CD REVIEWS


Ratings: 2=crap; 4=poor; 6=average; 8=great; 10=superb!!!


Summer-Autumn 2011:

ALDIOUS-Deep Exceed (Bright Star Records)
You must give the band a little slack with the intro of “Luft-Opening” to get the hang of it. But once they step on the gas with “Luft”, there’s no escape and it’s time to bang your head and pull them strings on your air guitar. ALDIOUS is an all-female band from the land of the rising sun, that was brought to my attention by some friends of the Heavy Metal Maniacs. This song was put on the forum and I was simply blown away by it. All the more reason to search for the album and introduce it to the readers of Metal Maidens. The sound of ALDIOUS is a kind of combination between GAMMA RAY and HAMMERFALL mixed with some IRON MAIDEN hooks. Galloping riffs, relieved by melodic hooks, which are enjoyed best at very high volume. “Yachou” sounds like described here, only with a bit more melody. If you like it a bit louder, you may have a good listen to “Bind” for example. While “Shion” sounds more easy on the ears and the guitar parts of Yoshi and Toki are very upfront in the mix. Besides the two guitar players, ALDIOUS consists of Rami on vocals, Sawa on bass and Aruto on drums. This song proves, that we’re not dealing with a hype, but with five ladies who really know how to play some good songs. “Dual Personality” is one of my own personal favorites on this new album. The girls are steaming hot and banging at full speed here. After that, it’s time to show their sensitive side in “Across”. “Ultimate Melodious” could also be added on my list of favorites, because of the great drum work by Aruto and the slightly distorted vocals of Rami, which fits this fast headbanger very well. “Eversince” starts off with some classical rock influences, but after all it’s another fast headbanger. “Premixed Flame” sounds quite heavy and it’s definitely another highlight in my book. This list of favorites is growing very fast. “Deep” closes the album after approx. forty-five minutes. It contains a nice, catchy feeling. There’s a lot of variation on this album and many effort has been made on this album to put the right melody, heavy riffs and catchiness to the songs. And I think, that they’ve done a mighty fine job here. I do realize, that ALDIOUS is not another SHOW YA, but they sure have managed to come up with a fine album, that is worthy to be heard in the metal community all over the world! So check it out and don’t be shy! [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

AMARANTHE-Amaranthe (Spinefarm Records)
Get ready for the debut CD by Swedish newcomers AMARANTHE, who provide us with fourteen tracks and fifty minutes of melodic death metal. You don’t have to be a scholar to see that the formula of AMARANTHE works very well in today’s metal scene. The melodic input comes from female singer Elize, while Jake takes care of the brutal death growls and Andy adds some screams to it all. The band takes off in the fifth gear after some electronic beeps in opener “Leave Everything Behind”. Personally, this sounds too much like happy metal, but then I realize that it’s also very catchy and has a slightly raw background, that I like a lot. “Hunger” sounds easy on the ear as well and would almost get the label commercial, if the metal riffs weren’t there. The catchy songs could easily become hit singles, whereas the guitars prevent them from sounding too commercial. I liked the slightly alternative sounding “1.000.000 Light Years Away”, which shows a totally different face of the band. First, they took me by surprise, because of the very catchy sound of some tracks, but their experimental and brutal side turns up here as well. You’ll be even more surprised by the rather brutal approach in “Automatic”. The choir vocals sound as to be expected, but just listen to the brutal sound along the way and get caught up in the musical world of AMARANTHE, which is full of variation. The guitar solo in “My Transition” sounds very nice and fits really well in this nice rocking tune. Soak it up, because after this it’s time for a moment of silence in the ballad “Amaranthine”. The guitar solo sounds very sensitive and the chorus is made to sing out loud during their live shows. It would be a nice suggestion to follow this up live with “It’s All About Me” to make sure that everybody has woke up. This is where groove meets the catchy side in a song. It’s almost like AMARANTHE wants to have it both ways, the metal and the pop / rock direction and according to these tracks, this seems to work out well. Just listen to the refrain in “Call Out My Name”, which is easy to sing along to, next to the brutal growls of Jake and screams of Andy in the same track. I really liked the groove in “Enter The Maze”, while the refrain sounds very simple and easy to sing along to. The only big disappointment is, that AMARATHE never digs any deeper than the standard three minutes. Every song sounds alike and although there is a lot of variation in styles, there’s isn’t a whole lot of variation in the end. This doesn’t mean that it’s a bad album, on the contrary. The brutality in “Director’s Cut” is done very well, but after the chorus, the song becomes rather dull. “Act Of Desperation” is also very easy on the ear. The album closes with a groovy ear attack, called “Serendipity”. If you buy the Japanese version of “Amaranthe” you will get two bonus tracks. The first one is called “Breaking Point”, which is an up tempo song where both vocalists sing a duet, instead of doing their lines separately. The second bonus track is called “A Splinter In My Soul”, which sounds groovy and contains some maniacal screams by Jake. Besides the vocalists Jake, Elize and Andy, AMARANTHE consists of Olof on guitar and keyboards, Johan on bass and Morten on drums. If a good mix of catchy choruses and brutal groovy growls are your thing, then you should at least take a huge bite of this AMARANTHE pie. I’m sure it’ll taste fine! Website: http://www.myspace.com/amaranthemetal. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

A NEW DAWN-Seven Faces Of Truth (Currahee Records)
This new album by A NEW DAWN tells the story of a lady, called Dawn. The spoken word intro gives you the shivers in a very positive way. It could very well be taken from any cult horror movie imaginable. It’s called “My Name Is Dawn”, in which Dawn introduces herself to the listener. “Contradiction” takes you back to reality right away. Heavy riffs, accompanied with brutal grunts and beautiful melodic female vocals prove that A NEW DAWN have grown immensely as a band in a rather short amount of time. The eleven brand new tracks have a total playing time of about fifty-five minutes and bring you the best of like-minded bands such as WITHIN TEMPTATION, early THE GATHERING and KINGFISHER SKY. “Seven Faces Of Truth” starts off very promising. The way this song slowly builds up a certain tension is just magnificent in my opinion and this is only the beginning. The very first notes of “Desire” could very well be taken from any early IRON MAIDEN album. Very soon though, we hear another fascinating element in the sound of A NEW DAWN: the magic that comes from the two female vocalists: Jamyla Ifzaren and Alysia van Hork. There is a prominent role for drummer Rik Bruineman in this track and we also hear that the band is not afraid to bash it out real loud, where it’s needed. “Composition Of Life” starts with a combination of sounds to make things more lively. The duet vocals between the female singers on one side and the brutal growling male vocals on the other side are very impressive here. They may sound a bit fanatic in a way, but it fits very well to the story of Dawn so far. “Prelude To A Farewell (Part II)” is a short, instrumental ballad, in which the female vocals gave me the shivers once again. “Theatre Of Fears” opens with some male brutal growls, while in “Battle In Twilight (Contradiction Part II)” we also hear a battle between the male and female voices of A NEW DAWN. The male grunts by the way are done by Mike van den Heuvel. Besides the vocalists, the band now consists of Michiel Glas on guitar, Elbert de Hoog on guitar, Peter Groen on bass and Rik Bruineman on drums. In the meantime, we have arrived at a song called “The Madness Within”, which starts with a short cello intro. Very soon though the metal screams cry out loud and a furious wild song develops itself. The same goes for a song like “Masque Of The Red Death”. Obviously, A NEW DAWN have made a huge step forward with this new line-up and it shows. “Final Verdict” opens like a classic rock or metal song in the best IRON MAIDEN tradition. However, the grunts give it a more modern approach. The mysterious sounding part in the beginning of the song, which includes a chanting Gregorian choir, is simply mind-blowing! After this, the band continues in a more traditional metal way. They are silenced by a duet between the two ladies of the band. “Bellare Ad Aeternus” closes this CD, which is actually a short classical and instrumental piece. A NEW DAWN have really amazed me in the way they have developed themselves since their debut album “Falling From Grace”. Four years and some line-up changes later, the band is back stronger than ever with their new album called “Seven Faces Of Truth”. It’s the amazing story of Dawn, who takes the listener to another state of mind for fifty-five minutes. For more information, go to http://www.anewdawnband.nl. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ANOUK-To Get Her Together (EMI/Dino Music)
It’s getting more and more difficult to write a positive review about ANOUK, because the rock level in her music is getting lower each time a new release hits the streets. This new album contains eleven new tracks with a total length of about forty minutes. Title track “To Get Her Together” sounds very soul-minded with some experimental vocal lines. Not bad at all, but not really my rocking cup of tea. Let me put my soul glasses on to understand this type of music a little better. “Killer Bee” is on next, which sounds more up tempo. It has a very catchy vibe and the organ in the back sounds rather vintage. This also refers to the female choir vocals supporting in the back. The guitar tries very hard to get more space, but it’s kept chained in the background. This song is chosen to be one of the first singles taken from this new album. A very good choice in my opinion, because of the catchy feeling, that it has got. “Ms. Crazy” sounds slow and it reveals some of the secrets from ANOUK’s state of mind these days. Her divorce from Remon Stotijn, alias rapper Postman, and very difficult time afterwards was good enough to write three albums, I guess. No wonder, songs like these appear on this new release. They take a small peak into the heart of this female singer, who lets her soul speak on this album. Just check out the lyrics. Maybe that’s rock and roll?!? She doesn’t give a damn, writes a song about her misery and after a while, she just goes on with her life and closes this dark chapter. You gotta have a certain attitude to be able to do things like that. “What Have You Done” is ANOUK’s version of a song called “Onderweg”, originally recorded by the Dutch band ABEL. The original song isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I can almost sense the emotion by which she has reworked this one. “Save Me” has got that vintage sound of the sixties and seventies: female choirs, a happy organ sound and a slightly catchy vibe. Again, the dark lyrics contrast sharply with the rather happy sound of the song. “Any Younger” is ANOUK doing a hip hop song with a soul background. The younger fans will probably love it, but it’s so far away from the rock and metal, that we try to teach our readers. It’s the evolution of ANOUK being an artist I think, and we have to deal with that. Musically, it’s still good quality, but we’ve heard so much different and better from her in the past. “I’m A Cliché” is really an odd title for someone like ANOUK. It’s another nice soul track, which could have been released in the early seventies, judging the way it’s performed here. “Down & Dirty” is also one of the single choices taken off this album. It has the ‘whigger’ (white nigger) sound, but the message is quite clear. It’s a brute statement towards her former boyfriend Unorthodox. The way he treated ANOUK could be called unorthodox, so clearly he’s worth his name. Rap and dance are united in this new fashioned sound. Again, not really my cup of tea. However by listening to the lyrics, the puzzle clearly comes together. Strange that a song like that easily becomes such a successful single in Holland. This is another nice example of the fact, that everything ANOUK touches simply turns into gold. I only wished, that her relationships would turn out to be more stable as well. But let’s not talk too much about her private life. Let’s leave this up to the boulevard press. “Little Did I Know” is another song with a clear message. An up tempo track with a slightly soul touch. “Better Off Alone” is a love song with a heavy emotional touch in it. Last song on the album is the casual “Been Here Before”. But in case you wondered, it’s also quite emotional and it clearly shows the bad weather, that ANOUK was in, while writing this album. Okay, so what’s the final verdict for this album, I can almost hear you say?! Well, I have to make a very difficult decision about that. Judging the music, I would give it eight points or so. It’s far below average, if you only like your rock hard and heavy. You cannot call this a bad album, because it doesn’t rock enough. On the other hand, we are METAL MAIDENS and not MUSIC MAIDENS, so I was more thinking of giving it three or four points from that point of view. This album will reach many fans of this artist, no matter what we think. Die hard metal fans however will have to listen very carefully first before buying it. Http://www.anouk.com or http://www.anouk.nl for more information about this female superstar. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

APERION-Act Of Hybris (independent)
APERION hails from Slovenia and “Act Of Hybris” is the band’s debut album. The thirteen songs on this album have a playing time of about forty-five minutes and you’ll be able to enjoy some nice gothic, folk-oriented metal songs. Opener “Source” is not much more than an intro with female vocals. “Ocean” is also very short and has some folky background sounds. Their folk image is mainly created because of the use of instruments like cello, violin, double bass, flute and didgeridoo in their sound. They do that very well in “Shine”, where vocalist Zala really knows to impress me with her soprano vocals. In “Urma”, we also hear these folky instruments, but there’s a little more room for the guitars and drums as well. The mood change in this song is done very nicely and they reminded me of HAGGARD for a second. Folk, medieval, gothic - these different music styles all melt together in the songs of APERION and manage to create a fine and very original sound. “Light” builds up very nicely and at the end, the duet is the climax this song needs. It’s also one of the more heavy moments on this album. In “Maya”, we hear another duet with a male singer, but I don’t really think that his voice fits very well to the music of APERION. He would fit much better singing in an opera outfit instead. But that’s my honest opinion. Next on is “Fairytale Mind”, which is a nicely arranged and tiny little love song. Every album in this genre has got one and this is APERION’s small moment of sweet nothingness. Is that a barking dog in “Black Flies”? I think, it’s just my imagination. Besides the unidentified noise, it’s a nice up tempo song. “The Truth” captures more of the folk-like atmosphere, that wanders around on this album. The way, this song is performed vocally, is quite impressive and the loud guitar riffs are nice, too. Instrumental track “Fe+” is on next, which is a happy and sometimes heavy folk metal tune with lots of room for the flute. Same goes for “Dajte”, which is even happier than happy. I bet, when they play this live, it will raise a real nice party on the festival grounds. But does it have something to do with heavy metal?!? It will cheer you up, that’s for sure. Halfway the song, this happy tune gets some vocal assistance, where it loses its happiness a bit. “The Concept” is a beautiful gothic tune with vocalist Zala in another leading role. Besides Zala, the band consists of Crt on guitar, Dani on bass, Samo on cello, Tinka on flute, Martin on viola, Ziga on didgeridoo and Nejc on drums. The CD closes with a song called “Ü”, an odd title perhaps, but it’s very enjoyable to listen to. All in all, I had a nice time listening to “Act Of Hybris”, which certainly has got its strong moments, as well as moments where they lose my attention. All in all, we can speak of a very nice but average release here. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARCH ENEMY-Khaos Legions (Savage Messiah Music)
What a great package of this new ARCH ENEMY album! Is it a book? Is it a CD? Actually, it’s both and much bigger than the average digi-book, that you sometimes see. We will mainly focus on the music, but the band gets a huge ‘thumbs up’ for the great way of presenting this new product to their fans. The first CD (there are two CDs in here) contains fourteen songs and runs for fifty-five minutes. The “Khaos Overture” is a short instrumental intro to “Yesterday Is Dead And Gone”. A good heavy opener, but slightly different than the overwhelming thrash sound, you might expect from ARCH ENEMY. “Bloodstained Cross” sounds a bit heavier and it contains a very beautiful guitar solo in the middle. They’re not constantly blazing at full speed, but their music is slowly gaining more power here. Angela still growls like she has been drinking gallons of hydrochloric acid, but her voice sounds less brutal and fits better to the slightly more accessible sound of the band. “Under Black Flags We March” takes back some speed and you can almost speak of a classical metal tune here with the brutal vocals of Angela. I like it very much! It’s not that extreme anymore and the ultrafast sound is also gone. This will probably appeal to a lot more people, I guess. Think of the good old fashioned sound of ACCEPT, but this time with the low brutal growls by Angela Gossow, instead of the high-pitched vocals of Udo Dirkschneider. Just listen to “No Gods, No Masters” to get an idea of what I’m talking about. The part at the end could well have been on any ACCEPT album from the early eighties. Not that ARCH ENEMY has become an ACCEPT copy cat. No way! But their sound has not been limited to heavy metal speed demons and thrash adepts anymore. “City Of The Dead” gives me the opportunity to have a good look at the CD booklet, which is full of drawings of the band members and the ‘Khaos Legions in times of war’. Together with the lyrics, it becomes a skilful addition to the album, which has reached the song “Through The Eyes Of A Raven”. This song contains a nice mood change in the middle and a rather sudden ending, including some moody, acoustic guitars. “Cruelty Without Beauty” is exactly what the title suggests here. It’s by far the most heavy song with fast drum beats, an angry sounding Angela and very fast guitar riffs. There are even some CRADLE OF FILTH like blast beats in it. Just to give everybody a shock and to let people know that the angriness is still there. “We’re A Godless Entity” is a short instrumental piece, while in “Cult Of Chaos” we seem to get a flashback in time. Up with the speed, up with the power, up with the heaviness, until somewhere halfway the song, we get into a slower pace and the ‘new sound’, as I’d like to call it, returns. “Thorns In My Flesh” sounds very brutal and fast with flashing guitar attacks by the Amott brothers. The instrumental “Turns To Dust” contains some pieces of UFO’s “Doctor Doctor”- at least if you listen to it very closely, you may notice some resemblance. This is seamlessly followed by “Vengeance Is Mine”. “Secrets” closes this album. Near the end, the album gets a bit heavier and returns a bit more to its roots. “Khaos Legions” certainly contains much more variety than the band’s previous albums and therefore it will get a high score again. For people, who only love it ultra brutal and full speed, might be slightly disappointed, but I had a great time with this new album. “Secrets” being one of the highlights for me, next to all the other small surprises they have put in their songs. And mind you, this is not all of it. There is a second CD in this package, that contains four cover songs and fifteen minutes of music. The choices are rather surprising and diverse, that they may appeal to many people. First of all there is “Warning” of the hardcore punk band DISCHARGE from England. I don’t know the original song, but this is a very brutal ear attack, as far as I’m concerned. “Wings Of Tomorrow” by Swedish hair metal legends EUROPE is on next. What a difference with DISCHARGE earlier. I must say, that I think you will never hear a more brutal version of this song again, after you’ve listened to this one. It’s hardly recognizable through the brutal screams of Angela. Even thrash metal freaks will be challenged to listen to the original version after hearing this one, I guess. You can cover any song of KISS and satisfy every heavy metal freak out there. But if you opt to cover “The Oath”, you have made a choice that almost nobody else would have made. Now you can listen to the ARCH ENEMY version of this song. “The Book Of Heavy Metal” of DREAM EVIL is the last track, that receives an ARCH ENEMY make-over. With this brutal metal song we close the book, that is called “Khaos Legions”. ARCH ENEMY may attract a much bigger audience with this sound, that is slightly less heavy but it may open many more doors for them hopefully. They almost reached the highest score possible with this album and I can easily recommend this to every devoted metal head out there. Website: http://www.archenemy.net/ [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARCANUM-Welcome To Sarcasm Circle (independent)
ARCANUM hails from Switzerland and plays some nice heavy rock or power rock, if you like. The album “Welcome To Sarcasm Circle” contains fifteen tracks and almost a full hour of heavy rock. The last three songs are live tracks, but first we have to wrestle ourselves through the first twelve tracks. The music is not boring, but not exciting too. The vocals of Gabi are a bit monotonous, although the band tries very hard to put some variation into their songs, but they hardly succeed. Simple, straight forward heavy rock is all that remains on this album. ARCANUM consists of Gabi on vocals, Fux on bass, Hägar on drums and Sile on guitar. Here and there are some moments, when I look up and hear a sound that I like. The slower “Crashed Soul” is a nice example here, where Gabi does some vocal lines in the beginning of the song, that I liked. The guitar riffs and the keyboards accompanying them in the beginning of “Rebel” sound quite nice to me too. They need to spice up their sound a bit with more powerful instrumental parts or put some variation in the structure of the songs. It would make things a lot easier to listen to the songs then. The fact, that the band tries very hard might not be enough to catch the attention of the average listener, when nothing exciting happens and everything is played at the same speed and dispassionate expression. Just take a look at the CD cover. The very childish picture is not drawing any attention of a metal audience, I’m afraid. Listening to “So Innocent”, I get the idea that ARCANUM has chosen the wrong direction. This poppy love song sounds a lot better than the previous eleven tracks, that I’ve heard so far. Okay, we’ve reached the live songs right now and I’m ready for it. “Fight” has some good guitar riffs and Gabi shows the emotion that I want to hear. A good start, but why didn’t I hear this on the studio tracks?? Also on the other two live tracks, they know to convince me, that they are a well-talented band. Now they have to prove that in the studio as well. That’s a nice test for their next album. I will not be too hard on them, because you can tell that they have tried hard to make the best of it and the live tracks really prove that they can do it. Website: http://www.arcanumrock.ch. [6 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARKONA-Stenka Na Stenku (EP) (Napalm Records)
This EP contains six tracks and twenty-five minutes of pagan folk metal. To me, this sounds like an ordinary marketing strategy, because opener and title track “Stenka Na Stenku” is nothing more than a Russian folk tune with some heavy riffs supporting it. I really can’t put the accordion under the label of metal instruments. As long as you add pagan to it, people will surely buy it, is what they think. Second track “Valenki” also sounds nothing more and nothing less. Accordion, choir vocals and a heavy beat with heavy guitar riffs as the metal juice to make it sound a little more heavy. Things are handled differently in the acoustic version of “Goi, Rode, Goi!”. It’s a bit darker, but it still sounds very folky because of the Russian language, in which they sing it. All in all, this is not a really heavy EP and their folk side is much more in the spotlight, which isn’t a good sign at all. “Skal” features a guest appearance of Freki from the German band Varg. This may appeal to the many German fans of folk and metal, but to me it doesn’t really add something to the music. The lyrics are at least understandable now, which helps a bit. “Skal” is about drinking beer, by the way. To my surprise, I hear some heavy blast beats in the beginning of “Duren”. The vocal parts sound very folky though, but this lengthy track is definately one of my favorites on this EP. “Noviy Mir” contains choir vocals and some dark, speaking voices to give it a kind of a spooky atmosphere. However, this doesn’t lift up the final score to a higher level, I am afraid. The folk level on this EP is much too high and this makes “Stenka Na Stenku” a rather disappointing release for me. If you like joyful folky tunes, whether they are pagan or not, then this might be something for you. I’m afraid, that I am disappointed too much by the low metal level. To make this review complete, I will add the line-up of ARKONA in my final words . The band consists of Masha ‘Scream’ on vocals, Sergej ‘Lazar’ on guitar, Rusian ‘Kniaz’ on bass and Vlad ‘Artist’ on drums. Website: http://www.arkona-russia.com/en/(English version) [4 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BATTLE BEAST-Steel (Hype Records)
Finland has been known for its thousand lakes, but we can also say that it has a thousand (or more) heavy metal bands. BATTLE BEAST is one of the heaviest of them all and this debut album “Steel” really stole my heart. What you’ll hear are eleven tracks and forty-five minutes of ultra cool heavy metal with a high level of U.D.O., ACCEPT and ZED YAGO. It’s time to raise your fists and yell out loud to the songs on this debut album. “Enter The Metal World” leads the way to the world of BATTLE BEAST, that contains some fabulous guitar work, thunderous drums, loud war chant like choruses and the female voice of Nitte topping it all. The guitars sound even more flashing than ACCEPT in a way and the double bass drum at the end makes me dying to hear more. “Armageddon Clan” starts with a very cool old school SAXON riff and a high Udo Dirkschneider-like scream. Do you need to know more or do you get the big picture already? This is some of the truest metal you can possibly get and the purest steel you can find in today’s scene. “The Band Of The Hawk” is a more Teutonic sounding war chant, ready to shout along to real loud. A touch of LORDI can be discovered, when the male vocals make their entrance in the chorus. “Justice And Metal” is on next and this is a fast speed rocker with more flashing guitar work. Ready to get those heads banging up and down real fast. “Steel” is the title track and in fact, it says it all. The main ingredient for this song, next to the lyrics that will invite you to sing along, are the breathtaking guitar parts in this song. Think about YNGWIE J MALMSTEEN quadruplicated and you’ll get close to the final result that can be heard here. “Die Hard Warrior” sounds a bit more accessible, because of the orchestration of the song. There are also some male vocals in this one. Heavy metal has no boundaries and this is how it sounds in “Cyberspace” in the next song. Fast and furious, that’s for sure. “Show Me How To Die” is another fast metal tune: straight forward and therefore again easy to sing along to. “Savage And Saint” however is a ballad with a more laid back character. But you know that every good metal album contains at least one good ballad, so this is the small tender moment for BATTLE BEAST here. In “Iron Hand”, we hear Nitte as some kind of Tarja Turunen during a small part of the song, but during the most part of the song she sounds like Maria of CRYSTAL VIPER, who can also be mentioned as a reference here. Nitte has a very nice opera voice, but I must admit that I am glad that she doesn’t use it too much on this album. It would make their metal sound too much like NIGHTWISH and people won’t make the comparison that easy now. The CD closes with a song called “Victory”, which is another loud basher. Giving a final score for this album is quite easy. BATTLE BEAST is one the purest bands in heavy metal nowadays and they are very talented in every way. Besides female metal beast Nitte on vocals, the band consists of Pyry on drums, Juuso on guitar, Janne on keyboards, Eero on bass and Anton on guitar. Together they are responsible for “Steel”, a release that can only be granted with the full score, as far as I’m concerned. Heavy metal stands proud in the land of the thousand lakes!! Website: http://www.hypeproductions.fi/battlebeast or http://www.facebook.com/battlebeastofficial. [10 points- FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

