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AMBERIAN DAWN Darkness of Eternity

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 2 ratings
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DippoMagoo
Finnish symphonic power metal band Amberian Dawn has long been one of my favorites in the genre, but at the same time, I’ve always felt they had potential to be even better than they are if they could just be a bit more consistent with their songwriting quality. They’ve released some excellent albums in the past, to be sure, with 2009’s The Clouds of Northland Thunder, 2011’s Circus Black and 2015’s Innuendo being my personal favorites. However, I find even their best albums always manage to fit in one or two tracks that don’t quite do it for me, as the band often goes for some oddball tracks, some of which deliver big time and end up as major highlights, while others fall flat and end up stalling momentum on their respective albums. I’ve said all this to say, out of every album Amberian Dawn has released so far, Darkness of Eternity, their seventh full-length release, and one I was highly anticipating, is easily their most frustrating, inconsistent release to date, with some tracks that match their career highlights, while others simply feel odd and out of place on a metal album, and it all makes for a release where you can have songs placed together that conflict with each other and are so strikingly different, it feels like you suddenly switched to a different album. With all that being said, the high points of the album are good enough to make it easily worth enduring the low points, and it’s still a quality album overall, but it’s also incredibly frustrating.

Every Amberian Dawn album to date has a had a mix of different styles, ranging from speedy symphonic power metal with excellent guitar riffs and epic keyboard solos, to slower, more theatrical tracks, all while mixing in some classical flavoring throughout. All of this is true on Darkness of Eternity, however, while the speedy power metal portions are still intact on a few tracks here, a couple of which can be considered among the band’s best work to date, I find some of the slower songs here to be a bit off-putting and not really in line with what I want from the band. Obviously, they’ve never been the heaviest, most guitar-driven band in the world, as keyboards and orchestras have always been the most dominant elements of their music, however, some of the tracks here fall into straight up 80’s pop territory. Again, this is something they’ve briefly hinted at on past albums, with “The Court of Mirror Hall” from Innuendo being perhaps the most obvious example, but even a track like that felt more metal and more epic than a few of the tracks on this album. Take, for example, the second track, “Sky Is Falling”, a track dominated by bouncy vocal hooks, cheesy, pop-inspired keyboard lines and a catchy, overly pop-infused chorus. There’s absolutely nothing in that track I consider metal in any form, and even the brief flashes of guitar work sound so light as to have no effect, plus I don’t even notice any symphonic elements at all, effectively making the track feel more like a dance-pop track than anything else. I will admit, it’s a decent track in its own right, but I really don’t think it belongs on a metal album, even coming from a band that tends to stay on the lighter side of the genre most of the time. The song especially feels out of place when coming after such a classic sounding power metal track like “I’m the One”, and it’s the first sign that band leader Tuomas Seppälä is perhaps overreaching a bit in his attempts to be creative and ambitious.

Moving onto the biggest positive element of the album, Capri’s vocals remain as strong as they’ve been since she first took over vocal duties on the excellent re-recordings compilation Re-Evolution in 2013. As always, her voice is very powerful and deeper than many other female vocalists in symphonic bands, and she sounds as impressive as ever, be it during the heavier tracks like “I’m the One” and “Dragonflies”, or the lighter, more pop-infused tracks, all while sounding as varied in her approach as ever. In fact, she briefly does some semi-operatic vocals on “I’m the One”, making it an instant highlight. She’s also very effective on the two ballads, as expected, and her vocals are definitely the band’s biggest strength at this point.

Unfortunately, the area where the album struggles the most is in perhaps the most important area of all, that being the songwriting. The band at least gets things off to an exciting start with “I’m the One”, a very speedy, classic sounding symphonic power metal track with some excellent guitar leads, epic symphonic arrangements, a huge, catchy chorus with awesome operatic vocals, and an amazing keyboard solo. For all the flaws in the songwriting department, the band still displays some great musicianship throughout the album and this track is certainly one of the best examples of that. It’s also extremely catchy, while still sounding metal and it would definitely feel right at home on one of the band’s earlier albums. While that song is probably my personal favorite here, “Dragonflies” isn’t too far behind. It has some pretty heavy guitar work throughout, with a darker feel than many of the other tracks, though Capri’s vocals still help add a lighter tone to the track, and she excels throughout as always. It has incredible instrumental sections, with some very chunky guitar riffs and epic orchestras accompanying an excellent keyboard solo, and of course, the chorus is spectacular as well. From a purely instrumental standpoint, I think this is probably the best track on the album, and I love how the guitar manages to have come excellent neoclassical flavoring while still being very heavy. Also in the speedier category, are“Golden Coins” and “Abyss”, with the former again having a very classic Amberian Dawn vibe throughout, with epic keyboards and some very impressive, classical flavored melodies, while the latter is brief but very fun and perhaps the speediest track on the album, with some more excellent keyboard work and vocals.

On the slower side of things, we start with the previously mentioned “Sky is Falling”. I’ve already mentioned why I’m not so fond of it, with the biggest reason being that it really throws off the pacing, being thrown in there right next to such epic speedy tracks as “I’m the One” and “Dragonflies”. Well, I wish I could say it was one-speed bump and that the album fully recovered afterward, but sadly that would be a lie. Two tracks later, we get lead single “Maybe”, another very pop inspired track, with some cheesy keyboards, bouncy vocal lines, a catchy chorus and a general lack of anything resembling metal. Again, I know the band has done tracks like this in the past, but this feels very pop like even by their standards, and while I do slightly notice symphonic elements on this track, they aren’t enough to prevent it from having an “Abba with guitars” feel, and the thing is, if I wanted to hear dance pop, I’d listen to dance pop, not a symphonic power metal album. Even worse, the track feels like it’s cut off at the end, as the keyboard lines simply fade out instead of actually reaching a conclusion. I’ll admit it’s certainly a catchy and well-written track, but it simply isn’t what I want from the band, and that ending does come across as a bit sloppy.

