Treat – The Endgame – Album Review

Artist: Treat

Album Title: The Endgame

Label: Frontiers Music

Date of Release: 8 April 2022

Twelve years ago, Swedish melodic hard rock band Treat made a comeback. A full eighteen years after the release of their fifth, self-titled record, the Stockholm-based quintet rose from the ashes and blew just about everyone away with their comeback album, ‘Coup De Grace’. Existing fans were delighted to be reunited with the band whilst new listeners like me were equally enamoured. ‘Coup De Grace’ was one of those albums, a rarity where the stars aligned perfectly to allow a masterpiece to emerge. Even my bitter, miserable ex loved this album, it was just that good.

Since then, Treat have released another couple of albums in the shape of 2016’s ‘Ghost Of Graceland’ and ‘Tunguska’, released in 2018. For one reason or another, I missed out on the opportunity to review them, but I have heard them, and they continued the post-hiatus renaissance nicely. And now, in 2022, the line-up that brought us ‘Coup De Grace’ is again reunited to deliver album number nine, ‘The Endgame’.

Cards on the table: in my opinion, it’d take an absolute miracle for Treat to better their tour-de-force from 2010. And after much listening and deliberation, I can only conclude that a miracle is not quite what we have on our hands here. That’s not to say that ‘The Endgame’ is not a fantastic record, because it is. However, being as honest and dispassionate as I possibly can be, it falls slightly short of ‘Coup De Grace’. And there’s one major reason for this, and it’s the fact that the second half of the album is not quite as strong as the first half. Had the quality continued from start to finish, we’d be staring down the barrel of a bona-fide classic. As it is, ‘The Endgame’ will have to make do with just being brilliant and a whole heap of fun along the way.

The Swedes come out of the blocks on fire, delivering one of their finest tracks ever in the form of ‘Freudian Slip’. Keyboardist Patrick Appelgren kicks things off with a brief, dramatic intro before the guitars of Anders ‘Gary’ Wikström take over and blow away the cobwebs. In tandem with the powerful beats of Jamie Borger and Nalle Pahlsson’s authoritative rumbling bass, it’s an imposing beginning. Lead guitar embellishments, lashings of keys, and then Robert Ernlund’s distinctive voice all add to the potent cocktail before the AOR-tinged chorus takes things up another notch. The layers of vocals are great, but the hooks are irresistible, ensuring that the song makes the biggest impact possible, setting the tone for the remainder of the album.

‘Rabbit Hole’ is a punchy, high-octane number, with a groovy swagger to it. And then it delivers an incredibly catchy chorus that hits the mark. But the best bit of the song is the point at which everything drops away and via keys, moody guitars, and Robert Ernlund’s vocals, the song takes a darker, more dramatic turn. It’s unexpected, but a classy move that adds another dimension to an already cracking track.

Up next in a monster opening to the album is ‘Sinbiosis’. The pulsing bass and chunky riffs that dominate the verse are great, but the bright, breezy hook-laden chorus is an utter delight, almost pop-like, and so much fun; at the current time, it’s this giant chorus that I find myself singing in the shower or is lodged in my head when I wake up in the morning. With the ubiquitous key change near the end, it’s a masterclass in catchy melodic rock veering into lush AOR territory.

At this point, I am beginning to sense that we’re in the presence of something truly special, and I’m not dissuaded by ‘Home Of The Brave’ either, meaning it’s four from four. The track has a definite ballad-like feel at points but it gallops along at a really nice tempo, particularly within the anthemic chorus, led by the rock solid rhythm section. There’s a vague Celtic, folky influence that I can detect coming through in the melodies and, given the track’s title, I get the feeling it’s a deliberate move, and one that works well within the confines of this song.

Make that five from five thanks to ‘Both Ends Burning’, a longer track, and a darker, moodier one too, with a surprising muscularity. It opens slowly, carefully, with acoustic guitars, layers of brooding synths, and a wonderfully rich bass sound. When it opens up fully, it is irresistible, with an immediately catchy melody interwoven with hefty riffs that keeps that slightly more menacing tone to the song. Worry not, because when I say menacing, it’s all relative; think puppy teeth rather than a rabid Rottweiler! But seriously, I like the fact that Treat like to flex their hard rock muscles occasionally and to such good effect.

The all-out ballad ‘My Parade’ brings the first half of ‘The Endgame’ to a close and regardless of whether or not you like ballads, you’ll be hard pressed to deny the brilliance of this one. The chorus is liquid gold, and impossible not to love, unless you have a heart of pure stone. I even don’t mind The Beatles-esque ‘Na Na Na Na’ vocals that make an appearance.

In the second half, however, there are a couple of missteps in my personal opinion. Firstly, I’m given the feeling that the band lose just a little energy and so the material occasionally lacks the oomph of the first half. For example, I can take or leave ‘Jesus From Hollywood’ despite the cool solo guitar intro and bold choral synth effects. The chorus doesn’t quite take off in the same way as others and even though the hooks and sing-along elements are present and correct, it feels like something is missing.

‘Magic’ is a nice enough song, with strong melodies, but I can’t shake the feeling that this has ‘boyband hit’ written all over it. I know that the likes of Westlife and Boyzone wouldn’t have the guitars so prominently positioned, but the song feels overly smooth and incredibly mainstream. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’m not the greatest fan of it overall, as it’s a little too nice.

The heavily 80’s infused ‘Carolina Reaper’ sees a return to more energetic climes and it’s a marvellous shot to the arm too, whilst ‘Dark To Light’ is an altogether darker affair, full of drama and surprisingly heavy groove in the verses.

The final composition is ‘To The End Of Love’, a suitably epic and rousing song that carries with it a bittersweet vibe. On the one hand, it feels full of positivity and hope, especially in the first half. However, as it develops, I detect much more sombre overtones. And I like the way that it subtly and cleverly plays with my emotions. When it ends, I’m not sure if I feel elated, or slightly sad, especially with the use of a poignant spoken word sample at the death. And credit for this must go to the songwriting prowess of the band as it’s not an easy trick to pull off. Regardless of the emotions at play, it’s yet another melodic rock anthem, and a strong way to close out the record.

It’ll be interesting to see what others come up with over the next few months but, as it currently stands, ‘The Endgame’ is far and away the best melodic hard rock album of 2022 so far. And it’ll take an awful lot for it to be beaten, that’s for sure.

The Score of Much Metal: 94%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

Bjørn Riis – Everything To Everyone

Destruction – Diabolical

Et Moriemur – Tamashii No Yama

Angel Nation – Antares

Wolf – Shadowland

Denali – Denali EP

Centinex – The Pestilence EP

Meshuggah – Immutable

Chapter Of Hate – Bloodsoaked Decadence EP

Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse

Tranzat – Ouh La La

Playgrounded – The Death Of Death

Father Befouled – Crowned In Veneficum

Abbath – Dread Reaver

PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)