BATTLELORE-Doombound (Napalm Records)
BATTLELORE presents their new album and this nice package also contains a bonus DVD with some video clips, two live shows, a photo gallery and some tour videos. So you really get some value for your money here. That is, if you like the music by this Finnish fantasy metal band. The album contains eleven tracks and runs for fifty-five minutes. BATTLELORE could be described as Tolkien on music. If you like the stories of Tolkien mixed with some epic heavy metal music, than BATTLELORE is the band to check out. The CD opens with “Bloodstained” and all the ingredients are spread out to the listener. Keyboards, epical lyrics and a metal sound with melodic edges and lots of armour, warriors, weapons and dragons enter your room. “Iron Of Death” sounds slightly heavier and I see the first people starting to bang their head. The female vocals of Kaisa Jouhki are melodic and a beautiful addition to the metal sound of the instrumentalist. Of course the gentle female voice is accompanied by the brutal male screams of Tomi Mykkänen. BATTLELORE is not just a band, that take the stories of Tolkien as an inspiration for their music. They headlined the official Lord Of The Rings Festival in Berlin in 2004, which isn’t something that any band can say. In the meantime we’re listening to “Bow And Helm” and you can’t go to war without them, can you? This is a brutal war chant, which is followed by a short piece of rest in “Enchanted”. Kaisa’s beautiful voice matches perfectly with a sound like that, so she really deserves the leading role in this one. In “Kärmessurma”, we hear some Finnish folk metal. Then it’s getting a bit heavier with “Olden Gods”, where male and female vocals unite next to each other. “Fate Of The Betrayed” sounds very brutal and it will get some heads up and down again. “Men As Wolves” sees the two vocalist next to each other with a nice galloping beat accompanying it all. BATTLELORE closes the album with title track “Doombound” and an instrumental, called “Kielo”. “Doombound” is by far the best song on this album for me. It’s quite lengthy and full of little surprises. “Kielo” is a short atmospheric ending of the CD. The battle is over and after fifty-five minutes it’s time to go home safely and celebrate the triumph with a nice cup of tea, while watching the BATTLELORE DVD. Tolkien can be proud of this band, that represents his stories in the best way possible. Besides the two vocalists mentioned earlier, the band consists of Jussi Rautio on guitar, Jyri Vahvanen on guitar, Timo Honkanen on bass, Henri Vahvanen on drums and Maria Honkanen, the second metal maiden in the band on keyboards and flute. Website: http://www.battlelore.net/ [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ROBIN BECK-The Great Escape (Her Majesty’s Music Room/Sony NEO)
ROBIN BECK is a major name in the AOR / melodic rock scene. With her new album, she proves once again, that she is one of the leading ladies in this scene with her golden voice. The eleven new tracks on her new album “The Great Escape” play for about forty-five minutes and they definitely show you the force of ROBIN BECK. Short tracks with a catchy feel and a very strong bite is what you expect and exactly what you get. Add to this a positive message or a way of thinking if you like, which is also a nice touch in these dark and sober days. Opener “The One” is very suitable for the local radio stations and still has got a raunchy guitar sound. The riffs in “Got Me Feeling Sexy” are even a bit heavier. Judging by the cover of the CD, this is an autobiographical song. There’s no doubt about it. The song is made for driving along the long highways in America with your hair waving in the wind. What a shame that my hair is only three millimeter long, but I am glad I can enjoy the music as much as anybody else. “Inside Of Me”, as the title already suggests, sounds a bit slower and contains more emotion. “That All Depends” is a ballsy duet between Robin and Joe Lynn Turner and quite a nice one, too. “Baby I’m Not A Bitch” shows a more poppy side, but the catchy sound remains the same. All in all, this may sound like a safe way of recording and maybe this is the case too. But I don’t think, that artists like ROBIN BECK introduce any big changes in their music style that easily. All the songs are of a very high quality and sometimes one is heavier than the other, but in general we can say that “The Great Escape” is a very nice album to listen to. “Everything Is Alright” is on next, including a nice guitar solo in the middle, which makes it a true statement. The title track is the next in line and again it starts with some heavy guitar riffs. Now that’s the way we like it! For me, this track lifts itself up over the rest of the material, mainly because of the great guitar sound and the ditto solo. It’s the highlight on the album for me. On we go with a ballad, called “Don’t Think He’s Ever Comin’ Home”, in which Robin sounds like Ann Wilson of HEART. The nice guitar solo gives it a great boost. “Cross My Heart” sounds poppy and catchy at the same time and for that reason it’s very suitable for radio airplay, I guess?!? “All The Rivers” is on next, which fits nicely to the rest of the material. “Till The End Of Time” is the album closer and another duet, which features Robin’s husband James Christian (HOUSE OF LORDS fame). This song sounds a lot more poppy than the one with Joe Lynn Turner, but it’s always nice to have your husband involved as well. ROBIN BECK fans will have a safe buy with “The Great Escape” and for the AOR and melodic rock and metal fans, it sure is a nice addition to your collection. Website: http://www.robinbeckrocks.com/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BENEDICTUM-Dominion (Frontiers Records)
BENEDICTUM doesn’t have to prove themselves anymore. Their albums are awesome and they never show a dull moment. Same goes for this new album, that is called “Dominion”. It runs for over an hour and contains thirteen metal tracks, that will grab your attention right from the start. Opener and title track “Dominion” sounds very strong and it already proves the strength of BENEDICTUM. Heavy guitars, strong vocal chords and a steady rhythm is what you get here. “At The Gates” opens with the sound of a bell, before raging on at full speed, causing a giant whirlwind of guitar riffs. Sometimes I see a slight resemblance with JUDAS PRIEST and the band can take that as a compliment, as far as I’m concerned. “The Seer” opens a bit mysteriously, but once it gets going, it appears to be a slow yet heavy track. This combination works perfectly. By slowing down, they also created a much heavier sound. “Grind It” has a steady beat and Pete put an excellent, fast guitar solo in it. Man, does he play a fast piece of guitar here! Just listen to the riffs in “Prodigal Son” and you’ll be amazed. While listening to the music, I browse through the booklet and it’s fascinating to see how the band has represented the songs in a small pic that goes with the lyrics. They really did a great job here! In the meantime, we have arrived at the mind blowing guitar solo of “Prodigal Son”, where Pete Wells takes the leading role for a few moments. Besides Pete on guitar and Veronica Freeman on vocals, BENEDICTUM consists of Chris Shrum on bass, Tony Diaz on keyboards and Mikey Pannone on drums. The intro of “The Shadowlands” invites you to clap along, especially when playing in a live setting. I like the speed change in the middle of the song. It catches your attention right away and it’s also a nice introduction to the guitar solo that follows. Guitar fans can sit back and relax during the next track, in which Pete gives us a nice example of his skills in an instrumental song called “Beautiful Pain”. After that, it’s time to speed things up a bit in “Dark Heart”. “Bang” however asks for some special attention. During this headbanger, the band asks the help of some special guests, like on their previous albums. Next to Jeff Pilson and Craig Goldy, who already showed up before, we also hear a contribution of Rudy Sarzo. The song itself is an ‘easy to sing along’ metal anthem. In contrary to “Loud Silence”, which is a more power ballad-like tune with a steady, heavy beat and another mind blowing guitar solo. Yes, Mr. Wells constantly knows to amaze me with his fiery and fast axe work. “Epsilon” is a very nice lengthy track with a high level of progressive influences. While “Sanctuary” will give you some time to take a deep breath. It’s an acoustic tune and the first one of two bonus tracks on this album. The second bonus track appeals much more to me, to be honest. It’s the cover track of this album, and this time the band has chosen to cover “Overture / Temple Of Syrinx” by RUSH, which is an excellent choice in my eyes. I L-O-V-E that song and to me it was a very pleasant surprise, that BENEDICTUM took the chance to cover it. The band stays very close to the original version, but the voice of Veronica sounds slightly different of course. However, it’s a really fantastic closure of another brilliant album by this very successful American metal outfit. Website: http://www.benedictum.net/ [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLOOD CEREMONY-Living With The Ancients (Rise Above Records)
Occult metal is gaining popularity really fast nowadays. Dutch THE DEVIL’S BLOOD and the English ELECTRIC WIZARD lead the way, but BLOOD CEREMONY is catching up really fast and they certainly belong to the premier league of occult metal bands. Their music is a flashback to the seventies and their retro sound is beefed up with occult lyrics. Another aspect are the lengthy instrumental parts, that pop up every now and then, creating some kind of a hippie atmosphere with mysterious lyrics topping it. Old fashioned bands like JETHRO TULL and FOCUS must have been a big well of inspiration for a band like this. BLOOD CEREMONY’s new album is really a must have and it captures the band in its best shape. The nine songs on this brand new album are worthy of a bit over fifty minutes of the best occult metal available in this scene right now. Songs like “The Great God Pan”, that has some nice flute playing, and “Coven Tree” are some nice examples already. “The Hermit” is an instrumental track, followed by the slightly doomy “My Demon Brother”. They slowly take you into a trance, leading you to a world of its own. This is the improvisation part. During these few moments they have created a small space, in which you can forget about all and everything. Some people will find this old fashioned and boring maybe. I think, it sounds exciting, especially when it’s done the right way, like BLOOD CEREMONY does. The band consists of Alia O’Brien on vocals, flute and organ, Sean Kennedy on guitars, Lucas Gadke on bass and vocals and Andrew Haust on drums. In “Night Of Augury”, the keyboards have a rather prominent role in the instrumentation. This is a good example of what I was referring to earlier. The lengthy instrumental part can take you to a place far away from here, a dream world, if you like. It’s a shame, that it only lasts very short, but it has got the power to make you forget about all your sorrows for a little while. “The Witch’s Dance” is a short instrumental tune, which is actually not much more than an interlude. The last track is also the longest and therefore maybe one of the highlights. It’s called “Daughter Of the Sun”. I love the way the tension slowly builds itself up in this song. A great example of how to perform a good occult metal track. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KATE BUSH-Director’s Cut (Collector’s Edition) (Fish People)
What can I say about KATE BUSH? She was so far ahead of her time and such an unique talent, that I could go on and on writing about her. However, she isn’t exactly a heavy metal singer, I can almost hear you say and you’re right about that. But just try to imagine the world of female vocalists in the heavy metal scene, when KATE BUSH wouldn’t have left her mark on music. Things would have looked so much differently, because she has been a huge influence to so many female singers out there. Discovered by former PINK FLOYD guitarist David Gilmour, she created many beautiful songs and some amazing albums. Her live shows were also a perfect example of her smashing career. This new triple CD contains some reworked material of her albums “The Sensual World” and “The Red Shoes”. The lady is also working on new material right now and most likely she will astonish many fans and music lovers. The first CD contains eleven tracks and runs for about fifty-five minutes. Opener “Flower Of The Mountain” was originally called “ The Sensual World” and in “Lilly” you will probably even sense some love for the music of PINK FLOYD. “Deeper Understanding” is not that easy to comprehend at all and perhaps it’s a bit experimental as well, but it’s really beautiful. What talent! Same goes for “The Red Shoes” as a matter of fact, where Kate shows that she was far beyond pop music. The ‘art’ that she’s making could only be absorbed and understood by real music lovers. “This Woman’s Work” is another nice example, although this song moves in a totally different direction. “Moments Of Pleasure” is the woman and her piano and six minutes of heavenly music. It is, although it has nothing to do with heavy metal, my ‘moment of pleasure’ here. “Never Be Mine” features a Bulgarian, three lady choir. While “Top Of The City” contains more power and takes the music to another dimension. “And So Is Love” has a leading role for the guitar of Eric ‘Slowhand’ Clapton. It does not become a rock track because of that, but it comes very close and it’s one of the most accessible songs on this first CD. The CD closes with “Rubberband Girl”, which is an old fashioned rock and roll tune, in which Kate rocks it out in the best way possible. The reworked version of “Sensual World” contains eleven tracks and forty-five minutes of music. It opens with the title track of the album, followed by “Love And Anger”. Almost right away, you’ll notice that the beginning of this album is very accessible and it sounds a bit more like the old KATE BUSH songs, which were sometimes even ready for radio airplay. In the second song Kate calls in the help of a choir, something that she often did. There is also some nice guitar work on this one from nobody else but David Gilmour (PINK FLOYD). “The Fog” contains another well-known guest, Nigel Kennedy, the violin player, who plays a solo spot on this song. “Reaching Out” sounds very beautiful, while “Heads We’re Dancing” is a bit more exotic and it even might give people the urge to dance or move their body to the rhythm of the music. We have heard “Deeper Understanding” and “Never Be Mine” already on the first CD, but in between these two tracks we hear “Between A Man And A Woman” now. “Rocket’s Tail” sounds a bit mad, while in “This Woman’s Work” we get a moment’s peace. The CD closes with “Walk Straight Down The Middle”, that could very well be played on the radio, but never reached the status of becoming a hit single. What remains is the re-mastered version of “The Red Shoes”, containing twelve tracks and fifty-five minutes of KATE BUSH. “Rubberband Girl” starts off in a rather jolly way and it sounds so much different than the version we heard on the first CD. “And So Is Love” has got the sound of Clapton captured on guitar. “Eat The Music” sounds like KATE BUSH on the Caribbean, a very exotic track that will make the sun shine for a couple of moments on a rainy day. “Moments Of Pleasure” is on next. Wow, I have goose bumps all over again! This is followed by “The Song Of Solomon” and sometimes it does remind me a bit of that one big hit, that Kate once had with former GENESIS frontman Peter Gabriel “Don’t Give Up”. That same rhythm and sound pops up every now and then. “Lilly” and “The Red Shoes” were on “The Director’s Cut” already, but they sound so differently here. “Top Of The City” is on next, followed by “Constellation Of The Heart”, which sounds like “Another Brick In The Wall” because of the use of a choir. “Big Stripey Lie” has got a dance beat, which makes it more casual than the other tracks. “Why Should I Love You?” is a rather poppy anthem and “You’re The One” closes this three CD set. Jeff Beck is another remarkable guest on this last song. You may agree with me or not, but KATE BUSH remains untouchable. That’s why I want to grant this three CD package, that includes all the lyrics and some nice pix, with the full score. In this way I want to carry out my respect and adoration, that I have for this lady. Website: http://www.katebush.com/ [10 points- FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

CASSANDRA SYNDROME-Satire X (independent)
This is the second album of CASSANDRA SYNDROME, which is called “Satire X”. It contains ten brand new tracks and plays for about forty-five minutes. The album starts with “No More Peace Forever”, which contains some heavy riffs topped by the operatic vocals of Irene Jericho. Don’t be afraid, this is not another gothic metal band, that tries to jump on the already full bandwagon. CASSANDRA SYNDROME sounds heavier and the vocals of Irene are much more lively. All together the band sounds so much more spontaneous and exciting than the average gothic metal outfit. I would rather call this melodic metal with operatic vocals. Just listen to “Hell On Earth” or the aforementioned opener to know what I mean by that. Besides Irene, the band consists of Jen Tonon on guitar, Jay Jericho on drums, Joe Cariola on bass and Chris Kackley on guitar. “The Fool” sounds darker than the previous songs, but with “The Magus” the band returns to the main road, where they started this CD. I very much like the speed change in the middle of this song. It shows, that this band dares to take some adventurous decisions here and there. Take a left turn, where you expect to go straight forward. I like this a lot. This song also seems to be the first single, which is a good choice in my opinion. The operatic voice of Irene sounds very much upfront in “Shackles”. Not in the first part, where she sings a lullaby, but later on where the guitars riff out loud. This song is being used for the official music video for this album. After that, they leave us standing in the “Poison Rain”, but with the loud guitars in this song, we don’t really care at all. “The Priestess” comes up next and it contains a great guitar solo. Together with the higher speed of the song, it takes care of a very powerful atmosphere. Followed by a darker and almost dreamy atmosphere in “What You Wanted”. The guitar solo here sounds mind blowing and it looks like the band has saved the best for last. The last songs are called “The Iron Cross”, which has some Eastern influenced melodies and “Pestilence”, which sounds a bit like a doomy kind of NIGHTWISH, only with some mind boggling guitar work. “Pestilence” by the way is also the name of a Dutch heavy metal band from the nineties and I have to give them some credit for using this band’s name as a song title, although they definitely didn’t do that on purpose. CASSANDRA SYNDROME released a very fine album, which scores far above average, because of the exciting style changes and freshness that they deliver these ten tracks. The circus image, that they used on the cover of their new CD will only make you curious about how the music of this band will sound. At least it did with me. Certainly a name to remember this CASSANDRA SYNDROME. Website: http://www.cassandrasyndrome.com/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CETI-Ghost Of The Universe – Behind The Black Curtain (Urbix)
I’ve always liked the music by the Polish power metal band CETI a lot. Their new album contains eleven tracks and once again it’s worthy of a whole lot of musical pleasure. After the short instrumental opener “The Invert”, already one of the highlights on this new album comes along, which is called “The Wolves”. A fast furious power metal track with a lot of room for guitars and melody. “In The Eyes Of Rising Sun” sounds like old, classic rock music like ALCATRAZZ or RAINBOW. Another highlight, which will take you back to the glory days of the heavy metal. “The Day Of Dirt” opens in the best BON JOVI tradition, but it develops itself into a fast head banger. If you’re looking for some extraterrestrial guitar work, don’t look any further, it’s right in this very song! “Break Of Spell” sounds like a more melodic version of ICED EARTH without the furious and heavy riffs, but with a good guitar solo. “Forever” is fast and could very well be on any old school SAXON album for example. Old school metal fans won’t be disappointed, when listening to the sound of these Polish rockers. “Black Curtain” is on next. This is an instrumental tune, in which endless variations on a theme go on and on. “Anywhere” is a fast rocker with that good old classic rock atmosphere, that gives this song a warm, trustworthy feeling. It’s a damn shame, that this band doesn’t receive raving reviews outside of their home country, but I like every single note on this fantastic album. CETI consists of Barteck Urbaniak on bass, Mucek on drums, Bartek Sadura on guitar, Marihuana on keyboards (original name) and of course Gregorz Kupczyk on vocals. “Lady Of The Storm” starts ominous, but it develops into another very fine traditional metal track. “Land Of Hope” is on next. This time, the drummer gets really mad and bashes out the intro of this wild speed headbanger. The last song on this magnificent album is called “Ghost Of The Universe”, which starts quite doomy. But who gives a damn?!? If you really love your metal loud and traditional, you are not reading these lines anymore and you are already searching for this great new record by these Polish metal heads. I think, it is the longest track on the album and I’m sure, that no one will be disappointed what these Polish rockers have recorded here. I simply need to grant this the full score, I can’t help myself. This has been a very pleasant trip down memory music lane, although we were dealing with new material. Website: http://www.myspace.com/cetikupczyk [10 points- FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

