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Webzine dedicated to the metal band fronted by girls. We also like ambient,darkwave,rock & electronic music.
Label : Underground Symphony
Review by Tony Cannella
The veteran Italian Melodic power metal band Skylark returns with their ninth album. It is hard to believe that this band has been around this long, but since their inception Skylark has maintained a certain level of consistency that their fan base has come to love. Skylark also returns with a new singer. She is an American named Ashley Watson and she makes her debut on their new album “Twilights of Sand”. Skylark is primarily known for their conceptual “Divine Gates Trilogy”, and “Twilights of Sand” has some of the same traits that “Divine Gates” had. The new lead vocalist Ashley Watson fits in quite well with the rest of the band. She’s got a likeable voice and she would not sound out of place singing in a pop band, but she also handles the heavier material quite well. In addition to Ashley, there are also a number of male vocalists who takes part as well as some other female vocalists – it really would have been helpful to have a bio sheet, because it is hard to decipher who sings what but I am pretty sure Ashley Watson handles the bulk of the female vocals. The intro track “The Tears of Jupiter” kicks things off and leads us into “The Princess and Belzebú”. This is an ok song, but I am not sure if I like the male vocals here. The female vocals are good but the male seems a bit out of place. Other than that it is a pretty up-tempo song. “She” is next and has a pounding classic power metal vibe. The next track “Love Song” is really not a love song (in fact the chorus says “This is not a love song”) and it has a really fast tempo to it and is one of my favorites. There is some other pretty cool material on here like “Tears”, “Lions Are the World” and “The Wings of the Typhoon”. Another one of my favorites instantly became “Aitakatta” I have no idea what the title means, but it is such a departure from the rest of the album. It has a fast up-tempo, bouncy and happy vibe to it. The epic 10-minute track “Little Girl” concludes this album which clocks in at almost 80-minutes. “Little Girl” features the best of the male vocals on this album in my opinion and has a classic rock feel to it. The limited edition comes with a bonus CD featuring alternative, unreleased and different takes on some of the material. Skylark has already become a hit in Japan. Let’s hope that the rest of the world will give this band a chance too.
Rating - 78/100
Disc 2 (Limited Edition)
Interview by Erwin Van Dijk
Since the bio on the Midnattsol website (www.midnattsol.com) is writen in German, can you tell us something about the band?
Everything started some years ago, in 2002, when I moved from my hometown Norway to Germany because of different reasons, e.g. my longing for my sister and for learning more about the German culture and language. I was at a new stage in life, wanted to bring the little melodies keep circling around in my head to grow up to real songs by instruments as well. The coincidence was that I told my friends and family about my wishes for founding a band, about the same time Chris H. told about his wishes for founding a band too. So thanks to nice friends, we met in a metal-disco in the nearby of Stuttgart and talked about our plans and wishes. And luckily, we had some of the same ideas. From that point on, things went very fast. Chris talked with some of the earlier members of their Ex-Band Penetralia, Chris M. and Daniel F., and they were curious about finding out what this was. Chris contacted Birgit and we saw that we functions well together as a band, and with this formation we started to make some songs. The writing process went very fast, it was like the ideas popped out of us, it was a great time. But it didn`t stop there, it was only the beginning: in a very short time we made a demo, Daniel D. became a member of the band, we got a record deal with Napalm Records and then it just went up the hill, hehe.
About how you describe your music: what are the differences between the ‘Nordic Folk Metal’ you make and all the other folk metal bands like Korpiklaani, Battlelore and Cruachan?
Cool questions! And great bands indeed! I think that the main difference lays on the main focus; after my opinion Midnattsol has its main focus on metal with folk elements, while the other bands have the main focus on folk, which means that our music is quite heavy and dark. They use real folk instruments as well, which make a big difference for the sound, while the folk elements in our music mainly appears in the melodies, in our concept and in the lyrics. We also stress the word Nordic folk metal and use Norwegian titles and lyrics. So I think that are the main differences, but of course, that is only my opinion.
What made you decide to become a singer? And, who are your big influences?
It is difficult to say why I started with it, but I think I can say that it is my love for music and the great thing by coping with my thoughts and experiences. I use the writing and the lyrics for dealing with all these things, it gives me so much. I started as a little child singing, writing lyrics and stories and making songs, so I sang and made music almost my whole life, but not in a professional way. When I became a teenager I slowly started to get the feeling of founding my own band and when I was 18 I felt ready for it. But I have to say that my aim was never to be a famous singer, earning a lot of money or getting much attention. I work over 100% as a teacher, what I absolutely love, I have two studies, so I don’t try to live from the music, even if I had the chance, I can`t stand the thought of letting money decide which kind of music and lyrics I should make and write, how I should sing, how I should dress, I want to do my thing, just as Midnattsol as a band want. Big musical influences are Anathema, Amorphis, Dead Can Dance, Paradise Lost and Norwegian folk music.
