Hammerfall - Glory to the Brave 20 Year Anniversary Edition (2017)

Glory to the Brave 20 Year Anniversary Edition is a reminder to us that 20 years has passed since the new generation of power metal wave back in the 1997. A great year it was. Hammerfall, in the beginning only as a side project, released this debut with its 10 tracks of pure power metal. Little that they knew (or maybe they knew...) Glory to The Brave will become one of power metal album that catapult the power metal genre back to its glory. In the Southern, an Italian band  Rhapsody of Fire also debut their first album (Legendary Tales ),  which also bring Rhapsody as one of the legend from the era. In their near soil, Nightwish from Finland spring their debut, Angel Fall First, which although not recognized yet, Nightwish will also grow as a big band as today. In the mainland of Europe, Edguy discharge their official debut, Kingdom of Madness. Hammerfall, which is Swedish band, was then part of new power metal generation such as Freedom Call, Dark Moor, Angra from the South America, Sonata Artica, Kamelot from USA,  and Firewind from the Mediterranean sea. Together, these band continued the legacy of their "senior" Helloween, Blind Guardian, Stratovarius and Gamma Ray. Glory to the Brave was an important album that part of this history.

The band remastered all their classic tracks to commemorate their 20th Anniversary. The sound are much clearer, they added more reverb to it, and the guitar distortion got even crunchier than before. Unlike Rhapsody of Fire that re-recorded many of their classic with the new line up in their Into the Legend album,  Hammerfall opted to just remastered their works. The original line up was, surprisingly, Glenn Ljungström as the guitarist that responsible in playing all their classic riffs from the album. Soon, Stefan Elgram joined the band and Hammerfall embraced their further glory with him. As for today, Hammerfall original line up remained Joachim Cans and Oscar Dronjak. The band wisely not re-recorded Glory to the Brave with their current line up.

While their contemporaries try to come up with new direction in power metal : Rhapsody (of Fire) with their theatrical Hollywood score and Nightwish with thick symphonic and female vocalist, Hammerfall done their style with the basic ingredients. Catchy riffs and straightforward song is the trademark of this album. The Dragon Lies Bleeding was extremely basic power metal song. It consisted of one opening riffs and then the whole song run in quiet basic guitar power chord. Same thing with The Metal Age,  the intro riff is just a play harmony of their twin guitar attack. Two songs were a cover version indicated that this was indeed a side project : Child of the Damned was a Warlord cover and Ravenlord was a Stormwitch cover.

For this 20 Year Anniversary Edition, the bonus included another eight tracks live version of the songs. We have listen to this album many times and we are going to listen again. Add this to your collection for sure.

Hammerfall - Glory to the Brave 20 Year Anniversary Edition (2017)

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1. The Dragon Lies Bleeding (Remastered)
2. The Metal Age (Remastered)
3. Hammerfall (Remastered)
4. I Believe (Remastered)
5. Child of the Damned (Remastered)
6. Steel Meets Steel (Remastered)
7. Stone Cold (Remastered)
8. Unchained (Remastered)
9. Glory to the Brave (Remastered)
10. Ravenlord
11. Glory to the Brave (Radio Edit)
12. The Metal Age (Live)
13. Steel Meets Steel (Live)
14. Stone Cold (Live)
15. Glory to the Brave (Live)
16. Hammerfall (Live)
17. The Dragon Lies Bleeding (Live)
18. Glory to the Brave - Medley (Live)

 Joacim Cans – vocals, background harmonies
 Oscar Dronjak – guitar, backing vocals
 Fredrik Larsson – bass guitar, backing vocals
 Glenn Ljungström – guitar
 Jesper Strömblad – drums (Writing credit Only)
 Patrik Räfling – drums


Arrayan Path - Dawn of Aquarius (2017)

Arrayan Path is power / heavy metal from the island of Cyprus. They currently released their 6th studio album, titled "Dawn of Aquarius". As expected from the Mediterranean landscape, their music abide with strong Hellenistic influence. Dawn of Aquarius is kind of concept album with firm connections between songs.

The opener "Equilibrium" is started with folk-like acoustic instrument. The songs started after a minute of intro with a vocalist resembling the of early Kai Hansenese. The highlight of this album are in their Youtube releases : "The Hundred Names of Kali Ma", "So It Shall Be Written",  "Dawn of Aquarius"and  "Lotus Eyes".

Arrayan Path success in bringing their originality in this album. The whole album is heavy and oriental-melodic packed. The Leptos brothers very well handling the song writing that almost the entire album are fresh in my memory after only couple of listening. A very interesting band and album to listen to.

