Iron Kingdom – On The Hunt Review

Score9/10
GenreTraditional Heavy Metal
CountryCanada
Runtime39:50
Release Date4 October 2019
Record LabelIndependent

I feel a bit of pride that Western Canada has produced a lot of excellent classic metal bands in the past decade. Bands like Riot City, Striker, and Traveler are just a few examples of the greatness I’m referring to. However, the best of all of them, in my opinion, is Vancouver’s own Iron Kingdom (and not because they’re so local to me – that’s just a bonus), and this is more evident than ever in their fourth album to date: On the Hunt.

Combining old school dual guitar sounds with clear, crisp vocals and some of the best drumming I’ve ever heard from a classic metal band, On the Hunt offers a bit more of a modern approach to the style of old. It’s the perfect balance, production-wise, because every part is clear and separated but there’s still an organic feel to the whole thing. There’s no lack of passion and sincerity, but there’s also just enough flare to keep me excited about it.

Now, comparing any classic metal band to Iron Maiden is a bit of a given, but one extra-Maideny thing worth mentioning about On the Hunt is how the solo sections are structured. I don’t think there’s a time where there’s rhythm guitar behind the solos, which prevents any potential messiness and allows the bass to actually come through with some super juicy lines.

But let’s take a minute to talk songs, because, holy fuck, there’re some heavy hitters here. One of my favourites has to be ‘Sign of the Gods’, in which we get some great drum solos, which seem to be a lost art these days. Actually, it was on this song that I became aware of some Neil Peart influence in drummer Joey Paul‘s style. On the side of the axes, ‘Road Warriors’ and ‘Keep it Steel’ have some noteworthy facemelters but, let’s be honest; every solo put forth by Megan Merrick and Chris Osterman is just sick. The title of most unique track, though, has to go to ‘Invaders’. It’s a bit darker than the rest and it’s more dynamic, too. The pulled back sections and builds are all done really well, and, of course, so are the solos.

Of the hundreds of heavy metal bands that have “Iron” in their name, not very many of them are deserving of it. Iron Maiden? Obviously. Iron Savior? Yup. Iron Fire? Definitely. Of course, Iron Kingdom are undoubtedly deserving of the mark, because the metal they’ve forged is strong, heavy, and true.

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Noveria Release New Single

Italy’s power prog outfit Noveria have released an energetic new track, ‘Broken’, taken from their upcoming third album.

Based on how sick the solo section is, I’m super excited to listen to the album! Aequilibrium will be released on 25 October under Scarlet Records.

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CyHra Release First Single From Upcoming Album

The first single for CyHra’s sophomore album, No Halos in Hell, has been released. ‘Out of My Life’ follows the electronic/melodic metal sound of their debut fairly closely.

CyHra were formed in late 2016 by ex members of In Flames and Jake E of Amaranthe. Their first album, Letters to Myself, was released in 2017 and met generally favourable reception from critics and fans of Jake E’s earlier work.

When they announced the details for their upcoming album, CyHra also announced a new record deal with Nuclear Blast, having been with Spinefarm for Letters to Myself.

1. Out of My Life
2. No Halos in Hell
3. Battle From Within
4. I Am the One
5. Bye Bye Forever
6. Dreams Gone Wrong
7. Lost in Time
8. Kings Tonight
9. I Had Your Back
10. Blood Brothers
11. Hit Me
12. Man of Eternal Rain

No Halos in Hell will be released on 15 November.

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Centurion – Centurion Review

Score8.5/10
GenreProgressive Heavy Metal
CountrySerbia
Runtime01:16:16
Release Date13 September 2019
Record LabelIndependent

Labelling a band as “progressive heavy metal” is usually, in my experience, just a desperate effort of a prog band that has low production quality to appear more legitimate. Fortunately, that isn’t the case in Centurion’s self-titled debut. Instead, we get a solid traditional metal experience with all the flare, technicality, and versatility of a prog album. Right off the top, these Serbs prove that they aren’t just another lo-fi prog outfit by making an actual decent introductory track.

After a tasteful build in intensity, one thing becomes clear: Centurion is an insatiable riff-beast, ready to prey on the ears of all who are close enough to listen. Not only that, but we’re also attacked with an onslaught of powerful melodies, facemelting solos (especially in ‘Ruka Sudbine’ and ‘Virtuelno Ognjiste’. Holy fuck.), and drumming that never settles for satisfactory. Seriously. This is one damn impressive group of musicians who are as mighty as the badass warriors on their album cover.

If there’s one area that Centurion slightly suffers in, it’s the vocal department. While they certainly aren’t bad, there are a couple areas (mainly some the verses) where a bit more expression would go a long way. That being said, vocalist Miloš Marjanović has a great range and I don’t think there’s a single chorus I didn’t love. Aside from this, the runtime (which clocks in at more than 75 minutes) could be trimmed down a bit but, all things considered, these aren’t huge issues.

On the flip side, such a long runtime allows for a lot of potential variety, which we certainly get. There’s a good range of highs and lows, as well as tons of songs that have your usual prog changes, namely ‘Hodocasnik’ and the Mediterranean-flavoured ‘Janjicar’ (and, if we’re being completely honest here, every other song, too). There’s not a moment where I felt the transitions were bad, either, so bonus points there.

If you had no idea of these guys’s existence, like me about a month ago, then you owe it to yourself to check this album out. If you like your metal heavy, gritty, melodic, and dynamic, Centurion is right up your alley.

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Brothers Of Metal Delay Album Release Date

Heavy metal warriors Brothers of Metal have had to delay the release of their upcoming album, Emblas Saga, buy about a month.

The album was originally announced for 6 December of this year, but, due to unforeseen circumstances, that date has been pushed back to 10 January of 2020.

On the bright side, the Brothers have released the official tracklist for Emblas Saga:

01 Brood Of The Trickster
02 POWERSNAKE
03 Hel
04 Chain Breaker
05 Kaunaz Dagaz
06 Theft Of The Hammer
07 Weaver Of Fate
08 Njord
09 Emblas Saga
10 Brothers Unite
11 One
12 Ride Of The Valkyries
13 To The Skies And Beyond

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Excalion – Emotions Review

Score9/10
GenrePower Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime52:33
Release Date27 September 2019
Record LabelScarlet

Melodic, expressive, keyboard-driven. It doesn’t take many more words that that to get me excited about an album. These characteristics are hardly unique when it comes to power metal, and more often than not I’m left disappointed upon actually hearing an album described by them, but, what can I say? I’m a hopeful guy. So, you can imagine my relief when Excalion laid this piece of work before me. Emotions is the fifth album of the Finnish outfit, and it checks all those boxes with massive checkmarks.

The keys? As rich and plentiful as Sonata Arctica. The melodies? They’d make any pop star jealous. And the emotion? As dynamic as your girlfriend’s when it’s her time of the month (although, far more pleasant).

Not just anybody can make an album as passionate as Emotions. Its success rides on the backs of some incredible musicians, not the least of which is vocalist Marcus Lang, who masters the raging highs and tranquil lows that the album belts out. Below him (and the many vocal layers that accompany him), the tight rhythm section lays down some great grooves, and the rhythm guitars craft some killer lines, especially in ‘The Goldern Horde’. Between the fast shredding of the album’s darker moments and the energetic riffage that drives the rest of the album, it adds an entirely new dimension to the already-deep music.

Strangely enough, Emotions has no titular track. I really like when artists do this, though, because it gives the album more musical context, rather than coming off as just some name that the band had to come up with for their album. And, in Excalion’s case, this is the perfect name. Most of the song titles will give you an idea as to how they sound and there’s a good mix of moods and atmospheres.

I don’t have any favourite tracks on this record because every one is awesome in its own way. However, for me, the choruses are the highlight of the album. Not only are the melodies catchy and strong, but the keyboards, guitars, bass, and drums bring it all together nicely. Emotions is very much a team effort, and Excalion’s strength is exactly that.

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Crystal Eyes Release Album Details

Long-running Swedish power metal outfit Crystal Eyes have released some more details for their eighth album, Starbourne Traveler, which will be out on 6 December under Massacre Records. While a single still has yet to rise, the cover art and tracklist have been revealed.

01. Gods of Disorder
02. Side By Side
03. Extreme Paranoia
04. Starbourne Traveler
05. Corridors of Time
06. Paradise Powerlord
07. Into the Fire
08. In the Empire of Saints
09. Midnight Radio
10. Rage on the Sea

While Starbourne Traveler is a new album, two of the tracks, ‘Extreme Paranoia’ and ‘Rage on the Sea’ are rerecordings of songs the band have already released.

Fittingly, as this will be Crystal Eyes’ first album in five years, there will be more than just new music to enjoy; this will be the first album to feature the band’s new guitarist and drummer, Jonatan Hallberg and Henrik Birgersson.

Follow Crystal Eyes on Facebook to see the first single of Starbourne Traveler when it arrives!

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Wind Rose – Wintersaga Review

Score9.5/10
GenrePower/Folk Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime49:59
Release Date27 September 2019
Record LabelNapalm Records

Well, summer’s over. That means the time for beaches, bimbos, and barbecues is at it’s end, being instead replaced by the dark, wind, and cold. However, this is the perfect season for a dwarf! And what better way to explore your potential dwarfhood than cranking out the meanest, mightiest of man-metal? Enter Wind Rose, Italy’s finest dwarf metal army, and their fourth album, Wintersaga. As the band’s most impressive album to date, it’s as if it was smithed in the forges of Khazad-dum itself. If its epic chants and upbeat hymns aren’t enough to get you into the season, they’ll at least get your blood flowing hard enough to keep you warm.

As usual, the Tolkein themes are strong in Wintersaga, as is evident in half of the song titles. Additionally, the album is split into two sections; the first contains the fun, catchy party tunes, and the second, which encompasses the final three songs, features a more power prog approach that hearkens to the band’s earlier works.

However, the core sound of Wind Rose has shifted as a whole from their progressive power metal roots to settle upon a more bombastic, anthemic sound in Wintersaga. Traces of their past are still present in the form of dynamic songs with multiple sections, especially in the nine-minute epic, ‘We Were Warriors’. There’s a heavy reliance on choirs and orchestrations to maintain an imposing atmosphere, but the heavy guitars and insane drumming give the album a mountainous foothold. On top of that, for such an in-your-face approach to metal, the transition between every section is seamless.

But the real power behind Wintersaga is the onslaught of chanted, mead-fueled folk melodies which would give even Alestorm a run for their money. Songs like ‘Drunken Dwarves’ and ‘The Art of War’ are sure to get all sorts of bottoms up. Even the heavier, more rugged refrains of ‘Diggy Diggy Hole’ and ‘Mine Mine Mine!’ will invoke a similar sense of merrymaking. The vocals are the lifeblood of this album, and they weld all the different pieces together.

Dwarf metal. How has such a simple idea never taken off as well as it has here? Besides running with a concept that simply makes sense for this kind of sound, the memorable arrangements and musicianship are as solid as can be, which makes Wintersaga amusing as well as a serious work of music.

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Mystic Prophecy Announce Eleventh Album

German heavy metal titans have a new album on the way. The album is entitled Metal Division and will be the band’s first album release under their new label, ROAR!. Mystic Prophecy were previously signed with Massacre Records, under which they released seven albums.

From the ROAR! press release:
Metal Division is definitely the band’s heaviest and best work to date and will elevate Mystic Prophecy where they belong: to the HEAVY METAL pantheon!

Metal Division will be released on 10 January of 2020.

Go follow Mystic prophecy on Facebook to catch new information about the album!

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DragonForce – Extreme Power Metal Review

Score8.5/10
GenrePower Metal
CountryEngland
Runtime52:51
Release Date27 September 2019
Record LabelMetal Blade

Between relentless speed, over-the-top solos, and enough positivity to make even a reggae guy sick, let me come clean and say that I’m a huge DragonForce fan. After all, ‘Through the Fire and the Flames’ was the very first power metal song I ever heard. These guys are single-handedly responsible for planting the seed of undying love of power metal in my soul eleven years ago, as they did for many others, and I still crank out most of their albums on a regular basis. My favourites are the four albums from the ZP era, and I like their 2017 release, Reaching into Infinity, almost as much. The Power Within and Maximum Overload, however, were really hit-and-miss for me, but there are a few killer tracks from both. Fortunately, Extreme Power Metal is a hit for me and, despite having a few imperfections, it’s their best album since Ultra Beatdown.

One thing EPM does better than, well, every album up to Reaching into Infinity is variety. It has your typical, fast-paced power metal bangers like ‘Troopers of the Stars’ and ‘Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shred’, as well as a surplus of more commercial, poppy songs. There are a few songs that aren’t driven solely by spine-splitting speed, such ‘Remembrance Day’ and the excellent cover of Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’, but the intense dragon energy is never lost. There are also a lot of instrumental breaks that utilize strings, folk instruments, and the usual videogame SFX that are so characteristic of DragonForce. These video game themes run strong, with most of the songs having retro synth (or outright 8-bit) intros. Unsurprisingly, ‘The Last Dragonborn’ is the most videogame-fueled of them all, albeit more in content and less in sound.

Alongside their trademark speed/positivity/insanely-long-solos combo, there’s also a dose of 80s pop and glam metal influence (which, in all honesty, is far less pronounced than I expected it to be, based on the album cover). There are a lot of cheesy synth tones that highlight the melodies as well as straight-up hair metal choruses, especially in ‘Heart Demolition’ and ‘Strangers’. However, where bands like Beast in Black are full-out 80s melodic metal bands, DragonForce maintains their familiar modern sound while keeping the 80s stuff just at arms length, using it as the spice rather than the steak.

While I really enjoy EPM as a whole, I do have two favourite tracks. I really like ‘Troopers of the Stars’, especially the shredding bass in the intro, which is really cool. However, as is my way, ‘Heart Demolition’ has the most cheesy synths, so it makes it as my favourite song. Just kidding. Kind of. Well, it’s got more going for it than just the synths. It’s just a coincidence, OK?

Many metalheads have said (and will continue to say until the end of fucking time), “So they can play fast. Big deal,” but, to me, that’s just a lazy criticism. After all, couldn’t you criticize any band for having a schtick? Or even, how stupid would it sound if I said, “So you can play aggressively. Big deal,” about metal in general? Well, yeah, that isn’t entirely wrong, and that is a main attribute, but there’s so much more to it than that. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but I don’t need that negativity in my life. DragonForce have released yet another excellent album in Extreme Power Metal, and there’s way more to it than just speed.

*Also, let me just say that I love this music video. It looks like it was made for Newgrounds. Remember when that website was a thing? Me neither.*

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