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Hedon (Eternal Night)

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Ravenhead (Cd+dvd)
Ravenhead (Cd+dvd)
Price: £17.31

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Power metal perfection, 20 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Ravenhead (Cd+dvd) (Audio CD)
Oh yes! With the prog-tastic Easton Hope and the blazing riff-fest that was To The End, German’s Orden Ogan have firmly established themselves in my heart as the best band with the crappest name, and one of the few power metal bands who are actually doing something new and exciting in the genre. To The End was on almost constant rotation in my house of metal during 2013, so expectations were high for another album of high energy, thick-riffed, big-balled and cheesy-but-not-too-cheesy folk-laced power metal. Did they deliver…?

Well, with one foot on a monitor and another raising a sword to Valhalla, by the beard of Odin they bloody well delivered! Like its predecessor, Ravehead is built on a classic foundation of German metal that takes the best bits Running Wild and of Imaginations-era Blind Guardian, and again channels them into something equally melodic and epic yet altogether heavier, faster, and more modern. And by modern, I don’t mean NIN or Amaranthe; I mean faster, more technical, more precise, and chunkier.

Overall, Ravenhead, very much like To The End, is a storming triumph. It’s not quite as fast or as ripping, but it gives a bit more of a measured and balanced attack the Orden sound, with more space for ambient moments and soft keyboard plinky plonks (and keyboard emulating bagpipe plinky plonks). It’s still power metal; however, it’s melodies are sorrowful rather than cheesy, uplifting yet mournful, and in minor rather than major keys. There’s a definite classic German speed metal base to the music, but the riffs are beefy, technical and ballsy at the same time. Indeed, the guitars are low-tuned and possibly of the 7 string variety, yet the classic nature of the riffing makes for a really powerful and bombastic atmosphere in those lower octaves. Seeb’s vocals are warm, yet also thoughtful, nostalgic and with a pronounced sense of loss. Even Ravenhead’s lyrical content is interesting and thought-provoking, eschewing power metal clichés of Tolkien-esque flappery and D&D worship. It’s the perfect soundtrack to a trek through Dark Souls rather than say Skyrim (which would be Rhapsody for sure)…

Anyways, enough of my poor attempts at pseudo journalism; let’s get to the songs! Ravenhead is best listened to as an album in its entirety, as the songs flow perfectly into each other while there’s a non-stop driving force that carries the album through from start to finish. It almost feels like a journey in and of itself. It starts with soft acoustics and chanting coming from somewhere between Mordor and Pirates of the Caribbean before opening into the majestic Running Wild riffing and glorious sing-along chorus of the title track. FEVER masterfully sweeps from quasi folk metal (Seeb did play a few tours with Suidakra after all) to absolutely overpowering grooves and stattaco crunching and a chorus that wouldn’t sound amiss on an old Nightwish record. The Lake again mixes up the crunching grooves, while Evil Lies Within Every Man absolutely pounds the gates of Iron Maiden with chunky steel gauntlets; Bruce Dickenson would trade in his pilot’s license for that chorus! Let’ s not forget the balls of steel gallop of Here At The End Of The World, Deaf Among The Blind’s glorious harmonised guitar lines and choral singing, or the slow build of instrumental In Grief and Chains either. Finally, closer Too Soon shifts gears for a slow, grim, and almost gothic end, leaving you in the best way feeling the record has finished too soon. For me, the absolute show-stealer was Sorrow Is Your Tale. Aside from its sensational German speed metal riffing and a fitting guest vocal from Joachim Cans, it captures that magically dark fairy tale feel that Nightwish did with aplomb on Wishmaster and Sonata Arcitca nailed on Winterhearts Guild, yet with much heavier guitars and what sounds like faux bagpipes. Beautiful…

Repeated listens, for me, revealed lead vocalist/guitarist Seeb as the bands shining star. He’s a power metal singer, yes, but he’s much more rock than opera, he doesn’t sing so high that only your dog cann hear him, and he’s strangely believable in his emotive delivery. He’s a vocalist your non-metal loving girlfriend/boyfriend might dig.

