Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Strange Here-II

Minotauro Records
2015

Strange Here is a new (heavy) psychedelic rock/doom metal project from ex-Paul Chain member/solo artist Alexander Scardavian. In addition to playing with Paul Chain on his 1991 full-length LP, "Whited Sepulchres" this stellar musician appeared on the "Official Live Bootleg" live disc from 1999 and on a 2001 single entitled "Sanctuary Heve". He also contributed to Death SS member Steve Sylvester’s two solo albums, both as a writer and as a session musician. Here on the highly-rated "II" the highly-skilled/praise-worthy Alexander Scardavian (born Alessandro Scardavi) effectively handles all the vocals, plays as guitar and takes care of the much-enjoyed keyboard parts. With a little help from ex-Hand of God member Domencio "Dom" Lotito (he tackles bass duties and ends up adding some extra-spicy guitar playing to the mix) Alexander turns his various influences (Black Sabbath, Venom, St. Vitus, Pentagram, Blue Cheer...) into pure gold with this 7-track LP nothing short of an essential pick-up for fans of doom metal! As the original "Strange Here" was a 2002 solo release from Alexander Scardavian (a highly skilled musician in his own right!) it is easy enough to see where this band's name came from and here on the atmospheric "II" it is not just the name game that is played with an eye set on the divine purpose as (musically) Alexander Scardavian takes a further peak at hell and it's all for a chance to continue his journey into the mouth of utter, unrestrained and unholy madness! On this eerie soundtrack we are given a pinch of Black Sabbath by way of vintage Venom with "Still Alone" and "Kiss of Worms" (a old track that Paul Chain often played as a show opener) all but sealing the deal that "II" was going to be thick-skinned pseudo thrash album! But, just about when you think you've got "II" pegged and you naively talk about where this adventure is taking you it all slows down to a creeping crawl with the rest (or at least a choice chunk!) of this fascinating CD pecking at your eyes as you twist in the wind! As I plunged further into pitch-black abyss that is "II" I felt the cold chill of Strange Here's music with the only apt-description almost as psychological scaring as the music itself! Imagine a long blade slowing digging into your body and as the perpetrator slowing stabs you to death it's all you can do to hold onto that last tiny shiver of life. With death peaking it's eyes out you begin to fade and as the darkness closes in on you it's all over. That is the tale of "II" from "Born To Lose" onward with Alexander and Lotito having graciously granted us admission to the nightmare. Not bad for a first recording. Not bad at all.

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Monday, March 02, 2015

ShadowIcon-Smoke and Mirrors

Self-Release/Independent
2015

Active since 2006, with the well-received "Empire in Ruins" LP having preceded this EP by several years, ShadowIcon is a six piece symphonic power metal/melodic metal fronted by the incredible lovely Ana Prijatelj Pelhan. With a angelic voice to match her outward beauty (see pic right below!) this fabulous (and dare I say enticing?) lead singer is nothing short of captivating in the video for this EP's lead single, If I Was the One.

