• Genre: Power Metal
    Label: Self-production
    Playing time: 1:11:25
    Band homepage: Avantasia

    Tracklist:

    1. Spectres
    2. The Watchmaker’s Dream
    3. Black Orchid
    4. Where Clock Hands Freeze
    5. Sleepwalking
    6. Savior In The Clockwork
    7. Invoke The Machine
    8. What’s Left Of Me
    9. Dweller In A Dream
    10. The Great Mystery
    11. The Cross And You (Bonus Track)
    12. Death Is Just A Feeling (Bonus Track)

     

    Avantasia - The Mystery Of Time

      

    Tobias Sammet wanted to close the AVANTASIA chapter after the conclusion of The Wicked Trilogy and focus on his main band EDGUY. After the somewhat inconsistent assimilation compilation that was “The Wicked Symphony” and the rather lukewarm filler album “Angel of Babylon”, I thought that this would be an excellent idea. The last EDGUY records had also been of decreasing quality, especially the silly and vapid “Age of the Joker” and I felt that Tobias Sammet needed a creative break. Finally, he didn’t take the break and worked on a new record that has now come out under the title “The Mystery of Time”.

     

    I was skeptical but this record turns out to be better than the two previous EDGUY and AVANTASIA releases. It’s still not an outstanding record but overall fairly better than I would have expected. The production and sound quality is great, the cover artwork is very well done and the concept has become more intriguing as the very loose previous scenario.

     

    Musically, the project also improved. For the first time, the project hired a true orchestra that sounds more authentic, majestic and vivid and manages to add a special touch to the release. The opening moments of “Spectres” already left a very positive impression and kicked off the new record with a big bang.

     

    The project also manages to sound more metal orientated than on the last double record. There are still a few fluffy ballads on the record but the conservative and repetitive Hard Rock approaches are mostly gone and a few powerful metal moments can be found on this release. The record is not as great as the first three AVANTASIA records but definitely a step back into the right direction.

     

    Thankfully, Tobias Sammet also decided to focus only on a few guest musicians and singers instead of adding an artist of every single band he ever liked to the project as he did before. The record sounds in fact more consistent and has a clear guiding line. Sometimes, less can be more and that’s what perfectly describes this release.

     

    Jorn Lande who is a strong singer but who was definitely too present on the two previous records, didn’t participate this time but other well-known members of the AVANTASIA universe are back on here. Michael Kiske is solid as always and delivers a great performance on a few quite good but unoriginal Power Metal tracks that should please to fans of the first two metal operas as in “Dweller in a Dream”. Bob Catley of MAGNUM fame is also back and convinces me even a little bit more than before in the epic album closer “The Great Mystery” that happens to be the best track Tobias Sammet has written in at least five years. Cloudy Yang is also on board and adds her charming down to earth appearance to the kitsch ballad and single “Sleepwalking” but she ultimately can’t save that radio airplay track that never reaches the magic of songs like “Farewell”, “Inside” or even “Lost In Space” that the project has done before.

     

    In addition to these guests, there are also a few new faces. Especially Ronnie Atkins of PRETTY MAIDS fame adds a truly energizing touch to the release by performing parts of the heaviest song on the record which is “Invoke the Machine”.

     

    In the end, this album sounds more consistent and powerful than the two records before and it won’t disappoint any AVANTASIA fan. You can find well elaborated epics, melodic Power Metal anthems, commercial radio rock ballads and stuff somewhere between epic Hard Rock and Heavy Metal on this album. There are no big surprises or truly unique tracks though and I miss some sort of development or experimentation. Nevertheless, the release includes two stunning pieces with “Invoke The Machine” and “The Mystery Of Time”. Other tracks also have potential to grow. The bonus song “The Cross Is You” is rarely mentioned in critics but I want to underline it as this song offers maybe the best vocal performance by Tobias Sammet on this record along with the dark “Black Orchid” and is worth your time and attention.

     

    Power Metal fans and AVANTASIA maniacs shouldn’t miss this record. Anybody who wants to discover this project should though start with the first three records that overpass this release. Critical minds should also listen to the tracks I have pointed out. This album is not the biggest highlight of the year but definitely far better than I expected.

     

    (Online April 24, 2013)

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  • Genre: Death Metal / Grindcore / Doom Metal
    Label: Self-production
    Playing time: 36:43
    Band homepage: -

    Tracklist:

    1. Intro
    2. Raped In The Mouth
    3. Take A Penny, Leave A Penny
    4. Cries And Ambulances
    5. Frame 313
    6. Master One
    7. Pickpocket
    8. The Soon
    9. Martians Don’t Believe In God
    10. And They March
    11. Suffer The Children

     

    Oroku Saki And The Foot - Support Gang Violence

      

    OROKU SAKI AND THE FOOT is not a Japanese band as you might think but a quite strange Experimental Death Metal newcomer from Louisiana that includes elements of Doom and Progressive Metal but also Grindcore parts in its songs. The name is inspired by the main villain of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle series. The band just released its debut record “Support Gang Violence” which is a quite intriguing album that could even find its way in my top 20 of the year.

     

    The four band members created a quite weird piece of music that includes fast paced Grindcore or Death metal smashers like “Frame 313” but also quite laid back Doom Metal or Drone stuff like “Master One”. The band happens to be completely unpredictable and can switch from dull and limited atmospheres to angry and fast paced musical explosions. The album focuses a lot on the instrumental work and the band happens to have a rather experimental and progressive approach. Especially the longer songs like “Pickpocket” or the amazingly diversified album closer “Suffer The Children” underline the promising musicianship of the young band.

     

    The refreshing thing is that the band doesn’t take itself all too serious. Many songs are filled with strange but never too disgusting humour. The silly interlude “Cries And Ambulances” puts a little smile on my face but the craziest moment definitely comes along with the hilarious madness that is “Martians Don’t Believe In God”. This song and even the entire record is a unique fun ride despite a few lengths here and there.

     

    I must admit that this record is definitely not for everyone. First of all, you should be able to listen to technical Death Metal and Grindcore. You must also like experimental and progressive parts as the record is full of them. Last of all, you need a good sense of humour as the record might be too silly for you if you can’t laugh about the abstract absurdity of some tracks.

     

    If you are curious to listen to outstanding stuff like “Martians Don’t Believe In God” or “Suffer The Children”, give this self-released production a few fair spins on Bandcamp.

    (Online April 23, 2013)

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  • Amorphis – Circle

    April 19, 2013 in Reviews

    Amorphis-Circle

    Amorphis
    Circle
    2013
    Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth

    What we have here is, unabashedly, my favorite metal record of 2013. It’s far more even than just this. If you don’t believe me, just give it a few spins and read my detailed descriptions while you do so.

    For quite a few years now, Amorphis has become my favorite band. I simply adore the epic, yet addicting mixture of genres that the band employs. I have observed with much interest its evolution from a progressive death metal band with traditional folk hints (as in the amazingly innovative Tales From The Thousand Lakes) over experimental progressive rock and metal outputs with jazzy parts (such as the absolutely stunning Am Universum), to the more recent stuff in form of the powerful mixture of catchy melodies, well thought out folk lyrics, epic grace, stunning vocals, and a solid dose of energy seen on Eclipse. With the arrival of singer Tomi Joutsen, the band finally got some stability and has found its very own style. The last four studio outputs have many strong points in common: including catchy hit singles, a few darker and harsher tracks, and many epic melodic metal hymns with progressive folk passages. Eclipse was definitely the hit album with many short and catchy tracks, Silent Waters was a grippingly atmospheric record with a darker and more desperate tone,Skyforger had more of an epic and melodic concept, and The Beginning Of Times featured more folk elements, more thought out and mature song structures, and a few surprises in the form of a few female vocals (for example). Now, what about Circle?

