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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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!

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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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Top Ten Metal Albums Of August

August regained the momentum of 2019 with tons of contenders for the best of the month! After careful consideration, I managed to pick out the Top Ten:

10. Ivory Tower – Stronger

Ivory Tower is no stranger to the prog scene. While they’ve only put out four albums since the late 90s, their sound has made plenty of changes, from power prog to nu metal. In their fifth album to date, Stronger, the band shows that the eight years since their previous album (which was, in all honesty, a fucking mess) have been dedicated to evolving their sound for the better. It’s full of super sick riffs, exciting songwriting, and vengeful melodies that often carry classic Queensryche vibes.

Full Review

9. Astralium – Land of Eternal Dreams

Astralium aren’t your typical, generic symphonic metal band. Land of Eternal Dreams marks one hell of a debut, and proves that these guys are a step above the rest. 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.

Full Review

8. Dialith – Extinction Six

The debut album from American symphonic metal outfit Dialith was an unexpected surprise this month. Extinction Six is a riff-heavy beast of a symphonic metal album, with guitarwork that’s as rich as its lively arrangements. All of this is under a strong female lead that delivers diverse melodies with emotion and precision.

7. 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. 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 pounding, heavy ride with this one.

6. Unprocessed – Artificial Void

German prog newcomers Unprocessed have returned with a bang in their sophomore record. Coming out only a year after their debut, Artificial Void shows that the band’s passion is burning hotter than ever before. The album still retains Unprocessed’s underlying, beefy djent feel, but it’s a farther progression into more experimental modern prog territory. Whether you’re looking for insanely deep riffs or choppy jams, Artificial Void delivers on all fronts.

Full Review

5. 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.

Full Review

4. 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.

Full Review

3. Twilight Force – Dawn of the Dragonstar

Twilight Force’s third album, 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.

Full Review

2. 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

1. 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, diverse arrangements, 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

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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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Scimitar – Shadows Of Man Review

Score8/10
GenrePagan Metal
CountryCanada
Runtime48:57
Release Date23 August 2019
Record LabelIndependent

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.

Scimitar’s strength lies in their ability to craft a massive sound as a whole. The band mostly moves together in one direction at a time, which allows for a lot of power to be propelled at once. Additionally, melody is far down on the list of priorities, and what melody there is is driven only by the lead guitar, which is responsible for most of the emotion that comes out of whatever atmosphere the rest of the band is holding.

Shadows of Man begins with a dynamic instrumental (which, by the way, is an actual song, and not just minute-long bullshittery) before changing pace with ‘Knights Collapse’, which is pretty laid back. The growled vocals are almost rapped, which is cool, and the overall feel in this one is distinctly different from everything else the album offers. As the album progresses there are plenty of changes but its raw, rhythmic, aggressive energy remains fully consistent.

One thing you’ll notice about Shadows of Man is that it gets heavier as it goes on. While the earlier tracks are lighter and more melodic in comparison, the album ramps the intensity way the fuck up upon entering ‘Shadows of Man II: Cataclysm’: a melodic death metal landscape where dissonant chords and harshness take dominance.

There isn’t much that I don’t like about this album, but there are a few favourites for me. The solos are great, with the solo section in ‘Imperium’ being my favourite. Also, while the whole album is very dynamic, this reaches a peak in ‘Where Ancient Spectres Lie’, where we’re bombarded with time changes and feel changes, from its immensely depressive intro to the brighter end section. My favourite aspect about Shadows of Man, however, is the bass; you can hear it well and the lines are awesome. That probably seems like a weird favourite to pick in a record like this, but, fuck it. I love it.

In a departure from their original sound, Shadows of Man elevates Scimitar to a higher, more mature level. Back with their first effort (and a solid effort it is!) in years, Scimitar have sliced their way back onto the scene.

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Steignyr – Myths Through The Shadows Of Freedom Review

Score7/10
GenreFolk Metal
CountrySpain
Runtime01:04:46
Release Date14 June 2019
Record LabelArt Gates

The Celtic folk/death outfit Steignyr are back with their fourth album to date: Myths Through the Shadows of Freedom. Like their former works, Shadows of Freedom hits hard with rough riffs, vicious vocals, and a bone-raw epic sound that’ll have you eager to ride into battle.

At times, such as in parts of ‘You’ll Never Be Forgotten’ and ‘Frost Wolf’, there seems to be too much going on, which can be detrimental in a more lo-fi album such as this. This issue usually only arises when the keys and orchestrations are too numerous, but there are times when the vocals suffer from over-saturation, too.

That being said, Shadows of Freedom‘s songs are, for the most part, really good. There’s a pleasing amount of variety due to the folk-to-death ratio constantly being played with, allowing for various degrees of heaviness and melody. The song lengths also vary quite a bit and there’s even a cool instrumental, ‘Moonlight Forest’, in the middle of the album. However, there is one song specifically that is just plain bad; ‘Black Rain’ seems to drag on for an eternity (which is weird, considering it’s one of the shortest songs on the album) and the chorus is, honestly, super painful.

Stepping back onto the positive side of things, my favourite tracks on the album, the titular track and ‘Those Who Lie’, kick all sorts of ass. The former doesn’t arrive until the album nears its end, but this dynamic eight-minuter traverses many musical landscapes and, while there are numerous clashing parts, it all comes together without sounding muddy. The latter is just plain fun and is probably the best song to kick the album off.

Although it’s far from revolutionary (as there are countless bands that are strikingly similar), Myths Through the Shadows of Freedom will be a sure hit with fans of the gritty side of folk metal. Steignyr definitely have the recipe for greatness in their grasp, but a bit of refinement is needed to take them to the next level. That being said, this is far from a bad album, and if you aren’t pumped up by it’s bold, rugged manliness, that’s on you.

Steignyr – Whisper Calling (Art Gates)

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Top Ten Metal Albums of April

Between trying to keep up with my metal life and personal life, this month seems to have flown the fuck away from under my feet! It seems like it was only yesterday when I was stumbling my way through March’s top albums, so you can imagine how difficult this list was, considering it nearly caught me by surprise!

This was a great month for power and symphonic metal especially. It was kind of lean in the folk department, but that isn’t to say that folk metal didn’t make its way onto this list!

As usual, most of these albums had reviews done for them, so if you want to see a more in depth analysis, click on the album titles in the headings.

10. Atlas Pain – Tales of a Pathfinder

Dropping the sails at Number Ten are epic power metal adventurers Atlas Pain with their second full-length album, Tales of a Pathfinder. On this worldwide expedition you’ll encounter folk melodies and influences from numerous world cultures, from the Far East to Oceania to the reaches of the West.

While Tales of a Pathfinder doesn’t really blaze any new trails, the use of rough vocals over such sickeningly uplifting arrangements dig out a nice little niche for Atlas Pain. Regardless of how original this album is, its contagious energy will certainly find its way into your heart.

Atlas Pain – The Moving Empire (Scarlet)

9. Valence – Cognitive Dissidents

Shifting gears a little bit, Valence has some groovy instrumental prog to lay down on you. Cognitive Dissidents manages to climb above the mess of chaotic and pretentious prog metal by keeping the whole thing focused and fluid while jazzing around and maintaining a fun atmosphere.

The beefy guitar tones, eclectic melodies, and killer rhythm section are sometimes accompanied by string parts (which are all played by the band, by the way) to change up the feel. If you’re looking for something to nod your head to with the odd grin surfacing from time to time, this album will get the job done for sure.

Valence – Damnit, Lana!

8. Qantice – The Anastoria

Qantice’s The Anastoria is a massive display of symphonic wonder. Easily beating the aforementioned Tales of a Pathfinder in epic positivity, the breakneck speed throughout the entire record will have you so dialed in that you’ll be surprised an hour has gone by since you started listening. The orchestrations (often played by real life people) are incredibly rich and the parts are so numerous that you’ll be sure to find something new with consecutive listens.

This album already does a great job at separating itself from other similar bands, but the violin (courtesy of Alexandra Laya) makes it sound truly unique; she bows away on that fucking thing as furiously as the rest of the band plays. This neverending intensity almost makes it impossible to stop listening once you’ve started.

Qantice – Without a Hero (Pride & Joy)

7. 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.

