Amaranthe – Manifest Review

Score7/10
GenreMelodic Metal (Pop Metal)
CountrySweden
Runtime40:20
Release Date2 October 2020
Record LabelNuclear Blast

Sweden’s melodic metal masters Amaranthe have continued to hold the pop metal standard high in their sixth album, Manifest. While I’ll never come back to half of the tracklist, the amount of sheer talent Amaranthe continues to display can’t be ignored; whether it’s the relentless, intricate grooving of drummer Morten Løwe Sørensen or the combined vocal talents of Elize Ryd, Nils Molin, or Henrik “GG6” Englund, there’s a ton to appreciate musically.

If there’s one thing that can be said about Manifest, it’s that it’s exactly consistent with what you’d expect an Amaranthe album to be: bright, hopeful choruses in between thunderous rhythm section syncopation, digital synths, and colossal growls. It leans further to the pop side, (like everything since The Nexus) but it contains enough powerful riffs and chugging that it still sits comfortably under the metal banner, although not under the power metal banner, as so many others seem to be convinced.

In all honesty, I was ready to call it quits on this album after my first listen. It seemed like they gave up on everything else and settled into being a metalcore version of late 2000s pop groups. However, being that I’ve been a huge fan of these guys for years (and also that I first spun it on my shitty Bluetooth speaker at work), I decided to give it another spin, for old time’s sake. And, fortunately, that led to a few more listens.

Sure, my initial reaction still holds up for the trainwrecks that are ‘Stronger’ (does someone wanna tell me how you can fuck up a song that features both Elize Ryd AND Noora Louhimo?), ‘Die and Wake Up’, ‘Make It Better’, and the poorly-named ‘Adrenaline’, but Manifest‘s best tracks live up to the band’s full capabilities.

For starters, ‘Fearless’ kicks the album off with all the shiny-yet-ferocious badassery Amaranthe is known for. The following tracks rotate between crap and good-but-not-great (and a full-out Dynazty song in ‘Do Or Die’) until the second half, where we get to some seriously killer tracks in ‘The Game’, ‘Archangel’, and my personal favourite, ‘Boom!’. Seriously, if you lost all hope in Amaranthe because of MAXIMALISM or Helix, ‘Boom!’ is probably the completely wrong song to recommend, but it’s such a shitshow that I have to. It’s the obligatory GG6 feature on the album, so you can expect some of the best growling/rapping metal has to offer, along with shameless self-awareness.

As a sidenote, I can’t say for sure (because I haven’t been bothered to check), but I would imagine that the differing factor between the tracks I like and dislike is how involved Elize Ryd is in the songwriting. In Helix, new male vocalist Nils Molin (Dynazty) didn’t get a proper introduction (in my own not-so-humble opinion), and there was way too much “Oo, look at me!” from Elize. Not that I think she’s a bad vocalist by any stretch; she’s actually one of my favourites. However, it seems like the band is all the better when she takes a step back from the songwriting and allows the music to be more of a team effort.

All in all, Manifest is about the best an album like this could be. It’s easily the best Amaranthe album since 2013 and it blows pretty much every other band in the space (think Metalite (or maybe protect yourself by NEVER thinking about Metalite), Scarleth, CyHra, In Flames kinda) out of the water.

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Bioplan – Epipath & Ocular Review

Score9/10
GenreProgressive Metal (Synthwave Fusion)
CountrySweden
Runtime49:20
Release Date29 May 2020
Record LabelLayered Reality

The ever-busy multi-instrumentalist Andi Kravljaca (Aeon Zen, Thaurorod, Nibiru Ordeal) is back with another dose of nostalgia-laden shred madness in the second installment of Bioplan. Epipath & Ocular is functionally a double EP, featuring the previous EP’s (Ocular’s) tracklist, as well as five new tracks in the Epipath section. If you’re coming in never having heard of Bioplan before, expect to hear chunky djent and intense, glowing synthwave in equal measure. You can also expect to be blown away, because this shit is destructive.

I’m only gonna cover the new portion of the album, because I already wrote a review for Ocular last year, which you can read here if you’re so inclined. The biggest difference Epipath has from its predecessor is that it is way more synthy. There’s a lot more emphasis on atmosphere this time around, but there’s still no shortage to relentless neoclassical shredding or flying guitar melodies. Furthermore, the numerous background synth harmonies, melodies, and syncopated drumming are as on point as ever, so the album is an all-around blast.

The album begins with a very Flash Arnold opener in ‘Ingress’, which leans very far onto the more atmospheric side of things. There’s still a fair amount of shredding, but it’s nice to get something different right off the top. However, staying true to the core of Bioplan, the album continues into ‘Perspex Cassidy’, which offers more of that familiar Jeff-Beck-meets-Joe-Satriani-meets-modern-prog experience.

While the entire album features truly masterful guitarwork, highlights can be found in the entirety of ‘He’s a Transporter’ and my personal favourite song on the record, ‘Atomic Era Cocktails’ (which also has a mean fucking synth solo by Harri Koskela, a cool dubsteppy section, and a super trippy fade into the outro).

