostly missing. The workmanship is excellent but the creativity somewhat on the barren side, lacking the finer details and subtle effects to take this production up into the brilliant department.

Even final effort The Count of Tuscany, which is a clear album highlight and indeed a brilliant number, is somewhat barren in that respect. But there are moments of sheer brilliance there, passages with eerie undercurrents and a subtle darkness that gave me associations to an artist like King Diamond. A nice little details that has the effect of transforming this workout, adding some uneasiness to the proceedings which makes this a number one wants to investigate time and time again.

I also think that most tracks here are a bit on the long side. While opening number A Nightmare to Remember does have it's fair share of intriguing themes they could have been just as well explored in 10 minutes as in 16, and similar can be said of most tracks on this CD. And personally I suspect that some critical editing on all tracks would have resulted in a better album overall.

EVERGREY Monday Morning Apocalypse

Album · 2006 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.67 | 20 ratings
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Windhawk
It is rare that I come across such a well-produced album containing such mediocrity.

Because this release is very well produced, the band sound good and tight - but whatever happened to song-writing?

Generic metal of the kind popular in the late eighties and early nineties is what this release contains. And even effective use of the keyboard to enhance the moods can't hide the fact that the songs are predictable to the point of being plain boring.

Lots of guitars but with little or no variety, lots of aggressive and melodramatic metal vocals with little or no variety. Very predictable song structures; no surprises, no "moments of wonder".

All sparkles of creativity seem to be long gone; what's left is well produced music without a soul.

Two tracks are a bit better than the rest: "Monday Morning Apocalypse" and "Still In The Water". Worth listening to for the curious.

EVIL MASQUERADE Third Act

Album · 2007 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 3 ratings
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Windhawk
This is the third release from this Danish group, and it is a rather good one as well.

Musically this production is residing somewhere in between neo-classical, power and progressive metal. Moods and melodies have the focus in these compositions, and when the songs generally comes across as above average in terms of intriguing developments and distinct atmospheres explored this makes for a strong release.

As far as comparisons go, the benchmark for this act seems to be the earlier works of Yngwie J. Malmsteen's Rising Force and Symphony X, a form of metal that can trace it's roots back to Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. And fans of these acts might want to give this Danish band a shot as well.

FORGOTTEN SUNS Innergy

Album · 2009 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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Windhawk
Interesting production from this Portuguese act, and a rather good one too.

Vintage prog metal is the foundation for the proceedings, and old Dream Theater fans will recognize the guitar sound used throughout this affair as well. To spice up this affair space-tinged moods are added in now and again, and even a few jazzy segments.

But the dominating aspect of this album are quickly evolving and changing compositions, where quirky riff structures go hand in hand with more atmospheric moments; and the mostly long numbers go from theme to theme in quick succession - revisiting them often enough to get familiar with the differencing moods and atmospheres but still giving the listener more than enough to pay attention too.

There's nothing highly original here though - this is vintage prog metal, albeit more challenging and intricate than most such productions go - but the craftsmanship is solid, and as the band are more concerned in creating atmospheres than showcasing technical skills in the instrumental parts those not fond of endless shredding in their prog metal should have a good reason for checking out this affair.

GREEN CARNATION The Acoustic Verses

Album · 2006 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.53 | 12 ratings
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Windhawk
Interesting experiment this one.

The album isn't fully acoustic, as the title may indicate, but the band have gone acoustic on the guitar side of things. And due to that, this album has a unique sound to it, that's for sure.

The songs here are all melancholy, mostly lush affairs; quiet and haunting songs where atmosphere, mood and emotion is brought to the forefront. All instruments are carefully and gently played.

When it comes to style, the mellowest ballads of Marillion and Fish comes to mind as being the closest references here; even if the music isn't closely related the moods and the atmospheres are indeed.

One of the highlights from 2006; and should be checked out by anyone not scared of the thought of listening to acoustic guitar based music.

MICHAEL HARRIS Orchestrate

Album · 2006 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Windhawk
US based guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Michael Harris has been active for quite some years, issuing his first solo album back in 1991, steadily releasing solo albums in the 17 years that have passed since his début as well as being a member of various bands. Orchestrate is his 7th solo release, and was released in 2006.

Musically this is an instrumental album, with the guitar as the main instrument and neo-classical being the style explored. Lots of shredding and fast, heavy riffing to be found, but also quite a few tracks that comes across as music written as classical works and performed as metal tunes. On other songs this style is mixed with more traditional neo-classical numbers; and fans of pure neo-classical gets their fill on some tracks too.

A varied release in style and quality, with most tracks being of above average quality and a few tracks, like the haunting "Notes from the Kursk", of superior quality.

