The Great Metal Debate Podcast

Sep 10 2020 20 mins 66

Podcast where Brian and Gomthog engage in a lively debate of heavy metal music as well as interviewing artists and talking to fans. Occasional explicit language.

Album Review - From A Dying Ember
Sep 07 2020 4 mins  
Falconer is a Swedish folk/power metal band that I have always had mixed feelings about. Some of their albums seem very good to me while other albums have fell short of any expectations I may of had. In other words they are very hit or miss in my opinion. Before listening to this new album my favorite Falconer album was their 2008 CD titled Among Beggars and Thieves. Once I finished listening to this new album three times in a row, I decided that From A Dying Ember would dethrone my now 2nd favorite. Right from the start we are introduced with a burst of sound as the first song begins. "Kings and Queens" is the bait around the hook for any listener as it will reel you in and keep you listening. I have always admired Falconer's style of folk metal blended with power metal. It is the perfect combination of music that will make you bang your head while thinking of medieval times. The next track is "Desert Dreams" which was the first single from this record. After a strong lead guitar riff by Jimmy Hedlend, vocalist Mathias Blad shows off his unique singing talent. His voice is both calm but with a fast paced rhythm that fits seamlessly with the tempo change. My personal favorite song on this album is the third song called "Redeem and Repent". It begins with a groovy riff by Stefan Weinerhall followed by a bombardment of very catch lyrics. By your 2nd listen you will know most of the song by heart and your favorite part of the song will be after the 30 second mark. You know the part. The part where most of the music stops except for the slow plucking of an acoustic guitar and Mathias says the following ... "The scepter is stolen by a jester and the king's called beware of his temper beware of his pride. Wise men bang their heads against the wall, hear the sinister call". I also loved the deeper lyrics "... As the children play chess with the world". This song also has a guitar solo that has a sound that will get stuck in your head. Next we have the album's only song sang in the band's Swedish tongue. This is the only issue I have with the album as that there wasn't enough songs like this. In previous albums they would often have a few songs sang in a foreign language. The song is called "Bland Sump Och Dy". This song also starts off with a bass line played by Magnus Linhardt. "A Fool's Crusade" is the 5th track and this is when the album gets softer in tone but still hits you in the soul. "Garnets and a Gilded Rose" is a brief instrumental before continuing with another groovy tune titled "In Regal Attire". It begins with some flutes before chugging guitars and another catchy course. "Rejoice the Adorned" is the slowest and most calm song on the entire album as it only features Mathias' voice and a piano. Its still a good song despite drummer Karsten Larsson and the rest of the band being absent on this one. The whole band returns for the 9th track that is the most upbeat and my 2nd favorite song on the album "Testify". It is by far the most lyrically catchy song and you'll be trying to singing along before the song is over. Its songs like this that make me with this amazing power metal act would continue. Unfortunately that isn't the case. The band split up for good after recording From A Dying Ember. Track 10 is "Thrust The Dagger Deep" and its another sing along that midway through the song has an unusual instrument for this genre. There is a part with a steel guitar that gives it a slight country element to the overall sound. The final song is "Rapture" and it is a great way to end the last record of a 21 year musical career since 1999. With that being said, I rate Falconer - From A Dying Ember as their best work and I will award it with a well deserved 9.5/10 score.

Album Review - We Are One
Jul 21 2020 6 mins  
Hey everyone this is Red Iron here for The Great Metal Debate to share with you our review of We Are One - the new collaboration between U.D.O. and the Musikkorps der Bundeswehr, the official concert band of the German armed forces. The U.D.O. lineup is mostly intact since their most recent studio album, Steel Factory. 68 year old Udo Dirkschneider is on vocals bringing a refined touch and instinct he has developed over the course of 26 studio albums worth of experience. You of course know his gritty voice from Accept classics such as “Balls to the Wall” and “Fast as a Shark”. The band has Andrey Smirnoff and Fabian Dee Dammers on guitars, Tilen Hudrap constantly standing out on bass, and Sven Dirkschneider, the son of Udo, behind the drum kit. But that's not all: this time they have around 60 friends along for the ride. The Concert Band of the German Armed Forces is the same orchestra that supported U.D.O. at Naval Metal Night, and the joint effort of We Are One is the logical continuation. The album contains rock, metal, prog, ballads, and even some funkiness, all the while keeping a consistent tone and quality. There are 15 songs arranged by U.D.O. together with Christoph Scheibling with songwriting contributions from two former Accept members - Stephan Kaufman and Peter Baltes. Composers Guido Rennert and Alexander Reuber help this to be one of the most energetic fusions of rock an orchestra I've heard. We Are One has more life flowing through the most contemporary performances like the Scorpions playing with the Berlin Philharmonic and at no point will you feel like the rock band is being restrained to stay in time with the orchestral elements. When you tell me I'm gonna listen to a rock/metal album with orchestration I kind of assume I've heard it before, but We Are One was filled with new sounds. During my first journey through the album I found lots of fun material well put together from all angles. We Are One is filled with strong moments and a variety of sounds. It's much better than most orchestra rock fusions and the production of the recording is solid and clear. My two favorite tracks are numbers 4 and 14. “The Future Is The Reason Why” is about climate change, but I'm all about the music here: this is the military vibe I was expecting. It's a march of sorts with groovy riffage over drummer boy snares and flutes. Sabaton has some competition. The orchestra and choirs are highlighted here instead of simply supplementing Udo vocals, and it would be awesome live chanting ‘Hey Hey Hey!’ The other song you can't miss is “We Strike Back” near the end of the album. It's the shortest of the songs that isn't an instrumental and is undeniably ‘metal’ metal. The growling intro and a tempo that is thrashier than the preceding songs; it almost has “Aces High” moments but with strings and horns. I'm a sucker for a fast rocker and will probably overplay this upbeat song in the car. The guitar solos are spectacular, fantastic in tone and how they fit into each song. The bass lines frequently have my attention, not just there to round out the sound but to motivate the music. Every single song has something unique to offer. The orchestra isn't just mimicking the music of a rock band; they're utilized as our own element, another tool and another layer to convey feelings. There's a ton of energy to this album and they pack the whole disk with maximum music. Power metal fans and arena rock fans need to hear this album. If you don't want to have politics in your music, steer clear. When the songs come up on shuffle I'm not going to skip they're all solid though they may raise the eyebrows of an unsuspecting passenger. These tracks don't drain me like some military power metal tends to do so if you've got an hour drive ahead of you throw We Are One on in the car.

Album Review - Cerecloth
May 21 2020 4 mins  
Naglfar fans would be more than pleased with this highly anticipated and very long awaited new album. This band hasn't put out a record since Téras back in 2012. Naglfar has been my all time favorite black metal band since the late 2000s when I first discovered them in high school. For those of you who don't know, Naglfar is a melodic black metal band hailing from Umeå, Sweden. Here is a fun and gross fact about the band's name. Naglfar in Norse Mythology was a giant ship made entirely from finger and toe nails of the dead. As soon as I heard a few months ago that new material would be released from this band through Century Media Records, I quickly put the hard copy CD on pre-order. Unfortunately due to the current global pandemic I didn't get the CD in the mail a week before the album's release date, so I had to listen through my Amazon Music app. The first song is the album titled track "Cerecloth". One thing I noticed right away was how the guitar riff sounded very similar to the riff from the song "A Swarm of Plagues" from my personal favorite album Pariah. Though the riffs sounded alike, any real Naglfar fan would tell you that the songs are completely different. This is a good thing because it shows their fans that they know how to keep the old sound in the new record. The next song "Horns" is a crushing and straight forward black metal song that makes the listener beg for more. It is also a song that lets first time listeners get a real taste for Kristoffer "Wrath" Olivius' raspy and hellish vocals. "Like Poison for the Soul" begins with a surprisingly groovy bass line performed by Alex Impaler before continuing to rape your ears with more ghoulish black metal. It's a work of art that warms you up for what the rest of the album has in store for you. For the 4th track, we have the song "Vortex of Negativity". It starts off with the ominous sounds of a black electric guitar being quickly consistently plucked to make an eerie tune. When the beat picks up after 10 seconds we can visualize the simple yet beautifully shot music video for this song in our heads. If you could hear colors, it would be yellow lights illuminating fog in a dark forest as a man in a plague masks holds an old lantern. Skipping ahead a couple tracks we come across a gem of a song called "The Dagger in Creation". Musically the most diverse song on this new record. It has its main riff and a calming melody for a miniature solo that really stands out before blasting you in the face with aggressiveness. The drummer Efraim Juntunen (who is also the drummer for the power metal band Persuader is pretty much guaranteed to relentlessly kick your ass with is inhumanly fast double bass blast beat skills for the remainder of this album. Hats off to the guitarists Andreas Nilsson and Marcus E. Norman aka Vargher for writing such a soothing intro for the song "Necronaut" and pretty much giving us nothing but noticeably great riffs through the entirety of your careers with Naglfar. With all this praise I am giving to this band and all their musical accomplishments over the last 28 years, I can't not give this release anything less than a solid 9.5/10. The only reason I don't give it a full 10/10 is because it still just isn't as musically or lyrically catchy as their best 2005 album Pariah. To me, this Cerecloth album is the band's equivalent to: Sheol, Harvest and Téras.

