CD REVIEWS


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


Autumn/Winter 2010:

ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN & AGUA DE ANNIQUE- Live In Europe (Jammm)
Anneke van Giersbergen can be seen as one of the most influential voices in the Dutch rock scene. Her shows with her solo outfit AGUA DE ANNIQUE are now captured on a live disc. The CD contains a set of thirteen songs, including a short intro and it plays for fifty minutes. Obviously, her solo material sounds so much lighter and dreamy than what she did with THE GATHERING and it’s much more accessible for the average music fan. It might even be suitable for radio airplay, if national radio wasn’t so difficult to reach. You can’t be on national radio, when you’re not selected by a jury from Idols or X-Factor (or whatever they’re called) or when you are not from Volendam or a close friend or neighbor of the local DJ. If you’ve got talent to write a good song and you have a great voice, than you can really forget about it. Or if you’re very lucky, sometimes a DJ will play your music between two and three in the morning, when everybody is asleep. But let’s go back to this review, before I start rambling on and on about this rather delicate subject. Anneke’s voice sounds very emotional and fragile at times, while at other times she sounds very happy and dreamy. However, her voice is always highly enjoyable and the songs are very easy on the ears. Just listen to “Who I Am” to get an idea of what I’m talking about. This specific song was written together with Devin Townsend, by the way. “Day After Yesterday” sounds more like the Anneke, that we know so well. Melancholic yet a bit emotional, but always very beautiful. “Hey Okay!” is a happy love tune, while “Fury” sounds quite powerful comparing to the other material on this nice live disc, that was recorded in Spain and France. “Beautiful One” is on next, which gives you the best of Anneke’s voice: soft, gentle and emotional and later on very powerful with some longer pull outs. While “Witnesses” grabs back to her experimental days. It sounds a bit different than the rest, but it fits very nicely between all the other songs. If you just want to have a good time, please sit down, relax and enjoy some of the nice music on this live registration. I’m sure this might be the album, that you’re looking for. Even if the voice of Anneke doesn’t particularly pleases you, you will get in the mood in no time, whether you like it or not. “Live In Europe” is ready for consumption every hour of the day and to every music fan. The beautiful picture on the front cover is the finishing touch of it all. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ALHAMBRA-Solitude (independent)
When you listen to the introduction tune by this Japanese power metal band, you wouldn’t expect the heavy explosion, that you are about to witness in the next song. “Far Away A Spring Wind” is a short, classical and instrumental opener. While “Earnest” is a fast, heavy, power metal track, that might appeal to the fans of STRATOVARIUS or YNGWIE J MALMSTEEN. Judging by the intro, you would rather expect a more NIGHTWISH-type of sound, but this full speed metal killer came as a very pleasant surprise to me. A fast galloping beat and some flashing guitar work is the biggest point of recognition here. “OO” (or “Double O” as it’s actually called) is next on this forty-five minute eight tracker. The organ has got a prominent role in this song. Title track “Solitude” opens with a drum beat, which sounds as if it comes straight from a computer. Later on, the song becomes a bit more energetic. The guitar solo sounds very emotional before it fades away softly and gentle at the end of the song. “Key To Wish” is a more uptempo rock song. It contains some jazzy parts, but later on the song gets a real rock treatment. You can also see it as a warm-up for a more metal approach in “Earth (Die Erde)”, that contains some heavy harmony vocals. The band is steaming at full force here. Just listen to the dynamic bass sound and the power they’ve put in this song. It’s definitely one of the highlights on this album for me. The final song I’m able to judge here is called “Orion (2010 version)”, since track 8 is missing here for unknown reasons… Anyway, the band is really at their best in “Orion”. It starts off real heavy and I think it will please the many rock fans out there as well. “Solitude” turned out to be a good album, if you’re into a STRATOVARIUS type of sound with Japanese female vocals upfront in the mix. The band consists of Junko Sera on vocals, Yuhki on keyboards, Toshihiro Kajihara on guitar, Hibiki on bass and Tetsuro on drums. Besides the beautiful Alhambra fortress in Andalusia, Spain, we’re also able to enjoy this third album of the Japanese ALHAMBRA, which will spare you a lot of travelling. Visit their website at http://www.alhambra.ws. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ALL ENDS-A Road To Depression (Nuclear Blast/PIAS)
If the financial situation in the world doesn’t bring you in a depression, the new CD by ALL ENDS will certainly lead the way. At least, that’s what the title of the album suggests here. This is the second CD by this Swedish rock band, who rock out louder than many other female-fronted gothic rock acts. You can tell by opener “Obvious” and yes, it’s that obvious…. “Generation Disgrace” reminds me of SHANIA TWAIN’s “I Feel Like A Woman”, except that it’s much wilder . It’s also groovy and very danceable. Just like “ I Know Who I Am”, which has a pumping beat and some groovy guitar riffs. The surprisingly catchy character of the songs easily guarantees a hit single or two on national radio. Think about a heavier version of ROXETTE to get an idea of what ALL ENDS is all about. Well, so far that is, because “I’m A Monster” starts out like a pop song. Luckily, this song also received that catchy treatment, once it really gets going. ALL ENDS has got two front ladies, which makes them stand out from any other female-fronted band out there. Throughout the years, they have shared the stage with the likes of APOLCALYPTICA, OOMPH!, AFTER FOREVER, FINNTROLL and EDGUY. Quite impressive names, if you’d ask me. In “Hear Me Now”, the band proves, that they are also capable of writing a good sensitive ballad. “Area 1 (Hope And Fear)” sees them returning to a more fast rocking sound, while “Don’t Be Scared” is another catchy mid-tempo song. “Nobody’s Story” starts with a piano part and changes the mood immediately. It sounds like a lullaby type of song, which would sound very nice on a long cold winter night. “Stupid People” sounds quite powerful, whereas “Wretch” is a bit more experimental, which makes it an outstanding track for me. The CD closes after forty-five minutes with title track “A Road To Depression”. I can only conclude, that this album will not bring you on a road to depression. On the contrary, it even might take your grief and sorrow away for a little while. Rock with a capitol R by a band, that once started out as a side project of IN FLAMES with both guitar players Jesper Strömblad and Björn Gelotte in its line-up. Nowadays, they are on their own without the help of these Swedish rock giants and for sure, they stand tall on both feet. ALL ENDS consists of Tinna Karlsdotter on vocals, Jonna Sailon on vocals, Fredrik Johansson on guitar, Peter ‘Texas’ Mårdklint on guitar, Anders Janfalk on bass and Joseph ‘Joey’ Skansås on drums. Please join them on their road to depression. Website: http://www.myspace.com/allends. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

AMBERIAN DAWN-End Of Eden (Spinefarm/V2)
Fans of powerful Finnish heavy metal can dig in without any hesitation as far as the new CD of AMBERIAN DAWN concerns. It sounds like I’m cutting corners here, but I really do believe that this band is slowly filling the gap, that NIGHTWISH left behind, when they fired Tarja Turunen. Although they found a new frontlady in Anette Olzon, they also changed their music style to a more pop sound. So, if you’re still into the old NIGHTWISH sound, you should really have a listen to “End Of Eden”. I’ll bet, that you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Just listen to opener “Talisman” and “Come Now Follow” and you’ll hear some catchy choruses, soprano vocals and fast guitar solos, reminding me of Swedish guitar wizard YNGWIE J MALMSTEEN. The bombastic orchestration makes this comparison complete. In “Arctica” the band still blasts at full speed, but they sound a bit darker here. Heidi Parviainen (formerly ICONOFEAR) is a name to remember, because her soprano voice is certainly a treat to your ears. Add to this the craftsmanship of the instrumentalist and you can easily categorize this song as a real highlight on this third album. In “Ghostly Echoes”, the band takes back some speed and they leave more space for the instrumental parts. The band consists of Tuomas Seppälä on keyboards and guitar, Kasperi Heikkinen on guitar, Kimmo Korhonen on guitar, Jukka Koskinen on bass and Heikki Saari on drums. Next song is called “Sampo”, which is also really easy on the ears. I think, this applies to almost every song on this album. You don’t have to be in one specific mood to like their music. It’s powerful and very well done. Just think about the success that NIGHTWISH had with their music, this could well be the success of AMBERIAN DAWN in the near future. “Blackbird” contains a few blast beats of the drummer, but the rest of the song stays well between the borders of their usual sound. “Field Of Serpents” has a lot in common with YNGWIE J MALMSTEEN’S RISING FORCE, which they can take as a big compliment. This could also be marked as another highlight for me. In “City Of Corruption”, there’s a lot of space for the keyboard sound of guest player Jens Johansson (RISING FORCE, DIO). “Virvatulen Laulu” asks for some special attention. It is a classical opera duet of Heidi with Markus Nieminen and another chapter in the history of “And Now For Something Completely Different”. From my own point of view, I don’t think you can do something like that on a metal album. On the other hand, even bands like MANOWAR record opera songs like “Nessun Dorma”, and get away with it. Times have been changing, you know. With the perspective of being a metal fan in the year 2010, I think that it’s very well done and fits in perfectly with the rest of the album. “War In Heaven” closes the album and has a slightly doomy sound. Heidi sings another duet with the original singer of the band, Peter James Goodman. This may sound different from what you would expect by AMBERIAN DAWN, but it definitely adds some variation to this great new album. An album, that is worthy of ten tracks and forty-five minutes of powerful symphonic metal. Website: http://www.amberiandawn.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ANGELIC TEARS-Angelic Tears (independent) (EP)
This EP release has six tracks on it. ANGELIC TEARS hails from Oklahoma in the US and their music could be called gothic metal with Eastern melodies and soundscapes. Just listen to “No More”, which includes some male vocals next to the female voice and the up tempo “Save Me”. “Dreams” doesn’t have the Eastern influences, that we heard so far, but the gothic elements remained. Besides a female vocalist, ANGELIC TEARS also has a female keyboard player in their ranks. “Dreams” however contains a nice guitar solo and it feels like the first real outstanding track to me. The total playing time of these six tracks is about twenty-two minutes. “Tomorrow Happens Now” sounds up tempo and we can also enjoy some nice guitar work in this short song. While “Darkness” has got the keyboards a bit more upfront in the mix, especially in the beginning of this song. “Chasing Eternity” closes this pleasant EP, that has some Russian (?) lyrics here and there. Not all of it, but some parts are definitely not English. Not that it is disturbing, on the contrary. In this case, it even gives the song a very mystical feeling, lifting it up to far above the average quality. The keyboards in the song give it a slightly romantic feeling. ANGELIC TEARS doesn’t invent anything new maybe, but they do things with a certain amount of class and style, which will certainly appeal to many gothic rock fans out there. To get the picture complete, I will add the line-up of this American band here. ANGELIC TEARS consists of Julia Flansburg on vocals, SteveBittle on guitar and vocals, Derek Teague on guitar, Glenn Flansburg on bass, John Kenerson on drums and Jennifer Corbin on keyboards. Website: http://www.angelictears.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARTEP-Thy Will Be Done On Earth As Is Done In Hell (Break Art Records)
Good day anti-christs, do you fancy some blasphemous black metal?!?? Here you have a load of ARTEP!! This brutal black metal attack will take you into the dark underworld. Where no one else dares to go, ARTEP has her crypt. This third album takes off where the previous one ended and takes it even further into exxxtremeness. The eight songs on this black metal masterpiece have a total playing time of about forty-five minutes. They start with an instrumental opener, called “ Burth Of The Antichrist”. Followed by “Anthichrist”, which proves that the fast demonic black metal sounds are even faster and the accompanied beats are haunting and brutal. The terrible screams during the intro of “Eruption” will follow you again and again, when having a nightmare. Someone is being crucified here for sure. You won’t sound happy, when four evil persons try to crucify you and this sound is carved into a silver disc for the first time. It will make the trees leafless for many years to come and it will make all color disappear from your once so happy life. So make sure, that you want to be exposed to the extreme outings of ARTEP, because they might change your life completely and irreversible. “Desolate Land” contains blast beats, as well as more symphonic organ parts. It shows that the band is also exploring their borders a bit. “Crossing The Acheron” sounds dark and atmosperic. “Armageddon” opens fast and suddenly switches into a more dark bombastic piece with a much slower sound. “Black War” opens with war sounds, artillery fire, marching soldiers and a classic very sober sound. In your imagination, you can almost see the ghost town that is left behind after this bloody, black war. The dark symphonic piece is moody and paints the picture perfectly in my mind. The soldiers leave the abandoned city at the very end of the song. “Thy Will Be Done On Earth As Is Done In Hell” closes with “Eye Of The Serpent / Oko Nada”, with a final furious attack to your eardrums. ARTEP is for those, who want it louder, harder, faster, but still with some space for symphonic bombastic outings to create the right dark atmosphere here and there. The band consists of Vultyrous on vocals and guitar, Tarot on bass, Maelstrom on drums and Artep, who handles the vocals, guitar and keyboards. On the CD though we hear Sean Rickerd on bass, while Spencer Prewett handled the drums. ARTEP also promises to deliver a cool live show, when they are permitted to play at full blast, because they don’t only wear corpse paint and dress up in their best war suits, but they also have some pyro effects and spit fire during their show. All the more reason to check them out, when they come to a place near your town. Dark souls can dig in at the eight track, forty-five minutes disc, whenever they please. Website: http://www.artep.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ATROCITY, featuring Yasmin Krull- After The Storm (Napalm Records)
Alexander Krull is a busy man these days. In addition to the band he currently fronts with his wife Liv Kristine, LEAVES EYES, there is also the occasional production job and then there is the band, that he founded in the late eighties ATROCITY. The band has progressed from being just another death metal band to a strong and powerful force in the realm of gothic metal. Their new album “After The Storm” sees ATROCITY collaborating with another female singer, Alexander Krull’s sister Yasmin. The music and songs on “After The Storm” features a world/ethnic music style throughout the forty-two minute disc. It is a bit of a departure for ATROCITY, yet it still maintains the bands high quality of music. Anything that Alexander Krull is involved in these days is of a pretty high standard. The intro track “A New Arrival” presents to the listener what is in store. This leads us into the excellent “Call Of Yesteryear”. The duel vocals of Alexander and Yasmin Krull are very well done and help to make this track one of my favorites. “After The Storm” is next and has a tribal feel to it. “Black Mountain” is one of the heavier more traditional sounding numbers included here and also sees Alexander Krull re-visiting his death metal vocal style. Other highlights include “Silvan Spirit”, “As the Sun Kissed the Sky”, “Transilvania” and the excellent “Goddess Of Fortune and Sorrow”. It is interesting to see, where ATROCITY has gone since their death metal beginnings. Maybe “After the Storm” will not appeal to fans of death metal era ATROCITY, but this is still an interesting release that shows how Alexander Krull and company has managed to progress and keep things interesting in the world of ATROCITY. [8 points] (Tony Cannella)

BLACKMORE’S NIGHT- Autumn Sky (Spinefarm Records)
Congratulations on your newborn child, Ritchie and Candice! And also congratulations on the new CD, which can be seen as some kind of birth in a certain way as well. The new BLACKMORE’S NIGHT album “Autumn Sky” contains fifteen new tracks with a total playing time of approx. a full hour. The concept behind BLACKMORE’S NIGHT is crystal clear. Medieval sounds mixed with exotic instruments and topped by the beautiful voice of Candice Night. Sometimes it sounds joyful, while at other times it’s heading into a more classical direction, but it’s always done with a lot of class and style. Opener “Highland” is a good example of what the sound of this band is all about. Here and there the guitar sound of Ritchie threatens to become heavier than you could hope for, especially at the end of the song, but overall it stays modest and in service of this very joyful song. It definitely brings some sunshine in your life. “Vagabond (Make A Princess Of Me)” shows the more medieval, troubadour kind of style, that the band has put their trademark on. They actually invented it all. Of course bands like JETHRO TULL and FOCUS dwelled with the classical sound, but this song is so unmistakable BLACKMORE’S NIGHT that it’s hardly comparable to one another. “Journeyman” takes you off to Japan, at least that’s how it sounds in the very first moments. Pretty soon, the mood changes completely and it gets this catchy vibe, which invites you to sing, clap or tap along to the rhythm. Somewhere in the song Ritchie awakes and pulls out a great guitar solo, that comes straight from his heart. It’s so cool to hear the master’s guitar cry out again. “Believe In Me” is a love song, which you will understand after the romantic years, that Ritchie and Candice have been together. “Sake Of The Song” is a short intro to “Song And Dance (Part II)”, which is more or less an instrumental version of “Sake Of The Song” including the medieval orchestration. It invites you to dance in a way. After this short party, we’re ready for some more serious moments in “Celluloid Heroes” - a balladesque song, which you might know in its original form by Ray Davies and THE KINKS. It fits the band perfectly and it sounds like it was written for BLACKMORE’S NIGHT. “Keeper of The Flame” gives Ritchie some space again to pull them strings, but the voice of Candice is the main focus here. At the end of the song, nobody can hold back Mr. Blackmore and a superb guitar attack is the perfect closure of this nice and very catchy track. “Night At Eggersberg” is an acoustic instrumental track, which is followed by “Strawberry Girl”, that sounds like a nice, modest tune to me. “All The Fun Of The Fayre” is captured in a song with the same name. It’s time to drink, dance and have a great time! The band takes a more medieval approach in “Darkness”. “Dance Of The Darkness” is some kind of instrumental sequence to “Darkness” with a leading role for Ritchie on guitar. There’s even a short bass solo in there. Which is a good moment to give you a further introduction to the band members of BLACKMORE’S NIGHT. Besides Candice and Ritchie, the band consists of Bard David Of Larchmont on keyboards and vocals, Gypsy Rose on violin and harmony vocals, Earl Grey Of Chimay on bass and rhythm guitar, Squire Malcolm Of Lumley on percussion and drums and Albert Danneman on woodwinds and vocals. We have arrived at the very last two tracks on this new album, being “Health To The Company”, which is another acoustic ballad type of song. “Barbara Allen” closes this nice CD, which is a safe buy for every devoted fan of BLACKMORE’S NIGHT out there. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BUG GIRL- Dirt In The Skirt (Lion Music)
It’s time for some genuine rock and roll now. The new album by BUG GIRL simply breaths rock and roll. “Spread That Eagle” explodes right in your face after pushing the ‘play’ button on your stereo. Ten songs are fired at you in thirty-five minutes, leaving behind a deep mark of devastation. The opening song rocks out loud, which you may expect from this Australian metal band. Title track “Dirt In The Skirt” leaves nothing more to be desired. Dirty rock and roll with a leading role for loud guitars. Think about NASHVILLE PUSSY and PETER PAN SPEEDROCK and you’ll come close to the sound of this Australian twosome. “Faster And Faster” sums it all up in a nutshell. This band came to rock in the best AC/DC tradition. As far as that is concerned, they couldn’t have picked a better example than Angus and company. Amber and Clinton Spence are “Hungry As Hell” for rock and roll and it shows on this album, which sounds much more dirty than its predecessor “Blood, Sweat And Beers”. Just listen to the dirty guitar sound of Amber and you’ll know what I mean. “Wasteland” invites you to shout along every time they sing it. Straight forward rock and roll with a very high energy level and a dirty rhythm. “Shakin’ Up Saturday” has got that well-known AC/DC beat. While “Master Of Disaster” has a very pumping beat and Amber rocks and screams it out like this is her very last achievement. What power is unleashed on this track! And we ain’t there yet, because with “Fat ‘N’ Greasy”, the rock and roll party continues. Just keep those guitar licks coming, yeah! Amber is moaning like a wild cat and the drums keep on beating, until the lights go out. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Ain’t A Crime” is another AC/DC-like stomper, which reminded me of “Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be” for a small second. “Rock Your City” not only closes this great new album, it’s also a promise to all their fans. If BUG GIRL comes to your town, make sure that your ass gets kicked by Amber and Clinton! Prove is given on this awesome “Dirt In The Skirt” album. An excellent way to let off some sweat! Website: http://www.buggirl.net/ [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

