Fellowship – The Saberlight Chronicles

The Saberlight Chronicles Album Cover Art

Fellowship – The Saberlight Chronicles
Scarlet Records
Release Date: 15/07/22
Running Time: 01:04:47
Review by Simon Black
7/10

“Our aim is to make classic guitarey Power Metal in a way that doesn’t make us cringe too hard. Also we dress like hobbits, so it’s not going too well…”

This quote was lifted from Fellowship’s Bandcamp introduction statement and as well as making my spit out my coffee when I read it, it’s remarkably self-admonishing. If nothing else as a UK act Fellowship are very brave for even taking on the genre, but if they wear the Hobbit cloak’s on the streets of their native Harwich, then they probably deserve what they get. To be fair, I may have a jaded view based on my one and only trip to Harwich where I did get a brick thrown at me, but then it was the 1980’s when I had long curly hair and should probably be grateful that it wasn’t still attached to the wall.

The reason I chose this record to review was complex. 

A little about how we work first, if you would indulge me. Here at Ever Metal we have an email inbox where labels, PR companies and bands can submit material for our review. They do this rather a lot, to the point where keeping on top of the mail takes a good couple of hours every day, which is not helped when you have to sift through all the ones that can’t be bothered to tell us when it’s actually coming out, include any kind of link to the album that doesn’t require a degree in codebreaking to open, didn’t actually came out months (or indeed years) ago, or is in fact a request to help some Somalian Prince shift the $10M USD he forgot to bank and is worried about getting stolen from his kitchen table whilst he’s in the local internet café telling us all about it. It is literally about a hundred plus mails every day. 

Now all of us do other things to enable us to eat, so this is a labour of love we fit in around real life, and even going full pelt we could only review about 10% of what we get sent through on a good week, so please don’t bitch if it takes us a few days after your release date –to get it published, as you should have sent it sooner. And yes, PR companies reading this, sending us something we’ve never heard of the day before it’s release for the first time is not an ‘exclusive’, it’s just too bloody late, so earn your dough and get it out there in advance so we have time to review it. Rant over! Now Fellowship got this much right, because I pulled this from the pile a good two months ago and had forgotten why I had selected it, but with the release date looming decided that I had better pull my finger out. 

The opening bars made me shudder somewhat, because the opener ‘All The Fires Die’ evokes cookie cutter Power Metal of the kind that dominates the Italian market due to the likes of the revolving door that is the Rhapsody group of bands. But then this is Scarlet Records here, who may be Italian but generally have a roster of quite credible Metalic spectacle available (Apostolica, Frozen Criwn, Six Foot Six, and Sole Syndicate being a few of the ones I rave about, but you can keep Veonity, Trick Or Treat and Skeletoon). Anyway, the reason I chose it is because Fellowship are actually that rarity of rarities a British Power Metal band and one that is not afraid to follow in the Italian Euro Power tradition… er, dressed as Hobbits, the poor deluded bastards. So I’m guessing that not much happens in Harwich even now… 

Added to which it’s clearly a sword and sorcery influenced concept piece and no-one’s told them that the song title ‘Avalon’ has been taken 873 times already elsewhere in the genre. Now at this point, I’m ready to go for a full-on roast review, but annoyingly once that rather cheesy intro song is out of the way, the band turn out to be annoyingly rather good. I guess when you dress as Hobbits and get bricks thrown at you by the general public of Essex a lot, then you need something to surprise people and cut down the number of trips to A&E on busy Saturday nights and yes, being good will cut it. Roast Mode: disengaged.

Almost. Because let’s face it the world does not need another Power Metal Concept fantasy album with pomptastic keyboards trying to sound like a full orchestra, or another ten minute epic closer called ‘Avalon’, not unless there’s something else of note going on. Fortunately there is.

What surprises is some of the performances delivered here. Vocalist Matthew Corry is astoundingly good and a little research shows is actually a classically trained tenor, who likes proper music (and milk). Our very own resident roaster Rory often defines Power Metal vocalists as “Swedish blokes who’ve decided they have to sing high and sound like they’re shitting a porcupine”, but this is not what you’ve got here. What we do have is a subtle and controlled performance from the kind of singer that would have the operatic lady at Charismatic Voice on YouTube gush with joy (I love the way the internet has transformed her from a Classical expert to a lover of Metal in a few short months). 

Then there’s the guitar work. It looks like the two guitarists Sam Browne and Brad Wosko know their onions too, as there’s some absolutely beautiful and fluid playing going on here. Although I dearly want to tear this band a new arsehole for using all the Power Metal cliches and endless Neo-Classical tropes, the annoying gits generally avoid them, instead delivering a pacey, innovative and utterly shredding performance. The production is top notch too and it would have to be, as Corry is not a Power screamer and his subtlety is what makes it work. I would however suggest they expand their repertoire with a full time bassist and keyboard player of equal skill, as these are the bits that sound stereotypical, and are clearly someone else in the band doubling up during recording.