CIVET-Love & War (Hellcat Records)
The wild cats of CIVET have recorded a new album, that consists of fourteen tracks and forty-five minutes of rebellious punk rock music. These ladies aren’t afraid to rock it out loud and prove is given in opener “Can’t Go Back”. “L.A. Nights” sounds like THE RAMONES have reunited again, only this time with female members. I think, that the music of CIVET sounds a lot more punk than THE RUNAWAYS, who are mentioned in the bio. They have more in common with L7, BIKINI KILL and maybe THE LUNACHICKS. They rock in the same speed during title track “Love & War”, which also has the well-known JOAN JETT hand clapping for a very short while. Of course the songs are all about crazy parties and a whole lotta love, like in “Come On (I Wanna Be Your Girl)” or “Sunset Strip”, in which the CIVET’s sing that they are all ‘bad girls’. Well, they like that on the Sunset Strip, that’s for sure. The bad girls in CIVET are Liza Graves on guitar and vocals, Suzi Carmichael on guitar and backing vocals, Christian Riersgard on drums and Jonny Grill on bass and backing vocals. In the meantime, we have arrived at “Summer Hate”. “Deadbeat” sounds rebellious, just like “Summer Hate”. “Buy My Love” is more punk and it shows, that the band have succeeded in re-discovering their punk roots, when writing this new album. The choruses on the album will also give you that punk or hard core feeling. Just listen to a song like “Cryin’ Wolf” for example. “It’s The Truth” is a slow track, but it still contains that punk attitude that wanders around on the whole CD. In “I’m Not The One”, the band gives all they’ve got and presses the pedal to the metal. “Go Underground” has got that simple but effective RAMONES sound again. “Reap What You Sow” has got some childish sounding choruses. Finally, there’s “You Get What You Pay For”, which sounds raunchy and is a worthy closure of a very strong album. These kittens have got claws and they show it quite regularly. “Love & War” is a solid album, that will please many readers of Metal Maidens, especially when you like some punk edges to the music, you will be fine with this release. Website: http://www.myspace.com/civet [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CWN ANNWN-The Alpha And The Omega (independent)
I did remember the band by its name of course. But I was very positively surprised to have their new CD in our postal box this week. Thanks a lot for sending it out to us. I really liked their EP “Blood Of The Djin” a lot, which was released in 2008 already. It is time for a review of their full-length album right now. Let’s refresh your mind a bit and re-introduce the band to you, before having a closer look at this album. We have Neil James on guitar and vocals, Harry Rostovtsev on guitar, Mike Strohkirch on bass and vocals, Jake Stone on drums and above all of course the lovely looking Julie Schultz on vocals. CWN ANNWN is a translation from the Welsh mythology and it stands for ‘The Hounds Of Chaos’ or ‘The Hounds Of Hell’. So there you go and now let’s have a listen to their music. The album contains nine tracks and about fifty-five minutes of heavy metal. It opens with the sound of a siren, which is a good start already, because I like it when a band uses sound effects like sirens, rain, church bells or stuff like that. The song is called “Red Sunrise” and I hear a lot of MAIDEN-like guitar riffs and a freaky bass part right after that. That bass player certainly added some PRIMUS influences to the sound, very freaky man!! I think I’ve mentioned before that Julie’s voice sounds a lot like PJ Berlinghof of TWILIGHT ODYSSEY. These two ladies probably don’t know each other, but they very much sound alike and Julie can take this as a huge compliment. Quick back to the music, because there is a whole lot of awesome stuff going on here. Many speed changes, a death metal-like growl and an exciting instrumental part and we’re only facing the first track here. My interest grows every second, after an opener like this. “The Devil’s Crest” (what an awesome title!) is on next. Besides the powerful voice of Julie, I also hear some fanatic screams. It’s always good to let of steam, so don’t hold back and let it all out is my advice. The fast rhythm is great for banging your head up and down and I love the speed changes in the song later on. The fast guitar solo is mind boggling and the instrumental adventures, that are on next are simply breathtaking. This is like a cross between WATCHTOWER and IRON MAIDEN. There are more songs, that are called “Black Star”, but the title has got a strong meaning in my imagination. This song sounds more like IRON MAIDEN than the band itself nowadays. I wished, they still played guitar solos like that. The switch to a slightly reggae sounding part is surprisingly and just long enough to not lose your attention. “Gaea’s Rebirth” is an instrumental track, in which the band members can fully expose themselves and show their skills. The fact, that they can fill almost ten minutes with their exciting playing shows that we are dealing with some high class musicians here. Everybody comes in the spotlight. Right thereafter it’s time for “Prognatus Iterum”, which is maybe an odd title, but nonetheless another very cool song. At the end there is a small acoustic part, that gives the song a special dimension. “Circles Of Jericho” show us the strong powerful voice of Julie very much upfront in the mix. Of course the guitar players ask for some extra attention as well. In title track “The Alpha And The Omega”, the band takes back some speed, while in “Cloak Of Shadows”, bass player Mike profiles himself with his crazy bass madness. But there is more metal madness at the end of this album, when the band explodes in the fast speed metal track “Nova”, including some brutal male vocals next to the female voice of Julie. Enjoy the ICED EARTH-like riffs and WATCHTOWER-like crazy interludes. Definitely one of the highlights here and I must say, that they saved the best tracks in the beginning and at the end of this album. Not that there isn’t much happening in between, but that’s where the most exciting moments are in my humble opinion. I believe, there must be a link somewhere between the first track and the last track being so exciting. Hello, wakey wakey, alpha and omega are the first and the last letter in the classical Greek alphabet. This must reflect on these tracks here as well. You see, there is an explanation for everything. At least, there is in my imagination. The EP was only just the beginning, but this is the real deal. CWN ANNWN can be proud of an album like this and I am very excited about what I’m hearing. There is so much happening and you can tell that the musicians are passionate about what they are doing, which reflects on the great metal tracks on this silver disc. I reward this passionate love for great music with the full score. And there is nobody who’s gonna stop me from doing this. In America, the band from the Minnesota area has already shared the stage with names like EXODUS, ICED EARTH, TRIVIUM, SKULLVIEW, DESTROYER 666, TESTAMENT, METAL CHURCH and our very own AFTER FOREVER from Holland. Hello, is there somebody out there who can get these people over to Europe or has everybody fallen asleep? I made a promise to you, that I would take this opportunity to introduce the band by means of an interview and this time has come. CWN ANNWN rocks and the world has got to know. AMEN! Website: http://www.cwnannwn.com/ [10 points- FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

DARKEST ERA-The Last Caress Of Light (Metal Blade)
This is the debut album by this heavy Celtic folk metal band from England. It contains eight long tracks, that have a total playing time of about a full hour. DARKEST ERA consists of Dwayne ‘Krum’ Maguire on vocals, Ade Mulgrew on guitar (ex-WAYLANDER), Sarah Weighell on guitar, David Lindsay on bass and Lisa Howe on drums. The album opens with “The Morrigan”, which comes close to the sound of a band like THE ANSWER or THIN LIZZY. The band was founded in 2005 and they have released two EP’s so far, so it was time to release a full-length by now. “An Ancient Fire Burns” continues in the same pace and comes with some heavy guitar riffs. The Celtic influences are not really upfront in the mix, but they’re kind of hidden underneath the thick guitar layers. “Beneath The Frozen Sky” opens with some choir vocals and sounds much more catchy than the first two songs, although I liked those more. It goes on way too long without reaching a real climax. “Heathen Burial” is on next, in which you can hear some influences of the mighty THIN LIZZY, but what really bothers me are the rather monotonous vocals. Although the music sounds powerful, melodic and leaves room for a nice guitar solo. “Visions Of The Dawn” contains some mood changes later on in the song. The way of singing is still not my cup of tea though, but I only speak for myself here. It’s rather difficult for me to focus on the vocal parts, but the songs are rather adventurous at times and very well made up. Lisa opens “To Face The Black Tide” with some thunderous drum beats. “Poem To The Gael” is more folk than rock and in my opinion perhaps a bit dull. The CD closes with a song called “The Last Caress Of Light Before The Dark”. This sounds a bit more exciting, but it opens very slowly. I think, you can refer to this song as the climax of the whole CD. Maybe you have to be in the mood for this kind of music. Although in my opinion music has to grab you by the balls, no matter what state of mind you are. Anyway, it’s still a quite enjoyable CD, if you like Celtic folk influences. Latest news: The band will join SAHG and BEHOLDER for three UK shows in late November/early December 2011. Website: http://www.darkestera.com/ [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ILSE DE LANGE-Live In Gelredome (Universal Music)
ILSE DE LANGE is the new rock chick, who knows to amuse her fans with her highly enjoyable music. This deluxe set contains two live CDs and a DVD of her concert in Gelredome, Arnhem, The Netherlands. The two CDs contain twenty-three songs, which are worthy of almost two hours of high quality music, that stands with both feet in the middle of rock and country. Don’t let the word country hold you back to give this a spin or two, because Ilse plays the songs with so much passion and style, that you will like it anyway. She’s a real professional and she does her work with so much enthusiasm, that she will amaze you with her music very easily. Opener “If It Takes All Night” is to get the mood, the sound and the voice right. From there on, the train starts rolling and it will take you along a whole lot of hit singles and songs that she plays more frequently, the so-called crowd pleasers, for all her long term fans. With “Next To Me”, we already hear the first hit single, while “Eyes Straight Ahead” shows a more unknown side of Ilse displaying some very recognizable country influences. She plays the songs with so much enthusiasm, which you’ll hear at the beginning of another hit single that pops up, called “World Of Hurt”. “Livin’ On Love” is on next and is one of her earlier hits. It slowly builds itself up and listening to this song reveals the secret of why this song has become such a big hit in our country. It has a good way of growing towards a nice climax, it has got a slightly commercial sound and it’s easy to sing along to once you’ve heard it a couple of times. After that, we get a little piece of rest in “Still Cry”. You can almost feel the emotion of Ilse in this song, which is incredible of course. That is her strength. She puts so much emotion in the ballads and so much joy in the more up tempo tracks, that it reflects back at you while listening to it. “We’re Alright” is another up tempo song, that could be categorized as a hit single for this lovely lady from the city of Almelo. “Flying Blind” is a lightly track with a nice guitar solo. Easy on the ears, like many of her songs. Once you hear it, you already know that it has that recognizable sound that has that ‘ILSE DE LANGE’ trademark written all over. “I’d Be Yours” is also taken from the hit single jukebox of Ilse. “Almost” is another up tempo track, which slowly takes us towards the end of CD one with “Beautiful Distraction” and “Something Amazing”. In the meantime, I’d like to introduce the musicians to you. Besides Ilse, you’ll hear Aram Kersbergen on bass, Arnold van Dongen on guitar, Bart Vergoossen on drums (Ilse’s boyfriend), Martijn van Agt on guitar, Wil Maas on keyboards, Bertolf Lentink on guitars, Dedre Twiss on backing vocals and Caroline Dest on backing vocals. After almost an hour it’s time to move on to CD two from this package. It starts off with another major hit, called “Puzzle Me”. From there on, the amount of hits increases, because “The Great Escape” follows next. “The Other Side” is a powerful up tempo track, which is played with a lot of spirit and fire. “Miracle” is another laid back ballad, in which Ilse lets her emotion the free will. After that, she continues with “I’m Not So Tough”, another hit single in a very lengthy version. This particular song spreads itself out to almost ten minutes of music. “Time Out” is another shining star in the repertoire of Ilse, while “Untouchable” takes a well-deserved pause. It doesn’t bother me and it’s just a change of pace to keep the variation going. Other music styles appear in the country rock song “Field Of Opportunity”, which could be the perfect opportunity to do some line dancing. That’s how things could be done at an ILSE DE LANGE live show. “So Incredible” continues in this exciting live atmosphere, before “Carousel” takes off to the grand finale. Finally, Ilse cranks out her version of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’s “Born To Run”, which is a great surprise of course. The saxophone solo is being left out and replaced by a guitar solo instead. After almost two hours, we’ve come to the end of this double CD. But there’s a lot more to enjoy on the DVD, that contains the whole concert, some backstage footage and the video clips for “Next To Me” and “Beautiful Distraction”, leaving nothing left to be desired. A marvelous release, that simply must be heard! Website: http://www.ilsedelange.nl/ [10 points- FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

SARAH JEZEBEL DEVA-The Corruption Of Mercy (Listenable/Suburban)
SARAH JEZEBEL DEVA is the goddess of the dark metal scene. Her new album contains ten brand new songs, that play for forty-five minutes. Opener “No Paragon Of Virtue” is a fast and furious black metal tune, which will definitely please the many fans of the heavy metal bands, that she has worked with over the years. “The World Won’t Hold Your Hand” is a bit easier on the ears, but it still sounds strong and powerful. However, there is a sense of accessibility in the music of Sarah. Just listen to “A Matter Of Convenience” for example. It sounds dark and alternative in a way, but it could also appeal to many broad-minded music fans. “Silence Please” opens with orchestral sounds, topped by the creepy voice of Sarah. It gives the song a horror-like image and lifts it up to a higher level because of this uncommon sound. It sounds a bit like a lighter version of THERION with the bombastic orchestration, although less heavy. Later on, the well-known CRADLE OF FILTH-like blast beats appear around the corner. This is the band where she really got famous, while being part of it for fourteen long years. Sarah shows us, that she has got so much more talent than just being a background singer of a black metal band alone. The next track is something special indeed. She stands proud with her solo albums and gives the music a very recognizable twist. Just listen to the next track. It’s a cover of “Zombie”, originally recorded by THE CRANBERRIES. I’ve always liked this song a lot and found it quite suitable for a heavy metal make over. And that’s exactly what Sarah did with it. A great job! “Pretty With Effects” is a short ballad type of song and time for a tender moment on this album. “What Lies Before You” is some kind of instrumental introduction to the next track, which is called “Sirens”. It builds up a certain tension without reaching a real climax, before turning into this fast track called “Sirens”. As you can see, Sarah knows how to surprise people every now and then, which makes this album a lot more enjoyable than her previous solo outing “A Sign Of Sublime” from 2010. Sarah’s band consists of Dan Abela on guitar, AblaZ on bass, Jamie Abela on drums and Jonny Gray on guitar. “The Eyes That Lie” really sounds like a heavy metal version of MARLÈNE DIETRICH. Well, at least in the beginning. Sarah’s dark voice is very characteristic, when the speed goes up in this remarkable track. Title track “The Corruption Of Mercy” closes the album. One, that is much more powerful than Sarah’s previous album. In closing, I’d like to ask for some special attention for the picture on the front cover of the CD…..In my opinion, it fits really perfect with the sometimes eccentric music on thisalbum. A truly excellent choice! Website: http://www.sarahjezebeldeva.co.uk/ [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DRACONIAN-A Rose For The Apocalypse (Napalm Records)
This fourth album by Swedish doom/gothic metal heads DRACONIAN contains ten tracks and runs about sixty-five minutes. You’ll notice, that the average time for each song is about six minutes. Slow doom metal with some gothic tenderness are the main ingredients here, starting with “The Drowning Age”. The elementary sound is already there in this song. Slow doom parts, melancholic sounding female vocals, screaming and growling male vocals, heavy drum beats and a full guitar sound in both the slow and the faster parts. DRACONIAN consists of Anders Jacobsson on vocals, Lisa Johansson on vocals, Johan Ericsson on guitars (lead and rhythm), Jerry Torstensson on drums, Daniel Arvidsson on guitars (rhythm) and Fredrik Johansson on bass. While introducing the band members to you, we have arrived at the second song from this album, which is called “The Last Hour Ancient Sunlight”. The guitar part appeals to me very much, showing that the band has grown a lot in the past few years. The next track is called “End Of The Rope”, which opens with some menacing riffs. The slow instrumental part in the middle shows the link to their doomy side, as I like it the most. Lisa’s vocals are crystal clear and she has really developed to a marvelous singer, if she wasn’t that already. The lengthy “Elysian Night” is on next with another leading role for Lisa’s voice. The spoken word part adds something nice to this track. “Deadlight” develops into a duet song between Lisa and Anders and some beautiful gothic doom sounds are supporting them. “Dead World Assembly” is a real highlight for me. It reflects the sound, that I prefer the most of DRACONIAN, which is slow and uncompromising. And this is accomplished in the best way possible in this particular song. “A Phantom Dissonance” is on next and again Lisa may show her skills in this one. The tender guitar solo in the middle matches perfectly with the overall sound of this nice track. “The Quiet Storm” is slowly coming nearer. Dark clouds appear and you can almost feel, that the storm is coming over in a few moments. Lisa introduces this song with distorted vocals, which create the right atmosphere. “The Dead Of Hours” starts with the right pace. For a song with a title like that, it is slow, really slow. Lisa’s voice sounds a bit more upfront here, but later on Anders takes over a bigger part of the vocal lines. The album closes with “Wall Of Sighs”, that has some nice instrumental interludes and a last brutal growl of Anders at the very end. DRACONIAN is a must for people, who like it slow and melodic at the same time. Website: http://www.draconian.se/ [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FACT-As A Matter Of… (No Remorse Records)
FACT hails from Germany and released two albums, which are re-released by the Greek label No Remorse Records. I’ve always liked their music, although they sound very much alike the German heavy metal act pur sang ACCEPT. Nonetheless, the debut album by this five-some has made quite some turns on my record player in the mid-eighties. Especially opener “Marauder” is a really nice first-class head banger. And just like ACCEPT, the fast opener is followed by a bit slower and more melodic track. “Sound Attack” is a nice example of how a good metal song would sound back in those days, including a nice guitar solo. Patricia Huth was the metal maiden in the band, who plays guitar. I wonder what happened to her, after leaving the band. “Make It Real” sounds catchy and contains more heavy guitar work. The high-pitched vocals of Reent Froehlich sound very much like his big example Udo Dirkschneider, but it’s just a fraction less powerful maybe. “Nightmare” is a slower song, but it has the same ingredients with regards to the mighty guitars. “Heavy Metal Powerplay” is another great head banger with SAXON-like riffs and ditto solos. To me, this is one of the highlights on the album, because it’s fast and furious and it sounds so totally eighties. “Prisoner” is another furious ear attack, which contains more melody without losing the powerful and driving guitar sound. Besides Reent and Patricia, FACT consists of Peer Wörfel on drums, Thorsten Kath on bass and Michael Otto on guitar. In the meantime, we’ve arrived at a song called “Run (Out Of The Night)”, which contains more of the well-known ACCEPT riffs. “Suspected Quiet” is a melodic masterpiece with some furious stomping drum beats and biting guitar solos. While “Hard Times” is the obligatory ballad on this album. Every metal album from the eighties has one. Well, at least it starts off as a ballad. Soon, the song explodes in your face and develops into a serious speed monster, before slowing down halfway through with a nice sensitive guitar solo. The last song on this CD is a previously unreleased bonus track, called “Shout Out Loud”. As the title suggests, this is a real pounder, that would have fitted just perfectly to the original LP release in the eighties. A very nice addition to this CD release of “As A Matter Of…..”, which also contains a nice biography of your truly. True metal fans will definitely have to go and find this nice masterpiece of metal. We would like to thank No Remorse Records for making this review possible. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FACT-Without Warning (No Remorse Records)
This is the second album by the German metallers FACT, that has been reissued on the Greek label No Remorse Records. It contains twelve tracks and runs for forty minutes. The “Intro” already predicts, that we’re in for more heavy action on this album. The title of the first track is called “Burning For Action”, a well-chosen title when you look at the cover of the CD. It pictures guitarist Patricia Huth here with a steaming hot iron rod containing the band logo. The fiery opener is followed by title track “Without Warning”. The vocals of Reent have gained more power, but they still are an almost exact copy of former ACCEPT front man Udo Dirkschneider. I don’t give a damn, as long as the music is loud and heavy, I am fine with that. And I must say, that it’s still not a punishment to listen to these twelve tracks, that were written in the mid-eighties. “Hotter Than Hell” sounds like ACCEPT for what the guitars are concerned, but the vocals of Reent sound so much different here. He growls in a much lower range, although sometimes there’s a high tone in between. In “Mysterious King” you’ll hear, that the band has grown a lot, since the release of their debut album. Songs like that with an intro of acoustic guitars were hardly imaginable before. “Rock You To The Ground” sounds very catchy and it’s a nice opportunity to sing along to the chorus lines. It reminds me a bit of “Princess Of The Dawn” (AXON) in a way. A short “Intro” announces “2001”. A peak into the future, when it was written, but also a flashback to the past with the release of this album on CD. “Get Ready To Win” is another song, that could have been on any ACCEPT album. Same goes for “Hear The Devil Crying”. So their style didn’t change that much as a matter of fact (Note the play upon words - lol). All in all, their sound was a bit more structured and it sounded almost as good as the original. The album closes with “Dressed To Kill” and “Fight For The Metal”. Whereas the first one is a fast head banger and the last track sounds a little slower. We call that a slow banger, I believe. Anyway, the release of these two FACT albums are a nice flashback to the sound of the eighties. Another thank you very much goes out to No Remorse Records for making this review possible. If ACCEPT is your thing and you didn’t know about this band before, this is your chance to get these two rough diamonds in your CD collection. Be quick, because the two CDs are limited to five hundred copies each. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FRANTIC AMBER-Frantic Amber (independent)
The melodic death metal of FRANTIC AMBER is becoming very popular. Even in Russia, this band from Sweden is a very welcome guest. The band played there at the female voices festival Zheleznye Devy. Now it’s time to release their EP containing five tracks and almost eighteen minutes of melodic death metal. Opener “Wrath Of Judgement” is a winner already. Fast, heavy drum beats accompany the furious riffs, topped by brutal growls. It’s FRANTIC AMBER in optima forma. For this song, the band also shot a video clip. “Bloodlust” sounds darker and contains a nice, melodic guitar solo in the middle. It shows that melody and powerful death growls can go together very well. “The Awakening” made me think of ARCH ENEMY for a little while. They also tend to mix death metal with more melodic parts and Elizabeth’s vocals sometimes reminds me of Angela Gossow . In this song the resemblance is quite striking at times. The part, where they change the mood is quite impressive and surprising at the same time. “Unbreakable” sounds a bit more brutal. The vocals sound lower than low and Elizabeth is ready to rip the flesh of your bones. “Doomed To Walk This Earth” is the final knock-out punch in the face. Listen to the fantastic fast guitar riffs and ditto solo, and the somehow catchy sounding chorus lines. The last growl holds on for a long time, it’s the last death growl on this eighteen minutes EP. FRANTIC AMBER shows to be the death metal sisters of HYSTERICA, who play a more traditional kind of heavy metal. However, FRANTIC AMBER is another Swedish all-female metal band, that stands proud between all their male colleagues. FRANTIC AMBER consists of Mary on guitar, Elizabeth on vocals, Emlee on drums, Mio on guitar and Sandra on bass. Website: http://www.franticamber.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DANA FUCHS-Love To Beg (Ruff Records)
Do I still need to introduce Dana to you? Don’t think so, because DANA FUCHS is someone, who you won’t forget that easily, once you’ve heard her marvelous voice or seen her pretty face. Her new album contains thirteen tracks and proves again that she is a fantastic singer, who can hit you right in your soul. Just listen to opener “Love To Beg”, the title track of this new album. It will get her fans right on the tip of their chair. “Nothing’s What I Cry For” is a fast rocker, that will invite you to move your body to the sound of the music. The variation in songs goes on endlessly: from a fast rocker to a balladesque tune and from a tender love song to a cover by OTIS REDDING’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”. For fifty minutes Dana will keep you tied in her musical world and you’ll like every single second of it. The love for music comes right to the listener and every true music fan gets its share. “Golden Eyes” is a retro rock song, which could even please fans of THE BLACK CROWES for example. “Keepsake” is a tender love song, which you might expect from artists like MELISSA ETHERIDGE. And although we can categorize Dana as a blues singer, you’ll also hear some influences by this singer and songwriter. “Set It On Fire” is a nice rocker, which will make your feet tap in a couple of seconds after it starts off. “Faster Than We Can” is, like the title already suggests, a fast and rocking tune. This lady can rock the joint down and prove is given here. Just turn up the sound, boys and girls! “Keep On Rollin’” is the totally opposite and this very emotional song gives me the shivers all over. While “Drive” is another more rocking tune. Sometimes Dana’s voice might remember you of JANIS JOPLIN in a way, however I think her voice sounded a bit rawer. I liked the guitars in this track a lot and the harmonica can’t be missed as well. A real blues track, that fits very well to the blues image of this lady.”Summersong” contains some horns and trumpets and that’s why it’s a bit too much for me. Soul fans might wanna play this a bit more often though. “Pretty Girl” must be autobiographical, judging by some of the pictures in the CD booklet. And again you might hear the influence that JANIS JOPLIN had on the music of DANA FUCHS. The OTIS REDDING cover is on next. And if you know the original song, you’ll know what to expect here. “What You See” is a very catchy track, that may even invite you to sing along to the chorus lines. The raw guitar solo in the middle is just what this song needs to make it so special. The CD closes with a song dedicated to “Superman”. As a matter of fact, she is surrounded by some supermen, who play in her band. Not unimportant factor, if you’d ask my opinion. Of course the vocals of DANA FUCHS are the main focus in the band, but without her band members this would sound a little empty and lost. The band consists of Jon Diamond on guitar and harmonica, Whynot Jansveld on bass and Carter McClean on drums. Jenny Douglas and Vivian Sessoms handle the background vocals. Kenny Aaronson helps out on the bass at times and he also co-produced the album. The song itself sounds a bit like the “Stray Cat Strutt” by THE STRAY CATS, but perhaps less rocking. In general, Dana surprised me big time with this new album. This foxy lady sure knows to impress her listeners. Spend a few nickel on this new album, otherwise Dana will personally pay you a visit and beg you to buy the album. Because this lady just loves to beg!! Website: http://www.danafuchs.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

