Wednesday, 1 April 2020

#33 - Top of 2019

Candlemass - The Door to Doom (Napalm Records)


Between disbanding back in 2012, regrouping and releasing 2 great EPs with singer Mats Leven, and finally reuniting with original singer Johan Längquist, a lot has happened to Candlemass between releasing the great "Psalms for the Dead" and the newest "The Door to Doom". News of reuniting with the voice behind the original versions of "Solitude" and "Under the Oak" brought a great amount of anticipation for a new record with the reunited line-up. So how does the Door of Doom fare against the back-log of the band? Overall the album is great. The band is in form and Leif is pounding the audience with riffs like there is no tomorrow. Tracks like "Astrolus", "Black Trinity" and "The House of Doom" are truly worthy of the Candlemass Hall of Fame and are sure to be valued additions in Doom Metal Playlists for years to come. Through this the bands succeeds in reaffirming their return and initialise potentially a new phase of their career (akin to 2007's "King of the Grey Islands").
 

93.4/100

Below is the music video for "Astorolus - The Great Octopus"


Tuesday, 17 March 2020

#34 - Top of 2019

Battle Beast - No More Hollywood Endings (Nuclear Blast Records)


Battle Beast have always been a band that has tried to evolve and reinvent themselves and their music with each record. With the departure of Anton Kabanen, the band had to evolve, adopting more pop elements in their previous album, while maintaining their signature style. Here, with "No More Hollywood Endings", the band take it one step further, almost completely abandoning their power metal character and essentially creating an album that seems like the demented lovechild of ABBA, Nightwish and Bon Jovi. But is that necessarily a bad think dear reader? The answer really depends from your perspective; if you were a die-hard fan of the band for its infectious pop-metal silliness, then this may come as a big disappointment. However those willing to embrace the new Beast will find a trove of excellent songs here, even if it's no longer in the same vein with what they would expect from Noora and company. "No more Hollywood Endings" and "Eden" are truly memorable Finish Sympho tracks, "Unfairy tales" is an excellent 80s power ballad, "Endless Summer" is a very tasty pop marshmallow, "The Hero" grooves hard, while  "The Golden Horde" is a god-honest metal bashing among the fluff surrounding it. 
Overall, this a very good and different output opening new avenues for the band, showing how a pop metal band can transition to something different while maintaining very high standards of quality.

93.3/100

Below is the music video for the titular track and "Eden"



Monday, 9 March 2020

#35 - Top of 2019

Avantasia - Moonglow (Nuclear Blast)

2019 was a great year for Tobias Sammet, releasing another great chapter that can be proudly added to the journey of his symphonic power metal project, Avantasia. Tobias has been busy collaborating with a range of bands from different genres and making some interesting guest appearances in the recent Ayreon (2017) and Magnum (2018) albums! Ghostlights (the previous Avantasia record) might have been a bit more unmemorable, though still enjoyable, addition as it was released closer to the last Edguy album (that made it to the 2014 Top), but in Moonglow you can listen to the amazing elements that made earlier Avantasia instantly recognisable and memorable! The album is packed with great star-power including Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Geoff Tate (ex-Queensryche), Bob Catley, Michael Kiske (Helloween) and Jorn Lande, making the songs a great remix of some of the most talented singers out there! The album has some nice simply structured songs, like the melodic "Monglow" which is definitely aiming for a wider crowd but the highlights of the album are without a doubt songs where Sammet takes some risk by interchanging between musical and lyrical themes as well as masterfully combining numerous guest singers whose voices beautifully complement each other. Such an example is amazing "The Raven Child" which spans over 11 minutes and gives us some of the most memorable moments of the record featuring an awesome mix of Kürsch and Lande's voices! Another great moment is "Invincible" where Tate shines with his mellow voice in this piano-based melancholic composition that inevitably has a Queensryche-like vibe to it and acts in juxtaposition to the quick-paced "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" spearheaded by Jorn Lande. A definite improvement over the latest Avantasia albums and another glorious chapter in the European power metal mythos
 


93.3/100

Below are the official lyric video for the the song "The Raven Child" and the official music video for "Moonglow".




Thursday, 5 March 2020

#36 - Top of 2019

Arch/Matheos - Winter Ethereal (Metal Blade)

Former Fates Warning band-mates John Arch and Jim Matheos, after the triumphant 2011 debut of their collaborative project, returned last year with an excellent successor, "Winter Ethereal" Once more, the music here is complex and heavy at the same time, with the warmth of Arch's voice complimenting the superb riffing of Matheos. By combining themes of old Fates Warning with fresher music elements and making riffing more direct to its predecessor, they achieve to sound more apart from the latest incarnation of Fates Warning than their previous effort. And while this may alienate some of the more prog-affiliated listeners, fans of the more metallic side of the band will surely rejoice. Despite the ease with which this album flows, it explores a ton of different places. The album kicks off with‘Vermilion Moons’ which evokes a darker and sombre mood, however there are multiple moods expressed throughout the record, as we are treated to power metal energy levels (the epic "Wrath of the universe" and the dynamic"Straight and narrow"), introspection ("Tethered") and even philosophical bouts ("Kinded Spirits"). Throughout the journey that is Winter Etheral, there are heavy metal riffing aplenty and labyrinthine structures coupled with superb musicianship. In conclusion, Arch / Matheos have once been able to produce an exceptional album of contemporary progressive metal music without sounding derivative or repetitive.


93.1/100


Below are the music videos for "Straight and Narrow" and "Tethered"



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!

92.9/100

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.

92.8/100

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.

92.7/100

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!

92.6/100


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.

92.5/100

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



Wednesday, 22 January 2020

The Best Doom Metal Albums of the Decade (Part 2)

And here we continue the best doom metal albums of the decade counting dow the best 15 albums out of...

The TOP 31 Doom Metal Albums
 of the 2010s (Part 2)



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15. My Dying Bride - A Map of all failures (Peaceville Records - 2012)


Gothic/Depressing doom legends My Dying Bride were less active this decade, releasing only 2 "real" full-length albums, due to a number of personal misfortunes. However, one can still hear the already familiar desperation in "A Map of our Failures" and plunge into the depths of depression and exasperation that only My Dying Bride are capable of producing. Their other release "Feel The Misery" is also recommended, however "A Map of All our Failures" epitomises what My Dying Bride are and therefore is an essential release for anyone enjoying a brooding dark night.





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14. Doom's Day - Baphomet (PRC Music - 2019)


Doom's Day prove that the past couple of years have given us some awesome doom albums that are worthy of this list. Their 2019 record adds a rough edge in the classic doom metal tunes. DooM's lead vocals definitely fit with the edgy vibe with "Kill the priest" having one of the catchiest and memorable choruses of this year that you are bound to get stuck in your mind for a while! The Canadian band has something to say with their fourth album and it is definitely worth listening to their message!









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13. Cruthu - The Angle of Eternity (The Church Within Records - 2017)

Cruthu, meaning creation in Gaelic, may sound like a classic 70s doom metal band but they only formed in 2014 and have released one album, "The Angle of Eternity", that showcases a classic heavy doom sound fitting for our list. From the first gloomy guitar riff and the sound of clear and majestic vocals (Ryan Evans) you feel the chills and haunting vibe which perfectly displayed in the mesmerising "Lady in the Water" and the groovier "Seance" with one of the catchiest guitar riffs in this list! An instant doom metal classic record!







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12. Venomous Maximus - No Warning (Shadow Kingdom Records - 2017)

Venomous Maximus have an eerie vibe that is achieved through both haunting and imposing vocals and dark and groovy acoustic & electric guitar riffs. The heavy/doom metallers from Texas also succeed in blending their sound with an epic feeling with "Pray For Me" being the perfect example! They seem to have found the secret into mixing rough sounds with a dramatic sound/attitude and some melodic accoustic twists!

So sing along: WITCH WITCH WITCH!










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11. Revelations - Gatekeeper (Sliptrick Records - 2017)

Revelations who have previously graced our 2017 top and our Best of epic metal top, are also definitely worth a spot in the best doom metal albums of the decade. The Swedish band have created the perfect blend of NWOBHM and classic doom metal tunes without missing on the melodic aspect of heavy metal or the darker vibe of early Sabbath-like eeriness.









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10. Witchcraft - Legend (Nuclear Blast - 2012)

Reaching the top 10, the psychedelic doomsters from Sweden with album Legend (see 2012 top) are here to add a psychedelic hard rock twist to the classic doom sound with a lot of memorable tracks like "It's Not Because of You". The change in the band's line-up following the release of their previous album, Alchemist gave them a breath of fresh sound and ideas which can be heard in this album, making Legend stand out!











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9. Solstice - White Horse Hill (Dark Descent Records - 2018)


Solstice are an amazing UK-based epic doom metal band with a history spanning back to the summer solstice of 1990 and  a long list of changes in their active band members. This hasn't stopped them from creating and releasing some awesomely epic metal that deservedly gained them a place on this list. The album oozes epicness with the songs like the titular "White Horse Hill" showcasing epic & sorrowful vocals and monumental tunes that combine galloping drums with a pinch of the Primordial sound and along with a folk/ accoustic element.










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8. Cathedral - The Guessing Game (Nuclear Blast - 2010)

Cathedral always felt like an experimental band, and this, their penultimate album (their final output "The Last Spire", was essentially a compilation drawing elements from all their previous albums) is where things got too experimental for some. Fusing classic doom elements with psychedelic prog and using vocal lines that were edging on recitation, this album is truly a weird one. But give it time and slowly but surely, the pure British non-sense of this album will start winning you over. Highlights of the record include "Funeral of Dreams" and "Journeys into Jade".










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7. Iron Void -  Excalibur (Shadow Kingdom Records - 2018)



 Further up, we find Iron Void who realised an awesome album in 2018, about the legend of Excalibur. The record is packed with a mixture of heavy slow-paced and melodic NWOBHM riffs that are balanced by rough strong vocals giving every song an EPIC feeling! The most complex and intriguing song is the imposing "The Death of Arthur" which is an amazing example of epic doom song-writing that narrates the equally fitting theme of the demise of the King Arthur. 










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6. Below - Upon a pale Horse (Metal Blade - 2017)


What can be said about Below who have managed to sneak both into our 2017 top and our Best of epic metal list? Upon a Pale Horse is definitely worth the merit and you can hear straight from the beginning of the album with the epic doom "The Plague Within" that this will be a memorable and unique journey into doom.










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5. Angel of Damnation - Heathen Witchcraft (Shadow Kingdom Records - 2018)


Reaching the top 5, there is another 2018 epic doom release by Angel of Damnation that stands out for the awesomely epic vocals by Gerrit P. Mutz (ex-Battleroar), reminiscent of Messiah-era Candlemass. The album's slow menacing riffs are complemented with crystal clear vocals, though the most memorable song is without a doubt the final track, "Tear off the Veil off the Sun" that adds an epic Manilla Road vibe!









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4. Baroness - Yellow and Green (Relapse Records - 2012)


Baroness released their heavy & psychedelic Yellow and Green during a challenging year (for more info see our 2012 top entry) but have nevertheless succeeded in creating another unique-sounding record which is packed with an interesting blend of different musical themes, while incorporating psychedelic and melodic vibes. Definitely worth a listen especially for those looking for something that is not strictly confined to doom metal and doesn't hesitate to sound different.









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3. Krux - III He Who Sleeps among the Stars (GMR Music Group - 2011)



Armed with one of the most memorable and catchiest choruses ever heard in their 2011 album "He Who Sleeps among the Stars", Krux show the world how classic doom metal should  really sound like! If you haven't heard this album yet, you are probably missing out on one of the best outputs of Leif Edling this side of the millennium.









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2. Doomsword - The Eternal Battle (Dragonheart Records - 2011)

 Italian epic doomsters Doomsword are certainly one of the most unique bands in the genre. This masterpiece of an album also made it to the top albums of its year and also into the best epic metal albums of the decade. There is still no updates on a successor album, but we hope that this is not the last we hear from Deathmaster and co.









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1. Candlemass - Psalms for the Dead (Napalm Records - 2012)


 When Candlemass released "Psalms for the Dead", it was supposed to be their last release. Thankfully, they recently reunited with original vocalist Johan Langquist and released another great album "The Door to Doom". However, upon internal deliberation in the team of the Blog, it was decided that Psalm for the Dead was, and still is the definitive doom metal album of the decade. The maturation of the symbiosis with Rob Lowe resulted in some of the best doom metal songs the band has written, including the groovy doom that is  "The Sound of Dying Demons" and the soul-wrenching agony of "Black as Time". An immaculate release and a great number 1 DOOM metal album of the decade.