Top Ten Metal Albums Of September

It’s been a crazy month on my side of things, but it’s been even crazier in the metal world. There was almost more to listen to this month than there was for the entire summer, so, needless to say, my Top Ten Metal Albums of September had a few runner ups.

10. Ancient Empire – Wings of the Fallen

While not exceptional by their own standards, Ancient Empires Wings of the Fallen is an excellent traditional metal record. With solid, chugging riffs and strong melodies, it’s everything you’d want in classic heavy metal, plus a bit extra.

09. Excalion – Emotions

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.

Full Review

08. Ereb Altor – Jartecken

Ereb Altor are no stranger to viking metal. With eight albums since their 2008 debut, they’ve worked steadily to bring the best of true viking metal. Their latest album, Jartecken, is pretty much what you’d expect at this point, but that isn’t to say it isn’t something new, too; it continues down the same path as the past couple albums, delivering a dynamic mix of mournful folk melodies and vicious atmospheres.

Full Review

07. DragonForce – Extreme Power Metal

DragonForce is back with their best album of the decade: Extreme Power Metal. One thing EPM does better than, well, every album up to Reaching into Infinity is variety. It has your typical, fast-paced power metal bangers like ‘Troopers of the Stars’ and ‘Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shred’, as well as a surplus of more commercial, poppy songs. There are a few songs that aren’t driven solely by spine-splitting speed, such ‘Remembrance Day’ and the excellent cover of Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’, but the intense dragon energy is never lost. There are also a lot of instrumental breaks that utilize strings, folk instruments, and the usual videogame SFX that are so characteristic of DragonForce. These video game themes run strong, with most of the songs having retro synth (or outright 8-bit) intros. Unsurprisingly, ‘The Last Dragonborn’ is the most videogame-fueled of them all, albeit more in content and less in sound.

Full Review

06. Borknagar – True North

Norway’s black/folk masters Borknagar pumps out great albums on the worst of days, so it should be no surprise that True North is on this list. In a word, the album is captivating. Between thunderous highs and serene lows, it’s as if Borknagar have invoked the very spirits of the mountains. To add to this dynamism, the album makes use of everything from clean vocals and bouncy grooves to furious blastbeats and skin-tearing growls. Of all the “winter-themed” albums to come out this month (like Everfrost’s Winterider and Sonata Arctica’s fucking mess), this one embodies that theme the best.

05. Cerebellar Rondo – The Realizing

It’s been a little while since I’ve heard a decent new Japanese power metal album, so it caught me off guard when the first one I’d heard in months swept me off my feet the way The Realizing did. The debut of Cerebellar Rondo, it’s fast, pleasantly melodic, and displays all of the flare and technicality that keeps bringing me back to Japanese power metal. Aside from the killer vocal performance, there are some seriously cool riffs that separate Cerebellar Rondo from a lot of the other (albeit still good) Japanese power metal bands.

04. Everfrost – Winterider

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.

Full Review

03. Centurion – Centurion

Centurion is an insatiable riff-beast, ready to prey on the ears of all who are close enough to listen. Not only that, but we’re also attacked with an onslaught of powerful melodies, facemelting solos (especially in ‘Ruka Sudbine’ and ‘Virtuelno Ognjiste’. Holy fuck.), and drumming that never settles for satisfactory. Seriously. This is one damn impressive group of musicians who are as mighty as the badass warriors on their album cover.

Full Review

02. Kybalion – Black Painted Skies

If you want a bit of a change from the usual 16th-based, djenty, instrumental modern prog that has recently flooded the metal world, give this EP a spin. Black Painted Skies is the first release (they call it an EP but I would consider it a full-out album, but maybe that’s just me) from America’s brand new instrumental proggers, Kybalion. This speed demon of death is super heavy and its ever-changing form will have you happily kissing the comfortability of 4/4 goodbye. With a diverse mix of highs, lows, feels, and time signatures, it’s evident that this trio doesn’t fuck around.

