Very far removed from their days of being a Symphonic Metal powerhouse (“Mother Earth” and “The Silent Force”), Within Temptation returns after four years with “Resist”. Attempting a dead cat bounce, the band puts out an extremely overproduced release that while it might appeal to the fans the band has gained since “The Unforgiven”, it will probably completely turn off their older fan base. We rarely write bad reviews these days as we rather save the time and energy for good releases that deserve to be heard, but “Resist” was just asking for it.
The album kicks off with the first single, “The Reckoning” a song that takes about 20 seconds to realize it will be bad. With Jacoby Shaddix on guest vocals, yup, the dude from Papa Roach, this track starts the trend of overproduced tracks. The song, while trying to be heavy and melancholic falls completely flat due to their lack of imagination and passion. The trend continues with the futuristic “Endless War”, which at least has some old school vocal arrangements… at times, and the vanilla “Raise Your Banner”, which features Anders Fridén on guest vocals.
Just before the end of the year we received on our review queue on of our favorite albums of 2018: Crippled Black Phoenix’s “Great Escape”. As one of the most melancholic and mellow Rock albums we have heard, this international band unleashes over one hour of truly disarming music. Mixing elements of bands like Anathema, God is an Astronaut and countless others, this is definitely one of the most unique and diverse releases you will hear in 2018.
After opening with the dreamy “You Brought it Upon Yourselves”, the band sinks into the bleakness of “To You I Give”, a Post-Rock-ish tune in nature. Masterminded by Justin Greaves, this band’s releases are always very rich and diverse and extremely hard to categorize, but always top notch in terms of quality. After the interlude “Uncivil War, Pt. 1”, “Madman” features a dark wave vibe with heavy synths and a very martial pace.
Riding one last time, Norway’s infamous hard rockers Chrome Division unleash their last opus “One Last Ride” this November. Featuring 12 superbly catchy tunes about boozing and women, this release is full of attitude and the band’s signature playful music. Catering for fans of The New Black, The Carburetors, and similar outfits, Shagrath and company have consistently delivered highly memorable music since their inception 15 years ago and with Eddie Guz back on vocals they decide to sign off into oblivion.
Straight out of a Robert Rodriguez movie, the epic opener “Return From The Wastelands” sets a very epic vibe for such an intoxicating release. Pummeling through “So Fragile”, we are quickly reminded of Eddie Guz signature vocals and while bittersweet that Shady Blue is not participating, Eddie’s vocals were made for this kind of music. The album’s first standout hit is the majestic “Walk Away in Shame”, with is playful chorus section and insanely funny lyrics.
Unleashing a very lively proggy release with “Aeon Chaser”, Norway’s Oberon self-labels their music a Gnostic Rock and they are not very far from the truth. Exploring a wide palette of sounds in their 11 songs, the band perfectly pairs acoustic passages with tons of atmospheric elements alongside a Progressive/Folk Rock core. In a similar vein than bands like Anathema, this release contains very well crafted songs that have a high replay value.
Opening with the dreamy “Omega”, we are instantly taken on a very trippy journey with songs that remind us of outfits like Yes and Marillion. The band’s progressive core allows them to craft intricate songs like “Walk in Twilight”, “The Secret Fire” and “Surrender” filled with memorable guitar melodies and soaring vocal arrangements. For those that like dreamier songs, “To Live to Die” crafts a very delicate atmosphere that nicely progresses as layers of additional elements like subtle piano arrangements are introduced.
There are only a handful of people in the Metal scene that rock as hard as Floor Jansen with her vocal talents and intense stage presence. In her new band, Northward, she unleashes 11 tracks that reflect this hard rocking attitude with tons of brilliant vocal arrangements and catchy guitar melodies. Moving away from the direction of ReVamp and Nightwish, this track delivers some straight up Rock tunes that showcase her versatility and energy, alongside guitarist Jørn Viggo Lofstad of Pagan’s Mind fame.
The album sets a very lively mood from the start with superbly catchy and filled with attitude tunes like “While Love Died” and “Get What You Give”. The soaring vocal melodies of “Storm in a Glass” make it one of the most engaging and dynamic songs in this release, while taking the listener on a musical journey. For those that like power ballads, “Paragon” and “Bridle Passion” give the listener a more raw and direct appreciation of Floor’s charismatic vocals.
