Saturday, September 29, 2012

Majesty of Revival - Through Reality (Metal Scrap Records, 2012)

Genre: Progressive/Neoclassical Power Metal
Year: 2012
Country: Ukraïne
1. Meaning of Life 05:02
2. Self-Control 04:32
3. The Moonlight 05:19
4. The Code 05:05
5. Masked Illusion 04:14 instrumental 
6. Blind 03:52
7. Magnalia Dei 04:29
8. Reality 07:28
9. Epilogus (Part I and II) 08:44


So today I have the pleasure to introduce you to Majesty Of Revival, a Ukrainian progressive power metal band. Upon first listening, bands like Yngwie Malmsteen and Rhapsody immediately spring to mind. While those bands have big budgets and real professional sound engineering, Majesty Of Revival does a very good job sounding professional on a lower budget, which is pretty impressive considering it's a debut album. All the instruments sound right and this is especially noticeable with the organ used in 'The Code', but not every song here is a winner. There are some weaker ones like 'Magnolia Dei' with its sudden use of more brutal vocals being very out of place in this sub-genre of metal. And those just aren't even that great to begin with.

The album is pretty diverse with, like previously mentioned, even some grunting to switch things around. That makes for an experience that does not get boring. Too bad not every song is a winner, but at least the good outweigh the bad. As far as singing goes, the 'normal' singer does a decent job and most noticeable of all, has almost no accent. A thing quite strange for a Ukrainian band. Instrumentally it works a bit better, the guitar work is very good on a technical level and elevates the music from being a standard power metal band to a more progressive level.
The artwork is very very fitting; there's no way somebody wouldn't look at this and mistake the genre. Well done, guys. The booklet contains the lyrics as expected, but I do have a gripe with it. Namely the text is almost impossible to read, and being such a small font doesn't really help either. I'm hoping with their next release this will be addressed. I like to know what they are singing about.

For a first album this is quite good and I'm definitely looking forward to what they will bring in the future.

PS: The highlight of the album is definitely 'Self Control'. It's just a song that really, really works.

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Where to buy?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pagan Altar - The Time Lord (EP) (Cruz Del sur Music, 2012)

Genre: Doom Metal/NWOBHM
Year: 2004 (2012 re-release)
Country: UK
1. Highway Cavalier 02:46
2. The Time Lord 08:10
3. Judgement of the Dead 06:58
4. The Black Mass 05:52
5. Reincarnation 09:03
Pagan Altar is a cult band best known for only recently releasing most of their 70s/80S songs on album. Back in 2004 the band actually reformed to re-record some old unreleased songs, what would end up being the EP I got here today.
This is the 2012 re-release by Cruz Del sur Music (in collaboration with Shadow Kingdom Records). Fully remastered and with new cover art.

If you haven't heard from Pagan Altar, they bring old school doom metal in the line of Saint Vitus, Count Raven and hour of 13.
The title track, the real highlight of the record, also has a very Manilla Road vibe to it, what I can only approve, while Judgement of the Dead could be taken from Ozzy era Black Sabbath.
Of course being remastered, this sound better then their original demo but still a fair warning should be placed here that the songs can sound a bit "cassette" like. Not that that is necessary a bad thing, I feel it all adds to the feeling of the music.

So in summery, The Time Lord is 5 songs filled with doomy riffs and ozzy-like nasal vocals all harping back to days long forgotten. I highly recommend grabbing this EP, it's about 30 minutes of material which is long enough to recommend but a true doom lover already has the full Pagan Altar
discography of course.

Note: Since I got send this album in a digital format I cannot make claims about the quality of the booklet and cd itself this time.
PS: Volume 1 is also getting re-released under the title: 'Judgment of The Dead" on 28/09/2012 so also check that out.


Where To Buy:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lich King - Super Retro Thrash (StormSpell Records)

Genre: (8-bit) Thrash Metal 
Year: 2011
Country: U.S.A.
1. Lich King III (World Gone Dead) 05:48
2. Combat Mosh 04:39
3. ED-209 03:38
4. Toxic Zombie Onslaught 04:20
5. Black Metal Sucks 02:36
6. Behaver 04:38
7. Wage Slave 03:50
8. Act Of War 04:54
9. Attack of the Wrath of the War of the Death of the Strike of the Sword of the Blood of the Beast 03:48

So you probably have heard of Lich King by now, if you haven't let me introduce them, started in 2004 they play gimmicky straight played thrash metal influenced by the classic bay area style.

