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Steven Baker "Reaper_FBB" (England)
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Digital Ghosts (Standard Version)
Digital Ghosts (Standard Version)
Offered by davehopetrading
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and enjoyable, 16 July 2010
So I have all of the band's previous albums and am pleased to say that I brought them when they came out rather than searching through their back catalogue. After the tragic loss of Mike Baker, I had a feeling that we would never see another album by them but I'm pleased to say that Digital Ghosts is a good addition to their catalogue.

Firstly, I love the SG albums. Although they have elements from other bands, they definitely have their own sound.

But there is a but. Even though overall I love the previous albums, I did find them a little inconsistent although I'm at a loss as how to explain why. In my humble opinion, some of their slower stuff is some of their best ("Colours" / "Comfort Me" / "Mystified") but others are some of their weakest ("Torn" / "Roads of Thunder"). Another paradox is that I love long tracks (Dream Theater's "A Change of Seasons" and "Deliverance" by Opeth to name a couple) but I find the SG long tracks ("Ghost Ship" and "First Light") never seem to hold my attention.

As I say, I can't really explain why since musically they are exceptional but it's just my opinion. Anyway, I don't mean this to sound negative because 4 stars is not a bad album at all.

I actually like the fact that they've gone for 9 minute songs in general. They seem to be the right length, at least for me and musically, they are as impressive as ever. And just for the record, my favourite tracks are "Gold Dust" and "Digital Ghost".

Obviously, the big question will be about the vocals and new vocalist Brian has a good voice. I must confess to identifying two or three influences but none so strong that it detracts in any way. The only thing I would say is that the new vocals don't seem to gel quite so well with the trademark SG harmonies.

To summarise, "Digital Ghosts" is good enough to make me want to hear what they'll do next and I like to put the few minors down to the fact that it's something different from what I'm used to. I've only listened to it a couple of times and I'm sure it will grow on me. It's nice to know that SG's future is in safe hands...


Break the Silence
Break the Silence
Price: £2.24

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy follow up to Viorus, 1 Oct 2008
This review is from: Break the Silence (Audio CD)
With "Viorus", Regicide produced one of my favourite albums, so their sophomore effort had a lot to live up to. While this is still an excellent album, it's not as accessible as their first and I found that after the first run through, I had difficulty picking out individual tracks.

However, all the elements from the debut were in place, so I persevered and while it doesn't quite rank as highly to me as "Viorus", it is still one of the best albums of this style.

As a quick recap, Regicide play a brand of gothic metal which is reminiscent of the "Beauty and the Beast" style, with interplay of male and female vocals. However, Regicide differ from others in that the male and female vocals are given an almost equal period of time in each song and they alternate regularly. Also, the male vocals never verge on growling as in many other groups of this type. The other real distinction is that the violin is always prominent. As in the debut, this does not come across as a gimmick but rather as an integral part of the music.

I think that the reason the songs didn't grab me initially is two-fold. Firstly, the female vocals here are always in the higher register and don't tend to show the same restraint as the best moments of the last album. Also, there are a number of tracks which seem to share a structure whereas the tracks were all very different previously.

I seem to have been overly negative so far, so to redress the balance, I would say that the good tracks on this album are probably some of the best that the band have produced, with them striking a perfect balance between the male and female vocals, the violin and the rest of the instruments.

In summary, of the 10 tracks, there are 7 that are great and this is only commented on because their first album had 9 out of 10. As I said, though, the best tracks are really great with my favourites being the swashbuckling "Pirates", the cautionary and driving "A World Without Oceans" and the meaningful and emotional "Nothing in Here". Another great release by a band on the up.


Viorus
Viorus
Offered by thebookcommunity
Price: £14.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exceptional Debut, 19 Sep 2008
This review is from: Viorus (Audio CD)
I came across Regicide on the "Midnight Horror" bonus CD that came with the limited edition "Sirenian Shores" by Sirenia. I liked the sound of the Regicide track included so I decided to buy the whole album. What a great decision!

