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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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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Ethereal Kingdoms – Hollow Mirror Review

Score3/10
GenreSymphonic Metal
CountryDenmark
Runtime43:15
Release Date11 October 2019
Record LabelMighty Music

Symphonic metal is a little pretentious on the best of days, but Ethereal Kingdom are in another realm entirely. Their debut album, the aptly-named Hollow Mirror, is about as hollow as it gets, but it’s pretentious enough to make even a bitchy blonde trust-fund girl seem humble. Seriously. The band’s whole schtick rides on the back of juxtaposing tranquil lows with dissonant highs as if it’s a revolutionary idea (which, if you’ve ever listened to symphonic or gothic metal, you’d know it isn’t).

To be clear, though, it’s not this dark/light idea that is responsible for Hollow Mirror‘s downfall. No; it’s far, far more than that. The culprit here is, well, damn-near everything. The execution is bad, the songwriting is bad, the melodies are crap, and the vocals are in their own, keyless world.

But, before I tear this poor album to shreds, I’d better get the good stuff out in the open. The drums are actually pretty good to the point where they far out-perform every other aspect of the album combined. They craft some solid grooves and vicious blast beats but they also manage to keep everything more-or-less tied together, despite some awkwardly structured songs and messy backing keyboards. Additionally, the rhythm guitars, while very straightforward, aren’t bad at all.

But, yeah. That’s it. Think the album’s hopeless now? Well, until you hear it, you’ll have no fucking clue just how hopeless it is. It’s almost as if Ethereal Kingdoms intentionally tried to make a shitty album. All you have to do is listen to one of the many passages with rough vocals and this becomes ever clearer. Courtesy of the band’s vocalist Sofia Schmidt, they sound like they were sung by someone who was trying to make fun of screamo, and that’s putting it nicely. But the vocals don’t stop there; Miss Schmidt also sings the finest out-of-tune soprano I’ve heard in a while, in a manner so boringly that it’s almost impressive. It also doesn’t help that the vocal lines are written like crap to begin with.

Aside from awkward, jagged, uninspired songs (especially ‘Endings’ and ‘Apparition’. Jesus Christ.) and an awful lead, the album has two more crucial pitfalls. The first is the incredibly dissonant violin (which I think might actually be fucking intentional, for whatever reason) which I’m convinced is played by a seven year old. The second comes in the form of spoken sections in most of the songs which try to tell some sort of story. Although, even after numerous listens, I have no idea what that story is because I spent equal amounts of time laughing and cringing while listening to it.

Needless to say, I don’t recommend Hollow Haze. That is, unless you’re looking for some scarily-bad music to play at your Halloween party, in which case it’s exactly what you need! All jokes aside, Ethereal Kingdoms have entered the metal world on such a low note that, if they decide to actually pursue a second album, they have nowhere to go but up.

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Dawn Of Destiny – The Beast Inside Review

Score8/10
GenreMelodic/Power Metal
CountryGermany
Runtime56:26
Release Date4 October 2019
Record LabelRam It Down

These days, it’s incredibly difficult to carve out your own distinct space in the metal world. Among the billion or so new bands that come out by the year, it’s simply a numbers game at this point; no matter what your sound is, chances are it’s been done before. Usually, anyway. So, when a band like Dawn of Destiny comes around with a new album, it’s enough to ignite my curiosity. To say that The Beast Inside is unique would be a bit of an understatement. Seriously. It’s so unique that I can’t directly compare its sound to another band or album. Not that I’ve heard every metal record ever (because, obviously, I haven’t), but I’ve listened to my fair share of melodic and power metal, so that should say something.

However, that doesn’t make their sound indescribable or anything of the sort. Most simply, The Beast Inside is a mashup of gothic, progressive, symphonic, and power metal. This fundamental mix is hardly groundbreaking, but the way in which Dawn of Destiny differs from any band I can think of is the way it twists this combination into unconventional songwriting and interesting melodies. The first track, ‘The Beast Inside a Beauty’ is a great example of this. Starting with a light music box melody, it brings the attitude of gothic and symphonic metal together with the driving energy of power metal. It’s also the perfect preview to the album’s overall sound and (although the next two tracks aren’t quite as good) it starts the album off on a high note.

So, yeah, it’s got a unique sound, but what about the musicians? I’m glad you asked! In short, this is a fucking talented group. Jen Faber brings a big, beefy guitar tone to his chugging riffs and, on drums, Philipp Bock goes beyond your basic time-keeping by keeping the grooves dynamic. And those guitar solos? Holy fuck. There are some serious gems, especially in ‘It’s My Fate’. The highlight, though, is Jeanette Scherff‘s strong vocal style. She sings far lower and with way more bravado than you usually hear in this kind of music, making the already-solid choruses even more memorable. Her voice is actually very similar to original Battle Beast and current Burning Point vocalist Nitte Valo. Tying the whole thing together are the keyboards, courtesy of Dirk Raczkiewicz, which fill out the background nicely.

