Dexter Ward – III Review

Score8.5/10
GenreHeavy Metal (Traditional)
CountryGreece
Runtime45:58
Release Date13 March 2020
Record LabelNo Remorse

Greek heavy metal force Dexter Ward have returned after four years with a third album of classic anthems and colossal riffage. This epic, gritty onslaught of medieval glory easily stands among the mightiest of axe-wielding metal knights. Within are eight tracks forged of metal worship and mighty tales.

Overall, III treads closely to the root Dexter Ward sound, kind of a combination of bands like Visigoth and Iron Maiden, with a touch of Running Wild. Along the same lines, the sound stays true to classic metal through the use of memorable riffs and a fair deal of facemelting. The vocals, while nothing to scoff at, are more dialed down than the usual belting of modern metal bands, instead taking a more Manowar (or to a lesser extent, Dio) approach to things.

For me, the highlight of III is the guitarwork. I could go into detail or pick songs (maybe ‘The Dragon of the Mist’ is on the upper end?) but I’d just end up saying the same shit over and over so I’ll just leave it and say the guitars are fucking killer, inside and out. The classic-inspired anthems of the choruses also take a stand as a high point, and the drums are far busier than in your usual classic metal band.

But, the real reason III kicks so much ass is its variety. The songs are all dynamic, with sick solo sections in some and chugging grooves in others. Fitting in with the whole sword-and-sorcery theme, a lot of the album is based around up-tempo gallops and 6/8, but there’s a good mix of musical feels, so playing the record front to back is no problem.

Fans of Greek power metal and classics like Iron Maiden and the aforementioned bands should definitely give III a spin (and the rest of Dexter Ward’s stuff). It’s one of the stronger albums in the genre I’ve heard in the past months, and I’m finding it hard to get sick of.

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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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Throne Of Iron – Adventure One Review

Score6/10
GenreTraditional Heavy Metal
CountryUSA (Indiana)
Runtime42:28
Release Date21 February 2020
Record LabelNo Remorse

If you’re looking for new, cleanish-yet-classic heavy metal, maybe go and listen to the new Ironflame or Wolpakk albums, because you won’t find it here. This debut, forged by Throne of Iron, is no-bullshit traditional metal, through and through. You will find no synths here, nor will you find crisp mastering, orchestrations, or anything outside of 4/4. You will, however, find plenty of classic Ozzy/Sabbath vibes, as well as vocals that sound like they’re being sung from across an empty alleyway, as is characteristic of the style.

At the end of the day, though, most of us find ourselves coming back to this timeless sound, so, even though it’s been done a million fucking times since the 80s, new offerings are usually a welcome sight. Adventure One is pretty simplistic (both musically and production-wise), the riffs are solid, and the vocals aren’t anything special. But isn’t that what gives this kind of music its heart? It’s just a few regular dudes, playing their brand of metal. Besides, the solos are pretty sick, so there’s that.

Beyond all that, though, there isn’t much else to say about this album. Throne of Iron aren’t going to win any awards for being groundbreaking any time soon, but that isn’t really the point here. For what it is, Adventure One is good enough. Most of the album treads closely on the line of being repetitive, but that’s always a risk when you play this old, shoddy, occult-styled metal. Regardless, if you’re a fan of this style, give this record a spin.

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Heavy Metal: Ironflame Announce New Album

Ohio-based US heavy metal warriors Ironflame are soon to unleash their third album upon the metal world. Blood Red Victory is set to drop on 7 February under Divebomb Records. For a taste of what’s to come, check out the new single, ‘Seekers of the Blade’.

The studio version of Ironflame is done almost solely by multi-instrumentalist Andrew D’Cagna, but Blood Red Victory also features solos from Quinn Lukas and Jesse Scott, who are also part of the band’s live lineup.

01. Gates of Evermore
02. Honor Bound
03. Seekers of the Blade
04. Blood Red Cross
05. On Ashen Wings
06. Graves of Thunder
07. Grace and Valor
08. Night Queen
09. The Serpent and the Throne*
10. Horns Held High*

D’Cagna on the album’s themes:
“There is a recurring theme of victory in the lyrics for this album. Some songs have an air of chest-out confidence; others are about overcoming adversaries or even adversity itself. Most have been written from a ‘we/us’ perspective, which makes the listener feel like, ‘We’re in this together.'”

Don’t miss this February release, because it’s sure to scratch that traditional heavy metal itch.

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Crystal Viper – Tales Of Fire And Ice Review

Score5/10
GenreHeavy Metal
CountryPoland
Runtime42:01
Release Date22 November 2019
Record LabelAFM

Crystal Viper is one of the few bands that I think have never released an album that was less than great. From The Curse of the Crystal Viper to Queen of the Witches, all they’ve ever given is the best that classic metal has to offer, from more occult heavy metal to the regular, driving stuff. It’s been a non-stop onslaught of destructive riffs and traditional excellence with one of the best women in metal, Marta Gabriel, at its center.

Or, well, it was, anyway. Unfortunately, and much to my disappointment, Tales of Fire and Ice breaks this chain of greatness in an uninspired, commercial mess. Sure, it’s easy to understand why a band would want to try to replicate the recent success of bands like Battle Beast, who have also made this stylistic shift, but the trick to that is retaining what makes your music good while exchanging other elements to make your music more accessible, both of which Crystal Viper have failed miserably at.

Also, what’s not so easy to understand is the fact that, even though Crystal Viper have proven themselves to be one of the best classic metal bands in the business, they would want to abandon this and almost entirely change their sound. It’s not like it could never work, but I’m not so sure that they’re self aware enough to know what made them so fucking great in the first place. Where did the sick riffs go? Where’s the heaviness? Not here, that’s for damn sure.

So, what exactly am I bitching about, anyway? How is their style so underwhelming and different? Well, let’s start with the obvious; there’s no oomph anymore. That’s the root of the problem, really. Crystal Viper used to be in-your-face and shameless, but Tales of Fire and Ice lacks any sort of attitude. It’s no secret that Marta is a total badass, because she’s been showing it for the past fifteen years. However, she’s all but abandoned the aggression and authority that made her voice so iconic, and the rest of the band has followed suit. Aside from this, the songwriting has gone downhill, the melodies are substantially weaker, and (but this is actually a plus-side) the production quality is cleaner.

The closest Tales of Fire and Ice gets to having actual Crystal Viper songs are ‘Still Alive’ and ‘Bright Lights’. The former begins with a promising, thumping drive, but ultimately falls short due to its simplicity. On the flip side, ‘Bright Lights’ is actually awesome from beginning to end. It proves that the band is more than capable of recovering from this hiccup of an album. Most of the solos are still really good, too, so there’s that.

Between the piss-poor ballad ‘Tears of Arizona’ and the blatant monotony of Tales of Fire and Ice, you really won’t be missing much if you leave this one by the wayside. If you’re a hardcore Crystal Viper fan like me, I’d still check it out, otherwise, November has dropped so much excellence that you shouldn’t feel bad for skipping it.

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Top Ten Metal Albums Of October

2019 is still going strong! October held nothing back, unleashing exceptional albums (especially in heavy and power metal). There were a few notable folk metal releases which almost made this list (albums by Forgotten North, Tandra, and Nifrost) but, after a lot of back-and-forth, I settled on the following Top Ten Metal Albums of October!

10. Dawn of Destiny – The Beast Inside

When a unique band like Dawn of Destiny comes around with a new album, it always gets me excited. Fortunately, my excitement was well-founded in The Beast Inside, which is the band’s seventh full-length album. The songs range from energetic power metal to heavier, darker metal to unconventional-yet-melodic metal. Some songs are definitely stronger than others, with ‘Signs in the Sky’ and ‘If We Close Our Eyes’ being my favourites, but every track offers something different from the last, so make sure to give the whole album a spin!

Full Review

9. Secret Chapter – Chapter One

Sit down and strap the fuck in because Secret Chapter are going to take you on a nostalgic ride back to the 80s with their hyper-melodic, solo-rific debut, Chapter One. While Chapter One treads a similar sound he likes of Skid Row, TNT, Europe, and 80s hair metal in general, it keeps things interesting by maintaining a modern heavy metal undertone. The production, layered instrumentation, and driving riffs combined with undoubtedly 80s choruses allow for the best of both worlds, and there’s no shortage of passion or aggression. A lot of 80s metal bands just sound like refined metal from the era (if that), but Secret Chapter manage to maintain individuality by putting their own musical spin on things.

Full Review

8. Crow’s Flight – The Storm

Crow’s Flight have swooped in with a new drummer, new vocalist, and new album that’ll be a hit for fans of melodic metal as well as traditional heavy metal. While I wouldn’t call The Storm a classic metal by any means, there are enough traits that it’s worth a mention. Regardless, if you’re looking for strong melodies accompanied by kickass riffs and atmospheric keyboards, look no further.

7. Rumahoy – Time II: Party

Blowing in only a year after their debut, the self-proclaimed “Best True Scottish Pirate Metal Band in the World” Rumahoy are back with another booze-fueled party album ready to go: Time II: Party. After sailing the seas of the Wild West, Captain Yarrface and his skimask-clad crew have written ten catchy sea shanties of the most fucking ridiculous variety. Within you’ll find the expected power/folk metal combo that’s typical of pirate metal, but with a variety and dynamism that’s all but unseen in the genre.

Full Review

6. Iron Kingdom – On the Hunt

Vancouver’s own Iron Kingdom have dropped yet another solid slab of classic metal. Combining old school dual guitar sounds with clear, crisp vocals and some of the best drumming I’ve ever heard from a classic metal band, On the Hunt offers a bit more of a modern approach to the style of old. It’s the perfect balance, production-wise, because every part is clear and separated but there’s still an organic feel to the whole thing. There’s no lack of passion and sincerity, but there’s also just enough flare to keep me excited about it.

Full Review

5. Cathubodua – Continuum

Belgium’s female-fronted symphonic metal outfit Cathubodua have unleashed their devastating debut album: Continuum. Featuring folk, symphonic, death, and power metal elements, Continuum wastes no time in displaying its melodic, balls-to-the-wall epic onslaught.

Full Review

4. Aerodyne – Damnation

Smithed by the mighty Aerodyne, Damnation is, in short, one hell of a sophomore album. It’s energetic, anthemic, charismatic heavy metal with a blatant Ozzy undertone. Sound kickass? Of course it does! It’s true metal to the core, no doubt about it.

Full Review

3. Induction – Induction

In one of the strongest symphonic metal debuts of the year, Induction deliver shameless bombast, insane grooves, and killer musicianship. Featuring guitarist Tim Hansen, vocalist Nick Holleman, and Sean Brandenburg on drums, Induction is a dynamic symphonic power metal album with tons of prog influence.

2. Galneryus – Into the Purgatory

The finest neoclassical power metal band east of the Silk Road have unleashed yet another album of facemelting ferocity. Into the Purgatory is the twelfth album to come from the mighty Galneryus and, despite such a long career, it lives up to the band’s glory, and then some. A slice of Galneryus’ neoclassical edge has been swapped for a bit more of a progressive influence this time around so, while you can still expect a hyper-melodic work of shred insanity, it’s different enough from their other albums to keep things feeling new.

Full Review

1. Noveria – Aequilibrium

Italian proggers Noveria don’t fuck around. As soon as it starts, Aequilibrium explodes into high-intensity with a death metal atmosphere and epic choirs. Through the rest of the album, we encounter sick riff after sick riff (not the least of which can be found in ‘Awakening’ and ‘Broken’) in all their beefy, syncopated glory, as well as beautiful interludes and pulled back sections. Another aspect that makes Aequilibrium stand out is the fact that, while there’s a dark tone to most of the album, it’s never depressing and it’s always energetic.

Full Review

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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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Top Ten Metal Albums Of September

It’s been a crazy month on my side of things, but it’s been even crazier in the metal world. There was almost more to listen to this month than there was for the entire summer, so, needless to say, my Top Ten Metal Albums of September had a few runner ups.

10. Ancient Empire – Wings of the Fallen

While not exceptional by their own standards, Ancient Empires Wings of the Fallen is an excellent traditional metal record. With solid, chugging riffs and strong melodies, it’s everything you’d want in classic heavy metal, plus a bit extra.

09. Excalion – Emotions

Melodic, expressive, keyboard-driven. It doesn’t take many more words that that to get me excited about an album. These characteristics are hardly unique when it comes to power metal, and more often than not I’m left disappointed upon actually hearing an album described by them, but, what can I say? I’m a hopeful guy. So, you can imagine my relief when Excalion laid this piece of work before me. Emotions is the fifth album of the Finnish outfit, and it checks all those boxes with massive checkmarks.

