Ravenheart Archives: Reviews
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The A.X.E. PROJECT..'TALES FROM A LOST REALM'
(Digispherium Music) Reviewed 6th April 2011
It has taken an astonishing 20 years and countless trials, tribulations and line-up changes for Bulgarian brothers Georgi and Rosen Georgiev to finally realise their dream and release this first part of a trilogy. It was originally recorded as a demo way back in 2003 but never released, then re-recorded in 2010 with a new band, and the lyrics are copyright 1997-2010! It tells the tale of an ancient world which disappeared centuries ago and its three eras of development, the only things left are ancient scrolls containing different stories. This means that each song is a self contained story, and unlike the new Within Temptation, they have told me what each one is about which is a massive help, I can understand and appreciate the songs far more. They are not just a studio project but a fully fledged band who have just opened for Blind Guardian. As this album deals with earliest era, there is a medieval folk flavour to the music so it lies somewhere between Therion and Lyriel, but all fans of symphonic, gothic and prog rock/metal will also feel at home, they have a broad sweep of inspirations but a very singular sound. Later instalments will have slightly different styles to suit later ages. The themes are suitably early medieval as well, wizards, emperors, queens, evil goddesses, and werewolves. They feature the rock tenor of bassist Georgi supported by the classical soprano Petya Plukchieva, and the twin axe attack (sorry, I had to put that in, I couldn't resist) of Rosen and lead guitarist Rosen Mehanov. They have a very dense but not heavy sound with lots going on and a great variety of different instruments, so it takes a few spins to decipher it all, which makes for a fascinating listen. It is great to hear the guitarists using a selection of sounds, not just the 'METAL!' button, plus there are some super keyboards by Stoyan Martinov, trilling flute from Sophie Vassileva and terrific rolling tom tom fills by drummer Stoyan Petrov, in fact at times it reminds me of Pendragon's Masquerade Overture album or Rainbow. Highlights include the stately 'Dark Tale' with its rousing climax, the swaying waltzing 'Mountain Queen' and the galloping 'Pain'. This is is a testament to perseverance and determination, and I hope it does not take another twenty years for the second part, otherwise by the third I will be, urmm, rather ancient. Fans of symphonic, prog and gothic rock/metal can hack their way to CD Baby for a copy, their Myspace is here, a finely hewn 8.5/10 (Phil)
THE BLACK TEARS...'LACRIMAL LAKE'
(TEAR RECORDS) Reviewed 9th March 2013
They call this ‘grunge-pop’, which is not a bad word for it. Accessible songs played with a sound that lies somewhere between heavy rock and garage, rather than harking back too much to early 90s Seattle. However, it has that dark, dirty vibe which is loud, frikin' heavy, rather melodic and it’s well played too. This Midlands (UK) based band is another band that is right on my own doorstep, but my radar has malfunctioned in picking this lot up. I must give my radar service guy a phone call. Seriously though, The Black Tears could give some of the Seattle monsters a fair old run for their money - and having said that, just give the tracks 'Well' and the up tempo 'Spoil Me Rotten', a listen and you will hear what I mean. We even get a gutsy guitar solo on the former! As mentioned above, the ten songs have a dark and dirty vibe which is well suited to the awesome vocals of Lischana Lane, who sure has a powerful set of lungs. I am rather taken by this release as it is a little different to most of the female fronted music that comes my way. So folks if you want to get down and dirty with some gritty rock music, give this a listen and check their Facebook here - you will not be disappointed.... 8.25/10 (Dave)
THE BLACK TEARS...'PHILOSOPHY OF PERCEPTION'
(Tear Records) Reviewed 6th April 2013
What I like about what I do here at Ravenheart Towers, is I can get "sneaky peeks" of music that sooner or later is to be released. I recently reviewed an album called 'Lacrimal Lake' by Midlands based The Black Tears. I now have three tracks that will form the EP 'Philosophy Of Perseption' that I am reviewing here. Opener 'Commitment' has to my ears a retro vibe harking back to the 70's, but dragged into the 21st century by this awesome band, and those vocals of Lischana Lane, damn cool! 'He Knows Love' kinda has that bar room blues vibe running through it, but it still rocks your frikin' socks off, while my fave from the EP, 'So Far Down' has that fuzzy guitar so commonly found within the early 90s Seattle scene. So what about the EP then? The songs here will not grab you on the first listen, so if you are after an instant fix, forget it! But give it repetitive plays, and you know you are onto a winner. This is not Gothic and it sure ain't Operatic or Symphonic, but it is grungy dirty hard rock, and I rather like it....8.5/10 (Dave)
THE DIVINE MADNESS..'NEVERWORLD'
(Independent Release) Reviewed 11th April 2009
The Divine Madness fronted by Victoria Mazzè has released a diverse cd of cool, catchy and at times laid back rock music. The record kicks off with the bouncy and catchy 'Alive', which is followed by the slower but equally impressive 'Perfect Methods'. Listening to this cd, and I also found the experience quite laid back on occasion, just listen to 'Villains' and 'Break Apart' as prime examples of awesome balladry. Although having heard of The Divine Madness, this is my first foray into their music. I was not disappointed and I am sure you will not be either. A cool release and a pleasant listening experience - an 8.5/10 as a consequence (Reviewed by Dave)
THE EDEN HOUSE..'SMOKE & MIRRORS'
(Jungle Records) Reviewed 7th May 2009
Here is an interesting release that sure has caught my attention. In this new collaborative project, the core members are Stephen Carey, formerly of Ireland’s This Burning Effigy, and Tony Pettitt, formerly of the influential and awesome Fields of The Nephilim. And the vocal contributions to help produce what are some darkly beautiful songs, come from Julianne Regan (All About Eve), Evi Vine, Amandine Ferrari and Monica Richards (Faith & The Muse). And the whole little package has been mastered by Grammy nominated Andy Jackson, engineer of Pink Floyd and David Gilmour. Is it any good? my simple answer is yep. I can only suggest to anyone who is into atmospheric and heavenly beautiful songs is to check this release out. As it says on their myspace site, "In The Eden House, there is no one singer. Just one intention; to create a coalition of beauty in music, vocals, talent and soul". I echo that. It can be bought from Amazon...lovely record. 8/10 (Reviewed by Dave)
THE EDEN HOUSE..'THE LOOKING GLASS'
(Jungle Records) Reviewed 5th February 2010
This new release from The Eden House (their second), that was released on February 1st contains a DVD of a live set recorded only days before the bands first live appearance, plus a 5 track CD of covers of some of the bands favourite songs, from artists as diverse as The Shangri Las, Radiohead and Bjork to name just three! The DVD was mixed at Pink Floyds Astoria studio, while the cd like the debut was mixed by Andy Jackson (Pink Floyd). The core members of the band remain Stephen Carey (This Burning Effigy), and Tony Pettitt (Fields of The Nephilim). And there are four ladies sharing vocal duties, including All About Eve's Julianne Regan. I like this style of atmospheric rock, and this little package would be an ideal introduction to anybody who may be unfamiliar with the band but fancies "giving them a try". 8/10 (Reviewed by Dave)
THE FALLACY...'LOVE DIVISION'
(Attic Records-Dark Media Group (Russia)) Reviewed 8th May 2013
South America seems to be one of the hot beds of Gothic Rock/Metal and Alternative Metal at the moment, and we can now add The Fallacy to the list of bands from that Continent. Fronted by Angeline Bernini, this band from Chile belt out 12 numbers of catchy guitar/synth driven rock, with 'Love Division' and the title track being a great way to kick off proceedings. We have clean male vocals compliments of the rather cool looking guitarist Marco Cusato, and his vocals compliments well the vocals of Angeline, similar possibly to a slightly laid back version of Brazilian band Ravenland. Third up 'Mistaken Love' maintains the awesome start, another catchy number to sink your teeth into - lovely stuff. And it continues, just listen to the up tempo 'Drops Of Fire', the piano led & string infused 'Holy or Ghost' and one of my faves 'No Dreams At Home', which is more male vocalised if that is a term I can use - brilliant! This record is not a totally in yer face Gothic Metal release, but it takes a slightly more laid back stance at times, but it does occasionally rock and 'Force Of Nature' and 'Die With Me' are two such tracks. I may be out on my own saying this, but at times, Angeline reminds me a little of Vicky Johnson from our very own Winter In Eden. The band's Facebook can be found here and I must say I rather like this. And it seems the Russians do too, as the band has just signed a Russian deal... 9/10 (Dave)
(La Folie) Reviewed 30th April 2011
Portuguese band The Gift have a long and illustrious history stretching back to the mid 90's, but despite singing in English and being very successful in their homeland, this album has already spent a couple of weeks at number 1 in the Portuguese charts, they have had surprisingly little success abroad, although they have been on MTV and toured extensively abroad, making some headway in the USA, and their American management company Girlie Action look after the likes of Tori Amos, Antony and the Johnsons and Morrissey. Added to that, this first album for five years has been produced by Englishman Ken Nelson whose previous clients include Coldplay, Gomez and Paolo Nutini, (which reminds me, I need some new shoes). The theme of the album is an explosion of colours with all it's connotations, “Trust the name Explode, Trust the colours of the rainbows” ('Made For You'). You are going to ask me what they sound like, you do like to ask some tough ones don't you, well then, NBC called them “purveyors of psychedelic synth-pop” and their Myspace says “Radiohead, meets Beck, meets Bjork, meets Portishead”. I would also throw Tears For Fears, The Beatles, Brian Wilson, Coldplay, Muse, HAL, OMD, Jellyfish and even Pink Floyd into their kaleidoscope, in short they take pigments from art rock and pop's most colourful bands to create their own unique palette. Vivacious lead singer Sónia Tavares has quite a deep distinctive voice that harmonises perfectly with that of Nuno Gonçalves with loads of terrific harmonies. They paint a wide spectrum of sounds, effects and textures upon each song's canvass, some are more conventional like the catchy 'RGB' and driving 'Race Is Long', while others are more unusual such as the quirky 'Mermaids Songs', the delightful 'Primavera' and the dreamy 'Aquatica'. The polymorphous centrepiece 'The Singles' is about a guy trying to write a hit song and it goes through a variety of hues before ending with the wonderful line 'Stop it now, I just did a twelve minute song” and they duly do – suddenly! Other highlights include the sublime ballad 'Suit Of Many Colours' and the upbeat anthemic 'My Sun' (live video on Female Voices Blog). It all comes packaged in a beautiful digibook with fantastic photos taken at the Holi Festival of Colours held in that most vibrant of cites Delhi, with the band looking like Jack 'The Dripper' Pollock living paintings, it is great to see a band paying as much attention to the visuals as the music. Anyone who enjoys intelligent art rock and pop will want to hang this masterpiece upon their walls, their gallery is here, a technicolored 9/10 (Phil)
THE HOURGLASS...'REQUIEM' EP
(Self Release) Reviewed 14th January 2013
Eastern Europe seems to be sending us some awesome music at the moment, and the latest to drop into Ravenheart Music is an EP from the Romanian Band The Hourglass. Fronted by the awesome Alma Vomastek, whose dramatic vocal style is similar to that of a certain Tarja (ex Nightwish), the band on this EP throw at us 5 tracks of Symphonic/Operatic Metal to awaken the senses, and make us realise why we got into this style of music in the first place. The title track is the curtain raiser, and I am immediately impressed by the voice of Alma. 'Dies Irae' has a rather cool church bell/choral intro that I just love, so atmospheric and again Alma's voice really adds drama to the music. This girl can take this band places, and although I am full of praise for the singer, the remainder of the band kick ass too. 'The Fall' has a kinda music box intro, and indeed is one of my fave tracks on this EP, a more sophisticated and possibly a more industrial sounding number. 'In Remembrance' is another fave, a great melodic rocker that pounds along rather nicely, while closer 'Way Home' sends us all home with smiles on our faces. This EP is rather good if I may say so, and is well worth checking out. Go to their Facebook and take a look!...8.75/10 (Dave)
