Amorphis – Halo – Album Review

Artist: Amorphis

Album Title: Halo

Label: Atomic Fire Records

Date of Release:  11 February 2022

My love affair with Amorphis began back before the turn of the Millennium, not long after they released ‘Tuonela’. This is still one of those albums that I revere and listen to on a rather frequent basis. However, even so, I have to consider the fact that 2015’s ‘Under The Red Cloud’ and 2018’s ‘Queen Of Time’ both may surpass their 1999 offering, being such fantastic albums from start to finish. Stylistically relatively different, the reintroduction of gruff vocals and a harsher melodic death metal edge to compliment the folk-infused melodies were always ingredients that were highly likely to find favour with me. Regardless, I think it’s fair to say that Amorphis are one of the most enduring bands within metal circles, always tweaking with their sound, but never failing to deliver some potent, high-quality music in the process. It’s this staggering consistency which is most impressive; instead of pining for the output of their early years, here I am suggesting that the Finns are getting better with time.

All of this preamble means that the sextet have created something of a rod for their own backs. If they release an album that doesn’t quite live up to past endeavours, fans will be disappointed and critics (don’t you just hate them?!) will sink their teeth in. But it’s a thankless, almost impossible task to keep writing and recording music that matches or surpasses all that has gone before. In essence, it’s a no-win situation. Mind you, this is Amorphis, so if any band was to be up for the challenge, it is them.

Since releasing ‘Queen Of Time’, the band has moved from Nuclear Blast to Atomic Fire Records. Reading a few quotes sprinkled within the press release provided by their new label, the talented gents seem keen to point out that they consider ‘Halo’ to be more ‘progressive’ than other recent endeavours. To me, that’s always a welcome revelation as I am a sucker for well-written and well-delivered progressive music, be it heavy or not.

The fact that it has taken so long to publish this review should tell you a little about the struggles I have had when formulating my thoughts on ‘Halo’. Writer’s block and internal wrangles are not fun. There is no denying that once again, the musicianship and ability of the band is not in question; this is yet another thoroughly professional and enjoyable ride into the world of Kalevala, via the lyrical talents of Pekka Kainulainen. But, try as I might, I’ve not warmed to the content in the same way as the last two and others within their ever-growing back catalogue. I feel mealy mouthed even contemplating such feedback, but I have to be honest and speak as I find.

Let me make it clear that ‘Halo’ is still head and shoulders above great swathes of albums that I have heard of late and will continue to hear as the year goes by. But when Amorphis have set the bar so high in the past, it can only result in a little disappointment when I don’t feel the same connection. And the reason for this, I believe, rests in the fact that there are less songs that I’d colloquially refer to as ‘bangers’. Some of the songs are hugely anthemic and full of power, with strong hooks, and melodies. But for my money, there are less of these on ‘Halo’, with a greater emphasis on those progressive elements, especially as the influences from the 70s loom large across several tracks.

‘Halo’ kicks off with ‘Northwards’ and it’s right out of the gate that I feel torn. It’s a fantastic song, of that there’s no doubt, with much to enjoy about it, including an immediate nod towards a more organic, progressive feel. The opening moments are darkly cinematic, brooding in feel. From there, it erupts in instantly recognisable fashion, with a driving tempo and energetic demeanour. The guitar riffs courtesy of Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari that join vocalist Tomi Joutsen’s gruff bark are satisfyingly chunky, whilst the drums of Jan Rechberger and the bass of Olli-Pekka Laine provide a strong, interesting backbone. However, I struggle just a touch with the chorus that feels a little undercooked and the bold, 70s prog synths courtesy of Santeri Kallio are a little too pronounced if I’m honest. The quieter section that sees Joutsen croon mellifluously and with emotion is great, as is the introduction of choral vocals to offer another layer to an already multi-faceted track. I have tried to love the song, but I am yet to have that epiphany.

The same cannot be said for a handful of other songs that I have taken to my heart almost immediately. First off, there’s ‘On The Dark Waters’ that begins with an intro that’s reminiscent of Amorphis of yesteryear. The groove and lead guitar melodies on top are delightful, whilst the keys feel less intrusive. The chorus is a thing of real beauty though; Joutsen belts out some fabulously stirring clean vocals that are actually quite sad, whilst the irresistible hooks take effect from the outset. When I spoke about ‘bangers’ earlier, this is without doubt the first such song on ‘Halo’, even taking into account the striking Middle Eastern sounding passage around the midway point.

Other highlights on ‘Halo’ include the likes of ‘The Moon’, an epic track that features an uplifting, majestic chorus whilst also offering a more introspective vibe, wonderfully engaging guitar tones, and occasional ethereal female vocals. There is a definite progressive feel that I really like within this composition too; for me, this is the sound of Amorphis at their melodic and arresting best, easily producing one of the strongest listening experiences on the entire album.

‘A New Land’ is another personal favourite; more of a shorter, more straightforward composition with great energy and another melodic chorus topped off with one of Joutsen’s finest performances in my humble opinion. It is a track that once again emphasises those Middle Eastern flourishes that Amorphis favour, and the whole thing just works.

I love the ‘Tuonela’-like intro to ‘Seven Roads Come Together’, as well as the interplay between guitars and keys that makes the track almost dance at times. The shifts in tempo and intensity are noteworthy too, meaning it’s one of the most dramatic-sounding songs on the album. And who could resist the cinematic trappings of the final sequence?

Naturally, the title track is another of those immediate ‘bangers’, a full-throttle assault to begin with that cleverly juxtaposed by elegant melodies to create a captivating composition. The verses introduce a female voice to duet subtly with Joutsen, whilst the chorus thunders through the speakers with nicely tempered metallic aggression.

