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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DragonForce Releases Second Single From EPM

With 27 September inching closer and closer, the anticipation for DragonForce’s new album, Extreme Power Metal, grows. The band have released their second single, titled ‘Heart Demolition’, which is drenched in their newfound 80s aesthetic! Check it out in all its over-the-top, synth-heavy glory:

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DragonForce – Extreme Power Metal Artwork Review

Out of my immense excitement upon first seeing it, I’ve decided to do something a bit different; I’ll review the artwork of an album. Why, you may ask? Because this just might be the single greatest image to ever grace the metal world.

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Even more than their first single, DragonForce’s Extreme Power Metal cover art has every bone in my body amped to the max for September, when the album finally comes out.

But, before I talk about what I like so much about it, let me first address something. Since DragonForce’s announcement, I’ve seen countless comments and posts from people saying shit like, “DragonForce is just a parody now,” and “This isn’t real DragonForce,” to which I call massive bullshit.

Before the genesis of the band, Sam Totman and Herman Li were in a band called Demoniac. It was a black/power metal band with lyrical themes that are, to say it conservatively, a little bit fucked. The band mostly existed for the purpose of creating shocking and ridiculous music, and, in that, they succeeded. The duo ditched the band in 99 to form DragonForce with the intent to make super-fast power metal the likes have never been seen.

Fast forward to 2006’s Inhuman Rampage, where DragonForce dialed everything their music was famous for in their first two albums way up. The relentless speed and heavy sound were pushed even further, and even their lyrics began to embody a bit more of a tongue-in-cheek power metal approach rather than a thoughtful lyric selection. This lyrical trend spiraled out of control in each consecutive album, with upbeat fantasy lyrics eventually being recycled as if being put into a blender and written down as they were poured out. Their latest album, Reaching into Infinity, embodies this perfectly, with most of its songs being almost-nonsensical (which doesn’t make the music any less serious, by the way).

So, as you can see, the ridiculousness portrayed by Extreme Power Metal‘s artwork is just DragonForce being DragonForce. It might seem like it’s been a slight slope downward into Jokesville since 2006, but let me also remind you that this video existed way back then, and it exceeds the fuckery that is EPM‘s cover:

Yeah. Remember this? This is more bizarre than anything they’ve done since, so fuck off with the “DragonForce used to be serious,” schtick, because that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Now, carrying on to the album artwork. Where do I even begin? Well, to start, I guess I should point out the obvious: the 80s aesthetic. This artwork perfectly embodies the 80s revival of the past five or so years and the whole TRON/Arcade/Cyberpunk thing really works for the band. Also, that huge explosion adds a ton of action and movement to the piece.

Seeing that flying laser car on the left, I instantly think of Knight Rider and Back to the Future. It’s such a silly touch to an already-silly picture, so bonus points there. Actually, now that I think of it, it also makes me think of that Scarface/GTA Vice City couch gag from The Simpsons.

It’s also really nice to actually have another dragon on a DragonForce cover (because Reaching into Infinity is the only other one to have a dragon, weirdly enough). And then there’s my favourite part, which is how god damn stupid Sam’s face looks.

Herman and Marc are running from the intense explosion of reality with their baddest and raddest faces on, meanwhile Sam is standing there looking like a reject lego piece. Simply wonderful.

In conclusion, this is both the cheesiest and best album cover I’ve ever seen in my entire life, ever. Not only does it capture the DragonForce essence, but it also captures my love of the 80s and the spirit of power metal itself. If this picture is any indication, Extreme Power Metal just might be DragonForce’s best since Valley of the Damned.

Extreme Power Metal comes out on 27 September. Don’t miss it!

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