You are Liv Kristine’s sister. She is very famous in the Gothic scene for her work in Theatre of Tragedy, Atrocity, her own band Leaves’ Eyes and numerous guest apperances. Like on Cradle of Filth’s “Nymphetamine”. Does that make things more difficult for you? People will always compare you with your sister?
I would have lied if I said that I never would have thought about it, in the beginning I got totally shocked, everywhere you can read about the comparison between us. In the beginning I felt a bit sad as well, because people didn’t see me as the person I was, only as a sister and I thought that people wouldn’t take me and Midnattsol serious for what we really are. But luckily, I saw after I while that it has much more positive effect than negative. My sister is well known in this business and is touring a lot, so through her a lot of people got to know about us, with other words, for the promotion it opened many doors. And of course, it is positive to have the connections, through her I have since I was a teenager the chance to meet great people in the music business. So I think all in all you can say that it was much more positive than negative for Midnattsol. On the other hand, we hadn’t come where we are now, if we wouldn’t work hard every day, burning for what we are doing and having that quality of the music, lyrics, artwork and so on. It is so difficult to get a good record deal today, it is definitely not enough just to have the same last name as a well-known person, it is the whole package that you have to deliver. Additionally I have to say that I have grown a lot since then and I seldom read what people write about me. I think positive and try to enjoy life as good as possible and I am proud to have such a lovely sister!
Can you tell something about the other members of Midnattsol?
Yes, love to, Daniel D., who plays the guitar, acoustic guitar and also sang on our bonus track October is just exploding of great music ideas and melodies, I love to sit together with him and do some improvisations for new songs. He is also taking care of the organization of transport when we are on the road. Daniel F. is our keyboarder and at the same time he is taking care of the organization of our homepage and myspace. He always wants to try different things out and has a lot of creative ideas; Christian H. is playing the guitar and acoustic guitar and mouth harmonica and is also doing a lot of managing and is taking care of the financial stuff in the band, he knows the music business very well and has good connections. Chris M. is playing the drums and knows a lot about graphic design and does a lot of planning and organization of the concerts and the merchandise. Birgit plays the bass and acoustic bass and is helping Chris with the concerts and me with some interviews.
The lyrics of your last album “Where Twilight Dwells” are partly written in English and partly in your own language. Can you tell us what made you decide to do this?
I have to say that my feelings of the individual songs play an important role for the chosen language, and as on the debut, the languages I sing in is English and Norwegian. I can’t really describe why I do it, it is like you indicate just a feeling that I get when I write a text for a certain song. It comes some text lines in my head and then I often can’t change it, I just have to continue. It has a lot do with intuition, it has to fit with the atmosphere. When I sing in Norwegian, it is very personal for me, it is more close because it is my mother tongue. I also sometimes combine it with songs with folk elements, it fits well together, like perhaps “En Natt I Nord”. It wouldn’t give the same feeling in another language. But at the same time Norwegian is very difficult to sing, and English gives me more opportunities to experiments with words, because English has enormously more words than Norwegian.
Can you tell us how you get the inspiration for a song?
My main inspiration is the mystic and wonderful Nordic nature and the nature creatures in the Norwegian tales. In this clean untouched nature I feel real, I feel alive, I feel that everything flows. The sight of beautiful waterfalls, deep dark green woods, powerful waves of the ocean makes my thoughts escape from this industrial material focused society in kind of another world where these things don’t matter. So the wonderful nature inspires me a lot, and direct description of the nature like e.g. the northern light, magical rivers of powerful winter landscapes, you can especially find in the songs “En Natt I Nord”, “River of Virgin Soil”, “Wintertime” and “Northern Light”, and in the rest of the songs you can find it more indirect. But not only the nature inspires me, a great part of the influences are my thoughts, experiences, happenings in life like and feelings like frustration, loneliness, anger, sadness, but also happiness, hope and love. With other words, the music and the lyrics come from deep within, it’s real, it comes from my soul.
You where responsible for the lyrics on “Where Twilight Dwells”. How does the band Midnattsol write the music. Is it teamwork or is there a mastermind behind the writing process?
Yes, you are right and I have written all the lyrics for “Nordlys” as well, besides the lyrics for the song “October” on the limited edition, Christian H. wrote that one. The writing process of Midnattsol is really a big teamwork, we don’t have a leader or a mastermind that is doing everything or deciding everything. Every band member has the right to say his/her opinion and we always discuss about things together. It takes much time and sometimes nerves, hehe, but it can also be very interesting, all the ideas, we can be pretty creative together! This way of thinking is also very important for us as a band, every individual is important and has something to say. We also don`t keep songs on the records that one member wouldn’t like. So then everybody can identify with our songs 100%, that is a great thing. Mostly someone has a melody or a special idea, each member give their special part to their music, we are reviewing it, we make some changes, new ideas and then the lyrics are written and sometimes vice versa.
Midnattsol means Midnight Sun. What does “Nordlys” mean in English?
“Nordlys” means the northern light in English and is for me to be seen as a perfect symbol for the beautiful but mystical site of the nordic nature, which is a great inspiration for both the music and the lyrics of Midnattsol. This light shows the real beauty of the world, far away from material and industrial things, which only take us further away from the real meaning of life after my opinion. At the same time, the northern light, which appears because of the energetic connection between two extreme poles, the sun and the earth (like you see on the cover, Birgit and I are symbolizing these two poles and the connection between them) stands for diversity, it is made of two extreme poles, and stands as a symbol for treasuring different sites of life, both rain and sunshine. Like I sing in the song “Wintertime”: “How could I ever recognize the light, without dark clouds?.” Everything in the nature is special and beautiful in their way and shouldn’t be seen as negative. The title is also strongly connected with the musical site of the album; the songs are diverse like the northern light as well, they content beautiful and melancholic melodies with inspiration of the folk, but at the same time complex song structures, heavy guitars and loud drums with a lot of double bass are central elements in the music. So the title was chosen because of its perfect fitting to the music and the lyrics on the new album, but also to the general band concept and style. So every element on “Nordlys”, from the title to the layout and so on, is strongly connected, like a whole package, so to say.
And, can you tell us something about the new album. What are the differences between “Nordlys” and “Where Twilight Dwells” and about the songs.
You know, it is really interesting to hear about all the different opinions about the differences, some are like the night and day, so I don’t think there is a 100% answer, it has a lot to do with personal opinions, which are great, because it would be quite boring if everybody would think the same. We in Midnattsol actually think that “Nordlys” is heavier and darker than the debut which I think is connected with the fact that we developed a lot as musicians in these three years. When we started to make the new songs we noticed that we could play and sing more complex and diverse stuff, it was a fantastic feeling, just looking how the band had grown. We wanted to create something new, and the result is what you hear on the new album, there are some differences; more quality and variability from both the vocals and the instruments, more details and extras, which you perhaps don’t notice after only one time listening, more guitar melodies, more complex drums and bass and keys, the vocals have more volume and a lot of different matters to sing are used. Additionally I think the song structure is more progressive than before and the sound is more natural and warm. But even though there are differences, there is a strong the red line to the debut, e.g. the folk inspired melancholic melodies.
Like “Where Twilight Dwells”, “Nordlys” is recorded the Mastersound Studio (www.mastersoundstudio.de) by Alex Krull. Was the whole recording process easier this time?
I have to add some information here. We decided to let different kind of studios with different producers give their best to our new album, so besides the recording of my vocals by Alex Krull at the Mastersound Studio in Fellbach in Germany, the recording of the instruments took place at the Studio E in Mellrichstadt in Germany by the producer Markus Stock. Tue Madsen at the Antfarm Studio in Aarhus in Denmark was responsible for the mix and last but not least the well-known Mika Jussila at the Finnvox Studio in Finland did the mastering. So which you understand, we had a lot of great and professional producers with a lot of experience to give their best into the new album, which we all think they did in such a great way, we can`t describe how satisfied we are! And yes, I think it was much easier this time, I grew a lot during these three years, both musically and personal. I got a lot more experience after recording the first record, you have to remember that Midnattsol is my first real band, before that I only sang and made music on my own. So I feel that after these important experiences, I am on a totally different level now and everything is easier.
“Nordlys” will be released at 28th march in Europe and 1st in North America. The first tour dates of 2008 are Metal Female Voices Fest (18th of October at the Oktoberhallen in Wieze, Belgium) and Summer Breeze Festival (14.08 – 16.08, Germany) MVFV will be the third time in Belgium. Any plans for a tour in Europe and/or North America?
Right now we are in the planning phase regarding live activities, so I can’t say so much about it yet, unfortunatly. But we will come with more information on the new homepage which we just have put online, so you can keep yourself updated there! See you on the road!
And the last question, are there things the reader should know that I haven’t asked?
I want to use the opportunity to thank all the fantastic people out there for the amazing support!! I hope you like the new album, we are so excited about your reactions! Take good care of yourself and have a great new metal year!
And the question from Lithium that won the competition on Femme Metal Forum… What are your thoughts concerning the recent popularity of female-fronted metalcore (The Agonist, In This Moment)? Do you feel that this poses a threat to more-traditional bands such as yours?
Wow, congratulation to you Lithium, how nice of you to ask me that question, it is a really good one! Actually, I never feel threatened in any way, no matter which band. I think that these are great bands and it would be so boring if every band would sound the same, I think it cool with variety. I can’t speak for the other bands, but I have to say additionally that we in Midnattsol do our thing independent of what people think or say, we don’t try to be fashion or something like that, we do what we always wanted to do and what we burn for, and the listeners decide whether they want to listen to us or not. And fortunately until now I have to say that most of the reactions and response were in fact not only good, but overwhelming, which of course we are very grateful for. We just hope that the music of Midnattsol can give the listeners something special like its giving us and the future will show what will happen.
Label : Napalm Records
Review by Tony Cannella
With 2011 just underway, one of the most highly anticipated Femme Metal albums is “Doombound” by Finland’s Battlelore. This epic, fantasy metal band set the bar incredibly high on their previous releases, so with “Doombound” there is a lot to live up to. On “Doombound”, Battlelore has returned to their main source of inspiration, that being J.R.R. Tolkein. “Doombound” is Battlelore’s first full fledged concept album and is based on the story “The Children of Húrin” by Mr.Tolkien. The pounding, melodicism of the opener, “Bloodstained” begins this epic journey as the unmistakable duel male/female vocals provided by Kaisa Jouhki and Tomi Mykkänen are present to enhance this strong opening number. “Iron of Death” is next and picks up the tempo a bit. “Bow and Helm” is a powerful piece that showcases Battlelore at their best. “Enchanted” is a beautifully, melodic mid-tempo piece which sees Kaisa handling the bulk of the vocals while Tomi joins in at various points to Inject his forceful style. This was my favorite song.The aggression gets picked up a notch on the next track “Kärmessurma”. Other highlights include: “Olden Gods”, “Men as Wolves” and the 8-minute “Doombound”. “Doombound” continues Battlelore’s metal journey through Middle-Earth and it is a worthy edition to this great bands catalog of music. This CD is also available in a limited edition Digi-Pack which also comes with a bonus DVD featuring some live footage, video clips and behind the scenes stuff. “Doombound” is vintage Battlelore, which should please their growing fan base.
Rating - 90/100
Interview by Claudio Grippi
After a two-year break from their album “Altitude”, the first lead by the new singer, Autumn are back with their 5th album called “Cold Comfort”. Marjan Welman, the current singer of the band, took the time for an interview here at Femme Metal where she talks about the album, its concept and the future plans of the band.Hi Marjan, how are you?
I”m fine, thank you!
Let’s start immediately with our interview. “Cold Comfort” is your second album that features your voice fronting the band. Are you satisfied with the outcome?
I”m very happy about the outcome. I”ve always felt like a part of the band but I’ve never felt so at ease with all of the guys, like right now.
I think the title really suits the overall feel of the album. It’s a personal, moody album which can get quite dark at times. All of us went through a turbulent time. The album is about rising above this, or not
Well, let me tell you, this record is incredibly beautiful and more progressive-oriented. It seems more accurate, emotional and detail-oriented than “Altitude”. A step forward indeed. Do you think it is intentional or does it reflect the natural evolution of the band’s sound?I think it’s a little bit of both. We always want to do something extra and try new things but for this album we really tried to be more diverse and experiment with different moods. I”m just glad it came across.
Can you tell us how the band went through the writing process for this album?For the most part, we write the songs individually, then we send them to the rest of the band. Whoever has an additional idea, he adds it and then sends it to the rest of the band and so on. This goes for the music as well as the lyrics. We do sometimes get together to work on stuff as well.I read the band is extremely grateful to you as a band member because you brought a breath of fresh air. What was your personal contribution to the songwriting process?By nature, I”m not much of a composer. I’m always full of ideas, but when it comes to processing them I get stuck easily. I’m too much of a chaotic, haha! For this album I did get inspired a bit and I worked on “Black Stars in a Blue Sky” and “Truth Be Told” with Mats. He has the ability to understand what I”m rambling on about and put it into actual lyrics.I think this album is a masterpiece and your voice is extremely soulful, elegant, refined with an amazing magnitude. What are the main singing influences that have inspired you the most in these years? Thank you very much! Well since my taste in music is very mood driven, I listen to a lot of different music and therefore have a lot of influences. As long as there’s something ‘real’ (to me) in there, I dig it. I love emotional music. Right now I listen to a lot of Fink. I also listen to a lot of blues, stoner and Motown! Choices, choices!
In your opinion, are there any differences between the way you sing in “Altitude” and “Cold Comfort”?
Oh yes, I can hear I”m more relaxed and confident to step out of my comfort zone. I wanted to explore more sides of my voice. I think it worked but I always want more“Alloy” is one of the best songs I have ever heard together with “End of Sorrow” and “Black Stars in a Blue Sky”. They are so deep and intimate. Can you tell us something about the concept, the lyrics and the ideas behind these songs?The songs and lyrics do have a specific meaning to us but the power lies within the fact that listeners can have their own interpretation of it. For example take “End of Sorrow”. On the first spin it may look like a romantic song. But you can also ask yourself if the storyteller might be a little obsessive about a happy ending. Maybe he or she can’t let go/accept the fact that something is over.What are the band’s future plans after the release concerts in the Netherlands?Well, we really enjoyed the shows we did so far. It feels good to be on stage together again. We had so much fun! Furthermore, we’re working on a few shows in Germany and are hoping for a tour or maybe some festivals over the summer. Last year you toured with The Gathering and it appears that you are great friends. Are both bands planning to tour and play together once again?Oh yes, it was so much fun. They’re a bunch of sweeties! About touring with them, I would love to but there are no plans that I know of right now.Epica is currently looking for a band to tour with in Europe when the new album is to be released in March 2012. Would you like to go on tour with them?Of course we would love to! If we were their support, people would be in for an evening of various musical styles. Just the way we like it!
I think it”s a bit difficult to write about the songs individually, since “Cold Comfort” was written as one complete concept. I’d rather read honest listener reviews than to reveal the secrets up front.The songs we could not listen to were the bonus tracks. What can you tell us about them?The songs are called “Changes for the Bitter” and “The Mute (Inhale)” and they fit the rest of the album seamlessly. “Changes for the Bitter” is a sturdy rock song around an odd-time signature. “The Mute (Inhale)” is part 1 of a mini concept with “Truth Be Told (Exhale)”. I would recommend listening to them together for the full experience of the concept. We thought about these songs for a long time but feel they stand better on their own.Marjan, thank you so much for your precious time! Is there anything left you would like to say to our readers?You”re very welcome and oh yeah! Buy the album, love it and come to our shows, haha!
LinksMarjan Welman : MySpace * Twitter
Interview by Miriam “NocturnalConcerto”
Transcription and editing by Si Smith
After 3 times of scheduling problems, I was able to interview Miss Gossow and the first thing that come to mind listening to her voice, is her resolution and high-confidence of all the (musical) path that she has built and still continue to do. That’s for reason, I think, is considered a model for every femme metal singer, not only for her way of singing but also for her assurance that she communicates. Is simply a woman that kick’s ass, no more words to add, yeah at least I have one : enjoy the interview!
Hi Angela, first of all thanks for accept this inteview. It’s an honour to speak with you. Let’s talk about your upcoming album “Khaos Legion” : the cover album is very robotic, what do you want to represent? And who’s the creator of the cover?
The cover is influenced by a French painting called “Liberty Leading the People”. It is a very famous painting of a woman holding up the French flag from the French Revolution. Basically we wwomananted our cover based on that idea because it’s a very iconic picture for revolution; it is a woman leading the revolution, and when you look at our cover it is a female in the middle leading the pack. We like using this is in Arch Enemy because I am leading the band as well. These people on the album cover have just survived an apocalyptic ending of the world; the world is burning down in the background. That’s why they are wearing all these masks and look a bit like zombies. They are a little bit representing Arch Enemy, but we didn’t want it to look like us on the cover, we wanted it to look a little bit more alien. Its been done by an artist called Brent Emmet White from America. He’s very famous for this kind of digital artwork, it took him actually three months: it was hand painted first, then he rendered it in 3D on a computer. It’s all hand painted, I think its pretty awesome!
“Khaos Legions” is totally straight-in-your-face title, in your opinion what you want to express this title?
The Khaos Legion is an army that basically brings anarchy and atheism to the world, but in a positive way. It’s an army that frees people of governments, of religion, oppression in the social surrounding we live in, whether its people or relationships. These are the Khaos Legions. It’s us in our metal town.
How was the recording process and when you nailed down the first note/lyric?
We’ve basically been writing this album for four years, since the release of “Rise of the Tyrant” musically, but I started with the lyrics in Summer 2010, because I knew we were going into the studio in December and we already had some demo songs. I wrote the first lyrics, but when I get the music that’s when they change a lot, because I find it very difficult to fit words to the music: I find it a lot easier to have the music and then fit the words on it. Otherwise you might go against the rhythm of the music - for me its very important to have the music first, that’s when my assortment of words and phrases determines the lyrics. One of the first songs I did was “No Gods or Masters” and “Through the Eyes of a Raven”, which I wrote in a van while doing the UK tour in November. I write my lyrics everywhere, on trains…we do lots of travel because we tour so much, so I write them in trains, in planes, in cars, or waiting around somewhere backstage. So I get the demo songs and listen to them and whatever comes to mind.
Fredrik Nordström produced the previous album “Rise of the Tyrant” and this time you have chosen to work with Rickard Bengtsson (already in Armageddon with Christopher Amott). How was work with him and what do you think that Rickard have added to Arch Enemy musi?
Rickard is a local guy, he lives where we live, he has a studio out here which is pretty cool, and we have all our gear out here in Sweden, and its easier to record locally - because, we have a lot of equipment, a lot of vintage equipment for example, echo tapes, old amps, and we wanted to use them all on the album, so for us its a lot easier to get our stuff there - so that’s one big advantage to recording locally. And the other one is that he has known our sound for many years, he worked with us on “…Machine”, and what he’s done is engineered the album, which means he sets the sound for the drums and then he starts to record….we don’t work on our own. It just makes it easier to work locally. He sings on one album…whats good about him is that he understands vocals. I have recorded most of my vocal lines with him, because he is a singer himself, that helps a bit.
“Khaos Legions” comes out also in a Ltd. Edition 2CD in Mediabook packaging incl. 4 cover songs. Why choose this to cover this songs from Europe and Kiss for ex.? Are you connect to them for some your private facts or simply you are fan of this bands?
I am a huge fan of Europe. Michael and Chris grew up in Sweden with Europe of course. And they’ve met them many times, they are genuine Europe fans, we’ve played together on festivals. So there’s a mutual friendship. I don’t think anyone’s friends with Kiss. Kiss are such a big influence on Michael and Chris and pretty much everybody, when we were like 13 and 14, Kiss albums dominated the rock world - and they had the pretty cool make up and everything. So most people are inflluenced a little by Kiss. We do have some Kiss elements in our sound and thought it would be cool to do a Kiss song. But we are not friends with Kiss unfortunately.
Also the thing that hits me so much is : why have you called the second CD “Kovered in Chaos”?
Because the first album is “Khaos Legions” and the second album contains cover songs, it’s a cool little play on words.
Angela, you entered Arch Enemy already 12 (twelve) years ago, what is your personal balance between the touring activity and recording material?
Label : Dreamcell11/Aural Music
Review by Andrea Disgraced
Theatres des Vampires are back and this time with full force! Ok, let’s start from the beginning: being an old, huge fan of the band and having followed them since the beginning, loving almost every change in directions they had made, since most times they did it with both “brain & heart”, maintaining a very high profile, musically speaking. Until that infamous “Anima Noir”, which dates back to 2008 and that brought a lot of doubts to my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I own it and enjoyed A LOT one gig of the promo tour here in Italy but after that period I didn’t listen to it anymore; when I decided to have another go at it some months ago I suddenly realized all the flaws that back in 2008 the excitement of a die-hard fan didn’t allow me to see. But this isn’t a review of “Anima Noir” so I’ll be brief, although it’s a necessary prologue to understand my following statements. In few words, that was a bad album, with half of the songs that really didn’t do any justice to such a band. There was a wonderful song, the ballad “From The Deep” and generally talking the first half of the album was more than decent, with some shivers then and there (no, that wasn’t meant in a positive way! ;)). second half of the album was shamefully bad, bad songwriting, ridiculous keyboards-laden songs with that electro flavour that can appeal only to German goth dance clubs (no offense of any kind to anyone attached, be it clear). Only other wonderful song, the magnificent closing title-track couldn’t save the album from drowning, in my personal and most humble opinion. So I admit I feared not that TdV took a direction I wouldn’t like or became even less metal or bullshit like that, but simply that they would’ve come back with a - in my personal and most humble opinion - bad written album. God! Satan! Whoever you want! I was So wrong! I’m consuming this promo, I think. :) The band decided somehow to dare, without losing its trademarks since countess Sonya Scarlet is the singer, and wrote a bunch of kickass songs that I refuse to call vampiric as if this review or the album where aimed at a teenie goth who thinks Stephenie Meyer invented gothic/vampiric literature. The album starts with “Keeper of Secrets”, a good, heavy gothic metal song that perfectly opens to you the doors to what Theatres are today (and, I hope for several years to come). Aggressive guitars but never wannabe-aggressive, if you get my point: they don’t try to be harder than they actually are and it’s perfect this way. A catchy opener that will bring massacres during gigs! Last but not least, it introduces the first guest of the album, Mr. Snowy Shaw of Merciful Fate and Therion fame (let’s not chat about the latest happenings around him I’m sure you all know of and that don’t get him in the light so much hehe ;)). Let me tell you something that I’m sure you all crave to know about. Sonya’s performance is here probably her best EVER. It must be said that that is also due to a finally perfect production, able to give Sonya’s different vocal nuances the right tone to be well expressed and recorded. Actually I think that her rockish vocals are quite interesting in the scene: unusual, sensual, with a lot of “recitato” (I take this word from the opera terminology to say that she really means what she sings, so to say). Not to mention that her opera-like singing, being it in the background or the leading vocal line, has improved so much and sounds now so incredibly good! Ok, not as powerful as the queens of “opera metal”, but at least so clear, pure, crystalline you can’t but love it. I dare to say even better than in those days in which she was merely a back-up singer and all (or nearly all) she had to do was to sing that way. Of course, throughout the whole opus we meet the usual male vocals - same speech here, sometimes they’re just in the background, sometimes they duet with Sonya and sometimes they sing alone. Shame on me because I can’t tell you who and when is doing them, since Fabian, Zimon and Gabriel, respectively keys, bass and drums are used to do those deep, male vocals, live too, so I guess you’ll all have to attend a show! “Fly Away” and title-track “Moonlight Waltz” will make you feel like you wanna throw away half of your (modern at least) gothic metal collection, since these two passionate songs are surely above an average rating and mark other two songs I’m craving to hear live as soon as possible! Let’s arrive to the cover song of this album: beloved Hijo de la Luna by Mecano, here in an Italian version called “Figlio Della Luna”. Now, I usually hate covers identical or almost identical to the original, I wonder what’s the point in doing that… This is NOT identical to the original, but not even totally different, that must be said. You’d recognize it very easily. Nonetheless, it’s a fucking masterpiece! Perhaps because Italian is after all my mother tongue and so it has a particular taste - the exotic one for non-italian speakers. Perhaps because the orchestration and the band’s skills turned it into a perfect symphonic cover - lately the only similar example I’ve heard, of something not having anything to do with symphonic metal that became an awesome pièce of it is “Still of the Night” by the goddess Tarja. Anyway this cover has it all: a heartfelt interpretation by Sonya, soaring orchestra and choirs and the right, fitting hitting of the band on the respective instruments. And if I can add, Sonya’s performance has a nice feeling reminiscent of some classic (not classical) italian singers like Patty Pravo which is simply a point more in the whole thing. Ninth track “Le Grand Guignol” displays the talent of one of the first and best extreme metal women of all times: Cadaveria. The production gives a good hint, when she growls, of how she sounded back in the past with her previous bands, always on the edge of symphonic black metal and thrash; besides, we can hear also how perfect and angelic her clean vocals can be. “Obsession” is a good example of how you can make a song with electronic elements with an orchestra and choirs (thanks to the Classical Music Academy of Rome directed by Luca Bellanova) that would make many symphonic metal bands quite envious. Of course that isn’t something related to just this track, as beautiful violins act as a perfect side part in “Carmilla”, chosen as first single and which you can see the video to here. When I first listened to “Medousa” and “Carmilla”, the songs made available on myspace, I admit I prefrred the former, though now also the latter, after nine or ten listenings before writing this review, has started to grow on me. “Medousa” is the closing track of this album, which features the classy participation of Eva Breznicar from neofolk-industrial band Laibach. Unfortunately although I like the song in itself, I don’t find it a good ending, too anonymous perhaps. And I expected something more in the veins of Laibach, with their singer collaborating but maybe it was just me thinking wrong, maybe she was just invited to sing and stop. I still think it would’ve been an interesting experiment. On a negative note I can’t help but pointing out that once again the English pronunciation isn’t at its top at all; partly I think that’s because of Sonya’s particulasr style of singing: I mean, also when she sings in Italian I have problems in understanding the lyrics! :D And if it can be of any consolation that’s a problem shared by 99,9% of Italian bands in any genre, apart from those so commercially big that I think are forced by their labels to sing as clear as possible. Pity, otherwise my final vote (even though it’s a number that doesn’t count anything without reading the whole review) would have been higher. So, welcome back, TdV! p.s.The limited edition includes a bonus DVD with the video to “Carmilla”, a “making of” of the album and other exclusive stuff.
Rating - 82/100
Label : AFM Records
Review by Tony Cannella
Is this 2012 or 1985? I absolutely, positively DO NOT mean that in a negative way either. The Polish band Crystal Viper has made a history out channeling some classic style, true heavy metal of the past, and I don’t know, maybe it’s just me but damn does it sound fresh and revitalized. The 4th and latest piece of true heavy metal nirvana provided by Crystal Viper is perhaps their most ambitious to date: “Crimen Excepta”. “Crimen Excepta” is a concept album about the Holy Inquisition, black magic and witchcraft. You don’t get much more metal than that. “Crimen Excepta” is listed to have 15 tracks (17 on the limited edition) because each song is separated by a brief interlude that segues into the next song. The opening track “Witch’s Mark” heralds Crystal Viper’s return and this is just a flat-out head banging metal tune and what a way to kick start “Crimen Excepta”. For the next song “Child of the Flame” the band dials back the speed a bit and deliver a heavy track that features some classic guitar harmonies and guitar work that recalls vintage Iron Maiden, Running Wild and Accept, and some gang style background shouts. “Crimen Excepta” is probably the darkest and most relentless Crystal Viper album to date, a fact that is heard on the fantastic “It’s Your Omen”. This song features some keyboard/organ work that is somewhat reminiscent of late 80s/early 90s King Diamond, particularly the KD album “The Eye”. This song is accentuated with a great solo courtesy of Andy Wave. For the next track vocalist Marta Gabriel is joined by David Bower of the NWOBHM band Hell who adds additional vocals to the song. Maybe technically Marta is not the best singer you will ever hear, but her voice just has so much power and emotion and it is pure metal reminiscent of the legendary Leather Leone. Some of Marta’s screams would sure give Leather a run for her money. The limited edition features two bonus tracks. The first one is a cover of “Tyrani Piekel” from fellow Polish band Vader. As you can imagine, this is a heavy cover and the band is joined by none other than Peter from Vader as he lends his vocals to the track. The second bonus track is the title song from the upcoming movie, “Ghosts of Sherwood”. Those two songs make the limited edition essential for fans of Crystal Viper. When you buy a Crystal Viper album, you know what you are going to get. That is not to say that they are boring or predictable, they are not afraid to add a new wrinkle here and there, but at the end of the day Crystal Viper is a heavy metal band and they are proud of that fact. With “Crimen Excepta”, Crystal Viper continues to pay homage to a bygone era in heavy metal whilst still remaining relevant in 2012 and leading the way for bands that play classic heavy metal.
Rating - 93/100
Label : Century Media Records
Review by Tony Cannella
It is hard to believe it has been over a decade since Angela Gossow joined the Swedish melodic death metal outfit Arch Enemy, in that time the band has continuously produced strong albums one after the other, even winning over a lot of fans who were loyal to their previous singer Johan Liiva. Arch Enemy returns with their first new work in four years, titled “Khaos Legions”. The hour long ferocious metal assault begins with the instrumental “Khaos Overture” and leads us into the brutal “Yesterday Is Dead and Gone”. Angela Gossow is at her venomous best as she spits out the lyrics with rapid fire precision and aggression. The Amott brothers continue to add a lot of melody and intricacies to the music. “Bloodstained Cross” begins with a pounding energetic riff and has a definite Thrash Metal vibe to it, and some cool tempo changes. Other highlights include: “Under Black Flags We March”, “No Gods, No Masters”, “Cruelty Without Beauty” and “Vengeance Is Mine”. The Japanese edition features two bonus tracks, one is an Arch Enemy style cover of the Scorpions classic “The Zoo” and an acoustic track called “Snow Bound”. Arch Enemy continues to forge a solid and legendary path In the Death Metal genre, and their new album “Khaos Legions” may be their best yet.
Rating - 90/100
Review by Tony Cannella
Saint to Sinner are a young melodic metal band from Rhode Island. Their independently released debut is titled, “The Unveiling”. It is an impressive mix of moods and tempos that help to make, “The Unveiling” an enjoyable listen. The album is also dominated by some crunchy guitar riffs, courtesy of Rich Bova.“The Unveiling”, features 5-songs worth of heavy music with some serious modern sounding, heavy riffs. Desiree Villegas is the lead singer and her style comes across very strong and full of attitude and swagger. “The Unveiling” comes on hard and fast from the opening tune, “Fallen Generation”. This is really an excellent way to begin things, the riff is crunchy and Rich Bova adds some male vocals which can be heard on other parts of the CD. “Careless”, slows things down a bit and evolves into an atmospheric 6-minute track, the song changes tempo several times and Desiree turns in her best vocal performance on the CD, in my opinion. “Anti-Corporate” and “Vindictive” are just full of anger and energy.The 1-minute outro, “Tampere” brings the CD to a close - this instrumental piece reminds me a bit of Metallica from the “Master of Puppets” era. All-in-all, “The Unveiling” is a pretty intense 21-minutes. Saint to Sinner have a lot going for them, cool songs, great presentation and an undeniable attitude and raw power that comes through loud and clear.
Rating - 85/100
Label : Napalm Records
Review by Tony Cannella
A Cappella metal. What a concept! Some may think that the idea of playing metal, minus the screaming guitars and bass would be corny and just wouldn’t fit in to what most people consider to be metal. The German metal band Van Canto are sure to change that perception with their third album “Tribe of Force”. The band includes five lead vocalists and one drummer, with one of the vocalists Stefan Schmidt performing the “guitar solos” with his voice. Stylistically Van Canto are not all that far removed from bands like Sonata Arctica or Stratovarius and other power metal bands.You would think that with a playing time of 55-minutes that Van Canto would have a hard time keeping things interesting throughout “Tribe of Force”, but the band manages to do so. From the opening track “Lost Forever” you know that you are in for a different metal experience. The band do a good job in mixing the different vocal styles together to create an interesting sound. Each singer is given a chance to take the lead on the CD with female singer Inga, taking center stage on one of the main highlights “One to Ten”. Two cover songs are included, the first one is a rendition of the Grave Digger track “Rebellion” featuring Grave Digger frontman Chris Boltendahl joining in on vocals for a great version of the track. The second cover song is a big surprise as the band absolutely tear into the Metallica classic “Master of Puppets”. They do an excellent job on this track, I know it’s hard to imagine “Master of Puppets” done a Cappella style, but they really do the track justice. Other highlights include: “I Am Human”, “My Voice”, “Last Night of the Kings” and “Hearted”. The drummer Bastian also proves to be a valuable member of the band as he provides a thunderous beat that really helps drive the CD. The limited edition version comes with a DVD of the band live at the 2008 Wacken Open-Air festival and also includes some behind the scenes footage, making it an essential release for fans of the band. With “Tribe of Force”, Van Canto prove that they are more than just a novelty act. The songs on “Tribe of Force” pack a pretty strong punch and they are heavy, even without the use of actual musical instruments. All hail Van Canto!
Rating - 95/100