Eths – Ankaa

Modern metal French outfit Eths is determined to explore a variety of sonic dimensions with the release of the new album entitled “Ankaa” which features new vocalist Rachel Aspe and Soilwork drummer Dirk Verbeuren.

“Nefas” begins with a creepy atmospheric mood that turns into a heavy turmoil of blasting drums and furious guitar riffs. The rather chaotic music theme showcases elements of nu metal and metalcore but there is also a gloomy melodic facet.

“Nihil Sine Causa” surprises with mesmerizing Arabic chanting and experimental electronic layers that add a multidimensional diversity to the highly aggressive metal core. The soft soothing chants effortlessly embrace the enraging growls and the resulting harmony creates a sharp yet enjoyable contrast.

“Seditio” is a triumph of pure melancholy with decadently gentle piano melodies that strangely embrace the enraged mix of growls and cleans. The melodic theme of the song has definitely a French bohemienne vibe even when heavier guitar riffing and drumming predominate.

“Sekhet Aaru” takes a break from the heavy galloping riffs to deliver a borderline ambiance track filled with darkly atmospheric arrangements and mystical chanting that invite the listeners to embrace a rather peaceful, yet sorrowful, soundscape.

“Kumari Kandam” continues to evoke the same mystical and mythological mood with mysterious atmospheric layers and an elegantly melodic theme. There is still space for some heavy guitar riffs and strong growls but the mellower side of the song is far more attractive.

“Mintaka” delivers another lovely mixture of ambiance atmospheres with an esoteric taste and scattered futuristic electro accents. There is also a powerful guitar driven groove mixed with highly melodic clean vocals with a touch of mystical chanting.

Overall, with “Ankaa” Eths manages to successfully blend multiple metal sub genres to create a more personal sonic identity that could make the band shine in the underground metal scene.

Abbath – Abbath

Since Abbath’s announcement of his departure from iconic Norwegian black metal act Immortal devoted fans have been eagerly waiting for the release of a solo album. The self titled debut album seems to deliver the gelid black metal formula that fans have been hoping for.

“To War!” is an anthem of the Nordic force that fuels many traditional black metal stylistic elements. As expected, blasting drumming and tight riffing are at the center of a cold mix but it’s not just a matter of pure blazing fury since there is also a lot of space for a groovy rhythm and a lovely melodic guitar solo.

“Winter Bane” would be easily an immediate favorite with an extremely catchy guitar riff that shimmers throughout the song well supported by a super strong bass backbone. Abbath’s raspy vocals keep the mood as blackened as possible and blend effortlessly with the icy melodic features of the song.

“Count The Dead” kicks off with a majestic mid tempo rhythm that calls for wild headbanging and features another highly enjoyable melodic guitar solo. The guitar riffs have an epic classic metal vibe skillfully mixed with faster Nordic black metal drumming blasting without exaggerated aggression.

“Eternal” evokes the darkest wrath of Norwegian black metal and delivers a breathless fast rhythm that holds an overdose of crushing energy in every riff and growl but still keeps a melodic aura.

Overall, there are no major bursts of impressive creativity as the music themes are structured in traditional black metal fashion, nevertheless Abbath will always be a charismatic frontman and his latest effort shines for its catchy yet harsh songwriting style.

Withered – Grief Relic

After six years Withered comes back with the brand new album entitled “Grief Relic” which promises to be the band’s darkest musical endeavor.

“Leathery Rind” focuses on crushing guitar riffs, furious growls and an oppressively dark rhythmic core. If the main stylistic elements evoke the chaotic anger of death metal the overall atmosphere evokes some aggressively primordial black metal roots.

“A Realm Of Suffering” maintains the same brutal essence but adds some fast blackened guitar leads and a doom oriented breakdown that deliver a certain dose of melodic decadence.

“Husk” has a moody asphyxiating atmosphere portrayed again with a concretely hectic mixture of ferocious death metal riffing and drumming and the ominous depth of old school doom metal.

“To Glimpse Godliness” holds a steady dark monolithic vibe that leads to a scorching fast black metal core while the slower sections deliver some melodic accents.

“Grief Relic” might not showcase outstanding bursts of creativity or some definite signs of an epic musical evolution nevertheless Withered manages to deliver a cohesive fierce piece of extreme metal.

My Dying Bride – A Map Of All Our Failures

My Dying Bride’s long awaited brand new studio release “A Map Of All Our Failures” might be intimidating to the average listener, but it is certainly a must-have for the band’s faithful fans. Despite the dramatic title, there is no sign of failure here, as My Dying Bride delivers another highly successful collection of stunning musical compositions. Each and every song features a particular tragic tale illustrated by a highly complex instrumental work.  The distinctive romantically decadent violin phrases, skillfully performed by Shaun MacGowan, are back as a major element in the band’s songwriting.

“Kneel Till Doomsday” is an eloquent musical drama. The guitar riffs are extremely somber and heavy in traditional doom fashion but the gloomy violin melodies render everything more unique. There are blasting instants of extreme/death metal asphyxiating rhythms, yet this track maintains an exquisitely melodic core.

“The Poorest Waltz” shines for its decadent poetical attitude enriched by a series of layered clean vocals and its main musical theme is easy to follow due to the elongated melodic guitar riffs. There is still a wide array of obscure feelings and pure melancholy mixed all over the song, but the overall musical vibe is less heavy with a slower tempo.

“A Tapestry Scorned” revolves around that wretched hopeless feeling that has been emphasized in My Dying Bride’s earlier releases. The guitar riffs are pleasantly catchy yet incredibly heavy, the violin accent is actually a fundamental piece that enriches Aaron Stainthorpe’s impeccably theatrical performance.

The title track is filled with delightful violin and guitar dual riffing that should be savored slowly. Aaron’s elegantly sorrowful interpretation belongs to the realm of poetry. After the mysterious slow and dense break down, melodic guitars take over by adding strength and dynamic to the musical tapestry.

“Hail Odysseus” has a mythological theme and mixes the ominous fury of death metal tight guitar riffing with a majestically epic arrangement. Tempo and style changes flow effortlessly throughout the song which has also a very strong rhythmic core. Aaron offers, once again, a brilliant vocal performance characterized by rare passion.

While “Within The Presence Of Absence” focuses on a painfully romantic theme harmoniously portrayed by delicious violin melodies, “Abandoned As Christ” has a deeply tragic and obscure vibe fully expressed by the breathlessly prolonged heavy guitar riffing.

There are no simple or complex words available to fully describe the type of discouraging darkness that only My Dying Bride has been able to portray, yet again, on this new release.  I highly recommend listening carefully to “A Map Of All Our Failures” as this album can be easily classified as a modern gothic/doom metal masterpiece.

 

Candlemass – Psalms For The Dead

Listening to “Psalms For The Dead” you will remember why Candlemass will always be an iconic band in the doom metal scene.  This is one of the few bands that have been true to themselves throughout their careers and did not change their music style just to follow a trend. Therefore, Candlemass’s new album is nothing but the reconfirmation of their talent at creating excellent doom metal songs.  Unfortunately, it seems that “Psalms For The Dead” will also be the band’s final studio album.

“Prophet” introduces the band’s musical intentions with undisputable elegance. The guitar riffs are structured according to that heavy doom fashion that has become Candlemass’s trademark. As the rhythm gets faster with some epic sounding keyboards, a pleasant lead guitar solo adds additional catchy dynamics to the atmosphere.

“The Sound Of Dying Demons” is filled with an ominous atmosphere of obvious impending doom. As the rhythm gets slower, majestic eerie keyboards become more dominant. The main guitar riff is definitely catchy and has the atmospheric profundity of early Black Sabbath.

That same type of killer guitar riff leads the way on “Waterwitch”. Everything gets dark, slow and ghostly but still extraordinarily groovy especially in the amazingly eclectic guitar solo. The soft controlled vocals accompanied by bold doom bass phrases create a creepy atmosphere.

The title track has a pleasantly accessible structure and adds a melancholic atmosphere to the classically doom guitar riffs while the chorus showcases an epic vibe. The first guitar solo is slow and emotionally melodic while the second gets vivid with more shredding, so there is something pleasant for any guitar style lovers.

“The Killing Of The Sun” and “Siren Song” are very passionate tracks that bring back the fine traditional heavy doom guitar riffs. At times, the vocals get epics in power metal fashion; the rhythmic sections are extremely groovy especially on “Siren Song” where some psychedelic, yet eerie, organ style keyboards add a higher degree of variety.

I cannot deny that Messiah Marcolin’s vocals had a peculiar depth and color that intensely complemented Candlemass’s music style but Robert Lowe’s performance is quite remarkable on this album.

“Psalms For The Dead” is a passionate and powerful collection of classic doom songs which will absolutely please a large number of metalheads.

The 69 Eyes – X

With the new album “X”, The 69 Eyes goes back to its goth ‘n’ roll true nature. Even if for a while the Finnish band has been lured by the shiny glam of the L.A. style, the gothic attitude on “X” appears to be as genuine as possible. So, let’s forget the glamorous party vibe of “Devils” and “Angels” and take the chance to follow The 69 Eyes in its infamous darker comfort zone.

