If you haven’t heard of Satan Takes a Holiday, (STAH) you need to do yourself a favor. These Swedes have been around since 2006 and have released four albums—adding much-needed spunk and life to the sometimes dull Rock n’ Roll. Their fifth full-length, A New Sensation (Despotz Records) doesn’t hold back and it presents you with the most fun you will have this year. Continue reading
Liv Sin, the rock band featuring former Sister Sin singer Liv Jagrell has entered the studio this week to begin working on the follow-up to her well-received debut album, Follow Me. Liv Jagrell Producer Emil Nödtveidt (Deathstars) will helm the album at Black Syndicate studios. The album will release via Despotz Records in 2019. Continue reading
Is it possible for a band to take its work a little too seriously? Can the love of eyeliner and theatrical stage attire be pushed past the point of no return? And most importantly, does this make for good music? These are some of the questions I’m left to ponder over a cup of coffee (black, of course) after listening to Beseech’s My Darkness, Darkness (Despotz Records).
And I know the metal genre as a whole is a bit ridiculous. After all I’m a 29-year-old man with a college degree whose wardrobe is made up mostly of black shirts. I willingly own a denim vest with more patches on it than the average Nascar driver.
However, Beseech seem to operate on a level where ridiculous and deadly serious function as one. Just look at the album title, My Darkness, Darkness. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds like something scribbled in the back of a Mead notebook by a 14-year-old goth kid.
And their biggest problem is its inability to move past the ho-hum goth numbers. ‘Mr. Uninvited,’ its title-track and ‘Atmosphere’ are virtually interchangeable and I don’t mean that in a good way. For most of its running time Beseech is confined to muddy tempos, subdued guitar parts, all the while vocalist Klas Bohlin dominates the mix with his weird Christian Bale as Batman whisper-mumble. The most criminal aspect of this record is the underuse of second singer Angelina Sahlgren. We only get brief glimpses of Sahlgren’s range on ‘Beating Pulse’ and ‘The Ingredients.’ Sahlgren’s turns add some color to the drab musical canvas.
‘One Last Call’ has the band finally finds release from its songwriting restrictions as does the unexpected (but totally rad) Highwaymen cover ‘Highwayman.’
Metal is a business that’s always existed on the border of parody, especially when you decide to throw in some of that goth seasoning. Not every band has to go the Type O Negative route and play it tongue in cheek (although it paid dividends for them). Katatonia and Moonspell have had long careers accented by classic albums, but they always relied on the songs. Beseech doesn’t quite have them here.
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We need to talk about Howard.
Along with Satan, murder and Vikings, the short fiction of HP Lovecraft is one of the most heavily used – and abused – thematic references in Metal, turning up in the albums of everyone from the kvltest of nocturnal grim panda-faces to Metallica. As you’d expect, Lovecraft’s vision has been treated with varying degrees of respect and authenticity, but Casablanca’s latest concept album takes reinterpreting his legacy to a whole new level of middle-fingers. The stars are right for the Great Old Ones to return (no surprise there) but they’ll meet resistance in the form of The Phantom, the pre-historic proto-human who created Miskatonic University and manifests in the form of a gold-skinned Rock Star Jesus to inspire mankind through songs about fast cars and girls.
The musical background to Casablanca’s gleefully irreverent tale is made of panoramic, hard-rocking Heavy Metal that brings to mind Virgin Steele’s Marriage Of Heaven & Hell mixed with a touch of Graves era Misfits and the kind of whimsical, small-town Americana more associated with early Bon Jovi or even the E Street Band. Not exactly an eldritch maelstrom of writhing tendrils, but it’s sharp and well honed, and the very act of putting lyrics at least ostensibly about HP Lovecraft over music like this seems genuinely iconoclastic. Which wouldn’t count for very much if the song-writing wasn’t there, but Casablanca pull off just the right balance of catchy choruses and driving riffs to make it work.
Perfection can only be obtained by the Old Ones themselves, of course, so a mere mortal Rock band are going to slip up every so often. Miskatonic Graffiti (Despotz) overstays its welcome on several tracks, often missing the opportunity to end the song on a high, and they never quite rock out quite as hard as they should, but on an album as distinctive and rich as this one they seem like minor flaws. Casablanca are very much following their own muse on Miskatonic Graffiti, and it takes them somewhere familiar, but not quite like anywhere their peers have ever gone.
Can’t stand Symphonic, Power, or Operatic Metal? Do you hate it when a vocalist gets all wobbly-wailey? Do you think that keyboards have no place in “Troo Metulz”? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then walk on swiftly – this album ain’t for you, friend.
If, on the other hand, your strasse is populated by the likes of Symphony X, Kamelot, Helloween, Hammerfall or Firewind and you don’t mind a bit of Children of Bodom (before they turned themselves into a riff recycling plant, obvs) thrown in for effect, then St. Demonius (Despotz) by Tad Morose may well be worth an hour or so of your time.
