Borrowing from bands like Moonsorrow, Wintersun, Eluveitie, Vintersorg and even some Borknagar, today we have Germany’s Finsterforst and their fairly decent Folk Metal. Having seven members amongst their ranks, this band delivers an authentic feeling without overdoing it on the Folk elements.
Opening with the catchy “Schicksals End, the band nicely builds momentum and keeps the listener pretty entertained for the nearly 15-minute duration of this track. While the length of the song is unconventional for the genre, the band drives it home with solid riffs, tight drumming and a very crisp production that highlights all different vocals and atmospheric elements. The band keeps their groove with another engaging song with “Zeit für Hass” and its battle-like stance.
On the days we are feeling nostalgic about the good old times of Dissection and similar bands that created and innovated with melodic riffs and epic songwriting, we turn to Thulcandra and their first two full-length releases. Unleashing “Ascension Lost” in 2015, the band continues to develop their old-school sound and make it their own, greatly improving on all the previous ‘borrowing’ they did from Dissection.
The album kicks off with the melancholic “The First Rebellion”, a fast-paced piece that is sonically pleasing and very technically proficient. The band’s proficient mixture of melodic riffs and old-school Black Metal is quite solid and songs like “Throne of Will” and “Deliverance in Sin and Death” are a testament to their abilities. Steffen Kummerer and Sebastian Ludwig are a highly skilled guitar duo that carries this release from start to finish with their intensity and creativity.
Hailing from Colorado, today we have the elusive duo The Flight of the Sleipnir and their fifth full-length release titled “V.”. Featuring seven tracks of very mellow improvisational-style Psychedelic Sludge/Doom, this band delivers a very unique aural experience with over 59 minutes of very diverse and sonically pleasing music that evokes the likes of folk-induced Agalloch, Velnias, mixed with countless Doom Metal acts.
The release kicks off with a very Empyrium-esque opener with “Headwinds”, a track that slowly builds up to some powerful Sludgy riffs and tight drumming. The mixture of and Sludge elements is quite well crafted and the clean vocals nicely fit the bill, the harsh vocals while odd at first create a very contrasting vibe that ultimately fits the song perfectly. Things get a bit more psychedelic, or should we say ‘sludge-chedelic’ in the trippy “Sidereal Course”. This song has a very nice free-flowing vibe and feels like a jam session in some places.
The charismatic Liv Kristine is having a very hectic 2014 with the release of her latest album “Vervain” and her touring/recording duties with her female super group The Sirens. In this installment of her solo career, she delivers ten very catchy and engaging tracks that will surely satisfy her legions of fans and nicely continue her well defined musical trajectory.
Opening with the catchy “My Wilderness”, we have a nice combination of her beautiful vocals and strong guitar work to deliver a heavy-but-catchy track. As one of the best tracks in this release, “Love Decay” channels H.I.M and Theater of Tragedy in a very effective song featuring Michelle Darkness of End of Green. The chorus section in this track is truly memorable, and the sparse keyboards reminded us of Theater of Tragedy in their “Aegis” era.
As one of the most polarizing bands in the world, Alestorm returns with their whacky pirate metal with “Sunset on the Golden Age”. Setting sails with 11 very odd tracks, the band continues to expand their sound with some new influences, and further refines their craft with more direct and enjoyable anthems of drinking, pillaging, and some more drinking. If you have always been a supporter of the band, you will notice how well they have evolved into an outfit that crafts very interesting songs that are quite technically proficient as well as engaging and catchy.
Instantly making an impact with the festive “Walk the Plank”, we have a traditional Heavy Metal-influenced song that features thunderous guitars and a chorus section that will make you raise your fist and start chanting. The album’s first stand-out single: “Drink,” is a superbly crafted catchy tune that will make you drink alcohol non-strop. Featuring several ‘wenches’ in the official video of the song, this is one hell of a party song that you don’t want to miss out on.
Bouncing back from losing yet another vocalist, Xandria returns with Dianne van Giersbergen fronting the band and with their most mature record to date “Sacrificium”. Marco Heubaum continues to push the band, and with this release they greatly surpass their previous release “Neverworld's End” with a more cohesive and rich sounding album.
Opening with the 10-minute album title track, we are treated to lush orchestrations and commanding riffs. The band’s sound is quite powerful and Dianne’s vocals fit the sound perfectly since they are very operatic and well defined. With the new front woman, the band pushes the envelope with more dramatic and bombastic songs like “Nightfall”, “Dreamkeeper”, and “Stardust”.
Left at a crossroad when three band members left the band in 2012, Diabulus in Musica comes back in full strength with their third release “Argia”. Featuring 13 songs and around 55 minutes of brilliant music, the band pushes the boundaries of their sound. Perfectly balancing aggression with lush symphonic elements, Diabulus in Music has crafted one of the best Symphonic/Gothic Metal releases of 2014.
The release opens with the very cinematic “Et Resurrexit (Libera Me)”, only to fully develop into the bombastic “From the Embers”. In the later track we have a strong Metal foundation with powerful riffs and harsh vocals. The ‘beauty and the beast’ approach works very effectively for Diabulus in Musica, perfectly blending Zuberoa Aznárez and Gorka Elso dynamic vocals. Zuberoa’s unique range is very characteristic and provides an identifiable signature for the band’s music.
In a year filled with exciting new Gothic/Symphonic Metal releases from bands like Within Temptation, Epica, Stream of Passion, Diabulus In Musica, etc., Delain delivers their best effort (to date) with “The Human Contradiction”. Led by the charismatic vocals of Charlotte Wessels, this release is the whole package in terms of excellent songwriting, a perfect balance of aggressive and melodic tracks, and an overall intensity that only the best bands of the genre can deliver.
Opening with the engaging “Here Come the Vultures”, we are immediately immersed in the band’s melancholic melodic vibe. The songs are quite well structured around powerful guitars and expertly crafted vocal melodies that make for a very intense and exciting album. With guest vocals from Marco Hietala, a staple in the band’s best songs in their previous releases, “Your Body Is a Battleground” and “Sing To Me”, the band keeps the intensity to the max.
Marking Van Canto’s triumphant return, today we have “Dawn of the Brave”, the band’s fifth full-length release. For all the people that feel appalled by the band’s interpretation of Metal, should really get over it and start embracing the sheer talent showcases by the band’s unique approach and uber catchy songs. Featuring 13 tracks, 10 own songs and 4 covers, this release is packed with killer (vocal) solos and majestic melodic arrangements.
After opening with the intense ‘orchestral’ intro “Dawn of the Brave”, the band immediately moves into their comfort zone with the epic “Fight for your Life”. With a style akin to Power Metal, the band immediately creates very epic vocal arrangements that after a few minutes you won’t even notice they are lacking all instruments, except the drums.
Formed by three ex-members of Sonic Syndicate, The Unguided takes some elements from said band and delivers a high-octane release filled with melodic riffs and excellent vocal melodies. The Sjunnesson brothers (Rich and Roger) lead this band with their superb songwriting skills and eye for catchiness. Delivering 11 explosive tracks, “Fragile Immortality” is one of the first standout releases of 2014.
Opening with the bombastic synths of “Inception”, the band sets a very dynamic and futuristic tone with the first song. The approach of growls/clean lead vocals is very similar to bands like Solution .45 and Scar Symmetry, allowing the music to be quite expansive and engaging. Richard Sjunnesson handles the harsh vocals and sounds like a ‘heavier’ version of Alexi from Children of Bodom. The clean leads are quite intoxicating, provided by Roland Johansson, and they leave other vocalists way behind on the awesomeness curve.