I guess the opening quote comes in as relevant once again, as it’s clear that these boys are paying homage to the Euro Cheese Gods of Power, but they’re doing it in a uniquely British, subtly deferential and apologetic way. That means the cheese is there for sure, but the record is also saying “Apologies for the cheese, but actually we’re rather good musicians. Sorry”. I didn’t want to like this, but I could not help myself… Sorry…

TRACKLISTING:
01. Until The Fires Die
02. Atlas
03. Glory Days
04. Oak And Ash
05. Hearts Upon The Hill
06. Scars And Shrapnel Wounds
07. The Hours of Wintertime
08. Glint
09. The Saint Beyond The River
10. Silhouette
11. Still Enough
12. Avalon

LINE-UP:
Matthew Corry – Vocals
Sam Browne – Guitar
Brad Wosko – Guitar
Callum Tuffen – 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.

Sole Syndicate – Into The Flames

Into The Flames Album Cover Art

Sole Syndicate – Into The Flames
Scarlet Records
Release Date: 17/06/22
Running Time: 01:08:18
Review by Simon Black
10/10

Sweden’s Sole Syndicate somewhat blew me away with their 2020 Sophomore “Last Days of Eden”, so much so, that it landed firmly and squarely in my top ten list for that somewhat painful year, so expectations are somewhat high for this ‘tricky third’ album. Journalists always harp on about this sort of phrase by the way and it harks back to the ye olden days when bands would have songs lined up for labels that they had been honing for years before getting signed, the best of which would make it to album number one, the rest and some odds and sods on the second… before the shocking realisation that the cupboard was now bare and a third album was overdue. It’s probably irrelevant these days, given most acts have been having to keep the creativity going before then with EP’s and demos in a digital world that is not satisfied for you to simply recycle old material once you land a deal.

But it’s still a useful benchmark, because it often marks a turning point for a band in other ways, as they hit the point where they have been probably at this for the best part of a decade, have established themselves and feel they can experiment a little… This can be a dangerous experiment for many however – diverge too far from your core sound and you alienate the fanbase; stay too samey and people quickly point it out to you. There’s a razor fine line between these two stops and I am pleased to say that Sole Syndicate are walking that tight rope perfectly fine, thank you very much.

Whereas “The Last Days of Eden” was a rose tinted, yet soulfully sadness tinged slab of beautifully crafted Melodic Hard Rock, “Into The Flames” is way darker, more sombre and brutally heavy in comparison. Thematically it’s taking the concept one stage further, given what we’ve all lived through over the last two years and its subject matter focusses on the damage we are doing to our Eden, and indeed ourselves. Opening with the ruthlessly delivered and Djent-tinged single ‘Forsaken’ this is an album that keeps battering for a long time without losing momentum. 

It’s also got a much fatter, polished production sound to it as well, which lends it an epic feel in comparison to the stripped back to basics Hard Rocking of their previous album. What it feels like is the natural evolution of a band moving from tracks that work well in sweaty clubs to those that need more depth and structure in larger venues, which I hope they will start to play despite the damage the pandemic has done to their momentum (although to be fair that’s a level playing field for the whole industry).

Performance wise the band have lost none of the edge and I still remain amazed that Jonas Månsson delivers all the lead vocal and guitar parts on his own, or indeed that this is a four piece band, given how much depth and layering is going on this time out. Despite its length, these songs are so well crafted that time just flies. Even the nearly eleven minutes run time of the closing title track does not outstay its welcome, allowing changes, complexity and a hint of the progressive to lead you by the ears and steal you away.

Darker and heavier than it’s predecessor, yet losing none of the Melodic heart-twinges and soulful delivery that won me over before, this is a natural progression of a band that started with ten from me, and just went up to eleven. This isn’t a change of direction, this is a launchpad…

‘Forsaken’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Forsaken
02. Count to Zero
03. Brave Enough
04. Shadow of My Love
05. Miss Behave
06. Dust of Angels
07. Sunset Strip
08. Do You Believe
09. In the Absence of Light
10. Freak Like Me
11. Back Against the Wall
12. Into the Flames

LINE-UP:
Jonas Månsson – Vocals, Guitar
Katja Rasila – Keyboards, Vocals
David Gustafsson – Bass, Vocals
Henrik Zetterlund – 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.

Moonlight Haze – Animus

Animus Album Cover Art

Moonlight Haze – Animus
Scarlet Records
Release Date: 18/03/22
Running Time: 43:45
Review by Simon Black
6/10

Italian Power/Symphonic metallers Moonlight Haze surprised me with their sophomore release last time round, as that album had a distinctive edge and caught me out being way more than a Nightwish clone done Italian Operatic Metal style. Sadly this time round, the edge has largely gone and this is much more safe and predictable, at least at first. Now I know there’s a good market for material in that vein, but two years back I really liked the fact that singer Chiara Tricarico really pushed her voice in a couple of places rather than playing it clean and operatic throughout. There’s touches of that here, but not enough and the overall tone and energy of the pace takes a long time to get into its stride. 

It’s not until we’re at the halfway point of ‘Midnight Haze’ that this album really starts to pick up the pace and step up to the mark. From that point forward it’s almost like I’m listening to two very different sets of material fused together, and that latter half is way more effective than the radio-friendly drift of the first half. I really am not going to spend any more time discussing the first five songs, as it really is from that sixth song that this becomes worthwhile.

From then on to the end, the pace belts up a couple of notches, bringing some much needed energy and a lot more technical virtuosity to boot. And in a good way too, as being overtly technically showy can really drown out the song structures. Not only does this salvage things somewhat, but from here on Tricarico is really pushing her voice more, and that slightly more dangerous edge saves the day.

She does turn the operatic back on for the album’s closer ‘Horror & Thunder’ but then there’s also a male voice to duet with to provide tonal contrast, which again works well. Duet’s aside, I really wish (and I said it when I reviewed the “Lunaris” album a couple of years ago) that they would ditch the overt radio friendly elements and concentrate on the heavier belters, because that’s when their sound becomes stronger and more distinctive. Nevertheless, not a bad effort but not as strong overall as their sophomore.

‘Animus’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Nothing
02. It’s Insane
03. Kintsugi
04. Animus
05. The Thief And The Moon
06. Midnight Haze
07. Tonight
08. Never Say Never
09. We’ll Be Free
10. Ritual Of Fire
11. Horror & Thunder

LINE-UP:
Chiara Tricarico – Vocals
Giulio Capone – Drums / Keyboards
Alessandro Jacobi – Bass
Alberto Melinato  – Guitars
Marco Falanga – Guitars.

LINKS:

Moonlight Haze 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.

Veonity – Elements Of Power

Elements Of Power Album Cover Art

Veonity – Elements Of Power
Scarlet Records
Release Date: 18/02/2022
Running Time: 47:00
Review by Rory Bentley
3/10

Music writing, like any pastime or profession, has its ups and downs. Since joining the website I’ve been riding a crest of joyful discovery, raving about new bands I’ve never heard before and old favourites who have produced delightful surprises and, in some cases, album of the year candidates (you know who I’m talking about). But the day was always going to come when I’d have to eat my vegetables and take one for the team, after all life isn’t all sunshine and beatdowns. With that in mind I thought I’d dip my toe into the waters of ‘Ultra Power Metal’, thinking (rather foolishly in hindsight) that I’d have the stomach to exercise some objectivity and see the merits of something that came from a genre that I’d not normally gravitate towards.

“Elements Of Power” was what I ended up plucking from the release schedule, with the logic being that despite my normal penchant for more abrasive sounds I can still have a good time with something that dials up the cheese factor and seeks to make the listener sing along to triumphant melodies like an off-duty knight in a tavern where he gets a warrior discount off the grog.

After all, I love Blind Guardian, have a soft spot for Powerwolf and, inexplicably, my favourite band is Nightwish. Surely that puts me in good stead for at least appreciating some good-time silly power metal right? RIGHT??!! Wrong.

Things started off pretty tolerably with ‘Beyond the Realm of Reality’, there was no acoustic intro or pompous orchestration – it just kicked straight into the riff and I breathed a sigh of relief. Sadly this did not last. Several issues reared their dragon-shagging heads within seconds.

For some reason singer Anders Sköld is unable to go into his higher register without sounding like he has a severe speech impediment. Maybe he ‘Skölded’ his tongue on a hot coffee the day they had to track vocals (fuck you, let me have my stupid puns, I’ve earned it after listening to this record)! The vocals are normally the first thing to make me switch off Power Metal and the strained wail of someone clearly operating an octave above their comfort zone was an instant red flag for me.

But poor old Anders could have been Dio and this track would still have been a slog, because production-wise things are … ehhh … not so good. If you’d have told me the drums were tracked in an empty Hellofresh box I’d have believed you. They sound like they’ve been ripped onto a cassette from someone else’s album. The same goes for the incessant chanting backing vocals that conjure the image of the band being forced to sing them in the next room as a Covid protocol. Blind Guardian on a budget.

By second track ‘The Surge’ we learn that the answer lies in the power stone. I don’t know what that means but if me grabbing a sword and going on a quest to seek this stone means I don’t have to listen to this bollocks ever again then bring me a horse and some chain mail.

Not satisfied with plunging me into inconsolable despair in less time than it takes for Cult of Luna to complete the intro to a song, the band then launch into two keyboard solos literally happening at the same time. They’re doing it on purpose now. 

Things do pick up (relatively speaking) on ‘Alter Of Power’, where the singing wisely shifts to a lower key and the backing vocals have a fun, jaunty quality that reminds me of The Village People, a comparison that should leave you in no doubt that my mind has unravelled beyond repair at this point; but still I didn’t hate this one.

The storyline (in the loosest possible definition) takes a dark turn in ‘Gargoyles of Black Steel’, as it is revealed that a race of subterranean demon boys hate this bullshit as much as I do and want to overthrow the kingdom or something like that. For the record I’m Team Gargoyle all the way from here on out.

Presumably, sensing a lull in my apoplectic rage, Veonity then decide to deliberately troll me by replacing all the ghastly Casio keyboard sounds that I’d just learned to tolerate, like an abscess on the back end of an antibiotics course and replace them with panpipes. The result of which sounds like a crack-addled Enya up against a deadline. Help me.

As the final track ‘Return to the Land of Light’ (could not be a more fitting description for this thing finally being over) crawls into view like the fourth nail of a crucifixion, the band seem to realise that they’ve got more story leftover than they have music (I’m genuinely not sure which is worse). This results in a jarring spoken word passage that tries to cram the rest of this nonsense in, delivered at the frantic pace of someone at a pay phone that’s about to run out of credit. Annnd breathe.

I must stress that I don’t enjoy giving someone’s hard work a kicking and some of these musings should be taken with a pinch of salt. I’m sure Veonity are a lovely bunch of chaps and this was a lot of fun for them to make; I just wish some of that fun made its way out of the speakers to me.

I’m fully aware that this is not in my wheelhouse, but I like to think I can tell when something hasn’t been executed to its full potential. There are parts when they get the formula right, such as the beefy guitar tone and some very impressive soloing, but these moments of competence are fleeting and the often pristine riffing is dragged down by demo-quality drums and vocals that make me want to issue a public apology for ever calling Rhapsody of Fire grating.

If you’re a fan of this style, there are multiple leather-clad LARPers that offer something that sticks the landing to a much higher standard and who aren’t hamstrung by a ‘will this do?’ production job. 

As for myself, I need to take a little time out to consider my life choices. Where my Gargoyles at?

TRACKLISTING:
01. Beyond the Realm of Reality
02. The Surge
03. Altar Of Power
04. Elements of Power
05. Gargoyles of Black Steel
06. Dive into the Light
07. Facing the Water
08. Blood of the Beast
09. Curse of the Barren Plains
10. Return to the Land of Light

LINE-UP:
Anders Sköld – Vocals / Guitar
Samuel Lundström – Lead Guitar
Kristoffer Lidre – Bass
Joel Kollberg – Drums

LINKS:

Veonity Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rory Bentley 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.

Theatres Des Vampires – In Nomine Sanguinis

In Nomine Sanquinis Album Cover Art

Theatres Des Vampires – In Nomine Sanguinis
Scarlet Records
Release Date: 19.11.21
Running Time: 40:24
Review by Dark Juan
3/10

Yes, I know. It is February 2022 and this is a review for a record that was released in November last year. There is a good reason for this. I was a massive fan of Italian vampire metallers Theatres Des Vampires for years and years in their early days, when Lord Vampyr was the head honcho and they played Melodic Black Metal. I jumped at the chance when I saw this album appear on the list at Ever Metal HQ, having remembered the dark joys of “The Vampire Chronicles” and then having contemplated reviewing “In Nomine Sanguinis” many times since. Frankly, I’m doing it now because I am sick of it clogging up my fucking review list. I have been somewhat afraid of looking at it because I loved the early incarnations of Theatres Des Vampires and I am bloody suspicious of what they have become, compared to the claret-craving Black Metal maniacs they were…

Oh.

It is exactly as I feared. Fuck. 

It appears that the band have found CDs of every single Gothic cliché there is (plucked violins, harpsichords, mournful cellos, bellowing Gothic choirs) and sampled the fucking lot, and then dropped them liberally all over some really fucking generic industrial metal. Anyone who reads my bullshit regularly will know that I am a card carrying Sad Old Goff, and also that I am a rabid fan of industrial music. Theatres Des Vampires have melded them together, so you’d think I’d be all over this record like a bloodsucking, predatory gentleman of the night in a devastatingly elegant silk suit. 

No.

This is too painful for words. I’m utterly destroyed. I don’t like Theatres Des Vampires anymore and this album is simply not good. I can’t get on with the singing of Sonya Scarlet, whose range goes from high-pitched to totally-fucks-with-bats’-sonar-and-makes-them-crash-into-trees with added screeching. She’d be a fucking brilliant countermeasure to ballistic missile submarines. I don’t like the arrangement of a single song, all of which are so utterly and boringly predictable I knew where the songs were going EXACTLY from the first bar and could confidently predict when the male/ female interplay vocal lines would come in (Track five ‘Lady Bathory’, fact fans!) I don’t like the production of the record, which is muddy as fuck apart from an omnipresent crash cymbal that cuts through everything and resounds annoyingly in my left ear throughout the ENTIRE fucking record. I didn’t enjoy the clear afterthought that was the guitar solo on ‘My Cold Heart’ (which, judging by the sound of it was recorded in a different studio by a rather more competent producer and then just slammed into the middle of the song without any fucking equalization or attempt to make it sound vaguely like the rest of the composition). The bass is too loud. The fret buzz on the bass makes me wonder whether the bass player is using wet spaghetti instead of strings. The drums aren’t loud enough. The vocals fade in and out of the mix like the producer kept wandering off for extended toilet breaks because he didn’t want to hear the music anymore either. I didn’t even enjoy the choir on the title track because it made Theatres Des Vampires sound like a Poundstretcher own brand version of Nightwish and I normally fucking adore Gothic choirs. Still, at least the cymbal moved into my right ear briefly, so thank Satan for small mercies…

It gets worse. ‘Golden Cage’ sounds like Deathstars with a female singer and added stabby gothic keys and is truly unpleasant to hear, Sonya Scarlet’s vocal being flat and uninspiring in the extreme. In fact, the whole feeling I get from the record is one of disinterest and music-by-the-numbers. Gothic music is supposed to have passion and raw emotion bleeding from every tortured pore. Theatres Des Vampires appear to have decided that squealing counts as emotion. Squealing is what pigs do on a honeymoon. Or teenagers on rollercoasters. Or excited young maids on “Downton Abbey” when they receive an unexpected gift from a rakish young bounder. ‘The Void Inside’ highlights another problem. Both the male and female vocalists are simply poor as fuck. I can’t put it any more succinctly. 

The music itself is competently played and if you had let the likes of Paradise Lost or Type O Negative get hold of the songs and work them, you might have had fucking Imperial levels of gothic majesty. Instead you have tepid, turgid yet still pompous and overblown Industrial Goth Metal that has been done to death over the years. Theatres Des Vampires – how could you do this to me? They even have the utter fucking temerity to suggest, in their blurb, that fans of The Sisters Of Mercy would enjoy this record.

They really wouldn’t, and this one (the Gothfather, Andrew Eldritch is my hero, even if he is STILL refusing to admit the Sisters are the quintessential goth band) really doesn’t. At best, young teenage girls who think black lipstick, fishnets, bat shaped hair accessories, coffin shaped handbags, colossal boots, and Wednesday Addams dresses make them goths, might find something to enjoy in Theatres Des Vampires. Mainly through torturing their parents with it.

I am seated here in Dark Juan Terrace, trying desperately to find a redeeming quality to “In Nomine Sanguinis”. Honestly, the best I can come up with is that it has ended. Now, it is time for me to sort out the tinnitus that fucking cymbal has caused in my left ear.

I don’t want to write about Theatres Des Vampires any more. I’d rather listen to the Dread Lord Igor Egbert Brian Clown-Shoe Cleavage-Hoover snore and fart. Which, incidentally, is what I am doing right now.

Have a splendid evening, dear ladies, gentlemen and gentlepersons.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Il sistema brevettato di valutazione degli schizzi di sangue di Dark Juan) is barely registering and awards Theatres Des Vampires a deeply unsexy 3/10. If this record is supposed to exemplify the passion of being in the throes of adoration with vampires, I think I’d rather stick to building Airfix models in my kitchen, because, frankly, it’s more fun and you don’t even need to die.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Death In Venice
02. Endless Darkness
03. Christina
04. Bride Of Corinth
05. Lady Bathory
06. My Cold Heart
07. In Nomine Sanguinis
08. Golden Cage
09. The Void Inside
10. Till The Last Drop of Blood (A re-recording of a TDV classic that has been butchered beyond all recognition)

LINE-UP:
Sonya Scarlet – vocals
Zimon Lijoi – bass
Gabriel Valerio – drums

LINKS:

Theatres Des Vampires Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ 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.

Verikalpa – Tunturihauta

Tunturihauta Album Cover Art

Verikalpa – Tunturihauta
Scarlet Records
Release Date: 21/01/2022
Running Time: 47:14
Review by Rory Bentley
7.5/10

There’s a scene in the extended Lord of The Rings where Legolas and Gimli are on the sesh after a victorious battle and they get into a drinking contest in a rowdy tavern environment. The dashing elf comes out on top after necking 20 pints, only feeling a slight tingle in his fingers. His gregarious dwarf wingman survives with a little less dignity and starts going off on one about swimming with hairy women before collapsing from the heroic volume of grog he’s ingested at the end of this bizarre pissing contest. This album is the perfect soundtrack to this situation, and by the end of it I felt as merry and belligerent as our diminutive hero, but without the presumably Balrog-sized hangover.

In 2020 we all did things we never thought we were capable of under the dark clouds of uncertainty and fear that gripped the world, and I was no different. Rather than bake banana bread, or developing a sudden interest in jigsaw puzzles, I decided to eschew all my metallic hardcore credibility and dive straight into the accordion-driven nonsensical void of Folk Metal. It is a bizarre world; it is a flamboyant world, and it is a very silly world. 

I think the thing that appeals to me apart from the fantastic jaunty melodies over scything Nordic blasts is the balance between Black Metal intensity and an infectious sense of fun. Unlike a lot of the more pastoral Black Metal I listen to, there’s a palpable self-awareness from Folk Metal bands that undercuts the brooding pomposity that sometimes sees more ‘evil’ bands coming across as even more ridiculous than their hurdy-gurdy worshipping counterparts. Enter Verikalpa. 

Hailing from the land of a thousand lakes, and almost as many Lordi albums, these self-described ‘Finnish Folk Metal crazy drunken warriors’ leave no ambiguity as to what’s in store for the listener in their refreshingly humorous press release; where they proclaim, ‘Winter is coming, the dead rise to greet it, and damn, they are thirsty!’. But am I thirsty for the folk?

Opening cut ‘Verikauhu’ wastes no time initiating the listener into this raucous winter jamboree, going full tilt with blast beats, tremolo guitars, and the piercing shriek of vocalist Jani Ikonen. As your head is blown back by this metallic onslaught the song segues into jaunty Folk melodies that evoke the might of Finntroll. Catchy, uplifting but still carrying a level of aggression, this sets the template for an exhilarating booze-fuelled dash though the snow like a half-cut Father Christmas. This chaotic momentum is carried forward over similarly fired-up tracks like single, ‘Riitti’, with its accordion-led flourishes, and ‘Raivokansa’ which has an almost dungeon-synth style intro that once again gives way to more high-octane partying.

Thankfully, the band knows just the right time to introduce a change of pace with the stomping waltz of ‘Tunturihauta’, which provides much needed variety at the point where these deranged hoe-downs begin to blend into one another. The slight changes in tempo continue for the rest of the album and are integral to keeping the party going as we get deep into the latter parts of this debauchery. Just before the finale I was starting to flag a little but closing number ‘Talven varjot’ changes the formula with a more grandiose arrangement, dripping with bombast and searing black metal malice. The choral chants and gang vocals, which have thus far been used more sparingly, really bolster the band’s sound and add a more epic, mythical dimension to proceedings to the point where I’d like to see them utilised more on future releases.

At just over 47 minutes I did have a creeping urge to slip away from the revels and retreat to my bed with some ibuprofen and a bottle of Lucozade and the feeling that this could have lost a few tracks to retain maximum impact; however, this is a minor criticism from someone who thinks most records are too long. I also would have liked a little more variety to the keyboard tone as there’s only so much accordion one man can take when it’s so high in the mix, but again this is a rather minor gripe.

Overall, this is an absolute riot of intensely delivered, fun-loving Metal to glug a tankard of ale to, and if you felt the last few Korpiklaani releases were lacking in urgency (I did), or that the last Ensiferum album was a little too heavy on the power metal (I didn’t- I loved it!), then this could be the bonkers wintry tonic you need to soothe those January blues. Just like the lad in the helmet and his orc mate crawling through the snow towards a frothy pint on the cover, I was hankering for a swig and “Tunturihauta” more than quenched my thirst. I don’t even know what the fuck I’m writing anymore.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Verikauhu
02. Kalmoarmeija
03. Riitti
04. Raivokansa
05. Rautanen Herra 
06. Tunturihauta
07. Jotunimmalja
08. Taisto
09. Hurmos
10. Suohon Suotu
11. Talven Varjot

LINE-UP:
Jani Ikonen – vocals
Sami Ikonen – guitar
Jussi Heikkilä – guitar
Sami Knuutinen – bass
Jussi Sauvola – keyboards
Jari Huttunen – drums

LINKS:

Verikalpa Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rory Bentley 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.

Skeletoon – The 1.21 Gigawatts Club

The 1.21 Gigawatts Club Album Cover Art

Skeletoon – The 1.21 Gigawatts Club
Scarlet Records
Release Date: 15/10/21
Running Time: 49:05
Review by Simon Black
6/10

Power Metal does have a habit of going crazy ape bonkers with grand concepts album, but this is the first time I’ve come across one that uses Robert Zemeckis’ ‘Back To The Future’ film as its lyrical source material, which is probably why the band prefer to refer to themselves as Nerd Metal.

Vocalist Tommy Fooler’s project seems to have been fairly consistent in their output rate, with this being their fifth album since 2016. They started life as a Helloween covers band, so sound wise the Italian five piece have retained that Northern Euro Power Metal sound fundamentally, which means you have a clear vocal style and upbeat, major chord structures at play. The trouble is, there’s an awful lot of bands that sound like that, and Skeletoon only differentiate themselves with more geeky subject matter, than the usual sword & sorcery, pseudo-historical, or faux satanic approach of their many, many peers.

It is refreshing though in that, for an Italian act, this sound more like their more Northern cousins that the style adopted by the extended Rhaspody family of acts. Is that enough I have to ask? Perhaps not, as the challenge remains one of originality, in a very crowded market.

Although the execution is pretty faultless musically, the challenge is stylistically there’s a lot of this about. The production is very polished though, and gives a warm rich tapestry to work from, but the problem is the lyrics, and song structures, don’t really grab the attention enough in, and of, themselves.

Despite the competent playing and vocal work throughout, what this is missing is some solid, catchy riffage to hook people in with and ladle the subject matter on to. Ironically this only really comes with the cover version of ‘Johnny B. Goode’ at the end of the record (chosen no doubt as a nod to Michael J. Fox trying to be Eddie Van Halen at the end of the first movie), which unfortunately does a great job of highlighting the key elements that were missing from the rest of the album.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Intro Unveiling Secrets
02. Holding On
03. Outatime
04. The Pinheads
05. 2204
06. Enchant Me
07. We don’t Need Roads (The Great Scott Madness)
08. Pleasure Paradise (Oh La-La)
09. The 4Th Dimensional Legacy
10. Eastwood Ravine
11. Johnny B. Goode

LINE-UP:
Mr. Tomi Fooler – Vocals
Andy “K” Cappellari – Guitar
Fabrizio “Fabbro” Taricco – Guitar
Giacomo “Jack” Stiaccini – Bass
Enrico “HenrySydoz” Sidoti – 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.



Apostolica – Haeretica Ecclesia

Haeretica Ecclesia Album Cover Art

Apostolica – Haeretica Ecclesia
Scarlet Records
Release Date: 17/09/2021
Running Time: 50:04
Review by Simon Black
8/10

Apostolica are a band with a bit of a buzz about them at the moment, although I’m very wary of the word ‘buzz’, because it’s a little too close to the entry for ‘hype’ in my thesaurus. As I often blather away on here, European Power Metal bands are churning records out at a crazy rate of knots all the time, despite the fact that in both America and especially here in the UK, they are very much a niche taste by comparison to other sub-genres of our wonderful metallum familiae. The phrase ‘cookie-cutter’ is often deployed when reviewing a fair few of them, but in reality ‘sausage-factory’ might be closer to the truth, given the sheer volume of acts and albums cranking the handle right now. When you have a crowded marketplace the risk of repetition and derivation is incredibly high and on the face of it this is a band, that sounds like Powerwolf and Sabaton, whilst borrowing the concepts both lyrically and visually of medieval masquerade and anonymity that Ghost have done so well…

…And those masks look great by the way, suiting the theme of “modern day knights of the Apocalypse” down to a tee, with ‘Meliora’-era matching Nameless Ghoul styled suits and hard, fixed black medieval death masks – but with the chin kept free for vocal movement (not to mention being a darn site cooler to wear). Ah well, there’s plenty of knobbly bits to hang a medical grade surgical mask on if needed…

I’m perhaps being a bit harsh here, as this is a band on their debut album (although by all accounts experienced musos make up their anonymous ranks) and I am judging this without any opportunity to understand if the positive parts of their reputation came from the live arena, since no-one has seen them perform yet (and to be clear when reviewing a new band I often try and track down live snippets online rather than watching their official videos). The derivation ceases to be an issue when a belter of a live show is unfolding, as the influences often just move into the background if the band are ripping you a new bum hole on stage, but in this instance I have only the record to go on.

Musically this is anthemic Power Metal with every track underscored with church organ orchestrations – which is a bit unfortunate really since Powerwolf just delivered the masterclass in this style with their ‘Call Of The Wild’ album a few months ago (although to be fair those boys have had six increasingly accomplished studio albums to polish their style and that record may well prove to be their peak). Add to this sound is a much gruffer vocal delivery more akin to that of Sabaton’s Joakim Brodén and lyrically Tobias Forge deserves an influential credit. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with what they are doing here, it’s just they aren’t quite doing it as well as those three big influences…

…Yet.

But then, it is early days, and more theatrical bands are stealing the glory right now, and I reserve the right to eat an appropriately chocolaty knight’s helmet when I do finally get to see them live. And to be clear, I think that would be worth waiting for, as musically these boys know how to crank the handle well, although for some bizarre reason all the best tracks don’t really start to surface until the album is over half way through. From ‘No More Place In Hell’ onwards, the anthemic first punching gets going with a vengeance, the arrangements get tighter and this starts to sound like a band well on their way to forging a strong individual sound of their own. What makes the difference is the harmonised ensemble choruses, which sound like the whole band are contributing to and unlike the discordance that often accompanies a bunch or rough and ready metallers doing backing grunts, these guys manage a pretty good choral harmony together. More of this please.

