Category Archives: Power Metal

Rhapsody of Fire – The Frozen Tears of Angels [Review]

Rhapsody of Fire are a band who have not missed a beat since releasing their first album back in 1997, and The Frozen Tears of Angels is no different. Released April 30, 2010 via Nuclear Blast, it is the band’s eighth full-length album.

Rhapsody the Frozen Tears of Angels

Rhapsody of Fire have had an incredibly consistent and productive career over the last thirteen years, even still The Frozen Tears of Angels is certainly their best release in a decade. Technically the third installment of the The Dark Secret Saga (which started with Symphony of Enchanted Lands II: The Dark Secret, which still doesn’t make sense to me). This time however, the album is fueled more by riffs than big orchestral parts, something a lot different than their two previous albums. It also once again features the legendary Christopher Lee doing narration, a welcome addition to any epic power metal album.

Where this album shines, however, is in the production and mastering. All of the guitar tones are incredible, and mesh really well with the orchestral parts. Though the orchestral parts are heavily compressed sometimes, it never becomes overwhelmingly so. I strongly prefer the production on this album to Triumph or Agony, as having the 70-piece chorus/orchestra play such a prominent role in the mix took away from the “metal” aspect of the album. Triumph or Agony was sometimes overly cluttered, but on The Frozen Tears of Angels everything has ample space to breathe in the mix (you can even clearly hear the bass lines in most songs).

And the riffs, dear God the riffs. They are wonderful. The guitar work on this album is the best that Rhapsody of Fire has ever featured on an album. They’ve made a transition from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra styled guitars from their early albums to more of a pure speed metal style similar to that of Blind Guardian. This is known almost immediately by the fierce beginning of the song “Sea of Fate” – as well as other instances on the album. There isn’t a single bad guitar part of the album, every riff and solo is good and they all fit really well in the grand scheme of things. Even in the song “Labyrinth of Madness” where it’s just guitar wankery for the entire four minutes, it’s still a wonderful closing note for the album.

Track picks: “Reign of Terror” and “Crystal Moonlight”

Overall score: 9 out of 10 wizard staffs

Advertisements

Blind Guardian – Imaginations from the Other Side [Retrospective]

Number 48 on Metal Storm’s Top 100 Albums, number 19 on RateYourMusic’s top albums of 1995, and one of the best power/speed/heavy metal releases for all time. That’s right, you guessed it (or maybe not), Imaginations from the Other Side by Blind Guardian.

blind guardian imaginations from the other side

Every legendary metal band from years past have one album that seems to epitomize and embody that band entirely. Perhaps the most prominent example of this would be Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. For Blind Guardian, Imaginations from the Other Side is undoubtably the album that epitomizes them.

In a year in which the Gothenburg sound was bursting on the scene and seemingly taking over, Blind Guardian (along with Iced Earth and Gamma Ray) delivered their greatest albums. For Iced Earth and Gamma Ray, it’s more debatable, but Imaginations from the Other Side really is Blind Guardian’s magnum opus. Hansi Kürsch delivers his best performance of his career on this album (even including his work in Demons and Wizards). The lyrics are incredible, and take the listener on a grand adventure. Beyond that, he pushes the boundary to the extreme with his vocal power and presence. The heat on his voice throughout this album is simply incredible. André Olbrich is on his game in this effort as well. While he may not be the fastest or best guitarist around, his creativity and writing for the guitar parts is on par with the best in metal – ever. Somehow André found a way to stay true to what power metal guitars were supposed to sound like, but still write something that was not like everything else out there. His solos on the album are absolutely perfect. They are not simply sweeping, blistering solos. They have feeling and emotion, which all guitar solos ideally should have.

