• Black-Sabbath-GreatWhiteNorth2014

    Live at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario on April 13th, 2014.

    Black Sabbath is one of those bands that need no further introduction. When I heard that they would stop by at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, I purchased my ticket at a surprisingly fair price. The ticket was in fact much cheaper than what I would usually spend on a ticket for a match of the Ottawa Senators who didn’t play very well this season to say the least. The problem with this location is that it’s really far away from the city centre. One has to take the express line for around forty-five minutes to get there and after the concert one has to hurry up to catch the last ride back because a taxi from that location back to downtown would cost a little fortune.

    I arrived at time for the concert though in a crowded bus. It was a quite colourful crowd as well. Some poor people were running around in front of the location in the hope to sell some tickets at quite expensive prices that they had bought earlier. From children and teenagers up to old fans who could have been as old as my parents or even older, there were all kind of people attending this event. To my surprise, some seats were still empty though, I would guess that there were around fifteen to twenty percent of the places still available at the start of the show. I had found a spot with a perfect view between a two generation family that had taken some seats that didn’t belong to them including an older and slightly drunk woman who really rocked out that night and a young couple consisting of a Toronto Blue Jays fan and his Muslim girlfriend.

    Before the British legends hit the stage, there was an opening act that was very well received by the crowd that started to perform around eight o’clock for forty minutes or so. They went on stage with a really dissonant sound and started to jam around before they kicked off their show. The band is called Reignwolf and plays rather dirty garage hard rock. To me, it sounded like a retarded brother of Muse with some unclean alternative rock influences and I didn’t really like it. Instead of communicating with the crowd or playing a few more songs, the guitarist and singer preferred to pose around and play drums and guitar at the same time at some time. The crowd enjoyed it but I thought it was rather childish and embarrassing. Reignwolf’s performance ended as weird as it began as they left the stage without any words. For a while, I wasn’t sure if this was just another element of their show or the end for real. Thank God, it was the end of their performance.

    Then, it was time for the best concert I have ever seen so far in my life. Before the show started, one could already hear Ozzy Osbourne talking to the crowd. I had heard many things about Ozzy Osbourne and most people tend to say negative things about him but that night I met a dynamical and sympathetic entertainer who performed all of his material very well and who had amazing interactions with the fans right from the start. I couldn't think of a better frontman than him.

    The band hit the stage around nine o’clock for around two powerful hours. The visual effects with a big screen showing some interesting clips including mostly half naked women and Occult elements were catching my attention but there was a lot going on onstage as well. Ozzy Osbourne sang like a young God, Geezer Butler was precise as a Swiss clockwork, Iommi underlined his reputation as the master of the riffs and drummer Tommy Clufetos was a true powerhouse behind the kit and delivered the most gripping drum solo I have seen in concert so far. The band played tighter than many bands that are half as old which really surprised me after all this band has been through. Their performance was even a lot stronger than on the “Live… Gathered In Their Masses“ DVD that I had purchased a few months ago.

    The set list was like a dream coming true and I say this as someone who is not even a die-hard Black Sabbath fan. The band opened the show with the amazing “War Pigs” and from the first few lines on, the entire crowd was cheering and singing along with the Prince of Darkness. Even the songs I appreciate less on the records such as “Age Of Reason” were simply amazing live. In fact, every song was hitting the crowd very hard and there wasn’t any filler material included that night.

    My three personal favourite songs were the amazing bass solo “Bassically” followed by the charismatic “N.I.B.”, the melancholic new single “God Is Dead?” and the heavy anthem and perfectly chosen encore “Paranoid” after minute-long standing ovations following the end of the regular set with “Children Of The Grave”. During the entire concert, I was singing and yelling along, playing air bass, air guitar and air drums. The whole location was filled with a magical and raw energy. I really wished this concert would never stop.

    Black Sabbath2014logo

    Once the concert was over, I didn’t want to buy a t-shirt for an exaggerate price of forty-five dollars but I simply had to buy it to cherish the best concert I have seen so far in my life. Almost everybody present that night had the same idea. When I took the bus back to downtown, fans were still cheering and singing during the forty-five minute long ride. Time went by so fast after this concert that the long ride in the crowded bus seemed to last twenty minutes only. Over the next few days, I completed my Black Sabbath discography with a few more records and I can’t stop listening to them right now. I really liked the band before and I have known them for many years but since this concert, I consider myself a real fan. It was an almost mind-changing experience. Whenever I get the chance to see this band again, I will definitely be there and you should do the same as long as these legends are still around.

