Tag Archives: AFM Records

BlogOfMuchMetal – Metal News – 24 July 2017

Well, while I’m on a roll, I may as well continue. And while so many bands are also on a roll of late it seems, I owe it to them to keep the news flowing.

If you’ve missed any of my other posts in this series, links to all of them can be found at the bottom of this post.

Jag Panzer release their first song off their new album.

c09ce1fccd75b68f298157c7f5ffc169Jag Panzer – The Deviant Chord
Release date: 29 September 2017
Label: SPV

Jag Panzer and I have never had the smoothest of relationships. I bought ‘Thane To the Throne’ many years ago when it was released but didn’t warm to it, so sold it soon after. Having gone back and listened to it again a few years later, I realise that I made a rather big mistake. They are obviously a band that requires time in order to acquire the taste.

This must still be true to this day because, on a first listen, I was not blown away by ‘Far Beyond All Fear’, the first song to be released off ‘The Deviant Chord’, the tenth album from the US power metal stalwarts. Subsequent spins have been increasingly positive to a point where I’m really rather liking it. The melodies are subtle, the riffing is satisfyingly chunky and there are plenty of solos. In fact, that galloping rhythm is very reminiscent of Iron Maiden. So what’s not to like, then? It bodes well for the entire album when it is released at the end of September.

The Haunted release another song of their highly-anticipated new album…

19399139_10154703997157503_7451569900000520260_nThe Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Release date: 25 August 2017
Label: Century Media Records

The more I hear of this new album from The Haunted, the more excited I get. After the uncompromising and brutal blitz of the well-named ‘Brute Force’, the Swedes have released their second track ‘Spark’ which is a different beast altogether. You still get the harsh vocals and the big, bruising thrash-like riffs. But this time, the song contains more variety, more subtlety and arguably a more sophisticated vibe all-round.

And you know what? I dig this song a lot. It shows that The Haunted are growing and maturing all the time, with the confidence and ability to experiment just a little bit. I love the bass intro andthat quiet mid-song interlude – it is brief but the melody is continued for a time once things get heavier which is a nice touch, as is the more soulful lead guitar solo. There are hints within it to previous work but it still sounds fresh, interesting and has me very intrigued as to the overall sound of ‘Strength In Numbers’.

Confirmed release date and a non-finalised tracklist for ‘1755’ by Moonspell.

19943052_1371175159604409_8323465143835788802_oMoonspell – 1755
Release date: 3 November 2017
Label: Napalm Records

I seem to have been aware of a new album from Portuguese metallers Moonspell for ages. In fact, as early as March, I was gearing up for it.  As I confirmed back then, the record will be entitled ‘1755’ it will centre on the Great Lisbon Earthquake of that year. And, according to the press release, “the band has developed a lyrical concept that looks into the death and rebirth of Lisbon and how the disaster changed Religion, Politics and Philosophy in the whole of Europe.”

We were also told that it would be heavier than ‘Extinct’ and will be sung entirely in Portuguese. It might not be 100% confirmed yet but the track list would bear this out. And that is possibly the most intriguing thing about ‘1755’ – I generally love albums where the lyrics are not in English because there’s a greater authenticity with them and what they are singing about.

Momentum increases on the new Vanishing Point album, coming in early 2018…

Vanishing Point – TBC
Release date: 2018
Label: AFM Records

I have it from the horse’s mouth that the new Vanishing Point album will see the light of day in 2018. During a chat with guitarist and songwriter Chris Porcianko, he confirmed that whilst a date isn’t cast in stone yet, the new record was progressing well. However, it had to be delayed until early 2018 for various reasons. As soon as I hear news of a definite date, I will bring it to you.

Despite the 2018 date, I couldn’t help but bring you an update right now. Why? Because not only are Vanishing Point one of my favourite bands ever, updates from the melodic prog metal masters themselves suggest that the new music could be more in the vein of their 2000 magnum opus, ‘Tangled In Dream’. A top 5 all-time album, this is news that threatens a grown man’s bladder control.

