As polarizing of a person as Niklas Kvarforth is, his music is always full of raw and unadulterated emotion. With Shining’s self-titled release, the band continues its path of decadence into weirder and equally disturbing territories. With a (mostly) new line-up that includes additions such as Nick Barker on drums, Alex Friberg on bass guitar, and Charles Hedger on guitars, this album delivers over 50 minutes of chaotic and yet masterfully constructed music.
Opening with the powerful “Avsändare okänd”, we get that slow and atmospheric pace that the band has mastered, with a mixture of harsh snarls, clean vocals, and furious onslaughts of harsh brutality. The dark vibe that the band has been creating over the years, is perfectly encapsulated in the lush “Snart är dom alla borta” with its jazzy undertones and dramatic lead guitars.
Following up an epic release such as “Echoes of the Soul”, is a hard job, luckily for us, Crypta manages to not only match the intensity but also surpass it with the killer “Shades of Sorrow”. Featuring 13 tracks and over 50 minutes of high-octane music, the band keeps leveling everything in their path to greatness.
Leading with the pummeling “Dark Clouds” after a short intro, we are instantly incited to mosh and headbang with the blistering guitar work of Tainá Bergamaschi and Jéssica Falchi. Chuggy riffs, crafty drums, and hellish vocals mark tracks like “Poisonous Apathy”, “The Outsider”, and “Stronghold”. All filled with intense tempo changes and waves of old-school DM mixed in with epic melodies and throbbing bass guitar lines.
Opening with the title track, the band immediately creates a splash with ravaging and superbly catchy guitars alongside Johannes Andersson’s characteristic snarl and thumping bass guitar lines. Quickly creating that heavy and yet melodic bombastic vibe, the band’s firing on all cylinders as things get catchier and darker with the playful “Axis Mundi”.
Setting a mysterious and yet engaging modern vibe with the opener “The Dawn”, the band really sets back into their heavy and yet very melodic ways with “Destroyer”. As always, Tuomas and Juho Räihä are experts in creating catchy and engaging guitar driven melodies. However, the clean vocals are just not really ideal. Don’t get us wrong Paavo Laapotti is a good singer, but not the Before the Dawn singer we expected. I know we are a bit biased as we are huge Eikind fans, but always have an open mind. We like Finnish mopey vocals, like Mikko Heikkilä and Tuomas Tuominen, but these just don’t do it for us.That being said, we'll just focus the rest of the review on the music and harsh vocals.
Hailing from Russia, Akrona has been one of the most consistent and intense Pagan Metal bands in the last few years. Thanks to their front-woman Masha Arkhipova intense live performances and a cohesive musical core, the band has gained worldwide acclaim. With “Kob'” the band takes a darker and more sinister tone with their music and we love it! Clocking in at 60 minutes, this release certainly broadens the band’s musical horizons while delivering some of their signature intensity.
Opening with the highly atmospheric “Izrechenie. Nachalo”, the album sets a very somber and hypnotic vibe. On the album title track we are eased into some sinister Black Metal riffs that quickly transform into Buzrum-esque (‘Filosofem’ era) passages. The mood is definitely more restrained at moments, showcasing the band’s ability to craft atmospheric and more tempered passages while still crafting intense tracks like “Ydi”, “Ugasaya”, and “Mor”.
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”.
Constantly delivering lush and bombastic releases, Morten Veland and Sirenia return once more with “1977”. In this album, the band further evolves by incorporating synthwave and even 80’s rock sounds to their already crafty and engaging music. For over 49 minutes, the band serenades the listener with a rollercoaster ride of emotions and tempos, creating for a very diverse and explosive release, filled with surprises for new and old fans alike.
Opening with the bombastic “Deadlight”, Sirenia kicks things off with one of their signature epically catchy tracks filled with engaging arrangements and the Gothic Metal darkness that we all love from them. Over the last seven years, Emmanuelle Zoldan vocals have been perfectly fitting the band’s explosive and yet introspective style, delivering soaring chorus sections and heartfelt ballads, as we can hear in “Wintry Heart”, “Nomadic”, to “Oceans Away”.
Our favorite Gothic/Symphonic Black Metal miscreants are back, with a new double live release that also features a couple new studio tracks. Nicely separated into older and newer songs per disc, this release is a testament that the band still has plenty of fuel left in their tank while delivering some kick-ass live shows. If you are a diehard fan of the band, this release nicely captures a glimpse of how their, quite elaborate, tracks sound in a live setting.
Opening with the new track “She is a Fire”, is a dreamy piece that continues the bands intensity and lush atmospherics of their previous release “Existence Is Futile”. Since this track is new, this and the other studio songs should feature Zoë Marie Federoff, the band’s newest member on keyboards and backing vocals. The rest of the first disc has plenty of killer live renditions of fan favorites like “Heaven Torn Asunder”, “Nymphentamine”, “Bathory Aria”, and “Desire in Violent Overture.
As a great complement and alternative to bands like Insomnium, Omnium Gatherum, and similar outfits, Marianas Rest has taken the scene by surprise with their highly melancholic and Doomy Melodic Death Metal. With “Auer” the band continues to deliver waves of atmosphere and bleakness in eight expertly crafted tracks. If you are a fan of melancholy, atmosphere, and heavy Death/Doom vibes, this is a release you can’t miss out on.
Opening with the album title track, we get a piercing mid-tempo track with punishing vocals and crafty guitars. The band really warms up as “Diseased” and “Light Reveals Our Wounds”, as we get more familiar melodic riffs and the atmospheric keyboards of Aapo Koivisto (Omnium Gatherum). We particularly enjoy how subtle and yet effective the atmosphere is, perfectly pairing with Jaakko Mäntymaa’s mixture of spoken and harsh vocals.
Making a comeback after six years and a completely new line-up, today we have Marco Heubaum and Xandria with “The Wonders Still Awaiting”. Featuring 74 minutes of intense and bombastic music, the band is ready to continue their story and unleash upon fans of the genre lush orchestrations and dramatic arrangements.
Opening with the explosive “Two Worlds”, we are instantly reminded of the band’s knack for dramatic vocal arrangements alongside heavy distorted guitars and growls thrown into the mix. While the band’s style remains at its core the same, there is a certain freshness that new vocalist Ambre Vourvahis brings into the mix. Tracks like “Reborn”, “You Will Never Be Our God”, and “Ghosts” are perfect examples of their dynamic songwriting and perfectly managed tempo changes.
A lot has happened since the band’s 2020 banger “Apocalypse & Chill”. The band’s signature vocalist Charlotte Wessels and pretty much all other members at the time left as Martijn Westerholt decided to press reset on this band. With tons of expectations being generated of who would be the new vocalist of the band, Diana Leah was unveiled late 2022 alongside a few returning ex-Delainers. All those issues aside, “Dark Waters” showcases a triumphant new phase in the band’s story with lush and bombastic music.
Opening with the lush “Hideaway Paradise”, Delain is back in full force with soaring vocal melodies alongside crafty symphonic arrangements and a good dose of distorted guitars. The band’s style feels refreshed and focused on their strengths, with Martijn Westerholt leading with dramatic orchestral arrangements, as we can quickly hear in pieces like “The Quest and the Curse”, “Beneath”, and “Mirror of Night”. Diana Leah’s vocals are superb and perfectly bring to life the cinematic nature of the music.