CHRISTIAN MISTRESS- Agony + Opium (20 Buck Spin)
CHRISTIAN MISTRESS is certainly one helluva band. They have recently released a full-length CD, which is also available on (black) vinyl (LP). The six tracks prove that told school heavy metal ain’t dead yet. On the contrary, just listen to opener “Riding On The Edges” and you’ll know what I mean. The song might start out as just another straight forward heavy metal tune, but when the break comes up and the guitars start playing their solos, I know this is the kind of music I’d like to hear. This type of music played in 2010 makes you realize, that there is still hope. The twin (IRON MAIDEN-like) guitar solos are breathtaking and makes you hungry for more. The voice of Christine Davis (ex-BURIED BLOOD) sounds powerful. Not high and pinching, but absolutely perfect for old school metal. “Desert Rose” opens a bit weird and a doomy, but once it gets started, you’ll know that this is another classic metal tune, that will please many old school headbangers out there. The lead guitars are crying and both thumbs up for it! “Home In The Sun” is on next and the band cranks up the speed a little on this one. And they are handling that very easily. The sound of CHRISTIAN MISTRESS might remind you of the early NWOBHM sound, mixed with the guitar sound of MERCYFUL FATE. Connoisseurs will know enough by now, I think. The B-side of the album opens with “Poison Path”, played at breakneck speed. CHRISTIAN MISTRESS hails from Olympia, WA - the home of the Riot Grrrl scene, remember?!? Clearly, there are more female-fronted bands coming from that area, where they also know to create a great old school metal sound. The guitar solos fly around during this song and if this isn’t your taste in music, you are definitely looking at the wrong website, my friend. “Black Vigil” is fine to let off some steam. What a great metal basher! The obligatory ballad is at the end of the twenty-five minute album and it is called “Omega Stone”. Well, at least you can talk about a ballad in the beginning. After the break in the middle, a skull crushing sound rushes in to absorb and I can’t tell you what great pleasure this gives to me. After six tracks, it’s all over and I had a marvelous time listening to this album. Fans of RAVEN (with female vocals), ANGELWITCH with the guitarists of MERCYFUL FATE and/or QUARTZ, mixed with SAVAGE (UK), may want to have a listen to CHRISTIAN MISTRESS. Besides the siren of Christine, you can also enjoy the skills of Ryan McClain on guitar, Oscar Sparbel on guitar, Reuben Storey on drums and Johnny Wulf on bass. If you can make a record like this after only a short time of existence, then you’re bound to have a great future ahead of you… If the old school metal approach of SKULL FIST is your thing, you can buy this album without any hesitation. I give it the full score and make a bow for the mistress. Website: http://christianmistress.com/ [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

CRUSHING BLOW- Cease Fire (Infernö Records)
CRUSHING BLOW hails from France and we know that MYSTERY BLUE has already build up quite a good reputation in the heavy metal scene over there. The first album of CRUSHING BLOW “Far Away” already promised us a lot for the future. It’s a bit odd maybe, that this next album is released after a period of about seven years. Anyway, it has arrived with “Cease Fire” and contains eleven new tracks, worthy of almost fifty minutes. The instrumental “Intro” is very short and the band starts off with the first single taken from the album, called “Wizard’s Tale”, which sounds a bit like HELLOWEEN meets DORO. “Redemption” is fast as well and shows that front lady Valène de Santis has got a very raspy voice. Which fits very well to the more heavy parts and it even has something sensual, when she sings a ballad type of song like the beginning of “Shadow”. Again the resemblance to DORO is quite striking, but Valène can take this as a big compliment. The instrumental part at the end of the song shows, that we’re dealing with much more than just the average rock band, that cranks out some straight forward metal tunes. They give the songs a special content. “Dreams” simply breathes the sound of JUDAS PRIEST and HALFORD in the instrumental parts. While title track “Cease Fire” starts off as a ballad and has a nice slow structure. “Rise Your Soul” contains some nice choir vocals and is a bit more up tempo . “Tears Of Heart” is fast and contains some steaming hot guitar work of Guillaume and Ben. “Memories” is a foot stomper from the start. It contains more choir vocals, that will invite you to shout along. “My Venom” opens acoustic, before slowly evolving into a beautiful ballad with heartfelt vocals and a nice, emotional guitar solo. “The Prophecies” close this album, which is a duet in medieval style with Ilinca Marche-Kiss and very interesting for the NIGHTWISH fans among us. As you can see, there is a lot of variation on this new album of these French metal heads. I think, that MYSTERY BLUE will definitely remain the leading name in the French heavy metal scene for me, but CRUSHING BLOW is surely a name to remember, when you like a more melodic approach. Besides the aforementioned musicians, the band also consists of Gérald on bass and Laurent on drums. You can read the latest news about the band on their MySpace site at http://www.myspace.com/crushingblowmusic. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CRYSTAL VIPER- Legends (AFM Records)
CRYSTAL VIPER stands for pure heavy metal and metal alone. This new album is called “Legends” and contains eleven tracks with a total running time of forty-five minutes. The short intro “The Truth” leads us to “The Ghost Ship”. I can’t help it, but from the very first notes on, my mind goes out to the ultimate pirates of heavy metal, RUNNING WILD. This third studio album will easily grab you by the balls with its catchy sound. The songs are easy to sing along to. I just did, while listening to “Blood Of The Heroes”, which clings to your mind after hearing it only once. That’s one of the best sides of CRYSTAL VIPER. The guitar solo is also mind blowing and it may remind you of big metal heroes, like GAMMA RAY, HELLOWEEN and of course HAMMERFALL. In “Greed Is Blind” you even hear some DORO and WARLOCK influences, who is a big inspiration to Marta, I suppose. However, “Sydonia Bork” is really something different. Maybe it can be categorized as the odd one out - a song that you won’t easily expect on a CRYSTAL VIPER album. It starts out as a classical vocal piece, but halfway through the song, the guitars join in and it gets a more metal approach. This could very well please all the NIGHTWISH fans out there, as much as the fans of CRYSTAL VIPER and the average heavy metal fan. “Goddess Of Death” has got a more Celtic approach, so make sure that you sing it with your fist raised up high! This is only a suggestion of course. The guitar solo in this song is highly enjoyable as well. Which is also a true fact in “Night Of The Sin”, where Marta sounds very much like the German metal diva DORO (again). In “Secret Of The Black Water”, the speed goes down and we’re in for a nice, heavy steady beat, that may remind you of the pumping sound of ZED YAGO and VELVET VIPER. While “A Man Of Stone” captures the more rocking side of CRYSTAL VIPER. Obviously, there’s a lot of diversity on this CRYSTAL VIPER album. “Black Leviathan” is fast and pounding and it shows the band at its very best. CRYSTAL VIPER consists of Marta Gabriel on vocals and guitars, Andy Wave on guitars, Tom Woryna on bass guitar and Tom ‘Golem’ Danczak on drums. The CD closes with the ACCEPT cover “T.V. War”, which is another tribute to some real heavy metal heroes. On this album, we also hear guest contributions by Rhino (MANOWAR) in the intro song and Sven D’Anna and Dano Boland of WIZARD (guest vocals in “Ghost Ship” and “Night Of The Sun”). Matt Sinner (PRIMAL FEAR, SINNER) sings on “Blood Of The Heroes” and Stefan Kaufmann (UDO, ACCEPT) plays the guitar solo in “Night Of The Sun”. Quite some interesting names to create a true metal party, which they succeeded very well on this “Legends” album. On http://www.crystalviper.com, you can read all the latest news about these Polish metal legends. Check it out! [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DEATHFIST- Too Hot To Burn (Pure Steel Records)
DEATHFIST- I like that name very much! It holds the pure metal feeling and has something powerful. The band exists since 2008 and hails from Germany. We know, that the heavy metal heart is still beating there, which sounds very promising for “Too Hot To Burn”. The album runs for forty minutes and contains twelve songs with a true metal heart. In opener “Apotheosis”, we hear that the band was born to play loud songs at high speed. They carry the thrash metal torch with pride and my thoughts immediately go out to a legendary band like HOLY MOSES, but the vocals of Corinna Becker (MORTAL REMAINS, LINDISFARNE) are a bit better to understand and less growling. Besides Corinna, the band consists of Markuss Wichmann on guitar (MORTAL REMAINS, SUFFOCATED ART), Martin Bastian (MIDNIGHT RIDER, METAL INQUISITOR, METALUCIFER) and Jan Luchtenberg (LINDISFARNE) on drums. “Deathfist” is on next. It contains some nice breaks as well as some blast beats, that very well could be from NAPALM DEATH. These blast beats are short, but they give you the idea that the band is not afraid to push things to the edge. “Slay Her” sounds fast and aggressive and Corinna’s voice might remind you a bit of Dave Mustaine (MEGADETH) at times. “Beast” will get those heads banging during their live shows, especially in the fast speed zone parts. “Hell Is Here”, but I think that you’ll feel that you are in heaven, when you hear the rebelling thrash sound of DEATHFIST in this one. “Demons” is also the title of the seven incher, the band has released last year. It’s a short and slightly catchy track, that nicely sums up what DEATHFIST is all about: high class thrash with nice breaks and the wild screams of Corinna upfront. Title track “Too Hot To Burn” is next and this song bangs at full speed. And if you think, that it can always get faster and more powerful than this, then you are bloody well right! Prove is given during “Killing Time”. This really sounds like power thrash metal at full speed! Awesome stuff!! “Ruins” and “Prey” will please many thrash metal fans. If you’d like to drink something during this mosh party, the band welcomes you to the “Booze Brigade”. A good metal party can’t do without it, after all. The morning thereafter though, when your head is bursting, you are so sorry and regretful that you can’t turn back time. It’s then that you are ready to enter the last song on this album, which welcomes you to the “World Of Darkness”. It’s your last chance to scream out loud and bang your head at full speed. Germany is rather well known for their speed and thrash metal scene and DEATHFIST is a great addition to this in my opinion. The album is also available on black vinyl through High Roller Records, for people who still care for it. I really liked the painting on the cover, too. When you buy this album from your local record dealer, make sure that you are very carefully with it, because it is “Too Hot To Burn”! Website: http://www.deathfist.de. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ILSE DELANGE- Next To Me (MCD) (Universal Music)
Ilse has found a new marketing strategy. Don’t shower your fans with lengthy releases, but surprise them more often with a little snack. Long EP’s or short mini albums, if you like. Anyway, this is the first release of this new strategy. It contains only eight tracks and runs for half an hour. Of course, the first single of this mini album has already become a huge hit. It’s called “Next To Me” and it’s the opener of the album with the same title. “Eyes Straight Ahead” and “Almost” are a bit more back to her roots in the country music. It’s no blue grass or real country music, but it sounds a little more in that direction. Not strange of course, when you realize that this album was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee. That sound continues in “Beautiful Distraction”, in which we also hear the sound of the pedal steel guitar. It’s all done with a whole lot of class and style and the song simply asks for this instrument to make it sound a little bit more emotional. “Carousel”, as the title predicts already, sounds a bit more up tempo, which includes a banjo as well. While “Untouchable” sounds like a fragile love song and has that well-known country style peaking around the corner. You might say, that Ilse is returning to her roots with “Next To Me”, which is fine by me. As long as she keeps on being as enthusiastic and down-to-earth as always. “Time Out” is an easy listening tune with some classical orchestration. However, it’s Ilse’s voice that lifts up this song to one of the highlights on this eight tracker for me. “Paper Plane” is another up tempo track, which could well end up as the second single of this release, if you would ask my opinion. Whatever will be the next single, I’m sure it will become a huge hit, because Ilse has proven to be one of the most successful female musicians in our country. And I think, that she will please many fans by bringing out a mini album like this on a regular basis. Fans of this well-talented female singer from the Eastern part of our country can dig in without any hesitating. Website: http://www.ilsedelange.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DEVA -Between Life and Dreams (independent)
“Between Life And Dreams” by Italy’s DEVA was released in 2010 and in my opinion one of the very best releases to surface in that year. The style, that is prevalent on this debut from DEVA is a mixture of symphonic and prog metal with the operatic vocals of Beatrice out in front. The entire presentation on “Between Life And Dreams” is breathtaking. The intricacy of the music, combined with Beatrice’s passionate delivery makes DEVA a band, that is worth checking out for fans of symphonic and progressive metal. Songs like “Breathe”, “Your Voice”, “Fading From Here” are all well done, but it is the closing “Karma” that were the biggest highlights for me. This piece is divided into four parts. The intro “Karma pt.0 “ begins things and is followed by “Karma pt. 1 – 1969 – Escape”, “Karma pt. 2 – 1949 – Open Water” and finally “Karma pt.pt. 3 – 1996 – In Veins”, bringing “Between Life And Dreams” to an epic conclusion. 2010 was indeed a great year for female-fronted metal bands of all kinds, but in my humble opinion it was this great Italian band DEVA that led the way. If you don’t believe me, just give “Between Life And Dreams” a listen. Website: http://www.myspace.com/infodeva [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Tony Cannella)

DIE HAPPY-Red Box (F.A.M.E.)
DIE HAPPY are quite big in their home country Germany. Slowly, they are ready to take on the rest of the world by surprise as well. Their music is very catchy and could be categorized as commercial in a way. Normally, this is the kind of music, that I would not listen to. That is definitely not the case with DIE HAPPY. Now, I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the band after listening to “Red Box”, but I also don’t hate their ‘easy-on-the ears’ sound. I think of bands such as KREZIP, PINK and AVRIL LAVIGNE, when listening to songs like “Mesmerized” and “Dance For You Tonight”. Music that is alright to listen to once in a while, but doesn’t really hit you right in your heart. Most of these songs will give you some kind of ‘feel good’ mood without touching you deeply. “Superstar” is easy to sing along to, after hearing it once. Of course there’s also some room for a more ballad type of song like “Good Things”. If I tell you, that the band covered DESTINY’S CHILD’s “Survivor”, you’ll know in what direction DIE HAPPY is going. It’s a safe way of playing rock, that might appeal to many youngsters out there. Real metal heads are not really waiting for a DESTNY’S CHILD cover, I think. A song like “Stay With Me” has a steady beat though and shows us that the band is also capable of showing some balls. The title track of the album is short and instrumental. Nothing you would expect here, I guess. While “Bang Boom Bang” sounds rather wild. Clearly, the band is also able of playing some exciting and powerful music. Album closer “Anywhere Without You” shows you their other (and much softer) side though. All in all, this album makes you wonder whether the band wants to rock out loud or has the urge to become serious rock superstars… This is a good step in the right direction and I think it might make them rock superstars quite easily. However, I have my doubts, that real metal heads will agree with this statement. DIE HAPPY is a nice band to listen to, so I give them the benefit of the doubt this time, although if you’re covered up with leather and spikes or wear corpse paint and you read these lines, then you’d better leave this for what it is. It’s your choice! DIE HAPPY consists of Marta Jandova on vocals, Thorsten Mewes on guitars, Ralph Rieker on bass and Jürgen Stiehle on drums. Website: http://www.diehappy.de. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DORO- 25 Years In Rock…And Still Going Strong (Nuclear Blast)
DORO celebrated her 25th anniversary being a metal artist with an amazing show. She did a mini reunion of WARLOCK and many famous artists were a guest on this metal party. The box, we have here, does not only include a double DVD with a whole lot of footage from this event, it also contains a photo book full of exclusive pictures and a live CD with excerpts from the anniversary show. The show took place on December 13th 2008 in Dusseldorf, Germany. Eleven tracks, including a short “Intro” and a running time of about forty-five minutes, give you an idea of what a spectacular show this must have been. “Earthshaker Rock” starts off as a very solid opener. The audience goes wild and DORO is the sparkling center with her very recognizable metal sound. I can’t tell you, how much respect I have for this lady, who has been standing proud, no matter what. “I Rule The Ruins” is another fast crowd pleaser, showing that she is the one and only metal queen. DORO has managed to become the face of the female metal scene on her own and therefore she has been so successful all these years. “You Are My Family” is a true statement indeed. Her fans and the whole metal scene are her family and give her the inspiration and strength to survive. You can ask yourself one thing. Why is a sexy and successful lady like Dorothea Pesch not married after being a metal singer for so many years?? You might expect that sooner or later, she would retire and start a family life. Well, not DORO. She was consistent and destined to go on, because she simply can’t live without her fans. They are her family and the main reason for going on strong after twenty-five years. Heavy metal, ballads, power rock, it’s all there and done with a lot of class and style. Yes, even a ballad like “Herzblut”, sung in her native language, is one to cherish, because it’s done with so much emotion. And it also shows her roots, of which she can be very proud. She has never forsaken her German background. Many reviewers have taken DORO down, especially in the beginning of her career, because of her German accent. That wouldn’t hold her back though, she stood tall and moved on like never before. Good for her. Obviously, those reviewers were wrong and had to admit that the quality and class on DORO’s albums is so immense, that you simply can’t ignore her talent. “Unholy Love” is the first song with a guest appearance by Honzu K.B. Hunek. Then it really gets exciting with a flashing version of “East Meets West” featuring the raspy voice of Chris Boltendahl of GRAVE DIGGER and Axel Rudi Pell on guitar. It gives this classic DORO track a special meaning. “Burn It Up” contains a guest role by Jean Beauvoir (PLASMATICS, CROWN OF THORNS and VOODOO X). It turns out to be a very lively and powerful track. Just have a listen to the choir vocals and the amazing chanting of the crowd, that is really going wild. When you close your eyes, you can almost see the energetic performance right in front of you!! While “Above The Ashes” takes back some speed and shows DORO in full glory. This is the lady that we adore so much; the lady who has done so much for female musicians in the hard rock and heavy metal scene. And now she is in front of the spotlights, receiving all the attention that she deserves. “Celebrate” is on next and this is a nice moment to really celebrate a good party with all of your friends. And in this song, the list of female guest stars goes on and on. Sabina Classen (HOLY MOSES), Floor Jansen (AFTER FOREVER, REVAMP), Liv Kristine (LIV KRISTINE, LEAVES EYES), Ji-In Cho (KRYPTERIA), Liv Jagrell (SISTER SIN), Enid Williams (GIRLSCHOOL) and Jackie Chambers (GIRLSCHOOL). If that isn’t an all-star rock explosion, I will eat my hat. The party has nearly come to an end now. Well, at least on the live CD, it is. Since the CD only contains a good overview of DORO’s most classic songs, it closes with the JUDAS PRIEST cover “Breaking The Law”. It opens in a classical way, but pretty soon DORO goes full speed ahead and the audience gets to sing one more time. On the DVD, the full show is captured, but on a forty-five minute live CD, you just have to make some choices. This CD sums up some of the highlights of the lengthy live show. It gives you a good overview of the live party, that took place after the first twenty-five years of DORO in rock and metal history. I’m afraid, that a second time frame of twenty-five years (her 50th anniversary, that is) will not be realistic, but hey you never know. This blonde metal vixen is destined to go on and on and with a career like this, you can call her the most successful metal lady ever. She is still going strong and a tour through Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg is ahead of her right now. It will become a glorious ride with this album in the pocket and just being released. You would almost forget, that DORO couldn’t have done this without the help of her fellow band members of course. Nick Douglas on bass, Joe Taylor on guitar, Johnny Dee on drums, Luca Princiotta on guitar and keyboards and Oli Palotai on keyboards and guitars. They are as much part of this whole success formula as DORO of course. This release is a ‘must have’ for each and every devoted metal fan out there and a nice souvenir of the event in Dusseldorf, that has marked the celebration of twenty-five year of high class craftsmanship. Hooray for DORO, may she sit on her throne for a long time to come! Websites: http://www.doromusic.de; http://www.doropesch.com/ or http://www.dororocks.net. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

ELECTRIC WIZARD- Black Mass (Rise Above Records)
The kings and queen of occult heavy metal have spoken again. ELECTRICWIZARD is by far the most eye-catching band in this genre, next to bands like COVEN and BLACK WIDOW and the more horror oriented metal outfit DEATH SS. ELECTRIC WIZARD never received that much attention here, but surely this will change with their new album. “Black Mass” contains eight great new tracks, worthy of a full hour of occult metal. Just listen to opener and title track “Black Mass”, which sounds like MERCYFUL FATE at doom speed metal. Obviously, the comparison to MERCYFUL FATE has something to do with the background of this band, but also because of the vocals of singer Justin Oborn. In “Venus In Furs” however, he sounds a lot more like OZZY OSBOURNE in his early days with distorted vocals. Something that Ozzy also tended to do. The guitar parts are extremely heavy and may remind you of the freaky way, that Tony Iommi tortured his instrument. It gives their sound a slightly psychedelic touch, one that reminds you of BLACK SABBATH in their heydays. Things get really spooky with the introduction of “The Nightchild”, which is a constant pounding and repeating beat with a trippy kind of psychedelic atmosphere underneath. “Patterns Of Evil” has got that same kind of groove, but this time there’s a great guitar crying through the solid bass lines of Tass. When the guitar solo fades away, Tass makes sure that the evil pounding bass remains as a steady beat. The psychedelic sound and bleeps are responsible for the right atmosphere in this song. “Satyr IX” is the longest track here, which runs for nearly ten minutes. Instead of runs, you can also read crawls here, because the pace is set from slow to very slow. A good lamentation needs to be slow in my opinion. At the end of the song, the rhythm maintains in the same line, but the guitars freak out completely. No wonder that this band is still far ahead of their competitors. They really bring out the best of themselves and they still play their favorite kind of music with all of their heart and soul. Prove is given in this fantastic piece of art here. The next song is called “Turn Of Your Mind”, which could be a good warning before listening to this album. Just let the music take you down the underworld of your mind to the deepest labyrinth of your imagination, where your darkest thoughts lay to rest until they get fed with soulless music like this. Again things get really freaky here and sometimes it might remind you of the lengthy soundscapes of HAWKWIND in a way. “Scorpio Curse” is another nice moment for the guitar players to let off some steam. Therefore, it’s definitely one of my highlights on this album, next to “Satyr IX” for almost the same reasons. The dark, witching hour comes to an end with “Crypt Of Drugula”, which is another nine minute masterpiece of eccentricity. This repeating trip will be sailing around in my dark brains for minutes and minutes. ELECTRIC WIZARD really made a wonderful new album, that is so far away from all trends and new hypes. It returns to the roots of all evil with a sound, that is so recognizable for this band. But it’s also the sound that fits the album title just perfectly and the reputation that this band from England has built up over their years of existence. Both horns go up for ELECTRIC WIZARD, that consists of Justin Oborn on guitar and vocals, Liz Buckingham on guitars, Tass on bass and Shaun Rutter on drums. In this particular genre, they are simply the best band around these days, so a full score is the least I can give these four kings and queen of evil occult metal. Website: http://www.myspace.com/electricwizarddorsetdoom. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

