Dragonland – The Power Of The Nightstar

The Power Of The Nightstar Album Cover Art

Dragonland – The Power Of The Nightstar
AFM Records
Release Date: 14/10/22
Running Time: 01:06:38
Review by Simon Black
6.5/10

Now, when I was in my wilderness years as a journalist, when new bands rarely came across my radar due to a life spent either travelling for work or looking after small children, it came to my notice that my beloved Metal genres had continued to flourish and splinter into a ridiculous number of sub-genres, and that for an aging Metal head of 80’s origins that there was this whole massive area known as Power Metal that I really had not noticed much. Now to be fair, being based in the UK that’s easily done, as it’s a way bigger thing in Europe and most of the bands at the top have only recently bothered starting to make inroads to this awkward little island nation (around the time I emerged from exile in fact). So, I rather through myself into the genre when I realised what I had missed, delighted that there was so much out there. 

Three years into doing this writing thing later though, and the challenges of the genre are laid bare. There are thousands of acts out there, most of which are indistinguishable and the hundred of thousands of albums they have churned out between them over the decades too often haven’t really moved the genre along that much. Which is probably why my blood ran cold as I started this one, as with it’s cheesy spoken word introduction complete with overlaid over heavy orchestration setting the scene for a science fiction concept piece of quite lengthy run time, this had all the hallmarks of yet another cookie cutter Power Metal opus, the likes of which we have seen to often before.

The good news is that after a ten year or so break, the band have avoided sounding like one of the many Power Metal acts that have filled the airwaves whilst they’ve been out of the loop. The bad news is that they know sound a lot like many of the Symphonic / Progressive acts that have appeared in the interim.

Now, to be fair, this has a lot going for it. The production is top notch and has a really epic and cinematic quality. There’s also been a lot of thought gone into weaving the story elements with some quite nice reuse of musical refrain to create an arc like feeling to this. The downside is that this is a whopping beast of a record in terms of duration, that’s going to have lost too many people before about three tracks in, which is a damn shame as this is a well-crafted piece that rewards the repeat listener and reflects its long gestation period, but which really, desperately needs a couple of anthemic ‘everyman’ tracks with some punchier song-writing to pull the more casual listener in, even if they do end up sticking out like a sore thumb in the wider context of the whole piece.

To be fair single ‘Flight From Destruction’ tries this and has a great introduction and keyboard and guitar interplayed riff that’s catchy as fuck, but the verse and choruses do not pay off at all, and leave you feeling a little bit let down. In fact, that’s really where the whole record left me, as for veterans of the genre like this I expected stronger song-writing and catchiness to go with all the elements that do work well. Had they done so they would have smashed it out of the park. 

‘Flight From Destruction’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Awakening
02. A Light in the Dark
03. Flight from Destruction
04. Through Galaxies Endless
05. The Scattering of Darkness
06. A Threat from Beyond the Shadows
07. Aphelion
08. Celestial Squadron
09. Resurrecting an Ancient Technology
10. The Power of the Nightstar
11. Final Hour
12. Journey’s End
13. Oblivion

LINE-UP:
Elias Holmlid – Keyboards
Anders Hammer – Bass
Jonas Heidgert – Vocals
Olof Mörck – Guitars
Jesse Lindskog – Guitars
Johan Nunez – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Borealis – Illusions

Illusions Album Cover Art

Borealis – Illusions
AFM Records
Release Date: 10/07/22
Running Time: 01/02/38
Review by Simon Black
9/10

I’ve not come across this Canadian Melodic / Progressive / Power Metal four piece before, despite them being right up my musical strasse and being on album number five. I might normally mumble incoherently something about reviewing about 200 albums a year on average whilst holding down a full time job and a family and that taking a teensy bit of time, but clearly I’ve missed a trick with Borealis. Let’s correct that right here, right now.

Musically this is Melodic Metal with Power tropes, that if it had been done by a European band would be in danger of sounding tired, because let’s face it Power Metal over on this side of the pond has too many active bands, all endlessly releasing tired concept pieces that despite being well-packaged, well played, and well executed bore the pants off of me because there is so little to distinguish between far too many of them.

