[Metal/Doom] Trees Of Eternity – Hour Of The Nightingale

I wish I could have reviewed this album in a better context, but I also wanted to review this album in the memory of late Aleah Stanbridge. Aleah left us that day last year, leaving us orphan with her only album “Hour of The Nightingale”.

I started to know Aleah only after learning her death from the announcement by Juha Raivio (Swallow The Sun) last year. Sadness and tears came by listening to her ethereal  and melancholic voice, perfectly matching to the gothic and doom metal artistic style harbored by the album.

“Hour Of The Nightingale” is a 10-track album totaling 63 minutes of beautiful doom metal tracks. The album starts with “My Requiem” introducing us to Aleah’s voice and to familiar tunes, as Juha from Swallow The Sun collaborated heavily on this album, among other Finnish metal artists. It is minimal but so heavily laden with emotions through the lyrics that it infuses you with the melancholy of nostalgia. The descent in the melancholy continues with “Eye Of The Night”, “Condemned To Silence”.

“A Million Tears” brings on the doom and the gloom, making it one of my favorite. Melancholic tunes, the ethereal voice of Aleah and the lyrics loaded with sadness and full of sorrow, making it hard to keep on your tears. It wrenches your mind and makes the mourning even more painful, even after a year.

“Hour of the Nightingale” and “Broken Mirror” may sound a bit more cheerful, with a touch of sludge metal (a sub-genre in the doom metal involving an infusion of Southern metal)  in it but it is still loaded with emotions.

“Black Ocean” gives this atmospheric doom tunes that providing a soothing moment, with a remarkable instrumentation and melodics. Finally, the album closes with “Sinking Ships”, leaving us ashore with a melancholic ballad and with “Gallows Bird” featuring Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost). Minimalistic but so powerful, making a perfect bond between one pillar of Gothic/Doom metal and a new generation.

It is a remarkable and flawless album, solid as a granite tombstone, with no imperfections. Considering this was her first album, it was a remarkable piece of artwork that very few artists could master at this stage. There is no filler, there is no weak tracks. All tracks are remarkable, yet each of them with the unique identity but all sharing the same converging point: the sadness, the melancholy and the mourning of loosing our dearest.

Aleah left us taken by cancer, roughly in the same time that one of my beloved uncle also got taken away by the same type of disease (very unlikely the same type of cancer, but from the metastatic cancer cells that have spread inside his body). We came far with our fight against cancers (because each cancer is somehow unique) but we are still far over on winning that war. Until then, we will loose more talented and affectionate people from it.

RIP Aleah 😦

[Metal/Gothic Metal] Within Temptation – Enter (20th Anniversary Release)

Today marks the 20th anniversary release of the first album of the Dutch Gothic/Symphonic Metal band Within Temptation.
What I can tell is after all these years, this remains my most favorite album by the band. Why?
Probably this perfect blend of doom, gothic with a pinch of symphonic metal and of course Sharon Den Adel alias “Angel Voice”.  It may also because it was the heaviest album they had in their whole discography. The album is an 8-track album totaling 46 minutes.
It starts with “Restless”, a minimal but nicely starter allowing to appreciate Sharon’s voice. A classic of all WT song. The second track, “Enter”, brings on the heavy guitars, Robert Westerholt growls and Martijn Westerholt (Delain) on the keyboards. This gives this magic formula that makes “Enter” such a good song, giving this magical and gothic feel. The third track continues in distilling this magic “Pearls of Light” with Sharon taking the lead with the sounds of the harp. Listening to this song brings this soothing relief, followed by the lead guitars smashing the heavy tones into it and giving this bipolar tunes between the heavy from the guitars and the lightness of the keyboard.
“Deep Within”, the fourth track is in the continuation of the tone of the whole album. Nice but I always felt it was the weakest of all songs, considering the whole album standing strong like a rock. “Gatekeeper”, the fifth track of the album, is my favorite of all. Heavily gothic and influenced by elements of doom metal, it is dark and gloomy with a crescendo in the instrumentation slowly adding the heaviness and boldness. I lost my voice each time I try to keep on Sharon’s frequency notes.
“Grace” is another good song (Nº6 song), especially the second half of it as Sharon takes on the main part. It is also reflecting the heavy influence of Kate Bush on Sharon singing style, using the same song dynamics than the latter used to. “Blooded” is the instrumental track of the album, a finely arranged piece that really marked the band with their signature. “Candles”, the last track, is another jewel from the album by keeping the same flow of “Gatekeeper”. It is so beautiful to listen, with its melancholic tones and Sharon soothing voice all over, only to get shaken by the heavy guitars and Robert’s growl.
If I had to go to exile with only one album from my favorite bands, this is the album I would take from Within Temptation without an hesitation. This is where I found they had their best blend and musical style before they sailed into other directions that were not following my ears.
My only wish is as we mark the 20th anniversary of that release is that the band decide to rediscover this rich and engaging style that made them at the frontier of the symphonic metal scene.

[Metal] Therion – Gothic Kabbalah 10th Anniversary

Today is my birthday (turning 38, Yikes!), including some other celebs such as Rob Zombie. It also turns out this day marks the 10th Anniversary of Therion thirteenth album “Gothic Kabbalah”.
The interesting thing with Therion is their ability to scramble paths and make unexpected moves. You cannot simply expect to hear the same tunes and melodics over and over, ending you discovering the band with every single albums.
This is also the case with “Gothic Kabbalah”, a 2-CD release, with 17 titles and totaling a bit more of 83 minutes.
The album is a clear departure from their previous releases, leaving the symphonic and orchestral tones of “Vovin” and “Secrets of The Rune”, navigating more into a progressive and even incorporating heavy metal tones.
It starts with “Der Mitternachtsloewe” setting the artistic tone and guesting Hannah Holgersson. It is seamlessly followed by “Gothic Kabbalah”, “The Perennial Sophia”, “Wisdom of the Cage”. “Son of The Staves of Time” is one of the official videos from the album, allowing me to share and let you appreciate the tone of the album whereas “Tuna 1603″and “Trul” failed to inspire me.

https://youtu.be/YY-EOYJQMMY?list=PL6582FC6AD17B80E2

The second CD starts with “Wand of Abaris” is really sounding like a gothic metal song and that why this is one of my favorite of the album. “Three Treasure” brings on the operatics that was the trademark of their previous releases. “Path To Arcady” has this heavy-metal tone blending nicely with the tenor and sopranos lead vocals, making another one of my favorite. “TOF – The Trinity” gets more into classical metal, nice but not more. “Chain of Minerva” brings on more a Therion-like track, whereas “The Falling Stone” brings up something faster in its pace, almost inspired by some power metal songs. “Adulruna Rediviva” is another masterpiece, some Therion safe bet. A 13:38 track that makes what Therion is Therion. The two last tracks are live performance of “Seven Secrets of the Sphinx” and “To Mega Therion”.

[Metal] A retrospective look to 2016 through my music library

2016 is wrapping up, with it a lot of moves in the metal scene. The classic cycle of life applied again to the metal scene: some bands were born, some bands artistically died but also some drama with the departure of front singers through a laconic note. What I can say that in my eyes, 2016 was a good year for music, a fair amount of good albums and  also avoided a couple of bad releases. Instead of going through a Top 10, I have decided to sort them by new artists, releases, anniversary albums and finally the albums that I avoided like plague this year.

1) The new kids in the block of 2016:
Arcadia (FRA): A new French FF symphonic metal band from my home region. I have reviewed their EP back in September.
https://youtu.be/PF3GO3DRaFk

Exalt the Throne (USA): That was the biggest surprise of 2016, as they were opening for Epica during their gig in Dallas last February. A great blend of soprano with engaging melodic death melodics. I reviewed their album “Long Live The King” back in June.
https://youtu.be/inQ1wuS5ZEs

Mercy Isle (USA): Who said that the USA was lacking FF metal bands? Mercy Isle dispel this misconception, offering a diverse and engaging first album “Undying Fire”. I reviewed this album back in November.
https://youtu.be/DSbGIf5kY4M

Midnight Eternal (USA): What would happen if symphonic metal and power metal have a offspring, with a drop of “manga” culture in it? Well it gives you Midnight Eternal and a very nice first album named “Midnight Eternal”. I reviewed this album back in November and you can check their sound here.
https://youtu.be/6zFRSctjyks

Rhenium (UK): Bands made by one person are rare, gothic metal bands made by a single person are even more these kind of rare birds. Yet that did not discovered Christina Rhenium to take the plunge and launch her first EP “Rise Above the Sea”. That gives some promising gothic metal ahead.
https://youtu.be/ZRSoN4F4A-Y

Santa Marta (USA): Technically, it is not a new band. But it is a new band formed by Mary Zimmer (ex-Luna Mortis (Ottoman Empire)/ex-White Empress). Mary brings on the primal rage, the nihilism and the sorrow that was her trademark in the previous band. Eager to see the rest coming.
https://youtu.be/YQbngOsvrHo

Thy Shade (USA): Let’s be honest, Symphonic is slowly and surely becoming a saturated genre, raising the bar higher and higher. Thy Shade is unique in her style, by taking a neoclassical approach to their style giving this majestic opera-style with guitar riffs. It got the album of the month in November and you can check the review.
https://youtu.be/3DMim1NLXUo

2) Bands that performed in town:
I have to be honest leaving in the Midwest means driving a good 2 to 5.5 hours for attending a metal concert. This was the case when I attended Epica, Nightwish and Ghost live performances. But sometimes, some small bands stop here and animate Yellow City with some good metal stuff. Two bands that caught my attention during their stop.

Scarlet Canary (CO): A small but nice rock/metal band fronted by Hannah, singing some covers and some of their songs. Bringing the fun in town, with a good dose of shot!
https://youtu.be/BSdQ97cWqqc

Singularity (AZ): They were part of a summer tour named “Make America Shred Again”, that was certainly the best band of the tour, playing some nice technical death metal and having a rad astrophysic tee 🙂


3) Bands that I discovered this year:
These are bands that have been hanging for a while but get introduced to either through some meta-projects or simply by being exposed to their material.

Ahab (GER): 2016 was certainly the year i digged into doom. But not all doom are equal, I am really in stuff that plays on the melodics. Among the band I have discovered, Ahab is just simply impressive. Melancholic and depressive. One of those albums you want to listen when life threw you lemon in a rainy and cold day, just grab them, slice them and squeeze one in your Jaegermeister to bring on the sufferance.
https://youtu.be/eK3ZlrH2ryY

Evig Natt (NOR): Evig Natt has been hanging for a while and I am still wonder how did I miss them. They are simply awesome gothic/doom metal bands that through Kirstin can percolate emotions. Their last album “Evig Natt” is a remarkable album. Want to bet how awesome they are? Listen to “Wildfire”
https://youtu.be/PfqEmgSCJtw

Gojira (FRA): You could not miss Gojira this year with their latest album “Magma”. A very nice and refined progressive death metal album, very nicely crafted that brings some variety in my library. Check them out.
https://youtu.be/iVvXB-Vwnco

Kalidia (ITA):  When I think Italy and metal, I have two bands that comes in my mind: Lacuna Coil and Rhapsody of Fire. This year, I added another band to my list: Kalidia. Fronted by Nicoletta Rossellini, they are delivering with their first album “Lies Device” delivering some nice melodics. Just check them out, you will not regret it.

My Dying Bride (UK):  My Dying Bride is surely known from any gothic metal enthusiasts, especially if you are familiar with Anathema and Paradise Lost. For some reasons that I am trying to understand, I never got proper introduced to this band until this year, although I have been listening to Anathema in their early years. I liked the early years of Anathema but then I dropped the ball as they went into a more alternative rock. In opposite, My Dying Bride maintained their gothic and doom metal influence, giving this nice melodics.
https://youtu.be/4e_c3XAPoUI

Nawather (TUN): Nawather is a Tunisian metal band that really marked my mind earlier this year with the release of their album “Wasted Years” by nicely blending their MENA  origins through the addition of the Qanun (this horizontal type of guitar played with a metallic finger tip) with metal and also by singing in Arabic.

Vivaldi Metal Project (INT): Vivaldi Metal Project was a neoclassical metal project that involved several metal artists in re-creating the Vivaldi “Four Seasons”albums that nicely blended the classical composition with a good kick of metal in it. I reviewed this album earlier this year
https://youtu.be/MRwRPYWK8XU

3) Albums that filled my disc library 

There are been several good albums that came out this year from established bands this year. I will not talk much about since they have been extensively reviewed in my blog and you go through.

Epica – The Holographic Principle: If I am correct, the best-rated album of the year. That was a damn good album, with Mark Jansen investing heavily in it making another masterpiece of my Epica library. So many good songs that I will be redundant to review them again. “Universal Death Squad” being one my favorite and you can listen to it below to assess by yourself the epic in Epica.
https://youtu.be/P_Ys_W7ySkM

Lacuna Coil – Delirium: It was certainly the best surprise of this year (with Metallica) as it was a long time since Lacuna Coil impressed me with an album (the last one that I found still enjoyable was Karmacode released…..in 2006). “House of Shame” is certainly the best track of the album, with an insane Andrea and a serendipidic Cristina, giving you this rollercoaster between euphoria and complete depression.
https://youtu.be/1o1MoG-cz9Q

Metallica – Hardwired….to Self-Destruct: 2016 was certainly the big return of Metallica after 8 years of hiatus in the production of their new album. A lot of expectations on this one as the band was split between two choices: renewing with the old fan base (thrash) or keeping on exploring new horizons (alternative metal) more accessible to the lay audience? Metallica with this album a compromise to conciliate the two camps. It was a good album, some great songs, some okay songs. The album is originally split on 2CDs, I felt it was a bit too much and could have fit in 1 CDs if the songs were kept below 5 mins each (you had the feeling that some songs were just stretched to fit over 5 mins). You can check my review on that one. One of my favorite? “Spit Out The Bone”, damn good ol’ thrash Metallica.
https://youtu.be/m46Z0-HXySo

The Agonist –  Five: Second album with Vicky Psarakis, replacing Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy). Good, solid album that reinforce Vicky’s credentials to sing cleans and growls,in the direct continuation of Eye of Providence.

4) Albums that celebrated their anniversary

2016 has been a good year to mark milestones on several bands in my disc library.

10th Anniversary: Delain – Lucidity (the best album in my opinion)

20th Anniversary: Arch Enemy – Black Earth (the first album by Michael Amott following his departure from Carcass); Anathema – Eternity (a pivotal album in their discography); Therion – Theli (the album that threw the framework for Symphonic Metal).

30th Anniversary: Candlemass – Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (the first album that set up the basis for Doom Metal); Metallica – Master of Puppets (the Metallica masterpiece by its transition from thrash into the powerful guitar solo of Kirk Hammett); Slayer – Reign In Blood (pushing the limits of speed metal and also one of the release that shook the suburban moms).

5) The good, the bad and the ugly: albums that were insipid and terrible
2016 have also seen some of the most terrible releases, insipid or completely senseless. Sirenia has certainly make the major mistake to dump Ailyn as a broken doll. Karma is a bitch and honestly “Dim Days of Dolor” sounds terribly bad.
Another disappointing album was from Sonata Arctica. It was been a while since the band produced a decent album and “The Ninth Hour” is certainly not the one that will bring back the former glory. Too bad.

[Gothic Metal] Anathema – Eternity (20th anniversary)

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Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Anathema “Eternity” album. If you dont know who Anathema is and into Gothic/Doom Metal, then you have to review your knowledge.
Anathema is an essential piece of the unholy trinity of the Gothic Doom Metal genre, along with My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost.
“Eternity” is what got me interested into Gothic and Doom Metal. When I was young, I was  old enough to listen to my older brother tapes and songs (as we shared room). My brother was big into New Wave, in particular “Depeche Mode”. I liked it too but I was also interested by “the Cure”. Of course, I did not get the proper introduction to it as my brother was referring it as “music for girls”. Then I reached my 10th year birthday and got into something much more tough, listening to Metallica, Iron Maiden and AC/DC. In high school, to get into Gothic Metal you had to hang out with the right friends, thing I wish I did retrospectively. Long story short, I got into Gothic/Doom later during college by listening to the Gathering and Lacuna Coil. Among tapes and CDs exchanged with classmates, I came into Anathema via “Eternity” and boom that was it. Something heavier than The Cures, much slower than Metallica but having the same vibes than The Gathering but also having darker lyrics. That was just in time in my life when I was into a depression. It helped me cope into it, giving this vector for catharsis of my depression and coping with a lost love.
The album is very pivotal in my opinion as the band transitioned from doom into gothic metal and that has evolved later into more accessible and more mainstream “indie rock”. It has still some of the heaviness of their previous albums, but also a lot of experimentation with progressive tones and keyboard that surely influenced me to move into symphonic metal.
If I have to pick one song from the album, it is certainly “Sacrifice”. It is starting very slow like any Gothic Metal song, with the romanticized lamentation and sadness, followed by the catharsis and excruciating pain to relieve such sufferance and at the end giving you the ability to move on with your life. A couple of weeks, there was a Twitter discussion about how music is associated with activation of certain area of the limbic system. One of the point was what did we have evolved some attraction to tones we qualify as sad. This album is the perfect example of why: by giving a cathartic vector to our sadness and depression, music can help us exteriorate it and help us move on with life.

[Gothic Metal] Evig Natt – Wildfire

Today the Norwegian metal band Evig Natt has released their official video “Wildfire” from their latest album “Evig Natt”. Dont get fooled by the simplistic photography, just listen to the music and enjoy the serendipity of Kirsten’s voice and make you realize that behind big names in the metal sphere, you have talented bands that have so much potential and talent that worth the share. Enjoy!

[Symphonic Metal] Delain – Lucidity (10th Anniversary)

Today marked the 10th anniversary of Delain first album “Lucidity”, as it was released on September 4, 2006.
Delain was founded by its core by Martijn Westerholt, former keyboardist Within Temptation, and Charlotte Wessels. This particular bound to Within Temptation (his brother Robert Westerholt is still the guitar of WT) certainly resonates into this first album, as I found heavily influenced by WT but yet at the same time well crafted for a first album. The album is highly symphonic and well crafted, as well as heavy and honestly it was the first and last time I felt a Delain album that would stick to me as long, as I found their drifting into a certain “poppy” sound may works for teenage girls, but not for the old schmuck that I became.
As I said this album is highly regarded in my collection, with the most of the album very enjoyable to listen. Charlotte’s voice is also very enjoyable yet not falling into the category of soprano voices of other Dutch metal singers such as Sharon or Simone. Also the combination of Charlotte and Martijn (clean) on the voices make it enjoyable without saturating your ears.
For instance, “Daylight Lucidity”, “Sever”, “Sleepwalker Dream” and “Shattered” are instant hits. Very well arranged, nicely blending the symphonic and the metal. Tracks featuring Liv Kristine (ex-Leaves Eyes) on “See Me In Shadow” and “Days of Ghosts” or Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation) “No Compliance” are also damn good. Indeed the number of tracks that I dislike are maybe one or two from a total of eleven tracks.
Surprisingly enough, after listening for Delain for 10 years and 5 albums on the counter, none of them was capable to move “Lucidity” from my playlist. Thats lament me because I really liked their first sound. Paradoxically, this is one of these bands I found better live than on records, as they sound much heavier on stage. Maybe this is the consequence of overproducing and overrating the sounds in studio?
If you don’t know Delain, I strongly suggest to get your hands on this one. This is the golden ticket to the band, certainly their masterpiece even after 10 years.