Ravenword – Transcendence Review

Score7/10
GenreSymphonic Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime01:09:48
Release Date31 January 2020
Record LabelRockshots

I think, at this point, we can expect Italy to never, ever, ever stop producing symphonic metal. Seriously. There’s no end to it. I’m not complaining, but holy fuck. They must be pulling close to Germany’s heavy metal numbers by now. Anyway, supporting this cause of symphonic saturation are the female-fronted Ravenword in their one-shot debut album, Transcendence. While the band was around shortly in the late 00s, they went on hiatus and reformed in 2016 with a new lineup. Among the bandmembers is the beautifully versatile Chiara Tricarico, who was featured in another new symphonic metal project Moonlight Haze last year and also sings for Sound Storm.

At times, Transcendence plays like your typical, melodic/symphonic/gothic album (such as in the ballad ‘Lullaby of the Last Petal’ and ‘Rain of Stars’). It’s sparkly, the vocals are often operatic, and the overall atmosphere is typically mystical and flowwy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it makes for a lot of filler. As such, at more than an hour’s runtime, it could go for a serious trim. However, Transcendence‘s good songs are really fucking good, so it’s worth giving the whole record a spin or two to find the worthwhile ones.

The album starts strong in ‘Blue Roses’. It has good energy, a killer hook, a key solo. Hell, it even has a key change. Talk about overachiever. Overall, it’s one of my favourite tracks, and it there couldn’t be a better choice for the opener. Immediately after, we see Tricarico’s versatility start to show a bit more in ‘Life Is in Your Hands’, where she displays a bit more of her attitude and power. After this, though, we’re met with a lot of subpar efforts that all kind of sound the same, but there are still a few gems (‘The Swansong’ and ‘Crimson Lake’ especially), as well as a pile of ridiculously sweet guitar solos.

While it’s not something I ever do, you would probably be safe in judging this album by its cover; for the most part, it’s super generic for the genre, but there’s enough going on to keep things exciting. As I said, it’s well worth sifting through Transcendence (even if a good portion of it is forgettable), because it has its moments of genius.

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Scarleth – Vortex Review

Score9/10
GenreMelodic Metal
CountryUkraine
Runtime46:06
Release Date15 November 2019
Record LabelRockshots

The past weeks haven’t skimped out on great melodic metal one bit and Scarleth have carried this momentum in their latest effort, Vortex. It’s bright, it’s melodic, and it offers a wide variety while still hanging onto a distinct, recognizable sound. Aside from guitarist and founder, Viktor Morozov, the album has an all-new lineup. Fronted by Ekaterina Kapshuk‘s expressive vocals, each riff-heavy track belts a considerable amount of energy and badassery.

Vortex combines elements of heavy, power, symphonic, and gothic metal, synthpop, and even Middle Eastern and folk music. On top of that, the album is full of colourful rhythm section parts and some sick guitar solos. Seriously. They suddenly explode into existence and demand your attention with shredtastic, sweep-picked mystery. The result of this well-balance mixture is a memorable melodic metal album that’s sure to be a favourite among fans of the genre.

One thing worth mentioning is the fact that, though the album is super melodic, I wouldn’t necessarily call most of the choruses catchy. Sure, there are a few, like ‘Feel the Heat’ and ‘Break the Chains’, but the tunes don’t do much to make you want to sing along, like so many pop metal albums do (or try to do, at least). This isn’t a bad quality, as the melodies are still strong, it’s just something that separates it from the norm in the space.

As far as my favourite tracks go, I think ‘Escape from Your Embrace’ wins it. It’s crazy dynamic and features excellent piano parts all the way through, plus it has one of the best facemelters. It also ramps up the whole Middle Eastern thing and unleashes some fucking ferocious growls. Additionally, ‘Ostannya Zorya’, as the folkiest tune on the album, is worth mentioning, as well as ‘Final Curtain’, which, expectedly, has a gothic/circussy feel, similar to Amberian Dawn’s Circus Black.

Despite having a new lineup, Scarleth maintain a tight, experienced sound. From beginning to end, there’s no telling what Vortex will lay down next. The whole album is pleasant surprise after pleasant surprise. Even if you go into this album with high expectations, I bet you’ll still be impressed with this shiny piece of modern metal.

