Among Phantoms – Memories/Catastrophes


Among Phantoms – Memories/Catastrophes
DiGiDi
Release Date: 01/10/2020
Running Time: 25:47
Review by Beth Jones
8/10

Do you ever have one of those weeks where, by Tuesday lunchtime, you feel like you’ve climbed Everest on your hands, whilst being repeatedly beaten around the face by an angry Octopus? Well, it’s been that kind of a week! But what better way to unwind than with a bit of shouty Hardcore! And you could do a lot worse than Danish Metallic Hardcore band, Among Phantoms.

From Aarhus in Denmark, and formed in 2016, the band released a self-titled EP in 2018, and were set to release their debut album, “Memories/Catastrophes” earlier this year. But, you know, this year’s just been a bit of a cluster fuck really hasn’t it! However, the album was finally released a few weeks ago, and is the subject of today’s musings from me!

The first thing that struck me about Among Phantom’s sound was the mix of influences going on. It’s got a punk edge, and some really thrash inspired riffs and rhythms, but they also dabble in some off-beat proggy bits, and at times, some 90’s-esque hardcore grunge sounds. It’s pleasing. The one constant throughout though is the tortured screams of Lars Raun Petersen.

The album starts with ‘It Is Us’. Opening with a classic sounding guitar riff, it launches into an off-beat chunky little number fairly quickly, transitions into a bit of thrash in the middle, then drops back into riffs and off beats, then a bit of Rage Against The Machine style rhythms, before meandering off into thrashy prog a bit more! It’s a lot to cram into one 4-minute song, but technically, it’s executed really well.

‘Breath You In’ follows, dropping into a more standard approach to rhythms! Solid thrashy riffage, that you can really bang your head to, and screams that penetrate through everything. The following track, ‘Anticipation’ runs in much the same way, but then they step things up again in ‘Oblivion’. This offers a lot of really great headbanging sections, but none of them keep the same rhythm for long, just to try and screw with your mind! That said, I think this is my favourite track on the album. It’s really dark, and heavy as hell. It also has some funky little samples going on in the middle. It feels exciting, and aggressive; almost primal. One of those song that you just don’t risk putting on in the car for fear of losing your shit and ending up in a hedge!

Track 5, ‘Taking Over’, is more on solid ground, and has a great little call and response section involving the guitars, which is panned nicely between left and right, giving it a really wide feel. Talking about mixing, the band’s guitarist, Mads Trebbein, took care of that, and Andreas Linnemann created the final masters. And a fine job they’ve done too. One of my bugbears is not having the correct balance of sound, but I haven’t found anything with the levels here that particularly irks me!

There’s nothing that’s going to move mountains within this release. However, as a debut, it’s a great solid start for Amongst Phantoms to grow from, and it’s a very enjoyable listen. There’s one thing for sure though. With only 7 tracks, and just shy of 26 minutes long, “Memories/Catastrophes” doesn’t outstay its welcome. If anything, it’s not long enough for my liking! I needed another couple of tracks to irritate the obsessional rhythmic headbanger lurking withing me! For their future releases, I’d like to see the same standard of vigour, but for a longer duration! And if they do that, then I’ll be a very happy bunny!

TRACKLISTING:
01. It Is Us
02. Breathe You In
03. Anticipation
04. Oblivion
05. Taking Over
06. RED
07. Don´t Look Back, Commit!

LINE-UP:
Lars Raun Petersen – Vocals
Rene Holmboe – Drums
Mads Trebbein – Guitar
James Amstutz – Guitar
Anders S. Mikkelsen – Bass

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Helix – Eat Sleep Rock

Helix – Eat Sleep Rock
Perris Records
Release Date: 04/09/2020
Running Time: 45:34
Review by Beth Jones
10/10

I’ve made the difficult decision today to take a break from progressive metal…Don’t worry, it’s only for the day! Because sometimes Sundays just call for a bit of good, honest, salt of the earth, hard rock, right?! Today’s listening pleasure is sponsored by old-school Canadian hard rockers, Helix, in the shape of their new album, “Eat Sleep Rock”.

This album is a compilation of the bands favourite songs recorded since their departure from Capitol/EMI back in 1990. (Yes, that is 3 decades ago, and yes you are, like me, getting very, very old. Eesh! 30 damn years, where the hell did that go?!) But as an added bonus, alongside some timeless classics, this album also offers two previously unreleased tracks, the title track, and ‘The Story Of Helix’, which opens the album.

And what a way to open an album it is. In a style akin to the ever popular ‘Tribute’ (originally performed by Tenacious D, but subsequently murdered millions of times over in every Karaoke bar globally), this track is an hilarious spoken word piece, set to music, and interspersed with musical fills at just the right points. It summarises the story of the journey that Helix have been on, over nearly half a century, into a neatly packaged 7 and a half minutes! And it’s funny as hell! I did some proper belly laughing at it! I would recommend that anyone who held the 90’s music scene in any level of contempt have a listen to this track. You’ll sympathize with it!

Following the amusing start, Helix get back to business in ‘Eat Sleep Rock’, the album’s title track. It’s just great, solid, hard rock. And that, my friends, really is all you need quite a lot of the time. Think Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, and AC/DC, and you’re on the right tracks. It’s written and performed to be tight and no nonsense, and when you listen to it, it’s completely impossible not to tap your toes and nod your head. And I’ve discovered, when you’re writing, it’s also impossible to stop yourself writing in time to the music, too.

