Travis Green
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2518 reviews/ratings
DYNAZTY - Renatus Power Metal | review permalink
DRAGONFORCE - Maximum Overload Power Metal
ADRANA - The Ancient Realms Power Metal
EVERGREY - The Inner Circle Progressive Metal
BLIND GUARDIAN - Imaginations From the Other Side Power Metal
ANCIENT BARDS - Soulless Child Power Metal
ARMORY - Empyrean Realms Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Beyond Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Eternity Power Metal
CIVIL WAR - Saint Patrick's Day Power Metal
XANDRIA - Neverworld's End Power Metal
DARK MOOR - Ancestral Romance Power Metal
DAWN OF DESTINY - Praying to the World Power Metal
DREAMTALE - Epsilon Power Metal
MINDMAZE - Back from the Edge Power Metal
VANDROYA - One Power Metal
DALRIADA - Jégbontó Power Metal
DALRIADA - Kikelet Folk Metal
DALRIADA - Ígéret Folk Metal
GRAVE DIGGER - Rheingold Power Metal

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Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 982 4.04
2 Progressive Metal 365 3.95
3 Symphonic Metal 238 3.93
4 Heavy Metal 173 3.61
5 Thrash Metal 106 3.66
6 Gothic Metal 92 3.92
7 Folk Metal 78 4.28
8 Melodic Death Metal 78 3.93
9 US Power Metal 64 3.84
10 Alternative Metal 40 3.41
11 Hard Rock 36 3.69
12 Metal Related 23 3.93
13 Non-Metal 22 3.50
14 Death Metal 21 4.02
15 Trance Metal 17 3.65
16 Symphonic Black Metal 16 4.50
17 Technical Death Metal 16 4.06
18 Melodic Metalcore 16 3.44
19 Industrial Metal 16 4.22
20 Groove Metal 15 2.83
21 Technical Thrash Metal 12 4.38
22 Speed Metal 10 3.80
23 Metalcore 9 3.89
24 Heavy Alternative Rock 9 4.67
25 Atmospheric Black Metal 8 4.06
26 Doom Metal 7 4.00
27 Nu Metal 6 4.00
28 NWoBHM 5 4.50
29 Melodic Black Metal 5 4.00
30 Deathcore 5 3.60
31 Glam Metal 4 3.88
32 Death-Doom Metal 4 3.88
33 Heavy Psych 4 3.75
34 Avant-garde Metal 3 3.67
35 Traditional Doom Metal 3 3.83
36 Brutal Death Metal 2 4.50
37 Stoner Metal 2 4.00
38 Sludge Metal 1 4.00
39 Neoclassical metal 1 4.00
40 Crossover Thrash 1 3.00
41 Black Metal 1 0.50
42 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 1 3.50
43 Viking Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

ALESTORM Curse of the Crystal Coconut

Album · 2020 · Folk Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
During these dark and trying times, music can be a good distraction, especially anything on the more fun and upbeat side, which is certainly an accurate description for British pirate metal band Alestorm. I’ve been a fan of them since just before the release of their third album, Back Through Time, which is when they really stepped up their game, going from a solid, amusing band, into an excellent, often hilarious band, with some of the most over the top, yet irresistibly addictive and catchy metal tracks imaginable. They followed up that album with two more wonderful albums in Sunset on the Golden Age and No Grave But the Sea, and they are now set to release their sixth full length album, Curse of the Crystal Coconut (a title inspired by the videogame series, Donkey Kong Country), and suffice to say, the band has once again delivered some of the most epic,silly and wildly entertaining metal tracks I’ve ever heard!

Anyone who’s heard Alestorm before should know exactly what to expect from Curse of the Crystal Coconut: The band has a clearly established sound, and they’ve found their winning formula at this point, so anyone familiar with the band should already know whether or not they’ll enjoy this particular album. As usual, there’s a steady blend of hard hitting, fast paced power metal (with the occasional hints of thrash riffs thrown in) some very fun and playful folk metal, and some epic, cinematic sounding symphonic metal, with the various elements often coming together for glorious results.

I found No Grave But the Sea toned down their power metal elements a bit, compared to usual, but this album seems to have brought it back to around normal levels, so fans can expect a nice variety in the tracks, with quite a few fun, upbeat power metal anthems, as well as some slower paced, more folk-infused tracks, some mid paced tracks and some tracks where everything comes together, as well as one particularly strange and hilarious oddball track. As always, Christopher Bowes strikes a great balance between performing an excellent pirate impersonation, while still singing well, while musically everything sounds great, with the guitars hitting hard at times, while the folk elements are done very well, and the symphonic arrangements are very epic, and help add extra flavor. Performances are flawless across the board, with the vocals, keys and folk elements being the highlights, as usual, and production is absolutely perfect, as expected from the band.

As much as I love Alestorm, I was a bit nervous about the songwriting going into album, as one of the first two singles left me less than impressed. Thankfully, though, this proved to be an outlier, as aside from one other questionable track, the songwriting here is excellent, as usual, with a few tracks in particular standing out as some of the band’s absolute best work to date. Kicking things off is lead single “Treasure Chest Party Quest”, a mid paced, but fairly upbeat track, with some nice rhythm guitars, a great use of folk elements, fun verses, and an extremely catchy chorus, complete with funny lyrics, as usual. It’s not one of the band’s all time best tracks, but it’s quite a lot of fun, and gets things off to a strong start.

Next is “Fannybaws”, a very upbeat track, with a nice main folk melody, as well as some great guitar work throughout. It alternates nicely between heavy and melodic throughout, with very fun verses, an insanely catchy, epic chorus, awesome pirate themed lyrics, and an excellent instrumental section in the second half, with an impressive, yet very melodic guitar solo and more wonderful folk melodies. It’s pretty much a classic Alestorm song, in all the best ways possible, and stands as one of my personal favorites. I remember when I first heard the track, I thought it should be a single, and then about a week later it was released as one, so I was very happy! Another instant highlight “Chomp Chomp”, one of the band’s classic, thrashy power metal tracks. The song moves at a frantic pace, and features a nice blend of thrahsy guitars, more wonderful folk melodies, intense verses and a very fun chorus, as usual, to go along with more hilarious lyrics, and one of the best solo sections on the album, where the music gets quite intense. It also features some excellent harsh vocals, performed by Finntroll’s Vreth.

I mentioned being a bit concerned about the album, and the reason for this was second single “Tortuga”, which simply did not impress me much, even after several listens. My main issue has to do with the main beat, which I find rather irritating, and once the keys are layered on top, it quickly starts to grate on my nerves. The chorus is actually very melodic, and stands as the clear highlight of the track, but it simply doesn’t show up often enough to save a track I otherwise don’t really enjoy. The big elephant in the room here is the inclusion of a rap section just over a minute in, performed by Rumahoy vocalist Captain Yarrface. I initially hated that part (because I tend to hate rap in general), but over time it’s grown on me, somewhat, to the point where I now find it tolerable, and even slightly funny. It and the chorus still can’t save an otherwise weak track, though.

Picking things right back up is the brilliantly titled “Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship”. I was expecting something completely wacky and out there, but for the most part, that’s not what the band did here. In fact, I’d say the band in general has a more fun side to them, where they can be super wild and silly, as well as a more complex, epic side to them, and if anything this track feels like a perfect blend of the two, with some of their most cinematic sounding symphonic arrangements ever, and an absolutely beautiful sounding, super melodic chorus, to go along with a wonderful middle section, featuring guest vocals from Patty Gurdy (who also plays hurdy gurdy throughout the album.) Musically, the track is quite nice, and has an epic feel to it, but on the other hand, the lyrics are every bit as silly as one would expect from looking at the name, complete with keyboardist Elliot Vernon screaming out some rather humorous lines throughout. It really feels like a perfect combination of everything I love about Alestorm, all in one track, and it’s definitely one of my favorite songs by them, to date!

The highlights keep coming with “Call of the Waves”, the fastest paced track on the album. It’s a very speedy, melodic power metal track, with more nice folk melodies, nice symphonic arrangements, and yet another very strong, catchy chorus. It’s less silly or intense compared to many of the other tracks, but it’s still an excellent, very fun track on its own. While there’s no title track, there is in fact a Donkey Kong Country themed track, as the band did a cover of “Pirate’s Scorn”, from the animated TV series, and they absolutely nailed it! Aside from the expected changes, such as making it much heavier and more metallic, the band also added in plenty of nice folk melodies, to freshen things up, as well as a really nice, entirely new instrumental section in the middle, while the track on the whole is quite faithful to the original, except with much stronger vocals and much better sounding music overall, while still maintaining the same level of silliness, complete with the absolutely incredible lyrics. In case that wasn’t silly enough, the band follows it up with “Shit Boat (No Fans)”, which is essentially their take on a fight song. I won’t go into full details on this one, as it’s only 74 seconds, and I wouldn’t wanna spoil the effect, but needless to say, it’s one of the most delightfully over the top and silly things I’ve ever heard! Following that is another fun track in “Pirate Metal Drinking Crew”, another fairly upbeat track, with great lyrics and a super fun, curse filled chorus. It feels like another classic Alestorm track, and is yet another winner.

The longest track on the album is “Wooden Leg Part 2 (The Woodening)”. Yep, the band seriously thought to make an 8 minute epic, as a follow up to one of their absolute silliest songs ever. As expected, this track feels like a longer, more stretched out take on the original, brilliantly reprising certain passages, while adding in epic symphonic arrangements, and updating some of the lyrics as the track goes on, while adding in some really epic choir vocals. I won’t spoil it, but things take an insanely goofy twist towards the end, and the final sequence is absolutely wild and ridiculous, in the best way possible! Overall, it’s a fantastic track, and would have made a great ending to the album. However, the band instead decided to close things off with “Henry Martin”, a cover of an old folk classic. The band performs it well enough, mostly performing it as an acoustic folk track, but I find the main melody a bit irritating, while the constant repetition of the lyrics drives me insane. Unfortunately, the track doesn’t work for me, but I won’t fault the band for it, because my biggest issues with it seem to come from the song itself, and not from anything the band did with it.

While I was initially a bit worried, Curse of the Crystal Coconuts has turned out to be yet another excellent Alestorm album. At this point, fans know what to expect, as this is yet another collection of insanely goofy, wildly entertaining pirate themed tracks, with a steady balance between power, folk and symphonic metal, as well as the occasional more epic sequences. Despite a couple weaker tracks, the album is amazing overall, with some of the band’s absolute best work to date, spread out fairly evenly throughout the album. Fans of the band are sure to love this, while anyone looking for fun pirate themed metal would be highly recommended to give this a listen, as it’s every bit as good as any other Alestorm album.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2020/05/17/alestorm-curse-of-the-crystal-coconut-review/

DYNAZTY The Dark Delight

Album · 2020 · Power Metal
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With some albums, my expectations going in, based either on early release singles, previous releases from the band, or a combination of both, can end up being either a bit too high or a bit too low, with the resulting album either blowing me away beyond expectation or falling a bit short. And then there are albums like, The Dark Delight, by Swedish melodic metal band Dynazty, where I immediately have a feeling something special’s coming, and the end result ends up being everything I was expecting, and more! To be fair, this is hardly my first rodeo with Dynazty, as I’ve been a fan of the band since their outstanding fourth release, Renatus, and also greatly enjoyed their two most recent releases, Titanic Mass and Firesign, so just knowing they had a new album coming this year was enough to get me excited. As soon as I heard the lead single, “Presence of Mind”, though, I immediately had the feeling this could be their best album to date, and after giving The Dark Delight several listens, I can safely say: I was right!

At this point, Dynazty has their current sound completely mastered, now four albums into this phase (as well as being seven albums into their career), so fans of the previous few albums should have a good idea of what to expect. The same mix of hard-hitting guitars, uplifting melodies, and huge, catchy choruses is still fully intact, with Rob Love Magnusson delivering some of his grooviest riffs to date, with the lead melodies and solos particularly impressive. That’s not to say Love has all the fun as Mike Laver is also very prominent on this album, the pairing between the two works very very well.

There’s great use of the keys as well. They had already been used a lot on Firesign, and if anything this album places a bigger emphasis on them, with a lot of the tracks having some strong trance beats and melodies, as well as the occasional use of more ambient keys. And of course, Nils Molin’s vocals are every bit as smooth, powerful and epic as always, with him slaying it on some of the band’s best choruses to date. His performance alternates between calm, emotional and very intense throughout the album, and he does so fluidly and perfectly, as always.

One element that has been reduced quite a bit on this album is the band’s power metal sound. There are still traces of it at times, most notably on “Paradise of the Architect” and “Apex”, but a lot of the tracks fall on the slower side. Usually, I’d consider this a disappointment, but the songwriting still manages to be varied enough, with a mix of some very heavy tracks, some softer tracks, many that blend both together seamlessly, and even a couple more surprising tracks. More importantly, though: Every track is fantastic. On Firesign, it felt like the heaviness had been dialled back a bit, but that isn’t the case this time around, as this has some of the band’s heaviest material yet, while also having some of their best melodies and choruses, as well as some excellent calmer sections. While the power metal elements are reduced, they’re still fantastic whenever they show up, so I feel the band has struck a perfect balance between all aspects of their music. The sound production is perfect, as always, and performances are amazing across the board.

While Dynazty albums always deliver when it comes to the overall sound and performances, The Dark Delight is especially impressive when it comes to the actual songs. There are no songs here I wouldn’t consider perfect, so much so that even trying to pick favourites is nearly impossible, with one exception. Kicking things off in style is lead single “Presence of Mind”, which opens up softly, with a brief tease at its killer chorus, before the guitars kick in, and the song settles into a nice groove, with some very heavy guitar work, and a nice rhythm, The verses are very fun and go by quickly, while the chorus is awe-inspiring, with a combination of excellent lyrics, incredible melodies and of course a flawless vocal performance from Molin. Even the narration in the middle is interesting enough to keep my attention, and the solo section that follows is quite epic. Overall, this song is incredible, and the first time I heard it, I just had a feeling this album had a strong chance of being my favourite yet, from Dynazty.

Thankfully, the rest of the album very much lives up to that stunning opener, with the following track “Paradise of the Architect” in particular picking up the pace, and delivering more of an epic symphonic power metal sound, with some nice symphonic keys, speedier tempos, more hard-hitting riffs, and another unbelievably catchy chorus, with some excellent vocals melodies, and nice use of trance keys. Next is “The Black”, a slow, but very hard-hitting track, with more epic keys, especially during the rather calm, slow-building verses, while the chorus is once again spectacular. The highlight, though, comes from some spectacular guitar work in the second half, with one of the band’s heaviest riffs to date, followed by a beautiful, very technically proficient solo section. Initially, “From Sound to Silence” seems like a fairly typical track, moving at a moderate pace, with a nice mix of atmospheric keys, hard-hitting guitars and a very melodic and catchy, if slightly subdued, chorus, but the second verse features some very intense and powerful growls, which add an element of surprise and help lift an already great track to new heights, while the solo section has a slight folk feeling and is also quite epic. The lone ballad on the album is “Hologram”, and as expected from Dynazty, it’s fantastic. It alternates between some very light keys and some beautiful acoustic guitar work, with Molin leading the way with some very soft, yet also very emotional and powerful vocals. He starts calmly and gets more intense as the track goes on, with the bridge, in particular, featuring some fantastic high notes, while other parts of the track have him singing at his lowest, and so the track does a perfect job of demonstrating his huge range. There’s also a gorgeous guitar solo in the second half, while the final run through the chorus is stunning.

After some slower tracks, the band speeds things up again with second single “Heartless Madness”, a very trance infused, up-tempo track, which also happens to be quite possibly the catchiest metal song I’ve ever heard! It moves along at a fast pace throughout, with the keys and vocals leading the way through the verses, while the chorus has a very bouncy, slightly pop-infused feel to it, but it’s just so damn catchy, while also being incredibly melodic, and having some outstanding vocal melodies. The highlight of the track, though, is the seamless transition from the second chorus, straight into a very nice melodic guitar solo, which features some of the best guitar work on the album. Overall, this track is by far my favourite song released in 2020, so far, and one of the absolute best melodic metal songs I’ve ever heard.

While the first two singles were absolute barn-burners, the third single “Waterfall” is slightly more laid back, but still awesome, in its way. It’s a fairly slow-paced, very melodic track, and it places a huge emphasis on trance keys, which are very much the driving force throughout the track. The verses are very quiet and calm, while the chorus opens up a bit, with more outstanding melodies, and while it’s one of the more laid back choruses, it’s still excellent, as always. The keys are the main focus here, as well as the unsurprisingly excellent guitar solo in the second half. Another very keyboard-driven track is “Threading the Needle’, the longest track here, clocking in at just under 6 minutes. It has some very light, atmospheric keys during the verses, which are slow and methodical, while the chorus is quite loud and epic, as usual. The song is excellent throughout, though the solo section is the highlight, with more outstanding riffs, as well as a great extended guitar solo. Another lighter track is “The Man and the Elements”, though this one is actually very guitar-driven, with some excellent lead melodies, which give the track slight a folk feeling, while the keys have a very symphonic feeling, which helps give the song an epic feel, especially the during the chorus, where the pace picks up slightly, without fully speeding up. It’s a fun track throughout, with the chorus, in particular, being very epic and catchy, and the instrumental section is quite awesome, as usual.

Moving towards the end of the album, one of the most intense tracks here is “Apex”. It again has a strong trance feel to it, with some very modern sounding keys, but it also has some very dark, sinister-sounding guitar work, as well as some crushing riffs. It’s a pretty fast-paced track, with the chorus alternating between a fast, very melodic buildup, followed by an equally fast, but very aggressive and powerful ending, which very much brings some of the best tracks from Renatus to mind. From heavy to soft we go, with “The Road to Redemption” being easily the most unique track on the album. It starts out very calmly, with some very light, but beautiful guitar work during the verses, as well as having a unique vibe, falling somewhere between country and southern rock. The pace picks up slightly during the chorus, though, which is very epic, and there are some heavy sections towards the end, during both a very epic bridge, with some stunning vocals, as well as an equally impressive final run through the chorus. While I suspect some fans may be turned off by the first half of the track, I actually quite love it, as it’s a very welcome change of pace, and I think the band pulled it off perfectly. Overall, it’s yet another perfect track. Closing out the album is the title track, and it’s yet another track which alternates wonderfully between some heavy, dark guitar work, and some very light, trance infused keys. It’s a fairly mid-paced track, with subdued verses and a very epic, powerful chorus, with Molin getting especially intense towards the end, closing the album out in spectacular fashion.

When I first heard Renatus, I was simultaneously blown away, while also a bit nervous about whether or not Dynazty could top that, or even match it. While their previous two releases didn’t quite reach those same heights, they were still excellent, and now with The Dark Delight, the band has delivered another masterpiece, with some of their absolute best songs to date. Fans of the band are almost guaranteed to be pleased with this release, while anyone looking for some excellent melodic metal with a mix of heavy guitar work, excellent use of trance keys, slight power metal elements and a spectacular vocal performance, is highly recommended to give this a listen, as I don’t see any similar bands putting out a better album than this any time soon!

Originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2020/03/29/dynazty-the-dark-delight-review/


Album · 2020 · Symphonic Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
It seems almost every year, within the first couple of months I’ll encounter an album from a band I’ve either never heard of or not thought much about before, sneak up out of nowhere and leave me speechless. With perfect timing, comes Emerald Seas, the second full-length release from American symphonic metal band Seven Spires… I vaguely remember hearing their debut, Solveig, back in 2017, and I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it, though it never really stuck with me over time. Needless to say, I now have the urge to suddenly dig much deeper into that one, because after giving Emerald Seas several listens, it has left me floored, in ways no other symphonic metal album has managed to do since at least the last two full-length Epica releases!

Solveig was an epic concept album, centered around a lost soul who’s fallen prey to a demon, and while Emerald Seas builds on this concept, it’s not a sequel but a prequel, instead of telling the story of what happened to the main character in the past. On this album, the main character is a sea captain, seeking eternal life. The tracks go into pretty heavy territory, (including the details of their eventual demise,) though there’s also some happier tracks, with a more adventurous and romantic feel to them, as well as some more sorrowful tracks, and some filled with hope. Basically, the album deals with many different moods, and as such, there’s a lot of variety to both the music and vocal approach, with each track standing out in its way. At the same time, the band uses the lyrics and atmosphere to great effect, ensuring that everything comes together perfectly, as the album flows seamlessly from track to track. As a result, this is an album full of highlight after highlight, while also being as cohesively tied together as an album can be.

While the lyrics are a major highlight of the album (both in terms of the overarching concept, as well as some amazing isolated lines on each track) the overall sound is also very impressive. A lot is going on musically, with the use of symphonic arrangements and Adrienne Cowan’s beautiful, yet fierce voice, being the two constant presences throughout. Some tracks fall into more traditional symphonic metal far, except with a slightly darker atmosphere and more intense riffs than usual, while others are on the softer side, some go into full speedy power metal territory, with some incredible melodies, and some fall into gothic or even symphonic black metal territory, with some very intense drumming, hard-hitting guitars and the use of harsh vocals. The musicians are all excellent, with guitarist Jack Kosto and keyboardist/vocalist Adrienne Cowan standing out the most, along with the epic symphonic arrangements, of course. Everything sounds perfect, though, with all aspects of the album sounding amazing, and the production is very crisp and powerful, as expected.

As great as the music is, the star of the album is Cowan, who’s delivered by far the best vocal performance I’ve heard from her to date. Aside from Seven Spires, I’ve also heard her with Light & Shade, as well as on a couple of isolated tracks with other bands, and in general, I’ve had a mixed reaction to her, finding her vocal range quite impressive, with her mid register being especially strong, but I’ve always found her more piercing, high pitched screams to be a bit irritating. However, on this album she has stepped her game up to a whole new level, delivering both some of the softest, most beautiful vocals I’ve heard on a metal album in recent memory, as well as some of the most intense, powerful vocals, with some tracks doing an excellent of showing how aggressive her voice can be. However, for the first time so far, I find all her vocals here to be brilliant, with the more animated vocals fitting the tracks perfectly, while the softer vocals showcased on ballads are perfect, and the light, smooth yet oh so subtly powerful vocals she uses on the more power metal-infused tracks are fantastic, and probably my favorite style from her. She also performs some very deep, extremely intense harsh vocals, which again fit the tracks perfectly, and are performed flawlessly In fact, they have a very theatrical feel to them which fits well with the storytelling style of the album. Her high pitched screams are indeed here, as well, though they’re limited to fairly short bursts, and are used quite effectively.

