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Reviews 2005


Divinefire - Hero, Metal Heaven

The Swedish band Divinefire has released its second album. That's quite an achievement if you consider the fact that the band was started in early 2004 and released their debut earlier this year. Yes, two albums in the same year! Those who have listened to Glory Thy Name will know what to expect from the second album: very powerful, uptempo melodic metal with keyboards. The vocals are mostly clean. Sometimes the music can be very catchy, without losing the hardness of the music. Although the debut appeared to be an all-star project, now Divinefire is a real band and Hero is a band effort, rather than the combined effort from various people. Drawback is that it doesn't contain as much variety . There's one lead vocalist, Christian Rivel. Only in the final song, a cover of the Queen classic The Show Must Go On, you can hear two guest vocalists: Thomas Vikström (formerly of Candlemass) and Maria Rådsten. Without any doubt, this is one of the most attractive songs on Hero, but also the tracks Divinefire and United As One are great. And some others too. This is a record that will appeal to fans of melodic metal, but also to those who are into the harder styles from the scene. This is real good stuff.

Fire Fly - Breathe, Embryo Industries

Here's the follow-up to Fire Fly's Beauty For Ashes that was released back in 2001. Over the last few years the British band fronted by Simon Bibby (formerly of Seventh Angel) made some demos. The songs on those demos were finally recorded for Breathe, along with some new ones. Although I heard the demos, this album absolutely takes my breath away. Fire Fly is heavier than ever! Still they play powerful atmospheric rock, but there are many influences from metal, hardcore and nu metal. Bibby's diverse vocal style is varied by harsh screams (by Mark Broomhead, formerly of thrash metal band Detritus). Song wise Fire Fly succeeded in writing an album with very catchy material, like Blue Eyed Boy and A>Z. The few people who saw the band live know this isn't just music. Fire Fly is an experience. If they get the chance to go out and play, I'm sure they will be able to win over the hearts of many people. So, if you like very heavy melodic rock, buy this album and play it at full volume!

Venia - In Our Weakness, Bombworks Records

The Finnish melodic metal band Venia has released its first official EP. I remember their previous demo (Genesis) and how I disliked the female vocals. On In Our Weakness they have the same line-up, including singer Veronica Fagerlund. My first observation was discovering how much they improved the quality of the recording. Genesis was not bad, but definitely demo quality. In Our Weakness sounds a hundred times better. But, I still don't like Veronica's higher notes and how she twists those as you can hear in the second track. Fortunately she doesn't always sing that high. And in The Path she even adopts a more aggressive style of singing that sounds very nice. In fact, I like that. The music itself is very good. It's melodic and has thrash influences. Songs that I dig most are The Path and Heikko.

Evroklidon - The Flame Of Sodom, Bombworks Records

The Ukrain, home of Holy Blood, is also the home country for Evroklidon, a dark black metal band. In fact, the band only consists of two members. One of them is Artaaroth who also plays in Holy Blood. The Flame Of Sodom is a six track album, filling 42 minutes. You can expect old school black metal with fast parts, but there are also slower, dark en depressive moments. The final track, Spiritual Battle, makes me think of Lengsel at times. Although Evroklidon isn't as good as their Norwegian peers, they have potential. The tracks are quite long and sometimes the same riff is repeated way too many times (for example in Devilish Beast In Eternal Fire). But for the rest this disc sounds alright.

Pale Horse - Until The Last Seal Is Opened, Bombworks Records

Bombworks Records opened the archives with this release. Until The Last Seal Is Opened contains three demos from Pale Horse. This is old school death metal that brings back memories, although I never heard this particular band before. The pictures in the booklet speak for themselves. The demos were recorded in 1993 and 1994. Overall the songs are slow, almost like doom metal, but sometimes there are fast parts. There are some solos on the album. A few of them remind me much of Seventh Angel. There are fifteen tracks on this disc, filling 56 minutes. But the inlay only has a list of twelve song titles (the last two tracks are raw versions of track12 and 13). Until The Last Seal Is Opened offers a worthy piece of metal history with a sound and production that was very exceptable in the early nineties.

