Monday, December 12, 2011

October - October (2011)

With incredible psychedelic sludge bands like Mastodon, Crowbar, and Baroness, it’s tough to attempt that style of music and be able to stand out from these massive musicians. No one wants to be compared to the more well known bands in a negative way. You’ve got to have something unique to really reach out and get recognition for your talents. The young band October has done a terrific job in displaying their talents in their new self titled album. It’s six tracks of heavy sludge metal with destructive guitar riffs and reckless drum rolls.

The album begins with “Rust Water” which starts with a soft guitar rift as it is quickly followed with a smooth bass line and light drum patterns. The song is mainly instrumental except for a few clips of vocals that jump in and out. This isn’t you basic verse chorus verse type of track. You’re met with clean singing vocals that are heard in the far distance behind the snares and cymbals. Soon entire loud distorted guitar riffs that chug away while the vocals become a little more aggressive as they shout in the background. “Winter Sunrise” fades in after with blaring guitars and detailed drum fills that will knock you on your ass immediately. The guitars have a bit of a groove in their melody and definitely add some catchyness to the music. The repetitive guitar riff will have you bobbing your head constantly. The vocals play a short part in this song as well. Harsh yelling lyrics fade in and out throughout the song shining light on certain parts of the track. The guitar riffs change up drastically towards then end as the tempo begins to pick up as well as the drum rolls that explode in the background.

In the next song, “Woman,” I must admit I am reminded of Mastodon’s “Bedazzled Fingernails” track off of their latest album “The Hunter” because the open lyrics in this song shout “Lay me down” in a similar sound. Besides that small part, this song stands up strong all by itself as the best song on the album. This six minute song comes rumbling in with fast chugging guitar riffs that will have you throwing your devil horns up high in the air. This is layered by outstanding drum rolls that will send chills down your spine. Wild cymbals are constantly crackling in your ear with splash after splash as they are accompanied by earth quake bass lines that roll right underneath you. When you get about half way through this masterpiece you will hit an electrifying guitar solo that runs for a clean 40 second and is of pure wickedness as notes come flying in from all directions. Monstrous guitar riffs pick back up as vocals yell violently in the background. This is such a moving track with tons of energy and excitement.

You come across a southern sound in “Mouth Uncle” as bluesy guitars and bass open up this psychedelic track. This is all you hear for the first two and a half minutes of this seven minute song. Soon after, deafening distortion comes blaring in keeping the same melody only adding more recklessness to the sound. The drum rolls are full of detail as they take full control of the background. Vocals are clearly not needed when you have a ridiculous guitar solo that completely destroys everything in its path. Melodic notes run up and down the scale constantly. It isn’t until the last minute and a half that vocals come into play. Their harsh delivery gives a powerful ending as relentless guitars beat you down.

The shortest song on the album “Trudging Heavy,” is not a track to skip. They manage to fit everything from verses of vocals to wild guitar solos all in only two and a half minutes. The drum rolls will surely shake you violently as more insane fills rumble at your feet. Following this quick song is the final track, entitled “Sea Cow.” This song is over 15 and a half minutes long and contains drastic change throughout. First comes more of the harsh chugging bass and guitars at slow speeds while snares and cymbals collide violently behind them. The rhythm will definitely get your head bobbing. This carries on for about 5 minutes straight when you then come across non distorted guitar melodies that are soothing and a little more upbeat. It stays at a progressive level with repetitive riffs while the drum patterns constantly change in the background. High octave notes then fade there way in providing a very different sound then what you have heard throughout this album. The guitars play as vocals for the most part as if they are singing to you in many different octaves. As far as the drumming goes, it just keeps getting better and better. The fills alone make this a song that I would love to hear over and over again. And with all the creative guitar sounds and melodies on top, there’s no doubt that you will be clicking the replay button before it even gets to the end of the song. Make sure you follow all the way through though. The ending is a beautiful mix of guitars layered on top of each other playing different melodies that lay perfectly together in one soothing motion. This is an absolute gorgeous way to end this album.

October has come stomping into the metal world with this bone crushing album. The guitar work is absolutely phenomenal as well as the performance of the deafening vocals. Also the raw recording of the instruments really adds depth to the bands sound. “October” has all the right tools to lift you into the music and drop you into a world of violent yet passion sounds. Get ready to be blown away with incredible guitar riffs and thunderous drums throughout the entire album.


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Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Podcast: Episode 30 (Sample our wares)

A very special episode awaits! First, we break the ice with some reviews for the week. Murmaider thoroughly enjoyed the latest album by Illuminata, as well as a new offering from Thousand Year War. Hell22 was equally pleased, having heard great releases from Eumeria and Netherbird. The year is nearly over, but the metal flows freely!

But now, the moment we have been waiting for. Time to unveil Sorrow Eternal: The Sampler, Volume 1. We have compiled some of the best and brightest from the year that was, and put a track from each on one CD for your listening pleasure. Soon, you will find the CD up for order on the site for the price of $6, plus shipping (simply to cover our costs). And yes, we will ship anywhere and everywhere in the world. The tracklist and artwork can be found below. Keep an eye out, and be ready!

Download Part 1 here.

Download Part 2 here.

Sorrow Eternal: The Sampler, Volume 1

1. Sam Locke - Epoch
From the album “Era”

2. Blizzard At Sea - Closed Universe
From the album “Invariance”

3. Skogen - Midnattens Glimrande Stillhet
From the album “Svitjod”

4. Project Masquerade - Killer Of Life
From the album “Nothing But Everything Will Remain”

5. As Autumn Calls - Wither Away
From the album “An Autumn Departure”

6. Northsong - Mountains Of Madness
From the album “Winter’s Dominion”

7. Astral Winter - Beyond These Frozen Castle Walls
From the album “Winter Enthroned”

8. Echoterra - Midnight Sun
From the album “Land Of The Midnight Sun”

9. An Autumn For Crippled Children - Nothing/Everything
From the album “Everything”

10. Ogen - Black Tusk Retaliation
From the album “Black Metal Unbound”

11. Kromlek - Necropolis Fall
From the album “Finis Terrae”

12. Appalachian Winter - Solitude
From the album “Appalachian Winter”
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sam Locke: The Interview

One of our favorite new artists of the year, Australia's Sam Locke, took the time to answer questions from the gang at Sorrow Eternal. We pick his brain on the writing and recording process for his new EP, "Era," the Australian music scene as it stands today, and what comes next for a talented one man band. Make sure to visit his Bandcamp site to hear "Era," and his Soundcloud for a new track!

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Skaur - Skaur (2011)

if you are looking for a Norwegian black metal album to keep your frozen heart suitably chilled, Skaur may give you a shock. Sure, this four piece are a blackened outfit. There is no arguing that. But beyond that, they create an interesting blend of melody and instrumental mastery that few have managed to achieve before. This isn't shoegaze, or atmospheric in any way. This is melodic black metal, from the home of the genre itself. And it may be time to see it through.

In the opening riffs of "Fullmaanesang," you have your eyes opened to the varied elements that will be occupying your ears. What may start as a standard black metal track quickly evolves into much more. The use of acoustic guitars adds melody to the mix, showing that this is more than just a one dimensional approach. Don't misunderstand me, the vocals are pure evil, screeching hate. But the melodies used throughout, whether they be distorted or clean, are refreshing. This is a more well rounded approach, highlighted by a bass line that stands out from the background, especially in the latter stages, where it leads a melodic portion. The soothing vocals and clean guitar work bring to mind the work of Alcest, but only in short bursts. There is no mistaking the heavy riffs of Skaur with any melodic band.

The combination of melody and heavy riffs continues into "Nordnorsk Svartmetall," which boasts some catchy guitar work, both in tempo and tone. This is where Skaur make a mark for themselves. The bass lines are clean and crisp, and even with a blistering drum attack, there is a sense of calm, if only for a moment. Contained in this nearly eleven minute track is a dynamic shift from melodic to savage, and back again. Sure, each side borrows from the other at times, but the clear cut heavy and heavenly sections are perfectly paired. The vocals are just plain abusive, from the screams to the screeching cries. Time seems to pass so quickly, nearly flying by your eyes with each passage. Just after the midway point is a clean section that will have you sitting back in your chair. Clean guitar, and a trio of voices, one clean, the others gritty, slow the tempo and deliver a stunning interlude. Moments like these give you a glimpse into what could be the future of the black metal genre, before throw you head first back into tradition.

The riffs and rage keep coming at a torturous pace, beginning with "Heimfar." Once again, the bass work stands out, giving us a low end that is so often forgotten in blackened styles. The more detail oriented guitar work also gets a chance to shine, but this is definitely a thrasher. The distortion is relentless, and the drumming is intensely destructive. The double bass pedaling that inhabits a good chunk of the track gives a well deserved hand. The vicious nature of the vocals, by now, is not in question. But the possibility of something even heavier emerges on "Om Sorg Og Helvete." A devilish scream leads the charge, with off timed snare hits being paired with echoing chords. Even some lower growls are displayed, with machine gun snares backing the barrage. The true identity of the track doesn't come forward until later, with a stunning melodic passage catching your ear. This is the true beauty of the progressive nature that Skaur embodies. They have the ability to do it all, and this lone five minute chunk is proof of that.

