Interview with Nikita Merzlyakov of Hammerforce

The metal communities were surprised with the arrival of new power metaller from Russia, Hammerforce. Their latest album Access Denied (Metal Harem review here) were accepted with great enthusiast. The inclusion of synthesizer attack in metal genre got re-touch when Hammerforce introduce this to us in this album. Metal Harem takse the changes to wrote few Questions and Answer for the band's spoke person, keyboardist and guitarist Nikita. Read this insightful interview about their struggle in metal music, internet power and Russian version of their album. Visit their website as well and support the band.

The Interview

Here is Nikita Merzlyakov from Hammerforce. I am keyboardist, arranger, sound producer/engineer, manager and partially rhythm guitarist in the band and together with Ilya Kapralov we form the heart of Hammerforce.

hi Hammerforce,
Metalharem.blogspot: Can you briefly (or lengthy ... ) describe how you guys come together and formed a band? Are you come from same school or met later in the process of making a band?

Nikita: Hammerforce actually evolved from local Power/Prog Metal band Legioner that played live in Saint-Petersburg and recorded few demos. Legioner was formed by Ilya Kapralov and Alexander Moroz (drummer on “Dice” album) in 1998. They met on audition for one band and ended up with their own band. I joined them in 2003 as rhythm guitarist. I was looking for a band and discovered them playing live on festival. Luckily guys were looking for a guitarist. As time passed I also addicted to synthesizers and now I am more keyboardist than guitarist. In 2006 Ilya and I decided to take our music to the new level: record full-length album and spread it all around the world. While it was common for European bands that time, there still were very few Metal bands in Russia with good recorded albums and with any presence outside Russia. Legioner had only Russian lyrics and Legioner itself is a Russian word (Легионер) that means “legionary”. In addition we had new members and new attitude. So the change of name was needed. That was how Hammerforce was born.

Metalharem.blogspot: In your new 2013 album, Access Denied, there is high energy of metal music, and interestingly additional of synthesizer sound along the guitar riff. How you guys come with this approach? Are you deliberately composed the music in such way, or it is a spontaneous come from your band member (supposedly the keyboardist) ?

N: Well, it’s my “fault” ;) It was absolutely intended and elaborated. I love 90’s Eurodance music such as Masterboy, DJ Bobo, Maxx, E-Rotic, etc. It probably seems weird to like such music being hairy and beardy metal head. But that is what I am and I can nothing to do about that. I think it is boring to play traditional Heavy/Power Metal these days. There should be some fusion of musical styles or may be even developing of new styles to keep music being interesting. I know that many die-hard metal fans aren't agree with this as it doesn't seem to be “true” to them. Okay, there are a lot of True Metal bands out there. =) We just try to combine some old things and not so old things to get some new and hopefully interesting results. We really love what goes out and plan to make more in the future.

Q: How long it takes to produce Access Denied? Normally how you guys write the songs, and what is the most inspiration for the lyrics?   (C) metalharem.blogspot.com

N: Oh, it was very long journey. This time I decided to record, edit, mix and master everything myself at my private studio. It took about 3 years of trials and errors to get things right. But I believe it was worth it. This approach lets to control every detail of recording and mixing process and not to give a compromise to third party producers and sound engineers. So the album you listen to sounds exactly as band wanted it to sound.
As for songwriting process, we do it little unusual way either. First of all Ilya composes all guitar riffs and structure of a song. After that Dmitriy and I compose vocal melodies. Sometimes we have two or even more different vocal melodies for one part of a song: from Dmitriy and from me, so we have to choose from. After everything is recorded I start working on synth arrangement. Dmitriy is really genial lyricist. He writes lyrics on the fly, just needs to choose topic beforehand. We decided to devote this album to social problems that we see in our everyday life. Why to sing about nonexistent things like dragons or devil while we can try to make our real world little better and kinder. So our inspiration is just real life.

Q: Can you give in brief background story of songs from this album? Maybe one or two interesting ones?

N: Hmm… Song “Mass Media” was the first composed for this album. And there were good chances to name the album “Mass Media”. We really are concerned about the power mass media has nowadays. Sadly this power is very often used just to fool people or make them buy things they don’t actually need. Most people don’t even notice it or think about it but it is all around us yelling and blinking, diverting attention from what really matters. We couldn't pass it by and here is the song! Another important topic is touched in “Templates for All”. It is not new (remember Helloween’s “I Want Out”?) but we are still the same slaves of stereotypes and social templates as 25 years ago. People often don’t even think why they do things, just do because everybody does. Human is creative being and one should use one’s own brain. I don’t mean that we must throw away all external influence. But it is much better to decide yourself what is better for you. If we can change this even a little we must take our chance. All other songs have same significant ideas which hopefully help, dig it out yourselves.

Q: What is the most influential bands to Hammerforce, can you point out the old bands (Helloween, maybe) and your contemporaries this day (Avantasia, Dragonforce etc.) ? Any favorite ones?

N: Helloween, Masterplan, Gamma Ray, In Flames, Dimmu Borgir: they are our main Metal influences. Also every band member has his own influences of course. Dmitriy likes Queensryche, Judas Priest as well as some modern Rock. Ilya is more into Metalcore and MDM. My inspiration for this album mostly came from Raintime, Kovenant (“Animatronic” album), 2 Times Terror, Twilightning, Lost Horizon, MyGrain, Labyrinth (“No Limits” album), Athena (“A New Religion” album) besides mentioned above well-known acts and some 90’s Eurodance music. There are many more, but here is the main list… =)

Q: In the era of digital information, how would you approach the rise of internet. How you guys been benefit from the usage of Youtube, Blogging, social network, itunes etc in reaching the market.