Moving into the second half, there are two ballads and two tracks which feel like a blend between the two dominant styles on the album. Firstly, “Luna My Darling” is a pretty solid track, starting with an epic vocal section before moving onto some bouncy, pop-infused melodies during the verses, which give way to a slightly heavier, more epic chorus. The highlight of the track is in the second half when the music speeds up and we get epic dueling guitar/keyboard solos. See, if I’m going to get obvious pop elements in my symphonic metal, I prefer it to be done in this way, as at least this track has a nice blend of both pop and power metal, and is a nice track overall. Similarly, “Ghostwoman” is a speedy track, which also has a power metal feel to it, though it sounds a lot bouncier than the other up-tempo tracks on the album, especially during the verses, and even the chorus is pretty pop like as well. It’s a fun track, and the chorus is very catchy, though not really one of my favorites. The highlight is the epic guitar solo in the second half.

Lastly, we have the two ballads which close out the album. Yes, just in case the overall flow of the album wasn’t already completely out of whack, the band decided to end with not one ballad, but two ballads! First is “Breathe Again” which starts out slowly and calmly, serving as an excellent showcase for Capri’s vocals, before the music picks up in the second half, with some epic orchestral arrangements and some heavier guitar work at points. It’s an excellent track overall and probably the better of the two ballads. After that, we have the closing title track, which also happens to be the second part of “Symphony Nr.1”, the epic sequence the band started on Innuendo. Where part 1 was an epic, complex symphonic metal track, with many twists and turns, this track is a pure ballad throughout, with some nice classical piano serving as the main focus, though there are also some nice orchestral elements in the background. Capri does a wonderful job as always, and it’s a nice track overall, but because part 1 was so epic and especially because this one serves as a title track, I was expecting a bit more from the track overall.

And that about sums up my feelings towards Darkness of Eternity on the whole: It’s a nice enough album, which at times has some big standout moments that equal some of the band’s best works, but overall it’s simply a messy, inconsistent album that left me wanting a whole lot more. Power metal fans, in particular, are likely to have mixed feelings, as “I’m the One” and “Dragonflies” are sure to get them excited, while many of the more pop-infused tracks are likely to frustrate them just like they frustrate me, and the overall focus on bouncy keyboards over epic symphonic arrangements on many tracks here is a rather puzzling choice, as is the decision to end an already oddly paced album with two ballads. Overall, longtime fans are sure to find some songs here to be satisfying, but I consider this to be Amberian Dawn’s weakest album to date, and I have a hard time recommending it to my fellow metal fans.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2017/11/12/amberian-dawn-darkness-eternity-review/

BELL WITCH Mirror Reaper

Album · 2017 · Funeral Doom Metal
Cover art 3.99 | 4 ratings
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adg211288
US funeral doom metal duo had released just two full-length albums, Longing (2012) and Four Phantoms (2015), when their line-up was split in two following drummer/vocalist Adrian Guerra's departure. Bands change line-up all the time but this change was tragically made all the more profound when a year later, in 2016, Adrian Guerra passed away. Mirror Reaper (2017) is the group's, which now consists of Dylan Desmond (bass, vocals) and new member Jesse Shreibman (drums, vocals), first new recording since then. The monolithic, eighty-three minute long single song album can be seen as a eulogy to their fallen comrade, whose presence is still felt by the insertion of some vocals recorded before his untimely death at the age of just 35, credited under 'the words of the dead'.

Because Mirror Reaper is so long, physical versions of it have to split the song into multiple parts. The CD version has two discs with the track split into two (titled As Above and So Below) while the vinyl is also a double, with the track split into four parts. It's worth pointing out at this point that at least in the case of the CD version the physical pressing does NOT come with a download code so buyers can also obtain the full uninterrupted version of the album. Without confirmation, I'd assume that the vinyl is the same. This, while I won't allow it to affect my rating in this review, is a considerable omission to make in my view, making Mirror Reaper one of the extremely rare cases where the physical version can be deemed inferior to the digital (more so because the digipak packaging is one of the most shoddily made I've ever encountered).

In any form Mirror Reaper is a daunting journey, one that I'm certain most potential listeners will want to think hard about whether they even want to try taking it. Those that do will definitely need to find themselves in the right frame of mind, and set aside enough time to take the whole composition in during a single sitting regardless of whether you're listening to the seamless digital version or the four part vinyl version. A piece like this loses its impact if you decide to take a break of any length and while at least in the case of the CD version the split between the As Above part and the So Below part does make sense, So Below doesn't work near so well as a stand alone track.

Funeral doom metal is known for its plodding pace and atmosphere of misery and that's exactly what is delivered on Mirror Reaper, via some quite extended length non-metal sections, especially during the So Below part of the song. No idea is treated like a flash in the pan thing, but is drawn out for ages. The vocals range from growling to hypnotic chant to subdued singing. Despite the growls, there's no forays into actual death-doom like the works of Evoken or Esoteric, so it's pretty much a dirge from start to finish. In that sense, Mirror Reaper may just be an example of funeral doom metal at its most pure, though since there are no guitars and it's all done on bass the sound is a little difference to the average band. At least it's a pure funeral doom metal sound until one of the non-metal passages hits, then it's something else, yet still very much funeral and very much doom, just without the metal.

Mirror Reaper is not, understandably, an easy album. I expect that many who give it a go will find it to be too much in one way or another. To many, this will be far too long than any one song has a right to be. For others the length in itself won't be an issue but the snail's pace tempo will be. For more still it will be how it actually sounds. Mirror Reaper is certainly a dreary affair, even depressing at times, but that's hardly surprising given the genre and backstory and the death of Adrian Guerra. It's true that the point, musically speaking, could likely be accomplished in a much shorter yet still lengthy composition and that to some ears it may have been better for it. Those people will be entitled to their opinion, while I will remain steadfast in mine that they just don't get it. All things considered it seems highly appropriate that Bell Witch went all out with Mirror Reaper and produced something that will stand tall as a monumental work of what funeral doom metal is all about. This is their tribute to their fallen bandmate and it's certainly not found wanting. Even being so long there's definitely a coherence to the whole composition so that despite all the pitfalls it could fall into it never actually feels aimless.