EVIL’S DESIRE- Initium (independent)
EVIL’S DESIRE hails from Holland, that has got a lot of talent to offer. This band is a part of the well-known Dutch gothic, female-fronted metal scene. Holland has a good reputation for many years and I can tell you, that this band is a very worthy addition to the already existing scene. Some of the band members of EVIL’S DESIRE come from another band called VIOLENT QUEEN, which more or less slowly evolved into EVIL’S DESIRE. The debut album of this five-some contains eleven tracks and runs for a full hour. After the “Intro” (with some chiming bells), the band erupts into “Red Death”. What appeals to me are the double vocals, where female vocalist Daphne Gobius du Sart is the biggest ear-catcher. The duet with vocalist/guitarist Eric Mol sounds very exciting and makes you hungry to hear more. The instrumentation is quite symphonic and leaves enough space for the guitar players to show their skills. But also the keyboards are upfront in the mix to add a slightly melodic touch. “Mountain Of Fate” is a nice example of playful guitar rhythms and a stream of keyboard sounds. “True Of Lies” has some nice breaks, which turns this song into a real highlight for me. “Ignorance” contains some beautiful orchestration and after the intro, they press the pedal to the metal and add a lot of power to this head banger. Obviously, the band likes a more symphonic approach, which makes their sound a bit different than the average gothic (power) metal band. Just listen to “Destructive Union” to get an idea of what I mean. The male voice on this track is a bit too much over the top for me though and maybe should have been left out for that matter. “Ego” brings more power to their sound. The guitars riffs are loud and the male vocals take over in the beginning. However, once it gets going, the song turns into a duet. “Nemesis” is also fast and with the soprano voice of Daphne, it makes a nice combination. After another speed change into the fifth gear, we hear some burning guitar work by Erik Mol. To me, this turned out to be another highlight here. Because the band chose to not walk the simple path of the gothic metal scene, this album isn’t always easy to comprehend. They have added many sidesteps and their songs are full of breaks, speed changes and instrumental parts to hold the attention of the listener. And sometimes, they really created something magnificent for people, who are not afraid to listen to these adventurous sidesteps. “Perfection” has some influences of DREAM THEATER and PORCUPINE TREE, because of the sound effects. It displays the symphonic side of the band again. “The Outcast” is another duet, where female and male vocals are the main focus. The CD closes with “The Acceptance”. I was waiting for this moment to come, because I missed the obligatory ballad on this album. The duet is the weakest song for me, mainly because I’m not really a huge fan of ballads. EVIL’S DESIRE may still have a long way to go, but the excitement in some of their songs is huge. I think, that they might have a very fruitful future ahead of them, as long as they keep believing in what they are doing. They made a good start with “Initium”, as far as I’m concerned. Just look at the dedication and love, they have created this digipack CD with a beautiful booklet. That’s where it all starts: the moment you grab the CD from the shelves at your local record store. Besides Erik and Daphne, the band consists of Johan Seinen on keyboards, Vincent Reedijk on bass and Gert-Jan Mulder on drums. http://www.evilsdesire.com or http://www.myspace.com/evilsdesireband will give you all the information you need about this talented new Dutch metal band. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FIREFLIGHT- For Those Who Wait (Sony BMG/Flicker)
FIREFLIGHT is a Christian rock band from Orlando, Florida. The guitar riffs sound quite heavy, but the band has got that commercial touch of bands such as AVRIL LAVIGNE and EVANESCENCE. The ten songs, worthy of thirty-five minutes of rock music are varied and very easy on the ears. Just listen to opener and title track “For Those Who Wait” and “Desperate”. You get the feeling, that you are familiar with their songs from the very first moment on. FIREFLIGHT consists of Justin Cox on guitar, Glenn Drennen on guitar, Wendy Drennen on bass, Dawn Michelle on vocals and Phee Sorb on drums. “Fire In My Eyes” is on next, which sounds a lot more groovy than the songs that we heard so far. This album is their third one already and it shows, because somehow the band gets across very self-assured, which reflects in their music. “Core Of My Addiction” sounds a bit more radio friendly, because of the chorus lines. After this sing along type of song, it’s time for a more serious tune, called “What I’ve Overcome”. But also this one gets that well-known commercial treatment, that makes the song ready to sing along to, after hearing it once. It might be the key to bigger success, but on the other hand it’s too easy to score a hit single that way and you may not be able to reach a bigger audience. “Name” shows the Christianity of the band. A ballad type of song with “He sees you”, “He knows you” and “He loves you” and so on. It won’t do you any harm, but still it’s a bit over the top for me. It’s too sweet for my taste. “New Perspective” may also bring a very positive message, but it’s done with a lot more power and that’s what I like a thousand times more than doing it the sweet way. “You Give Me That Feeling” is a typical ‘feeling good’ song, so they used the right title for this one. “All I Need To Be” could very well have been a song by KREZIP (the Dutch band, that recently disbanded). In some ways, they have got that same recognizable, slightly commercial sound. Of course their lyrics are heading into a different direction, but basically they sound very familiar. The CD closes with “Recovery Begins”, which is a soft and very gentle ballad. I think, that FIREFLIGHT are able to reach a big, young public with this sound. Die hard metal heads, who only love it loud, may have to give this a listen first before buying. Open-minded music fans can dig in directly. Website: http://www.fireflightrock.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FORGOTTEN TALES- We Shall See The Light (Union Metal International)
What a nice surprise to hear the third album by Canadian metal heads FORGOTTEN TALES. It contains nine tracks and almost fifty minutes of exciting powerful metal with melodic edges. The band now consists of Sonia Pineault on vocals, Martin Desharnais on guitar, Frédérick Desroches on keyboards, Pat Vir on bass, Mike Bélanger on drums and Marco Lavoie on guitar. The album opens with title track “We Shall See The Light”, a melodic up tempo master piece, in which Sonia’s vocals are very much upfront in the mix. They are really a delight to hear. “Guardian Angel” is a real power metal basher. Different names cross my mind, ranging from ANGRA to LANA LANE and maybe even HAMMERFALL. At least it shows, that FORGOTTEN TALES didn’t lose its strength and power on this album, which is very important. Just listen to the guitar part and pounding drums in this second song. “Keepers Of The Field” may invite you to sing along to it. “The Reaper” shows the slightly progressive side of the band. “Diviner” on the other hand sounds very much like happy metal at times. Powerful but perhaps a bit too happy, although the rhythm and riffs remain good of course. The riffing in “The Calling” is very nice to listen to. It gives the song a raw edge to it. After this, we can start “Howling At The Moon”, which has a leading part for the keyboards this time. I’m glad, that there are no speed limits in this part of Canada and the sky is the limit, as far as speed is concerned. In “Broken Wings” the speed goes down and Sonia’s voice sounds more emotional. I liked this song a lot. The album closes with “ Angel Eyes”, which contains some choir vocals and moves along at neck breaking speed. Sometimes it’s better, that you don’t try to bang your head to these songs, because otherwise you would really harm your neck muscles. If you liked the sound of FORGOTTEN TALES before, I think you might like this new album as well. Every metal fan will find something of his (or her) liking on this one, because of the great variety of songs on this album. So I suggest to Be Part Of The Tale…. Website: http://www.myspace.com/forgottentales. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BETH HART- My California (Mascot Records)
Finally after so many years, national radio is picking up the sound of BETH HART. It’s a shame that someone, who is so talented has to struggle that hard for a bit of recognition. The new album sounds darker and so much different than her previous work. This and the fact, that she has finally been discovered by some of the radio stations, makes her music perhaps less interesting to us. When music becomes more open for other sources like pop, easy listening or singer/songwriter, it usually floats away from the more heavy direction that she sometimes was heading to. It’s not that we think, that Beth suddenly lacks talent, but she just uses it in a different way. The album sounds a lot more emotionally oriented and a good example here is title track and opener “My California”. But hey, we are broad-minded and we are open for artists like MELISSA ETHERIDGE and ILSE DE LANGE or more poppy acts like PINK, AVRIL LAVIGNE, KREZIP and ANOUK. We also want to inform you about bands, that are not constantly beating out heavy drums or cranking out a flashing guitar solo. If you dim the lights and have a listen to this new album, you are still able to enjoy the warm voice of Beth and appreciate the skills of her backing band. Sometimes she tries real hard to drive up the tempo a little, like in “Bad Love Is Good Enough”, but the sober and emotional overtone remains. I think, that the average MELISSA ETHERIDGE fan will have a blast with this album. “Sister Heroine” sounds more up tempo, but the emotions take over in “Take It Easy On Me”. “Sister Heroine” has a nice guest appearance by SLASH, by the way. Although his contribution isn’t enough to lift this song up to a higher level. Highlight for the rockers among us is “ Everybody Is Sober”, which gives you an idea of what BETH HART sounded like on her previous albums. “Weight Of The World” mainly features the lady and her piano. The CD closes with a bonus track called “Oh Me Oh My”, which is a gospel song. It’s very difficult to rate this album. The voice of Beth is still beautiful, but my honest opinion will be that this album sounds a little bit too sweet for me. Even long term fans of BETH HART may raise their eyebrow every now and then, when they hear this new material. Website: http://www.bethhart.com. [6 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HB- Paakallonpaikka (Data Universum)
HB hails from Finland and I dare you to pronounce the title of this album flawlessly. You simply won’t succeed. This doesn’t do any damage to the good music, that we are hearing in the fast and very powerful opener “Supermies” (translated in English as “Superman”). The album title is the Finnish translation for ‘Golgotha’. The entire album is sung in the Finnish language, by the way. So you will need a good dictionary to understand all the words. “Hanki Elama III” (“Take A Life 3”) slows things down a bit, while in “La Finlanda De Mon Coeur” (“Finland For The God”), female singer Johanna does a duet with Antti Niskala. “Perkeleita” (or ‘Devils’ if you like) is a song, that’s easy on the ears and won’t stop you tapping your feet to the rhythm. Because of the choir vocals, NIGHTWISH comes to mind almost immediately, when listening to “Eteenpain” (“Forward”), but only in the beginning. Later on, it gets much heavier than this super group from the same country. “Tuomioni” (“My judgement”) is a very emotional ballad type of song. It has an epical character, due to the spoken word section in the middle, including some nice guitar work in the background. The link to NIGHTWISH pops up again in “Herralle Kittos II” (“Thanks To God 2”), but also only in the beginning, when you hear the soprano vocals. When Johanna uses her normal voice, the comparison is vanished into thin air. “Valtaa” (“Power”) is a radio friendly love song. Musically, it’s a bit hard to figure out, in which direction HB is heading. Sometimes the band blasts at full speed, while at other times they play a love song, that could very well be in the charts and on national radio. Just listen to the power in “Herra Puolellamme” (“Lord Carry Us”) and you won’t be able to follow it, just like me. The music of HB sounds very nice, but I have my doubts if they will gain a lot of fans outside of Finland with this new album. The album closes with the title track, which is another very emotional ballad type of love song. Last but not least, I’d like to state here, that the CD cover would give you the idea, that you’re dealing with some kind of black or death metal band, which is not the case of course. So, be warned and count for two, people! HB consists of Johanna Aaltonen on vocals, Antti Niskala on guitar, keyboards and male vocals, Sofia Yinen on bass, Kaitsu Kanervo on guitar, Tuomas Kannisto on bass and Samuel ‘Samppa’ Mäki-Kertula on drums. Visit their website at: http://www.hbmusic.net to read all the latest news about this nice Finnish band. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HEART- Red Velvet Car (Eagle Records)
What can I say about HEART that hasn’t been said before? That they have a new album out, that is called “Red Velvet Car”. Some people didn’t maybe even notice it. But because HEART are like emperors in our world, I would like to recommend to have a listen to this new silver disc, like it’s a treasure that you’ve found in a sea of thousands of releases each month. There is of course only one HEART and they know to deliver a classy, top notch CD every time. And with “Red Velvet Car” this is certainly the case. After listening real closely to the first songs on the album, I can only conclude, that HEART returned to their roots even more as they did on any of their previous releases. With “There You Go”, they do this with a more acoustic approach, but “WTF” could very well be the 2010 brother or sister of “Crazy On You”. What power and what a nice surprise!! The new album contains twelve brand new tracks and plays for about forty-five minutes, including two bonus tracks exclusively recorded for the European release. That’s good news. Title track “Red Velvet Car” is a ballad with Ann’s voice as sparkling center of the song. And she can sing this song like no one else can. She can hold my attention so easily, because there is almost no one with such a strong voice like her. She can sing ballads so tenderly and scream her lungs out in a rocker right after that, without hesitating. That’s the power of HEART and that’s the strength of Ann Wilson. I get the shivers down my spine, while listening to a song like that. “Queen City” brings in the acoustic guitars and the whole HEART magic crawls inside you again, while listening to this one. “Hey You” is an easy and ‘feel good’ song in general, but it also might invite you to sing along to the chorus. It certainly has a very catchy feel. “Wheels” captures the band in a jamming mood, which is very joyful to listen to. “Safronia’s Mark” brings back the sound of the mandolin. Nancy Wilson at work here. An amazing lady, who puts her mark on HEART’s music pretty heavily, just like Safronia did in this song. “Death Valley” is a great rocker with a vintage mood, which shows that these ladies can rock out real loud, too. “Sunflower” has got a little bit of a FLEETWOOD MAC feel to it or is it just my imagination, that I hear “Albatross” in the beginning? “Sands” features the breathtaking voice by Ann Wilson. It’s a re-recorded LOVEMONGERS track. Then it’s time for the bonus tracks. I think, that HEART feels, that they have neglected Europe a bit lately and they want to make up for it. “Bootful Of Beer” is a steady rocker, which has the band at full force, while “Closer To The Sun” is an acoustic ballad. Both songs are a fine addition on this European release. This last song is maybe one of the nicest song on the album for me, because the emotional level is very high and Ann is at her very best here. HEART’s new album is already a classic in our book. Besides the Wilson sisters, the band consists of Ben Smith on drums, Rick Markmann on bass and Ben Mink on guitars. If you ever see a ‘red velvet car’ driving, see who is behind the steering wheel, they may look familiar to you. In 2011 we can see the release of a new live DVD of this Seattle based band, called “A Night At Sky Church”. Can’t wait to hear these new songs in a live setting. This album simply brings out the best from the HEART sisters. Website: http://www.heart-music.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HYDRIA- Poison Paradise (independent)
HYDRIA hails from Brazil and consists of Raquel Schüller on vocals, Marcelo Oliveira on guitars and male grunts, Márcio Klimberg on keyboards, Fabiano Martins on drums and Turu Henrick on bass. Their music can be best described as gothic metal mixed with power metal. Right from the start you think, that you are listening to the new NIGHTWISH album, but soon you’ll find out that there’s a lot more power in HYDRIA’s sound. However, the female voice of Raquel tends to be heading more into the direction of melodic gothic metal. At least, that is my first opinion after hearing powerful opener “Time Of My Life (Center Of My Universe)”. This description also fits the next song “The Place Where We Belong”, where the music sounds more powerful than the vocals. The voice of Raquel sounds very beautiful, by the way. Because of the additional ultra fast blast beats, HYDRIA’s music stays exciting. You wouldn’t expect these little side-steps in the first place. It keeps you focused, while listening to the songs. “When You Call My Name” is a love song in the best WITHIN TEMPTATION tradition. It doesn’t come as a surprise, that the band has opened for WITHIN TEMPTATION and NIGHTWISH in their home country. Their music fits perfectly well to the aforementioned bands. The instrumental part in this song shows, that the band doesn’t only like to walk the paved path to success. They are not afraid to try out something different. “Finally” sounds very powerful and it’s played at full speed. However, the song has got a very catchy vibe going on. “Prelude” is a short instrumental piece, that divides the album into two parts. It’s an introduction to “Distant Melody”, which is another short but highly enjoyable track. “The Sword” has got a bit of an epical feeling to it, which isn’t strange with a title like that. The slow, pounding sound of the drums represent the swaying of ‘the sword’ for me. Therefore, it is an outstanding track on this album, which may appeal to many average rock and metal fans out there. It could very well appeal to metal heads, but also to open-minded gothic bats. Even pop/rock fans will be able to find something of their likes. What about the ROXETTE cover “Queen Of Rain”, which is on next? A nice choice. “Sweet Dead Innocence” follows and again my thoughts go out to WITHIN TEMPTATION, because of Raquel’s voice. “Poison Paradise” is another catchy track, until the male grunter turns it into something more brutal. The last two songs on this thirteen track album, that plays for over fifty minutes, were exclusively recorded for the “Onda Zero” soundtrack (2012). These songs are called “In The Edge Of Sanity” and “The Only One”. “In The Edge Of Sanity” contains a fabulous guitar solo, which easily lifts it up to the ‘highlight’ status. The CD closes with “The Only One” – a steady love tune with a nice guitar solo. HYDRIA might be the Brazilian answer to bands such as WITHIN TEMPTATION or NIGHTWISH. Mind you, they are not afraid to experiment as well, which gives their sound a slightly symphonic or progressive feel without getting away too much from those magical and catchy moments on this new album. After “Mirror Of Tears”, released in 2008, this is the band’s second album of many more to come, I hope. Website: http://www.hydria.com.br. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HYDROGYN- Judgement (Hydro Tunes)
HYDROGYN is steaming hot and they are one of the more interesting bands in our book from the new shift of metal bands. With “Judgement”, they present their new album, which contains twelve tracks and runs for about fifty-four minutes. What appeals to me right from the start is the heavy and groovy opener “Lost Reality”, which even leans towards the nu-metal. Nothing wrong with that, don’t get me wrong. It’s a great opener to shake everybody awake and ask their attention. “Right Thing Now” has got that same groove, but with a slightly catchy twist to it. “Alone” sounds a bit darker and herewith it’s safe to say, that HYDROGYN has gone through a slightly musical change, at least for me. They are more open to new influences and ready to attack the radio listeners of the national radio. “Alone” for example, could well be on national radio, if you ask my opinion. “Self Destruct” on the other hand (because of the loud riffing) will probably appeal more to the old school rockers. The PANTERA-like riffs with the melodic, sometimes screaming vocals of Julie, are very powerful and mean. They are as energetic and destructible as the title already suggests. “Gold Dust Woman” is a cover of the well-known FLEETWOOD MAC song, which is one of my favorite MAC songs, by the way. So in that way, it is a great choice. However, I ask myself what the surplus value is of covering a song, that was perfect in the first place. If it’s done to pay tribute to Stevie Nicks and FLEETWOOD MAC, then it is fine with me. But if they wanted to create a better version, then I would say that they have failed even before listening to it. So my option would be the first one and then this has turned out to be a very nice cover song, that already has been covered by HOLE as well. In “Medicate” the band goes totally out of their mind and rocks out to the max. There is some distortion in Julie’s vocals in the spoken part, which gives the song some kind of ‘flirting with modern metal’ feeling. “Big Star” is a great rocker with Doug Pinnick of KING’S X as a guest singer, who’s doing a duet with Julie. Both these songs have some great guitar solos flying around, giving them an additional boost. “Gonna Getcha” is groovy and catchy. While “Too Late” sounds very radio friendly. It also has some wild guitar riffs and a guitar solo of course. “Don’t Be My Judge” is the obligatory ballad and it’s time to take a little rest and relax a bit, I guess. Acoustic guitars, emotional vocal parts and choir vocals… It’s all there, even a nice guitar solo, which pulls up the song a bit for me. The European bonus tracks of the album are next. They are called “Assault Attack” and “Deadly Passion”. “Deadly Passion” opens with the sound of a piano and some acoustic guitars. Another ballad? Nope, the song slowly evolves into an up tempo rock song with choir vocals in the chorus. While “Assault Attack” is a very interesting, heavy guitar version of the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP tune - an instrumental with a great vibe. It’s great to hear that song again in this version. Now I’d like to give my judgement on this album. I think, it definitely sounds a lot more new-fangled than the previous work by HYDROGYN, which was a bit more classic metal orientated. The covers however show their connection to the past and for sure “Lost Reality” is the perfect opener. Without any doubt, this has turned out to be a very powerful album with not much more to ask for. The band made their statement earlier: “Don’t Be My Judge”, but I am a mild judge, who is a sucker for some good groovy metal. HYDROGYN lived up to those expectations. If they promise to put more power and groove into their sound, my judgement will become milder and milder each time. Visit http://www.hydrogyn.com for the latest news about this modern metal band from Kentucky, USA. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

IN THIS MOMENT- A Star-Crossed Wasteland (Century Media/EMI)
IN THIS MOMENT hails from North Hollywood, CA. This album will mark the definite breakthrough for this female-fronted metal band to the premier league. And you can bet your life on that. The first notes on this brand new ten tracker could very well be taken from a horror movie soundtrack. When the instruments set in and vocalist Maria Brink pulls open her mouth, there is nothing that can hold these guys and lady back! Just try to bang your head at breakneck speed to the groove of “Gunshow”, if you dare. The riffs are bone dry, the drums pound out loud and Maria screams like she’s being slaughtered to death. “Just Drive” opens with acoustic guitars, but this is only to scare you off. After a few seconds, the groove and the power are back and it’s time to rock it out once again. IN THIS MOMENT simply creates the ultimate metal sound of today. Sometimes melodic, while at other times they sound brutal or even emotional in a way, but always with the right ingredients and in the right quantity. A band like OTEP comes to mind in the more heavy and groovy parts. “The Promise” is a duet with Adrian Patrick of OTHERWISE, including the wild screams of Maria, who does her very best to crack some glasses at times. “Standing Alone” sounds quite heavy, written in capitols letters. If you ever need an energy shot, just listen to that one. It works much better that ten cups of black coffee. “A Star-Crossed Wasteland” is a step back to sirenity, in comparison to the previous track. It’s a beautiful, slightly emotional mid tempo song and a short piece of rest, before the next power attack “Blazin’ ” announces itself. When this one starts, it will turn your tiny little life into one helluva mess, as it will turn the whole world upside down for a couple of minutes. “ The Road” contains some blazin’ guitars and it’s one of the most outstanding tracks here for me, next to the opener. “Iron Army” sounds catchy, yet groovy and Maria is able to express her anger perfectly in this one. “The Last Cowboy” is a slightly emotional song. It’s nice and sweet, but nothing really special. The album closes after a bit over forty minutes with “World In Flames”, which is a ballad. There’s a lot of variation on this album and I think that this is why the metal fans of today will particularly dig it. If you like power and brutality, you can have a safe listen, but if you’re into some passion and emotion, you can find it here, too. The balance is just perfect and I think that a whole lot of people will be pleased with this new IN THIS MOMENT album. Even so, now singer Maria Brink has become some kind of rock icon and sexy looking front lady of the band. Right now, the band consists of Chris Howorth on lead guitar, Blake Bunzel on guitar, Kyle Konkiel on bass and Jeff Fabb on drums, next to Maria Brink on vocals. You can find all the latest information about the band at http://www.myspace.com/inthismoment. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ISSA- Sign Of Angels (Frontiers)
ISSA is the stage name of Isabell Oversveen, a new Norwegian rock talent. If you like rock with a strong melodic touch, you will have to check out this debut album. It opens with the catchy melodic foot stomper “Angels Crying”. Issa’s voice is very pretty to listen to. Emotional where needed and powerful at times, too. “I’m Alive” also has this catchy feeling, that makes you sing along to it immediately. ISSA has the perfect combination of great vocals in combination with good looks. This perfect match will of course have a positive impact on her career moves. For this given song, ISSA made a video clip. “Give Me A Sign” is a good example of the emotional and passionate vocals, of which I was talking about earlier. This is the sound of the melodic rock or A.O.R. scene in the eighties. While “River Of Love” is a nice ‘feel good’ rock song, including a nice guitar solo. This album certainly will raise some eyebrows in the melodic rock side of the metal scene, simply because of the passion this album has been created. As a twenty-six year young lady, ISSA stirs up quite a movement, that was maybe not asleep but slowly getting out of sight by the general hard rock fan out there. “What Can I Do” is a mid tempo rock song. Followed by “Closer”, a very radio friendly song, ready to sing along to and let yourself go. “Unbelievable” is a catchy ballad type of song. What all these songs have in common is, that they have a great vibe and almost cling to your mind directly. “How Will I Know” could be a WITHIN TEMPTATION song and Isabell is sounding like PAT BENATAR here at times. “As I Live And Breathe” is a melodic foot stomper with at least two brilliant guitar solos in it. Excellent stuff! Isabell’s band consists of Peter Huss on guitar, Tim Larsson on keyboards, Nobby Noberg on bass and Uli Kusch on drums. “Flying High” is another up tempo rocker, while “It’s Not Me” slows things down a bit. What is there are some high class songs, that old school fans of FOREINER and JOURNEY might want to check out. “Fallen Angel” closes this massive melodic rock album in a groovy way. ISSA is certainly a name to remember. Not only because the band is fronted by a stunning looking lady, but mainly because this has become such a damn nice album, highly recommended to all melodic rock fans out there. Website: http://www.issasite.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

JACQUELINE- Good Life (Sony)
When Jacqueline and KREZIP said goodbye to their Dutch fans, we were damn sure that this front lady would be the first back in the spotlights. And she is the first to be successful again. Jacqueline continues her singing career under the name of JAQUELINE. Why is this so important? I think it is for me, because she is using her own name. JACQUELINE is just her first name. There are many Jacqueline’s walking around this globe. But when we are talking about JACQUELINE in 2011, we all know that we are talking about the new band of the former KREZIP front lady. Her first solo album is called “Good Life”, which isn’t a very strange title, when you see that JACQUELINE was signed by Sony Music. She can live the good life from now on. She was the voice of KREZIP and I think, that this was just the first giant step in her flashing career. This was only just the beginning. JACQUELINE’s first solo album contains twelve tracks and only thirty-five minutes of music. What you’ll hear on “Good Life” is a merely a continuation of where KREZIP left off. You can’t deny it, that Jacqueline’s voice was the most recognizable part of KREZIP. Without her voice, it simply wouldn’t be KREZIP. Since human beings can’t change their voice, even if they would like it, they will always sound the same. Only the guys accompanying her are different. “Overrated” is the first hit single, which sounds so much like KREZIP, that it you would almost think it’s a left over, to say it very unprofessional. That we are dealing with a real talent here can be heard on the next two songs. “Dare To Lose” and “Hard To Disagree” contain different ingredients, like a real horn section. At least, it does not sound like KREZIP used to. That’s amazing, because you would think you could always make a link to her previous band pretty easily, which doesn’t seem to be the case here. “Hold Your Fire” is a duet and with “Forgive Me” Jacqueline proves, that she wanted to do something completely different than with KREZIP. The music sounds less rocking and more poppy. “Break Of Day” is a Sunday morning song, coffee in your hand, still one day to enjoy your weekend. The rock level is very low on this album, but I think that the average music fan will be able to stay until the end. Another tip for KREZIP fans: you may want to check out “Finally In Love”, that has a very cool retro organ sound. It may remind you of the sound of the sixties and seventies. Or check out the second single of this album, which is “Big World”. This could be a KREZIP piano ballad in some way. The CD closes with “Honey B”, a lullaby for Jacqueline’s baby, because next to being a very successful singer, Jacqueline is also a mother of a young baby. If that ain’t part of a ‘good life’, I don’t know?! If the music of KREZIP was already on the edge for you, than you’d better leave “Good Life” for what it is. Less narrow-minded music fans may want to have a good time with this album though. Website: http://www.jaquelinegovaert.nl. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KAIRA- Late Stone Age (Irond Records)
KAIRA present their sixth full-length album in eleven years of existence. This septet, as you might know by now, hails from the Belarus and they create heavy metal with a touch of melodic or symphonic influences. Violas, violins and cello play back to back in front of the mix with the loud riffing guitars and the wild bashing drums. Vocalist Kaira is the band’s front woman. Obviously, they named the band after her. The new album counts twelve tracks and runs for a little over fifty minutes. After a short instrumental intro, “Evolution” starts off, which reminded me of WITHIN TEMPTATION (orchestration and symphonic background) in a way. “Requiem” however sounds so much heavier, but it still carries those symphonic influences. Maybe SYMPHONY X would be a better comparison here. The fast drum beats sound like a machine gun, just like the guitar riffs. While in the background the keyboards create a nice symphonic carpet. If you ever wondered what a mix of nu-metal with keyboards would sound like, then “Karma” might probably give you the answer. Later on, the nu-metal character disappears though. “Opium” is on next, which contains a lot of energy in the sense of a musical drug. Title track “Late Stone Age” opens with a lot of horny moaning. It may get you in the mood to hear the rest of the song, that sounds very sexy and energetic as well. As far as I’m concerned, this is a real highlight. “So Just Do It” sounds very powerful and fast and be prepared for “Step # 2”, which sounds far more symphonic. While in “The Missing Legion”, orchestral sounds turn up with a fast drum beat, showing the symphonic side of the band once again. Obviously, there’s plenty of variation on this album and it all mixes very well together. “Sorcerer’s Mass”, has some danceable beats in the beginning. Because of the many keyboards in this song, it’s probably one of the most symphonic oriented tracks here. As you can see, the instrumentation is very important to KAIRA. All the more reason to introduce the band to you, while listening to the slower “Fallen From Heaven”. KAIRA consists of Kaira on vocals, Pavel Drozdov on guitar, Vladimir Charik on guitar, Aleksandr Dokuchaev on bass, Aleksandr General’chick on keyboards, Alina Varushina on cello, Anastasiya Kozhemyakina on viola and Sergey Grudinin on drums. The album closes with a piano piece, entitled “Coda”, which is a rather strange symphonic and bombastic closure of such an energetic album packed with so many powerful metal songs. KAIRA has proved their musical skills on this album and I know for sure, that they’ve pleased a lot of fans out there. Website: http://www.kairamusic.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KATRA- Out Of The Ashes (Napalm Records)
KATRA hails from the mighty Finland and it’s difficult to avoid a comparison with NIGHTWISH, when coming from this country. When listening to KATRA’s new album “Out Of The Ashes”, I can’t help myself. Listening to the opener “Delirium” and “One Wish Away”, which comes right thereafter, I hear the same catchiness in their songs. Musically, their sound comes closer to the newer version of NIGHTWISH than the most successful one with Tarja Turunen, but to call this band a second rate NIGHTWISH clone would go too far. KATRA has a face of its own, which leans a bit more toward quality pop songs with a powerful band playing them. This sounds like nothing interesting for the average Metal Maidens reader, but the catchy songs make up for this lack of heaviness. “If There Is No Tomorrow” is even suitable to sing along to. And so the success of this band can be explained very easily. Write catchy songs and add powerful music to it, but don’t make them too heavy, so you can reach a bigger audience. And you’ll see and hear, that it works. In “Vendetta”, the band shows that they can easily compete with many of the female-fronted bands out there. In title track “Out Of The Ashes” the band also dares to put some power in their songs. After the heavy riffs in the beginning, an almost silent part follows when the vocals start, but I would recommend this song to the more metal oriented readers out there. “Envy” is a very slow and balladesque song, in which vocalist Katra Solopuro shows her emotions. While “Mirror” sounds more up tempo and fits very well with the rest of the songs. “Anthem” sounds a bit mysterious and can be seen as another highlight here. However, the band never seem to reach any real high peaks, if you know what I mean. In “The End Of The Scene” they even pulled out the acoustic guitars, which is a bit too much for me. I could do with a little more power. I already hear the guitars riff in album closer “Hide And Seek”, which brings this CD to a worthy end. If you like gothic metal with female vocals, “Out Of The Ashes” is certainly a safe buy. Katra’s vocals are very pleasant to listen to and the catchy songs are a joy for your ears. If you want a bit more power, just give it some more turns to be convinced of the quality of the songs. KATRA consists of Katra Solopuro on vocals, Kristian Kangasniemi on guitar, Teemiu Mätäsjärvi on guitars, Johannes Tolonen on bass and Matt Auerkalilo on drums. For more information about the band, go to http://www.katra.fi or http://www.myspace.com/katramusic.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KERION- The Origins (Metalodic Records)
From the south of France comes this symphonic power metal band, that call themselves KERION. They already exist for many years and with “The Origins”, they present us their second full-length album, which is worthy of sixty-six minutes of melodic metal. Previously, the band was known as KIRLIAN, but very soon they changed their name into KERION. Back to this album now. After the short instrumental “Prelude”, the band shoots away in fourth gear in opener “Time Of Fantasy”. Influences of RHAPSODY OF FIRE, STRATOVARIUS, HELLOWEEN and GAMMA RAY show up, to give you an idea in which direction you must think, when listening to KERION. In the beginning of “Black Fate”, the link with fantasy shows up, too. Just listen to the first joyful notes of this song. Clearly, the band doesn’t only like to play fast forward metal songs. On the contrary, this song shows a lot of variation and innovation as well and is a real treat to my ears. The beginning of “We Will Go” gives this band another meaning; of being able to write a gothic type of song, but later on they slowly derive from it. A longer instrumental part shows that they were once an instrumental metal band and with the coming of Alise Granier, their first singer, turned into a band with vocals. “The Abyss” opens bombastic and the orchestra cranks out a joyful piece of music, that introduces the song. One of the highlights on this album for me is “Angels Of The Last Hope”, which has a great way of composing. It works itself slowly up to a great climax and contains very sophisticated sidesteps along the way, ranging from the likes of BLACKMORE’S NIGHT to some STRATOVARIUS type of stuff. While “Dark Isle” is an epical and GAMMA RAY kind of tune and ready to sing along to. KERION definitely delivers the goods and in “Face Of The Beast”, they really astounded me with their well- thought of song structures. It contains some fast guitar work and even the symphonic, melodic background of the band can be found here. If you want a little piece of rest after this amazing furious attack, then look no further because it’s time to sit down and relax a little while listening to the ballad on this album, which is called “Ghosts Of Memories”. “Resurrection” is a fast rocker and can categorized as another highlight for me. “Requiem Of The Black Rose” sounds like gothic meets metal, including the bombastic sounds and a short spoken word part. The very last track is an acoustic version of “Time Of Fantasy”. It rounds up this album, that is full of variation in a genre, that already sees a lot of releases. This is certainly one of them and it’s a damn good one, that needs some special attention. If you’ll give it some time, I’m sure that you’ll dig it completely. KERION consists of Flora Spinelli on vocals, Remi Carrairou on guitar, Sylvain Cohen on guitar, Stephane Papasergio on bass and Samuel Montais on drums. Check it out, because this is by far one of the better French bands in this type of genre. Website: http://www.kerion.net/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KICKHUNTER- All In (AFM Records)
For Metal Maidens, KICKHUNTER is only interesting for its two background singers Ela and Melanie Black. Well, let’s give them a fair chance anyway. KICKHUNTER is a band from Germany, that kicks out eleven classic rock tracks with a lot of variation, ranging from DEEP PURPLE-like hard rock to Southern rock. The songs are catchy and packed with steaming hot guitars and songs, that are ready to sing along to. The band already toured with DEEP PURPLE and LYNYRD SKYNYRD, which isn’t strange when you listen to CD openers “Mine All Mine” and “Revolution”. It captures the perfect mix of these two bands, including the two female background singers doing their best to be heard over the loud instrumental parts. For both tracks, the band made a video clip, by the way. An organ solo opens the more modern sounding “Another Tear”. As you can see, there is plenty to enjoy for everyone here. KICKHUNTER consists of Jörg ‘JC’ Wesenberg on vocals, Ansas Strehlow on organ, Stefan Aurel Schlabritz on guitar, Karsten Kreppert on drums, Rollie Feldmann on guitar and Markus Groβkopf on bass. That last one is the most eye-catching name, because of his contribution to this other well-known German metal band HELLOWEEN. Guest appearances come from Jan S. Eckert and Axel Mackenrott, both of MASTERPLAN and Hermann Frank of ACCEPT. “Feels Like Home” starts in a way, that ROGER WATERS would have done it, but later on it sounds a bit more like for example KID ROCK with a slightly Southern rock feel to it. “All In” is the intro for “Shy Shy Shy” - a song, that could very well have been written by THE FACES or FRANKIE MILLER. The female vocals are very much upfront in the mix now, because the song is more like a duet between the main vocalist and the background vocalists. “Checks In The Mail” is the first cover of two, that are on this great rock album as well. The original song was recorded by VICTORY and here we get the female vocalist in a leading role. I can assure you, that this lady sure knows how to rock it out loud! Hell yeah!! The guys take care of the background vocals on the two covers. But before the second cover is being kicked out, we have to leave for “Boogie Town” first. The name of the song says it all. It’s boogie time in boogie town, old school MOLLY HATCHET style. “Deep In My Heart” is the obligatory ballad on the album, including a full orchestration. Personally, this is a bit too much to my taste. I’m already looking forward to hearing the second cover on the album and that is the BLONDIE classic “Call Me”. Yeah, it’s time to rock it out again! Finally, the album closes with a song called “Ocean”. KICKHUNTER is kick ass rock and roll with a Southern feel to it. Sometimes, the female background vocals get a leading role and I think that a lot of rockers out there will have a good time with this one. I distract one full point of the final score, because of the awful sweet ballad on the album. Website: http://www.kickhunter.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KINGFISHER SKY- Skin Of The Earth (Suburban)
The debut album of KINGFISHER SKY “Hallway Of Dreams” sounded fresh and the band was a welcome addition to the gothic metal scene in Holland and the rest of the world. The second album is always more difficult to make, because you’ll have to top the debut album and make sure not to drown into the sea of other releases, this type of genre is dealing with each month. The artwork of this album is again very eye-catching and the eleven songs are worthy of about forty-five minutes of progressive goth metal. Opener “Multitude” comes close to the sound, that was presented on their previous album. “Rise From The Flames” adds some medieval influences to the progressive sound of the band. They sound a bit like BLACKMORE’S NIGHT here. I’ve heard “The Attic” during one of their recent live shows, and it was definitely one of the highlights for me. What remains is just another atmospheric track, which does Judith’s voice justice. The name of WITHIN TEMPTATION comes to mind once or twice, when listening to her voice, but the instrumental parts take this thought away. In “My Better Part” the comparison comes back to me though and I must admit, that this is by far one of the better songs on the album, in my opinion. It also contains a lot of groove. “Like A Shadow” is a nice up tempo song with a good guitar solo in the middle. While “Two Old Trees” is a melancholic sounding ballad type of song. In “We Love Our Heroes” , we hear more power in the music of KINGFISHER SKY. “Mushroom Wall” is a bit more gothic and laid back, but with a groovy ending. Just like its follow up “Liquid Clocks”, it has an odd title. Judith’s voice sounds like Anneke van Giersbergen here (yes, her again). This continues in “One More Day”. KINGFISHER SKY consists of Judith Rijnveld on vocals, Ivar de Graaf on drums, Edo van der Kolk on guitar, Chris Henny on guitar, Maaike Peterse on cello, Erik Hoogendoorn on bass and David Gutiérrez Rojas on keyboards. The album closes with “The Edge Of Insanity”, a more bombastic piece of art and some choir vocals. If you’re looking for high quality music, KINGFISHER SKY is a good alternative. For those, who want to bang their head and go crazy on metal music, this may sound a bit too sophisticated. Leave it for what it is, please. It would have been nice, if the band had added their You Tube hit “The Man With The Child In His Eyes”, originally recorded by KATE BUSH, on this album. By doing this, they could have lifted up my score with at least one point. A fine score though for a good new album. Website: http://www.myspace.com/kingfishersky. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KISKE/SOMERVILLE- Kiske/Somerville (Frontiers)
The beautiful voices of Michael Kiske (formerly HELLOWEEN and PLACE VENDOME) and Amanda Somerville (who worked with the likes of EPICA, KAMELOT, AFTER FOREVER and AVANTASIA) match very well together on this collaboration. These super vocalists were put together to make a full-length album, which is simply called “Kiske / Somerville”. It contains twelve songs and runs for almost fifty-five minutes of melodic progressive metal. “Nothing Left To Say” has the very recognizable voice of Kiske. Musically, this comes quite close to the early albums of HELLOWEEN, only this time you’ll hear Kiske’s voice in combination with the female voice of Somerville in this strong and powerful opener. “Silence”, the next song, is another duet. It sounds much more like what I’d expected from this album and it’s very melodic indeed. This particular song is also the first single taken off this new album. “If I Had A Wish” sounds pretty heavy and it’s definitely one of the most outstanding songs so far. I must say, I am pleasantly surprised by the power in these songs. To be honest, I hadn’t expected this at all. Same goes for the next song, that is called “Arise”, which is another powerful head banger with a very groovy beat. “End Of The Road’ shows the symphonic, progressive face of the band. The song is a bit emotional driven, but especially musically, this is a real treat. “Don’t Walk Away” is more up tempo, but with a catchy feel. “A Thousand Suns” is the ballad here with a leading role for Amanda. While “Rain” has got that catchy feeling again, that you want to sing along to it, after only hearing it once. “One Light Burning” is another emotional ballad type of song between the two singers. Followed by “Devil In Her Heart”, which has a bit more power. If you like strong vocals, then this album is definitely a must for you, because these are two very talented singers, who really give all they’ve got. “Devil In Her Heart” contains a nice keyboard part as well and I think that people, who like melodic metal with solid guitars and nice keyboards, will really enjoy this CD. “Second Chance” is a sweet, somewhat radio friendly song, but with a very nice guitar solo. Amanda’s voice gives it a bit of a HEART feeling (the latter era). The CD closes with a bonus track called “Set A Fire”. Maybe this album does not sound as a big surprise to many people, but its power surprised me a lot at times. Website: http://www.amandasomerville.com/. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KRITICOS-Dead Angels (independent)
First, let me take this opportunity to introduce these Canadian criticasters to you. KRITICOS consists of Cyn Mecredi on vocals, Guy Kurtz on guitar, Jon Kurtz on drums and Rick White on bass. The band hails from Edmonton, Canada and their album “Dead Angels” contains eight tracks with a running time of thirty-five minutes. After these interesting statistics, it’s time to let off some steam in a bone hard way. KRITICOS steps on the gas and takes off in the fourth gear with “Frivolous”. Death metal with very loud PANTERA-like riffs. They also have a female vocalist, which you don’t hear that often. Therefore we already put both thumbs up for Cyn, who growls and sings like a cross between Angela Gossow (ARCH ENEMY) and Phil Anselmo (PANTERA, DOWN). “Hymns Of The Hunted” does not only contain a lot of brutality and loud screams, but especially at the end of this particular song, you’ll hear that this band is committed to make something special out of their music. They do not pound and mash alone, they also put depth and variation in their songs. Just listen to the beginning of “Dead Angels In Boxes”, which almost sounds progressive in a way. Apart from the perfect song title, there is definitely more to enjoy than just brutality and death growls. This may take them away a bit from the extreme music style, that it’s well-known for. On the other hand, it adds a different dimension to this genre, that makes it a little more enjoyable for people, who are not completely into this extreme form of heavy metal, like myself. The riffs make you let your hair down, while banging to the sound of the music. In “Red Mourning”, you can even find a touch of doom metal. Talk about variation. I guess, you really can’t go wrong with KRITICOS. The song isn’t slow at all. On the contrary, it may be one of their fastest tracks so far. There’s just that doomy vibe, that I like in bands such as SAINT VITUS, just to name one. The guitar solo is also mind blowing, by the way. “Nightmare’s Anthem” is on next and the sound of Cyn and the band comes very close to ARCH ENEMY, which they can take as a huge compliment. “Waging War” is a first class eardrum destroyer, which pounds like a hammer breaking down to a wall of sound. What a power! In “Story Of The Damned”, there are a lot of speed changes going on, which definitely makes it another highlight for me. Especially, the slower riff part, somewhere in the middle, is great. “Violence On Display” closes this amazing CD much too soon, which is another brutal basher that will make you feel like there’s nothing more in the world going on besides this one song. A simple moment of losing your mind for a couple of minutes and let out all the sweat for a while. If you can’t get enough of this brutal eardrum attack, just push the ‘repeat’ button again and you’ll be attacked for a second time. KRITICOS knows to deliver brutality, but they also put a lot of variation to their songs, which makes it easy to sit out. I really liked “Dead Angels” and I definitely want to recommend this to all readers of Metal Maidens. You won’t be disappointed! Go to: http://www.kriticos.com, and http://www.myspace.com/kriticosband for more information on the band and to order their album. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KYLESA- Spiral Shadow (Season of Mist)
Fans of heavy music, listen up! From Georgia comes the powerhouse unit known as KYLESA. The band got their start way back in 2001 (hard to believe, that was ten years ago) and have issued their latest release “Spiral Shadow” via Season of Mist. KYLESA features in its ranks, two lead vocalists. Phillip Cope and Laura Pleasants provide a cool dynamic, that is a driving force behind this eleven song offering. As stated above, the music is heavy, but with a good deal of melody and the songs also contains a good amount of technical proficiency in the music. The songs also have a doomy, seventies classic rock feel to them. Vocally, Phillip Cope’s style is really quite aggressive and goes straight for the jugular and Laura’s style is a little cleaner, yet still aggressive in its own way. The songs “Spiral Shadow”, ‘Tired Climb” and “Drop Out” are a pretty good indicator of what to expect. The bottom line is that “Spiral Shadow” grabs you in a stranglehold and doesn’t let up until the closing number “Dust” reaches its end. [7 points] (Tony Cannella)

LEZ ZEPPELIN- Lez Zeppelin I (PIE Records)
Nine LED ZEPPELIN songs, played by an all-female LED ZEPPELIN tribute band. Well, count me in, dear readers! Forty-five minutes of ultimate musical pleasure, performed by four young ladies, who dare to play the songs of the four emperors of hard rock. No matter, if they are able to achieve any of the groove or the perfect sound, that these masters once were famous for. The fact, that they put these nine songs on a silver disc is already worth a huge compliment. Which songs are covered here isn’t really important to me. On the other hand, it would be very easy to play just the biggest hit singles. But that wouldn’t make this album less interesting to me. The female Zeps open with “Good Times, Bad Times”, which is a good and very solid rock song to open with. “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” is not such an obvious choice, but vocalist Shannon Conley shows us that she comes very close to the original vocal parts of Robert Plant. Besides Shannon, the band consists of Leesa Harrington-Souyres on drums, Steph Paynes on guitar and Megan Thomas on guitar. A job well done, ladies. “You Shook Me” is a killer song, originally recorded by WILLIE DIXON. It has that well-known LED ZEPPELIN-vibe. The groove, that rocks the house. Also LED ZEPPELIN had their influences and WILLIE DIXON was one of the most important ones. You will find another classic of him later on the album. The harmonica playing by Shannon in is really mind-blowing in my opinion. I also put both thumbs up for the screaming guitar solo. Four young ladies catching the sound of ‘The Zep’ so well, could be called surprising. It also tells us, that these ladies have listened very well to the original songs, because sometimes they know how to capture the right feeling at the right time and that’s in one word amazing. “Dazed And Confused” is another classic. In a live version, it sometimes lasted almost thirty minutes with twenty-five minutes consisting of instrumental improvising material. The longest part of this song is left out and the ladies limit themselves to the song and how it was captured on that marvelous debut album by ZEPPELIN. The whole CD has got the same order of nine songs, so all fans know that the next song will be “Your Time Is Gonna Come”. But not before I’ve complimented these four ladies once again with the strength and power, that they put in this performance. Especially the vocals of Shannon deserve deep respect from yours truly. “Your Time Is Gonna Come” maybe sounds a bit different, because of the female choir vocals. “Black Mountain Side” is a short instrumental and this time my compliments go out to Steph for doing an amazing job. The table drums in this song were played by Sajjad Chowdry to get the information right here. “Communication Breakdown” is fast and heavy and these very first notes are definitely identical to how I recall it from the original album. “I Can’t Quit You Baby” is that second WILLIE DIXON song. What a difficult one, because this is a blues track which is insane for a lady to sing this way. But Shannon does a very good job here, which doesn’t sound too far away from the original. Same goes for the guitar solo, which is given a whole lotta love emotion by Jimmy at the time, that he recorded it. It’s almost impossible to capture that same feeling forty years later. Still, the song remains the same and it remains a killer track. “How Many More Times” was the track, in which Robert Plant always introduced the band members during their live shows. This time the compliments go out to the big drum sound of Megan. The song slowly turns into a segment of “The Hunter” in a very natural way. Perfect ladies, just perfect! What a way to pay tribute to the maestros. I will not give the full score to this album, because that is only meant for the original piece of art. But with one point less than full score, you can call this a recommendation for all old school rockers and metal heads out there. Website: http://www.lezzeppelin.com/ [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LIV KRISTINE- Skintight (Napalm Records)
LIV KRISTINE is not only well-known as a solo artist, but she’s also the vocalist for LEAVES EYES, ATROCITY and THEATRE OF TRAGEDY in their fruitful days. Her new solo album contains ten songs and runs about thirty-five minutes. Title track “Skintight” opens with some very recognizable dance beats, reminding me of the eighties and THE CURE. It’s a very joyful song. “Twofold” keeps the speed up. Clearly, it’s not a real surprise where this album is going. It contains some melodic rock songs with a slightly gothic feeling at times. The next song starts with the sound of a train fading away announcing the “Train To Somewhere”, which takes back some speed and gets more and more into the direction that you might be expecting from this album. “Love In Grey” has a nice slide guitar solo, which makes it an outstanding song for me. The shortest track on the album is called “Emotional Catastrophes”, which is by far one of the most powerful tunes here. Just listen to the nice guitar sound and the riffs somewhere in the middle. It’s surely one of the best songs I’ve ever heard by this beautiful blonde rock goddess. “Life Line” is more like an acoustic love song and really something different from what we’ve just heard. “Boy At The Window” contains more dance beats. Call it experimental and cool to try and do things like that. I am not a real fan of mixing rock or gothic rock with dance beats. It’s an energetic beat though, but Liv doesn’t really need it. While “Wonders” and “Versified Harmonies” show the beauty of Liv’s voice once again. She sings in a very tender way, which matches very well with the orchestration. Sometimes she likes to rock out, but to be quite honest with you, I like Liv’s voice most, when she shows emotion and tenderness. That’s not really metal, I know but I don’t care. “The Rarest Flower”, which is an odd title maybe, closes this album, which has a lot to enjoy for all the fans of LIV KRISTINE. Website: http://www.livkristine.de/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LORDI- Babez For Breakfast (Sony Music)
Have you ever had a monster sucking on your tits? What an odd question. Not, if you look at the CD cover of the new LORDI album. Sorry if I’m rough-spoken and I don’t want to offend anyone, but I can’t describe it any other way. LORDI has “Babez For Breakfast” at the end of 2010. At least that’s what the title of this new album suggests. An album, that contains fifteen new songs and almost fifty minutes of brand new monstrous material. The birth of a baby boy is the intro in a song called “SCG5: It’s A Boy!”, but it sounds more like the birth of a monster to me. Remember the movie “It’s Alive”…? Well, something like that, only this time on CD. “Babez For Breakfast” is a party horror rock song with some tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Because after they ate the babes, they have bitches for brunch and more sluts for lunch. That’s the way LORDI handles these things. The music sounds catchy in the better ALICE COOPER way. And I mean ALICE COOPER at the end of last century and the beginning of this century. “This Is Heavy Metal” is louder and a tribute to our favorite music style. “Rock Police” opens with a more melodic sound, including the keyboards of the only female member of the band, Awa, who has a very prominent role in this song.”Discoevil” is a very nice song title, but it’s a statement that I shouted out loud, when I was about fifteen years of age and that’s a very long time ago. But it is never too late to kick against shitty disco music, these Finnish monsters must have thought. “Call Off The Wedding” is a slower song, that contains a guitar solo by Bruce Kulick (ESP, KISS, MEAT LOAF). “I Am Bigger Than You” is another party-like song. Sometimes LORDI chooses the horror way to make things clear and at other times it’s just party time. In the meantime, the concept is well-known, but even after so many albums it still works, because it’s all very well done. “Zombie Rock Machine” is a mix of partying and horror, which is all part of the deal. The instrumental part could well be used in a zombie movie, but the song itself is another party track with nice keyboard sounds hidden in the back. “Midnite Lover” contains some of the well-known LORDI choir vocals. “Give Your Life For Rock ‘N’ Roll” is another LORDI statement, that will appeal to many readers here, including the UDO-like screams by Mr. Lordi himself. In the choir vocals at the end, I also sense some female voices, which are from Marija S and Julie Westlake (HYDROGYN). Next, it’s time to raise your fist and shout along to “Nonstop Nite”. Just remember the song title and shout along to it, it makes you feel good. I liked the guitar solo of Amen in this one. Followed by a short interlude, called “Amen’s Lament To Ra”, which is a short instrumental on acoustic guitar. It’s a kind of introduction to “Loud And Loaded”, which is a no-nonsense rock and roll song, that ends with a huge bang. Before you know it, the end of the CD comes near with “Granny’s Gone Crazy”, another crazy foot stomper. The CD closes with “Devil’s Lullaby”. After that, you can go to sleep safely. Pleasant dreams boys and girls and no, you can’t leave on the light. LORDI’s new album won’t bring you anything new, but they sure know how to amuse me. Just have a good look at all the fantastic drawings inside the CD booklet. It certainly adds something to the product, that these Finnish monsters are releasing. LORDI is not a joke, they are the living prove that monsters also like their rock hard and loud. Website: http://www.lordi.fi. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MASTERCASTLE-Last Desire (Lion Music)
MASTERCASTLE is a female-fronted power metal band from Italy and they present their second album, called “Last Desire” here. It contains twelve songs with a total length of about fifty-five minutes. MASTERCASTLE consists of Giorgia Gueglio on vocals, Pier Gonella on guitar, Steve Vawamas on bass and Alessandro Bissa on drums. “Event Horizon” is a nice opener to let off some steam, while in “Misr”, you’ll enjoy a more melodic heavy sound. Giorgia is a good front lady and the guitars cry out loud in this particular track. There is an oriental atmosphere in this song as well, if you listen very carefully. Not only in the guitar sound, but also the way that Giorgia sings after the instrumental break. “Wild Spell” is a real highlight in my book. A fast metal track with loads of guitar solos to spice it up. Title track “Wild Desire” adds some more melody to the album. Not every song needs to sound alike and it’s nice to hear a bit of variation. The guitar sound of Pier dominates and he gives his best shot here. His guitar playing has got some resemblance to YNGWIE J MALMSTEEN, without calling him a copycat of course. “Away” sounds very catchy and the song is building up a nice tension, before we go on a “Space Trip” with the band. It’s a wild and instrumental sidestep by Pier, which has some fabulous axework!! While being on that space trip, the band obviously passed a “Jade Star”. Reason enough to write a nice ballad about that. It’s time to catch your breath after such a fabulous trip. After the balled, some fast and powerful pounding prepares for the “Great Heaven’s Climb”. Here, the guitar solo sounds more like the good old Ritchie Blackmore. Not a bad comparison, I guess. “Cat-House” sounds like JUDAS PRIEST in their “Turbo” days. Computerized guitars dominate the sound in this song. I was one of the very few people, who actually liked the sound on this PRIEST album. It sounded very innovating and JUDAS PRIEST was one of the very few, who dared to sound like that in the eighties. “Toxie Radd” shows the strength and brightness of Giorgia’s voice. She sure is a great singer. In this song her voice gets distorted at times, which gives the band the sound of the new century, instead of the well-known old school sound. “La Serenissima” is the second instrumental song, which has a different character than “Space Trip”. This is more a jamming type of song, sounding like the earlier JOE SATRIANI material. The album closes with “Scarlett” and some mind-blowing guitar work hits you right in the face. MASTERCASTLE is a real promise for the Italian heavy metal scene and I think, that “Last Desire” is definitely a must for all true heavy metal fans out there. You simply can’t go wrong with stuff like that.Website: http://www.myspace.com/mastercastle. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

MOTHERSTONE-Terror Is Over (independent)
MOTHERSTONE is a ballsy rock band, that hails from Rome in La Bella Italia. And I can tell you, that they really rock out loud there! Their new album “Terror Is Over” is a mix of groovy pounding metal like SLIPKNOT, mixed with melodic arrangements in the best ALTER BRIDGE tradition. The band consists of Vale on vocals, JJ Mammasasso on male grunts, Rick Mackey on drums, Danielle ‘Dani Hell’ Pompei on guitar and Ivano ‘The Slider’ Conti on bass. In CD opener “Face Your Fate”, we hear a mix of female vocals and male screams, topped by a solid metal sound and some touches of melody. And in the second track “24/7 Sedation” this seems to be shaping up even better. It will definitely appeal to many metal heads out there. The female vocals of Vale are nice and clear and in some ways she sounds a bit like Cristina Scabbia. “Mental Wreck Age” is another powerful outburst at high speed, whereas “Frozen Waters” takes back some speed. They make up for that by putting a bigger dose of heaviness to the song. What power! The big surprise though comes at the end of the song, when an acoustic bass sound takes over for a couple of seconds before exploding into screams. What a nice break and quite surprising, too. Groovy riffs mark “How It Began” and also this time there’s an exciting break at the end. It does take the natural flow out of the song a bit, but it sounds very exciting to me. They dare to do something different, which is quite innovating. If you’re open to it, it’s surely a great listen. If you only like a straight forward heavy sound, then I’d suggest to skip “All Denied”. It will clean your mind and then it will turn your room into one big mess, after jumping up and down on this one. “Satellite” starts off in a normal way, but it contains some very brutal parts creating a good balance between the melody and the more heavy parts in the song. Vale’s voice sounds very up front in the mix and again she reminds me of Cristina of LACUNA COIL. “Mad Man Walking” is fast and aggressive and it has a great break near the end. After this innovative part, there’s still enough time to bash out loud for a couple of seconds. “Down To My Knees” has got those well-known PANTERA-like machine gun riffs. Before you know it, you are listening to CD closer and title track “Terror Is Over” - a brutal screamer, where the male vocals sound a bit more upfront in the beginning. Apparently the band cranks out a lot of brutality and doesn’t take back speed for any sensitive ballad or whatever. So if you like your metal very powerful, but still with some room for melody and innovation, then I’d suggest to check out this second full-length album by MOTHERSTONE. After their recent tour with BLAZE BAILEY, the band is now getting ready to tour again, so catch them while you can. The ten songs are worthy of about forty minutes of very powerful metal. That’s not long maybe, but better ten decent tracks than four or five fillers to just have more songs. Forty minutes of high class material is a much better option in my eyes. Website: http://www.motherstone.it or http://www.myspace.com/motherstonemusic. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MY RUIN- Ghosts And Good Stories (Tiefdruck Musik)
The previous album by MY RUIN sounded ultra loud and a bit doomy as well. “Ghosts And Good Stories”, their latest endeavour, is definitely another true masterpiece. Heavy as lead and dark and black as the night. Tairrie B takes across her sick thoughts in a rather slow and spoken word kind of style and a brutal and aggressive way of singing, which fits very well to the heavy music, that the band pounds out. The bass sound in the beginning of “Doggin’ For Ghosts” can be felt all way up your upper abdomen. It’s that heavy. I am really excited to hear all thirteen songs on this new album, which is worthy of fifty minutes of power, energy and pleasure. The energy and power in “Long Dark Night” comes straight from their hearts, where Tairrie puts all her aggression in the singing, while partner-in-crime Mick Murphy takes care of a fast and haunting sound. “Excommunicated” is another aggressive blast off, which goes even faster than the previous song. The ice cold scream by Tairrie hits you right in the soul. MY RUIN starts to sound more and more like BLACK LABEL SOCIETY on speed. Only this time with female vocals and a sometimes faster pace. “Eyes Black” is more up tempo and contains a nice groove and ditto beat. The spoken word part gives the song a special dark dimension. “Money Shot” sounds like a fast shot of adrenaline, which might be useful when catching your next breath of energy in “Abusing The Muse”. In “La Ciudad”, the band takes it slowly, but Tairrie still keeps screaming out her lyrics in the most energetic way possible. Nobody can stop her. “Suicide Tuesday” contains a nice guitar solo, in which Mick takes his moment of fame and turns this song into another highlight. “Saviourself” sounds a bit slower and I think that many doom metal fans will relate to the music of MY RUIN. The pounding, dark sound of the band is definitely like magic for the doom metal minds among us, although the speed goes up many times as well. It’s one of my own personal highlights on the album, by the way and again it has a great guitar solo. “Malediction” starts up fast and gives you another dose of groove and fast riffs. “Repose” contains choir vocals and takes another look into the deep dark soul of Tairrie. She is ready to spit out her thoughts on you, but clearly don’t get too close or she will reach out her claws. “Turned Out” could be autobiographical in a way. At least that’s what you think, when Tairrie screams out these words. Whatever it may be, she sure knows how to please a lot of fans with this dirty, black minded piece of heaviness. The fifty minutes of dark doomy heavy metal closes with “Deathknell”. This sounds like a metallic prayer on doomy metal. The guitars roar slowly and Tairrie prays on her knees….that this album may bring her the success, that she deserves so well. Together with Mick, she really delivers another high class album. I think, that if you already liked her previous stuff, you don’t have to hesitate one second and buy this new CD. The ghost house on the front cover and the whole booklet are printed in moody black and white, which adds a special ghostly atmosphere to this great new album. It’s full of ghosts and other good stories, so your money will be very well spend. Amen. Website: http://www.myspace.com/myruin. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SCHANDMAUL- Traumtänzer (F.A.M.E. Recordings/Rock Inc.)
I must admit, that I always find it difficult to listen to the albums of SCHANDMAUL. They are extremely popular in Germany, but in our country they are moving very much between the thin line of what is metal and what not. I don’t categorize SCHANDMAUL as a metal band. But I have the same thoughts about IN EXTREMO, DIE ÄRZTE and SUBWAY TO SALLY. In some countries they are called metal, where as an old school metal head I always felt like in my book this is pure folk music. This could become a rather lengthy discussion (again) and so this time I decided to take a different perspective towards this new album by this German combo, the seventh studio album already. The album contains fourteen songs and runs for fifty-five minutes. Opener “Traumtänzer” is a very happy song and it will definitely become a crowd pleaser during the band’s live shows. It’s danceable and it will put a smile upon your face, that’s for sure. “Der Alchemist” is slower and darker, which shows the many faces, that this band has got. The folky background remains in every song. Sometimes the guitars try to show up in front of the mix, but every time the bagpipes, the violin and the flutes are given the right of priority in the sound of SCHANDMAUL. You can also say, that the female input is very important for the folky sound of the band. Birgit Muggenthaler-Schmack plays bagpipes, flutes, shawms and vocals, and Anna Katharina Kränzlein plays violin, viola, hurdy gurdy and vocals. Most of these instruments take care of a somewhat medieval sound, which fits perfectly to the folky atmosphere of the different songs. The other members in SCHANDMAUL are Thomas Lindner on vocals, acoustic guitar and accordion (?!), Martin ‘Ducky’ Duckstein on electric guitar, acoustic guitar, classic guitar and vocals, Matthias ‘Hiasl’ Richter plays bass, fretless bass and acoustic bass and Stefan Brunner plays drums and percussion. Besides the medieval sounding instruments, their lyrics are sung in the German language, which adds to the authenticity of the band. No wonder, that they are very successful at our neighbours, because they tell their stories in a very joyful way. Although I have my doubts, if there are many metal-minded people out here in our own country, that will have a good listen to the average German songs like “Der Anker”, “Geas Traum” or “Das Dichters Segen”. The opener of this album is by far the best song for me, but afterwards the already very low metal level went down below zero and didn’t get back. Maybe the aforementioned fans of SCHANDMAUL will have a good time with this new album. The average metal fan will have to be very open-minded to dig these poppy songs though. No matter how popular this band really is in their own country, I can hardly give this a high score. Musically, it is done perfectly well, but it simply isn’t metal. So I’m afraid, that a low score is the final result for SCHANDMAUL. Sorry guys! Website; http://www.schandmaul.de. [4 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SEMBLANT- Last Night Of Mortality (Freemind Records)
Dark sounding gothic metal from Brazil is brought to you by SEMBLANT. Their debut album “Last Night Of Mortality” contains ten tracks and runs for about forty-five minutes, taking you away to the darkest vaults of Brazil. Spoken word opener and title track “Last Night Of Mortality” tells us, in which direction this album will be heading. There is dark gothic metal and there is dark gothic metal. This sounds like dark metal to me with some gothic sidesteps. I’ve been blown away by the darkness and beauty of the first track “Nightmare World” with its wild screams, double bass drums, dark bass sound and keyboards, topped by the female voice of Muziho Lin. What a fantastic opener! The dark, wooly sound of the keys remind me of MOONSPELL from Portugal. In “Black Babylon” the keyboard remain, but also guitar player Everson Chorna takes a step forward to show his skills. Not only in his riffs, but also with some very nice solos. The choir vocals, sung in Latin, are a welcome addition to this great song. “Evilbringer” starts out as a duet between Mizuho and male vocalist Sergio Mazui, but after this intro, it turns into another dark gothic metal anthem. In the wild riffing part, you can see those long hair waving in the wind in your imagination. It’s the perfect rhythm to bang your head on. Besides Mizuho, Sergio and Everson, the band consists of Leonardo Rivabern on bass, Pheil Voltolini on drums and J. Augusto on keyboards. While typing the line-up of the band, a great instrumental mid part unveils itself with a leading role for guitar and bass. At the end there are the choir vocals, which brings back the dark mood again. “Forever Failure” starts out dark and emotional, but it also contains some icely high screams. While in “Sleepless”, you will definitely enjoy the guitar work of Everson again. This song has been their first CD single, released in 2009, for web promotion only. “Legacy Of Blood” puts the vocal skills of Sergio a bit more in the spotlights. I must admit, that I didn’t expect that the sun would ever shine again after this, but there is still hope. “Legacy Of Blood” shows the more gothic metal side of the band and brings back some light after all these dark songs. “The Neptune Effect” is another joyful song, before we go back “Deep In Dark Waters”, which sounds much darker. This fits the band best, in my opinion. And it is another good example of what I mean by a dark sound. The instrumentation fits perfectly to the title of the song. The CD closes with “End Of Dusk”, which is another duet between Mizuho and Sergio. This catchy track could possibly even receive some radio airplay on one of the alternative stations all over the world. I never was too much of a fan of dark gothic metal, but I must say that SEMBLANT has pleasantly surprised me. And with their song “Nightmare World”, no matter how dark it really sounds, they even put a smile upon my face. Simply because everything sounds just perfect in that song. The high rating is because this is one of the better dark, gothic metal releases I’ve heard so far. Website: http://www.myspace.com/semblant. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SENTINEL BEAST- Up From The Ashes (Cruz Del Sur)
While we all are waiting for the new SENTINEL BEAST album to be released, we were treated on a very nice release of the band’s old demos. True metal addicts like myself are in for twelve old school metal tracks with a total playing time of fifty-five minutes. Now ain’t that grand? The CD opens with the “Kill The Witch” demo from 1984 with “Tonite” as great up tempo opener. “Full Treatment” shows, that this band doesn’t walk the paved paths alone. The beginning sounds like an odd mix of BLACK SABBATH, SAXON and IRON MAIDEN, that’s three classic metal bands in a row, which is hard to top. Add to this the raspy voice of Debbie Gunn and something special unfolds itself spontaneously. Which proves, that we’re dealing with a special band here and they had an innovative way of writing and composing songs at that particular time. That intro alone tells you, that they were ahead of their time. Debbie sings in a dark low voice, which fits perfectly to this song, creating a bit of a spooky atmosphere. The “Depths Of Death” demo from 1985 is on next. It shows the way that the band developed themselves. Title track “Depths Of Death” opens slowly in an instrumental way, before Debbie puts down the pedal to the metal and it becomes a real speed metal banger of the best order. “Sacred Line” contains some interesting innovative breaks, which may remind you of some of the work by IRON MAIDEN (“Phantom Of The Opera” / “Rhime Of The Ancient Mariner”). “Fight For Your Life” and “Hell Affair” are two straight forward rock songs, that ask for some serious head banging. “Beyond The Walls” shows the more progressive, innovative side of the band and an almost epical metal sound carries this song. The many breaks will make your head toll from exhaustion and for some people it will almost be impossible to handle all these difficult breaks at once. The ‘Metal Massacre’ demo from 1985 shows a much heavier sound. It opens with the great pounding metal basher “Sentinel Beast”. Aaaaargggghhhhhh, what power!! Slay me, if you think I’m wrong! I’m sure, that my neighbours think the opposite about this song, but I don’t give a f*ck. I turn up the volume two more notches to let the music show up well. “Dogs Of War” may not be a pounder, but it is more a neck breaker. So you’d better avoid the noble art of head banging on this one, because you will end up with a broken neck in the worst case. The ‘Metal Blade’ demo of 1987 closes the CD and consists of another two metal tracks. “One Man Cry” and “Where Am I” show us that this band was still in a very fine shape and when you hear these tracks, you can say that it is a crying shame that a second album never saw the light of day. In “Where Am I” the band even flirts with some doom influences in the beginning of the song. At least, it sounds a bit slower than the rest of the material. Debbie returned with SENTINEL BEAST at the Keep It True Festival a couple of years ago, which was a very nice surprise. Her band consisted of some very young lads back then, but her performance was awesome and a new album seems to be in the making. Besides this, we saw the release of “Commencement”, a great new album by FISCHEL’S BEAST, the new band of guitar player Barry Fischel. What a great ending of 2010 from a band, that is long gone but definitely not forgotten yet. The CD booklet contains a whole lot of nice pictures, lyrics and a biography, next to the awesome fifty-five minutes of true heavy metal. Do you need more reasons to buy this album and give it the full score?? I guess not. Website: http://www.myspace.com/sentinelbeastofficialsite. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

SEVEN KINGDOMS- Seven Kingdoms (Nightmare Records)
It is time to enter the fantastical realm of melodic power metal courtesy of Florida’s SEVEN KINGDOMS. Despite their newest release being self-titled, this is actually SEVEN KINGDOMS second album. Their first one featured a male vocalist and now on their sophomore effort, he has been replaced by an excellent female vocalist named Sabrina Valentine. This proves to be an inspired choice, in my opinion. After the opening intro track “Prelude”, the band tears into the up-tempo, powerful “Somewhere Far Away” and we are off and running. “The Ones Who Breathe The Flame” is up next and showcases a more aggressive style, as Sabrina is joined by some grunt male vocals. This is power metal of the highest caliber, as the songs “Open the Gate”, “Vengeance By The Sons Of The King” and “Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing” prove. One of the biggest highlights for me was the beautiful ballad “A Murder Never Dead”, thus proving that SEVEN KINGDOMS can do more than just play head banging music. Don’t get too comfortable though, as the band brings back the pounding metal for the next track “Into The Darkness”. The whole thing is concluded by the nine minute track “Seven Kingdoms”, featuring some guest vocals provided by ex-CRIMSON GLORY front man Wade Black. Melodic power metal is becoming an ever crowded sub-genre in the world of metal, but SEVEN KINGDOMS are a band, that has the ability to stand out from the pack, but don’t listen to me, give their album “Seven Kingdoms” a spin and decide for yourselves. Website: http://www.sevenkingdoms.net/ [9 points] (Tony Cannella)

SEVEN THE HARDWAY- Seven The Hardway (Mascot Records)
SEVEN THE HARDWAY is a fairly new progressive rock outfit consisting of some well-known musicians like Doug Shreeve on bass, Stefania Daniel on guitar, Mark Boals (ROYAL HUNT, RING OF FIRE, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, ULI JON ROTH) on vocals, Virgil Donati (PLANET X, STEVE VAI) on drums and Tony Macalpine (PLANET X, TONY MACALPINE, M.A.R.S., C.A.B.) on guitars. A quite impressive line-up. Without hearing a single note by the band, I thought I’d get to hear at least a sort of follow up to PLANET X here. Man, was I wrong or not so wrong if you listen very carefully. Listening to openers “Liar” and “Guilt”, you sometimes get the idea that you are listening to a darker sounding alternative rock band. Whispering through this sound are the progressive elements, that you would expect from a new PLANET X album. So if you mix this, you would end up with a sort of dark, alternative, progressive rock or metal band. The songs don’t drown in long instrumental solo spots by the different musicians, but they are very compact and sometimes even sound slightly catchy. The guitars and instrumental parts are there, but they are always in service of the song and there’s no ego tripping on this album at all. I think, that SEVEN THE HARDWAY is too much a band, that wants to express themselves as a band and not as the sound of a solo performer, who constantly needs to be in the spotlights. You would hardly say, when you listen to the impressive guitar solo by Tony Macalpine in “Solitary Ground”, but also this solo stays nicely between the borders and it’s not a long solo trip of the guitar player. Afterwards, the song rolls on, like it did before the guitar solo. With “Where I’m Going”, we have come to the ballad part on this album. Emotional, including an acoustic Adrian Vandenberg-like guitar solo, Mark Boals shows his skills here. He has a very pleasant voice, even in the more alternative parts of his singing. I always liked his higher voice, when he still was with YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, but this alternative side sounds very well, too. “All I Had” sounds a bit doomy with dark slow riffs of both guitar players. Sometimes, the level of alternative rock is very high. “Blame” for example contains some mind boggling guitar work in the middle of the song. But it also has distorted vocals, something I didn’t actually expect on this album. “The Wall” sounds a bit more radio friendly, so to speak and it’s easy on the ears without being commercial. In “Good And Evil”, you’d almost think that they forgot to implement a good guitar solo, until Tony comes out of the blue with another impressive solo near the end. “Happy Ending” has another high level of alternative rock. The way Mark Boals sings and the fast, short riffs definitely give this song an alternative face. The album closes with another alternative rock song, called ‘The Cage”. It’s not bad at all and rather catchy, but sometimes the progressive side seems to have disappeared or it has a rather small role. There is no reason to moan though, because “Seven The Hardway” has become a very surprising album with a whole lot of nice songs to enjoy. The ten tracks in total play for forty-five exciting minutes and I think, that with all this talent, together in one band, you simply can’t go wrong. At least not, if you are open for this type of music. It’s got all bits and pieces, that could make it exciting for every rock fan out there, I guess. Have a taste of SEVEN THE HARDWAY and you won’t be disappointed. Website: http://www.seventhehardway.net. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SHADOWGARDEN- Ashen (Napalm Records)
SHADOWGARDEN hails from Sweden. Forty minutes of fresh sounding gothic rock full of emotion and darkness, yet with a loud riff or a rocking groove, are presented on this album. Johan Ericson of DRACONIAN is the leading man here. When listening to “Ashen”, you wouldn’t say, that this is only their debut album. It all comes so natural and you would think that you are dealing with the third or fourth album by this outfit. The songs are easy on the ears and have a kind of commerciality, which would make their music very suitable for national radio or a position in the charts. And I think, that in countries like Sweden and Finland, they could get very high in the national charts. The female input on this album comes from Lisa Johansson (DRACONIAN). She does not sing in every song, but in “With Love And A Bullet” she really surprised me with her nearly ‘sensual’ lead vocals. Her vocal parts in “Last Summer” are short and more in duet with Johan’s voice and in CD opener “Shadowplay”, I didn’t even hear her at all. So before buying this album, I wanna tell you up front, that her voice isn’t heard in every song. Just to let you know, that you won’t be listening to a WITHIN TEMPTATION, NIGHTWISH or EPICA kind of band, that has a steady female frontwoman / vocalist. The mix of both female and male vocals adds a lot of variety to the different tracks, which makes it easier to comprehend, I think. “The Withering Of Mine” has only male vocals, but it still contains a lot of rock and it’s a real fast and groovy track. What also appeals to this album is, that you don’t hear any dark sounding ballad. Most of the songs are up tempo and sound rather light and easy on the ears. In “Empty Days”, Johan sounds like James Hetfield and CD closer “Slowmotion Apocalypse” is a real doomy masterpiece, which belongs to one of the highlights on this album for me. SHADOWGARDEN shows, that they are able to write good songs and they perform them well, too. The good production of the album is pretty important as well of course. The input of the female singer though is very small and could have made this album a lot more interesting. Maybe this will happen in the future?!? I think, that SHADOWGARDEN has a very bright future in front of them. The band consists of Lisa Johansson on vocals, Johan Ericson on vocals and guitar, Andreas Hindenäs on guitar, Björn Johansson on bass and Daniel Flores on drums. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SISTER SIN- True Sound Of The Underground (Victory Records)
Raise your fists, bang your head and shout it out loud, because SISTER SIN is in the house. With a title like “True Sound Of The Underground”, I have great expectations about this eleven track album by the Swedish metal band. For the next forty minutes I’ll be clinging to my stereo set, listening to the sound of the underground. This is also the title of the first song, which is a fast rocker, where the band catches my attention without any problems. “Outrage” is the first single of the band and just like “True Sound Of The Underground”, it has a very catchy sound and is pretty straight forward. In the song structure, you will recognize the well-known KISS sound from their “I Love It Loud” track. If you think in the direction of KISS, WASP, MOTLEY CRUE, ACCEPT and old DOKKEN stuff, you can’t go wrong with SISTER SIN. “Better Than Them” sounds fast and short at the same time and a has a DORO beat lurking in the background. The band knows their classics and vocalist Liv sure has got a brilliant voice. She is very capable of cranking out these songs, the way we want to hear them. “24/7” is another single, for which the band has recorded a video clip. Here we’ll hear the more ACCEPT-like sound, because of the male choir vocals. “Heading For Hell” is a fast headbanger with more ACCEPT influences, because of the male chants. I must admit, that the old school metal sound splashes from this silver disc. There simply isn’t a chance, that you’ll hear something of a new music style somewhere in the background. This sure is something to check out for all of you metal heads out there! The songs also don’t have the time to become boring, because they are all about three minutes long. After a fast head banger, it’s time for another punching pounder in “I Stand Alone”. “Built To Last” continues in the same speed. And maybe that is where the only tiny little complaint may pop up. Some of the songs sound a bit alike. Not that this is a major complaint, but if you heard one song, you’ll definitely like the next one as well, because they all sound very much the same. The positive thing is, that all the songs have the same high quality, which still makes it easy to enjoy their straight forward heavy metal here. “The Devil I Know” has male shouted chants and an up tempo speed. “Times Aren’t A-Changing” has a nice title and a slightly different structure, which makes it an highlight for me. “Nailbiter” and “Beat Em Down” close this bloody good third album of the band. Besides Liv, they consists of Jimmy on guitar, Benton on bass and Dave on drums. It’s good to hear, that SISTER SIN is still supporting that good old fashioned old school underground metal sound. There aren’t too many bands around, that create a sound that is as old school as on this album. And a lot of people seem to dig this, because SISTER SIN’s star is rising very fast and the band has created a very solid fan base in a very short period of time. If they work on a bit more variety in their songs, they can surely grow out to a very high class old school metal band. This album is a big step forward, if you compare it to their previous album “Switchblade Serenade”. It’s a shame though, that it only lasts for forty minutes, but therefore you have the repeat button on your stereo, I guess. Website: http://www.sistersin.com/. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SIX MAGICS- Behind The Sorrow (Coroner Records)
Let’s first introduce this power metal band from Chile to you, before we get to their exciting new album. We have Ely Vásquez on vocals, Pablo Ignacio Sepúlveda on guitars, Mauricio Nader on bass and Pablo Stagnaro on drums. This release is their third full-length album after they released “Dead Kings Of The Unholy Valley” in 2001 and “The Secrets Of An Island” in 2003. The power metal of this Chilean band also contains some progressive influences. For rock and metal fans it may sound a bit too progressive, but for progressive rock fans it may sound a bit too rocking. It sounds sort of in between, so to speak. Here and there we get a raunchy wild riff, like in “Lies And Rules”, or a doomy and slow speed, like in “Hands Of Time”. Ely’s voice fits well to the band’s music though. She sounds maybe a bit monotonous, but definitely not bad and especially in the slower tracks, she convinced me all the way. At the end of 2010, the band played here with THE NAME, but they’ve also supported bigger names like BLIND GUARDIAN and NIGHTWISH in their home country. Not a bad achievement at all. The instrumental parts are nice to hear and it’s there that the progressive side of the band is peaking around the corner at times. At the very end of “Hands Of Time”, you may hear some DREAM THEATER influences in the drums and riffs. In “All My Dreams” you may recognize the spirit of WITHIN TEMPTATION. “They” is a ballad type of song, which takes down the speed a bit. It’s a bit doomy as well, but certainly not less enjoyable. In “No Time To Grieve” the band pounds out some RAMMSTEIN-like riffs to keep everybody awake. The guitar solo is very nice in this song. Hear the variation in styles. This certainly isn’t a dull album, because you’ll enjoy a lot of different types of songs here. I love the groove in the last song, which is called “I Remember”. It’s another highlight for me, because it has got that nice progressive character to it. After about fifty minutes, the joyride is over in this ‘six flags magic ride’. Chile may not be the first country you would think of, when talking about successful progressive power metal bands, but SIX MAGICS sure has got the potential to become one of the first ones. “Behind The Sorrow” surely captures a lot of variation in song structures and they can grow out to becoming a well-known name worldwide, if they keep on making music like this. Website: http://www.sixmagics.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SKUNK ANANSIE- Wonderlustre (V2)
Welcome back to Skin and SKUNK ANANSIE. After their ‘best of’ album with DVD, it’s now time for a complete new studio album with the remarkable title “Wonderlustre”. The twelve songs have a total playing time of about forty minutes, which may sound a little bit short, but it’s enough when the music is all high class material. SKUNK ANANSIE always had a good drive, a groovy sound and great, energetic live shows. Skin, the bald, black, female front lady is of course the biggest ear and eye-catcher, but Cass Lewis on bass, Ace on guitar and Mark Richardson on drums are definitely in for some heavy action as well here. The album opens with “God Loves Only You” and the remarkable and very recognizable sound of Skin in the centre. “My Ugly Boy” is the first hit single from this album and it sounds like time stood still for a moment. It’s like the band has never been away for a sabbatical time off. This song is a real foot stomper of the highest category. In “Over The Love” we hear the energy, for which this band was praised so much. Energy, power and adrenaline is all put into this compact three minute song. “Talk Too Much” on the contrary shows how fragile and full of emotion Skin can sound too, without losing the well-known SKUNK ANANSIE sound. “The Sweetest Thing” sounds very radio friendly. I would more go for the ADHD sound of “It Doesn’t Matter”. But it’s all there and it shows that the band is a master in playing all kinds of stuff. “You’re Too Expensive For Me” is a fast rocker, whereas “My Love Will Fall” is more an emotional love song, but it gets even more emotional with “You Saved Me”. In Skin’s case, you could turn this title into “You Shaved Me” for a reason…….just kidding. “Feeling The Itch” is another foot stomper. “ You Can’t Always Do What You Like” is a more poppy song and not really my cup of tea. The album closes with a song, called “I Will Stay But You Should Leave”, a true statement about the band in a certain way. SKUNK ANANSIE will always be a stayer, even if they are on low fire. The emotional feelings in this song can be sensed, if you listen carefully and let it all get to you. “Wonderlustre” is a good comeback album. My version comes with a special bonus DVD containing the making of the album, the video clip of “My Ugly Boy”, the making of that video clip and a tour report from all the festivals, that the band attended in 2010. A very nice addition for those of you, who thought that forty minutes of new music is not enough. Website: http://www.skunkanansie.net. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SONIC SYNDICATE- We Rule The Night (Nuclear Blast)
This is the fourth album of Swedish melodic death metal outfit SONIC SYNDICATE. Thirteen songs with a total playing time of fifty minutes are ready to be eaten. The line-up of SONIC SYNDICATE consists of Nathan J. Biggs on vocals, Richard Sjunnesson on vocals, Roger Sjunnesson on guitar, Robin Sjunnesson on guitar, John ‘Runken’ Bengtson on drums and metal maiden in the band is Karin Axelsson on bass guitar. The wild screaming songs will appeal to many young metal heads out there. They can get rid of their aggression very easily on the fast melodic death metal tracks on this album. Although the term death metal is used, their music is not as extreme as bands like for example MORBID ANGEL, NILE or OBITUARY, which are representative for death metal in my world. This may have got something to do with death metal, because of the high level of aggression in a way, but metal core or nu-metal could be a better description for this type of music. After three songs of heavy pounding metal, it’s time for “My Own Life” that may even appeal to BON JOVI fans. Maybe an odd choice here, but just listen to the first three tracks and then have a taste of “My Own Life”. It’s almost like listening to a different band. Very sweet, but also a good marketing strategy to attract young female fans as well, I guess. “Black And Blue” sounds very radio friendly and “Miles Apart” has got nothing at all to do with the melodic death metal description, that this band is labeled with. For a moment I wake up, when the band starts “Leave Me Alone”, but as fast as I awoke, I got to sleep again. This band does do everything to sound as radio friendly as LINKIN PARK or something like that. Where’s the evil sound, this band used to have in the beginning, when they still had Roland Johansson behind the microphone? “Break Of Day” will keep you awake for a while, but that is one of the very few songs that doesn’t sound poppy and boring, I am sorry to say so. Title track “We Rule The Night” tries to save the album a bit, but the verdict is unanimous and this is not a very positive one, I’m afraid. SONIC SYNDICATE has become a band, that does everything to get radio airplay. The rare occasion, in which they add some power to their songs, is too much prefabricated. If you like the sound of this band, good for you, but for me this just doesn’t taste good. The two bonus tracks “Dead And Gone” and “Heart Of Eve” won’t change my mind. Website: http://www.sonicsyndicate.com for all the people, who don’t give a damn about what I wrote and think this is one helluva CD. Count me out, I’ve got better stuff to listen to. [5 points] (Toine van Poorten)

STAR ONE-Victims Of The Modern Age (Inside Out)
The new STAR ONE album of multi-talent Arjen ‘Iron Anthony’ Lucassen is called “Victims Of The Modern Age”. It contains nine new tracks and runs for fity-five minutes. STAR ONE consists of vocalist Sir Russell Allen, Damian Wilson, Dan Swanö and the female voices come from Floor Jansen. The musicians, we hear on this album are Arjen on guitars, Hammond organ and mellotron, Ed Warby on drums, Peter Vink on bass, Joost van den Broek on keyboards and Gary Wehrkamp on guitars. After the short instrumental intro “Down The Rabbit Hole”, we are preparing ourselves for a very strong classic rock opener, called “Digital Rain”. If you like the sound of URIAH HEEP and DEEP PURPLE mixed with SYMPHONY X, then this one is for you. It would also make a great opener during the live shows, that are possibly about to happen in the near future. “Earth That Was” has got a very heavy groove in the beginning of the song. The instrumental part is breathtaking and the duel between the keyboards and guitars end up in a remise, leaving the listener behind in an exhausted state of mind. After this, the band returns to a vocal part, that reminded me a bit of MAGNUM. Wow, what a great song! Title track “Victim Of The Modern Age” starts with a slightly Eastern sounding rhythm. In your mind, you can already see the camels walking through the dessert. And after each verse, that groovy part returns. The short a-cappella part at the end is quite surprising. “Human See, Human Do” is a wild basher for everyone, who wants to let off steam. It has a nice instrumental duel in the middle of the song. It sounds a bit like RAINBOW and DEEP PURPLE to me, which is a huge compliment of course. “24 Hours” also reminds me of the good old MAGNUM, but the groovier parts give it that very distinguish STAR ONE sound, turning it into one of the highlights on this album. The moody keyboard part is also very nice indeed. “Cassandra Complex” is like RAINBOW with a down-tuned guitar. Groovy, but still very accessible. Very surprising is the part of Dan Swanö in this song. It will surely remind some of you of the great FRANK ZAPPA. “It’s Alive, She’s Alive, We’re Alive” may sound like an odd title, but it sure rocks the hell out of you. The album sounds very uncomplicated and is quite accessible. This in contrary to the GUILT MACHINE album, that we reviewed here a couple of months ago. Joost’s keyboard parts are absolutely mind-blowing in this song! And like every song, that same magic classic rock feeling is being captured: the great instrumental parts and very good vocals, that make a good rock song complete. It never gets really freaky and although most of the tracks are about five minutes long, it never gets too complicated. There is one exception though: CD closer “It All Ends Here”, which is cut into three pieces and runs for almost ten minutes. The progressive, PINK FLOYD-minded soul of the master speaks out here and to me this is the biggest masterpiece off this whole album. Maybe you wouldn’t say so in the first part, but when the guitar solo, that makes the turn over to the second part, doesn’t remind you of David Gilmour, then you’d better check out the new BRITNEY SPEARS album and leave this for what it is. I get goosebumps all over, even on places where I never thought I would get them. If classic rock and metal is your thing, you can dig in without any doubts and have a good time with this new album of STAR ONE. But hey, the party ain’t over yet. It ain’t over until the fat lady sings. There is a second disc here with even more songs as a bonus disc. This disc contains five more tracks and a video of the making of this new album. We will review the audio part here, which contains some different singers than we heard on the album just a while ago. So sit down for another twenty-five minutes or so for the encore, which starts with the very nice titled “As The Crow Dies”, which is quite a catchy track. Mike Anderson of CLOUDSCAPE is on vocals here. At least, when comparing it to the more experimental sounding “Two Plus Two Equals Five”, Arjen has got something with mathematics, but needs to go back to school. He has graduated the rock school though with very high grades, because I like this song a lot. Again it has a certain kind of catchiness and a touch of experimental sounds flying around it all, too. Rodney Blaze (XENOBIA, BLOCKBUSTERS) sings on this one. “Lastday” shows Arjen’s love for THE BEATLES. Arjen is in charge of the vocal parts here and the song just rocks like hell! “Closer To The Stars” is with Tony ‘The Cat’ Martin (BLACK SABBATH) on vocals. It’s a moody, almost doomy, dark track, that was made for Tony’s voice. A cover of the EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER classic “Knife Edge”, which was the flip side of the hit single “Peter Gun”, marks the end of this bonus CD. All the vocalists turn up once again to do their thing. “Victims Of The Modern Age” has become a great album. I didn’t expect anything else from this rock and roll centipede. I want to finish with my own personal thoughts behind the artwork of the front cover of the CD. I see an explosion in the background. The stone pillars look very much like the Holocaust monument in Berlin, which refers to World War II. People, who died in World War II are the “Victims Of The Modern Age”. Well, it was just a thought. I give the full score to this new Iron Anthony album! [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

STORMGARDE-The Answer (independent)
Yes I know, we’re kinda late with the review of this album. “The Answer” was already released in 2008, but it somehow ended up on our desk and it sounds essential enough to review it here. The new album of STORMGARDE from Germany will hopefully come out really soon, because this sure sounds like a nice album to me. It contains ten tracks and runs for forty minutes. The band consists of Stefan ‘Pfanny’ Leushacke on bass, Sebastian Watolla on guitar, Markus Biehl on guitar, Günter Pellner on drums and Sabrina Grochocki on vocals. The music of STORMGARDE can best be described as NIGHTWISH (vocal wise) with a little bit more metal in their sound. Title track “The Answer” is a very catchy opener, but in a song like “Like A Prison” we hear that Sabrina is also capable of doing some nice opera like soprano vocals here. Sometimes the musicians want to rock out loud, but most of the time they add a melodic touch to the different songs with a leading role for heavy riffs. The lead guitar player gets enough room to show his skills in “The Night Storm”, one of the highlights off the album for me. The brutal death growls are a little bit too much for me, but hey you can’t have it all. “The Voice” sounds catchy and danceable, if you would like to move your feet. “Fear” brings back memories of NIGHTWISH in their heydays. In general, the music of STORMGARDE is catchy and very much worth to listen to. “Sitting Here” is the ballad on this album with a slightly KATE BUSH-like atmosphere lurking in the background on this one. The CD closes with “Everything (I Did Was Wrong)”, which is again catchy and contains some nice guitar work. The instrumental part, that follows after the guitar solo is surprising and turns the song into a sort of bombastic state of mind for a while. STORMGARDE is definitely worth checking out, and the waiting now is for the new album to arrive. I think, that this album is already a very tasteful preview of things to come. Website: http://www.stormgarde.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SYRENS CALL-Raging Waters (Pervade Productions)
SYRENS CALL have released a new album, that is called “Raging Waters”. It’s a ten tracker that runs for sixty-five minutes. The French heavy prog rock band opens this new album with “Hang On To Life”, which opens with some odd computerized sounds, but then the beat starts to roll and we hear a catchy song, that shows the well-known style of this band. In “I’m Your Only One”, the keyboards get a very prominent role. A bombastic basis cannot be missed too in this song. SYRENS CALL consists of Thibaut Coisne on guitars, Stéphane Thuriot on guitar, Eric Serre on bass, Sébastien Paul on drums, Frank Manier on keyboards, and Soraya Hostens on vocals. Wild instrumental escapades lead us into “Ashes Of Destiny”, which has got a catchy feel to it. “Cruel Love” has got a steady beat with a melodic touch to it. The keyboards are again up front in “Perfidious Paradise” and in “Never Come Back Home”. It shows two different faces of the band as well. Sometimes a bit more bombastic and at other times very fast and heavy. In “Desecrated Fast” we hear the real deal. SYRENS CALL is not just an average prog rock band and prove is given in a very exciting instrumental mid-piece. It definitely belongs to my faves on this album. Also in the next song, the instrumental “Relapse”, the band shows their love for progressive rock music. Prepare yourself for a real prog metal treat here with references to the sound of PINK FLOYD. “One Bloody Kiss” starts slow and dark and develops itself into a ballad type of song with a high dose of emotion and melody. The CD closes with the long epical prog masterpiece “The Dance Of Light”. It evolves into a mini opera, in which you’ll hear influences of bands like STAR ONE, STRATOVARIUS, AVANTASIA and PINK FLOYD for about fourteen long minutes. SYRENS CALL are still the leaders of the French prog rock scene, although I must admit that I didn’t really like the artwork for this album. That doesn’t make the music sound any different at all. It’s still topnotch prog rock material. Website: http://www.syrenscall.com/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TARJA- What Lies Beneath (Universal)
I must be honest in my judgement. So far, TARJA TURUNEN has easily won the battle between both bands after her departure from NIGHTWISH. NIGHTWISH is now working on a new album and Tarja has just released her new album, that is called “What Lies Beneath”. If you look at the average reviews, then you’ll see that TARJA is still going strong, whereas NIGHTWISH has to deal with the fact that a lot of fans are not too keen about the slight style change. Let’s focus on TARJA’s new album right now. We’ll review the ‘deluxe edition’, which has three bonus tracks. The album itself counts eleven tracks and runs for fifty-five minutes. No intros or whatever, which is already quite remarkable. Instead, the album starts with a song called “Anteroom Of Death”, which sounds a bit KATE BUSH or TORI AMOS at first, but later on it also has some bombastic NIGHTWISH / TARJA parts in it. A beautiful opener, that is destined to contain high quality material only. This spooky opener is just perfect in my opinion!! Just listen to the vocal parts at the end of the song. It’s quite tricky to start with such a song, but with the bombastic ending and all, it’s entirely clear that the first highlight of the album has just passed by. “Until My Last Breath” is a bit more straight forward. It comes very much nearby the material, that she made with her former band. Watch out though, because TARJA’s sighing at the end of this song can make you feel a bit horny. This will almost disappear right away, when you hear the dark and very depressing sound of “I Feel Immortal”, which may remind you of the earlier WITHIN TEMPTATION work. The beginning of “In For A Kill” also sounds dark and sober, but slowly the song develops into a nice up tempo track with the recognizable soprano voice of TARJA topping it all. “Underneath” is a piano ballad, which fits perfectly well to the voice of TARJA. The guitar solo comes out very nicely in this one, too. “Little Lies” continues the album. It starts in a very spooky horror kind of way with fast and heavy machine gun riffs and male chants. It’s an energetic piece of music. Big is the contrast with the almost fragile sounding “Rivers Of Lust”, which is on next. “Dark Star” will get your heads banging and your hair waving. It’s a nice powerful song and very catchy as well. The groove can be felt in the beginning of “Falling Awake”, which contains a guitar solo by JOE SATRIANI, who’s already to be heard in a true SATRIANI extravagance at the beginning of this song. Definitely another highlight for me, mainly because of the breathtaking axe work. “The Archives Of Lost Dreams” is a melodramatic piece with the piano as main instrument. Later on, it gets a bit bombastic, but it stays within the borders. A beautiful song, which is in sharp contrast with the other songs on this album. However, it is necessary to keep the balance here. “Crimson Deep” closes the album in a pretty heavy way. On one hand it sounds very modest, but on the other hand there’s a certain kind of heaviness. The way, that the guitars yell and the drums pound certainly appeals to me. The entire album consists of high class material and long term fans of TARJA TURUNEN can buy this album blindly. If you have bought the ‘deluxe edition’, like we did, you also get three bonus songs on an extra disc, worthy of another eighteen minutes of TARJA mayhem. “We Are” is a moody song with violins in the background, build upon the beautiful vocals of TARJA, sometimes going up tempo and groovy, but always returning to that moody beat. “Naiad” is an up tempo ballad type of song, which fits perfectly to the rest of the material. The biggest surprise of all however is the very last song “In The Still Of The Night”, which is indeed TARJA’s version of the good old WHITESNAKE song. It’s very well done indeed and her version stays very close to the original, that we all know so well. Obviously, the deluxe edition comes to an end with a very nice surprise. The orchestration sounds a bit more bombastic than WHITESNAKE, but what else did you expect?? The CD booklet contains all the lyrics and some nice pictures of TARJA. There is one rather morbid picture of her in a dead pose (“Until My Last Breath”), which may look a bit macabre. Some of you readers may not even have noticed it, but I have. It’s the only slightly negative remark I’d like to make about this album. This album is of very high quality and a must have to every TARJA fan out there. Website: http://www.tarjaturunen.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TRISTANIA- Rubicon (Napalm Records)
I always liked this band a lot, when they were still fronted by Vibeke Stene. Nowadays they have a different singer in Mariangela Demurtas and their sound has become a lot more accessible. Since this change in singers occurred, my interest in the band is slowly fading away. Without judging too hard, TRISTANIA is simply getting too commercial for me. So let’s take a look what their latest album “Rubicon” has to offer. Opener “Year Of The Rat” sounds very up tempo and catchy. Just think about WITHIN TEMPTATION and NIGHTWISH and you’ll come close of what to expect here. “Protection” even drifts further away and it may remind you of a band like BLACKMORE’S NIGHT for example, only without the medieval influences. The heavy growls in this song grab my attention for a while, but it remains very modest. The song “Patriot Games” contains mainly male vocals and a whole lot of heaviness. A very good start, I have to admit. In “The Passing” we hear a duet between Mariangela and Kjetil Nordhus (ex-TRIAL OF TEARS, GREEN CARNATION), something that we may hear more often in the future. Besides Kjetil and Mariangela, TRISTANIA consists of Anders Høyvik Hidle on guitar and vocals, Gyri Smørdal Losnegaard on guitar (ex-OCTAVIA SPERATI), Etnar Moen on synths, Tarald Lie on drums and Ole Vistness (ex-ZEROZONIC) on bass. “Exil” is another dark duet between the two vocalists, creating a true symphonic, gothic atmosphere. The first part of “Sirens” sounds up tempo, but it also contains an a-cappella part, which shows the band’s gothic side, rather than their rock or metal influences. Names like CREMATORY and TRAIL OF TEARS come to mind here. Both bands are also well-known for their mix between gothic and rock. “Vulture” has got some male vocals upfront in the mix. I like the guitars in this song a lot. “Amnesia” is an emotional ballad and it also contains the moody violin sound of Pete Johansen. In “Megical Fix”, it’s time for some serious metal. This up tempo basher with loud and wild riffs is a welcome change of styles here. The album closes with the lengthy “Illumination”. The duets ends with a moody part sung in the Norwegian language. To cut a long story short: it’s a damn shame, that TRISTANIA isn’t the band anymore that they used to be. The dark gothic metal sound has slowly disappeared and turned into a more modest rock approach with gothic sidesteps at times. Have a good listen first before buying this album, I should say. The ten songs together run for forty-five mintues. Website: http://www.tristania.com/ [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

UNSUN- Clinic For Dolls (Mystic Production/Suburban)
UNSUN from Poland presents us their new album. It’s called “Clinic For Dolls” and it contains ten new tracks and forty-five minutes of exciting gothic metal. Already in opener “The Lost Way” we hear the guitar work by founder member Maurycy ‘Mauser’ Stefanowicz (ex-VADER) upfront in the mix, next to the beautiful clear voice of Anna ‘Aya’ Stefanowicz. The uptempo sound in this song gained my attention in this Polish gothic metal band right away. Next is title track “Clinic For Dolls”, which contains more nice heavy riffs and fast drum beats. In “Time” and “Mockers”, the speed goes up again and there is enough space for Maurycy to show his skills with some nice lead guitar parts. It gives the album just that little bit of energy and lifts it up far above the many other average releases, that reach our office daily. “Last Tears” is a little piece of rest, followed by a more pounding metal styled track, called “Home”. While “Ceased” is another pleasant, uptempo song. Shortly, this new UNSUN album is remarkably heavy and captures a lot of surprises, when you are open for it. Anna’s voice will sometimes remind you of Sharon of WITHIN TEMPTATION in a way, but she sure is a great talent and lifts the band up to a higher level. Besides Anna and Maurycy, UNSUN consists of Patryk ‘Patrick’ Malinowski on bass and Wojtek ‘Gonzo’ Blaszkowksi on drums. The album closes with “A Single Touch” (great guitar work by Maurycy!) and “Why”. UNSUN may not be your first choice, when talking about well-talented gothic metal bands, but this album surely surpasses above average and it’s definitely worth to listen to. The most positive and eye-catching factors is the nice voice of Anna and the nice guitar work of Maurycy. Give them the benefit of the doubt, if there was one and I think that you will be pleasantly surprised. Website: http://www.myspace.com/unsunmusic. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VANITY INK- More Senseless Random Behaviour (Swedmetal Records)
VANITY INK hails from Helsinki, Finland and plays some dirty, sleazy glam rock, that will hit you right in the face. The album contains eleven tracks and rocks for about forty minutes. From the first notes on, it invites you to rock, roll, shout, jump, scream, thump, stomp and slam along to the sound of these tracks. The catchy feeling makes this happen very easily, right from the start, when “Smell The Party” kicks off. HANOI ROCKS is not the only band that can throw a party in Finland, these guys (and girl) must have thought. If you do it, better do it good. So what you see here is what you get. Sometimes the party rock gets a double meaning, like the slower part in “Fine By Thursday”, but in general they bash it out loud and don’t stop until the morning light sets in. You can hear touches of the well-known glam rockers like MÖTLEY CRUE, HANOI ROCKS, POISON and TIGERTAILZ, but sometimes they also throw in a slower song like “Breathe” to catch some breath (I like making puns). The song “Rolling Stones” may also unveil a secret influence, that is hidden in the background. The vocals of Annabella show some resemblance with the likes of DORO and Sandy Saraya and fits well with the party sound of the band. Annabella has left the band for a while in 2004 and her replacement Stiina sang on their debut EP. But now she’s back in action, proving that she is the perfect singer for VANITY INK. Besides Annabella, VANITY INK consists of Juha Bandit on guitar, Sam Junni on drums and Miki Peltola on bass. Remarkable thing is, that drummer Juha has also laid down the rhythm guitar for most of the tracks on the band’s debut album “On Your Skin”. A combination that you seldom see. It also shows that music is the main substance, that runs through the veins of these Finnish rockers. “Versus” sounds a bit KISS-like and also in “A Song On The B Side” the band rocks out very loud. They really kick some asses in these two tracks. However, “Modern Day Saviour” sounds a bit slower. There is a nice sleazy guitar solo in the punky “Oh Sue” and “Rock And Roll” sums up the whole album in three words. I must admit, that you’ll have a good time, if the aforementioned names in this review are among your favorites. The last chance to shout it out loud is CD closer “Everybody Move, Everybody Gets Hurt”. So raise your fists and yell, or do some more senseless random behaviour to the sound of VANITY INK. Let’s rock and roll all night and party everyday! Website: http://www.vanityink.net/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VENIA- Victory By Surrender (Open Grave Records)
VENIA hails from Finland and this debut full-length album goes back to 2009. It was essential enough though to be reviewed here. The album contains eleven tracks and plays for almost fifty-five minutes and contains positive Christian messages in the lyrics. The heavy metal, that this Finnish band plays can appeal to many fans out there, because it contains a lot of melody and is very accessible. The short, instrumental opener “Towards A New Dawn” starts off a bit folky, but a song like “Suora Tie” proves that the band really knows to write a good metal song, which includes a violin playing frontlady/vocalist, who listen to the name of Veronica Solje. The violin takes care of the sometimes folky character of the songs. However, the guitars receive an equal part in the sound, too. Double bass drums start to thunder in “Broken Chains”, but the melody also remains. It’s difficult though to compare the sound of this Finnish band to others. But a handful of German melodic power metal bands will come close to the sound of VENIA, which is a Latin word for ‘forgiveness’, by the way. VENIA consists of Veronica on vocals and violin, Viktor Fragerström on guitar, Jere Veijalainen on guitar, Juhani Palttala on bass and Antti Melasniemi on drums. “Genesis” starts as a quick march, where the drummer sets the pace, but slowly it develops into another up tempo power metal song. A brutal growl lurks in the background, but I’m happy that they don’t let it come upfront for some reason. Some of the titles on this album are in the Finnish language like “Suora Tie”, “Ei Mun Tarvitse” and “Taivaassa”, which may also give them a slightly domestic character, because not too many people will be able to read or speak Finnish outside their own borders. You won’t have too much trouble with “Eternal Sanctuary”, because in this instrumental song they only chant out some ‘hey’s’. Title track “Victory By Surrender” is on next. It’s one of the highlights for me, despite those annoying brutal screams. The very last song is called “A Sigh Of Redemption” and also here the brutal screams turn up. If you don’t like the brutal side of VENIA, you can heave a sigh of relief. In fact, VENIA doesn’t really need those brutal vocals, in my opinion. “A Sigh Of Redemption” is by far the most heavy track off “Victory By Surrender”. I also think it’s by far the best song on the album, because of the variation and the heavy guitar work. VENIA is definitely worth checking out, if you like melodic power metal and you don’t mind Finnish lyrics or the use of a violin, which doesn’t sound disturbing at all in my opinion. The art work is a bit old school and marks the Christian background of the band very well. Website: http://www.veniaband.com/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VIOLET SUN- Loneliness In Supremacy (independent)
From Italy comes the symphonic progressive metal band VIOLET SUN. Italy has become a haven for young, quality up-and-coming metal bands and VIOLET SUN is certainly no exception. Their debut album is called “Loneliness In Supremacy” and is filled with classy symphonic music, accentuated by first rate song writing and the great male/female duel vocals provided by Alessandra Amata (she also plays piano on the disc) and multi-instrumentalist Dario Grillo. Drummer Alex Grillo completes the band. The first thing that caught my attention with VIOLET SUN was the vocals and how well they work together. Alessandra has got a great, soaring range and Dario’s vocal style is in more of a traditional metal vein, rather than a grunt style that is so prevalent these days. There is also a definite accessibility factor among the songs that are presented here. The opening trio of songs really set the table for what VIOLET SUN is capable of. “Dust In The Wind”, “Inside Out” and “When The Lights Go Down” (which is preceded by the short instrumental “Midnight”) bring some quality, bombastic moments. The band shows that they are quite capable and versatile in writing good songs. Other highlights include “Cross The Line”, “My Flame Still Burns” and “Synthetic Pleasures”, to name a few, but really you can’t go wrong with giving the album a spin from beginning-to-end. VIOLET SUN should be a big hit with the symphonic metal crowd. In addition to the aforementioned symphonic feel of the songs, there is also a bit of a 70s prog rock influence to the songs. ”Loneliness In Supremacy” is just a big sounding, very focused debut album from this super talented Italian band. Website: http://www.myspace.com/violetsunofficial. [9 points] (Tony Cannella)

ACHILLA- Arashi (CD single) (independent)
Here’s a little riddle for you all. What do you get, when you put a Hungarian female vocalist with an Italian drummer, an Italian guitarist and a Greek bass player? An European melting pot of progressive metal, based in London and calling themselves ACHILLA. Their three track, ten minutes single is in my stereo set right now and the band sounds and looks like they really have the potential to become big. From the first notes on, title track “Arashi” tells us, that we are dealing with some well-talented musicians here. And they surely know to amaze me with their bright, tough heavy sound. Loud riffing guitars are backing the beautiful voice of blonde front lady Martamaria. The songs on this EP are short and they very well catch the strong side of this band on one silver disc. Vincenzo Infusino is not only putting the rhythm right, but he plays very innovative and fills every gap he sees, whereas guitar player Daniele Panza shows that he can compete with the likes of YNGWIE MALMSTEEN or TIMO TOLKKI, when playing a solo. “Wild Flower” shows the band in all its pureness. In other words by playing an acoustic version of this song. Hear the beautiful voice of Martamaria once again, who really is a very good singer. I’d really like to hear more from this band, because I really believe they have so much more to offer than just those three songs that they have captured here. “Arashi” is only the beginning of a hopefully lengthy and very successful career. Website: //www.myspace.com/achillamusic. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

AVRIGUS- Beauty And Pain (EP) (independent
AVRIGUS is an atmospheric ambient metal band from Australia. Their new five track EP is called “Beauty And Pain” and that is exactly what you will hear, when these five tracks enter your room. Five long tracks with a total length of about twenty-seven minutes will darken the sun and make you long for some light in your life. Shortly, this twosome could very well be compared to bands like MY DYING BRIDE and ANATHEMA. The fact, that this band only consists of two members makes them almost outstanding from the two aforementioned bands. Opener “Beauty And Pain” has got a slightly catchy feeling. You can almost sing along to it and the chorus part is very open and bright. After that, we get to hear the more darker sound of the band, starting with some acoustic guitars in “Mudita”. The song kindly floats along, before closing with the sound of birds. It’ll get you nearby total relaxation. “ A Banquet Of Souls” continues and shows you the magic of the fragile voice of Megan Robins. Together with her musical partner-in-crime Simon Gruer, who plays guitar, keyboards, bass and drums, she knows to create a very beautiful ambient sound that will touch you deep inside, when you are open for it. “Shamaatah” opens dark with some bombastic, low sounding orchestrations. It’s the ultimate AVRIGUS song for me. Dark and dwelling, sounding like the soundtrack of a dark, long winter tale. It could also sound like the dark heraldic, epic soundtrack of an army going to war, knowing that they are facing a battle that they have lost already in their minds. It’s whatever interpretation you would like to give to this music yourself. Truthfully, this music is very beautiful on a dark evening with the lights down real low. “Reborn” follows directly thereafter and it captures the sound of Megan’s voice very well. The guitar riffs play and that’s as heavy as it will get on this beautiful EP. It might a bit too dark and sober for the average head banger, but open-minded metal heads really have to give this a chance to know that Australia has got a well-talented ambient metal band in AVRIGUS. Website: http://www.avrigus.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLIKSEM- Bliksem (EP) (independent)
We’d like to ask your attention for this five track EP by Belgian speed, thrash metal band BLIKSEM here. The thunder rolls, when BLIKSEM enters your room, because this Belgian five piece doesn’t take no for an answer. The five tracks are worthy of an half hour of powerful thrash metal and speed rock with female vocals. “The Horror” opens this exciting explosion of fast tunes. In the middle of this thrash attack, the band brings the dark sound of ALICE IN CHAINS to mind, but in the end they press the pedal to the metal again. “Unbirthmark” contains some fast polka beats and speed metal riffs, topped by the nice vocals of Peggy Meeussen, who has a very pleasant voice with some raw edges. In the middle of this song, the band flirts with some doomy parts, that make the variation in styles complete and turns the song into a real highlight for me. Their ‘straight-in–yer-face’ sound hits you hard on the head, grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until this expression of power is gone. “Follow” is on next. It sounds very brutal and captures a lot of variety. The guitars cry out loud and build up the main instrumental part in this brutal track. In the end, there is even some room for vocals and for the second time I hear some matches with Skin of SKUNK ANANSIE in Peggy’s voice. Which can be seen as a big compliment in my book. “The Life On Which I Feed” is another fast song. The longest track is to be found at the end of this CD, which also bears a lot of variation. No wonder with a title like that. It’s called “Circus Schizophrenia” and it brings out the very best of BLIKSEM . Machine gun riffs and touches of doomy parts start this circus up with some exciting instrumental parts in the middle, that may even be called progressive in a way. However, before things get too difficult, the band goes back to the main theme. In my opinion, they have managed to create an exciting song and sound, that fascinates from the beginning until the end, even while lasting for almost eight minutes. Obviously, there is a lot of talent in BLIKSEM and this five track demo EP is only the beginning. Mock my words! BLIKSEM consists of Jeroen de Vriese on guitar, Toon Huet on guitar, Jan Rammeloo on bass, Rob Martin on drums and Peggy Meeussen on vocals. I like their logo, I liked the five songs here and I think that this band is ready for a full-length album. By the way: the five tracks were recorded in the Little Big Studio with Peter de Wint, who some of you may remember from CROSSFIRE. Website: http://www.myspace.com/bliksem666. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CATFIGHT- Never Go Back (EP) (independent)
CATFIGHT are from England and this is their four track EP, which sounds like a great mix of punk and metal to me. You know that it will be a tough fight, when concurring cats meet each other down in a dark alley. Not these cats though… They joined forces and decided to make music, which is a good thing of course. The cats in action here are Samara on vocals and guitar, Martha on guitar, Nix on bass and Mags on drums. The EP contains four powerful tracks with a total running time of almost fifteen minutes. “Break” opens in a way, that I remember from the Riot Grrrl scene back in the nineties. A rebellious way of blending punk and rock together, mostly performed by young, all-female bands. Recognizable is the short, pinching character of the song. Same goes for “Break” for that matter. “Walking On Steel” opens slowly, but has more metal riffs in the powerful parts, that this song holds. The guitar solo adds a slightly bluesy feel to the song. “Kill Me Again” contains the same ingredients as “Walking On Steel”. It starts off slowly and while it gets going, the song is gaining some speed. It also contains a lot of anger underneath it all. Just listen to the end of the song, when the band repeatedly shouts ‘again, and again and again’. I can sense some kind of anger there. However, this angry feeling totally disappears, when CD closer “Hayleen” takes up, which is very energetic and powerful. The aforementioned Riot Grrrl sound calls in again, but you could also translate this as filthy rock with a strong punk attitude, if you like. CATFIGHT is gaining a lot of success, mainly because their live shows seem to be very energetic and they give more than one hundred percent, when they are on stage. Their attitude is right, the songs are good, the looks is perfect, so who can stop this band from becoming world famous? To obtain more information about CATFIGHT, go to their MySpace site at http://www.myspace.com/catfightukofficial. In the meantime, I’ll have another listen to these four tracks and think of some questions for these four kittens. I hope, that they won’t tear me apart, when I mix myself in their CATFIGHT!! [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DEAD MASK- Under Luciferian Wings (EP) (PsycheDOOMelic Records)
DEAD MASK is a psychedelic doom metal band from Spain, that only consists of two members, namely Nuria on vocals and Jose ‘Dopi’ Dopica on guitar, bass and drums. The six songs on this EP last for eighteen minutes and show us a band, that mixes doom metal with a certain psychedelic sauce over it. “Your Other Side” is a nice introduction of what this band is all about. And don’t you worry about a thing, dear dark doomsters out there, it is certainly worth checking out. The name of CATHEDRAL pops up with the first song already, but this is only the beginning. When “Damned” follows next, you can also add WITCHFINDER GENERAL or PENTAGRAM to this list. Dark, doomy riffs fill your room, topped with the clear vocals by Nuria. After these two own-penned tracks, it’s time for a couple of timeless covers, showing some other influences of this Spanish twosome. First, they crank out the old PENTAGRAM classic “You’re Lost, I’m Free”. They increase the speed in the ABCESS cover “Four Grey Walls”, which almost sounds punky and rebellious at times. The guitar solo contains that well-known Tony Iommi sound, which suits perfectly here. We ain’t there yet, because we still have some “Wicked Women” to overcome, a cover by the horror doom formation COVEN. The guitar sound may even remind you a bit of IRON MAIDEN in the rhythm parts, but in the solos that good old fashioned Iommi sound returns. It’s the sound of the seventies captured in 2010. Respect is the least, that you can have. Last song on this EP is called “No Rest For The Wicked”. It’s an acoustic cover of THE COFFINSHACKERS, which was totally unknown to me. We’ll hear the dark voice of Jose, which adds a melancholic touch to the already doomy sound by this Spanish band. Website: http://www.myspace/com/deadmaskdoom. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SAINT TO SINNER- The Unveiling (EP) (Copro Records)
What a nice surprise is this five track EP by Rhode Island based SAINT TO SINNER. The first riffs give me a flash back to the days, that ANTHRAX used to rule the metal scene. Their heavy rock sound is topped by the vocals of Desiree Villegas. The rest of the band contains of Rich Bova on guitar and vocals, Dave Vogel on bass and Nick Tolias on drums. Opener “Fallen Generation” begins with ANTHRAX-like riffs, that I mentioned already in the introduction. The normal voice of Desiree is not what you might expect in a way, but it sure gives a surprisingly twist to their sound and they got my attention because of that. Same thing happens, when listening to “Careless”, which contains the almost sensual voice of Desiree and the bone dry PANTERA ‘wall of sound’ riffs by Rich. Can you imagine a bigger contrast? Somehow it seems to work and it brings a rock voice and a metal sound together in one song. I like it that way, it sounds very refreshing to me. Sometimes I get sick and tired of all the wild shouting and screaming front men and women, but here the vocals are understandable and don’t give you that wild ADHD feeling. The song ends with an exciting up tempo part with male spoken word parts woven into it. The EP continues with “Anti-Corporate”, which contains a very heavy drum versus guitar part and some distorted male vocal parts. “Vindictive” is a pure thrash song, as we like it, fast and furious yet with that normal vocal sound of Desiree. The wild screams of Rich and his machine gun guitar riffs lend colour to this track. “Tampere” opens with some IRON MAIDEN-like bass lines, reminding me of the most wonderful ballad “Strange World” (from their debut album) for a short moment. This last song is only a short instrumental, closing this twenty minute five tracker. The cross over between hard rock and heavy metal/thrash sounds very refreshing and Desiree’s voice is nice to listen to, next to the aggressive, powerful music of the band. SAINT TO SINNER is definitely a name to remember. For more information about this remarkable and well-talented band, I direct you to the following websites at: http://www.sainttosinnermusic.com and http://www.myspace.com/sainttosinneronline. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TRIPTYKON- Shatter (Eparistera Daimones Accompanied) (EP) (Triptykon Prowling Death/Century Media)
These songs are a real must, if you already liked the full-length album by TRIPTYKON. And who didn’t, because this was one of the most promising debut albums of last year. The thirty minutes of music on this five track EP are divided into two categories. Three songs come from the sessions of the debut album and the last two songs are CELTIC FROST covers, recorded at last year’s Roadburn festival, where TRIPTYKON headlined on one festival day. “Shatter” opens the album and it is kind of remarkable, that we hear the female voice of Simone Vollenweider up front in the mix. It’s a duet of darkness, that finally saw the light of day during these recording sessions. Doomy and heavy, like expected and mysterious and cold, like it was meant to be. This doomy and mysterious sound can only be created by a mastermind like Tom Warrior. “I Am The Twilight” has received a dirty, greasy bass sound, that you immediately feel in your underbelly. It’s the work of Vanja Slajh, another female contribution in the world of mastermind Tom Gabriel Warrior (CELTIC FROST, HELLHAMMER). It’s the sound of a bulldozer, ready to destroy all of your most valuable possessions, just by touching one string. The basic principles of this song, which was originally titled “The Fall Reaps Its Harvest”, were already written when Tom was still in CELTIC FROST. And on the very early version, Reed St. Mark was still part of TRIPTYKON. This wouldn’t last very long though… The violin parts on the song are done by Nadine Rimlinger, by the way. The most ominous song on this five tracker is called “Crucifixus”. It will hit you right down in all the darkest places of your soul. All the suffering in the world would still manage to bring a smile on your face, but this song goes much further and lays a grey fog over the earth, so the sun won’t be able to reach you anymore for about three minutes. Maybe ‘song’ isn’t the right word. It’s a well of ominous sounds that open up before your very eyes (read: ears). The last two songs are ‘covers’ of CELTIC FROST, starting with “Circle Of The Tyrants” - maybe one of their most well-known tracks. Hear the enthusiastic reaction of the crowd. It brings back great memories, especially when you’ve attended this show yourself, like we did. The piece the resistance is “Dethroned Emperor”, which turns into a duet with Nocturno Culto of DARKTHRONE. This is so much more than just a nice addition to your collection. In my opinion, every metal head with a black soul can’t do without it! Website: http://www.triptykon.net. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

X-TINXION- Act The Injured Innocent (EP) (independent)
This five tracker by X-TINXION proves, that Dutch bands are proud to be loud. What an orgasm of power is provided here! Opener “One Foot In The Grave” tears away in fourth gear, which is a fast thrashy, speed metal pounder, that has some touches of melody as well. On vocals we hear Monica Janssen, who we also know from her former bands IMP and A NEW DAWN. Well, I can tell you, that this is really something else. The fast polka beats set the pace and sometimes the triggered drums have to slow it down a bit for a slower, more melodic part, like in the middle of “Messiah”. The solo is simply breathtaking and makes X-TINXION to a very promising act of new metal gods, waking over the heavy thrash metal scene of our country. All musicians have proven their skills in former bands, so we are dealing with an experienced band, that knows the deal already. “Act The Injured Innocent” is actually the band’s second release. In 2006, the EP “Twisting The Knife” already saw the light of day. “Genetic Sickness” shows the two main ingredients, that are displayed on this new CD. First of all, there’s the thrash foundation, that is marked with a touch of melody. The vocals are a bit more growling here, while the melodic parts are more up front in the mix as well. Besides Monica Janssen on vocals, X-TINXION consists of Conrad Hultermans on guitar (GALLOWMERE, REVOLT, HALYCON DAYS), Mischa on bass, Frans Swaters on guitar (STIGMA) and Peter van Toren on drums (HIDDEN REMAINS, MYTHLORIAN), MORTAL SIN, A NEW DAWN). In the meantime, we’ve reached “The New Hive”. The brutal growling of Monica is topped with some SLAYERian riffs here and the guitar solo becomes the cherry on the cake. “Extinction” (which version is spelled right ??) closes the EP, which sounds very brutal indeed. It’s good to know, that Holland has found a very promising female-fronted thrash metal band in X-TINXION. We can’t have enough of them. This band may appeal to those, who like extreme brutality, but if you like some melody as well, you certainly came to the right place. The five tracks play for twenty-five minutes and I am sure, you will be positively surprised! For more information about this cool Dutch band, check them out at: http://www.x-tinxion.nl. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

[Updated: June 27, 2011]

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