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  • Review of Lacuna Coil's Broken Crown Halo (2014)

    8. Apr. 2014, 14:54

    Broken Crown Halo is a continuation of the sound Lacuna Coil developed with Dark Adrenaline. However, while Dark Adrenaline was heavy, catchy, and full of energy, much of Broken Crown Halo feels like it came from a stockroom of stale rock melodies. I wouldn't call it quite commercial, but a third of the album is made up of filler. It's one of those albums you can put on in the background at work or doing chores - while nice enough to listen through, nothing is extremely remarkable. That being said, I recommend giving it a few listens through and deciding for yourself -- many of the songs seem bland upon first listen but grow on you.

    The first track and single, Nothing Stands in Our Way, is the most addictive of the album. This is one of the tracks that I thought was so-so upon first listen but fell in love with after replays. It's the anthem of the album: the chorus is practically shouted and sung through very quickly, but the lyrics are encouraging: "Life-long road blocks, high walls, teardrops - nothing stands in our way!" I can see this as a favorite during the Broken Crown Halo tour.

    The track Cybersleep has a few experimental electronic effects on Cristina's voice, which is interesting but not as memorable as Dark Adrenaline's Intoxicated, which demonstrated Cristina's ability to sing runs. "Cybersleep" reminds me of Collide's album Chasing the Ghost combined with Stream of Passion's Darker Days. A decent track.

    I have never been a fan of Andrea's vocal contribution, but his part in In The End I Feel Alive is energetic and fun, and saves the song from filler status with its average melody. His singing shows improvement in I Burn In You, with a clear tone and better pronunciation than in the past, at least in the opening verse. This track has him gradually descend into a thicker voice each time he sings until he finally goes all-out grunt at the height of the song (minute 2:30 to 3:00). The opening and closing instrumentation has an oriental feel that is refreshing. A highlight of the album.

    Cristina still displays great talent in her vocal ability and control. Like previous albums, the songs are all mid-tempo (with the exception of the ending pseudo-ballad One Cold Day) with prominent guitars and bass. Despite some commercial filler -- notably I Forgive (But I Won't Forget Your Name) -- this album is still metal.

    Stand-out tracks: Nothing Stands in Our Way, Zombies, Die & Rise, Cybersleep, I Burn in You, In the End I Feel Alive

    So, 6 / 11 tracks equals to about 3 out of 5, but I like it enough to give it a 3.5, which rounds up to 4 stars.

    For fans of After Forever, ReVamp, Nightwish, Delain, Within Temptation, Epica, and Stream of Passion

    Originally written for Amazon.com
  • Nightwish and the Anette situation (October 2012)

    18. Okt. 2012, 18:16

    Bye Bye Beautiful


    I'm not glued to Facebook or Twitter and Nightwish's homepage is not one of my permanent tabs, so I guess that’s why I didn’t know about this until two weeks after it happened.

    But I know now, thanks to the update picture on Nightwish's Lastfm page with Floor Jansen.

    I am beyond words about this. I now understand how the Tarjaholics felt.

    Now, I'm not crazy. I am a Nightwish supporter first and foremost and whoever they bring in now I will try to love as much as the past two. But I found Nightwish right after the Tarja split, so I always loved both singers. I never though Anette deserved the crap she got; she really was trying to please. I also thought she was a real sweetheart. I devoted my time to defending her, and now she's gone after only two albums.

    Tuomas, are you becoming Morten Veland? A new singer for every album, a la Sirenia (though hopefully Ailyn will stay for a third album...yes I love her and their sound; Enigma of Life is my favorite Sirenia album -- sue me)?

    Now, according to the rumors, the band came to this decision after Anette fell sick and couldn't do the Denver, Colorado show. She became upset when the band decided to bring in the girls from Kamelot to perform in her place.

    Okay, so Anette seems like an arrogant diva here, just like Tarja seemed near the end, putting her feelings ahead of the band's needs. But take a minute and empathize. Her self-confidence has always been low given that she replaced Tarja, knowing full well she didn't have that operatic ability. Tuomas took the band in another direction with Anette, but some of the rabid Tarja fans still couldn't take it. I'm pretty sure they threw things at her during one show a few years ago. So for her to realize that the band was going to perform anyway, while she's sick in the hospital by herself in a foreign country, and everyone she knows is at the concert, that's got to sting. She probably felt like they were throwing her away because of her illness, something she couldn't help. She probably already felt disposable given that people are still whining to bring Tarja back after seven years.



