[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”

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[Music/Metal] Happy 4th of July!

As living in the US, it is for me now part of the tradition to celebrate the 4th of July. Happy 4th of July! Time for me to share my favorite US metal bands that are in my disc library. This is my very personal list, so please don’t comment asking why I have not have a certain band in my list. There are likely two reasons: either they went under my radar or they simply did not click with me in terms of my musical taste. I have been running this redundant post for two years now, so I will spare you the blabla and let you jump to the list :). Here we go, sorted by alphabetical list:
* Aria Flame (ex-Dendura, MI) – Gothic Metal: https://www.facebook.com/ariaflameworld/
* Beyond Forgiveness (CO) – Gothic/Folk Metal. If you are looking for a US minstrels and troubadours having the vibes of medieval folk metal (something like a Blind Guardian or Haggard), this is your inn to stop on your journey: https://www.facebook.com/beyondforgivenessmetal/
* Destiny Beard (MI, PA) – Gothic Metal:https://www.facebook.com/Destinibeardmusic/
* The Ditch & The Delta (UT) – Sludge Metal: https://www.facebook.com/theditchandthedeltaslc/
* Evanescence (AR) – Gothic Rock: https://www.facebook.com/Evanescence/
* Exalt The Throne (TX) – Melodic Death, they are having their final gig on July 29th, I gonna miss them :(. https://www.facebook.com/exaltthethroneofficial/
* Faytree (GA, OH) – Melodic Death: https://www.facebook.com/faytreeband/
* In This Moment (CA) – Metalcore. Check their old stuff (first three albums), that was some promising band that unfortunately lost their vibe for few years now: https://www.facebook.com/officialinthismoment/
* Kamelot (FL) – Power Melodic Metal. Come on, should I introduce Kamelot? https://www.facebook.com/kamelotofficial/
* Mercy Isle (MI) – Gothic Metal. A very interesting US-Dutch collaboration, making them a sort of spinning free electron: https://www.facebook.com/MercyIsle/
* Metallica (CA) – Thrash Metal. Because who does not have a Metallica album in their disc library. 35 years and still running! https://www.facebook.com/Metallica/
* Midnight Eternal (NY) – Power Melodic Metal. What if Dragonforce and Nightwish had a child? Midnight Eternal would be its name: https://www.facebook.com/MidnightEternal/
* Red Beard Wall (TX) Sludge Metal. Ever wondered how doom metal would sound with a flavor of Southern music, with elements of punk and death metal? It has a name: sludge metal and my first exposure was through Red Beard Wall. It came out of nowhere like a meteor and crashed into the local metal scene in Yellow City. If you are living in the High Plains or South Plains, check them out: https://www.facebook.com/redbeardwall/
* Rozamov (MA) Sludge/Doom Metal. That was some of the best surprise this spring, allowing me to discover this sub-genre of doom metal blended with Southern tunes, punk and death metal. https://www.facebook.com/Rozamov/
* Santa Marta (UT) – Gothic Metal. The next project of Mary Zimmer (ex-Ottoman Empire/Luna Mortis, ex-The White Empress). Check it out and keep eye on it. https://www.facebook.com/SantaMartaBand/
* Scarlet Canary (CO) – Metal/Rock: https://www.facebook.com/ScarletCanary/
* Seven Kingdoms (FL) – Melodic Power Metal. There is something running in Florida water but it makes their Melodic Power Metal
* Slayer (CA) – Thrash Metal. Slayer still slaying, not even an ounce of their brutal tempo was left over the years. This is where I had to disagree on Floor Jansen, nothing beats a mosh pit or an album from Slayer as a catharsis vector. If you don’t know what to expect from Slayer, go attend one of their gigs with Lamb of God and Behemoth. Not for the choir singer though: https://www.facebook.com/slayer/
* Thyshade (CO) – Symphonic Metal. One of my discovery last winter and one of the best US soprano vocals: https://www.facebook.com/thyshadeofficial/

 

[Videogames/Metal] Brutal Legend – XB360 (80%)

