Nocturnal Rites

Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix Review

Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix Review

“Back when I was a carefree graduate student, the band was a fairly typical sword and sorcery themed Euro-power outfit. Despite an artery clogging cheese quotient, the sheer infectious strength of albums like Tales of Mystery and Imagination and The Sacred Talisman all but forced you to get your Balrogs to the wall. Everything changed when Jonny Lindqvist joined as vocalist for 2000s Afterlife opus, slowly shifting the style into a more hard rock oriented sound.” Back from the ash hole of metal history.

Firewind – Immortals Review

Firewind – Immortals Review

“Long running Greek power metal warriors Firewind have always been a reliable second-string act thanks to the capable stewardship of axe God, Gus G. When news broke in 2009 that he was to be Ozzy‘s new guitar wiz, I wondered if he’d be able to keep his first love alive on the side. Immortals marks the third Firewind platter since he joined with metal’s original maniac, so it seems the man can multi-task just fine.” This Gus is on fire!

Sunburst – Fragments of Creation Review

Sunburst – Fragments of Creation Review

“It’s well known that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with power metal and progressive/power. Some of my favorite bands ever—Symphony X and Blind Guardian the most obvious among them—fall into this category, and I keep an ever-watchful eye peeled for new additions to my catalogue. Yet the genre is also plagued by some serious annoyances for me. First, many of the most popular vocalists are people who I find nigh-on unlistenable (Warrel Dane). Second, unlike my esteemed colleague and dictatorial collaborator Lieutenant Corporal Steel Druhm, I find that much of the music being produced within this scene just isn’t terribly heavy. Bands that others worship—see Anubis Gate—feel washed out and bland, offering up little “metal” to keep me engaged.”

Elvenking – The Pagan Manifesto Review

Elvenking – The Pagan Manifesto Review

Elvenking is another one of Italy’s most famous cheese-metal establishments and they’ve been pumping out folk/medieval influenced power metal since 2001’s extraordinary Heathenreel. Unfortunately, since their debut record the band hasn’t produced an album worth all the hope invested in them because of their debut work. In terms of Angry Metal Guy’s Law of Diminishing Recordings™, Elvenking is possibly one of the fastest drop-offs in recent memory. I’ve checked in from time to time over the years, as I want to like them, but I genuinely haven’t ever been able to get into their stuff. The last one I spent any longer amount of time with was 2010’s Red Silent Tides which left me cold and bored, and Era wasn’t great from a songwriting perspective, but the record was genuinely killed by its mastering job.” All has not been well with Elvenking, can The Pagan Manifesto right the ship? Or will they continue to produce flat, disappointing crap?

Zonaria – Arrival of the Red Sun Review

Zonaria – Arrival of the Red Sun Review

Zonaria has always been a bit of a footnote to the Umeå legacy. By the time they released their first record Infamy & the Breed in 2007, the Swedish metal scene was a thing of the past and melodic death metal—Zonaria’s stock in trade—was pretty much the red-headed step kid of the metal scene. That didn’t stop the band’s debut from making a splash and getting the band signed to Century Media—where they released Cancer Empire in 2008 to rave reviews and… were promptly never heard from again. Until now, that is.

Omnium Gatherum – New World Shadows Review

Omnium Gatherum – New World Shadows Review

There was a time when melodic death metal was every breath I took. While it’s been a long time since that was the case, I certainly can say that I spent the late 90s and early 00s listening to my fair share of melodic Swedish death metal and loving it. But since then melodic death metal has kinda fallen off a cliff. This is partially due to the dawning of metalcore and the co-opting of Swedish thrash and death metal by hardcore kids, but I think it’s mainly because just like every scene after a while you start growing tired of the sound. Every new album that gets released gets a “Yeah, well, I’ve heard this before.” While there have been some notable melodic death metal records in the last couple of years, Barren Earth and Be’lakor come to mind, only the former has really stuck out as truly remarkable. That is until I checked out New World Shadows from Omnium Gatherum.

Disdain – Leave This World Review

Disdain – Leave This World Review

Those well-versed in the metal arts may see a band named Disdain and expect a dose of brutal death metal or possibly some frostbitten and bitter black metal. In this case however, the name is quite misleading. Disdain’s debut album Leave This World reveals a Swedish troupe bringing a somewhat unique spin to the traditional power metal sound and sounding far more experienced and professional than you might expect. This may owe to the fact that these guys have been in existence since the late 90’s and at one time even included Nightwish’s Anette Olzon on vocals. I can already hear the chorus of power metal bashers out there (you know who you are) screaming about how much crappy power metal is already on the shelves these days and how there isn’t room for any more whether it’s good, bad or ugly. Well, doubters be damned! Disdain has managed a rare feat and rise above most of their peers with this release while managing to avoid the many pitfalls that doom lesser power metal bands.

Rage – Strings to a Web Review

Rage – Strings to a Web Review

When I was in my big power metal phase, which I guess would’ve probably been around 2000/2001, I stumbled upon a Rage CD in a great used CD store that I used to go into all the time (those were the days). I thought for sure it was going to be great just from looking at it. Turns out… not so much. I don’t recall hating a record more than that one. I thought it was a major pile of shit. I’m pretty sure it was the record XIII, but I can’t be sure as it was sold away a long time ago. Needless to say I wasn’t even a little bit excited when I received this record. I was fully expecting this record to be totally crap.