Another thing I noticed is the fact that the naming conventions for songs is entirely different this time around. Where Ocular had pretty generic modern prog titles like ‘Inclement’ and ‘Refractive’, Epipath has a little more fun with things (most of which I’ve already mentioned).

Anyway, fans of cheesy 80s synthwave, technical prog, or instrumental fusion with undoubtedly love Epipath & Ocular. It’s got all the flair, skill, and facemelting fuckery you could want, all wrapped up in a retro-yet-crystal-clear package.

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Dynazty – The Dark Delight Review

Score9/10
GenreMelodic Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime52:17
Release Date3 April 2020
Record LabelAFM

Where a lot of bands would suffer severe burnout after releasing a new album every two years for more than a decade, Dynazty are sounding fresher than ever in their seventh record, The Dark Delight. Full of electronic elements and powerful melodies, there’s far more between the lines than just modern flare. The Swedish melodic metallers have struck gold with an album that bursts with commercial accessibility and badass heavy metal in equal measure.

The uniqueness this album contains is surprising, considering frontman Nils Molin has also been busy as the new male vocalist of the Swedish pop metal group Amaranthe. Despite a similar core sound (colossal drums and guitars, bouncy synth melodies), The Dark Delight retains its individuality, even when compared to Dynazty’s own previous stuff.

Most of the tracks have identical styles, staying heavy and darker for the verses then lightening up a bit on the chorus. Although, Dynazty do an excellent job at keeping every song sounding unique while working around this idea. The melodies are strong and catchy and the beats carry serious headbangability, so it’s easy to see why The Dark Delight holds its own with other modern metal bands like Amaranthe, Delain, or The Dark Element.

The highlight for me isn’t the catchiness, or the electronic elements, or the massive guitars, or the colourful drumming. No, for me, the highlight is undoubtedly the soloing. Seriously. These guys lay down some serious shreds.

Even if you aren’t a fan of this style, The Dark Delight is commendable enough to warrant a listen. It’s not often a poppy metal album is full of so much detail, so if killer vocals, guitars, and drums aren’t good enough for you, maybe they will be.

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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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Amberian Dawn – Looking For You Review

Score9.5/10
GenreMelodic Metal (80s Synthpop)
CountryFinland
Runtime42:38
Release Date31 January 2020
Record LabelNapalm

If kicking off the year with a super cheesy 80s metal album becomes a regular occurrence in my life, I would have nothing left to ask for. Last year, February serenaded us with the ferocious Beast in Black’s From Hell with Love, which blasted its way into my Number One Metal Record spot. And now, former symphonic metal troupe Amberian Dawn have also made the shift into 80s synthpop revival with their ninth record, Looking for You. While most of the songs follow a steady bass-snare beat, the album is gloriously addictive.

Drenched in synth and vocal layers, there’s never a dull moment. The band has coined the term ABBA-metal to describe their music, and that couldn’t be more accurate. Every track rings with glowing positivity and spits out some of the catchiest melodies I’ve ever heard. The “metal” aspects of the album are definitely secondary to the synthpop but, hey, it’s fun and it’s still metal enough for me.

One of the album’s high points can be found in the song ‘Symphony Nr. 1 Part 3 – Awakening’ (rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?), which is the third part to the Symphony that began in 2015’s album Innuendo. The track features some mad double kicks that are perfectly executed, as well as the vocal talents of the mighty Fabio Lione (ex-Rhapsody, Angra, Turilli/Lione Rhapsody) alongside Amberian Dawn’s Capri. Additionally, there’s a sick solo tucked away in ‘Eternal Fire Burning’ and some beefy basslines in ‘Butterfly’, as well as some great cymbal work scattered throughout.

Amberian Dawn have always been an adaptive outfit. Since their shifts from power metal then symphonic metal, they’ve always been able to create a commercially-available sound while remaining musically interesting. If you’re looking for huge riffs and aggression, you’re in the wrong place. But, if you want some fun shit to nod your head to, spin at the gym, or crank at a party, look no further than Looking for You.

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Melodic Metal: New Single From Temperance

Italian melodic metal outfit Temperance are a bit of a breath of fresh air in their space. Fronted by the talents of three vocalists, the band offers a brand of melodic metal that has a unique melodic delivery over symphonic and electronic elements.

With their fifth album, Viridian, coming out this Friday, the band have released another single, ‘I Am the Fire’.

Vocalist/Guitarist Marco Pastorino, on the new single:
“Our paths have crossed at a lot of places and stories. ‘I Am the Fire’ is about motivation and a trigger that can help us to reach our goals. Through different colors, moods and situations, we can find a light on our journey. As always we blend our three different vocal styles in one of the most melodic tracks from Viridian.

As a side note, we were not particularly thinking of seasonal wildfire or the horrible tragedy that is happening in Australia right now. The word ‘fire’ is recurrently used as an analogy to inner strength, and we believe that we can take it as a call to action for uniting and together, overcoming any obstacles we face individually as well as a society.”

