I’ve made a terrible mistake. A horrible decision that I can never take back. My knuckles are bruised and my hand is broken. My teeth are ground down to useless stumps. My vision swims in front of me, a blur of shapes and motion. Is the blood trickling from my ears real or another deception wrought upon me by untrustworthy eyes? My clenched abdominal muscles send me to my knees, doubled over, as pain wracks my fragile body. As you can see, promo selection at AMG is a brutal process. If you are late to the game, all the good stuff has been picked by the vultur- I mean, my colleagues, and your choices are reduced to black metal, metalcore or symphonic metal (which nearly always means Nightwishcore.) I was late this time, and Jorn help me, I picked symphonic power metal album Phoenix Aflame completely blind. I recall my last thought before my own private hell was unleashed: “Can’t be worse than Akoma.”

Traditionally, the second paragraph is meant for the positive points. I have heard worse production jobs, and though it’s modern and squashed, and the secondary instruments like the keyboard and violin are lost in the mix, at least it doesn’t have the incessant clipping issues Akoma did and it’s not so brickwalled it makes it difficult to listen to for any length of time. Everything else takes care of that just fine.

Everything that is not offensively bad on Phoenix Aflame is offensively bland. This is some of the most toothless, sugary, insipid, Eurovision-ready music ever to subscribe to the name of metal. The guitars chug with no soul or flavor like a frat-house party with alcohol-free beer, occasionally perking up to deliver a solo, remaining careful not to sound too enthusiastic. Still, they offer some diversion, and in the desert the smallest tree is a beauty. The drums are utterly nondescript, never getting more exciting than a stretch of bass kicks in “Phoenix Aflame” and in closer “Healer of Hatred,” coincidentally the two tracks that cause the least gastric acid. I’m sure the abuse of keyboards for some faux-symphonics comes as a complete surprise, though fair is fair, the technicolor does not reach Amaranthe levels.

But where Amaranthe at least has a fairly talented woman on the mic, the voice on Phoenix Aflame hass assaulted my ears and haunted my nightmares since the first spin. On a medium, conversation-level pitch, she sounds merely like Katy Perry exchanged her talent for a guitar in a Faustian deal with a horned and hooved record company executive. Even at her best she sounds like a contestant who dropped out of The Voice before the live shows, although she is at her most tolerable when she doesn’t reach for the sun, like the world’s least impressive Icarus. When she stretches for higher registers, however, even that’s thrown overboard. She can’t nail the higher notes, let alone sustain them, so the choruses regularly turn painful ear-stabbing with every attempt. On top of that, the sheer effort clenches her voice and gives her an unpleasant nasality, like someone is mildly strangling Ariana Grande.

It seems like the slower the song, the more noticeable this is, perhaps because her attempts at sustaining notes draw attention to it. I thought the worst would be ballad “Not My God,” where she deviously enslaves Spiritual Beggars vocalist Apollo Papathanasio into joining her for the most cringe-inducing duet since Grease. But “Velvet Road” demonstrated that I’m lucky my knot-tying skills are insufficient to make a proper noose in 4 minutes. As the pitch and agony ramp up during the chorus I become convinced this is a creative torture method, released upon the unsuspecting world during a CIA test-drive. This record is so bad it has me constructing conspiracy theories to explain its existence.

Extreme scores always cause a rabble. People bicker and argue whether it really is that bad. “The guitar elevates it” or “you’re overreacting on the vocals.” However, at the end of the day, what counts most is not the separate elements, it’s how the album makes you feel. Phoenix Aflame makes me feel awkward, feverish, queasy, horrified, embarrassed, nauseated, depressed, desperate, suicidal, and with long enough exposure, it’ll make me feel dead. I’d rather listen to Akoma any time.


Rating: 0.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Pitch Black Records
Websites: facebook.com/insatiaband
Releases Worldwide: June 23rd, 2017

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  • tetters

    I need to pour some peroxide down my ear canals after listening to that embedded track.

  • Zach Ward

    This is shit. End of.

  • Handy Donut Hole

    I now have cancer.

    • Nightwish it away.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Like summer days driftin’ away, to uh-oh those summer nights…. Uh Well-a well-a well-a huh.

        • Drew Music

          So what’s life like outside the hall?

  • Reese Burns

    “All that’s left is black metal” where’s the problem?

    • Grymm

      Trust me, it can be a problem at times.

      • Reese Burns

        I’d kill to have that sorta problem… especially when compared to the alternatives, as shown by this review! Lol

        • Eli Valcik

          Amen brother! Some real gems have released in Black Metal too, like the new Death Fortress.

          • Drew Music

            Hell yeah, the new Blaze of Sorrow is also pretty fucking spectacular, though not 100% pvre blackness. I’m pretty excited for the new Ars Magna Umbrae to get here, too, but that’ll be a little while due to unexpected medical problems somewhere in the label’s staff. Either way, less may sometimes be more, but I’m having a blast diving deeper and deeper into the desolate depths of dark little ditties about death and dragons, damn it. There is no ‘enough.’

