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[Metal] Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (50th Anniversary Release)

Today marks the anniversary of the freshman album by Black Sabbath, released in February 13th (a Friday none of the less) 1970. This album is an important in the history of modern music, as it is considered as the milestone album, “the mother of it-all” of the whole metal genre, and to the doom metal sub-genre in particular.
50 years and this album still keep its freshness. It is also an album that kept its roots into its era, it has this psychedelic rock vibes, as an extension of Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin sound, yet also infused several key elements that will define the metal genre.
The album is about 39 minutes, and has different iterations depending of the re-issue and edition. The album I own is the North American CD version and I will make my summary out of it.
We are entering the album with the eponymous track “Black Sabbath”. Dang! Listening to it in a retrospective fashion, it has all the element of doom metal: slow pace, monotonous guitar, dark thematic. Ozzy is just awesome in this track, depicting and end of the world to it. It is dark, it is occult, but damn it is.

The second track “The Wizard”, for some reasons always makes me think of “Electric Wizard”, a flagship stoner metal band that is considered as representative of the stoner doom metal, the cousin of doom that runs on weed (it is all about weed with stoner metal). Kind of a more classical rock vibe, but an okay song for me.
The third track on the edition I own is “Wasp/Behind the Wall of Sheep/Bassically/NIB”, a quatuor of proto-metal songs, blending old tunes of their time but also experimenting some features that will define the metal genre, including the drumbeat (deviating from the R&B, and more into a synchronized and regular tempo),  heavier guitar riffs, and inclusion of melodic riffs.
The fourth track, “Wicked World”, is interestingly the one that has the closest sound of modern heavy metal in its backbone and its structure, with a very complex solo guitar played to Tommy Iommi, that will become a staple for almost every metal song to come.
The fifth track “A Bit Of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning”  is also a good track, starting wiht an awesome guitar solo before the drums and the bass take over.
Today was also a big revelation about the mysterious figure of the original album cover. (https://loudwire.com/black-sabbath-cover-woman-black-figure/). A mysterious figure that haunted and led to the widest speculations and conspiracies. The woman in question is named Louisa Livingston. After all these years, the album is keeping its freshness.
It is so much fresh then it perfectly blends with modern cover, for instance my favorite being the live cover of it by Within Temptation, giving it this modern feel in a circular fashion, as performed in their Black X-Mas concert few years ago:

 

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Doom Metal Metal Music Uncategorized

[Metal/Doom] Paradise Lost – Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us (10th Anniversary)

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary release of Paradise Lost “Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us”. It is the 12th album of the British doom metal band from Halifax, part of the Holy Trinity of doom-death genre with Anathema and My Dying Bride.
For me, this album has a special place as it was my first album from the band, it is how I got introduced to the band, by a random pick from a record store. It has the doom feelings and writing, topped with the brutality of death and singing by Nick Holmes and a pinch of melodic riffs from Gregor Mackintosh. For the fans, it was a return to the source of the band, after being artistically exploring through that decade.  It is a 10-track album that is almost 46 minutes long.
We start with a bang with “As Horizons End”, having this feel of Games of Thrones at the beginning and comes in Nick Holmes aggressively, which is for me a departure of the classic doom I have been used. It is an explosion to the hear, full of melancholy and rage, with the with the remarkable guitar solo in the second half of the song. This is the song that got me hooked on Paradise Lost. One of my favorites of the album, if not the favorite track. The second track, “I remain”, is straight in the continuation of the “As Horizons End”, with excellent lyrics. Again an almost perfect run here. We keep on the continuum with the third track “First Light”. “Frailty” breaks with the cohort, and start with a crescendo tone quickly taken by fast riffs and breaks with the melodic tones of the three first tracks. Another favorite of mine.   The fifth track “Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us” was in my first impression an okay song, but somehow get much more amplification when you watch it with the official videoclip. The psychological violence in it (it is interesting how being held and having your hair cut can have an uneasy feel, directly feeling compassion with the victim), coupled with the depressing lyrics makes it a very powerful song. Judge it by yourself:
https://youtu.be/9BONcpuDcrc

The rest of the album is pretty good, but I kind felt less enthusiastic “The Rise of Denial”, “Living With Scars” and “Universal Dream” are okay songs, but not really got too excited. However, the “Last Regret”, the 8th song of the album is damn good song, well-written and well composed. It is very dark, very depressing and that’s when you feel the power of Paradise Lost.  It is well seconded by “In truth”, the closing song of the song, that has the signature trait of the band.

Overall, it is very good album of Paradise Lost, some saying this return to the source was a wlecome move and I can imagine if I was a first hour fan, I would have welcomed that move.

