Arven - Black Is The Colour (2013)

Uncompromising power metal combined with elements of folk metal, what a good platform for blasting a metal music. That is the all-female band Arven going to offered with their new vision. Well, majority of them to be precise, since the male still got one slot as a drummer. This is a Sextet from German  and they just released a second album, Black is the Colours, bring in out a taboo theme about multi race in metal music. They are fresh,  raw  and unpolished, making this an honest introduction to a new band that still on their path of exploration.

Believe starts with a good blast. Power metal riffs leads this song to reach adequate intro, before the confident singer charges in. The vocal style comes as typical high pitch Gothic style, making this something like old Epica meet Dark Moor. Blasting opening on the second track also, Don’t Look Back still on the territory of power metal jungle. The duel melodious guitars is one of good highlight to take a deeper attention here. Rainsong is trying to be more feminine with soft play at the beginning but soon developed into another standard fast tempo in gothic spirit. It’s also begin to incorporated a good amount of orchestra elements in the middle break and solos. The escalation of heaviness up to extra quantity in the fourth song, The One for Me, heaviest one. Unfortunately, the male voice in use is not the best in lower pitch at the beginning but soon when reaching the chorus, the weakness is well covered. The split voice throughout the song is a good one, something worth the compliment. A piano ballad is expected after five consecutive heavy songs, it is done in All I Got. This relax moment quickly vanished when the following up track, My Darkest Dream takes control. We then meet a full scale folk metal track in foreigner title instrumental song, Cercle d’Emeuraude. Another calm before the storm moment on the song In Your Dreams. Finally meet My Fall, a kind of climax to end this album.

It’s rather hard to produced a new metal album that does not sounds generic now day. With hundreds of similar bands that play power metal and folk metal, surely Arven aware that they need more to offer in order to survive the net of natural selection. Taken that this is only their second album, and the fact that their ‘uniqueness’ lay on their female members, Arven may able to capture extra attention later. Critically speaking the album is indeed trying hard to create new attractions, but still sounds too generic in most parts. This doesn't help when the guitarist in charge gives only a rather ‘easy’ solos after such heavy songs. Of course the overall album is enjoyable with many riffs and headbanging power anthem , enough for fans of this genre to rejoice.

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

Arven - Black Is The Colour (2013)
Buy it Here

01. Believe
02. Don't Look Back
03. Rainsong
04. The One For Me
05. All I Got
06. My Darkest Dream
07. Cercle d'Emeraude
08. In Your Dreams
09. Firesite Stories
10. My Fall

Lisa Geiß Bass
Till Felden Drums
Ines Thomé Guitars
Lena Yatsula Keyboards
Carina Hanselmann Vocals
Anastasia Schmidt Guitars

Arven - Black Is the Colour


Revamp - Wild Card (2013)

Ever since Floor Jansen recruited by Nightwish as their third singer, increase attention is put on the shoulder of the vocalist who once sing in After Forever band. With this in mind, it’s kind of curious to see ReVamp releasing a new album. First, this will mean ReVamp will not ‘abandoned’ even though their vocalist is  now (almost) on dual citizenship with Nightwish, at least at this moment. And secondly, this is to test the ground on how Floor Jansen singing superiority going to be , if she ever recording with Nightwish. The new ReVamp’s album Wild Card is heavy in character, with elements of progressive metal now strongly put in front.

Wild Card highlight with the three part conceptual progressive metal composition, The Anatomy of A Nervous Break. It’s Part I, On The Sideline is the opening of the album. It’s heavy and with this track alone the feel is now more toward Symphony X, rather than to Nightwish. Floor Jansen also share a harsh vocals in this album, this is in respond to the growing popularity of mixing soft and hard voices in female fronted band. Part II The Limbic System is to continue what On The Sideline finish. This time, it is added more symphonic and orchestration, with composition goes far to required Floor sings in operatic voices. Wild Card back to straight forward riff and sing pattern. Even then, this is a complete song with best guitar solo on the album, elements of choirs, altogether strapped with harsh vocals. Precibus is specially composed to let Floor’s operatic voice put in front. Jump to Part III of The Anatomy of A Nervous Break, Neurasthenia is the sub title. Started with classy gothic feel, this part put the duet vocals in more action, none other than Devin Townsend himself to do this duet. The whole action put to the rest with sweet piano ballad on Distorted Lullabies. Need to hear something wild and heavy again? Here comes Amendatory.  I Can Become is a bombastic symphonic metal feel. Then jump to last part Wolf And Dog, again that groovy riff works great in the direction of music ReVamp put in this album.

