Verikalpa – Tuoppitanssi Review

Score7.5/10
GenreFolk Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime46:16
Release Date21 February 2020
Record LabelScarlet

Serving up another piece of melodeathy folk metal are Finland’s booze-fueled Verikalpa in their sophomore album, Tuoppitanssi. While I couldn’t tell you what in the fuck they’re singing about (well, I could because I read the album’s info sheet, but I really can’t say for sure), I can tell you that you’re in for a lively album with an edge. With strong melodies, a heavy rhythm section, and ferociously rough vocals, this style is hardly new, but it’s really fun it’ll probably pull you back at least once.

I can’t pinpoint the thing keeping Verikalpa from sounding like yet another generic offshoot of Korpiklaani, like so many folk bands do, but they have enough charm and individuality to steer clear of sounding too derivative. Regardless, the prevalence of the accordion is always a welcome trait. Weirdly enough, a good portion of Tuoppitanssi could be described as “viscious polka”; it’s hard, it’s gritty, and the vocals could peel the bark off a tree, but the accordion’s bounciness changes the entire feel.

Alternatively, when Tuoppitanssi isn’t in ska mode, it offers a pleasing variety. In fact, my favourite track on the album is ‘Varjosahti’, which is one of the album’s slower tunes (and a tad extra piratey). ‘Verimaat’ is also a notable track, largely due to those stupid-fast kicks. Otherwise, most of the tracks are up-tempo (like the blitzy ‘Karhunkaataja’), and there’s a pretty even split of 4/4 and 6/8, as you would expect from this style of music. That being said, the album is far from repetitive.

Fans of anything from Ensiferum to Vanir to Blodiga Skald will thoroughly enjoy Tuoppitanssi. It bites hard throughout its entirety but is catchy enough that you’ll be able to remember the songs without much effort. If you like drunk and bouncy, Verikalpa are right up your alley.

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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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Excalion – Emotions Review

Score9/10
GenrePower Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime52:33
Release Date27 September 2019
Record LabelScarlet

Melodic, expressive, keyboard-driven. It doesn’t take many more words that that to get me excited about an album. These characteristics are hardly unique when it comes to power metal, and more often than not I’m left disappointed upon actually hearing an album described by them, but, what can I say? I’m a hopeful guy. So, you can imagine my relief when Excalion laid this piece of work before me. Emotions is the fifth album of the Finnish outfit, and it checks all those boxes with massive checkmarks.

The keys? As rich and plentiful as Sonata Arctica. The melodies? They’d make any pop star jealous. And the emotion? As dynamic as your girlfriend’s when it’s her time of the month (although, far more pleasant).

Not just anybody can make an album as passionate as Emotions. Its success rides on the backs of some incredible musicians, not the least of which is vocalist Marcus Lang, who masters the raging highs and tranquil lows that the album belts out. Below him (and the many vocal layers that accompany him), the tight rhythm section lays down some great grooves, and the rhythm guitars craft some killer lines, especially in ‘The Goldern Horde’. Between the fast shredding of the album’s darker moments and the energetic riffage that drives the rest of the album, it adds an entirely new dimension to the already-deep music.

Strangely enough, Emotions has no titular track. I really like when artists do this, though, because it gives the album more musical context, rather than coming off as just some name that the band had to come up with for their album. And, in Excalion’s case, this is the perfect name. Most of the song titles will give you an idea as to how they sound and there’s a good mix of moods and atmospheres.

I don’t have any favourite tracks on this record because every one is awesome in its own way. However, for me, the choruses are the highlight of the album. Not only are the melodies catchy and strong, but the keyboards, guitars, bass, and drums bring it all together nicely. Emotions is very much a team effort, and Excalion’s strength is exactly that.

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Top Ten Metal Albums Of June

For the first time this year, I can honestly say that picking the top ten albums from this month was actually pretty easy. June was comparatively leaner than earlier months of the year, and a few big projects such as Timo Tolkki’s Avalon and Sweet Oblivion feat Geoff Tate failed to deliver anything more than disappointment, so that thinned out the potential choices even more.

That being said, every album on this list is worthy of being in a Top Ten, so make sure to check them out!

10. Ravensire – A Stone Engraved in Red

Coming up on the bottom of the list are Portuguese heavy metallers Ravensire with their third record, A Stone Engraved in Red. It’s nothing revolutionary (heavy metal never is), but it’s a solid fucking piece of metal. The throaty vocals bellow with the intensity of a canon and the rhythm section is tight and clear. Needless to say, it’s good old, gritty classic metal.

Ravensire – A Stone Engraved in Red (Cruz del Sur)

9. Mighty Thor – Ragnarok

Another third album, Mighty Thor’s comeback, Ragnarok, is a seriously destructive force. For an epic power metal album, it actually delivers a fair amount of variety, which is super rare to see in the genre. Aside from that, the sheer intensity and skill are enough to pump you up and put a smile on your face.

Full Review

8. Stille Volk – Milharis

Shifting gears a bit, Stille Volk’s Milharis is quite a bit more mellow and dark than the previous two. Stille Volk is one folk band that seems to only get better with time, and the band’s maturity really shows here. Milharis only lightly touches the metal line, and instead focuses on creating rich folk atmospheres, whether it’s in the energetic drive of ‘Incantation Mystique’ or the more mysterious, foreboding ‘Le Crepuscule du Patre’. At times it’s dissonant and spooky, and at times it’s outright dooming, but it’s a nice change of pace from my usual balls-to-the-wall synth-laden power metal.

Stille volk – Incantation Mystique (Auerbach Tontrager)

7. Diviner – Realms of Time

One of the few Greek power metal bands to break out past the “big in Greece” barrier, Diviner’s sophomore album is another excellent display of the country’s trademark heavy/power metal. It’s full of huge riffs, strong and raspy vocals, and energetic melodies. Despite never falling into an overabundance of keys or choirs, as is typical of power metal, Realms of Time manages to pack a massive punch throughout its entirety.

Diviner – Heaven Falls (Ulterium)

6. Merging Flare – Revolt Regime

Finnish melodic metal outfit Merging Flare have reignited for the first time in nearly eight years to bring us Revolt Regime. It’s hot, heavy, and hard as steel, but still maintains that beautiful, cocaine-fueled sense of fun that made 80s heavy metal so fucking awesome. The album features Beast in Black’s Kasperi Heikkinen (guitars), so it’s no surprise that Merging Flare is in the same realm of badass, pump-up, cheer-along metal as the Beast.

Full Review

Merging Flare – Alliance in Defiance (Ram It Down)

5. Cremisi – Dawn of a New Era

I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty sceptical about this album at first. I mean, what should I expect from a debut album that claims to be “symphonic folk metal”? I was full on expecting just another power metal album with minor folk melodies (which, by the way, I would never consider to be “symphonic folk metal”, thus my skepticism) from a band who was just trying to label itself as unique.

But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Dawn of a New Era is definitely what I would call symphonic folk metal, and it’s a damn good combination of the two. The orchestrations are pretty light and work very well in the background and we’re met with the occasional power metal section around what is mostly a very Falconer-ish brand of folk metal. Also, I can’t say I’ve ever heard something like this before, so Cremisi get some bonus points for actually standing out from the crowd!

Cremisi – Battle of Lepanto (Volcano)

4. Freternia – The Gathering

Looks like this was the month of comeback albums, because Freternia’s the Gathering is the third one on this list! I don’t have all that much to say about this one (without regurgitating my actual review, that is) other than it’s kickass power metal to the core without being your baseline, typical power metal album.

Full Review

Freternia – Dark Vision (Rock of Angels)

3. Moonlight Haze – De Rerum Natura

Swooping in at number three is Moonlight Haze’s debut, De Rerum Natura, which is easily the best symphonic metal album of the year so far. Featuring current and former members of Elvenking, Sound Storm, and Temperance, Moonlight Haze masterfully combine elements of Far Eastern folk, jazz, and orchestral with power metal and various vocal styles, allowing for an unmatched and widely-dynamic experience. This is far from your typical female fronted symphonic metal.

Full Review

Moonlight Haze – Ad Astra (Scarlet)

2. Chaos Magic – Furyborn

Caterina Nix’s second installment of Chaos Magic is, quite simply, amazing. Written alongside Chilean musician Nasson, Furyborn is a far cry from its predecessor and exchanged its typical symphonic metal sound for a more original, albeit poppy, take on melodic metal. It’s full of sick guitars, killer melodies, and boundless attitude. Make sure that you do not miss this album!

Full Review

Chaos Magic – I’m Your Cancer (Frontiers)

1. Majestica – Above the Sky

If you even kind of know what PowerThorn is about, this should hardly come as a surprise. Ultimately cheesy, no-holds-barred, whimsical power metal? Yup, that pretty much wins it. The “debut” album of Majestica (I say “debut” because they were formerly named ReinXeed) is undoubtedly all of those things. Between the excellent songwriting, guitar skills, and vocal proficiency of Tommy Johansson (who is also in Sabaton. Busy fucker) and the outright ridiculousness of songs like ‘Night Call Girl’ and ‘Father Time’, Above the Sky is truly a power metal album for the ages.

Full Review

Majestica – Night Call Girl (Nuclear Blast)

Think I missed something or included something that doesn’t deserve to be here? Let me know! I’m open to revisions!

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Moonlight Haze – De Rerum Natura Review

Score9.5/10
GenreSymphonic Power Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime49:07
Release Date21 June 2019
Record LabelScarlet

Sick of having the same shitty female fronted metal experience over and over and over and over (and over) again? Me too. And, this year has had no shortage of them. Hell, this month alone has thrown six of them at me already. Don’t let it ruin your summer, though, because Moonlight Haze deliver a fucking killer debut.

Formed by ex-Temperance members Chiara Tricarico and Giulio Capone 2018, Moonlight Haze is a symphonic metal project that combines the talents of musicians from Elvenking, Sound Storm, and Epica to create a melodic, emotionally dynamic, technically-pleasing work of female fronted metal that stands high above your typical Delain or Nightwish ripoff.

Right off the get go we’re greeted with chugging riffs, driving orchestrations, and climbing synth lines to let you know exactly what De Rerum Natura is about. Every arrangement is a ton of fun, and it manages to combine elements of folk, jazz, techno, and various vocal styles to create its own, unique brand of symphonic power metal. I’m painfully aware of how many bands claim to have their own “unique brand of symphonic power metal”, but this is on a whole other level.

One of the better examples of this experimental approach is ‘Dark Corners of Myself’; it begins with epic string and keyboards and has some thoughtful pulled back sections, straight heavy metal verses, choirs, clean and operatic female vocals, a furious neoclassical guitar solo, Chinese folk instruments, and even a Latin bossa interlude. But, despite all of these different pieces, there’s not a moment when it sounds messy and it flows as smoothly as the tamer songs on the album.

As far as favourites go for me, it’s im-fucking-possible for me to narrow it down, because there are so many things I love about this album. Chiara’s vocal performance is incredible, with the highlight being in ‘Ad Astra’ where she unleashes absolute hellfire in the prechorus. Right beside her is the talented Giulio, who takes over both the keyboards and drums. As far as the songs themselves, one of my many favourites is the closer, ‘Goddess’, which sounds a bit like something from Dark Moor’s Elisa Martin days, but minus the head-splitting virtuoso power.

So, yeah. This is probably my favourite symphonic album of the year so far. There’s not a thing I dislike about it and, even though I’m not nearly done with this record, I’ll be happy to see what they come up with next!

Moonlight Haze – Ad Astra (Scarlet)

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Atlas Pain – Tales Of A Pathfinder Review

Score7.5/10
GenrePower/Folk Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime48:49
Release Date19 April 2019
Record LabelScarlet

Set a course for fantastical, over-the-top brilliance, because Italian folk metallers Atlas Pain have prepared a world-capturing journey in their sophomore record, Tales of a Pathfinder. Like their first record, it contains a combination of folk melodies and themes on top of relentlessly energetic power metal beats. Additionally, the quartet remains unchanged from What the Oak Left, which allows for a more refined sound.

There is one word that describes this album perfectly: epic. (So why am I writing a whole fucking review, then? Oh well.) It’s flooded with strings, synths, choirs, and sickeningly upbeat choruses. Topped off with chugging riffs and rough vocals, it’s quite the blood rusher. It is very straightforward, but if you’re looking for wondrous motivation, this is definitely for you.

Tales of a Pathfinder has a wide range of different cultural influences but their core power metal underbelly is never far away. On this heroic expedition we meet ‘Baba Jaga’, venture all the way to Japan in ‘Hagakure’s Way’, and we even get a badass Maori throwdown in ‘Kia Kaha’ (you know, if the Maori made some of the cheesiest fucking music in existence). The folk elements are often overpowered by the surrounding orchestrations and galloping drum beats, but they don’t go unnoticed.

While I wouldn’t go as far to say that all the songs sound the same, there’s no variance to the uplifting and positive tone, which limits the possibility of much variety. And, like most power metal, it’s very much a team effort. None of the musicians are extraordinary (despite the extraordinary themes). However, they’re undoubtedly great together and achieve exactly what they set out to: an adventurous, entertaining experience that is as lively as it is intense.

Atlas Pain – The Moving Empire (Scarlet)

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Frozen Crown – Crowned In Frost Review

Score8.5/10
GenrePower Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime47:46
Release Date22 Mar 2019
Record LabelScarlet

Frozen Crown arrived on the power metal scene in a blizzard with last year’s debut, The Fallen King. Their mix of melodeath and power metal combined with a strong female lead and insanely good musicianship made them a formidable force right out of the gate. And to prove their legitimacy further, Frozen Crown have hardly stopped long enough to catch their breath. They’ve wasted no time or effort in the making of their second record, Crowned in Frost, and have produced yet another exceptional slab of metal.

‘Arctic Gales’ begins the record with climbing dual guitar lines and actually does a decent job at setting the mood for what’s to come (it always surprises the shit out of me when the intro tracks in metal albums are actually good, so bonus points here). As we venture further into the album, we encounter countless strong melodies, heavy riffs, and layers of different vocals. They’re primarily driven by the powerful Jade Etro, but there are many male harmonies, as well as a touch of rough vocals, as in ‘Winterfall’ and ‘Crowned in Frost’.

While the vocals are superb and Alberto Mezzanotte does a phenomenal job pounding the shit out of every single beat that he lays down, special attention simply must be paid to the guitar work. The riffs created between lead guitarist and songwriter Federico Mondelli (who also does the keys) and Talia Bellazecca (who’s only 18) are definitely the highlight of the album. Their synergistic shredding hits harder than an iceberg and, by the gods, are Mondelli‘s solos fantastic.

Another thing I enjoy in this album is the mixing and mastering. It’s mixed more like a heavy metal album than a power metal album, which gives it more of an edge, and it really works for this grittier style of power metal. The balance is also great and I can actually hear the fucking bass guitar (courtesy of Filippo Zavattari), which is more than I can say for ninety percent of the metal that I come across. The bass is often lost in the midst of an overbearing kick, especially in newer bands, so this professional touch goes a long way for me.

As mentioned before, there’s a staggering amount of variety in this record, with influences ranging from numerous different genres. ‘Battles in the Night’ is an old school, steady banger, whereas tunes like ‘In the Dark’ and ‘Forever’ pound away with a similar positive energy as Gamma Ray and more conventional power metal. And then there’s the meaner, harsher tracks like ‘Unspoken’, which is just fucking colossal.

Crowned in Frost already sets itself apart from its predecessor. There’s a larger bulk of heavy metal influence this time around, and it’s clear that Frozen Crown has grown more frigid with age. With two albums of increasing quality already under their belt, I think it’s safe to say that the next album will be at least as impressive as this one.

Frozen Crown – Neverending (Scarlet)

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