    Side note: By the way, for people who just cannot get over what happened seven years ago: Tarja was going to QUIT after what would have been her “Dark Passion Play” anyway. Nightwish is Tuomas’ baby and he was not going to let her tell him when to stop. If life had gone on Tarja’s way, Imaginaerum wouldn’t exist, let alone plans for an eighth. She is not coming back, nor would she if she hadn’t been fired. Deal with it. I admire her vocals, but saying “I’m not surprised” to this news was just rude. Graciousness, diva, graciousness. Be the better person.

    Now, I understand how the fans feel, too. They saved up money to see their favorite band who might never come to Colorado again, given that they are from Finland. I get it. But you can't pretend that you've never had selfish, self-doubting feelings before. Anette is human. I was very upset when the closest they came to me was Philadelphia, almost three states away, and I was in the middle of my fall semester. As an English major, I can't miss a single reading assignment or I'll fall way behind. So I couldn't even consider going.

    Now I'll never get to see Anette perform with them. I'm hurt by this. The way they revealed the fact was very abrupt. "Oh, she's better! We'll be performing tomorrow!" Next day: "Yeah, we've decided to part ways. Sorry!"

    Seriously, Nightwish?

    Now, on to Floor Jansen.



    I loved her with After Forever. I love her with ReVamp. But these bands were hers. I first heard of Tarja with Nightwish. I first heard of Anette with Nightwish. I know bands sometimes split or share members, but every time this happened, I didn't care or know about one of the bands involved, i.e. Atrocity and Liv Kristine of Theatre of Tragedy becoming Leaves' Eyes. But here, (as with Delain’s Martijn leaving Within Temptation), someone had to leave one band to be with the other. Liv is no longer the vocalist of Theatre of Tragedy. To borrow a vocalist from a well-established band to be the new singer for another well-established band at the same time feels strange to me (but it can work; see Christian Liljegren of Divinefire, Audiovision, and Golden Resurrection).

    Yes, I know, she's only temporary for the rest of the tour. But we don't know how this will pan out for the future. Why take a new band photo with someone who’s only filling in to finish the tour?

    She might decide she can handle both Nightwish and ReVamp. And I do think she has the vocal ability to handle both Anette and Tarja songs. But her style is more power and less symphonic. I don't know how well she'll fit in.

    Another rumor is that Tuomas has been talking to Floor since last November (2011) about coming in for the end of Imaginaerum US tour as a replacement. Either we can assume he was already thinking about getting rid of Anette (regret?) or he was used to her getting sick / needing to take care of her young son and wanted a seasoned singer to support the band if need be. I want to assume it's the latter.

    I have my own theory. How can Tuomas evolve past Imaginaerum, with such epic bombast and a silver screen debut? What more can he possibly come up with, especially with Anette? How can he evolve her sound further? The only thing he could possibly think of is to change singers again, or...combine bands. How much more “epic” could that be? NightVamp. Really, do you think he's not considering it? Another possible idea of his would be guest vocalists, a la Delain’s Lucidity.

    In all, this was very surprising news and I just wish both parties well for the future. Though…I Want My Tears Back. :P
  • A review of Diabulus In Musica: The Wanderer

    31. Jul. 2012, 16:46

    The Wanderer

    Diabulus In Musica has expounded on their debut with more bombast and a bit more participation from the male vocalist. I've never been a huge fan of the beast effect in symphonic metal, but it is tolerable and even enjoyable with paired with the female in the right consistency.

    As with Epica's new album, there was a little too much excess of the male here. Which is great if you like that sort of thing. But as a person who loves to sing along (even though I am terrible), it is distracting and a bit irritating.

    Favorite tracks are Hidden Reality (and its instrumental lead-in Call from a Rising Memory), Ex Nihilo, Sceneries of Hope, and the ballad Sentenced To Life, which like their debut album's track Evolution's Whim, really resonated with my opinions of the world.

    Hidden Reality is my favorite track by far, the choir climax is goosebump-inducing. I always turn up the volume at that point.

    I haven't listened to the entire album very much yet, so this post might be updated as I form more opinions about their sound.
  • Neverworld's End review

    31. Jul. 2012, 16:42

    Neverworld's End

    Xandria's style feels like it changed, but that's only due to their new operatic vocalist Manuella Kraller. She is quite talented, but as with Nightwish when I first found them, I had to adjust. There is something about operatic vocals that, while gorgeous and impressive, leave me feeling cold, as if the singer is aloof, separate from the lyrics she is singing.

    The comparisons to Tarja Turunen are inevitable, but I will say the German Kraller has better diction than Turunen. A lot of Turunen's vocals (to me) sounded as if she were struggling with the English. However, out of the artists that get compared to Turunen, Kraller is the most similar in timbre.

    Some songs I imagined with Lisa Middelhauve (Euphoria) and I realized their style really hasn't changed.

    Favorites are Prophecy Of Worlds To Fall, Blood on My Hands, Valentine, and Call of the Wind.

    Other tracks are beautiful at the time of listening but a bit forgettable afterward, like the ballads Forevermore and The Dream Is Still Alive.

    Unfortunately, Blood on My Hands, like Star by Eyes of Eden and Where Were You Last Night by Nightwish (cover of a Swedish techno song from 1989), has similar melodic contours to You Give Love a Bad Name by Bon Jovi. This melody, for some reason, continues to resurface all over metal's soundscape.
  • Fight Like A Girl review

    31. Jul. 2012, 16:23

    Many people have already commented how Emilie Autumn’s new album Fight Like a Girl sounds more like the soundtrack to a play than a music album. This is very true, but even so, she does it with her usual flair. I personally don’t care for musicals and plays (I do like opera) but with her themes and vocalized passion, Emilie makes me want to see this. And that is the beginning of the pros and cons of FLAG.

    EDIT: I recently went to EA's site and captured this bit of information: "Fight Like A Girl, my new album, featuring music from my upcoming “The Asylum FWVG” Broadway musical, will be in your furry claws on July 24th."

    So FLAG really IS from a musical, which explains a lot. But I still hold by what I say below.



    Con: this album is a journey that begs to be seen as well as heard. This is a pro as far as seeing her concerts; her Fight Like a Girl tour will probably be enacted as a mini-play and be very interesting indeed. But as a strictly musical experience this is distracting and disappointing.

    Although, therein lies a pro: she makes you pay attention to her lyrics, rather than distract you with masking melodies. I know with other albums I love the melodies so much that I don’t even notice if the lyrics are wretched. This can also be a con, however, as the only real memorable melody is the title track. I love singing (even though I’m not that good) and Emilie’s range fits mine really well. Of course, I’ve only listened to the album three times in its entirety so far. Other songs’ melodies are starting to stick out, like Take the Pill and Girls! Girls! Girls!.

    There are many tracks that are basically soliloquies. I Don’t Understand, The Key, and Scavenger are all monologues with a backing music track. It reminds me of listening to an eBook with a soundtrack and a passionate reader. Not exactly fodder for singing along.

    The Key is my favorite one of these. It is short and tense and the easiest scene to picture. I found myself hoping she would escape and hating the doctor, which is the intended effect.



    All that being said, there are plenty of tracks that work as “Emilie Autumn music” and not only as if they had been ripped out of a play. There are enough of these that she could have done what she did with the re-release of Opheliac (two discs with b-sides on the second disc), and put the monologues on a second disc. (See my track list edit further down)

    The “reprises” are beautiful (4 o’Clock Reprise, Gaslight Reprise) and serve as interludes. She also samples 4 O’Clock in Goodnight, Sweet Ladies.

    When I first heard Gaslight, I could have sworn it was an extended version of Mad Girl. I had to re-listen to Mad Girl to make sure she didn’t just repeat the composition with different lyrics. She samples Misery Loves Company’s qualities in Fight Like a Girl as well, but I liked the reference. In Gaslight the music almost distracts from the singing, for the first and only time on the album.

    We Want Them Young really should have been the introductory track. It has enough instrumental to serve as an opener to the “play” and starts the story with the explanation that society put their wives and daughters in the institute and no one is coming to take them home.

    Here is my personal track list for FLAG:

    1. We Want Them Young

    2. Take the Pill

    3. Girls! Girls! Girls! (this is the greatest satirical song I have ever heard)

    4. I Don’t Understand

    5. Gaslight

    6. 4 o’clock Reprise

    7. If I Burn

    8. Time for Tea

    9. Fight Like a Girl

    10. Gaslight Reprise

    11. Goodnight, Sweet Ladies

    12. One Foot in Front of the Other

    This list makes sense as a storyline and consists mostly of actual melodic tracks, except for I Don’t Understand, but it fit so well between Girls! Girls! Girls! and Gaslight that I couldn’t leave it out. Plus it doesn’t fit into the “flow” of Disc 2:

    1. The Key

    2. Hell Is Empty (it may be an instrumental but it really works as a bridge between The Key and Scavenger

    3. Scavenger

    4. What Will I Remember? (this does have a melody, but the largo/adagio tempo and narrow range makes me feel it's more of a sung soliloquy than anything)

    5. Start Another Story (same as "track 4")

    With the “original disc” now having 12 tracks (instead of 17), it is still an adequate length for an album. These five “extra monologue tracks” would be interspersed in the original track list during a concert as the set list. They would make sense in that context, as you would be watching Emilie’s performance. But strictly as a listening experience, this reordering removes the interruption of the music flow while still allowing the listener to enjoy the monologues for what they are.

    My favorite song of the album is Goodnight, Sweet Ladies. It is a beautiful anthem that is both sad and hopeful. The melody is strong (repetition helps) and the lyrics are just gorgeous. The harp and horns create such an ethereal effect, it makes my mind fly among the clouds, honestly. It reminds me of her Enchant album a bit. With the samples of 4 O’Clock and The Art of Suicide (I think there’s another one (or two) she samples but I can’t make it out), she creates depth and a “memory” effect. My only complaint of the song is the multiple false endings. “And it’s over…no it’s not…now it is…no it’s not.”

    My last observation is in some tracks, mainly One Foot in Front of the Other, she utilizes a style very similar to Imogen Heap in songs like Hide And Seek and Little Bird. This is by far not a complaint, as I love Imogen too, but I just thought it was interesting.



    Note: I have not had the chance to read her autobiography and perhaps have made a grave error in determining what track order makes sense as a story. If I’m made some mistake and you have read the book, please let me know. I would love to understand the order of the original track list.

    For me, this new order makes more sense, the songs still flow together well (no abrupt endings as if they weren’t meant to be in that order) and if you are the type that wants to enjoy her story and music without the “play” monologues, I recommend reordering it in this way on your device. I’m keeping the monologues at the end of the album instead of removing them completely because they are emotional and enjoyable when I’m in the mood. I don’t hate them by any means. Emilie has said herself that she makes music for herself and she just happens to have fans who like it. This is one fan that is still in love.

    Girls! Girls! Girls! “They won’t bite. Well, they might. I say, this one does look hungry tonight…”
  • Late review of Imaginaerum

    29. Jul. 2012, 15:02

    I keep posting short reviews of new albums I buy on DeviantART, which I realized is counter-productive. Yes, most of my art are photo-manipulations of bands (Nightwish, Within Temptation, Delain, Indica, etc) but no one really cares beyond the pictures. As this is a music site, I feel posting them here will create more conversation. We'll see.

    Imaginaerum

    Imaginaerum is MAJESTIC, AMAZING, WONDERFUL, THE MOST ORGASMIC EAR FOOD IN THE UNIVERSE.

    Nightwish is the nourishment of my soul.

    I cannot pick a favorite, but the tracks most listened to so far are:

    Last Ride of the Day Best song next to I Want My Tears Back in terms of "hyper," "epic," and melody.
    I Want My Tears Back Oh, that interlude. I cannot sit still during that interlude. Even sitting, I'm headbanging and jumping as best I can. So hyper, and I love it!
    Rest Calm I really adore this one because I've known so many people who've died; and I feel as if they are speaking to me through this song.
    Turn Loose the Mermaids A beautiful ballad that I love to sing!
    Ghost River A good "metal" song -- nice imagery and many headbanging moments.
    Song of Myself The first half with singing. I'm one of those people who don't like "Love." I know it will work in the movie, but there needed to be at least an album edit of the song. I don't want to listen to ten minutes of people jabbering...or at least that's what it sounded like as it kept going. Plus, some of the lyrics of "Love" are odd at best. Tuomas, you didn't connect with me there.

    The Imaginaerum medley is nice in that it is a little taste of all the great compositions Tuomas made for the album, ingeniously combined and orchestrated.

    Scaretale is a masterpiece just because it's so interesting to listen to. It's the one song I'm not yearning to sing, just experience. The epic of the album. Anette outdoes herself in her passion to distort her voice to create the mood. If this had been on the album of a new band and not Nightwish, people would be praising her, not still comparing her to Tarja.

    The Crow, the Owl and the Dove is beautiful in its own way, but is a departure from metal in its simplicity. Not a complaint, it's a nice side road we're taken down as a rest from the bombastic power. Slow, Love, Slow and Turn Loose the Mermaids do this as well, but both in their unique way (the former jazz, the latter a soft ballad with a bit of a Western-esque interlude and a Celtic coda).

    Slow, Love, Slow is like "Love" from Song of Myself in that people love it or hate it. I love it. It's not typical Nightwish, but that's the point. It's called evolving. Besides, it is the only song on the album of its kind, meaning Tuomas is not about to make Nightwish a "jazz metal" band. Am I the only one who feels that he is brilliant for even thinking of incorporating jazz into metal? Plus, Anette's vocal is stunning here.

    I'm definitely learning the words to Taikatalvi. I wish it was longer. I love Marco crooning in Finnish.

    (Troy and the uilleann pipe have my permission to become permanent members of the band. Yes, Tuomas, I'm talking to you).