As one of the premiere Power Metal bands in the world, Finland’s Sonata Arctica needs no introduction. Arriving early October 2016, the band unleashes their ninth full-length release appropriately titled “The Ninth Hour”. Filed with eleven tracks and around 60 minutes of high-octane music, the band is at the top of their game and delivers the levels of epicness that fans expect from them.
Opening with the dynamic “Closer to an Animal”, the band starts in typical Sonata Arctica fashion with playful guitars and keyboards and the signature Tony Kakko voice. The album continues with excellent over the top tracks like “Life”, the brilliant “Fairytale”, and the mellow “We Are What We Are”, which adds medieval/folk music influences into the mix.
Arriving from the UK, today we have Abandoned Stars and their brilliant debut full-length release “Fragments”. Featuring over 64 minutes of bombastic and acrobatic Progressive/Power Metal, this band makes a strong impression with great musicianship and even better song writing skills. For fans of bands like Blind Guardian, Rhapsody, and Stratovarius, “Fragments” is one hell of a musical ride that should be in everybody’s album collection.
Not wasting much time after the traditional atmospheric intro, “The Sleepless Man’s Conscious Dream” instantly sets a very lively tempo with solid guitar leads and intricate tempo changes. Olivier Hadder’s vocals are quite distinct and range from power/heavy metal notes to darker and more somber deeper tones, giving them great range and diversity, as we can hear in the excellent “Neverwhere” and the rest of the release.
Returning with their amazing War-inspired Power Metal, today we have Sabaton and their latest opus “The Last Stand”. Produced, mixed and engineered by Peter Tägtgren, this release builds up on the band’s epic legacy and delivers 11 brilliant anthems that will have you feeling all pumped after listening to them. Sticking to their successful formula, this album is exactly what all Sabaton fans are waiting for.
Opening with the dramatic keyboards of “Sparta”, the band launches to battle with soaring choral arrangements and the unmistakable voice of Joakim Brodén. This track serves as the perfect warm-up for the epic tracks that are to follow. The band pummels through tracks like “Last Dying Breath” and the crafty and quite unique “Blood of Bannockburn” making it sound easy to make anthemic songs that will stick in your head for days.
The most epic band in the world returns with a very good live album that gives the listener a small glimpse into their live performance magic. Having seen Sabaton live multiple times, the band always delivers a brilliant live set and this is excellently captured in this 2DVD/CD release. With the audio part of this release featuring 16 tracks, the listener is fully immersed into the band’s live production quality and antics.
After setting the mood with “The March to War”, the band delivers a brutal hit with an epic combo of “Ghost Division”, “To Hell and Back” and the brilliant “Carolus Rex”. The band’s live sound has always been amazing and this is perfectly captured as they deliver “No Bullets Fly” and “Resist and Bite”. While we are only treated to an audio experience on the CD, we can totally imagine Joakim running around and goofing off with his band mates as the songs are played.
After the epic “War of Ages” we waited a bit over 2 years for this Austrian outfit to deliver a new release. With “Codex Atlanticus” the band continues the Symphonic Metal musical journey with a few line-up changes and their same bombastic approach to music. Delivering ten tracks of solid Symphonic/Power Metal, the band envelops us in an aural and historical journey, within the context of Leonardo da Vinci, for over 50 minutes of music.
With the explosive opener intro track, we are eased into the superbly catchy melodic nature of “Follow Me”. This track sounds very similar to Sonata Arctica with some extra orchestrations on top. The multiple vocal onslaughts return with the hectic “Sprouts of Terror”, for this album Clémentine Delauney seems to be missing and you can hear the difference in the tracks that use female vocals.
Releasing nearly an album per year since 2008, today we have Amberian Dawn and their latest opus “Innuendo”. These highly productive Fins deliver ten brilliantly crafted Symphonic Power Metal tracks that will appeal both traditional Power Metal and Gothic/Symphonic Metal fans alike. Having quickly moved on from replacing their original iconic vocalist, Päivi Virkkunen vocals are a very interesting mixture of Doro-meets-Timo Kotipelto.
Quickly opening with the intense “Fame & Gloria”, we are taking into a very balanced world of Nightwish-meets-Sonata Arctica, with the solid guitar works and Päivi’s angelic but powerful vocals. Seamlessly integrating lush atmospheric elements into the music, the band delivers songs like “Ladyhawk” and “Innuendo”, both of which will keep you headbanging from start to finish. If you like more Symphonic/Gothic Metal things, tracks like “The Court of Mirror Hall” and the ballad “Aneglique” have less dominant Power Metal vibe, but are still within the band’s comfort zone.
Featuring a very unique combination of almost every genre in metal, minus all the ‘heavier’ ones, France’s Eltharia delivers their sophomore release “Innocent”. Delivering 11 songs filled with memorable moments and solid musicianship, this band has been around since 2001 and only released two full-length releases in the process. Luckily, all this experience translates in a very solid and well-crafted release that has high replay value.
Opening with the Power Metal anthem “Third World War”, the band sets a pretty high bar for this release. Moving into more Progressive territories, “Spite Still Remains” gives us a very interesting mixture of soaring clean vocals and growls in a Stratovarius-like environment. The band’s ability to mix styles is quite good as they produce some very memorable tracks, such as the epic album title track “Innocent” and its excellent guitar leads.
Arriving from Portugal, today we have Hourswill and their debut full-length release “Inevitable”. Playing Progressive Metal, this band has good command of the genre but they are still missing a signature sound that makes them stand out from the rest. If you like bands like Symphony X and Leprous, Hourswill will be to your liking.
After an initial intro track, the band fully comes to life with the catchy “Vows of Submission”, a very proficient track filled with solid guitars and soaring vocals. As “Inevitable Collapse” and “Dead End Memory” roll by, the band combines some growls into their music to make it more diverse, but they ultimately fall second place to the Progressive vibe of the music. There are also some riffs that are more along the lines of Modern Metal outfits, but they also feel a bit out of place.
Hailing from Spain, today we have Embersland and their very catchy and well-crafted Symphonic/Gothic Metal with some Power Metal elements thrown into the mix. Featuring nine tracks and around 48 minutes of music, this release is an emotional rollercoaster filled with powerful guitars, tight drumming, and masterfully led by the vocals of Will, May and Xavi. Appealing to a wide spectrum of listeners, “Dark Ages” is one memorable release.
Opening with the 9 minute playful piece “Sunrise (Part II)”, the band instantly showcases their evolution since their 2013 release. With more focused songwriting and more mature skills, this track features majestic vocal melodies and emotional keyboards. The band nicely keeps up the initial track’s momentum with solid songs like “Closer”, “Hope”, and the superbly catchy “WTF…Fuck Off!”, which has a killer chorus section. It is quite evident that the band is nicely maturing as their sound is very cohesive with all their elements coming together quite nicely.
As one of the most anticipated releases of 2015, today we have Stratovarius and their latest opus “Eternal”. Filled with over 54 minutes of music separated in ten tracks, this release nicely continues the band’s reinvention to a fresher and even more dynamic outfit since their “Polaris” release back in 2009. Featuring tons of epic tracks and led by the vocals of Timo Kotipelto, this a typical Stratovarius release that you do not want to miss.
The band delivers the first punch with the amazing opener “May Eternal Dream”. In this very dynamic song, the band sets a very upbeat tempo and establishes a very fluid relationship between the epic guitar and keyboard solos, warning the listener they are in for a treat in this release. Timo Kotipelto vocals constantly deliver the level of performance that is expected from such a legendary singer, and on tracks like “Shine in the Dark”, “Man in the Mirror” and the ballad “Fire in Your Eyes” they gave us goose bumps since they are terrific and very well crafted into the music.