I bought this album from the label, StormSpell Records itself. Stormspell has been known to bring out high quality releases of 80 demos/eps and new band playing one or another 80s style. So Lich King is a safe bet for them.

There is a limit to 299 hand-numbered copies normally but they have some spare copies where you
get the number punched out instead of a number (like what my copy is), but lets be honest, thats not whats important.

On to the artwork, having it pictured as a NES game sure tells you whats awaiting you on this album, but too bad the nes cartridge drawing doesn't fill thewhole picture because that green background is just hideous to be honest.

The booklet is just a 2 page insert, not suprising considering there are no lyrics to be found here. But still the 8-bit representation of the band members all add to a certain charm. I must admit the cd-art itself is pretty neat.

But on to the music, what do we get?

Lich King playing covers of some of their previous songs in a 8 bit videogame music style.

Does it work?
Well its hit and miss really. I found out that I really love the idea, it throws me back to my old gaming habits. On the other hand not all the songs chosen here simply work as an 8 bit version (take black metal sucks), it does not fit at all. No clear melody to be found here just a whole lot of repeating the same thing and thats not really good music.

8 Bit music was normally composed by real composers making truly super pieces of art.
Here it can show that the songs weren't really mend to be played in such a basic, minimalistic style.
Knowing that Lich King isn't the most progressive band around you have lots of moments that truly aren't any good.

Anyways after everything is said and done its still a pretty neat item to have in your record collection
and worth a listen to if you are either fan of the band or of old 8 bit music.


Where to buy?:

Warbringer - Waking into Nightmares (Century Media Records, 2009)

Genre:  Thrash Metal
Year: 2009
Country: USA

1. Jackal 03:07
2. Living in a Whirlwind 03:19
3. Severed Reality 03:57
4. Scorched Earth 03:42
5. Abandoned by Time 04:19
6. Prey for Death 04:44
7. Nightmare Anatomy 04:00
8. Shadow from the Tomb 04:05
9. Senseless Life 04:55
10. Forgotten Dead 04:03
For Warbringer it all went very quickly, thanks to Myspace they were discovered by the general public and their EP was (rightly) praised  highly everywhere. It was therefore not very surprising that they were picked up by a major label like Century Media not long afterwards where they got the chance to record a first album. This was received with varying criticisms but it was agreed to that originality was hard to find. The fans couldn’t care less though and after some very successful tours with Exodus and Kreator these young wolves of Warbringer where back to do what they do best on this second record, ‘Waking Into Nightmares’, namely thrashing till they drop. After a first listen it is immediately evident that much progress has been made compared to the previous record. Firstly, the production suits better, every instrument is mixed in perfectly, probably thanks to Gary Holt taking the time to producing this, so this time you can actually hear bassist Ben Bennet. A nice example of this can be found on their instrumental song "Nightmare Anatomy", where he especially exhibits his art. The biggest change however, we find back in the guitarwork. The chunky riffs are almost dripping from the CD, it is precisely because of those riffs that Warbringer can distinguish itself from other new thrash groups. Nevertheless, they failed to develop their own unique style, although they mix Bay Area Thrash with Teutonic Thrash, or to be more specific slayer with Kreator. Also influences from Testament, destruction and exodus can be heared  (Pray For Death could come so from an exodus record). But who can expect originality now from a genre that reached its peak in the 80s? With Waking Into Nightmares Warbringer proves that their aggression and technique of their live performances can also be delivered on their cds. A record where you get what you expect, some very good Thrash metal.


Where to buy?:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Gwar - Lust in Space (Metal Blade Records, 2009)

Genre:  Punk/Thrash Metal
Year: 2009
Country: USA

1. Lust in Space 06:12
2. Let Us Slay 03:25
3. Damnation Under God 03:27
4. The UberKlaw 03:39
5. Lords and Masters 04:52
6. Metal Metal Land 03:05
7. The Price of Peace 03:37
8. Where is Zog? 04:53
9. Make a Child Cry 02:59
10. Release the Flies 04:10
11. Parting Shot 04:16
12. GWARnography * 06:04  


Legend speaks of an elite group of warriors who centuries ago roamed the universe with their unlimited hatred for all living things. They called themselves Scumdogs Of The Universe and after many massacres they were banished to the most useless planet in the galaxy, Earth.

If the above story sounds familiar, you probably have an album of these gentlemen in your collection, as usual on the new one we get a concept album that writes a new chapter to the epic book that is the story of Gwar. Hence expect only a standard story embellished with typical Gwar humor. Musically, they started as a punk / thrash group where the music was considered inferior to the humor and bloody spectacle. The band’s live show has always been better than their albums, thats just a fact that all their fans agree on.

But what about this latest new cd?

Well, there are again enough jokes and winks to satisfy the faithful Gwar fans. Twenty-five years playing experience has apparently paid off because just like their previous album this surpasses the older work musically. Unfortunately, there is also a more negative trend to be found here, more and more 'mallcore' elements crept into the music. No idea who was waiting for changes like that in a Gwar album. Thankfully, "Lust In Space" compensates with groovy thrash riffs that makes us forget those useless breakdowns immediately. The album cover is a nod to "Love Gun" by Kiss, a reference to the group that invented the whole shockrock genre.

Gwar was always the laughing stock of more serious metalheads but with this album it has been made clear that on a technical level they do know how to handle their instruments well.

If compared to Beyond Hell, the production is equally good, while comparing this with their older work would be like comparing you Bluray disc of 'Friday the 13th' to my VHS copy of that movie. Both are good and a fun to watch but you will get the most detail and nuances with the later one.

After 25 years, the cow should have been milked dry, but Gwar is live as funny and original as ever. The music has always been subordinate but this time it's again a fun little record to have.

Where to buy?:

Atheist - Unquestionable Presence: Live At Wacken (Relapse Records, 2009)

Genre: Death/Thrash Metal with Jazz and Progressive Influences
Year: 2009
Country: USA
Disc 1
1. Unquestionable Presence 04:53
2. On They Slay 04:01
3. Unholy War 02:28
4. Your Life's Retribution 03:17
5. An Incarnation's Dream 03:54
6. Mother Man 05:59
7. And the Psychic Saw 05:29
8. Piece of Time 05:58
Disc 2
1. Piece of Time 04:33
2. I Deny 04:00
3. Unholy War 02:18
4. Room With a View 04:05
5. Mother Man 04:33
6. Unquestionable Presence 04:07
7. And the Psychic Saw 04:49
8. An Incarnation's Dream 04:52
9. Mineral 04:33
10. Water 04:28
11. Air 05:34

In 2006 the legendary thrash / death group Atheist gave some exclusive reunion concerts. For those who could not attend those shows there is now a double CD with the recording of their passage in WackenTo introduce the band here would be superfluous because their jazz metal paved the way for other well-known groups such as Cynic and Watchtower.  On The first disc you get the first time chance to hear Atheist live on record.
On the second disc you get a compilation of their best songs to date. The sound quality of the live recording plays rather rough and raw but you are therefore assured of a realistic sound that is exactly how it was played three years ago. One downside is that songs from the first two records are played and that "Elements" was completely ignored, although the latter album also has its fans. The only live album of this classic group is a must for old fans while the compilation part is a great introduction to a newer audience.


Where to buy?:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Exivious - Exivious (self released, 2009)

 Genre: Progressive Jazz (Metal)
Year: 2009
Country: The Netherlands
1. Ripple of a Tear 07:30
2. Time and Its Changes 04:39
3. Asurim 05:31
4. All That Surrounds pt 1 03:38
5. Waves of Thought 06:24
6. The Path 05:45
7. All That Surrounds pt 2 03:39
8. Embrace the Unknown 04:44
9. An Elusive Need 04:39
Exivious has members from Cynic (yes the same) and has drummer Stef Broks from Textures, in order to not be limited in their creative expressions they decided to release the album through their own website and only print about 1000 copies for sale. First and foremost I need to mention that the music is not the sum of the previous groups mentioned, rather they take the progressive and technical elements of their previous musical expressions one step further. They music is best described as some sort of jazz-fusion but with the vast majority jazz and little room for the harder metal work. The songs are all built with a spontaneous progression like most jazz songs and not with normal choruses and recurring elements. This makes Exivious not so easy to digest , its gets even harder on the stomach because it’s a pure instrumental album. Without even hearing a single note of music you can decide if this record is going to be suited for your tastes. Do you love far-reaching progressive music and technical instrumental miracles, did you always have a passion for jazz or are you just one of the biggest Cynic fans on earth? Then you can probably do no wrong with purchasing this very album. For those of you who prefer a more common chunk of music it would be best to listen before you buy. To conclude I like to mention that this record is made rather for artists then for the average metalhead. That’s why I cannot wholeheartedly recommended it, but you are free to try it.


Where to buy?:

Crescent Shield - The Stars of Never Seen (Cruz Del Sur Music, 2009)

Genre: Heavy/Power Metal
Year: 2009
Country: USA

1. Under Cover of Shadows 06:54
2. The Grand Horizon 04:33
3. Tides of Fire 04:19
4. 10,000 Midnights Ago 04:22
5. Temple of the Empty 06:09
6. My Anger 03:24
7. The Bellman 03:23
8. The Endurance 09:16
9. Lifespan 06:34
After the release of The Last of My Kind in 2006 Crescent Shield brings out a second album two years later entitled The Stars of never seen, today it’s that second album that I will be reviewing. The band has been founded by members of Onward and Destiny’s End, in short artists who have already made their marks elsewhere. If you know anything about the previous groups it should come as no surprise that we are essentially getting a serving of U.S. Power Metal. The singer is Michael Grant who, while opinions about his qualities are divided, is in my eyes one of the most underrated singers in today’s metal scene. For many his unique vocal timbre will be a difficult adjustment, but whether it’s a fast song or a melodic sounding one Grant will provide everything with beautiful vocals, even the high notes he reaches with ease. Of course comparisons can be made with the greats in the genre like Omen, Jag Panzer and the longer, more progressive sounding songs also with the old Fates Warning. The song “The Endurance is worth a special mention, although this is the longest song that Crescend Shield has written so far, it never threatens to get boring, more so this epic song is slowly building up to a crescendo in about the middle of the song after witch it remains compelling to the last note. For people less into the progressive genre it also contains more straightforward upbeat tempo songs such as “My Anger”. There has clearly been though about the structure of the songs on this record, the production has had an audible improvement over the debut and the artist show that they know how to handle their instruments. In short, U.S. Power metal at its best, why haven’t you bought this yet?


Where to buy?:

Note: Michael Grant passed away not long ago this year, I would like to take this moment to offer my sincere condolences to everyone who knew Michael Grant, truly a singer who had so much more to offer was taken from us.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

ROXXCALIBUR - NWOBHM for Muthas (Limb Music, 2009)

Genre: Other
Year: 2004
Country: Germany
 1. Big Ben (Intro)
2. Running for the Line
3. The Gates of Gehenna
4. Seven Days of Splendour
5. Rainbow Warrior
6. Axe Crazy
7. Lady of Mars
8. Destiny
9. War of the Ring
10. Witchfinder General
11. Let it Loose
12. Angel of Fear
13. Spirit of Chateaux
14. See You in Hell

Roxxcalibur is a NWOBHM tribute band who released their first CD release  in April 2009. Normally people associate NWOBH with iron maiden, saxon, Angel Witch and Diamond Head. Many of you will never have heard of the lesser known groups like Chateaux, Grim Reaper, Savage, Arc, Cloven Hoof etc., that these names might not sound familiar is because their lps are almost impossible to find. On NWOBHM for Muthas (a reference to the famous NWOBHM compilation albums released under the title "Metal For Muthas") are fourteen of the best NWOBHM singles who were ever released. For those of you at home in the NWOBHM will spontaneously get a whopper of an erection at the sight of the tracklist on this album. From the epic Arc to the rocking Grim Reaper,  Roxxcalibur presented  a selection of the best NWOBHM songs that many people have never heard before. Of course we all know that cover versions rarely approach the original versions but Roxxcalibur, containing members of Viron and Abandoned, possesses enough talent in their ranks to honor these forgotten gems. A big part of this is due thanks to the good production. Since the original lps almost impossible to find, every 80s metal fan should have to buy this CD! My favorite songs are Lady Of Mars, See You In Hell and War Of The Ring, who all belong to my favorite metal songs. The album cover was designed by Rodney Matthews who was known for his work with Diamond Head, Praying Mantis, Tygers of Pan Tang but also self Scorpions, Magnum and Thin Lizzy.
If you can find the original records then you'd better buy them of course, but failing that Roxxcalibur is a good alternative. Highly recommended and this is definitely one of my all-time favored cover albums.


Where to buy?: