About MMA (intro)

METALMUSICARCHIVES.COM (MMA) intends to be a complete and powerful Metal music resource. You can find Metal artists discographies from 31152 bands & artists, 133562 releases, ratings and reviews from members who also participate in our forum.

metal music reviews (new releases)

ANGEL Risen

Album · 2019 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from MMA partners
Kev Rowland
Back in 1978 I was given a cassette by a mate of mine to see what I thought of the music. It was the new greatest hits collection by a band I had never heard of, and as this was a good old TDK-90 there were no images. I took it home and that night fell in love with the music of Kiss, and the compilation ‘Double Platinum’. It was quite a shock when I first saw what they looked like to be honest. As well as soon being a fully paid up member of the Kiss Army when it launched in the UK, I not only was wearing a denim jacket with Kiss emblazoned across the back, and buying every album I could find by the band, but was also seeking out bands that had some connection. That was how I came across Van Halen, but the band which really made the impact on me was Angel. Signed to the same label as Kiss due to being discovered by Gene Simmons, there was something about their melodic heavy keyboard-driven music which fascinated me. The first album I bought was ‘On Earth As It Is In Heaven’, but quickly realised that their masterpiece was ‘Heluuva Band’. Frank DiMino had an amazing voice, Punky Meadows had great licks while in Gregg Giuffria they had one of the greatest pomp keyboard players. But they burned hot and they burned fast, and by 1981 it was all over. Giuffria made a name for himself with his own band and in House of Lords, but I was saddened by the loss of the band who I felt never really gained the acclaim they deserved,

I never lost my love for Angel, and in the Nineties when my daughters were looking for a present for me, I asked for the import double CD set ‘Live Without A Net’. There was another album in 1999, but although singer Frank DiMino and drummer Barry Brandt gave it some authenticity it just didn’t have the impact or passion I expected. So when an email turned up in my inbox a few weeks ago offering me the new Angel album I was totally shocked as I wasn’t aware that Punky and Frank had been working together again after all this time as I thought that Punky had left the music business altogether. Checking the web I can see he did, but returned with an album in 2015 which featured among others Danny Farrow (rhythm guitar, vocals) and keyboard player Charlie Calv, who along with bassist Steve Ojane, and drummer Billy Orrico comprise the new line-up.

Even before I listened to it, I looked at the cover and it just made me smile. At the top there is the ambigrammatic logo (it looks the same upside down), and there are all the band dressed in white staring at the photographer, just as they did on all their original albums (apart from the debut). Punky just doesn’t look his 69 years, and if Zappa was still around today, I am sure he would enjoy penning a sequel to “Punky’s Whips”. If the cover took me back to being a teenager once again, the music did so even more. The keyboards aren’t quite so front and centre as they used to be, but Frank is singing as well as ever, and Punky is relishing the opportunity to be more central than when he was always vying with Gregg for musical dominance. There are also now two guitars in the line-up, whereas there only used to be one, so it is no surprise they have come more to the fore.

The production is superb, and the hooks are there for all to hear. It isn’t a perfect album, in that there are a few places where it drags, but if this was edited down to the length of their albums in the late Seventies then I am sure we would be asking exactly where it sits in the pantheon. Would it be above ‘Sinful’? Probably, but although it wouldn’t topple ‘Helluva Band’, it would be pushing hard. Talking of which, my favourite song from the band has always been “The Tower”, so I was somewhat surprised, and concerned, to see that they had decided to re-record that as the closer of the 17 numbers . The initial keyboards are quite different, but when the drums come in it is very close indeed to the original, but the band aren’t trying to recreate what was achieved back in 1976, but rather show they understand where they came from.

I have been listening to this a great deal, and while I am fully aware that is probably in many ways because I loved them so much some forty years ago, but this is a great album which certainly doesn’t sound as if they have been away for so long. Angel are still one helluva band.

HELLOWEEN United Alive

Movie · 2019 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from MMA partners
Kingcrimsonprog
Imagine a Judas Priest show with both Tim Ripper Owens and Rob Halford singing together. No wait… Imagine a Sepultura show with both Max Cavelera and Derick Green singing. No wait, that’s not even it. I’ve got it… Imagine an Iron Maiden show with Paul Dianno, Bruce Dickinson and Blaze Bailey all singing. Well, maybe, if Dickinson had left after four albums and Blaze had been there ever since. Ok, Now swap out the zombie mascot for some comedy pumpkins and you’re approaching the situation here. Helloween, one of Germany’s biggest and most important bands, one of the most iconic Power Metal bands in history, with one of the most impressive family trees (Gamma Ray, Masterplan, Freedom Call, Unisonic, Iron Savior etc) make one of the most anticipated decisions in the history of the genre.

Who is your favourite Helloween singer? Is it Kai Hansen, the heaviest singer and the original? Is it Michael Kiske, the most technically accomplished and the one from their most iconic record? Or is it Andi Deris, their best frontman and the singer on the most albums? – Turns out, now you don’t have to choose. United Alive, the live video from the Pumpkins United tour sees all three join the stage together, cracking out a career spanning mixture of material from the earliest thrashiest material to the modern gems, with all the iconic genre defining masterpieces from the peerless Keepers’ era sprinkled in too.

There are over 20 tracks here (some are intros and solos, and some are medleys/combinations, but still…) that’s a lot of Helloween. All three singers take it turns to sing. Sometimes not even a song each, but rather dividing it up section by section inside each song, or all at once. It is very welcome to hear them back on some of their own tracks like ‘Heavy Metal Is The Law’ after not hearing it on the other live videos, or ‘Dr. Stein’ after having heard only Deri’s take on it previously. Conversely it is very interesting to see Kai or Kiske sing on some of the big commercial ‘90s/’00s hits like ‘Perfect Gentleman’ or ‘If I Could Fly.’

There are often 7 members on stage at the one time (or 8 if you count the keyboardist, Eddy Wrapiprou). There’s Weikath and Grosskopft on guitar and bass as always. Sascha Gerstner and Daniel Löble on guitar and drums like the last several albums. And the three aforementioned singers (with Kai also playing guitar).

There’s a mix of footage, ranging from headline shows in Madrid, Spain to festival appearances at Wacken and in Brazil. Sort of like they did already on their previous ‘Legacy World Tour 2005/2006 DVD.

Normally I really prefer a concert DVD to come from one single show, rather than complied from a series of different dates in different places with different lighting, sound and camera work, but given that the band itself is now a compilation of past and present members and some of the songs included are medleys, I don’t know why but it just works here.

The band put on a great show. There’s a lot going on. There’s video screens, a big pumpkin stage set piece around the drum kit (which has 4 kickdrums for some reason, just to add to the over-the-top feel of it all), a light show, and a few cheesy moments like members coming out dressed in a top hat and cane, or raining pumpkin balloons.

Deris, ever the consummate front man is great at revving up the crowd, and then the different members get spotlights for certain tunes and join up on others, there’s prolonged solo segments, a tribute to late drummer Ingo Schichtenberg, its all very diverse and entertaining. They even do a stripped-down bare bones version of the ballad ‘Forever And One’ straight after a super heavy Walls Of Jericho/EP medley, which pretty much shows both polar opposites of the band’s varied discography.

There’s multiple different ways you can buy it. DVD, Blu Ray, combinations thereof. Versions with CDs. The version I got it two Blu Rays. One with the concert and one with a load of extra footage. There’s a few extra songs (Including the underrated ‘Kids Of The Century’ from the oft maligned Pink Bubbles Go Ape album). There’s a bunch of behind the scenes footage looking at various aspects of the tour and production. It comes in a nice shiny digi-book with some brief liner notes and a glossy photo booklet. You know, just as if it wasn’t value for money enough already with an almost three-hour concert of a Helloween fan’s wildest fantasy line-up.

As a concept you really have to hand it to them; its quite a clever move to reuinite with past members without losing current members as some fans never got over Kiske leaving the band or only ever even tried the Keepers albums. Some fans really love the Kai era and you never get to see Helloween play much material from it anymore (you only really get the chance if he chucks one in to a Gamma Ray show some time). Its a great idea to reel them back in and show them how great the Deris era can be too. Come for ‘Halloween’ and ‘Future World’ but stay for ‘Sole Survivor’ and ‘Power’ then learn to love the Deris era if you don’t already.

Thankfully though, its not just the concept that’s good. The whole package is good. The sound, footage, editing and bonus material. Most importantly though, the performance. It doesn’t come across as a novelty cash grab, it really feels like a jubilant celebration. As they say in the opening track ‘Halloween’ ”There’s magic in the air.” This may be cheesy to say (but hey, if you like Helloween, you better be used to cheesy) but it really is a heavy metal dream come true. Buy it!

OPETH In Cauda Venenum

Album · 2019 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.08 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
These days there are literally a gazillion metal bands that come and go with even some of the bigger names which often blur into the massive number of albums that emerge every single month and then there are bands like OPETH, a band that has become so legendary that it actually creates quite a stir even over two decades after the band’s debut with “Orchid.” This Swedish band founded by lead vocalist / guitarist / songwriter Mikael Åkerfeldt all the way back in 1989 has successfully straddled the fence between the disparate genera of death metal and progressive rock often blurring the distinctions. While fans on both sides of the fence have been routing for the band to take one path or the other, OPETH for the most part has successfully remained staunchly in hybrid mode at least until the last few albums.

While starting out as the former and taking the leap into the latter beginning with 2011’s “Heritage,” the group has successfully created some of the most lauded albums that decorate both the prog and metal top album lists and with the band’s 14th studio album IN CAUDA VENENUM (“Poison Of The Tail”), OPETH shows no signs of slowing down and have crafted yet another album of intricate melodies teased into progressive sprawlers that are bathed in aspects of psychedelic rock, folk rock and progressive metal. Only the growly vocal death metal elements have been jettisoned as OPETH has decloaked any traces of its earliest aggressive tendencies and have instead seemingly adopted the permanent features of clean vocal styles and King Crimsonian style prog rock circa the “Red” area. And still going strong which started all the way back in the very beginning are those beautiful arpeggiated acoustic guitar segments are still riding high in the mix.

OPETH tried something new on IN CAUDA VENENUM, which was somewhat common with Italian prog bands of the 70s but not so for the Scandinavian scene. This album has been released twice both in English and the band’s native Swedish. Despite the differences in language, the music is exactly the same and both albums clock in exactly at 67 minutes and 44 seconds. While the choice of language may appeal to some, for those like me who are less concerned about lyrics and much more into the compositional meat and potatoes, i personally don’t care if a song is titled “Universal Truth” or “Ingen Sanning Är Allas.” Having said that, Swedish is a beautiful language and although this review is based upon the English version of the album, i will inevitably want to absorb the majesty of an OPETH album in its native lingo. After all, Swedish is the language that sings and love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Åkerfeldt is one singing MF and becomes more nuanced with his vox box as time goes one.

After releasing “Sorceress,” the band received a lot of criticism for jettisoning too much metal and becoming just another retro prog band. Yeah, those metalheads can get really testy about things. Even on the prog side of the music world, they got shot down in some circles for not being original enough, by recycling 70s sounds and jumping on the bandwagon that seems to be all the rage today which may be fine for, let’s say a band like Wobbler, but for metal superstars like OPETH? No way, just ain’t cuttin’ it. IN CAUDA VENENUM corrects that faux pas and adds some extra metal oomf to the mix once again however in many regards, this album is a lot like “Sorceress” in that its progressive elements are the main focus, the clean vocals shine in the forefront and the music is lushly orchestrated to create pleasing atmospheric counterpoints to the folk-tinged melodic developments. As far as the psychedelic rock aspects are concerned, IN CAUDA VENENUM is drenched in piano, Fender Rhodes 88, harpsichords, Moogs, mellotron and a Hammond CD to boot.

The metal almost seems like an afterthought that is there solely to add a bombastic contrast to an otherwise super chill album. So much for the band’s original intent of becoming one of the most evil bands in the world. Now much closer to Pink Floyd than to Mayhem, OPETH seems to have nurtured this new path into the prog world quite well. IN CAUDA VENENUM is an amazingly consistent album that may be a much more metal-free zone than say albums like “Morningrise” or “Deliverance” but still manages to sneak in some ferocious guitar riffing and power chords amidst the proggy time signature rich passages as they tick off all the proper prog check lists.

Out of the newer OPETH albums that rely less on the metal aspects, IN CAUDA VENENUM is actually one of the most diverse of the lot so far expanding OPETH’s sounds into new arenas (such as the jazzy “The Garroter”) to the more familiar (which is most of the album.) One of the main tricks up Åkerfeldt’s sleeves has always been those appropriately placed classical guitar segments which tastefully starts off the album intro on “Garden Of Earthly Delights.” The twin guitar attacks of Åkerfeldt and Frederik Åkesson are still in action especially in the more metallic tracks like “Heart In Hand.” There are new developments in OPETH’s arsenal such as the overdubbed choir parts in “Dignity” and let’s face it lots and i do mean LOTS of organ parts. Despite scouring the periodic table to add as many metal elements as possible, IN CAUDA VENENUM is firmly in progressive rock territory with just a touch of heavier bombast to hopefully entice the older crowds into the new OPETH show.

On a personal level, OPETH has never been a top band in my reality but i am amazed at how consistent the quality of the material is on every single album in its long never-ending canon and therefore they have my utmost respect and admiration. Åkerfeldt was born to bring to life catchy yet proggy tunes that while crafting the instant ear worms of pop music still have quite the catchiness factor even if it takes a few spins to sink in. Whether OPETH is in full death metal regalia or simply taking a siesta in organ drenched prog makes no difference to me personally. I find the Jekyll & Hyde peekaboo act to be amusing since the band so successfully masters both styles quite well and on IN CAUDA VENENUM, the band seems to find new ways of incorporating both aspects into a cohesive whole without deviating from the current trajectory of settling on the prog side of the equation.

IN CAUDA VENENUM will surely not win over those who ditched the band when “Heritage” declared the new OPETH was in town but it certainly won’t disappoint those who have been digging the recent prog albums such as “Pale Communion” and “Sorceress.” While taking cues from both, this one moves on into ever more diverse pastures and the great thing about OPETH is that it is a band that no matter what criticism is heaped upon it, is never afraid to just sally forth in whichever direction the musicians feel it right for them. While IN CAUDA VENENUM will receive ample amounts of hate from metalhead purists and equal amounts of love from retro-proggers, taken as a work of art, IN CAUDA VENENUM is a compelling album with rich seductive melodies and intricately crafted musical developments. Another excellent album in the OPETH camp.

DRAGONFORCE Extreme Power Metal

Album · 2019 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.21 | 3 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
DippoMagoo
“Extreme” and “Power Metal” generally aren’t words one would expect to see placed together, as the genre is generally known to be on the light, catchy and fun side of things, as far as metal goes, and yet one band has deemed themselves as being so daring, so adventurous and so far ahead of the pack, that their music is worthy of being called “Extreme Power Metal.” That band is, of course, British band Dragonforce, who has always been a very divisive band, most notably for the fact that their first big success came when their song “Through the Fire and the Flames” was included in Guitar Hero III. Jokes aside, though, while the band is certainly an acquired taste, they picked up a rather large fan base over the years, releasing seven albums to date, with each of them being highly enjoyable. While I’ve always struggled with some of the band’s earlier works, I’ve been very pleased with their past three releases, especially Maximum Overload, and so I always look forward to hearing more from them. Their eighth full-length release, the indeed boldly titled “Extreme Power Metal”, is almost upon us, and it sure lives up its name, as it’s equal parts extremely fun, extremely fast, extremely catchy, extremely melodic and extremely cheesy, in all the best ways possible!

For better or worse, Extreme Power Metal represents everything Dragonforce stands for, while at the same time allowing a bit of room for experimentation, so listeners can certainly expect a ton of very high speed, high energy power metal, with some heavy riffs, some insanely upbeat melodies, some excellent choruses, some occasional cheesy moments, some very retro sounding keyboards, and of course some very lengthy, technically impressive instrumental sections. There has been one lineup change since the release of Reaching Into Infinity, that being the departure of longtime keyboardist Vadim Pruzhanov, and while he hasn’t been officially replaced yet, the band brought in Epica’s Coen Janssen to record the keyboards for this release, and obviously his contributions are excellent, and very much up to par with what fans would expect. If anything, he at times give the music even more of a cheesy, 80’s feel than ever before, which fits in perfectly with the overall direction of the album.

All musicians are in top form, with dual guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman delivering the same blistering leads, glorious melodies and insanely impressive solos they have always been known for, while the keyboards are cheesy but very effective, and everything sounds perfect, as always. Vocalist Marc Hudson is also in top form, at this point proving himself to an excellent power metal vocalist, being equal parts intense and epic at times, while also being able to sing very smoothly during some surprisingly soft tracks. In fact, contrary to what the name might suggest, this album is actually fairly tame at points, with some slower than average Dragonforce tracks, including a couple of ballads, both of which are excellent, emotional and driven by incredible performances, both from the musicians and from Marc, who just sounds incredible on both songs. Otherwise, fans can still expect plenty of high octane power metal moments, as well as some rather surprising moments on a couple of tracks, which help bring the “Extreme” part of the name back into focus. Overall, the songwriting isn’t quite perfect, but there’s certainly a lot of variety, compared to some Dragonforce albums, and the band has struck a nice balance between the overall simplified, more melodic approach of their first two albums with Marc, and the more extreme, adventurous sound of their first four albums. I’d say this album is slightly more accessible and less complex than Reaching Into Infinity, but it still has a ton of stuff going on, and there are quite a few fresh ideas here, while still giving longtime fans everything they want to hear.

Songwriting is an area where the band has greatly improved over the years, managing to make their last three albums more varied than their first four, while still providing a ton of fun, speedy power metal, and this latest release is no exception. Starting things off is lead single “Highway to Oblivion”, which starts off with a very light, keyboard-driven vocal section, before the guitars kick in and the track quickly speeds up and turns into a very classic Dragonforce sounding song, except with a much stronger chorus than most of their earlier songs had, while also having the kind of frantic, super intense verses fans are used to. It’s a very speedy, very melodic track, and while it’s fairly straight-forward overall, it does have a rather lengthy instrumental section in the middle, where the two guitarists show off their skills. Overall, it’s exactly what fans of the band would expect, and it opens the album up with a huge bang! Next is “Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shredding Machine”, which opens up with a nice guitar melody, as well as some rather cheesy retro sounding keys. The track has a slight symphonic influence, while still being another blazing fast power metal track, with more heavy riffs, fun verses and one of the best choruses on the entire album, where Marc shines, especially near the end, where he hits some very impressive high notes. The instrumental section in the middle is unsurprisingly amazing and has some very retro sounding keys, that almost sound like they came from an NES videogame, which is pretty neat. It’s another excellent track, overall, and one of my personal favorites.

Another personal favorite is “The Last Dragonborn”, the first of two ballads on the album. One would expect a band like Dragonforce to shy away from ballads, but they’ve proven themselves to be pretty good at them, with the likes of “Trail of Broken Hearts” from Inhuman Rampage and “Silence” from Reaching Into Infinity. However, this track is a big step above those two, as it’s a surprisingly beautiful track, with some wonderful melodic guitar work (including the expected excellent instrumental section), as well as some epic symphonic elements, but the two biggest highlights of the track are the unbelievably epic chorus, which Marc absolutely slays, and the overall feel of the track, which has some nice Japanese folk melodies. It’s certainly not something I ever expected to hear from the band, but they nailed it, as the Japanese melodies sound incredible and help give the track a distinct feel, while everything else is executed to perfection. Over the years, I’ve heard some very weak ballads, some solid ballads, and even some great ballads, but I rarely hear a ballad I’d consider my favorite track on an album, which makes “The Last Dragonborn” a rare exception, as it’s just such an absolute masterpiece of a track, I can’t help but wanna listen to it over and over again, sometimes even repeating it while listening to the album.

Following up that impossibly good track, second single “Heart Demolition” is perhaps my least favorite on the album, though it’s still an excellent track, with a few rather surprising moments (plus the video for it is absolutely hilarious and totally worth looking up on Youtube!) The track moves at more of a moderate pace, and the guitar tone during the verses actually reminds me a bit of some Dream Theater tracks, though this quickly changes, as the pace picks up and the riffs become more intense in the second half of the verses.

The one part of the track I don’t love is the build-up to the chorus, which has a bit of a classic hard rock feel to it, and I find this rather annoying. The chorus is excellent, though, with a bit of an upbeat 80’s pop feel to it, and Marc, of course, nails the vocals. Overall, the track is a lot of fun and feels fresh, while still having that distinct Dragonforce sound, so even though it’s not one of my favorites, I’m still glad the band made it. Next is “Troopers of the Stars”, which opens up with a rather surprising sequence, with some screams, some thrashy guitar work, and some intense blast beats, which do feel a bit “Extreme”. Following that, the band uses some epic keys and an incredibly epic, upbeat vocal section, which quickly launches into the opening verse, where the band goes full speed ahead, with more heavy riffs, uplifting melodies, and some intense drumming. The chorus is the kind of super cheesy, upbeat and just pure fun the band is known for, and while the track is full of cheese, it always puts a smile on my face, and is probably my favorite of the speedier songs on the album, with the instrumental section in the second half, in particular, feeling like one of the most inspired sequences on the album.

The momentum keeps up with “Razorblade Meltdown” and “In a Skyforged Dream”, which are two more super speedy, hard-hitting tracks, filled with epic melodies, impressive guitar work, and super fun, catchy choruses. They’re pretty much exactly what Dragonforce fans would expect, and are both excellent tracks. In between those is “Strangers”, a bit of an oddball track, in that it’s fairly slow-paced and very keyboard-driven, with modern electronic keys dominating throughout, while the guitars generally provide rhythm and not much else, aside from the usual instrumental section. I find the verses a tad boring, though they get the job done fine enough, while the chorus starts slow, but speeds up a bit as it goes along, becoming extremely epic in the process. The track has a strong 80’s pop feel to it and feels like one of the more adventurous tracks on the album, and while it’s not exactly what I was expecting, it’s a lot of fun.

Coming towards the end of the album, “Remembrance Day” is the second ballad, which starts with some very epic bagpipes. The track has a pretty epic feel to it, overall, with some awesome melodies throughout, and while it lacks the unique feel of “The Last Dragonborn”, it makes up for it with some very impressive guitar work, some strong symphonic elements, and another awe-inspiring chorus, where Marc really shines, as he pours a ton of emotion into the track. For a band not known for ballads, this album sees them going 2 for 2, not just for making “good” ballads, but for making amazing ones, so that’s quite a pleasant surprise! Speaking of ballads, the band chose to close the album out with a cover of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie Titanic, and while the opening teases at a soft, keyboard-driven track, the pace rapidly increases in a hurry, and it turns into the kind of super fun cover they did with Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” in 2014, taking a song from a totally different genre, and expertly turning it into one of their own tracks, managing to nail the overall melody of the track, while putting their unique touches on it, and flawlessly executing it within their own style. It’s certainly an impressive cover, as well as an extremely fun way to end the album.

In spite of its rather comical name, Extreme Power Metal is yet another excellent Dragonforce album, and one which at times feels like a victory lap, with the band fully demonstrating everything their fans have come to expect from them, while at other times it takes some chances, going in some rather surprising directions, with almost everything working out very well. Obviously, I expect to see a lot of people poking fun at that name (and the band in general), but while the album really doesn’t feel all that “Extreme”, it is an excellent, surprisingly varied album, with a tons of speedy, hard-hitting power metal, as well as some lighter, more melodic tracks and two amazing ballads, and of course everything is brought together by the usual mix of excellent musicianship and fantastic vocals. Fans of the band should be most pleased with this release, and I think it would make a great starting point for newcomers, as it showcases everything the band is great at, while also having some surprises. I think Maximum Overload is still my favorite Dragonforce album, just for how consistently perfect it is, but this release isn’t too far behind, and it continues the band’s winning streak, which started with The Power Within.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/09/23/dragonforce-extreme-power-metal-review/

CULT OF LUNA A Dawn To Fear

Album · 2019 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from MMA partners
adg211288
A Dawn to Fear (2019) is the eighth full-length studio album by Swedish atmospheric sludge metal act Cult of Luna. As their last album Mariner (2016) was a collaboration effort with vocalist Julie Christmas (Battle of Mice, Made Out of Babies), A Dawn to Fear marks the first 'pure' Cult of Luna studio album since Vertikal (2013). It is a double album consisting of eight tracks, most of them lengthy, with half passing ten minutes each. The total length just passes 79 minutes, which is actually about what a standard CD can handle at a push, but I guess the decision was made to play it safe from a technical point of view, since I have heard of CDs having playback issues on their final tracks when the maximum duration is reached. Still, it's on the line enough to avoid accusations of passing a single album off as a double, unlike the couple of minutes shorter Hardwired... To Self-Destruct (2016) by Metallica, which really should have been a single CD, not a double with a double's price to go with it.

But even if it would fit on a single disc, we can forgive Cult of Luna more than we can Metallica, because unlike the legendary on/off thrash metal band, Cult of Luna has delivered exactly what any fan of the band would have wanted in A Dawn to Fear. This could possibly be their best album to date, which is coming from someone who was so blown away by Mariner that he had to confess to wishing several times that Cult of Luna + Julie Christmas would become a permanent thing. Then they release this. The kind of album that immediately grabs your attention and drags you down into its atmospheric sludge metal and softer post-rock passages, leaving you submerged in it's sound, which is distinctly that of Cult of Luna even if the only prior album you've heard happens to be Mariner, for its duration and only allowing you to surface upon its conclusion. A conclusion which seems to come around much sooner than it's near eighty minute length would suggest it should.

On a personal level I first heard Cult of Luna's music with Vertikal. That album was very likely also my first taste of the atmospheric sludge metal style. It quickly became an album I enjoyed very much, but it was only with Mariner that I started to really pay attention to how good the band actually was. I've since been back and heard fan favourite albums Salvation (2004) and Somewhere Along the Highway (2006), both of which are also excellent releases that cement Cult of Luna's reputation as the world's premium, not just atmospheric sludge, but sludge metal in general, act. It's to my own detriment that, including A Dawn to Fear, my knowledge of the band's catalogue only extends to just over half the the studio albums.

Mariner has, in the few years since it's release, become one of only a few albums released since that time that is still in a fairly regular rotation for me. It has that indescribable something that keeps pulling me back. While it is still early days, I can't see that A Dawn to Fear is going to be any different in that regard. Mariner was a grower; the kind of album you suddenly realise is one of your favourites. A Dawn to Fear is instant satisfaction. There was never any doubt in my mind that it would be good, but this good? Truth be told, it's single-handed got me out of a slump regarding new music. This is actually the first review I have written since November 2018. That's how good it is.

Saying any more about the album's specifics feels like I would be doing an injustice to the experience that Cult of Luna has created in this album. A Dawn to Fear offers up tracks that are each substantial enough to be taken as individual entities but like with many atmospheric albums it's surely best taken as a whole rather than try to pick it apart as say this song or that song is a highlight. If you've listened to the band before at any point in their now twenty+ year long career, even if you only came to them on Mariner through Julie Christmas, then stop everything and do yourself a solid: buy A Dawn to Fear immediately. For this listener's money, it's quite likely the album of 2019.

See more metal music reviews (new releases)

metal music reviews (older releases)

METALLICA All Nightmare Long

Single · 2008 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.08 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
martindavey87
One of the best tracks from 2008’s ‘Death Magnetic’, an album brimming with great songs, ‘All Nightmare Long’ rightfully received a single release and a promotional video, and as is always the case with Metallica, there’s multiple versions and discs.

This one, disc one of a three-disc set, features the titular track, as well as live versions of ‘Wherever I May Roam’ and ‘Master of Puppets’. Two exceptional tracks in themselves, overall, this single release doesn’t really offer anything new, however.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the two live tracks, just that we’ve heard countless different live versions of them by now, that as great as the compositions are, there’s nothing remotely notable about these two recordings in particular. Still, they’re great songs, so whatever. And the title track is amazing, full of twists and turns, with some breakneck speed guitar riffs and Hetfield’s voice sounding the best it has sounded in years. If nothing else, ‘All Nightmare Long’ is a great little nugget for fans and collectors.

NICKELBACK Here and Now

Album · 2011 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 2.77 | 11 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
martindavey87
2011’s ‘Here and Now’ is the seventh studio album by Canadian rockers Nickelback, and yep, you guessed it, it’s similar to their previous few releases. But is that such a bad thing? The band have sold millions of albums and toured the world over, so they must be doing something right. They have a winning formula and they’ve stuck with it. Radio-friendly enough for the casual listener yet rocking enough for metal fans. Those willing to give the band a chance, that is. As is usually the case by now, the band can be hard and heavy enough for rock fans, yet some softer ballads allow the band to garner radio airplay. The production is top-notch, giving the band a full sound which really makes the rockier songs heavy as hell and gives the soft pop songs a warm, vibrant feel.

The lyrics, as always, range from the usual rock debauchery to more introspective and reflective themes. Sex, women and parties are usually at the top of the bill, but there are themes of unity, suicide and dependence too. For the most part, they’re usually a fine old slab of cheese, but anyone willing to dig a little deeper can see that occasionally the band can have something meaningful or poignant to say.

While Nickelback will never be known specifically for virtuoso musicianship, there’s no denying their penchant for writing catchy and memorable songs, and with beastly guitar riffs and pounding drums aplenty, there’s an abundance of quality material here. The likes of ‘This Means War’, ‘Bottoms Up’, ‘Lullaby’, ‘Kiss It Goodbye’, ‘When We Stand Together’ and ‘Trying Not to Love You’ are all exceptional rock songs that are certainly worth a listen or two. And while ‘Here and Now’ may not be anything groundbreaking or innovative, the truth is, it doesn’t need to be. This is good, quality hard rock at its finest.

NOTHINGFACE Violence

Album · 2000 · Nu Metal
Cover art 4.62 | 6 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
Unitron
"FUCK, SCRAPE OUT HIS EYES"

Violence, fitting for its album title, is one of the most genuinely aggressive albums out there. The pure unbridled rage that Nothingface exudes is both blood-pumping and cathartic, with some added melodies to create an effective contrast. The aggression and heaviness never take a back seat though, it all works perfectly together.

The massive grooves bring the hooks to reel you in, but the late vocalist Matt Holt is perhaps the biggest highlight of the album. He screams out some of the most seriously angry vocals I've heard, to the point that he can sound legitimately intimidating. Songs like Make Your Own Bones, Same Solution, Can't Wait for Violence, and especially Hidden Hands, show someone that you don't want to mess with. Lines like "YEAH, YOU'll DIE YOU FUCKING BITCH" from Same Solution and the aforementioned lyric from Hidden Hands that opens this review are some of the most intense moments in metal history.

Coupled with the minimalist yet threatening Roy Lichtenstein-esque album cover, this is as intensive as music gets.

RAZOR Custom Killing

Album · 1987 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.54 | 4 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
Unitron
It's easy to think that this was Razor going prog going in blind just looking at those two 11-minute long songs, but there's none of that here. Survival of the Fittest and Last Rites are just hook after hook as with the rest of the album. This is actually Razor at their most aggressive, humorous, and attitude-filled. Everything that makes thrash great.

Funnily enough, despite being the frontman, guitarist Dave Carlo is the least important thing to what carries this album. He's a good guitarist and the riffs are great, but the vocals and rhythm section is what takes this to new levels. Sheepdog is either almost out-sneering Dave Mustaine or screeching like a madman. Mike Campagnolo's bass is either rumbling in the background or grooving up front and personal, while M-Bro drums with pure force. His cymbal work gives some real texture that isn't common, while the production brings so much more impact by accentuating certain drum parts. Just listen to Shootout for this and the epitome of thrash metal.

While often considered Razor's worst album for some bizarre reason, Custom Killing presents Razor at their best. Violent Restitution is close, but this album has the edge. The production is one of the best in thrash, especially with bringing the bass and drums to the forefront. If Dave Carlo can't stand this album, maybe Sheepdog should just get with Campagnolo and M-Bro then find another guitarist and get back to this pure attitude and aggression.

ACCEPT Russian Roulette

Album · 1986 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.04 | 37 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
Unitron
Tied with Breaker as Accept's best album, though best for different reasons. Breaker is a fantastic album for the pure raw edge of a band fed up with record labels telling them what to do and breaking through into their own sound (Perhaps the reason for the title?). Russian Roulette, on the other hand, is a fantastic album for how it sounds like a band that's taken on the world and delivers metal anthems with an introspective wisdom.

It's an amazingly crafted album, as it instantly hooks you with the infectious catchiness alone and gargantuan drums, with the title track even maybe beating their classic Balls to the Wall in triumphant power. However, the lyrics and melodies show a band with a lot more emotion than many gave them credit for. The aforementioned title track is a more effective song against war than most, taking it on a more personal level of a soldier rather than just saying "people die". Also, Accept's probably the only band who could write a song called Man Enough to Cry that's great and not a sappy hair band ballad.

I love every song on here, though my favorites are definitely Monsterman, the title track, Heaven is Hell, Walking in the Shadow, and Man Enough to Cry (Which actually kind of reminds me of Dio-era Rainbow with the riffs). These have some especially amazing group vocal choruses. Such an incredibly underrated album, and not only tied with Breaker as Accept's best, but also one of the absolute best 80's heavy metal albums out there.

ELOY Performance

Album · 1983 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.70 | 8 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
Unitron
Among the many bands that made the transition from the 70's to the 80's, Eloy was one of the best at adapting to the new decade. They perfected their space rock/heavy metal hybrid in the 70's with the trilogy of Inside, Floating, and Power and the Passion, and with Performance they perfect a new sound appropriate for the decade.

Performance, as well as the equally excellent follow up Metromania, are a bit hard to pin down as far as genre goes, but they're so wonderfully 80's in the best ways. It's basically a combination of multiple 80's sounds, from new wave to the new wave of heavy metal, it's made to fit Eloy's own mold. Opener In Disguise is a fantastic piece of 80's new wave-tinged hard rock, and is what should've actually been Top Gun's theme song. Shadow and Light has some great metal riffing, Mirador is an instrumental dominated by bass and synth interplay, Heartbeat and Fools are more fantastic 80's new wave rock, and A Broken Frame closes out the album in a majestic fashion.

The best part about this album is just how electrified and energetic the band sounds. Even a song like Surrender which is just drenched in 80's cheese, turns into a total bop with how much these guys are having fun. It translates to the listener so well, it feels like I'm watching these guys on stage at a big arena.

Is it 70's heavy space rock? No, but it has no reason to be. If you want that, there's the fantastic albums they did in the 70's for that. It still sounds like Eloy, just with a new sound that fits the decade much better.

FU MANCHU Daredevil

Album · 1995 · Stoner Rock
Cover art 4.71 | 3 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
Unitron
If there's any band where the term desert rock perfectly applies, it's Fu Manchu. Their sound is all about driving dune buggies and convertibles on southern dirt roads and beach corners, crankin' your tunes, and just enjoying the summertime ride. No summertime blues here, other than the Blue Cheer distortion.

If you're looking for something more anthemic, California Crossing is the better album, but Daredevil is equally fantastic. It's basically 60's/70's heavy metal, but with the doom replaced with driving around. There's also some subtle space rock influence, in songs like Travel Agent, Sleestak, and Space Farm, but they're used as just nice embellishments to create a fuller sound.

Scott Hill's deadpan vocal delivery is probably the most iconic thing about the band, and this may be their album with the most fuzzy distortion, so it's all at its complimentary best. Like desert atmospheres, fast cars, distortion, and heavy riffs? If so, you can't go wrong here.

PESTILENCE Consuming Impulse

Album · 1989 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.96 | 24 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
Unitron
Anxious, disturbing, manic.

Never has any album invoked real horror and anxiety more than Pestilence's Consuming Impulse. Instrumentally, it's an incredible album with fantastic hooks, thrashing rage, screaming solos, and all that is essential to death metal. Out of the Body and Reduced to Ashes especially have absolutely crushing grooves. However, the vocals are what takes it to a whole new level of what death metal can be.

On every song, every vocal, Martin van Drunen sounds like he's screaming for his life and there's nobody there to save him from all the torment. Dehydrated is about dying in a barren desert, The Trauma is self-explanatory, Out of the Body seems to be about having your body infested with parasites, Chronic Infection about having an incurable disease, and Echoes of Death is probably the most emotionally powerful song about death I've ever heard.

This is truly a one-of-a-kind album, and is one of the most passionate performances I've ever heard. It's a shame Pestilence were never able to make anything like it again, but they really couldn't do it without Drunen.

PANTERA Vulgar Display of Power

Album · 1992 · Groove Metal
Cover art 4.12 | 74 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
Unitron
Nothing hits harder than this album when one's pissed off or overwhelmed with emotions and it works every time. It's an instant surge of energy, and before you know it the album's finished and you feel empowered.

There's not a single dud on here, there isn't even a song that's less memorable. Of course you have the metal anthem that is Walk, but the whole album is an anthem of metal spirit. Phil Anselmo is unmatched in gruff screams, with only John Bush (Anthrax) and John Tardy (Obituary) coming close to the unhinged forcefulness. Dimebag is for good reason well respected for his solo skills, but also of note is how heavy of a sound he gives the band from being the only guitarist. Last but not least the rhythm section is among the best, it's just hook after hook and even during a solo there's something groovy in the background.

Also, it's possibly the album cover best representative of the music inside, just one forceful punch to the face that lasts for a fantastic 52 minutes. If asked to pick a top five albums of all time, this would definitely be one of those.

SWORD Metalized

Album · 1986 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.67 | 8 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
Unitron
There's a certain sound and forcefulness that needs to be expected when faced with an album cover that's an extreme close up of a double-barrel that's ready to fire. Thankfully Sword (Not to be confused with stoners The Sword) does more than just deliver.

On Metalized, Sword strike a perfect balance of 70's styled heavy metal, the anthemic sound of the 80's, and just a dash of thrash. Vocalist Rick Hughes always has great melody, but his screams are out of this world making Dare to Spit sound like an actual dare. Almost every song sounds vicious and biting, yet some haunting harmonies in Children of Heaven and Evil Spell add an extra flavor.

Dan Hughes's gargantuan drums give the album a massive sound, and especially Stoned Again becomes a metal monolith along with the heavy bass tones. Obviously the album is full of great riff hooks as well, especially the thrashing Stuck in Rock.

It's a perfect balance of melody and grit in this hidden 80's metal classic.

See all metal music reviews (old + new)

MMA TOP 5 Metal ALBUMS

Rating by members, ranked by custom algorithm
Albums with 30 ratings and more
Master of Puppets Thrash Metal
METALLICA
Buy this album from our partners
Moving Pictures Hard Rock
RUSH
Buy this album from our partners
Rust in Peace Thrash Metal
MEGADETH
Buy this album from our partners
Powerslave NWoBHM
IRON MAIDEN
Buy this album from our partners
Dirt Alternative Metal
ALICE IN CHAINS
Buy this album from our partners

New Metal Artists

New Metal Releases

MetAlmighty Power Metal
MAGIC KINGDOM
Buy this album from MMA partners
Black Anima Alternative Metal
LACUNA COIL
Buy this album from MMA partners
Violet Hour Stoner Metal
ALUNAH
Buy this album from MMA partners
Primal Future: 2019 Thrash Metal
TOXIC HOLOCAUST
Buy this album from MMA partners
Collision Course Hard Rock
VANTAGE POINT
Buy this album from MMA partners
More new releases

New Metal Online Videos

Avandra - Ubiquitous
AVANDRA
Tupan· 17 hours ago
More videos

New MMA Metal Forum Topics

More in the forums

New Site interactions

More...

Latest Metal News

members-submitted

More in the forums

Social Media

Follow us

Buy Metal Music Online