Here is a band we never thought we would hear from again: Denmark’s Mercenary makes a triumphant return with “Soundtrack to the End of Times”. For the uninitiated, the band had a great run in the 2000’s with killer releases like “Architect of Lies” and our favorite “11 Dreams”. Crafting a mixture of Melodic Death/Power Metal, the band’s sound is still fresh, powerful and engaging, delivering over 60 minutes of high-octane music.
Opening with the crafty “Burning in Reverse”, the band brings back those excellent memories of their dramatic clean/harsh vocal lines alongside catchy melodic riffs and superb guitar leads. Dusting off the cobwebs early on, the soaring melodies the band creates continue to be top notch as songs like “Heart of the Numb”, “Where Darkened Souls Belong”, and “Through this Blackened Hatred” perfectly showcase their musicianship and experience.
As one of the most fun and over the top Symphonic Power Metal, Gloryhammer is finally back with the highly entertaining and equally solid release “Return to The Kingdom of Fife”. This release has plenty of lol’s alongside very well crafted and executed songs that will appeal to fans of bands like Sabaton and Powerwolf, but with a less serious and more playful edge.
Setting a regal mood with the album intro, the listener is quickly treated to the playfulness of the keyboards of “Holy Flaming Hammer of Unholy Cosmic Frost”. The only newcomer in the band is Sozos Michael is a very talented vocalist, as we can hear in songs like the epic “Imperium Dundaxia” or the playful “Wasteland Warrior Hoots Patrol”.
There are just some days when you just want to hear an album filled with over-the-top technical wizardry, lush vocal arrangements, and an overall superbly up-beat vibe. Luckily for us, Twilight Force delivers just that, and plenty more, with the epic “At The Hearth of Wintervale”. We have a soft spot for extremely bombastic Symphonic Power Metal, and this album unleashes over 64 minutes of magical music in this regard.
Opening with the lush “Twilight Force” track, we instantly get rewarded with blistering guitar solos, crafty tempo changes, and very dramatic vocal arrangements. Vocalist Allyon, aka Alessandro Conti, shines through this release, but in particular in epic songs like “At the Heart of Wintervale”, filled with soaring vocal passages. We particularly love that epic vibe that bands like Stratovarius, Rhapsody, and similar outfits craft, but with Twilight Force, this effort is poured into every single track, particularly heavy hitters like “Dragonborn”, and the cinematic 10-minute epic “Highlands of the Elder Dragon”.
Hailing from Sweden (mainly), Soen is a Progressive Metal band formed by Martín López (ex-Opeth, ex-Amon Amarth) on drums and Joel Ekelöf on vocals. Having Steve Di Giorgio on bass at some point, this band has been labeled as a super group and they quite live up to their branding with five excellent full-length releases under their belts. With “Atlantis” the band’s strips down their sound (a bit) and delivers a very unique semi-acoustic experience with extra vocals and string arrangements.
As part of a live DVD release and special occasions live set, “Atlantis” delivers the band’s greatest hits in a more intimate and elegant way. We have tracks like “Antagonist” and “Trails” with additional arrangements giving them an extra heartfelt vibe and nicely highlighting Joel’s charismatic lead vocals. Other songs like “Jinn” have been enhanced with some lush Middle-eastern inspired string arrangements alongside the band’s commanding distorted guitars.
Consistently releasing well-crafted and engaging albums, Stratovarius is finally back, after 7 years, with the brilliant “Survive”. Featuring a more bombastic and more dynamic Power Metal style, this release delivers nearly one hour of high-octane signature Stratovarius music with tons of epic vocal arrangements and killer guitar leads paired with intense melodic passages. Well worth the wait, this release will certainly be enjoyed by fans of the band and will gain them some new ones as well.
Opening with the album title track, we are quickly treated to blazing guitars and lush atmospheric arrangements. The band sounds quite fresh and dynamic, around their traditional Power Metal core led by Timo Kotipelto’s gifted vocals. As “Demand”, “Broken”, and “Firefly” roll around, we continue to hear the band’s enveloping sound perfectly balancing virtuosity, in both keyboards and guitars, with catchiness, as these songs are quite epic and engaging.
If 2022 wasn’t already a great year in terms of Symphonic Metal releases, Edenbridge returns with another brilliant album titled “Shangri-La”. Featuring their signature high-octane and cinematic sound, Lanvall and company deliver nearly one hour of extremely well crafted immersive music. With each release being a journey on its own, this album perfectly blends Power Metal with lush symphonic arrangements, crafty story telling, and killer vocal arrangements.
Leading with the explosive “At First Light”, the band sets in motion an elegant musical journey, while paying equal attention to both the Symphonic and Metal side of things. We have always been quite impressed with Lanvall’s engaging compositions, and how they are brought to life by band members: Sabine Edelsbacher on vocals, Dominik Sebastian on guitars, Johannes Jungreithmeier on drums, and Steven Hall. Songs are dynamic, explosive and quite engaging as we can hear from “The Call of Eden”, “Hall of Shame”, and the melodramatic “Savage Land”.
Hailing from Washington D.C., today we have DragonForce-esque outfit Quantum Twilight and their self-released debut album “Hypersonic Demolition”. Originally a solo project from multi-instrumentalist Greg Russell, this outfit has some great potential and killer execution, however, it needs to find its own sound as it still sounds too much like other bands. However, not all is bad as the album features nearly 50 minutes of solid tunes.
Opening with the intense “Never Surrender”, we immediately get that DragonForce vibe with the intricate video game-esque guitar leads and overall playful pace. Newcomer vocalist Jarrad Biron Green is pretty talented and sounds well in the songs, particularly when there are backing tracks like on “Champions”, or he tries to use different ranges like on “Intergalactic Onslaught”.
Finally stabilizing their sound and style around lead vocalist Clémentine Delauney, Visions of Atlantis unleashes their best album of their career with “Pirates”. Featuring nearly one hour of music, this release further elaborates on their pirate-related themes and creates a very dynamic and engaging mood thanks to dramatic atmospherics alongside soaring dueling vocals and killer instrumentation.
Setting a very regal mood thanks to its lush vocal arrangements and lively guitar leads, “Pirates Will Return” perfectly opens this very engaging release. The band showcases its versatility with the moody duets of “Melancholy Angel”, the over the top symphonic arrangements of “Master The Hurricane”, and the playfulness of “Clocks”. All pieces are perfectly brought to life with the masterful vocal duets of Clémentine Delauney and Michele "Meek" Guaitoli, perfectly boosted by excellent drumming and crushing guitar solos.
Quickly returning after the highly emotional 2021 release “Escape of the Phoenix”, Evergrey continues the same path of melancholy with the excellent “A Heartless Portrait: The Orphean Testament”. Featuring over 50 minutes of mellow Progressive/Power Metal, with Tom Englund’s signature vocals, this album just further refines the band’s polished and effective style and delivers exactly what the fans are expecting.
The album opens with the soaring guitars and vocal arrangements of “Save Us”, a very powerful and mood-setting track filled with crafty atmospherics and a hefty dose of catchiness. The band’s mixture of explosiveness with melancholy oozes from pieces like “Midwinter Calls” and “Ominous”, one of our favorite tracks in this release thanks to the amazing vocal arrangements and killer guitar leads. For those preferring the band’s Power ‘ballads’, “Call out the Dark” is a fine addition.
We have been on a long streak of mainly having Black Metal releases in our review queue, but today we end it and write our impressions of Heavy/Power Metal outfit Crystal Viper and their latest EP “The Last Axeman”. Delivering a mix of re-recorded, covers, and recorded live in a studio pieces, the band showcases their old-school Metal chops with great guitar work, killer vocals, and an overall kick-ass attitude.