(Play It Again Sam) Reviewed 2nd April 2012
After a year of honing their craft, this Australian rock band have already hit number 2 in their domestic charts, and they are now ready to take on the world. Rarely will you have heard three musicians and a singer create such a massive sound, guitarist Sam Lockwood's reverb drenched guitars, Heather Shannon's mountains of keyboards and Nik Kalper's pummelling drums sound like a mass band containing The Gift, Fleetwood Mac, Echo and the Bunnymen, Simple Minds, Florence and the Machine, and Anathema. Towering above is Hayley Mary's chameleon voice that changes according to the mood of the music, part Stevie Nicks, part Siouxsie Sioux, part Florence Welsh, part her own unique creation. The songs sweep from atmospheric soundscapes to soaring almighty crescendos, with the band joined at the hip, moving together as one, the very definition of synergy. Producer Lachian Mitchell does a remarkable job of keeping the sound clear and clean but with a rumbling power, not surprisingly he's from a metal background (a member of the black metal outfit Nazxul), it has that dynamic energy. This is an album best listened to as a whole because of its continuity, taking you on an engrossing voyage across an ocean of sound, ebbing and flowing, from calm waters to a tidal-wave of emotion. Along the way you will experience songs like the superb singles 'Endless Summer', 'Trycolour' and 'Rosebud' (videos on Female Voices blog), the dark brooding cinematic 'Long Highway' and 'Deep Wide Ocean', the haunting eerie instrumental 'Austerlitz', the thumping thundering 'Nobody Nowhere', and the ambient restful 'Peace of Mind'. This is a work of artistry and power that defies genre boundaries, going well beyond the confines of melodic rock into new terrain, there is no reason why gothic, prog and metal fans will not enjoy this, it's recommended for anyone who enjoys creative, dynamic music. You will find their website at www.thejezabels.com/, a captivating 9.25/10 (Phil)
THE LAST EMBRACE..'AERIAL'
(LongfellowDeeds Records) Reviewed 20th January 2010
The Parisian band have a long history stretching back to 1998, but this is only their second album, coming 3 years after their first, ‘Inside’. Their music lies somewhere around bands such as Muse, Renaissance, Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Streams of Passion and Mostly Autumn, with just the right mix of musical sophistication and melodic accessibility. Singer Sandy has a gorgeous voice, with echoes of Heather Findlay and Marcela Bovio, which perfectly suits the music. It starts with ‘Complete City’, which sounds like souped up Mostly Autumn, followed by the Renaissance like soft jazz of ‘Impending Dawn’, complete with Anthony’s Jon Camp like bass, that moves into a dreamy trumpet passage, before some dramatic classical piano brings the song back again. ‘Among Them’ is a delicate instrumental with Olivier’s electric guitar arpeggios, strings and piano, before the epic ‘Into the Vortex’ which starts out as a spaced out Pink Floyd trip and then builds in power and majesty as it moves into Muse territory, complete with guitar and Hammond wigouts. After the hurricane comes the peaceful piano ballad ‘Gravity’, and the appropriately swooping synths that announce the beginning of title track, ‘Aerial’, another songs that builds and gathers momentum, with more delightful piano from Coco, and I love the way the instruments drop out at the end just leaving Sandy’s lovely voice. Weird synths signal the thumping beat of the Muse like rocker, ‘Whirltime’, again balanced with the gentle, dreamy, Latin infused duet, ‘Alone, which features the wonderfully melancholic voice of Mick Moss (Antimatter), with more gorgeous piano and acoustic guitar. The album moves into India as we catch the Marrakesh Express of ‘Saffron’s Theatre’ as is gathers pace and steams into the Porcupinish ‘Nomad Wave’, which is alternately atmospheric and powerful. Dreamy Fender Rhodes and tremolo guitar float through ‘Playground’, which segues into the Renaissance like ‘Serotonine’ that gathers pace as it soars, and the CD ends with the Mostly Autumn mellowness of ‘Precious Pond’. The musicianship throughout is exemplary, with special mention to drummer Alexis who skilfully drives the band along, and the super clear modern production. I love bands that can slip up and down the gears effortlessly, this gives variety, light and shade, and when The Last Embrace get going, they purr along the road like a Hispano-Suiza grand tourer. This record fits me like my favourite old woolly jumper; I cannot find any fault with it, so motor along to www.myspace.com/thelastembracefr and take it for a spin. 10/10 (Reviewed by Phil)
THE LAST VOID..'STATE OF MIND'
(Self Release) Reviewed 14th December 2010
The Last Void take elements of Porcupine Tree, Touchstone, The Reasoning and To-Mera to create that distinctive British powerful melodic prog sound, only they are not from Hereford but Heredia in Costa Rica! Added to that cute Adriana Muñoz has a superb Kim Seviour/Jlie Kiss style voice with perfect English and not a trace of accent. The first thing that strikes you when you get this platter spinning is the quality of the sound. It is remarkable how independent bands like The Last Void and Obsidian Shell produce such a superb professional sound on limited resources whilst other similar groups sound like they were recorded in a toilet on a mobile phone. The album is packed with 6 awesome, melodic, powerful prog rockers with wonderful refrains such as 'Kindergarden Stuff' and 'Shadow', together with 3 heavier proggier numbers like the suitably titled 'Metal Mind', all set around the excellent instrument 'M.A.F.A. Interlude'. All the songs feature fascinating variations, you never know what they might throw in, anything from a spot of Latin jazz to a burst of Opeth extremity. Plus you get loads of terrific guitar work without noodling by Alberto Cartín and Mauricio Madrigal, with skilful syncopated drumming by Felipe Cartín. This is a band that oozes class, and if like me you love powerful melodic prog then let Adriana and the lads fill the last void in your collection. Their Myspace is www.myspace.com/voidcr, and it's easily available from CD Baby, a most excellent 8.75/10 (Reviewed by Phil)
THE LAST YEAR...S/T
(Shanachie Entertainment) Reviewed 6th September 2013
