Death SS – Resurrection

Listening to “Resurrection” by Death SS feels like a full immersion in the perilously dark realm of nostalgia. Even if nothing on this album will win prizes for innovation and creative energy, there will be a certain dose of childish guilty pleasure associated with each and every song. Even if the band has been around since the 70s, it was back in 1991 that Steve Sylvester & co. truly rocked the scene with the breakthrough release of “Heavy Demons” bringing evil corruption and horror everywhere around you.
It is noteworthy that Steve Sylvester’s voice is still in great shape after approximately thirty years of career.
“Revived” is a straight forward heavy rock guitar driven tune with the addition of modern electro elements that renders it quite dancy. The rhythm is undeniably groovy and Steve Sylvester is running the (freak) show with feverish vocals.
“The Crimson Shrine” is like the traditional blast from the past. Nothing is too heavy on top of the traditionally metal style keyboards. But as expected, Steve Sylvester’s vocal delivery is the reason why you will love this song. His voice is scratchy and somehow melancholic on this slow paced tune adorned by the most classic heavy guitar solo all licks and distortion.
“Dionysus” is all about classic rock guitar riffs but still quite gothic with a somewhat retro flavor especially on the female chorus. If you like the romantic/gothic vibe elegantly delivered by the keyboards work, you will definitely enjoy the similar sweet decadence that overwhelmingly diffuses through “Star In Sight”.
“Ogre’s Lullaby” is exactly a nightmarish lullaby with a tormented doomish guitar riff in loop made to bring the full of the creepiness of the monsters under your childhood bed.
“The Devil’s Graal” is a quite enjoyable slower track with a deeply melancholic acoustic intro and a classically fully shred guitar solo.
“Bad Luck” opens up with Steve Sylvester’s twisted laughter and traditionally distorted rock vibe. This is a not to be missed fun horror rock tune with full blast guitar riffs and crazy solo tapping.
Overall, “Resurrection” is a very consistent and strong album in terms of both style variety and musicianship. It is definitely a must have for the band’s eternally loyal fanbase.

Deathstars – The Perfect Cult

Once upon a time, Deathstars was a big deal, a band with a mesmerizing creative force that filled each and every song. Then, that explosive bright light started to dim for no apparent reason.
Deathstars gives it another shot after the sadly disappointing “Night Electric Night” in 2009. So, after some years spent focusing exclusively on writing process and music exploration, the band released “The Perfect Cult”. Hence, this is an album that truly comes loaded with anxious expectations.
Listening to “The Perfect Cult”, among some obvious mixed feelings there is this sort of weakness lingering between riffs and melodies. It’s not really a matter of being innovative at all costs in a music scene where the majority of releases focus on a recycle process, it’s more about the art of delivering a sentiment of passion through music.
“Explode” doesn’t live up to its title. Among flat guitar riffs, there is a catchy rhythm hiding in there but it just fails to create a mood. Whiplasher’s vocals truly attempt to bring a solid strike of energy to cheer the atmosphere.
“All The Devil’s Toys” is the one song that should force you to pump the volume and dance until you fall dizzy on the floor. Nice concept, groovy guitars, but it ends up losing its strength and charm long before the song is over.
“Ghost Reviver” holds the haunting shadow of “Termination Bliss” deep inside, therefore it could be classified as the happy encouraging moment of the album.
The title track has a very catchy chorus and the sinister toned vocals are quite entertaining, yet again it cannot be considered a memorable song.
“Bodies” gets a straight synthetic rock attitude that certainly feels refreshing with loads of darkly atmospheric keyboards that deliver a tragic sense of decadence. In general, the slower goth oriented rhythm seems to flow steady and spontaneously.
“Noise Cuts” is another valuable track if only because it successfully delivers the intoxicating hopelessness of the dark side that we got used to embrace in Deathstars’ previous albums. The synths tapestry, elegantly composed and executed, feels like the perfect complement for Whiplasher’s melancholic and mischievous delivery.
In the end, I really wanted to fall desperately in love with “The Perfect Cult” but it seems impossible at the moment, so maybe I’ll just wait for the next release and try again.