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Arrayan Path are:
Alexis Kleidaras-Guitar
Nicholas Leptos-Vocals
Stefan Dittrich-Drums
Socratis Leptos-Guitar
Paris Lambrou-Bass
George Kallis-Keyboard

Arrayan Path - Dawn of Aquarius (2017)

1. Equilibrium 05:52
2. The Flower Born of Itself 04:49
3. Dark Daughter of the Snake 03:18
4. The Hundred Names of Kali Ma 05:15
5. So It Shall Be Written 06:38
6. She Who Is Primordial Wisdom 04:14
7. Dawn of Aquarius 04:01
8. Cremation Grounds 05:51
9. Empress (Reality of All the Threes) 04:24
10. Lotus Eyes 04:19
11. The Eleventh Mantra 06:11
12. Guardian Angel 05:00
13. Garland of Skulls 03:40


Psychotic Symphony - Sons of Apollo (2017)

Mike Portnoy had assembled several super groups, and joined many as well. His adventure post-Dream Theater era are as followed: Adrenalin Mob (thrash metal), The Winery Dogs ('80s glam rock) and Flying Colors (blues hard rock). As for sideman, he hired by supergroups, most notably in Neil Morse (prog-Christian metal) and Metal Allegiance (mainly thrash metal led by David Ellefson) as far to Twisted Sisters (glam rock). It mean there are various music done by Portnoy that should suit one or two of your prefered metal genre.

However, here come his next project, Sons of Apollo. Firstly, just by hearing the name, this is the band that suggested  something really huge, something spectacular. It is indeed a supergroup that everyone should anticipate. The members are as followed : Derek Sherinian in keyboards, and also look likely a co-founder. Billy Sheehan in bass, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal in guitar. The singer is Jeff Scott Soto. A solid formation with everybody are top gun in their respective instrument. Portnoy, Sheehan and Sherinian was already jamming together several years ago in non-album project, together with guitarist Tony MacAlpine.

Their debut album released this Octhober 2017, titled "Psychotic Symphony". After several days running the disc, I am pretty satisfied with all of their songs. Sons of Apollo might be Mike Portnoy's closest rendition to Dream Theater. In fact, with Derek Sherinian on board, they already 2/5th of Dream Theater. "Gods of the Sun", the first song, is very DT in entrance. It's somewhere fit in Systematic Chaos era of the old band. It's a very good call for opening song, an instant showcase of their five member power in this eleven minutes song. "Coming Home" is their expected hit. The band put their luck in this "Youtube-friendly" song. "Coming Home" is a progressive metal blue print with friendly melody. It has all the elements, keyboard opener, pumping low frequency bass. Ron Thal is showing his double necks guitar, one is a fretless neck that produced distintive guitar solo.

With Derrick Sherinian as co-leader, the songs mostly demonstrated his instrument. "Labyrinth" started with catchy symphonic string layers. Jeff who in the '80s famous as Yngwie Malmsteen front man was knowned as melodic metal and AOR singer. In Labyrinth we enjoyed Jeff Scott Soto's transformation into progressive metal vocalist. "Alive" is a darker piece that opened with clean guitar intro that heavily chorus-ed. We also listen to a short arranged of keyboard instrumental in "Figaro's Whore". Sherinian is playing Deep Purple-ish hammond organ and this continued to the next song "Divine Addiction". Finally the band finale is in "Opus Maximus". A ten minutes epic that most of the composition performed as instrumental song.

Sons of Apollo is indeed an Apollonian works. Mike Portnoy once again returned to his most celebrated genre, the progressive metal of the late 2017 era. For the guitarist, Ron Bumblefoot Thal is an underated shredder. He actually haven't really appeared in major band, except for Guns N' Roses perhaps. Billy Sheehan prove he done well in this game as well, as we often associated him in hard rock scene only. Psychotic Symphony is a big entrance for the big boys. We only hope this project continued as stable line up, with more quality music coming from these maesteurs.

Psychotic Symphony - Sons of Apollo (2017)
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 1. God of the Sun
  2. Coming Home
  3. Signs of the Time
  4. Labyrinth
  5. Alive
  6. Lost in Oblivion
  7. Figaro's Whore
  8. Divine Addiction
  9. Opus Maximus

Jeff Scott Soto (Trans Siberian Orchestra, Talisman, ex-Journey, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, ex-Axel Rudi Pell) – lead vocals
Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal (Art of Anarchy, ex-Guns N' Roses) – guitar
Billy Sheehan (The Winery Dogs, Mr. Big, ex-David Lee Roth) – bass
Derek Sherinian (Black Country Communion, ex-Dream Theater, ex-Alice Cooper, ex-Platypus, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, ex-Kiss) – keyboards
Mike Portnoy  (The Winery Dogs, Transatlantic, Flying Colors, Neal Morse Band, ex-Dream Theater, ex-Adrenaline Mob, ex-Avenged Sevenfold) – drums

Sons of Apollo - Psychotic Symphony album review


Marty Friedman - Wall of Sound (2017)

It's been almost thirty years since Marty Friedman's Cacophony hit the shred world. Afterward, some twenty years since Marty left Megadeth. A while after then he released a shocking New Age albums; Introduction and Scenes. We can say that Marty has gone three different path in all those years. We got a classic '80s Shrapnel + neo classical year in Cacophony (team up with Jason Becker), a thrash metal world in Megadeth and a new born far eastern style in his solo albums. Marty Friedman music has been then continued into several albums starting from Music for Speeding and so on. His new album for 2017 is Wall of Sound.  As expected, his style from this era is a mix between those three genres. Wall of Sound is exactly a guitar album that contained elements of '80s shred, some thrashy riff and Japanese scale that a signature to Marty Friedman.

