• Kobra and the Lotus - Evolution (2019)

    After the mellow and melodic Prevail duology, Kobra and the Lotus offers an overall heavier output with Evolution. The musicianship can be described as traditional heavy metal with a few sound effects and modern production. The outstanding element is still the vocalist whose relaxed melodic approach to the genre could easily please to a larger audience.

    The record suffers from an average first half that isn't too memorable. Things improve halfway through the record with the rhythmic ''Thundersmith'' that combines shout-along passages, staccato riffs and uplifting melodic vocals in a creative, fresh and unique manner. Purists might find the song too commercial but it's certainly a song that has the potential to get the band some radio airplay, would be an excellent single choice and could even become a dynamic live favourite. Kobra and the Lotus impresses most when it thinks outside the box.

    Acoustic guitar ballad ''Wash Away'' is another such example. One might anticipate a cheesy tune in the key of Evanescence at first as the band has already offered in the past but the song oozes with mysterious, floating and dreamy atmosphere accentuated by appeasing vocals, decently employed keyboard sounds and playful acoustic guitar patterns. Electric instruments kick in for the chorus and continue to add energy throughout the bridge. The band manages to find the perfect balance between its heavy metal stylistics in contemporary fashion on one side and its laid-back ballads on the other side.

    ''Get the Fuck Out of Here'' underlines the band's modern soundscapes. The low guitar riffs could also come from a metalcore band and the keyboard sounds make the tune almost danceable. The dynamic, melodic and vibrant vocals really shine here and make the chorus the most memorable one on the entire record.

    Gone are the band's new age influences from the previous record and the quintet rather finds its identity somewhere between traditional heavy metal songwriting and contemporary alternative rock sounds with a heavy vibe. The excellent vocals keep the two extremes together and make the band sound unique. After a weak start, the record's second half is more courageous, diversified and memorable. Fans of contemporary metal music or those who usually listen to gothic or symphonic rock should like this album. It's a great record to introduce someone to the world of heavy metal who usually listens more melodic, contemporary and commercial music. While Evolution is an entertaining record, it could have been even better with more concise song writing as half of the tunes here sound somewhat exchangeable. Perhaps the band should take three years instead of one to put together its next album and offer ten balanced, creative and dynamic sounds true to the group's two extremes between traditional heaviness and modern soundscapes.

    Final rating: 67%

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  • The Agonist - Orphans (2019)

    The Agonist's contemporary take on melodic death metal flirting with metalcore elements has received lots of criticism since former singer Alissa White-Gluz has left the band and joined genre veterans Arch Enemy. The band certainly hasn't deserved so much negativity since the band has found an excellent new singer, developed its own style and continued to do its thing. The thing that keeps the band away from becoming more popular might be the lack of truly impressive songs with memorable choruses and the overall messy songwriting.

    Most songs include numerous interesting elements. Let's take opener ''In Vertigo'' for instance. Atmospheric backing choirs meet guttural harsh vocals and melancholic clean vocals, fast guitar solos meet chugging breakdowns and droning bridges, double bass sections meet more percussive elements and there is even a short bass guitar solo in here. The song is brilliant and offers something new to discover even after multiple spins. However, most people will just feel confused by the at times fast, messy and radical changes and transitions. The Agonist's songwriting is certainly an acquired taste.

    The band sounds more accessible when it slows down a little bit and focuses on its atmospheric side. ''Mr. Cold'' might be the best example in that regard as the wonderful guitar melodies unfold best in this song and prove how skilled the musicians actually are. The clean lead vocals sound balanced, passionate and vibrant here. The drum play is employed with care and changes pace to vary intensity throughout the tune. The only thing that keeps this song away from being a single candidate is the somewhat stressful chorus that doesn't quite fit with the rest and needs some time to grow.

    The highlight on this album might be title track ''Orphans'' which convinces yet again with atmospheric choirs and powerful clean lead vocals. The song is overall on the softer side without lacking progressive drum patterns and a few growls and screams. Those are however employed with care and don't bury or interrupt the overall melancholic atmosphere of this song. If you want to listen to one single song to hear whether you might like this new record or not, this one here would be the best choice.

    If The Agonist slowed things down a little bit in order to write more atmospheric, balanced and structured songs, they could finally exploit their full potential that is often overheard. Orphans shows plenty of promise but many tracks include too many transitions, ideas and changes for their own good. The album needs a few spins to get listeners used to the band's unusual style. However, this record certainly is a grower. Fans of progressive metal bands like UneXpect might actually adore this band already while those who listen to bands like Arch Enemy might find this band too artsy. It's an acquired taste and a raw diamond but this album is worth giving it some time and polishing said mineral.

    Final rating: 75%

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  • I attended an Ottawa Redblacks game for the second time this season and I ended up being somewhat disappointed for the second time in a row. I had attended their game at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg which they had lost 1-31 in July. This time around, I went to a home game in order to support my school team who had organized the activity. Despite the weak performance, I managed to have a great time thanks to the intense atmosphere and a few nice chats with fans around me. Here are a handful of pictures taken during the event.

    BC Lions defeat Ottawa Redblacks 40-7 at TD Place on September 21st 2019

    BC Lions defeat Ottawa Redblacks 40-7 at TD Place on September 21st 2019

    BC Lions defeat Ottawa Redblacks 40-7 at TD Place on September 21st 2019

    BC Lions defeat Ottawa Redblacks 40-7 at TD Place on September 21st 2019

    BC Lions defeat Ottawa Redblacks 40-7 at TD Place on September 21st 2019

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  • Hanggai band picture

    I discovered Mongolian folk rock band Hanggai back in 2012 when I was particularly interested in Chinese culture, history and music. I managed to purchase a rare copy of their excellent 2010 record He Who Travels Far. I never expected to get the chance to see this band in concert. It's by pure coincident that I discovered that the septet would play at the Algonquin Commons Theatre. I didn't hesitate to buy a ticket and get there. Due to an accident and heavy traffic, it took me three hours to get to the campus but I was only a few minutes late. I was able to enjpy one hour and half of fascinating music and the band is even better on stage than on record. Here are some pictures I have taken during this amazing show.

    Hanggai at Algonquin Commons Theatre on September 18th 2019

    Hanggai at Algonquin Commons Theatre on September 18th 2019

    Hanggai at Algonquin Commons Theatre on September 18th 2019

    Hanggai at Algonquin Commons Theatre on September 18th 2019

    Hanggai at Algonquin Commons Theatre on September 18th 2019

    Hanggai at Algonquin Commons Theatre on September 18th 2019

    Hanggai at Algonquin Commons Theatre on September 18th 2019

    I also managed to buy the band's latest record, an innovative combination of Mongolian folk music and Western brass sounds. You can see the cover artwork below. I even managed to get my copy signed by the singer and the guitarist. They even took the time to talk to me. In addition to this, I took a poster of the concert event home. I really had a great time!

    Hanggai record

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  • Life is better alive - Battle Beast, Sonata Arctica & Kamelot live at Club Soda, Montreal on September 15th 2019

    Opening act: Battle Beast

    Life is better alive - Battle Beast, Sonata Arctica & Kamelot live at Club Soda, Montreal on September 15th 2019

    Set list:

    1. Unbroken

    2. Straight to the Heart

    3. The Golden Horde

    4. Eden

    5. No More Hollywood Endings

    6. Bastard Son of Odin

    7. King for a Day

    8. Beyond the Burning Skies

    Second band of the epic night: Sonata Arctica

    Life is better alive - Battle Beast, Sonata Arctica & Kamelot live at Club Soda, Montreal on September 15th 2019

    Set list:

    1. Overture / A Little Less Understanding

    2. Closer to an Animal

    3. Cold

    4. Storm the Armada

    5. X Marks the Spot

    6. Who Failed the Most?

    7. FullMoon

    8. Life / Vodka

    Headliner of the amazing metal show: Kamelot

    Life is better alive - Battle Beast, Sonata Arctica & Kamelot live at Club Soda, Montreal on September 15th 2019

    Set list:

    1. Knight's March / Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)

    2. Rule the World

    3. Insomnia

    4. When the Lights Are Down

    5. Vespertine (My Crimson Bride)

    6. Veil of Elysium

    7. Karma

    8. End of Innocence

    9. Center of the Universe

    10. Keyboard and Drum Performance (Instrumental)

    11. Sacrimony (Angel of the Afterlife)

    12. Burns to Embrace

    13. Forever

    14. March of Mephisto

    15. Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy) / Ministrium (Shadow Key)

    Bonus picture of headliner Kamelot:

    Life is better alive - Battle Beast, Sonata Arctica & Kamelot live at Club Soda, Montreal on September 15th 2019

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