Being suckers for sappy Black Metal with high levels of keyboards and catchy melodies, we are pretty delighted to have found Nachtblut’s latest release “Dogma” in our review queue. Hailing from Germany, this band plays a more dramatic and industrial version of Siebenbürgen’s, Graveworms’s and Agathodaimon’s dabbles in the realm of Symphonic Black Metal. Nachtblut managed to keep our attentions on their music for the 50 minutes this release lasted... every single time we played it.
The album title track “Dogma” quickly sneaks up on the listener with powerful guitar riffs, hellish vocals and very cool keyboards. There is nothing complex about this song, but the rather simple and direct approach of the track makes it very engaging. The band keeps building on their sound on “Der Weg Ist Das Ziel”, where they add more double-kick sections and a more dramatic synth orchestration background. The same applies to the circus-like “Ich Trinke Blut”.
The legendary Candlemass is back with what they say it will be their last album… ever. “Psalms for the Dead” marks the band’s 11th studio full-length release and closes the chapter on the band’s very influential career. Having influenced tons of bands over the years, it is quite sad to hear that Candlemass is going away, but at least they do so with an impressive and monumental release, instead of a pathetic sad little album or even worst… a best-of compilation release.
Opening with the crushing riffs of “Prophet”, the band delivers a powerful and firm first track that sets the mood for the whole release. The epic keyboards and excellent vocal melodies nicely make this song very catchy and dynamic, but ultimately it’s the riffing that sells the track. The very interesting atmospheric elements make their way into “The Sound of Dying Demons”, giving this track a very eerie and creepy feeling, and when paired with the cavernous riffs, it is plain brilliant.
Coming back after an intense four years of touring since their last release back in 2008, today we have Moonspell and their most ambitious release yet: Alpha Noir / Omega White. In this double CD release, the band delivers one complete CD with the aggressive side of the band, and another with… we don’t really know since we didn’t get that part of the album, but Fernando Ribeiro says is more mellow, dark, and deep.
Opening with the powerful yet enigmatic “Axis Mundi” the band shows no signs of slowing down and delivers a typical catchy Moonspell track. With a very ritualistic feeling, the vocals are very commanding and the guitar riffing is excellent. With no need for excessive guitar layering or studio trickery, the band delivers crystal-clear sounding rawness in a very Moonspell fashion.
Hailing from France, today we have the Heavy/Power Metal outfit named Lonewolf and their surprisingly very engaging release “Army of the Damned”. While not having anything original about their sound, Lonewolf does an excellent job in crafting 11 super-catchy headbanging inducing tracks that will stick to your head for days to come.
Opening with the track titled “Lonewolf”, the band delivers commanding guitar riffs and solos, powerful keyboards in a very traditional sounding track that is super catchy in nature. The vocals are your typical late 90’s raspy Heavy Metal style, but they actually feel very well fitted for the more modern and richer sound of the band. Things continue to get even catchier with the excellent “Crawling to Hell”, a track that has a slight Manowar vibe. The chorus section is pretty solid, allowing this track to have all the makings of a true Metal anthem.
With a very interesting and bombastic sound, today we have Sweden’s own AtomA and their debut full-length “Skylight” out on Napalm Records. In this release we have a trio of musicians crafting a unique musical experience that has way too much stuff going on at certain times. While the band’s sound is lush and powerful, it also feels a bit misguided and confusing, making this release a interesting experience but ultimately not cohesive enough to be fully praised (at least by us).
Opening with the ritualistic “AtomA”, this track has a very ‘tribal’ feeling to it with a mixture of futuristic soundtrack elements and some electronic stuff thrown into the mix. As an opener it helps set the listener’s mindset to something completely different, but it also feels a bit convoluted. “Skylight” capitalizes on the initial build up with some more extreme atmospheric elements and powerful guitars. The drumming is very well crafted, but sounds a bit drowned in the mix. The clean vocal sections are pretty solid and provide a nice ethereal feeling to the band’s brand of music.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the American band Huntress delivers an early candidate for ‘2012 album of the year’ with their debut full-length “Spell Eater”. With over 40 minutes of hard-hitting Heavy Metal, the band’s attitude (and music) is as real as it can get when it comes to Heavy Metal. Led by the talented (and equally sexy) Jill Janus, this band is not your average mellow Metal female-fronted band, but rather a full-fledged war machine that will surely demolish your ears.
Taking influences from Heavy, Black and Thrash Metal, the album opens with the crushing “Spell Eater” track. The opening riffs scream Black Metal immediately, but as the song progresses and Jill’s vocals come through, the old-school Thrash influences seamlessly appear. This high-intensity track nicely marks the pace of a very diverse and extremely well crafted album.
As one of the very few internationally recognized Gothic Metal bands from Spain, today we have Diabulus In Musica and their Napalm Records debut release “The Wanderer”. Greatly improving on their debut full-length “’Secrets”, the band consolidates their sound and delivers 12 tracks of brilliantly crafted Gothic/Symphonic Metal that will bring comparisons to Epica, Nightwish, etc.
Revolving around the heavenly vocals of Zuberoa Aznárez (we challenge you to say the name 5 times straight), “The Wanderer” feels a lot more mature than their previous effort in the sense that all tracks are more concise and everything shines at its own pace. After the bombastic intro, “Ex Nihilo” shines with heavy guitars, intricate drumming and very enchanting choir sections. This song indeed sounds a lot like Epica but when Zuberoa’s vocals kick in, it takes a whole new dimension. Very sweet and commanding, her voice is one of the signatures of the band and sounds like none other.
After reviewing what felt like thousands of uninspired Viking/Folk Metal releases in 2011, we now find ourselves wondering where these kinds of albums are in 2012. After the disappointing latest release of Eluveitie, it is Heidevolk’s turn on the hot seat. “Batavi” marks the band’s fourth full-length release and it shows great maturity from the band in terms of songwriting, but not too much in terms of diversity.
Using almost no ‘fancy’ Folk instruments, the band relies on powerful and catchy guitar riffs to carve their own sound. While we would have immediately discarded this album if we heard a fucking hurdy gurdy, but Heidevolk delivers a very well-targeted riffing assault that will appeal to fans of bands like Tyr, Falkenbach and Moonsorrow. For over 39 minutes, “Batavi” delivers very traditional and ‘simple’ songs that are pretty solid due to their catchiness.
Many people (including us) thought that Xandria was finished when their iconic vocalist Lisa Schaphaus-Middelhauve left the band back in 2009, but with their latest album “Neverworld’s End” the band sounds better than ever and are turning heads and convincing non-believer. Taking on a more bombastic sound, the band fully uses Manuela Kraller soprano vocals to song like a real Gothic/Symphonic Metal band should and blow listeners away with a very rich and diverse sound.
One thing that came immediately to us after the first few spins of this release is that “Neverworld’s End” actually sounds a lot like early Nightwish when Tarja was in charge of the vocals. Before all haters go and complain about this we must say that while playing similar music, Xandria feels very refreshing since most of the good Gothic/Symphonic bands are not trying to sound pop-ish and commercial friendly. This leaves the field completely open to bands that stick to was good a few years ago and still manage to sound Metal enough.