Asgard – Ragnarøkkr Review

Score3/10
GenreProgressive Folk Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime
Release Date15 May 2020
Record LabelPride & Joy

I was previously unfamiliar with Italy’s progressive folk metal group, Asgard. The band released five albums between 1991 and 2000, so it’d be unsurprising if they’ve flown under a few other radars, too. But, for reasons that’re unknown to me, they’ve chosen 2020 as the year they release their comeback album! Entitled Ragnarøkkr, if this is anything to judge Asgard off, I really wasn’t missing much by never hearing them.

Ragnarøkkr‘s overall sound can be compared to a cheery, wannabe folk Blind Guardian. Aside from the simple highland melodies, the production quality and rawness are similar, and it tries to be dynamic and emotive (plus it’s clear that the vocals strive for a Hansi Kursch approach). Unfortunately, it fails time and time again. Every time a decent musical idea pops up, it changes direction for no real reason other than to change direction, with no effort at all on transition or musicality. The fucked up thing is, though, that there’s no real technicality going on to explain all of these transitions, either, so you can’t even dismiss it as a prog band doing prog things. It’s more like a bunch of amateur musicians just discovered that songs could have multiple sections and went, “Hey guys, what if instead of writing a cohesive song we crammed fifty clashing feels together, back-to-back, with no warning?” Yeah, great fucking idea, right?

Anyway, if the bad songwriting wasn’t enough, the melodies are all really weak, the vocals are uninspired, the guitarwork is subpar, and the organs are. . . good enough, I guess. If I had to pick a specific least favourite part of the album, it would have to be the end of the final track, ‘Ragnarøkkr’; the song is about to end when, as if culminating every shitty transition the album features, it fades out while at the same time the chorus fades in again. I mean, seriously. What the fuck is that? As if the album wasn’t already messy enough, they just had to go and basically say, “Yeah, we KNOW it’s messy, so let us just leave you with this sour taste in your mouth,”.

One almost-redeeming quality in Ragnarøkkr is the use of a recurring melody, which is introduced in ‘Kali Yuga’ and returns in the closer. It’s kind of a shit melody, but hey, at least they tried. Some of the drumwork is good, too, so it’s not entirely a lost cause. Aside from that, there are a couple decent solo sections, like in ‘Visions’, but there’s a really jarring halftime cut in that one that throws off the entire thing.

Like I said, before Ragnarøkkr, I had never heard of Asgard, and, in all honesty, I’d be better off if I never did. This is one album you can judge by its cover: messy, confusing, and kinda crap.

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Power Metal: Alestorm Set Sail For ‘Treasure Chest Party Quest’

With the most hip-hop video I’ve ever seen from a metal band, power pirates Alestorm have dropped a new single!

‘Treasure Chest Party Quest’ is the first glimpse of the band’s upcoming album, Curse of the Crystal Coconut, which is set to be released on 29 May under Napalm Records.

1. Treasure Chest Party Quest
2. Fannybaws
3. Chomp Chomp
4. Tortuga
5. Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship
6. Call of the Waves
7. Pirate’s Scorn
8. Shit Boat (No Fans)
9. Pirate Metal Drinking Crew
10. Wooden Leg Part 2 (The Woodening)
11. Henry Martin

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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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Verikalpa – Tuoppitanssi Review

Score7.5/10
GenreFolk Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime46:16
Release Date21 February 2020
Record LabelScarlet

Serving up another piece of melodeathy folk metal are Finland’s booze-fueled Verikalpa in their sophomore album, Tuoppitanssi. While I couldn’t tell you what in the fuck they’re singing about (well, I could because I read the album’s info sheet, but I really can’t say for sure), I can tell you that you’re in for a lively album with an edge. With strong melodies, a heavy rhythm section, and ferociously rough vocals, this style is hardly new, but it’s really fun it’ll probably pull you back at least once.

I can’t pinpoint the thing keeping Verikalpa from sounding like yet another generic offshoot of Korpiklaani, like so many folk bands do, but they have enough charm and individuality to steer clear of sounding too derivative. Regardless, the prevalence of the accordion is always a welcome trait. Weirdly enough, a good portion of Tuoppitanssi could be described as “viscious polka”; it’s hard, it’s gritty, and the vocals could peel the bark off a tree, but the accordion’s bounciness changes the entire feel.

Alternatively, when Tuoppitanssi isn’t in ska mode, it offers a pleasing variety. In fact, my favourite track on the album is ‘Varjosahti’, which is one of the album’s slower tunes (and a tad extra piratey). ‘Verimaat’ is also a notable track, largely due to those stupid-fast kicks. Otherwise, most of the tracks are up-tempo (like the blitzy ‘Karhunkaataja’), and there’s a pretty even split of 4/4 and 6/8, as you would expect from this style of music. That being said, the album is far from repetitive.

Fans of anything from Ensiferum to Vanir to Blodiga Skald will thoroughly enjoy Tuoppitanssi. It bites hard throughout its entirety but is catchy enough that you’ll be able to remember the songs without much effort. If you like drunk and bouncy, Verikalpa are right up your alley.

