Power Metal: Immortal Guardian Begin Recording New Album

Immortal Guardian released their widely-acclaimed debut, Age of Revolution, in 2018. They took the US power metal scene by storm with their self-branded “super metal”, which combines elements of prog, power melodeath to create an over-the-top, epic intensity.

The band recently announced that they are beginning the work on their sophomore effort.

While the details remain hidden, it is set for a Fall release.

Brazilian-born vocalist Carlos Zema on the album:
“This is a very different album from our previous releases in that there’s a wide range of emotions involved. We’ve experienced our fair share of loss since the last release and a lot of life lessons were poured into this album, giving it a very real and personal vibe. From a technical vocal aspect, this is the first album I’ve ever recorded where I’ve spanned five octaves as a singer, and I’m excited for the world to hear the message and sound we’ve created together as a group.”

Guitarist/Keyboardist Gabriel Guardian:
“The recording process has been interesting to say the least. Working with a drummer over 2,000 miles away has its obstacles, but Justin and his drum engineer Jesse Zito made the experience way smoother than we imagined. Thanks to technology, video calls and hundreds of back-and-forth messages, we pulled off something that wouldn’t have been possible years ago. We’re incredibly proud of the new material and are looking forward to wrapping up the final mix with Joshua and getting some new music out for all the Guardians to hear!”

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Burning Shadows – Beneath The Ruins Review

Score7.5/10
GenreHeavy Metal
CountryUSA (Maryland)
Runtime16:08
Release Date6 December 2019
Record LabelRafchild

Marylandian (Marylandish? Marylandite? Fuck it, whatever.) heavy metal vets Burning Shadows have released four EPs and three full-lengths since their beginning in 2000. Their sound has been built on a beefy power-laden foundation and adorned with epic vocals and choruses. However, their latest effort, Beneath the Ruins, sees a change from their previous material, trading a lot of the power metal elements for more of a thrashy approach. Nevertheless, the riffs are still huge and crunchy and the band is solid, so the change of pace isn’t bad at all.

The most prominent way in which Beneath the Ruins separates itself from most other US heavy metal albums is with its production quality. Where bands like Visigoth and Haunt keep things “authentically” lo-fi, this album is full of contrast and sharpness, retaining a heavy metal feel musically rather than relying on poor mastering.

The EP begins with a strong-and-steady banger in ‘Blacken the Sky’. The energy level picks up more for ‘The Grey Company (Paths of the Dead)’, which also has the best chorus, and continues to rise into the final two tracks. The driving force behind these four tracks is the imposing massiveness of the rhythm section, but the solos and smaller details, such as some growled sections and other background guitar parts, keep the whole thing fresh and exciting. There are also three bonus tracks to enjoy (if you decide to purchase the album), of which two are live versions. The actual new bonus track, ‘The Shadow from the Steeple’, is my favourite on the entire EP. It’s dynamic and hearkens a to a more classic sound, and it’s an all-around blast.

If there’s one area Beneath the Ruins suffers, it’s in the vocal melodies. Tom Davy‘s throaty, bellowing vocals are great, but there’s not a whole lot of variability in the way the melodies are structured. In a live setting, for this king of music, that isn’t really a big deal, but it’s things like that that usually pull people in to listen to again regularly.

Beneath the Ruins is a worthwhile listen for anyone who likes darker, aggressive heavy metal. It has that pounding, chugging drive that Burning Shadows does so well and, despite not having the ammunition to blow any minds, you can still crank it to blow down the fucking walls.

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Power Metal: Niviane Announce New Keyboardist And New Album

Emerging US power metallers Niviane have had a lot of interesting developments. First, the band have announced the immersion of keyboardist Aaron Robitsch into the band’s main lineup. Robitsch played the keyboard parts for Niviane’s 2017 debut, The Druid King, so this was a fairly natural move.

