CD REVIEWS


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


Spring/Summer 2009:

THE AGONIST-Lullabies For The Dormant Mind (Century Media)
This is the second full-length album by THE AGONIST from Canada. On the album are eleven songs, that have a total playing time of about forty-five minutes. Conclusion is, that the band wants to serve some short, catchy melodic death metal chunks. Well, this might be a little too easy to describe, because the music of THE AGONIST isn’t as easy as that. The vocals of Alissa White Gluz already give me a sincere headache. She sings with a normal voice, she screams, she shouts, she vomits, she squeeks and then I have only talked about her vocal abilities just yet. The music on the other hand contains some amazing jumps from aggressive and energetic to straight forward and powerful, including great riffings by guitar player Danny Marino. In “Birds Elope With The Sun”, there’ s a short time-out to breath some air, because so far the CD has been a ADHD rollercoaster ride, that probably will remind you of a less extreme version of CRADLE OF FILTH every now and then. In “Waiting Out The Winter” though, the band tries to sound pretty normal, and they even succeed in that. “Martyr Art” however is pretty schizophrenic and brutal again, but with great guitarwork. “Globus Hystericus” is what the title already suggests: a rather hysteric masterpiece, containing some furious rhythms and hysteric screaming. The a-capella version of “Swan Lake, Opus 20 – Scene, Act 2, #10” of Tchaikovsky sounds very beautiful and it’s a nice introduction to “The Sentient”. It could very well be a lullaby, this in contrary to all the other songs on this album. The album closes with “Chlorpromazine”. You will definitely need a handfull of pills, if you think that this album will give you the feeling to be at ease. If you beware of an overdose, THE AGONIST is a nice band to listen to. If you’re a ADHD type of person yourself, I would suggest to listen to this album in small doses at the time. You better be warned! Nice addition may be, that the lady who plays the violin on this album, Avi Ludmer, also played violin for MAHOGANY RUSH on FRANK MARINO’s latest studio album. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARCH ENEMY-Tyrants Of The Rising Sun – Live in Japan (Century Media)
The doublepack of ARCH ENEMY feels heavy like a block of pure concrete. Two live CD’s of forty-five minutes each and a DVD, that runs for about two and a half hour, including a booklet are in this package, which is made to play very loud! The live stuff is recorded at the Studio Coast in Tokyo, in March 2008. The songs really explode from your speakers and on each CD, you’ll find ten songs that will cut you like a knife. After the opener, the band sinks into “Blood On Your Hands”. After that, they already start with one of my personal faves, namely the fast “Ravenous”. Way to go! Two other personal faves are also at the beginning in the set, namely “Dead Eyes See No Future” and directly thereafter “Dark Insanity”. In “The Day You Died”, you’ll hear, that the Amott brothers are old school guitarplayers. Just listen to their solo parts and you’ll hear the sound, that people like MICHAEL SCHENKER and RITCHIE BLACKMORE made famous. Christopher Amott plays his solo spot, right after this song. And again I hear some good old Schenker back in these finger exercises. I very much like the melodic sound, created in “Silverwing”, which is obviously linked to the influences by this former SCORPIONS and UFO guitarplayer. And I can almost see people think... Wasn’t ARCH ENEMY supposed to be wild, crazy, heavy, speedy and thrashy?!?? Oh, don’t be afraid, they still are. Did you really believe, that Angela Gossow sounded like an angel right now? Better start to think again. She may sound like an angel with a sore throat, but she still sounds as brutal as ever! She still swallows a gallon of hydrochloric acid each week to keep her voice in shape. “Night Falls Fast” is a newer song with a slightly Eastern influence, followed by a drum solo of Daniel Erlandson. Some drum parts contain orchestral sounds, coming from a computer. A gimmick, that has been used pretty often by some of the biggest drum giants. For example, Simon Wright of DIO and Neil Peart of RUSH used it on stage, although you wouldn’t expect to hear this from a band like ARCH ENEMY. The last few chords are from DIO’s “Holy Diver”. Then we go on to CD two in the package, which starts with the brutal “Burning Angel”, before Michael Amott spreads his wings in a guitar solo, that includes the intermezzo “Liberté”. Next, we’re getting ready for “Dead Bury Their Dead”, which includes some more mindblowing axework. A real treat to the ears! And the enthusiastic Japanese crowd goes insane on this one. After “Vultures”, the official show is over. But we’re still standing, waiting for more to come. The encores are “Enemy Within”, “Snowbound” and “Shadows And Dust”. After that, I am treated to another one of my personal favorite songs, namely “Nemesis”. “We Will Rise”, which is probably the most well-known ARCH ENEMY song ever, because of the video clip, is on next. The audience loves this moment and is willing to push the last drops of sweat out of their body, just like Angela and her men. The last fast guitar solos are pushed out of their instruments and then the band leaves the battlefield with “Fields Of Desolation”. In this song, the crowd takes care of the vocal parts and for the last time the guitars cry, until they pull the plug and the light goes on. Have you never been part of an ARCH ENEMY live show, but do you want to feel what it’s like? Play this live set at high volume and you’ll feel the energy blowing from your speakers. For the people, who have been to an ARCH ENEMY concert before, they will know what to expect and I can only say ‘Turn It Up’. “Tyrants Of The Sun” is a great double live CD package, and if the music alone is not good enough for you, you just insert the DVD in your player and you can watch the whole gig on DVD as well. Website: http://www.archenemy.net. [10 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARCH OF HELL-One Day (IFA Records)
ARCH OF HELL hails from Czechia. “One Day” is the band’s first full-length album in three years of existence. We get to hear ten songs in a full hour. The music could be described as a mix of gothic doom and black metal. I must admit, that I really liked the sad atmosphere, created in opener “Rise To The Victory”, the instrumental track on this album. While in “Utopia Treasure”, you’ll hear some more of the black metal influences, stimulated by the screaming male vocals. The atmosphere is still dark and black, strengthened by the use of keyboards and the sweet female voice of Morticia. Which is the perfect name for a female singer of a doomy black metal band, by the way! “Black Night”, like the title suggests, has got that black metal edge, because of the screaming vocals. In “Only For One Day”, we hear a nice mood swing. It’s a ballad type of song, that could very well be on any KATE BUSH or TORI AMOS album. Morticia is accompanied by a piano or keyboard alone, and she shows her talents in a great singing part during this song. While in “Fateful”, it’s time for some heavy riffs and some thundering