"Self Pollution" is a thunderous song to begin. As we speaking, Marty has done the most extreme blend on his style in this album. Self Pollution is literally two songs put into one. After a thrashy opening, we immediately jump into a calm, Japanese feel melodic right inside this song. This feature may only be found in Marty Friedman world.

The second song "Sorrow and Madness" is feature with violin playing in it. The song constructed with elements of progressive metal, a new element that has attached in Marty Friedman albums recently. "Whiteworm" is a selected song that Marty produced a Youtube video clip for it. This one has a fluid sweeping intro before the nu-metal-like riff hit it. "For A Friend" is very mellow clean acoustic melody. A song strongly remind us to his Introduction era. "Pussy Ghost" is creative play with modern sounds that fall into nu-metal category. Then we also have a vocal song in "Something to Fight". This song described how Marty Friedman willing to enter modern metal world and reach for younger audience. The vocals was done by Jorgen Munkeby of Shining. "The Soldier" is another very Japanese scale exercise, which continued to "Miracle".

Overall, Wall of Sound from Marty Friedman is another strong released from our ex-Megadeth axeman. This album easily summarized all his adventurous years in Cacophony, Megadeth and his f*&^ing oriental scales. Unlike his previous release "Inferno" where Marty invited many guests to his party, Wall of Sound solely a solo album that focus to himself. Go get it, and listen the West and the East met in Marty Friedman universe.

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Marty Friedman - Wall of Sound (2017)

01. Self Pollution (5:54)
02. Sorrow and Madness (feat. Jinxx of Black Veil Brides) (6:41)
03. Streetlight (4:05)
04. Whiteworm (4:36)
05. For A Friend (3:19)
06. Pussy Ghost (feat. Shiv Mehra of Deafheaven) (5:58)
07. The Blackest Rose (3:40)
08. Something to Fight (feat. Jorgen Munkeby of Shining) (4:46)
09. The Soldier (3:58)
10. Miracle (3:54)
11. Last Lament (6:56)


Anthriel - Transcendence (2017)

In year 2010, progressive metal fans surprised by the arrival of Anthriel, a young group from Finland. Their debut album, The Pathway, was a success. The quartet were at least bookmarked and put under watch list by the fans. However, it takes about seven years to continued what they have done. Transcendence is Anthriel's second studio album, with seven years gap after The Pathway. The good news is, the album is meet the expectations.  In Transcendence, all eight tracks displayed the spirit of traditional progressive metal genre as we often hear way back then. Transcendence included the feel of classic Dream Theater as in their Scene from A Memory-era way back to Queensryche. The band put every good things we hear from other prog band such as Circus Maximus and Symphony X.

The album building up with "The Calling", an introduction song similar to Dream Theater's Regression song. The Calling transformed the atmosphere into Anthriel's world.  This followed up with "Under Burning Skies", an heavy song that connected the classic progressive riff and strong oriental theme played with Indian-like voices. The journey continued to "Oath Of Darkness" that run in lengthy eleven minutes. This is where the conceptual theme being discussed in detail. In the whole eleven minutes, the main theme occurred sporadically to serves as connecting theme. "Siren's Song" is also a very progressive one. After the keyboard lick, a grooving guitar riffs quickly takes over. Only several listening, the riff from this song will stayed in your head.

"Painted Shadows" is an Yngwie Malmsteen inspired song. The neo classical feel brings us back to the era of Yngwie's Trilogy Suite era. Interestingly, the band decide to titled the next song "Rhapsody of Fire", kind of homage to the Italian band. The song itself is very Symphony X rather than RoF. "My Dark Morning Star" is another odd-metered song serves as a bridge to the 19 minutes finale, "Fallen Souls".

Transcendence is an awesome follow up to Anthriel's first album. The music styles did not change much. The only notable differences is,  The Pathway still gives us a power metal feel, while  Transcendence is a rather dark one. As any good album out there, the power of this album is their strong song writing. The quartet put an awesome works of musicianship as well, as this album comprised of many awesome details. This is a good start to get into this band for those who haven't listen to them yet. It will be a challenge for the band to put the next followed up album, but in the meantime, let's enjoy this

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

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Anthriel - Transcendence (2017)

1. The Calling
2. Under Burning Skies
3. Oath Of Darkness
4. Siren's Song
5. Painted Shadows
6. Rhapsody Of Fire
7. My Dark Morning Star
8. Fallen Souls

- Timo Niemistö / Guitar
- Antti Horttana / Bass
- Henrikki Markkula / Drums
- Simo Silvan / Vocals


The Ferrymen - The Ferrymen (2017)

Magnus Karlsson had started yet another metal project. This time, the guitarist from Primal Fear teamed up as trio with drummer Mike Terrana (Tarja, Axel Rudi Pell, Yngwie Malmsteen) and vocalist Ronnie Romero (Rainbow). A strong line up indeed! The trio doing yet another melodic metal stuffs, but of course with such creative mind on board, there are many wet ideas to be found.