Vocalist Norman L Skinner III on the new addition:
“A lot of thought went into the decision to add another member to the band. The writing chemistry was already there and he got along great with each and every one of us. During the last couple tours, we had noticed a pattern of bands running live keyboard tracks and we were even tinkering with the idea of doing that as well. However, we like to be a bit more organic in our live shows and decided it was a no brainer to have Aaron onboard permanently. Our fans may recognize Aaron Robitsch from his projects Crepuscle & Graveshadow.”

Additionally, Niviane have disclosed the artwork and tracklist for their upcoming album, The Ruthless Divine, which is set to come out in Spring 2020.

01. League of Shadows
02. Crown of Thorns
03. Dreams Crash Down
04. The Ruthless Divine
05. Fires In The Sky
06. Fallen From Elysium
07. Forgotten Centurion
08. Niviane
09. Psychomanteum
10. Sinking Ships
11. Like Lions

The album artwork is the design of freelance illustrator Dusan Markovic.

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Symphonic Metal: Seven Spires Announce Sophomore Album For 2020

Fresh from Boston, the female-fronted Seven Spires is soon to unveil their sophomore album, Emerald Seas. This will be the band’s first release under Frontiers Music, with their debut having been released through Black Ray.

Along with the announcement of Emerald Skies, Seven Spires have released ‘Succumb’.

Based on this energetic track (and the solo), my hopes are high for the new album!

Vocalist Adrienne Cowan on the new single:
“‘Succumb’ was written in the heart of Boston while we were still attending Berklee. As many of our songs do, it began as vocals and piano, and then we fleshed out the rest of the arrangement together. I suppose everyone has their own experiences and hopefully will interpret the lyrics to the song in their own way, but in the story of Emerald Seas, the main character has departed on their long journey and is indulging in memories of someone quite special instead of focusing on their quest. It’s a bittersweet tone… but aren’t they all?”

01. Igne Defendit
02. Ghost Of A Dream
03. No Words Exchanged
04. Every Crest
05. Unmapped Darkness
06. Succumb
07. Drowner Of Worlds
08. Silvery Moon
09. Bury You
10. Fearless
11. With Love From The Other Side
12. The Trouble With Eternal Life
13. Emerald Seas Overture

The band on Emerald Seas:
“Musically, Emerald Seas is influenced by our usual mix of melodic and extreme metal favorites and Hans Zimmer worship. We immersed ourselves deeply in 19th Century Romantic music and art while writing this record, and I like to think some traits from that era are present as a result. It’s highly emotional; sweet and melodic at times, and quite dark and brutal at others, especially when dealing with themes like losing one’s fear of death.”

Emerald Seas will be released on 14 February 2020. It will be a concept album and prequel to Seven Spires’ debut, Solveig.

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Edge Of Paradise – Universe Review

Score3.5/10
GenreMelodic Metal (Pop Metal)
CountryUSA (Los Angeles)
Runtime36:11
Release Date8 November 2019
Record LabelFrontiers

Modern melodic metal is something I’ve been on board with since I first heard Amaranthe years ago. To me, pop and metal can complement each other better than anything else, when it’s done properly. The most obvious examples include albums by Chaos Magic, The Dark Element, and CyHra, where the catchiness and electronic elements achieve a balance with heavy metal energy and instrumentation. Unfortunately, LA’s female-fronted outfit Edge of Paradise bypasses this approach in Universe, instead following the footsteps of bands like Delain and Metalite.

What I mean by this is the fact that, where those first bands I mentioned have the majority of their sound rooted in metal, Edge of Paradise sit way the fuck over on the pop/alt side. There are some industrial influences within Universe‘s heavily-electronic style, but it doesn’t help at all to prevent the end result: a sound that’s weak, forgettable, and painfully one-dimensional.

However, I can’t in good conscience say that Universe isn’t metal at all, because that’d be a lie. There’s some decent riffage in a lot of the intros and transitions, such as in ‘Universe’ and ‘Face of Fear’. Plus, the instrumental finisher, ‘Burn the Sun’, is a decent metal instrumental. This hardly outweighs the non-metalness of the vocals, melodies, and straight execution, but it’s something.

While I don’t really have any favourite part of Universe, I do have a least favourite; the vocals are a complete miss for me. Especially the whispered vocals which, unfortunately, populate like sixty percent of the album. I mean, seriously, what the fuck even is that? The whole vocal delivery makes me cringe and writhe in my skin. It’s awkward. In all honesty, it was hard for me to look past them on my first listen of the album when I was trying to figure out if there was anything underneath them that would make the album worth listening to.

Which, aside from a bit of guitarwork, there really wasn’t. A bit of a waste of fucking time, if you ask me. If you want to take a break from all of the great metal that’s come out recently, give this one a spin.

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Wilderun – Veil Of Imagination Review

Score9.5/10
GenreProgressive Folk Metal
CountryUSA (Boston)
Runtime01:06:12
Release Date1 November 2019
Record LabelIndependent

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

One of the amazing things about Veils of Imagination is how it hangs between so many genres yet doesn’t quite fit definitively into any of them. This album has been the topic of a few of my conversations lately, and everyone I talk to has a different take on what they’d consider it as. Personally, I think it fits well enough under the banner of “progressive folk”, but friends of mine have fought me on this, instead calling it things like “epic progressive death”, “progressive symphonic”, or even “atmospheric death”. The thing I find fascinating isn’t the label itself (I hardly ever get hung up on metal subgenres because they’re not absolute), it’s the fact that everyone I’ve talked to seems to have had a different experience with the album, driving them to pick out different defining characteristics about it.

The truth is, there is no right and wrong, especially when it comes to Veils of Imagination. It’ll be flowing with a light, carefree melody over bright orchestrations or acoustic guitar one second then it’ll explode into insanely harsh blast beats and gutteral vocals the next. There’s a steady, haunting undertone to the album, but it’s more apparent at some times than others.

If there’s one downside to the album, it’s that it only really works if you listen to it all at once. Each song is dynamic and holds it own, sure, but to get that special, full impact, listening to the entire thing is a necessity.

So, if you want to hear one of the best metal albums of the entire year, make damn sure to give Veil of Imagination a spin. This is my first experience with Wilderun but, after this, I’m ready to dive into their previous work.

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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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Heavy Metal: HammerFall Announce 2020 North American Tour

With a few dates left in their current North American tour as special guests for Sabaton, heavy metal legends HammerFall have announced a headline tour for North America. The tour will be in September and October, with support coming from Finland’s Beast in Black and California’s Edge of Paradise.

Vocalist Joacim Cans on the tour:
“After the amazing times and reception we have gotten and are still experiencing on tour with Sabaton, we can’t wait to return to North America in 2020. For the past three years we have toured the continent frequently and every time, you showed us that heavy metal is still alive and kicking. So, polish your studs and get ready for the hammer to fall harder than it ever did before.”

Guitarist Oscar Dronjak adds:
“The last three tours have proven to us that North America is ready and willing to once again wield the hammers of Heavy Metal, and it is with great pleasure we announce that we will return to the continent for the fourth time in as many years.”

This will also be Beast in Black’s first tour across North America. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, 26 October!

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Beyond Forgiveness – Live To Tell The Story Review

Score7.5/10
GenreSymphonic Gothic Metal
CountryUSA
Runtime54:07
Release Date23 September 2019
Record LabelSliptrick

Symphonic gothic metal as a whole has a limit as to how much can be done with it. Or, at least, it’s never been done very far from your typical Within Temptation/After Forever/Tristania sound: aggressive instrumentation behind a (usually) soft female soprano, choirs, strings, and an in-your-face juxtaposition of “darkness and light”, either with that aforementioned instrumentation or through the use of clashing growls and operatic vocals, or both. I like it when it’s done well, but I’m always left dissatisfied, wanting something that ventures a bit off the well-beaten path.

Fortunately, Beyond Forgiveness’ Live to Tell the Story comes pretty close to satiating my gothic metal desires. Yeah, it has all that stuff I just mentioned that most other bands in the space have, but there are two key components that bring it above a good portion of them; it lacks the vapid pretension that is ever-too common in gothic music and it has a whole lot of heart.

What do I mean by “vapid pretension”? Well, it seems that every time you listen to a gothic metal record, you’re attacked with emotional messages (which aren’t subtle or tasteful at all) and it’s forced down your throat like bad Chinese. The bands always try way too hard to emphasize that their music is deep but, in reality, it’s the same shit that you’d find in the journal of an unimaginative emo kid’s diary, only with instruments attached. Come on. If your music has emotional meaning, we should be able to feel it ourselves without you reassuring us every five fucking seconds that it’s special. Anyway, Beyond Forgiveness doesn’t do that, and instead you can feel all of the pain, beauty, aggression, mourning, and longing in the music without much effort, which is a huge plus.

Needless to say, the whole album feels pretty natural. Every track has highs and lows, as well as a good mix of harsh growls, male vocals, female vocals, and operatic vocals of both genders. Some tracks are definitely heavier than others, like the very melodeathy ‘One Last Time’ and ‘Labyrinth’, but there are plenty of light, angelic moments that round the album out. There is a bit of excess that could be stripped away, like most (or all) of ‘When Rivers Turn Red’, but the songwriting is otherwise at the top of its game. Complete with passionate-sounding, talented musicians (especially the drummer, Sean Rogers), Live to Tell the Story is as well-equiped as it could be.

This album isn’t without a few flaws, but it comes damn close to being everything I want in a gothic metal album. Seeing as it’s only Beyond Forgiveness’ second album, I think it’s safe to say that their third (if it comes) will be something special.

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Kybalion – Black Painted Skies Review

Score9/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryUSA
Runtime35:17
Release Date6 September 2019
Record LabelIndependent

If you want a bit of a change from the usual 16th-based, djenty, instrumental modern prog that has recently flooded the metal world, give this EP a spin. Black Painted Skies is the first release (they call it an EP but I would consider it a full-out album, but maybe that’s just me) from America’s brand new instrumental proggers, Kybalion. This speed demon of death is super heavy and its ever-changing form will have you happily kissing the comfortability of 4/4 goodbye. With a diverse mix of highs, lows, feels, and time signatures, it’s evident that this trio doesn’t fuck around, and you’ll find that out pretty quickly in the album’s deceivingly-named opener, ‘Whisper’.

Kybalion is made up of two guitarists and a drummer, but Black Painted Skies also makes use of backing keyboards, strings, and choirs to maintain a full-sounding atmosphere. There are plenty of crazy-technical breakdowns, but there’s a good balance of solid grooving and insane showwy-offiness. In between these sections of breakneck speed and glorious shredding are soft, pulled back keyboard sections, like the beginning of ‘Portraits of a Memory’, and you’ll even find some acoustic work, such as in the beginning of ‘Marred Earth’. Another thing I love about this album are the seamless transitions between songs; honestly, I was three songs in before I realized I’d actually gotten through a song, and that’s not a bad thing in this case. With an album like this, fluidity goes a long way, and it’s best listened to all in one go (although that’s hardly necessary to enjoy the album).

Back to the topic of ‘Marred Earth’, I just really need to express the appreciation I have for this song. Among an album of constant change, it doesn’t venture far from a single groove, and it offers a short break from the relentless energy of the album so you can catch your breath for the final cascading song.

While the songwriting is all excellent and the guitars lay down some sick riffs, the drums stand as the champion of this album. God. Fucking. Damn it. They’re incredible, to say the very least. Courtesy of Garrett Haag, they go from holding powerful grooves to unleashing hellfire through ridiculous double-kicks and blast beats. If I had to pick some favourite drumming moments, I’d be torn between the ferocity found in ‘Black Painted Skies’ and the softer, pattering beats in the pulled back section of ‘Portraits of a Memory’. While the first choice is obvious, it’s not often I hear a modern prog drummer that’s capable of playing something other than ultra-mega-fortissimo all the fucking time, so the finer things stick out to me.

Get ready for the ass-blasting of a lifetime, because this EP fucking rips. Seriously. Black Painted Skies is a monster of an album and these brand new proggers show a hell of a lot of promise.

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