Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again – Album Review

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Artist: Thunderstone

Album Title: Apocalypse Again

Label: AFM Records

Date Of Release: 1 April 2016

The Blog Of Much Metal seems to have been inundated with albums that have a strong power metal influence recently. Arguably however, this is the most straight-up no-nonsense power metal record of them all. And it comes in the form of the sixth full-length album from Finland’s Thunderstone, a band that I have been aware of for a number of years since the release of ‘The Burning’ back in 2004.

It has been six long years since the quintet last released a studio album but more importantly, it is the first in a decade to feature original vocalist Pasi Rantanen who initially left after the release of ‘Evolution 4.0’ in 2007. And, on the basis of ‘Apocalypse Again’, it would appear that their returning vocalist has brought with him a renewed hunger and desire that has permeated the entire band.

‘Apocalypse Again’ bursts out of the gates in impressive fashion thanks to an energetic and fast-paced opening number in the form of ‘Veterans Of The Apocalypse’. Together, the quick tempo, flamboyant keyboard and guitar lead solos and rousing chorus make an impressive statement of intent, leaving a pleasant taste in the mouth, nicely whetting the appetite for the remaining eight songs.

Credit - Unknown
Credit – Unknown

‘The Path’ follows and after a keyboard-heavy and rather grandiose opening, it settles into more of a mid-tempo chug throughout the verse only to open up into another big hook-laden chorus via a darker, more theatrical bridge. ‘Fire And Ice’ is dominated by some lush keyboards courtesy of Jukka Karinen and another immediate chorus which shows off Rantanen’s vocal skills to great effect.

What I really like about Thunderstone on this record in particular is that they are not afraid to bust out the keyboard solos and more often than not, let them duel with the lead guitar of Nino Laurenne. Whether or not it was a deliberate act on the band’s part, the upfront and undiluted keys nevertheless create a slightly old-school feel to the material as well as an element of fun and devil-may-care attitude which I really like.

Back to the songs themselves and ‘Through The Pain’ is slightly slower, almost ballad-like with an absolutely huge chorus and more of a melodic hard rock sheen. It’s a really storming track and one of my favourites on the record. Not for the first time, I’m reminded of Jorn Lande in Rantanen’s delivery, not that this is a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination.

With only nine tracks making up ‘Apocalypse Again’ it is important that there are no fillers and that every track offers something of value and worth. On that score, it is good news as this is a remarkably consistent album with barely a let-up in quality throughout. ‘Fire And Ice’ is reminiscent of Masterplan at their best with another brilliantly infectious chorus and driving rhythm from drummer Atte Palokangas and bassist Titus Hjelm whereas ‘Wounds’ features some really tasty riffs during a song that’s delivered in full-on attack mode at 100 miles an hour.

One of the big strengths about ‘Apocalypse Again’ aside from the songs themselves is the production, which packs a real punch and ensures that all instruments are clear and possess the necessary power. The real winner however, is the muscular and bruising rhythm section, the drums in particular catching the ear.

‘Apocalypse Again’ is an album that gets better with each and every listen. It is addictive, infectious and powerful. It has been a long time coming, but the wait was worth it as a rejuvenated Thunderstone have returned with one hell of a bang, producing a slab of impressive and expertly crafted power metal in the process. Highly recommended.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75

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

InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

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

Mors Principium Est – Dawn Of The 5th Era – Album Review

MPE booklet fin - output FINAL.indd

Artist: More Principium Est

Album Title: Dawn Of The 5th Era

Label: AFM Records

Year of Release: 2014

Based on the number of strong releases throughout 2014, AFM Records are rapidly becoming one of my favourite record labels. Not only have they brought us the insanely brilliant ‘Hymns For The Broken’ from Evergrey, ‘The Heart of the Matter’ by Triosphere bears their logo too. And now we have ‘Dawn Of The 5th Era’, unsurprisingly the fifth album from Finnish metallers Mors Principium Est.

The first thing to say is that this album has a super sound. These days, polished productions are relatively easy to come by; so long as you have a decent budget, the tools are there to make the job simpler than ever before. But too often, that perfect production can then rob the material of a certain amount of authenticity. Admittedly, the sound has been compressed quite a bit and the bass could be higher in the mix but these minor ailments are quickly forgotten because this album otherwise successfully brings together a modern clarity with a demonstrable old-school feel. The result is an album that’s a joy to listen to but which also has a gritty, almost dirty underbelly.

And then, compositionally speaking, I would be prepared to stick my neck out and say that this is the best body of work that Mors Principium Est have ever created. Over the course of their fifteen year, five album career, the quintet have already released some cracking material but this is their best and I have no hesitation in putting it in the same bracket as At The Gates’ new Opus, making ‘dawn Of The 5th Era’ one of my favourite melodic death metal albums of 2014.

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At the forefront on the Mors Principium Est sound, you’re treated to a enthralling blend of savagery, brutality and beauty. For every razor sharp riff, there’s a melodic dual guitar harmony and for every blast of uncompromising extremity, there’s a majestic chorus or a memorable lead break. The end result is a well-balanced, finely-honed set of songs that is very impressive indeed and which should appeal many.

The album begins with ‘Enter The Asylum’, a short instrumental intro that builds the tension before first song proper, ‘God Has Fallen’ wastes no time in ripping your head off in fine style. The pace is fast, the rhythm section courtesy of drummer Mikko Sipola and bassist Teemu Heinola is powerful and some incisive riffing is overlaid with a catchy lead guitar line, topped off by the gruff yet intelligible vocals of Ville Viljanen.

‘Leader Of The Titans’ swiftly follows and impresses thanks to an ambitious construction all the while supported by instantly gratifying melodic intent. It’s one of the standout tracks on the album as far as I’m concerned. But then again, such is the consistency here, just about every track is a highlight. ‘We Are The Sleep’ is ushered in with the help of some subtle electronics before offering one of the most epic and catchiest choruses on the album, one that’s mildly reminiscent of mid era Dark Tranquillity. It’s a big track and a massive high point for the album too.

‘Innocence Lost’ pays yet more homage to the classic sounds of the 90s with a sharp, penetrating central riff before ‘I Am War’ takes over, quickly becoming my favourite song on the album. The mid-section is simply to die for with a gigantic mid-tempo melody followed by some stunning lead guitar trade offs and duelling between non-Finnish guitarists Andy Gillion and Kevin Verlay. I might just have listened to this track a few times on repeat, but can you blame me?

Interestingly, as the album develops, Mors Principium Est increase the black metal influences within their death metal blueprint. ‘Monster In Me’, has a definite echo of Dissection about it, particularly within the core riffs and the song construction. Then, after a short instrumental interlude that again showcases some fantastically emotive lead guitar work, we’re hit with ‘Wrath Of Indra’ and ‘The Journey’, the latter of which is almost pure symphonic black metal worship. The opening staccato riffing accompanied by relentless blast beats and the subtle synths underneath all scream black metal and call to mind a Dissection-meets-Emperor hybrid with a dash of Dimmu Borgir for good measure. I really like it and it further demonstrates just how talented and versatile Mors Principium Est really are.

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Finally, ‘The Forsaken’ closes the album just as impressively as it opened. It is the longest track on the album and begins serenely with a piano melody underpinned by gentle synths. However it doesn’t take long to increase in intensity thanks to some of the fastest material anywhere on the record and then one of the most uplifting sing-along choruses I’ve heard from this genre of music in many a year, meaning it’s likely to be big hit live.

As you can probably tell from this review, I’ve been hugely impressed by this record. Blending that classic melodic death metal sound with modern flourishes and properly memorable melodies, ‘Dawn Of The 5th Era’ demonstrates that Mors Principium Est are at the very top of their game. This is, without doubt, one of the extreme metal highlights of 2014.

The Score of Much Metal: 9.0

Check out my other album reviews here:

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

Unknown & Underrated – Omnium Gatherum

Today’s blog post features a band that have really captured my attention over the last couple of years but even more so in recent months following the release of their latest album. That band, my friends, is Omnium Gatherum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OG spiritsOmnium Gatherum were formed in the mid nineties and hail from one of the most metal-loving countries on the planet…Finland. Over time, I have come to expect great things from the Scandinavian countries and rarely am I disappointed. In particular, the mighty trio of Finland, Sweden and Norway have provided me with some of my favourite bands of all time and they keep delivering the goods. And Omnium Gatherum are one of the best examples of more recent times.

OG shadowI remember seeing Omnium Gatherum live in a small venue in Colchester (The Twist) a number of years ago and I was impressed then at the sheer energy and commitment that was shown by the whole band that night. Their debut album, ‘Spirits And August Light’ showed flashes of brilliance, as did the follow-up, ‘Years In Waste’ but over time, the output has become steadily better and better, to the point where, with albums number five (‘New World Shadows’) and six (‘Beyond’), I consider the band to be one of the very best within the melodic death metal world.OG Beyond

The quinet of Aapo Koivisto (keyboards), Jukka Pelkonen (vocals), Jarmo Pikka (drums), Markus Vanhala (guitar) and Joonas ‘Jope’ Koto (guitar) as well as current session bassist Eerik Purdon offer the world their own personal take on a well-known formula but do it brilliantly and with a unique twist.

