Fallen Arise – Enigma Review

Score4/10
GenreGothic Symphonic Metal
CountryGreece
Runtime46:36
Release Date10 April 2020
Record LabelRock of Angels (ROAR!)

Winning the award for the dullest album I’ve heard in 2020 is Fallen Arise in their latest album, Enigma. While it doesn’t quite make the cut as bad (and fans of really boring gothic metal might actually like it), Enigma managed to make me yawn more than 90% of the chick flicks I’ve seen.

Fallen Arise are foremost plagued with an bland frontwoman; the vocals are boring at the best of times, and annoying at the worst. It goes without saying that this is really a crucial aspect in a modern symphonic band, and, well, any band, but generic vocals are what send symphonic metal bands to get shot on the outskirts of town, naked and alone. Not good naked, but, like, gross naked. Anyway, that isn’t to say that the album would be great if the vocals are better, because everything is pretty uninspired, but it would definitely be better.

Enigma‘s greatest downfall is its simplicity. The band has based their music around whiney melodies, clumsy grooves, and repetition, repetition, repetition. Seriously, I fail to see how dragging a shitty chorus out five times makes it any less shitty but, hey, it’s not my album.

There’s really nothing substantial I like in Enigma. As I said before, it isn’t necessarily bad, but it annoys me and I’m glad I don’t have to listen to it a fourth time.

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Ancient Knights – Camelot Review

Score8.5/10
GenreNeoclassical Power Metal
CountryItaly
Runtime27:37
Release DateJanuary 2020
Record LabelDiamonds Productions

One thing that’s missing from modern power metal is a strong neoclassical outfit. Most bands either go the super-clean, super-fast route a la DragonForce, towards catchy commercialism, or symphonic metal. Now, this is no problem for me, because I eat, sleep, and breathe power metal, but the days of good neoclassical metal seem to have died out by the mid-00s. Bands like Narnia and Dark Moor have long since moved away from their glory days, and new bands either lack the quality or the skill necessary to actually make an imprint.

However, Italy’s latest effort of neoclassical metal makes quite the statement. Formed in 2018, Ancient Knights deliver a sound that’s actually very similar to pre-Dark Moor Dark Moor, minus a few bpm. Their first album, Camelot, is a seven-track (five, if you disregard the orchestral intro/outro), but also comes with three bonus tracks, which are alternate language versions. As the title suggests, you can expect to be serenaded with cheery, magical King Arthury tales of wonder and mystery, highlighted by tasteful orchestrations.

Fortunately, the music holds up. Despite the main portion of the album only consisting of five songs, there’s a good amount of variety. All of the songs are snappy and exciting, so there’s no need to skip anything. Additionally, while the guitarwork isn’t quite on the level of an elite virtuoso band, it’s still damn impressive. Both the rhythm stuff and soloing are excellent, with some of the best of both coming in ‘Usurper’ and ‘Prophecy of the Magic Kingdom’. Likewise, the drumming is fucking killer. The beats are intricate and dynamic and keep the music exciting, despite having a slower tempo than you might expect from this style of music.

And then we get to the vocals. While they don’t outshine the other instruments, there are some huge names here that should be enough to get you excited about the album. Included in this massive list of guest vocalists are the mighty Fabio Lione (Rhapsody), Elisa Martin (Dark Moor), Chiara Tricarico (Moonlight Haze), Gabriel Tuxen (Seven Thorns), and Roberto Tiranti (Odyssea). As you might have guessed, a lot of Camelot‘s sound rides on nostalgia, but that’s not a bad thing at all. These vocalists, combined with Ancient Knight’s own Matt Siddi, provide the best possible face over already-masterful arrangements.

My favourite track has to be ‘Prophecy of the Magic Kingdom’. Aside from the incredible guitars and rampant drums, it also features Elisa, who happens to be one of my favourite vocalists. Combine this with the best solo section on the album and an energetic double-time beat and you get the best Dark Moor song since 2002.

My only complaint with this album is how short it is. In all honesty, I don’t know why the fuck the band doesn’t consider this an EP, but I suppose it’s long enough if you count the three alternate tracks. I really hope that Ancient Knights don’t end up just being a one-release band, because the potential here is limitless. Any fan of old school power metal should be eager for this one.

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Wilderun – Veil Of Imagination Review

Score9.5/10
GenreProgressive Folk Metal
CountryUSA (Boston)
Runtime01:06:12
Release Date1 November 2019
Record LabelIndependent

Not many bands can pull off an exceptional atmospheric album so, when one does, it always gets me excited about it. One of the few (and latest) this year to accomplish such a feat are Boston’s Wilderun with their third album, Veil of Imagination. It expertly conjures deep feelings like wonder, determination, aggression, hate, fear, reflection, and everything in between. With rich orchestrations supporting it, Veil of Imagination is as colourful as its album cover would have you believe.