    Photos taken from www.daily-rock.ca and www.ticketmaster.com

    Setlist: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/black-sabbath/2014/canadian-tire-centre-ottawa-on-canada-13c38d11.html

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  • Yes Canada 2014

     

    Live at Southam Hall, National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Ontario on March 30th, 2014.

    Some people might say that progressive rock legends Yes are not worth to be mentioned on a metal portal but I guess I have to disagree. The influence of this band on several progressive metal acts and on rock music in general is so important that I think it’s worth to cover the band’s recent tour that let them through Canada. I was lucky enough to catch them up in Ottawa where the band performed in the stunning National Arts Centre in the beautiful Southam Hall in the heart of Canada’s capital.

    The band delivered a visually stunning, technically appealing and emotionally convincing concert of around two hours without any opening act. Yes performed three of its legendary records in their entirety. After a nice visual introduction of these albums underplayed by the sounds of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Firebird Suite”, the band hit the stage to perform its milestone “Close To The Edge” in a psychedelic and spiritual atmosphere. New singer Jon Davison didn’t feel out of place at all with the older members Steve Howe on guitars, Chris Squire on bass guitar, Geoff Downes on keyboards and Alan White on drums and percussion. His vocals recalled the performances of original singer Jon Anderson in his best years. He was visibly enjoying his presence on stage and the band conquered the quite mixed crowd by storm. The band went on to perform the famous “And You And I” as well as the atmospheric masterpiece “Siberian Khatru” to close the performance of this record that can easily be cited as one of the best progressive rock albums ever made.

    Up next was the album “Going For The One”. While it’s not the band’s strongest output in my opinion, I think that it’s still a fairly underrated record. The five songs from the album worked very well on stage and were almost as captivating as the first three tracks of the set. The vivid rock and roll anthem “Going For The One”, the floating “Turn Of The Century” and the highly diversified “Awaken” were probably my personal highlights. The band did a short intermission of around twenty minutes after this second part of the set which gave me some time to have a drink at a surprisingly reasonable price and to realize that the merchandise section of the band was rather expensive and incomplete.

    Last but not least, the band went back to its early days by performing “The Yes Album” in its entirety. While the record is not as strong as “Close To The Edge” in my opinion, it is quite close and the live performance was really magical with classics such as “Yours Is No Disgrace”, “Starship Trooper” and “I’ve Seen All Good People”. At this point, the crowd on the three different levels of this theatre truly celebrated the band with standing ovations after each song. By the end of the last song of the regular set, nobody in the crowd wanted the band to go.

    Yes came back to perform a very last track, the sophisticated and technically challenging “Roundabout” from their “Fragile” album. While the song is surely great, it’s not the best track to close a concert with in my humble opinion. On the other side, it was simply great to see this legendary band play for such a long time even though one could see that bassist Chris Squire was struggling with his leg after suffering from an aneurysm in 2009.

    Yes2014

    In the end, the British progressive rock legends played a great concert around two hours plus a short intermission in a very beautiful and sophisticated location for a reasonable price. The band will continue to tour the United States of America all summer long with a live performance of the entire “Close To The Edge” and “Fragile” records. As one never knows how long these five men will still be able to tour the world at their age, anybody who cares for progressive music should try very hard to catch them up. It’s really worth it.

    Photos and videos taken from Yesworld.com and Youtube.

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  • Mystica Girls – Gates Of Hell

    April 17, 2014 in Reviews by Sebastian Kluth

    Mystica Girls - Gates Of Hell 2014

    Mystica Girls- Gates Of Hell (2014)

    Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth

    In a male dominated metal world, an all-female heavy metal band from Mexico is still something that stands out and grabs my attention. In general, there are a couple of interesting all-female heavy metal bands from Latin America such as Highway. For a male reviewer, it’s important to talk about the music alone, and not the charming looks of these four lovely women. There is nothing to worry about here though, because the band didn’t just choose stunning cover artwork, but the forty minutes of music are actually quite energetic, entertaining, and joyous.

