Hailing from Romania, today we have The Hourglass and their majestic Symphonic/Gothic Metal release “Through Darkness and Light”. With countless bands in this genre, it is quite hard to find standout bands and releases, but The Hourglass managed to surface from the pile and claimed our attention for more than several hours – a feat considering the amount of CD’s we review every week.
Avoiding any filler intro track, the band gets down to business with the lush “Dying Star”, a song that is quite dynamic and features some interesting electronic elements thrown into the mix. This track reminds us a bit of a mixture of Nemesea and Edenbridge. The band’s vocalist Alma Vomastek delivers an incredible performance with her excellent vocal talents. As the band delivers bombastic songs like “Rise” and “Away”, our attentions are greatly focused on the ballad “Dare”. In this very dramatic song we greatly appreciate the band’s intricate songwriting skills that perfectly outline every single element in their sound.
Bouncing back from losing yet another vocalist, Xandria returns with Dianne van Giersbergen fronting the band and with their most mature record to date “Sacrificium”. Marco Heubaum continues to push the band, and with this release they greatly surpass their previous release “Neverworld's End” with a more cohesive and rich sounding album.
Opening with the 10-minute album title track, we are treated to lush orchestrations and commanding riffs. The band’s sound is quite powerful and Dianne’s vocals fit the sound perfectly since they are very operatic and well defined. With the new front woman, the band pushes the envelope with more dramatic and bombastic songs like “Nightfall”, “Dreamkeeper”, and “Stardust”.
Left at a crossroad when three band members left the band in 2012, Diabulus in Musica comes back in full strength with their third release “Argia”. Featuring 13 songs and around 55 minutes of brilliant music, the band pushes the boundaries of their sound. Perfectly balancing aggression with lush symphonic elements, Diabulus in Music has crafted one of the best Symphonic/Gothic Metal releases of 2014.
The release opens with the very cinematic “Et Resurrexit (Libera Me)”, only to fully develop into the bombastic “From the Embers”. In the later track we have a strong Metal foundation with powerful riffs and harsh vocals. The ‘beauty and the beast’ approach works very effectively for Diabulus in Musica, perfectly blending Zuberoa Aznárez and Gorka Elso dynamic vocals. Zuberoa’s unique range is very characteristic and provides an identifiable signature for the band’s music.
As one of the most anticipated Nuclear Blast releases of 2014, Epica returns with their sixth studio album titled “The Quantum Enigma”. Led by the charismatic Simone Simmons and the very active Mark Jansen, the band delivers another outstanding release filled with bombastic and explosive tracks that takes the band to new musical heights. With over 69 minutes of music, this is one release that no fan of the genre will want to miss.
Opening with the lush arrangements of “Originem”, the album slowly transitions in to the very heavy “The Second Stone”. In this song we have the traditional catchy vocal melodies, but the band added an extra level of aggression with more powerful guitars and blistering solos, elements that greatly complement the band’s signature sound. The band’s excellent choir arrangements are perfectly complemented in tracks that have more teeth and will surely take fans by surprise, like the groovy “The Essence of Silence”.
In a year filled with exciting new Gothic/Symphonic Metal releases from bands like Within Temptation, Epica, Stream of Passion, Diabulus In Musica, etc., Delain delivers their best effort (to date) with “The Human Contradiction”. Led by the charismatic vocals of Charlotte Wessels, this release is the whole package in terms of excellent songwriting, a perfect balance of aggressive and melodic tracks, and an overall intensity that only the best bands of the genre can deliver.
Opening with the engaging “Here Come the Vultures”, we are immediately immersed in the band’s melancholic melodic vibe. The songs are quite well structured around powerful guitars and expertly crafted vocal melodies that make for a very intense and exciting album. With guest vocals from Marco Hietala, a staple in the band’s best songs in their previous releases, “Your Body Is a Battleground” and “Sing To Me”, the band keeps the intensity to the max.
As one of the most extreme releases of 2014, today we have Carnifex and their crushing “Die Without Hope” release. Three years have passed since the band’s last effort and today we have them with their most mature and polished released to date. Evolving away from your cookie cutter Deathcore, Carnifex manages to deliver 10 brutal tracks filled with epic orchestrations, massive drumming, and crushing vocals.
Wasting no time, “Salvation is Dead” produces some demoralizing Death Metal riffs that will crush anybody’s doubts of this band. The growls/shrieks of Scott Lewis are as brutal as they come and they greatly enhance the overall violence portrayed in the band’s sound. The band’s sound is 100 times darker on songs like “Dark Days”, where they exploit perfectly constructed orchestrations and keyboards to contrast their relentless riffing. There is also a certain melodic edge to the music that we found quite refreshing.
After a long album cycle with the last Epica release, Mark Jansen returns with his Symphonic Death Metal outfit MaYaN and their sophomore release “Antagonise”. In a release that is larger than life, we find ourselves somewhat lost with how many different elements and styles are put together in this album. While not being bad, but confusing and sometimes a bit dull, this is a most have release for any fans of Jansen’s previous work after a few listens to settle things in.
The album kicks off with the Death Metal riffing intensity of “Bloodline Forfeit”, with the heavy elements getting offset by Henning Basse’s commanding vocals. The album keeps rolling filled with lush orchestrations in dramatic tracks like “Burn Your Witches”, “Redemption – The Democracy Illusions”, and “Paladins of Deceit”, all of these tracks follow the same formula with some Epica elements bleeding into some of the aspects of the music.
After a very promising and fresh sounding EP titled “Paradise (What About Us?)”, Within Temptation finally unleashes their latest full-length “Hydra”. In this release the band continues their push for mainstream recognition and glory with some extremely unexpected collaborations and a handful of songs that still remind us of the older roots of the band’s beginnings.
The album opens with the final version of “Let Us Burn”, a track that is still as good and efficient as on their previous EP but with nice finishing touches. The band manages to sound like their old self with heavy guitars and lush orchestrations. The first guest appearance is marked by the vocals of Howard Jones on “Dangerous”. This track is quite heavy and enjoyable since both vocalists do a great job and the music is quite well developed.
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.