Friday, July 29, 2016

Funeral Moth-Transience

Japan has had a fairly strong history when it comes to metal music of varying degrees, with thrash, traditional heavy metal, and black metal being at the forefront. However, that doesn't mean Japan doesn't produce their fair share of bands outside of those genres, with Boris being the chameleon when it comes to genres, as they seamlessly change genres with every album. For the funeral doom metal entry, Funeral Moth has decided to take that step forward to become Japan's representative into the sub-genre. With an album out already, they are approaching the important second step with their latest album Transience.

Transience begins with the title track's tranquil guitar notes that will remind listeners of current time Earth material. The guitar notes continue even as the distorted guitar strums and the rhythm section kicks in two minutes into the song. Vocals, while sparse throughout the album, are reminiscent of a person struggling to get out the words as they are on their death bed. Sustained guitar notes mixed in with the music further add to the long, agonizing struggle to tranquility. With a running time of over 21 minutes, the title track is a lot to take in, but given that the music offers little but an emptiness that one will eventually accept, it's a song that overthinking it would diminish the intended message here. "Lost" begins with guitar notes that drive home the feeling of loneliness for the listener, with a hint of low-end chanting in the band's native tongue thrown in for good measure. As a whole, there isn't much to Funeral Moth on the album unless you delve deep into the subtle changes within their sound, as well as the painstaking measures in which they play each note. In many ways, they're practically a simplified version of Earth.

Funeral Moth has been around for a decade, but have only gotten their act together to release albums in the last three years or so. The wait has been worth it so far, as they have come out with one of the more emotionally straining albums of 2016 in Transience. While the music may sound simple over the near 40 minutes it occupies, they have mastered the subtle changes that make the best funeral doom metal albums. Your full attention to detail is a must for maximum enjoyment, and it is available for your listening at their bandcamp site.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Malicious Birth-Asylum

In a never-ending effort to catch up on this year's releases, plus the desire to search the globe for metal music in the least likely places, the album review this time brings us to the city of Quezon City, Philippines, and the sludge/doom metal duo known as Malicious Birth. Little is known about the band beyond what is mentioned here, but they did release a demo called Paralysis Sessions last year, and with that bit of a confidence boost, they took the leap and released their first album in Asylum.

Asylum is a four track album that takes up about 36 minutes, with the longest track being "Dictator" at just under 13 minutes while around five and a half minutes is what makes up the shortest track "Mind Collapse." The opening track "Mind Collapse" lays the heaviness on with just a sampled track followed by vocals breaking the monotony around the 3:30 mark of the song. "Dictator" is a little more timely when it comes to vocals kicking in, as it begins earlier, though coming up with 13 minutes of material and mostly limited music and vocal range means that Malicious Birth has to be on top of their game. The changes in tempo are rather subtle, as the first half of the song shows, going from slow to slower to slowest, and with vocals rather sparse, it is up to the music to carry the day. The second half of the song sees the guitar taking charge on some level, driving the music up a tick. The drumming, mostly serving as a complimentary piece, starts the charge on "Samsara," a song that offers an ever-so slight change in music style. The closing track "Pointless" has a decent bass intro that leads into the band's usual sound, with vocals showing something other than low-fi screams, as they get upgraded to a higher level of sorts. Guitar strains dominate the proceedings halfway through the song before things pick back up again. While Malicious Birth doesn't break any new ground, they do show that they can play sludge doom metal competently and with some degree of tempo change, something most bands of their genre tend to forget to do. Vocals could afford to stand out more, but getting comfortable with the style is one of the things that will happen over time.

Malicious Birth draws from their surroundings for inspiration, and it shows on Asylum. Despite not breaking any new ground on the sludge doom metal scene as a whole, they do establish themselves as a band to watch. Like most bands, they do have room for improvement, but they have something to work with. For your purposes, you may check out the album on the Malicious Birth bandcamp website.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Silent Elegy-Gone with the Wind

The Metal Archives random album generator is at it again, and this time, China gets to be the country of origin, as they produce a symphonic metal band called Silent Elegy. Having just been around for three years, there isn't a lot to go on other than what is posted on the band's facebook page plus Metal Archives. However, here is what is known, as written via their facebook page: their lyrical themes are about love and redemption, and their musical style can be best described along the lines of Epica, After Forever, and Nightwish, which read correctly, is symphonic female fronted metal. Of course, there is also the guttural male vocals included in the mix, so comparing them to Sirenia isn't a major stretch. Without any previous albums of any kind to go off of, Silent Elegy goes head first into the foray with their debut Gone with the Wind.