    Just when I thought that I had seen and heard it all and thought I’d be seeing the band struggle to achieve a  few much-needed fresh changes, they once again prove their high quality and deliver another truly outstanding record in form of Circle. With their fifth record in seven years, the band surprises once again. Amorphis has kept all the catchy and uniquely identifying trademarks of the last four releases, while adding something new to it. The fresh and edgy production by Peter Tägtgren of Hypocrisy and Pain fame definitely works well, and rewards the band for its courageous choice to change a few things to keep on evolving.

    The band offers some of its most brutal and pitiless songs since the first two recordings. The apocalyptic opener “Shades Of Gray” mixes powerful death metal vocals with dark and heavy riffing, and comes as quite a surprise that might please many old school Amorphis fans. The few symphonic elements are well integrated and definitely not too overwhelming. The energizing chorus then features clean vocals that won’t get out of your mind once you’ve heard them. This opener defines everything Amorphis is and has always been about, and combies all qualities in one single track. “Shades Of Gray” is an instant masterpiece that makes me want to fall to my knees. The epic melodies, the unchained energy, and the heavenly vocals by Tomi Joutsen put a big smile on my face, make me bang along with enthusiasm, and put tears in my eyes during the more emotional moments. No other band is able to touch me as much these days. Later on, “Enchanted By The Moon” hits the same nerve, but it’s a little bit less brutal and more atmospheric. I would even say this is the most atmospheric track, not only on this release, but maybe the best atmospheric track Amorphis has ever written.

    And this is only the beginning. The band doesn’t only go back to its death metal roots for a few songs, they also add a few black metal touches in a couple of tracks that completely surprised me. The aforementioned atmospheric masterpiece “Enchanted By The Moon”, and especially “Nightbird’s Song” should be mentioned. The latter starts with appeasing folk melodies, and what happens then is simply incredible. We get incredibly performed black metal vocals that slowly switch to more grounded death metal growls, before getting hit with a chorus loaded with melodic cleans. Yes, all of this is performed by the same person. The progressive folk passages in the middle add another unexpected touch, and give you a generous break before the madness starts all over again. Normally, this would be the song of the album and the year. You will soon read why this masterpiece isn’t even the standout song of the record.

    To spend more time on the vocals, it’s simply incredible how Joutsen performs on this release. He sings calm and mystic parts, almost pop oriented hooks, powerful melodic metal vocal lines, unchained death metal growls, and now even bleak black metal shrieks in short and well-employed doses. There isn’t a style this man isn’t able to perform to perfection, it seems. I have always admired his style, but this record is his very own magnum opus. To my taste, there is no better vocalist alive.

    The band also adds a newfound soft side to their sound in form of enchanting and dreamy folk elements that might please the power metal community. The band had already experimented with folk sounds before, of course, but they have now reached out for a new level of involvement. Just listen to the introduction and appeasing melodies of “Mission” that might appeal to those who liked the Pasi Koskinen era. The faster and even more accessible “The Wanderer” has been chosen as the album’s second single for a very good reason, and hits the same passionate vein without sounding too similar. The vocals and the outstanding guitar solo once again drive me crazy in a very positive sense. The heavier “Narrow Path” is the most energizing folky track on the record, and definitely worth your attention as well. The atmospheric introduction and the middle section with pianos, flutes,and another excellent guitar solo rings as pure metal perfection to my ears. It’s definitely the best folk-inspired track Amorphis has ever written. “Into The Abyss” has an epic feeling, sounds like a mixture of the tone from Tuonela and Skyforger, and would have been a stand out song on any of those two prior releases. The closing “A New Day” ends the record on a very atmospheric, epic, and almost cinematic note, with with both jazz and folk elements dominating the closing moments of one of, if not the best, album wrap-up that the band has ever written.

    The folk elements throughout the album can in fact be described as a sort of “guiding line” for the record, as they appear in some way in nearly all tracks. Some songs also mix both the new dominant folk elements and the black metal tones. This mixture is awe-inspiring.

