Primal Fear's 'Seven Seals' was the one of the best, if not the best, heavy metal album of 2005. I could hardly keep it out of my CD player, especially in my car (great driving music!). And even though Matt Sinner is a very busy man, I hoped I would hear from Primal Fear very soon after this release. So I had to wait two years; it was worth it. Though not as thunderous as 'Seven Seals,' this new album hardly skips a beat: Primal Fear continues to wave the banner of blistering melodic heavy metal. The song composition and musicianship are truly exceptional, and the production, atmospheric and lush. This could be Primal Fear's best album to date.
There are many great songs on this album, but several deserve significant mention. The opening track, 'Sign Of Fear,' has an incredible drum driven intro that proves, once again, that Randy Black is one of the finest drummers in the metal biz. 'Fighting The Darkness,' a song composed in three parts, demostrates Primal Fear's mastery of dramatic and melodic heavy metal. Ralf Scheepers' (ex-Gamma Ray) vocals are brillinat showing great range and beauty. Also, Scheepers really goes full metal jacket on the title track and 'Blood On Your Hands.' Possibly the best song on the album is the first duet ever recorded by Primal Fear, 'Everytime It Rains.'. Epica's Simone Simon lends her incredible vocals giving this piece a stratospheric quality and Mr. Scheepers a run for his money. She can sing metal with boys no problem.
Primal Fear is another reason why melodic heavy metal is not a dying art form. This is a great album and should be in every metalhead's catalogue. Buy it today!
English rockers Dante Fox, fronted by the exceptional Sue Willetts, have delivered a fine album in 'Under The Seven Skies.' This is pure melodic hard rock filled with strong vocals, fundametal guitar work, and catchy melodies and choruses.
I admit it took me several listens to get my ears around Ms. Willetts' voice. Sure she has great range, but she seems to be straining on the harder numbers to establish some presence. Honestly, I think she sounds better on the the slower more subtle numbers like 'Goodbye To Yesterday' and 'Love Tried To Find You.' However, and without a doubt, when the song rocks, Ms. Willetts rides with it and pushes her voice to the limits.
The most interesting track on the album is the title track, 'Under The Seven Skies,' a nine minute tour de force that borders on prog rock. On this song you hear the full strength and talent of Dante Fox: lead guitarist Tim Manford demonstrates his skill and Willetts impresses with her range and control. This is song will not disappoint in the least.
Mehida is a new band from Finland and I was curious about their name. After a Wikipedia search, I discovered that 'Mehida' is a Biblical name roughly translated 'a riddle' or 'sharpness of wit.' I don't know if founder keyboardist Mikko Harkin (ex-Kotipelto, ex-Sonata Arctica) had this in mind when he formed the band. But the title and definition surely fits Mehida's style: there is a mixture of musical experiences on 'Blood & Water' which are enigmatic and intense enough to make this and immensely satisfying work. It is at once melodic and then heavy at times. Take note of 'Multitude' with its introductory gruff, almost dirty vocals, and heavy rhythm section. It is made complete with melody and true sophistication of arrangement. Throughout, this 'heaviness' continues, all within a very melodic context.
Listen carefully and you will discover that 'Blood & Water' is also an outlet for Mr. Harkin's Christian faith. It's great to see faith expressed in such a musically profound way. Listen to 'Grace,' 'Wings of a Dove,' and especially 'Stronghold,' and you will see the strength of conviction.
But if you are not a Christian, do not be put off by the content of the lyrics. This is phenomenal progressive metal: well composed and enthusiastic. The Christian content is not a negative when you consider the significance of the music. This album is worthy of all consideration!
I'll admit it: I'm a wigwamaniac. I love these guys. When I heard that they released a live album, I spared no expense and bought it right away. Wig Wam plays melodic rock with touch of metal all wrapped up in an 80's glam costume. Also, these boys know how to craft catchy tunes with ripping guitar solos and great sing-a-long chorouses. After listening to 'Live In Tokyo,' Wig Wam is definitely best experienced live.