To be honest, it’s rather difficult to criticise that much on ‘Halo’ because there isn’t much about which I can be critical. At the end of the day, it’s a very solid, occasionally brilliant album that is more than worthy of standing beside others within the Finn’s back catalogue. However, sometimes the final piece in the puzzle with an album is how it make you feel as a listener. On that score, despite some very good songs, plenty of professionalism, and lots to enjoy, the overall feel of ‘Halo’ for me personally, falls just a little short of the bar that the sextet set with ‘Queen Of Time’. With that disc, I couldn’t wait to press play again. With ‘Halo’, I really enjoy large chunks of the album, but I don’t get that same level of excitement and rush of adrenaline when I listen. Not quite anyway.

The Score of Much Metal: 87%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

Nordic Giants – Sybiosis

Persefone – Metanoia

Vorga – Striving Toward Oblivion

Mystic Circle – Mystic Circle

Nasson – Scars

Burned In Effigy – Rex Mortem

Silent Skies – Nectar

Celeste – Assassine(s)

Abyssus – Death Revival

SOM – The Shape Of Everything

Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools

Beriedir – AQVA

Lalu – Paint The Sky

Nocturna – Daughters Of The Night

Battle Beast – Circus Of Doom

Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge

Descent – Order Of Chaos

Aethereus – Leiden

Toundra – Hex

Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event EP

Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel

Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend

Infected Rain – Ecdysis

Wilderun – Epigone

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2021 reviews

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Album of the Year 2018 – Number 5

Welcome to another chapter of my Album of the Year 2018 top 30 countdown. But not just any chapter: we have reached the top five. Finally, I hear you cry! Indeed, after what must feel to you all like a hundred years, I have entered the final act of this year’s countdown.

At certain points within this series, when the presents require wrapping, when the job demands a final end-of-year push, when the children have about a thousand performances to watch and when there’s family to see, I wish I’d just done a quick list and left it at that. But that feeling lasts mere seconds as I realise that I have thoroughly enjoyed bringing this countdown to you. The sense of achievement is immense…as is the relief as I near the end.

As always, if you’ve missed any of my previous posts, head down to the bottom of this post to check out the links for numbers 30-6.

So let me reveal the number five choice…

Number 5:

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Amorphis
‘Queen of Time’
Nuclear Blast
Score of Much Metal: 9.75

I’ve been a huge fan of Finnish metal band Amorphis ever since I heard the magnificent ‘Tuonela’ around the time of its release in 1999. It led me to discover their back catalogue and, eventually, to meet the guys at a listening session at the Nuclear Blast headquarters for their 2007 release ‘Silent Waters’. It is fair to say that this is a band that is very important to me.

The thing is, as good as their more recent material has been, I always returned to ‘Tuonela’ because that’s the record that I find synonymous with the band that’s part extreme metal, part folk, part prog and part dark metal. Until now, and the release of ‘Queen Of Time’.

They have toyed with different approaches and morphed over time but have always maintained a core identity. And ‘Queen of Time’ is no different in that regard, adding in new ideas here and there along the way. But with ‘Queen of Time’, they have arguably released their best ever material. The album, as a whole, is so incredibly on-point and it is wonderfully effortless in the process. Despite featuring those savage gruff vocals of Tomi Joutsen and some heavy instrumentalism, this record has a warm and smooth veneer that means that I find it a joy to listen to.

The melodic interplay is also beguiling on this record, as is the juxtaposition between the heavier elements and the softer side of the band. It means that one minute you find yourself banging your head, the next minute you’re rapt in an exquisitely wrought quieter refrain or singing along to a catchy chorus. And let’s not forget that many of the compositions on ‘Queen of Time’ are really quite involved and surprisingly complex; this isn’t simple music, it is multi-layered and multi-faceted music of the highest order.

When Amorphis are in this kind of form, is it any wonder that they find themselves within my top five at the end of the year?

To quote my review of 28 May 2018:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Just when you think that a band has reached their peak, they come along and prove you wrong. The moral of the story therefore, is never think that a band can’t improve upon a superb release, because they can. The evidence I present to the court is ‘Queen Of Time’, the thirteenth album from Finnish veterans Amorphis.

The first thing to state is that ‘Queen Of Time’ is not a radical departure for a band that has been on a gradual evolution of sound over their entire career. What it is, is the next step in their evolution and a firm statement of where they are today as artists and musicians.

And that statement seems to suggest that Amorphis are hitting new heights, challenging themselves and creating some magic in the process. ‘Queen of Time’ is, quite honestly, a joyous listening experience from start to finish, principally because everything that these Finns do is of the very highest quality. The melodies are strong, the folk elements are both authentic-sounding and interesting and there is a faint progressive element to the music in terms of the variety and subtle ideas at play. Indeed, ‘Queen Of Time’ feels like it contains some of the most complex music within the entire discography. If that wasn’t enough, I also love the heaviness of some of the material – led by the commanding riffs of guitarists Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari, and enhanced by the superb rhythmic section of returning bassist Olli-Pekka Laine and drummer Jan Rechberger – that is juxtaposed so smoothly and effortlessly with lighter, more upbeat sections, something that Amorphis have seemingly excelled at in recent years.

Put simply, the song writing is just so strong that so many of the songs on this record turn into bona-fide anthems that get lodged in my head for ages after the songs have finished playing.

What also strikes me about ‘Queen of Time’ also, is the depth and richness of the material. Each track is multi-layered and full of subtlety but they never feel over-worked or cluttered.

Virtually flawless, oozing with class, slathered in killer musicianship and bursting with unforgettable melodic elegance, ‘Queen of Time’ has to be the very best record of Amorphis’ career.”

Read the full review here.

If you missed the previous posts in my 2018 list, click here:

Album of the Year 2018 – Number 6
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 7
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 8
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 9
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 10
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 11
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 12
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 13
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 14
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 15
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 20
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 21
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 22
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 23
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 24
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 25
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 26
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 30

If you missed my ‘best EPs and compilations of 2018, you can read that here:

Album of the Year 2018 – EPs and Compilations

And here’s a reminder of my countdown series from previous years:

Album of the Year 2017
Album of the Year 2016
Album of the Year 2015
Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012

The best of 2018 so far – Part 5

Welcome to day five, the final instalment of my mini-series – my half-year round-up of the best music released during the first six months of 2018. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Naturally, I’m sure that you don’t all agree with my choices and there are sure to be some glaring omissions for some of you. But that’s the beauty of music: we all have our opinions, with each as valid as each other’s.