01. Mission Impossible
02. I Am The Fire
03. Start Another Round
04. My Demons Can’t Sleep
05. Viridian
06. Let It Beat
07. Scent of Dye
08. The Cult Of Mystery
09. Nanook
10. Gaia
11. Catch The Dream

Marco Pastorino on Viridian:
“We’re beyond stoked to announce that our new album and first through Napalm Records Viridian is scheduled for worldwide release on January 24th, 2020! Finally, the time has come: Viridian is ready to see the light of the day! We’ve worked hard during the last year to write our best songs ever. This is our heaviest album so far, yet with a lot of melodies, vocal harmonies and epic modern metal hymns! The recording process was super fun and we really enjoyed finding new, different ways to express ourselves with our music. We really can’t wait to spread Viridian all over the world on the next tours – stay tuned for more exciting news!”

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Top 25 Metal Albums Of 2019

Future generations will look back on 2019 as the Year of Power Metal. With very few exceptions, every major power metal band released new material this year, most of which was nothing short of excellent.

However, power metal wasn’t the only dominating force this year. Most of the big prog, heavy, and folk players also released albums, as well as bands that I don’t give a shit about like Slipknot, TOOL, and pretty well everything on the extreme metal side of things.

Anyway, the following features twenty five of the best “melodic” metal albums of the year! The competition was steep; of the 380+ albums I listened to this year, almost seventy of them were serious contenders for this list.

Also, you might notice that, despite a few placements in my monthly Top Tens and my scoring in general, some albums listed here are higher or lower than they “should” be. The main reason here is that, surprise surprise, opinions can change with time, and so can music.

Regardless, you can be damn certain that the following 25 metal albums are the best to come out of the monster than was 2019!

25. Elvenking – Reader of the Runes – Divination

Elvenking’s 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. It’s not the band’s best, but it’s really fucking good.

Full Review

24. HammerFall – Dominion

Since their founding in 1993, heavy metal templars HammerFall have fought to continue the legacy of 80s heavy metal, smithing more than ten full-length records and establishing themselves as Sweden’s and Europe’s premier heavy metal masters. Their latest album, Dominion, is an epic powerhouse that easily contends with their early material in terms of quality and heart.

Full Review

23. Rhodium – Sea of the Dead

Sea of the Dead is the latest offering of Greek power metal (think Firewind, Diviner, stuff like that). Featuring an almost all-new lineup, the album drives forth with exceptional guitarwork and even more impressive vocals, which sit somewhere between the usual, coarse Greek power vocals and higher Euro power norm. This is one hell of a sophomore album and is more than strong enough to earn spot on this list.

Full Review

22. Chaos Magic – Furyborn

Caterina Nix’s second installment of Chaos Magic is, quite simply, amazing. Written alongside Chilean musician Nasson, Furyborn is a far cry from its predecessor and exchanges its typical symphonic metal sound for a more original, albeit poppy, take on melodic metal. It’s full of sick guitars, killer melodies, and boundless attitude. This “pop” metal album blows all other pop metal albums out of the water.

Full Review

21. Frozen Crown – Crowned in Frost

Frozen Crown have solidified their sound in a heavier, grittier, more diverse power metal offering than their debut. This female fronted (or should I say, “female fueled,” due to vocalist Jade Etro as well as eighteen-year-old southpaw shredder Talia Bellazecca) powerhouse has created an exceptionally refined record that blasts forth with elements from harsh death metal, traditional heavy metal, and everything in between. Pair that with elaborate guitarwork and numerous vocal styles and you have yourself one ferocious album!

Full Review

20. Finsterforst – Zerfall

Furious German folkers Finsterforst are back with a fifth backbreaking album, complete with lengthy arrangements, chanted melodies, and intense orchestrations. Zerfall is a very unique take on folk metal, combining keyboards, orchestras, and heavy guitars with elements of death metal and folk melodies (sorta like Wintersun but heavier). The choruses have a slight ring of Orden Ogan to them that amplifies already-huge atmospheres, so it’s safe to say that you’re in for a poundingly heavy ride with this one.

19. Amulet – The Inevitable War

Blasting forth with a fresh lineup, Amulet’s sophomore record is an exceptional work of classic metal. The Inevitable War takes the band to new heights and is the best classic metal album of the year.

There’s really nothing to dislike. The mixing is flawless, the band is exceptionally talented, and the music simply bleeds energy. Each anthemic chorus hits with a similar impact as classic Manowar, and the galloping rhythm section chugs away with the likeness of Iron Maiden. Get your fix of the classics with this very new release.

Full Review

18. Control the Storm – Forevermore

This album is incredible: female-fronted power metal at its finest. The overall atmosphere is bright and energetic, and it’s fueled by symphonic components, folk elements, and rich vocal harmonies. Plus, the arrangements are dynamic and exceptionally written. If you haven’t heard of them before, this album is all you need to get excited about Control the Storm.

Full Review

17. Manegarm – Fornaldarsagor

In their best album in probably a decade, Manegarm have something grand in Fornaldarsagor. While primarily a coarser folk metal work, there’s the usual inclusion of impending black metal elements, as well as some female and clean male vocals. While the formula of Fornaldarsagor is typical of Manegarm, far more care has been taken regarding the songwriting that the past three albums.

16. ShadowStrike – Legends of Human Spirit

Legends of Human Spirit is probably the strongest power metal debut of the entire year. It’s insanely fast, vibrant, true power metal to the core. It’s really as simple as that. ShadowStrike, hailing from New York, have busted out of the gate with a DragonForce-influenced sound that manages to steer clear of being too derivative, delivering a unique, shredtastic album.

Part of the driving force of this individuality is the band’s tasteful use of symphonic elements (I would never consider this album “symphonic metal”, though) as well as sophisticated song arrangements. With nothing short of excellent on the record, ShadowStrike have quickly become one of my favourite power metal bands, ever.

Full Review

15. Noveria – Aequilibrium

Italian proggers Noveria don’t fuck around. As soon as it starts, Aequilibrium explodes into high-intensity with a death metal atmosphere and epic choirs. Through the rest of the album, we encounter sick riff after sick riff (not the least of which can be found in ‘Awakening’ and ‘Broken’) in all their beefy, syncopated glory, as well as beautiful interludes and pulled back sections. Another aspect that makes Aequilibrium stand out is the fact that, while there’s a dark tone to most of the album, it’s never depressing and it’s always energetic.

Full Review

14. Scimitar – Shadows of Man

Canadian pagan metal warriors Scimitar have been around for just over a decade. Early on in their career, they released their debut album, Black Waters, but the band took a bit of a break soon after. Now, nine years later, the band have finally unleashed their sophomore album. Shadows of Man is gritty, furious, and packs way more variety into it than I would have ever expected. With a sound that’s in the realm of Ensiferum and Vanir (although far less refined, production-wise), Scimitar’s combination of death, black, and folk elements will be welcome with any fan of the dark side of folk metal.

(Yeah, I know this is, like, the third melodeath/folk metal album on a “melodic metal” list. Deal with it. This is MY house.)

Full Review

13. Brymir – Wings of Fire

Brymir is extreme metal for the power metal fan and Wings of Fire is no exception. If it weren’t for the rough vocals, it’d be epic symphonic power metal through-and-through.No, I shouldn’t say that. It’s way too epic to be just that. It’s the kind of epic that’ll make you believe that you can crush mountains and fly through the sky as the bringer of life or death, sole judge of the universe, with all of the power of the gods in your hands, under your hands, through your hands, about your hands (but not over your hands). It’s that. Fucking. Epic.

Full Review

12. Sabaton – The Great War

This year saw the release of Sabaton’s ninth record: The Great War. Despite a lengthy career of two decades, the Swedish metal heroes are showing no signs of slowing down, and they prove that they’re here to stay by delivering their biggest, boldest, most bombastic blast of metal in years. Other than slamming the epic pedal down to the fucking floor, The Great War separates itself from Sabaton’s prior works by hanging a darker atmosphere over the music, as well as putting more emphasis on classical scales, especially in its guitar solos.

Full Review

11. Majestica – Above the Sky

After six years of hiatus, power metal cheeseballs Majestica (formerly ReinXeed) are back with their seventh album, Above the Sky. Aside from a drastic name change, Majestica’s sound has grown more mature, despite their lyrical content becoming more juvenile than ever. Of course, these are perfect qualities to have in a power metal album: bullshit, nonsensical lyrics over technically impressive music.

Full Review

10. Galneryus – Into the Purgatory

The finest neoclassical power metal band east of the Silk Road have unleashed yet another album of facemelting ferocity. Into the Purgatory is the twelfth album to come from the mighty Galneryus and, despite such a long career, it lives up to the band’s glory, and then some. A slice of Galneryus’ neoclassical edge has been swapped for a bit more of a progressive influence this time around so, while you can still expect a melodic work of shred insanity, it’s different enough from their other albums to keep things feeling new.

Full Review

09. Moonlight Haze – De Rerum Natura

Formed by ex-Temperance members Chiara Tricarico and Giulio Capone 2018, Moonlight Haze is a symphonic metal project that combines the talents of musicians from Elvenking, Sound Storm, and Epica to create a melodic, emotionally dynamic, technically-pleasing work of female fronted metal that stands high above your typical Delain or Nightwish ripoff. Complete with countless folk and world music elements, De Rerum Natura is as unique as a symphonic debut could be.

Full Review

08. Wind Rose – Wintersaga

Dwarf metallers Wind Rose are back with a rugged sound in their fourth album, Wintersaga. As usual, the Tolkien themes are strong, 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.

Full Review

07. Twilight Force – Dawn of the Dragonstar

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 piano notes. This hyper-melodic, smile-demanding work isn’t just sheen and shine, though; there’s an absolutely staggering degree of talent and proficiency to behold in every track.

Full Review

06. NorthTale – Welcome to Paradise

NorthTale was born of vocalist Christian Eriksson (ex-Twilight Force), drummer Patrick Johansson (ex-Yngwie Malmsteem) and guitar maestro Bill Hudson with the dream of bringing back the glory of late 90s/early 00s power metal. Whether you’re in the mood for that golden-age power metal, anthemic stadium metal, or even a vegan happy meal, Welcome to Paradise delivers all that and more, complete with facemelting solos, exciting diversity, and catchy melodies. This is one of the year’s best power metal albums and is as technically impressive as it is fun.

Full Review

05. Eluveitie – Ategnatos

Eluveitie have hit their peak in their eighth record, Ategnatos. It’s fantastically fluid for such a diverse folk metal album, and, while it retains the trademark Eluveitie sound, it’s a distinct experience from their other releases.

The songs range from huge melodeath blast beats with rough vocals to softer, mournful tracks like ‘Eclipse’. There’s even a bouncy tune in ‘Ambiramus’ that’ll be stuck in your head for weeks (but don’t worry, you’ll welcome it). The broad instrumentation of this Swiss septet includes traditional instruments and shamelessly skilled drums, as well as three different vocal styles, my favourite of which are the versatile pipes of Fabienne Erni. The control she displays is insane and honestly, without her, the album wouldn’t have made it as one of my top picks.

Full Review

04. Wilderun – Veil of Imagination

Not many bands can pull off an exceptional atmospheric album so, when one does, I always get excited. One of the few (and latest) this year to accomplish such a feat are Boston’s Wilderun with their third album, Veil of Imagination. The album combines elements of death, symphonic, progressive, and folk metal to make a sound that bands like Wintersun have been trying so desperately to embody. It expertly conjures deep feelings of wonder, determination, aggression, hate, fear, reflection, and everything in between. With rich orchestrations supporting it, Veil of Imagination is almost impossible colourful.

Full Review

03. Gloryhammer – Legends From Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex

Epic, cheesy, heroic. These are words I often use when describing my favourite albums, but make no mistake; I only use these words if I mean it. So, if I were to say that Gloryhammer’s third and latest album, Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex, was one of the most ridiculously epic tales of heroism that I’ve ever heard from a power metal album, you can be damn sure it’s true.

Between the powerful cries of Angus McFife and the cosmic colours created by the rest of band, there’s no room to criticize the skill of these galactic warriors. Additionally, while the core sound is true, pure power metal (with a healthy dose of symphonic backing tracks), the songwriting is pleasingly dynamic. So, bust out your most enchanted headphones and get a load of this ultra-melodic cheesefest and see for yourself why this just might be the greatest power metal album of the year (or of all fucking time).

Full Review

02. Dream Theater – Distance over Time

Dream Theater are legendary. There’s no question about it. These guys are some of the best musicians metal has to offer, and they’ve given rise to more than a few prog masterpieces. While it’s true that their material has lost a bit of steam over the last decade, Distance over Time recaptures all of their former velocity as their best album since Black Clouds and Silver Linings. There’s a perfect mix of mathematical intricacies, solid melodies, and headbangable grooves, and, despite having a sound that’s closer to their earlier works, this is the freshest they’ve sounded in years.

Full Review

01. Beast in Black – From Hell with Love

Insane solos? Check. The best vocal performance in modern heavy metal? Check. Synthetic fanfares that demand the construction of a training montage? Check. Pack it up, every other band ever. Beast in Black have achieved the pinnacle of music. It’s all downhill from here. Go home. Show’s over. Nothing else will ever excite you as much as this album will.

Just kidding. Well, kind of. From Hell with Love is what every 80s revival album strives to be: catchy, fun, and technically impressive. Between the limitless voice of Yannis Papadopoulos and the songwriting gold of Anton Kabanen, this album holds nothing back. It’s intense. It’s fucking doused in cheese. It’s the pump up record to end all pump up records.

What a year! January is just around the corner, and that means that PowerThorn’s One Year Anniversary is close, too. It was reassuring to watch the viewership increase from a few tens a day all the way up to a few hundred. Between successful weeks of six reviews and desolate weeks of one, it’s been fun so far! Whether this is your first visit or you’re a regular reader, I deeply thank you for your support.

Look forward to more power metal content in 2020!

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Stay Metal \m/


Top Ten Metal Albums Of November

2019 is just wrapping up but, while November was probably the most scarce month of the year so far on the metal front, there’s still plenty of new, high-quality albums to check out. From the daring to the digital, here’re ten of the strongest metal albums of November!

10. Metal De Facto – Imperium Romanum

Hailing from Finland, Metal De Facto have thundered down with their debut, Imperium Romanum. Despite the band’s origins, their overall sound comes close to your typical German power metal band, such as Iron Savior or Gamma Ray. There’s also a heavy dose of neoclassical influence which comes to a peak in the instrumental shred piece ‘Colosseum’. If gritty, fast-paced, hard-riffing power metal is your thing, Metal De Facto have you covered!

9. Magic Kingdom – MetAlmighty

This album kicks all sorts of fantasy ass. It rides forth with cheesy lyrics in a wide variety of dynamic tracks. The overall sound is grittier than a lot of modern power metal, which helps separate Magic Kingdom from the crowd (despite having one of the most unoriginal names in metal history). MetAlmighty may not be the best that Magic Kingdom’s ever put out, but it’s certainly worth giving a spin.

Full Review

8. IronThorn – Legends of the Ancient Rock

Italian hard rock/heavy metallers IronThorn have bested their debut album in Legends of the Ancient Rock, which is heavier, more versatile, and more riff-driven. While IronThorn formerly sat closer to the rock side than the metal side, the metalness here has been beefed way up, which is good for those of us who wanted a bit more aggression out of the band. There are a few great tracks, such as ‘Legends’, ‘The Call of Silence’, and ‘Werewolf’, that make the album worth listening to, but every track is still high-quality. Legends of the Ancient Rock is nothing groundbreaking, but it’s a damn solid album.

7. Celesti Alliance – Hybrid Generation

Finland’s latest melodic heavy metal addition comes from the brand new Celesti Alliance. After two EPs, these cultivators of classic steel are finally ready to smash onto the scene with their full-length debut. Pulling from a range of influences from late-80s heavy/power metal (Accept, Judas Priest) and modern heavy metal, Hybrid Generation is a super catchy album that’s generous with the riffs and heavy on the solos.

Full Review

6. Stormwarrior – Norsemen

Speed metal isn’t usually my go-to, but badass, expertly-done speed metal is one of my favourite things, especially when it’s badass speed metal with a power metal lining and viking themes. Fortunately, this is something Stormwarrior excell at, and their sixth album is as good as the rest. Between the destructive onslaught of non-stop tremolo picking and drums that never quit, Norsemen takes it to the next level by actually having quality melodies (and a very unusual vocal delivery for the genre) to guide its rampant intensity. This isn’t your typical speed metal album, and that’s a damn good thing.

5. Signum Regis – The Seal of a New World

After more than a decade of metal mastery, it seems like Slovakia’s Signum Regis are incapable of making a bad album. The mighty power metallers never fail to deliver an exciting, heroic adventure that swings the sword of sick riffs and their sixth album, The Seal of a New World, sees the band return to familiar lands. Between ultra-catchy melodies and jumpy energy, you won’t know what’s gonna be thrown at you next.

Full Review

4. Scarleth – Vortex

Melodic metallers Scarleth’s third album, Vortex, combines elements of heavy, power, symphonic, and gothic metal, synthpop, and even Middle Eastern and folk music. On top of that, the album is full of colourful rhythm section parts and some sick guitar solos. Seriously. They suddenly explode into existence and demand your attention with shredtastic, sweep-picked mystery. The result of this well-balance mixture is a memorable melodic metal album that’s sure to be a favourite among fans of the genre.

Full Review

3. Thunder and Lightning – Demonicorn

For whatever reason, Demonicorn was more elusive than a Japanese metal album upon its release. Maybe I just missed hearing about it, but I had no idea Thunder and Lightning had something new coming out until a week after it was released. I’m pretty fucking psyched that I caught it, though, because this is one god damn impressive work of power metal. The first thing that jumps out (and continues to jump until the album’s demise) is the incredible guitarwork. Between the huge tones, facemelting solos, and thrashy riffs, the guitars are the clear highlight of the album, but the mighty vocals and dynamic arrangements elevate the album into being a serious contender for any Album of the Year list.

2. The Dark Element – Songs the Night Sings

The Dark Element was formed in 2016 by former Nightwish vocalist Anette Olzon and former Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen. Their self-titled debut combined elements of symphonic metal and pop to deliver a strong, synth-heavy melodic metal album. While that debut was pretty good, their sophomore effort, Songs the Night Sings blows it out of the fucking water. The sound is fuller, the arrangements are more diverse, and everything else has gotten a serious upgrade.

Full Review

1. Wilderun – Veil of Imagination

Not many bands can pull off an exceptional atmospheric album so, when one does, it always gets me excited about it. One of the few (and latest) this year to accomplish such a feat are Boston’s Wilderun with their third album, Veil of Imagination. It expertly conjures deep feelings like wonder, determination, aggression, hate, fear, reflection, and everything in between. With rich orchestrations supporting it, Veil of Imagination is as colourful as its album cover would have you believe.

Full Review

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CyHra – No Halos In Hell Review

Score5/10
GenreMelodic Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime47:11
Release Date15 November 2019
Record LabelNuclear Blast

As a longtime fan of Amaranthe, I was actually pretty psyched when its founder and vocalist, Jake E, announced he was leaving to form his own band back in 2016 (or was it 2017?). As Amaranthe continued to venture further and further away from the metal/pop hybrid it began as into an outright pop outfit with metal instruments, this new band, CyHra, held my hopes of bringing Jake E’s songwriting talents back into metal, where they belong. Fortunately, CyHra’s debut, Letters to Myself, was exactly what I expected: a super-electronic, riff-heavy, melodic modern metal album. It had sincerity, it had charisma, and it had the musical chops to stand as a notably-impressive debut.

So, you can imagine my fucking disappointment upon first finishing No Halos in Hell. Despite Letters to Myself being an incredibly synthetic album to begin with, No Halos in Hell basically feels like an artificial ripoff. Furthermore, it’s the type of album Jake E appeared to be avoiding by leaving Amaranthe. Most of the songs sound the same, it’s one-dimensional, and it floats along with limited-to-zero dynamic range and beats the shit out of you with the exact same fucking chorus like fifty times. Usually, I would provide specific examples, but I’ll be honest; even after four full listens, I still can’t tell half the fucking tracks apart, so, unless I were to make an elaborate chart of which-song-reuses-what, a general idea’s all you’re gonna get.

Aside from the painfully uninspired simplicity of the songwriting and melodies, there’s another major contributor to this album’s demise: the choruses. Following the monotony of the verses, there’s always a very blatant attempt at a build in the prechoruses that promises an emotional climax in the chorus. Unfortunately, it almost never comes because the vocals float by, the guitars go nowhere, and the drums are too busy doing absolutely nothing. There’s a constant 16th-note feel throughout the entire album, and it would be so easy to throw in some cool grooves to really make the choruses shine, but no, that’s apparently too much to ask for.

In short, this album is an example of how not to make a pop metal album. While each individual song is passable, and a couple songs are actually good (‘Out of My Life’, ‘Blood Brothers’), it’s a fucking chore to listen to more than two at a time. CyHra are a talented band that have already proven themselves to be musically capable, but they really jumped the gun by going hyper-commercial in No Halos in Hell.

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Interview With The Dark Element’s Anette Olzon

“When I listen to our music I think that, you know, they are happy albums, because they are so catchy and melodic. But if I go in too deep into Jani’s lyrics, they are quite sad and bitter.”

Finland’s melodic/symphonic metal outfit The Dark Element was formed in 2017. The band features ex-Nightwish and Alyson Avenue vocalist Anette Olzon as its frontwoman. On the release day of their sophomore album, Songs the Night Sings, I got to explore Anette’s thoughts of the new album, the future of the band, and women in metal.

Kane: Congratulations on your new album today! What was your favourite part of making Songs the Night Sings?

Anette Olzon: This album went really smooth. You know, now we all know each other. In the first album we didn’t really know each other. Of course, it’s always easier, you know, and Jani [Jani Liimatainen, Insomnium, ex-Sonata Arctica] knows my vocal style and he believes in what I do so it was all really smooth.

And who does the songwriting? Is it just Jani or is it both you and him?

A: No, it’s mainly Jani. I mean, he is a songwriter so he always makes the songs and sends me the demos and then I go into the studio and, of course I do the vocals how I want to do them. Of course, I follow his melody, but all the harmonies and stuff that I want to do I can do myself.

And this time he actually asked me in the middle of the process if I had any lyrics because I guess he had some writer’s block, so then I sent him some lyrics and he actually took some of those parts from me and put them in ‘Pills on My Pillow’ so I have been a little more creative this time in that way.

What would you say is the album’s strongest quality?

A: Well I believe The Dark Element was very melodic, so we’re still very melodic and have quite catchy choruses, for instance. This time we talked about, after the last album, that I would really like to have a bit more heaviness and more guitars and he actually listened, so he made it a bit more heavy and bombastic this time and I think he has added some more disco, too, which is really nice.

So I think that the melodies and catchy choruses are the strongest part. Somebody said that it’s a bit of “ABBA metal” and that it truly an honour because ABBA is, of course, the best band. [laughs]

Of course! I mean, if you’re gonna do a poppy style of metal then I don’t think there’s a better compliment you could get.

A: [laughs] No, it’s really an honour when people say that. It’s all fine by me, being a Swede. [laughs]

How would you say Songs the Night Sings differs from your debut?

A: You know, I would say that the first one was a little bit of a tryout, both for Jani and for me. He did pull some songs out of his drawer that maybe he had just had there for years and then he wrote them into something new. These songs are all written new for Songs the Night Sings and I think he kind of knew the direction better after how people reacted to the songs in the first album. So think it’s kind of the same vibe as the first one, just a bit bolder and more elements that he has tried out that are a bit different.

I think I would agree. There’re a lot more orchestrations and it sounds a lot fuller and there’s more detail. I’d say it’s like a refined version of the first album.

A: Yeah, I think so. You know, the first album had songs that differed a bit more over the whole album than this one. I think this one has more of a right balance. I mean the new songs do have a lot of different elements but this album has a red thread into it.

For sure. Do you have any favourite songs?

A: Yeah! My favourite since I heard it is ‘The Pallbearer Walks Alone’. I just love that from the first time I heard it and when I when to the studio to sing it. It’s my favourite song from all The Dark Element. I really like ‘Pills on My Pillow’; there’s a lot of pain in that one, some cool disco, and the poppier song ‘Silence Between the Words’, which is really poppy. [laughs] But I really like it! It’s a really fun and easy song. But I like all of them for different reasons.

So you guys decided to release two music videos and one lyric video. How important do you think music videos are?

A: I think they are important because kids today watch YouTube. That’s how it is. You know, back in the day MTV was the big thing to look at. I think videos today, like our videos, are very easy. They are not like high-cost videos that MTV had, you know, with a big budget, I guess. I mean, Rammstein has a huge budget for their videos. [laughs]

But I don’t think you need to do them so creatively, people just want to see you. There’s something about that thing, you know, when they can look at you. So I think videos are still very important.

Do you guys have any plans to tour the album yet?