drums. It’s one of the highlights on this album for sure. “(Sin)cere World” starts off with the sound of an accordion, creating a spooky atmosphere, that has some nice SAVATAGE-like piano sounds. By then, you are awaiting for the song to collapse or develop itself. However, the strange thing is, that the song remains the same (thanks to LED ZEPPELIN for this quote!). The piano keeps dominating the song. There’s no vocals and the tension, that I suspected to break during the song is swept away and what remains is a rather dull eight minutes, instrumental piano ballad. “Romance Of Afterlife” also clocks at eight long minutes and starts with the sound of a piano. This time however the song develops itself into a NIGHTWISH-like song, but with a more brutal approach and black metal-like vocals again. “One Moment” is a very catchy song, while “Cry For The Angel” has got a more melancholic approach. The CD closes with a song, called “Last Path To Oblivion”.It’s another eight minutes song, which starts with violins, piano and soft drum rolls. Again, you’re wating for an explosion to come or at least a mood change to happen. This stays out and what’s left behind is a rather disappointed reviewer for the second time. These songs could have been so much more. Some cautious highlights, some real disappointments, ARCH OF HELL still has a long way to come, but eventually they will get there, as long as they keep a stable line-up. The line-up consists of Swarm on lead guitar, Morticia on vocals, Childy on guitar, Ivanow on bass, Libor on drums and Moorth on keyboards. Website: www.archofhell.com. [6 points] (Toine van Poorten)

AUTUMN-Altitude (Metal Blade)
AUTUMN at this time of year, still seems so far away. But yet it’s already there, by means of the new album “Altitude”. It contains eleven tracks and fifty minutes of the better Dutch power rock, mixed with gothic senses. Opener “Paradise Nox” sums up these influences in the best possible way already. Ballsy riffs and a good rocking attitude, that’s what counts with AUTUMN. The vocal parts of Marjan Welman are very well done. She is such a big talent. Some of her intonation may show some resemblance to Anneke van Giersbergen in her earlier THE GATHERING days, but she can read this as a compliment. I also think, that she has definitely earned her place in AUTUMN, after Welmoed Veersma and Nienke de Jong left the band. With “Liquid Under Film Noir” and “Skydancer”, the band keeps the speed up and “Synchro-Minds” is the first song, that starts out as a ballad. “The Heart Demands” is surely one of the first highlights here, because of the raw edges in the beginning and which will continue throughout the whole song. “A Minor Dance” has got a more gothic attitude. The second real highlight on the CD however is the song “Sulphur Rodents”. You can already guess why, I think. Next one “Answers Never Questioned” is another piece of rest, which is needed after such a high dose of adrenaline. The CD closes with the title track “Altitude”, which contains some nice guitarwork. On the album, AUTUMN consists of Marjan Welman on vocals, Mats van der Valk on guitars, Jens van der Valk on guitars, Jerome Vrielink on bass, Jan Munnik on keyboards and Jan Grijpstra on drums. I think, the band can be proud of being signed by Metal Blade. Their star is still rising and the future looks very bright, if they keep making solid rock albums like this one. Holland can be damn proud of AUTUMN, and that’s my final comment here. Website: http://www.autumn-band.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

AYREON-Timeline (Inside Out/SPV)
AYREON fans can cling to their seat for three hours and fifteen minutes to listen to the audio part of “Timeline” and add another two hours to watch the bonus DVD in this package. The perfect document for the many rainy days in Holland. This boxset takes you way back to 1995, when AYREON released his first solo album to the world under this monnicker. The CD is very well done and stands out to the material, that he has done with VENGEANCE and BODINE. Besides, it sounds so different, that it’s hard to compare to eachother, so I see AYREON apart from what he has done in the past. The fact, that Arjen used a lot of guest musicians and singers made the whole project even more exciting. It’s here, that the ‘Timeline” starts on this three CD set. From “The Final Experiment” until “01011001”, the albums are highlighted in chronological order. Sometimes, we are treated on a single version or an acoustic version, which tells you, that Arjen is not just putting together a few songs on a silver disc to create an overview. The songs have been selected with great care and I think that none of the real fans can say, that they will miss out on something here. Highlight of the first album remains the most well-known song from this album; “Sail Away To Avalon”, which is captured here in the single version. The voice of Barry Hay almost makes it sound like a real GOLDEN EARRING tune, but it is so much AYREON. “Actual Fantasy” is on next and I must admit, that I got the shivers all over again, when listening to that beautiful spooky intro of “Abbey Of Synn”, which is definitely one of the highlights to me. The love for PINK FLOYD comes back in the song “Computer Eyes”. At the end of the first CD, we go on to the 1998 “Into The Electric Castle” CD, starting with the eleven minutes “Isis And Osiris”. “Amazing Flight” closes this seventy three minutes part of this first “Timeline”. A great song, which reminds me of FOCUS a little, because of the great flute playing by THIJS VAN LEER. An excellent closing of CD one. CD two runs for seventy-six minutes. On this CD, there are only album versions included, but the excitement remains the same. Ten songs draw the line from 1998, the “Into The Electric Castle” album to the “Human Equation” album in 2004. On this CD, we can find another highlight, namely “Castle Hall” - a very catchy and well-thought-out song. The influences of famous bands like PINK FLOYD and THE BEATLES are to be heard in many of the songs. There’s also a variety of different female voices, that contributed here, like Anneke van Giersbergen, Sharon den Adel, Irene en Floor Jansen, Heather Findlay, Mirjam van Doorn, Astrid van der Veen, Marcela Bovio, Magali Luyten, etc. Do I need to go on? And I haven’t even mentioned the input of female musicians like Marieke van der Heyden (cello), Jolanda Verduijn (bass) and Lori Linstruth (guitar). So all together, there have been a lot of ladies involved on these albums. The third CD runs for seventy-seven minutes and takes us from 2004 “The Human Equation” to 2008, in which AYREON released his latest album “01011001”. The most interesting part however is saved for last. The very last song is a new and previously unreleased, nine minute track, called “Epilogue: The Memory Remains”. No ladies are involved in this song, but it’s a nice bonus to an extensive boxset like this. This PINK FLOYD-like song is a real treat to listen to, just like all the other material on these discs. We are now waiting eagerly for the new AYREON album, but with a great compilation set like this, I guess the waiting will be over before you know it! [10 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ROBIN BECK-Trouble Or Nothing (Bob Media/Rock Inc.)
ROBIN BECK released “Trouble Or Nothing” twenty years ago. All the more reason to do something special with such an important album. Robin decided to re-record the album and to make it even more interesting for the fans, she added four bonus tracks to it. And there you have it: fourteen tracks worthy of almost an hour of explosive hard rock, topped with the warm voice of ROBIN BECK. Robin has got a sound, that could very well be compared to Ann Wilson of HEART. If you only have a very little musical feeling in your body, you will still love the sound of her voice. Add to this, the all-star line up of the band that backed her up during the recordings, you will end up with gold in your hands. What to think of names like Guy Mann Dude, Steve Lukather, Bobby Chouinard and Paul Stanley, to name but a few? Just listen to the catchy sound of songs like “Hide Your Heart”, “Don’t Lose Any Sleep” and “If You Were A Woman And I Was A Man”. Can you sit still? I just can’t. You must at least feel the need to tap your feet on these sounds. In “Hold Back The Night”, Robin shows us how a ballad should be performed, with tonloads of emotion. It’ll make your flesh crawl. While “In A Crazy Worl Like This” is another dreamy moment, before the next ballad “Tears In The Rain” takes off. As the title suggests, don’t forget to take your handkerchief out of your pocket, as this is a very sad tune. Luckily, the sun starts to shine again in the next song and Robin rocks really hard in “A Heart For You”. Well done! The riffs in “Sleeping With The Enemy” have a certain association to KISS and Paul Stanley and it really rocks your socks off. “First Time” may be the most well-known track off this album. Parts of the song were used for a Coca Cola commercial and it remained number one in the charts for three weeks in the UK. In 1994, six years later, she would make another rock commercial, but this time for McDonalds with “Close To You”. This is the way to profile yourself. Twenty years after the release of “Trouble Or Nothing”, people still remember ROBIN BECK from this Coca Cola commercial. Talk about a good (commercial) career move here. After “First Time”, it’s time for the four bonus tracks. “Love Is Divine” contains some sing- along parts and it’s very catchy. Same goes for “Lost Summer Days”and the feeling good song “Superstar”. The twentieth anniversary version of “Trouble Or Nothing” closes with “Changed For Good”, another ballad-ish song. If you already liked the original version of the album, than this item is a ‘must have’ to every fan. For all the latest news about this great singer, you can check out her website at: http://www.robinbeckrocks.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CASSANDRA SYNDROME-Of Patriots And Tyrants (Figmental Records)
CASSANDRA’S SYNDROME was formed in 2005. This is their debut album, containing ten songs with a total playing time of about forty-five minutes. What we hear is metal riffs, operatic vocals and a gothic background. The band consists of Irene Jericho on vocals, Jay Jericho on drums and backing vocals, Chris Kackley on guitar and backing vocals and Joe Cariola on bass and backing vocals. On the rear side of the CD, you’ll see the band dressed up in a warrior outfit, ready to attack. Their music however has got a catchy edge to it, which makes it very easy to listen to. Although the riffs are still loud and dark at times. “Mirror Mirror” has got some doom laden riffs, while “Burning” has got a more thrashy and doomy vibe to it, topped with the soprano voice by Irene. “PTSD” is also an uptempo song and you can hear some steamy and wild riffs in the intro of “Cassandra”. Although the soprano-like vocals would urge you to link this band to a band like NIGHTWISH, I would definitely say that CASSANDRA SYNDROME is much more heavy. And the song “Cassandra” is a very good example of that. “Skadi’s Touch” captures a nice guitar solo, besides the soprano voice of Irene. The CD closes with “Soma”, which contains some heavy and doomy guitar riffs and a tune, called “Wild”. The latter isn’t really that wild and sounds more like some kind of warrior ballad type of song, performed the way the native Indians would have done it, in my opinion. If NIGHTWISH is a bit too soft for your ears and you like their sound a bit more beefed up with some guitar riffs, then CASSANDRA SYNDROME might be your thing. Check it out. Website: http://www.cassandrasyndrome.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CRESCENT SHIELD-The Stars Of Never Seen (Cruz Del Sur Music)
The second album of CRESCENT SHIELD is a fact and it lives up to my wildest expectations. Did the first album already raise a little earthquake in our house, this one definitely raised the roof! The true metal sound by this American band contains influences from the real relevant true metal heroes, like JAG PANZER (vocals) and MANILLA ROAD (music). Just listen to the first two songs “Under Cover Of Shadows” and “The Grand Horizon”. In “Tides Of Fire”, you may also recognise some IRON MAIDEN bits in their sound, but that’s more of a compliment rather than a complaint, I think. The epic metal sound is to be heard in “Temple Of The Empty”, while “My Anger” sounds a bit more uptempo again. One of my favorite songs on the new album is “The Bellman”, which sounds fast and exciting. “The Endurance” is another beautiful epical hymn. A second favorite song would be the CD closer, that they also played at the Keep It True festival in 2008, the nine minute plus “Lifespan”. It sounds fast and again very exciting. This song also breathes that MANILLA ROAD-like atmosphere, which makes it different from the rest. CRESCENT SHIELD doesn’t ride the paved paths, but puts the traditional sound in a jacket of its own. By doing this, they sound much more exciting than the average heavy metal band nowadays. They still consist of Michael Grant on vocals, Dan DeLucie on guitar, Craig Anderson on drums and metal maiden Melanie Sisneros on bass guitar. If you’re a quick decider and you buy “The Stars Of Never Seen”, you will receive a limited DVD of the band’s show at K.I.T. X for free, containing eight songs performed live on stage at this cult metal festival in Germany. Website: http://www.crescentshield.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CRIMFALL-As The Path Unfolds… (Napalm Records)
