[Metal/Melodic Power] Kalidia – The Frozen Throne (80%)

Kalidia released their second full-album entitled “The Frozen Throne” on November 23th. I know it has been almost 10 days but I wanted to be sure I gave it enough time to give it a fair review.
How does it compare it “Lies’ Device” (their first album)? How does Nicoletta Rosellini vocals fare? Is Kalidia looking as a solid bet from Transalpine neighbors as an emerging band to watch for? Well I gonna try to answer all these questions. The album is a 11 tracks totaling 47 minutes. Overall, it is a solid album, comforting their first album and slowly but surely making Kalidia a band you should keep an eye on. It is growing slowly but surely, conquering lands and hearts one fiefdom at the time. I would say that maybe the band played it a bit safe and feels like the songs are sounding maybe too homogeneous in my opinion.
The first and second tracks are “Frozen Throne” and “Circe’s Spell”. Not much talking here, as I let the band sell themselves to you with their two official videos:

We start well, with some solid stuff that gives you fairly “la patate” while listening to them. The third track “Black Sails” starts with a “Pirates of the Caribbeans” feels and fairly decent. Good, but when I want some pirate metal, I bet my doubloons and my rum on Alestorm (and their anthem song “Drink!”). You can hear their song here:

The fourth and fifth tracks “Orpheus” and “To The Darkness I Belong”, are in my opinion are decent, but nothing giving me thrills. I don’t want to call them fillers, but feel like the weakest songs of the album. The sixth track “Myth of Masada” help us forget a bit these two songs, and gave us something decent to listen. “Midnight’s Chant” is maybe deviating from their power melodic tones and more luring into some Symphonic avenues. It is an okay song, certainly a good song to use in a radio station (as it is fairly accessible for a large audience). “Go Beyond”, “Amethyst”, “Lotus” are quite good power melodic one to listen to it, giving you some thrills inherent to power metal songs. “Queen of The Forsaken”, the eleventh song, sounds at times like a Nightwish song and nicely conclude the album.
Overall, this is a generally good power melodic album, and a fairly solid second release album from the band. Nicoletta gained comfort in her vocal style (singing in a lower tone than the usual FFM, which is makes it unique), the band gained experience and consistency, both marking an overall good outcomes in terms of the maturation of the band.
Yet, my major complains are that I feel we lost some of the risk-taking approach we had with “Lies Devices”, especially the keyboards seems to have taken the backseat in that album. The second complaint is that after a good start with three songs, we quickly reach a sort of “homogenous” middle that takes about the good second third of the album. It  sounds decent but feels redundant, repetitive, and playing artistically safe. I would personally think this album would have much more impact as an EP, as it feels the second third of the album as a weakness.
The band has generously uploaded three songs of the album on Youtube (see links) and I let you decide. I personally see Kalidia slowly but surely gaining ground in the Power Melodic Metal scene coming from Italy, slowly but surely conquering fiefdoms and hearts over time. Considering the double life of Nicoletta (she got her DVM recently, so congratulations Dr. Rosellini!) and likely the other band members, it is a nice piece of work delivered by a “little league band”. Remember, like any other little bands, they need support from you. You like it? Please consider skipping a McDonalds meal and invest in a melodic power metal band and buy their album.


[Metal/Doom] Clouds – Dor (95%)

The best musical compositions in my opinion are the ones that are capable to transcend the listener, to vehicle the feelings of the artist into the audience. The best musical compositions are the one that will not only stimulate your primary auditive cortex, but also activate secondary cortical areas, in particular your limbic system.
The limbic system, for those not familiar with neurosciences, is a complex and heterogenous brain structure encompassing different brain region that are below the brain cortex (what we refer commonly as “the gray matter”). It is involved in the memorization, but foremost is involved in the emotions: Joy, sadness, anger, calm…….
To me, the best musical compositions are the one that will make you happy, will make you sad, make you ballistic, or simply make you chill out and relax.
Amongst these four, sadness is my precious one. It revives dark periods in my life, periods that brought me emotional pain and somehow get hidden under layers of “everyday life” in priority. This is maybe why I have a natural attraction to doom metal. Doom metal helps unfolding and revealing this melancholy, brings back sad memories and sometimes makes me cry of reviving this sadness. Very few albums and songs reach that level but with the latest release of Clouds album “Dor”, it made me cry for 50 minutes. This is why it took me almost ten days and countless listening to be able to write down my review.
It is a 6 track album spanning over 50 minutes, yet you feel like it is a consistent album that would have been a single track. Clouds marvelously combine a chord piano playing on the bottom range, with ethereal melodic riffs, slow and heavy tempo. When you enter this album via “Forever And A Day”, you enter into a doomy and gloomy introspection into yourself as the melancholy comes in and unfold. Majestic!
The second track, “The Last Day of The Sun”, although still pretty good  feels like in my opinion the weakest one. With the third track, “When I’m Gone”, we have the featuring of Gogo Melone (Aeonian Sorrow, Luna Obscura). It is the first time I hear Gogo and her voice combined to the musical arrangement of Clouds reminded me the best years of Anneke Von Giersbergen and The Gathering. I am surely checking out her latest release with Aeonian Sorrow. Another remarkable track.
“Dor”, the fourth track, is the middle piece of resistance. It is being half-way drawing in the swamp of sadness and we do not feel to escape it. The band gives us an opportunity of an official videoclip, allowing me to share my auditive experience. Warning: get ready for a box of tissue and a bottle of liquor to drown these tears.

The two remaining tracks “The Forever Sleep” (featuring Pim Blankenstein) and “Alone” are in the same range and keep it on an excellent composition.
In the time as we see a glut of bands in some genres in the metal landscape that prime on quantity over quality, doom metal stands still and strong. It maybe not as dynamic as other genres (in which we have hundreds of bands), but each bands labelled as “doom metal” has their own sounds, their own artistic variations that makes them unique. And this is the case of Clouds. With the second album, the band show that simplicity of an acoustic piano is much better than an artistic composition mostly digitally created on a computer. Instruments should convey the feelings, let them be cold or warm. It is very frugal, but a very sincere and emotional listening experience in which we share the pain and the grievance of the artist behind. We relive our own grievance and sadness, as our limbic system opens up to the musical stimuli.
Rarely albums made me cry through the whole length of the album, and that tells me how excellent the composition is. Overall, it is an excellent second album that I strongly warns about the emotional content. You want to keep it for a rainy and cloudy grey skies day, a day you are recluse and looking for an introspection into your saddest and darkest memories. It gave me the chills, it let me wet tissues but it also helped me found some solace by allowing a catharsis of these emotions.

[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.


[Metal/Thrash] Metallica – …And Justice for All (30th Anniversary Review)

Following the recent announcement of the final remastering of the fourth Metallica album “…and Justice for All” at its 30th anniversary, I thought providing a retrospective review of this album was due.
“…And Justice for All” is the fourth album by Metallica that is a milestone for many different reasons. First, it marks the slow but steady transition of the band artistic direction from heavy thrash into more refined (and maybe watered down) metal that we will get with the “Black album” (still selling 27 years after its release). Second, and more tragic trivia, this is the first album lacking the bassist Cliff Burton. Cliff Burton died during their 1986 tour during their bus crash accident in Sweden, occurring roughly two years before the release. Therefore, this album has this particular feel and sound due to the lack of bass. That did not stop Metallica to produce a good album (I have a preference for “Master of Puppets” and “Ride The Lightning”), with 9 tracks spanning a bit over 65 minutes.
We get into the album with the classical “Blackened”, a very aggressive track that really contrast with the rest of the album that have this more mellow feel. It is followed by in my opinion the average “…And Justice for All”.  The third track “Eye of the Beholder” is still sounding this kind of “fatigue” giving this average to this song. However, things change when we enter the fourth track “One”. Certainly the quintessential track of this album by its complexity and by the narrative. It really speaks up to any WW1 enthusiast. It starts with the guitar solo following by a crescendo in the guitars riffs and the drums.  James kicks in the lyrics directly taken inspiration from “Johnny Got His Gun”, an anti-war novel depicting Joe Bohnam, an American soldier prisoner of his own body after loosing his limbs, his sight, his tongue and his hearing. As the song goes comes in this fantastic musical trick of reproducing a machine gun sound with drums and guitars, musically accompanying the violent lyrics of James. “Darkness emprisoning me, all I can see absolute horror!” depicting Joe waking up from his comatose only to realize he is prisoner from his own body. The fifth track “The Shortest Straw” brings back the aggressiveness of the previous albums. A good one but still lacking the punch from the Metallica you expect. “Harvester of Sorrow” is a damn good track. “The Frayed End Of Sanity” starts with the thematic of the castle of the Wicked Witch, and “To Live is To Die”. There are good, but I heard better from the band. Finally, “The Dyer’s Dye” brings back on the fast riffs and frenetic pace encountered with their previous albums.
Now, the hope to see this album remastered with bass is vanished as Lars mentioned that their final remaster of “…Justice…” will not include bass and we may have to consulate ourselves with this fan-made remaster including bass.

[Metal/Symphonic] Adrana – Pertubatio (10th Anniversary)

Few days ago marked the release of Adrana’s first album “Perturbatio” (according to Metal-Archives.com, it was released on June 8th 2008). What can I tell about from one of my favorite French metal band? That it was an interesting first album, that it can sounds sometimes goofy as any first albums but also also has some valuable gold nuggets, just by listening to the soprano voice of Anne is enough to bring it up into the ranking. And also because it has a lots of tracks sung in French, so thats another perk to add.
It is a 14 track album, totaling about 50 mins of songs. We get into it with an intro sequence “Enter Prusias” that sounds like a medieval swordfight (for me, it sounded like more a cutelry fight) which you can guess is a ramp to “Prusias”. With “Prusias”, you get insta-slapped by the voice of Anne, singing with her high vocal ranges really making the tone of Adrana over a “Symphonic metal” band and more into its own “Opera metal” subgenre.  Blending soprano opera feminine voices with metal riffs is my guilty pleasure and Adrana in my guilry indulgence. The second is the pace and musical arrangment, raw and not much relying on the synth keybaords. “Saneday” brings on with a piano solo and progressively introduce metal elements into the composition. “The Moonchildren” is one of the track that I found it a bit goofy, as Anne French accent betrayed her in the introducting narrative and it is quickly followed by “Mortelle Fourberie Infantine”, brining the fast-paced rhythm with Anne’s voice. One of my favoirte. It is followed by “The Nymph’s Corpse”, another of my favorite. But the “piece of resistance” is coming with the following track named “Gabrielus”. Oh boy, this is a battlecry song, that feel like jumping a ride on a white armored horse and raise your sword in the sky calling for the ultimate assault on the legion of orcs, all sang in French and with this might power metal tunes (the 14th track, is an acoustic version of “Gabrielus”). If I have to have someone introduced someone to Adrana, I would definitely use this track.
“Secret Gathering” is an another track that has some goofy elements, especially at the beginning. “l’Eveil de Marklus”, “The Lords of The Tapestry”, “Oprane” and “Ingalrian” are nice tracks but nothing transcendental for me. You can skip them without missing much in my opinion. But the one you should not skip is “Mortualia” that is almost an acapella/acoustic version of Anne with a baritone. Very beautiful if you are into opera voice.
In conclusion, “Pertubatio” is an album like any first album with some goofiness but also some potentials, both from Anne and from musical elements. Indeed, the band further blacksmithed their core element and perfected it with their following up album “The Ancient Realms”.


[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.

[Metal/Death] Cab Ride Home

I have a strong urge of listening something brutal this morning, in particular something from a band named “Cab Ride Home”. The video is a bit garbage (the audio is horrible!) but it is some good death. I let you with this video. Oh, did I mention that a certain Danica Roem is on the vocals? :p