Showing posts with label power metal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label power metal. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

video review: 'moonglow' by avantasia

So yeah, I really do wish I liked this more... eh, it happens, I guess?

Next up is Billboard BREAKDOWN and Resonators will be coming soon, but I might venture off into something strange... stay tuned!

Monday, February 25, 2019

album review: 'moonglow' by avantasia

So when I reviewed the newest Saor project, I made the statement it was one of my most anticipated metal releases of 2019... and funnily enough, the other one was released on the same day, and we're going to talk about it now. 

So, Avantasia - symphonic power metal project by mastermind Tobias Sammet, it was something that took a while to truly grip me. Unlike their progressive metal peer in Ayreon, the production wasn't always would it should be - especially early on - and while the projects could trigger some immediate standout tracks, I struggled to love the larger albums as a whole, all the more frustrating given they were intended to stand as album statements. More often they were uneven albums, good but not precisely great, and while I was initially high on their 2016 album Ghostlights as reaching that pinnacle, I expected it to fade on me... and I was dead wrong, because that album wound up making my year-end list and one of its songs cracking my top five favourite songs of 2016! And discovering how and why that album and the band's highlights in their larger discography have risen in my estimations in comparison with other acts has been a little fascinating, especially as my early opinions was that the project could trend toward overwrought cheesiness and being derivative, but with so many of those acts underwhelming in the 2010s with Avantasia only picking up steam with better production, more potent melodies, and better writing, I found myself really looking forward to this album! And like with all Avantasia projects, the guest vocalist lineup was stacked: Jorn Lande, Geoff Tate, Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian, Candice Night of Blackmore's Night, Michael Kiske of Helloween, it was another stacked lineup and I was all ready for a gloriously theatrical release, which was exactly what Tobias Sammet was promising - and after the disappointment with Within Temptation, I needed that! So, enough fussing around: what did we get with Moonglow?

Monday, February 4, 2019

video review: 'resist' by within temptation

Damn, this one hurt. But hey, they tried something that didn't work, it happens. Let's hope the turnaround isn't another five years, let's just say that.

Next up... ooh, this'll take the bad taste out of your mouths quick, this is something unexpected and special, so stay tuned!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

album review: 'resist' by within temptation

Well, this has been long-overdue.

And I do get the feeling that I'm not the only one who thinks this - it has been about five years since we last heard from Within Temptation, and coming off of a somewhat controversial release, that did strike me as surprising. And yes, I do consider Hydra a little polarizing, especially in comparison with the massive but relatively straightforward symphonic metal Within Temptation released beforehand. Maybe some of it was incidental and linked to the album of covers they released close to it, but it was also their cleanest, most electronic, and most accessible project to date coming from arguably symphonic metal's most accessible act still working - hell, they had a song with Xzibit on it that was later released as a single, and I don't think anyone was expecting that! And while I did like Hydra a great deal back in 2014, I will admit the more streamlined and uniform tone didn't always match their more experimental work in the 2000s, or hit with the huge punch of 2011's The Unforgiving.

So after several extended tours, the band opted to take some time off - frontwoman Sharon den Adel cited exhaustion and writer's block, and the material she did compose translated into an indie pop solo project released last year - which didn't surprise me, I expected that solo project to come a decade ago. The band also switched labels from Nuclear Blast to Vertigo and Spinefarm, which didn't prompt much concern until I heard the band was opting not only for even more electronic elements, but also were taking more of a political angle in their writing. And look, I've been a Within Temptation fan for comfortably over a decade, and yet I can say this was the sort of direction that raised some concern - this is a band that's never been all that deep, and while they've been more willing to play to a mainstream audience, there is a part of me that wishes Within Temptation had taken the Nightwish route with more creative, off-beat experimentation. But since we're not getting another Nightwish album until at least 2020, what did we get off of Resist?

Friday, April 27, 2018

video review: 'the shadow theory' by kamelot

Well, this was... mostly disappointing, but I'm happy I got it off my schedule all the same. Eh, let's just move on.

Next up, I've got Resonators and finally some Janelle Monae, so stay tuned!

album review: 'the shadow theory' by kamelot

So when a band gets twelve albums into their career... hell, what is even left to say? Their high and low points are well-known, as are their moments of genre experimentation and flair. They've become an established quantity, and unless there is a massive paradigm shift, there becomes very little for critics like me to say...

And yet Kamelot has been different, mostly because their past few albums have been a pretty stark departure in sound with new frontman Tommy Karevik. The symphonic bombast had been ramped up, the tones were more aggressive and borderline progressive, and while Silverthorn was pretty damn solid in its own right, their 2015 follow-up Haven featured two of the best songs of 2015 and easily one of the best power ballads of the decade! It was a height that Kamelot hadn't reached in any capacity for me in over a decade, and thus I was genuinely curious how they could follow that up or if the album could match the extremely high quality of some of the individual cuts that came before. Granted, this was also coming with the departure of their longtime drummer Casey Grillo, but replacement Johan Nunez had a respectable pedigree and I was confident that Kamelot could still deliver. So, what did we get with The Shadow Theory?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

video review: 'you're not alone' by andrew w.k.

Huh, I was expecting this review to be way more controversial than it is... guess most people are lukewarm on it too.

Okay, next up, the movie review of Annihilation, stay tuned!

album review: 'you're not alone' by andrew w.k.

I remember when saying you liked Andrew W.K. as a critic was a much more polarizing statement than it is today.

And let's not mince words: when I Get Wet first came out, there was a vast gulf between the critics that adored it and those that hated it with a passion. And a lot of that was a factor of the time: it was late 2001, hard rock was making a hard pivot to the dark and serious, and here comes an artist with the simplest of lyrics, the most obviously overblown sound and production, all driven by strident piano compositions that seemed deceptively simple. For a set of cynical critics coming out of the 90s, it had to be a corporate calculation gone wrong, or a parody years out of date, all of it so damn stupid that nobody in their right mind could ever take this seriously!

In retrospect, time has been way kinder to Andrew W.K. and I Get Wet specifically because of the gradual revelation that it wasn't a gimmick. Yeah, it was broad and goofy and ridiculous, but there was a method to that deceptive simplicity that cut across critical faculties into something damn near transcendent, rooted in sharp melodic songwriting and the real earnestness and optimism that Andrew W.K. brought to the table. Sure, it was a little one-note in terms of content - although the sound would eventually dive towards mainstream rock before going for outright piano rock on later records - but like with Lil Jon in hip-hop, as a collective society we've decided to keep Andrew W.K. around, if only because that good-hearted earnestness is only a net positive, be it on the multiple J-pop cover records or his motivational speaking tours! 

That said, when Andrew W.K. announced his first full-length record in nine years, I won't deny that I was skeptical, mostly because I Get Wet still looms above so much of his musical career, and even if he had found a way to remake that party magic seventeen years later, the album was still going to run fifty-two minutes and sixteen tracks - you can only hit one note so many times. But hell, I wanted a good time, so how is You're Not Alone?

Monday, February 27, 2017

video review: 'theater of dimensions' by xandria

You know, I don't know if I had covered this a few months ago I would have gotten more hits off of it, but I am a little disappointed this doesn't seem to be attracting more attention. Eh, it happens, but still...

Anyway, it's not the only review I'm dropping tonight, so stay tuned!

album review: 'theater of dimensions' by xandria

So I've talked a little before about the rise and growth of symphonic metal on this channel, but one thing I haven't touched on as much was the very brief moment in pop culture where it crossed into the mainstream, specifically in the early-to-mid 2000s. Of course, it was the sort of crossover that was driven by one of the absolute worst entries - yes, I'm talking about Evanescence, and you'll get the full extension of that rant if they ever release that next album they're threatening - but for a brief segment of time, acts like Nightwish and Within Temptation had a chance to at least snag attention on the fringes of rock radio, and you definitely saw their sound on albums like Century Child, Once and The Silent Force pivot slightly in that direction.

But one factor that tends to get overlooked is like with any other trend, there arises bands that want to copy or at least get a taste of that same success, and symphonic metal was not an exception. You had obvious wannabes like Delain which continue to this day or bands like After Forever, which disbanded only a year or so after the boom collapsed in the mid-to-late 2000s. And somewhere in the middle falls Xandria, which despite forming in 1997 didn't release a debut album until 2003. And for the next five years, right in the heights of the subgenre's boom, they released four albums, none of which I'd argue are all that memorable or well-produced, with India probably being the best of them. And yet as the 2000s ended, rotating through singers and bassists and guitarists, you could easily make the statement that the band might not last.

And then something strange happened. After a fairly solid release in 2012 with Neverworld's End with Manuela Kraller fronting - the only record for which she was frontwoman - the band seemed to stabilize their lineup with the recruitment of Dianne van Giersbergen, arguably their best lead singer to date - of no relation to Anneke van Giersbergen, I should stress. And with the release of 2014's Sacrificium, I started noting a marked improvement in the arrangements and writing, to say nothing of some more spacious production. This was even further enhanced on the sharper EP Fire & Ashes, and thus I had reason to hope going into Theater of Dimensions that the improvements would continue - was I right?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

video review: 'the holographic principle' by epica

Well, this... not as good as The Quantum Enigma, and it'll probably miss my year-end list overall, but still a damn great record all the same, and definitely worth your time if you're curious.

