Grendel’s Sÿster – Myrtle Wreath Review

Score8/10
GenreHeavy Metal
CountryGermany
Runtime50:34 (25:17 per language)
Release Date1 October 2019
Record LabelIndependent

One of Germany’s more unique metal bands, the female-fronted Grendel’s Syster, have released their second EP. Myrtle Wreath includes both an English and German version, which allows for a slightly different experience depending on which you listen to. But, at twenty-five minutes per version, the album is is short, sweet, and easily manageable in one sitting.

The most impressive aspect of Myrtle Wreath (and Grendel’s Syster in general) is its individuality. The medieval sound is steeped in a doomy atmosphere and topped off with folk influences. Apparent inspirations that come to mind include Tanith and Wytch Hazel, and even a hint of early Manowar. All of these different elements are combined into a strong, almost epic feel, but with a slightly foreboding air over it.

Another cool touch is the vocal and guitar layering. Incanted vocal lines paint visions of covens singing old folk tunes while the guitars float between slow, deliberate riffs and countermelodies. They fill out the sound without driving it too far away from its rawness the way keyboards or super refined production quality would.

In a word, Myrtle Wreath is different, and that alone makes it worth checking out. Fortunately, it has plenty more than just individuality going for it, so your curiosity will be well-founded and well-rewarded.

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Top Ten Metal Albums Of October

2019 is still going strong! October held nothing back, unleashing exceptional albums (especially in heavy and power metal). There were a few notable folk metal releases which almost made this list (albums by Forgotten North, Tandra, and Nifrost) but, after a lot of back-and-forth, I settled on the following Top Ten Metal Albums of October!

10. Dawn of Destiny – The Beast Inside

When a unique band like Dawn of Destiny comes around with a new album, it always gets me excited. Fortunately, my excitement was well-founded in The Beast Inside, which is the band’s seventh full-length album. The songs range from energetic power metal to heavier, darker metal to unconventional-yet-melodic metal. Some songs are definitely stronger than others, with ‘Signs in the Sky’ and ‘If We Close Our Eyes’ being my favourites, but every track offers something different from the last, so make sure to give the whole album a spin!

Full Review

9. Secret Chapter – Chapter One

Sit down and strap the fuck in because Secret Chapter are going to take you on a nostalgic ride back to the 80s with their hyper-melodic, solo-rific debut, Chapter One. While Chapter One treads a similar sound he likes of Skid Row, TNT, Europe, and 80s hair metal in general, it keeps things interesting by maintaining a modern heavy metal undertone. The production, layered instrumentation, and driving riffs combined with undoubtedly 80s choruses allow for the best of both worlds, and there’s no shortage of passion or aggression. A lot of 80s metal bands just sound like refined metal from the era (if that), but Secret Chapter manage to maintain individuality by putting their own musical spin on things.

Full Review

8. Crow’s Flight – The Storm

Crow’s Flight have swooped in with a new drummer, new vocalist, and new album that’ll be a hit for fans of melodic metal as well as traditional heavy metal. While I wouldn’t call The Storm a classic metal by any means, there are enough traits that it’s worth a mention. Regardless, if you’re looking for strong melodies accompanied by kickass riffs and atmospheric keyboards, look no further.

7. Rumahoy – Time II: Party

Blowing in only a year after their debut, the self-proclaimed “Best True Scottish Pirate Metal Band in the World” Rumahoy are back with another booze-fueled party album ready to go: Time II: Party. After sailing the seas of the Wild West, Captain Yarrface and his skimask-clad crew have written ten catchy sea shanties of the most fucking ridiculous variety. Within you’ll find the expected power/folk metal combo that’s typical of pirate metal, but with a variety and dynamism that’s all but unseen in the genre.

Full Review

6. Iron Kingdom – On the Hunt

Vancouver’s own Iron Kingdom have dropped yet another solid slab of classic metal. Combining old school dual guitar sounds with clear, crisp vocals and some of the best drumming I’ve ever heard from a classic metal band, On the Hunt offers a bit more of a modern approach to the style of old. It’s the perfect balance, production-wise, because every part is clear and separated but there’s still an organic feel to the whole thing. There’s no lack of passion and sincerity, but there’s also just enough flare to keep me excited about it.

Full Review

5. Cathubodua – Continuum

Belgium’s female-fronted symphonic metal outfit Cathubodua have unleashed their devastating debut album: Continuum. Featuring folk, symphonic, death, and power metal elements, Continuum wastes no time in displaying its melodic, balls-to-the-wall epic onslaught.