The album continues in this way throughout. Just tune after tune of great hard rock. Superb solos, metronomic drumming, classic rock vocals – clean, but with just enough grit to give them edge, big riffs, and driving bass lines. It’s music for a road trip. Or music to shoot some pool and drink liquor to, and I love it.

I don’t have a favourite track on this album, as the whole thing just puts you in a great mood. There’s no way I could single out one track that does that more than the others. Everything is written, performed, recorded, mixed and mastered to perfection. But this is to be expected, as these guys are all seasoned professionals, and they’ve used some of the cream of the crop to take care of mixing and mastering, too. There isn’t a single thing that I would change, or that has irritated me, about this album, which is rare, because I’m a fussy cow!!

Ok, I’ll level with you. If you’re looking for explorations of new and Avant Garde sounds, you should probably move along. But if you want to be immersed in some proper ROCK, then get stuck into this bad boy, because you won’t be disappointed!

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Story Of Helix (Unreleased)
02. Eat Sleep Rock (Unreleased)
03. Shock City Psycho Rock
04. Wrecking Ball
05. I’m A Live Frankenstein
06. Even Jesus (Wasn’t Loved In His Hometown)
07. Cyber Space Girl
08. When The Bitters Got The Better Of You
09. The Tequila Song
10. (Gene Simmons Says) Rock Is Dead
11. The Devil Is Having A Party Tonight

LINE-UP:
Brian Vollmer – Lead Vocals
Daryl Gray – Bass & Keyboard Programming
Greg “Fritz” Hinz – Drums
Kaleb Duck – Guitar
Chris Julke – Guitar

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Scardust – Strangers

Scardust – Strangers
M-Theory Audio
Release Date: 30/10/2020
Running Time: 53:02
Review by Beth Jones
/10
(Yes, that is the ‘infinity’ sign!!)

A few months back I reviewed Wilderun’s “Veil of Imagination”, scoring them a technically impossible 11/10. I thought at the time that there was absolutely no way I would hear a better album this year, and probably not for a good few years to come. Well, it turns out I was wrong.

Scardust are a Progressive Metal band from Israel. This album, “Strangers”, follows the critically acclaimed debut “Sands Of Time”. It’s a unique concept album based around the idea of being estranged. The bands vocalist Noa Gruman composed the album with Orr Didi, who she also collaborated with for the first album, and it was mixed by Yonatan Kossov and

mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Devin Townsend, Arch Enemy). Noa explains, “Written from multiple perspectives, it explores the ways in which people can be estranged from one another, from themselves, from society, from their loved ones and even from their own subconscious. After the overture, which introduces musical themes, the album separates into two parts. Every song from the second part is a mirror image of a parallel song in the first. Each pair of songs tells the story of a pair of strangers. They can be played together as a standalone piece, as individual songs or as part of the album, whatever the listener’s heart desires.” That’s bloody clever that is!!

There’s only one word to describe this album, and that’s ‘Masterpiece’. I’m usually pretty good with words, but it’s seriously left me chastising my own lack of comparable vocabulary to explain why I feel this way. So, please bear with my while I try and do it justice! But before I begin, I’ll say this. If I die tomorrow, at least I got to hear this album.

‘Overture for the Estranged’ starts the album, opening with choral harmony performed by Hellscore, the choir Noa formed for the original album. It took me right back to my choral days, from which I became estranged when I left school! Noa’s vocals float in over the top of this, in full operatic beauty, with unexpected cadences all over the place. We’re then led into a fully orchestrated section that Mozart would have been proud of, with the addition of crunching guitar, and thundering drums. It’s just spectacular! It’s like an opening overture to a top rock opera running on Broadway, or in the West End. This style is revisited throughout the album, too. Just for fun, it throws in some jazz and funk along the way, as well as the progressive rhythm changes you would expect from any great explorer of the genre. Right, that’s track 1 pathetically dealt with, like a boxer trying to cradle a new-born still gloved up! 10 more to go – stay with me folks!

Track 2, ‘Break the Ice’, is full on musical theatre, complete with chorus line from Hellscore again, and a melody so catchy I dare you not to hum along! Aside from the vocals, which are simply sublime, we get to see just how skilled the musicians in this band really are. With an awesome guitar solo, and some equally complex bass runs, cross rhythms, piano fills, and orchestral violins, it just makes me want to explode with admiration. I’m so emotional about this album, it’s untrue! The musical theatre feeling continues through track 3 (which is also one of my favourite tracks, more on that later!) and 4, but always with a progressive twist. Complexity is their absolute ethos, and they do it effortlessly.

Track 5, ‘Concrete Cages’ starts with folk instrumentation provided by German Folk musician, Patty Gurdy. It then goes through funk, and heavy riffs, and dives into a whole melting pot of extravagant instrumentation, choral harmonies, and just pure musicality. It’s heavy enough to bang your head to, but so intricately precise that it’s possible to hear every single note like there was no other sound.

Track 6, ‘Over’, returns us to some sort of metal normality, ramping up the heavy for a bit! It also let’s Noa explore her guttural vocals too, which are just as perfect as her operatic tones. In contrast, and forming the other part of the pair, if you’re listening to the album as paired tracks, ‘Under’ is pure funk / gospel/ jazz, complete with snare rim beats from the drummer, gospel choir harmonies, and solos a plenty. Track 8, “Huts” features a performance from Westbrook Hay Prep School Chamber Choir, just to add another element, because why not?!