If you missed the previous parts of this mini-series, you can read them here:

The best of 2018 so far – Part 1
The best of 2018 so far – Part 2
The best of 2018 so far – Part 3
The best of 2018 so far – Part 4

As it is the last chapter in this series, there are five releases to enjoy, rather than the usual three. So, with that in mind, here they are:

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Amorphis
‘Queen of Time’
Nuclear Blast
Score: 9.8

 

Here is a band that, like a fine wine, just keeps getting better with age. Every time you think that these Finns cannot get any better, they release another mind-blowing record. This time, it is the sublime ‘Queen of Time’, an album that continues their gradual evolution whilst sticking loyally to their core sound. But it is just huge in every way and utterly compelling.

“‘Queen of Time’ is, quite honestly, a joyous listening experience from start to finish, principally because everything that these Finns do is of the very highest quality. The melodies are strong, the folk elements are both authentic-sounding and interesting and there is a faint progressive element to the music in terms of the variety and subtle ideas at play…

… Virtually flawless, oozing with class, slathered in killer musicianship and bursting with unforgettable melodic elegance, ‘Queen of Time’ has to be the very best record of Amorphis’ career.”

Read the full review here.

lamuerta_fb

 

Subsignal
‘La Muerta’
Gentle Art of Music
Score: 9.75

 

Subsignal are one of those bands that always delivers on quality, but as a fan, you never quite know what you are going to get with each album. They are true to their core of melodic progressive rock/metal but within these confines, anything goes. And sometimes, they are happy to stray outside those confines a little. ‘La Muerta’ is easily the most commercial-sounding and ‘pop’-like of their career to date. But importantly, it is easily one of their best too.

“‘La Muerta’ is once again different from past Subsignal outings. It is at once very recognisable as Subsignal but also it embraces new influences, or at least there’s a more pronounced use of other influences. There is certainly some truth in the statement that ‘La Muerta’ is the most mainstream-sounding record that Subsignal have ever recorded, with plenty of pop-like choruses and AOR embellishments. However, it is also satisfyingly ambitious, with plenty of variety within the eleven tracks and, as it turns out, a pleasing amount of progressive intent.”

Read the full review here.

Press_Cover_SB

 

Spock’s Beard
‘Noise Floor’
InsideOut Music
Score: 9.25

 

Having had a rocky relationship with Spock’s Beard over the years, I finally clicked with the band via their last album, ‘The Oblivion Particle’. And happily, this relatively new-found love affair continues apace thanks to ‘Noise Floor’, another superb album chock full of quality melodically-charged classic progressive rock.

“what I really enjoy about ‘Noise Floor’ is the way that the music is immediately welcoming; there is a warmth to the compositions as well as a playful exuberance that means that you connect with the songs very quickly despite the high levels of technicality and complexity on offer throughout…

… If you’re after professionally-crafted, progressive rock that is warm, inviting and with plenty of melody and tight-as-a-drum musicianship, you cannot go wrong with Spock’s Beard. They are the band that keeps on delivering, with ‘Noise Floor’ being their latest gift to a grateful prog world.”

Read the full review here.

The Sea Within cover

 

The Sea Within
‘The Sea Within’
InsideOut Music
Score: 9.25

 

Not content with releasing one quality progressive rock album in June 2018, InsideOut gave us prog fans two. On the same day no less. The Sea Within is one of those myriad ‘super groups’ that are the life blood of the progressive genre. It is a line-up that gets the mouth watering and when you hear it, your ears are as happy as you’d hoped they’d be. Quite simply, this is top class music from a top class line-up.

“I think that, having spent plenty of time with this record, its magic lies in the way in which the music sounds varied and technical, whilst delivering a warmth and sense of melody that is impossible to ignore. It encompasses the old and the new almost effortlessly too, which is no mean feat… this album benefits from a myriad of different influences, from all-out jazz noodling, to pop, to harder, more aggressive rock/metal via the more classic progressive rock sounds and textures…

…Some of the compositions may stray into strange and unexpected realms but they are always underpinned by something memorable and, in many cases, catchy. And the more I listen, the more I hear and the more I connect with the music.”

Read the full review here.

13214566 - dramatic sky over old lonely tree

 

Kataklysm
‘Meditations’
Nuclear Blast
Score: 9.25

 

My final choice from the first half of 2018 comes in the form of Canadian death metal veterans, Kataklysm. There is something about this band that seems to hit a sweet spot with me. The combination of the guitar tones, the clever use of killer riffs and the juxtaposition between aggression and melody is inspired, as demonstrated on this brilliant album.

“Everything that you want to hear from a Kataklysm album is present on ‘Meditations’, and the band waste no time in delivering the goods…

…You can’t call it one-dimensional, simple, boring or any of these things, because nothing could be further from the truth. This is interesting, multi-dimensional, heavy, memorable and slick death metal with real bite and enough melody to give it a pleasing memorability….

… Kataklysm’s music transports me to a place where I cannot just sit passively and listen; they force me to invest something more of myself into the music and that’s a great thing as far as I’m concerned.”

Read the full review here.

Amorphis – Queen Of Time – Album Review

cover

Artist: Amorphis

Album Title: Queen Of Time

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date of Release: 18 May 2018

Just when you think that a band has reached their peak, they come along and prove you wrong. The moral of the story therefore, is never think that a band can’t improve upon a superb release, because they can. The evidence I present to the court is ‘Queen Of Time’, the thirteenth album from Finnish veterans Amorphis.

Back in 2015, I suggested that ‘Under A Red Cloud’ was arguably the best album of Amorphis’ career and that is something I still adhere to three years later. ‘Under The Red Cloud’ is most definitely the sound of a band firing on all cylinders, pushing my historical favourite record, ‘Tuonela’ all the way. However, if anything, ‘Queen of Time’ sees its direct predecessor and raises the stakes even higher. I’m scratching my head a little as I try to grapple with this reality but reality is most certainly is. Like a fine wine, Amorphis just seem to get better with age.

The first thing to state is that ‘Queen Of Time’ is not a radical departure for a band that has been on a gradual evolution of sound over their entire career. What it is, is the next step in their evolution and a firm statement of where they are today as artists and musicians.

And that statement seems to suggest that Amorphis are hitting new heights, challenging themselves and creating some magic in the process. ‘Queen of Time’ is, quite honestly, a joyous listening experience from start to finish, principally because everything that these Finns do is of the very highest quality. The melodies are strong, the folk elements are both authentic-sounding and interesting and there is a faint progressive element to the music in terms of the variety and subtle ideas at play. Indeed, ‘Queen Of Time’ feels like it contains some of the most complex music within the entire discography. If that wasn’t enough, I also love the heaviness of some of the material – led by the commanding riffs of guitarists Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari, and enhanced by the superb rhythmic section of returning bassist Olli-Pekka Laine and drummer Jan Rechberger – that is juxtaposed so smoothly and effortlessly with lighter, more upbeat sections, something that Amorphis have seemingly excelled at in recent years.

Put simply, the song writing is just so strong that so many of the songs on this record turn into bona-fide anthems that get lodged in my head for ages after the songs have finished playing.

Then, to top it all off, there’s the vocals of Tomi Joutsen. Over the years, the surprisingly shy and retiring singer has got better and better, to the point where I honestly feel that he is one of my absolute favourites. His clean delivery is so smooth and full of feeling that it simply cannot be ignored, but it is the variety in his singing that’s just so damn impressive.

What also strikes me about ‘Queen of Time’ also, is the depth and richness of the material. Each track is multi-layered and full of subtlety but they never feel over-worked or cluttered. The keys of Santeri Kallio are superb on this record, but they are enhanced by the addition of an orchestra and a choir for the very first time in the band’s career. It is a masterstroke that adds layers of atmosphere, a symphonic bombast and a majestic elegance that is often breath-taking, always irresistible.

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Where does one begin then, when trying to pick out the best moments for a succinct review? Well, I’ve never been renowned for brevity or succinctness, so who cares, right?

The album kicks off in masterful fashion with the lead single with which many of you are now extremely familiar. Let me assure you however, that if ‘The Bee’ remains the only song you’ve heard from ‘Queen Of Time’ to date, the rest of the album really is just as good. The quiet yet ominous opening that explodes into a gorgeous melodic section full of exuberance is captivating, as the insistent heavy riffing imbued with an almost Middle-Eastern flavour, and the huge atmospheric chorus that was hinted at in the early stages. And it gets better with repeated listens; so much better, as the small, subtle intricacies peek through into your conscious. If your pulse is not racing as the song closes at the five-and-a-half-minute mark, there really is no hope for you I’m afraid.

‘Message In The Amber’ offers a much more pronounced Scandinavian folk flavour, as well as a greater dichotomy between quiet, understated passages and the all-out metal attack, led by gruff growls and plenty of measured aggression. It also has a greater cinematic sheen, as well as a darker overall vibe, embellished wonderfully by the aforementioned choir.

The opening up-tempo riff of ‘Daughter of Hate’ has a vaguely off-kilter, progressive feel to it whilst being very seductive. I cannot shake the belief that there’s also a black metal edge to the song on occasion which is no bad thing. I even like the guest appearance of Shining saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby who adds yet another dimension to proceedings, whilst further emphasising the experimental, almost playful nature of the song which is capped off with a native spoken-word section towards the close.

If I had to pin my colours to the mast, I’d declare the following two tracks, ‘The Golden Elk’ and ‘Wrong Direction’ as the album’s best however. The former begins with a striking, cinematic intro reminiscent of Kamelot in their pomp before launching into a stomping, heady melody that makes an immediate impact and which only gets better when the chorus fully unfolds. There are parallels with Orphaned Land too, thanks to the pronounced Middle-Eastern melodies that come hugely to the fore throughout the song.

The latter contains unmistakeable echoes to the ‘Tuonela’ era, especially in the brilliant opening guitar work, so it’s no wonder I find myself gravitating towards it. It is also one of the simpler, straightforward tracks on the record, with a devastatingly strong chorus that Joutsen makes his own, ensuring in the process that it is a sing-along anthem of epic proportions. Right now, this ranks as one of my all-time favourite Amorphis compositions, an accolade I can’t see being removed any time soon.

I could honestly mention every song on ‘Queen Of Time’, as there isn’t a misstep or a weaker moment anywhere to be heard. For example, ‘Heart of The Giant’ is another ambitious composition complete with keyboard solo and sprawling grandeur, ‘We Accursed’ is blessed with a wonderful tempo and no small amount of groovy swagger, whilst ‘Grain Of Sand’ masterfully builds to an imposing climax.

However, I feel compelled to take a breath and pause to mention ‘Amongst Stars’ in particular, a euphoric beacon of light and melodic brilliance that is further enhanced by a guest appearance from the unmistakeable Anneke van Giersbergen, who sounds as angelic as ever, the perfect counterpoint to Mr Joutsen within the exquisite song.

Finally, my review of this spectacular album wouldn’t be complete without mention of the production. It takes a huge amount of talent and skill to make such an ambitiously grand proposition like this sound so balanced, powerful and clear. Enter Jens Bogren of Fascination Street Studios, who has surpassed himself here. Put on a pair of headphones and tell me that this isn’t one of the best-sounding albums of recent years, I dare you.

All this means that with ‘Queen of Time’, I am faced with a strong contender for ‘album of the year’. Virtually flawless, oozing with class, slathered in killer musicianship and bursting with unforgettable melodic elegance, ‘Queen of Time’ has to be the very best record of Amorphis’ career. If you haven’t bought it yet, I hope this review has convinced you to do so. If you’re a metal fan with any shred of self-respect, ‘Queen of Time’ needs to be in your collection immediately.

The Score of Much Metal: 9.8

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:

2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
Hekz – Invicta
Widow’s Peak – Graceless EP
Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik – Hugsjá
Frequency Drift – Letters to Maro
Æpoch – Awakening Inception
Crematory – Oblivion
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse

Metal Update – 23 February 2018

The updates are coming thick and fast now, as more and more albums are being announced, confirmed, or further explained. Sometimes I have to go hunting for the latest news to bring you, scouring the bits of social media that the new algorithms apparently don’t want us to see. Today’s update pretty much wrote itself however, as the news dropped into my lap over the course of a morning. I am therefore really pleased to bring you all a new batch of exciting news in my normal newsletter style.

Kingcrow – The Persistence
Release date: TBC

My relentless quest to get this magnificent Italian prog rock/metal band the recognition they deserve continues. I still have nothing but silence to bring you regarding a release date for their new album ‘The Persistence’. However, we do have a new short clip to give you another brief insight into the music on the album. Check it out right here:

Amorphis – Queen of Time
Release date: 18 May 2018

I’ve already mentioned Finnish metal band Amorphis this year, as it became obvious that 2018 would see a new record from them. This is great news as far as I’m concerned because Amorphis are hugely important to me, not least because they consistently release excellent music.

Today I am delighted to report that we now have an official release date for the new record, as well as a confirmed album title and artwork. On the subject of the artwork, I have to say that I love it – so striking and detailed. It’s the kind of cover that would make me buy an album blind.

Even more intriguingly, Esa Holopainen has been quoted as saying the following about the new record: “It’s a very natural continuation to ‘Under The Red Cloud’ but with steroids. The songs are more aggressive but there’s more dynamics, harmonies and orchestral arrangements present. The result is AMORPHIS as something you’ve never heard before!”

I loved Amorphis already, so Amorphis on steroids? That’s an exciting prospect. I hope the band don’t take things too far, but if it is anything like their previous record ‘Under A Red Cloud’, it’ll be fantastic.

Teramaze – TBC
Release date: TBC

Up until ‘My Halo’ hit my inbox during 2015, I was blissfully unaware of the Australian melodic progressive metal band. They rightly featured in my ‘most anticipated of 2018’ round-up series earlier in the year, given the positive impact that ‘My Halo’ made a couple of years ago. I have made sure that I have kept a close eye on progress of their next album, so that I don’t miss a thing.

And, in just the last day or so, we have been treated to a flurry of posts on social media to update us on the progress of the new album. At the moment, the band appears to be focusing on the drums and have released a couple of videos to give us a little insight. Check them out below and enjoy.

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Northward – TBC
Release date: TBC

I have no idea if I’ll like this, because believe it or not, my love for classic rock is not the strongest. However, the names of Floor Jansen and Jørn Viggo Lofstad cannot be ignored. Jansen, currently plying her trade with Nightwish is an exceptional singer, whilst Lofstad has beguiled me over the years as guitarist with Pagan’s Mind. Meeting at Progpower USA in 2007, their collaboration under the moniker of Northward has remained on ice for a decade – until now.

Throwing the names of Deep Purple, Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin and Alter Bridge around, theirs is described as a ‘basic rock sound’ far removed from the more layered and detailed sounds of their day-job bands. Floor is quoted as saying “The music is melodic, but also in your face and kick ass rock. Cool riffs, good melodies and tasteful arrangements. We would simply like to call it ‘Good Music’”

I’m certainly intrigued by this partnership and will bring you more news when I get it.

If you’ve missed any of my other updates in this series during 2018 so far, they can be accessed via the following links.

Metal update – 21 February
Metal update – 17 February
Metal update – 12 February
Metal update – 6 February

My most anticipated releases of 2018 – Part 4

I was going to stop after part 3, but new albums seem to be being announced all over the place now that the holiday season is a dim and distant memory for us all. As such, here’s another post detailing a few more exciting possibilities during 2018. And I’m not going to confirm that it’ll be the last either, because we all know that the minute this is published, more information will be revealed.

But for now, as I sit here in front of my loyal Machine of Much Metal, here are some more juicy releases to get your teeth stuck into during 2018:

Amorphis – TBC
Release date: TBC

Without doubt, Finnish metal band Amorphis are one of my ‘elite’, a band that I love and have loved for many years. As far as I’m concerned, ‘Tuonela’ remains their high water mark but previous album, ‘Under The Red Cloud’ pushed it very close, finishing 2015 in my end-of-year top 10.

Amorphis have grown from more extreme roots into a heavy, folk-tinged melodic metal band with occasional prog inflections. It is a wonderful formula that has transformed a very good underground band into a deserved big-hitter in the metal world. Huge choruses and chunky riffs stand at the heart of Amorphis’ music these days but I love the way that they have never fully relinquished their harsher past, with vocalist Tomi Joutsen equally at home singing cleanly or belting out his harsh gruff bark.

From their social media posts and their hashtag #amorphis13, the new album is nearly done and it appears to feature a guest or two, Anneke van Giersbergen being the highest profile. But best of all is this poor-sounding clip that nevertheless reveals a little of the Amorphis magic to come.

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Immortal – TBC
Release date – TBC

You could never call me the biggest fan of Immortal, but for some reason I have always been fascinated by the band. Abbath, the man who has spawned a million memes, may have left the fold but the black metal entity continues via vocalist/guitarist Demonaz, drummer Horgh alongside session bassist Peter Tagtgren, who also produced this, his fifth Immortal album.

According to the press release issued by Nuclear Blast, the currently un-named record has been mastered and features the following tracks: ‘Northern Chaos Gods’, ‘Into Battle Ride’, ‘Gates To Blashyrkh’, ‘Grim And Dark’, ‘Called To Ice’, ‘Where Mountains Rise’, ‘Blacker Of Worlds’ and ‘Mighty Ravendark’.

I’m actually looking forward to hearing this release more than I initially thought. There is something about Immortal that just piques my curiosity. I don’t listen to them as much as perhaps I should but when I do, I really enjoy their trademark icy and epic-sounding black metal. I may not be the most qualified person to review it when it is released, but I’m sure I shall have fun doing so nonetheless.

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Credit: Håkon Grav

Native Construct – TBC
Release date: TBC

Hailing from the Berklee College of Music, there was never going to be any doubt about the collective abilities of technical progressive metal band Native Construct. But could their skills translate into compelling and interesting song-writing? You bet they could.

There’s no denying the fact that ‘Quiet World’ is a challenge to even the most hardened of prog fans. However, I’m firmly of the opinion that it is well worth the effort. The complexity of the music does yield after a time and a surprising number of melodic moments do come to the fore. Some of the earworms are really quite addictive too. And for me, one of the biggest compliments I can give is to say that I really liked the debut in spite of there being no human drummer. I hope that this will be rectified for album two but so good were the programmed drums on the debut that it wouldn’t be a disaster if it isn’t. After all, drummer or no drummer, it was number 24 in my 2015 end-of-year top 30.

We don’t have much to go on regarding a new album, aside from a couple of teaser posts on social media, like below. So it remains to be seen whether I’m hoping a little too much.

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At The Gates – TBC
Release date: TBC

There is very little moe that needs to be said regarding At The Gates. They are a seminal band, legends in fact. If you’ve not heard ‘Slaughter of the Soul’, one of the most important and influential melodic death metal albums of all time, you need to have a good long talk to yourself. Many argue that this was the album that started the whole genre in the first place. And it is amazing – 30 minutes of extreme metal perfection, culminating in ‘The Flames of the End’, one of the most stunning and atmospheric instrumentals ever penned.

When the band called it quits in 1996, most of us thought that it was the end. However, our dream was realised in 2007 when the Swedes announced that they had reformed to play some reunion shows across Europe. Then, at the beginning of 2014, we were informed that At The Gates were writing a new album. ‘At War With Reality’ was a superb record, worthy of the bands’ heritage. However, I have a sneaky feeling that the new album will be even better. Just call it a hunch. At the end of the day, At The Gates are one of the very best and whatever they produce is bound to be of the highest order.

There’s precious little music to be heard, but here’s the latest studio update for you to enjoy whilst we wait…

W.E.T – Earthrage
Release date: 23 March 2018

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Without a doubt, W.E.T. are my favourite melodic hard rock bands. Mind you, given the clientele involved, it is hardly surprising. Not only is Jeff Scott Soto (Talisman) behind the mic, he is joined by Erik Mårtensson of Eclipse and Robert Säll of Work of Art. Together they are part of and responsible for some of the best AOR and melodic rock over the last few years. Bring them together and the whole thing just smokes. The self-titled debut is probably my favourite melodic hard rock release of all time and the follow-up, ‘Rise Up’, isn’t far behind either.

Great musicianship, huge hooks and giant choruses. Together with heart and soul, all these elements combine perfectly and deliver music that sticks like glue in my mind and refuses to let go. The music is anthemic in the extreme and a joy to listen to from start to finish. This trio do not understand the concept of fillers – every track that bears the W.E.T name is worth your time and attention.

Have a listen to the first track released from the new album and tell me that it doesn’t warrant our excitement – I dare you!

My most anticipated releases of 2018 – Part 3
My most anticipated releases of 2018 – Part 2
My most anticipated releases of 2018 – Part 1
An early sneak peek at what’s coming in 2018

Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 9

Welcome to day 22 of my ‘Album of the Year 2015’ Top 30 countdown. No great long intro today, just a reminder to check out my picks from 30 down to 10, all of which are linked at the bottom of this post.

Number 9

amorphis coverAmorphis
‘Under The Red Cloud’
Nuclear Blast

I mean, who doesn’t love a dose of folk-tinged heavy and melodic metal anthems?! I certainly do and given that few bands produce this kind of music so well means that unless Amorphis released an out-of-character rubbish record, this was always destined to feature somewhere in my list. The fact that ‘Under The Red Cloud’ could be the Finn’s strongest record since 1999’s ‘Tuonela’ (my personal favourite) meant that their inclusion had to break into this years’ top ten.

I wrote a full, in-depth review of this album around the time of it’s release. It can be read in full here. However, to quote a small passage from it: ‘As is the Amorphis way, the record is a little deceiving. Listen superficially and you’re confronted with ten tracks of well-crafted heavy rock/metal with big choruses, the gruff-meets-clean vocal approach of Tomi Joutsen and those archetypal folk-inspired embellishments. It’s a powerful set of melodic and instantly engaging heavy songs that delivers plenty of head-nodding fodder to get the blood really pumping. However, if you’re prepared to listen more carefully, ‘Under The Red Cloud’ can be even more rewarding. Do so, and that initial simplicity and apparent economy of song writing within the compositions give way to something entirely different. Amorphis, comprised of vocalist Tomi Joutsen, guitarists Tomi Koivusaari and Esa Holopainen, keyboardist Santeri Kallio, bassist Niclas Etalövuori and drummer Jan Rechberger are a more complex band than many give them credit for and this record demonstrates this comprehensively.’

Pic: Ville Juurikkala
Pic: Ville Juurikkala

It’s no word of a lie to say two things about ‘Under The Red Cloud’: Firstly, there is not a weak track amongst the ten on offer on this record and secondly, in spite of the instant hit of gratification that it delivers, the music just gets better with each and every listen, to the point where you press play and within a few moments of the opening title track, that broad grin returns bigger and goofier than the last time.

If the opener is a bona-fide anthem, then ‘The Four Wise Ones’ is nothing short of a full-on metal monster; it has the riffs, it has the almost exclusive gruff vocals that actually sound savage and yet, at it’s heart, it also has a soft, almost whimsical Celtic-sounding folk melody that helps to soften the edges and create the kind of addictive listening experience that Amorphis have honed and become ever-more famous over their twelve studio releases to date.

The other nice touch about this album is that it quietly nods in the direction of past sounds. From the black/death metal overtones of the ‘Tales Of A thousand Lakes’-era ‘Dark Path’ to ‘Sacrifice’ with its more modern anthemic and up-tempo framework, via more overtly progressive numbers such as ‘Enemy At The Gates’, there’s definitely a rich variety within the compositions that draws upon all of the knowledge and experience of this talented sextet. Add in those decadent Middle Eastern and traditional Finnish folk sounds and ‘Under The Red Cloud’ quickly becomes an irresistible listen and easily one of the band’s best yet.

Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 10Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 11
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 12
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 13
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 14
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 15
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 16
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 17
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 18
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 19
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 20
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 21
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 22
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 23
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 24
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 25
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 26
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 30

And from previous years:

Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012

Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud – Album Review

amorphis cover

Artist: Amorphis

Album Title: Under The Red Cloud

Label: Nuclear Blast

Year Of Release: 2015

Throughout their career, Amorphis have been one of those bands that have achieved something rather special. Theirs is an approach and a sound that has evolved over the years from more of a dark/death metal blueprint, to the self-titled ‘melancholic rock’ that dominates their more current output. And yet, the evolution of the sextet has been entirely natural, extremely smooth and, in spite of a few surprises here and there along the way, the Finns have always created instantly recognisable music; there’s never any doubt when you listen to an Amorphis record, be it ‘Tales From A Thousand Lakes’ or ‘Am Universam’, that you’re listening to Amorphis.

Personally-speaking, I’ve been a fan ever since I discovered their 1999 release, ‘Tuonela’. It wasn’t love at first listen but it has become a firm favourite within my collection. From the simple and effective artwork, right through to the dark, brooding and immensely powerful, folk-tinged musical output, it ticks almost all of the boxes for me. If truth be told, ‘Tuonela’ remains my favourite within the entire 11-disc back catalogue despite some real gems of songs found littered throughout their extensive discography.

As an aside, I had the pleasure of meeting the band during my first ever press trip to the Nuclear Blast headquarters around the release of ‘Silent Waters’ in 2007. It was a weekend I’ll never forget, largely because the guys were so damn nice and also, in direct opposition to their generally dark musical output, very funny and light-hearted. But I digress…

I’m now presented with album number 12, the ominously-titled ‘Under The Red Cloud’ with its striking stylised front-cover artwork. And, in a year that has been dominated by bands releasing the strongest material of their careers, the trend arguably continues here. I mean, if this record isn’t their best, it’s very very close.

As is the Amorphis way, the record is a little deceiving. Listen superficially and you’re confronted with ten tracks of well-crafted heavy rock/metal with big choruses, the gruff-meets-clean vocal approach of Tomi Joutsen and those archetypal folk-inspired embellishments. It’s a powerful set of melodic and instantly engaging heavy songs that delivers plenty of head-nodding fodder to get the blood really pumping. And, frankly, what’s not to like about that?

However, if you’re prepared to listen more carefully, ‘Under The Red Cloud’ can be even more rewarding. Do so, and that initial simplicity and apparent economy of song writing within the compositions give way to something entirely different. Amorphis, comprised of vocalist Tomi Joutsen, guitarists Tomi Koivusaari and Esa Holopainen, keyboardist Santeri Kallio, bassist Niclas Etalövuori and drummer Jan Rechberger are a more complex band than many give them credit for and this record demonstrates this comprehensively.

Pic: Ville Juurikkala
Pic: Ville Juurikkala

The title track opens the record in relatively quiet fashion with a piano melody that’s overlaid with some subtle and expressive guitar work. However, the track builds and it’s not long before it blasts into life and blossoms into a bona fide anthem. The chorus is huge and there’s a smattering of Joutsen’s gruff vocals in and amongst an otherwise clean, vibrant and soulful delivery which is full of dynamism fitting the sonic landscapes perfectly.

The follow-up ‘The Four Wise Ones’, on the other hand, is a full-on metal behemoth. The vocals are exclusively gruff and the chunky riffing and dark overtones are a joy to listen to. In fact, the intensity of it sends shivers down my spine frequently, particularly the opening staccato riff and deep, almost inaudible growls that gives way to a chugging, stomping tempo. It’s during this track that the first big hints at Amorphis’ folk influences emerge too, acting as a lovely counterpoint to the metal onslaught elsewhere in the song.

With an album as strong as this, it’s impossible to mention every composition individually. Suffice to say that every song has something within it to delight the listener.

‘Bad Blood’ features another immense chorus and some of Joutsen’s most passionate and expansive vocals on the record as well as some interesting guitar and keyboard effects that provide something a little different. ‘The Skull’ benefits from a simple but effective melody influenced by the Middle East, a chorus that has a waltz-like tempo and a quiet mid-section where the guitars sing and a beautifully-played piano adds further depth and sophistication.

The aforementioned Middle Eastern inspired melodies are taken up a level on one of the most prominent tracks, namely ‘Death Of A King’. A sitar adds authenticity and is a striking addition to the more standard metal instrumentation that accompanies it. This track also has more of a progressive feel to it by virtue of the way in which it flows from one idea to another, culminating in a sprawling chorus that is currently my favourite on the record, stopping me dead every time I hear it.

Elsewhere, ‘Sacrifice’ is an up-tempo blood-pumping, catchy anthem that’s ubiquitous latter-day Amorphis. The moody ‘Dark Path’ displays more of an old-school Amorphis feel to it, toying as it does with hints of black metal in the verses. And ‘Enemy At The Gates’ pulls together the progressive elements, the folk influences and the hook-laden choruses, wrapping it up in a track that feels epic despite it’s relatively short five-minute length.

Amorphis - Tomi Joutsen

‘Tree Of Ages’ really goes to town with the folk melodies and authentic instrumentation and, in something of a twist, the album is closed by ‘White Night’ which features soft and breathy female vocals to great effect alongside another catchy uplifting chorus to send us on our way.

Well, what do you know? As it turns out, mentioning every track wasn’t impossible! In fact, I found it more impossible to miss any out in this review, thereby further underlining the strength and consistency of the record.

A review of an Amorphis record wouldn’t be complete without touching on the lyrics. I’m not in possession of them so I can’t comment with certainty, but it’s a safe bet that, in keeping with every record up until now, the lyrical content focuses upon the traditional Finnish epic story of Kalevala. If that’s indeed the case, then the folk embellishments fit the subject matter perfectly.

So, in summary, what is there left to say that hasn’t been said about ‘Under The Red Cloud’ already? It’s a near flawless record that does what great music should do – it transports me to another place away from the humdrum and the mundane, it envelops me in its warm embrace and it makes me smile, enriching my life every time I immerse myself in it.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:

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

Essential Metal Releases Still To Come in 2015 – Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my series of posts taking a look at some of my most anticipated album releases that are scheduled or rumoured to see the light of day before 2015 is over. Already a strong year, it seems incomprehensible that there are just so many great albums still to come.

If you missed Part 1, you can access it here:
Essential Metal Releases Still To Come in 2015 – Part 1

Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud

amorphis coverFor many years, Amorphis have held a special place in my heart. Since the release of ‘Tuonela’, I have followed the Finn’s career very closely enjoying the vast majority of their output very much. Blending traditional Finnish folk themes and melodies into a heavy metal framework is what Amorphis are all about. The result is music that’s catchy, memorable and surprisingly extreme at times. A great combination.

Maschine – TBC

According to their social media output, it would appear that Maschine, the young prog rock/metal band that impressed the hell out of me with their debut album, ‘Rubidium’, are in the advanced stages of writing their sophomore release. Again, no release date has been set as far as I can tell, but a late 2015 appearance is probably a pretty decent bet.

Dimmu Borgir – TBC

As early as March 2015, photos emerged on social media of pre-production of new material from Norwegian extreme symphonic black metallers Dimmu Borgir. I adore this band; their blend of black metal with pompous, bombastic symphonic atmosphere is a real winner for me and although I still hail ‘Enthrone, Darkness, Triumphant’ from 1997 as their finest hour, I’ve enjoyed just about everything they’ve ever done. No release date yet, but here’s hoping for a 2015 release.

Headspace – TBC

As far back as August 2014, Headspace were telling the world that they were nearly at the mixing stage for their sophomore album. However, since then, things have gone worryingly quiet. Are the band still together, are they ever going to release the eagerly anticipated follow-up to the sensational ‘I Am Anonymous’? I’m still hoping for a 2015 release from the prog rock/metal supergroup and will keep hoping right up until December 31st.

Subsignal – The Beacons Of Somewhere, Sometime

subsignal coverThe band that rose from the ashes of Sieges Even, Subsignal, are scheduled to release the enigmatically-titled ‘The Beacons Of Somewhere, Sometime’, on 30th October 2015. As the snippet below tantalisingly suggests, Expect expertly crafted, highly memorable and powerful melodic rock/metal with a nice splash of prog. This is one of the big excitements for me this year.

Myrath – TBC

It has taken me a long time to fully appreciate Myrath. However, the epiphany came with their latest release entitled ‘Tales Of The Sands’. The Tunisian band, who prove that not all is doom and gloom in the north African country right now, really impressed me with their clever blend of progressive metal, strong melodies and traditional African instrumentation. I am genuinely excited about their new album – you should be too.

Vanden Plas – TBC

The ever-more theatrical and colourful Vanden Plas are mooted to be releasing the second album of their ‘Chronicles Of The Immortals’ double-header later this year, just a year or so after the release of the amazing ‘Netherworld’. Progressive metal rarely sounds this rich, bombastic and flamboyant. However, Vanden Plas know exactly what they are doing and I fully expect this to be one of the melodic progressive metal albums of the year.

Textures – TBC

Dutch metallers Textures are important to me as they were the first real djent/tech metal band to make a positive impact upon me. Most recent album ‘Dualism’ was the catalyst for this enthusiasm thanks to some very technical, complex extremity that they mixed with breathtaking melody, seemingly with consummate ease. That album remains as the genre benchmark to these ears and as such, I’m highly anticipating a follow-up to further cement my love for this band, although it’s touch and go whether it will come in 2015 as recording remains on-going as I type.

Fear Factory – Genexus

fear factory coverAnother slight cheat this one because again, I’ve heard the album already and submitted a review elsewhere. However, without saying too much, it’s fair to say that Fear Factory, the self-styled cyber-metal maestros have created a strong album, once again exploring the topics of man vs machine, that will bring a smile to many faces. It will no doubt also prove beyond doubt that the band have still very much got what it takes to compete at the highest level.

Queensryche – TBC

I don’t think I’m the only one to have cringed at the debacle that began to surround and envelope one of the best and well-loved progressive metal bands over the past few years. That’s finally the end of the legend, I thought. Wrong. The band ditched vocalist Geoff Tate and enlisted Todd LaTorre. They released the self-titled comeback album in 2013 and the signs were very positive. Lets hope 2015 sees another leap in the right direction…

Caligula’s Horse – TBC

Another long shot but fresh from signing to one of my personal favourite record labels, Inside Out, it makes sense to think that one of Australia’s finest properly progressive metal bands might drop new material later this year. Content online from the band suggests that new material is being/has been written, so it’s possible.

Pagan’s Mind – TBC

I’m not entirely convinced that we’ll get a new album in 2015 given the band are working on a live DVD called ‘Full Circle’. However, new material was being composed by the Norwegian melodic progressive metal band as far back as March, so who knows? Stranger things have happened that’s for sure and, given that a previous album of theirs received a full 10/10 from yours truly, I know that they can deliver the goods. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

My Dying Bride – Feel The Misery

MDB coverIs there a better doom metal band? Others will argue that there are bigger or better names within the genre but, for me, My Dying Bride are the true masters of melancholy and despair. Few bands are able to marry the kinds of crushing riffs and solemn atmosphere that they create, with heartbreakingly fragile melodies. And yet My Dying Bride manage it with seeming ease. I’ve so far heard snippets of the new album out in mid-September, so I can’t wait to hear more.

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