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Female-fronted Metal Metal Music Symphonic Metal Uncategorized

[Metal/Pop] Within Temptation – Resist (70%)

After five years of fairly blackout period from the band, following a lot of introspection and need to solve private issues, Within Temptation finally released their new album “Resist” on February 1st. A lot of mystery was on, a lot of speculation too as Sharon launched about a year ago a solo pop album “My Indigo”. How would the album sound? Will they go back to their roots? Will they continue in the direction taken with their previous album “Hydra”? Well, the release of “The Reckoning” kind of gave a flavor and honestly failed to impress me. However, I wanted to give my respect to the band and bought the album (standard edition, the $5 extra for the instrumental tracks and radio edit are in my opinion overpriced). Well, I am gonna tell you, this has been the most divisive album I have to listen because it is not an easy thing to downgrade a band you have been cherished all these years. Imagine you have admiration for what you think is certainly one of the best band you have ever heard, only to realize now that band have been setting the quality bar so low that it is basically feels like any soup served on the FM station (I only listen to the FM radio when I take my wife car, because I forget most of the time my iPod classic in my car. Seldomly taking my wife car).
Thats how I feel and somehow translated in some interviews by the band. You feel the band is exhausted, is running out of juice. Yet, the band is trying to reformulate itself as a new image, a kind of futuristic sci-fi that I honestly don’t dislike, if the music was better. WT has been betting high on taking full sail on the pop-electronica scene, leaving the original fans pretty dry and bitter. I would be honest, I can gut half of the album and not even regret it. But in the same time, there are some tracks that although being really watered down when it comes to metal (maybe the drums are the only thing left) that have still catchy songs. And Sharon shows us again how talented she is. I can guarantee to you she will eat any of the pop singers addicted to auto-tunes with a swift snap. In the realms of meow-meow pop singers, Sharon is the queen. This is an album holding 10 songs, totaling about 48 minutes.
Lets first get rid of the annoying tracks. They failed to impress me and sounded really what I would listen to a FM radio. Basically an auditory torture. “The Reckoning”, “Holy Ground”, “In Vain”, “Firelight” and “Mercy Mirror”, you are out. About more than half of the album made of fillers.
Now lets focus on the interesting tracks. Let’s start with “Endless War”. At first, it sounds like the opening sequence of an Arabic “mussalssal” which is for me a torture for my ears, but it gets better with Sharon kicking in. And it’s good to hear Sharon singing, with some echoes of the past with some musical arrangements reminding of their previous albums mixed with electronic tunes. “Raise Your Banner”, the third track, is okay and maybe of the few that sounds like Symphonic Metal to my ears. “Supernova”, the fourth track is certainly my favorite, the one that grew up on me over listening. Sharon shows us that she can kick, even with the use of electronica and make some catchy tunes.  Listen to it, and tell me you are not captivated by the catchy tunes:

“Mad World” is the next favorite, with a nice mix of both metallic and electronic giving this industrial vibe. Another one in which Sharon is excelling into giving us catchy tunes. “Mercy Mirror” is a fine one, with some metal elements, sounding more familiar to what we expect from the band. “Trophy Hunter” is the third favorite one of the album, by its industrial tunes and the catchy tunes.
Conclusion? Well I will be honest. Sharon has been talking about how the band was exhausted, tired, bored. The mean half of me would say “time to pull the plug and let go” and let members of the band grow and expand their own musical garden. The nice half of me would say “well the band is rebranding themselves with a new look, new logo more palatable to millennials”. By entering the realms of rock/electronic pop, they surely come with a added bonus and advantage because they were at some point a AAA band in the scene and would eat any meow-meow bands out there as my son eats his cereals for breakfast.
Yet, I feel bad and disappointed to have been served such a half-baked cookie after 5 years. Yes, there are some chunks in it that are yummy but the rest of the cookie tasted bland and lacked originality. Not even mentioning the anemic US tour that is basically ignoring the whole southern half of the US (the closest I can get is Denver, which is a whooping 7 hours drive), which adds an extra layer of salt on the wound. The disappointment left by the album makes me really reconsider investing into a trip to Denver. At least, they could have added Dallas to the tour (14 gigs only in the whole North America, including Canada). I guess this the time what I will let their boat sail, me on the docking pier, while swiping my tissue.