Add to the fact that the arrangements jump up a notch from this point on and I find myself having a completely different listening experience. It doesn’t let up after this, with the moody and elegantly structured ‘The Doom’ driving things forward superbly. After that, Simon is a happy bunny, but clearly next time around a bit more time is going to be needed on pre-production, and I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here and assuming that Covid fucked this up, as it really is an album of two halves. Deliver a whole album with the punch of the second half, and these boys are going to build a reputation that makes winging old hacks like me bitching about their influences irrelevant. A promising start…

‘Sanctus Spiritus’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Sanctus Spiritus
02. The Sword Of Sorrow
03. Come With Us
04. Thanatos
05. Pollution Is My Name
06. No More Place In Hell
07. The Doom
08. Famine
09. The Dusk Is Coming
10. Redemption

LINE-UP:
Ezekiel – Vocals
Isaia – Guitar
Jonas – Bass
Malachia – Drums

LINKS:

Apostolica 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.

Sun Of The Suns – TIIT

TIIT Album Cover Art

Sun Of The Suns – TIIT
Scarlet Records
Release Date: 20/08/2021
Running Time: 46:31
Review by Steven Hooke
8/10

Something of a supergroup in their native scene, Sun of the Suns are an Italian deathcore troupe featuring former and current members of Nightland, The Modern Age Slavery and Carnality, among others. Armed with a session rhythm section featuring Simone Mularoni of DGM and Empyrios fame on bass (who has left the seat warm for incoming permanent bassist Filippo Scrima) and Fleshgod Apocalypse’s Francesco Paoli on drums, the group have appeared almost from out of nowhere, with relatively zero fanfare, to deliver an absolutely blistering debut.

Intro track ‘I, Demiurge pt.1’ brings with it a false sense of security and almost trepidation upon first listen. A short and delicate electro-symphonic piece which sounds like Jordan Fish has snuck in with his latest copy of FL Studios, its immediate sequel and proper album starter explodes into existence, bringing with it a huge-sounding barrage of drums backed with a serene backdrop which is levelled perfectly here, as well as throughout the course of the album, rarely – if ever – over-saturating the end product and taking away from the brutality of the record as a whole. Then, the aftershock kicks in, and along comes a furious deluge of death metal riffage, and the band getting their money’s worth out of Paoli, who leaves no drum head or crash cymbal un-twatted.

There is a wonderful juxtaposition between the duelling guitars of Righetti and Cioffi and the basslines of Mularoni. While all involved are heavier than a sumo performing a shiatsu, the riffs have a crispness about them, a clean delivery in their destructive presence, whilst the tone of the bass guitar is the album’s dark horse, the twisted sibling – the Hugo Simpson if you will. The clearest appearance of this is in ‘The Golden Cage’ where the putrid cadence of Mularoni’s bass almost serves as an homage to deathcore’s lineage of straightforward 90’s death metal, whilst the rest of the album remains firmly in the modern age, whilst its presence in ‘Hacking The Sterile System’ adds the ever-important gurn-face to the listening experience.

It’s not just in his basslines where Mularoni acts as a hidden gem to ‘TIIT’, the production on the album is astounding. The guitars, the bass tone, the duality of them together, the use of synths, all the levelling on the album is of the highest order. The technicality and soundscapes are working in tandem and not against each other, something that debut albums of similar ilk (and sometimes albums 2 and 3 and beyond) struggle to do (see Winds of Plague, Into Infernus and Walking Dead On Broadway).

Sun Of The Suns are a very intriguing group. A sci-fi-intense, deathcore barrage of extremity and world-building that appeared out of nowhere, they clearly have lofty ambitions for themselves and are putting their best foot forward to reach them. Whilst what they’re doing isn’t exactly new, they’re executing it at such a high standard, which is particularly astonishing when you realise this is their debut release. Their potential could result in a new powerhouse of the genre when considering the sci-fi-inspired lyrics, production levels, instrumental abilities, and general songwriting abilities (not least their step into more grandiose terrains with 7 minute-closer ‘I, Emperor Of Nothingness’).

‘TIIT’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. I, Demiurge Pt.1
02. I, Demiurge Pt.2
03. The Golden Cage
04. TIIT
05. Obsolescence Corrupted
06. To Decay To Revive
07. Flesh State
08. Hacking The Sterile System
09. Of Hybridization And Decline
10. I, Emperor Of Nothingness

LINE-UP:
Luca Dave Scarlatti – Vocals
Marco Righetti – Guitars
Ludovico Cioffi – Guitars
Simone Mularoni – Bass (Session)
Francesco Paoli – Drums (Session)

LINKS:

Sun Of The Suns Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Steven Hooke 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.