If there’s one problem, and sadly there is, it’s the production. Ravenhead is sadly another victim of the loudness war, and the producer has compressed the ever-living goolies out of the production. Ultra-compression seems to be popular these days, but the compression robs the guitars of much of their bite, and a wide dynamic range would have made this much more atmospheric and in my book.

Yes, I do ramble, but my heart was forged in the fires and iron of 80s NWBHM and thrash, tempered in mid-90s death and melodic death and finally distilled in 2000s power and folk metal, among others. Ravenhead touches on just about everything that I love. It’s as balls to the walls metal as Lost Horizon, as epic as Nightwish, it’s got that folk-laced medieval vibe of older BG, and the riffing is as thunderously heavy as one can get while still playing power metal. And I can’t get over how awesome the Running Wild influences are… Warriors of metal! Go forth and buy Ravenhead. Orden Ogan are taking power metal to new, exciting and heavier places without divorcing them from their loincloth clad and pointy-eared roots. It might only be January, but the best power metal album of 2015 might have already arrived.

(ps. Sorry for writing such a long review, and I didn’t even talk about the ripping solo’s or the growling bass. This album just hit a sweet spot that has been dormant for some time)
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 21, 2015 1:51 PM GMT

The Binding Cycle
The Binding Cycle
Price: £8.03

5.0 out of 5 stars The binding of awesome with more awesome, 14 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Binding Cycle (Audio CD)
You’re cooking up a nice metal pie in your kitchen of hell and leather. Imagine you take a dollop of Opeth’s jazzy prog deathery, lash in a wack of Dark Tranquillity at their most technical, crack in a Kataklsym-flavoured egg, season with the tiniest pinch of Between The Buried and Me, and when no one is looking pop in a drop of Ensiferum and Wintersun. Bake it on 11, and what comes out? My bet is it’d be something like The Binding Cycle, an incredible debut from these Norwegian new kids on the block.

Fallen Divine take all these ingredients and mash them up into their own unique and very interesting sound. Diversity, consistence and cohesiveness go hand in hand, as the band soar through epics of prog death, jazzy breaks, Gothenburg worthy tremolo runs, crunchy riff fests, complex compositions and all round astounding musicianship. And despite the fact that the band go for 7 and 8 minute songs, it never gets boring due to interesting time changes, stratospheric guitar work, jazzy bass lines and just generally some all-round prog metal bad-assery. The most astonishing thing, though, is that Fallen Divine where a bunch of young whippersnappers at the time of its release, and this is their first, SELF-FUNDED album (it was originally released by the band themselves independently; it seems that it has been re-released with a different cover now) ! The level of technical ability and song-writing sounds more like veteran metal crusaders than the wet behind the ears lads they were!

A note of worth has to go to the production. This was produced by Andy La Rocque of King Diamond fame, and its sound brilliant. The guitar sound is proud and chunky WITHOUT being compressed to hell, and the leads soar like eagles. The drums are clear and not overpowering. The bass is very audible. This is top notch! Overall, it finds a sweet spot between grit and polish that prog death should aspire to, and the depth and space within the sound gives it a spacey, ethereal aura. I hope more metal bands will go a knocking at MR. La Rocque’s door. If I was a Norwegian metal band, I certainly would.

I got this when it game out a few years ago, and I revisit it very often. Although it is not perfect, I give it 5 stars because A) the band has found their own niche sound, B) this debut by a rookie band slays on a level one would not expect from such youngsters and C) longevity; I’m still listening to this 4 years later. If you like the thought of a faster, more in your face Opeth tempered with snippets of melodic death (of the highest quality), or if you are just interested in proggy death in general, this should be top of your wish list!


5.0 out of 5 stars Raising the bar, 1 Nov. 2014
This review is from: VETELGYUS(regular) (Audio CD)
If you'd told me that Galneryus would release the best power metal album of 2014 six months ago, I would have laughed you out of the room. Not that I've got anything against these Japanese stalwarts or their competent but rather generic power metal, but let's face it, Galneryus have always been competent but rather generic. So how did they pull of this coupe d' etat and steal the power metal crown in 2014? Aside from the fact that Oden Organ didn't release anything yet, that is...