The Last Year, fronted by singer/songwriter Niki Barr and her partner in crime Scott Ensign (guitar, bass, synth, percussion, programming), has released its new EP and it features five brand new songs, including the single 'Sugar'. Describing the new release as “limitless” with “everything from buzz saw synth to airy atmospheric ambience to 80s drum sequence loops”, this Baltimore based group says that their latest songs come from the dark place Niki Barr is almost known for, and the release showcases the band's perfect blend of natural and synthetic sounds. And that is perfectly true. Indeed, I have known about Niki since the early days of Ravenheart Music and this release is rather good. And to be perfectly honest, this EP should open the band to a wider audience. Opener 'Not The One' is an awesome synth infused rock number with a chorus to die for - what a start! And it continues with next up and the chosen single 'Sugar'. There to me is certainly a cross over appeal here! 'Imagining' should have you bouncing around the floor while 'Kill Me Now' takes on a more rocker vibe. And 'Flying' is a rather cool atmospheric way to close the EP. In summary, this is a very good effort from Niki and Scott and this again is another release that I see myself fully recommending. Their FaceBook is here .... 8.75/10 (Dave)
THE LETTER BLACK..'HANGING ON BY A THREAD'
(Tooth & Nail Records) Reviewed 23rd May 2010
Calling all Paramore and Flyleaf fans to name just two bands. I am sure you have the idea by now. An awesome album we have here by Christian Rockers The Letter Black, fronted by the lovely Sarah Anthony. And they do not hang around, as 'Fire with Fire' fires out of your speakers like a turbo charged machine gun! What an opener! And if you thought that was a blaster, then we have the heavy 'Invisible', with it's catchy riffs and chorus, this being one of my favourite tracks. The title track, another fave carries on the momentum with yet another awesome chorus - 'save me from losing myself, I am hanging on by a thread'. The occasional male vocals on this album by Mark Anthony (Sarah's husband) remind me a little of Lacuna Coil. The cd continues at a steady melodic pace throughout with choruses galore, and I do find the lyrics at times pulling on my heartstrings...'there'll come a day when I can hold you and say it's forever', from the super ballad 'There'll Come a Day'. 'Best of Me' is another track I adore, and I am sure I have heard this one before. Lovely!!! Thirteen tracks of great Christian Rock on this release, and boy, it sure rocks too. Great stuff and easily obtainable from Amazon etc. Worthy of a 9/10. (Reviewed by Dave)
THE LIFELINE..'REFLECTIONS OF HOPE'
(Self Release) Reviewed 27th February 2011
The Lifeline are a nu prog crossover rock/metal band from the windy city Chicago lead by virtuoso violinist Rebecca Faber and singer/guitarist Ryan T. Hope, could the album title be a clever play on words? This is their second album, the follow up to 2006's 'For All That Triumph'. Although Rebecca uses a traditional acoustic instrument, not electric like Vanessa Mae or plugged through effects pedals, their music is completely contemporary, think bands like Muse, My Chemical Romance and 30 Seconds to Mars. The violin isn't a very rock 'n' roll instrument, the violinist normally pops in for a quick fiddle and then goes off for a cuppa while the band plays on, but Rebecca's violin is on an equal par with the guitars. The result is a massive soaring epic sound that is truly widescreen cinematic, with Ryan belting it out like Keith Caputo over a humongous wall of guitars and violins, just turn it up loud and rattle the window panes. This is a band that blurs the distinction between rock and metal, and between the mainstream and prog. Twelve colossal anthems that calm to a hush and then swell to astronomical heights, songs like the pulsating 'Push and Pull', the incendiary 'Hellboy', the spellbinding 'The Alchemist' and the dramatic ''Romeo and Juliet', culminating in the climactic 'Ending'. An awesome album that will appeal to a wide cross section of metal, rock, alternative and prog fans, their website is here.. The Lifeline and it's available from CD Baby, a widescreen cinematic 9/10 (Phil)
THE MARIANA HOLLOW..'COMA HEART'
(Independent release) Reviewed 4th June 2010
The Mariana Hollow fronted by Rebecca Spinks, is an alternative metal quintet hailing from Greater London. Their sound is steeped in dark melody, sometimes angry, often melancholic, and always passionate, and to be honest, they should go down a storm here and in the USA. Dynamic twin guitar lines and complex rhythms occasionally take the music in a progressive direction, yet the band never lose sight of the impact of a great chorus. 'Coma Heart' runs at nearly 38 mins and is mixed by Chris Sheldon (Foo Fighters, Skunk Anansie, Biffy Clyro, Oceansize, Anthrax). The album is an awesome slab of alternative rock/metal, and this band surely cannot remain unsigned for long, with their knack of writing complex although very accessible tunes coupled with somewhat infectious melodies. To be honest, this is the kinda band a label like Universal Records should be taking a serious look at. All seven tracks here pack a serious punch and I myself am finding it difficult to pick out a fave, as they are all that good. However, 'Paper Plane' may just shade it. The Mariana Hollow proves what great talent the UK has, if only the major labels would just sit up and take notice. Check them out for yourselves at www.myspace.com/themarianahollow. This is worthy of a 9/10 - good stuff!! (Reviewed by Dave)
THE MARIANA HOLLOW...'VELVET BLACK SKY'
(Self Released) Reviewed 12th April 2012
Better late than never I suppose, but here is the review of the latest album from London based rockers The Mariana Hollow, proving that the UK Rock & Metal Scene is alive, well and truly kicking. Their debut album, the critically acclaimed 'Coma Heart' was well received, especially from a band that was then relatively unknown, and of course, how does a band follow up what effectively is a very good debut release? Record a better one I suppose, and that is exactly what the band has done with 'Velvet Black Sky'. Fronted by Rebecca 'Spinky' Spinks, who is the main driving force behind this young band, the TMH has recorded 11 tracks of mature alternative rock, with catchy choruses and driving rhythms. Opener 'Before The Dive', is an acoustic/electric atmospheric intro, before the anthemic and fist pumping 'Dead Reckoning' thumps it's way out of the speakers, in hard rockin' style, with Rebecca's charismatic vocals instantly making an impression. 'Your Halo' is the first single, and is a number that will ensure that your interest will be maintained for the album's duration. And with three tracks clocking in at over 7 minutes, you will sure get your moneys worth here. 'Stand Your Ground' is a slower but equally heavy number, and Rebecca basically makes this track her own - awesome vocal performance, ably assisted by the band I hasten to add! Other standout tracks are the aforementioned 'Dead Reckoning', the catchy and awe inspiring 'Second To None', the 7 minute plus 'The Line of Fire and Blood' with it's progressive leanings, 'Weight of the World' and the atmospheric closer 'The Fate of Man', although I must add that all the numbers on this release are good! I cannot quite undertstand why TMH remain unsigned and why a big label has not made a move for them, but they are sure proof as to what a determined and committed band of musicians can do without label support!! With songs that vary from in yer face rockers to more passionate and lighter moments, this is a damn good release and well recommended - 9.25/10 (Dave)
The MARY MAJOR..'04:13'
(TMM Productions) Reviewed 26th January 2010
Well, what can I say? Out from the shadows emerge 4 former members of the ex Napalm Records band Beseech (a fave band of mine btw), complemented by a new bass player, Jorgen Strom. The result...The Mary Major. The members of this band financed this album, released it on their own TMM label. And if that is not enough, the mastering was carried out by Beau Hill (Alice Cooper, Europe and Ratt amongst others). The music here is heavy and straight to the point, featuring driving guitars, solid vocals coupled with a solid bass/drum backdrop. And on top of all that, the music on offer never loses it's sense of melody. Featuring the dual vocal attack of Lotta Höglin and Erik Molarin (as it was in Beseech), this is an awesome dose of rock music that hits hard but is always melodic. Great stuff on offer featuring the awesome opener 'Stage 7'. 'Split' keeps up the momentum and you can hear the Beseech resemblances here (as in other tracks too) - just a lot heavier than their previous band. 'Ambush' is a mid pace heavy number while 'Morning Sickness' ups the pace again, and like their former band, Erik and Lotta's vocals complement each other really well. The album continues at a similar pace throughout, with Erik's vocals at times reminding me of Andrea Ferro (Lacuna Coil). I personally like a sense of melody in the music I listen to, and this has it all. It is heavy, it rocks, there are no keyboard meanderings. Just straight forward melodic hard rock and metal, putting yours truly in hard rock heaven. Check the band out at www.myspace.com/themarymajor and then buy the cd. It really is good! 9/10 (Reviewed by Dave)
THE MARY MAJOR..'GRINDING TEETH, GUARD DOWN'
(TMM/Rambo/Sony Music/Ravenheart Music) Reviewed 18th January 2012
The Mary Major rose from the ashes of the well known Napalm band Beseech, and here we have their second album of Melodic Hard Rock to grace our death decks. And the band has adopted the " if it ain't broke why fix it" solution for this album. This is 11 tracks of totally awesome pumping melodic hard rock, with Erik Molarin and Lotta Höglin once again sharing vocal duties. Each track is a standout track in it's own right and merits, although I have after listening to the album a few times, find myself favouring tracks like 'Without Sequel', 'First Impression' and 'End of Society'. But like I said, the whole album is outstanding and will not disappoint. I am not going to hide the fact that Lotta is a fave musician of mine from her Beseech days, but having met all of The Mary Major, they are such totally cool people. 'Grinding teeth, guard down' is released by The Mary Major’s own label, TMM Productions and has been recorded entirely in their own studio. For this release TMM is working with Rambo/Sony Music in the Nordic countries and Ravenheart Music in Europe. Highly recommended...9/10 (Dave)
THE MATERIAL..'WHAT WE ARE'
(Self Release) Reviewed 18th April 2011
The Material are a new young alternative rock band from Los Angeles with their début album following on from a couple of EP's, 'Tomorrow' and 'Weather The Storm'. Their music is in the same baseball park as Flyleaf, Versa Emerge, and Paramore, if you like those bands then you will love The Material, but I also detect some Evanescence and a touch of Within Temptation's more alt-rock moments. It is great to see a new female fronted alt-rock band holding their own in the massed melee of male fronted, and Paramore's Hayley Williams had just made the front cover of Cosmopolitan magazine causing quite a stir, showing that female fronted alt-rock is making serious headway into the Gaga Britney mainstream. What We Are presents twelve emotive songs of love, loss, regret and broken hearts emotionally and passionately sung by seductive Colleen D’Agostino, with a visceral raw edge that holds nothing back. Her voice goes from a whisper on the verses to a mighty electric throat on the choruses as the band climb from quiet reflection to soaring majestic power on songs like 'Let You Down' and 'This is Goodbye'. Other songs like opening brace 'Appearances' and 'Stay Here Forever' are more full throttle, full of chiming jangling guitars, and the highlights are the lovely ballad 'The Only One' and the skilful rocker 'I'm Alive'. This is tailor made for alternative rock fans and their drapers can be found here, a finely woven 8.75/10 (Phil)
THE MURDER OF MY SWEET..'DIVANITY'
(Frontiers Records) Reviewed 30th January 2010
This Swedish mob’s name is taken from the film noire movie, ‘Murder My Sweet’, a dark, deathly, shadowy, sinister world of femme fatales, guys down on their luck, ruthless killers, and innocents caught in the crossfire, the perfect image for a gothic metal band. The dame in this particular caper is the real looker Angelica Rylin, and gee, this babe can 'arf sing. The Boss is Daniel Flores, a high pillow drummer, composer and producer, with his trusty lieutenants, Johan Niemann the harmonic lawman on bass (of the mighty Therion gang), hotshot keyman Andreas Lindahl on the old joanna (keys), and ace hit-man Daniel Palmqvist on guitar. Let's get it on the record straight from the beginning, what you get is 12 slugs of ultra catchy, gorgeously melodic, up-tempo symphonic gothic rock/metal, with choruses to die for, halfway between Within Temptation and Delain. No filler, all killer, no griller, all thriller, right up to the closing epic, ‘Death of a Movie Star’. Available from all the usual joints for a sawbuck, so, play it again Sam, if you don’t get this record, then you’ll regret it, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life. 9.5/10 (Reviewed by Phil).
THE MURDER OF MY SWEET...'BYE BYE LULLABY'
(AFM Records) Reviewed 10th May 2012
From Sweden, The Murder Of My Sweet is fronted by the very nice Angelica Rylin, and this is their follow up to 'Divanity' that was released on the Frontiers label two years or so ago. You had your moneys worth with that release, that gave us 12 tracks of melodic, up-tempo Symphonic Gothic Rock/Metal, and 'Bye Bye Lullaby' continues where the debut left off. There are however subtle differences, this 13 track release of melodic riff-tastic symphonic rock anthems, includes performances from close friends Jesper Stromblad (In Flames), Fredrik Akesson (Opeth) and Peter Wichers (Soilwork), so it’s a really brave record to some extent. The point I would like to raise about Angelica, is you know it is her singing as she carries her own vocal style, which is angelic and forceful all at the same time, if that makes sense. Songs here will have you tapping your feet in no time at all, all 13 tracks on offer are from the top drawer of Symphonic Gothic Metal and will most certainly appeal to lovers of Within Temptation, Delain, Xandria and Sirenia to name just a few! For fans of the genre, this is another must buy, well recommended and like their debut, well produced by the band's drummer and keyboardist Daniel Flores. And if you are a digipak fan, the first edition of the album will be just that....9/10 (Dave)
(Self Release) Reviewed 28th February 2010
The simple and highly effective sleeve art give no clue as to the treasures that lie within from this young German outfit. Their music is melodic, loud/quiet, rock/metal with sophisticated musicianship from all the members, but that bare description does give their music the justice it deserves. They take elements from the best and most intelligent bands, such as Muse, Ayreon, Porcupine Tree, Radiohead, Stranglers, and Streams of Passion, and then create their own unique Nuri style. Interspersed are a couple of atmospheric instrumentals, and the incredible centrepiece, the symphonic ballad ‘The Morning’. Singer Sandra Pfeiffer has a remarkable voice, not dissimilar to Marcela Bovio, and the keys and guitars add so much delightful flourish and interest to the music that it is a truly wondrous listening experience. I find it quite staggering that a band that is this good and with so much commercial potential, is so little known, this is premier league alt/rock/metal/prog superbly self produced. This will appeal to all fans of melodic rock/metal, and thanks to their musicality, to melodic prog fans as well, just head to http://www.thenuri.de/wp/?cat=3 . Quite amazing, a very exciting discovery, I’m almost speechless, well, not quite, otherwise this would be a very short review! 9.5/10 (Reviewed by Phil)
THE PASSIVE AGGRESSIVES..'CONFLICT RESOLUTION'
(Dead Fish Records) Reviewed 9th September 2009
The name Ravenheart suggests Goth. Okay, I may not look your typical Goth (what, at my age - you have to be kiddin') but my passion lies with the Gothic Metal genre. But we at Ravenheart pride ourselves that we are not just metal heads. And this now leads me to a band from San Francisco called The Passive Aggressives. This band seem to mix (and succesfully too) hard rock, pop, funk, and prog, all with the vocals of leading lady Keren Gaiser. It is pretty cool stuff and 'Conflict Resolution' is a pleasant listening experience. Some good songs here including the title track, and I even found this record ideal background music while having friends around at Ravenheart Towers, with the inevevitable question -"what cd is that you have on Dave?" If you like the idea of Tool and Primus mixed with Heart and Evanescence, then this is worth checking out. Cool stuff, including The Turtles cover 'Happy Together'. Check them out at www.myspace.com/aggressives 8/10 (Reviewed by Dave)
THE PRETTY RECKLESS..'LIGHT ME UP'
(Interscope) Reviewed 11th October 2011
The Pretty Reckless is an American rock band from New York. This their debut album was released on August 30, 2010 in the UK, and I have only just got around to reviewing it. We have here 10 tracks of simple but catchy rock music, songs that will stick in your head and not go away. Just listen to the title track and the tracks 'Just Tonight' and 'Miss Nothing' to see what I am getting at. Front lady, actress and model Taylor Momsen, who is just 18 puts in a sterling performance on this album with her sexy but cracking smokey vocal style. I admit to being a bit unsure about this release before I got my grubby paws on a copy, but now I have, it is an absolute corker. Good stuff and well recommended! 8.5/10 (Dave)
THE RAIN I BLEED..'NARCISSIST'
(Twilight) Reviewed 4th July 2011
I have reviewed two excellent albums by Staphis Cassios's Karmic Link that feature gorgeous Mina Giannopoulou, one gothic metal the other more prog. Now she presents her own compositions on this her own band's début album. Their immense sounds hovers around Delain type gothic, After Forever/early Epica style semi symphonic (but no growling thankfully), a hint of prog metal, and a touch of Evanescence alt-metal. Accordingly Mina has a superb versatile multi-faceted voice that veers from expressive to rock to semi to full operatic depending on the mood of the music, sometimes in the same breath, reminding me of singers like Floors Jansen mixed with a touch of Simone Simons. This is a highly distinctive collection of songs that sweep from powerful verses to soaring choruses to quieter interludes to instrumental passages to synth/piano motifs making each one a varied and fascinating listening experience. They range from the mighty moving 'Nocturne' to the swaying almost Within Temptation'ish' 'Eternally' to the eastern flavoured proggier 'The Water Turns to Ice' to the catchy chugging 'Tearful Eyes' to the waltzing 'Lullaby' with Mina's lovely piano, a notable feature throughout the album. This gives the album the 'ooh I like this one' factor aided by a top notch production job by Chris 'Rektor' Ntaskas and mixing by Scar Symmetry’s Jonas Kjellgren in Sweden. Jeff Loomis from Evermore, one of the world's top guitarists, makes a guest appearance on awesome opener 'The Utter Me' with a terrific shredding guitar solo. This is classic highly professional top quality gothic metal with symphonic flourishes, a most impressive 8.75/10 (Phil)
THE REASONING..'DARK ANGEL'
(Comet Music) Reviewed 5th May 2009
Dark Angel is the second album from The Reasoning, a ‘prog’ rock band from Wales . I have put inverted commas around ‘prog’ because the tag normally attached to them does not do justice to their music. There are no widdly solos or weird time signatures, but melodic rock songs that should appeal to a very wide audience. Featuring 3 lead singers, the folkish Rachel Cohen (ex Karnataka), Dylan Thompsons’s rock, and Gareth Jones ballad, this just about sums up their range. The album ranges from the gothic rock of ‘Dark Angel’, to the metal of ‘Call ME God’, to the radio friendly ‘Breaking the 4th Wall’. They are also a great live band, very, very entertaining, I’ve rarely heard an audience sing so much! With the right push this band could become massive; they have the look, the songs and the ability 9/10 (Reviewed by Phil Wooldridge)
THE ROYAL GHOST..'THE ROYAL GHOST'
The Royal Ghost is a full 29 song Rock Opera written by Swede Teddy Jonassen with a large cast of singers, musicians and a full orchestra, the Dalasinfoniettan. The basic story is that in an old castle a ghost and a princess become friends to everyone's despair, causing a revolt of the people against the ghosts, and it is intended to draw parallels with the many problems we face in today's world. I have the nine track promo CD, the rest of the songs will be recorded this summer for release in the new year, but it has been performed in its entirety several times, with a very impressive stage production. The promo is intended to showcase the diversity and quality of the opera and to garner support for the full release. Reference points include Clive Nolan and Oliver Wakeman, his dad Rick Wakeman, Jeff Wayne, Alan Parsons, Mike Batt, Trans Siberian, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. There are six singers including Andreas Eklund from House of Shakira as The Ghost, Mio Jager as the Princess and Emilia Feldt from the Royal Opera in Stockholm as The Queen. 'The Commander' and 'I Am Your Nightmare' are galloping orchestral rock while 'The Future Is There For You' featuring Emilia is a delightful classical ballad beautifully sung. The next song 'Same Old Rock 'n' Roll' is a complete change, a bluesy rock 'n' roller that sounds like it came out of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. 'Forever Mine' is a rock ballad sung by the King played by Jonas Antesten, followed by the accordion laced Les Misérables esque number 'Running Out of Time' sung by Lasse Gidbo who sounds like a more restrained Damian Wilson. Mio who sings 'I'm Alive' has been compared to Kate Bush, and musically it is in the same ballpark but with extra opera and classical. 17 year old pop singer Sofia Nystand delightfully sings the gentle 'Lullaby' that erupts into a ripping guitar solo by Roland Forsman, and we end with the driving rocker 'Under Your' Bed'. I cannot wait to hear the full release and I hope that it gets the world wide distribution it deserves, as well as some performances outside Sweden, they put on quite a show. For all the latest news visit their Facebook page , this is a very exciting and highly ambitious project, 8.75/10 (Phil)
t.h.e. SACRAMENT..'THE SOBERING COLD'
(Self Release) Reviewed 18th March 2010
The brand new debut from the Russian sextet, featuring the pop/rock vocals of the delectable Lora SS on vocals, and the equally seductive Juliett on keys. They started to record this back in 2006, but various trials and tribulations befell the band, and it is to their enormous credit that at last we can all enjoy the fruit of their labours. The music is somewhat similar to a less symphonic, more rock orientated Within Temptation. This gives the band plenty of space to play, Kirill showing off his impressive collection of cymbals, Still putting in some fancy bass fills, and a variety of solos from the plank spankers, Om and Vlad, as well as Juiliett of course. They also love going off piste with some very unusual musical moments, for example on ‘I’ve Got Only One Day’ they briefly turn into Santana! All this makes for a varied, fascinating and pleasurable listening experience. There are the occasional incongruous growls, which do not suit their lighter style, thankfully they are only brief. Highlights, well, every song will provide plenty of entertainment, but I was particularly taken by the driving rock of ‘New Life’, the slow boogie of ‘I’ve Got Only One Day’, the Fleetwood Mac excursion on ‘Light of Illusions’, the majestic ‘Cover Me’ and the dramatic ‘The Little Kingdom’. The whole CD is professionally packaged and produced, with the mastering done at the famous Finnvox studios. If you’re a Within Temptation enthusiast, celebrate this wonderful discovery with a few glasses of whatever tickles your fancy (mines a bottle of Delirium Tremens, lovely, I think it’s your round), and then enjoy The Sobering Cold at www.myspace.com/the-sacrament. 8.5/10 (Reviewed by Phil)
THE SHIVER..'THE ACOUSTIC EXPERIENCE' EP
(Self Release) Reviewed 11th October 2011
Italian Band The Shiver has been known to Ravenheart Music for somewhile now. Fronted by Faith, their brand of Alternative Rock and Metal goes down a storm, and they have quite a following here in the UK. This little offering is a three track EP, featuring tracks from the 'A New Horizon' LP. 'Through This Cold Water', 'In Obscurity' and 'The Fragile Sound' are in-fact given the unplugged treatment and I love it! And not only do The Shiver produce some awesome music, unplugged or otherwise, they are such great people too. Check this out by clicking here, download it free and legal, and then enjoy with a glass of Italian wine - great stuff....8.5/10 (Dave)
THE SOUNDS..'DYING TO SAY THIS TO YOU'
Korava Records) Reviewed 20th March 2007
A quick review/ This cd has wandered our way. 16 tracks inc 6 bonus tracks!! A pop/rock cd with vocals that I find a little annoying at times, reminding me a little of Avril Lavigne (who I do not find annoying!). Nonetheless, this is synth driven pop rock from these Swedish rockers, like a cross between Blondie and The Killers (Hot Fuss). Not bad, and deserving 7/10 (Reviewed by Laura).
THE SPRITUAL BAT..'CRUEL MACHINE'
(Danse Macabre) Reviewed 17th June 2011
Italians The Spiritual Bat are a proudly old skool gothic rock band whose origins go way back to 1992 as Spiritual Bats, this is the second album in their new incarnation following on from 2008's Through the Shadows. They are now a duo of Dario Passamonti on instruments and Rosetta Garri on Siouxsie Sioux style vocals and drum arrangements (she joined the original band as a drummer). Influences are the great gothic bands of the 80's, The Cure, The Mission, Sisters of Mercy and Roman Jugg era Damned, with that classic sound of shimmering flanged guitars, throbbing bass, tribal drums and spooky synths. This is music to sink your fangs into over a nice pint of blood after taking your werewolf for howl in the moonlight. Creeping into their creepy crypt you unearth a host of straight for the jugular rockers such as title track 'Cruel Machine' and the catchy 'Chance', as well as songs like the tortured 'Tormented Body', the other worldly 'Other Side', the fatally deathly 'Crucifixion' and the venomous 'Lament For the Poisoned Mother'. If you cherish the sound of classic gothic rock descend their batpole to their batcave, a blood curdling batscore of 8.5/10. (Batreview by BatPhil)
THE STORM..'BLACK LUCK'
(WR Productions/Target Records Denmark) Reviewed 16th May 2010
Since the band was founded, The Storm has been one of Denmark’s absolute most renowned and talked about bands in both the media and amongst music fans. Their 2007 Universal Records debut, ’Where The Storm Meets The Ground’ with production by Roy Thomas Baker (Queen etc), has already gone platinum. And while nations abroad are curiously monitoring the band, The Storm is currently touring Denmark with nothing but sold out shows – quite an achievement for a band that has only existed since 2006. Their success can be put down to the collaboration between two of Denmark’s most respected musicians and performers - Johan Wohlert and Pernille Rosendahl (Vox), who are also together in their private life aswell. The music on this their second record, sees Universal Records replaced by their own label, in close collaboration with metal-connoisseurs Target Records. And what a release we have here. 10 tracks of awesome melodic/alternative/hard rock, every track being a right corker. The comparison that springs to mind is (maybe) Kelly Clarkson kinda going metal! 'Wall of Shame' is a great start to this album and it never lets up, with numbers like 'Are Your Shoes Too Tight', that refuse to leave your head. Typical in-fact of all the songs on this superb cd. But the best I feel is the duo of 'Herculean Task' that siegues perfectly into the title track during the second half of the record. These two tracks you could say combine to bring a piece of music that lasts over 8 minutes, and throws eveything at you, barring the kitchen sink. There is even a brief flirtation with techno! From start to finish, this cd has it all, and I am very near gobsmacked. If you like your music, heavy and very melodic, contact Target Records at http://www.targetshop.dk/thestorm/ and get a copy. I did!! Awesome..9.5/10 (Reviewed by Dave)
THE STORM..'BLACK LUCK'
(Spinefarm Records) Reviewed 23rd November 2010
I reviewed the 10 track Danish import of this album back in mid May, but thanks to the lovely people at Spinefarm, they have made this album rather more widely available. What's more, there are also three extra tracks on this release, the additional tracks lifted from the band's debut release 'Where The Storm Meets The Ground', an album itself that is damn cool!. By and large, my view of this record has not changed since my first review back in May, and the three extra tracks, 'Beauty of Small Things', 'Lullaby' and 'Drops in the Ocean' add further dimension to an album that can already be classed as a classic. If the people at Spinefarm really got behind this record, it will be big, and could well propel The Storm to mega stardom, and so it should. An album full of classic rock tunes choked full of melody..get it 10/10 (Reviewed by Dave)
THE STORM..'REBEL AGAINST YOURSELF'
(Universal Denmark) Reviewed 16th Sept 2011
The Storm must be one of Denmark's hottest female fronted acts at the moment, and this, their third full length release serves to confirm this. It is just rather unfortunate that the Danes seem to want to keep their hottest properties to themselves, and not share it with anybody. We had the same problem with Cryoshell, their album was simply amazing, but no one outside of their native Denmark could get the album. Like the Cryoshell cd (that Aimee eventually obtained for me), I had to go to enormous lengths to get a copy of 'Rebel Against Yourself', but I did, and here is the review. This latest effort from The Storm takes a more poppier route, but that does not mean to say that they have sold out. We have a very catchy pop/rock record here in-fact, kicking off with which is really a lighter waving power ballad, 'Save The World (You Couldn't)'. Getting things underway with a ballad may seem a little strange, although the song does build up into an electro style rocker towards the end. Anyway, ballad or not, The Storm pull it off. Further awesome as hell numbers follow including the hideously catchy single 'Lost In The Fire' and the follow up track 'Everything Hurts'. There is nothing on this release which I dislike, okay the metal heads out there may turn their noses up at it, but to be honest, The Storm has pulled it off again. Good highly infectious stuff and highly recommended if you can get your hands on a copy....9/10 (Dave)
THE TRAVELLERS..'A JOURNEY INTO THE SUN WITHIN'
(Metal Minds) Reviewed 18th June 2011
Polish musician Wojtek Szadkowski from the prog groups Satellite and Collage created the band Strawberry Fields a couple of years ago with beautiful singer Robin. This was an atmospheric pop project as befits their title, for fans of bands like Portishead and Goldfrapp. This new venture with Robin on vocals is again suitably titled as it takes us on a journey into uncharted musical waters between Karnataka and Jon Anderson, especially his contributions to the Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe album released in 1989. It has Jon's ear for gorgeous pop melodies, penchant for sing song chants, and love of ethnic rhythms and sounds. Robin sings an octave higher than before which takes her into the same register as Jon, and Wojtek's delightful synth sounds are reminiscent of Vangelis. Grzegorz's Steve Howe esque guitars add a subtle power to this dreamy, atmospheric, enchanting and at times breathtakingly beautiful music that has enough variation and dynamics to keep it absorbing, and certainly not soporific. You get six lengthy tracks of pure listening pleasure that takes you to a sea of tranquillity, but thankfully no where near Topographic Oceans. The drum programming is an object lesson on how to use drum machines, complementing and driving the music perfectly but never intrusive, and again I am reminded of Bill Bruford and his gigantic acoustic and electric drum kit that was the size of Belgium. Unusually the bass was played on synthesizers by Krzysiek giving a smooth rich almost fretless like underbelly. Metal Mind have hit us with a double wammy with this album and the superb Neranature release I reviewed a short while ago. If you love the lighter side of Yes or any of Jon Anderson's solo work then this is highly recommended, so book an excursion to their travel agents at their Facebook, a scenic 9/10 (Phil)
(Self Released) Reviewed 24th January 2012
The Val fronted by German lass Gabrielle de Val Koenzen is based in Spain, and on this release they give us twelve tracks of amazing Melodic Rock/AOR, that I am sure would have caused a total storm in the 80s. Indeed, I feel that even now, there is a lot on offer here that could see the band crossing over into the mainstream. The Val first put in an appearance in the 90s in-fact, when they was known as Ying-Yang. But that band split and the band members went their different ways. However, in 2010 the band got together again, they are now known as The Val, and the album 'Back' represents the fact that the band are back and seemingly firing on all four cylinders. This is a powerful and inspiring recording, and reminds me of Heart amongst other bands of that ilk. Indeed opener 'Kiss In a Dragon Night' does have that Heart feel about it, and will appeal to fans of that style of music. The whole album actually follows a similar path offering up a mix of mid tempo and laid back Melodic Rock and is very good. Looking on the band's Facebook page (click here), they list amongst their likes, Toto, Boston, Chicago and Fleetwood Mac amongst others. That I think will give you a good idea where this band is heading. Highly recommended...8.75/10 (Dave)
THE WAY OF PURITY..'CROSSCORE'
(Aural/Wormhole Death) Reviewed 27th November 2010
Ravenheart Dave has given me this album to review, bearing in mind my past experience of the genre, I once being the keys player in a male fronted extreme metal band. With vocals by some character who goes by the name 'Withoutname' (love it), and female vocals by Betty, it has to be said that what we have here is purely and simply 10 tracks and around half an hour of Death Metal. I know Dave has trouble getting his head around music like this, but to my ears, this is pretty good stuff. The album does slow down on occasion, 'The Rise of Noah' being one such track, one of the more melodic & accessible offerings in-fact, featuring the near folk like vocals of Betty. The Female vocals do put in occasional appearances throughout, but generally, this is heavy, sexy and ear splitting metal, with melody always bubbling under the surface! 8.25/10 (Reviewed by Rachel)