Sylvania – Testigos de las Estrellas Review

Score7.5/10
GenrePower
CountrySpain
Runtime49:43
Release Date16 Feb 2019
Record LabelRock-CD

I often find myself turned off from a power metal album rather quickly when the mixing is muddled, because a lot of the appeal is how clean and shiny it sounds. More often than not, these albums are coincidentally also fairly low in musical quality, which makes it twice as much of a pain in the ass to listen to the entire thing. Sometimes, however, it pays off to give these more lo-fi records a shot because you just might find a buried gem.

Sylvania is definitely one of those bands. While the mixing and mastering in Testigos de las Estrellas aren’t terrible, they don’t necessarily ascend to the heavenly heights of power metal standard. Many of the rhythm parts get lost amongst each other at times and the cymbals are sometimes murky.

Despite that, however, this record has a lot going for it. The musicianship is very solid and the vocals are extremely well done. There’s a great mix of single vocals, dual harmonies, and guest vocals (and also the band Daeria), which adds extra colour without upsetting the core feel of the music. The shredding guitar solos are tasteful and there’s no shortage of lively keyboard parts.

The overall feel is uplifting and bright, but there are numerous heavy breakdowns and instrumentals, such as the ones in ‘Espiritu de Fuego’ and ‘La Maldicion de Dabria’. There’s a certain balance between the two that prevents the album from leaning too far into the, “Believe in your dreams and fly through the skies on the wings of an eagle,” realm of power metal (I’m looking at you, Freedom Call and Victorius).

My favourite song is the titular track by far. The intro is full of energy and the keyboard fanfares add a thick layer of heroism. Complete with another exceptional solo and a loud cry to finish it off, ‘Testigos de las Estrellas’ is stellar. Another great track is the ten minute closer ‘Por Nuestra Libertad’. The many instrumental parts are well done and it’s a very dynamic song.

There’s a lot to be enjoyed in Testigos de las Estrellas. There’s plenty of variety, both in the music and the lineup, the songs are dynamic, and the band is exceptionally talented. Come and witness this star; you’ll be glad you did! (Get it? “Come and witness this star”? Because the album title? Ah, forget it.)

Sylvania – Testigos de las Estrellas (Rock-CD)

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Mortanius – Till Death Do Us Part Review

Score7.5/10
GenreProg/Power
CountryU.S.A.
Runtime48:49
Release Date22 Feb 2019
Record LabelRockshots

After cooking up a few EP’s in the first five years of their existence, progressive power metallers Mortanius’ first album, Till Death Do Us Part, has come out of the shadows. The American group’s musical objective of creating unique music is definitely achieved, resulting in a sound that is accurately described as the Castlevania soundtrack going prog.

The whole background is rich with harpsichord and string tracks, as well as many vocal harmonies. Did I say many vocal harmonies? I meant a lot. An assload. There really isn’t a minute you’ll find away from them. Step aside, Queen, because Mortanius is here to beat the hell out of you with an army of backing vocals. On the bright side, the assortment of background parts makes for a consistently full sound. Some absolutely killer double-kick drum beats make frequent appearances in Till Death Do Us Part, namely in Disengage, but, to my dismay, they are piloted by a drum machine. Nevertheless, the grooves sound great and blend in well with the rest of the band.

‘Facing The Truth’ kicks off the album with some cool shots before it gets right into your typical 6/8 power metal groove driven by heavy pipe organs and other synth pieces, reinforcing that medieval sound. The guitar solo is sick and there’s a ton going on, which will almost certainly demand a second listen.

Special attention must be given to vocalist Lucas Flocco. He is simply fantastic. His sharp, floating voice climbs ever-higher, backwards in time and out of puberty (bypassing the horrific, esteem-breaking voice-cracks) and producing a pleasant timbre that demonstrates an impressive amount of control. And that goes for those backing vocals, too. The album also features two guest vocalists (though it sure as shit doesn’t need them): Japanese vocalist Leo Figaro, known for his roles in Dragon Guardian and Mistrelix, as well as a handful of other projects; and Jonas Heidgert, lead vocalist of Dragonland.

One song in particular stands out from the rest as something exceptional. The eighteen-minute long titular track is fun, dynamic and a perfect example of prog done right. It begins slow, and builds into a tremolo-driven instrumental that is a fair bit more mournful than the rest of the album. After a few minutes of some powerful, driving metal, the track pulls right back into a solo section that keeps on delivering solo after solo, with contributions from the bass, acoustic guitar, piano, and electric guitar. The instrumental transitions perfectly into the following verse, and we’re treated to another guitar solo before the song’s conclusion.

I was caught off guard on the final track; the record closes with a surprisingly good power-ballad version of Last Christmas (which is a nice change from the same fucking Ariana Grande-bouncy-electro-pop rendition it gets literally every year) but it strikes me as strange and, for a reason I can’t quite put my finger on, a little creepy that it’d be included on a February release.

Till Death Do Us Part delivers a one-of-a-kind, almost avant-garde experience. The computerized drums are a disappointment and the Christmas inclusion rubbed me a weird way. No, not good weird, either. Also, those vocal harmonies don’t quit. They’re around every corner. Is that a bad thing? Probably not. Anyway, with a runtime that’s short and sweet and plenty of variety within its five songs, Till Death Do Us Part has certainly earned my respect and I look forward to Mortanius’ next whimsical release.

Originally written for metal-observer.com

Mortanius – Facing The Truth (Rockshots)

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Against Myself – Unity Review

Score7.5/10
GenreSymphonic/Prog
CountrySpain
Runtime1:05:00
Release Date11 Feb 2019
Record LabelOn Fire

I think this is the first album with a pirate ship in the artwork that I’ve ever heard that isn’t pirate metal. In fact, it’s on the other side of the damn spectrum from pirate metal, on the melodic/symphonic side, with a shot of progressive. Unity’s prog elements add some serious depth to the already intricate choir and string parts, making for an epic and immensely refined sound.

Unity is the first album to contain Against Myself’s new lineup, with Carlos Alcalde, Sergio Culebras, and Raúl Plaza on the keys, guitars, and bass, respectively. The musicianship is outstanding in the entire album, from the light and airy piano/vocal segments to the heavily syncopated breakdowns.

The first few tracks on the album are nothing special, but the music shows us a little more in ‘Over the Clouds’. The instrumental in the beginning is a bit Nightwishy, and, I swear to god, near the end of the first verse there’s a line that’s taken straight out of Amaranthe’s ‘Dynamite’. Anyway, the song gives us a tasty synth solo before heading through more epic choirs and into the final section of the song.

Speaking of solos, there are some great ones worthy of mention; the guitar solo in ‘The Wanderer’, which carries on tastefully for a couple minutes and contains some detailed licks. The other, and easily my favourite, is the guitar outro of the fifteen minute prog piece ‘Oniros’, which is a phenomenal song even without a solo. I feel like the slow piano run at the end would have been a perfect conclusion for the album, but the actual final track gets the job done.

Irene Villegas does a wonderful job with her clean, deliberate vocals and has no problem ramping them up a bit to emphasize a melody. Additionally, Unity offers so much variety that there’s probably something in it for everyone. There are some gothic-sounding songs, such as ‘Demons’, a couple well done slow tunes, the intensely harsh ‘The Hidden Truth’, and everything in between. And if that isn’t enough, drummer Charly Carretón doesn’t give two shits and will lay down a blast beat whenever the fuck he feels like it, whether it’s a laid back chorus or a heavier breakdown.

I thoroughly enjoyed this album. It has plenty to offer and almost never sets into a single feel or groove. Furthermore, the band sounds tight and the production quality follows suit. Check it out; you won’t be disappointed!

Against Myself – Hero’s Soul (On Fire Records)

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