Thursday, 26 February 2015

Review: Black Star Riders-The Killer Instinct

Musical Chairs are back. Gary Lee is back! So let's take a look at the new Black Star Riders album The Killer Instinct! Hold on to your hats, this one may just be a bumpy ride! 

The year is 1972 and Thin Lizzy have just recently released their second album Shades Of A...wait, no, that isn't right at all! The Year is 2015 and Black Star Riders have just released their second album, The Killer Instinct. OK that's better. Built from a reunion of Thin Lizzy members after the death of vocalist Phil Lynott and described as "the next step in the Thin Lizzy story" make no mistake about it, these guys ARE Thin Lizzy.....but they aren't, confused? Yeah so am I.

However my confusion runs deeper and pretty much underpins how I feel about this album. The change of name came about since it was apparently decided it was the better thing to do so that the new material wouldn't clash with the legacy the band had made with Lynott. But here's where I get confused; the sound hasn't changed either, which makes the name change seem like a rather pointless gesture. Surely the formation of what is essentially a new band, or if not that a new brand, would have been a good time to explore something new musically? I really cannot understand how an album released today can sound (production differences withstanding) almost like it could have been released 40 years ago, nor can I understand how that is a good thing.

I realise that right now, I am running the risk of riding this train off the rails, but I wasn't aware that hard rock was a modern supported genre. I thought that is was as outdated and geriatric as the people who listen to it, there I said it. Hard rock, I have no idea why you still exist. The album shows it's stuck in reverse too. It's hyper sexualised, stereotypical macho rock album art is almost enough to ward you away. However, it also extends to the track titles; Bullet Blues, Soldierstown, Sex Guns & Gasoline and the ironically titled Through The Motions, which probably should have been the name of this album.

It's not that I don't like the album, it has some good moments. The ballsy blues riff in The Killer Instinct encapsulates the swagger and strut of rock, although I'll say nothing of the rather trite chorus lyrics. Finest Hour has some good sing along moments and a rather nice solo. Soldierstown is at least an attempt at being thought provoking and Turn in Your Arms has a nice groove and some nice guitar work. Sadly, these moments are just that. Moments. It's not that the songs are 'bad' they're just 'done'. Every single one of these songs, could be any one of these songs. The album offers nothing memorable, nothing ground breaking or nothing even new at all.

I want to like this album, I really do. I want to love this band, I want to get excited about it, I want to be able to recommend this to all my friends and I want to be able to tell you readers that "oh man, this album is great, forget buying food, buy this instead." I mean come on! It's Thin-fucking-Lizzy! (kinda) But I can't. I can't because it's not exciting, I can't because they're are better releases this month. I can't because even these riffs won't sustain you and let's be frank, if you wanted to listen to some Thin-Fucking-Lizzy, then you'd be better off buying some classic Thin Lizzy.

Article By: Gary Lee (@thewheelbear)

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Thursday, 19 February 2015

Album Review-Hate: Crusade: Zero

Gary Lee is back! Our own dirt encrusted corpse, fuelled only by the dark energies of metal, offers his opinion on the latest Hate album Crusade:Zero and it is slightly lacklustre...

Hate are a Polish, blackened death metal band, who somewhat obviously face comparisons with their cousins Behemoth. However, I feel that this is selling both bands short. They both have their own ways and styles although there are, of course, some similarities. However, this is not an article to discuss those, this is an article to discuss the bands 9th studio album, Crusade:Zero.

