Thaurorod – Coast Of Gold Review

DSbJn3KVwAEad4E.jpgIf acts like Rhapsody and Hammerfall were Italian-style oven-fresh pizza in 1997, Finnish Power Metal troupe Thaurorod could be classified as the cold pizza of the previous evening in 2018. Okay, to be fair, the pizza has at least been warmed up in the microwave. As already on their two previous albums “Upon Haunted Battlefields” and “Anteinferno”, the latter already five years old, Thaurorod play their brand of music on 2018’s “Coast Of Gold” somewhere between Power and Symphonic Metal. Corny, yet charming, the Finns refrain from imposing their own interpretation of the genre on an individual note characterized by possible prog escapades or similar gimmicks. Cobbler, stick to your last.

The opening speed banger “Power” already drives home that sentiment, and in tune with its name, it pushes the throttle from beginning to end and only reduces the double bass orgy for a brief moment in the chorus’ epic atmosphere. What Thaurorod is offering here is Finnish melodic speed metal in its purest form, as seen in Sonata Arctica songs like “Victoria’s Secret” or “8th Commandment”. Granted, the OGs of the up-tempo orchestrations are ahead in the battle of the dashing riffs with these songs and other contemporary anthems, but considering the Tony Kakko ensemble’s extravagances of today, it is no blasphemy to consider Thaurorod as superior in the genre.

991321Thaurorod don’t pretend to not be influenced by Sonata Arctica. “Power”, “Feed The Flame” and “My Sun Will Rise” could also have been released on “Reckoning Night”, “Ecliptica” or one of the albums of Jani Liimatainen band Cain’s Offering with their fast-paced riffs and wide keyboard tapestries. To be precise, atmospherically and, in this context, lyrically, the compositions do not match these examples, but they clearly draw their vital energy from the typical Finnish variety of Power Metal.

Speaking of lyrics. Singer Andrej Kravljaca, who replaced Markku Kuikka’s gruff voice with his own clean, high-pitched vocals in 2012, adds his fierce history interest to the lyrical claim of the Finns, as evidenced in songs such as “The Commonwealth Lives.” Striking as well is the noticeable development of the vocalist’s skills. Kravljaca sounded a bit weak-tempered on “Anteinferno”, which caused a lot of displeasure compared to the previous, more powerful singer Kuikka. He does a better job on “Coast Of Gold” and shines in deeper registers with strong power.

Besides Andrej Kravljaca, bassist Pasi Tanskanen also takes care of the lyrics with a slight difference in the source of inspiration. Songs like “24601” (Jean Valjean’s prison number) and “Illuminati” thematize fiction to semi-fiction. This succeeds, as can be heard quite outstandingly in the album highlight “24601”. Alongside the average, brutish numbers expected of a melodic power album, this 6-minute track was smuggled aboard and adds an extremely varied, atmospheric hymn to the album. Oh, what joy and potential this great arrangement promises! Yet it is buried beneath such generic songs! Does “24601” come from the hands of Thaurorod or Jani Liimatainen? One thing I can promise, another piece of this magnitude is found neither on “Coast Of Gold”, nor in the whole discography of the Finns.

Not every coast that glitters is gold; In addition to pleasant, easily remembered tunes and “24601” there is also the one or the other dud on the long player. In particular, these are the atmospheric, but ultimately languid “Cannibal Island”, the far too long and uniform “Illuminati” and the bland final ballad “Halla”. Anyone who dies of boredom during the latter’s runtime, however, has at least experienced the previous gems the golden coast bears.

Sure, Thaurorod do not reinvent the genre and do not seem to want that, but what they procure with typical Power Metal tracks is in line with the high European standard. It does not sound as fresh as in 1997, 2001 or even 2005, but nonetheless thrills the followers of this epic variety of metal. And then there are varied, salient compositions such as “24601”, “Coast Of Gold” and “Into The Flood” which add gravy to the roast. Undoubtedly, Thaurorod prove that they have the makings of crafting and composing to deliver larger things than mundane Sonata Arctica copies, but are mostly self-confined to just that. However, this is already enough for genre fans and thus brings a neat surprise in the still young year of 2018.

Chris, 02/20/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s | DR Value: 6
Label: Drakkar Entertainment
LinksFacebook | thaurorod.com
Release date: 02/16/2018

Visigoth – Conqueror’s Oath Review

CoverThe 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.

BandVisigoth, 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.

Chris, 02/19/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s | DR value: 6

Label: Metal Blade Records

LinksFacebook | Bandcamp

Release date: 02/09/2018

Angra – ØMNI Review

24796449_1931882986827641_8548198602963311541_nWhenever a new Angra album is released, you can expect a surprise. While Angra are at the forefront of Brazilian power metal and especially the international recognition of the local metal scene, they are anything but resting on their laurels or repeat the old recipe again and again.

From incorporating traditional Brazilian sounds in Melodic Power Metal on their first two albums “Angel’s Cry” and “Holy Land”, to catchier, European-sounding records in the 2000s to prog power albums post-2010, Angra not only demonstrate endurance but also innovation and inventiveness. Despite the constantly changing lineup, which initially saw Andre Matos, then Edu Falaschi and in between also half of the founding members (who then founded Shaman) rotating out of the band, the troupe with mastermind Rafael Bittencourt never lets down and continuously releases albums which blow up the cage of Power Metal.

The latest result of this unbridled creativity is the all-encompassing work “ØMNI”, which not only challenges my keyboard, but also the auditorium. Angra continue to follow the path pioneered by the first longplayer with Fabio Lione, “Secret Garden”, and diligently create their own niche between prog, power and folk sounds. On “ØMNI”, the audience should not expect linear melodies like “Carry On”, but instead a surprising turn with every new track.

In order not to push away fans who want a bit more shallow – and I mean more catchy – sounds, the Brazilians open with two quite simple Power Metal songs, of which the first, “Light Of Transcendence”, is from start to finish Classic-European-style Speed-Firecracker à la “Eagleheart”. “Travelers Of Time” presents a somewhat larger entry barrier with its progressive verses, but the overcoming of these is rewarded by a hymnic chorus and a solo reminiscent of the early 2000s.

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After these two soothing melodies (which, by the way, were the first two singles released …), Angra let the cat out of the bag. Oops, no Power Metal? No, but in that case: All the better. “Black Widow’s Web” opens with a spooky atmosphere and a short vocal part by the Brazilian pop singer Sandy, who is probably more well known to Brazilian listeners than international. Then it goes straight into the deepest prog realms with a 7/8 beat and thick Djent-like riffs. Anyone who turns their eyes at Angra and Djent in one sentence should, however, see for themselves how well that works. And do not think so narrow-minded. In addition, Arch Enemy frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz enriches this extremely varied song with her death shouts. As a compromise, there is an ear flattering chorus that gets stuck right away. Certainly one of the band’s most daring tunes, but after the brilliant finale of it, a song remains that stands out and impresses.

Impressive as well is the opening of the following track “Insania”, which is brought by an extremely hymnic choral part in to a prog stanza, and then culminates again in a typical European melodic chorus. This recipe is also the only feature of Angra‘s that runs like a thread through the album. Challenging prog structures with 7/8 and 3/4 bars as in “War Horns”, “Caveman” and “Magic Mirror” are combined with catchy melodies. This leads to one of the album highlights in “Caveman”. Technically advanced Prog sounds, mixed with Brazilian folk influences, resulting in an euphoric chorus, which forms a striking contrast to the prog parts.

Traditional, gentler sounds are emphasized in the two ballads “The Bottom Of My Soul” and “Always More”, which can convince the listener after several rounds. Rafael Bittencourt is convincing as well with his rough, earthy vocals, of which I would have liked more in such a varied, daring album. Although Fabio Lione is a great vocalist, he is more in tune with his main melodic power metal bands, where his vocals soar like an eagle. The progressive, playful sides which Angra often show here call for a heavier singer in the direction of Russell Allen (Symphony X). Lione does a good job, but sometimes his slightly thin voice is inappropriate. In songs like “Silence Inside”, the final 8-minute show, he wants to scream out of the cage, but the music can not keep up. Here a down-to-earth voice like Rafael Bittencourt’s would be more fitting. However, Fabio Lione, for whom singing is routine in the face of thousands of bands and session vocals, does a great job as always.

Experienced, but varied and innovative Angra present themselves on “ØMNI”. The multi-faceted songs benefit from a dynamic Jens Bogren production, which increases the focus on contrast between loud and soft or virtuosic and anthemic. This contrast is the strength of the album. Angra do not make it easy and do not just press out a second “Angel’s Cry”, but continue to develop and dare real experiments. Personally, the predecessor “Secret Garden” had a lot more catchy tunes, but “ØMNI” persuades with its extreme longevity through the varying compositions, which provide many hours of listening pleasure and new discoveries. A fan of the first hour, but also listeners of other directions like Progressive Metal should enjoy this work. Angra do not show weakness and deliver a consistently sophisticated, always interesting album.

Chris, 02/07/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s
Label: earMUSIC
LinksFacebook | angra.net
Release date: 02/16/2018

 

Unleash The Archers – Apex Review

a2533078055_10By now, word has gotten around in power metal circles that the Canadians Unleash The Archers have released “Apex”, a grandiose insider tip that probably flew under the radar of many average listeners. This is not a big surprise, considering the history of the band, but after closer inspection “Apex” is the result of that same history.

But one at a time: Despite three previous albums Unleash The Archers could not set foot in the scene, which was probably because on their first album “Behold The Devastation”, the band in 2009 performed a relatively uninspired Melodic Death brew, only to weave more and more Power Metal into the songs on the following two albums “Demons of the Astrowaste” in 2012 and “Time Stands Still” in 2015. So the style was unstable and the music mediocre. Even singer Brittney Slayes sounded (spoiler: In contrast to “Apex”) on the first three works amateurish, which was perhaps also due to the suboptimal productions.

This genre development of the Canadians culminated 2017 in the present power piece “Apex”. Power here refers both to the musical orientation as well as to the evaluation of the long player. Listening to the three previous releases and then “Apex,” you wouldn’t think it’s the same band. The Death Metal influences have faded away and now pure Power Metal is delivered. The terrific album artwork suggests Epic Metal, but “Apex” is amazingly fast and straight on. However, with epic you are not wrong, but this is more in the lyrics than in the music again.

“Apex” is a concept album. It tells the story of an immortal being who is summoned from his mount by the matriarch, a mighty figure, to destroy her offspring. So far, so fantasy. Musically there is, thank you, no Manowar chatter and, surprisingly, no keyboard tapestries.

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The opener “Awakening” spells out where the journey is going: high speed riffs, sawing vocals, catchy guitar leads and crashing drums. Singer Brittney Slayes’ vocal acrobatics has improved by about an infinite percent compared to the predecessors, catapulting the charismatic Canadian into the premier league of metal vocalists.

Premier league, if not better, is also the sound on “Apex”. Mixed and mastered by Jacob Hansen, Unleash The Archers shows all other bands in the genre how an album should sound. Incredibly dynamic for such a hard-hitting work, which captivates first with its rich sound, but rewarding the multiple listener with accentuated and crystal-clear sounds.

The same applies to the music. Right from the start, each piece persuades right away, especially the seemingly simple power metal bangers like “Awakening”, “Shadow Guide” or “The Matriarch”, but with each further run, complex structures reveal themselves in the genre-unusual songs. It’s easy to build each track similar to the stanza-chorus-stanza-chorus-solo-chorus recipe and still deliver a decent album, but Unleash The Archers do not make life undeservedly easy and enriches each song with its own structure and such its own identity. This is the salient characteristic of “Apex”: Each song is a masterpiece in itself and draws you in from the beginning to the end, but fits just as well into the overall flow of the album.

Unleash The Archers‘ accomplishment is incredible: no less than publishing one of the highlights of 2017 out of nowhere. Anyone who has not had the joy of listening to the Canadian troupe should immediately listen to “Apex”. Here, modern, innovative Power Metal is designed, which comes along without fancy bits and impresses with grandiose compositions and the best sound of a metal album in a long time.

Chris, 02/05/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s | DR Value: 9
Label: Napalm Records
LinksFacebook | unleashthearchers.com
Release date: 06/02/2017