• 零壹 / Voodoo Kungfu - Voodoo Kungfu


    Voodoo Kungfu is a quite unique extreme metal band and somewhat impossible to categorize. Their music has some epic doom metal influences and features quite diversified vocals that vary from clean parts over Mongolian overtone singing to a more extreme technique reminding me of Marilyn Manson. Li Nan is definitely one of the best singers I have ever heard. The most intriguing factor is though the folk aspect that gives many songs a great atmosphere and mystic touch. One can hear traditional Mongolian chants but also instruments such as the Mongolian horsehead cello or tribal drum passages. The band is definitely unique and a great deal for people interested in exotic cultures and especially in Chinese msuic, traditions and tribes.

    The problem I have with the band is that some songs are truly hard to follow. Sometimes a song feels as if it was about to be over but then a completely new instrumental passage kicks off that doesn't fit at all with what has been heard before. The transitions are not very smooth and rather confusing and many parts feel directionless. The songs lack of a clear guiding line and catchy passages. Concerning the band's own compositions, there is not one catchy hook or one memorable riff on the record. Only the folk parts and the technical aspect of the vocals are great but they can't save this release. On the other side, the sometimes quite complex songs need several tries to grow on and on. What feels quite odd at first try is much easier to digest after a few more approaches even though the songs still remain too confusing at many moments. The greatest track is probably the untitled one that features a truly gripping gothic atmosphere with narrative passages and laid back instrumental parts with great folk influences.

    The record also includes to rather surprising cover songs. The band chose the rather unusual Bob Marley track "Get Up Stand Up" and only kept the text to create a truly dark and vivid instrumental section around it that gives the song a new spirit. The track becomes something completely new and that's the kind of approach I would like to hear more often for cover songs. The absolute highlight is though the Eurythmics cover "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)". Even though a few melodies from the original have been kept and even though the song slightly reminds me of the version made by Marilyn Manson, this song convinces with a lot of energy, very emotional vocals and a perfect balance between calm and atmospheric parts featuring some string passages and incarnating a magic folk spirit on one side and extreme metal passages with pitiless drumming and crunching riffs on the other side.

    In the end, this record definitely has its flaws. This is mostly due to a very confusing, odd and unusual song writing that is rather hard to digest. On the other side, the record has many strong components, too. The vocals are brilliant and variable and the folk influences are authentic and very well performed. Objectively, I definitely can't accord more than eighty percent to this unique release but it's strangely still one of the greatest records I have discovered in a while and I happen to give it a lot of spins from time to time. If you happen to be intrigued by my review and might want to you try this release out, don't forget to take some time and open up your mind. The patient ones will be enjoying a true gem in the end.


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  • Southern Cross - Rise Above (2012)


    The province of Quebec is rather known for its elevated number of atmospheric and often folk driven black metal bands as well as for its brilliant and quite technical extreme metal groups. There is only a very small power metal scene in the province and one of the most popular bands of that genre is without a doubt Southern Cross from Quebec City. The band is still a lot heavier than many European bands and features some thrash influenced riffs here and there. On the other side, the band has a very strong progressive touch that is especially driven by keyboard sounds and quite technical guitar solos. That's why the opener "You Shall Be Damned" sounds like a somewhat surprising mixture of Ayreon and Metallica.

    This all sounds extremely promising and the band would in fact later release very stong records but this album here still fails to convince. This is due to some overlong progressive passages as in "Never Dare Say" and in general due to a rather repetitive song writing. A good example is the overlong album closer and title song "Rise Above" that employs the same kind of more or less gripping guitar riff over ten minutes. Concerning the sound, the vocals are a little bit too dominant and even though they try to be as variable as possible, they are far from technical perfection. One can clearly observe this is in the ballad or interlude "The World Was Just A Dream". While the instrumental parts manage to create a certain degree of a magic atmosphere, the vocals don't hit the notes perfectly and sound too forced.

    In the end, the band's first full length record has too many small flaws to really convince. On the other side, it already shows the big potential of this band in form of a progressive song writing and some gripping and heavy riffs here and there. Fans of the band should call this their own but the but anybody else could skip this release and concentrate on the outstanding follow-up "Down Below".


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  • Dresden/Leningrad - Vader (2012)


    Dresden/Leningrad are not only two of the most beautiful cities in the world but it's also the name of a new Doom Metal band hailing from the Netherlands. The three young men just released their first EP and deliver four convincing tracks on it which one can witness on their official Bandcamp site.

    The intriguing cover artwork already shows us what this band is about. The red and black colours stand for the dark vibe of this release. The artwork looks psychedelic just like the music, features a black stanic cross standing for the lyrical topic of death while the skeleton portrays the lyrical topic of death at first sight and the uniform he is wearing is a reference to the lyrical topic of war that is also very present on here. The two flying birds could stand for the floating and sometimes even dreamy atmosphere on this release. Let's be more precise and take a look on the first four songs of this band.

    "Vader" has very dark and destructive atmosphere and already introduces us to the essence of this new band. The track kicks off with the wailing of sirens and rain falling from the sky before slow and very heavy riffs kick in. The distorted sound effects and the intriguing poetic lyrics performed by narrative vocals in Dutch add an even more atmospheric note to the song that manages to create many images on the listener's mind. The band shows its high amount of creativity on this first promising song that makes you want to hear more.

    "Herder" is a calmer and more appeasing track with catchy melodic vocals even though it starts with a dark bass vibe and psychedelic sound effects. The track also has many distorted guitar sounds and multiple effects that create an eerie and progressive atmosphere.

    "Slaap" is a little bit heavier and more metal orientated than the other tracks that had a more psychedelic old school vibe. The influence of Black Sabbath and similar bands becomes evident on here. This song has a very hypnotizing atmosphere as the other ones but especially the drum play is much heavier on here. The psychedelic vocals send shivers down my spine and give the track a very suffering and uneasy touch.

    The closing "Niemandsland" has slight dystopian touches that even remind me of Voivod or Vektor from time to time. The slow and eerie vocals are once again very touching while the sound samples from war battles put the listener just in the right mood. Despite a running time of over ten minutes, this song never gets too boring and has a very consistent atmosphere and a solid suspense development.

    These four excellent songs really leave me wanting more. Fans of dark psychedelic rock, stoner rock, doom metal or anybody who is fascinated by the history of war could give this release a fair try. Until now, I would choose this record as the best doom metal release of the year. Let's hope these guys carry on and release a full length album anytime soon.


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  • Kamelot - Silverthorn (2012)


    Kamelot are one of those symphonic power metal bands that loads of people seem to enjoy as they have rather progressive song writing and skip the overloaded elements and stereotypically charged joyful topics many of their European colleagues are focusing on. After the criticized predecessor “Poetry For The Poisoned” that had many dull moments and a lack of passion and variation, the band’s Norwegian singer Roy Khan left the band and was soon replaced by another Scandinavian singer, the young Tommy Karevik from Sweden. Many people were expecting a return to strength but also a few changes but to my negative surprise nothing of this happened.

    If I didn’t know that the band had a new singer, I wouldn’t have even recognized it as the new guy sounds like a pale copy of his predecessor despite many positive comments about the young man’s old main band that are the Swedish progressive metal act Seventh Wonder. The lack of original vocals is though not the main issue on here. The problem is that this record is even more emotionless and overloaded than the previous one. We get way too many sound effects, an endless number of more or less impressive guest musicians and a too elevated number of artificially flavoured orchestral and symphonic instruments that make me think of a bad computer game soundtrack. When one hears a random female guest singer in one track that is followed by pointless choirs performed by a group of children just to kick off a pathetic and overlong kitsch symphony part, this is not only confusing but also mildly amusing. The songs sound directionless and random. Too many cooks spoil the broth in here.

    There aren’t any truly catchy or outstanding parts on this release to point out. I might cite that the diversity works best in “Veritas” but only because I really like oriental folk influences in general that are also included on this song. The calm and mysterious beginning of the epic “Prodigal Son” also seems quite promising but the songs turns out to go nowhere as time runs out and is way too long.

    In the end, this new release is even a step down after the flawed predecessor. Blind fan boys will talk about multiple influences, progressive changes and many new faces and influences but I can’t agree on that at all. The band just sounds lost on this release. The last album had at least a constant atmosphere and clear guiding line. Even if you’re a regular fan of them, you should give this release a listen before you take the risk of buying it and have a very negative surprise.


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  • Wintersun - Time I (2012)


    “Time, what is time?” once asked Blind Guardian on their legendary Power Metal release “Somewhere Far Beyond”.

    Sometimes, good things need some time to be done but this is not the case at all for Wintersun’s new output that has been released eight years after their first strike following many complicated recording sessions, lots of strange announcements and wrongful promises and more and impatiently growing expectations from critics and fans. The difference between Guns 'n Roses' “Chinese Democracy” and the new Wintersun record is that nobody really expected anything special coming from the one man project of Axl Rose but the record turned out to be quite decent without being a masterpiece while in the other case what has become a one man project of Jari Mäenpää was expected to be a masterpiece and is nothing but a big deception. After all the dramatic events over the last years, they could only fail. In the end, couldn't one have seen this coming?

    “Only time will tell.” realized the British Heavy Metal flagship Iron Maiden on its dark “A Matter Of Life And Death” release.

    Jari Mäenpää announced in fact that his new material was so complex that it needed new and revolutionary recordings procedures. This complexion led to a quite predictable result as the new overhyped record turns out to be completely overloaded. The guitar riffs feel lackluster and are buried under a too big amount of symphonic elements. Despite the length of the single tracks, they show no progression whatsoever. The calmer moments lack of emotions, the louder parts lack of energy and the productions is without dynamics.

    “We got a little time to make up our minds.” stated the pioneer band of European Power Metal Helloween on the first part of their legendary “Keeper Of The Seven Keys” trilogy.

    During the whole process of that difficult birth that Jari Mäenpää gave to his new baby, he seems to have either worked too much on the tracks as they feel very complicated and inaccessible or not worked enough on them as they lack of consistency. The whole record has no catchy moments even though the same patterns are heavily repeated. Apart of the instrumentals, all songs vary from calm ambient or folk rock introductions to extreme symphonic metal or melodic death metal parts to calmer folk metal sections before the entire circle is repeated again and again and soon starts to get quite predictable. The few new elements such as the Japanese folk parts are overused in the genre and don’t fit at all to the topic of ice and snow. That being sad, the song titles lack as much of originality as the tracks themselves do.

    “I’ve been here before, was it all just wasted time?” questioned the German power metal band Edguy on their “Rocket Ride” release.

    In the end, there is nothing left to say but that this record collapses under its own pressure and feels directionless and overloaded. Maybe the sound would have been more mature and natural if the release would have taken less time. I can understand that the band finally wanted its material to be released but maybe they should have worked on something completely different and new as time went by. The plan to make two records out of one is a good commercial idea but artistically, it just stretches the whole chapter and people like me are not looking forward for the second part of this release at all. But maybe time will change things again and the band will actually revise its initial decision or work on their songs to make them sound more natural. As most of the reviews on here are surprisingly positive, they though surely don’t feel the need to improve so that my expectations are very low for the upcoming release.

    “Tears of time – just an illusion.” concluded the legendary German gothic metal band Crematory on their well entitled “Illusions” release.


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