Posts Tagged ‘Power Metal’

FS Projekt is a one man fantasy metal project from Moscow, Russia and he has kindly sent me a number of his EPs and singles to review. A revolving door of musicians assist Efes in realising his ideas and vision, and by following the discography through, it is interesting to see how the project evolves over time and over each release.

His first release, ‘The Birth of a Magus’ is a simplistic yet enthralling slab of power metal with some memorable choruses and nice riffing. You can feel a definitive influence from the likes of Gamma Ray or Helloween, which gradually evolves throughout his current discography. Early on there is a tendency to rely upon a more simple framework of early German power metal, and it later builds towards a more grandiose vision. The single ‘Za Khladny Gory…’ sees that build, adding more keyboard layers into the sound.

‘The Elven March’ is where the fantasy elements start to really build, and FS Projekt begins to progress towards a more Rhapsody style execution. Uber melodic, with a massive sense of scale and huge hooks are the order of the day, while the over-the-top feeling that some symphonic power metal can be is beginning to show. ‘The Harpy’ EP is where the true potential of FS Projekt becomes apparent. Balancing the desires to fully release the symphonics with a galloping sense of melody and traditional heavy metal aesthetics, you begin to realise the potential.

The discography can be found on Bandcamp, and I recommend ‘Crimson Sails’ from ‘The Harpy, ‘Fingolfin’ from their debut and the newest single, ‘Thy Creed’ as the best songs to check out. But if you’re into this kind of thing, you won’t be disappointed with any of it!

Moonlight Prophecy - Vanquished

A multinational group, Moonlight Prophecy is the evolution of founder guitarist Lawrence Wallace’s instrumental shred project ‘Lawrence’s Creation’, and now their debut record ‘Vanquished’ is out with ten tracks of thrashy power metal full of classical guitar licks and progressive riffing.

The first band that springs to mind as an influence is Nevermore, particularly on the first real track ‘Escape the Ruins’, and that seems particularly pertinent due to Warrel Dane’s passing this past week. The riffing throughout is solid, winding and intricate while never losing itself in self indulgence. The soloing is top notch, and the songs are pretty hooky, even when the instrumental moments return. ‘Vanquished’ is a solid power metal record that is a bit chunkier and a bit more progressive than most. Each track is easily digestable, and most make you wanna just go air guitar crazy.

Musically you can’t really fault the execution of these songs, but there’s a sprinkle of magic missing. I feel bad saying that, because Moonlight Prophecy hit it out of the park in the likes of the chugging ‘Eternal Oblivion’ and the fret pyrotechnics of ‘Witch Hunt’, but I’m looking forward to where the band go from here rather than eager for a repeat listen. There’s no doubt that the potential exists here, it is whether Moonlight Prophecy can grasp it.

The rerelease of Númenor’s ‘Sword and Sorcery’ on Stygian Crypt Productions is a hidden gem of Serbian power metal, and EPIC power metal at that. Drawing influence from the classics by Tolkien, Lovecraft and Howard, Númenor has added a bonus mini CD with 5 extra tracks as part of the package.

After the swelling drama of the intro track ‘Prelude’, ‘Dragonheart’ burns immediately with glorious strings and fretboard fireworks. You can sense straight away the kindred spirit this shares with both Wintersun and Rhapsody (or Rhapsody of Fire, or whatever they’re called now). It’s an excellent statement of intent, and this kind of swelling, fist raising power metal fills the rest of album with excellent songs and music. The harsher vocal/clean vocal duality gives them something a little bit different from a lot of modern power metal. The solo work in ‘The Arcanist’ is cool, and the little interlude moments add that bit of extra drama.

You can feel a bit of northern European influence in here too, with both German power metal elements and Scandinavian folk metal elements coming into force during some of the later tracks, like the Helloween-esque ‘Prince in the Scarlet Robe’ or the gleaming Gothenburg melodies that streak through the potent ‘Dragon of Erebor’. Incidentally, ‘Dragon of Erebor’ is probably up there with my favourite power metal songs this year.

I’m a bit of a sucker for a good fist-waving, overly dramatic power metal album every so often, but ‘Sword and Sorcery’ gives you all those traditional tropes but wrapped up with a bit of an edge, a bit of bite to it. That makes them stand out, and it definitely helps tracks like ‘Bane of Durin’ feel fresh and appealing. Excellent stuff!

I am one of the biggest Blind Gurdian marks EVER. I waited almost 10 years after discovering them for the first time, and travelled to Slovenia to see them live for the first time. The German legends have NEVER played in Scotland in their 30 year existence, and you’re damn straight that the frankly too small QMU was packed for this momentous event.

But first, the tongue in cheek and fist raising power of homeland heroes Gloryhammer. As gloriously OTT as you’d expect, singalong anthems about undead unicorns assaulting Dundee and the like went down a stomr with the waiting crowd. My wonderful wife-to-be was hooked as soon as she saw she could get said zombie unicorns on a t-shirt. Safe to say, the band got two new fans tonight. The songs were great, the performance was full of energy, and they were the perfect opener.

But now, for the main course. Most bands would not stride onto stage before a rapturous welcome and break straight into a nine minute epic from their new record. But Blind Guardian don’t need to give a fuck what other bands would do. ‘The Ninth Wave’ and everything that followed was received like water in the desert. For a band that have been doing this for thirty plus years, Blind Guardian show no sign of slowing down. From modern favourites like ‘Fly’ through vintage prog classics like ‘Nightfall’ and the gloriously epic ‘Imaginations from the Other Side’, the Guardians of power metal majesty have no bad songs in their set.

We got ‘Majesty’ itself, a haunting rendition of ‘Lord of the Rings’, the speedy ‘A Journey Through the Dark’ and of course the iconic ‘Bards Song’, which raised hairs on the back of the neck. The crowd demanded ‘Valhalla’ and we got it. The crowd demanded ‘Mirror Mirror’ and we got it. In fact, I think this was the first time I’ve ever seen the traditional ‘one more tune’ chant actually result in one extra song at the end, a rocking ‘Barbara Ann’ to send us all home happy.

I didn’t think it would happen, at least not for a long time, but Blind Guardian unseated last year’s Judas Priest concert as the best live show I’ve ever been too. A spell binding example of how metal can galvanise, inspire, empower and thrill to the last. You might have told us repeatedly we were amazing Hansi, but we were nothing compared with you.

Indian power metal-cum-thrash metal heroes Rectified Spirit have ‘The Wasteland’ out on, you’ve guessed it, Transcending Obscurity India. I feel like I seem to work for Kunal with all these reviews sometimes, but I tell you, he has a knack for finding and supporting the best of the sub continent’s hidden gems. Rectified Spirit appear to be yet another.

‘The Art of War’ is a perfect representation, straight away, of what Rectified Spirit are capable of. Galloping riffs coupled with a seemlessly switching vocalist in Rainjong Lepcha, who can jump between a powerful roar and a soaring clean vocal without so much as a pause. ‘The Wasteland’ reminds me of Symphony X’s heaviest moments. The guitarwork is catchy, yet intricate enough to please us air guitar heroes. The choruses are huge, as are the riffs. ‘Fireborn’ is reminiscient of early Firewind crossed with latter Unearth, while the anthemic ‘Winter in Thine Eyes’ is one of the catchiest things I’ve heard in years.

‘The Green Goblin’ contains some of the band’s most furious moments, and it’s quite a contrast to the previous track, but not in a bad way. Rectified Spirit are like the Indian version of Kiuas circa ‘The Spirit of Ukko’, a power metal band that aren’t afraid to put a bit of bite behind their metal. It’s welcome, and continues to improve the record.  ‘The Afterthought’ is the obligatory power ballad, but even this is heavier than most, and the rampant ‘Once Below a Time’ is simply ace.

Closing with the epic title track, Rectified Spirit have got it SO right on this record. ‘The Wasteland’ is a record that reinvigorates your belief in metal. Yeah, metal can be about being BROOOOOTAL or dark and kvlt and Satanic. But it should also be about fist pumping riffs, banging your head and singing along. ‘The Wasteland’ creates songs that encourage all three. Fucking yes!

Early releases in a band’s career can really show you where they are going, and sometimes can show you just how good they are going to be. Here’s my favourites from this year, and why a demo is still as important as ever.

10. Funerary Bell – Graveyard Seance: in a year where black metal didn’t strike me as often as I’d like, Funerary Bell’s EP gave me hope that the genre still has a lot of merit. Injected with menace, and a ghostly shriek pushes them onto my list.

9. Gaijin – Gaijin: Technical death metal carnage from a band who will be very interesting to keep an eye on.

8. Heathen Beast – The Carnage of Godhra: What would become the last third of ‘Trident’, ‘The Carnage at Godhra’ is a brutal piece of quality, chunky black metal that benefits from dashes of ethnic instrumentation and socio-political lyrics.

7. Exenemy – Overture: One of the finer bits of traditional and power metal I’ve come across this year, Exenemy rip some high quality riffs with oodles of melody. Killer stuff.

6. Heaven Abhorred – Opening the Gate: Raw, malevolent black metal goodness. Channeling second wave black metal legends, Heaven Abhorred are another to keep an eye on.

5. Severe Lacerations – Incantation of Sorrow: Killer North West death metal with a ruthless streak a mile long, this will be a band to keep an eye on. Brutality plain and simple.

4. Mist – Inan: What a beautiful piece of doom this is. Reminding me of my favourite record from last year, Mount Salem’s ‘Endless’, Mist have perfected this kind of Sabbathian groove. I love it

3. Hellripper – The Manifestation of Evil: Oh my fucking christ this slays. It slays so hard I bought the tape, and I don’t have a tape player! ‘Total Mayhem’ could be my favourite song of the year, although it has some stiff competition.

2. Runemaster-  Futhark Dawning: This is prime heavy metal. This is metal at it’s beating, stone heavy heart. Each anthem is catchy, each riff is killer, and the simple fact that it channels such a primal feeling of joy means that its a favourite.

1. Plague Rider – Paroxysm: This is one of the weirdest death metal mindfucks I’ve heard in ages, and that simple fact puts it to number one. Plague Rider are in no way afraid to do anything they need to create something truly special. ‘Paroxysm’ is my number one for its fearless invention and its brutality.

Hibria - Self-Titled 2015 - Album Cover

You better believe that Brazil can produce more than just legendary thrash and death metal bands. The South American sound is so well known for being dark, raw and brutal but Brazilian power metallers Hibria are going to change that.

Straight away you can feel the melodic power behind songs like ‘Abyss’. There’s no merciless rage or brutality in this band. What Hibria do have is some epic galloping riffs, killer lead guitar licks and a powerful vocal performance. If you dig the work of the legends, you’ll enjoy the twin guitar harmonies, the uber catchy galloping chorus riffs and the soloing power. The funky breakdown, complete with jazzy trumpet, in ‘Pain’ makes them even more unique. Hibria write songs that are so infectious, you find yourself grinning with metal joy!

Power metal is at its most effective when there is less drama and more metal (excpet for Blind Guardian or Rhapsody, then it is ALL about the drama). Hibria’s self titled record sticks wisely to the trad metal route, with some great riffing and catchy as hell vocal parts. I especially like the bluesy groove soaked into the rocking ‘Life’, and also the headbang fodder ‘Ghosts’. In fact, that’s one of Hibria’s joys, the pure headbanging METALNESS of the songs. It’s music written for the live arena, and I bet they are awesome live.

Tracks like ‘Ashamed’ or the super anthemic ‘Church’ reinforce that Hibria could be the most joyously metal thing to come out of Brazil in years. Their infectious power metal hooks drag you in, sticking in your head and leaving you addicted. Leaving the cheese at the door, Hibria succeed with great songwriting, great songs and killer hooks. Now if only other power metal bands could do the same!