Although Regicide use male and female vocals, it is unusual in the "Beauty and the Beast" category because there's no "beast" part. What I mean is that the male vocals are always of the clean variety rather than the growling that often intersperses the clean vocals. I have no objection to a bit of growling in my music but for this release, the vocal style was exactly what was needed.

The thing that makes this album so good to me is the pure variety and interest that is maintained throughout the entire running time. There are slower tracks, faster tracks, symphonic tracks and progressive tracks. Both singers are very strong and their usage through all the different styles always seems to suit the mood. Also, the violin features heavily in the tracks but whereas this can sometimes be seen as a gimmick, in this case it is integral to the overall sound and you would find it hard to imagine the tracks without it.

In trying to draw comparisons with other groups, I am finding it quite tricky. On most of the tracks there will be a few bars or a vocal style that just reminds you of something else but it's never overdone and never enough that it sounds like a copy. As an example, the male and vocal line-by-line interplay on some tracks is reminiscent of a similar style used in places on Ayreon's "The Human Equation". On other occasions, the emotional delivery brings to mind some of Evanescence's finest heart-string-tuggers. The faster, driving songs sometimes give a glimpse of Shadow Gallery at their heaviest and there is even a segment in one of the tracks that for some reason, reminds me of a James Bond film! This is by no means exhaustive and is just to give a flavour of the variety contained within. None of these influences are overdone and to my ears, it just adds another layer of interest to the music.

As I'm sure is clear, I have been very taken with this album. The quality of the tracks is consistently very high, with only one missing out on being great and merely settling for being good. As such, it almost seems unfair to pick out some favourite tracks, but I always like to add a few so the real stand-outs are the emotional "Funeral of Tears", the progressive "An Embracing Space", the driving "Viorus" and the symphonic "Biography" which includes the James Bond note mentioned earlier.

To close, I would suggest that anyone who likes female-fronted, gothic metal of any type will find something in this album to love... One of my favourite albums ever.


An Elixir For Existence
An Elixir For Existence
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not as good as I'd hoped, 5 Sep 2008
This review is from: An Elixir For Existence (Audio CD)
After their excellent debut "At Sixes and Sevens", I brought the entire back catalogue of Sirenia's albums. This is their sophomore effort.

The music is fairly gothic in tone and includes both male (growling / clean) and female (angelic / ethereal) vocals.

The first thing to notice is that the male vocals are very much in the same style as before. They are quite growling but not unpleasant and they do suit the driving music very well. The female vocals on this album are provided by a different singer to the last one although it is quite difficult to tell them apart for most of the duration. I prefer the female vocals on the first album but they are still very good here and it is pretty marginal overall.

As can be gleaned, the performances are all top notch. The only disappointment is that the tracks don't quite grab me like they do when I listen to the first album. I can't quite put my finger on why this is the case although it may be that the album sounds very similar to the first in style and tone and of course, this slight lack of originality lessens the impact.

In summary, this is by no means a bad album. Indeed, if it had been produced by a different artist, I would probably be raving about it. However, because their debut was so good, they would have had to produce a stellar recording for me to get the same reaction and this doesn't quite reach the heights I'd hoped. Having said that, there are still tracks that I can call my favourites and these are "Voices Within", "A Mental Symphony" and the haunting "Save Me From Myself".


At Sixes And Sevens
At Sixes And Sevens
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "Beauty and the Beast" done perfectly, 3 Sep 2008
This review is from: At Sixes And Sevens (Audio CD)
I tend to go through phases where a certain style of metal catches my eye (ear?) and I will spend the next few weeks looking for other examples of the style. This was the album that reignited my passion for gothic metal.

If you're familiar with the "Beauty and the Beast" style of music (angelic female vocals combined with agressive, growling male vocals) you'll have an idea of what to expect. However, that to me doesn't do this album the justice it deserves.

