Album Review – Scarlet Aura / Stormbreaker (2020)

Join the stunning Aura Dănciulescu and her henchmen in their quest for heavy music with the breathtaking second volume of their conceptual “The Book Of Scarlet” trilogy.

My fellow metalheads, it’s time to visit the charming and vibrant Romania, more specifically the country’s capital Bucharest, to have an absolute blast with Stormbreaker, the breathtaking fourth studio album by a Heavy and Power Metal unity that has been making a name for themselves since their inception in 2014 under the name Aura, but currently known by the stylish moniker of Scarlet Aura, marking the official release of the second fantasy book volume from the conceptual “The Book Of Scarlet” trilogy after their 2018 installment Hot’n’Heavy, and showing the entire world who they are through the album’s musical and lyrical parts. And let me tell you that Stormbreaker is even more powerful than its predecessor, putting the band comprised of the stunning frontwoman Aura Dănciulescu, guitarist Mihai Dănciulescu, bassist Rene Nistor and drummer Doru Florin Gheorghita in the spotlight of not only the Romanian metal scene, but anywhere else in the world where people live and breath our beloved Heavy Metal.

“As an artist I’m not afraid to dig into the unknown by approaching sensible subjects in our songs, subjects like the difficulty of being honest with others but also with yourself regarding your own feelings, the need of overcoming a huge sufferance that troubles you, the lack of courage when it’s about doing the right thing, the lack of love or the crying for it… Subjects that make ourselves human, subjects that are in each one of us and that make us who we are and maybe throughout our music, we get recovered, healed or better, we discover ourselves for who we really are because with any doubt music heals the spirit, metal heals the heart,” commented the band’s front lady Aura about their brand new opus, with Mihai adding that “Stormbreaker continues the heavy metal statement we started with Hail To You and although “The Book Of Scarlet” trilogy takes these albums into a fantasy world of discovering Scarlet, I think we’ll all realize after listening that actually Scarlet is in each one of us. Stormbreaker comes rough, it comes straightforward, it comes in your face with the powerful rhythms, edgy guitar riffs, almost psychedelic guitar solos, hard crunchy bass lines, modulations and surprises at every step not giving you the time to get bored but to want more after every song, all of us exceeding even our own expectations.”

The cinematic intro The World Is Not Enough (perhaps inspired by the James bond movie of the same name released in 1999) welcomes the listener to the magic world of Scarlet Aura, setting the stage for the infernally heavy Metal Hell, spearheaded by the soaring vocals by Aura and exhaling epicness and rage from start to finish. Furthermore, Mihai is bestial with his riffage while Rene and Doru keep the atmosphere as dense and thunderous as it can be. And the band keeps the momentum going by firing a high-octane, melodic and absolutely demolishing hymn title Battle Cry, where Mihai and Rene are superb with their stringed weapons, not to mention Aura’s enfolding vocals as usual. Needless to say, this metal anthem will work majestically when played live, which can also be said about the title-track Stormbreaker, where the band presents their more melodic side, leaning towards classic Hard Rock at times and with Rene kicking some serious ass with his rumbling bass while Doru keeps pounding his drums in great fashion.

Loose Cannon has a delicious vibe à la Iron Maiden’s classic “Stranger in a Strange Land” thanks to the thunderous job done by both Rene and Doru, but it’s Aura who steals the spotlight with her potent voice. Put differently, simply bang your head nonstop to the band’s classy and rebellious Heavy Metal. And Mihai ignites the also thrilling and vibrant I Am The One with his razor-edged riffs, again flirting with Hard Rock but keeping the band’s metallic core essence intact, therefore sounding and feeling like it was originally recorded in the 80’s; whereas it’s time to slow things down and enjoy a passionate and flammable performance by Aura in the ballad High In The Sky, showcasing an ethereal and serene ambience while Mihai blasts his precise riffs and solos throughout the entire song. Then incendiary guitar lines take the lead in the upbeat, insurgent anthem The Heretic, where Aura is yet again fantastic with her deep and potent roars, resulting in a lesson in Heavy Metal with a darker twist, all spiced up by Doru’s crushing beats.

