Welcome to the first post in a brand new series called ‘new sounds to wrap your ears around’
The idea of these posts is simple. Every week, I am inundated with requests and/or updates from bands that are either well-known, deep in the underground, or brand new. Often, these requests or updates seek to get me to feature a new song on my website. Up until now, I’ve had to say ‘thanks, but I only have time to feature albums and EPs’.
I hate saying ‘no’ to anyone in a musical context, so I have come up with something that I hope will please everyone: a regular round-up of some of the new sounds that are out there that you may have missed, or you simply weren’t even aware existed. More often than not, the music featured here will then translate into an album or EP review in due course, but it doesn’t have to. This is a new platform to shine the spotlight in any direction and on any subgenre. The only criteria is that I have to like it.
I’m happy to tweak the format dependng on suggestions or feedback, but let’s get started with this first instalment…
— MoMM —
Artist: Hyper Planet
Song Title: “To Live With Wisdom”
Album info: N/A
Hyper Planet are a progressive metal band from Tehran, Iran. I was contacted recently and asked if I would feature their new song on my website. In fact, this was the catalyst for this whole new feature, as I wanted to give the song a bit of a plug. Incorporating traditional instrumentation and lyrics that talk of the struggles of being an Iranian metal band, it immediately interested me. Plus, as you’ll hear, the song itself is a great slab of prog metal that successfully blends melody and complexity together. Check it out:
— MoMM —
Artist: Virtual Symmetry
Song Title: “Come Alive”
Album info: “Virtual Symmetry” – 16 September 2022
Label: Sensory Records
Swiss progressive metal band Virtual Symmetry may be a more widely-known band, but they are featured here for two important reasons. Firstly, they are one of the support acts for Evergrey’s European tour which kicks off on the same day as this self-titled album, their fourth, is released. And secondly, I really like the song. But then, as it’s a realy nice mix of prog metal and Euro power metal, with bucket loads of melody, it’s hardly surprising that I like it, is it?!
— MoMM —
Artist: Demon Hunter
Song: “Silence The World” (feat. Tom Englund)
Album info: “Exile” –9 September 2022
Label: Weapons FMG
Were it not for a loyal reader tipping me off about this song, I might have missed it altogether. So I had to spread the word just in case it had slipped past anyone else’s radar too. Featuring the peerless Tom Englund as a guest vocalist, it immediately piqued my interest and the ensuing moody and atmospheric composition has really grown on me over repeated listens. Unbelievably, the upcoming album, ‘Exile’, is Demon Hunter’s eleventh full-length release. And until a few days ago, I’d never heard of them. I will do all I can to bring you a review in due course. In the mantime, enjoy ‘Silence The World’:
— MoMM —
Album info: “Pagans Rising” – 30 September 2022
Label: ViciSolum Productions
This is a song that caught me by surprise, because I wasn’t expecting anything much when I checked it out recently. I’m not the biggest fan of symphonic metal at the best of times, but this is a little different because it rocks hard, it’s sufficiently heavy, and the melodies are strong. I also like the mix of clean female vocals and growls which normally are a little cliched, but given the attitude and grit within Tina Gunnarsson’s performance, it’s hard not to like the final product. This definitely has potential…
I have closely followed the career of Pete Morten ever since I discovered him whilst plying his trade with UK progressive metal band Threshold. Being involved in some of my favourite and most enduring records by one of the best bands within the genre will certainly help with the spotlight. However, in 2017, after a decade in which he played the guitar on both ‘March Of Progress’ (2012) and ‘For The Journey’ (2014), Pete decided that he wanted to focus solely on his own music, and own band, My Soliloquy.
Until now, Pete Morten has released two albums under the My Soliloquy moniker, ‘The Interpreter’ in 2013, followed by ‘Engines Of Gravity’ four years later. And now, in 2022, Pete and My Soliloquy bring us the third instalment, ‘Fu3ion’, this time under his own steam, through his label, Rare Artist Music.
In the spirit of transparency, I do have to declare at this point that I have a friendship with Pete. As I have written in the past, it makes for a difficult review process because I have to constantly question myself and ensure that I am remaining objective with my findings – I do not want to compromise on my integrity, so however much I like the person/people behind the music, I have to remain absolutely honest. If their music stinks, then that’s what I have to report. Fortunately, with a completely clear conscience, I can attest to the complete opposite reality here.
With a noticeable improvement from the debut to the second release, I lavished a score of 9.25 on ‘Engines Of Gravity’. I stand by that score even now. But I am going to have to go even higher here with ‘Fu3ion’ because I am thoroughly impressed with it; it is easily Morten’s best solo material that he has written and performed to date, and that is certainly saying something.
The very first thing that hit me right from the start with ‘Fu3ion’ is that it contains some of the most immediate material that Morten has ever penned. The melodies are big, and when I say ‘big’, I actually mean ‘huge’. There are hooks littered about this record like no-one’s business, something that pleases me greatly. However, if you are a fan of music that’s more progressive and less melodic, you might not end up with the same concluding thoughts as I. That’s not to say that ‘Fu3ion’ is a straight-up melodic metal album, because it isn’t. There is still plenty of prog complexity to be heard, as well as lots of variety. Some of the complexity is very subtle, some of it quite deceptive, but like some of my favourites in the genre, Kingcrow for example, just because it doesn’t sound complicated doesn’t mean that it isn’t.
As I understand it, this more immediate approach to the music on this album was completely deliberate from Pete Morten. And if that was his end game, then he has well and truly succeeded with ‘Fu3ion’. The multi-instrumentalist who handled all guitars, bass, keys, and vocals, not to mention the artwork and production alongside Rob Aubrey (Transatlantic, IQ, Big Big Train, Spock’s Beard) is joined on this venture by his ex-colleague, Threshold’s Johanne James on the drums. It makes for a winning partnership here and reinforces the occasional hint of Threshold within the music on this album. For the avoidance of doubt, this is not a bad thing at all.
‘Fu3ion’ opens with ‘Triunion’, an introductory piece that is ushered in by bold synth sounds and a slow-paced but resolute drumbeat from James. The sounds intensify with a dramatic, cinematic feel, overlaid by the unmistakeable voice of Pete Morten meting out the minimal lyrics in mantra-like style. In terms of building the tension, it’s an excellent way to begin the record.
