Vintersorg – Till Fjälls del II

Sweden’s folk metal hero and possible cultural ambassador moonlighting as a metal band, Vintersorg is back with his 10th album in what appears to be a direct sequel to his first proper full length from twenty years ago,“Till Fjälls del II”.

If you have never heard Vintersorg before, surely you are at least familiar with Borknagar in which he is also the vocalist.   Andreas “Vintersorg“ Hedlund’s voice is instantly recognizable and majestic in its timbre. He is also the master of the unbelievably catchy metal chorus that compels you to thrust your fists in the air and sprint to the nearest forest to headbang uncontrollably. I don’t speak Swedish (duh) but I gather the lyrics are just as catchy and hook laden as their delivery. Seriously, the choruses are so infectious you will be humming them hours later.

As a sequel of sorts to his debut record, both sonically and visually the music is nostalgia laden as well as a return to form. With the album titles roughly translating to “To The Mountains” it should be no surprise that the subject material harkens to the beauty of the natural world of Sweden’s landscape and heritage. While I actually hold the philosophical laden releases of “Visions from the Spiral Generator” and “The Focusing Blur” as the apex of his career, the more folksy and nature inspired material of his earlier works “Cosmic Genesis” and are obviously also great in their own right.

From the opening seconds “Jökelväktaren” with its blackened metal intro instantly let you know where this record stands. Throughout the six plus minute track different shades of epic sounding black metal are interspersed with more folk sounding melodies. This really is the template for the rest of the record as majority of the material follows this format. And really, there’s nothing wrong with that. Aside from a couple tracks with acoustic passages and female vocals like “Vårflod” and a flute outro on “Fjällets Mäktiga Mur” we kind of know what to expect. But that shouldn’t diminish the enjoyment one iota.

Vintersorg is one constant in this chaotic world, seemingly incapable of crafting inferior work. With current events seemingly never ending with unbridled negativity it should be no wonder why anyone wouldn’t want to retreat to the mountains and escape it all. And for nearly 70 minutes, you too can escape to them even if just for a short while on this epic musical journey.

Summoning – With Doom We Come

Known as the true guardians of Middle Earth, Austrian duo Summoning returns with “With Doom We Come” which continues to draw inspiration from the myths of J.R.R. Tolkien and is certainly one of the most anticipated albums of 2018.

The mystical atmospheres of “Tar-Calion” open this new music journey channeling intense desolation with raw blackened guitar riffs completely surrounded by rich synth arrangements, theatrical vocals and magical folk elements that evoke the natural beauty of a remote forest in an enchanted land as the band here chooses to focus on refined melodic tapestries with scattered epic accents.

On “Silvertine” the atmosphere acquires obscure tonalities with steady melodic guitars that contribute to the creation of an exceptionally darkened mood further enhanced by traditional black metal growls and elegantly embellished by sumptuous orchestrations that include epic horns and melancholic piano.

“Carcharoth” features a spellbinding mixture of soothing minimalist instrumentation and rather grandiose atmospheric arrangements that once again tend to favor the band’s melodic side while ominous growls often emerge from familiar blackened depths.

On “Mirklands” soft piano melodies introduce a gloomy sonic realm that is certainly filled with unadulterated darkness yet offers loads of ethereal harmonies in the midst of opulent atmospheric layers and distant echoes of distorted guitars.

The particularly lengthy album closer “With Doom I Come” definitely relies on the vivid atmospheric aspects of Summoning’s music style as kaleidoscopic keyboards craft an endless series of magical hazy progressions bearing a dark aura as well as cinematic quality, absolutely amplified by epic chants and mysterious whispers, that continuously channel mystical and mythical vibes.

Even if remnants of primordial black metal infuse the whole album there is nothing insanely heavy on “With Doom We Come” as Summoning brings a shroud of frost and pure poetic gloom constantly evoking surreal soundscapes that will keep you company through these long winter nights.

Cavalera Conspiracy – Psychosis

After the worldwide touring success performing Sepultura’s iconic opus “Roots” Max and Iggor Cavalera, joined by talented guitarist Marc Rizzo, decided to record Cavalera Conspiracy’s new album “Psychosis” which is definitely inspired by their past work in Sepultura but features also a rather entertaining industrial twist.

“Insane” marks an absolutely fierce beginning that sees the band in excellent shape as precise punishing drums and infectious guitar riffs craft a thrash oriented wall of sound while sharp guitar melodies & solo add nightmarish vibes through the claustrophobic rhythmic blasts.

