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If you have found this blog, it probably means you were searching for something that isn’t in the public eye. My intention is to promote awareness of artists that you would otherwise likely never know existed. If you like what you hear, support the artist by purchasing their music so that they can continue to create, and enjoy the release in the quality they intended.

Over the years this has grown into my own personal project, reviewing the artists that I discover and interest me. If you wish to see more of my work, particularly my more metal-orientated material, you can find me as a regular contributor for the online magazine
Axis of Metal.

Cynthesis – DeEvolution

Posted by T. Bawden Wednesday, 30 November 2011 0 comments


Cynthesis – DeEvolution – 3.5/5
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“Fear not” the Zero Hour boys cry, “For we are not dead. We just lobotomised ourselves.” That is at least, strongly the impression I quickly get when going into this release, the new project from those Tipton brothers that formed the core of Zero Hour's success, pitting masterful bass lines against technical guitar shredding in a progressive effigy that turned them into the cult success they were, at least until their decision to postpone efforts after their phenomenal continuation of their success in “Dark Deceiver.” Often when such postponements occur, it's because they fear their creative juices have run dry, needing some new project to revive their interests rather than release a sub-par album. It's a noble decision and one that I'll often accept for the best as there's nothing worse than getting excited by your favourite bands latest offering only to discover it's not even good to wipe your ass with it. Sometimes they never return, wishing to pursue their new direction further, which is again a decision I can respect. What I don't quite understand is forming a new band with half the members and then trying to write, if not the exact same, then at least remarkably similar music with a new line-up and name.

All it does is feel as though they've taken a giant leap backwards, which has nothing to do with the abilities of the new members they've found; the vocalist is more than competent if not top of his league – a decent range and emotionally capability feels hampered by a lack of power and prominence in the final mix – and the drummer does everything that's asked of him (albeit adds little more to the proceedings), but even more than ever before it's evident that it is the guitars driving everything. They seem to feel some burden to perform and so often dominate the compositions, at times performing such feats of mindless and pointless technical wankery that I can't help but be reminded of Behold... the Arctopus (even if at its worst, never descends quite that far). The issue is less prominent on repeated listens, the more accustomed you become to the complex melodies, the easier it is to see past it and to the albums core intention. We get that you're good musicians, and you have no real need to prove to the people discovering this album – largely the Zero Hour fans – of your ability to make technical lines catchy, because surely the best musicians are confident enough that they never need to force feed these facts down the listeners throat.

In fact, it reminds me a little of my old drama classes and the old tell-tale sign of someone being nervous on stage, raffling off their lines too quickly hoping to impress the person doing the marking, and it isn't until they calm down a little in the albums second half that tracks begin to open up and develop at a more reasonable pace. Here is no different, and as the album continues the pacing improves, never displaying the all-or-nothing sense of aggression plaguing early tracks, fluctuating between repeating guitar lines until you become numb to them and suddenly going off on a technical tangeant. Slowing down to a more emotional peak they deliver on a quality reminiscent of Zero Hour's earlier successes in 'Tower of Avarice,' displaying a far more 'rock' quality that finally feels like a distinction worthy of a new band name; gentle chords and synths work together to provide an atmosphere of a dark Orwellian future, the chaos of the guitars tastefully interspersed into the brooding melodies to enrich the experience. There is some fantastic musicianship on display here, and I would expect nothing less of them, but compositionally it only feels a fraction of what they're capable of; it's too disjointed and inconsistent, failing to flow between the different tempo's to be considered much more than a shadow of what they could be.

Highlights: Profits of Disaster, The Edifice Grin, A Song of Unrest

Leprous – Bilateral

Posted by T. Bawden Tuesday, 29 November 2011 0 comments


Leprous – Bilateral – 4.5/5
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The wrath of progtober – the term I'm now using to describe the wealth of progressive albums I'm discovering in october of this year – returns with another entry that could so easily have snuck under the radar, and not just because I have no idea how to explain them other than “Extreme Avant-Garde Prog.” Their very existence is a bit of an unusual creation, formed largely by the mastermind Ihsahn (Emperor, Peccatum) – who contributes his own vocal lines in “Thorns” – to perform his solo material live. It was only once they met that something must have clicked in their mind as it wasn't long that the band Leprous was formed on the side, writing music of their own choosing, and now with a decade of experience together under their belts, they emerge triumphant with a second full-length release they have a damn good reason to be proud of.

Elements remind me of everything from Muse, Mr. Bungle, Meshuggah, Animals as Leaders, Opeth, Cynic to Kalisia and beyond; to describe this as some form of Avant-Garde is not a small stretch because – like artists such as Gonin-Ish and the aforementioned Kalisia – there is no one band that I can readily compare them to. And surprisingly, for a genre named “progressive metal,” this is quite a rare thing, but even rarer is that it never feels as though elements vanish or are forgotten. Rather, it feels as though they've carved a sound for themselves that is entirely their own and that any comparison is just a futile attempt to give an indication of what to expect. It's at times epic and swooping, aggressive, calm and melodic; it grooves and growls; is both at times electronic in a dystopian sense and organic in a very human fashion; incredibly technical in both the individual lines and the manner they harmonise with one another, and despite the often short track lengths there is so much packed into each composition as it flows seamlessly from end to end that you could listen to it a dozen times and still hear something new.

Every musician has been hand-picked for their knowledge of their instrument and the full breadth of its capabilities; the bass lines don't just plod along but they explode with an effigy of funk-filled slap bass, grind like the grooviest of death metal and melodically saunter along to the other instrumentation; the vocals vary in a manner that only the most versatile vocalist could hope to compete with, singing Muse-like soprano lines, deathly mid-ranged growls, epic soaring lines and passages to make Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) proud; and the guitars do nothing to hinder all these efforts, mixing things up by knowing exactly when the track requires a technical twang, a psychedelic touch, or a hard hitting grind. It's a supergroup formed from complete unknowns who have been working together for over a decade in the shadow of Ihsahn that have now been unleashed unto the world as a force in their own right, just waiting for the masses to discover them.

In fact, the only comments I really have against it is the tracks themselves sometimes feel a little too individual and disjointed, too close to stand alone tracks than a cohesive album, and that when being bombarded by so many different elements it causes something of a 'sensory overload' forcing you to tune out. Initially there's almost something of a battle of wills, the album pummelling you with new lines like a fireman's hose aimed at a teacup, and it's all you can do not to break down and put on something easier to absorb. An easy album to initially listen to, this isn't. In fact, it took me a couple of attempts to get past the first couple of tracks, at which point I suddenly started wondering what I'd been missing all those other times. Once you finally break that initial barrier you won't be able to stop yourself from putting it down, and by the time I'd finally finished it end to end I quickly concluded that this was possibly the best new album I've heard all year.

Highlights: Honestly, the whole thing is consistently golden.


Caligula's Horse - Moments From Ephemeral City - 4/5
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Everyone from my generation must have done it; browsing through your facebook's news feed wondering who the fuck half the people you must have added at some point over the years actually are, and more to the point, why you befriended them in the first place. Thus is a question I often wonder, but one that - for at least one member of my friend list - was answered with a plethora of bands I'd not heard of amongst those I love, and amongst them all, Caligula's Horse. And despite the entirely bizarre sounding name, this unsigned Aussie band featuring “Quandary's” guitarist and the vocalist from “Arcane” is anything but, harnessing the energy of prog bands past and channelling it into a sound that probably flows together an awful lot better than it sounds.

Despite the occasional electronic beeps and unusual effects, this is undeniably prog metal at its heart (or at least in a shade of grey between prog rock and post/prog metal). It's just defining what kind of prog metal that makes things tricky; guitar work that strays from Haken's love of jazz fusion noodling to almost Porcupine Tree-inspired passages and choral lines, and mixing in the djent tone of Meshuggah for good measure; it hops around quite a lot stylistically resulting in an offering that often feels quite broad. It's nothing if not an impressive debut, delivering on a quality you'd expect of bands working on their third or fourth attempt, but that's not to say everything always works. The guitarist feels like a jack of all trades but master of none; the solo's at times just touch upon sounding technical for the sake of it, the atmosphere doing wonders at shifting between thick and thin but ultimately can feel somewhat superficial, much like the lyrics which seem largely meaningless and generic. At one point he seems to be singing to himself with, “Sing this song... like you've got something to say,” though I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume I'm missing the point – or hell, maybe that is the point, to tell the listener to “sing this song,” as it is pretty catchy. There is a great deal of variety here, but it doesn't best others doing similar things.

That they've chosen a genre with such a high talent requirement is not an excuse for trying to over-reach themselves, and there is far too heavy a reliance on only half the instrumentation; the often mediocre vocals dominating over the basic drum beats and forgettable keyboard lines, leaving the guitars very much the primary reason you'd want to give them a whirl. Acoustic guitars and bass seem to interchange depending on their whim and are the primary contributing factor to the current tone which is severely limited to two settings rather than using the compositions to fluctuate in between the two extremes. Too much time is spent feeling monotonous; the guitar work displays phenomenal technical capabilities but sometimes just doesn't quite seem to fit the track. There's a lot to think about when composing a good prog album, getting the balance of all things right and not running before you can walk, and these guys feel like a good example of that. When it all comes together the result is nothing short of spectacular, and if they can make those moments happen more frequently we may well be onto another contender in the prog scene.

Highlights: The City Has No Empathy, Equally Flawed.

Julia – Julia

Posted by T. Bawden Tuesday, 15 November 2011 2 comments


Julia – Julia – 4/5
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Ah screamo; that beloved genre that is of course every member of Lifer's favourite, combining those notable traits of angsty teenage whining about some mundane event invariably involving some woman, sung in a nasal high pitched whine that makes you want to thump them and tell them to man up, complemented by power chords that somehow manage to delude people into thinking it's metal when it's really, really not. But sarcasm aside, emo was once a valid part of the punk genre, taking the fuel of the more political hardcore punk and giving it a more personal spin (though these days it draws far more from post-hardcore than it once did), and screamo was once no different. Most of what gets picked up and paraded around is just a distant shadow of what it once was, and dismissing this out of hand would be like dismissing metal because of that Slipknot song you heard on the radio. Quite frankly, this is none of that. This is screamo played the way it should be.

Equal parts 'Botch' and 'Big Black,' this is a band long since shrouded in obscurity; largely a live band that only took the time out of their busy touring schedule to release this solitary album, and now their lasting legacy that they ever existed at all. Keeping the punk DIY ethic truly alive, this is little more than a collection of tracks they used to tour dingy pubs and clubs with, slammed out in a recording studio in what sounds like only a couple of takes (if that); it's lo-fi origins clearly shown in the production values which only enhances the rough and ready experience, still managing to make each individual instrument sing loud and proud above the cacophony behind them; the deep raw pounding of the bass providing much of the base rhythm whilst the drums never seem to flounder for a way to mix up the proceedings, never content to just do the bare minimum.

Even the vocals which may be the most dreaded point in the line-up succeed in providing a positive emotional note; a sense of anger borne from rising frustrations only to slowly be released on the unwitting listener. And much of what makes this works is not to do with the individual components but how they all piece together in these lengthy, almost progressive compositions; simple but hard hitting lines gradually transitioning in style, intensifying and building up to a crescendo of rage, drums crashing and guitars wailing in a dissonant fit of chaotic noise. Compositionally, it's surprisingly complex even if the individual instruments never play anything remarkably technical in nature. It's just the manner it seamlessly flows from beginning to end, building you up only to beat you down again, that secures it's place as amongst the best the genre has to offer.

Highlights: Tongue Biting, Charge vs. Change


Stereopony – Over the Border - 3.5/5
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All-female groups are starting to become less of an oddity and arrive with more regular frequency these days, particularly from Japan, often seeming to fill some sort of gender reversal of the typical boy band from the west but occasionally actually involving them playing their own instruments. Gallhammer, Mind of Asian, Shonen Knife; what do they all have in common? They're all terrible musicians, stuck playing the most basic beats and riffs (this is to say nothing about the music itself other than to remark on the technical proficiency of these three-piece outfits), so when I stumbled upon another all-female three-piece pop/rock outfit, I figured I knew exactly what I was getting, glossing over them and forgetting them in the plethora of other music I was getting around to, and it wasn't until I accidentally re-stumbled upon them watching “Darker than Black” that my ears pricked up, and I discovered that the addictive opening tune was from a band I'd had lying around for months and never given the attention they deserved.

Sometimes I really do need a kick to pay attention as this often feels like the exception that proves the rule. No there aren't face-melting shredding guitar solo's, but the never music never calls for anything of the like. At the end of the day the music is still pop/rock and as such the focus remains on the ability to be catchy, providing melodies that swoon in your mind and remain there for the tracks duration, but the ability to actually compose such tracks and not sound mind-numbingly repetitive is one often reserved for the upper echelons of musicians, demonstrating themselves capable of playing their instruments whilst never forgetting where the simplistic focus should lie. The drums may maintain the beat but they manage to ease transitions into the various passages of each track with a startling ease, content to throw in a drum roll to break up what could otherwise be a bland performance, and quite frankly this is the least impressive of it all.

The bass lines drive much of the tracks rhythm, never merely following the guitars but complementing them with their own distinct lines that often aren't as simple as you might expect, harmonising with the guitar chords used to accentuate key notes – something of a traditional role reversal that works surprisingly well – and often let ring out to flesh out the tone and supply the boisterous atmosphere. And the critical element on top of all the instrumentation as ever for this genre is the vocals, often sticking to a particular range but more than compensating by transitioning between delicate flowing lines and a more upbeat rapped style (and often places in between), adding a cute and boisterous 'bounciness' to the proceedings regardless of her chosen style. It often feels almost 'garage rock' in its execution; never quite as raw but retaining a sense that there are no studio frills sugar coating their abilities, that what you hear is what you get and a live performance would be no different. If it didn't begin to tail off towards the end of this release, it would be all the more impressive, but as it stands it's still pretty good for a quick fix of simple catchiness.

Highlights: Smilife (Track 3), Never Look Back (Track 5), Hanbunko (Track 9)


Double Dealer – Deride at the Top – 2.5/5
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An album that's been left on the back burners for a while now, this sees the second effort for the band that can stand proud from their past achievements; a super group formed from the lead guitarist and ex-keyboardist from Concerto Moon coupled with the drummer and vocalist from local Heavy Metal legends “Saber Tiger.” It's not even as though they've taken the worst members from each band, but rather the complete opposite, and they aren't afraid of letting loose a little and proving of all the people they could have chosen to include that they were worthy of the position. That is, except for the drummer, who beyond keeping the most basic of beats for the other instruments doesn't seem capable of contributing much further.

The keyboards never smother the sound with synths and instead show far more restraint in their usage, being used subtly for atmosphere in the background and coming to the fore to perform 'Rick Wakeman' style organ solo's, used to bounce from and complement the guitar work, which is once again on top form, forcing you to sit and pay attention. Even the bass gets his chance to shine, not only responsible for a good deal of the tracks rhythm (given the absence of a second guitarist) but permitted their own occasional solo. This tri-attack of different instruments shows the band at their best and the production has been done so carefully as to remove nothing of the old school vibe they were shooting for whilst making each element distinct from one another in the final product.

The problem is, in between all the individuals working on their own 'set pieces,' they all forgot that at some point they should work together. The songs are coherent enough, but all too often slow down for another tiring ballad, chugging along at a mid-pace in a sleep-inducing effort that only perks up when one of the musicians are given their turn in the spotlight to shine. It's too generic feeling; too middle of the road; too uninspired to be anything more than an example of a super group forgetting the basics. There's little here that feels memorable in the slightest; that they're all competent is never a question, and when everything works out the result finally starts living up to the names they've created for themselves, but these moments come all too few and far between. In amidst all the gems are a plethora tracks consisting of the lesser variety, and sadly they take up an all too unwelcome majority of the album.

Haken – Visions

Posted by T. Bawden 1 comments


Haken – Visions – 4.5/5
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This year truly does feel like the year of the prog, the number of good releases coming out as it starts to reach it's final moments reaching epic proportions and so many have been put on hold as I try to absorb as much as possible; Opeth going clean, Redemption releasing one of their best to date, the brothers responsible for Zero Hour coming out with a new side project, Von Hertzen Brothers making waves internationally and Stephan Forté (Adagio) preparing to release his debut solo album, not to mention a number of promising debut efforts that I haven't even begun to listen to yet. And to top it all off, the band I regarded as responsible for my album of the year last year have appeared on my radar once again, announcing that they've already slammed out a follow-up, a concept album set to rival the last.

In case you're a newcomer to this band, Haken are formed from the ashes of To-Mera (featuring two of its members), pooling new talent from every corner of UK to emerge with a Heavy Prog line-up that should have Dream Theatre shaking in their boots, as these newcomers have already made quite a splash in re-invigorating a genre just as it was starting to stagnate. Straddling the lines between Prog Rock, Prog Metal and Jazz Fusion the result is something broad in scope, technical in nature and yet atmospheric as part of the course. Duelling guitar solo's, dual keyboards and a vocalist displaying the best of British and you can see why they've garnered so much attention, and even more so than before, this epic clocking more than an hour in length should be considered a singular concept piece rather than a number of distinct tracks, each flowing casually into the next.

The benefits of having two keyboard players, one switching to another guitars as needed, and a strong bass player more used to shredding on his guitar than playing root notes means there's ample room for grandiose instrumental compositions, pandering to atmosphere and tone. They set out to create something more epic than their last and I'd dare say they succeeded in doing precisely that. There are solo's galore, a decided absence of the occasional growls (some tracks don't have vocals at all, and yet they don't feel like 'that instrumental track,' rather, the first time through you'll probably not notice at all, such is the strength of the instrumentation) and long atmospheric keyboard passages; there are so many different layers that has gone into it's fabrication it's a wonder it works at all, and yet through the understanding of how to come to the forefront of the music and fade into the back, every element manages to work in such perfect harmony with one another that it's awe-inspiring in how simple and atmospheric it can be, and how at a moments notice it can shift gear, letting the slow build-up explode into smooth grooves and head banging tunes.

Juxtaposing lighter tones with a crash of guitar driven chaos may be a frequent and critical component of their music, but it never feels done haphazardly. More than anything else, everything feels remarkably intelligent in it's design, a fact that only emerges after a few listens. Elements from earlier tracks return at a later time; one bass-heavy riff in the opening track – also one of the most addictive melodies they've ever written – forming one of the fundamental basis' for a later track, breathed new life by the shift in backing; slow dream-like passages are re-iterated with a biting tone and different tempo lending this rather strange feeling of deja vu; that you've been there before and yet initially, you can't quite put your finger on where. Unfortunately, having this cyclical style both comes its benefits and one obvious drawback; recycling the same riffs for too long can lead to the music becoming stagnant, a problem that this album just occasionally falls prey to.

It's definitely a notch up from their last in terms of ambition, and they still manage to do a marvellous job of piecing it all together, but there are just a few elements that bring it down; the occasional odd element that featured in their last (the accordion pieces, and 'circus' themed elements in particular) worked due to the sudden transition in style, intentionally jarring the listener alert. Here it feels they've tried to up themselves and the result just feels a little too avant-garde given the overall atmosphere of the music they've created (the 8-bit interlude in “Insomnia” for example), especially seeing as how for the most part they've played to their strengths that they've discovered from their last, though this is a pretty minor complaint. It's largely the sense of individuality the tracks held in their last effort that feels missing here, which is not to suggest it's a bad album. Completely the opposite in fact, their debut was simply so mind-blowing and so refreshing a breath of fresh air that matching it would be like winning the lottery twice in a row. One year and two-hundred and eight days. This is precisely how long it has taken for Haken to have proven they aren't going to be one hit wonders, but that Prog fans should herald some new champions to the scene.

Highlights: Deathless, Visions

Anthem – Heraldic Device

Posted by T. Bawden Wednesday, 9 November 2011 0 comments


Anthem – Heraldic Device – 4.5/5
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For those unaware of their Japanese history, it's considered that back when the rest of the world were just discovering the world of thrash metal, Japan was booming ten years behind with its own flourishing metal scene, amongst them their own 'Big Four' of Heavy Metal; X-Japan, Loudness, EZO and Anthem. And much like the Big Four of Bay Area Thrash, their histories haven't exactly been filled with gem after gem; X-Japan wouldn't take long before they started gradually softening their sound for wider appeal and providing the framework for many of the Japanese rock bands to emerge; Loudness reached a peak and have been struggling to match it for so long even die hard fans have given up hope, and EZO simply quit whilst they were ahead. None of them have a patch on Anthem, because Anthem have done what none of the rest – the US or the Japanese four – have managed to do: successfully make a comeback.

So that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but history was never kind to Anthem; after receiving moderate success in the late 80s they decided to call it quits, ending life on a high, but as anyone whose picked up an instrument knows all too well, you can't separate a man from his weapon for long. A decade passes, their names becomes forgotten, and suddenly when the reunion occurs they find themselves on the bottom rung once more; these ageing head-bangers now finding that they have to prove themselves all over again, and so they set out to do it in the only way they know how. They haven't tried to to worry about how times have changed, how sounds have evolved or trying to flirt with new styles; that would be as much an abomination as... well you've all heard about the Metallica/Lou Reed collaboration haven't you? Anthem first made their name playing catchy, ballsy Heavy Metal, and that's how they'll do it again, as this album is sets out to prove.

If you're looking for something game changing then you're really looking in the wrong place, but what they perhaps lack in originality they compensate by simply performing it so well. They've spent so long honing their craft to perfection that it's hard not to be mesmerised by it all, the intricacy of the instruments never getting lost in the production. The drums hit with a raw effigy that never relies on speed as much as creativity, working with the bass lines to create a melodic rhythm for the rest of the instrumentation to layer on top of; chords interspersed with riffs, fluidly changing throughout a tracks length and proving that he can do the job of two guitars. The work he lays down here is possibly the most impressive aspect to it all despite rarely feeling all too complex, but as if to lay any suspicions about his technical ability to rest, he belts out an instrumental ("Code of Silence") to stop nay-sayers in their tracks.

Topped off with the vocals to complete the line-up, its here that their second strength comes shining through; the power and intensity of his instantly recognisable vocal talents matched only by his ability to create hooks and chorus lines so catchy and memorable that they instantly lodge themselves in your mind; one track at times feels suspiciously similar to The Scorpions “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” but ultimately that just proves my point. I rejoined Anthem's second wave of superiority with their impressive last album, but here they've delivered on something that beats even that, producing one of the best modern 'old school' releases to have released in recent years; more than equal to the spellbinding return of Accept with their “Blood of the Nations.” “Heraldic Device” feels 80s without feeling 'retro;' they've embodied the style as though the past thirty years haven't happened, as opposed to trying to somehow modernise it. They were the best of the bunch back in their day and now they've returned to prove their day ain't over yet.

Highlights: Contagious, Go, Blind Alley, Code of Silence

EDIT: I've since been catching up with some Loudness, and I guess it's only fair to say that they've made something of a comeback as well.

Fairyland – The Fall of an Empire

Posted by T. Bawden Tuesday, 1 November 2011 0 comments


Fairyland – The Fall of an Empire - 5/5

Fairyland, formerly Fantasia, is a symphonic power metal band from France, but in my opinion they sound more like their Italian counterparts. ‘The Fall of an Empire’ is often overlooked, in favour of their debut ‘Of Wars in Osyrhia’. Elisa C. Martin (ex-Dark Moor) quit soon after their 2003 tour. She had brought a lot of attention to the band and gave them a distinct sound, so her departure could have been a huge loss to the band. Fortunately Elisa had little or no input into song writing. All songs are composed by Philippe Giordana and Anthony Parker (ex-Heavenly), and they took the opportunity to change things up a bit and evolve their sound. 

The debut is a blend of Rhapsody (of Fire) and Dark Moor, and is just about as ‘flowery’ as power metal can get (no surprise for a band named Fairyland). Avid fans of Dark Moor may well prefer ‘Of Wars in Osyrhia’, for obvious reasons. Although still very much in the same vein, ‘The Fall of an Empire’ is more accessible for the average metal fan. It’s catchier, heavier and even more bombastic, and quite simply has more balls. If you compare the artwork of the two albums, a fantastical landscape and a gruesome battle against the undead, you would expect such differences in sound. The latter imagery may be somewhat deceptive, as this is not the aggressive onslaught that you may be led to expect, but it is nonetheless great cover art. Fairyland is much less ‘speed metal’ sounding than standard European power metal (Helloween, Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian etc).

The replacement vocalist, Max Leclercq, is a very polished and accomplished singer and adds more of an edge to their sound. At times he actually sings in a very similar style to Elisa, but his stronger male vocal cords are naturally better suited to the new heavier sound. As good a singer as Elisa is, I find she can become boring over the course of an album. Max’s powerful voice is far catchier and more memorable. He has an impressive vocal range and bares similarities both to early Russel Allen and to Fabio Lione. His performance is one of the highlights of the album. A guest female vocalist makes a few appearances, singing the parts that would have been more suited to Elisa than Max. The two singers combined are more than a match for Elisa. 

The guitars have become more prevalent, coming to the forefront for some of the heavier sections. Anthony Parker’s leads are impressive without ever becoming indulgent. Thomas Cesario’s bass and rhythm guitar are paramount to achieving this heavier sound. However, Philippe Giordana’s excellent keys are still the driving force of most songs. There are some great solos from both keyboards and guitars. The bass and drums are pretty fast for symphonic metal, but are rather secondary in the mix to the keyboard and guitars. This is probably both intentional and profitable to the atmosphere they have set out to create.

The song writing has also improved on this album, compared to its predecessor. The overall composition is exceptional. A good balance of soft, slow sections and fast, powerful moments prevents this 63 minute album from dragging. Orchestral interludes are well used, bridging the songs to help the album flow. The emotions of desperation and sorrow are portrayed well, both by vocals and instrumentation.

‘Eldanie Uelle’ is a particularly catchy song and demonstrates both the soft and the heavy sides of Fairyland at their best. ‘In Duna’ is closest to ‘Of Wars in Osyrhia’ era Fairyland, with all female vocals and the electric guitars replaced by orchestral instruments. This slow, graceful song is well placed, as it is followed by the 10 minute epic ‘The Story Remains’. This is possibly my favourite song on the album, and is for the most part more similar to Symphony X than to Rhapsody (of Fire) or Dark Moor. Although not perfect, it comes as close as anyone and rivals early Rhapsody (of Fire). This album is therefore essential to all fans of symphonic power metal. Unfortunately, all too many people are put off by the band’s name.

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Guide

Guide to the Ratings
0/5 - This caused me physical pain
1/5 - This is really bloody awful
2/5 - This was below average
3/5 - This was above average
4/5 - This was pretty darn good.
5/5 - I cannot fault this epitome of perfection.

I cant guarantee all reviewers adhere to these guidelines, but work as a general guide.

Author's credit is given on all posts.