Metal Chick of the Month – Rie a.k.a. Suzaku

Shredding is her business… and business is good!

If you’re a fan of the enthralling art of shredding, I’m sure you’ll have an absolute blast with our metal chick of the month of July, because not only she kicks some serious ass with her unstoppable guitar, but her looks are also beyond eccentric, sexy and mesmerizing. Born on November 26, 1985 in Funabashi, a city located in Chiba, a prefecture of Japan located in the Kantō region and the Greater Tokyo Area, the stunning Rie a.k.a. Suzaku, whose real name is Rie Tomimatsu (or if you prefer, it’s 富松里恵 in Japanese), is among us to show how a guitar should be treated, always delivering beautiful and electrifying riffs and solos. Highly influenced by traditional Heavy Metal, Power Metal and Hard Rock, Rie doesn’t limit her musical range to only those classic styles, being extremely adaptable to all kinds of music and situations with her refined technique. Having said that, are you ready to explore top-notch, unique metal music from the Land of the Rising Sun with our unstoppable Japanese guitarist?

As already mentioned, our Asian solo Heavy Metal guitar player draws a lot of influence from old school heavy music, with some of her favorite bands being Children of Bodom, Dream Theater, Arch Enemy, Helloween, In This Moment, Labyrinth, In Flames, Killswitch Engage, Ozzy Osbourne, Sonata Arctica and Nevermore, among several others, as well as other artists like American rock guitarist Eric Johnson, Japanese composer, arranger and musician Yoko Kanno, and electronic/orchestral musical and performing group Juno Reactor. Although her style is sometimes compared to Australian vistuoso Orianthi, Rie stands out by herself, crafting her own sound and style in the world of heavy music. First and foremost, she doesn’t sing, and second of all, she is a billion times more metal than Orianthi, playing Melodic Metal similar to Japanese bands like Destrose, Mary’s Blood, Aldious and Cyntia.

Rie’s solo career might have started back in 2008, but it was only in 2010 that she released her debut album, an EP titled Messiah, where she was responsible not only for playing the guitars, but also keyboards, programming and bass (on the song “Suzaku”), not to mention all lyrics and songwriting. As Rie is not a singer, the vocal duties on the EP were shared by Japanese female musicians Ibuki, Kaoru, Dia and Sattin, with bassist Hiroyasu Watanabe and drummer Isamu Tamaru completing the lineup. On her second EP, titled Mother Earth, which was released in 2011, Rie is supported once again by Hiroyasu Watanabe and Isamu Tamaru on bass and drums, respectively, as well as the returning Dia on vocals and newcomer Shizuka. The year of 2012 saw the birth of another EP by Rie a.k.a. Suzaku, entitled Dreaming Eyes, with almost the same lineup, except for Shizuka on vocals, and with vocalists Ibuki and Akane sharing vocals with Dia. After three EP’s in a row it was time for Rie to release her frist full-length album in 2013, named Kingdom of the Sun, a full instrumental album where Rie’s incendiary guitar riffs and solos were accompanied by Taku Yabuki on the piano, Isamu Tamaru on drums, and an array of bassists (Yoshihiro Naruse, Kenji Jino Hino, Ikuo and Isamu Takita) playing each in a different set of songs.

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In 2015 Rie released her second full-length installment, titled Noah’s Ark, a very interesting blend of instrumental songs with tracks featuring a guest female vocalist named Aira, including some of her longest compositions to date, which together formed some sort of concept aria within the album totalizing over 20 minutes of music split into four tracks (those being Noah’s Ark Prologue, Genesis, Noah’s Ark, and Noah’s Ark Epilogue). And the year of 2016 saw her latest release as a solo artist, an instrumental EP titled Seven Seas, comprised of seven “ocean-summer-like-inspired” tracks, such as Dolphin Dance, Sunrise and Ocean Breeze. Apart from those EP’s and full-length albums, you can also find in her portfolio three live DVD’s, those being Legend of Messiah (released in 2011), Dreaming Eyes Tour 2012, and Kingdom of the Sun Live Tour 2013, and a four-track single released in 2014 named Sonic City. As you can see, Rie is an extremely active musician with tons of releases already in her up-and-coming career, and if you want to enjoy her mind-blowing music you can check her official videos on YouTube for the songs Dreaming Eyes, Southern Wind‪, Seven Seas, Kingdom of the Sun, Messiah, Across the Sky, and Cyber Moon, as well as several videos with her stunning live performances.

Apart from her solo career, Rie also played the guitar live for Japanese Melodic Heavy/Power Metal band Crying Machine in 2011, and in January 2017 she joined forces with Japanese musicians Nicky (vocals), Ami (bass) and ViVi (drums) to form what would become a brand new band named RiViNi, with its name, which is a wordplay with the names of three of the band members (as bassist Ami only joined the band later), being chosen by their fans. Blending several elements form the rock and pop universes, RiViNi released earlier this year their debut mini-album titled Resistance, containing six distinct and very interesting tracks (幻想プラトニック, Emerald, Eternal Truth, Resistance, Sunflower and I Wish), and if you want to have a taste of their music you can watch their official videos for 幻想プラトニック (which means something like “platonic illusion” in English) and the title-track Resistance.