CRIMFALL hails from Finland and “As The Path Unfolds…”is their debut album. It contains eleven warrior anthems containing forty-five minutes of cool, catchy warrior metal. The album opens with a sphereful intro, called “Neothera Awakening”, followed by “The Crown Of Treason”. Influences become slowly obvious from these first songs on. There’s gothic metal topped with some brutal black metal-like screams here and there and lots of room for bombastic orchestral parts besides the pounding, sometimes folky, metal riffs. Names? It can range from FINNTROLL to NIGHTWISH to CRADLE OF FILTH to BATTLELORE to maybe even GARY MOORE. “Where Waning Winds Lead” made me think of this last comparison, because it sounds a bit like “Over The Hills And Far Away”, which was originally written by GARY MOORE. Later on, NIGHTWISH covered this song, but he originally initiated the sound. “Sun Orphaned” opens very sphereful again. It’s a short song, in which you’ll see the sun come up slowly in your imagination. Well, at least I did. “Ascension Pyre” continues with some wild riffs and loud screams by Mikko Häkkinen. The female vocals are from Helena Haaparanta. Jakke Viitala takes care of the guitar sound and the orchestration part on this album. “Shadow Hearth” is a mix between the brutal male and more emotional female vocals. I like the atmosphere, that is created in the beginning of “Non Serviam”. Hear the swords, ready to strike the enemy. Especially the first seconds in this song have a certain soundtrack feeling to it. “Aubade” is a short, sweet ballad type of song. While in “Hundred Shores Distant” the folky elements return in the intro. The CD closes with the short instrumental “Novembre”. I think, that CRIMFALL will very much appeal to the metal fans of today. I really like the front cover, made by Kris Verwimp. I am sure, that we will definitely hear more about this Finnish epic folk metal band in the near future. Website: http://www.crimfall.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CRUCIFIED BARBARA-Till Death Do Us Party (GMR Music)
“In Distortion We Trust” benchmarked the launching of CRUCIFIED BARBARA to the big public. And after hearing the first notes of “Sex Action” on the internet, we were really curious what the new album “Till Death Do Us Party” would sound like. Well, these Swedish ladies really gave their best shot on this album to proceed their immense popularity on and off the European stages. And I think they succeeded. Their second album sounds wild, exciting and powerful and is the continuation to “In Distortion We Trust” one would wish and hope for, I think. Listening to the eleven songs, worthy of forty minutes of some real ‘kick-in-the-face’ heavy metal, the girls come very close to the earlier sound of GIRLSCHOOL sometimes. Which is a huge compliment to the band of course. This comparison especially pops up, when hearing the choir vocals in the refrains. Matter of fact is, that I am reviewing this CD on the Saturday before Easter, a holiday that also has got something to do with a crucification. Am I making this up or is this really meant to be the ultimate day of crucifying yourself, till death do you party?? “Jennifer” is a slightly emotional, ballad type of song, guested by producer Mats Levén on vocals. While in “Dark Side”, one of the heavier songs off the album, the band called in the help of MOTÖRHEAD axeman Phil Cambell to provide the guitar solos. “Can’t Handle Love” opens in the best AC/DC tradition. “Blackened Bones” is catchy yet powerful, while “Danger Danger” sounds slightly darker. Both songs however will please the many fans of CRUCIFIED BARBARA. “Rats” is catchy again and invites you to sing along to the refrain part. The CD closes with “Feels Like Death”, with more great ‘in-your-face’ riffs. This last song is definitely one of the highlights for me on this second CD. It’s always hard to top a very successful debut CD. These Swedish ladies gained a lot of experience by touring with bands like IN FLAMES, SEPULTURA and MOTÖRHEAD and playing at several big festivals. And it shows, because this second album shows a band, that is ready to shove themsleves into the premier ranks of the heavy metal scene. So both thumbs up for Mia Coldheart on vocals and lead guitar, Klara Force on guitar and backing vocals, Ida Evileye on bass and Nicki Wicked on drums and backing vocals, better known as CRUCIFIED BARBARA. Final note about the CD booklet: is this really Billy Gibbons of ZZ TOP reading in “The Big Penis Book”? Nah, that was just my (filthy) imagination, I guess. Website: http://www.crucifiedbarbara.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CRYSTAL VIPER-Metal Nation (Karthago Records)
CRYSTAL VIPER could be seen as the hottest true heavy metal band from Poland at the moment. And with “Metal Nation”, they present us their new album. Again, they called in the help of a few guests on this album. The ten songs have a total running time of about forty-five minutes and after the short instrumental intro, called “Breaking The Curse”, the band opens with title track “Metal Nation”. “Bringer Of The Night” is a real headbanger with a leading role for the high screams of Marta Gabriel. “1428” features Manni Schmidt of GRAVE DIGGER. In “Anvil Of Hate” they really turn up the speed. And if this is not enough, they even turn it up a notch higher in “Zombie Lust (Flesh Eater)”, which sounds a lot like HAMMERFALL. “Her Crimson Tears” sounds more like a power ballad and Marta called in the help of Frank Knight of X-WILD for this one. In “Legions Of Truth”, you hear the last guest on this CD, namely Lars Ramcke of STORMWARRIOR. It’s another speedy metal attack, that lets it all loose here. “Gladiator, Die By The Blade” is a more MANOWAR epical kind of song. The CD closes with a great version of the AGENT STEEL cover “Agents Of Steel”, definitely one of the highlights on this CD. This is “Metal Nation” in a nutshell. A great true metal album, that you don’t want to waste too much words about. You just push the ‘replay’ button to get intoxicated again by the sound of these four heavy metal fans from Poland. Besides Marta, the band consists of Tom Woryma on bass, Golem on drums and Andy Wave on guitar. The CD was mixed by Andy LaRocque (KING DIAMOND fame) and produced by Bart Gabriel. Both horns up for Marta, Bart and CRYSTAL VIPER, because this is how heavy metal should sound like. We see you in 2010 at the 13th Keep It True Festival. We can’t wait to check this band out live! Website: http://www.crystalviper.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DECADENCE-3rd Stage Of Decay (Massacre Records)
Ready for some brutal Swedish metal? Just check out the re-release of “3rd Stage Of Decay” of DECADENCE. Polka beats, heavy riffs and the brutal screaming vocals by Metallic Kitty make this album an essential buy, when you like your metal hard and heavy. Influences of HOLY MOSES are to be found in the sound of DECADENCE, when Metallic Kitty growls with her dark grunting voice. But most of the time, she just uses her screaming voice, which fits perfectly to the thrashy death metal riffs on “3rd Stage Of Decay” and the band sounds more like ARCH ENEMY. Mix these two bands together and you’ll end up very close to the sound of DECADENCE. Besides Metallic Kitty, DECADENCE consists of Joakim Antman on bass, Erik Röjås on drums and Kenneth Lantz on guitar. “Corrosion” opens with some brutal, thundering drum rolls and contains a good guitar solo, which is a bloody good start! “Claustrophobia” is next on the list of eight songs clocking in at about thirty-five minutes. It’s a wild and furious song with flashing rhythms and a more CRADLE OF FLITH-like structure. Later on in the song, there’s is a nice mood change and after that there is room for some loud and wild riffing. Then it’s time for the title track of this album, that was originally released in 2006 on an independent basis. “Theater Of The Absurd” is fast and invites you to get rid of some sweat. While “Settle The Score” sounds pretty brutal again and I like the repeating pounding drum beats in “Sculpture” a lot. “Invert” will definitely create a giant moshpit in whatever live setting. It sounds a bit more like HOLY MOSES, because of the dark growls. The CD closes in style with “Endgame”. DECADENCE is finally picked up by a decent record label and I hope this will give a positive and well-deserved boost to their career. Website:http://www.decadence.se. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DELAIN-April Rain (Roadrunner Records)
DELAIN’s star is rising very fast in Holland. With their second release “April Rain”, they simply launch themselves in the premier ranks of the heavy metal scene of 2009. So what do we have here? Twelve new songs, worthy of fifty minutes of symphonic metal with a gothic edge to it. Bombastic parts, mixed with some bone hard riffs, catchy songs, that have a symphonic touch. Okay, you can easily compare them to WITHIN TEMPTATION, NIGHTWISH or LEAVES EYES for that matter, but I would only like to use these names as a reference, because DELAIN definitely has a face of its own and they are unique. The CD opens with the title track and I guess, you’ll get the big picture by then. This is kind of stuff, that most fans of today’s heavy metal would like to hear. It’s got power and it’s dancable, too. In “Nividia”, you’ll hear Marco Hietala (NIGHTWISH), who also had a guest role on the bands debut album “Lucidity”. Most of the songs here are uptempo. The first change is, when the band cranks out “Start Swimming”, which brings the speed down a bit. I like the old fashioned atmosphere, created at the end of this song. While in “Lost”, they turn up the speed some notches. Charlotte Wessels has a splendid voice, that matches very well to the music of DELAIN. Furthermore, the band consists of Ronald Landa on guitar, Rob van der Loo on bass, Sander Zoer on drums and Martijn Westerholt (ex- WITHIN TEMPTATION) on keyboards. “I’ll Reach You” also has that balladesque feeling. Somehow, the voice of Charlotte reminds me in a way of Anni-Frid Lyngstad, the dark-haired singer of ABBA, only this time backed up by a metal band. This tells you how professional and well done this CD sounds. I think, that “April Rain” will provide the band even more success than they already got and without doubt DELAIN will become one of Holland’s most successful symphonic metal bands in 2009. Website: http://www.delain.nl. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DOL THEETA-The Universe Expands (Electronic Art Metal)
Hands up, who still remembers our review of the cosmis metal opera “Dol Ammad”? The creators of this art metal piece have now created a new album, called “The Universe Expands”. The band actually consists of three members, namely Kortessa on vocals, being the metal maiden in the band, and furthermore we have Thanasis Lightbridge on synthesizers and drums and Dim on guitar. One final warning before listening to this CD. If you’re not open-minded, don’t even try or you’ll be heavily disappointed! The mystique synths in opener “Which Are You” already tell you, that this is not going to be death, black or thrash metal. Instead, these people from Greece are bringing the more psychedelic, electronic side of the metal scene under our attention. In “Silver Air”, I hear psychedelic rhythms, very powerful drumming parts and some nice guitars. For a moment, my thoughts go out to a mix of (don’t laugh!) THE PRODIGY and old HAWKWIND. The dance