     

    Musically, the band delivers grounded, mid-tempo heavy/power metal tracks that are all rather short. The band focuses on dark, sharp riffs as seen in “No More!”, but also come around with a few faster and lighter passages, such as the opening riff of “The Spirit Has Won”. What impresses me even more is the vivid rhythm section. The drum play is solid, but what really stands out on this album is the dominating bass guitar that shines in almost every song. Kathy Whitewolf is absolutely convincing on her instrument, and this band does her often-underutilized instrument some true heavy metal justice. It has been a while since I have heard such strong and pronounced bass guitar work on a record, and it’s probably due to this great instrumental work that four out of twelve tracks on Gates Of Hell are instrumentals. This is something that would usually bother me a bit with other bands, but the approach works very fluidly here.

    The vocals sounded a little bit too dark, low, and reserved to me in the opening of “The Gates Of Hell”, but from then on, Chilean singer Monserrat Bustamante Laferte delivers an absolutely stunning performance. More than that, her vocals have a unique character and make her stand out in a crowded scene. I find it hard to compare her to anybody in particular, which is already a good sign. Her vocals are powerful and quite charismatic. The catchy, almost danceable and rhythmically-orientated potential hit single “The Boogie Biker”, with its slightly lascivious vocals, makes you nod your head, shake a leg and sing along. It’s not all poppy though, as the singer also performs the joyous power metal song “Tiny Blue Dot”, with its more demanding and varied sections quite brilliantly.

    The band unites all of the aforementioned strengths on certain songs. A true album highlight is “The Conquest”, for example. It has a varied vocal performance with a lot of heart and soul, sharp riffs, a great solo, a tight drum performance, and incredibly dominating bass guitar play. This is maybe the track that presents this band best overall. The most unusual track here is the half ballad “Why Should We Need?”. In comparison to other genre bands’ entries, this song has guts and melody, and doesn’t sound watered down at all. The melodious vocals are performed with a lot of soul and are an absolute delight. Even in this song, the bass guitar absolutely rules, and is on the level with the melodic guitar play in the laid back solo. Along with “The Boogie Biker”, this is definitely the catchiest song on the album.

    Despite the weaker opener, “The Gates Of Hell”, and the unspectacular closer, “Spooky Cookie”, Mystica Girls delivers only killer tracks in between, and will charm your pants off with heavy metal attitude, charismatic vocals, and great musicianship. The quartet from Mexico City that once started as a cover band deserves the attention of heavy metal fans thoughout the world. Give their second album a few spins and keep the band on your radar for future endeavors, such as the recording of a live DVD and a possible tour through Central and North America (and maybe even Europe and Japan) that are mentioned on Mystica Girl’s official Facebook page.

    3.75 // 5

     

     

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  • RockStrata – Notun Shader Khoje

    April 15, 2014 in Reviews by Sebastian Kluth

    RockStrata2RockStrata - Notun Shader Khoje (2014)

    Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth

    RockStrata is one of Bangladesh’s first and most important metal bands, founded back in 1985. The heavy metal pioneers of their country released a legendary self-titled full length release back in 1990, featuring eleven songs inspired by melodic mid-tempo heavy metal with a well-struck balance in the form of smooth ballads on one side, and thrash- and speed-metal driven neck breakers on the other. The band more or less split up around 1992, and over the years three band members immigrated to the United States of America while the other two remained in Bangladesh. The band reunited in 2012 to play a few gigs, but thought that it didn’t have enough material to play appropriate full length shows. With the help of social media and modern technology, the band was able to write and record eleven new tracks. Guitars and drums were recorded in Minnesota, while the bass guitar and the vocals were recorded in Dhaka. The album itself was launched in Dhaka where the band members from abroad joined the event via webcam. Now, the Bangladeshi legends are back with eleven new tracks and almost an hour of music under the name ofNotun Shader Kohje, which means something like “Finding New Flavors”.

     

    The surprising thing is that after all the time and changes, the new record doesn’t sound too different from the first. In fact, aside from the production getting better and including fewer heavy and long tracks, this album could have been released in 1992. Despite the unusual recording process, most of the chemistry from the late eighties and early nineties is still present among the five men in 2014. What we get to hear is mid-tempo heavy metal with an abundance of melodies and grounded vocals. The opener, “Ei Amar Jibondhara”, is a catchy, melodic, and positive old school heavy metal anthem that should please anybody who digs the genre. The addicting “Dui” is only slightly different because it has a darker and almost apocalyptic atmosphere, as well as a harsh main riff that sounds reminiscent of some death metal. This is maybe the best song on here.

    On the lighter side of the album, the band offers a convincing power ballad called “Eituku Asha” that incorporates a melancholic feeling without sounding too sad. I’m less impressed by the weird “Ei Boshonte”. This track starts like a boring acoustic country ballad, but suddenly, noisy riffs kick in and the song heads for thrash metal territory. Later on, we get a strange break dominated by bass guitar riffs and a bridge with random sing-along parts. The track includes many ideas, but the different parts don’t fit together at all. This song could have been really innovative for RockStrata’s sound, but it doesn’t feel well thought out at all. Maybe this is also due to the unusual recording sessions, because all other tracks here sound much more coherent. I’d label this song as a failed experiment.

    The problem with the rest of the album is that the music ends up sounding the same. There’s just too much filler material in the form of uninspired, mid tempo heavy metal songs. The band doesn’t explore any new sounds at all outside of the one failure, and there’s no single song here that stands out as a real hit. Most of the work here is not really atmospheric, catchy, or engaging. It’s all just “okay”. The songs are easy to listen to, but easy to forget. Even the hypnotizing “Oshanti”, with guest guitarist Ibrahim Ahmed Kamal from the Bengali heavy metal pioneer band Warfaze, isn’t impressive at all.

    Historically and musically, RockStrata can’t catch up with its first album. Their debut release is absolutely essential. While it’s not a disaster at all, this second output is nevertheless mostly forgettable, and should only be purchased by faithful fans. Even though I really like the band’s first record and have followed the reunion with enthusiasm, I feel disappointment at this point. The titleFinding New Flavors doesn’t fit at all. Standing On The Same Old Ground would have been more appropriate. In the end, it’s still a good average heavy metal release but definitely nothing more.

    2.75 // 5

     

     

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  • Babymetal – Babymetal

    April 10, 2014 in Reviews by Sebastian Kluth

    Babymetal2014

    Babymetal - Babymetal (2014)

    Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth

    Japan is a fascinating country that has always set new artistic and technological trends that travel around the whole world. While many people were surprised to hear about Babymetal, I think it’s a typically Japanese prime example for a newly constructed trend, made up by clever management. The Japanese tend to mix otherwise extreme or opposing elements (from a Western point of view), and Babymetal is such a thing. A clever management group put three more or less talented young female dancers and singers together that had already played together in popular idol groups Karen Girl’s and Sakura Gakuin at a very young age. None of the three girls really knew what metal music was when they were put together. The management decided to make them dance and sing along to a weird musical potpourri that mixes death, industrial, and power metal with electronic music such as dubstep, J-Pop passages, and occasional rap elements. The high pitched voices, childish lyrics, and school girl outfits are supposed to invoke a cute and innocent image. That’s why this genre is also called “kawaii metal”, which means “cute metal”. Personally, I don’t think that these girls look particularly cute, but more like average teenagers pimped up by hair stylists and make-up experts and put in fancy clothes. Babymetal might attract younger Asian audiences that are somewhere between ten and sixteen years old, a few curious addicts of Japanese culture and trends like me, those who have recently stumbled over this band due to viral social media marketing strategies and, sadly, people with pedophiliac tendencies and perverted thoughts.

     

    The younger lookalikes Moametal and Yuimetal in this trio are mostly just there for performing weird dances (that make me think of drunken turkeys) and occasional background vocals, childish screams, and spoken word passages. Main singer Su-metal has a good melodic voice, but is not an outstanding performer either. With some more practice and perseverance, she could maybe one day become a successor of performers such as Hamada Mari. What really makes this colourful band stand out is the over-the-top fusion of opposing music genres.

    Even though the debut record of this band is obviously artificially flavoured, one must admit that the songs on here are incredibly catchy, almost exaggeratedly diversified, and everything but boring. The almost instrumental opener, “Babymetal Death”, is inspired by bands such as Dark Tranquillity, Dimmu Borgir, and Slayer. “Ii ne!” sounds like a parody mixture of Crematory, Destiny’s Child, and Lil’ Kim; “Onedari Daisakusen” could be a weird fusion of Dir En Grey, Linkin Park, and the Spice Girls; “Catch Me If You Can” feels like a mixture of KoRn, Morbid Angel, and Pussycat Dolls; “Uki Uki Midnight” throws in some trendy Skrillex breaks; “Akumu No Rinbukyoku” reminds me of pseudo dark casting bands like Nu Pagadi; the slightly symphonic elements in “Headbanger!!” recall some Sound Horizon influences; and “Ijime, Dame, Zettai” could be a Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius, or X Japan song if the three female vocalists weren’t there. In fact, almost every track on here sounds like several artists or bands that we have probably all known or at least heard of before, but that few would have ever had the courage to mix on one record. Especially “Ii ne!” and “Uki Uki Midnight” still sound surprising and shocking after more than ten spins.

    The most outstanding tracks from my point of view are the upbeat “Megitsune”, the weird and silly (but highly addicting) “Gimme Choco!”, and the power metal driven “Ijume, Dame, Zettai”. As much as I can’t stand popular and predictable marketing strategies put together by many music marketers, I must admit that this release is a sort of guilty pleasure. I don’t really want to like it, but I simply do, and the songs are definitely growing on me with each spin.

    If you try this band out, be prepared to possibly end up adoring something you instinctively hated at first contact. No matter if you jump on the bandwagon or not, Babymetal’s self-titled debut release is already one of the most curious and memorable releases of the year. Check them out at your own risk.

    3,75 // 5

     

    Babymetal – Metal Resistance

    December 14, 2016 in Reviews by Sebastian Kluth

    babymetal-metal-resistance-2016Babymetal – Metal Resistance (2016)

    Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth

    Many people expected Babymetal to be a short-lived hype band, a gimmicky one-album wonder, an overrated and vapid product of contemporary social media activities. All these naysayers are definitely proven wrong withMetal Resistance. The band is still alive and kicking and hasn’t split up or changed line-up, as has been the case for many other idol groups. Babymetal has toured the biggest and most renowned festivals around the world, and has a more massive media presence these days than ever before. Three Japanese teenage girls and their solid backing band continue to revolutionize an entire genre (and the music business in general) by breaking down stylistic boundaries in an open-minded, juvenile, and energizing way. Babymetal has even pioneered an entirely new genre called kawaii metal, which has seen bands such as Band-Maid, Deathrabbits, Fruitpochette, Ladybaby, Tokyo Rockets, and others rise to fame in their home country over the past few years. In general, the band has also had an emancipatory impact on the awareness of female rock groups in its country. Despite the concurrence, Babymetal is still the undisputed leader of this movement, and so far the only band with a significant international market. The band’s second full length output, Metal Resistance, underlines the band’s massive status as role model for its genre. Even though fans of the band’s first release will definitely find all the band’s classic trademarks, this second album isn’t a safe copy of the first, but pushes the exciting evolution of kawaii metal even further. While the eclectic, energizing, and entertaining predecessor had a carefree, chaotic, and juvenile spirit, with many hit and miss experiments that were all over the place, the second strike shows a perfectly balanced mixture between that youthful attitude and a more homogeneous, mature, and skilled artistic approach.

     

    Metal Resistance focuses more upon metal music than the first output. Most tracks are clearly influenced by melodic power metal with a few visual kei elements, but occasional extreme metal sounds add more power at the right spots. Several songs still include influences from other genres covering electronic, folk, pop, reggae, and even swing, but these elements are much better dosed than on the predecessor, as they always add something essential to each song and are never solely for the sake experimentation. The musicianship has become more complex and technical, yet it remains catchy and focused enough to make each of the twelve new songs a potential chartbreaker. The guitar riffs and solos are more gripping than before, and the diversified rhythm section is the vivid backbone of this powerful genre. Main singer and dancer Nakamoto Suzuka sounds more versatile, mature, and elegant than two years earlier, and hers is a very welcome change compared with the high number of exchangeable operatic female singers in the metal scene. Backing vocalists Mizuno Yui and Kikuchi Moa have evolved quite a bit as well, and offer more than occasional screams, gang shouts, and dance performances this time. They still sound juvenile, of course, but they add highlight performances on this record’s darkest, fastest, and heaviest tunes. Their brutally grounded energy complements the main singer’s elegantly uplifting skill.

