Finnish Melodic Death Metaller's , Insomnium have yet again outdone themselves with their latest opus Shadows of the Dying Sun. Their melancholic musical expression is moving in ways that one could not dream the senses could sustain. Since their inception they have stood in stark contrast to their Swedish contemporaries and re-affirmed their worth to the Metal world with each subsequent release.

 

Emotions run deep with Shadows of the Dying Sun which begins immediately with a melodic thrust of purely driven passion titled "The Primeval Dark". Following through is the beautifully arranged "While We Sleep", which includes the band's penchant for evenly mixing both death growls and clean vocal elements and allowing for the expanded ability of the song to soar with higher expectations. "Black Heart Rebellion" is another truly magnificent feat of musical ingenuity as it continues to deliver the unprecedented melodic prowess that we've all come to expect and appreciate from these talented and uniquely gifted musicians. The overall encompassing of this vividly realized soundscape is nothing short of amazing as in, it stitches together each track like a woven tapestry making it a solid backdrop of artistically brilliant composure. "Lose the Night" presents the most orchestrated offering of the album and is sure to captivate the hearts of those individuals who seek out the more classically laden side of the band. Both "Ephemeral" and the title cut of the album are worthy tracks to give mention to as they round out the Insomnium experience, nicely adding a couple of more modern tinges to the band's trademark sound.

 

Musicians of this caliber are so few and far between in today's circles, when something this good comes along it truly is a breath of fresh air to the oftentimes tarnished view of modern music's longevity. I only wish there were more artists such as these. The band has yet to deliver an unworthy release, and with Shadows of the Dying Sun, their track record stands firm.

 

-Priest

 

Germany's hard hitting Metal vets known as Accept have once again unveiled a colossal impetus of Teutonic onslaught brazenly attributed as, Blind Rage! Their third release to feature new vocalist mark Tornillo (ex-T.T. Quick) in the prominent frontman position. Along with age comes wisdom and in Accept's case an increase of skill and seasoned professionalism.

 

Blind Rage is traditional Heavy Metal at its absolute finest a solid, staggeringly fierce accomplishment in every sense. The song writing is second to none when it comes to this particular sect of the genre. Guitarist Wolf Hoffman is a master of rhythmic excellence in the race to churn out the fattest and most jaw dropping worthy riffs for fans to convulse their bodies to, and Mark Tornillo presents a vocal style that fans of the classic Accept sound can wholeheartedly embrace while offering a magnified X10 attitude.

 

"Stampede" is the obvious choice for opening the album and surely delivers the impact implied by its title. Getting in the groove is "Dying Breed", perhaps an ode to the current state of Accept's legacy? "Dark Side Of My Heart" is a straightforward rocker with a nice well-rounded punch, I always appreciate any artist for bringing to light the often overlooked atrocity that took place with the attempted genocide of the Native American people when our nation's founders severely and mistakenly let take place in the early part of the U.S. settlement. "Trail of Tears" is a somber reminder of this travesty and a very dark period for our country. Slowing things down just for a bit is the moving and empathetic "Wanna Be Free" which adresses the rising insanity of human trafficing, the struggle to escape drug addictions and the much too common reality of poverty, instillimg that we all just wana be free. "200 Years" pics up the pace with a driving Metal riff and a wickedly decisive look at a bleak future where mankind is thrust into a post apocalyptic world that mirrors the stone age.  "Bloodbath Mastermind", "From the Ashes We Rise" and "The Curse" are all equally potent additions that put forth the classic Accept element. Finishing out the CD is a slammin speed crazy tune called "Final Journey" which showcases drummer  Stefan Schwarzmann's double kick abilities.

 

The modern line up of Accept is now three albums into a success streak that shows no signs of deteriation. It is so gratifying to know that true Heavy Metal is alive and well in the 21st century.  

 

-Priest

Hammerfall, Sweden's mighty and powerful avengers of the Heavy Metal form, have returned after a much needed break to deliver their most prevailing album in years. (r)Evolution, is a staggering new achievement that boasts eleven cuts of pure, uncompromising Metal fury. Tapping renowned producer Fredrik Nordstr√∂m, who has previously worked with the band on their two landmark albums Glory to the Brave and 1998's Legacy of Kings , this latest endeavor finds the band recharged and having found new purpose to continue on in their long-spanning career.

 

Leading the way on this invigorating masterpiece is "Hector's Hymn" which spares no time at all getting right to the point and delving out a solid anthem of perpetual force in the manner of which Hammerfall is so greatly praised. For those who are unaware of the Hector reference, he is the band's eponymous warrior figure who appears on the vast majority of their album covers. The title track continues with a simply stated call to arms. Frontman Joacim Cans is in peak condition and leads the band in a march to victory shining brightly on such cuts as the heavy riff laden drive of "Live Life Loud". The guitar team of Oscar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren represent well with their ever notable metallic edge. "We Won't back Down" is another great tune with some nice accenting in the vocal delivery. The albums only power ballad of sorts is the heartwarming and divinely poetic "Winter Is Coming". Drawing heavily on their Iron Maiden influence "Origins" begins with a Celtic vibe that is easily identified.  All of the material found here is ultimately profound in the sense of all things Power Metal related. those looking for dragons and wizards should really appreciate the highly poignant ode to the thematic landscape titled "Tainted Metal". as the album nears completion we are left with two triumphantly praise worthy songs in the form of "Evil Incarnate" and "Wildfire".

 

I've had this album on repeat since receiving it. Hammerfall, whom I've always loved were straying into bit of a dry spell with their last couple of releases but (r)Evolution is a breath of fresh air and the Templar's of Steel are back with a vengeance!

 

-Priest 

I find it fascinating that while an artist such as Sweden's Opeth are mellowing out in their later years, Chicago's hardened melodic death metal act November's Doom just seem to stay the course regardless of what obstacles may lie in their wake. Case in point, you'll hear no bitching of a sore throat from notorious growler Paul Kuhr and the band are now in their twentieth year of devastating Metal vehemence. The band's sound is easily identifiable with any number of artists  from the Scandinavian scene. However, the fact remains they are an American band and this fact gives me great hope for the future of the U.S. Metal scene.

 

Instituting an exultant channel of partiality is Bled White, the band's latest rendering; although elated is fairly unorthodox as it pertains to the feel of the album or the band's overall disposition. Cleverness is key evidence in the November's Doom moniker and Bled White is an album overflowing with just that sort of greatness. Resentment, tragedy, anguish and pain make up the astringent subject matter.

The albums namesake begins the convulsing and dark path, a brooding display of emotive and brute contrast. "Heartfelt" shows a change in guttural tone for Kurh as he adds more dimension to his deep baritone. The defining moment in 90% of ND's sound comes by way of their utilization of a two part clean vocal harmony; think Alice In Chains if they were of a Goth mindset. The song most likely to catch listeners off guard though is "Just Breathe" which finds Kurh dismissing his beastly barks entirely for a sorrowing wallow. Each verse builds toward an even more sullen chorus. "Unrest", "Animus", and "The Silent Dark" all help to keep the momentum of the album in check and prove to deliver the proper dosage of exhilaration just when you expect the road to become stagnant. The unremitting lure of forlorn expression is unilaterally implemented is such principal accomplishments as "The Memory Room" which is highly therapeutic to anyone who can identify, and "The Grand Circle" is a song that leaves no room for sympathy as its obstinate bearing instills a value of unsullied abhorrence.

 

Without shame November's Doom have yet again crafted an unforgettable and pristine portrait of beautifully tinged madness amid a backdrop of daunting and imaginative gesture. Their years of dedication and hard work have paid off. Bled White is by far one of the most compelling statements of 2014.

 

-Priest

It turns out that retirement isn't in the cards for legendary NWOBHM pioneers Judas Priest after all. Upon completion of what was to be their farewell tour in 2012 they surprised everyone (or not) when they decided against calling it a day and proceeded to begin work on a new chapter in Metal God history. The result-Redeemer of Souls, an album that sees the band return to the core principles that set the standard and made them who they are today.

 

According to the band, Redeemer of Souls is largely credited as being made possible by the rejuvenation that was brought about with the addition of new guitarist Richie Faulkner. Faulkner replaced original axmen K.K. Downing in 2011 just prior to the band's Epitaph World Tour. Gone are the heavier and often thrashier elements found on the band's last few releases as well as frontman Rob Halford's ear piercing screams and any sense of a concept release is eliminated as well not like their last endeavor Nostradamus (2008) which was an epic proportion for sure but lacked the rawness that classic Priest fans crave. There is, however, a thematic attribute to the songs contained therein, and Power Metal enthusiasts are sure to rejoice with the inclusion of such medieval sounding songs as, "Sword of Damocles", "Halls of Valhalla", and "Battle Cry". The blistering opening track "Redeemer of Souls" is a moderatly paced rocker that will easily become the albums principal anthem. "Down in Flames" instills a touch of nostalgia as it is probably the closest thing represented here that identifies with the band's early years, before the landmark British Steel was released. Also commendable is the brilliantly executed "Cold Blooded" which keeps things moving right along with a multitude of dynamics and the band's trademark twin guitar attack. No classic Priest album would be complete without some sort of reference to the genre that defined them and "Metalizer" is the precise antidote for today's less than desirable musical terrain. Last, but certainly not least, is the euphorically transcendent closing track "Beginning of the End", a subtle gesture of things to come perhaps? I absolutely love this song as it reminds me of other almost numbing experiences that the mighty Judas Priest have shown diversity over the years with, "Before the Dawn" is at the top of the list.

 

I have a special kind of love for this band; they are much more than the soundtrack to my youth and the fact that I wear their namesake as my own. They are historically significant to the world in so many ways and although Redeemer of Souls may not be the album to outdo any of the band's most prestigious past recordings, such as Screaming for Vengeance or British Steel, it is a far cry from anything that remotely sucks. The Metal Gods are alive and well in the 21st Century with renewed motivation and a passion for what they do best and it emphatically shows.

 

All hail the Metal Gods, all hail the mighty Judas Priest!

 

-Priest

Archive Reviews

The long awaited new release from Swedish Metal veterans Evergrey, will finally come to fruition on September 30th, 2014 with the addition of the innovative opus - Hymns For The Broken. After a three year hiatus and a mountain of difficulty in their wake, the band have emerged true and victorious. In reality Evergrey were facing imminent demise, however through a chain of unforeseen circumstances that notion eventually was cast aside and they have now regrouped with original and founding member Tom S. Englund (vocals/guitar) alongside longtime band mates Henrik Danhage (guitar), Jonas Ekadhl (drums), Rikard Zander (keys) and the band's newest member Johan Niemann (bass).

 

Honestly, it is difficult to label the band's music with any of the current trends or past category classifications. As it pertains to the greater scheme of the music industry as we currently know it, it is best to simply call them original and leave it at that; a feat almost unheard of in today's modern circles. Hymns For The Broken is everything you could possibly imagine from Evergrey and so much more. While the music definitely has its share of progressive element throughout, the  heart and soul of the band lies with its innovative frontman and his almost gospel like vocal conveyance; a unique entity for sure when it comes to a Metal band. Tom S. Englund's unmistakably expressive semblance and overall demeanor coupled with his ability to ostensibly stir emotion at will is unparalleled. Anyone in doubt should take a listen to his force de jour in "Missing You" and see for yourself if it doesn't move you to tears. Highlights of the album which showcase the incredible songwriting skills of the band include the epic "The Grand Collapse" which delivers an assortment of massive riffs that alternate between groove oriented hooks and maniacal head-banging power plays. The title track is equally impressive and instills deeply the bands proclivity to channel the human spirit and work through the everyday life trials and tribulations that we all face. One thing that has always captivated me with Evergrey are those melancholic instances amid their compositions that lure you to another state of mind. "Black Undertow" is just such a song as is "Wake A Change" where it evokes genuine sentiment down to the very depths of my soul. "The Fire" is probably the heaviest and most driving song on the CD while "Archaic Rage" and "King of Errors" give credence to the bands more progressive styling's.

 

Evergrey have surely presented their most heartrending work to date with Hymns For The Broken. A magnum opus that will no doubt appeal to every current fan on some level and garner them a slew of new admirers as well. Thank God for Evergrey's decision to stay the course. They are a much needed contribution to the Metal world and hopefully have many more years of artistic ingenuity to share.

 

-Priest  

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