beats sounds very similar to THE PRODIGY and the psychedelic song structures remind me of HAWKWIND in a way, topped with a very beautiful female voice. Get the picture? Just listen to the electronic beeps and guitar riffs in “Mind”. This does sound like THE PRODIGY, only Kortessa really makes the difference with her soprano voice. One of the highlights on this CD for me is the lengthy and rather exciting “Afterlife Crescendo”. What a beautiful piece of music! While “Every Goodbye” is an instrumental piece of rest. It’s some kind of trance or lounge music. Same goes for “Goddess”, except that it contains the vocal parts of Kortessa again. “And Through A Dream” is the instrumental intro to the title track “The Universe Expands”, which closes the album. The album gets softer as it continues, so if you’re a die-hard metalhead, then you’d better leave this for what it is. Open-minded music fans might want to check this one out. Website: http://www.doltheeta.com. [6 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DORO-Fear No Evil (AFM Records)
It's hard to believe, that DORO celebrated her 25th year in music business last December. She has definitely been a model of perseverance and dedication throughout her career and that has continued to show on her most recent releases. With her latest output "Fear No Evil", the German metal queen shows no signs of slowing down. The opening track "The Night Of The Warlock" gets things off to a rousing start, with a demonic sounding vocal intro as the track begins. Obviously, the title is a bit of a nod to her past. The song is a nice fierce way to open things and a great tempo-setter. Next is "Running From The Devil". This song has a great live feel to it and I'm sure it will go down great in a live setting. It features a great, heavy riff and a steady beat. The next track is the one that has gotten a lot of the attention. "Celebrate" features a who's who of metal legends. Floor Janssen (AFTER FOREVER), Angela Gossow (ARCH ENEMY), the girls from GIRLSCHOOL, Biff Byford (SAXON) and Liv Kristine (LEAVES' EYES) - to name but a few - all lend their immense talents to the song on the chorus. This song is indeed a celebration of the power of metal. There is no better group of people to bring that sentiment home. "Caught In A Battle" is just a pure metal track that has a truly ferocious guitar riff and just hammers through with machine gun-like precision. This is one of my favorites. After this song, you’re going to need to catch your breath, so the next track "Herzblut" is a welcomed change of pace. It is another beautiful ballad sung in German and it fits in their quite well with classics such as "Fur Immer" and "Alles Ist Gut". "On The Run" is next and it is another powerfully heavy track that is sure to get some heads banging. Next has got be one of the most anticipated metal collaborations in quite some time. "Walking With The Angels" is a duet with DORO and Tarja Turunen and man is this just awesome. Two very different vocal styles come together to create a stirring masterpiece. The lyrics convey a positive and inspirational message. This is one of the absolute highlights. "I Lay My Head Upon My Sword" has a cool vibe to it and is another favorite. "It Kills Me" and "25 Years" are two of the most different songs that DORO has ever recorded, showing that twenty-five years on and she is still not afraid to take chances. Fear not though, these songs are quite good and fit in well with the rest of her immense catalog of songs. The limited edition features the bonus tracks "Wildfire" and "You Won My Love" making it essential for any self respecting DORO fan. Also, the CD packaging deserves special mention. Great artwork by Geoffry Gillespie, beautiful photos and a glossy gatefold sleave makes this the complete package. As always DORO is joined by a great array of musicians: Nick Douglas (bass), Johnny Dee (drums), Joe Taylor (guitars), Oliver Palotai (guitar/keyboards) and Luca Princiotta (guitars/keyboards) all put in excellent performances. With 25 years in the books, DORO continues to make great metal music that comes from the heart. There is nothing pretencious and fake about it, she does what comes natural, as she has throughout her career. "Fear No Evil" is as solid a record as she has made in years. [9 points] (Tony Cannella)

DANA FUCHS-Live In NYC (independent)
DANA FUCHS is a name, that you will probably hear more about on these pages. She really stole my heart, when watching her live DVD and now she does it again with her live CD “Live In NYC”. She has got a voice with a raw edge to it, and if you like JANIS JOPLIN, MAGGIE BELL and/or BETH HART, then you’d better pay attention here, because there’s a new star on the horizon, my friends. No wonder, Dana has been playing in the musical “Love Janis”, singing JANIS JOPLIN tunes. Judging by the songs on this fourteen track live CD, she is the right person for this role. Just listen to opener “Almost Home” and you’ll be convinced at once. There is a certain power in her songs, that Janis also had. She could work up her band to a higher level and reflect this feeling to her public as well. Even some intonations sound almost the same as Janis. Close your eyes and you’ll find out for yourself. A lot of the songs, that are performed here, start off slowly and towards the end there’s so much power revealed, you’ll hardly remember, that it started out as a ballad type of song. Songs like “Cool Enough” also have a certain touch of soul to them, but it is done very well and with a good groovy feeling. While in “Bible Boy”, we even take a peek to the earliest days in Dana’s career, when she sang in the church choir of the First Baptist Gospel Choir. She was twelve by then. This song has got that great Southern rock feeling mixed with a gospel in the background. To me, it surely is one of the most outstanding songs on this album. Hallelujah! Praise Dana for this great, swinging