Full Review

4. Aerodyne – Damnation

Smithed by the mighty Aerodyne, Damnation is, in short, one hell of a sophomore album. It’s energetic, anthemic, charismatic heavy metal with a blatant Ozzy undertone. Sound kickass? Of course it does! It’s true metal to the core, no doubt about it.

Full Review

3. Induction – Induction

In one of the strongest symphonic metal debuts of the year, Induction deliver shameless bombast, insane grooves, and killer musicianship. Featuring guitarist Tim Hansen, vocalist Nick Holleman, and Sean Brandenburg on drums, Induction is a dynamic symphonic power metal album with tons of prog influence.

2. Galneryus – Into the Purgatory

The finest neoclassical power metal band east of the Silk Road have unleashed yet another album of facemelting ferocity. Into the Purgatory is the twelfth album to come from the mighty Galneryus and, despite such a long career, it lives up to the band’s glory, and then some. A slice of Galneryus’ neoclassical edge has been swapped for a bit more of a progressive influence this time around so, while you can still expect a hyper-melodic work of shred insanity, it’s different enough from their other albums to keep things feeling new.

Full Review

1. Noveria – Aequilibrium

Italian proggers Noveria don’t fuck around. As soon as it starts, Aequilibrium explodes into high-intensity with a death metal atmosphere and epic choirs. Through the rest of the album, we encounter sick riff after sick riff (not the least of which can be found in ‘Awakening’ and ‘Broken’) in all their beefy, syncopated glory, as well as beautiful interludes and pulled back sections. Another aspect that makes Aequilibrium stand out is the fact that, while there’s a dark tone to most of the album, it’s never depressing and it’s always energetic.

Full Review

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Vanden Plas – The Ghost Xperiment – Awakening Review

Score7/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryGermany
Runtime46:36
Release Date11 October 2019
Record LabelFrontiers

Germany’s Vanden Plas is the only veteran band I can think of off the top of my head that’s had the exact same lineup since their beginning. For more than thirty years, the band’s five members have delivered great progressive metal albums without fail, all the while never getting sick enough of each other to split up. If that doesn’t scream musical commitment, then I don’t know what does. That’s a damn impressive feat in and of itself, so the fact that their ninth album, The Ghost Xperiment – Awakening, is yet another solid piece of prog is just icing.

Stylistically, The Ghost Xperiment treads pretty closely to the albums of bands like Fates Warning (and especially Arch/Matheos) and mid-Queensryche. As is common in prog, the album only consists of six songs, but each clocks in at close to ten minutes, so it actually feels a lot longer than its 46-minute runtime. There’re a few parts that could probably be condensed a bit, but the tracks are dynamic enough that it really isn’t necessary.

Everything about The Ghost Xperiment is really good; the melodies are strong, the riffs are great, and the grooves are heavy. The only real downside is that nothing really jumps out. Sure, there are a couple notable melodies throughout the album (such as in the closer, ‘the Ghost Xperiment’), but the album as a whole is pretty homogeneous. If I had to pick a highlight, it’d be the solos. They’re super sick, although, since the backing parts are pretty straightforward, they don’t deliver a huge impact.

For a band that’s been around for more than three decades, The Ghost Xperiment – Awakening is worlds more than I’d expect. However, for Vanden Plas, this album is exactly what I’d expect. The whole band is on point, the arrangements are genuine, and there’s enough energy and passion in the music that, while it doesn’t throw any showstoppers, the album delivers a commendable prog metal performance.

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Cathubodua – Continuum Review

Score8.5/10
GenreSymphonic Metal
CountryBelgium
Runtime59:25
Release Date25 October 2019
Record LabelMassacre

The time has come for Belgium’s female-fronted symphonic metal outfit Cathubodua to unleash their devastating debut album: Continuum. Featuring folk, symphonic, death, and power metal elements, Continuum wastes no time in displaying its melodic, balls-to-the-wall epic onslaught. After a short instrumental, we’re welcomed with an intense trifecta in ‘Abyss’, ‘Hero of Ages’, and ‘Hydra’ which start the album at its highest point.