Worth checking out by fans of instrumental metal guitar albums, as well as fans of music combining metal with classical music influences.

HEART OF SUN Heart Of Sun

Album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Windhawk
Really interesting début from this Italian band.

The basic sound of this band is from the Dream Theater school of prog metal, with dark and slightly gritty guitar riffs and melodic synths dominating the soundscape in a way much similar to what DT did on their Awake album. Heart of Sun have their own thing going here though; using the foundation to explore tracks in quite a different manner than this influence.

Heart of Sun is a band very much exploring in their tunes. They have a multitude of changes in style and pace in each song, constantly evolving the tunes. And always staying melodic too, even when rocking out. And a feature throughout the album are dark soundscapes, even when at the most mellow, there's a dark tinge to these tunes that is most fascinating.

Good album worth checking out by fans of melodic prog metal; only negative aspect here is the vocals, which are a bit on the weak side at times.

HELLOWEEN Gambling With the Devil

Album · 2007 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.93 | 37 ratings
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Windhawk
Impressive that this band is still around, with a career that has lasted for more than 25 years now.

Their 2007 release isn't their best moment though. All the tunes are very well performed, they mix drawn out chords with riff patterns, harmony riffing and soloing very well, and the use of synths to flesh out the soundscapes are very well done. Some catchy choruses are a plus; and there are quite a few gems that makes this album worth seeking out. But there's quite a few fillers here too; songs with weak choruses or filled to the brim with clichés.

Fans will be pleased, and if you can live with using the skip button a few times the strong tunes here are good enough to warrant checking this one out.

IRON MAIDEN Iron Maiden

Album · 1980 · NWoBHM
Cover art 3.84 | 136 ratings
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Windhawk
In 1980 Iron Maiden released their self-titled début album, starting what would become a legendary career for the band. They were one of many promising bands in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement at the time; and still some development away from being the leader of the pack. However, some historic record covers soon made them quite famous, giving the band invaluable PR at the start of their career.

Musically, Iron Maiden's début album is an inconsistent affair. They try out a number of different styles, and it is obvious that they are uncertain of what type of music that really suits them at this point. The guitar riffs used in most tracks obviously have been somewhat influenced by the punk movement; and in tracks like "The Prowler" punk inspired riffs are used extensively, played in a fast and simple fashion. The overall sound also indicates the influence from 70's hard rock though, and the track has a surprisingly light pop feel about it.

Tracks like "Remember Tomorrow" and "Phantom of the Opera" showcase Iron Maiden's progressive influences; and the latter track also showcases some of the styles Iron Maiden would pursue later in their career, especially the "epic" chomping guitar riffing underscored by bass that the group would utilize in many future long songs.

Strange World is the odd one out on the album; one of the few mellow tracks ever made by the band. The slight psychedelic touch and the detailed moods made in this track are unique in the history of Iron Maiden; and tracks like this one probably was abandoned when the band started figuring out where to go musically.

The rest of the tracks here are to a greater or lesser degree mostly fast paced hard rock tunes with some metal edges to them; relatively simple in structure and style. There are quite a few differences in detail on the tracks; but all of them share some basic facts - punk-inspired riffs, influences from 70's hard rock to a greater or lesser degree, and high on intensity.

There are quite a few stand-out tracks on this album; and all of the songs here are seen as classic Iron Maiden tracks, apart from the mellow "Strange World". Not all of the tracks are at their best here though; the band was young and inexperienced when this album was recorded, which is easily heard. In many instances the later live recordings of the tracks here are much better than the original recordings; and as the overall sound here is much unlike what Iron Maiden would sound like later, this is not a release that can be seen as a must buy. Indeed, fans that haven't heard this album previously will be rather surprised on first listen.

Still, it's a good release as long as you're able to live with it's various shortcomings; and a must buy for anyone that wants to find out more about Iron Maiden's musical background and inspirations.

IRON MAIDEN Killers

Album · 1981 · NWoBHM
Cover art 3.79 | 128 ratings
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Windhawk
English heavy metal band Iron Maiden is a household name for most people interested in music, starting their rise to fame and fortune at the very tail end of the 70's. Their sophomore album Killers from 1981 is an interesting album in many ways. It is an album showing a band still trying to develop their own style, it is a classic release in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and it is the last studio album with charismatic front man Paul Di'Anno handling the vocals.

Musically most remember this album for the fast, punk-inspired riffing present on the classic tracks here. Listening closer to the album reveals that the album has more sides to it than this one asset. There are several examples of songs here with musical roots in traditional 70's hard rock, many examples of Iron Maiden's trademark double harmony soloing, and even some guitar solos with a slight bluesy edge to them. The main aspect of this album is the classic NWoBHM sound though, hard rock riffs played faster than earlier, staccato riffing inspired by the now dying punk movement and extensive use of solo guitar as melodic overlays in and in-between verses and quite a lot of Maiden's legendary harmonic guitar soloing.

The songs on this release has lost a bit of their edge with time. Even the classic Maiden songs all their fans love sounds slightly more ordinary now than what they did when the album was released. As often is the case with songs that were truly inventive and original when first released - when the thrill and joy of experiencing original sounds fades with time, songs can be viewed more on the strength of the songs themselves than the originality of the individual song.

Still, this album does contain quite a few excellent songs, probably so well known that naming them really isn't a necessity. The album as a whole isn't as good as I remembered it, although it should still be seen as an essential addition to most music collections due to the classic tunes on this release.

IRON MAIDEN The Number Of The Beast

Album · 1982 · NWoBHM
Cover art 4.20 | 173 ratings
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Windhawk
The Number of the Beast is the third studio release from legendary English metal band Iron Maiden, and is kind of a transitional album. With new vocalist Bruce Dickinson on board, the band seems to be searching somewhat on how songs should be played and arranged to suit his voice; which is very different from previous vocalist Paul Di'Anno's. At the same time, the band starts showing off more of what will be their own trademark sound here, with fast-paced riffing, more harmonic guitar-playing and the bass guitar clearly a solid foundation in many tracks.

Musically Iron Maiden to some extent leave their punkish on this release; production and playing eliminating many of the rough edges of punk in the past, while the fast paced and at times staccato riffing developed due to the punk influences now to a greater extent has been developed into something new.

Iron Maidens trademark type of songs are developed here, with fast-paced riff-based rockers, some more mellow atmospheric tracks and the first raw examples of what would develop into the classic epic tracks being in place on this release.

The music is clearly heavy metal throughout; but influences and inspirations are not as easily identified here; and in many aspects this is the album where Iron Maiden lay down the foundations for their individual version of heavy metal.

There are many classic songs on this release, but also a few that are a tad on the weak side. The classic tracks here are all household names for most; and as with previous release Killers these songs are the main reason for adding this release to the music collection.

IRON MAIDEN Piece Of Mind

Album · 1983 · NWoBHM
Cover art 4.07 | 154 ratings
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Windhawk
Iron Maiden is a heavy metal band hailing from England, that has become a household name for anyone with a slight interest in hard rock and heavy metal during the 27 years they have released music so far. Piece of Mind was their fourth studio album, released back in 1983.

Many fans, especially their older fans, think this album is the high point of the bands career. Which is understandable, for many reasons. Piece of Mind was the first studio release with what by most is seen as the classic Iron Maiden line-up; Dickinson-Murray-Smith-Harris-McBrain. On this album they take a final goodbye to the more obvious musical influences from the past; and for the most part have a very strong personal identity stamped to the music made.

And although the band seek out some calmer and mellow moods on this album, the music is clearly heavy metal from start to finish. Examples of the progressive leanings they would explore further on later releases can be found; especially on second track "Revelations"; but most of all this is a heavy metal album high on melody, a good balance between riffs, riff pattens and drawn out guitar chords to form melodies; some really nice harmonic and melodic guitar soloing, and at times beautiful and imaginative underscoring of the melody line from Steve Harris on the bass guitar. With excellent rhythms courtesy of Nicko on the drums, and mostly good vocals from Dickinson.

The songs are a mixed affair on this release though. The band seems to have decided what direction to follow at this time, but still seem to be exploring how to best utilize their musicianship in this style. Some really cheesy choruses are to be found here too; that probably sounded much better in 1983 than they do in 2007. There's quite a few goodies on this release though; and for many "The Trooper" is the absolute highlight on this release; a track combining the best parts of the sound Iron Maiden pursued before 1983 with some of the best parts the band would pursue after 1983.

IRON MAIDEN Powerslave

Album · 1984 · NWoBHM
Cover art 4.37 | 196 ratings
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Windhawk
Powerslave is the fifth studio album by legendary British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, and for many this release is seen as the peak of their career musically. With all members now having a minimum of one album and one tour under the belt, the band is very tight sounding. In addition they are more aware of what they want their music to sound like when recording in the studio, and main songwriter Steve Harris still has the ability to conjure up tracks containing slightly surprising creative elements.