First thing about this record is the presence of Ronnie Romero's. His new energy spend in this album will added more color to those who already familiar with his voices. As for started "End Of The Road" is a traditional heavy metal tunes that remained us to Rage, Masterplan and Primal Fear, bands that belong (or ex-belong) to the member of The Ferrymen. Magnus Karlsson released his beastly shredding with creative riffs and speed light solos, to lift up the expectation of his guitar hero status. "Ferryman" is a promising melodic metal stuff dive into the area of old Stratovarius. For Mike Terrana, he truly he meet his match in the third track "Fool You All", where Magnus Karlsson trying to mimic old Whitesnake "Fool for Your Loving" riffs. Mike blasted out some powerful drum fill in every connecting passages. Ronnie Romero try out old Rainbow-like stuff in ballad "One Heart". "Eternal Night" show this album tendency to expanded into the old '80s stuff, with nostalgic high notes singing.

The Ferrymen is not that ordinary side project with random veteran musicians jammed up. This album is a very productive collaboration between three musicians that happened to be big names in their respective band. Listeners can expected traditional heavy metal stuffs with details performance of Magnus Karlsson guitar works and Mike Terrana drumming. On top of that Ronnie Romero is doing great job interpreting ideas with his vocals. Song writing is a fantastic factor in this album, that basically done a regular heavy metal and power metal stuffs. Lovely and successful debut album indeed.

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

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The Ferrymen - The Ferrymen (2017)

01. End Of The Road
02. Ferryman
03. Fool You All
04. Still Standing Up
05. Cry Wolf
06. One Heart
07. Darkest Hour
08. How The Story Ends
09. Enter Your Dream
10. Eyes On The Sky
11. Eternal Night
12. Welcome To My Show

Mike Terrana : drums
Magnus Karlsson : guitars, bass, keyboards
Ronnie Romero : vocals


Legendary Years - Rhapsody of Fire (2017)

As we know, the saga of world once most bombastic power metal band Rhapsody of Fire has really reach its climax. In 2011,  a friendly split had taken the band into two groups. It took six years later that Fabio Lione, the voice Rhapsody of Fire has also finally left the band. On this matter, Giacomo Voli been recruited as replacement for new vocalist. The other long time member, drummer Alex Holzwarth also left the band and respectively replaced by Manu Lotter. As the most up to date formation, it is only Alex Straropoli that being the only original member of the band. With this in mind, the almost new band of Rhapsody of Fire decided to do a compilation album. The problem is, they redo all the songs despite of how legendary the original one is. Legendary Years is a remake of Rhapsody of Fire's favorite tunes. If you haven't decided how to put all RoF best hits into one album, well, the compilation of songs for Legendary Years is well selected. In this album, the band bring the best riffs, the best ballad and the best epic for listener.

The good things of the remake happen to fall to all songs from their first album : Legendary Tales.  "Flames of Revenge", "Land of Immortals", "Legendary Tales" are the song benefit from this remake. The modern recording and mixing quality are worth for the remake. Even though we all love the original version of course. Simply say it, the one with Luca Turilli! However, the band decided to decreased the volume of the orchestra channel. Listen to the first song "Dawn of Victory", just when the orchestration joined in, the power is not as bombastic as the original version. The other thing to notice is how the guitar distortion is softer than the original version. Two songs that slightly affected by this version are "Dargor, Shadowlord of the Black Mountain" and "Holy Thunderforce", I just love the original version because its guitar rawness compare to the new one. The last thing to compare is the vocal done by Giacomo Voli, although I will simply enjoy the new singer to reinterpreted all these songs.

Legendary Years is  a great compilation that shown how the band become as legend-wait for it-dary, as today. Fourteen songs selected to refill our memories on the best moment in the late '90, where we all wait for new Rhapsody album to be released from Italy! All the remake done in 99.99% faithful to the original. Modern technology help us owned these new recordings. Let's put the past behind us and welcome the once again new Rhapsody of Fire line up, performing our favorite classic tunes from the band.

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Legendary Years - Rhapsody of Fire (2017)

1. "Dawn of Victory" Dawn of Victory 4:44
2. "Knightrider of Doom" Power of the Dragonflame 3:58
3. "Flames of Revenge" Legendary Tales 5:32
4. "Beyond the Gates of Infinity" Symphony of Enchanted Lands 7:21
5. "Land of Immortals" Legendary Tales 4:53
6. "Emerald Sword" Symphony of Enchanted Lands 4:23
7. "Legendary Tales" Legendary Tales 7:49
8. "Dargor, Shadowlord of the Black Mountain" Dawn of Victory 4:47
9. "When Demons Awake" Power of the Dragonflame 6:46
10. "Wings of Destiny" Symphony of Enchanted Lands 4:17
11. "Riding the Winds of Eternity" Symphony of Enchanted Lands 4:12
12. "The Dark Tower of Abyss" Symphony of Enchanted Lands 6:51
13. "Holy Thunderforce" Dawn of Victory 4:20
14. "Rain of a Thousand Flames" Rain of a Thousand Flames 3:43
15. "Where Dragons Fly" Emerald Sword (Japan Bonus)

 Giacomo Voli – lead vocals
 Roby De Micheli – guitar
 Alessandro Sala – bass
 Alex Staropoli – keyboards
 Manu Lotter – drums


Seven Kingdoms - Decennium (2017)

The existence of power metal in Easteros is less heard than in Westeros. However, a group of free-swords from little swamp area of Florida had been crafting this genre of skill for a while by now. They called themself "Seven Kingdoms" , obviously worshiper of the Iron Throne in Westeros. So far the band had released to the world at least four albums. Their latest is called "Decennium", consisted of ten musical poems. Just as their previous released, Decennium is a compilation of tales about what happening right now in, well, the Seven Kingdoms.

Since the death of Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark, the unrest had been going on for several winters by now. The first poems heard in "Stargazer" should revealed what the rumored we have heard so far. And if the tension between the Northern and Southern hasn't got enough for us, the next poems "Undying" and "In the Walls" are not for children to listen. These tells about the white walkers. There also a strange gossip script in "The Tale of Deathface Ginny", whether this is a pure entertainment or maybe a hidden message, the music is quite amusing. "Castles in the Snow" has an opening riff that seems like a competitor to one of the band in Easteros, HammerFall. The two axeman are of course the large part of attraction in this album, their magic skill of guitar playing is beyond the capable of normal human.

The passion of Jaime Lannister and his sword obviously been an inspiration in  "Kingslayer". If you interested in the triangle love story of Cerse-Jaime-Brienne, well maybe there is a chance that is included in the lyric. The band also trying to dig the mystery of "The Faceless Hero". Where the rumored we known so far had strongly connected to Arya Starks. As for the rest of the album, are songs taken from what the bird whisper, probably to the ear of Lord Petyr Baelish, the Little Finger.

The young woman screaming in this compilation is Lady Sabrina Valentine. She was with axemen Camden Cruz and Kevin Byrd, who happened to be a brother to the percussion master, Keith Byrd. To complete the formation, is a low string pluckman, sir Aaron Sluss, probably from one of the House in Qarth region. Decennium is a love war story from our realm. If you have listened to the band before, Decennium should be familiar as their style of art hadn't been of any changes. The band had continued their success by marrying power metal and strange tales in Seven Kingdoms. Do not miss the chance to entertained our self with this wonderful album, grab them in the nearest tavern and shop. Especially when the Dragon Queen is about to land in Westeros, very soon.

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Seven Kingdoms - Decennium (2017)

1. Stargazer 05:08
2. Undying 05:12
3. In the Walls 04:52
4. The Tale of Deathface Ginny 04:55
5. Castles in the Snow 05:09
6. Kingslayer 05:56
7. The Faceless Hero 04:16
8. Neverending 05:46
9. Hollow 04:49
10. Awakened from Nothing 05:32

Keith Byrd Drums
Kevin Byrd Guitars
Camden Cruz Guitars
Sabrina Valentine Vocals
Aaron Sluss Bass


Ayreon - The Source (2017)

From what started only as experimental project, Ayreon has now become one of most respected metal opera in the industry. One of the most waited as well. We have reach the ninth studio album of Ayreon, an 2017 release that simply called The Source. As we know, each album consisted of complex music in the spirit of metal opera with multiple story and plots. When I first listen to Ayreon, (it was The Human Equation album), it took days to fully grab the whole music. In short, when Ayreon album is coming up, it's a busy day in the office to write a review. (See The Theory of Everything review here)

Ayreon wouldn't be a metal opera without Arjen Lucassen Justice League-like recruitment. Arjen just picked the greatest musician in the list and put them in task to finish his album. Sounds pretty good. So, before reviewing the music, we should satisfied our eyes with a list of musicians invited here in The Source . As listed below, there are recurring characters such as James LaBrie as The Historian, Tobias Sammet, Tommy Karevik and so on. On the musician listed, we got a boost from big names such as Paul Gilbert. Seriously, this is kind of a blend between Arrowverse and Marvel universe when we can combine the world of Dream Theater and Mr.Big and Guthrie Govan, in one band.
    James LaBrie (Dream Theater) as The Historian
    Tommy Karevik (Kamelot, Seventh Wonder) as The Opposition Leader
    Tommy Rogers (Between the Buried and Me) as The Chemist
    Simone Simons (Epica) as The Counselor
    Nils K. Rue (Pagan's Mind) as The Prophet
    Tobias Sammet (Edguy, Avantasia) as The Captain
    Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) as The Astronomer
    Mike Mills (Toehider) as TH-1
    Russell Allen (Symphony X) as The President
    Michael Eriksen (Circus Maximus) as The Diplomat
    Floor Jansen (Nightwish, ex-After Forever) as The Biologist
    Zaher Zorgati (Myrath) as The Preacher
    Arjen Anthony Lucassen - production, mixing, recording
    Yann Souetre - cover art and booklet
    Arjen Anthony Lucassen - electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, keyboards etc.
    Ed Warby - drums
    Joost van den Broek (ex-After Forever) - piano
    Ben Mathot - violin
    Maaike Peterse (Kingfisher Sky) - cello
    Jeroen Goossens (ex-Pater Moeskroen) - flute, wind instruments
    Paul Gilbert - guitar solo
    Guthrie Govan (The Aristocrats, ex-Asia) - guitar solo
    Marcel Coenen (Sun Caged) - guitar solo
    Mark Kelly (Marillion) - synthesizer solo
Now the music is based on one of Ayreon universe. This is believe to be the prequel to a storyline that ended in 01011001 album. Well, short of J.K. Rowling temptation to write Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them thing. By the way, we can simply ignore the narration and started enjoying the musics. Admit it or not, even though all the progressive metal band try to do something out of the box, they always sounds as what they are.  We kind of easily distinguished Arjen Lucassen works. His melody is prominent to acknowledged. The first couple of notes in the first opening song "The Day That the World Breaks Down" .already revealed who's the artist before we read the cover. This is not to say that the music will be repeating the work prior, but with this "limited exploration" come another 87 minutes of adventure.

The Source opened up with that song which last 12:56 minutes. The song simply divided in two big section that cut in the "01110100 01110010 01110101 01110011 01110100 01010100 01001000 00110001" lyric sung by TH-1 (Michael Mills). The second section of The Day That the World Breaks Down started with a nice bass grove with a lyric revealing more about the story. The second interesting point is in the song "Everybody Dies". This is kind of Queen cross over with Dream Theater breed. Jump to "All That Was", we got female voices in this song. All That Was is the real first de javu we have. I swear I listened to this melody before, a very good amnestic experience by composer Arjen. For those who love power metal, "Run! Apocalypse! Run!" is one of catchy tunes. The other song that having strong guitar riff can be found in "Aquatic Race". Then come "The Dream Dissolves" and most significant in "Deathcry of a Race" which having Jethro Tull-like flute tunes. "Into the Ocean" is very Rainbow-like of '80s hair metal sounds. Think this is one of my favorite from the album. In the final parts, after several "filler" songs, the last moment is in "Journey to Forever". The plot twister a mandolin sounds for sure. The album ended with "March of the Machines", a robotic sound song. The album very much ended in a hanging plot in the style of Game of Thrones. Or perhaps this should continued in one of Ayreon past album. I having confirmed it yet. See, a busy day in the office.

Imagine there is a metal version of La La Land. Ayreon's The Source is not only the La La Land of progressive metal, this is the Star War double trilogy of prog metal. There are enough music composition for every scenes and details. Even after passing nine studio albums, this album is in the same quality as their predecessor.  Grab this and listen to the story prior the destruction of human being, in the place far from solar system.

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

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Disc 1
1. The Day That the World Breaks Down
2. Sea of Machines
3. Everybody Dies
4. Star of Sirrah
5. All That Was
6. Run! Apocalypse! Run!
7. Condemned To Live

Disc 2
1. Aquatic Race
2. The Dream Dissolves
3. Deathcry of a Race
4. Into the Ocean
5. Bay of Dreams
6. Planet Y Is Alive!
7. The Source Will Flow
8. Journey To Forever
9. The Human Compulsion
10. March of the Machines


Aldaria - Land of Light (2017)

Just when we thought the metal opera genre is slowing down, here the new supergroup ALDARIA with their metal opera album Land of Light. Aldaria kind of marked a new wave of power metal band by bringing mostly new army on his belt. The project was initiated and created by Frode Hovd from Norway band, Memorized Dreams. The line up musicians included Roland Grapow, who produced the album. Names such as Mike LePond, Fabio Lione, Uli Kusch, Rob Lungren were listed. However when names such as PelleK, Tommy ReinXeed, Yannis Papadopoulos, Sigfried Samer and so on appeared, this is the other side of power metal forces that screaming to be heard in a project like metal opera.

Land of Light is a metal opera album, the concept are crystal clear in their website :

In the year 1247 AD, there was found an ancient scroll deep within a tomb below what once was the glorious city of Babylon. The scroll was believed to be written by our Creator Himself, describing a world yet unknown to mankind. These scrolls have, until this day, been kept hidden and locked up, deep within hallways below Rome.  

