Tag 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

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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

HammerFall – No Sacrifice, No Victory [Review]

No Sacrifice, No Victory is the seventh studio full-length from Swedish heavy metal band HammerFall. Set to be released February 20, 2009 on Nuclear Blast records.

hammerfall no sacrifice no victory cd album cover art

This album is another one I have been waiting on for quite some time, with high hopes that it would be another great release from HammerFall. Sadly, it did not live up to expectations. No Sacrifice, No Victory, huh? Well, maybe they should not have followed that mantra and parted ways with their old lead guitarist. That’s the only thing that the band has changed since their last album, but have somehow fallen very far into the depths of mediocrity that are modern heavy/power metal.

While the album is technically good, and has great productions values, the songwriting is not there — nor is the fire, passion and attitude that heavy metal needs to bring to the table. The first three tracks on the album (“Any Means Necessary”, “Life is Now”, and “Punish and Enslave” respectively) are an utter bore-fest. The songwriting is bland, the guitar solos are routine, and there seems to be no passion in the vocals. With moderate tempos and simple songwriting, the spot you absolutely need to excel in would be the sheer power of your sound, which HammerFall simply missed the memo for on this album. The first track with any balls at all is “Legion” – and even then the song is not all that great.

The first part of the album where I found myself interested was the organ piece in the beginning of “Between Two Worlds” – then as soon as the guitar chimed in I was instantly turned off. It sounds as though the guitar was recorded in a tin can, and is difficult to listen to. All the other elements to the song are over loaded with reverb and echo, and as a whole the song is a production mess.

“Hallowed Be My Name” (no, not a Maiden rip-off, though I wish it was) is yet another boring song, that happens to have a really nice solo in it. Usually, in slow heavy metal songs, a great solo can save you — not this time. The first good song on the album is “Something for the Ages” which, sadly, appears seven songs into the album. Oddly, this song has the least vocal presence of all the songs on the album (none, to be exact). Do I sense a trend here? Of course. Simply put, the vocals really hurt this album a lot. They are dry, boring, and without power or attitude. For a heavy metal album, this simply cannot do. If all the songs on the album had vocals like the title track, “No Sacrifice, No Victory” this might not be a problem.

The last three songs on the album are actually excellent, in almost all respects (this does not include the Knack cover, “My Sharona”). Sadly, the first 3/4 of the album was such a bore-fest, it doesn’t matter what the last songs were, they could not make this album good.

As I said before, most of this album is boring, dry, and uninspiring. While not difficult to listen to, I might not ever feel the need to put this album on — other HammerFall albums will quench your heavy metal thirst in a much better way. Now, before you all start yelling and screaming, I’m not saying the vocals are bad at any point, they just aren’t big, ass-kicking, and awesome as HammerFall (and heavy metal) vocals should be. After a couple listens, it grew on me, but still is nothing spectacular.

Track picks: “Something for the Ages”, and “Bring the Hammer Down”

Overall score: 6 out of 10 devil horns

In case you were wondering, they did to a pretty awesome rendition of “My Sharona” — why exactly is way beyond me…

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!

The Heaviest Matter of the Universe Awards 2008

So, I thought it might be cool if I came up with a bunch of superlatives for metal albums in ’08 to showcase more than just my top ten. So, for those who don’t know what a superlative is, you most likely had nothing to do with a high school yearbook. They’re like awards that you give to people in your class, like “class clown” or “best smile”, etc. These will be music/band related ones. I hope you enjoy!

Bests:
Vocals: Iconoclast – Heaven Shall Burn
Drumming: Planetary Duality – The Faceless
Shredding: Awaken the Dreamers – All Shall Perish
Newcomer: Relentless – Brother Von Doom
Production: Awaken the Dreamers – All Shall Perish
Lyrics: The Way of All Flesh – Gojira
Comeback: Traced in Air – Cynic
Style Change: Scream Aim Fire – Bullet for my Valentine
Name (album): Lost in the Sound of Separation – Underoath
Name (band): This is Exile – Whitechapel
Album Art: Twilight of the Thunder God – Amon Amarth
Album opener: “My Will Be Done” from The March – Unearth

Worsts
Production: Death Magnetic – Metallica
Style change: Midheaven – The Human Abstract
Lyrics: Scream Aim Fire – Bullet for my Valentine
Name (album): Love and Other Disasters – Sonic Syndicate
Name (band): Scream Aim Fire – Bullet for my Valentine
Album Art: The Incurable Tragedy – Into Eternity

Mosts
Overachieving (bad): Midheaven – The Human Abstract
Overachieving (good): We Are The Nightmare – Arsis
Controversial: All Hope is Gone – Slipknot
Brutal: This is Exile – Whitechapel
Shredding: Zero Order Phase – Jeff Loomis
Overrated: The Incurable Tragedy – Into Eternity
Disappointing: Overcome – All That Remains
Erratic: We Are The Nightmare – Arsis
Technical: obZen – Meshuggah
Surprising (bad): Overcome – All That Remains
Surprising (good): Dreamer – Haste the Day
Progressive: Traced in Air – Cyinc
Complete: Holographic Universe – Scar Symmetry

Leasts
Surprising (bad): A Sense of Purpose – In Flames
Surprising (good): Motörizer – Motörhead
Technical: Torn – Evergrey
Shredding: This is Exile – Whitechapel
Controversial: Watershed – Opeth
Progressive: Motörizer – Motörhead
Complete: Torn – Evergrey

Miscellaneous
Album of the year: Traced in Air – Cyinc
Single of the year: “Vacuity” from The Way of All Flesh – Gojira
Riff of the year: at about 1:10 of “Servants to the Night” from We Are the Nightmare – Arsis
Guitar solo of the year: at about 1:23 of “Awaken the Dreamers” from Awaken the Dreamers – All Shall Perish
Interlude of the year: “Memories of a Glass Sanctuary” from Awaken the Dreamers – All Shall Perish
Fastest: Ultra Beatdown – DragonForce
Biggest wannabe: Shogun – Trivium

So, yeah, that’s what I have come up with. Let me know how you feel! Got some you think I should add or change? I’d love to hear the criticism.

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

Iced Earth – The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part II [Review]

Set to come out on September 5, The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part II is the tenth studio album from Iced Earth, this one being the second in the “Something Wicked” series (it’s the second and final installment).

Iced Earth Crucible of Man

Anyway, I listened to the CD through once, and felt incredibly indifferent about it. I feel that mostly this is because the first album I had heard from Iced Earth was Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1, and the vocals on that album were gargantuan, for lack of a better word describing the incredible size of the vocals on that album. Granted, the vocals on Crucible of Man are not bad by any means, they simply do not live up to Framing Armageddon with Tim Owens (they now have ex-vocalist Matt Barlow back on board for this album) [See example: “Crucify the King”]. On a second listen, I noticed all the other areas in which the album had been altered from part 1.

In true power metal fashion, this album has balls. Sometimes they’re to the wall, and sometimes they’re nowhere to be found, but you know they’re there. [See example: “Gift or a Curse”] This is your typical power metal ballad type song, one with no fancy pounding rhythms or big vocals, but still manages to have some pretty big cohones for being a ballad (granted, I can’t see it’s balls, but they’ve got to be around here somewhere!).

The lyrics are as well typical power metal lyrics: absurd, epic, and phantasmal. The subject of all the lyrics are of grandiose adventures, oppression of a people that doesn’t exist, and of course, lots of conquering. This in conjunction with the fact that the album flows from end to end quite well, even though you can tell that each song is a separate song works very well for a theme album. In the ‘theme’ aspect, this album is near-perfect.

All in all, the musical performance is far superior in Crucible of Man than it has ever been. The guitar work, the drum work, and the new bassist all put in a very solid performance. Not too much, but still over the top. Not boring, but serene at times. The ebb and flow of music really works, which is all brought in by the aforementioned Matt Barlow vocals. It may be a typical album in nature, but is executed in very good fashion.

Track picks: “Harbinger of Fate” and “Divide and Devour”

Overall score: 8/10 devil horns