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Orphaned Land “All Is One” video

The Israeli band are back with a new album titled “All Is One” and taken from it they have just released a video for the title track. Orphaned Land have always been one of a kind. With this video they have just proved that they are on top of their creativity. Nevertheless to say, one of the best videos I have seen in recent years. Enjoy!

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Interview with Tommaso Ricardi from Fleshgod Apocalypse, July 2013

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Hello Tommaso, Fleshgod Apocalypse is back with a new album titled “Labyrinth”. The album is the follow up to the highly succesful “Agony” and it will be released on August 16th. After listening to the album plenty of times, I feel this is the stronger Fleshgod Apocalypse effort to date. How would you describe the band’s approach for “Labyrinth”?

Hello! Our approach to music in general, and in particular to the composing process and practicing has always been extremely meticulous and serious. We do this with the consciousness that we need to let our imagination and spirit go with the flow regarding the inspiration, but on the other hand we are perfectly aware of what happens in the music business, what is needed to create a single or an entire album, especially on the technical side. So every time we take a step forward, this comes from a deeper knowledge and consciousness and we try to learn from mistakes, keep the good things, and also continue our growth as people and musicians. This is the kind of approach we had for “Labyrinth”; starting from the idea that we had, and this time we knew how to do it better.

If you were to compare the work done for “Labyrinth” to your previous album, what was done different and what was done the same way?

Well, from a certain point of view, nothing is ever the same on everything we do. This is just because we ALWAYS learn something and modify every little aspect to make it better. On the other hand, everything is based on the previous experience, so it is never a sort of cut and paste, but always an extention of the past things and methods.

For how long did you kept writing and recording the album? Does the amount of time employed compare to the one you put on your previous efforts?

Unfortunately for many reasons, we had a very short time for “Agony”, and this is also why as soon as we finished with that album, even after being obviously satisfied with the great results and success, we already knew that many things could be done even better if we had enough time for those elements. With “Labyrinth”, we took our time, and believe me, it’s been a rush, but that would have happen in any case, because sometimes we would keep perfectioning things forever. Anyway, we took about 6 months for the composition, plus 2 and half months for recording, and we finished, even though the last two months have been crazy!

On “Labyrinth” the guitars take a predominant sound again as in “Agony” they were second to the symphonic elements, but not this time. Did you consciously wanted the album to sound this way or this was just the result of a natural process?

Well, every experience brings change and evolution. In “Agony”, being the first time composing with a whole orchestra throughout the music, we tried to treat the guitars as a section of strings, to make it work with all the other instruments. We were satisfied with that, but in the meantime, during these two years, listening back to our work and to a lot of other music, we found out there were many ways to make the guitars sound more as metal guitars from a rythmic point of view, but still work perfectly (even better in my opinion) with the orchestra. I think it was also a matter of getting more experience and understanding even deeper our music. Also, we took enough time to work on every single detail.

Another thing on “Labyrinth” that caught my attention was the additional use of soprano styled female vocals on several songs, just as you did on “Agony” when you used Veronica Bordacchini as guest female vocalist. I feel that in “Labyrinth” the soprano singed parts have a deeper impact than on “Agony”. What specific purpose did you aim when you decided to include that kind of vocals style? And were they handled by Veronica just once again?

Well, I think that many of the things that happen during a musical and artistic evolution come from the need of the music itself. Obviously there is always an idea, a higher view of the composer that knows what he wants since the beginning, but sometimes there are also things that you get to work in a certain way during the process. We’ve always moved between different vocal styles in our songs, and this time we felt that this kind of distribution with a bigger presence of this kind of vocals was perfect for the balance of this album. We always have to remember that music is like engineering: the building needs a certain structure, shape, balance and certain materials in the right place to be stable and harmonic. And yes, Veronica performed all those parts.

For “Agony” you chose “The Violation” as the first single and video from the album. Now for “Labyrinth”, “Elegy” was chosen as the first single. Do you plan to shot a video for it as well, this in case, you haven’t already done it?

Yes, we actually released just a few days ago “Elegy” as the first single. Regarding a video, I still can’t say anything; what is for sure is that we’re gonna certainly work on the first videoclip as soon as possible, probably right after the first tour.

Although all the songs on “Labyrinth” are equally strong, personally I think that “Kingborn”, “Elegy”, “Pathfinder” and “Under Black Sails” are the jewels of the crown. What is your opinion about those songs and is there anything special about these or any other tracks that you consider that stand out of the rest?