GALLHAMMER-The End (Peaceville)
If there’s one band in the world, that could make the ultimate soundtrack for ‘the end of the world as we know it’, it would be HELLHAMMER. This new album by the Japanese all-female band is called “The End” and they are called GALLHAMMER. Even a blind man could see the resemblance between these two bands and a deaf person could hear the resemblance, too. I don’t want to say, that GALLHAMMER is a poor rip off of the mighty HELLHAMMER, but if you like the outfit by Tom Warrior, this might be something for you to enjoy. “The End” contains seven tracks and forty-five minutes of dark doom metal. The band opens their new ear attack with the self-titled song “The End”. The slow pace makes their doom sound more heavy and the dark growls give it a horror-like and scary feel. Vivian Slaughter plunders the bass guitar and also plays alto sax and sings. Risa Reaper plays drums and sings. Two ladies, who sound as heavy as this, must be something special and GALLHAMMER could be considered as something special indeed. There’s no gimmick involved and they are coming from the dark vaults of the underground, if you catch my drift. Which other band would dare to call one of its tracks “Rubbish CG 202”? This fast black metal attack takes away in the fifth gear, while the opener didn’t even leave in the first one. “Aberrattion” captures some wild screams and busy drum beats. It’s very wild and perhaps even a bit experimental, too. This may not appeal to the average death or black metal fan, although it’s exxxtremely loud. Maybe this short sound explosion is a bit too much for some of us. “Sober” on the other hand sounds more back to basic. Here you can hear the high screaming voice and the dark growls next to each other, It continues in “Entropy G35”, another strange song title, where the two voices come together as well. These two songs are rather short. In contrast, we have the rather lengthy and very doom sounding “Wander”, which brings the influences of HELLHAMMER back to mind. Very slowly, the music fills my room. And this is only just the beginning of the end. If you think, that the experimental drift by this twosome is gone, then you are ever so wrong. This twelve minute piece is only the intro to another ten minutes of slow instrumental adventures, simply called “108 =7/T-NA”. An odd title for an even stranger piece of music, in which the alto sax plays a leading role. Some people really can get into a trance, while some of us have already lost connection after the first track. That’s how it goes with GALLHAMMER…. Either you like them or you hate them, but you can’t have both. I put myself in the first category, although it would be over the top to listen to this album twice a day or something. The booklet doesn’t give you too much information on the band and is very basic, like you would expect from a CD like this. Website: http://www.myspace.com/ghammercrust [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE GREAT KAT-Beethoven Shreds (TPR Music)
Beethoven was one of the very first rockers in the music scene. He possibly didn’t even know that at all, but many people see him as a true rock composer. So obviously many years later, guitar players in the rock and metal scene are still being influenced by this great musician. THE GREAT KAT is also a huge admirer of Ludwig’s music and takes it to another level. She plays it wild, rough, raw, loud, yet always with the same passion as Ludwig would have done it. Oh, and she plays it faster, so much faster. I wonder what good old Ludwig would think of her techniques and her interpretation of the once classical sounding music. The new album of THE GREAT KAT doesn’t only contain Beethoven originals, but she also shreds on Bach and Paganini. The seven songs together are worthy of about seven and a half minutes of mindblowing music. Call this whatever you want, I call this lady a musical genius. I know, that the amount of time on this CD is almost too short to call it a full-length album. But if you look at the intensity this album hits your room, then it even might be too much to handle for some of us. Before pushing the ‘play’ button, I kneel down to the goddess of shred guitar and violin and await the first forty seconds of “The Flight Of The Bumble Bee”. We all know this instrumental masterpiece, but I think that we’ve never heard it this fast. Can you defeat 300 attacks per minute, I guess not…… you loser!! “Beethoven’s 5th Symphony” is probably one of the most well-known pieces of music in the classical genre. This version tops it all in a little over one full minute and it sounds faster, exxxtremer and wilder than you would ever expect it to sound. “Torture Techniques” is also a one minute version of a darker song with a more horror kind of feeling. No, it isn’t dealing about the way this blonde shred goddess is handling her guitar. Instead, it much more explains of how to torture people, covered with a musical touch. Clearly, the fascination for Bach is quite obvious in the next track, that almost plays for two minutes. It’s THE GREAT KAT’s version of “Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #3”. This is definitely not for the faint-hearted, I can tell you that much! This lady is really bringing classical music into the new millennium, showing everybody that it’s cool to listen to classical music. This one is for six guitars and three violins. Anyone, who thinks that this is impossible, has probably never heard of this shredding, vicious clawed lady. “IslamoFascists” is a one minute song, where THE GREAT KAT spreads some clear messages, by which you can agree or not. Well, as long as you don’t argue about the ladies virtuosity, it’s fine with me. “Bach’s The Art Of Fugue” sounds the most classical of them all. It’s a song created for two harpsichords and band and it really sounds amazing to me. If this isn’t enough for you, we still have one little piece of music for you left and that is “Paganini’s Caprice #24” for guitar, violin and band. This is really awesome stuff and the way these tracks are played can be called questionable, if you don’t like heavy metal of any kind. You can’t deny though, that this lady can’t play. She is the fastest lady, that has ever picked up a guitar or violin. The only thing I am still longing for is to see this lady live on stage one time. She looks like a really fascinating person to me and if she would perform these tracks with a band, in full sexy leather outfit, it would be one of the most fabulous shows you can ever witness, I guess. Nobody can top her speed and her feeling for classical music. After seven and a half minutes, the CD is over and you get the feeling that a storm has been raging on in your room, and you’ve been washed over by a tsunami of shredding notes, riffs and licks. As a true KAT slave I do not only bow for my mistress, I also reward her with the full score for this new speed metal classical piece of art. THE GREAT KAT rules and I hope that she will finally come over to Europe for some live shows in the near future, because I simply can’t take it anymore why this has never happened. With a deep sigh, your humble worshipper pushes the ‘repeat” button, after kneeling down for his blonde shredding mistress. Go to http://www.greatkat.com. and http://www.beethovenshreds.com for more information about THE GREAT KAT and also get addicted!!!!! [10 points- FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

IMPERIA-Secret Passion (Massacre Records)
It has been very quiet around Helena Iren Michaelsen and IMPERIA, but the lady has returned to the scene with a new album, that contains thirteen tracks and a full hour of exciting gothic metal. She unfolds her secret passion on this album, when “Touch Of Your Hand” starts off, which is a nice up tempo song, that will keep every gothic metal fan focused. It’s always very difficult to come up with a revamped album, but I think that really wasn’t Helena’s idea in the first place. You can better create a strong album with the well-known ingredients to impress people and get some special attention. Which is a good thought of course. Title track “Secret Passion” is a nice example here. Strong guitar riffs, the heavenly voice of Helena, a slightly bombastic orchestral sound and catchy vocal lines turn this song into a very fine track indeed. You could say, that the spirit of the early NIGHTWISH era wanders around a bit, but IMPERIA is much more. Prove is given on a song like “Fragile”, where Helena has a very massive voice and she flirts with Eastern sounds. “Out Of Sight” would be very suitable for radio airplay. At least, it sounds catchy enough. “Let Down” starts moody with some string arrangements opening the song. The guitar solo lifts it up to a higher level. It really seems to come right from the guitarist’s toes. This is the perfect timing to introduce the band members of IMPERIA to you. Besides the heavenly voice of Helena, the band consists of Gerry Verstreken on bass, Steve Wolz on drums and Jan Örkki Yrlund on guitar. “ Violence” is on next, but please don’t expect a heavy musical explosion, except for the fast drum beats of Steve at the end of the song. While “Like Rain” is a very joyful up tempo track with a nice guitar solo. Another catchy track, that has some radio airplay potential maybe. Or am I wrong and is this too heavy for national radio? “Suicide” is definitely too heavy, that’s for sure. To me, it’s one of the most outstanding tracks here, where Helena shows her skills. The various voices she comes up with can only be done by magicians, voice jugglers and Helena, so don’t try to imitate this at home, because you simply won’t succeed and this failure will haunt you for the rest of your life. After this powerful explosion, it’s time for a little piece of rest with “Hold On”, which is a beautiful ballad. “Greed” sounds more powerful, because of the strong orchestration in this song. Helena’s operatic voice matches very well with the string arrangements and bombastic orchestral parts. “Missing It All” is another nice up tempo song. Things are heading into a different direction, when Helena sings a duet with Oliver Phillips (EVERON) in “My Sleeping Angel”, which is dedicated to Helena’s daughter. A sweet little love song, that comes straight from the heart. Forget about “Mistress” would be my advice, because it’s really based on a disco beat. An odd choice to put on a gothic metal album and not very smart. Okay, it’s just a bonus track and maybe Helena wanted to prove that she’s capable of doing so much more and differently. But there are other ways to do that, I guess. I won’t distract any points, because of that slip of the tongue , but you’re officially warned (big laughs!!). Anyway, if you want to hear a high class traditional gothic metal album, made with a whole lot of passion for the music, then this new album is a real must. The cover art is simply amazing and so is the music. We think, that this is another killer album by IMPERIA. Website: http://www.helena-michaelsen.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

INFINITY OVERTURE-The Infinite Overture Part 1 (Lion Music)
On the previous album by INFINITY OVERTURE, we could hear the voices of Ian Parry and Anne Karine Prip. New vocalist in this Danish band is called Kimmie Tenna Nielsen and she is a really good singer. Prove is given on this new nine tracker, that runs for forty-five minutes. Opener “The Hunger” is a nice opener, that already gives you an idea in which direction this will be heading. Think of KAMELOT, RHAPSODY or YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN, because of the flashing guitar solos by Niels Vejlyt. The album is build upon a neo-classical position, but it also has some progressive edges and symphonic sidesteps. “The Hunger” sounds catchy, although you can hear some great symphonic and progressive edges in the instrumental middle part of “The Stand”. The only negative thing are the brutal growls, that don’t really belong here in my opinion. But maybe I am the only one, who thinks that?!? “Angels” is a ballad type of song, in which Kimmie’s voice sounds emotional and really wonderful. Topped with the great guitar sound by Niels, it’s a really nice track to enjoy here. Of course, the cherry on top of this cake is the guitar solo at the end of this song. Besides Kimmie and Niels, the band consists of Jakob Vand on drums and Bernardo Fesch on bass. In “Evernight”, we hear the irritating death growl again. I think, that grunts are fine, as long as the music is suitable for it, but the music of INFINITY OVERTURE isn’t really suitable for this at all. In “Secrets”, the pace gets down a little. The keyboards get more room, but I’m really happy to say, that the guitars get their equal share as well. They do a nice combat in the middle of the song, which makes it very exciting for me. “Back From The Pas” is a ballad. It’s a duet of Kimmie with Fabio Lione of RHAPSODY OF FIRE. It’s done very well and might even be suitable for radio airplay one way or another. While in “Smoke And Mirrors” the grunts are back. In the middle of the song, things seem to get a bit different because of a sudden mood change, but that’s only a small break. The title track of the album is one of the most exciting moments, in which Kimmie and Niels have the leading role. It’s a seven minute rollercoaster ride, in which both musicians bring out the best of themselves. It’s the highlight on this CD for me. CD closer “Darkness Of Mind” is another ballad with more than beautiful vocal lines. The keyboards are very much up front here and the guitar is drawn to the background a bit. It matches quite well with the emotional content of this song. If neo-classical based metal is your favorite thing, I can assure you that you will have a good time with “The Infinite Overture Part 1”. Enjoy!! Website: http://www.infinityoverture.dk/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

IZEGRIM-Code Of Consequences (Listenable Records)
Taking away in the fifth gear is only imaginable for the best bands in this scene! IZEGRIM is one of the longer existing thrash/death metal bands in the Dutch scene and on this third full-length album, they show their tricks in opener “Victim Of Honor” What a great song, if you like brutal thrash metal with a death metal edge or vice versa, if you like. IZEGRIM walks on the thin line between those two styles. In “My Secret Society”, they continue to do the brutal vocals, fast riffs and ditto drum salvos. But all this brutality also contains some melodic input here and there. Your mind will go out to ARCH ENEMY... At least that’s what I thought during the first song. The guitar solos in “My Secret Society” made me go back to that same thought. And I think, that they can be proud of that. For they could be the ARCH ENEMY of the Lowlands as a matter of fact. “Incommunicado” is not a cover of the QUEEN classic, but another raw and mean ear attack, in which the guitar solos of Jeroen and Bart add a melodic edge to the screaming vocal parts of Marloes, who also handles the beasty bass lines. “Center Of Momentum” starts very doomy and slow, but once you think that the band has put a piece of rest into their music, you are ever so wrong. That’s only the intro, bro’and another blast is ready to come down your way. “Deathstrip” reminds you of ARCH ENEMY again, while “Final Farewell” sounds completely different. This song is definitely one of my highlights so far, because of the speed changes and stuff. “Fade Into Obscurity” contains some fascinating mood changes, that makes it another outstanding song on this album. The way this song slows down at the end sounds simply amazing and very exciting. Like the title already suggests, “Psychopatic Mind” is a wild and very brutal epos. Right thereafter “Population Zero” is on next, which is like a musical story covered with brutal thrash riffs. The title track is the odd one out here. In this song, the guitarists get to show their skills. The vocals of Marloes are traded for a spoken word part on this CD closer. “Code Of Consequences” however shows how successful IZEGRIM and they have become a unity, that marks the high quality of thrash and death metal coming from The Netherlands. IZEGRIM simply belongs to the premier league and prove this with a great album that contains ten powerful and fast thrash songs that can easily stand tall against the international bands in the scene, and they can be proud on that. Website: http://www.izegrim.nl. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

JADED-Higher (independent)
This is the brand new five tracker of the all-female outfit JADED, who impressed me very much with their previous album. “Higher” is the title track of this silver disc, that contains about twenty minutes of groovy hard rock. Hear the guitars cry, proving that these ladies still know how to rock. The choir vocals may add an alternative touch to this groovy song, but it doesn’t sound disturbing. It’s a great way to show your fans, that you’re back on track. In “Gear In A Machine” we hear a good mix of AC/DC and GUNS ‘N’ ROSES. Add to this a mind blowing guitar solo and you’ll get a hot rod sex machine tune by these four steaming hot ladies. Great stuff!! “Tonight” is another groovy track and the raw vocals of Katy suit just fine here. When the rain starts pouring down, the song is over. Lucky bastards we are. “Missing You From Boston” is a love song and the guitar is tuned down really low. A little piece of rest, before EP closer “Hear Me Now” hits off. One more time the pedal is pressed to the metal and the girls let off steam in this mean rock song. JADED sounds much more mature these days and they show that they are capable of writing good songs more than ever before. It’s a shame, that this EP only plays for twenty minutes and they didn’t release a full-length album. Just push the ‘repeat’ button, like I did and hear these five tracks again. JADED consists of Laurel Wolff on bass and vocals, Katy Reign on vocals and additional keyboards, Britt Lightning on guitar and vocals and Hillary Blaze on drums and vocals. Four wild ladies in an all-female metal band. It sounds too good to be true, but hey this is reality. I wonder how long it will take before these ladies are finally discovered over here and start to become really successful in Europe, like ICE AGE, HYSTERICA, PHANTOM BLUE and other all-female metal bands like that. Because of the very short running time I cannot give them the full score, but I’m sure that they will deserve this rating with their next full-length. Website: http://www.jadedrockers.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KLEVELAND-Harder (SAOL/Bertus)
KLEVELAND likes to rock it out real loud on their new album “Harder”. They like to go about it on a large scale and prove is given in opener “Do It Big”. Hard party rock with a rough edge and a big sound is what you get on this ten tracker, that will rock the house for about forty minutes. KLEVELAND consists of Stephanie Smith on guitar and vocals, Kevin Hahn on guitar, Allen Hunter on bass and Kevin Rankin on drums. “Crutch” sounds groovy and it has another heavy beat to it. Title track “Harder” however opens much differently, than you would expect. In a HOLE kind of way, the band sounds very grungy and alternative and the somewhat glam rock sound has gone. Not for long though, because then the band steps on the gas and adds more power to their sound. Influences of BLONDIE are mixed here with some touches of HOLE, which is a nice combination in my humble opinion. High octane fueled rock is what you get in “You’re Not Sorry”, for which they also shot a video clip. Check it out, when you have a chance. The guitar solo is very sleazy and dirty and I like it that way. Both thumbs up for this dirty rocker! “Late Bloomer” has got that same fast beat, which will definitely keep you focused. If not, “Low” that has a more groovy sound, may do the trick. It’s faster and has got some recognizable punk riffs and an easy to sing along to ‘nah nah nah’ part. This might invite you to sing along to it, before the guitar firework starts. “Sloppy Seconds” will easily become sloppy minutes, when you don’t like acoustic music. Stephanie and the acoustic guitar come together in this song, that is just perfect for a long hot summer night by the campfire. Maybe it’s too laid back for a solid rock album like this, but you can also see it as a short five minute break to relax a little. Leave the world for what it is and dream away in these two hundred and seventy-five seconds, that this song lasts. The guitar riff in the slow “It’s Your Turn” will wake you up and put your feet back on solid ground again. The song has got a great groove and later on the power explodes right at your face. The band really gets rough again in “Golden Gloves”. You really need this, when you want to handle this exotic wild cat……wroaaawwwwww!!!! “It’s Over” marks the end of this CD. An album, that we only found just recently and far too long after it’s release year in 2008. Thanks to the internet we found out about KLEVELAND. If this sounds like your cup of tea, then I’d suggest also to check out their albums “Kleveland” and “Everybody Wants To”. Who knows what big surprises are waiting for you, when listening to these two albums. For what “It’s Over” is being concerned, this is another alternative rock song, including the sound of an acoustic guitar. It has got a solid rock groove, but you know how I feel about acoustic music. Edison didn’t invent electricity for nothing, so use it. The fact, that I’m not too fond about acoustics, doesn’t mean that you have the same opinion. “Harder” sure rocks and that’s a fact that nobody can’t deny. Check it out, music fans! Website: http://www.myspace.com/kleveland. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KRYPTERIA-All Beauty Must Die (Liberatio Music)
Although this is being categorized as gothic metal, I was really surprised of the power by this new KRYPTERIA album, fronted by Northern Korean frontlady Ji-In Cho. In “Messiah”, which is the opener on this fifteen tracks and sixty-five minute new CD, you’ll hear influences of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN and NIGHTWISH converge. It has got a lot of power, is very bombastic and it shows the virtuosity from the band members. “As I Slowly Bleed” continues in the same format. It also has that touch of accessibility, that makes it so easy to listen to. “Fly Away With Me” might even reach a high score at the Eurovision song contest, because of the catching nature of the song. It doesn’t sound bad, because it contains a lot of power and groove as well, that makes it an outstanding yet very commercial track. One, that would definitely have hit potential, in my opinion. “You Killed Me” sounds very bombastic, which is strengthened by some NIGHTWISH and WITHIN TEMPTATION-like choirs. The diversity in the first few songs is simply amazing and that’s why it’s so easy to have a listen to this third album by German gothic metallers KRYPTERIA. “My Fatal Kiss” and “Bloodangel’s Cry” shows the potential of this band to come up with a refreshing sound, that has to offer so much more than the average gothic metal band. “Live To Fight Another Day” might sound a bit too easy and commercial, but still it’s by far a good gothic metal song with a very catchy feeling. “Eyes Of A Stranger” is on next, which is completed by big choirs to give it more flair. If the choir vocals don’t fulfill this task, then the drummer certainly will, as the short but heavy drum part halfway the song sounds just great! The first riffs of “Thanks For Nothing” would even sound alright on a JUDAS PRIEST album. It’s a fast speedy rocker, which will make your head go up and down from excitement. The JUDAS PRIEST-like guitar solo fits just perfectly in this heavy track. “Turn The World Around” sounds like it’s taken straight from the book of gothic metal. You’ve heard many songs like this, but I would be surprised if there wasn’t a song like that on the album. While “Higher” has some WITHIN TEMPTATION influences, especially in the vocals. Later on, the song becomes a little bit faster and heavier and also darker with special distorted music effects. The guitar solo in this song is rather impressive, by the way. Tobias ‘Eggi’ Exxel, the bass player of EDGUY guests on this particular song, on lead guitar, an excellent choice! A big orchestration opens “Victoria”, which suits the title really well. Doro Pesch sings a duet with her Northern Korean colleague, which adds something special to this ballsy rock song about victory. With a combination like that, you can’t go wrong, can you?? “(How Can Something Good) Hurt So Bad” is the obligatory ballad on this album, which sounds sensitive, but the choir vocals increase the sensitivity a bit, in my opinion. I personally liked the dark, spooky intro of “The Eye Collector”, which is a duet with the rest of the band, where each member provides the male vocals on this song. The song is based upon a book by Sebastian Fitzek. I’m really astonished by so much beauty. The piano part, the lengthy instrumental parts, the creepy vocals – everything is simply too good to be true. It’s far beyond what for example SAVATAGE would have done in their heydays. The definite highlight on this fantastic album for me! Even if you’re not too fond of the music of KRYPTERIA, I dare you to have a good listen to this eleven minute plus musical treat, that may change your mind about this band once and forever. Did I mention already that this is a truly outstanding song?? “Get The Hell Out Of My Way” is a bonus track with a slightly commercial sound, but another real treat to listen to because of the catching and bombastic orchestration. “Liberatio” is a piece of rest, including a piano and the vocals of Ji-In Cho. The album closes with “Come Hell Or High Water”. These last three songs are only available on the limited edition of this CD. And that last song by the way is “Land Of Hope And Glory” with another title. Obviously, that makes no difference at all for my final verdict. This is by far the best KRYPTERIA album and the band made an astonishing step forward in diversity, variation and virtuosity of the musicians. Check them out! All beauty must die, but KRYPTERIA will live on. The band on this album consists of Ji-In Cho on vocals, Chris Siemons on guitar, Frank Stumvoll on bass and S.C. Kuschnerus on drums. Website: http://www.krypteria.de/ [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LEAVES’ EYES-Meredead (Napalm Records)
Is it me or does it seems like the Norwegian/German outfit is coming out with albums at a prolific pace? Okay, maybe not, but it does seem like their last album, the excellent “Njord”, just came out even though it was actually released in 2009. Whatever the case, there is simply no wasting time with this band, and you would think that the music would suffer. Thankfully, it does not. Their new album “Meredead” is purely a LEAVES’ EYES album and one that sounds just as good, when compared to their earlier material. Since we last heard from LEAVES’ EYES, the band have undergone some big line-up changes, as they have replaced founding member guitarist Mathias Roderer, as well as changing their bass player and drummer. Something else that has become quite apparent is, that founding member/producer Alexander Krull seems to be drifting into the background, leaving Liv Kristine more and more out in front. Alex does pop up here and there, but not like in the early days of the band. The opening chants and celtic influence of “Spirits’ Masquerade” gets thing off to a bombastic start. The next track “Etain” has a great, straightforward and melodic vibe. The next track “Velvet Heart” has an almost heavy pop feel to it, but it does feature a huge chorus and some heavy guitar work. LEAVES’ EYES does an excellent cover of the Mike Oldfield track “To France”, which some fans might recall was also covered by the German power metal band BLIND GUARDIAN a few years ago. Other highlights include “Meredead”, “Empty Horizon” and “Tell-Tale Eyes”. It is hard to believe that LEAVES’ have already been together for over seven years and musically they just continue to grow and progress. The proof is in their new album “Meredead”. The limited edition comes with a bonus DVD of the band performing live at the 2010 Metal Female Voices Festival in Belgium. [8 points] (Tony Cannella)

