Sunday, 23 February 2020

#37 - Top of 2019

Sanhedrin - The Poisoner (Cruz del Sur Music)

Sanhedrin have released their second full-length album in 2019 and succeed in showing how female vocals can truly elevate a traditional heavy metal record. Straight from the first track, "Meditation (All My Gods Are Gone)", you can hear the awesomely galloping guitars by Jeremy Sosville which fit perfectly with the rough but crystal clear vocals of lead singer Erica Stolz. There are also some tracks like "For the Wicked" that are more quick-paced & heavily drum-based adding a more gritty & old-school sound. However, the songs that will get you hooked from the first to the last riff are definitely the groovy "Wind on the Storm" and the catchy "Saints and Sinners"! "In from the Outside" is a worthy epic closer (clocking at about 7 minutes) that wraps up the album with some great Maiden-like tunes and craftsmanship. Overall, "The Poisoner" combines old-school sounds with a unique voice, with the band creating their own unique soundscape and overcoming its (also very interesting) predecessor, A Funeral for the World. A great and unique record that combines the old and the new, setting a  new benchmark by which  new "old school" heavy metal releases should be judged!


Below is the audio for the song "Meditation (All My Gods Are Gone)".

Friday, 14 February 2020

#38 - Top of 2019

Elvenking - Reader of the Runes - Divination (AFM Records)

Italians are well-known for producing an avalanche of amazingly catchy power metal albums, with some bands standing out for knowing the secret combination behind a great folk melodic power album. Elvenking is definitely one of those bands and though they have released some amazing records like the "Two Tragedy Poets (...and a Caravan of Weird Figures)" (2008) as well as the "Secrets of the Magick Grimoire" (see 2017 Top), while experimenting with different sounds, their new album is surely among one of their best. The return to the folk elements that made their sound interesting and distinct can be heard heard from the first notes of the intro song, "Perthro", continuing throughout the album. There is also a fair share of melodic power metal tracks like "Heathen Divine" and "The Misfortune of Virtue", which blend the classic quick-paced heavier tempo with acoustic elements and great violins by Lethien, like for example in "Sic Semper Tyrannis". Of course the album is packed with memorable guitar riffs elevating songs like "Eternal Eleanor" and "Diamonds in the Night" into undisputed folk highlights. But don't worry, if you are looking for a heavier sound with a darker symphonic twist, Elvenking still have some songs for you here, including "Malefica Doctrine" where you can listen to some harsher vocals by Damna blended with choral parts. Although the straightforward power metal "Divination" and the melodic "Silverseal" were used as the promotional tracks  for the album, the most interesting song here is without question the epic "Reader of the Runes - Book I" spanning over 10 minutes and showing that Elvenking still have fresh ideas out of the oven.


Below is the official music videos for the songs "Silverseal" and "Divination".

Thursday, 13 February 2020

#39 - Top of 2019

TrollfesT - Norwegian Fairytales (NoiseArt Records)

TrollfesT (stylised like that) are one of the most unique folk bands out there and yet for a long time they were thought of as a joke. The reason was that the band perceived themselves as such, thus rendering any serious purview of their music moot. And yet, here in their 8th(!) full-length release, the band finally seems to escape their "joke-band" self-imposed label. By no means does that mean that the record is devoid of humour, as these elements are still there, but they are superimposed by great music and a unifying theme on TrollfesT's take on Norwegian Fairytales. Balkan sounds, that were always a part of the band's strange mixture of Northern Folk with influences straight from a Kusturica movie, here have a much more prominent role, with heavy riffing taking a back seat. Additionally, we see tempo changes that were not that common in the previous works of the band, with final track "Nøkken og Fossegrimen spiller opp til midnattstimen " adopting  very nicely juxtaposed mid-tempo melody (with ethereal additional vocals from Mari Müller). Now, arguably the band will not be everyone's cup of tea, as the many shifts and turns of the music combined with the rough vocals Jostein Austvik might dissuade some from listening, but for trve folk metal fans that are into something fresh and not listening to the "tried and true" recycled ideas of many bands, "Norwegian Fairytales" will be ... an experience.


Below are the music videos for "Kjettaren mot strømmen" and "Fjøsnissens fjaseri", the first two tracks of the album - bear in mind it gets weirder further downstream!

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

# 40 - Top of 2019

Brymir - Wings of fire (Out of Line Music)

Finnish symphonic death metallers Brymir are back with their third (and so far the best!) full length album Wings of Fire. Opener "Gloria in Regum" brings to mind the early Turisas sound by combining imposing male choirs, melodic guitar riffs and Ensiferum-like vocals by Viktor Gullichsen. Titular track "Wings of Fire" takes a completely different approach by relying  heavily on synthesizers combined with melodic riffs and harsh vocals.  "Ride On, Spirit",  a personal favourite, is without a doubt the most epic song of the album, mixing heavy guitar riffs, blasting drum-beats and an EPIC chorus! The darker "Sphere of Halcyon" which follows, adds a blackened-death Dimmu Borgir-like touch relying heavily on a heavy aggressive symphonic sound. Songs in the middle of the album "And So We Age" and "Hails from the Edge" are more straightforward NWOSDM songs, following  a quick-paced format & act as a bridge to the rest of the record. The latter part starts with the dark and eerie "Starportal" with a more modern sound, before moving to the keyboard-based "Vanquish the Night" that is improved through the addition of orchestral parts and perfectly balanced low-key ending. The acoustic intro of "Lament of the Ravenous" allows some time for breath-catching before "Chasing the Skyline", an intriguing  track balancing well all the best parts of typical "Finnish" sound with melodic parts (like Amorphis) along blasting roars of death (like Wintersun), creating their own unique mixture. The album concludes  with the more mellow and epic "Anew", graced by a cameo of Noora Louhimo's distinct voice that complements the narration, perfectly wrapping up the record!


Below is the official music video for the song "Wings of Fire".

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

#41 - Top of 2019

Riot City - Burn the Night (No Remorse)

Better late than never and we kick off the top albums of 2019 with a real treat, as we welcome the debut of Canadian Heavy Metallers Riot City.  It has been said that you should not judge a book by its cover. But when the cover could be an alternative  for "Screaming For Vengeance" then maybe the ol' proverb has found its true exception! Riot City hail from Calgary, Canada and are a 4 member band first formed around 2011, apparently to become the best US power/speed band in the world. "Burn the Night" is only 37 minutes long and is made up of pure fresh heavy metal elegy.  The disc is always heard in one take and the hand rarely stays away from just pressing the repeat button. The eight tracks of "Burn The Night" are really one of a kind. There are no fillers here. Only killers. There are no favourites, for in times when the majority of releases have only one to two decent tracks, here we are talking about an album full of great REAL heavy metal songs. Can anyone listen to "Warrior Of Time" or "In the Dark" and not be on board immediately? No fokin way. Riot City takes all this stuff we love in our music and brings it to 2019. They are not retro, but at the same time do not rely on "modernisms" to sell their music. Simply put: "Burn The Night" is not just an album you need to listen to sooner rather than later, but an album that in a few years time will be recognised as a true classic of its kind.


Below is the lyric video for heavy metal hymn "In the Dark".