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Adam Gardiner
Forum Admin Group · Black Metal, Prog/AG Teams
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit 9 hours ago

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3098 reviews/ratings
WINTERHORDE - Underwatermoon Melodic Black Metal | review permalink
SONIC PULSAR - Playing the Universe Progressive Metal | review permalink
STAR ONE - Victims of the Modern Age Progressive Metal | review permalink
IRON MAIDEN - The Number Of The Beast NWoBHM | review permalink
DREAM THEATER - Images and Words Progressive Metal | review permalink
REBELLION - Miklagard - The History of the Vikings Volume II Power Metal | review permalink
BEYOND TWILIGHT - Section X Progressive Metal | review permalink
IMMORTAL - At the Heart of Winter Black Metal | review permalink
DARKOLOGY - Altered Reflections Progressive Metal | review permalink
CRUACHAN - Folk-Lore Folk Metal | review permalink
ALICE IN CHAINS - Black Gives Way To Blue Alternative Metal | review permalink
AYREON - The Final Experiment Progressive Metal | review permalink
BLIND GUARDIAN - Imaginations From the Other Side Power Metal | review permalink
EPICA - The Divine Conspiracy Symphonic Metal | review permalink
AYREON - The Human Equation Progressive Metal | review permalink
EPICA - Design Your Universe Symphonic Metal | review permalink
ASTARTE - Quod Superius Sicut Inferius Melodic Black Metal
AVANTASIA - The Metal Opera Power Metal
AYREON - 01011001 Progressive Metal | review permalink
REBELLION - Arise: From Ginnungagap to Ragnarök - The History of the Vikings Volume III Power Metal | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 393 4.17
2 Progressive Metal 339 4.20
3 Heavy Metal 245 3.91
4 Atmospheric Black Metal 216 4.11
5 Black Metal 168 3.91
6 US Power Metal 157 4.22
7 Technical Death Metal 112 4.22
8 Symphonic Metal 111 3.82
9 Folk Metal 108 3.96
10 Thrash Metal 103 4.04
11 Death Metal 93 3.98
12 Melodic Death Metal 93 4.02
13 Non-Metal 87 3.84
14 Metal Related 82 4.07
15 Hard Rock 63 3.84
16 Gothic Metal 62 3.73
17 Melodic Black Metal 61 4.11
18 Doom Metal 59 4.03
19 Stoner Metal 44 4.15
20 Speed Metal 42 3.89
21 Alternative Metal 38 3.49
22 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 32 4.03
23 Symphonic Black Metal 31 4.10
24 Death-Doom Metal 29 4.12
25 Heavy Psych 28 4.32
26 Pagan Black Metal 25 3.90
27 Groove Metal 24 3.67
28 Viking Metal 23 4.11
29 Avant-garde Metal 21 3.90
30 Depressive Black Metal 20 3.77
31 Traditional Doom Metal 19 4.34
32 Heavy Alternative Rock 18 3.39
33 NWoBHM 18 4.42
34 Sludge Metal 16 4.13
35 Stoner Rock 15 3.97
36 Technical Thrash Metal 15 4.13
37 Funeral Doom Metal 15 4.13
38 Brutal Death Metal 14 3.29
39 Melodic Metalcore 14 3.54
40 War Metal 11 4.09
41 Proto-Metal 8 4.13
42 Metalcore 6 2.25
43 Industrial Metal 5 3.80
44 Neoclassical metal 3 3.83
45 Drone Metal 3 3.50
46 Deathcore 2 1.75
47 Death 'n' Roll 2 3.00
48 Crossover Thrash 1 3.50
49 Crust Punk 1 4.00
50 Grindcore 1 4.00
51 Hardcore Punk 1 3.50
52 Trance Metal 1 0.50