Fan of common things that most people also enjoy such as chocolate, ramen and swimming, Rie is also involved in quite a few other distinct projects and initiatives, such as playing original instrumental songs on a DVD for Young Guitar Magazine, appearing in a program named Effector Love for Roland, and performing at a booth at the Tokyo Guitar Show in 2011. However, perhaps the most curious fact about Rie also involves her own sister, Emi Tomimatsu, who’s a professional mixed martial arts fighter. Emi is not only a daredevil in the ring, but she gets pumped up for doing that by using Rie’s songs as her entrance themes, as you can see for example in this video posted on Twitter. Well, we have to agree that when you have a sister like Rie, delivering top-notch, electrifying metal music through her incendiary guitar, that’s all you need to get more than ready to rumble inside the octagon.

Equipment
Jackson USA RR-1 Skulls
Jackson USACorey Beaulieu Signature USA KV 7
Jackson USA RR-1 Ferrari Red Black
MXR (ZW – 44) BOSS (DD – 6) ERNIE BALL (VPJR) Maxon (AD – 80) (effector)

Rie a.k.a. Suzaku’s Official Facebook page
Rie a.k.a. Suzaku’s Official Twitter
Rie a.k.a. Suzaku’s Official Instagram
Rie a.k.a. Suzaku’s Official YouTube channel

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Album Review – NovaReign / Legends (2018)

A fast, melodic and intricate album that perfectly represents the new age of Progressive Power Metal, telling stories in musical literature and speaking to a generation influenced by epic fantasy tales, comic books and video games.

Influenced by bands like Iron Maiden and Dream Theater, to Dragonforce and Angra, American metallers  NovaReign represent the new age of Progressive Power Metal, telling stories in musical literature and speaking to a generation influenced by epic fantasy tales, comic books and video games. Formed in 2010 in the city of Los Angeles, California, in the United States, NovaReign are not only inspired by the aforementioned classic metal acts, but they also incorporate elements from a multitude of non-metal styles such as Jazz, Funk and EDM (Electronic Dance Music) to their high-octane music, adding a little extra flavor to their already exciting compositions.

The band has been steadily and surely building a buzz and reputation for themselves in recent years, becoming a fixture with energy-abounding live shows filled with nonstop shredding guitar interplay and powerful traditional metal vocals, altogether culminating in the release of their debut full-length album this year, the nonstop metal attack titled Legends, an hour-plus of shred-tastic, over-the-top, epic power and progressive metal music. Not only that, the album art also transpires epicness, as explained by guitarist Danny Nobel. “The art was based off an idea I had pitched to have giant statues of god-like figures in an astral plain,” explains Danny. “Our bassist, Moises, took the idea and created the drawings you’ve seen so far. The characters are all based on warriors and mythical beings, which represent themes of courage, heroism, strength and virtue. These are characteristics and themes of the overall album. That along with a cosmic decor.”

The opening tune, titled Call On The Storm, brings forward progressiveness flowing from the very first second from the melodic guitar lines by Danny and his bandmate Balmore Lemus, gradually becoming a Power Metal feast led by the high-pitched vocals by frontman David Marquez. And the action doesn’t stop at all, with gripping solos and faster-than-a-bullet beats keeping the electricity at a really high level. Then get ready for 10 minutes of pure Melodic Heavy Metal in Mace Of A Fist, where Danny and Balmore are on fire with their Dragonforce-inspired riffs and solos while drummer Paul Contreras keeps blasting furious and precise beats, not to mention the second half of the song which is that type of sonic “masturbation” fans of Melodic and Progressive Metal truly love. And let’s say their “metal masturbation” goes on in another classic Power Metal extravaganza titled Beyond The Cold, presenting a galloping rhythm crafted by bassist Moises Gavez together with Paul, perfect for David to blast sheer epicness through his vocals and to Danny and Balmore to deliver some insane guitar solos.

The following song in Legends, the excellent Heavy Heart, reminds me of the sound by some of the best metal bands from Japan such as Moi Dix Mois, Versailles, Anthem and especially Saber Tiger and Loudness, being fast, intricate, electrifying and an absolute orgasm for fans of the genre. And have I mentioned their guitar solos are simply fantastic? Anyway, moving on with their sonic onrush, Skyline feels a lot less intense than its predecessors, but still presenting the band’s characteristic sonority. All band members are precise with their instruments, providing David all he needs to powerfully declaim the song’s lyrics, with the only issue being that the song goes on for too long with its almost 9 minutes of music.