Album Review - The Broad And Beaten Way
Apr 28 2020 5 mins  
Red Iron’s review of The Broad And Beaten Way by Sinisthra (Rockshots Records, 2020). Credits: intro music by CONTRA; intro voice by Veronica Oritz Rodriguez; background track “Chasing Shadows” by Alex Lee. “Hey everyone - this is Red Iron for The Great Metal Debate, to give you a taste of the new Sinisthra album, titled The Broad And Beaten Way, that will be out on May 15th from Rockshots Records. Rockshots has given us about a hundred rock and metal albums since 2016, and this is the first album we’ve heard from Sinisthra since 2005. All of the same players are back at it including Tomi Joutson, who has been the voice of Amorphis in that intervening 15 years, and guitarist Markku Makinen whose once again the primary songwriter. If you heard 2005s Last Of The Stories Of Long Past Glories you won’t be too surprised by the band’s recent effort. This album starts off rockin’ and then remains fairly mellow, punctuated by some big moments. The introspective and reflective lyrics are delivered by clean vocals and, as the album title suggests, find their roots in the epic poem Paradise Lost. Eve sins, Adam sins, they bind themselves together, there’s a party with the Devil… you know the drill. My thoughts on the album overall: the drums keep everything moving, generally behind heavy and mellow guitars, and the vocals are solid - mostly melodic storytelling. The production is well-layered, with the cleans clean and the crunches gritty. Nothing is too brutal throughout, and the vocals surprisingly clean with no growls or gutturals. I wish I was more of a lyric listener because it seems like some cool imagery being set up throughout. My favorite track is at the beginning of the album, “Eterne”, mostly just because it is the most direct of the songs. Other tracks commit to the process of making music, and the storytelling in this song just suits my wish to rock out a little bit and have fun. It’s short, sweet, and heavy; the tone is touched on a bit more on the album, but here the mellow is the centerpiece. I’m honest glad this isn’t the single because it’s not very representative of the album, while the second track is. There’s some rock that metalheads and prog fans can surely get behind. It’s well-produced and well-planned music and storytelling. At 45 minutes you can loose yourself in this easily. There’s never a low point. The vocals are real; there’s no faking emotion here, and Tomi’s voice never suffers from trying to replicate any certain style. They are a very honest delivery. Probably best to listen to as an album start-to-finish. If one of the five of six tracks came up as I was driving around town and had music on ‘random’, I’d probably skip ‘em to move on to something more upbeat and fun. Still, prog metal fans will definitely dig this. But if you’re looking to thrash, this ain’t it. Live, I’d probably already be pretty bored if I wasn’t already familiar with the songs, but it would be a good vibe to soak up for a while. It would definitely get me ready for a headliner of a different style. I would most enjoy seeing the first two tracks live. Anyone who listens to modern radio rock can usually access this more complex style as there’s not much off putting in the delivery. If you‘re just looking to vibe for a while throw this on. Fans of the first album will dig it, so if you liked that one 15 years ago you’re safe to check this out. The Broad And Beaten Way is a solid addition to the prog rock/metal genres, with most of its uniqueness likely in its lyrics and production. Glad these guys came back together to treat us with another album. That’s it for me - Red Iron - on this one for The Great Metal Debate. Be seeing you.”

Album Review - Black Hole Illumination
Apr 24 2020 2 mins  
Zero Degree is one of my favorite melodic death metal bands coming out of Gerrmany. Last Friday, they released their sophomore album entitled Black Hole Illumination. I first discovered this band in early 2011 on YouTube after clicking down the rabbit-hole of sidelinks, Sometimes when you do that, you find some hidden gems! Their debut record, Surreal World, is nothing short of immaculate. Now that nearly a full decade has passed, the wait is finally over for new material from Zero Degree. Black Hole Illumination is a treasure for any fan of melodic death metal, especially if you’re a fan of the early works of bands such as In Flames or Dark Tranquillity. Despite major line-up changes - including the vocalist - you’d never be able to tell of the changes after hearing this new album. Every guitar riff is a catchy and groovy masterpiece, just like with the previous record. In fact, Black Hole Illumination comes very close to being Surreal World’s equal. I love how even the intro instrumental track “Gravity” is very reminiscent of “Where Angel’s Die” from the debut album. “Gravity” fuses seamlessly into the first full-song “Purified”, which is one of my favorite songs off the new album, along with other absolute bangers like “Resurrection”, “Ghost Ship Ride”, “Dust”, and my favorite “A Fading Siren Sound”. To me, “A Fading Siren Sound” is this album’s “The Storm And the Silence.” Definitely do not miss out on what just might be my favorite album of 2020 so far. I can’t recommend it enough, and I am rating Black Hole Illumination a solid 1,000 out of 10! I just hope I don’t have to wait until 2030 for the third album release from Zero Degree.

Album Review - Infidel
Apr 13 2020 4 mins  
Well shit! I missed it again. I’m starting to think my love of nostalgia and focus on only certain bands and songs is NOT a good thing. Why what do you mean Brian? I missed another great band that’s been out for years, that’s what I fu*kin mean! High Roller Record’s, Swedish Power Metal Band, Ambush has apparently been around since 2013 and I’m just now finding out about it. I blame my (slow)podcast co-host Gomthog. How am I ever supposed to find out about these bands if you don’t speak up. I think he does this shit on purpose because he knows with great music like Ambush’s third full album Infidel, I’ll wipe the floor with his ass in The Great Metal Debate. Ten amazing songs that present more like an album with 15 songs of music, Infidel is the third offering for Ambush and what an offering it is. Many times I listen to new music and it has that 80s metal feel but just lacks that special thing which puts it over the top for me. I often describe the songs as Old School style in and New School manner, or Old metal with a twist. Well 80s Power Metal fans welcome to Heaven… or Hell as it might be. Ambush with Infidel has created Old School 80s Metal with Old School 80s Metal style! It’s fucking amazing! Power vocals by Oskar Jacobsson that would be labeled as normal but could scarcely be truly called normal permeate every song. He has his own powerful sound that has elements of so many great vocalists. There’s even one point on the title track Infidel where he belts out a Steve Grimmet, Grim Reaperesque scream! He has great pitch and volume and has that metal vocal quality I often label as gargling with rocks and glass! As a matter of a fact if I have a vocal criticism I want more of the screaming and try a growl or two. But then again that would take away from the 80s Metal authenticity…damn you artistic integrity. Why couldn’t you just leave 80s Metal alone. But when it comes to the music of my youth and the songs that take me away from this world to a place of sweet chaos, jean or spandex pants, and lots and lots of hair, it’s always the guitars that bring me to the table. Adam Hagelin & Olof Engqvist without a doubt grew up sucking on the teat of all the guitar greats I did. Super high range riffs meted with power chords and blazing solos. Songs like Yperite (which is apparently a type of WW1 mustard gas), Leave Them to Die, A Silent Killer, Lust For Blood, and their most popular video off this offering… Hellbiter… are laced with staccato scale runs, diving and screaming tremolo, and are prominent on every song. I said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, the solos of metal, regardless of the instrument are the spices that season the stew of a great metal offering. As a matter of fact Hellbiter could be a Motley Crue tribute song with its quick strum rhythm and enticing solos that are reminiscent of great days of my youth. Music should challenge us, but the songs that take us to the best of times are crucial in any connoisseur’s arsenal, and with Infidel I am taken there. Ludwig Sjöholm pounding out the bass and, Linus Fritzson committing assault and battery on the drums round out the musical vortex that is Ambush. Together they provide a backbone for the band that cannot move forward at the required speed without them. Oft overlooked the bass and drums are the heart of a band, the rue of that metal stew I referred to earlier. And with these two performing exceptionally I have tasted your stew of Ambush, and it was good. Ambushes Infidel rings my bell for an enthusiastic 5 of 5 stars.

Album Review - The Coven
Mar 30 2020 3 mins  
We have a beautiful melodic death metal band from Finland called Torchia. Now, I'm going to be completely honest. I never heard of this band until yesterday when this album came out, which means I am unfamiliar with their 2017 debut Of Curses and Greif. But ever since 24 hours ago I have had their new album titled The Coven on repeat! This record slaps! I absolutely love the pitch harmonic style guitar riffs and the solos are very well constructed. You can tell when bands take their time writing music because you can notice all the hard work these guys put in. Each song has more than one riff and you can hear every single note being played. This band's overall theme and tones sets an audible stage for any first time listener. In the beginning of the first track "Sky", we are greeted by the haunting call of a siren's song coming from what we imagine are witches belting in the woods. It is eerie but only for a few seconds as the music immediately picks up with the first of many riffs to come. That first melody pulls you in and keeps you listening until the second and main riff comes in and really hooks you. It is a tremendous opening that gives you a taste of something you want more of, and more is what you will get! A song that peaked my interest was the following song "Gallows". Later in the album we are treated with my personal favorites back to back "Memoirs" and "Astral Planes". Those two stood out the most to me because of the musical structure. Everything just seem to flow evenly and that producer needs a raise for his mixing skills. The Coven was a delight to my ears especially since when I saw the album cover, my first thought was "Okay, so we got the levitating naked witches with tree roots erupting from the mouths and a grey wolf. Yep, this is black metal." How wrong of me to judge a book by it's cover? Instead I was treated to my most favorite subgenre which is the glorious music known as melodic death metal. I am more than grateful that Robert introduced me to this amazing band. I will definitely check out their debut and I certainly look forward to a future album in the next few years.  Intro music by CONTRA; intro voice by Veronica Ortiz Rodriguez. Thanks to Asher Media Relations for providing a promo copy for review.

Album Review - Santa Muerte
Oct 13 2019 5 mins  
“Shame on you, you big sinner.” That’s what I was saying to myself after my introduction to the band Sinner. I can’t believe I haven’t heard about Mat Sinner’s original band Sinner before now. With their 12 track, 18th studio album “Santa Muerte” on AFM Records being released Friday, September 13th, you’d think I’d have listened to them at least once. Hell, Sinner already had 8 amazing studio albums released by the time Mat started as one of the original members of Primal Fear in 1997. It just goes to show you how a myopic musical focus can sometimes cost you years of great music. Well with Sinner I have quickly made up for lost time. Im currently going over Sinner’s entire discography. I want to express to you how much I enjoyed the new Sinner album, Santa Muerte, but I didn’t know how to quite do it. With most new music I hear I will listen to it a little at a time,reviewing over and over again only those songs, or even parts of songs that grab my attention. I will eventually get around to all the music of albums I get, but it often happens in spurts or blocks. But with Santa Muerte I listened to the first song and liked it so much that I decided to listen to the second song, and then the third, and then the fourth. So what was it that was so good about Mat Sinner’s latest offering . . . I’ll use a word my podcast partner hates . . . Nostalgia! Holy shit did this album take me back. Back to a time when we would head bang in the church parking lot at midnight on a Saturday night with the music blaring, and not a care in the world. From the first song “Shine On”, Santa Muerte meets the Trunnell Boy Good Metal Standard of grabbing you by the balls and hauling your ass along for the ride. Fast, hard, and loud, which happens to be the title to one of Sinner’s first album songs . . . that’s how I would describe this music. With an incredible musical component to the band led by:Mat Sinner on bass/vocals, and Tom Naumann & Alex Scholpp on guitars Sinner brings the ear piercing sound that penetrates to a place not just where music is listened to . . . but symbiotically interacted with. The sound itself conjures up such vivid images and situations that it can easily be described as a multi-media experience. After those qualities the next thing you notice about this album is the variety of vocals from song to song. Now Mat Sinner sings a lot of the songs himself, and he’s got a great metal voice, but new to Sinner on this album is the amazing musings of Giorgia Colleluori; with songs like the aforementioned Shine On, as well as Last Exit Hell, Lucky 13, The Wolf, Misty Mountain, or the crazy good remake of the old blues classic Death Letter . . . one cannot help but be lulled into a metal mood by the inherent sense of POWER that emanates from her voice. There are also guest vocalists on this album, Rick Warwick (Thin Lizzy & Black Star Riders) and Ronnie Romero (Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow) lend their amazing voices to What Went Wrong & Fiesta y Copas respectively. Every song on this album has it’s own unique flair and even though the music makes me nostalgic, it also prompts a new response to each track. There are seriously guitar pounding songs like Shine On, The Wolf, & Fiesta y Copas. There are melodic power metal licks in such songs as What Went Wrong & the title track Santa Muerte. Plus the aforementioned re-imaginative blues classic Death Letter. So what’s my final take on Sinner’s Santa Muerte? FIVE TIMES folks, I listened to this album five times all the way through. . . without stopping , , , FIVE TIMES. Shit if that doesn’t tell you something . . . solid A- for Sinner & Santa Muerte.

Album Review - Legions Of The Undead
Oct 06 2019 5 mins  
I have the pleasure of doing the review for Exmortus’ new EP, “Legions of the Undead,” and this is pretty exciting. I am so happy that I got to listen to this before anybody else! I think this EP is pretty sick. I really liked the theme that they're going with this time, just because I am a horror fan and I enjoy all things spooky and dark and undead. I listened to this EP about six times, and I have to say it reminded me a lot of their albums “Ride Forth” and “Slave to the Sword“. And those two are two of my favorite Exmortus albums. “Ride Forth” is an album that I hold a dear to me because that's actually the first album that I listened to by them and how I got to know of Exmortus. At that time they were touring with Havoc and Extinction AD. But, anyway, back to the review! Yeah, I think this EP is pretty sick. One favorite song of mine on the EP was the Beetlejuice cover. I think that they definitely did that track justice and I think it's great - I absolutely loved it! They also did a cover of “Psycho“, and that track was really, really good too. I'm a little more favorable to the Beetlejuice theme, but I do like “Psycho“. I really like that movie and I thought the song it was pretty good. I'm very glad they did those covers cause it's… I guess I wasn't expecting those songs to sound as brutal as they did. They were both really good. And then they also did a cover of “Night on Bald Mountain“, which is a classical, instrumental piece by Mussorgsky. (Not sure how you pronounce his name. Conan's probably gonna give me shit about this!) You kind of grow up listening to that song in school, like if you had any type of musical or art appreciation classes. I'm pretty sure almost all instructors or teachers played that instrumental piece. At least I remembered it, and listening to Exmortus play that piece just blew it out of the water for me. Just super exciting! I can't express how excited I am a about this EP. I think the band did a really good job. Conan, Adrian, Chase, and Cody all perform very well on the release, and I think they really, really brought the theme of the undead to life, especially with the album artwork too. It all just flows very well together. For fans, I think this a EP is going to be everything that you expect from Exmortus and more. It's so, so good! If I were to rate this EP: because of how much I enjoy the theme and the music, and how much it reminds me of “Slave to the Sword” and “Ride Forth“ (and it's even better than those), I would give it a 10 out of 10. And I'm not just saying that just because I‘m friends with the band, but because I truly enjoyed listening to this EP. It was really good. I hope that all you Exmortus fans are just as excited as I am for it to be released because it's amazing. The new Exmortus EP “Legions of the Undead” will be released on October 25th, which is by the way, very close to Halloween. So you guys can get spooky with it!

Album Review - Pneuma
Jun 04 2019 4 mins  
Full disclosure up front: I fancy myself a fan mostly of European metal, or at least bands that SOUND like they are from Europe stylistically. So, when I review a modern metal band from the US, I do bring some biases to the table. With that admitted, where does New York’s Monochromatic Black and their debut album Pneuma fit into the metal landscape in 2019? Well – after over a dozen times listens to this album from beginning to end – I find myself really appreciative of what Monochromatic Black is trying to accomplish musically, and am impressed with the nuts-and-bolts execution of their debut album. For stylistic reasons this one probably won’t make my list of best albums of the year, but I would still strongly recommend it as quality listening it for any metal head, and especially for fans of the range of extreme metal genres. I’ll touch briefly on a few tracks… The album opener “Degradation” starts off with chugging, dissonant aggression. Brutal breakdowns, screaming, and the band generally bashing the hell out of their instruments. Predictable rhythms be damned, this track will bulldoze you. The song “Dream Catcher” alternately bombards you with a slow, heavy attack and a dark, hauntingly melodic, clean vocal line. There’s some great atmosphere on this one, and a bit of a change-of-pace that I really enjoyed. Perhaps the most prog-metalish track on the album. The vocal work on “Phosphenes” was excellent; killer growls and cool singing augmented by suspenseful, hard-hitting breakdowns. The music really builds on this track in a way I found exciting and compelling. And there’s some really solid guitar-work going on here – not just your run-of-the-mill deathcore noodling. The album finale – “The Herd” – finishes things off with hints of melodic death metal style. Up tempo, progressive, and frenzied. This was my favorite track on the album – and the kind of song I would definitely want to hear live. One critique I had about this album is simply its length: at only 24 minutes of material in 6 tracks, it isn’t much more than an EP. Also, there didn’t seem to be much flow from one song to the next on this album, leaving the listener feeling that you could swap out the placement of any track with any other and have essentially the same album. That said, every song has some riff, vocal line, or element that impressed me and I found memorable. The instruments are mixed well, with a solid guitar tone. There’s a definite hardcore influence to this album – which at times takes it outside my zone of comfort and familiarity – while others will find this very appealing. What Pneuma was trying to deliver in terms of the music, I think it did successfully, but at times I wanted to hear MORE from these songs. There were some interesting progressive elements that showed up here, and I would really like to have heard Monochromatic Black expand on those. I can appreciate quick hitters, but would’ve liked a few songs to have had more length and room for the music to breath. Ultimately I give this album an 8 out of 10 rating, which is probably undervaluing it. If you enjoy extreme metal styles – and particularly music that doesn’t hold closely to any defined metal subgenre – I anticipate you’ll find it to be a winner. You can purchase Pneuma from Monochromatic Black – and I encourage listeners to do so – via as well as the Bandcamp app. And the band will be touring the northeast US this summer – be sure to check them out delivering the brutality live in your city soon.

Album Review - Kill Or Get Killed
Mar 19 2019 6 mins  
The nineties were often thought of as a decade when metal died and grunge took over. Well, someone forgot to tell Piet Sielck the famed guitarist and producer, because in 1996 he said “screw grunge” and founded one of the most enduring power mental band's ever in Iron Savior. With twelve albums currently under their belt, the tour du metal force will release it's their thirteenth album on March 8th, 2019, titled Kill Or Get Killed. Now, here a quick side note. There are very few bands in metal that can consistently do the same thing album after album and still have fans continuing to stay on the bandwagon. Iron Savior, much like Slayer, AC/DC, Amon Amarth, and every black metal band ever, have their own particular sound. And on this album - like all their albums - they had what I can only described as a true power metal sound. And with this first song, “Kill Or Get Killed”, Piet and the boys establish a fact that they have not lost the right to be in that niche and label their music thusly. A quick side note number two here: I come to the part of any review where the writer dazzels you with a barrage of verbage that at it's best is pontification and at its worst is just bad writing. I’ll try not to insult your intelligence with cliche and remain as true as I can to what I really thought. Whether it was the lyrics, or the intense timing signature, or the chord progression, or the background artillery of the bass and drums, or especially the accurate and technical solos. there was one phrase that i kept thinking while I heard this album. “Its us against the world, man!“ Now I know that doesn't really described the music, but i know there are many fans who judge and reactive music this way and in fact you then you know what I meant by that phrase. This album inspired the ‘brotherhood of metal’ response in me. Like a baby fans it's toes with the Babinski relex, I heard this music and it fanned the metal attitude response in me. I'll tell you the first afternoon I heard “From Dust And Rubble” which is my personal favorite off this album, I was at the gym, and the welling of aggression and mob-like unity i felt with Iron savior at that moment, inspired me to mount an assault on the hot yoga class which happened to be in session in the next room. And the look on those old ladies’ faces as I stormed in screaming “you'll never stop us you bastards”… well, let’s just say it was awkward. And though I scored a win for true heavy metal that day, I also scored a restraining order and 120 hours of community service. I did try to think of clever ways and adjectives to adjectives to divide the songs from this album into categories for you, but in the end there's only one category for the songs on this album - it’s what I call the aforementioned hard and fast true power metal sound. With titles like “Roaring Thunder”, “Stand Up And Fight”, “Heroes Ascending”, “Eternal Quest”, “Legends Of Glory”, “Never Stop Believing”, “Kill Or Get Killed”, and the personal favorite of mine, “From Dust And Rubble”, Iron Savior delivers a photonic barrage of sound, expertly mixed, and technically proficient, all the while using balls-to-the-wall metal riffs and solos. And Sielck delivers his vocals in a consistent torrent of amped up Dio and Kiskiesk sound. Kill Or Get Killed what I’m fond of calling an old sound with a new format. It’s music that keeps my attention, and allows me to satisfy my overly inflated sense of nostalgia, and yet fit’s the mold of new metal that pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to listen to things that attract fans from all walks of metal. Well done Iron Savior - I’m giving the new album a rating of 8 out of 10. To obtain the new Iron Savior album, go to or

Album Review - No More Hollywood Endings (Battle Beast)
Mar 09 2019 3 mins  
Welcome to another Metal Debate album review. This time we take on Battle Beast’s new banger – No More Hollywood Endings. This is the band’s fifth full-length album, and their second release since the exodus of co-founder Anton Kabanen, Clocking in at over 53 minutes, the album gives thirteen tracks that largely keep it simple, solid and enjoyable. That’s not to label the newest album a regurgitation of past efforts, just that Battle Beast have continued to evolve with this release while remaining true to the what has worked for them in the past. As hinted at by the title – No More Hollywood Endings – the band flirts with heavy metal film score on this one as they take their classic power metal sound into more of an overtly cinematic direction. Battle Beast kick off the proceedings with “Unbroken” - a classic up-tempo power metal track with a pleasantly punchy groove. Frontwoman Noora Louhimo keeps her singing fairly clean here, and the guitars have a pleasing crunch. The title track and first single released, “No More Hollywood Endings”, has Noora evincing a bit more of her trademark vocal rasp, and showing more of her complete range. A mid-paced arena-rock anthem, the track is catchy, but without bringing too much saccarhine to the mix. The many hints of 80s nostalgia are sufficiently counterbalanced to give the album a modern metal feel. The songwriting overall is strong on this album, and there are number of outstanding tracks to highlight across the record. “Hero” begins with a sexy synth intro, seguing into a classic power metal scream that unveils a solid track with memorable hooks, vibrant riffs, and a killer verse. “The Golden Horde” is an epic-sounding melodic ripper with pleasing speedy guitar riffs. “World On Fire” is one of my favorite tracks – Battle Beast doing what they do best – distilling European power metal with a distinctly fun-loving, 80s flavor. One that will find you banging your head and pumping your fist! “Eden” delivers a great ear-friendly sound and beautiful vocal melody. Again, throughout the keyboard elements create more of a cinematic metal than symphonic experience for the listener. A few tracks were a bit harder to hold my attention – I found “Endless Summer” sleepy and lacking the potency of most other songs, and the rock-tastic album-closer “My Last Dream” seemed an oddly dissonant note to finish on. I am sure some will find the production for this album a bit too polished and AOR-friendly, and I would have preferred the drums a little crisper in the mix. But these are all minor quibbles. I definitely recommend this album, especially to rank-and-file fans of catchy power metal who will find themselves drawn inexorably to the big screen flash. Battle Beast executes this musical vision successfully, and sans the over-the-top cheese displayed by their metal rivals, Beast In Black. In the end, Battle Beast manage to create a big, fun album, that I can’t get enough of. They know both their strengths and limits, providing a strong offering that won’t often surprise but definitely pleases. No More Hollywood Endings is distributed by Nuclear Blast Record

Album Review - The End Of Chaos (Flotsam And Jetsam)
Feb 10 2019 9 mins  
Let’s talk about Flotsam and Jetsam’s 13th full length studio album from AFM Records, The End of Chaos. This 12 track assault from the current metal quintet is comprised of: Eric “AK” Knutson – vocals; Michael Gilbert – guitars; Steve Conley- guitars; Michael Spencer – bass; Ken Mary – drums. I review with my feelings which I often get ridiculed for, but like I give a shit. I’ll feel what I want to feel and if you don’t like it stick around those feelings will change. Your well thoughtout gems of intricate wisdom; fads or fickle; puhtato, potato… The 80s metal man in me feels 3 things about this album right off the bat… 1. This album fucking rocks! Its headbanging from start to finish. I don’t detect a lot of pussy ballad music on it, which means the bullshit is left behind. The closest the album comes to a “power ballad” is their haunting rendition set upon the altar of the metal gods of personal pain, “Recover”. A serious misnomer, this song hits you in the good parts about an injury to the heart and mind so deep we may never recover…all done at about 120 beats a minute! (Hell yeah - take that Nightwish!) 2. Friends, if I heard this album in the 1983, when real metal was played and not artistically not artistically emoted swill (pause and vomit), I would have considered it, quote ”experimental”. Songs such as “Prepare For Chaos“, “Good Or Bad“, and my personal favorite “Demolition Man” were played so immensely and intensely that I’m sure “rajasthani folk musical instruments” all over the world were blowing up like a Samsung Smartphone roasting the ears of whoever had it next to their head. 3. The 3rd thing I noticed on this album is that the lyrics on this album are badass. They are dark and deep: addressing pain, heartache, insanity, disaster, despair, fantastical realms and general dark-heartedness. The point is, Flotsam and Jetsam on The End Of Chaos addresses the issues all good metalheads deal with in life. And yet, none of that mattered. The kick-ass lyrics are secondary to the kick-ass music that caused me to bang my head from start to finish. I experienced metal on a primal, neck traumatizing level, and this album meets all the criteria for such an album. One thing that surprisingly stood out on The End of Chaos, were the vocals of AK Nut-buster. (OK, if that’s not his name, it oughta be!) Regardless of his name, dude can fucking wail. I kept thinking he sounds like some vocalist I love, which can be a very complimentary thing. He has a style you can’t pin him down to, a rare thing in the industry. At times it sounded a little like Dio, at times Jeff Tate, and at other times it was a little like Dickenson. AK Knutout and the boys from Flotsam and Jetsam can kick ass. Gilbert and Conley grasp the concept of highly distorted, focused, bellicosic need that lies with true metal. Then, while Knutson and the guitar boys provide the spice of this meaty dish, Spencer and Mary lay down a basic rue of hard driving, hardwired metal that keeps The End Of Chaos righted on the perilous sea of Metal! If I’m pressed, the biggest recommendation I could find for The End Of Chaos is to encourage Flotsam and Jetsam to add some diversity to their general tone. They’ve mastered the “art” of Heavy Metal and it shows in every song, at times giving them an air of similitude in many of their songs. Don’t be afraid to dumb it down; trust in the simplicity of the music and the brotherhood of the musicians and the audience. Branch out and branch down. Then lets swing on the vines as we headbang into unconsciousness. In conclusion, Flotsam and Jetsam’s The End Of Chaos is a grab-you-by-the-balls and come along with them wherever they’re going to take you endeavor. It’s a gravel gargling, high distortion, speed…no thrash, metal riff and solos album, backed by an incredibly heart-pounding bass and drum hardline. I highly recommend Flotsam and Jetsam‘s The End Of Chaos through AFM Records with a rating of 8.5/10.