“Love Runs Away” is a symbol of that romantic catchy gothic rock that made The 69 Eyes extremely popular at the beginning of its career. The songwriting here is quite simple with cool guitar melodies and a super catchy chorus that feels like a dance in a cemetery.

“Tonight” has a more somber atmosphere with light guitar riffs but the chorus brings that dirty rock attitude typical of the band’s early music style.

“Black” has a slower paced rhythm with more evident gothic influences and a dark romantic attitude perfectly portrayed by Jyrki’s grave and sexy vocals.

The same attitude is extremely amplified on “If You Love Me The Morning After” with sweet semi acoustic melodies and passionate vocals. Yet, the true dark love ballad on this album is the lovely super slow “When A Love Comes To An End” where the musical core is filled with very soft melancholic melodies and traditional rock guitar riffs.

“Red” is the first single released from this album and certainly an easy song to remember. The guitars build an ensemble of effortless, yet passionate, melodies, the chorus is darkly addictive and Jyrki’s performance incarnates every aspect of the band’s musical manifesto.

“I Love The Darkness In You” is another highlight of “X”. Jyrki’s voice is as low and mysterious as it can be, but it also showcases an undeniable cold rocker attitude. The psychedelic keyboards reminding of The Doors style are a delightful addition to the extremely enjoyable guitar riffs.

You might find “X” kitsch or redundant at times, yet each and every song carries The 69 Eyes’s irresistible signature style and will inevitably get stuck in your head.

 

Live Kristine – Libertine

The iconic Liv Kristine is back with a brand new solo album entitled “Libertine”. As all her previous solo material, “Libertine” is characterized by a music style that lingers in between pop and rock rather than gothic metal. Liv Kristine’s outstanding vocals are certainly the center of attention but, this time, the songwriting is all about melodic purity and spontaneity and seems more consistent and attractive.

“Vanilla Skin Delight” is an obvious hit with a groovy unforgettable chorus. The music tapestry leans towards the realm of indie/alternative rock with refreshing easy melodies filled with positive emotions. Also, this track features an excellent duet with Platinum-Gold-awarded artist Tobias Regner.

“Paris Paris” is the other bright star in the album. The electrically groovy mood and the sweet French words scattered throughout the lyrics makes this track irresistible. Liv Kristine’s voice is as romantic as possible and, as always, flawless. Also, the mood and the interpretation here are witty naughty and Live Kristine’s vocals remind me of her unforgettable performance with Theatre Of Tragedy during the “Musique”/ “Assembly” era.

In general, there is a lot of romanticism perfectly enhanced by the soft side of Liv’s voice in “Libertine”. “Wait For Rain” and “Silence” are stunning dreamy ballad style tracks that tend to explore the human heart and all the aching melancholic feelings within.

“Love Crime” is a particularly emotional song with classical piano and string quartet in Tori Amos style. Following this winning style, Liv Kristine showcases a wide range of technical skills and delivers a brilliant performance in dramatic fashion on “The Man With The Child In His Eyes”.

The title track has dynamic rock guitar riffs and a catchy guitar solo but everything keeps on flowing effortlessly and maintains the main romantic theme.

In the end, it is impossible not to enjoy listening to “Libertine” as it is a flawless collection of songs featuring one of the best female vocalists out there.

Katatonia -Dead End Kings

Without any doubt, Katatonia’s new album “Dead End Kings” arrives just in time to celebrate the traumatic end of summer. Therefore, instead of swimming cheerfully in the deep blue sea I find myself traveling through the dark abyss of the human soul during a chilly rainy day. Katatonia didn’t lose its touch, probably never will, and delivers an album incredibly mature in terms of songwriting and musical quality.

“The Parting” is an amazingly sour beginning. Melancholy and loneliness embrace each and every note. The progressive style guitar riffs are super clean and as strong as ever even if this is certainly not an aggressive tune.

“The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here” feels like a dark romantic anthem. The guitars are slow and soothing mixing prog and traditional rock styles, the vocals are dreamy yet powerful with the genuine addition of female vocals performed by Silje Wergeland from The Gathering.

“Undo You” has remnants of that romanticism scattered through the sweet keyboards layers, the tender arpeggios and the passionate vocals.

“Hypone” brings you comfort but it will inevitably leave you in the shadows with all those sorrows spinning in your head. Every guitar riff feels so luminous in Katatonia’s eternal darkness while Jonas Renkse’s vocals add nostalgic vibes to the main melody.