The sound of rain and an acoustic guitar set the tone in the bridge To Wander The Stars, before NovaRegin return with another metallic, melodic and inspiring tune entitled The Builder. Led by the rhythmic drums by Paul, the song presents the band’s guitar duo simply slashing their strings mercilessly, therefore generating a piercing but very enjoyable sound in the end. In Black As The Dead Of Night we’re treated to a 9-minute onslaught of Power Metal with Danny and Belmore being two shredding and soloing machines, with the work done by Paul on drums being outstanding. Moreover, despite being as long as “Skyline”, it has a lot more flavor and punch, maintaining the energy flowing until the end. And lastly, the title-track Legends brings tons of progressiveness through the band’s intricate riffs and beats, as well as the awesome bass punches by Moises. Put differently, it’s a heavier and more melodic version of Dream Theater with hints of Iron Maiden, which means that if you’re a musician and into Power Metal, this song has everything you crave in heavy music.

In case you think my words are not detailed enough to describe the music by NovaReign, you can enjoy the band doing a really nice track by track breakdown on YouTube, and after enjoying such interesting video you should definitely go check what NovaReign are up to on Facebook, and purchase Legends through their official BandCamp page, through the M-Theory Audio webshop, on iTunes, on Amazon, and in other retailers like Target, Adipocere Records and DeepDiscount. And there you have the perfect (and very intricate and melodic) soundtrack for your most epic adventures, how about that?

Best moments of the album: Call On The Storm, Beyond The Cold, Heavy Heart and Black As The Dead Of Night.

Worst moments of the album: Skyline.

Released in 2018 M-Theory Audio

Track listing
1. Call On The Storm 6:58
2. Mace Of A Fist 10:10
3. Beyond The Cold 5:58
4. Heavy Heart 5:09
5. Skyline 8:56
6. To Wander The Stars 2:24
7. The Builder 5:22
8. Black As The Dead Of Night 8:44
9. Legends 9:25

Band members
David Marquez – vocals
Danny Nobel – guitars
Balmore Lemus – guitars
Moises Gavez – bass
Paul Contreras – drums

Album Review – Stratovarius / Episode (1996)

The best album from the best Finnish band of all time.

Rating2

stratovarius_episodeOi maamme, Suomi, synnyinmaa, soi, sana kultainen! Finland is by far one of the most Heavy Metal countries in the world, and I’m not inventing this information from out of nowhere: take a look at this map showing the number of Heavy Metal bands per 100,000 people and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Nightwish, Lordi, Amorphis, Sonata Arctica, Turisas, Apocalyptica, Teräsbetoni, Finntroll, HIM, Sentenced and Wintersun are just some of the biggest exponents of heavy music in this land that offers its people a lot more than just ice and snow, but none of them have changed the world of heavy music as the Power Metal/Melodic Heavy Metal band Stratovarius.

Since their start in 1984, Stratovarius have released many important albums which revolutionized Heavy Metal with intense and fast riffs, double bass, high-pitched screams and epic songs. Among those releases there was their fifth studio album, Episode, released over 20 years ago, which in my opinion was the most important step in the band’s history in terms of creativity and evolution. With the awesome Timo Kotipelto on vocals for the second time after the good album Fourth Dimension (and fortunately until present days), and the addition of the beasts Jens Johansson on keyboards and Jörg Michael on drums, Stratovarius became a synonym for Melodic Heavy Metal in the 90’s and influenced an infinite number of bands all around the world. That was the band’s most stable and powerful lineup of all time, until Timo Tolkki left the band in 2008.

The music in Episode is pretty straight forward, it’s fast and clean Heavy Metal with total synchronicity of instruments, together with lyrics talking about life, love, dreams, and all the struggles a man has inside his mind. Add to that the beautiful atmosphere created by the Sibelius String Orchestra and Sibelius Choir, and you have a musical masterpiece. The clock ticking in the beginning of the album just announces that what comes next is no less than memorable: Father Time is an incredible song that summarizes all the power and technique of the band’s members, especially Timo Tolkki and Jörg Michael. What those guys do with their instruments is beyond awesome, and seeing this song live is like having a musical orgasm. Furthermore, Tolkki’s riffs are a constant in the whole album and one of the elements that make it so special for all Heavy Metal fans.

The speed goes on with Will the Sun Rise, another classic showing how perfect the partnership Tolkki/Kotipelto used to be. Then things slow down a little with the beautiful Eternity, but after the instrumental intro Episode comes one of their fastest and most amazing compositions ever: Speed of Light can make even a Thrash Metal band jealous of its speed and riffs, and as Canadians love a mosh pit I can’t wait for a Stratovarius concert here in Toronto to slam into the pit with this song. On the other hand, Uncertainty is quite boring and the lowest point of the album, despite its nice intro.

stratovarius_1995The next track is another good ballad, Season of Change, where Kotipelto once again demonstrates why he’s a reference in Melodic Heavy Metal, followed by the instrumental song Stratosphere, where we can see an inspired Timo Tolkki and a crazy Jens Johansson “masturbating” their guitar and keyboards respectively for our pure delight. Babylon can be considered an “epic” song due to its lyrics, strong intro and variations, while Tomorrow brings back the band at full speed with its inspiring lyrics (“Feeling strong and brave inside / my head up high with pride / yes I’ll be back tomorrow”) and Jörg Michael pounding his drums with his unique technique.

Finally, we have the song Night Time Eclipse, a nice semi-ballad with pleasant riffs and solos, and then a ballad so beautiful I can’t even find the right words to describe it, Forever, where Timo Kotipelto melts the heart of any woman with his performance (“I’m still there everywhere / I’m the dust in the wind / I’m the star in the northern sky / I never stayed anywhere / I’m the wind in the trees / would you wait for me forever?”). The Japanese version of Episode also contains a good bonus track called When the Night Meets the Day, another nice song, albeit not as wonderful as the regular tracks.

If you don’t know Stratovarius, I would say Episode is probably the best album to start. The only “issue” would be the side effects of listening to this musical wonder, which are an extreme addiction to Finnish Heavy Metal and a compulsive obsession with the language, culture, drinks and people from the marvelous land of ice and snow.

Best moments of the album: Father Time, Speed of Light and Forever.

Worst moments of the album: Uncertainty is the only “weak” track of all, or let’s say the least awesome.

Released in 1996 Noise Records

Track listing
1. Father Time 5:01
2. Will the Sun Rise? 5:06
3. Eternity 6:55
4. Episode (instrumental) 2:01
5. Speed of Light 3:03
6. Uncertainty 5:59
7. Season of Change 6:56
8. Stratosphere (instrumental) 4:51
9. Babylon 7:09
10. Tomorrow 4:51
11. Night Time Eclipse 7:58
12. Forever 3:06

Japanese edition bonus track
13. When the Night Meets the Day 5:30

Band members
Timo Kotipelto – vocals
Timo Tolkki – guitars, backing vocals
Jens Johansson – keyboards
Jari Kainulainen – bass
Jörg Michael – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Marjolaine Bernard

Behind shivering drops of my soul… Dancing under a dry sky the void’s pouring inside…

Let’s take a flight to Paris, the capital and most populous city of France, where among several activities and attractions you can visit the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum and the Notre Dame Cathedral, or simply find a traditional French café on the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées to enjoy a nice, traditional croissant. If you’re a metalhead, there are also some excellent metal pubs and venues for you to go, such as Le Black Dog, James Hetfeeld’s and Le Cavern, and if you’re lucky enough you might enjoy a live concert by Wildpath, a female-fronted Symphonic Power Metal band formed in Paris in 2001 where, since 2008, our metal chick of the month has been giving life to their lyrics. I’m talking about French vocalist Marjolaine Bernard, a very talented and young musician who will certainly attract the attention of fans of melodic female voices like Floor Jansen and Tarja Turunen.

Born on June 4, 1983, Marjolaine started in the world of music at a very young age, first with the piano, then by joining a choir after watching a children’s concert, and since then she has never stopped singing. Furthermore, our French girl has been singing metal for a long time, being part of different small independent bands as a teenager and being clearly inspired by names like Floor and Tarja. However, Marjolaine stated that, despite Floor and Tarja (among other renowned vocalists) still being a reference to her, they’re not necessarily what she listens to nowadays and she doesn’t see herself as a Symphonic Metal singer, but just as a musician among other musicians trying to work with her voice in the best way possible, always in line with the music being played.

Marjolaine and her bandmates from Wildpath draw inspiration to create their music from several distinct sources, from electro to reggae, from metal to ambient music, like a giant melting pot. Furthermore, she mentioned she loves movie scores and soundtracks, being highly influenced by amazing composers such as Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman, also getting ideas from music from video games. She said that metal is a style where you’re allowed to let go with musical expressions and experimentations, and that’s the path that’s being constantly explored by the band in recent years. Forging elements from rock, metal, electro, folk, symphonic and traditional music, always caring for harmony and energy, Wildpath are a band in continuous evolution, and Marjolaine’s voice is exactly what the music needs to become more lively and appealing, as you’ll see below when we talk about her career with the band.

However, before Wildpath, there was Ad Vitam Aeternam, which is Latin for “To (or Towards) Eternal Life”, a Melodic Gothic Metal band formed in 1999 in Paris with whom Marjolaine played until 2005. She recorded the album Abstract Senses with Ad Vitam Aeternam in 2004, that being the only official release by the band since their inception. You can take a listen at the entire album HERE, or also enjoy individual songs from the album such as Dementia and In The Throes of Apocalypse, always paying attention to how different the music style by Ad Vitam Aeternam was from Wildpath, which only shows how versatile Marjolaine is as a vocalist.

It was in the year of 2008 that she finally joined Wildpath, which as already mentioned was formed back in 2001 by keyboardist Alexis Garsault and guitarist Olivier Caron in Paris, having released their debut album Nyx Secrets in 2005 (without Marjolaine on vocals, obviously). After Marjolaine became the lead singer for Wildpath, the band released three full-length albums, Non Omnis Moriar in 2009 (which by the way had its name inspired by the Odes by Roman lyric poet Horace and means “I shall not all die” or “not all of me will die”), Underneath in 2011 and Disclosure in 2015, as well as a very special release featuring acoustic versions of tracks from previous albums in 2016, titled Still – Acoustic Live Experience. You can get a very good taste of how smooth and tuneful Marjolaine’s vocals are in songs such as Petrichor, The Raven, Absentia, Confined and Excinere, listen to the entire albums Disclosure and Underneath, enjoy the acoustic versions from Still for the songs Everlasting Wish and Unborn, or also have fun with Marjolaine and the others with two live “studio” versions for the songs Buried Moon and Secret’s Case.

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If you prefer Wildpath live in front of a bunch of metalheads, I recommend this 2012 version of Buried Moon and Dive live at Le Grand Rex in Paris during the IronSquid StarCraft 2 World Championship Finals, as well as Non Omnis Moriar live in Eloyes, France in 2010; Unborn and Ghost Memories live at Le Divan Du Monde in Paris in 2015; or even this full concert  in 2012 during a mini-festival named Metal Symphonic Quest II in Tours, a city located in the centre-west of France. The festival also had the bands Adrana, Lost Opera, Roman Rouzine The Tria and Eidon, but it was Wildpath who headlined the night. And if you think you need to go all the way to France to watch Wildpath live, you’re wrong, as in 2016 the band played their first gig in the UK at The Quinphonic Festival 2 at The Roadhouse Birmingham. How far do you think Marjolaine and Wildpath can go?

As a guest musician, Marjolaine was part of the only album released by French Melodic Heavy/Power Metal band Silent Fall, entitled Otherwise, from 2010, doing choir vocals in the whole album and main female vocals on the song This Could Have Been. If you’re curious to know how she was invited to be part of the album, the answer is quite simple. Olivier Caron, Wildpath’s own guitarist, was also the lead guitarist for Silent Fall, making it a lot easier for Marjolaine to add her vocals to their music in an effective and exciting way.

When asked about her favorite song of all time, including all types of music and eras, her answer was quite unique, citing the classic Sanvean: I Am Your Shadow (or simply Sanvean) by the iconic Australian musical project Dead Can Dance, featured on their first official live album Toward the Within, released in 1994, an album that contains 15 songs, of which only four appeared on their previous albums. Sanvean was later re-recorded by one of the masterminds behind Dead Can Dance, Lisa Gerrard, on her 1995 solo album The Mirror Pool. In regards to heavy music, her first rock album was the classic Angels Fall First, the debut studio album by Finnish Symphonic Metal band Nightwish. With cult songs such as Elvenpath, Beauty and the Beast and Astral Romance, it’s easy to understand why Marjolaine fell in love for Symphonic Metal, right?

Marjolaine was also questioned about her favorite or best moments as an artist, and albeit she said there have been already lots of amazing memories with Wildpath, one of her favorite experiences was a concert with a “quatour” (a special form of string quartet that developed in Paris around 1775 and became one of the leading genres of Parisian music until the French Revolution) and a choir at La Scène Bastille, saying that seeing a symphony coming alive was truly fantastic. In addition, she also listed as one of her favorite moments when the band played with French progressive guitarist Patrick Rondat, and lastly the band’s famous performance in 2015 at Le Divan du Monde.

As previously mentioned, among her main influences we’ll find names such as Floor and Tarja, with Floor in particular being a huge inspiration for Marjolaine as she’s one of the few contemporary female singers who can combine lyrical songs with very dynamic rock vocals in a precise manner. However, out of the metal and rock scene, her favorite singer is Lisa Gerrard, who apart from her work with Dead Can Dance was also responsible for several other renowned projects, including a Golden Globe Award for the music score to the film Gladiator, on which she collaborated with Hans Zimmer.

Another interesting fact about Marjolaine is that her stage outfit is created by one of her students, who proposed to create special clothes tailored for their live performances, working with the band’s colors and adding her own personal touch to the creations. That stylist is from a company called Le Paon, a new brand from the independent French scene. Marjolaine and the stylist collaborate with each other in the creation of the outfits, first discussing new ideas orally and then working together on drawings and other details, until the stylist begins working on the whole realization of the clothes. One of her first new looks debuted at the concert at Le Divan du Monde in 2015, and in her opinion it was already a great evolution from her previous costumes.

Lastly, when asked about places or regions she would like to play with Wildpath, Marjolaine answered she would love to go to Brittany (a cultural region in the north-west of France) because she has family there, or also other French cities such as Lyon. Outside of France, she mentioned Belgium, Switzerland and Luxemburg as countries she would love to visit with her band, as well as other more distant places like Japan and South America, but that the high cost of playing in those places make the trip almost impossible, at least for now. It’s interesting that she didn’t mention the United States or Canada on her list, two major markets for heavy music, in special our French-speaking province of Quebec here in Canada. Well, let’s hope she just “forgot” to mention Canada, and that one day we have the pleasure of seeing Wildpath kicking ass live in our home and native land.

Marjolaine Bernard’s Official Facebook page
Marjolaine Bernard’s Official Twitter
Wildpath’s Official Facebook page
Wildpath’s Official Twitter
Wildpath’s Official YouTube

Album Review – Avenford / New Beginning (2017)

A lecture in melodic, progressive and vigorous Power Metal by a band that has all it takes to be one of the greatest names in Power Metal within the next few years.

Rating4

avenford-new-beginningFormed in the summer of 2012 by guitarist Peter Szehoffner and lead singer and guitarist Arpie Gamson in Hungary, inspired by the music by Masterplan, Jorn Lande, Yngwie Malmsteen and Iron Maiden, among others, but currently residing in London, England, Power Metal quartet Avenford has been making a name for themselves in the world of heavy music since their inception, delivering first-class Heavy Metal for fans of melodic guitars, fast and rhythmic drums and epic high-pitched vocal lines. After releasing their debut album in 2014, titled Mortal Price, and after beginning to conquer Europe and the rest of the world with their music, it’s time for Avenford to strike us all again with their fresh new album New Beginning.

The list of guest musicians in New Beginning is quite extensive, each one adding their own share of adrenaline to the final result. We have Apollo Papathanasio (Spiritual Beggars, Firewind), Zoltan Marothy (Kiss Forever Band), Roland Grapow (Masterplan, Helloween), Zoltan Kiss (Iron Maidnem), Bodor Mate (Alestorm) and Piotr Sikora (Exlibis) lending their feeling and refined techniques to Avenford, contributing with Peter, Arpie, bassist Tom Longbottom and drummer Jivodar Dimitrov in crafting beautiful and exciting Heavy Metal perfect for hitting the road, for having a good time with your friends, or for simply relaxing and enjoying it by yourself.

The opening track Dead or Alive doesn’t waste a single second and comes ripping in a heavy and melodic way led by the guitars by Arpie and Peter, suddenly turning into a fast-paced metal feast with guest singer Apollo Papathanasio kicking some serious ass on vocals, resulting in Power Metal at its finest; whereas Back in Time is a Symphonic Power Metal composition with a strong focus on its electrified atmosphere and the fierce drumming by Jivodar, also featuring an amazing solo by guest guitarist Zoltán Maróthy. And progressiveness, intricacy and tons of feeling are the main ingredients in the fast-paced chant Assassin, where not only both guitarists are on fire, blasting beautiful riffs and solos, but the rumbling bass lines by Tom are also very effective and add a lot of groove to the music.

avenfordAlbeit slightly slower, Fury Road is still very progressive and heavy, with the one and only Roland Grapow doing what he does best, which is of course delivering awesomeness though his guitar solo, before the short and pleasant instrumental bridge Maze of Visions builds the ambience for the title-track New Beginning, a heavy power-ballad where Arpie has an amazing performance on vocals while the rest of the band sounds extremely cohesive and focused on delivering top-tier Power Metal to the masses. And in Overlord, a futuristic warlike intro explodes into Progressive Power Metal due to the accelerated beats by Jivodar, with both Arpie and Peter making the perfect dynamic duo on guitars. In other words, if you love high-octane Melodic Heavy Metal, this thrilling tune will definitely please your metallic ears.

With guest singer Zoltán Kiss giving a lesson in melodic vocals, Dark Angel presents the perfect combination of guitars and keyboards the likes of Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica, having all it takes to become a classic among fans of the genre. Besides, how not to get excited with the song’s amazing chorus? In Mask, we’re treated to more electricity and passion for heavy music from Avenford, a very traditional sonority led by the potent vocals by Arpie and the unstoppable drums by Jivodar, and featuring a great guitar solo by another guest Máté Bodor; while Return from the Land of Emeralds is the dream of every musician that loves complex and metallic Power Metal. All band members are in perfect sync in this instrumental feast, with Tom and Jivodar crafting the perfect atmosphere for all the song’s inspiring guitar solos. And my favorite track of the album, Unholy Game, featuring the sharp keyboards by guest musician Piotr Sikora, brings elements from old school Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock that truly elevate the song’s electricity to a whole new level. No one can stand still to such amazing tune, with Arpie being absolutely fantastic on vocals.

In a nutshell, New Beginning is a lecture in melodic, progressive and vigorous Power Metal by a band that sounds like veterans of the genre, despite being on the road for less than a decade, and if you’re fond of this always galvanized genre of heavy music I highly recommend you go visit Avenford’s Facebook page and YouTube channel to get more details on this excellent band and their inspiring music. And of course if you want to add New Beginning to your distinct collection of Power Metal albums, you can find it at the Pride & Joy webshop, at Record Shop X, on iTunes or on Amazon. The name of the album might be New Beginning, but what we have is actually a solid continuation to the career of a band that has an immeasurable potential to become one of the greatest names in Power Metal within the next few years.

Best moments of the album: Dead or Alive, New Beginning, Dark Angel and Unholy Game.

Worst moments of the album: Back in Time.

Released in 2017 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Dead or Alive 4:22
2. Back in Time 3:50
3. Assassin 4:30
4. Fury Road 4:32
5. Maze of Visions 1:21
6. New Beginning 7:13
7. Overlord 5:41
8. Dark Angel 3:43
9. Mask 3:56
10. Return from the Land of Emeralds 5:49
11. Unholy Game 3:48

Band members
Arpie Gamson – vocals, guitar
Peter Szehoffner – guitar, backing vocals
Tom Longbottom – bass
Jivodar Dimitrov – drums

Guest musicians
Apollo Papathanasio – vocals on “Dead or Alive”
Zoltán Maróthy – lead guitars on “Back in Time”
Roland Grapow – lead guitars on “Fury Road”
Zoltán Kiss – vocals on “Dark Angel”
Máté Bodor – lead guitars on “Mask”
Piotr Sikora – keyboards on “Unholy Game”

Album Review – Titanium / Atomic Number 22 (2016)

This prosperous five-piece act from Poland brings to us all the strongest element in the world in the form of beautiful Melodic Power Metal.

Rating4

titanium_atomic-number-22In case you didn’t already know, titanium is a chemical element with symbol Ti and atomic number 22, recognized mainly for its high strength. However, since 2010 this metallic element has also been a very important part of the Polish Metal scene, being represented by the skillful Melodic Heavy/Power Metal squad Titanium who released this September their second full-length album, cleverly entitled Atomic Number 22. After listening to this high-end album, you’ll realize titanium is not only very strong, but also extremely melodious, invigorating and brisk.

Formed in late 2010 by Pathfinder guitarist Karol Mania in Ostrów Wielkopolski, a city located in central Poland, Titanium have been on a constant rise since their inception, having released an EP entitled We Come to Rock! in 2012 and their self-titled full-length album the following year.  Now in 2016, Atomic Number 22 not only cements Titanium as one of the most promising bands from Poland, but also sets a new era for the band with Ukrainian singer Konstantin Naumenko (from Kiev’s Power Metal band Sunrise) taking the microphone and elevating the strength and epicness of the band’s already powerful musicality.

You better be ready for the Heavy Metal battle ignited by the title-track, Atomic Number 22, with the flawless connection between guitars and keyboards reminding me of Scandinavian Metal bands such as Stratovarius and Battle Beast, not to mention its superb backing vocals supporting Konstantin in this upbeat hymn. In addition, I have to admit I honestly can’t think of lyrics that sound more metal than this (“Atomic number 22 the father and the thunder / We’re coming right for you / Atomic number 22 no compromise just metal / Titanium comes for you”). And there’s no time to breathe as Titanium keep firing pure Melodic Power Metal for us in World of Contradictions, where drummer Filip Gruca dictates the rhythm with his fast beats and fills while the band’s guitar duo comprised of Karol Mania and Jaroslav Bona delivers those traditional riffs and solos we all love in Power Metal. Slower but more melodic and thrilling, Torn Reality brings forward heavy guitar riffs inspired by Hard Rock from the 80’s mixed with contemporary Melodic Metal, with another spot-on performance by Konstantin and an interesting ending with smooth piano notes and a melancholic vibe.

Defusive Skies is pure Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica, overflowing harmony and being probably one of Filip’s favorite songs due to its speed, with Karol and Jaroslav sounding simply amazing with their intricate solos; followed by Time Is Out, where we’re treated to a feast of sheer Melodic Metal. Once again, Konstantin keeps amusing us with his potent high-pitched vocals while Karol and Jaroslav set fire to the music through their unstoppable guitars. One Single Night, another track highly inspired by Melodic Metal from Finland, showcases a pleasant melody with the heavier punch of Power Metal enhancing its electricity, whereas the headbanging tune Guardians of Might, featuring  guest singer Piet Sielck (kicking some serious ass as he always does with his marvelous band Iron Savior), is a very traditional composition that couldn’t sound more metallic, in special due to its inspiring chorus (“In our realm We are one / Like the blazing stars will shine forever / We’re the saviors, guardians of might / We deny the fate”).

titanium-2016Future of Mankind, the longest of all tracks, is a Melodic Power Metal extravaganza with a cheerful vibe and a great balance between the main vocals by Konstantin and all backing vocals. Moreover, the musicality never slows down, keeping the level of energy always at its peak in this lesson in melodious music for fans of the genre. The last song of the regular version of Atomic Number 22, titled The Way of the White Flag, is another explosion of Melodic Metal thanks to its fast-paced drumming and truly harmonious vocal lines. Furthermore, bassist Szymon Szydłowski delivers some rumbling uppercuts while both guitarists are absolutely on fire with their fantastic riffs and solos. In case you go for the Japanese edition of the album, you’ll be nicely rewarded with Titanium’s cover version for Eagleheart, one of the biggest classics by Melodic Metal heroes Stratovarius. Very different from the original version, the band managed to switch the original base of this metal hymn to their own musicality without losing the song’s uplifting essence.

Titanium are waiting for you at their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and you can put your hands on the strongest and most melodic element in the world of heavy music at Amazon (exclusively at their Japanese store) or also at Discogs. This beautiful display of Melodic Power Metal will enliven your toughest days without a shadow of a doubt, proving one more time the sensational effect high-quality heavy music always has on our hearts and souls.

Best moments of the album: Atomic Number 22, Torn Reality and Guardians of Might.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Avalon/Marquee

Track listing
1. Atomic Number 22 5:50
2. World of Contradictions 4:45
3. Torn Reality 5:57
4. Defusive Skies 5:13
5. Time Is Out 4:00
6. One Single Night 5:37
7. Guardians of Might (feat. Piet Sielck) 4:50
8. Future of Mankind 8:52
9. The Way of the White Flag 4:01

Japanese Edition bonus track
10. Eagleheart (Stratovarius cover) 5:30

Band members
Konstantin Naumenko – vocals
Karol Mania – guitars
Jaroslav Bona – guitars
Szymon Szydłowski – bass
Filip Gruca – drums

Guest musician
Piet Sielck – additional vocals on “Guardians of Might”

Album Review – Midnight Bullet / Lose My Face (2015)

Add more enjoyment to your life with the catchy and melodic music crafted by this awesome Finnish Heavy Metal band.

Rating4

midnight_bullet-album_coverThe Finnish Metal assault goes on in 2015 with Melodic Heavy Metal band Midnight Bullet and their brand new album, the blustering but at the same time very harmonious Lose My Face, the second in their career after the also interesting Faraday Cage, from 2012. And if there’s one word that can be used to describe the musicality by this Mäntyharju-based 4-piece group, that word has to be “catchy”.

According to Midnight Bullet themselves, Lose My Face talks about the fear of making yourself a fool and how many people try to hide their mistakes and who they really are from the others. That ends up leading us to a life that’s nothing more than fake and shallow, which is nicely represented by the mask on the album art. However, it’s the music itself that stands out in Lose My Face, with a vast collection of energetic riffs, captivating melodies and a precise Punk Rock/Hardcore kick that keeps each and every song from the album a million light years away from tediousness.

The initial riffs and the fast and pleasant beats in the opening track, Memories are Gone, welcome the listener to a nonstop Rock N’ Roll party. It reminds me of the first releases by Chrome Division with some hints of Metalcore, thanks to the great job done by lead singer Tuomas Lahti and guitarist Lauri Ikonen. After that top-notch start, Midnight Bullet offer us Outcast and Alone, which keeps up with the ferocity of the opening track, plus its catchy chorus and more powerful riffs that help elevate the overall quality of the song.

Walking Down the Line, which has a touch of the more contemporary Metallica, is slightly heavier than the previous songs but with a more melodic chorus and truly strong and resonant bass lines by Timo Nokelainen; while the awesome furious track Six Feet Under represents old school Thrash Metal blended with pure Rock N’ Roll, with highlights to the great performance by drummer Mikko Nokelainen. Burn, another excellent song with a strong chorus and fun lyrics, flirts with Punk Rock and does not let the ball drop in Lose My Face.

MB_promo_picThe second half of the album starts with the high-speed Hard Rock of Last Man Standing: the intensity all band members play their instruments is really outstanding in this song, with highlights to the neck-breaking riff halfway through it followed by an interesting guitar solo at the end. The next track, Save Me, has a Blues-ish intro and a more commercial approach than the previous tracks, without losing that necessary heaviness thanks to its riffs, followed by the title-track, Lose My Face, which showcases a strong influence from bands like Metallica and Megadeth. It could easily be played on any Rock N’ Roll station so consistent it sounds.

And there’s a lot more Rock N’ Roll before the album is over, as you’ll notice in Sculpture of Broken Eternity and its extremely professional guitar lines, and in the Hard Rock ballad Hope with its smoother vocals. By the way, this is another song that would sound perfect in any Rock N’ Roll station, once again proving how ready Midnight Bullet is for stardom.

If you’re in Finland, visit the band’s official Facebook page to check when and where they’re playing live because they’re definitely worth a shot. And if you live anywhere else, at least go to the official Inverse Records store or to Amazon to grab your copy of Lose My Face. Do not miss the opportunity to support this amazing band from Finland, and believe me, you won’t make yourself a fool for doing that. Quite the contrary, this is the type of catchy music that makes our lives a lot more pleasant.

Best moments of the album: Memories are Gone, Six Feet Under and Last Man Standing.

Worst moments of the album: Walking Down the Line.

Released in 2015 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Memories are Gone 4:23
2. Outcast and Alone 3:59
3. Walking Down the Line 4:13
4. Six Feet Under 4:08
5. Burn 3:37
6. Last Man Standing 4:04
7. Save Me 4:58
8. Lose My Face 3:55
9. Sculpture of Broken Eternity 3:26
10. Hope 4:21

Band members
Tuomas Lahti – vocals, guitars
Lauri Ikonen – lead guitars
Timo Nokelainen – bass
Mikko Nokelainen – drums