Amos - A Matter Of Time, Bombworks Records

A Matter Of Time is a Brazilian product. Often I've heard great music from Latin American countries that had a poor sound. This is an exception. Musically you can expect a combination of melodic metal and progressive metal, sometimes with a tendency towards gothic metal. The lead guitar playing is really tasty and the songs have lots of great moments and ideas. I'm not entirely convinced by the vocals though. They lack the power and passion that this music deserves. It's also a pity that Amos is a two-man-band with Rodrigo doing bass & vocals and Evandro who takes care of the guitar duties. I wonder if they play live or that they are a studio band. On the whole I can say the music is interesting and has enough variety to keep my attention.

Illuminandi - The Beginning, Bombworks Records

Illuminandi is a promising and upcoming gothic metal band from Poland. Their first two demos (from 2000 and 2002) are now on one CD with some live material (from 2004). Bombworks Records remastered the material and released it. The music was reviewed earlier this year, so scroll down to find this review. The fascinating combination of metal with cello and violin makes me wonder what a new studio effort will sound like. So, let me express my wish to hear new material soon!

Holy Blood - Waves Are Dancing, Bombworks Records

A little more than a year ago I got acquainted with Holy Blood's music by downloading several of their songs from the band's website. Immediately I was infatuated with their unique sound. Fortunately Bombworks Records released the second album Waves Are Dancing to the western markets. Holy Blood is a Ukrainian extreme metal band. On one hand you can hear hammering black metal and shrill noises. But the band also incorporates Slavonic themes and flute playing. These folkish elements greatly enhance the music. Songs like To Heaven and The Spring are great to listen to, as well as the instrumental Baptising Of The Rus. This album also contains a video for The Spring. Unfortunately the music you hear doesn't correspond with what you see on screen. It only gives you a slight impression of the live sensation though it proves this is a band to keep an eye on.

Majestic Vanguard - Beyond The Moon, Metal Heaven

Majestic Vanguard is a new melodic metal band. Though Beyond The Moon is the debut effort for this Swedish band, some members have played together since the early nineties. Drummer Daniel Eskilsson produced this ten track disc that happens to be a surprisingly good debut. Although Beyond The Moon offers variety, the band succeeds in making the album sound as a unity. Some of the songs can be described as power metal with uptempo parts. Sometimes Majestic Vanguard has more straightforward and symphonic metal (mainly because of the use of keyboards) stuff to offer as well. With good instrument playing, this band is one of those groups to keep an eye on in the years to come. Fans of Swedish melodic metal will like this band. My favorite tunes are: The Great Eternity, Tears In Neverland and Take Me Home (with a great guitar solo!).

Flagship - Maiden Voyage, Metal Heaven

It's been years ago since I listened to a real symphonic rock album. Maiden Voyage is such an album. Flagship was formed in 2002 by Linus Kåse and Christian Rivel who were both part of metal band Narnia at the time. With Flagship they wanted to play symphonic rock inspired by bands such as Kansas, Styx, Buggles and Queen. The first time I listened to this record, I had to think a lot of good old Kerry Livgren (Kansas). In fact, Livgren assisted on one of the tracks: Ground Zero, a song he wrote for his first solo album. The version from Flagship sounds much like the original and deserves credit. The music on Maiden Voyage is filled with passionate mellow parts and some energetic heavy passages. Kåse and Rivel are accompanied by some excellent musicians, including Carljohann Grimmark who can be heard playing several nice riffs and solos. But Linus Kåse is a respectable keyboard player too. Just listen to the many solos he played on this album. The only drawback from my viewpoint, is the length of the songs. Even the shortest track is almost seven minutes. Not exactly radio friendly...