          • ArtifeX

            At least something good came out of this review. I learned of three great sounding BM bands I didn’t know of.

          • Drew Music

            That’s what it’s all about! Get you some Somnium Nox in your life while you’re at it, pretty sweet Australian black metal with the only valid application of a didgeridoo in modern times that I can think of.

          • Frostauon

            While we’re on a roll here, the new Blood Stronghold album is really killer. “Envenom the Viscera of Revenge” is a ripper.

          • Drew Music

            And now I have something new to check out, erbody wins!

          • ArtifeX

            Didgeridoo is a very primal sounding instrument. I’m intrigued.

          • Drew Music

            Well, my original comment got deleted (most likely cuz I was a defiant little shit who posted external links) but I can assure you that a basic search for Blaze of Sorrow on Bandcamp or even Google should yield all you’re looking for and more. Even if you don’t land on their specific page, it’s 2017, you’ll find a BM release along those thematic lines worthy of your time.

          • Drew Music

            Also, the original comment is totally still there, I can be exceptionally unbright at times.

          • basenjibrian

            I cant find any mention of new B of S on the inter tubes?????

          • ArtifeX

            Really digging Death Fortress, the drum work is very good and the riffing is epic without being melodic, kinda like early Immortal (Pure Holocaust era). The vocals are the weakest point imo but aren’t bad by any standards. Based on two spins this is a solid 3.5 \m//

          • Grymm

            True. There have been gems, but usually 90% of the black metal we get aren’t anywhere near that.

    • Too much black metal makes AMG a dull site.

      • Don’t you have another power metal promo to review somewhere? :-p

      • Thatguy

        As much as I love black metal, I agree.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Amen to that.

    • GardensTale

      You’re thinking Mistur. You should think three dudes in a basement with a Sony Walkman on record.

  • Patrick W. Dunne

    I’d say the cover is at least a 3.5/5.

    • Grymm

      It’s almost Wintersunny, actually.

  • Dammage

    Every time I see a symphonic metal review I’m hoping for something even close to classic Nightwish and every time I am disappointed. I’ve been listening to these long enough that I can tie my noose in 4 minutes but the songs ends right before I get up the ladder. One day… one day…

    • Nukenado

      Is it bad to enjoy new Nightwish better than old Nightwish? I put Imaginaerum on the same level as Once… Two of Nightwish’s best records IMO.

      Also, I don’t think anything Nightwishcore has produced has come close to classic Nightwish. After Forever perhaps, though that’s a bit more gothic.

      • Dammage

        I put Imaginaerum pretty damn high in my nightwish album rankings (with DPP and EFMB towards the bottom). I bet if After Forever had more time then it could have grown into a truly amazing symphonic metal band, hopefully Nightwish’s next album actually utilizes floor

        • Nukenado

          I honestly like After Forever over Nightwish… Hearing Floor do acrobatics in ReVamp and EFMB is just ugh… She was amazing with Ayreon too. One can hope their next album is better, right?

          • Dammage

            I mean DPP sucked and then Imaginaerum was great, so I assume their next album should be great if the trend continues.

          • Nukenado

            Ah, I see. Hopefully this is the case.

  • Heldarc

    ,,like someone is mildly strangling Ariana Grande”

    That is actually not such a bad picture….sorry that´s perv in me talking. Forgot to take my pills.

    • GardensTale

      I knew I was gonna get a comment like this. I can assure you it sounds far less pleasant than it might look.

      • Nukenado

        “sounds far less pleasant than it might look”
        That should be the tagline for this review.

  • aaron bergman

    It’s like Disney and Guitar Center decided to start a band.

  • Eli Valcik

    The guy on the far right kinda looks like Q from Impractical Jokers.

    • Grymm

      Can’t. Unsee.

  • Ferrous Beuller

    Ha! I nearly grabbed this one from the bin for a laugh – sucks to be you! But seriously, this is bad. Seriously bad.

  • basenjibrian

    The dude on the left shore iz purty though.

    • Nag Dammit

      From left to right: “You know what these big holes in my ears are for, right?”. “DONT. STOP. TENSING”. “Sebastian Bach was my milkman”. “My other band does black metal (and also craft beer)”.

  • Mollusc

    Do you HAVE to review something once it has been selected? Is there really no going back? Can Mr Druhm monitor all your listening equipment to make sure you’ve hit the prerequisite number of spins?

    • Once it’s assigned it becomes a blood oath, come what may!

      • Mollusc

        Sounds unhygienic.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Given the state to which this album reduced him, couldn’t GardensTale have claimed impossibility of performance?

    • GardensTale

      I spun Green Bastard only twice way back when, so I doubt it. But it’s beneath my honor to turn down a review over album quality. That would be cowardice.