Rare thing but noteworthy to be noted, Century Media, the label of the band graciously offer the streaming of the album on Youtube, see the link below:

If you have not heard about Paradise Lost, and want something between doom and death metal, you should give a spin. This record hooked me on the band and let me discover their remarkable discography.

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[Music/Doom Metal] Swallow The Sun – When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light (95%)

Three years after the release of “Songs from The North I, II and III”, Swallow The Sun released their latest album “When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light” last January. It has been for a week  spinning on my iTunes while I was working on my grants writing and accompanied me through the pain and sufferance of this Sisyphean punishment shared by any academic researcher.
The band gave us a nice teaser into the album by sharing an off-track composition “Lumina Aurea”, a majestic audiovisual composition, simple but yet deeply intimate. I see this album as Juha marking the last stage of grievance since the passing of Aleah almost three years ago: the stage of acceptance and celebration of love and life. While his contribution in Hallatar super-band album “No Star Upon The Bridge” was intimately fueled with the mourning, the anger and the loss of someone dearest to you, this album felt a majestic escapade of solace, of celebration of life and love via some enjoyable shoegaze-like guitar ballads. The album is a 8-track totaling 53 minutes.
We are greeted by “When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light” which is opening the album with a bang, full of heaviness and guitar ballad, making probably the heaviest song of the album. It sets the tone by celebrating life and love, reiterating that love is stronger than death. The second track, “The Crimson Crown”, introduction appears to me as a continuation of “Lumina Aurea” and taking it where we ended it few weeks ago. It is a just a remarkable guitar ballad, light-hearted and very enjoyable lyrics. The third track of the album is “Firelights”. I personally found it as one of my least favorite ones of the album. You can hear it below.

“Upon The Water”, the fourth track is quickly vanishing “Firelights” out of my mind with a doom track as only Swallow The Sun can write and compose. Majestic track from the album. “Upon the water, song of the birds still echo your silence. The lowtide is gone, forever, forever…“, how can anyone not shed a tear and being rumbled by these lyrics.

“Stone Wings” is another beautiful song to listen, by the combined beauty of the lyrics and the musical arrangement. “And when you speak, words of silence, worlds will crumble in and skies will open“. “Clouds on Your Side”, the sixth track, is a natural flowing song nicely transitioning from the previous track, coming naturally out of the heart “Don’t you ever, don’t you ever close your heart to me?“. I wonder who is the narrator reciting a French poem at the end of the track ending with these words “A travers ton ocean de douleur, le Soleil percera et tu verra un autre jour“. “Here on The Black Earth” is the ninth track, and another beautiful song, typical of Swallow the Sun with a touch of shoegaze. Finally, we conclude the album with “Never Left”, the eight track of the album, that is for me the most sincere, and honest one of the album, because it is about accepting our fate, our loss and hoping that tomorrow we will be reunited again. “It’s too late, to dream again, of tomorrow, without the dark………
What I can say? Well that Swallow the Sun has been perfecting their sound making them unique in the doom metal scene, by their melancholic and richness in the composition. “When A Shadow…..” is a strong album talking about loss, grievance, sufferance but yet about the celebration of love and life. This is the pick of this month, setting the path of being my 2019 album.
“Death is stronger than life. Love is stronger than death”

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Doom Metal Melodic Death Metal Metal Power Metal Progressive Metal Uncategorized

[Music/Metal] 2018 as seen by my album picks

2018 was, in retrospective, a year in which quality trumped over quantity. Not many albums (and EPs) got picked this year, but a good lot of digging of new horizons, some surprises, some disappointments and some “fairly good” stuff.  I hate trying to set my Top 10 of the year, for many reasons. But here are my album picks for this year, ranked alphabetically.

 

Clouds – Dor

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I love listening to doom metal, because it is a genre that allows me to undergo an introspective meditation, allow some of my melancholy to resurface and think about those that I loved and are no more existent. This album spoke straight into my limbic system and heavily touch my feelings. It is something that rarely musical pieces are capable to achieve. Dor is an honest work from the author that is intimate and sincere.

Ex-Libris – Ann (Chapter 1 EP)

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Dianne strikes back with her prog metal band Ex-Libris and damn it is just pure bliss to listen to her in something more cocky, more proggy, more versatile, in other words more “Ex-Libris”. Sure the EP is only three songs and kind of let you thirsty for more but surely looking forward to listen to the rest. If you like Dianne’s voice and ready to embrace some nicely crafted prog metal, you should grab this EP.

FT-17  – Verdun!

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FT-17 brought in his second album, right on the mark of the 100th anniversary of the final offense of Verdun, as the tide turned on “La Der des Ders”, thanks to the involvement of the American troops on the front, bringing new troops and new warfare. The album continues where we left our private Marcellin Trouve, now fully inside the hellfire of Verdun. The band nicely translated the fury and violence of the trench wars in their second album, that not only will satisfy black/death metal enthusiasts, not without getting a lesson on World War 1, and the atrocity (if not the plain futility) of this war that decimated a whole generation and set the world on fire for the next 100 year.

Ghost – Prequelle

Ghost-Prequelle

Ghost. Rarely a band has been so divisive and such a zebra for metalheads. Also, the media firestorm that engulfed Ghost by revealing the identity of Papa Emeritus (identified as Tobais Forge), the fratricide conflict that has hit the band. “Prequelle” was a good album, but honestly I was not as much blow away as I was from their first two albums. There are some good tunes such as “Rats” , “Faith”. Some very interesting and engaging experiments such as “Miasma” bringing 80s synths and jazzy saxophone into the mix. But also a good half of the album I could just toss because “meh”. Is the album good? Yes it is good. Does it deserve being #1 of metal of the 2018 Top 10? I think there are contenders for that position.

Hellight – As We Slowly Fade 

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This was a late-one coming to my ear. Coming from Brazil, an impressive doom metal album. When you think about Brazil, you think about colored beaches, carnaval, sunshine, futbol and samba. Well, you also have a lightbulb turning on with metal bands such as “Sepultura” and “Nervosa Thrash”. But getting into an album that bring the darkest tones of doom from Brazil is almost mission impossible. Yet, Hellight shows us that Brazil can impress us and produce some gems. If you are looking for some doom coming outside the realms of Asgard, you will have a secured pick.

Kalidia – The Frozen Throne

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Kalidia brought us their second album this Fall, showing us that slowly but surely the Italian power metal scene is getting hands on with promising rising star. It is a very nice follow-up of their first album, more focused, harder, louder, faster and full of vigor like a young wolf. You can find a more detailed review in my previous posts.

 

Lux in Tenebris – To A New Eternity

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Marion-Lamita is back, after going through tumultuous and rocky years, into the scene by experimenting new avenues. One of theme is “Lux In Tenebris”, an EP that is pretty good considered the limited access she had. There is some potential to grow here, most of the EP is pleasing to the ears and hopefully can set a ramp to something promising. I wish good luck to her and Thierry for having a transforming and prolific 2019.
https://youtu.be/ODGes7gG5VM

 

Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart

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Oceans of Slumber was another surprise, especially coming from Houston. What I can tell more about? Well nothing much, except to read the review I published on earlier this year. One of my favorite album I have for this year!. A must-listen album!

Ophidian Spell – Nux/Hemera

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This was really a random pick as my SO went visiting my family back home. I asked her to pick me some albums from local bands in my favorite record store in my hometown and this was one of the album pick really just by randomness (my wife hates metal, so it was really random and just guided by genres given). Result? A very interesting prog/technical death album that is a delight to hear. It is fast, it is furious, but it is also nicely set with “dentelles” around, giving a kind of the best of both worlds for me. Give a try to their tunes, this one from their track “Mental Universe”. https://youtu.be/jIr9pWVToOQ

Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold

Omnium-Gatherum-The-Burning-Cold

2018 was the year I kind of embraced Finnish melodic death. First it was Insomnium with their last album “Winter’s Gate” (in complete opposition to critics, I really really loved that one), then my second pick this year was Omnium Gatherum. A very good album overall nicely blending the brutality of death with a good ounce of melodics giving this escapism to Finland forest. You can find my full review on that one too in my previous posts.
https://youtu.be/cydhfda6rXI

Ragana – Let Our Names Be Forgotten (EP)
Another discovery this year. Ragana, coming from Oakland, CA. An interesting pick for sludge metal this year. Rough, dark and primal. I liked it.
https://youtu.be/wCI1Xxus3HI

Sytigian Crown – Through Divine Rite (EP)
Another EP discovered while wandering on Bandcamp. It has this Black Sabbath-esque kind of vibes, coming from the LA scene that I found very pleasant.

Swallow the Sun – Lumina Aurea (EP)
Swallow the Sun simply outdid themselves by releasing an audiovisual wondering experience with Lumina Aurea. Get your best AV equipment and watch this!

Therion – Beloved Antechrist

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Therion. A band that keeps breaking the norms, that keeps experimenting and setting milestones in the metal scene, that their fan like it and not. They know how to do impressive stuff and “Beloved Antechrist” was would an opera metal would sounds like if it was a real theatrical performance. A 3 hour album. What? You did not get it? You have been missing something big. Again, I will refer back to my previous blog post.

Whyzdom – As Time Turns To Dust
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Whyzdom, my go-to French symphonic metal band that is playing now at the same field than juggernauts such as Epica and Nightwish, while having their own “French touch”. It is baroque, well-orchestrated and very pleasant to the ears. Again, you can find my review on this one as well. What? You never heard about Whyzdom? Listen to them and get a catch-up course ASAP.

Wolfheart – Constellation of the Black Light

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My second Finnish melodic death album of the year. A damn good album overall to listen. It is loud, fast, brutal yet again a road to escapism from Finland. Did I ever told you how Finland knows how to blacksmith their metal with such elegance? Enough said!

This was about my 2018 year in music, and the least I can say as I become older I become picky on my choices.  Lets see what 2019 will give me.

 

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Doom Metal Metal Music Uncategorized

[Metal/Doom] Swallow The Sun – Lumina Aurea (EP)

Swallow the Sun just released their EP “Lumina Aurea” today, right on the Winter Solstice, the day with the shortest daylight and the longest night. For those who know Swallow the Sun and their epic melancholic doom, we know that this EP would not be a jolly ride. Indeed, with some project like “Hallatar”, they showed us how dark and melancholic they can reach. But this one, oh my, this one is as dark as it can be in a Finnish forrest on a solstice night. It is an outstanding piece of doom to listen, doubled by an excellent photography of Northern Finland/Lapland and production by excellent Italian musicians (Francesco Sosto, Giuseppe Orlando, Gianpaolo Caprino and Frederico Di Pofi) . Never a forrest covered with pure white snow felt so dark and depressing.
It is an outstanding visual and auditory gift given by the band, a 14-minutes introspection to remember about the ones we loved and that are gone. This is the kind of video you want to see in 4K (put your YT setting on the highest quality) with the best audio equipment, to fully appreciate the beauty of melancholy.
Mors Fortior Quam Vita Est, Amor Fortior Quam Mors Est” (Latin translation: “Death is Stronger than Life, Love is Stronger Than Death). My deepest and sincere condolences for the ones we have lost during this year, my compassions and feels for those that have lost their loved ones.

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[Metal/Doom] Clouds – Dor (95%)

The best musical compositions in my opinion are the ones that are capable to transcend the listener, to vehicle the feelings of the artist into the audience. The best musical compositions are the one that will not only stimulate your primary auditive cortex, but also activate secondary cortical areas, in particular your limbic system.
The limbic system, for those not familiar with neurosciences, is a complex and heterogenous brain structure encompassing different brain region that are below the brain cortex (what we refer commonly as “the gray matter”). It is involved in the memorization, but foremost is involved in the emotions: Joy, sadness, anger, calm…….
To me, the best musical compositions are the one that will make you happy, will make you sad, make you ballistic, or simply make you chill out and relax.
Amongst these four, sadness is my precious one. It revives dark periods in my life, periods that brought me emotional pain and somehow get hidden under layers of “everyday life” in priority. This is maybe why I have a natural attraction to doom metal. Doom metal helps unfolding and revealing this melancholy, brings back sad memories and sometimes makes me cry of reviving this sadness. Very few albums and songs reach that level but with the latest release of Clouds album “Dor”, it made me cry for 50 minutes. This is why it took me almost ten days and countless listening to be able to write down my review.
It is a 6 track album spanning over 50 minutes, yet you feel like it is a consistent album that would have been a single track. Clouds marvelously combine a chord piano playing on the bottom range, with ethereal melodic riffs, slow and heavy tempo. When you enter this album via “Forever And A Day”, you enter into a doomy and gloomy introspection into yourself as the melancholy comes in and unfold. Majestic!
The second track, “The Last Day of The Sun”, although still pretty good  feels like in my opinion the weakest one. With the third track, “When I’m Gone”, we have the featuring of Gogo Melone (Aeonian Sorrow, Luna Obscura). It is the first time I hear Gogo and her voice combined to the musical arrangement of Clouds reminded me the best years of Anneke Von Giersbergen and The Gathering. I am surely checking out her latest release with Aeonian Sorrow. Another remarkable track.
“Dor”, the fourth track, is the middle piece of resistance. It is being half-way drawing in the swamp of sadness and we do not feel to escape it. The band gives us an opportunity of an official videoclip, allowing me to share my auditive experience. Warning: get ready for a box of tissue and a bottle of liquor to drown these tears.

