Insomnium – Winter’s Gate

Insomnium’s new album “Winter’s Gate” is definitely an impressive ambitious project that features one epic 40-minute song composed around an award-winning short story written by the band’s vocalist & bassist Niilo Sevänen. In terms of songwriting the band’s signature melodic death metal definitely has a dominant presence and has grown to reach a high level of maturity. The album also showcases a great inspiring musical variety pleasantly enhanced by highly atmospheric nuances that successfully offer the ideal soundscape for an enchanting Scandinavian fable. The icy cold melodies featuring vibrant guitar solos, lovely whimsical acoustic moments, fascinating classical piano pieces and elegantly majestic keyboards arrangements created by Aleksi Munter of Swallow The Sun never fail to deliver a dreamy melancholy that could easily conquer the listener’s heart. In true Nordic fashion Niilo Sevänen always delivers the right amount of enraging growls, often with a touch of traditional black metal style, to fit the heavier and faster primordial rhythmic sections or the doomish slow paced melodic gloom. There are no clear musical boundaries or abrupt style changes as all the instruments work together to achieve a kaleidoscopic musical palette.

“Winter’s Gate” would be best savored and appreciated as a whole piece of music if the listeners find the opportunity or the time to immerse into its darkened magical depth without hesitations.

Truckfighters – V

Swedish fuzz rockers Truckfighters release their fifth album “V” just in time to celebrate the band’s 15th anniversary. With a dominant mature stoner rock style, “V” feels like a relaxed trip through a friendly desert kicking in the fuzz pedal without any hesitation.

“Calm Before The Storm” delivers flashy psychedelic vibes in a dusty rock atmosphere and quite laid back rhythm. Slow paced guitar melodies embody a melancholic tranquility abruptly interrupted by faster fuzzy grooves.

“Hawkshaw” starts right away with a heavily bass driven groove that fades naturally into a slower calm, almost dreamy, melodic core. There is a bittersweet contrast between the smooth vocals and the crescendo of full blown fuzzy guitar riffs.

“The 1” focuses on a bold heavier rhythm with occasional psychedelic accents. Prominent bass lines and relentless energetic guitar riffs keep a steady thick groove emphasized by a super dizzy guitar solo.

“Fiend” has a dynamic desert rock rhythm with a catchy chorus and crispy guitar riffs that build up nicely to deliver a healthy stoner rock jam session.

“V” might not be a stoner rock masterpiece but it will please all the fuzz lovers around and certainly brings some promising bright ideas that one day could evolve into something shiny and beautiful.

Heaven Shall Burn – Wanderer

Longstanding German extreme metal act Heaven Shall Burn returns with a brand new album entitled “Wanderer” that delivers an enjoyable mature mix of ravenous heavy guitar driven tunes and friendly melodic passages.

“The Loss Of Fury” has what it takes to be a strong majestic album opener. In the midst of an atmospheric synth background Heaven Shall Burn unleash a strategic dose of heavy guitar riffing that never feels overwhelming as it introduces the vicious rhythmic blasts of “Bring The War Home”. This track revolves around an energetic unrestrained guitar driven groove that delivers the band’s signature extreme style and will certainly please any stubborn headbanger.

“Passage Of The Crane” has a charming melodic nature with polished guitar leads but there is also space for heavier riffing and ominous screams. The softer breakdown features an atmospheric theme enhanced by graceful female vocals.

“Downshifter” has a classic heavy approach with dynamic guitar riffs and rather powerful drum blasts that build a harsh groove while somber melodic guitar leads smooth the rough core and brighten up the general darkened mood.

“Prey To God” is a straight forward track full of ominous screams and insane growls featuring guest vocalist George “Corpsegrinder“Fisher of Cannibal Corpse while packing a relentless dose of brutal thrash influenced guitar riff and aggressive drumming.

Heaven Shall Burn surprises with the enticing cover of one of My Dying Bride’s most beloved masterpiece “The Cry Of Mankind”. The band maintains the exquisite dark beauty of the original version and Marcus Bischoff’s enraging growls perfectly complement the melodic vocals elegantly performed by Aðalbjörn Tryggvason of Sólstafir.

With a powerful array of tight guitar riffing “Wanderer” keeps alive Heaven Shall Burn’s main musical core but also offers scattered shimmery style surprises that make the whole album more entertaining than expected.

Pelander – Time

Witchcraft’s fans are certainly familiar with multi instrumentalist and lyricist extraordinaire Magnus Pelander, therefore the release of his solo debut album “Time” will trigger great curiosity.

“Umbrella” shines for its catchy genuine melodies filled with folkish influences. The acoustic backbone has a minimalist approach but the addition of elegant flute and strings successfully enrich the music tapestry.

“True Colour” delivers a particularly gloomy atmosphere with decadently slow melodies and borderline dramatic vocals. The acoustic guitar solo momentarily breaks the somber mood with a series of uplifting notes followed by classical style strings.

“Precious Swan” is a quite unique track with an exquisitely sorrowful mood and prominent folk vibes. A generous dose of psychedelic rock enriches the dreamy acoustic theme while classical strings add a borderline cacophonic touch.