Well, of course every song has different meanings and values for us. Regarding the ones you mentioned, I would say “Kingborn” and “Elegy” are in some way closer to some Fleshgod classics, while, for example “Pathfinder” is something that in some way could be considered as a brand new style. It’s obviously a Fleshgod song, and you can hear it, and for sure we put it in a way that was functional to the whole balance of the album, but on the other hand it is something that brings out, in my opinion, new and almost unexplored aspects of our music. I really like that song. “Under black Sails” is great, and represents our hability to put a very crazy and epic song as a last song before the piano conclusion. Another song I would name as a particular song compare to the previous works is “Towards The Sun”, which contains some of the best lyrics we ever put down in my opinion.

On “Agony” you explored the concept of some strong emotions and the negative part of the human behavior. By looking at the song titles and trying to figure out the lyrics for the songs on “Labyrinth” I cannot relate them to a specific matter or concept. So, does “Labyrinth” really follow a concept? Can you give us details about the lyrical themes used this time?

“Labyrinth” is about one of the most important issues in life: The search for us. All of us, at a certain point of our life, can make a choice. We can choose to ignore many feelings that we have, many desires, fears, the sense of emptiness, and just close our mind and do what we think we are supposed to do. Most of the time this means getting sick inside, dying before we actually die. On the other hand, we can choose not to ignore this inner voice calling us, who guides our deep desires and the will to understand and to win over our fears. If we can take this endeavour, then we start discovering who we really are, and we have the chance to see that the freedom we look for is here, in ourselves. “Labyrinth” is a metaphoric story inspired by the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Theseus is a hero who, recognizing his roots, takes the responsability of doing a crazy journey to kill the Minotaur, half man half bull, symbolizing our deepest fears. The Minotaur is trapped into the Labyrinth of Knossos that perfectly represents the complexity of us, of our inner world.

You have dealt with topics like the Sicilian Mafia in the past, and negative human emotions or sins, what keep inspiring you when it comes to the topics on your writing?

Life. We often talk about other artists and music we listen to; of course these are important sources, but in my opinion, the biggest inspiration for an artist is existence itself, and all its issues. 

Having in mind your vicinity to the Catholic Church Headquartes with all the atrocities that happen inside those walls, how would you describe the impact of the Church on us as individuals and society? Would you consider writing about this topic for a future album?

Well, we talked about institutions, both political and religious, and the way they use fear to threaten people with “Oracles”. Regarding the Catholic Church itself, what I think is that, of course, it’s one of those insitutions that certainly are responsible for many many atrocities in history, but it’s just one of them. What I mean is that we talked about these issues, and even directly about the Vatican (“Infection Of the White Throne”), and we actually keep talking about this in different ways still today. All the horrible deeds come from a deep frustration of people who search for their freedom in power, money, control… but they are miserable, and they actually don’t see the light they talk so much about. But this can be extended to everyone and every institution. I don’t like saying “all catholics are bastards” as well as I wouldn’t say that all Muslims are, or whatever. I like to say: “hey, a lot of people are sick. They can’t find a way to live, love, dream, in a way that is sane, so look what happens. They create myths and institutions and they follow their inner devil rising up with their expensive clothes and their altisonant names…”, but, on the other hand, I believe that all of us have different ways to find faith in ourselves and in life. It’none of my business to judge the fact that someone believe in this or that god, or if they don’t. If the intention is good and characterized by positivism, I got nothing to complain about.

Fleshgod Apocalypse began as a technical and brutal death metal band. “Oracles” can be considered among the stapples of the style. On “Mafia”, you began to incorporate symphonic elements, but it wasn’t until “Agony” that you went for a full symphonic approach. Can you elaborate on that musical evolution? Even the bands logo was stylized so it was a very bold change indeed.

Well, I understand that “Oracles” in some way is considered to be part of something that some call technical death metal, but I disagree on the fact that there was a sort of drastic change. Maybe, this is because we never said to ourselves: “let’s do a technical death metal album”. We’ve been inspired by a lot of death metal bands from the classic ones of the 80’s and 90’s, to the newest ones, since we also listen to death metal, but if you pay attention to “Oracles” you can notice that the classical core of Fleshgod was already there since the beginning. I would say more: some things never changed. You recognize our riffing in “Oracles” as well as in “Labyrinth” and in “Agony”, and even in “Mafia”, no doubt about this. We were born as a band that blends two genres. The fact that we “added” the orchestra (already present in certain parts of the previous albums) was a matter of evolution. We just understood (as every other band) our style, and defined it, while walking our path. “Oracles” represents the roots, and the roots are still completely there. Some people just don’t wanna see it: maybe because they can’t take the fact that they loved an album of a symphonic metal band ahahhah!! 

I find it very appealing that while you went for a symphonic approach, most of your songs went to an even faster pace. Fleshgod Apocalypse in 2013 is a more extreme band than what it was back in 2009. How important is for you to keep trying and incorporating new elements into your sound while remaining constant with the extremity factor?

It’s very important. But still, even in this case, this is just a matter of our instinct and inspiration. We do what we feel and when we feel it. The extremity factor, as you said, is important, but it can be expressed in many ways. And this comes out in “Labyrinth” for example, where you can hear many different approaches to this throughout the album. Often, bands keep doing something when they feel they would like to evolve in something else, and they write bad music beacuse they’re not allowing them to flow. Then, when people complain, they do something “back to the roots, extreme like it was at the beginning”…and they fail again, because it’s fake. We’ll try to avoid this. We always dare, and a lot of people complain. But we don’t care, they would complain anyway. If we will feel that we have to write the slowest album ever, we’ll do it. And it will sound Fleshgod, I’ll guarantee it. It’s a matter of identity, the only thing that always wins.

In the 90’s and early 2000’s, Italy was mostly known for being a country exporting power and progressive metal bands, some of them became pretty succesful. It can’t be said that Italy was an extreme metal exporter even that extreme metal in Italy goes back to the 80’s with bands like Bulldozer and Necrodeath. But in the last 5 to 7 years or so, many extreme metal bands have came out of Italy and made a big impact worldwide. What do you think are the reasons for this change? Or do you think that nothing has really changed and it is just that with the success of a band like yours, fans are beginning to look closer at the Italian extreme metal scene?

I think that there have been some people who met, who had the mentality to look forward and don’t think “ah…we’re Italians, we can’t do this” (as most of the people think) and to start doing this as a real job. We are maybe the latest example. Hour Of Penance did it, Eyeconoclast (and now they start being recognized finally), The Modern Age Slavery, Slowmotion Apocalypse (even if the genre is different, but still metal). The problem in Italy was, and still is, mentality. There are promoters asking for big money to kids playing in their first band, to open one or two shows to big bands creation the illusion to them that this will make them famous. Concerts and musical events are always organized without serious investments but always to save money save money, save money…on everything. The result is bands getting sick of playing shitty shows, with shitty treatment, shitty catering, shitty everything. And the fault comes from the people who want to use these shows just to make as much money as possible don’t giving a FUCK about the result. And they’re stupid. Because the result is that they loose money because nobody believes anymore. And bands don’t wanna play. And peple don’t wanna come. Unfortunately the few exceptions to this are slowly dying due to the general tendence.

How is the planning for the tour in support of “Labyrinth”? I have seen that you have been adding dates here and there.

Yeah. We are working on many things to cover as much places as possible. We want to do a massive promotion for “Labyrinth”, and also go to some places we’ve never been before. For now, the only official things that I can say is that we’re playing two open air shows in Germany on July 26 and 27 (and I guess there will already be some surprise there) and then a direct support tour with Wintersun in North America. Can’t wait for that!

Now with 3 albums and an EP up your sleeve, how will your live setlist be changed? Do you plan to play more stuff from your last 2 albums or make a balance along your earlier material as well?

Obviously it will depend on the setlist length. On supporting gigs, with less time to play, we’ll obviously try to play as much as possible from the last two albums. On headlining shows, we’ll try to put on even some songs from the previous works, as we already did many times!

For “Agony” you did plenty of live dates in the USA and as far as I have seen, this will happen with “Labyrinth” as well. How different is playing in the USA in contrast to Europe for example?

Well, it’s two different markets, and scenes. Europeans pay more attention on the history, so it takes a little longer to conque Europe, but in the end it pays off with a very stable fan base. Of course the good thing about US is that there’s a higher hype for new acts coming up. Americans really like what is new, besides the history of the band. Also, I think American crowds are more mixed: much easier to find kids who like metalcore and death metal at the same time than in Europe. European crowds are more concentrated on one genre usually!

Tommaso thanks a lot for your time. Do you have any finals words that you would like to share?

Of course. Whatever genre of music you like, support good music. Thank you!

labyrinth

“Labyrinth” will be released on August 16th in Europe and on August 20th in North America through Nuclear Blast Records. The first single “Elegy” can be streamed below: 

 

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Nightwish – Imaginaerum (2011, Nuclear Blast Records)


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Nightwish – Imaginaerum (2011, Nuclear Blast Records)

Nightwish is a band that keeps their fans polarized since the departure of original singer Tarja Turunen. There is the blind group of fans that just because Tarja is not longer in the band, pre-state that the band is not worthy anymore neglecting the irrefutable fact that a band is greater than the sum of its members. There is also another segment of fans that accepted the change and welcomed the input of Anette Olzon to the band, some even considering the band’s current lineup better than the previous one, a fact that I totally disagree with. That said, the Finnish band just delivered another element of discord, a new album entitled “Imaginaerum.” The album is already available in Europe and will be released on American soil on January 10, 2012.

“Imaginaerum” is an album that basically does the work as the soundtrack to a movie that the band will launch in 2012. It is undoubtedly an ambitious project that shows the band doing certain things they had never done before, although this does not necessarily guarantee good results. A key element about this new album is that it is the second recording with Anette onboard after her debut on “Dark Passion Play” which was released in 2007, and which had reactions of all kinds. In my opinion, her debut with the band was very appropriate and I was very curious about the outcome of a second disk. But did “Imaginaerum” fulfill my expectations as a whole? After listening to the album over a dozen times, I have to say that it partly does.

“Imaginaerum” features 13 tracks and starts with a short introduction with a Finnish narrative called “Taikatalvi” and ends with the instrumental album’s title track which is nothing but a collection of parts of the tracks from the entire disk . This basically does not add or subtracts anything to the album’s quality as they are basically pieces to create the impression of a real soundtrack. Encapsulated between the “intro” and “outro” the album features an intermediate instrumental track entitled “Arabesque”, which divides the disk into two parts of 5 songs each. Honestly, just like the “intro” and “outro”, “Arabesque” is another minor theme in terms of importance within the album. So we actually have 10 songs to evaluate.

“Storytime” is the first single from the album and the version presented on it is totally superior to the single version, being much more elaborated and somewhat less commercial. In addition to “Storytime”, the songs “Ghost River”, “Scaretale”, “Rest Calm”, “Last Ride Of The Day” and “I Want My Tears Back” are the best ones in the album, especially “I Want My Tears Back”, which is not only the best song from “Imaginaerum” but one of the best songs in Nightwish’s whole career. “Song Of Myself” is a song of more than 13 minutes and the first 6 and half minutes are amazing but the last 7 minutes are an extremely long narrative bordering on pure monotony. If the narrative had been kept for a maximum of 2 minutes, it would have been perfect, but 7 minutes is too much.

“Turn Loose The Mermaids” is sort of a ballad with roots in Finnish folklore. It’s a good song where Anette’s voice stands out, though the song itself is nothing spectacular. “The Crow, The Owl And The Dove”, which is emerging as the next single from the album, is another track with a strong influence of Finnish folklore similar to “The Islander” from the album “Dark Passion Play”. Unlike “The Islander”, “The Crow, The Owl And The Dove” was not developed to its full potential, being a conservative song at not risky at all. I have to point out that Marco Hietala’s voice in this song is amazing and it is basically what saves the song. “Slow, Love, Slow” is the song that remains to be mentioned and I decided to leave it for last although it is the album’s fourth track, as I consider it to be the worst part of “Imaginaerum.” It is a very jazz influenced song, which I have no problem. My problem is that it is too simple and boring at its best, and on top of that it lasts almost 6 minutes. Anette’s voice detracts much on this song and sounds totally out of focus. Definitely a risky song and although I consider it a failure, I applaud the fact of the band trying to create something different.

To sum it up, “Imaginaerum” is a very good album, but it is not a spectacular product given the failures exposed. Perhaps the fact of thinking that the album would serve as the soundtrack of a movie altered dramatically the result and affected the product. Still, I applaud the fact that it is an ambitious album that is not a mere “Dark Passion Play” Pt2. The symphonic arrangements are mostly excellent and several are somewhat unexpected and unpredictable. Another highlight of “Imaginaerum” is that the band continues to expand its product by incoprporating Finnish folk music into their subjects. To Tarja fans, I urge them to turn the page. The period with Tarja was amazing and I prefer it to the current era of the band. But bands that employ soprano styled singers belong to the past and are just pure cliché. In terms of vocal resources it is obvious that Anette is not as good as Tarja, but Anette is very versatile and her contemporary style is what it is needed in a band like Nightwish to remain relevant. Remember that it is not who sings the best; it is who suit the best to the current needs of a band. Nightwish’s leader Tuomas Holopainen had a dream, Tuomas dreamed in big. And that dream was realized with “Imaginaerum” surely the most difficult album to compose in the band’s history.

 HMT Rating: 8/10

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Megadeth – Th1rt3en (Roadrunner Records, 2011)

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Megadeth – Th1rt3en (Roadrunner Records, 2011)

En la escena del heavy metal, la segunda mitad del 2011 se ha caracterizado por el lanzamiento de varias producciones discográficas sumamente esperadas por los fanáticos. Uno de los discos mas esperados del año lo era sin duda “Th1rt3en” de Megadeth. La expectativa por este disco era sumamente alta tomando en cuenta que “Endgame”, su disco anterior el cual fue lanzado en el 2009, tuvo una increíble acogida a nivel mundial con críticas favorables por doquier, colocando nuevamente a la banda en el “spot” del heavy metal. La pregunta clave aquí es, será “Th1rt3en” tan bueno como “Endgame”? Luego de haber escuchado “Th1rt3en” un sinnúmero de veces, mi respuesta a esa pregunta es un rotundo NO.

“Th1rt3en” padece de algunos problemas y se percibe como un disco que fue hecho con prisa, o simplemente por cumplir. Desde que suenan las primeras notas de “Sudden Death”, hasta la última y canción tema del disco “Th1rt3en”, se puede apreciar que la producción no es la adecuada para una banda como Megadeth. La mezcla se oye opaca, los riffs de las guitarras pasan algo desapercibidos y están enterrados en la misma mezcla. Este el es tipo de producción para una banda mas a lo Disturbed, que de hecho tanto “Th1rt3en” como los discos de Disturbed comparten el mismo productor Johnny K por lo que este aspecto no me resulta sorprendente. Por supuesto, los solos de guitarra tanto de Dave Mustaine como de Chris Broderick suenan excelentes. De hecho, la calidad de los solos de guitarra es impecable y me atrevo a decir que en ese aspecto, es de lo mejor que ha hecho Megadeth en su carrera. La voz de Dave, pues sigue siendo Dave pero ya mucho más desgastado. En esta ocasión ni los “milagros” en el estudio pudieron hacer mucho por él, pero Dave siempre ha sido un cantante que nunca debió serlo dado su limitado recurso vocal, aunque su timbre de voz es único y le dio esa identidad propia a Megadeth.

Otro de los aspectos negativos del disco es que varias de las canciones parecen sobrantes de producciones anteriores,  y resulta que algunas en sí, básicamente lo son. “Millennium Of The Blind” y  “New World Order” son canciones demo de su época de “Youthanasia” allá para el 1994. Estas fueron re-grabadas para el nuevo disco, y a pesar de que “Millennium Of The Blind” es puro relleno, “New World Order” resulta ser una de las mejores canciones de todo el disco. Otro tema re-grabado lo es “Black Swan”, el cual fue originalmente creado para la versión exclusiva de fan-club de su disco del 2007 “United Abominations”. “Black Swan” comienza con una melodía muy interesante pero ya para el primer minuto del tema, se percibe porque fue una canción que no se incluyó en la versión normal de ese disco. “Th1rt3en” comienza con 3 excelentes canciones consecutivas. “Sudden Death” (tema que ya llevaba escuchándose desde el año pasado), “Public Enemy No. 1” y “Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)” impactan desde el primer momento que las escuchas. Pero a partir de ahí el disco se torna un tanto repetitivo y las canciones no lucen ambiciosas. Solo “Never Dead” y “New World Order” se pueden considerar grandes momentos en lo que queda del disco, el restante es una amalgama de riffs e ideas recicladas de sus últimos 18 años.

Aún así “Th1rt3en” es un buen disco, pero no está a la altura de lo que Megadeth ha demostrado ser capaz de lograr y de lo que personalmente esperaba luego de “Endgame”. Luego del aborto que fue su disco “Risk” en el 1999, Megadeth ha venido de menos a más y cada disco posterior a “Risk” superó al anterior, y cuando salió al mercado “Endgame” mis expectativas para el próximo disco crecieron exponencialmente. Tal vez se le acabo la inspiración a Dave, tal vez fue la prisa o solo querían tener algo de material nuevo para seguir de gira. Eso nunca lo sabremos. Soy un gran fanático de Megadeth y es un poco desalentador  escribir una reseña no un tanto positiva de una de mis bandas favoritas. Pero la racha que traían desde su época post-“Risk” de superar su disco anterior, terminó con “Th1rt3en”. En esta ocasión no solo retrocedieron, sino que no lograron tampoco superar sus discos “The System Has Failed” y “United Abominations”. “Th1rt3en” es básicamente el equivalente a su “Cryptic Writings” pero en la era moderna: un disco que algunos recordarán pero pocos interesarán escuchar con frecuencia más adelante.

HMT Rating: 7/10

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Jorn “Live In Black” (Frontiers Records, 2011)

Jorn “Live In Black” (Frontiers Records, 2011)

(NOTE: “Live In Black” contains 2 music CD’s and a DVD. This review is only for the 2CDs)

Reviewing a Jorn album is never an easy task for me. We’re talking about my favorite singer from the last 15 years and I always try to approach his releases very objectively. In the end, it’s really the music contained what’s subjected to judgment since vocally, the man can’t go wrong. Having established this, let’s move to his latest offering. The Norwegian powerhouse singer has a new live album titled “Live in Black”. The album was recorded at the Sweden Rock Festival on October 6th, 2010 in front of 25,000 fans. The crowd make this album an enjoyable experience creating an instant connection with the listener and leading to thoughts like “whoa, I wished I was there”.

“Live in Black” contains 17 songs taken from Jorn’s solo catalog and the selection is absolutely great. It contains tracks from his “Worldchanger” era up to his last album “Spirit Black”. From the opening notes of the album’s first track “Road of the Cross”, you will immediately notice that the band sounds heavier than ever. I love every single Jorn album and I find the music on his catalog a perfect balance between the subtle and the heavier side of hard rock, but on “Live In Black” the band delivered a huge heavy performance. This is without a doubt heavy metal at its prime. Besides the heaviness, the album contains plenty of emotive moments, and it reaches its pinnacle at the end of “Man of the Dark” with Jorn screaming to the crowd. “Who’s the man? Ronnie James is the man. He is the man, the man!” There aren’t enough words to describe the emotion I feel on this part, I shed some tears every time I listen to it. Jorn’s respect and love for Ronnie James Dio is genuine, and he shows it again reaching the last part of the last song “War of the World”, this time singing a line dedicated to “the Man on the Silver Mountain”.

In addition, Tore Moren and Tor Eryk Myhre guitars sound monumental and are very upfront in the mix, a very good choice having in mind the power in Jorn’s vocal delivery. Both guitar players feature very neat guitar solos, Tore at the beginning of “Tungur Knivur” and Tor Eryk at the end of the same song. Beating the drum kit is Willy Bendiksen, one of the most underrated drummers in the world. Well, it turns out that in “Live in Black” good ol’ Willy gave us his best drumming performance ever. The man simply abused the drum kit without mercy and added several new patterns giving some songs a new dimension. Apart from Jorn himself, Willy’s drumming is the best thing on “Live in Black”. And what can I say about Jorn’s performance? The man never ceases to amaze me. He is the full package of voice and charisma. There are plenty of great singers that are not that great when it comes to live performances. But Jorn is the opposite; he is even better live than in the studio as he shows more freedom and even a higher range. There’s no wonder why the performance in “Live in Black” is one of his best performances ever.

“Live in Black” is not just another live album to fulfill a contract. It’s a piece of art and simply one of the best live albums I have ever listened. You don’t find such an exceptional band, sounding so tight very often. And if you add to the equation the best voice in the business, you’re in for the win. If you are a Jorn fan, this album is a must. And if you are a newcomer to his music, this is the best place to start with. Get this album now!

HMT rating: 9/10

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Edguy “Age of the Joker” (Nuclear Blast, 2011)

Edguy “Age of the Joker” (Nuclear Blast, 2011)

Edguy is one of the most polarizing bands in the last years. The German band has been creating some controversy with their last couple of albums. While plenty of the old fans feel betrayed with the band’s change in musical direction, many embraced the change while the band gained a lot of new fans. This led us to 2011 and their new album “Age of the Joker”.  If you belong to the group of fans that despised the new musical direction taken by Edguy for albums like “Rocket Ride” and “Tinnitus Sanctus”, then “Age Of The Joker” will surely dissapoint you as they keep moving into that style. However, “Age of the Joker” is vastly superior to those 2 albums, and I even go further and say that it is one of the most solid albums of their career and their most diverse album ever.

With “Age of the Joker”, the band continues to play the 80’s-tinged metal of their last two albums, but they also added some new sounds and influences to the compositions. Opening track and first album single “Robin Hood”, clocks for more than 8 minutes and follows the tradition of their longer epic tracks along the lines of Rocket Ride’s “Sacrifice”. It is truly a great song that includes an interlude somewhat reminiscent of Maiden’s “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”. The album continues with “Nobody’s Hero” and “Rock of Cashel”, the first one being a heavy and fast paced tune that will surely please fans of their “Hellfire Club” era. It is on “Rock of Cashel” where the aforementioned new influences become very noticeable. This is a very progressive track and the last minutes of the song sound like they were taken from a 70’s Kansas song, making it one of the album’s highlights. Right next we got “Pandora’s Box”, a song that easily could be written by a band like Whitesnake in the 70’s due to its heavy blues sound.

As the album follows, Edguy continues to deliver solid and very diverse songs, and when we reach the 8th track titled “The Arcane Guild” it becomes pretty obvious that on “Age of The Joker” they decided to leave no uncovered bases. “The Arcane Guild” is another fast paced tune filled with a Hammond-styled organ bringing us the 70’s vibe again. This song features one of the best guitar solos of their whole career and perhaps it’s the best song on the album.  One key element on this album is Tobias Sammet vocal delivery. It seems that finally he reached a comfortable vocal zone, making his work on “Age of the Joker” the best on his career.

“Age of the Joker” is not the album some fans hoped for. It’s not a return to their power metal roots, and for the most part of it, the band continued the path of “Rocket Ride” and “Tinnitus Sanctus”. The album was recorded at Peppermint Park Studios in Hannover, Germany under the watchful eye of producer Sascha Paeth and it turned out as perhaps their best sounding album ever.  If you want a very diverse album where no tracks sound obviously similar, then this album is for you. If you want to listen to the same power metal song for 60 minutes, then I urge you to look somewhere else.

“Age of the Joker” is due to be released on August 26 in Europe and on September 6 in the USA. It can be preordered via Amazon or by visiting the band’s label website at www.nuclearblast.de/ and www.nuclearblastusa.com/

HMT Rating: 8/10

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Directly from Finland. The voice of To / Die / For: JAPE VON CROW! (via Zephyr)

Interview with Jape, vocalist for the finnish gothic metal band To/Die/For handled by Zephyr

Directly from Finland. The voice of To / Die / For: JAPE VON CROW! We started with a very special guest directly from Finland. The voice of To / Die / For: JAPE VON CROW! ZEPHYR: Hi Jape!! It's a pleasure to interview you. ^_^ Give a brief history of To/Die/For and where you are from. JAPE: >HELLO! TO/DIE/FOR IS FINNISH MELANCHOLY ROCK BAND. SOMEONES SAYS WE ARE GOTHIC ROCK BUT….WHATEVER. OUR HISTORY IS QUITE LONG … Read More

via Zephyr

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The Soulless – Isolated

The Soulless – Isolated (Earache, 2011)

Here we are, about to review another melodic death metal album. This style is totally saturated with plenty of good bands, but with plenty of shitty ones as well. So when I received the new album of the British melodic death metal band The Soulless, I was like “here we go again”. The band is not exclusively a newcomer as they released an album under their previous moniker of Ignominious Incarceration (pretty weird name) titled “Of Winter Born” back in 2009, a solid album by the way, but nothing stellar. So, it seems that the guys decided that they needed a new name that will be at least pronounceable, so they become The Soulless. And under their new name they released “Isolated”, an album that basically took me by surprise.

“Isolated” fits the description of melodic death metal, but it has its fair share of metalcore with its breakdowns. But before you decide to stop reading, let me tell you that the vocals are exclusively death growls, not even a single whinny emo-tinged line like the ones that plagued the metalcore. The guitar riffs are very solid ones, with a slight djent sound on them. But of course, when you decide to listen to a melodic death metal album you expect some killer melodies coming out of nowhere and “Isolated” has tons of it. The album lacks some solos, but to be honest, the riffs and the killer melodies compensate for their absence. As for the album highlights, every track is pretty solid and memorable and I cannot point to any one that stand outs from the rest.

“Isolated” does not offer anything new, but it’s a whole lot better than the average album on this style. Sometimes you don’t have to be a genius or play highly technical stuff to come up with a solid album and with “Isolated” The Soulless proved that with simple songs, but very well played and with a tight band, you can come up with excellent results. If you are a fan of either melodic death metal or metalcore, this album is for you.

“Isolated” is due to be released in May 16th in Europe and on June 7th in the USA. It can be preordered via Amazon or by visiting the band’s website at http://thesoullessband.com.

HMT Rating: 8/10

7

Symphony X – Iconoclast (Nuclear Blast, 2011)

Symphony X – Iconoclast (Nuclear Blast, 2011)

Progressive metal is not my favorite metal genre. I am far from being an expert on it and I don’t care for most progressive metal bands. However, when it comes to Symphony X, it’s a total different story as they are perhaps my favorite band within this genre. My first experience with them was in 1998 with their “Twilight in Olympus” album, a great album. But I loved even more the ones that followed, “V: The New Mythology Suite” and their masterpiece until that point “The Odyssey”. Those two albums are darker and more epic than anything they have done, and while 2007’s “Paradise Lost” is a great album, it lacks the darkness and “epicness” factors. In an interview I had with vocalist Russell Allen in late January, when I asked about the new album, not only did he reveal the title “Iconoclast” for the first time, he also revealed the concept behind the album (i.e. machines taking over the world)  and what to expect in terms of musical direction. Basically, Russell said that “Iconoclast” will be the most dynamic and explosive album of their career. Well, three months later I finally had the chance to listen to “Iconoclast” and Russell was absolutely correct about this, but his words still did not prepare me for what I was about to experience.

“Iconoclast” is plain and simple the best Symphony X album of their brilliant career. From the epic 10+ minutes album-title opening track to the 9+ minutes closing track “When All is Lost”, you get a dose of absolute perfection track after track. Those two, the opening and closing tracks, are the longest songs on the album and they feel like two parts of the same song, although both are very different musically. In this album, they act like a wrapper that envelops the rest of the songs, and it works in a phenomenal way.

Track 2 and 3 are “The End of Innocence” and “Dehumanized”. Those are the two songs that the band has already made available online. Both are great tracks but not the best ones in the album. Track 4 and 5 are “Bastards of the Machine” and “Heretic”, two of the heaviest songs on the album filled with plenty of fast parts; killer, killer songs.

After the heavy “Heretic”, the band drops on us “Children of a Faceless God”, a mid-paced song with the catchiest chorus in the whole album. “Can’t you see, you and me, we’re children of a faceless Gooood!”; epic chorus of an epic song. Right afterwards, BOOM! Heavy and fast stuff again, this time with “Electric Messiah”, a song filled with an avalanche of riffs and a godly chorus and one of the album’s highlights. Iconoclast follows with “Prometheus (I Am Alive)”, another heavy tune with a very modern vibe that, in its first 2 minutes reminded me of Dream Theater’s “The Glass Prison”, before dropping another monster of a chorus. But the band left the best to the end: The closing track “When All is Lost” acts like a shorter version of the song “The Odyssey”. The epicness surrounding this song is indescribable. The piano interlude during the first minute, the riffs, the tempo changes, all combined with what in my opinion is Russell’s best vocal performance ever makes “When All is Lost” a very emotive and memorable listening experience. Once this track ends, it leaves the listener with a smile on the face and one word coming to the mind: Wow!

As I previously said, “Iconoclast” is in my opinion Symphony X’s best album so far. It has the elements that made ‘The Odyssey” such a masterpiece, plus a big amount of heavy chunks that they’ve put into the album. Michael Romeo is simply impressive. Every solo is memorable and the riffs slay. The rest of the band sounds tighter than ever, and Jason’s drumming leaves the listener wondering why he is not mentioned in every list involving the best drummers around. But the best aspect of “Iconoclast” is Russell Allen’s vocal performance. Russell has been very busy handling vocals for projects like Star One and Allen/Lande, but on “Iconoclast” he gave us his best performance ever. He covered every single range and put a lot of emotion into his performance. His vocals carry so much emotion that there is no way the listener would not feel what Russell is singing about. “Iconoclast” is perfect. I would consider it 2011’s top album so far. This is a trademark album that will stand the test of time and will be regarded as a classic in the years to come.

“Iconoclast” is due to be released in June 17 in Europe, June 21 in the USA, and June 22 in Japan. It can be preordered via Amazon or by visiting the band’s website at www.symphonyx.com.

HMT Rating: 10/10
*edited by Symphonyxian

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Amorphis – The Beginning Of Times

Amorphis – The Beginning Of Times (Nuclear Blast Records, 2011)

Ah, Amorphis. I have to confess that I have a weak spot for them, although I am not a fan of their mid-era, namely “Tuonela, Am Universum” and “Far Away From The Sun”. To me, those albums lack something that I cannot explain. Maybe the death growls, but overall I found that era pretty uninspiring and quite boring. Almost when I was giving up on them, they released “Eclipse” in 2006 and that was the beginning of a new worship era for me. They followed with two more great albums “Silent Waters” (2007) and “Skyforger” (2009). Well, they are back with a new album titled “The Beginning Of Times”, and I was expecting something along the lines of those past three albums, and they somewhat did that, but to my surprise they included some new things into their songs, with excellent results.

“The Beginning Of Times” has one new trick never used by the band: the use of some female vocals. They don’t abuse of them as they use them in only a couple of songs, but when used, the results are godly. Also they feature many new melodies and arrangements, which combined with their typical ones, leave the listener wondering about the incredible talent behind the compositions. Overall the production is very similar to their last 3 albums, with the difference that the keyboards sound even more 70’s in parts, but without losing that modern vibe.

They do offer us plenty of death growls majestically handled on tracks like “Battle Of Light” and “My Enemy”. Speaking about vocals, main singer Tomi Joutsen did one hell of an amazing job. Tomi’s debut was on “Eclipse” and I have always liked his style, but on “The Beginning Of Times” he surpassed anything he has previously done. He put a lot of passion into his singing and more melody as well. As for individual songs, tracks like “Mermaid”, “Song of The Sage” and “On A Stranded Shore” are among the best songs they have ever done.

“The Beginning Of Times” is just a perfect album in every sense. It’s impossible to point at a weak track, there are none! Just when I thought that they reached their peak, they delivered this masterpiece that no matter how hard I try to find a flaw on it, I can’t find any. “The Beginning Of Times” is not just their best album with Tomi Joutsen on vocals; it’s simply one of the best albums of their career. I would even go as far as saying that it’s the best thing they have done since “Tales Of The Thousand Lakes”. Yeah yeah, most of you would think I am exaggerating, so just wait until you listen to it and then come back and read my review again.

“The Beginning Of Times” is due to be released on May 30th in Europe, and on June 7th in the USA. It can be preordered via Amazon or by visiting the band’s webshop at http://www.fanzone.fi/amorphis.

HMT Rating: 9/10