Amaranthe – Manifest Review

Score7/10
GenreMelodic Metal (Pop Metal)
CountrySweden
Runtime40:20
Release Date2 October 2020
Record LabelNuclear Blast

Sweden’s melodic metal masters Amaranthe have continued to hold the pop metal standard high in their sixth album, Manifest. While I’ll never come back to half of the tracklist, the amount of sheer talent Amaranthe continues to display can’t be ignored; whether it’s the relentless, intricate grooving of drummer Morten Løwe Sørensen or the combined vocal talents of Elize Ryd, Nils Molin, or Henrik “GG6” Englund, there’s a ton to appreciate musically.

If there’s one thing that can be said about Manifest, it’s that it’s exactly consistent with what you’d expect an Amaranthe album to be: bright, hopeful choruses in between thunderous rhythm section syncopation, digital synths, and colossal growls. It leans further to the pop side, (like everything since The Nexus) but it contains enough powerful riffs and chugging that it still sits comfortably under the metal banner, although not under the power metal banner, as so many others seem to be convinced.

In all honesty, I was ready to call it quits on this album after my first listen. It seemed like they gave up on everything else and settled into being a metalcore version of late 2000s pop groups. However, being that I’ve been a huge fan of these guys for years (and also that I first spun it on my shitty Bluetooth speaker at work), I decided to give it another spin, for old time’s sake. And, fortunately, that led to a few more listens.

Sure, my initial reaction still holds up for the trainwrecks that are ‘Stronger’ (does someone wanna tell me how you can fuck up a song that features both Elize Ryd AND Noora Louhimo?), ‘Die and Wake Up’, ‘Make It Better’, and the poorly-named ‘Adrenaline’, but Manifest‘s best tracks live up to the band’s full capabilities.

For starters, ‘Fearless’ kicks the album off with all the shiny-yet-ferocious badassery Amaranthe is known for. The following tracks rotate between crap and good-but-not-great (and a full-out Dynazty song in ‘Do Or Die’) until the second half, where we get to some seriously killer tracks in ‘The Game’, ‘Archangel’, and my personal favourite, ‘Boom!’. Seriously, if you lost all hope in Amaranthe because of MAXIMALISM or Helix, ‘Boom!’ is probably the completely wrong song to recommend, but it’s such a shitshow that I have to. It’s the obligatory GG6 feature on the album, so you can expect some of the best growling/rapping metal has to offer, along with shameless self-awareness.

As a sidenote, I can’t say for sure (because I haven’t been bothered to check), but I would imagine that the differing factor between the tracks I like and dislike is how involved Elize Ryd is in the songwriting. In Helix, new male vocalist Nils Molin (Dynazty) didn’t get a proper introduction (in my own not-so-humble opinion), and there was way too much “Oo, look at me!” from Elize. Not that I think she’s a bad vocalist by any stretch; she’s actually one of my favourites. However, it seems like the band is all the better when she takes a step back from the songwriting and allows the music to be more of a team effort.

All in all, Manifest is about the best an album like this could be. It’s easily the best Amaranthe album since 2013 and it blows pretty much every other band in the space (think Metalite (or maybe protect yourself by NEVER thinking about Metalite), Scarleth, CyHra, In Flames kinda) out of the water.

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Fallen Arise – Enigma Review

Score4/10
GenreGothic Symphonic Metal
CountryGreece
Runtime46:36
Release Date10 April 2020
Record LabelRock of Angels (ROAR!)

Winning the award for the dullest album I’ve heard in 2020 is Fallen Arise in their latest album, Enigma. While it doesn’t quite make the cut as bad (and fans of really boring gothic metal might actually like it), Enigma managed to make me yawn more than 90% of the chick flicks I’ve seen.

Fallen Arise are foremost plagued with an bland frontwoman; the vocals are boring at the best of times, and annoying at the worst. It goes without saying that this is really a crucial aspect in a modern symphonic band, and, well, any band, but generic vocals are what send symphonic metal bands to get shot on the outskirts of town, naked and alone. Not good naked, but, like, gross naked. Anyway, that isn’t to say that the album would be great if the vocals are better, because everything is pretty uninspired, but it would definitely be better.