 The gospel speaks of Aldaria, a place and dimension between Heaven & Hell where the fallen are reborn as angels, and where the sinners come to be redeemed or forever banished to Hell.  Today we learn about these stories, the foundation of our existence, as there are signs of a darker time ahead. Reports from all around the world talk about torn and slain angels falling from the sky, each with a common warning: The darkness has found a way into Aldaria, where the Key to enter the Gates of Heaven has been hidden since beginning of time.   .... and so on

With that premises, we got an album that strictly followed what a traditional metal opera album should be. We got "Excitare Ad Lucem" as the intro, a Latinesque opening choir. The songs, and the finale that of course lasted ten minutes up, "Land of Light". The whole album is a combo between elements of Avantasia, Rhapsody of Fire, oldies Helloween and Dan Brown.

Aldaria Land of Light brings us the first serious metal opera album in 2017. This album supported by zillions of metal musicians. This album is as power metal as it can be, originality is never really their issue. You will listen tons of familiar riffs, song are quite straight forward. The strongest point in this album is about listening to our favorite singers and musicians working together constructed a story about angels and demons. Come and join the crowd in Land of Light.

Metal Harem class : 7.5/10 

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Aldaria - Land of Light (2017)

01. Excitare Ad Lucem
02. Another Life
03. Guardians of the Light
04. Sands of Time
05. Lost in the Darkness Below
06. Test of Time
07. Trail of Tears
08. Where Reality Ends
09. From the Ashes
10. Answers in a Dream
11. Land of Light

Guitars :
Frode Hovd (Memorized Dreams), Christer Harøy (Divided Multitude), Jimmy Hedlund (Falconer),
Roland Grapow (Masterplan), Eskild Kløften (Divided Multitude) ,Filip Koluš (Signum Regis)

Bass :
Rayner Harøy (Divided Multitude), Mike LePond (Symphony X) , Ronnie König (Signum Regis)
Filip Andel (Within Silence) ,Kenneth Skarsvaag (Memorized Dreams)

Drums :
Andreas Nergård (Nergard), Uli Kusch (ex Helloween), Robert Myrhaug (Memorized Dreams)

Mistheria (Mistheria), Peter Danielsen (Darkest Sins)
Gabriels (Gabriels) , Peter Crowley's Fantasy Dream

Fabio Lione (Rhapsody of Fire), Todd Michael Hall (Riot V), Rick Altzi (Masterplan)
Mathias Blad (Falconer), Jonas Heidgert (Dragonland), Tommy ReinXeed (ReinXeed)
Yannis Papadopoulos (Wardrum), Rob Lundgren, David Åkesson (Qantice)
Marit Minniva Børresen (Marit Børresen), PelleK, Bernt Fjellestad (Guardians Of Time)
Vasilis Georgiou (Sunburst), Sigfried Samer (Dragony),
Kristoffer Göbel (ex Destiny / ex Falconer), Mina Giannopoulou


Axxis - Retrolution (2017)

Although being a hard rock band since the '80s, Axxis must be the lesser known son of Germany heavy metal. They were first known with their debut album, Kingdom of the Night, which released in 1989. Along with Accept, Scorpions, Helloween, Blind Guardian, the scene is a bit too crowd for international fans to reach Axxis. I myself included. I should considered lucky as I introduced to Axxis just only in recent years. My last experiences with Bernhard Weiß (the vocalist) and friends was in their 2014 double album : Kingdom of the Night II. Those two was very fine albums for me and stay in my player list for so long. That mean the expectation to hear more in this new album is high. Retrolution, a wordplay for Retro and Revolution,  shipped out in January 2017. As the album title suggest, this should be Axxis doing what they best, a retro '80s melodic rock with  digital age revolution sounds.

A quick shout out, Retrolution is doing fine! The first track "Burn! Burn! Burn!" is simple hard rock song with catchy twang guitar riff. Axxis strongest asset is their song writings that are simply melodic and enjoyable. This song, and many incoming, are showcase of that. The second song "All My Friends Are Liars" is also excellent. The title is already creative, thus turn into memorable chorus that you might unconsciously sing out loud. Be careful not to hum this when you hang out with friends. "Dream Chaser" might started with very cliche keyboard motive, but this song represent all the trademark by Axxis. It's just a short verse and then we completely jump to the chorus, which is always sing-together-friendly. Of the more faster song, "Rock The Night" is the one with full blast and double kick drum. As for slow ballad, try "Queen Of The Wind". One of other thing best found in Axxis is the creative drum pattern. "Somebody Died At The Party" is the song that powered up with that tasty drum solo. This followed by "Heavy Metal Brother" , then the final song "Welcome To My Nightmare".

With Retrolution, I have extended my admiration for Axxis. This band simply always put out the best song written in melodic hard rock. Some new sound found in Retrolution is, there are a number of heavy pentatonic riff done with that rather country-sounds guitar. This album has definitely a significant different compared to their very previous "Kingdom of the Night II" album, that's for sure. So that is a lot of new enjoyment on this album. If you have yet listen to Axxis, this album will do for your introduction also. Come ye all heavy metal brother and welcome to my nightmare.

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

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Axxis - Retrolution (2017) 

01. Burn! Burn! Burn!
02. All My Friends Are Liars
03. Dream Chaser
04. Burn Down Your House
05. Rock The Night
06. The World Is Mine
07. Do It Better
08. Queen Of The Wind
09. Seven Devils
10. This Is My Day
11. Somebody Died At The Party
12. Heavy Metal Brother
13. Welcome To My Nightmare
14. Demons Dare To Stay [CD bonus]

    Bernhard Weiß - vocals (1988–present)
    Harry Oellers - keyboard (1988–present)
    Rob Schomaker - bass (2004–present)
    Dirk Brand - drums (2012–present)
    Stefan Weber - guitars (2015–present)


Place Vendome - Close To The Sun (2017)

AOR is always an interesting genre to listen. The genre mostly built up on rich melodic elements, played on mid-tempo setup. There is actually a typical AOR tempo, which is not so fast but just enough. The music is usually full of spirit, fit well into movie scenes also. Michael Kiske happened to be in one of this AOR based band. Place Vendome is unique project where bassist of Pink Cream spend his alternate world creating AOR album. In this Place Vendome exactly, Michael Kiske is the lead vocal assigned by Dennis Ward. They already produced at least four studio albums so far. Close To The Sun is their latest, as their most previous is Thunder In The Distance released in 2013 with Streets of Fire and Place Vendome earlier. See, even the album titles are fanciful phrases.

Close To The Sun is the same title for the opening song. It is quite a heavy one. Melodic intro in full force are our entrance to this song. One must admit that Michael Kiske's melancholic voices is just naturally fit into this genre. The song went smoothly for long time listener, thus if you already get to know Place Vendome on their previous albums, this one sounds exactly as one of their collections. In this album, the band invited several guest guitarists, just to take up the solos. Uwe  Reitenauer is the first soloist, he is kind of "resident" guitarist as he is played in Pink Cream also. The second song is rather trivial, "Welcome To The Edge". The thing is, the chosen vocal style may take us off the guard. Just listen to the thick bass voice that open the song. Even so, the song itself is a direct continuation to the first song. A typical AOR with interesting choice of singing.

"Hereafter" is enpowered with bit of progressive metal taste. The guitarist in lead is Simone Mularoni of DGM, a progressive metal band indeed. We will then calm the storm for a while with piano ballad "Strong". Immediately after that, we back to business with "Across The Times". The intro is excellent, as if the band is never lack a powerful melody. "Riding The Ghost" is based on hard rock guitar riff. On "Light Before The Dark" a long intro brings us to the next fantasy world. This is one of my favorite on this package, well writing structure with elements of neo-classical solos by Gus G.

There is also a point in the album where things taken slower, as in "Breathing" and "Yesterday Is Gone". A power ballad with lot of character singings inside. On the last part, is "Hellen", a very vintage '80s AOR feel song.

Overall, Close To The Sun is very well written album. Though I enjoy Place Vendome very first album the most, this one may be called the second best of their discography. One thing need to caution, Close To The Sun is much more heavy, more metal than before. The addition of guest soloist could be the reason, they brutalize the song a lot. It's nice to see the band keep the quality consistent for each albums. Lastly, the two other members also deserved praises, Gunter Werno is imaginative keys player. While the drummer, Dirk Bruinenberg is doing his second Place Vendome album and successfully integrated. On top of those, this album is strongly attribute to Michael Kiske appearances.

Place Vendome - Close To The Sun (2017)
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1. Close To The Sun (4:32)
2. Welcome To The Edge (4:30)
3. Hereafter (4:26)
4. Strong (4:49)
5. Across The Times (4:51)
6. Riding The Ghost (3:57)
7. Light Before The Dark (4:11)
8. Falling Star (4:50)
9. Breathing (4:43)
10. Yesterday Is Gone (4:33)
11. Helen (5:00)
12. Distant Skies (5:28)
13. Strong (Orchestral Version) (Japan Bonus Track) (3:19)

Michael Kiske - Vocals
Dennis Ward - Bass, Rhythm Guitars
Uwe Reitenauer - Rhythm Guitars in "Welcome To The Edge", "Across The Times", "Close To The Sun", "Hearafter"
Gunter Werno - Keyboards
Dirk Bruinenberg - Drums
Guitar Solos :
Michael Klein on "Yesterday Is Gone", "Distant Skies", "Strong", "Breathing".
Uwe Reitenauer on "Close To the Sun"
Alfred Koffler on "Welcome To The Edge"
Magnus Karlsson on "Falling Star"
Gus G. on "Light Beyond The Dark"
Simone Mularoni on "Hearafter"
Mandy Meyer on "Helen"
Kai Hansen on "Riding The Ghost" and "Across The Times"

Produced by Dennis Ward

Place Vendome Close To The Sun album review
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