Paladin – Ascension Review

Review Written by Musicgirl

Score9.5/10
GenrePower Metal
CountryUSA
Runtime49:28
Release Date17 May 2019
Record LabelProsthetic

If all power metal bands were as strong and intense as Galneryus, the late Three Inches of Blood, or Paladin here, the genre would be a lot better off. A release like Ascension sadly drops far too infrequently.  Occasionally some curds need to be skimmed off, but Ascension keeps you on the edge of your seat for fifty glorious minutes.

The album opens with a blast. A torrent of Yngwie-style fretwork just mows you down. I suppose there is nothing terribly groundbreaking here, but few albums can match the energy. Then the vocals kick in, and you immediately notice the cadence and uplift of classic 90s power metal. One is really in for a treat when the vocals thrash out on the opener ‘Awakening’ and on a number of other tracks here. This is serious innovation and about time! I don’t think I am the only one turned off by the sickly sweet tendencies on the refrain of your usual power metal vocal number. The better power bands like Stratovarius, while no less happy and Ionian than the genre’s typical fodder, always manage to move you beyond words with their pacing, intensity, and force. They, of course, are not thrashy at all, tending toward very clean vocals. Paladin show that rougher vocals in spots is just another vehicle to build tension toward the refrain and create an incredible adrenaline rush. It certainly doesn’t hurt that lead singer Taylor Washington’s clean voice, once it comes on, is so rich and beautiful, absolutely one of the best out there today. 

Paladin could stand to be just slightly more selective on the insertion of  thrash vocals. They somewhat interrupt the profundity of ‘Vagrant.’ This excellent track starts out folksy and mysterious, a mood maintained when the vocals (cleaner) commence. This time addition of thrash vocals a little later shatters the depths and seems trite, though the uncleans work fine even later in the song.  

Paladin has great success when thrash influences the entire writing of a song and is not just an afterthought. ‘Call of the Night’ is such a thrashier number. Structure is slightly looser and more ambient. This makes the song contrast well to others on the album. ‘Call of the Night”s catchy, cleanly sung refrain is more intense due to the thrash vocals on the verse. Thankfully this refrain is also kept brief as not to detract from the dark mood. Additional clean vocals are saved for the Medieval-like bridge.     

Songs on Ascension tend to have longer-than-usual guitar solos. This is far from wankery. Lead axe wielder Parra is a completely commanding spinner of engrossing tales with his instrument. There is never a dull or overindulgent moment when he takes center stage. Part of the reason is that he knows to vary the style, while still retaining his distinct technique. For example, on ‘Dawn of Rebirth’, Parra gets classical at one point and highly dissonant at another; these are ideas not reiterated in other songs.

One of my favorite songs on Ascension, ‘Call of the Night’, is very guitar oriented. The solo is vaguely Medieval, even borrowing some genuine patterns from early music. The absorbing guitar outro shows off Alex Parra’s high skill level on a variety of technique including rapid arpeggios.

Besides the already mentioned songs and passages, I have two more favorites on Ascension. One is ‘Shoot for the Sun’. The intro is simple and focused, pulling one right along into a mean, old-school hard rock melody.   Why is that not in the slightest bit tired, just the opposite, really? It’s probably because of the speed and the generous, varied guitar riffing underneath.   

With ‘Divine Providence’, we get a damn catchy, well-crafted earth shaker with mainly thrash or even pseudo black/death vocals. The guitar in the background cycles through broken chord inversions, a potent attention grabber and counterpoint to the vocal fire. Then enters some high-register overdubbing of dark, diminished patterns on the guitar, providing additional substance.  Rarely do you get these many ideas coming together in one song. The latter songs of the album seem to have a solemn sense of purpose. The listener can feel being tunneled into some higher calling of the band. The last track ‘Genesis’ radiates definiteness and hope. This is because Paladin is a theistic ensemble lyrically. There is a tight feeling of redemption here. Yet, non-theistic rationalists like myself never get the sense that they’re being missionized. Ascension is absolutely an album for every power and NWOTHM fan. If one rigidly shuns it due to lyrics, one only does a very big disservice to oneself.