*Also, bonus points for actually having fucking FIRE in the music video.*

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Silent Call – Windows Review

Score7/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime1:00:52
Release Date11 October 2019
Record LabelRockshots

Swedish prog outfit Silent Call have been around since the mid-2000s. Since then, they’ve put out only a handful of albums, with their latest, Windows, being their fourth. Even though this is the final album of the band’s career, they’ve enlisted Göran Nyström (Sarpedon, Twinspirits) as their new vocalist, whose style gives the album a very Greek power metal feel, similar to Firewind or Diviner.

For the most part, Windows is a really solid prog metal album. The riffs are heavy, the drums and vocals are expressive, and there are numerous synth parts in the background and foreground. Additionally, the intros to pretty much every song are very well done. The album’s only real downfall is its amount of excess. With an hour-long runtime, it’s a bit long, which would be ok if every song got the care it deserved, but that, unfortunately, isn’t the case. Songs like ‘Imprisoned in Flesh’, ‘Shifting Shape’, and ‘Clouded Horizon’ (among others) don’t offer much past your typical Queensryche-y or power metaly progressive metal song. It’s not like they’re awful songs, but they’re forgettable and come across as mainly filler.

But that isn’t to say there aren’t any awesome tracks; tucked far into the album’s end, the final three, ‘Invisible’, ‘Bleeding Me Dry’, and ‘Eye of Destruction’, all blow the rest of the tracklist out of the fucking water. Between excellent synthwork, great guitar soloing, strong arrangements, and the best riffs on the entire album, it makes me wonder why they’d be stuck on the tail end of such a long album. Upon consecutive listens, the album has a sort of sagging feeling after the second track because, aside from a few cool moments, there’s not a whole lot to see in between the main good songs.

It’s often a shame when a band announces its end, but sometimes, as is the case here, it’s better to make a clean exit than to be remembered for falling apart in the latter portion of your career (I’m looking at you, Sonata Arctica. Fuckers.). Despite having some issues with it, Windows is still a very enjoyable album, and its highlights deliver some seriously killer performances.

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Silent Call Sign Record Deal For Final Album

Swedish proggers Silent Call have announced that their next album, Windows, will be the final album that they make. The band were formed in 2006 and released three albums between then and 2014.

While Windows marks Silent Call’s end, it will still have plenty new to offer, such as the vocal talents of the band’s new singer, Göran Nyström.

01. Faceless
02. Soulshaker
03. Imprisoned In Flesh
04. Shifting Shape
05. Among The Ruins
06. Clouded Horizon
07. The Unknown
08. Hermetic
09. Shedding Skin
10. Damnation
11. Invisible
12. Bleeding Me Dry
13. Eye Of Destruction

Windows will be separated from its predecessor by five years, following in suit with the band’s lax release schedule, and will be released on 11 October under Rockshots Records.

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Everfrost – Winterider Review

Score7.5/10
GenreSymphonic Power Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime58:30
Release Date6 September 2019
Record LabelRockshots

From the frozen north of Finland come Everfrost with their sophomore album, Winterider, which is one of the most expressive symphonic power metal albums of the year. The band bleeds musical excellence and, when their power is directed into over-the-top, cheerfully epic arrangements, they produce a truly unique sound, even by power metal standards. Everfrost’s winter-themed metal shows clear influences ranging from Blind Guardian to late-80s glam metal to Queen, which further pushes the boundaries of what you might expect from this genre.

However, as most things go, Winterider isn’t perfect. There are a few tracks that bring down an otherwise-terrific album, and it’s a damn shame, because everything outside of these songs is fucking awesome. The first culprit is ‘Juhannus in January’, which has some really weak melodies in the verses. Then there’s the closer of the album, which comes in the form of a fifteen-minute beast: ‘A Whisper in a Frozen Tale’. While it has some really great moments, it lost me about eight minutes in. It’s dynamic for sure, but a few sections just carry on for way too long. The final weak song would be the Kesha (Ke$ha? KESHA? I don’t fucking know.) cover ‘Die Young’. It doesn’t go far past being your very typical metal cover, and it upsets the flow of an album that’s flooded with talent and energy.

But then we get to the many, many great things that Winterider so readily gives us. Powerful synths drive the music, and the whole atmosphere of the album is similar to the way Twilight Force showers positivity and majesty over its music, except with a wintery theme thrown into the mix. The drumming, courtesy of Jope Salminen, is nothing short of incredible, with constant switches from colourful grooves to destructive blast beats. Every song also features killer facemelters, both from guitar and synths. Notable mentions would be the solo sections in ‘Winterider’ and ‘Brandy and Antifreeze’.