Album Review - Life Is Not Beautiful (Arion)
Oct 28 2018 7 mins  
Arion’s newest album Life Is Not Beautiful which released on October 19, 2018 is for fans of Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius, Rhapsody of Fire, and even the early days of Kamelot - the Fourth Legacy, Karma, those albums. It’s an album I’ve been looking forward to since their last album, The Last Of Us, came out, as that album crushed. These guys are in their early twenties, doing it big - they started the band out when they were in high school. And they just kill it if you haven’t heard them yet. Most notably of late, their singles - this album has five singles on a nine track album. I really like what they’ve done with this - they wanted to keep the fans entertained, to let them no this band hasn’t pulled a Necrophagist and gone off the grid for no reason whatsoever. Some of my favorite songs off this new album include the title track “Life Is Not Beautiful” and the final song on the album “Last One Falls“, as well as the singles “Unforgivable“, “At the Break of Dawn“, and “No One Stands In My Way“, and the latest single they’ve recently put out called “Punish You“, which is probably the heaviest song on the album (if not that, then the title track). Also of note is the very melodic, melancholy ballad called “Through Your Falling Tears” which is a very moving song for those that do like power metal ballads. That’s another thing about this band: bands like Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius and Kamelot were champs at putting out some of the most catchy, soulful ballads of any band out there. So, kudos to Arion for bringing that bacl. I’m not much of a ballad person; for me that was more the output of the hair bands of previous times. But they’ve added a new flair, so kudos to Arion from bringing that back and making me love ballads again! Getting back to the album - the album cover is very interesting. Fans of this band would know the previous album, “The Last Of Us”, actually had the same character on the cover: this guy with a pole or stick with a lantern hanging on it, looking lost and distraught as if on a journey to find new civilization. I don’t know… I like to depict certain stories from album covers wondering what does this mean? Is this album a concept album; is there a story behind this? So we find this same character walking up what appears to be a hillside carrying the same lantern that he or she had on the previous album cover. That’s pretty cool that they’re bringing this same character back in on the new album - it’s almost like this character is going through what the songs are portraying in the background. Speaking of the songs and what they mean - whether they form a concept album or can be interpreted into our daily life: songs like “Punish You” which talk about being betrayed, the hardships of live, and how life comes back to punish you - like karma working her magic. This is contrasted by the positive vibes of “At The Break Of Dawn” and “Unforgivable”, focusing on how we are treating the planet earth as our home. A song like “No One Stands In My Way”; you’re getting off from a bad day of work, you’ve gotta come back the next day and you just don’t want to be fucked with. When this song came out I was having a bad day at work, turned this song on to listen to, and everything seemed better - it seemed like I was invincible. That is the anthemia song on this album. So, for those who are into power metal, especially bands like Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica, Rhapsody of Fire, Kamelot… even going into underground territory such as Nocturnal Rites and Heavenly, this is the band for you. This band is bringing power metal back from the catacombs with the keyboard solos, off-beat fast-paced melodies, crazy neo-classical riffs, and the thematic concepts of power metal. Please: do yourself a favor and pick this album up. Don’t be a cheapskate and just stream it on Spotify because this band deserves more than just three cents per play.

Album Review - Steelfactory (UDO)
Sep 01 2018 5 mins  
There is nothing on Udo Dirkschneider’s 16th studio album Steelfactory, from his namesake band UDO that I can't get from the first 15 UDO albums . . . and I freaking love it! I have to appreciate a man who at the age of 66 can peel the skin off your scrotal sac with one of his patented screams, or is it a growl or a howl or a groan or just your everyday gargling of sand and glass. Whatever it is, it works. His ever present pseudo-sexual growl / moan is prevalent throughout Steelfactory, and it reminds us to have some freaking respect. There are songs that lash out with the proverbial guitar assault so often associated with UDO as well as Accept. And if you a fan of song like London Leatherboys or Losers and Winners, then you’re going to love the cuts Like Eraser or the opening salvo Tongue Reaper. Smirnov is hitting on all cylinders with both riffage and ripage. Dude can play some classic power metal and we love being along for the ride, with wave after wave of super speed chords spiced with crest after crest of over the top solos. Don’t worry - there’s also the classic power ballads. For those of you who loved Warrior, Bound To Fail or I Give As Good As I Get, you’re going to love some of the Steel Factory cuts which carry on that Udo-ish tradition. Keeper Of My Soul and One Heart One Soul make me want to stand and march around the bedroom while slashing everything I own in the name of some Teutonic cause that requires the virtue of a knight and the violence of a bull seeing red. There variances in the nuance of the album and the newness of the music carries it a ways for me, but it is a LOT like much of Udo’s repertoire. I spend a few brief moments wondering what the germanic maniac metal god might sound like if he sang a Xandria song, adding Operatic and Symphonic elements to his sound, then I wake up from that nightmare and appreciate what this music nostalgia buff loves about power metal. This album is metal as metal is meant to be, which is the line I seem to want to vomit up every time I hear good metal. As I watch the new Steel factory video for Rising High I see all the youthful exuberance that surrounds Udo Dirkschneider, particularly his son Sven on the drums. And then compare it Udo who spends the entire video Standing in the middle of the staircase one foot on the stair above the other and it occurs to me that I don't want him to move because I'm afraid he'll break a hip. And then I remember Udo doesn't give a shit what I'm worried about, and if he wants to he will jump down those stairs and break his hip. He's a metal cock-knockin’ head-banging fist fighting son of a bitch who brings his particular flare of metal to everything he's done since Accept in 1979. Steel factory is simple and straight forward with a classic style seen with UDO since the 80s. So I end with the same sentence I used when I began, with Steelfactory Udo gives me not much different than I can find on his first release… and I freaking love it!

Album Review - Terror Of The Cybernetic Space Monster (Helion Prime)
Aug 22 2018 4 mins  
Welcome back metal fans - this time we’re checking out US west coast power metal act Helion Prime, with their new release “Terror Of The Cybernetic Space Monster”, due out from AFM Records on August 31, 2018. I’d heard the 2016 self-titled debut from Helion Prime, and thought it was an impressive effort, albeit something of a diamond-in-the-rough. The concept of a “science metal” band was one I found intriguing, and that amalgam of nerdy lyrical themes meshed well with the catchy, uplifting power metal Helion Prime offered up. Helion Prime’s new album “Terror Of The Cybernetic Space Monster” builds on that foundation and advances it significantly. I’ll touch on a few highlights. After the spooky opening atmospheric “Failed Hypothesis”, the album segues into the dynamic crusher “A King Is Born”. This track is a brilliant intro, giving fans the origin-story of band mascot Saibot in dramatic and colorful fashion. New singer Sozos Michael exudes strength and passion on this one, giving the fantastic storyline a punch of emotion. There are plenty of great tracks here, including the melodic “Spectrum” and charging “Bury The Sun”. Perhaps my favorite song is “Atlas Obscura” which delivers a killer verse and a catchy, flavorful chorus. Not all tracks are favs, but even those that don’t register top marks are well-crafted, and there’s certainly no filler to be found here. The final song and album title track is the longest of the effort. A segmented, epic affair, this power metal tour-du-force provides the listener great pacing and storyline in the closing act. As much of a fan as I am of former Helion Prime singer Heather Michelle – and I consider her one of the top up-and-coming singers in North American metal – after multiple listens I have come to the conclusion Sozo’s voice may be better suited to Helion Prime’s music. Mostly because his vocals so drip that European metal texture; you can hear that this guy fits comfortably in the tradition of power metal crooners like Michael Kiske and Roy Khan. I continued to be blown away by the musicianship of Helion Prime guitarist Jason Ashcraft. In an era where too much is often viewed as mpt enough, Jason doesn’t have to overwhelm us with a barrage of riffs to display his axe prowess. It’s clear a lot of time and thought went into devising these tracks. This is considered composition and songwriting! In summary, I’m very impressed with the quality of this new material from Helion Prime. This band is developing their sound, and seeming to be finding their niche. Two big thumbs up to Jason and the Helion Prime crew for an outstanding sophomore effort. One of the better metal albums so far this year and a must-purchase for power metal fans. Helion Prime’s “Terror Of The Cybernetic Space Monster” is available from AFM Records, via all the normal online outlets.