I admit that this album took a while to click with me! It has some strange structural choices such as the two intro tracks. Vox Die (A Call From Beyond) is a slow ominous build up that wouldn't sound too out of place at the beginning of an 'epic movie fight scene'. However, this is then followed by Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Thy Wrath, which is a more crushing and 'doomy' piece with wandering guitar riffs, thick basslines and the obvious inclusion of the double kick. Admittedly I like that this follows perfectly into Death Liberator but I just don't understand the thought process at work here. Usually, you hook the listener in with the intro track and then come out and make a statement with the track that follows it. The two intro track decision is odd. It appears as though the band couldn't pick one, or were padding out their track count. The only statement made here as a result is indecisiveness.  I feel the album would have flowed better if the two intro tracks were worked into one, or if the second track and Death Liberator were made into one track. I also find myself questioning the inclusion of a bonus track, especially when this track (The Reaping) comes after the album's outro. This, once again, ruins the flow of the album and the entire concept of an instrumental outro.

Anyway! With that out of the way, lets crack on. The first actual track is sadly the third track on offering and in my opinion, it isn't quite the statement we were looking for. Led by the vicious growls and relentless double kick, the only statement this song makes to me is 'last album'. I mean, it is a good song but offers nothing new. It offers no reason to keep listening to this album, or even buy this album when you have the option of their older material. Of course there will be those fans of Hate, or of the genre, that are happy with this lack of divergence but I would have preferred something a little braver for the first fully fledged song on the album.

However, there is a song that makes a statement on this album! I bring you Leviathan. It is a crushing, heavy, bleak song with a fantastic down tempo doom feel to it. The chorus "Abyss/Born/Leviathan" is aggressive and violent with a guttural emphasis on all of those words and leaving enough space for some crazy head banging. Between the down tempo'd chorus though, the song rips open into a speedy death metal affair with all of the usual seasoning and some fantastic guitar riffing. I really love this doomy style that they mingled with their usual blackened death metal shredding. When I first heard this single it floored me, it still does, it is perhaps one of the best metal songs of the year. Leviathan is certainly enough of statement to warrant extra listening. That is, if you make it that far. Sadly the track that follows, Doomsday Celebrities, once again feels very generic. I like the drumming which adds a little something different but the rest, once again, feels very déjà vu.

Hate is Law manages to reclaim some of that brilliance but has a similar "down tempo vs shredding" formula to Leviathan but the bridge section that kicks in at 3:20 is the saving grace. It is a very groove led section that almost has a downtrodden southern rock feel to it and I mean that in a complimentary manner. Although of course, it is delivered with all the viciousness that Hate normally bring with them. It is a great example of a band attempting something a little different and having it pay off fantastically.

Valley of Darkness was the second single from the album and is probably reason number 3 to buy this album. It starts with a dramatic riff as the drums build towards the more crushing section of this intro. Once again this song has a great head-nod inducing groove that the majority of the album is missing. Mercifully, with the tension at its highest, the vocals cut in and herald a new age of aggression for this song. Although the grooves are still there, they seem less 'front and centre'. Also, look out for a great solo at the 5:10 mark.

Once again, sadly the album begins to falter. Crusade:Zero feels a little run of the mill, The Omnipresence is another instrumental (the album tops out at 4, 2 of which feel unnecessary), Rise Omega The Consequence offers little new to the album, Dawn of War feels very much the same and then there is the outro, Black Aura Debris, which is a solid offering. It's a functional outro track and does that well. However, it is then succeeded by the bonus track The Reaping. Having already discussed my issues with this structure, I will not cover this track here.

All in all, I would probably suggest you avoid this album as a whole. Unless you are the type to listen to this genre a lot, then perhaps you might want it in your arsenal. However, I would simply suggest you buy Lord, Make Me An Insturment of Thy Wrath, Leviathan, Hate is Law and Valley of Darkness and be done with it. Despite being a 13 track album, I feel that beyond those 4 there is little else on offer.

Article by Gary Lee (@Thewheelbear)

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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Sathamel interview

Sathamel are fast becoming a well loved band here at Musical Chairs. Their debut EP was released this year and the review can be found here. Therefore you can imagine our excitement when they agreed to an interview and we are very proud to deliver it here. Within we discuss the foundation of the band, as well as some of their "rockstar" moments, alongside a confirmation that they are indeed working on new material!


MC: Firstly, congrats on the EP release. It's a great listen and obviously a milestone for the band. How does it feel to have your music released to the public now?

KVN: Thank you! It means a lot. 
It is a milestone in the sense that some of the songs were already released on our demo, recorded under the previous name. With the name change at the start of 2014 and unfortunately a subsequent line up change, it was almost a rebirth for the band. 

The response has been great and the icing on the cake, as it were, for the last 12 months... the band is stronger than ever - we regret nothing!

MC: How did the band come into being?

KVN: The original concept came about from our guitarist, Baal, and the aforementioned ex-member around 2011 - when it was explained to me the original concept was to focus mainly on demonology and explain the myth behind each being. Examples of this include the songs "Venus, Morning Star" and "Abaddon".

This was originally a 'recording only' concept and not something that was intended to reach a live audience, but since 2013 a full band was formed and here we are!

MC: What would you say are the major influences on your sound, who do you aspire to?

KVN: We have fairly varied influences towards our own personal playing. Majority within the band would be the'resembling artists' I suppose, such as; Behemoth, Hate, Watain, Inquisition, Marduk, Dissection and Belphegor.

We actively in our approach, apart from probably visually, try not to rip off any of these bands however. With that said, our drummer is also massively into power metal and traditional heavy metal, variety isn't something we're afraid of. 

VALDR: If there's any band I want to be like, it is Sathamel - 'cheesy', but fuck it!

MC: What is your dream gig? Who would you like to tour with? Any festivals you’d like to do?

KVN: The bands mentioned above would of course be a dream come true, some obviously cannot happen.

Playing somewhere like Bloodstock also, somewhere we all congregate each year. It would be great to be on the other side of that barrier.

We are also due to support Hecate Enthroned, for our debut show in london April 18th. That is a dream come true, most definitely.

MC: Any personal highlight or interesting studio stories to share from this release?

KVN: The whole experience was great. Our producer and engineer, Sam and Adam, were great guys to work with. We tracked over three days and it did not go without some 'excess'... Sam was celebrating his birthday that weekend and we had arranged to meet in a local pub with some of our friends from Old Corpse Road. After finishing tracking guitars that day I decided to celebrate a lot harder than most - which resulted in much hilarity for the others. I don't remember much at all. Compromising photos of myself appeared on our personal Facebook pages, haha!

VALDR: For me, tracking 5 songs in one day was one hell of a challenge. Don't get me wrong, the drums I recorded are not exactly the most technical, but being a heavy player it was tough to nail each song as best I could, despite only having up to and around 7 hours of recording time.

But I am happy with the end result and just as proud of the rest of the guys for being so pro about it. 
Also, big shout out to Sam and Adam for the motivation throughout my session, was nice to have people present who actually cared about the end product and saw fit to advise me as to what I could do better in certain parts. It definitely paid off!

KRUK: On the last day of recording, when I was recording the vocal aspect of our sound, the building in which the recording was taking process was plagued by witches/negative energy hunters. The owner of the establishment was one of those people, walking around the area designated for recording, playing some tribal drum and whispering some old spells. There were also water rods for dousing etc. Don't know if it was a coincidence that the owner's hobby mixed with our recording or if he actually had called for some 'spiritual help' to help him cleanse the building once he had researched who we are. It was quite frustrating as it cost us precious time, but it sure made a fine story to tell, which brings an evil grin on my face when I think about it.

MC: What is planned for this year now that EP is out?

KVN: We are currently working on new material and still booking shows where we can. We are looking to perform futher afield and have done so already this year. We have a handful of dates about Leeds and beyond confirmed now, all details can be found on our Facebook/Bandcamp/Reverbnation page.

MC: Do you listen to any non-metal music, maybe to unwind?

KVN: Personally, although it is not strictly 'non-metal', I like to unwind to bands such as Alcest and Summoning. Apart from that, film scores (especially The Lord Of The Rings) and acoustic artists such as Andy McKee, Calum Graham and Jon Gomm.  

VALDR: My musical roots are deep in classic rock and heavy metal but I've always embraced the late 90's early 00's pop punk movement and if it wasn't for a certain few bands of that scene I wouldn't be drumming right now! 

Also I'm also a rather large fan of Eminem, although he's one of the very few rap/hip hop artists I enjoy! 
I do indulge in some classical stuff too, but more in the vein of epic movie and video game soundtracks, notably Howard Shore and Jeremy Soule.

MC: Proudest 'Rockstar' moment, or gnarly stage antic?

KVN: Apart from the release of the EP and response? Realising you have made such an impression on someone that they feel the need to slander Sathamel and members by name online. That was the moment I felt I achieved something.

As for gnarly stage antics - we use war paint and blood as a part of our image, when people realise it is at times real blood I suppose their reaction is "Gnarly". 

VALDR:  I've had people shouting 'Sathamel' at me in the street and had some of the younger generation of Metalheads asking for pictures and autographs after shows. I've been told that Sathamel has been held as inspiration for some young aspiring musicians - it really makes you smile!

KRUK: There is a story linked to a band we played with, which we will not mention by name. After one of our shows, ourselves and other band of our friends got into an argument with the management of the venue, which resulted in threats of violence from these 'professionals'.

Some possessions of the establishment were destroyed in rage due to lack of payment. There was even an idea in a certain characters head to burn the place down, needless to say the arson did not happen. But due to the 'mess' we had made we were accused of damages, until it came to light we were actually on the stage when this occurred.

We have also established a reputation of a very messy band. Our paint has become a standard for our shows. We feel that if we stopped doing it, it would feel like we didn't deliver Sathamel to the people watching us, as well as to ourselves. As a result, sometimes we really do leave a bloody mess behind us.

Some venues that we keep returning to have learned to accept it, others respect it and some others hate it and even ban us from coming back. I believe that this kind of reputation is pretty 'rockstar'.
What is metal without at least a small amount of controversy?

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Album Review: Onoe Caponoe - Voices From Planet Cattele

The prodigal son returns! Chris Brown is here to give us the latest hip-hop review as he explores the latest offering from UK based hip-hop label High Focus; a label determined to offer new and exciting hip-hop. Check out Onoe Caponoe Voices From Planet Cattele.

Firstly, I must confess from the off that High Focus Records are a UK hip-hop label that I have a major love for. Ever since I first discovered the label, which wasn't actually too long ago thinking about it, I have been hooked. I honestly don't believe hip-hop as a genre has been looked after very well. I feel it was all beginning to sound same-y and started to go a little stale and ultimately repetitive. It truly made me sad. This was until High Focus came into my life. It may still be a small label but make no mistakes, they are home to some of the most incredible and fascinating artists I've ever come across. Each of these artists seem to come at the genre from different, interesting and fresh angles. Perfect for recapturing my waning interest.

With that in mind I want to introduce you to Onoe Caponoe with his new album and first under the High Focus label Voices From Planet Cattele. Although I was familiar with the producer (Chemo) I'd never heard Onoe Caponoe, so I hit play not really knowing what to expect. As soon as I listened I was treated to sounds that were hypnotic and mind bending in so many psychedelic and totally abnormal ways. This theme continues throughout the entire album, leading you to believe you're actually floating through the deepest realms of space.

The second you hear the first track, Cattele Intro, you are greeted by martian like voice (which sounds like a sample stripped straight from a 60's space movie) telling of the creation of planet Cattele. With this kind of opener, you know this is going to be a one of a kind album. Space Bitches is the following track and it's only really a taster of Onoe Caponoe's laid back lyrical flow. The blend between the style of production and clever lyricism in Lord Of The Light - Sun Riddim, Disappearing Jakob and Peace To The Godz (all personal favourites of mine which I just simply can't choose between) have an astounding effect that will have you floating blissfully in every verse. Moon - Galactico, the most instrumental track on the album, is laced with wobbly guitar riffs and vinyl crackle, giving the whole track a nice authentic feel; a sound that never gets old. This shows off Chemo's craftsmanship superbly. For one of the more experimental tracks we have Goth Bitches (The Serenade) which features Jehst hitting us with intricately put together rhyme schemes. Paint Your Body Gold is the closing track which has a more familiar hip-hop rhythm to it. I found this brought me back to planet Earth, after the mesmerising trip that Voices From Planet Cattele had taken me on.

This is one of the most experimental hip-hop albums I've heard in a long time. It pushes the boundaries a little and for that, I love it. So if UK hip-hop is your thing, or even if hip-hop in general is your thing, then I really do urge you to check this guy out. You will not be disappointed.    

Article by: Christian Brown 


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Sunday, 15 February 2015

EP REVIEW: Pallow-Confined

Our alternative connoisseur was sent on a mission; go to Bandcamp and pick something interesting out and he has done just that. This is his review of Confined by Pallow.

Let it not be said that I'm stuck in the past and can't review anything by a band I have no prior knowledge or experience with. During my midnight trawl through Bandcamp, partly so I don't have to review the new Viet Cong album and burst everyone's bubble on that one, I came across something very interesting indeed; an EP under the name Confined-Pallow. It was initially the artwork that struck me. In the sweet-shop that is Bandcamp's alternative section, it takes something special to stand out and this artwork was just eye-catching and intriguing enough for me to give it a click. Boy am I glad I did.

   This EP is an interesting blend of shoegaze, slow-core and free jazz in some places (or that could just be sloppy drumming, you never know sometimes.) The album opener, In Wait, is one of the most satisfying alternative/shoegaze tracks I've heard in a while. It opens with these plodding, dark guitar parts that build with light percussion, synths and over-driven bass into a powerful wall of noise with this lovely warm distorted low end and beautiful melody played so gently above it, almost tiptoeing above the mix. The vocals are a classic shoegaze affair, as they are throughout the entire EP, just melding well with the music which is obviously the main focus of the song. That's not to say the vocals are bad, in fact fans of Thurtson Moore or even Brann Dailor from Mastodon will have no problems getting into the dual melodies of Jason Combs and Connor McFall. If there's one thing in particular I like about this release, it is the way the songs can build up over 2 or 3 bars and just drop out instantly and start again. They can go from these really gruff, distorted shreds, back to being really chill at the drop of a hat. It's really interesting and I think it is definitely one of the bands biggest strengths. I would love to hear it expanded on more as the band finds their sound and I hope other bands latch on to this technique because it is definitely not used enough.

If I do have one major problem with the EP then it unfortunately is how sloppy and poor some of the drumming is across this album, especially in the final track Inward. Don't get me wrong, Inward is a great track but the drumming just feels a mess, bass drums are all over the place and just no discernible rhythm. It could potentially be in a time signature I'm just not picking up on, it was late when I was listening and I apologize if so, but it just feels like it lets down an otherwise solid release.

Closing words on Confined; I liked it. I enjoyed my time listening to it, it was very interesting, very chill and it felt very fresh. I love the sort of weird shoegaze revival that seems to be going on right now and I can't wait to hear what these guys do in the future because I believe that they have a lot of potential and I reckon you should make an attempt to check Pallow out.

This EP is available on Bandcamp:

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R.Sweeney (@TheCautiousCrip)

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

6:33 interview

Musical Chairs are happy to welcome back French metal heads 6:33 back to the blog! So far its been an industrious year for the gang, who have been busy promoting their new album The Deadly Scenes. So we were pleased when they graciously agreed to stop and answer a few of our questions. 

Musical Chairs: For any of our readers who don't know, give us a quick history lesson,
how did 6:33 get to this point?

Howahkan : Once upon a time... Well, in 2010, some guys decided to create a side-project next to their other bands where they could enjoy playing songs with no musical boundaries. They quickly released a first album, "Orphan of Good Manners", which set the basics of what 6:33 will become.
After the departure of the former singer, the band contacted Arno Strobl (Carnival in Coal) to collaborate for a free downloadable EP (whilst looking for its new official singer), 6:33 & Arno Strobl's "Giggles, Garlands & Gallows" (released in 2012) which pushed the band to a whole new level.
Both Arno & 6:33 decided the adventure couldn't end that way and so we wrote and recorded a few more songs to complete the EP and release a proper full-length album together, which happens with "The Stench From The Swelling (a true story)", in 2013.
Our third album, "The Deadly Scenes" marks the end of our collaboration with Arno Strobl, and the first of a new era with Rorschach, our new singer.

MC: Where does the name "6:33" come from?

Howahkan : Some whispers refer to the verse of the gospel of Matthew ("Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you."). Some others think this might be some obscure numerology mindfuck. Others simply tell that the band was created at 6:33 AM after a very long night. Who knows?

MC: You guys seem to meld a lot of different sounds, and styles 
together to create something truly unique.
What exactly does this come from, what are your influences?

Howahkan : It's quite broad indeed as we do love rockabilly, funk, film scores, electro, even if we share a strong rock/metal basis. That being said, this diversity is not an end in itself and we don't want to melt styles just to show we think we can. It is, in fact, a quite cinematographic approach of music, where each song is seen like a kind of short movie and each ambiance is here to serve the purpose of the "story".

MC: Was the album concept something you had in mind before writing, or did
it happen organically?

Howahkan : The idea of a concept album came very early, as we only had demo versions of two or three songs. The rest of the album was composed with this idea in mind and gave a direction, a general mood for each song. The concept in itself isn't something very original, but we wanted to treat it our own way, like a starting point for stories and characters.

MC: Once the concept was created, who or what did you use as reference for
each act/sin?

Howahkan : We didn't want something dark, religious and moralistic. Rorschach, who was in charge of the lyrics, created a kind of weird tale for each song, where characters embody different sins, but without any judgement. We're closer to the "Mr. Men & Little Misses" than Se7en!

MC: Which song do you hold as your favourite from the entire album?

Howahkan : I am a fan of "The Walking Fed". Everything from the way it was composed, the use of tribal & electronic elements, to the effects used on vocals makes this song very experimental and I like that. And Greed is my favourite sin.

MC: With this album being crafted almost like a piece of musical theatre,
and the Rocky Horror Picture Show reference made in "(I should have known) Her Name was Boogie"
is there any intention to move into that field?

Howahkan : We would love that! There's always been a kind of cinematic vibe in 6:33 and it would be a great experience to compose some music on a theatre piece, a movie, a documentary...

What is next in 2015 for the band?

Howahkan : After 3 full-length albums in 4 years, I think we're gonna focus on playing live for now, and try to give this "Deadly Scenes" the beautiful life we think it deserves! We have a lot of concerts, some mini-tours and most generally speaking, a lot of nice stuff coming.

The Deadly Scenes is available now, and our review can be found here 

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Album Review: Wolfheart-Winterborn

Spearheading what Spinefarm surely hope will be a big year for Wolfheart, they reissue their 2013 album Winterborn. Mr. Metal himself Gary Lee may have missed this release first time around, but looks to make amends this time!

The Finnish Wolfheart began life in 2013 as a solo project for vocalist and lead guitarist Tuomas Saukkonen, who had appeared in many other bands such as Before the Dawn, Black Sun and Dawn of Solace. Now though Wolfheart have become a fully fledged committed band and as such, are aiming to release their first album as a band in 2015. But before that happens their label, Spinefarm Records, have taken the decision to re-release their 2013 debut album Winterborn to what they hope will be a larger and more eager audience.

The first track The Hunt opens with a folky acoustic motif that lures the listener in, like a welcoming meadow, only for them to be crushed by thunderous guitar riffs and drums after a time. The riff plays on the acoustic motif (which occasionally reappears) giving the song a nucleus to be built around and it is something that it never strays from, despite the musical sundering that goes on here. Saukkonen's growls are spectacular, as is the bluesy solo that carries this song to the blast beat led outro. The song is filled with a villainous grandeur. Epic, but in a much more threatening way than power metal....less Blind Guardian, more Amon Amarth.

The harmonic motif and groove laden riffs are carried through into the second track Strength and Valour, carrying what would otherwise be a bull charging blast beat song, to a memorable and enjoyable end. However, it is the masterful Routa, Pt.2 that really shows off the songwriting nuance of Saukkonen. The song starts out with a wonderful violin part that sets you off down a wistful path. Once again the distorted guitars and blast beats come charging through, bursting through any tension created. However, unlike many songs of this ilk, the violins stay in, almost beckoning you down the musical journey. Here the strings and guitars compliment each other beautifully, neither competing for space and it is nice to hear a slightly different take on this type of song writing. I also love the small acoustic interlude before the vocals come into the mix. Once again there can be no complaints on the vocal front, the growls really add to the power and presence of this song as indeed I feel they do throughout the album. There is once again more blues sounding solo work, as we heard in The Hunt. This time it takes on a more melodic tone and wanders around the scales in manner that would make the most hardcore, spandex wearing 80's rock fan weak at the knees. At 7:33 it's one of the longest songs on the album, but also without a doubt one of the highlights. Although look out for the sibling to this track, Chasm.

Whiteout opens with a fuzzed up chunky riff that is reminiscent of the 90's alternative sound before it is coupled with a wonderful harmonic partner and the usual destructive drums. I really like this unsual sound that is offered here, it really helps underpin the groove and threat of this track and much like the earlier Strength and Valour, this becomes a motif that is carried through the track. Providing a nexus once again for the song writing to be built around. The track contains a swirling grungy solo to go along with the fuzzed up riff and in all, this track really shows the breadth of Saukkonen's song writing talents! From here Ghost of Karella and I take the album back down the full throttle metal route before falling to the melodic and wistful Chasm. 

However it is Isolation, the albums fully instrumental track, that offers something different. It is a rich and textured piece that shows enough to tantalise the listener, while leaving enough mystery to allow you to transpose your own thoughts and feelings in to it. Although, if there is one thing this track has in abundance, it is feeling. It is a great way to lead to the closing of the album, though I wouldn't have minded if this track was the closer. A great, mature instrumental track.

In all, this album will please the discerning metal head. I feel that perhaps, for someone looking to get into metal or someone who is new to the genre, the scope may be a little large. Although there is a lot of confidence, style and swagger to see it through. One thing for certain; this year looks to be a big year for Wolfheart and I cannot wait to see what original material the new lineup come up with this year.

Article by Gary Lee.

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Monday, 9 February 2015

News: Shawn James and the Shapeshifters Launch Album Kickstarter

Fayetteville, Arkansas swamp rockers Shawn James and the Shapeshifters have launched a kickstarter to help fund their new album. Gary Lee is here to tell you why you should pledge.

Ok. No pressure huh? Well first let me tell you who these guys are. Obviously they hail from the USA, Fayetteville, Arkansas specifically. They are self styled swamp rockers, fusing bluegrass and hard rock to create their own take on the southern rock sound.

Vocally, the lyrics are delivered with a gravelly conviction and a whole load of soul. Dynamically, the songs range from large and room filling pieces that would make even the most resistant begin to head nod, to thick, dizzying and hypnotic ballads. Their first three releases can be found to stream and purchase via Soundcloud.

The Wolf (released early 2013)

The Bear (released June 2013)

The Hawk (released January 2014)

Now the band want your help to release their first original album! The album is set for an April release date with the kickstarter set to end in 20 days, can you help? The pledges range from a small amount of merch, to a digital copy of the album before the official release date, to a date with band member; Baker.

You can also find and support the band via their bandcamp here I wish these guys good luck in their endeavour, they are mightily interesting!

Article by: Gary Lee

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Album Review: Blind Guardian-Beyond the Red Mirror

Blind Guardian release their 10th studio album Beyond the Red Mirror. We ask our metal writer, Gary Lee, to take a look!

German power metal act Blind Guardian are back after a 5 year break with the suitably epic Beyond The Red Mirror. The album comes five years after their previous work At The Edge of Time (2010) and is conceptually the sequel to Imaginations From The Otherside (1995). Singer Hansi Kürsch has described the album as a story that exists somewhere between science fiction and fantasy. The production of this album has been vast; working with choirs from Budapest, Prague and Boston along with 2 orchestras with over 90 people in each. The result is a larger than life album that takes the bold move of bridging two albums together and it does so with magical music.

The opening track, The Ninth Wave, makes good use of the aforementioned production extras to create a captivating intro which is accompanied by Hansi's piercing and powerful vocals that tease with emotions like a sculptor with clay. The distorted guitar riffing adds to the building tension, reaching a pleasant crescendo at the chorus "sail on 'till we reach the promised land/we all drown in the fifth dimension" which I feel is a great lyrical motif for the song to build towards through each successive verse. At nearly 10 minutes long and with almost every second spent in grandeur, the scope of this song is perhaps too large for me to sum up here. However, it builds, peaks and falls well time and time again. This does more than enough to keep me interested and is masterfully executed. It is indeed a strong intro track and without a doubt one of the highlights on the album.

The following track, Twilight of The Gods, is the single from this album and as such, while it keeps the usual "epic" Blind Guardian feel, it is carried on the back of a much more tried and tested metal chassis. The chorus is still the epic power pose opportunity, carried by those powerful vocals once again. But the song in general sees much more double kick and guitar soloing than the previous song. It creates a great call and answer effect with the album; track 1 offers up atmospheric, almost cinematic Blind Guardian, while track 2 knocks it out of the park with metal "Twist in The Myth" Blind Guardian.

At the Edge of Time bridges these two broad methods of delivery. Beginning with a moody and teasing orchestral piece that sounds like it could have been in the Fantasia soundtrack, which is equally matched by Hansi's vocals, this time delivered with just the right amount of wonder. This slowly builds to become a wonderful metal track that again encapsulates everything about Blind Guardian and the majesty of the power metal genre. I also want to give a small mention to Ashes of Eternity for having one of the best intro riffs on this whole album.

The Holy Grail opens in a threatening and pulsating metal manner and Hansi's vocals being backed by the choir provides a haunting highlight. The guitar that comes in around 1:55 is nicely done and is underpinned by a galloping drum section that pretty much illustrates the pace of this track, which never lets up. The song certainly strays very little from the usual formula, but does it's job well! The Throne is majesty in full effect, the choirs and orchestra pair up with Blind Guardian again here, to create a spanning and vast piece of music much in the vein of The Ninth Wave. The guitar work around the 4:30 mark is also damn nice to listen to.

Miracle Machine is a beautiful melodic ballad. However, the chorus is very catchy and the song stands at a very radio friendly 3:03. The majority of the song is piano lead, which makes it refreshing after all the guitar riffs and double kicks. If this album had a second single, I would love it to be this. It compliments the metal stylings of Twilight of the Gods very well and is one of my favourite moments on the album.

In summation, I feel that this album is a very solid offering, beautifully crafted and has some great production and additional elements as I have already discussed. However, it is Blind Guardian being Blind Guardian and as such, nothing about this album sticks out as striking or memorable. What they have added compliments the old patterns and formula well, rather than reinventing it. Yet there remains a lot to like here, for fans of the band and the genre.  

Article by Gary Lee (@thewheelbear)

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