gospel! Next, we’re treated to a RANDY NEWMAN cover tune, called “God’s Song”. Followed by the slow ballad “Misery”, in which we finally get to gasp for some fresh air. “Strung Out” is also a piece of rest, before the band explodes to “Bad Seed”. By then, it is time to close with two cover songs, namely “I’d Rather Go Blind” and “Helter Skelter”, originally recorded by ETTA JAMES and THE BEATLES. When you are longing for the days of love, peace and flowers in your hair, than this live album is a ‘must’ in your CD collection. Rock fans, music fans and fans of good female vocalists in general must also add this CD to their collection, because this lady is wild, exciting and she gets very close to the ‘Queen of love and peace’ herself, JANIS JOPLIN. DANA FUCHS is certainly a name to remember. For more info about this American rock singer, you can visit her website at: http://www.danafuchs.com. [10 points] (Toine van Poorten)

GIRL BAND-Girl Band (independent)
GIRL BAND consists of four rock ladies, who have gained loads of experience in various bands. They now join forces and crank out twelve songs in about thirty minutes time on this self-titled debut album “Girl Band”. Shelley Cardiff (BIMBO TOOLSHED/HELLFIRE CHOIR) on lead guitar and vocals, Christa DiBiase (BROWNTOWN WEST) on drums and vocals, Erica Liss (MDC/TURBONEGRA) on bass and vocals and Lynda Mandolyn (FABULOUS DISASTER) on vocals and guitar start this session off with “I Need You”. Needless to say, that influences of FABULOUS DISASTER are strongly present, but I also hear influences of the ‘Queen of punkrock’ JOAN JETT on this one. Next up is “Car Crash”, which sounds very punk and quite heavy. Yes, that’s the way I like it, ladies! “I’m The One” is short and fast and so is “Today”, which has a touch of the RAMONES and maybe GIRLSCHOOL in the harmony vocals. After “Awestruck”, which sounds very riot grrrlish and “Gaslight” (the ghost of the RAMONES wanders around again!), we hear the MISFITS cover “London Dungeon”. It sounds very spooky indeed, like it should be. “Sammy Hagar” is not the band’s favorite singer, I guess. At least, they don’t really support him in this song. He can kiss the girls *ss, in case you wondered. While “Hurts To Say Goodbye” is a cute, little love song, the girls get “Dirty” in the next song and strut their stuff. The album closes with “Go” and what better way is there to say goodbye and stir up the place in the final round?? Have you got an half an hour lunchbreak? Then play this album and you’ll be motivated in no time! GIRL BAND is dirty punkrock played by four lovely ladies, who surely know the drill. Let them kick your ass with this one! You deserve it, if you don’t buy yourself a copy. Website: http://www.girlband.us. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

GLASS WOLFE-Xotica (independent)
Everybody will remember GLASS WOLFE, I think. Well, at least you should, when you consider yourself a faithful MM reader. The good news is, that the band is back with a stunning new album. The fourteen songs on “Xotica” bring you a good mix of old school metal and some (operatic) gothic metal influences of today. And it sounds remarkably fresh in my opinion. The band, of course, still consists of Maria Glass on vocals and Philip Wolfe on keyboards. However, on this particular album, where they’ll perform two mini metal operas, “Helen Of Troy” and “Queen Of Tragedy”, they are guested by a symphonic orchestra and choir, Chris Slade on drums (ex-AC/DC), Rudy Sarzo on bass (ex-OZZY OSBOURNE, WHITESNAKE, DIO), and guitarplayers like Neil Citron and Alex Masi. Opener “Xotica Overture” is short and quite bombastic. Then we get a good example of what GLASS WOLFE is all about here in a song, called “Emerald Lady”. A little bit of the old school metal, a little bit of the new sounding metal are melted together on this one. “Rise Above” is a very good song in my eyes, but I consider “Queen Of Tragedy” as a real highlight here. Those guitarsolos, that power, what a mighty heavy metal anthem this is. At the end of the song, there is a soundtrack-like part, which makes it even more lively than it already is. “Rubicon” is another uptempo song and it contains some mighty fine neoclassical guitarwork and a death grunt-like vocal part as well. While in “Second Sight”, there’s a bit more room for the keyboards of Philip. “Reflections” is an aubade (a chant of/or about lovers separating at dawn), featuring Maria’s soprano voice in front of the mix. Next one, “Caught In The Crossfire” is a straight forward metal tune with some really stunning guitarsolos. “Free To Fly” is a duet with Paul Daniels of ROX DIAMOND, followed by the short interlude “1,000 Ships”. After that, we are introduced to “Helen Of Troy”, including some EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER-like keyboard intros. A great epical anthem, which contains a spoken word part, that will probably remind you of the Orson Welles part in “Dark Avenger” by MANOWAR. After this, Philip goes wild on the boards. Another true highlight on this album in my opinion. The short instrumental “Calm Before The Storm” connects this song to another highlight for me, called “The Tempest”. Do I hear some RAINBOW influences on this one? Yes, that’s right. Great stuff!! This fabulous album comes to an end with “The Voyage Home”. I can truly recommend this album to everybody, who likes their rock hard, but also to those who are into today’s (gothic)metal scene, because it’s suitable for both. My compliments go out to Philip and Maria for proving us once again, that they are capable of making innovative heavy rock music. Go to http://www.glasswolfe.com for more information about these splendid musicians. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HB-Piikki Lihassa (Bullroser Records)
