ALBUM REVIEW: Battle Beast – Circus Of Doom


With seventeen years on the clock and five albums already in the bag, Finnish sextet Battle Beast are back once again with another head-shaking, neck-breaking slab of electrifying European power metal. For those already familiar with the band then their sixth full length release, Circus of Doom (Nuclear Blast), will be like slipping into an old pair of comfortable, sparkly metal boots. For everyone else who may be interested, just strap on the nearest air guitar and prepare to grin stupidly for the next forty gloriously cheesy minutes or so.

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CONCERT REVIEW: Unleash The Archers – Æther Realm – Seven Kingdoms: Live at The Middle East


I haven’t been to a show downstairs at The Middle East since 2014 when Septicflesh and Fleshgod Apocalypse tour together for the Conquerors of the World Tour, so needless to say, this was both an exciting and nostalgic night. Dragon plated shoulder armor, Dungeons and Dragons lore discussions, and a theory about a giant tortoise God that will take over the universe alongside Cthulhu fill the air with anticipation for the first band to take the stage.

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REVIEWS ROUNDUP: Stormkeep, Wraith, Morgul Blade, The Night Eternal, and Tower


StormkeepTales of Othertime

Featuring members of Wayfarer and Blood Incantation, Stormkeep plays Melodic Black Metal with a particularly epic flair. Their first full-length album, Tales of Othertime (Van Records), reflects great deal of influence from such groups as Dissection, Emperor, and Old Man’s Child. The production is claustrophobically atmospheric without getting too raw, the guitar sweeps are flamboyantly choppy, the vocals put in the expected rasps with the occasional cleans shining through, and the keyboards reinforce the theatrical aura without completely dominating the proceedings.

 

The songwriting also plays a fun game of contrasts with the six tracks consisting of four lengthy runs supplemented by a couple Dungeon Synth instrumentals. ‘The Citadel’ is a particularly striking example of the latter at work, putting in the sort of medieval swells and lonely trickles that would do Summoning proud, while ‘A Journey Through Storms’ makes for the most triumphant showing of the more orthodox Black Metal excursions. The album is very of its influences but with Stormkeep executing these tropes with such sincere fervor, the enthusiasm is contagious.

 

8 / 10

 

WraithUndo The Chains

Indiana’s Wraith has always been an enjoyable addition to the post-Midnight/Toxic Holocaust school of Blackened Thrash bands riding a gritty formula that is often simple but hard to truly screw up. Their third album, Undo The Chains (Redefining Darkness Records), shakes up the formula with some extra dynamics. Though still featuring a familiar mix of grimy riffs and filthy vocals, the band plays around with tempos more than before.

This is most apparent with the slow grind of the midway highlight ‘Time Wins’ though other tracks like ‘Gatemaster’ and ‘Cloaked In Black’ put in more mid-tempo chugs. Of course, there’s still plenty of fast hearty Thrash to go around and they even snuck a bit of Punk into ‘Born To Die’ and ‘Disgusting.’ Wraith albums always make fun listening for fans of the genre, but Undo The Chains is easily their best rounded effort.

 

8 / 10

 

Morgul BladeFell Sorcery Abounds

Morgul Blade’s first full-length is driven by a sound best described as Blackened Heavy Metal. The guitar leads and riffing patterns are driven by a dark Mercyful Fate-esque overcast with some tinges of Power Metal-inspired triumph while the vocals are in a near constant tug-o-war between baritone bellows and legible screeches. The production maintains a distant yet coherently grandiose haze all the while and there’s even a couple dedicated spots for some Synth layers to shine.

With these varying elements in a state of integrating and pulling apart, this would raise concerns that Fell Sorcery Abounds (No Remorse Records) is an incohesive listen. While ‘The Morgul Blade’ and ‘A Last Waltz of Gevaudan’ open on the album’s grimmest notes, things soon settle into an ominously anthemic air that comes through the most strongly on ‘In The Grip Of The Dark Lord,’ the Grim Reaper-esque ‘Sons Of The Night,’ and ‘The Five Will Ride at Dawn.’ I must admit the album might’ve benefitted from a consistently more upbeat pace, but this is a fun listen that lays down a neat template to develop even further.

 

8 / 10

The Night Eternal – Moonlit Cross

 

Coming off their 2019 self-titled EP, The Night Eternal’s first full-length does a lot to conjure the memory of In Solitude. Their Gothic tendencies are somewhat understated in comparison, but the combination of yelping baritone vocals and dark Mercyful Fate-inspired guitar acrobatics results in a similar blend of Doomy Traditional Metal. The first half is solid enough with ‘Son Of Sin’ putting in a particularly nifty Maiden-esque series of gallops.

 

The second half is where Moonlit Cross (Van Records) really picks up; ‘Shadow’s Servants’ is an enjoyable mid-tempo rocker and the rhythms on ‘Prison Of Flesh’ boast some forward momentum along with some extra conviction in the vocals that carries over nicely into ‘Closeness In Suspension’ and the closing title track. A rearranged track order might’ve made for an even more cohesive listen, but this is ultimately a fun niche effort.

 

8 / 10

 

TowerShock To The System

It’s been five years since TOWER released their self-titled debut, but their second album picks up where its predecessor left off. Shock To The System (Cruz Del Sur Music) continues to straddle the line between Hard Rock and Classic Metal with gritty rhythms, flailing twin guitars, and unhinged vocals ala Savage Master and Solicitor.

 

There’s been some solid developments in the songwriting as tracks like ‘Prince of Darkness,’ ‘Lay Down The Law’ and ‘In Dreams’ benefit from more fleshed out structures while ‘On The Line’ and the closing ‘Powder Key’ make for some hard-hitting rough and tumble Speed Metal. It’s a simple but effective execution that should sit well with old school Heavy Metal fans.

 

8 / 10

 

CHRIS LATTA


ALBUM REVIEW: Eternity’s End – Embers of War


2021 has not been a good year for Power Metal. Whether that is genre-leaders Gloryhammer undertaking significant acts of self-sabotage and unforgivable prickery, or just the product itself – only Beast In Black‘s Eurovision bops came anywhere near denting our Album of the Year chart, causing a light scratch in the outer realms, with perhaps a dead cat bouncing Rhapsody of Fire with any legitimate claim to unfair treatment. Continue reading


ALBUM REVIEW: Rhapsody Of Fire – Glory For Salvation


Ready to wage bloody battle against the drudgery of everyday life once more, Italian power metallers and emerald sword aficionados Rhapsody of Fire return with all dragons blazing on their latest album Glory For Salvation (AFM Records). Driven by escapism and pure fantasy, there’s simply no room or requirement for conventional subjects like relationships, politics or social commentary in this hour or so of questing and wizard worship.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Seven Sisters – Shadow of a Fallen Star, Pt. 1


In contrast to the mythical themes that defined their first two albums, Seven Sisters’ third full-length presents itself with a more otherworldly sci-fi aesthetic. However, the music on Shadow Of A Fallen Star, Pt. 1 (Cherry Red Records) ultimately sustains the classy approach to Heavy Metal seen on its predecessors. Comparisons could be made to groups like Iron Maiden, Aria, and Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath with some helpings of Power Metal in the vein of Hammerfall and old school Kamelot.

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EP REVIEW: Fierce Deity – Power Wisdom Courage


Having established itself with a series of singles since their 2019 formation, Tasmania’s Fierce Deity takes an epic step forward with Power Wisdom Courage (Self-Released). Having three songs total to a thirty-two-minute runtime puts this release on that weird line between an album and an EP and seeing these tracks sprawl to ten-plus minute lengths results in a release with an epic scope and a compact execution. Fortunately, these seemingly contradictory elements end up coming together well to form an incredibly triumphant work of Stonerized Power Metal.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Blazon Stone – Damnation


While Blazon Stone’s sixth full-length continues down their established path of Running Wild emulation, it’s also the first they’ve released as a full-fledged band. In contrast to past albums that had bandleader Cederick Forsberg recording most of the instruments himself with whoever was available to sing at a given time, Damnation (Stormspell Records) sees him just sticking to the guitars this time around. A completely new lineup has been assembled that includes a new singer, a new drummer, and even Crystal Viper bandmate Marta Gabriel on bass duties.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Senjutsu


When every superlative known to man has already been used a hundred times over, it’s difficult to find something to say about Iron Maiden that hasn’t already been said. Every lyric, song, album and music video has been rated and evaluated to within an inch of its life. Business dealings and interviews are scrutinized in microscopic detail, and the minutiae of every record cover examined and dissected like a hairy art project. The moment anything regarding the band is released, the global hive mind that is Maiden’s information-hungry fan base not only know about it but have already expressed their opinion.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Warkings – Revolution


One of the worst kept secrets in power metal is that “The Tribune”, the Roman frontman of gimmicky cosplayers Warkings, is none other than Serenity vocalist Georg Neuhauser. Slightly more elusive than the distinctive vocal cords of Neuhauser, the identities of his role playing bandmates would now appear to be that of German outfit, Souldrinker, with drummer Steffen Theurer playing “The Spartan”, bassist Christian Rodens as “The Viking”, and guitarist Markus Pohl in the role of “The Crusader”.

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