Next up... well, might as well get OneRepublic out of the way, along with a little surprise... stay tuned!

album review: 'the holographic principle' by epica

So I don't tend to talk about critical trends that often - as I've said before, critics all have distinct opinions, and if they're expressed well, I can be understanding. But there is a trend, particularly among some metal critics, that I want to address: the critical dismissal of symphonic metal.

Oh, don't act like you haven't seen it, it can happen with power metal too. It's often considered too cheesy and melodramatic, or it's too poppy and accessible and doesn't try to be as complex as 'real' metal bands. Frankly, I'd like to say that we as metalheads have moved beyond this, but that's obviously not the case, and if Evanescence ever follows up with their threat to release another album, I'll explain why in greater detail there. And look, it's not like those stereotypes and criticisms can't have a vein of truth - I've heard acts like Delain, I totally get it - but it also sells short a crop of symphonic metal acts that actually have more ambition and power than are given credit.

So let's talk about one of the most perennially underrated bands in the genre: Epica. I'll admit that it took me a while to come around on this group - growing up Nightwish and Within Temptation were both more accessible, and Epica did take some time to refine solid melodic hooks, but they are one of the most lyrically ambitious bands in any genre that I've covered, tackling big idea material with the sort of insight and depth that deserves a lot more attention, easily as cerebral as most progressive metal bands can be. I still hold The Divine Conspiracy and Design Your Universe as fantastic records, but in 2014 Epica finally managed to hit a sweet spot with The Quantum Enigma, which had their best ever hooks and showed frontwoman Simone Simons finally bringing the dramatic presence to match it. It was also one of their most successful records, and given how they were describing their upcoming project as even bigger, it looked like Nuclear Blast had seen that success as a chance to give them an even meatier budget. And all the more promising was the thematic idea of exploring the universe as a digital hologram - okay, not the most unique theme to explore, but Epica was bound to go deep with this and potentially could reconnect with the human drama that ultimately felt a little slight on The Quantum Enigma. So okay, I was entirely on board with this as one of my most anticipated records of 2016, what did we get with The Holographic Principle?

Friday, September 2, 2016

video review: 'moonbathers' by delain

Oh, I know a whole load of you are going to be peeved with this review... but look, there was nothing all that distinctive or interesting about the writing, themes, compositions, or production on this record. When we've got Avantasia and Tarja dropping far stronger and more interesting projects, this is just forgettable and all the more cements Delain as a b-list act. Sorry.

In any case, I'll be expanding on these thoughts soon as I'll be heading home from vacation! Vlog talking about more will probably go up either tomorrow or Sunday, but we'll see. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

video review: 'metal resistance' by BABYMETAL

I liked it. Sue me.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN, and i'm really not sure what might come next, so stay tuned!

Monday, April 11, 2016

album review: 'metal resistance' by babymetal

Have to be honest, even I am surprised that I'm covering this band, a group that blew up on the Internet and in their native country of Japan a few years back but only now are seeing a real explosion on this side of the Pacific, bound with all of the controversy that one would expect fusing idol j-pop with a hodgepodge of extreme metal.

And really, there shouldn't be a controversy about this. I heard about Babymetal around the time of their debut and really was not all that surprised or impressed by the novelty of the concept. Oh look, a bunch of cute j-pop singers in front of what otherwise would be synth-driven DDR music except with a full metal backing band - cute concept, but on my first few listens that's all it seemed to be: a bit of a gimmick, and not even a new one. Let's face it, as much as some hardcore metalheads will refuse to admit it, heavy metal can work in a pop-leaning context. As much people tend to dump on hair metal or nu metal, both genres have their standouts that can work, and I've always thought symphonic metal with a solid hook can play in the same arena, if only because their power ballads are on a different level compared to most. Hell, I don't even need to point to Nightwish or Within Temptation or - God help us - Evanescence for proof of that, Disturbed is now notching their biggest ever hit on the Hot 100 with a cover of 'The Sound Of Silence'. Now I'll concede the more extreme metal genres have always been a bit different, but I've also heard enough Devin Townsend to know if the melodic hook is strong enough, you can win over most audiences - it's not like the riffs are that much more abrasive than modern EDM synths or a dubstep breakdown.

As such, my issues with Babymetal have always been a little different, because as much as I dig a lot of the heavier riffs fused with pop hooks, there are real problems with that debut album. For one, many of the songs did try to do too much, including genre fusions of hip-hop, reggae, and dubstep that did not fit whatsoever. A more glaring problem came in the lyrics - I get that most people aren't going to bother translating them, but they do come across as a tad too cute to really mesh all the way with a metal sound, which didn't help dispel the image of the band being a gimmick. That said, when I heard their sophomore record was taking things a little more seriously with more cohesion, I figured this was probably worth my time: was I right?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

video review: 'ghostlights' by avantasia

Again, better late than never. And in this case, I'm happy to get it out, because this was a real welcome surprise.

In any case, Billboard BREAKDOWN coming up next, followed by that new Charles Kelley and maybe Pop. 1280 if I have time. But this weekend I'm going to be out of town, so it might be tight timing. Either way, stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

album review: 'ghostlights' by avantasia

So when I talked about The Mute Gods a few days ago, I brought how supergroups tend to market themselves - these people are attached to something you already know and like, and now they're working together, so you should buy that. In truth, that's one of a few ways, the second being a lot more complicated and unlikely: one artist with a defining vision recruiting a whole team of established artists in order to realize that grand plan.

Now some of you will inevitably point to hip-hop and say, 'Well, duh, we get this all the time', but this falls into a slightly different category, because how often do all those guest verses fit with the story or concept, presuming there's a story or concept at all. When you narrow it down like that, this list gets a lot smaller, and it also further divides into two categories, this time focusing on the man behind said project. Is he a musical genius capable of sketching out a vast world where every unique singer plays a distinct part, or is he simply an incredibly gifted networker who has some solid connections? In the former category in metal, the name that immediately jumps to mind is Arjen Lucassen, the founder of the progressive metal Ayreon project. And on the flipside, you have Tobias Sammet, frontman of Edguy and leader of the symphonic power metal project Avantasia.

Now I've been getting asked about my opinions on Avantasia since I mentioned that I like symphonic metal, but prior to doing this review, I had never really delved into them at length. So I took the opportunity to listen through their previous six albums and try to get a handle on the story that Sammet is writing - that's the big reason why this review is as late as it is. In short... I wish I liked this group a lot more than I do. Don't get me wrong, the group can often put together some spectacular symphonic metal songs, but the albums can feel pretty uneven, partially thanks to tracks not always doing enough to stand out from each other - with the exception of some godawful synth choices - partially because the writing can dip a little too often into metal cliche, and partially because the stories can get incomprehensible if you're trying to follow the plots. Now this upcoming record is following along from the story started on their 2013 project The Mystery of Time, a record aiming for grander symphonic presence, which focuses on a character in Victorian England falling in with what I'd basically described a steampunk machine cult. I definitely think it's a good, if hard-to-follow and frequently overwritten album, although I wouldn't say it always gives us their best individual songs, but apparently Ghostlights was going to be even bigger, even darker, even more grandiose... was that really the case?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

video review: 'the book of souls' by iron maiden

I'm currently manning the barricade against the onslaught of comments... but then again, I'm honestly not sure how this'll be received, most metal fans tend to be more reasonable these days.

Next up... well, that Jay Rock album looks tempting, but I might not have time to get to it until Saturday. We'll see, so stay tuned!

album review: 'the book of souls' by iron maiden

I've said before that it's hard to talk about legends. It's even harder to talk about acts that were responsible for pioneering sounds and styles within an entire genre of music. And when that band has over thirty storied years of history and discography to examine, it can be an exhausting task going through all of the albums just to get the appropriate context. 

And you all want to know something funny? I'm currently doing this with at least three other acts as we speak, and not all of them are metal. It's a monumental exercise, especially when you realize these acts have so much material, good and bad, that it can feel like you're retracing history to listen through record after record. It's daunting but rewarding, and nowhere has this reward been more pleasing and pronounced than going through Iron Maiden's discography. I don't even need to bother with introductions for this British heavy metal act, mostly because said introductions would be painfully inadequate. These guys were responsible for some seminal metal albums, with their 80s output widely considered their best - and for good reason, because I can count a good four of those records as excellent and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son as a downright classic.

And then the 90s happened. The 90s were not kind to Iron Maiden, as they went through turbulence, line-up changes and a succession of records that ranged from okay but boring to outright mediocre. It wouldn't be until the mid-2000s that Iron Maiden could pull together quality again, becoming a six-piece act and putting together respectable records like the unmastered, live-show inspired A Matter Of Life And Death or the pretty solid but questionably produced The Final Frontier. And it's been five years since a new Iron Maiden album and when the rave reviews starting pouring in, I was definitely interested, but a little skeptical, especially considering it was their first double album spanning over ninety minutes. But hey, this is Iron Maiden, they've blown my mind before - sixteen albums into their career, can they do it again?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

video review: 'haven' by kamelot

This review took WAY too damn long to get out, but I'm happy I did finally get a chance to do it before the midyear - which I'm steadily polishing up, btw.

But next up, Miguel, Vince Staples, Czarface, Tyga, King Los... whoa boy, lots of hip-hop and R&B, so stay tuned!