It’s hard to pinpoint where Cathubodua’s sound lies because it’s so dynamic and fairly unique, too. At times they show some likeness to Elvenking, and it isn’t a huge similarity, but that’s really the closest comparison I can come up with. Not like any of that concerns me anyway because the sound is sick, the lead is sick, the drums are sick (see: ‘A Treacherous Maze’ and ‘Hero of Ages’), and everything else is, you guessed it, super cool. Numerous interlude tracks act as good transitional pieces, so the album also has a fair amount of fluidity going for it.

One thing (albeit a small thing) that gives Cathubodua an edge on a lot of other symphonic acts is that the operatic vocals are used pretty sparingly as a highlight rather than as the main vocal style. Like rough vocals, I think this more limited approach to operatics works way better than having them at the forefront all the time. It allows for more varied expression and really allows Sara Vanderheyden to attack with every vocal delivery she has, be it aggressive, tranquil, folky, operatic, powerful, or otherwise.

As with most albums, Continuum does have some things keeping it from being perfect. There’s a bit of excess that could be trimmed, namely the track ‘Deified’, which is pretty messy and a huge drop in quality compared to the rest of the album. And then there’s the way in which Cathubodua finish the album, which is with another instrumental. The second-to-last track, ‘Apotheosis’, would have ended the album perfectly, but the ending we get does the same thing ‘Apotheosis’ did but with a quarter of the impact.

But, as I may have hinted at, Continuum has a lion’s share of excellent tracks. My favourite, ‘Hydra’ has one of Vanderheyden‘s best performances on the album, showcasing both her ferocity and beauty, and the overall power from this track is great. There’re also some instrumental breaks that hearken to Elvenking’s ‘King of the Elves’ that are a nice touch. And then there’s ‘A Treacherous Maze’, which has an Eastern flavour, rough vocals, fucking crazy blast beats, killer instrumentals, and so much more going for it. Finally, while ‘Hydra’ is my favourite song, my favourite moment in the whole album is found in ‘Apotheosis’, where the melody from ‘Hero of Ages’ comes back to give you the ultimate, spinetingling goose-bumps experience.

I haven’t even touched on the great riffs or shredding solos, but hear me when I say that Continuum contains some of the best symphonic metal of the entire year. While it’s not without a few flaws, it’s a beast of a debut album (and an album in general). It’d be an understatement to say that I’m excited to see what Cathubodua come up with next, because this immensely talented group have limitless potential.

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Edenbridge – Dynamind Review

Score5/10
GenreSymphonic Metal
CountryAustria
Runtime55:06
Release Date25 October 2019
Record LabelSteamhammer/SPV

When any band has been crafting metal for twenty years, it’s almost a given to expect a drop in quality. Sure, the music might be just as good, but there comes a point when new ideas and youthful passion become almost impossible to see. Austria’s symphonic outfit Edenbridge has certainly seen a dip in quality in the past decade, except for the band’s solid 2017 comeback album, The Great Momentum, which did just as the title suggests and propelled the band back onto the track of inspiration.

Unfortunately, this momentum was short-lived, because their tenth and latest record, Dynamind, is more bland than any album before it. With their former power metal energy long gone, Edenbridge have continued along the path of their more reflective, easy symphonic metal flavour. There are also some folk influences throughout the album, most apparent in ‘Tauerngold’ and ‘On the Other Side’. The overall sound isn’t anything to turn your nose up at, but Dynamind does have some fatal flaws.

The foremost issue with Dynamind is its weak focal point. The vocals, commanded by Edenbridge’s Sabine Edelsbacher, are painfully one-dimensional and lead some of the laziest melodies I’ve heard from a veteran band in a long time. Additionally, as I mentioned, the sheer blandness in this album makes giving it a full listen pretty tedious. Between the songwriting, the melody, and the rest of the band playing with a relative sense of “meh”, I caught myself yawning way more than I should have every time I spun this album.

But, as its score shows, I don’t hate this album. There are parts I really like, such as most of the intros (because there are some great riffs). My favourite part of the album, however, comes in ‘Tauerngold’, which is a really well done slow tune. It definitely has its moments, but these moments aren’t enough to redeem an album’s worth of fuzzy sheep jumping over a fence.

While I wouldn’t call Dynamind a bad album, it’s a far cry from what Edenbridge are capable of. As I said before, at this point in their career, I expect an album that doesn’t live up to their prime. However, this one is a bit too far down the slope. I hope that Edenbridge come up with a better album than this before they call it quits, because it’d be a shame for such a great band to have an album like Dynamind as their farewell to metal.

