• Crimson Peak (2015)

     

    ''Crimson Peak'' is an entertaining and enjoyable Gothic movie with elements of supernatural horror, period crime and tragic romantic genres. The greatest parts of the movie are the settings and costumes. Some of it may not always be historically accurate but these elements sure add to the enchantingly creepy atmosphere of the film. They make both the growing metropolises in the North-Eastern part of the United States of America and the wild, rural and lonely landscapes of the United Kingdom and their respective societies come to life in an impressive way. The greatest element is the dilapidated mansion that almost feels like an additional character to the story due to its vast and rotten spaces, pale vestiges of old aristocracy and complex mysteries hidden in the numerous rooms and walls.

    The story itself is rather predictable but nicely narrated. The generic plot still works thanks to a solid acting performance by the feminist yet fragile character portrayed by Mia Wasikowska, the elegant yet sinister character played by Tom Hiddleston and the cold and evil character incarnated by Jessica Chastain. The relationship between the three is very ambiguous, engaging and tense.

    Even though this might neither be the movie of the year nor one of director Guillermo del Toro's best works, ''Crimson Peak'' is a spine-chilling Gothic movie that convinces with atmospheric settings and solid acting. If you're looking for a more classic, elegant and intellectual horror movie around Halloween this year, ''Crimson Peak'' should be your first choice.

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  • lynch. - ''D.A.R.K. - In the name of evil -'' (2015)

    lynch. is a Japanese visual kei band that basically mixes influences from diverse genres such as pop music, new wave, punk rock, glam metal and hard- and metalcore into one courageous and diversified yet focused potpourri garnished with emotionally driven lyrics, eccentric costumes and visually stunning concerts. Since the band is from the Chubu region, they are a part of the so-called Nagoya kei metal subgenre. To keep it simple, the band is one of those experimental groups that emerged a little bit more than a decade ago and got some major attention at home and some minor attention abroad.

    The first wave of visual kei bands had been pioneered by bands such as X Japan, Kamaitachi, D'erlanger, Color and Buck-Tick from the early to the late eighties. A second wave had gathered some minor international success in the nineties with bands such as Penicillin, Malice Mizer, Luna See, Kuroyume and Glay but the genre had a notable decline in the late nineties. Bands such as The Gazette, Moi dix Mois, Dir en Grey, D'espairs Ray and Alice Nine were part of the third and so far last wave in the beginning of the new millennium. Over the past few years, the genre had its share of troubles again but a combination of young idol bands such as Babymetal and Fruitpochette as well as the return of some veterans such as X Japan and Luna Sea, a couple of solo projects from renowned singers such as Kamijo and EMIRU and a few female groups such as Exist Trace and Cyntia have successfully rejuvenated and partially reinvented a dying genre.

    lynch. have always just been side characters of this genre. The band has never been as bombastic as X Japan, as extreme as Dir en Grey or as diversified as Babymetal. The band has only been known to faithful genre fans but this could finally be their shining moment. The last few record of MUCC has been rather disappointing, bands such as D'espairsRay have split up by now and younger outfits such as Babymetal have distanced themselves from the visual kei genre and found their own niche in form of the controversial kawaii metal genre.

    ''D.A.R.K. -In the name of evil-'' has already reached the band's highest chart position in history and is a really entertaining output. The thirteen new tracks are diversified, short and to the point. The opening title track combines gloomy piano sounds, creepy keyboard effects and low male vocals with almost danceable slow rhythms, melodic pop vocals and a catchy chorus. A few faster passages, slow and somewhat brutal metalcore riffs and guttural grunts and screams add even more diversity to the track. As confusing as this might sound to Western audiences, this eccentric mixture isn't anything unusual in Japan and the song sounds in fact surprisingly coherent, grounded and structured. This combination of styles has become a routine for bands like these over the past years and even such a solid tune sounds almost too predictable and lacks honest passion and ferocious innovation. Despite this high degree of diversity, several tunes on the album sound rather alike. They are not necessarily bad but lack originality after a while.

    Thankfully, lynch. adds more and more atmosphere, depth and structure to this kind of music as the album progresses. ''Ghost'' is a first true highlight since it seems to be influenced by rhythm-orientated big band and jazz rhythms in the calmer parts that emerge into a seducing, danceable and charming chorus. Even the sinister metalcore break fits to the gloomy style that isn't a far call from rockabilly and horror punk either. This exciting tune should have been the single of the album instead of the rawer, shorter and simpler ''Evoke'' which is only an average track. The second single is the melancholic ballad ''Eternity'' which comes as a welcome break and emotionally convincing individual tune.

    The band also comes around with a few highly addicting experiemnts. ''Invader'' starts with a fast slap bass solo followed by ferocious drum play and hoarse hardcore vocals before a quite vivid, melodic and catchy chorus comes around. The track is fast, intense and unpredictable yet the funky bass solo, the charming chorus and the brutal vocals stay with the listener for a while. The song feels exciting and never repeats itself in one and a half highly efficient minutes. ''Beast'' hits a similar vein and opposes fast and furious metalcore elements to melancholic pop parts in a vivid tune driven by pitiless drums, pumping bass guitars and beefy riffs. ''Cosmos'' goes one step further in this mixture and includes a slow and efficient bridge with a heartbreaking guitar solo.

    The melancholic guiding line of the record reaches its climax with the longest song ''Melancholic'', an indeed profound, longing and dreamy pop song with slightly depressive riffs, floating melodies and numbing vocals. The song has a very particular atmosphere that goes far beyond the usual diversified entertainment, eccentric image and overwhelming emotions. Album closer ''Moon'' keeps that melancholic atmosphere but is slightly faster and adds some really strong metalcore vocals. This kind of track wouldn't be unusual for modern In Flames and this mixture of numbing melodies and dark aggressivity suits the band very well.

    The longer the album goes and the more one listens to it, the more the melancholic guideline somewhere between sinister metalcore and hopeful pop rock melodies turns out to make sense, to feel profound and to be a true highlight in the band's career. The band has crafted a very unique sound on the sophisticated ''D.A.R.K. -In the name of evil-'' that sounds different from the somewhat aimless offerings by similar genre bands such as Dir en Grey. So far, this is definitely a solid candidate for the best visual kei album of the year. Fans of modern Japanese music of all kinds should give this record a few open-minded spins.

    Final rating: 8.5/10

    Please support the band and check out the following links:

    CD Japan: http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/person/700098535

    Official website: http://pc.lynch.jp/

    YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH4a3Uy6viB3eLuOqQY7sHA/videos

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  •  Babymetal - Live at Budokan: Red Night

    Babymetal has become an international phenomenon over the past two years that has had a considerable impact on metal music. The controversial female trio which is backed up by a solid metal band, a clever management and creative choreographers has played numerous big festivals and venues in Asia, Europe and North America. In the beginning, critics guessed that the girls made mostly playback performances, that they weren't really into their own kind of music and that they were only a short-living trend in the key of ''Gangnam Style'' or ''Harlem Shake''. Over the years, the band has though grown together as a solid, emotional and credible unit of established performers and the best seems yet to come for them. If compared to other idol bands, the band seems to keep its successful line-up together at long sight. The band has even created and influenced a legitimate new sub-genre called kawaii metal since several bands like Fruitpochette are following their footsteps. ''Live at Budokan: Red Night'' is a very strong testimony for the band's early process of maturation. The thirteen tunes that can also be found on the band's eponymous studio debut record were recorded back in March 2014 and released in January 2015. They already show how strong the band was back then. Today, the unique trio has become even better but this live document is nevertheless worth the attention of both critics and fans and those who simply want to discover something exciting, fresh and unusual.

    First of all, the backing band is really solid. The brutal death and thrash metal influenced ''Babymetal Death'' rushes past an amazed crowd like an unstoppable bullet train. The enthusiastic European power metal anthem against bullying entitled ''Ijime, Dame, Zettai'' will bring tears to the eyes of any passionate guitar player. Even the rhythm and blues influenced ''Iine!'' sounds very cool, relaxed and tight on the other side. These outstanding musicians are rarely mentioned in reviews but they are the backbone of the band and deliver a very diversified and enthusiastic yet focused performance.

    The crowd definitely adds to the success of this live record and the three girls sure know how to animate, communicante and motivate their fans from all around the world. The simple yet efficient sing along parts in the rap inspired middle part of ''Iine!'' work even better than on the studio album. The extended instrumental opening of ''Catch Me If You Can'' builds up both atmosphere and energy among the audience. The liberating screams from the three singers in ''Head Bangya!!'' make this track sound much purer and wilder than the studio version and the crowd responds in a similarly unchained manner.

    The songs themselves also stand out because they are more than just simple reproductions of the studio versions. The introductionary samples of ''Megitsune'' are short and simple as they raise the expectations, passion and tension of the audience. The additional Asian folk samples in the opening of the dark and mysterious ''Onedari Daisakusen'' make a rather average tune from the studio album really stand out on this live release. The radio play dialogs in the introduction of the epic ''Ijime, Dame, Zettai'' symbolize the chilling calm before the furious storm since the track ends with endless guitar solos, honest notes of thanks from the three teenagers and a most vivid rhythm section that is finally let loose. 

    The band already sounds more mature than on the debut album even if this live release was only recorded a few months after the studio record had been fully completed. Back vocalists Moametal and Yuimetal still sound quite juvenile but less childish and innocent but more powerful and self-confident than before. They already add a lot of drive to the genre-breaking potpourri of ''Iine!'' and the dark pop rock track ''Onedari Daisakusen'' but they really underline their energizing skills in the extended version of the rather experimental tune ''Song 4''. Main singer Su-Metal already starts to sound like a skilled young woman instead of a little kid on this album. Especially her enchanting performance in ''Akatsuki'' is really powerful and shows that she is more than just a good dancer, entertainer and model and in fact a really gifted singer. Maybe she could one day become a successor of legendary female rock singer Hamada Mari.

    To keep it short, Babymetal's first official live CD release ''Live at Budokan: Red Night'' is a great introduction to the band, should please any fan of the studio record and might inspire harsh critics to make up their minds about the passion, longevity and authenticity of this international phenomenon that has already written history and revolutionized metal music as we have known it. While most groundbreaking metal acts have been ridiculed in their humble beginnings, they have all gone their way and I'm confident Babymetal will do the same. This record is a credible product of the band's enthusiastic and experimental first steps and might get a legendary status one day. That's why it's even worth to spend some money on the Japanese import version of this record or to go for the extended package with an additional concert entitled ''Live at Budokan: Black Night'' and a DVD or Blu-ray version of the two concerts that add the colourful, creative and ecstatic visual component to rate an already outstanding concert release up. Let's hope that there are more live and studio records to follow quite soon and that the band will continue to perform high quality shows around the world.

    Final verdict: 10/10 (highlight)

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  • Melted Space is a rather interesting all-star project around the rather unknown French keyboarder Pierre Le Pape. What started as an instrumental one-man band focused on ambient music back in 2007 became an ambitious symphonic metal project with a couple of interesting guest musicians from rather unknown French underground bands. With its third album, Melted Space now aims for a much larger audience. While this album can still be identified as symphonic metal, the record features diverse genre influences from power and heavy metal to death and black metal. The guest musicians have become more diversified and international as well. Just to give you a slight idea, this record features performances of Ayreon keyboarder Arjen A. Lucassen, Soilwork guitarist Sylvain Coudret and singers such as Attila Csihar from Norwegian black metal band Mayhem, Clémentine Delauney from Austrian symphonic power metal band Visions of Atlantis and Kobi Farhi from Israeli folk metal band Orphaned Land. The album also features a couple of rather unknown local French musicians like Lucie Blatrier, Virginie Goncalves, Adrian Martinot and Arno Strobl which means that this release isn't overloaded with famous names. It's also a welcome surprise to hear some vital signs from the outstanding Manuel Munoz from the defunct progressive gothic metal band The Old Dead Tree and David Vincent who recently left the American death metal veterans Morbid Angel. This ambitious line-up performs on eleven epic tracks with a running time slightly below fifty-six minutes.

    What matters in the end is obviously always the music itself. Several all-star projects turn out being disappointing because they sound more like compilation records where the guests simply perform tracks they would usually create in their regular bands. Even the most prominent ambassadors of such projects like Avantasia and Ayreon recently published a few lukewarm records. Only the rather unknown Russian project Activator, which is sadly ignored by print media, left a very positive impression. Despite its high degree of diversity, Melted Space's ''The Great Lie'' is a true gem and highlight of its genre. The tracks are diversified but have a clear guiding line in form of a coherent story, decent symphonic elements and an elegantly atmospheric vibe. Most of the songs are slow or at mid-tempo speed and take their time to build up cinematic atmospheres, majestic melodies and passionate vocal performances. Every contributor has the occasion to rise and shine on this release without stealing anyone else's show. This album features no chaotic choirs, hectic vocal performances or overlong solo passages or duels between the different musicians. The whole release sounds refreshingly calm, grounded and structured.

    It's nearly impossible to point out any tracks since they are all great. The simplistic opera and radio play inspired ''The One Who Lost the Faith'' is as amazing as the darker ''Trust & Betrayal'' that heads towards gripping extreme metal territories. The fragile, laid-back and slow ballad ''A God is Dead" is just as intense as the complex all-star epics ''No Need to Fear'' and ''Lost Souls from the Other Side'' that offer a true firework of emotions and request multiple spins to fully unfold. In each track, composer Pierre Le Pape comes around with a touching melody or a catchy chrous while the performers contribute with their hearts and souls in a very natural way by simply being themselves.

    This outstanding record grows with each spin and one soon realizes that this is one of the very best albums ever released of its kind. There is no way fans of all-star projects and sophisticated symphonic metal can get around this record full of power and soul. Please give this project a chance. It might become one of your most interesting discoveries of the year.

    Final rating: 9,5/10 (highlight)  

    Here is a free streaming of the entire release for a limited time: http://www.heavylaw.com/news/118355/streaming-melted-space-opera-metal/ 

    Please support the band and check out the following links:

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/meltedspace 

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/MeltedSpace

    YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UChv3-irgUgENdouJwuDGU7g

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  • Two years after the strong return to form which was the diversified, inspired and original ‘‘Halo of Blood‘‘, Finnish cult band Children of Bodom is back with nine brandnew tunes and a few cover tracks on ‘‘I Worship Chaos‘‘. This is the first album the band recorded as a quartet after the departure of guitarist Roope Latvala. His genius in form of memorable riffs and rhythms might be missing here and there but overall, ‘‘I Worship Chaos‘‘ is a surprisingly solid release that sounds much better than what the previously released new songs, snippets and singles indicated. This record is a great example that the whole is sometimes greater than the sum of its parts.

    The band included everything critics and fans from around the world like about them on this output. Fierce mid-tempo stompers like the cool opener ‘‘I Hurt‘‘ meet sinister and fast-paced bangers like ‘‘Horns‘‘. The first single ‘‘Morrigan‘‘ works surprisingly well in the context of the record since it adds almost folk-influenced melodies to the potpourri and comes as a welcome melodic break between some of the hardest melodic death metal tunes the band has recorded over the past years. ‘‘Widdershins‘‘ mixes both epic melodies and a horror movie atmosphere that could have been taken from an old school radio play and concludes the regular album version on a quite complete note. The greatest tune on the new album is probably the calmer ‘‘All for Nothing‘‘ that convinces with a stunning duel between the guitar and the keyboard in the melodic middle part that goes back to the band’s fast and joyous power metal style.

    While the folk-influenced ‘‘Morrigan‘‘, the epic power metal half-ballad ‘‘All for Nothing‘‘ and the atmospheric closer ‘‘Widdershins‘‘ offer majestic keyboard passages and melodic guitar riffs and solos, the rest of the record features more sinister keyboard tones and brutal and tight extreme metal riffs. The two instruments clearly dominate this album and represent all typical band trademarks. The rhythm section consisting of bass guitar and drums is though a little bit unspectacular at times and could have been a little bit more experimental, ferocious and present overall. The vocals are nothing technically stunning but they are charismatic, diversified and inspired enough to keep the tension high. Alexi Laiho growls, screams and whispers in many different ways that always complete the atmosphere of each single song. It's not his best performance but certainly his most inspired.

    The different limited editions rate this album up as usual. This time, the crazy Finnish quartet covered female-fronted American punk rock band Plasmatics, American country and soft rock artist Kenny Loggins, the Finnish folk metal band Amorphis and even British new wave pop band Bananarama on the Japanese edition of the album. These choices are once again very eclectic and fun to listen to. I was first skeptical about the Amorphis cover since they are my very favourite band but Children of Bodom’s version of ‘’Black Winter Day’’ can be described as a successful attempt at mixing the unique magic of the original with their very own sound. The epic keyboard passages, the dragging and longing atmosphere and an inspired vocal performance make this song stand out among the other tunes since the original track is treated with a lot of dignity, passion and thought.

    While this release doesn’t offer one particularly outstanding song, ‘’I Worship Chaos’’ is definitely one of the band's most consistent releases in terms of quality and quantity. Overall, I would place this album in the upper middle section of the band’s extensive discography. If you liked ‘‘Halo of Blood‘‘, which has grown a lot on me, you might realize that ‘‘I Worship Chaos‘‘ doesn’t beat its high-quality predecessor but turns out to be a truly respectable follow-up. On a final side note, the cover artwork of this record is really gorgeous and among the band’s very best in my opinion which should encourage their fans to buy the vinyl version of this album.

    Final verdict: 8/10 (recommendable)

     

    Please support the band and check out the following links:

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/childrenofbodom 

    Homepage: http://www.cobhc.com/site/

    Twitter: http://twitter.com/cobhc

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