Winter Haven – Lanre Review

Score7.5/10
GenrePower Metal
CountryMexico
Runtime43:34
Release Date21 February 2020
Record LabelIndependent

Current and former members of the power metal bands Azeroth, Anna Fiori, and Aceria (fuck, that’s a lot of A’s) have returned after eight years to deliver the sophomore work of Winter Haven: Lanre. This anthemic, genre-bending beast holds nothing back as it attacks with a dangerously cold bite.

The mix of influences in Lanre is interesting in and of itself. The foundation is more-or-less power metal, but alt/metalcore elements run rampant in the form of mixed vocals, heavy breakdowns, and just the general tone of the vocals in general, which are pretty far from soaring, bellowing, rough, or powerful (you know, the usual traits of power metal vocalists). The lyrical content also aligns a lot more with metalcore, which doesn’t matter so much, but the overtones that come along with these themes makes it worth mentioning. There are also death and black metal elements at play, plus some electro stuff, but to a lesser extent.

‘Sunlight Dethroned’ is probably the most typically-power metal track on the album. It’s got cheesy harpsichords and strings, it’s a driving 6/8, and it’s a bit more uplifting that the rest of Lanre‘s tracklist. Unsurprisingly, this is one of my favourite tracks (I’m fucking biased. Who knew?!), but the darker ‘The Sleeper’ is a killer tune, too. I also love ‘When They Come’, which is also pretty mixed in its influences. The low point of the album is the acoustic ballad, ‘Endless’, which is overall pretty wonky, but the rest of the tracks are solid.

If I were in middle school, I would have eaten this fucking album alive. It’s energetic and edgy with great guitars, which is pretty much all I cared about back then. That isn’t to trash Winter Haven, though, because they’ve done a damn fine job here. Lanre is a really cool album and is well worth the listen for fans of fast-paced, aggressive, and slightly angsty metal (I forgot to mention, too, there are some serious Frozen Crown vibes).

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Навьяра – Призыв Велеса Review

Score9/10
GenreFolk Metal
CountryBelarus
Runtime32:04
Release Date10 February 2020
Record LabelKryrart

Belarus’ brand new folk metallers, Navyara (sorry, I’m not gonna copy and paste “Навьяра” every single time) have started their metal career on a high note. As their first offering of forest steel, Призыв Велеса is captivating, light, and expressive. Plus, unlike 90% of other new bands, there’s no filler material, but there’s still more than enough variety to keep you hooked.

While the album isn’t dreary, it’s a lot more somber than what you might expect (except the closer, which is pretty cheery). This is partially due to its groove-driven nature, as opposed to many folk metal bands who rely more on upbeat melodies. Additionally, Navyara’s black metal influences are immediately noticeable, especially in the guitar tremolo that occupies much of the album, which further adds to Призыв Велеса‘s more mystical energy.

As far as instrumentation goes, everything is pretty fucking great. The guitars are killer right from the opener and do a fantastic job at laying the foundation of the atmospheres with climbing riffs and steady chugging. Oh, and the solos are sick, especially for this style of folk metal. On the other hand, the violin, flute, and female vocal melodies effortlessly pull the music forward.

One of my favourite tracks is ‘Поруганное капище’ because it’s really just the whole album crammed into one song. It’s mostly uptempo, but the feel is constantly changing. On top of that, the flowing of the melody/countermelody over the rapid chugging of the rhythm section makes for a cool effect (although the same could be said about most of the album).

All in all, Призыв Велеса is an excellent kickoff for an excellent band. Fans of bands like Kernunna, Velesar, Tuatha de Danann, or just clean folk metal that isn’t too in-your-face will thoroughly enjoy Navyara’s pagan offerings.

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Melodic Metal: New Single From Volturian

Volturian is a new melodic metal band formed by Frozen Crown’s founder/songwriter/guitarist Federico Mondelli and Federica Lanna of Sleeping Romance. The band’s debut album, Crimson, is set for a 24 April release under Scarlet Records.

‘New Life’ features the first taste of Volturian’s sound: slow-paced, heavily-electronic metal with floating vocal melodies and syncopated guitar rhythms.

Volturian describe their sound as suitable for fans of early-00s In Flames, Soilwork, and Amaranthe. Based on this single, I’d say that’s more-or-less an accurate assumption.

01. Crimson Dust
02. New Life
03. Haunting Symphony
04. Broken
05. The Killing Joke
06. In a Heartbeat (feat Giada “Jade” Etro)
07. Between the Sleepers
08. Days Before You Died
09. Forevermore
10. Fading Like a Flower (Roxette cover)

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Verikalpa – Tuoppitanssi Review

Score7.5/10
GenreFolk Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime46:16
Release Date21 February 2020
Record LabelScarlet

Serving up another piece of melodeathy folk metal are Finland’s booze-fueled Verikalpa in their sophomore album, Tuoppitanssi. While I couldn’t tell you what in the fuck they’re singing about (well, I could because I read the album’s info sheet, but I really can’t say for sure), I can tell you that you’re in for a lively album with an edge. With strong melodies, a heavy rhythm section, and ferociously rough vocals, this style is hardly new, but it’s really fun it’ll probably pull you back at least once.

I can’t pinpoint the thing keeping Verikalpa from sounding like yet another generic offshoot of Korpiklaani, like so many folk bands do, but they have enough charm and individuality to steer clear of sounding too derivative. Regardless, the prevalence of the accordion is always a welcome trait. Weirdly enough, a good portion of Tuoppitanssi could be described as “viscious polka”; it’s hard, it’s gritty, and the vocals could peel the bark off a tree, but the accordion’s bounciness changes the entire feel.

Alternatively, when Tuoppitanssi isn’t in ska mode, it offers a pleasing variety. In fact, my favourite track on the album is ‘Varjosahti’, which is one of the album’s slower tunes (and a tad extra piratey). ‘Verimaat’ is also a notable track, largely due to those stupid-fast kicks. Otherwise, most of the tracks are up-tempo (like the blitzy ‘Karhunkaataja’), and there’s a pretty even split of 4/4 and 6/8, as you would expect from this style of music. That being said, the album is far from repetitive.

Fans of anything from Ensiferum to Vanir to Blodiga Skald will thoroughly enjoy Tuoppitanssi. It bites hard throughout its entirety but is catchy enough that you’ll be able to remember the songs without much effort. If you like drunk and bouncy, Verikalpa are right up your alley.

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Throne Of Iron – Adventure One Review

Score6/10
GenreTraditional Heavy Metal
CountryUSA (Indiana)
Runtime42:28
Release Date21 February 2020
Record LabelNo Remorse

If you’re looking for new, cleanish-yet-classic heavy metal, maybe go and listen to the new Ironflame or Wolpakk albums, because you won’t find it here. This debut, forged by Throne of Iron, is no-bullshit traditional metal, through and through. You will find no synths here, nor will you find crisp mastering, orchestrations, or anything outside of 4/4. You will, however, find plenty of classic Ozzy/Sabbath vibes, as well as vocals that sound like they’re being sung from across an empty alleyway, as is characteristic of the style.

At the end of the day, though, most of us find ourselves coming back to this timeless sound, so, even though it’s been done a million fucking times since the 80s, new offerings are usually a welcome sight. Adventure One is pretty simplistic (both musically and production-wise), the riffs are solid, and the vocals aren’t anything special. But isn’t that what gives this kind of music its heart? It’s just a few regular dudes, playing their brand of metal. Besides, the solos are pretty sick, so there’s that.

Beyond all that, though, there isn’t much else to say about this album. Throne of Iron aren’t going to win any awards for being groundbreaking any time soon, but that isn’t really the point here. For what it is, Adventure One is good enough. Most of the album treads closely on the line of being repetitive, but that’s always a risk when you play this old, shoddy, occult-styled metal. Regardless, if you’re a fan of this style, give this record a spin.

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Diabulus In Musica – Euphonic Entropy Review

Score9/10
GenreSymphonic Power Metal
CountrySpain
Runtime56:26
Release Date15 February 2020
Record LabelNapalm

While some people can’t seem to keep their marriage from falling the fuck apart for more than a week, husband-and-wife combo Zuberoa Aznárez and Gorka Elso have released the fifth album of their band, Diabulus In Musica. Euphonic Entropy is an absolute monster of a symphonic metal album, delivering emotion, variety, and energy in equal parts. Every song is a mixed bag, so you can be damn sure that this album will exceed expectations.

Euphonic Entropy has a little bit of everything: electronics, choirs, orchestrations, folk instruments, rough vocals, colossal guitars. What’s more, these elements are all actually tastefully integrated into a chunky metal backdrop to create epic atmospheres and massive soundscapes, with the occasional light moment. It’s lean in the solo department (entirely devoid of solos, in fact), but the heavy grooves, breakdowns, and instrumentation are rich enough that it isn’t an issue. The guitars and female vocals are both captivating enough as it is, so it’s probably for the best to be solo-free.

Now, while the album as a whole is cohesively incredible, there’s one song that I seriously can’t get enough of. ‘The Misfit’s Swing’, as you probably guessed from the title, is a metal swing track. Actually, let me clarify; ‘The Misfit’s Swing’ is the fucking epitome of metal swing and is everything I want in such a song. God damn. I want an entire genre of this shit. Yeah, there’s the odd band like Diablo Swing Orchestra that does it, but, man. This track is something else. It satisfies both the metalhead and the jazzman in me.

Fortunately, Euphonic Entropy has so much more to offer than just one killer song. There’s the ballad ‘Blurred Dreams, the Eluveitie-esque ‘Otoi’, and a flowwy symphonic-only track, plus a healthy dose of chugging, pounding, backbreaking metal. If you want modern symphonic metal done right, look no further.

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Ravenword – Transcendence Review

Score7/10
GenreSymphonic Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime01:09:48
Release Date31 January 2020
Record LabelRockshots

I think, at this point, we can expect Italy to never, ever, ever stop producing symphonic metal. Seriously. There’s no end to it. I’m not complaining, but holy fuck. They must be pulling close to Germany’s heavy metal numbers by now. Anyway, supporting this cause of symphonic saturation are the female-fronted Ravenword in their one-shot debut album, Transcendence. While the band was around shortly in the late 00s, they went on hiatus and reformed in 2016 with a new lineup. Among the bandmembers is the beautifully versatile Chiara Tricarico, who was featured in another new symphonic metal project Moonlight Haze last year and also sings for Sound Storm.

At times, Transcendence plays like your typical, melodic/symphonic/gothic album (such as in the ballad ‘Lullaby of the Last Petal’ and ‘Rain of Stars’). It’s sparkly, the vocals are often operatic, and the overall atmosphere is typically mystical and flowwy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it makes for a lot of filler. As such, at more than an hour’s runtime, it could go for a serious trim. However, Transcendence‘s good songs are really fucking good, so it’s worth giving the whole record a spin or two to find the worthwhile ones.

The album starts strong in ‘Blue Roses’. It has good energy, a killer hook, a key solo. Hell, it even has a key change. Talk about overachiever. Overall, it’s one of my favourite tracks, and it there couldn’t be a better choice for the opener. Immediately after, we see Tricarico’s versatility start to show a bit more in ‘Life Is in Your Hands’, where she displays a bit more of her attitude and power. After this, though, we’re met with a lot of subpar efforts that all kind of sound the same, but there are still a few gems (‘The Swansong’ and ‘Crimson Lake’ especially), as well as a pile of ridiculously sweet guitar solos.

While it’s not something I ever do, you would probably be safe in judging this album by its cover; for the most part, it’s super generic for the genre, but there’s enough going on to keep things exciting. As I said, it’s well worth sifting through Transcendence (even if a good portion of it is forgettable), because it has its moments of genius.

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Symphonic Metal: Diabulus In Musica Release ‘One Step Higher’

Spanish symphonic metal outfit Diabulus In Musica are just a few days from releasing their fifth album, Euphonic Entropy. In anticipation, the band has released another single: ‘One Step Higher’.

Singer Zuberoa Aznárez on the new single:
“’One Step Higher’ is a bright look to the future, a song about personal growth and about embracing new stages of life with thrill. Despite the obstacles, our path is about overcoming them and finding the light again, making us stronger and wiser.”

01. A Lucid Chaos 
02. Race to Equilibrium 
03. Nuevo Rumbo 
4. The Misfit’s Swing 
05. In Quest of Sense 
06. Otoi
07. Blurred Dreams 
08. On the Edge 
09. Our Last Gloomy Dance 
10. One Step Higher 
11. Blind Muse 
12. In the Vortex

If heavy, melodic, groove-driven symphonic metal is your thing, make sure to catch Euphonic Entropy this Friday, 14 February!

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Aereum – Tempest Of Time Review

Score9/10
GenreMeloDeath/Folk Metal (Pirate Metal)
CountryGermany
Runtime44:08
Release Date11 January 2020
Record LabelIndependent

Germany’s newest metal pirates have come ashore with a debut that is nothing short of impressive. Tempest of Time sees Aereum crash onto the metal scene with nine swashbuckling tracks that are worth their weight in cursed gold. If melodic and aggressive is your thing, this album is exactly what you need!

I’m not gonna lie; when I first heard the vocals, I wasn’t sold. I’m usually not a huge fan of high, throaty rough vocals, and this album has plenty. But, after about a minute and a half, they grew on me. They’re sharp and piercing like the wind and they sound pissed off enough to embody even a buccaneer’s teen years. It might be an acquired taste for some, but it probably won’t take long until you’re hooked on this album like I was.

Tempest of Time begins with solid shanty riffs and countermelodies in ‘Digital Warfare’, and continues to ebb and flow like the sea; each track offers its own variety of feels and grooves, from the colossally-heavy ‘Just Pirates’ to the easier, folky ‘Modular Cowboy’. It’s actually amazing how Aereum have managed to do the melodeath/folk thing so well. The driving force is the riff-heavy guitarwork, which do far more than your usual chord-chugging, and the solos are sure to melt some faces. The drums also go beyond your typical grooves, thrashing about like a vicious shark. The track with my favourite drumming would be ‘The Eye of Bastet’, which also happens to be my favourite track overall. Seriously, they barely sit still for four fucking bars. It’s awesome.

It’s only February, but I’m calling this as one of the pirate (and folk) highlights of the year. It’s dynamic, super heavy, and it has huge relistenability. Easily the best nautical album I’ve heard in a long time. Be sure to catch this one, lest ye walk the plank!

(These jokes doing anything for you?)

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Victorius – Space Ninjas From Hell Review

Score7/10
GenrePower Metal
CountryGermany
Runtime45:37
Release Date17 January 2020
Record LabelNapalm

Everyone’s favourite DragonForce that isn’t DragonForce is back once more! Following the ridicularity (is that a word?) that was 2018’s Dinosaur Warfare – Legend of the Power Saurus, Victorius continue with their parody approach to shining power metal in Space Ninjas from Hell. Some will be quick to disregard the album as a Gloryhammer ripoff, but that isn’t really fair. Just because Gloryhammer are the best at being nonsensical doesn’t mean other bands can’t try!

For me, Space Ninjas from Hell doesn’t hold a flame to, say, Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards. I don’t hate this album by any stretch, but, ultimately, it’s lyrically underwhelming. It should go without saying, but the thing about parody music, and especially power metal, is that lyrics are very important (well, kind of the most important). The genre demands that the cheese be dialed up to a fucking million, shamelessly holding nothing back. It’s such an easy genre to turn ridiculous, because it’s more-or-less already there. All you have to do is come up with some loosely clever lyrics and create fun melodies and, boom, you’re in. What Victorius have done here, though (and Dinosaur Warfare suffered from this, too) is try too hard to be random in some instances. There are definitely some excellent moments, as well as a lot of the song titles, but a good portion of the songs seem forced. Additionally, the melodies get old really quick, and they haven’t really changed at all in the band’s history, which doesn’t help when your music relies on a charismatic vocal delivery.

All this being said, the metal aspects are stronger than Victorius have ever been. There’s a good variety of dynamic tracks, solid riffage, and the solos are great. Plus, the whole Japanese theme works perfectly with the Victorius sound, too. As far as tracks go, my favourites include the entirety of ‘Cosmic Space Commando Base’ (which is also my favourite song title) and parts of ‘Evil Wizard Wushu Master’, but the guitars are on point for the whole fucking album. Oh, and that cheesy synthwork in ‘Shuriken Showdown’ really works for me, too.

All in all, this album is enjoyable. Dedicated Victorius fans will adore this album, and cheeselovers such as myself will get something out of a few spins. If Victorius do decide to continue down this path of humour, their success will rely on a little less effort and a little more melodism.

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