In the battle for memorable metal, style or substance often battle for dominance. While Germany’s Crom may seem to lean more towards “style” in their sturdy and reliable brand of Trad/Power hybrid metal, the songs on the new release The Era Of Darkness (From The Vaults) also contain a strong measure of strength in the sword arm and fire in the heart.
Back with their third full-length release, Californian act Witherfall return with prog guns blazing on Curse of Autumn (Century Media). Formed in 2013 by former White Wizzard frontman Joseph Michael, former White Wizzard and former Iced Earth guitarist Jake Dreyer, and the incredibly talented, but former, er… Justin Timberlake bassist Anthony Crawford, the band has produced another seriously heavy record that delivers riffs, hooks, and dazzling technicality.Continue reading →
Released in Japan and the UK earlier in the year, other territories have had to wait until now to hear the latest album by Japanese power metallers, Lovebites. Every bit as impressive as their previous records, Electric Pentagram (Victor Records) even draws inspiration from the likes of Slayer for their latest release, the appropriately titled opening track, ‘Thunder Vengeance’ having been conceived after watching the legendary thrashers at Download Festival Japan in 2019. Not that you’d be able to tell from the chorus, which carries a hook so beefy you could eat it for Sunday lunch.Continue reading →
Starting out in 2008 as a neoclassical power metal act, Finnish band Amberian Dawn have continued to evolve and refine their sound over the years. Now, with their ninth full-length release, Looking For You (Napalm Records), the band have decided to fully embrace their already less than hidden inner Abba, even recording in Benny Andersson’s own studio and using some of the legendary Swedish pop band’s original equipment.Continue reading →
Listening to a Gloryhammer album is like watching one of those cheesy but brilliant straight to video sci-fi movie trailers from the 1980s. You know, the ones which always seemed to begin with the same overly dramatic, gravel-throated narrator proclaiming, “it was a time of heroes”, or “it was a time ofwar”. Well, whereas those movies generally struggled to do justice to their wildly optimistic advertising campaigns, Gloryhammer pretty much guarantees maximum enjoyment every time.Continue reading →
There is more life in the old dog of Traditional Heavy Metal now than at any time since the glory days of the early eighties, as a whole new generation of Classic Metal loving reprobates are making their mark in the world, while the original protagonists continue to release new material. Ghost Cult runs the rule of the best of the latest releases, including a new EP from Gatekeeper and full-lengths from Traveler, Rhapsody Of Fire, Last In Line and Matt Harvey‘s Pounder while also taking in Vision Of Atlantis’ new live album, and it is the hot new puppies that are taking the plaudits…Continue reading →
Gloryhammer are a Swiss/Scottish five piece, founded by Alestorm‘s Christopher Bowes. Referring to themselves as “Heroic Fantasy Power Metal Warriors”, they write songs like ‘The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee’, they have a drummer called Ralathor, the Mysterious Hermit of Cowdenbeath, and are quite clearly madder than a sack of badgers.
Most importantly though, Gloryhammer are also ridiculously entertaining. If you somehow manage to listen to new album Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards (Napalm) without grinning like an idiot all the way through it, then quite simply, you’re getting Metal wrong.
Opening with ‘Infernus Ad Astra’, quite possibly the most Star Trek introduction ever, the story (of course there’s a story) begins in the distant future of 1992 and war, as always seems to be the case in science fiction, has returned to the galaxy. Apparently, it’s been 1000 years since Angus McFife defeated the evil Sorcerer Zargothrax in the battle of Dunfermline, but now a cult of unholy chaos wizards are planning to release Zargothrax and unleash him upon the universe again.
The absolute bastards.
The album kicks off properly with ‘Rise of the Chaos Wizards’, a song which not only pumps the purest Rhapsody of Fire blood furiously through its veins, but also happens to be better than anything either incarnation of that band have produced since going their separate ways. ‘Legend of the Astral Hammer’ follows with its fierce and manly True Metal chorus – stupidly simple and twice as catchy, you’ll be striding around your house, chest out and holding an invisible tankard of ale, singing it for days. The Rhapsody worship returns on the brilliant ‘Goblin King of the Darkstorm Galaxy’, and ‘The Hollywood Hootsman’ has another one of those choruses which you’ll keep in your head far longer than is medically recommended. ‘Victorious Eagle Warfare’ sounds like Iron Maiden and Stratovarius went to a keyboard party at Judas Priest‘s house. ‘Questlords of Inverness, Ride to the Galactic Fortress!’ will make you sing its daft lyrics out loud and in public, and the fast, pulsing rhythm of ‘Universe on Fire’ will have you dancing in your seat like a deranged gibbon. ‘Heroes (of Dundee)’ is nice and straightforward, and the lengthy and melodramatic ‘Apocalypse 1992’ finishes the story off in the manner you’d wish for, with gravel-throated narration, jabbing and swirling keyboards, mighty riffs, and lines such as “like tears of a unicorn lost in the rain, chaos will triumph this day”. The album is rounded off by instrumental ‘Dundax Aeterna’ and the first thing you’ll want to do after it finishes is go back and to the beginning and start the whole thing up again.
If you want your Power Metal to be original or innovative, then you’re in the wrong place. Gloryhammer don’t just wear their influences on their sleeve, they have them emblazoned across battle armour, embroidered over wizards robes and branded onto unicorns arses.
Metal For Hire has added slew of new names to its already impressive roster. Now with the addition of current and former members of Arch Enemy, Blind Guardian, Nile, and Ministry; Metal For Hire now boasts an even greater who’s who of greats to help other artists realize their dreams. This follows two impressive rounds of announcements earlier this year. MFH helps musicians hire other well-known, top-tier professional artists.
Karl Sanders of Nile, by Meg Loyal Photography
New additions to Metal For Hire:
Alex Holzwarth – (Session Drums, Etc…) Rhapsody Of Fire Christopher Amott – (Session Guitars, Etc…) Arch Enemy, Armageddon Danny Finch – (Session Vocals, Etc…) Devilment, The Dead Soul Communion Jason Netherton – (Session Vocals, Etc…) Misery Index, Dying Fetus John Jarvis – (Session Guitars, Etc…) Pig Destroyer, Agoraphobic Nosebleed Karl Sanders – (Session Guitars, Etc…) Nile, Behemoth, Morbid Angel Marton Veress – (Live/Touring Drummer, Etc…) Armageddon, Pokolgep Oliver Holzwarth – (Bass Lessons, Etc…) Rhapsody Of Fire, Blind Guardian, Tarja Turunen Paul Ryan – (Guitar Lessons, Etc…) Origin Shawn Priest – (Session Drums, Etc…) Arsis, Winds Of Plague Sin Quirin – (Session Guitars, Etc…) Ministry, American Headcharge Steve Conley – (Session Guitars, Etc…) Flotsam And Jetsam
Ghost Cult Ed and part-time Blaze Bayley impersonator Steve Tovey recently claimed that Power Metal needs its own version of Portal. Not a band with multi-coloured clocks on their heads playing abstract Noise Metal about unicorns (though that would be brilliant), but a band who can shake up a moribund genre by playing music that is entirely rooted within it while taking a very different approach to song-writing and composition. Having already given his chosen style a massive shock to the system with the original line-up of Rhapsody, Luca Turilli is in the position to do so again – if enough of his peers are prepared to listen.
Following on directly from 2012’s revelatory Ascending To Infinity, Prometheus – Symphonia Ignis Divinis (both Nuclear Blast) sees Luca and friends fusing his original Rhapsody format with Italian Operatic and Symphonic Pop but integrating it more smoothly. Whereas Ascending declared this influence with a straight, guitar-free cover of Alessandro Safina’s ‘Luna’ alongside more traditional Rhapsody-style songs, Prometheus blends these elements – and the film soundtracks that Rhapsody had always aimed for but never achieved this well – into a seamless whole. If this leaves the album with nothing quite as breath-taking as Ascending’s stand-out ‘Tormento e Passione’, it creates a more consistent feel across the album, not to mention a subtle, understated piece of dark symphonic pop in the shape of ‘Notturno’, which is in an entirely different league to the ballads most Power Metal bands would settle for.
In case it hasn’t been clear already, this is not straight-forward European Power Metal. Just as Portal baffled many older Death Metal fans with their lack of recognisable riffs and melodies, there’ll be Rhapsody fans left frustrated by the unconventional song structures and the relatively minor role that the guitars often play compared to the other elements. Like its predecessor, it manages to capture the feel of classic Rhapsody while pulling off moves that they would never have been willing (or, frankly, able) to handle.
Prometheus, like its predecessor, is both a bold reinvention of European Power Metal and a celebration of its traditions, simultaneously familiar and challengingly new, and it offers a template of how the old warhorse could be given new purpose – the question is whether that’s what the rest of the Power Metal world wants.
Eighteen months ago, a year after amicably departing the band to create counterpart Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, the man himself LucaTurilli strode up, calmly removed his (slightly camp) leather gloves, smiled sweetly, and flicked fingers across the right cheeks of his former bandmates affectionately, before aggressively slapping them hard across their left, dropping the gloves at their feet and turning on his heel with a flourish, striding confidently away. By doing what Rhapsody (of Fire) hadn’t truly delivered since 2002’s Power of the Dragonflame (Limb), Ascendency to Infinity (Nuclear Blast) was dramatic, dynamic, interesting and taking a bombastic risk, moving cinematic metal forward and well and truly throwing down the gauntlet.
In days of yore, once the gauntlet was dropped it meant a challenge had been made and men came out fighting, desperate to save their honour and name from being besmirched.
Unfortunately, Rhapsody of Fire have ignored the humiliating slap to the face, and stood there with their fingers in their ears, ignoring their smarting chops and carried on as if it hadn’t happened. Rather than the salivating prospect of 2 true kings of symphonic metal doing battle round Europe, trading musical blows each trumping the other at each turn, Rhapsody of Fire have conceded the fight, making only a token appearance on the battle ground to wave a white flag.
So predictable is Dark Wings of Steel (AFM) that I could have written this review without actually hearing it. It sounds like the last 3, overflowing with musicianship, but short on songs. The huge choruses and rousing power metal passages are conspicuous in an underwhelming absence. All the requisite is there; it’s exceptionally well played, Alex Staropoli’sbaroque keyboard passages twinkle and the as-ever-impeccable Fabio Leone’s soaring vocals are once again the saving grace, while tracks like ‘Silver Light of Tears’ show the flame of creativity can still flicker.
In the main, though, it’s disappointing. Rhapsody of Fire can and should deliver more. More thrills, more epic peaks, more tumultuous choruses, more majestic passages, and bigger driving metal chugs and licks. Instead they seem content to limp along in the shadows of their former glories.