How much more thrashy power metal can the world take? While this question might refer to The Crimson Throne, Germany’s Circle Of Silence‘s fifth album, it is the same question that went through my head when I listened to their label debut The Blackened Halo in 2011. As part of preparing this review, I went back (not in time though) and listened to The Blackened Halo again to see if it could convince me today more than it did back then, which was not at all. And by the God-Emperor, just as seven years ago, I still don’t feel in need of the umpteenth band mixing influences of bands like early Blind Guardian and Helloween, Rage, Accept, Exodus and Kreator because there are so many better alternatives available already. The Crimson Throne really needs to be some damn fine composing to shed a good light on Circle Of Silence in my book. Continue reading “Circle Of Silence – The Crimson Throne Review”
guess what ? I invented Manowar therefore i can record & perform anything i want . Any more stupid questions ?
guess what i dont have to do anything. Esp. What brave knuckleheaded internet warriors like you want me to do . Bronx greetings to you
I talked about how Crematory had no success insulting people on the internet who disliked their music, and Ross Friedman who calls himself The Boss (there is only one Boss, but that’s a different topic…) is portraying a level of insecurity, immaturity and too much free time on youtube as well (above comments taken from /watch?v=KrzIcFcMrSo). The problem with Crematory was that the band (“Germany’s leading metal band”) couldn’t back it up with any sort of relevant releases since the ’90s. Mr. Friedman on the other hand is quite the legend, having shaped a part of Manowar‘s success in the ’80s with his guitar playing and some amount of songwriting on albums like Kings Of Metal, after which he left the band. Past glory aside, can Ross The Boss, despite his childish sobriquet, substantiate his attitude with powerful music blowing the POSERS away or is it as disappointing as Crematory‘s output?
Opening title track “By Blood Sworn” impresses twofold: the songwriting indeed sounds like 1988’s Kings Of Metal, the riffs and pulsating drums are reminiscent of Manowar‘s typical fist-pumping, chest-thumping adrenaline filled sound. The other impression, albeit negative, is the sound. Immediately you will notice the washed-out sounding drums and guitars. I don’t understand what Mr. Friedman was going for here – this doesn’t sound old school, it sounds like a 64 kbit/s conversion of an otherwise fine sound. No, it’s not my files, you can listen to the terrible sound yourself here.
Sound is not all, and I can forgive By Blood Sworn‘s poor production if the songs are good. Sadly, after the initial positive impression with the powerful title track, “Among The Bones” features some terrible ’80s glam impressions with a highly generic chorus. What is going on here? This is far from the usual high-octane sound Manowar are known for, and which even Mr. Friedman himself displayed with his first two albums in 2008 and 2010 as Ross The Boss. Granted, those albums weren’t high quality songwriting either, but they at least channeled the spirit of true metal.
It seems like two souls live in Friedman’s chest as immediately he follows up with “This Is Vengeance”, probably the best track on the album. That doesn’t make it a great track, but the generic heavy metal clientele will like it. Some nice screams, a catchy chorus and energetic drums make an enjoyable, if average Manowar style banger. With this one being the most thrilling song of By Blood Sworn, you know it is only going downhill from here. With tracks like “We Are The Night”, “Devil’s Day” and “Circle Of Damnation” Ross The Boss only reinforces the mix of groovy glam metal and heavy metal. The solos are utterly boring and generic, not what I’d expect from an expert legend like Ross. I don’t know why he is limiting his prowess to common Mötley Crüe type metal tracks.
By Blood Sworn not only suffers from a subpar sound and weird (not in the good way) songwriting, but singer Marc Lopes performs the finishing move on this album’s death. His voice only knows one note and one timbre, kind of aggressive, squealy mid to high “singing”. This is not a good fit for a rather melodic heavy metal genre and I could rather see him in a sleazy rock band or a thrash metal outfit. Here due to his incredibly inflexible voice, all vocal lines (and songs) sound the same and lack energy. While the singer of the two previous releases Patrick Fuchs could still pull off a sweet Eric Adams impression, Marc Lopes is less of a singer and more of a tortured chicken squealing the same notes over and over.
As such, By Blood Sworn is a gruesome follow up to two fine Manowar clone albums and can’t even be enjoyed by the most devout of true metal fans as Mr. Friedman is going some really strange directions with his sound. It took eight years, but maybe it is time to stop if that’s all he can pull off after this time. The album inexplicably features THREE Manowar cover songs. Come on, it’s over, stop living in the past. Oh wait, I forgot.
guess what ? I invented Manowar therefore i can record & perform anything i want . Any more stupid questions ?
