Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Video: Autumn Hour - Fade Out

New Jersey sci-fi prog metallers Autumn Hour have posted a video for "Fade Out", which comes off their upcoming debut release Dethroned.  The album is slated to be released next month via Rock Ridge Music.

For more info: Website | MySpace

Monday, April 27, 2009

Video: Nahemah - The Perfect Depth of the Mermaids

Spanish melo-death metal outfit Nahemah has posted a video for their song "The Perfect Depth of the Mermaids", which appears on their fourth studio album A New Constellation.

For more info: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Review: Evadne - The 13th Condition (2007)

Evadne [ Website | MySpace ]
The 13th Condition
(2007)
self-released

Frequent visitors to Harvest Moon Music will know that I have an affinity for the Gothic Doom style of metal. Theatre of Tragedy, Katatonia, and early The Gathering all exhibit the kind of dark, depressive, and angered style of Heavy Metal that I covet. I simply can't get enough of it. Therefore, whenever I stumble upon an up-and-coming band plying the murky waters of this particular sub-genre, I'm all for lending them an eager ear. From Valencia, on Spain's Mediterranean coast, comes Evadne. Aptly named after the ill-fated wife of Capaneus in Greek Mythology, the band exudes doom and melancholy throughout their debut full-length The 13th Condition.

If you're in the least bit familiar with the aforementioned bands or the Doom/Death style of metal in general, then you're going to know exactly what to expect from Evadne. The 13th Condition is rife with imposing, sorrowful riffs and mournful violin arrangements. The guitars of Josan and Fernando are held primarily in reserve, serving to heighten the dark atmosphere constructed by the lush keyboard work of Jessie (who has since left the band). The vocals are the pseudo Cookie Monster-ish Death Metal growls you'd expect, though frontman Albert does a fine job enunciating the lyrics. To keep things vocally interesting Albert adopts a dispirited spoken-word style on occasion, such as during "Awaiting", and even delves into more of a Black Metal shriek on "A Decadent Puppet". That particular track also features some heavy double-kick from drummer Rafa and some light tremolo riffing from Josan and Fernando. With some majestic keyboard riffs thrown in for good measure, "A Decadent Puppet" comes across as one of the more sinister tracks on The 13th Condition.

In the typical Beauty-and-the-Beast style of Gothic Doom vocals, the harsh male voice is essentially balanced by the inclusion of wistful female vox. In addition to contributing a wealth of violin passages, Lady Nott guests as Evadne's beauty. Atypical of the style, however, is the frequency of Lady Nott's appearances. Perhaps comprising only a third of the vocal passages, her ethereal voice is used just enough to leave the listener wanting more - sort of an aural tease, if you will. Her voice is smooth, wispy, and definitely a positive addition to Evadne's sound. Hopefully she'll continue to be a part of the band's future releases.

The 13th Condition is not an album that transcends established stylings, but it is an extraordinary example of Gothic Doom that any fan of the style must have in their collection. With this release, the members of Evadne have proven themselves to be excellent songwriters and I have little doubt that they'll be snatched up by a label at any moment. Get your hands on this one.


Track Listing
1 Intro 1:59
2 No One Of Them 6:21
3 Awaiting 8:44
4 Follow In The Loveless 8:34
5 A Decadent Puppet 7:50
6 Wounds That Time Is Unable To Close 8:10
7 Los Temps e Loch 3:17
8 I Will Place Them 8:09
9 Torn Cry 6:06
Total Runtime 59:10



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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Review: Diphtheria - To Wait For Fire (2008)

Diphtheria [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
To Wait For Fire
(2008)

Diphtheria, besides being a nasty throat condition, is the name of a Cyprus-based traditional metal band formed back in 1995 who's style of metal would have catapulted them into the spotlight had they been on the scene a decade earlier. Instead, their NWOBHM-influenced dual-guitar riffs and harmonized leads lay relatively dormant until their debut full-length album To Wait For Fire was released in 2008 by Pitch Black Records - which, not coincidentally, was founded by Diphtheria guitarist Phivos Papadopoulos. The band's debut album is, through and through, '80s traditional metal at its best. Hell, even the production lends a Bark At The Moon-era Randy Rhoads ambiance to the guitar tone. For those of you who are, like me, still preoccupied with 1985....read on.