Surrounded by expertly-skilled& highly-metalized bandmates, with keyboardist Peter Smrdel (Divine Illusion) providing a certain amount of stylized energy (by way of not just keys, but smooth synth passages!) to what could otherwise be view as a mash-up of melodic metal and European power metal, Ana Prijatelj Pelhan works equally well whether on her own either or when she is joined by someone like Helloween’s Sascha Gerstner on the (power rocking!!!!) opening track, "(Now I See) Through A Mirror Darkly". That particular duet is both powerful and poetic and with the rest of her band (guitarists Tomaž Lovšin and Bojan Kostanjšek, bassist Matej Ravšelj, the aforementioned Peter Smrdel and drummer Žiga Ravšelj) in fine form the track in question becomes arguably this EP's heaviest moment. At just shy of the four minute mark both "If I Was the One" and the lead single's follow-up number, "The Edge", almost come across as pop material dressed up in heavy metal clothing. Given the charming appeal of these warm and comforting pieces it's easy enough to find yourself lost with lush arrangements giving way to guitar-driven hard rock. Meanwhile we have the fantastic (hard & heavy) ballad "The Beauty Of A Rose" and if you hadn't found yourself head over heels in love with Ana before hand then this nearly five minute gem will likely be the moment to finally break your will power once and for all! With the haunting "My Plea" and "(Now I See) Through a Mirror Darkly (Reprise)" ending this EP on a high note this Slovenia-based six-piece is on the path to something quite special. Mixed and mastered by Charlie Bauerfield and Thomas Geiger (Helloween, Blind Guardian), "Smoke and Mirrors" comes with my highest recommendation! With a re-release* of sorts planned for March 16th (the band will be releasing a 2CD version off this sharp-dressed EP with the second CD due to feature instrumental versions of the tracks 1-5 so for all you karaoke fans out there!) this EP should enthusiastically be scooped up fans of symphonic/power metal and/or female-fronted metal. Between the talent and the look of ShadowIcon one could easily envision this band catapulting over the competition before long with world conquest all but resting in the hands of the right PR with the right marketing. It's too bad that there isn't a stock market set up for acquiring "shares" in bands as an early invested in ShadowIcon could have you set for life!    

*The Metal Archives makes mention of this EP original coming out on December 15th, 2014.   

For more information on ShadowIcon be sure to check out their Facebook page or their official site.

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dead Earth Politics-Men Become Gods

Self-Release/Independent
2015

Almost one year removed from the band's righteous The Queen of Steel EP, Austin, Texas heavy metal groove thrashers Dead Earth Politics return with this 4-track following, "Men Become Gods", making everything right with the world. Or at least for the time being. There's always tomorrow and new darkness to be had, but for the here and now this one's a real deal banger and it bangs HARD! Mark this date down (March 14th, 2015) as that is the official release date of this praise-worthy EP. The second in a series of three EP's, "Men Become Gods" might normally get down votes for rolling out on my ex wife's B-day, but even that mistimed coincidence cannot stop the thunderous joy that comes from unleashing the beast's beats that constitute these cuts! For those who loved the band's last EP this upcoming EP is more of the same only better! That begins with the vocal styling of frontman Ven Scott and ends with the drumming of Mason Evans. In-between it's all kind of gooey goodness with the addition of new* guitarist Aaron Canady (of Austin, Texas metal band Shrapnel) likely to pay dividends for year's to come. One can't help but appreciate all that this band puts into their music and the professional way in which they present themselves. I'm rooting for Dead Earth Politics and I suggest all of our readers do the same. These guys come across as legit with "Men Become Gods" crushing all expectations and strongly hinting at a band right on cusp of something big (much like their BIG riffs!).You can find this Texas band online here or if you like here while you can hear the group's last EP over here.

*Aaron Canady joined in 2014 and was on the group's last EP as well. Even as good as the chemistry was on that particular EP (between Canady and Dead Earth Politics' guitarist Tim Driscoll) it has improved tenfold with "Men Become Gods" pointing towards serious future success for this five-piece band! Between these two (Canady and Driscoll) riffs fly everywhere, but these also gel seamlessly making the string section of Dead Earth Politics just glorious! With Will Little doing his thing on the bass (and doing it oh so smooth!) this band is (collectively) something to behold! As much as I loved the group's last release this new one is a improvement with the songwriting and overall delivery of Dead Earth Politics bordering on near-perfection! So far 2015 is proving to be real blessing when it comes to heavy metal/thrash with hooks!

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Embryo-Embryo

Logic(Il)Logic Records/Andromeda Dischi
2015

The first of two promo CDs to recently come my way from the fine folks at Atomic Stuff Promotion and Logic(Il)Logic Records (Badmotorfinger, Twintera, Steel City, Hex, Nightglow....), "Embryo" is the latest release from this long-standing melodic death metal band from Cremona, Italy. Formed in 2000, with vocalist Roberto Pasolini and guitarist Eugenio "Uge" Sambasile the sole original members and influences listed as Fear Factory, Meshuggah, Strapping Young Lad*, Embryo first hit the scene with the demo "The Source of Hate" in 2001. Following the release of "Promo 2002" the band issued their full-length debut album, "Chaotic Age" in 2006. Another demo ("Promo 2009") appeared before the band would release the highly-rated "No God Slave" in 2010. It was "No God Slave" that truly brought the group into the limelight with stellar reviews pushing the band upward and onward. Here it is 2015 and the band is finally rolling out album number three, the self-titled "Embryo". Currently rounded out by keyboardist Simone Solla, bassist Nicola Iazzi and drummer Enea Passarella** this five-piece band falls somewhere between melodic death metal and standard death metal with the harsh voice of lead singer Roberto Pasonlini often times moving this metal band into deathcore and/or extreme territory!  With a grand total of eleven-tracks and a run-time of over forty minutes the recently-released "Embryo" (recently-released as in the 10th of this month!) is all at once intimidating and intriguing. Lyrically-speaking the album "Embryo" is "a descent into the Maelström of human soul 'til the door to the abyss that is the denial of being part of mankind" even if you'd have a hard time catching on to that given the otherworldly/demonic delivery of Roberto Pasonlini. As stated it's his unapologetic approach to "singing" that gives this Italian band that extra edge making this self-titled studio recording excessively brutal! By balancing out his beastly voice with complex arrangements that are deep and soul-steering an album like this becomes much more than merely a LOUD death metal release. That isn't to say that "Embryo" isn't LOUD as it is! It's also extremely HEAVY as touched upon. But, thanks in no small part to the fact that "Embryo" was recorded, mixed and mastered by the skilled hands of producer Simone Mularoni (DGM, Empyrios, The Modern Age Slavery, Vision Divine...), it is all that (LOUD and HEAVY) and so much more! This Italian band plays with purpose and the various musicians involved with this recording did more than just unleash unholy amounts of hostility and vulgarity dressed up as "music". These numbers offer interesting riffs and imaginative keyboards. The bass parts are progressive and the drumming (while certainly pummeling!) shows passion and personal pride. When brought together the music gives the listener a reason to pause and reflect what Embryo is really about. "Embryo" is worth tracking down as there is much more than meets the eye when it comes to this particular death metal band.     

*Given the band's complex arrangements and the compelling ingredients that found their way into this mix those three influences don't even begin to scratch the surface when it comes to everything that "Embryo" has to offer. Whether you are into melodic death metal or extreme metal this album has something worthwhile to say to you if you should choose to listen!

** Drums on "Embryo", which by the way are freakin' smashing(!), were performed by the talented Francesco Paoli (Fleshgod Apocalypse).

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Night Demon-Curse Of The Damned



