Falconer – Black Moon Rising

Falconer - Gruppbild 2014 I

Sure to please long-time fans of the band, Swedish folk power metallers Falconer return with their eight album and an embracing of the sound which bred their earliest presence. It is not as clear cut as it sounds though because the quintet also craft a compelling web of modern metal tenacity and at times hostility to create a varied, often unpredictable, and constantly rewarding proposition. Falconer has always been a band which either clicked with or missed our preferences up to this point but despite still elements which fall on our stony ground, Black Moon Rising surpasses all that came before and has little trouble leaving rich satisfaction in its wake to temper our difficult demands.

Formed in 1999 as a solo project by guitarist Stefan Weinerhall (ex-Mithotyn) with Mathias Blad stepping in as session vocalist, Falconer soon become a full band with the addition of drummer Karsten Larsson. From their self-titled debut album in 2001, the band had attention and passions falling over themselves as well as a wealth of acclaim. Its successor Chapters From A Vale Forlorn a year later marked another step forward for the band, though the year also saw Blad leave the band. With Kristoffer Göbel enlisted as the new singer, third album Sceptre of Deception in 2003 was unveiled to again strong reception whilst a year later another line-up change saw guitarist Jimmy Hedlund and bassist Magnus Linhardt joining Weinerhall, Larsson, and Göbel. A twist in style accompanied the next album before a more recognisable, and arguably wanted by fans, flavour returned as the next trio of albums lit up an ever increasing fanbase starting with Grime vs. Grandeur which marked the return of Blad. Recorded with Andy LaRocque at Sonic Train Studios, Black Moon Rising follows the entirely sung in Swedish Armod of 2011, taking those earlier ventures and sounds of the band on a brand new and rigorously captivating emprise.

Riffs and attention seeking rhythms open up first track Locust Swarm, which in turn awakens attention and an early appetite through Falconer - Black Moon Risingthe following energetic rabidity and deeply rooting hooks across a blazing sonic canvas. Soon settling into steady stroll as the narrative and Blad unveil their expressive tales, the song is swarming around and within the imagination whilst rhythms buffet ears. The song is a mix bag, the ravenous and predatory aspects of the track exhilarating and the mellower passages around the vocals slightly underwhelming in comparison. Nevertheless with the individual skills and combined enterprise, the track is a more than solid entrance into the emerging power metal landscape, setting up the listener nicely for the following Halls and Chambers. The haunting whispers within a cavernous hall is a great portentous introduction but not exploited fully as the song goes on a similar charge as in its predecessor. What emerges to take it another step forward though is an indefinable but open familiarity to the chorus and melodic tempting which flows as courageously as the breath and anthemic riffery through the track. Again it is not a song to lose full ardour to but with the delicious sculpting of guitar and a nagging persuasion it is an encounter to immerse in often, especially its great hard rock/folk metal finale, the beauty of melodies and vocals hand in hand with the beast of the bass.

The album truly erupts with the title track next, the song a muscular warrior of rapacious rhythms and eagerly roving grooves carrying the colours of infectious melodies and riveting imagination. By the first round of its anthemic chorus the track easily outweighs and outstrips its predecessors, enslaving thoughts and passions with a continually shifting aural scenery but never straying from the potent core which stole the plaudits within its opening breaths. Larsson impresses from first swiping jab to the last whilst the guitar ingenuity of Weinerhall perfectly assisted by Hedlund, bewitch and ignite a greater greedy appetite for the album.

The enchanting coaxing of folk stroll Scoundrel and the Squire has the misfortune of following such an epic but from its gentle initial caress builds a persistently expanding and tempting landscape of unpredictable beats and fiery guitar wrapped in poetic and melodic hues. Like its music its success and appeal grows and enriches ears the further it explores its premise before making way for the scintillating Wasteland, a track which attacks ears with a scourge mentality from the off before, and without losing its agile intimidation, grabbing its sonic steeds and galloping magnetically across the senses with rhythmic nostrils flaring and antagonistic riffs baring teeth. It is another major pinnacle within the album, feet and neck muscles as soon devoted to its suasion as ears and emotions.

Both In Ruins and At the Jester’s Ball keep things boiling nicely, even if they miss the lip of the previous plateau cast. The first borders on rock pop even within a tirade of blasting beats and exhaustive riffing, the song forging a great and enthralling mix of vivacious invention and raucous intensity, whilst its successor is a satisfying romp suiting the artistic revelry imagined by its title. Neither leaves thoughts awe struck but undeniably both add to the pleasure and fun being devoured by this point of the album before being shown the way by There’s a Crow on the Barrow, another insatiable gallop with melodic flanks over thunderous hoofs of rhythmic intent and heavily enticing riffs.

Dawning of a Sombre Age despite is open invention and masterful presentation leaves established heights alone though sculpting its own definitely pleasing level before the album concludes with the voracious and fascinating Age of Runes and the jubilant dance of The Priory. Each song brings the album to an impressive end, the first an absorbing proposition which never leaves expectations anything to truly feast upon whilst the last is just Falconer and their distinctive sound at their creative best.

Black Moon Rising has moments of brilliance and others where it merely pleases without much more but makes for an exciting and enthralling encounter overall proving Falconer have plenty left in their fire keep on setting power and folk metal new adventures to eagerly anticipate.

Black Moon Rising is available via Metal Blade Records now!



RingMaster 11/02/201

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My Refuge – Living In Anger


My Refuge - Foto

    Hailing from Italy, My Refuge is a band which has steadily gained very decent attention for themselves at home, a recognition which will be increased whilst potentially starting a just as keen reaction further afield through the release of new EP Living In Anger. The release is a power metal encounter which without casting any major surprises easily satisfies and potently continues the Varese based quintet’s more than solid emergence.

     My Refuge was started in 2010 as a solo project by guitarist Mauro Paietta, a start soon followed by the release of the 3407 Picture Of An August Night EP. Expanding in size with the enlisting of guitarist Simone Dettore, bassist Salvatore Chimenti, drummer Valerio Ferrari, and lastly vocalist Moz, this current line-up in place and stable from 2012, My Refuge was soon writing and creating potent and flavoursome sounds. Living In Anger is the next unleashing from the band, a taster and invitation to their forthcoming debut full-length due later this year, which easily raises interest and appetite for band and album. It is fair to say that it does not light any raging fires but just as undeniably it does offer plenty of temptation and potential to satisfy and lure a wealth of new hearts into the upcoming horizons of My Refuge.

     Opener A Storm is Coming is exactly as its title suggests, a tempestuous and voracious energy soaking ears from the first Living In Anger - Cover 200x200second. Though not exactly entering the eye of the onslaught, the song soon settles into a sinew clad, rhythmically driven stalking, the thumps of Ferrari bordering belligerent and the guitar design and tempting of Paietta and Dettore enticing. The magnetic bass sound from Chimenti adds its own individual predation to the stalking gait of the track whilst Moz provides a strong and varied vocal narrative which complements the song’s exploration without leaving lingering fires. There is an open familiarity to the song, as across the whole EP, but it makes resourceful use of previously well-worn paths to build a pleasing and very easy to return to encounter.

    The following song, The Cage (Oh Demon In My Eyes) does not carve out new ventures for heavy and power metal either but imaginably feeds any wants and needs from the genre with skill and endeavour. Like the first, the track does not rampage and push the listener into anthemic pastures with grand and mischievous premises like many power metal charges, but instead centres on emotive and dramatically passionate aspects. The vocals and guitars explore these evocative hues intensively and creatively leaving bass and drums to intimidate and lure the senses in deeper; it is a strong and potent blend impressively sculpted and delivered, if lacking the key to waking a more ravenous appetite for its invention.

     The title track steps up next with more of the same design in its particular pattern; vocals and thick melodies with an acidic nature leading the suasion from within another intensively brought rhythmic cage. Moz again unveils a good stretch of delivery with purpose and skill, even the typical heavy metal wails which usual fall on barren ground with our tastes only enhancing the variety of the song. Parading an almost carnivorous throat to its intent, the song does not quite match the previous pair but still adds to the growing presence and convincing provided by the band.

   The EP is concluded by an acoustic song called Empty Rooms. To be honest it is a track which initially did not lay any really persuasive hands on thoughts and emotions but as it makes its way across and deeper into its emotive journey, the union of guitars and vocals work under the skin to provide a real highlight of the release. The controlled and wide array of vocals is a vibrant treat in the melancholic embrace of the song, a suasion bringing a very decent release to an outstanding close.

   My Refuge feels like a band still finding its unique presence and voice but providing a satisfying presence on that journey. Living in Anger will not set your heart racing but definitely makes for a pleasing and refreshing addition to power and melodic metal, which is always a well worth investigating quality.



RingMaster 12/04/2014

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Taberah – Necromancer

Taberah Promo2

A very agreeable merger of classic and power metal with melodic flames licking the imagination from within, Necromancer the new album from Tasmanian metallers Taberah makes for one rather tasty and satisfying encounter. Fusing a mix of essences which reap the seeds of Iron Maiden like heavy metal, AC/DC spawned classic rock ‘n’ roll, and the over blown revelry of Powerwolf, the album is a richly enjoyable ride which arguably is low on originality but high on accomplished perfectly sculpted pleasure.

With seeds blossoming from 2004 through guitarist/vocalist Jonathon Barwick and drummer Tom Brockman, Taberah has built a mighty reputation and following through firstly the Tasmanian live music scene on to the Australian shores and beyond. Handpicked by Lemmy for the Sydney leg of Motorhead’s 2011 Australian tour the band earned equally potent reactions from their own shows and the sharing of stages with artists such as Paul Di’anno, Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, LORD, Psycroptic, Black Majesty and many more. 2011 also saw the release of the band’s debut album The Light Of Which I Dream, recorded with producer Joe Haley of Psycroptic, the record drawing strong acclaim around the world. Its successor Necromancer looks set to cement their stature and take it up a few more levels and though arguably it offers little truly new, the Dust On The Tracks Records released album leaves nothing less than eager satisfaction from its creative revelry.

With guitarist Myles Flood and bassist Dave Walsh alongside Barwick and Brockman, the album opens up with the mighty 2012. InstantlyTaberahNecromancerthe great throaty bass growl conjured from Walsh seduces the ear whilst crisp beats stand by its side with anticipation for the melodic flames of guitar. Next group harmonies light the air before the delivery of Barwick impressively delivers the lyrical narrative within a mesh of sonic imagination and striking craft. As energetically inviting as it is infectiously compelling, the song makes a great start to the album offering expectations what they wish for and intrigue plenty to find thrills within especially the excellent solo mid-way.

Dying Wish continues the riveting introduction with its colourful sinew clad riot of power/glam metal. There is a Cooperesque breath to the track especially early in its presence which catches the ear and with a contagious gallop of a chorus the track like the first provides all the aural manna needed to brawl with a wide smile on the passions.

From here on in the album ebbs and flows in its contents and originality thus also in success though plenty of that is down to personal preferences as much as the songs. The melodically weaved encounter Burning In The Moonlight, the dramatic Warlord, and the acoustically shaped Don’t Say You’ll Love Me are prime examples, all hard to dismiss and mark down such their craft and open imagination but still they are unable to generate a spark for the passions to grip on to. Amongst this trio there is the excellent title track to keep the release hanging on to its earlier heights though, the track a climactic march of air flailing riffs and flesh stripping rhythms creating a web for vocals and harmonies to paint their provocative and descriptive tale. As across the whole of Necromancer, from drums to bass, guitars to vocals everything is irrepressibly potent and skilled, all coming together in this instance for a ferocious yet merciful rampage.

Further highlights are unveiled in the shapes of the explosive and sonically absorbing For King And Country and the outstanding beast of a track The Hammer Of Hades where the band finds a carnivorous predation to accost the ear not seen previously on the album. It is a thunderous treat which leaves the closing harmonic sunset of  My Dear Lord quite pale in comparison though the bonus track Burn ensures the album ends on a final storm of incendiary rock ‘n’ roll.

Necromancer is a very decent and satisfying album which declares Taberah as one of the bands within melodic/heavy metal able to really fuse old school and modern metal into a voracious if debatably slightly unadventurous pleasure.



RingMaster 12/09/2013

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Dissension – Of Time And Chronic Disease

Dissension Press Photo

If you are ever undecided which genre to grace your day with then veering over to the debut album from Canadian metallers Dissension could very well solve your indecision. Combining a core of thrash, black, and power metal with numerous other flavoursome essences from multiple metal bred aspects into a coherent and fluid rapacious adventure, the band is a striking proposition with a debut album in the shape of the thrilling storm Of Time And Chronic Disease which simply exhilarates and captivates. Certainly the release needs time to lay out its ultimately irresistible persuasion and imaginative narrative but the effort is rewarded with a thoroughly invigorating and scintillating fury of inventive rabidity and deeply satisfying enterprise.

Formed in 2007 as Set to Kill with a different sound to what evolved and rampages through the ear on their first album, the Montreal quintet of vocalist guitarist Nathan Afilalo, guitarist Matteo Conti, keyboardist Andrew Proppe, drummer Anthony Pulcini, and bassist Oli Aveline (since left to be replaced by Giancarlo Cininni), took little time waking up appetites and attention locally and beyond. Shows with the likes of Tyr, Threat Signal, and Cryptopsy and an appearance on the prestigious Heavy MTL stage in 2011 all enhanced and accelerated their brewing stature but you can only suspect that Of Time And Chronic Disease will lead Dissension to a loftier height of awareness and recognition worldwide such its impressive encounter.

Produced by Kevin Jardine of Uplift Productions, (Slaves on Dope, What Comes To Life, One) and mastered by Ryan Morey (Arcade Fire, Album Cover - Dissension - Of Time And Chronic DiseasePriestess, Half Moon Run), the album immediately tells you what it is all about with opener Thralls To The Crucified. The track opens with a sturdy thrash inspired regimented attack of riffs and rhythms, their restrained but firm stance opening up the senses for the evocative keys which lay a suggestive wash over the growing hunger. Opening into a scenic melodic and sonic landscape crafted by the excellent invention of guitars and keys, the vocals of Afilalo caustically growls and squalls over the enticing venture adding to the intimidation stalking the track through the bass of Aveline and the predatory beats of Pulcini. Never seemingly staying in one gait and certainly one style for longer than is needed to get the sonic point across, the track is a riveting expanse of ingenuity subsequently echoed across the whole album.

The following Graceless Death is a venomous charge of blackened metal with symphonic winds smouldering in the background whilst their frequent louder whispers make a fuller seduction from time to time. With an intensive twisted groove and a flight of predacious riffing the song steals the breath, soothes the violation, and steals it once again across its inventively startling length. As becomes apparent in all the songs, it is impossible to take everything in the first, second, arguably even the third and fourth listen but that just makes each confrontation a giving and ever evolving pleasure.