The album is already quite impressive, just based on the overall sound, performances, and concept, but it also excels in the songwriting department, with each track building onto the overarching concept effectively, while also each being very engaging on their own. Following a brief but very nice intro track, the first full song is “Ghost of a Dream”, a fairly mid-paced track, with very nice melodic guitar leads. It moves along at a nice pace, and immediately gives the feel of an epic adventure, with a slight folk feel to it, as well as some epic symphonic arrangements, of course. The verses are nice, while the chorus is very melodic, and serves as a great showcase for Cowan’s vocals, along with a very slight hint at her harsh vocals, while the lyrics are excellent, and serve as an overview for the concept. Next is “No Words Exchanged”, a slightly more upbeat track, which alternates nicely between some beautiful melodic guitar leads, as well as some pretty heavy riffs. It slows down early on, for some soft vocal passages, but it speeds up nicely as it goes along, with some wonderful guitar work, epic symphonic arrangements and some excellent vocals.

The first power metal-infused track is “Every Crest”, which has a strong adventurous feel to it, with furious drums, some wonderful guitar leads, and some of Cowan’s smoothest singing on the album, as well an incredibly upbeat, very fun and catchy chorus. The verses have a nice atmosphere to them, which is unique, being fairly relaxed but also epic, while the rest of the track is a much faster pace, and while it has some heavier sections, it’s mostly a very melodic track, with some excellent melodies throughout. The first extensive use of harsh vocals comes on “Unmapped Darkness”, another track which alternates nicely between some very heavy guitar work at times, as well as some gorgeous, upbeat melodies, with the chorus, in particular, being amazing and having some more very light, beautiful vocals from Cowan. The track serves an awesome showcase for her, overall, with the chorus being rather upbeat and epic, while some other sections are a bit faster and more intense, but the highlight is the occasional more aggressive sections, where her harsh vocals come to the front of the sound, and they sure are quite intense and wild, in the best way possible!

I’ll admit, even though I hadn’t remembered much about the band’s debut, I did have high hopes for the album going in, just based on the quality of lead single “Succumb”, which may be my favorite track of 2020 so far. It’s a blazingly fast, cheerful, upbeat power metal track with more wonderful leads, some especially memorable and epic symphonic arrangements, and a stunning chorus. While the track has a lot going on musically, with everything sounding perfect, the vocals and lyrics are the highlight, as the track has a romantic feel to it, which Cowan pulls off perfectly, both with some of her most beautiful, yet fierce vocals, as well as with some extremely beautiful lyrics, especially during the chorus, which has a very poetic feel to it. In complete contrast to that masterpiece is the second single “Drowner of Worlds”, which showcases the band at their absolute darkest, heaviest and most atmospheric. It’s a very moody track, with an overwhelmingly dark feel to the symphonic elements, while the choirs add an extra level of creepiness to the track. Musically, the track has a very theatrical feel to it, very much falling into symphonic black metal territory along with the likes of Dimmu Borgir, with a slightly gothic feel. The highlight, of course, is Cowan, who delivers some vicious growls, and they suit the tone of the track perfectly. While she mostly uses her deeper growls, there’s an especially furious section around halfway through, where the drums turn to blast beats and the track explodes, and at that point, she switches to some of her higher-pitched screams, though here they fit perfectly, and sound awesome.

Once again shifting gears, the band delivers two ballads next. First is “Silvery Moon”, a wonderful track, with a slight folk feel to it. It represents the gentler side of the concept, with the main character looking back to happier times, following his physical death on the following track. It has some beautiful guitar work, including a stunning solo in the second half, and the symphonic arrangements are perfect, but once again, the highlight is Cowan, who delivers some of her softest, most tender vocals throughout most of the track, slowly building up to a brief outburst of some of her most powerful, emotional vocals, and she sounds incredible. The other ballad is “Bury You”, a slightly heavier track, which falls more into power ballad territory. It alternates nicely between some very softer sections, with nice use of soft keys and light guitars, as well as some slightly heavier sections, with the chorus being very nice and melodic, while having a slight hint of heaviness. The music is very beautiful, but unsurprisingly, the vocals are the best part, especially during the middle where they get very intense, once again.

Coming towards the end of the album, “Fearless” is another darker track, with a strong gothic metal feel. It has a very sinister atmosphere to it, with some fairly heavy but subtle guitar work, which gives way to more intense growls from Cowan, though unlike “Drowner of Worlds”, this song does have some softer sections, with the chorus, in particular, having some very soft, very theatrical sounding vocals, with a slight operatic quality to them. The track is awesome, overall, and does a nice job of alternating between soft and heavy sections. Next is a very brief, yet beautiful interlude track, with very nice use of piano, as well as more great vocals and lyrics, which gives way to “The Trouble With Eternal Life”, the last full song on the album, and yet another instant classic. This track opens up with soft piano for a while, before slowly bringing in the symphonic elements and then the full band, with more wonderful guitar leads, as well as a slight heaviness to the riffs. It’s another very upbeat, fast-paced power metal track, though it has a slightly more sorrowful tone compared to earlier power metal tracks on the album, while still retaining some hopefulness, especially during the very melodic, catchy and fun chorus, with some more very light and beautiful vocals. The album closes with the title track, a very nice orchestral track, full of reprises from throughout the album, The way it recreates melodies in a softer, more beautiful way helps to demonstrate just how amazing these tunes are, and it’s a great way to end the album.

At this point, it seems inevitable that one band or another will come almost completely out of nowhere to leave me stunned and blown away early on in the year, and in 2020, that band is Seven Spires! I was somewhat interested in hearing Emerald Seas, based on the little I remembered of their debut, and I’ll admit “Succumb” sure made me curious to hear the overall album, but I could have never expected the full release to be such a beautiful, yet intense, dark yet at times upbeat and hopeful, concept album, which goes in many different directions, yet manages to come together perfectly. Fans of the band’s debut need to hear this, and I’d also recommend it to any symphonic metal fan looking for the potential next big thing, as after hearing this album, I certainly believe Seven Spires have the talent and songwriting capabilities to become one of the very best in their genre!

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2020/02/15/seven-spires-emerald-seas-review/

DELAIN Apocalypse & Chill

Album · 2020 · Symphonic Metal
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In a recent review, I commented on the importance of naming an album, and how some bands tend to be more creative with their album titles, while others tend to play it fairly safe. I’ve seen plenty of interesting album titles in recent years, as well as plenty of forgettable ones, but one that instantly raised my eyebrows upon seeing it is Apocalypse & Chill. Yep, that is indeed the title of Dutch symphonic metal band Delain’s sixth full-length release, and it sure is a strange one. Oddly enough, though, upon listening to the album, the name actually starts to make more sense, as it both gives an idea of what to expect from the lyrical concepts, as well as accurately describing the music pretty well.

I’ve long seen Delain as a band that consistently releases some very good albums, and I’d definitely consider them one of the more important symphonic metal bands in the world at this point, but I find their albums never quite reach the levels of some of my favorites in the genre. This continues with Apocalypse & Chill, though I do think it’s one of their most consistent releases to date, as well as by far their most interesting and unique.

Stylistically, Delain has always struck a nice balance between heaviness, light symphonic elements and beautiful vocals from Charlotte Wessels. Apocalypse & Chill takes all of these elements to the extreme, with almost every track alternating between some of their most aggressive guitar work to date, as well as having some of their catchiest, most melodic choruses and vocal sections, and while the symphonic elements still aren’t as grand as the likes of Nightwish or Epica, there are some pretty big arrangements on some tracks. For the majority of the album, the band alternates nicely between some pretty modern sounding, at times brutal guitar work, and some very nice keyboards, which are at times very flashy and modern, while at other times they’re more relaxing and atmospheric. While all musicians do a great job, it’s clear keyboardist Martijn Westerholt and vocalist Charlotte Wessels are the main focus of the album, with both delivering their absolute best performances to date. As usual, the production is fantastic, with all instruments sounding clear and powerful, and whenever orchestration is used, it’s mixed in perfectly with everything else.

While Delain has always had great musicianship and excellent vocals, I find their songwriting is generally solid, but not quite top tier. This continues somewhat with Apocalypse & Chill, though I do think this album is possibly their most consistent release yet, as while there’s only one track I’d consider a masterpiece, there are no weak tracks, and every song is great in its own way. The album opens with “One Second”, which is either the second or third single released depending on how you view things (I’ll explain in more detail later.) Either way, it’s a nice, fairly simple track, where the guitar work is heavy, but in a fairly subtle, understated way, with some very flashy keys being the main focus of the music, while Wessels is accompanied on vocals by guitarist Timo Somers, who delivers some very powerful slightly animated vocals during the chorus, where he excels. It’s a solid track on its own, and it gets the album off to a nice start.

Next is “We Had Everything”, a rather fun and upbeat track, which has some very nice, trance infused keys, which again drive the music, though the guitar work is a bit more prominent here, and it does get pretty heavy in between vocal sections. Wessels shines on this track, singing very lightly during the verses, utilizing her higher register, and then delivering some very soft and smooth vocals during the fun and catchy chorus. The instrumental work is nice throughout the track, with the guitar solo in the second half, in particular, being very melodic and epic at the same time. Things slow down slightly with “Chemical Redemption”, a track that again alternates nicely between some crushing riffs and rather light keys, with the verses, in particular, using the keys more for atmosphere and extra flavor, while the chorus is nice but a bit understated compared to most other tracks on the album. The highlight of the track is a very melodic, very beautiful guitar solo, which leads into some pretty epic orchestral arrangements.

The second (or first) single from the album is “Burning Bridges”, and to me, this stands as by far the best on the album, as it utilizes on aspects of the band’s sound perfectly, and I’d say it’s one of the band’s absolute best songs to date. It opens with more brutal guitar work, accompanied by some epic symphonic arrangements, which carry on throughout the track. The verses move by at a quick pace, with some rather light guitar work, powerful lead vocals, and more epic orchestral backing, and then the chorus comes and is absolutely fantastic and extremely epic, with some of the best vocals I’ve ever heard from Wessels. The real highlight, though, comes in after the second run through the chorus, where some very intense and powerful harsh vocals are used, for the first and only time on the album, and that’s followed by an epic instrumental section, where the orchestral elements are really pushed to the front. While I do think the track hints at elements that could have been used more throughout the album, I also think that only having them on this track helps it to stand out a lot more, and ultimately, it ends up feeling like the one track where everything just comes together perfectly.

After that stunner of a track, “Vengeance” is a bit more typical, though still pretty fun. It moves along a solid pace, with some rather light and melodic guitar work, as well as more symphonic arrangements. The catch to this track is that vocal duties are split between Wessels and Beast in Black vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos, who sounds as wild and energetic as always. The two work together well, which makes for a fun chorus, and while track overall isn’t spectacular, it is a lot of fun. Another standout is “To Live is to Die”, which utilizes some very futuristic sounding, industrial style keys, which serve as the main driving force, though the guitar work is also fairly heavy at points. It’s a pretty dark and atmospheric track, with Wessels again delivering some very powerful and emotional vocals. One track which really demonstrates the concept of the album well is “Let’s Dance”, with some rather grim lyrics being overlapped with repeated proclamations of “it’s a beautiful day”. While it does make for an interesting effect and is an interesting idea, I do find the repetition to be a bit much, and so the verses are rather irritating to sit through. The chorus is quite fun and catchy, though, the very heavy guitar work is quite good, so the track still ends up being solid, overall, if not one of my favorites.

More heavy guitar work follows on “Creatures”, which comes pretty close to sounding like later Evergrey during its intro, though it does soften up a bit during the verses, with some very dark sounding keys, and the track overall has a rather bleak feel to it, which is somewhat countered by beautiful vocals, and an excellent chorus. It’s yet another track where the whole “Apocalypse & Chill” idea fits in quite well. The one ballad of the album is “Ghost House Heart”, either the third or fourth single. It’s another very atmospheric track, which makes nice use of some soft piano work, and more orchestral arrangements. It’s a very nice track, with some great moments, but it never fully takes off, instead simply remaining a solid track throughout. The first track released from the album is “Masters of Destiny”. However, whether or not it’s actually the first single is debatable, as it was originally released as a single for the early 2019 EP Hunter’s Moon. Either way, it’s easily the most epic track on the album, with the orchestrations and choral vocals being pushed to the max, while the guitar work is fairly subtle and not the main focus. Instead, it serves as an excellent vocal showcase for Wessels, who delivers some of her most powerful vocals to date, especially during the spectacular chorus.

The last heavier track on the album is “Legions of the Lost”, another excellent track, which alternates nicely between heavy guitars, soft verses, a very melodic and beautiful chorus, and it mixes in some very nice keys and orchestral elements, at times. The last vocal track is “The Greatest Escape”, a softer track, which almost feels like a ballad during the verses, where Wessels is accompanied only by some light keys, though it does become slightly heavier and more upbeat during the chorus, which is quite beautiful. Closing out the album is a full-length instrumental track, “Combustion”, which is, in fact, the longest track on the album. It’s a very beautiful track, once again moving from some soft sections with some very nice keys and piano, as well as having some very heavy guitars, especially in the middle. It has plenty of memorable moments, and it certainly closes the album out quite effectively.

Despite the rather strange name, Apocalypse & Chill is another great album from Delain, which showcases all aspects of the band very well, alternating between some very heavy, modern guitar work, to some rather flashy, upbeat keys, some epic orchestrations, some very catchy choruses and vocal melodies, and some very beautiful sections. Fans of the band are sure to be pleased with the album, while any symphonic metal fans looking for a fun album with some great vocals would also be highly recommended to give this album a listen, as Delain has proven themselves to once again be a consistently great band.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2020/02/08/delain-apocalypse-chill-review/


Album · 2020 · Alternative Metal
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For the past six years, one thing I’ve always been able to count on is Italian melodic metal band Temperance delivering an excellent album. I’ve been a fan since the release of their debut, back in 2014, and subsequent releases such as The Earth Embraces Us All and Of Jupiter and Moons have only blown me away more and more. At this point, the band has become one of my all-time favorites, and so every time I hear they’re releasing a new album, I heavily anticipate getting to hear it for the first time. Their sixth full-length release, Viridian, has just recently been released, and as expected, it’s yet another excellent modern melodic metal release, with plenty of addictive, super-catchy choruses, awesome vocal melodies and tons of high-speed power metal. The most impressive thing about the band’s previous release was that they had gone through the biggest lineup change of their career, so far, losing two of their most important members, yet they managed to not only avoid a letdown but somehow managed to release quite possibly their best release to date. With the same lineup from that release being back for Viridian, I was excited to see what they would do next, and whether or not they could find a way to up the ante once again.

It turns out, they haven’t quite pulled it off this time, though Viridian is still an excellent release, as always. I’ve always compared the band to the likes of Amaranthe and the past three Dynazty albums, but on past albums I found their music to always be more complex, more unique and overall more memorable, compared to any of their competition. With Viridian, it feels like the band has simplified things further than ever before, focusing entirely on the catchiness, vocal harmonies, and melodic hooks, and while they’ve certainly pulled all of that off as well as ever, it does feel like the songwriting creativity has taken a slight hit, falling more closely in line with similar bands, instead of surpassing them, as usual.

For the most part, the album is stylistically similar to past releases, being a mix of modern melodic metal, plenty of speedy power metal, some trance elements, some alternative riffs, and lots of modern-sounding keyboards all over the place. The songwriting, though, feels like it’s been stripped down to the absolute basics, which has led to a surprisingly straight-forward album, compared to their past two releases, in particular, which showed the band fully evolving their sound. In particular, the symphonic elements feel like they’ve been dialed back a great deal, not feeling overly prominent aside from on a couple of tracks, while the trance-like keyboards have become more prominent and noticeable than ever before. All of this works well, and performances are excellent across the board, with the three vocalists Alessia Scolletti, Michele Guaitoli, and Marco Pasterino all excelling, while the instrumental work is all excellent, as always, and the production is perfect, as always. However, everything just feels a bit more ordinary, compared to past albums, and while there are some amazing songs here, as always, the album overall seems to be missing the sort of special spark past albums had.

