• 惊叫基督 / Screaming Savior - 宙海 / Infinity (2012)

     

    Screaming Savior are one of the most famous melodic black metal bands from China. Throughout the last years, more and more bands of this genre arose from the underground thanks to many club shows in the big Chinese cities and now these bands even got their record deals and start to spread their music all round the world thanks to the internet. This kind of music might not be too impressive and innovating for someone who has bands such as Absu, Cradle Of Filth or Dimmu Borgir around but we talk about a band from a country where it was and still is somewhat difficult to get access to this kind of music and therefor, Screaming Savior really do a pioneer work that should not be underestimated.

    On the other side, this music might only be a gem for a fan of modern melodic black metal with a lot of epic symphonic influences and a couple of small Chinese folk passages. The Chinese lyrics give the whole thing an exotic touch but apart of that this is the kind of release that could come from any other corner of the world and should definitely be accessible for the genre fans. In my opinion, the symphonic elements are even a little bit too present and the final result sounds somewhat overloaded. At least, the band rarely uses useless blast beat passages that many Western bands employ and that I find quite annoying after a while.

    As highlights, I would first mention the sacral and epic opener "宿星 / Star of Fatality" that kicks the record off in a quite good way and makes you want more. "永战之海 / Ocean of Asura" was a good single choice at is not only a very varied track but has also the most catchy melodies from all songs. This track is definitely the highlight of the record and has an epic pirate atmosphere. The amazing album closer "极宇 / Across the Boundary of Cosmos" rather touches a space topic and develops an epic and majestic atmosphere by touching something that is not yet overused in the genre. The band should go further in this kind of direction next time.

    There are other good tracks to mention. "祈冥 / Pray to the Chthonic" is a short and very slow song with female choirs that sounds different from all the other songs without sounding out of place. If the band had more ideas like this one and would take the risks to employ more experiments of this kind, their next album could be a genre highlight. I must also mention the following "圣颂:往征者 / Ode to the Expedition" which is a song that I like and that many will probably dislike. Let me explain you why. The song is dominated by epic keyboard sounds that sound like a mixture of Alestorm, Turisas and Europe. This is not very original but next to the amazing "永战之海 / Ocean of Asura", this track has the best single potential and should easily please to a larger audience. There is a lot of kitsch in this track but its catchy as hell. In fact, the whole record should please to fans of power and symphonic metal as the black metal elements are not too harsh to disturb fans of these genres while traditional black metal fans might quickly skip this release.

    In the end, the band doesn't reinvent the genre and takes maybe a little bit too many influences from many famous Western melodic and symphonic black metal bands. Screaming Savior though know how to write epic tracks with catchy melodies and should definitely get more attention as they might please to a quite large audience except of the true black metal maniacs. Acoustic guitar breaks, haunting piano melodies or folk influenced violin passages guarantee for a good amount of diversity so that this record never gets boring. On the other side, the band should by now find its own identity and maybe concentrate on the fact that they are Chinese by working on the few but impressive Asian folk influences, some good female vocal passages and by keeping and increasing the amount of epic tales which can be found in their lyrics.

     

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  • 天幕落 / Terminal Lost - 卷贰 凤凰山 / Volume II: Fengyangshan (2012)

     

    Throughout the last years, more and more promising Chinese metal bands released their first couple of records and started to spread the word of a new creative, cultural and musical movement within this fascinating country. This new wave has more artistic freedom than ever before and also slowly starts to get recognized in the Western world. Terminal Lost are one of those new bands and they put out their second full length release earlier this year. The new record is definitely one of the extreme metal highlights of the year and should get more attention.

    The band basically plays black metal with a lot of symphonic influences that give the whole thing an atmospheric gothic touch. Therefor, this melodic and in some ways even progressive release should please to fans of bands such as Dimmu Borgir or Cradle Of Filth without sounding as predictable and instrumentally overloaded as those band's latest records. Fans of brutal, depressive or thrashened black metal will probably not like this release but it could also please to fans of gothic, progressive and symphonic metal. The band includes some traditional Chinese folk influences from time to time. They also add a couple of melodic and very well played passioante guitar solos to their sound. All these elements are very well employed in little doses. The record remains interesting and surprising without lacking of coherence and a quite unique band sound.

    Especially the second half of the album contains many great songs. "神的召唤 (The Call of God)" is one of the best extreme metal instrumentals of the last years for example. It has some electronic elements mixed with folk sounds and develops a majestic and mysterious atmosphere that never gets redundant in over six minutes of running time. "弑 · 征途 (Journey of the Murderers)" has some great piano melodies that send shivers down my spine. Later, we hear a very well done guitar solo. There are many subtle changes of atmosphere in this track that tells us and epic story that seems to be quite well elaborated from what I understand of it. This music truly creates images in my mind and has a very visual side. A really big surprise comes next with "永冻之夜 (Night of the Permafrost)" which happens to be my favourite piece on this excellent release. The song starts with some jazz piaos that make me think of some progressive stuff like UneXpect but the whole thing doesn't sound experimental, progressive or schizophrenic. It's used in small doses once again and fits very well to the song that develops a gripping atmosphere. Some technoid keyboard influences make me later think of early Amorphis or Therion. This is a song to listen to more than just once or twice and that gets more and more intense each time you listen to it.

    The band overall varies its style from slower pieces like the almost balladesque "转世轮回 (Reincarnation)" that also features a few clean vocals that come as a good surprising element even though they could be performed with more passion to quite fast paced pieces like "妖祸 (Demon Curse)" that could come from a band like Absu but that always has some symphonic breaks that remind me of stuff like Eternal Tears Of Sorrow. The band works as well with folk passages as with more cinematic and symphonic approaches, for example in the album's most epic track that is "弑 · 战歌 (Battle Hymn of the Patricide)" and that features some gothic choirs. They touch quite everything an fan of melodic black metal could like. The best thing is that the whole thing is performed by skilled musicians and also has a rather good production. Personally, I would like to add the positive fact that the band uses quite no blast beats at all. Many bands of the genre flaw their interesting sound with dumb and generic blast beat passages. This isn't the case on this release at all and the drumming is quite diversified and elaborates a good background rhythm section with the bass guitar. Great guitar riffs and solos and many good sounding and not artificially flavoured keyboards dominate the sound with the solid vocals that make me think of the Chinese genre colleagues of Screaming Savior. The vocals could though be a little bit more diversified and passionate but they are still enjoyable to listen to and should even please to fans of softer sounds as they are not too agressive but rather atmospheric, enchanting and expressive.

    In the end, Terminal Lost released a true melodic black metal gem that is among the best releases of its kind of the year. I will seriously try to purchase this record and to follow and spread the name of this promising band. The whole album can though easily be found on the internet and that's why any fan of this genre should take its time to check this out. This release will easily rank in my top ten of the year and I'm sure that more people may like it once they discover this rather unknown band.

     

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  • 唐朝 / Tang Dynasty - 演义 / Epic

     

    Tang Dynasty are considered by many as the first Chinese heavy metal band and their debut record is today considered as a classic piece of traditional heavy metal mixed with Chinese folk influences and poetic lyrics around historical topics. It took the band six years to release a follow-up in form of "Epic". Many things happened in those six years and this album had many reasons why it was released so late. From the last record's line-up, only singer and guitar player Ding Wu as well as the drummer Zhao Nian remained in the band. Lead guitar player Liu Yijun quit only to rejoin the band on its next record while bassist Zhang Ju tragically died in a motorcycle accident. The new faces of the band are Gu Zhong on the bass as well as the now quite famous guitar player Kaiser Kuo who is now involved in the promising progressive metal band 春秋, also known as Spring Autumn internationally.

    Not only the band members changed therefor but also the sound of the band itself. The first record included many folk elements that are almost completely gone on this release apart of a few breaks that are mainly included in the first two tracks. The record is overall much more rock and metal orientated as its precedessor. The track lengths have also significantly increased without sounding too experimental or progressive at the other side. The tracks are well structured without having minute long solo passages or acoustic breaks and therefor the album is less diversified and surprising as the band's first srike, but straighter and maybe more modern. Gone are also the catchy choruses that made the first record so catchy and fresh. The new songs need several tries before they really grow. The charismatic vocals have also changed and sound less high pitched and more grounded than before. You really have a lot of differences between this album and the first and only the technical perfection of the musicians, the language and the lyrical topics have remained quite the same.

    Personally, this record sounds much more professional and less emotional than the first one but many tracks are way too long for their own good. The opening title track "演义 (Epic)" starts with three minutes of inoffensive guitar riffs and doesn't kick off very well. The whole thing is followed by one of the rare folk breaks that doesn't sound too impressive and it's only after more than five minutes that the vocals actually set in. Many tracks have this kind of problem and could have been shortened. The mid-tempo track "时间 (Time)" takes too much of its own title and the calm and rather progressive rock influenced "缘生缘灭 (Circle Of Destiny)" also feels quite stretched. The band did the terribel mistake to chose three epic songs to pen their album and many people may be discouraged and abandon quite fast. That wasn't the band's smartest move.

    At least, the solid grower "异乡客 (The Visitor)" has some more impressive instrumental parts and includes some slap bass parts as well as a couple of heavy and addicting riffages while "路桥 (Roads and Bridges)" comes along as a beautiful progressive rock ballad that could have been created by Genesis or Yes during their best era in the seventies. These two songs prove us that the band is still able to write solid epic tracks and they could have been included on the first album without sounding too much out of space.

    In comparison to the long tracks, the shorter ones work much better. Only the instrumental "童年 Childhood" is surprisingly boring and useless. "你的幻境 (Your Vision) is maybe one ballad too much on the album even though it has beautiful acoustic guitars and some pumping bass parts.

    The two other songs are though very strong and have something interesting to offer. "黑色幽默 (Black Humor)" is definitely the heaviest track on the album and feels like a fresh breath after the three opening epics. The closing "送别 (Farewell)" is a beautiful ballad that is the only track that is more influenced by traditional Chinese music. The track includes some really floating female vocals that should have had more space in this song. On the other side, Ding Wu definitely does his best job on the entire record in this closing track and sings with a lot of emotions. The song focusses a lot on the vocals and it works out because the singer is indeed very skilled. The track is very meditative and has nothing to do with metal music but it has this magic feeling that was present on the first record and that I missed throughout this second release of Tang Chao.

    In the end, I must give the band some credit for the fact that they walked on new pathways and didn't copy the sound of their first release. On the other side, they lost some important parts of their uniqueness on this record. The band probably wanted to sound more epic, professional and progressive but writing long tracks doesn't mean that they are automatically atmospheric, diversified and intellectual. The band sounds too professional at times and many of the longer songs feel stretched. The band decreased not only the excellent calm folk influences but also the heavier tones. This contrast made the band so interesting but they moved away from both extremes and sound somewhat directionless at some moments.

    This all sounds quite negative and this record is a step down after the excellent debut record but we still have many great tracks that need some time to ignite but that will ultimately burn. From time to time, one still gets to hear what one liked so much about this band on its first strike. A truly bad song is not included on this record but a couple of average tracks, a few very good ones and a little bit less truly great ones. Overall this justifies still a solid rating and any fan of Chinese culture and music should follow this band and check out its three main releases. It's a shame that this band is still rather unknown outside their homeland and that almost no reviews have been written for them on this site. I hope my review spreads the band's name. If you're intrigued, I would really suggest you start with the band's first record, though while the third and until now last one is also clearly better than "演义 (Epic)".

     

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  • Thomas Thiemeyer - Korona (2010)

     

    "Korona" ist ein typischer Thomas Thiemeyer Roman bei dem sich Archäologie und Mystery vor exotischer Kulisse stilistisch miteinander vermischen. Auch die typische Liebesgeschichte zwischen dem geheimnisumwitterten Außenseiter und der starken Expeditionsleiterin, sowie eine emotionale Rachefeldzugsgeschichte dürfen nicht fehlen um den verschiedenen Personen im Roman an Tiefe zu verleihen.

    Eben genau da liegt das Problem des Romans. Er ist zwiefellos sehr unterhaltsam geschrieben und entführt den Leser in phantastische Welten. Gerade Freunde afrikanischer Kultur und Natur werden voll auf ihre Kosten kommen. Für diejenigen, die sich besonders für Primaten und ihre Verhaltensweisen interessieren, ist dies sogar noch mehr der Fall. Thomas Thiemeyer war selbst vor Ort und hat sich inspirieren lassen, was man der Authenzität der Geschichte auch anmerkt. Allerdings hat man eben das Gefühl das Ganze schon einmal so ähnlich von Thomas Thiemeyer in einem seiner vorherigen Romanen gelesen zu haben. Der Autor wiederholt sich schon anstatt an beispielsweise das großartige "Magma" anzuknüpfen. So muss dieser Roman einfach als Rückschritt gewertet werden, auch wenn es vielleicht des Autors persönlichstes Projekt war.

    So würde ich den Roman nur Kennern von Thomas Thiemeyer empfehlen, die hier sicherlich trotz der inhaltlichen Abstriche und einigen zu vorhersehbaren Elementen bei den handelnden Personen auf ihre Kosten kommen sollten. Allen möglichen Neueinsteigern würde ich eher die vorherigen Werke des Autors ans Herz legen, namentlich das mysteriöse "Medusa", das diesem Roman doch sehr ähnliche, aber insgesamt packendere "Reptilia", das sehr komplexe und genial geschriebene "Magma" oder auch das zuletzt erschienene Werk "Nebra".

    75/100

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  • Kreator - Phantom Antichrist (2012)

     

    Kreator did a lot of right things with this record if we look on the well chosen and dosed ingredients. Kreator include just the right amount of excellent heavy metal riffs as in the short introduction called "Mars Mantra". The legendary German band also added a dose of truly powerful power metal as in the incredible hymn "Iron Destiny" that is by far the best song on this great record but only made it on the Japanese edition. We also hear more and more Gothenborg melodic death metal structures as in "Death in The World" for example. Off course, numerous classic thrash metal parts can also be found on this energizing release as in the strong title track "Phantom Antichrist" that takes no prisoners as excellent opener.

    Some critics may argue that this record is just more of the same and that this new release sounds comparable to the previous three studio records since the band moved away from their experimental and gothic influenced era. This is not completely wrong but the band rarely employed all these elements so well together. This times, the four cooks didn't spoil the broth and created an outstanding menu in ten or eleven extremely delicious parts.

    This album includes not one wasted minute and every song has something that makes it enjoyable to listen to. Some songs have a great drum work as "Civilization Collapse" with its tight opening. Others impress with incredible melodic guitar solos that are played with passion and technique that make you want to go down on your knees as in "Victory Will Come". Other songs have chilling calm passages as the great acoustic guitar introduction of "United In Hate" that makes you think of a Metallica or an OverKill ballad before a truly fast main part crashes in. That's one of the strongest points of this release. The band just found the right dose of melodic breaks that give you a little pause from all this incredibly arranged extreme metal madness.

    Another strength can be witnessed after only two or three tries. Most of the songs are truly catchy and quickly grow on you. Sometimes, it's an incredible solo or melodic break you can't get out of your mind. In another moment, it's a powerful chorus that will be yelled by thousands of metal maniacs during the band's future concerts and should become a new live anthem. In other tracks, it's just a well done moshing part that makes you go insane for a while. Once again, Kreator release a record with strong emotions about inner struggles and also include socially critic lyrics here and there that make you not only want to sing along but also to think about. There's definitely a lot of diversity to discover on this release without making it sound too cerebral for only one second. There are challenging records that impress with a handful of well employed ideas in complex structures and there are enjoyable albums that will immeditaley grip you and make you sing and move along from the first second suntil the very end. This release is both of it and therefor a rare pleasure that should get the praise it deserves.

    In the end, any fan of the energizing metal music should own this record. If you had only to buy three records of the year, this one should definitely be on your list along with the latest releases of Rush and Blaze Bayley in my humble opinion. I only hesitate to buy this record in my local store for one single reason: I really want to find a way to get the version with the outstanding bonus track "Iron Destiny" on it. If you don't have the patience to purchase the expensive import version, buy the regular release and download the amazing track but be sure to not miss this best extreme metal record of the last couple of years.

     

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