Latest Albums Reviews

WINTERHORDE Neptunian

Album · 2023 · Melodic Black Metal
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It's a rare album review where I can still remember certain comments I made about it years after the fact, but that's the case for me with the previous album of Israel's Winterhorde, Maestro (2016). I remember the spiel of excitement I formed my review's introduction around, talking about how getting certain albums in my inbox from labels or promoters would lead to that album being given absolute priority to. Maestro was one such album and naturally Neptunian (2023), generated the same excitement. Make no mistake about Winterhorde: these guys are damn good. I also remember how I ended that review though, lamenting how it had been six years since Underwatermoon (2010) and hoping that it wouldn't take another six years before we heard a follow-up. Turns out it's taken seven. I guess some bands just aren't going to be as productive as others and as they have been releasing albums of such a high standard, it was okay.

It was okay...until Neptunian.

As I listened to the album for the first time, I felt my excitement gradually fading, replaced by shock, confusion and horror. What had happened to the band that made those amazing earlier albums? What had made them deliver THIS as their long awaited fourth studio album?

(Sighs deeply, trying to regain composure)

Okay, so Neptunian isn't a bad sounding release per se. But it's an extremely underwhelming one that seems to contain none of the kind of special character I've come to expect from Winterhorde's compositions that made particularly the Underwatermoon and Maestro albums such a joy to listen to. The progressive flair that defined those albums seemed watered down to the point of being swallowed by the ocean's tides, leaving a melodic/symphonic black metal album behind that, while far from terrible, just isn't that exciting to listen to.

If this album were from a new band releasing their debut and I heard it they might pass me by with a few lukewarm comments about potential, but this is a new album from Winterhorde. They're a band which had previously figuratively put my jaw firmly on the floor with their progressive take on melodic black metal. Twice. The expectations for such a band are higher, as is the standard I hold them to, which also makes the disappointment in this case so much worse. Coupled with the waiting time factor of seven years, this makes Neptunian one of those things that does not seem worth it no matter what angle I try to look at it from.

And my word I hate saying that about this band, I really do. I bloody love these guys. I meant what I said in my opener to this review that they are damn good. I own all three of their prior albums and while I don't give as much playtime to their debut Nebula (2006), both Underwatermoon and Maestro get spun regularly. Unfortunately Neptunian just doesn't hold a candle to them, despite repeated spins in hope that it's one of those albums that may not wow at first but improves with familiarity.

Sadly it was not.

LOVEBITES Judgement Day

Album · 2023 · Power Metal
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I never cease to be amazed by the Japanese power metal act Lovebites. Ever since they made their debut with The Lovebites EP (2017), which quickly turned into the debut album Awakening From Abyss (2017), they've proved consistently that they can play with, if not outplay, the best of them and have a sound that is precisely what power metal should be about: fast, melodic, heavy and most importantly varied in influences that add trappings that range from symphonic to thrash metal.

For my money there is no finer modern power metal act.

Lovebites had a bit of a hiccup in in 2021 when bassist Miho, who was also a founder of the band and wrote a fair bit of their material, decided to walk away. The band went on hiatus, but returned to activity in 2022 and brought in new bassist Fami, who joins Asami (vocals), Midori (guitars), Miyako (guitars, keyboards) and Haruna (drums) on Judgement Day (2023), the first album of the new line-up. As usual the band is joined by Mao of the band Light Bringer as a sixth unofficial musician and songwriting collaborator.

As the writer behind some of Lovebites thrashier material, one might wonder if Miho's departure may be felt in the band's sound, but it turns out that this isn't the case at all as the album includes the track Dissonance among its power metal numbers, a thrash track, while rawer speed metal elements also remain in evidence amongst the melody driven power metal that remains the core of their sound. The lead guitar work contains a neoclassical edge adding further flavour while symphonic elements add a tasteful but never domineering bombast to some parts of the album, notably the title track, which is one of their best songs to date, but this feels like an extra strong effort from Lovebites all round, with a claim to being their best yet. I wasn't immediately sold on the gang vocal heavy Stand And Deliver (Shoot ‘em Down), but I've become rather fond of that track with subsequent listens to the album. It's sure to be a crowd pleaser in their live show.