The next few tracks continue exploring every theme imaginable, until the album is brought to a close with ‘Mist’. A slowed down track in which Noa’s vocals are just sublime. It’s a real ‘lighters in the air’ closing overture, that brings things to an end as stunningly as they began.

When an album is this good, it’s hard to pick out a standout song. But I have gone with the tracks that I’ve had on repeat over the last couple of weeks. ‘Tantibus II’, which is also the first single from the album, and ‘Gone’. ‘Tantibus II’ melds complex guitars with dark choral harmonies, and a hellishly catchy chorus! I actually cried when I first saw the video for this, I was so overwhelmed by how good it was. ‘Gone’ on the other hand, I love for a different reason – we discover the true skills of bass player, Yanai Avnet. It opens with a bass line lick, and he gets a solo section in the middle. This man’s got skills!!! More licks than an ice-cream parlour full of children, I can tell you. Bloody brilliant.

Everything is just bloody, bloody, unbelievably bloody brilliant!! I’ll shut up now, I’ve taken up too much of your time. “Strangers” gets infinity out of 10 from me, because my scoring system no longer matters. Buy this album.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Overture For The Estranged
02. Break The Ice
03. Tantibus II
04. Stranger
05. Concrete Cages (feat. Patty Gurdy)
06. Over
07. Under
08. Huts
09. Gone
10. Addicted
11. Mist

LINE-UP:
Noa Gruman – Vocals
Yanai Avnet – Bass
Yadin Moyal – Guitar
Itai Portugali – Keyboards
Yoav Weinberg – Drums

Guests:
Hellscore Choir
Westbrook Hay Prep School Chamber Choir
Patty Gurdy

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Velvet Ocean – Purposes And Promises

Velvet Ocean – Purposes And Promises
Helsinki Records
Release Date: 07/02/2020
Running Time: 40:16
Review by Beth Jones
9/10

And so here we are. October again!! The nights are starting to draw in, the weather’s taken a turn for the worst, and I’ve had to start wearing a jumper again. I actually love winter, so it’s not that bad. And this weekend’s soundtrack takes a fitting route in turn with the changing season, in the shape of Finnish alternative melodic metal band Velvet Ocean. Their debut album, “Purposes And Promises” was actually released a good few months back, but I’ve only just got round to putting pen to paper about it.

Having started originally as a project between Riitu and Jake Ronkainen, it soon evolved into a full band, with no less than 7 members, including Oulu symphony orchestra Cellists Arto Alikoski and Harri Österman, along with Keyboard player Marco Sneck. The title of the album tells their story, as its creation became their main purpose, and they promised that they would see it through to its conclusion. Their variety of melodic metal melds contemporary style with influences from classical, through to pop, grunge and even dance. They say that their style is “basically derived from all the music we have ever heard and draws influences also from other genres than metal music”.

So, what does it sound like? Well the mix of influences are clearly visible from the start. Track 1, ‘It’s So Hard’ starts with classic ethereal vocals, but then they’re joined by overdriven guitar riffs, and an electro/dance style beat. Don’t judge me for this, but it kind of reminds me of Mel C’s solo stuff, when she chucked in The Spice Girls and tried to get a little more gritty, way back in the late 90s! Just with a little more edge, and some lovely Cello deep in the mix. Vocally, Riitu Ronkainen has a beautiful rich tone to her voice, and she soars above the instrumental accompaniment.

The album then loses the pop/dance feel for the next few tracks, coming back to a more recognizable melodic metal feel. However, the other influences are still apparent; ‘Requiem’ starts out with guitar, bass, and drums, that sound like something Sting would have done. ‘Butterfly’ begins with some sombre Piano chords, and a lone Cello echoing the root notes, creating a haunting classical feel. Again, the vocals in this track in particular, are so effortlessly haunting. I love it a lot.

Track 5, ‘Truth Or Illusion’ hits you with a very classic grunge sound. A bit of a wake-up after the slow and delicate track I’d just been lost in! The vocals here are much punchier, and Riitu explores her massive range throughout, which is very impressive.

Track 7, ‘Broken’ again starts off with Piano and Cello. This opening screams Eurovision at me! And that is not a bad thing in my book. This track would be perfect as the Finnish entry, and would do incredibly well, I think. It’s not overly heavy, but it’s got a good edge, and it’s dramatic! I could just imagine it on the stage with a lone Cellist on one side and the Pianist the other, lit with spotlights, then the rest of the band in the middle, fronted by Rittu with an intricate outfit, and lots of dark blue floaty fabric all over the place!

My favourite track on the album is the penultimate track. ‘Lullaby’. An acoustic track, it focuses, to start with, on fingerpicked guitar and vocals. It’s very tender and calming, as it’s title would suggest. Then halfway through, Riitu’s floating vocals are joined by the male vocals of Jake Ronkainen, creating a beautiful harmony line, and complimenting Rittu’s vocals perfectly. This piece is so delicately done. Its beauty is in its simplicity, and is the mark of clever musicians. They knew when to stop, and haven’t tried to frill it out at all. That’s commendable.

The final track on the album ‘Salvation’, has some middle eastern influences in its chord progressions, and is quite progressive in its structure – another influence that they’ve managed to explore really well! It finishes with the sound effect of a heart monitor flatlining, which was pretty creepy, but worked with the feel of the song. The whole album is steeped in the exploration of emotions, and this effect also displays that, too. It leaves you trying to unpick a lot of symbolism.

