Tag Archives: metal

Northern Oak

Want some folk-metal with cookie-monsters, flutes and fiddle that comes from Yorkshire rather than Finland? Of course you do!

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enkElination – Tears of Lust

enkElination - Tears of LustJust when it seemed that Valkyrie-fronted metal has reached saturation point, along comes Anglo-Finnish outfit enkElination to suggest that there’s life in the genre yet.

enkElination take their name from the Finnish word for “Angel”, and began in London back at the end of 2011 as a collaboration between opera-trained singer Elina Siirala and guitarist Shadow Venger. With a support for Van Canto and a slot at the prestigious Bloodstock metal festival in August under their belts, 2014 sees the release of their début album.

Although their music contains more than enough pomp enkElination steer away from the wall of sound approach taken by some of the more symphonic European bands, using even keys relatively sparingly. Instead the emphasis is on the guitars and Elina Siirala’s remarkable soprano voice. It’s all crunching riffs and big soaring choruses, and the songs are short and punchy, nothing longer than five minutes. Comparisons with Within Temptation and early Nightwish are inevitable, and there occasional moments that sound like Tarja fronting an early incarnation of The Reasoning.

Highlights include the dramatic title track that opens the album, the over the top melodrama of “Chimeras”, “Changeling” with echoes of Polish goth-metallers Closterkeller, and the closing ballad “Last Time Together”. But there’s no real filler on this album; the songwriting is both consistently strong throughout and displays plenty of variety. But it’s Finnish-born Elina Siirala who emerges as the real star. Displaying similarities to fellow-Finn Tarja Turunen, the power and range of her voice completely dominates the whole record. In an age where there are now plenty of metal bands fronted by opera-trained sopranos, she still manages to stand out in what has become a crowded field.

Even if enkElination aren’t really doing anything spectacularly new, the combination of some very strong songwriting, immaculate production and stunning vocals makes “Tears of Lust” a highly enjoyable album.

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It’s a shame you can’t even have a strongly positive article about metal in the mainstream press without ignorami in the comments dismissing the entire genre as misogynist. It’s as if some people’s knowledge of metal doesn’t extend beyond thirty year old Mötley Crüe videos. And this is a world where Robin Thicke exists…

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Gloryhammer – Tales from the Kingdom of Fife

Tales from the Kingdom of FifeA concept album describing how the bold hero Angus McFife saved the city of Dundee from the evil sorcerer Zargothrax and his horde of undead unicorns?

What’s not to like about that?

Power metal is a strange thing. There are a few bands in the genre who appear take themselves really seriously and come over as po-faced and pretentious; Sonata Arctica, I’m looking at you. And then there are bands like Gloryhammer who play it with their tongues firmly in their cheeks. The fact that they’ve dedicated the album to William McGonagall should tell you something. The only thing missing is a reference to Desperate Dan.

With song titles like “The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee”, “Quest for the Hammer of Glory”, “Silent Tears of the Frozen Princess” and the grand finale of “The Epic Rage of Furious Thunder”, Gloryhammer are on a mission to leave no cliché unturned and produce something that sounds like an epic soundtrack for that well-known game played with twenty-sided dice.

It helps of course that the music itself is excellently done, with some very solid songwriting and tight musicianship throughout. It’s full of thundering rockers with singalong choruses and big soaring power ballads. There are the requisite neo-classical guitar solos and sweeping cinematic keyboards, and the occasional choir. This is big cheesy grin music in the best sense of the word.

Give this a listen:

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Morpheus Rising – Eximius Humanus

Eximus Humanus“Eximius Humanus” is the second album by York-based metal/hard rock five-piece Morpheus Rising, funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign.

The electronic openings and industrial riff of “Superhuman” throw the listener a bit of a curve ball at the very start, but it’s the big riff of the second number “Looking for Life” that sets the tone for the rest of the album. It’s old-school twin-guitar metal at its core, with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest as the strongest influences, with a bit of goth atmospherics and progressive rock textures for good measure. The whole thing is anchored in solid songcraft. “Day One” with it’s AOR-flavoured vocal harmonies is a bit of a departure, and a real highlight is “Bending Light” with Pete Harwood’s e-bow solo, a sound you don’t hear much on metal albums.

The twin guitars of Pete Harwood and Damien Sweeting remain at the heart of the sound. Their contrasting styles work well together, Harwood’s melodic textured playing complements Sweeting’s flashier pyrotechnics. With new drummer Nigel Durham, once in Saxon, alongside Mostly Autumn bassist Andy Smith, the new-look rhythm section has a solid power and groove. At times it makes you wonder whether Mostly Autumn are making full use of Andy Smith’s talents.

But it’s vocalist Si Wright who has really raised his game on this record. The band’s début album consisted largely of material written before he joined the band. This time, with an entire set of songs written to take advantage of his greater range, he has found his voice far more impressively. In an age where rock vocals are expected to be growling, screaming, or flat and gravelly, Si Wright’s performance on this album represents old-school hard rock vocals at their finest. He’s got both a range and power, and a degree of emotional depth.

As a rule, metal bands don’t really do “difficult second albums”, and Eximius Humanus is further evidence of this rule. The album comes over as a stronger statement of intent than their début. Morpheus Rising have given a modern makeover to a sound rooted in great hard rock tradition.

You can pre-order the album now from the Morpheus Rising website.

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Roskilde vs. Glastonbury

The Glastonbury festival is one of those things that divides opinion amongst music fans. On one side there are those that complain that the bill is always far too corporate and indie-centric. On the other side there are those who dismiss the complainers as genre snobs, merely sneering at the mainstream from the sidelines.

The BBC have a lot to answer for. Their coverage always seems to contain far too much of the intensely annoying Jo Whiley fawning over the latest overrated three-chord wonder and far too little of the eclectic variety taking place across the many small stages. But it’s impossible to ignore the fact that rock and metal are very conspicuous by the absence from the festival.

So the bill of the Roskilde Festival in Denmark makes an interesting comparison with that of Glastonbury. There are many of the same names, but you’ll also see names like Iron Maiden, Mastodon, Slipknot and Judas Priest alongside the likes of Oasis and The Arctic Monkeys. It’s all but impossible to imagine any of the former making an appearance on the Glastonbury bill.

Does this reflect something fundamentally different about the music scene on the Continent?  Are rock and metal seen as a part of the musical mainstream in a way they are not in Britain?  Or does the British musical establishment of which Glastonbury is an important part just hate rock and metal?

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Been listening to 2012′s metal releases on random shuffle. With one notable exception (York’s Morpheus Rising), the lead vocals are either cookie monster growls or operatic sopranos. Where have the great male vocalists gone? Where are today’s Ronnie Dios and Rob Halfords?

Posted on by Tim Hall | 5 Comments

He even looks like Nigel Tufnel

Some rather OTT 80s-style shred metal from Michael Angelo Batio. Anyone else waiting to see if he starts playing it with a violin, or is it just me?

Can’t honestly say I think much of this style of guitar playing – It comes over to me as all technical virtuosity for it’s own sake, without nearly enough soul or emotion.

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Therion, Shepherds Bush Empire, 31 October 2010

I blame my parents for this. Before I discovered rock’n'roll in my teens I was exposed to a lot of classical music, including many, many choral concerts at an age when I was probably too young to really appreciate them. Some of this must have rubbed off, because decades later I find myself listening to Scandinavian operatic metal bands while finding most mainstream indie music to shallow and tuneless to hold much interest.

So when Swedish symphonic metal band Therion came to Shepherd’s Bush Empire for a rare UK appearance. the chance to see them live on Halloween night was too good to miss. I’ve only heard a couple of their albums, the recent double album “Gothic Kaballah” and a superb earlier live album “Live in Midgard”. The albums are huge in scope, with multiple singers, choirs, and many guest musicians. I wondered how music of this complexity would translate live.

Before Therion there was not one but two supports. I always make a point of getting there in time to see the support; you never know when you’re going to see a great band you might otherwise never have heard of, and you can always retreat to the bar if they turn out to be rubbish. Tonight both supports were good. Openers Loch Vostok were an entertaining progressive-tinged metal band with a hairy frontman I could imagine crewing a Viking longship ready to loot and pillage some innocent Northumbrian village. Second support was Norway’s “Leprous”. With a name like that I expected grunty death metal – in fact the band, fronted by a dreadlocked keyboard player, were nothing of the sort, fairly melodic, a bit bonkers but great fun. Both bands are well worth checking out.

Having never seen Therion live before, I wasn’t at all sure what to expect. The show began with just four instrumentalists on stage, progressively joined by two male and two female vocalists, both opera-trained sopranos, until there were eight people on stage.

The music they played can only be described as epic, and hugely melodic. While they’re not touring with the full choir that sing on the most recent album, the combination of four powerful lead vocalists still made for a immensely rich sound, whether it was alternating leads or four-part harmonies. While the focus was on the elaborate vocal arrangements, with the twin guitars of Christofer Johnsson and Christian Vidal the metal side of things wasn’t neglected either. One guitar solo in particular was simply jaw-dropping. The only thing I didn’t like was their reliance on programmed keys; I’d much rather they’d employed a flesh-and-blood keyboard player alongside the guitars and vocals. Saying that, one of the female singers did play keys for a couple of songs. We also had vocalist Thomas Vikström playing flute on a couple of songs. I really wasn’t expecting to hear any flute at this gig.

I recognised relatively few of the songs they played, I’m guessing songs from the new album Sitra Ahra, which I’m yet to hear, featured very heavily. But it didn’t seem to matter. Their whole two-hour set was hugely enjoyable, and I can see this is going to be band I’ll be seeing again next time they come to these shores.

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The Free Reformed Church of Metal

The Guardian’s Luke Lewis isn’t impressed with Metal Hammer’s proposal that “Metal” be listed as a religion in the 2011 census.

Sadly, this will never work. Having been employed by Kerrang! magazine, I know what metalheads are like. Any attempt to show a united front would soon descend into petty, factionalist squabbling. The grindcore fans would gang up on the sludge-metal fans. The stoner fans would call everyone else “pussies”. And the average black-metal fan wouldn’t get involved at all – he’d just stand aloof, looking grim-faced and pretending he’s called Horgoth and hails from the Frozen North (Trondheim), when in reality he’s called Barry and hails from the freezing north-east (South Shields).

What?  Factional squabbles and sectarianism?  That will be just like real religion, then.  And while we have to see Slayer fans starting literal holy wars, you could count those church-burning Norwegian black-metallers as religiously-motivated terrorists.

Indeed, there are just so many parallels between organised religion and hardcore music fandom it’s impossible not to laugh. Ever heard of a church splitting up because of musical differences? It happens. A lot. All those organists and choirmasters with rock star sized egos….

As for rock star excess, who remembers “I’m the Bishop of Southwark. It’s what I do.“?

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