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.

Finch: Back To Oblivion
Written by Ryan Resnick    Thursday, 13 November 2014 11:11    PDF Print E-mail

The early 2000's brought around a change in punk scene whether we chose to admit it or not. The emergence of the post hardcore sound had gripped the music scene like GI Joe with a Kung fu action. The sound blended elements of hardcore punk with the dying sounds of nu metal and what little remained of grunge. Born from this combination of sounds came bands like Flyleaf, Boxcar Racer, RED, Sick Puppies and 10 Years.

Most typically the songs would feature simple (mostly downtuned) distorted, overly driven guitar riffs or soft, structured acoustic riffs (looking at you Staind). Drum beats were usually basic in nature, based around the plain kick, snare, kick, snare combo. Bass wise...well there's a reason why people didn't give bass enough respect back then. The bass lines were boring and usually were just simplified version of the rhythmic guitar riffs (I'm glad that's changed since then). Which brings us to the singers, most of which one would consider talented.

With the singers emotion was the key. Showing how much anger or sadness, and at times love they had. Whether through soft, low singing or vocal chord tearing screams, they would instill their thought, emotions, beliefs, frustrations, and desperation in to your mind with the utmost tenacity. But it's a double edged sword. There's a fine line between being a poet and being a (excuse my french) whiny bitch. However, that's just an extreme.

With this new emergence of angst and sound came some of my generations favorite nostalgic pieces. When I think back to that time three bands come to mind; Taking Back Sunday, Thrice, and Finch.

What these three bands had in common is what stuck out to me as a kid. The emotion and passion that they wrote about spoke to the angry, pubescent kid that I was. Finch in particular.

I discovered them with the song 'Project Mayhem' on the album 'What it is to Burn. Being a die hard fan of 'Fight Club', I ate up that song and the entire album.

Starkill: Virus Of The Mind
Written by Steve Wass    Thursday, 13 November 2014 10:42    PDF Print E-mail

Up and coming Illinois based melodic death metal band Starkill's new album "Virus of the Mind" is certainly that. There are more than a few earworms that dig in and just replay themselves. Their combination of epic orchestration, mostly harsh vocals and super melodic and clean guitar solos surrounded by machine gun drums makes for a compelling listen. The closest things one can draw comparisons with are a more melodic and less brutal Dethklok/Galaktikon with a very Queen guitar tone. The album starts with the urgent synth of "Be Dead Or Die" and never really lets you go until the enveloping and echoing clean vocals of “Convergence”. My personal favorites are the slowly progressing title track, the frantic “My Catharsis” and the haunting "Before Hope Fades." The variety of faster and slower songs coupled with the orchestration also makes each song feel like different and grandiose, but still a Starkill song. Overall, this album feels like a progression from their debut- perhaps slowing things down but focusing on the songwriting instead of over the top virtuosity. This release, timed to come out during their inclusion on the Arch Enemy tour this fall, is poised to make a big impact.

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