• Best (and worst) of metal 2015

    13. Feb. 2015, 9:28

    Megaherz - Zombieland 9/10
    The veterans from the Neue Deutsche Härte scene that sprung to life with Oomph! and Rammstein in the 1990's are back - and that's with a vengeace. I don't hesitate to call Zombieland a masterpiece. The majority of the tracks, are megahits (heh) and I'm not kidding. The opening title track is a industrial party anthem leading into Himmelstürmer, one of my favourites, and the single - the mellow Für Immer. After a couple of less interesting, but in no way boring, tracks it picks up again with the Rammstein-esque Fanatisch and the hardhitting Schwarzer Engel. The last stroke of genious is given to us with the asmopheric Gegen den Wind. The album is classic Neue Deutsche Härte with masculine German vocals paired with catchy melodies. I've been listening to it countless time, and I feel like doing it again. Now.

    Enforcer - From Beyond 8/10
    Last year I reviewed the latest album by Skull Fist to be my album of the year. Enforcer are members of the same wave of young bands that play retro metal with a obvious love for everything that was the 1980's speed metal, nwobhm, and thrash. They sound like the 1980's and dress like 1980's - and I highly appreciate it. Enforcer is not all the way up there with Skull Fist, but they aren't too far off. The album reeks of passion and just that little and naughty hint of pastiche far removed from any ironic parody. The song Below the Slumber is a candidate for song of the year, and the rest aren't too bad either. If you like classic metal you should give this a listen.

    Solefald - Norrønasongen: Kosmopolis Sud 8/10
    I have known the band for years, but I've never listend to it before. I was in for a suprise as their music is quite avantgarde and far removed from the black metral I though they played. This new albums has black metal elements but it's leaning more towards EBM/industrial with various hints of a of other genres. I do like it, but it's hard for me to rate it, as it's very different from what I normally listen to. One of the strengths of the album is that I've actually given it a handful of listens, because it continues to deliver interesting moments that I can't remember or map out the first time around. At the end of the day I can't really decide if it's brilliant or just a mess. I lean towards the first option.

    Eclipse - Armageddonize 8/10
    After the Bleed & Scream album where only the songs Battlegrounds really lit my fire, the hard rockers/aor people in Eclipse are back with a much more coherent effort. From the start to the end Armageddonize reeks of quality. It's not a masterpiece, as it lacks some stand out tracks and a few suprises here and there, but if you're into 80's inspired hard rock with a modern sound then there's absolutely no way that you should miss this album. Start by checking out the balld The Storm, the single Stand on your Feet and my personal favourite Wide Open. Good stuff.

    Enslaved - In Times 7/10
    I dig Enslaved's blend of melodic rock and black metal. At times it works really well as the clean, and quite laid back, vocals shift into black metal screams. Their disregard of genres is worthy of praise, but due to their emphasis I'm hesitant to give In Times top marks. As a rock n' roll lover I think that the long winded song structures hampers the intensity and make the album and the songs less memorable. I understand that it isn't "123 go!" music, but a firmer grip of each song's strongest element would improve the album - and much of Enslaved's work tbh. Still it's good quaility and a must listen to every serious metal fan.

    Kamelot - Haven 6/10
    After their last album Silverthorn I had high hopes for power/prog legens Kamelot's new album. Silverthorn had had my follow them again after a couple of albums I didn't care too much about. Unfortunately they seem to be back in the doldrums with Haven. Apart from the up-tempo single Veil of Elysium and the magnificient End of Innosence with its catchy keyboard hook and lofty chorus there are few songs to keep me entertained. It's not embarassing by any stretch, but I had hoped for more.

    Orden Ogan - Ravenhead 6/10
    I had high hopes for this after the Germans' last album where songs like The Things We Believe In and Ice Kings rocked the hell out of most other power metal bands, but unfortunately I'm slightly disappointed. The tempo is up there, the melodies are abundant and so are the huge choirs. There's way, way too much choir. There are some catchy power metal anthems on Ravenhead, but it lacks variance in all its schematic splendour. Sad to hear one of the most interesting bands on the European power metal scene lose ideas this fast. It's not horrible but I had expected a lot more.

    Damnation Angels - The Valiant Fire 5/10
    The inspired title and artwork flatter an album which isn't that inspired musically. I've read good things about it, but I cannot bring myself to embrace those positive views. The one standout track to me is the classic heavy metal track Icarus Syndrome with it's haunting chorus and well crafted development, but the rest of the album drowns in keys, strings and nothingness. It's not a terrible effort, but half of the time you more or less forget about the music as it goes on and on without a meaningful aim.

    Blind Guardian - Beyond the Red Mirror 4/10
    I loved Blind Guardian in the late 1990's. Masterpieces like Imaginations from the Other Side and Nightfall in Middle Earth are clouding my mind and I simply cannot listen to new BG albums without comparing them to the albums I fell in love with back then. The new one id no exception, and it doesn't compare well. It too operatic and grand. Too complex and too little power metal. The thrash elements are long gone and it feels like a herculian task to really get into Beyond the Red Mirror. A task I'm not, based on two listeing, going to succeed in. Some might like this slower, musical, Queen inspired music a lot. I don.t Sure - there are some good things here and there, but most of all I'm just a tad bored. The expectations and memories is a heavy burden and the low rating might be unfair, but it reflects my personal estrangement from the band I used to love.
  • Best (and worst) of metal 2014

    24. Mär. 2014, 9:55

    Solbrud - Jærtegn 9/10
    The Danes are back with the atmospheric black metal. And I absolutely love it. It's not groundbreaking as it is clearly inspired by a band like Wolves in the Throne Room. Unlike bands like Solstafir and especially the newer Alcest, Solbrud keep their footing in black and don't become postrock. With four songs spanning more than 45 minutes it's not party music, but the atmosphere is immense when listening to it with earphones that let you indulge in the grand sound. I have seen them live once and I can't wait to go again.

    Skull Fist - Chasing the Dream 9/10
    A bunch of young people playing very traditional metal in the vein of NWOBHM but with speed elements as well. There's tendencies to guitar wankery, but the song writing is more than good enough to make of for it. Both the fast and the mid-paced songs are very well written and the vocals of Jackie Slaughter are high pitched but never annoying. The whole album is a winner but the true masterpiece is the title track in all its speedy splendour. The riff, the melody, the old school production - it has it all. You can argue that the choice of production is a tad gimmicky, but it does suit the music very well. All fans of old school metal should check Skullfist out.

    Crazy Lixx - Crazy Lixx 8/10
    The glam rock n' rollers in Crazy Lixx are back and it's with a better effort than their last album, Riot Avenue, where I only really liked the title track. This new album is better overall with very few outright boring songs. Actually the albums has grown on me and I like it all the way through. Check it out if you like your new wave of Scandinavian sleaze and/or the hair bands of the 1980's. It's catchy, sexy and one big cliché packed party.

    Crimson Shadows - Kings Among Men 8/10
    Imagine Dragonforce and Wintersun have a love child. Then add a healthy dose of aggressive depth and you have Crimson Shadows. There's loads of guitar masturbation and speed on top of speed but also very decent songwriting. The vocals change between melodic roughness, blackish desperation and clean, powerful stints. Groundbreaking it is not, slightly (as in very) cliché even, but the quality is high. As the album goes on it becomes quite samy, but the melodies are strong enough throughout to warrant a top grade. I would love to see this band, beer in hand, and friends by my side.

    Pretty Wild - Pretty Wild 8/10
    The "new wave of Scandivian sleaze" is under way on full steam - and I love it. The young guys in Pretty Wild come from Malmö in southern Sweden and they have the right connections, and more importantly the right skills. This is their second album and it's every inch as enoyable as their debut All the Way. From the suitable opener Are U Ready and into the killer sleaze riff in the briliant Get it On I am caught in their world of Crashdîet meet Def Leppard and Skid Row. Staring at the Sun is another highlight. If you like this kind of stuff be sure to check Pretty Wild out. Now.

    Gamma Ray - Empire of the Undead 8/10
    The German power metallers lead by the living legend Kai Hansen are back with a new album. They have steadiily been pumping out albums, and I haven't been impressed with any of the later efforts. In fact I haven't really connected to a Gamma Ray albums since Power Plant was made nearly 15 years ago. Empire of the Undead is more than decent though, and I've been listening happily to it quite a few times now. The epic opener Avelon is kliché ridden but carries its own weight surprisingly well. Faster tracks like Master of Confusion, Seven and Time to Fly are also on a very high level. The whole album is unmistakingly Gamma Ray, so shy away if you don't like their earlier stuff. If you generally dig their style though, you should check Empire of the Undead out as soon as you can. I'm pleasently surprised.

    Neonfly - Strangers in Paradise 8/10
    One of the more diverse albums I've listened to this year. The Brits mix power, aor, and prog in a light and highly melodic way. As bands tend to do they have placed one of the strongest songs, Whispered Dreams, as the starter. It'll be on my best songs of 2014 for sure. From there it's up and down but generally the level is high, and it rarely gets boring. The power ballad Rose in Bloom is sobby in all its 1980's splendour, and towrds the end the album turns more power metal. A few symphnic elements sneak in as well. Check out the songs Fierce Battalions for instance. All in all I like it very much. The vocals are great and the melodies quite catchy at times, and still it's not just a chase of the next singalong moment, but rich melodic metal that you should check out.

    Freedom Call - Beyond 7/10
    The German über power metallers in Freedom Call are back. They have a new guy, Ramy Ali, on the drums but the music is almost exactly as it always have been. Fast, melodic, catchy, cheesy. The start of the album is strong with especially Knight of Taragon being a top song. Mind you - you have to like it light and fast. After the first three songs the level drops, and for some time it's quite mediocre without being horrible. Towards the end it picks up again and the closing track called Beyond Eternity is making sure you're ending on a high.

    Behemoth - The Satanist 7/10
    This new album the Polish death/black outfit has been praised all around, recieving a staggering 6/6 in a nationwide Danish newspaper. I also like it, but it's not quite as much my style I must admit. The album is packed with aggresion and quaility, but a lot of the time it's just too mid-tempo for me. Too much death, too little black. That said I do like the album - especially the occasional melodic blackened parts. I'm looking forward to see the band live again.

    H.E.A.T - Tearing Down the Wall 7/10
    This is so 80's hard rock that you wouldn't believe it. After listening to the album a few times I must say that I totally dig some of the songs like for instance the single A Shot at Redemption while I find other tracks to be quite boring. All in all it's all quite mid-tempo which tends to be too one-layered. Some of the songs do however rock too hard not to make me song along and rock my foot - or most of my body to be honest. Shamelessly catchy and retro H.E.A.T is certain to entertain.

    Chainfist - Scarred 7/10
    One of this year's big surprises for me. This Danish outfit delivers a blend of rocking melodic tunes, thrash and modern sound. I like the dynamic of the music as it changes back and forth from aggressive to light and melodic. The guitar work rocks and the singer's vocals are also really good. It's great to hear a Danish band that doesn't just try to be stoned and/or br00tal... I have been listening a lot to this album and I will probably continue to do so. The only problem is the lyrics. Seriously guys...They try way too hard to be "metal" with phrases as I DESPISE YOU!!! or YOU BELONG TO ME!! when the music isn't that evil at all. Also - the forced rhymes are ridiculous at times. But ok - give the instant hit Black Rebel Noise a listen and forget about the lyrical issues. And most other problems actually. That song rocks.

    HammerFall - (r)Evolution 7/10
    The legends of the "true metal" wave of the late 1990's are back. They start their new album with a song that could easily have been on their debut way back in 1997. Hector's Hymn is fast, catchy and generally a hammering tune. Just sad that they cannot keep up neither the pace or the quality. (r)Evolution is a mixed bag with too much filler material but also with great songs like Hector's Hymn, Bushido, Wildfire, and Live Life Loud. Another Hammerfall album to deliver the hits for the live shows and the mediocrities for the heavy metal historians to dig up many years from now.

    In Flames - Siren Charms 7/10
    A lot of people love to hate this new album by the Swedish veterans. In Flames have moved away from the melodeath more than a decade ago and now moves slightly away from what they moved to... Siren Charms is softer and more mellow than the albums coming before it and a lot of people don't like it. I kinda do though as I think the songwriting and espcially the melodies are the best from In Flames in many years. Sure - it's not vintage In Flames, but it's a welcomed and bold shift away from what had become quite stale.

    Sleep of Monsters - Produces Reason 6/10
    Finnish goth rock with an arty twist form the singer of Babylon Whores, the drummer of HIM and a bunch of other seasoned guys. The first song Nihil Nihil Nihil is really, really good and gave me high hopes for the rest of the album. These expectations were largely unfulfilled as the rest of the album went by. The melodies are generally good and the whole album carries a comforting vibe, like a duvet of sound, but the sheer class of the first song isn't recreated anywhere. Horses of the Sun and Our savage God are good tunes, calm and atmospheric. Others like Cobweb of Your Mind Through a Mirror Darkly are simply pretty boring. Murder She Wrote rips off Nick Cave and Kiley Minogue pretty badly. All in all it's half a good album. Choose the songs you like.

    DragonForce - Maximum Overload 6/10
    When Dragoforce released The Force Within two years ago I was very pleasently surprised. Suddenly their song writing was top notch and they had cut back on the guitar wankery, making it an integral part of the music and not just bragging draping. Maximum Overload continues in the style with slightly shorter tracks and more focused writing. It is, however, not as good as its predecessor. Three Hammers, The Sun is Dead and City of Gold are the stand out tracks, but the overall quality is lacking a bit. I can listen ot it for sure and enjoy it, but I'll put The Force Within on instead 9 times out of ten. And please - forget about the lame cover of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire.

    Iron Savior - Rise of the Hero 5/10
    I have a hard time judging the quality of this effort by the German power metallers. It's catchy for sure, but also weirdly samy. Some might call it coherent, but it does lean towards the dull. The choruses are generally rather good, while the riffs are mediocre. I was bummed to discover that my favourite song, Thunder from the Mountains, was more or less a rip-off of Gloryhammer's The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee - go and listen to the two choruses. It was my girlfriend calling it out, while it was only dawning on me. Also - Dance with Somebody is not a great cover. Anyway - I do like the style and the overall feel of the album, but I probably won't return to it.

    Black Veil Brides - Black Veil Brides 5/10
    When I first gave this a listen I had no idea that the band had changed its style and look substantially. I just heard the song Faithless and thought that it was decent power metal. It turns out that it isn't really power but rather a mix of moderne hard rock as the song Last Rites, melodci heavy like Stolen Omen, and the manodatory ballad like Walk Away. All in all it smells slightly of a band in search of nothing but the next catchy chorus. Not that I mind that per se, but the overall songwriting is lacking quality despite the occasional highlights. Drag Me to the Grave is a good example with it's wonderfully sleazy chorus and bridge but horribly bland verse - also the vocals are not me cup of tea. Average but not an album I would mind spinning again. Faithless is on my best songs of 2014 list.

    Anathema - Distant Satellites 5/10
    Another pleasent album from the atmospheric British rockers. They have never been favourites of mine, as I find a lot of their stuff´to be quite boring, and Distant Satellites does little to change that. I totally dig the first song on the album with it's progressive and developing dynamics. I find it hard, however to get under the skin on the rest of the album. There's interesting stuff here and there, but I simply lack some action to mix up the silent parts. To give them a purpose so to speak. The music is beautiful and it sure has it's uses, when I for some reason need some calm. For a nice dinner for instance. But I'm still not 100% convinced.

    Allegaeon - Elements of the Infinite 5/10
    These melodic death metallers know how to play their instruments - and they like to show it. The music isn't just an excuse to show off, but it isn't too far off. I do like the tempo and the shifts in rythm that creates and album that is never really predictable, but I also miss some more coherence - a balance that is, to be fair, very hard to achieve. The vocalist is at his coolest, when he sounds like a black metal vocalist as in the very start of the song Tyrants of the Terrestial Exodus, but most of his growls are fairly uninspired. This rating might be too harsh on them, and I know several people who are awestricken by Allegaeon, but it's not my cup of tea, even if I do like the parts that are the most Dark Tranquillity inspired.

    Mors Principium Est - Dawn of the 5th Era 4/10
    Fast riffs and raspy vocals are aplenty on this melodic death release, but very little of it is memorable. From the start to the end Mors Principium Est go on at the same fast pace and with precious few changes or melodies to break up the decent but also very samy sounding melodeath. To be honest I couldn't find a single song that make me want to go and give this a second listen. It might be unfair, but I have better things to do.

    Adamantra - Act 2, Silent Narratives 3/10
    Two good songs, Wicked Chains of Events and Circle of Sorrow, do not change my verdict on this album as the typical progpower album with way too many things going on and precious few really good things among them. It might be unfair of my as the skill of the musicians are definitely decent, but the songs writing skills drag down - as too often with this genre. For me. Very little is standing out, but that I am bored does not mean that others will be.

    Threshold - For the Jouney 3/10
    Progmetal galore and unfortunately also boredom galore. There're obviously some decent riffs and notable melodies here and there, but the overall feeling is just plain dull. On top of that I think that the vocals are really quite bad. It's like he's straining his voice. Like he's not on top of it at all. I've never been big on this band, and I admit that fans might like For the Journey, but it's not making me a fan. At all.

    Seven Thorns - II (They are my friends, I support them 100%, and I won't give them a rating)

    Speedy neoclasical power metal galore. The Danes are back and they remain true to the style from their last album called Return to the Past even if they up the pace even further. I'm not a fan of blatant neoclasical elements and there's a lot of them here. The guitarists are skilled, but the 18th century inspirations do nothing for me. There are some good tracks though like the great Night of Temptation. The vocals are handled by Erik Blomquist who's not actually in the band anymore. After changing vocalist a couple of times they now have a frontman that I've only heard live once. It remains to be seen how he will do in the studio for the next album. Go and give them a listen. They are great guys and talented too, and maybe YOU like their baroque inspirations more than I do.
  • Best (and worst) of metal 2013

    13. Apr. 2013, 11:36

    Keldian - Outbound 9/10
    Keldian consists of two guys who meet up now and then to produce music in a studio - and boy do they do it well. I like power metal but I'm picky with it as there's so much crap out there. Keldian smashes through my defenses, and I love it. Their first two albums were brilliant and even though five years have past since Journey of Souls the guys haven't lost the slightest touch. From the opener Burn the Sky with the play sick riff to the closer F.T.L. with the dramatic and epic speed they keep a very high level. These guys know how to write a good melody and discard the majority of the mediocre ideas that so many power mela bands go with. It's not especially heavy, even if it's slightly harder than their earlier stuff, but the lightness and honesty goes well with the sci-fi themes in the lyrics. Bands like this make my life richer.

    Helloween - Straight out of Hell 8/10
    Helloween is a cuddly toy of mine. I love them (almost) with no reservations. And yet their last album 7 Siners was kinda bad... This new one however is much better. The style is still the fast and hard power metal of 7 Sinners but there's more nuances to it and the song writing is better. The title track is vintage Helloween and songs as Wanna be God and Waiting for the Thunder show that diversity that lifts Helloween above the mass of power metal. I'm used to disappointments from bands I like, but this album does not disappoint. Mediocre songs as Hold me in your Arms and Live Now, not to sperak of the stinker (hehe) Asshole, prevent Straight out of Hell from receiving absolute top marks, but still it's a welcome return to form.

    Alpha Tiger - Beneath the Surface 7/10
    These melodic boys are very charming. Their music is heavily 80's inspired with riffs lending from bands like Queensrÿche and Fates Warning. The singer sounds like Geoff Tate anno Queen of the Rÿche. Their show at Wacken was fantastic with tights and flying v guitars everywhere. On album they are not quite as catching, but they are definitly no push-overs either. They lack some memorable hooks and melodies but their overall charm and quality is great. Check them out.

    Amorphis - Circle 7/10
    yet another quality album from Amorphis who really relaunched their career with the album Eclipse some years back. The music is still melodic and melancholic doom/death with folky and even gothic elements. It's hard to put a finger on as no songs are bad. Their are also quite variating with changes in pace as well as vocals. The melodies however are more or less the same as we have heard many times before and the changes in the music appear a little less sharp than one could wish for. Good music for sure, but not outstanding.

    In Solitude - Sister 7/10
    Metallic rock with flair for the atmospheric. The song writing and melodies remind me of Primordial even if the music is very different. Thed music is quite riff driven and still sorta roling and organic. I don't normally listen to much music like this, but it's been a pleasure checking this one out and I'l surely try it out again.

    Kvelertak - Meir 7/10
    The punk/black/garage rockers are back and with style. The new album has at least one candidate for "song of the year" in the fantastic Spring fra Livet. The rest of the songs are a mix of fast songs and more stony epics with focus on build-ups. The fast songs dominates and album which is a little more melodic and a little less in your face than their debut. I like it but all in all it fades a abit out and quickly becomes a tad samy.

    Dark Tranquillity - Construct 7/10
    While I like this better then We are the Void it's still not reaching the top marks of my personal favourites Damage Done and Fiction. The style is atmospheric and dark and I like the general mood of the album. It's not too frantic. On the other hand I'm not totally convinced about the song writing, which is lacking a bit in ideas and catchiness. All in all a good melodeath album from some of the masters and innovators of the genre, but not something I would reccomend to people as a first encounter with the band.

    Amon Amarth - Deceiver of the Gods 7/10
    The Swedish kings of melodeath are back and they sound exactly as you would expect them to. I like the style and the blend of heavy aggression and the lighter melodies. Deceiver of the Gods, however, does not deliver much that you cannot get by listening to some of their earlier albums. The big hits are few I would say and beyond the generel high level of quality you get few special treats. I could probably listen to this all day without getting tired of it, but I wouldn't be very passionate.

    Warlord - The holy Empire 7/10
    An interesting album from this classic metal outfit. The music is kinda slow and more laid back that you'll expect from a metal band, and yet strangely epic. Often there's just slow drums under a guitar melody. It works very well in songs as Glory and Thy Kingdom Come and at other times it's boring. The album has personality but I doubt that it'll appeal to everyone. Old schoolers and classic prog might want to give a listen. I'm glad I did.

    Vreid - Welcome Farewell 7/10
    It's a pleasure listening to this thrashned black n' roll from the people in Vreid. During some parts of the album I was indeed really pleased, but in others it turned a bit away from the melodic and yet powerful trancy feeling I like. I could defintely see myself go nuts at one of their live shows but for the instance I cannot give them more than an approved but not overwhelmingly good review. Honest music, but also slightly one-layered.

    We Are Legend - Rise of the Legend 7/10
    A very diverse album with influences from US power metal, thrash, stadium rock and even sporting passages with clear hints towards Queen. God is dreaming is a wonderful and catchy song that pulls the whole album up into the top of this year's list. The rest of the album has its ups and downs with boring tracks mixed with better ones. An album that I'll like to explore more, even if I won't expect it to become a favourite of mine.

    Chthonic - Bù-Tik 6/10
    A fast and frantic album with great parts here and there - notably when it becomes slightly more atmospheric. The keyboard parts inspired by Japanese folk music are cool and should have been more numerous, since they create a subtle feeling of something unique when they appear. The songs writing is average at best and the band don't take their time to rest on the cool things they do instead of adding new things all the time. The black metal vocals are great, but I also generally prefer black to death. Not a bad album but not something I'll return to either. Best cover artwork of the year by a mile.

    Crashdïet - The savage Playground 6/10
    A couple of years ago I feel absolutel head over heels in love with this Swedish glam rock band. The attitude of Mötley Crew combined with the charm and melodic flair of Def Leppard created a mix I could not and didn't want to resist. This new album however is quite a let down. Gone are most of the pacy rock n' roll of the Generation Wild album and in has come more "mature" mid-tempo rock songs. The melodies are still there but they are wrapped in a package which a shadow of what I know the band can deliver. Songs as the fast rocker Circus and the unusual epic Garden of Babylon combined with the generel handicraft just pull The savage Playground up above average, but not more than that. A shame really.

    Volbeat - Outlaw Gentlemen and shady Ladies 5/10
    Danish Volbeat are back. Their new album follows the footsteps of the couple of albums before it. Compared to the debut album of 2005 the band has become less groovy and more soft. Here and there there's still great song writing to be found, like the wonderful song The Nameless One, but overall the album is dull. The guitar work is decent, now even sporting real soli, but Michael Poulsen doesn't seem to be able to kick off again with new inspiration. Not bad all over, but not what I had hoped for either.

