Album Review – Rexoria / Ice Breaker (2019)

One of the most promising names of the Swedish metal scene returns with an inspiring new album that will bring you right into the dark forests and up on high mountains.

Creating an inspiring sound with various folk and power influences which will bring you right into the dark forests and up on high mountains, Jönköping, Sweden-based Melodic Metal outfit Rexoria is back in action in 2019 with a brand new opus entitled Ice Breaker, the follow-up to their 2018 installment Queen of Light and, more important than that, an album that will undoubtedly put a huge smile on the faces of fans of the music played by renowned acts like Doro, Battle Beast, Imperia, Aldaria, and several other bands that beautifully unite the electricity of traditional Heavy Metal with melodic and epic nuances. Mixed and mastered at Studio Fredman in Gothenburg, Sweden by Fredrik Nordström, and featuring an epic artwork showcasing a fearless valkyrie designed by Brazilian artist Jobert Mello from Sledgehammer Graphix (who has already worked with bands like Sabaton, Primal Fear and Grenouer), Ice Breaker is the perfect depiction of everything the music crafted by vocalist and keyboardist Frida Ohlin, guitarist and bassist Jonas Gustavsson, guitarist Cristofer Svensson and drummer Martin Gustavsson represents, being at the same time heavy, fast, melodic and exhilarating, paving a very promising path for these extremely talented musicians.

The electrifying riffs by Jonas and Cristofer permeate the air in the magical Velvet Heroes, a pure Hard Rock tune taken from the 80’s with a metallic touch brought forth by Frida’s soaring vocals, making it impossible to stand still to its inspiring rhythm and pace. Drinking from the same metal fountain as the iconic Doro, Frida delivers strident, sharp vocal lines in Fight the Demons, while her bandmates blast their instruments with tons of precision and feeling, sounding like a Swedish version of Accept with a feminine vibe; then it’s time to slow things down a bit to a passionate performance by Frida and the boys in Endless Nights, where Jonas and Cristofer are on fire with their guitar solos, resulting in a beautiful power ballad to warm up our hearts before the winter arrives. And if you consider yourself a courageous person, simply head into the always dangerous wilderness with Rexoria in Into the Wild, a mid-tempo tune where the galloping bass by Cristofer together with the rhythmic drums by Martin take the lead, being tailored for admirers of the golden years of Heavy Metal.

There’s more Melodic Metal flowing from their razor-edged guitars and pounding drums in Reach for the Heavens in Time, bringing an endless amount of electricity that will inspire you to prance and sing together with the band, whereas the title-track Ice Breaker is a lesson in Melodic Metal with an important message about the dangers of climate change, with its powerful backing vocals and galloping rhythm (that bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest made famous) supporting Frida in her quest for a better world. A screaming eagle and gentle piano notes are the main ingredients in the classy instrumental bridge Wind and Rain, before Rexoria embellish the airwaves once again with their charming metal music in The Rise of the Phoenix, leaning towards the Symphonic Metal played by bands like Nightwish and Epica. Needless to say, Jonas and Cristofer have another solid performance with their guitars, not to mention the song’s epic aura crafted by Frida’s keys.

Putting the pedal to the metal the band salutes the gods of heavy music in Brothers of Asgaard, a song that has all it takes to become a fan-favorite where Frida ventures through more aggressive lands with her high-pitched vocals, also showcasing thrilling guitar solos and unstoppable beats, followed by The Raging Thunder, another song that blends the heaviness of classic metal music with the band’s ethereal and touching vibe, being highly recommended for banging your head nonstop or simply savoring Frida’s powerful vocal lines. The second to last track in Ice Breaker, titled Roaring, is by far one of the best songs of the album, a rockin’ extravaganza led by Martin’s crushing beats where it’s truly entertaining to witness Frida roaring like the she-wolf she is, alternating between rampant moments and high-octane passages. And closing the album we have Vår Verklighet (or our reality” in Swedish), featuring Swedish vocalist Niklas Isfeldt (Dream Evil), an epic composition by the band where Frida and Niklas make a fantastic vocal duet while the rest of the guys keep the music flowing nicely and powerfully, also bringing a soulful guitar solo as the icing on the cake.

In summary, the excellent Ice Breaker, which is available in full on Spotify and on sale from several locations such as the band’s own webstore, the Pride & Joy webstore, the Nuclear Blast webstore, Apple Music and Amazon, represents a huge step forward in the career of those four Swedish metallers, helping Rexoria emerge as one of the most promising names in the Melodic and Symphonic Metal scene worldwide. Hence, you can also show your support to Frida and the boys by following them on Facebook, getting connected to a band that’s not only going places, but that showcases a limitless potential to shine brighter and brighter as the years go by and, above all, with an honest and deep passion for our beloved heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Velvet Heroes, Brothers of Asgaard and Roaring.

Worst moments of the album: The Rise of the Phoenix.

Released in 2019 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Velvet Heroes 3:28
2. Fight the Demons 4:07
3. Endless Nights 4:38
4. Into the Wild 3:52
5. Reach for the Heavens in Time 5:08
6. Ice Breaker 5:38
7. Wind and Rain 1:26
8. The Rise of the Phoenix 5:04
9. Brothers of Asgaard 3:45
10. The Raging Thunder 4:12
11. Roaring 3:47
12. Vår Verklighet 4:31

Band members
Frida Ohlin – vocals, keyboards
Jonas Gustavsson – guitar, bass
Cristofer Svensson – guitar
Martin Gustavsson – drums

Guest musician
Niklas Isfeldt – vocals on “Vår Verklighet”

Album Review – Once / After Earth (2018)

Inspired by neo-romantic soundtrack music, this talented German squad will take you to a world of fantasy, passion and mystery with their debut full-length album.

Heavily inspired by neo-romantic soundtrack music, and including typical elements of a classical Aristotelian drama combined with heavy guitars and drums in their music, German Symphonic Metal act Once has been embellishing the airwaves with their unique musicality since their inception in 2012 in North Rhine-Westphalia, culminating now in 2018 with the release of their debut full-length album, entitled After Earth. If you’re an admirer of the classy and enfolding Symphonic Metal crafted by iconic bands like Epica, Nightwish, Within Temptation and Beyond The Black, the creations by this German quartet comprised of Alina Lesnik on vocals, Marco Paulzen on the guitars, bass and harsh vocals, Frank Wypchol on keyboards, piano and orchestrations, and Alexander Hey on drums will certainly please your metallic soul.

Featuring a curious artwork by Tullius Heuer and orchestra and choir arrangements by Frank Wypchol, produced by Frank Wypchol and Marco Paulzen, recorded and engineered by Marco Paulzen in Münster, Germany, and having as a very special guest musician Shir-Ran Yinon (Krayenzeit, Haggard, Eluveitie and New Model Army) on violin, After Earth will take the listener to a world of fantasy, passion and mystery, which combined with the band’s imposing musicality and the album’s crisp and vibrant production will fully captivate your senses, making you eager for more of the music by this talented German squad. In other words, simply hit play, close your eyes, and let Once guide you through the exciting lands of After Earth.

Like the intro to an epic movie, Act 1 (Overture) invites us all to join Once in their musical journey starting with the imposing and symphonic Awake, a lesson in Symphonic Power Metal led by the classic keys and piano by Frank, with Alina living up to the legacy of stunning vocalists like Tarja Turunen and Floor Jansen. Then even more symphonic than its predecessor, My Masterpiece showcases another excellent performance by Frank with his keys while Marco brings passion to the music with his riffs and solos, as well as Alexander and his thunderous beats; followed by The Allure, presenting guest Shir-Ran Yinon and her whimsical violin in a beautiful feast of symphonic and melodic sounds and tones. Furthermore, Alina is magnificent on vocals, while Marco creates a very interesting paradox to the tenderness of the violin with his heavier-than-hell riffs.

Again featuring Shir-Ran Yinon, Distorted Smiles is a serene ballad where Alina smoothly declaims the song’s classy lyrics (“Winter’s fingers creeping chillingly / Across the rusty window bar / Through the stormy blizzard rings / A weary melody coming from afar”) before their crushing Symphonic Metal strikes again in The Hour of Eden’s Fall, presenting stylish words (“Images of a bursting sanity / Are turning into a lost reflection / Of the eternal bond of our affection / Painting the moment as a memory / Once my only world was your embrace / Now my heart is buried and erased”) and incendiary performances by Marco and Alexander, bringing rage and electricity to the music with their harsh growls, cutting riffs and nonstop beats. After such powerful display of symphonic music, a cinematic bridge titled Act II (Intermezzo) builds an imposing and adventurous atmosphere for the power ballad My Fairytale, with Alina stealing the spotlight with her fiery vocals while Frank and his keys and orchestrations add tons of electricity to the overall result, being perfect for fans of Epica and Nightwish.

Spiced up by a stunning work done on the piano by Frank we have Phenomena, a metallic symphony of sounds that feels like the soundtrack to a dangerous but thrilling adventure, with Marco carving the word “metal” onto the musicality with his Melodic Metal riffs and bass punches, connecting instantly with the Opera Metal-inspired tune The Sins of Saints, keeping the ambience vibrant and exciting with Frank and Marco being on absolute fire throughout the entire song, slashing our senses and dragging us to their fantastic world of heavy music. Then in Insane Schemes of Sanity an ethereal start morphs into a classy and gentle Symphonic Power Metal extravaganza, flirting with Folk Metal at times thanks to its pace and breaks, as well as Frank’s keys and Alina’s storytelling vocals, whereas in The Final Stage, where Shir-Ran Yinon embellishes the musicality once again with her magic violin, we’re treated to over 10 minutes of first-class Symphonic Metal led by Alina’s gorgeous vocal lines, all embraced by vibrant, stunning orchestrations and boosted by Marco’s deep roars, flowing flawlessly for our total delight until its grand finale, before Epilogue (A Memento of Our Hiraeth) concludes this album of symphony, melody and epicness in a beyond enfolding and theatrical way, mesmerizing our senses for over six minutes with its gentle piano notes and orchestral background elements.

It’s quite impossible to stand still or unemotional while listening to Once, especially if you’re a longtime fan of stylish, epic and heavy orchestral music, and in order to show your appreciation for such distinct band go check what they’re up to on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and purchase your copy of After Earth, a gorgeous lecture in Symphonic Metal, from the Pride & Joy Music webstore, from MBM Music By Mail, from the NEH Records webstore, from iTunes, or from Amazon. Once will certainly take you on a fantastic musical journey with After Earth, showing you how relevant Symphonic Metal still is nowadays, and how inspiring it can be in your everyday life.

Best moments of the album: The Allure, The Hour of Eden’s Fall, Phenomena and The Final Stage.

Worst moments of the album: Insane Schemes of Sanity.

Released in 2018 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Act 1 (Overture) 2:04
2. Awake 4:19
3. My Masterpiece 3:40
4. The Allure (feat. Shir-Ran Yinon) 3:59
5. Distorted Smiles (feat. Shir-Ran Yinon) 3:52
6. The Hour of Eden’s Fall 4:45
7. Act II (Intermezzo) 2:12
8. My Fairytale 3:55
9. Phenomena 4:35
10. The Sins of Saints 3:57
11. Insane Schemes of Sanity 4:31
12. The Final Stage (feat. Shir-Ran Yinon) 10:18
13. Epilogue (A Memento of Our Hiraeth) 5:51

Band members
Alina Lesnik – vocals
Marco Paulzen – guitars, bass, harsh vocals
Frank Wypchol – keyboards, piano, orchestrations
Alexander Hey – drums

Guest musician
Shir-Ran Yinon – violin on “The Allure”, “Distorted Smiles” and “The Final Stage”

Album Review – Rexoria / Queen Of Light (2018)

Welcome to the amazing world of Melodic Metal ruled by an up-and-coming four-piece act from Sweden.

Hailing from Jönköping, is a city on the shores of Lake Vättern, located in southern Sweden, Melodic Metal quartet Rexoria have been on a fast and healthy rise since their inception in 2016, having already toured several countries with bands like Bloodbound and Crystal Viper, as well as supporting renowned acts such as Backyard Babies, Entombed A.D. and Battle Beast in their homeland Sweden. And the reason for that amazing upward trend is obviously the extreme talent of their band members, their devoted passion for Heavy Metal and, as the icing on the cake, the stunning performance by frontwoman Frida Ohlin, who by the way was one of the finalists in the Swedish competition Årets Rockröst in 2016 (which would translate as “The Rock Voice”).

Blending their core Melodic Metal with folk influences, Rexoria released their debut EP in 2016, entitled Moments Of Insanity, followed by another EP in 2017, The World Unknown, both presenting what this talented Swedish band is capable of. However, it’s now with their first full-length album, elegantly named Queen Of Light, that fans of the more melodious side of Heavy Metal will be able to experience a full-bodied, detailed blast of the classy music crafted by Rexoria, heavily inspired by the golden years of Heavy Metal and spiced up by nuances of contemporary Power and Folk Metal. Put differently, if you’re crazy for Scandinavian Metal the likes of Stratovarius and Nightwish, you might have found your next addiction in heavy music.

The movie-inspired intro The Land in Between transports the listener to the whimsical and unknown world of Rexoria, with the guitar duo comprised of Jonas Gustavsson and Cristofer Svensson opening the gates for the harmonious vocals by Frida to welcome us all to the first song of the album, titled Stranded, a precise fusion of Melodic and Symphonic Metal highly inspired by bands like Epica and Nightwish; followed by the title-track Queen of Light, feeling even more imposing and melodic and also bringing elements from the classic Heavy Metal played by Doro, or in other words, it’s 80’s metal with a catchy chorus and electrifying riffs and beats where you can sense the amazing smell of epicness and power that permeates the air throughout the whole song. And leaning towards modern Folk Metal we have Voice of Heaven, with the keyboards by Frida generating a gentle ambience while the rest of the band makes sure the sounding remains as metal as it can be.

Way to Die is another stylish tune that effectively combines the more trenchant elements of Heavy Metal with the elegance and delicacy of symphonic and operatic music, with Frida once again having a remarkable performance with her potent voice. After such high-end display of heavy music we’re treated to a passionate, melancholic and gripping ballad named Song by the Angels, again taking us back to 80’s Heavy Metal with pure romance flowing from all instruments, especially the guitars by both Jonas and Cristofer which add tons of feeling and electricity to the overall result, whereas in Next Generation old school guitar riffs are in perfect sync with the precise beats by drummer Martin Gustavsson, not to mention the song’s fiery guitar solos and the epic vibe that supports the band from start to finish. The next tune, entitled The Saviour, offers more of Rexoria’s traditional metal lines with hints of Folk Metal and 80’s Hard Rock, with Jonas and Cristofer displaying all their passion for Melodic Metal by delivering smooth lines with their instruments and building the stage for Frida’s vocals to shine once again.

Hurricane is perhaps the most Heavy and Power Metal of all songs of the album (and definitely the most inspiring one), which is something you can already expect taking into account its name, showcasing an accelerated rhythm led by the potent drumming by Martin while Frida steals the spotlight yet again with her resonant vocal lines. Now think about an epic tune with a serene background led by the stunning vocals of a female warrior? That’s exactly what you’ll get in My Spirit Will Run Free, a song that can’t get any more 80’s than that, before the closing act You’ll Be Alright brings more of the band’s traditional musicality, with Jonas, Cristofer and Martin providing a beyond solid support for Frida to mesmerize us one last time, and when the song is over you’ll simply realize there’s nothing bad or out of place in the entire album.

You can purchase Queen Of Light at several online stores such as Pride & Joy Music, Nuclear Blast, Ginza.se and Bengans, as well as on iTunes and on Amazon, and remember you can always keep track of all things Rexoria through their official Facebook page, and listen to their music on YouTube and on Spotify. Then after having Queen Of Light on your hands, you’ll finally be allowed to enter the fantastic world of Melodic Metal ruled by Rexoria and let those four Swedish metallers guide you on a journey through the waves of harmonious and elegant Heavy Metal.

Best moments of the album: Queen of Light, Song by the Angels and Hurricane.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing   
1. The Land in Between 1:40
2. Stranded 4:49
3. Queen of Light 4:18
4. Voice of Heaven 4:43
5. Way to Die 4:16
6. Song by the Angels 5:36
7. Next Generation 4:18
8. The Saviour 4:44
9. Hurricane 4:53
10. My Spirit Will Run Free 5:11
11. You’ll Be Alright 5:37

Band members
Frida Ohlin – vocals, keyboards
Jonas Gustavsson – guitar, bass
Cristofer Svensson – guitar
Martin Gustavsson – drums

Album Review – Angelwings / The Edge Of Innocence (2017)

Let the Gibraltarian angels of Symphonic Metal spread their wings and fly as high as the sun to the sound of their dense, melodic and absolutely amazing debut album.

Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula, might be home to only around 35,000 people, but it surely has its importance in the world of heavy music since 2013 when the excellent female-fronted Symphonic Metal act Angelwings was born. Originally conceived as a cover band for Finnish Symphonic Metal icons Nightwish by a group of experienced musicians that had been in the Gibraltar local music scene for some time, and who had played in different bands a wide variety of musical genres, Angelwings soon evolved to a much bolder and interesting project, becoming then the first ever Symphonic Metal band hailing from the small but stunning Gibraltar (you can even get some nice-to-know details about the band and each one of its members on this special article from The Gibraltar Magazine).

It didn’t take long for Angelwings to start working on their own original material, with their first demo track titled “Wonderland” being posted on YouTube in January 2015, consequently attracting attention from local and international media. Two more demos have followed since, “Memories” and “Forbidden Love”, increasing the band’s exposure in places like Argentina, Spain and the UK, which led the band to support Heavy Metal legends Saxon at the Hard N’ Heavy festival in Gibraltar in June 2015 and to perform at the Gibraltar Music Festival in September 2015. Now in 2017 the world has just witnessed the birth of Angelwings’ debut full-length opus, titled The Edge Of Innocence, an album that beautifully represents their deep passion for symphonic music, their undeniable capacity of creating captivating songs, and their extreme dedication to the band as a whole, paying a very detailed attention to everything that surrounds them, from the intricate songwriting to the band’s logo, the album’s cover art and design, their outfits and their live performances. In other words, Angelwings can be considered a role model to underground metal bands, and after listening to The Edge Of Innocence you’ll see why the sky is the limit for the band’s aspiring wings.

The band’s skillful keyboardist Glenn Cano ignites the symphonic journey titled Wonderland with his melodic keys, being joined by the rest of the band until the smooth vocals by lead singer Divi Cano bring sheer joy to our hearts. Furthermore, this amazing born-to-be-a-hit composition will please all fans of Symphonic Metal the likes of Nightwish and After Forever, as well as fans of the more alternative sounds by Evanescence, with its singalong chorus sticking deep into your mind so catchy it is (“Empty castles / In a foreign land out / In the darkness / My dark bliss / Empty castles / A never ending thrill / In the darkness / My dark bliss”). As symphonic and epic as the opening track, but showcasing heavier riffs by guitarist Paul P. Cano and stronger beats by drummer Mark Brooks, Game of Life has a somewhat Pop Rock vibe without losing its metallic essence, making it perfect for some good radio exposure; while Forbidden Love is a gripping power ballad where Divi steals the spotlight with her delicate but potent vocals, always supported by the solid instrumental crafted by the rest of the band (in special by Glenn and his spot-on keys), not to mention Paul’s soulful guitar solo.

Then a melancholic, serene intro led by the smooth piano notes by Glenn evolves into an enfolding ballad named Memories, which will undoubtedly touch your heart, with Divi once again showcasing all the beauty in her vocals while the atmosphere remains dense and captivating from start to finish. Following that comforting moment we have Lilith, bringing forward traditional Symphonic Metal with a passionate performance by Divi, intensified by the excellent job done by Paul on the guitar and the song’s epic vibe, and The Fallen, where the band enhances the progressiveness of their already well-engendered Melodic Metal, also bringing hints of modern Hard Rock added to their pleasant musicality and with bassist Darren Fa together with Mark and Glenn generating a dark and dense ambience with their respective instruments. And epicness and melancholic walk hand in hand in the full-bodied creation entitled Nile Goddess, where Glenn is once again the one responsible for the music’s initial shape. Moreover, the duo Divi on vocals and Darren on bass creates an interesting paradox of sounds, both being effectively supported by the song’s thrilling guitar lines and intricate beats.

Eerie sounds kick off the longest of all songs, the title-track The Edge of Innocence, a symphonic journey through the realms of fantasy and madness where the whole band is in absolute sync, providing Divi all she needs to shine with her emotional vocals. Simply enjoy the song’s majestic aura led by the charming Divi and the beyond talented Glenn, before being stunned by another kick-ass traditional Symphonic Metal aria titled Embracing Fantasy, which offers the listener an outstanding marriage of guitars, bass and keyboards, while Mark keeps the song’s pace as epic and emotive as possible, culminating in a atmospheric ending. And closing this exquisite and enthralling album the band brings forth more of their characteristic melody and feeling in The Legend & the Myth, a “half ballad-half waltz” creation presenting once again a mesmerizing performance by Divi, leaving the doors open for another round of high-end Symphonic Metal by Angelwings in the near future.

If you want to know more about this promising quintet from Gibraltar, go check what the band is up to on their Facebook page, listen to their music on YouTube, SoundCloud and Spotify, and grab your copy of The Edge Of Innocence at the Pride & Joy Music webstore at the MBM webstore, on iTunes or on Amazon. I’m sure that, after The Edge Of Innocence, the Gibraltarian angels of Symphonic Metal will spread their metallic wings and fly higher and higher in their career, becoming one of the most important and inspiring names in modern symphonic music.

Best moments of the album: Wonderland, Memories, Lilith and Nile Goddess.

Worst moments of the album: The Fallen.

Released in 2017 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Wonderland 4:35
2. Game of Life 3:57
3. Forbidden Love 4:09
4. Memories 4:44
5. Lilith 4:19
6. The Fallen 5:15
7. Nile Goddess 6:34
8. The Edge of Innocence 8:29
9. Embracing Fantasy 6:02
10. The Legend & the Myth 5:46

Band members
Divi Cano – vocals
Paul P. Cano – guitar
Darren Fa – bass
Glenn Cano – keyboards, orchestrations
Mark Brooks – drums

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 – Danger Zone / Closer To Heaven (2016)

Let this talented Italian band bring you the best Hard Rock from the 80’s you can think of, and you’ll then feel a lot closer to the always coveted Rock N’ Roll heaven.

Rating4

Cover mediumAfter you take a listen at Closer To Heaven, the brand new release by Italian Heavy Metal/Hard Rock band Danger Zone, you will certainly start asking yourself why those talented rockers are not among the top Hard Rock bands in the world such as Whitesnake, Scorpions, Def Leppard and Van Halen, even being founded in the early 80’s (more specifically in 1983) like most of our favorite bands from this always pleasant subgenre of heavy music. If you’re a fan of that old school Hard Rock sending a message of love and freedom to the entire world, this album is for you, and Danger zone will soon become one of your favorite new (or maybe I should say veteran) bands without a shadow of a doubt.

Due to adverse circumstances, the band had to go on a hiatus between 1989, a few years after the release of their debut EP entitled Victim of Fate, until 2011 when their first full-length album Line of Fire finally became a reality after so many years on the shelf. However, it was worth the wait, as all their releases after the band got back together in 2010 are beyond awesome, and of course it couldn’t be any different with Closer To Heaven. Always loyal to their roots and never giving up on their dreams, this Bologna-based band offers the listener 11 tracks of pure Hard Rock from the 80’s without sounding cheesy or outdated in Closer To Heaven, and that’s all that’s needed for this album to be considered a mandatory addition to your Hard Rock collection.

I know I’ve already mentioned the name of this band in this review, but if you love the Hard Rock played by Scorpions you’ll go crazy with the opening track Turn It Up and its blazing riffs, powerful keyboards and a gripping rhythm, all perfect for lead singer Giacomo Gigantelli to provide his classy vocal lines. Then in Go! (Closer To Heaven), an acoustic start flows into a powerful Hard Rock ahthem that sounds taken from those cult romantic comedies from the 80’s, where keyboardist Pier Mazzini nicely complements what lead guitarist Roberto Priori and guitarist Danilo Faggiolini offer through their solos and riffs respectively; while in Higher Than High I really thought for a few seconds that the iconic Klaus Meine was about to start singing. This song showcases that traditional Hard Rock that dominated the American territory during the 80’s, with a chorus catchier than anything you can imagine and Roberto kicking ass with his guitar solos.

danger zoneNow let drummer Paolo Palmieri and bassist Matteo Minghetti, both supported by Pier’s keyboard notes, guide us all on a Rock N’ Roll road trip in the amazing I’m All In, with highlights to the great performance by Giacomo with his passionate vocals, followed by Here Where I Belong, a semi-acoustic power ballad where the whole band works together and in sync to fill all spaces in the music with smoothness and energy, creating a pleasant atmosphere for couples to enjoy it together. The following tune, I Love Crazy, is a solid display of American Hard Rock with the traditional riffs by Roberto and Danilo shaping the musicality, and you’ll surely start banging your head or tapping on your desk with the beats by Paolo (not to mention its lyrics will stick to your head and you’ll get yourself singing them everywhere you go).

In the average All For You, a promising start slows down a bit too much, making the whole track sound like filler despite another good vocal performance by Giacomo; whereas in the thrilling T’night, with the keyboards by Pier shining brighter than ever and fire flowing from the guitars, the band blasts a classic Hard Rock chant perfect for people to go crazy on the dance floor at a Rock N’ Roll party. And it seems that the party doesn’t have a time to end based on what the band brings forward in Human Contact, again presenting Scorpions-like riffs and electrifying vocals by Giacomo.

The unstoppable guitar duo Roberto and Danilo steal the spotlight in what’s in my opinion the best of all songs in Closer To Heaven, entitled Not That Lonely, and with Paolo offering the most Rock N’ Roll beats you can think of there’s nothing I can say about this song but that it kicks fuckin’ ass hands down. And lastly, Hard Rock Paradise is an ode to all things Hard Rock, reminding me of some of the biggest classics by Van Halen with all its elements taking us back to the golden years of Hard Rock. Well, I’m pretty sure that was the band’s main goal when they wrote this rockin’ anthem.

You can find more details on the past, present and future of Danger Zone at their Facebook page or YouTube channel, and party until you drop to the sound of their dancing Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll by purchasing Closer To Heaven at the Pride & Joy Music webstore, on iTunes or on Amazon. You don’t need to travel back in time to the 80’s to listen to good Hard Rock music: simply let Danger Zone bring that for you and you’ll feel closer and closer to the coveted Rock N’ Roll heaven while listening to their powerful hymns.

Best moments of the album: Turn It Up, I’m All In and Not That Lonely.

Worst moments of the album: All For You.

Released in 2016 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Turn It Up 4:22
2. Go! (Closer To Heaven) 3:50
3. Higher Than High 4:10
4. I’m All In 5:12
5. Here Where I Belong 4:26
6. I Love Crazy 4:26
7. All For You 4:24
8. T’night 4:35
9. Human Contact 4:13
10. Not That Lonely 3:35
11. Hard Rock Paradise 4:29

Band members
Giacomo Gigantelli – vocals
Roberto Priori – lead guitar
Danilo Faggiolini – guitar
Matteo Minghetti – bass
Pier Mazzini – keyboards
Paolo Palmieri – drums

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”