Frozen Crown – Crowned In Frost Review

Score8.5/10
GenrePower Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime47:46
Release Date22 Mar 2019
Record LabelScarlet

Frozen Crown arrived on the power metal scene in a blizzard with last year’s debut, The Fallen King. Their mix of melodeath and power metal combined with a strong female lead and insanely good musicianship made them a formidable force right out of the gate. And to prove their legitimacy further, Frozen Crown have hardly stopped long enough to catch their breath. They’ve wasted no time or effort in the making of their second record, Crowned in Frost, and have produced yet another exceptional slab of metal.

‘Arctic Gales’ begins the record with climbing dual guitar lines and actually does a decent job at setting the mood for what’s to come (it always surprises the shit out of me when the intro tracks in metal albums are actually good, so bonus points here). As we venture further into the album, we encounter countless strong melodies, heavy riffs, and layers of different vocals. They’re primarily driven by the powerful Jade Etro, but there are many male harmonies, as well as a touch of rough vocals, as in ‘Winterfall’ and ‘Crowned in Frost’.

While the vocals are superb and Alberto Mezzanotte does a phenomenal job pounding the shit out of every single beat that he lays down, special attention simply must be paid to the guitar work. The riffs created between lead guitarist and songwriter Federico Mondelli (who also does the keys) and Talia Bellazecca (who’s only 18) are definitely the highlight of the album. Their synergistic shredding hits harder than an iceberg and, by the gods, are Mondelli‘s solos fantastic.

Another thing I enjoy in this album is the mixing and mastering. It’s mixed more like a heavy metal album than a power metal album, which gives it more of an edge, and it really works for this grittier style of power metal. The balance is also great and I can actually hear the fucking bass guitar (courtesy of Filippo Zavattari), which is more than I can say for ninety percent of the metal that I come across. The bass is often lost in the midst of an overbearing kick, especially in newer bands, so this professional touch goes a long way for me.

As mentioned before, there’s a staggering amount of variety in this record, with influences ranging from numerous different genres. ‘Battles in the Night’ is an old school, steady banger, whereas tunes like ‘In the Dark’ and ‘Forever’ pound away with a similar positive energy as Gamma Ray and more conventional power metal. And then there’s the meaner, harsher tracks like ‘Unspoken’, which is just fucking colossal.

Crowned in Frost already sets itself apart from its predecessor. There’s a larger bulk of heavy metal influence this time around, and it’s clear that Frozen Crown has grown more frigid with age. With two albums of increasing quality already under their belt, I think it’s safe to say that the next album will be at least as impressive as this one.

Frozen Crown – Neverending (Scarlet)

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Iron Savior – Kill Or Get Killed Review

Score7/10
GenreHeavy/Power Metal
CountryGermany
Runtime53:56
Release Date15 Mar 2019
Record LabelAFM

Since their inception in the mid-90s, Iron Savior have been an iconic name in German power metal. With more than twenty years behind them and a new record about every two years, these guys are still going as strong as ever.

Kill or Get Killed is business as usual: cranked bass, hooky hooks, and gloriously-heavy guitars. With a method and style that have remained all but unchanged for almost their entire career, Iron Savior are great at doing what they know and executing it masterfully. The rhythm section is about as beefed up as Ronnie Coleman in his heyday (but has aged way fucking better) and the choruses retain their familiar, catchy melodies.

The band continues to play with the same vitality and vigour that it always has; there is no limit to the power behind Piet Sielck’s mountainous bellows, which, for a guy who’s half a decade from sixty, is quite the feat. Conversely, Joachim Küstner’s exquisite shredding has only grown finer with time. There are no real highlights on this record because most of the songs have the same formula and structure. Despite the blatant and intentional lack of variety, this metal is hard as Hell, which is all I really care about at the end of the day.

In the originality department, Kill or Get Killed gets a zero-and-a-half. However, nobody expects anything new from these guys. They have their shtick and it works really fucking well, so why bother trying to break new ground? It’s evident that these guys are in it for their undying love for metal and their passion is in the forefront of every song.

This album is great, plain and simple.

Iron Savior – Stand Up and Fight (AFM)

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Gloryhammer Announces Tracklist For Upcoming Album

Cosmic power metal outfit Gloryhammer has announced the tracklist to their upcoming Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex, which will be their third album release.

The tracklist is as follows:
1. Into the Terrorvortex of Kor-Virliath
2. The Siege of Dunkeld (In Hoots We Trust)
3. Masters of the Galaxy
4. The Land of Unicorns
5. Power of the Laser Dragon Fire
6. Legendary Enchanted Jetpack
7. Gloryhammer
8. Hootsforce
9. Battle for Eternity
10. The Fires of Ancient Cosmic Destiny

Here’s the official album description.

The thrilling third chapter of the GLORYHAMMER saga – Truly the greatest power metal album of all time!
Mighty warriors of the galaxy, the time has come: Gloryhammer have forged their third album! The next thrilling chapter of the heroes around mastermind Christopher Bowes (Alestorm) awaits! The spies of Emperor Zargothrax are everywhere, which is why Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex has been secretly recorded in an undisclosed location in the highlands of Scotland with producer Lasse Lammert. Mighty fanfares guide the listener into his journey through the Terrorvortex – and only the bravest warriors will make it out of this maelstrom, clad in triumphant power metal and epic orchestral backgrounds. Could there be a more hypnotizing and beautiful place than the gloriously symphonic ‘Land of Unicorns’? We doubt it.
FOR THE ETERNAL GLORY OF DUNDEE!

Gloryhammer will also be releasing various editions.

The Single CD and Casette Tape will include the regular album tracklist.

The Black, Gold, and Red two-LP vinyls and 2-CD Digipak contain an additional symphonic version of the album, as performed by the Evil Orchestra of Cumbernauld.

And, for you big spenders, the Deluxe Box offers:
-LTD Digipak
-7″ Single Vinyl (with exclusive bonus track)
-Coverflag (150cmx100cm)
-Art Print Card
-Medal of Glory

You can order all this stuff here.

Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex will be available 31 March.

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Queensrÿche – The Verdict Review

Score8/10
GenreProgressive Heavy Metal
CountryU.S.A.
Runtime44:14
Release Date1 Mar 2019
Record LabelCentury Media

For a band that’s been around as long as Queensryche, a steady decline in quality is to be expected with each new release (especially when there was nothing but drama and bullshit in the late 90s/00s, when former frontman Geoff Tate was still part of the show). However, Queensryche’s comeback in 2013 with their self titled album was mighty, mainly due to new vocalist Todd La Torre. Fortunately, The Verdict continues the momentum that began with Queensryche and through Condition Human, leaving us with a solid piece of metal that earns its place among Queensryche’s classics.

The band is tight and the songs are, in a word, dynamic. Each track is an adventure all on its own because it’s impossible to know where it’ll take you. The keyboards are only sprinkled throughout, usually to highlight instrumentals or back up transitional sections: an attribute that makes the entire album seamless and enthusiastic. Less is definitely more in this regard.

La Torre proves himself as quite the force; with regular drummer Scott Rockenfield on hiatus, La Torre also mans the drums and does a damn good job, to say the least. He lays down tasty groove after tasty groove (especially in the choruses of ‘Light-Years’, where the pattering is nonstop) and rarely carries a monotonous beat.

In addition to dynamic songs and impressive musicianship, this album offers plenty of variety. ‘Dark Reverie’ is relatively light but still carries a steady energy. Going a step further, the closer, ‘Portrait’, is very laid back and atmospheric. There’s also ‘Launder the Conscience’, which has so many ups and downs that it’ll keep you on your toes, and the steady beating of ‘Man the Machine’ is lively and features some awesome shredding.

The Verdict proves once again that cohesion is far stronger than any amount of skill or experience. For a progressive/heavy album, while not exceptionally technical, it flows incredibly smoothly, with each song transitioning into the next with an ease that’s akin to a concept album. It’s blindingly evident that Queensryche’s current lineup is a match made in Hell that will likely only get better with time.

Queensryche – Man the Machine (Century Media)

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Brymir – Wings of Fire Review

Score8.5/10
GenreSymphonic MeloDeath Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime47:22
Release Date8 Mar 2019
Record LabelRanka Kustannus

I’ve said before (as I’m sure many others have) that melodic death metal is just extreme power metal with harsh vocals. Nowhere is this more apparent in Finnish outfit Brymir, whose rough vocals are the only thing holding it back from being outright power metal. The keyboards are many, the guitars are clean, and it’s epic as all hell. Axeman Joona Björkroth once again demonstrates his fearsome shredding skill (which is fortunate, because Battle Beast’s upcoming No More Hollywood Endings all but denied him the chance to play to his capabilities).

I must say, even if I try I can’t quite compare Brymir directly to anything else because of how blatantly unique it is. The closest band that I know of would probably be Wintersun, but even they aren’t very similar. So, in that department, Brymir scores serious points. However, even though each song is very dynamic, with booming highs to placid lows and everything in between, there’s a limited amount of variety among the song selection. That isn’t really an issue, though, because the songs are so fucking good.

Wings of Fire has a lot to offer for the power metal fan and extreme metal fan alike. The guitar melodies and solos are often uplifting and immensely impressive, but there’s no shortage of doom-inducing choirs and intense blast beats, as in ‘Sphere of Halcyon’ and ‘Ride on, Spirit’. Overall, there’s a fifty-fifty split between the symphonic and metal elements, which would make the music more accurately described as soundtrack metal than melodic death metal.

On a side note, one thought that I haven’t been able to shake is the fact that, aside from the vocals, pretty much every song sounds like a boss battle theme. Seriously, just try to tell me that you don’t notice it, too; all the orchestral parts and pounding drums make me feel like I’m about to get my ass handed to me in Dark Souls or something (yes, I know that there are no “pounding drums” in Dark Souls, but I digress).

There are few highlights for me on this record because it’s very much a team effort. That being said, the opener, ‘Gloria in Regum’, is my favourite track. It hits fast and hard, with chugging riffs and epic choirs, and the rhythm section shots are excellent. It also features Battle Beast’s Noora Louhimo (although you’d never notice her) and a wicked solo from Björkroth.

With three albums so far, Brymir has never failed to produce something individual and new. Wings of Fire is an exceptional piece of work, and its blend of electronics, death metal, and orchestras feels natural and allows a richly deep sound. This group has a bright future ahead and, if their next album is half as entertaining as this one, I eagerly await their next release.

Brymir – Wings of Fire (Ranka Kustannus)

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News This Week (March Week 1)

While tons of singles came out this week, ninety-five percent of them were absolute bullshit. However, there were plenty of album releases (with a couple that are sure to be contenders in March’s Top Ten) that make it all worthwhile, and even a couple singles which were good enough to be mentioned here.

There wasn’t much in the way of news or announcements, but if I missed anything noteworthy, call me out!

Singles

Atlas Pain – Kia Kaha

Epic folk metal group Atlas Pain released ‘Kia Kaha’, from their upcoming record, Tales of a Pathfinder, which will be available on 19 April. The first minute or two are just ambient sounds and samples, but once the light and uplifting instrumentals begin, you’ll be glad you waited. This track contains a fair amount of pirate energy and will be a hit with any fan of the genre.

Atlas Pain – Kia Kaha (Scarlet Records)

Voyager – Brightstar

Voyager is a prog band from Australia which I had never even heard of before this week. I’m not really upset about that, though, because it’s pretty indie rock/underground electronic for my taste. It’s not bad, but it lacks any sort of oomph or energy. If you want to hear something different for a change, though, check out ‘Brightstar’.

Voyager – Brightstar (Season of Mist)

Iron Savior – Stand Up and Fight

This just might be the most expensive music video made ever in the history of anything.

As Kill or Get Killed draws nearer (next week, in fact), Iron Savior has released another colossal single. ‘Stand Up and Fight’ is my favourite so far, largely because of that nasty fucking guitar solo.

Iron Savior – Stand Up and Fight (AFM)

Albums

Stonecast – I Earther

Stonecast rocks seriously fucking hard. Their strong energy will draw you in and their anthemic hooks will make you stay. Their third album, I Earther, is no exception. This earthy metal is sturdy and its sound is nothing short of mountainous. It’s got great musicians, excellent songwriting, and has massive replayability. This album is rock-solid and will pound its way into your heart. (These rock puns doing anything for you?)

Catch the full review here!

Stonecast – Goddess of Rain (Pitch Black)

Queensrÿche – The Verdict

While The Verdict is Queensryche’s worst album in recent years, it’s still pretty good. No new ground has been broken; it’s pretty similar to their 90s material, but many of the songs have a grunge underbelly. In all honesty, though, I’m just glad that all of the legal bullshit and drama has stayed at bay and allowed Queensryche to keep producing records.

Queensryche – Blood of the Levant (Century Media)

Warrior Path – Warrior Path

This album is insanely fucking good. Being forged under Greek guitarist/composer Andreas Sinanoglou, it also features vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos (ex Wardrum, Beast In Black) and guitarist/keyboardist Bob Katsionis (Firewind), making for quite the lineup. Now, I’m pretty biased to all things Yannis, so I’ll try to avoid talking too much about how his already-impressive vocal versatility is demonstrated in yet another new way or how he absolutely fucking masters old school heavy metal singing too much.

Well, shit. I tried.

Ok, I didn’t try at all.

Besides the vocals, the songs are very well written (a trait that is often missing from traditional metal bands), the solos and riffs are heavy, and the slow parts are beautiful. You’ll come back to this record a few times; I guarantee it.

Warrior Path – Warrior Path [Full Album] (Symmetric Records)

Iron Fire – Beyond the Void

Let it be known that Iron Fire is king in the land of heavy metal. After twenty years in the studio, not a single one of their records has lost any heat, and they’ve perhaps hit the pinnacle of their career in their ninth: Beyond the Void. These heavy metal veterans show absolutely no sign of slowing down, and it’s greatly reassuring to see them continuously produce nothing but excellence.

Now, I’m not exaggerating when I say the songwriting is fantastic. No song sets into one feel, and the molten-hot solo sections, especially in titular track, have some serious underlying grooves. Honestly, while Kirk Backarach’s soloing is awesome, the rhythm section underneath is just as good.

Read more about it here.

Iron Fire – Beyond the Void (Crime)

Týr – Hel

I’ve never really been a fan or Tyr, largely because the vocal style and effects remind me so much of Volbeat that I can’t even stand it. Volbeat needs to retreat far, far into the shadows and never plague us with its bootlegged ‘metal’ again.

Anyway, I do know that Tyr is hugely popular in both progressive and folk metal, and I also know that these songs are really good (even though I can’t enjoy them). So, check out the track below. If you like it, you’ll love the album. If you can’t stand it, know that you’re not alone.

TÝR – Ragnars Kvæði (Metal Blade)

Darkwater – Human

Darkwater’s Human is very late-Dream-Theatery at its core (but not anything like Distance over Time, which is something entirely different) , but the hooks are catchy and the numerous symphonic, choir, and keyboard tracks that are consistently scattered throughout the album add a lot of depth. The solos and grooves are pretty tame by prog standards but these guys do an excellent job at proving that you don’t need to be shredding like a fucking madman for an entire ten minute song in order to be a successful prog musician.

All things considered, this album is great.

You can read my review here!

Darkwater – In Front of You (Ulterium)

The Raven Age – Conspiracy

I usually don’t listen to groove metal, but I find myself enjoying this album very much. It has an almost emo metal sound with a metalcore rhythm section and melodic choruses. It’s nothing new by any stretch, but edgy 13-year-old me definitely approves.

The Raven Age – The Day the World Stood Still

Bonus!

Oh, I almost forgot! Here’s this week’s Sabaton History episode.

Sabaton History 005 – Last Dying Breath

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Iron Fire – Beyond The Void Review

Score9/10
GenreHeavy Metal
CountryDenmark
Runtime44:08
Release Date8 Mar 2019
Record LabelCrime

Let it be known that Iron Fire is king in the land of heavy metal. After twenty years in the forge, not a single one of their records has lost any heat, and they’ve perhaps hit the pinnacle of their career in their ninth: Beyond the Void. Each member of the trio shines bright and their mastery and cohesion don’t go unnoticed.

I’m not exaggerating when I say the songwriting is fantastic. No song sets into one feel, and the molten-hot solo sections, especially in titular track, have some serious underlying grooves. Honestly, while Kirk Backarach’s soloing is awesome, the rhythm section underneath is just as good. I mean, it’s to be expected that bandmates that’ve been together for as long as Iron Fire has will play incredibly well with each other. The melodies, both in the verses and choruses, are catchy and fun without becoming monotonous as the album goes on. Additionally, the production quality is the same as usual: slightly lo-fi (but never messy) with the bass absolutely cranked in the best way possible.

While each song carries a massive amount of weight, some are just fucking colossal. ‘To Hell and Back’ begins with a spine-splitting double-time beat until we’re met with Martin Steene’s rough vocals (which I think are used just the right amount), and the momentum carries on until its end. Another bone-crushingly heavy tune is ‘Wrong Turn’. If the blasting chorus isn’t enough for you, the solo section will surely get the job done.

Iron Fire’s Beyond the Void is the best heavy metal album I’ve heard in a long-ass time. It roars and bellows until its final breath and will definitely have you coming back time and time again. These heavy metal veterans show absolutely no sign of slowing down, and it’s greatly reassuring to see these guys continuously producing nothing but excellence.

Iron Fire – Beyond the Void (Crime Records)

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Meridian – Margin Of Error Review

Score6.5/10
GenreMelodic/Heavy
CountryDenmark
Runtime50:07
Release Date22 Mar 2019
Record LabelMighty Music

In a world where mediocre and experimental metal outfits stir up a storm of over-saturation, Danish outfit Meridian’s third record, Margin Of Error, offers a journey that rarely strays from its course. There’s not a bad song on the album and there’s excellent musicianship displayed by all. There is a limited amount of variety in the song selection, but the album is nonetheless enjoyable.

The overall sound is heavy, with many classically-influenced dual guitar riffs, especially apparent in ‘Scream For Me’, and plenty of decent groves in songs such as ‘Circle The Drain’ and the titular track. However, not a lot really stick out and there’s nothing truly exceptional about the music.

Except for one thing. Martin Andersen’s guitar solos in don’t take any shit. He’s an absolute shredder. There are often multiple per song, but they never overtake the band or wear out their welcome. The guitar fx are applied tastefully and add some tasty flavour to the already awesome shredding.

A few solos deserve some special attention. Each ripping solo in ‘Disconnect’ is full of facemelting energy. The one in ‘Drowning The Miracle’ is interesting and, strangely enough, sounds like a Matt Bellamy solo (you know, before Muse sold out and started producing absolute fucking garbage). My personal favourite, however, is played in ‘The Fate Of Atlantis’; it may not be the best one on the record, but I really love well-done solos on slower tunes.

You know what, while I’m on the topic, I’d better mention the solos in ‘Scream For Me’ and ‘Margin Of Error’. And ‘In Nothingness’. And ‘Fragments Of A Life’. Fuck it. Just listen to all of them. They’re really good.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this album. It’s straightforward, it’s fun, and it’s true heavy metal. Lars Märker does a wonderful job with his strong, clean, and expressive vocals. The high point for me, obviously, is the colourful soloing. But, don’t take my word for it. Go check it out!

Originally written for metal-observer.com

Battle Beast – No More Hollywood Endings Review

Score7/10
GenreHard Rock/Heavy Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime53:29
Release Date22 Mar 2019
Record LabelNuclear Blast

Battle Beast has all but completely reinvented its sound this time around, abandoning its unique brand of melodic heavy/power metal for a shinier, late 90s/early 00s pop sound. If Bringer of Pain was a step in a new direction, No More Hollywood Endings is a trip to the next city over. If it weren’t for a couple individual tracks and Noora Louhimo’s iconic, raspy vocals, it’d be unrecognizable as a Beast album.

As a longtime fan, I’ll come clean and admit that I’m more than a little upset at this change, but I get it; it’d be foolish to carry on your past sound when your lead songwriter has been kicked out of the band only to take the entire essence of the music with him and to do his damn best at making sure he overshadows your every effort (which he did anyway with the masterpiece that is From Hell With Love). There had to be a change because the core of the band has changed.

However, it’s beyond me as to why Battle Beast would choose the fucking dark ages of pop culture to draw inspiration from: circa year 2000. Many of the tracks, such as ‘Endless Summer’ and the emotional ‘Bent And Broken’ sound like one of those bittersweet songs they’d run during the credits of a shitty early 2000s romantic comedy. And in others, like ‘Unfairy Tales’, the melody sounds like it belongs in a nu country song.

But, it’s unfair for me to judge this album by nostalgia, so I’ll get on with it. Despite my feelings, this a good record. Not fantastic, mind you, because I think every musician in the band is capable of far more, but good. The pop songs are incredibly poppy, but there are a couple of heavier tracks and there is a lot of variety.

There are three tracks that I really like. ‘Raise Your Fists’ has some heavy instrumentals, a driving 6/8 beat, and a ridiculously good guitar solo. Probably the most organically-Beast song on the record is ‘World On Fire’, which is pretty straightforward but has some small trademark keyboard parts that pay homage to their older material.

My favourite on the album, however, is ‘The Golden Horde’, which begins with a cool techno intro before kicking off into thudding baddassery. Its undoubtable epicness will make you want to ride into battle on horseback to conquer whoeverthefuck stands in your way. The whole song is super fun, and the solos are in like fashion. On a side note, I think that this song could have made an amazing baseline for a new Beast sound, as it’s different enough from old Beast but still maintains a true, metal feel, but I digress.

The aforementioned ‘The Golden Horde’ has the most power metally lyrics on the entire album. The rest of the content has almost entirely shifted away from machine uprisings, Berserk, and general fantastical battle themes and replaced them with more slice-of-life relatability. It adds a bit more substance to the music but, honestly, this is heavy metal and I think I speak for most when I say, “Give me more over-the-top heroism and nonsensical lyrics!”.

Now, I have to judge this album on its quality as a metal album. Not on the past, not on my feelings, and not as a pop album (otherwise it’d easily be an 11/10. Move the fuck over, Biebs.). No More Hollywood Endings is widely dynamic, but a lot of the songs are very one-dimensional. Epic orchestras and keyboards run rampant throughout, which does add some depth to the music, and the guitar solos are excellent (though they rarely get a chance to shine). All things considered, I think this iis a fair score. But, be sure to check it out. It’s definitely worth listening to.

Battle Beast – No More Hollywood Endings (Nuclear Blast)

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Stonecast – I Earther Review

Score8/10
GenreHeavy Metal
CountryFrance
Runtime47:19
Release Date8 Mar 2019
Record LabelPitch Black

Stonecast rocks seriously fucking hard. Their strong energy will draw you in and their anthemic hooks will make you stay. Their third album, I Earther, is no exception. This earthy metal is sturdy and its sound is nothing short of mountainous. There’re incredible performances by all of the bandmates, but Franky Costanza’s (ex-Dagoba) drumming is something else. His grooves are always colourful and complement the rest of band perfectly.

The first three songs are exceptional. I Earther begins with some weird spaceship samples but quickly proceeds into a chugging beat in the opener, ‘Captors of Insanity’. It’s definitely the best song choice to kick off the album; the vocal variety is shown, from lower rough vocals to powerful shrieking, there’s some solid riffage, and the chorus is catchy. ‘Goddess of Rain’ delivers ridiculous shredding power and is the first taste of “Flying” Saliba’s insanely impressive soloing.

The best song on the album, however, is the third song ‘The Cherokee’. It contains so much in its eight minutes, with mighty war cries from “Kanon” Ghirardi and more impressive soloing. The real highlight of the song, though, is the rhythm section. Every one of the riffs and grooves are skillfully done and the drums don’t fucking quit. Similar to the rest of the album, the beats have some intricate details sprinkled in that separate Stonecast from being just another heavy metal band. Oh, and the ending is one of the best endings to a song I’ve ever heard; it’s actually an ending section, rather than just the final chord of the progression being dragged out or a lazy tagline.

The rest of the album is great, except for the only song that I can’t seem to enjoy: ‘Resistence’. It’s relatively slow, drags on for a couple minutes too long, and, especially when compared to the rest of the record, is pretty messy. It’s the only point of the album that the lo-fi production quality really bothers me, because the combination of the song and mastering make it pretty rough.

Aside from that, however, this is a phenomenal record. It’s got great musicians, excellent songwriting, and has massive replayability. Stonecast is rock-solid when it comes to metal, and they’ve pounded their way into my heart.

Originally written for metal-observer.com

Stonecast – Goddess Of Rain (Pitch Black)

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