Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Xandria - "Neverworld's End"

Xandria - Neverworld's End
2012, Napalm

1. A Prophecy of Worlds to Fall
2. Valentine
3. Forevermore
4. Euphoria
5. Blood on My Hands
6. Soulcrusher
7. The Dream Is Still Alive
8. The Lost Elysion
9. Call of the Wind
10. A Thousand Letters
11. Cursed
12. The Nomad's Crown
Bonus Track
13. When the Mirror Cracks

The first time I heard samples from Neverworld's End I thought, "This is like Loreena McKennitt singing metal." Indeed, along with the crushing riffs and epic symphonies there's vocalist Manuella Kraller. She sounds like a more operatic version of McKennitt or, if the internet is to be believed ex-Nightwish singer Tajra. Not that that matters to me at all. The combination sounds awesome. The band also has, at least in this album, a distinct Celtic flavor - especially in songs like "Call of the Wind" and "Cursed." So yeah... Xandria: Celtic McKennitt metal. And it's awesome.

Useless Fact: Vocalist Manuela Kraller was only on this one album.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Choir - "Shadow Weaver"

The Choir - Shadow Weaver
2014, Galaxy 21

1. Shadow Weaver
2. What You Think I Am
3. It Hurts To Say Goodbye
4. Get Gone
5. We All Know
6. Two Clouds Are One
7. White Knuckles
8. Everybody's Got a Guru
9. The Soul of Every Creature Cries Out
10. Frequency of Light
11. Rhythm of the Road
12. The Antithesis of Blue
13. Shadow Weaver Reprise

I've had some problems reviewing the last few Choir albums. I'd listen to them, love them for the first two weeks, write a glowing review, then realize that I didn't end up really liking them as much as I did initially. I wanted to eliminate that problem with Shadow Weaver. I've been listening to this for months, marinating in it, waiting for the "honeymoon" period to be over. I think I can talk about it a little bit more objectively. It's the band's very first Kickstarter release (a campaign which I supported!). I think they really wanted to take their time with this one - get the whole band to write songs together and not worry so much about time or funding. I think all the hard work shows as this is the strongest album the 2010's albums. Where Midnight Sun was solid, but suffered from a boring middle bit and Loudest Sound was just completely light-weight, Shadow Weaver is a step up. Steve's lyrics are leaps and bounds better than the previous album - striking that perfect balance of personal, universal, poignant and beautiful. And while the choruses can be pretty simplistic at times I really connected with the songs. The music is just as weighty. I would be remiss to mention "What You Think I Am" which is probably the darkest, heaviest sounding song the band has done. Shadow Weaver isn't perfect, but it is more than sufficient to scratch my Choir itch.

Useless Fact: "It Hurts To Say Goodbye" is based off the band member's daughters moving away. It makes me think of the day my little girl will have to move away. It also makes me appreciate how much my own mother sacrificed in letting me go.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Symphony X - "The Odyssey"

Symphony X - The Odyssey
2002, Inside Out

1. Inferno (Unleash the Fire)
2. Wicked
3. Incantations of the Apprentice
4. Accolade II
5. King of Terrors
6. The Turning
7. Awakenings
8. The Odyssey
Bonus Track
9. Masquerade

After listening to and loving the monster album that was Iconoclast I decided to check out some older X. The Odyssey lays the groundwork for that dark metal juggernaut by being reportedly a good deal heavier than their previous outings. However, it's still very much progressive with all the hallmarks of the genre. I would be remiss not to mention "The Odyssey" - a twenty-plus minute epic based on the epic poem of the same name. Some superb guitar work here, for sure. Face-melting leads abound! Russell Allen is a fantastic vocalist with a great range. He can go from snarling thrasher to power metal wailer to melodic crooner... sometimes in the same song. I confess this album was a little bit of a grower for me, but remains a textbook example of progressive metal.

Useless Fact: My edition came with not only the lyrics but also liner notes covering each song. I wish every album would do that.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Amaranthe - "The Nexus"

Amaranthe - The Nexus
2013, Spinefarm

1. Afterlife
2. Invincible
3. The Nexus
4. Theory of Everything
5. Stardust
6. Burn With Me
7. Mechanical Illusion
8. Razorblade
9. Future on Hold
10. Electroheart
11. Transhuman
12. Infinity

I stumbled upon Amaranthe while searching for new much on Amazon and iTunes. One Amazon reviewer said it was a mix of music from the Mega Man series, death metal, and pop. So yeah... pretty much had to check that out. The review is quite accurate. The band has three vocalists - one guy, one girl, and one growler. It actually works pretty well and gives the album some variety. Most of all, the album is a lot of fun! The momentum never lets up as the tracks are up-tempo rockers with cool, crushingly heavy riffs infused with some pop hooks. They take a slight breather with the "ballad" "Burn With Me" - which really should be on top 40 radio - but the pace remains. I think there's supposed to be some sort of concept or storyline here but I have no idea what it is. Doesn't matter, though it's still awesome.

Useless Fact: I don't quite know enough about this band to have an obscure fact. Other than that the girl singer is pretty. But you can see that for yourself.