The likes of Blacksteel with its less demanding heavy metal breath, though the track soon menaces and threatens with muscular intensity and ravenous creativity, the magnetic merger of light and dark suasion Set To Kill, and the finely crafted Legacy continue the enthralling start. The last of the three opens with an elegant melodic descript before unleashing flames of technically expressive and compelling shadow drenched emprise, the track another which seamlessly bringing light and dark, melodies and savage intrusion into an absorbing and continually evolving provocative triumph.

Immense and enthralling from the start Of Time And Chronic Disease reaches another plateau with its title track, the first single from the album. From a potent and rich atmospheric soundscape impressively carved by riffs, drums, and bass, and coloured by as now expected precise and imaginative melodic hues from keys and guitars, the track slowly unveils its sinister serpentine like bestial intent, the vocals a dangerous portent against the excellent discord tainted piano. The track like the imagination is soon at the mercy of the malevolence at the heart of the song though once more the track is a thrilling scenic passage through the darkest corners alongside the brightest sonic torches.

Dissention and Apotheosis bring the album to a stimulating intensive close, both like all before exploring the darkest depths of human nature and its accompanying shadows. As mentioned the layers and creative depths of the songs and album are only really discovered over numerous engagements thus making it impossible to truly portray all that the album contains in written word but that the rewards are rich and plenty is all you really need to know. Of Time And Chronic Disease is an outstanding debut and declaration of an emerging force in Dissension which you sense could be inspiring many future bands as the likes of Children of Bodom, Dimmu Borgir, Darkthrone, Sepultura, Kalmah, Nile, and Amon Amarth inspired them.



RingMaster 11/09//2013

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InfiNight -The Vision


Whether The Vision, the new EP from German heavy metallers InfiNight, is exactly offering anything new or unheard before is debatable but for straight up enjoyment and anthemic irresistibility there are no questions over its offering. The five track release is a strongly satisfying and pleasing slab of power metal fuelled enterprise, one which leaves you licking lips for more whilst it unleashes an expanse of sound which feeds appetites from numerous aspects of melodic metal.

Formed in 2001, the quintet of vocalist Martin Klein, guitarists Dominique Raber and Marco Grewenig (ex-Inner Logic, ex-Arctic Winter), bassist Kai Schmidt (ex-Inner Logic), and drummer Hendrik Reimann (ex-Inner Logic, ex-Godslave) has built and earned a loyal potent fan base and reputation for their sound and shows. Their impressive sharing of stages with the likes of Children of Bodom, Motörhead, Nevermore, Six Feet Under, and the Scorpions across gigs and festivals has enhanced their status certainly in their homeland and within Europe whilst their two albums, Sea of Knowledge (2005) and Like Puppets (2011), has brought great responses and good acclaim upon the band, InfiNight being compared to the likes of Nevermore, Queensrÿche, and Iced Earth. The Vision EP is their next exploit in gaining wide recognition and whether it will be the key to that awareness is up for discussion but it will recruit plenty more eager fans their way quite easily.

Hideaway opens up the EP and instantly seizes attention as guitars carve out a fire of compelling riffs as the drums hold court with Infinight_TheVision_Coverthumping heavy beats. Taking mere moments to hit its stride the song enthralls the senses further with an energetic stroll of predatory riffs ridden by the excellent vocals of Klein. There is a dark almost carnivorous tone to the guitars and certainly the bass which offers constant intimidation even when the melodic flames of Raber and Grewenig ignite air and passions, and it is this depth of sound which grips tightly as the smouldering charms of the excellent song flare up throughout to provide another richly appetising aspect to the song. The slip into a more hard/alternative rock aside with again Klein impresses powerfully is unexpected and thrilling, that moment alone questioning that earlier thought that there is not much new going on. In invention that can be argued for sure. As the rising crescendo of passion and intensity climbs to forge a tremendous climax, the song is simply a virulent contagion which lingers wonderfully.

The following short instrumental The Passage is a raw and abrasive post-apocalyptic like strength of evocative ambience evolving into closing seconds of orchestral colour which make way for A Loss of Love. The song opens with the vocals of Klein crooning over the melodic elegance of keys and warmth. It is an ok start soon elevated by the epically honed expulsion of melodic and symphonic lilted persuasion. Superbly crafted and presented, with guitars and vocals a tempting heat over the eighties fuelled melodic caresses of the keys, the song is a welcoming adventure that does struggle to match the heights of the opener but grasps the listener all the same in a blaze of anthemic power which is hard to turn down or resist participating in.

Transformation is another short instrumental, a piano led emotive piece with towering rhythms and a symphonic breath. To be honest as intriguing and interesting as both instrumentals are, and excellently delivered too, they are too short to make the impact the band probably wanted. They do not hang around long enough to inspire distinct thoughts and visions in the listener which really leaves them as feeling like fillers, something the composing and craft does not deserve. That is soon forgotten though when final song, the title track, explores the ear and passions with another scintillating stomp of riffs, rhythms, and sonic imagination. It makes a powerful conclusion to the release, it and the first track stirring riotous bookends to The Vision.  As the guitars scorch the song with sizzling melodic fire, their touch searing the tantalising spine of incessant rebellious drums from Reimann, it makes for a brilliant finish to an impressively decent and enjoyable release.

The EP does feels like a teaser in many ways to something bigger and whilst listening to The Vision you only hope that is the case, InfiNight having something bigger and longer in the works for the near future. An exciting thought.



RingMaster 05/08/2013

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Angels Of Babylon – Thundergod

SC 235 Cover

Whether rampaging with the hearts of a hundred stallions or coaxing the senses with the melodic charm of a symphonic tempest, Thundergod the second album from power/heavy metallers Angels Of Babylon leaves a rather tasty flavour in the ear. It is not an album which consistently sparks the passions but when it does it is with furnace like intensity whilst the least successful moments of the release still captures a concentrated engagement with the listener.

Founded by former Manowar drummer Kenny “Rhino” Earl in 2008, Angels Of Babylon recruited strong acclaim with 2010 debut album Kingdom Of Evil, which featured Megadeth’s Dave Ellefson on bass. Line-up changes followed but now the potent force of Earl, vocalist Diego Valdez, guitarist Ethan Brosh, and bassist Steve Handel, return with the band’s new album and a powerful ear catching onslaught it is. With rampant rhythms and sinew bred riffs coursing the melodic expanses giving breath to the songs, Thundergod is a thoroughly enjoyable if inconsistent encounter and one which power and heavy metal fans you can only suspect will devour greedily.

The release starts and ends on an explosion of excellence which in many ways gives everything in between a formidable plateau to match, and though all valiantly try many pale in comparison to varying degrees. The title track starts off the release, its torrential charge of exhausting and contagious riffing speared by senses caging rhythms irresistible. It is automatically anthemic in energy and breath becoming virulently so with the vocals of Valdez impressively riding the heavy steer of sound and even more so again from the incendiary passion of the chorus. There is nothing to dislike or dismiss about the primal rock ‘n’ roll assault and it makes for the most compelling and epidemically tempting start to the album. Though there is plenty to get teeth into across the album, only closing track Bullet truly stands side by side on the same pedestal as the first song. Less intensive but equally as rapacious in energy and unrelenting persistence, the track is a tide of metallic aggression and melodic persuasion taking the passions by the scruff of the neck and sending them down a flume of delicious sonic invention. Predatory at its core and fiery in its guitar invention it is an exceptional tail to the mutually stunning head of Thundergod.

Between these highlights the skilfully accomplished likes of the emotive Sondrio with its soaring melodic caresses, the epically carved Queen Warrior, a song bringing carnivorous riffs and colour drenched keys into a pleasing union, and The Enemy ensure the release is never less than intriguing or satisfying, if at times predictable and walking the outskirts of being underwhelming. Each song does make strong company in their presence however you look at it through the excellent musicianship and vocals on offer but often without leaving anything to linger after their departure. There are exceptions as with the first two mentioned, with further highlights coming with the mesmeric White Star Line, its initial acoustic embrace merging through symphonic grandeur into an epic seduction of heavy metal passion and raging creative energy, keys and guitars sculpting a net of bewitching narrative and drums framing it all with understated yet hungry might.

Redemption stands further apart from the rest to also rival as best track, its heavy epic walls standing breathlessly over an imaginative pit of emotive fire and sonic enthrallment. It is an aural fascination and possibly the most inventive track on the album, certainly right to the fore as one of the most scintillating.

The Scarlet Records released Thundergod has everything a great heavy metal needs, passion, invention, and melodic ingenuity, it just fails to have enough hooks to secure the fullest ardour for its presence, when it does hit the nail though it is a monster of a treat.




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Arrayan Path – IV: Stigmata


Courting their darkest shadows and intent yet, metallers Arrayan Path return with fourth album IV: Stigmata, a release which will ignite the senses and appetite of all melodic and power metal fans with ease. With stampedes of riffs and fanfares of melodic flames coursing through the release, the album builds on the acclaimed encounters offered by previous releases whilst finding an enthralling epic narrative of its own distinction.

Formed in 1997 by singer/songwriter Nicholas Leptos alongside guitarist Clement Fung and subsequently with the addition of guitarist brother Socrates Leptos, the then called Arryan Path made an early impact with a pair of demos, Return to Troy in 1999 and Osiris the following year, but more so with debut album Road to Macedonia released in 2004. This was followed by a six year hiatus before second album Terra Incognita emerged, a release which got nominated for IMPALA’s European Independent Album of the Year Award, the only metal nomination amongst 20 others. Third album Ira Imperium lifted their reputation and presence further as it continued evolving their ear catching inventive and imaginative sound. The Pitch Black Records released, like the previous two albums, IV: Stigmata is arguably not a massive step forward for their already accomplished and potent sound but certainly a new aspect to its descriptive power and colour.

Opening track Clepsydra bursts through the ear with riffs galloping at break neck speed to set their stance before melodic majesty Cover_550x500_lowweaves its absorbing tendrils across the senses. The rhythms of drummer Stefan Dittrich then frames the emerging sounds with punch and forceful endeavour whilst bassist Paris Lambrou brings a snarl to the track which chews on the ear as the keys of George Kallis seduce with epically woven washes of warmth and beauty. It is a fiery and energetic rampage of a song but veined with melodic flames and emotive atmospheric enterprise which ignites thoughts and feelings to embrace the lyrics and their fine delivery from Nicholas Leptos.

Following track The Bible Bleeds opens with a carnivorous fury of riffs and rhythmic confrontation whilst the triumphant vocals lead the listener in to a bloom of heralding calls from the keys, a Middle Eastern imagination teasing the ear with grace and seductive elegance at the heart of the song. It is an excellent track which sets up a hunger for the rest of the album whilst retaining its place as the pinnacle of the release.

The less dramatic but equally as compelling Midnight and The First Born Massacre steps up next opening up even wider melodic arms whilst symphonic whispers permeate the still predominantly darkly cast voice of the song. There is also a deceitful air to the encounter which is even more and understandably pronounced in the following Judas Iscariot. A fire of vocal and harmonic potency veins the track as it takes mere moments to grab the emotions and once the returning Eastern flourish returns to tease the ear before a towering solo from Socrates Leptos, the track sears itself into the passions.

From the tall epic emotive walls of Stigmata, a song which stands astride the listener and takes them on an invigorating ride through melodic climes and sweltering soundscapes with again harmonies infusing the air whilst the bass of Lambrou growls and intimidates with a bestial presence beneath the textured power ballad, the album continues to sweep the listener up in an evocative embrace. The likes of Cursed Canaan with its enchantress of melodic sound welcoming its recipients into another bound of careering riffs and glorious vocal harmonies, and the melodic antagonist Pharaoh’s Wish, in varying degrees continuing to ensure the early hold and persuasion of the album is still a vibrant temptation.

As with the second of the just mentioned pair, some tracks do not quite grip the imagination as others, sparks rather than fires being ignited but there is never a moment where barren emotion is brought to bear in response to the songwriting and its skilled realisation. Equally for each which do not quite raise a flame there is others like Harbingers of Death which stoke up full passion.

Further elevated highlights come with the magnetic track The Storyteller and its irresistible epic stature and the predatory gem Mystic Moon, a song like Charming Paranoia which can only be found on the CD version of the album. IV: Stigmata will undoubtedly and deservedly be swamped in acclaim by power and epic metal fans, but it also offers plenty to recruit the enthusiasm of other melodic metal fans especially with its guest appearances by vocalist Jimmy Mavrommatis of Armageddon and guitar solos by Kikis Apostolou also of Armageddon, Alexis Kleidaras (ex-Deceptor) and George Kousa. Arrayan Path stand distinct to most power metal bands and with this album reward just as uniquely.



RingMaster 11/06/2013


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Tristania – Darkest White


Norwegian gothic metallers Tristania are back with their seventh album and though it might be excessive to say it is their finest moment yet, it is certainly one of their most captivating. Darkest White is a diverse and striking album which plays with shadows and light like a devilish puppeteer whilst seducing then wrapping thoughts and emotions in melancholic beauty. Following previous album Rubicon, the new Napalm Records released album exploits the striking vocal talents of Mariangela Demurtars and Kjetil Nordhus, the melodic grace and potency of the first forming an irresistible union with the other, whilst prowling around them there is the venous harsh tones of guitarist Anders Høyvik Hidle. It is a combination which sets the Stavanger band apart from most and gives wide scope for the varied exploration and imagination continually offered by the band with the new album no exception.

Opening track Number instantly forces ear and senses to attention with barbed lures to a rhythmic attack and an addictively niggling tease of riffs. It is an immediately recruiting contagion which already within the first minute has passions on alert even with the excellent rasping scowls of Hidle stalking and picking on the ear with full malevolence. It is such a thrilling start that there is almost a moment of disappointment when the song steps back for the glorious voice of Demurtars to unveil its full charm. It is a brief thought though as the singer’s tones soar the sky of the song which has now opened up with enriched melodic arms. Switching stances and offering further symphonic mastery keeps things unpredictable and exciting though for personal tastes the synapse drilling sonic ravaging is the track at its full potency.

The title track raises the game again, the provocative charging and incessant call of the riffs alongside clean male vocals forming an 488_Tristaniainfectious entrapment which is impossible to escape. As with the opener, the song revels in its capture by spreading its invention into a journey of ingenious and inspiring invention, the guitars of Hidle and Gyri Losnegaard sculpting a presence which meshes metal, punk, and post punk into one gothic feast whilst the keys of  Einar Moen stroke thoughts and feeling with an evocative warm coaxing. It is a delicious piece of enterprise which nips at the listener throughout before handing over its prisoner to the equally impressive and commanding Himmelfal. Once more riffs from the guitars wonderfully niggle with the bass of Ole Vistnes prowling their work with rapacious beauty. It is a mid-paced encounter which feels much more barbaric across its exhaustingly intense length than it is whilst equally has a weave of melodic sun musically and vocally which soaks the evocative shadows into a dance of warm fascination.

Such the immense strength and quality the album opened up with the likes of the pop rock like Requiem and the dazzling Diagnosis initially leave a slight feeling of being underwhelmed though both as well as Scarling are towers of craft and adventure in their own right. Following the earlier songs though and then having another pinnacle of the release in Night on Earth straight after leaves them pale in comparison. The outstanding Night on Earth grips the ear with a stoner seeded groove ridden by scowling vocals, the effect a Black Tusk like temptation soon ignited by the again stunning vocal flames of Demurtars all impressively framed by the unmissable skills of drummer Tarald Lie. A fire of a track in sound and imagination, it leaves emotions ablaze in equally heat and ardour, and sets the album back on its earlier plateau.

The glorious passion and emotion of Lavender toys with the passions next, its smouldering caresses loaded with climatic fuses which erupt into towering melodic fires. It is a sign of the songwriting and invention of a band when songs like this soak the listener in a sunshine of emotive bliss yet still give clarity to the shadows and melancholy pervading its heart and lyrical narrative, something which can be wrapped around the whole album.

Closing with the tantalising Cypher and Arteries, a final explosive mix of corrosive maliciousness and incendiary glamour, Darkest White is a dramatically satisfying and engrossing treat which again sees Tristania bringing an invigorating breath to gothic metal. Though maybe unlikely to top best of year releases come December it is an album which entices very frequent companionship with ease.



RingMaster 01/06/2013

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Eldkraft – Shaman


    Shaman, the debut album from Swedish metallers Eldkraft, is not an album to make judgements over on just one listening. It is a release which unveils more depths which each venture into its heart whilst making a continually stronger persuasion too as understanding of its imagination becomes more apparent. Whether it will eventually light your fires and capture the imagination is not given but certainly the album finds a stronger welcome after being given time to state its declaration.

Shamen fluctuates between outstaying its welcome and thrilling the senses, when it hits pinnacles it is an impressive and enthralling beast but just as often even with that given time to make its case, it loses or evades the ability to spark anything other than passing acknowledgement of the skilled craft and atmospheric adventure at work. It walks the line between good and great but at times with equal ease provokes the upper limits of so-so. Released via Metal Blade Records it is still an encounter deserving of at least one in depth exploration of its epic/pagan metal seeded expanse though and individuals will find more to exalt upon than others for sure.

Formed in 2011 by J. Sandin (vocals/keys), H. Carlsson (guitar/bass), and N. Fjellström (drums), the three having reached the end of the line with previous projects and bands coming together to embark on a different creative path, Eldkraft soon fused a foundation of epic metal with influences from ancestral musical traditions of the North and spiritual guidance of its hermetic crafts. Their experimental invention bore demo recordings which came to the attention of Metal Blade who signed them up for their first album. Consisting of ten big powerful songs, Shamen is a striking confrontation, which despite offering a challenge across its presence is one you cannot ignore when face to face with its muscular and intensive atmospheric narrative.

The opening chant and call of Gammal Krigare engages and invites ear and thoughts immediately, the following fire borne guitar Eldkraft - Shamanaiding the sonic and epic sculpting as the song emerges from the heated atmosphere with firm rhythms and potent melodies flaming the skies. Into its more than decent stride the vocals of Sandin unleash their operatic teased growl and instantly pulls up the song from its appeal whilst becoming accustomed to his distinct tones is a priority. His voice is not one which personally we will claim to have won us over but like the release it finds its place in the scheme of things on the album and it has to be said at times drives the release to stronger heights.

From the satisfying start the following Undrets Tid raises things with stirring intensity and invention. The initial charge of distant vocal harmonies, rampaging rhythms from Fjellström, and acidic sonic temptation from the guitars makes a heady initiation into its potent enterprise and energy. The rhythmic persuasion of the track is riveting and ensures greater focus on an otherwise enjoyable but unnecessarily reserved journey through emotive and haunting scenery which is something again which can be said about next up Fate’s Door. Less urgent but no more restrained in its fevered passion and sonic maelstrom of intensity, the song continues the strong if underwhelming start, though throughout as with most songs there are elements at play which you urge to grab the reins and steer the song into a more dramatic and forceful horizon.

There is a raw and caustic wash to the guitar across the album which makes an appetising feel throughout especially in the Swedish sung songs where the natural guttural coaxing of the language find a union with the coarse touch of the guitar such as in Moder Liv Till Grav and Ursprungskällan. Both songs graze and enflame the senses with acidic guitar craft which is skilfully impressive whilst the vocals and heavy melodic elements paint the rhythmic canvas with rich sonic colours across their individual gaits. The second of the two is a slower emotive sinew clad embrace which sparks deeper interest if not passion, though both aspects are treated with their successor Patterns. From an acoustic invitation which already has infectiousness to it lacking anywhere before, the song is a vibrant mix of incendiary guitar imagination and ear teasing beats driven by a return to English spoken lyrical expression and equally decretive vocals. With a slight blackened breath to its folk carved might it is a scintillating endeavour with strings and keys adding  another exhausting and thoroughly pleasing wash of epic grandeur.