Production wise, they have done a superb job on this album, especially considering it’s a debut. It was mixed and mastered by Johan Örnborg and Jens Bogren at the well-known Fascination Street Studios. You can really hear the experience and care that has been put into producing this record, and that always pleases me. It’s not a record for the sake of releasing something, it’s a record meant to display the power and versatility of the language of music.

If you just like one style of music, this album won’t be for you. But, if you approach your listening with an open mind, you will definitely find something in “Purposes And Promises” that pleases you. A brilliant debut, well worth investing in.

TRACKLISTING:
01. It’s So Hard
02. Tonight
03. Requiem
04. Butterfly
05. Truth Or Illusion
06. Elysian Fields
07. Broken
08. Innocent Eyes
09. Lullaby
10. Salvation

LINE-UP:
Riitu Ronkainen – Vocals, Additional Synths
Jake Ronkainen – Guitars, Vocals
Jani Lehtinen – Guitars
Bastian Schallschmidt – Drums
Arto Alikoski – Cello
Jami Alaverronen – Keyboards
Tuomas Vesa – Bass

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Midgard – Tales Of Kreia

Midgard – Tales Of Kreia
Sliptrick Records
Release Date: 18/08/2020
Running Time: 48:36
Review By Beth Jones
7.5/10

Folk Metal! Some people love it, some might think ‘What the folk was that all about’! Personally, I love it, so am always happy to review a Folk Metal album. And next on my playlist is “Tales Of Kreia” the new release by Ukrainian Folk Metal four-piece, Midgard. Formed in 2015, this is their 3rd studio album, and they have already made a pretty decent name for themselves in the folk metal world, supporting Finnish Folk Metal giants Ensiferum at their Kiev show. This new album is written entirely in a fantasy setting and explores various themes and moods within that world.

The album opens with ‘Necromancer’, which begins in a pretty standard folk metal way, giving you a comfortably familiar feeling. This only lasts for about 20 seconds, though, then the piece is taken over by thrash-esque riffs and rhythms. Unexpected, but pretty damn good, I can tell you. It then moves through a variety of transitions of genre, exploring melody and rhythm changes aplenty! It’s very skilfully done, and a great way to open the album.

Track 2, ‘The Horde’ is introduced by traditional instrumentation, then launches into some damn fine chunky riffs, and again plays a merry dance with variations around themes and genres.

In fact, this is true throughout the album. It’s littered with skilful riffage and rhythms, and explorations in combining traditional folk instruments with the heaviness of the more metal orchestrations. It’s great to bang your head to, but doesn’t become just another jaunty Folk Metal album, as some tend to do.

Another thing to mention is the vocal style of Klym Apalov. In the main, it’s a growl. But it’s a very tuneful growl, which impressed me. We also get the odd clean vocal, too, mainly in the folky sections, which adds a bit of variety.

The track that’s most recognisably Folk Metal is ‘Dworf King’. And for all those…er… young in mind, shall we say, it starts with an interesting sound effect that is bound to have a few of you tittering behind your hand, like naughty schoolboys! This track is very much a ‘grab a flagon of ale and do an over exaggerated stompy walk round in circles dance’ tune. Nothing wrong with that, like, but I’d go for Mead!

The final track ‘Ice Spirit’ begins with spoken word set over music, in the band’s mother tongue. This gives it a kind of ‘final battle pep talk’ feel, and creates an interesting mood. Again, this track explores various rhythmic and melodic themes, closing the album in the same way it began.

I think my favourite track on the album has to be, ‘Velmehazerun Dolian’. It’s hellishly pacey from the start and really sets your toes a-tapping! It’s quite spiky too, if you know what I mean? There’s a ton of gain on the rhythm guitars, and everything is very staccato, which gives it a real edginess. There’s also a stunning lead guitar solo in the middle of it, just before it drops off into a traditional folk interlude, because, well, why not!

Production wise, it’s all pretty tight too. A nice balance of sounds, and you can hear all the little folk twists coming through.

All in all, while it’s not completely ground-breaking, this is a very decent release from Midgard, which does step away from comfort zones a little, and is definitely worth a listen. It’s got a real groove, and there’s something in there for every musical taste, too (especially Thrash). So, even if you’re not usually into Folk Metal, I’d still give it a try.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Necromancer
02. The Horde
03. Velmehazerun Dolian
04. The Ring
05. Dworf King
06. Keeper Of Freedom
07. Reaper
08. Elven Blade
09. The Hunt
10. Black Widow
11. Ice Spirit

LINE-UP:
Klym Apalkov – Vocals
Roman Kuznietsov – Guitars
Alexandr Kudryavtsev – Drums
Maxim Shatilo – Bass

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

13 Burning – Unholy EP

13 Burning – Unholy EP
Self-Released
Release Date: 14/08/2020
Running Time: 25:00
Review by Beth Jones
7/10

Well, it’s Wednesday! Or ‘hump day’ as some call it (stop snickering at the back, it means it’s the hump of the week, and once you’re through it, you’re on the way to the weekend)! And what better way is there to make it through a humpy Wednesday, than with a bit of metal? None, my good people! None at all!!

This evenings listening is presented by Oxford based NWOBHM band, 13 Burning, in the shape of their recently released debut EP “Unholy”. Formed in 2014, their mission is to combine the traditional sounds of classic heavy metal, with storytelling of mythology, war, and witchcraft.

The EP opens with the title track and gives us everything you would expect from a classic NWOBHM band. Face melting riffs, slightly edgy vocals with perfect Shakespearean diction, a great steady 4/4 beat, and a booming bass line. It’s like bish bash bosh, meat and two veg, heavy metal. And there is not a single thing wrong with that. It takes me back to the good old days, when hair was flowing, boots were cowboy, and everything was double denim clad. And not a pair of rose-tinted glasses in sight!

We’re treated to some awesome musicianship on this release too – a notable example is the ripping solo in track 2 ‘Wings Of A Dream’, which really brings that song to life.

Track 3, ‘Day Of Reckoning’ begins in theatrical fashion; spoken word with a ton of echo, backed up by some eerie and ethereal sound effects. I think this is actually my favourite track. It’s got a slower pace which helps to show off vocalists Dan Abrams pipes really well, and hints at how they can diversify their sound from the traditional. Saying that, it does kind of remind me of the more drug induced tracks that appeared back when peace and love were a thing…just with more riffage!

The final track, ‘Valhala’, again starts in a more slow, lamenting style, with Dan’s vocals sitting atop the mix. Lyrically, it’s pretty poetic, too. Completely in keeping with their mission. And this track is a close second for my favourite track. It’s a biggy, at over 8 minutes long, but has a sharp change of pace in the middle, taking us back to the comfortable groove of classic metal! By the way, unless you by the CD, you won’t hear this track, because it’s a bonus track only on the physical copy. And the lesson here is BUY MERCH AND BUY PHYSICAL COPIES!!!!! Stream, shmeam!!!! Heathens!!! Anyway, where was I?…

Ah yes! “Unholy”, as a debut EP, is a sound footing for 13 Burning to start out with. It’s not ground-breaking, but as a first tentative step into the world of having the balls to put your tunes onto a shiny circle of coated plastic for all to hear, it’s pretty worthy. There are a couple of itchy teething problems that could probably do with ironing out to take them to the next level. The mix is a little muddy in places, and the balance of instruments isn’t always right. But that almost gives it the authentic NWOBHM feel. So, you have to make a call. If it’s ‘perfection’ in the modern day that you seek, then maybe check go out some Ed Sheeran. But if you want proper no nonsense British Heavy Metal, then you could do a lot worse than looking these guys up. I think 13 Burning have a lot more to give (hence my score) and I very much look forward to hearing where they go next.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Unholy
02. Wings Of A Dream
03. Day Of Reckoning
04. Valhala

LINE-UP:
Dan Abrams – Vocals
Phill Millward – Guitars
Sarah Thompson – Bass
Steve Kearley – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Ward XVI – Metamorphosis

Ward XVI – Metamorphosis
Metal Rocka Recordings
Release Date: 25/09/2020
Running Time: 49:43
Review by Beth Jones
9.5/10

Well hello there my fellow crazy fiends. Now, those who know me will know I’m a fairly measured soul, and I’ve also been referred to as ‘the shy and retiring type’, even demur (pahahaha)! But those who know me well, will know that underneath this cleverly disguised exterior, I have a darker, more deranged side, that’s held back for special occasions. And this is one of those occasions, so please forgive my musings. Getting the chance to become an inmate on Ward XVI at Whittingham Asylum is something quite appealing to me. And getting admitted here is simple. You only have to share in the joy of the deranged, unhinged and slightly peculiar. And that is something I can definitely do!

The latest wing of Ward XVI – “Metamorphosis” – is about to open, and us lucky special inmates get to have a sneak peak, and tell you what it’s like! I’m afraid that I was admitted to the ward fairly recently, so missed the arrival of the other wings, and am now exploring them out of order, Tarantino style, apparently! But I’ve been told, that if you explore them all in order of their creation, you can see how they all fit together!

So, what’s it like here in “Metamorphosis”? Well, as you would expect from Ward XVI, it’s conceptual and follows a theme. It’s a chilling and macabre circus of the mind. The kind you dream about after too much cheese late at night. Its haunting accordion melodies conjure images of deranged, black and white striped clowns doing odd things with organs – and not the sort of organs you can play… At least not without draining the blood from them and drying them substantially first. This is backed up by the solid rhythms and riffs, and some pretty trippy electro work. Get the probes out nurse, I’m ready for my lobotomy!

The first sounds you are hit with upon entering “Metamorphosis” are that of a conversation between doctor and client, setting the scene of the decent into evil madness, the reasons for which will become clearer as we move along. This leads into ‘The Cradle Song’, which paints the picture of where the madness started. A lullaby with a dark twist, complete with ominous music box sounds. The haunting melodies and guitar work here set the mournful tone.

As you move along the twisting corridors of “Metamorphosis”, the bitterness stemming from years of neglect sing out, with Psychoberrie’s vocals delivering all the disturbing tones and nuances you would expect from one so deranged. This is pummelled further into your brain with the freak circus melodies, strange ambient sounds, and the measured work on guitars, and ska inspired bass and drums that sit below the melody.

I think my favourite area of this new wing is ‘Shadows’. It’s melancholy and disturbing, and finalises this new chapter in a perfectly dark way. Its message is sorrowful, and its lilting melody matches the hurt within the walls of the asylum…

In case you didn’t understand any of that, here’s the important bit! If you like to be taken on a theatrical journey into the madness of despair, in the style of Alice Cooper or Avatar, then Ward XVI, and this new album, are for you. It brings another level of depth and depravity to their ‘Shock Rock’ style, both musically and production wise, it’s masterfully handled. The instrumentation is ingenious, mixing ska style off beats and classic rock riffs. The use of sound effects, as well as spoken word, and some operatic and harsh vocals, add to the drama, darkness and madness throughout. Lyrically this disturbing concept album creates a deep and sorrowful picture, that draws you in from the very start. Terrifyingly beautiful, or beautifully terrifying? I’ll let you decide. Until the next chapter, inmates. Stay safe…And don’t let the shadows bite…

TRACKLISTING:
01. Retrogression
02. The Cradle Song
03. Mister Babadook
04. Daisy Chains
05. Broken Toys
06. Imago
07. A Goodnight Shot
08. Burn The Witch
09. Catch Me If You Can
10. The Verdict
11. Shadows

LINE-UP:
Psychoberrie – Vocals and Lyrics
Dr Von Stottenstein – Guitar
Wolfy Huntsman – Bass

Guest Appearances
‘Retrogression’: The Psychiatrist – Chris Barton
‘Verdict’: The Judge – Steve Walker
Drums -John Badger
Martin Crawley – Keyboards & Accordion
Anabelle Iratni – Operatic Vocals
Russ Custard – Guest Vocals: ‘Shadows’

LINKS:
www.wardxvi.com/
www.facebook.com/WardXVI/
www.twitter.com/WardXVIOfficial
www.instagram.com/wardxvi
www.wardxvi.bandcamp.com/
www.youtube.com/channel/UCwqyXfqFGUbz0T-1wFXCjjQ
www.open.spotify.com/artist/1iB6Fms5mWFqlK0vJi07of

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Kamelot – I Am The Empire – Live From The 013

Kamelot – I Am The Empire – Live From The 013
Napalm Records
Release Date: 14/08/2020
Running Time: 97:12
Review By Beth Jones
10/10

You know when you finally get round to paying attention to a band that you should have paid attention to a long time ago. And then when you do, you feel like the dumbest decision you ever made was leaving it until now to do that. Well…um…yeah, that. I know, I know!! I will hold my hands up and you may throw rotten fruit at me and call me an idiot for leaving it this long to pay attention to American Symphonic Metal aficionados, Kamelot. But please rest assured that this sort of oversight will never happen again!

This most recent release is an epic live album, featuring their performance at the legendary 013 in Tilburg, Netherlands. It features 21 extraordinary tracks, with guest appearances from some renowned names, and spans an extensive nearly 100 minutes of play time. And I’m guessing that you may have already worked out from my score, that, for me, this is 100 minutes of pure extravagant joy!

The album begins with a triumphant instrumental overture, befitting of any good Arthurian film to accompany a riding sequence, with Arthur and the knights traversing rocky terrain. What better way is there to open a show for a symphonic metal band by the name of Kamelot, eh? None I tell thee!

From there we travel through hit after hit of grand melodies, from new songs to classics, encompassing intricate harmonies, powerful rhythms, and insatiable instrumentation that fills every beat with drama and beauty. We’re also treated to guest appearances from the likes of Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), Charlotte Wessels (Delain), Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), Lauren Hart (Once Human) and Sascha Paeth (Avantasia, Epica and more)!

But for me, the aspect that gives me those excited, ‘tingles down the spine’ moments, is Tommy Karevik’s stunning vocals. They are both powerful and effortless, with a richness and purity that could melt even the coldest heart. If there is some kind of heavenly Eutopia for us to pass over to in the afterlife, I sure hope this is the soundtrack.

One track that particularly stands out for me, and displays these silky vocals perfectly, is ‘Here’s to the Fall’. In a change to the pacey and orchestrated masterpieces that have bathed us to this point, this ballad is more stripped back. It doesn’t have face melting solos, or earth-shattering power drumming. It is a melancholic piece with the perfect marriage of Piano and vocals at the forefront, backed up with strings and gentle bass. It has the feeling of a great operatic aria, steeped in sadness, somewhere in the middle of a Broadway musical, where one of the lesser main characters has departed before their time. Being a huge fan of musicals and all things dramatic and operatic, and a big old emotional softy, this ticks all the boxes for me! And god, that voice!!! I have gone all melty.

Now, my usual gripe with live albums is the production/annoying crowd noise/bits where the vocals disappear in the mix etc, etc. But, because this album has been mixed and mastered by Sascha Paeth, none of this is applicable – everything is placed perfectly, every instrument cuts through at the right level, and the vocals sit beautifully throughout. Even the crowd noise works! It’s like they’re an extra facet to the band, and it really makes you feel like you are there, immersed in the whole live experience! At one point there is a section where, I’m guessing, the band got the crowd to do the old ‘Which side can shout the loudest’ routine, and even this is panned between the left and right channels to give you the correct feel of it! Attention to detail like that is what makes great production stand out.

So, to the bad points. There are none! It’s perfect. That’s the shortest paragraph I’ve ever written.

“I Am The Empire – Live From The 013” is available in digital format, as well as CD digipak, Deluxe Box (including the album), Blu-Ray/DVD, and vinyl. I would suggest that if you like Symphonic Metal, Power Metal, Operatic Metal, Musical Theatre, or simply just want something bloody marvellous to listen to, then you should invest in this album.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Transcendence (Intro)
02. Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire) – feat. Lauren Hart
03. Rule The World
04. Insomnia
05. The Great Pandemonium
06. When The Lights Are Down
07. My Confession – feat. Eklipse
08. Veil Of Elysium
09. Under Grey Skies – feat. Charlotte Wessels (live premiere)
10. Ravenlight – feat. Sascha Paeth
11. End Of Innocence
12. March Of Mephisto – feat. Alissa White Gluz
13. Amnesiac
14. Manus Dei

15. Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife) – feat. Alissa White Gluz & Elize Ryd
16. Drum And Keys Solo
17. Here’s To The Fall
18. Forever
19. Burns To Embrace – with Children’s Choir including Thomas Youngblood’s son
20. Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy) – feat Alissa White Gluz
21. Ministrium (Shadow Key)

LINE-UP:
Thomas Youngblood – guitars
Tommy Karevik – vocals
Oliver Palotai – keyboards
Sean Tibbetts – bass
Alex Landenburg – drums

LINKS:
www.kamelot.com/band/
www.facebook.com/kamelotofficial
www.instagram.com/kamelotofficial
www.twitter.com/KamelotOfficial
www.youtube.com/kamtv
www.vk.com/kamelot_official

Photo by Tim Tronckoe

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Interview with Sami Hinkka of Ensiferum

Interview with Sami Hinkka of Ensiferum
By Beth Jones

Hi Everyone,

Beth recently got the chance to have a chat with Sami Hinkka, bassist of awesome Folk Metal band Ensiferum. I’d like to thank Sami very much for his time. Enjoy!

Beth: Thanks for taking the time to do an interview with us, it’s really appreciated.

Sami: My pleasure! 😊

Beth: Firstly, for any of our readers that don’t know you, could you give us a brief history of the band?

Sami: Back in early 1990 Markus Toivonen was getting into heavier music and at some point, instead of playing cover songs he wanted to have his own band. It was Amorphis’ “Tales From The Thousand Lakes” that showed him the way: melodic metal with heroic/mythical lyrics. After few line-up changes, many albums and tons of gigs on every continent, here we are now!

Beth: You’ve just released your 8th studio album, “Thalassic” and it’s an absolute killer! It’s themed around the sea and water. Where did you get the inspiration for that theme from?

Sami: The idea popped in my head when we were promoting our previous album “Two Paths” and many journalists kept asking, ‘was it a theme album’. My default answer was that we can’t really make a theme album, because of the way we compose. This started to piss me off! Why would I as a lyric writer, and we as composers, set this kind of barrier to ourselves? So, I suggested to other members that we make a theme album next. Everyone was into it. I listed lots of rough demos we had of the new songs, while I did long walks around Helsinki. It’s a coastal city so very often I walked on a seashore, and many of the melodies took my imagination to sea battles, etc. So, there was the theme. Everyone agreed that it was a good theme, and broad enough, so I started to read about sea-related myths, legends and historical events around the world. In the end I had way too many cool topics for lyrics, but it was quite easy to find the perfect match for each song.

Beth: Personally, I think the themed nature of “Thalassic” was brilliant. Are you going to explore a theme in the future? And if so, what potential themes would you like to look at?

Sami: I really don’t know. We haven’t talked about it yet. We have bunch of raw songs for the next Ensiferum album under work. Let’s see what the future brings.

Beth: There are a lot of nods in this album to the sounds of early Ensiferum. Is this intentional, or is it just the way your sound is evolving, almost coming full circle?

Sami: We never compose stuff intentionally; I mean we don’t think “that seems to be popular song so let’s keep making more songs like it…”. We compose and arrange together as a band, and the point is to write stuff that we love, and that we love to play. We are very lucky that there seems to be many metal heads around the world that like the same thing as we do, heh!

Let’s see how the next album sounds, because we always want to go forward and push our music boundaries.

Beth: When you’re creating a work like this, how do you approach songwriting, especially with all the orchestration?

Sami: It all starts from a good melody, that’s the corner stone of every Ensiferum song. Harmonies, layering, orchestrations, folk instruments, etc. are easy to arrange once you have a good image of the song.

We have democracy in the band, so everyone can bring ideas, every idea is tried, every idea can be twisted and turned to something totally different than the original idea was, and the key thing for us is that we arrange the songs together. This way, everyone can stand behind every note of every song. It’s a slow method but that that’s the way we love to write music, as a band.

Beth: With all the recent weirdness in the world, what have you been doing to keep yourselves busy?

Sami: We have been having few sessions where we checked out new ideas, we played a stream gig and one real festival show, woohoo! I really miss touring…

In the spring, when COVID-chaos started, I recorded my very first solo release and made a crowdfunding campaign to pay for the mixing and professional artwork. I was lucky to find a day job to pay my bills, but the problem is that it slowed down all my music projects a lot. But now my solo EP is mixed, and I just found a professional person to make a world class lyric video for the first single so the EP should be out in early autumn.

Beth: I’ve just watched the ‘Festival Simulator’ video for ‘Rum, Women, Victory’ (awesome song by the way!). Was it fun getting all the crazy clips in from fans, and what do you think of the final cut?

Sami: This was an insane project! I think it’s our best video ever! It felt so awesome to see how many people sent clips and how they enjoyed the new song! I have always said it: We have the best fans in the world!

Beth: And you did a live stream on 10th July. How did it go and how did it feel playing live in a way that is still so alien to many of us? Was it more nerve wracking than usual?

Sami: It was very weird. I have always seen Ensiferum more as a live band, and the best part of playing live is the interaction with the crowd and seeing people having good time, moshing, singing along etc. So, when that element was missing, it just felt weird. It was nice to play the new songs and chat with fans during the breaks we had on the gig, but I dare to say it was once in a lifetime thing for us to do a stream gig.

Beth: The scene is flooded with emerging bands at the moment, and the current climate has allowed a lot of people to discover music, both through playing and listening, which is amazing. What would be your best piece of advice for people just starting out in a band?

Sami: Simply, have fun. Find similar-minded people and create music that you love. Don’t worry if your influences can be heard “too much” in the beginning, you will find your own style. And generally, for every musician; try to listen to, and play all kind of music, because that will broaden your musical horizon and give you tools to become a better composer.

Beth: Now we all have a different way of working, how do you think the music scene will change and adapt, and do you seen this evolution as an opportunity to grow your audience with things like virtual gigs and fan videos?

Sami: I really don’t know. I’m an old geezer who believes in hard touring to convince people with your music. Of course, modern ways give chances of “short cuts” to reach lots of people, and one can become “one hit wonder”, or whatever, and that’s totally fine for me. I think whatever you do, just do it honestly and don’t pretend to be something that you are not, because that’s gonna back fire in the long run.

Beth: This has certainly been a memorable year, for all the wrong reasons! Do you know yet if you’re going to be able to play live to any audiences this year, and if not, what’s in store for you in 2021?

Sami: We have few gigs still lined up for 2020, I really hope they will happen. For 2021 we have lots of plans and we have a new album to promote! So, I’m crossing my fingers for scientists to find the vaccine fast, so that we can get back on the road as soon as possible.

Beth: And finally, what message would you like to give to your fans right now?

Sami: In case you haven’t listened to “Thalassic” yet, please do. Stay safe and hope to see you all soon on the road!

Beth: Thanks again for your time. We absolutely love the new album here at Ever Metal HQ, and really hope that we get to see you perform it live sometime very soon!

Sami: Thank you very much for your kind words! 😊

All the best to you and hopefully we’ll see you soon somewhere! Stay safe!

Hello, it’s Rick again!

If you haven’t read Beth’s full review of Ensiferum’s latest album “Thalassic”, which was released on 10th July 2020 via Metal Blade Records, then hit the link below.

To keep up to date with everything Ensiferum related then visit the following links:

www.ensiferum.com
www.facebook.com/Ensiferum
www.instagram.com/ensiferummetal/
www.youtube.com/channel/UCJSZkYiD1tDoyw2icpflQRQ
www.open.spotify.com/artist/0krXCIkthz13P8o0v2tksH

Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Mike West – The Next Life

Mike West – The Next Life
Self-Released
Release Date: 07/08/2020
Running Time: 33:27
Review by Beth Jones
7/10

We first came across Mike West at our favourite haunt, Mcleans Pentre, and he instantly became a hit with me. His southern style acoustic jams conjure images of chilling round a campfire as the sun sets. And now we can all enjoy the sultry tones of his gravelly pipes from the comfort of our own homes, with “The Next Life” – his debut full length album! You can’t beat a bit of country folk/blues, can you? The tormented, Jack Daniels fuelled ramblings of the jaded, set to music, has long been a favourite of many a music fan, and I’m no exception! When listening to Mike, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he was a pure deep south cowboy, come across the pond to serenade us with ramblings penned on his back porch. But he’s not, he’s actually from Rock Ferry up on the Wirral!

“The Next Life” is packed full of all the bluesy goodness that I would expect from Mike, and has a few tracks that were my favourites live, too! It starts with the title track, which is a lilting, folk inspired tune. The addition of slide and violin here really enhances the sound, and the track travels through tempo changes which keep it interesting. And, of course, on top of it all sits Mike’s unmistakable vocals. They’re reminiscent of Tom Waits, and this pleases me greatly!

The album continues in a similar lamenting style, with Mike’s lyrical poetry featuring strongly throughout. This is one of his strongest points – his word smithery creates a wonderful storytelling element, which is both heartfelt and thought provoking. This is displayed perfectly in track 3, ‘What If?’.

With most tracks recorded in a minor key, the melancholy air of this album is tangible, but not in a bad way. It takes me back to my days playing in a folk band, where the best songs were always in a minor key! That said, I think my favourite track on the album is ‘For Them’, which is actually in a major key! However, it doesn’t lose any of it’s storytelling ability, and is full of reflection upon life, which is Mike’s forte.

The production of this album is also very well done. Recorded at Kingwood Studios in Liverpool, it has the effect of a live performance, which somehow adds to the impact of the music. And more importantly, while the addition of other instruments does fill out the sound, nothing overpowers Mike’s guitar and vocals, which are the stars of the show.

Because of Mike’s unique vocal style, “The Next Life” might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s a very well created debut full-length, of which he should be extremely proud. There’s nowhere to hide when playing acoustically and creating a set of songs that are musically sound, deep and thoughtful, but also able to captivate an audience, is a difficult thing to master. With this album, Mike West has done them all for me, and I look forward to seeing where he takes things to next, as I think he has really found himself, and now has a lot more to give.

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Next Life
02. Work On
03. What If?
04. Company I Keep
05. Away I Go
06. Father to Son
07. Rock Ferry
08. For Them
09. No Grave

LINE-UP:
Mike West – Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica and Bass
Paul Miceli-Fagrell – Harmonica, Recording and Mixing
Amy Chalmers – Violin
Travis Egnor – Pedal Steel, Slide Guitar

LINKS:
www.mike333west.com/
www.mikewest333.bandcamp.com/
www.facebook.com/mikewest333/
www.instagram.com/mike333west/
www.twitter.com/Mike333West
www.open.spotify.com/artist/4Pd2PAm9bznnxQLxQdQQ5W
www.youtube.com/channel/UCgNLsH3duyQg_VH_qlK9kpQ

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.