Enigma‘s greatest downfall is its simplicity. The band has based their music around whiney melodies, clumsy grooves, and repetition, repetition, repetition. Seriously, I fail to see how dragging a shitty chorus out five times makes it any less shitty but, hey, it’s not my album.

There’s really nothing substantial I like in Enigma. As I said before, it isn’t necessarily bad, but it annoys me and I’m glad I don’t have to listen to it a fourth time.

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Навьяра – Призыв Велеса Review

Score9/10
GenreFolk Metal
CountryBelarus
Runtime32:04
Release Date10 February 2020
Record LabelKryrart

Belarus’ brand new folk metallers, Navyara (sorry, I’m not gonna copy and paste “Навьяра” every single time) have started their metal career on a high note. As their first offering of forest steel, Призыв Велеса is captivating, light, and expressive. Plus, unlike 90% of other new bands, there’s no filler material, but there’s still more than enough variety to keep you hooked.

While the album isn’t dreary, it’s a lot more somber than what you might expect (except the closer, which is pretty cheery). This is partially due to its groove-driven nature, as opposed to many folk metal bands who rely more on upbeat melodies. Additionally, Navyara’s black metal influences are immediately noticeable, especially in the guitar tremolo that occupies much of the album, which further adds to Призыв Велеса‘s more mystical energy.

As far as instrumentation goes, everything is pretty fucking great. The guitars are killer right from the opener and do a fantastic job at laying the foundation of the atmospheres with climbing riffs and steady chugging. Oh, and the solos are sick, especially for this style of folk metal. On the other hand, the violin, flute, and female vocal melodies effortlessly pull the music forward.

One of my favourite tracks is ‘Поруганное капище’ because it’s really just the whole album crammed into one song. It’s mostly uptempo, but the feel is constantly changing. On top of that, the flowing of the melody/countermelody over the rapid chugging of the rhythm section makes for a cool effect (although the same could be said about most of the album).

All in all, Призыв Велеса is an excellent kickoff for an excellent band. Fans of bands like Kernunna, Velesar, Tuatha de Danann, or just clean folk metal that isn’t too in-your-face will thoroughly enjoy Navyara’s pagan offerings.

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Melodic Metal: New Single From Volturian

Volturian is a new melodic metal band formed by Frozen Crown’s founder/songwriter/guitarist Federico Mondelli and Federica Lanna of Sleeping Romance. The band’s debut album, Crimson, is set for a 24 April release under Scarlet Records.

‘New Life’ features the first taste of Volturian’s sound: slow-paced, heavily-electronic metal with floating vocal melodies and syncopated guitar rhythms.

Volturian describe their sound as suitable for fans of early-00s In Flames, Soilwork, and Amaranthe. Based on this single, I’d say that’s more-or-less an accurate assumption.

01. Crimson Dust
02. New Life
03. Haunting Symphony
04. Broken
05. The Killing Joke
06. In a Heartbeat (feat Giada “Jade” Etro)
07. Between the Sleepers
08. Days Before You Died
09. Forevermore
10. Fading Like a Flower (Roxette cover)

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Diabulus In Musica – Euphonic Entropy Review

Score9/10
GenreSymphonic Power Metal
CountrySpain
Runtime56:26
Release Date15 February 2020
Record LabelNapalm

While some people can’t seem to keep their marriage from falling the fuck apart for more than a week, husband-and-wife combo Zuberoa Aznárez and Gorka Elso have released the fifth album of their band, Diabulus In Musica. Euphonic Entropy is an absolute monster of a symphonic metal album, delivering emotion, variety, and energy in equal parts. Every song is a mixed bag, so you can be damn sure that this album will exceed expectations.

Euphonic Entropy has a little bit of everything: electronics, choirs, orchestrations, folk instruments, rough vocals, colossal guitars. What’s more, these elements are all actually tastefully integrated into a chunky metal backdrop to create epic atmospheres and massive soundscapes, with the occasional light moment. It’s lean in the solo department (entirely devoid of solos, in fact), but the heavy grooves, breakdowns, and instrumentation are rich enough that it isn’t an issue. The guitars and female vocals are both captivating enough as it is, so it’s probably for the best to be solo-free.