To quote Porcianko directly, he actually said of the new record: So far the new Vanishing Point album is a mix of Prog, metal , melodic metal , hard rock and AOR…There’s a little bit of something in it for everyone…Fans of Distant is The Sun and Tangled In Dream will like it I think.’ No wonder I’m bursting with excitement! So here’s some solo action for us all to enjoy.

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Orphaned Land confirm new album in early 2018…

Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs
Release date: 26 January 2018
Label: Century Media Records

In a similar vein to Vanishing Point above, I felt compelled to comment about this confirmed release, even if it is destined to see the light of day in 2018. Israeli band Orphaned Land are a special outfit; not only do they create superb melodic progressive metal, but they have managed the seemingly impossible: brought fans of all faiths and backgrounds together in a collective love of music.

It has been quite a while since the quintet last gave their fan base some new music; five years in fact. And given how superb their last record, ‘All Is One’, I am climbing the walls waiting for this new album.

With no new snippets of music to bring you, instead, allow me to remind you just how good their last album was.

Previous updates:

22 July 2017
28 March 2017
23 March 2017
11 March 2017
5th March 2017
26th February 2017
13th February 2017
3rd February 2017
30th January 2017
21st January 2017

Orden Ogan – Gunmen – Album Review

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Artist: Orden Ogan

Album Title: Gunmen

Label: AFM Records

Date of Release: 7 July 2017

This is getting embarrassing. Over the past couple of decades, I have built up what I would like to think is a fairly extensive and varied knowledge of vast swathes of the heavy metal world, even occasionally veering into rockier territories where appropriate. However, it wasn’t until I started writing music reviews for myself rather than a national publication that I have begun to realise how much more there is out there that has completely eluded me. It’s actually quite staggering and a little overwhelming if I’m honest.

And today, I bring you the latest band that has been a completely new revelation for me, namely Orden Ogan. I am familiar with the power metal and melodic metal genres, liking much within them. But German outfit Orden Ogan never crossed my path. Until now.

But hey, I thought, it’s not like they have been around for that long, is it? Oh, 20 years? Damn. Three demos and five previous studio albums? Damn and drat. Oh well, let’s not dwell on my failings, let me try to put things straight at the earliest opportunity, for Orden Ogan have made an impression on me that is extremely positive.

Based on the evidence of ‘Gunmen’, the Teutonic quartet comprised of guitarist/lead vocalist and last-remaining founding member Sebastian ‘Seeb’ Levermann, guitarist Tobias Kersting, bassist Niels Löffler and drummer Dirk Meyer-Berhorn are likely to quickly become a firm favourite of mine in the power metal world. Naturally, genre pigeon-holing can be precarious but Orden Ogan are easier than most; this is unashamed power metal with all the trimmings and a few fleeting elements of other influences, namely folk metal and symphonic metal.

What hits me right off the bat with the dark Wild West-themed ‘Gunmen’ more than anything else, is the way in which they create genuinely epic-sounding music. More specifically, it is the choruses on this album that make the biggest impact. And it’s an immediate impact. Some bands will pretend to create bombastic and epic music but Orden Ogan properly succeed. Layers of keyboards, synths and choirs combine with the more metallic aspects of their sound to produce a soundtrack that is rousing and one that cannot fail to stir even the coldest of hearts. The choruses throughout this record are huge, addictive beasts that I have listened to on repeat several times without them losing any of their ardour. In fact, in many cases, they just get better.

The opening one-two comprised of the title track and ‘Fields Of Sorrow’ is easily one of the most powerful and attention-grabbing beginnings to a record that I have heard from a power metal band in many a year. ‘Gunman’ is a highly-charged thrill-ride from the opening hefty guitar notes and orchestration, right through to the sound of a firing gun to signal its end. In between, we get a combination of stomping and galloping metal riffs, melodic lead guitar licks, a ferocious rhythmic backbone and one of the biggest and most glorious choruses you’ll hear for quite some time. I adore the groove that accompanies the chorus and even the ubiquitous lead guitar solos that crop up toward the end are a great blend of shred and melody. Atop it all are Levermann’s vocals, which I am drawn to thanks to his gritty and deep tones.