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Metalite – Biomechanicals Review

Score4/10
GenreMelodic Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime48:51
Release Date25 October 2019
Record LabelAFM

Sweden’s up-and-coming female fronted melodic metal troupe Metalite have returned (and with a new vocalist) with their sophomore album, Biomechanicals. As the title alludes to, you can expect a melodic metal sound that’s drenched in electronic elements, layered vocals, and digital synths all over the place. And usually, that shit gets me pumped. Unfortunately, that’s not quite the case here, because I have a bit of a bone to pick with this album.

But, to conserve a bit of my sanity, we’ll hit the positives first. The most obvious plus about Biomechanicals is that it outdoes Heroes in Time in every aspect. The production quality, songwriting, diversity, and musicianship is all better. Metalite have also proven once again that they know how to lay down an album full of catchy melodies, and the electronic arrangements are excellent. Additionally, there are some pretty good tracks on the album, namely ‘World on Fire’ and ‘Eye of the Storm’ (which has a sick solo), as well as a handful of other cool sections.

However, despite the good parts, Biomechanicals is outweighed by its negatives. The biggest contributor to these is the fact that Metalite, as they did in their debut, are trying way too hard to become Amaranthe. Seriously, I fully expect to hear three vocalists in their next album. Despite such a strong effort to hijack their sound, Biomechanicals is missing nearly every thing that makes Amaranthe so likable; the vocals are one-dimensional, the rhythms are basic, and there’s none of that metal punch that’s necessary to take the music from being just a pop metal album to a kickass metal album with a pop sound (because there is a huge difference, and it’s a very important difference).

I know you’re probably thinking, “Hey, man, you can’t just knock Metalite for not being as good as Amaranthe; they’re two different bands,” and that’s absolutely right. I usually don’t make that the point of my comparisons. However, this comparison becomes necessary once you hear a track like ‘Breakaway’, which is literally a blatant ripoff of Amaranthe’s ‘Infinity’ from The Nexus (see: the chorus and solo (and everything else)). Metalite have crossed the line from influence into straight-up copy-and-pasting and I think that warrants a bit of collation. So, yeah, maybe I’m being unfair, but are you fucking kidding me?

While it occasionally shines, Metalite’s Biomechanicals is all flash and no flare. Behind the album’s sparkly exterior is a dull foundation that can barely stand under the force of scrutiny. If they focused more on embracing their own path and strengths, Metalite could probably make an album that I’d be all over. But, until then, I’ll just be left with a persistent, metallic taste in my mouth.

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Noveria – Aequilibrium Review

Score9.5/10
GenreProgressive Power Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime01:01:08
Release Date25 October 2019
Record LabelScarlet

Rising above the ocean of Italian progressive power metal are Noveria in their third full-length, Aequilibrium. Where other bands shy away with uninspired riffs and lazy songwriting, Noveria unleash hell with their strongest, heaviest foot forward. The grooves? Vigourous. The riffs? Insane. The solos? Ho. Ly. Fuck.

These guys don’t fuck around when it comes to metal. As soon as it starts, Aequilibrium explodes into high-intensity with a death metal atmosphere and epic choirs. Through the rest of the album, we encounter sick riff after sick riff (not the least of which can be found in ‘Awakening’ and ‘Broken’) in all their beefy, syncopated glory, as well as beautiful interludes and pulled back sections. Another aspect that makes Aequilibrium stand out is the fact that, while there’s a dark tone to most of the album, it’s never depressing and it’s always energetic.

To match the weight of their sound, Noveria have also built an emotional concept over their album; Aequilibrium tells of a psychological journey after a massive earthquake strikes, and it does so without coming off as pretentious or jaded. While the guitars, drums, bass, and keys all perform how you’d expect a high-level prog band to, the biggest reason behind the album’s emotionality are the versatile vocals of Francesco Corigliano, who can project powerfully with the might of the gods as well as craft a masterful light melody.

Despite my excitement for this album, there is one track that it could probably do without. ‘Losing You’ would probably do just fine on its own, but, since it’s tucked toward the end of the album, it ends up being pretty forgettable compared to the raw badassery that ensues in the songs around it.

But there are so many good songs here. One of my favourites is ‘Darkest Days’, which is super dynamic. It’s also the perfect way to end the album, if you ask me. My second (and most) favourite track, though, is the spine-splitting speed demon ‘Broken’, which throws aggression, a killer chorus, and a stupid ridiculous solo section at you with limitless power. I’m serious; this track is fucking awesome. And the neoclassical part of the solo is extra awesome.

It should be pretty clear why this is a must-listen album. It’s got all the fancy virtuoso playing you could want and the production is crystal clear (courtesy of Simone Mularoni, who never seems to not be involved with an Italian power metal project). In Aequilibrium, Noveria deliver a sound similar to DGM, Dream Theater, and a bit of Firewind, but it’s way heavier and darker. If you aren’t amped to check this album out, then you probably hate metal and fun in general.

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Secret Chapter – Chapter One Review

Score8.5/10
GenreHeavy Metal
CountryNorway
Runtime43:15
Release Date18 October 2019
Record LabelCrime

Sit down and strap the fuck in because Secret Chapter are going to take you on a nostalgic ride back to the 80s with their hyper-melodic, solo-rific debut, Chapter One. While the title isn’t all that creative, you can be damn sure that the music will impress. The vocals are high and full of layers, the rhythm section is tight, and the album offers an array of songs from glam to power metal.

While Chapter One treads a similar sound he likes of Skid Row, TNT, Europe, and 80s hair metal in general, it keeps things interesting by maintaining a modern heavy metal undertone. The production, layered instrumentation, and driving riffs combined with undoubtedly 80s choruses allow for the best of both worlds, and there’s no shortage of passion or aggression. A lot of 80s metal bands just sound like refined metal from the era (if that), but Secret Chapter manage to maintain individuality by putting their own musical spin on things.

And don’t even get me started on the solos because guitarist Jon Aarseth and keymaster Magnus Johansen lay down some serious facemelters. ‘Human Centipede’ (weird theme for a song, right?) delivers synth excellence, and notable guitar solos can be found in ‘Baptized in Ecstasy’, ‘The Great Escape’ and ‘One Night Aint Enough’. That being said, there’s not a solo on the album that doesn’t get my blood flowing.

The only thing preventing Chapter One from scoring higher is the fact that there are a couple tracks that seem like filler. ‘Sin City’ and the ballad, ‘Heavy Metal Love Affair’, while still good songs, don’t carry the same charm and flare that the rest of the tracks do. Their foundations are solid, but they’re considerably weaker than the rest.

Seeing as Secret Chapter shove 80s heavy metal in your face as shamelessly hard as possible, it’d be safe to assume that I harbour a deep love them. Not only that, but the sheer skill every bandmate possesses plays a key part in the unique sound they’ve achieved with Chapter One. Hopefully, there will be more chapters to enjoy in the near future.

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Rexoria – Ice Breaker Review

Score5.5/10
GenreHeavy Power Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime49:36
Release Date18 October 2019
Record LabelPride & Joy

Sweden’s female-fronted Rexoria have hardly taken a breath since their debut, with their second album, Ice Breaker, coming out just over a year since. Unfortunately, this rush might be the reason behind the album’s lack of quality; it has about as many ups as it has downs, giving it a really inconsistent overall feel. That being said, Ice Breaker does have a coherent, defining sound. It’s your usual melodic heavy metal with power metal tendencies, but with really wonky melodies and vocals.

I always hate when a capable vocalist performs as inconsistently as this. The band’s Frida Ohlin has moments, such as in ‘Var Verkilghet’, the album’s only Swedish song, where she delivers a great performance. One might draw the conclusion that she just can’t sing well in English, but, as heard in ‘Brothers of Asgaard’ and ‘Roaring’, she does that just fine, which begs the question: what the fuck? Why is she awesome and full of attitude one minute and then, well, bad the next? No matter the answer, Rexoria would be much better off with a bit of solidifying.

Another issue I have with Ice Breaker is that a lot of it is really basic. The drums, guitars, and bass all carry on fairly one-dimensionally, rarely offering anything that stands out. A lot of the songs have great intros but they quickly wane off into monotony. And then there are tracks like ‘Fight the Demons’, ‘The Rise of the Phoenix’ (except for the solo, which is great), and ‘Ice Breaker’, which are especially bad.

But that isn’t to say that there aren’t some good songs. The aforementioned ‘Roaring’, Brothers of Asgaard’, and ‘Var Verkilghet’ are pretty solid tracks overall. ‘Velvet Heroes’ also packs a decent punch, except for the vocals, so it’s not like these guys aren’t capable of making good songs. Like so many amateur bands, I think a bit more time and musical growth is what Rexoria need the most, but I’m sure we’ll get a great record from them in the future.

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