One of the amazing things about Veils of Imagination is how it hangs between so many genres yet doesn’t quite fit definitively into any of them. This album has been the topic of a few of my conversations lately, and everyone I talk to has a different take on what they’d consider it as. Personally, I think it fits well enough under the banner of “progressive folk”, but friends of mine have fought me on this, instead calling it things like “epic progressive death”, “progressive symphonic”, or even “atmospheric death”. The thing I find fascinating isn’t the label itself (I hardly ever get hung up on metal subgenres because they’re not absolute), it’s the fact that everyone I’ve talked to seems to have had a different experience with the album, driving them to pick out different defining characteristics about it.

The truth is, there is no right and wrong, especially when it comes to Veils of Imagination. It’ll be flowing with a light, carefree melody over bright orchestrations or acoustic guitar one second then it’ll explode into insanely harsh blast beats and gutteral vocals the next. There’s a steady, haunting undertone to the album, but it’s more apparent at some times than others.

If there’s one downside to the album, it’s that it only really works if you listen to it all at once. Each song is dynamic and holds it own, sure, but to get that special, full impact, listening to the entire thing is a necessity.

So, if you want to hear one of the best metal albums of the entire year, make damn sure to give Veil of Imagination a spin. This is my first experience with Wilderun but, after this, I’m ready to dive into their previous work.

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The Dark Element – Songs The Night Sings Review

Score9/10
GenreSymphonic Melodic Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime55:55
Release Date8 November 2019
Record LabelFrontiers

The Dark Element was formed in 2016 by former Nightwish vocalist Anette Olzon and former Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen. Their self-titled debut combined elements of symphonic metal and pop to deliver a strong, synth-heavy melodic metal album. While that debut was pretty good, their sophomore effort, Songs the Night Sings blows it out of the fucking water. The sound is fuller, the arrangements are more diverse, and everything else has gotten a serious upgrade.

All of the aspects of The Dark Element that were good still remain. Anette’s vocals (while a bit more chesty and less sharp this time around) are as good as ever and belt out some excellent melodies. On top of that, the electronic and synth elements are lively, and a powerful energy is carried through the whole album. However, the synth stuff is now supported by orchestrations and the guitarwork is way more intricate. Combine this with a beefier production and you quickly see why this could be the best melodic metal album of the year.

Another area in which Songs the Night Sings excels in is variety. There’s not a whole lot you won’t find in this album; there are lighter songs in ‘I Have to Go’ and ‘To Whatever End’, intense, riff-heavy tracks like ‘The Pallbearer Walks Alone’ and ‘Not Your Monster’, and everything in between. The album also flows really smoothly, with well-constructed ups-and-downs, allowing for the emotionality to run organically.

Aside from all this, the biggest improvement is in the little things. While I really enjoyed The Dark Element, my primary complaint was the lack of detail. Fortunately, this is the farthest thing from being an issue here because it’s full to the brim with expertly-placed touches. Some of my favourites include the synthwork in ‘The Pallbearer Walks Alone’, the 7/4 section in ‘Pills on my Pillow’, the killer guitar solos, and the funky instrumental in ‘Get Out of My Head’, but that’s just scratching the surface of what this album has to offer.

If you’re looking for an electronic/metal crossover that works, look no further than Songs the Night Sings. It brings all the weight and emotion of metal and tops it off with a shiny, melodic finish without losing any musical integrity.

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Top Ten Metal Albums Of October

2019 is still going strong! October held nothing back, unleashing exceptional albums (especially in heavy and power metal). There were a few notable folk metal releases which almost made this list (albums by Forgotten North, Tandra, and Nifrost) but, after a lot of back-and-forth, I settled on the following Top Ten Metal Albums of October!

10. Dawn of Destiny – The Beast Inside

When a unique band like Dawn of Destiny comes around with a new album, it always gets me excited. Fortunately, my excitement was well-founded in The Beast Inside, which is the band’s seventh full-length album. The songs range from energetic power metal to heavier, darker metal to unconventional-yet-melodic metal. Some songs are definitely stronger than others, with ‘Signs in the Sky’ and ‘If We Close Our Eyes’ being my favourites, but every track offers something different from the last, so make sure to give the whole album a spin!

Full Review

9. Secret Chapter – Chapter One

Sit down and strap the fuck in because Secret Chapter are going to take you on a nostalgic ride back to the 80s with their hyper-melodic, solo-rific debut, Chapter One. While Chapter One treads a similar sound he likes of Skid Row, TNT, Europe, and 80s hair metal in general, it keeps things interesting by maintaining a modern heavy metal undertone. The production, layered instrumentation, and driving riffs combined with undoubtedly 80s choruses allow for the best of both worlds, and there’s no shortage of passion or aggression. A lot of 80s metal bands just sound like refined metal from the era (if that), but Secret Chapter manage to maintain individuality by putting their own musical spin on things.

Full Review

8. Crow’s Flight – The Storm

Crow’s Flight have swooped in with a new drummer, new vocalist, and new album that’ll be a hit for fans of melodic metal as well as traditional heavy metal. While I wouldn’t call The Storm a classic metal by any means, there are enough traits that it’s worth a mention. Regardless, if you’re looking for strong melodies accompanied by kickass riffs and atmospheric keyboards, look no further.

7. Rumahoy – Time II: Party

Blowing in only a year after their debut, the self-proclaimed “Best True Scottish Pirate Metal Band in the World” Rumahoy are back with another booze-fueled party album ready to go: Time II: Party. After sailing the seas of the Wild West, Captain Yarrface and his skimask-clad crew have written ten catchy sea shanties of the most fucking ridiculous variety. Within you’ll find the expected power/folk metal combo that’s typical of pirate metal, but with a variety and dynamism that’s all but unseen in the genre.

Full Review

6. Iron Kingdom – On the Hunt

Vancouver’s own Iron Kingdom have dropped yet another solid slab of classic metal. Combining old school dual guitar sounds with clear, crisp vocals and some of the best drumming I’ve ever heard from a classic metal band, On the Hunt offers a bit more of a modern approach to the style of old. It’s the perfect balance, production-wise, because every part is clear and separated but there’s still an organic feel to the whole thing. There’s no lack of passion and sincerity, but there’s also just enough flare to keep me excited about it.

Full Review

5. Cathubodua – Continuum

Belgium’s female-fronted symphonic metal outfit Cathubodua have unleashed their devastating debut album: Continuum. Featuring folk, symphonic, death, and power metal elements, Continuum wastes no time in displaying its melodic, balls-to-the-wall epic onslaught.

Full Review

4. Aerodyne – Damnation

Smithed by the mighty Aerodyne, Damnation 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.

Full Review

3. Induction – Induction

In one of the strongest symphonic metal debuts of the year, Induction deliver shameless bombast, insane grooves, and killer musicianship. Featuring guitarist Tim Hansen, vocalist Nick Holleman, and Sean Brandenburg on drums, Induction is a dynamic symphonic power metal album with tons of prog influence.

2. Galneryus – Into the Purgatory

The finest neoclassical power metal band east of the Silk Road have unleashed yet another album of facemelting ferocity. Into the Purgatory is the twelfth album to come from the mighty Galneryus and, despite such a long career, it lives up to the band’s glory, and then some. A slice of Galneryus’ neoclassical edge has been swapped for a bit more of a progressive influence this time around so, while you can still expect a hyper-melodic work of shred insanity, it’s different enough from their other albums to keep things feeling new.

Full Review

1. Noveria – Aequilibrium

Italian proggers Noveria don’t fuck around. 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.

Full Review

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Power Metal: Amberian Dawn Announce Album For January

Neoclassical symphonic metal outfit Amberian Dawn have announced that their new album, Looking for You, will be released on 31 January 2020. Along with the album announcement, a new single, ‘United’, has been released.

‘United’ follows a more electronic, commercial, 80s feel than Amberian Dawn’s previous releases so it’s probably safe to say that Looking for You will be one of their most unique releases yet!

01. United
02. Eternal Fire Burning
03. Looking for You
04. Two Blades
05. Symphony Nr. 1 Part 3 – Awakening feat Fabio Lione
06. Go for a Ride
07. Butterfly
08. Universe
09. Lay All Your Love on Me (ABBA Cover)
10. Au Revoir
11. Cherish My Memory Re-Mastered (Bonus)

Looking for You marks Amberian Dawn’s ninth album and will be released through Napalm Records.

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Power Metal: New Single From Induction

Symphonic power metallers Induction have released a new single from their upcoming debut. ‘Pay the Price’ is energetic, fast-paced, and in-your-face, as power metal should be!

Induction was formed by guitarist Martin Beck and features Tim Hansen, son of the famed Kai Hansen (who is/has been guitarist/vocalist of Gamma Ray, Helloween, and Iron Savior).

01. A Message in Sand
02. By the Time
03. Pay the Price
04. The Outwitted Consecration (re-release)
05. Hiraeth
06. Mirror Make Believe (My Enemy) feat Kai Hansen
07. At the Bottom
08. The Riddle
09. A Nightmare’s Dream
10. My Verdict
11 Sorrow’s Lullaby

Induction’s self-titled debut is set to be released on 18 October.

To accompany the album’s release, Induction will also be touring their new album in support of Armored Dawn.
12.11. München / Kranhalle
13.11. Milano / Legend
16.11. Essen / Zeche Carl
18.11. Köln / MTC
19.11. Hamburg / Logo
21.11. Aschaffenburg / Colos-Saal

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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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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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Top Ten Metal Albums Of August

August regained the momentum of 2019 with tons of contenders for the best of the month! After careful consideration, I managed to pick out the Top Ten:

10. Ivory Tower – Stronger

Ivory Tower is no stranger to the prog scene. While they’ve only put out four albums since the late 90s, their sound has made plenty of changes, from power prog to nu metal. In their fifth album to date, Stronger, the band shows that the eight years since their previous album (which was, in all honesty, a fucking mess) have been dedicated to evolving their sound for the better. It’s full of super sick riffs, exciting songwriting, and vengeful melodies that often carry classic Queensryche vibes.

Full Review

9. Astralium – Land of Eternal Dreams

Astralium aren’t your typical, generic symphonic metal band. Land of Eternal Dreams marks one hell of a debut, and proves that these guys are a step above the rest. 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.

Full Review

8. Dialith – Extinction Six

The debut album from American symphonic metal outfit Dialith was an unexpected surprise this month. Extinction Six is a riff-heavy beast of a symphonic metal album, with guitarwork that’s as rich as its lively arrangements. All of this is under a strong female lead that delivers diverse melodies with emotion and precision.

7. Finsterforst – Zerfall

Furious German folkers Finsterforst are back with a fifth backbreaking album, complete with lengthy arrangements, chanted melodies, and intense orchestrations. Zerfall is a very unique take on folk metal, combining keyboards, orchestras, and heavy guitars with elements of death metal and folk melodies. The choruses have a slight ring of Orden Ogan to them that amplifies already-huge atmospheres, so it’s safe to say that you’re in for a pounding, heavy ride with this one.

6. Unprocessed – Artificial Void

German prog newcomers Unprocessed have returned with a bang in their sophomore record. Coming out only a year after their debut, Artificial Void shows that the band’s passion is burning hotter than ever before. The album still retains Unprocessed’s underlying, beefy djent feel, but it’s a farther progression into more experimental modern prog territory. Whether you’re looking for insanely deep riffs or choppy jams, Artificial Void delivers on all fronts.

Full Review

5. Scimitar – Shadows of Man

Canadian pagan metal warriors Scimitar have been around for just over a decade. Early on in their career, they released their debut album, Black Waters, but the band took a bit of a break soon after. Now, nine years later, the band have finally unleashed their sophomore album. Shadows of Man is gritty, furious, and packs way more variety into it than I would have ever expected. With a sound that’s in the realm of Ensiferum and Vanir (although far less refined, production-wise), Scimitar’s combination of death, black, and folk elements will be welcome with any fan of the dark side of folk metal.

Full Review

4. Elvenking – Reader of the Runes – Divination

Elvenking’s tenth album, Reader of the Runes – Divination, kicks all sort of ass, pagan-style. Fans will be pleased that Divination still retains the core Elvenking sound: a primarily-pop/punk vocal style, folk melodies, proggy song structure, and a power metal energy. Conversely, though, the album is as much a breath of fresh air as it is an Elvenking album, as it takes the band in two directions that they haven’t really explored in depth before; the road of Divination is generally darker and heavier than their previous material, and it also brings a whole concept that tells of a journey into a mystical world of runes and magic.

Full Review

3. Twilight Force – Dawn of the Dragonstar

Twilight Force’s third album, Dawn of the Dragonstar is full of unlimited, overblown, storybook energy. With the exception of maybe two moments, the album is consistently happy and heroic from the very first seconds of the galloping ‘Dawn of the Dragonstar’ into its final note. This hyper-melodic, smile-demanding work isn’t all sheen and shine, though; there’s an absolutely staggering degree of talent and proficiency to behold in every track.

Full Review

2. HammerFall – Dominion

Since their founding in 1993, heavy metal templars HammerFall have fought to continue the legacy of 80s heavy metal, smithing more than ten full-length records and establishing themselves as Sweden’s and Europe’s premier heavy metal masters. Their latest album, Dominion, is an epic powerhouse that easily contends with their early material in terms of quality and heart.

Full Review

1. NorthTale – Welcome to Paradise

NorthTale was born of vocalist Christian Eriksson (ex-Twilight Force), drummer Patrick Johansson (ex-Yngwie Malmsteem) and guitar maestro Bill Hudson with the dream of bringing back the glory of late 90s/early 00s power metal. Whether you’re in the mood for that golden-age power metal, anthemic stadium metal, or even a vegan happy meal, Welcome to Paradise delivers all that and more, complete with facemelting solos, diverse arrangements, and catchy melodies. This is one of the year’s best power metal albums and is as technically impressive as it is fun.

Full Review

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