LE MONNIER–Russian Doll Life (independent)
Following on the heels of their excellent debut, “Cynic Sister”, the powerhouse U.K. trio LE MONNIER returns with their sophomore effort, “Russian Doll Life”. I have no idea what the title means either, but I can say that the second LE MONNIER album is as potent, infectious and like-able as their first. “Russian Doll Life” comes out of the gate fast and furious with opener “The Beginning”. The riffs come in waves and the unique vocals of Alex Le Monnier lead the way. Next up is the first single “Con Amor Siempre”. This song slows the tempo down a bit, but not the quality as this was an excellent choice for the first single. The infectious “On That Road Again” is next and features a chorus that is so damn catchy that you couldn’t get it out of your head if you tried. This song is definitely among my favorites. Also one of my favorites is the sensitive ballad “Say Who You Are”. Aside from her huge, goose bump inducing vocals, Alex also proves what a talented lyricist she is. This is definitely something that comes from the heart. Other highlights include: “Home”, “Haunt Me”, “Fall Away” and the awesome “Mediocre Me”. There is something wonderfully retro about LE MONNIER. They seem to be influenced by seventies hard rock, while still managing to sound important and relevant in 2011/12. For fans, who liked their debut effort, “Russian Doll Life” from LE MONNIER should absolutely satisfy your hunger for good, strong melodic rock with memorable hooks and songs. Alex and crew deliver just that and more. This is one band to watch in 2012. [9 points] (Tony Cannella)

MIDNATTSOL-The Metamorphosis Melody (Napalm Records)
MIDNATTSOL will always be known as the Norwegian/German metal band of the sister of Liv Kristine Espenaes. It may not be very polite in a way, but that is what comes to mind first, when hearing about this band, that consists of Christopher Merzinsky on drums, Daniel Fischer on keyboards, Daniel Droste on guitar, Alex Kautz on guitar, Birgit Öllbrunner on bass and Carmen Elise Espenaes on vocals. Their new album contains twelve tracks and is worthy of a sixty minute journey in the world of symphonic metal . Opener “Alva” is more or less the instrumental intro of the title track from the album “The Metamorphosis Melody”. It brings to mind a real medieval atmossphere and some gothic elements are also added to the sound of MIDNATTSOL. The voice of Carmen Elise sounds a bit darker and much lower than the angel-like voice of Liv Kristine, but it fits very well to the gothic poems on this album. The dark and sometimes sober sounding Carmen Elise really knows to create the right atmosphere in her voice. Prove is given in “Spellbound” and in the beginning of “The Tide”. It isn’t serenity, but because of the beautiful dark tones in her voice, she creates a medieval sound, that makes their music very easy to listen to. The sober music is very much in line with the emotional singing lines of Carmen Elise, which makes the sound of MIDNATTSOL so complete. Here and there they spit out some musical fire, like in “A Poet’s Prayer”. You would probably expect a more serene approach in a song with a title like that, but the up tempo track will make your body move to the rhythm of the music from excitement. In “Forlorn” the listener gets some good gothic metal to listen to. There is magic in the air, when listening to this track, which pleased me a lot. The speed goes up in “Kong Valemon’s Kamp”, which sounds like some decent hard rock to me. This is by far the best track on this album for me until now. “Goodbye” sounds like a beautiful, but short lullaby. While “Forvandlingen” sounds more up tempo and it invites you to bang your head to the instrumental parts, which are very suitable for that. “Motels Makt” sounds very bombastic in the beginning, but it slowly develops into another highlight for me. Especially the nice final instrumental part sound very special indeed. The regular CD closes with “My Re-creation”, which opens as a nice love song but becomes more up tempo as it floats along your eardrums. The limited version of this album does not only have one track more, but it also contains a DVD with the bands performance at the Female Metal Voices Festival in Belgium in 2009. The bonus track “A Predator’s Prey”, sung by guitar player Daniel Droste, takes care of a whole new dimension to the sound of MIDNATTSOL. If you like the Nordic gothic metal sound, then you will find something nice to enjoy on the new album by MIDNATTSOL. Visit their website at: http://www.midnattsol.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ORDER OF TYR-Flames Of Destiny (independent)
From Memphis, Tennessee, ORDER OF TYR plays a mix of power metal and electronic music. Their debut album “Flames Of Destiny” also has a strong video game influence to it, all you have to do is look at the video game like graphics of their album cover to realize this.“Flames Of Destiny” begins a two second (!) intro; by contrast the next track is the eight minute “Angels Of Majesty/ To Yourself, Be True”. Some movie soundtrack style can also be heard in “Ignite The Desire” among other songs. The album is concluded with the hugely epic eighteen minute “Onward, My Children, To The Brink Of Destiny”. There is so much going on in this song, that it’ll make your head spin. Other highlights include “Odin Speaks” and “Angels Of Majesty”. To say, that ORDER OF TYR is an unconventional metal band would be an understatement. “Flames Of Destiny” are a quirky little band that defies description. Website links: http://www.orderoftyr.com or http://www.myspace.com/orderoftyr [7 points] (Tony Cannella)

OTEP-Atavist (Victory Records)
Atavist has several meanings. One being ‘The reappearance of a characteristic in an organism after several generations of absence, usually caused by the chance recombination of genes’. Another one is presenting long-form contents for the digital age, mixing multimedia presentations and deep going articles to a simple story. I-pad users may have witnessed this new form of journalism already. They read an article and before they know it they watch movies about a certain topic or dig deeper into the subject by following links, that give so much more details than you could ever wish for using the infinite space that is available on the internet. These are just some meanings of the title of this fifth OTEP album, which contains twelve songs and runs for fifty minutes. I will simply stick to the musical content of this album, which works best for me. I’m not a biological expert or an internet guru of some kind, I just let the music do the talking. “Atavist Animus” is a perfect intro, that might be suitable for a horror movie. “Atom To Adam” gives you a first insight about the musical direction taken on this album. Meaning, that you are about to experience some groovy nu-metal. Repeat the song title a couple of times and you’ll find out that Adam sounds exactly the same as atom - a very well-chosen title, if you want my opinion. “Drunk On The Blood Of Saints” sounds very furious and mixes the normal voice of Otep with distorted vocals to put some force behind the words. The vicious, brutal lyrics are skull splitting and will bring you in an angry state of mind, if you are not used to so much brutality. “Remember To Forget” mixes the brutal vocals of Otep with her more fragile side, but the result remains the same: angry and brutal. Put RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE together with MY RUIN, SLIPKNOT, SKUNK ANANSIE and perhaps a little THE PRODIGY and you’ll get an uncontrollable mix of OTEP’s deeper thoughts accompanied with some musical brutality. “Skin Of The Master” continues with growls and grooves and loud wildness. How big is the transition from “We Dream Like Lions” (which almost sounds like a lullaby) comparing to the other tracks? This is so much different than the loud speed attack “I Alone”, where Otep spits out another waterfall of words. While “Baby’s Breath” digs deeper into the soul. It’s a monologue with a minimum of music underneath it. Simply listen to it and relax before a storm is waking you up. This particular storm received the name (or title, if you like) “Fists Fall”. A short expression of some vocal fights. “Stay” is definitely a cry for help. ‘With friends like these, I need my enemies….’ Wow, that goes deep. Just listen to the crying chants like ‘stay’ and ‘stay away’ in the same lyrics. Contradictions, which only will become clear, when listening really carefully to these songs. “Bible Belt” is a somewhat spooky and doomy spoken word tune. Bibles, religion, horror - it all fits in the same category, as far as I’m concerned. I also live in the bible belt part of Holland and you don’t need to tell me what religion is all about. It is not about caring for people anymore. It’s only a lot of selfishness and the most money, war and hate goes on in religion. It sums up the thoughts that I have, when listening to a title like that. Otep’s opinion is given in this song, if you can call this monologue a song of course, but that’s another discussion, I guess. “Not To Touch The Earth” is a cover by THE DOORS, well-known for their depressive music for many decades by now. OTEP takes their music to a higher level. And in my opinion this album is also much stronger and heavier than her previous one. I would also like to ask some special attention for the CD packing. Besides the very fine music on this album, it comes with a thick booklet including many thoughts, stories, drawings, information, loads of pictures, lyrics and a list of people, that Otep wants to thank. Please take some time to read this booklet and have a good look at the pictures. It will make you so much more aware of what this album is all about. It’s not just music, it’s a collection of deeper thoughts of a human being. The drawings are exxxtreme and controversial, but they are really beautiful as well. Just look at the female devil figure with the five eyes, horns with skulls attached to it, boobs with eyes on it and hair made of snakes and a brain consisting of a labyrinth containing three fire pits…. This is not of this world, but the drawing has got the name OTEP on its body. Clearly, you must be ready to enter the world of OTEP to be able to understand her thoughts and feelings. If this is not the case yet, you can watch the DVD, that comes with the CD. It contains a short film, a tour through the mind of Otep and of course some music videos as well. This whole package is how an atavist would love to see it, so she succeeded very much in this. Musically, Otep leaves nothing to be desired. This turned out to be another great album, in which she displays a lot of anger and shows the world her deeper thoughts. Before I forget, her band that hits the notes really loud consists of Rani Sharone on guitar, Gil Sharone on drums, Collyn McCoy and Tony Campos on bass, Markus Estrada on guitar and Ulrich Wild on keyboards. Website: http://www.otep.com [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

POISON SUN-Virtual Sin (Metal Heaven)
POISON SUN hails from Germany and plays some cool heavy metal. Fronted by Martina Frank, the band will rock your world in forty-five minutes and the ten tracks have a very groovy, yet catchy vibe. The album opens with the heavy pounding song, called “Voodoo” and my attention is caught immediately. The vocals sound rough, raw and a little raspy at times, the guitars are groovy and the guitar solo is mind boggling, while the rhythm is steady and you are in for a real treat here. Responsible for this great rock sound are Hermann Frank (now that explains a lot; ACCEPT, SINNER, VICTORY, MOON DOC, SAEKO, HAZZARD fame) on guitar, Stefan Hammer on bass and Florian Schönweltz on drums. “Rednex” continues in the same vibe, which means another riot is coming at you, rough and ready. The title already suggests this is an up tempo song, because red necks don’t like sensitivity, at least not in their music. A steady beat and loud guitars is the result. “Hitman” is poured into the well-known ACCEPT mould. You may have waited for this comparison, but this time it’s quite obvious. I forced myself not to use this comparison, until it was urgently needed and this time I just couldn’t pass the forbidden word. On the other hand, there are worse bands to be compared with and I would be honored in a way, although it’s a rather cheap and obvious choice in this given case. No problem, because I loved every second of it! The next song “Riders In The Storm” is more in the JUDAS PRIEST style (“Riding On The Wind”-era), showing that the band knows their classics very well indeed. For a more groovy and slower sound you can tune in at “Killer”, which simply is a killer track. “Virtual Sin” is how rawk and roll should sound. It contains that rock and roll vibe, which you may find back in bands like ROSE TATTOO. Uncompromised straight forward rock and roll with a raw edge around the vocals. “Princess” sounds like a tribute to a band, in which Martina did some backing vocals. I am talking about WEINHOLD here. If you like bands like ZED YAGO and VELVET VIPER, you may like the war chant-like metal in this one. Raise your fist and yell along to the lyrics! It’s easy and it will make you feel good. “Phobia” is on next and it received the well-known KROKUS touch, which means that we can add another great classic rock band from the eighties to the list of influences here. This makes the album better and better each song for me. Mainly because this is the sound that I’d like to hear. There is nothing wrong with the music of today, but the ‘what you see is what you get’ mentality works best for me. No side steps to strange sounds, but straight forward rock and metal. And in this context, I even liked the POISON SUN version of “Excited”, originally recorded by THE POINTER SISTERS. The way, they recorded this classic sounds like metal to me and it made me a very happy man! The CD closes with the obligatory ballad, that simply can’t be missed on a CD with an eighties feeling like this one. It’s called “Forever” and it’s a kind of sing-along ballad, in which the crowd would chant ‘Forever’, when it is played in a live situation. The sensitive guitar solo is not forgotten of course. A lot of people might call this an old-fashioned sounding CD in a way, but I think it sounds very refreshing. Almost every other band wants to sound new and refreshing. They are mixing styles to sound innovating and to be the first ones to invent another sub-genre, that I don’t need at all. All I want to hear is the music, that I heard on this album. POISON SUN has delivered a marvellous album, so start spreading the news!! Website: http://www.poisonsun.de/ [10 points- FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

RIE a.k.a. SUZAKU-Messiah (EP) (Poppin Records)
This is an album by the Japanese female guitar goddess SUZAKU. It contains seven tracks and because of my adoration for Japanese heavy metal based in the eighties, I thought it would be nice to review it. I’ve always liked the Japanese shredders and RIE is another amazing guitar player from the land of the rising sun. Opener “The End Of Darkness”, that has Ibuki on vocals, already shows that we are dealing with a very gifted lady. She plays her parts in line with the rest of the song and she is definitely not a guitar player, who asks all the attention by constantly playing one long guitar solo after the other. “Chaos” has Dia on vocals, who has a much darker voice. It’s a slower song with a certain tension build in it. RIE herself slowly introduces the guitar solo, which sounds pretty amazing. “Heaven” is a ballad with Kaoru on vocals. The guitar solo is somehow a bit sensitive, but also shredding in a way. “Fly Away” is a fast, pounding piece of music with Sattin on vocals. The guitar gets a more prominent place in the mix now and RIE showcases, what she is capable of in this song. If you like it more fast and furious, then you can tune in at the title track of the album, called “Messiah”, with Ibuki back on vocals. RIE plays in a MALMSTEEN-like style with a touch of CHASTAIN. Very clean and melodic, but also very fast and very well matching the song here. Dia reappears on vocals in a song called “Lost”, which is on next. A slightly progressive song with some touches of DREAM THEATER here and there. However, the best track on this seven track attacker is called “Suzaku”, which is the nickname of RIE. It’s an instrumental song, in which everything is pulled out to the max with Isamu Tamaru on drums and Hiroyasu Watanabe on bass. This may not be the perfect sound or style for every old school Japanese hard rock and heavy metal fan out there, but it sounds more old school than bands like ON MYO ZA, who also get raving reviews on this site. RIE is definitely a name to remember, because this lady knows how to pull them strings. A new EP is in the making already and will be called “Mother Earth”. If we find a copy, you’ll be the first one to know and read about it. This is indeed recommended to everyone, who likes decent rock songs with a slight touch of progressive sidesteps and good guitar work. Website: http://www.poppin.jp/rie_web/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MARYA ROXX-Payback Time (DR2 Records)
We have heard some good material of MARYA ROXX before and this time we review her full-length album “Payback Time”. It contains ten tracks, that will get you rocking in no time. “Time To Run” starts off as a catchy foot stomper with some raw edges, topped by a sleazy guitar solo of Paul Crook. While listening, my mind goes out to this song from the good old days. I checked out my copy of “Build To Perform” and there it was, originally performed by PHANTOM BLUE. Wow, what a great opener and such great memories! “Oh Yeah” might be used, when a story is getting too long. You just use this phrase and the story teller will shut up. However, this next song with the same title could have lasted a bit longer for me. It’s groovy and contains some wild riffs. “Strong” is a very strong song, as the title already suggests. Life can be so easy and simple sometimes. Maybe it’s a bit too easy to do a review like that, but if you listen to the awesome jaw dropping guitar work in this song, you’ll catch my drift, I guess. It’s wild and raw, and that’s just the way I like it. “21?!” might be a strange title in a way, but it’s just a reflection of what life is all about, when you are that age. The BLACK SABBATH type of riffs sound ultra-cool in this song. “Filth” is about people spreading untrue stories (filth) about you. They are being compared to ‘filth beneath my feet’. One filth leads to another, so to speak. There is a connection between the two of them in this fast rocker. If this isn’t loud enough for you, I’d suggest to listen to “Rebel”, which includes a firm double bass drum beat completely going wild on this one. Rebellious would be the most suitable category for “Nothing Going On”, which has a slightly punk sound and makes you feel tempted to turn up the volume a bit more. And once again I recognized a song from the past here. It’s originally written by a Swedish band, called CLAWFINGER. Anybody remember them?? I didn’t at first, but there was something in this track, that I remembered somehow, so I started digging in the booklet. The names in there didn’t actually ring a bell, except the one of Zakk Tell, who was one of the members of this rebellious Swedish band. “Loverboy” (not the Canadian rock band…) is on next. For me, it’s quite obvious already. MARYA ROXX is a superstar in writing catchy rawk songs with a filthy and sleazy sound. Not that strange, when you see the line-up of her band. Next to Paul Crook, who we already mentioned before, the band consists of Scott Metaxas on bass, Brian Tichy on drums and Anton Fig on drums and Derek Shernian on keyboards. The title track is another wild anthem, ready to sing along to. The album closes after about forty minutes with “Boneyard”. It could have lasted a bit longer, as far as I’m concerned. The wild rock sound of MARYA ROXX will easily keep you occupied for another hour or so, but it’s over and done for now, I’m afraid. That is the strength of ‘easy on the ear’ rock and roll, when it’s there and it makes you long for more, when it is not there anymore. Website: http://www.maryaroxx.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SERENITY–Death & Legacy (Napalm Records)
Fans of melodic, symphonic metal rejoice! This could be symphonic metal album of the year. They are SERENITY and they hail from Austria. While this band is not a female fronted metal band, they do feature some outstanding female metal talent. Ailyn from SIRENIA, Amanda Somerville and Charlotte Wessels from DELAIN all deliver some excellent contributions to “Death & Legacy”, but beyond that, this is one massive piece of work. After the brief intro “Set Sail To…”, the band simply tears into “New Horizons”. Main vocalist Georg Neuhauser has definitely got a voice made for symphonic metal. The female singer shows up on the next track – and one of my favorites – “The Chevalier” features some great vocal contributions from Ailyn of SIRENIA. “Far From Home” is next and definitely has a “Keepers…” era HELLOWEEN vibe to it. The music is definitely enhanced by the use of choirs and an orchestra. “Heavenly Mission” is a good example of this. Ailyn returns on the short spoken word interlude track “Prayer”. On “Changing Fate” we get to hear Amanda Somerville for the first time on “Death & Legacy”. This is a ballad, in which Amanda performs with Georg Neuhauser on this great track. Charlotte Wessels turns in a strong performance on the mid-tempo, powerhouse guitar-driven track, “Serenade Of Flames”. The whole thing tells a pretty cool story, which makes the lyrics essential to the whole presentation, but you don’t have to follow along to enjoy “Death & Legacy”. The songs are good enough to stand on their own, even if you don’t want to follow along with the story. SERENITY is one of those bands that have received some extremely positive reviews in metal mags. After listening to “Death & Legacy”, I can see why. This is simply one of my favorite albums of 2011. [10 points- FULL SCORE] (Tony Cannella)

SIGN OF THE JACKAL-The Beyond (EP) (Heavy Artillery)
SIGN OF THE JACKAL hails from Italy and this EP with special bonus track appears in the vinyl format and that’s the way a true metal fan likes it best. Three songs are on each side and they open the ‘Paganini’ side with the fast “Hellhounds”. Old school WARLOCK fans will like this. Just listen to the never ending guitar solo on this one and you’ll know why. I also hear back a lot of old school JUDAS PRIEST in this song. “Head Over Heels” is a MEGHAN cover from 1986, recorded by this band in 2010. The song stands tall after all these years, but you can still sense the old school vibe very much. The sleeve of this record is, like I mentioned already in the review of SIGN OF THE JACKAL’s vinyl single, an almost exact copy of the legendary MERCYFUL FATE bootleg “From The Depths Of Hell”. Splatters of blood surrounding the picture of a skull… How old school do you want to have it? The flipside contains a drawing of an old (haunted) mansion, that looks a bit like the one, that was drawn on KING DIAMOND’s “Them” album. Nice hidden details, that make you aware of the fact that this band doesn’t want to belong to the heavy metal scene of today. They want to belong to the scene, that was founded in the very early eighties. The titles take care of this as well. “Heavy Metal Demons” is even more old school than the title suggests already. They will make your head go up and down pretty easily with a fast banger like this. You can’t use a title like that anymore according to many reviewers of today, but I think it’s really cool and they can’t be old school enough for me. It’s a shame, that the A-side is over after twelve minutes already. The ‘Horror’ side lasts about fourteen minutes and opens with “Paganini Horror”, with some icing horror screams starting up the song. This is in fact the special demo version of this song. It’s an instrumental track build upon a strong basic riff and consists of an almost never ending guitar solo. Paganini would be proud of this, I almost know for sure. “Night Of The Undead” is a straight forward metal track, that can be compared to the better tracks of early CHASTAIN and WARLOCK (again). You can scream along to the lyrics pretty easily, so lock yourself up in your room and shout along to the chorus real loud on this one. “Warlord’s Wrath” closes this EP, which is a tribute to another great heavy metal underground band of the USA, namely BLACK KNIGHT. What a treat! Although this is a compilation of demo versions and not a full-length new release, I still have the hots for SIGN OF THE JACKAL, because they keep the old school metal spirit very much alive with this release. The high score is a combination of the great music and the old school packaging of the whole, which comes with an inlay, some pix and liner notes. SIGN OF THE JACKAL consists of Laura ‘Demons Queen’ on vocals, Bob on guitar, ‘Heavy’ Mate on drums, Röby ‘Knife’ on bass and Max on guitar, vocals and keyboards. Only for die hard metal fans, who think that they can deal with old school heavy metal and old school heavy metal only! Website: http://www.myspace.com/signofthejackalmetal [10 points- FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

SIRENIA-The Enigma Of Life (Nuclear Blast)
I still do believe, that Morten Veland has had his best musical experiences with TRISTANIA. I never heard too much positive coming from his own band SIRENIA, no matter how hard I tried. And I keep on trying with his new album “The Enigma Of Life”, which contains fourteen gothic metal tracks, that can tell me that I really was wrong in my judgments so far. The new album opens with a song called “The End Of It All”, which has some nice orchestral arrangements, a steady beat and the beautiful voice of front lady Ailyn. A nice song in my opinion and a good opener on this album, that runs for sixty-five minutes. The mid tempo track sounds very groovy one way or another. The orchestration takes care of that, whereas the guitar riffs sound a bit flat to me. The band from Norway continues with “Fallen Angel”, in which we’ll enjoy the really nice voice of Ailyn. She is the singer of SIRENIA since 2008, and could be called a newcomer in some way. The bombastic mid part and nice neo classical like guitar solo lifts the song up to far above average here. People, who are into the sound of STREAM OF PASSION, NIGHTWISH, LACUNA COIL, WITHIN TEMPTATION and EVANESCENCE, may have a really good time, while listening to this particular track. A spooky intro announces “All My Dreams”, which continues in the same way as the previous two tracks after the intro. In some of the upcoming tracks we also hear some vocal parts done by a choir, which gives the song a very bombastic feeling. “This Darkness” and “The Twilight In Your Eyes” are very easy on the ear. While “Winterland” is a rather atmospheric track, especially when listening to it in the winter time, like I did when reviewing this CD. In “Seaside Serenade” and “Darkened Days To Come” we will also enjoy Morten’s voice. He is the dark male voice, that adds just that little thing these songs sometimes lack. In “Coming Down”, his voice even takes the lead parts at times, but this is a bit too much to my opinion. The string arrangements for this song are moody, which fits the song very well. “This Lonely Lake” sounds nice to listen to and it has a leading role for the keyboards and a very catchy chorus. “Fading Star” sounds very bombastic, because of the choir vocals, that are used here. On the other hand, we hear the growling male vocals that sound very dark and brutal as well. What really appealed to me is, that the band slowly derived from its experimental character. I get the feeling, that it just wasn’t metal enough and Morten just didn’t find his way with SIRENIA until now. Judging by this new album, he has really found back the power to write good songs, that have got the right balance to really impress you at times. “The Enigma Of Life” closes this album. This emotional ballad contains more bombastic choir vocals and a very sensitive guitar solo. The first bonus track, that we hear on this CD, is a Spanish version of “This Darkness” which is called “Obscura Realidad”. A very joyful up tempo track, which is good for the European (read: Spanish) market. The second bonus track is an acoustic version of title track “The Enigma Of Life”. Like I mentioned earlier, SIRENIA seems to have found their way in the gothic metal scene and released an album, that reaches far above the low ratings, that they have received from me in the past. They’ve definitely grown in the past few years, not in the least because of the input of their new singer Ailyn, that’s for sure. Besides Ailyn and Morten, SIRENIA consists of Jonathan Perez on drums and Michael Krumins on guitar. The latest update is that Jan Erik Soltvedt has become the new guitar player in the band and he has replaced Michael after the release of this new album. Website: http://www.sirenia.no. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

STRAIGHT LINE STITCH-The Fight Of Our Lives (eOne Music)
STRAIGHT LINE STITCH is nu-metal from Tennessee and this is their brand new album, called “The Fight Of Our Lives”. We hear eleven tracks, sounding like a rollercoaster steaming a way into your room. Heavy riffs, bashing beats and a brutal shouting and screaming front lady are the main ingredients of opener “Tear Down The Sky”. Well, with the power they circulate in here, it won’t be too much of a problem to tear down the sky. Man, what an ‘in-yer-face’ and brutal sound, they create! “Conversion” continues to that side direction right after that. Responsible for so much noise are Alexis Brown on vocals, Seth Tacker on guitar, Jason White on bass, Kanky Lora on drums and Kris Norris on guitar. Before this, they had two male vocalists, but since 2006 Alexis has joined the band and they became one of the very few female-fronted nu-metal bands. As long as they keep playing powerful music like this, it is fine with me. “Laughing In The Rearview” is on next, in which you also get a good idea of what Alexis voice is all about, when she’s not shouting it out loud. Just listen carefully. “Cold Front” shows that the band has some hit potential tracks on this album as well. Slow down the pace a bit and add some ore emotional laden vocal parts and you'll come close to something, that might even be suitable for radio airplay. “No Tomorrow” sounds like a negative title, but the song is rather cheerful and not that black or negative at all. In “Bar Room Brawl”, they let it all loose, like the title of the song suggests already. “One Reason” shows us again the slightly commercial side of this band. And there is nothing wrong with that. It just sounds as if the sound is a little bit more open to catch the attention of a bigger public. Who might get a bit confused, when they hear the more brutal tracks on the album. STRAIGHT LINE STITCH is the perfect band for a festival like the Ozz Fest, where you regularly see bands, that play the same type of music. “Never Surrender” has got another catchy chorus. While “Living Dead” has got a darker sound in the beginning, but we can also hear a sound that may appeal to people that like a more alternative rock sound with a steady heavy beat underneath. If you get the idea, that the CD slowly drowns in catchy songs, you get the brutal smash in the face, called “Sound Of Silence”, which is one of the highlights on this album for me. This in big contrast to the last song on this album, which is called “Ashes In The Wind” and is merely a ballad type of song with a very sensitive guitar solo. STRAIGHT LINE STITCH has won the fight of their lives, but it was not a knock out winning. They survived this match by winning on points. Anyway, if you like a more alternative approach with catchy rock songs and some brutal outings as well, than this album might be something for you. Website: http://www.straightlinestitch.com/ [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

STREAM OF PASSION-Darker Days (Napalm Records)
It’s almost impossible for me to listen to STREAM OF PASSION without thinking about the early days of this band with Iron Anthony Lucassen and Lori Linstruth on guitar. This band sounds so differently these days. They keep making good albums though, but I somehow miss that spark, that I spotted on these early albums. Anyway, it’s time to move forward, because standing still leads to moving backwards. STREAM OF PASSION’s new album is called “Darker Days”, and contains thirteen tracks, that are worthy of almost fifty-five minutes of gothic metal. I really liked opener “Lost” very much, where the band provides a good mix of bombastic gothic metal and groovy guitars together in an up tempo speed, topped with the beautiful voice of Marcela Bovio. “Reborn” is a track with some high emotional vocal parts. The songs on “Darker Days” are mixing the Dutch and the Mexican culture together. The title of the album refers to the fact, that Marcela was having difficulties with the long, dark winter nights here in Holland. If this leads to more inspiration of writing nice tracks for a good album, than I hope she will face even more and I mean this in a positive way of course. “Collide” comes with some more heavy guitar riffs and the speed goes up as well. Obviously, there’s a lot of variation on this new album, which is a good thing. Back to a more modest track here, called “The Scarlet Mark”, but the high class guitar solo makes up for this in every way. “Spark” is a short piece of rest, before “Our Cause” enters my room, which is another slower piece. Title track “Darker Days” is on next, which lifts up the speed again and shows that you can still put a lot of emotional vocals in an up tempo track. “Broken” is a ballad type of song, which gets a more powerful vibe near the end. You must realize, that there are a lot of melodic parts on this album and the guitar are only sometimes sticking their head out. “This Time” starts off as an up tempo track, but already after a few seconds the speed drops and the melodic sound takes over. There’s a lot more power in this song though, which makes it very enjoyable. “Closer” sounds quite emotional and I think this is the strength of STREAM OF PASSION nowadays. Marcela has got the power to make things sound emotional and warm, which is almost a must in the gothic metal scene. In “The Mirror”, she gives the song just that little bit of power it needs to make it highly enjoyable. In “Nadie Lo Ve”, she sings in her native tongue, which probably makes it a little more natural for herself, although you won’t be able to tell the difference when listening to the track yourself. I think, it’s easier for her to express herself. This may turn this short piece into a beautiful song, but just like “Spark”, I have my doubts if any true metal head will really dig this piece of pure emotion and modest ‘stream of passion’ of three minutes. Anyway, when this is over, there still is time for one more powerful track to close this album, which is called “The World Is Ours”. If you like to spend your long winter days with a lot of passion, than I would like to recommend this album to you. It’s especially made for the “Darker Days”. Besides Marcela, the band consists of Martijn Peters on drums, Johan van Stratum on bass, Erik Hazebroek on rhythm guitar, Stephan Schultz on lead guitar and Jeffrey Revet on keyboards. Website: http://www.streamofpassion.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

T.A.G.-Swallow Your Modesty (Bloom Productions)
T.A.G. is a groovy rock band from Holland consisting of Sandra Peeters on vocals, Wouter Bloemen on guitars, Gerard Gubbels on bass and Dennis Geraads on drums. Their debut album contains twelve tracks and about forty-five minutes of groovy rock music with an alternative yet catchy feel to it. Opener “Anaesthetize” unfolds itself slowly and you’ll know what to expect, when you hear this first track. Sandra has a sigh in her voice that I like and it sounds a bit sensual in this track. The music is groovy, but not really heavy. It rocks, but it is certainly not metal. It’s alternative, yet still catchy enough to be able to gain more fans from different musical directions as well. “Shades Of Grey” continues that way with a groovy guitar riff in the beginning and a rapping vocal part, that shows that the band isn’t afraid to take some other sidesteps as well. The guitar beeps at the end of the song could very well be from a band like RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, but that’s where all comparison stops between both bands. Just like the opener, we hear that Sandra’s voice sounds very similar to Anneke van Giersbergen in “Entity”. At times, you may even think in the direction of THE GATHERING (later era) to get an idea of what the music of T.A.G. is all about. “My Love Is Never Enough” is on next, which sounds a bit faster. “Dance The Dance” is danceable, don’t worry. It has got a reggae sauce over it and because of the vocals of Sandra, a slightly sexy and sensual feeling as well. I’m not a reggae fan at all, but this could be okay when played at the right time. “Four Piece Puzzle” is the first single of this album, which is also accompanied by a video clip. “Just One Minute” moves the album forward in the same pace, which is another great track just like the previous one. “Sapphire” sounds a bit more mainstream and maybe even suitable for radio airplay. Same goes for the ballad-like “And We Know”. In “Inside Out”, the reggae sound is back. The sensitive moaning of Sandra takes the song to a higher level and therefore it’s still enjoyable enough. “Unfamiliar Face” has more rap parts and sounds a lot groovier than the previous track. T.A.G. shows a lot of variation in styles and this song is definitely one of the highlights, when we are talking about the heaviness of the tracks. Touches of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and LINKIN PARK can be heard here, but also FOO FIGHTERS fans may find this interesting enough to listen to. The album closes with “When The World Doesn’t Feel That Heavy” with Sandra sounding very much alike Anneke on this track (again). T.A.G. has already supported bands like MY FAVORITE SCAR and EXILIA and I think that they have a very bright future ahead of them. “Swallow Your Modesty” may not receive the support of the radio stations, because it is a little bit on the heavy side, but it sure gets our full support. They also may not be the next big thing on earth, but if you like the more groovy side of the alternative rock, than T.A.G. is definitely a band to check out. Website: http://www.tagmusic.nl. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THEATRES DES VAMPIRES-Moonlight Waltz (Aural Music/Audioglobe)
The vampires are always associated with gothic music, one way or another. THEATRES DES VAMPIRES is one of the cornerstones in the gothic rock and metal scene. Their new album contains twelve songs and fifty five minutes of heavenly gothic metal. There are also some guest appearances on this album and we hear one of them already in the first track “Keeper Of Secrets”. It’s nobody else but Snowy Shaw, who is a guest vocalist on this heavy gothic metal song, which has a very nice guitar solo. “Fly Away” sounds a bit darker, but it still rocks out loud. The more modest gothic rockers among us may have their share in title track “Moonlight Waltz”. The music of THEATRES DES VAMPIRES sometimes leans towards the more heavy side (for example the first song), but they also can sound truly gothic on this one. “Carmilla” sounds a bit faster, but because of the orchestration it still has got that gothic sound, that you may recognize from bands like MOONSPELL for example. “Sangue” is on next and a nice gothic rock song unfolds itself. “Figlio Della Luna” is a cover by MECANO, which you will recognize right from the start. There are a bit more guitars added to the song to create a THEATRES DES VAMPIRES make over. In “An Illusion” and “Black Madonna” the gothic style gets the upper hand, while in “Le Grand Guignol”, the band called in the help of Cadaveria (CADAVERIA, OPERA IX, DYNABYTE) and they rock it out. Cadaveria, what else would you expect, handles the growling harsh voice in this rock song. “Obsession” is another gothic oriented song with sensual vocals. Gothic and sensuality match very well together and there are certain similarities here in my opinion. “The Secret Gates Of Hades” is another more mainstream track with a high level of radio friendliness. The title sounds very metal, but the song however is more a happy type of gothic rock. Eva Breznikar (LAIBACH) is the last guest in line and she sings on CD closer “Medousa”. And so this album comes to an end with the beautiful voice of Eva, who appears in the THEATRES DES VAMPIRES. The concert is over and the bats fly home. Soon it will become light again and they’ll have to wait before darkness falls over the moonlit country side. Gothic freaks will dance this waltz several times I guess, because it’s so diverse. In closing, I’d like to ask some special attention for the more than beautiful artwork of the CD. This alone should make you decide to buy it. THEATRES DES VAMPIRES consists of Sonya Scarlet on vocals, Stephan Benfante on guitar, Fabian Varesi on keyboards, Zimon Lijoi on bass and Gabriel Valerio on drums. Website: http://www.theatres-des-vampires.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THEATRE OF TRAGEDY-Last Curtain Call (AFM Records)
On we go from one theatre to another… This time, we’ve arrived at the THEATRE OF TRAGEDY, where you will find many more gothic bats. “Last Curtain Call” is a live registration of their final tour. This double CD is also available with a bonus DVD of this concert in a super duper ‘extraordinary fans only’ package, but I’ll restrict myself to reviewing the audio part only. Two CDs with live material: sixteen songs, worthy of over eighty minutes of heavenly gothic metal. Cd 1 opens with the strong “Hide And Seek” - just to show their fans that this band is phenomenal, when it comes to playing live. “Bring Forth Ye Shadow” is a more sober track, but the mix between the male growls of Raymond Istvàn Rohonyi and the fragile voice of Nell Sigland really does justice. Same goes for “Frozen”, which comes next. This combination works very well in the music of THEATRE OF TRAGEDY and the gothic metal scene in general. It has become a trademark over the years. But not every band knows to handle the combination right. In the case of THEATRE OF TRAGEDY, it seems like a natural thing and it really sounds like the perfect match. Just listen to the beautiful “Ashes And Dreams”, where Nell has a leading role. It all sounds more than natural to me, unlike some other bands. “A Rose For The Dead” is another classic and in fact we are treated on a jukebox of classics from the band. They only left out songs from the “Assembly” album. By the way: the DVD contains two more songs, namely “Lorelei” and “Cassandra”. Why they were left out on this double CD is not clear to me. The concert was recorded in Stavanger in their home country Norway. “Fragment” follows and this is again another great gothic metal track. “And When He Falleth” is the chance for Raymond to be a bit more up front in the mix. The sober keyboards take care of a dark sound, which fits very well to this track. This type of music can easily touch your soul, when you are open for it. Although we are more metal oriented, some tracks are very beautiful indeed. Vampires, bats and other people. who can’t stand the daylight, can simply dream away on these sounds… After “Venus”, the band continues their farewell concert on CD 2. “Hollow” contains a large orchestration of keyboards, creating a wide bombastic sound. While “Storm” is accompanied by some keyboards too, but this time they sound more like a piano to me. “Image” is a very joyful song, which can make you happy. I don’t know about those dark souls, that are roaming around in a black world, but it did with me anyway. “A Hamlet For A Slothful Vassal” is another ultimate gothic metal piece. Slowly, we have arrived to the conclusion of this farewell gig. “Fade” is accompanied by some piano sounds of a keyboard and the voice of Nell, who lets the shivers run down my spine with her voice. While in “Machine”, the band even flirts a bit with industrial music as well. This might be a bit over the top for some purists among us, but vampires who like to dance to their favorite music may appreciate these musical sidesteps very much. “Der Tanz Der Schatten” is on next and this is one of the THEATRE OF TRAGEDY classics for many fans, I guess. Nell is the lead singer on the very last track on this album, which is called “Forever Is The World”. Then the curtain falls and the vampires will have to wait for a reunion in the future. THEATRE OF TRAGEDY has been one of the few gothic metal bands that stayed true to their music, whereas many others slowly distracted from this sound. Therefore I can easily add an extra point. They were the true believers in what they did and on this double live CD, they end their journey in style. Besides vocalists Nell and Raymond Istvàn, the band consisted of Frank Claussen on guitar, Vegard K. Thorsen on guitar, Hein Frode Hansen on drums and Lorentz Aspen on keyboards, when they recorded this mighty fine gothic piece of art. Website: http://www.theatreoftragedy.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TRIOSPHERE-The Road Less Travelled (Rock Inc.)
TRIOSPHERE is a melodic power metal band from Norway and their new album is called “The Road Less Travelled”. It contains twelve tracks, including a bonus track for the first edition of the album and fifty-five minutes of very powerful music. The album starts off with the short, instrumental opener, called “Ignition”. From there on, the band takes away in the fifth gear with “Driven”. Responsible for this melodic power metal attack are Orjan Jorgensen on drums, T.O. Byberg on guitars, Marius Silver Bergesen on guitars and Ida Haukland on vocals and bass. “Human Condition” eases up and introduces the more melodic side of TRIOSPHERE. “Death Of Jane Doe” contains a lot of fast triggered drum beats. I like the speed changes in this song a lot, whereas the radio voices are added and giving away the progressive sidesteps, that this band dares to take. It’s definitely the first highlight on this album for me. “Marionette” is on next. At first, you think that this isn’t really a special song until the guitar part starts, which adds a kind of PINK FLOYD-like atmosphere to the song. Another sidestep, that gives the song an exciting touch. The title track of the album is on next, which contains an amazing guitar solo. Hats off! The music of TRIOSPHERE is really easy to listen to, simply because there is always something for anyone in their sound. Sometimes it’s the melody, sometimes a progressive touch, sometimes a whole lot of power and that’s what makes it so easy to listen to. Oh, you want a ballad type of atmosphere? Then I’d suggest to have a listen to “The Anger And The Silent Remorse”. That will satisfy your hunger easily. The instrumental parts in this track reflect the progressive side of the band once again. “Watcher” continues this album with another great instrumental part in the middle of this song, where the keyboards and guitars get together. In ‘Twenty One”, they play around with a heavy beat and some groovy parts. “Worlds Apart” is maybe one of the heaviest tracks on the album. While “The Last Haven” is a short instrumental outro. At least, when you have the regular edition of this album. If you’re lucky enough to have the special first edition set of “The Road Less Travelled”, then you’ll be able to listen to a bonus track, called “Echoes”. However, this is only an atmospheric, moody instrumental track, that actually doesn’t add anything to the album, in my opinion. The keyboards and violins dominate the sound on this track, which isn’t really representative for the rest of the album. TRIOSPHERE presents a nice mix of melody and metal, and I suggest to have a good listen to it before buying it. Website: http://www.thetriosphere.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VARIOUS ARTISTS-World Of Glass Compilation Volume 1 (independent)
What we have here is the first volume of a compilation series with female-fronted bands, called “World Of Glass”. These bands hail from all over the world and the music provided here is spread out over all imaginary styles possible. Not time to waste, because there is a whole lot to explore here. Step into the world of the female-fronted rock and metal bands that are presented here in this world of glass. I’m happy to be your guide this afternoon. The first double CD contains twenty tracks, which means there are twenty bands. The joyride starts here with NAOS from France playing gothic doom metal with touches of WITHIN TEMPTATION. I suspect, that we will hear a lot more bands that are influenced by the likes of WITHIN TEMPTATION, EPICA and NIGHTWISH on these compilation albums. The guitar solo is nice, the instrumentation is good and Sté is the beautiful singer/frontlady of the band. HANGING DOLL is on next with “A Formidable Mistake”. I hear more guitars and the speed goes up a little. The band hails from Birmingham in England, where JUDAS PRIEST and BLACK SABBATH started their career as well. EVANESCENCE is more of an influence of this band though, but the song is easy on the ears and very enjoyable. Sally Holiday is the singer of the band. ANALGESIA is really something else. The band hails from Morocco and presents a more bombastic, orchestral style in the best NIGHTWISH tradition. The song is called “Revolution Has Begun”. Atmen Youssra’s vocals are good and it’s nice to hear that they also rock in Morocco. This song is also released as a single, by the band. AZYLYA hails from Belgium and they present us their track “Woodscape”. Their melodic metal is highly enjoyable, because of the thrashy riffs at times. Jamie-Lee Smit is the blonde vixen, that stands behind the microphone and shows her ability to give this song some nice vocal lines, next to the more brutal male growls. DHARMA is not for me. Wrong compilation or you must be a huge fan of electronic music and bands like GENITORTURERS. The band hails from Hungary and they are captured here with “Energy Vampire”. Mariann ‘Nicia’ Farklass sings in the band and although she sounds dynamic and powerful, it’s not my cup of tea. TROPHALLAXY are from Switzerland. As you can see they capture bands from all over Europe and the rest of the world for this compilation. The song is called “Dawn” and Joëlle ‘Jo’ Graz is the front lady, who also plays the cello once in a while. The guitars sound wild, giving this power metal track a very exciting bite. The vocals give it a slightly gothic touch though. I liked the mood change at the end a lot, which gives something special to this very convincing song. HARPIA DEIIS is a louder note in this first shift of bands. Their song “Rise Of Blades” can be categorized as melodic death metal. Sharp death metal riffs, loud grunting male vocals and a sweet melodic female voice topping the sound. The female input comes from Chiara ‘Chiri’ F. Dezi. The band hails from Austria and the instrumental break in “Rise Of Blades” could very well be on an album by a band like IRON MAIDEN for example. Nice band. SETANERA is on next and this time an Italian band is presenting themselves here with a song called “Spettralia”. The soprano voice in this track is from Valentina ‘Setanera’ Bucci. The gothic metal of SETANERA sounds very traditional and therefore their music will please a lot of fans with this successful style. The speed change in this song is very nice and I think we will definitely hear a lot more by this well-talented Italian band. LOVELORN is a name that I’d heard of before. No wonder, because the band hails from Belgium, which is just around the corner. They give us “Save Me” from their album “An Intense Feeling Of Affection”. Not only the band name is one of the titles of a LEAVES EYES album, but their music could also very well be compared to the music by this Norwegian gothic metal band. At least the vocals of Lady Hell (also known as Kristell Lowagie) sound very similar. The band also has a second metal maiden in bass player Hindi Rose. Vykki Turner is the lead singer in the alternative metal band SOLSIKK from London. In “Freefall” we hear fast riffs, distorted vocals and a very powerful beat. Later on, they step on the gas and get into a wild thrashy beat, that turns this song into one of the highlights on this compilation so far. DIARY OF DESTRUCTION plays melodic heavy metal and hails from France. Their rendition here is called “Storm”. You can read a review of their EP “Outside The Shade” somewhere on this website. The band consists of two metal maidens, namely Audrey Ebrotie on vocals and Berengere Bulckaen on bass guitar. Check them out. NARWHAL TUSK from Russia presents us “Mourning Purple”. The symphonic rock of this Russian band sounds very joyful, although they don’t really seem to sparkle here. The sound of DELAIN and NIGHTWISH comes close to what we hear here. Valentina Yastremskaya is the female voice of NARWHAL TUSK. PIN-UP WENT DOWN hails from France and the very first notes made me wonder, if they really are on the right compilation. Their music sounds very eccentric and a bit experimental as well. Later on, when the speed goes up, I started to gain a bit more interest in this strange sounding avant-garde band. The track we are listening to is called “Essence Of I”. The female vocalist in PIN-UP WENT DOWN is called Asphodel. What a beautiful name! We stay in France for ASYLUM PYRE, who are “Laughing With The Stars”, a short progressive rock track with the nice voice of Chaos Heidi. She has the touch of a soprano in her voice and a band like SYREN’S CALL comes to mind when hearing this song. HOLINESS tells you “The Truth” in the next three minutes or something. This is firm Brazilian melodic metal with some very strong and powerful riffs. Stéfanie Schirmbeck has a great voice, but the musical virtuosity of the band is also spread out in this catchy song with slightly progressive sidesteps. Another highlight on this sampler for me. MOON WHISPERS from France plays gothic metal. Their song is called “The Day I Died” and she does this in a very powerful way. The guitar solo sounds nice and really adds something to this nice track. Marielle handles the vocals here. APERION hails from Slovenia and they appear here with “Black Flies. Zala Hodnik is the female voice in the band, that also uses exotic instruments like viola, flute and didgeridoo, giving this song a more folk approach. We heard about SYRENS CALL before and they are also to be found on this great compilation. “Perfidious Paradise” is the song captured here and they show us once again that the band are true masters of progressive metal. Great instrumentation, including a short instrumental interlude, topped by the nice vocals of Soraya Hostens. No need to tell you, that this can be marked as another highlight as well. ADRANA also hails from France and they provide us “Gabrielus” at the end of this first set. The soprano voice of Anaé is powerful, which matches very well to the powerful music, that we hear. After the spoken word break, it’s time for some serious headbanging in a really nice song. The first set closes with THE RAIN I BLEED (featuring Jonas Kjellgren of SCAR SYMMETRY, CARNAL FORGE) who perform “Nocturne”. Mina is the vocalist of this Greek band, that also covers NIGHTWISH every now and then in their live gigs. I would rather like to compare them to a mix of AFTER FOREVER and EVANESSENCE.
The second disc of the “World Of Glass – Vol.1” contains another twenty bands. We continue where we left off and that is in Greece with ON THORNS I LAY, who give us some “Precious Silence”. The music is beautiful, but it sounds a bit too gothic and too basic for me. A bit more power could add so much more to this band. They are very successful though, so I think I might be the only one here with this tiny complaint. Maxi Nil is the female vocalist here, who has also been a member of ELYSION, VISIONS OF ATLANTIS and MOONSPELL. No wonder that her voice sounds so beautiful. A little bit too sweet in my eyes though, but that’s a more personal taste, I guess. KHAELYS is on next with “The War”, which really sounds like a steam train that comes rolling in. The band is the next one hailing from France here. It all sounds very powerful and very exciting. A name to remember, that has Stéphanie Montel on female vocals and the second metal maiden is Lucie Duval on drums. BLINDFALL are from Spain and they sing about a “Black Doll”. I’m not too fond of the screaming male vocals, but the sweet voice of Inga is very nice to listen to. The band can be categorized as alternative or nu-metal. THEE ORAKLE is revealed in the next song. We’ll listen to “Quimera Metamorphosis”, which seems to be more focused on the screaming wild male vocals rather than the female input by Mika Cardoso. The song is highly enjoyable though. BARE INFINITY is “Lost Again” with some great vocal lines of Angel, who reminded me a bit of the beautiful singer in LACUNA COIL. The thick keyboard layers give this song a gothic touch, but it remains pretty powerful after all. The band hails from Greece and adds a nice rendition to this sampler. STAMINA are from France and they sound more electronic, which is not really my cup of tea, I’m afraid. La Surrealiste is the female vocalist in the band. WEDINGOTH, also from France, are a bit more easy to comprehend, although their music isn’t easy to listen to. The song is called “Dex Li Volt”. Their progressive metal sounds a bit more exciting, because of the many changes, that you’ll hear throughout this song. Laura Flores handles the female vocals. SACRAMENTO hails from Chile and their rendition is called “Purple”. Their balladesque track sounds powerful on one side, but it also has a rather tender side. The male grunts are perhaps a bit over the top in a way, but I really like the female voice of Laura Vargas. SLEEPING SIN is on next with “Engel”. They are a real gothic metal band, that sounds like a gothic metal should sound. Dark, atmospheric and with the angel-like vocals of Steffi very much up front. The second metal maiden in the band is called Eva and she plays the bass in this German band. ERYNIES reveals their “Dark Secrets”. Their symphonic metal, topped by the opera-like vocals of Carole Rainsard has some influences of IRON MAIDEN, but in general they sound a lot more symphonic. The keyboards are very much up front in the mix, but their sound remains quite powerful. At the end of this song, we are at the perfect ‘headbangers rhythm’. SKEPTICAL MINDS from Belgium is already a very well-known name in the Metal Maidens camp. Their input on this compilation is called “Broken Doll”. Their electro metal has got something special and that’s the great voice of Karolina. The second Metal Maiden here is called Kat and she plays the violin. I liked the mood changes in this track a lot and their music still sounds quite exciting to me. SOULMAKER from France is on next with “A Vide”. Marina Viotti is the female vocalist, who gets some help by a male screamer here. OPERADYSE are from France as well and it seems to me, that a whole lot of these bands hail from France, which isn’t really that well-known for its heavy metal culture in my opinion. The word ‘opera’ in the name of the band doesn’t usually stand for powerful metal as far as I’m concerned. However, “Celestial Sword” is a fast, energetic track with the female voice of Jennifer Lasalle on top of it all. Definitely worth checking out this band. KERSTIN BISCHOF follows this brute force by “Storm”. While writing this review, a storm has just been passing our country, so the timing of Kerstin is really perfect. We may know her by her nickname Lakonia, and as the former singer of XANDRIA. Well, if you think into that direction, you’ll come close to what to expect here. I would categorize this as symphonic metal, but with a link to gothic metal as well because of the soprano vocals of Kerstin. The guitar solo in this song is really amazing in my opinion. Kerstin is from Germany, where we stay for the rendition of DEATHINY. This band uses male grunts and sounds much darker than Kerstin, but they also get the moniker of symphonic in the booklet. Julia M is the singer in this German band. MEDEN AGAN added “All Seems Lost” here, which sounds very bombastic, because of the opera voice of Iriana Tsakiraki. DJERV is already a name, that we all know. The rigid riffs that start “Headstone” are almost industrial and the voice of Agnete Kjølsrud sounds very recognizable. She is the former singer of ANIMAL ALPHA, where she shook the world with her mad vocal lines, sounding like a mix between BJÖRK and KATE BUSH, but then with a more metal background. This is a true foot stomper and a happy change between the sometimes dark sounds on this compilation. DJERV hails from Norway, by the way. HEONIA sounds a lot more tender and laid back with their rendition of “Broken Toys”. This band from France is fronted by Marieke DeLanghe. Slowly this song works itself up to an amazing eruption of instrumental craftsmanship. You wouldn’t expect this at all after the dark, tender start of this song. A nice surprise, that lifts this song up to a higher level. HYDRIA from Brazil is on next with “Poison Paradise”. The male grunter is shouting his lungs out, but again I like the sweet voice of Raquel Schüller much better. “Poison Paradise” sounds heavy and powerful and slowly we’re getting to the end of this second set with a band from Portugal, that is called FACTORY OF DREAMS. They added their track “Whispering Eyes” to this compilation. Jessica Lehto is the singer of this twosome, that she forms together with Hugo Flores. Jessica has also worked with the BETO VÁZQUEZ INFINITY. Her voice has got some opera sound in it at times. Although the band only consists of two people, they sound pretty powerful. And with FACTORY OF DREAMS we close this second compilation.
This is the third and last disc, that contains another twenty female-fronted bands with different styles, all coming from very different countries and directions. Just listen to opener TENEBRARUM INFANTEUS and their contribution of “Ma Scène Préférée”, which sounds energetic, industrial and electronic. It’s powerful, but that’s the only positive thing I want to say about it, I’m afraid. H is the female vocalist of this band from France. EXOTERIK is on next with “Revive”, which is an easy on the ears tune. Anneka Latta is the front lady of this English band from Leeds. ELFERYA hails from Switzerland. The angelic voice of Claire-Lyse matches very well with the gothic, symphonic sound, that we hear in “Luna”. The instrumental break is very exciting indeed. AKIN are from France as well and they present us a re-recorded version of their song “The 92nd Flight”. Adeline Gurtner is the female singer of this band, that surprised me very much with this nice track. It contains many mood changes and has a certain progressive sound reminding me of some of the old masters like GENESIS and YES. ILUMINATO from Brazil is another gothic metal outfit and this is their addition of “Helm Of Blindness”. The soprano vocals of Liz Demier match well together with the harsh vocals of her male partner-in-crime Pablo Fereirea. The twosome really know to create a nice, bombastic sound that sometimes leans towards opera, but then with guitars. SILENT OPERA brings us to the “Time Of Mechanical Horses” and we move from one style to another here. SILENT OPERA are from France and Laure Laborde is the female voice of this symphonic, gothic metal band. She is also backed up by a male grunter, but the sound is so much different than from the Brazilian band ILUMINATO, that we just heard. DIMLIGHT are from Greece and they show us some “Dark Emotion”. Powerful dark rhythms enter your room, topped by the female voice of Sanna Salou. In the beginning of this song you’ll hear some strange sidesteps, but this is only for a short moment. A nice track, that is also easy on the ears. EVENOIRE starts very folky with “I Will Stay”. The band from Italy uses flutes and Lisy Lunaria (Elisa Stefanoni) is the female voice of this band, that reminded me of BLACKMORE’S NIGHT at times. Lisy knows how to use her beautiful opera vocals, but especially the instrumentation of the song makes you think of the medieval sound of this band led by former DEEP PURPLE guitar player RITCHIE BLACKMORE. Lisy also plays the flute, by the way. Eleonora Vanazzi is the second metal maiden in the band, who plays the keyboards. ENTROPIA brings us back to France with “Sweet Little Sin”. The sound of a crying child opens this track in a mysterious way. A black metal blast beat, topped by the operatic voice of Marie Rouyer does not sound like the average gothic or black metal band. They definitely lift their music up to a higher level by putting some symphonic parts to it and making various exciting sidesteps. ECHOTERRA is the only American band here with “A Tear In Her Heart?”. The opera voice of this symphonic, gothic metal outfit comes from Melissa ‘Missy’ Ferlaak, who previously sang in AESMA DAEVA, ADYTA and VISIONS OF ATLANTIS. Comparing their sound to these bands won’t hurt you. ENDLESS NIGHT plays gothic metal and hails from Canada. Their addition is called “Winter Cloak” and contains some nice guitar riffs. Emi is the female vocalist of this band, who also plays the piano at times. Their music comes close to the sound of FLOWING TEARS. WHISPERIUM takes us back to France again with “Agony”. Dark symphonic string arrangements start this song, which creates a dark, melancholic atmosphere. Claire has a voice that shows some of the well-known operatic aspects, but not constantly. She can sing with an angelic voice as well and the combination with her operatic pull outs works remarkably well here. ANCIENT BARDS gives us some power metal, that you can expect from an Italian band. The neo-classical parts, that pop up in the instrumental section are well-known in the busy sounding power metal of this band. “The Birth Of Evil” is a real highlight on this third lot of female-fronted bands. Front lady of these Italian metal heads is Sara Squadrani. SCEAU DE L’ANGE has a nice underground sound with their rendition “Phémonène”, which has some exciting speed changes. Céline Wallois handles the vocals in this song, which caught my attention right away because of the good instrumentation. The progressive sidesteps in this heavy metal tune turned it into something special for me. The male grunts are too much to handle, but I forgive them this time. A nice surprise, this SCEAU DE L’ANGE. VIOLET SUN hails from Italy and on this compilation they are “Falling In Love”. Alessandra Amata has a nice voice to listen to and I can predict some radio airplay for a song like that. It sounds easy to listen to and has a joyful sound. Maybe it’s a bit commercial at times, but the guitar and saxophone parts make sure, that this band has got more up its sleeve than just another commercial tune. The instrumental part turns it into an exciting prog event and makes it a true highlight for me. THE VEIL adds “Voodoom”, which is more or less electro metal. The band is a cooperation between French and English band members. Jensara Swann is the female voice of this dark sounding electro gothic band. DXS from France presents us “Amnesia”, a progressive metal song with brutal male vocals next to the female voice of Aliénor. The instrumental mid-piece and the speed changes turn this song into something special. I’d really expected more input from Dutch bands on this compilation, after all we have so much talent walking around in our country. A NEW DAWN is a good choice and they are captured here with “Final Verdict”. The band is very well-known for using two different female singers, next to a male grunter. The female input comes from Jamila Ifzaren and Alysia van Horik on this powerful track. The speed changes in this lengthy track are simply amazing and so are the heavy guitar parts. Therefore this song became another highlight on this compilation. DESPAIR HATE from France takes away in the fifth gear with “Retribution Day”. A fast brutal song with male grunts next to the female operatic voice of Nyx Black. PYTHIA from England closes this compilation with “Tristan” in a very powerful way. Emily Alice Ovenden is the lead singer of this band and they sound quite okay. This compilation is a very good overview of what’s going on in the female-fronted metal scene. You will discover many bands after hearing all the sixty tracks on this compilation set. Not every band plays at the same level and in some cases you'll ask yourself if the band is really suitable enough to be here at all. But at least a whole range of various music styles are covered here and a lot of bands can be discovered on this “World Of Glass” compilation. Very well done! More info about this compilation, go to: http://worldofglasspromotions.blogspot.com [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VARIOUS ARTISTS-Take It Or Leave It – A Tribute To The Queens Of Noise (Main Man Records)
There were some essential records releases according to the record companies all over the world. The new DREAM THEATER album with Mike Mangini on drums instead of Mike Portnoy or METALLICA joined by nobody else but LOU REED for a full-length album. Albums that were talked about for hours and hours by thousands of fans. Well, this album can be put on this list as well. There was a fuss about the album for a while, not by the fans, but the man who released this stuff was even taken to court by Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, because these two former RUNAWAYS members wanted to prevent him from releasing it at all. Lawsuits followed and the good news is, but this is only my own opinion, that these ex-RUNAWAYS members lost the case. The CD came out legally and if you take a good look at the CD, you can only come to one conclusion: this is all done for the love of the music of THE RUNAWAYS. It is done with so much class and style and in such good way, that it is a treat to have a look at the whole package and to listen to all these RUNAWAYS classics. The most strange thing about it all however is, that Cherie Currie wanted to forbid the record company to release it, but she is also contributing to this release?! What the hell is going on here?!? But let’s not argue too much about whether this album should be released or not. Let’s focus on the music, that is on this double CD, which contains thirty-six tribute songs on two silver disc, plus four extra tracks on the bonus disc. Put your glitters on, your high heeled boots and go crazy to the music of the queens of noise, as performed by different artist with very various backgrounds. Take it or leave it, this train is about to run, when you push the ‘play’ button on your stereo. Rodney Bingenheimer introduces the CD with a short spoken intro and then the show gets started by one of my favorites already. THE DONNAS crank out their version of “Queens Of Noise”, which comes very close to the original version of this classic. I’ve compared THE DONNAS with THE RUNAWAYS many times and here they show us that they are capable of putting down the sound of this legendary all-female metal band very well. THE DONNAS consist of Brett Anderson on vocals, Allisson Robertson on guitar and vocals, Maya Ford on bass and vocals and Amy Cesaric on drums. http://www.thedonnas.com. SHONEN KNIFE from Japan are on next with “Black Leather”. Obviously, these are not just the most ridiculous amateur bands. Instead they have chosen quite some names to impress the fans in the best way possible. The line-up for SHONEN KNIFE is Naoko on vocals and guitar, Ritsuko on bass and vocals, Emi on drums and vocals. http://www.shonenknife.net. THE BINGES added their version of “I Love Playing With Fire” to this compilation with a more punk version of this song. THE BINGES are Mayuko Okai on guitar, Tsuzumi Okai on bass, Dylan Squatcho on vocals and Jason Ganberg on drums. http://www.thebinges.com. BEBE BUELL BAND is on next with “Heartbeat”. BEBE BUELL is a well-known groupie, who got through a career move and became a singer in a band. She is also the mother of Liv Tyler, who we may know from “The Lord Of The Rings” movies and of course as the daughter of Steven Tyler, the frontman of AEROSMITH. Her sensual voice suits this track very well. Bebe’s band consists of Bebe Buell on vocals, Zac Lasher on keyboards, Pete Marshall on bass and rhythm guitar, Bobbie Rae on drums and Jimmy Walls on guitars. http://www.bebebuell.org. In between the songs, there is some room for original sound recordings taken from interviews with the band members, like Sandy West and Lita Ford about the origin of THE RUNAWAYS. Short but nice. DEENA & THE LAUGHING BOYS may not be too well-known, but they put down a nice version of “Lovers”. It gives the album a bit more variation. Sometimes, the vocals of Deena Shaskles come close to the early BLONDIE sound. Besides Deena, the band consists of David Anthony on drums, Tom Lucas on guitar and Ed Iglewski on bass. Deena also plays some guitar in the band. http://www.deenashakles.com. FRANKENSTEIN 3000 (what’s in a name?) play “California Paradise” in a way, that only GARY GLITTER would have played it. So with shouting ‘hey hey’, hand clapping all the way through and a big drum beat starting the song. We hear Keith Roth on vocals, Chris Gascoyne on drums, Eric Hoagland on drums and Tommy Tafaro on guitar. http://www.frankenstein3000.com. Lita Ford talks about joining THE RUNAWAYS in the next short break, before the DELIRIUM TREMENS take off to get “Wasted”. They play a nice raunchy, punk version in the early RAMONES tradition. Get wasted too with Carey Goldstein on vocals, Jerry Veneman (the friend of Sandy West) on drums and vocals, Ted Veneman on guitar and vocals and Dirk Dierking on bass and vocals. http://www.deliriumtremenssgv.com. Richie Scarlett is on next with a true metal version of the CHIP TAYLOR classic “Wild Thing”. Richie is well-known for his work with guitar gods like Ace Frehley and Leslie West, but here he plays with his own band consisting of Richie on vocals and guitar of course and Russ Wilson on drums and Tarik on bass. Of course you can hear back the influence of ‘Spacey Ace’ in the guitar solo. http://www.myspace.com/primetimestudiosny. BLUE FOX continues with “Neon Angels On The Road To Ruin”, which is dedicated to Lita Ford. This is the band, that Sandy West joined after she left THE RUNAWAYS. However, on this song Sandy doesn’t play herself. On the second song added to this compilation, Sandy is behind the drum kit. This song contains the well-known drum part of Sandy, performed by drummer Jessica and the band stays close to the original version. BLUE FOX consists of Katie V on bass, Jessica on drums and Rose on lead guitar. http://www.bluefoxband.com. After that, Cherie Currie talks briefly about her joining the RUNAWAYS. All these short breaks only last about thirty seconds or so. THE EASY OUTS (FEATURING GAR FRANCIS) come with “Is It Day Or Night”. Apparently, you don’t have to have a female member in your line-up to love the music of THE RUNAWAYS. THE EASY OUTS consist of Gar Francis on lead guitar, Bruce Ferguson on vocals, Tony Prochilo on bass, Rocco Scavone on drums and Kurt Reil on organ an background vocals. http://www.theeasyouts.com. LAURA WARSHAUER is a singer/ songwriter, who sounds very similar to Stevie Nicks (FLEETWOOD MAC). “Little Lost Girls” is her pick and it sounds like a refreshing version with some touches of LED ZEPPELIN here and there. Laura is accompanied by Steve Bonacci on bass, Rob Whited on drums, Bobby Lee Parker on guitars and with special guest appearances of Kenny Aronoff on percussion and Sy Smith and Laura Jane Jones on backing vocals. WHITE FLAG plays “C’Mon”. Their name didn’t ring a bell at first, but looking at the names of the bandmembers you can almost say that this is STARZ playing under another name. STARZ however is also to be found on this compilation. The guitar solo is breathtaking, by the way. The line-up of WHITE FLAG consists of Michael Lee Smith on vocals, Pat Fear on guitar, Mike Mess on bass and rhythm guitar, Lloyd Doheny on bass, Richie Ranno on lead guitar, Jim ‘Laspesa’ Tilgiant on percussion and guitar and Meagan Love on drums. Jackie Fox, my favorite RUNAWAYS member, tells how she joined the band in the break, before we hear the CALI GIRAFFES with “You’re Too Possessive”. The band consists of Kim Warnick on vocals, Mikey Davis on guitar, Lauren V on guitar, Tommy Tafaro on guitar, Keith Roth on bass and Clint Gascoyne on drums. The band sounds a bit more punk or the Riot Grrrl type of style in this track. TARA ELLIOTT & THE RED VELVETS give their best shot at “You Drive Me Wild”, which was the very first song that Joan Jett ever wrote, so the line notes tell us. Tara Elliot plays guitar and sings, Jeff Philips (who is also known as Ze Mighty Jeffers) plays guitar and bass, while Lisa Lewis beats the drums. They really rock it out here with a slightly rockabilly background. The next break comes from Lita, who shortly talks about some very famous early day fans of the band, namely Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of LED ZEPPELIN. “Thunder” is the choice of PLANET SORROW, that has some awesome guitar work. The band is Samantha Slick on vocals and rhythm guitar, Johny Dey on guitar, Paulie Krason on bass, Jeff ‘King Of The Bop’ Rokosz on drums and Lauren V on backing vocals. ROBBIE RIST are on next with “Yesterday’s Kids”, which deserves a wild and rocking version. http://www.facebook.com/robbie.rist. Joan talks about THE RUNAWAYS legacy after this, before SERPENTEENS give their best shot at “Little Sister”. They rock very loud and I like this version a lot. SERPENTEENS consist of George Grant on vocals, Frank Morin on guitar and bass and Glenn Sorino on drums. ADOLESCENTS add their contribution of “School Days” here, played in their very own punk style of course. Responsible for this trip down memory lane are Tony Reflex on vocals, Steve Soto on bass, Mike McKnight on guitar and Armand Del Rio on drums. Then Sandy talks about her new band BLUE FOX (actually putting the names of the two former bass players of the band together). It’s also a good introduction to the last contribution on this first CD with BLUE FOX FEATURING SANDY WEST and their song “Dirty Magazines”. Sandy West takes care of the lead vocals and drums, Lauren V plays guitar and sings background vocals, Katie V plays bass and Phil Caivano plays the outro guitar solo. Dan Ross plays the keyboards on this track. With this information, the first CD comes to an end after about sixty-five minutes. We now switch over to the second CD in this package with another sixty-five brilliant minutes of RUNAWAYS songs, introduced by the band itself this time. THE DANDY WARHOLS are really something else and they have the real honor to play “Cherry Bomb”, which is probably one of the most well-known RUNAWAYS tracks ever. http://www.dandywarhols.com. This is followed by Carol Miller’s RUNAWAYS CBGB’s radio spot. RICHARD BARONE plays “Hollywood” and his band line-up consists of many people that we’ve already heard on this compilation. We have Richard Barone on vocals, Keith Roth on guitar, Tommy Tafaro on guitar, Kenny Aaronson on bass and Clint Gascoyne on drums. http://www.richardbarone.com. Sandy and Joan comment shortly on “Saturday Night Special” and then the song is actually played by CARE BEARS ON FIRE with special guest EARL SLICK. We have Sophie on vocals and guitar, Jena on bass and background vocals, Izzy on drums and special guest Earl Slick (DAVID BOWIE, JOHN LENNON) on guitars. http://www.carebearsonfire.com. DERWOOD ANDREWS really sounds like the odd one out here doing his version of “Gotta Get Out Tonight”. http://www.myspace.com/derwoodandrews. Meg Griffin tells her piece of the whole story by recalling the days at CBGB’s. David Johansen cranks out “Blackmail”, a song that fits the old singer of the NEW YORK DOLLS very well. His band consists of David Johansen on vocals and harmonica, Keith Roth on guitar, Tommy Tafaro on guitar, Earl Slick on guitar, Erik Hoagland on bass and Clint Gascoyne on drums. Of course the guitars cry out loud on this one. What a nice combination this would have been with the RUNAWAYS! http://www.nydolls.org. THE RIBEYE BROTHERS come with “Trash Can Murders”. The band consists of Tim Cronin on vocals, Jon Kleinman on guitar, Brent Sisk on guitar, Joe Calandra on bass and Chris McKenna on drums. They play a more rockabilly kind of style, but this shows the diversity of various music styles on this compilation. Two shorties follow. First we hear a radio spot of THE RAMONES and THE RUNAWAYS touring at the Tuff Darts Capitol Theater and after that Joey Ramone talks about touring with THE RUNAWAYS and his adoration for Cherie. DIGGER PHELPS sings the LOU REED penned “Rock & Roll”. Didn’t we hear his name before in this review? The band consists of Charlie Woodley on vocals and guitar, Michael martin on guitar, Clint Gascoyne on drums and Brian Dougherty on bass. http://www.diggerphelps.net. If you want to make a toilet stop in between these songs, you must run before the TOILET BOYS start their version of “Born To Be Bad”. These guys give their best shot during this classic, but it sounds more modest than the original version in my opinion. The guitar cries out loud though in this semi sentimental rocker. The TOILET BOYS consist of Miss Guy on vocals, Eddie O’ Dowd on drums, Adam Cardone on bass and vocals, Sean Piece on guitar and vocals and Matt Katz Bohen on guitar and keyboards. Lita Ford briefly gives her comment about being a woman in the rock scene. Then it is time for THE SWALES with “Midnight Music”. Another odd one out version, that sounds so different without the groove. This twosome consists of Bob Carr on vocals and Mark Moran on guitar, bass, drums and tambourine (hopefully, not all at the same time). http://www.theswales.com. FRANKENSTEIN 3000 FEATURING CHERIE CURRIE tear the place apart with “American Nights”. The song has got an even better drive and sounds much more powerful. This rocks the house, that’s for sure. Cherie reveals the band’s arrival in Japan and how Lita almost lost all her hair, because the fans just pulled it out of her head. F-13 is a mix of members of BLUE FOX and DELIRIUM TREMENS and they do a fast version of “I Wanna Be Where The Boys Are”. The band contains Lauren V on vocals and guitar, Ted V on guitar and backing vocals, Katie V on bass and backing vocals and Jerry V on drums and backing vocals. The whole Veneman family rocks out on this one, as you can see. http://www.facebook.com/SandyWestTheBeatGoesOn/30957101633. THE STAY AT HOMES are “Getting’ Hot” on this compilation. The guitar solo in this song definitely is! This all-female RUNAWAYS tribute band consists of Mony Falcone on bass and backing vocals, Heidi Lieb on guitar, Linda Pitmon on drums, Jill Richmond on rhythm guitar and Tammy Faye Starlite on vocals. Lita Ford introduces herself on a radio spot and after that things get rather heavy with the KITTIE version of “Fantasies”. Morgan Lander on vocals and guitar, Mercedes Lander on drums, Tara McLeod on guitar and Ivana ‘Ivy’ Vujic on bass show us that the 2011 interpretation of this RUNAWAYS classics can sound rather heavy, including some death like grunts and screams. It’s really great, that they dare to give their vision and try something completely different, instead of staying very close to the original version. Both thumbs up for KITTIE. http://www.kittierocks.com. STARZ plays “Waiting For The Night”. No need to introduce this great hard rock band to you. It’s a very big surprise indeed, that they are on this compilation at all. Their sound reminded me of URIAH HEEP (“The Wizard” era) in a way... Great stuff! Joan Jett comments on a RUNAWAYS reunion…….and whatever she quotes here, I can tell you that it will never happen! The ultimate reunion just can’t happen without Sandy West on drums, all the rest would be fake, in my opinion. JACK BRAG is on the album to play their version of “Secrets”, although in a slightly different approach. We hear Jim Robertazzi on vocals and piano, Jay Varga on cello, Rich Fereira on guitar, Bill Quinn on drums and Tony Donato on bass. http://www.jackbrag.com. CLINICAL TRAILS are on next and they do “Don’t Go Away”, which sounds a little more alternative than the original version. We hear Cici Harrison on drums and Somer Bingham on guitar and vocals. Cherie and Sandy then give some comments about the very best RUNAWAYS song ever “Dead End Justice”, which is actually two songs in one. This very song is the piece the resistance on this compilation, performed by KATHLEEN HANNA AND PEACHES. This band consists of Kathleen Hanna on vocals, Peaches on vocals, Lauren V on guitar, Keith Roth on guitar, Tommy Tafaro on guitar, Clint Gascoyne on drums, Katie V on bass. I think, this is a ridiculous bad version and leaves no respect to the wonderful original version. A disco beat is raping the whole thing. While the original song gets you in ecstasy of what is about to happen, this is only making you laugh (or cry) about the amateurish way, that they kill this song. It’s a damn shame, that they haven’t been able to find another band to do a good version for this great song. This sucks big time, miss Hanna!! Nonetheless, this is a very well put together compilation and tribute to the Queens Of Noise, THE RUNAWAYS. But if you think that after another sixty-five minutes the game is over, you are ever so wrong. I must admit, before I go on that the first CD is much better than the slightly more alternative sounding second CD. The liner notes are good, the music is good and it is all done with great respect to the band. Last but not least, you also get a free poster and a guitar pick with the text ‘Queens Of Noise, Take It Or Leave It’, when you buy this compilation. Main Man Records will even donate a portion of the proceeds to the American Institute For Cancer Research. So I just don’t understand what all the fuzz was about and I hope that everybody sees what a great idea it was to release this album in the first place. Now we continue with a four track bonus CD, which is a special download bonus disc. It contains another eighteen minutes of RUNAWAYS songs starting with THE STREETWALKING CHEETAHS FEATURING CHERIE CURRIE doing “Cherry Bomb”. Many people may know this version already, but it makes no difference and it is a nice addition to this fine compilation in my opinion. It was released on a seven incher in 1998 and re-released in 2003 on their “Maximum Overdrive” CD. Check it out, if you don’t know it yet. The band consists here of Cherie Currie on vocals, Frank Meyer on guitar and vocals, Art Jackson on guitars, Dino Everett on bass and Mike Knutson on drums. http://www.myspace.com/thestreetwalkingcheetahs. THE PARKWAY CHARLIES give a chill version of “Johnny Guitar”, a song that I missed already on the two CD compilation. The band consists of Michael Carlucci on guitar, Matt Davis on guitar and vocals, Aviva Patz on vocals, Billy Donohue on keyboards, Racine Romaguera on bass, Matt Friedlander on guitar and vocals and Ken Meyer on rhythm things, as they like to call it. A freaky, weird version, but definitely not bad at all. Then again comes a ‘karaoke version’ of “Dead End Justice” by BLUE FRANKENFOX 3000, a combination of members of BLUE FOX and FRANKENSTEIN 3000 consisting of Lauren V on guitar, Katie V on bass, Keith Roth on guitar, Tommy Tafaro on guitar and Clint Gascoyne on drums. Now this version comes a bit closer to what I had in mind, instead of that disgusting version, that Kathleen Hanna provided earlier. No vocals on this one, that’s fine and you can fill in the gaps yourself together with your best (girl)friend. The last song on this four tracker comes from WHITE FLAG, who do “Runaway Christmas” which is actually not a RUNAWAYS song but a tribute to the RUNAWAYS on this great tribute compilation. WHITE FLAG consists of Pat Fear on guitar and bass, Kim Crimson on vocals, Doug Graves on bass and vocals, Roy ‘Penguin Sniffles Tattoo’ McDonald on drums and Joe ‘Skeletor’ Alfaro on guitar. This song rounds it all up. I’m truly glad, that this CD has seen the light of day (lol) and I hope that many people think the same way as I do. On the enhanced CD, you will find a nice link with video contents, that will make you enjoy this even more than you already did. A compilation / tribute CD, that is put together with so much love and dignity simply deserves the full score in my eyes and that is what they get from me. Website: http://www.mainmanrecords.com/MMR040.html [10 points- FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

VISIONS OF ATLANTIS-Delta (Napalm Records)
VISIONS OF ATLANTIS is a safe buy, when you are into the well-known gothic metal sound in the best NIGHTWISH (old style) and WITHIN TEMPTATION (old style) tradition. The two bands mentioned here can be seen as an influence of this Austrian metal band, that slowly changed their style over the years. Sometimes because of line-up changes and at other times because of musical development. However, VISIONS OF ATLANTIS always stayed true to their music style and prove is given on CD opener “Black River Delta”. Pompous, bombastic orchestration, soprano like vocals, heavy riffs, which creates a gothic atmosphere. In “Memento”, the male vocals of Mario Plank are more up front in the mix, but I must admit that I like the voice of Maxi Nil a lot better. “New Dawn” opens with some string arrangements and turns out to be a nice, catchy tune. Besides Maxi and Mario, the band consists of Werner Fiedler on guitar, Mario Lochert on bass, Thomas Caser drums and Martin Harb on keyboards. In the meantime, we have arrived at the next track, which is called “Where Daylight Falls”, where Mario is doing a lot of the lead vocals. Again, we are dealing with a fast but safe gothic metal song. “Conquest Of Others” starts with some firing guns and a heavy bombastic orchestral sound lurking in the background. Mario takes the lead once again, but in this song his voice shows up well and it matches better with the darker sound here. Werner’s solo is fast and melodic, while Maxi’s task is limited to some background singing. The marching soldiers at the end of the song turn it into something special. It all sounds a bit ominous. In the next song, it appears if the cannonballs of destruction are still falling from the sky, but this is the thunderous opening sound of “Twist Of Fate”, which is another catchy tune for all the people who are still fan of the more old school gothic metal style. “Elegy Of Existence” opens the same way, but there is a lot more brutality in this song and therefore it sounds much better to my ears. Not only the brutality, but also Werner’s guitar solo even knows to put a smile on my face. “Reflection” is a ballad type of song with Maxi in the spotlight, next to Werner who takes care of the sensitive guitar solo. “Sonar” continues… It’s a short instrumental track, that can be seen as the intro to the last song on this ten track, forty-five minute album. It’s called “Gravitate Towards Fatality”. And again it sounds really exciting, if you like the big sound that bands like NIGHTWISH and WITHIN TEMPTATION presented in their heydays. “Delta” is a good album and a safe buy for the long term fans of VISIONS OF ATLANTIS. Maybe if they start digging really deep, they may find some leftovers of Atlantis here in the Black River Delta. You can always hope for that. Website: http://www.visionsofatlantis.com/ [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WITHIN TEMPTATION-The Unforgiving (Sony Music)
WITHIN TEMPTATION never let us down. This new album however marks a big change in many ways. The artwork, the sound of the band and the way they look is so much different than what we are used to of this band. At least, that is what I read, before I even heard one single note of the new album. The CD artwork is indeed very different yet refreshing. But after all this is a concept album, that is based upon the comic book “Blood Rayne & Dark 48” by Steve O’ Connell. The way the band looks is so ‘uncool’, that I don’t even want to talk about that. What scares me the most is, that they’re about to walk the more poppy side of the rocky road. The new album contains twelve tracks and runs about fifty-five minutes. It opens with a short spoken word part, before “Shot In The Dark” leaves the speakers. Maybe it sounds a bit poppy, although I wouldn’t call this a radical change. Sharon’s vocals are still very recognizable, the guitar riffs are loud, while the bombastic sound has gone. “In The Middle Of The Night” is on next, which contains the bombastic orchestrations, choir vocals and an up tempo beat. All in all, the sound of the band hasn’t changed that much after all. And to be quite honest with you, I really don’t care what the band looks like. I only care about the music and what the album artwork is about. Everything else doesn’t matter. “Faster” is already a very well-known song, because it was played on the radio many times these past few months. Obviously, nothing really changed and the music of WITHIN TEMPTATION remained as popular as ever. The only change is, that they look more modest now and got rid of their gothic image. “Fire And Ice” is the first break, that the band takes. The soft voice of Sharon and the sound of a keyboard introduces the song. Gradually, the song gains more power, but it still remains very sober in contrast to what we’ve heard on this album so far. However, “Iron” (like the title predicts already!) is a more speedy and heavy track with many powerful elements. “Where Is The Edge” is a ballad type of song with some powerful elements and a more sensitive sounding Sharon. “Sinéad” is one of the singles taken from the album and once again there’s a lot of power in this song. It may sound less pompous and it’s more danceable in a way, but it’s still highly enjoyable in my opinion. “Lost” starts off more sensitive, but when the band loosens up, they show us that they still know how to rock. The guitars cry and you can definitely call this a true highlight. “Murder” is on next, which sounds a bit darker. “A Demon’s Fate” is definitely ready to rock your world and a nice up tempo song, that will do very well in a live situation. “Stairway To The Skies” is a duet with the British singer Chris Jones. This song could very well be the blueprint of things to come. Well at least in my point of view. It’s the least metal track on this album. Now that I finally have the chance to review this album, something strange happened. The news has reached us, that Robert Westerholt, guitarist and partner of Sharon, is leaving the band to help to raise the children and become a house dad. In my eyes he has always been the person, who put more power in the band’s sound. His place is taken over by Stefan Helleblad. Only time will tell, if this will have any effect on the band’s musical direction. In the meantime, I am glad that this album didn’t bring the radical change, that I was so afraid of. In fact, the band sounds very fresh to me and I can only reward this with a high rating. By the way, the package that I have also contains a DVD with music videos, short films, the making of and the prequel of “The Unforgiving”. It makes this package even more complete and turns it into a must have to all long term fans of WITHIN TEMPTATION. Don’t be afraid, this is a safe buy, if you already liked this band. Website: http://www.withintemptation.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WOLVESPIRIT-Spirit Metal (Sleaszy Rider Records)
WOLVESPIRIT is a very well chosen name, if I have to give my opinion. “Spirit Metal” is another well-chosen title. Music has to come from your heart or the spirit. Music is also food for the mind, body and soul, at least when you are a real music fan. This band hails from Germany and if there is one country on earth, where heavy metal is still very alive and kicking, it sure is Germany. There is still room for this type of music and people don’t look weird, when a heavy metal band has entered the local charts, while this is almost impossible in Holland. The album “Spirit Metal” contains nine tracks and spits out true metal for forty-five minutes. Opener “Change” has a lot of power and it also contains a touch of retro sound. Oli on the Hammond takes care of the retro part, whereas female vocalist Deborah knows how to touch me with her siren. The song is a good mix between WARLORD, PEGAZUS, ZED YAGO and DEEP PURPLE and has a high content of headbanging. “Hero” starts with a SAXON type of sound in the opening riffs. This and the pumping beat gives you a really good feeling, if you like the old school metal sound. Deborah’s voice sounds very similar to Jutta Weinhold’s (ZED YAGO, WEINHOLD), which she can take as a huge compliment. While Oli’s keyboard sound comes very close to the majestic Jon Lord and I guess, that’s another great compliment. The guitar is being handled by Rio and he also deserves all the credit for the excellent string bending that he does in this song. Andy and Wolf take care of the rhythm section, the bass and the drums. The songs follow one another in one smooth flow, so there are no real breaks in between. “Ride On” is what these rockers do and I’m totally in their flow, when I hear this song. Again the spirit of SAXON wanders around in the riffs of this headshaker. The song ends in a strange way, but who cares? “Wolves Of Wooden” contains some wild growls by Deborah, before the instrumental break comes up that is dominated by wild keyboard moves. Guitarist Rio gets his share in the next track, which is called “Night Of The Wolve”, that will invite you to bang your head. Things are seriously changing in the next song. “Light And Shadows” contains some grunts and more brutal parts. Deborah’s voice is still impressive, but the male grunter doesn’t really fit to the music, that I heard so far. Fortunately, that was it and the band returns to their old style in “Dune”. I hear some foot stomping rock of an excellent quality. This is followed by “Release”, which contains some cool guitar work of Rio. This song gives you the feeling of unity. The feeling that we all stand proud for together against the rest of the world. The ballad “Home” closes the album in style. It comes close to DEEP PURPLE’s “When A Blind Man Cries”, although that song remains untouchable for me. The band already played at a festival in Cyprus with SABATON and STRATOVARIUS, and I do believe, that they play some very strong trumps on this album. I also hope, that they don’t go and lean too much towards the more brutal sound, that I heard in one of their songs, because this would easily make me lose my interest in the band. WOLVESPIRIT is definitely worth checking out, if you like the sound of the bands that I mentioned earlier in this review. Würzburg could be proud of WOLVESPIRIT, for they created a excellent album with “Spirit Metal”. May the spirits guide you and buy this album. They know why. Website: http://www.wolvespirit.de/ [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CRUCIFIXION-War Against Christian Souls (EP) (independent)
Do you want your music to sound a bit more extreme, then you just have to listen to this three track EP by Brazilian black metal band CRUCIFIXION. The three songs will shred the wall paper from your bedroom. “Eternal Judgement” opens with some wild screams and fast riffs. Already in the beginning of this song, the bass guitar plunders in a way that Steve Harris of IRON MAIDEN would have done it. It’s not all about brutality here. CRUCIFIXION continues where ARCH ENEMY left off and they would make the guys in SEPULTURA look pale. Although the name of the band is derived from a SEPULTURA song. Wild screams, raunchy riffs and death growls are the basic ingredients in this song, but they also put some fine classy moments in this very powerful opener. “Crucifixion” is on next and you can say, that this is what the band is all about. An extreme metal attack leaving nothing to be desired. I really like these moments, when they leave the black metal sound behind. They also added a part in this bestial second song as well, which sounds very true metal. The last song on this EP has a title, that says it all. “Destroying The Fucking Disciples Of Christ” is not for housewives cleaning the dirty floor. This is for atheists and satanists and to make it sound even more black metal, I’ll tell you that I even heard some VENOM influences back in the beginning of this tune. It will make your world more black and turn the cross upside down. Man, what an extreme power they unleash in this one! Their first full-length album will possibly get this title. The final scream on this three tracker comes right out of the toes of Lord Grave War (Márcio Guterres). Besides him, the band consists of Bestial Blasphemy (Matheus Souza) on bass and Dark Moon (Juliana Novo) on drums. Only for true black metal fans, who like it brutal and very extreme. Website: http://www.crucifixion.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DESTROSE-Deathless Memories (EP) (Marianne Records)
DESTROSE is an all-female metal band from Japan. These three songs prove, that there is a whole lot of talent in Japan. We already know SHOW YA of course and in 2011, DESTROSE is definitely another band worth checking out. They play their metal a bit happier than SHOW YA, but these songs sure tell us, that we are dealing with five very talented ladies here. Opener “Deathless Memories” is the title track and they take away in the fourth gear here. You can’t categorize this as happy metal, but some influences are there alright. The second track sounds so much better, especially in the beginning. “Lifer” is really what I’d hoped for. Just listen to the great guitar work by Mina and you’ll know what I mean. DESTROSE is a name to remember and I hoped that this EP would have lasted longer. The third song however marks the end of this maxi single already. It is an instrumental track, called “Rose Of Destruction”, which is a good title in my opinion. Here, the band shows what they are capable of (which is a lot) and I must say, that I liked every single note that I heard in this song. DESTROSE consists of Mary on vocals, Mina on guitar, Saki on guitar, Ami on guitar and Emi on drums. On this mini album, they give you a great pre-taste of the things that may come in the near future, when you release their first full-length album. I can’t wait to check it out. Website: http://www.myspace.com/destrosedestrose. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DIARY OF DESTRUCTION-Outside The Shade (EP) (independent)
DIARY OF DESTRUCTION hails from Lille in France and can be categorized as melodic metal with gothic edges. Their six track EP will make your blood run faster, because of the enormous adrenaline boost that you get, when hearing these tracks, running for twenty-five minutes here. The only disappointment on this six tracker is the intro. Title track “Outside The Shade” will definitely mislead people of what DIARY OF DESTRUCTION is really about. But when I heard the powerful beats and groovy riffs and especially the beautiful voice of vocalist Ebrotie, I knew that this is very suitable for Metal Maidens. Sure, the band takes some gothic sidesteps as well, but their melodic metal sounds quite groovy and could be considered really powerful. Same goes for “Men Blunder (new edit)”, which also grooves and contains a lot of powerful riffs. Topped by the vocals of Audrey Ebrotie, they remind me of WITHIN TEMPTATION, which the band can take as a huge compliment. Here and there a grunt pops up, but it doesn’t sound disturbing or dominate the normal vocals in this track. “Storm” starts with the storming, raunchy guitar parts of Anthony Dutilleul. Ebrotie’s vocals are again really beautiful. They have a wonderful singer in her, who has a very warm vocal sound, which matches very well with the melodic sound of the band. At the end of the storm you’ll hear the sound of rain and thunder for a moment, which is very well extrapolating the atmosphere here. A highlight for me on this CD, that’s for sure. “Unbreakable” is on next and the band members get more room to spread their wings. Besides the beautiful dark skinned front lady Audrey Ebrotie, there’s another metal maiden in the band on bass guitar. Berengere Bulckaen plays in the rhythm section, together with her colleague Johan Debacq on drums. In “The Other Side”, the grunter pops up again and Audrey shows that she’s also capable of using a soprano voice. Which actually doesn’t give this song a more melodic face though, because she uses her soprano voice in the most exciting and fast parts of the song. DIARY OF DESTRUCTION is powerful, dynamic and exciting and they are very much worth checking out, in case you don’t know them yet. Wrestle yourself through the intro, and a world of beautiful, breathtaking melodic metal songs are there for you to be explored. Website: http://www.diaryofdestruction.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SHIELD OF WINGS-Solarium (EP) (independent)
If you fancy melodic metal with a symphonic undertone, but enough power to overgrow the gothic metal bulk that hits the scene, then don’t look any further and have a good listen to this six track album by SHIELD OF WINGS. The symphonic parts come from the instrumentation, whereas the overall sound gives the band its melodic face. “Essence And The Moon” captures both faces in five minutes. I am glad, that no grunts showed up in this song, which you may expect when hearing the haunting rhythm that the band blasts out in this first track. The symphonic aspect leaves no room for grunts, lucky enough. What remains is the nice vocal sound of Grace Meridan, front lady of this band. At first, the band consisted of all males and had the aggressive vocals that I expected to find in this first track. Since 2008 however, the band is fronted by a good looking lady, and now they deserve our attention because of this line-up change. Title track “Solarium” is on next. Maybe the instrumentation is a bit sober here and straight forward, but Grace proves to be a good singer, who takes this song up to a higher level for me. “War And Rapture” is the longest track of these six songs presented here. It starts with the sound of weapons and a haunting drum beat. An icely cold scream introduces us to this power metal like epic metal track, topped by male vocals. I guess, that this is the sound that the band played before Grace joined. Later on, Grace’s voice is mixes with the heavy male grunting and screaming vocals. The epic metal track sounds outstanding with a very atmospheric piano and acoustic guitar outro as finishing touch. A true winner for me. “Malady” continues with a Celtic and folk type of intro. A hard rocking song with influences from WITHIN TEMPTATION and EPICA slowly unfolds itself, which has lots of room for the shredding guitar riffs, while the keyboards make sure that the melodic background does not disappear despite the powerful riffs that are used. “Threshold” is a short instrumental interlude, that can be seen as a short bridge to the last song on this six track EP, which is called “Carnival Mirror”. It soon became the highlight on this EP for me. The haunting beat, the powerful expressions and the dynamic drive sounds very exciting. I think, that SHIELD OF WINGS can get very far, if they keep on making great songs like that. Fans of EPICA and WITHIN TEMPTATION really have to check this one out. Besides the stunning voice and great looks of Grace Meridan on vocals, the band consists of Jeff Olsen on bass, Patrick Eulitz on drums, and James Gregor on guitar and vocals. Links: http://www.myspace.com/shieldofwingsrock or http://www.facebook.com/pages/Shield-of-Wings/122216464509802 [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

[Updated: Dec. 22, 2011]

-->MORE CD REVIEWS.......