Kvaen – The Great Below

Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 2

Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse

Carmeria – Advenae

Agathodaimon – The Seven

Moonlight Haze – Animus

Hellbore – Panopticon

Konvent – Call Down The Sun

Idol Of Fear – Trespasser

The Midgard Project – The Great Divide

Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light

Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts

New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods

Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation

Tundra – A Darkening Sky

Sylvaine – Nova

Hath – All That Was Promised

Sabaton – The War To End All Wars

Kuolemanlaakso – Kuusumu

Oh Hiroshima – Myriad

Godless Truth – Godless Truth

Shape Of Despair – Return To The Void

Eight Bells – Legacy Of Ruin

Embryonic Devourment – Heresy Of The Highest Order

Serious Black – Vengeance Is Mine

Allegaeon – Damnum

HammerFall – Hammer Of Dawn

Immolation – Acts Of God

Veonity – Elements Of Power

Nightrage – Abyss Rising

Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time

Pure Wrath – Hymn To The Woeful Hearts

Dagoba – By Night

The Last Of Lucy – Moksha

Arð – Take Up My Bones

Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined

The Devils Of Loudun – Escaping Eternity

Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North

WAIT – The End Of Noise

Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier

Amorphis – Halo

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

PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter Two) – Album Review

Artist: PreHistoric Animals

Album Title: The Magical Mystery Machine – Chapter 2

Label: Glassville Records

Date of Release: 25 March 2022

In a few short years, PreHistoric Animals have gone from being an unknown entity in the Mansion Of Much Metal, to a household name. Prior to Progpower 2019, I was unaware of the band and of any of their music. Admittedly, at that time, there was only one album to their name as they were still starting out on their musical journey. But still, my knowledge was precisely zip. Witnessing their performance in Baarlo the year before the pandemic changed all that; you could tell that PreHistoric Animals had something about them. And so it has proved…

…in 2020 in the midst of the world’s Covid struggles, the Swedish entity released their sophomore album, ‘The Magical Mystery Machine – Chapter 1’, a concept record detailing the exploits of two characters who are tasked with collecting the good and bad traits of the human race in order to make their way to a ‘new’ Earth as their world is dying. Fast forward 18 months and very little has changed; the world has opened up a little but still struggles with the ever-present threat of Coronavirus. Add to this, we now see Eastern Europe knee-deep in war. The reality we’re faced with isn’t great, so it’s a blessed relief that great bands continue to release new music. PreHistoric Animals are one such band, and they return with ‘The Magical Mystery Machine – Chapter 2’, a continuation of the concept that sees a return to the exploits of Cora and Jareth.

I loved ‘Chapter 1’, offering it a very positive review and rightly so in my opinion. It’s therefore great news to discover that the same four protagonists are involved with the follow-up. That means that ‘Chapter 2’ features the talents of core duo Samuel Granath (drums and keyboards) and Stefan Altzar (lead vocals, guitars, and keyboards) alongside bassist Noah Magnusson and guitarist/vocalist Daniel Magdic.

With the same personnel involved, it’s not surprising to learn that musically and stylistically, the output on ‘The Magical Mystery Machine – Chapter 2’ continues in a similar fashion to the predecessor. If you liked ‘Chapter 1’, it is almost certain that you will like ‘Chapter 2’ and its blend of progressive rock, AOR, pop, and just a hint of metallic oomph in places. However, in an effort to provide full disclosure, I must admit that it took me a lot longer to warm to the songs here though. At one point, I was contemplating whether or not I actually liked the music and began to weigh up whether or not I was disappointed.

Strangely though, like an addiction, I found myself returning to the record for spin after spin; something about the music kept pulling me in. Ultimately, the draw was simple: fantastic music. I just didn’t immediately realise it. The melodies across the nine compositions have taken longer to get under my skin this time around, but now that I am listening with acclimatised ears, I can say that, without doubt, this record is a thoroughly joyous and entertaining affair, full of the ingredients that made me fall under their spell in the first place.

Importantly, PreHistoric Animals remain difficult to compare to others. There are a million and one bands out there that try to blend prog and pop music, but no-one sounds quite like this quartet, certainly as far as I’m aware anyway. There remains a tangible and intriguing quirkiness about the band that makes the music all the more impressive. These four gents create the music that they want, and it honestly sounds like they are having a lot of fun doing it. This translates through the music, meaning that as heavy as the subject matter may become, there’s a feeling of positivity and fun that sits at the heart of the music. This is as infectious as everything else, perhaps more so in some instances.

So where do I start when looking more closely at the music on offer on this record? That’s simple as it turns out. The first ‘proper’ track, entitled ‘We Harvest The Souls Of The Brave’ encapsulates a little of everything that PreHistoric Animals are so good at. Bold electronic sounds start things off, before a chunky riff enters, providing a little of that metallic muscle I referred to earlier. But from there, the verse quietens down to allow the unmistakeable vocals of Stefan Altzar to work his magic atop a cool beat and more diverse electronic sounds. And then the chorus strikes, and when it does, it hits the mark. I cannot fathom how it wasn’t love at first listen because now I love it. It’s often the earworm that’s present in my mind at the most unusual of times.

‘I Am The Chosen One (And I Like It)’ was one of the most difficult to get to grips with initially but now, ironically, is one of my favourites. The opening rhythm feels slightly off-kilter and there are what I perceive to be a few notes that are almost discordant. However, when paired with a chorus that’s incredibly strong anyway, it only feels more epic and powerful within its setting.

There’s a dark theatrical edge to ‘Cora’s New Secret’ that makes it a striking and immersive song. It feels very proggy and whilst it may not be overly heavy, I love the fact that there’s lots of space within it. And the space is used brilliantly, with layers of synths to create a rich soundscape into which is woven a gorgeous chorus that feels a little waltz-like but with hooks that are razor sharp. Add to this a fantastic performance from Stefan Altzar, as well as an energetic lead guitar solo, and it’s another quality song.

‘Protectors Of The Universe’ begins with what can only be described as a beautifully cinematic orchestral intro, a stunning affair. And when the tinkling piano notes begin alongside a crisp beat, it underlines just how strong and clear the production is on this album. Everything can be heard perfectly, however multi-layered the compositions become, increasing the overall enjoyment of the music tenfold. On headphones or in the car, ‘The Magical Mystery Machine – Chapter 2’ feels alive and glorious.

If you’re looking for further evidence of PreHistoric Animals’ ability to deliver a cracking melody, look no further than ‘2100 (New Years Eve)’. It might sound odd, but the effects on the vocals and the chosen melodies remind me vaguely of ELO. Hopefully this is taken as the compliment it’s meant to be, as I grew up on a diet of ELO and still love the music. The ensuing lead guitar solo is less reminiscent though, as is the rather insistent beat, laid down perfectly by Sam Granath.

The final track, ‘It’s A Start, Not The End’ extends beyond the nine minute mark and is a suitably epic composition upon which to close out this album. It contains easily the heaviest riffs on ‘The Magical Mystery Machine – Chapter 2’ much to my delight, but equally, it is also one of the emotional and minimalist tracks in places. At around the 3:30 point, the lyrics say ‘…now it’s time to go’ immediately after which we’re hit with a sensationally poignant guitar solo. It’s the kind of emotional affair that brings moisture to the eye, something that I really wasn’t expecting at all. These kinds of surprises only make the music more powerful and memorable as far as I’m concerned.

If ever there was any doubt about the quality of PreHistoric Animals, ‘The Magical Mystery Machine – Chapter 2’ extinguishes it. After some initial struggles, the Swedes’ third album has really struck a chord with me. And the fact that I had to work at it, means that my enjoyment of this record is that much greater now. PreHistoric Animals are a quirky band in many respects, but they are an equally special band. They create music that is very much their own, blending progressive rock with pop as seemingly only they can. And in a reality that’s really quite depressing for many of us, the music these four musicians create is an utter joy, providing an intelligence and beauty that’s sorely lacking elsewhere currently. If you’re already a fan, then this is a no-brainer. If you’ve yet to experience PreHistoric Animals though, I implore you to rectify this as swiftly as possible by checking out and immersing yourself in the wonderful soundscapes of ‘The Magical Mystery Machine – Chapter 2’.

The Score of Much Metal: 93%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

Kvaen – The Great Below

Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 2

Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse

Carmeria – Advenae

Agathodaimon – The Seven

Moonlight Haze – Animus

Hellbore – Panopticon

Konvent – Call Down The Sun

Idol Of Fear – Trespasser

The Midgard Project – The Great Divide

Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light

Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts

New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods

Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation

Tundra – A Darkening Sky

Sylvaine – Nova

Hath – All That Was Promised

Sabaton – The War To End All Wars

Kuolemanlaakso – Kuusumu

Oh Hiroshima – Myriad

Godless Truth – Godless Truth

Shape Of Despair – Return To The Void

Eight Bells – Legacy Of Ruin

Embryonic Devourment – Heresy Of The Highest Order

Serious Black – Vengeance Is Mine

Allegaeon – Damnum

HammerFall – Hammer Of Dawn

Immolation – Acts Of God

Veonity – Elements Of Power

Nightrage – Abyss Rising

Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time

Pure Wrath – Hymn To The Woeful Hearts

Dagoba – By Night

The Last Of Lucy – Moksha

Arð – Take Up My Bones

Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined

The Devils Of Loudun – Escaping Eternity

Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North

WAIT – The End Of Noise

Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier

Amorphis – Halo

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 2021 – Number 9

Welcome to the latest post in my 2021 Album Of The Year 2021 Top 30 Countdown. I really can’t believe that I am at the Number 9 point already. It seems like only yesterday that I started compiling my list and writing the first post. But Christmas is arriving with increasing speed, so it means that I’m nearing the business end of this year’s labour of love.

I hope that many of you are long-term readers, but if you’re discovering my website or this series for the first time, please head to the foot of this post to find all the links you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the rest of this year’s list, as well as my entire lists from years gone by.

In the meantime, here’s today’s pick…

Number 9

W.E.T.

“Retransmission”

Frontiers Records

Release Date: 22 January 2021

Score Of Much Metal: 96%

It gets more and more difficult to write about W.E.T. albums because there are only so many superlatives within the English language. Every record that this incredible band has released is as good as the last, if not better. As such, W.E.T. are, in my opinion, the very best melodic hard rock band out there at the current time.

‘Retransmission’ just continues the trend. I may be a metalhead, but there’s something truly irresistible about quality melodic hard rock. The riffs, the hooks, the choruses, the swagger…what’s not to like? And W.E.T. deliver each and every one of these elements with a smooth deftness that must make other bands within the genre weep.

The core trio of keyboardist Robert Säll (Work Of Art), guitarist Erik Mårtensson (Eclipse), and vocalist Jeff Scott Soto (Talisman) are incapable of producing magic when working under the W.E.T. moniker. All three bring their ‘A’ game once again to ‘Retransmission’ and even after 11 months since it was released, I am enjoying the record as much as I did in January, possibly more so in fact.

This is such a great record and is a very worthy inclusion in the top 10 albums of 2021.

What I wrote at the time:

“W.E.T. are clearly a band that are incapable of releasing sub-par music.

The album kicks off in typical authoritative style with the lead single, ‘Big Boys Don’t Cry’. It comes out of the blocks throwing punches in the form of big, meaty riffs and a strong groove. Soto picks up where he left off last time with another timeless vocal performance, effortlessly charismatic, and full of power, belting out the lyrics with passion. The chorus is a little surprising in that it is softer than the verses, very AOR-driven, complete with acoustic guitars and vocal hooks to die for. You get the obligatory wailing lead guitar histrionics towards the end of what is a cracking opening salvo.

…if anything, I hear more with each passing spin; be it the quality of a riff, a particular lyric, or the increasing strength of a hook or melody. The fact that some of the melodies are quite insidious in their nature, means that the album is afforded the kind of longevity that isn’t always the preserve of the melodic hard rock genre.

There’s little more to say, except to tip a nod to the production which, once again, is superb, affording power, crunch and clarity to best showcase the eleven tracks on the record. As with each of the three albums before it, ‘Retransmission’ is simply a masterclass in how to write, perform, and record near-perfect melodic hard rock. As such, there is literally nothing that I can fault about it. Feel-good melodic rock has rarely felt quite this good; ‘Retransmission’ is a joy to listen to and a joy to write about.”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 10

Number 11

Number 12

Number 13

Number 14

Number 15

Number 16

Number 17

Number 18

Number 19

Number 20

Number 21

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

‘Honourable Mentions’

Also, if you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2020

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town – Album Review

Artist: Nestor

Album Title: Kids In A Ghost Town

Label: Nestor Prestor Music Group

Date of Release:  22 October 2021

I have tried to get hold of a promo of this record for quite some time, even contacting the band personally in an attempt to succeed. Unfortunately, I drew a blank and were it not for a friend of mine who convinced me to suck up my hatred of Spotify, I’d still be unable to offer a review of the record. The record in question is ‘Kids In A Ghost Town’, the debut full length from Swedish melodic hard rockers, Nestor. They’ve been on my radar ever since, quite by accident, I heard the song ‘On The Run’ several months ago.

‘On The Run’ is the epitome of everything that I love about 80s hard rock, and from the first time I heard it several months ago, I’ve been unable to shake my absolute adoration for it. The verses are dominated by the incredibly powerful yet silky voice of Tobias Gustavsson, on top of some classic sounding riffs, rumbling bass, and strong drumbeats. Despite the galloping pace and hedonistic air, there’s a slightly melancholic, nostalgic vibe too that I latch on to, making the song more than just a simple 80s homage in my opinion. And then the chorus kicks in and the love is instantaneous. It’s a short-lived affair but it packs a punch, with a hook to die for, a strong AOR vibe, and infectious lyrics; I’ve been thoroughly smitten since my first listen, and I’m no less impressed several months down the line. The lead guitar solo is melodic, and the ensuing dual harmonies are spot on, nailing a perfect 80s-inspired melodic rock song.

Taking a step back for a moment, Nestor have been accused of being a novelty act, a spoof band akin to the likes of Steel Panther. That may be true, but I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate; in my opinion, the videos that accompany a couple of the songs do verge on spoof territory, but I’m firmly of the opinion that this is only to demonstrate the band’s sense of humour, adding another layer to their personalities. Musically, I have no doubt that Nestor are 100% serious; after all, music this good is not the result of taking things as a joke. ‘Kids In A Ghost Town’ is chock full of excellent music. Yes, it has been shamelessly influenced by the 1980s, and maybe they are a parody band. But who cares, when the end result is this strong? I sure as hell don’t. And you shouldn’t either.

As it turns out, Nestor was formed back in 1989 by a group of friends from a small Swedish town called Falkoping. Life and reality got in the way, but three decades later, they have returned to give their love of music one last try. I adore this story and I’m delighted to be able to offer such a positive review of ‘Kids In A Ghost Town’. It proves that dreams should never, ever be extinguished; whilst we all have breath left in our bodies, we should hold out hope that our dreams will come true.

‘Kids In A Ghost Town’ is littered with brilliant tracks, superb musicianship, and hooks that bury themselves so deep that it’s almost impossible to dislodge them. Don’t believe me? Then take ‘1989’ as another forceful example of how good this record really is. I heard the song once and was singing the chorus for weeks on end; it’s another hook-laden 80s tour-de-force with slow-burning choruses juxtaposed by nothing short of a killer chorus. And the song, just when you think it can’t get stronger, delivers that most cliched of ingredients – the key change. Yes, the song carries with it the stench of the 80s but this really isn’t a bad thing as far as I’m concerned. Did I mention just how strong the chorus is? I did? Well, read it again: the chorus on this song is one of the most goddamn infectious things I’ve heard in 2021 or for a number of years for that matter. Alongside ‘On The Run’, Nestor have two stone cold classics on their hands.

But that’s not where the magic ends, because as I’ve said already, there is quality oozing from almost every pore on this record. It shouldn’t work in 2021, but ‘Tomorrow’, featuring none other than Samantha Fox, is another winner. It’s a ballad at heart, kicking off with a delicate piano melody alongside expressive male vocals courtesy of Gustavsson. The guitar embellishments are really cool, but when Fox enters, I’m actually impressed, rather than repulsed. I didn’t realise that she could sing this well, but apparently she can and, when coupled with strong songwriting, the song is really rather brilliant.

The title track kicks off with an effervescent lead guitar lick and ensuing riff, before settling down into a fantastic up-tempo heavy rock number. Without sounding like a parrot, the chorus is a thing of beauty, with strong hooks and melodies. The poignancy is something that really hits home for me. Born in 1980, I do understand the sentiment that comes through within this track, whilst I can also appreciate some excellent performances from all corners of the band; it’s abundantly clear that the Nestor guys are all pulling together to create the strongest album possible.

Even the potentially corny and cliched ‘Perfect 10 (Eyes Like Demi Moore)’ somehow works thanks to full commitment from each of the musicians, coupled with utterly irresistible song writing. You simply cannot find fault with music that makes you smile this broadly and gets you moving wherever it is you find yourself listening to it. In my case, the dad dancing has been unleashed whilst walking the dog and frankly, I simply don’t care.

I could go on…and I will. ‘Stone Cold Eyes’ features one of the best choruses on the entire album, full of energy and a sense of fun that simply can’t be ignored. It reminds me a little of the likes of Def Leppard at their swaggering best. By contrast, ‘We Are Not Ok’ is a darker track, drenched in atmospheric synths, with yet another sublime chorus that has fought hard to win the accolade of the best on the album. And if it wasn’t for ‘On The Run’, it might well have won. Put it this way – on just about every other melodic hard rock album of the past eighteen months, this would have been the best song on any of those records. I’m not kidding.

I think you can tell how much I love this record. Every song brings with it something strong and worthy of mention. Every member of the band delivers a powerful performance. Every hook, every melody, every riff, every beat – they all land a punch that impresses me so very much and begs a repeated listen as soon as humanly possible. I don’t care whether or not Nestor are a parody band; in fact, the thought never really crossed my mind. All I care about is the way in which the music affects me. And on that score, Nestor deserve the highest of accolades because it has been quite a while since a melodic hard rock band has had such an impact upon me. If this is the kind of music that you enjoy, then prepare for Nestor to be your new favourite band. I just hope ‘Kids In A Ghost Town’ isn’t a one-off because I want to hear more music from Nestor. A lot more music, please guys.

The Score of Much Metal: 95%

Dessiderium – Aria

Cynic – Ascension Codes

TDW – Fountains

Hypocrisy – Worship

W.E.B. – Colosseum

Navian – Cosmos

NorthTale – Eternal Flame

Obscura – A Valediction

Nightland – The Great Nothing

MØL – Diorama

Be’lakor – Coherence

Hollow – Tower

Doedsvangr – Serpents Ov Old

Athemon – Athemon

Eclipse – Wired

Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers

Dream Theater – A View From The Top Of The World

Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town

Beast In Black – Dark Connection

Thulcandra – A Dying Wish

Omnium Gatherum – Origin

Insomnium – Argent Moon EP

Kryptan – Kryptan EP

Archspire – Bleed The Future

Awake By Design – Unfaded EP

Cradle Of Filth – Existence Is Futile

Seven Spires – Gods Of Debauchery

Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb

Necrofier – Prophecies Of Eternal Darkness

Ex Deo – The Thirteen Years Of Nero

Carcass – Torn Arteries

Aeon Zen – Transversal

Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds

A Dying Planet – When The Skies Are Grey

Leprous – Aphelion

Night Crowned – Hädanfärd

Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls

At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being

Rivers Of Nihil – The Work

Fractal Universe – The Impassable Horizon

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

Thy Catafalque – Vadak

Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra

Hiraes – Solitary

Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse

Crowne – Kings In The North

Desaster – Churches Without Saints

Helloween – Helloween

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

Wooden Veins – In Finitude

Plaguestorm – Purifying Fire

Drift Into Black – Patterns Of Light

Alluvial – Sarcoma

White Moth Black Butterfly – The Cost Of Dreaming – Album Review

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen

Bloodbound – Creatures From The Dark Realm

Nahaya – Vital Alchemy

Frost* – Day And Age

Obsolete Theory – Downfall

Vola – Witness

Acolyte – Entropy

Dordeduh – Har

Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever

Seth – La Morsure Du Christ

The Circle – Metamorphosis

Nordjevel – Fenriir

Vreid – Wild North West

Temtris – Ritual Warfare

Astrakhan – A Slow Ride Towards Death

Akiavel – Vae Victis

Gojira – Fortitude

Hideous Divinity – LV-426

Benthos – II

Evile – Hell Unleashed

Ninkharsag – The Dread March Of Solemn Gods

Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood

Morrigu – In Turbulence

Mother Of All – Age Of The Solipsist

Throne – Pestilent Dawn

Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate) – Relentless

Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Dvne – Etemen Ænka

Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

Arion – Vultures Die Alone

Maestitium – Tale Of The Endless

Wode – Burn In Many Mirrors

Everdawn – Cleopatra

Unflesh – Inhumation

Mourning Dawn – Dead End Euphoria

Wheel – Resident Human

Wythersake – Antiquity

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn

Metalite – A Virtual World

Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm

Ghosts Of Atlantis – 3.6.2.4

Memoriam – To The End

Aversed – Impermanent

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Enforced – Kill Grid

Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3

Turbulence – Frontal

Iotunn – Access All Worlds

Warrior Path – The Mad King

Stortregn – Impermanence

Mariana’s Rest – Fata Morgana

Orden Ogan – Final Days

Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn

Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy

Ephemerald – Between The Glimpses Of Hope

Paranorm – Empyrean

Einherjer – North Star

Epica – Omega

Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde

Simulacrum – Genesis

Forhist – Forhist

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Empyrium – Über den Sternen

Moonspell – Hermitage

Infernalizer – The Ugly Truth

Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue EP

Malice Divine – Malice Divine

Revulsion – Revulsion

Demon King – The Final Tyranny EP

Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Soen – Imperial

Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida

Oceana – The Pattern

Therion – Leviathan

Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

Asphyx – Necroceros

W.E.T. – Retransmission

Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End

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

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Crowne – Kings In The North – Album Review

Artist: Crowne

Album Title: Kings In The North

Label: Frontiers Music

Date of Release: 18 June 2021

The sun is finally shining, it’s warm, and one might be forgiven for thinking that the summer is finally here. It has been a while coming and with the arrival of the sun, my inevitable melodic rock itch has returned. And the record of choice, following a recommendation from a kind reader of manofmuchmetal.com was this, ‘Kings In The North’ by Crowne. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

‘Kings In The North’ is a debut album but being a release via Frontiers, it will come as absolutely no surprise that Crowne is not comprised of a bunch of young, wide-eyed innocents looking to make it in the crowded world of melodic hard rock. No, this is a band that has been afforded the dreaded ‘supergroup’ tag from the label, in that Crowne is comprised of vocalist Alexander Strandell (Art Nation), guitarist/keyboardist/producer Jona Tee (H.E.A.T.), bassist John Levén (Europe), drummer Christian Lundqvist (The Poodles). The album also features Love Magnusson (Dynazty) providing guitar solos.

Frequent readers will know how I generally feel about these affairs – they can seem great on paper but don’t always create the final product that you might hope for. In my case, I love H.E.A.T., but I’m overall less keen on the other bands that are represented. So ‘Kings In The North’ could be great, or it might be a big fat failure.