My favourite songs on the record are ‘Actraiser’, ‘Chainlace Angel’, and ‘Darkwoods Drain Backwaters’. Sure, having three favourite songs on an album of ten might be pushing it, but they’re all cool in their own way. ‘Actraiser’ delivers a lot of glam metal energy, as well as lively vocal layers that give the song a huge Queen feel. Fitting in with a similar theme, we’re welcomed with limitless Michael Jackson energy in ‘Chainlace Angel’, vocals and all. But that last favourite of mine is completely different that the other two. ‘Darkwoods Drain Backwaters’ begins straightforward (and kind of boring), but about a minute in it fucks right off into hyperdrive and unleashes four minutes of double-time power metal bliss.

Everfrost is a band I’ll continue keeping a very close eye on. Winterider shows a lot of development from the band’s debut record, both with regard to the arrangements and musicianship. Despite a few pitfalls, this album’s highs are fucking awesome. Just ignore the album artwork, because Winterider is a must-listen for sure.

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Astralium – Land Of Eternal Dreams Review

Score9/10
GenreSymphonic Power Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime01:04:27
Release Date23 August 2019
Record LabelRockshots

Formed in 2014 by frontwoman Roberta Pappalardo and bass player Giuseppe Pappalardo, Astralium are fresh out of Italy: the land of symphonic metal. Land of Eternal Dreams is the band’s debut album, marking their official entrance onto the metal scene. Completing the band’s regular lineup are guitarist Emanuele Alessandro and Metatrone drummer Salvo Grasso, but there are also a handful of guest musicians, such as the ever-busy Tommy Johansson (Sabaton, Majestica), Andrea Martongelli (Arthemis), Jo Lombardo, Stefano “Ghigas” Calvagno, and Davide Bruno (who are/were all fellow Metatrone members alongside Grasso).

Needless to say, Astralium aren’t your typical, generic symphonic metal band. They manage to produce a bright, unique sound and, while some of their influences are vividly apparent at times (Nightwish, Amberian Dawn, and even Hans Zimmer), they do a great job at maintaining originality. The orchestrations are broad and epic, but they don’t overbear the guitars or vocals, which is a common mistake in the genre.

The strongest aspect of Land of Eternal Dreams is the songwriting. Each song is dynamic, expressive, and offers something new. Additionally, a variety of moods and time signatures are explored. We have ‘Whisper in the Silence’, which brings heavy intensity, a soft ballad in ‘Breath of My Soul’, the blast-beat aggression of ‘Seven Seas, Seven Winds’, and there’s even the cool vocal feature ‘Ethereal Voices from the Forest’, which sounds like, well, a bunch of ethereal voices from the forest. Although, while all of these tracks have a noticeable theme, they all feature a variety of different moods.

I do have a few clear favourites in Land of Eternal Dreams. ‘Whisper of the Silence’ has some awesome riffing and the drumming, which is fucking killer, doesn’t sit still for more than twenty seconds. The pulled back first verse is another great touch. I also really like the end section of ‘Seven Seas, Seven Winds’, which is like the soundtrack to an epic, bloody battle on the high seas. Finally, the closer, ‘Hidden Conspiracy’ sums up the entire album nicely. It’s an all-around sick track, covering every emotion that the rest of the album features with a surprising amount of detail for a song that isn’t even seven minutes long.

I really don’t have any issues with this album. It’s diverse, the playing is exquisite, and the arrangements are colourful. In a sea of forgettable symphonic metal acts, Land of Eternal Dreams rises as a stellar debut and keeps Astralium afloat.

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Astralium Release First Single Of Debut Album

Female-fronted symphonic outfit Astralium have released the first track of their upcoming debut album, Land of Eternal Dreams. ‘The Journey’ treads fairly closely to the Nightwishy style of numerous other bands in the space, but the tight rhythm section (drums especially) place it on the better half.

Astralium – The Journey (Rockshots)

‘The Journey’ also shows that Astralium are capable of making a creative song with a solid structure, so it’s safe to say that my expectations for Land of Eternal Dreams have increased after listening to this song.

Don’t forget to check Land of Eternal Dreams out when it arrives on 23 August!
And, go follow Astralium on Facebook!

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Astralium Tease Debut Album

Fresh out of Italy, female fronted symphonic outfit Astralium have announced that their debut album, Land of Eternal Dreams, will be released on 23 August via Rockshots Records internationally, and Spiritual Beast in Japan.