N: Many famous artists suffer from Internet and ease of digital sharing of music or at least many claim that. But for us being from country where Metal music was always deep underground, rise of Internet is the greatest thing. Without Internet we would just play few gigs a year at our local venues and the chances are that you would never know about us. In Russia we have no long Metal traditions and infrastructure for Metal such as present in Europe, USA and some other countries, very few Metal labels that distribute mostly inside Russia and have very weak international distribution (if any) and not so many Metal fans as one could expect from our big country. That’s why Internet helps us a lot! We reach fans all over the world and that excites and motivates us very much. Our Facebook page has already more than 4000 likes for example. On the other hand the main flaw of Internet for musicians is that some sites (mostly Russian ones and it is a shame for me) earn money on advertisement providing illegal downloads of music. For some reason years pass but government does nothing about it. Please understand it right, I am not against free distribution of music for people that can’t afford buying it, and we give away our music for free from time to time. But dozens of insolent sites that make money from pirated information and never share with creators are on top in search engines. That’s absurd and definitely not the way our world should evolve... By the way good idea for future song! =)   (Metalharem addition: check their Twitter as well in http://twitter.com/HammerforceBand )

Q: What is Hammerforce's next step after the release of Access Denied? Will be there a tour to Europe or other region being scheduled?

Nikita: Many fans ask us about touring. The truth is that we decided not to play live until we get enough fans to make good tour with good sound and at good venues. We believe that it is better to spend our time and effort on writing and recording new songs for now. We have fans in a huge amount of different countries, but we can’t afford long world tour now (to be honest we can’t afford any short and small tour for now as well). So while we are on tour many of our fans that live in other cities and countries will just sit down and wait for next songs. That is not fair I think.

As for future plans, we are working now on version of “Access Denied” with Russian lyrics. It is some kind of experiment to see if people outside Russia are interested listening to Russian language. Also instrumental (Karaoke) version of “Access Denied” is going to be released soon. Work on new material for the third album has already started as well. The process of album creating is worked out now and I promise there wouldn’t be another 4 years between albums anymore. Stay tuned and no more templates for us all! \m/

Thank you very much, Nikita for the time answering the questions and share the story to us. Let's keep touch to the band with their new album and support them.  10 April 2013

Hammerforce bandcamp Merchandising Store


Deep Purple - NOW What! (2013)

Since the inclusion of Steve Morse in Deep Purple, about almost twenty years ago, Deep Purple is almost unlikely to have a 'metal' sounds as what they did another twenty years ago. Instead, they keep coming out with 'obscure' blues and progressive rock materials. Of course creativity-wise the materials released from Perpendicular, Abandon, Banana, Rapture of the Deep were all intrigue and mind blowing at some. But those materials are usually only lasted for several round of spin, and then abandoned like a bananas in the deep forest. So that when the new 2013 album come with a title, NOW What? It become the auto critique to what their musical journey actually wanted to go.

Now What is lean more toward melodic and progressive rock, rather than say, blues as in the Bananas. The album contained several serious composition, as in Out of Hand where the orchestration combined well with '70s heavy rock riffs. Then the single Hell to Pay is catchy enough to celebrated by fans, it is something like Bruce Springsteen happy country rock combined with Deep Purple roots. Where some material are obviously the result of jam session, as in Body Line, they were a good jam by world class musicians. All The Time In The World, the second single has the nostalgic Ian Gillan ballad touch. Above and Beyond, in gospel like country rock tunes. Then Don Airey works in the fusion of symphonic rock can be found in Vincent Price.

Fans of Steve Morse will probably more celebrated NOW What, than Deep Purple fans if I may predict. Mostly because these songs still become Morse's great vehicle to landed his skillful melodious solos, together with Don Airey answering keyboard solos. The other 'founding' fathers, Ian Paice, Roger and Gilland enjoying pushing their musical skill to the limit in their late '60s. NOW What is another strange, weird, obscure Deep Purple album that combined many unrelated styles in one album. Must say I enjoy listening their music in here, but again, will this another abandoned masterpiece by the world? Most likely, as we are more into heard another Machine Head covered by Iron Maiden and Metallica, maybe.

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

Deep Purple - NOW What! 2013

01. A Simple Song
02. Weirdistan
03. Out Of Hand
04. Hell To Pay
05. Body Line
06. Above And Beyond
07. Blood From A Stone
08. Uncommon Man
09. Après Vous
10. All The Time In The World
11. Vincent Price

Ian Gillan - vocals
Donald "Don" Airey - keyboards
Steve Morse - guitars, vocals
Ian Paice - drums
Roger Glover - bass, vocals

Deep Purple NOW What album review


Dreamtale - World Changed Forever (2013)

Dreamtale is always received high credits for their works. After releasing five power metal albums, the band is on waiting list for many fans. They are not yet on the mainstream, but with  quality albums they released so far, the justice may blessed upon them by the time comes. This Finnish power metal band is continuing their journey with a new 2013 album, World Changed Forever. I impressed with their latest, Epsilon album, so this is a good exercise to see how the boys may come up.

Cleverly open the album with animated story-telling prolog in The Shore. Sounds like a RPG game soundtrack or a theatrical teaser as we prepare for the first song to come, Island Of My Heart. So there you go, the bombastic strings riff attack. Island Of My Heart is simple symphonic metal attack. Interestingly they also put in synth-loop in the chorus. Tides Of War come with tides of melodious intro, a standard minor arpeggios melody to bring the song that are very short in verses but strong in choruses. Same thing still there in We Have No God, a leading thematic melody and now an operatic verses in the beginning. Join The Rain is next interesting point, they come with full disco synth beat in power metal, now it reminds me of our recent Hammerforce music. Back To The Stars is a powerful ballad ala Stratovarius. Best cut from this album. Then the serious World Changed Forever, the song that not started with bombastic intro but rather emphasized on their song composition. There are twelve tracks in normal CD and all of them easily grab power metal tunes.