Power metal as a genre often gets a bad rep, which as a big power metal fan I find disappointing and even unfair, even as I admit that there are some bands that earn the genre it's reputation for cheese. Lovebites though are one band that, even if you don't usually listen to power metal, you should check out and Judgement Day would be an excellent album to start with. The band plays about as aggressive as the genre gets without becoming fully speed or thrash metal; there is variety that gives their songs the power to stand out from each other; the musicianship is impeccable. The voice of their singer Asami would be fairly described as accented which is noticeable as the band sings in English rather than their native Japanese, but her voice is great and there's some incredible power there.

Judgement Day is the power metal album to beat in 2023, for my money. I've held off writing this review for quite a while since the album was released, but I haven't heard anything yet that has invalidated that statement. It's also in the running for my Album of the Year 2023. I've played their debut album over thirty times since it first came out which is a lot for someone like me, who listens to a lot of different bands. The group's following albums Clockwork Immortality (2018) and Electric Pentagram (2020) were also great, but always playing catch-up on the number of spins since Awakening From Abyss had that first time wow factor. I have to say though that I expect that Judgement Day will be hitting those numbers in due course. I'm on spin twelve already. Objectively speaking, it is their best record to date.

ANUBIS GATE Interference

Album · 2023 · Progressive Metal
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It seems like only yesterday that the Danish progressive metal band Anubis Gate first came onto my personal radar. But, as it turns out, it was well over a decade ago. I can't rightly remember how I first heard about them, though most likely someone from the little community on YouTube that I frequented back in the day recommended them to me. At that time, Anubis Gate only had four studio albums, the most recent of which was The Detached (2009) and it would have been that album and the prior Andromeda Unchained (2007) - both concept albums – that first took my interest, not knowing just how special this band was going to prove themselves to be, not just then, but in the years to follow.

There have been some changes in Anubis Gate over these years, with the band line-up being reduced to four by the time of their fifth album, the self-titled Anubis Gate (2011) and then seeing line-up changes on Horizons (2014), a move which technically left them with no original members, as Henrik Fevre (vocals, bass) and Kim Olesen (guitars, keyboards), though mainstays of Anubis Gate, were only guest musicians/writers on the debut album Purification (2004). The modern line-up is completed by Michael Bodin (guitars) and Morten Gade Sørensen (drums), who is not to be confused with original drummer Morten Sørensen, who, along with original guitarist Jesper M. Jensen, departed the band in 2012. Jesper M. Jensen sadly passed away in 2020. Interference (2023), the band's ninth studio album, is dedicated to his memory.

Interference is also Anubis Gate's first album of original material since Covered in Black (2017). Between these two albums they did also release Covered in Colours (2020), however, so it's not like they've been idle. Their covers record turned out to be one of the best such albums I'd ever heard, really throwing their own take on a number of songs originally from different genres of music and throwing the Anubis Gate touch at them. It sounded like an Anubis Gate album, as if they'd wrote it themselves. Not the easiest of achievements for any act when dealing with covers. But the real excitement for their fans is what many will feel is the true follow-up to Covered in Black, Interference. The burning question is, was it worth the wait?

Yes.

I actually somewhat want to leave this review at that. Yes. No other words needed. Just yes. But I guess I ought to actually talk about the record itself as well as give a history lesson for newcomers to the band, who perhaps aren't as sold by that simple answer as anyone familiar with their music may be. So let's be clear about something regarding this album: it's the kind of record that is that good it makes me want to reevaluate if Anubis Gate's previous releases were actually as good as they always seemed. They're a band I have consistently had cause to review with high scores and I consider the two concept albums to be among the best progressive metal albums ever made, with several others from their discography hardly lagging behind them. But then they go and release this and it's so next level good that it breaks the rating system. I was floored by how good Anubis Gate were when I first heard then over a decade ago, this little known Danish band whose records were bloody hard to get a hold of due to the apparent bankruptcy of their then record label Locomotive Records, but as with most artists, you don't really get back that first time wow factor. Well, Anubis Gate just managed to make that happen to me once again with Interference. Wow.

