As one of the premiere Power Metal bands in the world, Finland’s Sonata Arctica needs no introduction. Arriving early October 2016, the band unleashes their ninth full-length release appropriately titled “The Ninth Hour”. Filed with eleven tracks and around 60 minutes of high-octane music, the band is at the top of their game and delivers the levels of epicness that fans expect from them.
Opening with the dynamic “Closer to an Animal”, the band starts in typical Sonata Arctica fashion with playful guitars and keyboards and the signature Tony Kakko voice. The album continues with excellent over the top tracks like “Life”, the brilliant “Fairytale”, and the mellow “We Are What We Are”, which adds medieval/folk music influences into the mix.
For fans of highly melancholic and atmospheric music, today we have Hanging Garden’s latest opus “Hereafter”. Perfectly continuing their musical journey into more Atmospheric Rock territories, this Finnish band has come a long way since their crushing Death/Doom Metal days. Featuring 21 minutes divided in five tracks, this release delivers highly melancholic music filled with great guest vocal appearances, perfect for any fans of the band or highly atmospheric music.
Opening with the heavy riffs of “Penumbra”, the band complements the clean vocals of Toni Toivonen with the crushing growls of guest singer Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow the Sun). This track is quite melodic and yet delivers some crushing riffs and heavy moments. Continuing with the heaviness, “Sirkle of Onan” keeps things heavy thanks to a firm pace and Victor Wegeborn’s Post-Metal styled vocals.
Hailing from the Netherlands, today we have extremely promising Progressive Metal outfit Armed Cloud and their debut release “Obsidian Desert”. Featuring over 57 of music, this release is both engaging a very technically proficient, showcasing the band’s songwriting skills and instrument abilities. Recommended for fans of bands like Circus Maximus, Ayreon, and Pain of Salvation, this release will keep you entertained for a while.
Opening with the playful title-track, the band instantly sets a very mellow mood filled with intricate details. This song showcases Daan Dekker’s excellent vocals and the tight percussions of Rico Noijen. Getting a good vocalist is vital for Prog bands and Daan does a great job in pieces like “Wound Healer” and the dramatic “In your Mind”.
Six years after their brilliant sophomore release “Falling Mist”, today we have Heaven Grey’s latest opus “Manuscriptum”. As one of the hidden Baltic gems of Gothic/Doom Metal bands (Frailty is another one), the band delivers nine excellent tracks of melancholic music which show the band’s musical evolution over the years.
Opening with the dramatic atmospheric intro of “Insomnia”, the band nicely settles with some melancholic riffs and very well crafted tempo changes. This track perfectly sets a very mellow and depressive mood that is nicely enhanced by the excellent clean vocals of the band’s new singer Artūrs Fishers. Mixing clean and harsh vocal styles, tracks like “Drown in My Shade” and “Sirds Balss” showcase a perfect balance and great complementarity between the styles.
Hailing from the UK, today we have Winterfylleth and their crushing fifth full-length release “The Dark Hereafter”. Crafting a very unique atmospheric brand of Black Metal, the band manages to deliver 40 minutes of relentless music. Improving upon their already refined style, the band perfectly captures oppressive atmospheres and blistering drumming into an all-encompassing well rounded package.
The album opens with the mesmerizing title track, filled with aggressive BM riffs and hyper-fast tight drums, creating a whirlwind-like atmosphere filled with brutality. With such an intense opening, the band manages to transition into a more melodic driven “Pariah’s Path”, which builds an intense atmospheric cloud around itself. This nine minute peace perfectly captures the band’s balance between melody, atmosphere and brutality in such a lush and yet devastating way.
Hailing from France, today we have Folk/Death Metal outfit Drakwald and their sophomore full-length release “Riven Earth”. Showing that France also has representatives on the Folk Metal scene, this release delivers 44 minutes of engaging music that will have you headbanging from start to end.
Not wasting much time to showcase their power, “Doomsday Argument” shows the band with full strength sounding like a mixture of Amon Amarth and Eluveitie. As tracks like “Erase by Fire”, “Primal Dawn” and “Rebrith” roll through, we can hear that the comparisons can be skewed more towards Eluveitie as the band’s bagpipes and flutes make them gravitate in to this territory.
The legendary Opeth returns with another exploration further down the rabbit hole or Progressive/Psychedelic rock with “Sorceress”. Constantly evolving and experimenting with their sound, the band offers 11 brilliant tracks that feature tons of unique ideas and excellent craftsmanship. If you have been a fan of the band’s last three releases, this album will certainly be one of the ‘must have’ releases of 2016.
Opening with the solemn acoustic guitars of “Persephone”, the band quickly ups the ante with the trippy and Proggy “Sorceress”. This track instantly showcases the album’s very fuzzy and warm sound, particularly on the guitars, giving it a certain vintage vibe that perfectly fits songs like “The Wilde Flowers”. The band nicely showcases their diverse musical repertoire in more direct songs like “Will O The Wisp” and its lush progressions.
As one of the most unexpected returns of 2016, today we have Gothic Metal band Darkwell with their third full-length release “Moloch”. With a separation of 12 years between releases, the band comes back to life with an exciting release in the vein of their debut “Suspiria”. Combining elements from Gothic Metal bands from the late 90’s like Dreams of Sanity and Trail of Tears, this release presents us with eleven tracks filled with heavy riffs and lush atmospheric elements.
Opening with the album title track, the band quickly sets the mood with catchy riffs and tight drums. Alexandra Pittracher returns on vocals and her signature style instantly brings back memories of the band’s debut release and our favorite track in that album “Realm of Darkness”. While the music structure has remained very similar, the keyboards, courtesy of Raphael Lepuschitz, feel more dynamic and edgier with some electronic elements to be found as you can notice on songs like “In Nomine Serpentis”, “Save My Sight” and “Yoshiwara”.
Hailing from Spain, today we have Post-Metal newcomers The Holeum and their debut release “Negative Abyss”. Drawing influences from the likes of Neurosis, Amenra and Cult of Luna, this band pushes the boundaries on the genre with unique ideas and very engaging songs. Delivering 8 tracks of skilled aural abuse, this band is ready to take the scene by surprise.
The cosmic journey starts with the intense bass guitar line of “Chemical Ghosts”. This track is probably the most straightforward one as it follows your typical Post-Metal song aside from a few interesting tempo changes. Our favorite track in this release has to be the Doomy “Philosopher’s Stone” and its very atmospheric nature. During one of its melodic passages they perfectly add a saxophone section that magically elevates this unique song.
Arriving from the UK, today we have Abandoned Stars and their brilliant debut full-length release “Fragments”. Featuring over 64 minutes of bombastic and acrobatic Progressive/Power Metal, this band makes a strong impression with great musicianship and even better song writing skills. For fans of bands like Blind Guardian, Rhapsody, and Stratovarius, “Fragments” is one hell of a musical ride that should be in everybody’s album collection.
Not wasting much time after the traditional atmospheric intro, “The Sleepless Man’s Conscious Dream” instantly sets a very lively tempo with solid guitar leads and intricate tempo changes. Olivier Hadder’s vocals are quite distinct and range from power/heavy metal notes to darker and more somber deeper tones, giving them great range and diversity, as we can hear in the excellent “Neverwhere” and the rest of the release.