As previously mentioned, Diphtheria's core sound is pillared by the memorable, driving riffs of Papadopoulos and Socrates Leptos (Arryan Path, Prodigal Earth). While most often adopting a simple, catchy style, the two axemen occasionally take on a Doomier edge as on "I Believe" (which reminds me a lot of Queensrÿche) and the heavily Black Sabbath-influenced "Save Me". Of course, To Wait For Fire couldn't be considered a traditional metal album without an Iron Maiden influence, and it can indeed be heard most distinctly in the anxious harmonized riffs that propel "Sleeping With the Worms" as well as in the subdued guitar intro of "As Darkness Casts its Veil".

Equal in importance to the fine six-string work from Papadopoulos and Leptos is the very strong vocal performance of frontman Nicholas Leptos (Arryan Path, Prodigal Earth). His style is quite remarkable due to his depth of emotion and his knack for the dramatic. Mostly he belts out the lyrics in a typical mid-range metal fashion, but on tracks like "Behind the Mirror's Eye" and "Save Me" his delivery is so theatrical that I swore I was listening to a metallized production of Phantom of the Opera. That's not a bad thing at all, mind you, as he certainly adds a depth of character to the songs. There are times, however, that Leptos strays a little too high with his falsettos and comes off sounding thin. In the end, his performance on To Wait For Fire certainly qualifies him to be considered among the better vocalists of the genre.

The last two tracks on the album, "Living to Die" and "God Wanted (Apply Here)", are remastered tracks from Diphtheria's first demo entitled Living to Die. They stand out not only because Leptos' vocals are a tad less polished than on the preceding tracks, but also because the songs themselves provide an interesting look into the band's early style. "Living to Die" has a nice acoustic intro coupled with a Jeff Beck-like bluesy solo, but the subsequent Judas Priest-inspired riffs are overshadowed by some questionable female vocals. Not a great choice. The final track, however, is one of the most interesting of the album. Opening with a newscaster voice over (courtesy of Britain's Liana Weafer), the following acoustic guitar and piano interplay is quite groovy - and the foot really gets tapping thanks to Alexi David's driving bass.

As a fan of the traditional metal scene of the 1980s, I'm very impressed by Diphtheria's debut. Most of the members have gone on to other metal acts so a follow-up to To Wait For Fire may not be in the cards, but for those metal fans who can't get enough of that old-school Heavy Metal this is an album that you shouldn't be without.





Track Listing
1 Ending Ceremony 5:39
2 I Believe 4:49
3 Behind the Mirror's Eye 5:15
4 To Wait for Fire 3:02
5 As Darkness Casts its Veil 5:10
6 Sleeping With the Worms 3:38
7 Save Me 5:22
8 Start Again 5:24
9 Living to Die 6:34
10 God Wanted (Apply Here) 5:03
Total Runtime 49:50



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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Review: Annexed Asylum - Combustion (2009)

Annexed Asylum [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
Combustion
(2009)
self-released

There are a number of Heavy Metal critics who look upon the current incarnation of the Thrash revival as little more than a fleeting trend that will ultimately do nothing to advance the genre as a whole. Personally, I feel that Heavy Metal is - like many genres - cyclic in nature. What was new becomes passé, only to become new again through contemporary interpretation. Whether an album establishes a new subgenre or adheres to a tried-and-true formula is irrelevant, as long as said album kicks ass. Simple as that. Having thrown up the horns to many an '80s Thrash album, I applaud the latest wave of bands who build their sound around a core influenced by the likes of Anthrax, Slayer, and Testament. Birmingham, Alabama's Annexed Asylum is one of those bands, proving with their debut EP Combustion that they're ready to be counted among the new Thrash Metal legions.

As I'm sure you've guessed by this point, Annexed Asylum's sound is rooted in old-school Thrash. Each of the six songs on the EP overflows with meaty riffs, wild solos, and spastic beats - a treat for any genre fan. Combustion isn't merely a tribute album, however. One reason the album stands on its own is frontman Andrew's versatile voice. Throughout the disc he alters his delivery style, from throaty Death Metal growls to straightforward Thrashy shouts to clean singing that reminds me a bit of Layne Staley. "Censor Controlled" features Andrew belting out some raspy, almost Black Metal-ish snarls to go along with Mark's virtual wall of cymbal smashing as Johnny and Tim lay down some of the most sinister riffs on the EP. The title track, with its cornucopia of heavy riffing and the most solid solo of the album, ranks as my favorite track. That being said, the Flea-inspired bass intro on "Six Years in Hell" makes the closing track a highlight as well.

Even though just six songs deep, Combustion contains enough variety to please both old-school purists and modern Thrash advocates. Annexed Asylum has managed to successfully blend traditional influences with contemporary elements in a way that does justice to both schools of thought, and is a band that anyone with an affinity for Thrash should pay attention to.


Track Listing
1 Zealots 3:15
2 World of Decay 3:33
3 Censor Controlled 3:46
4 Morbid Torture 3:47
5 Combustion 5:05
6 Six Years in Hell 4:19
Total Runtime 23:45


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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Review: Prodigal Earth - Zenith II Zero (2009)

Prodigal Earth [ Website | MySpace ]
Zenith II Zero
(2009)
Pitch Black Records

Cyprus doesn't immediately spring to mind when thinking of Heavy Metal hot spots, but there are a handful of notable outfits that call the Mediterranean island home. Prodigal Earth is making a strong case to be counted among them with their debut album Zenith II Zero, a hefty slab of traditionally inspired Power Metal overflowing with solid riffs and soaring vocals.

With the Cypriot metal scene being rather small, it comes as no surprise that three-fifths of Prodigal Earth are also members of other groups. Nicholas Leptos (vocals), Socrates Leptos (guitar), and Paris Lambrou (bass) all are, or have been, members of Arryan Path and Diphtheria. Both bands are similar in style to Prodigal Earth, with Arryan Path being the more epic of the two while Diphtheria works a fairly straightforward brand of Power Metal. Given such immediate influences, Prodigal Earth's sound emerges as a well-balanced blend of European style Power Metal and the more ballsy sound of bands like Kamelot and Jag Panzer.

Zenith II Zero gets started with the speedy "Disaster 121", one of the more frantically paced songs to be found on the album. Unfortunately, I thought this to be one of Prodigal Earth's weakest performances in that the choruses seemed just a tad rushed and the pacing came off as clumsy. The band gets it together on subsequent tracks, however, with "Lonely Gods" displaying their more progressive tendencies. A rallying bass line starts off the track, leading in to some Middle Eastern themed riffs and eventually a nice extended solo. "Once Upon A Crime" is the best example of Euro Power Metal to be found on the disc, its speedy riffs intermingling with with undulating keyboard runs courtesy of Japon. My favorite song, due in no small part to the wicked dual-guitar riffs dripping with '80s distortion, is "Crossroads". The chord progressions are simple, but gritty and catchy as hell. While every track sports an admirable amount of soloing, the wild six-string ride on "Crossroads" is simply snazzy. The following two songs follow in an Iron Maiden-inspired traditional metal vein, slaying with precise twin-guitar riffs as well as driving beats from skinsman Nicholas Philippou.

The album begins to take a turn on "The End (Ashes Of Desire Pt. 1)". The song is a power ballad very reminiscent of Manowar's style, with rousing gang choruses and wailing guitar leads. Frontman Leptos had, until this point, delivered an absolutely flawless performance. The man has one serious set of pipes, hitting the falsettos with the best of them, but on this ballad he sounds very uncomfortable and somewhat forced. His performance isn't bad, just awkward compared to the heights reached on previous tracks. Zenith II Zero closes with the string and woodwind enhanced ballad "Pro Defunctis", a notable track due to its moving orchestration and Leptos' heartfelt vocals. As a bonus, the album contains an alternate version of this track featuring Leptos in a duet with Marilena Solomou. While both versions are solid, I definitely prefer hearing some female vocals thrown into the mix.

Fans of Power Metal that contains more power than pomp will no doubt find Zenith II Zero an album most worthy of adding to their collection. Prodigal Earth has shown that they have the chops to make a name for themselves, and I am certainly looking forward to the band's future releases.





Track Listing
1Disaster 1214:53
2Broken World4:05
3Lonely Gods4:06
4Once Upon A Crime5:22
5Crossroads5:14
6God's Children4:43
7The Young Ones3:14
8Will To Live7:01
9The End (Ashes of Desire Pt. 1)6:29
10Pro Defunctis4:17
11Pro Defunctis [alternate version]4:16
Total Runtime53:40



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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Review: Force Majeure - Gatecrusher (2004)

Force Majeure [ Website | MySpace ]
Gatecrusher
(2004)
self-released

Gatecrusher is the fourth demo from Finland's Force Majeure, and the band's last before signing with Low Frequency Records and releasing their debut full-length in 2008. Formed in 2000, Force Majeure is a fairly typical Power Metal band in terms of song structure and style, though they inject some slight variations to the tried-and-true formula.

Only three songs deep, Gatecrusher doesn't have a lot of time to make a lasting impression or to sum up Force Majeure's style in any amount of depth. Right out of the gate, so to speak, the title track is little more than pedestrian Power Metal molded in the Scandinavian style of the late 1990s. Guitarists Eemeli Ojanen and Jussi Reuhkala lay down some tight melodic riffs, but nothing too flashy or overly infectious. Their leads and solos are also somewhat safe, though their six-string skills are evident. The keys, supplied by Veikko Oittinen (who has since departed the band), are relegated to the background and make little impact on the song. Riku Turunen's vocals are, however, a departure from the precise delivery style often associated with this brand of metal. Soaring falsettos and hearty wails are given in spades, but Turunen's style is significantly less refined than most of his contemporaries. His performance is far from hideous, however, so if you can overlook a little shakiness in his vocals then it's really not too much of a distraction.

"Distant, Silent, Gone" cranks up the keys a little bit with an atmospheric intro and a nice piano run in the later stages on the song. Turunen sticks primarily to the lower reaches of his range, adopting a bit of a growl during his delivery, though he still reaches high during the choruses. Tuomas Väänänen's bass is quite assertive on this track and adds just a bit more depth to the riffs. Even so, the song is relatively unremarkable Power Metal and is the only one of the tracks on Gatecrusher not to make the band's full-length debut.

The final track is by far the strongest on the demo. Opening with a galloping bass line and a gritty guitar melody, "I Hear Voices" reigns in a bit of the speed displayed on the previous songs and focuses on placing more power in Force Majeure's Power Metal. The main riff is quite infectious, and the catchy chorus is enhanced by the addition of female vocals courtesy of Maya Paakkeri. Unfortunately, Turunen's performance is his weakest of the demo and he often sounds a tad off key. Ojanen and Reuhkala come to the rescue with some admirable leads, giving the song just enough of an edge over the previous two.

If you're a fan of Scandinavian Power Metal in the vein of Hammerfall, then Force Majeure is a band that's probably right up your alley. Just keep in mind the questionable vocals.


Track Listing
1Gatecrusher3:08
2Distant, Silent, Gone5:05
3I Hear Voices4:54
Total Runtime13:07



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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Review: Shelter Red - Strike A Mortal Terror (2009)

Shelter Red [ MySpace ]
Strike A Mortal Terror
(2009)
Sound Vs. Silence Records

When I receive a CD and the promo materials use words like "completely original" and "phenomenal" to describe the music, I can't help but roll my eyes a time or two and chuckle. I can't even come close to counting the number of times I've read those terms, among others, but the music being described ended up sounding far less innovative than the one sheet would have me believe. Then along comes Strike A Mortal Terror, the latest release from Oregon's Shelter Red, with accompanying press exalting the progressive, technical aspects of the band's instrumental Heavy Metal. I'll admit that my curiosity was piqued before the first spin of the disc, given that the band is actually a two-man outfit comprised of Stephan Hawkes (guitars/drums) and Austin Crook (bass), but I was not at all prepared for the sonic immersion that I was about to experience.

Although the term progressive tends to turn off most metalheads, particularly when used to describe a wholly instrumental effort, in the case of Strike A Mortal Terror a significant emphasis is placed upon crafting songs that are not only technically complex but are also enjoyable to listen to. Shelter Red avoid labyrinthine riffs and instead focus on creating infectious, harmonized melodies that not only capture attention but retain it. Throughout the album I hear influences from some of the more atmospheric alt-rock outfits, such as Thrice and Arcade Fire, though the mesmerizing acoustics on Strike A Mortal Terror rely entirely on 6- and 4-string instruments without any keyboard assistance.

The mid-paced "This Is A Lost Ambition" serves as the best example of Shelter Red's novel formula. While the focus is on Hawkes' guitar, the song being essentially a four-minute solo, there is so much going on at so many different layers that the end result is a tightly woven aural shroud. A plucky riff starts off the track, but there's a haunting lead buried deep in the mix that snares the listener as the song builds into a kaleidoscope of sound. My favorite track is "Inferno", with its urgent bass lines, involved beat patterns, and captivating melodies. Crook's bass is quite prominent throughout the album, lending a certain Rush familiarity to the songs. That's not to say there's a "retro" quality, however. "Dejanira" has quite a modern metal edge to some of the riffs, and wouldn't be at all out of place alongside acts such as Disturbed or Sevendust, while the title track has a certain melodic Death Metal quality to it with tremolo riffs, double bass drumming, and thick bass runs.

I'm impressed by the level of skill displayed on Strike A Mortal Terror. Both Hawkes and Crook turn in flawless performances, with hats off to Hawkes for nailing such complex guitar and drum arrangements. Despite the intricate songwriting on Strike A Mortal Terror, the album is very easy to get in to and enjoy. It loses a little steam during the last two songs, but all-in-all this is definitely an album for fans seeking something fresh.





Track Listing
1Strike A Mortal Terror3:44
2Inferno4:31
3This Is A Lost Ambition4:26
4The Moralist4:18
5Dejanira3:58
6A Confusion Of Tongues3:58
7Last Rites For The Dying6:16
Total Runtime31:11



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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Review: Dice Of Fate - Living For The Thrills (2009)

Dice Of Fate [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
Living For The Thrills
(2009)
self-released

In Living For The Thrills, Finland's Dice Of Fate has put together quite an interesting album. Aspects of Thrash, Hard Rock, Power Metal, and NWOBHM have been swizzled together to create a potent cocktail of fist-pumping Heavy Metal certain to quench the thirsts of a wide variety of metal fans.

Taking their cue from the likes of Tipton/Downing and Murray/Smith, guitarists Antti and Jani provide volley upon volley of dual-guitar harmonies. Every song is guitar-centric, with the two axe-slingers laying down scorching solos and snarling leads when not joined together in rifftastic melodies. Too much of a good thing isn't always good, however, and the songs occasionally become a little too busy as Antti and Jani muscle out opposing leads. Such occurrences aren't common, making this gripe a minor one, but Dice Of Fate's overall sound will surely benefit from tightening up this particular aspect. The title track is an example of the band firing on all cylinders, where the meandering runs are well synchronized and the emphasis is placed on the soaring riffs. The addition of some atmospheric leads gives the track just a hint of a Gothic feel, while Antti's vocal performance reminds me a lot of Mathias Blad (Falconer) and adds a Power Metal touch to the track. The similarities between Antti and Blad surface again on "One Way Out", but overall Dice Of Fate's frontman possesses a thrashy mid-range style that neither soars nor roars - yet is powerful and enjoyable. Besides the title track, album highlights include the infectious chorus and vocalizations of "The Race" as well as the sizzling Power Metal of the hidden track at the end of the disc.

Although Dice Of Fate hasn't really ventured into uncharted territory on Living For The Thrills, the band has drifted apart from the pack by bucking trends and releasing a very solid album of good ol' Heavy Metal that doesn't sound like a throwback to the '80s (not that that's a bad thing, by any means). It's pure, it's ass-kicking, it's Heavy Metal. Go to the band's MySpace page and get your hands on this one.


Track Listing
1 Life Long Plan 3:32
2 Living For The Thrills 4:13
3 One Way Out 2:46
4 The Race 3:51
5 Mr. Greed 3:04
6 Blossom & Decay 3:01
7 End Of Another Dream 4:13
8 Without Lillith 2:53
9 All My Sins 2:56
10 Love Is Loud 8:54
Total Runtime 39:23



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