On the one hand, it just seems that the stars have aligned on Vetelygus. It is not radically different to their body of work, but it all just seems to flow beautifully. However, after repeated listens, it seems that variety is the heart that gives the album its dynamic life. At times, their virtuosic sound harkens to the glorious Queen meets Malmsteen melodies and winter-swept sound of Sonata Arctica's classic Ecliptica; There's No Escape's keyboards are pure Tony Kakko, and the use of the Hammond organ on some songs brings to mind Reckoning Night. At others, this sounds a lot symphonic and bombastic, not unlike a certain Italian band that recently split into two bands with the same name. However, the album really comes alive when the band throws all their different sounds into the pot and let it boil over. Enemy to Injustice stars of with a pirate-ish baroque introduction which makes me think Dark Moor or Rhapsody, while the main verse sounds a little like Kingdom For a Heart, but then all of a sudden it's all baroque with female operatic vocals soaring to the heavens and even a quick dip into flamenco before the final chorus. Or how about the instrumental title track, which busts into Japanese folk melodies when you least expect it? Secret Love even gets a little jazzy. And this is the beauty of the album. Galneryus manage to seamlessly meld all these different styles and facets of the power metal genre together with ease, and they give us compositions which flow, twist and turn without a hitch. Through in some classic guitar wizard histrionics and some very good high vocals, and we have a killer combination.

Ah, the vocals. On the one hand, I did enjoy Masatoshi Ono singing. The dude can really belt out the high notes without straining his voice, and he always keeps a perfect pitch. It's also nice that he uses his full vocal range and doesn't just stay on the high end all the time. However, I did find his vocal melodies to be a little too predictable at times, and this is something I've found with many Japanese singers; everything sounds like an anime soundtrack. Check out ballad Attitude to Life.. Still, it doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the album, but it is just a pity the vocal melodies couldn't be as diverse as the music itself. Then again, since The Guide might be the best power metal tune of the decade, i'll let him off.

Vetelygus is a glorious album that sees the Galneryus raising the bar for themselves by several notches. Perhaps it just took the band 10 years to mature as song writers, but whatever the reason, this album sees the Japanese band ascend to the heights of their idols like Blind Guardian and Rhapsody and earns them a seat at the table. Variety is definitely the spice of life, and power metal, and through it Galneryus have made the best album that it varied, exciting, technically demanding, and the best of their career. Its power metal for power metal lovers; if you like the genre I think you'll love this!

Price: £35.42

3.0 out of 5 stars in need of zazz!, 18 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Genesis (Audio CD)
Ever wanted to here a female-fronted Dream Theatre cover your favourite anime theme tunes? Or maybe put vocals the soundtrack to Marvel Vs Capcom? Well, you may have found your ticket with Japanese power metal band Light Bringer.

Its all sounding very Japanese here. Even before the vocals kick in, you willn know exaclty where this band is from. The music itself is pretty much power metal with heavy keyboard and lead guitar presence, but at times with some prog metal riffing, yet all wrapped up with sugar-rush vocal melodies and simple song structures. And for the most part, its a pretty good ride. Their musical ability is very profficient, with some jazzy little breaks here and there and some pretty cool keyboard vs guitar solo battles.,Also, I slowly got to love the singers# VERY Japanese delivery (in terms of vocal melodies, not just language). Did I mention that this sounds very Japanese?

Well, unfortunately, the downside to Light Bringer is, to quote Metalocalypse, it needs more zazz! They have neither the overt theatical delivery of say Nightwish or Sonata Arctica, nor the gritty edge of someone like Iced Earth, which can leave things a bit sterilized at times. This might have been solved with more fast songs like Espoir or the double bass happy Love You. Maybe its because I'm not a big anime fan, but i feel like a healthy injection of zazz is needed at more than one point in the album.

I've always enjoyed Japanese metal for giving me something a bit different from European and American bands. Light Bringer still have a ways to go in if they wanna be up there with their peers like Blood Stain Child, Maximum the Hormone or Galneryus, but all in all Genesis is a pretty fine album for anyone lookng for candy-coated Japanese power metal

Phantom Shadow
Phantom Shadow
Price: £16.70

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If metroid was a metal band..., 16 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Phantom Shadow (Audio CD)
It is true that a lot of metal these days is generic and unimaginative, such as the endless djent djent bands with 9 string guitars who forgot how to use the other 8 strings, a myriad of thrash-revivalists amid the myriads of reformed 80s thrash bands, and still more banal `core'-affixed than you can shake a tick at. But if you wander off the beaten path a wee bit, you can find some pure belters. Machinae Supremacy are one of those, and if you always wanted your metal mixed with the melodies of Shadow of The Beast or Turrican, this is the album for you

I'd always thought of Machinae Supremacy as being somewhat of novelty/joke band; songs about video games, `hilarious' titles like Need For Steve, and what sounds like a ZX spectrum making the backing keyboards. However, with the phenomenal Rise Of A Digital Nation, the band transformed themselves into a serious dark horse in the world of melodic metal. It's already been 2 years since then, and the band is back with a new offering; Phantom Shadows.

If you've never heard the band before, well, if Samus got tired of killing metroids and decided to start a metal band, it's sound like this. There's a hell of a lot of retro video gamey melodies and keyboards having a merry little party in Machiane Supremacy sound, sometimes as the forefront melodies, more often as backhround textures. A lot of people have described them as power metal, but that is a bit inaccurate as far as I'm concerned; there's no folk meldoies, no choral overdups and no Helloween riffing. Actually, I would say they sound closest to Blood Stain Child or Disarmonia Mundi if you removed the screaming vocals and added an effeminate singer. Not that the vocals are band or anything, but they are rather camp for a metal band - reminds me of Coheed and Cambria a little.

Phantom Shadows is one of those albums that doesn't wow you with flashy virtuoso musicianship or breath-taking experimentation. It won't knock your socks off, nor will it change the way you listen to metal. It's not brutal or especially fast. But, as I have experienced, repeat listens will reveal what is simply a bloody good album at heart. The band have nailed their own distinctive sound, which revolves around both an excellent talent for writing infectious melodies and also for incorporating old school computer game sound effects without sounding gimmicky. It all comes together with a veteran's songwriting touch, as compositions are both varied and memorable. Plus, the metal side of the band is none too shabby with some slick riffing and slicker solo's all over, while the drumming is pretty tight too. In fact, aside from the weird Throne of Games (which sounds like the soundtrack to the worst Japanese game show ever) the band hardly misses a step on Phantom Shadows.

Phantom Shadows retains all that was good from the previous album, but on the whole, it sounds a darker, more sinister and a lot more moody. This is especially true on opening cut Villain of the Story, which has some really moody melodies that wouldn't be out of place on a recent Dark Tranquillity or Lunarsea album. That said, the first half of the album mainly follows the blueprint set down by Rise of a Digital Nation. The second half of the album really takes off though. Most notably, The Second One comes completely out of left field and steals the whole show. Strangely, it starts off with country/folky clean guitars before exploding into some weird sort of 1940's swing melodies - and its gloriously awesome! Seriously, just have a listen. God knows how they made swing work with their electronic video game metal, but they did. The remaining tracks up the ante in terms of epic, and also throw in some wonderful clean breaks and interludes which bring to mind Jester Race era In Flames. Versus in particular, is just gorgeous; from its heat-wrenching introduction through its chilling chorus to it's beautiful ending, it might be the best song the band have ever written.

When I was a young lad, my two escapes where my Amiga 500 games and my metal albums. Machinae supremacy is the perfect marriage of both, so if your anything like me, you need to get this and play it at least once a day for the next couple of months. Likewise, if you're looking for something new and unique to listen to and don't mind a lot of melodies and plinky plonky video game sounds, do yourself a favour and get into Phantom Shadows.

At Dawn
At Dawn
Price: £12.92

3.0 out of 5 stars Olga Olga!, 6 July 2014
This review is from: At Dawn (Audio CD)
Ever since their Revenge E.P. landed in my greedy little hands a few years ago, I've been keeping an eye on Germany's Craving, who may or may not be one of folk metals' best kept secrets. Their debut album was a full-on riot of high velocity Viking glory, with simple but awesome songs which never outstayed their welcome. At Dawn shows the band take some massive stides forward in their technical ability and musicianship, but some poor songwriting choices sadly make this much less enjoyable than the absolute romp that was their debut.

As often happens with younger bands, Cravings technical ability has dramatically improved since their debut. Overall, the riffing is much more complex, the solos are sickening sweet, and the blast happy drumming is up more than a few levels. However, along with this the band seems to have made two key clinical errors with their song craft; they try to jam as many ideas as possible into each composition, leaving them bloated and overlong. Second, there's a heck of a lot of repetition, but not the good kind of repetition you find in a Moonsorrow album. It's the bad kind of hearing the same black metal screaching legato section over and over and over again. Throw in the fact that almost ever song clocks in at about 7 minutes, and it looks like these Vikings ain't gettig into Valhalla any time soon.

Well, let's stay positive and look at the good first. Opener Mik features some rocktastic Amon Amarth worship ( and I don't even like AA that much). It's also the shortest song on the album at 4:43; a quick blast of folky death metal that never outstays its welcome. Targaryen Wrath is one of the few songs which justifies its long length by being chock full of variety. It starts with a lumbering groove and cookie monster growls, breaks to some blasting Ensiferum/Mithotyn awesomeness, and finally transitions into almost Blind Guardian like power metal about 2/3s way through. Amazing! Probably the best track on here, and clearly shows how far the band could go. There's also a re-vamp of They Will Burn from the Revenge ep called Garden of Bones, which isn't as great as the original (the new clean vocal sections don't really work that well), still slays most of the other songs on the record. It's worth noting that these three are the only tracks under 6 minutes. Breath After Breath, likewise, justifies its 7 minutes by switching between soft acoustic passages and blastbeeat mania, trading both death vocals and not too bad clean singing with aplomb.

However, during the other tracks, the album starts to fall apart. Some songs are just jam-packed with two many ideas that donn't go anywhere. Sons of the Rebellion starts off well, with very catchy riffs, and woud have perfectly ended at around 4 minutes, but drags its heels well over the six minute mark. Dance With The Wind, likewise, is just packed with too much that never really develops into anything; it feels like a sackful of riffs cobbled together without any overall flow. Like Sons of the Rebellion, Hellraiser starts off pretty good up until about the 4 minute mark, but the closing THREE MINUTES of repetative blasting and tremelo picking just kill the song. The sad part is that these songs would all be very good if around two or three minutes of sonic puppy fat had been trimmed.

The worst offenders, however, are the back to back trio of In Die Nacht Hinen, Schwarze Flugal, and Olga. In Die Nacht Hinen is almost NINE minutes of tedious repetition, despite a cool solo and a nice acoustic break. I can handle about 6 minutes of it without skipping, but that horrble clean singing grates my ears to shreds, especially when it is repeated over and over again. THERE IS NO NEED FOR THIS SONG TO BE NINE MINUTES LONG. Schwarze just never really goes anywhere and in no ways justifies its 7 minutes of existence. Olga pains me the most, as this could have been a beast of a 3 minute song. Its got a driving, powerful energy and great shout-along chorus, yet with those same few riffs doing the rounds again and again for 6 minutes, all that energy dribbles into boredom.

It is unfortunate that the band chose to go down the road of bloated and over-repetition, as they clearly have a lot of talent. Moonsorrow can make 7 minutes songs feel effortless by building up songs which rise and fall in epic crecendos and with hypnotic waves of subtle variations of the riffing. Between then Buried and Me can jawdropping 7 miute songs by using complex arrangements and shedloads of variety. Craving can't do either, and what we end up is an album in which the majority of songs, despite having some cool moments, overstay their welcome by a good 3/4 minutes and compel the listener to hit the skip button. Their debut album also had some fairly repetative songs (Lord of the Flames, By the Blowing Wind, Leopard) but with most songs hitting th 3/4 miute mark, it doesn't really matter. Hitting the 7/8 minute mark is a completely different story...

The high quality of Mik, Targaryen Wrath, Garden of Bones and Breath after Breath are what made me give this 3 stars, but overall I am dissapointed in At Dawm, especially after their last album. I hope these guys can get it together and either go back to shorter songs or learn how to better craft longer ones. As for me, everytime I have a craving for , em, Craving, I'll be giving their debut album or Revenge E.P. another spin.

Black Moon Rising
Black Moon Rising
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £11.63

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Falconer with a vengence, 17 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Black Moon Rising (Audio CD)
Ever since I stumbled across ‘Mind Traveller’ on a fateful procrastinating evening, power/viking/folk/heavy metal behemoths Falconer have been a constant companion of mine. While the band smashed all my expectations with Among Beggars and Thieves, the last album Amrod didn’t quite cut it for me. A decent album it was, sure, but a decent album from a band that should be releasing jaw-dropping stuff. Still, as a little Falconer fan boy there was no way to contain my excitement when this new baby dropped in my speakers.

Some bands are lucky to have one star performer; Falconer, on the other hand, basks in the glory of three. First, guitarist/songwriter Stefan Weinerhall has one of the best and most unique style’s I’ve ever heard, bringing together the majestic and complex melodies of Viking metal with the grinding crunch of traditional heavy metal, the epicness of non-flower power and even hints of prog. In my view, he is one of the most underrated of riff masters. Second, drummer Karsten Larsson is a colossal beast behind the kit who manages everything from death-worthy blasting to complex fills, anthemic stomps and even little folky pieces. Finally, we have musical/theatre singer Mathias Blad, whose pitch perfect and silky vocals fit perfectly within the medieval vibe of the band. And by the beard of Thor, they don’t disappoint here.

Black Moon Rising continues the grand Falconer tradition of stomping, complex and riff-packed power/Viking/heavy metal that has no imitators (In fact, the only band that I can think of to compare is Wuthering Heights, and that’s not even a great comparison). As you might have guessed from the firey cover art, Black Moon Rising is probably the heaviest, fastest, most aggressive and most technically demanding album the band have brought out, in stark contrast to the slower and more traditionally folk feel of Amrod. In fact, the furious guitar work and complex intertwining tremolo harmonies of Locust Swarm, the title track and Wasteland are heavily reminiscent of Weinerhall’s former band Mithoyn, as always drummer extraordinaire Larsson smashes the drum kit into oblivion in such hubris that might make some death metal bands emasculated. Seriously, you’ve never heard Falconer this fast or complex before. Thankfully though, the band hasn’t forgotten about melody, as Black Moon Rising is liberally plastered with anthemic moments and fist pumping choruses, as Blad makes great use of his unique voice to draw the listener in like a masterful storyteller. We also get some great mid-paced stompers like At the Jesters Ball (what a chorus) and Dawning of a Sombre Age, and token renaissance-fair tune Scoundrel and the Squire. My personal favourite is Age of Runes, with its deep mysterious atmosphere and bass chanting chorus. Top notch. Special note should also go to lead guitarist Jimmy Hedlund, who channels some sort of medieval Brain May into his wicked guitar solos.

It’s hard to find fault with Black Moon Rising. It’s miles better than Amrod, which wasn’t even that bad anyway. However, the beef technical chops, the ridiculous harmonized riffing (just listen to that intro to Crow on the Barrow) and new focus on speed and aggression make this a worthy addition to the Falconer legacy. I still Among Beggars and Thieves might be their magnum opus, but Black Moon Rising is quickly becoming a close second for me.

Listen, I’ve been banging on about this band as criminally underrated for what seems like aeons; there’s never been a better time to go for a spin with Falconer. Whether you’re looking for something technical, fast and unmistakably Viking without growled vocals, something power metal that’s not flowery and cheesy, or you’re an open minded metal fan looking for something a little bit different, you can’t go wrong here (or with Among Thieves and Beggars and the bands self-titled album too). Also, have a gander at Wuthering Heights too if this seems like it might float yer boat.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 5, 2015 4:33 PM BST

Price: £19.47

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect balance of epic viking metal and cheesy insanity, 12 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Erdentempel (Audio CD)
I've always divided Viking metal into two categories; the darker, more progressive stuff like Moonsorrow and post-Urkraft Thyrfing, and the more upbeat, accessible bands like Ensiferum, Finntroll et al. Well, as frontrunners of the lighter side like Ensiferum and Turisas have released rather lacklustre albums of late, the field is open for a new champion to steal the crown. Like a crusty armoured Viking riding a mammoth through wonderland decapitating munchkins as he goes, Equilibrium and Erdentempel are here to do just that.

Sagas is and will always be one of my favourite albums. Although Rekreatur had a few decent songs (Der Ewige Sieg and Die Affenisel), it fell short of the mighty standard Sagas had set a few years before. Well, after four long years, Erdentemple proves that good things come to those who wait, as Equilibrium have delivered a successor worth to the mighty Sagas.

For me, the appeal of Equilibrium has always been threefold. First and foremost is their ability to combine the playful and infectious side of bands like Finntroll and Alestorm with symphonic black metal and a real heavy punch. Second, the band always mixes a lot of variety, from short punchy songs to mid-paced stompers and epic, 10 minute tracks. Lastly, the band has been known to experiment and throw in some rather eccentric ideas, such as pan-pipes and Latin rhythms. Erdentemple doesn't radically change this firmly established sound; it still channels traditional folk metal with slices of (lightly) symphonic black, dashes of power metal bombast and a heavy splash Finntroll-style eccentricity in their rather batty and very German-sounding Viking metal pie. However, while the last album was rather flat and restrained, Erdentempel lets its weirdness and eccentricity off the leash and gives it some magic-mushrooms and a can of lighter fluid. As such we have much more colourful, energetic and wild-eyed beast of an album. In fact, the level of creativity and variety that has been put into this is astounding.

Was Lange Wahrt sets the stage brilliantly, soaking up your ears with powerful Ensiferum style guitars, fast and playful folk melodies and that all important symphonic epicness to get your fist pumping. Waldschrien, already released on an Ep earlier, follows suit in similar fashion, with a stomping anthemic chorus that conjures images of long ships and mead halls to mind. There are darker and moodier cuts on display such as Karawana, Apokalapse or Wellen Gang, while tracks like Stein Meinen Ahnen have enough symphonic bombast to land on a Rhapsody album. But, in true Equilibrium style, the cheese is never far behind. Take Uns'rer Floten Kang; utterly infectious, it sounds like Stratovarius riding a rainbow-farting unicorn through Finntroll Land. Or how about Heavy Chill, with its breakdown into Carribean-style rhythyms before its clean-sung chorus? Top notch, I'd say. Finally, The Unknown Episode almost sounds like Viking-stadium rock, if such a thing exists. Is there no end to the madness of this band? Yet, no matter how out of hand things seem to get, Erdentempel never descends too far into sugary madness. Part of this is due to excellent song writing, which brings balance to both the heavy and the melodic, while Robse's vicious death metal growls serve as an anchor to stop the sound floating into outer space.

If there is one thing I could fault the album for, its that it lacks a longer, more epic track such as Des Sangers Fluch or Wallders Hallen. However, it is a small fault in an otherwise brilliant CD.

There's little bad to say about Erdentempel, other than this might be too out there for the more serious metal fans. Likewise, if you've never been a fan of the band, I doubt Erdentempel will win you over. However, for fans of the band, the genre, or anyone looking for some tongue in cheek metal that doesn't take itself too seriously, you'll find one of the best albums of 2014 in Equilibriums newest baby. It's got bombast, cheese, infectious melodies, grit, growling, variety, great song-writing and much more, and the darker likes of Apokolapse balance out the insanity of the Uns'rer Floten Kang and co. Leave your pretentions, your seriousness and yourself respect at the door; Erdentempel is a glorious descent into a fantasy metal world of forests, mead, beards and metal. Lose yourself in it...

Shadows Of The Dying Sun
Shadows Of The Dying Sun

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars why do i like this so much?, 15 May 2014
In the Halls of Awaiting and Under the Weeping World are two of the most beloved of my metal collection. I’ll never forget the first time I hear Insomnium; it was a revelation. However, my interest has started to wane in the band as the last two records, Across the Dark and One for Sorrow, as high-quality as they were, didn’t really bring any new ideas to the table. Actually, after hearing a few samples of this, I had geared myself up to hate this album and write it off as ‘another identical Insomnium cd’. However, something different happened…

I really, really like Shadows of The Dying Sun. I mean, really REALLY really, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. There’s nothing on here remarkably different from the last three albums, but for some reason Shadows has captivated my attention and burrowed its way into my subconscious mid just like Weeping World and Halls did. Its melodies sweep through my mind when doing mundane tasks. I think about it during my breaks at work. Why? It still sounds so similar. Omnium Gatherum guitarist Markus Vanhala may make his presence known, as his leads and solos are a little bit flashier and have a bit more flair than his predecessor, but still, he doesn’t really alter the bands trademark dreary, wind-swept melodic death bread and butter sound. Also, there are more clean vocals than ever before, but that was to be expected with the way the band has been going.

Well, I’m not too sure I can articulate it; maybe this is just a bloody great album? Maybe it’s just a better than One for Sorrow and Across the Dark? At the very least, if there is something different going on here, I cannot hear it. But what I can hear is a damn great Insomnium record.

Consistency may breed contempt in some, but in others it breeds familiarity and loyalty; perhaps I’m just lucky to be of the later. In the ears of yours truly, (with the exception of Lose To Night, which actually cured my insomnia) this is just so bloody brilliant that I don’t care if it’s similar to their previous work. Don’t expect Shadows of the Dying Sun to reinvent the band in any way, but don’t write this off as ‘just another Insomnium album’. You might like it just as much as I do.

The Beauty of Destruction
The Beauty of Destruction
Offered by encorerecords
Price: £4.72

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Modern Metal, 13 May 2014
While many people (including myself at some points) panned the Jones-era Killswitch albums for being too 'mainstream' and 'watered-down', it's hard to deny the supreme richness, texture and just awesome-ness of his clean voice ; his screamy shouty ain't bad either. Thankfully, leaving Killswitch wasn't the end of the road for the dude; now fans get to enjoy his new band Devil You Know, which also features Francesco Artusato of All Shall Perish on guitars and John Shanky of Devolved and Fear Factory on drums. I'm always a bit sceptical of these 'super groups' which often don't live up to their potential, but I have been enjoying The Beauty of Destruction.

For me, there are three great things about this band. First and foremost is that The Beauty Of Destruction has its own sonic identity, and, while drawing from the members past projects, it lives and breathes with a life and style all of its own. Sometimes these kinds of groups are dominated by one members previous style, but not so here. Big and beefy riffs, discordant melodies, a bit of a metalcore edge, fist pumping heavy metal crunch, the odd blast of thrash here and there, solo's a plenty, subtle hints of electronica and industrial - this is a darn fine slab of modern metal.

Second, owing to the popularity of the members, I wouldn't have been surprised if this was poppy and mainstream as hell. Well, while this isn't exactly Bathory, the band hasn't put any sugar coating on this. It has a bit more of an underground feel then I was expecting, and and the riffing is pretty darn heavy in places. Embracing the Torture even has these spacy/jazzy segments that almost reminded of Animals As Leaders. Even tracks with purely clean vocals, such as For the Dead and Broken have a bit of an underground feel, almost a bit industrial too. Anyways, what I'm trying to say is that, given Jones reputation, they could have made this Killswitch mark 2 and sold a million albums. But they didn't. they made something else instead, and I dig that.

Third, and finally, it has to be the man Jones. While his screaming vocals aren't the most impressive I've ever heard, its his wonderful, soulful and despreately fragile clean singing that captivates me every time. Every time. Maybe my man-crush goes too far, but his unique voice is the perfect icing on the cake.

If I can find one thing to gripe about, its that this isn't exactly the most original or groundbreaking album I've ever hear, and it can be a bit generic in places, although Jones's iron lungs save the band from falling into mediocracy at any point. However, I think that given a bit more time and with some solid touring under their belts, Devil You Know with only make better and better albums. I still think they have a lot of untapped potential that we will hear in coming years.

So, there you have it. Fans of any of the members previous bands, or just modern metal in general, should come to taste The Beauty of Destruction. It may not be re-inventing the wheel, but the is one devil you should definitely get to know.

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