Sometimes you never know what you can find in a Gamestop “dumpster” (you know the $5 or less /$20 or less games holding on some cardobard shelves). One was Brutal Legend. I had my eyes on when I have played once the demo downloaded from Xbox Live. I really liked it for two reasons:
Firstly,  it was a game heavily influenced by metal and there are very few that come in mind. I still remember the attempt of Motley Crue to cash on Crueball on Genesis (a pinball-based game, also used by Kiss in one of these PC budget games), Motorhead on Amiga/Atari ST (a beat-them up developed by Ocean somewhere in 1992) or Iron Maiden Ed Hunter featuring Eddie in a kind of “Operation Wolf” game.
Secondly,  for what seemed a cool storyline. The story features Eddie Riggs, a “roadie” setting up the stage for a rock band called Kabbage Boy, lets say Eddie is rightfully not fond of his performance. As Eddie sets stage, a element of the stage falls on directly aiming one of the band member. Eddie jumps to his rescue only to get crushed by the scenery element. Eddie wakes up in a complete strange world, directly taken from some of the best heavy metal album artworks. Here Eddie becomes an anti-hero fighting demons with his mighty axe and his guitar riffs.
After playing back-and-forth with the game during the last month, I finally finished it up tonight. There are the good, the very good and the very annoying part of the game.
The good thing about the game is its very high fidelity of the game towards the material it got inspired by. It is heavy metal at its finest with the contribution of kings of the genre   appearing as cameos such as Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne,appearing as the guardian of metal, the shop to go to upgrade your weapons and your car), Rob Halford (Judas Priest, posing as the Fire Baron), Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead, the bass-playing Kill Master), Lita Ford (presented as Lita, one leader of the human resistance)……
The second good thing (if you ignore the annoying part) is this semi-open space allowing you to drive through the heavy metal hell, ramming through the wildlife and allowing you to complete some side quests and unlock some uniqueness (monuments, dragons…..) that will buildup your combat skills.
Then comes the very good part: the storyline and the damn good playlist. The storyline is simply awesome as you end up fighting hordes of glam/hair metal villains, with the stereotype of the hair metal bands that flourished in the 80s, followed by a dive into the depressive doom and gloom of gothic/doom metal genre (with some of the best enemies to fight, straight out of a Tim Burton mind) and finally a quick insight into industrial metal (at the very end). For most of these, you have a remarkable playlists of metal bands that perfectly match the missions: fighting off glam metal troops with Motley Crue “Dr. Feelgood”, only to escape the crumbling White Lion palace through the soundtrack of of the UK powermetal band Drangonforce “Through the Fire and The Flames”. Just playing this part of the game in which you are slaloming between dragons breaking bridges and blocking roads with that blowing in the background music worth its amount of pesos. It is not one, but over 100 songs in that playlist that you can play through driving in the metal Hell, something very similar to a GTA game. Some of the best and most versatile metal playlist I have ever heard into a video game: Dragonforce, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Scorpions, Motley Crue, Carcass, Dimmu Borgir, Accept, Megadeath…..
Just for that the game worth the purchase.
Now comes the very annoying part of the game: the simile-RTS game sequence. At some point in the game, you will be asked to play a sort of real-time strategy game (you know the type of Dune II, Command & Conquer, Warcraft…), in a very primitive form, using the metal as a source: The stage being your main base/barracks; the march store towers being the source of energy to harvest and troops from the basic headbangers grunt to the juggernaut unit capable to blast off towers. The idea is great, the put into practice? Meh…….it felt more than a pain than anything else as you have to go back and forth to get to the units. The other thing that also made me quit the game halfway is that mission in which you have to capture wild feral cats (looking as KISS-like panthers) by circling them with a circle of fire. The controls were just terrible and makes you really want to give up. As a sidenote, the presence of redudant sidequest (ambush enemies, defend your tower, race against the same foe) felt like a lot of deja-vu. You have to do them to gain skill points to upgrade your character but felt more a curfew than anything else (especially at a certain point of the game you have so much skill points accumulated but nowhere to redeem the upgrades).
In conclusion, if you love heavy metal and looking for a good game really doing a service  to the genre, grab a copy and play it. The game is far from perfect, there are much better adventure games and real RTS games to quench your thirst than this one. But in my opinion, this was the PERFECT metal game ever I have been playing so far and really wish someone decides to renew this experience.

[Metal/Powermetal] Seven Kingdoms – Decennium (90%)

Getting my hand on Seven Kingdoms latest album “Decennium” was kind of the wanderlust on betting on a band you don’t know much about and give a small helping hand with crowdfunding. The album was teasing me for the last few months (to be honest since January) and what I can tell it worth all that wait.
Seven Kingdoms is a FF Power Metal band from Florida, USA. Little I knew that once I pressed the “play” button on my iPod Classic that it would take me into a full-speed roller coaster through 14 tracks and lasting 72 minutes.
It is fast-paced, heavy riffs, fully pumped on energy making you to want to ride over a battle cat (armed with eye-lasers of course) and slash some demons and dragons with a legendary Bat’leth. But lets get back to the essential and go through the album.
It is a 72 minutes of damn good of power metal fueled by lyrics heavily inspired by heroic fantasy.
It starts with “Stargazer”, an engaging power metal melodics, transitioning into “Undying” (one of my favorite) and “In The Walls” into a perfect suite, giving little space to breath into your legendary battle. “The Tale Of Deathface Ginny” brings into  some of the best time of heavy metal from the 80s with its storytelling. “Castles in the Snow” continues into the heroic-fantasy, a good one but kind of feel a bit setback. Then comes one of the piece de resistance. “Kingslayer”, bringing the cannons of Navaronne, the Stalin’s Organ. That stuff that makes you get up from your chair, take a sword and rush to the battle.

You think you are done? Wait the call for the battle is still going one with “The Faceless Hero”. Things starts slowly to settle down with “Never-ending” bringing on some good heavy metal vibe but kind of setting the fervor on the back burner, just for this song.  “Hollow” brings you back in the heart of action and finishes with “Awakened from Nothing”, slowing on the pace but keeping on the powerful melodic ballads.

The rest of the album provides an alternative version of “In The Walls” that I found have this small extra-punch and “Undying” bringing you an extra-dose of adrenaline rush. Finally, we have  a remaster of “The Bloody Meadow” and “Stormborn”. I don’t know these titles as they maybe from previous releases but enough to make me dig in deeper into the troll cave and discover the previous albums.

As they are releasing the album, so are they also starting their US tour, if you have a chance to, check them out, they surely blow on stage.
My final word? Buy this album! This is my album of the month without hesitation. Take your cloak and run get this album.

[Metal/Powermetal] Seven Kingdoms – Kingslayer (Official Video)

The US power metal band Seven Kingdoms new album “Decennium” is due to release tomorrow ahead of their North American tour. To mark the release of their album, they released a official video for “Kingslayer”, one track of their album. Well, what I can say: “ca poutre pas mal!” and eager to review that album.
Want to see and hear what it sounds like? Listen below: