Michael Pinnella - Ascension (2014)

How often you want listen prog metal just to hear for its keyboard parts? Yes, the one that has the coolest sound and shred fast as hell. Now, with this album by Michael Pinnela "Ascension", you got to listen to that one for the whole album.  Ascension is that mind blowing instrumental prog album, 100% build up from keyboard point of view. There are only one side of story here, the keyboard shred parts. There are ten tracks and for 52 minutes it is keyboards all the way. The line up notes state only Mike himself doing all of this. Even no guitarist was listed.

So, the whole album is pretty intense, pretty insane. This is the encyclopedia of progressive metal riffs and groves compiled into one album. From track one "New City Rising" up to "From Empty Places", they are all in same vibes, of fast and furious, complexes rhythm, shredding keys. "La Batalla En La Niebla" is kind of slowing down and has more melodic parts. Nice thing here is Michael Pinnella put a lot of grand piano sounds in here, to be pair with the synthesizer sounds. The one with dramatic orchestration can be heard in "Welcome Home". As well the classical wanna be tracks in "The Great Escape" and "The Ascension".

Nonetheless, the rest of album of course represented many of Symphony X elements. With almost all his member doing side projects, we can only hope they still got materials for their main band. Asension is truly keyboard-piano album that going to pleased prog fans for its mastery. My only lamentation is, there are no other artist join forces for this, one hell of guitarist will do. Last words, don't missed this.

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

Buy it Here - Amazon

Michael Pinnella - Ascension (2014)

1. New City Rising (4:21)
2. Flip Side Of Things (4:20)
3. From Empty Places (6:17)
4. La Batalla En La Niebla (5:59)
5. Miswired (4:27)
6. A Weight Of The World (5:22)
7. Spiders Web (4:34)
8. Welcome Home (4:30)
9. The Great Escape (5:30)
10. The Ascension (7:09)

Michael Pinnella (Symphony X) - piano, keyboards, bass & drum programming

Releases information

Label: Knife Fight Media
Format: Digital
December 15, 2014


Northland - Downfall and Rebirth 2015

As an reviewer, it is always a joy when you got sent a package full of high quality music, for you to listen and later preach it across the world. This morning I received one of that kind situation. Introducing Northland, for a starter just called them a folk metal band based in Spain. They are on historic moment in releasing their 2nd studio album called "Downfall and Rebirth". When I first 'un-zip' the package and start listening, I was simply blown away. Their music hit my favorite zone with melodic violin-driven-folk-metal. They are also fast and the harsh vocals is all there for a viking metal categorical glory. For an hour I feel like a boy getting a new toy, having previously have no knowledge before hand about Northland.

Downfall and Rebirth is quite a concept album. It is about the downfall of status quo civilization because they abused the Mother Nature to her destruction. It is about Mother Nature revenge and later a new celestial force arrives and then become the new, Rebirth, civilization. This album played with the classic concept of rise and fall, day and night, destroy and rebirth theme. The first tracks speaks it all, "When Nature Awakes" is quite a composition that put everything together about Northland. A mother earth melody to starts it all, then "The time has come..." screamed out to mark the starts the violin driven folk metal. The violin melodies will stays through out the album. We got to listen Pau Murillo's growling vocals, very fit into the nature of this song. It also has fast and slow dynamic, enough progressive elements to lift everything up. The replying song is  "Bloodred Sunrise", aggressive track that beginning to describe how devastating the current situation around Mother Earth. It's got catchy folk melody along with "... Die! By my hand!.." of Creeping Death-like tag line. If you are fans of folk metal, this track will blown your mind away for its composition. "Together We Die" is pretty standard Viking metal song, uncompromising galloping riffs. Now we arrive on "Fury's Unleashed", another apocalypse-like guitar riffs, and also extremely loud sounding bass guitar sound. "Duskriders" is opened with calm acoustic guitars, the song has kind of Helloween like choruses. "Spirit In Darkness" is the only track that 'slow' down without the present of double pedal drumming. Ultimately, the climaxing tracks is "Downfall And Rebirth", in which the album got their final-final moment , if you haven't impressed so far, this track is supposed to break your unbelievable ice. The last two songs are more like the epilogue of what has happened. Notable is "Moonlight Spell" where Lady Morte, the singer for Trobar de Morte is contributing her voices.

Northland is perhaps doing to what Rhapsody-of-Fire done to power metal, where Northland do to folk metal. They bring up the genre to a new fascinating horizon. Songs are produced in precise technical matter reflecting to their highly skill musicians. The present of violin melodic is their signature style. Guitar riffs are fit the situation demanding. Vocals of Pau Murillo never lost its power. It is understandable the keyboardist take a whole critical task to supported this kind of music, but Northland did not really allow the 'symphonic metal' vibes in their style. Pol Lemarie keep the keyboard layers stays in designated sphere and let the violin and guitars fight the dominant melodies. Of course in the ended, both bassist Vic and drummer Jose joined for the band with their awesome playing. It is a shame that Downfall and Rebirth may takes a couple of days before its official released date upon this writing, as I feel like to knock every power metal fans door and delivered this album with a note, "...this is the album you'll need to close 2014 with glory."

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

Buy it Here - Amazon

Northland - Downfall and Rebirth (2015)

1. When Nature Awakes
2. Bloodred Sunrise
3. Together We Die
4. The Rite (instrumental)
5. Fury´s Unleashed
6. Duskriders
7. Spirit In Darkness
8. Whispers In The Wind
9. Downfall And Rebirth
10. Moonlight Spell
11. Newborn Star


Pau Murillo - Vocals. Guitars & Jaw Harp
Alex Fernández - Guitars
Vic Adiego - Choirs and Bass guitar
Pau Vázquez - Violin
Pol Lemaire - Keyboard
Jose Rosendo - Drums & Percussion


Angra - Secret Garden (2015)

Angra, one of most influential power metal band from the Latin continent, is back on business with their eight full lengths album. When Angra on their heyday Angels Cry to Temple of the Shadow era, they are on top of the game with unique power metal. Their style was highly captivating, power-metal, neo-classical, power-ballad (think "Wuthering Height" song), Latin infused rhythm, and of course progressive elements with lots of guitar mastery duet between Kiko and Rafael. Different era has passed since, different Angra member jump in. As Kiko Loureiro remarks, musical changes is un-avoidable because they change as persons as well. Quite a words. Fabio Lione is now with Angra. One may feel excited, because un-officially, Angra (well, back then), is also regarded as the Latin representative of Rhapsody-of-Fire style of power metal. Most of their album (back then..) come with similar template, symphonic instrumental track ("Unfinished Allegro","In Excelsis"..) and many more symphonic-power references to the style they shared with Rhapsody of Fire. So, Fabio Lione is one of interesting moment we like to hear from Angra.

Good news is, in this new album called "Secret Garden", we kind of meet some of core Angra stuffs for sure. "Newborn Me" is the first track, after a brief prelude we get a strong strong with catchy guitar riffs, interesting bass-effect and keyboards, and also the Latin beat is there once again. The middle interlude is strong and very progressive. If you are looking for quality song writing in one power metal song, this is it. "Black Hearted Soul" is also strong one, the intro is a power chorus and then continued to catchy double beat power metal song. This time Fabio really added Angra elements to his own port-folio, where Rhapsody of Fire and Vision Divine meet them. "Final Light" is heavier stuffs, Latin infused beat and progressive elements played the big role here. "Storm Of Emotions" is traditionally Angra's story telling slow song, another interesting moment in the album, you'll easily find "old-times" Angra vibes on this one. Then when everything seems like to repeated themself, comes Simone Simons to save the situation. She is on featuring voices in "Secret Garden", one song that surely written with female vocals on mind since this is not typical Angra stuffs. Then also comes Doro Pesch for one more duet song "Crushing Room". Instead of slow ballad as in Simone songs, this is heavier one to fit Doro's characteristic.

Overall Secret Garden really brings back Angra. This is a solid album with careful song writing that incorporated most of core Angra stuffs, and blended it with new progressive metal idea. Vice versaly, Angra also added Fabio Lione to their legacy, where previously two charismatic singers already on board, Andre Matos and Edu Falaschi. Secret Garden is Angra album with level up song writing. Excellent new drummer Bruno Valverde continuted the Latin beat inducted to his drumming. Kiko and Rafael has enough guitars parts to keep their guitar fans happy. In the end, great power metal album to close 2014 in glory.

Favorite songs: Newborn Me, Black Hearted Soul
Metal Harem class: *********** nine stars out of ten

Buy it Here - Amazon

Angra - Secret Garden (2015) 

1. Newborn Me
2. Black Hearted Soul
3. Final Light
4. Storm Of Emotions
5. Violet Sky
6. Secret Garden - feat. Simone Simons
7. Upper Levels
8. Crushing Room - feat. Doro Pesch
9. Perfect Symmetry
10. Silent Call

    Fabio Lione - vocals
    Rafael Bittencourt - guitar, vocals, artwork co-conception
    Kiko Loureiro - guitar
    Felipe Andreoli - Bass
    Bruno Valverde - Drums

Technical staff:
    Jens Bogren - producer, recorder
    Roy Z - pre-producer
    Rodrigo Bastos Didier - artwork conception and creation


Lynch Mob - Sun Red Sun (2014)

The flagship band for George Lynch, Lynch Mob, has pulled out their latest album. This is the 6th full length studio album. It is featuring Oni Logan on vocals, where they joined by  Robbie Crane and Scott Coogan. The album titled 'Sun Red Sun' is as usual in business where George Lynch having fun with his tiger motive ESP guitar, and the band singing along it. Comprising seven new tracks of guitar driven heavy metal, very much to reminded us to the height of '80s hair metal glamour era.