The title track to the self titled album, "Skaur," sees a variety of tempo changes and musical directions, but all with roots in the traditions of black metal. Dueling vocals are layered on top of rapid drum fills, with a screech and growl mentality growing into a two headed monster of heavy vocals. Take that beast and set it atop a mountain of distorted guitars, and you have a winner. Offset that with clean guitar work that can only be described as "enchanting," and you have something else entirely. In this track, beauty meets the beast, and they morph into one. And while it may alienate fans of true to form black metal, it is sure to garner the attention and admiration of the next generation of fans. The album ends with the track "Midnattsol," which is not to be confused with the female fronted band of the same name. Acoustic guitar tones and a light bass line are all you need to start with, and they are played to perfection. Free from the constraints of vocals, this one is a means to an end, a solemn walk down the path. A final strum fades away.

The genre of black metal is occupied by some of the most cantankerous people you will ever talk to. many of them are so set in what they believe the genre truly means, that they refuse to embrace change. And while we at Sorrow Eternal fully support the roots and beginnings of black metal, we also look to the future. And, after listening to this endeavor, Skaur may well have a hand in where things go from here. One dimensional scream tracks have no place on this album, something that we can appreciate. This could be the new wave of melodic black metal.


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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thousand Year War - Tyrants And Men (2011)

As we look for more bands attempting to pull off a vicious Viking metal sound we come across the band Thousand Year War. They’re a trio that is normally listed as melodic death metal however I would describe them as more of a Viking death metal with a twist. They have just released their newest album, entitled “Tyrants And Men.” It’s got a lot of pagan like riffs that are met with a couple different types of vocals. It jumps around from deep dark growling all the way to aggressive hardcore growling and yelling. The guitars and drums run wildly through the album and definitely have the potential to send someone to the hospital.

Viking like guitar riffs explode at the beginning of “Defiance.” The upbeat tempo and catchy melody gives off an Amon Amarth type of feel. You’re hit with a violent growl that will knock you on your ass. The double bass pedaling is non stop through the verses of this track. You won’t be able to help but bob your head. This is followed by “The Sea” which starts with wicked guitar riffs and more monstrous double bass pedaling. The verses consists of harsh growls while cymbals and snares collide in the background. You’ll notice that the vocals change in the refrain as they become less deep growling and more screamish growling. Meanwhile the guitars send electrifying riffs directly at your face.

“No Gods No Masters” continues to keep things changing with its multiple growling vocals. This time the first verse starts with more of a metalcore scream. It changes into more of a heavier growl during the chorus as guitars echo throughout the background rattling your skull. Then comes the bridge which has some sick guitar breakdowns as demonic growls are layered on top. The drum rolls here are absolutely insane. “Open Casket” rips you a new one right away as wild whipping guitars come flying into the open while double bass drums beat you down quickly. The thunderous bass lines rumble beneath you as your met with more violent chugging guitars. Machine gun snares come out of no where with high clashing cymbals to back them up. This is definitely the time you want to start moshing.

A devilish growl opens up the song “Spartacus.” You’ll need a new pair of pants after shitting yourself with this one. The guitar riffs are absolutely relentless as you are violently shaken in the verse. The guitars slow down towards the middle of the song as they are slammed viciously while drum fills take over the background. This song will definitely make you want to hit the replay button a couple of times.

“One Final Breathe” has jack hammering guitar riffs that completely pulverize the beginning of the song. The verse pick up with some hardcore screaming mixed with some deep growls that jump in and out. The chorus has got some powerful guitars that are full of distortion and really surround the rest of the music. The bridge in the end will definitely have you rocking out with your devil horns high in the air. Just listen to the boom of the kicks and the overwhelming growls in the end. It’ll blow your mind.

“Tyrants And Men” is the closing track of the album. It’s only three minutes and 18 seconds long but this little number will destroy you by the time the drum rolls are done with you. They are constantly delivering some sort of detailed fill as the kick drum never rests. You’re also met with a wall of guitar riffs that come tumbling down on you in the middle of the track. This is definitely one of the most deadliest tracks on the album and a perfect way to end such a beast record.

Thousand Year War manages to keep their sound somewhat unique with the different types of growling vocals throughout “Tyrants And Men.” The deliver in the instruments are excellent and force you to move in each song as they leave you with barely any time to catch your breath. Definitely be prepared for this hard hitting album.


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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Eumeria - Rebel Mind (2011)

Formed in 2009, Eumeria are making a brand of music that is both aggressive and melodic. With members from both sides of the Atlantic, this progressive metal outfit has an international flavor that may have been lacking from your life. With dazzling keyboards provided by band mastermind Bobby Williamson, there is no shortage of intricate melodies and fluttering harmonies. On their debut album, "Rebel Mind," this five headed monster looks to set the world ablaze.

The barrage of drums that assaults you on "Legion" is a rush. The tempo is lightning fast, but not overbearing. Guitars come in lockstep with percussion, with a eerie synthesizer melody providing the mood. As frontman Jonny Tatum enters, the puzzle is complete. His soaring vocals are simply brilliant, showing a command of both pitch and range. The occasional screech of harmonics is a cue to swing your hair upwards. The breakdown is exceptional, led by a bass rumble and a wailing guitar solo. Not to be outdone, Williamson takes over with a blazing keyboard solo of his own, bolstered by the machine gun drums of Kevin Bartlett. No rest, no reprieve until the final notes. Even as "Delusions" begins, the battery is non-stop. Whether the tempo is fast or slow, each member is in sync with the others. The rhythm section keeps the tempo, throwing in a liberal amount of flare. Guitars are devastating, in the form of thrashing chords or fretwork, and the keyboards are, in a word, insane. Finding a weak link here is damn near impossible. A ripping solo section takes the track to new levels of greatest, completed by the rousing vocal melodies that will surely creep into your frontal lobe.

The title track to the album may as well be renamed "a drum clinic." Bartlett is in rare form, and it must be heard to be believed. Double kicks are a constant, but not in the cliche metalcore way. His fills are outstanding, and one roll could leave you with a case of whiplash. But not lost on your ears is the melodic sensibility that Eumeria possess. Even at their heaviest moments, they never lose sight of the need for structure. Tatum's vocals sit atop a mountain of immense riffs and bass lines. He commands the army, an infantry of synthesizers and blast beats. This is everything progressive metal can and should be. The track would be perfect, even without the solo portion and subsequent down tempo bridge. Adding them in, with a dash of piano keys, is the proverbial icing on the cake. There is a more straightforward approach on "Father," a song that boasts emotional lyrical content in spades. But unlike songs of this nature you may have heard before, the music isn't dumbed down to ballad standards, but rather it is tailored to fit the scope of the song. You'll still find all of the intricate guitar work and raucous drumming, but mixed to perfection. Williamson is at his best here, with a solo that is both riveting and well placed. There is no shortage of heavy guitars, nor will you be left searching for kicks.

The track "Tides" is one that shows off the ability to provide contrast in the music itself. A darting guitar riff opens, joined by the punch of kicks and snares. But just as quickly, the music quiets, and the vocals enter, soothing and subdued. Even when the riffs get substantially heavier, Tatum's voice keeps the softer, melodic edge. Keyboards come and go, moving in and out of the foreground. Finally, an eruption of high octane musicianship bursts forth. Drums, keys, guitar and bass top the 100 mph mark, melting many a face in the process. The skill required to execute contrasting styles and tempos would be enough to crush a lesser band. Moving through track after track with relative ease, Eumeria only grow stronger as the album progresses. Tatum's voice his new octaves on "The Key," putting countless power metal singers to shame. The bass line that occupies the latter half of the song is smooth as silk, giving things a velvety feel. On "Red Light Flies," the first truly somber moments emerge, with a two minute interlude showing a softer side. Acoustic guitar tones and synthesizers accompany Tatum's voice, as he wears his heart on his sleeve once more.

Back to life we come, and "Dreaming Of Death" is the perfect vessel to get us there. The guitars shred the scales, alternating between picking and distorted chords. The drumming is truly smashing, hitting you upside the head with fill after fill. The mere thought of a drum track getting tangled into a ball with guitars and keyboards may turn your head to mush, but I assure you, that is precisely the case here. Each separate instrument fulfills the characteristics of a "lead," with each one adding their own spin on the melody itself. The closing track, "Secret Places," can be viewed in one of two ways. On one hand, it is the end of a journey, the climax of a building story. On the other hand, it is the beginning of a new endeavor, a way to transition from this album to the next. By now, you know what to expect musically, though the idea of it becoming stale is impossible. Each note, whether it be musically or vocally, is delivered with mechanical precision. Perfect pitch, perfect placement and perfect timing. A piano breakdown takes the tempo down, and the band cruise to the finish, with Tatum leaving one lasting impression with you as he exits.

Without question, there is certainly an "it" factor that bands must have if they are going to turn their art into a career. For Eumeria, they possess exactly what fans and critics alike are looking for. Well crafted songs, deftly played instruments, and the skills of a powerful vocalist are only the beginning. "Rebel Mind" has so much more, just below the surface. It may take more than one listen, but patience will lead to a treasure chest of progressive metal riches. Don't let this one pass you by.


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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Illuminata - A World So Cold (2011)

Not many bands can get away with dual female vocalists now a days. The band Illuminata however, does an incredible job with having Joanna and Katarzyna delivering beautiful vocals throughout each and every song. The bands has just released their new album, entitled “A World So Cold.” It leans towards the symphonic gothic sound as you are surrounded by overwhelming strings and flutes along with heavily distorted guitars and exploding drums.

Right away you’re hit with powerful symphonic introduction called “Ashes Of Times.” It sounds like part of a Lord Of The Rings score with all of its orchestral instruments and epic melodies. As it fades out you are then met with “Cold Hands Warm Hearts.” This song really packs a punch as it starts with quick piano riffs that run into fast double bass pedal drumming and monstrous chugging guitars. This will definitely have you bobbing your head immediately. You’re then hypnotized by the angelic female vocals of lead singer Joanna. She shows off her excellent reach in pitch with her passionate performance. Soothing orchestral strings take over as they add suspense to the chorus. The refrain consists of catchy lyrics and heavy guitar riffs in the background. Also be prepared for the booming drum fills. Later in this six minute masterpiece, you will come across an epic flute part that will send chills down your spine. What an amazing way to open up this album.

Songs like “Silent Poet” and “The World Collector” start out with catchy piano melodies and are accompanied by warm strings that lift you. The Vocals are laid gently on top during the verses and really light up the music. The tempos are slow with light drumming while you are mainly guided by the piano keys. Distorted guitar take over some of the refrains as detail drum fills start to pick up. They even include a magnificent piano solo in “The World Collecter” which is followed by guitar solo that plays similar melodies. This will have you hitting the repeat button immediately. “A Frame Of Beauty” starts out with sad melodic piano riffs that are shaken up by complex drum rolls that will completely knock you on your ass. Definitely pay close attention to the drums throughout this entire track because the drum fills are absolutely insane.

“Endless” uses a lot of beautiful strings that really consume you as you are hit by heavy guitar riffs and crashing cymbals throughout most of the song. They even include an interesting mix of orchestral instruments in the bridge towards the end. You’ll definitely have to listen to this one a few times to catch everything. As far as the vocals go, hearing both vocalists sing above one another sounds absolutely stunning. They really harmonize together perfectly.

The album comes to an end with “Metamorphobia II” which starts with slow moving strings and soft vocals that are covered in reverb. As the song moves along, you are met with a lot of different instruments. This includes epic horns, whispering flutes and strong violins. They all start to come together towards the end of the song and sounds a lot like the introduction only with vocals as well. Then comes blaring guitar riffs that blast through your speakers with massive distortion. This is accompanied by booming drum rolls and run smoothly into each riff. Eventually you’ll find that the album has replayed itself several times and you won’t even notice that it ever ended.

Illuminata has definitely displayed some impressive performances on “A World So Cold.” Being such a young band and sounding as good as this will really grab your attention. They’ve clearly got a lot of talent and great potential to make it in the metal world. Don’t miss out on this album. You will regret it if you do!


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Monday, December 5, 2011

Netherbird - Abysmal Allure (EP) (2011)

Sometimes the best way to create music is to unshackle yourself from one genre or another, and simply let the music flow through you. Such is the case with Netherbird, the pride of Stockholm, Sweden. Rather than trying to constrict themselves into the mold of black metal, this current five piece made a decision to let the music decide for itself. A handful of albums and EPs later, it seems to be a winning formula. On their latest release, "Abysmal Allure," they take a black metal influence, add a pinch of thrash, a sprinkle of death, and a hint of doom. What you are left with is something uniquely Netherbird.

A short interlude, titled "Myosotis Scorpioides," is the first impression given, with simple guitar riffs and the ringing of a bell in the distance. But as quickly as the bell rings, it is drown out by the thrashing guitars of the title track, "Abysmal Allure." There is no mistaking the roots of black metal here, from the rapid double bass pedaling to the lightning fast kicks and snares. Gone are the days of lo-fidelity recording, with Netherbird choosing to go with a more updated sound. The vocals are certainly reminiscent of old school black metal acts, but with a more deathly growl incorporated for effect. Each word can be made out with crystal clarity, something that can banish the ill conceived notion that metal lacks lyrical quality. The breakdown portion seems a drop in tempo, but no reduction in aggression. The bass line shines through, jolted at times by drum fills that may surprise you. Even the melody that flows in and out is a change from the norm, showing that in the blackest of black, a light can always shine.

The sound of a child's music box echos in the air, with "Swedish Sadness (Sorrow's My Vessel)" showing off the more symphonic side of the band. Orchestrated strings and synthesizers accompany chanting voices and a drum march. The tickling of keys provides a light melody just below the surface, a top layer that is consumed by the coarse scream of angst. What may seem to be a simple layering of instruments plays out like a more complex one, with drums and guitars twisting and turning into a double helix of melody and morose. While this may be considered to be the "softer side," it is a heavy emotionally as one can find in the blackened world. But for a true black metal outburst, look no further than the final track, "Born Defiant." The guitars moves up and down the scales quickly, bookended by screeching vocals that would make the likes of Burzum and Gallhammer proud. But nestled in to the purely superficial sound is a song that is well written and well intentioned. The balance between the instrumentation and vocals is key, with the bass coming through as clearly and vibrantly as the drums. Underneath the guise of a traditional black metal riff fest, is an intricate piece of metal craftsmanship.

With only three tracks and a short intro to get from Point A to Point B, Netherbird don't have a whole lot of time to catch your ear. But what they accomplish in the span of seventeen glorious minutes is impressive, to say the least. They have taken that age old black metal formula, and added an extra dash of creativity, leaving the finished product with a noticeable shine. When it comes time for a full length effort, it may be a challenge to keep this pace and momentum going, but "Abysmal Allure" has certainly started the ball rolling.


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Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Podcast: Episode 29 (A December to remember)

We had some great albums to review this week, and we do it with gusto. Hell22 discusses his take on East Of The Wall, Timesailor, and the impressive new album by Nemesea. Murmaider talks Crom, and then reasserts his love for Nightwish. And, considering the beginning of December is upon us, it seemed only fitting that Nightwish would take over as our final Band Of The Month for the year. Let's face it, this band is at the top of their game. We take some time to talk about the band, the new album, "Imaginaerum," and how much Murmaider loves everything they do.

Side note, we pushed the Junius interview back, and Astral Winter went up yesterday. Yeah, we did that. Keeping you on your toes.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Astral Winter: The Interview

Josh Young, the lone member of Australian epic black metal outfit Astral Winter, sat down to answer some questions about his work. We got some information on the album, "Winter Enthroned," the writing process, and how he feels about being called a "composer."

First and foremost, we want to extend our thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us.

No worries and thank you for setting up this interview.

Who were some of your influences, both as a budding musician and what was it that pushed you towards the heavier side of the metal scene? 

To start with I’d have to say Judas Priest as that was the first band that got me into metal. I used to listen to a lot of 80’s, I never went much on other genres of metal untill I started listening to 1 of In Flames old albums, The Jester Race I think it was… That was definitely the turning point for me musically. The melodic side of their music was just amazing to me, that then lead me onto other bands like, Children Of Bodom, Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquillity, Norther etc..

So when I first started Astral Winter I was heavily influenced by Melodic Death Metal. After writing a few songs I got more into black metal, which at the time I was a fan of aswell, but was mainly melodic death. I got really into Dissection, Vinterland, Catamenia old Dimmu Borgir, among other bands, and they were really a big influence as well.

When did you first discover the world of black metal? What was it about that style of music that drew you in, and made you want to compose your own music?

I think I was looking for some new melodic death metal bands and somehow stumbled upon Vinterlands 1 and only album “Welcome My Last Chapter”. I’d never really heard much black metal before and I was just taken in by it. The atmosphere that music created was such a different feeling to what I was used to. Still remains 1 of my favourite albums. From then on I got much more into black metal.

In that same vein, we have seen a clear  evolution of the black metal sound. From bands like Ogen and Skogen, to Appalachian Winter and yourself, everyone is adding their own spin on the classic formula. How do you feel about the origins of the genre versus where it is heading?

Hadn’t heard of Skogen before, just been checking out some songs, great atmospheric black metal! But to the question… When I started Astral Winter, I never had black metal in my mind. I had the idea of melodic death but with an epic orchestral and darked sound to it. I never considered my music black metal when I started writing so it had more of a blacker feel to it then I intended. I was just mainly writing what came out of my head and it seemed to incorporate a lot of genres, at the time I wasn’t very familiar with black metal though. Wasn’t till I uploaded some demo’s to myspace and people started commenting on it saying that it was an awesome black metal track and stuff. So for me it wasn’t really evolving the black metal genre it was just what came to me. Appalachian Winter is more of a mix of folk and black metal. So I see the evolution as more people mixing their favourite genre’s of metal into 1. Mine being Melodic death and black, and Appalachian being folk and black.

As for the origion vs where’s its heading, I just see it as 2 different types of black metal. The original Norwegian black metal is great, and all the more symphonic black, melodic black metal, folk black metal is also great. You get a different feeling when listening to different sub genres of black metal, which it what makes it a great genre.

I answered that pretty terribly haha.

What was the inspiration behind the name Astral Winter? What sort of imagery do you think it conveys?

Wish I had some profound story as to why I chose the name, but I just thought it was cool. The name seemed to convey the feeling of the music, which to me was important. Of course, had I any idea that the theme of Winter had been fairly well used in the black metal genre, I probably would have gone with something else. I thought it was pretty unique given the melodic death metal I’d been influenced by at the time.

After the departure of vocalist Phil Hemsworth, this became a true one man band. What sort of challenges did that present to you, especially as it pertains to the vocal duties?

Before Phil joined it was a 1 man band anyway, and I hadn’t thought about vocals for the music too much until Phil approached me about it. Then we recorded the demo “Illustrations of Death”. I knew beforehand that he was moving to another state, so we had to record the demo pretty fast. After he moved we talked about still having him as the vocalist, and I’d just record all the music then we’d record the vocals either down here or up in Queensland where he moved too.

We sort of fell out of contact though, and I started to realize he probably wouldn’t be able to do vocals. So after wondering what to do for a while I decided to have a go at doing vocals myself. I’d recently written 2 songs for 1 of my side projects DarkBorn, which was a depressive black metal solo project. I decided to have a go at doing vocals to that myself and it turned out much better than expected, though I never thought I’d be good enough to do my Astral Winter album.

I did keep practicing doing vocals until I thought I was comfortable enough to record a vocal track to 1 of my album songs for Winter Enthroned. Again, this turned out better than expected, so I knew if Phil didn’t end up doing vocals I’d be able to do them myself, which it turns out is what happened. Wasn’t much of a challenge in the end, but for a few months I didn’t really know what I was gonna do haha..

The new album, "Winter Enthroned," has such a powerful title, along with very impactful song titles. The artwork, in particular, is astonishing. How did the names and the art come to be?

I knew from the start I wanted very powerful songs name that gave off an atmosphere to them. I’ve always liked long song names that can make you think, so I wanted that for my album. As for the artwork I came across Brutal Disorder Logos run by Antonio Jiminez, on myspace. He had very reasonable prices compared to the other people/companies I’d enquired to.

After messaging him he seemed confident he could do the type of artwork I was after. I didn’t have the clearest ideas of what I wanted apart from it being Winter themed. I think I gave him a download of my demo told him to listen to it and see what he could come up with. And I was pretty amazed when he sent me the draft for the front cover. Suited the music perfectly! And yeah, he continued with the rest of the artwork.

I’ve actually just got him to start working on the artwork to my next album “Forest Of Silence” and it’s looking very good at the moment.

In the recording of the latest album, what different instruments did you play? Which is your most comfortable, and which was the most difficult?

Acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, vocals if you consider that an instrument. Keyboards were mainly done with midi as my keyboard didn’t have the best sound for what I was after.

Most comfortable would be electric guitar as it’s my main instrument.

The most difficult would probably be vocals cause It was very new to me, I’d barely recorded anything before. I did get a lot better at it as I progressed through the recording. Some of those guitar solos were pretty difficult too.

The sound quality on the album is incredible for a self produced effort. What kind of equipment did you use to get such a clear recording? 

I had a Line 6 Pod Studio UX1, which is what I recorded everything through; you can get a very good sound out of this, which is surprising considering it isn’t very expensive. The vocals I needed an additional pre amp for though, as the UX1 didn’t have an inbuilt 1.

The guitar I used was a Jackson DKMG with EMG 81 and 85 pickups. My bass is just a no named brand I bought second hand, lending it to a friend at the moment, so I can’t check what model it is.. My microphone was just an average Behringer microphone, have recently upgraded to a Shure SM58 though.

Dan Klyne of Appalachian Winter has solidified the idea of artists, such as yourself, being "composers," and not just musicians. How do you feel about the sort of title being associated with what you do?

I’d absolutely agree with him on that. Usually when you’re in a band with musicians you all collaborate on songs with everyone inputting their idea’s together. But with bands like mine and Appalachian and many other solo projects it’s just the 1 person writing every instrument track and fine tuning every small detail, writing the lyrics etc. So in that sense you are the composer, and it’s a fitting title.

With programs like Guitar Pro, which is what I use for writing music. I quite often will write a full song without using any instruments and just writing it off my head. Plus I compose instruments that I can’t play like drums and flutes, to me that makes you a composer.

For those who haven't heard your music, how would you describe what you do? If you had to suggest one track to best represent who you are, as a musician, which one would it be?

I would just simply say I write music, try to make it as epic and as interesting as I can.

Suggesting 1 track would be hard. But probably Defenders of the Astral Kingdom (Part I), off my “Winter Enthroned” album. I think it’s one of the best songs I’ve written. Though everyone has their own opinion haha.

What do you have in mind for the future of Astral Winter? Are there any plans to expand the band into a full line-up in the near future?

Well at the moment I’ve just about finished writing all the music for my next album “Forest Of Silence”, only have 1 song left to finish off. This album should be just over the 60 minute mark. Pretty excited to start recording it, it’s more atmospheric/symphonic compared to “Winter Enthroned” which has melody too it.

As for a full line-up… I have had plans to do this before, I was considering moving. But this all fell through. At the moment I have a line up for my other band “Atra Vetosus”, which is melodic black metal. Hopefully we’ll be playing some shows pretty soon and we’re probably going to do an Astral Winter song or 2 in our set. In the future it would be great to have a full line up for Astral Winter, have to see how it goes.

We want to thank Josh for his time and efforts, both musically and in this interview. We are looking forward to new music from his various projects. And damn it, you should be too.
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Friday, December 2, 2011

Nightwish - Imaginaerum (2011)

Finally, the moment you have all been waiting for. The symphonic gothic metal band Nightwish is back with a brand new album, entitled “Imaginaerum.” Following their most recent album, “Dark Passion Play,” many fans were curious as to where the band was going to go from there. Judging by the melodies and different instruments used in this new album, I would say that this is the perfect follow up. You are still getting the well known Nightwish sounds, only I feel like lead singer Anette Olzen has found her comfort zone as you will see that her performance is perfect. It just seems like she stepped up to a whole other level and sounds so much more clear and natural. Perhaps it’s because we are now used to a different female vocalist other than their ex-singer, Tarja. Regardless, Ozlen and male vocalist Marco Hietala sound incredible as a team as you will hear their voices clash together multiple times throughout the album. Also their keyboardist and songwriter, Tuomas Holopainen, has done an extraordinary job with the structure of each song and melodies they contain.

The album starts with “Taikatalvi” which has what sounds like a music box that is being cranked up and plays soft synth melodies. The entire song is sung in Finnish by Hietala. After this two and a half minute intro comes the song “Storytime.” This is the first single that the band released. It slowly builds with many different strings and guitars that play the same melody as the drums explode in the background. The guitars come through and destroy the verse with blaring distorted riffs. The chorus is definitely one of the catchiest melodies on the album and Olzen sings the lyrics in a clear manor. The upbeat tempo will make you wanting to clap and dance to the drums and uplifting riffs. Definitely get ready to move when this track is blasting away.

Heavily distorted guitar riffs blast through the beginning as they bounce off the walls with reverb effects. They’re quickly joined by booming drums and exciting orchestrated strings. The instruments calm down for a few seconds as the first verse enters. It begins with a simple kick and snare pattern as Olzen’s beautiful vocals take over. Quiet strings spring in and out in the background. You’re eventually met with violent shouting vocals from Hietala. The strings become more aggressive here as the song builds to the chorus. This refrain contains heavy chugging guitars that scream out behind the sharp cymbals and popping snares. Hietala takes control with aggressive vocals as Olzen quietly hums the melody in the background. The guitar work that follows is absolutely stunning leaving wanting more.

Nightwish has added an interesting tone to their sound in ““Slow, Love, Slow.” It contains a real blues like bass line with Jazz piano riffs in the background. Olzen keeps her voice at a low pitch through most of the song and delivers amagnificent performance. It isn’t until the end when she starts to reach out to higher octaves. Also, in the last minute of the song you are introduces to a phenomenal trumpet solo performed by guest musician, Guy Barker. This jazzy ballad keeps the album very unique. “I Want My Tears Back” starts out with catchy melodies from the Uilleann Pipes which you might recognize from the instrumental “Last Of The Wilds,” which was track 11 on Dark Passion Play. This gives off somewhat of a folk like sound and will definitely make you want to get up and dance. Pay attention to the drum fills during this time. There’s a couple of interesting drum rolls that you won’t want to miss.

The album starts to sound haunted as “Scaretale” opens up with eerie strings and kids voices sing “Ring Around The Rosie” in the background. Heavier strings and orchestrated instruments build around this as female chanting vocals fill the air. You’re also met with high speed double bass pedaling that will really get your blood pumping. Olzen comes in with the verses and has a much more aggressive tone to her voice. She is soon joined by fast chugging guitars as more strings fade in and out constantly. The whole song draws a picture of a dark carnival as the middle of the song has a male voice acting as if he is a host that is introducing an act. The music surrounding this builds an incredibly detailed picture of a creepy carnival with eerie yet jolly melodies in the background. This is definitely one of the most creative songs on the album. It’s dark and mysterious and yet epic at the same time. The album continues with “Arabesque” which is a three minute instrumental that has some amazing drumming along with lots of unique instruments around them that build up and layer on top of each other frequently. A lot goes on in this short track so make sure you use that repeat button a couple of times to catch all the action.

“Turn Loose The Mermaids” is a gorgeous ballad that has similar features to the song “The Islander” from their Dark Passion Play which includes a couple of different flute instruments that float softly in the background as Olzen shows of her amazing voice. She is later accompanied by soft piano notes which guide her vocals throughout the rest of the song. This fades right into “Rest Calm” which is a seven minute masterpiece that’s starts with glimmering piano riffs and blaring guitars. The verse contains with aggressive guitar chugging that will have you bobbing your head immediately. Hietala takes over with high pitch vocals. He is soon joinged by Olzen’s vocals which also start out in a fairly high octave as she helps build up the chorus along with the strings. The chorus actually drops with a lower set of vocals from Olzen as the only instruments that follows her are soothing strings, basic drums beats and some soft acoustic riffs. The vocal melody is extremely catchy and will definitely have you singing along as soon as you hear it. The song ends with a minute of the refrain repeated over and over as powerful horns consume the background with epic melodies. Both Hietala and Olzen layer their vocals on top of each other adding an angelic sound to the mix. You will even hear some flutes and a light guitar solo that also lays gently in the background. This is such a fantastic song. Make sure you check this one out.

The two vocals continue to sing together in “The Crow, The Owl, And The Dove.” Olzen takes over in the verse and sings with gorgeous mellow tones. Hietala adds his part during the refrains and the bridge which is toward the middle of the song. The way they keep switching back and fourth between singers really keeps you at the edge of your seat. “Last Rides Of The Day” goes right back to the bands original sound of high symphonic strings mixed with chanting vocals and echoing guitar riffs. It breaks into a fast tempo instruments throughout the song. The snares are relentless as they beat you down constantly during the refrain. Olzen shows so much energy and excitement and really pulls you into the music. Later you are met with a wicked guitar solo that throws rapid high and low notes at you from every direction. You’re definitely going to be pumping your fists for this one.

This is followed by another mind blowing track, entitled “Song Of Myself.” This carries a lot of similar elements, like the epic strings and violent snares with crashing cymbals that echo off into the background. The instrumental parts sound like they could be part of a score to a movie. The strings are constantly jumping higher and higher as they try to keep up with Olzen's powerful vocals. There are some awesome break downs in the middle of the song that contain tons of fast chugging guitar riffs yet continue to keep the orchestrated string flying high. This keeps things gothic yet electrifying at the same time. The song runs for a little over 13 minutes long and manages to keep the melodies fresh and unique throughout the entire track. It also breaks down into a story in the second half which is narrated by couple of different voices that come in and out while the strings and guitar melodies continue to play through. “Imaginaerum” closes out as the final track which is a beautiful instrumental that plays for about six minutes long. It takes clips of songs throughout the album and mashes them together basically summing up everything that you just heard only without vocals. But with all the detailed instruments, they practically fill in as voices that speak to you through melody. I could listen to the outro all day long.

Nightwish has made it clear at which direction they are heading with “Imaginaerum.” There are so many similar qualities that Dark Passion Play contained, only they have gone above and beyond what they have ever done before. The vocal performance is spectacular as many different styles of vocals were displayed throughout the album. Also, the song writing is excellent as well as the constant change in instruments. It definitely kept the album refreshing the entire time. This album is clearly going to go down as one of their best albums of all time. There is no doubt, you will love this album from beginning to end. I’m sure you will be using that repeat button as much as I am.


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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Timesailor - Once Upon A Time (2011)

Rooted in the country of Turkey, progressive metal band Timesailor do not lack ambition. One look at the album artwork, and you can be certain that you are about to embark on a journey through time itself, one that you may never return from. Boasting a group of musicians that could bring down the sky with their deft hands, it would also be a safe bet that you will be impressed more than once. But a few crazy riffs does not a classic album make, and on "Once Upon A Time," you are left to wonder what could have been.

The first eight tracks share a common thread, making them each a piece of the "Dreamwalker" story. Beginning with a sweetly played piano and a spoken word passage, a female voice lays out the scenario of creation and change in "The Experiment." But as a flurry of wild drums and distorted guitars enters, we change into "Nightmares Of The Past." The separate layers of instrumentation are ever changing, with elements coming and going seemingly at will. A tremendous bass line is the constant, the engine that drives guitars riffs aplenty. Both male and female voices combine in a rich vocal harmony, almost a rock opera in scope. Things calm down as "The Gift" begins, seeing the return of that light piano melody. The drums carry a synchopated tempo, punchy and thunderous. The wail of a guitar enters and exits, before an eruption of voice and chords. The keyboard work brings to mind some of the best of Yes, Dream Theater or Deep Purple. The track is short, but powerful all the same.

Part three, called "Time To Rise," is a longer affair, allowing for multiple tempo changes. It begins with clean guitars and a vocal duet tangled together as one. Drums enter, alongside a crisp bass. Clean strummed chords break down into distorted chugging and riffs. Orchestrated string and synthesizers provide a suitable backing to the track, building a platform to deliver passage after passage of melodic clean vocals. The guitar work gets far more intricate and in depth as the song progresses, allowing for short bursts of solos. Chanting vocals over dense chugging sections form an interesting and well suited contrast. The much shorter "The Change In Him" is a simple acoustic ballad, with guitars and a solemn female voice. It fades, and gives way to "Last Warning" which sees a far more electronic buildup. But here is where the story takes a turn. The lyrical content and vocals dominate the rest of the track, focusing on the nuances of the story, rather than the music itself. Unfortunately, it becomes overbearing, trying to force too much into too tight a space. The real shame is that, overshadowed by the vocal missteps, the keyboard led background is as deep as the sea, with layer upon layer forming a beautiful harmony. It isn't until the final moments that it is allowed to shine through.

The sixth part, "Out Of Control" does not suffer from the same ailment. This is a realization of the dream, with ripping guitars leading the way. The battery of drums is astounding, rocking you to your core. The term "progressive metal" could easily be defined by this outburst of musicianship and structure. Constant changes in speed will make your head spin, while you do your best to break down each individual element at work. Piano becomes intertwined with guitars, bass is in a battle with drums. Without a vocal element, this is a near flawless track. "Broken Bonds" follows suit, taking an opening acoustic riff and slamming it to the ground with a devastating explosion of distortion. But, once again, the vocal delivery falls slightly flat, distracting you from the dynamics being formed in the background. The male vocal, at times, comes off as whiny, while the female vocal is stunning but lyrically hampered. The music is strong enough to carry a lackluster vocal pair, but it simply shouldn't have to. The final piece, "Redemption," concludes the story of Dreamwalker, in stirring fashion.

The remaining tracks, separate from the previous saga, suffer from similar downfalls.All three have an impression array of musicianship, but are sorely lacking in the power of the vocal performance. "Flow" has a brilliant merger of drums and keys, tied together in a web of guitar riffs. The punch of each drum stroke is uncanny, leaving me wondering how big a kit was used in the recording process. Flurries of double kicks and high speed fret work will leave you dizzy, just in time to be soothed by a piano outro. "S.T.E." sees more of the same dynamic playing, leaving no doubt that Timesailor have the talent to craft intriguing progressive metal songs, time and again. Being left to fend for themselves, each instrument finds a home, sharing the spotlight without struggling for power. The album closer, "The Voice Within," may contain the strongest vocal performance on the album, one that actually adds to the overall sound, rather than becoming a hindrance. A few more songs of this nature could make for a great EP.

There is much to be celebrated on "Once Upon A Time." The song structure is fantastic, and each individual track stands on its own merits. The production values are stellar, and the mix keeps the feel very even. Where Timesailor seem to fall short is the consistent misuse of vocals, often taking away from the overall sound of the album. Whether it be through overuse of harmony, or simply lyrical issues, these faults are glaring, but easily repaired. Based on the amazing display of instrumentation, I would venture to say this isn't the last story this band has to tell.


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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nemesea - The Quiet Resistance (2011)

Dutch female fronted metallers Nemesea have a habit of being honest. Whether it be a frank, open take on their humble beginnings, or simply a straightforward lyric, there is no sugar coating when it comes to lead singer Manda Ophuis. After becoming the most successful band in the now defunct Sellaband system, this five piece have worn their hearts on their sleeves for the release of their newest album, "The Quiet Resistance." Honest and powerful, this is not the cookie cutter fairy tale you may expect from a symphonic metal album.

Don't let the intro track's whispering fool you into thinking this is going to fall into a nu metal, metalcore funk. "Caught In The Middle" quickly dispels any worry, as frontwoman Manda Ophuis leads the electro-symphonic charge with a voice that could part the seas. Sharing a common trait with Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation fame, she commands a room with a mix of range and raw talent. The instrumentation is exactly what you would expect, with a blitz of high speed guitars and pulsing drums setting the pace. The use of synthesizers only heightens the experience, creating a atmospheric background layer. The honesty in the lyrics is never more evident than on "Afterlife." And while the rhyme scheme may seem as basic as can be, every element that surrounds it is done to perfection. From the density of the guitars to the strength of the drum beat, and the use of keyboards, all of the pieces fall effortlessly into place. Backing vocals provided by guitarist HJ de Jong compliment the main melody, creating a harmony that rivals the best in the business.

The comparisons to the aforementioned Within Temptation will surely be made, especially on "Whenever." By no means is this an insult, but rather an honest assessment of where Nemesea stands. The guitar work is spot on, backed by a keyboard melody that will certainly catch your ear. Ophuis is stellar once again, her voice hitting all the right notes with an outpouring of emotion. She sees a softer approach on "If You Could," pairing her voice in the early stages with nothing more than acoustic guitars and a delicate piano. The presence of a distinct sadness helps to endear this track to the listener, allowing you inside the heart and the mind of the protagonist. Orchestrated strings complete the track, with light notes played over the soft crooning. Those symphonic elements see a larger role on "High Enough," a track that takes the male/female vocal dynamic into account. While the structure and flow may seem basic, it doesn't diminish the quality of the music presented. Every band member fulfills their role, from the guitars to the keys, to the near surgical rhythm section. It is hard to find fault in a song that is so emotionally charged, yet so well constructed.

There is a darker, almost gothic, feel to "Say," which also sees de Jong sharing the vocal spotlight. For better or worse, this track could fit in to this years "The Unforgiving." However, there is a unique instrumental choice in play here, with the first sounds of scratching turntables cutting through the mix. It may sound like a poor decision, but for one reason or another, it just seems to work. The breakdown is heavy, with some downtuned chugging and higher register guitar work coming together. The electronics see fair use on "It's Over" as well, a track that is a true vocal highlight on the album. Both de Jong and Ophuis show off their respective ranges, carving out a harmony that could win over the more skeptical of fans. Again, the scratching is present. Embrace it or ignore it, it is not something you will hear in metal every day. This is all in preparation for the ballad of the album, titled "I Live." Ophuis takes on a sultry quality to her voice, with her lower octave shining through. Joined by de Jong, they present you with a stirring duet of love. The guitars come through in a surprisingly heavy manner, with distortion taking the entire chorus for a ride. A repeated piano melody lies in the background, behind a sea of vocals and building drums.

The more heavy handed use of symphonics comes at the perfect time, with "Stay With Me" striking the darker chord. Orchestrated strings run head on into booming kicks and crushing guitar work. Screeching electronics trade blows with smooth bass lines, all the while topped with a voice that is equal parts enchanting and empowering. A calculated beat is the norm on "Rush," walking a dangerous line between electro and metal. But in a flash, an explosion of guitars, percussion and synthesizers reminds you that this is no house album. Each down beat will put your sub-woofer to good use, each snare echoing for moments after the stick lands. This is a testament to the power that Manda Ophuis possesses, as she refuses to be drown out by the heavier portions. There is an odd feel to the verse sections of "Release Me," utilizing an electronic beat that could be furnished by an 80's Casio keyboard. The soft whisper in the vocals isn't long for the world, for when the tapping beat exits, the vocals erupt in a show of strength. A welcomed guitar solo walks you out with darting notes and classic fret work.

The album begins to draw to a close with the track "2012" which is exactly what you might expect it to be. An ominous combination of beats and sounds, rumbling along at a grinding pace, this is little more than a break before the finale, "Allein." Quite possibly the most bizarre track on the album, it is fitting that it ends the effort. With an electronic melody that will certainly remind fans of the hayday of the X-Files, this one features a guest vocal spot from Rammstein frontman Heli Reissenweber. With his signature German delivery, he puts an entirely new spin on the formula, whether it be in melodic form or whisper. But the key to making a track like this work is keeping the music true to form, rather than catering it to his sound alone. This remains a heavy symphonic metal song, keys, chords and all. The three headed vocal monster formed by Ophuis, de Jong and Reissenweber may be too strong to be stopped.

When a band is so dedicated to honesty, lyrically and personally, it is the least we can do to provide them the same courtesy. With that in mind, it must be said that Nemesea are masters at what they do. The musical approach is refreshing, albeit common. They haven't reinvented the wheel, nor will they change the direction of modern metal. The comparisons to their countrymen will come fast and furious. But on "The Quiet Resistance," they offer a lesson to any symphonic metal band, waiting in the wings for success: work hard, carry the weight on your shoulders, and stay true to yourself. Sound cliche? Perhaps. But the proof is in the proverbial pudding.


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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Crom - Of Love And Death (2011)

A creative mixture of power metal and Viking metal is combined heavily by the band Crom. The German outfit have released their new album, entitled “Of Love And Death.” It contains lots of mixed emotions as you will comes across some very up beat catchy tunes along with some slower, sad melodies at the same time. The vocals are performed with lots of energy which definitely helps keep you hooked throughout the entire album.

The opening track is “Reason To Live” which starts with an upbeat drum pattern along with a catchy guitar riff that will have you bobbing your head immediately. The verses are full of clean vocals that have power metal tones. Double bass drumming slows kicks in to help build up to the chorus. Heavy chugging guitars blast away in the background as you are swept away with catchy lyrics. A calm lightly distorted guitar solo takes over after the chorus giving off gorgeous vibes throughout each note. The final refrain of the song is joined by a deep growling vocal that adds aggressive Viking metal tones to the song. It really keeps the track refreshing. “Lifetime” also opens with a catchy guitar rif only this time it is an acoustic guitar. It is also accompanied by chanting vocals in the background. The verse starts out soft with just vocals and acoustic chords. This quickly changes half way through with blaring guitars that are full of distortion. They carry a very likable melody all the way through even into the refrain. You’re definitely going to be replaying this track a few times.

Leaning more towards the sad tones of the album, songs like “Just One Blink” and “My Song For All The Broken Hearts” consists of said love lyrics and beautifully mellow guitar riffs. They go back and forth between acoustic guitars and electric guitars often leaving you with mixed feelings throughout the song. The vocals are fantastic as they are delivered in a solid manor. No crazy operatic notes, just some clear singing with enjoyable lyrics. Even “My Destiny” has some incredible vocal delivery especially in the verses. The whole structure of the track flows together so well and keeps you humming along through all six minutes of the track.

“This Dying World” continues with the angelic acoustic guitar riffs and is also accompanied by light chanting in the background. The heavy guitar riffs that follow will knock you down with their fast chugging patterns and snapping kicks and snares. The lead guitar sings to you with more beautiful notes. This leads you right into the verse which has nothing but clean vocals and acoustic chords behind them. The drums don’t come back in until after the verse is over. The chorus reintroduces the distorted guitar riffs which completely take over the melody. This is another great track that you’ll find yourself singing along immediately. “Eternal Dreaming” follows this track and is basically a two minute and 50 second instrumental of more ravishing acoustic guitar melodies. I could seriously play this track over and over again and never get sick of it.

The band includes a bonus track at the end, entitled “The Fallen Beauty.” This gorgeous masterpiece contains some astonishing vocals that hit high and low notes throughout the refrain and sound amazing. Electrifying distorted guitars are relentless as they are constantly being slammed in the background. They also include a while guitar solo in which the vocals continue to sing over and really keeps the track even. This is definitely the way to end such a moving album.

Crom really gets a lot of use out of the acoustic guitars throughout the album keeping the mood soothing and yet at the same time they crush you with wicked distorted guitars and booming drum patterns. The guitar solos will rock you to sleep with their catchy and yet calm melodies. “Of Love And Death” is definitely worth a listen. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself replaying the entire album a couple times in a row. It’s that good.


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Monday, November 28, 2011

East Of The Wall - The Apologist (2011)

From the ashes of The Postman Syndrome and Day Without Dawn comes East Of The Wall, another powerhouse on the growing Translation Loss stable. Much like their labelmates, Giant Squid, this five piece from New Jersey aren't simply going through the motions. They are taking their genre and their sound to new places, choosing to advance rather than relax. On their new album, "The Apologist," they take the deep, rich sludge sound and add a few pieces of flare.

The screeching of guitars descends into a low end earthquake as "Naif" emerges. The dense guitar sound is sludge in the purest form, crashing cymbals sizzling. There is a strong bass presence, supplying a true melody. Softly delivered vocals are an asset, but the coarse yells that follow are what you would expect of a band of this nature. This all slams directly into "Linear Failure," a true screamer. The aggressive vocals take over, commanding attention over a chorus of riffs and rage. You may get the feeling that the drum kit is simply being torn apart, taking full fledged abuse at the hands of Seth Rheam. But a more blues inspired guitar melody changes the tone, only to be thrown into the chasm of heavy guitars and a down right destructive rhythm section. The use of clean and dirty guitars and vocals is key, especially when moving from track to track.

