Album Review – Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy / Smutnice (2018)

Deeply inspired by the Slavic feelings of ancient longing and melancholy, this Czech Folk Metal orchestra will take you on a pleasant journey through their wild and serene homeland in their brand new opus.

One of the pioneers of Folk Metal, Ostrava, Czech Republic-based band Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy, returns in 2018 with another beautiful album blending the darkest and at the same time most enfolding elements from Doom and Folk Metal, the stunning Smutnice, the sixth full-length installment in their solid career. Since their inception in 1995 when they emerged from Moravia, deep within the Slavonic heartlands, Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy have been delivering a first-class fusion of metal music with traditional Moravian folk deeply inspired by the Slavic feelings of ancient longing and melancholy, and they offer all that in Smutnice, taking you on a pleasant journey through their wild and serene homeland. As for the title, it’s not a common word in Czech language. “Smutnice” is a noun coming from the adjective “smutný”, which means “sad” or “sorrowful”, so the meaning could be something like “a poem of sadness” or “someone who brings sadness”.

Furthermore, the Moravians entered the iconic Grapow Studios once again to record with Roland Grapow himself, also joining forces with Yossi Sassi (Yossi Sassi & The Oriental Rock Orchestra, Orphaned Land), the world famous Oriental rock pioneer, who took care of the production of the album, bringing to the listener a crisp and impactful musicality enhanced by the album’s crystal clear production. Not only that, keep in mind Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy are not your regular metal band, as apart from Hana Hajdová and Pavel Hrnčíř on vocals, Radek Hajda on the guitar, Stanislav Pavlík on bass and Michal Milták on drums, the band also features a dynamic and unique duo comprised of violinist Gabriela Povraznikova and violoncellist Michal Sýkora, not to mention all special guests such as the Folklore Ensemble Kriváň on choir, Yossi Sassi himself playing an array of instruments like the bouzoukitara and the shaker, Míša Lipárová playing the dulcimer, and Martin Šob also on vocals and choir. At least for me that feels more like a full metal orchestra than a simple band, right?

The opening track Ten, Který Ukoval Slunce (or “The One Who Forged The Sun”) is folksy, embracing and fun, with the duo Gabriela and Michal Sýkora with their respective instruments bringing a whimsical aura to the overall sound, while Hana hypnotizes us with her classy vocal lines, providing a gentle and impactful start to the album. Then we have Kdo Z Nás Je Víc (“Which Of Us Is More”), a lot crazier, faster and heavier, which means it exhales awesomeness, spearheaded by the crushing beats by Michal Milták. Moreover, this time Hana shares the vocal duties with Pavel and his enraged gnarls, which by the way sound amazing in his mother tongue. And get ready for another round of captivating, smooth sounds and tones in Synečku (“My Beloved”), where Gabriela and Michal Sýkora once again warm our hearts with their strings, while Stanislav generates a rumbling and dense background curtain with his bass; followed by Ptakoprav (“He Who Talks To Birds”), a lesson in Folk Metal infused with Doom Metal nuances with the piercing guitar lines by Radek being beautifully complemented by Gabriela’s violin in a gentle but neck-breaking rhythm where Hana sounds as passionate and tuneful as usual.

Then a Doom Metal intro evolves into what’s perhaps the rawest and most experimental of all songs, named Malověrná (“She Of Little Faith”), with Radek and his riffs being in total sync with Michal Milták’s beats, while Stanislav’s bass keeps rumbling in the background. It just lacks an extra pinch of electricity, but nothing to worry about; on the other hand, the amazing Za Nevěstou (“To The Bride”), featuring Folklore Ensemble Kriváň, Yossi Sassi, Míša Lipárová and Martin Šob, is a full-bodied feast of folk and doomed sounds where all instruments sound and feel extremely sharp and thunderous, showcasing a lot of dynamism between Hana and Pavel on vocals, all embraced by stunning choir passages. Acoustic guitars and a rumbling bass set the stage for Hana and her touching vocals in the second to last track in Smutnice, titled Tichý Zpěv (“Quiet Tune”), also presenting the usual Doom Metal-inspired drums by Michal Milták and a flammable guitar solo by Radek, and closing the album we have a somber and delicate tempest of Doom and Folk Metal entitled Bezbřeží (“Shoreless”), a powerful and dense ballad by this distinguished band where once again Gabriela and Michal Sýkora steal the spotlight with their whimsical waves, ending the album in the most serene way possible.

Smutnice, available for a detailed listen on Spotify and on sale from several locations such as the band’s own BandCamp page and webstore, iTunes, Amazon and Discogs, is the perfect example of why Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy are still relevant not only in Folk and Doom Metal, but in heavy music in general, providing the listener truly raw and classic compositions inspired by their homeland (and entirely sung in their mother tongue, as a matter of fact). If you consider yourself an admirer and connoisseur of the most organic form of Folk Metal available anywhere in the world, I’m pretty sure you already know the work by Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy and you already have Smutnice on your hands. However, if you’re new to their world, go check what they’re up to on Facebook and on YouTube, sharpen your senses for an overdose of Folk Metal made in the Czech Republic, and enhance your connection with your inner self and with all the nature that surrounds you.

Best moments of the album: Kdo Z Nás Je Víc, Ptakoprav and Za Nevěstou.

Worst moments of the album: Malověrná.

Released in 2018 Redblack Productions

Track listing  
1. Ten, Který Ukoval Slunce 5:24
2. Kdo Z Nás Je Víc 4:54
3. Synečku 4:56
4. Ptakoprav 7:15
5. Malověrná 5:51
6. Za Nevěstou 6:33
7. Tichý Zpěv 5:59
8. Bezbřeží 7:37

Band members
Hana Hajdová – vocals
Pavel Hrnčíř – vocals
Radek Hajda – guitar
Stanislav Pavlík – bass
Gabriela Povraznikova – violin
Michal Sýkora – violoncello
Michal Milták – drums

Guest musicians
Folklore Ensemble Kriváň – vocals (choirs) on “Za Nevěstou”
Yossi Sassi – bouzoukitara, guitar, bass, shaker, vocals (choirs) on “Za Nevěstou”
Míša Lipárová – dulcimer, vocals (choirs) on “Kdo Z Nás Je Víc”, “Malověrná” and “Za Nevěstou”
Martin Šob – vocals (choirs) on “Malověrná” and “Za Nevěstou”

Advertisements

Album Review – Sebastien / Dark Chambers Of Déjà-Vu (2015)

Are you ready to enter the dark chambers of complexity, professionalism and passion for Heavy Metal brought forth by this fine Czech band?

Rating4

sebastien-cover-finalWhen I saw my metal heroes Iron Maiden kicking ass last year in the pleasant city of Brno, located in the always amazing Czech Republic, I knew there was something special about that place, some sort of Heavy Metal aura surrounding its antique constructions and exquisite landscapes. Almost one year later, with the release of Dark Chambers Of Déjà-Vu, the brand new album by Melodic Power Metal band Sebastien, I can definitely feel that metallic energy flowing from that historical Moravian city.

Formed in 2008, and after releasing their debut album Tears Of White Roses in 2010 and touring the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria, among other European countries, together with bands such as Fates Warning, Masterplan and Circle II Circle in the next couple of years, it was time for the band to return to Grapow Studios in Slovakia to record Dark Chambers Of Déjà-Vu. And just like its predecessor, the new album includes some very special guest performances by Tony Martin (Black Sabbath), Sergey Baidikov (Inner Fear), Zak Stevens (Circle II Circle, Savatage), Roland Grapow (Masterplan), Ailyn Giménez (Sirenia) and Marlin Rya Poemy. Add to that considerable dosages of progressiveness, symphonic elements and riveting storylines, and the final result couldn’t sound more entertaining.

Fans of Power Metal and Symphonic Metal will get instantly hooked to the opening track Stranger at The Door, which relies heavily on that famous “heavy riffs and vocals with an atmospheric background provided by keyboards” formula without sounding cheesy. Moreover, the excellent vocals by George Rain remind me a lot of Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica, with the growls by guest vocalist Sergey Baidikov (Inner Fear) adding a lot of electricity to the song. Highland Romance, one of the few songs with no special guests, keeps the ball rolling with its old school Sonata Arctica vibe. It’s very cohesive and rhythmic, with a “medieval” touch thanks to the excellent work done by keyboardist Pavel “Dvorkys” Dvorak, followed by the semi-ballad inspired by the gripping Hard Rock from the 80’s entitled Crucifixion Of The Heart, where not only guitars and keyboards are in perfect sync, but its traditional lyrics about love also match perfectly with what the music is proposing.

Following a similar pattern of the previous track, Lamb Of God showcases a passionate performance by George, supported by the precise guest vocals by Tony Martin (Black Sabbath) and a beautiful solo by guitarist Andy Mons, while the symphonic and progressive The Walls Of Lyman-Alpha feels like a blend of Nightwish and Dream Theater, with highlights to the heaviness of its riffs and keyboards which end up making the whole song more enjoyable. And Sphinx In Acheron gets even more symphonic, with the strong ambience crafted by the band enhancing the beautiful vocal duo by Goerge and guest female vocalist Marlin Rya Poemy.

Booklet 16 Seiten - Maße.qxdWhen Frozen Nightingales starts it feels like a heavier version of Van Halen during the Sammy Hagar-era, with its catchy chorus, high-speed rhythm and thrilling symphony turning it into one of the best songs of the album; followed by Sleep In The Glass, where we must give kudos to drummer Lucas R. for being spot on with his solid technique; and the excellent metal ballad The Ocean, with guest singer Zak Stevens delivering a powerful performance together with  George, supported by the heavy artillery of Lucas and bassist Petri Kallio. Man In The Maze, the second song to feature guest singer Sergey Baidikov, is another melodic and straightforward Power Metal tune that will please all fans of the genre, and in case you’re not that much into harsh vocals this is an awesome option to start enjoying the “dark side of singing”.

Speeding up and getting heavier than before (mainly due to drummer Lucas being more “enraged” behind his drum kit), the last part of the album begins with The House Of Medusa, a high-end traditional tune containing all the elements necessary for a great metal song, before My Deepest Winter shows what happens to a song when you have Mr. Roland Grapow on the guitar. It’s slightly darker than most of the other songs, and in my humble opinion it could have even been a little longer to enhance its epicness. Then we have the celestial voice from Spanish diva Ailyn Giménez embellishing the smooth ballad Last Dance At Rosslyn Chapel, and let me tell you that her performance will undoubtedly touch your heart. In addition, it’s amazing how George and Ailyn turn their “dialogue” into sublime poetry, but obviously the song wouldn’t have been so intense without the atmosphere provided by the rest of the band. And last but not least, as I love live songs all I can say is that the two bonus tracks (Dorian and Headless Cross) are outstanding and add so much value to the album it makes me wonder if their next release should in fact be a live album (check the official video below and you’ll see what I’m talking about).

Sebastien can be reached through their Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud, and if you want to purchase Dark Chambers Of Déjà-Vu you can find it on Amazon or iTunes, among other locations. In other words, are you ready to enter the dark chambers of complexity, professionalism and passion for Heavy Metal brought forth by this fine Czech band?

Best moments of the album: Frozen Nightingales, The House Of Medusa and Last Dance At Rosslyn Chapel.

Worst moments of the album: Highland Romance.

Released in 2015 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Stranger at The Door (feat. Sergey Baidikov) 4:22
2. Highland Romance 4:26
3. Crucifixion Of The Heart 3:22
4. Lamb Of God (feat. Tony Martin) 4:03
5. The Walls Of Lyman-Alpha 3:16
6. Sphinx In Acheron (feat. Marlin Rya Poemy) 4:18
7. Frozen Nightingales 4:40
8. Sleep In The Glass 4:15
9. The Ocean (feat. Zak Stevens) 4:39
10. Man In The Maze (feat. Sergey Baidikov) 3:49
11. The House Of Medusa 3:30
12. My Deepest Winter (feat. Roland Grapow) 4:40
13. Last Dance At Rosslyn Chapel (feat. Aylin Giménez) 4:03

Bonus tracks
14. Dorian (Live) 5:53
15. Headless Cross (Live) 7:48

Band members
George Rain – vocals
Andy Mons – guitars, backing vocals
Petri Kallio – bass, backing vocals
Pavel “Dvorkys” Dvorak – keyboards
Lucas R. – drums

Guest musicians
Sergey Baidikov – harsh vocals on “Stranger at The Door” and “Man In The Maze”
Tony Martin – additional vocals on “Lamb Of God”
Marlin Rya Poemy – female vocals on “Sphinx In Acheron”
Zak Stevens – additional vocals on “The Ocean”
Roland Grapow – additional guitars on “My Deepest Winter”
Ailyn Giménez – female vocals on “Last Dance At Rosslyn Chapel”

Album Review – Sinners Moon / Atlantis (2015)

Directly from Slovakia, this young band shows that there is still plenty of room for creative Symphonic Metal in this world.

Rating4

Atlantis_CoverWhat started as a side project in 2010 has become the centre of all attentions of the promising Slovakian guitarist and composer LukeN. Back then, when he had another band in his hometown Sereď, he decided to form Sinners Moon along with his friend Derick to work on Symphonic Metal compositions – the kind of genre which was not easy to find in their country.

In 2011, LukeN started to write new songs while trying to find the best musicians to join them in the band. It was not an easy job: three drummers and two female vocalists had come and gone whether at recording sessions or during their first live concerts. It turns out 2014 was a great year for Sinners Moon as they shaped the line-up with Simona (female vocals), LukeN (guitars), Derick (growls), Jan (drums), Jarthuusen (keyboards) and Viktor (bass), and were finally ready to record their debut album, Atlantis. They could not have chosen a more heavy metal environment to do it: Grapow Studios, owned by the iconic guitarist Roland Grapow (Masterplan, ex-Helloween) was a perfect place to turn into good music all those themes that inspired LukeN and his bandmates such as life, death, dreams, mystery and hope.

In a recent interview, LukeN said how important  Finnish music was as his musical influences and that Atlantis is a personal tribute to Nightwish. So, for those who like Finnish bands like Nightwish and Sonata Arctica, or even Epica from the Netherlands, this album has what it takes to entertain the listener. Speaking of Sonata Arctica, Tony Kakko was a special guest of one of the tracks, My Servant.

With 11 tracks, Atlantis has everything a good Symphonic Metal album must have: charming female vocals in duos with strong guttural vocals, keyboards making amazing orchestrations, virtuous guitar riffs, and bass and drums working in harmony to shape all the rhythm. A good example is the opening track, Inner Demons, which brings together all those elements perfectly to become one of the highlights of the album, with Memento Mori following the same music style. In Buried, the band changes the deep orchestrations to heavy guitars with an aggressive melody that contrasts with the smooth voice of Simona.

sm_band_promoThe next three songs can be seen as perfect tributes to their inspirations: Pray for the Child calms down the tempers and is a nice ballad that, respecting all the differences, reminds of Nightwish’s “Sleeping Sun”, but at the same time with its own personality. The next song, Falls of the Neverland, also resembles some old Epica songs, with the highlight here being the work on guitars making a beautiful melody. As mentioned before, My Servant has the contribution of Sonata Arctica’s frontman Tony Kakko, and this song is completely different from the rest of the album – in a good way. Kakko, Simona and Derick make an awesome vocal trio and the result has the same vibe as some of the Finnish band’s classics like “My Land”, from the 1999 album Ecliptica.

With more than 8 minutes, Fly to the Moon is intense and brings the orchestrations to another level with the addition of other instruments such as flutes. It also has a beautiful solo full of feeling that prepares the listener to what comes next in the song: pure heaviness led by Derick. Dark Episode is another example of a powerful Symphonic Metal song, with choirs, an amazing work on keyboards and Simona showing a lot of drama and mixed deep feelings through her voice. The next song, Sinners Moon, sounds very Folk Metal-ish and also has a stunning work full of rhythm on drums and bass, especially in the beginning when Simona starts to sing. The title-track Atlantis is a complex song with 11 minutes and it could easily be in a Nightwish album – at least it is easy to notice the influence of Tuomas Holopainen’s style in this track full of ups and downs, heavy and smooth moments, layers and more layers of keyboards, choirs and so on. The journey through Atlantis ends with a beautiful piano, violin and voice song, Upon a Star, a simple and perfect way to close such a deep and complex album.

If Symphonic Metal is your kind of music, Atlantis is definitely a must-hear album, and if you like what you see, keep your eyes on Sinners Moon by checking their official websiteFacebook page and YouTube channel, showing your support to them, and of course by purchasing their music at the Inverse Records webstore or at many other available locations. LukeN and Co. are working now to promote Atlantis through Europe and, with this first album produced with such dedication and good quality, we are curious to see what the future will bring to this promising band.

Best moments of the album: Inner Demons, Buried and My Servant.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Inner Demons 5:21
2. Memento Mori 4:01
3. Buried 4:38
4. Pray for the Child 4:26
5. Falls of the Neverland 5:22
6. My Servant (feat. Tony Kakko) 3:55
7. Fly to the Moon 8:15
8. Dark Episode 6:19
9. Sinners Moon 5:08
10. Atlantis 11:04
11. Upon a Star 2:49

Band members
Simona – vocals
Derick – growls
LukeN – guitars
Viktor – bass
Jarthuusen – keyboards
Jan – drums

Guest musician
Tony Kakko – vocals on “My Servant”

Album Review – Kilmara / Love Songs and Other Nightmares (2014)

An exciting Power Metal “gemstone”, full of heavy riffs, melody and all other elements we love in this type of music, nicely carved by this very competent band from Barcelona.

Rating4

kilmara_coverFor most of us, the word “kilmara” might mean only a semi-precious green stone (also known as jade) used for jewelry, but it has also become a synonym of high-quality Heavy Metal, especially in the past decade. After over 10 years of existence, Melodic Power Metallers from Spain and Germany Kilmara are releasing their third full-length album, Love Songs and Other Nightmares, another “gemstone” carefully polished and ready to shine in their discography.

Let me start by saying that the new album by this Barcelona-based band was produced by none other than the exceptional Roland Grapow (Helloween, Masterplan) at Grapow Studios in Slovakia and published by Sony Music, and by that you can already have an idea of the professionalism you’ll find in each and every track from Love Songs and Other Nightmares. Only talent itself doesn’t bring any good results if not accompanied by a huge amount of dedication and hard work, and Kilmara are a great example of how putting those elements together translates into amusing and captivating music.

From the very first heavier-than-usual riffs of the opening track, Fantasy, Kilmara showcase a modern Power Metal, focusing on smoother and clearer vocal lines (very well done by singer Christian Wolfgang Kohl) instead of traditional high-pitched screams from other bands of the same genre. Not only this song has an awesome chorus, but the addition of some harsh vocals makes everything even more entertaining. Quick question: would Fantasy (or maybe Fantasy’s) be a gentlemen’s club in Spain or somewhere else? At least that’s what the lyrics seem to be talking about.

The galloping rhythm, conducted mainly by Javi Morillo’s excellent work on drums, and the soulful guitar solos keep the energy level up in The Devil’s Eye, followed by the soaring intro and thrilling riffs of The Break Up, another top moment of the album, with lyrics about ending a relationship. By the way, this song would be an awesome way to do so (or at least the break up would happen with an exciting soundtrack). Cold Rain sounds like a sequence to the previous track in terms of lyrics, with highlights to the way the band “prepares” the listener for the catchy chorus.

kilmaraThen Kilmara slow things down with Believe, a semi-ballad with nice instrumental, but not as exciting as the previous tracks, before accelerating everything again with Nothing to Me, a heavy tune with hints of Thrash Metal the likes of Anthrax, with its riffs and double bass dictating the rhythm plus some great lyrics to sing along (“There’s nothing you can say / There’s nothing you can do / There’s nothing that can take away / The damage that you do”). A more traditional Power Metal can be found in Usual Strangers, especially due to its good guitar duo and solos, while Alpha is more melodic, flirting with Symphonic Power Metal. And pay attention to its funny/sexist lyrics, you might see yourself in that situation one day (or maybe many times a week).

And at long last, Kilmara saved for the final part of Love Songs and Other Nightmares three completely different tracks for all types of fans: Insomnia is another good Power Metal track with some interesting lyrics; Play to Win focuses on a more Hard Rock sonority, with its excellent instrumental parts mixed with another good vocal performance by Christian; and finally we have the beautiful ballad Time Flies, with  its powerful chorus as the “main ingredient”. There’s also a German/Spanish version of this song as a bonus track that sounds even more emotive than the regular one, especially the awesome Spanish parts. I myself speak Spanish and, in my humble opinion, I would love to see more Spanish songs by Kilmara: they sound so amazingly powerful when singing in this language.

I guess I could not finish this review without mentioning how gorgeous the “cover girl”, created by Montreal’s own Jessica Allain, in Love Songs and Other Nightmares is. Is she even real? Anyway, this excellent Power Metal album is available at Amazon and iTunes, among other places online and at physical stores, so if you’re a true fan of Power Metal don’t waste your time and go grab this “gemstone” by Kilmara for your collection.

Best moments of the album: Fantasy, The Break Up and Nothing to Me.

Worst moments of the album: Believe and Alpha.

Released in 2014 Sony Music

Track listing
1. Fantasy 4:41
2. The Devil’s Eye 4:20
3. The Break Up 3:59
4. Cold Rain 6:01
5. Believe 4:31
6. Nothing to Me 4:01
7. Usual Strangers 4:51
8. Alpha 4:04
9. Insomnia 4:47
10. Play to Win 5:59
11. Time Flies 6:19

Bonus track
12. Time Flies (German/Spanish version) 6:19

Band members
Christian Wolfgang Kohl – vocals
Jonathan Portilo – guitar
Kike Torres – guitar
Raúl Ruiz – bass
Javi Morillo – drums