CyHra Sign Onto Nuclear Blast

After parting ways with Amaranthe in 2017, founder/vocalist Jake E started a new band, CyHra, along with Jesper Stromblad (who left In Flames around the same time).

CyHra released their debut, Letters to Myself, under Spinefarm. Now, the band have signed onto the mighty Nuclear Blast and will release their upcoming album, which has already been recorded, mixed and mastered.

While no news of the new album has been released yet, CyHra have also made public a European tour alongside Battle Beast and Brymir this November.

To hear their new single as soon as it’s out (which the band promises will be soon), go follow them on Facebook!

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Helion Prime Welcomes New Vocalist Through New Demo

Fresh off the Cybernetic Terror Tour, American melodic metal band Helion Prime have announced that the recruitment of YouTube host and metal vocalist, Mary Zimmer (ex-White Empress, ex-Luna Mortis) as their full-time vocalist.

Along with the announcement, the band have released a demo featuring Zimmer on vocals:

Here’s what the band’s songwriter/guitarist, Jason Ashcraft, had to say about the lineup change:
“Anyone who follows current issues with foreign metal bands trying to get into the United States to perform will be no stranger to the struggles it brings. Sadly, Helion Prime has had no exception and this issue falls to single musicians, as well, and not just bands. After several issues with travel and visas, our previous vocalist, Sozos Michael (who currently resides in Cyprus), and the band have agreed the best hope for the future of Helion Prime was to have someone closer to home as the vocalist. We absolutely love Sozos and the album we created together and he will always be part of the Prime family. The Terror album will not be the last you hear from him with us in some manner, we promise that. I will always be proud of the album we created with Sozos. He is a phenomenal singer and musician. It’s unfortunate how difficult things are becoming for bands and artist overseas to come here and perform. We hope things will change soon and people can see situations like ours, prog-power, and many others as reasons for concern. However, this won’t be the end, I know I personally will continue to work with Sozos in some form or another and this isn’t the last of our working or personal relationship. The chemistry with Mary is great. We have known each other for a long time now and I think getting that time to really get to know each other has helped build a strong foundation. Stay tuned for more news on the upcoming album, tours and more.“

Vocalist Mary Zimmer states:
“I am so stoked to join the Helion Prime team. The guys are great to work with and the new music we have been preparing in the background has been exciting. I feel like it is a great fit for my vocals. We make a great team and I hope to live up to Prime’s tradition of great vocalists.“

Helion Prime are halfway finished the recording of their next album, which is expected to be out some time in 2020 and are also busy planning tours to accompany the album’s release.

Follow Helion Prime on Facebook to see what the new lineup will bring!

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Unleash The Archers Announce New EP

Two years after the critically-acclaimed Apex, Canadian melodeathers Unleash the Archers have announced a new EP. Explorers will be released on 11 October 2019 under Napalm Records.

The EP (which is really a single) will consist of two tracks, both of which are covers of Canadian songs.

01: Northwest Passage
02: Heartless World

Here’s what the band has to say about the first track, ‘Northwest Passage’:
“This song means a lot to us as a band, we like to put it on during those long drives on tour and it always brings us right back home. We originally recorded it to be a bonus track for our last full length album Apex, but we loved the track so much we knew it needed special treatment. We held on to it for a bit and eventually decided to release it as its own 7″ vinyl EP with another Canadian cover song as the B side. The song ‘Northwest Passage’ is all about touring through Canada, which Stan Rogers did a lot, and how it equates to being an explorer looking for the passage all those years ago. It really hits home with us, we’ve toured through Canada too many times to count, so we know just how Stan was feeling. That’s where the name of the EP came from too; every time we hit the road on tour it’s like we too become Explorers, with the great big unknown stretching out before us.”

Along with the EP announcement, the band have also announced their participation in Full Metal Cruise 2020, which starts in Kiel, Germany, on 23rd September 2020, alongside Sonata Arctica and label colleagues Legion Of The Damned.

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Equilibrium – Renegades Review

Score3.5
GenreElectronic “Folk” Metal/Dance
CountryGermany
Runtime46:40
Release Date23 August 2019
Record LabelNuclear Blast

Imagine yourself in a simpler time. A time, perhaps, where you’re me. June is almost over, and one of your favourite folk metal bands, Equilibrium, just released a new single to their upcoming album. ‘Renegades – A Lost Generation’ is super poppy, sure, but its sick riffage combined with its heavy electronic booming is enough to get me excited. A lot of fans are furious at such a preview, but not you. You dig bombast with a side of catchy. So, naturally, you spend the next two months eagerly anticipating Renegades in all its thumping, dancing, metal glory.

But then it comes. It knocks on the door of your heart as you download it and press play for the first time. Your friend, ‘A Lost Generation’ greets you, but he’s brought his friends this time. Except, these aren’t the kind of guys you want to hang out and party with. No, they’re not. They’re some sketchy fuckers, and not the type you’d expect ‘A Lost Generation’ to hang around, either. As they enter, they beat the living piss out of you. One by one. Every minute or so, one of them puts on a different face: a caring face, asking you if you need anything. But, before you can respond, they change right back, smacking whatever hopeful expression you had on your dumb, unfortunate, betrayed face, and continue pounding your stupid ass. Toward the end of this slaughter, though, another walks in. ‘Hype Train’ enters, wipes you off, kisses your forehead, and tells you it’s there for you. Just as you put your faith in her hands, though, it’s stripped off again by the final douchebag of the evening, who spits on your motionless body, leaving you sad and alone.

Fun ride, huh? That’s pretty well how I felt listening to it. Needless to say, Equilibrium have invoked all of my fury and then some, because this is some serious bullshit. I’m not gonna sit here and bitch about how Equilibrium aren’t folk metal anymore, because everybody was expecting it after their previous album especially. Renegades features almost no folk elements, save for some synth interludes or intros/outros, but even those are probably just coincidental, because they follow the same lines as a lot of popular EDM does. But, whatever. I’m over it. What I’m not over, however, is the fact that, despite such a capable lineup and clear ease of executing a solid mix of electronic/pop/heavy metal, Renegades manages to pump out almost nothing but uninspired garbage, except for two songs (which I mentioned before).

Let me break it down a bit. Rather than making something cool and catchy, Equilibrium have just put together an album full of EDM and radio pop tropes that are masked behind bombast and massively heavy guitars and vocals in an effort to hide their overdone, simplistic faces. But that won’t work on me. I see you, mediocrity. I fucking see you, and no amount of flare or weight can hide you. ‘Tornado’ and ‘Himmel und Feuer’ are fine examples of this, where, if you stripped off the thin metal exterior, you’d be left with nothing but some sorry kid on Soundcloud trying to be discovered.

But not all of the songs follow this formula. No, some of the songs are just outright lost causes. Take ‘Path of Destiny’ for example. Who in the god damn brought this Luke-Bryan-makes-an-Apple-commercial idea to the show? Not gonna fly here, no sir. Surprisingly, the best part is actually the rapping in the bridge, which I could handle if the rest of the song wasn’t nu country ass. ‘Johnny B’ also brings its fair share of disappointment in the vein of Owl City (remember them? People listened to them in 2012 for some reason). But these two don’t even hold a candle to ‘Kawaarki’. This reject from the emo/metalcore scene of the late 00s is so unworldly irritating that it actually burned all of the fingers off every pair of gloves in my house. Get this “rawr XD’ shit out of my house. It’s 2019 for Christ’s sake.

Now, in an effort to try to end this review on a more positive note, Renegades does have a few good things to offer. If I went to a party and it was playing, I could handle it. Also, like I mentioned, ‘A Lost Generation’ and ‘Hype Train’ kick all sorts of ass, and, if the rest of the album were more on that side of things, it’d’ve been everything I wanted it to be. Additionally, there are a few cool drum fills and riffs scattered throughout, but for the lengths you have to travel to find them, it’s just not worth it. Honestly, you should still check this album out. It’s unique, to say the least, and there’s such a variety of tracks that you’ll probably like something.

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Elvenking – Reader Of The Runes – Divination Review

Score8.5/10
GenreFolk Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime52:25
Release Date30 August 2019
Record LabelAFM

It’s not very often that a band that’s been around for more than five albums maintains a steady level of greatness in every release. I’m not just talking about a solid discography with album or two being considered “passable”, but rather a track record in which every album is, at the very least, great. It’s not unheard of by any means, and it’s ultimately contingent on whom you ask, but there are certainly some bands that are widely-regarded to just be really fucking good.

For us in the metal community, names like Iron Fire, Blind Guardian, Zeppelin, or Queen might make the cut. However, for myself, I would put Elvenking at the top of my no-less-than-great list. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re my favourite band of all time (although, they are close), but it means that I think that they’re a band that is almost incapable of putting out something even close to bad; they haven’t yet.

So, it should come as no surprise that the folk masters’ tenth album, Reader of the Runes – Divination, kicks all sort of ass, pagan-style. Fans will be pleased that Divination still retains the core Elvenking sound: a primarily-pop/punk vocal style, folk melodies, proggy song structure, and a power metal energy. Conversely, though, the album is as much a breath of fresh air as it is an Elvenking album, as it takes the band in two directions that they haven’t really explored in depth before; the road of Divination is generally darker and heavier than their previous material, and it also brings a whole concept that tells of a journey into a mystical world of runes and magic.

Aside from the songwriting and atmosphere, the instrumentation (obviously) is what mainly contributes to the difference in sound that you’ll find here compared to every album prior. There are huge choirs, such as in ‘Reader of the Runes – Book I’, and plentiful vocal tracks that seem to substitute what used to be rampant folk instruments. Additionally, the guitars have stepped up from the background right into the forefront as the driving force of the songs, even more so than the violin, acoustic guitar, string tracks, or drums combined. Speaking of the drums, Lancs‘ style is a lot steadier and heavier than the band’s previous patter-style drummer, Symohn, who parted ways with the band in 2017. This difference was obviously also present in Secrets of the Magick Grimoire, but it’s even more apparent next to the guitar’s new-found presence. Finally, the folk influences are dialed down quite a bit here, too, so the result of all of this is a heavier, more intense, more metal album.

In case you didn’t already assume, Divination has a bit of a variety to offer. Just kidding, it’s all over the fucking map. There are more typical tracks like ‘Heathen Divine’ (which is very Pagan Manifesto) and the laid back ‘Eternal Eleanor’, but there are also songs that stretch the boundaries a bit more, due to all the stuff in that big paragraph above. Most notably, however, we have ‘Malefica Doctrine’, which is drenched in melodeath and stands as the heaviest song in Elvenking’s twenty-plus-year career.

While I wouldn’t call this one Elvenking’s best (because that title would go to Pagan Manifesto), it’s still a killer album. The concept fits, it’s super dynamic, and it has a high headbangability factor. If you were hoping for a very folky album, you won’t get it here. However, I think that old fans will enjoy the hell out of Divination and newcomers will get hooked on it, too.

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Paladin – Ascension Review

Review Written by Musicgirl

Score9.5/10
GenrePower Metal
CountryUSA
Runtime49:28
Release Date17 May 2019
Record LabelProsthetic

If all power metal bands were as strong and intense as Galneryus, the late Three Inches of Blood, or Paladin here, the genre would be a lot better off. A release like Ascension sadly drops far too infrequently.  Occasionally some curds need to be skimmed off, but Ascension keeps you on the edge of your seat for fifty glorious minutes.

The album opens with a blast. A torrent of Yngwie-style fretwork just mows you down. I suppose there is nothing terribly groundbreaking here, but few albums can match the energy. Then the vocals kick in, and you immediately notice the cadence and uplift of classic 90s power metal. One is really in for a treat when the vocals thrash out on the opener ‘Awakening’ and on a number of other tracks here. This is serious innovation and about time! I don’t think I am the only one turned off by the sickly sweet tendencies on the refrain of your usual power metal vocal number. The better power bands like Stratovarius, while no less happy and Ionian than the genre’s typical fodder, always manage to move you beyond words with their pacing, intensity, and force. They, of course, are not thrashy at all, tending toward very clean vocals. Paladin show that rougher vocals in spots is just another vehicle to build tension toward the refrain and create an incredible adrenaline rush. It certainly doesn’t hurt that lead singer Taylor Washington’s clean voice, once it comes on, is so rich and beautiful, absolutely one of the best out there today. 

Paladin could stand to be just slightly more selective on the insertion of  thrash vocals. They somewhat interrupt the profundity of ‘Vagrant.’ This excellent track starts out folksy and mysterious, a mood maintained when the vocals (cleaner) commence. This time addition of thrash vocals a little later shatters the depths and seems trite, though the uncleans work fine even later in the song.  

Paladin has great success when thrash influences the entire writing of a song and is not just an afterthought. ‘Call of the Night’ is such a thrashier number. Structure is slightly looser and more ambient. This makes the song contrast well to others on the album. ‘Call of the Night”s catchy, cleanly sung refrain is more intense due to the thrash vocals on the verse. Thankfully this refrain is also kept brief as not to detract from the dark mood. Additional clean vocals are saved for the Medieval-like bridge.     

Songs on Ascension tend to have longer-than-usual guitar solos. This is far from wankery. Lead axe wielder Parra is a completely commanding spinner of engrossing tales with his instrument. There is never a dull or overindulgent moment when he takes center stage. Part of the reason is that he knows to vary the style, while still retaining his distinct technique. For example, on ‘Dawn of Rebirth’, Parra gets classical at one point and highly dissonant at another; these are ideas not reiterated in other songs.

One of my favorite songs on Ascension, ‘Call of the Night’, is very guitar oriented. The solo is vaguely Medieval, even borrowing some genuine patterns from early music. The absorbing guitar outro shows off Alex Parra’s high skill level on a variety of technique including rapid arpeggios.

Besides the already mentioned songs and passages, I have two more favorites on Ascension. One is ‘Shoot for the Sun’. The intro is simple and focused, pulling one right along into a mean, old-school hard rock melody.   Why is that not in the slightest bit tired, just the opposite, really? It’s probably because of the speed and the generous, varied guitar riffing underneath.   

With ‘Divine Providence’, we get a damn catchy, well-crafted earth shaker with mainly thrash or even pseudo black/death vocals. The guitar in the background cycles through broken chord inversions, a potent attention grabber and counterpoint to the vocal fire. Then enters some high-register overdubbing of dark, diminished patterns on the guitar, providing additional substance.  Rarely do you get these many ideas coming together in one song. The latter songs of the album seem to have a solemn sense of purpose. The listener can feel being tunneled into some higher calling of the band. The last track ‘Genesis’ radiates definiteness and hope. This is because Paladin is a theistic ensemble lyrically. There is a tight feeling of redemption here. Yet, non-theistic rationalists like myself never get the sense that they’re being missionized. Ascension is absolutely an album for every power and NWOTHM fan. If one rigidly shuns it due to lyrics, one only does a very big disservice to oneself.

Review Written by Musicgirl

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Shades of Sorrow – Paradox Review

Score7/10
GenreMelodic Heavy Metal
CountryCanada
Runtime30:09
Release Date3 September 2019
Record LabelSliptrick

It’s always nice to hear great metal coming out of my home country. It’s not like there aren’t any awesome Canadian metal bands, but, since I listen mostly to power metal and folk metal, it’s not very often I have one cross my path compared to countries like, say, Sweden. The female-fronted Shades of Sorrow are one such band whom I had never heard of before listening to their latest record, Paradox, which is actually their third album to date.

Stylistically, Shades of Sorrow contains a lot of that cool attitude that you would find in bands like Paramore (you know, before they started pumping out absolute fucking garbage circa 2010) with a melodic heavy metal spin. There’s nothing in Paradox to make you piss your pants or anything, but it’s a pretty fun listen regardless.

Unfortunately, Paradox begins at its lowest point. It’s pretty laid back and basic compared to the rest of the album, but ‘Follow Me Down to Hell’ is watered down and sells the rest of the album short. While we’re on the topic of shortcomings, I might as well get the rest out of the way. My biggest issue with Paradox is simply that I find myself wanting more from it a lot of the time. Take the lead vocals for example. It’d be a lie to say Monise Ouelette isn’t a good vocalist, because she definitely is. However, there isn’t enough expression to highlight the choruses or climaxes. She clearly shows in ‘Notorious’ and ‘Facade’ that she’s capable of bringing the oomph and attitude, so it’s not like she’s incapable of pounding out better hooks.

That isn’t to say that this is a bad album, though. As I mentioned before, it’s fucking cool. Like, leather-jacket-cigarette-guy-walking-away-from-an-explosion cool. The super chunky rhythm guitar crafts some beefy riffs, and the mastering allows for a raw, gritty sound. The melodies are also killer, and it’s great to hear melodies that swing with decent meter. Additionally, for a borderline-EP, there’s a good deal of variety. While a lot of the tracks are super heavy, they’re all dynamic in their own rite. Although, ‘Paradox’ changes it up, as it’s driven mostly by lighter acoustic work. For me, ‘Fractured’ makes it as my personal favourite, largely due to the jazzy melodies alongside such rough rhythm parts and the fact that the entire band is on fucking point.

If you’re looking to expand your musical horizons a bit by giving an underground band some love, check out these guys. While it’s definitely not perfect, it’s a unique album with emotion as raw as its production.

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Oha Cade Announces Upcoming Symphonic Metal Opera

Valcata is the brainchild of New York-based composer Oha Cade. A brand new symphonic metal endeavour, Valcata’s selftitled debut will feature eight vocalists (four female and four male) to play the story’s characters. It will be released on 18 October 2019.

Here’s a brief intro to the opera’s story:
The planet Valcata has suffered mass extinction from a heatwave that has escalated over the last century. Special teams have been deployed into the galaxies in search of salvation. Earth is one of many possible destinations.

01. Stars
02. Our Quest
03. The Turning
04. Horror Machine
05. Life and a Million
06. 3-2-1
07. Beyond
08. Escalade
09. The Termination
10. Valcata

Valcata promises to be a ferocious, sharp, and diverse work of symphonic metal. Make sure to check it out when it arrives on 18 October!

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Twilight Force – Dawn Of The Dragonstar Review

Score9/10
GenreSymphonic Power Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime01:18:24
Release Date16 August 2019
Record LabelNuclear Blast

Gather round, children, to hear magical tales of fantastical whimsy! Now fronted by the famed Alessandro Conti, the mighty Twilight Force is back with their third opus, Dawn of the Dragonstar. After parting ways with their previous vocalist, Christian Eriksson (who recently just released his debut with his new brethren in NorthTale), the merry men have lost none of their vigour or valiance, yet again producing another glorious album that is as fresh as a new day!

As you can expect from Twilight Force, Dawn of the Dragonstar is full of unlimited, overblown, storybook energy. With the exception of maybe two moments, the album is consistently happy and heroic from the very first seconds of the galloping ‘Dawn of the Dragonstar’ into its final note. This hyper-melodic, smile-demanding work isn’t all sheen and shine, though; there’s an absolutely staggering degree of talent and proficiency to behold in every track.

The guitars, helmed by bandmates Aerendir and Lynd, produce intense riffs (when they aren’t busy with their fast chugging) and facemelting solos that would make even Herman Li a bit jealous. The drums don’t sit still literally ever, and the constantly-changing grooves add as much emotion to the music as the shining, Disney orchestrations. Along with the majestic, nearly-operatic vocals of Cont-er, should I say, Allyon, this force of the twilight is worth twice their weight in gold.

