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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Ravenword – Transcendence Review

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

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

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

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

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

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Victorius – Space Ninjas From Hell Review

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

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

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

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

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

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Sonus Corona – Time Is Not On Your Side Review

Score7/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime57:25
Release Date22 November 2019
Record LabelInverse

Along with a healthy dose of jazz influences, Finnish proggers Sonus Corona have resurfaced in their sophomore album, Time Is Not on Your Side. Stylistically, the album’s instrumentals often tread closely to Dream Theater, but the overall sound is more indie prog due to the prevalence of piano and the floating vocal style.

Unfortunately, these vocals are the low point of the album. They’re not poorly done, but they’re generally too soft. On top of that, the melancholic melodies (which are sometimes reminiscent of Muse’s melodies, although out-of-place) are so weak compared to the excitement of the surrounding instrumentation that I spent a most of the album waiting for them to be over so I could focus more on the heavy grooves and jazz breaks.

However, every time these grooves take the stage, everything is right with the world. They’re expressive, technical, and heavy, and, when combined with the piano, they produce a truly unique sound. There’s also a wide array of songs with different musical elements, such as club jazz, swing, pop, and metal, so there’s plenty to keep you engaged.

All in all, Time Is Not on Your Side is worth checking out at least once. While the vocals would be a much better fit in, maybe, an underground alternative rock band than a prog band, they’re still commendable and they’re certainly not enough to render the album unlistenable.

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Eleine – All Shall Burn Review

Score6.5/10
GenreSymphonic Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime23:17
Release Date22 November 2019
Record LabelBlack Lodge

After releasing two full-length albums, the female-fronted symphonic outfit Eleine have dropped a five-track EP: All Shall Burn. Well, actually, I should probably point out that All Shall Burn is more of a two-piece-single-plus-three-bonus-tracks rather than an EP. To clarify, the first two songs, ‘Enemies’ and ‘All Shall Burn’, are new compositions, but the rest of the EP consists of a Rammstein cover, a symphonic version of a track from the band’s previous album, and a symphonic version of ‘All Shall Burn’. So, for a release like this, the score is pretty arbitrary because it’s more of a demo/showcase than a mini album, as a lot of EPs are.

As far as the two new tunes go, they’re both good and bad in the exact same ways; the intros are strong, the riffs and solos are great, and the beats are heavy, but they lose all of their energy in the chorus due to the vocal melody. The vocals very inconsistently go from expressive to very bland so, pair that with chorus melodies that just meaninglessly float along and you get a very disappointing payoff to otherwise well-built song. The orchestrations are so good that the symphonic-version tracks sound super rich but, again, the vocals actually pull away from the fullness much of the time.

My favourite part of the EP is, to my own surprise (because I’m not a huge Rammstein fan), ‘Mein Hertz Brennt’. It’s heavy and badass, the male vocals are killer, and it’s a worthy tribute to such an established band as Rammstein.

All in all, this is a cool EP. If you’ve never heard them before, Eleine are kind of like a more metal version of Evanescence but with symphonic elements and a hint of a Mediterranean sound. So, if that sounds appealing to you, you should check out All Shall Burn as well as the band’s earlier albums.

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Vanden Plas – The Ghost Xperiment – Awakening Review

Score7/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryGermany
Runtime46:36
Release Date11 October 2019
Record LabelFrontiers

Germany’s Vanden Plas is the only veteran band I can think of off the top of my head that’s had the exact same lineup since their beginning. For more than thirty years, the band’s five members have delivered great progressive metal albums without fail, all the while never getting sick enough of each other to split up. If that doesn’t scream musical commitment, then I don’t know what does. That’s a damn impressive feat in and of itself, so the fact that their ninth album, The Ghost Xperiment – Awakening, is yet another solid piece of prog is just icing.

Stylistically, The Ghost Xperiment treads pretty closely to the albums of bands like Fates Warning (and especially Arch/Matheos) and mid-Queensryche. As is common in prog, the album only consists of six songs, but each clocks in at close to ten minutes, so it actually feels a lot longer than its 46-minute runtime. There’re a few parts that could probably be condensed a bit, but the tracks are dynamic enough that it really isn’t necessary.

Everything about The Ghost Xperiment is really good; the melodies are strong, the riffs are great, and the grooves are heavy. The only real downside is that nothing really jumps out. Sure, there are a couple notable melodies throughout the album (such as in the closer, ‘the Ghost Xperiment’), but the album as a whole is pretty homogeneous. If I had to pick a highlight, it’d be the solos. They’re super sick, although, since the backing parts are pretty straightforward, they don’t deliver a huge impact.

For a band that’s been around for more than three decades, The Ghost Xperiment – Awakening is worlds more than I’d expect. However, for Vanden Plas, this album is exactly what I’d expect. The whole band is on point, the arrangements are genuine, and there’s enough energy and passion in the music that, while it doesn’t throw any showstoppers, the album delivers a commendable prog metal performance.