Century Media Records
2015

"Curse Of the Damned" is the long-awaited debut album from Ventura, California's Night Demon. Following in the footsteps of the phenomenal Night Demon this recently-released full-length LP is also the soundtrack to the non-motion-picture graphic novel "Blood Sacrifice". At least that is what the booklet reports. "Soundtrack" or not this 47-minute plus CD (which I am listening to as we speak with the aptly-title anthem "Heavy Metal Heat" just killing it!) is an absolute stone cold-sensation from killer opener "Screams In The Night" (a rocket-fueled speed metal number that beautifully rips your head off!) through album closer (and "bonus track") "Road Racin'". Everything that there was to love about the group's independently-released 2012 EP "Night Demon" has been modified and amplified here on this 12-track CD with the wide-open range of influences sure to appeal to anyone and everyone claiming to be a heavy metal maniac! On Night Demon's first album (available on CD as well as LP friends!) lead vocalist/bassist Jarvis Leatherby channels a young Sean Harris (Diamond Head) while his bandmates (guitarist Brent Woodward and drummer Dustin Squires) help navigate "Curse Of The Damned" through wave after wave of N.W.O.B.H.M-inspired & influenced numbers with the likes of Iron Maiden, Saxon and Judas Priest resting comfortably next to bands such as Angel Witch, Satan, Jaguar, U.F.O., (early) Demon, Grim Reaper and the aforementioned Diamond Head! That said, it's not just the N.W.O.B.H.M. movement that gives this album such a bright glow as influences such as Dokken, Motörhead, Kiss, Riot, Black Sabbath, Metallica and even Budgie squirm their way into the mix making "Curse Of the Damned" a must-own! Naming just one or two fave numbers would be a near impossible task when it comes to a release like this one as there is really no dub to be had and whether we are talking about the title track (80's metal anyone?) or a number like "Save Me Now" (more magical 80's metal that features sort of spooky guest keyboards from one Owen Bucey) you simply can't go wrong! Heavy rock and roller "Satan" actually reminds me of the band Satan only with some (again early) Demon tossed in for good measure while "Full Speed Ahead" plays like a time-honored/"We're your biggest fans guys and we're not afraid to show it!" tribute to N.W.O.B.H.M. heroes Diamond Head! Yes, "Full Speed Ahead" does dip into the likes of Maiden and Priest, but it's Diamond Head all the same (as if there is anything wrong with that!). Black Sabbath is somewhat mirrored in the epic metal track "The Howling Man" and on "Run For Your Life" (a sweet as can be speed-rocker with fantastic gang vocals from Blade Killer members Jonathan Rubio and Carlos Gutierrez!) we're treated to some faint hints of what could just be "Kill Em All" days Metallica! And yet despite all of these influences a band like Night Demon sounds remarkably like no one other than Night Demon. All of these different influences simply blend together like the perfect after-dinner cocktail with the sweet taste of  "Mastermind", "Killer" and "Heavy Metal Heart" not once disguising the higher-than-average alcohol content of this "Drink it up lads as if there is no tomorrow!" intoxicating party-pleasure! There are no after-affects with this mix though! I mean other than the fact that you might find some of these songs stuck in your head even days later! Theirs is the sound of sincere, honest-to-goodness true/traditional heavy metal and just like 1999-era Lex Luger it is "The Total Package"! Catchy, hook-heavy and highly enjoyable/addictive heavy metal like this has few equals and just going by a memorable number like "Run For Your Life" this debut album has hit release written all over it! Anytime you come to the party this prepared you know that there is nowhere to go but up so predicting big things for the trio Night Demon isn't rocket science! No bones about it these guys will be huge soon enough so now is the best time to join in on the festivities! You can find these guys online at their Facebook page here
or at their official site here. As far as picking up a copy of "Curse Of the Damned" for yourself goes either check out their webpage or head to places like Amazon or Ebay. Rightly so this album is everywhere
so there is no good or justifiable reason why you shouldn't own a copy of this A+ masterpiece by weeks end!

