Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Almah - Motion (2011)

Almah [Website | Facebook | MySpace]

Almah - Motion
Almah came into being in 2006 as the solo project of Edu Falaschi, the frontman of Brazilian power metallers Angra. Encouraged by the success of the project's debut release, Falaschi evolved Almah into a full-time band with a fluid cast of supporting musicians. For Almah's third album, Motion, Falaschi is joined by guitar virtuosos Marcelo Barbosa and Paulo Schroeber, drummer Marcelo Moreira, and Angra bandmate Felipe Andreoli on bass. Although boasting three high-caliber guitarists, Almah's sound on Motion is quite unlike anything Angra has released, focusing instead on downtuned 7-string riffs and a discernibly modern heavy metal approach.

While throbbing, weighty riffs dominate Motion, Barbosa, Schroeber and Falaschi don't hesitate to compliment the groove with frequent soloing. Only the acoustic ballad "When and Why", which closes out the album, is bereft of fancy fretwork. The remaining nine tracks serve as testament to the trio's six-string skills, as barely restrained solos and enjoyably melodic refrains provide a pleasant contrast to the modern grind of the crushing riffs. "Hypnotized" and "Days of the New" best illustrate such a formula, though the intricacies of several of the other tracks are where Motion finds strength. "Living and Drifting" stands out not for its uptempo, chugging riffs, but for the industro-Gothic keyboard accents that add a nice touch of non-guitar melody. The same can be said for "Bullets on the Altar" and "Soul Alight", though the latter track also brings a furious double-kick, stomping staccato riffs, and some pinch harmonics to the table. Such contemporary sensibilities carry over to "Late Night in '85", a very modern sounding power ballad that wouldn't be at all out of place next to Shinedown and Chevelle on what passes for rock radio these days.

Besides laying down riffs and adding atmospheric synth touches, Falaschi's obvious role is to deliver the lyrics in soaring, emotive style. In this respect, too, his work with Almah differs significantly from what Angra fans would expect. He can certainly wail away at the high notes, and his somewhat unpolished style can bring to mind Geoff Tate at times, but now and then a bit of uncharacteristic aggression seeps in to his style. "Zombies Dictator" finds Falaschi at his most extreme as he meshes his thrashy performance with *core-ish breakdowns and Moreira's blast beats.

With Motion, Almah presents a rather modern and thunderous take on the power metal style, which fans of Angra will likely either love or hate. Its uber heavy and contemporary sound will also likely cause power metal purists to shy away, yet might find purchase with the tastes of the melodeath and modern thrash crowd. Despite what it's not, Motion is unquestionably a hefty album.

Track Listing
2Living and Drifting4:38
3Days of the New5:15
4Bullets on the Altar5:09
5Zombies Dictator5:16
6Trace of Trait5:02
7Soul Alight4:56
8Late Night in '854:22
9Daydream Lucidity5:49
10When and Why4:23
Total Runtime50:44

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Harvest Moon Radio Episode 7

A little late, but Episode 7 of Harvest Moon Radio is online and ready for consumption. As always, enjoy!

Harvest Moon Radio Episode 7


Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: Chasing Karma - Cosmocracy (2010)

Chasing Karma [Website | Facebook | MySpace]

Chasing Karma - Cosmocracy
After the 2008 demise of the Gulf Coast melodic rock outfit Biloxi, guitarist Mark Lanoue held together the lineup from the band's last performance and launched the Chasing Karma project. Similar in style to Biloxi, Chasing Karma is about sharp hooks, intricate harmony, and an optimistic attitude. Cosmocracy is the band's debut effort and, though the production is a bit thin at times, is an enjoyable listen for melodic rock fans who don't mind a shot or two of heaviness.