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Silent Call – Windows Review

Score7/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime1:00:52
Release Date11 October 2019
Record LabelRockshots

Swedish prog outfit Silent Call have been around since the mid-2000s. Since then, they’ve put out only a handful of albums, with their latest, Windows, being their fourth. Even though this is the final album of the band’s career, they’ve enlisted Göran Nyström (Sarpedon, Twinspirits) as their new vocalist, whose style gives the album a very Greek power metal feel, similar to Firewind or Diviner.

For the most part, Windows is a really solid prog metal album. The riffs are heavy, the drums and vocals are expressive, and there are numerous synth parts in the background and foreground. Additionally, the intros to pretty much every song are very well done. The album’s only real downfall is its amount of excess. With an hour-long runtime, it’s a bit long, which would be ok if every song got the care it deserved, but that, unfortunately, isn’t the case. Songs like ‘Imprisoned in Flesh’, ‘Shifting Shape’, and ‘Clouded Horizon’ (among others) don’t offer much past your typical Queensryche-y or power metaly progressive metal song. It’s not like they’re awful songs, but they’re forgettable and come across as mainly filler.

But that isn’t to say there aren’t any awesome tracks; tucked far into the album’s end, the final three, ‘Invisible’, ‘Bleeding Me Dry’, and ‘Eye of Destruction’, all blow the rest of the tracklist out of the fucking water. Between excellent synthwork, great guitar soloing, strong arrangements, and the best riffs on the entire album, it makes me wonder why they’d be stuck on the tail end of such a long album. Upon consecutive listens, the album has a sort of sagging feeling after the second track because, aside from a few cool moments, there’s not a whole lot to see in between the main good songs.

It’s often a shame when a band announces its end, but sometimes, as is the case here, it’s better to make a clean exit than to be remembered for falling apart in the latter portion of your career (I’m looking at you, Sonata Arctica. Fuckers.). Despite having some issues with it, Windows is still a very enjoyable album, and its highlights deliver some seriously killer performances.

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Gygax – High Fantasy Review

Original Article By Giannis Tziligkakis · Forgotten-Scroll.net
Score7/10
GenreHard Rock/Heavy Metal
CountryUSA
Runtime27:38
Release Date21 June 2019
Record LabelCreator-Destructor Records

If I had to pick a couple of words to describe Gygax’s music, they would definitely be “highly energetic”. Others might have used “Thin Lizzy”, and it would still make sense. Why? A quick shuffle through their works and a brief look at the band’s history serves as the best answer to that question.

Gygax formed from the remnants of Gypsyhawk roughly five years ago, and indulge in delivering hard rock in the vein of Thin Lizzy, UFO, and Canada’s Moxy. All of these influences are wrapped in a gimmicky cloak of nerdy themes that draw inspiration from the world of Dungeons & Dragons.

If there’s one thing that Gygax can boast about, it’s the well-crafted guitar themes that dominate High Fantasy from start to finish. Whether we’re talking about harmonized leads or soaring guitar solos, both Bryant Throckmorton and Wes Wilson prove they have the chops to set the fretboard ablaze; songs like Something So Familiar’ and ‘High Fantasy’ serve as great examples of this. Regarding vocals, Eric Harri does a good job singing in a typical rocker/bard fashion and keeps the groove going with his bass at all times. He has improved as a vocalist over the years, however, he doesn’t stem from the beaten path of previous albums. On the other hand, his bass lines sound better than ever, but more on that in a moment.

For the most part, High Fantasy is a balanced album. Songs revolve around mid/fast tempo formulas and cool hooks that keep you engaged, and don’t go past the four-minute mark. With this being their third release, it’s becoming clearer they’re into the “AC/DC way of doing things”, meaning they’re okay with repeating the recipe of 2nd Edition and Critical Hits; don’t expect any surprises whatsoever ’cause you’re not getting any. That said, I’d argue more effort could be put towards songwriting without causing them to miss the target. For example, the instrumental ‘Acquisition, Magnus Canis’. It’s a missed opportunity that could have grown into a really interesting tune instead of merely serving as a two-minute “intermission” in the middle of the record.

When it comes to audio engineering, I’d say the band sounds better than ever and ex-Gygax guitarist Armand John Anthony is probably to credit. Having jammed and recorded with these guys in the past, he seems to understand perfectly what they are after and he just delivered. The sound is bright, and perhaps too clean compared to their earlier stuff, yet it’s warm, organic, and feels authentic. Every instrument gets the space it deserves in the mix, but the work that’s gone into mixing that bass is truly top-notch. It really brings out the best of Eric’s playing.