Album Review - The Sirens (Into Eternity)
Aug 18 2018 6 mins  
The Great Metal Debate review of Into Eternity’s long-awaited album “Sirens”, releasing out on October 26, 2018. I’m going to be unapologetic about this - there is only one word that can truly describe this album… that word is intense. This album is unforgiving, it is relentless, it is intense. It is almost flawless, but, still leaves you at the front of your seat wanting more. The album “The Sirens” begins with the opening title track where you get this haunting, ghostly, eerie, piano intro, followed by the guitar melody that takes the same shape. This is followed by this intense, death metal styled riff, paired with blast beats and death metal vocals, shrieking high black metal vocals, and then some of the best clean vocals I’ve ever heard from anyone! Now, before listening to this, for the people who have never heard Into Eternity, and may be interested in giving the album a listen when it comes out, they are one of those bands that are really hard to pinpoint within one genre. That being said, they throw in classic heavy metal, classical elements, progressive metal time signatures, black metal vocals, death metal, and even power metal in the guitars and vocals. Not a lot of bands can pull off this style. Often when bands try to do something completely different and try and switch things up so radically they fail at it. But, thankfully, some bands do know how to concoct that formula appropriately end up leaving with happy fans. And, that‘s what you get with “The Sirens“. With the opening track you get black metal, death metal, power metal, classical, and heavy metal. And progressive metal, with the out-of-left-field transitions, death metal gutturals, melodic guitar solos, blast beats - you name it. All in one song! This album has so many memorable moments in it, such as Fukushima. It‘s obvious what the song is about - the tragic events that happened at Fukushima - at the power plant following the earth quake and tsunami, that claimed almost 18,000 lives unfortunately. That is probably my favorite song on the album. Of course, you can find a single of it that was released in 2012 with Stu Block on it. It doesn‘t sound much different than on the album, other than having Amanda Kiernan on vocals. But, she doesn‘t leave you missing Stu Block. Even though he was an awesome member of the band, left an awesome legacy of two albums. But, honestly, she sounds just like him. When she brings out the chorus it sounds like she‘s going Kobra Paige at one moment and then she brings out Chuck Billy (Testament) and Bobby “Blitz“ Ellsworth (Overkill). Wow! So many styles in one person; lots of diversity. Why not!?! Not to mention, the chorus is catchy… you‘ve get this awesome, guttural, slam-metal vocal that comes out of nowhere in the song. It gives me goose bumps just to talk about it! Another song I‘d like to mention on this album. Probably one of the more notable Into Eternity songs in their catalogue, it starts out with this finger-picked nylon acoustic melody that‘s played about four minutes into the song, with Amanda Kiernan singing doing all these dual harmonies. It gives you an Egyptian feel… a melancholic feel of being alone, of being nowhere near you want to be. And, suddenly, four minutes into it you‘re hit like a fucking freight train with these awesome, tremolo-picked riffs, solo, and then an awesome black metal blast-beat section at the end. You’re left crushed and decimated. So, I give this album four out of five stars, just because I wanted more of this. Eight songs, fifty minutes long. A well-balanced progressive metal album. They don’t go overboard, they don’t go over the top, they don’t jump the shark like some progressive metal bands do. They have balanced this album out and they have come out swinging on this come-back album. So, on October 26 check out Into Eternity’s “The Sirens”.

Album Review - The Shadow Theory (Kamelot)
Jun 03 2018 5 mins  
Hey guys - this is Mark “The Fuzz-Man” Doss coming at you with a review of Kamelot’s newest album, “The Shadow Theory, here on The Great Metal Debate podcast. Now guys, before I go into any detail on this album, I want to let you know something personal about myself. I just became a parent about two months ago, and I’ve got to say it’s one of the best things ever… it might be the greatest thing ever to happen to me. And this album was actually the album I was listening to on the way to the hospital, considering it came out the day before she was born. So, I was on my way to the hospital to be with my fiance during her labor, and this was also the album I was listening to taking them both home. Anytime I listen to this album it always brings me back to that time… it was a feel-good moment for me. You know, I believe music is a very healing factor in life, and it’s just a natural high that we all have in common. “The Shadow Theory” came out on April 6, 2018, and, you know, I’ve heard a lot of people saying “It’s Kamelot… it‘s still Kamelot, blah, blah blah.” Well, of course it is, and I’ll tell you why. Well, if you think about it, a lot of the great bands like Pantera, Van Halen - even modern bands such as Revocation - have their own style that they have imprinted into the world of music. And when you listen to something on the radio and you can immediately pinpoint it, then you know that they have their own style, and Kamelot do that exact thing and have been doing so for the last twenty or so years - since they’ve been a band. I’m just going to warn you guys: yes, this is a Kamelot album. It is no different than any other Kamelot album from, say, the Epica era. Epica, The Black Halo, Ghost Opera, Poetry For The Poisoned; even the Tommy Karevik albums; Silverthorn, and of course their last album, Haven. That doesn’t mean this is a bad album - at all. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Now, there is one thing I do have to say: I’m not a big fan of the song Static because it kind of reminds me of a very poppy, soft… it’s not Kamelot. It sounds like something that might be played on a ‘light’ radio station or a pop music, top-40 billboard hits. It’s not Kamelot to me. It might be Kamelot so some people; some people might like that - it’s all opinion. To me that was the only flaw on this album. Now, another thing about this album that is interesting is that Kamelot has two new female vocalists. That’s a Kamelot staple - having a female vocalist as a guest, featured artist on their albums. This time we have Lauren Hart, vocalist from the band Once Human, and Jennifer Haven from Beyond The Black. Lauren appears on the second single on the album, which was Phantom Divine, and also on mind-fall remedy, and I’ve gotta tell you she kills it. Me personally, I prefer her over Alissa White-Gluz any day, and they’ve released some great music with her too. Now Jennifer Haven, I haven’t really listened to her band much, but listening to the ballad on the album - In Twilight Hours - it’s beautiful. It is amazing. This album also doesn’t include Casey Grillo on it. Casey Grillo was the original Kamelot drummer, and he announced his departure back in February. So, he’s doing his own thing now and best of luck to him and his future endeavors. Now they have Johan Nunez from Firewind on drums. I’m a big Firewind fan, and you can definitely hear that he has put his own spin on the album. A little bit of Casey, a little bit of Johan Nunez - I think it’s the best of both worlds, in my opinion. For those who are looking for a unique, different approach to a Kamelot album; hold your breath and just listen to the music. “The Shadow Theory” - I would give this album a 7 out of 10 rating. Nothing crazy; it’s just Kamelot doing their thing, and then the Static song that I’m not really that into. But yes, give this thing a listen and form your own opinion on it.

Album Review - Red Before Black (Cannibal Corpse)
May 02 2018 3 mins  
USA death metal band Cannibal Corpse have made their name a staple in death metal. Since forming in 1988 with vocalist Chris Barnes, to going through numerous lineup changes and joining of current vocalist, George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, this band has given it their all in the death metal scene and haven’t shown any signs of their huge career ending. In their newest album, Red Before Black, we are treated a mix of the classic Cannibal Corpse sound that they have been known for, and a newer, devastating, bone crushing sound. The opening track “Only one will die” instantly gets us hooked with Corpsegrinders’ powerful growls and Paul Mazurkiewicz’s thunderous drums, which gets your heart beating and energy flowing through you fast. We can also hear Pat O’Brien playing squealing and high pitched guitar solos along with insanely heavy riffs. Old school cannibal corpse sounding riffs are also heard in the track “Shedding my human skin”, which reminds Cannibal Corpse fans of the classic album “Tomb of the mutilated”, which will be a treat for both old and newer cannibal corpse fans,’ We are also treated to the modern age Cannibal Corpse sound that many fans have come to enjoy after the departure of vocalist Chris Barnes in the title track “Red Before Black”, which yet again shows the talent and skill that the band has despite getting older and older as time goes on. With an album full of evil gory tracks, what better way to promote that than with a just as evil and gory album cover. The album cover depicts a maniacal red eyed killer, stabbing away at someone with a horrifying knife. The concept of the album cover was inspired by a dream the drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz had in which there was a man stabbing him to death, who is the killer we see on the album cover. With this combo of gory album visuals and extremely aggressive music, this album definitely is an eye and ear catcher for death metal fans and will not disappoint any fans of the brutality of death metal, because there is much of that to find in this album. I give this album an 8/10 for its awesome brutal sound that Cannibal Corpse has made a staple in death metal. The album can be purchased at the metal section at a local music store or purchased online.

Album Review - Ambition's Price (Graveshadow)
Apr 14 2018 5 mins  
2018 finds Graveshadow with their second full-length release entitled Ambition’s Price. I’m always nervous when confronted with the successor to an album I love, wondering whether the band will make stylistic changes that don’t appeal to me or, perhaps worse, just go conservative with an effort that’s same and lame. Whoa - Ambition’s Price is more than a worthy heir to their debut! The album contains plenty of powerful riffing, killer vocals, well-conceived compositions, as well as some potent ideas that suggest an exciting future for this band. The album opens with the stunning song “Doorway To Heaven," where we find not a route to paradise but a doorway straight to heavy metal hell. Delivered in Graveshadow’s trademark aggressive and angry fashion, the track is an appropriate entry to this amazing album. “Widow and the Raven” is even more uptempo, and features a killer riff and solid chorus. Singer Heather Michele stays mostly in the clean register, dipping into her growls only toward the end. This song is as melodic as it is powerful. The title track “Ambition’s Price” slows things down significantly but remains compelling. A haunting, yet super-catchy pounder played with conviction and brilliance! “Hero Of Time” - one of my personal favs - is a fast-paced gem, and one of only two songs on the album without any harsh vocals. The Zelda-inspired lyrics are well-crafted, with a memorable chorus that will have metal heads pumping their fists and singing along. “Gates” is a great track with a sinister intro, classy riffs, and the vocals exuding sheer emotion. Guitarists William Walker and Aaron Robitch are sneaky-good with their execution here and throughout, never stealing the spotlight entirely but expertly controlling the tempo and tone with their subtle fretwork. “The Unspoken” ratchets things up a notch with more intensity, brilliant melodies, and superb guitar-work that culminates in an utterly brutal ending. A rocking cut consistent with the quality of the others. The ballad “Return To Me” opens in a Dark Tranquillity-esque fashion. Another slightly slower-paced track but no less gripping. Tracks 8-10 form a min-story arc with imagery and storyline culled from the World of Warcraft universe. Straight-forward "Slave" kicks things off with a mid-tempo metal burner, leading into the balls-out speed metal tune "Liberator," featuring solid contributions from bassist Benjamin Armstrong and drummer Roman Anderson. Headbangers, get ready for this one! Rounding out the trilogy is "Warchief," an energetic piece that wraps up the narrative in style. The album closer, “Eden Ablaze”, concludes Graveshadow’s conquest of the listener in the same sick vein as the prior ten tracks. The chorus is magnificent and the guitar playing and vocals typically amazing! This album hits every mark I could want for a heavy metal record and, honestly, I don’t know why more American bands don’t follow Graveshadow’s lead in mixing some of the best of power, doom, and symphonic elements. What America needs, badly, is more metal like this! I give this album 100% rating, 5 stars, 10-out-of-10… whatever accolades I could heap on this record are manifestly deserved! This is an absolute lock on my list of best metal albums of the year, and easily my pick for album of the year so far. If you love metal, I beg you to listen to this album – you will not be disappointed. Ambition’s Price is released by M-Theory Audio. You can purchase the album through the M-Theory audio store as well as via

Album Review - A Gift For The Obsessed (The Absence)
Apr 02 2018 4 mins  
Today we’re reviewing the 4th studio album from Tampa death metal assemblage The Absence, entitled “A Gift For The Obsessed. I’ll be honest that, before receiving this promo, I was not familiar with The Absence, and was surprised to see their substantive back catalogue. There’s just so much good music coming out these days, despire their best efforts even the most passionate metal fan is going to miss quality bands. So it was for me and The Absence. The album opens with the title track, “A Gift For The Obsessed”. A ‘clunky’ start - in a good way - with the tempo and stylistic changes catching this listener off-guard. Maybe not so much obsessed as schizophrenic: you could hear one 10 second except and think you’re getting straightforward power metal, while another excerpt sounds like brutal death metal. I really enjoy the discord sown in this song! The track “The Forging” hits the listener initally with a welcome banshee scream. The main melody riff on this song is very well-crafted - this song would fit well on an Arch Enemy album. It gets really slow and ‘deathy’ – as in the classic death metal band Death – both crunchy and melodic with a superb lead break construct. The song “Misery Trophies” is a highlight on this album. Killer guitar harmonies are on full display, and if you love axe duos working together to combine their sounds these guys are definitely able to pull off the feat. “Septic Testament” – released a couple of years ago as a single as fresh material from the latest incarnation of the band’s line-up – could be from a Testament album. I really like the chord progressions in this one and the way the guitars sing the melody beneath the growls. Without going through every track, I can say that The Absence provide a great variety of sounds amid the songs on this album. There’s no filler tracks, and you’ll have no problem listening straight through. While I have some favorite songs, the band gives consistent effort and every track has something positive and unique. The guitar sound on this album is very accessible. Guitars are high in the mix – very power-metally production-wise – even though one would not mistake this for a power metal album. And you can actually hear the bass track as a distinct instrument – not always a given in the extreme metal genres. I found Jamie Stewart’s vocals to be powerful and passionate, if at times I did yearn for a touch more variety in tone. This is what I would call solid melodic death metal with definite influence from the classic Gothenburg melodeath bands, although The Absence certainly doesn’t limit themselves to that subgenre. Fans of thrash, classic death metal, and even power metal will find much to like here. I do have a slight concern with this album. While for some listeners the variety of sounds can be refreshing – and I generally share that sentiment – it is also fair to question whether that will be percieved as artistic vision or the lack of a more specific vision. Which makes me wonder for The Absence: you’ve written a metal album I think almost every metal fan would like (except those who require some clean singing), but I’m not sure many will love. And maybe that’s not a bad thing… you could definitely do worse, and I certainly recommend “A Gift For The Obsessed” to any music fan who enjoys melodic death metal tinged with thrash, and power. A Gift For The Obsessed is released by the M-Theory Audio. You can purchase the album through the M-Theory audio store as well as the usual outlets – itunes, Amazon,, etc. or find out more details on the band’s facebook page TheAbsenceOfficial. Thanks to Austin at Secret Service Publicity for sending up this promo!

Album Review - Automaton (Automaton)
Mar 25 2018 4 mins  
Automaton exploded on the mid-western US metal scene in 2015 with the amazing debut concept album “A Bold New Horizon”. In addition to their great amalgam of songs, Automaton brought the unique visual aesthetic of steampunk costumes to their metal presentation – a smart and provocative look which fit well with their musical style. I had the opportunity to see Automaton live in Covington KY last summer – and to interview co-conspirators Duncan Batchworth III and Markus Wolverhampton - and I was thoroughly impressed with both the band’s persons and performance. March 2018 finds Automaton returning with new music in the form of their sophomore release – the self-titled full-length album ‘Automaton’. Also a concept album, the story picks up where “A Bold New Horizon” left off with the heroes – or villains, depending on your perspective – engaged in their ongoing dispute with the despicable Ionians. Now: Automaton – the album – represents a significant change for Automaton – the band – in terms of sound from their last album. Whereas “A Bold New Horizon” featured a fairly straightforward European power metal sound with a generally modern production feel, stylistically “Automaton” (the album) represents music unmistakably cut from the NWOBHM mold, and engineered with a very live and raw production. At this point – full disclosure – I count myself an unapologetic fan of modern metal; someone believes most of the best heavy metal music has been created since the year 2000. I don’t typically listen to music that sounds like what I hear on this album, and, in fact, would normally disregard album promos with descriptors like ‘heavy rock’, ‘NWOBHM’, or ‘bluesy guitar’ – all fair representations of music in this release. That said, there will be many fans of metal and rock – particularly ones who adore music from the 70s and 80s – who will lap up this album like spilled wine. And there is much to enjoy here. The songs on ‘Automaton’ are well-devised and very accessible. Tracks like ‘Verdict Be Damned’ and ‘The Cull’ provide solid melodies and uptempo swing that are quite engaging. ‘Automata’ is perhaps the heaviest and most modern-sounding song, with intense riffing that mirrors its mechanistic lyrics. And the final two tracks ‘The Imprisonment Of Duncan Batchworth III’ followed by ‘The Trial Of Duncan Batchworth III’ deliver a climax and cliffhanger that are in many ways superior to the ending found on “A Bold New Horizon”. I give full credit to Automaton for their gumption and taking the risk to create such a radically different sounding album. How many bands have we as fans crushed for taking the easy route and, after a successful debut, essentially recreating their first album all over again? That said, there will be the possibility that metalheads with preference for a more modern style might not give this new album a fair listen. That would be unfortunate, as Automaton are gifted musicians who, whether or not one appreciates their NWOBHM sound, have crafted solid songs in the context of a compelling narrative. In summary, Automaton has gotten even bolder with their new album, venturing in interesting directions that may catch some fans offguard. Definitely finding the azimuth - if not quite the zenith - of their metal potential.

Album Review - The Legacy Of Atlantis (Imperial Age)
Mar 16 2018 4 mins  
Russian symphonic metal troupe Imperial Age is back in January 2018 with a new album – The Legacy Of Atlantis. The current incarnation of Imperial Age boasts an impressive line-up of gifted musicians with a solid metal look. This, their third full-length release, was quickly followed by the band embarking on an extensive tour of Europe with metal legends Therion. The album The Legacy Of Atlantis is devised as a metal opera. The story set in an alternative history of planet earth - somewhat akin to Jon Schaffer’s ‘Something Wicked’ mythos - featuring ancient advanced civilizations, hyper-evolved superhuman biologies, and global cataclysms. The cover art depicts the protagonist in all his glory with the fantasy world setting framed behind. This is great metal fare, especially for fans of concept albums! The album opens with “The Awakening” followed by the title track “The Legacy of Atlantis” – two of the strongest tracks on the album. “The Awakening” is a solid march that a barrels over the listener with a display of power and poise. The song “The Legacy Of Atlantis” employs a deft, engaging countermelody on the guitar, gives a killer catchy verse, and great melody throughout. Another album highlight, the track “Domini Canes” is a lofty anthem that features guest vocals from Therion’s Thomas Vikstrom. While the album meanders a little toward the end, there are no bad tracks on this release, and the fantastic story carries the listener through any rough patches. Imperial Age may be at their best with mid-tempo rockers such as “Island’s Of Time”, a song featuring solid riffing that allows space for their triple-vocal attack to do its damage. And the singers on this album are impressive, with Alexander "Aor" Osipov giving the male operatic vocals with power befitting a warrior race. Anna Moiseeva’s classic highs are inspiring, aided by Jane Odintsova’s mezzo soprano, providing a range of emotion and color to the lyrics. The vocal mix is superb here – even in the chorus and choral portions, you can still hear each distinct voice lending itself to the total sound. Those looking for virtuoso metal guitar might be disappointed with The Legacy Of Atlantis, as the musicians in Imperial Age keep it simple, with tasteful solos that do their work and then get out of the way. The music as a whole – never a single instrumentalist – is always the focus. Imperial Age are able to create a big, epic sound without the orchestral/symphonic elements ever overwhelming the listener. Indeed, while this is a must-have for symphonic metal enthusiasts, certainly fans of more straightforward European power metal will find much to like here as well. I give this album a rating of 8 ½ out of ten. The Legacy Of Atlantis is solid, modern metal – heavy and melodic with capable musicianship, talented singers, and excellent composition.

Album Review - The Unyielding (Adavant)
Jan 23 2018 4 mins  
Arizona metallers Adavant return after nearly 5 years with their latest epic folk metal adventure entitled the “The Unyielding” (release date Jan. 27, 2018). One of the reasons I’m a fan of folk metal is that, perhaps along with black metal, it provides as much room for creativity and innovation as any metal subgenre. The spectrum of “folk metal” ranges from acts that are essentially power metal with a dash of pipework, to others oozing in Renfair culture. Adavant takes full advantage of this artistic liberty, while still hewing close enough to traditional orchestrations to not scare off old-school metalheads. The Unyielding is a concept album with a clear and riveting story, successfully communicated through both lyrics and sound. The album opens with the Dimsician Overture, an instrumental/orchestral track that effectively previews the entire opus. As well-crafted as that track is, I actually encourage the first-time listener to bypass it and dive right into the second song. It will be on the third or fourth time playing the album – when the audience has familiarity with all the song melodies – that this track will find its fullest appreciation. Without spoiling the plot, Advant have crafted a tale that doesn’t go where you think it will, deftly surprising with alliances crossed and anti-hero morphing to hero and vis versa. The choruses in the songs Stumbling Huntsman and Renegade Ridge find this contrast played out perfectly, with each drunken gang singing to laud their cause as right and just. Story aside, most of the tracks are strong enough to stand on their own, with highlights such as Overgaard and Gallows Pass providing plenty of uptempo kick for the casual headbanger. And the song Fairhaven is a rowdy stomper, with the chorus giving an effective interplay between Charlotte the Alluring’s operatic highs and the growls of Nathan the Ravenous. The band works the narrative arc perfectly, with the lyrics at times delivered in the first person of specific characters, othertimes on behalf of the crowd, and elsewhere simply narrating the tale through its myriad twists and turns. In whatever voice, the audience find themselves fully is immersed in the vividly unfolding story. And when we reach the final scene and the chorus from Gallows Pass comes back around, repurposed and with layers of meaning unforeseen… I honestly get goosebumps! I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the hidden, “bonus” track – Rise of the Splinterbeasts. Different in feel and execution from the rest of the album. This is an unexpected gem – clever and fun – well done Adavant! One other positive from this album that simply cannot be ignored is the detail and craftsmanship that went into the CD booklet. In this age when, too often, “less is more”, the band has taken the time, effort, and expense to make an album you want in physical copy. I don’t know which member or members of Adavant are the gamers, but the story is straight out of a dungeons and dragons adventure, and the band appropriately includes a middle-earth style map to help the listener envision the fantasy world created thru the music. It is not to disparage their previous efforts that I can honestly say Adavant have made a huge leap in their songwriting and overall production quality on The Unyielding. I give it a rating of 9 out of ten, and for me this is a strong contender as one of the top metal albums of 2018.

Album Review - A Game You Cannot Win (Heretic)
Jan 13 2018 5 mins  
For some it is important the way a band classifies themselves, so we’ll stick with that for now and say Heretic is a heavy or classic metal band. Whatever they label themselves, Heretic tends to make me headbang! This Los Angeles based band that’s been around since the Early 80s has released their most recent album entitled A Game You Cannot Win.This 12 track, 10 song album is their 3rd full length album following Breaking Point in 1988 and A Time of Crisis in 2012. Heretic is a band that does a certain style of music and they do it well. You won’t see neo-maxi zoom dweebies liking this album as it’s way too primal. There’s musicianship and instrumental talent, but A Game You Cannot Win is more attrition and melee than artistry, which means I am giving it an enthusiastic two thumbs up! This album is chalk full of what I would agreeably call classic power/thrash metal. Julian Mendez, the original singer, returns again after fronting on their 2012 release and continues to bring a guttural energy to his vocals that allows any respectable metal head to get a slipped disc with proper head-banging. Original guitarist Brian Korban and new addition Stuart Fujinami bring the riffs. A steady stew of hard, driven rhythms, laced with fast and furious leads, the songs display what this reviewer would call vintage metal. Angelo Espino provides the steady bass soul that is often required, but more often unnoticed by many fans of metal. He matches the guitarists lick for lick when required and then loudly takes a back seat when the Peppery solos come into play. Then returning drummer Ignazio Iggy Coppola sets the tone and speed for all to enjoy. Having recently started learning the drums, I listen to this aspect of the music more and more and I enjoy the power with which Coppola guides the band. At times on display, and again at other times often overlooked as an integral part of the music. There are 10 tracks on this album with an intro and outro. As is often the case, the tone is set right from the start with the first musical track “This World Called Hell.” Fast and furious I call this a “grab your balls and hold on track”. Much of this album fits that description with tracks like “Demonized” and “Relentless“. And then there are other songs not so speedy where they tend to pound out the rhythm in slow pulsating marches like “Broken Hero“, “Annihilate“, and “Before The Fall“. There are also songs that appear to be Heretic’s version of some sort of ballad on steroids, and I use that term dangerously loosely, like “Master At Her Game“. Many of the songs off A Game You Cannot Win run the gamut of all three styles I notice on this album. Which is okay with me, as long as they bring that classic head-bangin, ball-grabbin metal that drives “intelligencia metal” crazy! If there’s one thing I would change about the Heretic album, it would be a vague thing I noticed in the vocals. It’s not that the vocals are bad, it’s just that I didn’t feel they utilized Mendez’s strengths the way they could. At times his “normal singing” seems forced and possibly too passionate. Mendez has a voice that could rake the skin off a buffalo’s butt, but he spends perhaps a quarter of the album trying to sound like a male version of a female symphonic metal singer; and really what he is, is a ball grabbing, jack hammering, heavy metal, hardcore, scream until your skin starts to burn, power metal singer. So don’t get me wrong - Mendez is great - but sometimes he seems out of character with his voice. It would be like Floor Jansen trying to sing AC/DC. Here’s hoping on the next Heretic album it’s a “let Julian be Julian” situation, because when he’s doing what his voice was born to do, there is mandatory head-banging! Heretic’s latest release A Game You Cannot Win is a moshing contest you can win, if you employ it like the weapon it is. I give it 8.5 out of 10 and say, buy it, listen to it, and then get the necessary neck surgery following.

Album Review - Sign Of The Dragonhead (Leaves' Eyes)
Dec 07 2017 3 mins  
The warrior longboats are coming back ashore with Leaves’ Eyes 7th full-length studio album, "Sign Of The Dragonhead." Produced through Germany’s Mastersound Entertainment by Leaves’ Eyes’ own Alex Krull and Thorsten Bauer, this is the band’s first full release featuring new singer Elina Siirala. Fans got a taste of her work via the 2016 EP Fires In The North, but this album gives a much fuller sampling of her skills and a better sense of what fans can expect from this new incarnation of Leaves’ Eyes. In brief: if you are an admirer of Leaves’ Eyes previous catalogue, you’ll relish "Sign Of The Dragonhead." The album picks up musically where 2015's “King Of Kings” left off, with a similar production style and lyrical themes. The mixture of styles and pacing from track to track makes this an eminently listenable album, with haunting ballads such as “Fairer Than The Sun” seguing seamlessly into headbanging anthems like “Shadows In The Night." Clocking in at just over 45 minutes, it’s a balanced and well-conceived album from beginning to end. As a big fan of symphonic metal, I am aware of the potential pitfalls this genre holds. Bands who are able to avoid recreating Nightwish's sound still can move so far into melodic territory that the music becomes indistinguishable from commercial hard rock. No worries here on either front. With their new album, Leaves’ Eyes maintains their own distinct sound, navigating the treacherous shoals of “beauty vs. beast” vocals, folkish elements, Viking lyrical imagery, and big orchestrations. The band utilizes all these tools effectively, in ways that never come off as derivative. Vocalist Elina Siirala’s singing is quite impressive throughout "Sign Of The Dragonhead," her voice expressed with variety and heart. Elina’s delivery is distinct from predecessor Liv Kristine, but not so much that fans will see her addition as a radical retooling of the band’s sound. Her voice gives extra punch to the Celtic-inspired pace of standout tracks “Across The Sea” and “Völva." As usual with Leaves’ Eyes, Alex Krull’s harsh vocals are used judiciously and in just the right places to give extra aggression and “oomph." Like previous Leaves' Eyes releases, folk sounds play a key role, but the band wisely meters them out, with fiddles, pipes, choirs and acoustic guitar nurturing rather than overwhelming the songs on which they appear. “Riders On The Wind” is a great example of this balance, providing the perfect meshing of sonic metal and folk kick. Krull and Bauer did an impressive job in producing this album: the mix is clean and lively, making the music that much more exciting. This is a solid metal album, and one I won’t forget when considering the best for 2018 at the end of the year. This album is very consistent, and the only negative I might mention is that there’s not any single track that leaps out as a ‘must-hear’ classic like the songs “My Destiny” or “Hell To The Heavens” from previous albums. However, with zero filler – no weak submissions here – and so much good material, Leaves’ Eyes will have a tough time determining which songs will represent this album on setlists. With "Sign of the Dragonhead," Leaves’ Eyes further solidify their niche as one of the strongest symphonic metal bands going.

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