• Amorphis - Live at Helsinki Ice Hall (2021)

    Amorphis is not only one of the most consistent, creative and versatile bands in the studio but also a truly charismatic, energetic and passionate group on stage. Eleven years after its first and only live record Forging the Land of Thousand Lakes, the Finnish sextet finally comes around with its second strike Live at Helsinki Ice Hall. Collectors and fans can however also purchase An Evening with Friends at Huvila that is only available in bundles, digitally and on vinyl as well as the perfect Live at Loud Park release that was only included on the Japanese limited edition of Under the Red Cloud. As for Live at Helsinki Ice Hall, it can easily be purchased on CD but also in a boxed set of vinyls.

    Recorded just before the pandemic, this release features fifteen songs for a running time of eighty-eight minutes on two discs. The record starts with a progressive, melodic and atmospheric instrumental overture that leads into opener ''The Bee'' that finds the perfect mixture between atmospheric harsh parts and melancholy melodic parts. The diversified drum play, powerful bass guitar, versatile guitar play, enchanting keyboard sounds and soulful vocals by the world's greatest vocalist should conquer your souls, minds and hearts by storm.

    The band's more recent songs harmonize perfectly with its classics. On the former side, ''Daughter of Hate'' is a blistering, liberating and sinister epic that ends the first disc on the highest of notes while the mysterious ''The Golden Elk'' swiftly meanders between brutal and fast verses on one side and an epic and melodic chorus for the ages on the other side. Among the band's classics, the short and focused ''Into Hiding'' never gets old and transitions harmoniously between slow to mid-paced menacing verses to hypnotizing and melodic choruses while ''My Kantele'' offers longing escapism with psychedelic, progressive and folkloristic notes in seven fascinating minutes.

    Lead singer Tomi Joutsen makes sure to interact with the crowd and lets the fans participate from time to time which works well in dreamy, melodic and romantic closer ''House of Sleep''. The live atmosphere on this release is strong but the band's performances sound as flawless as in the studio which is truly remarkable. The only thing I would suggest is to record the next live album outside of Finland to give the band's numerous international fans the opportunity to understand the interactions.

    At the end of the day, Amorphis' Live at Helsinki Ice Hall is a serious candidate for live record of the year. Anyone who likes rock and metal music, no matter what subgenre, should get her or his hands on this stunning output. The only reason why this record didn't get the perfect grade is because the set list on Forging the Land of Thousand Lakes was a little bit more extensive and because Live at Loud Park had an even more energetic performance. Still, Amorphis' Live at Helsinki Ice Hall blows ninety-nine percent of all other live albums out of the water.

    Final rating: 98%

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    Once again, quite a few outstanding songs have been released throughout the month of June. This month's playlist focuses mainly on different types of power metal but also includes alternative rock, gothic metal and punk rock elements. Click on the following link to discover my latest playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2HIS9NHne3PWf7KCPAhn4h

    1. Rise Against - The Numbers

    2. Till Lindemann - Ich hasse Kinder

    3. Unto Others - When Will God's Work Be Done?

    4. Pain - Party in My Head

    5. Volbeat - Wait a Minute, My Girl

    6. KK's Priest - Sermons of the Sinner

    7. Pharaoh - Freedom

    8. Timo Tolkki's Avalon - Without Fear

    9. Helloween - Down in the Dumps

    10. Galneryus - Whatever It Takes (Raise Our Hands!)

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  • Galneryus - Union Gives Strength (2021)

    Progressive power metal emperors Galneryus are back with an extended play that stands out for multiple reasons. For starters, it's the first release with new drummer Lea who only joined the veterans last year and is also involved in heavy metal band Zygote. Up next, this release features eight songs with a generous running time of fifty-nine minutes and offers value for money. Thirdly, the special edition comes around with a bonus DVD that includes a concert stream featuring nine songs plus a guitar solo. Last but not least, this record's title Union Gives Strength represents the band spirit very well as it's all about outstanding individual musicians joining forces to create some of the best progressive power metal team work in the world.

    Opening an album with a song that nearly cracks the ten-minute mark might sound ambitious to some bands but that isn't the case for the gifted Japanese quintet. ''The Howling Darkness'' starts with eerie, mysterious and sinister keyboard soundscapes before the other instruments kick in and offer symphonic power metal with atmospheric gothic soundscapes. This dark approach is soon mixed with the band's unique trademarks in form of playful keyboard sounds, technically skilled guitar play and youthful, passionate and fresh vocals. The new drummer also gets a short solo spot where he can shine and is backed up by formidable bass guitar play. Despite all these changes, ideas and vibes, this ambitious opener still comes around with catchy melodies and memorable vocal lines. This opener combines everything that makes Galneryus stand out while still adding a few new soundscapes to the formula. This track is a perfect introduction to the best progressive power metal band of the world and if you aren't familiar with it yet, then you should certainly purchase this record.

    The greatness obviously doesn't stop here and describing each song would end up resembling a master's thesis. Another song that needs to be pointed out however is ''Flames of Rage''. This song offers catchy, fast and intelligent power metal that sounds like everything a band like DragonForce attempted but always failed to achieve. The relentless rhythm section is the solid backbone of this tune. The progressive keyboard partitions add an intellectual touch. The dynamic guitar play is once again out of this world, no matter if you listen to the fast riffs or the emotional solo passages. The heroic vocals blend in splendidly and carry the song through its extensive running time of nine minutes without one single unnecessary second. In terms of quality, this is the best European power metal song of the decade so far and it's almost intimidating how these five Japanese masterminds show their European colleagues how to excel in their own genre.

    One final song that needs to be pointed out is ''Whatever It Takes (Raise Our Hands!)'' which was released a few weeks prior to this extended play along with a cool music video. This track basically combines the atmospheric, creative and intellectual approach to ''The Howling Darkness'' with the energetic, fast and melodic side of ''Flames of Rage''. The song is crowned with an irresistible chorus that you won't ever forget upon first listening to it, A special shoutout goes to the progressive keyboard sounds that make this song's middle section a voyage from the experimental sixties over the atmospheric seventies to the versatile eighties while never sounding even remotely old-fashioned in the context of a contemporary power metal album.

    In the end, Galneryus have delivered another progressive power metal masterpiece and serious candidate for album of the year. The six brand new songs are perfectly executed, the two re-recordings mustn't hide behind the original versions at all and the bonus concert certainly offers value for money. If you have come across this band before but never really given it a chance, then the time to do so has now arrived. I have only discovered this band about four years ago and would already consider Galneryus among the ten greatest bands I have ever listened to in my life. Anyone with a weakness for progressive music or power metal might discover his or her new favourite band right here.

    Final rating: 96%

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    For this thirteenth episode of my Kluseba's World of Sports podcasts, I'm going to be discussing my predictions for the third round of the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs. Leave a comment if you like and don't forget to download the file below if you can't access it immediately.

    Kluseba's World of Sports - Fourteenth Episode


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