    Royal Hunt - A Life to Die For 4/10
    Maybe I'm being harsh here because I don't really get the style of mid-tempo songs heavily swept in strings and keys. A few of the songs like for instance One Minute left to Live are actually quite decent, but generally I don't really get the song writing on this album. Most of the time it's uncatchy and slightly boring and sometimes, as with the horrible Running out of Tears, it turns overly poppy - and I normally even like that sort of thing. For fans of the band I guess this album is ok, but I'm not getting back to it, maybe apart from the ood song here and there.

    Rhapsody of Fire - Dark Wings of Steel 4/10
    Despite a good tune here and there, there's little quality on this album. The Italians are not as fast as I expected, but they don't use the slower pace to write good melodies. They are very alike and just as non-memorable as I had expected. I appreciate that some of the neo-classical influences are gone, but it doesn't really help the song writing. The flambouyant image of times past is more interesting than the music and probably one of the reasons that they became popular in the first place. As it is now thay have little to offer. The song Fly to the Crystal Skies is a redeeming factor this time around and fans of power metal and power ballads should give it a listen.

    HIM - Tears on Tape 4/10
    HIM has been on a steady decline since what I regard as their masterpiece Love Metal was released a decade ago. Tear on Tape does nothing to stop the downfall as there's only one really good and memorable song on it. All Lips go Blue is a song taht could have featured on the band's best albums, but the rest are forgetable. I won't give it below 4/10, as it's not outright insulting, but Ville Valo's song writing skils have gone out the window. Listen to All Lips go Blue and forget the rest - you will anyway.

    Tides From Nebula - Eternal Movement 4/10
    To be honest it's unfair of me to park this instrumental post-rock outfit down here at the low end of my chart. The album shouldn't really be here in the first place as it isn't really metal, but I found it through a metal site and I'm gonna treat it as such. My question is though why people would ever make this kind ot music. It's not ugly or unlistenable - it's just really boring. Apart from a few parts here and there it's just one big line of "atmosphere" that isn't really going anywhere.

    Arrayan Path - IV:Stigmata 4/10
    A good friend and power metal lover reccomended this band to me, and I had to check it out. Apart from the first song and a couple of choruses here and there I am, however, in no way convinced of the quality. The singer is good and slightly less annoying that a lot of other power metal singers who try too hard, but the material he has to work with is mediocre. Maybe I should listen to it more than once or twice, but I need some catchy and instantly sing-along-able moments to do so. There's riffs, melody, and speed but not enough x-factor. I'm happy that my mate also introduced me to Theocracy, who I appreciate much more than this.

    Avantasia - The Mystery of Time 3/10
    Since the masterpiece The Scarecrow, which saw quite a turn away from the classic power metal of their first two albums, Tobias Sammet's Avantasia project has turned sour. Angel of Babylon/The wicked Symphony did have some good tracks here and there, even if the whole was blandish. This new album is just good old fashioned boring. The songs sound too alike and the song writing is uninspired. The style is more or less the same as in the last couple of albums, but variance is gone and irrelevance is prevailing. I think I've heard this album for the last time. Sad.

    Lucid Dreams - Lucid Dreams 3/10
    This album is all over place in (American) power metal, prog and stadium rock. That's shouldn't be a bad thing as such if it wasn't for the fact that they're not very good at any of the many genres they're trying to span. There's some decent riffs here and there, but next to no melodies worth remembering. The singer sounds very 80's, in this wanna sound like Dio way, but he has little personality - in his voice at least. I don't hate this album but it feels like a soup with no salt. The broth is there, but the spices are gone. Very gone.
  • Best (and worst) of metal 2012

    12. Feb. 2012, 11:17

    Woods of Ypres - Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light 9/10
    What a great album this is. The last effort of now dead David Gold is certainly a swan song of quality. I have just begun to listen to this band at all, so this is the first album I have really given a listen - and I must say that I enjoy it a lot. Dark, gloomy, and melodic it rises and falls in intensity making it become more than just mellow doom. Traces of black metal and more traditional, and even goth, mix very well with the doom core. Good lyrics as well. One of the best albums this year so far.

    Flying Colors - Flying Colors 9/10
    This is not metal and should probably not be on this list, but what the hell. I'm normally not a fan of prog rock, and I've never of the members of this group even if they should be have some big names on the scene. The album however is awesome. It's packed with subtleties and proggy bonanza, but it's bound together by great melodies all around. Sometimes it's hard and sometimes it's mellow, but they never lose the catchines. Just give the song Forever in a Daze a listen and you will understand the album. I love it.

    Manowar - The Lord of Steel 8/10
    Now we're talking. Manowar have abandoned the overly epic and bombastic style they've had since Warriors of the World, and it suits them really well. The EP Thunder in the Sky showed the way in all its awesomeness, and while this album isn't just as good, it's still way above average. The style is leaning towards Louder then Hell material, but the songs are generally better I think. Songs like the surprisingly heavy Expendable and the free flowing El Gringo are highlights of the metal year 2012, but the real masterpiece is the beautiful melody in Touch the Sky. For lovers of traditional metal this album is a must hear. Haters will hate but Manowar is still a relevant band as far as I'm concerned.

    Primal Fear - Unbreakable 8/10
    The style is the same as always, trad/power metal with fokus on the good melody, but this time the Germans succeed with flying colours. After som mediocre albums Unbreakable is great return to form. The general feeling of the album is a little mellower than heard on earlier albums, but the song writing is top notch - if a little cliché. The middle part of the album consist of the best string of songs written by Matt Sinner and mates for a long time. From Bad Guys to Born Again this is probably the best power metal that will come out this year. The start and the end of the album are more bland, preventing the top grade in this list. The lack of innovation also drags down a bit. But all in all - a great experience and a positive surprise.

    Kreator - Phantom Antichrist 8/10
    Kreator is my favourite thrash band and again they show why. Phantom Antichrist is a great and varied album with top notch production. The most imortant thing however is that the typical fast and powerful music is paired with good melodies. It's not a melodic album as such, but it contains enough breaks from the 3D rifforama to maintain my interest and joy almost all the way through. It's charming, well crafted and tr00.

    H.E.A.T - Address the Nation 8/10
    This an absolutely charming throwback to 1980's power rock - think a mix of Bon Jovi and Scorpions. The style is old but the melodies sound fresh and young. Especially the wonderful song Falling Down deserves to be a megahit. The rest of the album is not just as marvelous, but still quality stuff. It's shameless, 80's, and right up my glammy alley.

    Orden Ogan - To the End 8/10
    I love power metal, but I also often run into mediocre not to say outright boring versions of the genre. Orden Ogan is different. They deliver the melodic goods on this album that sees them progress from 2010's Eston Hope. With Blind Guardian declining for more than a decade now, it's a pleasure to see the rise of another band blending their large scale power metal with medieval influences. It's not folk by any means, but there is a hint of something light and weaving - the song Things We believe In is a good example. I like this band.

    Accept - Stalingrad 8/10
    The style is slightly too classic metal and less power metal for me, but the quality of this album is still great. All the way through you feel that these people know how to make a good metal classic track with all the power and melody that it takes. The songwriting is better than what most newer bands offer and the feeling is exactly the right. Accept have been through ups and downs. Right now they are right up among the elite again.

    Eluveitie - Helvetios 7/10
    I totally dig Eluveitie's blend of agression, groove and light, melodic lines. This is one melodeath band that with their focus on medieval, folky elements has succeeded in carving out a somewhat unique platform for themselves. It's not groundbreaking but it's quite catchy and it's definitely an album I feel like spinning more than once or twice. I especially like that the vocals, both male and female, changes between different levels of aggression.

    Lunar Aurora - Hoagascht 7/10
    Atmospheric black metal from the top drawer. While the drumming may be a little too simple the whole picture is really good. All the songs fall within a melodic frame beautifully completed by interesting sound effects here and there. The vocals are a little less high than what you often hear within thew genre. For people who like their black metal a little less aggressive and a little more trance evoking and melodic this is quite the album.

    The 69 Eyes - X 7/10
    The Finsh gothrockers in The 69 Eyes are one of my favorite bands. Their sexy, dark and yet uplifting melodies are right down my alley. On this album, their tenth, they have returned to their gothic style and left the more glammy parts a bit behind - I like that. When I don't give this higher than 7/10 it's because I expected a bit better, even if I like this more than their previous album. Half of X is brilliant. The other half not so much. This is standard 69 Eyes. The level is high, but I had expected something slightly better.

    DragonForce - The Power Within 7/10
    The British speed and wanking kings in Dragonforce are back. They are mostly known for their insane guitar work and lenghty and extremely fast power meta tracks. Some purists might disregard them, but they have more than most other bands helped brigning power metal to the public eye. On this album they have a new singer, who does a good job, but that's not the biggest change. The real news are that the music now resembles "normal" power metal more than it used to do. Gone are the extremely long (for the genre) tracks and in has come easier understandable melodies. I like the change. Obviously this album is not for everyone, but power metal fans should listen to at least the song "Last man Stands" asap. It's awesome.

    Babylon Fire - Dark Horizons 7/10
    More than decent power metal/traditional metal with the occasional hoarse vocals. At first I didn't like the singer at all, but soon I came to dig his thrashy style. He reminds a bit about John Bush of Anthrax. Darkness draws Me In is a wonderful song that highlights the band's quality, but overall I'm pleased with this effort without being outright exctatic.

    Bang Tango - Pistol whipped in the Bible Belt 7/10
    I don't know if it's a sign of a personal crisis that I like this mix of 80's glam and mature AOR. At times it sounds a bit forced, but mostly it's just very pleasent with good melodies all around. Sometimes it sounds like Guns n' Roses and at other times some modern indie influences shine through - the backbone however is just well crafted and non-offensive. For the old farts that like guitar and melody.

    Anaal Nathrakh - Vanitas 7/10
    This grind/symphonic black album is so different from most of the other albums on the list, that it's a stretch to measure is at the same scale. I do however appriciate Anaal Nathrakh and their over the top aggression paired with black metal and melodic guitar parts and choruses. I don't normally listen to music as aggressive as this, but I find this band to be quite enjoyable and unique. Their song titles also rule.

    Running Wild - Shadowmaker 7/10
    I've read some bad reviews of this, but I really don't agree. While Shadowmaker doesn't really prove why Rock n' Rolf and his heavy rock had to make a comeback it's actually a pleasent and well crafted album. The first song, Piece of the Action, is the best, but the quality doesn't dive too much over the span of the album - even if the tracks are very much alike. The hit is probably the rock n' roll anthem Me and the Boys, but it's not the best song. Shadowmaker is old fashioned and conservative, but Running Wild are by no means outstaying their welcome with this effort.

    Be'lakor - Of Breath and Bone 6/10
    Quality melodeath in the vein of Amon Amrth but with longer and more complex songs. The whole feeling of the album is good and the production is rich and sharp. If someone put this on the stereo I would certainly not complain, but it doesn't give me the shivers either. I find it hard to find memorable passages and while I like the style I would like some catchiness as well. A quality wallpaper but a wallpaper nonetheless.

    Before the Dawn - Rise of the Phoenix 6/10
    Well crafted but also slightly boring melodic death metal from Finland. Fans of the genre would probably like it, but even if I do like the best bands of the genre, I miss some soul in this effort. Especially the vocalist appears one-layered to me. Some more shifts in feeling and atmosphere would have been great. I certainly cannot find a lot of the melancholy they are apparantly labeled with. Too many melodic death metal bands simply fail to make good melodies, and Before the Dawn is one of them. Decent album, but not very memorable.

    Iron Fire - Voyage of the Damned 6/10
    Danish power metallers Iron Fire are back. Their last "real" album To the Grave from 2008 is an absolutely wonderful blend of heavy metal and power metal, this time however they are not just as good. Voyage of the Damned is darker and a bit more experimenting when it comes to both melodies and song structures - I don't think they pull it off with flying colors. That said there is some exellent songs like the single Leviathan and the epic Ten Years in Space. Some will say that Iron Fire is breaking some new ground, others that they are losing their way. I think it's a mix of both really. I like it, but I had hoped for something a little different.

    Captain Crimson - Dancing madly Backwards 5/10
    This album showcases why this list isn't a list ranking the quality of the music but soly a list of how much I enjoy it. This 1970's inspired blues metal/hard rock is well crafted but this style has never been a favotire of mine - neither the originals from the 70's or the present day disciples. In the nostalgia I miss the good melodies and the aggression that can either underline the beauty or conceal the lack thereof. Some good moments are to be found, like the middle part of the song Autumn or the solo in Wizard's Bonnet, but overall this is for people who adore 1970's proto-metal - aka not me.

    Enslaved - Riitiir 5/10
    I really liked Enslaved last album (or at least one song on it) even if they are normally a tad too progressive to me. This new album brings my relationship with Enslaved back to normal. I like and appriciate what they do, but more out of respect that actual love for their music. Fans of Enslaved and melodic experimental black will dig this album heavily and I understand that. Though I would love to see Enslaved live, this album just isn't really for me.

    Sabaton - Carolus Rex 5/10
    While this is not bad as such I find no charm in it. The melodies are ok here and there, but I find the singer's voice way too irritating. On this album as on some of their earlier ones, there are some hits hidden, but not Artero Dominatus I'm afraid. Live Sabaton is much better and more intense, here they are just a bit boring. Maybe I'm a bit harsh on them, but this album just doesn't light my spark. People who don't like the lighter power metal might like this, but it doesn't really make it any better.

    Freedom Call - Land of the crimson Dawn 5/10
    Freedom Call are back just as we have known them on the last couple of album. Fast, light, catchy - and a wee bit silly. Their song writing skills are not bad but also very cliché ridden. While I'm normally proud of my love of power metal, I will find it hard to play this album to my non-metal friends and still feel that this is actually genuine music to be compared with other genres of rock. I do however enjoy this album's light euro power in the privacy of my home - in smaller doses.

    Soul Sacrifice - Carpe Mortem 5/10
    This Turkish band offers riff driven melodeath in the vein of 1990's Swedish scene, and they mix it a bit up with more modern melodic choruses. While it's not really bad it's simply very bland. I've heard the album once and I might be judging it too hard, but I don't feel like giving it another listen in the forseeable future.

    Steve Harris - British Lion 4/10
    I'm a huge fan of Iron Maiden and a Steve Harris solo effort is obviously a must hear for me. I must admit however that I didn't have the highest expectations, due to Harris' talk about the album as classic rock/prog rock. I find some of the later Maiden albums a bit boring with all their long "epic" (read - boring) parts, but they are not as boring as this. I'm glad Harris chose to do this on its own and away from Maiden, since the lack of power and catchiness would betray what Maiden is about. On its own this is not a bad album, but even within the realms of mid-tempo progrock I've heard much better. Sure - there're some highlights, but it's mostly just an average blur, not really good, not really bad.

    Engel - Blood of Saints 5/10
    Fast and melodic but also quite uninspired melodeath/metalcore from Sweden. The first part of the album is really dull but it does become a bit better as we reach the middle. One or two songs are actually good, but the others are easily forgotten. I would have liked them to play even more with the electronic seasoning they use in the first song, but it seems more like an afterthought than an apparent vision.

    At Vance - Facing your Enemy 4/10
    At Vance have only occasionally appealed to me. This time around they don't. Apart from a couple of decent songs like Facing the Enemy and Fear no Evil this album is dull with traditional metal overshadowing the power metal. There's nothing wrong with that, if the song writing is inspired. When it isn't it becomes yawn worthy. The ballads take the bisquit. If one could yawn in anger, I would when sitting through Don't Dream. I dream of better things than this.

    Testament - Dark Roots of Earth 4/10
    I must admit that I've only given this new album by Testament one listen. It was simply so boring that I didn't bother to give another go - and I doubt that it'll happen in the future. I like Testament live and some of their earlier stuff, but this has very little to offer. The difference between this and the other thrash verterans in Kreator's new album is striking.

    Wedingoth - The other Side 4/10
    I have seen this classified as gothic metal. It really isn't all that gothic but more like proggy symphonic metal. The female vocals are not as theatrical as heard elsewhere. They do lack some soul however. The music isn't really my cup of tea, even if there's a good part here and there. I do think you need more than one listen to get into it for real, but the general boredom prevents me from giving it more than one or two spins.

    Steel Assassin - WWII: Metal of Honor 4/10
    Boring and predictable NWOBHM. For lovers of classic melodic heavy metal only.

    Rebellion - Arminus, Furor Teutonicus 4/10
    This band partly consists of people from Grave Digger. It doesn't make this mediocre traditional metal any better. The one good song on the album is called Breeding Hate, and the heavy metal world would not have been any poorer had they decided just to put that one out as a single and scrap the rest. The vocals are annoying and the song writing is dull. I haven't listened much to their earlier stuff to be fair, but this new album doesn't make me rush to do so.

    Crystal Viper - Crimen Excepta 3/10
    Welcome to the world championships in boredom. The Polish heavy metal band Crystal Viper delivers classic riffs aefter a well proven formula, but apart from a few highlights here and there, they offer nothing exciting. The female singer is actually ok and not too operatic. She's just a girl singing, which is cool, but she sounds just a tad too much like the male singer from the bad Italian power metal band Domine at times. Nah...

    Heard but not yet rated:

    69 Chambers - Torque
  • Best (and worst) of metal 2011

    28. Jan. 2011, 18:07

    Die Apokalyptischen Reiter - Moral & Wahnsinn 9/10
    A wonderful and varied album. It might not be totally on par with the even better Licht from 2008, but for fans of the band this album certainly will be no let down. It's quite short but with online streaming becoming more and more popular it should be less of a problem since the paying methods are monthly fees rather than a fixed price per album. Highlights are the happy and catchy Die gehört Nichts, the heavier and memorable Erwache, and the ear slaying Hört Auf. One of the best and less predictable bands out there at the moment - at least within the melodic realm of metal.

    Bloodbound - Unholy Cross 9/10
    The Swedes in Bloodbound are not original. They steal, not to say outright plunder, from back catalogues of bands as Manowar, Hammerfall, and Helloween. Sometimes such a lack of originality can be annoying, but when the songs are as good as on Unholy Cross everything is forgiven. The first three songs sparkle and glitter of power metal quality. Moria, Drop the Bomb, and The Ones We left Behind lift Bloodbound way above the mediocre power metal we hear all too often. These slower songs are later seasoned with faster tracks reminding me of newer Helloween.

    The artwork, the name, and the music style might prevent these guys from a mainstream break through, but power metal fans must take notice. The music and lyrics are kliché ridden, but the song writing is top fucking notch. It’s catchy and charming and not marred by too thin production or too high pitched a singer. Give it a listen. Now.

    HammerFall - Infected 8/10
    It has been up and down with Hammerfall. While I regard their first album as a power metal masterpiece some of the later efforts have been of more mixed quality. This time around they have adopted some more complicated song patterns which add a new dimension to their music. When put together with some old school rockers they offer a good whole. Songs as the very Helloween like Dios de los Muertes and the insanely catchy Outlaw are among the highlights. The album isn't without bland moments but the amount of stinkers is very low.

    Taake - Noregs Vaapen 8/10
    A wonderful and diverse black metal album with everything from trancy passages to great melodies - is it even a banjo I can hear somewhere? While staying true to the genre's roots, Taake don't hesitate to break the bounderies either. This is a must hear for people who prefer their black true but not chaotic and über fast.

    Lake of Tears - Illwill 8/10
    I'm a huge fan of this band. I do prefer their softer more melancholic side to this more aggressive and faster album though. The tough tone can be a bit forced at times. That said there's some great melodies and some good musical pieces spread all around the album. U.N.S.A.N.E and Behind the green Door are top notch songs and with the exeption of a song like Parasites the whole album is on a decent level.

    Charred Walls Of The Damned - Cold Winds on timeless Days
    Not exactly what I had hoped for after last year's debut but not bad either. Thrash and power metal goes hand in hand in a fashion that Iced Earth forgot long ago. Along with the debut this is the best Ripper has done since his work with Judas Priest.

    Primordial - Redemption by the Puritan's Hand 7/10
    Primordial have very much their own style and they've become favourites in the metal community for a reason. I enjoyed this album very much as well. The smooth guitars and the ever interesting drumming paired with the unique vocals create a black (can it be called that really?) album above average. It is however also a little less varied than I would have preferred. The melodies tend to become the same over and over again.

    Vhäldemar - Metal of the World 7/10
    Decent traditional/power metal with a nice, powerful production. What really lifts it beyond average however is the well crafted melodies. The feel of the music reminds me a bit of the German band Chinchilla. The vocalist has the same raspy voice. It's not an album that will shake the world by any means but overall an enjoyable experience for fans of the genre.

    Myrath - Tales of the Sands 7/10
    Talented people from Tunesia ready to take on the prog metal world. I'm a huge fan of their mixing of Arab music with the in this case more traditional prog metal. They combine the light feeling of the meandering Arab patterns with the sharpness and force of metal. Still it's not really catchy enough for me to give it a higher mark however. A very interesting band none the less.

    Burzum - Fallen 7/10

    Power Quest - Blood Alliance 7/10
    Neat power metal album with a decent level of balls and good melodies. The guitar wanking is a bit over the top, but I can live with it because of the rest of the music. The songs Rising anew and Glorious are real hits while some of the other songs are less memorable.

    Varg - Wolfkult 7/10
    Very decent melodic black metal with folk influences. The songs are in German and despite the quite onelayered vocals the atmosphere is actually ok. The tempo is mid/high and the almost power metal-like guitar patterns light the album up here and there. Not ground breaking music by any means but well crafted.

    Blut aus Nord - The mystical Beast of Rebellion 7/10
    Monotonous and dark - just as I like my black metal. The album is more about creating a trance-like ambiance than presenting a group of individual songs. The drumming (machine?) is fast and furious but also a little too bland. Generally I like the music and its soundscapes.

    Helhorse - For wolves and Vultures 7/10
    Heavy and groovy stoner metal with influences from southern metal. While it's not my cup of tea per se, it's not all that bad. The general picture is dominated by heaviness and classic one dimensional vocals, but sometimes some decent melodies break through. I prefer the melodic and stony parts to the more aggressive.

    Stormwarrior - Heathen Warrior 6/10
    While I thought their last effort, Heading Northe, was a power metal gem I'm not nearly as satisfied with this one. The ingrediances are there but the magic is somewhat gone. There's absolutely some good parts here and there and for all lovers of German power metal in the vein of Gamma Ray there should be something to get, but overall it's an disappointment considering the catchiness and charm of the 2008 album.

    Saxon - Call to Arms 6/10
    A decent and very solid effort by the veterans. Compared to some of their later material like Unleash the Beast (1998) and Lionheart (2004) I do find this one a tad boring though. NWOBHM riffs are all over the place and despite Biff Byford's 60 years his voice is still quite good. Somehow however it won't really take off in more than a few songs. The brilliant title track is a highlight.

    Wolf - Legions of Bastards 6/10
    Well crafted traditional metal. I liked the 2009 album Ravenous quite a bit without being awestricken. This continues in the same vein. It's absolutely decent, but I'm not a huge fan. It might move up a grade, when I give it some more listens but for now it's in the middle of the 2011 metal peloton.

    Dalriada - Ígéret 6/10
    Light mix of power, folk, and black with emphasis on the two former. The album has some good melodies interesting folky parts. For fans of folk this is surely something to check out, while other people might find it a bit too silly/light/generic. Also interesing to hear lyrics in Hungarian.

    Edguy - The Age of the Joker 6/10
    Some good songs here and there, but overall it's not too catchy. Their have taken yet another step away from the power metal, but Tobias Sammet does this better in Avantasia.

    Circle of Silence - The blackened Halo 6/10
    German power metal that sound a bit like a blend of Iced Earth and Iron Savior. The riffs from the former and the melodies from the latter bound together by a decent if a bit uninspired singer with a somewhat raspy voice. Far from the traditional light europower this is more classic metal with a thrashy feeling. Good stuff here and there but not overly exciting.

    In Flames - Sounds of a Playground Fading 5/10
    Not bad and not really good as it has been the case with most In Flames albums in the last decade. The last one I really enjoyed was Reroute to Remain. Come Clarity was also ok, but this doesn't reach that level. The more mellow songs like the title track are the best, but all in all they don't seem to have anything really relevant to offer anymore. I am however not offended by this album and I wouldn't mind to hear it in the background.

    FireForce - March On 5/10
    Classic heavy metal without any surprises at all. It's well crafted but also quite boring. For me at least it didn't live up to the good reviews I have seen. It reminds me a bit of Grave Digger and it sure has both power and guts - the melodies however are bland. For fans of classic metal it should be ok.

    Falconer - Armod 5/10
    The opening track is really good and quite heavy compared to the usual Falconer stuff. From there however I found it increasingly hard to keep focus on an album that seem to blur out a bit towards the end. The style is generally more folkish than most of their prior albums and all songs (except for the bonus tracks) are in Swedish. Falconer is an interesting band, mostly due to Mathias Blad's unusual voice, but this effort lacks some catchiness.

    Boris - Heavy Rocks 5/10
    A strange album ranging from more or less awful and at least very boring up-tempo stuff to really good stoner metal. I don't know any of the bands earlier work, and I'll only check it out if it leans towards good songs such as Missing Pieces (ok I know I have to check it out to hear what it sounds like but still...)

    Dark Forest - Dawn of Infinity 5/10
    Run-of-the-mill black metal with no real surprises. Dark, harsh, and a tad monotonous. It's not bad as such and fans of the genre might rejoice. I have heard much better in my time though.

    Stratovarious - Elysium 4/10
    Some good songs but many more boring. A lot of the fast paced songs are gone and I don't think that the current line-up's song writing can live up to what they're aiming at. The style is still europower, but they sadly lack some power.

    4th Dimension - The White Path to Rebirth 4/10
    Melodic and light power metal with some good melodies here and there. All in all it's not spectacular though. Traditional weak production and lacking song writing skills. The first song on the album is really good.

    Queensrÿche - Dedicated to Chaos 4/10
    This album is actually quite far from metal. Despite a few metal riffs here and there most of it is what one could call AOR - or just bland. I like the idea of a more "mature" and silent album, but the song writing isn't really up for it. I'm sad to say this, but the album should have been called Dedicated to Boredom. Not horribly bad, but horrible unexciting.

    Symfonia - In Paradisum 3/10
    All star band? More like all star rejects. Timo Tolkki lost the musical touch long ago and the few actual highlights on this album cannot hide its impressive mediocrity. Uli Kusch who's wonderful drumming lights up several Helloween albums from the 1990's is reduced to a speed machine and the keyboards annoy me. Maybe I'm a little harsh on them, but the band name, art work, vocals, you name it - all irritates me.

    Firestorm - March On 3/10
    A few good songs on this one. Generally however it's mostly run-of-the-mill thrashy power without much catchiness. I could enjoy some of this when drunk and partying but I'll not give it many spins at home.

    Hibria - Blind Ride 3/10
    More mediocrity - I'm getting annoyed by now. The tempo is high and the intro bodes well for the album. But alas... the general level of song writing is lacking severely. It's power metal in its most bland form. Not laughably bad but ultimately just boring. Where is the feeling of necessity?

    Enbound - And she says Gold 3/10
    One good song in a sea of blandness as it's often the case with these power metal bands. The ballads are deadly boring and the cover of Michael Jackson's Beat It is just stupid - if nothing else it highlights the song writing skills Enbound seem to lack. When you have heard the first song you don't need to got much further. It has a really good chorus but from there it's all downhill.

    Mercenary - Metamorphosis 2/10
    It's sad to witness such a demise. The band, with a very different line-up, used to be the best Danish metal export with wonderful albus as Everblack and 11 Dreams, but those days are long gone. Mediocre metal-core inspired wank is what we get now. If I sound bitter, it's because I am bitter.

    Heard but not yet rated:

    Waiting to hear these:

    Iced Earth - Dystopia
    Throne of Katarsis - Ved Graven
    Immortal Souls- IV: The Requiem for The Art of Death
    Anubis Gate - Anubis Gate
    Sólstafir - Svartir Sandar
    Red Fang - Murder the Mountains
    Iced Earth - Dystopia
  • Best (and worst) of metal 2010

    26. Jan. 2010, 8:30

    Heard and rated:

    Charred Walls Of The Damned - Charred Walls of the Damned 9/10
    Powerful metal with both balls and melodies. It's not ground breaking but in a year of fairly run-of-the-mill albums it's great to find a record that is so run-of-the-great-metal-mill. Christy and Ripper are back where they should be after especially the latter's blunders with both Iced Earth and his sole stuff. Well written, well crafted, and probably appealing to a lot of metal heads.

    Murderdolls - Women and Children Last 8/10
    This is highly entertaining and very catchy. The drumming is a bit boring, but both song writing and production make up for it. Some mght find it a bit commercial but I think it's a great update of some Alice Cooperesque horror rock mixed with some thrashy glam.

    Dark Tranquillity - We are the Void 8/10
    Often I find myself satisfied but also strangely unfulfilled. Dark Tranquillity does that to me. This album is very good simply because their level is generally very high, but it doesn't hit the hammer on the nail when it comes to sending shivers down any spine. They are on the top of their game but don't seem capable of progressing even higher. Fast, melodic, dark, and catchy - it contains it all, but no surprises.

    Rotting Christ - Aealo 8/10
    I was pleasently suprised by this, since I haven't heard much of what the band has made before. People with more knowledge on the subject than I claim that the style is quite simular to their older work however. The dark atmosphere with the industrial vibe is cool and the melodic black elements creates the needed aggresivity. The recurring female choirs are different than most I've heard before - and I like it.

    Wuthering Heights - Salt 8/10
    I must admit that I haven't heard all of this, but the songs I've HAVE heard are reaally good. It's proggy, a thing I'm often very critical of, but the fantastic melodies make up for it. At time the progginess even offers some interesting takes and breaks. A Danish band which is all too unknown.

    Helloween - 7 Sinners 8/10
    I always have über high expectations with Helloween. Last time they didn't disappoint at all, but this time I'm not all that content. Of course they manage to sneak some of the best songs of the year into the album. World of Fantasy and If a Mountain could Talk are two of the highlights and make one wish the bassist Marcu Grosskopf would write more material. I love the style and the passion of the band, but they do unfortunately add too many doses of uncatchy blandness on this one. I give the 8/10 on the year scale because they remain the best power metal band out there and because the general level so far this year has been a bit below par.

    Black Sun Aeon - Routa 7/10
    Interesting and very diverse album. At times it sounds like older Tiamat and at other times it's more towards black metal. The vocalist masters a wide range of styles, but I think that it gets too mutch like so so death metal at times. Generally it's an album I think many people would like parts of at least - and thumps up to the band for mixing genres in a natural way.

    Avantasia - The wicked Symphony/Angel of Babylon 7/10
    The Scarecrow absolutely blew my away. That isn't the case with this new album, which is only one of two, of which I haven't yet given a listen to Angel of Babylon. Tobias Sammet is claiming that there are no fillers on the albums - I disagree. While there's surely world class tracks on it, which is what you have learned to expect from Avantasia, the whole isn't up to what I had hoped for. Some songs rock totally and others are forgetable. The style is more AOR than powermetal, though some parts are also more heavy than what the "band" has done earlier.

    Crystalic - Persistence 7/10
    At last a very positive surprise. I didn't know the band but they play very competent melodeath - a bit like Dark Tranquillity with some heavier elements. I don't know why they couldn't get deal with a label and had to release it for free on their website, but the better for us. I hope to see them on the road somewhere.

    Volbeat - Above Hell/Beyond Heaven 7/10
    Not on par with the best they've made, but the song writing is still good and I like the style. One of the few artists who deserves to be selling a lot of albums in Denmark . and who does so.

    Alcest - Écailles de lune 7/10
    I liked this one and its atmospheric, dreamy black metal/shoegaze. At times however it gets boring in a sort of sneaky way, where you don't really notice it until after a couple of minutes yadayada nothing. If they could replace some of that with some more black it would be great.

    Pretty Maids - Pandemonium 7/10
    This album has some instant hits if you're into melodic 80's style metal. The title track is tougher than most things I've heard from the band in a while and some of the ballads are very good as well. They fail however to keep the quality thorugh the whole of the album. It's hard to keep it up, when everything stands and fall with each song more than the whole. As a sidenote I really think it's a good thing that they now have Jacob Sandager, previsouly of Mercenary, on the synth - he adds som classy, and yet cheesy, layers to the music.

    Freedom Call - Legend of the Shadowking 7/10
    What do you expect from this band? If the answer is fast, über melodic, and catchy power metal, then they live up to your expectations. Some of the songs are brilliant, others are bland. Nothing new under the sun here.

    Burzum - Belus 7/10
    This was a pleasent experience. I miss some of the old desperate vocals, but the music is well crafted, repetitative and atmospheric. The production is quite good, too. The album won't be my top pick of the year, but at some moments it really blew me away.

    Gamma Ray - To the Metal 7/10
    For fans of the band this album is a safe investment - power metal from the start to the end. The first song is awesome and there are highlights spread throughout the record, but it is a safe investment in the same sense as saving money and putting the in the bank (as if that was safe nowadays...) - not much excitement in that. Run-of-the-mill Gamma Ray one might say. If that's good or bad is for you to judge, but I quite like it.

    Crematory - Infinity 7/10
    A pleasant album for people who like melodic goth rock with a doomy twist. The songs are generally built around a verse of growling and a cleanly song chorus. They flow freely and naturally but don't reach any sort of climax very often. It's starting to irritate me that I like so many releases but love so few...

    Eluveitie - Everything Remains as It Never Was 7/10
    I liked this but found it to be a little below the quality in the stuff the band bas previously released. An enjoyable listen nonetheless.

    Six Magics - Behind The Sorrow 7/10
    Female fronted symphonic metal - the label alone made all alarm bells ringing. This however isn't bad at all. The female vocalist isn't annoying and a lot of the songs are actually quite well written. While it still lacks some power it is certainly the best of its kind this years. They leave the neo-classical behind and turn to 80's power rock instead - wise choice.

    Iron Maiden - The final Frontier 6/10
    This one is slowly growing on me and I don't know exactly how to rate it yet. When it's not higher on the list, it's because of the large amounts of boredom, which surrounds the highlights of the album. The album, as well as many of the songs, is way too long. El Dorado is a fantastic song and a couple of the others are also on par with Maiden's huge legacy. Apart from that it's good bits and pieces here and there. I want more fast rockers and less proggy build ups - especially when the melodies aren't better.

    Seven Thorns - Return to the Past 6/10
    While there is absolutely some very good parts on this album it doesn't truely live up to my expectations. I am for one not a big fan of neoclassical guitar work, a thing that the new guitarists seem to like a whole lot more. The song writing is pretty average but with highlights such as the single Forest Majesty and the opener Liberty. I like the tempo and the rock n' rollish feeling and the musicianship is great, but they generally don't succeed in taking their music to the level of the best in the genre.

    Iron Fire - Metalmorphozis 6/10
    I did expect some more from this band. I loved their last work To the Grave and its fast and heavy power metal. The production is still more solid than most power metal, but a little too much keyboard has been added. What is worse however is that the song writing is lacking a bit - only 2-3 songs really catch me, and that is below the avarage for Iron Fire. The album is a re-recording of old left out tracks from the band's career, and even played by some of the old members. I'm looking forward to a really new and hopefully better album - they have the potential.

    Elvenking - Red silent Tides 6/10
    Catchy here and there, good production. It's been a while since I heard it and I can't remember a single song, so downgraded from 7 to 6.

    Rage - Strings to a Web 6/10
    It's good old school melodic metal but I'm not really convinced. I could change this to a 7/10 but it's on that level. Solid but not really exciting.

    Sabaton - Coat of Arms 6/10
    Enjoyable but only in glimpses living yup to the hype.

    Orden Ogan - Easton Hopes 6/10
    Fast and melodic and not unlike some of Blind Guardian's stuff. The prggy elements don't really work however and some of the melodies lack some catchiness. I could easily listen to this because I like the genre, but I won't recommend it to anyone exept for fans of power metal. The thrashy parts might be redeeming to some listeners.

    HIM - Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice 6/10
    I've only given this one listen so far. HIM used to be one of my favourite bands, but their last efforts have been lacking something. Dark Light was too light and poppy, while Venus Doom was too dark and uncatchy. This new one leans towards the latter and I'm a tad disappointed. If you like goth rock however there will be some tunes for you in it.

    Eisbrecher - Eiszeit 6/10

    The Sword - Warp Riders 6/10

    Orphaned Land - The never ending Way of ORwarrior 6/10
    I totally digged Mabool even though it's not really my style. Quite slow, rather proggy, and featuring death elements - all things I generally don't go for. I was therefor looking forward to this, but must admit that I simply don't understand it. It's very proggy, evil, tongues would call it messy, and not nearly as catchy as Mabool. I'm not an expert on this and I know that I should listen to it time and again to let it grow on me. Sadly enough I just don't feel the urge. For lovers of the prog however I think this would be great stuff.

    Throes of Dawn - The Great Fleet of Echoes 6/10

    Abigor - Time Is The Sulphur In The Veins Of The Saint... 5/10

    Carach Angren - Death came through a Phantom Ship 5/10

    Keep of Kalessin - Reptilian 5/10
    This album is a tady too busy for me. All the guitar bonanza drives my up the wall. If it hasn't been for 2-3 songs which really sports some cool black metal and some great melodic choruses the verdict would have been even less good.

    Mutiny Within - Mutiny Within 5/10

    High on Fire - Snakes for the Divine 6/10

    InnerWish - No turning Back 5/10
    Quite bland mix of power metal and more old school metal. Not much to say really. Not horrific but not good either.

    Heljareyga - Heljareyga 4/10
    Folk power metal with the frontman of Týr. Moderately interesting but too much guitar wank and too few good melodies make the album under avarage. In its most folky passages it's ok, but his voice and melodic shortcomings drag it down.

    Versailles( - Jubilee 4/10
    Power metal light in Japanese - partly at least. While I support bands writing in their own language it doesn't really make up for the fact that this is thin and mediocre. Power metal fans should check it out, but for others there's nothing to reap from this fruit.

    Astral Doors - Requiem of Time 4/10
    Quite bland and boring but not without the occasional highlights. The style is more or less what we in Danish would call "bottocks rock" paired with some heavy metal and power metal elements. Not groundbreaking at all and for fans of the genre/band only.

    Masterplan - Time to be King 4/10
    To think that this band's debut album was one of my favourites back in 2003. Maybe they have changed or I have. Time to be King has Jorn Lande back on vocals, but I'm not such a huge fans of him like eveyone else seem to be. On top of that the music is uninspired and bland. The production is good, but it cannot disguise the lack of quality melodies and the bad lyrics. Too bad...

    Icarus Witch - Draw down the Moon 4/10
    I can't even remember why I didn't like this, but given the rating I gave them half a year ago I probably won't give it another listen - too bad for them (and maybe for me...).

    Kerion - The Origins 3/10
    Another bland and boring symphonic power metal release with a female vocalist. Neo-classical, only seldomly catchy - unless you like uninspired wank don't even go there.

    Ancient Bards - The Alliance Of The Kings 3/10
    While I like a few of the melodies on this album most of it is simply bland. The girl in front of the band has a good voice, but the material she's woking with is uninspired. When doing a power metal album you have nothing to fall back upon, when the melodies, soli, or harmonies are failing. In black you have the desperate screams, in death you have the brutal anger, but in power metal there's a void when your ideas are non exsisting. The instruments on this album are making one neo-classical heard a thousand times before loop after the other. Albums as this gives power metal a bad name, not because the musicians suck, but because it's so damn boring.

    Audiovision - Focus 2/10
    Unconvincing hard rock/metal. At first I didn't dislike it that much but soon I got very tired of the uninspired riffage and the Christian lyrics. Not that I mind Christianity as such, it just seems too much like a sermon in this case. This type of metal grew tired in the 1980's unless the people playing it are VERY good, which isn't the case here.

    Abandon All Ships - Geeving 1/10
    I have been advocating a blend of trance and metal for many years, but seriously - don't even try to check this band out. Yes, they use electronic elements, but most of the time it is worthless, poppy shit. The rest of the time it's an uninspired core fuck up extravaganza. To understand my hate, give the title track a listen o...m...g....

    (Too strange to rate as a normal album:
    Helloween - Unarmed )

    (Not my style at all, so I can't really rate it:
    Sigh – Scenes From Hell )