As per usual with John Yelland releases I am late to the party. Dire Peril‘s first full record The Extraterrestrial Compendium was released a few weeks ago, so you could go check it out right now. Look, I don’t mean to demean Jason Ashcraft, Yelland’s partner for the two man project Dire Peril, but somehow John Yelland is the link between now two of this year’s great (US) power metal records. Earlier this year, Judicator, singer Yelland’s main band, if you want to call it that, impressed me greatly with their Blind Guardian inspired take on American power metal. Dire Peril‘s “debut” on the other hand was written by Helion Prime‘s Ashcraft, but stylistically T.E.C. is real close to Judicator. Continue reading “Dire Peril – The Extraterrestrial Compendium Review”
I’m always looking forward to new releases from Stormspell Records’ roster, and Masquerage is just another gem in the rough featuring some hard-working people who somehow managed to stay underground all this time. The Finns have been around since around 2000, with four full-length records to their name already. I hadn’t known them before this album, but my bets were on them being a brand new, young band. Hangman’s Revelations just has this kind of fresh air to it. Of course, I recognized Masquerage‘s voice and big player – Kimmo Perämäki of early Celesty fame, who managed to stay relevant trough Finland’s scene and recently grouped up with Celesty again, but to no recorded avail at least yet. Continue reading “Masquerage – Hangman’s Revelations Review”
Ever since its first steps about a decade ago, the so called modern metal was received with high hopes and expectations: means to help reduce the musical stagnation and attract those listeners, sick of tales of dragon slayers, warriors of the Antichrist and pathological amateurs. Sadly, one cliché was only inherited by another and a couple of years later, the young style was already soaking in commercialism and subdued by labels trying to cache in on its potential.
Temperance is one of the more interesting bands of the mentioned trend, despite their late and not-all-that-original debut. However, their fourth studio album leaves all genre stereotypes behind in favour of a straightforward and purposeful sound. Of Jupiter And Moons has an intriguing Sci-Fi concept, abundant memorable melodies and impressive duets. At the same time, the compositions are also diversified with quasi-progressive elements, increasing the replayability of the record.
The best thing here is the fact that Temperance finally managed to find their own niche instead of being a clone (albeit a good one) of Amaranthe. Without any significant changes compared to its predecessor The Earth Embraces Us All, the new Italian effort has a solid core of melodic sympho-power metal without any disco influences whatsoever, with an electronic side well under control. A big part of the songs’ character is due to the impressive new vocal duo Michele Guaitoli/Alessia Scolletti. While we are well acquainted with Michele’s work in other Italian bands like Overtures and Kaledon, until recently Alessia was shrouded in mystery. Even though her voice is not as dynamic and polished as ex-frontwoman Chiara Tricarico’s, she brings a highly emotional performance to the table, towards which one cannot stay indifferent for long.
“The Last Hope in a World of Hopes” sets the mood with balanced guitars, keys and powerful choruses – a successful combination that lasts until the very end of the album. Additional praise goes to the explosive energy of “Broken Promises”, the title hit track (better yet, a HIT – you won’t find many captivating songs of this caliber, especially in the metal scene) and the overly epic ballad “Empires and Men”. The Hammond organ and some gospel vocals introduced in “The Art of Believing” are both unexpected and pleasantly surprising, while the closure “Daruma’s Eyes” is one of the band’s bravest achievements to date with its enigmatic orchestrations, complex riffs and multilayered arrangements. Such magnificence makes it almost inevitable for one or two tracks to sound more forgettable, but this can hardly ruin the overall impression.
Of Jupiter and Moons may not be a perfect album but it sounds fresh and honest, which cannot be said for most modern releases of late. Temperance can surely be proud of their newest opus and with it, the genre’s future seems a bit brighter.
From now unto Eternity, I hereby declare every review of a Judicator record shall include the anecdote of band founding members Tony and John crossing paths at a Blind Guardian concert for the first time. Thus, Judicator was born and thus, the story will remain told in all recounts of Judicator‘s music. Myth or truth? We will never know, but it obviously makes for a good background narrative – especially when the band’s music is so clearly a carbon copy of the Guardian‘s earlier days.
The Last Emperor is Salt Lake City‘s Judicator‘s fourth album and it continues where 2012’s King Of Rome left off, combining melodious European style power metal with more thrashy US metal influences and historic/fantasy lyrics, reminiscent of ’90s Blind Guardian. 2015’s At The Expense Of Humanity was a more complex and lyrically personal album due to a loss in singer John Yelland’s life. Coincidentally, the music, written by multi-instrumentalist Tony Cordisco, coincided with this heavier theme. This year’s The Last Emperor is a callback to more straightforward power metal, displayed too by the relatively short runtime of under 50 minutes if you’re not counting the CD exclusive bonus re-recording of the track “King Of Rome”.
