• 塔罗圣徒 / Tarot Saint - 2012 (2012)

     

    Usually, I'm not at all into modern metal music and especially into metalcore and similar stuff and that's why this record from a rather unknown Chinese band that I discovered by pure coincidence hit me as hard as a howling train. Tarot Saint find exactly the right potion that mixes melodic and melancholic moments with harsher and agressive parts on this release and make bands such as Trivium look like silly mainstream plastic musicians for immature children.

    Already the introduction blew me away. It has a very fond and relaxing atmosphere, some intriguing folk influences and beautiful acoustic guitars that gripped me right from the start. I thought that this was only a short opening sequence after all and thought that the upcoming songs would be less convincing. The following tracks are indeed different and more modern but they are nevertheless all of a very high quality. Only the song "悲怆之秋" also includes some minimal Chinese folk influences in the background and thanks to a very charismatic chorus, this track is maybe teh strongest one on here or it has at least the best commercial potential.

    "绽放" starts with some melancholic guitar leads of a rather traditional heavy metal blend. This makes me think of the Gothenburg melodic death metal scene that is influenced by bands such as Iron Maiden concerning the melodic guitar work. These harmonies are now mixed with darker, harder and somewhat thrash metal orientated parts. One even finds three different kinds of vocal performances that create a lot of diversity in this song. First of all, there are smooth screams in the verses, than we have very melodic vocals with some slightly distorted effects over it giving the song a modern touch in the bridges and later even normal and quite catchy clean vocals. I've never heard such a high degree of diversity in a metalcore track before and I can tell you that this is just the beginning.

    What follows is an excellent mixture of more direct and fast paced tracks and more laid back and emotionally longing songs. "拉尼娜" is a good example for the first category with really heavy and slow riffs somewhere between doom and thrash metal that create a desperate atmosphere and some very energizing vocals that make the whole thing sound very authentic in relation to the emotionally driven lyrics about the La Niña phenomenon. Concerning the second category, one can find songs such as "西楚霸王" that has an eerie and melancholic intro which reminds me of some old half ballads of Metallica before the track meanders in a very versatile way between dark verses featuring some sharp riffs and rather light choruses with addicting melodies. The whole concept is from time to time interrupted by short breaks that give you the time to calm down and focus on what comes next. That's why this song sounds a little bit more elaborated than most of the tracks on here. The best example for this progressive vein is though "混沌黎明" which happens to be the longest track on this debut record of the promising band from Beijing. The atmospheric breaks throughout the song make me think of bands such as Katatonia, Novembers Doom or even The Old Dead Tree. Once again, the mixture of heavier riffs and softer melodic parts represent a dominating factor that the band uses adequately.

    Sadly, the record gets a little bit less spectacular towards the end. Especially the final two songs only focus on the agressive parts and forget about truly gripping hooks or atmospheric melodies. This being said, the rest of the record is musically diversified, highly emotionally driven and also very well produced and makes this surprising gem by far my favourite record of a genre that I really disliked before. If you feel the same, try this band out as their album as well as their first EP can be heard for free on their official side. Maybe these guys will change your mind about metalcore as it was the case for me.

     

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  • Genre: Gothic Metal
    Label: Metal Blade Records
    Playing time: 58:23
    Band homepage: Autumn

    Tracklist:

    1. The Scarecrow
    2. Cold Comfort  
    3. Black Stars in a Blue Sky  
    4. Retrospect  
    5. Alloy  
    6. End of Sorrow  
    7. Naeon  
    8. Truth Be Told (Exhale) 
    9. The Venamoured  
    10. Changes for the Bitter 
    11. The Mute (Inhale) 

     

    Autumn - Cold Comfort 

     So this band is called AUTUMN, their latest release is entitled “Cold Comfort” and these two elements already tell you pretty much about the music you are going to witness on this album. The record is dominated by dark Gothic Metal riffs, mostly melancholic keyboard samples and the talented vocals of Marjan Welman. She makes me think a little bit of the Dutch Floor Jansen of AFTER FOREVER and now REVAMP and has a charismatic and grounded voice that makes her stand out next to too many high pitched vocalists. Sometimes, she also reminds me of the late Sabine Dünser that was once the voice of ELIS from Liechtenstein. As both AFTER FOREVER and ELIS don’t exist anymore, AUTUMN could maybe take their places one day but they are still far from getting some more attention with this repetitive release. The vocals are indeed quite chilling and warm which creates an interesting contrast with the rather cold, melancholic and sad atmosphere of the release but that’s where the problem is. Musically, this record is too limited and lacks of ideas. 

    The problem with this release is that it definitely lacks of variation. Differences between the different tracks are only minimal and no song truly stands out for anything special. After a couple of tracks, the recorded quickly gets redundant, especially from a musical point of view. Only the vocals are pretty well done while the rest sounds quite average and too laid back at many moments. The songs are overlong as is the album itself and lack of development. The longest songs are very hard to sit through. Only a couple of not slow but mid paced tracks can grip some needed attention as the bonus track “Changes For The Bitter” with its vivid riffs and keyboard samples that make me think of pipers. This track along side with “Retrospect” that has a beautifully warm chorus and the electronically influenced longing rocker “Black Stars” can be cited as highlights to my ears. “Naeon” is also passable and has some interesting keyboard melodies as well as some faster passages.  

    Many tracks just need too much time to kick off or show only a ridiculously tiny degree of progression such as the way tame “Alloy” to only cite one example among many others. The band always gets back to the same ideas and even the main melodies happen to sound quite similar. Only great vocals and three to four solid songs can’t save this release from my bitter final verdict. 

    I would only recommend this release for fans of atmospheric, depressive and slow-paced female fronted Gothic Metal. The record has indeed some atmosphere for rainy autumn nights. The sad thing is that the musicians show sometimes that they are not that bad and especially the vocals have a great potential but the band stays way behind the possible and wastes a lot of talent. This album is just floating past me and even after many spins, nothing really remains but emptiness. You should still rather head for the gone idols of this band that are mentioned above.    

    (Online August 29, 2012)

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  • Genre: Gothic Metal
    Label: Metal Blade Records
    Spielzeit: 58:23
    Band homepage: Autumn

    Tracklist:

    1. The Scarecrow
    2. Cold Comfort  
    3. Black Stars in a Blue Sky  
    4. Retrospect  
    5. Alloy  
    6. End of Sorrow  
    7. Naeon  
    8. Truth Be Told (Exhale) 
    9. The Venamoured  
    10. Changes for the Bitter 
    11. The Mute (Inhale) 

     

    Autumn - Cold Comfort 

    Bei der niederländischen Gothic Metal Gruppierung AUTUMN und ihrer aktuellen Langrille „Cold Comfort“ sind die Namen der Band und des Albums Programm. Das Werk ist dominiert von melancholischen langsamen bis halbschnellen Gitarrenriffs, behutsamen bis sehnsüchtigen Klaviermelodien und der angenehmen Stimme der Sängerin, die ein wenig an Floor Jansen von den ehemaligen Landeskollegen namens AFTER FOREVER erinnert, wie auch an das Organ der leider verstorbenen Sabine Dünser von den ebenfalls inzwischen aufgelösten Liechtensteinern namens ELIS. So gesehen könnten AUTUMN durchaus das Erbe der beiden dahingeschiedenen Gruppierungen annehmen, aber sie bleiben mit dem neuen Opus doch klar hinter ihren Möglichkeiten zurück. Man hört hin und wieder in den wenigen Gitarrensolos, einen paar wirklich schönen Melodiebögen der Keyboards und eben permanent beim Gesang, das hier wirklich viel Talent in der Band steckt und umso ärgerlicher ist es, dass diese ihre kalte Komfortzone eben nicht verlässt und schnell mit austauschbaren Songstrukturen langweilt. 

    Auch nach mehreren Durchläufen plätschert das Album monoton vor sich her und kein Stück bleibt so wirklich hängen. Besonders langwierig geraten die längeren Stücke wie „Alloy“, die einfach keinerlei abwechslungsreiche Passagen haben und sehr zäh klingen. Sobald die Niederländer dann ausnahmsweise leicht das Tempo anziehen, klingt das Endresultat gleich schon viel zielstrebiger. Am besten gefällt mir in dieser Hinsicht ausgerechnet ein Bonusstück mit „Changes For The Bitter“. Das Lied überzeugt mit lebhaften Riffs und vor allem schönen Keyboardsamples, die ganz leicht nach Dudelsäcken klingen und irgendwie einen leicht exotischen Touch ins Spiel bringen. Auch der warme Refrain des soliden „Retrospect“, die kleinen elektronischen Spielereien in „Black Stars“ oder das etwas schwunghaftere „Naeon“ haben ihre starken Momente. Das Album hat also durchaus seine Momente, man muss aber geduldig danach suchen, in etwa so wie nach der oft bemühten Nadel im Heuhaufen. Vieles Gutes sind aber eben nur Ausschnitte und Details über einen längeren Spielraum und das meiste bleibt hier eben Stückwerk. Die gepflegte Langeweile überwiegt hier deutlich die etwas engagierteren Momente. 

    So fällt unter dem Strich das abschließende Urteil ziemlich mager aus. Anhänger melancholischer bis depressiver Klänge des getragenen Gothic Metals dürften das Album als Untermalung für verregnete Herbstnächte durchaus zu schätzen wissen und sollten dem Album die dringend notwendige Zeit geben, um darin eintauchen zu können. All diejenigen, die es etwas abwechslungsreicher, lebensbejahender oder opulenter mögen, werden diese bittere Pille hier gewiss nicht schlucken wollen. Gegen gut gemachte düstere Musik ist gewiss nichts einzuwenden, aber hier plätschert zu viel vor sich her und klingt auf Dauer einfach irgendwie gleich ohne dabei irgendwelche Ausschläge nach oben oder unten auf der Stimmungskurve verzeichnen zu können. Als Einschlafmusik ist die Platte vielleicht auch noch geeignet. Insgesamt hat die Band aber das Potenzial für weit mehr als dies und gerade das macht „Cold Comfort“ so herb enttäuschend. 