That’s where this is really refreshing…

Despite having all the usual tropes of the genre – mythical / fantastical concept story (check), orchestrations (check), tight and blistering instrumentals (check) and clean(ish) vocals (check) – so what makes this different? Simply, because it feels fresh and subtly different from the endless cookie-cutter equivalents we get drowned under here in Europe. Their Canadian background perhaps helps here I suspect, as this sub-category doesn’t have so many acts on the circuit over there, whereas it’s a ridiculously crowded field in Europe. When you are competing more evenly with other genres, you need to keep their fans on board as well, and Borealis manage this by delivering a very strong sense of song-writing and catchiness at their heart that’s going to appeal to most Metal heads apart from the more Extreme Metal category fanatics.

What’s more impressive, is despite it’s quite considerable and lengthy run-time, with the eleven songs themselves mostly being far from short they all hold the attention well. That’s because there’s a lot going on here musically… Technical proficiency standards are high here, without being overtly showy – avoiding the ‘look how clever our playing is’ feel that spoils so many acts. It’s there, for sure, but it’s done subtly and not at the expense of the overall songs themselves, which all stand punchily on their own. Part of this seems to actually sit with the addition to the line-up of Redemption’s highly talented Vikram Shankar for the keys and orchestration work. He’s not credited on the band line-up, so I suspect that given he’s a busy chap that this will transpose into a click-track delivery when supported on the road, but I hope that they take the opportunity to utilise a full-time live keyboard player live, as this way Shankar’s contributions weave into the arrangements and mix feels like a living breathing thing. 

Another factor that grabbed my attention early is Matt Marinelli’s vocal work (he’s also handling half the guitar duties), as he has an incredibly soulful and charismatic style of delivery that is incredibly engaging, and really carries the material well. It’s clean, has a broad range but is still rough enough round the edges for the mainstream Metal fans to give the thumbs up. These songs also have quite a dark and moody undercurrent, which is perhaps where the only fault that I can find lies. Much as I love the darkness, after an hour or so it gets a little tiring and leaves you wanting something a little more upbeat, although to be fair mid-album belter ‘Believer’ warms things up for its introduction before settling back into moodier territory. Either way it’s one of the strongest songs here, and you can tell it’s going to work live. Chunky, heavy as an elephant, but with a deeply soulful heart this was an incredibly refreshing take on a genre that has too many contenders and not enough winners, a title that Borealis are now deserving of.

‘Ashes Turn To Rain’ Official Video:

TRACKLISTING:
01. Illusions (feat. Christine Hals)
02. Ashes Turn To Rain
03. My Fortress
04. Pray For Water
05. Burning Tears (feat. Lynsey Ward)
06. Believer
07. Light Of The Sun
08. Face Of Reality
09. Bury Me Alive
10. Abandon All Hope
11. The Phantom Silence

LINE-UP:
Matt Marinelli – Vocals & Guitars
Ken Fobert – Guitars
Aiden Watkinson – Bass
Sean Dowell – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Allen Olzon – Army Of Dreamers

Army Of Dreamers Album Cover Art

Allen Olzon – Army Of Dreamers
Frontiers Music s.r.l.
Release Date: 09/09/22
Running Time: 53:08
Review by Simon Black
5/10

Another day, another Frontiers Supergroup project… This one sees Symphony X’s Russell Allen reunited with former Nightwish singer Anette Olzon with the musical side of things being led by Primal Fear’s Magnus Karlsson, but to be honest all three are old hands at these Frontiers collaborations and this time the line-up is completed by session drummer Anders Köllerfors. 

Now although Allen remains one of my favourite powerhouse vocalists, because his range of delivery styles is so broad, my personal preference is when he’s either gruffly belting it out on the later offerings from Symphony X, or doubled up and scaling the heights more cleanly with the gruffer but equally forceful Jørn Lande. Or indeed during those moments when both the aggression and the scales counterbalance both perfectly in his delivery (such as the fantastic Symphony X opus “Underworld”). Allen’s also as loud as all the demonic legions of hell without any amplification, so with the more delicate tones of Olzen in contrast in this instance his delivery approach is much softer and subtle than I expected. 

Olzon for me is a slightly different kettle of fish. I was never convinced that she was the right choice during her brief tenure in Nightwish, as she’s a far more subtle and delicate vocalist than is the norm amongst female Metal vocalists, but I have been pleasantly surprised with her performance here, as she more than holds her own against Allen – even if he’s pulling some of his punches. I guess the intention is not to drown her out and he’s more than capable of showing a softer and more subtle approach, but equally a more direct contrast can be highly effective, but in some of the songs here it’s actually Olzen who’s delivering the suckerpunch.

Where I struggle with the album in general is that despite some lovely vocal delivery, the unexpected counter-switching in styles from the two leads and some great guitar work from the ever-reliable Karlsson, the album is let down somewhat by the song-writing. This happens a lot on Frontiers projects from the Italian studio end of things in particular, due to the sheer volume flowing through the studio and the relatively small group of session producer and musicians collaborating with multiple projects in parallel, but with this project having more Swedish roots, Swedish production and given the pedigree of its contributors, I expected better, or at least more consistently better. 

It has its moments, ‘Out of Nowhere’ is a strong piece of work and the anthemic ‘All Alone’ works really well, but we’re over halfway through before the latter emerges, and the attention deficit generation of today will have moved on by then. To be fair there’s more minor gems tucked away in this latter half – ‘Look At Me’, is enjoyable, if a little obvious; the Symphonic lighter-waver ‘I Am Gone’ works with the two singers bouncing verse lines off each other, to a catchy Melo-Metal chorus and the lengthier and meatier closer ‘Never To Late’ unfortunately proves that it is, despite being one of the more well-crafted pieces here. I like the unexpected role-switching of the two vocalists, but they need stronger songs to springboard off of them, and sadly there was only an EP’s worth of those here, not a full album. 

‘So Quiet Here’ Official Audio

TRACKLISTING:
01. Army Of Dreamers
02. So Quiet Here
03. Out Of Nowhere
04. A Million Skies
05. Carved Into Stone
06. All Alone
07. Look At Me
08. Until It’s Over
09. I Am Gone
10. Are We Really Strangers
11. Never Too Late

LINE-UP:
Vocals – Russell Allen, Anette Olzon
Guitars, Bass & Keyboards – Magnus Karlsson
Drums – Anders Köllerfors

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Dynazty – Final Advent

Final Advent Album Cover Art

Dynazty – Final Advent
AFM Records
Release Date: 26/08/22
Running Time: 41:53
Review by Simon Black
9/10

This Swedish five piece have been steadily growing in stature for a while now, certainly in leaps and bounds since settling on the current incarnation and sound. Which, incidentally sits firmly in the Melodic Metal arena, having well and truly ditched their more Power Metal roots since the arrival of powerhouse vocalist Nils Molin – who has moved them firmly from the ‘good’ to the ‘great’ category. My first exposure to them was 2020’s “The Dark Delight”, which frankly blew me away. Although I have subsequently worked backwards through their catalogue to see what other gems I could unearth, this album, released slap in the middle of the first lockdown cycle remains a many miles above sea level watermark that’s going to be hard to top, and an album that’s had a lot of airplay from me over the last two years. 

So expectations were rather high for this their eight studio album (their third with Molin)…

Now the single ‘Advent’ has been out for a while, but I rarely indulge in these exercises in commercial warm-up, as frankly with two hundred odd albums to review a year plus the return of live shows, I simply need to sleep occasionally. Added to which I do actually like to come to an album cold – and as the band actually intended me to hear it, rather than from what a label’s A&R team think might briefly snatch the attention-deficit audiences of the streaming age for thirty seconds before they are distracted by the next shiny thing, like my dog on a walk when a squirrel crosses our path.

So, the first thing that struck me when listening to this, was that this beast was nowhere near as immediately catchy and attention grabbing as their last outing, so let’s hope the A&R guys, gals and all shades in between earned their money this time out. OK, it’s full of catchy Melodic hooks, but it’s going to take a few listens to get to appreciate it and that’s not because it’s not as good as its predecessor, merely that there’s some subtlety and depth to unpick here, that is going to reward the repeat listener. Fortunately, we get these things to review a while in advance of release and this one I had managed to download onto my phone to keep my company on a recent three week USA road trip, so it had the advantage of a few spins before I put fingers to keyboard (and a big “fuck you” to Vodafone for providing me with such a shit roaming service over there that I couldn’t stream a sausage, so it’s a good job I pulled this one down in advance).

Opening with the bouncing, basic ‘Power of Will’, I was initially a little disappointed, as the melodies and vocal lines a somewhat simplistically tethered together, with none of the technical punch that this band usually deliver with their eyes closed. But move on to ‘Yours’ and it all comes flooding back, with a Power ballad of such epic proportions instrumentally, topped off by Molin’s soaring, heart-wrenching and astonishing vocal prowess. 

And just like that I am back in my happy spot.

The aforementioned ‘Advent’ delivers the suckerpunch – a hyper catchy floor-filler, which delivers that Dynazty sweet spot, where the Melodic and catchy counterpoint perfectly to some of the tightest and technically fluid instrumentalists in the genre. Love Magnusson and Mikael Lavér weave beautifully (so I have no idea who takes the solos each time), but this song also utilises the punchy time changes, beat pauses and staccato studio effects that made their last outing so enjoyable. The next few tracks keep the flow going nicely, but when you get to ‘Instinct’ just beyond the halfway point, once again I know I’m listening to a classic, full of technical snappiness in its almost Industrial introduction and bridging riffs, with vocal and chorus lines to die for. Dynazty are at their best when this kind of studio wizardry is embedded into the arrangements, but a check online reveals that this is not an impediment to their live shows any more than it was to Def Leppard when they first started touring “Hysteria” with way more primitive equipment that we have access to today.

The almost Symphonic ‘Heart of Darkness’ weighs in heavier than a two-ton heavy thing and shows that Dynazty are more than capable of delivering more paced and thoughtful pieces alongside the four minute tub-thumpers (not that I didn’t know that, but you might not!). ‘The Power of Now’ closes and gives the players a chance to show off their formidable prowess in a largely instrumental piece, but one that holds the attention well. If I have a criticism it’s that in terms of running order these last two should have been switched, as ‘Heart of Darkness’ feels more like the epic kind of closer this record needs. It’s an album that feels like it’s flip-flopping between the more technical and the more accessible, but with time you get to appreciate the change of pace and even flow, as ten tracks of virtuosity would wear thin after a while, and it remains that rarity in today’s market – a cohesive studio album best listened to uninterrupted, although it took a few repeat plays for me to appreciate that.

Is it as good as ‘The Dark Delight’? Perhaps not, but it continues to grow on me, and even the less distinctively Dynazty pizazz tracks peppering the album work fine in the context of the album, despite my preference for the more technically powered material where the playing, the production and the arrangements flow together in a technical cocktail of Melodic Metal at the top of its game. As I said, beating your own high watermark is not easy, but this is only an inch or two shy of that… 

‘Natural Born Killer’ Official Music Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Power Of Will
02. Advent
03. Natural Born Killer
04. Yours
05. All The Devils Are Here
06. The White
07. Instinct
08. Heart Of Darkness
09. Achilles Heel
10. Power Of Now

LINE-UP:
Nils Molin – Vocals
Love Magnusson – Guitar
Mikael Lavér – Guitar
Jonathan Olsson – Bass 
Georg Härnsten Egg – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Nordic Union – Animalistic

Animalistic Album Cover Art

Nordic Union – Animalistic
Frontiers Music s.r.l.
Release Date: 12/08/22
Running Time: 39:27
Review by Simon Black
10/10

Nordic Union is probably the best example of why there are many, many supergroup projects that Italian label Frontiers Music s.r.l. assemble. The idea is simple – take a couple of famous names, pop them together in a studio with any gaps filled by house session players, and crank the handle, riding the tail wind of the established brands. This can be a bit hit and miss sometimes, but there are some projects that stick head and shoulders above that madding crowd, and this is definitely one of them.

Nordic Union is a vehicle for Ronnie Atkins and Erik Martensson to pool their not inconsiderable talents, and employ the same tactics as Frontiers deploy in their Italian studio at Martensson’s one, with musical support more locally for the rest of the slots. That’s one of the things that makes this more distinctive than many of the labels’ outputs, as they churn so many projects out with the same studio players and production team that one can blur into another, but this sounds and feels distinctly different.

For a start, Atkins is on fire right now. Since the news broke near the start of the Covid crisis that his cancer prognosis had turned terminal and that he was living on borrowed time, he has thrown his remaining energies into as many projects as he has time for. His “One Shot” solo album was tinged with sadness and felt like a goodbye, but at the same time was one of the best things he has ever delivered and that energy led to a second solo release more recently. I’m not sure what his current medical status is, but he’s still hanging on in there and long may that continue, because this third Nordic Union release knocks both of those solo releases out of the ballpark in terms of quality, energy and sheer power.

Then there’s Martensson’s contribution. Which is pretty much everything instrumental apart from the drums, and with both of them sharing the songwriting duties. Martensson injects an incredible level of buzz and energy into his playing, and knows how to capture his sound in the studio, creating a rich and punchy feel which simultaneously gives each instrument a clear voice whilst sounding like a cohesive band at the top of their game. Highlights for me include the belting opener ‘On This Day I Fight’, ‘Animalistic’ and the incredibly anthemic and catchy closer ‘King For A Day’, which whilst short, is incredibly sweet. To be fair, this record doesn’t drop any fillers in, and plays well end to end, which is just as well, as I think I’m going to be giving this one a lot more airplay. Catchy, anthemic, lavishly crafted and thoroughly well-rounded, this is Melodic Metal at its absolute best.

‘In Every Waking Hour’ Official video

TRACKLISTING:
01. On This Day I Fight
02. In Every Waking Hour
03. If I Could Fly
04. Riot
05. This Means War
06. Scream
07. Animalistic
08. Wildfire
09. Shot In The Dark
10. Last Man Alive
11. King For A Day

LINE-UP:
Ronnie Atkins – Lead & Backing Vocals
Erik Martensson – Lead & Rhythm Guitar, Bass, Keyboards and Backing Vocals
Fredrik Folkare – Lead Guitar
Henrik Eriksson – Drums
Thomas Larsson – Lead Guitar on “Scream”, “Riot”, & “Last Man Alive”

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Axel Rudi Pell – Lost XXIII

Lost XXIII Album Cover Art

Axel Rudi Pell – Lost XXIII
Steamhammer / SPV
Release Date: 15/04/22
Running Time: 54:43
Review by Simon Black
9/10

Very few in the UK’s rather niche Melodic Metal market have even heard of this man (despite his chart successes everywhere), although he’s been cranking out solo albums for decades after a brief stint in Steeler in the 80’s. In many ways he’s a defining backbone in the overall sound of the Melodic Metal movement and probably also the template for eighty percent of the output of the Italian label Frontiers, who have singularly failed to bag him.

So for the benefit of my friends in the UK, Pell is an accomplished guitarist and songwriter from Germany, with an absolute flair for capturing the catchy Melo-Metal song. This is his twenty-first studio record in thirty years – that’s a prodigious rate of output for any artist, and there’s been no shortage of live and compilation records as well. He’s also managed to keep his line up stable for over twenty years (some swivelling on the drum stool notwithstanding) so I would expect the output to be a bit formulaic, stale and by the numbers by this point, given that he usually releases something every year. 

How wrong I was…

It’s easy to be pulled into that kind of thinking – like Power Metal, it’s a genre with few true originals, and many, many copycats; but in Pell’s case it’s a reputation well deserved. Check out the infectious radio friendly ‘No Compromise’ for a start. It’s the kind of track that had it been released in the USA in the mid-80’s would have had them headlining arenas state wide faster than you can say “Paternity law suit” on a Mötley Crüe tour bus. I even found myself enjoying the balladic current single ‘Gone With The Wind’, and that’s normally the point I am reaching for the skip button, but this one is thoughtful, soulful and moody, and really gives the gravelly edged larynx of Johnny Gioeli a chance to shine. 

In many ways it’s a stylistic greatest hits for Pell, who’s choices in thematics have bounced round the aisles over the decades. From the 80’s lighter-wavers I mentioned above, to the heavier more technical shredding phase of the mid-90’s (‘Freight Train’), or the out Power nonsense of ‘Follow The Beast’, to the blindingly good instrumental ‘The Rise of Ankhoor’ and the epically heavy closing title track, this one runs the gamut, but without sounding messy or jaded.

I wasn’t expecting to like this at all. Indeed I kept putting off writing the review, which meant it had a full five spins by the time I rolled up my sleeves, by which time I was hooked! Unexpectedly and surprisingly memorable.

‘Gone With The Wind’ Official Audio

TRACKLISTING:
01. Lost XXIII Prequel (Intro)
02. Survive
03. No Compromise
04. Down On The Streets
05. Gone With The Wind
06. Freight Train
07. Follow The Beast
08. Fly With Me
09. The Rise Of Ankhoor
10. Lost XXIII

LINE-UP:
Johnny Gioeli – Lead and Backing Vocals
Axel Rudi Pell – Lead, Rhythm and Acoustic Guitars
Ferdy Doernberg – Keyboards
Volker Krawczak – Bass
Bobby Rondinelli – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Trick Or Treat – Creepy Symphonies

Creepy Symphonies Album Cover Art

Trick Or Treat – Creepy Symphonies
Scarlet Records
Release Date: 01/04/22
Running Time: 49:50
Review by Simon Black
8/10

A couple of years ago I reviewed this Italian one-time Helloween tribute act’s previous outing “The Legend of the XII Saints” – a rather odd piece that was originally released as twelve singles on a concept and kept the seat warm whilst the world went into lockdown (with a filler compilation coming out in between). It was OK, but felt a little strained as a concept, so I was curious to see where “Creepy Symphonies” might go.

That Helloween (and indeed Gamma Ray) influence is very loud and clear this time well, with Alessandro Conti vocally channelling his inner Kiske throughout this record, as well as that classic Germanic Melodic Power Metal being a deep and vibrant influence on their sound. Given that Helloween have managed to resurrect and reinvent themselves so spectacularly recently, there’s clearly plenty of room in the marketplace for something similar, but this ain’t no Frontiers style olive oil knock off – they’re a band with a lot to offer in their own right.

Lyrically there’s a lot of that influence going on too, with ten songs that play around with some popular comic horror or pop culture themes, but there’s also a few darker elements at play here that poke at humanity’s tendency to play the fiddle whilst the world burns. This darker shade alongside their normal quirkiness works remarkably well, and makes for a much stronger outing this time round, precisely because it avoids the common Power Metal trap of taking itself excessively seriously. Because let’s face it, rounding off with a twelve minute epic with the 80’s TV Cartoon and toy brand ‘He-Man’ as your subject is never going to be taken seriously, ever (stand up ‘The Power of Grayskull’, this is your moment). When it’s delivered in a well-structured and superbly played package of virtuosity like this, what you get is a song that ought to be a joke, but is in fact a highlight.

Variety is also the pumpkin-esque spice of life here too, with plenty of balance between rollocking Power belters, good steady rockers and Power ballads that don’t bore. With seven albums under their belt to date, it’s easy to get complacent, but this is a band made up of strong players with other projects on the go, and therefore able to bring a strong and rigorous song-writing discipline to bear. The consequence is that I can’t really fault a single track on here, resulting an album that stands head and shoulders above 2020’s “…XII Saints”. 

‘Creepy Symphony’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Trick Or Treat
02. Creepy Symphonies
03. Have A Nice Judgment Day
04. Crazy
05. Peter Pan Syndrome (Keep Alive)
06. Escape From Reality
07. Falling Over The Rainbow
08. Queen Of Likes
09. April
10. The Power Of Grayskull

LINE-UP:
Leone Villani Conti – Bass
Guido Benedetti – Guitars 
Alessandro Conti – Vocals
Luca Setti – Drums
Luca Venturelli – Guitars

LINKS:

Trick Or Treat Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Felskinn – Enter The Light 

Enter The Light Album Cover Art

Felskinn – Enter The Light 
ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records
Release Date: 25/02/22
Running Time: 50:08
Review by Simon Black
6/10

Felskinn is the brainchild of singer Andy Portmann and despite being around in one form or another since 2006, this is only album number four. To be fair their first two releases came fairly close together in the mid noughties, with over a ten year hiatus until 2018’s ‘Mind Over Matter’. Pandemic’s notwithstanding four years seems a manageable gap between releases, although this is their first rodeo for my ears.

This Swiss five piece are firmly in the Hard Rock / Melodic Metal category, with the sort of classic Euro sound that automatically makes one think they might be Swedish. Either way they’re in crowded waters and probably needed to be a little more distinctive to stand a chance of standing out amongst their many peers. It’s got a lavish production sound – not a bad job considering they did it themselves, but the challenge I have is that despite some nice sounds and playing and some creditable vocals from Portmann that the tracks themselves are often fairly generic and perhaps lacking some of the strong, catchy melodic hooks you need to stand out. That said, I’m enjoying their overall sound more than these words might imply and it feels like a case of being a bit shy of a few killer hooks and riffs to give the whole album a more impactful feel. I suppose if they had, I might be complaining that they were being too commercial…

It has its moments though, normally when it’s trying to be a bit more weighty with tracks like ‘The Saviour Was Born’ holding their own better than others by being both a bit more heavy, but also notably more anthemic, but when this one comes in after the half way point you can see many may have been turned off by that point. ‘Life Beyond The Line’ keeps that weight and once again feels the more catchy for being a bit more hook-laden and I’m left with the overall impression that this is two slightly different records that have been stitched together. The darker, heavier tracks in the second half work much better however and save this from being mediocre. Which is a shame as I like their overall sound and performances, I just feel that a bit more originality, gumption and mood would have gone a long way, although it’s absolutely worth starting at the half way point.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Darkness In Your Eyes
02. Send The Angels Down
03. Enter The Light
04. Your Life Is Mine
05. World Will End
06. Driven
07. The Saviour Was Born
08. Life Beyond The Line
09. Lonely Heart
10. The Final Reason
11. Where
12. SixFiveFour

LINE-UP:
Andy Portmann – Vocals
Martin Rauber – Lead & Rhythm Guitars, Backing Vocals
Tom Graber – Rhythm & Lead Guitars, Backing Vocals
Beat Schaub – Bass, Backing Vocals
Ronnie Wolf – Drums, Backing Vocals

LINKS:

Felskinn Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Beneath The Silence – Black Lights

Black Lights Album Cover Art

Beneath The Silence – Black Lights
Prime Collective
Release Date: 11/02/22
Running Time: 40:38
Review by Simon Black
6/10

Whilst pitching themselves as Melodic Metal, there’s a lot more in the mix for this Danish five piece. For a start the synth-laden mood and tone of the whole piece feels more like fairly generic Gothic / Symphonic in the Lacuna Coil or Within Temptation mould, but with the added brutality of some more Metalcore riffage to make things sound a bit more punchy. To be truly Melodic Metal in my book though, your songs need to be a little more uplifting and positivity focussed even when in minor keys which is not what’s happening here, whereas this material is definitely in the tradition of all things dark and moody. That’s not to say that it’s not effective, but it’s not breaking any boundaries of originality here either. This is slightly frustrating as this feels like a case of potential untapped rather than a deficit of talent. 

However, the band have youth on their side and clearly the playing chops to grow into that space, and this is their first full-length album to go alongside the slow burn couple of EP’s they have managed to date since their inception in 2013. The songs on here are all well delivered and produced, with a clearly very cohesive interplay between the instrumentalists even if the arrangements are a bit by the numbers. That’s where I struggle with this record – the songs are well rounded each and of themselves, but after you’ve heard a few of them it starts to get a bit repetitive. We’re three tracks in until ‘In The Shadow Of Your Eyes’ starts to feel feel a bit more differentiated, with its more emphatic phrasing and pacing which shifts the emphasis from the instruments and allowing Mette Hessellund’s vocals to lead strongly from the front.  I’ve also got a soft spot for the closer ‘Nowhere To Go’which is why it was probably a wise choice for the first single, but in the spaces in between things can get a bit repetitive and Hessellund can get a bit lost in the mix on occasions.

Perhaps Aarhus in Denmark is not drowning in similar sounding acts the way Finland or Sweden are (this may not be surprising as you think, as when I visited it twenty years ago it was quite short on bars, never mind Metal clubs), but if you are going to compete on a global stage you need to be perhaps a little more differentiated than the competition. When it stands out, it stands out well, but a little bit more variety in tone would have gone a very long way here.

‘In the Shadow Of Your Eyes’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. All I See
02. Break You
03. In the Shadow of Your Eyes
04. Take Over Me
05. Open Wounds
06. The Taste of Bitterness
07. Wide Awake
08. Over the Edge
09. Fear
10. Nowhere to Go

LINE-UP:
Mette Hessellund – Vocals
Rene Larsen – Guitar 
Søren Stenhøj Draws – Bass
Daniel Rasmussen – Guitar
Mikkel Thuesen Petersen – Drums

LINKS:

Beneath The Silence Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Dying Light – Far From Life

Far From Life Album Cover Art

Dying Light – Far From Life
Self-Released 
Release Date: 28/01/22
Running Time: 43:01
Review by Simon Black
8/10

Dying Light are a new act out of New Jersey, but in fact represents a new project from a clearly very experienced group of musicians. You can always tell when this happens, as many self-produced first albums from less experienced players often leave a lot to be desired in the production department, but older hands know what sounds good and understand the importance of a focus in quality in that department. That shines through loud and clear here, as the production is loud, lavish and with a lovely fat well-rounded feel to them, that leaves every instrument clear to the ear whilst creating a cohesive band sound, which quite frankly tells me that producer Charlie Berezansky not only knows his onions, but knows when to add garlic to boot.

Musically this is nodding in lots of directions, with elements of Stoner Groove particularly in the vocal department, but weaving in and out of a solid Melodic Metal/ Traditional Metal base. What it most definitely has, is oodles and oodles of heaviness and some really moody melodies that create an almost Gothic atmosphere at times. If reading this you think that sounds a bit of an eclectic mix, then you would be right, because when an act forges a sound that’s uniquely their own, then old hacks like me struggle often to pin them down stylistically – until someone uses them as an example of something new and christens them with their own sub-genre. I’m not sure that Dying Light need that yet, but what they do deliver is well-crafted songs pulling together a number of stylistic influences without sounding derivative. What’s best is that whilst not sounding like they are bristling with overt technical pizazz many of these songs are actually quite the reverse, because as any band will tell you it’s a lot harder to play slower than faster.

I love the down and dirty guitar interplay from Jim Haldenwang and Doug Edwards because it’s weaving at its best and it allows Jeff Ross’s haunting and moody vocals the space to keep you focussed. His voice has a lovely rich timbre and this is clearly a man who knows how to use his phrasing and emphasis charismatically. The only downside to the record I can really hang a hat on is that the tone and pace does not very too much throughout, with minor keys dominating throughout. But the album doesn’t overstay its welcome so this is not really an issue, and with all that experience ensuring a good sense of structure persist it’s really only a minor quibble. Heavy, moody, catchy and well-crafted, this is a really promising starting step.

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Cycle
02. Parasite
03. Far From Life
04. Walk Away
05. Darker Fear
06. Cry Out
07. Mercy
08. Follow You
09. The Season
10. Sweet Death
11. Dead Inside

LINE-UP:
Jeff Ross – Vocals
Jim Haldenwang – Guitar
Doug Edwards – Guitar
Chris Fritz – Bass and Backing Vocals
Shaun Dilliplane – Drums

LINKS:

Dying Light Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.