Lead singer Glam is over-the-top throught out this recording. He encourages, teases, and cajols the audience to respond and they respond with enthusiasm: they know the songs and sing along. The band is tight even though you may notice a flub (note, 'Out Of Time'). I was disappointed at times when the backing vocals were muddled or when Teeny's guitar solos were not pushed to the front. Irregardless, it's lots of fun and sounds great.
Listening to 'Live In Tokyo' is like listening to a favorties album. All their great songs are here like 'In My Dreams,' 'Out Of Time,' 'Gonna Get You Some Day,' and 'Bless The Night.' The set list is carefully arranged to get you up and keep you rocking until the end. I think my favorite sequence is the one that begins with the ballad 'Out Of Time' and ends with another ballad 'At The End Of The Day.' In between are two instrumentals that feature Teeny on guitar, 'Erection' (kudos to Eddie Van Halen) and 'The Riddle.' Teeny is no slouch on six strings: he can jam with the best!
To conclude, this is a great live album: it demonstrates the presence and power of Wig Wam when released from the studio. Wig Wam is a 'live' band and 'Live In Tokyo' displays their best strengths.
Sometimes I buy the new album from a band based simply on the fact that I liked their previous releases. Edguy is a perfect example of this trend and so is Nocturnal Rites. I was introduced to them with 2004's 'New World Messiah,' a great recording. 'The Grand Illusion,' released in 2005, was another triumph of Swedish heavy/power metal from this band.
'The 8th Sin' is the eighth studio album from Nocturnal Rites and they have committed no sin here. This is their best work to date. Every song is exceptional: this is true melodic metal. When I pressed play and heard 'Call Out To The World' and its fantastic intro (impressive drum work by Mr. Owe Lingvall), I must have played this one song two or three times before listening to the entire album. It's a clever composition that demonstrates NR's creativity. Another example of this ingenuity is 'Strong Enough,' a significant number with a clever, almost electronica, intro that quickly proceeds into heavy power metal with tons of melody and a great chorus. Another exceptional song is the piano driven ballad 'Me:' Jonny Lindqvist's vocals are beautiful (if I can use that adjective for a metal band!) revealing passion and power.
'The 8th Sin' is a phenomenal work from Nocturnal Rites. Some may complain that they are not hard enough or too simplistic in their melody. This is pretty much bullshit. This album rocks! The simple fact is that Nocturnal Rites has found something, and something is their 'metal groove.' 'The 8th Sin' is why I have returned to metal after all those years of believing that classic melodic metal died with the advent of 'grunge rock.' Buy this album: it is great music!
Sweden's Heel is the collaborative effort of vocalist David HEnriksson (ex-Insania) and guitar virtuoso Marcus ELisson (Ramm).Three years in the making, the result is the fine first work 'Evil Days,' a platter full of sound heavy metal with strong vocals and sterling guitar work.
Henriksson and Elisson draw influences from Dio, Iron Maiden, Gamma Ray and others, and this is clearly apparent on many songs including 'Heel' and 'Paradise.' I would not say that Mr. Henriksson sounds like Ronnie James Dio, but you can certainly hear the same power, range, and passion in his vocals. And, in terms of song composition, there is clearly references to the classic heavy metal of their peers and forbears. Take note of the title track, 'Paradise,' or 'Turn Your Back On Me.'
In the end, I found 'Evil Days' to be an enjoyable metal recording. However, I felt there was something lacking like there wasn't enough polish on the production or the songs, though good, were somewhat ordinary. Still, this is the first time out for Henriksson and Elisson. I suspect that future releases will be even better.
To be honest, I don't know much about Italy's(?) Skylark. You can read their biography at their website. Also, I don't know much about this musical trilogy. You can pick up the story on their website. Yet, I can tell you this: I really dig their sound. This is great metal: at times power metal and then neo-classical metal with an epic, symphonic twist. This is really good stuff.
At one time (again, check their biography), Skylark did not have a female lead vocalist. Skylark recruited Kiara for their lead vocals. Holy shit! This gal is good! There is both beauty and majesty in her voice. Her style is both understated and present in the context of brilliant arrangements that feature thrilling guitars and a hearty rhythm section.
You will not be bored listening to 'Divine Gates Part III.' There is enough originality and variation in this music to make even the most jaded metal listener (I'm one of them) take notice). This an exceptional work by Skylark. Take note of 'The Scream,' 'Believe In Love,' and 'All Is Wrong' and you will believe that this is exceptional music.
I need to catch up and buy their back catalogue. Until then you should check out 'Divine Gates Part III: The Last Gate.' It's a great album full of surprise that will be sure to please any power/heavy metal fan.
Without doubt many fans of At Vance will be disappointed by the departure of the outstanding vocalist Mats Levén. But founder and guitar guru Olaf Lenk has found a suitable and impressive replacement in Rick Altzi (ex-Treasure Land). Mr. Altzi vocals have strength and range and are mixed with a healthy dose of rawness that fits At Vance's style of metal. Mr. Altzi shines on 'Shiver,' and if you listen carefully, there are some overtones of David Coverdale in his voice. High praise indeed!
'VII' is everything you would expect from these metal veterans. The songs are well composed and produced. No instrument overpowers or muscles out the others. If anything Altzi's vocals are put forward (as they should be for his introduction). As always, Olaf Lenk demonstrates his guitar proficiency ripping it up on such numbers as 'Cold As Ice,' 'Victory' and 'Friendly Fire,' a killer tune with a bombastic intro and a heavy rhythm section. All this comes together on the finest cut on the album, 'Answer Me.'
I thought At Vance hit their peak with 2005's 'Chained.' Instead, they have not missed a beat despite a significant personnel change. 'VII' is a fine work that assures us that greater things are to come!
Insania may not be a household name among fans of euro-power metal like their peers and influences, Helloween and Blind Guardian. Yet, Insania are very good in their genre: they do power metal with skill and acumen. If you love the power metal you need to check out Insania.
Much of Insania's music on 'Agony' is driven by three excellent elements. The first is easy and requires limited comment: the production is crisp and clear. The second element is the strength of Ola Halén's vocals: this guy is good with great control and range. Listen to 'Gift Of Life' and 'One Day' and you'll know what I mean. Finally, much of 'Agony' is displays Dimitri Keiski superb keyboard skills. On 'Gift Of Life,' 'Valley Of Sunlight,' and 'Times Of Glory,' Mr. Keiski ventures into some serious musical history invoking shades of Deep Purple and Jon Lord. This is very good stuff and possibly the one single reason to pick up this album.
Additionally, Peter Östros is no slouch on guitar; he can shred and solo with impressive results. Take note of 'Fight For Life' as one example.
But I know what you're thinking: power metal is so passé these days. Seems this genre is somewhere between dying and dinosaur. Yeah, I would agree, but I still love it. However, It takes some extraordinary creativity to seize my interest. (A perfect example of this is 'Times Of Glory,' an eight minute epic of majesty and beauty.) Insania's 'Agony' may seem like ordinary euro-power metal in its more unordinary moments (which are few), but it is still sound and secure music in this weary genre.
As I said before, these guys are good; if you love power metal check them out. Insania should not be overlooked and you will not be disappointed.
Hailing from Huskvarna, Sweden, Hellfueled comes at you hard and fast growling and speeding like the chainsaws and motorcycles which made this town internationally famous. This is Hellfueled's third full-length release and again they have enlisted the skills of master producer Fredrik Nordström (Dream Evil, At The Gates, Arch Enemy, Dimmu Borgir, Pagan's Mind and many more). The result is a topnotch hard rock, heavy metal record.
My first impression was this: these guys sound like somebody, but who? Then it hit me: Black Label Society. However, where Zakk Wylde and his BLS can be eclectic and often put me off, Hellfueled charms my ears with greater melody and cleaner guitar licks. And yes, I will agree that Andy Alkman sounds a little like Ozzy; but actually, Ozzy probably wishes he could sound as good as Mr. Alkman!
The guys are definitely hard as nails with a huge bass sound and some stoner metal references as found in 'Right Now.' Yet, Hellfueled will often lean into straight metal like 'Monster' and 'Queen Of Fire.' In the end, 'Memories In Black' is simply hard driving, in your face, ass-kicking hard rock supported by strong melody, a heavy rhythm section and ripping guitar licks. My favorite song 'Down' is a perfect example of all three.