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By contrast, ‘Fields Of Sorrow’ is a much darker number and generally more mid-tempo than its predecessor. It kicks off with a seriously cool riff that reinforces my opinion that this record is blessed with some superb guitar tones and a production that more than adequately does it justice. Once again, the chorus is where the music goes from great to sensational. It is a sombre affair but remains highly addictive and huge in scope. The pummelling double-pedal drumming that underpins the chorus is a lovely touch, too, adding further gravitas to proceedings.

It would be difficult for most bands to follow up such an impressive opening and indeed, if I’m being completely honest, I’m still of the opinion that these two cuts, aside from the final song ‘Finis Coronat Opus’ are the strongest on ‘Gunman’. However, what follows is still very good indeed and almost all of the eight subsequent songs have something about them that warrants my admiration. I dismissed ‘Vampire In Ghost Town’ out of hand on a first listen because it came across as just a little too cheesy and the lyrics felt a little silly. But now, I can’t help but love it, principally because, despite the silliness, it remains a well-crafted heavy metal song with meaty riffs, catchy melodies and yet more powerhouse rhythmic flair, a strong recurring feature throughout the album.

The soothing, acoustic opening of ‘Come With Me To The Other Side’ is accented by the soft tones of ex- Leaves Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine, who appears at points elsewhere within a song that has a balladic feel to it, but does not dial down the bombast and metallic elements to compensate. Instead, it becomes a bona-fide symphonic anthem, with a vaguely progressive edge given its many varied components.

It is this variety overall that makes ‘Gunman’ such a rewarding listen and one that doesn’t quickly become one-dimensional and boring. The output remains firmly in the power metal camp, but within this framework, I get the impression that the quartet wanted to experiment a little bit. As such, in addition to the aforementioned tracks, we get s like ‘Down Here (Wanted: Dead Or Alive)’ with its dramatic cinematic overtones and the brooding, stomp of ‘One Last Chance’, where the heaviness is marked and wouldn’t be out of place in other more extreme metal genres. It goes without saying that the chorus is another delicious affair here too.

Closing track, ‘Finis Coronat Opus’ is the longest on ‘Gunman’, nearly nudging the nine-minute mark. Personally, I can’t think of a better way for Orden Ogan to end this epic record, than with their most epic composition. It plays around with light and shade and pacing to great effect, injecting just a touch of prog and then dials everything else up to 11. The chorus is gargantuan, the riffs are superb and the bombastic symphonic elements are a real joy. There’s a sombre tone to the song but a sense of hope and positivity comes through as it draws to a close.

There is no doubt in my mind that ‘Gunmen’ will end the year as one of my favourite power metal albums. It exudes quality from every pore and has been a genuine revelation for me. I will explore the back catalogue for sure but for now, I just need to prise ‘Gunmen’ out of my stereo…and that might prove harder than I first thought.

The Score of Much Metal: 8.75

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear – Album Review

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Artist: Pyogenesis

Album Title: A Kingdom To Disappear

Label: AFM Records

Date Of Release: 24 February 2017

German metal band Pyogenesis have been around since the beginning of the 90s and, despite a prolonged hiatus between 2002 and 2015, have released seven albums in that time. The return of the Stuttgart-based quartet in 2015 with ‘A Century In The Curse Of Time’ was nectar to the ears of long-term fans and now, two years later, Flo V. Schwarz (guitars, vocals), Gizz Butt (guitars, backing vocals), Malte Brauer (bass, backing vocals) and Jan Räthje (drums) return to deliver album number eight, ‘A Kingdom To Disappear’.

And yet, despite this lengthy history, I had never checked out Pyogenesis prior to reviewing this record. Pyogenesis were a black hole in my knowledge and as far as I could remember, I’d not even listened to a single song. I had no idea what to expect and wasn’t even considering a review.

So what changed? I was scrolling through my social media timelines and I heard a few positive comments about this record. Most notably, a fellow blogger who I admire was very effusive with praise over this record and so I felt I had to investigate further. I tracked down a couple of songs on the ‘net and whilst it wasn’t instant love at first listen, there was something going on that intrigued me. To be honest, I think much of what attracted me was the epic and quirky nature of the videos that accompanied the music; it seemed to me that the band were 100% into the music and were living it. Videos can be deceptive, but on this occasion, I believed the vision that the band were creating and went along for the ride.

It has turned out to be a ride that I have really enjoyed too and it leaves me thoroughly entertained but also a little confounded as to why they never attracted my attention earlier. If ‘A Kingdom To Disappear’ is an accurate example of the music that Pyogenesis have been creating all these years, I can’t understand why they never previously hit my radar.

On paper, the blend of extreme metal, hard rock, Gothic overtones and huge, epic melodies sounds like it should be right up my street. And so it has proved because this is a cracking album, an increasingly addictive listen that is over insanely quickly. ‘A Kingdom To Disappear’ spans nine tracks and a total of around 46 minutes but such is the level of entertainment, it feels like it is much shorter than that. This is clearly a good thing.

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Setting the album up, is the short opener ‘Sleep Is Good’ which introduces a key ingredient to the Pyogenesis sound, namely multiple vocalists. Atop a rousing, stomping melody sits a multi-layered vocal hook that is instantly glorious.

Out of this brief opening salvo comes ‘Every Man For Himself And God Against All’ and it delivers an immediate aural kicking. It begins in all-out brutal death metal territory complete with deep, guttural vocals before opening up into one of the most glorious, anthemic and sing-along choruses on the record. It was quirky to begin with when I watched the video, but I have grown to love it. The rhythm section delivers a powerful platform , the guitars create swathes of huge sound and the clean vocals of Schwarz ooze passion and emotion.

‘I Have Seen My Soul’ by contrast begins with a keyboard and atmosphere-drenched slow pounding riff that’s pure modern Evergrey territory, an element that remains throughout the song despite the more hard rock-inspired chorus that cuts through the cloying misery that permeates this huge song brilliantly. And in spite of the subject matter, you’ll be singing this track for weeks, guaranteed. It’s an obscure reference point, but if you’ve ever heard the likes of Mechanical Poet, you’ll recognise the chosen guitar tones from Pyogenesis, something that takes a little getting used to but works very nicely to compliment the band’s full-on approach.

Frankly though, the killer hooks and melodies are all over this album like a rash. ‘It’s Too Late (A Kingdom To Disappear)’ features more layered vocals from almost every corner of the band to create something very memorable,

‘New Helvetia’ gives listeners something a little different in that it is an acoustic guitar-led ballad of sorts. It is the perfect vehicle to demonstrate the band’s more delicate side as well as the not-inconsiderable talents of guitarists Schwarz and Gizz Butt. And speaking of different, there’s also ‘That’s When Everyone Gets Hurt’, which is a much more atmospheric number that brings those more Gothic elements to the fore whilst blending them with a hint of the 80s, electronic darkwave and even a smattering of post-metal. And yet, such is the strength of the melodies, I really enjoy listening to it.

And then, before you can seemingly blink, we’re treated to the most epic of all the songs on this great record, ‘Everlasting Pain’. And what a finale this is. It lasts for over thirteen minutes but it deserves this length. At its core, this is quite a straightforward composition, dominated by yet another monster of a melody that gets right under my skin. And yet despite this, it rather contradictorily contains plenty of light and shade and has a very slightly progressive feel to it, as it twists and turns through peaks and troughs of emotion. You can feel this vein of emotion all through the song, whether it is within the heavier sections and faux gruff vocals or via the quieter acoustic guitars and soft, fragile voice of Schwarz. And the closing three or so minutes are utterly brilliant, as the intensity builds to finally overflow in a flamboyant release, led by wailing guitars, pleading vocals and one last reprise of the central melody and chorus.

