ArkRoyal – Arise Review

Score5.5/10
GenreHeavy/Power Metal
CountryJapan
Runtime21:53
Release Date14 August 2019
Record LabelIndependent

I’m usually pretty excited to listen to any lesser-known Japanese metal band that crosses my path. I don’t know if there’s something in the food over there, but Japan manages to produce some seriously insane guitarists and drummers which are perfect for fast-paced heavy metal. The vocalists are usually pretty solid (if not great) and I really dig the intensity and power that a lot of Japanese choruses pack, so it’s not too often that I’m disappointed by these bands.

Unfortunately, ArkRoyal’s new EP is one of those instances where I was pretty underwhelmed for the most part. Arise is the all-female group’s second EP so far. Outside of the choruses, the vocals and melodies are generally weak, and the rhythm section doesn’t feel tight or energetic, except for in a few spots. That isn’t to say it’s all bad, but it’s not great, either.

Arise‘s biggest problem is its inconsistency. It begins with a lot of promise with the instrumental, ‘Rebel’s Stringit’, but quickly falls apart in most aspects until the final song. The vocals are also all over the place as far as quality. The choruses carries a good amount of momentum, but this effort is all shot by wonky melodies and tones in the verses. This is especially a problem in ‘Holy Blood”s verses and in the entirety of ‘AWAKE’, which is just a brutal song altogether. Seriously, its rough vocals are atrocious, the structure is awkward; the only good part of the song is the insane guitar solo, actually. Aside from the vocals, the rhythm section, despite some shining moments, comes across as lazy for the majority of the EP.

But, as I said, Arise isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s just less as bad as it is good. The highlight of the album is undoubtedly the guitar soloing, which is fucking sick, and there are some sick riffs in ‘Angelica’ and the intro of ‘Holy Blood’. Additionally, the bonus track, ‘The Battle of Sacred’, is an all-around killer power metal song, which begs the question: why does so much of the EP suck so bad? ArkRoyal obviously know what a good song is, so there’s really no excuse for so much waste in an EP that’s full of potential. I think that, given some more time, ArkRoyal could come up with some excellent material. Hopefully they get to that point by the time they release their first full-length album.

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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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Equilibrium – Renegades Review

Score3.5
GenreElectronic “Folk” Metal/Dance
CountryGermany
Runtime46:40
Release Date23 August 2019
Record LabelNuclear Blast

Imagine yourself in a simpler time. A time, perhaps, where you’re me. June is almost over, and one of your favourite folk metal bands, Equilibrium, just released a new single to their upcoming album. ‘Renegades – A Lost Generation’ is super poppy, sure, but its sick riffage combined with its heavy electronic booming is enough to get me excited. A lot of fans are furious at such a preview, but not you. You dig bombast with a side of catchy. So, naturally, you spend the next two months eagerly anticipating Renegades in all its thumping, dancing, metal glory.

But then it comes. It knocks on the door of your heart as you download it and press play for the first time. Your friend, ‘A Lost Generation’ greets you, but he’s brought his friends this time. Except, these aren’t the kind of guys you want to hang out and party with. No, they’re not. They’re some sketchy fuckers, and not the type you’d expect ‘A Lost Generation’ to hang around, either. As they enter, they beat the living piss out of you. One by one. Every minute or so, one of them puts on a different face: a caring face, asking you if you need anything. But, before you can respond, they change right back, smacking whatever hopeful expression you had on your dumb, unfortunate, betrayed face, and continue pounding your stupid ass. Toward the end of this slaughter, though, another walks in. ‘Hype Train’ enters, wipes you off, kisses your forehead, and tells you it’s there for you. Just as you put your faith in her hands, though, it’s stripped off again by the final douchebag of the evening, who spits on your motionless body, leaving you sad and alone.

Fun ride, huh? That’s pretty well how I felt listening to it. Needless to say, Equilibrium have invoked all of my fury and then some, because this is some serious bullshit. I’m not gonna sit here and bitch about how Equilibrium aren’t folk metal anymore, because everybody was expecting it after their previous album especially. Renegades features almost no folk elements, save for some synth interludes or intros/outros, but even those are probably just coincidental, because they follow the same lines as a lot of popular EDM does. But, whatever. I’m over it. What I’m not over, however, is the fact that, despite such a capable lineup and clear ease of executing a solid mix of electronic/pop/heavy metal, Renegades manages to pump out almost nothing but uninspired garbage, except for two songs (which I mentioned before).