While Viridian doesn’t quite live up to past releases, it still has plenty of excellent tracks, as usual. The album kicks off with the lead single “Mission Impossible”, a track which nicely illustrates what to expect from the album on the whole. It’s a fairly mid-paced track, with some pretty heavy, modern-sounding riffs, as well as plenty of fun trance keys, entertaining verses and a huge, super catchy chorus, where the two main vocalists Scolletti and Guaitoli get to shine. It’s an excellent, very fun track, but it’s not quite as memorable or special as any of the opening tracks on past albums. Next is “I Am the Fire”, a faster-paced track, which feels much closer to classic Euro power metal than most of their other songs. It’s another very fun track, with excellent alternating vocals, some nice melodic guitar work, and some nice keys, which are largely relegated to the background. The chorus is fun, but fairly understated by Temperance standards, and overall it’s an excellent track, with Pasterino’s brief, intense vocal lines towards the end of the track being the clear highlight.

Another very fun and simple track are ‘Start Another Round”, which feels particularly close to Amaranthe, with tons of modern keyboards all over the place, chugging riffs, and one of the catchiest, most addictive choruses of the year so far. It’s another track which makes great use of the two lead vocalists, and while it is very straight-forward, it manages to keep me engaged and thoroughly entertained throughout, so I’d say it does its job well. Next is the second single “My Demon’s Can’t Sleep”, where the band steps up their game to deliver one of their absolute best tracks to date! It’s another quite fast-paced track, which alternates nicely between the two lead vocalists throughout, especially during the chorus, which is absolutely fantastic, intense, melodic and extremely catchy, with some incredible vocal melodies. The highlight of the track, though, is again some very brief, but very powerful vocals from Pasterino in the second half, though the music is awesome throughout, and the instrumental section in the second half is quite heavy, yet very melodic and feels like one of the best instrumental sections on the album.

The momentum keeps up with the title track, another fast-paced, heavily keyboard driven track, with some particularly explosive verses, again with some great alternating vocals, and the chorus is fairly simple but quite effective and catchy. The track makes more use of symphonic elements compared to most tracks on the album, which helps give it more of an epic feel, and that works perfectly. Perhaps the catchiest track of all is “Let It Beat”, a very light and melodic keyboard-driven track, which moves at a nice pace, without ever fully speeding up. It’s a very upbeat track, with an incredible chorus, which features some of the band’s absolute best vocal melodies, and that sure is saying a lot! It’s a very catchy, highly engaging track, and it only gets better as it goes along, with Scolletti’s performance on the final run of the chorus being especially stunning. Next is “Scent of Dye”, the first of two ballads on the album. It has some very nice keyboard melodies, and has an epic feel to it, as well as some awesome vocal harmonies, as always, and its chorus is very beautiful, and another clear highlight. It doesn’t quite reach the level of some ballads I’ve heard in recent years, but it’s an excellent track, with particularly strong vocals and lyrics, as well as a very nice guitar solo in the second half, while the final run through the chorus features some stunning vocals from Pasterino.

Speeding things up, once again, “Cult of Mystery” is one of the fastest, most guitar-driven tracks on the album, with some very heavy guitar work, and some very fun verses. The chorus is solid, but a bit repetitive for my tastes, and the track overall is a lot of fun, with an especially nice melodic guitar solo in the second half, but it never really reaches the heights the band is capable of, while the main keyboard hook is one of the rare times where I find they overdo it, if only slightly. The longest track on the album is “Nanook”, which clocks in at just under 6 minutes. While it’s not one of the band’s longest or most complex tracks ever, it still has quite a lot going on, being largely a speedy power metal track, with some heavy riffs, awesome vocal harmonies and an excellent use of symphonic elements, as well as having some folk melodies and an overall folk feeling to it. The chorus is stunning, and the folk elements are a nice touch, to help it stand out from the pack, while the instrumental section is very epic and well done. It’s one of the best on the album.

Sadly, the album fizzles out a bit at the end, with the final two tracks being clearly the weakest. The last full-length song is “Gaia”, the second ballad of the album, and while it’s a nice track with some very good piano work and very light guitar melodies, it never reaches the heights of some of the band’s best work and ends up feeling a bit underwhelming. The lyrics are very nice, and the vocals are fantastic, as always, but the song itself just feels like it’s missing something, to take it to the next level. Closing out the album is “Catch the Dream”, and while I had previously thought it was just about impossible for Temperance to make a track I dislike, it has finally happened, unfortunately. The track is A Capella, with the tune provided completely by vocals and clapping. It starts fine enough, but not particularly great, and once the echoing vocals start to kick in, it gets to be pretty annoying. As the track goes on, it only intensifies further, to the point where I always start getting a headache by the end, due to how noisy and how extremely repetitive it is. As much as I love Temperance, I certainly can’t understand why they’d choose to end an album this way, as I find it pretty much completely unlistenable, and I suspect it shall forever be known as by far the worst track they’ve ever released.

Overall, I find Viridian to be a slight disappointment, as it ends the band’s trend of getting better with each release, and instead ends up falling a bit short, but it’s still yet another great release, with plenty of extremely catchy choruses, great instrumental work and some truly outstanding vocals and vocal melodies, as always. Longtime fans of the band should be pleased with it, and while I’d recommend looking into any of their previous releases first, it would still be a solid starting point for any melodic metal fans or power metal fans, looking for a great album with some awesome vocal performances. Despite not living up to the band’s previous works, it’s still likely to be one of the best melodic metal albums released in 2020, for sure, and I hope the band can blow me away again, on future releases.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2020/01/25/temperance-viridian-review/

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