Musically Iron Maiden now has developed a distinct style of their own. Small remnants of their early punk roots still remain, the heritage from 70's hard rock can still be heard in places; especially on a track like "2 Minutes to Midnight", but most times Iron Maiden now has a distinct, unique sound on this album. Fast paced riffing combined with slower, atmospheric riffs, harmonic riffs and extensive use of harmonic, melodic soloing are all trademarks of Iron Maidens sound here, as well as drums and bass at times played faster than the guitars; and the bass guitar being a central instrument in the soundscape of most songs. In addition to that, the song structures now begin showing influences from prog rock. The long epic "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is the prime example of that, but also a track like "Losfer Words"; where the band plays around with repeating themes and slight touches of dissonance; is a good example of that influence. The musical style is still heavy metal though; as the influence from progressive rock shows more in structure than in style.

The songs on "Powerslave" are mostly good. Title track "Powerslave" and the long epic "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" dominates the album, but most of the other tracks here are of high quality as well.

Overall this results in a classic heavy metal album; and is a worthwhile addition to most music collections.

IRON MAIDEN Somewhere In Time

Album · 1986 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.20 | 148 ratings
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Windhawk
Iron Maiden's sixth studio album "Somewhere in Time" is a heavily discussed album by fans of this legendary English band. It was very original in its day, as the band switched to synth guitars on this album and were among the first band to use that instrument in a way that enhanced their sound. At the same time the synth sounds alienated many fans, of which quite a few would say that this album showed a band in creative and musical decline.

Musically the band has perfected their sound on this album. The playing is tighter than the proverbial duck's arse, and the band members are experienced enough to add the extra touches to ordinary tunes to make them sound good, adding small nuances and touches in turn to make the songs sound interesting; as can best be heard on opening track "Caught Somewhere in Time". Adding the synth sounds to the music also elevates many tracks from the realm of the ordinary to something better, where the slightly softer edges of the synth guitar riffs adds flavout and atmosphere to Iron Maidens trademark harmonic and melodic soloing and riffing, and giving a warmer touch to Maidens pacey songs, where the fast paced bass guitar and drumming do sound better accompanied by the slightly softer synth guitars.

A new aspect to Iron Maiden's sound on this album, or at least an aspect much developed here, are several examples of songs where Bruce Dickinson's vocals are used as a melodic instrument in itself. These songs are rather monotone and repetitive apart from the soloing, and Dickinson's vocals carry as good as all melody in the singing parts of these songs. "Wasted Years" is a very good example of this. If this is planned or more an indirect result of the synth guitars slighter fuzzy sound is of course something that only can be speculated upon.

The influence from progressive rock continues on this album as well; an aspect of their music surfacing on their previous studio album "Powerslave". As with that album, in many songs the progressive elements are more to be found in structure than in actual playing; and the elements are most noticeable in the long, epic tracks on this release.

The individual songs on "Somewhere in Time" are a rather mixed affair. Although musically at their peak now in my opinion, the songs as such aren't as good as on previous albums. The creative well seems to have run dry; with fewer songs than normal containing original or really captivating elements.

The addition of the synth guitars to their sound as well as the band members ability to play on individual and collective strengths are the factors that elevate this album to an interesting, albeit varied, release.

Personal favourites: "Sea of Madness", "Deja Vu", "Alexander the Great"

IRON MAIDEN Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son

Album · 1988 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.18 | 171 ratings
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Windhawk
By 1988 British heavy metal band Iron Maiden had firmly established themselves as one of the major bands, perhaps even THE major band, in the heavy metal scene. Their seventh studio release; "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" is the last of what most would say are the classic Iron Maiden albums. It is a release loved by many and hated by some, and showed a band moving on from heavy metal to something else. A move that would be abruptly stopped after this release, sadly.

Musically Iron Maiden continues the transition they started with "Powerslave" and further explored on Somewhere in Time. The influences from progressive rock are if not stronger then at least easier recognizable on this release. The songs are more complex; with changes in style and tempo more radical than on past releases; the synth is more extensively used on this release; and is a vital aspect of the soundscapes in many songs here. In addition, the guitars are toned down making the music as such less "heavy" than before, and the individual instruments are used to create nuances and subtle moods quite a lot on this album.

The overall sound of most songs on this release are still heavy metal though, Maiden's by now typical fast paced drums, fast paced bass, pacey riffing varied with drawn out riffs, and the melodic and harmonic soloing are still very much present; but they are now used with in a slightly changed musical context; where progressive rock now seems to be the main influence.

But as with their previous release "Somewhere in Time" this evolved sound can only do so much with songs that aren't top notch. Although lyrically fitting within the concept story on this album; there are quite a few songs on this release that really doesn't manage to inspire. And even on the better songs, there are parts that deducts rather than adds to the overall quality of the song.

Still, there are quite a few good tracks on this release; tracks that are on par with he best Maiden wrote a few years earlier. On a varied release, my personal highlight is the title track; which in itself is almost a good enough reason to buy this release.

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