Devin Townsend: Z2
Written by Mike Rocha    Thursday, 11 December 2014 15:13    PDF Print E-mail

It’s hard to argue and say that Devin Townsend isn’t one of the hardest working musicians in the last 20 years.  After all, from all of his work from Strapping Young Lad, to all of his solo efforts and now, his latest solo effort “Z2.”  Townsend combines all the elements from all of his solo projects and combines them into this unique album that showcases all the best of his heavy and melodic influences.  The first disc of this disc album really hits that pop metal sound that Townsend has created as his own and a frequent collaborator of Townsend’s by the name of Anneke Van Giersbergen lends her vocal prowess to majority of the songs.  With her voice melding with Townsend’s, the two create some very powerful songs albeit not as strong as their previous effort “Addicted,” but still strong nonetheless.    The second disc is a follow up to Townsend’s amazing 2007 effort “Ziltoid the Omniscient.”  It follows suit of how its predecessor was with really crushing guitar riffs followed by a humorous concept story involving the takeover of the human race.  You’ll be humored by many references such as “poozers” and “fooled you poopy pants.”  The second disc feels like a hilarious rock opera melded perfectly with sci-fi elements and wonderful guitar work that can perhaps one day be turned into a true sci-fi rock opera.  This double album may not be Townsend’s strongest work but it definitely showcases his creativity and humorous side of sci-fi and rock.

Mors Principium Est: Dawn Of The 5th Era
Written by Lauri Lindqvist    Thursday, 11 December 2014 15:03    PDF Print E-mail

It's been a good year for melodic death metal. Not only have legends At The Gates returned to the scene, but we've had strong releases from the next generation - the latest example being Finland’s Mors Principium Est. Since their debut album released in 2003, they’ve made good use of the furious pace of classic At The Gates while also bringing in a touch of Finnish melodic style – epic and a little melancholy. Their fifth album, “Dawn of the Fifth Era,” features new guitarist Kevin Verlay, the latest in a long history of line-up changes that nonetheless seems not have harmed the band’s sound in the least. “Dawn of the Fifth Era” is full of headbang-worthy songs, but some standout tracks include "We Are The Sleep," with its furious barrages of guitar during the verses and expansive sweeping choruses; "Monster in Me," which effectively creates the sense of madness with swirling symphonics adding to the frenetic sound of the breakneck guitars; and "Wrath of Indra," in which hammering guitars, racing vocals and speedy melodies, alternating with epic choruses, depict the struggles of a mythic hero. “Apricity,” a dreamy track including piano and synth, provides a short lull; otherwise the album is ten solid tracks of fast, harsh and melodic goodness. If you love melodic death metal and want to break your neck trying to keep up with it, this is the album for you.

Lyriel: Skin And Bones
Written by Lauri Lindqvist    Thursday, 13 November 2014 10:15    PDF Print E-mail

Lyriel has changed quite a bit since the days when they were a Celtic folk rock band dominated by fiddle melodies and lovely vocals. Their music now has a heavier, harder edge, and more guitar riffs than fiddle melodies. This is especially the case on their fifth release, "Skin and Bones," out on November 4. The album opens with the rocking guitar riffs of their single, “Numbers,” which is followed by the even heavier "Falling Skies," with its chugging riffs enhanced by blasts of symphonics and keening strings (the band features both violin and cello). Things get especially heavy in the fourth song, "Black and White," which features some harsh vocals (courtesy of Christian Älvestam, ex-Scar Symmetry, Solution .45) that sound like a demonic roar next to Jessica Thierjung’s lovely singing and the emotional clean vocals delivered by Älvestam. (At the end of the album, there’s also a version of the song with all the vocals done by Jessica Thierjung.) Another song that displays the band’s harder side is “Der Weg,” with its very headbang-worthy heavy, groovy guitars. Symphonic elements bring many of the songs to a grand scale. “Dream Within a Dream,” which starts with piano, dreamy vocals and wistful strings, grows in intensity when the electric guitars and symphonics kick in halfway through. Folk fiddling, meanwhile, takes a backseat to heavy guitaring and epic symphonics on this album, with the strings serving merely as decoration or backdrop on most songs; but one song, “Dust to Dust,” does begin with a fun folk melody where the strings come to the fore for a bit. With its deeper sound, the cello adds some interesting acoustic heaviness, for instance building the ominous atmosphere at the beginning of “Black and White.” With thirteen tracks, this is a fairly long album, but very little of it is filler; for the most part, the band keeps things intense and interesting with a combination of hard-hitting guitar riffs and symphonic crescendos, lovely acoustic moments and touches of strings, and powerful vocals and catchy choruses. One doesn’t have to be a fan of folk metal to appreciate this album.

Lordi: Scare Force One
Written by Steve Wass    Thursday, 13 November 2014 11:18    PDF Print E-mail

The laughably titled "Scare Force One" sets the tone for the latest from Finnish metal monsters (no, really) Lordi. The formulaic mix of Kiss, Alice Cooper, Accept, and a ton of melody is no different on this release- it’s obsession or disgust (I am one of the Monstermaniacs and have been  since I was aware of them winning the Eurovision contest). This is a good album, but it provides nothing groundbreaking in the world of monster metal. Lyrically and musically it’s really just rehashes of previous cuts, but this is much less inspired.  We get a few tracks of instrumental fluff, and a couple not great songs (“Mr. Presideath,” and "She's a Demon..." sounds particularly out of tune and possessed), and some compositions from Mr. Lordi that toe the line (“…Clowns,” “…Ghosts”). There are only a scant few bombastic earworms (“Cadaver Lover” in particular, "...Hammer," and "...Rocking") which make one want to raise their claws and roar. Compared to their last releases it is not as enjoyable, but if you have the dire craving for some monster music (just in time for Halloween), then summon this disc. Just bring your sense of humor and you’ll be perfectly safe.

Sanctuary: The Year The Sun Died
Written by Steve Wass    Thursday, 13 November 2014 10:46    PDF Print E-mail

When I heard that Warrel Dane reformed Sanctuary (and postponed Nevermore), I was very interested in hearing this new album (first since 1990!), “The Year the Sun Died.” What we are treated to are Dane’s trademark vocals soaring (although not quite “Battle Angels” heights, unfortunately) over top a solid metal foundation, chock full of riffs. The groove of “Question Existence Fading” and the energetically anthemic “Arise and Purify” are particularly noteworthy. But really, there is not a bad track on this album, the songs flow pretty well into each other. I’m waiting for my double disc of their other 2 albums, so unfortunately I can’t really compare them just yet. The production is great, and every song (slow ones and fast ones both) has a satisfying heaviness that a Nevermore or classic metal fan would appreciate. Even the instrumental track just feels like an intro to the following mid tempo “The Year the Sun Died.”  I will say that since this is Sanctuary, the progressive elements are not nearly as prevalent as a Nevermore disc, but it does sound like Nevermore Lite at times.  Not that that’s a bad thing- this record really is a well-made treat for many.

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