Album Review – Unshine / Astrala (2018)

Druids are coming directly from Finland, bringing with them songs from the invisible side of the Earth that aim at reuniting the old bonds between the dolmen gods and digitised mankind.

Hailing from the Finnish capital Helsinki, here comes a band that transcended their own influences to create their own unique sound, inspired by artists as diverse as Enslaved, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Tangerine Dream and Iron Maiden. That band is called Unshine, who since their inception in 2001 have been delivering a distinct fusion of styles described by themselves as “Druid Metal”. As a matter of fact, Mother Nature is the true influence on Unshine’s music, as all five members of Unshine, friends for many years, were all raised in the countryside villages of Western Finland. “The songs try to reunite the old bonds between the dolmen gods and digitised mankind. Nature is not our enemy, it’s our physical and especially spiritual home”, said the band’s guitarist, keyboardist and mastermind Harri Hautala.

With a long history of recording and playing behind them, Unshine are beyond excited with the release of their new full-length album Astrala, the fourth in their auspicious career, inspired by the “invisible side of the Earth”, as mentioned by Harri, who also complemented his though by saying that “the first five album songs address the manifestations of Astrala and the last five songs describe travels to Astrala. The album has a touch of Nordic melancholy written all over it, also in the lyrics, and it includes music meant to create landscapes and themes from folk stories, mythology and nature religions, but also to present personal views describing the spiritual meaning of a forest as a cultural concept. The binding theme here is forest, although this is not a theme album.” After such distinct explanation, are you ready to venture through the invisible side of the Earth with Unshine?

Birch of Fornjotr is one of those cinematic intros exhaling epicness, telling the listener a metallic adventure is about to begin in Kainuun Kuningas (or “king of Kainuu” from Finnish, with Kainuu being one of the 19 regions of Finland with its geography and landscape consisting of lakes, hills and vast uninhabited forest areas), a Scandinavian feast of Folk and Epic Metal led by the charming and potent vocals by frontwoman Susanna Vesilahti, with the song’s Finnish words giving it an extra touch of eccentricity. Furthermore, the band’s guitar tag team Harri and Jari Hautala provides a solid balance between rhythmic riffs and melodious solos to the overall musicality, which is also the case in Jack’s Feast, as melodic as its predecessor with drummer Jukka Hantula bringing heavier and tribal sounds to the music. The only problem is that despite having a lot of potential to be more thunderous, the song never really takes off, remaining too “folky” and for way too long.

The following tune, titled The Masks of Enchantment, is indeed a very interesting depiction of Druid Metal, with some orchestral elements in the background provided by Harri and his keys enhancing the taste of this semi-power ballad, also showcasing a beautiful performance by Susanna with her ethereal voice; whereas in Pan the One get ready to prance around the fire pit to the sound of the minstrel-like vocals by Susanna, accompanied by the whimsical sounds blasted by the rest of the band (especially the exciting keys by Harri). And if Irish singer Enya suddenly went full metal, the fun Druids Are A-Coming would probably be how she would sound like, being faster and more piercing than any of the previous tunes thanks to the cutting guitars by Harri and Jari, not to mention the galloping bass by Teemu Vähäkangas.

Their Epic Metal vein arises once again in the mid-tempo, heavy chant Slow Moving Creatures, with its guitars inciting you to bang your head together with the band, while in Visionary’s Last Breath it’s time for Unshine to invite us all to dance to a fanciful “druid waltz”, presenting very traditional elements from Folk Metal blended with the heaviness brought forth by Jukka’s beats. Then we have the touching ballad Suo (Kantaa Ruumiit), which should translate as “swamp (carry the bodies)”, also sung in the band’s mother tongue with Susanna stealing the spotlight with her passionate vocals. Moreover, there’s a lot of dark elements in this imposing composition, making it extremely catchy and somber from start to finish. And finally we’re treated to 10 minutes of epic and ethereal passages in The Forest, where the stringed trio Harri, Jari and Teemu keep the music flowing at a pleasant pace, allowing Susanna to shine once again with her vocals amidst the song’s symphonic elements and dense atmosphere, ending the album on a climatic and melancholic note.

You can take a full listen at Astrala on Spotify, follow the band on Facebook, nad purchase a copy of the album from the Rockshots Records webstore, from Record Shop X, on iTunes or on Amazon, and let your soul roam free through the forests of the invisible side of the Earth ruled by Unshine. And who knows, you might not only meet some druids during your visit to Astrala, but also decide to stay there permanently, dancing to the music by this talented Finnish squad forever and ever.

Best moments of the album: Pan the One, Druids Are A-Coming and Suo (Kantaa Ruumiit).

Worst moments of the album: Jack’s Feast.

Released in 2018 Rockshots Records

Track listing
1. Birch of Fornjotr (Instrumental) 1:35
2. Kainuun Kuningas 5:13
3. Jack’s Feast 6:38
4. The Masks of Enchantment 4:54
5. Pan the One 4:44
6. Druids Are A-Coming 4:11
7. Slow Moving Creatures 5:19
8. Visionary’s Last Breath 5:32
9. Suo (Kantaa Ruumiit) 6:06
10. The Forest 10:28

Band members
Susanna Vesilahti – vocals
Harri Hautala – guitar and keyboards
Jari Hautala – guitar
Teemu Vähäkangas – bass
Jukka Hantula – drums and percussions

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Album Review – Sonic Prophecy / Savage Gods (2018)

Enjoy 10 fist-pounding tracks rooted in traditional Heavy Metal melded with the symphonic beauty of Power Metal, courtesy of a band that has the purest form of heavy music running through their veins.

Following their 2015 release Apocalyptic Promenade, an album that combined the melody and beauty of Symphonic Power Metal while maintaining the crunch, drive and power of traditional metal, plus their 2011 debut A Divine Act of War, which had its music placed in the television series Rock n’ Lock, the video game Volgarr the Viking and Danny Trejo’s 2006 movie Vengeance, American Power Metal warriors Sonic Prophecy return in 2018 with a brand new full-length album titled Savage Gods, featuring 10 fist-pounding tracks rooted in traditional Heavy Metal melded with the symphonic beauty of Power Metal, capturing the excitement and sound of such bands as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween, Hammerfall and Kamelot while blending other musical styles to arrive at a sound of their own.

Officially founded in 2008 in Salt Lake City, the capital and the most populous municipality of the state of Utah, in the United States, Sonic Prophecy showcase all their passion and commitment to old school Heavy Metal in Savage Gods, with the album lyrics covering topics commonly found in heavy music, such as medieval wars, mechanized genocide and the dangers associated with extremist ideologies. “We think our fans will love this album! Savage Gods, as a record, basically combines all of the things I think people liked about our previous releases and then moves us forward into new areas musically and lyrically. For our fans, there will be no mistaking this is Sonic Prophecy, but we definitely cover some new exciting ground on this record”, commented frontman Shane Provstgaard on the album, also adding that “this is pure heavy metal with driving guitars, thundering drums, and some of what I feel is my best vocal work to date. With songs Night Terror, Unholy Blood and the album title track, we’ve really laid down a brutal sonic backdrop, along with keeping the melody, which is important to our music.”

An Iced Earth-inspired intro ignites the full-bodied title-track Savage Gods, led by the sharp axes by guitarists Darrin Goodman and Sebastian Martin while tons of epicness flow from the potent vocals by Shane. And their feast of old school metal music goes on with another amazing tune titled Night Terror, where Shane elevates the impact of his vocals to an even higher level, boosted by the beyond classic beast by drummer Matt LeFevre, followed by Unholy Blood, a song that begins in full force with a spot-on guitar solo before becoming a mid-tempo epic chant. Needless to say, this amazing song will definitely please fans of bands like Iron Maiden, Iced Earth, Blind Guardian, Judas Priest, and so on.

In Dreaming Of The Storm the band brings forward darker, more introspective lines to give the sense of a storm inside our minds, with bassist Ron Zemanek making sure there’s a good amount of thunder in the given storm while Matt keeps the musicality flowing smoothly through his precise beats. Then we have the aggressive Man The Guns, an 80’s-inspired hymn with hints of Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll presenting galloping bass punches, exciting double bass roars and a good amount of shredding and solos, all embraced by Shane’s enraged performance on vocals.  What else can you ask for in heavy music, right? And leaning towards Melodic Metal the band fills our ears with very harmonious lines and smooth piano notes to make the overall result bolder in Walk Through The Fire, where Matt does a great job with his rhythmic beats while Darrin and Sebastian simply kick ass with their solos; whereas A Prayer Before Battle is one of those epic songs perfect for heading into the battlefield, with Shane evoking the gods of war with his Matt Barlow-like vocals, not to mention the NWOBHM-inspired drumming by Matt, guiding us to Valhalla together with Sonic Prophecy.

Iron Clad Heart is another song with a beautiful name and endless electricity flowing from all instruments, sounding like a hybrid between the music by Iced Earth and Iron Maiden, presenting accelerated riffs and beats while Shane continues to thrive on vocals. Put differently, if you love traditional metal from the bottom of your heart, this tune is absolutely made for you. The second to last song in Savage Gods, named Man and Machine, is one of those cases where if you listen to it as an individual song you’ll certainly enjoy it a lot, but compared to the rest of the album it lacks energy and impact. The low-tuned bass lines by Ron sound amazing throughout the whole song, though, but they’re not enough for the song to keep up with the other tracks. And last but not least Sonic Prophecy goes full Power Metal in Chasing The Horizon, delivering gripping riffs and fast-paced beats that effectively support another solid performance by Shane on vocals, with some nice variations making it sound like two songs in one.

It’s time to join Sonic Prophecy’s quest for traditional Heavy Metal by following them on Facebook and listening to their music on YouTube, and of course by purchasing the excellent Savage Gods at the band’s own webshop, at the Rockshots Records’ webshop, at the JPC webshop, and also on your usual online stores iTunes and Amazon. When Shane said Savage Gods is pure Heavy Metal he wasn’t exaggerating at all; quite the contrary, he was actually being slightly modest in his comment, as this album exhales the purest form of Heavy Metal, courtesy of a band that has incandescent metal running through their veins.

Best moments of the album: Night Terror, Man The Guns, A Prayer Before Battle and Iron Clad Heart.

Worst moments of the album: Man and Machine.

Released in 2018 Rockshots Records

Track listing   
1. Savage Gods 6:44
2. Night Terror 5:38
3. Unholy Blood 5:13
4. Dreaming Of The Storm 4:55
5. Man The Guns 5:04
6. Walk Through The Fire 7:09
7. A Prayer Before Battle 5:46
8. Iron Clad Heart 5:24
9. Man and Machine 6:44
10. Chasing The Horizon 6:14

Band members
Shane Provstgaard – vocals
Darrin Goodman – guitar
Sebastian Martin – guitar
Ron Zemanek – bass
Matt LeFevre – drums