Melodic death metal sits at the very heart of the Omnium Gatherum sound and so listeners should expect to hear some powerful distorted riffing, a strong rhythm section and some seriously brutal growling. On the subject of the vocals, let me tell you that Pelkonen’s delivery and tone makes him one of the very best that the genre has to offer, full of venom and bite and with a lovely rumbling bottom end. Occasionally the band break out the clean vocals but this is done very sparingly, thereby avoiding cliché.

What makes the Omnium Gatherum approach that little bit more unique and special however, is the melodious nature of the material. Yes it is heavy, yes it can be brutal but thanks to some clever song writing, great musicianship and a well-honed melodic sensibility, it can also be beautiful and utterly beguiling.

Keyboards retain a prominent position throughout Omnium Gatherum’s music, creating lashings of atmosphere and also helping to soften a few edges as well, making much of the fare feel much more refined and smoother than it perhaps should given the amount of aggression on display.

And then there are the choruses. Ah, the choruses. The vocals for the most part remain brutal or at least gruff but guitars soar, keyboards push themselves forward in the mix and the music soars. The band refer to themselves as ‘Adult Oriented Death Metal’ and I have to say that this is a brilliant description. Melodic hooks and earworms riddle the compositions and, when coupled with an almost positive and uplifting overall feel to the music, some parts do sound as if they were lifted straight out of an AOR record rather than a death metal album, albeit a melodic one.

If you are looking for some music with some bite but which is also beautiful and addictive as all hell, Omnium Gatherum may just be the band for you. Check them out and show them some love because music this good needs to be heard!

My Top 20 of 2012 – Number 4

We’ve reached number 4 in my Top 20 rock/metal albums of 2012 countdown. If you have missed any of my previous posts, links to these can be found at the bottom of this post – please have a read and feel free to tell me if you agree or disagree with my choices!

So, down to business. At number 4, I give you

STS1:Swallow The Sun
‘Emerald Forest And The Blackbird’
Spinefarm Records

In my humble opinion, Swallow The Sun are their country’s finest musical export. And when that country is Finland, where every other band seems to be a highly accomplished metal band of some description, this is the highest accolade I could think to bestow on the band.

Led by the highly talented guitarist and song writer, Juha Raivio, Swallow The Sun have released album after album of a consistently high standard, with nothing in their back catalogue failing to impress. And here we are with their fifth album, ‘Emerald Forest And The Blackbird’ and they have delivered arguably their best material to date.

STS2

The self-monikered purveyors of ‘gloom, beauty and despair’ have always followed a crushingly heavy melodic doom metal route but, with each release, have offered listeners something different. With ‘Plague Of Butterflies’ for example, it was a gargantuan and theatrical 35-minute central piece and with ‘New Moon’, there was the introduction of clean vocals to any degree from vocalist Mikko Kotamaki.

On ‘Emerald Forest And The Blackbird’, Swallow The Sun remain faithful to their ‘gloom,beauty and despair’ tagline but for the first time offer acoustic guitars and occasional dalliances with black metal and progressive influences. There’s even a greater diversity within the vocal delivery, with Mikko offering everything from hushed spoken word passages to high-pitched screams via his trade mark deep growls. Add to all this their trademark crushingly heavy riffs, sublime, heartbreaking melodies and a guest appearance on ‘Cathedral Walls’ by ex-Nightwish singer Anette Olzon and this album is nothing short of remarkable.

If you’ve missed any of my previous posts, they can be found here:

Day 16 (progressive metal)
Day 15 (prog rock)
Day 14 (post black metal)
Day 13 (prog rock)
Day 12 (power metal)
Day 11 (progressive metal)
Day 10 (progressive rock)
Day 9 (modern extreme metal)
Day 8 (UK thrash metal/NWOBHM)
Day 7 (Norwegian progressive black metal)
Day 6 (Prog Rock/Metal)
Day 5 (Melodic Hard Rock)
Day 4 (Symphonic Folk black metal)
Day 3 (Modern Death/Thrash Metal)
Day 2 (Melodic Prog Metal)
Day 1 (Dark/Doom Metal)

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