A mere 26 years after forming, I have finally checked Pyogenesis out and I am one very impressed reviewer. I can’t say for sure whether long-term fans will like it because I simply have no frame of reference. Personally-speaking, I have fallen for the charms of the German outfit and I can guarantee that on the strength of ‘A Kingdom To Disappear’, my next review of Pyogenesis will come with a more extensive knowledge of their entire back catalogue.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Helion Prime – Helion Prime – Album Review

CD Booklet

Artist: Helion Prime

Album Title: Helion Prime

Label: AFM Records

Release Date: 24 February 2017

Science-based power metal. These four words will go a long way to determine whether or not you carry on reading the remainder of this review. It is a description that it likely to either draw you in like a tractor beam or send you scurrying away faster than you can say ‘Higgs Bosun’. See what I did there?!

Personally, I have a big soft spot for power metal in general so long as it is done properly. That was definitely the impression I got when I heard ‘Life Finds A Way’ on the Internet and so therefore, coupled with the striking cover artwork that borders on the silly, I found myself intrigued enough to give this self-titled debut album from Helion Prime a proper listen.

By way of background for the uninitiated like me, Helion Prime are a Sacramento, California-based quintet comprised of guitarist and founder Jason Ashcraft, lead guitarist Chad Anderson, bassist Jeremy Steinhouse, drummer Alexander Bosson and brand new vocalist Kayla Dixon. The band are now signed to AFM Records and as part of that contract, they are re-releasing this self-titled debut that originally saw the light of day in 2016. The fact that many of us were blissfully unaware of this album clearly meant that the initial release did not come with a great deal of pomp or fanfare, something that this re-release will no doubt hope to address.

Personally, I’m really glad this decision was taken. Normally, I’m a little cynical about such things, questioning value for money and such like. However, here I think it is justified because this is a band that have plenty of potential and they deserve to be brought to the attention of the wider world before a second album is released in the next year or so.

Forget the science aspect for just a moment and concentrate on the music. On this score, the output is bound to find favour with plenty of fans of power metal but more than that, it is likely to appeal to those who delve into the worlds of melodic metal and classic heavy metal, even those who prefer the thrash genre, although this is slightly less pronounced perhaps.

What you get is ten songs full of sharp, chunky riffs, lots of groove and strong choruses with enough hooks and melodies to keep you entertained without diluting the metallic intent of the compositions. And then on top of that, you have the voice of Heather Michelle, who has since departed. Despite a proliferation of female singers in metal in recent years, the genre of power metal is still largely a male dominated world, so this is a welcome ingredient to the Helion Prime recipe.

More than just a unique selling point or novelty aspect, Heather has a truly wonderful voice, one that I personally really like. It is more than powerful and plenty rich enough to compliment the beefy music that sits behind it but she also sounds strangely seductive and very feminine. It is difficult to explain but I can’t get enough of her voice; there’s just something about it. I hope her recent replacement Kayla Dixon is as good.

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In keeping with the scientific-based lyrical content that spans space exploration, prehistoric times and a nod to science-fiction, the album opens up with a futuristic-sounding intro where synths lay the foundation for a sampled spoken-word diatribe that hypothesises that we are not the only intelligent life in the universe.

After this dramatic opening, things get going properly with a duo of monstrous tracks. ‘The Drake Equation’ bounces along in up-tempo fashion, leading to an instantly catchy chorus that lays down a marker for what Helion Prime are all about. The rhythm section is impressively robust and dominant and the lead guitar work that enters the fray in the latter stages is extravagant, but not overly so. In fact, thinking about it, this is a feature of Helion Prime; they could have gone all-out bonkers and over-the-top but instead, they have chosen to craft a set of songs that are nicely honed and which don’t take things too far.

The chorus to ‘Life Finds A Way’ has to be my favourite on the entire record. It is catchy as hell, epic-sounding with a galloping rhythm. Instantly likeable, it is compounded by a cool lead guitar solo and more strong riffs that are addictive and bring a smile to my face.

‘Into The Black Hole’, raises the pace even further and has a vaguely prog feel as it features a slightly quirky vocal line within the verses, only to be replaced by another great sing-along chorus and no-nonsense riffs that wouldn’t sound out of place on a traditional heavy metal record.

Elsewhere on this debut record, ‘A Place I Thought I Knew’ dials the intensity down a notch to good effect whilst ‘You Keep What You Kill’ delivers more of a speedy thrash vibe, incorporating some deep growled vocals and some prominent keyboard embellishments.

‘Oceans Of Time’ is arguably the first time on the record where the band delve a little into indulgent territory as keyboards and guitars trade blows during an extended solo section whereas ‘Apollo (The Eagle Has Landed)’ has the feel of the band letting go just a little more. It has another big chorus but flits between all-out speedy power metal and thrash and even flirts ever so subtly with progressive elements.

To round things out, Dream Evil’s Niklas Isfeldt appears on closer ‘Live And Die On This Day’ to deliver some male lead vocals. It’s a nice touch and ends the album with an interesting and welcome twist.

All in all, I have a strong feeling that Helion Prime might prove themselves to be a class act. This debut is slick, well put together, nicely proportioned and a lot of fun, without ever descending into silliness as their self-created tag line might suggest. ‘Helion Prime’ is a cracking debut and sets an impressively high benchmark for future releases by this talented bunch of Californians, beginning with their sophomore effort, along with their new vocalist, which is due to see the light of day in late 2017/early 2018.

The Score of Much Metal: 8.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World – Album Review

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Artist: Mors Principium Est

Album Title: Embers Of A Dying World

Label: AFM Records

Date Of Release: 10 February 2017

‘Death is the beginning’. A fitting name for a melodic death metal band, I think you’ll agree, for that is the direct translation of the Latin phrase ‘Mors Principium Est’. This Finnish band may then have a rather apt name but it took until 2014 and the release of their fifth album, ‘Dawn of the 5th Era’ for me to sit up and take proper notice of a band that until then had skirted around the periphery of my consciousness without ever fully grabbing my undivided attention.

‘Embers of a Dying World’ is a title that underlines that Mors Principium Est have a certain way with words but as an album, it builds on their excellent previous record ‘Dawn of the 5th Era’ and truly announces the band as a true heavyweight in the melodic death metal genre. Many might already hold them in this esteem but for me personally, this is the true coming of age of Mors Principium Est. This disc is truly magnificent.

What makes this statement even more incredible is that the 2017 incarnation of the band is markedly different from how it was some 18 years since their formation. Comprised of Ville Viljanen (vocals), Mikko Sipola (drums), Teemu Heinola (bass) and Andy Gillion (guitars), the band are without any of the founding members and have seen others come and go in between with a frightening frequency. But the franchise perseveres and they’ve really delivered the goods here.

At its most simple, ‘Embers of a Dying World’ is a procession of one great song after another, where heaviness and brutality is blended with melody, groove and lush symphonics. The latter is most impressive given the fact that the band has not boasted a full-time keyboardist in the ranks since around 2007. As far as I can tell, new principle songwriter Andy Gillion handles the programming and synths on this record, something he has done really rather well as it turns out. In fact, the output on ‘Embers Of A Dying World’ can easily draw comparisons with the likes of Fleshgod Apocalypse given the way that many of the compositions are imbued with a very dramatic and cinematic feel, making the listening experience much more three-dimensional and full of drama.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the opening of the record. As is the overwhelming trend with albums I’ve reviewed so far in 2017, ‘Embers of a Dying World’ kicks off with a film-score-like instrumental intro that is surprisingly powerful and melodic, more than worthy as a tension-building beginning. And then in comes ‘Reclaim The Sun’ and with it, begins the full Mors Prinicipium Est assault.

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‘Reclaim The Sun’ is aggressive from the outset with a brisk tempo but a grand sense of epic and elegant melody before the verse introduces a scything riff, the kind that I love to hear in extreme metal. It maintains a cinematic and dramatic feel throughout, only briefly cutting away to deliver the ubiquitous guitar solo towards the end. What an opening.

There’s a vaguely industrial feel to ‘Masquerade’ thanks to the programming and I just love the drumming in particular which deploys an on-off blastbeat to great effect. And then the track opens up at its conclusion to unleash a really beautiful guitar solo and accompanying melody.

Choral effects are then introduced on ‘Into The Dark’ to increase the symphonic element another notch. There’s nothing shy or retiring about Mors Principium Est on this album, I can tell you. The nice thing is that as dramatic as the music becomes though, the band never forget that they are an extreme metal band. As such, the riffs are intense, the leads incisive and provocative, the rhythm section pounds and stomps imperiously and the gruff vocals that sit atop the music are wonderfully gravelly and harsh.

‘The Drowning’ is one of the catchiest songs on the record, with a cheeky, bouncy swagger that I find myself drawn to and ‘In Torment’ has a touch of thrash about it, primarily in the central riffs. In contrast, ‘Death Is The Beginning’ adds another layer of variety to the already sophisticated album as it introduces a female vocalist to underline the more ballad-like composition. The song is still heavy where it needs to be, but the tempo is slower and more deliberate, the melodies more gentle and serene and there’s a slightly dreamy feel to it, underscored by a lush string arrangement at the midway point and to close it out elegantly. And yet, to contrast the lighter feel to the track, Ville Viljanen produces his most ear-catching performance when he spews forth a deeper, more guttural growl not dissimilar to that of Dan Swanö.

The blend of a catchy lead guitar line atop more gorgeous symphonics and hauntingly ethereal choral vocals ushers in ‘The Ghost’ really forcefully, before it goes all black metal on us complete with staccato riffing, fast-paced drumming and tinkling piano. This is definitely a personal highlight on ‘Embers Of A Dying World’, made all the better by a full-blown return of that catchy guitar melody from the intro. It’s highly infectious and gives me goosebumps.

‘Embers Of A Dying World’ is closed out by ‘The Colours Of The Cosmos’ and then ‘Apprentice Of Death’, both of which follow the sumptuous and strangely religious-sounding interlude of ‘Agnus Dei’. The former delivers yet more strong catchy melodies whilst the latter rounds things out with one final five-minute blast of full-on dramatic, symphonic death metal.

So there you are. Credit has to go to Mors Principium Est for firstly sticking around in the face of constant personnel turmoil and secondly, for releasing what has to comfortably be their best work to date in ‘Embers Of A Dying World’. For those who enjoy melodic death metal or extreme metal of any kind with a grandiose edge and a polished sheen cannot fail to like this record. For me, it has made a huge impact and is certainly the benchmark for all other melodeath bands to aspire to in 2017. Whether anyone can reach it remains to be seen, however.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII – Album Review

borealis-cover

Artist: Borealis

Album Title: World Of Silence

Label: AFM Records

Date Of Release: 27 January 2017

It’s nice to make a new musical discovery and the first of 2017 comes in the form of Canadian band, Borealis. I’d heard the name but never investigated further. However, keen to get the Blog of Much Metal off to a strong start, I did a little looking around. As it happened, along came an email from those good people at AFM and my interest was piqued enough to give this release my attention. Not a bad move as it turns out because ‘World Of Silence MMXVII’ is a very nice album with a lot to enjoy. And rather fitting too, as it is an entirely re-recorded and re-mixed version of their debut album released in 2008. What better place then to begin my new voyage of discovery?

For those like me who are currently unfamiliar with the name Borealis, they are a quintet formed in the mid noughties from Orangeville, Ontario in Canada. They actually began life a fair way removed from their current output as they were originally a female-fronted metal band more in the operatic, symphonic style. Nowadays, based on the output of ‘World Of Silence MMXVII’, they are much more of a melodic prog metal band with the symphonic element more or less intact.