On the female vocal side, they are always beautiful and at times contain an ethereal, otherworldy quality particularly on "Manic Aeon" where the vocals bring to mind "Curve" at their most mellow. On the male vocal side, there are plenty of growling moments (although they never outstay their welcome) but this is combined with "clean" vocal and whispered passages. I think that this is the best combination of male and female vocals that I've heard in this style of music and it keeps every track fresh and interesting. With the excellent variety in the music as well, it's a real treat to listen to.

After complimenting the gothic feel so much, it is interesting to know that one of my favourite tracks is the last one "In Sumerian Haze" which is the only song where the female vocals are always at the fore. It is a haunting and emotional song which really hits the mark. A testament to the quality of this song is that it doesn't feel like the token slow song... It really fits in with the album as a whole and rounds off an excellent listening experience.

Favourite tracks are the driving "Sister Nightfall", the catchy "In a Manica" and of course the stunning "In Sumerian Haze".


Images And Words
Images And Words
Price: £6.48

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Beginning of my Prog Love Affair, 16 May 2008
This review is from: Images And Words (Audio CD)
Through the mid to late 80s, I was listening to a lot of metal ranging from Def Leppard, through Motley Crue and to Metallica. However, when I bought this album in 1992, my musical tastes changed forever.

As I'm sure has been mentioned, the slowly building drive of first track "Pull Me Under" hooked me instantly and it became one of my favourites. Track two "Another Day" is the only one didn't like and still don't and I think this is because it feels like it could have been done by anyone. Comparing this to all the other tracks seems like listening to a different group. From then on, though, things just get better.

I remember listening through the more "widdly" tracks and being totally gobsmacked that people could play like that, especially having no musical talent myself. From the time I first listened to this album, I have been on a constant search for similar music which has the same impact on me that this did. There have been some close calls, but this still sticks out as one of the best.

I have listened to this album so much, that a number of the tracks are losing their shine, but it still contains my favourite ever Dream Theater track "Under a Glass Moon" and others like "Take the Time", "Wait for Sleep" and "Metropolis" can still hold their own against any music that I've bought since... A definite classic.


Dead Reckoning [Limited Edition]
Dead Reckoning [Limited Edition]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A rare thing for me, 16 May 2008
For some reason, whenever I listen to an album for the first time, I can tell whether I will like it in future, even if on first listen it doesn't appeal. However, with this album, it was a total surprise. When I first listened to it, I loved the first track, but then the tracks seemed to lose focus and a couple of them seemed to be off-key. My distaste for the album was confirmed when I only gave it a rating of 2 on Amazon.

However, I persevered with it and gradually, the tracks grew on me to the extent that I wanted to listen to it more. Now I have upped my rating to 4 and I wouldn't be surpised if on further listens, I push it up again.

As usual for Threshold, the music is excellent and the vocals are good (I think I'm one of the few who preferred the original line up with Damian Wilson on vocals) and the stand-out tracks being "Slipstream", "Pilot in the Sky of Dreams" and "Fighting for Breath".

If you are the type of person who will persevere with a CD then I would heartily recommend that you give this one a spin. You, like me, might be surprised at how much you start to enjoy it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 22, 2010 10:53 AM GMT


Ghost Opera
Ghost Opera
Price: £12.80

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a nice surprise, 16 May 2008
This review is from: Ghost Opera (Audio CD)
Before I bought this album, I only had one CD by Kamelot and that was "Karma". I enjoyed this, but I found that some of it was a little hard to get into. However, on a recent buying spree, I bought "Ghost Opera" and boy am I glad I did.

Some people may think that the orchestral beginning is a little cliched, but I still like it and it runs really well into tracks one and two. I did notice at this point that the first two tracks were a little more commercial than I had expected, but they are both excellent songs and I always find myself singing along.