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Aereum – Tempest Of Time Review

Score9/10
GenreMeloDeath/Folk Metal (Pirate Metal)
CountryGermany
Runtime44:08
Release Date11 January 2020
Record LabelIndependent

Germany’s newest metal pirates have come ashore with a debut that is nothing short of impressive. Tempest of Time sees Aereum crash onto the metal scene with nine swashbuckling tracks that are worth their weight in cursed gold. If melodic and aggressive is your thing, this album is exactly what you need!

I’m not gonna lie; when I first heard the vocals, I wasn’t sold. I’m usually not a huge fan of high, throaty rough vocals, and this album has plenty. But, after about a minute and a half, they grew on me. They’re sharp and piercing like the wind and they sound pissed off enough to embody even a buccaneer’s teen years. It might be an acquired taste for some, but it probably won’t take long until you’re hooked on this album like I was.

Tempest of Time begins with solid shanty riffs and countermelodies in ‘Digital Warfare’, and continues to ebb and flow like the sea; each track offers its own variety of feels and grooves, from the colossally-heavy ‘Just Pirates’ to the easier, folky ‘Modular Cowboy’. It’s actually amazing how Aereum have managed to do the melodeath/folk thing so well. The driving force is the riff-heavy guitarwork, which do far more than your usual chord-chugging, and the solos are sure to melt some faces. The drums also go beyond your typical grooves, thrashing about like a vicious shark. The track with my favourite drumming would be ‘The Eye of Bastet’, which also happens to be my favourite track overall. Seriously, they barely sit still for four fucking bars. It’s awesome.

It’s only February, but I’m calling this as one of the pirate (and folk) highlights of the year. It’s dynamic, super heavy, and it has huge relistenability. Easily the best nautical album I’ve heard in a long time. Be sure to catch this one, lest ye walk the plank!

(These jokes doing anything for you?)

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Power Metal: Alestorm Begin Recording New Album

Comedy pirates Alestorm have announced that they have begun the recording of their sixth album, which will be recorded in Krabi Road Studios in Thailand.

The album will be titled Curse of the Crystal Coconut and is set for an early summer release under Napalm Records.

Follow Alestorm on Facebook for the first album details!

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Metal Release Calendar: January, February, March

1 January

MacAllister Project – Samadhi (Folk Power Metal)

Cygnus Atratus – The Empyrean Heaven (Progressive Power Metal)

Shredistic – Adrift (Progressive Metal)

Oath – Legacy (Heavy Metal)

Miwa – Hell Is Real (Heavy Metal)

Ingott – Na cestě do nebe stavil jsem se v pekle (Heavy Metal)

Tetsuya Mitani – Cry No More ‘Counter Attack’ (Power Metal/Shred) [EP]

Mandrágora – Nocturnal Rites (Heavy Metal) [EP]

4 January

In Victory – Power of the Enlightened (Power Metal) [EP]

Penumbra – Silencio (Progressive Power Metal)

5 January

Forsaken Warriors – Escaping Hell (Heavy Metal)

Hellhoundz – The Battle of the Somme (Heavy Metal)

Landmine – Pioneer’s Destiny (Heavy Power Metal)

Holysword – Knights of Vyria (Power Metal) [EP]

7 January

Amoushbard – Mithra (Progressive Metal)

Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite (Progressive Metal)

10 January

Brothers of Metal – Emblas Saga (Power Metal)

Arkhanon – Capitulo IV (Astral) (Power Metal)

Hyldia – Valkyrie (Power Metal)

Raging Fate – Bloodstained Gold (Power Metal)

The Mystic Forest – Ancient Woods (Ambient Symphonic Metal)

Haunt – Mind Freeze (Heavy Metal)

Rage – Wings of Rage (Speed Metal)

Ingrimm – Auf Gedeih und Verderb (Folk Metal)

Aereum – Tempest of Time (Folk Metal)

14 January

Raven Heretic – Under the Sign (Heavy Metal)

Draconian Remains – The First Crusade (Heavy Metal)

Vocifer – Boiuna (Heavy Metal)

Андем – Моя игра (Power Metal)

17 January

Sons of Apollo – MMX (Progressive Metal)

Victorius – Space Ninjas from Hell (Power Metal)

Darktribe – Voici l’homme (Power Metal)

Dragonlore – Lucifer’s Descent (Heavy Power Metal)

Helldown – In Deaths Hands (Heavy Metal)

Mindless Sinner – Poltergeist (Heavy Metal)

Windmill – Dance of Fire and Freedom (Progressive Folk Metal)

18 January

Last Drakma – Spiritual War (Power Metal)

Fabula Rasa – Through the Molten Eye (Folk Power Metal) [EP]

24 January

Elegy of Madness – Invisible World (Symphonic Metal)

SWMM – Trail of the Fallen (Symphonic Folk Metal)

Ironsword – Servants of Steel (Heavy Power Metal)

Temperance – Viridian (Melodic Metal)

Thoughts Factory – Elements (Progressive Metal)

Wolfpakk – Nature Strikes Back (Heavy Metal)

29 January

Shadowquest – Gallows of Eden (Power Metal)

Lovebites – Electric Pentagram (Heavy Power Metal)

31 January

Amberian Dawn – Looking for You (Melodic Metal)

Invictus – Eden (Heavy Power Metal)

Serenity – The Last Knight (Progressive Symphonic Metal)

Serious Black – Suite 226 (Power Metal)

5 February

Hauk – Red Tail Rising (Folk Metal)

Nightfear – Apocalypse (Heavy Power Metal)

7 February

Delain – Apocalypse and Chill (Melodic Metal)

Ironflame – Blood Red Victory (Heavy Power Metal)

Operose – Oceans of Starlight (Progressive Symphonic Metal)

Kanseil – Cant del corlo (Folk Metal) [EP]

14 February

Anvil – Legal at Last (Heavy Power Metal)

Seven Spires – Emerald Seas (Symphonic Metal)

Diabulus In Musica – Euphonic Entropy (Symphonic Metal)

21 February

Demons & Wizards – III (Power Metal)

Secret Rule – Against (Melodic Metal)

Throne of Iron – Adventure One (Heavy Metal)

Verikalpa – Tuoppitanssi (Folk Metal)

6 March

Almanac – Rush of Death (Symphonic Power Metal)

Burning Witches – Dance with the Devil (Heavy Power Metal)

20 March

Beneath My Sins – I Decide (Symphonic Metal)

27 March

Aevum – Multiverse (Symphonic Metal)

Scarlet Aura – Stormbreaker (Symphonic Metal)

Wilderun – Veil Of Imagination Review

Score9.5/10
GenreProgressive Folk Metal
CountryUSA (Boston)
Runtime01:06:12
Release Date1 November 2019
Record LabelIndependent

Not many bands can pull off an exceptional atmospheric album so, when one does, it always gets me excited about it. One of the few (and latest) this year to accomplish such a feat are Boston’s Wilderun with their third album, Veil of Imagination. It expertly conjures deep feelings like wonder, determination, aggression, hate, fear, reflection, and everything in between. With rich orchestrations supporting it, Veil of Imagination is as colourful as its album cover would have you believe.

One of the amazing things about Veils of Imagination is how it hangs between so many genres yet doesn’t quite fit definitively into any of them. This album has been the topic of a few of my conversations lately, and everyone I talk to has a different take on what they’d consider it as. Personally, I think it fits well enough under the banner of “progressive folk”, but friends of mine have fought me on this, instead calling it things like “epic progressive death”, “progressive symphonic”, or even “atmospheric death”. The thing I find fascinating isn’t the label itself (I hardly ever get hung up on metal subgenres because they’re not absolute), it’s the fact that everyone I’ve talked to seems to have had a different experience with the album, driving them to pick out different defining characteristics about it.

The truth is, there is no right and wrong, especially when it comes to Veils of Imagination. It’ll be flowing with a light, carefree melody over bright orchestrations or acoustic guitar one second then it’ll explode into insanely harsh blast beats and gutteral vocals the next. There’s a steady, haunting undertone to the album, but it’s more apparent at some times than others.

If there’s one downside to the album, it’s that it only really works if you listen to it all at once. Each song is dynamic and holds it own, sure, but to get that special, full impact, listening to the entire thing is a necessity.

So, if you want to hear one of the best metal albums of the entire year, make damn sure to give Veil of Imagination a spin. This is my first experience with Wilderun but, after this, I’m ready to dive into their previous work.

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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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Rumahoy – Time II: Party Review

Score9/10
GenreFolk Power Metal (Pirate Metal)
CountryArgentina
Runtime38:29
Release Date25 October 2019
Record LabelIndependent

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.

As with any comedic metal band, like Nanowar, Alestorm, Tenacious D, or Gloryhammer, the jokes and humour are definitely important, but the true key to success is the music itself. If you take away the hilarity of the lyrics, the music should still be able to hold its own, otherwise the act gets pretty old pretty fast. Fortunately, the talented Rumahoy have fucking nailed their songwriting, so, while you’re not busy laughing your ass of at things like “Hooks out for Harambe!” and “pirate erection”, you can appreciate the musical arrangements almost as much.

As far as contrast goes, these party pirates have nailed that, too. ‘1000 Years of Dust’ brings a darker, heavier sound than the rest of the album (as you’d expect from a song about pirates kidnapped by mummies), and there’s the electropop dance tune ‘Poop Deck Party’ which features some unexpected rapping by Gloryhammer/Alestorm founder Christoper Bowes. Every track on the album commands a contagious, heroic energy, along with anthemic “yo-ho-ho”s, “oogachaga”s, or similar chantable choruses and killer grooves and riffs. Group that together with clean mixing and a tight band, and you’ve got yourself an unstoppable pirate force.

If you like your pirate metal with a heavy serving of sick riffs, ripping solos, jokes about poop, and the occasional cheesy keyboards, this album is exactly what you need. Rumahoy have effortlessly outdone all of their competition with Time II: Party. It’s fun, it’s clever, and it’s crazy good.

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