[Metal/Melodic Metal] Alwaid – The Machine and The Beast (90%)

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Sometimes, the post office can bring you a nice surprise in front of your doorstep. That surprise was coming from Alwaid (Lille, France) through the form of their second album “The Machine and The Beast” I have contributed in crowdfunding sometimes end of last year and beginning of this year. I completely forgot about it and I guess the French post office also probably forgot how to send it overseas, so it ended up last week in front of my door.
This second album is an 11-songs album spanned over 57 minutes. What I can tell is very dependent on if you have listened or not to their first album “Lacus Somniorum” because it is an almost 180 flip from this one. Let me explain. Their first album, it felt mostly ethereal having this atmospheric doom metal vibes backed by the high vocal ranges of Marie (the front singer). In this one, you get blown by the heaviness of the album. It is like trading the calm shores of the Sea of Black Tears and now facing the Guns of Navarone, the Stalin’s organs with the heavy riffs and fast-paced melodics leveling up everything in front of it. Even Marie traded her high vocals into much lower tones. Thats explains why I found it takes a 180 flip from “Lacus”.
Things starts with a symphonic opening “Enter the Other One Inside” giving this aspect of grandiose rapidly followed by the heavy tones of “Amphisbaena” reminding us something similar to “Hei! Aa-Shanta’nygh!” but also something different: Marie hitting the low octave for the first time in their discography. You are kind of confused if Marie is still in until she hits the higher notes as a reminder (yep, thats Marie!). Alwaid bringing up the big show, big time in their opening act! It is rapidly followed by “When Giants Wake” and “The Whale” bringing some melodic death tunes in it, keeping you riding afloat. “The Lord of Cities” reminds me a lot “The Scream That No One Heard”, my favorite on “Lacus”, feeling like a power metal ballad by its fast-paced drums, its heavy and melodics  and Marie high-vocal pitch. It is like riding a Rainbow Unicorn from Hell and slashing orcs and ghouls in the Valley of Death. “Monsters By Gaslight” have this kind of feeling that I would hear from Whyzdom (another of my favorite French metal band) and pumps you up enough to grab your mighty axe and slash some demons.
“Sang Noir” slows down the whole album but in a good manner, bringing this melodic ballad track with some familiar with “The Cypress Grove”.
“So The Song Went”, track 8 brings on this orchestral opening giving this feel I had with “Alghavil Altannin” from their previous album, slow and  languishing pain almost feeling like doom metal. “Idle Riddles And Rhymes” is certainly the most symphonic song of the all album, with this dark symphonic tones. “Fractalized” is the acoustic ballad track of the album, with an acoustic guitar that is a pleasing. “The Call of the Wild” is the one that I would say is the weakest track of the whole album. I don’t know why or to how to explain it but found it quite displeasing to my ears.
Alwaid perfectly renewed their winning formula of “Lacus…” and yet improving it by making it heavier, bolder, faster and darker. In a time where a lot of FFM bands water down their metal with post-processing or an overuse of keyboards putting the guitars in the back burner, Alwaid brings them upfront. The result? Something that makes you feel like riding in the Valley of Death on a Unicorn from Hell and slashing an army of orcs with your mighty axe. France, slowly but surely, is joining the elite club of FFM bands and Alwaid is certainly the challenger you want to keep an eye on. Rightfully, it merits the June “album of the month”.

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

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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.