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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    The third season of Twin Peaks has come to a stunning end. As I am about to write my analysis of the final episode, I would like to take you on a visual trip back through the eighteen brilliant episodes. Cristiano Siqueira is a gifted artist who has drawn a poster for each episode. I think his works are absolutely stunning and I would definitely put all these posters in my apartment if I only had enough space. Please enjoy these posters and support this unique artist and this unique show.

    Part one: My log has a message for you.

    Part two: The stars turn and a time presents itself.

    Part three: Call for help.

    Part four: ...brings back some memories.

    Part five: Case files.

    Part six: Don't die

    Part seven: There's a body all right.

    Part eight: Gotta light?

    Part nine: This is the chair.

    Part ten: Laura is the one.

    Part eleven: There's fire where you are going.

    Part twelve: Let's rock.

    Part thirteen: What story is that, Charlie?

    Part fourteen: We are like the dreamer.

    Part fifteen: There's some fear in letting go.

    Part sixteen: No knock, no doorbell.

    Part seventeen: The past dictates the future.

    Part eighteen: What is your name?

    Bonus: Audrey's Dance from part sixteen

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  • Ensiferum - Two Paths (2017)

    Surprise! After the disappointing One Man Army, Ensiferum delivers a quite entertaining and focused record. Instead of concentrating on a diversified and experimental songwriting that is all over the place, the band concentrates on fleshed-out and short tracks that mostly respect its original style. The few experimental tracks recall other successful folk metal bands without exactly copying them and expand Ensiferum's soundscapes in a respectable way. Two Paths is still far away from the band's genre-defining first two studio albums but it's clearly better than the last two efforts.

    However, the album with the stunning artwork and the numerous limited editions with an acoustic show bonus disc, drinking horns, patch, photo cards, poster and wristband starts on a rather underwhelming note. Nobody is really going to miss Manowar that finally promised a farewell tour after having been a bad joke for at least a decade but Ensiferum somehow seems to try to keep that cringe-worthy metal spirit alive with the horrendous pseudo-epic ''For Those About to Fight for Metal'' that incorporates every stupid stereotype of this genre. The exchangeable up-tempo stomper ''Way of the Warrior'' isn't much of an improvement either but once you expect Ensiferum to turn into a comedic circus act, this album finally changes for the better.

    The band finally reconnects with its charismatic folk influences of yore in ''Feast with Valkyries'' that convinces with enchanting accordion melodies, majestic male choirs and variable female vocals. The track manages to both go back to Ensiferum's essence of the first two records and to try out something fresh with the female lead vocals. This song defines what Eluveitie should sound like instead of releasing a vapid acoustic record. ''Don't You Say'' keeps the uplifting folk melodies, showcases some simple but vividly rocking riffs and rhythms and throws in some melodic lead vocals that make this tune a joyful party anthem without sounding shallow. The rhythmic ''God Is Dead'' is quite similar in style and could also come from Alestorm or Turisas with its vivid, raw and charismatic male lead vocals.

    Overall, the use of three completely different vocalists that complete one another perfectly, the focus on shorter and simpler songwriting and the return to the band's powerful folk elements of yore make for Ensiferum's greatest record since the first two studio outputs in my book. However, this opinion won't be unanimous because the record doesn't include one of the band's usual elaborate epics, limits the use of Petri Lindroos' harsh vocals and sounds at times close to folk bands with controversial reputations such as Alestorm, Eluveitie and Turisas. Personally, I think Two Paths is a dynamic record to listen to that finds the right balance between atmospheric parts and potential party anthems. Ensiferum embraces its past but still manages to experiment in a controlled way. If this mixture sounds intriguing to you, give this output a chance.

    Final rating: 78%

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  •  Dear readers of my blog!

    Many metal fans laughed when Babymetal gained international recognition for its quirky mixture of heavy and extreme metal riffs, pop melodies and Japanese idol culture about five years ago. A lot of people expected the band to split up sooner than later as it is often the case in idol groups where band members eventually get replaced when they get too old or want to move on in their careers. Several people said Babymetal was just a short-living phenomenon. Others claimed that such a band would never be accepted in the metal community. 

    More than five years later, it turns out that all the naysayers were wrong. Babymetal is still around, has released two very successful studio records and is playing in front of massive sold-out crowds in Europe and North America. Famous metal musicians and singers, such as Rob Halford and Herman Li, have even collaborated with the band while others defend the band's style and describe it as innovative, powerful and refreshing. The band members haven't been replaced but rather inspired other bands to follow their lead and this genre movement isn't about to slow down or even stop.

    This has led to the creation of the so-called kawaii metal genre. It means cute metal in English and it perfectly summarizes everything its stage presence, lyrics and music are about.

    The bands of this genre often involve one or several female singers in their teenage years or young adult years who are backed up by professional metal musicians. The bands often have visually stunning concepts for costumes, music videos and stage decorations. Some bands dress like pupils or maids, others present Japan's quirky culture or the upsides and downsides of being an idol in their video clips and a few bands use stage decorations recalling fantasy stories or a workout room. The bands use amusing catch phrases, perform complex dance choreographies, use the most sophistiacted light and sound techniques, are quite active on social media networks and have clever marketing strategies to sell a multitude of products.

    If compared to regular metal bands, the lyrics of kawaii metal bands often deal with topics younger audiences care about: being afraid of eating too much chocolate and gaining too much weight, dreaming of becoming famous, rich and successful or having a first romantic relationship are some examples. Some lyrics can however also deal with more serious topics: dealing with bullying at school, facing exhausting mental and phsyical challenges in a very demanding society or showing the downsides of always being in the spotlight are among the best examples. Lyrics from these bands often express what teenagers feel but can sometimes also apply to young adults. Even if you are younger or older than the target audience, the lyrics are an interesting way to understand the lives of Generation Z.

    The music is just as diversified as the constantly evolving lives of Generation Z in times of information overload. Death metal vocals in the energetic verses meet saccharine pop vocals in the catchy choruses. Metalcore breakdowns are followed by dubstep elements. A dreamy piano ballad evolves into vivid power metal song with numerous guitar solos. These changes occuring within a single song are what makes kawaii metal diversified, dynamic and surprising. Fans will praise this original mixture of genres while more conservative mind might claim the music is all over the place. No matter what your opinion is, kawaii metal is everything but boring and this is exactly what I like about it.

    Where do the restrictions of such a diversified genre end? It's quite simple: as soon as one of the three key elements being stage presence, lyrics and music isn't respected, it isn't kawaii metal anymore. Aldious and Mary's Blood might have distinguished stage presences but their music is straight heavy and power metal and the lyrics aren't overtly related to the world of Generation Z. Asriel and Sound Horizon mix electronic pop elements and symphonic metal and have complex costumes and sophistiacted stage decorations but the lyrical topics are limited to simple fairy tales as it's the case for many regular symphonic power metal bands. Versailles and X Japan are visual kei bands which means that they also have creative concepts, costumes and decorations as well as a mixture of heavy and mellow sounds but their emotional fantasy lyrics aren't related to Generation Z issues plus most members of these bands are older males.

    As you can read, kawaii metal is indeed a very distinguished genre and should be accepted as a metal subgenre, Japanese pop subgenre and idol scene subgenre. In oder to exemplify what kawaii metal stands for, here are my twelve favorite kawaii metal songs. I tried to pick twelve different groups with quite diferent styles that show the extents and limits of the genre.

    Babymetal - Gimme Chocolate!! 

    Deathrabbits - Season of Love

    Ladybaby - Nippon Manju 

    Deadlift Lolita - Pump Up Japan 

    Fruitpochette - CleverDick 

    Band-Maid - Thrill 

    Doll$Boxx - Take My Chance

    Shiori Tomita feat. Ladybeard - Valentine Kiss 

    Light Bringer - Upstream Children 

    PassCode - Asterisk 

    BiS - Hi

    Momoiro Clover Z feat. Kiss - Blooming in the Ukiyo 

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  • Manntra - Meridian (2017)

    In Extremos Sänger Michael Robert Rhein singt auf dem dritten Album der kroatischen Folkband Manntra mit, welche In Extremo auch schon hin und wieder auf Tour begleitet hat. Das Titelstuck des dritten Studioalbums der Kroaten ist ein richtig schones Stuck geworden, das Fans von In Extremo auch gefallen durfte. Viel Spass damit!

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