• Genre: Progressive Metal
    Label: Self-production
    Playing time: 65:30
    Band homepage: -

    Tracklist:

    1. Awakening
    2. The Deep Forest
    3. Desperation
    4. Light
    5. Voices from Heaven
    6. No Way Out
    7. The Mire
    8. Death of a Dream

     

    Thoughts Factory - Lost

    THOUGHTS FACTORY is a German Progressive Metal band composed of members of quite different ages who share a passion for the same genre. Their first record “Lost” is clearly influenced by bands such as DREAM THEATER, MAGELLAN, PENDRAGON, SYMPHONY X and TRANSATLANTIC. The band coherently mixes atmospheric and sometimes laid back Progressive Rock parts with melodic Progressive Metal passages and a few darker moments that remind me of OPETH.

    The band’s first album displays their great musicianship in five short and three overlong tracks. My favourite song is probably the longest song called “Death Of A Dream” as this track never gets boring. It starts with warm melodies and elegant orchestrations before it slowly gets a more modern touch with simple and hard riffs and a few keyboard sounds here and there. The pace of the track varies from slower and heavier parts to a few faster instrumental parts. The vocals also vary from aggressive, fast and short parts with cold sound effects over more pronounced and natural clean vocals to a few rare but extremely efficiently used Death Metal growls. The structure of this song though always remains quite coherent despite the length and the great sense for details. I know the year is still rather young but this song is a solid candidate for the best Progressive Metal song of the year. This is what I would have liked the last DREAM THEATER record sound like.

    The rest of the album can’t catch up with the amazing closer but still has a few great moments. A little problem is that the band chose its two calmest tracks as opening duo. These two songs really open up after a while and have a chilling atmosphere but they are definitely too tame to kick the record off. A short piano ballad interlude as “Light” works much better to give you a break from the longer and more sophisticated songs in the middle of the record but this time I wished this song was longer because it sounds beautiful and inspired in only two minutes. Those who care about Progressive Metal and not that much about Progressive Rock must wait until the third track to get rewarded for their patience. “Desperation” features sharp riffs and noisy keyboard sounds that create an interesting counterpart to the smooth main and backing vocals.

    The best songs come in the second part of the record. The joyous rock opera “Voices From Heaven” features warm keyboard melodies, a strongly pumping bass guitar and synthesizer work inspired by bands such as GENESIS and YES. The song is not very metallic either but an amazing Progressive Rock pearl. The following “No Way Out” is much faster and heavier and could come straight from almost any DREAM THEATER release. The song doesn’t reinvent the genre but its almost Power Metal influenced chorus along with the technically stunning instrumental parts spread a very epic and positive atmosphere. Along with the album closer, this is my favourite song on the record. “The Mire” starts with a quite long instrumental before the record’s best chorus makes this song stand out after three minutes. Melodic and passionate vocals meet an epic instrumental work. Instead of elaborating on that amazing chorus, the band simply repeated it and ended the song that way. If this track had been a few minutes longer, I’m sure it would have been one of my favourite pieces on here.

    In the end, THOUGHTS FACTORY deliver a convincing first strike. “Lost” sounds diversified, passionate and technically appealing. They even deliver a true international genre highlight with the closing “Death Of A Dream” as well as a couple of other solid songs like “No Way Out”. The band doesn’t reinvent the genre and has done a few mistakes that are typical for beginners such as putting the calmest song right at the start of the record and making the longer tracks a little bit overlong sometimes while the promising shorter ones finish too quickly. Despite these little flaws, “Lost” is a great album and fans of Progressive Rock and Metal music should support this young band by buying their record and spreading their name.

    (Online January 26, 2014)

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  • Genre: Melodic Death Metal
    Label: Self-production
    Playing time: 25:45
    Band homepage: -

    Tracklist:

    1. Into The Fire
    2. Rise
    3. Breed
    4. Time To Pay
    5. A Thousand Scars
    6. Stabbing The Drama (SOILWORK Cover)

     

    My Imperium - Amongst The Ruins

    MY IMPERIUM is a band somewhere between modern Groove Metal and Melodic Death Metal with a few minor Industrial Metal influences composed of three men and one woman from Lyon in France. Founded back in 2014, the formation now comes around with a first EP entitled “Amongst The Ruins”.

    The band convinces with a balanced mixture of faster and powerful parts, heavily grooving mid-tempo sections and a few almost Metalcore-inspired melodic breaks that slow the pace down.  Fans of modern DARK TRANQUILITY or IN FLAMES should dig this kind of music and the fact that the band included a cover version of SOILWORK’s “Stabbing The Drama” on this release only underlines who their main target should be.

    The short record reserves a few surprises as well. The Asian folk sounds, the bass driven overture, the distorted spoken word passage and the pitiless thrashing main riffs are the ingredients for the heavily diversified “Time To Pay”. This song is on par with “A Thousand Scars” that comes around with a calmer melancholic middle section with great guitar melodies and a versatile drumming that gives a well-needed break in an energizing and fast-paced track with a catchy melodic chorus. These songs may sound a little bit chaotic at first contact but end up to open up after several spins.

    Melodic Death Metal fans can give this release a shot and should support the French band. On the other side, this EP only offers twenty minutes of music if we take off the cover song and the introduction and that’s why I’m eager to hear a full length record by this band to see how they can diversify, improve and make their sound more unique as well. The band has the basics to get some attention in their genre but for what it is, this EP is more like a good average start for possible future endeavors. If you’re intrigued by my review, don’t hesitate to give MY IMPERIUM a few spins under the following link: http://myimperium.bandcamp.com/ 

    (Online January 20, 2014)

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  • Genre: Power Metal / Heavy Metal
    Label: Steamhammer
    Playing time: 57:28
    Band homepage: Pell, Axel Rudi

    Tracklist:


    1. The Inquisitorial Procedure
    2. Tower of Lies
    3. Long Way to Go
    4. Burning Chains    
    5. When Truth Hurts    
    6. Changing Times
    7. Touching Heaven
    8. High Above
    9. Hey Hey My My (Neil Young cover)
    10. Into the Storm
    Pell, Axel Rudi - Into The Storm

    AXEL RUDI PELL already comes around with his sixteenth studio record entitled “Into The Storm”. Despite the band’s regular high quality releases, the group around the guitarist from Wattenscheid where even local legends like the punk band DIE KASSIERER haven’t heard of him for many years has always remained an underground band. The group still has close ties to the European Heavy and Power Metal scenes of the late eighties and a few American Hard Rock ballads of the same time. The reason why this band never got the credit it deserved is maybe due to the fact that the old guitar player of STEELER fame gave his project a rather odd name which is simply his own. Another point could be the fact that the band never really revolutionized the genre or tried out any experiments. You really know what to expect when you pick up an AXEL RUDI PELL record which can be seen as a charismatic strength but also as a repetitive weakness. Last but not least, the somewhat cheesy lyrics are also a considerable issue. One still hears worn-out high school rhymes like “fire” and “desire” or “pain” and “rain” on this album. Oh boy!

    The band’s lack of success is surely not due to its song writing qualities and sound. The German band delivers once again a balanced mixture of gracious nostalgia and fresh power on this record. The mid-tempo songs have an epic touch and are carried by melodic but gripping riffs. The new rhythm section is more than just solid as well. The keyboards add some more epic atmosphere to the tracks without taking too much space. Almost all songs have extremely catchy hooks carried by the powerful and charismatic vocals by Johnny Gioeli who is definitely one of the genre’s most underrated singers.

    While some songs obviously sound quite alike on here, this album includes no stinker and has a constant high quality. Highlights include the heavy but atmospheric Heavy Metal anthem “Tower Of Lies” which is a well chosen opener. Another outstanding piece of music is the diversified “Touching Heaven” that starts as a keyboard driven half ballad before a much darker tone pushes this epic somewhere between IRON MAIDEN, RAINBOW and SCORPIONS forward. The powerful and bass guitar driven mid-up-tempo banger “High Above” is also quite solid. Last but not least, the somewhat lengthy but nevertheless addicting closer “Into The Storm” that includes some keyboard driven folk elements and an atmospheric closure is another track that stays on your mind after the first few spins. Let's add that even the NEIL YOUNG cover "Hey Hey My My" is performed with passion and convinces as an orchestrated Hard Rock ballad with goosebump vocals.

    In times where comparable German bands such as AXXIS, EDGUY, GAMMA RAY, PRIMAL FEAR and SINNER are releasing somewhat lackluster records, AXEL RUDI PELL still incarnates the power other Power Metal bands seem to have lost. Fans of DIO, JORN, LIZZY BORDEN and even WHITESNAKE will also feel at home when they are listening to this release. The veterans are really attacking the genre thrown this year. They don’t do it with a big bang but prove their honest consistency that their colleagues have lost over the last years. That's why I'm so particularly impressed with this release. Sometimes, the simplest ingredients make the best dishes. Fans of all aforementioned bands should check this album out as it’s never too late to discover AXEL RUDI PELL.

    (Online January 20, 2014)

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  • Genre: Progressive Metal
    Label: Self-production
    Playing time: 53:33
    Band homepage: -

    Tracklist:

    1. Overture
    2. Bridge Of Sorrow
    3. The Last Trial
    4. Endless Sky
    5. Truth Be Told
    6. Fallen From Grace
    7. Black Judgment Day
    8. Dream Survives
    9. Prayer To Survive
    10. The Curtains Fall

     

    Vital Science - Imaginations On The Subject Of Infinity

    VITAL SCIENCE is a Progressive Metal band with several Symphonic Power Metal influences. The project is composed by members from Estonia and Latvia and also features Brazilian guitarist Thiago Trinsi in three tracks who is usually involved in Taiwanese Symphonic Power Metal band SERAPHIM.

    The project’s first output entitled “Imaginations On The Subject Of Infinity” sounds as sophisticated as many tracks on this release happen to be. “Fallen From Grace” features for example a lengthy instrumental section with vivid keyboard patterns, a beautiful guitar solo and some quite technical and modern metal riffs. The whole thing is surrounded by melodic but grounded and even slightly raw vocals that are shining in one of the record’s catchiest choruses. This track is not only among my favourites but also quite representative for the entire album. Sharp and technical riffs, dominant keyboards, a few orchestral sound samples here and there, modern progressive instrumental sections and charismatic vocals are the ingredients in here. Keyboarder Sergey Boykov is the most impression among these skilled musicians in my humble opinion. To give you a reference, I would say that this band sounds quite similar to SYMPHONY X.

    While this mixture is technically stunning and emotionally energizing, only a few tracks really stand out on here as most songs sound quite alike. Especially the guitar riffs in the verses sound too similar on this release. The dark symphonic elements and harp samples in the faster “Black Judgement Day” are amazing while the keyboard solos would even make AYREON and DREAM THEATER jealous. “Truth Be Told” is probably the record’s most epic track and opens with almost cinematic orchestral passages that can also be heard in the chorus section while the rest of the song has an American Power Metal touch.

    Fans of powerful Progressive Metal with hard riffs, majestic orchestrations and a clever use of keyboards should definitely dig this release. The record is technically impressive and has also emotionally driven parts that can convince. The overall lack of diversity in the song writing concerning the guitar riffs is probably the biggest flaw on here but doesn’t stop this album from being a promising first genre highlight of the early year 2014. If you’re intrigued by my review, you can listen to or purchase the record under the following link: http://www.powerprog.net/releases_vital_science_imaginations.html

    (Online January 20, 2014)

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  • Genre: Black Metal / Post Metal
    Label: Self-production
    Playing time: 26:57
    Band homepage: -

    Tracklist:

    1. Live In Despair, Die In Solitary
    Esthète Sinistre - Live in Despair, Die in Solitary

    Esthète Sinistre is a depressive post black metal project by one musician and one singer. It may come as a surprise to many that this grim and frostbitten project neither comes from the Métal Noir Québécois movement nor from a Scandinavian or Baltic country. The two persons behind the project hail from the busy and warm metropolis of Guangzhou which is included in the southern part of an impressive megalopolis on the Chinese coast. Despite the atypical surrounding and origin of this album, it makes you feel as if it was recorded during winter time in a bare cabin somewhere in the northernmost woods.

     

    The young band’s first release comes along as one atmospheric track that clocks in at around 27 minutes. It first offers us folkloristic samples reminding of traditional Scandinavian or Russian music. The listeners then get to hear some excerpts from speeches that seem to be taken from an old movie before samples of wind and wuthering are added to the formula. Once the track kicks off, it varies from depressive but laid back passages to pitiless and blistering parts with raw riffs and ferocious drumming. Some passages include noisy bass guitar parts while others come along with laid back piano passages, acoustic guitars, organ sounds or a few almost New Age driven orchestrations. All these elements perfectly fit to the general atmosphere and each instrument or idea has its shining moment. That’s why this song never gets boring despite its epic length. The vocals are emotional lamentations and don’t seem to include any actual lyrics. But they don’t need to because the atmosphere created by the music and these lamentations is stronger than simple words. The underground production perfectly suits this bleak epic as well. Even the misspelled song and EP title funnily fits to the genre’s underground image.

     

    I have listened to this gem four times until now and this little masterpiece keeps on growing on me. Its atmosphere isn’t only bleak but also includes many moments of melancholy and even hope. The musicianship is detailed enough to make you discover new little elements each time you are listening to this song. Esthète Sinistre are the best black metal newcomer band I have listened to in quite a while and may have released the best genre output this year. I hope to hear more from this band anytime soon. Spread the name that relevant grim and frostbitten black metal now comes from Southern China and give this epic a few fair spins on the band’s Bandcamp page: http://esthetesinistre.bandcamp.com/

     

    (Online December 30, 2013)

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