Even after only taking the first exploratory spin of the album, I felt like my jaw had hit the floor like a cartoon character's does. Naturally I always expect an Anubis Gate album to be excellent, but I found myself unprepared for this one all the same. Interference is easily the most out and out progressive release Anubis Gate have yet made, yet it also has a slightly less polished production sound, giving the guitars a heavier edge than much of their work, while still of course retaining the melodic sensibility that they are known for. There are ten tracks in all and the songs are a mix between shorter and longer durations. The band have brought back some of the speedy power metal influences that had slacked off on Covered in Black so there's some real fast and aggressive sections in some songs. Henrik Fevre remains in great melodic voice, with some additional harsher vocals provided by Kim Olesen.

I truly find it a difficult album to say really all that much about how it actually sounds. Words written about it never do great music justice. What I can say is that I had listened to it a half dozen times before even contemplating this review and it lost nothing in its impact. I also went through the entire back catalogue of Anubis Gate and there isn't one among them that Interference doesn't stack up against or betters. I have long counted The Detached as their finest work and one of my all time favourite albums, so I have some bias there that's not easy to set aside, but the gut feeling down down is that Anubis Gate may have outdone themselves this time. For 2023 it is without a doubt an Album of the Year contender. It's hard to believe really, after all this time since I first heard them, that they remain relatively unknown, with their back catalogue remaining hard to get physical copies of to this day. Even Interference itself is only being released in a limited quantity of CDs. Get in there and get one already!

FIRST FRAGMENT Gloire éternelle

Album · 2021 · Technical Death Metal
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Gloire Éternelle (2021) is the second full-length studio album by Canadian technical death metal act First Fragment. The band's debut album Dasein was released in 2016 and in the interim there have been some changes. Co-founding guitarist Gabriel Brault-Pilon has left the band to pursue a career in law enforcement while bassist Vincent Savary has also moved on, though has a cameo as a guest musician. Drums on the debut were recorded by a session member, with the permanent role now filled by Nicholas "Le Fou" Wells. Replacing the departed band members are guitarist Nick "Thriller" Miller and in what may just be the band's biggest coup, bassist Dominic "Forest" Lapointe (Augury, ex-Beyond Creation). Only vocalist David AB and guitarist Phil Tougas remain from the debut's line-up.

The music on Gloire Éternelle is, at its core, technical death metal of more the progressive flair, but the edge on the music is much more orientated in a neoclassical approach. The musicianship of First Fragment is of an impeccable level and the band really go full tilt with their soloing, including bass soloing. The highest about of solos in a single track on the album is nineteen, jointly held by Pantheum and the epic suite In'el, a nearly nineteen minute long track. Conversely Pantheum is among the album's shortest tracks.

The overall sound is highly melodic without ever really being melodeath, but it would not be wrong I think to make a connection to power metal in the First Fragment's sound. They also add some acoustics which have a decidedly flamenco touch to them, which isn't something you hear everyday in death metal! The production values may be too pretty and polished for old school death metal fans to get behind, but for those who love insane musicianship Gloire Éternelle is an easy album to become captivated by and is perfect for the neoclassical leads to shine.

All bass on the album is fretless, which always adds a rather unique edge to a technical death metal act, as already displayed by Lapointe in Beyond Creation and other fretless favouring players like Obscura's Jeroen Paul Thesseling. Man, I really love this sound actually. With a lot of metal bass I often find it getting a bit lost amongst everything else going on and as such there's only really a handful of bass players I really consider essential to their band (like Steve Harris in Iron Maiden), but here Lapointe has a lead role in things and it sounds glorious. I would love to hear more bands doing this, not just in tech death.

Clocking in with a big run time of 71:28 it is perhaps a fair criticism to say they do let things meander a bit, although the epic piece, In'el, stands for me as a true crowning achievement of what makes Gloire Éternelle such a great release. It's not an album that I think will please every death metal fan, it seems clear that this one was meant more for the progsters. For this death metal fan it hits the spot absolutely deliciously.

BLIND GUARDIAN The God Machine

Album · 2022 · Power Metal
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As my indisputable favourite band, when Blind Guardian releases a new album it is, understandably, one of the biggest metal events of any year that it happens. In 2022, the event is the release of The God Machine, Blind Guardian's eleventh mainline album and twelfth overall, following the long talked about orchestral album that finally appeared as their previous release, Legacy of the Dark Lands in 2019, which was released under the name Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra. Excluding that album, it has actually been as long as 2015 since Blind Guardian released a new power metal album. The God Machine represents the proper follow-up to Beyond the Red Mirror, ending their longest gap between studio albums – seven years.

Never the most prolific of bands in terms of turning out new albums, Blind Guardian has always represented quality over quantity. There is not such a thing as a sub-par album in their entire discography and The God Machine is of course not the one to break that trend. In fact, it does much the opposite. Despite some fierce competition from especially 2010's At the Edge of Time, what we have here is easily the strongest release Blind Guardian has put out since their golden years of the 1990s. That's in part due to how much this album actually sounds like their classic period once again. This is the kind of record that will likely make their former drummer Thomen Stauch, who left the band after 2002's A Night at the Opera due to be dissatisfied with the less aggressive direction the other three band members were heading in, wish he was back in the band. It's that much like the 1990-1995 era that produced their trio of aggressive power metal classics: Tales From the Twilight World, Somewhere Far Beyond and Imaginations From the Other Side.

This most aggressive side of Blind Guardian isn't like it hasn't been heard since the 1990s. The last two albums most of all had tracks that harkened back to those days, but they were overall very modern Blind Guardian releases of the kind started by 1998's Nightfall in Middle-Earth; more melodic, progressive, and symphonic. The God Machine instead feels like it may be somewhat reactionary to the fact that their last output was the orchestral album, following the non-metal album with an album that's the heaviest they've been since Imaginations From the Other Side. Signs of the more modern Blind Guardian are still here, such as in Secrets of the American Gods, which is a quite symphonic track, and there's also a ballad, Let it Be No More, but mainly this is a Blind Guardian that is all about speed and aggression, with some actual speed metal once again in evidence within the power metal.

The only thing really missing from making this sound like a true classic Blind Guardian album is one of their folksy ballads like A Past and Future Secret or The Bard's Song: In the Forest. Let it Be No More is quite nice but doesn't quite just work in same way. That said, this is still the closest thing you'll hear to a new 1990s style Blind Guardian album. And it turns out that this is just what the doctor ordered. It is, without a doubt, the best album they've done since then. Great songs, heavy as hell and Hansi Kürsch is on absolute fire, singing like he's in his twenties again instead of his fifties. Together Blind Guardian are giving the power metal genre one big kick up the backside.

Despite being my favourite band, or perhaps because of it, I always find it difficult rate Blind Guardian albums when I review them. I could easily put the majority of them on a pedestal and even the weakest among them is still far stronger than the average album, which is why I have to force myself to be more reserved than I might with other bands. Rate them as only Blind Guardian albums and not more generally as power metal albums. Doing it this way, I had long come to the conclusion that the 1990s was Blind Guardian's five star period and other albums, no matter how good, were the four and a half stars, 'best of the rest' ones.

The God Machine is the Blind Guardian album that proved me wrong.

Latest Forum Topic Posts

  • Posted 3 days ago in What TV shows are you watching right now?
    I watched the first two episodes so far and am loving it! I think if you do not know the games then maybe this may seem a bit weird but if you have played them them this captures them so well and the sets and props are completely accurate to Fallout 4's designs. It is good as well for being its own story and not just trying to adapt one of the games though it is still very much in the spirit of the games. 
  • Posted 11 days ago in Recently Watched Films
    Hidden gem. 
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