Full Review

01. Wind Rose – Wintersaga

Well, summer’s over. That means the time for beaches, bimbos, and barbecues is at it’s end, being instead replaced by the dark, wind, and cold. However, this is the perfect season for a dwarf! And what better way to explore your potential dwarfhood than cranking out the meanest, mightiest of man-metal? Enter Wind Rose, Italy’s finest dwarf metal army, and their fourth album, Wintersaga. As the band’s most impressive album to date, it’s as if it was smithed in the forges of Khazad-dum itself. If its epic chants and upbeat hymns aren’t enough to get you into the season, they’ll at least get your blood flowing hard enough to keep you warm.

Full Review

Did I miss something worthy of being a Top Ten? Bitch at me in the comments or send me a message!

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Centurion – Centurion Review

Score8.5/10
GenreProgressive Heavy Metal
CountrySerbia
Runtime01:16:16
Release Date13 September 2019
Record LabelIndependent

Labelling a band as “progressive heavy metal” is usually, in my experience, just a desperate effort of a prog band that has low production quality to appear more legitimate. Fortunately, that isn’t the case in Centurion’s self-titled debut. Instead, we get a solid traditional metal experience with all the flare, technicality, and versatility of a prog album. Right off the top, these Serbs prove that they aren’t just another lo-fi prog outfit by making an actual decent introductory track.

After a tasteful build in intensity, one thing becomes clear: Centurion is an insatiable riff-beast, ready to prey on the ears of all who are close enough to listen. Not only that, but we’re also attacked with an onslaught of powerful melodies, facemelting solos (especially in ‘Ruka Sudbine’ and ‘Virtuelno Ognjiste’. Holy fuck.), and drumming that never settles for satisfactory. Seriously. This is one damn impressive group of musicians who are as mighty as the badass warriors on their album cover.

If there’s one area that Centurion slightly suffers in, it’s the vocal department. While they certainly aren’t bad, there are a couple areas (mainly some the verses) where a bit more expression would go a long way. That being said, vocalist Miloš Marjanović has a great range and I don’t think there’s a single chorus I didn’t love. Aside from this, the runtime (which clocks in at more than 75 minutes) could be trimmed down a bit but, all things considered, these aren’t huge issues.

On the flip side, such a long runtime allows for a lot of potential variety, which we certainly get. There’s a good range of highs and lows, as well as tons of songs that have your usual prog changes, namely ‘Hodocasnik’ and the Mediterranean-flavoured ‘Janjicar’ (and, if we’re being completely honest here, every other song, too). There’s not a moment where I felt the transitions were bad, either, so bonus points there.

If you had no idea of these guys’s existence, like me about a month ago, then you owe it to yourself to check this album out. If you like your metal heavy, gritty, melodic, and dynamic, Centurion is right up your alley.

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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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DragonForce – Extreme Power Metal Review

Score8.5/10
GenrePower Metal
CountryEngland
Runtime52:51
Release Date27 September 2019
Record LabelMetal Blade

Between relentless speed, over-the-top solos, and enough positivity to make even a reggae guy sick, let me come clean and say that I’m a huge DragonForce fan. After all, ‘Through the Fire and the Flames’ was the very first power metal song I ever heard. These guys are single-handedly responsible for planting the seed of undying love of power metal in my soul eleven years ago, as they did for many others, and I still crank out most of their albums on a regular basis. My favourites are the four albums from the ZP era, and I like their 2017 release, Reaching into Infinity, almost as much. The Power Within and Maximum Overload, however, were really hit-and-miss for me, but there are a few killer tracks from both. Fortunately, Extreme Power Metal is a hit for me and, despite having a few imperfections, it’s their best album since Ultra Beatdown.

One thing EPM does better than, well, every album up to Reaching into Infinity is variety. It has your typical, fast-paced power metal bangers like ‘Troopers of the Stars’ and ‘Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shred’, as well as a surplus of more commercial, poppy songs. There are a few songs that aren’t driven solely by spine-splitting speed, such ‘Remembrance Day’ and the excellent cover of Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’, but the intense dragon energy is never lost. There are also a lot of instrumental breaks that utilize strings, folk instruments, and the usual videogame SFX that are so characteristic of DragonForce. These video game themes run strong, with most of the songs having retro synth (or outright 8-bit) intros. Unsurprisingly, ‘The Last Dragonborn’ is the most videogame-fueled of them all, albeit more in content and less in sound.

Alongside their trademark speed/positivity/insanely-long-solos combo, there’s also a dose of 80s pop and glam metal influence (which, in all honesty, is far less pronounced than I expected it to be, based on the album cover). There are a lot of cheesy synth tones that highlight the melodies as well as straight-up hair metal choruses, especially in ‘Heart Demolition’ and ‘Strangers’. However, where bands like Beast in Black are full-out 80s melodic metal bands, DragonForce maintains their familiar modern sound while keeping the 80s stuff just at arms length, using it as the spice rather than the steak.

While I really enjoy EPM as a whole, I do have two favourite tracks. I really like ‘Troopers of the Stars’, especially the shredding bass in the intro, which is really cool. However, as is my way, ‘Heart Demolition’ has the most cheesy synths, so it makes it as my favourite song. Just kidding. Kind of. Well, it’s got more going for it than just the synths. It’s just a coincidence, OK?

Many metalheads have said (and will continue to say until the end of fucking time), “So they can play fast. Big deal,” but, to me, that’s just a lazy criticism. After all, couldn’t you criticize any band for having a schtick? Or even, how stupid would it sound if I said, “So you can play aggressively. Big deal,” about metal in general? Well, yeah, that isn’t entirely wrong, and that is a main attribute, but there’s so much more to it than that. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but I don’t need that negativity in my life. DragonForce have released yet another excellent album in Extreme Power Metal, and there’s way more to it than just speed.

*Also, let me just say that I love this music video. It looks like it was made for Newgrounds. Remember when that website was a thing? Me neither.*

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Beyond Forgiveness – Live To Tell The Story Review

Score7.5/10
GenreSymphonic Gothic Metal
CountryUSA
Runtime54:07
Release Date23 September 2019
Record LabelSliptrick

Symphonic gothic metal as a whole has a limit as to how much can be done with it. Or, at least, it’s never been done very far from your typical Within Temptation/After Forever/Tristania sound: aggressive instrumentation behind a (usually) soft female soprano, choirs, strings, and an in-your-face juxtaposition of “darkness and light”, either with that aforementioned instrumentation or through the use of clashing growls and operatic vocals, or both. I like it when it’s done well, but I’m always left dissatisfied, wanting something that ventures a bit off the well-beaten path.

Fortunately, Beyond Forgiveness’ Live to Tell the Story comes pretty close to satiating my gothic metal desires. Yeah, it has all that stuff I just mentioned that most other bands in the space have, but there are two key components that bring it above a good portion of them; it lacks the vapid pretension that is ever-too common in gothic music and it has a whole lot of heart.

What do I mean by “vapid pretension”? Well, it seems that every time you listen to a gothic metal record, you’re attacked with emotional messages (which aren’t subtle or tasteful at all) and it’s forced down your throat like bad Chinese. The bands always try way too hard to emphasize that their music is deep but, in reality, it’s the same shit that you’d find in the journal of an unimaginative emo kid’s diary, only with instruments attached. Come on. If your music has emotional meaning, we should be able to feel it ourselves without you reassuring us every five fucking seconds that it’s special. Anyway, Beyond Forgiveness doesn’t do that, and instead you can feel all of the pain, beauty, aggression, mourning, and longing in the music without much effort, which is a huge plus.

Needless to say, the whole album feels pretty natural. Every track has highs and lows, as well as a good mix of harsh growls, male vocals, female vocals, and operatic vocals of both genders. Some tracks are definitely heavier than others, like the very melodeathy ‘One Last Time’ and ‘Labyrinth’, but there are plenty of light, angelic moments that round the album out. There is a bit of excess that could be stripped away, like most (or all) of ‘When Rivers Turn Red’, but the songwriting is otherwise at the top of its game. Complete with passionate-sounding, talented musicians (especially the drummer, Sean Rogers), Live to Tell the Story is as well-equiped as it could be.

This album isn’t without a few flaws, but it comes damn close to being everything I want in a gothic metal album. Seeing as it’s only Beyond Forgiveness’ second album, I think it’s safe to say that their third (if it comes) will be something special.

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Soul Of Steel – Rebirth Review

Score6.5/10
GenreProgressive Power Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime50:33
Release Date20 September 2019
Record LabelRevalve

Italian power metallers Soul of Steel have made a six-year comeback in their aptly-named third album, Rebirth. The band’s previous releases met mixed reception from critics and listeners on the grounds of sounding generic or forgettable and, after such a long break, you’d expect them to have spent some serious time in the forge smithing a stronger metal, and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong about that.

Soul of Steel have recruited two new axemen, Nicolas Coppola and Salvo Destratis, and the songs have a bit more to them this time around. However, the end result is still pretty close to your run-of-the-mill Italian melodic metal (plus or minus a few sections), and there’s not a whole lot here that’ll have you coming back for seconds.

Like its predecessors, Rebirth lies on the progressive side of power metal. It’s definitely more power than it is prog, but there’s a lot of dynamism that secures it tightly in the power prog arena. The overall sound is pretty light, despite the guitars having a fair bit of crunch to them, and electronic sounds are found in the background most of the time. Speaking of, this album reminds me of Annette Olzon‘s The Dark Element debut in the sense that it’s full of great ideas but they never quite come into fruition. Even just a few ‘wow’ moments would go a long way, but, aside from some solos, they never come.

The biggest problem with Rebirth is that everything is just so straightforward. It has straight beats, straight melodies, straight chords. There’s not a lot that separates it from any of the bands in the space. There’s also a lack of oomph that could be partially rectified if the guitars and drums were a bit punchier, but it’s mostly an issue of songwriting, too.

Strangely enough, one of my favourite songs on the album is the cover of Lady Gaga’s ‘Perfect Illusion’. It suits Soul of Steel’s sound perfectly and it has the best solo on the entire album. Following close behind, though, is the eight-minuter, ‘Trail of Death’, which is an overall excellent song, featuring killer guitar and synth solos, memorable melodies, and pulling off some really great pulled-back sections. If the rest of the album was as alive as this song, it’d be album of the month material for sure.

In light of a few issues, Soul of Steel’s efforts have paid off, because Rebirth is a good album. It’s got ups, downs, solid musicianship, and it gets the job done. It needs more heart, sure, but any fan of melodic metal should dive into this record.

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Kybalion – Black Painted Skies Review

Score9/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryUSA
Runtime35:17
Release Date6 September 2019
Record LabelIndependent

If you want a bit of a change from the usual 16th-based, djenty, instrumental modern prog that has recently flooded the metal world, give this EP a spin. Black Painted Skies is the first release (they call it an EP but I would consider it a full-out album, but maybe that’s just me) from America’s brand new instrumental proggers, Kybalion. This speed demon of death is super heavy and its ever-changing form will have you happily kissing the comfortability of 4/4 goodbye. With a diverse mix of highs, lows, feels, and time signatures, it’s evident that this trio doesn’t fuck around, and you’ll find that out pretty quickly in the album’s deceivingly-named opener, ‘Whisper’.

Kybalion is made up of two guitarists and a drummer, but Black Painted Skies also makes use of backing keyboards, strings, and choirs to maintain a full-sounding atmosphere. There are plenty of crazy-technical breakdowns, but there’s a good balance of solid grooving and insane showwy-offiness. In between these sections of breakneck speed and glorious shredding are soft, pulled back keyboard sections, like the beginning of ‘Portraits of a Memory’, and you’ll even find some acoustic work, such as in the beginning of ‘Marred Earth’. Another thing I love about this album are the seamless transitions between songs; honestly, I was three songs in before I realized I’d actually gotten through a song, and that’s not a bad thing in this case. With an album like this, fluidity goes a long way, and it’s best listened to all in one go (although that’s hardly necessary to enjoy the album).

Back to the topic of ‘Marred Earth’, I just really need to express the appreciation I have for this song. Among an album of constant change, it doesn’t venture far from a single groove, and it offers a short break from the relentless energy of the album so you can catch your breath for the final cascading song.

