Ex Eye – Ex Eye

Ex Eye’s self-titled album (Relapse) is something extraordinarily different, so hold on to your hats and brace yourself!  The soon-to-be-legendary group consists of renowned, experimental saxophonist Colin Stetson, Greg Fox on drums, Shahzad Ismaily on synths and Toby Summerfield on guitar and these dudes will literally blow your mind! Continue reading

Wardruna – Live At Tivoli Vreedenburg, NL

Wardruna, by Susanne A. Maathuis Photography

Wardruna, by Susanne A. Maathuis Photography

 

Wardruna recently went on tour to promote their latest album, Ragnarok (By Norse), the last in the Runaljod trilogy. After selling out the seated hall for Tuesday night, an extra show was planned for Saturday night in one of the standing venues of the building. Having sold out this evening as well, the band was greeted warmly by over a thousand enthusiasts. Continue reading

Finsterforst – Mach Dich Frei

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While folk metal may revel in being the life and soul of the party, its slightly more bookish cousin pagan metal is more likely to be found attempting to educate listeners about cultural heritage and ancient lore than waving a plastic sword around and extolling the virtues of wenches and mead. German septet Finsterforst (Dark Forest) may wear war paint but apart from that they’re gimmick free and are more interested in taking the listener on a journey of discovery via the medium of epic-length songs, full-blooded metal passion and a hearty sense of ambition.

With a crystal-clear production that allows every instrument to breathe and an impressively nuanced approach to songwriting, fourth full-length Mach Dich Frei (Napalm) which translates as ‘set yourself free’, carries on the epic and stirring tradition begun on debut release Weltenkraft (World Chaos Production) back in 2007. Influenced by the likes of Moonsorrow and Falkenbach, the band offer a variety of styles over the course of eight lengthy tracks, from the mid-paced stomp of ‘Zeit für Hass’ to the more hook-driven refrains of the title track, all the while ensuring that while grandiose may be the order of the day, things never get out of hand.

Traditional instrumentation plays a big part in the record with the braying horns of keyboardist Sebastian Scherrer in particular lending proceedings a cinematic feel. The guttural Teutonic lyrics of vocalist Oliver Berlin may soar over the heads of many listeners but his delivery is full of passion and grit, while the dual guitar attack switches tempos with ease, no better demonstrated on twenty-three minute closing track ‘Finsterforst’ which features everything from classy melodic interplay to snarling black metal whilst remaining exciting and authentic throughout.

Although a seventy-three minute album will be far too long for many listeners, the sheer quality of songwriting on Mach Dich Frei is enough to warrant many repeated spins and the band deserve every success in reward for their efforts to inform and entertain.

 

8.0/10

Finsterforst on Facebook

 

JAMES CONWAY

Judas Priest – Redeemer Of Souls

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It has been 40 years since Judas Priest released their debut album, Rocka Rolla, a kitsch rock album that showcased little to suggest the career that was to follow. Just take a minute to take that in. Forty years. Four decades in which Priest have, along with Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, formed an unholy British triumvirate that has influenced every single metal band, bar none, between them. Unlike Maiden, who are at the peak of their popularity in their later years, and Sabbath, who since reuniting with Ozzy are world-wide festival headliners, the Priest never quite received the same level of consistent commercial success, despite tracks like ‘Breaking The Law’ being universally known, and their Painkiller album being one of the greatest metal albums ever released.

 

It has been strongly suggested that Ruby anniversary album Redeemer Of Souls (Epic/Columbia) is going to be their last foray into the recording studio, and that should come as no surprise. Not only has Redeemer been over 3 years in the making, but iconic vocalist Rob Halford and bassist Ian Hill are 62, while guitarist Glenn Tipton is 66. Despite such a lengthy career, his foil and lead sparring partner KK Downing has stepped down from the band due to a breakdown in relationships and doesn’t feature on a Priest album for the first time, unobtrusively replaced by Richie Faulkner.

 

So, against the backdrop of both their own incredible legacy, a confusing and underwhelming last album (2008’s Nostradamus), and recording without a long-term member for the first time, Judas Priest are releasing their swansong.

 

The first thing to point out is that they were never going to re-record Painkiller, itself nearly a quarter of a century old and THE most “metal” album of all time. So, if you’re expecting raging drums, pinch harmonic squeals, full on aggression, this isn’t the Priest album for you. The intention after Nostradamus was to release a more straightforward, down the line summation of what Priest is, does and stands for and what Redeemer Of Soulshas is a beautifully warm and classic Priest feel, not too dissimilar to the vibe embraced by Angel Of Retribution and highly reminiscent of a Sad Wings Of Destiny or Sin After Sin;

 

While Rob Halford’s ear-splitting attack has been toned down to a more mid-range delivery, he is still distinctive and stately over a series of strong rock songs that takes you through the dynamic range of what Priest have offered over the years. Opening triad ‘Dragonaut’, ‘Redeemer Of Souls’ and ‘Halls Of Valhalla’ bring the quick, single note, spiky riffs synonymous with tracks like ‘Nightcrawler’ or ‘Freewheel Burning’ and raise the horns, arms pumping, choruses soaring, an approach that serves ‘Down In Flames’ and the Hill driven ‘Hell & Back’ equally well.

But where Redeemer…really works is in the more mature, considered material like ‘Cold Blooded’, that amalgamates ‘Blood Stone’ with a downer, Heaven & Hell darkness, and ‘Sword Of Damacles’, ‘Crossfire’ and ‘March Of The Damned’, with their looser, head-nodding 70’s vibes. A very consistent album is finished strong with the epic ‘Secrets Of The Dead’, brother-in-arms to ‘One Shot At Glory’ the marvellous ‘Battle Cry’ before a very brave and interesting choice of closer ‘Beginning Of The End’, a reflective number in the vein of ‘Before The Dawn’ or Black Sabbath’s ‘Solitude’, finishes things.

 

Redeemer of Soulsfulfils the role of final chapter capably, as JudasPriest release a retrospective that nods to their career, recalling everything that has made them genuine legends of our metal world. I sincerely feel honoured and saddened to be writing about final release from one of the best there’s ever been; a true great that is signing off with a fitting epitaph.

 

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8.5 / 10

Judas Priest on Facebook

 

STEVE TOVEY