The two remaining tracks “The Forever Sleep” (featuring Pim Blankenstein) and “Alone” are in the same range and keep it on an excellent composition.
In the time as we see a glut of bands in some genres in the metal landscape that prime on quantity over quality, doom metal stands still and strong. It maybe not as dynamic as other genres (in which we have hundreds of bands), but each bands labelled as “doom metal” has their own sounds, their own artistic variations that makes them unique. And this is the case of Clouds. With the second album, the band show that simplicity of an acoustic piano is much better than an artistic composition mostly digitally created on a computer. Instruments should convey the feelings, let them be cold or warm. It is very frugal, but a very sincere and emotional listening experience in which we share the pain and the grievance of the artist behind. We relive our own grievance and sadness, as our limbic system opens up to the musical stimuli.
Rarely albums made me cry through the whole length of the album, and that tells me how excellent the composition is. Overall, it is an excellent second album that I strongly warns about the emotional content. You want to keep it for a rainy and cloudy grey skies day, a day you are recluse and looking for an introspection into your saddest and darkest memories. It gave me the chills, it let me wet tissues but it also helped me found some solace by allowing a catharsis of these emotions.

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[Metal/Doom] Candlemass – Ancient Dreams (20th anniversary release)

Today is Thanksgiving. In other words, an opportunity to write something on my personal blog. Today is also incidentally the 20th anniversary of the release of Candlemass third album “Ancient Dreams”.
It is fairly impressive to think the band was able to put a three-year streak of releasing an album every year for three consecutive years, and still produce a third album that is pretty decent even after all these years. The album is a nine tracks spanning on 55 minutes. According to the interview present in the 2CD version of the album, the album was done in a certain promiscuity, on the cheap (cheap studio) and in a short timeline.
The album in my opinion is quite good but you can feel it has the lackluster compared to previous albums.
The album starts with “Mirror, Mirror”, one of my favorite tracks of the album. “A Cry From The Crypt” and “Darkness in Paradise” are decent but kind of sound not really like Candlemass, maybe too jolly. “Incantation Of Evil” brings us back to “Epicus Doomicus…”, with occult themes and the guitar shreds makes it my second favorite of the album. “Bearer of Pain” is okay but honestly forgettable, at least compared to “Ancient Dreams”.  “Ancient Dreams” sees the use of a recurrent crescendo-decrescendo both by Messiah in the vocals and the guitar riffs. “The Bells of Archeron” continues on the track of “Ancient Dreams”, with a more dynamic tone and heavily influenced by the heroic-fantasy lore. “Epistle No. 81” is a languorous and slow song, very simple but very intimate, setting some canon in the doom metal. The last one is a cover of several songs from Black Sabbath.
Overall, the album is fine but also feels like a setback from their two previous albums. I can surely speculate that the conception of this album and its unfolding was not done in the best conditions and you can feel it. It is good, but not delivering as much Epicus Doomicus.
There are several versions out and I strongly recommend to put your hand on the 2-CDs version of the album, as the second CD has several “live” songs. It makes me feel I wish I was there to assist Messiah energy on stage as you can hear it in this voice.

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Doom Metal Female-fronted Metal Gothic Metal Melodic Death Metal Metal Music Power Metal Uncategorized

[Metal] Happy Holidays! My 15 metal albums and EPs of 2017!

Happy Holidays everyone! As we are now engaged in the last week of 2017, it is a great time for me to go back through my library and pick my 12 albums of 2017. No particular rankings, most of the albums have been reviewed in my blog. I have set the EPs aside since they are not counted as album.

1. January: Xandria – Theater of Dimension

2017 started with a bang with Xandria releasing their latest album and the second album with Dianne Von Giersbergen as front vocals. The motto was “harder, faster, stronger, better”. Damn it was a good album to listen, Dianne being perfect as usual. Unfortunately, the rest of the year was less good for the band. The second leg of the US tour cancelled, Dianne thrown in the residue bin like an used ragdoll. Fortunately, that also means that Dianne is likely reviving Ex-Libris.

2. January: Au Champ Des Morts – Dans La Joie

It is not often that you find French metal bands getting under the spotlight (unless you are Gojira or Alcest), even less French metal bands that sing in French. This was a pure random encounter in my discography, during a Bandcamp campaign (damn Bandcamp is such a great place to discover bands). Mixing elements of black metal and doom, it is a delight to listen to the French lyrics. A must-have in your collection if you are also attracted to the dark side of the Force and needing to find a solace to old wounds.