For me, as interesting as the first track is, it’s in the follow-up, ‘Kingship’ when the magic hits. And it hits me incredibly hard, with the gloriously melodic and powerful chorus hitting a sweet spot with me and resonating so strongly that I get chills and goosebumps almost every time it kicks in. And a lot of this has to do with the soaring, emotional vocals of Morten that sound brilliant here. But the remainder of the song isn’t bad either to put it bluntly. The bass playing is a particularly ear-catching aspect of the song for a start, standing out within a high-tempo energetic intro that also features melodic keys and chunky guitars to create something of a power metal/prog fusion.
You have to back up a great opening song with further high quality though, and that’s exactly what happens here, with track after track delivering something beguiling and thoroughly engaging to listen to. The intro to ‘Mind Storms’ is the kind of output that gets my blood pumping, as it is an epic, melodic affair, with thunderous drumming from James and muscular guitar tones to underline the properly metallic credentials of My Soliloquy. The ensuing verse takes things down a notch but in so doing creates great dynamics, as it’s an atmospheric-led section that deliberately builds to unleash a reprise of the intro as the captivating chorus, so majestic in its sprawling glory. With Pete Morten at the helm, expect some technically adept but engaging lead solos too, with this being one of the most striking to my ears.
I can’t possibly continue to describe each of the ten tracks (twelve if you include the bonus songs that feature as part of the limited-edition version) because if I did, it’d take longer to read than it would to listen to the entire record. As such, allow me to give you more of a flavour of what you can expect as you delve further into ‘Fu3ion’, starting with the shorter, punchier, and slightly heavier ‘The Great Polarity’ which is no less catchy, thanks to a stomping pace and incisive chorus, laced with some great lead guitar flamboyance.
‘Here In The House Of I’ by contrast, is immediately one of the most progressive sounding songs on the album, dominated in the early stages by some arresting synth embellishments and a really nice insistent riff. But once again, I’m floored by the chorus, another thing of impressive beauty, that materialises almost unexpectedly out of nowhere, from within a much more robust, slightly darker and heavy framework, full of drama and intrigue.
It can’t get better, though, can it? Well that depends on your point of view, but ‘Office Of Imaginings’, a near nine-minute monster certainly tries its best. After a more atmospheric and foreboding intro, I’m covered from head to toe in goosebumps once again as Morten hits us with yet another wondrous chorus where vocals and lead guitar lines combine in scintillating fashion not for the first time. I love the way that the song takes its time to get right under the skin, the dense atmospheres and palpable emotion gradually seeping into the listener almost insidiously until the point that you realise just how invested you are with the song as a whole. If that wasn’t enough, Johanne James also adds a little of his rapping talents, but don’t worry, Fred Durst this is not, thankfully, far from it.
‘Interlocuter’ is a lovely change of pace; a shorter track that’s predominantly acoustic guitars, and vocals, with some orchestral style synths and sparce drumming for added depth. That is, until the halfway mark, when a full-on symphonic metal ballad is unleashed in handsome fashion. And then there’s ‘Bury Your Dead’ which, as the title may suggest, is arguably the heaviest song on the album, full of beefy, no-nonsense riffs at its heart, but with some incredibly bold synths in places too, as well as some cracking twists and turns in true prog fashion.
According to the artist himself, the album has been inspired by a best-selling trilogy of books. I have my theories, but I shall keep them to myself so that when you listen, because listen you will, you can form your own theories. But whether I am right or wrong, it doesn’t matter one iota because the music alone is enough to satisfy all my progressive and melodic cravings. ‘Fu3ion’ is an absolute must-have for all like-minded prog fans because it sees the talented, humble, and genuinely lovely Pete Morten at the very top of his game in all respects. I know that the music world is often fickle and unfair, but for once I hope that fairness prevails because if it does, it will mean that Pete Morten and My Soliloquy will achieve the recognition that they so fully deserve. ‘Fu3ion’ is utterly brilliant, simple as.
If I’m honest, when I saw this release nestled within my promo pile, I didn’t have high expectations for it. I’d never heard of Ironflame before, and the questionable and dated cover artwork did nothing to whet my appetite when I first laid eyes on it. I’ve leaned to trust my instincts though, and as we are at a point in the year when there are slightly fewer albums released, I had the time to try out those instincts once again.
The album in question is ‘Where Madness Dwells’, the fourth album from Ohio-based Ironflame, and it has taken me more than a little by surprise – in a good way. The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Andrew D’Cagna, Ironflame was conceived back in 2016 as a one-off to honour a friend that passed away. But when you do things well, people always want more. And so here we are some six years later, with album number four, a remarkable feat in a number of ways. Not only is D’Cagna still active in other bands such as Icarus Witch and Brimstone Coven, he has essentially, once again, created the music on this latest Ironflame album himself. He is joined by guitarists Quinn Lukas and Jesse Scott, bassist James Babcock, and drummer Noah Skiba, but these guys are his live band. In the studio though, only the solos were outsourced to Lukas and Scott; the rest is all D’Cagna.
Having heard nothing of the past three albums, I cannot offer a comparison for those more familiar with Ironflame. However, what I can say is that ‘Where Madness Dwells’ is a cracking album. Deeply rooted in the ‘classic’ metal genre with plenty of NWOBHM-isms, this music will appeal to anyone who likes their metal on the more traditional end of the spectrum. Naturally therefore, the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest spring to mind, the latter far more forcefully though, with songs like the title track bordering on an homage to East London’s finest, after an intro that’s early Metallica through and through, in a good way.
It’s also interesting to note that D’Cagna references the likes of Savatage, Helloween, and even 90s Swedish death metal as influences. Whilst the latter references aren’t overly obvious, once you know this, you can definitely hear some vague hints within the songs, particularly the guitar playing. Overall, it means that there’s as much of a European flavour as a US one.
But above and beyond all else, ‘Where Madness Dwells’ delivers forth a collection of ten highly enjoyable, catchy, and quality heavy metal songs which you’d have to be deaf or devoid of music taste not to quickly latch on to and take great pleasure from listening.
“Famine, pestilence, war, disease, and death. They rule this world.”
This quote from the 1964 film, ‘The Masque Of The Red Death’ opens the album, as the intro to ‘Everlasting Fire’, but within seconds my mind is consumed by the riff that ensues, which is an energetic, up-tempo, and catchy affair. The vocals of D’Cagna do sound similar to those of Bruce Dickinson, whilst the central riff echoes Maiden. But when it all comes together this powerfully and with such a brazen swagger, who am I to criticise? Especially when Maiden seem to be concentrating on countless epics rather than their shorter, punchier material these days. ‘Everlasting Fire’, with its hooks, immediate chorus, and rip-roaring solos is a tonic for my ears.
But are we in the presence of a one-song wonder though? Don’t you believe it, not even for one second. No sooner has the opener disappeared, it is replaced by ‘Under The Spell’, which increases tempo even more and brings with it some slight thrashy overtones, especially in the brisk riffs and rhythm section where the drums in particular are pretty relentless. However, again, the song is memorable thanks to some great hooks, especially in the central harmony licks and riffs that emerge after the halfway point. I have to remind myself frequently that this is, aside from the lead guitar solos, the work of just one man, albeit an incredibly talented man.
I’m going to be absolutely fair here and say that, in a couple of places, the songs don’t grab me as strongly as others, but that’s not a comment on the quality of the material. Moreso, it’s a question of personal taste I would say. But the positives far outweigh the negatives as far as I’m concerned, with several songs delivering some wonderfully powerful heavy metal.
One of these high points arrives in the form of the slower, more brooding, ‘A Funeral Within’. The pace lends an old school doom atmospheric to the song, a little Sorcerer-esque, aided by some of the most prominent bass to be heard on the album. But it remains an endearing and catchy composition with ballad-like overtones to it also, as well as the ubiquitous lead breaks.
I really enjoy the thunderous intensity of the up-tempo ‘The Phantom Flame’ with its infectious lead guitar lines and punishing drumming. The melodies within ‘A Curse Upon Mankind’ get quickly and firmly lodged in my brain too.
But quite possibly my favourite of them all is ‘Infernal Angels’ thanks to the most irresistible chorus that gets better and better with every passing listen. Oh, and how can I forget the classic ‘oh, oh, oh’ passage that you can imagine getting sung with gusto at live shows the world over? It’s a wonderful song, and I have taken it to my heart in the same way that I have taken the entire album to my heart. I love it when I’m taken off guard and sideswiped by a previously unknown entity, and Ironflame have done just that to me. I can see ‘Where Madness Dwells’ getting very regular rotation in the Mansion Of Much Metal over the coming months, because it’s one of those albums that plants a great big smile on your face and reminds you of why you got into heavy metal in the first place all those years ago. If NWOBHM or classic/trad metal floats your boat, then ‘Where Madness Dwells’ by Ironflame requires your immediate attention.
On paper, this album should be a home run. I’m a massive fan of Austrian melodic metal band Serenity, in particular the vocal stylings of Georg Neuhauser which are always out of the top drawer. I also found ‘Viridian’, the 2020-released fifth full-length from Temperance to be a strong record within broadly the same genre. Therefore, putting Neuhauser and Temperance guitarist Marco Pastorino together should be a great idea.
As we all know though, these kind of bands or projects don’t always succeed and I’m afraid that I can only conclude that this is also the case here with Fallen Sanctuary’s debut release, ‘Terranova’. I had high hopes for it, but despite giving it a more than fair crack of the whip, I am very disappointed by it. I hate coming to conclusions like this; it pains me to write reviews that are less than positive. But you’re entitled to read honest reviews, so here we are.
I fully expect that there will be a large number of metalheads that will fundamentally disagree with my opinion here, so I expect ‘Terranova’, which features bassist Gabriele Gozzi, and drummer Alfonso Mocerino, will achieve a certain amount of success regardless. But if you’re on the fence, or just mildly interested in this record, hopefully this will be a helpful exercise for you.
‘Terranova’ contains just about everything you want and expect from a European melodic metal record; it is packed full of saccharine-drenched ear candy, and there’s nothing wrong with big choruses, sing-along lyrics, and hooks aplenty. There’s even a place for a few large slices of cheese too. But, here’s the problem for me: I have listened to the eleven tracks on ‘Terranova’ several times through, and nothing really sticks in my mind. I even took it out on my bicycle ride this evening and listened to it twice through. Just me, the road, my bike, and the music. But it was the same story. A couple of the songs hinted at good things and something to remember, but overall, I found the experience depressingly bland. The music is undeniably melodic, there are choruses aplenty, solos litter the album, the pace is often quick and energetic, and Neuhauser is as proficient a you’d expect with mic in hand. There’s even a foray into melodic hard rock and even acoustic territory. But…
…as far as I’m concerned, the melodies are not catchy enough, the hooks aren’t strong enough, and the whole thing feels a little run-of-the-mill. It’s perfectly decent as far as it goes, but that’s not what I want. I want to be fully entertained, my attention grabbed and not allowed to wander. But wander my mind does, and it’s so frustrating. I’d never suggest that artists of the calibre of Pastorino or Neuhauser are going through the motions here, but that’s how it feels because the album lacks the ‘wow’ factor.
Tracks like the acoustic-led ‘I Can’t Say’ show some semblance of an X-Factor, but it’s all down to the performance of Neuhauser as far as I can tell, rather than a top band performance altogether. The lead solo within ‘Trail Of Destruction’ is also noteworthy within a song that’s perhaps a little more interesting than others but beyond that, I’m struggling.
I mentioned the cheese quota earlier, and the prime example it the opening title track. The press release talks of Fallen Sanctuary’s debut being ‘socio-critical’ and that’s a great thing if done properly, and definitely a change of pace from Neuhauser’s normal historical lyrical content. Admittedly, the song sets a blistering pace with fast riffing and intense drumming, but the closing stages are ruined by a spoken word section about drug abuse. ‘Who is there to help them? Are You?’ It doesn’t sound too bad when written like this, but when it appears in the song, it’s just a little more toe-curling than I’m prepared to accept.
For once, I’m going to shut up and end the review here, rather than ramble on for another 300 words just for the sake of it. I’m fully prepared to lose a few readers as a result of this review, but it’s my honest opinion. ‘Terranova’, the debut album from Fallen Sanctuary was a good idea on paper, but the reality has delivered one of the biggest disappointments for me in 2022 so far. One for devotees of European melodic power metal only.
Released nearly two weeks ago, I am really tardy with this review, and for that I apologise to all those who are bitterly disappointed by my ineptitude. The thing is, I just missed it. And were it not for a nudge from outside sources, this album might have escaped me altogether. And, as it turns out, that would have been a real shame. ‘Grey Everlasting’ is the third full-length release from Deathwhite, a band that steadfastly refuses to uncover their identity, preferring to let the music do the talking. For a decade this has been the case and once again, their music has seen another shift as the enigmatic band continue their anonymous evolution towards whatever vision they have.
