Divine Ascension - Liberator (2014)

The Melbourne power metal sextet has back with vengeance. Divine Ascension is setting the people of southern hemisphere on full throttle with their second album, Liberator. As you remember, they are one of promising power / symphonic act when their debut album released in 2011. As close as to their first one, Liberator is one step upgrade for sure. This is much more serious works, stronger instrumentation and heavier singing. Jennifer Borg as vocalist is once again nailed it with her altoish voices, rather muscular one must say.

"Dawn Brings No Mercy" is ambitious symphonic intro put as an opener of the album. You will need to drill up some early Epica or Within Temptation music to draw comparison with the style Divine Ascension bringing up. On six minutes, Dawn Brings No Mercy even has enough room to put in a rather contrasting slow middle interlude, which also a sign that the band is now in full concentration to bring more progressive elements to their songs. "Stronger" is sample of their heavy symphonic track. With lively keyboardist and dual guitars, the band has a serious shredding solos to fight for. "Liberator" is the album title song that has multiple patterns to make up a good progressive metal cut, on full double pedal speed. Then also comes "My Contender Lies" which bring even further dark color and vengeance guitar riffs backed with slower tempo drumming. "Sorrow's Sacrifice" is open with clean acoustic guitar, the dynamic on this song quickly remind us to Dream Theater's Awake era sound. For some serious kick ass ballad you will need to fast forward to "Red Sky". The focus on this song is once again Jennifer Borg's vocal capabilities, which is victoriously produced here. For the rest of the album the band wrapped more headbanging power metal cuts, from melodious "Machine", "The Final Stand" to the  goose bumping acoustic "Memoria's Longing".

The album formula is their successful blending of power, symphonic and progressive in style. Then added strong character voice from Jennifer, backed with excellent musicianship by the band.  Then voila, this is a surprise winter gift to power metal fans. Oh wait, it is summer actually on their atmosphere. As a female fronted band, one thing I glad is the band did not fall in the current trend to added nonsense death metal growling voices in their song. Liberator is much serious and ambitious works compared to their debut. In the cliche of connoisseur word, their debut (As The Truth Appears) is the opening red Shiraz but Liberator is the unexpected powerful blend of Chardonnay - Semillon - Riesling (!??) from the Southern valley. Do not let this one slip without a heavy sip.

Favorite tracks: Dawn Brings No Mercy, Machine, The Final Stand, Memoria's Longing
Metal Harem class: ********** nine stars out of ten

Buy it Here - Amazon

Divine Ascension - Liberator (2014)

01. Dawn Brings No Mercy 06:31
02. Stronger 05:31
03. Liberator 06:07
04. My Contender Lies 05:48
05. Sorrow's Sacrifice 05:54
06. Crystal Tears 05:30
07. Machine 06:28
08. Red Sky 05:18
09. The Final Stand 05:46
10. Hideaway 05:52
11. Memoria's Longing 05:32

Jennifer Borg - Vocals
Karl"Inski" Szulik - Guitars
Robb Inglis - Guitars
Luke Wenczel - Drums
David Van Pelt - Keys
Jason Meracis - Bass

See also , Divine Ascension As The Truth Appears 2011 review


Demian Heuke - Treumal (2014)

Continuing our journey in search for excellent guitar shred album this year, come across Demian Heuke's Treumal. This is a promising debut album from this Germany based guitarist. Still quite little unknown about Demian, where the biggest clue is his connection with guitarist Adrian Weiss from the same area. Treumal is faithful guitar album that colorfully done with heavy metal as main style. It is in the same wake of other melodic shredder such as Adrian Weiss, Daniel Liverani and Marco Sfogli.

The first opening is such a simple riff yet ever green for guitar instrumental. 30 Ballons is the happy champers of I-V-vi-IV chord progression we haven't heard in long times. Dennis Hormes in guest soloing in this track. This song is a true showcase of the guitarist ability as well with frenzy licks rolling all over it. The 2nd track is This Is Now, the opening riff is a two bar licks that also familiar to ears. His guitar best friend Adrian Weiss is the invited guest. While on Jimmy, we move to mid tempo, non violence melodious song that come along with acoustic guitar accompaniment. Alive is a lively wah-wah driven song, excellent bass line at the backdrop. Iced Kingdom is the tip of shred iceberg camouflage by its calm opening. Funky Valentine is as the title suggested a funk orientated composition. Treumal is melodic mid tempo that once again very enjoyable and reflective. The other half of the album contained mostly calm and meditative composition. Such as Diminished Wind that explore the most from the diminished scale to make it as pensive as possible.

Overall a very well written guitar instrumental album. Demian Heuke balance all the thing about composition and guitar playing. The licks are bringing inspirations for listener. Treumal is a quick fall in love album where can be enjoyed by general audience and also die hard guitar fans. This album can come along shoulder to shoulder with his friend, Adrian Weiss album where he also a guest contributor.

Favorite Tracks: 30 Ballons, Treumal
Metal Harem class: ******** eight stars out of ten

Demian Heuke - Treumal (2014)
Buy it Here - Amazon

1 30 Ballons (Dennis Hormes guest solo)
2 This Is Now (Adrian Weiss guest solo)
3 Jimmy
4 Alive (Christoph Kaczmarczyk guest solo (1:08-1:40))
5 Iced Kingdom
6 Funky Valentine
7 Treumal
8 Astronomy
9 Just Breathing
10 Diminished Wind
11 Suffering
12 Daily Settlement

All guitars played and composed by Demian Heuke

Line Up:
Drums - Lars Zehner
Bass - mf-c
Guitar - Demian Heuke
Produced by Demian Heuke and mf-c
Engineered mixed and mastered by mf-c @ "mf-c`s recording hell" studio Dusseldorf / Germany 2013 - 2014
Artwork: Gustavo Sazes ASTRATA


Andy Martongelli – Spiral Motion (2014)

We are once again introduced to a new solo guitar album called Spiral Motion. This is recorded by lead guitar of Arthemis, power metal band from Italy. As the trend right now, a numerous of guest guitarists are present. This is ranging from ever popular Michael Angelo Bation (looks like Michael presented in any important shred album releases in 2014) to Dave Martone fame.

We have triumphant feel song as the opening  in Eternal. Enjoy plenty of shred licks of course. We are really going spiral where on the 2nd track comes Screaming Ninja. A very screaming inspirational theme, with all the exotic scale throw in with no mistakes. Another roller coaster of style is happened again in the third song called Infected-Garbage-Blues. Exactly as the title, this is infected furry shred tracks, wittily comes as blues-base composition. After a loud bang in Venomous, we also got sentimental Father in very touching melodic instrumental ballad. Cyber-Hammer of the Gods is specifically designed to get laid down by multiple guitarists. Dark Days is once again a slow yet melodious guitar piece. Jump to the last track, Bite the Bullet is the final track which end the album in blitz dual guitar attack. Solo guitarist Dave Martone join the force to make this encore goes crazier.

Spiral Motion is a loud guitar album. There are various styles emerge in this album with a dominating sounds is in heavy metal. Andy's styles also ranging from classic '80 Shrapnel era (listen to Phoenix Rising) to modern, electronic infused sounds. There are two seriously captivating slow tempo songs as mentioned above. Any guitar fans will found this album ready to rock their day.

Favorite tracks: Dark Days, Screaming Ninja
Metal Harem class: ********* eight stars out of ten

Andy Martongelli – Spiral Motion (2014)

Buy it Here - Amazon

01. Eternal
02. Screaming Ninja
03. Infected-Garbage-Blues
04. Venomous
05. Father
06. Cyber-Hammmer of the Gods (f. Michael Angelo Batio, Dave Reffet, Alex Stornello)
07. Dark Days
08. Phoenix Rising
09. Dead Symphony
10. Bite the Bullet (f. Dave Martone)

Andy Martongelli: Guitars
Brendan Farrugia: Bass
Corrado Rontani: Drums
Enrico Marchiotto: Keyboards and Sound Loops
Franz Bazzani: Keyboards on “Infected-Garbage-Blues” and “Cyber-Hammer of the Gods”

Special Guests:
Michael Angelo Batio (Nitro)
Dave Reffet (Guitar World Magazine)
Alex Stornello (Angels & Demons)
Dave Martone


Stéphan Forté - Enigma Opera Black (2014)

As Adagio gone hiatus for several years now, guitarist Stéphan Forté took time to work more into his guitar compendium. As we already seen from his 2011 releases (The Shadow Compendium), Stephan shock us again with his newest dark opera, an album called Enigma Opera Black (Zeta Nemesis) 2014. This album once again explore the classic road of neo-classical guitar shred. Invited to his party are ex-neo-classical warrior, the legendary ex-Megadeth Marty Friedman on board. As for today's shred generation, they were represented by three most prominent figures, Andy James, Paul Wardingham and Marco Sfogli.