Stryper - Reborn,  Big 3 Records/MTM Music

Fifteen years after the last studio album, Stryper gets back with a whole new album. Making a comeback is always a risky enterprise. The musical landscape has changed much over the years and band members change their tastes as well. Should they stick to the direction they followed back in the day, or should they try the current trends? Singer/guitarist Michael Sweet has been honest about Reborn, Stryper's comeback effort. He wrote and recorded this material for a solo album, but then decided to re-record it with Stryper. Although Michael Sweet was responsible for writing the majority of the songs in Stryper's glorious past, his solo work is somewhat different and not appreciated by all Stryper fans. So, what could be expected from Reborn? After listening to the album a few dozen times, I've come to the conclusion that this is in fact a good melodic rock album. Good, but not great. And it does sound like a Michael Sweet solo album, though it has more Stryper influences than normally. Musically the album is so diverse, that I needed to listen to it many times to finally appreciate it. But even now the album in its entirety doesn't feel like a Stryper album. When I think of Stryper, I think of these elements: Nice guitar tones, catchy choruses, harmonically layered vocals and shredding guitar solos. Only in the remake of In God We Trust you can hear all those elements. There's the only one real shredding guitar solo. The harmonically layered vocals can only be heard on a few occasions, for example in the bridge of When Did I See You Cry, a song that also has nice guitar tones. However, if you consider Reborn as a solo effort, my expectations differ. Then I hear what I've described as a good melodic rock album. My favorite songs are I.G.W.T., When Did I See You Cry, Passion and Wait For You. It's no coincidence that I think these song represent the modern interpretation of Stryper best. If they head into this direction for the next album, I'm sure the good may turn into great.

The Rick Ray Band - Temporary World, Neurosis Records

The seventies progressive rock formation Rick Ray Band returns with their fourth album in three years. The record starts with Until The End, a song with lots of blues influences. Singer Chuck Abraham makes me think of Robert Cray at times. On three of the twelve tracks there are different singers (Rick Ray and Jack Ambrose) and two tracks are instrumentals. Sound wise this is one of the best releases from Neurosis Records so far. It never gets as heavy as Rick Ray has been on some of his previous albums though. Personally I miss that.

Ashton Nyte and the Accused - Headspace, Intervention Arts/Youngside Records

Instead of a new album from The Awakening, band leader Ashton Nyte comes with this new solo initiative. With Headspace Ashton Nyte slows down the pace a bit. The music is mellower than I'm used to, but still it has that dreamy atmosphere and the poetic hard-to-understand lyrics. I'm not really familiar with the kind of music Ashton Nyte and the Accused play. It's rock music with lots of extras, like tambourine, violin and piano. You can also hear guitar effect like tremolo, wah and feedback. The song writing is good, as is expected from Nyte. The lyrics remain a puzzle to me...

As I Lay Dying - Shadows Are Security, Metal Blade Records

The San Diegan band As I Lay Dying is fast conquering the world with their appealing metalcore. Their previous album Frail Words Collapse sold over 135,000 copies in the US alone. It's likely the band will break their record sales with Shadows Are Security. With more than forty minutes, this new album offers all the aggression and power you can put into a disc. But at the same time As I Lay Dying succeeds in adding enough melody to the songs to make them stick in your memory for the rest of the day. Except for the final track their music isn't chaotic at all. Though the riffs may be technical at times, the music sounds pretty much straightforward. There's a good balance between aggression and melody, between high speeds and slower tempos. In a few songs you can hear great clean vocals (Confined, The Darkest Night), but most of the times you can hear Tim Lambesis' harsh screams. Did I tell you there's a brilliant guitar solo in The Truth Of My Perception? Anyway, with a very neat production, Shadows Are Security is an album very few people will wanna miss.

Jet Circus - Look At Death Now,  Hypersonic Records/Rivel Records

Some may remember the remarkable hard rock album Step On It from Jet Circus, released in 1989. The band was formed by Ez Gomér and Terry Haw. They were once part of another hard rock band: Leviticus. Now Jet Circus returns with a production of Ez Gomér alone. Still he manages to make remarkable music. Look At Death Now is a collaborate effort of Ez (bass, vocals) with several guest musicians, like Michael Ulvsgärd (Jerusalem), Tommy Denander (Radioactive) and Mikkee Dee (Motörhead). In two ballads you can also hear string arrangements from the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, plus piano played by Joakim Holgersson. The heavy songs are melodic hard rock songs with a bluesy touch. Overall this disc is a good hard rock effort with nine songs.

Meadow - We All Collapse, Feedback Records

The band Meadow follows the tracks of Dead Poetic with We All Collapse. There's also an influence from old Blindside traceable. No wonder, this band's from Sweden as well! Meadow was started in 2001 and this album is their debut. I remember the first album from Blindside, but We All Collapse is definitely a better start for a band. So, who knows what these guys will once achieve... There are various vocal styles on this album, including screams, yells and clean and rap-like vocals. On this effort the band manages to write thirteen well structured songs with catchy sounds. The production is good and the instrument playing fine. Though it's not all very original, this record will appeal to many emocore fans. Some of my favorites are I Let Myself Burn Out, Stay, Dead End and Nothing/Something.

Global Warning - Enemy Within, Independent

Back in 2000 Global Warning debuted with a self titled EP. Then they could be described as a melodic metal band. A lot has changed since. Gone are the high pitched vocals, the solo's, the melodies... Global Warning now plays dirty, slow plodding nu metal with a thick guitar sound and raspy vocals. The production improved tremendously with each release. Enemy Within is the band's third release and the first full-length (almost an hour long). There are fifteen songs on the album. A little more variety would be welcomed by me, as most of the songs sound alike after a while. There are exceptions though. More speed and aggression and well-dosed guitar melodies could be great improvements. But this is also a matter of taste and maybe I'm too hard to please. The use of flute in Chasm and the occasional acoustic parts enhance the album. With Enemy Within Global Warning at least proves they have been able to develop themselves and there's no doubt about the quality they can deliver.

Braquet - Braquet, Tutl

If you would mix melodic rock with some metal riffs and produce it as a pop rock effort, you may get what Braquet did with this debut EP. Besides a short and a long instrumental track, the remaining three songs have the same basic construction with mellow, acoustic verses (with gentle guitar strumming or picking) and heavy choruses. It's in the choruses that the metal riffs turn up. The melodic vocals are very pop-oriented all over the album. There are also harmonic background vocals (as in All I Want) that sound great. Guitarist Arni Zachariassen adds some neat solos here and there. Overall this EP has a solid production with a few likeable songs. I only regret that the vocals never get a bit more raw, a bit more powerful. All the power comes from the music itself.

Antestor - The Forsaken, Endtime Productions/Fear Dark

Seven years have passed by since the release of The Return Of The Black Death album. Now Antestor is making their comeback with a new full-length. Last year they already did a new EP. The new record sounds familiar and different. The band now consists of Gard (bass), Vemod (guitar), Sygmoon (keyboards) and Vrede (vocals). The first two were in the band seven years ago too. The last two were formerly known from the promising young band Vaakevandring. On The Forsaken Antestor hired in Hellhammer (Mayhem) to handle the drums. This new line-up is responsible for an album with a lot of variety. There's extreme, fast and furious black metal, atmospheric material and doomier passages. The engineering is much improved compared to The Return. But the songs are not as easily accessible. The music needs time to grow on you, but then you'll discover a masterpiece. Antestor is one of those bands that still make this genre a challenge as they've put in a lot of creativity.

Kekal - Acidity, Fear Dark

Without any doubt, this is the best produced and engineered Kekal release so far. Finally the music sounds as it should be, rather than sounding as if it was recorded in an amateur studio. Though the cover suggests the band took a more industrial approach to their music, the black metal roots are even more prominent than on the previous effort, I think. The label describes Kekal's music as avantgarde metal, and this is an apt description for an album where fast black metal parts are interrupted or combined by very unusual elements. What do you think of an alto saxophone solo (in A Dream For A Moment)? Or raplike vocals (in Thy Neighbor's Morality)? The clean vocals are the main vocal type on Acidity. What surprises me, are the many guitar solos, and they're well played too. Some songs have several of them, played by different members of the band (Leo, Jeff & Didi). There's also a solo played by Jason DeRon as a guest appearance. All lyrics are English, though the pronunciation by these Indonesians is hopeless. Nevertheless, Kekal is at its best with this exotic metal release.

Slechtvalk - At The Dawn Of War, Fear Dark

The Dutch black metal band Slechtvalk has written a new album that can almost be described as a concept album. Most of the songs are about an army going to war, except Black Raven Dead. Slechtvalk is a band that's grown musically enormously since the one-man-band effort Falconry. The songs are dark, atmospheric, with the usual shrieks, low clean vocals (Ohtar) and female vocals (Fionnghuala). When you browse through the songs, you'll hear fantastic riff ideas. However, I think the band is too fond of their own riffs as they sometimes repeat them too many times. It starts boring me after a while. But the production makes up a lot. I only think Fionnghuala should have played a bigger role. The final song is her chance to sing the lead. My compliments for the beautiful booklet.

Pacto De Sangre - Alerta, Pacto Music

Pacto De Sangre is a band from Puerto Rico fronted by Metaloman (Hector Garcia). As his name suggests, this band plays metal. The first three songs are melodic metal songs with high vocals. The playing is decent and the tracks are well written. Especially the first song sounds great. The fourth song shows a different side of the same band. Gone are the melodic riffs. This is uptempo thrash metal with raw vocals. And this is not the only thrash material on Alerta. Thrash and melodic metal, for instance, are combined in La Ley De Dios. The album contains eight songs plus an English version of the title track. Besides two of the tracks, all lyrics are in Spanish. There are plenty of well played solos. The production is okay, but could be much improved. But you definitely can get a good impression of the band.

Blissed - Waking Up The Dead, Krrecords

The new band from Robert Sweet (Stryper) is Blissed. Over the last few years he's been pushing this band. Musically this is not to be compared with Stryper. A better comparison is with Robert Sweet's solo disc Love Trash. But Waking Up The Dead (released in 2002) is better, heavier and darker. You might describe this music as alternative metal. There are heavy riffs, screams and cleaner singing. The production is very good, making songs like Fire Below, the King's X inspired Come On In, the heavy Shut Up and the ballad I Would Die sound very well. And there are other tracks here that are interesting. It's a pity I didn't have this disc a few years earlier. It would have made a worthy CD of the Month in the Art For The Ears radio show. Fortunately, Blissed is working on new material.

Trinity FSG - The Valley Of The Dry Bones, Independent

This progressive rock release dates back from 2003. Trinity is a three-piece band (what's in a name?). The members look like middle-aged men who like jamming after the church service. At least their lyrics have a strong religious character. They sound like they are well played in on each other. The songs are not really heavy, and the vocals stay a bit too gentle. But the overall impression is good. The heaviest songs are The Accuser, In Your Eyes and Song Of A Sinful Man. Some of these songs have fine guitar solos. Might be a nice album to vary a heavier diet.

Warrior - The Battle Has Started, Independent

This must be a joke. Just look at the bright-colored cover with the two band members with black-and-white painted faces and leather-look outfits! The cover also says: 'Featuring the hit "I Want A Walmart Girl"' I have to admit that this song, and other tracks on The Battle Has Started, have catchy lines. The production is decent, but could be better. Warrior is the band of Michael Goodnight (bass & vocals) and Tad Donley (guitar & vocals). Don't mistake this band for the other Warrior that Rob Rock sang for. This Warrior plays eighties pop metal. It's not bad at all. And they're more serious than the cover suggests...

Jacobs Dream - Drama Of The Ages, Metal Blade Records

Four years since the release of Theater Of War, Jacobs Dream returns with a new album. Due to line-up problems it took them so long. The departure of vocalist David Taylor is the most significant change. He's replaced by Chaz Bond. I knew Chaz from his work with Biogenesis (the album The Mark Bleeds Through). When I heard the first song on Drama Of The Ages I couldn't believe it was the same Chaz. His vocal delivery in Jacobs Dream is a day and night difference with his style in Biogenesis. In his former band the resemblance with Saviour Machine's Eric Clayton was evident. In Jacobs Dream he adopted a 'heavy metal style' of singing, with raw, almost raspy, vocals. He's a great singer, fitting in very well with the band's music. Only occasionally I miss the old singer, who had a more emotional style. Anyway, Jacobs Dream is back with a good combination of straightforward heavy metal and progressive metal. Apparently they wanted to give you something worth your money by filling the disc with 64 minutes of well produced metal. Good thing!

Bloodwork - Insufficient Flesh, Tarantula Promotions

Insufficient Flesh is the second EP from the UK extreme metal band Bloodwork. They're going since 2002. With only two EP's out it's surprising to find out they actually played festivals in countries like Norway and Brasil. It probably has a lot to do with their commitment to pick up live opportunities, even when it means to pay the expenses. Isn't that the spirit of the underground? Well, anyway, musically they combine old school death metal with black and thrash metal. This resulted in an EP with a pleasant variation of slow, mid tempo and some really fast parts. Death metal grunts are combined with black metal shrieking all the time. The production is not top notch, but decent enough. It appears Bloodwork intends to release a full-length this year. It's good to hear the UK can still produce some extreme metal. So, let it come!

Rob Rock - Holy Hell, AFM Records

Rob Rock is back with his third solo effort. Holy Hell is a ten song heavy metal masterpiece. Everybody who's familiar with the previous two albums will know what to expect: hard hitting metal with lots of great lead vocals and guitar solos. This disc is no exception. It starts with the uncompromisingly hard Slayer Of Souls. What I admire in Rob Rock is his ability to stay as heavy as possible, but remain as melodic as possible at the same time. If you're a melodic metal fan, it's impossible not to like this CD. Songs like Calling Angels, Holy Hell and When Darkness Reigns have great hooks. Holy Hell also contains a ballad called I'll Be Waiting For You with a nice, touchy guitar solo. And it appears there's also an Abba cover on the record... This is an album not to be missed in the melodic metal fans collection.

Illuminandi - Demo II, Independent

The Polish band Illuminandi consists of seven people. This line-up includes a violin and a cello player. I can't say I've ever heard a band like Illuminandi before (though the combination with string instruments isn't new), and in this case that must be taken as a compliment. Their music can be described as Slavonic gothic metal with a touch of classical music. But, as if that's not enough, there are influences from hardcore and death metal (mainly vocally). All these elements are mixed in a convincing manner. The production is good, but could be better. The songs, however, are appealing. A song like The Light and ...Wiec My are great to listen to. Demo II only has three songs. The burned CD I received also contains eight live tracks, proving that Illuminandi can pull things (including strings) off in a live setting as well.

Stryper - 7 Weeks: Live In America, 2003, Fifty Three Five Records/Deep South Records

Stryper, the melodic metal band that started back in the early eighties, is back together. A few years ago they released a new best-of album with two new songs and now there's a live album, recorded during a seven week tour in 2003. And it's as if you listen to a band that doesn't sound they're back together for the first tour since 1992. Almost all songs sound as if they've been playing them for years. Any Stryper fan will indulge in this album. There are two minor points. First, there's no song taken from the In God We Trust album (not the title track, nor Always There For You - shame!). This is remarkable, because the best-of didn't have any song from this album either. The second minor point is the booklet. Only the cover is full-color, the rest is very simple black and white printing, very dull. They might have been a bit more resourceful than that!

Winter Solstice - The Fall Of Rome, Metal Blade Records

Some four years ago Winter Solstice was started. The Fall of Rome is their second album and their Metal Blade debut. Listening to the music, I hear a metalcore/hardcore band playing thrashy metal. Especially the raw screaming vocals would fit a metalcore band perfectly. But the music is much more metal oriented, which makes me getting used to this kind of singing. The Fall Of Rome is filled with energetic music. Winter Solstic isn't as aggressive and uptempo as their labelmates As I Lay Dying and the hardcore elements are more prominently present. The production is good, making all the instruments sound decent.

Audiovision - The Calling, Rivel Records

Audiovision is an all-star hard rock project started by Christian Rivel. The majority of the music was written by Lars Chriss from the band Lion's Share. He also does all the rhythm guitars on The Calling. Christian Rivel took care of the lyrics and most of the lead singing. Chriss & Rivel are accompanied by more than fifteen (!) other musicians and singers, who have gained their stripes in the hard rock and metal scenes. The list is impressive, including Bruce Kulick (Grand Funk Railroad), Jeff Scott Soto (Talisman), Tony Franklin (Whitesnake) and Mic Michaeli (Europe). This combined effort resulted in a top notch hard rock/metal album with powerful rock music, excellent playing and harmonic vocals. Some of the songs have three or four different keyboard players... Surprisingly, I've never heard Christian Rivel sings as rough as he does in the title song. Overall the album is great to listen to. It ends with a delightful instrumental including a snoring fretless bass, played by Tony Franklin. If you like good, melodic hard rock, this disc is a must-have.

Divinefire - Glory Thy Name, Rivel Records

Divinefire is a much talked of project from Christian Rivel (Narnia) and Jani Stefanovic (Renascent), who wrote this album. Glory Thy Name is a project that incorporates different metal styles, including thrash metal, progressive metal, power metal and doom metal. There are even some occasional grunts. Atmospheric and ethereal keyboards and harmonic vocals have a huge impact on the sound of Divinefire. The band also includes Andreas Olsson on bass. They are assisted by seven other musicians/singers: Torbjörn Weinesjö (Veni Domine), Pontus Norgren (Talisman, Great King Rat), Thomas Vikström (Brazon Abbot, Candlemass), Fredrik Sjöholm (Veni Domine), Carljohan Grimmark (Narnia), Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) and Hubertus Liljegren. The music often reminds me of Narnia, especially vocally, while the music is heavier, with lots of double bass. But there are lighter moments as well, like Pay It Forward with a mouth-watering guitar solo. An interesting piece is the ten-minute track The Spirit that encompasses all Divinefire elements. Divinefire is a band that sounds really promising. Glory Thy Name is a beautiful album that will appeal to many heavy metal fans.

Mirador - The Azrael Tales, Rivel Records

This is probably the melodic metal surprise of the year. Since I got The Azrael Tales I can't help but putting it in the CD-player again and again. This goes on for weeks not... Mirador is blossoming late. Once started in 1991 they took years to find the musical direction they felt comfortable with. Then they sort of broke up. In 2003 Mirador regrouped and wrote new material. Thanks to Rivel Records this band finally debutes. This is excellent epic metal, with a smooth mix of progressive metal, doom metal and more straight forward metal and rock. Songs like Phoenix's Syndrome, Postbelivers, Soul Distortion and The Trial are very pleasant to listen to with their great guitar playing, subtle keyboards (sometimes reminiscent of old Veni Domine) and handsome vocals. This is the kind of album that I'll probably like listening to ten years from now as well. Hopefully, Mirador has a whole set of released CD's by then.

Heartcry - Lightmaker, Rivel Records

Heartcry is a band formed in the late eighties by Anders Johansson. He has been playing in bands since the seventies. The first Heartcry album came out in 1990. When I'm right, Lightmaker is the fourth album. The record starts with an uptempo hard rock/metal that reminds me a bit of the harder side of Leviticus and old Bloodgood. The majority of the songs on this disc aren't just as hard. End Of Times, in fact, is a nice, gentle, melodic rock song. And Get Ready makes me think of Aerosmith, at least the intro. Heartcry writes songs with head and tail, with lengthy guitar solos and easy to sing-along-to choruses. Though the music can't be described as original, the playing and the production are decent enough to like this album. Good ole melodic hard rock.

Crimson Moonlight - Veil Of Remembrance, Rivel Records

I remember my enthusiasm about The Covenant Progress (TCP), Crimson Moonlight's previous effort. Their hard hitting black metal with its atmospheric keyboards was an extreme metal delight. I was surprised to hear the band was recording an album without keyboards. I found that the keyboards made TCP somewhat lighter to digest. However, Veil Of Remembrance proves Crimson Moonlight can do without keyboards really well. Still the band launches hard hitting, fast extreme metal, but the numerous slowed down parts make this album more diverse than TCP. Some of the riffs aren't necessarily black metal riffs. The rhythm guitar playing in Illusion Was True Beauty could be of a death metal song. Most of the vocals are the typical black metal shrieks, but occasionally you can hear grunts as well. The production is very solid, making Veil Of Remembrance a hard, dark album. Crimson Moonlight is obviously heading for domination in the black metal world.

Rick Ray - Chainsaw Manicure, Neurosis Records

The last two years Neuroris released three albums from The Rick Ray Band. For the first time  since 2002 a Rick Ray solo album was brought out. The obvious difference between his solo work and the band, is that Rick Ray plays almost all instruments and does all the vocals on Chainsaw Manicure. What remains the same is the seventies progressive rock, though with different accents. As I've heard on previous solo efforts, Chainsaw Manicure contains an acoustic instrumental that sounds quite pleasant to me. That Rick Ray is a very able musician, is clear when you listen to the other instrumental, the title track. Besides great lead guitar playing, his riffs are, combined with the rhythm section, really of fine taste. The whole album is recorded well, with a retro sound, though as if the songs were all written back in time.

Sympathy - Arcane Path, Fear Dark

For his latest album and follow-up to Invocation sole Sympathy member Dharok wrote harder death metal songs than ever. You can hear tracks with fast drumming, frantic riffs and shrill guitar solos, while the lyrics are grunted at high speeds. The guitar playing is skilfully done. Listening to Arcane Path is an overwhelming experience. Besides the intro track there are eleven songs on the album. The production is good. What I really miss, is variety. While Invocation had some diversity, Arcane Path is a lot of monotonous pounding. If you like uncompromisingly hard, dark and aggressive death metal, this may be your thing.

Seventh Avenue - Eternals, Massacre Records

The first thing I thought after listening to Eternals was: wow, what a heavy album! The classic heavy metal from Seventh Avenue has gained more and more fans over the years. It's not hard to imagine why. This forceful metal music is filled with great hooks and melody without losing power. The lead guitar playing is really mouth-watering, as in Raging Fire and the instrumental Storm III. Singer Herbie Langhans has a perfect voice in combination with the power metal of Seventh Avenue. The production is excellent, making Eternals a recommendable disc.

Eden In Ruins - The Unknown, Independent

It's been years since the last Eden In Ruins Dead Skin demos. Sole member Todd Pope focused on other projects, but now he's back with a two song demo. Musically the old school death metal is replaced by more straight forward metal with clean vocals. Although the production could be better, this is not a demo to be ashamed of. On the contrary, the song writing is good as Pope realises the importance of having a proper chorus. The subtle use of keyboards in the chorus of The Unknown Known also enhances the song. Add to that the fairly good use of instruments and the fine solos, and you'll get the picture. The only real minor point are the vocals. They sound dull, while I would like to hear either some more exciting or more depressive sounds.

Morphia  - Fading Beauty, Fear Dark

Morphia has released the follow-up to Frozen Dust. The line-up of this doom metal band remains the same, though they are assisted by Esther Wertwijn in two songs. With her violin she add to the sorrowful sound of the album. Fading Beauty is an album about sorrow, like losing your closest friend. Another obvious change is the speed of the music. While Frozen Dust was a slow tempo album, on Fading Beauty Morphia picks up the tempo occasionally. What remains are the slow music, the diversity of the vocals (clean, grunting and shrieking) and the atmospheric touch from the keyboards. Though Morphia doesn't write songs with easy to memorize choruses and lengthy solos, their heavy emotional music is well crafted and powerful. Emometal?

Flight 09 - Human Nature, Neurosis Records

The third Flight 09 CD is another progressive rock album. Since Flight 09 was established in 1986, they also released five tapes. They started out as a progressive metal band. You can still hear some metal influences in a song like One Night Without You. But the rest of the album is not getting as heavy. Keyboards take an important role in the songs, from the Nits like humming in Eternal Disgrace, to the atmospheric sound in The Crow. There are nine tracks on Human Nature, filling almost fifty minutes.  Decent production.

Hovland - Rise Up, Dunamis Records

This is probably rock music for a rock 'n roll church. The opening track is Holy, and that particular word is repeated so often, that it will probably annoy a lot of hard rock fans. And hard rock and old school melodic metal is what Hovland has to offer. Following that happy first song is War Song. This song is much more appropriate, with raw male vocals and female vocals. Shannon Hovland sound often like Danis (if someone remembers her... from the eighties band Scarlet Red). The lead guitar playing is really done well. Overall the CD is not as heavy as I prefer, and it make me think of the Sanctuary praise CD's that were released in the early nineties. This is Christian worship rock.

New Eden - Stagnant Progression, P & P Records

Former Steel Prophet singer Rick Mythiasin has joined the forces of New Eden, the band of former Steel Prophet guitarist Horacio Colmenares. While the previous album Obscure Master Plan (1999) had a very distinct heavy metal/progressive metal sound with peculiar riffing and vocals, this new one sounds a little more straight forward. You can even hear similarities between New Eden and old Steel Prophet in No Ill Intent. The recruiting of Rick Mythiasin is a fortunate move as the previous singer had a very remarkable sound but sang out of tune now and then. Mythiasin is a very fine vocalist for this kind of heavy metal. Stagnant Progression has enough diversity to keep it interesting, all sixty minutes.