Looks like Dreamtale able to take the most basic of power metal formula and claim as theirs new invention on this album. Still consistent to many of their previous releases, so we convinced that in the ocean of cheesiness , power metal is actually still a vast area to swim. Every songs has a memorable choruses. World Changed Forever seems little or none breakaway from previous album. So the only issue is, whether you like to listen more songs on this styles or you don't. The singer Erkki Seppanen voices a characteristic performances, he is versatile and able to gives emotional value to each songs. Instrumentation are alright, Dreamtale not so overly technical but just what it needed on every song. For power metal standard, this is what the fans always needed to listen.

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

Dreamtale - World Changed Forever 2013
Buy it HERE

01. The Shore
02. Island Of My Heart
03. Tides Of War
04. We Have No God
05. The Signs Were True
06. The Heart After Dark
07. Join The Rain
08. Back To The Stars
09. World Changed Forever
10. My Next Move
11. Dreamtime
12. Destiny's Chance
13. The End of Our Days - Japan bonus

Petteri Rosenbom Drums
Rami Keränen Guitars, Vocals
Akseli Kaasalainen Keyboards
Seppo Kolehmainen Guitars
Erkki Seppänen Vocals
Heikki Ahonen Bass

Dreamtale World Changed Forever album review


Kaledon - Altor The King's Blacksmith (2013)

Rome's epic metal act, Kaledon has return with a new chapter of epic story. Over the last decades, the band had pulled off six Legend of Forgotten ... chapters, which are largely forgotten in the realm of power metal, outside the holy Rome. However, Kaledon had built up a reputable name and their new album with a new 'character' is worth anticipating, Altor: The King's Blacksmith is the title.

An Innocence maiden chanting is to open the album. Childhood is best riff at the moment to defined this super cheesy, classy, power metal tunes. Enjoy the epic choruses and a meantime listen to the good solos of keyboardist Daniele Fuligni, which make the fans proud for his wizardry. Between the Hammer and the Anvil is the main theme song comes with intense riffs. The song arranged in a way where the Hammer and the Anvil seems having a dialog. Again the keyboard solos stealth the solos away. My Personal Hero is quite memorable chorus, the trivia in this track is the accent is too obvious in the word 'Hero'. Lilibeth is surprisingly a very radio friendly power ballad with all the "I love you, Lilibeth...", sing with styles by Marco Palazzi. Most of power metal magic tricks are repeated and re-done by Kaledon for the rest of the album, and the story concluded.

Compared to their last works, Altor is a great improvement in the production. How to appreciate the hard work Kaledon put in this album other than to give them the opportunity to break from their eggshell. Sure the album is not the best in originality, as the other thirty power metal albums do, and Altor did has several ideas to grab keen power metalhead's attention. For example, keyboardist Danielle is always able to raise their musical standard into acceptable power metal standard, along with the duet guitarists on board. New drummer Luca Marini also works well along bassist Paolo Lezziroli to gives storming double pedalling in almost all songs. So this make a safe epic power metal chapter of Altor: The King's Blacksmith for every of us to enjoy.

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

Kaledon - Altor: The King's Blacksmith (2013)

01. Innocence 01:05
02. Childhood 05:12
03. Between the Hammer and the Anvil 04:35
04. My Personal Hero 03:52
05. Lilibeth 05:21
06. A New Beginning 05:06
07. Kephren 03:27
08. Screams in the Wind 05:06
09. A Dark Prison 06:20

Alex Mele - Guitars
Marco Palazzi - Vocals
Tommy Nemesio - Guitars
Daniele Fuligni - Keyboards
Paolo Lezziroli - Bass
Luca Marini - Drums

Kaledon Altor The King's Blacksmith album review


Julia Kosterova - Springs of Time (2013, EP)

Well, she is not a tennis player but a very fast guitar player instead. Julia Kosterova coming all the way from Russia and to become the first Russian guitar player that get the spotlight world wide. The introduction from personal website dubbed : “… an alien sent down to represent the last several decades of music…”  paying justice to Julia’s music inspired by a wide range of influences from Jeff Beck to Steve Vai, while american producers and casting directors went straight calling her ‘new female Eddie Van Halen’. That's is only confirmed when this little EP from her come with big names at behind, such as Marco Minnemann, Derek Sherinian, Brian Tichy etc. So, here let's listen this exciting EP called Spring of Time by our lady fast finger, Julia Kosterova.

Springs of Time as the first track, is begin with tasty minor power metal riff with slapping funky bass. Soon the song developed into the complex progressive section, well you never can understand a lady with first listening. But after this complex parts, here comes the first real solos only start on clock 3 minutes in this six minutes composition. It is clear we are dealing with talented, shred guitarist here. The Wave of Luck started with a bang of Derek Sherinian's keyboard intro and then a thematic groove solos to lead the rest of the song. Stranger is happy feel composition, still comes with enough complexity to keep we glued to the chair, this track is supported by Brian Tichy of Whitesnake fame. Hi Power started with furious Marco's drum solos and the band played another stunning guitar composition.

Not only miss Julia able to show herself as a true shred lady, the four compositions show the chemistry of all parts, bass, keyboards and drums, come together to fully backed the guitar. The band played as one whole composition and we also get the best from each Derek, Marco and the bass. Overall the style is similar to Greg Howe, Richie Kotzen, and those whom like to played in fusion rock and funky styles. The future is bright for the next full studio album to come and we shall warmly welcome Julia into the guitar world.

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

Julia Kosterova - Spring of Time (2013, EP)
buy it here

01 Springs of Time (feat. Derek Sherinian & Marco Minnemann) 06:08
02 The Wave of Luck (feat. Derek Sherinian & Marco Minnemann) 05:56
03 Stranger (feat. Derek Sherinian & Brian Tichy) 04:29
04 Hi Power (feat. Derek Sherinian & Marco Minnemann) 06:53

Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater, Planet X, Black Country Communion, Billy Idol) keyboards,
Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats, Paul Gilbert, Joe Satriani)  drums
Brian Tichy (ex-Whitesnake, Foreigner, S.U.N.) drums
Chris Buck (3 Crows), bass
Michael Devin (Whitesnake), bass
Rufus Philpot, bass

Female guitarist Julia Kosterova Springs of Time album review


Skid Row - United World Rebellion Chapter One (2013, EP)

Skid Row is another great band from the past, that sadly didn't managed to hold their full 'classic' line up today. The changes is obvious, ex frontman Sebastian Bach is not around anymore. The new gun, Johnny Solinger is what Skid Row come with now. This seems to be the first FAQ that prevent Skid Row being 'independence' from the ghost of S.B. Overall this EP gone very well. Three of Skid Row 'classic' members, give the legacy of Skid Row's glam metal signature the same as what we used to in Slave to The Grind.

Kings of Demolition is very Slave-era type, the bass slap, the beats is quickly bring memory to this group. Now that Johnny did a great justice to sung this out and it's pretty approved on his vocal quality. Let's Go comes with rather too generic riff, but then the song developed into pretty catchy glam metal song. The dual guitar solos featuring The Snake and Scotti Hill are enjoyable in this song. Remind us again how both are considered best duo in glam metal back in late '80s. This Is Killing Me is a ballad song, trivially Johnny Solinger is a country singer as well, so Johnny takes no difficult tackling the required mellow and sentimental voices required in this song. Get Up is something like modern hard rock feel, maybe the least interesting tracks in this EP. Stitches however close the album with better bang, and the Skid Row signature riffs are back there again.

Overall, this is a safe and sound releases. Perhaps the boys try to catch up Sebastian Bach's solo album last year, and this year's ABachalypse Now, live album from Bach featuring song Slave to the Grind itself! If only Skid Row able to deleted the image of Sebastian Bach from the band, then they will forward. In this EP, this issue seems little to bring on, since Johnny already done his best and nothing to complain, really. An enjoyable EP that bring back Skid Row pretty much.

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

Skid Row - United World Rebellion - Chapter One (2013, EP)

1. Kings of Demolition 04:10
2. Let's Go 02:55
3. This Is Killing Me 04:55
4. Get Up 04:56
5. Stitches 03:42

Rachel Bolan Bass, Vocals
Dave "The Snake" Sabo Guitars
Scotti Hill Guitars
Johnny Solinger Vocals
Rob Hammersmith Drums

 Skid Row United World Rebellion EP review


Mastercastle - On Fire (2013)

I got to known Mastercastle by their master guitarist, Pier Gonella, whom appeared in some of guitar clinics channel. While the early impressions of this band and the guitarist is okay, never expected that their new album, On Fire, is really taken the bite here. I like this album so far, they are highly melodic metal to begin of. Their styles is unique, not only it's included the favorite neo-classical shreds, but the singer is quite the sensational herself. She is not your power metal singer, but rather a hard rock feel! All the way sung the supposedly neo-classical metal tunes. Her voice is still unpolished here and there, but it's added the naive and raw feel to the record. Not to mentioned, Mastercastle managed to get hire gun drummer John Macaluso, which to my knowledge are busy with Symphony X now!

Come to hear the first offering, Silver Eyes. This is a melodious song, the style is something glam metal plus the power metal drumming, not after you met Giorgio Gueglio then you will feel even stranger yet refreshing. Then comes Chains, an AOR feel intro with it's arena drumming and very Lita Fordian singing is really unexpected from the band from Italy. Platinum is another melodic metal in the epic minor feel riff. Giorgio got unpolished low pitches voices feel here, but it's okay and really fresh to hear. Plus in this song, she is doing duet vocal with his bandmates. Quicksilver is finally the quick double pedalling tunes. Gold Violet is mellow acoustic song, in typical Gothic female metal style, similar to Lunatica I think. Leaden Roads is another enjoy-ful song with tasty intro licks. Titanium Wings is yet one more melodic metal tunes. And with respect to the singer, two instrumentals tracks The Final Battle and Almost a Fantasy from Pier Gonella are what really interesting point in the album also.

I would love to hear what the world comments on this album. The instrument parts is okay, but the singer is rather controversial in this album, in a good sense. While all her non English accents are audible, the style of singing implemented in this album is sure not the cup of tea for everyone. But I do like. No doubt the frontman Pier Gonella is one of shinning shredder in the future to come. Drumming is clear and go the nice groove here and there. The last bass man is a good partner also, especially enjoy the playing in those two instrumental tracks. So it's a full support for this rising band, Mastercastle On Fire, surprise melodic metal materials from the team.

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

Mastercastle - On Fire (2013)
buy it HERE

1. Silver Eyes (4:08)
2. Chains (4:52)
3. Platinum (4:19)
4. Quicksilver (3:28)
5. Gold Violet (4:44)
6. The Final Battle (instrumental) (4:16)
7. Leaden Roads (4:39)
8. Titanium Wings (4:12)
9. Almost a Fantasy (instrumental) (3:59)

Steve Vawamas Bass
Pier Gonella Guitars
Giorgia Gueglio Vocals
John Macaluso Drums - (Jame LaBrie, Yngwie Malmsteen, Ark, Symphony X, Joe Lynn Turner)

Italian metal band, Mastercastle, On Fire  album review


Geoff Tate's Queensryche - Frequency Unknown (2013)

It's a shame that a band like Queensrÿche can't prolong its legacy and need to split into to two flagships. For vocalist Geoff Tate, the move is necessary since his 'musical directions' become not friendly with what Queensrÿche want to go. So here we got, the first Geoff Tate's Queensrÿche recording, coming out April 2013, decades after the man put the metal world upside down with classics Empire and Operation Mindcrime. The album dubbed Frequency Unknown supported by many musicians, listed below. The album is anything but melodic rock, rather far from the progressive metal Queensrÿche once held.

The first song Cold is melodic hard rock, an AOR feel verses and choruses. Pretty much a good listening from this starter. The second take is Dare, is a bit of modern, it's feel as Deep Purple new materials with inclusion of keyboard ornamental inside. Then jump to Slave, comes the catchy hard rock tunes with intrigue running riff to make it grab a little attention. Then go to Running Backwards where the title make a memorable chorus line and the beat is strong. Life Without You is the closest point to get the Empire-era Queensrÿche feel. Piano intro and nu-metal feel in Everything ala Evanescence, really. Then ended with acoustic ballad The Weight of the World. Geoff saved us with four re-mix and re-recorded tracks of Queensrÿche classic such as I Don't Believe in Love, Empire etc.

So, where is the progressive metal once Queensrÿche become champion of, you asked. I think that is not the direction of GT's Queensrÿche as well. This is merely a melodic rock album with many guest musicians to add a bit of colors. Instrumentations are great, such as in song Dare, where the sound of gamelan-like percussion can added accent to the song. Of course those missed Geoff Tate charismatic vocals can become attached, but then this album serves more as personal solo albums and the materials are randoms. Give it a shoot if you really Queensrÿche enthusiast.

UPDATE, Oh btw, if you find this new album not entertaining, or offence to your musical style, just write a rants put a name and send it to Geoff himself. This is no kidding, see the information right here http://cleorecs.com/home/queensryche-best-rant-contest/  - GOOD LUCK!

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

Geoff Tate's Queensrÿche - Frequency Unknown (2013)
buy it HERE

1. "Cold" Lukas Rossi, Geoff Tate 3:39
2. "Dare" Slater, Tate 3:38
3. "Give It to You" Chris Cox, Slater, Tate 4:35
4. "Slave" Slater, Tate 3:54
5. "In the Hands of God" Rossi, Tate 3:49
6. "Running Backwards" Martín Irigoyen, Slater, Tate 3:28
7. "Life Without You" Slater, Tate 4:42
8. "Everything" Irigoyen, Slater, Tate 4:28
9. "Fallen" Slater, Tate 4:18
10. "The Weight of the World" Randy Gane, Slater, Tate 6:15

 Bonus tracks (2013 versions) 
11. "I Don't Believe in Love" (from Operation: Mindcrime, 1988) Chris DeGarmo, Tate 4:32
12. "Empire" (from Empire, 1990) Tate, Michael Wilton 5:24
13. "Jet City Woman" (from Empire, 1990) DeGarmo, Tate 5:33
14. "Silent Lucidity" (from Empire, 1990) DeGarmo 5:41  

 Geoff Tate – lead vocals
 Kelly Gray – guitars, guitar solo (on track 1)
 Robert Sarzo – guitar solo
 Rudy Sarzo – bass
 Randy Gane – keyboards, bass, orchestration, voices
 Simon Wright – drums

Guest musicians

    Nina Noir - spoken word, background vocals
    Emily Tate – background vocals
    Miranda Tate – background vocals
    Craig Locicero – rhythm guitars (on track 1)
    Martín Irigoyen – guitar, bass, drums
    K.K. Downing – guitar solo
    Chris Poland – guitar solo
    Ty Tabor – guitar solo
    Brad Gillis – guitar solo
    Dave Meniketti – guitar solo
    Chris Cannella – guitar solo
    Jason Slater – bass, keyboards, solo, theremin
    Paul Bostaph – drums
    Evan Bautista – drums
    Lita Ford – uncredited


    Jason Slater – production, mixing (original mix)
    Anthony Focx – production (on track 1), remixing (on track 1)
    Glenn Fricker – remixing (on track 8)
    Jürgen Engler – remixing (on track 14)
    Maor Appelbaum – mastering, remastering
    Andy Dequara – engineer
    Brian Perera – executive producer
    Jeff Albright – publicity
    Anthony Clarkson – artwork, layout


Francesco Fareri - Mechanism Reloaded (2013)

Finally Francesco Fareri finished the fourth! Well, that's lots of f-word surely, which is the case of this new material from the guitar zeus himself. Mechanism Reloaded is the f*&%-ing fourth album, so long after his 'proper' 3rd album back in 2007. For decades, Francesco had been fascinating the guitar enthusiast for his eye brow rising, eight strings guitar. So now we will able to listen a proper composition on that wicked instrument, in his very solo album. To add more flourish, he invited another guitar mercurians to do the lick race together, thus summoned, Jeff Loomis and Jon Finn.

What should expect, skip the First Breath if you can't hold the breath! Mechanism Reloaded is none other than furious guitar shred song, comes with many intrigue flatten notes all over the scale. So then the style of this album had been defined, a progressive metal foundation, familiar to Jeff Loomis material himself, as this is the song where he featuring. (Or even the cover album is the same 'tall building' theme to Jeff Loomis other two albums). Evil's Icon take the thrash metal riff and beat as the whole pictures, the arpeggios are there for you to try out tonight. In Silver Blades I think the band try to give some edgy standard heavy metal feel, waves of licks going on but the thematic lick is keep on top of those, very intense compositions. Seconds of Balance is inviting for a headbanging for it's power metal like opening. Beyond the Mind looks like a song that try to break the fastest bpm record, then the last Temple of Sinners is a good riff for old death metal groove.

That's it. Seven Ferrari speed tempo shred song slip in the eyes. Well, there is one more bonus song, which you can check in his Soundcloud account, called After Thy Soul. The albums not include one sweet notes, consistently dark, heavy all Locrian (maybe) scale tunes. Perfect match for those who enjoy the death progressive materials. Two other member backing Francesco Ferari need a big thump up for sweating bullets on all this fiery stuff. So that the guitar zeus did not let a doubt in his shredding ability. Top of the game, good luck for other to follow his speed, get this one quick!

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

Francesco Fareri - Mechanism Reloaded 2013
buy the album HERE

1. First Breath -  01:36
2. Mechanism Reloaded - 05:00 - featuring Jeff Loomis
3. Evil's Icon - 04:43 - featuring Jon Finn
4. Silver Blades - 04:33
5. Equilibrium Elements - 03:54
6. Seconds of Balance - 04:06
7. Beyond the Mind - 04:22
8. Temple of Sinners - 4:43
Bonus track - After Thy Soul

Francesco Fareri , 7 and 8 String Guitars
Emanuel Calvelli Bass
Emiliano Bonini Drums

Album review of Italian extreme metal guitarist Francesco Fareri.


Sodom - Epitome of Torture (2013)

One the Germany "Big Three" of thrash metal is back, Teutonic Thrash Metal to be precise. Sodom created many memorable moments from the late '80s that will remained our references when it's come to thrash. So, expected a hellish riffs and machine gun like drumming ahead in their 2013 new album Epitome of Torture.

My Final Bullet come as the first track. The intro build up is promising, then the first verses with that thrashy drumming and all the way climax to the chorus, now Sodom has give us a good start. It's a good opener with enough complexity of structure for the three men thrash band, although in the studio version there are rhythm guitar recorded. Now on second song, S.O.D.O.M. is not a very likely thrash metal song title, but the opening riff is yet another tasty intro to catch up. Tom Angelripper implemented the classic vocal for this song, compared to rather clean in My Final Bullet. Making the almost cheerleader cheering "S-O-D-O-M" quite acceptable to all thrash metal fans. Epitome of Torture back to Agent Orange (their 3rd album and song title, one of Sodom classic release) catchy riff, very classic feel and it's fade away in quick as well. These are three songs that will killed fans who ever doubted in them. Stigmatized got an interesting vocal works by Tom. Jump to Cannibal, this is something 'happier' slap and jump thrash tunes, very groovey to speak about. Shoot Today - Kill Tomorrow maintained the flow with another thrash and lightning killer tunes. Then Invocating the Demons comes as more melodious approach, it break the flow with different beat, this continue to Katjuscha which is also inserted few bar of melodious intro. In the rest two track in standard edition, Sodom keep the formula well, good riff and good chorus in each songs.

Just like the cover of this album that brutal and 'torturing', the material inside Epitome of Torture is the exact reflections of that. Just like I said in the first paragraph, this is a straightforward riffs, fast drum and a good classic thrash voices by Tom. Their quality comes in the well crafted song structures. That is never too cheesy, or too obscure like having a silent break in the middle of the song, nope, Sodom chained each parts with good logical continuation and that's their attractive points. Considering how long had Sodom been, this album is still on their game. They seems inspired by Kreator success in their 2012 album, and also Overkill and Testament when comes to thrash in general. For now, Epitome of Torture is able to stand side by side to them.

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

Sodom - Epitome of Torture (2013)

1. My Final Bullet
2. S.O.D.O.M.
3. Epitome of Torture
4. Stigmatized
5. Cannibal
6. Shoot Today - Kill Tomorrow
7. Invocating the Demons
8. Katjuscha
9. Into the Skies of War
10. Tracing the Victim

Tom Angelripper – Vocals / Bass
Bernemann - Guitars
Markus "Makka" Freiwald - Drums
Record Label: SPV / Steamhammer Records

Germany Teutonic Thrash Metal - Sodom in Epitome of Torture album review


Amorphis - Circle (2013)

I'm sure in bit of disadvantages from never really listening to Amorphis music. Their huge past with twist of crossing genre CV, is important background information needed to understand Amorphis. But, I think fans of Amorphis some will interested to know how a new listener receiving Amorphis music. So now here we got, the 11th studio album of Amorphis, entitled Circle. The first information given is the album not following some of their previous work regarding producer in charge, Circle is produced by new guy Peter Tagtgreen, instead of Marco Hietala (of Nightwish). Circle also no more based its lyric to Finnish national epic Kalevala, but to original story now. The music, in overall I will describe as epic metal, mostly medium pace tempo, folk elements, a bit of doom-ish or atmospheric effect due to its slow tempo song. When I compared to their past song I sampled, it is clear that in  Amorphis, the morphed of their musical direction is best to be treated as discontinuity work, as they seems to versatility changed styles all the time.

Shades of Gray is quickly met the term of doom-ish, one-two guitar riff chops that comes with heavy throat vocal. The inclusion of folk melody theme in the break down melody will be their trade mark carry over in the few next songs. Mission is in strong connection with Shades of Gray when it's come with the folk melody intro. The Wanderer is even a greater improved version of loop effect melody, utilized in the intro. Both song are still in medium pace tempo. Anything that comes with flute in the metal song is interesting point, so here Narrow Path is folk metal tunes, completely comes with epic riff. Hopeless Days is heavier than anything before, the drumming is fast double pedal, then the piano break make this song a combination of doom, progressive, and folk metal altogether. Nightbird's Song comes with almost Iron Maiden-esque intro, then this is the song with most heavier melodic death feel. Into the Abyss is started calm intro, evolved into progressive groove song. Enchanted by the Moon? Remind me of Paradise Lost in their gothic era, this is very atmospheric death metal song. A New Day is the last song, the last chance of getting yourself to be overwhelmed with shower of distortion in the intro, but the song is in clean voice, perhaps Amorphis' style in singing a ballad. There are still bonus tracks but yet it is in the same vibe to the core track of the album.

This is surely not easy album to grab. It's potential lie to multiple listening so that all the hypnotizing loop melody, constant drum will sink into the subconsciousness of mind, then we will able to follow this album. The album is exhausting wide - open air feel. Amorphis seems excel in creating this atmospheric effect. No catchy metal riff to immediately make us fall in love. The folk pentatonic scale inserted here and there is a remedy to the desperate doom-ish distortion shower. It's a steady performance, a works with many thought given. Reading and listening to all their past glory, I think Amorphis is the band for serious listener who have enough time to spend in listening the music intensively. If you in all for adventure, this is the album to get.

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

Amorphis - Circle (2013)
buy it here

1. Shades of Gray
2. Mission
3. The Wanderer
4. Narrow Path
5. Hopeless Days
6. Nightbird's Song
7. Into the Abyss
8. Enchanted by the Moon
9. A New Day
10. Dead Man's Dream (Bonus Track)

Jan Rechberger Drums, Keyboards
Esa Holopainen Guitars (lead)
Tomi Koivusaari Guitars (rhythm) 
Santeri Kallio Keyboards
Niclas Etelävuori Bass
Tomi Joutsen Vocals

Amorphis new 2013 album Circle, album review


Kee Marcello - Judas Kiss (2013)

Although Kee Marcello only in Europe (the band) for a brief years, he will still remembered as the guitarist during the band's height. Upon resign from the band he engaged in many projects, adventurously into various styles from metal to hard rock. Strangely, just as Europe transformation into hard rock blues band, Kee Marcello also  more comfort to write in this territory. Judas Kiss is his third solo album, full of catchy hard rock tunes in the mix between old school and modern sound.

The first song Zombie is actually pretty hard rock feel, Kee Marcello style of singing defines this more into modern bite. As guitar player, this did not gone into guitar supremacy type of song. Kee only keen to slash in few bar of solos and focus on the singing instead. Dog Eat Dog is late '80 anthem hard rock beat. This song had been made into video as well and the album's hit song. I'm Stoned worth mentioned for being heavy chugging riff song. Another enjoyable tune is Dead End Highway, an semi ballad track that quite heavy. Judas Kiss is yet another heavy and dark intro but the song itself didn't gone into too far from hard rock. The other interesting track is And Forever More, where Akane Liz's Liv Moon from Tokyo sing as guest. A good power ballad in this track. Coming Home is thick western, US feel , kind of Bon Jovi things. Awesome thing also there, as in Get On Top, which is an (almost) power metal track!

Versatile hard rock album with heavy riff and metal drumming thrown here and there. Kee Marcello presented more as a fine song writer rather than a guitarist do a solo album. Judas Kiss saw Kee Marcello successful catch up with this generation of hard rock. He did not went too traditional, although the standard riff and chug still connected well with past hard rock fans. The album also see in service drummer on being excellent in interpreted each tune into enjoyable beat. The power fill and variations are one of attractions. To sums up, this is a fine modern hard rock album by the man.

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

Kee Marcello - Judas Kiss (2013)
buy it HERE at AMAZON

1. Zombie
2. Dog Eat Dog
3. Starless Sky
4. I’m Stoned
5. Dead End Highway
6. Judas Kiss
7. And Forever More (with Akane Liz)
8. Coming Home
9. Get On Top
10. The Harder They Come
11. Dead Give Away
12. Love Will Tear Us Apart
13. Metal Box

Kee Marcello – Vocals / Guitar
Ken Sandin - Bass
Tim Brown - Drums
Jonny Scaramanga - Guitars
Record Label: 7Hard Records

Judas Kiss album review, by ex-Europe guitarist.


The Storyteller - Dark Legacy (2013)

The Storyteller is power metal tale from Sweden. The band gone into four studio albums full of fantasy, holy quest, underworld adventure and many others. So you read it right, this is another epic power metal adventure, not from Italy but from the land of Northern Arctic. The band missed several years for being inactive but now they are fully back with a new tales, Dark Legacy. It's another concept album about Thor  or any other Norse mythology.

Good news is, the music and storyline went good. Release Me is melodious power metal opener, comes with enough progression from part to part. L.G. Persson vocal for once, I must admit, sounds 'hollow' when he sing in lower register. Interestingly, in this album the vocal gone from low, middle, into high territory, as well being clean and raw in turns. Strength of Valhalla is more straightforward, just after the snare drum intro this gone to standard galloping game. Dark Legacy used a chorus power as in folk metal ala Sabaton. Sweet epic melody found in God of Gods, this is a middle anthemic tempo tunes. The climax of this chorus driven tune is in Sancto Spirito, the band successful creating memorable point in the middle of the album. We also got Sands of Time, full ballad song with only orchestration, now it's feel like Manowar. Then just like any other 'good' concept album, the epilog is found in Battle of Yggdrasil, longest track to conclude tonight's story.

The Storyteller comes with good power metal materials, although we have met dozen of this variations before. Song flows supported with awesome composition, saved this album. Both guitarist attacks are soft in style, resulting in clean and neat solos. The utilization of wah effect for once make me think it is the keyboards shred. The guitarist also put a lot of creativity in their parts and not just following the standard chord progression along the line. Singer LG Persson keep being interesting character voice that may capture attention of those like to heard rather unorthodox approach in this genre. For trivia, the band also provide a good cover of Iron Maiden song, Moonchild in their 2002 album Crossroad (see this blog specialized in Iron Maiden cover subject). Enough musical adventure of Norse mythology to interest fans of power metal. Plus you got a good artwork in the cover as well!