The guitars drive Chasing Karma's sound, which is expected given the fact that the band boasts three six-stringers. An interesting gimmick, for sure, but the reality is that you wouldn't know it just by listening. Lanoue, James Gillies, and Dave Melton manage to keep out of each other's way while still delivering nicely varied yet similarly-styled riffs and leads. Occasionally a bit of flair creeps in, such as the proggy solo on album opener "Destiny" or the extensive soloing on "Your Fallen", but by and large the riffs are held in check by a good sense of AOR melody. Lanoue, Gillies and Melton also add some contemporary accents at times, with a bit of an early Godsmack sound on "Destiny" and a slight Alice In Chains grunginess on the bass-heavy "What A Shame". "Fight For Me", one of the album's heaviest tracks, wraps up with a shredtastic performance of "America, The Beautiful" and - in true Hendrix style - a few notes from "The Star-Spangled Banner".

Chasing Karma
Lanoue also provides the voice for Cosmocracy's positive-outlook lyrics, and he does so with convincing emotion. His delivery is well-suited to Chasing Karma's sound, especially so during the refrains when he's joined by the rest of the band to create some of the album's more infectious moments. Lanoue has stated in the press that he deliberately avoided altering the band's vocal sound during production so that they'd capture the same dynamic that fans would hear when seeing the band play live, and Cosmocracy definitely has an "in concert" quality to it.

Melodic rock and AOR fans will want to investigate Cosmocracy further, as it has plenty of crunch and a number of power ballads to please a wide range of listeners. There's a hint of thinly-veiled evangelicalism, but the contemporary touches, such as the Weezer-like "Don't You Think", add some unexpected variety and enhance the album's appeal.

Track Listing
2What You See Is What You Get3:13
3Embrace Tomorrow3:16
4Can I See You3:25
5Tell Me4:02
6Armed & Ready4:16
7Your Fallen4:12
8Don't You Think4:46
9Say Goodbye4:39
10Brand New Start4:30
11For You5:30
12What A Shame4:29
13Dream Tonight2:40
14Fight For Me6:05
Total Runtime57:44

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review: Orange Goblin - A Eulogy for the Damned (2012)

Orange Goblin [Website | Facebook | MySpace]
A Eulogy for the Damned

Orange Goblin - A Eulogy for the Damned
It's been five years since Orange Goblin's last studio release, and for a couple of those years it looked as though the follow-up to Healing Through Fire would never see the light of day. Finally, though, the wait is at an end as the British rockers unleash A Eulogy for the Damned. The extra years seem to have benefited the band, and frontman Ben Ward in particular, as A Eulogy for the Damned is a roughly polished gem of fuzzy Southern doom rock fit for brawling from Birmingham (UK) to Biloxi (MS).

Ward's vocal style, while still whiskey-fueled and belligerent, is a bit more finely tuned on this album than on previous releases. Maximizing his limited range, Ward dabbles with alternative delivery methods to add a touch more melody and emotion to a couple of tracks on the album. "Save Me From Myself", which has the potential to be a new Southern rock anthem, finds Ward dropping much of his trademark gruffness and really giving his all on a beer-raising sing-along chorus. On the title track, Ward closes out A Eulogy for the Damned with a clean, bluesy vocal performance that meshes well with the stripped down riffs and classic rock leads.

Orange Goblin
The six-string contributions, shared by Ward and Joe Hoare, are also notably improved on this album. Still mostly shrouded in bottom-end distortion, the riffs occasionally emerge into the sunlight to offer up a tantalizing lead or a Skynryd-esque solo. "Save Me From Myself" stands out once more in this regard, with slow-cooked bluesy riffs bolstered by Southern-fried leads and solos demanding comparison to the classic days of Molly Hatchet and Blackfoot. Elsewhere, the stoner effect is in full force as the swirling riffs of "Red Tide Rising" combine with the majestic doom of "The Fog" as a testament to Orange Goblin's status as one of the style's contemporary leaders.

A Eulogy for the Damned is not without a bit of experimentation on the band's part, however. While the Hammond organ provides a nice touch to the title track and "Bishop's Wolf", among others, "Acid Trial" introduces some complex time signatures and some rather progressive riff patterns that are a little out of step with the rest of the album. The song is interesting and certainly menacing with its dark tone, but slightly distracting. I'll definitely take the processed ZZ Top vocals and '70s funk rock of "Return to Mars" over prog noodling any day.