After captivating audiences with their insane ‘Blackjazz’ style (and release), the band continues to push their own musical horizons with a Hard Rocking release titled “Animal”. Always evolving in styles, the band now pursues a more ‘normal’ sound that keep their catchiness but tunes down the madness while delivering an in-your-face attitude. Don’t get us wrong, this release is awesome, but in its own different context.
Opening with “Take Me”, the band’s use of synths made us believe they decided to go the Ulver route and play some synth pop, but instead they kept this heavier and sound like Pain and similar Industrial/Electronic Metal bands. While it can take a bit to adjust, the album title track provides the perfect transition into their Hard Rock style with catchy guitar sections and the highly recognizable vocal melodies of Jørgen Munkeby.
Unleashing over 55 minutes of superbly catchy hard rocking music, today we have Germany’s The Unity and their sophomore release “Rise”. Featuring members of Gamma Ray and Love.Might.Kill, this release delivers a very interesting mixture of traditional Hard Rock with Power Metal elements, allowing for the band to delivering brilliant technically proficient passages, while maintaining a lively mood and a high level of catchiness. If you like bands like Stratovarius, Warlock, Helloween, etc., but also like something more easy to digest and to sing along, then definitely check out this release.
After a dramatic atmospheric opener, “Last Betrayal” instantly cranks up the intensity and the catchiness up to 11. This track kicks off with dramatic vocals by Jan Manenti and a very hectic pace. The chorus sections are just brilliant, allowing this track to be stuck in your head for a while after the first listen. The first standout track is the intoxicating “You Got Me Wrong”, which is definitely one of the most engaging and memorable songs we have heard in quite a while.
Only making us wait for ten years, we finally get another brilliant release from Noekk, even if its a short 7 inch one. With “Carol Stones and Elder Rock”, Schwadorff and Thomas Helm tease listeners with four tracks of their upcoming full length release. Full of lush and yet simple arrangements, this release continues the band’s legacy with some unique and mysterious songs that will certainly captivate fans of Dark/Folk Rock.
The wait is over with the somber intro track “A Loss”, which creates a very dark and yet mysterious atmosphere that brings you back to the band’s earlier work and reminds you as well of outfits like Of the Wand and the Moon and Empyrium. The transition to “Pan” is seamless and leads into a lush keyboard atmospherics and haunting string elements. The pace is quite well crafted as it creates a bit of an anxious feel, but at the same times soothes the listeners with its atmospherics.
Hailing from France, today we have dark post-punk/rock outfit Varsovie and their latest full-length release “Coups et Blessures”. Filled with moody songs and superbly catchy and somber arrangements, this release is definitely one of the ‘non-metal’ highlights we have heard in 2018. Recommended for fans of bands like Spiritual Front and similar outfits, Varsovie does a great job delivering a hard rocking release that is captivating and engaging.
Opening with the bluntness of “Coups et Blessures”, the band sets a very lively tone with catchy percussions and interesting guitar leads. The mood is quite somber and yet very raw, allowing emotions to easily flow through brilliant tracks like “Revers de l’aube” and our favorite “Va dire à Sparte”. While not even close to Metal music, these last two tracks feature some very powerful and engaging riffs that make them quite memorable and perfectly fitting for the band’s overall attitude.
Hailing from Italy, today we have axe man Lelio Padovani and his hyper mellow Jazzy/Rock instrumental release “Waves”. Very aptly titled, this release will soothe your mornings or evenings with four tracks that are quite cinematic and engaging in nature. We are huge fans of guitarists solo releases and while many of the focus on speed and acrobatics, this one focuses on creating enjoyable and highly melancholic songs.
Opening with the lush “Time Traveler”, we get this cinematic/video-game-ish vibe from the tempo changes in the song. The keyboards nicely provide a good atmospheric backdrop for the playful interchange between the bass and the lead guitar. Continuing with the upbeat mood, “Siren Song” delivers great guitar leads under a very hypnotic bass line. This track is one of your typical songs were the guitars shine, but they never fully overpower the atmosphere created by Lelio.