I have actually listened to this album almost constantly since I bought it and there are a couple of songs which are losing their appeal slightly, but the majority are still easy to listen to. As well as the first two tracks, I particularly enjoy the tracks where the female vocals complement the male.

I want to finish by singling out two tracks. Firstly, there is "Anthem" which is the obligatory slow song, but as other people have mentioned, it doesn't seem to have been added because it should... It really fits in with the album and the vocals are very emotional.

Finally, "Pendulous Fall" is my favourite track, although I can't quite put my finger on why. It's just that whenever I listen to the album, I'm always looking forward to it and when it does come on, I can't help but sing along, especially in the car.

All in all, an excellent album.


Words Untold & Dreams Unlived
Words Untold & Dreams Unlived
Price: £7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breath of fresh air, 5 Oct 2007
Ever since 1992 when "Images and Words" got me hooked, I am always on the lookout for new prog metal. On a recent CD buying trip, I was looking for a couple of discs and as I was browsing, I found this one. The sticker on the front said "Great new prog metal from Norway". The cover art and song titles seemed to be a good indication of the music style, so I thought I'd give it a go (naive? me?).

The opening song starts with an Indian-inspired intro, a little reminiscent of "Bombay Vindaloo" on Dream Theater's "Live at the Marquee". Well since I love this style of music when it's combined with some power metal, I was hooked from the start.

I'm pleased to say that after the excellent start, the album doesn't disappoint as it progresses (:-) There are no bad tracks and each one has a moment which you always look forward to (In the same way as the majority of Opeth's songs).

In terms of a musical comparison, it reminds me mostly of two stages of Threshold's career. The music is very heavy and driving like on their first album "Wounded Land", whereas the vocals bring to mind more recent Threshold releases such as "Critical Mass". It's a great combination and really makes the songs rock, while still keeping you interested in the well-sung vocals.

I bought this album some months ago, but I am still listening to it on the train to and from work at least 2 or 3 times a week and that seems to be the best indication of how good I think it is.


Black Sun Rising: The Coldfire Trilogy: Book One
Black Sun Rising: The Coldfire Trilogy: Book One
by C. S. Friedman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Original and intriguing, but a little slow in places, 28 Dec 2006
Black Sun Rising has been my introduction to the world of Celia Friedman. It provides a new twist on the way that magicians are portrayed (not a pointy hat or flowing robe in sight) and also the way that magic is portrayed. In this world, there are energies constantly flowing (known as Fae), all of which are based around an element and all of which can be manipulated by a suitably skilled adept.

Adepts can only manipulate one of the energy types and this is quite a neat mechanism which allows the characters to be imperilled and doesn't allow the reader the luxury of assuming that they can get just use their magic to get themselves out of trouble. For example, one of the main characters can manipulate Earth Fae, but when he is on a sea voyage, the earth Fae are too far away for him to access their power.

The story follows the usual small group of people and their adventures through the land. Other races are encountered with varying degrees of success as they battle to defeat the "Evil Power". Also interesting is that like George RR Martin, Friedman incorporates a duality to the characters which allows you to like the "evil" and dislike the "good" as the story progresses. One particularly interesting character is "The Hunter" who is an expert in his field, but has matured into a distinctly nasty piece of work.

One thing worth mentioning is that this story is quite a bit darker than you are used to, where the characters use various foul means to generate a negative emotion (like fear) and then feed off them. A good, concise description would be an emotional vampire. As well as the dark themes, there are a number of quite graphic scenes which are certainly harder hitting than you would think.

In giving a mark to the book, I find myself a little torn. It is undoubtedly intriguing and the second half moves at a fair pace, but I did find it a little hard going to start with. I was toying with a 3-star rating, but when it comes down to it, I did enjoy the story and I would certainly like to encourage others to try it out, so I've settled on my rating at 4.

If you like your fantasy dark, this will be right up your alley and if you're getting a little sated with the standard fantasy plotlines and concepts, this is a good place to find something different.


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