Once the black metal coated Gränslös Gräns leaves its slow crawling intensity over the listener the album brings out its greatest moment in the outstanding shape of Grey Man. With bruising riffs from bassist Carlsson opening up the intrigue, arguably the first time we truly hear and feel his presence normally sheltered in the brawling intensity crowding the ear, the song through imaginative adventure and thrillingly structured invention creates a tale of invigorating and stimulating colour. It is an exceptional song where everything connects with craft and clarity to ignite a fire inside for its originality. Equally it blatantly shows up what some of the other songs lack too such as the closing pair of Dödens Famn and Rimthurs which feel a little uninspired in the wake of the song, though the haunting meditative chanting of the final track does trigger potent visions.

Shamen is a very decent album but fails to make the impression and light the passions which at times it suggests it was capable of. Well worth a journey through though if only for the triumph of a handful of its songs.



RingMaster 28/05/2013

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Gloryhammer: Tales from the Kingdom of Fife


    Leaving the high seas for the medieval and mystical realm of an alternative Scotland, Alestorm vocalist and keyboardist Christopher Bowes stands resplendent in his power metal clothed kilt within new project Gloryhammer. Bowes exploits all the rich essences of the genre not ignoring the cheesiest elements too, to bring a debut album in Tales from the Kingdom of Fife which is set to ignite the passions of all power metal fans. The album is a slab of epic adventure complete with as you would expect, triumphant riffs, passionate energy, and a heart which pumps as loudly as the rhythms which mark the battlefield I victory and defeat.

The Napalm Records released Tales from the Kingdom of Fife is a concept album which narrates the story of an alternate -history medieval Scotland where dragons, wizards, and dark sorcery fuel and rule the air. Telling the tale of a glorious hero Angus McFife, who wages a long war against the evil wizard Zargothrax, in order to free the people of Dundee, the album is an epic struggle and adventure brought through ten giant slices of bombastic energy and melodic fire soundtracking a fight of good versus evil. It is a release which if power metal does not ignite any passions than it will be a relatively dry well but for genre fans it is destined to be spoken of with excited breath and rampant enthusiasm. To be honest we lie somewhere in between and found as much to impress and enjoy as we did to hide our armour from, but the truth is that the album is still rather compelling from start to finish.

With a line-up alongside Bowes (keyboards) of vocalist Thomas Winkler, guitarist Paul Templing, bassist James Cartwright, and Ben461 Gloryhammer Turk on drums, Gloryhammer opens up the release with Anstruther’s Dark Prophecy, a brief portent of looming black shadows and destructive winds upon a once peaceful place. Its rising presence passes over to The Unicorn Invasion Of Dundee without a breath and its successor is immediately charging through the ear with galloping riffs and a cage of firm rhythms. It is instantly virulently infectious with the vocals of Winkler soaring through the skies with expression and passion whilst the keys lay like the sun upon the senses. Whether there is anything new going on we will leave to true genre fans to decide but through the familiar sonic cascades and melodic elegance it is impossible not to be captivated, especially with the sirenesque keyboard teasing which enrich the song throughout.

    Angus McFife elevates things with its even more contagious lures and thumping pulse. The bass of Cartwright is a prowling predator throughout the track whilst the keys envelope with a glorious sense of heroism to enflame further the already anthemic pull of the vocals and guitar shaped sounds. The power ballad Quest For The Hammer Of Glory fails to exact the same passions for personal tastes but perfectly caresses the struggle and determination of the hero at this point of his story before making way for the first of the two major pinnacles within the album.

Opening with a delicious and inspiring evocation of potent steely keys, Magic Dragon is a fiery and scintillating journey of unbridled energy and melodic triumph cored by again keys which leave one exhausted and blissful as well as an anthemic unity and call which even the dead would raise their hearts for. Again the song has a familiarity about it which only goes to make the encounter more invigorating and even as an old friend in sound, its realisation and delivery is quite breath-taking. The track steals top honours though is seriously challenging by the exhilarating instrumental Beneath Cowdenbeath further into the album.

Before its appearance the likes of the beautifully sculpted emotive ballad Silent Tears Of Frozen Princess and Hail To Crail with its almost regal call offer their descriptive and inviting presences though they falter in raising anything near the rapture as spawn by Magic Dragon, then again after that song they were on a hiding to nothing and emerge almost plain in comparison. Beneath Cowdenbeath though is a scintillating campaign through intense and urgent endeavour brought with skilled interpretation and thought evoking craft. It is a stirring piece of music which leaves one grinning inside and out.

Ending the tale with the triumphant climax of The Epic Rage Of Furious Thunder, the album finishes off a rather thrilling encounter with epic passion and energy. To be honest expectations of Tales from the Kingdom of Fife were not exactly high even with Bowes being its mastermind, but it surprised and surpassed all thoughts with ease.  Gloryhammer may not be a band to take over Alestorm in our musical appetite but certainly makes a worthy and enjoyable companion.



RingMaster 29/03/2013

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