“Terror Tactics” doesn’t take a break as groovy old school thrash rhythmic dynamics trigger subtle nostalgic vibes. Max screams with renewed passion through the deadly marching patterns while chaotic atmospheric accents lead to a tribal riffing style and intriguing guitar work.

On “Spectral War” Iggor’s drumming keeps alive a certain tribal force and while the main rhythmic section maintains a quite heavy attitude there are few interesting industrial influences that generate modern atmospheric tonalities and enigmatic vibes.

Feeling violently dizzy “Judas Pariah” has a traditional death metal essence that requires relentless rhythms, monolithic guitar riffing and vicious growls that follow an almost breakneck speed with immense fury that suddenly yet seamlessly evolves into a more atmospheric somber sonic assault with remarkable haunting nuances.

Despite its chaotic noisy end “Excruciating” initially feels almost comfortable with an overdose of fiery distortion and crushing rhythms meant to generate intensely irrational moshpits and in the midst of this monumental groove Marc delivers a cathartic moody guitar solo that matches the mystical atmospheric background.

Listening to the massive energy behind “Psychosis” you will notice that the Cavalera brothers truly made efforts to deliver music diversity on this album fairly channeling the glorious early years of Sepultura as well as some modern underground metal flavors.

Dawn Of Disease – Ascension Gate

German death metal act Dawn Of Disease has crafted the newest release “Ascension Gate” keeping in mind the band’s primordial extreme metal influences and offering a more modern melodic approach inevitably fueled by introspective melancholy.

At the very first listening “Perimortal” gives you a taste of the melo-death attitude that dominates this album. The remarkable guitar work should never be ignored as the crunchy fast paced rhythm always leaves space for loads of dreadful refined melodies carefully embedded in the entertaining solos.

The title track feels like a melancholic melodic death metal anthem as it begins with solemn atmospheric quality that simply embraces the intense growls cutting through a soulful crescendo of dramatic guitar melodies.

On the darkened track “Akephalos” you can definitely perceive the weight of Swedish death metal influence as the accelerated rhythmic patterns acquire harsh tonalities yet guitars also provide absolutely vibrant melodies.

Staying true to fashionable Nordic melancholy “Fleshless Journey” might be the most emotional song of the album as, despite being filled with extreme grooves, melodic guitars maintain a primary role crafting several contemplative moments with pleasantly impressive musicianship and sonic clarity.

“Mundus Inversus” certainly features a fair dosage of unrestrained rage with massive guitar driven grooves and tight rhythmic patterns yet, as it often happens throughout the album, guitars reach a terrific gloomy acme constantly and confidently creating deliciously sorrowful melodies.

Overall, “Ascension Gate” manages to include some of the brutal fundamental elements of traditional death metal yet Dawn Of Disease skillfully raises the bar introducing epic vibes and exquisite melodic textures.

Evil Invaders – Feed Me Violence

Belgian metallers Evil Invaders proudly release the sophomore album “Feed Me Violence” which confidently proves to be more than just a revival sensation even if the main core features nostalgic anthems exceptionally executed in proper traditional speed metal style.

“Mental Penitentiary” is such a savage opener focusing on a well-structured tight fast paced rhythm and impressive musicianship clearly showcased in the complex guitar work and the incredibly entertaining riffs.

“Broken Dreams In Isolation” becomes more dramatic as enticing guitars successfully create lavish melodic textures while the variegated rhythmic section and the blistering screams maintain the expected bold thrash/speed patterns.

The title track is simply raw & heavy as guitar riffing and drum blasts follow a frenetic tempo while in the midst of such chaotic rhythmic intensity lead guitars repeatedly gain the deserved spotlight with enthralling creative solos.

“Oblivion” rightfully favors smooth melancholic moments with emotionally profound melodic guitars but also doesn’t hesitate to bring back sharp classic speed metal riffing galore following an intensely faster tempo to trigger immediate headbanging.

Showcasing truly mature musicianship and composition “Among The Depths Of Sanity” features stylish music diversity effortlessly shifting from dramatic atmospheric passages to an inflamed crescendo of massive guitar riffs and assertively unleashing a crushing thrash sonic assault let ultimately embellished by a charismatic shredding guitar solo.

Evil Invaders definitely have the ability to channel the golden days of speed/thrash metal and “Feed Me Violence” is filled with entertaining diversity but also stays true to the genre’s main elements with fierce thunderous strength.

Nachtblut – Apostasie

Straight from a realm of pure darkness German gothic/dark metal outfit Nachtblut emerges with the new release “Apostasie” symbolizing a new chapter as the band adds an industrial twist to the signature music formula.

