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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst moments of the album: Malověrná.

Released in 2018 Redblack Productions

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

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

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

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

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

Rating4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst moments of the album: Highland Romance.

Released in 2015 Pride & Joy Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst moments of the album: Believe and Alpha.

Released in 2014 Sony Music

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

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

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