While the songwriting is all excellent and the guitars lay down some sick riffs, the drums stand as the champion of this album. God. Fucking. Damn it. They’re incredible, to say the very least. Courtesy of Garrett Haag, they go from holding powerful grooves to unleashing hellfire through ridiculous double-kicks and blast beats. If I had to pick some favourite drumming moments, I’d be torn between the ferocity found in ‘Black Painted Skies’ and the softer, pattering beats in the pulled back section of ‘Portraits of a Memory’. While the first choice is obvious, it’s not often I hear a modern prog drummer that’s capable of playing something other than ultra-mega-fortissimo all the fucking time, so the finer things stick out to me.

Get ready for the ass-blasting of a lifetime, because this EP fucking rips. Seriously. Black Painted Skies is a monster of an album and these brand new proggers show a hell of a lot of promise.

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Circus Maximus – Isolated Chapters Review

Score7.5/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryNorway
Runtime17:59
Release Date6 September 2019
Record LabelFrontiers

Circus Maximus are a progressive metal outfit hailing from Norway. While they’ve been around for nearly two decades (and they’ve maintained a steady lineup for almost as long), they’ve only released four full-length albums. Their latest EP, Isolated Chapters, is their first new-music release in three years, following two live albums. The EP offers two very different experiences and packs a whole lot of variety into its short runtime.

Since there are only two tracks on Isolated Chapters, this review will pretty much be a track-by-track (which I like to avoid doing). But that’s just fine, because it gives me a chance to elaborate a bit on the band’s song choice; for the first, we hear a darker, heavier, more dissonant side of Circus Maximus, and get a feel for their technical skill as well as their solid songwriting, but the second delivers a far lighter, more commercial impression. As such, the band’s strengths and weaknesses are exposed and right in the open for everyone to see.

Upon the first minutes of ‘Phasing Mirrors’, images of mid-Dream Theater immediately come to mind. In fact, every time I finish the song, the most prominent thought I have is how much it reminds me of ‘A Nightmare to Remember’ from their album, Black Clouds and Silver Linings. Yeah, this song is a few notches down with regard to impact and staggering technicality, but the song structure and looming atmosphere are enough for me to make the connection. Anyway, references aside, ‘Phasing Mirrors’ has a sick proggy break about four minutes in, and there’s also a great pulled back section which sounds like a spooky Tim Burton sequence. Topped off with a few killer guitar solos, key solos, and an exceptional wraparound structure, ‘Phasing Mirrors’ is one of the best single prog songs I’ve heard in months.

But then we get to the second and final track: ‘Endgame’. It begins like a fluffy 90s power ballad, and remains pretty tasteless until about the four minute mark. I’m not gonna say it’s one-dimensional until then or anything like that, it’s just a weak beginning section, especially considering the excellence that precedes it. The song finally goes somewhere after a transition of uplifting shots, and yet another facemelter lifts off. But then, the song continues steadily until it exits with a soft piano line. I wouldn’t call ‘Endgame’ a bad song, but it’s way watered down compared to what Circus Maximus shows off in that first one.

I don’t really have any complaints beyond the difference of quality between Isolated Chapters‘ two songs. The rhythm section is great and very tight, the solos are awesome, and the vocals, harmonies, and melodies guide the music masterfully. I strongly encourage giving this EP a listen. It’s short, sweet, and you’ll probably come back for seconds.

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Sonata Arctica – Talviyo Review

Score3/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime56:09
Release Date6 September 2019
Record LabelNuclear Blast

This was a tough one. Seriously. Aside from the fact that I just really dislike this album, it took me half a fucking hour to even come up with something to put in the “Genre” tab up top (and I’d sooner snap my laptop in half before I call Talviyo power metal). Honestly, it’s not even really a metal album. While it’s true that metal music is expansive and encompasses many different sounds, I can barely justify calling this metal. At this point, we should expect some genre-bending from Sonata Arctica, but this is a real stretch.

So, as a result of all that, I tried really hard to not judge Talviyo as a metal album, but as a contemporary work on its own. I just really want to emphasize that I don’t dislike this album due to its unmetalness. I dislike it because it’s boring, lacks any substance, and plays like a late assignment that was finished the night before a deadline.

The album begins at its highest point (but even then its not that high at all) and steadily gets worse as it continues; whether that’s because of my steady exhaustion or the quality of music is up for debate. Talviyo begins with ‘Message from the Sun’, which is a light, fluffy, straightforward song that carries more power metal air than any other song on the record. It’s not a terrible track, but between questionable vocals, sub-par production, and wonky songwriting, it’s satisfactory at best. After this, though, each song just kind of fades into the next, offering very few moments worth talking about. ‘Demon’s Cage’ and ‘Ismo’s Got Good Reactors’ show some moments of redemption, but they fade back into oblivion before any good idea can be fully materialized.

There are a few reasons for these shortcomings. The most prominent would be the hugely-inconsistent vocal delivery, which can be good one moment and ass-backwards the next. And then we get to the guitar tones, which are also rather inconsistent (and sometimes tinny), which is likely a symptom of the piss-poor production quality. However, the biggest contributor to Talviyo‘s downfall is the songwriting itself. It tries to be a bit experimental, and I can respect that, but it comes off only as amateurish and poorly-constructed.

Despite being such a trainwreck, I did manage to find some positives within Talviyo‘s frozen, lifeless form. To start, there’s a noticeable and consistent wintry atmosphere over the music, so bonus points there for an actual coherent musical idea. The bass playing is also great, especially in ‘Whirlwind’, and there are, as I said before, a few cool gems, if you’re patient enough to wait for their arrival.

If you like light, reflective, more acoustic music to throw on in the background, you might get something from Talviyo. But, for those of you who prefer a little bit more effort in your music, you’re not missing much. It’s truly a shame that Sonata Arctica have fallen down to such a level as this. After the overwhelmingly-negative reception of The Ninth Hour, they had two choices: shift back to something they know they could do well, or try the same thing again. Well, there’s no need to say which they chose, because this disaster speaks for itself.

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Mystery Blue – 8RED Review

Score3/10
GenreHeavy Metal
CountryFrance
Runtime50:11
Release Date20 September 2019
Record LabelMassacre

France’s long-running, female-fronted classic metal band Mystery Blue have released their eighth album after a seven-year break from their previous. 8RED (which I can only assume is a play on the word “hatred”, and also maybe on the “Blue” of the band name) was promised to be “a collection of unforgettable metal hymns and in-your-face rippers, alongside epic, original and melodic pieces”, but it falls short on all counts. There are no rippers. It’s all but epic, and, for anybody who’s been around heavy metal for any amount of time, it’s not original, either. It is, in a word, forgettable.

What we get instead is an album full of slower, darker songs. Which would be fine, except for the fact that they’re not great and that the band teased at just the opposite. There are a couple more upbeat tracks, like ‘Throwaway Society’, ‘Final Fight’, and ‘Vikings of Modern Times’, but 8RED begins and ends with too many laid back tunes. To make matters worse, most of the songs are longer than five minutes, and waiting for the next song to play gets painful at times. ‘Final Fight’ is probably the best song on the album (it’s actually really good), but every other track is plagued by at least as much bad as it has good.

8RED, to say it kindly, was hard to get through. And, unfortunately for my sorry ass, I got to do it three whole times! I may as well have not even bothered, though, because there’s nothing to be gained by listening to it any more than once. It’s straightforward and offers nothing new upon consecutive listens. No hidden background parts, nothing to really break down. It’s just bland.

However, there’s always (usually) a silver lining. One thing to like about this album are the guitar riffs. They’re nothing special, but they’re the strongest part of the album and they keep the energy flowing as much as they can. Some of the better guitarwork can be found in ‘Vikings of Modern Times’ and ‘Killing Innocence’. The drumming is also pretty good, but the one-dimensional songwriting and monotonous vocal lines prevent the rhythm section from elevating the music very high on its own.

The biggest problem with 8RED is that it sounds like an inexperienced highschool band. Now, this wouldn’t be as big of an issue as it is if the fucking band hadn’t been around for, oh, I don’t know, MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS. Yeah, there was a six year break in the 90s and they’ve gone through numerous lineup changes, but there’s no excuse for a band that’s run for this long to sound the way it does. It’s uninspired heavy metal with weak melodies, wonky vocals, and amateurish tropes.

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Stay Metal \m/