Album Reviews

There is a wealth of metal out there to listen to, but everyone is different and it won’t all appeal to you. These reviews are aimed to be quick, bite sized paragraphs that give you an idea if an album is worth your time. At the end of the day it’s your choice, but hopefully these reviews can give you some ideas about what you would like to listen to next.

Genre

Heavy & Power Metal Folk/Black Metal Death & Thrash Metal
Black Metal Hard Rock/Metal  

Last 10 album reviews

Artist:

Æther Realm

Title:

Tarot

Released:

2017

Genre:

Melodic Death Metal

Score:

10/10

It’s finally here, and it’s awesome!

Æther Realm have released Tarot, their second album and I don’t think anyone who backed them on Indiegogo (myself included) will be disappointed with the result.

 That said, don’t expect to hear an album similar to their first effort, One Chosen by the Gods was full of tracks heavily influenced by the likes of Kalmah, Wintersun and Children of Bodom, and whilst this album does still occasionally borrow from them and others, the band have grown and the music they are producing is stunning, well written and original. The melodic death sound is still there, but there are even more genres weaved into the songs. You’ll find more black metal influences throughout, it has more folk elements to it too and at times it gets almost a Prog feel to proceedings, there are beautiful piano solos and even a bit of 8-bit chip-tune thrown in for good measure. And it all works, all of it, perfectly. Vocals are once again perfect (growls, clean, gang vocals), the lyrics are clear and meaningful, the album has a definite structure and narrative to it. The musicianship and production are superb, better than a lot of signed bands have released. The band’s dedication to the album is clear and the amount of effort that’s been put into its production doesn’t go unnoticed. On that note I’ll be keen to compare Wintersun’s new album to this one. A lot has been made of Jari Maenpaa’s ‘requirements’ in order to release new material and the crowd funding campaign put in place in order to do so. I have a feeling that Æther Realm’s lack of sauna is not going to hold them back though.

The album clocks in at an impressive 1 hour 13 minutes and contains tracks ranging from 3 minute pure riff driven head banging awesomeness through to a near 20 minute epic closing the album. There’s no room for one of my personal favourite tracks though, so they have ironically made 'The Magician' disappear. Hopefully for their next trick they’ll pull a U.K. tour out of their drinking horn.

Stand out tracks are 'The Tower', 'King of Cups' (featuring Chris Bowes of Alestorm and Gloryhammer), 'The Chariot', 'Strength', 'The Emperor' and the 20 minute long closer 'The Sun, The Moon, The Star'.

This album deserves so much praise, and so do the band. I urge you to give this a try and raise a tiny metal hand to the talented guys in Æther Realm. - Adam

Artist:

Unleashed

Title:

Dawn of the Nine

Released:

2015

Genre:

Death Metal

Score:

8/10

Unleashed return with another epic slab of Viking inspired Death Metal. Dawn of the Nine might not change the formula that has served Unleashed so well over the years, but it doesn’t matter when they are still writing such catchy head banging riffs. What this particular album does do is increase the melodic side of their work. There is a brilliant underlying structure to all songs that gives you the brutality of Death Metal that you want, along with the ability to hear an actual song.

The familiar themes of Vikings and a distrust of all things Christian weave their way into the lyrics, and are belted out by the ever brutal voice of Johnny Hedlund. Chugging guitars, tasty head banging riffs and crushing drums are all sounding great on this album.

Standout tracks are plentiful on this album, 'Defenders of Midgard', 'The Bolt Thrower', 'Let the Hammer Fly' and 'Welcome the Son of Thor' are probably the ones that stick in your mind the most. If you like Unleashed's previous albums then you'll like this one, if you've never given them a try before, then this is as good an album as any to pop your Unleashed cherry. - Adam

Artist:

Blind Guardian

Title:

Beyond the Red Mirror

Released:

2015

Genre:

Power Metal

Score:

7/10

Blind Guardian has released Beyond the Red Mirror, their 10th studio album, but in passing through the mirror have they left the essence of Blind Guardian behind?

It's a difficult question to answer, all throughout its unmistakably Blind Guardian, but this is a very different beast compared to Nightfall in Middle-Earth or even A Twist in the Myth. First things first though, this is a great listen. From start to finish the production and complexity that they have weaved into their music is staggering. This is both its biggest asset and biggest flaw. They have set out to tell a story, and the music flows beautifully with what they are telling, but, you can't help feel like you're listening to a movie score. I must stress that this isn't a bad thing, but having listened to the album over and over again I still find it hard to remember specific tracks. It's certainly hard to name a track that you can see a live crowd singing along to, let alone chanting the chorus long after the song is over like you see happening with 'Valhalla' from the Follow the Blind album. The orchestral elements are even more prominent on this album, and there seems to be an increased use of chants and choir based sections. It certainly isn't a particularly heavy album, guitar solos are there to help move the story along and feel like they serve a purpose, rather than an excuse for Andre Olbrich and Marcus Siepen to show off. It goes without saying that Hansi's voice is outstanding as usual and complements the music perfectly.

At the Edge of Time gave us a big hint that this was the path the band would be taking, it too felt very grand and almost OTT, but each song managed to keep its own individuality, allowing them to stay in the mind long after they were finished. It's hard to list standout tracks on Beyond the Red Mirror, the album really needs to be listened too in its entirety. 'Distant Memories' evokes some of the melancholy from early work, whilst 'The Holy Grail' emerges as probably the most likely track to work in a live capacity.

This is power/symphonic metal at its absolute finest and these guys stand head and shoulder above their peers. However, it's important to embrace the direction Blind Guardian are moving in, they are not the same simple power metal band from 15 years ago. This is high production metal which if you allow it, will send you on a voyage to a magical world, through the red mirror and back again. - Adam

Artist:

Finsterforst

Title:

Mach Dich Frei

Released:

2015

Genre:

Folk/Black Metal

Score:

9/10

Album of the year? Already? Well it certainly could be, that’s how good Finsterforst’s latest album Mach Dich Frei is. Translated the title is ‘Free Yourself’ and musically they truly have, you can really feel the culmination of a lot of hard work that has been evolving over the previous two albums Weltenkraft and Rastlos. Epic doesn’t really do justice to the immense sounds these guys have crafted. Songs can stretch over 10 minutes and have everything from orchestral flourishes, soaring clean vocals and accordions through to massive headbanging riffs and dirty black metal vocals (or “brutal roaring” as they state in the CD inlay). They really offer up a bit of everything, and everything done really really well!

Of course you can make comparisons to other bands and spot influences. The sounds of Moonsorrow, Falkenbach, Turisas and elements of Odroerir can all be used to help describe what you’ll be listening too, but I really think these guys offer up something rather special and unique. They are certainly going to be ones to watch, I can easily see this album catapulting them into the metal spot light.

Stand out tracks are 'Zeit Fur Hass', 'Mach Dich Frei' and the 24 minute time sapping monster that is 'Finsterforst'.

Next time I go down to the deep dark murky forest I’ll have some new troll hunting metal to listen too.

- Adam

Artist:

Winterstorm

Title:

Cathyron

Released:

2014

Genre:

Power Metal

Score:

8/10

It's a nice feeling when you find a Power Metal band whose music doesn't just fade away from thought the minute you turn off the album. Don't get me wrong, I love my Power Metal, but it's so often the case that it can all sound a bit bland and by the numbers. This is not the case with Winterstorm. They have come up with some of the most consistently catch song choruses I've heard in ages, and you'll soon be joining in, voice in full power mode with fists in the air (unless like me you listen to a lot of metal whilst driving, best keep the hands on the wheel then!). What they also have is a knack for creating songs that keep you on your toes. There are no relentless one riff songs, instead you'll soar from group choirs, through orchestral flourishes and epic guitars solos all following a story about, yep you guessed it, heroes, demons and a mythical world right out of a D&D geek's wet dream. It's done so well that it's a simple joy to listen to the album all the way from start to finish and take in the epic journey.

There are no vocal surprises here, it's solid and executed well with clean vocals all the way through. Stand out tracks are 'Burning Gates', 'Elders of Wisdom' and 'Call of Darkness'.

Carrying on the current trend to create a song created from names/albums/songs from other bands, Winterstorm have come up with 'Metalvial' and it's quite a catchy little number. It's also extremely fun trying to catch all the album titles they have used. Overall I'd recommend this to any Power Metal fan looking for an album that does more than just fill an hour of listening. This stuff sticks with you and you'll be humming many of the catchy riffs.

Artist:

Fractal Gates

Title:

Beyond The Self

Released:

2014

Genre:

Melodic Death Metal

Score:

7/10

A light and quiet opening minute opens Beyond the Self and then you're hit full in the face with a classic melo-death riff on Fractal Gates second full length album. Yet another of the amazing bands available through Bandcamp, what you have here is a very well executed and polished Melodic Death Metal album. There are some great riffs throughout, showing that they can do the one essential in this genre and add some melody to the brutality. The vocals are extremely good from start to finish and are just the right amount of growl so that you can pick up the lyrics (and join in if you have the throat for it). You also get some really nice clean vocals appearing in some tracks, most notably 'Everblaze' where they are particularly powerful.

Standout tracks are 'Everblaze', 'On Your Own', 'The Sign' and 'Beyond The Self'.

I can't finish this review off though without making special mention to a cover that Fractal Gates have done. I have lost track how many times I have now listened to this song, but it's simply brilliant. Top Gun already had an outstanding soundtrack, but now there is a metal cover of Cheap Tricks 'Mighty Wings', and boy is it mighty. If you don't listen to any other song by Fractal Gates, I urge you to at least give this one ago. You won't be able to resist singing along whilst head banging and imagining you're flying an F/14 Tomcat straight into hell, this cover is writing cheques it certainly can cash. - Adam

Artist:

Munarheim

Title:

Nacht Und Sturme Werden Licht

Released:

2014

Genre:

Folk/Black Metal

Score:

8/10

I came across Munarheim on Bandcamp whilst looking through bands with a Black Metal tag associated with them. They certainly have got a Black metal element to them, but they pull in some brilliant influences from other areas. Somehow they have managed to weave almost lullaby like flourishes into their sound, which has given the album one of the best ‘epic fantasy’ styles I have ever heard from a metal band. At times you feel like you are listening to a series of dreams, moving between beautiful landscapes, nightmarish encounters and glorious triumphs. The vocals are typical of the blackened folk metal genre, but there are added clean vocal scattered throughout. Songs can move from full guitars, bass and drums to simple acoustic sections. All of which just helps the album accomplish its dream like feeling. Special mention has to go to their cover of 'The Last Unicorn', if you’re going to cover theme music from obscure animated 80’s films then this is the way to do it. Other stand out tracks are 'Nachtmelodie', 'Urkraft' and 'Liberte'.

I seriously think people should give this band a chance. They offer something a bit different without it being too much of a departure from the folk metal sound. An excellent all round listen. - Adam

Artist:

Alestorm

Title:

Sunset on the Golden Age

Released:

2014

Genre:

Power Metal

Score:

7/10

Ah, Alestorm. A band that many people thought would just be a flash in the pan, a fad that metal would go through, nothing more than a gimmick. Well 4 albums on, sold out tours and numerous festival appearances I would say that the naysayers have been well and truly keelhauled. That's not to say that they have produced their best album with Sunset on the Golden Age. The stage was all set for an unbelievable album, certainly when 'Drink' was released things looked positive as this song is superb. As far as Pirate Metal goes, these guys have all the right elements. Just the right level of growl to the vocals, a good amount of keyboards to give a Pirates of the Caribbean feel, comedy (we don't want it going too dark!) and a variety of fast and heavy songs and the slow tavern drinking songs. Unfortunately it's not quite the album many had hoped for. It's very very good, and very very Alestorm, but it has a very hit/miss/hit/miss feel as you work your way through the album. For every 'Drink' you get a 'Surf Squid Warfare'. Again, I need to stress that these aren't necessarily bad songs, but are a bit 'by the numbers'. Standout songs are 'Walk the Plank', 'Drink' and 'Sunset on the Golden Age'.

I'm more than happy for Alestorm to keep producing metal with this fun feel to it. This is a good solid album without being outstanding, fingers crossed the next album will hit that outstanding mark. – Adam

Artist:

Valtari

Title:

Hunters Pride

Released:

2014

Genre:

Melodic Death Metal

Score:

8/10

Another of the one man projects that seem to be appearing more and more, Valtari is the work of an Aussie by the name of Marty Warren. Listening to the album you wouldn't think it's just one guy that has managed to come up with such a brilliant selection of songs. The album encapsulates the feeling of old school Gothenburg metal, with soaring guitars constantly giving you catchy little hooks, some keyboard elements and some great death vocals over the top of it all. The new In Flames album is rubbish and has nothing of the sound that made them so loved, this album however has in bucket loads. Stand out tracks are 'Biterness', 'Can You Hear Me?', 'Tyrant' and 'Hunter's Pride'.

Give it a go and help keep that brilliant sound that came from Gothenburg alive. – Adam

Artist:

Judas Priest

Title:

Redeemer of Souls

Released:

2014

Genre:

Heavy Metal

Score:

8/10

The titans of metal have returned, and boy are they on fire! Whilst I enjoyed the prog' feel of their last album Nostradamus, it was lacking the classic Judas Priest feel. Well, that heavy metal feeling is back for the new album and its brilliant. Everything you know and love about Priest is present and correct and they waste no time churning out the classic metal right from the first track. You can't help nodding your head and tapping your foot to the riff's that they have come up with. It's mainly all fast paced classic metal with a few mid/slow tempo songs scattered throughout the album to give your aching neck a short break before the next pounding track screams into your ears. Standout track are 'Dragonaut', 'Sword of Damocles' and 'Battle Cry'. Although special mention needs to go to the intro on 'Halls of Valhalla', what an opening!

If you're in the mood for a little nostalgia, then this album is going to deliver it in spades. It doesn't really add anything new to the classic Priest sound, but then, can you really improve on perfection? - Adam