Bullet have been around for far more than a decade now, so you’d think they evolved their sound over time. Nope, still the same AC/DC channeling kick ass hard rock/metal as heard in their early days. In this regard they really are following their progenitor; have AC/DC ever not sounded like AC/DC? No. Yet, just like with Bullet‘s first release in 2006, Heading For The Top and every subsequent release by the Swedes, I ask myself: Do we need another AC/DC cover band? I experienced Bullet‘s energy at a live show in 2008 when they toured with Sabaton and the rock stages are where this music breathes and from which it draws its sole right to exist. Is Dust To Gold worth the CD it is pressed on or merely fodder for more live shows?
Dust To Gold‘s concept is grasped easily and quickly: a simple riff leading the song, mostly basic hard rock drumming (think “Thunderstruck”) except when it comes to slightly faster songs, and straightforward choruses you can sing along no matter how many beers you digested during the show. It would be moot going into the deeper compositional facets of Dust To Gold as, plainly speaking, there are no compositional facets. Every song is a copy of its predecessor and all of them are the living legacy of ’80s hard rock spirit. Granted, due to modern hard rock/metal evolution, Bullet are a bit on the heavier side of some rather tame songs considered metal in the ’80s. This in conjunction with singer Hell Hofer’s, well, unique voice, you get a modest, primitive AC/DC/Accept marriage. Hell’s voice reminds of an extremely squealy Udo Dirkschneider – not something for everyone, but in Bullet context it is a powerful performance.
The album’s average song length caps at 3 minutes, which obviously tells you the way Bullet are going. Short, party themed and party suitable rockers. Which leads me to a certain conclusion: You do not want to listen to this album at home, sitting idly and analysing the compositions. Dust To Gold is diverting with its easy listening tracks but certainly made only for the background soundtrack of your heavy metal house party or to be performed live. Songs like “Speed And Attack”, “Rogue Soldier” and “Highway Love” sound full of energy, however they are blatantly lacking innovation and variety to make Dust To Gold a compelling listening experience. Dust To Gold is a good soundtrack – for metal parties, car drives, live shows, but that’s all. Consider supporting true old school metal by visiting Bullet‘s concerts, the album itself is only a must-have for that one person on earth who has listened to every AC/DC song more than a hundred times. Dust on record, Gold on stage.
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.
Fuck! Old school strikes back yet again. The cover art for Runelord‘s debut has me thinking of an, except for the table, ill-lit basement with a bunch of dudes and girls going through an epic campaign of D&D while spinning this vinyl in their record player. In 1987. And indeed, the music does not disappoint in relation to band name and artwork. What you see is what you get. It should be mentioned that Runelord is another of Swedish multi-instrumentalist Cederick Forsberg’s bands and projects, who of course is the driving force behind Blazon Stone and Rocka Rollas, bands which brought us traditional-oriented metal masterpieces in the past.
In another crazy display of creative energy, all instruments are performed by Ced himself as is often the case with his releases. He teamed up with Bulgarian vocalist Georgy Peichev yet again after having worked with him on pirate metal style band Blazon Stone‘s 2015 album No Sign Of Glory. Unlike Blazon Stone‘s melodious power metal influences, Runelord allows Ced to let out his love for all things ’80s metal. Musically, Runelord deliver a traditional, speedy heavy metal album similar to Priest‘s or Accept‘s ’80s releases while adding a sometimes more, sometimes less subtle touch of epic metal and power metal which is also due to the lyrics. Written by Fredrik Holm, the words are pretty cheesy sword and sorcery style viking warrior tales. So exactly the kind of stuff this music needs.
The album opens with mid-tempo, gang shout filled “Bloodline Of The Berserk”. That is a weird choice compared to much faster kick-ass tracks you will find on this album, the chorus however will cling to your memory immediately. Right away, Georgy Peichev proves he is the right man for the job of steel-balled warrior metal front singer. His rough, yet in the higher registers soaring voice adds punch to the bold, riff-oriented songwriting.
Like I mentioned, there’s faster songs as well on the album and those are in general better than the stompy ones. The album’s two highlights, “Heathen Religion” and “Valkyries’ Eternal Winter” are of the sort. The former evokes heavy Stormwarrior remembrances with its epic power metal chorus, probably the best on the album. “Valkyries’ Eternal Winter” on the other hand edges on thrash metal territory with its speedy riffs and harsh refrain, something you will experience more than once while listening to A Message From The Past.
Not all songs of Runelord‘s debut are of as high quality as the mentioned pinnacles of energy, in fact most tracks are merely average to slightly above average. Yes, the album kicks your ass from start to finish and never takes a break from heavy riffs and aggressive vocals – it’s just most tracks are missing the certain magic that a track like “Heathen Religion” for example can provide.
What you are getting is a great mix of Priest, Accept and Manowar, a piece of genuine old school metal. Most songs feel rather interchangeable, simply following the formula of quick riffage, some double bass, some gang chorus. Each track is still greatly enjoyable for what it is, energy-laden ’80s speed metal, but nothing revolutionary or especially challenging. There are times when you want more complex compositions and there are times when you just need to rock hard, ride free, and for the latter Runelord‘s debut is top-notch material, kicking ass just as well as the likes of Priest. If you enjoy anything between traditional heavy metal and power metal, Runelord‘s gon’ give it to ya.
The throwback week continues with Blaze Bayley‘s new, trilogy-concluding The Redemption Of William Black (Infinite Entanglement Part III) after Evil Hunter‘s Maiden-esque self-titled debut. As proven with his recent endeavors, Mr. Bayley is still deeply infatuated with Iron Maiden and NWOBHM in general. The good news is that in comparison to other, sadder musicians he is not delving into the sinkhole of succumbing to being a mere shadow of the past but instead brings a new spin to his influences of old with both excellent songwriting and a modern sound partly due to his brilliant backing band Absolva.
His new album, challenger to the trophy for Longest Album Title 2018, concludes his Infinite Entanglement series, a trilogy of science fiction concept albums started in 2016 with Infinite Entanglement and continued with second part Endure And Survive in 2017. Yes, that makes three albums in three years which is an admirable feat and testament to Blaze’s creativity.
Sure, there hasn’t been any true creative development between the three albums, they pretty much all sound the same in the style of the music. But is that such a bad thing when the music is good? Blaze Bayley merely adheres to his talents, similar to bands like Maiden and Priest. Furthermore this steadiness gives rise to a consistency throughout all three albums which thusly are not only connected by story, but also by sound.
Part III‘s sound is even a bit clearer and more vivid as compared to the first part for example which was still slightly lacking in the production department. Like with Iron Maiden, the bass lines are mixed to have priority and deliver a good punch. The same is true for the lightning fast guitar riffs and solos of Chris Appleton. It is a delight being subjected to the extreme force of power metal edging tracks like “The Dark Side Of Black” which challenge Blaze to push the limits of his baritone. I personally always enjoyed his slightly nasal yet vigorous deliverance of the vocals. He may not be the most technical or most talented singer on earth, but his singing is genuine and vibrant.
Just like with Parts 1 and 2, Blaze Bayley and his band deliver an experience enjoyable throughout the album. The first two parts of the trilogy were a tad better, but that on a scale so small that it doesn’t really matter. As always, both musically and lyrically Blaze proves that he will not stand down and that he will keep fighting. Just like the main character in the science fiction concept of his albums, Blaze had some lows in his life, but never gave up. That gives the album a positive feel to it and generates excitement for what is still to come in his career after finishing this ambitious trilogy.
I gotta admit, I am always sceptical when it comes to new releases in the classic heavy metal scene due to the flooding of the style. A few years back, the new wave of traditional heavy metal trend started with more and more bands going back to the roots of heavy metal, similar to the new wave of british heavy metal. While the latter was sucked dry to the last coin in collectors’ pockets, the NWOTHM is still going strong, even though it is lacking the quality of some of the great NWOBHM artists. Granted, this is all very stereotyped thinking, but the increase of young bands playing traditional metal is palpable. Take this year’s Visigoth release for example. A fine piece of classic steel by some really young musicians.
Looking at the band photo, Spanish headbangers Evil Hunter surely aren’t as young but follow in the same vein of playing traditional heavy metal without any modern affectations. Such devotion is certainly admirable and earns the band some sympathy points in my book. In contrast to groups like Visigoth, Evil Hunter don’t go quite as hard on the denim-and-leather Manowar appeal, neither musically nor visually, and in turn provide a tamer, more hard rock influenced album.
Opener “Surf The Waves” and title track “Evil Hunter” neatly showcase Evil Hunter‘s musical range – fast songs and mid-tempo songs. Both songs feature an extremely melodic chorus that contrasts the heavy riffing and aggressive vocals of lead singer Damián Chicano. Not aggressive in the sense of death metal or hardcore, but each of his lines delivers a good punch with his lower register squealing, guttural singing. Partly because of that, Evil Hunter‘s music reminds me of the Portuguese Attick Demons. Which is not a bad place to be.
With their first album, Evil Hunter ride through all possible influences of classic heavy metal. Their dual guitars lend a certain Iron Maiden vibe, “Hot Leather” is a Saxon carbon copy and “By Your Side” has you relive those ’80s “I Want To Know What Love Is” moments. That’s all pretty nice and well-calculated, some songs really grip you and make you want more, but ultimately most of the tracks are just average. Singer Damián Chicano’s voice stands out and makes this release better than its compositions. I enjoy the concise length of 35 minutes and 8 fast-paced tracks (except the ballad), but probably will not listen to this album a lot more. The tracks are too average and don’t kick hard enough for a heavy metal release except for one or two. The sound is good, the songwriting seems versed, but sadly not very varied.
Evil Hunter deliver a gem for scene afficionados who crave new old school music. The same is true for many albums released through Fighter Records by the way, so anyone looking for some underground treasures should check out their catalog. The spaniards likely won’t make a huge impact internationally but their effort is valiant and a promise of greater things to come. I could imagine someone enamored with the music style to enjoy it way more than I did.
I told myself I would not review this album, but upon further reflection (and listening) the return of the Priest impressed me to the degree that I felt I should add my own two cents. Initially I thought of a review as redundant because with acts like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and the likes there won’t be great innovation and you basically get what you expect. Firepower makes no difference in this and my point stands that Priest will not disappoint old fans and won’t make new fans. I mean, whose first Priest album will ever be Firepower? Anyone looking to get into this legend, especially these days, will do a quick google search and start listening to stuff like Painkiller, Screaming For Vengeance or Defenders Of The Faith. I, personally, would not care for anyone’s opinion on Firepower because as a long time fan I will either buy it (and listen to it) or not.
All that said, I think Firepower deserves a few honest words because it is so much better than its two predecessors Nostradamus (don’t even start…) and Redeemer Of Souls. This is kind of continuing the upwards trend from Nostradamus to Redeemer. So I could imagine some Priest devotees in despair – should you get Firepower or not?
In short: Yes. Judas Priest get back to basics with this new release. It is only understandable that in their long career a band like Priest would experiment with epic symphonic releases like Nostradamus. Redeemer Of Souls kind of oversteered in the opposite direction, leading to a rather bland release. Firepower however presents the Metal Gods back in good shape. The story-telling escapades are lost and this new record can’t be called boring or average in the least.
The first two tracks on the album, “Firepower” and “Lightning Strike” serve as a kind of peace offering to fans of Priest‘s old sound. It comes as no surprise those were released as the first two singles. Nothing special here, but nice to see that Priest can still push out those ass-kicking tunes.
Real interesting it only gets after those two songs though. Judas Priest are showcasing diverse influences and styles they took on over the course of their almost 50-year career across the various tracks of Firepower. “Evil Never Dies” almost reminds of Mercyful Fate style songwriting, presenting Rob Halford at his best. It takes Priest 14 songs and 58 minutes for a wild ride from one end to the other of the Judas Priest cage. That cage is no bad thing in this instance, it merely means Priest are offering all the variance they have while staying true to the band name. Nostradamus for example absolutely broke out of this cage, disappointing a lot of fans. Firepower however features amazing tracks rich in variety such as “Necromancer”, “Rising From Ruins” and “Spectre” that all could have been released at different times of the Priest‘s discography, but probably not on one album together. That makes Firepower an intriguing album keeping you tied to the headphones to the end.
Between all the variance and ass-kicking there are a few tracks not quite living up to the excitement that stuff like “Evil Never Dies” has to offer. “Never The Heroes” reminds me too much of average, slow-rolling bores of Nostradamus and Redeemer, “Flame Thrower” is the other, less interesting, more bland side of the “Firepower”/”Lightning Strike” medal. You could as well cut off the last two songs of the album, “Lone Wolf” and “Sea Of Red” which would make a shorter, but more concise release. As it stands, those two tracks are adding nothing of quality to the album and just make the last few minutes insufferable. I am a advocate for long albums of 55+ minutes, but in Firepower‘s case it would have been smart to cut some of those slowpokes to get a more enjoyable experience with less skipping of tracks.
All in all Firepower is light years above Nostradamus and Redeemer Of Souls. There are a few great tracks, a few mediocre (Priest standard mediocre, mind you) and a few bad songs. The upside of all of this is that anyone who likes Judas Priest will like this album to some extent unlike the now often enough mentioned Nostradamus. As I stated in the beginning, the Priest fan will buy it, anyone who is not into the band (???) should not start with Firepower and most likely won’t.
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.