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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Dream Theater – Distance Over Time Review

Score9/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryU.S.A.
Runtime56:51
Release Date22 Feb 2019
Record LabelInsideOut

Dream Theater is back with a bang in their fourteenth full-length release, Distance over Time. This is easily their best album since the near-masterpiece of Black Clouds & Silver Linings back in 2009. While it doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground, there’s nothing within it that’s distractingly derivative and it’s not overly predictable. Each song is refined, organized, and extremely fluid, especially compared to the borderline mess that was The Astonishing. That being said, there’s no shortage of ridiculous time changes and their iconic, choppy beats.

As usual, the musicians are so immensely talented that it’s almost not even worth mentioning. John Petrucci emits serious riff power, especially evident in the intro in ‘At Wit’s End’ and throughout ‘Room 137′, and his and Jordan Rudess’ solos are as facemelting as ever. Drummer Mike Mangini has been around for a few albums now, replacing Portnoy in 2011, and his cohesion with the rest of the band doesn’t go unnoticed.

There are some really phenomenal tracks on this album. ‘S2N’ kicks off with a thick slapping bass line before Petrucci’s funky riffage and kickass instrumentals ensue. The oozing keyboard solo at the end is my favourite on the entire album, too. (Also, did you catch that Owen Wilson sample hidden in the background?) ‘Pale Blue Dot’ is Dream Theater tried and true. It features plenty different heavily-syncopated grooves, the time changes are all over the fucking place, and the dynamic solos within are nothing short of masterful. There’re big and beefy riffs and rhythm licks that make the song an absolute blast. The bluesy ‘Viper King’ is the metal shuffle to end all metal shuffles. It’s not overblown and stays far away from becoming absurd, with serious keyboard solos and a super catchy hook.

Dream Theater’s prog switch has been noticeably dialed down in the past ten or so years, and, as a result, much of the music has suffered. The age of fifty-fucking-time-changes-per-song has been over for some time, but there has been nothing to counteract the loss of such a prominent characteristic. This combined with the darker-leaning trend that began years ago has steadily weakened them at their core. However, as if containing years’ worth of sincerity and energy, Distance over Time regains all of their velocity and reasserts their place as the prog kings.

Dream Theater – S2N (InsideOut Music)

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Against Myself – Unity Review

Score7.5/10
GenreSymphonic/Prog
CountrySpain
Runtime1:05:00
Release Date11 Feb 2019
Record LabelOn Fire

I think this is the first album with a pirate ship in the artwork that I’ve ever heard that isn’t pirate metal. In fact, it’s on the other side of the damn spectrum from pirate metal, on the melodic/symphonic side, with a shot of progressive. Unity’s prog elements add some serious depth to the already intricate choir and string parts, making for an epic and immensely refined sound.

Unity is the first album to contain Against Myself’s new lineup, with Carlos Alcalde, Sergio Culebras, and Raúl Plaza on the keys, guitars, and bass, respectively. The musicianship is outstanding in the entire album, from the light and airy piano/vocal segments to the heavily syncopated breakdowns.

The first few tracks on the album are nothing special, but the music shows us a little more in ‘Over the Clouds’. The instrumental in the beginning is a bit Nightwishy, and, I swear to god, near the end of the first verse there’s a line that’s taken straight out of Amaranthe’s ‘Dynamite’. Anyway, the song gives us a tasty synth solo before heading through more epic choirs and into the final section of the song.

Speaking of solos, there are some great ones worthy of mention; the guitar solo in ‘The Wanderer’, which carries on tastefully for a couple minutes and contains some detailed licks. The other, and easily my favourite, is the guitar outro of the fifteen minute prog piece ‘Oniros’, which is a phenomenal song even without a solo. I feel like the slow piano run at the end would have been a perfect conclusion for the album, but the actual final track gets the job done.

Irene Villegas does a wonderful job with her clean, deliberate vocals and has no problem ramping them up a bit to emphasize a melody. Additionally, Unity offers so much variety that there’s probably something in it for everyone. There are some gothic-sounding songs, such as ‘Demons’, a couple well done slow tunes, the intensely harsh ‘The Hidden Truth’, and everything in between. And if that isn’t enough, drummer Charly Carretón doesn’t give two shits and will lay down a blast beat whenever the fuck he feels like it, whether it’s a laid back chorus or a heavier breakdown.