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Female-fronted Metal Gothic Metal Metal Music Symphonic Metal Uncategorized

[Metal/Opera Metal] Lux in Tenebris – To a New Eternity (EP)

After deciding to put an end on Darkonelly project band few years ago, Marion-Lamita have been working hard behind the scene to produce something different. The announcement back then left me skeptical and somehow disappointed. We can say that  her new project Lux in Tenebris has been producing something interesting. After releasing some solo titles on Youtube (that left me in a limbo, neither being enthusiastic nor being pessimistic about), Lux in Tenebris has released its first EP titled “To A New Eternity” last Friday. Because it is an EP, I don’t give a score but I will anyway give my thoughts on it. The first thing that strikes is the contribution of Liv Kristine (ex-Theatre of Tragedy, ex-Leaves Eyes). Liv has been always been supportive of small bands, in particular during their freshman album. Delain, Hydra…..
This is an EP of 7 titles lasting about 35 minutes with two interludes. We start the EP with  “Divine Mankind” bringing us Marion’s soprano voice, that same haunting voice from Darkonelly. What I like about, in this time in which female-fronted metal symphonic metal is facing a huge glut of bands relying heavily on post-production, is the very particular moderate use of the keyboards. The music in this one is okay, sometimes a bit cheesy. Tony is in the growls on this one, a first time for him. Fairly good for a first-timer. The second one, “Chaos in Beauty” is sounding in my opinion more interesting, sometimes reminding me of Therion. Thats a good track you should listen.
The third track “Mystic Euphonia”, is my opinion the worst track of the album. I don’t know, it must be the beginning of the song that induce some aversive reaction. I don’t like it. At all. The first interlude “Temple of The Soul” has this kind of tribal vibe that is not bad. “Triangle of Light” is my opinion, the best of the EP. It has this pharaonic vibes by the beginning of the song, a very good mixture of the guitars and the synthesizers. It gives me “la palate” so it must be good. Quickly follows the second interlude “The Imperator’s Arrival”.  The last song “The Grand Design”, again featuring Liv Kristine.  It is quite good, decent work here and I would definitely recommend listening to the song.

After almost four years since the disbanding of Darkonelly project, this is the first significative piece of work (in the form of a EP) to emerge from Marion’s effort during her transition into Lux In Tenebris. Although the EP is overall quite pleasant to listen, at this stage I consider it as a fairly rough and raw diamond. Considering it is a project mostly driven by Marion at this point, it is a decent EP to give a try on. It shows some potential, but at this time it needs refining to achieve an optimal shape. It also tells you that having Liv on board is likely that their artistic potential is here. Lets let the sunrise shed some lights and allow the project to emerge from the darkness into light, when opera and metal shed through the darkness.

 

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Female-fronted Metal Gothic Metal Metal Music Uncategorized

[Metal/Gothic] Theatre of Tragedy – Aegis (20th Anniversary Release)

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the second album by the Norwegian gothic metal band Theatre Of Tragedy. Listening to it reminds me how great the 90s was for the gothic metal scene and one of the most prolific period in which we have seen most of the metal divas entering the scene and in their trails new genre of metal in Europe and in particular from Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland).
Indeed, that period was the golden age for the second wave coming from Norway. This time a much different style and approach than the first wave made notoriously famous by the church burning and the intestine hatred between some black metal bands (You cannot go without mentioning the name of Varg Vikenes).
This second wave brought one of the most refined sounds to be heard in gothic metal by two Norwegian bands (Tristania and Theatre of Tragedy) supported by some of the most talented feminine voice in metal.
One of them is Liv Kristine, certainly one of the most hypnotizing voice in the “female-fronted metal bands” (I hate that word but I use it applied to the context of that period).
In this second album, named “Aegis”, Theatre of Tragedy learnt from their first album and perfected their sound and Liv her vocal performance. The result? A masterpiece of Gothic Metal. The album is a 10-track album spanning for about an hour.
We get aspired into it straight by the first title “Cassandra” wrapped by the mysterious atmosphere and the vocals of Liv. It is rapidly followed by “Lorelei”, that is more fast-paced than “Cassandra” but in perfect manner. “Angelique”, takes more into a melodic ballad that is reminiscent of a Lacuna Coil. A very relaxing track to listen. “Aoede”, the fourth track, is original and maybe very disorienting because at first we don’t know if they sing in Norwegian on this track until you read the lyrics and assume they wrote in Old English. Thats give the extra amount of mystery and stimulation. The fifth track, “Siren”, is certainly my favorite. By its composition, by its lyrics and by the voice of Liv Kristin. Definitely Liv is the Siren in this song, as we can only succumb to her voice and drown in the waves of melancholy and sadness. I would give any day a shoot to a “Theatre of Tragedy” to a “Leaves Eyes”. This is the kind of track that makes this album a must-have in your collection.
The rest of the album is also very good with tracks such as “Samantha”, “Venus”, “Poppaea”, giving an escape and some well refined gothic metal songs. “Bacchante” is probably my least favorite and its rightfully eclipsed by “Virago”, my second favorite of the album.
If you want to judge the quality of the album, submit it to the test of time and give it a listening session 20 years after the release. While in the 90s, some claimed the metal scene was deadbeat by grunge and alternative, it was only an appearance. It just needed to be searched, to be initiated by a friend or by a savvy record store to realize that underneath the visible, a whole new genre of metal was growing and morphing giving us some of the best sounds of the 90s. And Theatre of Tragedy was one of them.

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Female-fronted Metal Metal Music Symphonic Metal Uncategorized

[Metal/Symphonic] Whyzdom – As Time Turns To Dust (85%)

Whyzdom (probably the best French Symphonic Metal band IMO), after three years of waiting, released their fourth album “As Time Turns To Dust”. So, how does this album stands and compare to their previous releases? I would say unique and similar at the same time (for some reasons it reminded at times of their second album “Blind?”, propelled by Vince Leff at the helm and by Marie McLeod at the front.
We have in hand a 9-tracks song with 58 minutes of pure enchantment Whyzdom-style. It all starts with “Armour of Dust”, introducing us in a Hans Zimmer’s style “a la Dark Knight” followed by some classic Whyzdom. The second track, “Armageddon” is surprisingly not really my favorite despite being heavy. I don’t know why I dont really click on that one. “Fly Away”, is a good track but still missing something to make me all excited about. “The Page” is probably my favorite starting with a guitar solo and Marie, going crescendo and becoming more and more complex until you reach a paroxysmal euphoria. Thats the kind of auditive cues that make you limbic system overstimulated. “Follow Your Heart”, the 5th track of the album, has this Epica feeling that is making it very attractive. “Angel of Tears” is a good one, starting with the Celtic vibes and very dynamic. “Free As a Bird” is for some reasons reminding me of “Cassandra”. “The Mistchild” has this feeling of proximity of “Blind?”.  The last track, “Dust We Are”, is good but I have experienced more enjoyment in tracks of their previous album.
Overall the album is good, but I feel there was something missing. I really worked hard on this album by listening at least five times before writing my critique. I did not feel the shock and awe that I have with “Tears of a Hopeless God”, I don’t why. The album is good, but it was not giving me the thrills that would make it “an amazing experience”. Maybe it is just me becoming an old schmuck.
Anyway, the album is a good one and if you are looking for some new sounds in the Symphonic that is not from the four Valkyries of the Symphonic Metal, you should definitely try Whyzdom and feel what the French touch sounds like when they tamper with Symphonic Metal, something unique.

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Female-fronted Metal Gothic Metal Metal Music Uncategorized

[Metal/Gothic] Lacuna Coil – Lacuna Coil EP (20th Anniversary)

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the first EP of Lacuna Coil titled “Lacuna Coil”, released on April 7th 1998. Little knew that 20 years later, Lacuna Coil would have become a reference in the gothic metal scene and a flagship for representing the Italian metal around the globe. Lacuna Coil hit hard with their EP, with a unique vocal duo impersonated through Andrea Ferro and Cristina Scabbia that as today remains the founding members still present in the band line-up.
The EP is a six-tracks totaling a 28 minutes of pure delight in terms of gothic metal. Looking back to it, I would say that the musical style is maybe more frugal than the current direction, in the sense the sound is raw from instruments with little arrangements. Otherwise it is some pure Lacuna Coil, especially when you got into the group via their second album “Unleashed Memories”. They got it right, straight from the first try with this EP.
You recognize great bands by being able to get back into their discography and find the same enjoyment in listening to their debut album or extended plays.

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Female-fronted Metal Gothic Metal Metal Music Progressive Metal Uncategorized

[Metal/Prog] Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart (90%)

oceansslumber-banishedheart-reviewbanner-centurymedia

Do you remember how you used to get into listening awesome bands by having a friend recommending you an album? Yep, that happened to me as Geo recently recommended to give a shout to Oceans of Slumber latest album “The Banished Heart”.
Oceans of Slumber is a prog metal band from Houston, Texas elegantly blending various genres in their artistic directions with nice flavors of gothic, symphonic, sludge, doom and blackgazing into their music, all supported by the very unique voice of Camille Gilbert.
With their third album (and the first album for me :)), we have here an awesome 11-tracks album spanning over 65 minutes of metallic musical escape, swirling you into an euphoric daze.
We get into the album with “Decay of Disregard”, nicely introduced by piano notes giving blend of gothic and doom-infused ambiences and nicely introduced us to Camille’s voice. If I have to pick something, it is certainly her voice that is very unique from usually what I am listening to (mezzo-soprano opera, growls). Camille’s melancholic voice (almost a blues type of voice) is certainly the stunning part when you get introduced to the band.
“Fleeting Vigilance” and “At Dawn” have “je ne sais quoi”, something remembering the old days of Anathema and Swallow the Sun.
“The Banished Heart” is probably my favorite. Why? I dont know, because of its strong infusion of doom and gothic elements inside the track, all wrapped into a flow of a piano solo. Simply serendipitous track to listen. Just listen to it!

“The Watcher”, fifth song of the album, serves us as an interlude relying heavily on the synthetic sounds giving this feeling of synth wave. “Etiolation” continues and sounds more like regular prog metal. Thats fine for me but not transcended either. In the opposite, the following track “A Path of Broken Stars” have this kind of melodic power metal reminiscant of some old Kamelot tunes. A damn good one to listen. “Howl of The Rougarou” starts with half an acoustic, followed by regular and melancholic tones.
“Her in the Distance” is another interlude, again all betting on the piano and a strong Gothic atmosphere. Oh yeah, this is how you can make me happy. “No Color, No Light” starts with something like straight from an old Anathema album (in other words some amazing Gothic vibes), with all the doom and the gloom with it that nicely blend with Camille’s melancholic voice. My second favorite track!. “Wayfaring Stranger” is the last track of the album. It is good, but maybe a bit too much “dubstep” for my ears.
Taken together, this is an amazing album to pick for this month. It will take out of your comfort zone into new musical venues and experimentation and blending with different subgenera in metal. I always criticize the US metal bands community for revolving around the same “death/grind/metalcore” circle, leading in my opinion a poorer diversity and complexity compared to Europe (notably, US metalheads often dismiss European metal bands for being too complex or not tough enough to their ears). That  often ignoring some shining nuggets outside of this range. Oceans of Slumbers is one of these nuggets that worth being discovered and supported, rivaling with some of the best band on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. For this reason, they get my “album of the month” sticker.

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Female-fronted Metal Metal Music Symphonic Metal Uncategorized

[Metal/Symphonic] Whyzdom – Armaggedon (Official Video)

Whyzdom, in my opinion the best French symphonic metal band as of today, is slowly but surely bringing their fourth album “As Times Turns To Dust” is teasing us with their first title named “Armageddon”. The album is expected to hit record stores on April 6th.

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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”

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Female-fronted Metal Gothic Metal Metal Music Uncategorized

[Metal/Gothic] Evanescence – Synthesis (85%)

ortexAfter several years of hiatus, Amy Lee and Evanescence broke their silence by releasing “Synthesis”, an album providing a re-orchestration of their previous songs. Amy dropped the guitars and the drums to let place to other instruments. Amy is already gifted by a beautiful voice and a talent to play piano. When Evanescence mixed her voice with her piano melodics, this is where my auditory and limbic system explode into a serendipity.
Evanescence played a sort of gateway for me to explore the symphonic metal genre (this is how I got introduced to Nightwish and Within Temptation) but never went fully symphonic. How does the album stands without metal riffs and drums?
It stands good, some songs are impressive by their intimacy and their simpleness, some are kind of a disappointment. Let’s go through together the 16-tracks spanning a bit more than 63 minutes.
We start with “Overture”, an instrumental opening track that introduce us to the piano and violin tones that are the trademark of the album. The first track is the cover of “Never Go Back” from their third album “Evanescence”. Listening to the piano opening sequence is just a thrill on the skin, giving me some goosebumps. This is an example of a successful cover by its ability to remove the heaviness of the original and still sounds so wonderful to the ears. The third track, “Hi-Lo”, was one track that was initially planned to be in “Evanescence” but was not retained. As is it is, it is such a beautiful and intimate song that makes you wonder how it would have sounded in its metal version.
In the opposite, “My Heart is Broken” (the 4th track) sounds much better in its original cover because it already provided such a wonderful blend of the metal, piano and Amy’s voice. The 5th and 6th tracks were sounding as good as the original cover are “Lacrymosa” (The Open Door), “The End of The Dream” (Evanescence).
“Unraveling”, the 7th track posing as an instrumental and melancholic piano solo interlude is sounding so beautiful by its own.
“Imaginary”, the 8th track, is one of the biggest disappointment. The original one, already present in their EP “Origin” was simply perfect as it was, a perfect blend of Amy musical and vocal performance with the heaviness. It was one of my favorite of “Fallen”. This cover just axed it and fail to give justice. What the heck Amy on that one?
“Secret Door” is as good as the original one. Both were instrumental in their conception, very light and sober so they are very comparable. Some of the finest compositions of the band and kind of make you wish they pursued into the direction of Within Temptation or Nightwish. “Lithium”, another of my favorite from “Fallen”, also received the good treatment even amplifying the beauty of the original version.
“Lost in Paradise”, the 12th track, is another failed attempt and liked the original more than the cover in this one. “Your Star”, contrasts and shows how a cover can give back some justice to a track often went unnoticed in the original album (The Open Door).
Track 14, “My Immortal” is the litmus test. I have listened to two versions of the track back in the days: the radio edit version that was heavy and one bootleg downloaded from P2P (Kazaa or eDonkey, I don’t remember) that had the instrumental segment purely on the piano. The cover one revives the bootleg ones, embellishing it and making it even better. Damn, I wished this track and “Bring Me to Life” were not appended to the cinematic turd called “Daredevil”.
“The In-Between” is a piano solo new song written for the album. Oh my! Such a delight of listening Amy playing the piano on this one and emphasize the grave notes giving this melancholic feel to the song. Nobody plays the piano in the metal scene than Amy.
“Imperfection”, the last track is the last “meh” on that album. Not a big fan of it, sounds like a mishmash of styles that makes in my opinion an undigestible thing to listen.Be a judge by yourself you can listen to it below.
https://youtu.be/7_XoKJP1XK4

Now I am really mad and disappointed i missed on the latest Evanescence tour (due to scheduling conflict) because after 15 years and the loss of Ben after “Fallen”, Evanescence still stand strong of its feet and really should explore some facets of the symphonic metal. A recent meet and greet between Amy and Simone Simons (Epica) could open up some collaboration, especially with some input from Mark.

 

 

Categories
Female-fronted Metal Gothic Metal Metal Music Symphonic Metal Uncategorized

[Metal/Symphonic] Nightwish – Angels Fall First (20th Anniversary)

Today marks the 20th of the release of the Finnish Symphonic Metal band Nightwish “Angels Fall First”. It is interesting to think that for some reason Tuomas does not consider it as their first album. Sure, it had a limited release, mostly in Finland, but I still consider as their first album.
It is interesting to listen back to this album in its retrospection. It is an 11-track album, lasting a 67 minutes. Coming back from that day, the first thing that comes into the attention is the use of keyboards elements wrapping the guitar riffs. But foremost, it is Tarja that brings on the attention. In my knowledge (and I maybe wrong on this one), this is the first instance of the presence of a trained of a professionally trained mezzo-soprano. Sure, femal-fronted metal bands were already here including in gothic metal bands like The Gathering.
It starts with “The Elvenpath” setting the tone, with excerpt quotes from the 1978 cartoon movie “The Lord of The Rings”. The second track, “Beauty & The Beast” somehow sounds like more Nightwish as we know it today, in which Tuomas keyboards lead the charge. A 10:22 track of some awesomeness in the blend of the instrumental symphonic elements with the guitars melodics played by Empuu. Thats it, the prototypical symphonic metal track that surely inspired many to also experiment the same in their studio. You can take anyone in a blind test, ask him or her the band behind the song and get “Nightwish” cited most of the time. I discovered this album much later than the release, but I can imagine the reaction folks had back then. “The Carpenter”, third track of the album is more in line with gothic metal elements, sounding more familiar. It is also the first track of the album featuring Tuomas in the vocals. I guess there is a reason Tuomas hates this album and also why he does not sing in the other albums :p. It’s okay but yeah kind of a let down from “Beauty & The Beast”. Just listen here.
https://youtu.be/Z4A5HwMOfW8

“Astral Romance” brings up the album to a higher level, that is another favorite in my playlist, some good old Nightwish here (I somehow prefer these kind of outdated tunes from their most recent albums). “Angel Fall First”, the fifth track, is somehow introducing us to the powerful keyboard ballads that Tuomas will produce later in his career. Again, Tarja’s voice is magnificent even in her beginning career. “Tutankhamen” brings the metal kick back in, making it very enjoyable. Again, I could serve it into a blind playlist and someone would swear this track is part of their later album. “Nymphomaniac Fantasia” is a nice one too, but maybe a bit “cheap” in my opinion. “Know Why The Nightingale” is another good one from the album.

“Lappi (Lappland)” is the only Finnish song but oh boy, I can guarantee a lots of headbangers rushed to a Suomi dictionary to understand the lyrics. But who cares? You don’t need to understand it to feel the beautiful in this song. Again, it hints us about the whiz inside Tuomas in handling the keyboards, much more at ease than singing. Some damn good old Nightwish!

The album concludes with “Return To The Sea” inspired by gothic elements and finally “Once Upon A Troubadour”, that is honestly not much my favorite. Blame it on Tuomas or not, I don’t know just not that fond.