Mike LePond's Silent Assassins - Mike LePond's Silent Assassins (2014)

It's been a while for the whole member of Symphony X come together and release new music. In the meantime, most of them are busily doing side projects. Mike LePond, is one of their busiest one. Mike then decided to pull out his very own solo album, bravely his small gang as "Mike LePond's Silent Assassins", self titled and released September 2014. He also bring along Michael Romeo for six seven string-ing the album, and also ,eyebrow-risingly, as drum programmer. What's wrong with hiring real drummer you ask, and how awesome to programmed the whole progressive metal album drum track you wondered.

This album shared the same style with Symphony X, the progressive part are lessened, substitute with more heavy to thrash metal. The opener "Apocalypse Rider" tells us that we should expected straight forward heavy driven guitars riffs rather than seeing some mind twisted chord progression ala Symphony X. I agree that we see a lot of American heavy metal on this song, something like Anvil crossover with Symphony X. Alan Tecchio vocals is close to Russel Allen, un-alarmed listener may thing that is Russel in charge. Take no mistake, Alan doing his job in great shape. After this heavy opener, "Red Death" begin to show whom is this album belong to. Mike LePond starts the song with his bass show off, many more through out the album. With a basic single pedal drum pattern, Red Death still played in the style of very-Anvil feel. More closer to the European power metal is "The Quest", minor feel and addition of violin/viola/cello parts, lengthy bass solo, brings us to the folk - power - prog territory. "The Outsider" is another song that highlighted lots of bass parts. "Masada" is majority played in acoustic setup, epic ballad in the style of Manowar combined with good old David Coverdale days. A couple of heavy driven songs in between and let's jump to the last track, "Oath and Honor" is the epic ending track. Longest track in the reflections of Helloween and typical European symphonic metal orchestration.

This is a bass-fronted album with quite wide choices of styles inside. It will well enjoyed by many fans ranging from prog-head, power metaller, and general heavy fans. And guitar shred lover also, for the sake of Michael Romeo and Mike Metal parts. The kind of bringing bass sounds to the front is what gives this album even more credit. Song writing in another factor to make this album heavy yet easy to listen. This is an excellent heavy / progressive metal album came in parallel to its creator fame, bassist of Symphony X Mike LePond.

Favorite tracks: Red Death, Masada, Oath and Honor
Metal Harem class: ******** eight stars out of ten

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Mike LePond's Silent Assassins - Mike LePond's Silent Assassins (2014)

01. Apocalypse Rider
02. Red Death
03. The Quest
04. The Outsider
05. Masada
06. Silent Assassins
07. Ragnarok
08. The Progeny
09. Oath and Honor


Mike LePond - Bass (Symphony X)
Metal Mike - Guitars (Halford, Testament)
Michael Romeo - Guitars and Drum programming (Symphony X)
Alan Tecchio - Vocals (Hades, Watchtower)


Nicolas Waldo - Master Of The Universe (2014)

This short duration of album is a brief showcase of Colombian guitarist Nicolas Waldo. Master Of The Universe happen to be his 5th full length albums according to Metal Encyclopaedia. In this brief essay, there is only one style needed to concern. Master of The Universe is none other than shred, shred and shred. There is no tasty chord progression as like any prog metaller, this is only accompaniment backing track and then Nicolas lay down his faster than lightspeed licks all over.

So, it's understandable if all track running at 160 bpm, then the whole song duration should be much lesser than those who play in 80, right isn't? From Space And Time  right to lastly The Everlasting, there is only neo-classical arpeggios, sweep, tapping, and everything in between to fill in the lightspeed drum track. Stand out is the main title, Master Of The Universe, where the ecstasy of listening shred genre is here. Or maybe there is second styles here, shred acoustic tang, Prince of Peace in the end of the album comes with a mercy to our ear because of Nicolas also play us a sweet acoustic songs.

Master Of The Universe is for those who need to play loud guitar music to wake up his neighborhood. It's only run at 23 minutes where you will find it equal to listening one song of Dream Theater's A Season of Changes. If you like fast guitar and care less about other bull**** , this is the album to satisfy your need.

Favorite songs: Master Of The Universe, Prince Of Peace, Multiverse
Metal Harem class: ******* seven stars out of ten

Nicolas Waldo - Master Of The Universe (2014) 
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1. Space And Time
2. Starburst
3. Master Of The Universe
4. Lightspeed
5. Galaxy Cluster
6. Supernova
7. The Everlasting
8. Prince Of Peace
9. Multiverse

MISTHERIA (Bruce Dickinson, Mark Boals, Rob Rock)
Recorded at Constain Studios // Meggido Records Studios
Produced by Nicolas Waldo - All Guitars and Bass lines by Nicolas Waldo.
Drums by Miguel Rodriguez.


Fabrizio Leo – Spectrum of My Past (2014)

Fabrizio Leo – Spectrum of My Past (2014)

From the crowd of Italian blood shred guitarist, Fabrizio "Bicio" Leo is mostly under the radar. He seems enjoying more as sideman compared to Marco Sfogli, Simone Fiorletta, Francesco Fareri, Daniele Liverani and so on. No mistakes, this guy has numbers of excellent port folio under his possession. In 2000s, Mike Varney called regarding his works sent to Mike. Thus the creation of Fabrizio first album "Cutaway" in 2006 that continued to "Mr. Malusardi" in 2011. If you haven't heard about those then check it now. For his latest work, is "Spectrum of My Past". Fabrizio third album was not made in Shrapnel any more, a new label Jellybeards records instead. The album also support by Alex Argento, Italiano shred keyboardist.

The styles and feels are exactly twin brother to the album "Mr. Malusardi". Structure are kind of progressive, very dynamics and tons of shreds. The styles from standard minor progressive feel in the first track all the way ended with latin beat in "Samba C". Here a quick styles and comments on all tracks:

01. Alien Abduction - fast progressive feel 
02. Spectrum of My Past - melancholy, soundtrack feel
03. Remember You - fast song with nice techno effects, kind of Joe Satriani feel
04. Sardegna - standard rock, mid tempo with interesting staccato beat
05. Laura - ballad feel with strong arpeggios
06. Sir Giuliani - techno feel, double beat drum
07. Liquid - short melodic composition
08. Thirty Nights Fever - fast progressive riffs - listen to Youtube
09. Marziana - interesting panning of guitars to create beat for another nice melodic song
10. Rufus - fast guitar licks in duet with bass
11. Grappa Love - fast progressive feel
12. Zombie Science - kind of industrial feel
13. Cico - exotics scale theme
14. Samba C - latin feel

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

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Fabrizio “Bicio” Leo, was born in Abbiategrasso, about 20 km south of Milan, Italy on 28th of July 1971.

Fabrizio Leo - Guitar
Flavio Scopaz - Bass
Alex Argento - Keyboards,mixing and mastering
Bruno Valverde - Drums

“Cutaway” (2006) - Shrapnel records
“Mr Malusardi” (2011) - Shrapnel records
“Spectrum Of My Past” (2014) - Jellybeard records

Yossi Sassi - Desert Butterflies (2014)

Yossi Sassi strengthened his feet as leading Oriental prog guitar specialist in recent days. After his solo album Melting Clock got widely accepted by fans, the sequel is coming. Desert Butterflies is his second solo album, more oriental music from the orphaned Holy Land that divided the world into three factions today. Instead of going to pursue more 'metal' aspect, Yossi choose the 'folk' aspect that he need to play more. This is the correct path that many fans will also rejoice. Desert Butterflies is full of showcase of Israeli - Mid Eastern influences music, all wrapped in modern guitar instrumental form.

A simple phrases got developed more and more in the opening title, "Orient Sun". The clean acoustic guitar sounds mimic what we might listen when we are in the middle of desert. If that repetitive melody too hypnotizing , the second one is a dance on the wild. "Fata Morgana" is completely going to 'swing' your imagination with angelic desert belly dancers. Yossi masterful the combination of many folk instruments and traditional 'choirs' to raise even more desert-like effects. We then move closer to the West with "Neo Quest", this one has tasty groove and a light oriental musics. "Azadi" is of course basically Mid Eastern music re-interpreted in modern piano and guitars playing. A nice piece to show how well versed he is in piano also. "Believe" is a lyrics composition, it is mixed in foreign language and English to exemplify its great "oriental" feel. The singer is Mariangela Demurtas of Tristania. "Desert Butterfly" is thick dune theme, but this one bring us closer to the Wild West. In "Azul" we got the very basic blending between melodic guitar shredding and oriental music. "Cocoon" is the only second lyric song to end the album.

It is also only natural that the Oriental will then meet with the Exotic. Marty Friedman starts his collaboration with Yossi in live jammin' and then landed his "Far Eastern" licks to Yossi on this album. There are another dozens of musicians involved to make this album as rich as possible. If you like guitar, you will not pass this album. Not everybody's diet but this is the gems you'll happy to explore.

Metal Harem class: ********* eight stars out of ten
Favorite songs: Fata  Morgana, Azadi, Neo Quest

Yossi Sassi - Desert Butterflies (2014)

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1. Orient Sun 04:22
2. Fata Morgana 04:34
3. Neo Quest 04:26
4. Azadi 03:11
5. Believe 03:29
6. Desert Butterfly 04:42
7. Inner Oasis 04:44
8. Shedding Soul 02:01
9. Jason’s Butterflies 01:24
10. Azul 03:27
11. Cocoon 03:58
12. Palm Tree Road (Limited Edition Only) (3:23)

- Yossi Sassi / Vocals, Guitars, Bouzouki, Charrango, Oud, Saz, Chumbush, Keyboards
- Or Lubianiker / Electric & Acoustic Bass
- Shay Ifrah / Drums
- Ben Azar / Guitars
- Roei Fridman / Percussion

- Marty Friedman / Guitar Lead
- Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal / Guitar Lead
- Mariangela Demurtas / Vocals
- Erez Lev Ari / Choir vocals, guitars
- Roy Zu-arets / Piano, Hammond
- Daniel Hoffman / Violins
- Itzhak Ventura / Arabic, Turkish and Persian ney
- David Sassi / Choir vocals
- Ariel Qassis / Kanun
- Shlomo Oz / Sitar
- Yosefa Zauosh / Vocals
Record Label: Independent


Hammerfall - (r)Evolution (2014)

Stretching three years from their previous studio album, Hammerfall is back again with their ninth album called (r)Evolution. The title make it obvious that this album will be something between their root sounds and added some (r)evolutionary newer ideas. Indeed, Hammerfall's  as in Infected (2011) did not works well with (die hard) fans. This album never again walk into less travel road, (r)Evolution is everything fans familiar with, power metal as we known from Hammerfall.

Of course the opener is perfect too, "Hector's Hymn" bring back power metal on the righteous path, epic attacking riff opener, legendary dragon slaying lyrics and Joacim Cans sad voices just fit every notes on the Hymn.  The second track "(r)Evolution" is kind of goose-bumper with their most elementary drum enter, most basic power chord chops, the enjoyment falls to the simple song writing, must be. This is where the newer ideas seems kicks in. The most successful blending of re- and e-volution seems to be on "Live Life Loud", where the band success in creating new "groove" for its power metal. "We Won't Back Down" brings front Joacim Cans character singing, again not very usual stuff from the band. Of the many mid to slow tempo song, "Winter Is Coming" is the slowest ballad. And then we back to what we want, "Origins" is like the end of one long blizzard chapter from track #2 to #7, that is we return to fast and furious power metal conversations. It is a smooth road from here, only "Evil Incarnate" is still the song that bit of experimental but this one is good. The album ended with uncompromising fast and epic stuffs called "Wildfire".

Though the first song sounds like we will just step back to the good old '90s Hammerfall, but the majority of the album fit more into their newer ideas. Forget some of my words about Hammerfall returns, this is an album about 70:30 ratio of new and old sounds. Yet, I found most of ideas blend in correct ways, making this album has greater re-listening value. The production is top notch, you can hear the perfect guitar tones storming down your tympanic membrane and knocked down all your waxes. Joacim Cans is surely stars of the album with his warrior voices, with some new ideas presented, Joacim also gives fans new character to anticipated. (r)Evolution may not be the truest return to at least "No Sacrifice, No Victory" era, it contained caution portion of newer sounds. I like this album pretty well though.

Favorite tracks: Hector's Hymn, Live Life Loud, Wildfire
Metal Harem class: ********* eight stars out of ten

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Hammerfall - (r)Evolution (2014)

1. Hector's Hymn
2. (r) Evolution
3. Bushido
4. Live Life Loud
5. Ex Inferis
6. We Won't Back Down
7. Winter Is Coming
8. Origins
9. Tainted Metal
10. Evil Incarnate
11. Wildfire

Joacim Cans – Vocals
Oscar Dronjak - Guitars, Backing Vocals
Pontus Norgren - Guitars, Backing Vocals
Fredrik Larsson - Bass, Backing Vocals
Anders Johansson – Drums


Accept - Blind Rage (2014)

Accept is about to reign their new era with their third-comeback album. Although they are still largely considered as a band from the past, their last two albums, Blood of the Nations and Stalingrad, are ready to dominated the mainstream heavy-metal once again. Blind Rage is their 14th album. Their third after 2010 resurrection of the band with Mark Tornillo as vocalist. What we received is a consistent continuation from Blood... and Stalingrad. It is still an old school riff and scream Teutonic heavy metal.

They diverted the opening track, "Stampede" with a little musical intro as opposed to their tradition to always kick start with catchy guitar riffs. It won't be long because the duet of Wolfie and Herman soon bring us a new song, unmistakable Accept's heavy metal. "Dying Breed" is storytelling in flow. The structure is natural, tension built in their most standard way, but yet everything so compelling that we will enjoy every notes on it. "Dark Side Of My Heart" is always the third song phenomenon, my favorite to the album. This song based on vintage hard rock feel with good overdrive guitar sounds, listen to their cliched-easy-to remember chorus line. For another most standard power chord guitar riff, it is in "Fall Of the Empire". "Trail Of Tears" bring back the tempo to the fast double beat drumming, minor power metal feel. Then yet again "Wanna Be Free" is back to the sentimentil ballad mood. Everything forward is in between of every we have heard before. Wolf Hoffmann close the musical opera with a classical references of Tchaikovsky in the "Final Journey".

It seems like Blind Rage is a slightly lighter version of their previous two albums, with more mid tempo songs around. The one that for sure is, this album is another book of guitar riffs, it such amazing that a band could always come out with catchy riffs and turn it into enjoyable song. Nothing to comment on Mark Tornillo screaming, he just better and better on each album, the ghost of Udo quickly become a past. Blind Rage is everything a guitar and heavy metal lover will like.

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

Favorite tracks: Dark Side Of My Heart, Final Journey, Dying Breed

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Accept - Blind Rage (2014) 

1. Stampede
2. Dying Breed
3. Dark Side Of My Heart
4. Fall Of The Empire
5. Trail Of Tears
6. Wanna Be Free
7. 200 Years
8. Bloodbath Mastermind
9. From The Ashes We Rise
10. The Curse
11. Final Journey

Mark Tornillo – lead vocals
Wolf Hoffmann – guitar
Herman Frank – guitar
Peter Baltes – bass guitar
Stefan Schwarzmann – drums


Paul Gilbert – Stone Pushing Uphill Man (2014)

This is Paul Gilbert instrumental album and also his cover version one. He seems to alternate his recording between vocalized (last album Vibrato),  and dedicated shred instrumental, as as in this Stone Pushing Uphill Man. Here the twist, this is a guitar-ized version of many great tunes from many great artist. Well, admittedly most of the song  I also not remember listened. So, it's kind of added the fun factor in my ears. Paul chosen are understandably out of our luck, ranging from Elton John, James Brown, Aerosmith, K.D.Lang to every in between The Beatles and Loverboy.

The first song is by Loverboy called "Working For the Weekend", love the composition and it's fit to Paul Gilbert quirkiness right from the intro. The intro chord progressive and power riff chops is everything Paul Gilbert, so it's kind of Loverboy version of Paul Gilbert. The sweet vocal melodies are nicely converted into guitar. "Back In the Saddle" is the opposite, not really Paul Gilbert recognized , the twin guitar of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford is preserved , as well fantastic bass line of Tom Hamilton. In the song-by song description it is clear Paul only improvised later at the end of the album, so any how you like Aerosmith and Paul Gilbert, this song is a triumphant. "I Got the Feelin'" is my first favorite track of this album. James Brown quick vocal phrasing is mimic by the guitar and it's just grooving tunes in every seconds. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" sounds then like a nicely composed song for guitar melody. Nice song and Elton John is now perfect also in instrumental version. Most orchestration in this song converted in to guitar parts. The Beatles' "Why Don't We Do It In the Road" is kind of Jimi Hendrix-esque blues-singing guitar jam. "Shock Absorber" is look like original written song by Paul Gilbert. In the interview, Paul said the intro inspired from harmonica instructions DVD by Rick Estrin. "Purple Without All the Red" is the only song sounds "too easy" for serious listening, it's all about rhythm lesson and sliding notes. Lots of E7#9 thing in the chord progression. "Murder By Numbers" is yet another song that not really sounds like Paul Gilbert. "My Girl" is that popular song, the mood is light and happy all around. K.D. Lang "Wash Me Clean" acoustic jam is the contrast point in this album, no shred but only familiar K.D. Lang singing style in the guitar. "Stone Pushing Uphill Man" is Paul Gilbert trying to take on cowboy singing country in the crossroad of Texas kind of thing. Weird at first , especially when the second part kicks in.

Bring a long with this album is drummer Mike Portnoy, ah, really, this must be Portnoy most relax drumming recently. Paul Gilbert still up to his shred guitar but in obvious easy listening hard rock platform. The signature part is still audible everywhere, so the cover version should not distracted any Paul Gilbert fans away. Drummer guru Kenny Aronoff is playing also, so you know the level of seriousness in Paul Gilbert percussion department. If you remember, John Lang is the drummer for Vibrato album.

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

Favorite tracks: I Got the Feelin', Working For the Weekend, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

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Paul Gilbert – Stone Pushing Uphill Man (2014)

01. Working For the Weekend (cover: Loverboy)
02. Back In the Saddle (cover: Aerosmith)
03. I Got the Feelin’ (cover: James Brown)
04. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (cover: Elton John)
05. Why Don’t We Do It In the Road (cover: The Beatles)
06. Shock Absorber (inspired by Rick Estrin)
07. Purple Without All the Red
08. Murder By Numbers (cover: The Police)
09. My Girl (cover: Eric Carmen, Rachmaninoff)
10. Wash Me Clean (cover: K.D. Lang)
11. Stone Pushing Uphill Man

guitars: Paul Gilbert
drums: Mike Portnoy and Kenny Aronoff (track 8)