Despite all the praise I have for The Beast Inside, it isn’t perfect. ‘Peace of Mind’ is pretty weak to the point where the album could easily do without it. But, other than the odd awkward verse melody and section, this is pretty much it for shortcomings, which isn’t bad at all, if you ask me.

All things considered, The Beast Inside is an awesome 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!

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Beyond Forgiveness – Live To Tell The Story Review

Score7.5/10
GenreSymphonic Gothic Metal
CountryUSA
Runtime54:07
Release Date23 September 2019
Record LabelSliptrick

Symphonic gothic metal as a whole has a limit as to how much can be done with it. Or, at least, it’s never been done very far from your typical Within Temptation/After Forever/Tristania sound: aggressive instrumentation behind a (usually) soft female soprano, choirs, strings, and an in-your-face juxtaposition of “darkness and light”, either with that aforementioned instrumentation or through the use of clashing growls and operatic vocals, or both. I like it when it’s done well, but I’m always left dissatisfied, wanting something that ventures a bit off the well-beaten path.

Fortunately, Beyond Forgiveness’ Live to Tell the Story comes pretty close to satiating my gothic metal desires. Yeah, it has all that stuff I just mentioned that most other bands in the space have, but there are two key components that bring it above a good portion of them; it lacks the vapid pretension that is ever-too common in gothic music and it has a whole lot of heart.

What do I mean by “vapid pretension”? Well, it seems that every time you listen to a gothic metal record, you’re attacked with emotional messages (which aren’t subtle or tasteful at all) and it’s forced down your throat like bad Chinese. The bands always try way too hard to emphasize that their music is deep but, in reality, it’s the same shit that you’d find in the journal of an unimaginative emo kid’s diary, only with instruments attached. Come on. If your music has emotional meaning, we should be able to feel it ourselves without you reassuring us every five fucking seconds that it’s special. Anyway, Beyond Forgiveness doesn’t do that, and instead you can feel all of the pain, beauty, aggression, mourning, and longing in the music without much effort, which is a huge plus.

Needless to say, the whole album feels pretty natural. Every track has highs and lows, as well as a good mix of harsh growls, male vocals, female vocals, and operatic vocals of both genders. Some tracks are definitely heavier than others, like the very melodeathy ‘One Last Time’ and ‘Labyrinth’, but there are plenty of light, angelic moments that round the album out. There is a bit of excess that could be stripped away, like most (or all) of ‘When Rivers Turn Red’, but the songwriting is otherwise at the top of its game. Complete with passionate-sounding, talented musicians (especially the drummer, Sean Rogers), Live to Tell the Story is as well-equiped as it could be.

This album isn’t without a few flaws, but it comes damn close to being everything I want in a gothic metal album. Seeing as it’s only Beyond Forgiveness’ second album, I think it’s safe to say that their third (if it comes) will be something special.

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Releases This Week (April Week 2)

Singles, singles, singles! No, not the sexy kind in your area, but the musical ones that are there for you when no one else is. I’ve fallen a bit behind recently, but now I’m mostly caught up with my metal, so here are the noteworthy releases of the week.

For more recent updates, click the ‘News’ tab up top!

Singles

Gloryhammer – Gloryhammer

To give us a taste of the upcoming Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex, power metal cheesemasters Gloryhammer have unveiled a selftitled single. It’s an extremely promising track, so don’t forget to check out Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex when it arrives on 31 May!

Gloryhammer – Gloryhammer (Napalm)

Aeternitas – Child of the Darkness

Symphonic/Gothic troupe Aeternitas have rerecorded ‘Child of the Darkness’, from their 2018 album Tales of the Grotesque, with new vocalist Alex Hunzinger. Hunzinger was already the band’s guitarist and backing vocalist but, after Oliver Bandmann’s departure, he took on the responsibility of lead vocals alongside Julia Marou.

The track is pretty poppy as far as gothic metal goes, but the instrumentation, steady rhythm guitars, and powerful dual vocals create an enjoyable and undoubtably-metal experience.

Aeternitas – Child of the Darkness (Massacre)

Deep Sun – Worship the Warship

Do you want to bang it out to futuristic symphonic metal that isn’t shitty pretentious bullshit? Look no further than Deep Sun. Somehow, this single is the first I’ve heard of them, but ‘Worship the Warship’ is nothing short of awesome. The electronic synths, heavy riffs, and melodic vocals of Debora Lavagnolo have me hooked and I can’t wait to check out their sophomore record, Das Erbe der Welt, which surfaces on 29 April!

