Tag Archives: melodic hard rock

Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear – Album Review

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Artist: Pyogenesis

Album Title: A Kingdom To Disappear

Label: AFM Records

Date Of Release: 24 February 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

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

Battle Beast -Bringer of Pain – Album Review

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Artist: Battle Beast

Album Title: Bringer of Pain

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date Of Release: 17 February 2017

I come to this review as a relative Battle Beast novice. I was never offered the opportunity to review any of their previous albums whilst working with Powerplay and so, with my time limited, my only exposure to the Finnish metal band was through a personal inquisitiveness. My subsequent exploration was never strong enough to check out an entire album all the way through though; something just held me back from full unreserved enjoyment.

However, having noticed that the band’s third album, ‘Unholy Savior’ topped the Finnish metal charts, I began to think that I’d missed something. So what better time to fully acquaint myself with Battle Beast and their own musical world than via their fourth album, ‘Bringer of Pain’?

Apparently since the last full-length outing, the band lost their guitarist and principle songwriter, Anton Kabanen to that age old nutshell of irreconcilable musical differences. This makes it, in my mind at least, even more ideal to offer my thoughts on this album, fairly unhindered by the baggage of previous releases and therefore with the benefit of fresh ears.

And my thoughts are that ‘Bringer of Pain’ is a bit of a strange record. A lot of kudos has to go to the remaining members of vocalist Noora Louhimo, guitarist Juuso Soinio, bassist Eero Sipilä, keyboardist Janne Björkroth, drummer Pyry Vikky and new guitarist Joona Björkroth. It can’t be easy to take up the mantle of song writing when you’ve only played a supporting role in this area previously but the Battle Beast guys and gal have not turned up their toes and died; they’ve given it a go.

The problem is then, that there are moments of brilliance and then there are moments of what I can only describe kindly as mediocre at best. In this respect, ‘Bringer of Pain’, with its Doro-esque cover art, is something of a Jekyll and Hyde album which demonstrates that more work is needed for future releases if they are to maintain their rising status in heavy metal circles.

And on that point, there is an argument to say that Battle Beast have more in common this time around with the melodic hard rock genre than heavy metal. There are plenty of heavy riffs, solos and aggressive attitude to be heard within ‘Bringer of Pain’ but equally, thanks to the abundant use of the keytar and elements of 80’s inspired pop nostalgia, the harder edges have been eroded to a greater or lesser extent.

My first exposure of this record was via the second ‘single’, ‘Familiar Hell’. It is an up-tempo hard-rocking number that contains arguably the strongest and boldest chorus on the album. It is infectious and a lot of fun, despite offering a certain amount of dark social commentary along the way. There’s an awfully cheesy spoken word part late on from Noora but this does not derail what is a great song overall and a contender for Eurovision glory in the process.

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Equally good is the opening track, ‘Straight To The Heart’, that explodes in a flurry of hard-hitting riffs, lead guitars squeals, and an imposing roar from frontwoman Noora Louhimo. The entirety of the song is driven by a strong rhythm section where the drums and bass pound and there’s the ubiquitous lead guitar solo as well. But dominating proceedings is a huge chorus that is hook-filled and which affords the opportunity for Noora to demonstrate just exactly who the star of the show is within Battle Beast.

And then there’s the title track which is most definitely a full-on bruising heavy metal assault, full of intensity and controlled aggression. The chorus is a little disappointing but the overall feel of the song is positive. ‘Bastard Son Of Odin’ meanwhile features a rather lovely galloping rhythm to recall the halcyon days of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement.

A mention must also be made of the lead ‘single’, ‘King For A Day’. It makes for interesting listening given that it is a bizarre amalgamation of melodic hard rock, metal and 80s pop. The synth sounds are massively retro in tone and the melodies remind me quite a bit of Abba of all things. And yet, strangely, by and large it works, creating an infectious earworm-filled track from start to finish.

But, for all the positive elements of ‘Bringer of Pain’, there are some negatives. ‘Lost In Wars’, for example, underlines a slightly underwhelming middle section of the record as it has a central riff and vaguely Goth/industrial tone that is reminiscent of Rammstein but is ultimately a bit of a numb, paint-by-numbers track.

Even worse in my humble opinion is the electronic pop rock styling of ‘Dancing With the Beast’. Now I’m fairly broadminded when it comes to external elements featuring within heavy metal but aside from a few guitars that make an appearance for appearances sake, this is pure electro-pop, bordering on 80s dance music. I’ll admit that it is quite catchy but nope, this is not for me at all I’m afraid.

And to finish, we have ‘Far From Heaven’, a full-on unashamed power ballad. Again, I’m not averse to a good ballad but this isn’t the best and, when coupled with its predecessor, it threatens to completely undermine the vibe created within much of the remainder of the album.

I can understand what Battle Beast were perhaps trying to do, namely show the world that they still have the ability to write a wide range of music with the new line-up and are not constrained by genre boundaries. Unfortunately, it has backfired as far as I’m concerned. I would have much preferred the Finns to stick more closely to what they are best at and what they deliver over the course of the opening two or three tracks.

As it is, I can’t shake the feeling that ‘Bringer of Pain’ is a bit too messy. It delivers some quality cuts of up-tempo hard rock and heavy metal that I’m sure long term fans will welcome to the Battle Beast armoury. But there are also a few songs that are either ‘meh’ or eyebrow-raising for the wrong reasons. Mind you, I’ll still check out their next album though, because if they get that right, it could be a pretty decent album.

The Score Of Much Metal: 7

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

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

Firewind – Immortals – Album Review

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Artist: Firewind

Album Title: Immortals

Label: Century Media Records

Date Of Release: 20 January 2017

I really struggled in the beginning with ‘Immortals’, the eighth album from Greek melodic power metal band Firewind. They are a band with whom I am familiar and have had something of an on-off relationship over the years. Helmed by the extraordinary guitar talents of Gus G who, since 2009 has been the lead guitarist for the Prince of Darkness Ozzy Osbourne, you are not left wanting in the six-string department where Firewind are concerned, that’s for sure. Gus G can shred with the very best, delivering powerful riffs and flamboyant, lightning fast lead breaks on demand.

However, a guitar virtuoso alone does not make a great album full of interesting and accomplished material. It also takes talented song writers to create and a whole band to perform. And, in my early days of listening to ‘Immortals’, the former is where I feared the album may be flawed.

Comprised of Gus G alongside bassist Petros Christo, keyboardist Bob Katsionis and drummer Jo Nunez as well as brand new vocalist Henning Basse, ‘Immortals’ is chock full of individual talent and the performances are all very strong, suggesting that the chemistry and understanding within the quintet is at a high level.

However, my struggles with ‘Immortals’ initially came in the song writing department. It had nothing to do with the lyrical themes which, as it turns out, bring a concept to life. According to Gus himself, their first ever concept tells the ambitious story of ‘the Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis in 480 BC during the second Persian invasion of Greece’.

Lyrics aside though, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the music was a little bit too safe, predictable and paint-by-numbers. Not that I mind that per se, but if that’s the route you’re going to take, I want to be beaten over the head with music that gets my juices flowing, where the choruses are catchy as hell and where the whole thing just exudes quality. I didn’t get that with ‘Immortals’ and so I left it to one side for a day or two.

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These feelings remained as I returned to ‘Immortals’ and I was in danger of giving up until the mid-section of the album arrived. The trio of ‘Live And Die By The Sword’, ‘Wars Of Ages’ and ‘Lady of 1000 Sorrows’ suddenly clicked, pulling me out of my reverie and metaphorically slapping me around the face.

‘Live And Die By The Sword’ is a melodic metal track of quite huge proportions, delivering everything from a quiet intro to a rousing, punch-the-air battle-cry that will sound immense in the live arena, I have no doubt. The melodies lend the song an air of the truly epic, not to mention being catchy and anthemic as all hell.

‘War of Ages’ follows and maintains the quality via an up-tempo, blast-beat heavy rollicking melodic metal approach that’s topped off by a tremendous chorus that digs in deep and doesn’t let go. And then ‘Lady Of 1000 Sorrows’ changes the pace yet again. It is much slower, more ballad-like in construction with a moody and powerful melodic hard rock vibe. The chorus once again contains some killer hooks but it is the vocal performance of Basse which catches my ear most of all. His delivery is massively strong, full of gravelly soul and demonstrates his impressive range perfectly, not to mention his ability to convey emotion, not just go for all-out power.

My love for these three tracks then led me to listen more to the remainder of the album because I began to think I’d been a little too dismissive of Firewind’s latest effort. And you know what? I had. I still maintain that this middle section of the album is the strongest but I now appreciate much more of the material that surrounds it.

Like the ridiculously pompous ‘Ode To Leonidas’ for example, that begins with a strangely compelling monologue that seems fitting for a concept disc before launching into a bouncy, up-tempo number with yet another great chorus and a sprawling lead guitar solo from the maestro Gus G himself that then segues smoothly into a keyboard solo from Katsionis.

In fact, the keys are an unsung hero throughout ‘Immortal’, adding atmosphere and melody without getting in the way. Take the opener for example, which is reminiscent of the likes of Stratovarius and even the likes of Thunderstone thanks to a vaguely neo-classical feel that’s enhanced by the flamboyant keys that more than play their part.

However, being the band of Gus G, it is hardly surprising as I alluded to at the beginning of the review that the guitar work steals the show. Of course solos feature in every composition and it would be hard to find fault with them, such is the technique and touch that Gus G demonstrates whilst shredding at the speed of light. But with a closer listen, the riffs are equally impressive, whether they are faster-paced as with the Symphony X-ish ‘We Defy’ or of the sleazier hard rock influenced variety as witnessed within ‘Back On The Throne’.

So after a sticky start, I have come round to the charms of ‘Immortals’. As it turns out, the charms are many and they have eventually beaten me over the head, got my juices flowing and he whole thing does exude quality. It just took time to realise it. I’d even go so far as to say that ‘Immortals’ is the best and the most vital that Firewind have ever sounded, laying down a marker for all other melodic power metal to follow during 2017.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

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

My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 4

Another day, another batch of great material that should be destined to arrive in 2017 to bathe our ear in. On the strength of all this, I don’t think there’s any danger of the recent momentum in the metal world slowing down. And isn’t that great? It gives us all something to look forward to and keeps me out of mischief by being busy with this blog.

If you’ve missed any of my previous parts of this series, they can be accessed below:

My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 1
My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 2
My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 3

Odd Logic – Effigy
Release date: January 2017

15380312_1287400561319533_1589720295079823334_nNow this is a massive bonus for me, as I have just discovered that there will be a new Odd Logic album coming later this month. I am surprised because ‘A Penny For Your Thoughts’ was only released last year. Mind you, I’m not complaining because this record justifiably made it into my end of year Top 30 list, following a hugely favourable review earlier in the year. Not only that, but one of the songs off this record made it into my list of favourite songs of the year as well.

Not bad for a band that remains unsigned. Quite why, I don’t know because Odd Logic deliver a very high quality brand of progressive metal; detailed, multi-faceted and highly entertaining, combining strong melodies with plenty of technicality along the way.

Cynthesis – TBC
Release date: TBC

Another band that features regularly in these posts is Cynthesis. Or rather, anything at all that features the insanely talented Tipton brother. These guys can make string instruments sing and dance wonderfully.

We’ve already seen two albums under the Cynthesis moniker and when I spoke with Jasun Tipton over 18 months ago now, he confirmed that the third Cynthesis album was written, thus completing a dystopian trilogy in the process. Cynthesis is the most atmospheric, melodic and sensitive of all of the bands that feature the Jasun and Troy Tipton and I absolutely adore the atmosphere and the lashings of gorgeous melodies that are a feature of both ‘DeEvolution’ and ‘ReEvolution’ respectively. Given the preposterously brilliant technical prowess of the musicians involved, I expect nothing short of a sonic treat when finally the third Cynthesis instalment sees the light of day.

Ayreon – TBC
Release date: TBC

I have been a fan of Arjen Lucassen for many years, under just about all of his different guises. However, I have to say that his Ayreon project is my absolute favourite,thanks to a combination of generally heavier prog rock/metal, darker atmospheres and the all-star casts that is put together each and every time to bring the concept stories to life.

This new record is no different as the likes of Simone Simons (Epica), Russell Allen (Symphony X), James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Tommy Rogers (Between The Buried And Me), Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian) and Floor Jansen (Nightwish) all come together to bring their vocal talents to bear. The snippets I’ve heard sound great so far, so I can’t wait for this record to be released.

H.E.A.T – TBC
Release date: TBC

According to a press release issued at the tail end of 2016, Swedish hard rockers H.E.A.T will be recording a new album in Thailand in March 2017, which means we might be able to welcome the finished article before the end of the year. I certainly hope so given that this band are probably my current favourite melodic hard rock band. Their ability to pen high quality and extremely catchy, infectious music seems to know no bounds and I frequently return to their albums when I feel like I need a lift and to feel good about life. Watch this space…

Into Eternity – TBC
Release date: TBC

Now I know for sure that melodic thrash/death/prog metallers Into Eternity are still going – their Facebook page is at least active and there are things going on in the world of these crazy Canadians. However, I cannot discern for sure whether or not we will see a new album in 2017. It has now been some considerable time since their last studio release but this can be forgiven bearing in mind the trials and tribulations that have beset the band in recent years.

But now is the time to unleash some new material on the world and show us all how strong the band can be.

Album of the Year 2016 – Number 11

Welcome to day 20 of my ‘Album of the Year 2016’ top 30 countdown. I’m exactly two-thirds the way through this mammoth annual undertaking and the quality music just keeps on coming and keeps on getting better and better.

To those of you who have been with me since the beginning, I thank you. To those of you who are new to this, where have you been? Only kidding, it’s great to have you on board – I hope you stick with me for the remainder of the countdown. Links to the previous 19 posts can be found at the bottom of this page, along with links to previous years as well.

But with that, here’s my choice at number 11 in 2016…

Number 11

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Enbound
The Blackened Heart
Inner Wound Recordings

 

“2016 has been a strong year for melodic metal as far as I’m concerned but this record is arguably the very best. Yes it is genuinely that good. Addictive, rich-sounding, slick, entertaining, anthemic – it literally has it all.

To put it bluntly, there isn’t a weak second on ‘The Blackened Heart’, let alone a weak song. Each of the ten tracks offers something of real quality and enjoyment, be it a catchy chorus, bombastic riff, killer vocal or a moment of real ostentatiousness in the form of a guitar or bass solo for example. The result, as I alluded to earlier, has to be that with ‘The Blackened Heart’, Enbound have delivered the best melodic metal album of the year.”

Read the full review here

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This is an album that came from nowhere to seriously floor me. As I’ve said before, 2016 has been a good year for melodic metal but ‘The Blackened Heart’ is the best of the bunch and is a firm favourite of mine. Everything about it is right on point, I can’t really find a weakness with it. I was aware of this Swedish band’s debut, so I knew that they had the raw talent. What I hadn’t expected was something this good if I’m honest.

The biggest compliment I can give ‘The Blackened Heart’ only dawned on me a week or two back. It gives me the same thrill-ride as the early days of the Khan/Kamelot partnership. I can remember being so excited on hearing tracks like ‘Center of the Universe’ or ‘Karma’, both of which remain form favourites. Well, the up-tempo, melodic and bombastic nature of Enbound’s music has exactly the same impact upon me. Enbound are not a Kamelot clone band, far from it in fact as they have their own distinct identity. However, there are a few similarities, albeit mainly around the keys and the more cinematic nature of some of the pieces. What Enbound have done though, is eclipse Kamelot in my eyes. Honestly.

Put this on, turn up the volume and be prepared for what is ultimately a breathless ride that is utterly addictive, intoxicating and criminally addictive. You want music to make you feel good, make you feel alive and happy? Well, I suggest you start right here and start with ‘Feel My Flame’, the best melodic metal song of the year by miles.

In case you’ve missed any of the other posts in the 2016 series, here they are for you to explore and enjoy:

Album of the Year 2016 – Number 12
Album of the Year 2016 – number 13
Album of the Year 2016 – number 14
Album of the Year 2016 – number 15
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2016 – number 17
Album of the Year 2016 – number 18
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2016 – number 20
Album of the Year 2016 – number 21
Album of the Year 2016 – number 22
Album of the Year 2016 – number 23
Album of the Year 2016 – number 24
Album of the Year 2016 – number 25
Album of the Year 2016 – number 26
Album of the Year 2016 – number 27
Album of the Year 2016 – number 28
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 30

And from previous years:

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

Album of the Year 2016 – Number 24

Welcome to day 7 of my ‘Album of the Year 2016′ top 30 countdown. That’s right, that’s the first week of posts complete and I’m nearly 1/4 of the way through now. And, honestly, I’m enjoying writing this series more than any other. The sheer quality of every album mentioned here is staggering and it is a complete joy to be re-listening to them all whilst I write.

But that’s just me. How are you all enjoying it so far? Judging by the feedback, I’m not going too far wrong yet, but that can change very quickly I’m sure. Judging by some comments, I fear that there will be a few disappointed people when they realise that some albums have not even made it into this list. But the beauty of doing a countdown is that no-one will realise the omissions until right at the very end. Exciting huh?…

As always, permit me a quick reminder that all of the previous posts in the 2016 series can be found via links at the bottom of this post along with links to the entire series’ from 2012-2015 inclusive. Perfect if you’re new to the Blog of Much Metal or if you’re just curious.

And now, onwards, with my next choice….

Number 24

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Witherscape
The Northern Sanctuary
Century Media Records

 

“However, to refer to Witherscape as purely a melodic death metal is a little misleading and slightly disingenuous as well. Theirs is a hybrid of styles that borrows from 90s death metal, melodic rock, AOR, progressive rock as well as classic metal and even an occasional touch of thrash for good measure. Blend into the mix a fair amount of atmospherics courtesy of Swano’s bold keyboard style and it’s fair to say that my mouth begins to water at the prospect.

‘The Northern Sactuary’ contains a little bit of everything that I like in my metal these days. Yes it’s heavy but if you take the time to take a close listen to the music of Witherscape, you’ll hear so much more. ‘The Northern Sanctuary’ is a beautiful album that blends the extremity of death metal with so many wonderfully engaging sounds and textures. Oh and I guarantee you’ll be humming several of these tracks for weeks on end. You have been warned.”

Read the full review here

Pic: Erik Ohlsson

Pic: Erik Ohlsson

Dan Swano and Ragnar Widerberg have teamed up once again to bring something quite magical to the lover of extreme metal in 2016. ‘The Northern Sanctuary’ is an utter delight from start to finish, full of brutal metal and plenty of melodic excess, led by some brilliant clean vocals, expressive lead guitar lines and some gorgeous keyboards that bathe the whole thing in some kind of warm glow. If melodeath could ever be classed as ‘happy’, then ‘The Northern Sanctuary’ is the immediate and perfect example of this apparently contradictory description.

And, to top it all off, this album features one, maybe two contenders for ‘song of the year’, in the form of the beautifully epic, ballad-like ‘The Examiner’ and ‘Marionette’ which is, if anything even better. The marriage of melody and brutality is inspired as Swano’s growl acts as the perfect counterpoint to a chorus that is so enormous, it borders on AOR territory. Trust me, it’s magnificent.

In short, ‘The Northern Sanctuary’ is a triumph.

In case you’ve missed any of the other posts in the 2016 series, here they are for you to explore and enjoy:

Album of the Year 2016 – number 25
Album of the Year 2016 – number 26
Album of the Year 2016 – number 27
Album of the Year 2016 – number 28
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 30

And from previous years:

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