Overall High Fantasy is a fun and well-crafted album to listen to, and I caught myself grooving to the music a lot. It’s not groundbreaking stuff, but that’s not a bad thing. Set your expectations straight, and you’ll probably enjoy it as well. Roll initiative!

Originally written for Forgotten-Scroll by Giannis Tziligkakis.
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Shades of Sorrow – Paradox Review

Score7/10
GenreMelodic Heavy Metal
CountryCanada
Runtime30:09
Release Date3 September 2019
Record LabelSliptrick

It’s always nice to hear great metal coming out of my home country. It’s not like there aren’t any awesome Canadian metal bands, but, since I listen mostly to power metal and folk metal, it’s not very often I have one cross my path compared to countries like, say, Sweden. The female-fronted Shades of Sorrow are one such band whom I had never heard of before listening to their latest record, Paradox, which is actually their third album to date.

Stylistically, Shades of Sorrow contains a lot of that cool attitude that you would find in bands like Paramore (you know, before they started pumping out absolute fucking garbage circa 2010) with a melodic heavy metal spin. There’s nothing in Paradox to make you piss your pants or anything, but it’s a pretty fun listen regardless.

Unfortunately, Paradox begins at its lowest point. It’s pretty laid back and basic compared to the rest of the album, but ‘Follow Me Down to Hell’ is watered down and sells the rest of the album short. While we’re on the topic of shortcomings, I might as well get the rest out of the way. My biggest issue with Paradox is simply that I find myself wanting more from it a lot of the time. Take the lead vocals for example. It’d be a lie to say Monise Ouelette isn’t a good vocalist, because she definitely is. However, there isn’t enough expression to highlight the choruses or climaxes. She clearly shows in ‘Notorious’ and ‘Facade’ that she’s capable of bringing the oomph and attitude, so it’s not like she’s incapable of pounding out better hooks.

That isn’t to say that this is a bad album, though. As I mentioned before, it’s fucking cool. Like, leather-jacket-cigarette-guy-walking-away-from-an-explosion cool. The super chunky rhythm guitar crafts some beefy riffs, and the mastering allows for a raw, gritty sound. The melodies are also killer, and it’s great to hear melodies that swing with decent meter. Additionally, for a borderline-EP, there’s a good deal of variety. While a lot of the tracks are super heavy, they’re all dynamic in their own rite. Although, ‘Paradox’ changes it up, as it’s driven mostly by lighter acoustic work. For me, ‘Fractured’ makes it as my personal favourite, largely due to the jazzy melodies alongside such rough rhythm parts and the fact that the entire band is on fucking point.

If you’re looking to expand your musical horizons a bit by giving an underground band some love, check out these guys. While it’s definitely not perfect, it’s a unique album with emotion as raw as its production.

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Freedom Call – M.E.T.A.L. Review

Score7/10
GenrePower Metal
CountryGermany
Runtime43:25
Release Date23 August 2019
Record LabelSteamhammer

Does the summer have you down? Maybe that pretty girl at the beach shut you down hard in front of all of her friends. Or maybe she was the sixth one this week to laugh in your sad, dumbfounded face. Or maybe you’ve just been stuck spending the entire season working like some sort of peasant. Sure, the weather is nice and spending time outside is fun and all, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, is it?

Well, fortunately for you, Freedom Call’s M.E.T.A.L. (which, from this point on, I will type out as METAL, because all the periods are a pain in the ass) is all that and a bag of sparkly rainbows. No matter your emotional ailment, Freedom Call are here to soothe, remove, and replace that negativity with an upbeat drive to believe in yourself.

However, despite all its happiness, it isn’t without a musical flaw or two. My only real issue is with the lack of variety on the album. Songs like ‘111’, ‘One Step into Wonderland’, and ‘Fly With Us’ are pretty forgettable among the consistent atmosphere of the album, and most of the tracks just sound like power metal versions of contemporary worship songs. The songs aren’t necessarily bad (except for ‘The Ace of the Unicorn’, which sounds like a shitty anime opening), but with so many similar aspects shared between so many songs, it’s tough to pick out anything special among them.

That being said, there are a couple things that do stick out. I have two favourite tracks: ‘Days of Glory’ and ‘Sole Survivor’. ‘Days of Glory’ has a cool synth intro and has some more weight to it compared to other songs, and ‘Sole Survivor’ is an adventurous, piratey tune. On top of that, the guitar solos are all really good. Actually, strangely enough, my favourite solos are in my least favourite songs, so there’s a bit of a balance there, I guess.

When all is considered, Freedom Call excels in exactly what it intends to in METAL. It’s feel good, poppy, happy metal, and regarding that, it’s really as good as it can be. Despite a bit of monotony, this is still a very fun album. Maybe it’ll help you get over those beautiful, bikini-clad beach broads rejecting you or, who knows? Maybe it’ll give you the confidence to finally get one for yourself.

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