3. February: FT-17 – Marcellin S’en Va En Guerre

Another Bandcamp pick. Aside from sciences, metal, Sci-Fi and video games, I have another great interest. History! In particular, I am very fixated on World War I: “la Der Des Ders”; “La Grande Guerre”; “La Guerre Des Poilus”. Don’t ask me how my brain clicked on that particular war, maybe because of that field trip during my middle school year at “Le Col Du Linge”, harboring trenches and a museum of this horrible war. The context of military history is not much new and those who know Sabaton know their power-metal hits narrating historical battles. This one is particular. This first album of the melodic death metal band FT-17 (named after one of the first type of French assault tank “Renault FT-17”) is particular as it follow the PFC Marcellin Trouve, writing to his notes his experience of the war, from the joyful draft and heading to the front line to the delusion of the war.

4. March: Midnight Sorrow – Pick A Tale

March was highlighted from the release of the first album by Midnight Sorrow, another French band but this time from my hometown and in the Symphonic Metal genre. I really liked their first EP “At First” and this album took some time to come in, but it was indeed for the better. Coming from their EP, you can hear the maturation of the band in both the musical arrangement (bolder, more confident) and also from Maureen’s voice (in which you can really hear her progress on her vocal abilities). I usually hate when the album is recycling old songs from the previous EP but the band went the extra mile and revisited their songs giving them a second breath with their more experienced sound. It was such a delight to hear that album.
https://youtu.be/syiCMalo44Q

5. May: Seven Kingdoms – Decennium

One thing that I found a bit boring on the US metal scene is the vast domination of the death metal scene and its derived genres (metalcore, deathcore, grindcore…). For some reasons, European favorite genres like Power, Symphonic or Doom are not that popular. So when you have a US metal band playing outside this “terra cognita” it is a welcome. When that same group slap you with a damn awesome album, it is even more welcome.
Hail to Seven Kingdoms, straight out of the Florida panhandle. Florida has a reputation of being the weirdos in the US but they are also home for two awesome US power metal bands: Kamelot and Seven Kingdoms. 72 minutes of a powerful joyride into the meadows of an enchanted land, riding over a robot unicorn, riding in the sunset of a binary star system, slashing an horde of orcs running over using your proton axe to slay the foolish and the foes. If Warhammer 40K should have a soundtrack, I would definitively pick Seven Kingdoms. Just listen to “Stargazer” and tell me you are not all pumped up.

6. May: Alwaid – The Machine & The Beast

Alwaid is another French Metal band that highlighted my album picks in 2017. This second album was quite a departure of their first album “Lacus Somnorium”, that was deeply anchored in atomspheric doom metal. This second is much louder, faster and heavier, more anchored into melodic death but yet with keeping their signature melodics. Again a very good pick and an extensive review of the album on my blog site.

7. June: Neverlight – Nova Red

Neverlight (from Colorado) is this kind of UFOs in my library, standing out by their inability to put them in my classical shelves. Labelled themselves as “dark progressive metal”. It offers a very unique prog metal songs, sharing some similarities with Amaranthe (if you are heavy in the keyboards) but yet very different as it has more darker tones and lyrics. You know what? Enough with the talk. A damn good prog metal album in my library and it pays off to wander into “terra incognito”, just give a try.

8. August: Seven Spires – Solveig

This was another pleasant surprise, as this band straight out of Boston (MA) came out from nowhere and got me hooked up with their title “The Paradox”, directly inspired by Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth. The album per se was very good: engaging melodics, pumping you up with energy and willing you to summon a mosh pit in your cubicle. Playing in different registers, surfing from gothic metal songs like “The Siren/Encounter” to something more mainstream like “The Cabaret of Dreams” to some melodic power metal songs like “Choices” or “Distant Lights”. My favorites remains though “The Paradox” and “Burn”. I leave you with the Paradox official video so can make your choice.

9. September: Paradise Lost – Medusa

Having one of the Unholy Trinity bands release a new album is always welcomed. Paradise Lost “Medusa” is one of these welcome. Adopting a “back to the roots” in terms of the artistic direction of the album, splurging into death doom made this album very special and a hit amongst critiques. It got a very good review on my blog, you can find it.

10. September: Arch Enemy – Will To Power

After 3 years of waiting since “War Eternal”, Michael Amott finally broke the silence and brought on “Will To Power” right to celebrate the 20 years of the band. It was also the second album featuring Alissa White-Gluz. So it was a litmus test for many of the fans and the result was far from disappointing, also a long awaited moment since Jeff Loomis joined the band. It was a hit at first sight with in my opinion a better writing than “War Eternal”. It is brutal (with even some punk influence in the melodics) right from the first track “The Race”, followed by “The World Is Yours” flying into epic melodic power ballads with “The Eagle Flies Alone”. Following the release, the band started the US tour. It was magic! The best concert of 2017.