    (Online 29. August 2012)

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  • Loudness - Shadows Of War / Lightning Strikes (1986)

     

    It's not as if "Shadows Of War" was a bad Loudness album but it clearly falls off in comparison to the groundbreaking previous releases "Disillusion" and "Thunder In The East". This record delivers nothing more and nothing less than solid Heavy Metal music inhabited by a typical spirit of the eighties. The songs on here are catchy but this time the band didn't go a step further by adding anything new to the usual formula. Many songs sound quite similar in between themselves and also in comparison to the band's previous efforts. It lacks of original ideas and truly gripping and unique songs. One can hear that this album is even more mainstream orientated than the ones the band released before and is adapted to the North American market rather than to the generally more open minded market in Japan. It's a perfect record for any fan of traditional Heavy Metal music, a simple feel good soundtrack to hit the open road, nine tracks for nostalgic moments that didn't really pass the test of time.

    Among the more outstanding songs figures "Complication" which is a song that kicks off rather fast but quickly takes a turn towards a more progressive vein. Especially the pumping bass guitar can convince in this song when it takes the lead in a break towards the middle of the track. On the other hand, the more commercial "Dark Desire" convinces with a different sort of breaks that are rather calm and introspective but that also turn out to work quite well. My favourite song on here is probably "Face To Face" which is one of the fastest track on the album. The guitar solos are pitiless but always remain melodic, the bass guitar is more vivid than usual and the drum play is also quite vital on this album highlight. The mixture of an unchained instrumental section and a catchy sing along chorus works very well in this track. The album would have needed more songs of this quality to become more than just a good average release.

    In the end, this album is a good choice for traditional metal heads that like nostalgic music of the eighties with catchy choruses to bang, dance and sing along. From that point of view, I would recommand "Let It Go" because it is defintely the catchiest song on here and has a huge hit single potential for its time. Most of the tracks are hold in a mid tempo pace featuring melodic guitar solos and numerous commercially flavoured hooks. The few tracks that stand out happen to be the most interesting ones but they are too few to prevent this record from being a little bit too closed minded and even slightly boring from time to time. From the band's first releases, this album is clearly the weakest one but it's still everything but a failure. It's more one of your usual Heavy Metal records that is nice to give it a spin from time to time but definitely not a release that will leave a deep impression.

     

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  • Welcome again on my blog,

    I didn't only celebrate my real life birthday last week but I can also celebrate another kind of special day today because I've decided to bring my first and only personal blog to life exactly one year ago.

    Several reasons led me to this choice as I'm normally rather sceptical towards modern technologies and I still don't have any cell phone, game console or television at home, nor a FaceBook, Google Plus, Myspace, Twitter or Skype account. I'm recognizing the potential of social medias but I still prefer to meet new people, go out and travel in my real life. I prefer to move on while I simply see too many people wasting their precious time on the internet and get stuck in their boring routine.

    At a certain point, I though wanted to archive my different works that I had done over many years and give people some references about me. In fact, everything essential I have done during the last decade is now on this site. I also decided to create this site to get some constructive feedback in order to always develop further as I am a perfectionist who's always open for new horizons. This blog is also there to help or inform people about different things. This whole thing is not only a personal archive or a nostalgic look back but my blog has been created to move on, inspire people and get inspired by them in a beautiful and large exchange. That's why I'm practicing and writing in English, French and German on this site and there are even some bits in Mandarin or Russian you can find.

    That's why I still hope that the internet community will react more and more to my different projects and spread the name of my works. Since the last year, I have put a lot of stuff on this site: book, film and music reviews, interviews, newspaper articles, novels, poems, tourist guides, universitarian works and so much more. As of today, exactly 5182 visitors have taken a look on my blog and I even got contacted by friends but also by journalists or teachers I didn't know from time to time and who were reacting to a special article on this page which is a great feedback.

    I would also like to mention that I had created a YouTube account a little bit more than one year ago which has exactly 11,101 views as of today which is a quite beautiful and also elevated number.

    I hope you keep on supporting my projects and maybe you can help to spread the word about this blog. I'm also always open for any constructive comment. Feel free to interact with me or even other visitors or maybe possible users in the future and make this place more dynamical and interactive.

    While I hope to get some comments from all of you people around the world, I also wish to eventually really meet certain persons that are now reading these lines and that are close to my universitarian community and me - if you think I'm talking about you, don't hesitate to leave a message!

    Thanks again for your faithful attention over the past 365 days!

    Sebastian

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