Secret Sphere - Portrait of a Dying Heart 2012

Secret Sphere’s main attraction is their new singer, Michele Luppi. As we know, Michele is one of top rank vocalist in power metal genre, singing for Vision Divine, Thaurorod and others, so his present in the band surely catapult more popularity to Secret Sphere. It’s a significant move by the band’s leader, Aldo Lonobile (guitarist) to bring Michele in, because after half dozen of studio albums Secret Sphere is still an underrated band in the jungle of Italian power metal scene. The new album they were working on is called Portrait of a Dying Heart, yet another concept album with original storyline fresh written by author Costanza Colombo.

The first chapter is a six minutes instrumental track. Rather risky to put a long intro, but here we go a progressive metal composition with duelling solos of guitars and keyboard in Portrait of a Dying Heart. After that Dream Theater “Overture 1928”-like prelude, Michele Luppi enter calmly in X, and need only second for a blasting double pedal attacks. And for sake of goodness, it’s a solid five minutes narrating without solos. Wish & Steadiness is a dramatic answered, holding thigh orchestration and choir effects. Riff gone berserk can be found in track The Fall, which only neutralized in Lie To Me as the counter slow song. Same thing in Secrets Fear as an ultra fast song followed by ballad The Rising of Love.

In every song, Secret Sphere success in rising listener’s attention with creativity. Every song are well composed with memorable intro. No devastating repetition in the whole sixty minutes work. Composer Aldo Lonobile able to put his team into solid technical works and make Michele Luppi vocal integrated well. An album of progressive and power metal supported by first class voice, worth listening time for every power metal fans.

Metalharem class : ******** eight stars out of ten

Secret Sphere - Portrait of a Dying Heart 2012
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1.Portrait Of A Dying Heart
3.Wish & Steadiness
5.The Fall
7.Lie To Me
8.Secrets Fear
9.The Rising Of Love

Aldo Lonobile- Rythm and lead guitar
Michele Luppi- Vocals
Andrea Buratto- Bass
Gabriele Ciaccia- Keyboards
Marco Pastorino- Rythm guitars
Federico Pennazzato- Drums
Record Label: Scarlet Records

Thy Majestie - ShiHuangDi 2012

The first clue, Shi Huangdi is the name of China’s first emperor back in Qin dynasty dated 222 B.C. This historical events provide interesting heroic story line which picked up by Thy Majestie, an all Italians guys playing power metal. A good idea and although remains skeptical,  this is a much knocking thought rather than seeing another dragon slaying Medieval era story line. It’s also thrilling to see the implementation of oriental folk element into the music, but actually other than a brief moments here and there, the album is pretty standard power metal. So here the musical journey of the event where the last states of Qi (among the other seven states) failed to defend their border and fall into pacifier warlord, which declared himself later as Shi Huangdi.

The intro Zhongguo, a pinyin spelling for “Central Kingdom”, is a close call to dynasty era folk music. It gives the grandeur feeling, the Emperor army marching on Gobi desert feel. Following first opener track is Seven Reigns which completely a Rhapsodians thing as we well known. The connecting elements is the oriental scale playing in the solos, as expected from this concept album. Harbringer of New Dawn repeat the oriental female chanting intro then let the song for another complete Italian power metal chops. Sibling of Tian (Sky) come in as a more galloping Viking folk metal with its tasty leading oriental melodic line. Walls of Emperor bring the most famous and thematic story of ShiHuangdi, about the suffering mainland population during the construction of the Great Wall, the music is elaborated nicely. You can imagine the noise of chart and workers breath through its brief intro. Then  Under the Same Sky is a powerful theme to put in the song, as well as the accompanying music is getting better to respond the East Asia-tic story.

It’s a long historical phrase which is something similar to one of the most famous jargon from warring China , Tian Xia 天下. Which can literally translate as Under the Same Heaven (Tian Xia Wei Gong 天下為公). A very political yet powerful phrase used by many warlord to proclaimed their mandate to unified the Central Kingdom.

Almost a climax is soundtrack Huanghun following with Ephemeral, an epic power metal with Mainland melodic scale. The last chapter is Requeim , after all of the bombastic events priors, I think this is come anticlimax on the musical side.

