I remember listening to Mare Nostrum, Italian symphonic black metal band Stormlord‘s fourth album, in 2009 and being blown away by how one band could combine such extreme metal with such great melodies and atmospheres.Of course, this type of mixture is something Dimmu Borgir have been brewing up as early as 1994, but there’s just a kind of dramatic aspect that Italian bands are great at portraying, be it black metal, death metal or power metal. Precisely, Stormlord strike a balance between those genres with a focus on atmospheric black metal; not in a Summoning kind of way, but leaning heavy on keyboards and solemn melodies to facilitate the new album’s lyrical contents concerning, as always, ancient Roman myths, but also fictional topics like Conan. Continue reading “Stormlord – Far Review”
There are few genuine classic melodic power metal bands left in the business, with most ancient champions either retiring or “evolving” into something no one asked for. Austria’s Dragony have been supplying the old power metal crowd with finest European forged steel since their inception around 2011, when their first album Legends released independently, a time where I’d known them for a while already and had come to revel in the ’90s symphonic power goodness long before the band was signed by Limb Music in 2012, who released Legends again. Smart move, after all, Legends was the most explosive piece of the genre I’d heard in a long time. Continue reading “Dragony – Masters Of The Multiverse Review”
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.
The second long player of the Visigoths, who actually hail from Salt Lake City, USA, was released a few days ago and praised by the so-called trade press more or less, making Visigoth a bit less underground and meaning I am too late with this review. However, where I am only a few days late, the young band seems to be several decades late with their music. For what comes out of the speakers here could have come straight from the eighties except for the clean production and could have been recorded by Manilla Road or Manowar.
Like many by Kris Verwimp’s artwork enhanced records, be it black, heavy or thrash metal, “Conqueror’s Oath” is deeply oldschool. Both points has the album in common with its predecessor “The Revenant King”, with which Visigoth already made a name for themselves in the epic metal scene in 2015. In the metal mainstream, troops of this niche are rarely seen, and the success of Sweden’s Grand Magus has not changed anything in the past ten years. Nonetheless, in recent years, memories of ancient times seem to be increasing, as evidenced by US epicists such as Visigoth as well as European and, specifically, Southern European (Italy, Greece) ensembles. The fact that the guys from Visigoth are bound to true steel by passion far away from the mainstream is also showcased by the dedication of two band members, who more or less secretively with the aliases Shield Anvil and Mortal Sword released 2013 under the band name Caladan Brood a fine, among scene connoisseurs acclaimed black metal work tapping into the style of Summoning.
Visigoth, however, is dedicated visually, lyrically and musically to classic heavy metal with a generous dose of epic. The denim vest that bears the “Conqueror’s Oath” is adorned with patches by Manowar and Cirith Ungol, but also Hammerfall and Accept. The Salt Lake City collective offers its own kind of Epic Metal; one that is less playful, more straightforward and, above all, riddled with catchy refrains. Quiet guitar sounds, diversified structured tracks and abundant choirs provide the epic foundation, while fast riffs, double bass and catchy melodies lead to memorable songs that have the listener carried away at the first attempt. The best example of the union of the two genres is the longest track of the album, “Traitor’s Gate”, which starts slowly, but can not hold on to itself and explodes in a riff and drum inferno. The whole thing garnished with a thick chorus and finished is the Visigoth recipe.
If you want to experience the epic side of Visigoth in pure form, listen to the title track “The Conqueror’s Oath”, which borrows from Manilla Road; If you want to enjoy the rockiest and maybe best song of the album, you can convince yourself with “Warrior Queen”. The latter boasts fat riffs, eighties gang shouts and a thoughtful middle section, culminating in the last, highly memorable chorus.
In their compositions Visigoth are less complex and focus more on simple song material, which is quite an advantage on stage and on fast car rides, but after a few runs in the CD player, the uniform track tristesse spreads out. Mind you, after a few runs, which are rather more than less, because with “Conqueror’s Oath” Visigoth deliver a quite capable heavy metal work that easily surpasses the recent gushes of the old genre guard like Manowar and Virgin Steele. For the future, I wish for more variety or aspiration, often characterized by more progressiveness and a more dynamic production. In its present form “Conqueror’s Oath” suffers from a small dynamic range and loud tracks, which unfortunately does not stop at the compositionally good, acoustic passages. Here, the music demands less compression and more air to breathe for atmosphere that is important in the genre.