Filmed at Wacken Open Air Festival in front of 85,000 fans, Nightwish brings us hands down the most complete and well-crafted live release of 2013. Directed by Ville Lipiäinen, this is one hell of a release that brings to life the band’s amazing live chemistry and unrivaled showmanship. Filled with all of the band’s hit songs, this release will impress any fan of the band and will surely convince anybody that is skeptical about Floor Jansen’s place in the band.
Opening with two of our favorite songs of the band “Dark Chest of Wonders” and “I Wish I Had an Angel”, Floor will immediately blow all the non-believers away with her commanding presence and ownership of these classic Nightwish songs. With the backdrop of 85,000 people at Wacken, this release really brings the viewer into the meat of things and gives the vibrant experience of being at the festival minus the mud, standing for hours, and sweaty Metalheads bumping into you.
Released as a deluxe hardcover book with 2 DVDs or 2 Blu-rays and 3 CDs, “Retrospect” marks the band’s 10 year anniversary with an amazing performance with more than 70 musicians on stage with the Reményi Ede Chamber Orchestra and the Choir of Miskolc National Theatre. This release features a massive 180+ minutes of material, perfect for any diehard fan of the band.
Since the first disc, the band takes the stage with a commanding presence led by Simone Simmons and Mark Jansen. The choir arrangements are amazing and all the band’s hits are delivered with perfect execution. With an impressive stage and a fired up crowd since the first minute, this live release perfectly captures the experience of watching Epica live and the incredible intensity of all band members.
Taking the North American Power Metal scene by surprise, today we have Armory and their high-octane sophomore release “Empyrean Realms”. After showing great surprise with their debut full-length “The Dawn of Enlightenment” six years ago, this band finally returns with an even more grandiose and bombastic release. Filled with over 50 minutes of blazing fast guitars, soaring vocals, and perky keyboards, this is one release that should be on your Christmas shopping list.
Immediately blasting away with “Eternal Mind”, Adam Kurland’s vocals soar like you would expect from any top vocalist of the genre. Perfectly balanced and with an impressive range, this is one of the first assets behind this very creative band. The track progresses with intricately crafted guitars and super tight drumming. Rivaling the composition and execution brilliance of bands like Rhapsody of Fire, Stratovarius, etc., tracks like “Dreamstate” and “Beyond The Horizon” keep the band’s epic delivery and vibe rolling.
Making a dominating comeback, today we have Code and their third full-length release “Augur Nox”. Pushing the sonic boundaries of Black Metal, this UK band delivers 12 uncompromising and very unique songs. Perfectly recuperating from the exit of long-term and unique vocalist Kvohst, Code delivers 51 minutes of very interesting and complex music on their own terms, allowing them to push their legacy to new levels.
Opening with the contrived “Black Rumination”, the band’s unique musical signature is immediately present with intricate guitar work and catchy drum patterns. The mixture of clean and harsh vocals is as good as ever with Wacian doing a great job in capturing the band’s essence. Mixing Progressive/Avant-garde elements into their music, the band further evolves their signature style on tracks like “Becoming Host”, “Ecdysis”, and “Glimlight Tourist”.
Being used to receive very weird and unique releases, we can’t say that we ever expected to come across an album as unique and puzzling as Albatwitch’s “Only Dead Birds Sing Over the Graves of Fallen Kings”. Mixing Folk with Americana, Drone, Sludge, d-beat, crust, Black Metal and a slew of other influences, this is one hell of a rollercoaster ride that is better left to fully unravel rather than try to understand it.
The album opens with a Folk track that brings back memories of the banjos in the movie “Deliverance”, but it quickly transforms into punishing Noise with hellish vocals. And this is just in the first 3 minutes of music. Sludgy Black Metal quickly follows in “Beneath The Flood”, just before we jump into Burzum-esque territory (his instrumental stuff) and then back into more lush Neo-Folk/Folk with very melancholic vocals and the album’s title track.