Jonas Renkse becomes a sorrowful desperate storyteller on “The Racing Heart” and when distortion takes over it becomes clear that there is no way out.

“Leech” and “Ambitions” are all about nostalgia and melancholy but never repetitive while the guitars work relentlessly to build groovy rhythms through the thick layers of darkness.

“Dead Letters” adds electronic accents to the atmospheric keyboards, raging guitar riffs and gentle vocals while the “dreams are getting darker and darker”.

Overall, “Dead End Kings” is an impeccable work of art that flows naturally like a daydream and you might easily find yourself listening to it in loop without even realizing it.

 

Dark Tranquillity – Zero Distance

Despite the fact that Dark Tranquillity’s music style has been often classified as melodic death metal, it is obvious that the band has successfully developed a very personal musical pathway that tends to cross multiple boundaries rendering any possible categorization quite useless. Even if it’s just an EP, as every other Dark Tranquillity’s release, “Zero Distance” showcases extraordinary musicianship, creative songwriting and amazing dedication.

The title track is an extremely pleasant catchy piece where strong guitar riffs are constantly adorned by loads of keyboards harmonies. The elegant guitar riffing has an immediate impact on the listeners. As always, Mikael Stanne’s vocals never disappoint and are exceptionally addictive on this song. In terms of songwriting style, this track embraces all the essential elements of the latest Dark Tranquillity’s musical evolution but there are also hints of the heavier style typical of the band’s earlier work.

On “Out Of Gravity” keyboards and synths play again a fundamental role bringing additional exquisite melodies. Niklas Sundin chooses an irresistible melodic approach for the lead guitar work while the solo is particularly rich and mature in terms of writing and technique.

“To Where Fires Cannot Feed” maintains a somber melodic theme even if the guitar riffs and the rhythm section display a heavier attitude. The synths continue to add a melodic flow that feels always natural and effortless. The guitar work is tremendously catchy but you should truly pay attention to the several stylistic details embedded in the riffing.

“The Bow And The Arrow” has the same melodic strength displayed on the title track. The powerful guitar riffs and the melancholic keyboards tunes are skillfully entwined to create a harmonious flow that feels very spontaneous. In terms of songwriting, this song fits the music core of “The Mind’s I” era rather than the more recent releases.

“Zero Distance” is the legit consequence of an ongoing musical evolution and a perfect fusion of rational musicianship and impulsive passion. This is definitely a must have for every Dark Tranquillity’s fan out there.

Swallow The Sun – Emerald Forest And The Blackbird

Swallow The Sun has definitely learned a lot from the glorious legacy of bands like My Dying Bride and Anathema. The latest release romantically entitled “Emerald Forest And The Blackbird” represents an agonizing journey in the deepest realm of dark/gothic metal.

The melodic structure of the title track clearly reminds of the painful decadence of “Turn Loose The Swans” by My Dying Bride and of the sorrowful romanticism of “The Silent Enigma” by Anathema. Yet, Swallow The Sun manages to bring its personal musical vision with fierce growls, super melodic guitars and elegant keyboards arrangement.

“This Cut Is The Deepest” and “Hearts Wide Shut” are slow paced tunes that focuse on smooth clean vocals layered over pleasantly nostalgic acoustic arpeggios with an undeniable poetic attitude.

“Cathedral Walls” is another super melancholic slow track that might not be considered extremely unique but it certainly delivers some enchanting dreamy melodies. Mikko Kotamaki’s clean vocals are particularly emotional and guest vocalist Anette Olzon from Nightwish delivers a pleasant performance.

“Hate, Lead The Way!” still maintains the somber atmospheric theme of the album but brings a more aggressive approach with well constructed melodic death metal elements in terms of both vocals and guitar riffing.

“Labyrinth Of London” relies on a traditional gothic metal musical core with the addition of excellent atmospheric keyboards. The screams are particularly strong and vicious and I love the sudden mood change in the heartfelt duet with guest vocalist Aleah Stanbridge. Obviously, the reading of “London” by William Blake over a lengthy gloomy guitar solo renders everything more mysterious and attractive.

“Of Death And Corruption” is a classically emotional track featuring elements of traditional doom and the perennial obscurity of gothic metal riffing style.  Despite the aggressive attitude and the dominating growls, this track has a sort of catchy vibe that creates an immediate impact in the listener.

Certainly, Swallow The Sun delivers a mature work of music but at times the songwriting is deprived of originality due to the band’s evident musical influences. Nevertheless, “Emerald Forest And The Blackbird” embodies a serious musical effort and is an appropriate musical choice for the Autumn season.