Mob Rules – Beast Over Europe Review

749344In the part of classic power metal secluded from mainstream fame artists like Sabaton or PowerwolfSigns Of The Time Live is known as one of the most thrilling live experiences delivered on recording, but with 14 years gone by and five new albums between then and 2019, Mob Rules‘ testament for rousing live shows from 2005 got long in the tooth. Following their 2018 record Beast Reborn and the appertaining Beast Over Europe tour with Brainstorm the German band decided to update and upgrade their live album catalogue with a new 14-track offering recorded during mentioned tour including plenty of more recent tracks. But can Beast Over Europe relieve Signs Of The Time Live of its paragon duties? Continue reading “Mob Rules – Beast Over Europe Review”

Sonata Arctica – Talviyö Review

Sonata Arctica - Talviyö - ArtworkIn evaluating a record, there are various questions to be considered; how important is singularity to an album’s quality, how important is fulfilling expectations, or, on the opposite, going against expectations? Is self-development necessary, irrelevant, disappointing or welcome? Sonata Arctica have been exhausting the possible answers to these questions at least since their 2007 record Unia by coming out with complex, demanding and undoubtedly diverse albums, each of which split their fanbase in two distinct factions: those who love for the Fins to experiment, and those who miss the old days of straight-forward Stratovarius style melodic power metal. This year’s record Talviyö is not going to unite the two camps in celebration as it may be the most experimental – as in far from the power metal roots – album Sonata Arctica have released in their career. Continue reading “Sonata Arctica – Talviyö Review”

Moonlight Haze – De Rerum Natura Review

020913Expectations rarely have been as high for a debut record as for De Rerum Natura, Italy’s Moonlight Haze‘s first album after forming in 2018. The cause of that are the names of those involved with members and ex-members of high-class Italian metal bands such as TemperanceElvenking and Sound Storm. The most exciting inclusion among Moonlight Haze‘s ranks is probably Chiara Tricarico who left Temperance in 2017 and recorded a bunch of great melodic metal records with the band thanks to her voice suitable for international competition. Continue reading “Moonlight Haze – De Rerum Natura Review”

Dire Peril – The Extraterrestrial Compendium Review

a2543568764_10As 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”

Seventh Wonder – Tiara Review

CoverYeah, any Tiara review’s opening will use the 8 years time span between Seventh Wonder‘s last record, The Great Escape, 2010, and Tiara. Is it more or less tacky to go meta? Anyway, eight years! That builds expectation. Especially as the Swedes have never disappointed with their albums, putting out prog metal opus one after another. Granted, after the epochal Mercy Falls from 2008, there is little left to be said. The band could have stopped right then and there with one of the greatest prog metal albums of all times in their catalogue. Fortunately for us, we are still getting new stuff, even though at a relatively slower rate than in the ’00s. Part of that is surely singer Tommy Karevik’s engagement in Kamelot, which seems to have left little time for his true home. Let’s shed no tears here though and get instead rejoice that we get another Seventh Wonder record after all with the band in peak form and Tommy exercising the whole range of his prowess. Continue reading “Seventh Wonder – Tiara Review”

Dynazty – Firesign Review

38614493_10155362015946504_3741389648413327360_nIn 2016, Dynazty released the best power metal album of the year. Titanic Mass was a massive titan of hit rate, with every song being amazing in its own right. This caught me by surprise as I’d never even heard of the band before. What, me, the power metal mastermind? That’s because Dynazty went through some major changes in their rather short history. Their first release Bring The Thunder in 2009 was deep, deep in sleaze rock/metal revival territory à la Reckless Love or H.E.A.T. The same holds true for the two follow-up records in 2011 and 2012, only with 2014’s Renatus shifting towards the… right direction. Titanic Mass saw the band at the top of their power metal evolution with an extremely modern high-energy sound in the vein of Amaranthe or Borealis. Continue reading “Dynazty – Firesign Review”

Mob Rules – Beast Reborn Review

305540Beast Reborn? German heavy metal outfit Mob Rules surely hasn’t been gone long enough to warrant a whole relaunch; as such the new album’s title is more of a reinforcement than a comeback promise. After all, the band’s previous album was released in 2016 and received phenomenally by both press and fans. Rightly so, as Mob Rules evolved and matured their sound greatly over their now 20+ years career. With their first few albums the Germans started out as a rather traditional power metal constellation in the vein of Helloween with melodious guitar leads and heavy keyboard influences. Continue reading “Mob Rules – Beast Reborn Review”

Derdian – DNA Review

derdian-dnaItaly’s Derdian are one of the few remaining bands of the ’00s European melodic power metal hype which spawned hundreds of bands aiming for an extremely melodic, symphonic and heroic sound in the vein of what Rhapsody started in the late 1990s. While some bands gave the formula a shot of their own ideas and influences, Derdian have been and still are honing the original idea of dramatic, melodic power metal refined by fellow Italians Rhapsody especially during their first three albums. There aren’t many of the initial masters of this style around anymore, with Rhapsody spread across two bands now, both deviating greatly from the band’s original sound, and even Kaledon, another Italian evangelist of heroic power metal, abandoning their trademark sounds for grittier experiments on their latest record. Continue reading “Derdian – DNA Review”

Pellek – Absolute Steel Review

PelleK Absolute SteelPer Fredrik Åsly, better known under his stage/youtube name Pellek, has been around in the world of power metal for quite a few years now, having amassed most of his fame on youtube with metal covers of pop songs, anime openings and his own renditions of metal tracks. His enormous fanbase both allowed and saw him release a bunch of solo albums, starting with Bag Of Tricks in 2012 to this year’s Absolute Steel, the latter crowdfunded and self-produced. With all of this as well as his involvement in several other bands like Damnation AngelsQantice, Dragonforce and ReinxeedPellek has proved his merits and love for power metal and music overall. Continue reading “Pellek – Absolute Steel Review”

Kamelot – The Shadow Theory Review

1000x1000 (2)I used to be a huge Kamelot fan and I still consider their ’00s outputs as some of the best records released in the otherwise crowded progressive power metal genre. I love both Roy Khan and Tommy Karevik, the former being the iconic shaper of Kamelot‘s renown and the latter an adequate replacement, if at all possible. My enamorment with the band does not mean that I am listening to their albums with rose-colored earphones, on the contrary, I have noticed a steady degeneration in songwriting since 2010’s Poetry For The Poisoned. As always, this is probably highly subjective, but I’d like to deduce my final opinion on 2018’s The Shadow Theory with some more explanations.

I would love to start off writing something positive, but when the The Shadow Theory serves an opening instrumental as generic as “The Mission”, I have to mention it. The same is true for “The Mission” as for the closing instrumental, “Ministrium (Shadow Key)”. Soulless, bland, generic. With those two tracks you will discover pseudo-orchestral pieces consisting of mostly cheap samples commonly used in Hollywood film trailers by subpar componists in the stead of the yet unfinished soundtrack. All effect, no soul. With Kamelot‘s budget and production technology (Sascha Paeth!) you’d expect a more striking instrumental.

Fortunately the album is not composed only of electronic samples but also actual metal songs as well-displayed by high speed power metal hymn “Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)”, fittingly used as second single from the album after the following track “Ravenlight”. When I first heard “Phantom Divine”, I was extremely disappointed. By now I realized it is the second best song on the album, yet my opinion on the song itself did not change. It tells more about the rest of the album than the track, really. Kamelot used to be known as a groundbreaking, innovative and unique band, but with tracks like “Phantom Divine” they are undermining this image rigorously. Listen to “Phantom Divine” and any other Kamelot single since 2012 side by side, for example “Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife)” from 2012’s Silverthorn. I break down the formula: Speedy double bass drumming, down-tuned guitar riffs without purpose and a more than unappealing keyboard “melody”. This followed by a rather calm verse, focusing on Tommy’s vocals until the heavy riffs are reintroduced to finally culminate in a European power metal style allegro chorus. Which Kamelot single was I just describing? Right, all of them.

If the track was good at least. But if you found the composition on some mediocre power metal band’s new album, sung by someone not as illustrious as Mr. Karevik, you’d wipe it away as generic and boring without hesitation. As I said, it is the second best song on the album and that is purely because it still is what it is – a mediocre, but powerful power metal song. No innovation, no soul.

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I talked sufficiently about the second best song, which one’s the best one? That would be “Burns To Embrace”, as expected by many from the youtube trailer displaying short fragments of each song. However, it is only marginally better than “Phantom Divine”. “Burns To Embrace” is another typical power metal track, but this one at least features a sweet melody and anthemic chorus. It’s all a bit more elaborate in its mid-tempo composition than the all-out “Phantom Divine”. Again, this song is nothing special. It is certainly not worth a Kamelot song and would just be a side note, if released by a less known power metal outfit.

“In Twilight Hours”, a ballad, starts off as promising as “Abandoned” but fails to deliver a hard-hitting, emotional refrain. This one features German pop singer Jennifer Haben of fake casting band Beyond The Black. Whatever happened to talented singers like Simone Simons? Well, there’s actually one on the album, Lauren Hart of Once Human who fills a similar role as Alissa White-Gluz on the previous Kamelot release, this time sweetening tracks “Phantom Divine” and “Mindfall Remedy” with both clear and growling vocals. Sadly, she is not granted much space in both composition and mixing, falling behind despite her otherwise excellent prowess.

The rest of the album is as mediocre; when spinning it again and again I was happy to listen to actually engaging songs like the two mentioned top tracks. There are a lot of boring down-tempo tracks lacking any energy or memorability, for example “Static” and “Stories Unheard”. In the past, those would feature great compositional and instrumental virtuosity as in “March Of Mephisto” (2005), but now they are barely a shadow of greater arrangements. Granted, there are good moments. The middle part of “The Proud And The Broken” for example, for the rest insignificant as well, features some interesting, unique structures. Sadly, Kamelot can not expand on their sporadically absorbing ideas and mostly churn out bore after bore.

 

The sound of the album is a standard 2018 fast food production. Fine, extremely compressed, but crystal clear sound. Nothing to rave about and certainly nothing I hope for to catch on in the future. The drumming especially sounds artificial at best. The Shadow Theory actually saw the departure of long time drummer Casey Grillo, the animal behind the battery, to be replaced by Firewind‘s Johan Nunez. Not relevant to the album, which could as well be featuring a drum computer with its lifeless sounds.

That is my final takeaway: Lifeless. Kamelot succumb to mediocre pre-formulated tracks instead of reinstating their former glory with unique, poignant and thrilling songwriting. A less critical thinking Kamelot fan could both enjoy this and hate on me for my honest opinion, it is a Kamelot album after all. It sounds like Kamelot, only lacking everything that made the band great. Let me press the comparison again; if this album was released by an unknown power metal band, no one would bat an eye. The only good thing here really are Tommy’s and Lauren’s vocals, the rest could have been recorded by a robot.

Chris, 04/04/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s | DR Value: 7
Label: Napalm Records
LinksFacebook | kamelot.com
Release date: 04/06/2018