In the first song "Believers of the Day", though its started with promising guitar riffs, the song give much room for Oni Logan to take over the dominant part. Solos are of course great with George Lynch signature speed picking, legato and tapping. The guitar only going more heavy with the second song "Erotika", which laid over a tom-tom drumming beat. "Burning Sky" is blues-rock song. "Black Waters" is kind of Lynch experimenting muted picking with time delay effects, an instrumental song. "Play the Game" is melodic mid tempo hard rock tune. Much interesting is "Sublimininal Dream", a song with heavy wah-wah guitar playing on it. Then the final original song is "Sun Red Sun" of ballad style in the vibe of '80 feel. The album also contained four songs taken from their previous EP "Sound Mountain", all remastered.

Surely this is a brief album from George Lynch after five years of void. Not much can be comment on the album, the guitar sounds are heavy, fit to Lynch wild guitar plays. Those looking for George Lynch shredding parts shall find their objective achieved, although by not very large portion since most of songs are more 'band' orientated than solo driven. Nice hard rock album to tune in while counting the end of 2014 year.

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

Buy it Here - Amazon
Lynch Mob - Sun Red Sun (2014)

1. Believers of the Day
2. Erotika
3. Burnin Sky
4. Black Waters (instrumental)
5. Play The Game
6. Subliminal Dream
7. Sun Red Sun

Bonus Tracks
8. Slow Drag (remastered)
9. World Of Chance (remastered)
10. City Of Freedom (remastered)
11. Sucka (remastered)

Label: Rat Pak Records

George Lynch (guitar)
Oni Logan (vocals)
Robbie Crane (bass)
Scott Coogan (drums)


Raskasta Joulua - Ragnarok Juletide (2014)

Raskasta Joulua is annual musical project held by member of Nightwish and Sonata Arctica. They are the Finland version of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, in which doing Christmas theme songs in it most metal possible. Hence, Raskasta Joulua mean "Heavy Christmas" in Finnish. The project has been held every year, and this is actually their 10th anniversary.

The first opening is quite a faithful Christmas vibes in "We Celebrate At Christmastime". The real winter adventure begins in "The First Noel", where the guitar riffs and typical heavy metal act gets going. It is a straight medley to "Here on the Hay", which is borrowing melody from Noel but in continued in new song. "Little Drummer Boy" is heavily improvised but didn't lost its signature soul. "The Elf" is narrative song, by Marco, to be continued by Elize Ryd in "Christmas Is Here". "Sylvia's Song" is also rarely heard new song in mid tempo ballad. "White Christmas" is full heavy metal rendering yet again, very heavy one indeed. "Home for Christmas" is in standard metal rendition, the same on "A Sparrow on a Christmas Morning". "Christmas Has Come" and "Ave Maria" all in power ballad mode blanket with top notch arrangements.

Definitely a holiday gift to every metal fans. Music are heavy enough yet capture the spirit of Christmas theme. The vast array of voices contributor mean this album is has plenty of characters to listen to. This is kind of Trans-Siberian and Avantasia in holiday theme.

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

Raskasta Joulua - Ragnarok Juletide (2014)
Buy it Here - Amazon

01. We Celebrate At Christmastime
02. The First Noel
03. Here on the Hay
04. Little Drummer Boy
05. The Elf
06. Christmas Is Here
07. Sylvia's Song
08. White Christmas
09. Home for Christmas
10. A Sparrow on a Christmas Morning
11. Christmas Has Come
12. Ave Maria

The voices:

Elize Ryd (Amaranthe)
Marco Hietala (Nightwish)
J.P. Leppäluoto (Northern Kings)
Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica)
Jarkko Ahola (Terasbetoni, Northern Kings)
Ari Koivunen (Amoral)
Pasi Rantanen (Thunderstone)
Antti Railio (2013 Voice of Finland winner)
Ville Tuomi
Antony Parviainen
Tuple Salmela
Kimmo Blom

The backing musicians:

Erkka Korhonen - guitar, arrangements (Northern King)
Tuomas Wäinölä - guitar
Vili Ollila - keyboards (Northern King)
Mirka Rantanen - drums (Thunderstone)
Erkki Silvennoinen - bass (Omnium Gathering)

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