The acoustic strums that open "My Favorite Society Guy" are calming, giving you a sense of depth after such a brutal prerequisite. The rumbling bass still finds a home, forming the backbone of the track. A similar style begins "False Build," but with a much more open structure. The layering of guitars opens the door for a more intense sonic attack, with distorted chords and melodies becoming intertwined, rather than replacing one another at any time. It isn't all chugging and slamming, there are certainly more groove oriented portions, with each one setting up the next. The sparse use of vocals, both gritty and grand, furthers the musical experience. Snares take you into "Precious Memories," a song that shows off the diversity and creativity this five piece has to offer. They have the ability to create tracks, like this one, that is both dominant and accessible. The guitar work is top notch, in both skill and delivery. Darting notes and echoing chords come from all directions, all backed by a rhythm section that is nothing less than impressive. The solo portion gives you a glimpse of another level of musicianship that you are witnessing.

The title track to the album takes a more conservative approach, using clean guitar tones to set the tempo. A flowing bass line enters and takes the song off on a tangent before the vocals bring it back to the intended path. Again, the clean vocals are astonishing, emotional yet raw at the same time. The melody finds itself obliterated by a wave of crushing chords and a veritable demolition crew of drums. But the clean vocals peek out from hiding at times, forming a bitter contrast with the aggressive screams. The ability to move back and forth between two opposite styles makes the seven minute run time seem half as long, with no time to become stale. "Running Tab Of Sweetness," an assault of your inner ear by a battery of percussion and whirling guitar riffs. The use of feedback may seem harsh at first, but it becomes such an integral part of the overall sound. It is here that the production quality stands out, with each snare and tom coming through with crystal clarity. Even a rolling double kick section can be heard through the crunching of guitars.

The humorously titled "Horseback Riding In A Bicycle World" is no laughing matter, but rather filled with intense grooves and rattling percussion. One of the many short tracks, it comes as a short burst of winding guitar tab and heavy handed drumming. This is a punch in the stomach, with no time to brace yourself. "A Functional Tumor," by contrast, slows the tempo down to a crawl in its early stages. At this reduced pace, each separate instrument can be heard as a singular entity. But when the hammer drops, it smashes together in a proverbial car wreck of sound. Screaming vocals are the glue that holds this pile of steel and glass together, while the bass work compacts them into a cube of scrap metal. "Nurser Of Small Hurts" takes a more atmospheric approach, using electronics and effects as a set up tool. But in a three minute span, it traverses the entire artillery of sludge, with crushing guitars and devastating percussion becoming fuel on the fire. Each downstroke rattles your inner ear with a distorted scream.

If one stand out track must be identified, "Whiskey Sipper" is the one. Combining the lighter side of the spectrum with a knack for heavy musicianship, you are treated to every nuance of the genre in one five minute explosion. The flow of the vocals is encouraging, going from clean to coarse and back in a flash. The tone of the clean vocals alone will keep you going back for more. This is a deal breaker, a track that could win over the skeptical, and solidify fans for years to come. It is proof that there is depth in this subgenre, not a bunch of one trick ponies. Picking up where the previous track left off, the finale, "Underachiever," is simply brutal. A dynamic blend of screeching guitars and even more abrasive vocals, this track takes things to a heavier place. This is a bruising affair, fading to close in a sea of feedback.

There is something to be said for a band that plays their music without a trace of irony. East Of The Wall are exactly who they claim to be, taking the sludge norm and making it something new entirely. The musicianship and overall structure of each track is tailor made to what they do best: soothe, scrape and smother. With songs varying in length from two to seven minutes, they don't force themselves into a mold, but rather let each idea grow come into its own. Thanks to this forward thinking attitude, "The Apologist" will find a home in the most picky of collections.


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Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Podcast: Episode 28 (I've been to the future)

After the "Top 5" list last week, we elected to go for a more short, focused effort this time around. So, we skip the review process, and answer a question that has been plaguing Murmaider lately. What does the future hold for metal? What subgenre is going to carry metal into future generations? And more importantly, are the Black Veil Brides and Avenged Sevenfolds of the world going to ruin everything that metal has been thus far? Only time will tell, my friends.

Download it here, guys.
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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Infinita Symphonia: The Interview

We were fortunate enough to steal some time from the entire line-up for Italian progressive power metal newcomers Infinita Symphonia. The guys answer some questions about the band, the album, "A Mind's Chronicle" and all of the pieces that led up to an "album of the year" contender. A big thanks to Daniela and the entire Infinita Symphonia camp for giving us this opportunity.

First and foremost, we want to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us.
Your time and insight are greatly appreciated.

What is the significance of the title of your new album, "A Mind's Chronicle"? What was the inspiration behind it?

(Gianmarco Ricasoli) is not easy to isolate the crucial point that has led us to today. Personally I felt a sort of sponge that has absorbed so much water for so long and at one point I felt the physical need to throw it out. The way this came out was A Mind's Chronicle, surreal adventure in which all of us IS us reflect, as it is a bit 'the metaphor of our lives from the moment we started to believe in this project. Behind AMC is definitely a work of abstraction very high, but everything has gone from our lives, from what we've been absorbed in recent times (it is useless to deny that there are also women who have inspired part of our "news "eheheh (:).
all this giving prominence to the same inspiration, without compromise and at the same time trying to convey every emotion with his" right sound ".

The album artwork seems to tie in perfectly with the title and concept. Who created the
image, and what does it mean to you, as a band?

(Luca Micioni) The cover was realized by Davide Nadalin of clay NERVE DESIGN, which has already worked for bands like Vision Divine, Bulldozer, Extrema, Eldritch, and many others.. He was very good at starring in images just the sense of the title!

The large open space is the size of the human mind and the man crouching on the floor above our
own symbol represents the flow of all thoughts and emotions that go through your mind.

(Alberto De Felice) I think in addition that the concept the cover describes is also the 'absence from the constraints of our conception of music.

(Gianmarco Ricasoli) In reality, there is no univocal interpretation, each one of us can see what he wants, as he wishes by interpreting the meaning ... Simply enter the world represented on the cover and "look with the eyes" of the character portrayed ...

Many feel that power metal often lacks the heavier edge, and progressive metal lacks a true sense of melody. On one album, you combine the best aspects of both, without any of the flaws of either. How did you come to such a dynamic mix of heavy and heavenly?

(Gianmarco Ricasoli) It 'hard to give a definition of genre or style or pogressive power .. of .. we like to think that many different influences have helped us to create a new sound, a staff that emerges naturally in our work .... avoiding the risk of being too similar to someone else, so we hope to have created something original, we never set out to play a specific kind of metal .. it came all in a very natural.

Luca Micioni's vocals are the perfect mix of power and grace, opening many different doors for the music to enter. How does his range affect the writing process for Infinita Symphonia?

(Luca Micioni) For this album we started working in two Gianmarco and I and then we proposed the songs to the rest of the band ... Gianmarco, the guitarist, wrote all musics and then I ended them up with melodies for I think I could say that music gave me the chance to express myself with voice...and than we found we agreed the way of thinking the songs...

Your new album features collaborations with both Fabio Leone, of Rhapsody Of Fire fame, and Tim "Ripper" Owens, most famously of Judas Priest. How did these partnerships come to be?

(Luca Micioni) we asked...and they said ok!! know, that’s not so distant from the truth...we strongly wanted to have their participation on the album, and fortunately they accepted! We are so proud of this, it has been an incredible experience to have their collaboration on our first Album! To meet them,and listen at their own way to interpret our own music...was simply great!

I had the dream to duet with them..and it has been possible thanks to their being so open-minded…they are very professional but even so kind…

You guys are very young, as a band, yet you have the more polished sound of a veteran outfit. How did you avoid the freshman mistakes, and hone your sound to such an elite level?

(Luca Micioni) It is true we are very young (apart from me hahaha) but 'every one of us already did' a lot of experience with other groups before Infinita Symphonia, so 'to establish a professional relationship more' mature .. and maybe this has also influenced the sound of the band.

How does the writing process work for Infinita Symphonia? Where does the music begin, and how does it develop into the finished product, ready for inclusion on an album?

(Luca Micioni) As I have already 'mentioned earlier, we have worked on two songs on texts on music, then all the material is passed into the studio where the other band members add their ideas. when we are all convinced of the work is finished we are ready to go in the studio for recording

Who are some of your main influences at this early stage of your career? What bands or artists have made the largest impact on your sound and style?

(Gianmarco Ricasoli) Our influences are many and varied, and lately I am passionate about a lot of bands like Nevermore, Opeth, Soilwork, Avenged Sevenfold and many others ... but my passion is always Iron Maiden, Rhapsody (now of Fire), Malmsteen, Helloween, Dream Theater, i owe so much to them. But in general I like to listen to anything educational purposes.

(Luca Micioni) Our influences are very different from each other .. we like to listen to everything from metal to metal classic today,from 'hard rock to progressive .. I do not deny that I like to listen to groups that have made the metal .. thanks to them we are here today and that definitely influenced our sound.

The American music scene is consumed by the topic of downloading. Everyone has an opinion on the subject, from the bands, to the labels, to writers like us. Days ago, Scott Ian, guitarist of Anthrax, suggested that people who download music should lose all internet privileges. How do you feel about the illegal downloading of music?

(Juan Pablo Pais) It is a very difficult question to answer....Surely the internet and illegal downloading is a big threat to the world of the music industry, but 'is more' easy to be known by most 'people around the world .. this argument is obviously more valid for new bands like us, and less for the bigs...