Although it left rooms for more implementation of exotic scale in the compositions, Thy Majestie not failing to bring the closer feel to ancient China as the story line required. Another historical concept album by wrapped in epic style by them, previously they had done Jeanne d'Arc theme and others. Singer Alessio Taormina seems like the one missing chain in the whole Thy Majestie adventure in power metal, and he finish the job well. If you fans of Eastern Asia history, fans of Jin Yong novel, the Romance of Three Kingdoms, or even fans of Shi Huangdi, this is the album for you!

Metalharem class: ******** eight stars out of ten

Thy Majestie - ShiHuangDi 2012
Buy it here

01. Zhongguo
02. Seven Reigns
03. Harbringer of New Dawn
04. Siblings of Tian
05. Walls of the Emperor
06. Under the Same Sky
07. Farewell
08. Huanghun
09. Ephemeral
10. End of the Days
11. Requiem

SIMONE CAMPIONE all Guitars and backing vocals
DARIO D'ALESSANDRO Bass and backing vocals


Flotsam and Jetsam - Ugly Noise 2012

Veteran thrash metal band from Arizona come to us with new album Ugly Noise for end of year boxing. Ugly Noise is rather an old thrash metal sound combined with groove metal and modern in it. Listen to Cross The Sky with simply grunge metal riff intro mixed with power chorus. Then Motherfuckery which is industrial element implemented. Then the last of the kind is I Believe which is completely hard rocker. The good news, all the rest of album come with great old riff of thrash metal we know in Flotsam and Jetsam.

Right from Ugly Noise that is, as the cover suggest, a gothic-esque thrash metal with additional piano riff. Straight to the last track Machine Gun which is a head banging tunes with classic solos in it. In between, Run And Hide is a dark slow song that used one fifth of the duration in intro to build up the mood, an epic, a slightly ...And Justice for All nuances here. Also interesting is Rage, their minor feel one word chorus thrash song.

So that's, beside what had warned about intrusion of modern sounds, Ugly Noise is still nostalgic production, by almost all '80 line up. We got Erik Knutson voice and friends to remind us to their glory era. In sum, Ugly Noise is fresh album and kicking parts.

Metalharem class: ******* seven stars out of ten

Flotsam and Jetsam - Ugly Noise 2012

1. Ugly Noise 04:10
2. Gitty Up 03:09
3. Run And Hide 05:28
4. Carry On 04:19
5. Rabbit's Foot 04:17
6. Play Your Part 05:29
7. Rage 03:25
8. Cross The Sky 04:45
9. Motherfuckery 03:07
10.I Believe 02:53
11.To Be Free 03:08
12.Machine Gun 03:17

Kelly David Smith, Drums
Edward Carlson, Guitars
Eric A.K., Vocals
Michael Gilbert,Guitars
Jason Ward, Bass


Empyrean Sky - Extending the Tangent 2012

Empyrean Sky is a band delved into the complexity of death and progressive metal combined. They are only got two album on hand, the first one was from 2004 The Snow White Rose of Paradise. It's extremely good released , they are the death metal version of Wintersun time gap epic and release second album only in the end of 2012, 12-21-12 precisely. Extending the Tangent is once again a raw adventure into the riff jungle of melodic death metal.

Song ranging from traditional death metal to thrash and progressive, on opener For the Sun is a nice reminder of classic Kreator sounds. In the second track, The Lost it is more of a deathcore vibes. The Lost come with extreme middle part break where all acoustic guitars carry on a song ala Ayreon space mood. The work of death metal vocal combined with clean voice is sharply utilized in Noise of Conflict. Then the riff in Ascension is following classic '80 sounds with fast power chord per crotchet maneuver. A Sepultura-like Amazon tribal dance is for song Wide Awake. They even trying some theatrical symphonic effect in Trauma and Tragedy, which is a roller coaster of tempo changing as well the singing voice. It is also good thing to even have a melancholy song insert as in Blood of One. A rather different setting is in Where We Belong which is speed metal feel. The last part is instrumental The Law of Tangents with all their raw '80 audio mix sound.

Here is a highly eclectics album with death metal and progressive as main core of menu. Extending the Tangent is success in bringing attention from the earlier start of every tracks. The clear transposing from fast to slow is a bit repetition but it permissive by their melodic solos or riff. Clearly a works of talented team that transform this album into quite an exhaustive listening of 70 minutes. Singer John Welborn come with vast range of singing style, from classic '80 Death sound into modern deathcore screamer. A superior outcome to their first release and definitely a worth collection for death metaller.