Mirror Reaper will not go down as an album that will grace my speakers with any kind of regularity, but it's one I'm pleased to have taken the plunge on for when the mood strikes. Bell Witch have crafted a quality, well thought out work here.

ENSLAVED E

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.99 | 6 ratings
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Nightfly
I’ve always viewed the development of Opeth and Enslaved as running parallel with each other. Both started as extreme metal bands, death metal for Opeth, black metal for Enslaved and both even at an early stage displaying progressive influences. As they have developed the progressive elements have come to more to the fore. One of the areas where they differ though is whilst Opeth these days bear no traces of death metal Enslaved have never entirely lost touch with their roots. Sure, they’re much more of a prog metal band these days but their black metal roots can still be heard.

E is Enslaved’s fourteenth studio album, drawn as a Latin rune which is why it appears as M on the cover meaning Horse. The albums not about Horses per se but is symbolic of the partnership of co-operation and trust between them and man. 2015’s In Times was their most progressive album yet but still managed inject some pretty harsh black metal moments. E whilst maintaining the prog quotient is less reliant on extreme metal though it’s still there and Grutle Kjellson harsh rasp vocal work is still in place. In Times was the last album to feature keyboard player/clean vocalist Herbrand Larsen and I expected a major shift in dynamics and sound with his loss. New guy Hakon Vinje slips easily into his shoes and has a similar clean vocal style so E just seems like a natural development which could and probably would have happened even if Larsen hadn’t left.

The music on E is epic and grandiose shifting through a myriad of changes no better demonstrated than on opener Storm Son, at almost eleven minutes giving them ample opportunity to stretch out. Clean vocals dominate over harsh here and their sound is a lot smoother than the Enslaved of old but they can still pack a punch. Kjellson’s rasp is still present and more to the front on other songs though like on The River’s Mouth that has a spacey outro that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Hawkwind album.

Sacred Horse might just be the albums best track where more extreme metal elements come to the fore but includes a Hammond organ solo that Opeth would be proud of. Light and shade are present but largely it drives along at a fair pace. That said E has no weak moments and shows a band on top of their game with no sign of running out of ideas. The musical interplay between band members is strong as always and like most great bands Enslaved aren’t afraid to experiment – they even use saxophone on album closer Hiindsiight, but still retain enough of their original identity to keep older fans happy.

E just keeps getting better and better with each play as more subtle melodies come to the fore and whilst it probably won’t end up being my favourite Enslaved album it not lacking in any way. It’s great to see this excellent band still on top of their game after all these years.

TRIVIUM The Sin And The Sentence

Album · 2017 · Metalcore
Cover art 4.11 | 6 ratings
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Kingcrimsonprog
Let me say this quickly before you stop reading. This album is a fucking masterpiece. A gigantic game-changing triumph we didn’t expect! This is hands-down the best album of their career and a new high for the subgenre. An almost from out of nowhere about-face turn, skyrocketing them from diminishing returns to champions. No, I wasn’t expecting it either, but go with me on this…

Right, still reading? Ok, with that out of the way. Lets do the review.

Trivium have had a funny old career. Their output has been really varied. They’ve done some really heavy and some really melodic stuff. They’ve done some technical progressive stuff and some simplistic groovy stuff. They’ve gone brash and brutal and they’ve gone mature and commercial. Not only has their music been really varied but so have the reactions from both their fan-base and the critics for every album. Every new album seems to sees them pick up new fans they’ve never had before and lose diehards who hate the new material or direction. Critics in one territory or from one background may hate the early stuff and love the mid career stuff and its vice versa with critics from another territory or background. Some albums are beloved in Germany but forgotten in the UK. Some are cult classics in America but underrated gems in Europe.

Me, I’ve liked every single one of the bands albums. A few of them I’ve loved. Like the majority of fans I’d say the best three are Shogun, In Waves and Ascendancy. I also have a huge soft spot for Silence In The Snow too due to its Classic Metal and Power Metal vibes but I understand how some fans of the heavier or techier stuff aren’t into that one.

This album, even with all that said, is just straight up and unarguably in another damn league. The energy in the performances; the fantastic satisfying crunchy production, the best and most diverse vocals of their career, the best drummer they’ve ever had hands-down… these are all factors that elevate this album above the rest of their discography. As are the songs themselves.

The songs are some of the most diverse, inventive and interesting songs they’ve written musically and structurally to date. They mix a vast array of styles that the band have dipped their toes into over the years and a lot of new stuff to. They have some of the band’s most interesting and memorable riffs and solos to date. They take twists and turns you don’t expect and catch you off guard. They showcase all of the musician’s talents at times but leave space for the lyrics and vocals to take center stage at other times. Sometimes they’re haunting and beautiful and sometimes they’re furious and heavy as balls, just riffing the fuck out of a big groovy riff.

Do you remember back when Machine Head were new and they were the cool new thing, and then they altered their style and tried new vocal techniques and production styles and lots of fans jumped ship but then The Blackening came out, all full of energy and anger and just plain amazing songs and suddenly tore everyone’s heads off and now Machine Head are bone-fide legends? This album is Trivium’s equivalent of The Blackening. It doesn’t sound anything like it, but that step-up in quality and energy and absolute revitalization of their career? That’s the same!

A lot of people online and in print have been going nuts over The Sin And The Sentence and justly so. In a recent interview Trivium mainman Matt Heafy said that the band decided they would have to write the best album of their career or else give up because they are always second guessing themselves and changing their styles and going through as many drummers as Spinal Tap. Well, Trivium ‘aint giving up now, because this is unequivocally their best ever work. Maybe its because Paolo is writing more of the songs than Matt. Maybe its because they are letting some of their Black Metal and Skate Punk influences mix into things instead of trying to purely do a mix of Groove Metal, Thrash Metal and Classic Metal like their original mission statement. Maybe new drummer Alex Bent just injected a new lease of life into them like Todd La Torre did to Queensryche. I don’t know why, but this thing is just on a whole other level.