Manegarm – Hervors arv (Napalm)

6. Deep Sun – Das Erbe der Welt

This futuristic sophomore album from the Swiss Deep Sun is as dynamic as its melodies are catchy (which is, in case you were wondering, very). Das Erbe der Welt is full of electronic keyboard sounds and a great female lead, but the highlight for me is definitely the rhythm section. Whether its in sharp shots or syncopated grooves, it carries out the job with direct, forceful purpose. There’s also a ton of variety for a band like this, so bonus points there, too.

Deep Sun – Worship the Warship (Massacre)

We’re halfway there, but let me tell you: I had a lot of trouble putting the next five against one another. They’re all clearly in the top five, but it took quite a bit of deliberating (and relistening) to finally get them to where I think they should be.

Anyway, you don’t care about any of that; on to the top five albums of April!

5. Solarus – Darkest Days

Maybe it’s the sharp vocals. Maybe it’s the riffs. Maybe it’s the fucking madman on the drums. Or, maybe, everything simply comes together really, really well.

For a symphonic/power metal album, Darkest Days is a bit, well, dark. Nonetheless, the music retains a certain vigour that allows it to be easily received despite a slight edge.

While there are times where I can find something to compare this album to, Solarus manages to keep Darkest Days sounding individual and new without compromising anything. Add to this a crazy solid rhythm section, ripping solos, and a strong female lead, and you get an album that’ll remain on your metal playlist until the sun burns out.

Solarus – Limbo

4. Silverheart – Destination

Silverheart’s Destination is pure power metal to the core. It has the speed, uplifting melodies, and cheesy keys. However, something is missing: horribly overdone lyrical and musical cliches. Is this a bad thing? Fuck no.

Somehow, this Argentinian outfit has put together a power metal album that sounds neither derivative nor repetitive, instead fueling us with a clean, riff-heavy ember that has as many twists and turns as fire itself. There’s no shortage of surprises on this journey, such as the odd techno line, so make sure to set this album as your next destination.

Silverheart – Until the End of Times

3. Age of Artemis – Monomyth

Power prog Brazilians Age of Artemis have gone on their own quest for heroism in their latest album, Monomyth. And, surprise surprise, they’ve achieved it. Coming forth with improved skill, songwriting, and melodic formulas, the band have clearly managed to grow with time. The proggy breakdowns are super lively, and the pump up energy is constant. My favourite part, though, is the kickass drummer Ricardo Linnasi. There’s not a single time when he’s not doing something cool, and he’ll hit you with a sick groove when you least expect it.

In addition to all of the phenomenal musical aspects to the album, I actually think that the concept works. It’s too often that a band tries too hard to bring a concept album to life, but the whole “steps to becoming a hero” thing really works for Monomyth. Both the style and execution are very fitting, so Age of Artemis earn some bonus points for actually producing a clear concept that isn’t pretentious bullshit.

Age of Artemis – The Calling

2. Tillian – Lotus Graveyard

This is pushing the metal boundary a little bit, but Ho. Ly. Fuck. I couldn’t not incude it. This debut album from the female-fronted Tillian is nothing short of spectacular. Lotus Graveyard is a passionate, dramatic, and fluid piece of prog rock/metal, and there’s no doubt in my mind that it’ll amaze you.

While I have a ton to say about this album, I’d only end up regurgitating my review, so check it out if you want.

Regardless, listen to this album. Seriously.

Tillian – Lotus Graveyard

1. 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 most of their other releases.

To say the least, it’s dynamic. 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 my top pick.

Eluveitie – The Slumber (Nuclear Blast)

Well, that’s it for this list! Make sure you throw these albums on some time, because they each have plenty to offer!

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Releases This Week (April Week One)

Things were pretty slow this week in the world of power(ish) metal. Although, they’ve been crazy for me, so luckily I didn’t fall behind much. There’re only two albums that are worth checking out, unless you want to give the new Lightfold or Atorc a chance, so this will be a short update.

A bit of news first, Elvenking have announced that the mixing to their new album is complete, so we can likely expect a date to be confirmed very soon.

Additionally, Sabaton have confirmed the name and date for their upcoming album. Entitled The Great War, it’s set for release on 19 July. You can see Sabaton’s Par Sundstrom and historian Indy Neidell talk more about it below!

Singles

Diviner – Heaven Falls

In anticipation for their new record, Realms of Time, Greek heavy metallers Diviner have unveiled their first single. Hard and heavy, it’s headbanging metal to the core and, hopefully, it’s a good indicator for how great the album will be when it drops on 7 June.

Diviner – Heaven Falls (Ulterium)

Myrath – Born to Survive

Tunisian desert metal masters Myrath have released a new music video for their song ‘Born To Survive’ from their upcoming album, Shehili, set to be released on 3 May under earMUSIC. The video was taken in the Carthage amphitheater in their home country, with 7000 screaming fans as backup.

Shehili marks Myrath’s fifth full-length record. With none of their releases being less than excellent, it’s safe to assume that their new one will feature all of the exciting, catchy, Middle Eastern energy that we’ve come to know thanks to Myrath.

Myrath – Born to Survive (earMUSIC)

Albums

Eluveitie – Ategnatos

Eluveitie have been making fantastic folk metal since their debut in 2006. Their eighth album, Ategnatos, is the perfect mix between folk and melodeath elements, and is easily one of the band’s best records to date.

Check out my full review here!

Eluveitie – Ambiramus (Nuclear Blast)

Age of Artemis – Monomyth

Monomyth is a colossal dose of expertly crafted power prog. There’s a steady upbeat feel throughout the album, despite its many ups and downs. Their third album so far, it’s easily the high point of Age of Artemis’ career thus far, which is a clear sign that they have grown as musicians and as a band. The melodies are strong, the drumming is crazy, and the time changes aren’t forced.

You can read my review here!

Age of Artemis – Reborn

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Top Ten Metal Albums Of March

While last month certainly had more to offer, there were still enough great metal albums to have a lot of competition for the top ten metal albums of March.

Below are albums that range the elements: the fluid, the rock-hard, the furiously hot, and the frigid cold. Brace yourself, because these records don’t fuck around!

10. Iron Savior – Kill or Get Killed

There’s nothing new in Iron Savior’s eleventh installment, Kill or Get Killed. It’s the same old song and dance, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still great. The bass is cranked, the hooks are catchy, and the guitar solos are fucking phenomenal.

At this stage of their career, nobody expects anything new or different, but it’s clear that Iron Savior are veterans of the German power metal scene and they’re damn good at what they do: heavy, loud, and intense power metal.

Iron Savior – Stand Up and Fight (AFM)

9. Battle Beast – No More Hollywood Endings

Battle Beast has all but completely reinvented its sound this time around, abandoning its unique brand of melodic heavy/power metal for a shinier, late 90s/early 00s pop sound. If Bringer of Painwas a step in a new direction, No More Hollywood Endings is a trip to the next city over. If it weren’t for a couple individual tracks and Noora Louhimo’s iconic, raspy vocals, it’d be unrecognizable as a Beast album.

In all honesty, when it lost Anton Kabanen, the Beast lost its bite. No More Hollywood Endings is widely dynamic, but a lot of the songs are very one-dimensional. Although many of the tracks feature epic orchestras and plentiful keyboards, more parts doesn’t always mean better songs.

I have very mixed feelings about this album mainly because of how hit-and-miss the tracks are. That being said, it’s far from being bad, and it’s good enough to make it as number nine!

(Also, the following track is incredible.)

Battle Beast – The Golden Horde (Nuclear Blast)

8. Darkwater – Human

Swedish power proggers Darkwater have created a fluid and intense experience in their comeback record. Human is their third record to date and is their first release in eight years. Fortunately, it was well worth the wait, because this record is one of the best prog albums I’ve heard in a long time.

The musicianship is excellent, but, by prog standards, it’s nothing special. That being said, Darkwater quickly proves that you don’t need to be a legendary musician who shreds with the utmost fucking insanity for minutes on end to make a great progressive album. The whole record feels natural and smooth.

Darkwater – Alive (Pt. II) (Ulterium)

7. Queensrÿche – The Verdict

I was as relieved as everybody else when Queensryche released their self-titled record in 2013 after the long line of bullshit they produced. So, it should come as no surprise that I absolutely love The Verdict, as it’s the third decent album in a row that Queensryche has made since the drama of the late 90s.

The Verdict is a dynamic piece of work, with the bulk of its sound being closer to their older material. There are clear grunge influences in parts and the synth is sprinkled throughout, adding a bit more detail and variety. Vocalist Todd La Torre also does an exceptional job manning the drums in Scott Rockenfield’s absence.

Queensryche – Man the Machine (Century Media)

6. Warrior Path – Warrior Path

This album is insanely good. Being forged under Greek guitarist/composer Andreas Sinanoglou, it also features vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos (ex Wardrum, Beast In Black) and guitarist/keyboardist Bob Katsionis (Firewind), making for quite the lineup. Now, I’m pretty biased to all things Yannis, so I’ll try to avoid talking too much about how his already-impressive vocal versatility is demonstrated in yet another new way or how he absolutely fucking masters old school heavy metal singing too much.

Well, shit. I tried.

Ok, I didn’t try at all.

Besides the vocals, the songs are very well written (a trait that is often missing from traditional metal bands), the solos and riffs are heavy and the slow parts are beautiful. You’ll come back to this record a few times; I guarantee it.

Warrior Path – Sinnersworld (Symmetric)

5. Bloodbound – Rise of the Dragon Empire

Bloodbound has taken all of the glorious, dragonslaying exuberance from War of Dragons and crammed it all into Rise of the Dragon Empire. Along with more dynamic and variable songwriting, it’s altogether better than its predecessor and, in my opinion, the best Bloodbound record to date. The soaring choruses are thunderous, the guitar solos are grand, and the synth is heavy in this power metal monster.

In all honesty, I didn’t expect it to be nearly as good as it is.

Bloodbound – The Warlock’s Trail (AFM)

4. Stonecast – I Earther

Stonecast rock seriously fucking hard in I Earther. Their strong energy will draw you in and their anthemic hooks will make you stay. This earthy metal is sturdy and its sound is nothing short of mountainous.

The vocal delivery ranges from powerful war cries to low, rough vocals. The guitar solos are awesome and the drums create exciting grooves. However, the highlight for me lies in ‘Cherokee’, which contains a staggering amount of variety in its eight minutes as well as an end section that is unmatched by most of the endings I’ve heard in metal.

Stonecast – Goddess of Rain (Pitch Black)

3. Iron Fire – Beyond the Void

Let it be known that Iron Fire is king in the land of heavy metal. After twenty years in the studio, not a single one of their records has lost any heat, and they’ve perhaps hit the pinnacle of their career in their ninth: Beyond the Void. These heavy metal veterans show absolutely no sign of slowing down, and it’s greatly reassuring to see them continuously produce nothing but excellence.

Now, I’m not exaggerating when I say the songwriting is fantastic. No song sets into one feel, and the molten-hot solo sections, especially in the titular track, have some serious underlying grooves. Honestly, while Kirk Backarach’s soloing is awesome, the rhythm section underneath is just as good.

Iron Fire – Beyond the Void (Cime)

2. 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. I’m not complaining by any stretch, that’s just the way it is.

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.

Its combination of heavy synth tracks, blasting drums, and facemelting guitars is nothing short of deadly. Don’t listen to this one on an empty stomach because you’ll probably pass out.

Brymir – Wings of Fire (Ranka Kustannus)

1. Frozen Crown – Crowned in Frost

Now, you’re probably asking yourself, “That’s a lot of praise to give an album. How can there be an even better one on this list?” Never fear, your question will be answered.

While Frozen Crown’s sophomore album isn’t quite as epic as Wings of Fire, every other aspect lifts it higher and into my top album spot for March. 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 is better in every way than its impressive predecessor. Now, we can’t give all of the credit to the ladies, because the men are just as good. Drummer Alberto Mezzanotte pounds out some excellent grooves and lead guitarist/songwriter/keyboardist Federico Mondelli slams his amazing solos and riffs into the forefront. Filippo Zavattari completes the sound with his big, beefy bass.

Crowned in Frost has a ton of variety and it builds upon their heavier, grittier brand of power metal that was created in The Fallen King. Complete with top-tier musicians, this is my obvious favourite of March and will certainly be a contender at the end of the year!

Frozen Crown – Neverending (Scarlet)

Think I forgot a worthy album on this list? Leave a comment!

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