Coming back after an intense four years of touring since their last release back in 2008, today we have Moonspell and their most ambitious release yet: Alpha Noir / Omega White. In this double CD release, the band delivers one complete CD with the aggressive side of the band, and another with… we don’t really know since we didn’t get that part of the album, but Fernando Ribeiro says is more mellow, dark, and deep.
Opening with the powerful yet enigmatic “Axis Mundi” the band shows no signs of slowing down and delivers a typical catchy Moonspell track. With a very ritualistic feeling, the vocals are very commanding and the guitar riffing is excellent. With no need for excessive guitar layering or studio trickery, the band delivers crystal-clear sounding rawness in a very Moonspell fashion.
Hailing from France, today we have the Heavy/Power Metal outfit named Lonewolf and their surprisingly very engaging release “Army of the Damned”. While not having anything original about their sound, Lonewolf does an excellent job in crafting 11 super-catchy headbanging inducing tracks that will stick to your head for days to come.
Opening with the track titled “Lonewolf”, the band delivers commanding guitar riffs and solos, powerful keyboards in a very traditional sounding track that is super catchy in nature. The vocals are your typical late 90’s raspy Heavy Metal style, but they actually feel very well fitted for the more modern and richer sound of the band. Things continue to get even catchier with the excellent “Crawling to Hell”, a track that has a slight Manowar vibe. The chorus section is pretty solid, allowing this track to have all the makings of a true Metal anthem.
With a very interesting and bombastic sound, today we have Sweden’s own AtomA and their debut full-length “Skylight” out on Napalm Records. In this release we have a trio of musicians crafting a unique musical experience that has way too much stuff going on at certain times. While the band’s sound is lush and powerful, it also feels a bit misguided and confusing, making this release a interesting experience but ultimately not cohesive enough to be fully praised (at least by us).
Opening with the ritualistic “AtomA”, this track has a very ‘tribal’ feeling to it with a mixture of futuristic soundtrack elements and some electronic stuff thrown into the mix. As an opener it helps set the listener’s mindset to something completely different, but it also feels a bit convoluted. “Skylight” capitalizes on the initial build up with some more extreme atmospheric elements and powerful guitars. The drumming is very well crafted, but sounds a bit drowned in the mix. The clean vocal sections are pretty solid and provide a nice ethereal feeling to the band’s brand of music.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the American band Huntress delivers an early candidate for ‘2012 album of the year’ with their debut full-length “Spell Eater”. With over 40 minutes of hard-hitting Heavy Metal, the band’s attitude (and music) is as real as it can get when it comes to Heavy Metal. Led by the talented (and equally sexy) Jill Janus, this band is not your average mellow Metal female-fronted band, but rather a full-fledged war machine that will surely demolish your ears.
Taking influences from Heavy, Black and Thrash Metal, the album opens with the crushing “Spell Eater” track. The opening riffs scream Black Metal immediately, but as the song progresses and Jill’s vocals come through, the old-school Thrash influences seamlessly appear. This high-intensity track nicely marks the pace of a very diverse and extremely well crafted album.
As one of the very few internationally recognized Gothic Metal bands from Spain, today we have Diabulus In Musica and their Napalm Records debut release “The Wanderer”. Greatly improving on their debut full-length “’Secrets”, the band consolidates their sound and delivers 12 tracks of brilliantly crafted Gothic/Symphonic Metal that will bring comparisons to Epica, Nightwish, etc.
Revolving around the heavenly vocals of Zuberoa Aznárez (we challenge you to say the name 5 times straight), “The Wanderer” feels a lot more mature than their previous effort in the sense that all tracks are more concise and everything shines at its own pace. After the bombastic intro, “Ex Nihilo” shines with heavy guitars, intricate drumming and very enchanting choir sections. This song indeed sounds a lot like Epica but when Zuberoa’s vocals kick in, it takes a whole new dimension. Very sweet and commanding, her voice is one of the signatures of the band and sounds like none other.
After reviewing what felt like thousands of uninspired Viking/Folk Metal releases in 2011, we now find ourselves wondering where these kinds of albums are in 2012. After the disappointing latest release of Eluveitie, it is Heidevolk’s turn on the hot seat. “Batavi” marks the band’s fourth full-length release and it shows great maturity from the band in terms of songwriting, but not too much in terms of diversity.
Using almost no ‘fancy’ Folk instruments, the band relies on powerful and catchy guitar riffs to carve their own sound. While we would have immediately discarded this album if we heard a fucking hurdy gurdy, but Heidevolk delivers a very well-targeted riffing assault that will appeal to fans of bands like Tyr, Falkenbach and Moonsorrow. For over 39 minutes, “Batavi” delivers very traditional and ‘simple’ songs that are pretty solid due to their catchiness.
Many people (including us) thought that Xandria was finished when their iconic vocalist Lisa Schaphaus-Middelhauve left the band back in 2009, but with their latest album “Neverworld’s End” the band sounds better than ever and are turning heads and convincing non-believer. Taking on a more bombastic sound, the band fully uses Manuela Kraller soprano vocals to song like a real Gothic/Symphonic Metal band should and blow listeners away with a very rich and diverse sound.
One thing that came immediately to us after the first few spins of this release is that “Neverworld’s End” actually sounds a lot like early Nightwish when Tarja was in charge of the vocals. Before all haters go and complain about this we must say that while playing similar music, Xandria feels very refreshing since most of the good Gothic/Symphonic bands are not trying to sound pop-ish and commercial friendly. This leaves the field completely open to bands that stick to was good a few years ago and still manage to sound Metal enough.
Led by the multi-faceted vocals Martin Steene, Iron Fire delivers the latest mash-up album with “Voyage of the Damned”. Featuring a plethora of vocal styles and ridiculous amounts of layering and studio magic, this release actually sounds very dynamic and highly efficient. The band’s Power Metal trademark is clearly evident but it is all the ‘extra stuff’ going on that makes them truly unique and different.
The real album opener “Enter Oblivion OJ-666” features over the top keyboard arrangements graciously overdone by extremely over the top vocals. Martin goes back and forth between styles never sounding dull, and in a weird way we actually liked it a lot. The somewhat more conventional “Taken” showcases the ‘serious’ side of the band and delivers a very powerful and well crafted track.
Seems like the extremely talented Ed Warby still wants to sing and his (again) god-awful vocals adorn this release, but luckily the music is heaps better than on the band’s first release “Burden of Grief”. The mood in “Lacrima Mortis” is a bit darker thanks to the more ‘gothic’ elements introduced in this release as well as the deep growls of Pim Blankenstein Officium Triste. The riffing is also more dynamic and keeps the attention away from the horrible singing.
With the opening track “We All Die Alone”, The 11th Hour starts with a desolate piano section accompanied by violins that will make you drop anything else you are doing and focus on this release 100%. The riffs are majestic in the sense that they transfer those juicy depressive emotions we love about Doom Metal. Ignoring the crap-tastic clean vocals, this song is very powerful and melodic. The My Dying Bride-esque “Rain on Me” quickly follows and by this time you know that “Lacrima Mortis” will be one hell of an album.