One final editorial comment: Hellfueled is another non-American band that I wish would be unleashed upon America. Their sound fits with what is moving about the hard rock scene. With extensive label and marketing support, they could easily find an audience. Just as easily, Hellfueled could put to shame most American hard rock acts simply because they are far better musicians crafting better hard rock songs.
I'll be forthcoming here: I was not awed by Australian power metal band Black Majesty's previous works. 'Sands Of Time' (2003) and 'Silent Company' (2005), though well-conceived, just slipped into the morass of basic power metal found (and done better) elsewhere. But 'Tomorrowland' is a completely different story. This is Black Majesty's best work. They have found their identity; they have have found their groove. This is very good power metal and should, if you are a fan of this genre, grab you by the throat and not let go.
I think there are some fundamental elements that make this a superior Black Majesty album and power metal work. First, the production is far superior than previous works; there is clarity throughout from vocals to rhythm section. Second, the songs demonstrate a leap in craftsmanship not present before: melody reigns and the guitar work is superb. Third, the musicians seem truly inspired: they play with passion and enthusiasm. Finally, John Cavaliere's vocals are clear and strong. On previous releases I always felt his voice was muddled in production. On 'Tomorrowland' his voice is a recognizable instrument rising above the others. Mr. Cavaliere gives the guitar riffs and solos a run for their money. Overall, the whole album is powerful and strong.
Some of the best songs are 'Forever Damned,' 'Evil In Your Eyes,' 'Soldier Of Fortune' (a good song to hear the depth of Cavaliere's vocals), and 'Face Of War.'
'Tomorrowland' finally puts Black Majesty in the big leagues of power metal easily able to contend with their idols and peers. If you are a power metal fan, then 'Tomorrowland' is worth your time and money.
California based progressive metal band Redemption stands upon the threshold of a promising future. 'The Fullness Of Time' (2005) was a great accomplishment. Now, they have signed a mult-album deal with InsideOut Music and a management contract with the prestigious Intromental Management group. In addition, as of this review, Redemption is on tour in America with Dream Theater (excellent company to keep!).
Good things are ahead for this creative progressive metal band. 'The Origins Of Ruin' is the promise to this fulfillment: this is a notable progressive metal work.
Nicolas van Dyk (songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist) demonstrates his formidable prowess crafting songs of intelligence in lyrical content and creativity of musical composition. Of this Mr. van Dyk says:
I’ve wanted to combine a lot of elements that aren’t typically found together: aggressive and heavy music, but an emphasis on melody; dark and brooding, but with underlying positivity (sic); complex and progressive, but ultimately song-oriented. We managed to do this rather well on the last CD, but all these ingredients are assembled more seamlessly on 'The Origins of Ruin' ... (from InsideOut website)
I think van Dyk and company have succeeded exceptionally well. One listen to 'Memory' or 'The Death of Faith & Reason' on the new album will convince you of this.
In addition to Mr. van Dyk's superb contributions, you also have the versatile vocals of Ray Alder (Fates Warning). He seems to have been born to give a voice to Redemption's music. His style is so extremely complimentary it's supernatural. Listen to the short title track, 'Blind My Eyes,' or 'Fall On You' and you will know what I mean.
At once dark and then moving and inspired, 'The Origin Of Ruin' is a masterful work of complex arrangements, surprising melody, and thoughtful musicianship to please any fan of this genre. If you think there is 'nothing new under the sun' in prog metal or prog metal only consists of Dream Theater and Symphony X, then you must consider Redemption's 'The Origins Of Ruin.' It is a worthy achievement and worthy of all consideration.