I mentioned Blind Guardian too many times already, so what’s up with that? Yes, Judicator very much sound like circa-Somewhere Far Beyond era Guardian. This is for one due to vocalist John Yelland’s voice, he sounds as much like Hansi Kürsch as Jens Carlsson (Savage Circus and Persuader), with the only difference being his vocals a tad higher and more soaring. Combine that with typically Guardian-trademarked vocal harmonies, “Tanelorn” style guitar leads and epic choruses and you end up with an album Blind Guardian could have released after Somewhere Far Beyond. Oh, and Hansi Kürsch performs a guest part on “Spiritual Treason”. Who would have guessed.
Judicator take the best of European and US power metal; grand arrangements and massive choruses mixed with slightly progressive compositions and thrashy riffage disregard the characteristic problem of generic power metal which is repetition and simplemindedness. In this regard, The Last Emperor is evocative of last year’s über power metal release “Apex” by Unleash The Archers: each song has its own style, nature and temper, but all of them form a homogenous album, a feat not achieved easily.
If you like your power metal more complex than Helloween/Gamma Ray level and enjoy incredibly melodic vocals paired with hefty riffs, splendid refrains and the occasional ’80s/’90s thrash metal gang shout callback, Judicator is the band for you. Unless Blind Guardian challenge Judicator with a new release this year, Judicator‘s The Last Emperor will surely be one of the best records in this particular melodic power metal niche in 2018 due to its diversity.
I was dreading this review; it is hard to write an interesting piece about a boring album while staying objective and not bashing too hard. Axel Rudi Pell, guitarist of his eponymous band most notably featuring singer extraordinaire Johnny Gioeli and keyboard player Ferdy Doernberg, clearly is a legend. His time with Steeler and groundbreaking releases under his own name such as The Masquerade Ball (2000) or Black Moon Pyramid (1996) are testament to his status. Alas, being a legend is no prevention from releasing bad albums. Even bigger greats like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and the likes are no strangers to this.
Anyone who knows ARP knows the band’s characterizing trait: no change, ever. So let me start this off with a funny one. You might have the feeling Mr. Pell’s music sounds the same every time, but it goes deeper than that. Let me get my tinfoil hat. Consistently since 1998, the band has been putting out studio albums with new material exactly every two years. 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018. That is a… feat? Moreover, all of those albums have exactly 10 songs. Is this a joke? Moreover, all 11 of those albums except one (Tales Of The Crown) start with an instrumental intro track between 1 and 2 minutes long. This convinces me that Axel Rudi Pell is playing some kind of long time practical joke on us. I don’t know the exact outcome of this, but it surely manifests the evident stubborness of releasing the same album every two years.
ARP history can be divided in three ages. The glorious early years, the downfall and the end. The glory years ended with Kings And Queens, maybe including it, maybe not, continuing with the downfall until 2014’s Into The Storm (already part of the end times), followed by the end. The end not as end to the band who are clearly still eagerly releasing albums, but an end to musical quality. Yes, you can listen to The Masquerade Ball (2000) and then this new Knights Call and you will know it is the same band. The music still sounds the same. It just has been getting more and more stale. That is not because of repetition (even though that is not exactly great either); I’d be more than happy if Mr. Pell was releasing Masquerade Ball after Masquerade Ball, but the great compositions and energy of such records are fading with each subsequent release. Which leads us to 2018’s Knights Call (who are they calling? It is not Knight’s Call!) which is the bottom end of ARP routine (until the next one comes along).
“The Medieval Overture” is the obligatory instrumental introduction featuring midi sounds stolen from Summoning mid 90s. What follows is a mediocre hard rock track with “The Wild And The Young”. Johnny Gioeli’s first line is “Sometimes I am dreaming of the past”. I understand. Accordingly, the track addresses the energy and carelessness of youth. Very meta of Mr. Pell who seems to be aware he is lacking this energy. Even Gioeli, one of my favorite singers, is lacking in his performance. Compare his singing even to recent examples like 2012’s album opener “Ghost In The Black”. Wow, the screaming, the ass kicking! Nothing of this to be found here. The riff is forgettable and the rhythm as thrilling as the glass of coke sitting on your desk from the other day. Stale, let’s pour it away.
This might come as no great surprise, but the other tracks on the album sound the same. Uninspired hard rock songs, not even edging on power metal anymore, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. There is an inexplicable almost-5-minute instrumental called “Truth And Lies” which you could delete right off the album (except it would break the holy sanctity of 10-track albums) and two songs longer than 8 minutes. This was great when those songs were called “The Masquerade Ball” but these days it is an experience as captivating as ironing.
I found myself having some of the choruses stuck in my head, being able to sing along, but that is more the type of begrudgingly stuck song similar to a famous pop song you’ve heard too many times on the radio or in public. The songs are as unremarkable as can be and since they, musically, sound just the same as earlier efforts of ARP you might as well ignore this new album and enjoy old masterpieces or visit a Pell show, the latter probably being great fun since Mr. Pell and his companions still seem to have the will and energy to play, but this does not translate to the once dashing power of his songwriting anymore. I feel Axel Rudi Pell enjoy playing live and just press out something every two years so the label doesn’t complain. So, get merch or go to shows, but definitely keep away from this album unless you like to self-castigate.