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Defyance-Reincarnation

See note below*
Minotauro Records
2015

Well, well, well what do we have here? Is it really you Defyance? Apparently so. Yes, it's the same Defyance that was covered here, here and here. And now they are back with their forth full-length album in "Reincarnation"! For Defyance (a U.S. progressive metal/power metal whose roots can be traced all the way back in time to 1989!) the title of their upcoming release on Minotauro Records could not be any more accurate if they tried! "Reincarnation" is a spot-on title as the sound here reflects a band that has been reborn while A) Retaining everything that made them so fantastic to begin with (the fact is the style and substance of this Iowa-based band has never been called into question!) and B) Evolving to the next great plain of existence! And as a reborn act they have the majestic quality of a newborn. They have that extra sparkle that comes from experiencing a new life form for the first time. "Reincarnation" is the past and present colliding together and it is (simply put) great. Well, not just "great". It's more like Tony the Tiger "GREAT!!!!" but with an extra helping of sugar heaped on in the form of two bonus covers! Those who be Fifth Angel's "Wins Of Destiny" and Riot's "Sign Of The Crimson Storm" and as a fan of all three of these bands (Riot, Fifth Angel and Defyance!) all I can say is "Wow"! It's something special how album number four for a band such as Defyance rolls out bone-snapping winners like the one-two punch that is opener "High Ground" and the LP's second track, "Rangers Lead The Way", while balancing out the back end of "Reincarnation" with the two smashing cover choices! Between the sheets you're likely to discover gems like the slow rocker "Devil Dogs" and the emotional "Deeds Not Words". Even if I can't quite put my finger on what makes "Reincarnation" so wicked to begin with (Is it the material on hand or the way in which it's delivered? Is it the band members themselves (as individual standouts) or is the way these four emerge as a collective? Or is it simply a case of all of the above and then some?) the end result is always the same. "Reincarnation" just rocks! The classy nature of a number like "Love Honor More" mixes so well with the classical structure of "From The Ashes" that you can't help but feel as if this release was custom crafted by some mystical force. The individual songs pack plenty of punch as "singles" while the album as a whole flows effortlessly from the speakers and into your eardrums where they are gobbled up in glorious delight! From the same four original (read: AWESOME!) band members that gave us the great "Time Lost" we are treated to one of 2015's best power metal releases and it doesn't get any better than this! Maybe we should just stop the competition this year and just award this four-piece the title already? Frankly, this one's going to be hard to top my friends. Unfortunately though it looks as if most of you will be waiting until spring time to find that out. At least that time frame is the last I heard for this album's release date, but it will be well worth the wait. All eight of the new numbers are near perfect in form and execution with the two aforementioned cover songs nicely rounded out by a original demo version of "Passing Of The Night". Said number original appeared on the group's 2002 effort, "Transitional Form", and the rougher version presented here easily fits the overall feeling of Defyance's latest work. Quite obviously I highly recommend  the album "Reincarnation" with the though process that this CD should really appeal to all fan's of U.S. power metal as well as our readers out here in cyberspace that just love high-quality progressive power metal! For updates on this release be sure to follow Minotauro Records online here and be sure to bookmark their official site right here.

*Album artwork presented here may or may not reflect end product.

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Free Metal Monday: Wacken Metal Battle Canada Compilation Vol. 3


Today's Free Metal Monday offering is a real slam dunk! How about a free compilation with over 80 tracks? Sounds good right? For those of you who don't know all the details of Wacken Metal Battle Canada I've provided part of the press release below. Otherwise sit back and enjoy this LOADED compilation...

Official press release:
   
Wacken Metal Battle Canada is part of an international competition where band's from across the country iVictoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City will battle each other for one to be selected and join over 30 other countries for an international battle of the bands at the world's largest outdoor metal festival Wacken Open Air, which has been taking place in Wacken , Germany for the last 25 years. Toronto's Crimson Shadows (2013 winners - video at Wacken) and Montreal's Mutank (2014 winners - video at Wacken) have had that honour playing in front of thousands. This year's festival will be taking place from July 30th to August 1st.

 Download this HUGE compilation here:

https://wackenmetalbattlecanada.bandcamp.com/album/wacken-metal-battle-canada-compilation-vol-3

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

MarysCreek-Incubic Twin

MarysCreek Records
2014

Swedish heavy & hard rock? Now, where have we heard that phrase before? Seriously though this Linköping , Stockholm-based collective is merely one of what seems like BILLIONS of sweet heavy & hard rock to come out Sweden and with a sophomore album on the horizon this EP seems to be just a taste of what's to come. And as an appetizer it does the job just fine! It makes you want to lick your fingers clean and leaves you dreaming happy thoughts about the meal that's to come! For the heavy hard rockers involved with MarysCreek it's all about the mighty riff as they offer up their slick take on modern hard rock/heavy metal. There's a subtle hint of melancholy that bristles throughout MarysCreek's EP and when that combines with the band's meaty trash rock licks and pop sensibilities it's simply one glorious explosion of prime-time rock and roll as that is 100% Swedish and 100% MarysCreek! Here's hoping the band's next studio set is every bit as slick and wicked as this EP is!

