Tuesday, 19 February 2019

#34 - Top of 2018

Svarta Faran - Chronicles of a War to Come (Independent)

Svartan Faran rise from Bavaria, Germany with their first full-length album that is very promising for their pagan future!
The melodic instrumental "Schatten über Nirthalion" serves as the perfect segway to the epic "Battle of Thyorvîn"sung by warriors as they march to battle. "Malandor" is heavily based on great whistling(!) tunes by Mathias while Met, the lead singer, showcases his vocal range with both his clear vocals and growls throughout the piece."In the Forest" is a broody instrumental that transitions into the darker and heavier "Banshee's Kiss".

"Sohn des Berges" and "Rise of the Fallen" are more of melodic death tunes with folk elements sprinkled throughout. "Tira, Botin des Untergangs", probably the best song of the record, succeeds in blending the brutal and the epic elements, giving the listener the most memorable chorus of the album as well as having a great mid-song interlude.  "Aufbruch der Zwerge" is a more clear-cut folk song blending English with German lyrics and growls with clear male vocals (something that the band dares and succeeds in doing throughout most tracks of the album). "Mistress of the Moon" has an amazing acoustic guitar intro and is dominated by powerful clear vocals while "Tanz der Zwerge" (with its Trollfest-like intro) is an interesting blend of folk whistle melodies and quick-paced guitar/drum tunes closing the album with a blast! A great folk debut and a surefire recommendation for all fans of folk metal.


Below is the link for the official lyric video of "Tira, Botin des Untergangs".

Sunday, 17 February 2019

#35 - Top of 2018

Ashes of Ares - Well of Souls (Rock of Angels Records)

Iced Earth fans rejoice! Well of Souls is the second full length album by Ashes of Ares consisting of ex-Iced Earth members Matt Barlow in vocals and Freddie Vidales in guitar/bass!

They definitely know how to kick off a record as "Consuming the Mana" is a powerful song that perfectly leads to the awesomely melodic "The Alien" showcasing both amazing vocals by Barlow and great drum riffs (by ex-Nevermore Van Williams) which is one of the album's highlights along with "Let All Despair".
"Soul Searcher" is an excellent power ballad that acts as a great mid-album interlude with dreamy guitar riffs. "Sun Dragon"
and "Trascending" are two additional examples of how power metal songs should sound combining excellent heavy guitars and (both harsh and clear) melodic vocals. "In The Darkness" is a more clear-cut song while "Spirit of Man" adds some progressive-like riffs & turns taking a different direction.
"Time Traveller" has an amazingly catchy chorus for live-show singalongs and more quick-paced tunes adding a more epic tone to the album which ends with the weird but interesting choice to cover Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name" song. The record is definitely reminiscent of classic Iced Earth and is worth checking out to listen how Matt's musicianship and songwriting has evolved in his new venture!


Below are the official music videos for "The Alien" and "Let All Despair".

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

#36 - Top of 2018

Silent Chambers - Thousand Victories (Silent Chambers)

Silent Chambers are a prog/folk acoustic project from Netherlands which present themselves to the world with this very promising and warm debut album. This is not a loud album, but an acoustic elegy, which while essentially simple, it evokes multitudes of emotions reverberating throughout the excellent tracks of the album. Vocalist  Jeroen Voogd echoes strongly as a prog/acoustic amalgam of Bruce Dickinson with Steve Hogath (Marillion), while Robert Spaninks (percussion), Sander Heerings (keyboards) and Martijn Balsters (guitars) provide the minimalistic musical backdrop that the songs need to shine. The album is not a one-trick pony, as one can see an amount differentiation between tracks, with some tracks ("Down My Spine") being more straightforward than others ("Moonlets").  This release does not break any new ground, however the combination of excellent compositions with truly inspired vocals make this among the best releases of the year on the softer side of rock music.


Below are the audio tracks for "Down my Spine" and "Moonlets".

Saturday, 2 February 2019

#37 - Top of 2018

Suidacra - Cimbric Yarns (AFM Records)

Suidacra are a long way from their death/death metal days (with some folk influences) as their new full length album "Cimbric Yarns" (their 13th record!!!) is totally immersed in the folk genre with a focus on Celtic mythology and tunes (packed with acoustic guitars, flutes and violins). "Echtra" is an epic instrumental opening which sets the tone with female voice-over (by Tina Stabel) establishing the themes of the record. "Serpentine Origins" is filled with acoustic guitar riffs and mellow female vocals that blend perfectly with male vocals leading to a melodic chorus. In "Ode to Arma", Sebastian Jensen takes over the lead vocal with his deep & rough voice. "A Day and Forever" sounds like a song straight out of Arjen Lucassen's Ayreon with more pronounced folk elements. The instrumental "Black Dawn" is followed by the epic "At Nine Light Night" (which sounds like a song by a band of warriors) and the orchestrated "Shakehenge" (with its great flute tunes) are definitely two of the highlights of the album. The cinematic "Assault on Urlár" and the mellow "Caoine Cruác" are filled with Celtic and epic elements serving perfectly as the final two songs of the album narrating the Celtic tale of Suidacra.


Below is the official music video for "Shakehenge".

Friday, 1 February 2019

#38 - Top of 2018

Spiral Skies - Blues for a Dying Planet

In number 38 of the best albums of 2018, we have the debut album from Swedish psychedelic hard rockers Spiral Skies. Fronted by Frida Eurenius (ex-Lapis Lazuli) and complemented  by a band of unknown first class musicians, the band is another excellent entry to the retro female fronted rock/metal bands that have really broken through in the 2010s. The album is  dominated by mellow melodies accompanied by hard riffs and the big voice of Frida that sells the whole package. Opener "Awakening" is an indication of the more hard side of the band, while follow up "Dark Side of the Cross" combines melodic mellow guitars with a more symphonic attitude on the vocal side. "The Wizard's Ball" & "Danse Macabre" showcase the more psychedelic side of the band with the former being more straightforward while the latter has swing elements reminiscent of Diablo Swing Orchestra. "Labyrinth of the mind" walks a more familiar Doom/Psychedelic path while "Shattered Hopes" brings echoes of Rush to mind. "Left is Right and Right is Left Behind" continues in more psychedelic routes, with sprinkles of doom throughout, while closing track "The Prisoner" is  more of a classic rock/metal epic tune. Overall the album's best features are the awe-inspiring vocal performance by Frida coupled with excellent ideas in the songwriting department and shifting tones across the album, experimenting with various classical forms of rock. While the band is still trying to find a personal sound, it takes us along for the ride on a journey across the sounds of various classic rock permutations, making this an exciting debut worth recommending.


Below is the music video for "The Wizard's Ball".