Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga Review

Score10/10
GenrePower Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime55:06
Release Date10 January 2020
Record LabelAFM Records

Brothers of Metal are one of power metal’s most promising up-and-comers. The charismatic Norsemen achieved instant fame with their 2017 debut, Prophecy of Ragnarok, which was a catchy, epic, bass-cranked extravaganza. It was true warrior music for the true warrior (or, you know, us wannabe warriors). Obviously, this album was easily one of my favourites of the year, and while most of its songs follow a fairly simple structure, the band more than made up for it with their relentless viking energy, beefy riffage, and unique vocal approach.

So, it should come as no surprise that their sophomore album, Emblas Saga, is my first perfect score of 2020. It takes everything that Prophecy of Ragnarok did well, crams it into more dynamic, advanced arrangements, and injects obscene amounts of steroids into the mix. There’re also more orchestral elements thrown in for good measure. If Prophecy of Ragnarok got your blood flowing, Emblas Saga will make your veins burst.

Its biggest difference from its predecessor is that the folk influences are way more prominent here. Enough so that I would personally call it folk power metal, like I would call Elvenking or Wind Rose, but the band doesn’t, so whatever. Anyway, the instrumentation and melodies delve further into folk influence, enriching a sound that was already full.

The album begins with a short introductory track before the real album commences in ‘Powersnake’, kicking the album off with a fucking banger. Immediately after, the atmosphere quickly gets dark as it enters ‘Hel’, and the feel consistently changes throughout the entire rest of the album. Within Emblas Saga‘s hour-long runtime there are a happy songs, epic songs, dark songs, colossal songs, and a couple ballads, so you can be sure you’ll be satisfied by the time it ends.

Among the anthemic choruses and thundering guitars, I have a few favourites to pick. First and foremost, the contrast of the throaty warcries and soft female vocals have an incredible effect. They both play different roles and add an extra dimension to every song. As far as songs go, ‘Theft of the Hammer’ tops it for me; there aren’t a lot of songs that deliver this kind of sheer, pump-up intensity, and that shit is right up my alley. The epic, ‘Emblas Saga’, is a close second, and packs a hell of a lot into its seven minutes. It’s expressive, jarring, and is also an excellent way of remembering some of your Norse mythology genealogy.

2020 has just started and it’s already off with a fucking bang. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Emblas Saga is still my favourite album of the year by December because it’s going to take an impossibly-great album to dethrone this one. Brothers of Metal have fought their way to the top, and I don’t think they’re going anywhere any time soon.

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Crystal Eyes – Starbourne Traveler Review

Score9/10
GenreMelodic Heavy Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime44:20
Release Date6 December 2019
Record LabelMassacre

Of all the “crystal” bands to release an album this year (Crystal Sky, Crystal Viper, Crystal Ball, I think that’s it?), Sweden’s Crystal Eyes have topped the competition. Starbourne Traveler sees the melodic heavy metallers perform a wide array of styles in ten super-melodic tracks of anthemic true metal. With influences including Judas Priest, Accept, U.D.O., and Running Wild, you can expect one hell of a ride.

The album begins with its grittiest foot forward in metal-worshipping ‘Gods of Disorder’ and continues to expand from there. There are a few tracks that are primarily hard rock, such as ‘Paradise Powerlord’ and ‘Corridors of Time’, which tread closely to classic Van Halen in terms of riffage and melody. There’s also a hefty serving of catchy, 80s hair metal to enjoy, as well as some power metal drivers in ‘Extreme Paranoia’ and the piratey closer, ‘Rage on the Sea’. In terms of variety, Crystal Eyes have held nothing back, which is impressive considering that they retain a solid core sound throughout Starbourne Traveler‘s entirety.

If you’re looking for highlights, the axemanship is easily my favourite aspect of the album. The non-stop riffs, chugging rhythms, and tasteful solos are enough on their own to suck you into the album. Fortunately, everything else is pretty fucking solid, so there’s no need to cherry pick. Well, everything except for the ballad, ‘Empire of Saints’, which is kinda mopey and boring, but hey, the rest of the album is excellent.

Starbourne Traveler has no trouble in bringing the classic Crystal Eyes sound (in fact, the songs ‘Extreme Paranoia’ and ‘Rage on the Sea’ are rerecordings from the band’s debut, World of Black and Silver) with the clarity and weight of modern heavy metal. There’s something here for fans of old-school rock and metal as well as newer metalheads, so don’t miss the shiniest “crystal” of the year!

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CyHra – No Halos In Hell Review

Score5/10
GenreMelodic Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime47:11
Release Date15 November 2019
Record LabelNuclear Blast

As a longtime fan of Amaranthe, I was actually pretty psyched when its founder and vocalist, Jake E, announced he was leaving to form his own band back in 2016 (or was it 2017?). As Amaranthe continued to venture further and further away from the metal/pop hybrid it began as into an outright pop outfit with metal instruments, this new band, CyHra, held my hopes of bringing Jake E’s songwriting talents back into metal, where they belong. Fortunately, CyHra’s debut, Letters to Myself, was exactly what I expected: a super-electronic, riff-heavy, melodic modern metal album. It had sincerity, it had charisma, and it had the musical chops to stand as a notably-impressive debut.

So, you can imagine my fucking disappointment upon first finishing No Halos in Hell. Despite Letters to Myself being an incredibly synthetic album to begin with, No Halos in Hell basically feels like an artificial ripoff. Furthermore, it’s the type of album Jake E appeared to be avoiding by leaving Amaranthe. Most of the songs sound the same, it’s one-dimensional, and it floats along with limited-to-zero dynamic range and beats the shit out of you with the exact same fucking chorus like fifty times. Usually, I would provide specific examples, but I’ll be honest; even after four full listens, I still can’t tell half the fucking tracks apart, so, unless I were to make an elaborate chart of which-song-reuses-what, a general idea’s all you’re gonna get.

Aside from the painfully uninspired simplicity of the songwriting and melodies, there’s another major contributor to this album’s demise: the choruses. Following the monotony of the verses, there’s always a very blatant attempt at a build in the prechoruses that promises an emotional climax in the chorus. Unfortunately, it almost never comes because the vocals float by, the guitars go nowhere, and the drums are too busy doing absolutely nothing. There’s a constant 16th-note feel throughout the entire album, and it would be so easy to throw in some cool grooves to really make the choruses shine, but no, that’s apparently too much to ask for.

In short, this album is an example of how not to make a pop metal album. While each individual song is passable, and a couple songs are actually good (‘Out of My Life’, ‘Blood Brothers’), it’s a fucking chore to listen to more than two at a time. CyHra are a talented band that have already proven themselves to be musically capable, but they really jumped the gun by going hyper-commercial in No Halos in Hell.

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Eleine – All Shall Burn Review

Score6.5/10
GenreSymphonic Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime23:17
Release Date22 November 2019
Record LabelBlack Lodge

After releasing two full-length albums, the female-fronted symphonic outfit Eleine have dropped a five-track EP: All Shall Burn. Well, actually, I should probably point out that All Shall Burn is more of a two-piece-single-plus-three-bonus-tracks rather than an EP. To clarify, the first two songs, ‘Enemies’ and ‘All Shall Burn’, are new compositions, but the rest of the EP consists of a Rammstein cover, a symphonic version of a track from the band’s previous album, and a symphonic version of ‘All Shall Burn’. So, for a release like this, the score is pretty arbitrary because it’s more of a demo/showcase than a mini album, as a lot of EPs are.

As far as the two new tunes go, they’re both good and bad in the exact same ways; the intros are strong, the riffs and solos are great, and the beats are heavy, but they lose all of their energy in the chorus due to the vocal melody. The vocals very inconsistently go from expressive to very bland so, pair that with chorus melodies that just meaninglessly float along and you get a very disappointing payoff to otherwise well-built song. The orchestrations are so good that the symphonic-version tracks sound super rich but, again, the vocals actually pull away from the fullness much of the time.

My favourite part of the EP is, to my own surprise (because I’m not a huge Rammstein fan), ‘Mein Hertz Brennt’. It’s heavy and badass, the male vocals are killer, and it’s a worthy tribute to such an established band as Rammstein.

All in all, this is a cool EP. If you’ve never heard them before, Eleine are kind of like a more metal version of Evanescence but with symphonic elements and a hint of a Mediterranean sound. So, if that sounds appealing to you, you should check out All Shall Burn as well as the band’s earlier albums.

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Heavy Metal: HammerFall Announce 2020 North American Tour

With a few dates left in their current North American tour as special guests for Sabaton, heavy metal legends HammerFall have announced a headline tour for North America. The tour will be in September and October, with support coming from Finland’s Beast in Black and California’s Edge of Paradise.

Vocalist Joacim Cans on the tour:
“After the amazing times and reception we have gotten and are still experiencing on tour with Sabaton, we can’t wait to return to North America in 2020. For the past three years we have toured the continent frequently and every time, you showed us that heavy metal is still alive and kicking. So, polish your studs and get ready for the hammer to fall harder than it ever did before.”

Guitarist Oscar Dronjak adds:
“The last three tours have proven to us that North America is ready and willing to once again wield the hammers of Heavy Metal, and it is with great pleasure we announce that we will return to the continent for the fourth time in as many years.”

This will also be Beast in Black’s first tour across North America. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, 26 October!

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Metalite – Biomechanicals Review

Score4/10
GenreMelodic Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime48:51
Release Date25 October 2019
Record LabelAFM

Sweden’s up-and-coming female fronted melodic metal troupe Metalite have returned (and with a new vocalist) with their sophomore album, Biomechanicals. As the title alludes to, you can expect a melodic metal sound that’s drenched in electronic elements, layered vocals, and digital synths all over the place. And usually, that shit gets me pumped. Unfortunately, that’s not quite the case here, because I have a bit of a bone to pick with this album.

But, to conserve a bit of my sanity, we’ll hit the positives first. The most obvious plus about Biomechanicals is that it outdoes Heroes in Time in every aspect. The production quality, songwriting, diversity, and musicianship is all better. Metalite have also proven once again that they know how to lay down an album full of catchy melodies, and the electronic arrangements are excellent. Additionally, there are some pretty good tracks on the album, namely ‘World on Fire’ and ‘Eye of the Storm’ (which has a sick solo), as well as a handful of other cool sections.

However, despite the good parts, Biomechanicals is outweighed by its negatives. The biggest contributor to these is the fact that Metalite, as they did in their debut, are trying way too hard to become Amaranthe. Seriously, I fully expect to hear three vocalists in their next album. Despite such a strong effort to hijack their sound, Biomechanicals is missing nearly every thing that makes Amaranthe so likable; the vocals are one-dimensional, the rhythms are basic, and there’s none of that metal punch that’s necessary to take the music from being just a pop metal album to a kickass metal album with a pop sound (because there is a huge difference, and it’s a very important difference).

I know you’re probably thinking, “Hey, man, you can’t just knock Metalite for not being as good as Amaranthe; they’re two different bands,” and that’s absolutely right. I usually don’t make that the point of my comparisons. However, this comparison becomes necessary once you hear a track like ‘Breakaway’, which is literally a blatant ripoff of Amaranthe’s ‘Infinity’ from The Nexus (see: the chorus and solo (and everything else)). Metalite have crossed the line from influence into straight-up copy-and-pasting and I think that warrants a bit of collation. So, yeah, maybe I’m being unfair, but are you fucking kidding me?

While it occasionally shines, Metalite’s Biomechanicals is all flash and no flare. Behind the album’s sparkly exterior is a dull foundation that can barely stand under the force of scrutiny. If they focused more on embracing their own path and strengths, Metalite could probably make an album that I’d be all over. But, until then, I’ll just be left with a persistent, metallic taste in my mouth.

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Rexoria – Ice Breaker Review

Score5.5/10
GenreHeavy Power Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime49:36
Release Date18 October 2019
Record LabelPride & Joy

Sweden’s female-fronted Rexoria have hardly taken a breath since their debut, with their second album, Ice Breaker, coming out just over a year since. Unfortunately, this rush might be the reason behind the album’s lack of quality; it has about as many ups as it has downs, giving it a really inconsistent overall feel. That being said, Ice Breaker does have a coherent, defining sound. It’s your usual melodic heavy metal with power metal tendencies, but with really wonky melodies and vocals.

I always hate when a capable vocalist performs as inconsistently as this. The band’s Frida Ohlin has moments, such as in ‘Var Verkilghet’, the album’s only Swedish song, where she delivers a great performance. One might draw the conclusion that she just can’t sing well in English, but, as heard in ‘Brothers of Asgaard’ and ‘Roaring’, she does that just fine, which begs the question: what the fuck? Why is she awesome and full of attitude one minute and then, well, bad the next? No matter the answer, Rexoria would be much better off with a bit of solidifying.

Another issue I have with Ice Breaker is that a lot of it is really basic. The drums, guitars, and bass all carry on fairly one-dimensionally, rarely offering anything that stands out. A lot of the songs have great intros but they quickly wane off into monotony. And then there are tracks like ‘Fight the Demons’, ‘The Rise of the Phoenix’ (except for the solo, which is great), and ‘Ice Breaker’, which are especially bad.

But that isn’t to say that there aren’t some good songs. The aforementioned ‘Roaring’, Brothers of Asgaard’, and ‘Var Verkilghet’ are pretty solid tracks overall. ‘Velvet Heroes’ also packs a decent punch, except for the vocals, so it’s not like these guys aren’t capable of making good songs. Like so many amateur bands, I think a bit more time and musical growth is what Rexoria need the most, but I’m sure we’ll get a great record from them in the future.

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Aerodyne – Damnation Review

Score9/10
GenreHeavy Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime46:08
Release Date18 October 2019
Record LabelROAR! Rock of Angels

Against my lack of any expectations whatsoever, I was fucking blown away by this album. Smithed by the mighty Aerodyne, Damnation (which is my first taste of this band) is, in short, one hell of a sophomore album. It’s energetic, anthemic, charismatic heavy metal with a blatant Ozzy undertone. Sound kickass? Of course it does! It’s true metal to the core, no doubt about it.

The driving force behind Aerodyne’s success is the phenomenal riffing that ensues as soon as the album lifts off. Between the chugging drive of songs like ‘Murder in the Rye’ and the lower, meaner riffage heard in ‘The Nihilist’, there’s not only a good mix but there’s also a strong sense of sincerity displayed. The soloing is just as sick and the bass is juicy but, at the end of the day, the riffs are what heavy metal is all about, and these guys excel in axemanship.

Now, while the guitars may be what make Damnation as killer as it is, it’s the vocals that make the album truly distinct from so many of the metal bands today. As I mentioned earlier, this album bleeds Ozzy Osbourne (mid- and late-Ozzy, to be more precise). Sure, the overall sound and rhythm guitarwork are partially responsible, but Marcus Heinonen‘s voice is the biggest reason for this relation. This becomes especially apparent in ‘Kill or Be Killed’ and ‘March Davai’ (which seriously belongs on Black Rain), where the similarities are not only in your face but shoved down your throat.

Alongside catchy melodies and dynamic songs, Aerodyne prove themselves as a terrifying metal force. Damnation is a hellbeast of an album that offers all the aggression, power, and headbangability you could want from a heavy metal album. These Swedes have slammed their way onto my radar and I’ll be sitting on the edge of my seat until they unleash another album.

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Heavy Metal: New Single From Aerodyne

Aerodyne are a fresh heavy metal band out of Sweden’s capital. Their debut album, Breaking Free, was released in late 2017. With their sophomore album right around the corner, the war-themed single ‘March Davai’ has been put out to give a taste of the new album.

The Ozzy Osbourne vibes in ‘March Davai’ are unmistakable, and I’m not complaining one bit.

Make sure to check out Damnation when it comes out on 18 October!

Follow Aerodyne on Facebook!

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Eclipse – Paradigm Review

Score6.5/10
GenreHard Rock/Heavy Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime41:34
Release Date11 October 2019
Record LabelFrontiers

Paradigm is the seventh album from Swedish rock outfit Eclipse. While it’s primarily a hard rock album, it crosses the line between rock and metal enough that it can’t definitively be considered one or the other. As such, it’s safe to expect a super catchy album that offers both the weight of heavy metal and the fun-loving lifeblood of hard rock.

But the genre crossovers don’t quite stop there. To get a better idea of what Paradigm offers, think something along the lines of pop-punk vocals over contemporary riffs, tame rock drumming, poppy mastering and song structure, all with a metal undertone. I know it doesn’t really sound promising when put like that, but it actually allows for a ton of sick hooks and memorable tracks. Sure, there aren’t a whole lot of flashy performances (although, it’d be impossible not to recognize the fantastic performance of vocalist Erik Martensson), but songs like ‘Viva La Victoria’ and ‘Mary Leigh’ make up for it in charisma and energy.

Anyway, since you’re here, chances are you’re at least kind of a metalhead. So, of course, I’d damn-well better get to the most metal parts Paradigm has to offer! The rhythm guitar lines and tone are mostly responsible for the heavy metal undertones throughout the album, but tracks like ‘Delirious’, ’38 or 44′, and ‘The Masquerade’ unleash a melodic metal massacre, trading the rock riffs and overall sound for an aggressive (albeit still poppy) bite that is undoubtedly metal in every way.

The biggest thing setting Paradigm back is the amount of filler tunes. While there are five tunes which I really dig (all of which I’ve mentioned already), a few songs, namely ‘Never Gonna Be Like You’ and ‘United’, fail to strike any impact beyond offering a few minutes of passable music. If more of the songs were similar in quality to its best, I would consider this album excellent but, you know, that’s not the case.

All in all, Eclipse has made another really good album in Paradigm. Unfortunately, as is the case with 95% of hard rock albums, it falls victim to basic, stock-variety songwriting. That being said, this album is still a lot of fun, and its high points make the entire album worth checking out.

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