      • Mollusc

        Your martyrdom is more than appreciated for the quality of the review and for the comments/discussion it has generated.

  • Ono Trümmer

    Seriously, this has to be something out of a casting show, just look at this picture.

    • Reese Burns

      It’s the single douchiest picture I’ve ever seen.

      • Ono Trümmer

        Makes you wonder if you can look like this and actually create good music… Kind of unfair, I know, but that’s how it is. Human unicorns, all of them.

  • Thatguy

    ‘Eurovision-ready’ sums it up. This is worthless though, so a 0.0 for me.

    • GardensTale

      I had it as 0.0 for a while, but after comparing it with Project Theory and Tetragrammacide I decided it wasn’t quite on that level. Close, though.

      • Nukenado

        Honestly, a lot of shitty bands are overrated 0.5. Project Theory is better than Angry White Elephant… That’s the worst nu-metal I’ve heard in my life. Both should have just gotten 0.0…

      • Thatguy

        Fair enough.

      • Drew Music

        I not-so-secretly spend every morning praying for a true 0.0.

        • The Akerstache

          Don’t we all want to see that?

          We get something terrible every day, but to get something truly devoid of any positive value is almost rarer than a perfect record.

  • Ivan E. Rection
    • Drew Music

      I’ve never believed in forehead tattoos until this post.

  • Ono Trümmer

    I actually just read part of the lyrics from the embedded track with the sound turned off – didn’t want to give my son nightmares while he was falling asleep… Great fun! Like a cheese generator cranked up to max.

    • GardensTale

      Commenting on the lyrics would have been fish in a barrel.

      • Ono Trümmer

        True. Thanks for the heroic review, by the way. Believe me, one day, the wounds will heal and you’ll be whole again.

  • Nukenado

    Some people just don’t get that female vocalists don’t always have to go operatic.
    Listen to Madder Mortem, record labels. Nightwish isn’t the only accessible female-fronted metal band out there.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      Alot of these bands have the same flaw for me (Nightwish, Delain, Within Temptation, etc). It’s not that they’re just bad (although this band is), but that I can never find variation within the music. The songs may sound good a couple times, but they quickly blend and all sound basically the same (with the good bands in this style). Actually, that’s not just female fronted either, but most symphonic metal, period.

      • Nukenado

        I’d say that Delain and WT are more goth-rock than Nightwishcore, but yes, plenty of “symphonic power metal” is just Nightwishcore.

  • Dagoth_RAC

    June has seen some truly awful albums. Perhaps we should skip the Record o’ the Month and have an Embarrassment o’ the Month?

  • The Akerstache

    Wow, someone actually outdid A Hero for the World for “Worst Power Metal” album for June?

    How did we let this happen?

    • Drew Music

      I don’t want to talk about it. Just keep telling yourself “Kwintessens = AotY,” and everything will be fine.

  • Planex

    Why do people say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover? I do that every time and I’m right most of the time.

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Wait….isn’t that cover the default Windows Vista background?

    • Monsterth Goatom

      I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but it would appear Microsoft has more class.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Based on that song, I can’t find fault with this review. It’s like a never ending spree of the things that turn me off about this genre.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Thank the good Jorn there’s always Alestorm to clean my ears out after such aural defilement.

    • Drew Music

      I know what all of those words mean, but I’ve never seen them paired as such. Good Jorn? Remedial Alestorm… to rectify other metal wrongdoings?!
      WHERE AM I???

  • Drew Music

    What fresh Hell is this???
    I trusted you, GT.
    I TRUSTED YOU!

    • GardensTale

      I spent 700 words warning you!

      • Serjien

        I think two words would have sufficed: Stay away!

  • Grymm

    This sounds like the anime intro to every Namco Bandai RPG ever, but worse somehow.

    • Nukenado

      I imagined the Tales of Symphonia intro graphics over this song’s intro… Fuck, you’re right!
      It sounds worse (IMO) because the guitars are playing in “kind of metal” mode and the sluggish pace. Those intros were faster paced than this.

  • Brian Kelly

    Only hearing the embedded song, other than the vocals not being really great, it sounded like a pretty good average 3/5 song for what it is, and it was pretty catchy too. Maybe the rest of the cd is much worse.

    • GardensTale

      There’s a few much worse tracks on there, though your tolerance still seems to be much higher than mine.

  • herrschobel

    ha ! ha ! aahhhhhhhh i have a triceps too !

  • chitownproud85

    Wow. Those vocals though. No one during the formation/creation/recording process thought to stop and say – maybe we should keep things in a range she can sing? Are they hoping to ride her “looks” to a few festival appearances? I’m genuinely surprised. I dont get it.

  • Emily Estilow

    To all of you whining and bitching about a band who works hard and puts a LOT of time and effort into their music: A. Let me hear your band’s demo, and B. I’m 99.9% sure the Godsmack song “Cryin’ Like A Bitch” was written in your honor.