There’s also a ton of variety to enjoy, as many of the songs have certain musical themes attached to them; ‘Thundersword’ sounds like wild-west-meets-medieval-knights, ‘With the Light of a Thousand Suns’ brings the heat like the dry deserts of the Middle East (complete with a sick dumbek-driven instrumental section), and tracks like ‘Long Live the King’ and ‘Valley of the Vale’ bring a more familiar, choral, Western European vibe. But then we have the twelve-minute ‘Blade of Immortal Steel’, which is in a fucking realm of its own. Aside from the tastefully-integrated Chinese folk instruments, this is unmatched epic power metal, in all its major pentatonic glory. It’s dynamic, it’s larger-than-life, the long-ass solo section is simply ridiculous, and the chorus still gives me goosebumps. This track is easily my favourite on the entire album because it scratches every musical itch I have.

I did not expect to like this album as much as I do. While I did really like Heroes of Mighty Magic, Tales of Ancient Prophecies didn’t quite do it for me, so I was expecting something similarly hit-and-miss. But nope, this album fucking kills and it puts me in a happy mood almost instantly. Complete with four “bonus” tracks, Dawn of the Dragonstar is a truly sophisticated symphonic metal album. Twilight Force have outdone themselves this time!

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Astralium – Land Of Eternal Dreams Review

Score9/10
GenreSymphonic Power Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime01:04:27
Release Date23 August 2019
Record LabelRockshots

Formed in 2014 by frontwoman Roberta Pappalardo and bass player Giuseppe Pappalardo, Astralium are fresh out of Italy: the land of symphonic metal. Land of Eternal Dreams is the band’s debut album, marking their official entrance onto the metal scene. Completing the band’s regular lineup are guitarist Emanuele Alessandro and Metatrone drummer Salvo Grasso, but there are also a handful of guest musicians, such as the ever-busy Tommy Johansson (Sabaton, Majestica), Andrea Martongelli (Arthemis), Jo Lombardo, Stefano “Ghigas” Calvagno, and Davide Bruno (who are/were all fellow Metatrone members alongside Grasso).

Needless to say, Astralium aren’t your typical, generic symphonic metal band. They manage to produce a bright, unique sound and, while some of their influences are vividly apparent at times (Nightwish, Amberian Dawn, and even Hans Zimmer), they do a great job at maintaining originality. The orchestrations are broad and epic, but they don’t overbear the guitars or vocals, which is a common mistake in the genre.

The strongest aspect of Land of Eternal Dreams is the songwriting. Each song is dynamic, expressive, and offers something new. Additionally, a variety of moods and time signatures are explored. We have ‘Whisper in the Silence’, which brings heavy intensity, a soft ballad in ‘Breath of My Soul’, the blast-beat aggression of ‘Seven Seas, Seven Winds’, and there’s even the cool vocal feature ‘Ethereal Voices from the Forest’, which sounds like, well, a bunch of ethereal voices from the forest. Although, while all of these tracks have a noticeable theme, they all feature a variety of different moods.

I do have a few clear favourites in Land of Eternal Dreams. ‘Whisper of the Silence’ has some awesome riffing and the drumming, which is fucking killer, doesn’t sit still for more than twenty seconds. The pulled back first verse is another great touch. I also really like the end section of ‘Seven Seas, Seven Winds’, which is like the soundtrack to an epic, bloody battle on the high seas. Finally, the closer, ‘Hidden Conspiracy’ sums up the entire album nicely. It’s an all-around sick track, covering every emotion that the rest of the album features with a surprising amount of detail for a song that isn’t even seven minutes long.

I really don’t have any issues with this album. It’s diverse, the playing is exquisite, and the arrangements are colourful. In a sea of forgettable symphonic metal acts, Land of Eternal Dreams rises as a stellar debut and keeps Astralium afloat.

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