Review Written by Musicgirl

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Aeon Zen – Inveritas Review

Review Written by Musicgirl

Score7.5/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryUSA
Runtime51:34
Release Date10 May 2019
Record LabelIndependent

I have tended to shy away from some of the biggest progressive metal acts because of the tendency for vocals to be an afterthought and for their syrupy delivery. It’s not a coincidence, then, that some of my favorite progressive metal acts are either instrumental (Angel Vivaldi, Michael Angelo Batio etc.)  or on the thrash end (Voivod, Mekong Delta etc.). Aeon Zen doesn’t totally avoid the aforementioned pitfalls on their new release Inveritas. For this reason, I have a hard time listening to the first and last tracks (‘Rebel Theory’; ‘Inveritas’) even with Vadim Pruzhanov on keys. Still, I find depth and brilliance on this album.   

Aeon Zen, in their 10+ year career, have been noted for their diversity of styles and defiance of classification as a metal band. While many would surely think this is an asset, to me it raises a red flag.  This is probably because of my position as a music historian and my advanced age for a power/prog metal fan. I am thus highly aware of and biased toward the development of the individual styles contributing to the finished product in a band like Aeon Zen.  Lucky for me, Inveritas is a pretty pure metal release, perhaps more so than some of the band’s prior recordings (I’m not familiar with them); the only issues I have with genre bending on Inveritas are what I feel are divergent vocal textures tacked onto the end of songs, ranging from a Queen impression to R&B to a number of semi-acapella exercises that seem to share a saccharine or overwrought quality. And then ‘Another Piece that Fits’ contains a rather awkward fitting: a jarring musical surprise in the form of a song-within-a-song. In this context, a scratched old-timey jazz record or simulation thereof plays.  

‘Another Piece that Fits’, outside of its odd jazz appendage, is one of the stronger tracks on Inveritas. Its speed sure got my blood circulating! Some unusual vocal styling should be noted; I have rarely seen vocals have such an instrumental quality in the sense that they interweave so well with the guitars as here. Like a few other tracks on the album, ‘Another Piece’ has a slower, more pensive, vocal-dominated section in the middle. Another special touch is the unusual drum work.

Other stand-out tracks on Inveritas are ‘A World without Sky’, ‘Last Alive’, and ‘Disconnected’. ‘A World without Sky’ doesn’t escape the curious terminal vocal add-ons I spoke of earlier, but not before over six minutes of blissful, rhythmic, dark creativity. Highlights include a nice double kick attack and inclusion of vocals in what’s otherwise more of a guitar solo section. This thinking outside the box is very fresh and welcoming. ‘Last Alive’ keeps it somber save for a tease of vocal fluff before the moody spoken word section. From the opening diminished arpeggios to the muddy, darker vocal, the discordant onslaught hardly lets up. ‘Disconnected’ is a study in contrasts. Dreamy guitar leads float over dissonant chunky drop-D rhythm work. The inspired verse vocal melody is alternately bluesy and ominous. Unclean gang vocals in the background provide the perfect extra flourish.

Considering the mentioned inconsistency of the vocals on Inveritas, ‘Treachery of Images’ is sadly the only instrumental. An overabundance of choppy time meter shifts hurt its flow. Redemption comes in the poignant, familiar sounding theme that is possibly based on a classical one. Classical is one of Aeon Zen’s many musical influences. ‘Treachery of Images”s structure is most untypical with the main theme appearing unexpectedly. In closing, I want to emphasize a few different things about Inveritas. Despite some detours, it’s hard to match much of this album for sheer imagination and passion.Finally, I need to applaud the dazzling guitar virtuosity of Alistair Bell.

Review Written by Musicgirl

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Top Ten Metal Albums Of May

I know that saying this every month might make it lose meaning, but it was difficult to make this list. Again.

HOWEVER, that only means that metal is alive and well in 2019! We had tons of excellent prog and power metal albums to grace us this month, as well as some killer classic metal records, too. It was pretty lean on the folk metal side of things; of all the albums I heard, I would say only one or two are really worth listening to.

Carrying on to why you’re here in the first place, take a look at my Top Ten Metal Albums of May below!

As usual, you can find my full reviews of the following albums by clicking the album title in each heading.

10. TIR – Metal Shock

Surfacing from the depths of the underground for the first time in eight years, Italian classic metal legends TIR are releasing their second album, Metal Shock. Even though they formed in the 80s, the band have devoted most of their focus to live shows and building a local reputation rather than producing albums. As a result, they’re held in very high esteem in their hometown of Rome.

For me, classic metal albums are almost always either great or crap; there is no in between. Fortunately, Metal Shock instantly takes a stand among the former, with its dual guitars and colorful drumming building a solid foundation as soon as they come in. On top of that, the raspy vocals kick ass and the bass lines are clear in the mix. Using the premium fuel that the band produces, each song is energetic, catchy, and has a high degree of headbangability behind it.

TIR – Lasciateci Fare (Gates of Hell)

9. Grimgotts – Dragons of the Ages

Grimgott’s second album to date, Dragons of the Ages is by no means a genre-shattering album. Its sound is what I like to describe as “adventure metal”, because it’s an epic, nautical-themed symphonic power metal album. While it follows most of the power metal tropes fairly closely, the band have managed to make something original, super fun, and immensely uplifting. Fans of Power Quest, Twilight Force, Alestorm, and Galderia will love this album.

Grimgotts – Ancient Waters

8. Until Rain – Season V

Until Rain is a fairly seasoned (ha ha, get it?) prog band at this point, so it should come as no surprise that their fifth effort, Season V, has made it onto this list. However, with their sound totally flipped this time around, it’s worth giving even more special attention to.

Compared to their former albums, Until Rain have dialed back their heavy energy a bit and substituted much of it for a more technical, emotional, almost laid back style of prog. There are plenty of intricacies to enjoy, with the patter-drumming being my favourite, so make sure you go give this one a serious listen!

I never got around to writing a review for this one, but check out the review from my friends over at The Metal Observer here!

Until Rain – Patti (Rock of Angels)

7. Pythia – The Solace of Ancient Earth

The Solace of Ancient Earth is the first album I’ve ever heard from Pythia. And, to be honest, I didn’t expect much from it. It’s not often that an independent female-fronted symphonic metal band has anything new to offer, but Pythia is something special. Within The Solace of Ancient Earth we encounter a powerful female lead, superb orchestrations, an excellent rhythm section, and emotional, inspired power metal.

Pythia – Spirits of the Trees

6. Power Tale – The Fiery God of Marrans

There were a few huge metal opera releases this month, but none came close to the quality and impact that the Ukrainian Power Tale’s latest record delivered. This massive double-album is power metal in the vein of Eastern European power metal, being more accurately described as heavy/power metal.

The most impressive aspects of The Fiery God of Marrans are the numerous guest vocalists, who each contribute an excellent performance, and the killer guitar solos. This album has plenty to offer in it’s ninety-plus minutes, so make sure to set some time aside for it!

Power Tale – The Anger of the Marrans

5. Step in Fluid – Back in Business

Bouncing in with the funkiest fucking metal album I’ve heard in months is Step in Fluid with their latest effort, Back in Business. As the title suggests, it’s been a little while since the band have released any new material (nearly eight years, in fact). Which, let me tell you, is an incredible disservice to both fans and to them, because they are very good at the whole music-making thing. It’s a bit disappointing that the runtime on this album is so short, but the half hour we do get is excellent.

Within the album are both serious metal grooves, laid back funky grooves, and lighter synth-backing grooves. If, like me, you’re a fan of jazz and metal, this booty-shaking prog/fusion fiasco is for you.

Step in Fluid – Booty Shake (Klonoshpere)

4. Arch / Matheos – Winter Ethereal

Former and present Fates Warning members John Arch and Jim Matheos are back with their second partnered album, Winter Ethereal. It in no way sounds like a Fates Warning knockoff, instead taking a stand as one of the best prog albums of the year so far. It hits hard and heavy but contains surprisingly fluid arrangements, which makes for quite the dynamic listen. This is matured, no-frills progressive metal.