Now that I’ve established that the album was near perfect in terms of writing, I want to comment on the production of the album. With such a huge vocalist in power metal, it’s a feat to have everyone in check, and no one getting snubbed for the spotlight. Power metal is somewhat notorious for this, allowing the vocalist to overshadow everyone during the more powerful vocal parts – this only happens where appropriate (and written) for the vocalist to be overshadowing everyone. Aside from the balance of the different elements on this album, the sound of the “choir” (the gang vocals) is the best I have ever heard for a power metal album I have ever heard.

From top to bottom, this album is a masterpiece. It capitalizes on every element necessary for a power metal album, and then some. Full of big vocals, fast guitars, pounding drums, and an epic story line – this is easily one of the most quintessential metal albums of all time.

Track picks: Don’t be a fool. On an album this good, every track needs to be listened to. I will say, though, that the two singles from the album were “Imaginations from the Other Side” and “Bright Eyes”

Overall score: 11/10 Devil horns

I hunger for… POWER METAL!!! (see also: Heavy Metal)

Heavy Metal, Power Metal, Fantasy Metal – they’re all a lot alike. Sometimes, you just want it, whether you admit it or not (it’s merely a guilty pleasure for some). Not I!

So, we have all been there – we know what style of music we want, but can’t seem to find just the right band to quench that thirst. Hell, maybe you can – that doesn’t mean you should check this stuff out anyway.

Here’s a list of five power metal and heavy metal albums that I’ve been listening to lately that have tickled my fancy, and could potentially do the same for you.

5. March of the Saint by Armored Saint

Armored Saint March of the Saint

Pretty great Heavy Metal album with some power metal style and influence. Almost always hits the spot.

4. Follow the Blind by Blind Guardian

Blind Guardian Follow the Blind

A great Heavy metal album with, again, power metal influences. Blind Guardian is a pretty famous band, also pretty legendary. This is a must have for any metalhead’s collection.

3. Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1 by Iced Earth

Iced Earth Framing Armageddon

This is a great power metal album from start to finish. Part one of a two-part theme album speaking of an imaginary people who go through great struggles, wars, etc. Standard power metal topics, though not as fantasy-driven as many.

2. Triumph or Agony by Rhapsody of Fire

Rhapsody of Fire Triumph or Agony

This is your quintessential fantasy-ridden, Dungeons & Dragons-playing, Tolkien-styled, power metal album. Now, there’s a lot of material on this album that just doesn’t cut it as metal, but it’s a great album that falls right in line with a lot of power metal.

1. Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken by HammerFall

Hammerfall Chapter V

In terms of heavy metal and power metal, it all comes together on this album. Wailing, shredding, speed, pounding drums – all great. This one is a great recommendation, and you can’t go wrong with anything else HammerFall has put out.

So there it is. I hope you might like at least one of these suggestions. They sure hit the spot for me!

Gojira – The Way of All Flesh [Review]

The Way of All Flesh is the fourth full-length album from French band Gojira. Set to release October 13th in Europe, and October 14 in the United States. This is their second release on world-wide label Prosthetic Records, the third with French label Listenable.

Gojira the Way of All Flesh

First of all, I just want to say that this is a band that does not get the recognition it deserves. I really hope that this album will serve to change that.

The Way of All Flesh seems to have picked up right where From Mars to Sirius left off, almost literally (specifically note the guitar in the opening part of “Oroborus” and the end of “Global Warming”. This is most definitely a good thing, because From Mars to Sirius was one serious progressive death metal album. From their first album on, this band has gotten noticeably better. With From Mars to Sirius being one of my favorite albums as of late, I was very excited to put this one on.

In terms of the album’s structure, there are no problems. I would not say it is a strength either. Interestingly enough, the album’s first single does not appear in the first 3/4 of the album. It is in fact the third to last track, which is something I have not personally encountered very often. The single is an interesting choice, in my mind, however. It is very much unlike most of their music, whereas a lot of their other stuff was very quick-paced, and involved a lot of speed, half of “Vacuity” is slow, and pulsing – then moves to some familiar stuff – then changes to unfamiliar territory once again. A great track all in all, but a surprising choice and placement on the album.