11. September: Septicflesh – Codex Omega

Septicflesh is a unique band mastering the blending of a classical orchestra with the black symphonic metal style giving you an auditory experience of some of the paintings of Bosch, very finely crafted orchestral arrangement, navigating the different layers of Hell through “Dante’s Inferno”. With Septicflesh, you are welcomed into the Hades Kingdom, navigating through the Styx with Spiro being your guide. A must have if you are attracted by the Dark Side. Considering Spiros and the band are coming nearby for a gig in March, I guess I will add it in the bucket list.

12. September: Clouds – Destin

Whatever I listen, I always come back to doom metal. Behind the darkness and the melancholic tones, I find solace and relief to my mind. There are words I cannot speak, there are feelings I cannot tell, there are wounds that I cannot heal. Doom metal provide me with this opportunity of a catharsis. In sorrow, i found my relief.
This is the case of Clouds “Destin”. Nicely composed, it helps open myself to my mind, let all my sadness, my pain and my sorrow exhale and breath. It allows a deep introspection that few releases can help me cope with these feelings. If you like doom, you MUST try this band.

13. October: Hallatar – No Stars Upon The Bridge

Hallatar is a side project involving various Finnish metal band members including Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis) at the vocals, Juha Raivio (Swallow The Sun) at the guitars and Gas Lipstick (ex-HIM) at the drums. This album is one of the best doom album of the year for different reasons.
Firstly, it is a an album dedicated to the memory of late Aleah Starbridge that left us orphan last year. Secondly, it is an requiem and eulogy album to Aleah, using her poems, giving us a last intimate moment to mourn. The result is simply fantastic and heavy loaded in pain and sorrow. I just hope that this album is closing our mourning on Aleah’s passing and not become an opportunity for anyone to make financial gains on her.

14. November: Evanescence – Synthesis

After a hiatus of over 5 years in terms of album, Amy Lee released “Synthesis” last November. It is per se not a new album, rather it is a an album providing a reorchestration of selected songs spanning through the previous three albums of the band. Some of the songs sound as good as the originals (e.g. “Lithium”), some are even better than original (e.g. “Never Go Back”) and some simply bomb the original (“Bring Me To Life”). It remembers how great Amy is on the vocals and on the piano, and really make us think if Amy decided to “Europeanize” her musical style by taking the best of Symphonic metal.

15. November: Beyond Forgiveness – The Great Wall

“The Great Wall” is the first full-album from the US gothic/symphonic metal band Beyond  Forgiveness (Colorado Springs, CO). I reviewed the album extensively earlier in November so I will comment that much.


The EPs and other albums that were good:
Aside from full-albums listed, there was also the release of “In This Moment We are Free – Cities” by VUUR. With Anneke Von Giersbergen fronting it, it was a great moment to listen in something much heavier than her band “A Gentle Storm”. The album was good, maybe too simple and reminded me a bit the good old times when she was with The Gathering. Maybe a bit too simplistic.
Epica also released an EP “The Solace System” that is a continuation from the “The Holographic Principle”. Again, it was awesome as usual from Epica. You can find more about in one of my previous blog posts.
Another interesting EP I got my hand to was “The Ascension” from Casket Robbery (Madison, WI) formed by Cory Scheider. You may not know Cory but if I am telling you that Cory was part of Luna Mortis, then it will all make sense. Cory put a bit away the melodic death tunes from Luna Mortis and brings in more the brutality into the melodic death. With Megan Orvold bringing the brutal vocals in the line of Angela Gussow (ex-Arch Enemy), you will wish to open a pit of hell inside your living room.

Finally, this year I also got introduced to sludge metal by attending a gig featuring two bands: Rozamov (Boston, MA) and The Ditch & The Delta (Salt Lake City, UT). If you are unfamiliar with sludge metal, it is a blend of doom metal with some Southern death and punk. It has this roughness and Southern flavor that my current doom library is missing. It worth the try. Here two videos are listed from the two bands: Rozamov – “Serpent Cult” and The Ditch & The Delta – “F*ck on Asphalt”

Categories
Doom Metal Metal Music

[Metal/Doom] Candlemass – Nightfall (30th Anniversary review)

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Candlemass second album “Nightfall”, released a year after their seminal album “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” and featuring Messiah Marcolin. It follows the same path set by their first album and further establish the basis of what will become the flagship band of classic doom metal. Considering the album was written, recorded and mixed within a year of their first album and simultaneously improved the quality of the song is in my opinion an impressive effort from the band.
It is a 10-track album spanning 46 minutes. We start with a melodic introduction named “Gothic Stone” that set the tone of the album: a bolder, heavier and more elaborated sound than “Epicus…”. Its only a ramp to introduce to the second track “The Well of Souls”. Messiah Marcolin nails again with his remarkable voice and putting into music the lyrics. The third track,”Codex Gigas” provides an instrumental interlude and a damn nice interlude allowing to enjoy the Candlemass sound by its own. “At The Gallows End”, the fourth track, is one of my favorite by the melodics, Messiah singing and the lyrics talking about death. “Samarithan” marks a step down but also a sound closer to what we call today modern doom by playing slow even in Candlemass standard.
“March Funebre” marks the second melodic interlude, providing a metal cover to the classic composition of funeral march, allowing to our introduction to “Dark Are The Veil Of Death”. A faster than usual Candlemass song, but still a nice a nice one.  “Mourners Lament” is instead sticking to the doom and one of my favorite, with its dark lyrics and Messiah’s voice. “Bewitched” is the only track that had an official video clip.

“Black Candles”, is the last track of the album, providing an instrumental epilogue to the album.
With this second album, Candlemass cemented the foundation of what we call today the doom metal genre, setting a milestone in the genealogy of the doom genre. It also settled for me Messiah Marcolin as Candlemass singer. Marcolin left the band after their fourth album but none of the singers that took over never reached the quality of Messiah.
If you want to enter the gloom of doom metal genre, Candlemass second album “Nightfall” should be in your itinerary before you decide to fork and head into stoner metal or into something much darker.

 

 

Categories
Doom Metal Gothic Metal Metal Music Uncategorized

[Metal/Doom] Hallatar – No Stars Upon The Bridge (95%)

Hallatar, a side project band former by Amorphis vocalist Tomi Joutsen, Swallow The Sun guitarist Juha Raivio and ex-HIM drummer Gas Lipstick released the tribute album “No Stars Upon The Bridge” to late metal singer Aleah Starbridge, band member of “Trees of Eternity” and partner in life to Juha.
What I can tell that after a year that we lost Aleah to cancer, the pain and sorrow is still present in the metal scene. Hallatar, through this album, is playing into a much more darker and black tone that any of the members usually play in their respective bands. These bands are already playing some fine doom, already heavy in dark and despair. Imagine achieving the most concentrate black tone you can from sadness, sorrow and pain. This is what this album is basically giving us: a very painful, sad and heart wrenching requiem to Aleah, using her own poems put into lyrics and offering into a majestic album that distillate some of the best spirits of all three bands into a masterpiece of modern doom metal.
The album is a 9-track album, a 40 minutes requiem that will shake your from deep in it, reviving some of these painful souvenirs of the lost ones. I am warning you, this is not for the fainted of heart. It is very depressing but so liberating and cathartic.
We start with “Mirrors” with the vocals of Tomi and the signature guitar tones of Juha (that gives this trademark to Swallow and Trees). Slow, doom and gloom, damn good funeral doom introductory track.

The interlude comes from hearing Aleah’s voice reciting her poem “Raven’s Song” (Track 2) and followed by “Melt”. Straight into the playbook from Swallow the Sun, Tomi’s clean voices allows us to fully appreciate the lyrics, accompanying us into the processing funeral march. “My Mistake”, the fourth track song, features Heike Langhans (Draconian) as guest lyrics and keep on into our funeral processing march. “Pieces”, the following track, provides an interlude with its solitary piano with Aleah’s poem haunting us. “Severed Eyes”, is in my opinion this kind of track that is made to heal and remember our dearest love ones that we lost by playing on the dry guitars and the simplicity. “The Maze” is a damn good funeral doom track, an amazing track by its ability to wrench your inner mind and rediscover these dark corners that often get buried into our lives. “Spiral Gate” is the last interlude of Aleah, leaving us with her last goodbye poem and nicely transitioning to the last track “Dreams Burn Down”, the concluding track of the album. Majestic piece of work, like a last farewell to the casket before the burial with Aleah haunting voice. You realize that as the casket is brought down and the first pile of dirt covers it that this is over. That the nightmare is not a nightmare anymore, it is the reality of life and we cannot reverse anything to it. It is time to give our farewell do our dearest love and remember it into our hearts and mind.
What I can say is rarely such an album, fruit of a collaboration of some of the finest doom/gothic Suomi (Finnish) metal bands, can shake someone inner psyche and let it tears the emotion apart. Yes, it is sad and depressing. Yes, it is dark and heart wrenching. But it is also a cathartic album allowing us to anyone listening to it to make the last grievance and keep in our mind the loss one of the most beautiful feminine metal voice we lost in the person of Aleah Starbridge. Rest in peace nightingale :(.