Heavy Metal: New Single From Canadian True Metallers Traveler

Calgary-based heavy metal firebrands Traveler are a month out from releasing their sophomore album, Termination Shock.

They’ve dropped another rifftastic single, ‘STK’, which continues to hold the bar high for the upcoming album.

Termination Shock is set to be released on 24 April under Gates of Hell Records. It’s only been a year since the band’s debut, so a similar freshness is sure to accompany this effort!

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Shades of Sorrow – Paradox Review

GenreMelodic Heavy Metal
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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Scimitar – Shadows Of Man Review

GenrePagan Metal
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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Solarus – Darkest Days Review

GenrePower Metal
Release Date12 April 2019
Record LabelIndependent

When I first heard Solarus’ debut album, Reunion, back in 2017, I was instantly hooked. Sarah Dee’s sharp, strong vocals instantly caught my attention and the blatant skill this band displayed had me eagerly awaiting what they’d come up with next.

And, holy shit, did they ever deliver. I was expecting a great album, but Darkest Days is on another level; it’s taken everything that I loved from the first record and made it exponentially better.

The rhythm section is as tight as ever, with some absolutely sick riffs from axeman Lucas MacArthur and killer double kicking from Nich Longe, and is sometimes reminiscent of Amaranthe’s heavily syncopated backups and breakdowns. The parts under the choruses of ‘Limbo’ are especially fucking juicy, and the solo backups in ‘My World’, while not especially technical, are really good.

Now, while the background parts are incredible, the foreground is just as good. Sarah Dee displays impressive versatility with her voice. She’s able to hold a powerful melody but she can also bring it in for a softer, more beautiful effect, as in the ballad ‘Holding On’. Aside from the vocals, the guitars hold the stage just fine. The countermelodies are strong, but MacArthur’s solos are fucking ridiculous. I’d pick a favourite or two, but I don’t really think I can. Each one offers something a bit different, but they’re all just as awesome.

There’s a huge mix of songs on this record. From the titular track, which begins the album with vigourous riffs and epic synths, to songs like ‘The Final Hour’, which bleeds emotion (largely because of that glorious fucking solo, whose divine shredding knows no bounds), there’s something here for the casual listener and the musician alike. On top of the variety, the songs themselves are immensely dynamic. Many of the tracks, such as ‘Requiem for the Fallen’ and ‘Dear Saviour’, go from pounding hard to pulling right back with seamless execution.

Despite all the goodness I see in this record, there is one aspect I don’t like. One thing I can’t stand in music is when a song fades out, rather than having an actual ending, as in ‘Embers in the Rain’, ‘My World’, and the closer. Now, in cases like Solarus, where I know these guys are the real deal, I find myself questioning whether or not it’s really such a bad thing. However, that doesn’t ever get very far, because I remember that I don’t care and I hate it so much. Is it because I think it’s lazy? Is it because I think the song doesn’t sound like it’s done yet? I don’t fucking know. Anyway, at the end of the day, this album is good enough that it’s not a huge deal, but I had to find something to bitch about.

These female-fronted Canadians are, in a word, exceptional. There’s not a single track on Darkest Days that I don’t love, and my list of complaints is very, very short. Solid musicianship is displayed by all, the melodies are strong, and the songwriting is near-flawless. After already listening to it a few times, I still haven’t gotten enough. Be sure to grab this one when it comes out in April!

Solarus – Limbo

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Black Sun Tales – A Wanderer’s Stories Review

Release date22 Dec 2018
Record LabelNone

Canadian prog/power outfit Black Sun Tales has released their debut album, A Wanderer’s Stories (22 December, 2018). Featuring only seven songs, including the instrumental prelude (which, by the way, is one of very few I’ve heard that aren’t just a waste of album space), it makes for a listen shorter than thirty five minutes. A Wanderer’s Stories assembles elements of power, folk, and progressive metal, which adds a high level of diversity to the album.

The sound is similar to later Falconer, what with the clean vocals of Wolf Biller and folk sound that is especially prominent in the final tracks, ‘Blade of Destruction’ and ‘Living Pages’. There are a lot of harpsichord and string components, which are very in-your-face at times.

The lyrical content is fantasy-centric but it manages to stay clear of genre clichés or ridiculous tales about the power of believing in yourself (à la Freedom Call) or robot space battles (I’m looking at you, Iron Savior).

The first real track, ‘Weatherhold’, starts the album at its lowest point. The musicians are solid and nothing is necessarily bad, except maybe the synth solo, which is pretty sloppy, but nothing really sticks out. My expectations dropped from this song but, on the bright side, the album has plenty of room to get better, which it does.

Most of the proggy grooves and time changes aren’t forced and fit together well in the songs, evident in ‘Holders of the Stars’. The lyrics and parallel structure in this song are also really cool (as cool as fantasy lyrics can be, anyway). I was also really like the climbing vocal run, which sounds like something straight out of Disney, and the laid back solo section that follows.

One of my favourite tracks in A Wanderer’s Stories is Ritter’s Demon; while many of the synthesizer solos on the album aren’t anything special, the solo section in this song makes for exceptional synth and guitar solos alike. The song goes in many directions and the pulled back outro builds into a nice ending. 

Another notable mention is ‘Kivimaa’. It’s more pulled back than the rest of the record and there are no time changes or prog breaks, but it is straightforward and well done. The solos are awesome and there is even a soli at the end, which comes as a pleasant surprise. It’s nothing too complicated but solis are a rare breed in metal.

Overall, A Wanderer’s Stories is a hit for me. I wanted a bit more from it, but there is plenty of variety, especially considering the short runtime. The lyrics are actually tasteful and the songs are dynamic.

Additionally, despite the amount of prog influence, the songs aren’t strictly rigid. There is a lot of freedom that lets the background parts add more than just the typical “I’m gonna slap an extra snare onto the off beat and call it 11/8”. Fans of Dragonland, Falconer, Twilight Force, and Wisdom will enjoy this album. It will be a pleasure to see Black Sun Tales’ weave more fantastical stories.

Black Sun Tales – Ritter’s Demon

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