Kicking off with the title track, there’s no disputing that the album begins in great fashion. The song is everything you’d want from a melodic hard rock song; it is up-tempo, hard rocking, full of muscular bravado and swagger, with a groovy, chunky riff right out of the gate to catch your attention. Alexander Strandell delivers his vocals with energy and commitment, whilst the rhythm section lays down a solid backbone. Keys flit in and out of the song nicely and the chorus, arguably the most important aspect of any melodic hard rock song is hook-laden and destined to sound great in the live arena. There is definitely a H.E.A.T. vibe to this opening salvo, and so it’s a great start.

Can you feel the ‘but’ coming? Yup, I thought so and you’d be right. There are further great songs nestled in and amongst the remaining ten, and ‘Kings In The North’ is a very commendable affair overall. As you’d expect, it is slick, it is professional, and I like the balance between the moments that veer more towards the metal, and the moments that share more in common with AOR. But overall, I have to be honest and say that the album doesn’t wow me in the way that a W.E.T. or H.E.A.T. record tends to do. Maybe they should have called themselves C.R.O.W.N.E. instead?!

On the plus side, there’s ‘Perceval’ which is another cool song with a strong chorus, epic-sounding, ever so slightly ballad-like in the way it opens up, but retaining too many hard rock elements to be considered a full-on ballad. ‘Sheraline’ makes it three from three at the start of the album. The constant repetition of the title within the lyrics does grate a little at times, but I like the melodies a lot, whilst the guitar tone used to belt out some engaging riffs is very nice indeed.

Unfortunately from there, things take a little bit of a downward turn. ‘Unbreakable’, for example, feels a little paint-by-numbers, lacking in originality, leading to me feeling like I’ve heard it all before. I haven’t of course, but that’s the distinct impression that I get. Same with ‘One In A Million’, too.

And again elsewhere. It would be unfair of me to suggest that the musicians are going through the motions, but there are precious few times after the opening trio ofsongs where I’m listening and I’m stopped dead in my tracks by a chorus, a riff, or a vocal line. Everything is where it should be, how you’d ideally want it, aided by a good production and solid musicianship. But it all just lacks a certain amount of inspiration, at least to these ears in any case.

‘Set Me Free’ is a little more interesting, complete with keyboard solo and a greater emphasis on the synths throughout. It leads to something that feels brighter and breezier and overall, more engaging. ‘Mad World’ is the other track I’d pick out too. It feels a bit darker in tone, more cinematic with sampled sounds of the city streets. The chorus is one of the most satisfying on the album and it’s topped off by a blazing solo.

What started off so positively, has ended on a bit of a bum note I’m afraid. When done well, I love melodic hard rock – the adrenaline it provides, the hit of the feel-good factor it can deliver. As decent as Crowne are, and their debut ‘Kings In The North’ is, I find that I am a tad disappointed and as such, would only really recommend this release if you’re a diehard fan of the genre or of any of the musicians involved. Even then, you might not enjoy it quite as much as you hoped.

The Score of Much Metal: 78%

Dessiderium – Aria

Cynic – Ascension Codes

TDW – Fountains

Hypocrisy – Worship

W.E.B. – Colosseum

Navian – Cosmos

NorthTale – Eternal Flame

Obscura – A Valediction

Nightland – The Great Nothing

MØL – Diorama

Be’lakor – Coherence

Hollow – Tower

Doedsvangr – Serpents Ov Old

Athemon – Athemon

Eclipse – Wired

Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers

Dream Theater – A View From The Top Of The World

Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town

Beast In Black – Dark Connection

Thulcandra – A Dying Wish

Omnium Gatherum – Origin

Insomnium – Argent Moon EP

Kryptan – Kryptan EP

Archspire – Bleed The Future

Awake By Design – Unfaded EP

Cradle Of Filth – Existence Is Futile

Seven Spires – Gods Of Debauchery

Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb

Necrofier – Prophecies Of Eternal Darkness

Ex Deo – The Thirteen Years Of Nero

Carcass – Torn Arteries

Aeon Zen – Transversal

Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds

A Dying Planet – When The Skies Are Grey

Leprous – Aphelion

Night Crowned – Hädanfärd

Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls

At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being

Rivers Of Nihil – The Work

Fractal Universe – The Impassable Horizon

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

Thy Catafalque – Vadak

Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra

Hiraes – Solitary

Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse

Crowne – Kings In The North

Desaster – Churches Without Saints

Helloween – Helloween

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

Wooden Veins – In Finitude

Plaguestorm – Purifying Fire

Drift Into Black – Patterns Of Light

Alluvial – Sarcoma

White Moth Black Butterfly – The Cost Of Dreaming – Album Review

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen

Bloodbound – Creatures From The Dark Realm

Nahaya – Vital Alchemy

Frost* – Day And Age

Obsolete Theory – Downfall

Vola – Witness

Acolyte – Entropy

Dordeduh – Har

Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever

Seth – La Morsure Du Christ

The Circle – Metamorphosis

Nordjevel – Fenriir

Vreid – Wild North West

Temtris – Ritual Warfare

Astrakhan – A Slow Ride Towards Death

Akiavel – Vae Victis

Gojira – Fortitude

Hideous Divinity – LV-426

Benthos – II

Evile – Hell Unleashed

Ninkharsag – The Dread March Of Solemn Gods

Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood

Morrigu – In Turbulence

Mother Of All – Age Of The Solipsist

Throne – Pestilent Dawn

Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate) – Relentless

Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Dvne – Etemen Ænka

Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

Arion – Vultures Die Alone

Maestitium – Tale Of The Endless

Wode – Burn In Many Mirrors

Everdawn – Cleopatra

Unflesh – Inhumation

Mourning Dawn – Dead End Euphoria

Wheel – Resident Human

Wythersake – Antiquity

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn

Metalite – A Virtual World

Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm

Ghosts Of Atlantis – 3.6.2.4

Memoriam – To The End

Aversed – Impermanent

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Enforced – Kill Grid

Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3

Turbulence – Frontal

Iotunn – Access All Worlds

Warrior Path – The Mad King

Stortregn – Impermanence

Mariana’s Rest – Fata Morgana

Orden Ogan – Final Days

Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn

Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy

Ephemerald – Between The Glimpses Of Hope

Paranorm – Empyrean

Einherjer – North Star

Epica – Omega

Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde

Simulacrum – Genesis

Forhist – Forhist

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Empyrium – Über den Sternen

Moonspell – Hermitage

Infernalizer – The Ugly Truth

Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue EP

Malice Divine – Malice Divine

Revulsion – Revulsion

Demon King – The Final Tyranny EP

Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Soen – Imperial

Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida

Oceana – The Pattern

Therion – Leviathan

Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

Asphyx – Necroceros

W.E.T. – Retransmission

Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End

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

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

W.E.T. – Retransmission – Album Review

Artist: W.E.T.

Album Title: Retransmission

Label: Frontiers Music

Date of Release: 22 January 2021

A little under three years since the release of their critically-acclaimed third release, ‘Earthrage’, the melodic hard rock ‘supergroup’ W.E.T. return with album number four, ‘Retransmission’. And, as you all know, given my soft spot for a dose of melodic hard rock, it was inevitable that this record would be centre of my radar. After all, as I’ve stated many times before, these guys are at the very top of the pile when it comes to this kind of music.

I’m sure you all know the history of the band by now. But in case you are unfamiliar, W.E.T. is comprised of Work of Art keyboardist Robert Säll (W), Eclipse guitarist Erik Mårtensson (E) and Talisman vocalist Jeff Scott Soto (T). Together, W.E.T. was born. The band is then rounded out by lead guitarist Magnus Henriksson, bassist Andreas Passmark, and drummer Robban Bäck. Since their debut release back in 20xx, they have consistently (if perhaps a little slowly) released incredibly high quality music.

And it is pleasing to report that it is business as usual with ‘Retransmission’; W.E.T. are clearly a band that are incapable of releasing sub-par music.

The album kicks off in typical authoritative style with the lead single, ‘Big Boys Don’t Cry’. It comes out of the blocks throwing punches in the form of big, meaty riffs and a strong groove. Soto picks up where he left off last time with another timeless vocal performance, effortlessly charismatic, and full of power, belting out the lyrics with passion. The chorus is a little surprising in that it is softer than the verses, very AOR-driven, complete with acoustic guitars and vocal hooks to die for. You get the obligatory wailing lead guitar histrionics towards the end of what is a cracking opening salvo.

‘Moment Of Truth’ keeps up the intensity perfectly. After the briefest of moody synth intros, the bass takes centre stage, pulsating like the strongest of heartbeats. The riff that emerges has one foot in the 80s and the other in the modern day. It’s a skill that W.E.T. seem to be well versed at harnessing, further underlined by the vibrant, bright and breezy chorus that sits in between some deliciously chunky guitar riffs.

The acoustic guitar and piano opening to ‘The Call Of The Wild’ is stunning and full of dark drama. Somewhat unexpectedly, the song then develops into a slightly dirty, swagger-heavy affair in the verses. However, the chorus brings back the moodiness of the intro beautifully. It is really strong, with great melodies, but it is also a bit of a grower, almost disregarded at the outset. I love the effervescent lead guitar solo that ends on a gloriously epic wailing note, before transitioning into a final rendition of the chorus that then drops its pace to become even more striking as a result. What a great song.

Whenever I review a W.E.T. album, I end up completing a blow-by-blow, song-by-song write-up. Not this time though, as I want to try to be a little more succinct this time around. And, to be honest, with not one single filler to be heard, I will end up sounding like a broken record and will run out of positive adjectives along the way. It is no lie to say that I have listened to ‘Retransmission’ back-to-back upwards of six times today whist working and I am yet to get anywhere near close to tiring of the material on offer. In fact, if anything, I hear more with each passing spin; be it the quality of a riff, a particular lyric, or the increasing strength of a hook or melody. The fact that some of the melodies are quite insidious in their nature, means that the album is afforded the kind of longevity that isn’t always the preserve of the melodic hard rock genre.

From the vaguely Country-infused ‘Got To Be About Love’, to the altogether more hard-rocking ‘Beautiful Game’, each song brings its own identity to the party. And ‘party’ is a very good word because listening to ‘Retransmission’ is just that – it’s fun, it’s loud, it’s exciting, and it makes you smile and have a good time. Lockdown? What lockdown?

Naturally there are those compositions that I like so much that they deserve a special mention. On that score, I’m a sucker for the enormous ballad that’s ‘What Are You Waiting For’ simply because it has some of the sweetest melodies on the album, not to mention a believable depth and passion. I also adore ‘How Do I Know’, another slow burner that has grown in my affections to enormous proportions thanks mainly to a killer sprawling chorus and a cheeky verse melody, that’s simply irresistible once its hooks get into you.

There’s little more to say, except to tip a nod to the production which, once again, is superb, affording power, crunch and clarity to best showcase the eleven tracks on the record. As with each of the three albums before it, ‘Retransmission’ is simply a masterclass in how to write, perform, and record near-perfect melodic hard rock. As such, there is literally nothing that I can fault about it. Feel-good melodic rock has rarely felt quite this good; ‘Retransmission’ is a joy to listen to and a joy to write about.

The Score of Much Metal: 96%

Further reviews from 2021:

Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End

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

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Album Of The Year 2020 – Number 23

Welcome to day eight of my 2020 ‘Album of the Year Top 30 countdown’. I hope you’re enjoying the series so far. If you’re not, then tough, these are my picks and I won’t have my mind changed at all. So there!!

A quick reminder that you can check out the other picks so far in this year’s series at the end of this post alongside the entire lists from previous years.

And, on that note, here’s my next pick:

Number 23

PreHistoric Animals

The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)

Independent Release

Score Of Much Metal: 93%

This is one of those releases that I love having in my top 30 countdown at the end of the year. First off, it’s an independent release. Secondly, the band remain relatively unknown. And thirdly, they produce some amazing music. And this, their second full-length, proves that beyond any shadow of doubt.

Not only is the music amazing, it is also pretty unique. Yes, there are nods in various directions to other artists or to other genres. But the end result, when listened to as a whole, is really rather original. Certainly in 2020, that’s for sure.

The combination of intriguing, mellifluous vocals from Stefan Altzar, a rich, well-balanced production, and stunning melodies, listening to ‘The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)’ is an uplifting experience. I sing along, I smile, and I get wrapped up in the music – priceless things during such a difficult year. Listening to this band offers a small amount of escapism from reality, a period of time where I honestly feel happy. As the year has gone on, consistently twisting the knife, ‘The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)’ has become more and more important to me, like a loyal, supportive friend that I can rely upon.

A rightful entrant in this year’s countdown, my only reservation is whether I should have placed this record even higher. If you have never heard PreHistoric Animals before, I implore you to check them out as soon as you possibly can.

What I  wrote at the time:

“There is precious little space in the music world for the creation of unique aural ventures, but to their credit, Prehistoric Animals do create something that sounds fresh and interesting, carving their own mini-niche within the rock/metal world.

At the heart of the PreHistoric sound, is melody. Pure and simple. And, in the case of ‘The Magical Mystery Machine’, those melodies are utterly sublime; resonant, uplifting for the most part, and thoroughly engrossing. 

…whilst labels can be utterly pointless, I’d refer to them as a progressive rock band with strong influences from AOR, to 80s rock, to pop. 

In a nutshell then, ‘The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)’ is the full package, and if you enjoy rich, vibrant and intelligent music with more than a hint of originality, then you need look no further than this sophomore release from PreHistoric Animals.”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

If you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

DGM – Tragic Separation – Album Review

Artist: DGM

Album Title: Tragic Separation

Label: Frontiers Records

Date of Release: 9 October 2020

We can’t all like every band, can we? And that’s why I feel comfortable when I admit to never really ‘getting’ DGM. I always checked out their material, but have never fallen head over heels for their brand of melodic metal with progressive tendencies. And yet, here we are with another album and here I am checking it out in the hope that I like it. I want to like every band and every album (even Metallica’s ‘St Anger’, or any of Korn or Tool’s output) but it isn’t physically possible. Even the Man Of Much Metal has had to admit defeat in this regard, however hard it may be to do so. But…but…as I listen to ‘Tragic Separation’, is it possible that I am changing my mind about DGM?

No. It isn’t. I’m not changing my mind, I’m having it removed and replaced with a brand new mind that absolutely loves DGM. This album is insane. Combining the very best elements from melodic metal, hard rock, AOR, and progressive metal, the Italians have finally hit me squarely in the sweet spot. It’s a heady, breathless ride, one that I am loving more than I ever thought possible if I’m honest.

Right out of the gate, the quintet wastes no time in grabbing my undivided attention, with the monstrous anthem ‘Flesh And Blood’. After a short intro, it bursts out of the speakers with an urgent, churning riff and strong rhythms before opening up into a gargantuan, epic melody that stops me in my tracks each time I hear it. But it’s only a taster of what’s to come because quickly, the song reverts to a vibrant and energetic classic style progressive riff, reminiscent of recent Symphony X to my ears. Marco Basile has a soulful and commanding voice, injecting drama and sincerity into the song. The chorus is something that any hard rock band would be proud of, hook laden and incredibly memorable. With forays into technical instrumental realms, as well as some killer solos, both guitar and synth, this is the kind of melodic prog that plants a giant goofy grin on my face. What a song to open up with.

Given the quality of the opener, you’d be nervous that perhaps the remainder of the album wouldn’t live up to the promise. And whilst a couple of the ten songs may not reach the same heady heights, the quality is remarkably consistent as far as I am concerned.

‘Surrender’ starts with a cheeky guitar/bass combo and injects all the swagger that you could possibly want. Gentle synths inject some atmosphere, but the winner here is the utterly fantastic AOR-heavy chorus. It’s so damn effortless and the chorus feels like it floats on air. The progressive nature of DGM is dialled down on this track in favour of all-out melody, but there’s enough technicality on offer to ensure that the song remains interesting throughout.

I feel that I might become a broken record within this review, as we’re only three songs in and I’ve referred to killer melodies and choruses three times as well. But ‘Fate’ delivers on this front too, whilst dialling up the progressive tendencies once again. The chorus might be moodier and more nuanced, but it is every bit as essential as the two before it. I also love the drumming from Fabio Constantino on this track, as well as the extended lead guitar work from Simone Mularoni.

You don’t need me to tell you that ‘Hope’ is awash with more gorgeous melodies, but Emanuele Casali’s keys come to the fore with a lightning fast and expansive solo that eventually duets with the guitar as if the two musicians share the same mind. The title track follows the lead of the opener in terms of it’s epic nature and overt flamboyance, not to mention more progressive leanings to underline that DGM are rightly referred to as a prog band. The chorus is a slow burner but hits hard once the penny drops.

Elsewhere, ‘Land Of Sorrow’ is a moodier track with some chunky riffs but also sections of quieter introspection that allow the chorus to make a greater impact, whilst I like the bombast and speed of ‘Turn Back Time’, along with the stomping riffs that appear too.

It’s towards the back end of the album where the quality tails off just a touch if I’m brutally honest, but even then, the music remains of a high standard, just perhaps not to the level that the first half reaches. However, overall, I’m incredibly impressed with this record. It seems impossible that this is the tenth album of DGM’s career and I’m only now fully realising their abilities and embracing their output. There’s being late to the party, and then there’s being really late to the party. On the strength of ‘Tragic Separation’ though, I think I need to go back and listen to some of their earlier material with a fresh perspective. If you’re already a fan of the Italians, or progressive metal with a strong melodic vein to it, you cannot go wrong with ‘Tragic Separation’, trust me.

The Score of Much Metal: 91%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Perduratum – Exile’s Anthology

Carcass – Despicable EP

Mors Principium Est – Seven

Cult Of Lilith – Mara

Helion Prime – Question Everything

Soul Secret – Blue Light Cage

Enslaved – Utgard

Dynfari – Myrkurs er þörf

Amaranthe – Manifest

Kataklysm – Unconquered

Structural Disorder – Kingdom Crossing

Skeletal Remains – The Entombment Of Chaos

Prehistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)

Ihsahn – Pharos

Hinayana – Death Of The Cosmic
Oceans Of Slumber – Oceans Of Slumber
Okyr – Premorbid Intelligence
Manticora – To Live To Kill To Live
Pain Of Salvation – Panther
Vanishing Point – Dead Elysium
Unleash The Archers – Abyss
Veonity – Sorrows
Nyktophobia – What Lasts Forever
Ages – Uncrown
Awake By Design – Awake By Design
Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape
Gaerea – Limbo
Buried Realm – Embodiment Of The Divine
Navian – Reset
Selenseas – The Outer Limits
Quantum – The Next Breath Of Air
Ensiferum – Thalassic
Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want To Live?
Airbag – A Day At The Beach
Re-Armed – Ignis Aeternum
Atavist – III: Absolution
Frost* – Others EP
Darker Half – If You Only Knew
Atavistia – The Winter Way
Astralborne – Eternity’s End
Centinex – Death In Pieces
Haken – Virus
Pile Of Priests – Pile Of Priests
Sorcerer – Lamenting Of The Innocent
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

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

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One) – Album Review

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Artist: PreHistoric Animals

Album Title: The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)

Label: Independent Release

Date of Release: 30 September 2020

When you get a personal message from a band that you like, asking you to review their new album, it’s not an offer that’s easy to refuse. So I didn’t, and so have been digesting the new album from PreHistoric Animals for a little while in advance of writing this review.

Those that read my review of their previous record, their debut, ‘Consider It A Work Of Art’, will know that I have their performance at 2019’s ProgPower Europe to thank. Prior to this festival, I knew nothing of the Swedish band and their musical output. Now, though, I genuinely feel like I have discovered a special band, one that scratches an itch that I never really knew needed scratching. There is precious little space in the music world for the creation of unique aural ventures, but to their credit, Prehistoric Animals do create something that sounds fresh and interesting, carving their own mini-niche within the rock/metal world.

Well, the band have returned to lift the gloom that prevails for many of us as we struggle to live in a world that’s locked in an almighty battle with an invisible foe. I’m not sure whether it is deliberate, but somewhat incredibly, reality and fiction meet on ‘The Magical Mystery Machine’ (Chapter One)’, a concept album from the ambitious quartet comprised of Samuel Granath (drums and keys), Stefan Altzar (lead vocals, guitars and keys), Daniel Magdic (guitars and vocals), and Noah Magnusson (bass).

In the concept, the main protagonist and her sidekick are the only ones aware that the world is dying, and are promised a place on the ‘new’ Earth. But that’s only if she can collect all of humanity’s good and bad sides, and store then within a mysterious device contained within a box, to take to their new home, elsewhere in the universe.

Whether it’s the pandemic, war, or the threats posed by global warming, the Earth has seen better days and so the parallels are not lost on me, and many others I’m sure.

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At the heart of the PreHistoric sound, is melody. Pure and simple. And, in the case of ‘The Magical Mystery Machine’, those melodies are utterly sublime; resonant, uplifting for the most part, and thoroughly engrossing. I don’t think there’s a strong argument to say that PreHistoric Animals are a metal band, but they do display some metal tendencies, such as the bruising riff that emerges early on within the opening masterpiece, entitled ‘Floodgate’. Instead, whilst labels can be utterly pointless, I’d refer to them as a progressive rock band with strong influences from AOR, to 80s rock, to pop. The chorus that’s unleashed is one of vibrancy, and is instantly hummable thanks to a killer hook and beautiful singing from Stefan Altzar.

There’s an altogether darker vibe to the title track, that incorporates moments of spoken word embellishments as it takes the listener on a intriguing journey that twists and turns with a deftness, to coincide with the journey undertaken by the character at the heart of the album’s concept.

Whilst all of the seven tracks on this record are worthy of high praise, one of my other favourites has to be the magnificent ‘First We’ll Go To Mars’. It starts with an urgency that then opens into a groovy riff, punctuated by bold electronic sounds, almost psychedelic in approach. The bass/drum-led verse allows Altzar’s vocals to take centre stage nicely and then, everything falls away except atmospheric and emotive synths over which the vocals simply beguile, full of emotion and melodic intent. I’m actually reminded slightly of Subsignal thanks to the chosen melodies and overall delivery; believe me when I say that this is a positive thing. From there, the song reveals yet more huge hooks, albeit to a heavier soundscape. The way the song ebbs and flows from introspective to bold and powerful is captivating and thoroughly addictive. This will almost certainly find its way onto  my ‘individual songs of the year’ list, and rightly so.