Deep Sun – Worship the Warship (Massacre)

TIR – Lasciateci Fare

Italy’s leading true metal band TIR have put out another single for their upcoming Metal Shock, which will be available on 10 May. With TIR, the music’s super straightforward and what you see is what you get, but any fan of classic metal should give this track a listen.

Tir – Lasciateci Fare (Gates of Hell)

Visigoth – Fireseeker

Acclaimed heavy metal outfit Visigoth have unleashed a new single, ‘Fireseeker’, in anticipation of their upcoming EP. It’s exactly what’s to be expected of them: no-frills, badass heavy metal!

Visigoth took the metal world by storm last year with Conqueror’s Oath. Many critics praised it as one of the best (if not the best) metal albums of the year, which begs the question: will their upcoming Bells of Awakening live up to expectations? Check it out on 24 May and decide for yourself!

Visigoth – Fireseeker (Metal Blade)

Sweet Oblivion – True Colors

Frontiers Records has announced a new heavyweight metal project featuring original Queensryche vocalist Geoff Tate, entitled Sweet Oblivion. Spearheaded by the Italian guitarist Simone Mularoni (of the prog metal bands DGM, Empyrios), the project also consists of keyboardist Emanuele Casali (DGM, ex-Empyrios) and Paolo Caridi on drums.

The group’s first single, ‘True Colors’, has accompanied the announcement. Like the rest of the album, it aims for a sound similar to Queensryche’s older material. The self-titled album is set for release on 14 June.

Sweet Oblivion – True Colors (Frontiers)

Majestica – Rising Tide

Symphonic power metal outfit Majestica (formerly ReinXeed) have made a couple big announcements this week; they have released their first single, ‘Rising Tide’, of their upcoming album, as well as confirmed the title: Above the Sky. It’s straight-up, happy power metal, but I’m very excited to check out the full record on 7 June.

Majestica – Rising Tide (Nuclear Blast)

Tanith – Citadel

Heavy metal newcomers Tanith are soon to hit the scene with their debut record: In Another Time. But until 24 May hits us, we have ‘Citadel’ to give us a feel for what’s to come.

And, if I’m being completely honest, this is hard rock/heavy metal done superbly. The dual vocals of Cindy Maynard and Russ Tippins, colorful drums and old-school shredding are excellent and manage to stay away from being too derivative.

Tanith – Citadel (Metal Blade)

Floating Worlds – The Curse

The dissonant second single for Floating World’s upcoming concept album is a choir-fueled, dooming ride. With so much diversity between this and Floating World’s other music that has already been released from Battleship Oceania, it’s certain that 17 May will feature an exciting adventure!

Floating Worlds – The Curse (Pride & Joy)

Albums and EPs

Solarus – Darkest Days

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 female-fronted power metal they’ve produced is dynamic, impressive, and just an all-around fucking blast!

Check out my review here!

Solarus – Requiem for the Fallen

Valence – Cognitive Dissidents

Valence are an incredibly talented group of instrumental proggers. Cognitive Dissidents is fun, fluid, and will take you for a fucking ride! The whole album has a bouncy feel to it and is stylistically closer to jam/jazz fusion in the breath of early Snarky Puppy, but obviously much heavier. Regardless of genre, you can tell that these guys absolutely love what they’re doing

Want the review? Here you go.

Valence – Cognitive Dissidents

Northwind Saga – Mythological World (EP)

For the life of me, I couldn’t find this fucking EP anywhere. Despite the fact that I still haven’t actually listened to it because Japanese music is, for some stupid reason, intentionally elusive, this trailer is great and I want more.

So, obviously, no review for this one (yet!).

Northwind Saga – Mythological World Trailer

Oh, and, here’s this week’s Sabaton History! This one’s a bit different from the others; it covers the Battle of Verdun, from Sabaton’s upcoming album The Great War! The single is set to release on 3 May, so until then, this is all we get to go off!

Sabaton HIstory 010 – Fields of Verdun

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Leviathane – Ready to Run Review

Score2/10
GenreMelodic Gothic Metal
CountrySwitzerland
Runtime53:10
Release Date1 Mar 2019
Record LabelIndependent

It’s not often I find it truly aching to finish listening to an album, but fuck me is this one rough. Between the terrible mixing and the lazy songwriting, it’s difficult to pinpoint where exactly Ready to Run goes wrong. I haven’t heard Leviathane’s first record (and I pray the gods never make me), so I have no scope what these guys are capable of, but, judging by this record, it’s not very much.

Sometimes you can give a band a bit of a pass (or at least mercy) because they’re just having fun playing with their buddies and don’t care too much about pitch or production quality or music at all, but there’s no sign of joy or cohesion here. You expect a certain level of simplicity in gothic metal, but this is something else. Sometimes it sounds like they really tried to make intricate music, like in ‘Amnesy’, but it ends up being a mess of parts that neither complement each other nor go together. Also, I don’t know what the fuck these guys did to piss off their keyboard player, but every one of the background parts fight hard with the rest of the band.

Going along perfectly with the rest of the musical aspects, the soloing in this album is also numbingly simple. When I was a kid, I played trombone in my middle school jazz band. I remember playing a solo for ‘Louie, Louie’ and thinking to myself, “I’m playing all of the notes in the blues scale at complete random, so why the hell does it sound like garbage?”. The point is, I then realized that solos are not, in fact, random notes played on random beats: a lesson Leviathane seems to not quite have grasped.

Another huge issue with Ready to Run is the intonation. How in the world can you possibly release an album and not redo the parts that sound like crap? Is it on purpose? For Christ’s sake, the VERY FIRST SENTENCE in ‘Why’ (which starts out promising, by the way.) is so far out of tune that I thought it was going to be a Middle Eastern tune. But, nope, Cornelia was just looking all over the god damn place for the right pitch.

The things keeping this record from being a one are few, but they’re there. Thomas Kuni’s drumming is actually good, and at some points, great. He lays down some cool fills here and there and his grooves are by far the most complex element of the album. It seems like he tries his hardest to bring the band together, but there’s so much dissonance and poor playing that his efforts are all but wasted. There is also a decent solo in ‘To Close In’.

There haven’t been many things that have had me so Ready to Run the fuck away, but this record does a damn good job at that. To save you an hour of your life, I’ll give you a bit of an analogy so you get a clearer idea of this album: imagine that insufferable bimbo you know (but can’t get her out of your life because she’s your partner’s best friend or something, we all know one of those) decided to go make a metal record with some middle-aged guys she met at the liquor store who never got anywhere in life but blame it on the illuminati school system rather than their rampant and excessive heroin use, who then proceed to record it on a voice recorder. That’s basically what this is. Enjoy.

Leviathane – Ready to Run

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Imperia – Flames of Eternity Review

Score4/10
GenreGothic Symphonic/Power Metal
CountryInternational
Runtime58:51
Release Date22 Feb 2019
Record LabelMassacre

This album starts off with a fucking bang. The orchestrations are juicy, the rhythm parts pound away, and Helena Michaelsen’s voice leads your ear like a lighthouse in a storm. It’s dynamic, expressive, and easily takes its place even as one of Imperia’s best tracks ever. A flame is ignited in your heart as you anticipate what’s to come.

But then, it happens. You’re left wondering where the ‘The Scarred Soul”s promises of grandeur and hard-hitting symphonic metal have gone, as they’re replaced only by the disorienting flurry of conflicting instrumentals and a whirlwind of shattered dreams and betrayal until you’re left musically starved and stranded on the desert island that is uninspiration.

Ok, it’s not that bad, but it’s not great, either. I definitely expected way more from this record, especially from that first song, but it’s a really mediocre product from a band that has otherwise seemed to know what they were doing with their previous four albums. Each track continues the downward spiral of quality, with bits and pieces here and there that tease better things that never come to fruition. The progressions and melodies are extremely predictable, and the orchestrations and songwriting are sloppy at best.

Honestly, there’s not a whole lot that I like about this album. The production quality is clean, but the symphonic elements are mixed way too loudly. Most of what keeps the album afloat are the guitar solos, which are pretty good and easily overshadow everything else, except maybe Helena’s beautiful vocals.

There’s no shortage of variety in Flames of Eternity as far as feel goes, but the underlying tone doesn’t vary much. There are some slow (albeit not super great) songs, such as ‘Book of Love’ and ‘Beauty Within’, as well as some fiery features like ‘Blinded’ (which, quite honestly, made me cringe a bit from Helena’s operatic vocals). However, variety is meaningless if the music lacks substance and quality.

Needless to say, this album lacks any sort of fire whatsoever. It’s not crap, but it’s not good, either. Grap? Crood, maybe? Anyway, I think a huge part of the problem is that Imperia is trying way to fucking hard with this one, especially considering the fact that the four core members have been together for fifteen years. It feels neither sincere nor heartfelt, which is especially crucial in a gothic symphonic band. Go ahead and check it out if you think I’m full of shit, though. Maybe the entire thing went over my head.

Imperia – Fear Is An Illusion (Massacre)

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