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.
Opening 2012 for Napalm Records today we have The Kandidate’s sophomore release “Facing the Imminent Prospect of Death”. The band plays and inferior version of label mates Hatesphere’s Groove infused Thrash Metal. While not entirely bad, “Facing the Imminent Prospect of Death” is an album devoid of any originality and it is as vanilla as you can get.
Featuring the original Hatesphere singer Jacob Bredahl, this release indeed sound a bit like older Hatesphere without the constant improvement they offered through the years. The crunchy opening track “Death” delivers pretty solid riffing and a very catchy nature, but it kind of feels a bit cold for an opening track. The music gets a bit better in the next track, but it never really picks up. We have some nice powerful riffs that circle around the songs a bit too much and never really hooked us into liking the tracks.
Four years have passed since Nemeasea’s last album “In Control” and on this 2011 they return stronger than ever with the very well crafted “The Quiet Resistance” release. Morphing from a Symphonic Gothic Metal outfit to a more alternative and fresher Gothic Rock sound, the band manages to keep things ‘heavy’ and not sound overly Pop-ish like many Gothic Rock/Metal bands have been doing in the last years.
Lead by the charismatic and powerful vocals of Manda Ophuis, Nemesea’s sound has matured greatly over the years and now they deliver confident and efficient songs that go straight to the point and never get dull. The band’s alternative and almost mainstream sound is still on their own terms and they never sound like a mash up of Britney Spears with some distorted guitars thrown into the mix (hint: Amaranthe).
Playing something called “Bear Metal”, according to what the band says, Svölk delivers us their latest full-length release “Svölk ‘ Em All”. This release is basically their 2009 self-released debut but with three new songs. Through 12 tracks the band delivers a heavy dosage of Stoner Rock/Metal elements with some ‘Nordic redneck attitude’, but it still sounds just like any other Stoner Rock album.
With all the hundreds of Stoner Rock/ Metal albums that come out almost each day, it is very hard to keep listening to the same stuff and like all of it. While Svölk is undoubtedly a solid band and the songs in this album are pretty good, they can’t avoid sounding just like everybody else. The best thing we found about this release is that the band does not try to play (too much) the ‘Southern’ vibe in their music, but this might be what is coming in the future of this band.
As you probably know, we are huge Doom Metal fans, so every time a new release comes our way we prepare ourselves to fully enjoy one of our favorite genres in Metal. “Born from Shadows” marks the return of Isole after two years since releasing “Silent Ruins”. In this release the band finally fully convinces us by mixing slow and painful sections with a few speed-ups and harsh screams, a bit like My Dying Bride did in their past.
The repetitive and tuned low riffing is a must, and on “Born from Shadows” it is perfectly developed. With the opener “The Lake”, Isole quickly delivers dominating riffs paired with the epic vocals that we are not quite so fond, but in this release the band pulls them off perfectly. The speed up and harsh vocals section in this track is very nicely timed and works wonders to keep the song going for the seven minutes it lasts.
With its latest incarnation, Visions of Atlantis delivered earlier this year one of their best albums to date with “Delta”. In “Maria Magdalena” follows the same path of showing off the amazing vocal chemistry of Maxi Nil and Mario Plank. Featuring six songs, this new MCD will keep fans satisfied after listening to “Delta” hundreds of times.
The opening track of this release “Maria Magdalena” is a cover of 80’s synth-pop artist Sandra, and it is actually a pretty decent and listenable cover. The tempo of the song has been nicely increased and with added distorted guitars sounds like a million dollars. The duet between Mario and Maxi is very similar to the original song, but with that nice Metal edge we expect from this band. The catchy chorus section is also nicely transferred to the VoA sound.
Metal’s most original band in the last few years returns with yet another A Capella Power Metal release that will rattle your speakers since track one. “Break the Silence” marks the band’s fourth full-length album and also features a bit of a shift into more a ‘melodic’ sound. However, we are still treated to 40+ minutes of pure vocal brilliance and amazing melodic catchiness.
Opening with “If I Die in Battle”, the vocal powers of Philip Dennis Schunke and Inga Scharf lead the way over the amazing ‘vocal instruments’ that back them. In a ‘slower’ and more melodic way we have plenty of mmmmm’s that keep an epic feeling to the song and give it a darker edge. “The Seller of Souls” delivers a more ‘traditional’ Van Canto sound and leads the way for some powerful vocal bass line and some excellent vocal guitar sections. With a nice Power Metal feeling this song has nice choir sections and a very perky pace.
After multiple line-up changes, today we have the return of Hatesphere and their aggressive Thrash Metal sound, but now refined with a Hard Rock edge that makes them even better than before. Changing vocalist is a major move for any band, but Esse Hansen delivers powerful pipes that nicely fit the band’s evolved sound.
Through the nine tracks presented in “The Great Bludgeoning”, the band delivers powerful Thrash Metal anthems that sound very sophisticated and intriguing since they don’t seem to be ‘more of the same’ stuff we get with countless Thrash releases these days. With the powerful opener “The Killer”, we immediately listen to the different distortion and melodic nature of the guitar riffs, something very refreshing considering the band’s previous two releases sounded very similar to each other.