Short Virtuosity Etude acts as entrance to the album. It is exactly what an etude should be, there's enough challenge for re-playing it for passionate guitarist, yet the musical melodic aspect should also exist. For the first full length composition, Enigma Opera Black, Stephan did not let listeners fall into mainstream neo-classical shell. This enigmatic dark piece, featuring Andy James, is in full throttle of blitzing shreds. The same thing happened also in Zeta Nemesis, this low riff dominant song is in exotic scale and for sure Marty Friedman is the right guy to asked for it. The title maybe inspired by Japanese Gundam franchise series, the Gundam Zeta. Sector A: UNDEAD is industrial feel, featuring Australian Paul Wardingham which is also fit his hi-tech style. More rather calm song is Pure, slow tempo but yet again not a very straight forward guitar ballad we used to hear. Entering Sigma Scorpii is in the star and the galaxy feel, this one got a nice drumming groove in the middle part. Stephan also has his India-theme piece called Praying Lord Bhairava At The Foot Of Mount Kailash. A lot of guitarist composed music inspired by this region such as Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. As for the last featuring guitarist, Marco Sfogli, there goes a progressive metal composition in Suspended Tears Into Space. Marco who close association with James LaBrie and his prog solo is happy with this track for sure.

Sure this album is not for every one. Those expected sweet and clean melodic guitar sweep should take pre-caution. Stephan put all his tricky composition in this album. Still the majority of contents can be best to describe as neo-classic in style, blending into djent-like atmosphere. If you like uncompromised shred album, without mainstream cliche licks and riff, Enigma Opera Black will have a lot of stuff to please you.

Favorite track: Entering Sigma Scorpii, Praying Lord Bhairava..... , Suspended Tears Into Space
Metal Harem class: ********* eight stars out of ten

Buy it Here - Amazon

Stéphan Forté - Enigma Opera Black (2014)

01. Short Virtuosity Etude
02. Enigma Opera Black [Feat. Andy James]
03. Zeta Nemesis [feat. Marty Friedman]
04. Sector A: UNDEAD [feat. Paul Wardingham]
05. Pure
06. Entering Sigma Scorpii
07. Praying Lord Bhairava At The Foot Of Mount Kailash
08. Suspended Tears Into Space [feat. Marco Sfogli]
09. Peace

Stéphan Forté - guitars, keyboards, programming
Co Producer: Kevin Codfert (Adagio)


Wayne Calford - Shred Alliance (2014)

If you are an aspiring (shred) guitarist, what would be more lovely than making a shred album and invited bunch of other (shred) guys to play in.Unaware among (mainstream) shredder society, here comes guitarist/composer Wayne Calford hail from Trimsaran, which is in Wales, which is in UK. In this extremely crowded guitar instrumental album called Shred Alliance, Wayne pacify as many as guitarists on Earth just like King James uniting as many kingdoms available in Great Britain. Not a bad move at all. Fans of Michael Angelo Batio will be thrilled once again, the other "popular" names are Per Nilsson and Simone Mularoni. There are also none other than dozen of "independent" yet extremely talented guitarist along side. In one word, this is indeed Shred Alliance, deliberately created to amused as many as guitar lovers.

The overall style in this album is shred, shred, neo-classical, prog-metal, with lots of comedic licks and cameos. Here's a lengthy explanation on each tracks: Return to Tabernacl, is djent-like in styles, uncompromised shred in fastest way possible, featuring Per Nilsson of Scar Symmetry which comes in different set of guitar scale near the end. Spirit of Guitar, is neo-classical and progressive in styles, something of early Symphony X sounds with nice touch of Oriental scale in the beginning. For maestro Michael Angel Batio, is Speed Thrills, no doubt on its running speed, so this is shred as hell. Fretburn comes just like a medley to Speed Thrills, it is not actually, this track has a good groovy riff inside, also shred in fastest possible way. Shred City is more fun side, sounds American country in shred version, also bit of neo-classical and blues licks in between. Valley of the Cursed Guitar is kind of RHCP groove in sounds, pretty much contrasting point in this album.

Legacy of Shred is already scary just by reading the title, it is, it is developed from slow arpeggios intro, this is can be describe as shred guitar in doom metal-like. The guest in this track is the hardest to known because less information available in Google. Epical Guitar Quest is to avoid criticism from sexist and feminist, because the guest is a female, very talented, guitarist Jacqui Taylor. The song is the most easy listening, understandable for wider audience, nice one. S.O.S. (Strings of Solace) is calm in the intro but then an Helloween-March of Time-like intro kicks in. Day of the Shred is the second song with "shred" in title, it lifted up the word reputation and it is shred indeed. The Ghost of Cadno Music is different set of music, this is melodic composition in slower tempo, featuring perhaps one of family member. Shred Rising is another caution song title to anticipated, this is more intrigue composition where you'll need to write down the tempo meter if you would like to drum it. On other hand, The Guitarstrophe is the third song with word "guitar" in title, it is psychedelic in scale and going to bring you into other strophe and dimension. And the last one is Making a Stand, very "ending" feel, it is like a blurring melodic that rotating in your head after a couple of Wales beer, the surprised point is, it has a vocal (or voices) in the song.

The album is a nice homage to many well known as well as arising talents. Thought many of the shred parts down to similar road, but the guest and composition covered this up pretty well. Recording and mixing are slightly less spectacular due to perhaps self done by Wayne. Shred Alliance lift up its name with tons of shred licks and killing solos.

Metal Harem class: ******** seven stars out of ten

Buy it Here - Amazon

Wayne Calford - Shred Alliance (2014)

01. Return to Tabernacl feat. Per Nilsson (Scar Symmetry )
02. Spirit of Guitar feat. Michael.A.Ruelas (solo guitarist USA/Mexico)
03. Speed Thrills feat. Michael Angelo Batio (solo guitarist USA)
04. Fretburn feat. Simone Mularoni (DGM, Lalu)
05. Shred City feat. Nick Sandt (solo guitarist Ohio USA)
06. Valley of the Cursed Guitar feat. Timothy Reid (solo guitarist UK)
07. Legacy of Shred feat. Dave Bowes (solo, ?)
08. Epical Guitar Quest feat. Jacqui Taylor (female solo guitarist, UK)
09. S.O.S (Strings of Solace) feat. Rodrigo Tabare Fernandez (solo guitarist, AUS)
10. Day of the Shred feat. Pete Pachio (solo guitarist USA)
11. The Ghost of Cadno Music feat. Gareth Calford (...family member)
12. Shred Rising feat. Andy Rosser-Davies (Onslaught)
13. The Guitarstrophe feat. Doug Steele (solo guitarist, ?)
14. Making a Stand feat. Kyle Watherston (solo guitarist, UK)


Allen Lande The Great Divide (2014)

The duo of Russell Allen and Jorn Lande strike again with their fourth album. Though they are doing fine with Magnus Karlsson as their man behind the wheel, composer in charge, in this album Timo Tolkki is taking over the rule. That's right, the whole heavy metal sounds is kinda off and changes into Tolkki-style melodic metal. The Great Divide gives us Allen-Lande-Tolkki project instead because of how strong the tide of Timo Tolkki.

"Come & Dream With Me" is ultimately follow the path of Revolution Renaissance's "I Did It My Way"  for its melodic intro. Now that both Jorn and Lande executed this version in different feel so it's worth the whole make up. As in many Timo Tolkki's songs the chorus is melodic and epic. "Down From The Mountain" is another mimicry to a riff in RR's "We Are Magic", which is also greatly a face over with both Russell Allen and Jorn voices bring the tide to the next level of Tolkki's world. "In The Hands Of Time" is likely familiar to our ear but I can't find close references to this song. It is kind of dividing feel here, a happy one-two drumming but the voices really like to takes us to melancholy area. "Solid Ground" is finally something close to the vocalist's style, in similar to the whole Jorn world in Masterplan and his solo works. "Lady Of Winter" is mid tempo power metal feel with best associated with early Stratovarius works. With duo vocalist join power, the harmony in the chorus is really strong. The rest of songs are variation of their crossbreeding, notable of course "The Great Divide" which is start with dark nuances then developed into six minutes song with more and more operatic voices of both maestro.

This is surely an album where Timo Tolkki should stamped his name on it. Even un-aware listener with quickly notice his present. After three albums with Magnus Karlsson style, it is always fun to have the whole duo swift into this familiar, power-metal friendly, style. The Great Divide is ultimate collaboration between Allen / Lande + Timo Tolkki. This album is a testing ground for those who keen to know what really happened if Timo been provided to heavy metal vocalists. Singers with harsh and heavy vocals as in both Jorn + Lande, not sweet and power as in Kotipelko or Kiske. The result is of course positive. Eventually most of Tolkki's element was grander repetition to his trademark, but the vocal rendition of both vocalist cover this up and make this one an enjoyable and valuable recording.

Metal Harem class: ********* eight stars out of ten
Favorite tracks: Come & Dream With Me, Down From The Mountain, Lady of Winter

Buy it Here - Amazon
Allen Lande - The Great Divide (2014)

01. Come & Dream With Me
02. Down From The Mountain
03. In The Hands Of Time
04. Solid Ground
05. Lady Of Winter
06. Dream About Tomorrow
07. Hymn For The Fallen
08. The Great Divide
09. Reaching For The Stars
10. Bittersweet

Russell Allen - lead and backing vocals (Symphony X, Adrenaline Mob, Star One, Trans-Siberian Orchestra)
Jørn Lande - lead and backing vocals (Jorn, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, Avantasia, ex-Masterplan)
Timo Tolkki - guitars, bass, keyboards (Timo Tolkki's Avalon, ex-Stratovarius, ex-Revolution Renaissance, ex-Symfonia)
Jami Huovinen - drums, percussion (Ring of Fire)


Kilmara - Love Songs and Other Nightmares (2014)

Meet another metal band from Spain, well Barcelona to be specific, it is Kilmara on the spot now. The quintet just release their 3rd full length album titled Love Songs and Other Nightmares. Having already produced two albums before, Kilmara enjoy their mature period as a metal band that really spanned their music styles across the heavy metal genre. Do not see the cover appearances only, which may led you thinking about gothic-esque metal, and also their death-metal sounds band name "Kilmara". Indeed, they are one of multi-styles band that mixed power, heavy, thrash and death metal as they pleased. In short they have something of European meet American things. It may sounds overwhelming and confusing on paper, but Kilmara wrapped them in quite a polished manner.

We start with "Fantasy" which offer grooving guitar riffs as the intro. Sounds very 'European' power but yet we quickly surprised by the 'American' singing styles by the vocalist. Not further away, the arrival of death metal voices in the background blurred the things out. This is the style we need to compromise for the next hour. This opening bring us a reminiscence of Rage and bit of phrases borrowed from as far as Queensryche and Death. "The Devil's Eye" is simpler and straightforward to described. It is kind of '80s thrash metal tune with lower vocals and Slayer-like twin guitar attacks. Indeed this sounds is what they favor.  In this similar styles is group of songs : "The Break Up", which is thrash to power with lots of vocal harmonies they toyed out so far;  "Cold Rain",  intro is catchy, again a baritone voiced in charge separate this song from traditional high pitch power metal. Happened to be their strong cuts; "Nothing to Me", full throttle double pedal attacks but with a vocal that kind of modern and clean. Those who close to European power metal are "Usual Strangers" and the folk and rhythmic "Alpha". The last three songs fall into different feels, from progressive "Insomnia" and "Play to Win", to alternative-stoner "Time Flies". This last song also come in Spanish-Deustch, and it is clear that the song should be enjoyed more in their native language.

We will also found two interesting details about Love Songs and Other Nightmares; Roland Grapow is on board, well as producer or mentor perhaps, and it is released now under Sony Music. Not so clear how the maestro Roland Grapow in influencing their styles (they seems out of ordinary styles, though....). This album should be listening without concerning what the hell the categorization they may fall in. The guys just trying to composed good music, and with their huge library of music, this is a successful one.

Favorite tracks: Nothing to Me, Usual Strangers, Alpha
Metal Harem class: ********* eight stars out of ten

Buy it Here - Amazon

Kilmara - Love Songs and Other Nightmares (2014)

01. Fantasy
02. The Devil's Eye
03. The Break Up
04. Cold Rain
05. Believe
06. Nothing to Me
07. Usual Strangers
08. Alpha
09. Insomnia
10. Play to Win
11. Time Flies
12. Time Flies (Spanish / Deustch) (Bonus Track)

Line Up:
Christian Wolfgang Kohl (vocals)
Jonathan Portillo (guitar)
Enrique Torres (guitar)
Javier Morillo (drums)
Raul Ruiz (bass)

Roland Grapow (Masterplan, ex-Helloween)
Pilar Villatobas (Resilence)

Record Label: Sony Music