Written a couple of years ago at the very beginning of the global pandemic, when the world’s inhabitants locked themselves away in an effort to stay alive and protect loved ones, it will come as no surprise to learn that ‘Grey Everlasting’ is a bleak and maudlin affair. Never ones to jump for joy and express their exuberance via the medium of song, it is nevertheless immediately noticeable that the tone and feeling of Deathwhite’s latest creation is different. This may not be a bad thing though, because although I found much to like about their sophomore release, 2020’s ‘Grave Image’, I was far less a fan of their debut of 2018 entitled ‘For A Black Tomorrow’.
That said, I am firmly of the opinion that the band have never reached their full potential. Even within the debut, there were flashes of brilliance, albeit cloaked too heavily by material I referred to as ‘average’. The balance was better struck within ‘Grave Image’, but still, it wasn’t the home run that it might have been. But does the trend continue here with ‘Grey Everlasting’?
I started writing this review on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. It has been a gloriously warm and sunny couple of days outside, so it feels utterly incongruous to the mood captured within ‘Grey Everlasting’. In trying to describe the music on this record, words such as ‘brooding’, ‘slow burn’, and ‘stark’ all come easily to mind, as the output here is carved more from the environs of dark metal than anything else.
The opening instrumental, ‘Nihil’ is a rich and powerful orchestrated piece that communicates a sense of the forlorn feelings and darkness that permeate this album. It is imbued with strong melodic traits and it has a sense of the cinematic, of a dystopian epic. But from there, ‘Earthtomb’ throws a curveball straight away thanks to a frenetic black metal assault, all cold and fast riffing alongside frenetic drumming. It doesn’t last long though, and whilst this element makes a return at points later in the song, the vast majority of the track inhabits a mid-to-slow-pace, where the rich Gothic tinged vocals duel with more orchestration, acoustic strumming, and heavier, churning riffs. Names like Swallow The Sun, Sentenced, Soen, My Dying Bride, and Katatonia are all relevant, despite none of them quite hitting the mark alone. It has taken several careful spins to get to this point but I’m entranced by the clever, subtle melodies that worm their way in to your brain cleverly and surreptitiously.
Frustratingly however, the album doesn’t always hit as hard as this opening duo do, with a few of the songs veering close to that ‘average’ description. For all of the chunky riffing, powerful atmospheres, and precise delivery, songs like ‘No Thought Or Memory’ don’t create the same impact for me. It is hard to explain, but the melodies feel a little underwhelming and one-dimensional.
As a result, ‘Grey Everlasting’ is not the killer third record that I was hoping for, but when they get it right, I do find myself wavering slightly. ‘Quietly, Suddenly’ is a beast that contains such emotion it’s impossible to ignore. Even the solo that emerges after the halfway point is laced with misery and torment. But it’s also the pronounced light and shade that stands it above other songs on this record, flitting from muscular to brittle in a heartbeat. Then there’s the beautiful title track itself which dials down the heaviness in favour of hushed vocals, quiet instrumentation, and a genuinely organic feel, particularly with the drums. It also demonstrates just how good the production is too, but with Shane Mayer (Cerebral Audio Productions) involved alongside Dan Swanö who mastered the album, and with vocals tracked at Mana Recording (Erik Rutan), it’s not surprising that ‘Grey Everlasting’ sounds so good.
The bass at the outset of ‘Immemorial’ is brilliant, as are the ensuing guitar notes that resonate and then disappear to be replaced by orchestration. The lead guitar melodies that bring ‘Formless’ to life, meanwhile, are stunning; they add a certain catchiness to the song overall, a description I wasn’t thinking of using in this review I must admit. But catchy and moving they are, inevitably leading to the conclusion that this is one of my favourite cuts on ‘Grey Everlasting’. And finally, a word for ‘Blood And Ruin’ which deals us a heavy, epic-sounding blow after a quiet and tentative opening.
It isn’t a particularly long album at 47 minutes, but the style of the music and the constant maudlin atmosphere makes it feel longer than it is. It does seem to drag a little towards the end, so perhaps a song or two of the eleven could have been cut entirely, but that’s me just thinking out loud. All-in-all, I have to admit that ‘Grey Everlasting’ is probably my favourite from Deathwhite so far, meaning that they continue their slow ascent in my estimations. I like this chosen path, and it really does tell us that the musicians involved here are highly accomplished. I just wanted a little more overall, be it more potent melodies, or a little greater variation. As always though, I will enjoy chunks of what I’ve been served here and wait patiently to see if I can be blown away by their next effort.
I have taken a listen to this mainly because I was asked to by a loyal and supportive reader of manofmuchmetal.com. If it hadn’t been for this request, it’s quite likely that I would have let this album drift past me without a second thought. I do enjoy power metal, an assertion that can be proved by checking out some of the reviews on this very site. I also enjoy a certain silliness that the genre can bring. However, ‘Dwarven power metal’ felt like a step too far, and I moved on before coming back to it – unlike politicians, I like to listen to others and will try my best to accommodate as many requests as I can.
So here I am with a review of ‘Warfront’, the latest album from an Italian band comprised of five fully grown human dwarves. I’ll let this pass because the biggest surprise for me was discovering that this is the fifth album from Wind Rose. I thought it was the first or second release from Messrs Francesco Cavalieri (Vocals), Claudio Falconcini (Guitars), Federico Meranda (Keyboards), Cristiano Bertocchi (Bass), and Federico Gatti (Drums). But I am wrong, as the band have been in existence since 2010. Upon further research, I stumbled upon the fact that the band recorded a cover of the Minecraft-themed ‘Diggy Diggy Hole’ which would explain the cartoon-like cover art with a definite Minecraft feel to it.
On my first spin through, I initially pondered on whether the world really needed another band of this ilk, namely fantasy-inspired power metal hymns that have a strong folk element and a simpler Sabaton-like up-tempo battle hardened ‘call to arms’ or ‘rallying cry’ approach. And, if truth be told, I’m still thinking along the same lines sometime later. My thoughts have mellowed a little, but I have yet to be fully won over by Wind Rose.
One of the key factors in my reticence is that ‘Warfront’ feels a little overblown and unnecessarily drawn out. I understand the desire to create music that has an epic feel to it, but this isn’t always achieved by making some tracks last six or seven minutes when they would be much more impactful with a minute or two shaved off here and there. Of the ten tracks, half of them are between six and seven-and-a-half minutes long, but I’d suggest that only a couple of them fully justify this length. It results in a 55-minute record or thereabouts which is a touch too long for this kind of fare.
I have to concede though, for all my misgivings, that when Wind Rose get it right, they can make a very decent noise indeed. The opening instrumental is a rousing, cinematic affair with a strong central melody and as such, is more than just a throw away intro like so many albums these days are burdened with. And I do like the way that this rousing piece segues so seamlessly into the opening metallic number, ‘Army Of Stone’. In actual fact, this happens to be one of the most powerful of all the compositions on ‘Warfront’ thanks to a blend of driving metal and catchy songwriting, underpinned by well positioned orchestration that gives the song a majestic edge. It’s a similar story for the follow-up, ‘Tales Of War’, which is a grower that benefits from being a shorter, sharper composition with deceptively sharp hooks.
My other favourite appears later on the album, the penultimate track in fact. Entitled ‘I Am The Mountain’, it is a gloriously grandiose composition with a wistful, almost whimsical air to it. But it’s the strength of the melodies that elevates it so highly, alongside the way in which the song successfully walks the tightrope between heavy and bombastic, and something more elegant and poignant. One minute we’re presented with blastbeats and muscular riffs, the next it’s a bittersweet but irresistible melodic refrain, and the whole thing just works.
It’s hard not to fall for the acoustic-led folk infused charms of the closer ‘Tomorrow Has Come’ too, as it is another great composition that builds to a resounding conclusion whilst cleverly reprising the melodies heard within the opening track.
If the remainder of the album was of a similar standard and as engaging, I’d be singing its praises from the rooftops. But, despite the bombast and bluster, much of the remaining content falls a little short. It’s not that the music is bad, not by a long way, it’s just the the folk-laden melodies don’t resonate as strongly, or the mid-tempo stomping metal fare meanders a little too close to derivative territory, thus offering little that’s distinctive or far enough removed from others within this genre. I’m probably being a little unkind, but it feels like I’ve heard it all before, elsewhere.
But don’t let my thoughts put you off from giving Wind Rose a listen, because I’m sure many of you will enjoy the output an awful lot more than I do. I fully expect that I’m being a bit of a scrooge, with my views bucking the general consensus, but this is how I personally feel, and I have to stick to my guns. So, if the thought of dwarven power metal stirs something within you, I encourage you to dive in and enjoy the experience that greets you, regardless of how I feel towards it.
Just when 2022 was beginning to feel disappointing when it came to progressive metal, the balance has begun to be redressed. In the last month or so, we’ve had new albums from Zero Hour and Spheric Universe Experience, whilst others have been announced and will see the light of day over the coming months. And there’s this, the latest release from one of the very best still plying their trade. I am, of course, referring to Seventh Wonder, the Swedish powerhouse of technical and melodic progressive metal. We had to wait eight long years for their sixth album, ‘Tiara’, but mercifully, the wait for ‘The Testament’, the seventh full-length album, has been a comparatively short four years. Hurrah to that, I say.
Ever since vocalist Tommy Karevik joined the Kamelot ranks, I have lived in some fear that it would spell the end for Seventh Wonder. And, if truth be told, the thought upset me more than I thought it would, especially given that Kamelot only seems to let this sensational vocalist unleash about 60% of his full potential, preferring he become something of a Khan clone rather than truly himself. But Seventh Wonder are far more than just a vehicle for Karevik; the quintet are supremely talented musicians across the board, with jaw-dropping technical ability, and a songwriting prowess that ensures their compositions are not just exercises in impressive complexity. No, Seventh Wonder write songs, songs that contain hooks, melodies, storylines, thus possessing a longevity that makes us fans want to come back for repeated listens. ‘The Testament’ is no different on that score, meaning that it is yet another incredibly strong addition to their catalogue.
At this juncture, I will be the first to admit that I perhaps got a little carried away with my review of ‘Tiara’. I still maintain that it is a great record, but over the last few years, I’ve not returned to it as much as I thought I would back then. With this in mind, I have tried to be a little more cautious and circumspect this time around when reviewing ‘The Testament’. The only problem is, it is seriously ticking all of my favourite boxes at the moment, and I cannot conceive of a future reality where this ceases to be the case.
The magic begins right off the bat with the opening track, ‘Warriors’, which begins with some serious crunch thanks to a cracking opening riff. The guitar tone of Johan Liefvendahl is heavy and authoritative, eventually joined by the rumbling bass of Andreas Blomqvist, Stefan Norgren’s energetic drumming, and swathes of synths courtesy of Andreas Söderin. As the song hits its straps, the progressive riff is engulfed by a groovy swagger, where the keys become a little more dominant increasing both the atmosphere and the melodic strength of the track. And from the moment that Karevik opens his mouth, you can hear that he is a different singer with Seventh Wonder; his delivery is full of emotion, and his performance just feels more dynamic and engaging as a result. It also helps that ‘Warriors’ is blessed with an immediate chorus that soars, pleasing my battered ears immensely. Solos, chops, and instrumental dexterity are all present, but they fit within the context of the song rather than the other way around, meaning that it never feels too pretentious or complex.
In many ways the scene for ‘The Testament’ has been set, in that this album is one that will please those who enjoy Seventh Wonder at their most melodic. There is only one song that reaches the eight-minute mark, as the focus here seems to be on creating a collection of songs that have immediacy as well as allowing the musicians to flex their creative muscles just enough. And, after all, compositions don’t have to be long to be progressive as the Swedes ably demonstrate here.
‘The Light’ is a brilliant composition with a delightfully catchy, almost AOR or pop-like chorus at its heart, but the verses are brisk affairs with plenty of clever dexterity present if you care to listen out for it. As good as all of the performances are within this song, my ears are drawn to the bass of Andreas Blomqvist, especially when the track quietens to allow him to deliver a dancing solo, followed up by one from keyboardist Andreas Söderin for good measure. The song drips with emotion too, especially in the latter stages, recalling the perfect ‘Mercy Falls’ output.
If it’s possible by this stage, ‘I Carry The Blame’ goes one further than the opening duo in my estimations. It has more of a ballad feel to it and so is not as ‘blood and thunder’ as the previous songs, but Karevik is utterly magnetic with his performance, whilst the chorus sends a shiver down my spine. By contrast, ‘Reflections’ is an instrumental piece that allows the technicality to come much more to the fore. As a result, you get solos and flamboyance aplenty throughout from all corners, but still within a song framework with melody and structure. I’ll be honest though and admit to it not being my favourite track overall, as it doesn’t wow me in the way others do.
Things return to their brilliant best though quickly with ‘The Red River’, a slightly darker, more dramatic composition that nevertheless features plenty of light and shade, as well as another sprawling but arresting chorus. I also love the pinched harmonics that Johan Liefvendahl delivers in true Seventh Wonder style.
Both ‘Mindkiller’ and ‘Under A Clear Blue Sky’ dazzle as the album nears its twilight. The former is a vibrant composition, albeit in a crunchy, heavy way, with more of a muscular intent. The melodies are definite growers, but they are no less impactful, whilst the guitar and keys trade solos in a way that only prog bands can get away with. The latter is the longest piece on ‘The Testament’ and it opens quietly, tentatively, but with greater assertiveness as it gradually flowers into a driving composition that plays around with plenty of ideas, all of which come together to create a fully satisfying end product. If anything, this is the track where the keys of Andreas Söderin come into their own with bold sounds and extended virtuosic solos making quite an impact at various stages.
However, the album’s finale, ‘Elegy’, takes us back to the days of ‘Mercy Falls’ at its most poignant and emotional. It is a richly orchestrated song that sees Tommy Karevik take the spotlight, alongside acoustic guitars and beautiful symphonics, to test our resolve fully. The lyrics tell a melancholy tale, brought to life by the talented vocalist who leaves nothing behind to create maximum impact. It is enhanced by the bittersweet folk-tinged melodies that can’t fail to touch me every time I listen, bringing me close to tears once or twice.
Ultimately, I’m just delighted that Seventh Wonder continue to write new music. The fact that they have created another excellent body of music is the icing on the cake. I wish no ill towards Kamelot because they are a great band in their own right, but it is so refreshing to hear Tommy Karevik once again unshackled and able to put his own unique talent to full use. When he is in full flow, there are few better vocalists out there in the progressive metal sphere, as ‘The Testament’ underlines time and time again. But alongside him are four more supremely talented individuals who have come together one more time to write and perform some superb melodic progressive metal as only they can. As a result, ‘The Testament’ is, quite simply, a joy to listen to from start to finish.
Am I the only one to get excited when a band returns from an extended hiatus? It is especially exciting when the hiatus began to feel like it might be more of a complete end, with hopes of a return fading with each and every passing year. Having been familiar with Finnish epic symphonic metal band Battlelore since the beginning of their career at the turn of the Millennium, I am delighted to see the band return with a new album some eleven years since their last outing, 2011’s ‘Doombound’. Admittedly the group reformed back in 2016 and have been beavering away since, but still, you never know whether something will materialise until the official announcement is made.
Entitled ‘The Return Of The Shadow’, Battlelore return us to the world of Tolkein in the only way that they know how. This record is actually named after the original title that Tolkein considered giving to the novel that eventually became ‘Fellowship Of The Ring’; this alone should underline the affection and attention to detail that the band demonstrate when it comes to one of the most celebrated fantasy stories of all time.
Somewhat remarkably, especially given that Battlelore is a septet, the same protagonists that featured on their last album are all present and correct this time around too. It means that vocalists Tomi Mykkänen and Kaisa Jouhki are joined by guitarists Jyri Vahvanen and Jussi Rautio, keyboardist/flautist Maria Honkanen, drummer Henri Vahvanen, and bassist Timo Honkanen.
With a line-up that is unchanged, it will cause very little surprise when I confirm that the musical output on ‘The Return of The Shadow’ will be familiar to anyone who has crossed paths, or swords, with Battlelore before. These guys have their modus operandi, and they are sticking to it. Previous albums have varied in terms of their quality and my overall enjoyment has also therefore varied. If I had to pick favourites, I’d suggest that 2003’s ‘Sword’s Song’ and 2008’s ‘The Last Alliance’ would feature. However, I am delighted to confirm that ‘The Return Of The Shadow’ can be added to this list.
What I personally like about Battlelore is, perhaps perversely, what others won’t enjoy quite as much. And that’s the way that the music is heavy and aggressive but also strangely smooth sounding and incredibly inviting. The music is full of growls, muscular riffs, and a strong rhythm section underpins everything, but the keys, ethereal female vocals, and generally mid-tempo pace of the songs creates a warmth and welcoming feel. I’m not sure if this is deliberate or not, but it is something that I find very endearing. I don’t mean to damn the music with faint praise either, because whilst I will often want to be smacked around the head by the music I listen to, I genuinely like the approach that Battlelore take. It’s bombastic and majestic but at the same time not overly cluttered or over-the-top. The fact that there are some wonderfully catchy and engaging melodies littered throughout the songs only adds to my enjoyment and raises this album above others within this genre that seek to over complicate matters without injecting enough memorability.
I didn’t realise that I had been missing Battlelore but, on this evidence, clearly I had.
I had hoped to mix things up a little bit by starting my deeper analysis of this album with a song buried somewhere within its heart. However, Battlelore have other ideas, because they produce a killer song right out of the blocks in the form of opener, ‘Minas Morgul’. The riffs at the start are really nice, and I love the chosen tone. The bass guitar is ever present, whilst the drums deliver fills and a little extravagance around the riffs. When the song opens up, we’re hit with some catchy synths, majestic orchestration, and a nice groove before clean male and female vocals duet over a quieter verse, giving them the space to take centre stage. The chorus is different however, complete with a faster tempo complimented by double pedal drumming and bolder orchestration. Growls appear later on to emphasise the heavier side of the band’s music, but there is no getting away from the fact that this is one catchy, anthemic track. Welcome back, Battlelore.
‘Chambers Of Fire’ is a chunkier beast and is likely to be a hit at summer festivals given its immediacy and no-nonsense, more aggressive attitude, underlined by a much more liberal use of deep growled vocals alongside Kaisa Jouhki’s soft approach. It has more of a folk-influenced melodic core, and I love the way that the second half is a much more delicate affair than the first until the final moments when the opening fist pumping chants return alongside the strong riffing.
I definitely feel that Battlelore are at their finest when they up the atmospheric and melodic quota within their compositions, and happily, there are several occasions on ‘The Return Of The Shadow’ when they duly oblige, starting with the delectable ‘Orcrist’ that features ethereal, synth-drenched passages led by Jouhki at her delicate best. The melodies are gorgeous, and even when we’re ‘treated’ to a spoken-word section that features the words ‘Goblin cleaver’ (I kid you not), I don’t turn my back in revulsion. It’s a bit cheesy and ham-fisted, but there remains a charm to it, mainly because the chorus is so damn irresistible.