Adding hints of Punk Rock and Hardcore to their classic Heavy Metal, the band brings forward the dancing tune Daddy’s Lil Monster, displaying an amazing sync between Rene and Doru in the background while Aura leads her henchmen with her enthralling voice. Back to a more classic sonority the band offers our ears the good (but not as exciting as the rest of the album) A Blast From The Past, presenting a decent job done by all band members despite losing its grip after a while, and closing the album Aura and the boys bring forth their own fast-and-furious metal hymn titled Scarlets United, blending elements from bands like Helloween, Judas Priest and Primal Fear into their already electrifying musicality, with Mihai putting the pedal to the metal with his wicked guitar solos and, consequently, leaving us eager for more of Scarlet Aura’s beautiful metal music as soon as the album is over.

The Book Of Scarlet is open and Scarlet Aura are more than ready to take the world of heavy music by storm with its sensational second chapter Stormbreaker, and if you want to know more about this up-and-coming Romanian squad, listen to more of their music and keep an eye on their tour dates, simply follow them on Facebook, on VKontakte and on Instagram, listen to more of their music on Spotify and, above all that, purchase your copy of Stormbreaker from the band’s official webstore in CD or LP format, as well as from other locations like Apple Music and Amazon. Aura and the boys are united in their quest for metal, ready to head into the battlefield and armed with their newborn spawn Stormbreaker, positioning the band as one of the most promising new names of the scene. Having said that, what are you waiting for to officially become a “Scarlet” in the name of Heavy Metal?

Best moments of the album: Metal Hell, Battle Cry, Loose Cannon and The Heretic.

Worst moments of the album: A Blast From The Past.

Released in 2020 Silver City Records

Track listing
1. The World Is Not Enough 1:56
2. Metal Hell 6:03
3. Battle Cry 4:33
4. Stormbreaker 4:27
5. Loose Cannon 6:06
6. I Am The One 3:55
7. High In The Sky 6:15
8. The Heretic 5:46
9. Daddy’s Lil Monster 4:48
10. A Blast From The Past 5:29
11. Scarlets United 5:09

Band members
Aura Dănciulescu – lead vocals
Mihai Dănciulescu – guitars, backing vocals
Rene Nistor – bass, backing vocals
Doru Florin Gheorghita – drums

Album Review – Judas Priest / Redeemer of Souls (2014)

The Metal Gods are finally back with another marvellous sonic storm forged in the fires of pure Heavy Metal.

Rating1

Redeemer-of-souls-album-cover-art-1280Take a look at the imposing album art of the awesome Redeemer of Souls, the highly anticipated brand new album by the unbeatable English Metal Gods Judas Priest, and there’s only one word that will come to your mind: METAL. That’s it, pure Heavy Metal. No experimentations, no synths, no electronic shenanigans, nor any other non-traditional Heavy Metal stuff. Even the production of the album sounds fresher and rawer than usual, despite many people complaining about it. After six long years since the good but controversial Nostradamus, the Priest is finally back to their basics, and this time it looks like it’s for good.

First of all, Redeemer of Souls, their seventeenth studio album in over 40 years of history (an impressive milestone, by the way), perspires Heavy Metal. As aforementioned, the band “abandoned” all the experimental stuff of the past two decades and opted for a 100% direct sonority, selecting what’s best in some of their classic albums such as Painkiller, Ram It Down and Sin After Sin, blending it with some interesting elements from Halford’s solo career, and adding an extra dose of energy to all songs, which is astonishing given the fact all band members, except for Richie Faulkner, are over 50 or 60 years old. And secondly, although I miss K.K. Downing and his phenomenal razing guitar duos with Glenn Tipton, Richie is indeed a pretty decent replacement for him and this is proven with his excellent contribution to this album.

But it’s when the music actually starts that you remember why they’re called the Metal Gods: it’s impossible not to fall in love for the opening track, the fantastic Dragonaut, with its “stormy” intro, heavy riffs, straight-forward lyrics and catchy chorus (“Fire in the sky paralyzed with fear / You know you´re gonna die / Dragonaut is near”), and everything else! If this song had been recorded back in the 80’s  or 90’s, it would have become one of Priest’s all-time classics without a shadow of a doubt. Then comes the title-track, Redeemer of Souls, a mix of “Dissident Aggressor” and “Hell Patrol” that is everything old Priest fans wanted to hear again. The lyrics couldn’t sound more Priest than this (“Count down coming your way / He’s the last to obey / Watch him seizing the day / Redeemer – redeemer of souls”),  and I can’t wait to do some air guitar with this song when Judas Priest come to town.

