Ivanhoe – Blood And Gold Review

Score8.5/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryGermany
Runtime38:33
Release Date20 March 2020
Record LabelMassacre

German prog veterans Ivanhoe have returned with another prog piece that hearkens back to the classic prog of the late 80s/early 90s. Blood and Gold is the band’s eighth full-length release in their thirty-five year career, but it holds true as one of their most essential releases ever. This compact, groove-driven style of prog will especially be a hit for fans of golden-age Queensryche and Fates Warning.

Blood and Gold does a lot of things right. First and foremost, the runtime is short and sweet (and the songs are all around the four-minute range); there’s no fat around the edges, it’s just no-bullshit prog with experimental, time-changey grooves and sick facemelters in a manageable space. As such, it’s perfect for prog fans who don’t have the attention span to be serious prog fans. Next in line are the drums, which are absolutely killer from the very first song, courtesy of the band’s brand new drummer, Bernd Heining. His fills are great and his beats are many, which is the crucial element in keeping the more laid-back tunes interesting (which is like two thirds of the album). It’s also worth mentioning that the mixing is perfect for an album like this. The guitars and drums sound closer to traditional metal than the colossal, crisp onslaught that most modern prog delivers. Don’t get me wrong, I live for clean and disgustingly heavy, but the softer, more lo-fi production quality has its place, too.

Outside of just comparing it to “early 90s prog”, the overall sound of the album is pretty melancholic, putting a greater emphasis on emotional hooks and guitar countermelodies than explosive riffs. There’s a serious level of technicality, though, most evident in the songs ‘Solace’ and ‘Perfect Tragedy’ (both of which are my favourite tracks), where the time changes are many and the rhythm section is on fucking point.

Between strong songwriting, great musicianship, and that classic feel, Blood and Gold is definitely worth checking out. Also, make sure to keep your ears open, because there’re a ton of little details in the album which I didn’t even touch on (like a sax solo in ‘Shadow Play’).

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New Project Featuring Geoff Tate Announced From Frontiers Records

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

The group’s first single, ‘True Colors’, has accompanied the announcement. Like the rest of the album, it aims for a sound similar to Queensryche’s older material.

Sweet Oblivion – True Colors (Frontiers)

Sweet Oblivion’s self-titled debut is set to surface on 14 June.

Follow Sweet Oblivion on Facebook.
Preorder the album here!

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Queensr├┐che – 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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