Really, this album is solid. It’s has everything and I’m  very much unexpected to see how successfully they accommodated elements of progressive, gothic and symphonic metal into one single album. The choir-Floor Jansen- death metal vocals is now rise to new standard. Especially the death metal / growling parts is mostly flows very natural, it’s not like they spare a space for it, but the song itself scream for it. Guitarists in charge Arjan Rijnen and Jord Otto puts element of groovy and progressive on his unique riffs. The other force is keyboardist Ruben Wijga gives in amazing fills and solos for each song. Bassist and drummer is also having more space, you can hear a thumbing bass playing important lines of many songs. The album really make me want to re-listen to it once it finish spinning. Now, I curious to see how Floor Jansen can fully employed on Nightwish side! ReVamp’s Wild Card is simply excellent album with lot of actions.

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

Revamp - Wild Card (2013)
Buy it Here - Amazon

01. The Anatomy of a Nervous Breakdown': On the Sideline (3:46)
02. The Anatomy of a Nervous Breakdown': The Limbic System (4:54)
03. Wild Card (4:22)
04. Precibus (4:25)
05. Nothing (3:54)
06. 'The Anatomy of a Nervous Breakdown': Neurasthenia (5:07)
07. Distorted Lullabies (4:58)
08. Amendatory (4:47)
09. I Can Become (3:48)
10. Misery's No Crime (4:03)
11. Wolf and Dog (5:01)
12. Sins (Bonus Track) (4:07)

    Floor Jansen - vocals
    Matthias Landes - drums
    Arjan Rijnen - guitars
    Jord Otto - guitars
    Ruben Wijga - keyboards

    Mark Jansen - grunts on track 10
    Devin Townsend - vocals on track 6
    Marcela Bovio - choir vocals
    Johan van Stratum - bass guitar
    Daniël de Jongh - choir vocals

Revamp Wild Card metalharem


Annihilator – Feast (2013)

One of Canadian pioneer in thrash metal picked a good choice of name, Annihilator, is releasing new album again. Since their hallmark debut Alice in Chains and Never, Neverland back in late 1989, Annihilator has always been an 'underdog' thrash metal to considered at. According to Wikipedia, they were the highest selling heavy metal band in Canadian history, not a bad achievement considering the snowy land also home of Anvil, Exciter, Voivod and so on. The band is literally leads by guitarist/vocalist Jeff Waters, a respected name in North America thrash metal scene. Their middle and later albums, in general opinion are always interesting, but then they seemingly never concluded in reaching the same height as their first two albums. This year of 2013, they packed together another studio result, it's the 14th album called Feast.

Compiling nine tracks, we first presented with a good riffing ala old time speed metal in Deadlock. It's a manifesto of Jeff Waters angry chops, it's kind of Slayer simplicty riffs combined with much technical shred in the level of Dimmebag. Next song, No Way Out, is in contrast sounds closer to more modern era thrash metal. Smear Campaign is a good song however outside the traditional thrash feel already. Which is only further away by hyper modern-groovy No Surrender. Then Wrapped with all it's "yeaaaaah....." intro is totally fit for bikers in action, it's glam metal if I can trust my ears. Ah,.. and then a ballad of course, Perfect Angel Eyes sounds like a promising metal ballad, in fact there is an acceptable idea for the song, except the vocal is slightly not the best to fit in this style. With those intermezzo, Fight The World try to bring us back to the heaviness, but only then concluded with Queensryche meet Anthrax in One Falls, Two Rise.

Honestly it's another strange album by a band we mostly expected to sounds as vintage as it could be. Annihilator of course free to choose whatever new direction they wanted to. If you free minded enough, the materials are quite enjoyable, and one can argue Jeff Watson and Dave Padden guitar works are great regardless the styles of music. Feast comes with a lot of 'side dishes' for a thrash metal album. The strength of this album is move toward finding more creativity out of their thrash world. Non compromising guitar works are still there, this album is for those eager to dig up some more spaces in their listening repertoire.

