• In Extremo - Tranquilo - Akustisch Live 2010 + Raritäten

    Back in 2015, German folk metal legends In Extremo celebrated their twenty years of existence with a massive boxed set entitled 20 wahre Jahre which contained the band's studio records as well as one disc with an acoustic live performance from 2010 and one disc with rarities taken from singles and special editions. Most people weren't willing to pay one hundred bucks or more just for two interesting discs which was also my case. Thankfully, the band has released those two exclusive discs separately a little bit more than three years later and I was finally able to buy a copy of this limited release in Frankfurt this past summer. It was definitely worth watching and waiting for this amazing release.

    Most bands sound watered-down, soft and dull when they transform their regular songs into acoustic versions. That can't be said about In Extremo at all. The low emotional vocals unfold even better in this context. Session drummer Adrian Otto plays with much energy, pace and precision. The acoustic bass guitar sounds more predominant than usual. The acoustic guitar play is diversified, melodic and quite playful. Most importantly, the numerous folk instruments such as the bagpipes, harp and shawm unfold amazingly here and aren't disturbed by domineering plugged guitars. The sixteen songs played in that context are true gems and sound at times even better than the regular studio versions. The usually overlong ''In diesem Licht'' convinces with its hypnotizing Orient folk soundscapes on this release. ''Lebensbeichte'' becomes a danceable fast-paced tune as opposed to the plodding melancholic original version and this change is equally surprising and convincing. ''Merseburger Zauberspruche II'' unfolds its full epic potential in this version and the vocals are particularly inspired here. The set list offers alternative takes of In Extremo's classics and focuses on the band's most recent record Sangerkrieg back then. I didn't appreciate said album that much but the songs sound excellent in their inspired acoustic versions. I wish the band did another series of acoustic shows next year and the septet should certainly release those alternative versions again.

    The rarities aren't just consisting of shallow alternative and demo versions of known songs but actually include some precious gems. Brandnew band anthem ''Loreley'' has been specifically written and performed for the band's twentieth anniversary and sounds energetic, epic and joyful as it stands out as one of the band's greatest songs ever. ''Konigin'' is taken from the Kuss mich single and is a raw love song with hypnotizing bagpipe sounds, simplistic but highly efficient harp sounds and wonderful percussive elements in the excellent bridge. ''Captus est'' might be the band's best b-side ever and was even played in concert as it convinces with a memorable chorus of epic proportions, addictingly heavy guitar play and wonderful use of folk instruments. The alternative version of ''En esta noche'' featuring additional passionate lead vocals by José Andrëa of former Mago de Oz fame sounds much better than the original version as In Extremo has always made successful collaborations. ''Herr Winter stammt vom Kaukasus'' is a song for children which has been transformed into a comforting smooth folk tune by In Extremo. There isn't one single dull song among those rarities. Most medieval rock bands don't even have regular songs which are as amazing as In Extremo's rarities.

    In the end, this release isn't only essential for In Extremo fans but for anyone who likes folk rock and metal. The acoutsic concert and selection of rarities underline In Extremo's status as greatest folk band that has ever emerged from Germany and even as greatest contemporary band from Germany in my humble opinion. Long live In Extremo! 

    Final rating: 100%

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  • Mono Inc. - Welcome to Hell (2018)

    Mono Inc. is a German gothic rock band that is more successful than ever in its twentieth year of existence. Its career reminds a little bit of Unheilig, a band that emerged from the Gothic underground scene and achieved massive commercial success which was controversially received by fans of old date. Mono Inc.'s last record to date, Welcome to Hell, hit the second position of the German album charts which marked the band's greatest commercial success. A new record, entitled The Book of Fire, is already scheduled for release early next year.

    Mono Inc. performs songs with emotional and often imaginary topics in English or German. The band focuses on smooth melodies that often have symphonic and folk undertones. Even though lead singer Martin Engler looks a lot like Subway to Sally's lead singer Eric Fish, his voice is smoother, lower and more balanced which makes for a quite accessible mixture. The lead vocals are often supported by enchanting female backing vocals provided by drummer Katha Mia.

    Welcome to Hell might be the band's smoothest record to date and invites to dream yourself far away even though its kyrical topics deal with the Black Death in medieval times. Only the title track is in the upper-middle tempo and provides some powerful drum work which makes it stand out. The other songs convince with enchanting melodies and melancholic vibes. ''Risk It All'' has a dramatic chorus you won't get out of your mind upon listening to it for the very first time. ''Flies'' is my personal highlight on the album with its soft, floating and dreamy atmosphere that equally recalls new age stylistics and smooth progressive rock soundscapes. ''Under a Coal Black Sun'' has an epic and hopeful vibe which makes for a comforting effect. Another outstanding track that needs to be pointed out is ''A Vagabond's Life'' that features aforementioned Eric Fish on vocals and his usually slightly crowing voice sounds smoother in this thoughtful ballad and contrasts Martin Engler's lower register rather well. Perhaps Eric fish should use this approach more often for his solo albums or his main band Subway to Sally.

    In the end, Welcome to Hell might be Mono Inc.'s smoothest release so far but the enchanting, melodic and thoughtful approach suits the band very well and makes it stand out. Commercial success doesn't necessarily mean that a band has become shallower and even though fans of old age might not wholeheartedly embrace this record, it has a lot of soul and is great to listen to if you just feel like relaxing. I would classify this record as a gothic pop album since there aren't many rock or even metal elements but to my own surprise, that isn't even a bad thing. The band has already announced that its next album The Book of Fire is going to be its darkest and heaviest so far, so I'm curious to see how such a transition might work out. In about half a year, I will know.

    Final rating: 75%

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  • Edeka

    Hornbach

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  • Rémi ''Gaffe'' Garde

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  • Volbeat - Rewind, Replay, Rebound (2019)

    I wasn't even sure whether I should give Volbeat's new record Rewind, Replay, Rebound a spin. The previous record had consisted of watered-down radio rock music and when I attended a concert of the band the Danish-American quartet went as far as to cover Johnny Cash which really isn't my cup of tea. But then I remembered the band's vivid last live record Let's Boogie! Live from Telia Parken which has also included the excellent dark thrash metal song "The Everlasting" which is included on this new album. So I gave this record a spin and it turned out much better than expected. This record might be Volbeat's best since Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood eleven years ago.

    Things start promisingly with the energetic up-beat ''Last Day Under the Sun'' that immediately puts a smile upon your face. "Pelvis on Fire" is surprisingly fast and heavy and flirts with punk rock and rockabilly influences while the vocals still remind of Elvis Presley. The band also comes around with melancholic half ballads with acoustic guitars like the nostalgic ''When We Were Kids''. In contrast to this, the band offers the extremely short punk rock tune ''Parasite'' where the band breaks new ground. The aforementioned ''The Everlasting'' should please fans of heavier sounds and is both the record's darkest and most complex tune.

    The record features two noteworthy guests. The dynamic, fast and passionate ''Die to Live'' with playful piano sounds features raw additional vocals by Neil Fallon of American hard rock band Fallon who contrasts Michael Poulsen's melodic skills appropriately. The rhythmic ''Cheapside Sloggers'' features additional guitar play by Exodus' Gary Holt in the track's plodding and sinister middle section but his talents is somewhat underused in an overall exchangeable hard rock track.

    In the end, Volbeat's Rewind, Replay, Rebound doesn't offer anything new but is executed with passion and precision. It includes much better songwriting than the three previous studio albums. The record entertains from start to finish and might be a candidate for best hard rock record of the year. Metal fans might not find much to like about this release apart of the sinister ''The Everlasting'' and perhaps the collaboration with Gary Holt on ''Cheapside Sloggers'' but this album might appeal to younger fans of alternative, hard and punk rock music.

    Final rating: 80%

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