Personally, I like a little less vibrato in my vocalists, and a bit more variety from my guitarists, but I think this album stands up well amongst the pantheon of Power Metal. Mainly, because whilst giving you (most of) the power/operatic staples, it also injects an edge of heaviness that sets it apart from its peers & ancestors. It loses points, however, due to the lack of cheesy guitar solos and fist-pump singalong choruses (there are singalongs to be found, but it’s all taking itself rather seriously). For me, these are the things that the different branches of Power Metal are all about, but I’m sure St. Demonius will find an audience to fill rooms with a sea of leather patch jackets and metal claws.
The album opens with ‘Bow to The Reapers Blade’, which is a straight up fusion of Bodom & Firewind (this is a Good Thing). ‘Your Own Demise’ follows next, with some nice bounce, crunchy riffs and some nice vocal hooks; I particularly like the lyric “succumb to my greatness” – I shall have to steal that. ‘Forlorn’ opens with a hook line that’s almost Rammstein and opens out with a Symphony X breakdown. Different. And good. Some excellent choral arrangements with layered vocals make this an epic track which will surely be a crowd favourite. Other standout tracks are ‘Where Ignorance Reigns’, the rifftastic ‘Black Fire’ and ‘The Shadows Play’, a track that has it all, including my vote as best track on the album and ‘Fear Subside’ and its twin guitar noodling!.
All in all, an enjoyable listen and a solid…
Originating in Thessaloniki, Greece, under the fleet-fingered generalship of Marios Iliopoulos (the bands only stalwart and ever-present) and six-string superstar guitarist Gus G. (Firewind/Ozzy), Nightrage have had a fair few well-known faces bolster their ranks and raise their profile throughout the years, including, amongst others, Per Möller Jensen (The Haunted) and Tomas “At The Gates” Lindberg. Yet, despite the constant turn over, through the sheer force of Iliopoulis’ will and personality, the band has maintainted both its sound and style.
And so to opus number six, The Puritan (Despotz), and yet another line-up change with Ronnie Nyman grabbing the poisoned chalice-shaped nettle of the microphone stand, his early Anders Fridén stylings slotting in seamlessly with an assured and aggressive voice snarling over another dose of the confident melodeath we’ve come to expect from Nightrage. Steeped in the fast riffing, melodic leads and off-beat snare snaps that define post Slaughter of the Soul (Earache) Melodic Death Metal, The Puritan displays all the expected genre trappings, with Nightrage comfortable in laying out a heavily In Flames and At The Gates influenced sound.
Yet, this was the sound of the late 90’s… in the lead up to the turn of the millennium, you couldn’t swing a cat without it picking up the print ink of review upon review comparing bands to the main protagonists of the NWOSDM sound and nearly two decades on it’s disappointing to hear respected outfits slavishly reproducing a style that belongs to yesterday. There were too many bands doing it back then to need any more doing it now.
Iliopoulos knows how to do this melodeath thang til his fingers bleed, and The Puritan is an effectively crafted slab of Gothenburg jagged riffing, harmonized guitars and throaty vocals. For a band that has rubbed more than shoulders with some big hitters and genre-definers, while the proficiency is there, that extra dose of depth of thought and invention in song-writing that would move Nightrage from just A.N.Other band to genuine players, is lacking.
Even seventeen years ago this would have sat as one of the pack alongside your Withering Surface’s, A Canorous Quintet’s and Crown of Thorns as follower, not leader.
The artwork for Second Storm (Despotz) is so metal that it really raises expectations of balls-to-the-wall metal, and Lancer deliver. This Swedish Power Metal band takes inspiration from bands like Iron Maiden, Hammerfall, and Helloween, and this is apparent from the very first notes of ‘Running From The Tyrant’ onwards. Despite their classic substance, they have a pretty modern sound, with a number of breaks that are straight up hard rock. The solos may not be the most innovative ever, but they are solid, and similarly most of the melodies are not hugely original, but are certainly very catchy.
Isak Stenvall sings much of the album in the classic high and reedy power metal voice. He also uses his lower range, but this does not always pay off. It mostly works well when the rest of the music is softer, as in the excellent build-up in ‘Running From The Tyrant’. However, the vocals are a little uncontrolled at time, and this type of voice in particular sticks out when it is not 100% perfect.
One of the highlights of this album is the chorus of ‘Iwo Jima’, which is not only catchy, but has a very symphonic sound to it and especially good rhythmic drumming by Sebastian Pedernera. Another is the power provided by guitarists Fredrik Kelemen and Per-Owe Solvelius in ‘Steelbreaker’. Similarly pleasing is Emil Öberg’s excellent bass solo in ‘Fools Marches On’. ‘Eyes of the Liar’ is just quality sing-along metal.
My favourite song off this album is ‘Aton’. This nearly-10-minute song is slower than the others on this album, but incredibly good! It has a little less Power Metal in style, and a little more Classic Metal. I love the way the vocals have a higher pace than the music, because it makes the lines very energetic and catchy. Stenvall also shows that he really can pull off clarity in those lower ranges, holding his own even in the soft. There’s even a very bluesy solo, and I only wish the rest of the band had powered though in the second part of that solo.
All in all, Second Storm is a very solid Power Metal album that makes up for what it lacks in originality with enthusiasm and melodies that has the listener bouncing up and down in their seat.