Getting tons of submissions online every week, it is quite unusual to find unique releases that command our attention like Insect Ark’s “Long Arms” EP. This one-woman entity delivers three tracks that have Ambient, Electro, and some Drone-ish elements meshed together in one very cohesive sound. A bit out of our comfort zone, we found ourselves enjoying this release more than we expected.
Opening with the hypnotic “Long Arms”, the release starts in a very ritualistic fashion. There are plenty of trippy elements to make anybody’s drug induced hallucinations 100 times more vivid. Dana Schechter does a great job in putting together interesting percussions, dissonant bass guitar lines, and interesting electronic sounds. “Lift Off” continues in a hypnotic fashion, letting the listener know that this is one album he will not forget thanks to its dramatic and pseudo-psychedelic elements.
Delivering what is probably the most punishing Funeral Doom Metal release of 2013; today we have France’s Monolithe and their one-track behemoth: “Monolithe IV”. In this 57 minute release, the band captivates the listeners with an immersive soul draining single track release that features all the good stuff of Funeral Doom minus the mind numbing endless droning sections and adds a bit of flairs with keyboards and female vocals here and there.
Divided in a certain way in multiple movements, this release features great melodic passages and demolishing riffs. We have to say that this release is a lot more dynamic that what you usually get with bands like Shape of Despair, Esoteric, and Mournful Congregation. Featuring constant tempo changes and very well placed atmospheric sections, the band avoids any monotony in this release – quite a feat for a Funeral Doom Metal band. The growls are superb and they fit the powerful riffing perfectly. The drums are perfectly executed and the bass guitar is nicely mixed to deliver power in the right moments.
American guitar virtuoso Mike Campese is back with his eight studio release titled: “Chameleon”. In this very lively album, Mike shreds through 12 expertly composed tracks that range from Instrumental Rock to full on Progressive Rock/Metal. Being huge fans of virtuosos like John Petrucci, Toby Knapp, Timo Tolkki, etc., we greatly enjoyed Mike’s ability to craft very entertaining songs while showing off his talents.
Opening with the playful “To the 9’s”, Mike immediately makes a quick impact with a very catchy and skillful song. While we are usually opposed of the guitar virtuoso that attempts (and fails miserably) to sing, Mike does a decent job in “Chameleon” and “She Burnt the House Down”. Not being Bruce Dickinson or anybody in that range, we are pleased that he didn’t attempt anything out of his range.
Marking the band’s tenth year anniversary, today we have Leave’s Eyes latest release “Symphonies of the Night”. As anybody can expect, this 54 minute release is filled with lush atmospheric arrangements, angelic vocals, and a healthy dose of heavy guitars. The band reached far back into their origins and delivers a very effective mixture of elements from all their albums in a very cohesive and epic way. With a central theme about heroines through history, the band is at the top of their game and shows no signs of stalling or being content with their previous achievements.
The album opens with the haunting “Hell to the Heaves”, a track fueled by Liv’s extraordinary vocals and their contrast with Alexander Krull’s grunts. The music is quite reminiscent of their previous album “Meredead”, but with an edgier and even more aggressive take. The first instant hit comes under the name of “Fading Earth”, a track with very powerful guitar leads and a super catchy chorus section. For those of you that prefer the folkier side of the band circa “Vinland Saga”, “Galswintha” and “Nightshade” will satisfy your cravings.
Going in the stack of ‘why the hell is this band not signed yet’ promos, today we have Belgiums Natan and their sophomore release “Às”. With over 45 minutes of a very unique blend of Pagan Metal, Black Metal, and tons of Avant-garde influences, this release is one of the few that immediately caught our attention and we have been listening to it non-stop. Having a bit of everything for everybody, this band has a truly unique style that is impressively well-crafted.
Opening with a bang, “Asch” immediately reminds us of Greece’s Aenaon and their very crafty music. The riffing is quite funky and the vocals very harsh, giving a very unique and somewhat progressive vibe to the music. The addition of the clean vocals really gives the band an extra dimension that your average band usually lacks. The intense “Ride Out!” gives us very cool tempo changes and powerful riffs constructed in a very unique and progressive way, reminding us of Enslaved at points.