I obviously can’t comment on how this re-recording compares to the original but what I can say is that I am impressed by this album. Stylistically, it takes its cue from many of the names within this loose subgenre. As such, I can hear nods towards Vanishing Point, Kamelot, Mystic Prophecy, and a whole host of others including Nightwish in some kind of lasting recognition of their early roots. It means that the musical output isn’t always the most original but there’s no denying the fact that Borealis do have an air of quality about them. This is a record I can see myself listening to on a relatively frequent basis, certainly until the Canadians release their fourth full-length in the latter stages of the year. And indeed, this is a strong enough showing to mean that I am seriously looking forward to hearing what Borealis circa 2017 sound like.

The album is dominated by big, chunky riffs courtesy of Matt Marinelli and Mike Briguglio as well as some exuberant lead work that only increases the melody and provides for some welcome flamboyance. Layers of synths and keys from Sean Werlick swirl and flow in and out of the music to create lashings of atmosphere and further melody. In addition, the rhythm section of drummer Sean Dowell and bassist Trevor McBride is incredibly strong with Dowell catching my attention frequently thanks to his intense hell-for-leather style that pulls the music along with urgency and a boundless energy.

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The album kicks off in wonderful fashion as the first three songs are all superb. ‘Lost Voices’ is a high tempo, barnstormer of an opener. It moves along at pace and with surety, opening up into a properly strong chorus ushered in by a gorgeous lead lick. The more I listen, the better it gets, to the point where I find myself hitting repeat quite frequently.

‘Midnight City’ is a killer tune with a huge chorus, a bouncy rhythm and dark Evergrey-esque overtones, whilst Vanishing Point looms large within ‘From The Fading Screams’, principally in the vocal department. Lead vocalist Matt Marinelli often employs a clean yet snarling, gritty approach but here, the deep and rich timbre is heavily reminiscent of Vanishing Point’s Silvio Massaro. Believe me when I say that this is a high compliment from me.

The other thing that I like about Borealis is the way in which they seem to be able to pen songs that deliver irresistible introductions. I’m not saying that the compositions from then on are poor, far from it in fact. It is just that some of the intros are just delicious, drawing me in for further listens. Take the piano and synth beginning to the aforementioned ‘From The Fading Screams’ as an example or the slow build of ‘Eyes Of A Dream’ where the symphonics duet with yet more ear-catching drumming before the guitars come crashing in on proceedings. ‘World Of Silence’ kicks in with a seriously cool repeated guitar lick and double-pedal drumming whilst ‘The Dawning Light’ has a wonderfully cheeky and melodic beginning that is the foundation for one of the best tracks on the album.

OK, so I am thoroughly smitten and would recommend this band to anyone who likes any of the bands mentioned within the review or indeed anyone who likes heavy metal with gusto, plenty of melody, a hint of prog and a healthy symphonic edge. ‘World of Silence MMXVII’ has thoroughly whetted my appetite for Borealis and I will definitely be awaiting the new album later in the year with eager anticipation.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.0

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day
Delain – Moonbathers
Arcade Messiah – III
A Sense Of Gravity – Atrament
Devilment – Devilment II: The Mephisto Waltzes
Maschine – Naturalis
Brutai – Born
False Coda – Secrets and Sins
Pretty Maids – Kingmaker
In Flames – Battles
The Neal Morse Band – The Similitude Of A Dream
Memoreve – Insignia
Enbound – The Blackened Heart
Blind Ego – Liquid
Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
Hammerfall – Built To Last
Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake
Crippled Black Phoenix – Bronze
Riverside – Eye Of The Soundscape
Hanging Garden – Hereafter
Theocracy – Ghost Ship
Arkona – Lunaris
Oddland – Origin
Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour
Edensong – Years In The Garden of Years
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Alcest – Kodama
Opeth – Sorceress
Negura Bunget – ZI
Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld