• Signum Regis - The Seal of a New World (2019)

    A good friend of mine recommended Signum Regis to me and compared their style to Avantasia's early works. The band photo rather seems to suggest this band is imitating Sabaton. Both thoughts aren't exactly correct as Signum Regis offers melodic but gritty power metal with a few minor progressive influences in the key of genre heavyweights like Helloween. The Seal of a New World doesn't offer anything new but has been crafted with skills, energy and creativity.

    The duels between guitars and keyboards are epic, melodic and technically appealing as they manage to add both energy and intellectualism. The rhythm section is powerful, precise and thunderous but could even take some more space. New Brazilian singer Jota Fortinho sounds energetic, juvenile and vibrant as he blends in very well. This line-up should develop, grow and stick together. One should note the intriguing lyrics and the outstanding cover artwork that underline the quality of this release.

    The song writing is focused and never getting overwhelming but at times slightly predictable and repetitive with its genre tropes. The tracks take some time until they are actually stuck on your mind. Sometimes, it feels that Signum Regis hasn't found its very own style yet but a consistent line-up might improve things. Their Chinese colleagues Barque of Dante have very similar challenges. The production is a little bit direct and loud at times but invites to crank up the volume and let your neighbours discover some good new music.

    Progressive power metal fans should definitely give Signum Regis a chance as this productive group from Slovakia has constantly been releasing acclaimed genre efforts for more than a decade now. Occasional listeners of this type of music should try out genre heavyweights like Galneryus first and support Signum Regis if they end up feeling hungry for more. The group has lots of potential and might exploit it to the fullest with better press work, a more influential label and especially a stable line-up.

    Final rating: 75%

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  • Galneryus - Into the Purgatory (2019)

    Galneryus has established itself as progressive power metal heavyweight with previous masterpiece Ultimate Sacrifice. Into the Purgatory now picks up right where the band had left its fans two years earlier. This album convinces with technically stunning yet vibrantly emotional guitar play. The keyboards and organs provide epic progressive soundscapes that add atmosphere and intellectualism at once. The record offers a dynamic and playful rhythm section that doesn't only support the guitars and keyboards but often takes the lead and adds new creative soundscapes. Last but not least, the melodic, powerful and victorious vocals make you want to raise your fists in the air and provide as much conviction, energy and imagination as the instrumental work. In numerous progressive metal bands, the vocals are less impressive, important and convincing but that certainly can't be said about Galneryus. Union makes strength and this winning line-up is the best this band will ever have. Add inspired lyrics in English and Japanese, a refreshingly organic production, a creative cover artwork and you have this beauty of an album.

    The opening instrumental ''Purgatorial Flame'' and the closing instrumental ''Roaming in My Memory'' make this album sound whole and offer a perfect balance between atmosphere, melody and skill. If I had been asked what could have been improved on the excellent predecessor, I would have thought about some instrumental overture and coda. This is exactly what Galneryus gives us here. Imagine a mixture of Helloween and Dream Theater and you will have a great idea of what these two short tracks sound like. They aren't fillers but essential to this album.

    The eight songs in between convince with grit, melody and speed. ''Never Again'' offers guitar solos that make you want to get down on your knees because you can bearely digest all the beauty, craft and power at once. ''The Followers'' on the other side shows that these excellent musicians haven't forgotten about writing catchy melodies that are immediately stuck on your mind. This track was indeed a perfect single choice. To be honest, this record would have needed a few more tracks of this caliber. What can we say about epic masterpiece ''The End of the Line''? Let's just state that these nine minutes incorporate everything fans like about progressive power metal and that this song is worth being discovered time and again.

    Galneryus' Into the Purgatory is a strong candidate for progressive power metal album of the year. It's actually the strongest genre release since the band's own predecessor Ultimate Sacrifice twenty-five months earlier. It's a matter of personal taste whether you prefer the slightly catchier predecessor or the more progressive successor. At the end of the day, you should know, listen to and own both records.

    Final rating: 90%

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  • #noquit: Ottawa 67's are as resilient as ever!

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  • Cathubodua - Continuum (2019)

    Cathubodua is a Belgian symphonic power metal sextet that has just released its debut record Continuum. The record doesn't only convince with a gorgeous cover artwork by artist Jelle van Loo. The song writing on the record is refreshingly balanced as short atmospheric interludes around the two-minute mark such as ''The Tempest'' meet heavier regular tracks varying between three and five minutes like dramatic ''Deified'' and the record's entertainingly epic opus magnum ''Apotheosis'' that breaks the ten-minute mark. The group employs melodic keyboards but also vibrant violins without forgetting about rhythmic heavy metal riffs. Sara Vanderheyden's variable, emotional and dramatic vocals recall genre stars like Floor Jansen without copying them.

    Not everything is perfect on this first output however. A catchy song that could really stand out is missing here. The album would benefit from more domineering guitar play and especially a few passionate solos would be mandatory when playing power metal. The rhythm section is mostly unspectacular and only operates in the background. Cathubodua should not only focus on aesthetics and atmosphere but also on energy and speed.

    Fans of female-fronted melodic power metal with symphonic elements and balanced song writing should give this promising newcomer a chance. Cathubodua convinces with variable vocals, excellent symphonic elements and balanced song writing. If the band were able to add some rhythm, energy and catchiness to the formula, the talented sextet might get more attention in the future.

    Final rating: 70%

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  • Abigail Williams - Walk Beyond the Dark (2019)

    I started to learn about Abigail Williams when I attended a festival a little bit more than four years to ago and the epic symphonic black metal band was easily the most energetic, focused and talented group that night. I bought the excellent boxed set From Legend to Becoming that I have enjoyed listening to on multiple occasions. Recently, the band came back to town as opening act and played along with four other bands. To my negative surprise, Abigail Williams offered by far the worst performance of the night. They had to play without one of their guitarists who wasn't allowed to show up due to his criminal record and their performance was lacking energy. The band heavily overused its fog machine and the band members weren't even visible during their performance. The group barely interacted with the crowd, offered a lacklustre performance and exited the stage without any final words. Coincidentally, I decided to listen to the band's new output Walk Beyond the Dark and it sounds as weak as the band's performance had been.

    Some elements that made the band great in the first place are still present in a few select songs. ''The Final Failure'' for instance is an epic closer with haunting symphonic elements and enough changes of pace and style to keep the track interesting through a running time of eleven minutes.

    Most songs however fail to offer any significant changes in style or creative ideas. They overstay their welcome by using the same riff patterns for several minutes. The rhythm section is often noodling uninspiredly in the background. The monotous vocals repeat simplistic lyrics time and time again. The band hits rock bottom with the weak opener ''I Will Depart'' that has no redeeming values whatsoever. Opening this record with its weakest song has an impact on all other tunes that follow but most of them are only barely better.

    I don't know what happened to Abigail Williams but I get the impression that the band has lost some emotion, inspiration and style that made the group stand out in its early years. Walk Beyond the Dark offers three above average tunes, three bad tracks and one disasterpiece. Let's cross our fingers that the band goes back to its roots to rekindle the magic of its early years that made it stand out among other extreme metal bands.

    Final rating: 30%

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