Dvne, Omega Severer review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

The new EP from Dvne captures some of their new music and reinvigorates some of their well-known work.

Edinburgh, Scotland Prog Metal band Dvne will have a new album out in 2021. In the mist of time between now and then, they have released an EP that has two songs: one new, and the other a re-recording of a favorite tune from the band’s Aurora Majesty release of 2015.

The band is Victor Vicart (guitar, vocals, and keys), Dudley Tait (drums), Daniel Barter (guitar and vocals), Greg Armstrong (bass), and Evelyn May (keys). I found out about them via Psycho Las Vegas, and I have been a fan ever since. For many people, Prog is an acquired taste, perhaps because of its compositional density – it requires participation from the listener. I like it in just the right amounts; I know when to listen and when to stop.

The new song is “Omega Severer,” to which the EP owes its title. It is heavy on the synthesizers. I do not mean that as a negative criticism – the song is ten minutes long and there is a lot going on throughout the journey. There are multiple voices, heavy guitars, quiet moments and outrageously loud ones. The complex nature of this type of music often means that these sort so transitions are expected, and here they all are. The possibilities are truly endless but artistry and talent are required to make something enjoyable to listen to and memorable. This song hits all the marks, and more.

The re-recorded song is “Of Blade And Carapace.” I liked this song the first time I heard, and the re-recording is excellent. It is a very active piece, with rapid movements and a pulsating, compelling nature.

Bandcamp is the place to collect these songs. Link below. I am anxiously awaiting the full album in 2021. Recommended.

Band photo by Johannes Andersen.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://songs-of-arrakis.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://facebook.com/DvneUK

Dvne, Omega Severer review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Fates Warning, Long Day Good Night review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Fates Warning has released their biggest album yet and it has all the trappings of a milestone.

Back at the beginning, Night on the Bröcken (1984) was something very different for the times – we were in the midst of the NWOBHM. That first album had a an occult theme (which I really appreciated) but it was the Progressive Metal elements that were the most important sign of something completely different, and you can hear them in there if you listen. Queensrÿche is another example – their first album (the self-titled EP) was also Power Rock with occult elements and they, too, emerged on the forefront of Prog, along with Dream Theater and … Fates Warning. I knew about Queensrÿche first because I was so taken with their song “The Lady Wore Black,” but it was Fates Warning that really stuck with me through the decades because of their compositional ingenuity. Look back and listen through the long catalogue of this band (on Spotify, say) and I think you will be amazed.

The new album finds Ray Alder and Jim Matheos working together writing the music. There are thirteen songs on Long Day Good Night, which is the band’s 13th album. It listens like a tour through the world Fates Warning has created over the years and a few special glimpses of things we have never seen before. It is Progressive Metal of course, and complex, but it also has many heavy linear passages that forge a straight-forward groove.

After a three minute soft, eerie, and somehow reassuring intro, “The Destination Onward” lands the first hard punch. It is eight minutes of structure you could build the rest of the album on, from the stabbing guitar assertions surrounded by heavy riffs to the fibrillating percussion to lithe lead break. And of course the soaring vocals. “Shuttered World” is next and it is a little more abrupt, while “Alone We Walk” is pensive and also curiously frenetic. Songs like “Under The Sun” are quiet and lyrical in their fullness and objective beauty. Others are aggressive and challenging, like “Scars.” The long-form is here, too, the strongest example of which is “The Longest Shadow of the Day” with its amazing bass lines and unforgettable guitar work. Nothing is left out here and there is no filler, either – it is simply excellent.

Long Day Good Night is available right now in many different forms and functions. I am convinced this is going to turn out to be one of my favorite Fates Warning albums. Highly recommended.

Links.

Website, http://www.fateswarning.com

Bandcamp, https://fateswarning.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/FatesWarning

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/user/fateswarningvideos

Fates Warning, Long Day Good Night review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Nuclear Power Trio, A Clear And Present Rager review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Just in time for the US presidential election, Nuclear Power Trio is here to bring world peace through instrumental metal music.

Just take a second to look at the cover image. Are you taking that seriously? I hope not. Obviously, this is a goof. Do you want to be even more confused? Check out the videos on YouTube. There they are, Vlad and Donny and Kimmy hamming it up for the camera and shredding. Wow. What in the world is this exactly? I am not sure, but the thing is, the music is excellent.

Who are the musicians? I don’t know, but if you do watch the videos, you can narrow it down quite a bit. I am not going to weigh in on identities because that is too much fun as a drinking game for next Tuesday. Let the speculation begin.

A Clear And Present Rager is a five song EP of heavy jazz/metal instrumental music and it is tight. The title track is the opener and it has a very Satriani vibe to it. All three principal instruments are mixed in to have a clear and noticeable presence: thick bass lines, fuzzy riffs and ripping leads, and punchy and rollicking drums. It pops. “Grab ’Em By The Pyongyang” is next and it starts with an acoustic intro, but the electric riff is hot on its heels. “The Fusion Collusion” offers a clippy percussive intro, while “Ukraine In The Membrane” has a more pensive opening statement that turns into a frantic search for meaning. “Mutually Assured Seduction” is the last call, and it is here where we piece together the wreckage of the evening and see what can be salvaged – hence the melancholy tone.

Even as this release is silly and is clearly trying to lighten up our lives during these dreadfully dreary days we all face, the music is crisp, challenging, and solid as a rock. It really is great instrumental rock.

Go get yours now, and play it loud on election night. Recommended.

Links.

Buy It From Metal Blade, https://www.metalblade.com/nuclearpowertrio/

Band wesbite, http://www.nuclearpowertriomerch.com

Band YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/c/NuclearPowerTrio

Band Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/nuclearpowertrio

Nuclear Power Trio, A Clear And Present Rager review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Armored Saint, Punching The Sky review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

For more than thirty five years, Armored Saint has been banging eardrums. They are back to do it again with Punching The Sky.

“March of the Saint” is the first song on the first album in 1984, March Of The Saint. It starts like a coronation march; a grand entrance. Then the guitars roll out and the 1980s metal vocals hit. That song has a fast tempo and a snappy lead break. What a great way to get started, and “Seducer” is on that album, too – one of my all-time favorites from Armored Saint. The band released three more albums through 1991 before taking a break for a while. They returned in 2000 with Revelation and formally reformed in 2006, releasing La Raza in 2010 and Win Hands Down in 2015. They have updated their sound over the years with new recording technology and so on but the heart of the band never strayed, and neither did their dedication to the idea of heavy metal.

The band for the new album is original members John Bush (vocals), Joey Vera (bass), Phil Sandoval (guitar), and Gonzo Sandoval (drums), who are joined once again by long-time guitarist Jeff Duncan. They lay down eleven big tracks for Punching The Sky, starting with “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” which has the album’s title in the refrain. The music is vigorous, infused with loud attitude to go along with the rumbling riffs and roaring lead guitar splits. “Bubble” is a contentious number with a more serious tone than many of the other songs, while “Lone Wolf” has a clandestine opening riff and “Fly in the Ointment” is more reflective. At every turn, Armored Saint delivers heavy music longtime fans will embrace and that will catch the attention of new listeners as well. Recommended.

Punching The Sky is out Friday, October 23rd from Metal Blade Records, where you can get merch bundles. Bandcamp is the quick way to grab the digital download.

Links.

Band website, http://armoredsaint.com

Band Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/thearmoredsaint

Bandcamp, https://armoredsaint.bandcamp.com/

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/us/

Armored Saint, Punching The Sky review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Anaal Nathrakh, Endarkenment review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

The rejection of “Enlightenment” would be, logically, Endarkenment – exactly what you get from the new Anaal Nathrakh album.

Mick Kenney and Dave Hunt are the Birmingham duo who together make Anaal Nathrakh, a Black Metal band that has been on the prowl for two decades now. Over the years the music has become increasingly harsh, landing the band a label of Industrial Black Metal and even Grindcore. They always sound like Black Metal to me, from The Codex Necro (2001) to Passion (2010) to A New Kind Of Horror (2018). Whatever we might call the music, know that loud fast savagery is what you are going to hear. In a written introduction meant to get listeners ready for hearing Endarkenment, the band alerted us that “A musical bath in sulphuric acid awaits.” Take heed.

The title track opens the set with blistering guitars riffs, blast beat drumming, and screaming. The vocals are thereafter variegated, with more screams, coarse, Death Metal-like croaking, and what can only be described as beautiful, melodic singing. “Thus, Always, To Tyrants” is next and it is an emblazoned rush of musical chaos. The lead guitar can barely be understood. The entire album is a ravaging affair.

Two tracks stand out for me, although I think it is best to listen to this album from front to back in its entirety. “Singularity” has a menacing, discordant opening then presents a fairly formal musical ordering and represents in many ways the clearest presentation of the recurring themes in the album. And then the closer, “Requiem,” with a melody that sounds like a twisted, evil carnival, is coming with me on road trips from now on. Combine the music with the direct lines of the Requiem Mass and the dark beauty is almost overwhelming. A sorrowful lead guitar tells a simple and profound story in the second half, and the lasting impact of the composition is set in stone. Highly recommended.

Metal Blade Records lets Endarkenment loose on the world Friday, October 2nd through the usual outlets. It is harsh and that is just what fans are looking for.

Links.

http://www.anaal-nathrakh.com

https://www.facebook.com/Anaalnathrakhofficial

https://anaalnathrakh.bandcamp.com/

https://www.metalblade.com/anaalnathrakh/

Anaal Nathrakh, Endarkenment review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

The Ocean, Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic, review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

German/Swiss/Swedish ensemble The Ocean (Collective) is back with the sequel to the renowned Phanerozoic (2018) album, part two of a paleontology concept work.

Robin Staps is the driving force in The Ocean ensemble/collective. As the principal guitarist and composer, Staps orders the ideas and molds them into the expression we hear. Of course, Staps did have an outline with for this long concept: the most recent 541 million years of the geologic history of the earth. It might seem like a big story, and it is, but The Ocean got their arms around it.

The album is broken into two parts, “Mesozoic,” which is covered in the first two tracks, and “Cenozoic,” the last six tracks. There is an extraordinarily detailed description available about the meaning of each passage, so you can check that out by doing a quick web search. In the context of this short review I will concentrate on what the music sounds like.

The first part is two long songs, together running about twenty two minutes. They begin with a solo, echoing acoustic guitar and ethereal synth passages. Very quickly the music turns upbeat, adding instruments and active assertions. At times like this, the music has a Tangerine Dream feel to it – that might be a good baseline to start thinking about this music. A melodic voice tells us part of the story, and for some time this is fairly quiet Prog Rock. Big guitar riffs crash in here and there, and coarse vocal instantiations now and then. There is a lot going on here and the musicians have 22 minutes to work with, so sit back and enjoy. As with much of the music in this lane, dramatic extremes are exhibited. The guitar leads are somewhat reminiscent of Camel on the Mirage album here and there, and that is very appealing. Excellent vision and execution.

The second part of the album is comprised of six shorter songs, each in the four minute range with the final two being a bit longer. This section seems more linear than the first, but that could be due to the deliberate segmenting of the musical passages into smaller bits. Indeed, the first song, “Palaeocene,” sounds almost like a radio cut, with fan-pleasing guitars and aggressive but digestible vocals, and the second track is almost a ballad. “Pleistocene” starts out humble but turns into an all-out Death Metal assault before it is over. The closer, “Holocene,” has a comfortable desert vibe to it and eases us out in a perfect cooldown. There is a lot to take in with the second part, too, so give yourself some headspace.

Look to Metal Blade Records for the CD and digital (through Bandcamp) and to Pelagic Records for the vinyl of Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic on September 25. The Bandcamp digital download has the complete album in an instrumental version included with it, which is an excellent alternate way to experience the music. If you are up for the challenge, Prog and Post-Metal live in this album. Recommended.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/theoceancollective

https://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords/b/the-ocean

https://theocean.bandcamp.com/

The Ocean, Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic, review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Cult of Lilith, Mara review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Cult of Lilith release their first full-length album, Mara, in a stunning display of far reaching creativity and Prog Metal exploration.

Bands from Reykjavík, Iceland, might have faced isolation obstacles in the past, but in the modern world the distance from and to everywhere else is easily overcome and their music can be accessed and heard by everyone. Cult of Lilith could tell you that. Formed in 2015, they released their first EP, Arkanum, the following year. After adding a new singer from abroad (Spain), the creative forces solidified and the creation of Mara began. The band is Mario Infantes (vocals), Daníel Þór Hannesson (guitar), Kristján Jóhann Júlíusson (guitar), Samúel Örn Böðvarsson (bass), and Kjartan Harðarson (drums).

The music is described as “Necromechanical baroque.” It is a fusion of Death Metal in the tempos and rhythm with Prog Metal in the guitars interlaced with a wide variety of other musical influences ranging from classical to jazz and beyond. The lead guitar work has the speed and technical precision that rivals virtuoso metal bands like Exmortus. That is the Prog side coming out, the extraordinarily high level of musicianship required of the complex compositions. The other elements are expertly laced throughout into a seamless whole.

The album opens with 20 seconds of solo harpsichord before punching out blast beats under a monster guitar riff supporting rapidly shifting vocals, from death-coarse to melodic, all in the first minute. That is “Cosmic Maelstrom.” The lead guitar in the opener is lyrical and swirling, and the song ends in a mad rush. The next song is “Purple Tide,” and it does make you feel like you are at sea. It has a more serious and sinister tone than the previous song, including an almost maniacal screaming and whispering from Infantes. What you start to realize is that, while the compositions are wildly diverse and approach technical perfection, the vocals lead and direct the emotion of the songs. The music remains mostly fast and variegated throughout. Some songs have a slower tempo, like “Atlas,” but that does not stop them from being surprising and filled with creative changes and dodges. And then there are songs like “Profeta Paloma,” which have significant passages that are soft, acoustic moments of quiet and beauty surrounded by chaos. There is no chance to get comfortable listening to this album because there is too much going on. Cult of Lilith truly is a unique experience. Recommended.

While you are waiting for Friday to come, you could go to Spotify and listen to the Arkanum EP. It is exceptional, and a good launching point to get ready for the new (even with the different vocalist, Jón Haukur Pétursson). Plus, two singles are available now in advance of the full set dropping in a couple days on September 4. Metal Blade is offering CDs, vinyl, and downloads, and a t-shirt as well.

Links.

http://www.cultoflilith.com/

https://cultoflilith.bandcamp.com/album/mara

https://www.facebook.com/cultoflilithband

https://metalblade.com/cultoflilith/

Cult of Lilith, Mara review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Ensiferum, Thalassic review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Ensiferum celebrates 25 years of music with a new album, Thalassic – a Folk Metal epic tale told in heavy sea shanties.

I read that “Ensiferum” is Latin for something like “sword-bearing,” and that “Thalassic” is Greek for “relating to the seas,” so I do now definitely understand why the band’s music has often been called Viking Metal. Still, the broader Folk Metal label usually gets applied to them, placing the band among the storied list of famous acts like Korpiklaani, Finntroll, Amon Amarth, and stands with recent releases like this year’s Falconer album. It is a big tent, and this manner of metal music has legions of fans. Ensiferum brings out the heavy from every angle in Thalassic, the band’s first actual themed album.

The Helsinki band has been making music for two and a half decades, and has gone through many line-up changes and rearrangements throughout their journey. The current band is Sami Hinkka (bass and vocals), Markus Toivonen (guitar and vocals), Petri Lindroos (guitar and vocals), and Janne Parviainen (drums), with Pekka Montin (clean vocals and keyboards) contributing to the studio recording.

The maritime musical gets started with a sweeping orchestral opener, then dives straight into seafaring metal. “Rum, Women, Victory” is an anthem style radio song that alternates between gruff and clean vocals that ride along the waves of roiling guitars and peppering drums. The pace is fast and urgent, and, you can tell from the title, light hearted. This one is going to be a singalong at live shows for sure. The Greek mythology themes start to emerge with “Andromeda,” which takes a more serious and somber tone, opening the way for the full tale to be told. The production is front stage in this album, with a big full sound, a generous use of keyboards, and many moments of relief that keep the music and story moving along. It is designed to be theatrical and they pull it off well. The concept is fully realized and fans of the band and fantasy metal music are going to love this album.

Thalassic is available now from Metal Bade Records in many forms and functionalities. If you are looking for a big sound and a maritime mythology story to go along with it, Ensiferum has your number.

Links.

http://www.facebook.com/Ensiferum

http://www.ensiferum.com

http://www.metalblade.com/ensiferum

Ensiferum, Thalassic review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Falconer, From A Dying Ember review (Metal Blade 2020)

If it is possible for you to imagine combining Middle English folk music like “Sweet Nightingale” with death metal blast beats and late NWOBHM guitar riffs, then you have an idea of what to expect from the new Falconer album, From A Dying Ember.

The origins of Falconer reach back twenty years when Stefan Weinerhall started musical conjurings after Mithotyn (1990s band from Sweden) split up. Falconer rose out of these early musings, releasing their first album in 2001. The response was positive from the beginning, and the band went on to produce seven more albums through 2014. The lineup is all rock and roll with vocals, two guitars, bass, and drums: Mathias Blad, Stefan Weinerhall, Jimmy Hedlund, Magnus Linhardt, and Karsten Larsson, respectively. On the new album you can also hear traditional folk instruments like “keyed fiddle and bagpipe” as well as piano, other keys, and strings on occasion. There is no doubting that Falconer’s music is guitar-driven, but their unique perspective and the inclusion of epic and folk metal expansions make them stand out.

There is not a typical song on the album. While the set works a regular theme, there is still a good deal of variety throughout. “Thrust the Dagger Deep,” for example, sounds like it is being sung by a medieval traveling minstrel who somehow is accompanied by electric guitars. “Kings and Queens” features epic-scale guitars up front with a convulsive drum track. Two minutes in there is a blistering lead break that puts you in mind of Savatage. “Bland Sump och Dy” begins with a meandering bass line, and is sung in Swedish. “Rapture” starts with strings that are soon joined by a riff so heavy it is almost doom. This album is at its core folk metal cranked up several notches. Along the way, though, Falconer takes you on a journey and gives you all sorts of different looks.

From A Dying Ember is out today, June 26. They have a big back catalogue for you to go through as well, and it is worth a dive if you like what you hear on the new one.

Links.

http://www.falconermusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/falconermetal/

https://www.metalblade.com/us/artists/falconer/

https://falconer.bandcamp.com/

Falconer, From A Dying Ember review (Metal Blade 2020)

Sorcerer, Lamenting of the Innocent review (Metal Blade 2020)

The resurgence of Sorcerer continues with Lamenting of the Innocent, their third long form album.

Sorcerer has its beginnings back in 1988 in Stockholm, Sweden. They recorded a couple of demos that were well received, and they played several shows, but ultimately they disbanded in the mid nineties. The stirrings of a resurrection began about fifteen years later. One thing led to another and, in 2015, Sorcerer’s first full-length album, In The Shadow Of The Inverted Cross, was released by Metal Blade Records. Two and a half years later The Crowning Of The Fire King came out, and now we have the new one. The current lineup is Anders Engberg (vocals), Kristian Niemann (guitars), Peter Hallgren (guitars), Justin Biggs (bass), and Richard Evensand (drums).

The epic metal sound of Sorcerer is presaged by the introductory piece, “Persecution.” A dramatic and foreboding minute to say the least, leading into “Hammer of the Witches.” The music is a little bit like King Diamond, except without the falsetto and with more complex percussion. Or maybe Rainbow’s “Gates of Babylon” if it had been produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber. [OK, before I get angry DMs, that’s a joke] What does stand out in this song is the fullness of the sound owing to very well arranged guitars, the excellent drumming, and the mad guitar breaks – clever lead breaks like I haven’t heard before. Most of the songs on the album are quite long, with four of them being eight minutes or longer, and the shortest full song running nearly five minutes. Like latter-day Iron Maiden, you might say, except again with a fuller sound, fresher lead work, and Engberg’s unmatched voice. There are some slower pieces, like “Deliverance” which is essentially a ballad, and those with a modest tempo like “Age of the Damned” and “Condemned” – Indeed I suspect it is songs like this that gave the “epic doom” moniker to Sorcerer. I usually mean something different when I call a band a doom metal band. Whatever label we might use, the music is in a classic metal style, it is well executed, and it will appeal to fans of the aforementioned bands. They have found a lane and they are driving it well.

Lamenting of the Innocent is available now on all streaming platforms. You can buy a download at Bandcamp, and you can get LPs, CDs, t-shirts, and whatnot at the band’s shop (links below).

Band photo by Marieke Verschuren.

Links.

https://shop.sorcererdoom.com

https://sorcererdoom.bandcamp.com

https://www.metalblade.com/us/

Sorcerer, Lamenting of the Innocent review (Metal Blade 2020)