[Metal/Melodic Death] Exalt The Throne Last Show @ Dallas, TX (O’Rileys Bar – 07/29/2017)

We are born, we live and we die. Some people call it the circle of life. I don’t, i prefer the allusion of the thread of life metaphorized by the Ancient Greek through as the Moirai (or Fates) Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos. We exist as a thread with our beginning and our end. We cease to exist with the continuum but we remains as part of the fabric (history).
Same applies for our intellectual endeavors, scientific and artistic alike.
I have seen bands being born bringing the joy and the excitement with their innocence and novelty. I have bands that have been following me through my life, becoming a sort of travel companions through my own journey. Sadly, I also have seen bands giving their last breath and close their eyes.
The announcement of a band going into hiatus or disbanding is always a sad news to hear because you know that you will not experience anymore that auditory and visual stimuli that made them listen and like their work, over and over.
One of the band that lately gave their final curtain, their “barroud d’honneur” was Exalt The Throne (Dallas, TX). I discovered the band very recently as their supported Epica second leg North American Tour following the release of “The Quantum Enigma”. It was love at first sight because of this very interesting blend of melodic death (with high-paced guitars of Charles, Tim and Kanyon and drums) with symphonic metal (clean female vocals performed by Courtney). It was neither the former nor the latter. It was its own blend that made them unique. When the band announced their final show a month ago, it was unexpected and a very sad moment to experience.
However, I decided to drive all the way to attend their final show and have a chance to collect a last souvenir from the band. The gig was short but oh boy you could feel how the band matured over the last 18 months, refining their performance.  The band played three of their songs present in their album “Long Live the King” (“Long Live The King”; “Perpetual Agony” and “Rampant Idolatry”) and one cover from Amon Amarth (I ain’t fan of folk metal but if someone can help identify the song, I would be more than happy to update this post).

If I have to find a silver lining into this final show, I would definitely cite the first law of thermodynamics that stipulates “energy is not created nor destroyed in a closed system, it is only transformed and transferred”. Same applies to the artistic energy. It is only transformed and transferred. I wish to the band members all the best and success in their endeavors and in their personal and professional careers. The king is dead! Long live the king!

 

[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.

[Metal] Exalt The Throne – Long Live The King (80%)

After months of waiting, I finally got my hand on Exalt The Throne first full-release “Long Live The King”. Exalt the Throne (Dallas/Fort Worth-TX) was one of the biggest surprise as a opening band for Epica during their concert in Dallas at the beginning of the year.
It was a last-minute change in the line-up and completely unexpected, so you can imagine the surprise to see a band opening for Epica and have absolutely no clue who they are and what style of metal you will listen to.
Well you would expect something symphonic since it is opening for Epica right? Wrong. It was even better than that. It was a blend of melodic death (with some great guitar riffs of Charles Benson, also a member of Astyanax) with the clean mezzo-soprano female voice of Courtney. That was a blast, despite audio technical difficulties.
After months in waiting, they finally released their first album, a 9-track album named “Long Live The King”. Of course, gave my commute test to it. Result? A fairly good start for a first-time release. I liked it.
It is heavy, sometimes fast-paced (like you would expect from any death metal band), sometimes harbor very nice solo melodic guitar riffs from Charles. So at first, you would take it as a death metal. Then comes Courtney with her clean mezzo voice and bang, your brain is entering a conundrum state, sometimes conflicting but I find it really interesting. You get lost between in a complex decision-making between jumping into the mosh or standing listening to Courtney.
Why? Because you have a nice blending of the bold and the beautiful.
The album is overall good, I did not have any particular track that for me stood up. But that’s not bad, it means the album is not conceived around two-three songs and then molded with some filler.
The engineering is very raw, no synths and no the fluffiness you would expect from any Dutch symphonic metal album. The mixing has been done fairly well, considering the band likely worked on a tight budget.
Now after listening to the album, I am in need to see them live. The problem? The ride to Dallas, that’s a good 5-hour ride. Hopefully they will have a date with a decent line-up in a weekend to bait me for a ride down to the DFW.
Long Live The King!

[Metal] Happy 4th of July! My personal list of US metal bands to celebrate

Today marks the 6th anniversary that I celebrate 4th of July as a national holiday. A classical time that we take the opportunity to get blue-white-red cupcakes for the kids, turn on the charcoal on fire for grilling some patties for some good home-made burgers and spending time with family.
My exposure to the US was through the US culture, in the golden age of the 80s, when the US provided France with damn good TV series (Magnum PI, The A-Team, Diff’rent strokes, The Fall Guy, the Million Dollar Man….), a remarkable toyline (GI Joe, Transformers, Masters of Universe….) and also through music (mostly pop-music such as Michael Jackson or Madonna).
My entrance in the US metal scene was early on during my teenage years with Metallica blasting in my headphones. I got through them with “The Black Album” and later on went back into their discography. Surprisingly enough, I did not bought much into the US metal scene for different reasons. But maybe the first reason is probably the US metal style that greatly differs from the European metal style. What makes the European metal style unique is the certain complexity in the melodics and the lyrics, contrasting with the rough and brutal US metal style or the completely non-serious of the glam metal. Where in Europe you could almost sit and listen to the live performance, the US one is experienced by moshpits and wall of deaths.
Surprisingly, the symphonic/gothic metal scene in the US is fairly discrete and dwarf compared to the European counterparts. Where Nightwish could fill a Wembley Stadium, a local gig capable to handle 1000-persons is considered already impressed. I came with the conclusion that Americans like their metal like they like their cars: bold, heavy, crushing and not afraid of being aggressive. Imagine my face when I first landed in Texas and faced all these Dodge Ram 3500, Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado pickup trucks roaming on the road and parking lots, me coming from a country in which a Renault Clio, a Peugeot 205 or any minicar was lauded for their frugality on gas and the ease to sneak into parallel parking.
However, if you sneak through broken paths, you can find that some bands surfing on Amy Lee’s seminal work with Evanescence opened the field for a small but motivated fanbase for gothic metal, symphonic metal and even melodic death metal.
Therefore my list may appear very limited and biased towards gothic/symphonic/melodic death metal and some of the US bands I have uncover during my few years in the US.
Although I highly praise the work of Metallica (San Franscisco-CA) and System of A Down (Los-Angeles), I will give priority to small bands.

Aria Flame (Detroit-MI):

Aria Flame is a gothic metal band from Detroit (Michigan) fronted by Aziza Poggi. The band has a very special sound that nicely blend with the voice of Aziza Poggi. No sugarcoating with sound engineering, the sound is raw and very mesmerizing, hard and soft in the same time. A very unique sound that make them unique and avoid to sound like a copycat of any European mastodons.
If I have an only wish, I wish I could see them live. They rarely tour and have mostly their live performance.
Their EP “A World of Silence” is available through iTunes. Sit down, listen and enjoy!

Destiny Beard (?-PA):

Destini Beard is a classical example of several of the US FFM I have encountered, that are the driving force of a band and also working alone. Destini Beard work is mostly recognized through her collaboration with Midnight Syndicate, providing a romantic gothic metal sound, straight from an Allan Edgar Poe or a H.P. Lovecraft novel. A magnificent voice supported by a monotonic piano and languishing tone, bringing this aura of mystery, dusty and haunted dreams.

Evanescence (Little Rock-AR):

Certainly the band that got me into FFM gothic and symphonic metal  bands. Before listening to Tarja, Sharon, Simone or Anneke, I listened to Amy.
Who does not know Evanescence? The band came in with a breaking ground first album “Fallen” that certainly created some ripple effects in the US Rock and Metal billboard and surely acted as a front door in the US (and probably in Europe too) to the Gothic and Symphonic Metal Wonderland to the mainstream music scene.
Got into Evanescence with their album “Fallen” that was good alternative metal/gothic rock with a fiery discussion whether Evanescence is belonging to metal or not (I consider it part of the metal genre, with really on the outer rim overlapping with the rock).
At the same I fell in love with Amy’s voice, I fell in love with my wife (for her Evanescence is the most metal band she will go into).
Not only talented with her voice, Amy is also a talented pianist. Certainly one of the best female metal artist from the US.

 

Exalt the Throne (Dallas/Fort Worth-TX):

Exalt The Throne is one of this band I have discovered purely by random during a gig. It was during a Epica concert as they played the opening act as a last-minute choice. I came, I listened and I was vindicated. The band is fronted by Courtney Johnson with a melodic death metal genre. This particular blend is very interesting because FFM with clean voices are in the Symphonic, whereas FFM playing in the death metal are usually growlers. This very nice blend of the bold and the beautiful is very refreshing and takes you by surprise.
The band just released their first album “Long Live the King” and will be reviewed later this month as a physical copy just came in last week. The album can also be purchased through iTunes.

 

FayTree (Atlanta-GA):

FayTree is a female-fronted melodic death metal band still in its infancy, with a single out and a EP in progress. Falls into the similar chords than The Agonist or Arch Enemy. I cannot really talk much about the band since it is still into its infancy but worth to keep in your bookmark. Their single “insulation from consciousness” worth to keep an eye on:

 

In This Moment (Los Angeles-CA):

In This Moment. If I have to define my relationship with the band, it would be “it’s complicated”. Fronted by the charismatic Maria Brinks, I really liked their first three albums that were very good and promising until the band started to part out with the original lineup, one album at the time and taking more a direction lining on what I call “FM Radio Metal”, something more accessible but also as tasty as a Tandoori chicken without the spices in it. This also translated into live performance made with Brinkettes posing on stage and a burlesque fashion-show.
I really hope that the band reconsider getting back to their roots. To give you an idea of how good they were, listen to “Beautiful Tragedy” from their freshman album “Beautiful Tragedy”.

 

Kamelot (Tampa-FL): 

Kamelot. Kamelot. Maybe what I call an UFO, as the first thing that comes in mind that Kamelot is a power metal band from Scandinavia. But a surprising trivia is Kamelot is a power metal band originating from Tampa (Florida). This is kind of the paradox of the US metal scene: Kamelot is highly popular abroad the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and below the Rio Grande  (they are big thing in Latin America, from Mexico down to Argentina and Chile) , yet mostly underexposed in the US territory. This is a band that has been touring for over twenty years and was iconized by the suave voice and romantic lyrics of Roy Khan. Certainly one of my best MFM US power metal band.


Mercy Isle (Detroit-MI):

Mercy Isle is gothic metal band, an off-shot formed by Cory Scheider, ex-guitarist from the former Ottoman Empire (fronted by Mary Zimmer) and keyboardist Joop de Rooji (sharing his time with Aria Flame) and fronted by Kassandra Novell. It is a fairly new band, with an EP “Storm” and an upcoming album “Undying Fire”.  Mercy Isle is an example on how crowdfunding campaign such as Indiegogo or Bandcamp can help small bands get a chance to produce and sell themselves.

Mary Zimmer (Madison-WI)

Mary Zimmer is a particular metal singer. She is very good at what she is doing but for some reasons, the bands she was fronted last for a couple of releases before breaking apart. Mary can growl and sing vocals, giving this brutality and elegance.
She has being doing a terrific job as a front singer with the Ottoman Empire/Luna Mortis (Wrathshot, Anemic World) and with The White Empress (The Ectastic and The Sorrow, Darkness Encroaching).
Most recently, Mary announced her departure from the White Empress and launched her solo career as Santa Marta, still under development as we are talking.
Mary brings the heavy, the brutality and fast tempo that are hallmarks of the US metal.
My only regret? I wish I discovered the band when I was postdoc-ing in MadCity and that I see Mary performing live.

 

Felt forgotten from that list? Well bring a link to a YT video or a Soundcloud stream and if I like it, you will make it in next year’s list.

 

 

 

[Metal] Exalt The Throne – The Tempest

Exalt the Throne, a melodic death metal band from Texas Dallas-Fort Worth area just released a lyric video for “The Tempest” from their upcoming album “Long Live The King”.
The album release date is scheduled on June 24th and will be accompanied by a promoting gig the same evening at Tomcats in Fort Worth.

 

[Symphonic Metal] Epica concert @ Gas Monkey Grill & Bar, Dallas TX

IMG_1052

Last week, I was finally lucky to attend Epica live performance in the Lone Star State after a series of cancellation in the last two years for various reasons.
The band performed this year at the Gas Monkey Bar & Grill in Dallas, TX with the warmup by local bands including Exalt The Throne (Melodic Metal), Divine Retribution (Melodic Christian Metal) and Infidel Rising (Progressive Metal). Man, what I can say it was a blast and an eye opening for different reasons.
I purchased the VIP package and what I can say the tour organizer was fairly generous: a poster of the tour, a meet & greet with autograph session with poster and single photo session with the band and a T-shirt to mark the event.
The meet and greet was great with really having the band down to Earth and very friendly. After the VIP session, we were welcomed by the beginning of the show with Exalt the Throne. Surprisingly, the band was not listed up to late in the programming so it was surprising. But it worth that surprise. I was truly impressed by the band with very good guitar riffs, heavy bass and a nice vocal in the person of Courtney. It goes heavier than what you would expect in the Symphonic Metal, more lurking into the Melodic death metal without having the female growls you would expect from Alissa or Angela.
It was followed by Divine Retribution that was also very good and reminded me a sound very similar to the Ottoman Empire when Mary Zimmer was experimenting the alternance of growls and clean voices.
Finally we had Infidel Rising that was sounding like some old progressive metal, a blend of Kamelot with some lyrical ballads straight from the 80s, something you would have experienced from Ronny Dio or from Bruce Dickinson.
Living in a state in which the FM radio is balancing between Jesus and country and with the only radio station is recycling old rock music from the 80s and 90s, it was a great bubble of fresh air.
Then came Epica late that night (standing on my feet since 5PM is a bit tiring) but definitely came and blast the show. Starting with “Originem” bringing one by one all the member with the exception of Simone that comes in with “The Essence of Silence”. Man, it was loud, it was bold, it was fantastic to see Epica playing from their whole discography with tiles such as “Cry the Moon” to their latest songs from their latest album. The band was interacting and teasing with the audience, making this bound that I dont see often with other concerts.