    There is then one final track that I need to point out, which is the first single “Hopeless Days”. This song is easily among the ten best songs I have ever listened to in my life. Along with “Alone” and “Sky is Mine” (as well as the new “Nightbird’s Song” and also “Narrow Path”), it’s among my favorite Amorphis songs, although the band has written a large number of incredible tracks and delivers an absolute stand out record with Circle. It’s hard to describe, but in my opinion “Hopeless Days” has something more to offer than “Nightbird’s Song” and “Narrow Path” – the perfect catchiness. The mixture of heavy and dark riffs and the highly emotional and melodic clean vocals already works in an excellent manner, the simplistic but efficient piano that guides the track, the vivid and pumping rhythm section, and the multiple vocal parts are important steps on the ladder to musical perfection. Finally comes the chorus. Good God, this is so epic and passionate that it gives me instant goose bumps each time I listen to it. And it’s incredibly catchy without sounding too simple. It’s one of the catchiest tracks the band has ever written and the best choice for a single that could have been made. The balance of harsh and soft parts is outstanding.

    This album only includes killer tracks. You may think I exaggerate, but I simply don’t. It is among or maybe the best record I have ever listened to in my whole life. Only time will tell, though I’m pretty sure that this release will pass the test of time.

    Thank you, Amorphis! Of course, any metal head should immediately call this album his or her own. Don’t forget to grab the limited box set edition that includes three more bonus tracks and many interesting gimmicks.

    5 // 5

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  • Genre: Middle Age / Folk Metal
    Label: Vertigo
    Playing time: 02:48:28 (CD & DVD Edition)
    Band homepage: In Extremo

    Tracklist:

    Disc 1

    1. Intro                
    2. Sterneneisen                
    3. Frei zu sein      
    4. Liam    
    5. Zigeunerskat    
    6. Unsichtbar       
    7. Herr Mannelig              
    8. Horizont           
    9. Zauberspruch No. VII               
    10. Siehst du das Licht       
    11. Stalker 
    12. Hol die Sterne              
    13. Spielmannsfluch           
    14. Küss mich                    
    15. Viva la vida                  
    16. Sängerkrieg     
    17. Gold    
    18. Omnia sol temperat      

     

    Disc 2

     
    • Intro    
     
    • Sterneneisen    
     
    • Frei zu sein      
     
    • Liam    
     
    • Erdbeermund   
     
    • Zigeunerskat    
     
    • Unsichtbar       
     
    • Herr Mannelig  
     
    • Horizont           
     
    • Zauberspruch No. VII   
     
    • Siehst du das Licht       
     
    • Stalker 
     
    • In diesem Licht 
     
    • Hol die Sterne  
     
    • Spielmannsfluch           
     
    • Küss mich        
     
    • Viva la vida      
     
    • Sängerkrieg     
     
    • Gold    
     
    • Omnia sol temperat

     

    In Extremo - Sterneneisen Live

      

    IN EXTREMO is not only the most famous Medieval Rock outfit but also one of Germany’s most spectacular live bands. It’s impressive to see the seven members on a well decorated stage while they perform exotic instruments such as davuls, harps, mandolin, nyckelharpas, pipers, shawms and so on. Big banners, fireworks, light shows, loads of visual effects and even a few modern influences such as monitors showing little clips that introduce the band can be found on stage. All of this wouldn’t be that great if the band wasn’t able to rock. Despite the large amount of exotic instruments, these guys do rock and deliver sharp riffs, energizing drum rhythms and are fronted by a charismatic lead singer who portrays some sort of tough charm that can be compared to an old sailor. It’s always a pleasure to see the band on stage but their most creative shows have probably been made for the tour that followed their masterpiece “Mein resend Herz” back in 2005. The stage was very well decorated back then and the upcoming tours would have been less spectacular.

     

    The main concert of this release had been filmed in the small city of Siegen, Germany back in spring 2011. Neither the city nor the crowd are spectacular and the stage is less impressive as it had been six years before but the concert is nevertheless energizing. The band cut of four songs from the final version which I think was a mistake but these cuts are not that evident and don’t harm the flow of this release.