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

The Storykeeper - Dark Legacy (2013)
buy it HERE at AMAZON

1. Release Me
2. Strength of Valhalla
3. Dark Legacy
4. Uninvited Guest
5. Forever They Shall Kneel
6. God of Gods
7. Upon Your Icy Throne
8. Sancto Spirito
9. Break The Bounds
10. Sands Of Time
11. Battle Of Yggdrasil

L.G. Persson – Vocals
Jacob Wennerqvist – Guitars, Bass, Vocals
Marcus Backlund – Guitars, Bass, Backing Vocals
Martin Hjerpe – Drums
Record Label: Black Lodge Records

Sweden power metal The Storyteller Dark Legacy album review


Hammerforce - Access Denied (2013)

Usually I am in no luck when comes to blind recommendation from other, but Hammerforce is not the case. The album was circulated highly in forum recommendation and it just prove why it is. For starter, Hammerforce can describe as the combo between Dragonforce , for its speed and electronic sound effect, to Hammerfall, the traditional power metal feel. Basically Hammerforce is power metal in spirit, but instead on dive into other symphonic obscurity they choose the opposite approach, they just jump into modern sound with lots of electronic sound effects. Thus making this album stand out right from the start. They are from mother Russia and this is their second studio album called Access Denied.

Almost every song is in the same formula here. Bombastic intro in spirit of power metal then decorated with keyboards pad effect. I Am I is the first one of them. Catchy, fast and energetic to define this song. Enjoy the rather unusual double pedal metal song with a good riff but once in a while the keyboard will join in the attack. Templates For All is also speedy track with short of neo classical licks intro. In the interview, the band said this is about people having need to met all the stereotypes surround them, something similar to Helloween's I Want Out theme. Wasted is another berserk drum rolling, the song is stand more to progressive feel. Another memorable track from the album. Fugitive is almost a full blend between hip hop with metal, nicely done. No Place for the Old Men is the only song started with 'slow' feel, but yet it's another bombastic full blast track. Not even the ballad intro in Reflections also, but this time it's an instrumental track to let us enjoy what the boys can offer with their musical skills.

Forty minutes and nine catchy songs, all in a quite similar vibes, is okay. We are not let's gone too exhausted to their styles but enough to grab. Hammerforce's Access Denied is easily most consistent fast and loud power metal album so far for this year. The keyboard elements that stands out will help them gain new interested power metal fans. Musicianship is easily just above standard to make this album really sounded. The only comment is for the vocalist, that he seems hesitate to bring all out in all those catchy tunes. So that's still enough room for future improvement. For now, enjoy this extrovert power metal album and for this you may believe the reviewers, that this is indeed highly recommended.

Updated - Interview with Hammerforce HERE, read in deep conversation with the keyboardist/guitarist Nikita about the band's background, influences, struggling and up coming plans.

Metal Harem class: ******** eight stars out of ten
buy it HERE

1. I Am I
2. Templates For All
3. Wasted
4. Mass Media
5. Fugitive
6. Earth Is On Trial
7. No Place for the Old Men
8. Reflections
9. Access Denied
10. Никто
11. Смена поколений

Aleksandr "Ariets" Zhuchihin,  Drums
Ilya Mamaev,  Guitars
Ilya Kapralov Guitars, Bass
Nikita "Mad Warrior" Merzlyakov, Keyboards, Guitars (rhythm), Vocals (backing)
Dmitriy Yanovsky,  Vocals

Hammerforce Access Denied (2013) album review


Gloryhammer - Tales From the Kingdom of Fife (2013)

If this album ever rise to the top of chart, it will prove at least three things. First, deep inside everybody's heart we love power metal. Second, we also love dragon and knight as well. Third, we still haven't got enough Rhapsody of Fire, even after they split into two projects. Lol, but that is how fantastic this album heading for. This is Christopher Bowes having a fun side project outside his regular job in Alestorm. Gloryhammer then formed by several other musicians in power metal genre. This is exactly what Rhapsody of Fire sound if they ever put it in Scottish theme.

We got the typical overture intro in Anstruther's Dark Prop. The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee is one of many well written power metal song in this album, in a minute bring us into the power metal tears and glory. Angus McFife is the flagship single, already released as video clip. The harmony chorus is very familiar power metal choir, yet it still usable to put into a new composition. Magic Dragon is neoclassical tune in every sense of dragon and warriors soundtrack feel. Silent Tears of Frozen Princess, uh oh, Rhapsody of Fire must be kicking himself for missing this high inspirational song title. All the way to full brass intro in Hail to Crail and this epic-fantasy-power metal album close with obligated ten minutes epiolog, The Epic Rage of Furious Thunder

Not much to say, Tales From the Kingdom of Fife bring back all the basic formula in symphonic power metal genre. Again this show to the listener how easy to produce enjoyable album whenever dragon, warrior and wizard combined. Singer from Emeral, Thomas L. Winkler is the only elements that separate them from Rhapsody of Fire, since his voice is raw and Scottish.... in opposite to Fabio Lione clean voice. The tight musicianship working for this album is no less than highly caliber Luca Turilli and team. They capable to produce every licks required to support any fantasy crossing their mind. I sense this is another side project gone wild case. We will soon have sequel and sequel in the future, even though this should be a parody project! A must have power metal album!

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

Gloryhammer - Tales From the Kingdom of Fife (2013)

1. Anstruther's Dark Prop
2. The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee
3. Angus McFife
4 .Quest For the Hammer of Glory
5. Magic Dragon
6. Silent Tears of Frozen Princess
7. Amulet of Justice
8. Hail to Crail
9. Beneath Cowdenbreath (Instrumental)
10. The Epic Rage of Furious Thunder

Thomas L. Winkler – Vocals (Emerald)
Paul Templing – Guitars (Sorcerer's Spell)
Christopher Bowes – Keyboards (Alestorm)
James Cartwright – Bass (Bumilingus)
Ben Turk – Drums (Sorcerer's Spell)
Record Label: Napalm Records

GloryHammer Tales From The Kingdom of Fife album review

real map of The Kingdom of Fife, Scotland 

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