Orange Goblin's A Eulogy for the Damned is perhaps the band's most mature effort to date, but it's still a beer swilling knife fight waiting to happen. There's no better illustration of that attitude than the indignant, anti-authority rant from the 1969 biker flick Satan's Sadists which opens "The Filthy and the Few". Right on.

Track Listing
1Red Tide Rising5:44
2Stand for Something4:42
3Acid Trial5:08
4The Filthy and the Few4:27
5Save Me From Myself6:53
6The Fog7:40
7Return to Mars3:21
8Death of Aquarius6:43
9Bishop's Wolf5:34
10A Eulogy for the Damned8:12
Total Runtime58:24

Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: Iron Savior - The Landing (2011)

Iron Savior [Website | MySpace]
The Landing

Iron Savior - The Landing
We all need a little cheese in our lives now and then. Be it mozzarella, Gorgonzola, cheddar, or good ol' German power metal, a bit of Käse does the body good. Piet Sielck has built a career upon our love of cheese. Co-founding Iron Savior in 1996 with fellow countryman Kai Hansen, Sielck proceeded to unleash seven album of unapologetically anthemic power metal. Hansen has long since departed the Iron Savior ranks, but Sielck has soldiered on making little modification to the outfit's core sound. The band's seventh album, The Landing, is therefore testament to a formula of metal that continues to strike a chord within the community despite, or due to, over-the-top bombast and speculative lyrical imagery.

Differing little from its predecessors, The Landing is built upon the dominant riffs of Sielck and Joachim Küstner, with the relentless double-kick of Thomas Nack an ever-present source of energy. While speed is a hallmark of the power metal elite, Sielck and Küstner are at their best on tracks like "The Savior" and "Moment In Time" when velocity is traded for healthy doses of grit and crunch. Even though not as hypersonic as songs such as "Starlight" and "Faster Than All", the latter a thinly veiled ode to Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider, Iron Savior's moderately paced numbers still deliver the goods with some rather expressive leads and creative solos. "Moment In Time" even opens with a nice rumbling bass solo from Jan-Sören Eckert, strengthening an already solid mid-album track. "R.U. Ready", which references many of metal's pioneers from Steppenwolf to AC/DC, shows the two six-stringers adopting more of a classic metal sound as an homage to the founders of our beloved genre.

Iron Savior
Another consistent aspect of Iron Savior's sound is Sielck's unpolished vocal performance, just as strong as ever on The Landing. His range is sometimes surprising, given his somewhat unconventional (as far as power metal vocals go) approach. What's not surprising, however, is the band's use of catchy, fist-pumping choruses. The Landing is virtually oozing with them, as you'd expect any Teutonic power metal album to be, and for the most part they hit the mark. The chorus on one of the album's highlights, "Heavy Metal Never Dies", works the 'headbangers united' theme for everything it's worth - and the nice AOR keyboard atmosphere certainly doesn't hurt this song's staying power. "Hall Of The Heroes" delivers one of The Landing's better shout-along gang choruses and also has a bit of a flashy twin-guitar run at the end.

Fans of Iron Savior, as well as those who gravitate to the style put forth by bands such as Primal Fear, Gamma Ray and Rage, will know exactly what to expect from The Landing. Sielck continues to stay the course, proving yet again that, like an aged cheddar, more of the same isn't necessarily a bad thing. Neither is The Landing, although losing the rather flat power ballad "Before The Pain" would have made the album even better.

Track Listing
2The Savior5:03
4March Of Doom4:57
5Heavy Metal Never Dies4:29
6Moment In Time6:14
7Hall Of The Heroes5:53
8R.U. Ready5:03
9Faster Than All5:18
10Before The Pain4:49
11No Guts No Glory4:46
Total Runtime53:51

Friday, February 17, 2012

Harvest Moon Radio Episode 6

Back for more metal and rock, Harvest Moon Radio Episode 6 is now online. Enjoy!

Harvest Moon Radio Episode 6


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Review: Black Skies - On The Wings Of Time (2012)

Black Skies [Website | Facebook | MySpace]
On The Wings Of Time

Black Skies - On The Wings Of Time
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has long been known for emitting some powerful alt-rock artists. Ben Folds Five, Archers of Loaf, and most famously Southern Culture on the Skids are just a few of the many nationally successful acts the Carolina college town has produced. When it comes to heavy metal and hard rock, however, rattling off a list of names isn't so easy. The trio known as Black Skies are hoping to change that with their third release (and first long-player) On The Wings Of Time, as they harness the unmistakable blues rock of Led Zeppelin into their own sludge of doomy psychedelia.

The band (Kevin Clark - vocals/guitar, Michelle Temple - bass/vocals, Tim Herzog - drums) cite not only Led Zep as a major influence, but Black Sabbath as well. As you might expect, much of On The Wings Of Time serves as an homage to Black Skies' inspirational sources, but the skill with which they blend and expand upon their motivational sounds and inject a bit of post-metal nuance makes this album greater than the sum of its parts. While many of the riffs are simplistic, the liberal application of distortion provides a nice sludgey tone to what is already an incredibly groovy guitar sound. Temple routinely parts the six-string veil with tasty bass solos, but her most engaging contribution is in the vocal department.

Black Skies
Clark, who provides the majority of the vocals, centers himself primarily within a gruff, but clean, range. The rawness with which he dishes out the lyrics is soothed by Temple's melodic croon, though on album opener "Rebirth" both singers adopt a slightly punkish shout to their deliveries. "Darkness & Disguise" and "The Other Side of the Mountain", the former track being the catchiest tune on the album, finds Temple using her voice more for melody than lyrics. The way Clark and Temple compliment each others style is an enjoyable aspect of On The Wings Of Time and, together with the robust guitar sound, keeps Black Skies' basic song structures interesting and enjoyable.

That guitar sound is the almost overwhelmingly dominant element of the album, ranging from subdued, acoustic riffs to the Egyptian melodies of "Valley of the Kings". Almost always steeped in distortion, Clark's riffs are accentuated by numerous sharp leads and fuzzy solos. The instrumental "Weightless" finds Clark breaking out the keyboard to create a nice windswept atmosphere as a means of stretching the band's sound, while Temple adds a bit of a Jethro Tull ambiance with her flute on the majestic closing track "The Sleeping Prophet".

On The Wings Of Time is a well-produced, enjoyable album of independently-released metal. Black Skies' conglomeration of doom, hard rock, and post-metal will appeal to a variety of listeners, and perhaps be an early step in putting Chapel Hill on the heavy metal map.

Track Listing
2Darkness & Disguise5:06
3The Other Side Of The Mountain7:32
5Valley Of The Kings9:30
7Earth Choker5:24
8The Sleeping Prophet9:48
Total Runtime52:23

Friday, February 10, 2012

Harvest Moon Radio Episode 5

Back once more with another hour of metal and hard rock for your listening pleasure.

Harvest Moon Radio Episode 5


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: Nephelium - Coils of Entropy (2012)

Nephelium [Facebook | MySpace]
Coils of Entropy

Nephelium - Coils of Entropy
Although currently based out of Toronto, Canada, the origins of the death metal outfit Nephelium can be traced back to the Middle Eastern nation of Dubai when guitarist Alex Zubair and drummer Alan Madhavan came together with a brutal vision of metallic domination. After completing the line-up, releasing a demo and an EP, and sharing the stage with notables of the genre like Decide and Neuraxis, Nephelium have unleashed their debut full-length in the form of Coils of Entropy.

The album is undeniably brutal, considerably technical, yet interestingly approachable. The six tracks are dominated by swirling riffs, seemingly wayward beat patterns, and familiar belching guttural death metal vocals. Frequently, however, the chaos is held in check by some very weighty, mosh-inciting riffs and sharp solos containing just a hint of Middle Eastern melodies. Each track is an attention-grabbing conglomeration of ferocity and groove, with blast beats serving as complimentary backdrops for deliberate, chugging riffs.

Devlin Anderson's sulfurous vocal performance is well executed, though his incoherent blathering toward the end of "Malediction" provides one of the few questionable aspects of Coils of Entropy. Otherwise, Nephelium's debut long player has just enough cacophony to please the anarchists while keeping the pit fiends engaged with plenty of primal groove.

Track Listing
1Burial Ground5:04
2Merciless Annihilation6:17
5Halls Of Judgement5:56
6Coils Of Entropy10:05
Total Runtime41:16

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Review: The Devil's Blood - The Thousandfold Epicentre (2012)

The Devil's Blood [Website | Facebook]
The Thousandfold Epicentre

The Devils Blood - The Thousandfold Epicentre
Shrouding their origins in mystery and theatrically drenching themselves in blood during their live performances, or rituals, Dutch occult rockers The Devil's Blood live and breathe the early-'70s psychedelic horror lifestyle from which they draw inspiration. The band's sophomore full-length, The Thousandfold Epicentre, is an often groovy, though sometimes wayward, tribute to the music and vocal styles that helped define an entire genre of filmmaking and propelled the practice of "dark rites" to mainstream audiences.

If you're old enough to have enjoyed flicks like Messiah of Evil and A Virgin Among the Living Dead on late night TV, or are a member of later generations who discovered these ghoulish treats through the Interwebs, The Thousandfold Epicentre will strike a familiar chord. Psychedelic keys mingle with a sharp '60s guitar tone and mind-altered solos, all bolstered by the organic vocal performance of .... who the hell knows, really. Adopting a set of initials/symbols as a stage name, The Devil's Blood frontwoman is nonetheless a capable, soulful singer that reminds me a lot of Shirley Bassey - particularly on the track "Cruel Lover". Her confident, mid-range style presides over the groovy goings on with a classiness that veils the dark subject matter of her lyrics, making The Thousandfold Epicentre that much more alluring. Her standard delivery is often accentuated with some nicely multi-tracked touches, such as the layered harmonies on "Die the Death" and the ritualistic chants of "On the Wings of Gloria", which also features some background howls and growls from the other initialed member of the band.

The Devils Blood
As the strongest track on The Thousandfold Epicentre, "On the Wings of Gloria" sets the tone early with an irresistible classic rock groove and a head-shaking '60s tone. Distorted and somewhat unrestrained solos join with the aforementioned growls to haunt the otherwise uplifting melodies, reinforcing the overall sense of disarming menace that flows throughout the album. The plucky leads and wistful vocal harmonies carry over to "Die the Death", where frontwoman SL/TDB/A-O reaches a bit higher in her range and adds a soft vibrato to her already potent arsenal. The "Crimson and Clover" memories are dusted off as "Within the Charnel House of Love" gets going, as a bit of psychedelic processing  is added to the vocals to go along with another dose of sharp, groovy guitar.

After the slow gallop of "Cruel Lover", The Thousandfold Epicentre begins to loosen up a bit as more and more ambient moments arrive to push the guitars deeper in the mix. Surrealistic tones blend with disarming orchestration to dominate that latter half of the album, though the prominent bass and plentiful solos of the title track serve to remind that all is not as it seems. The vocals recede to mostly whispers on the final three tracks, while the 15-minute album closer "Feverdance" eventually builds in volume with a nice riff underscored by some scratchy soloing and a bit of a psycho-circus keyboard ambiance.

Non-musical gimmicks aside, The Thousandfold Epicentre is a good album of groovy psychedelic rock. Its strongest moments are mostly confined to the first half of the record, making for a bit of an unbalanced listen, but there's still plenty to satisfy classic rock fans and aficionados of '70s era occult films.

Track Listing
1Unending Singularity2:36
2On the Wings of Gloria7:22
3Die the Death4:11
4Within the Charnel House of Love3:53
5Cruel Lover7:44
7The Thousandfold Epicentre9:20
8Fire Burning5:24
9Everlasting Saturnalia6:31
10The Madness of Serpents8:47
Total Runtime1:17:19

Friday, February 3, 2012

Harvest Moon Radio Episode 4

Finally got Episode 4 together for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!

Harvest Moon Radio Episode 4