     

    A main attention lies on the new songs from the band’s last studio record “Sterneneisen” which I appreciated a lot. From powerful sing along hymns such as the first single “Zigeunerskat” over almost dreamy and progressive moments as in the haunting second single “Siehst du das Licht” or rather brutal and dark smashers in form of “Unsichtbar”, the band offers many diversified killer tracks that easily meet and even exceed the expectations. Some songs even work better live than in studio like the haunting traditional “Zauberspruch No. VII” that is sung in traditional Estonian and where the band goes back to its roots in a credible and fresh manner.

     

    The band also included some of their classics and fan favourites in the concert, such as the famous traditional Swedish tale “Herr Mannelig”, the vivid interpretation of the brutal German poem “Spielmannsfluch” or the surprisingly modern and electronically driven rocker “Omnia Sol Temperat” that features Latin lyrics.

     

    Apart of the epic and hypnotizing “In diesem Licht” that I didn't expect in the set list, the band though only comes around with classics or very recent material and fails to deliver one or two surprises that they had delivered in the past. A version of the funny “Werd’ ich am Galgen hochgezogen”, the depressive and vengeful ballad “Unter dem Meer” or the epic sleeping song “Mein Kind” would have been tracks that could have delivered a few stunning moments.

     

    Nevertheless, the concert is great and I would place this live release only behind the “Raue Spree 2005” release and the old school acoustic release “Die Verrückten sind in der Stadt” that was recorded at some traditional German medieval markets in front of small crowds.

     

    The limited edition contains both the concert on DVD and partially on CD as well as bonus material in form of documentaries, live shots from the 2011 Rock am Ring festival performance as well as three video clips that have been made for the last three singles that are though not very originally done. The collector’s version even contains a photo book with numerous stunning pictures from the last tour.

     

    Anybody who doesn’t know IN EXTREMO can change this now and grab this latest release of the band to discover old classics and great new material as well. For any fan, this new release is also a definite must have. Fans of any kind of Folk music, exotic cultures and languages or history in general have no choice but to discover this band as soon as possible. In my humble opinion, this band is still Germany’s best and after having shown the live recordings to some of my friends, they have understood why I like them so much. Get your own idea of that band and grab this great live recording while we impatiently wait for another studio record that may come around in the next months.

    (Online April 18, 2013)

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  • Genre: Folk Metal / Melodic Death Metal
    Label: Self-production
    Playing time: 16:04
    Band homepage: -

    Tracklist:

    1. Intro
    2. Whalesong
    3. With Tempest And Storm On Distant Seas
    4. Moby Dick
    5. Blood Red, Ocean Blue
    The Samans - Whalesong

    The third output about creatures and legends of the seven seas by the Chinese Folk Metal band THE SHAMANS is disappointing and promising at the same time.

    Let me explain this paradox. First of all, this new release only includes sixteen minutes of music which is definitely too short. Three out of five and more than half of the running time if this release is purely instrumental. These instrumental tracks aren’t bad but they would have been greater with actual vocals and little bit more development.

    Concerning the two songs with vocals, they are very promising for a possibly upcoming full length release. Both tracks have a great sound and mix enchanting folk melodies with gripping riffs. Harsh Death Metal vocals meet a few clean vocals as well. The melodies are emotional and the choruses are catchier than ever before. This style reminds a lot of the better tracks by the Swiss Folk Metal band ELUVEITIE. In my opinion, both bands even sound a little bit too similar and it’s quite evident who the original and who the copy is. In the title track, I also hear a slight LINKIN PARK influence in the clean chorus but maybe that’s just me. Anyway, this marks another change of style in the band history. Let’s hope that the band has finally found its own direction by now. The two regular songs are not that original but they are joyful and performed with conviction and passion.

    Let’s wait and see what a regular full length or extended EP might bring. The tracks “Whalesong” and “Moby Dick” are ELUVEITIE clones but definitely both among the five best songs THE SHAMANS have ever written until now. A track like “Whalesong” has everything to gain an international breakthrough. I’ve you’re intrigued by my review you shouldn’t hesitate to check this out.

    THE SAMANS would in my opinion be a great opening band for acts like ALESTORM, ELUVEITIE or TURISAS and should soon be known to a larger public around the world. And I would have been one of the first to have discovered this promising band...

    (Online April 17, 2013)

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