There’s no single to enjoy yet, but you can catch a glimpse of what’s to come in the album trailer below.

Astralium – Land of Eternal Dreams (Rockshots)

Astralium were formed in 2014 by vocalist Roberta Pappalardo and bassist Guiseppe Pappalardo. The band has gone through numerous lineup changes and even a namechange since then, but they’re powered on and are finally ready to release their debut.

Go support these newcomers by liking them on Facebook!

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Shred Master Constantine Releases New Single

After nearly a decade, Constantine Kotzamanis will soon unveil the second installment of his solo career: Aftermath. The album will be available on 31 May via Rockshots Records.

Today, however, we have the fortune of enjoying the phenomenal shredding of Constantine’s new single!

Constantine – Bushido (Rockshots)

Here’s an excerpt from Rockshots to give an idea as to what to expect in the new album:
“Aftermath itself is a modern metal masterpiece with Constantine delivering his most soulful, technical, inspired performances and compositions with collaborations with some of the most prominent vocalists in the world of metal and rock, Bjorn Strid (Soilwork), Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear), Apollo Papathanasio (Firewind), Chris Clancy (Munity Within) and Schmier (Destruction)”

Go follow Constantine on Facebook!

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Mortanius – Till Death Do Us Part Review

Score7.5/10
GenreProg/Power
CountryU.S.A.
Runtime48:49
Release Date22 Feb 2019
Record LabelRockshots

After cooking up a few EP’s in the first five years of their existence, progressive power metallers Mortanius’ first album, Till Death Do Us Part, has come out of the shadows. The American group’s musical objective of creating unique music is definitely achieved, resulting in a sound that is accurately described as the Castlevania soundtrack going prog.

The whole background is rich with harpsichord and string tracks, as well as many vocal harmonies. Did I say many vocal harmonies? I meant a lot. An assload. There really isn’t a minute you’ll find away from them. Step aside, Queen, because Mortanius is here to beat the hell out of you with an army of backing vocals. On the bright side, the assortment of background parts makes for a consistently full sound. Some absolutely killer double-kick drum beats make frequent appearances in Till Death Do Us Part, namely in Disengage, but, to my dismay, they are piloted by a drum machine. Nevertheless, the grooves sound great and blend in well with the rest of the band.

‘Facing The Truth’ kicks off the album with some cool shots before it gets right into your typical 6/8 power metal groove driven by heavy pipe organs and other synth pieces, reinforcing that medieval sound. The guitar solo is sick and there’s a ton going on, which will almost certainly demand a second listen.

Special attention must be given to vocalist Lucas Flocco. He is simply fantastic. His sharp, floating voice climbs ever-higher, backwards in time and out of puberty (bypassing the horrific, esteem-breaking voice-cracks) and producing a pleasant timbre that demonstrates an impressive amount of control. And that goes for those backing vocals, too. The album also features two guest vocalists (though it sure as shit doesn’t need them): Japanese vocalist Leo Figaro, known for his roles in Dragon Guardian and Mistrelix, as well as a handful of other projects; and Jonas Heidgert, lead vocalist of Dragonland.

One song in particular stands out from the rest as something exceptional. The eighteen-minute long titular track is fun, dynamic and a perfect example of prog done right. It begins slow, and builds into a tremolo-driven instrumental that is a fair bit more mournful than the rest of the album. After a few minutes of some powerful, driving metal, the track pulls right back into a solo section that keeps on delivering solo after solo, with contributions from the bass, acoustic guitar, piano, and electric guitar. The instrumental transitions perfectly into the following verse, and we’re treated to another guitar solo before the song’s conclusion.

I was caught off guard on the final track; the record closes with a surprisingly good power-ballad version of Last Christmas (which is a nice change from the same fucking Ariana Grande-bouncy-electro-pop rendition it gets literally every year) but it strikes me as strange and, for a reason I can’t quite put my finger on, a little creepy that it’d be included on a February release.

Till Death Do Us Part delivers a one-of-a-kind, almost avant-garde experience. The computerized drums are a disappointment and the Christmas inclusion rubbed me a weird way. No, not good weird, either. Also, those vocal harmonies don’t quit. They’re around every corner. Is that a bad thing? Probably not. Anyway, with a runtime that’s short and sweet and plenty of variety within its five songs, Till Death Do Us Part has certainly earned my respect and I look forward to Mortanius’ next whimsical release.

Originally written for metal-observer.com

Mortanius – Facing The Truth (Rockshots)

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