    Let’s take a closer look at this record’s most outstanding songs in numerical order. A track that represents the evolution of the band very well is the new single “Karate”. The verses are rather dark and feature gripping modern metal riffs. Backing vocalists Mizuno Yui and Kikuchi Moa still sound juvenile, but not as childish as on many tracks from the first record. Their performance adds mysterious and experimental tone to the track that fits with the floating bridge. The chorus is uplifting, powerful, and catchy, and main singer Nakamoto Suzuka hits every note in a perfect way. The balance between metal and pop elements sounds perfectly balanced, and the transitions between the harsh verses and the soft choruses sound quite coherent. Babymetal has perfected its very style from the first album, and the new songs sound much more mature and serious without losing their carefree lightness.

    My favourite track on the record is the epic “Meta Taro”, which features a harmonious chorus that reminds me of a national anthem with an uplifting Olympic spirit. This also seems like something that could  have come from the first three Stratovarius records. As if that wasn’t enough, this song also features vivid European folk elements in a refreshing way, and easily beats everything bands of that genre such as Elvenking or Eluveitie have accomplished on their last few records. Occasional male growls add some appropriate contrast to an otherwise ceremonial masterpiece.

    “From Dusk Till Dawn” is an electronically driven new age song that reminds me of Enigma and Robert Miles. It builds up an enchanting and mystic atmosphere that fits in well between the heavier tracks of the album. This transitional song adds a whole new dimension to the band’s sound, and is only included on album editions sold in Japan.

    The improvement of backing vocalists Mizuno Yui and Kikuchi Moa can be heard primarily on “GJ!” and “Sis. Anger”, where main vocalist Nakamoto Suzuka takes a break. The two younger singers are energetic in the verses, and prove that they have worked on their technical vocal skills in the more melodic choruses. These two songs are darker, faster, and heavier than most of the other tracks on the album, and invite both to dance and mosh along with them without losing their addicting catchiness. “Sis. Anger” especially is a surprise with its blastbeats, death metal riffs, and sinister atmosphere. Musically, this track could be one of the best Morbid Angel tracks of the last two decades.

    “No Rain, No Rainbow” is an emotional visual kei ballad where Nakamoto Suzuka proves what a competent singer she is. This kind of song should be a welcome alternative for those who are still waiting for X Japan’s first album in two decades (which has been delayed for more and less believable reasons for nearly five years in a row now). While those legends have become an overrated copy of their former selves and fail to do their jobs well (or in a timely fashion), Babymetal is already delivering, at their young age, a vivid future without forgetting about Japan’s traditional metal sounds.

    “Tales of the Destinies” is one of the most experimental songs in the career of the band. It’s a sinister and progressive tune with incredibly skilled guitar solos, pumping bass guitar, a furious percussion performance, and vivid keyboard patterns. I find this unpredictable song to be more exciting and experimental than the entire last Dream Theater record. Even the vocal performances vary constantly and adapt perfectly to the eclectic musicianship. Despite all this frenzy, the track still comes around with a beautiful chorus that holds everything together.

    The final “The One” perfectly closes the circle begin in “Road of Resistance”, as both songs are rooted in European power metal. While the opener features DragonForce’s Herman Li and Sam Totman, the more progressive closer is a beautiful and introspective, yet powerful anthem about the band and its supporters. This is the only track which is performed in English on the international version of the album, which is a great sign of respect from the band towards its international fans. The Japanese release features an alternate version with Japanese lyrics. While most Japanese adults struggle with pronunciation when it comes to foreign languages that are extremely different from their mother tongue, the three girls do a great job.

    I could write so much more about this perfectly produced album, which is an improvement even over its outstanding predecessor, but I would simply encourage any fan of contemporary rock and metal music to give this band a fair chance without any prejudice. The only negative elements I can find about this record are the uninspired cover artwork and the disappointing booklet of the international version of this release. Join the metal revolution and buy this record!

    4.75 // 5

     

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