Now, while the album as a whole is cohesively incredible, there’s one song that I seriously can’t get enough of. ‘The Misfit’s Swing’, as you probably guessed from the title, is a metal swing track. Actually, let me clarify; ‘The Misfit’s Swing’ is the fucking epitome of metal swing and is everything I want in such a song. God damn. I want an entire genre of this shit. Yeah, there’s the odd band like Diablo Swing Orchestra that does it, but, man. This track is something else. It satisfies both the metalhead and the jazzman in me.

Fortunately, Euphonic Entropy has so much more to offer than just one killer song. There’s the ballad ‘Blurred Dreams, the Eluveitie-esque ‘Otoi’, and a flowwy symphonic-only track, plus a healthy dose of chugging, pounding, backbreaking metal. If you want modern symphonic metal done right, look no further.

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Ravenword – Transcendence Review

Score7/10
GenreSymphonic Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime01:09:48
Release Date31 January 2020
Record LabelRockshots

I think, at this point, we can expect Italy to never, ever, ever stop producing symphonic metal. Seriously. There’s no end to it. I’m not complaining, but holy fuck. They must be pulling close to Germany’s heavy metal numbers by now. Anyway, supporting this cause of symphonic saturation are the female-fronted Ravenword in their one-shot debut album, Transcendence. While the band was around shortly in the late 00s, they went on hiatus and reformed in 2016 with a new lineup. Among the bandmembers is the beautifully versatile Chiara Tricarico, who was featured in another new symphonic metal project Moonlight Haze last year and also sings for Sound Storm.

At times, Transcendence plays like your typical, melodic/symphonic/gothic album (such as in the ballad ‘Lullaby of the Last Petal’ and ‘Rain of Stars’). It’s sparkly, the vocals are often operatic, and the overall atmosphere is typically mystical and flowwy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it makes for a lot of filler. As such, at more than an hour’s runtime, it could go for a serious trim. However, Transcendence‘s good songs are really fucking good, so it’s worth giving the whole record a spin or two to find the worthwhile ones.

The album starts strong in ‘Blue Roses’. It has good energy, a killer hook, a key solo. Hell, it even has a key change. Talk about overachiever. Overall, it’s one of my favourite tracks, and it there couldn’t be a better choice for the opener. Immediately after, we see Tricarico’s versatility start to show a bit more in ‘Life Is in Your Hands’, where she displays a bit more of her attitude and power. After this, though, we’re met with a lot of subpar efforts that all kind of sound the same, but there are still a few gems (‘The Swansong’ and ‘Crimson Lake’ especially), as well as a pile of ridiculously sweet guitar solos.

While it’s not something I ever do, you would probably be safe in judging this album by its cover; for the most part, it’s super generic for the genre, but there’s enough going on to keep things exciting. As I said, it’s well worth sifting through Transcendence (even if a good portion of it is forgettable), because it has its moments of genius.

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Symphonic Metal: Diabulus In Musica Release ‘One Step Higher’

Spanish symphonic metal outfit Diabulus In Musica are just a few days from releasing their fifth album, Euphonic Entropy. In anticipation, the band has released another single: ‘One Step Higher’.

Singer Zuberoa Aznárez on the new single:
“’One Step Higher’ is a bright look to the future, a song about personal growth and about embracing new stages of life with thrill. Despite the obstacles, our path is about overcoming them and finding the light again, making us stronger and wiser.”

01. A Lucid Chaos 
02. Race to Equilibrium 
03. Nuevo Rumbo 
4. The Misfit’s Swing 
05. In Quest of Sense 
06. Otoi
07. Blurred Dreams 
08. On the Edge 
09. Our Last Gloomy Dance 
10. One Step Higher 
11. Blind Muse 
12. In the Vortex

If heavy, melodic, groove-driven symphonic metal is your thing, make sure to catch Euphonic Entropy this Friday, 14 February!

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Amberian Dawn – Looking For You Review

Score9.5/10
GenreMelodic Metal (80s Synthpop)
CountryFinland
Runtime42:38
Release Date31 January 2020
Record LabelNapalm

If kicking off the year with a super cheesy 80s metal album becomes a regular occurrence in my life, I would have nothing left to ask for. Last year, February serenaded us with the ferocious Beast in Black’s From Hell with Love, which blasted its way into my Number One Metal Record spot. And now, former symphonic metal troupe Amberian Dawn have also made the shift into 80s synthpop revival with their ninth record, Looking for You. While most of the songs follow a steady bass-snare beat, the album is gloriously addictive.