https://www.facebook.com/maryscreek 

http://maryscreek.com/

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Grenouer-Unwanted Today

Mausoleum Records
2015

Due to drop on March 20th, "Unwanted Today" is the eighth full-length album from long-standing band Grenouer. That's not even taking into account the various demos, EPs, odd single and splits that this four-piece outfit has released since first forming way back in 1992. How that makes this band a "New breath of modern rock-metal from Saint Petersburg, Russia" then is beyond me! As odd as a opening/rant as that might be those are the exact words that open up Grenouer's promo for album number eight so it does seem a bit strange to toss out a word like "new" in regards to a band that first formed when I was still in high school! Maybe just maybe this Saint Petersburg band, with their Dualized (Mnemic, Voodoo Highway, Travis Cold) -produced new 13-track album here, is talking about their latest style as the Metal Archives has them taking the leap from thrash/death metal early on to industrial metal before finally landing squarely on rock/metal map that stands before us? If so that would make a bit more sense as (frankly-speaking here friends) that seems to be a trend for quite a few of Russia's more long-standing acts. The pogoing from one genre to another that is! Which brings us all the way back around to the latest "styling and profiling" sound that is Grenouer. Let's have more of the promo material if we can as the following statement is actually more telling about this band's latest LP. "The vocals reminiscent of Devin Tonwsend type prog-metal, while the guitars produce radical riffs not unlike Meshuggah" we read from Lukas Hendrik over at Rock Hard Magazine and (true to form) that's as good of a start as any for "Unwanted Today". Lead singer Andrey Ind (ex-C.O.D., ex-Tartharia) does have some Devin Tonwsend going for him, but quite honestly I prefer Grenouer's front-man over his "name that vocalist influence" counterpart! The truth is Andrey has a nice range going on and he breaths life into what can often-times be a difficult form of metal to fully embrace. Modern metal like this has it's own kind of built-in audience (of which I'm admittedly not a regular attendant) and there are plenty of sales figures to back that fact up. But, while I love the emotional vibe of rock/metal like this it always feel a tad artificial to me. That's not necessarily the case with these rockers. Together with Alexander Motor (guitars), Al Bolo (bass) and Danny D (drums) our main man Andrey cuts a nice path across Russia's cold landscape with material that is warmly-inviting. When Grenouer is in deep those ill feelings I have for modern metal lighten up even if I would be hard pressed to point towards any particular stand-out numbers. Even with all the special guests that invited special guests that Grenouer invited to the party it still strikes me that much of "Unwanted Today" blurs together. For the curious those guests would be Eddy Cavazza (John Wetton, Anthony Phillips) on guitar along with vocalists such as Demian Von Dunkelwald (Overunit Machine) and Enrico "Erk" Scutti (Figure Of Six). There is even an opera singer in Dmitriy Yankovskiy (Helicon Opera, NeoClassic Project) which one would think might add a little zing to the mix. Sadly it's still just Grenouer doing their thing. So, what does all of that exactly mean in the end? Well, as an outsider looking in the album "Unwanted Today" made for a pleasant enough listening experience even if it was one which I'm not likely to indulge in ever again. For everyone else it would simply depend on how much you were into the whole rock/modern metal sound. For those who are crazy about the scene a release like "Unwanted Today" might be worth a listen. But even then it's not likely that this will be the album to push over Grenouer over the hump. Just like every other form of metal the one that Grenouer is stepping into is way over-crowded! It's takes a lot for your voice to be heard with thousands of other bands vying for attention especially when you are late to the main event to begin with! That's not to say that Grenouer cannot pick up a few more fans along the way. They likely will especially with a label like Mausoleum Records behind them. But as far as being the next big thing in modern metal? I'd take a pass on that bet friends.....

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