I thoroughly enjoyed this album. It has plenty to offer and almost never sets into a single feel or groove. Furthermore, the band sounds tight and the production quality follows suit. Check it out; you won’t be disappointed!

Against Myself – Hero’s Soul (On Fire Records)

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Ariel Perchuk’s Odyssey – Eastern Symphony Review

Score8/10
GenreSymphonic Prog/ Folk
CountryArgentina
Runtime43:50
Release Date15 Jan 2019
Record LabelIndependent

If you’ve been wandering the desert in search of an unknown band with and incredibly unique sound, look no further than Ariel Perchuk’s Odyssey. This mysterious ensemble conjures symphonic prog with a Middle Eastern folk spirit. The aptly named Eastern Symphony is Perchuk’s most recent solo project, featuring an impressive lineup of Argentinian guest musicians, including ex-Skiltron bassist Fernando Marty.

Even though the album periodically relies on the haunting string tracks and dumbek rhythms, its lifeblood without-a-doubt lives in the keyboards. There are some nasty fucking key solos on this record. I’m not kidding. Perchuk gives us a little taste in the second track, ‘Just a Dream’ (especially in the outro), but they really take off in the following instrumental and keyboard feature: ‘The Eyes of the Sunset’. It begins relatively tame, but some serious licks are laid down and there’s even a jazzy organ section that sounds like something from ‘Oye Como Va’.

There are a few instrumental tracks on the record, such as the aforementioned ‘The Eyes of the Sunset’ and ‘Dreams and Nightmare’. It never feels like too many, however, because they’re insanely lively and well-detailed, and there are some serious facemelting solos from keyboards and guitars alike. Additionally, the mixing allows for a beefy bass sound and the drumwork is great. The entire album constantly proves both Perchuk’s compositional ability and the rest of the band’s musicianship.

In Eastern Symphony I have two favourite songs, which are both instrumentals. The first is ‘Across a Tunnel of Light’, in which the progressive and Middle Eastern elements are strong. There’s also an insanely tasteful guitar solo in the latter half that knocked me on my ass. My other favourite, ‘Solfeggietto’, concludes the album. It’s full to the brim with fun neoclassical elements and, yes, more ridiculous soloing. The harpsichord interludes add a nice flavour to the song, too.

It’s safe to say that this album is phenomenal. There is a huge amount of song variety and the dynamic songs are almost overflowing with different elements. The rhythm section lays down numerous proggy fills and grooves and the many keyboard parts add layer upon layer of depth into the music. I eagerly await Ariel Perchuk’s next project, because he’s simply too good a musician to not produce another album.

Ariel Perchuk’s Odyssey – God’s Punishment

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News This Week (February Week 1)

February has started off with a bang. A handful of good singles came out, and Friday saw a couple of massively impressive album releases. There wasn’t much in the way of news or announcements, but the music was enough to keep me busy, anyway.

I’ll begin with the most unique piece of news: the Sabaton History Channel’s debut. Upon its announcement a few weeks ago, the concept of Sabaton History was generally well received. The first episode definitely lives up to expectations. It’s interesting and detailed, and you’ll likely learn a thing or two.

Sabaton History 001 – The Battle of Wizna

Singles


Týr – Sunset Shore

Týr’s upcoming album Hel is set to release on 8 March. I’m not a huge fan, but ‘Sunset Shore’ sounds solid enough. It sounds like the rest of their music; mournful and emotional with a great guitar solo.

Tyr – Sunset Shore (Metal Blade)

Bloodbound – ‘Slayer Of Kings’

Bloodbound’s Rise of the Dragon Empire is coming 20 March. Judging by this single, it will be another light and fantastical release with the usual Bloodbound essence. ‘Slayer Of Kings’ is pretty straightforward, and doesn’t stray very far from it’s true power metal sound. There’s nothing exceptional here, but that isn’t really what we expect from them, anyway.

Bloodbound – Slayer Of Kings (AFM Records)

Grimgotts – ‘Ancient Waters’

Adventurous power metal band Grimgotts’ new single for their upcoming album, Dragons of the Ages, blows all of their past songs out of the sea. It’s a lot cleaner sounding than their first record, and it carries an uplifting and epic feel. A release date has yet to be announced, but it’s likely to be released by mid-year.

Grimgotts – Ancient Waters

Darkwater – ‘A New Beginning’

‘A New Beginning’ is the second single for melodic proggers Darkwater’s new album, Human. This will be their first album release in nine years. By the sound of ‘A New Beginning’, the album will comprise of the same electronic sound as its predecessors.

Darkwater – A New Beginning (Ulterium Records)

Eluveitie – ‘Ategnatos’

Melodic folk-death masters Eluveitie are back. Their second single for the upcoming Ategnatos, coming 5 April, sounds promising; it’s characteristically mournful and delivers exactly what you’d expect.

Albums

Herman Frank – Fight the Fear

For fans of classic metal, Fight the Fear is everything you could want; heavy riffs, shredding solos, and a hard-hitting band. However, variety is almost non-existent in this album, and once you get two or three tracks in, there’s nothing coming up that you haven’t already heard.

That being said, this is a good (but not great) record. You can see my detailed review here.

Herman Frank – Fear (AFM Records)

Thornbridge – Theatrical Masterpiece

Thornbridge has surfaced with a second album that takes everything great about their first record and tags it with a newer, more original feel. The sound can most accurately be described as old school Blind Guardian with Orden Ogan choruses served on a modern power metal plate.

Check out my review here.

Thornbridge – Theatrical Masterpiece (Massacre Records)

Beast In Black – From Hell With Love

I’ve saved the best for last. Of all the releases this week (and, realistically, probably this year), Beast In Black’s sophomore album stands far on top. They’ve taken their former 80s influence and blended it into their power metal foundation, resulting in a synth-heavy, heart-burning, cheese-oozing fury that sticks out from all of Anton Kabanen’s work thus far.

You can see my more detailed assessment of the Beast’s blast to the past here!

Beast In Black – Sweet True Lies (Nuclear Blast)

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Verdande – Verdande EP Review

Score7/10
GenreProg/Metalcore
CountryDenmark
Runtime23:52
Release Date8 February 2019
Record LabelIndependent

Verdande is a relatively new progressive metal five piece from Denmark. Their sound relies on energetic grooves, playful riffs, and heavy breakdowns, with ripping melodic guitar solos that are very well done. The band is super tight and not one section overtakes the other. Additionally, they prove their versatile musicianship in the pulled back sections throughout the album, which are very tasteful and not overdone. At times they sound like a heavier version of Amaranthe and a lighter version of Gojira.

These guys don’t fuck around. ‘Seeking Waiting or Hiding’ begins with a light acoustic run, before the first verse commences with an intense bang. If the powerful pounding of the first verse doesn’t instantly steal your attention, maybe the first breakdown will. And, if neither of those are enough, the pulled back section in the middle and accompanying facemelter will win you over as the shredding continues building into the final leg of the song.

My biggest problem with Verdande is Soren Sedit’s vocals, and it’s really less of a problem and more a matter of stylistic preference. His screams and growls sound as if they’re coming from the top of his head rather than his throat and results in an angsty screamo voice. In all honesty, it just annoys me.

The best song on the EP is ‘We Wait In The Fire’. The guitar riffs are fast and the song is driven by heavily syncopated rhythm shots. This song contains all the goodness of the entire setlist but amplified and with an even better solo.

All in all, this is a great taste of what Verdande has to offer. There isn’t much variety from song to song (which, with four tracks, isn’t a big deal in the slightest) but each song is dynamic and has plenty to offer. The guitar riffs and rhythm section are really solid and the solos are sick. Verdande has certainly made its way onto my radar and I look forward to their first full-length release, whenever that may be.

Verdande – We Wait In The Fire

Originally written for metal-observer.com

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