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

Annihilator – Feast (2013)
Buy it Here - Amazon

01. Deadlock (4:23)
02. No Way Out (5:19)
03. Smear Campaign (4:15)
04. No Surrender (5:36)
05. Wrapped (3:47)
06. Perfect Angel Eyes (4:27)
07. Demon Code (6:22)
08. Fight The World (6:54)
09. One Falls, Two Rise (8:33)

Dave Padden – Vocals / Guitars
Jeff Waters – Guitar / Vocals
Al Campuzano – Bass
Mike Harshaw - Drums
Label: UDR Music

Annihilator Feast album review


DevilDriver - Winter Kills (2013)

DevilDriver is California metal band that comes with strong grooving thus providing their base to be called groove metal. The leader is Dez Fafara of Coal Chamber band. In DevilDriver the music seems to be pushed far to the most aggresive zone, a mix of death-thrash-groove is patent deadly. As they are very close to the nu-metal scene, the nu-metal play is throw in to added more punch on several occasion. Winter Kills is their sixth studio album, the band still with most of member since 2003 except for bassist Chris Towning.

The opening title Oath of the Abyss is kind of a blast. Promising the next hour to be extreme hard for your neck. It's tight with riffs, lot of drum syncopation all to provided highway for that flat-growling vocals. All the same thing can be said again to the next coming track, Ruthless, although this time the band take a good time to developed the intro and then convert it into 'standard' death groove metal song. In Desperate Times, elements of nu-metal is borrowed, the rap-style growl singing in that song is vicious. Winter Kills comes next, the title album song itself didn't differed much from the three songs we just listen. Next, The Appetite is offering more energy and creativity with very groovy vocal line. It's a jungle of solid riffs around in the middle of the album, the band plays more attention to give variation on each intro, something like a calm before storm pattern on Curses And Epitataphs and Haunting Refrain.

In overall this is a hard stuff of groove metal all blanketed with combative riffs from each guitarist. The vocal itself sounds flat through out the album, but the complexity of each song neutralize this weakness. If you looking for a solid time of headbanging thrash-death-nu-groove combination, a Pantera vs Slayer things, grab this now.

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

DevilDriver - Winter Kills (2013)
Buy it HERE - Amazon

01. Oath of the Abyss (5:37)
02. Ruthless (4:10)
03. Desperate Times (4:10)
04. Winter Kills (4:55)
05. The Appetite (4:46)
06. Gutted (3:30)
07. Curses And Epitaphs (5:07)
08. Carings Overkill (4:34)
09. Haunting Refrain (5:01)
10. Tripping Over Tombstones (3:38)
11. Sail (4:07)
12. Shudder (Bonustracks) (4:06)
13. Back Down To The Grave (Bonustracks) (4:46)

Dez Fafara – lead vocals
Jeff Kendrick – guitar
John Boecklin – drums
Mike Spreitzer – guitar
Chris Towning – bass

Technical personnel
Mark Lewis – production
Dean Karr – cover art photography
Ryan Clark – cover art layout

DevilDriver Winter Kills album review

Avenged Sevenfold - Hail To The King (2013)

Hail To The King is Avenged Sevenfold sixth studio release, but the first with new drummer Arin Ilejay. As you may read in another review already, Hail To The King is nothing like previous A7X releases. If my memories served me well, this was a band who conquered the mid 2000s American metal scenes with their dynamic heavy metal never before existed, and their style distinguished easily. Later they changed. Put together Mike Portnoy's attachment to the band's images, they just simply evolved into different band. In Hail To The King, perhaps the changes may become too much for those expecting old days such as  in City of Evil. Good news is this doesn't mean the music is inferior.