‘The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)’ may only feature seven tracks, but there’s a good 45 minutes of music to enjoy, even when one of the tracks is a sub-two-minute acoustic interlude. The closing track, ‘Into Battle (Like My Father)’ extends just beyond the ten minute mark and it is worthy of every one of its 603 seconds. Naturally, more sublime hook-laden melodies feature, but it is also fair to say that this is probably the most ‘progressive’ in terms of its structure, and the way that it flits effortlessly from idea to idea, creating with it moments of intrigue, suspense, darkness and beauty, particularly via the closing crescendo of sorts and reprise of the opening bright, breezy and bouncy guitar-led melody. You cannot fail to have a smile on your face as the final, eloquent and emotive guitar notes of the extended outro gently recede to nothingness.

As you might be able to tell, I really like this record. The music is of an incredibly high standard but in addition, it sounds great thanks to an impressive production. And it looks fabulous too; the artwork by Richard Dearing may not be my normal chosen fare, but there is no doubt that it is striking and in keeping with the album’s concept. In a nutshell then, ‘The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)’ is the full package, and if you enjoy rich, vibrant and intelligent music with more than a hint of originality, then you need look no further than this sophomore release from PreHistoric Animals.

The Score of Much Metal: 93%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Ihsahn – Pharos

Hinayana – Death Of The Cosmic
Oceans Of Slumber – Oceans Of Slumber
Okyr – Premorbid Intelligence
Manticora – To Live To Kill To Live
Pain Of Salvation – Panther
Vanishing Point – Dead Elysium
Unleash The Archers – Abyss
Veonity – Sorrows
Nyktophobia – What Lasts Forever
Ages – Uncrown
Awake By Design – Awake By Design
Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape
Gaerea – Limbo
Buried Realm – Embodiment Of The Divine
Navian – Reset
Selenseas – The Outer Limits
Quantum – The Next Breath Of Air
Ensiferum – Thalassic
Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want To Live?
Airbag – A Day At The Beach
Re-Armed – Ignis Aeternum
Atavist – III: Absolution
Frost* – Others EP
Darker Half – If You Only Knew
Atavistia – The Winter Way
Astralborne – Eternity’s End
Centinex – Death In Pieces
Haken – Virus
Pile Of Priests – Pile Of Priests
Sorcerer – Lamenting Of The Innocent
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

 

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

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic – Album Review

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Artist: The Night Flight Orchestra

Album Title: Aeromantic

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date of Release: 28 February 2020

You’d think that given my love of Soilwork and melodic rock music that The Night Flight Orchestra would be a total no-brainer for me. But the truth is that I’ve never really got into the band, despite the dulcet tones of Björn ‘Speed’ Strid behind the mic and a line-up of musicians that should have me salivating at the very prospect. But no, I’ve never given them the time and attention that they perhaps deserved. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea; they’re perhaps just one of the inevitable casualties that we all have from time to time when faced with so much great music the world over. Whatever the reason, that’s why, in 2020, and with album number five, I am finally breaking my review virginity where The Night Flight Orchestra are concerned. About time too, I can hear many of you cry!

You probably already know all this, but for those of you who have been as out of the loop as I have, The Night Flight Orchestra (henceforth referred to as TNFO) are comprised of lead vocalist Björn Strid, guitarists David Andersson and Sebastian Forslund (who is also credited for percussion and Special FX duties), bassist Sharlee D’Angelo (Arch Enemy), drummer Jonas Källsbäck and backing vocalists Anna-Mia Bonde and Anna Brygård (The Airline Annas). In addition, for this album, the band welcome a couple of guests in the form of Big Big Train’s violinist Rachel Hall and keyboardist John Lönnmyr.

As I sit on a packed train to Scotland for work, I find myself listening to ’Aeromantic’ and I’m tempted to bang my head repeatedly on the tray table in front of me. In fact, were it not for the threat of a broken laptop and a scalding by piping hot coffee, I’d almost certainly admonish myself because on the basis of ’Aeromantic’, I have been missing out. A lot.

Given the personnel involved, it goes without saying that the performances are of the highest calibre and the music just sounds effortless, as if (excuse the unintentional pun), the guys and gals are on autopilot. Mind you, it takes immense skill to create music that sounds this good, so perhaps that’s not a fair thing to say in retrospect. But you get what I mean. You get the feeling listening to this record that the band are having real fun, despite the fact that the subject matter on ’Aeromantics’ isn’t all throw-away, fluffy sweetness and light; there’s a depth to the subject matter that could go unnoticed but which further demonstrates the prowess of Strid and Co. as songwriters and performers. To quote the band themselves via their press release, ’Aeromantic’:

”…is a street opera based upon shattered dreams, broken illusions, and the fact that we are all something much less than the person we were supposed to be. But in the darkness, there’s always a glimmer of hope. And from that glimmer of hope, with the right mindset, you can sculpt and create a whole lot of Swedish classic rock melodrama.”

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Musically, there are so many highlights to pick out of the thirteen tracks that sit proudly on ’Aeromantic’. It’’s literally an hour-long ride that unashamedly revels in the sounds of classic rock, AOR and more mainstream pop music from a bygone but much-loved age. Gone is the extremity that dominates Soilwork and Arch Enemy for example, and in comes influences that range from Abba to Journey and everything in between.

One of the most immediate cuts is the sublime ‘Divinyls’ which features some of the catchiest hooks on the entire record. The bass pulses alongside some subtle synths during the verses that are dominated by Speed’s silky vocals but the chorus is incredibly irresistible, with dare I say it, a touch of ‘Flashdance’ about it? You tell me, but whatever, it’s a stunning song and one that I can’t stop listening to.

Mind you, the immediate follow-up, ‘If tonight Is Our Only Chance’ is equally as engaging thanks go yet more irresistible melodies and 70s disco vibes. Normally, I’d baulk at this kind of overtly pop-influenced music, but in the hands of TNFO, it is a masterful homage to a time gone by whilst sounding strangely up-to-date and relevant in today’s world.

‘This Boy’s Last Summer’ has a vague UK punk feel to it at the outset, before launching into another urgent melodic hard rock chorus. ‘Curves’ is another song I should hate but I lap up thanks to the style and panache with which it is delivered, alongside another great performance from Strid at the centre of what is, unarguably, a mainstream pop song with massive crossover appeal; it’s the kind of song that you, your parents, your metal-hating mates and your Gram will probably all enjoy.

The Abba influences loom large over ‘Transmissions’ but despite not being the biggest fan of the Swedish pop legends, I love this song; it’s so damn catchy, melodic and addictive. There is just enough guitar to add a slight rock appeal and without wishing to sound like a broken record, Strid delivers a faultless performance. The violin of Hall towards the end is a wonderful addition, lending the song something of a melancholy hint, as well as significant gravitas.
The ballad ‘Golden Swansdown’ begins with electronics that are pure 80s pop but don’t let that fool you because it is another song that gets quickly under your skin and refuses to let go, however much you might wish, for credibility purposes, it would. Mind you, you can’t really argue with the guitar solo towards the end.

I could go on, but I think by now you get the idea – TNFO appear to be masters of creating music that we shouldn’t like, but which we cannot help but enjoy enormously. I wouldn’t refer to ‘Aeromantic’ as a guilty pleasure because I don’t feel even remotely guilty for enjoying the music that is served up to us here. Just about everything is on point on this record, which means it cannot be ignored and only the churlish would consider it beneath them. If you want to have a good time and chill out with some feel-good music with intelligence and heart, allow TNFO and ‘Aeromantic’ into your life and remember what it is like to smile and have some fun.

The Score of Much Metal: 90%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

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

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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