In a recent Sorrow Eternal interview, Italian black metal artist Hartagga (of the band Ogen) said that the Italian metal scene is becoming increasingly harder to break into for a new band. Do you agree with his thought? And how have you been received by your fellow countrymen thus far?

(Alberto De Felice) There is a strange tendency in Italy...many of italian listeners often use to judge new music and new bands even before listening and knowing them really, and so are not valued enough ... I'd like that was not so

(Luca Micioni) Well .. we know there are huge bands that represent very well "our" music .. Bands that have nothing to envy to foreign groups ... then the we are very surprised to recieve a so very good critics on our debut and even from Italian public, they are helping and supporting us so much, and this is certainly a source of pride to all of us!

As we run head first into November, and on to the end of the year, what is next for Infinita
Symphonia? What does 2012 hold in store for you?

(Luca Ciccotti) yes it's true....time passes quickly.. And the of the year is near...but we are ready for the next year with some news! I will still not reveal them ,but however, I can assure you that we'll bore again and again with our music hehe ; )

Lastly, we wanted to take a moment to say that your album has positioned itself as one of our
favorites this year. It came out of nowhere, and made a lasting impression. Whatever you do
next, we believe in YOU.

(Luca Micioni) Obviously we are delighted that you enjoyed and want to thank the entire editorial
staff of Sorrow Eternal and all the fans that follow us from so far away. I hope that sooner or later we will meet! We would really like to play in front of an audience so beautiful as you and your readers .. greetings to all .. and stay metal

and stay I.S. \ m / ciao
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Friday, November 25, 2011

Kranthor - Abandoned By The Gods (2011)

As a brand new death metal band from Turkey, Kranthor definitely has some kinks that need some fixing. The band has just released their new album, entitled “Abandoned By The Gods.” It’s only six tracks long, one being an intro and one being an outro. Most of the songs run for about four to five minutes. It starts out decent but slowly gets harder and harder to listen to.

As the album begins, after an eerie intro of calm haunting guitars, the song “Treason” comes blaring in with a monstrous growl that echoes over the electrifying guitars. This growl will catch your ear immediately with its deafening sound. Unfortunately, it never gets as powerful again throughout the track. The growling vocals try to hit a higher screechy growl through most of the song and really comes no where close to it. It just sounds like a guy with a really sore crackly voice screaming into a microphone. But don’t let this discourage you. The drumming gets pretty intense throughout the track as double bass pedaling takes over most of the song and completely obliterates anything in its path. The guitar riffs are fast and constant not letting you rest for a second. There is a mean solo in the middle of the song that really shows that the lead guitarist of this band mean business. He goes straight into a high flying solo that send crazy melodic notes flying all over the place.

“When The Forsaken Spirits Awake” opens with dual guitars that are full of dirty distortion playing a dark, demonic riff that seems to be pretty catchy. However, then the guitars break into this plain riff that runs throughout the verse and honestly, will start to put you to sleep. Adding a different melody or a different instrument would have kept this track a little more refreshing. The middle of the song has a quickly little bridge that has a somewhat catchy tune. You might find yourself slowly starting to bob your head here. You’ll soon snap out of it as soon as that boring guitar riff kicks back in. The quiet guitar solo in the end is the only good part in this song and that only runs for about 20 seconds in this five minute long song. Something needs to change here.

You start to hear some pretty sick double bass pedaling in “Heathen.” The guitars are rocking pretty loud as well. Things seem like they are off to a good start until the vocals come in. The verse sounds like they took a song from Amon Amarth and tried to rerecord it as off tempo as possible. The vocals don’t match any of the guitars that are chugging in the background nor do they compare to the drum beats. It gets even worse when the guitars start to repeat this one simple riff in the middle of the song as you can clearly hear the guitars fall behind the drumming. I don’t know how anyone could have been satisfied with this performance after recording it. Somehow the solo in the end manages to keep up perfectly to drum rolls and holds somewhat of a strong finish. The solo runs up the scales repeatedly for a good amount of time. This is probably the most impressive part of this whole album.

“The Longest Night Of The King” is probably the most aggressive song on the album. It starts out slow with quiet acoustic riffs that are followed by a lightly distorted guitar. As this fades out you then run into a monstrous guitar riff that really compliments the album. After everything else that was played earlier, you wouldn’t expect such a solid guitar riff like this one. You’ll definitely want to pump your fist to this one. The growling vocals are still pretty weak throughout the song. Perhaps some heavy reverb could help out. The only other issue with this song is that they never change the melody. The same guitar riff plays through the entire song except for the last minute and this is a six minute song. A little more creativity would do the trick.

Judging by some of the performances, Kranthor definitely needs to sharpen up on some of their work. With certain rhythmic guitars sounding off and weak vocals that just keep getting weaker, they really need to step it up if they want to make it in the world of metal. Some of the song structure is there and the band definitely has some potential with their lead guitarist, but this isn‘t a band that I am rushing to see live anytime soon. “Abandoned By The Gods” needs a lot of cleaning up, both quality wise and performance wise.


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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lapis Lazuli - A Justified Loss (2011)

Swedish six piece Lapis Lazuli have followed the recipe for symphonic metal success. You start with a keyboard virtuoso, in the form of Timo Hautamaki. Surround yourself with like minded individuals, all looking to create music that is both sublime and satisfying. Add the prowess of a dynamic vocalist, such as Frida Eurenius, and you have all the makings of a classic. Combining each of those ingredients, Hautamaki and company release a new album, titled "A Justified Loss," to the world.

Blaring horns and pounding drums leave you no escape as the opening track, "Facing Demons," launches you into another world. With all of the power and finesse of a great movie score, it would be difficult to find your mind wandering to far off places. Each delicate keystroke furthers the daydream. The first distorted guitar chords appear in the opening moments of "Leaving Scars," a track that holds all of the weight of a Nightwish concerto. The keyboards and their accompanying symphonic elements are clearly the star, creating flowing soundscapes behind singer Frida Eurenius. Her voice is rich, with a very real sense of depth and emotion. Flurries of double kicks and rattling snares are offset by airy synthesizers and darting guitar notes. The male vocals, provided by Hautamaki himself, hold their own in the mix, providing a bit of contrast. It cruises to the end, vocals coming together in harmony.

The symphonic nature of the album is never felt more strongly than on "High," complete with the beautiful chanting vocals. Hautamaki adds a touch of grit to the mix, with a more ominous growling portion. The guitar work becomes more noticeable, coming to the forefront rather than simply lying in wait behind the wall of orchestral instruments. During the heavier chunks, rapid bass pedaling and dense chugging become the norm, all paired with devilish growls. Eurenius remains sublime, her voice providing the light to Hautamaki's dark. A dazzling piece of string and piano work will be sure to stick with you long after "Angel Without Wings" has ended. The lead vocal is powerful, bringing to mind the more current work of Within Temptation. The orchestral arrangements are perfect, with horns and strings locked in step with a relentless drum beat. But what manages to set this apart from other symphonic oriented bands is the use of harsh growls throughout, becoming more frightening with each moment. This is true symphonic harmony, captured in a seven minute cross section.

The more uptempo "Burning Bridges" picks up where its predecessor left off, fluttery strings and all. The keyboard element is so expertly positioned in the mix, leading without dominating. Eurenius sees her voice take the starring role, providing a vocal melody that will echo in your mind for days. The breakdown portion, heavy on the strings and keys, leads into a layered vocal attack, with numerous voices backing the main delivery. The pounding drum and cymbal outro will ensure that your fist has made it fully into the air. A somber string leads into "Alive," joined soon after by an equally melancholy piano melody. It has all the makings of a traditional metal ballad, complete with male and female vocal harmonies and lighter inducing tempo. Yes, there is certainly an almost cheesy feel to it all, but it is hard to argue with a near flawless instrumental and vocal performance. The guitar solo is the first real sign of life from the team of Karlsson and Rhodin. All things considered, this is a success, both individually and the flow of the album itself.

The electronic opening beat on "Lies" may frighten some, but it disintegrates quickly. Piano keys and darting guitar riffs immediately take over, allowing for Hautamaki to reemerge as a vocal force, first clean, then screaming. And while there isn't much variation to this effort, it is on the shorter end of the spectrum, not quite breaking the four minute mark. Its strength may well be the simplicity with which it is crafted. Even the breakdown has little lateral movement, but is played to the utmost effectiveness. Eurenius takes sole control of the vocals on "Faith Forgotten," her voice commanding the power of an army of horns and strings. The guitars have grown in their contributions, with distorted chords shaking through your speakers. Afterall, it can't always be light symphonics and keyboard. Though the finale, "Leave It All Behind" certainly begs to differ. The piano and strings are at their best, combining in a solemn show of emotion and despair. This could become the soundtrack to a walk on a rainy day.

While the world of symphonic metal is a crowded one, that hasn't stopped many a band from trying their hand at it. Lapis Lazuli do a more than adequate job of forging an identity, without rewriting the book. Their influences are worn on their sleeves, but this isn't a carbon copy of any Nightwish album. Rather, "A Justified Loss" is a step out of the shadows, looking for a moment of their own. For a band named after a semi-precious stone, this is equal to both the beauty and staying power of their namesake.


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- Hell22
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