Judas PriestWithout a single second of boredom, the band keeps the energy level really high with the epic Halls of Valhalla (or maybe I should say “VALHALLAAAAAA!”), which I’m sure will become a fan-favourite especially due to its lyrics and chorus and will also sound superb when played live, followed by Sword of Damocles, another mighty track with a great initial riff blended with heavy and melodic drumming (with Mr. Scott Travis sounding as awesome as usual). Moreover, even after 40 years I’m still impressed with how metallic and captivating Halford’s voice always sounds, and it’s a pure delight to follow him declaiming the lyrics for this song so intensely. The next track, March of the Damned, has a very Hard Rock sonority with highlights to another great work done by Richie and Glenn, while Down in Flames can be considered the most “Halford” song of the entire album (it could have easily been part of his latest solo album Made of Metal).

Then we have another of the top songs of the album, Hell & Back, with a beautiful smooth intro followed by Ian Hill’s strong bass lines, more excellent heavy riffs perfect for that slow headbanging while having a cold beer, and an awesome fast ending; and Cold Blooded, which despite it’s nice rhythm, lacks more feeling an ends up being just an average song. And what can I say about a song called Metalizer? It’s as heavy as it can be, from the riffs to the drumming, from Halford’s voice to the strong chorus, with lots of similarities to “Demonizer” and “Hellrider” from Angel of Retribution.

I simply love the fact that Redeemer of souls doesn’t have only 9 or 10 songs and basically no intros or bridges, because there’s still a lot more to come. Crossfire seems to be some kind of tribute to Dio and Black Sabbath, with its intro and many other parts sounding like “I” from the excellent album Dehumanizer; while Secrets of the Dead is a slow and dark tune, one of the most melodic of the entire album, with its nice guitar solos and interesting narration in the middle enhancing its overall quality.

And lastly, the final two songs of the regular version of the album showcase a truly inspired band and leave us fans avid for more Priest: the mighty Battle Cry, with its epic guitar intro followed by pure Heavy Metal riffs and vocals, has one of those rising chorus tailored to be sung at full force by all fans at their live performances (and Halford might not reach the same notes from the past, but he’s still the Metal God); and the passionate ballad Beginning of the End, with its melancholic intro, has a really nice touch of some very old Priest classics like “Last Rose of Summer” and “Before the Dawn” highlights to Halford’s voice once again, closing the album in a very pleasant way. And don’t miss the deluxe edition, which comes with five extra brand new tracks by the Metal Gods to make things even better.

Judas Priest With Special Guests Black Label Society & Thin Lizzy In ConcertIn summary, the beautiful name of the album, just like the band did many times in the past as in Sad Wings of Destiny (the most beautiful name ever), Angel of Retribution and Defenders of the Faith, together with Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton and Scott Travis kicking some serious ass and the fiery and metallic album art, make Redeemer of Souls a must-have album for any fan of good music – second to none I should say if compared to most releases from any band in the past 10 or 15 years. I hate comparing what a band is currently doing with what they did in the past as I understand time goes by and people inevitably change, but in this case it’s amazing how the Metal Gods were able to “go back in time” without sounding cheesy, repetitive or outdated. Judas Priest might be celebrating 40 years of their debut album Rocka Rolla, released in 1974, but it looks like it’s the fans who are being presented with another great album forged in the fires of true Heavy Metal.

Best moments of the album: Dragonaut, Halls of Valhalla, Sword of Damocles, Hell & Back and Battle Cry.

Worst moments of the album: Cold Blooded might not be bad, but it ends up being the only song not as powerful as the rest of the album.

Released in 2014 Epic Records/Columbia Records

Track listing
1. Dragonaut 4:26
2. Redeemer of Souls 3:58
3. Halls of Valhalla 6:04
4. Sword of Damocles 4:54
5. March of the Damned 3:55
6. Down in Flames 3:56
7. Hell & Back 4:46
8. Cold Blooded 5:25
9. Metalizer 4:37
10. Crossfire 3:51
11. Secrets of the Dead 5:41
12. Battle Cry 5:18
13. Beginning of the End 5:07

Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
14. Snakebite 3:14
15. Tears Of Blood 4:19
16. Creatures 4:25
17. Bring It On 3:18
18. Never Forget 6:25

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums