As we are closing on 2015, I thought it would be great into perspective the 2015 in terms of releases in metal albums that marked me and that I have purchased. I will keep them by chronological order by their month of release. Remember this is a very personal list and surely missed some.
If I have to say something, 2015 was certainly the year I discover so much talented French-female fronted metal bands (Thanks to Geo Theoneandonly) that have very good artistic talents but don’t have the juggernaut PR machine that some have through their labels or by their popularity. You can dig in more about it in one of my posts from July.
Lets jump to the meat and discuss about these albums.
Whyzdom – Tears of the Hopeless God (95%): The third release of the symphonic metal band Whyzdom (Paris, France), having on board Marie Rouyer (now known as Marie McLeod) in the full album. That was certainly a blast of the year, certainly the best metal album of 2015. Bold, baroque, orchestral, with lyrics that just came on time in this period in which religious fanatism has been plagued the world. Majestic and brings on the French symphonic metal scene up to established bands from both Batavian (Epica, Within Temptation) and Lapland (Nightwish) gold standards. Beware, French symphonic metal bands are coming. A must have.
My favorite track of the album is “Tears of the Hopeless God”
Hydra – Malachite Skies (80%): The first release of the German gothic metal band from Bavaria, Germany, with Lisa Rieger as front singer. It was a nice first full-album to review. Simplistic but enjoyable, also had Liv Kristine from Leaves Eyes as a featured guest. My favorite track of the album is “CCC (Swath of Destruction)”
The Agonist – Eyes of Providence (not rated): The sixth release from the death metal band from Montreal, Canada that was previously fronted by Alissa White-Gluz that have joined Arch Enemy in 2014 with their album “War Eternal”. Also the first album featuring Vicky Psarakis. The question is always how the new singer will stand to the previous one? Surprisingly, Vicky was very good in this first album and made the transition very easy. She brings on the rage and the brutal growls in the female-fronted death metal scene. Brutal, loud and pumping up. Yet, Vicky proves as Alissa that she can do some clean vocals as well as proven in the “Gentle Disease” that is an acoustic song sharply contrasting with the rest of the album.
My favorite track of the album is “A Necessary Evil”:
Ethernity – Obscure Illusions (85%): The first album of the Belgian progressive metal band from Belgium. It is a nice album, maybe outside my area of interest that may skew my judgement to it. I don’t have strong feelings but surely some other people will appreciate it.
Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful (90%): Who does not know Nightwish? Everybody knows about this band that set up the milestone in Symphonic Metal in 1998 with their album “Oceanborn”. It is also the band that has so many division in its fandom, with partisan stands on the front singers. I will be honest with you, for me Nightwish was awesome with Tarja fronting the band. Then something happened after “Once” that resulted in Tarja being dismissed from the band. For me that was a major mistake supplemented by the bad decision to take Annette Olzon that had not yet the vocal maturity of Tarja. The results were two terrible albums and ultimately the dismissal of Annette in the middle of the US tour (see the footage of their concert having Alissa reading the lyrics in their venue in Denver is just pathetic). Then Floor joined the band in an expedited process (48 hours and she was on stage). Floor Jansen (ex-After Forever) was amazing with After Forever until the band disaggregated and reborn in her own band “ReVamp” that had two very good albums. She also show that she could stand to Tarja and filling the divide. Yet, Tuomas is a special kind of animal and rather territorial on the sound of the band and raised concern on how Floor would sound in the album. The album was good, better than expected. Yet, not the best album. It is a mixed feeling I had with very unequal part. Floor is amazing in many songs of the album such as “Shudder Before the Beautiful”, “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” or “You’re an Empty Hope” (that was aimed on Annette) or “The Greatest Show on Earth” (a 25-minutes ballad that is an ode of love to 4.5 billions of life). Yet, Floor feels like she watering down compared to their album with “Revamp” that were cocky and bold.
My favorite track (aside the Greatest Show…) is “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”:
Sirenia – The Seventh Life Path (92%): The fourth album of Sirenia featuring Aylin Gimenez and certainly the best album from a while from the band. The reason? Double. Firstly, Morten Veland finally found its winning formula in experimenting and navigating subgenres following his partition from Cristiana. It gives us a very dark, gothic and industrial metal that is cold, sharp as icy pickaxe. Thats bring us to the second one. Aylin has tremendously progressed since “The 13th Floor” and have remarkably worked on her voice, bringing on the warmth of the Iberic peninsula to the frozen shores of Norway. Most of the album is very enjoyable and even one song keeps on bringing tears in my eyes, in English or Spanish alike.
My favorite track of the album is “Tragedienne”, a powerful and melancholic melody reminiscent of “Still Kom Doden” from their previous album.
Dark Sarah – Behind The Black Veil (85%): First solo album from Heidi Parvianen (ex-Amberian Dawn). It felt like a Tim Burton movie, with air of Danny Elfman supported my metal riffs and the very nice voice of Heidi. Simple, the album is to listen of the story of Sarah that slowly sinks in her dark side, greatly performed by the duo with Manuela Kraller (ex-Xandria) until Sarah reaches salvation and brings a nice Christmas song with Toni Kaikko (Sonata Artica). The album is good with some tracks that failed to impress me. But overall it was a great first release from Heidi and waiting to see the coming releases
My favorite track is “Memories Fall” (feat. Manuela Kraller).
Kamelot – Haven (not rated): Second album of the band with Tommy Karevik replacing the iconic Roy Khan. What I can tell, Tommy magisterially made the transition and nail down that he is the natural successor to Roy for the band. A very nice powerful album taking back from the original roots of the band and getting the inspiration of some of the iconic albums of the band such as “Epica”, “Black Halo” or “Ghost Opera”. Again, I appreciated the presence of featuring artists such as Alissa White-Gluz signing her second feature and definitely makes in favor of Alissa clean vocals (there were some questions about having her sing clean vocals with Arch Enemy as she did with the Agonist. I personally think it would be wrong and would rather favor Alissa guest starring with other bands such as Kamelot).
My favorite track of the album is “Liar Liar” that brings the best melodies of Camelot with the remarkable voice of Tommy and Alissa that would light up the old fans of Camelot. As a comment seen on Youtube, if MTV was still a music video channel, this would have been a direct hit in charts.
Darkonelly – Stories From Beyond EP (non-rated): 2015 was certainly the year I discover the pack of talented French gothic/doom/symphonic metal bands as well as lyrical voices that stand up to Batavian divas. Among the different ones that I discovered as they released their album during this year, there was Darkonelly from Dijon France. Darkonelly (that is reborn as Erzebeth) brought the soprano voice to the gothic and doom metal. That gives a very dark and melancholic EP that I really enjoyed to listen, playing on contrasting heavy bass riffs and drums with the pristine voice of Marion.
Xandria – Fire & Ashes EP (80%): This was the WTF moment of 2015. Xandria decided that making covers with Dianne Von Giersbergen was a good idea. It turned out it was a very bad idea. It is not Dianne fault, she has an amazing voice reaching on the high tones without effort and she was very good with Ex-Libris. But there are some songs that simply cannot work because you are expecting a rough voice to sing them. This is exactly what happened when they decided she should sing “Don’t Say a Word” from Sonata Arctica and “I’d Do Anything for Love” from Meat Loaf. You need masculine, grave and rough voice and this was a bust. There are some songs that still were worthing, just like “Voyage of the Fallen”, the favorite track of the EP and appreciate the soprano voice of Dianne.
Ghost B.C. – Meira (non-rated): This was maybe the most unexpected surprise of this year: Ghost B.C., an UFO in the metal scene, as fronted by Papa Emeritus III and the nameless ghouls. I got into it through “Cirice” official video that had this visual and musical tone straight out of a Lucio Fulci movie. It starts very well and you are expecting some growls once his Papacy reach the mic and then get splashed by the clean vocals of Papa.
The album sounds a lot like some blast from the past, with tones of some progressive rock mixed with almost Christian folk tones that is indeed a great escape from my comfort zone. For instance, listen to “He Is”, that is sounds coming almost from the 70’s, my favorite song of the album.
Iron Maiden – Book of Souls (80%): Iron Maiden, the legends of metal, the reason I dived into metal were releasing their full album since a while. Unlike other bands of my teenage years (such as Metallica) that took different artistic direction (switching from thrash metal to a more vanilla alternative rock with “Load” and the following albums), Iron Maiden sticked to their style. The band had certainly better inspiration in their early years but you have to give them some high-fives for still being good even after 40 years on scene and having Bruce singing after his tongue cancer. Still capable to deliver very nice songs such as “Empire of The Coulds” or “Speed of Light” that makes you wish to have your teenage years in the 1980s to attend these bands in their pinnacle years.
Adrana – Foreshadow (90%):
This year was also the year I discovered Adrana, an opera-metal band from Tours, France. Their third full-release “Foreshadow” is simply their best album at this time. A very delicate and well handcrafted album that is very dark, very well orchestrated that you almost can imagine the tragedy piece. Anae has this beautiful voice that certainly is the highest vocal range I could identify in the French metal scene, filled of sadness and sorrow. So beautiful that brings you up tears in your eyes if your ears as sensitive to soprano voices. Imagine having la Callas singing with drums and bass guitars. It is so majestic that is not anymore Symphonic and really has to fill its own niche as “Opera Metal”.
The album is almost perfect with a couple of tracks that rather make me hesitant, most of them at taking from your gut such as the simplistic piano-played but beautiful “The Falling Song” (my favorite song) or the fast-paced and charging “Fight For Revenge” tracks.
Dreamslave – Rest in Phantasy (80%): Another first full-album from another French symphonic/power metal band that would give you an idea if Epica and a French Stratovarius band would blend together. It gives something fast-paced, engaging and very distinct flavor that was a very good first starter. I recently reviewed the album so you may dig in my previous post easily.
Mercy Isle – Storm EP (non-rated): First EP from Mercy Isle, formed by the remains of the former metal band Ottoman Empire, from Madison, Wisconsin. The same band by which Mary Zimmer, currently fronting the death metal band “The White Empress” (reviewed in 2014) originated, this other part of the band has stuck more to the original roots (gothic metal, doom metal) and created Mercy Isle. It is always great to see another gothic metal band taking roots in the US, as the metal scene here is often divided into two camps: the soft (metalcore, Christian Rock, alternative and indie rock) and the very hard (death metal). If you are looking for some gothic metal from the US, you should give them a try.
Bloody Melody – Gates of Mind EP: The female-fronted metal scene is fairly restricted to very niche, some that are oversaturated (like the Symphonic Metal), some that are hardly accessible for the vulgate (melodic death metal) and some that have taken a more mainstream approach that faded their original doom and gothic metal roots.
For instance, there was a golden age of female fronted metal bands that were excelling in the gothic metal, alternative rock scene such as Anneke von Giersbergen (The Gathering), Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), Sarah Bettens (K’S choice) before the appearance of the Symphonic/alernative metal wave carried by Amy Lee, Tarja Turunen or Sharon Den Adel. Bloody Melody from Tours, France is attempting to bring this back with their EP and it felt so good to listen something that sounded like what I listened in my teenage and college years. It brings up souvenirs of the younger Anneke and Cristina that were still beginners but had this “cachet” of authenticity that got faded over the years as bands evolve. If you want to escape from established roads, you should give them a try.