Let me break it down a bit. Rather than making something cool and catchy, Equilibrium have just put together an album full of EDM and radio pop tropes that are masked behind bombast and massively heavy guitars and vocals in an effort to hide their overdone, simplistic faces. But that won’t work on me. I see you, mediocrity. I fucking see you, and no amount of flare or weight can hide you. ‘Tornado’ and ‘Himmel und Feuer’ are fine examples of this, where, if you stripped off the thin metal exterior, you’d be left with nothing but some sorry kid on Soundcloud trying to be discovered.

But not all of the songs follow this formula. No, some of the songs are just outright lost causes. Take ‘Path of Destiny’ for example. Who in the god damn brought this Luke-Bryan-makes-an-Apple-commercial idea to the show? Not gonna fly here, no sir. Surprisingly, the best part is actually the rapping in the bridge, which I could handle if the rest of the song wasn’t nu country ass. ‘Johnny B’ also brings its fair share of disappointment in the vein of Owl City (remember them? People listened to them in 2012 for some reason). But these two don’t even hold a candle to ‘Kawaarki’. This reject from the emo/metalcore scene of the late 00s is so unworldly irritating that it actually burned all of the fingers off every pair of gloves in my house. Get this “rawr XD’ shit out of my house. It’s 2019 for Christ’s sake.

Now, in an effort to try to end this review on a more positive note, Renegades does have a few good things to offer. If I went to a party and it was playing, I could handle it. Also, like I mentioned, ‘A Lost Generation’ and ‘Hype Train’ kick all sorts of ass, and, if the rest of the album were more on that side of things, it’d’ve been everything I wanted it to be. Additionally, there are a few cool drum fills and riffs scattered throughout, but for the lengths you have to travel to find them, it’s just not worth it. Honestly, you should still check this album out. It’s unique, to say the least, and there’s such a variety of tracks that you’ll probably like something.

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Elvenking – Reader Of The Runes – Divination Review

Score8.5/10
GenreFolk Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime52:25
Release Date30 August 2019
Record LabelAFM

It’s not very often that a band that’s been around for more than five albums maintains a steady level of greatness in every release. I’m not just talking about a solid discography with album or two being considered “passable”, but rather a track record in which every album is, at the very least, great. It’s not unheard of by any means, and it’s ultimately contingent on whom you ask, but there are certainly some bands that are widely-regarded to just be really fucking good.

For us in the metal community, names like Iron Fire, Blind Guardian, Zeppelin, or Queen might make the cut. However, for myself, I would put Elvenking at the top of my no-less-than-great list. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re my favourite band of all time (although, they are close), but it means that I think that they’re a band that is almost incapable of putting out something even close to bad; they haven’t yet.

So, it should come as no surprise that the folk masters’ 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.

Aside from the songwriting and atmosphere, the instrumentation (obviously) is what mainly contributes to the difference in sound that you’ll find here compared to every album prior. There are huge choirs, such as in ‘Reader of the Runes – Book I’, and plentiful vocal tracks that seem to substitute what used to be rampant folk instruments. Additionally, the guitars have stepped up from the background right into the forefront as the driving force of the songs, even more so than the violin, acoustic guitar, string tracks, or drums combined. Speaking of the drums, Lancs‘ style is a lot steadier and heavier than the band’s previous patter-style drummer, Symohn, who parted ways with the band in 2017. This difference was obviously also present in Secrets of the Magick Grimoire, but it’s even more apparent next to the guitar’s new-found presence. Finally, the folk influences are dialed down quite a bit here, too, so the result of all of this is a heavier, more intense, more metal album.

In case you didn’t already assume, Divination has a bit of a variety to offer. Just kidding, it’s all over the fucking map. There are more typical tracks like ‘Heathen Divine’ (which is very Pagan Manifesto) and the laid back ‘Eternal Eleanor’, but there are also songs that stretch the boundaries a bit more, due to all the stuff in that big paragraph above. Most notably, however, we have ‘Malefica Doctrine’, which is drenched in melodeath and stands as the heaviest song in Elvenking’s twenty-plus-year career.

While I wouldn’t call this one Elvenking’s best (because that title would go to Pagan Manifesto), it’s still a killer album. The concept fits, it’s super dynamic, and it has a high headbangability factor. If you were hoping for a very folky album, you won’t get it here. However, I think that old fans will enjoy the hell out of Divination and newcomers will get hooked on it, too.

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Twilight Force – Dawn Of The Dragonstar Review

Score9/10
GenreSymphonic Power Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime01:18:24
Release Date16 August 2019
Record LabelNuclear Blast

Gather round, children, to hear magical tales of fantastical whimsy! Now fronted by the famed Alessandro Conti, the mighty Twilight Force is back with their third opus, Dawn of the Dragonstar. After parting ways with their previous vocalist, Christian Eriksson (who recently just released his debut with his new brethren in NorthTale), the merry men have lost none of their vigour or valiance, yet again producing another glorious album that is as fresh as a new day!

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 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.

The guitars, helmed by bandmates Aerendir and Lynd, produce intense riffs (when they aren’t busy with their fast chugging) and facemelting solos that would make even Herman Li a bit jealous. The drums don’t sit still literally ever, and the constantly-changing grooves add as much emotion to the music as the shining, Disney orchestrations. Along with the majestic, nearly-operatic vocals of Cont-er, should I say, Allyon, this force of the twilight is worth twice their weight in gold.

There’s also a ton of variety to enjoy, as many of the songs have certain musical themes attached to them; ‘Thundersword’ sounds like wild-west-meets-medieval-knights, ‘With the Light of a Thousand Suns’ brings the heat like the dry deserts of the Middle East (complete with a sick dumbek-driven instrumental section), and tracks like ‘Long Live the King’ and ‘Valley of the Vale’ bring a more familiar, choral, Western European vibe. But then we have the twelve-minute ‘Blade of Immortal Steel’, which is in a fucking realm of its own. Aside from the tastefully-integrated Chinese folk instruments, this is unmatched epic power metal, in all its major pentatonic glory. It’s dynamic, it’s larger-than-life, the long-ass solo section is simply ridiculous, and the chorus still gives me goosebumps. This track is easily my favourite on the entire album because it scratches every musical itch I have.

I did not expect to like this album as much as I do. While I did really like Heroes of Mighty Magic, Tales of Ancient Prophecies didn’t quite do it for me, so I was expecting something similarly hit-and-miss. But nope, this album fucking kills and it puts me in a happy mood almost instantly. Complete with four “bonus” tracks, Dawn of the Dragonstar is a truly sophisticated symphonic metal album. Twilight Force have outdone themselves this time!

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Astralium – Land Of Eternal Dreams Review

Score9/10
GenreSymphonic Power Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime01:04:27
Release Date23 August 2019
Record LabelRockshots

Formed in 2014 by frontwoman Roberta Pappalardo and bass player Giuseppe Pappalardo, Astralium are fresh out of Italy: the land of symphonic metal. Land of Eternal Dreams is the band’s debut album, marking their official entrance onto the metal scene. Completing the band’s regular lineup are guitarist Emanuele Alessandro and Metatrone drummer Salvo Grasso, but there are also a handful of guest musicians, such as the ever-busy Tommy Johansson (Sabaton, Majestica), Andrea Martongelli (Arthemis), Jo Lombardo, Stefano “Ghigas” Calvagno, and Davide Bruno (who are/were all fellow Metatrone members alongside Grasso).

Needless to say, Astralium aren’t your typical, generic symphonic metal band. 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.

The strongest aspect of Land of Eternal Dreams is the songwriting. Each song is dynamic, expressive, and offers something new. Additionally, a variety of moods and time signatures are explored. We have ‘Whisper in the Silence’, which brings heavy intensity, a soft ballad in ‘Breath of My Soul’, the blast-beat aggression of ‘Seven Seas, Seven Winds’, and there’s even the cool vocal feature ‘Ethereal Voices from the Forest’, which sounds like, well, a bunch of ethereal voices from the forest. Although, while all of these tracks have a noticeable theme, they all feature a variety of different moods.

I do have a few clear favourites in Land of Eternal Dreams. ‘Whisper of the Silence’ has some awesome riffing and the drumming, which is fucking killer, doesn’t sit still for more than twenty seconds. The pulled back first verse is another great touch. I also really like the end section of ‘Seven Seas, Seven Winds’, which is like the soundtrack to an epic, bloody battle on the high seas. Finally, the closer, ‘Hidden Conspiracy’ sums up the entire album nicely. It’s an all-around sick track, covering every emotion that the rest of the album features with a surprising amount of detail for a song that isn’t even seven minutes long.

I really don’t have any issues with this album. It’s diverse, the playing is exquisite, and the arrangements are colourful. In a sea of forgettable symphonic metal acts, Land of Eternal Dreams rises as a stellar debut and keeps Astralium afloat.