Drenched in synth and vocal layers, there’s never a dull moment. The band has coined the term ABBA-metal to describe their music, and that couldn’t be more accurate. Every track rings with glowing positivity and spits out some of the catchiest melodies I’ve ever heard. The “metal” aspects of the album are definitely secondary to the synthpop but, hey, it’s fun and it’s still metal enough for me.

One of the album’s high points can be found in the song ‘Symphony Nr. 1 Part 3 – Awakening’ (rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?), which is the third part to the Symphony that began in 2015’s album Innuendo. The track features some mad double kicks that are perfectly executed, as well as the vocal talents of the mighty Fabio Lione (ex-Rhapsody, Angra, Turilli/Lione Rhapsody) alongside Amberian Dawn’s Capri. Additionally, there’s a sick solo tucked away in ‘Eternal Fire Burning’ and some beefy basslines in ‘Butterfly’, as well as some great cymbal work scattered throughout.

Amberian Dawn have always been an adaptive outfit. Since their shifts from power metal then symphonic metal, they’ve always been able to create a commercially-available sound while remaining musically interesting. If you’re looking for huge riffs and aggression, you’re in the wrong place. But, if you want some fun shit to nod your head to, spin at the gym, or crank at a party, look no further than Looking for You.

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Melodic Metal: New Single From Temperance

Italian melodic metal outfit Temperance are a bit of a breath of fresh air in their space. Fronted by the talents of three vocalists, the band offers a brand of melodic metal that has a unique melodic delivery over symphonic and electronic elements.

With their fifth album, Viridian, coming out this Friday, the band have released another single, ‘I Am the Fire’.

Vocalist/Guitarist Marco Pastorino, on the new single:
“Our paths have crossed at a lot of places and stories. ‘I Am the Fire’ is about motivation and a trigger that can help us to reach our goals. Through different colors, moods and situations, we can find a light on our journey. As always we blend our three different vocal styles in one of the most melodic tracks from Viridian.

As a side note, we were not particularly thinking of seasonal wildfire or the horrible tragedy that is happening in Australia right now. The word ‘fire’ is recurrently used as an analogy to inner strength, and we believe that we can take it as a call to action for uniting and together, overcoming any obstacles we face individually as well as a society.”

01. Mission Impossible
02. I Am The Fire
03. Start Another Round
04. My Demons Can’t Sleep
05. Viridian
06. Let It Beat
07. Scent of Dye
08. The Cult Of Mystery
09. Nanook
10. Gaia
11. Catch The Dream

Marco Pastorino on Viridian:
“We’re beyond stoked to announce that our new album and first through Napalm Records Viridian is scheduled for worldwide release on January 24th, 2020! Finally, the time has come: Viridian is ready to see the light of the day! We’ve worked hard during the last year to write our best songs ever. This is our heaviest album so far, yet with a lot of melodies, vocal harmonies and epic modern metal hymns! The recording process was super fun and we really enjoyed finding new, different ways to express ourselves with our music. We really can’t wait to spread Viridian all over the world on the next tours – stay tuned for more exciting news!”

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Melodic Metal: Amberian Dawn Drop Titular Track

With Looking For You only two weeks away, Finnish ABBA metal (formerly symphonic metal) troupe Amberian Dawn have released another synth-heavy single. The titular track follows suit with the previous singles to be released for the album: heavy bass and snare, glowing keys, and shameless 80s cheese.

Guitarist/Keyboardist/Founder Tuomas on the new album:
”This is the Crown Jewel of the album. This song is exactly what so-called ABBA-Metal is all about. Haunting and dramatic keyboards, strong melodies and tons of vocal tracks. I worked closely with Finnish synthesizer artist Kebu to achieve this wonderful vintage keyboard sound. I let myself go into world of 80’s synthesizer music and then my band mates helped me to arrange the song into an Amberian Dawn song. “ 

Look for Looking for You on 31 January!

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