“Multikulturell” shines for the exquisitely dark atmospheric quality that naturally evokes a nightmarish scenario with eerie yet sumptuous orchestrations matched by diabolically gothic vocals and irresistibly darkened groovy guitars.

“Lied Für Die Götter” features the understated elegance of classical flute and acoustic passages that create plenty of subtle harmonies carefully entwined with crushing guitar riffs and a gothic oriented mood.

Refined piano melodies and pure melancholy mark the beginning of “Amok” but soon this track evolves into a massive industrial anthem with super catchy electro layers and simply unstoppable groovy rhythmic guitars resulting in a wildly energetic gothic/industrial hybrid.

“Frauenausbeiner” feels more like straight goth ‘n roll with a series of simple guitar driven grooves and a general rock party vibe that slightly diverge from the usual intense darkness which is still present in smaller dosage in the somber bass lines and the rather malicious devilish screams.

“Einsam” stands out for the classical piano passages that flawlessly evoke a fairytale mood and a dreamy sonic palette bearing symphonic accents with elegant borderline romantic atmospheres that reach the expected acme with guest vocalist Aeve Maurell’ s delicately enchanting vocal delivery.

The title track begins with solemn symphonic orchestrations that will continue to offer a triumphant theatrical background while a darkened bolder temperament becomes palpable with loads of crunchy guitar riffs and sinister vocals.

Full of enthralling dark melodies as well as more enraged industrial grooves “Apostasie” can even become addictive at times and Nachtblut demonstrates to be quite comfortable with such renewed variegated music style.

Moonspell – 1755

Acclaimed longstanding gothic metal band Moonspell has chosen to create a quite grandiose album that often bears the stylish quality of ancient unforgettable Greek tragedies as “1755’ is conceptually based on the dreadful earthquake that destroyed Lisbon and aptly sang completely in Portuguese. Inevitably, on “1755” the Portuguese heritage shines more than ever fully influencing each melodic texture and contributing to the unique atmospheric quality of this inspiring work of music.

The orchestral opener “En Nome Do Medo” perfectly introduces the album’s compelling dramatic temperament as dazzling classical details naturally embrace a highly darkened atmosphere clearly enhanced by the storyteller par excellence Fernando Ribeiro who delivers his signature gothic delivery with renewed fervor accompanied by exceptional choirs.

The title track acquires opera vibes with solemn choirs and majestic symphonic arrangements that simply enrich Moonspell’s seductive darkness as thick guitar riffs maintain deliciously obscure tonalities following occasional fierce rhythmic segments that seamlessly blend with the cathartic melodic force also expressed in the thrilling guitar solo while exotic instrumental accents bring additional creative sparks.

“In Tremor Dei” delivers a series of absolutely addictive guitar riffs with remarkable gothic nuances surrounded by groovy rhythmic variations and intense operatic choirs that naturally amplify the epic atmosphere while the unique voice of guest vocalist Paulo Bragança provides extra emotional depth.

The orchestral arrangements on “Desastre” feel particularly opulent providing variegated layers and moody baroque accents that favor the somber melodic textures while Fernando’s ferocious growls and the tight distorted rhythmic crescendo ensure a blazing heavier core.

“Evento” is filled of tragic darkness with an insatiable yearning for catchy rhythmic passages and heartfelt melodic grandeur continuously expressed in the smooth unrestrained guitar work and captivating symphonic layers.

“Todos Os Santos” becomes more enigmatic with arcane symphonic arrangements that effortlessly favor, once again, the cinematic nature of this album and diligently introduce the heavier & darker facets with untamed fast paced guitar riffing. Fernando’s vocals maintain a spiritual duality with angered growls and a more theatrical delivery in the midst of majestic orchestration and choirs.

“1755” never fails to impress the audience with outpouring charisma and undisputed creativity as Moonspell appears to be in excellent shape confidently evoking lavish melodic soundscapes and re-inventing /re-shaping the beloved signature style without necessarily forgetting the heavier roots that played a big role in the band’s deserved success.

Sleeping Romance – Alba

Among young emerging bands, Italian symphonic metal act Sleeping Romance has the opportunity to stand out with the sophomore release gracefully entitled “Alba” which confidently blends solemn orchestrations and the blasting force of classic power metal.

Starting with melancholic piano melodies “Where The Light Is Bleeding” proceeds with exceptional clarity through rather sumptuous orchestral layers and keeps a somber melodic core with simple crunchy guitar riffs, a lullaby style soft breakdown and a refined catchy chorus.

“Lost In My Eyes” offers modern symphonic flavors immediately reminiscent of other popular bands such as Epica and Within Temptation. This track mainly focuses on a widely accessible series of sparkling melodies built by smooth guitars and classical atmospheric arrangements inevitably enhanced by vocalist Federica Lanna’s soothing vocal delivery.

“Forgiveness” acquires darker atmospheric nuances but also holds a soulful mellow core that favors elegant melodic guitar work without sacrificing a stronger power metal riffage while Federica’s delicate vocals deliver a more sentimental mood.

Effortlessly shifting between darker atmospheric vibes and luminous moments, “My Temptation” crafts several bewitching melodic passages with the expected fair dosage of dazzling guitar tones, inspired orchestrations and melancholy infused vocals & operatic choirs.

The title track basically includes all the charming features that characterize the whole album as a subtly majestic symphonic mood is carefully embedded in the guitar work and orchestral layers while the guitar driven rhythm showcases neoclassical accents but also a fair modern catchiness.

“Alba” certainly follows the successful music formula of renowned symphonic female fronted bands without additional unique or innovative elements, nevertheless Sleeping Romance diligently performs each song with utter sincerity and attention for stylish details.

The New Roses – One More For The Road

German hard rockers The New Roses certainly know how to entertain the audience with loud classic rock tunes that in the latest effort “One More For The Road” always showcase great chemistry and catchy progressions.

Channeling the unforgettable glorious days of hard rock “Quarter To Twelve” revolves around catchy no frills rock melodies which always bear the renowned dirty rock attitude with upbeat guitar driven rhythms and raspy vocals.

“My Own Worst Enemy” is all distorted and absolutely fun with a vintage guitar sound that contributes to successfully craft a winning series of wild rock riffs enhanced by proper rocker style rough vocal delivery and a cool guitar solo.

On “Forever Never Comes” guitars continue to channel the golden decades of hard rock adding an enjoyable southern rock touch and everything feels like the right music for an outdoor festival.

“Dancing On A Razorblade” has all kinds of gritty guitar riffs that never fail to produce plenty of easy bombastic grooves and without any hesitation vocals pay homage to many famous traditional rock vocalists.

“Every Wild Heart” becomes slightly sentimental as guitars favor a laid back southern rock mood while big choruses ensure a radio friendly impact.

“Fight You Leaving Me” is the must have rock ballad with loads of acoustic passages, a slower rhythm that focuses on more romantic atmospheres and mellower vocal delivery with a touch of country style.

On “Nitro Nights” galloping guitar riffs keep a tight upbeat rhythm that is meant for wild parties as the whole instrumentation builds addictive rock grooves full of adrenaline.

On “One More For The Road” The New Roses choose to stay true to traditional rock dynamics packing each song with a generous dose of melodic hooks and catchy grooves ultimately producing a widely accessible easy to love collection of songs.

Lord Of The Lost – Swan Songs II

Hamburg-based dark metal band Lord Of The Lost is proud to return to the music scene with the unique new album “Swan Songs II”, a symphonic music piece that offers a refined dark interpretation of classical music.

“Waiting For You To Die” features charismatic melodic textures that always bear a darkened even macabre mood with acoustic segments and melancholic strings but also a grandiose orchestration that gradually gains cinematic intensity.

“Lighthouse” amplifies a melancholic atmosphere with tranquil piano melodies while vocal delivery maintains soulful dark goth vibes accompanied by the soothing warmth of chamber orchestra arrangements.

“The Broken Ones” feels particularly dramatic following a theater piece structure with somber soft strings melodies bearing remarkable gothic accents and haunting atmospheric layers that at times emphasize bolder tonalities and sinister vocals.

“My Better Me” is an emotionally charged tune with sparkling dark romance tones embedded in the smooth dreamlike ensemble of piano and strings melodies.

“We Were Divine” starts with incredibly poignant fragile piano passages and the orchestral background provides classical grandeur as well as additional tragic atmospheres perfectly matched by low toned tormented vocals.

“From The Brink Of The Other World” shines for its inner absolutely gloomy charisma that evokes a distant gothic sonic realm elegantly embellished by delicate yet solemn orchestrations and exquisite violins.

On “Swan Songs II” you will not find heavy guitars or a standard metal/rock approach as Lord Of The Lost chooses to focus on ambitious operetta style orchestral arrangements which might sound too mellow to some stubborn listeners but certainly stand out as a mesmerizing theatrical experience to those who will keep an open mind.