The title track focuses on smooth acoustic harmonies adorned by soft female vocals, occasional folk percussions and a highly nostalgic atmosphere.

Far away from the realm of doom rock/metal, “Time” is a full blown acoustic album focused on emotional depth and melancholic melodies that effortlessly embrace multiple musical styles celebrating true artistic freedom.

Epica – The Holographic Principle

Following an impressive wave of worldwide successes, Epica returns with a brand new album entitled “The Holographic Principle” which has a scientific/intellectual lyrical concept concerning multiple realities and, in terms of songwriting, consistently stays true to the band’s notorious symphonic metal style rather than delivering some unpredictable innovation.

The classically triumphant intro “Eidola” creates an enigmatic sense of expectancy that prepares the listeners for the rich musical tapestry of “Edge Of The Blade”. This track features the beloved Epica’s symphonic triumphant soundscape full of cracking guitar riffs and shimmering arrangements. As expected, the musical recipe includes a soft dreamy breakdown and a short heavy blast of growls.

“Universal Death Squad” starts with a charming slow orchestration that gives way to a crescendo of metallic tight guitar riffs and catchy choruses. An explosive heavy rhythm is carefully embellished by somber operatic choirs and atmospheric, at times gloomy, keyboards with sumptuous symphonic accents.

“Beyond The Matrix” focuses greatly on memorably majestic operatic choirs on detailed layers of symphonic orchestrations. While Simone Simons delivers elegant operatic vocals Mark Jansen channels the heaviest side of Epica’s music style with his strong signature growls and thunderous guitar riffing.

“Once Upon A Nightmare” almost sounds like a traditional emotional ballad with classical piano and strings. The song’s structure focuses mainly on the fascinating clarity of Simone Simons vocals but there is still space for polished guitar melodies and grandiose symphonic layers.

“Ascension – Dream State Armageddon” features a darkened post apocalyptic atmosphere with super heavy drumming and blackened guitar riffs. Mark Jansen delivers highly charismatic brutal growls in the midst of a gothic style atmospheric orchestration and creepy spoken passages.

The rather lengthy title track offers plenty of opulent theatrical choruses and classical soprano vocals adorned by triumphant orchestrations that acquire an ominous aura due to the exceptionally heavy guitar riffs and ravenous growls. This song certainly has an elaborate structure with various style and mood changes but as a whole it keeps a cohesive symphonic metal theme.

With “The Holographic Principle” Epica reconfirm their shiny status in the contemporary metal scene and delivers, once again, a piece of music that will easily please their devoted fans.

Nosound – Scintilla

With Nosound’s fifth album entitled “Scintilla” frontman and composer Giancarlo Erra creates a delicate collection of songs filled of genuine emotions and wistful atmospheres with dominant post rock/shoegaze influences.

“In Celebration Of Life” features Vincent Cavanagh of Anathema as guest vocalist and has the softest dreamy atmosphere that triggers an immediate sense of peace brightened by a polished melodic guitar solo.

“Sogno E Incendio” features renowned Italian singer Andrea Chimenti as co-writer and vocalist. A charming melancholy, fully embodied by languid guitar melodies and cinematic arrangements, lingers throughout the song.

“Emily” delivers subtle acoustic melodies adorned by the lovely charismatic presence of an ethereal cello and bittersweet vocals.

Vincent Cavanagh returns to offer his unique voice on “The Perfect Wife” providing a rather powerfully evocative performance. Again the cello appears to deliver an incommensurable sense of exquisite nostalgia.

“Love Is Forever” shines for its inner melancholy perfectly embodied by elegantly simple piano melodies and sorrowful smooth vocals floating in a blurred atmosphere.

The title track has a simple soothing musical theme featuring a whimsical atmosphere that recalls the shoegaze trend with a cathartic acoustic soundscape, elegant classical piano and the addition of uplifting trumpets.

Stripped of sensational bombastic effects “Scintilla” is a wonderful introspective musical journey that focuses on a minimalist intimate composition and requires a serene reflective listening.

Shokran – Exodus

Oriental/groove metal band Shokran has released a second full length entitled “Exodus” which showcases a variety of musical influences, such as trendy deathcore elements, as wells as prog style technical musicianship.
“Creatures From The Mud” has an atmospheric vibe that naturally grows into a crescendo of prog oriented guitar riffs. Clean vocals and catchy choruses add additional melodic energy to a series of exotic phrases.
“The Swarm” builds a heavier rhythmic core that still gives way to prog tempo changes and compelling melodic guitar work.
“Disfigured Hand” shines for its mystical atmosphere enhanced by polished clean vocals and quite impressive full blown shredding guitar solos with neoclassical influences in proper virtuoso fashion.
“And Heavens Began To Fall” is a slower track borderline ballad with an obvious emotional charge and mellow female vocals but there is still space for loads of dynamic groovy guitar riffing.
“The Storm And The Ruler” is another well executed prog guitar driven track featuring a strong groovy theme finely amplified by energetic screams and bright clean vocals.
Overall, “Exodus” is a solid effort with shimmering intense ideas scattered throughout and its catchy exotic style harmonies could definitely attract a wide audience.

Opeth – Sorceress

A new Opeth album comes inevitably with an incredible amount of high expectations, doubts and overzealous criticism. When listening to the twelfth full length release “Sorceress” the oblivious/ingenuous listener must understand that mastermind Mikael Åkerfeldt is always focused on creating music that can offer a high degree of diversity because Opeth is not like any other band and will never be.

The fragile medieval acoustic intro “Persephone” is immediately followed by the darkly title track that delivers a persistent moody melancholic theme. Among several heavier rhythmic blasts, the prog rock heart is quite dominant but the unpredictable style changes provide a unique musical depth that cannot be, and doesn’t need to, easily categorized with monotone stereotypes. An exquisitely retro vibe further enhances the groovy aspects of a song that never fails to impress.

“The Wilde Flowers” offers an outstanding musical kaleidoscope where 70’s influenced guitar riffs reach a glowing acme with a majestic shredding solo. Other highlights can be found in the super catchy chorus and the softly cathartic breakdown that focuses on ethereal harmonies.

“Will O The Wisp” leaves behind distortion or pompous special effect and delivers a highly nostalgic range of acoustic melodies spiced up by a languid jazz influenced lead guitar work. The melodic nature of this song makes it an easily accessible track but also creates a magical musical depth that should not be taken for granted.

“Chrysalis” is surrounded by an irresistible vintage vibe strengthened by a dazzling multichromatic combo of nostalgic retro organ and ravishing modern prog oriented guitar solo. The final part of the song delivers a dreamy darkened atmosphere gracefully adorned by vibrant jazzy guitar work.

“Era” begins with an atmospheric poetic classical piano melody that soon gives way to a faster blistering drum driven moody tempo in prog fashion. A strong technical, yet rather emotional, guitar solo elegantly blends additional prog rock elements in the midst of a spontaneously energetic groove.

“Sorceress” shines for the extremely meticulous loving care for every stylish detail and for its dark passionate sophisticated soul that can effortlessly guide the listeners into a musical visionary adventure that must be savored in its entirety.

Asphyx – Incoming Death

Dutch death-doom metal pioneers Asphyx return with a brand new album entitled “Incoming Death” that promises to deliver the band’s renowned brutal old fashioned heavy signature style strengthened by raw doom twists.

“Division Brandenburg” is a quite dynamic track that offers a powerful blast of monolithic doom guitar riffs layered on a mid paced rhythm filled with a thick dark atmosphere.

“Wardriod” brings an overdose of catchy furious guitar riffs composed in traditional doom fashion. While there are obvious familiar death metal elements in the song’s structure, the progressively breathless moody atmosphere has persistent doom heaviness.

“The Grand Denial” is definitely one of the most interesting tracks in terms of songwriting and style. The beloved solemn gloom of doom metal is extremely dominant in the guitar riffs and further enhanced by melodic mournful lead guitar phrases. A super slow ominous breakdown that holds a sense of impending downfall closes the song with highly melancholic acoustic harmonies.

The title track is filled with fast and crushing heavy guitar riffs that ensure an immediate sonic impact. With the support of a massive drumming, this short and straightforward tune keeps a frenetic rhythm that requires some serious headbanging.

“Forerunners Of The Apocalypse” holds a tumultuous fast rhythm well enhanced by Martin Van Drunen’s signature raspy tormented screams. There is a great focus on the relentless array of tight guitar riffs that still hold a somber doom soul.

“Subterra Incognita” is another heavy doom track that evokes pitchblack darkness with a perfect combo of majestic drumming and super heavy guitar riffs. The ravenous faster paced rhythmic sections are effortlessly balanced by grave guitar melodies and an elegantly gloomy classical piano piece.

With passion and pride “Incoming Death” reconfirms Asphyx’s iconic status in the extreme metal underground scene and delivers a cohesive work of music that will easily please the band’s fanbase.

Sabaton – The Last Stand

Swedish heavy metal act Sabaton delivers a new release entitled “The Last Stand” featuring a bombastic collection of songs crafted in proper power metal fashion with a strong historic warfare lyrical theme.
“Sparta” is definitely a powerful epic opening song with warrior style chants and loads of old fashioned symphonic arrangements. Sabaton keeps on packing crunchy easy guitar riffs to build an energetic rhythm that culminates with a super polished melodic solo.
“Blood Of Bannockburn” has a dynamic melodic nature featuring a classic power metal core with the clever addition of bagpipes and organ for an extra folk punch.
“The Lost Battalion” channels the epic legacy of power metal with battle ready spirited choirs, vigorous vocals and emotional borderline melancholic melodies embellished by symphonic style arrangements.
The title track could have had a more charismatic attitude but the mid paced tempo and the repetitive guitar riffs don’t deliver enough energy. Nevertheless the nice melodic guitar solo and the catchy chorus will entertain the listeners.
“The Last Battle” is a straightforward track that features some classic rock upbeat catchiness filled with simplistic guitar riffs and another old school melodic guitar solo.
“The Last Stand” certainly maintains a cohesive theme in terms of both style and songwriting but fails to deliver a necessary variety or a burst of experimental creativity resulting in a rather monotone collection of songs.