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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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Ivory Tower – Stronger Review

Score8/10
GenreMelodic Progressive Metal
CountryGermany
Runtime1:16:10
Release Date23 August 2019
Record LabelMassacre

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.

The choruses are one of the stronger aspects of the album; they’re emotive, memorable, and actually really creative. Like the album itself, they’re intense and aggressive, not often making it to upbeat or hopeful, unless it’s with a bittersweet overtone.

Driving the melodies is Dirk Meyer, who is offering his vocals to an Ivory Tower album for the first time. He’s not the only newcomer, though; Frank Fasold is the band’s new keyboardist, and there’s also returning drummer Thorsten Thrunke, who was absent from the previous two albums. This revitalized lineup delivers a strong performance and is probably mostly (if not entirely) the reason for how fresh Stronger sounds.

The weakest point of the album is ‘In Me’. The melodies whiny and uninspired, and the track almost seems like a leftover from IV. The solo is fucking awesome, though, so it isn’t entirely irredeemable. Fortunately, ‘In Me’ is far enough into the album that it doesn’t do much to damage any expectations but far enough from the end that, if it did give you a really bad taste in your mouth, there’s a lot to make up for it. Aside from that, the closer could be better, but it isn’t necessarily bad, and there are a couple other points in the album that carry on for just too long.

On the flip side, though, there are plenty of things to enjoy. As I mentioned before, there are the choruses and riffs. There’s also a ton of variety, with the heavy metal/hard rock banger ‘Life Will Fade’, which is one of my favourites on the record, the deeply-aggressive ‘Loser’, and even an acoustic interlude track that all help to make the album rounded and dynamic. Ivory Tower’s varying use of synths is damn-near perfect, and the expressive drumming never fails to impress. Needless to say, the guitar solos are equally as impressive.

Personally, next to ‘Life Will Fade’, ‘Slave’ and ‘The Wolves You’ve Let In’ stand as my favourite tracks. The former is driven by heavy synths and has a floating chorus. The latter is a seven-minute ballad with an absolutely killer climax and solo. I think it would have been a great end to the album, too, but I digress.

Stronger isn’t without its flaws, but everything else is so good that they don’t matter much in the grand scheme of the album. Clocking in at more than seventy-five minutes, it’s also a pretty long run, but there are enough gems within that it’s more than worth at least one listen. When all is considered, Ivory Tower’s latest effort is a damn-good comeback.

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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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Tarchon Fist – Apocalypse Review

Score7/10
GenreHeavy Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime43:24
Release Date16 August 2019
Record LabelPride & Joy

Do you have an itch for some Iron Maiden that isn’t actually Iron Maiden? Well, look no further than Tarchon Fist. Apocalypse, their fourth album to date, is all that and then some: Iron Maiden with a bite, if you will. While it does lack some of the lyrical themes and memorable riffage of Maiden, Apocalypse delivers a very similar sound but packs a heavier, more refined punch.

One way Tarchon Fist fall short from Iron Maiden are with the solos. While I could easily pull ten from Maiden for examples of my favourite guitar solos of all time, Tarchon Fist has a far tamer approach to soloing. They fit the music just fine, but there’s not a whole lot that impresses beyond the occasional, “hey, cool solo.” Exceptions would be the solos ‘No Mercy for the Enemy’ and ‘Last Human Strength’, which are fucking sick.

Of course, Tarchon Fist is its own band. It’s hard to not compare them to Iron Maiden because of the many similarities (dual vocals, song structure, vocal style, overall sound), but there is some individuality to take note of. The drumming, which also happens to be the highlight of the album for me, is fucking killer. Every once in a while, like in ‘Titan of the Forest’, there’ll be some great double kick passages, and the grooves are always changing and flowing with the music. Additionally, there are more unique tracks like ‘Sky Rider’ and ‘Lights of Fire’, which also show off the band’s glam metal melodies and hard rock riffs.

Apocalypse also has plenty to offer in terms of variety. It begins with an epic buildup of chugging riffs and a spoken prologue before unfolding into a wide array of songs, each with a fair dynamic range of their own. The transitions are really well done and the band remains tight and powerful all the way to the melancholic finisher, ‘My Destiny’.

All things considered, this is a really solid classic metal album, but it’s nothing you haven’t heard before. However, it does it job just fine: it’s energetic, entertaining, and a damn good throwback to traditional metal. And, at the end of the day, isn’t that all we want from music like this?

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Stay Metal \m/