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

Empyrean Sky - Extending the Tangent 2012

1. For the Sun 05:14
2. The Lost 05:20
3. Noise of Conflict 04:02
4. Ascension 06:00
5. Wide Awake 08:44
6. Trauma and Tragedy 07:46
7. Blood of One 08:15
8. Exterminatus 08:14
9. Where We Belong 08:58
10. The Law of Tangents 06:23

John Welborn, guitars, vocals, drum programming
Doug McAllister, guitars
Allen Mate, bass


Bob Katsionis Rest in Keys 2012

The arise of third wave power metal in late ’90 come with a more demanding usage of keyboard. In this generation of bands such as Rhapsody (of Fire), Sonata Artica, and Dragon Force, the keyboard is significant soloist that run along guitar. Of that concept, Firewind surely on the forefront of this madness. The duo melodist between Gus G and Bob Katsionis put the rise of keyboard shred into a new glory. This give a notable fame for keyboardist Bob Katsionis,  that his solo album can’t be taken lightly, indeed is a serious thought provoking music stuff. Rest in Keys is the fourth solo release by Bob, mostly instrumental shred in the vibe of progressive metal.

For the starter, Bob choose to open with vocal track On My Own, featuring Peter Ellis. The song was previously intended to use for Firewind, but according to Bob this was put aside because of sound changes in Firewind. It’s a blessing to his solo album, he said, and truly a catchy way to open. Patented keyboard riff ala early Firewind is there. Singer Peter Ellis of British / Greek talent voice wonderful, he is a blend of Dickinson-Halford as exclaimed by Bob himself. The next song, Gravity Dance is a full progressive metal composition. It is a speedy 2x2 fingers keyboard riff, hence the title name. This song featuring Shadow Gallery virtuoso Gary Wehrkamp. The song Game of Drones was inspired by tv series Games of Thrones, Chris Amott soloing in the middle to a passage of Al di Meola-Phrygian theme, according to the notes! Epirus Rising is odd meter 5/8 riff build up, the composition in Phrygian theme is giving a Mediterranean mood with metal as accompanying music. The other vocal song is Another World that executed  by Maxi Nil. She is Visions of Atlantis' singer at the moment and a long time friend of Bob. The song fit nicely to her vocal, the chorus is catchy and charming. It’s an obvious inspiration from the god of storm and sea then Poseidon’s Rage is super fast shred featuring bandmate Gus G. Then come my favourite song, Falling From the Edge of Space, which according to Bob the hardest to composed on the album. A melodious riff theme adventure from a spacey mood goes into double pedal metal form and a good implementation of bluesy scale guitar solos too.  Rendezvous in the Sky represent by Bob rendezvous with Theater of Tragedy’s singer Liv Kristine. A melancholy mid tempo epic feel ballad driven composition, with a touches of inspirational keyboard solos and haunting narration line by Kristine. The rest two compositions is the pinnacle of Bob creativity on the album. Rest in Keys is flagship song in a perfect shred of keyboard. And finale Four Season of Love is wonderful song open with total acoustic piano improvisation serves well as a soundtrack in nocturnal .

A complete album represent the pinnacle of Bob creativity. A Mediterranean theme progressive metal composition as main body with bite of power metal glory. Long time accompanist are drummer Stelios Pavlou and bassist George Xynda, which both do excellent job holding Bob's centrifugal force. Perfect album for progressive metalhead that looking for endless keyboard inspirations.

Metalharem class: ********* nine stars out of ten

Bob Katsionis - Rest in Keys 2012
buy it here at Amazon

01. On My Own [feat. Peter Ellis]
02. Gravity Dance [feat. Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery) guitar]
03. Game Of Drones [feat. Christ Amott (ex Arch Enemy) guitar]
04. Epirus Rising
05. In My Little Big Planet
06. Another World [feat. Maxi Nil]
07. Poseidon's Rage [feat. Gus G (Firewind) guitar]
08. Falling From The Edge Of Space
09. Rendezvous In The Sky [feat. Liv Kristine (Theater of Tragedy, Leaves’ Eye)]
10. Rest In Keys
11. The Four Seasons Of Love

Bob Katsionis – guitars, keyboards
George Xynda - Bass
Stelios Pavlou - Drums (ex-The Silent Rage)


Yngwie Malmsteen Spellbound 2012

In my mind, Yngwie Malmsteen’s last significant album is Alchemy. And that was back in 1999. That is, all the albums beyond this point seems sub standard, musically and production,  to his previous achievement. The criteria is, albums up to Alchemy are still have a “proper” neo-classical originality that defined Yngwie stand on the genre. Then start from War to End All Wars, everything sounds just like a repetition. It’s still ok actually, because in Yngwie Malmsteen team, we almost always get the second frontman that lift up the album when Yngwie himself can’t make it. Starts from singers, Mark Boals, Tim “Ripper” Owen, and Doggie White which provided historical recording to the 2000s era. Not only that, keyboardist Derek Sherinian (Attack! , Perpetual Flame), and Opeth’s Joakim Svalberg (Unleashed the Fury) are actually a big names that saves some of the balls. Just to say, that beside Yngwie’s musically deadlock , there are still left room for fans to enjoy. Now, here the things…. Our  Yngwie is back. We have the new album here, Spellbound out December 2012. Some good news, but straightforward, this album is not yet a comeback. Even worse, now the elements I mentioned before is half gone. There is no “proper” singer for this album. Tim Ripper was reportedly can’t attended the recording session for some reason. What’s now is an album that majority an instrumental tracks, and with Yngwie Malmsteen himself filling the vocal, something he had done before.

The first two tracks are instrumental, which is always a “good news” for those who just enjoy his legendary neo classical licks. Spellbound come with one of Yngwie most memorable keyboard riff in decade. Then come High Compression Fugue, which is .. a fugue of two guitar melody line overlapping musically. Nice one on these. Let Sleeping Dog Lie (or whatever the proper title meant too) is blues thing. Yngwie always fond of blues and his style is actually original to Jimi Hendrix era, although the blues man will dropping jaws complain his over done in speed and licks. And the virtuoso himself providing the blues vocal. On the instrumental songs, Iron Blues is stand out. It’s spare us from the jungle of neo classical licks we too familiar with. Majestic 12 Suite, is a long suite characteristic with Baroque and orchestration. Poisoned Minds is the heaviest track close to what we familiar in trilogy era, with a needed of high pitch screamer to fully the singing duty. Requiem For The Lost Souls is actually fit to end this album, as we still looking for miracle to bring back our lost neo-classical idol.

What needed is a riff as easy as what done by millions of Yngwie copy cat. Then a suitable vocalist to finish the line. As simple as that. Instead, Spellbound is the another continuation of self-done band. Even a musicians as good as himself can’t fix this alone, as it goes for decade long now. This album serves as parade of neo classical guitar instrumental showcase, if you disciples of hell belly shred, this got elements to enjoy.

Metalharem class: ******* seven stars out of ten

Yngwie Malmsteen – Spellbound 2012
1. Spellbound
2. High Compression Fugue
3. Let Sleeping Dog Lie
4. Repent
5. Majestic 12 Suite 1, 2 & 3
6. Electric Duet
7. Nasca Lines
8. Poisoned Minds
9. God Of War
10. Iron Blues
11. Turbo Amadeus
12. From A Thousand Cuts
13. Requiem For The Lost Souls  
Yngwie J. Malmsteen -Lead Guitar / Bass / Keyboards / Lead Vocals
Record Label: Rising Force Records


Golden Resurrection - One Voice for the Kingdom 2012

Christian metaller Golden Resurrection released new album One Voice for the Kingdom in this last month of 2012. It’s their third release, consistently since 2010 every years. Altough Tommy ReinXeed the guitarist also got his solo band ReinXeed around, he keeps some of his best neo classical lick for this band too. The overall sounds of One Voice for the Kingdom is faithful early power metal spirit. Christian Liljegren give wonderful classic voice throughout the album. The band welcome new keyboardist and drummer. Coming in, Alfred Fridhagen , who is also a drummer for ReinXeed project. And Svenne Jansson, live keyboardist for Jerusalem.  Together with bassist Stefan Kack, the quintet give us Christian power metal album with a taste of Helloween-like.

The influence of Keeper of Seven Keys is for the first two tracks of the album. The Temple Will Remain with it riff and opening verse is reminiscent of Helloween’s Alive. Then Spirit War is a tribute to Kiske’s March of Time, followed by Mozart! The flagship song, One Voice for the Kingdom is borrowing the eighties Europe galloping double pedal. It takes to fifth song to make it feel at home with combination of harpsichord shower and neo classical riff, exactly when they titled it Golden Resurrection. Enjoy the solo duel for their two shredders in the middle as the song develop. Even when Tommy try to outdone the intro with a bit of slow blues, it lead into a catchy metal ending, on the song Can’t Slow Down. The next track is for neo classical fans, Heavenly Metal is instrumental composition with that arpeggios and paganinians licks. It’s  melody actually very leading and ‘cantabile’ like, making the impressions that this is intended lyric song, but just didn’t make it. If you like to called it Yngwie Malmsteen-ing neo classical progression, there is Born for the Strangers that combined the most element from the genre. Check the Hammond organ vs guitar in the solo. The album epilogue is Moore Lord, a rather blues instrumental track with possible dedication to Gary Moore.

Again the basic receipt of power metal being wrapped wonderfully by Golden Resurrection. Enough to get it fresh again for being listen by diehard fans, and promoted as introduction for new comer in this genre. Neo classical elements lie on guitar and keyboard shred. The guitar tunes itself is crystal clean and perfect, listen to the killer tunes in God’s Mercy as the Marshall amp itself plug into your ears. Vocalist Christian Liljegren is of course on his high time enjoy each notes here. With elements of belief as the theme, it added kind of extra dimension.. It sure both duo Christian and Tommy were busy with own project or helping other. But if I followed their social network correctly, the album only recorded less than half year. A remarkable pace of production with superior quality. This is fully recommended power metal album probably one of the best in year 2012.

Metalharem classs: ********* nine stars out of ten

Golden Resurrection - One Voice for the Kingdom
buy it here

1. The Temple will remain
2. Spirit War
3. One Voice for the Kingdom
4. Night Light
5. Golden Resurrection
6. Can't Slow Down
7. Heavenly Metal
8. God's Mercy
9. Born for the Strangers
10. Moore Lord
11.  Special Message to Japan
12.  Eternal Freedom

Stefan Kack, Bass
Tommy ReinXeed,  Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals (backing)
Christian Liljegren,  Vocals
Alfred Fridhagen,  Drums
Svenne Jansson , Hammond Organ, Keyboards


Marco Sfogli reMarcoble 2012

Marco Sfogli, guitar shredder that carved his fame in becoming James LaBrie’s solo album axeman. He already released high ecstasy instrumental guitar album called There’s Hope in 2008. With this release alone it is clear the community have high hope of his talent. In that album, Marco sounds heavy and close to progressive territory with lots of catchy riff. So then there now second album incoming the shelves. reMarcoble is follow up release. With reMarcoble, Marco intelligently expand his sound beyond progressive metal and diversed the styles.

Marco started this with short melodious lick in simply movement called Intro. Then Jester’s Tears is mellow rock composition, an Andy Timmons-like and slightly Steve Morse chord progression, with pentatonic minor licks that done in style. The Reaction come as machine beat in the intro, another minor leading riff which is now a metal blend with Steve Vai’s Ultra Zone world. reMarcoble is just like the name, a return to progressive metal composition, that mean lots of lick manoeuvre with Portnoy’s drum licks.  Far From Me is yet another twist of sounds, intrigue composition with even more progressive element. Heartburn is a ballad with clean guitar, piano and orchestra as accompaniment to a killer distortion tunes. Which is you heard a little longer, a saxophone co-leading is something here. A leading tom-tom drum licks is highlight of song Father To Son. The Forest give us a little jazzy feel, with extended Hammond organ solos in, as well last part saxophone lead. Rest of the tracks serves well Marco dexterity on his guitar mastery.

This is pretty much a must listen shred album on the end of 2012 . Each licks are so in flow giving listener little to hold the breath. Not much words need, just get the cd.

Metalharem class: ******** eight stars out of ten

Marco Sfogli – reMarcoble (2012)
Buy it here

01. Intro
02. Jester's Tears
03. The Reaction
04. reMarcoble
05. Far From Me
06. Heartburn
07. The Forest
08. Father To Son
09. Save Yourself
10. Song of Ben and C.
11. The Barbarian

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