This one hits close to home, literally. 'Voice In the Light' is based upon a forthcoming novel by John Crawford who resides a mere twenty minutes away from me in Lancaster County, Pa. Who would believe prog rock originates from Pennsylvania Dutch country? Well, I'm here and as for Mr. Crawford's love of all things prog visit his website. As for 'Voice In The Light,' here is Mr. Crawford's summary from his website:
'Voice in the Light is a faith based rock opera of epic proportion, Voice in the Light is the story of one man’s quest for answers following a near death experience. A mysterious message during his NDE ultimately leads to a miracle so profound, it will change the course of human history. The story, primary lyrics and musical direction was provided by John W. Crawford to the progressive rock supergroup Amaran’s Plight who composed and performed the piece, which follows the tradition of classic and progressive rock. The story is based on the soon to be released novel, Voice in the Light.'
Now combine his story with an exceptional, if not all-star, lineup of prog musicians and you have the makings of a phenomenal work. Amaran's Plight consists of D.C. Cooper (Royal Hunt, Silent Force, Steel Seal) on vocals, Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery and numerous guest appearances) on guitar, keyboards, vocals and production, Nick D’Virgilio (Spock's Beard and work with Genesis, Fate's Warning and others), and Kurt Barabas (Under The Sun and much more studio work). This seasoned crew has created an exceptional progressive rock opera that is surely destined to be the best in its field this year. It is a true masterpiece!
Regular readers already know of my unabashed praise for Mr. Cooper's vocals. I think he is one the best rock/metal vocalist of our time. On 'Voice In The Light,' he is paired with Trisha O'Keefe, a young and accomplished singer from the Philadelphia area. Her voice is luxurious and passionate. Their work is truly masterful and mesmerizing on such a song as "I Promise You.'
When you listen to 'Voice' in the light for the first time you must do just that, listen. The music is compelling in its style and scope. You will be amazed at the stunning arrangements and brilliant musicianship. Then on your next listen, pick up the booklet and consult the lyrics. The story provides another layer of depth to this work. As for the songs themselves, I found myself amazed by the longer tracks such as 'The Incident at Haldeman's Lake' or 'Shattered Dreams.' Never did I feel them to be monotonous or hyperbolic; instead, I wanted more. But should not that be the inherent nature of good music? A shorter song like 'I Promise You' was beautiful in its brevity of summarizing love's covenant. Other favorites include the inspiring instrumental 'Consummation Opus' and the brilliant 'Revelation,' satisfying in musical scope and as a conclusion to this work.
Every progressive rock fan (and everyone else, for that matter) should buy Amaran's Plight's 'Voice In The Light.' This a work of singular beauty and significance. You will not be disappointed in the least. 'Voice In The Light' is a masterpiece of progressive rock.
One word will mark Last Autumn's Dream musical legacy to this point: consistency. Less than a year after last year's wonderful 'Winter In Paradise,' LAD delivers another great melodic hard rock album. Mikael Erlandsson's smooth almost Bryan Adams-like vocals are better than ever. Guitarist Andy Malecek (ex-Fair Warning) soars. The Talisman based rhythm section Marcel Jacob and Jamie Borger is tight and masterful. And the songs combine all of the above into great arrangements with a ton of appealing choruses.
There is no need to go through every song because they're all very good with a few exceptions. However, here are a few songs of note. 'For The Young and the Wild' is anthem to the joys of youth with a harmonious chorus and well placed piano segue between guitar solos. 'Critical' rocks hard with Mr. Erlandsson pushing his rock voice to the edge and Mr. Malecek delivering awesome riffs. On 'Frozen Heart' LAD nails the traditional rock ballad on the head. Of singular note is 'Rock 'n Roll Is Saving My Soul,' an intriguing and mystifying semi-ballad with a preposterous title. First I thought this song was too long and pretentious, but after listening to it several times, I think it's my favorite song on the album. I think the song truly displays LAD's qualities especially in composition and Mr. Malecek's guitar skills. As for the exceptions, 'American Girl' and 'Skyscraper' are both good songs, but failed to keep my interest as the others did.
I'm a fan of Last Autumn's Dream. If you love melodic rock, then you should check these guys out. You'll be a fan, too. Great album, buy it!
I'm happy to see that REO Speedwagon is back with their first studio album in eleven years. I've been a fan of REO since college when I discovered the live album, 'You Get What You Play For.' (I'm showing my age again.) This a rowdy and rough album with lots of great tunes. It became a soundtrack for many college parties. Things turned more commercial with their next release, 'You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can't Tuna Fish,' and REO became a worldwide success story pumping out hit singles and fill stadiums. Now, original member Kevin Cronin reigns at the helm of REO 2007 who largely composed the songs and handled production.
Maybe I expected more, or maybe I expected something akin to their greatest commercial accomplishments, but 'Find Your Own Way Home' has not really left a lasting impression upon me. The album starts out strong with a great rocker 'Smilin' In The End,' with Mr. Cronin singing strong and the band kicking out the jams. This great I thought until I moved on to the title track. It's not bad; it's a sad song of sorts, yet has a catchy chorus. But it drags along. 'I Needed To Fall' seems to reverse course giving us a radio friendly ballad akin to 80's stuff. Still, things aren't improving for me. Then my spirits rise again with 'Dangerous Combination,' which demonstrates Mr. Cronin's great lyrical creativity, and the music isn't too bad either. And so it goes: at once, my interest is held fast, then, at another moment, I'm ready to move on.
Outside of the first track and 'Dangerous Combination,' the best tracks on the album may be bluesy rock numbers, 'Lost On The Road Of Love' and 'Run Away Baby.' These songs show the creativity of Cronin and company if not also the confusion of styles on this album. I guess this is the thing that bugs me most: there's such a variety of styles that I find the album declaratively inconsistent. Yet, in the end, I like this new work by REO. Maybe it's actually the elusiveness of the sound that grabs me.
You know his name, but then again maybe not. John 5 (born John Lowery) is the former guitarist for Marilyn Manson (now with Rob Zombie: not exactly a great leap forward). As you would probably suspect, a review of a Marilyn Manson album would not appear on these pages. MM is merely a poor man's absurd caricature of Alice Cooper. He simply lacks substance and creativity. Thankfully, John 5 can rise above this bondage and pursue greater things. 'The Devil Knows My Name' demonstrates that Mr. Lowery is a sterling, if not underrated, guitarist.
John 5's guitar virtuosity is clearly evident on this album. He can shred with the best of them; consider 'Werewolf Of Westeria' and ''27 Needles' at the top of the album. Yet again there is interesting and stylish creativity in the gentle acoustic number, 'Bella Kiss,' and superb blues pushing country track, 'Young Thing' (written by Chet Atkins). 'July 31st (The Last Stand)' finds John 5 drifting into a more progressive metal style. Of course, I would be delinquent if I did not mention his cover of GnR's 'Welcome To The Jungle.' It's a brilliant interpretation wherein he both leaves his mark and demonstrates his fine skills.
John 5 also keeps some pretty impressive company on this record including Joe Satriani ('Werewolf Of Westeria') and Eric Johnson ('The Washing Away Of Wrong'). It's great to see John 5 come out from behind the shadow of Marilyn Manson to deliver such an excellent and personal recording. Hopefully, this will increase his name recognition within the mainstream and advance his solo career.
Short and sweet! This a good way to describe the latest EP from the great American(!) metal band Iced Earth. In advance of their forthcoming new studio album, 'Framing Armageddon' due September 7, 'Overture To The Wicked' gives us a taste of the new material and a reason to remember that their past work is so very good.
'Overture' introduces 'Framing Armageddon's Something Wicked Part One with 'Ten Thousand Strong.' Iced Earth has never sounded better. Tim 'Ripper' Owen's (also Judas Priest, at least for a time!) vocals kill; he is as strong as ever. And the song itself is premium metal: hard driving with great licks.
Yet, the best part may be the rerecording of the Something Wicked trilogy which includes 'Prophecy,' 'Birth of the Wicked,' and 'The Coming Curse.' The old is reborn in fine form; it's stronger and more passionate than ever before.
Iced Earth has also recruited a new guitarist: Mr. Troy Seele, a long time friend of Jon Schaffer, historian and driving force behind IE. If 'Ten Thousand Strong' is just a foretaste of things to come, than we are in for a banquet of heavy metal when 'Framing Armageddon' roars our way.