• Light & Shade - The Essence of Everything (2016)

    Light & Shade is more than your ordinary power metal band. It's the project of four skilled musicians from Germany, Italy and the United States of America. The quartet plays power metal with heavy riffs interwoven with symphonic and progressive keyboard backdrops. The Essence of Everything is the group's debut release that offers eleven tunes with a running time of just below fifty-five minutes.

    The thing that makes the band stand out are its two extraordinary singers. Additional vocalist Marco Pastorino convinces with a raw but melodic voice that flirts with gothic rock inspirations which is used scarcely but efficiently on this release.

    Lead singer Adrienne Cowan is one of the most diversified singers I have ever come across. She has harmonious clean vocals that convince both in smooth lower registers and emotive high registers. She occasionally comes around with nasty screams that make you think of a possessed witch. She can also growl better than most male counterparts as this style oozes with atmosphere and energy. She switches from one style to another with ease. There is no doubt that the skilled young singer is the highlight of this release.

    The diversified songwriting manages to make her vocals stand out from uplifting symphonic power metal tracks over heartfelt ballads to mid-paced power metal tracks with a gloomy note and even successful attempts at more progressive tracks that always sound creative, entertaining and fluid as they offer more and more details with every single spin.

    Forget about other female-fronted power and heavy metal bands like Battle Beast and Beyond the Black. Give the overlooked Light & Shade a chance and you will realize that The Essence of Everything easily beats any similar band with ambitious songwriting, skilled musicianship and perfect vocals. Here's hope the project continues to release new music and finally gets the attention it deserves. This release is one of the greatest unexpected surprises I have come across in a very long time.

    Final rating: 95%

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  • Les Ékorchés - Les Ékorchés (2007)

    French-Canadian quartet Les Ékorchés around the province's most versatile drummer Michel Langevin and the province's most iconic extreme metal vocalist Marc Vaillancourt is certainly a quite unique band. Supported by veteran guitarist Pat Gordon and cellist Philippe Mius d'Entremont, the band offers a relentless mixture of sludge metal, grindcore, folk music and classical music.

    Despite its very particular style, the band's chemistry doesn't quite gel yet on the average self-titled debut release. There are as many great songs to be found as plain irritating ones. Another problem is the fact that the album overstays its welcome with fifteen songs.

    Among the highlights, one must cite the folk-driven party anthem ''Vesoul'' that convinces with additional accordion sounds by Grimskunk's keyboarder and singer Joe Evil and backing vocals by Grimskunk's guitarist and singer Franz Schuller as well as Madking Ludiwg's Stéphane Bellemare.

    On the other side, a track like ''D'là viande cé mur'' sounds unintentionally funny with its plodding low nerve-firing growling vocals despite the serious lyrical topic.

    Les Ékorchés' debut album shows a lot of promise regarding its unusual genre mixture between sludge metal, grindcore, folk music and classical music but the songwriting is rather hit and miss and the vocals are at times too expressive, loud and omnipresent for their own good. Curious collectors might pick this album up to discover something new but the quality of the quartet's second record IV Démons and third album Frères de sang is much better.

    Final rating: 65%

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  • Demon - Juvenile Buddha (2019)

    For the third year in a row, Japanese brutal death metal band Demon has released an extended play consisting of three tracks which is strangely entitled Juvenile Buddha this time around. The songs have become even shorter than before as the three tracks barely crack the five-minute mark. 

    This release is better than the noisy debut Pustules but a step down after the more creative sophomore output Poison. 

    On the positive side, the chemistry between the vocals and instruments has improved which makes for a more fluid song writing. The vocals sound lower than before and make me think of an evil frog. The bass guitar is the band’s outstanding instrument once more and even has two dynamic solos in the closing tune. The drums and percussion sound more adventurous and diversified than before. 

    On the negative side, the production sounds definitely worse again with canny drum sound and surprisingly thin guitar sound. The songs could be a little bit longer and more fleshed out. The guitar play in particular should improve as it chugs along unimpressively. 

    Demon’s Juvenile Buddha isn’t a terrible output but a step down after the promising predecessor. Fans of brutal death metal with chugging riffs, domineering bass guitar sound and low vocals should give this effort a spin nevertheless.

    Final rating: 50%

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  • Iron Reagan - Take the Fall (2017)

    Take the Fall was an exclusive single recorded by American crossover thrash metal quintet Iron Reagan that wouldn't be included on the upcoming full length release Crossover Ministry. However, the song would be included on a split release with death metal band Gatecreeper more than a year later. If you have the chance to pick up the latter release instead of this one, you should definitely go for it.

    ''Take the Fall'' is actually one of the best songs the band has written so far and should have been included on a regular studio record in my opinion. The song has the anger, attitude and speed of other Iron Reagan songs but the track manages to slow down at appropriate moments to make for a quite diversified and entertaining listening experience with a length of nearly two and a half minutes which is rather long by the band's own standards. The gang shouts are particularly energizing this time around. The actual highlight of the song is the extended melodic heavy metal guitar solo towards the end that actually proves that the band can't only crank up the speed and volume but that it has great musicianship as well.

    Iron Reagan fans should definitely listen to and purchase ''Take the Fall'', either in form of this limited single release or in form of the split with Gatecreeper released fourteen months later. Thanks to its diversity and especially due to a great guitar solo, this is one of the band's greatest songs to date. Crank up the volume and enjoy it to the fullest.

    Final rating: 87%

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  • Demon - Poison (2018)

    Another year means another extended play by Japanese death metal band Demon. Just like its predecessor, Poison comes around with the tracks totalling a running time of just above seven minutes. However, a few things have changed positively. 

    The cover artwork for instance is inspired by classic Japanese paintings but also captures the band’s relentless spirit. The opening track actually has something of an introduction and shifts fluidly between slower and quite brutal parts and fast and chugging outbursts. The second track works even more with slower but menacing rhythms and especially the bass guitar has a few shining moments. The third tune also tries to focus more on technical play and sinister atmosphere than frenetic ecstasy. The songwriting has clearly improved and become more distinctive. 

    The production has also become better. The guitar sound is less noisy and actually even a little bit too much in the background this time around. The bass guitar sound is more distinctive which is a positive thing since this musician seems to be the most talented in the band. The drum sound is also significantly less noisy than on the predecessor. Even the growls have improved as they sound more restrained and focused. 

    Poison is a significant progress for Demon. The songwriting, skills and production have improved and make for an atmospheric brutal death metal release that actually has some replay value. If you are a genre fan, give this release a spin.

    Final rating: 60%

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