Full Review

08. Ereb Altor – Jartecken

Ereb Altor are no stranger to viking metal. With eight albums since their 2008 debut, they’ve worked steadily to bring the best of true viking metal. Their latest album, Jartecken, is pretty much what you’d expect at this point, but that isn’t to say it isn’t something new, too; it continues down the same path as the past couple albums, delivering a dynamic mix of mournful folk melodies and vicious atmospheres.

Full Review

07. DragonForce – Extreme Power Metal

DragonForce is back with their best album of the decade: Extreme Power Metal. One thing EPM does better than, well, every album up to Reaching into Infinity is variety. It has your typical, fast-paced power metal bangers like ‘Troopers of the Stars’ and ‘Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shred’, as well as a surplus of more commercial, poppy songs. There are a few songs that aren’t driven solely by spine-splitting speed, such ‘Remembrance Day’ and the excellent cover of Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’, but the intense dragon energy is never lost. There are also a lot of instrumental breaks that utilize strings, folk instruments, and the usual videogame SFX that are so characteristic of DragonForce. These video game themes run strong, with most of the songs having retro synth (or outright 8-bit) intros. Unsurprisingly, ‘The Last Dragonborn’ is the most videogame-fueled of them all, albeit more in content and less in sound.

Full Review

06. Borknagar – True North

Norway’s black/folk masters Borknagar pumps out great albums on the worst of days, so it should be no surprise that True North is on this list. In a word, the album is captivating. Between thunderous highs and serene lows, it’s as if Borknagar have invoked the very spirits of the mountains. To add to this dynamism, the album makes use of everything from clean vocals and bouncy grooves to furious blastbeats and skin-tearing growls. Of all the “winter-themed” albums to come out this month (like Everfrost’s Winterider and Sonata Arctica’s fucking mess), this one embodies that theme the best.

05. Cerebellar Rondo – The Realizing

It’s been a little while since I’ve heard a decent new Japanese power metal album, so it caught me off guard when the first one I’d heard in months swept me off my feet the way The Realizing did. The debut of Cerebellar Rondo, it’s fast, pleasantly melodic, and displays all of the flare and technicality that keeps bringing me back to Japanese power metal. Aside from the killer vocal performance, there are some seriously cool riffs that separate Cerebellar Rondo from a lot of the other (albeit still good) Japanese power metal bands.

04. Everfrost – Winterider

From the frozen north of Finland come Everfrost with their sophomore album, Winterider, which is one of the most expressive symphonic power metal albums of the year. The band bleeds musical excellence and, when their power is directed into over-the-top, cheerfully epic arrangements, they produce a truly unique sound, even by power metal standards. Everfrost’s winter-themed metal shows clear influences ranging from Blind Guardian to late-80s glam metal to Queen, which further pushes the boundaries of what you might expect from this genre.

Full Review

03. Centurion – Centurion

Centurion is an insatiable riff-beast, ready to prey on the ears of all who are close enough to listen. Not only that, but we’re also attacked with an onslaught of powerful melodies, facemelting solos (especially in ‘Ruka Sudbine’ and ‘Virtuelno Ognjiste’. Holy fuck.), and drumming that never settles for satisfactory. Seriously. This is one damn impressive group of musicians who are as mighty as the badass warriors on their album cover.

Full Review

02. Kybalion – Black Painted Skies

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.

Full Review

01. Wind Rose – Wintersaga

Well, summer’s over. That means the time for beaches, bimbos, and barbecues is at it’s end, being instead replaced by the dark, wind, and cold. However, this is the perfect season for a dwarf! And what better way to explore your potential dwarfhood than cranking out the meanest, mightiest of man-metal? Enter Wind Rose, Italy’s finest dwarf metal army, and their fourth album, Wintersaga. As the band’s most impressive album to date, it’s as if it was smithed in the forges of Khazad-dum itself. If its epic chants and upbeat hymns aren’t enough to get you into the season, they’ll at least get your blood flowing hard enough to keep you warm.

Full Review

Did I miss something worthy of being a Top Ten? Bitch at me in the comments or send me a message!

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Iron Kingdom – On The Hunt Review

Score9/10
GenreTraditional Heavy Metal
CountryCanada
Runtime39:50
Release Date4 October 2019
Record LabelIndependent

I feel a bit of pride that Western Canada has produced a lot of excellent classic metal bands in the past decade. Bands like Riot City, Striker, and Traveler are just a few examples of the greatness I’m referring to. However, the best of all of them, in my opinion, is Vancouver’s own Iron Kingdom (and not because they’re so local to me – that’s just a bonus), and this is more evident than ever in their fourth album to date: On the Hunt.

Combining old school dual guitar sounds with clear, crisp vocals and some of the best drumming I’ve ever heard from a classic metal band, On the Hunt offers a bit more of a modern approach to the style of old. It’s the perfect balance, production-wise, because every part is clear and separated but there’s still an organic feel to the whole thing. There’s no lack of passion and sincerity, but there’s also just enough flare to keep me excited about it.

Now, comparing any classic metal band to Iron Maiden is a bit of a given, but one extra-Maideny thing worth mentioning about On the Hunt is how the solo sections are structured. I don’t think there’s a time where there’s rhythm guitar behind the solos, which prevents any potential messiness and allows the bass to actually come through with some super juicy lines.

But let’s take a minute to talk songs, because, holy fuck, there’re some heavy hitters here. One of my favourites has to be ‘Sign of the Gods’, in which we get some great drum solos, which seem to be a lost art these days. Actually, it was on this song that I became aware of some Neil Peart influence in drummer Joey Paul‘s style. On the side of the axes, ‘Road Warriors’ and ‘Keep it Steel’ have some noteworthy facemelters but, let’s be honest; every solo put forth by Megan Merrick and Chris Osterman is just sick. The title of most unique track, though, has to go to ‘Invaders’. It’s a bit darker than the rest and it’s more dynamic, too. The pulled back sections and builds are all done really well, and, of course, so are the solos.

Of the hundreds of heavy metal bands that have “Iron” in their name, not very many of them are deserving of it. Iron Maiden? Obviously. Iron Savior? Yup. Iron Fire? Definitely. Of course, Iron Kingdom are undoubtedly deserving of the mark, because the metal they’ve forged is strong, heavy, and true.

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Transylvania – II Review

Score6/10
GenreHeavy Metal
CountryUSA
Runtime21:22
Release Date6 September 2019
Record LabelIndependent

For whatever reason, I’ve experienced a lot of “metal seasons” this year, so to speak. June gave me oceans of symphonic metal (both good and bad), July had a lion’s share of prog. But the last week or so of August until, well, now, has showered me in vanilla traditional metal. Seriously. I’ve heard probably ten EPs and at least as many LPs of the stuff since then, and I have no idea why. Maybe it’s my fault. I don’t fucking know.

Anyway, as you may have guessed, the reason I bring that up is because Transylvania’s second EP, the aptly-named II, fits the mold. With a sound that’s as unoriginal as their name, Transylvania offer next to nothing in terms of imagination or ingenuity, despite two of the three songs on this EP running longer than eight minutes. However, they do bring some great guitar soloing and drumming to the show, so I can’t be too mad.

I don’t have a favourite solo, because they’re all really good, but the drumming in the final minutes of ‘The Emerald Gift’ wins the most of my enjoyment. On the flip side, though, the vocals are fairly emotionless, like a watered down Bruce Dickinson, and the melodies are weak, so there’s not much to hook your attention in the meantime.

The best song on the EP is the final track, ‘322’, which I have mixed feelings about. It begins with promise in a cool 6/8 groove, but it gets pretty monotonous before anything cool is done with it. However, after a couple timechanges, it pulls right back into a light piano-backed guitar solo and steadily builds with passion. But then it suddenly goes back to that initial groove and ends, without any decent climax. If this song were refined with some better transitions, a powerful peak, and a more interesting first four minutes, it’d be a killer tune.

I can only assume that Transylvania are just a hobby band, and, for that, they’re pretty good. II isn’t a bad sample of their stuff, but its biggest downfall is that it lacks memorability. With some more time in the forge, Transylvania could probably make a great record, but, for now, they’re just another classic heavy metal band.

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