Speaking of catchy, the slightly more up-tempo ‘Homecoming’ also fits the bill, with another strong, memorable chorus. The heavy, chugging riffing within ‘Elvenking’ is marvellous, but it’s accompanied by some simple yet fully effective bass lines from Timo Honkanen that rumble with real authority whilst Maria Honkanen’s flute adds delicate whimsy in clever counterpoint. ‘Mirrormere’ is another great song, featuring some prominent lead guitar lines early on before building a bittersweet feeling thanks to some sombre yet elegant melodies within the chorus. It also benefits from some of the boldest riffing and thunderous drumming by Henri Vahvanen in the mid-section.
For all that though, the star of the show for me sits at the very end of the album. ‘Shadow Of The East’ is simply stunning for a number of reasons. Firstly, I adore the guitars of Jyri Vahvanen and Jussi Rautio – the tone, assisted by the bass, is wonderful, especially when used as sparingly as it is within what is the slowest track of them all. Then there are the melodies that permeate from every pore, delightfully arresting throughout, culminating in a truly epic closing sequence, complete with orchestration, gently building metallic instrumentation, insidious growls, and muscular percussion. I could listen to this quasi ballad over and over again…and I have if truth be told.
You can be the fastest, the most overblown and pompous, the most dextrous, or the loudest. But what Battlelore more than ably demonstrate with this glorious return from the wilderness, is that none of that matters if the songs themselves aren’t engaging and memorable. At times, Battlelore can be loud, they can be fast, and they can be overblown and pompous. However, this is never at the expense of the songs themselves, which are almost entirely positive and thoroughly enjoyable. As I said earlier, some will criticise the band for not being edgy enough, or extreme enough. That’s their prerogative. Me though, I really like this album and I’m delighted to hear new material from Battlelore. Factor in the absolutely fabulous cover artwork and a bonus three-track EP entitled ‘Lost Lands’ as a bonus disc, and I’m making it ever more difficult for you to ignore this release. So don’t.
I’m delighted to be able to bring you a review today of a debut album that has managed to catch my ear for plenty of positive reasons. The artist in question goes by the name of Remains Of Destruction, and their first full length offering is entitled ‘New Dawn’. A Finnish sextet, the band came into being in 2019, at the hands of vocalist Jesse Yrjölä, who wanted to create a vehicle to unleash his musical ideas. The band grew steadily, with guitarist/backing vocalist Timo Pelkonen the first to sign up, followed by guitarist/backing vocalist Saalas Ruokangas, drummer Janne Ollikainen, Jaakko Saloranta, and keyboardist Osmo Lassila. With orchestration duties shared between Yrjölä and Ruokangas, Remains Of Destruction was deemed complete and since, have worked hard to bring us ‘New Dawn’.
Whilst the title of the debut is well-placed for the band themselves, in that it offers the musicians a new musical outlet, it is less well-named from the point of view of the final output. I say this because Remains Of Destruction will not blow you away with music that is overly original – this venture does not offer a new dawn musically, so to speak. That said, this band have hugely impressed me nonetheless, because ‘New Dawn’ features a brand of symphonic power metal that ticks many of my required boxes. And, unless I’ve completely lost my touch when it comes to quality control, I believe it’ll tick many others’ boxes too.
It may only last for 37 minutes or thereabouts, but it’s a thoroughly entertaining affair from start to finish. There is little space for excess fat, so the music comes in hard and maintains the energy throughout. I like the way in which the songs are both heavy and symphonic, without either element getting overshadowed along the way. The production is commendable too, allowing both aspects of the music to flourish. I did, however, have an initial concern over the vocals of Yrjölä. Not in terms of his abilities, because he has a perfectly strong voice with good range to sit at the heart of this kind of music. It was more to do with the mix of the album and the way that his voice seems quite loud and high up in the mix. It still raises a question mark in my mind during the first song or two, but I am much more used to it now and I am reasonably content that it doesn’t overly detract from my enjoyment.
What is more important though, is the more I have listened to ‘New Dawn’, the more powerful and memorable it has become. The scene is well set by the barnstorming opening track, ‘Blood Moon’. It opens with a theatrical, symphonic intro with a vague Middle Eastern flavour, before the metallic main body of the song kicks in. When it does, it arrives with a real confidence, the riffs substantial, the rhythm section robust, and the melodies enjoyable, particularly in the hook laden chorus that begs to be sung along to. A flamboyant lead guitar solo, layered, textured keys, and a dash of groove round out an impressive opening, signalling Remains Of Destruction’s arrival on the scene in forceful fashion.
The bass work within the slightly darker and more thunderous title track is really ear catching, whilst the chorus is arguably the absolute best thing to be heard anywhere on this album. It blends the orchestral flamboyance with metallic power, and an almost ballad-like anthemic quality that’s irresistible. Again, I love the fact that the band aren’t afraid to let the solos rip through the songs, and this song is no exception. It is also the song that convinced me about Yrjölä’s vocals, as he gives one hell of a performance here, full of passion and gravitas.
There’s an unmistakeable neo-classical element that shines through ‘Final Light’, not to mention a Kamelot-esque galloping rhythm and keyboard solo. Normally, I baulk at such things, but this solo is delivered with a fair amount of panache and restraint, meaning that it fits the song nicely. The great material keeps coming, with the intro to ‘Mastermind’ a powerhouse of drama and melody, with plenty of orchestral bombast. The foundation of the composition is another great chorus that’s a bit of a grower compared to others on the album, topped off with choral effects for extra gravitas, as well as a brief foray into extreme metal territory complete with deep growled vocals which of course I welcome with open arms.
It may not be my favourite song on the album, but the variety within ‘Mankind’s Bequest’ is impressive, especially given the song’s brevity. In under four minutes, we get a cinematic introduction of huge proportions, modern electronic embellishments, a progressive metal sheen, and some bulldozing classic heavy metal.
The muscular guitar tone found within the majestic ‘Northern Stars’ is great, as is the sheer power that’s nicely juxtaposed with moments of quieter whimsy and atmosphere. And ‘Silvery Fields’ is equally as enjoyable, albeit in a more immediate manner thanks to the strong melodic thread that runs through it, much like many of the songs on this album.
Come to think of it, there are very few moments on ‘New Dawn’ that fail to hit the mark in one way or another. For that, Remains Of Destruction must be warmly commended as such feats are becoming ever more rare these days it seems. ‘New Dawn’ could be longer, and it could have been a little more original at times, but it is hard to argue with a record that delivers this kind of entertainment with such consistency. Sometimes, that’s enough, and in the case of Remains Of Destruction, their brand of melodic symphonic power metal is more than enough to keep my head nodding and an appreciative smile on my face. Don’t dawdle, get on it and check these Finns out as soon as possible.
As you’re all fully aware, symphonic metal isn’t generally ago-to style of metal for me, but I’m always keen to be proven wrong, so I will always check out new albums within the genre to see if my general opinion can be changed. The latest band to try their hand at impressing me are Visions Of Atlantis, an entity with which I am familiar of course, but whose output has not yet found its way into my ever-increasing CD collection. Streaming? What’s that?
Anyway, I’m sure you already know all this, but the Austrian symphonic metal band have been through a number of changes over the past few years which has seen many musicians come and go, leaving only one original member standing, namely the drummer, Thomas Caser. Into the ranks has come female vocalist Clémentine Delauney, although she has been present for the better part of a decade now, featuring on the last three records. Caser and Delauney have been more recently joined by guitarist Christian Douscha, bassist Herbert Glos, and male vocalist Michele Guaitoli (Temperance).
I may not be as familiar as others who are reading this review, but it feels to me that ‘Pirates’ marks a bit of a change for the band. For a start, if Visions Of Atlantis had delivered an album of this quality previously, I’d have definitely remembered it; I’m actually very pleasantly surprised by the music that I hear on this new record. Then there’s the press release that had me raising an eyebrow when first I read it. Delauney is quoted as saying:
“We embrace who we are and we can state it in the eyes of everyone that we are Pirates now – we have always been, but now we are confident in our identity and we want to show it to the world”
Ok. Pirates? Really? The thing is, much as I feared for the material at the outset bearing this quote in mind, the end product is not a gimmick. It is not music that can only be enjoyed at a festival whilst hideously drunk with your mates and discarded at all other times – there are other bands for that, and we know who they are. Instead, the music on ‘Pirates’ might have a lyrical context that explores themes around the album’s title, but the music is deadly serious and is actually of a high standard overall.
Naturally, where symphonic metal with a female singer is concerned, there will be immediate comparisons drawn to Nightwish, arguably the most well-known and most revered of them all within the genre. And yes, there are some similarities to be heard; it’s a little inevitable in some respects. However, equally important are the echoes of bands like Kamelot, and Amaranthe, and even the likes of Serenity. The latter is hardly surprising given Delauney’s links to another Austrian powerhouse of the metal scene. What all this shows though, is that Visions Of Atlantis have not just decided to become a clone; instead, they have taken inspiration from a reasonably wide range of music within the metal sphere in order to create something that they feel is the right fit for them. The end result was never going to have me shouting about absolute originality, but the music is certainly entertaining and sufficiently interesting to pique my interest.
That wasn’t my first impression though, as an initial spin had me thinking that it was all rather bland. But, as I have invested more time with it, my opinion has slowly changed. At nearly an hour in length and featuring twelve individual tracks, there are a couple of occasions where things go a little off the boil, which isn’t overly surprising I suppose. For the most part though, the charm and quality of the music has begun to make inroads.
The opener, ‘Pirates Will Return’ begins with a dark, brooding intro that fittingly emerges from the depths, and begs the question of who is responsible for the synths and keys, because no-one is apparently credited for it in the promo material as far as I can see. This conundrum aside, the song soon settles into an up-tempo, hard-rocking affair, Delauney immediately making her mark with an assured performance that begins with a clean, attitude-laden ‘rock’ delivery, quickly switching into a more operatic style to change things up. When Michele Guaitoli, the track then takes on a greater power metal feel with strong, fast-paced drumming driving the song along. The chorus is a little whimsical, complete with choral vocals, but eventually it starts to get stuck in my head. However, it is the quieter, darker instrumental sections that work best for me as they provide some nice drama along the way.
By contrast, ‘Melancholy Angel’ is a much shorter, punchier track that features some very welcoming and catchy melodies, designed to have maximum impact right from the word ‘go’. Guest musician Ben Metzner makes his presence known at the outset of ‘Master The Hurricane’ with a flute-led introduction, before we’re led on a full-on symphonic metal tour-de-force, the likes of which both Nightwish and Epica would likely be proud of. The light and shade is compelling, from delicate, introspective moments, right through to outrageous bombast, creating one of the best cuts on the album and delivering one of the most arresting choruses for my personal tastes in the process. If you’re like me, you’ll be singing along with gusto by the third spin, maybe sooner.
And therein lies one of the strengths of ‘Pirates’, namely the variety. Too often, I find symphonic metal, for all its over-the-top grandiosity, can end up feeling one-dimensional due to a lack of variety. That’s not generally the case here at all, with a good mix of approaches to keep the attention of listeners throughout.
‘Clocks’ is the Amaranthe-inspired instant hit of saccharine modern melodic metal, but with the compelling duo of Delauney and Guaitoli at the helm instead, doing a fabulous job together. Then there’s ‘Wild Elysium’ that I adore as it does a fantastic job of resurrecting the very best Khan-era Kamelot material, albeit with both female and male vocals as wel as even more prominent orchestration.
I’m less keen overall about the ballads that appear in the form of ‘Freedom’ and ‘Heal The Scars’ because they are a bit too gentle and twee for me, but the more energetic compositions in between redress the balance, such as the surprisingly muscular and heavy ‘Legion Of The Seas’, or the poignant and rousing ‘I Will Be Gone’ with bagpipes and flute embellishments from Metzner. Rather than sound gimmicky, the flutes and bagpipes instead add a sense of authenticity to the material that I never thought would be the case if I’m being totally honest – it just shows that when handled correctly, just about anything can work within a metallic framework…almost.
All-in-all, I can’t be anything other than positive towards ‘Pirates’, the eighth record of Vision Of Atlantis’ career. It’s not completely perfect, but it is a much more impressive affair than I anticipated when I decided to check it out for the first time. Kudos for this has to go to Clémentine Delauney and Michele Guaitoli who, alongside producer Felix Heldt were instrumental in the writing of this record. But all of the band deserve credit because ‘Pirates’ is an assured, powerful, and slick album that provides some genuinely entertaining and enjoyable symphonic metal. It’s not often I utter these words, that’s for sure, so Visions Of Atlantis should take a well-earned bow for forcing me to say such positive things.