Silent Elegy isn't the first symphonic metal band in existence, but they are the first to use it in the purest sense, meaning it isn't combined with another sub-genre such as death or black metal. Gone with the Wind begins with an instrumental in "Baptism," which is utilized as a means to build up the suspense to what is to come on the album. "Reborn" opens with chiming bells that immediately leads into standard symphonic metal that places a heavy emphasis on operatics, particularly on both the usage of synthesizers and the with the vocals of 李晓宇. One of their first singles "Valkyrie" is next, and it has a habit of reminding the listener of Tarja-era Nightwish, as the music tends to be grand in overall sound while the vocals provide their own air of grandiosity. The guttural male vocals make an appearance for the first time on the album with "Indelible Memory," a song that begins with a piano intro that would fit in on some of the better symphonic metal songs out there. While it isn't strong enough on the song to offset the female vocals, it does break a sense of monotony that threatened to overtake the album. A brief piano interlude in the song provides some of the best moments on the song, as it takes over and provides much of the atmosphere there. "Never Meet Again" is the longest track on the album and is also the only one that clocks in over the five minute mark. It is here that the vocals get tested, particularly towards the end, where she has to hit the high notes, to some success. The other single from the album "Furthest Distance" has one of the better uses of symphonics, but it becomes clear that Silent Elegy has work to do to get better. Vocal range can always be improved, but variation in the tempo of the music would greatly serve Silent Elegy well, as it seems that the songs tend to sound the same after a few listens. It isn't until "In My Dreams" that the variation that had been sought finally comes to light, as the band slows things down a little, though the bombast factor does surface towards the middle of the song. Included on the album is a symphony version of "Redemption," something that could undoubtedly improve the band's overall repertoire with a little more use.

Silent Elegy is still new to the metal scene, and given that they are one of the first Chinese symphonic metal bands, there is bound to be room for improvement. On Gone with the Wind, they show considerable talent that will serve as a foundation for future work. The things they need to work on, such as vocal range and more song tempo variations, are all things that can be fixed in time. For now, they are on to something, and Gone with the Wind should serve as a jumping off point to what should hopefully be a record deal in the future.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Yossi Sassi Band-Roots and Roads

The Metal Archives wheel was spun again, and this time, the album that comes up is one that will be familiar to fans of Orphaned Land. Ex-Orphaned Land member Yossi Sassi has had his own project since 2011, when he was still in Orphaned Land, but now it is a full-time project. The latest album Roots and Roads continues what he started, as it is more on the progressive side with Middle Eastern folk elements. If you're expecting a carbon copy of Orphaned Land, you will be disappointed, so get those expectations out of the way.

For Roots and Roads, the Yossi Sassi Band sets the tone by interweaving traditional Middle Eastern folk with the more relaxed progressive sound. While Sassi performs much of the guitar and Middle Eastern instruments, there is a backing band and the instrumentals are evenly placed along with the tracks with vocals, as provided by various musicians including Sapir Fox, Zaher Zorgati (Myrath), Diana Golbi, and Sassi himself. There are other guest musicians on the album, most notably Bob Katsionis (Firewind) and Bumblefoot (ex-Guns N' Roses). As for how to look at the album, the vocal tracks are more progressive rock while the instrumentals tend to showcase the traditional folk side of the Yossi Sassi Band, and the split personality of the album is actually at its best when both elements come together, as evidenced on tracks such as "Winter," "Root Out," and "Road Less Traveled." Sure, there are lulls on the album that do pull the album down a little, such as "Thundercloud," which is rather airy in its approach, particularly with Sassi's vocals, as they aren't nearly as strong as former band mate Kobi Farhi's. Overall, however, there are more positives from Roots and Roads than there are negatives. As for best tracks, "Road Less Traveled" and "The Religion of Music" are good starts.

While there will always be comparisons between Yossi Sassi's current band and the band he used to be in, it is clear that with his current band, he gets his chance to explore more in the way of his musical creativeness. Despite not being as great as one would have liked, Roots and Roads is a nice album that should give the listener insight as to what he can do musically. If you're looking for something a little different, then Yossi Sassi has something for you in Roots and Roads.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


When trying to catch up on what's been released this year, it's never always a good idea to hit the random band link on Metal Archives unless you narrow the search some. Thanks to Metal Archives, however, I stumbled upon this gem for review, and one that will get me one step closer to being caught up on this year's album releases.

The Madrid, Spain band Hordak has been around for almost 14 years and has released four albums to date. Their general themes center around Celtic Paganism and Celtiberian (a cross of emigrated Celts and native Iberians) history with Pagan metal serving as a backdrop. Earlier this year, they released their fourth album in Padre, and while it may take time to get acclimated to the band, as they seemingly release an album every five years, the end results prove to be worth it, mostly.

Padre begins with "Ekleipsis - Devourer of Gods," and while it isn't a monumental start, it does start the album on the right foot. Things get diversified with "Soaring," as the acoustic guitar/flute intro really adds to Hordak's sound, complete with a guitar solo that is becoming a lost art in today's music.  The bridge between the two songs "Bloodline of the Wolves" is a good transition between the two while delivering on its own thanks to clean vocals from guest Wulfstan of Forefather. "Sol Sister" also features a solid guitar intro that leads into one of the better overall songs on the album, as things are fairly straightforward, including the vocals of Autumn. The instrumental track "Sol" is acoustic guitar with xylophone mixed in, and while it breaks the consistency of the tempo that is created, it also doesn't add much to the overall picture. "A Leader in Times of War" starts with an intro clip from the movie Spartacus, which leads into more of the sound that Hordak does fairly well. However, as the album goes along, the lack of tempo variety begins to show, and being able to tell the songs apart does become a challenge. What does work in Padre's favor is that the album is 50 minutes long, and only two songs have a running time over the six-minute mark, so consistency proves to be a double-edged sword here. If there is a highlight on the second half of the album, it is "Father Sun - Father Dragon," which features harsher vocals from Uruksoth (Gathering Crisis, CrystalMoors).

Hordak produces another solid album with Padre, though there are moments where you wonder which song you are listening to, given the consistent nature of the tempo of the album. An instrumental that is just simply there doesn't help too much, but overall musicianship on the album is actually above average. A solid album overall, but could have been better.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Visions of Atlantis-Old Routes - New Waters

Since their formation in 2000, Visions of Atlantis has undergone several lineup changes, with the only constant in all of it being drummer Thomas Caser. Now, with most of the original lineup back together except for the vocalists, the band is hitting the reset button with an EP called Old Routes - New Waters, which is songs from the first three albums as sung by current vocalists Clementine Delauney and Siegfried Samer. The results are mixed.

For the album, the songs are taken from Eternal Endless Infinity ("Lovebearing Storm"), Cast Away ("Lost," "Winternight," and "Last Shut of Your Eyes") and Trinity ("Seven Seas"). To say there is a major difference between the male and female vocalists, at least when it comes to just how well they fit with the songs compared to the original, would be an understatement, and the compatibility changes with each song. For instance, on the opening track "Lovebearing Storm," there just isn't the same power behind the vocals as in the original, particularly when it comes to the male vocals. Of course, comparing the re-done version as a whole to the original, it just doesn't stack up, and the band knows it, as they just go with what works in the now. The newer version of "Lost" actually is more of an improvement on the original, as both vocalists carry their parts well. "Winternight" strikes the same emotional chord with the listener on this version as it did with the original, so it works well on the album. "Seven Seas" is alright on the album, but it isn't a major improvement on the original, but "Last Shut of Your Eyes" is where things look better. Musically, Visions of Atlantis is trying to get a feel for what brought them to the dance, and it shows at times, as the energy that permeated the originals is not as evident on the remade versions at times.

Old Routes - New Waters is an okay EP that serves its purpose of getting the listener re-acclimated to the band's original sound while working in the new vocalists. It's nothing earth-shattering, but it's also not terrible, either. It's only recommended if you're looking to either complete your Visions of Atlantis discography or if you're like me and hold out hope that they will have that breakthrough album.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Nightwish show review 3/16/16

Nightwish and Sonata Arctica have been at the forefront of the Finnish power metal scene, with each band having been around about 40 years combined. Only once though, had both bands toured North America at the same time (in 2005), so it was a pleasant surprise when both bands were announced as touring together on Nightwish’s second run through of North America in support of their most recent album Endless Forms Most Beautiful. Along with Dutch melodic/symphonic metallers Delain, the bands set forth to put their brand of metal across the continent, making a stop on March 16 in Kansas City, MO.

Prior to the stop in Kansas City, the tour had some bumps in the road, most notably a flu that had been floating around the Nightwish camp that forced a cancellation in Boise, ID the week prior. Seemingly, with the show going off without a hitch for the most part, things were back to normal (more on this later). Delain kicked things off with a 30-minute set, and despite the time constraints, they showed a great deal of energy and a highlighted mic stand. It should also be noted that they were without a bass player for the duration of the tour, as Otto Schimmelpennick van der Oije was back in The Netherlands to be with his wife, who was expecting during the tour. The set list kicked off with “Suckerpunch,” which showed the importance of having a frontwoman that can get a crowd into it, as Charlotte Wessels proved here and throughout their set. The set list was surprisingly heavy on songs from We are the Others, as half of the list was devoted to the album, but it also showed off songs from their latest EP Lunar Prelude, as well as a song from The Human Contradiction (“Army of Dolls”). By the time they finished their set with “Not Enough,” Delain gained fans that may not have heard their material before and existing fans were satisfied.

Sonata Arctica was next to hit the stage, and despite just a 45-minute set, everything that made their live set enjoyable was present, from vocalist Tony Kakko’s in-between humorous banter with the fans to the equally energetic set of songs. With several albums under their belt, picking seven songs, intro not included, was not an easy task, but Sonata Arctica did well to at least pick a song from most of the albums, with only their debut Ecliptica having more than one song on the list. Beginning from their latest album Pariah’s Child and the song “The Wolves Die Young,” Sonata Arctica dived into what is becoming a regular occurrence of lively music, strong stage presence, and a great sense of humor during the in-between banter. Going into older favorites “My Land,” which featured banter about the band’s home land, and “Fullmoon,” the songs almost sound as though it never aged thanks to the overall energy in which the band play. They slowed things down halfway through the set with a combination of “Tallulah” and “Last Drop Falls” before delving into “I Have a Right.” Sonata Arctica closed out strong with “The Cage” and “Don’t Say a Word,” but not before banter in-between the songs got so long that Tony encouraged the crowd to shout, “Shut the **** up, Tony!” If people didn’t love Sonata Arctica before this live set, it might be a good idea to check your pulse.

Nightwish was the last to take the stage, but midway through the opening song “Shudder Before the Beautiful,” bassist Marco Hietala went off the stage and was notably absent for much of the second song “Yours is an Empty Hope.” Prior to “Ever Dream,” vocalist Floor Jansen kept the crowd’s attention with a little fun banter while Hietala’s technical difficulties were being fixed. Hietala would soon appear and apologize for an outburst, as problems with his bass flustered him and he stormed off the stage during the opening song. Once the problems were solved, Nightwish were able to put on their best show, with Jansen proving to be one of the best live vocalists and a perfect fit for Nightwish. Going through their latest album Endless Forms Most Beautiful for the majority of their set list, it proves to be better in a live setting than in studio. There were also instances in which Nightwish delved into their extensive discography, as all except for Angels Fall First were mined for songs, with “Stargazers” and “Wishmaster” from Oceanborn and Wishmaster, respectively. Overall, what started out rather disastrous was ultimately saved, as Nightwish put on a great performance in spite of earlier problems in the set.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Delain-Lunar Prelude EP

Whereas The Gathering led the way for female-fronted metal bands almost 20 years ago, there is almost a lineage that continues today from the Netherlands, as Within Temptation is practically in the middle, which leads to Delain as the torchbearer of the current era. It should figure, as Martijn Westerholt was originally in Within Temptation, but had to step aside prior to the band’s rise to success. Almost 10 years to the day Delain released their first full-length in Lucidity, the band is experiencing major success of their own.

Currently riding on the success of their last full-length in The Human Contradiction, Delain has released an EP in Lunar Prelude that should tide over fans until their next full-length. While it doesn’t offer much in the way of what they plan to do, it should at least provide enough of a glimpse of what is to come.

To figure out the track list, Lunar Prelude is two new songs, a song (“Don’t Let Go”) that was previously released on the bonus disc of The Human Contradiction, four live tracks, and an orchestral version of one of the new songs on the album. On to the new songs, they are “Suckerpunch” and “Turn the Lights Out,” and both are a fair study in contrast, as the former is more in your face while the latter is lighter, yet almost angelic in delivery. “Suckerpunch” is the obvious hook for listeners, as it features all the trademarks Delain is known for, from driving guitars to bombastic symphonics. As for “Turn the Lights Out,” it’s more subtle in its approach, as there is no obvious hook, but as with the case of any Delain song, is driven by Charlotte Wessel’s vocals. “Don’t Let Go” can be considered a new track if one didn’t pick up a special edition of The Human Contradiction, but otherwise, it just happens to be there. The live tracks are all songs from The Human Contradiction album, which should figure, as the album still has momentum for fans. While expecting completely new material isn’t necessarily something that an EP should do, Delain does a decent, in unspectacular enough job in offering a different look.

Lunar Prelude isn’t likely to win over new fans for Delain, but it won’t lose their existing fans, either. It’s what one would expect out of an EP for the most part, which is to say that die hard Delain fans will most likely be picking up the album as opposed to the casual listener. 

Nechochwen-The Heart of Akamon

Before I get to the album review, I'd like to say that this blog is a chance to keep years of album reviews and interviewing experience going. Even though the last two years have been kind of rough, given the burn out that I've felt, combined with various things outside of my control contributing to the demise of Metal Psalter (thanks for eight wonderful years), I feel like this blog is a chance to get a fresh start and see what brought me to this point in the first place. Sentimental stuff out of the way, let's go to the review.

Nechochwen is a duo from West Virginia that consists of Nechochwen (Aaron Carey) and Pohonasin (Andrew Della Cagna) and they play black/folk metal whose themes are heavily influenced by Native American culture and history. Since the first release Algonkian Mythos in 2008, the band has gotten progressively more comfortable with the metal elements, as the debut was predominantly acoustic guitar. With a new album out in Heart of Akamon, the results of a band exploring their horizons are realized.

The main theme of Heart of Akamon centers around a battle, one that is accurately depicted on the album cover, which is a painting of General Braddock's Defeat. The harsh opening track "The Serpent Tradition" leads into a short acoustic instrumental "The Impending Winter," which showcases a parallel between the harsh realities of war and the quiet, yet somber aftermath of the war. "October 6, 1813" and "Traversing the Shades of Death" are a welcome link to the band's past, as they employ the atmospheric elements that they've been known for while incorporating metal elements when needed. While picking one stand out song on this album is a difficult task, as the superior musicianship and subject matter make it an entire album worth listening to, a song like "Traversing the Shades of Death" encompasses everything that Nechochwen is about, from hauntingly beautiful atmospheric passages to metal influences. The vocals also do their part to make the Heart of Akamon an album worthy of your attention, as they pull off both clean and harsh vocals effectively.

Overall, Nechochwen does well with Heart of Akamon, particularly since it's allowed to stand out on its own while showing a level of improvement over previous albums. Growth is something that should be encouraged in music, and Nechochwen has shown this to be true over the course of their discography. If' you're looking for something refreshing, look no further than Heart of Akamon.