The Birthday Massacre – Superstition

By now everybody knows that The Birthday Massacre has successfully developed a uniquely sinister and cute visual/musical image. There is an awful lot to love about this band, just think about the cartoon like violet themed album covers and the mischievously bloody school uniforms. And, of course, there is the music. It all started with creepy videogame synthetic/alternative rock that inevitably instigated curiosity in the scene. In the last few years, The Birthday Massacre has proven to be musically all grown up and independent with its own unmistakable music style elegantly executed in every album. The latest release entitled “Superstition” does not fall far from the original musical direction and visual theme.
The first track “Divide” will make you feel comfortable right away. We’re still in the videogame world full of ominous shadows crawling in the dark, but everything feels happy and safe. The omnipresent keyboards layers create a sincere landscape for soft vocals and simple guitar riffs. The dark takes over only for a matter of seconds carrying a raspy voice and an eerie guitar mini solo.
“Diaries” feels sweet like a first date and flows graciously just like a dream. On the vocals Chibi sounds like a perfect dreamy storyteller. Guitars and keyboards never fail to softly entwine without ever overpowering any melody.
The title track holds a mysterious power with slower rhythm and guitar melodies. The major attraction here is embodied by the recurring dark synths theme.
“Rain” is the most romantic and soothing song on this album. The whole musical frame is extremely pleasant and the keyboards concoct a delicate melody full of good vibes.
“Destroyer” fully deserves the listeners’ attention if only because Chibi channels her infamous wicked growls. The rest of the song has a more guitar driven groovy core compared to the other tunes.
If that’s not enough, “The Other Side” is another track where guitars and keyboards work together harmoniously to create that exquisite sinister spine-chilling atmosphere. At the same time, all the elements are held together by an intensely catchy chorus.
“Superstition” might not always hold the creative escapades of some of its well known predecessors, nevertheless it is lovely collection of sweet & creepy songs that make you want to dance and sing along under the moonlight.

Graveyard – Innocence & Decadence

As the retro trend continues to spread intensely in the current metal scene, and visibly everywhere else, Swedish act Graveyard returns with a brand new release elegantly entitled “Innocence & Decadence”. If you’re ready to take a step back in time and enjoy the consequent sweet mindtrip you will be eager to listen to this album.
“Magnetic Shunk” is a wild psychedelic tune that relies on an uplifting savage tempo and high-register vocals in 70s rock decadent fashion. In the midst of accelerated guitar riffing crescendo, you can perceive a dark soulful reverie that recalls The Doors.
“The Apple And The Tree” is an effective concoction of mellow toned bluesy riffs that pay homage to Hendrix and vintage flirtatious rock groove. The perfectly lovable retro lead guitar work, full of sweet & dirty phrasing, builds an increasingly trippy sensation that must be savored slowly.
“Exit 97” is a languid serenade where every chord vibrates in a dusty field. With an exquisitely fuzzy blues delivery, rhythm and lead guitars create a heavily nostalgic vibe while Joakim Nilsson’s vocals add dramatic warmth in tormented rocker style.
“Too Much Is Not Enough” is a passionate song or a broken love spell that could have been recorded in the early 70s and should have been included in the soundtrack of Velvet Goldmine. The soul style female backing vocals and the absolutely unpolished guitar riffs create a mesmerizing sonic trance with a subtle catchiness that would easily get stuck in your mind.
“From A Hole In The Wall” is another song that calls for the legit abuse of the adjective “groovy”. Instrumentally, everything dwells between smoky blues guitars and heavier, even metal influenced, rhythm sections. Nilsson’s voice keeps the worn-out rocker style with elegant savoir faire while the rest of the band engages in a stoner rock genuine jamming session.
“Hard Headed” has the strongest psychedelic vortex where Graveyard goes on a careless hectic instrumental trip jamming all the way outside of traditional space and time rules. Here the guitar riffs are harder and eclectic keeping a super catchy energetic rhythm while Nilsson’s intense performance evokes the sexy languidness of Robert Plant and the wickedness of mastermind Dave Wyndorf.
“Innocence & Decadence” is definitely a pleasant collection of songs and positive vibes so get your bell bottom pants and floral shirt out of the basement and join Graveyard’s psychedelic journey.

Danzig – Skeletons

Those who were hoping to finally hear a brand new album will have to settle for a collection of covers carefully chosen and darkly reinterpreted by legendary Glenn Danzig. The songs included in “Skeletons” date to between 1962 and 1974 so this album is also a hymn to nostalgia and the forgotten luminous fragments of childhood. As a whole, the album leans towards a horror punk attitude that recalls Danzig’s performance in Misfits and the production is rather rough stripped of any fancy modern magic trick.
So, once all the skeletons are out of the closet, Danzig’s unique iconic voice takes the center stage as it always should. Biker flick theme “Devil’s Angels” and “With A Girl Like You” by The Troggs are straight no frills punk songs full of rough edges in a home recording fashion and of course Danzig resurrects all his signature Misfits style screams.
Gifted with a mysterious baritone range Danzig really needed to cover a song by Elvis Presley and “Let Yourself Go” turns out to be a great choice as it all sounds like a darkly catchy vintage rock song.
If you need something more metal Black Sabbath’s masterpiece “N.I.B.” will satisfy all your desires as Danzig’s darkest low vocals savagely and spontaneously embrace all those beloved doom riffs. “Rough Boy” by ZZ Top and “Crying In The Rain” by The Everly Brothers gain a late night creepy melancholic vibe.
In the end, the unsophisticated vintage nature of “Skeletons” will satisfy more the Misfits era fanbase and it all feels like a clandestine teenager’s karaoke boozy night in the basement, which is a lot of fun.

Draconian – Sovran

Draconian’s latest release “Sovran” is an absolutely delightful treat to celebrate, and survive, the dreadful grip of winter. It’s a relief to see that Draconian didn’t end up like many other bands that made poor choices when selecting a new female singer, in fact Heike Langhans’s vocals perfectly match every musical aspect of “Sovran” which embodies the band’s truly decadent gothic spirit.
“Heavy Lies the Crown” pays homage to that vintage gothic metal, certainly My Dying Bride, that we all still need badly in our withered lives. Loads of doom influences are perceivable in the slow & heavy guitar riffs while the lead guitar work delivers a more luminous tune, in general the instrumental breakdowns hold an extraordinarily dramatic feeling. Heike Langhans and Anders Jacobsson successfully deliver a terrific duet in Beauty & the Beast style but nothing seems dated or exaggerated as many would dare to say.
You will fall in love repeatedly with the mellifluous melancholy of “Pale Tortured Blue”. The haunting songwriting features romantically gothic super slow guitar riffing and soothing violins that create an everlasting atmospheric sadness further portrayed by Heike’ s emotionally fragile delivery and Anders’s sorrowful growls.
On “Stellar Tombs” Heike’s vocals acquire a multidimensional romanticism following a rather genuine musical layout enriched by highly harmonious chords. While Anders delivers a full array of grim vocals, the guitar riffs and the chorus hold an inner soulful catchiness in the midst of gloomy atmospheric arrangements.
“Rivers Between Us” has the unconditional sweetness of a dreamy ballad with the exquisite addition of darkly poetic melodies. Daniel Änghede from Crippled Black Phoenix provides passionately flawless clean vocals and the duet with Heike provides an overdose of enchanting romanticism while the intoxicatingly harmonious guitar solo is an effortless source of pure melancholy.
“The Marriage Of Attaris” has a magical poetic core that persistently delivers a transcendental despair even through heavier guitar riffing and deeply powerful growls. The melodic aspect of this song relies on classic gothic doom deliveries supporting Heike’s heartfelt vocals and that beloved renowned wintry gloom that elegantly, yet inevitably, engulfs every hope.
In the current chaotic metal scene it takes talent and courage to embrace art and poetry like Draconian continues to do on an honest, no special effects and pirouettes needed, work of music such as “Sovran” which all of you should relentlessly listen to and support.

Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud

Amorphis, one of the most prolific and enduring Finnish bands, comes back with a new album graciously entitled “Under The Red Cloud” that, once again, fully embraces all the beloved elements that constitute the band’s musical vision.
The title track stays true to the everlasting icy melancholy made in Scandinavia with mellow piano and guitar melodies, but there is still space for a folkish delivery that never disappoints. The soothing melodic nature of this track and the groovy memorable chorus will certainly please at the very first listening.
“The Four Wise Ones” delivers a mesmerizing gelid atmosphere where blackened primordial roots harmoniously embrace the folk melodic elegance that is a distinctive aspect of Amorphis’s legacy. Despite the towering presence of growls, the song’s main theme revolves around polished guitars and sorrowful phrases while the metal groove takes over the chorus with an unexpected energetic blast.
“Death Of A King” will easily become a favorite song as it pays homage to Amorphis original breakthrough style with that full blown folk groove that we all learned to love unconditionally. Among a soundscape of gelid darkness, you will find a tribal escapade of enticing percussions and magic flute elegantly supported by smooth melodic riffs.
You will find more magic flute dreamy extravaganza, effortlessly performed by Chrigel Glanzmann from Eluveitie, on “Tree Of Ages” where fascinating folk melodies fully embrace the traditional blackened roots embodied by Tomi Joutsen’s energetic growls.
“Sacrifice” relies on a catchy friendly melodic core borderline ballad, but the true star of the show is the guitar work, subtle yet empowering, that reaches its acme in the decadently romantic solo.
“Enemy At The Gates” evokes the mystical feelings of Nordic folklore and fairytales with captivating arpeggios, dreamy flute melodies and vintage flavored keyboards. At the same time, the sinuous song structure allows a rather primal dark soul where growls and guitars get on the heavier side.
“Under The Red Cloud” might not bring any shocking musical innovation but it certainly offers a generous musical variety that will provide a great relaxing listening for all Amorphis fans.

Moonspell – Extinct

For those who are “always under the spell”, the release of “Extinct” by Portuguese long standing act Moonspell can’t come soon enough. Some of the most alluring features of Moonspell’s music are the omnipresent passionate delivery and the rare courageous desire to cross those boundaries that should have never been set in the free realm of arts. So, in terms of songwriting style and artistic vision, what you will find on “Extinct” definitely feels like another spontaneous milestone in the evolutionary scale.
“Breathe (Until We Are No More)” holds a subtle strength that devours from within rather than your standard “right in your face” metal approach. The whole song structure and Fernando Ribeiro’s somber cleans remind me of that enthralling artistic thirst that made “The Butterfly Effect” a groundbreaking work of music. The powerful smooth tempo changes dwelling between fast drumming and slower crystalline guitar riffs render this song very interesting. The elegant addition of the Turkish based orchestra Mumin Sesler string group brings a magical atmosphere that cannot be missed (7 violins, 3 violas and 1 cello is just an irresistible combination).
It might require multiple listening to fully comprehend and appreciate the musical concept of the title track, but it is safe to say that the highlight that will immediately conquer your heart is the extremely feverish and technically excellent guitar solo. Overall, the quite energetic luminous rhythm can be easily associated with a strong spiritual force while Fernando’s vocals hold an intense everlasting darkness.
“Medusalem” delivers a monumental spiritual complexity with an unexpected mix of straight forward gothic rock rhythm and Middle Eastern phrases that might not be easy to digest for the average listener. The orchestra work here adds a majestic and heartwarming atmosphere that is considerably escalated in the semi acoustic breakdown and guitar solo.
“Domina” has guitar driven composition with a seductively softer and darker vibe. Fernando’s clean vocals are particularly emotional and insightful as are the lyrics and the keyboards arrangement further enhances the melancholy, the unspeakable feeling of loss and that whole overpowering darkness that surrounds us all. The poignant value of this song is perfectly expressed and interpreted by the outstanding lead guitar work which features a fervent memorable solo.
I couldn’t agree more with the lyrics and the title of “The Future Is Dark” and, in general, the concept of extinction expressed on the album. This might be a slow track with a hint of ballad style here and there, nevertheless the overwhelming emotional dark flame and sorrowful delivery perfectly portrayed by the soothing vocals and guitar solo will inevitably capture your senses.
“La Baphomette” is one those hidden gems that will be misunderstood by many but addictively worshipped by few. This is the one song that holds a truly unique strength with the vintage piano melodies, the charming whisperings, it all feels like a long lost enchantment that comes from the ancient Lusitanian folklore or like a love potion with surprising side effects.
Considering that the metal scene keeps on facing a dark time of stagnation due to the obnoxious sets of rules and schemes that every band seems to be forced to follow to avoid tasteless criticism an hopefully reach some sort of general consensus, I truly hope that a niche of listeners void of any unconstructive prejudice still endure. At the same time, I can’t help but wondering how being able to freely express your feelings and follow you creative force has become a flaw. Do yourself a favor and just listen to “Extinct” without over analyzing and rationalizing each and every song because, after all, music is out there to be enjoyed irresponsibly and to the fullest extent.

Paradise Lost – The Plague Within

Paradise Lost is undoubtedly one of the few long lasting bands with an extraordinary influential career that overcomes the common boundaries of time and space. With the release of the fourteenth album gracefully entitled “The Plague Within”, the band has proudly reached another milestone and is still embracing the eternal darkness that has always been its symbolic signature.
“No Hope In Sight” will immediately conquer all with an intoxicating array of groovy guitar riffs that embody an overwhelming sadness. Nick Holmes elegantly delivers melancholic clean vocals and bitter growls while the rhythm section generates a claustrophobic feeling that devours from within. Despite the pitch black mojo that permeates every stylistic feature, this song bears a healthy dose of energy.
“Terminal” has a blackened primordial core that brings together raging elements of death metal and the depth of doom metal. Here the main attraction is symbolized by the synergy between the feverish rhythm and the dynamic guitar riffs.
“An Eternity Of Lies” shines for its fragile poetic atmosphere floating through a softer yet doomy rhythm. In the midst of an intense darkened melancholy, Greg Mackintosh’s persuasive smooth guitar solo introduces some enlightened uplifting sensations.
“Punishment Through Time” is excitingly filled with addictively catchy guitar riffs that recall the unforgettable glory of “Pity The Sadness”. Holmes’s vocals evoke a glowing energy that perfectly fits the wild rhythmic momentum.
“Sacrifice The Flame” features a rather classic, still generously attractive, approach where doom and true gothic embrace spontaneously. There is a cathartic mood, particularly enhanced by clean vocals and highly melancholic guitar phrases, that feeds off the slower and colder atmospheric layers.
Starting with ominous chants, “Return To The Sun” features the sonic intensity of the starving artist. While Mackintosh excellently concocts a deadly cycle of decadent guitar riffs that literally bleed emotions throughout the song, Holmes channels all his heartfelt vocal strength.
“The Plague Within” is a tremendous work of music in which Paradise Lost revisits and reinvents the gothic metal style that earned the band the status of pioneers of a genre which, contrary to popular belief, was never meant to fade away.

Metal Allegiance – Metal Allegiance

A fantastic all-star musical collective featuring Alex Skolnick, Dave Ellefson, Mike Portnoy, founder Mark Menghi and a generous number of renowned guest vocalists, cannot certainly go unnoticed. Even if in the past many supergroups full of talented musicians didn’t leave a mark on this world, Metal Allegiance’s self-titled debut album deserves a thorough listening.
“Let Darkness Fall”, featuring Troy Sanders from Mastodon, starts with straight heavy guitar riffs but it truly holds a dark side rather palpable in the chorus style and instrumental breakdown. When the rhythm slows down, a smoothly languid guitar solo and flamenco style acoustic guitars create a sharp style change that surprisingly never clashes with the song’s main metal theme.
“Dying Song” features beloved icon Phil Anselmo who delivers a sincerely passionate raspy performance. This song has a quite melodic core filled with melancholic arpeggios that evoke a solemn gloomy atmosphere. Portnoy’s impeccable drumming and fierce lead guitars swiftly & intensely build a faster classic thrash metal vibe.
“Can’t Kill The Devil” featuring legendary Testament’s frontman Chuck Billy has the expected thrash old school catchiness that triggers immediate headbanging. Besides the energetic vocal performance, the guitar solos, also featuring Phil Demmel & Andreas Kisser, deliver a feverish dose of vibrant techniques that increase the powerful groovy core.
Devoted prog fans will be more than pleased listening to “Triangulum (I. Creation II. Evolution III. Destruction)”. This song is a triumphant instrumental orgasm where Skolnick truly performs all kinds of wonders on guitar going full blown virtuoso borderline neoclassical style. The whole song is simply outstanding featuring a classic metal oriented beginning with polished mellow lead guitar that smoothly evolves into gracefully dynamic tempo changes. As the rhythm gains speed in recognizable Portnoy’s style, a series of painfully technical, almost avant-garde, guitar solos (featuring additional lead guitarists: Misha Mansoor, Ben Weinman, Charlie Benante, Phil Demmel, Matthew K. Heafy & Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal) bring the listeners into a reckless sound vortex.
“Pledge Of Allegiance”, featuring Mark Osegueda from Death Angel, feels like an exciting anthem with an everlasting metallic groove that will immediately attract the listeners. While Osegueda delivers his signature powerful screams, lead guitars work relentlessly to create inspiring music evolutions to make everything more appealing than your classic metal tune.
With an intriguing variety of styles and the obvious high level musicianship, Metal Allegiance’s debut album is a delightfully entertaining piece of music.