Throne Of Iron – Adventure One Review

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

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

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

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

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Legendry – The Wizard And The Tower Keep Review

Score6/10
GenreHeavy Metal
CountryUSA
Runtime47:12
Release Date1 November 2019
Record LabelHigh Roller

Springing forth with their third album are Pennsylvania’s heavy metal outfit Legendry. In The Wizard and the Tower Keep, they offer a unique heavy metal experience that’s drenched in late 70s/early 80s prog (think RUSH). Alongside this are other elements, too, such as speed metal (in ‘Behind the Summoner’s Seal’, for example), bands like Manowar, and classic thrash. While it doesn’t live up to the epicness it promises, the album is very different from what you’d hear from a metal band in 2019.

Contributing to this notable sound are the guitar solos, which are straight out of the 70s (and also the best part of the album). ‘Earthwarrior’ uses some funky guitar fx, and ‘The Lost Road’ has some sick classic shredding that’s worth pointing out. As far as the rhythm sections goes, everything is really laid back, and the mixing and easy vocals only pull on the music harder. This doesn’t make the music sound bad, but, for a band that want to call themselves “epic metal”, they’re basically shooting themselves in the foot.

Which leads us to the most crucial problem of The Wizard and the Tower Keep: its label. As I’ve said, Legendry refer to their style as “epic metal”, but this album, unfortunately, lacks the heroism that they’re so clearly trying to capture. Sure, epic metal can mean a thousand different things, with some heavy metal bands earning the title through all-out energy, or attitude, intense choruses, or through a beefy, powerful sound. However, this album lacks pretty much all of that and, while it’s not a bad album, it’s bad for what it’s intended to be.

On the other side of things, The Wizard and the Tower Keep excels in one aspect more than any other: sincerity. There’s no effort here to try to be something they’re not. They wrote an album, put their hearts into it, and, while it misses its mark, it’d be impossible not to appreciate this. There’s no bullshit here, no pandering or falsification. Just an honest heavy metal album with a lot of progressive nuances and long-ass songs.

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Transylvania – II Review

Score6/10
GenreHeavy Metal
CountryUSA
Runtime21:22
Release Date6 September 2019
Record LabelIndependent

For whatever reason, I’ve experienced a lot of “metal seasons” this year, so to speak. June gave me oceans of symphonic metal (both good and bad), July had a lion’s share of prog. But the last week or so of August until, well, now, has showered me in vanilla traditional metal. Seriously. I’ve heard probably ten EPs and at least as many LPs of the stuff since then, and I have no idea why. Maybe it’s my fault. I don’t fucking know.

Anyway, as you may have guessed, the reason I bring that up is because Transylvania’s second EP, the aptly-named II, fits the mold. With a sound that’s as unoriginal as their name, Transylvania offer next to nothing in terms of imagination or ingenuity, despite two of the three songs on this EP running longer than eight minutes. However, they do bring some great guitar soloing and drumming to the show, so I can’t be too mad.

I don’t have a favourite solo, because they’re all really good, but the drumming in the final minutes of ‘The Emerald Gift’ wins the most of my enjoyment. On the flip side, though, the vocals are fairly emotionless, like a watered down Bruce Dickinson, and the melodies are weak, so there’s not much to hook your attention in the meantime.

The best song on the EP is the final track, ‘322’, which I have mixed feelings about. It begins with promise in a cool 6/8 groove, but it gets pretty monotonous before anything cool is done with it. However, after a couple timechanges, it pulls right back into a light piano-backed guitar solo and steadily builds with passion. But then it suddenly goes back to that initial groove and ends, without any decent climax. If this song were refined with some better transitions, a powerful peak, and a more interesting first four minutes, it’d be a killer tune.

I can only assume that Transylvania are just a hobby band, and, for that, they’re pretty good. II isn’t a bad sample of their stuff, but its biggest downfall is that it lacks memorability. With some more time in the forge, Transylvania could probably make a great record, but, for now, they’re just another classic heavy metal band.

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Stormrider – What Lies Within Review

Score6/10
GenreHeavy Metal
CountryEngland
Runtime22:53
Release Date27 July 2019
Record LabelIndependent

Following their 2018 EP Heavy Metal Machine, Stormrider’s What Lies Within is here. The English newcomers have evidently been hard at work, and their latest efforts will find favour with fans of classic heavy metal. While What Lies Within doesn’t quite achieve greatness, but it makes for an easy and enjoyable listen.

In a word, this EP is good. There’s nothing wrong with it; it’s a good classic metal album. There’s just not enough going on to really get me excited about it. All of the parts are pretty simplistic and neither the songs nor the melodies are very memorable. It’s a lot more laid back than I like my heavy metal to be, but it’s not bad.

Stormrider’s sound is akin to what Iron Maiden would sound like if they had a Swedish heavy metal singer who’s comfortable with singing exclusively in his speaking register (except for some falsetto shrieking). And, like Iron Maiden, Stormrider’s drums and bass parts, while not technically challenging, are a good driving force for the band; they coordinate well with eachother and provide a stable footing for the guitars and vocals above.

However, unlike Iron Maiden, the guitars and vocals fail to take advantage of their foundation and, rather than running with memorable riffs or powerful melodies, they sink back into the comfort of the rhythm section. Again, this doesn’t make Stormrider bad, but it keeps them stuck as being just another traditional metal band. Additionally, the guitar solos are decent, but they lack excitement or flare.

That is, until the last half of the final track, ‘What Lies Within’. As if out of nowhere, the presolo gets invigorated by a driving gallop and rides all the way to a great solo, before ending on an epic chorus filled with vocal layers. If the rest of the EP carried as much energy as these two minutes did, it’d easily be a 9.

So, if you want some straightforward metal to add to your summer playlist, give What Lies Within a go. It’s far from being a waste of time, and, who knows? You might find something about it I missed.

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Blazon Stone – Hymns Of Triumph And Death Review

Written by Dungeon Shaker
Score6/10
GenreHeavy/Power Metal (Pirate Metal)
CountrySweden
Runtime54:37
Release Date26 April 2019
Record LabelStormspell

A few years ago, I found myself in the great colonial city of Boston. For a history buff like myself, Boston is a treasure trove of early American history. I embarked on a quest to bask in everything the city had to offer. Atop my list of must-see sights along the freedom trail was the world’s oldest active commissioned warship: the USS Constitution. Old Ironsides, as the ship is affectionately known, was one of six heavy frigates commissioned by the US Congress in 1794 and launched from Boston in 1797. Unfortunately, when I arrived full of excitement, I was bummed to find the ship was undergoing repairs in dry dock. I was relegated to admiring Old Ironsides from afar. 

Blazon Stone’s fifth full-length release, Hymns of Triumph and Death, was by far my most anticipated release of 2019. The album’s predecessor, 2017’s Down in the Dark, has the distinction of becoming one of my absolute favorite albums. The task of following up such a monumental release is a nigh insurmountable task, one virtually damned from the get-go. The experience I’ve had with Hymns of Triumph and Death has been a similar one to visiting the berthed USS Constitution. The sheer magnitude and glory are right there confronting you, albeit just slightly out of reach. 

Hymns of Triumph and Death is a good record; the hallmarks of Running Wild-esque pirate metal are proudly represented. The mastermind behind this year’s ship boarding, Cederick Forsberg –going by the alias Ced– remains one of metal’s undisclosed guitar greats. He returns with an arsenal of riffs and a magazine full of familiar pirate melodies. The cannons are primed and loaded with shot, ready to fire a sonic broadside into the listener’s ear. A broadside that, while tried and true, falls just short of its intended target. 

Golden era Running Wild was great simply because Rolf Kasparek mastered the art of writing supremely catchy hooks: a trait shared by Ced. Guitar melodies which evoke the high seas during the golden age of sail and group shouts full of pirate frenzy mark those great Running Wild records as well as Ced’s more recent forays into this sound. Hymns of Triumph and Death fits comfortably within this established niche, it simply lacks the hooks that transcend it from good to great. 

The opening salvos of ‘Triumph and Death’ and ‘Heart of Stone’ are indicative of another high-quality release from Ced. ‘Heart of Stone’’s massive chorus, perhaps the highlight of the album, accompanies the very melodic guitar work which made Down in the Dark such a classic. Whereas Down in the Dark delivered classic track after classic track, Hymns of Triumph and Death sinks into a sea of overt familiarity, the kind which plagues revival acts such as Blazon Stone. Tracks such as ‘Dance of the Dead’ and ‘Iron Fist of Rock’ lack the catchy goodness of their kin ‘Down in the Dark’ and ‘Hang, Drawn, and Quartered’. The subsequent tracks are an ever too familiar retread of established traditional heavy metal tropes. Even Ced’s blistering guitar work fails to elevate the album to classic status. 

Hymns of Triumph and Death is an album full of good songs; there is nothing inherently bad on it. The formula which made Down in the Dark such a classic is present, as there is much to enjoy on this album. ‘Wavebreakers’ and ‘Howell’s Victory’ do revel in the pirate mania glory of previous Blazon Stone albums. The opportunity to witness the dry-docked USS Constitution remains a treasured memory, but it was evident that she is still primed to sail onto glory. Hymns of Triumph and Death, for me at least, has been a similar phenomenon. She wants to sail off to glory but she is simply still dry-docked.

Dungeon Shaker has been an avid fan of the metal for almost two decades now. A simple journey that began with a cassette of The Black Album, has blossomed into a lifelong obsession. A lover of all genres of metal, collector of vintage (metal) vinyl, and a soon to be historian by trade. Dungeon Shaker runs his own personal blog, thunderousvoices.com, itself a menagerie of heavy metal writing.
St. Paul, Minnesota
Favorite Bands: Blue Oyster Cult, Iron Maiden, King Diamond, Tyr, Running Wild, Moonsorrow

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Constantine – Aftermath Review

Score6/10
GenreVarious/Shred
CountryGreece
Runtime33:18
Release Date31 May 2019
Record LabelRockshots

If ever there was an album that I was full-out wrong about what to expect, it’d be Aftermath. The second solo album from Greek guitarist Constantine Kotzamanis, it initially appeared as though it was going to be another instrumental shred album, due to the first single, ‘Bushido’. Shortly after I heard it, though, I learned that it was actually going to be a feature album with various guest vocalists. That was no issue for me, though, because I knew that Constantine is more than just an excellent guitarist. I figured he’d write a cool, energetic album with tasteful guitar parts and everything would fall into place.

And that’s where I was wrong. Rather than a proggy metal album with sick grooves and powerful melodies at the forefront, we got a borderline alt-metal album that’s, in all honesty, pretty generic and straightforward. Despite working with the likes of ex-Firewind vocalist Apollo Papathanasio, Ralf Scheepers of Primal Fear, and Soilworks Bjorn Strid, Aftermath ends up being underwhelming and disappointing.

Aside from the phenomenal opener, ‘Bushido’, the guitars (and rhythm parts, for that matter) are actually quite tame. There are some fantastic solos, like the ones in ‘Hellfire Club’ and ‘Another Day’, and the band’s performances are okay, but there nothing that steals the show. The tracks are simplex and don’t have a whole lot of meat on them, and a couple were actually sappy to the point of annoying me.

Having been a fan of Constantine for some time, I feel as though he’s cheated himself in this one; by no means do I think he’s incapable of playing anything other than instrumentals, but I think the route he went with this album doesn’t complement his strengths in the slightest. Aftermath lacks the memorability, technical skill, and passion that Constantine displayed so easily in his debut.

Constantine – Press on Regardless (Rockshots)

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Lightfold – Deathwalkers Review

Score6/10
GenreProgressive Heavy Metal
CountryGreece
Runtime1:03:24
Release Date5 April 2019
Record LabelPitch Black

Lightfold were all but shrouded in darkness until I was sent their single ‘The Collector’ a few weeks ago. Hailing from Greece, their style of heavy metal has a minor but ever-present prog influence, which manages to separate it from your typical heavy metal group. Their second record, Deathwalkers, is an existential concept album that explores the ideas of life, death, and pain. It attempts to paint a vivid picture in the listener’s mind, with support from numerous keyboard and synth tracks as well as from guest vocalists Margarita Papadimitriou, Christina Alexiou, and Sofia Karvouna, who create the female choirs.

Unfortunately, the musical storytelling within is greatly underwhelming. My foremost issue with Deathwalkers is with lead vocalist (and, consequently, the one who’s supposed to be telling the stories) Martin Deathwalker. In a heavy metal band like this, the vocalist can either make or break the band, and in the case of Deathwalker, his delivery constantly falls short. There’s no passion or dynamism to match the pounding beats or to highlight the choruses and, as a result, the focal point of the band is incredibly weak.

Deathwalkers‘ saving grace is twofold, lying in the hands of the kickass drumming and the relentless lead guitar. Axeman Thanasis Labrakis lays out some serious shredding, and every single guitar solo on the record is exceptionally performed. The riffs are also pretty solid, but holy shit are these solos ever great. A couple that stand out for me are the ones in ‘Behind the Veil’ and ‘Beyond the Unknown’. The rhythm section plays some really cool grooves under the solos, which only adds to their quality.

From Left to Right: Harry Polimeneas, Martin Deathwalker, Thanasis Labrakis, Diogenes Vile

There’s a weird mix of tracks on this album. Not because of style choice or anything like that, but because of the blatant difference in quality among some songs (and even within songs). Some tracks, like ‘Demon Upon Me’ and ‘Deathwalkers (Julia)’, are wholly excellent and contain a perfect amount of prog elements. However, songs such as ‘Angel of the Earth’ and ‘Save Me’ are generic, uninspired and come across as filler material. The former isn’t all bad (no song on the record is all bad) thanks to the masterful drumming, but in the case of ‘Save Me’, I not only wouldn’t have opened with it, I would have scrapped it entirely. Yeah, the solo’s fucking awesome, but that isn’t enough to redeem a shitty song.

In the end, the many great components of the album aren’t enough to fully outweigh the negatives. Between a few lazy tracks and mediocre vocals, there’s not enough juice to take Deathwalkers from being good to being great. That being said, it’s definitely good enough to give a listen.

Lightfold – The Collector (Pitch Black)

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