The two main strengths of this album are it’s consistency and strength of the individual songs. Excluding “The Way of All Flesh”, “A Sight to Behold”, and “The Silver Cord” any of the tracks on this album would have made a solid single. The non-single-worthy tracks, however, are almost essential to the album itself. Each provides a fair change of pace, and a break of the monotony that Gojira can become.

The fact that each song on the album is quite distinct is what separates it from From Mars to Sirius, which could really be the only real difference (aside from the obvious fact that the songs are not exactly the same). On From Mars to Sirius all of the songs sort of blended together after a few listens, whereas this is not the case on The Way of All Flesh.

On a more technical note, the production quality of this album is absolutely perfect. The mixes range quite differently at times, sometimes being guitar heavy such as the track “The Art of Dying” but are also very balance at times, such as the track “Esoteric Surgery”. The one thing I noticed that I really like, though some others may dislike, is the volume of the snare drum and toms. I liked the fact that they were fairly loud in the mix for almost the entire album. They have such a bright, crisp sound that adds a lot to the songs that have such a dark sound. The best example I noticed of this is in the track “Yama’s Messengers” where each snare hit is very clear and obvious in the mix, bringing attention from the constant grind of the guitar and bass drum parts.

With a fresh batch of brutal songs, Gojira has put together a very strong fourth release, and in my opinion their best to date (inches out From Mars to Sirius by a nose). While staying in-character and using slow triplets and grinding guitar sections, they have added a few small dimensions to the mix that only help make the listener appreciate the things that make up what Gojira are known for. Where the band goes from here in unknown to me, but I can almost say for certain that it will be good.

Overall score: 9/10 devil horns

DragonForce – Ultra Beatdown [Review]

The infamous power metal sextet, DragonForce are back with their fourth studio album Ultra Beatdown. Released in Japan on August 20, 2008 and on August 26, 2008 globally.

Dragonforce Ultra Beatdown

First off, I want to say, Ultra Beatdown sounds an awfully like the three DragonForce albums before it. Hear me out, though. Regardless, there’s still a lot to say about this album.

While managing to keep their signature sound, the guys have found their way back to the glory days of their first album [Valley of the Damned]; one that was not an obvious attempt to showcase their musical prowess (well, not AS obvious – it’s still pretty obvious). I will say this, though. They actually seem to care more about the music as a whole than they do about the train of though ‘Man, that solo wasn’t awesome enough, let’s scrap this track’ or something similar. For Inhuman Rampage a lot of things sounded forced, and as though they traded some of the musicality of the album for faster, bigger, and more extreme solos (something I do not agree with). Whether or not this is true is unknown to me, but I am glad that that sound does not come through on Ultra Beatdown.

Also, I am glad they chose the title they did for this album. Most people scoff at it, but that’s fine. That’s what it’s about. DragonForce really is just a parody of power metal bands from back in the day – they sing of epic conquests, wail unconditionally, and have more blistering guitar work than you can shake a stick it. Not to mention the outrageous tempos that they always play at. If you disagree with the fact that they don’t take themselves seriously, just go see them live. It’s a great show, and you can tell that it’s all a big joke for them (a routine they’re quite good at by now). I’m not saying this to subtract from their legitimacy, but only to point out their motives. That is the reason I can enjoy DragonForce.

All in all, I really didn’t hear anything too special about the album, and it’s “typical DragonForce” – big, fast, ludicrous. There really is nothing to say about this album that hasn’t already been said about DragonForce already. That being said, it is overall the best album they have released yet. I wanted to go on some sort of epic conquest upon the end of my first listen through, much in the way you would after listening to a Rhapsody (now Rhapsody of Fire) album.

Track picks: “Reasons to Live” and “The Last Journey Home” [consequently, the two tracks that break the DragonForce mold of old the most]

Overall score: 8.5/10 devil horns