Arch / Matheos – Straight and Narrow (Metal Blade)

3. Myrath – Shehili

Shehili kicks more ass than the Sahara on a windy day. This should really come as no surprise, though, because Myrath’s albums routinely contain nothing but quality, emotion, and a tasty Arabic spice. Huge melodies continuously take the stage and are supported by a dangerously tight rhythm section. The strings and orchestrations carry epic and mysterious melodies, combining seamlessly with the coarser metal elements to make each song ring with brilliance. On top of that, the mixing is clean, balanced, and allows each of the many parts to be appreciated.

This Tunisian troupe commands a staggering amount of skill, but perhaps the most impressive is frontman Zaher Zorgati and his ludicrously proficient vocals (which can go from soaring ululatuon to a powerful belt on the drop of a dime). Pump this energy into lively arrangements, and you get a vivid, dance-inducing Eastern brand of power metal.

Myrath – No Holding Back (earMUSIC)

2. Amulet – The Inevitable War

Blasting forth with a fresh lineup, Amulet’s sophomore record is an exceptional work of classic metal. The Inevitable War takes the band to new heights and offers what is sure to be a contender for the best classic metal album of the year.

There’s really nothing to dislike. The mixing is flawless, the band is exceptionally talented, and the music simply bleeds energy. Each anthemic chorus hits with a similar impact as classic Manowar, and the galloping rhythm section chugs away with the likeness of Iron Maiden. Get your fix of the classics with this very new release.

Amulet – Burning Hammer (Dissonance)

1. Gloryhammer – Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex

Epic, cheesy, heroic. These are words I often use when describing my favourite albums, but make no mistake; I only use these words if I mean it. So, if I were to say that Gloryhammer’s third and latest album, Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex, was one of the most ridiculously epic tales of heroism that I’ve heard from a power metal, you can be damn sure it’s true.

Between the powerful cries of Angus McFife and the cosmic colours created by the rest of band, there’s no room to criticize the skill of these galactic warriors. Additionally, while the core sound is true, pure power metal, the songwriting is pleasingly dynamic. So, bust out your most enchanted headphones and get a load of this ultra-melodic cheesefest and see for yourself why this just might be the greatest power metal album of the year (or of all fucking time).

Gloryhammer – Hootsforce (Napalm)

Did your favourite May albums make the list? Leave a comment or send a message if you think revisions are in order!

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Gloryhammer – Legends From Beyond The Galactic Terrorvortex Review

Score10/10
GenrePower Metal
CountryScotland
Runtime49:33
Release Date31 May 2019
Record LabelNapalm

Returning once more to finish off the greatest threat that the universe has ever known, the mighty cosmic warriors Gloryhammer are back with what could easily be called the best fucking power metal album of all time. Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex has everything that you could desire in a power metal record, and then some. This, in all sincerity, is a work of cosmic proportions.

Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex (that just rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?) continues the chronicles of Angus McFife that began with 2013’s Tales from the Kingdom of Fife. As such, you can safely expect some of the cheesiest, bullshit fantasy lyrics you’ve ever heard, complete with fictitious Latin. Furthermore, you can even expect to get invested in the story, and maybe even end up feeling something if, gods forbid, a tragic turn were to happen along the way.

But, a story like this gets nowhere if the surrounding music isn’t as pumped-up and fantastical as its content. Never fear, though, because there’s enough cheese in this album to give you severe indigestion until the next ridiculous power metal gem surfaces (which, in case you didn’t get that, is the perfect amount). Aside from the crispy-clear mixing, powerful melodies, and dynamic songs, the musicianship is flawless.

The synths, while not overblown, are ever-present in the background and also carry some seriously bumpin’ melodies, not the least of which is found in ‘Hootsforce’. There’s crunchy, hard riffage throughout the album’s entirety and the heroic pipes of Angus McFife break the air like a supersonic death beam. The earth-shaking drums and bass bring the whole group together into a formidably fearsome fighting force.

While every track on this album is simply excellent, I do find a favourite in the final track, ‘The Fires of Ancient Cosmic Destiny’. Following in like fashion with Gloryhammer’s other two albums, this lengthy epic concludes the album with a stellar supernova, delivering despair, hope, victory, and tragedy all within its twelve minutes before finishing off with a mysterious and foreboding transmission.

It should be pretty clear by now that this album kicks all evil space ass. There hasn’t been a true power metal album that has made this much of an impact on me in too long a time and it’s likely it’ll be another while until the genre spits out something like this again. Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex not only satiates my incessant thirst for epic and energetic metal, but asserts itself to fans of the genre as a pure, perfect album.

Gloryhammer – The Siege of Dunkeld (Napalm)

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Power Tale – The Fiery God Of Marrans Review

Score8.5/10
GenreHeavy/Power Metal (Metal Opera)
CountryUkraine
RuntimeSide A – 1:00:38 / Side B – 37:02
Release Date20 May 2019
Record LabelSoundAge Productions

Ukrainian metallers Power Tale are back with a massive double album, and only a year after their last work. Featuring nineteen songs and clocking in at over an hour and a half, The Fiery God of Marrans is pretty long, so you might want to throw this one on while you’re driving or something, just so you don’t get bored trying to get through the whole thing at once. There’s nothing boring about it, but, still, it’s lengthy.

This big, beefy metal opera tells what I’m sure is an exciting story (sorry, I don’t speak Russian all that well). Assisting with this storytelling are almost a dozen vocalists (as well as an assload of session musicians) who are each featured for a song or two, not the least of which are a few female vocalists. There are tons of chanting, anthemic choruses, which, with so many vocalists to pull from, makes it really easy to kick it into overdrive and deliver an epic impact. The vocal performances are all really good, as is the rest of the band, so it’s safe to say that the album’s foundation is very sturdy.

Like many other Eastern European power metal bands, Power Tale’s brand is a bit too heavy and dark to be explicitly considered power metal. We don’t even get a taste of true power metal until the second song of the second disc, ‘Pridyot Chas’. Needless to say, I’d describe it as more of a heavy/power metal in the vein of Arteriya, Stormhammer, and (to a lesser extent) Iron Fire. The guitar tones are just fucking colossal, the bass is all juiced up, and there’s not much in the way of upbeat or uplifting feel-good tracks.

My favourite part of this album is undoubtedly the guitar soloing. If I had to pick favourites, I’d say it’s a toss up between the ones in ‘Мир на весах’ and the thirteen-minute ‘Сталь и кровь’. Aside from the insane shredding and wailing ballad solos, some cool fx are used and there’s sparing use of dual guitars, so, if you’re like me and enjoy solo variety, you’ll love these.

For such a long album, I don’t have too much more to say about it. There’s nothing bad on this album; the solos and drums are excellent and the songwriting is very well done. The Fiery God of Marrans is a solid effort with powerful highs, heartfelt lows, and a massive delivery to match the hefty runtime.

Power Tale – The Anger of the Marrans

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Stormhammer – Seven Seals Review

Score7.5/10
GenreHeavy Power Metal
CountryGermany
Runtime51:56
Release Date24 May 2019
Record LabelMassacre

Stormhammer is here with a reinvented sound and new vocalist in their seventh album: Seven Seals. After six albums, you’d think that maybe it’s all downhill from here, but, as so many metal bands prove time and time again, metal gets even harder with age. Seven Seals is a riff-heavy mixup of different types of metal, which makes for a dynamic experience that has plenty to offer.

Although the musical influences of Seven Seals are vast, the overall sound of the album is harsher, grittier, and harder than your typical power metal album. This is mostly due to the lack of refinement and absence of any keyboards that are both so prevalent in the genre, so we’re left with a raw sound that’s more characteristic of thrash than anything else. Tracks like ‘Under the Spell’ and ‘Seven Seals’ are fairly straightforward power metal songs, but again, lacking those usual power elements, they’ve got a serious edge.

Venturing way out of the way, we get tracks like ‘Your Nemesis’, ‘Deal with the Dead’, and ‘Downfall’, which are nearly crumbling over the weight of their breakdowns and melodic death metal attributes, and, of course, the obligatory ballad of ‘Taken by the Devil’.

Now, before we get to the not-so-good aspects, let me just take a second to say how much better Matthias Kupka‘s vocal performance is than Stormhammer’s former voices. Each growl and rough-vocalled verse is fucking colossal and he commands an impressive amount of versatility with his voice. He carries the catchy melodies with authority and the vocal harmonies are done really well. There’s really no contest when comparing him to the numerous prior vocalists of Stormhammer.

But, as it usually goes, there are some setbacks that prevent Seven Seals from breaking into a score of eight. A few of the tracks, namely ‘Downfall’, ‘Keep Me Safe’, and ‘Old Coals’, are very straightforward and don’t really add anything to the album. Likewise, while most of the songs are really good, there’s only one which I’d call exceptional (which, by the way, is the aforementioned ‘Your Nemesis’).

This is a really cool album. The melodies are strong and the beefy riffs are many. Nothing jumps out as amazing here, but the musicianship is great and most of the songs offer something different. For a band called “Stormhammer”, this pretty much sounds exactly how you’d expect it to.

Stormhammer – Under the Spell (Massacre)

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Floating Worlds – Battleship Oceania Review

Score7/10
GenreSymphonic Progressive Metal (Rock Opera)
CountryGreece
Runtime1:10:53
Release Date17 May 2019
Record LabelPride & Joy

Rock operas are a massive endeavour. Aside from being able to construct a coherent story without breaking the lyrical flow of the songs, the project needs to strike a balance between this storytelling and quality songwriting without pushing the lyrical agenda too forcefully. Floating World’s Battleship Oceania nails a lot of things, but falls short in a few other major aspects.

The album kicks off on a high note with ‘Oceania’ and sets the perfect mood for the rest of the album. It also shows a bit of what the band are capable of as musicians and the orchestrations aren’t overdone. If the rest of the album followed suit with its beginning, this would undoubtedly have scored at least a nine. Conversely, though, the second track breaks way the hell off into the other direction and drones on for far too long, with the rest of the album continuing this yo-yo of great song/bad song until its end. So, let’s get the rest of the bad stuff out in the open first, because I’d prefer to end my criticism on a higher note.

Battleship Oceania‘s biggest issue is one that is all too prevalent. So many of the songs carry on for way too long, which makes the album quickly wear out its welcome. Most of the songs have at least one section that suffers from this, but notable examples would be pretty much the entirety of ‘Island of Dreams’, most of ‘The Last Goodbye’, and ‘Sailing in History’. Additionally, while the entire album is larger-than-life, some of the orchestrations get out of hand and there’s simply too much in the forefront at once.

It’s a shame that these flaws are so prevalent because the good parts of this album are really good. The grand story of the crew of a legendary ship, vanity, corruption, and self-sacrifice is told entertainingly and coherently. Some of the lyrics in the verses don’t flow too well, but we’ll give them a pass on this, because they’re mostly well done and they’re not even native English speakers for fuck’s sake. Some tracks are fucking killer all the way through, like the exciting ‘New Mission’, the dark, dooming ‘The Curse’, and ‘Oceania’, but every song has an impressively solid core. There’s a huge amount of variety on the album, from the heavy bangers to the impending danger of songs like ‘Retribution’ to soft, nurturing tones in the semi-electronic ‘Divine Love’, and each different feel is executed well. And, as I mentioned before, the musicianship is altogether excellent. Jon Soti’s vocals are fantastic and powerful, the rhythm section is super tight, the solos are cool (that fucking bass solo in ‘Eternal Sleep’!), and the sparing use of female vocals and choirs is a really nice touch.

All things considered, Battleship Oceania still makes the cut as a great effort. If two or three minutes were cut from most of the songs it’d definitely be all the better for it, but it’s still a very enjoyable album. The main problem, I think, is that the band got just a bit too ambitious with this project, but a bit of restraint and streamlining is all their next record needs to be as awesomely mighty as most of this one is.

Floating Worlds – Retribution (Pride & Joy)

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Amulet – The Inevitable War Review

Score9.5/10
GenreTraditional Heavy Metal
CountryBritain
Runtime40:19
Release Date17 May 2019
Record LabelDissonance

If anybody tells you that heavy metal is dead, smack them in their god damn face and tell them to actually take a look at the scene. Not even counting the phenomenal albums we had earlier this year from the likes of Twisted Tower Dire, Stonecast, and Warrior Path (and so many others), this month alone is producing some of the best classic metal albums I’ve heard all year. And, taking its place at the top of this list is The Inevitable War: Amulet’s second album to date. This riff-heavy honcho simply demands headbanging from its rambling opening drum fills to the final soaring solo in the closer.

This is Amulet’s first album with their new lineup, and it was written with the intent to prove just how refined their metal is. It’d be an understatement to say that they deliver, because they fucking deliver. The mixing couldn’t be better, so we can hear every juicy bassline, but the whole thing is still mastered like a traditional album, which allows them to retain their raw edge while still keeping the band tight and coordinated. Each anthemic chorus hits with a similar impact as classic Manowar, and the galloping rhythm section chugs away with the likeness of Iron Maiden.

The entire lineup is excellent but the guitarwork stands slightly higher than the rest. There’s not a single riff that isn’t awesome (no, I can’t pick any favourites) and the solos are true old-school facemelters (I can pick a few favourites: ‘The Satanist’ and ‘Gateway to Hell’). Marek “Heathen” Steven and Nippy “Nip” Blackford immediately make it known that they’re worthy to fight among the mightiest of axemen as they ride upon the backs of their bodacious bandmates into battle.

Now, I bet you’re thinking that all these guys can do is play heavy. And don’t worry; so did I. But, you’ll quickly find that that’s a load of bullshit because the tasty acoustic interlude ‘La Noche de las Graviotas’ gives them a minute to say, “Hey, look, we can be gentle, too!” They also take it easier on the final epic, ‘Roundhead’, which puts a little less emphasis on impact and a little more emphasis on emotion.

Now, despite all of the praise I have for this album, there is one issue. There are a couple lazy melodies, like the ones in ‘Siege Machine’ and ‘Poison Chalice’. This a pretty minor shortcoming when everything else blasting from those songs is fucking sweet, but it’s a shortcoming nonetheless.

Yeah, some issue, right? As if every heavy metal band doesn’t reuse melodies. What a deal breaker. Fuck it. This album is near-perfect. Don’t miss it.

Amulet – Burning Hammer (Dissonance)

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Arch / Matheos – Winter Ethereal Review

Score9/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryUSA
Runtime1:07:59
Release Date10 May 2019
Record LabelMetal Blade

After nearly eight years since their first record under the Arch / Matheos banner, vocalist John Arch and guitarist Jim Matheos have completed Winter Ethereal. Compared to its predecessor, it packs a bigger punch and delivers an altogether more refined sound.

Both Matheos and Arch have been involved in the long-running prog outfit Fates Warning, with the former being their only remaining original member and the latter parting ways with the band in the early 90s. The two are held in high esteem by both old and new prog fans alike, so it’s needless to say just how talented they are. Behind this dynamic duo are other present and former Fates Warning members, such as Bobby Jarzombek and Mark Zonder on drums and bassists Joey Vera and Joe Dibiase, as well as other guest musicians.

With such a beefed up lineup, Winter Ethereal has more than enough fuel to burn furiously (which it does, by the way). The huge riffs and soaring vocals are awesome, but the detail in the drumming is often what elevates the music (like in ‘Wrath of the Universe’ where the drumming is seriously out of hand). Furthermore, the band allowed themselves a long, relaxed writing process for this album and it’s all the better for it. The entire record is sincere, with ‘Tethered”s light, steady emotion being the most apparent example of this, and there are no jumbled ideas that so often drag prog albums to the depths of the musical abyss.

Despite the ease with which this album flows, it explores a ton of different places. The album opens with a relatively dark feel in ‘Vermilion Moons’, but later shoots into the upbeat fury of ‘Straight and Narrow’. There’s no shortage of heavy tunes and every song is very dynamic (which they should be, because they average at eight minutes apiece).

There are only two real issues in Winter Ethereal, and the biggest of the two doesn’t even have anything to do with the music. The first problem is the bass mix. Underneath the huge riffs and sharp vocals, the bass already has its work cut out for it, but this effort is mostly wasted because it’s all but absent in the mix. However, this shortcoming doesn’t hold a candle to the album artwork. It’s atrocious, dreary, and way too simple for an album that overflows with complexity and life.

I’m definitely not finished with this album and, chances are, I won’t be for a while. It has more than enough variety and the musicianship is, to say it modestly, fucking superb. Arch / Matheos have once again produced an exceptional album that manages to stay away from being a Fates Warning 2.0. Clocking in at over an hour, Winter Ethereal will have you satisfied by the time it ends.

Arch / Matheos – Wanderlust (Metal Blade)

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Releases This Week (May Week One)

From classic heavy metal to folk metal from the East, here are this week’s releases.

Singles

Gloryhammer – The Siege of Dunkeld (In Hoots We Trust)

The second over-the-top single of cosmic metal warriors Gloryhammer’s upcoming album is here, complete with shitty Latin, a heavy beat, and a super catchy melody.

Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex will arrive on 31 May.

Gloryhammer – The Siege of Dunkeld (In Hoots We Trust) (Napalm)

Demons & Wizards – Heaven Denies

Being absent from the scene since 2005 as far as new material goes, power metal outfit Demons & Wizards are soon to rerelease their first (and only) two records. I don’t think they really warrant a rerelease, both because of the albums aren’t exceptional and thee are only two fucking albums to choose from but, hey, who am I to say?

Anyway, here’s a new lyric video for an old song.

Demons & Wizards – Heaven Denies (Century Media)

Turilli/Lione Rhapsody – Phoenix Rising

A promising look in to Luca Turilli’s and Fabio Lione’s upcoming Rhapsody project is here, in all the symphonic glory you’d expect. The album, Zero Gravity (Rebirth and Evolution) will be available on 28 June.

Turilli/Lione Rhapsody – Phoenix Rising (Nuclear Blast)

Albums

TIR – Metal Shock

Surfacing from the depths of the underground for the first time in eight years, Italian classic metal legends TIR are releasing their second album, Metal Shock. Even though they formed in the ’80s, the band have devoted most of their focus to live shows and building a local reputation rather than producing albums. As a result, they’re held in very high esteem in their hometown of Rome.

For me, classic metal albums are almost always either great or crap; there is no in between. Fortunately, Metal Shock instantly takes a stand among the former, with its dual guitars and colorful drumming building a solid foundation as soon as they come in. On top of that, the raspy vocals kick ass and the bass lines are clear in the mix. Using the premium fuel that the band produces, each song is energetic, catchy, and has a high degree of headbangability behind it. There’s nothing exceptional about Metal Shock and it’s pretty lean in the variety department but it’s classic metal done well, plain and simple.

Read the full review here!

TIR – Lasciateci Fare (Gates of Hell)

Arch / Matheos – Winter Ethereal

Former and present Fates Warning members John Arch and Jim Matheos are back with their second partnered album, Winter Ethereal. It in no way sounds like a Fates Warning knockoff, instead taking a stand as one of the best prog albums of the year so far. It hits hard and heavy but contains surprisingly fluid arrangements, which makes for quite the dynamic listen.

You can read my full review over on Heavy Music HQ.

Arch / Matheos – Tethered (Metal Blade)

Myrath – Shehili

It should come as no surprise that Myrath’s Shehili is as rich and lively as it gets. Their trademark Middle Eastern folk influence is ever-present among the driving power/prog, leading the listener to places both familiar and mystical.

Check out my review here.

Myrath – No Holding Back (earMUSIC)

Other Releases That Weren’t Great But You Might Like Anyway

-Vultures Vengeance – The Knightlore (Heavy Metal)
Just your run-of-the-mill heavy metal band. Nothing special here.
-Pulver –
Kings Under the Sand (Heavy Metal)
Laid back, loose, and lazy heavy metal. Again, nothing special.
-Legacy of Silence –
Our Forests Sing (Folk Metal)
Debut album of the Italian folk outfit, it’s ok but the mix is distractingly messy. Folk metal in the realm of Wolfhorde and Equilibrium, though not nearly as good.

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Stay Metal \m/