A: I mean, yes, we want to play gigs, we just have one issue and that is Jani has joined the big band Insomnium and they are touring heavily. We have gotten a lot of requests and we are very much trying to squeeze in gigs between his touring with Insomnium, so hopefully. There will probably be some gigs but, if it comes to touring, maybe we will just have to join Insomnium! [laughs] Since he is so busy.

We have had to say no to some requests, unfortunately, due to his busy schedule but I think there will be some. Hopefully he has some time off now and then. Not so many days, but some.

Or enough, anyway!

A: [Laughs] Yeah, I’m on him every day like, “Hey, have you checked your schedule? Have you checked your schedule?” because I would like to play a lot next year, much more than we’ve done. It’s really nice that he’s joined Insomnium but it a bit more of a hassle for us. But we’ll see!

Do you have anything you particularly like or dislike about touring?

A: Well, for me, I’ve done that big, heavy touring thing that he’s doing at the moment. I did it with Nightwish. It was fun but it was also very, very hard. I have problems sleeping in the bus, for instance, so either I have to drink beer or take pills to sleep, [laughs] which is hard. I also think it’s a bit boring when it comes to traveling. Nowadays, I don’t really like to go anywhere and I just stay at home because I’ve seen the world, I’ve been in cities. I remember that I woke up many times and I didn’t have any clue what country I was in, what city I was in, and it was kind of scary, you know, when you just wake up like, “Where am I?” It happened a lot. I also have a lot of memory losses from my touring days because it was very intense. So I try to think that I’ve done that, you know, that Jani’s doing at the moment, and I cherish it, but I prefer to do a little bit less gigs. More like “let’s do two gigs and have fun” and then we go home. I prefer that.

I can see how that saves a bit of energy, too, and nobody has to really strain themselves.

A: Yeah, and I think also that when you do a tour like that six days a week, travelling, travelling, travelling, people getting sick and still having to perform, you know, singing with a flu in your body and stuff, you don’t give your best every evening. If you only have a few gigs, normally you’re not ill and you’re good and you’re happy, and I think that shows to the audience, too. You can give them much more for their money, I believe.

Shifting back to the album, do you think the lyrics or the overall sound are more important?

A: Oh. Well, when I listen to our music I think that, you know, they are happy albums, because they are so catchy and melodic. But if I go in too deep into Jani’s lyrics, they are quite sad and bitter. They are not happy lyrics. They are sad lyrics, all of them, and you wonder if he’s been through Hell in his life or not. [laughs] So, for me when I listen to the songs, I think the overall sound is what I listen too. Of course, I listen to the lyrics, too, but I think not many people sit down and just nail through and listen really deep to the lyrics. I think people just want to hear a good song with a good tempo and something fun in it. So I believe lyrics are important but the sound is probably more important.

Aside from The Dark Element, what are you listening to these days?

A: Well, I listen to the radio. [laughs] But I listen to many different things depending on my mood. I listen to a lot of metal, actually, because me and my husband share the Spotify account and he’s like a “death metal dude” and “metal dude” so the only thing that comes up in mine is Katatonia and stuff, so I listen to that. I also listen to singer-songwriters, but I listen to a lot of radio mainly, all those hit that are in the pop charts. They are easy listening.

As a female metal artist, do you feel that women are having more success these days?

A: Well, I remember when me and Alyson Avenue came out with our first album and we were out gigging back in the days when I was very young, that was in the late 80s and early 90s. Female-fronted bands were, like, the worst of the worst. It was so bad. People were like, “Female-fronted? They suck!” And I think you still can feel that vibe, in a way, as soon as there’s a girl singing there’s something with a lot of men, because that’s just how it goes, where they prefer a male singer. I don’t know why.

But I think it’s gotten better with so many good singers out there who’ve showcased that they can growl and they can do all those things a male singer can do, too, like belt and sing progressive and stuff. So, I think it’s better these days than it was when I was younger and started singing.

I think it definitely helps having big bands like Nightwish, Battle Beast, and Amaranthe that have fantastic frontwomen to help move it forward, too.

A: Yeah, and where bands like Evanescence are still going, and like you said Battle Beast. Noora is fantastic and she proves inmany ways that a girl can do what a man can do because she really sings in many ways like a guy. And then you have, of course, bands like Arch Enemy that also proves that there are some really good female-fronted bands out there.

We’re just about out of time here so I want to squeeze in one more question! What do you want to see The Dark Element become?

A: Oh! Well. I personally would love to do some more gigs, that’s my aim, because we’ve had so much fun. And hopefully some more albums, before I get too old, with that same happy feeling Jani and I have at the moment, and that his creativity continues the way that it has and that we get better and better with every album because he’s a very talented songwriter. And, hopefully, sell a lot and sell more so we can do more of what we want with more gigs and better videos and have a higher budget for everything. That’s always what you want.

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me!

A: And thank you! It’s been an honour.

The Dark Element’s sophomore album, Songs the Night Sings, is out now! You can catch it on YouTube, streaming services, or buy it >>here<<! And don’t forget to follow The Dark Element on Facebook!

The Dark Element – Songs the Night Sings Review

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