Shepherd Of Fire is an epic opening. Fully backed with brass orchestration, the band begin their 'minor' feel album with this song. A riff twisting contained some Metallica's Black album feel and for some included elements of Megadeth's Countdown and Youthanasia era sounds. In Hail To The King, things become straight forward power metal, some reminiscence of Megadeth's Cryptic Writing in the intro, but the song is simply developed from the imperative riff. At least the third song, Doing Time,  is back to Matt Shadows signature screamings (and laughings) and back to City of Evil-like guitar riffs, sort of. We then back to This Mean War which is riff orientated and again feel much better in home for European melodic metal listener. And if you never imagine an epic-choir elements in A7X music, here let's yourself jaw dropping at Requiem. The ballad comes and titled Crimson Day, sounds modern if you wondered. Heretic is trying to get darker and heavier, good one because it's become catchy and you can recall the old A7X for one more moment on this album. Coming Home is not the same Iron Maiden song, although the intro is almost similar to Steve Harris going to do when given a guitar. And then as Synyster Gates revealed, the last two songs is strongly connected each other, Planets and Acid Rain closed this chapter.

I can easily enjoy this because I can stand this kind of changes which is toward traditional heavy metal familiar to power metal fans, but surely not expected to hear this from Avenged Sevenfold. The guitar duo is actually still killing in every tracks. Matt's vocal is okay in overall. Arin Ilejay for sure miss the crazy moment when A7X still on top of their 'wild' game, but his drumming do not have anything to criticized. A few spin and I fell objectively Hail To The King is much more contrast and tolerances to ear, compare to Nightmare.

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

Avenged Sevenfold - Hail To The King (2013)
buy it here - Amazon

1. Shepherd Of Fire
2. Hail To The King
3. Doing Time
4. This Means War
5. Requiem
6. Crimson Day
7. Heretic
8. Coming Home
9. Planets
10. Acid Rain

Deluxe Bonus
Hail to the King (music video)
St. James

Matt Shadows – lead vocals
Zacky Vengeance – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Synyster Gates – lead guitar, backing vocals
Johnny Christ – bass guitar, backing vocals
Arin Ilejay – drums
Mike Elizondo – production

Avenged Sevenfold-Hail To The King album review


Marcus Jidell - Pictures From A Time Traveller (2013)

Beside being in Evergrey, Marcus Jidell was also ex-guitarist for progressive metal Royal Hunt, notable in album Paper Blood, Paradox II:Collision Course and X. By seeing his port folios on those two bands you may already predict how his solo album going on. Alas, in Pictures From A Time Traveller, Marcus takes distance from his known works on those two bands, instead play on something different. This solo album is rather experimental, feel more futuristic in template of progressive metal and guitar shreds genre. For metal listener as myself, some of the song need adaptation to ears, such as when listen to very fast double pedal drum but without heavy distortion rhythm to back up.

Such a song started by Arctica. A complexes composition, that blended psychedelic Pink Floyd feel with some jazz, some death metal and also new age. In Huldra (Ruler Of The Forest) at least thing goes down to more melodically approach. Now you have a Jimi Hendrix-ish opening wah-wah, but then the song proceeds to something Marty Friedman-oriental feel. Tesla World System is playing with dissonance voices for most of the part, hammond organ, fast drumming all blended in, therefore creating a Deep Purple - Jon Lord-ish feel. Rei-Zan is kind of Royal Hunt feel, a progressive metal jamming. Then we back to interesting concept-base composition in El-Amarna (Ruins of Akhetaton), so much fantasy with just reading the title. Space Dog is old time very fast alternate licks highlight, still the futuristic feel is there, kind of Steve Morse, Shawn Lane and Tony MacAlpine thrown in altogether. There are the eye brow rising tracks, which unfortunately only lasted thirty minutes and close by a sweet , normal ballad, in a closing title Wedding Song.

Band member-wise, Pictures From A Time Traveller also a combination of both Evergrey and Royal Hunt team. This album is supposed to reach the more serious guitar listeners. By Evergrey fan base only, this is not too close to their market, since the genre is rather outside metal. It's experimental metal perhaps, the shredding parts are a lot in there, but not much heavy metal orientated riffs. Just listen to this by your own, if you love intrigue guitar stuffs!

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

Marcus Jidell - Pictures From A Time Traveller (2013)
Buy it Here - Amazon

01. Arctica
02. Huldra (Ruler Of The Forest)
03. Tesla World System
04. Rei Zan
05. El-Amarna (Ruins Of Akhetaton)
06. Space Dog
07. Wedding Song

Line up:
Marcus Jidell (Evergrey, ex-Royal Hunt, Jupiter Society) - guitars
Johan Niemann (Evergrey, Mind’s Eye, Therion) - bass
Andre Andersen (Royal Hunt) - keyboards
Rickard Nilsson - keyboards
Hannes Van Dahl (Evergrey) - drums
Andreas Johansson (Cult Of Luna) - drums
Svante Henrysson (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen) - cello
Jennie-Ann Smith (Avatarium) - backing vocals
Rolf Jiddel - cello

Marcus Jidell Pictures From A Time Traveller album review


Tarja - Colours In the Dark (2013)

As part of the band who transformed symphonic metal into respective genre, ex-Nightwish Tarja still a force to be reckoned by fans. Although almost decade away from her departure from Nightwish, Tarja did not left symphonic metal scene entirely. She managed to pulled out three studio albums, along with some other releases. Now with Colours In the Dark, Tarja marked her fourth solo tourney, singing in more colorful styles, and more metal, with her sopranic voices.

As shown in first track, Victim of Ritual, Tarja demonstrated how easy to combined both operatic singing into metal. The song flows naturally it seem, from theatrical orchestra setting with soprano singing then joined by distortion forces, without much contrast, in fact sounds very familiar by now. It's a good opening, blending almost classical, metal and electronic music altogether. Then comes 500 Letters, a melodically song, very much my favorite song on this album, it show my favorite Tarja's style similar to many Nightwish songs. Tarja also decided to show off some experimental elements, as improvized on third song, Lucid Dreamer. In Never Enough is modern feel hardrock song, interesting enough when blended with operatic singing. A more conceptual song is in Mystique Voyage, in a style of mystique Pink Floyd-ish. In interview Tarja told that life has many range of 'colors' and dark absorb all of them, it seems Tarja's musical experiment also colorful and Peter Gabriel's Darkness maybe her exploration most far away from metal. In Neverlight, Tarja provided a raw rocking riff template for her to conquered into this style. Most decorated pieces could also found in last track, Medusa. In this 'progressive alternative rock' pieces, she was in duet with Justin Furstenfeld (Blue October).

Rich and colorful eclectics materials found in Colours In The Dark. For some reason, Tarja departures into 'free' world has benefit her fans on bigger scenes. If you like to connected with Nightwish, the first two songs can be yours, but the rest is just exploration between classical, operatic singing, alternative metal and power metal itself. In the musician line up Mike Terrana is the leading name. Although no double pedal drumming needed, the multi-styles setting in this project must be enough challenge for Mike. Alex Scholpp, guitarist from Stuggart continued being line up to provided guitar parts. The second guitarist is Julian Barrett, virtuoso called from Argentina. Technically, the album mixed well by Tim Palmer, you can enjoy Tarja's voices blend smoothly into the music. Colours In The Dark comes as bigger slice of cake for everyone to enjoy, not only by Nightwish followers but also those interested in serious combination of operatic singing and heavy metal in general.

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

Tarja - Colours In The Dark (2013)
Buy It Here - Amazon

1. "Victim of Ritual" Tarja Turunen, Anders Wollbeck, Mattias Lindblom 5:54
2. "500 Letters" 4:22
3. "Lucid Dreamer" 7:28
4. "Never Enough" Tarja Turunen, Johnny Andrews 5:20
5. "Mystique Voyage" 7:14
6. "Darkness" Peter Gabriel 5:38
7. "Deliverance" 7:27
8. "Neverlight" 4:33
9. "Until Silence" 5:03
10. "Medusa (feat. Justin Furstenfeld)" 8:12
Bonus for iTunes:
 Neverlight (Full Orchestral Version)
 Until Silence (Orchestral Version)

Tarja Turunen - Lead vocals and piano
Alex Scholpp, Julian Barrett - Guitar
Kevin Chown, Doug Wimbish - Bass guitar
Christian Kretschmar - Keyboards
Mike Terrana - Drums
Max Lilja - Cello

Thomas Bloch - Glass Harmonica
Saro Danielian - Duduk
Justin Furstenfeld - Vocals ("Medusa")
Caroline Lavelle - Cello
Naomi Cabuli Turunen (Tarja's daughter)
Mel Wesson

Tarja - Colours in the Dark Album Review
Tarja Album Cover Artworks

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