Its quite a diverse album that really doesn’t sit in any one space for too long. ‘Betrayer’ mixes Ascendancy-era brutality with Pennywise style Punk and a happy Power Metal lead guitar sheen, but ends up with blast beats in the middle. ‘Thrown Into The Fire’ is the darkest and heaviest thing they’ve ever done at times and has undertones of Dimmu Borgir, but then at other times is just an absolute riff and solo school that…ok maybe this one does sound a bit like The Blackening actually. ‘The Wretchedness Inside’ is the kind of thing they were doing on the heavier deep-cuts from In Waves mixed with some jaunty Prong-style disco beats and a guitar effect than almost recalls Damageplan on their weirder songs like ‘Blunt Force Trauma’ or ‘Explode,’ it also has a strange midsection that remind’s me of Slipknot’s ‘Custer’ but then it has one of the most satisfying and heavy riff-out moments like Messuggah or something and that transitions into really pretty, clean Maiden-esque guitar lines. ‘The Heart From Your Hate’ is probably the most conventional song on the album, and it mixes their ‘In Waves’ and ‘Brave This Storm’ style staccato riffing with their ‘And Sadness Will Sear’ style mature The Black Album-worshiping stuff.

For fans of the band’s heavier side ‘Sever The Hand’ pretty much alternates between especially crushing groove metal riffing and pissed off Thrash Metal sections throughout. Fans of the band’s cleaner more commercial side won’t be disappointed either. Although this is one of the band’s heaviest and most progressive and technical albums yet, there’s still some stuff to get into if you prefer the heart-throb-Heafy stuff they previously showcased on ‘Dying In Your Arms’ and the like. ‘Endless Night’ for example lives in that sort of territory. Its just got a hell of a lot more energy, verve and attitude to it. The drums and background guitars give it a cool sort of Coheed & Cambria quality rather than just radio rock.

I’d try to pick out highlights but the album doesn’t sit in any one place long enough (hell the songs don’t either) to really establish a good version of it. I wouldn’t cut a single track and I’d like to see each of them live. Its all great. Its all interesting and diverse. That’s “diverse,” yet really cleverly constructed and naturally flowing though, not wacky-“diverse” were stuff that doesn’t fit is just smashed together. This is an album you can listen to over and over again and find new depths, new nooks and crannies. ‘Oh hey I didn’t notice that cool drum fill before’ sort of stuff. Not “why are they playing a bassoon over old-school Tampa Death Metal riffs during their Lady GaGa cover?” sort of stuff.

Its hard to hand out a man of the match award either. Matt’s voice is so much better than its ever been (check out ‘Beauty In The Sorrow’). Paolo’s songwriting is so much better than its ever been. Corey’s guitar solos are just as good if not better than they were on the glorious guitar-line fueled Silence In The Snow. Oh yeah, and there’s Alex Bent, whose drumming absolutely makes the album. More than the cherry on top its almost the whole goddamn cake.

Overall, the Sin And The Sentence is an utter masterpiece. If you like Trivium do not miss out on this at all. If you used to like them and stopped, don’t you dare miss out on this one either, this is the one to get back into them on, seriously. If you’ve never listened to them I strongly urge you to change that. I’d even go as far as to say “If you only get one Trivium album, make it this.” This isn’t just a good Trivium album, or a good album, this is a game-changer.

BLACK STAR RIDERS Heavy Fire

Album · 2017 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.27 | 3 ratings
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UMUR
"Heavy Fire" is the 3rd full-length studio album by UK hard rock act Black Star Riders. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in February 2017, almost exactly two years after the release of "The Killer Instinct (2015)". "Heavy Fire" features the exact same lineup who recorded "The Killer Instinct (2015)". Ricky Warwick (vocals, guitar), Scott Gorham (guitar), Damon Johnson (guitar), Robbie Crane (bass), and Jimmy DeGrasso (drums).

Stylistically there aren´t many surprises either. This is unmistakably the sound of Black Star Riders continuing the proud legacy of guitarist Scott Gorham´s past in Thin Lizzy. So while no one really sounds like Black Star Riders, they themselves sound a lot like Thin Lizzy. Lead vocalist/guitarist Ricky Warwick isn´t no where near as charismatic and distinct sounding as the late Phil Lynott, but he has a decent raw rock voice and gets the job done fine here. The riffs are hard rocking, the solos and harmony parts melodic and well played, and the rhythm section deliver a great organic backbone. The musicianship is on a high level on all positions, and it´s hard not to be impressed by the skill and mutual understanding of band dynamics between the players involved. They sound like they love what they do, and they deliver their music with great passion.

"Heavy Fire" features 10 tracks and a full playing time of 40:02 minutes, which is perfect for this type of music. The material are both powerful and catchy, and I caught myself singing along several times during the playing time. It´s melodic hard rock at its best. The album also features an organic and well sounding production, which suits the material perfectly, so upon conclusion "Heavy Fire" is another high quality hard rock release by Black Star Riders. They may never get rid of the Thin Lizzy comparisons, but who cares when they write such infectiously cathy tunes and perform them with this kind of passion and conviction...a 4 star (80%) rating is well deserved.

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SUPERNAUT Supernaut

Album · 1999 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 2 ratings
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voila_la_scorie
Today I am going to do two things for the first time. One is that I am going to review an album entirely from listening to it on YouTube and the other is that I am going to rate an album below 2 stars.

But first, a little about Supernaut. An English band formed in 1973, they were, as you can guess by the name, Black Sabbath fans and like their mentors, played music with heavy and dark-sounding riffs. Unlike Sabbath, however, they included a spacey keyboard in their compositions. The band cut a single self-titled album of seven tracks in 1974 which was later released on CD.

Searching about the Net, there is little more information, though one site includes some info from the CD booklet which states that the band recorded a demo (the album) and had Vertigo's interest. The label said they were too heavy and requested Supernaut to record some Eagles covers to which the band obliged but were "so disgusted" that they split up. There seems to be some question as to whether this was a real band and is cautiously considered fictitious on another metal site.

Listening to the album there are two things that you will notice immediately. The riffs are really doom heavy and the guitar playing sounds really amateur. Honestly, the first time I clicked the play icon, I was immediately transported to my 17-year-old self with my Anjo electric guitar, sitting in my bedroom with a Boss distortion pedal plugged into a small, inexpensive amp and cranking out a riff that I thought sounded cool but couldn't do anything with. And this is the one very huge drawback to the album: the guitar playing sounds really amateur. Unfortunately, most of the tracks are introduced by the guitarist indeterminably hammering out his riffs on his very cheap and poorly sounding equipment. Once the drums and bass are in and the keyboards (surprising they are at first) start playing, the guitar playing slips into the flow of the music a little better and the recordings are passable as early demos of a young band. The vocals, sparse as they are, don't sound any better than the guitar.

This is available as a CD still now and I listened to this on YouTube because I was at first interested in an early doom band from 1974 and had an eye on the disc. I am glad I decided to listen first though and saved my money. In comparison, the early recordings by Iron Claw, which have a pretty shoddy production and don't sound so good and don't have the ideal vocalist, at least have a better sense of composition and playing. Perhaps it's because Iron Claw used to play Black Sabbath's debut album in its entirety at their live shows. Also worthy to consider in comparison is Necromandus, who were actually taking under Toni Iommi's management and who played excellent progressive, early doom but were abandoned after recording their album as their manager went overseas to tour in America.

I think Supernaut needed to have a guitarist who could play a little more fluidly and professionally, a better recorded guitar sound, and a proper producer in the studio to help them flesh out their style more. The actual riffs are somewhat promising and the music indicates that the band had a vision and potential but in the end lacked what they needed to make their album sound good. They get points for effort and could possibly have been a great early doom metal band. Instead, we are left with an album that is almost painful to listen to at times and has attracted criticism and scorn in the YouTube comments and no praise.

Not to be confused with the 1974 release by the Perth, Australia glam rock band by the same name.

THE ELYSIAN FIELDS Adelain

Album · 1995 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
While the Scandinavian second wave of black metal was in its full glory, the lesser areas of Europe were busy gestating their own version of musical misanthropy in the form of extreme metal ranging from the death and doom dirges of maximum distortion to the blackened pits of fiery hellish metal that served as the soundtrack for Hades. Eastern European black metal bands may have been few in number in comparison to their northern neighbors but nonetheless some persistent aficionados of the style churned out some memorable albums. Greece has never really been on the forefront of any musical movement perhaps since the homegrown folk styles such as rebetika, however lurking in the shadows arose a few well known extreme metal bands such as Septicflesh and Rotting Christ. One of the lesser known but no less worthy of recommendations were THE ELYSIAN FIELDS who may have taken their namesake from the conception of the afterlife in Greek religious philosophies but were very much a part of the here and now of the 90s when they released their debut album ADELAIN in 1994 after a couple of attention getting demos.

THE ELYSIAN FIELDS created one of the most unique forms of melodic black metal in the 90s despite sounding somewhat familiar in comparison to its Hellenic counterparts of the scene but yet somehow drifted into its own unique arenas that took disparate sounds and made them their own. The band very much developed their sound in conjunct with bands such as Rotting Christ and Varathron but somehow fell off the radar while the others rose to the ascending throne of the world’s attentive ears. THE ELYSIAN FIELDS gained a loyal following in the early 90s as they released a few demos and demonstrated a unique interpretation of the black metal scene. Dominated by heavy aggressive guitar riffs and blastbeats that offer a backdrop for the angry raspy vocals to lash out against, this melodic black metal band’s sound was actually centered around a melodic keyboard riff that served as the anchor for the full fueled fury to dance around. In this regard THE ELYSIAN FIELDS took the same approach as the Ukrainian band Nokturnal Mortem did on their debut demo turned EP “Lunar Poetry” which uses a simple melodic hook on the keys to generate a never ending stream of aggressive riff changes and second wave black metal fury.

Also unique to the band were its exemplary ability to utilize aspects of death, gothic and doom metal in their musical cauldron to create a larger than life experience that mixed the typical blackened metal aggression with piano laden spoken word segments and more moody slower parts that created a unique contrast. At times during the slower parts the band can bring a doom metal band like My Dying Bride to mind but during the heavier parts the vocalist known only as “Bill A” is a dead ringer for Sakis Tolis of fellow Greek band Rotting Christ as do their crunchy guitar riff attacks mimic periodically throughout the album. THE ELYSIAN FIELDS also had a knack for a poetic prowess like few others of the day and created a more epic feel with their lyrics rather than simply blasphemous or misanthropic passages. Having been well steeped in the traditions of the Ancient Greek mythologies, this band utilized their exposure to these hidden worlds quite effectively and likewise utilized the proper mood setting musical principles to amplify their power. While the following album “We.. The Enlightened” expanded the overall sound manyfold, ADELAIN remains a typical melodic black metal 90s album that while not quite as frenetic as what Emperor or Cradle of Filth were pulling off back then, maintained a heavy sound with only certain moments where the full speed of their fury was uncaged.

THE ELYSIAN FIELDS remains one of the forgotten obscure Hellenic black metal bands that has fallen through the cracks to the point of true obscurity but more than deserves a resurrection from the vaults as the band crafted some excellent melodic black metal with death, doom and gothic touches. The piano and keyboard accompaniments are purely evil in their minor key hauntings and usher in the perfect storm of extreme metal savagery with devilish guitar distortion that alternate between tremolo picking and doomy sustained chords that linger on to infinity. This is an excellent taste of extreme Greek metal from the 90s and in my opinion much more sophisticated than what Rotting Christ was cranking out at the time with their early releases. THE ELYSIAN FIELDS knew just how to craft their compositions with the proper ingredients to create something not too far removed from the overall second wave black metal scene but yet with enough touches to make it sound totally original at the same time. Highly recommended.

EDGUY Mandrake

Album · 2001 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.87 | 18 ratings
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Kingcrimsonprog
There’s a very handy Metallica comparison that works when thinking about Edguy. So, Kingdom of Madness is the Kill ‘Em All of the discography, a more raw and charming affair that wears its influences loud and proud and is fun but not yet fully developed. Vain Glory Opera is like Ride The Lightening, a more mature and uniquely them record that starts showing off their ambition while still rocking. Theater Of Salvation is Master Of Puppets, the magnum opus, the really grand and ambitious album that contains amazing, well constructed and monstrously catchy songs. The Savage Poetry is …And Justice For All, the follow up to their best album and almost as good in its own right.

All of that brings me to what I’m trying to say here. Mandrake is their Black Album. After four albums in one particular style and tone, the band decide to mature off in a new direction and break out of the confines of their home genre. Like The Black Album still had some Thrash songs on it like ‘Struggle Within’ and ‘Through The Never,’ Mandrake has some pure Power Metal songs on it like ‘Painting On The Wall,’ ‘Golden Dawn’ and ‘Save Us Now.’ Even then, sometimes when it does do traditional Power Metal, its more of a Master Of The Rings vibe than a Keeper Of The Seven Keys vibe if you know what I mean. Just listen to the little skiffly drumstick solo and high pitched comedy vocal in the middle of ‘Save Us Now’ to see what I mean.

Largely however, Edguy find themselves testing the limitations of their German Melodic Power Metal roots. ‘Painting On The Wall’ and its more progressive big brother ‘Tears Of A Mandrake’ have some very Bon Jovi and Detonater-era Ratt sounding influences audible on them, its no the whole picture but it is one colour they’re painting with. ‘Jerusalem’ sees them blending their Power Metal stylings with a more commercial Hard Rock vibe foreshadowing where they’d go on their next album. ‘The Pharaoh’ is a ten minute epic with an eastern vibe that sounds like a mixture between Sabaton when they get slow and stompy and when Rainbow would go eastern sounding like on ‘Babylon’ and ‘Tarot Woman.’ ‘Nailed To The Wheel’ although opening up acoustically with some very different vocal melodies than Edguy usually go for, evolves into the fastest most pissed-off Thrash Metal like song the band had put out to date. If you get the version with bonus tracks, ‘The Devil & The Savant’ also has a touch of Glam to it. Not the whole picture again, but its there. Its the band testing their boundaries.

The production job also has a lot to do with it. This album has a much more full, bright, unmetallic sheen to it. Commercial is the word best to describe it really. Its good in its own way but it sounds quite different to where they’d been living in previously.

Like with Metallica, there are lots of fans who consider The Black Album the last of the classic-five and there are other purists who think there was only a classic four and this is the first one afterwards. Of course, there are also a large amount of fans I’ve discovered online who prefer the band in their more Hard Rock form and say things like ‘Yeah, they got good when they stopped trying to sound like Iron Maiden’ and even those guys are also split on this record, because its not quite the Pure Power Metal style and its not quite not either.

Overall; Mandrake is a very good album, and a very interesting album, but whether you’ll like it or not very much depends on what you wanted out of it in the first place. The production job may be off putting if you wanted a certain thing, as may be the songwriting for about half of it. The songwriting on the other half may be off putting if you wanted a different thing. Vocals, guitar solos, drum patterns and creativity are all above reproach, its just the sound and musical direction that people are divided over.

EDGUY The Savage Poetry

Album · 2000 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.11 | 13 ratings
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Kingcrimsonprog
Edguy were in an interesting position at the turn of the millennium. Starting the group as a bunch of wide-eyed teenagers in the early to mid ’90s, Tobias Samet and the rest of the boys who would go on to become legends of German Melodic Power Metal, were initially a rough an ready influences-worn-on-sleeves kinda band. They released a demo quality debut album called Savage Poetry in 1995 and then through years of practice and touring went on to become a leading force in Power Metal and one of the finest to be doing it at the time. After releasing their absolute magnum opus Theater Of Salvation in 1999 and being considerably more famous and beloved, fans kept asking if they would reissue Savage Poetry which had long since been out of print. Doing them one better, the band took all the talent, skills and confidence they’d been developing over the years and remade the album. No reissued, not re-recorded, but remade entirely.

Everything is different here, new artwork, new logo, new track order, new guitar solos, heck even the bassist and drummer are new when you think about it as neither were on the original version. They added a ‘The’ to the title as well, that’s new. Essentially, what happened was the band listened to these old songs and then wrote them again in 1999 as only the band who had released Theater Of Salvation could have. What resulted was a mix of old and new, that ticks all the right boxes to sound classic and modern, naive and accomplished, charming and sophisticated. There’s a duality to it that works as well as your go to metaphor (be that chocolate and peanut butter, tits and dragons or whatever people are saying these days, the point is the two compliment each-other despite seeming like different worlds).

For most people this is just some handy background information for a pub quiz however because unless you go out of your way, you aren’t hearing the 1995 version easily and the differences between the two versions are therefore largely academic. Regardless, because this is Edguy in 1999 we’re talking about here, this is an absolutely superb album not to be missed by Edguy fans, or indeed anyone with an interest in this style of music. If you listen to Gamma Ray, Helloween, Hammerfall, Blind Guardian, Freedom Call, Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius or anyone of that nature, you really want to get up on this album. I would be so bold as to say The Savage Poetry is either the band’s second best, or sometimes if I’m feeling generous, joint-first best studio album.

There are a lot of similarities between this and Theater Of Salvation. They were both recorded around the turn of the millennium at Rhoen Studios in Fulda, Germany, and were both self produced by the band, with the same line-up. They both feature a mixture of Maiden and Priest influenced speed metal sections, bombastic grandiose sections with pianos and choral singing, and then some occasional ballads, and happy Helloween-influenced melodies. They both come before the band went a bit more Hard Rock in direction and they both come before the band started letting their humour play a big part.

Highlights include the speedier more metallic tracks ‘Sacred Hell’ and ‘Misguiding Your Life’ as well as the slow stompy Hammerfall-esque opener ‘Hallowed’ and possibly best of all, the diverse multi-faceted ten-minute ‘Eyes Of The Tyrant.’

The album works really well from start to finish, the two ballads break things up (and are surprisngly tasteful), the longer tracks take you on a little journey and then the rest of the album gets its head down and delivers exactly what you love about the band perfectly, only with a little bit more of a NWOBHM gallop than usual.

Overall; be sure not to miss out on one of the band’s absolute finest hours. If you like the glorious melodic guitar lines, crunchy riffs and pounding drums of Edguy at their most metallic, this is seriously up there as one of the finest examples of that. If you like the band being adventurous and writing long complex stuff, that’s here too. If you like them when they drop some ballads, these are some of the band’s best. If you’re tempted by the band but scared off by the more commercial Hard Rock stuff or the comedy stuff there’s none of that here. This is the band at their best, with some damn fine songs and a sterling production job, updating some charming old songs into an absolute beast of an album. Highly recommended!

LETHAL AGGRESSION Ad Nauseum

Album · 2009 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Ad Nauseum" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, New Jersey based crossover act Lethal Aggression. The album was released through Horror Pain Gore Death Productions in January 2009. Lethal Aggression formed as far back as 1985 and released their debut full-length studio album "Life Is Hard-But That's No Excuse" in 1989. They disbanded in 1991, but reunited again in 2001.

The music on "Ad Nauseum" is crossover thrash metal/hardcore in the harder edged end of the spectrum. There are tracks and sections on the album, which remind me slightly of early Suicidal Tendencies, but other than those moments, "Ad Nauseum" is a very raw and aggressive release, featuring a pretty dark and pissed off atmosphere, so these guys have not taken the "beer and party" route, generally opting for a more serious social/political agenda. That doesn´t hinder the less serious lyrical topic to pop up now and again, but it´s not the main focus on this album.

The band is very well playing and occasionally play some very fast thrashy riffing and rhythms although there´s always a hardcore edge to the proceedings. Aggression is in the high seat, which is helped further along by the vocals on the album, which are really raw and delivered with fierce conviction. The material on the 13 track, 38:04 minutes are generally well written and relatively varied for the genre, and actually quite a bit more sophisticated than what is usual for crossover releases. You´ll find plenty of tempo changes and even guitar solos on the album. As a bonus the band have added a hidden track on the album featuring a full live set recorded in 2003 at CBGB's. The sound quality is actually pretty decent, and fully showcase what a powerful sounding act Lethal Aggression also are in a live setting.

"Life Is Hard-But That's No Excuse" was quite an enjoyable crossover album when it was released, and Lethal Aggression definitely hasn´t lost any of their punch or passion for playing music in the years between their debut and sophomore album, because "Ad Nauseum" is to my ears an even better release than the debut was, and certainly a step up in quality both when it comes to the musicianship, the songwriting, and the sound production. The latter is dark, heavy, and very powerful sounding. It may not be a full 4 star (80%) rating but a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) isn´t the worst rating either.

LEUKEMIA Suck My Heaven

Album · 1993 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Suck My Heaven" is the debut full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act Leukemia. The album was released through Black Mark Production in 1993. Leukemia was formed in 1989 and worked as a two-piece project act consisting of Kentha Philipson (drums) and Jocke Granlund (Vocals). All other instruments and vocals are delivered by guest/session musicians. Among those are prolific artists like L-G Petrov (Entombed) on backing vocals, and Jörgen Sandström (Entombed, Grave) on bass.

The music on "Suck My Heaven" is a hybrid death/thrash metal style with experimental/progressive moments. The latter mostly consists of some pretty odd and at times even silly sections, but they are few and far between, and the music predominantly features a more dark and serious atmosphere. "Suck My Heaven" was recorded at the now legendary Sunlight Studios and features the "classic" sound from that studio. The guitars are slightly more thin sounding and not as "buzzing" as usual on recordings from Sunlight, but especially the drums feature that unmistakable sound.

While Leukemia is generally considered a death metal act, the riffing on the album is often closer to thrash metal than to death metal and the same can be said about the thrash oriented raw vocals, which is the primary vocal style on the album. There are growling vocals on the album too though.

The material on the 9 track, 47:03 minutes long album is relatively well written but not necessarily that memorable in the long run, and paired with the thin guitar sound, and a vocal style which is a bit powerless sounding, "Suck My Heaven" isn´t the most successful sounding release to my ears. It´s not bad either though and there are several interesting sections and high level musicianship to be found on the album too, so a 3 star (60%) rating isn´t all wrong.

NILE Those Whom the Gods Detest

Album · 2009 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.26 | 30 ratings
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UMUR
"Those Whom the Gods Detest" is the 6th full-length studio album by US death metal act Nile. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in November 2009. It´s the successor to "Ithyphallic" from 2007. "Those Whom the Gods Detest" is the third studio album in a row produced by Neil Kernon (Nevermore, Macabre...etc.) and sound production wise there are many similarities between the three albums (the drum production is handled by Eric Rutan on this one though). Neil Kernon seems to be the perfect producer to bring out the best in Nile´s rather complex, busy, and at times chaotic soundscape. The sound production on "Those Whom the Gods Detest" is powerful, brutal and professionally crafted. Raw yet clear. But not clean in a way that takes away power or brutality.

Stylistically the material on "Those Whom the Gods Detest" is brutal and technically well played death metal. There´s an epic atmosphere to the music and Nile as usual incorporate middle eastern scales/notes/themes in the music. The latter elements compliment the ancient Epypt lyrical themes perfectly and are some of the defining elements of the Nile sound. The 10 tracks on "Those Whom the Gods Detest" are all well composed, intriguing, and powerful enough to tilt an elephant. The tracks are also relatively varied and given some spins they begin to stand out from each other. That´s not necessarily an everyday thing when we´re talking brutal death metal artists and their releases but Nile are one of the few exceptions to the rule. They both play crushingly heavy parts, mid-paced death metal grooves, and insanely fast-paced blast beating. There´s nothing this band can´t do.

The vocals are deep brutal growling but they are actually intelligible to a certain extent, which is a major plus in my book. The commanding and aggressive fashion they delivered in, is not exactly a problem either. Lead vocalist/bassist/guitarist Dallas Toler-Wade are occasionally complimented by guitarist Karl Sanders who delivers some additional (and more unintelligible) growling vocals. The riffs those two conjure up are brutal, razor sharp, and rather sophisticated for the genre but it´s the drumming by George Kollias that put the icing on the cake. The man is a phenomena. You can argue that he plays his two triggered bass drums a bit too much but it´s hard to argue that he doesn´t play them well. He has a way of making the music move forward in a powerful and aggressive fashion yet with a sophistication that puts him in a class of his own. In addition to his playing on the faster paced tracks it´s interesting to listen to his playing on the crushingly heavy and slow "4th Arra of Dagon" which perfectly showcases what he is also capable of when the pace is lowered.

Upon conclusion, Nile have with "Those Whom the Gods Detest" once again proven who are the kings of brutal technical death metal. Releasing several high quality death metal albums in a row is not something you´ll see many artists accomplice. They are one of the very few death metal acts that have a distinct sound and an overall concept that work wonders. Put on any Nile album and you would instantly be able to tell that it was Nile you were listening to. Now that is what seperates the leaders from the followers. Well crafted memorable compositions, excellent musicianship, and a powerful professional sound production. It´s hard to ask for much more than that. A 4.5 (90%) star rating is deserved.

BARONESS A Horse Called Golgotha

Single · 2010 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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FMOTP
Baroness is a band I like a lot. They create well-played, mostly interesting music. I think Allen Blickle's drumming should be singled out as a big part of what makes Baroness enjoyable. This short single is probably most noteworthy for the band's fun version of "Bikeage". As far as I know, it's not available on any other release.

I have one reservation with Baroness. They tend to write interesting riffs and then not stick with them, which gives their songs a disjointed quality. However, "A Horse Called Golgotha" is one of the band's most attractive songs. I think there are better bands in this subgenre of metal. However, this is still a terrific appetizer for Baroness fans.

KADAVAR Berlin

Album · 2015 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland


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

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

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

SWORDMASTER Postmortem Tales

Album · 1997 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.75 | 2 ratings
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aglasshouse
Here's a funny story: when I was seven or eight years old, I fantasized about having my own rock band. I had consumed volumes of Breaking Benjamin and Green Day, and I aspired to one day be mentioned alongside the likes of Benjamin Burnley and Billy Joel Armstrong. Said desire isn't really part of my life anymore, but what I can tell you is that during this time I was a kid who loved to plan out things. Hardly any of these things came to fruition, but regardless I loved plotting my dreams in large itineraries and graphics. For this rock band dream, I conjured a single-word name for the band, being...well, Swordmaster. I drew covers of explosions and fire and flying eagles for imaginary "Swordmaster albums", and it entertained the hell out of me.

Well, flash-forward to about a decade later and here I am, with a disc in my hand from a band called Swordmaster titled Postmortem Tales. And would you look at that- explosions on the cover. Go figure.

It's safe to say my past alone propelled me toward this particular album, but I remained curious to discover the actual contents. What lies inside this particular album is at least partially interesting- Swordmaster is apparently a Swedish death-thrash band that made their marks prior to this 1997 studio debut with a black metal themed demo and a split with the Norway-based Zyklon-B. While their genre shift is definitely evident from this record, palpable nuggets of their black metal past are still present in areas like Andreas Bergh's vocal work and the droning ripple of the dual guitars. Upon first listen, I was a bit skeptical of the whole piece and it's nature as an "obscure but boring thrash release". While listening through though I was pleasantly surprised at a variety of satisfying tidbits that did well to throw a wrench into the mix of what would otherwise be a dreadfully monotonous work.

For one, Terror (aka Niklas Rudolfsson) on the skins is quite the piece of work. Owe it to the production (which is quite good for such an indie release) or what have you, but his zealous, machinery-esque drum sound is quite entertaining and fitting, and is heeded by the fact that he is quite impressive with the more rapid fills and tempo changes. Another great part of this album is its surprising eclecticism. Swordmaster not only dabble in death metal and black metal, but also in some more melodic parts such as on 'Blood Legacy' and 'Past Redemption', the band hits some notes that would not be out of place on a power metal album. Such elasticity is extremely refreshing, keeping you on your feet at all times prepared for a different sonic onslaught. The third and final noticeable feature of Postmortem Tales is the above-par songwriting. As previously mentioned, the album has a rather eclectic nature and isn't shy to pull in different metal sounds to create a fun ride. But such eclecticism wouldn't be able to function if it weren't for the songwriting, which is particularly enjoyable due to how fast everything travels. Sometimes it feels almost progressive in terms how many guitar solos and drum fills can be jammed into a simple minute of playing time.

But Postmortem Tales isn't all great, because a few things indeed hamper it. Sometimes the drums and tempo lean a bit too heavily on the thrash 4/4, a metal cliche that haunts even the best of bands. Luckily as stated before, sophisticated drum fills do well to add at least some flavor, as do the melodic guitar solos. Sometimes the vocals can grow a bit cliche as well, but honestly I wouldn't expect much more from a band still clinging a bit to their roots and is still trying to find their sound.

In all, this little gem is a romp that packs quite a punch in some areas. Definitely a punch big enough to give it the edge over much of Swordmaster's peers. I'd say check it out if you've got 45 minutes to spare.

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