HB hails from Finland and on “Piiki Lihassa” they present us ten new songs. Of course, my first thoughts go out to NIGHTWISH (Tarja Turunen era) after hearing opener “Jeremia”. Although female vocalist Johanna Aaltonen doesn’t have such a splendid soprano voice like Tarja Turunen, their sound comes very close. HB is a Christian band, so they carry out a positive message. And this matches very well to the catchy, sometimes happy music that they play. The music is quite easy to listen to and never boring. And although the lyrics are all in the Finnish language, they sure sound okay to me. In a way, it’s a pity, that you can’t understand a thing they’re singing about, but the vibe is good as far as I’m concerned. References would be LULLACRY, NIGHTWISH and bands that sound like that. Bands that play music, that is available to everybody. Sometimes with a bit heavier structure, sometimes happy and catchy or at other times dark and balladish like ‘Hylkäsitkö Minut”. In “Sana”, we even hear a male vocalist and “Turvapaikka” is a nice example of a happy song by HB. Followed by a darker, more emotional balladesque song, called “Hän Pitää Kädestäs Kiini”. The CD closes with “Alttarilaulu”. The ten songs alltogether are worthy of about forty-five minutes of nice rock music. HB consists of the aforementioned Johanna Aaltonen on vocals, Antti Niskala on keyboards, Tommi Huuskonen on bass guitar and Markus Malin on drums. Nice band from the land of the thousand lakes. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HYSTERICA-Metal War (independent)
This is the first full-length album by the all-female heavy metal outfit HYSTERICA from Sweden. And you’d better beware, because this album is a true killer without any filler. Starting with opener “We Are The Undertakers”, I cannot stop to raise my fists in the air and yell. What a great powerful opener that is! “Halloween” and “Bless The Beast” are also great tracks. They contain a certain catchiness, that makes them so easy to sing along after hearing them once or twice, without becoming commercial or something like that. Instead, you’d better prepare yourself well, before approaching these five vixens, because these ladies are armed and dangerous and hot to be rocked!! They’ll explain it all in the next song, which carries the autobiographical title “Girls Made Of Heavy Metal”. Showing that these girls are true metal, because you simply can’t fake a good guitar solo. Just listen closely to it and you’ll know what I mean. “Louder” is the perfect song to wet your voice during the band’s live performances. You just shout out “Louder” and everyhting will be alright. “Metal War”, is a slowbanger, but a real good one in my opinion. Everything is true in “Wreck Of Society” as well. “The Bitch Is Back” is another great ‘scream-out-loud’ tune and there’s no hesitation allowed. Yes, this album is probably even better than we already expected, after founding out about HYSTERICA a couple of years ago. And maybe more important is, that these ladies can deliver the goods live on stage as well! They sure know to play some good heavy metal, I can assure you. “Devil In Me” is on next, which is another wild heavy metal anthem. The discription of “Heavy Metal Man” is loss for words and you’ll have to undergo it in a live situation to comprehend it to the max. I bet, that all guys wanna be theirs. The forty minutes CD closes with the fast “Pain In The Ass”. HYSTERICA is a name to remember, if you haven’t checked them out yet. They consist of Anni De Vil on vocals, Bitchie on guitar, Rockzilla on guitar, Sat Anica on bass and Hell’n on drums. You must be heavy metal ladies to have names like that. That are no names for gothic rock chicks. These girls are made of heavy metal and the purest steel available in Sweden. So turn it up for Christ sake and keep banging that head! Website: http://www.hysterica.se. [10 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ILLUMION-Hunting For Significance (Progress Records Sweden AB)
ILLUMION is a Dutch band, that presents us a beautiful mix of progressive and symphonic music with a slightly jazzy undertone. The lyrical influences come from literary inspirations, something you won’t witness in this genre too often. Add to this the use of instruments, that are unlikely to be heard on many other rock albums, like the Irish flute, the Chinese two-stringed spike fiddle (erhu) and the Chinese four-stringed lute (pipa) and you’ll know that this music is probably not easy to comprehend. Okay, let’s check it out then. An open-mind for jazzy progressive music would be nice, if you listen to the eleven songs here. The use of exotic instruments, like in “Chrysanthemum”, is really an addition to the music. I would like to compare them to THE GATHERING in a way. They also experimented with lyrics and sound variations. ILLIUMION might be less heavy, but this is definitely enjoyable for the open-minded music fan. Another reason why I wanted to mention THE GATHERING is the voice of Esther Ladiges, who definitely shows some resemblance to Anneke van Giersbergen’s. I like the uptempo “Metamorphosis” a lot, because of the very tasteful guitarwork of Eveline van Kampen on this one. The same tasteful guitar sound can be heard in the groovy, propelling “The Prophecy”. It gets really heavy every now and then in “Under The Harrow”. There is variation all over in the sound of ILLUMION. I really like the sound of thunder in the song “Whirlwind”, which fits in very nicely. “The Bliss” closes this disc with a more progressive approach. “Hunting For Significance” has become some kind of a musical box filled with goodies of many styles. Not always heavy, but surely very innovative and good enough to explore closely. ILLUMION consists of Esther Ladiges on vocals, Eveline van Kampen on guitars and exotic Chinese instruments, Peter H. Boer on bass, Emile Boellaard on drums and Eveline Simons and Annemieke de Boer on keyboards. ILLUMION is just the band for people, who want to hear something else. http://www.illumion.net. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BETO VAZQUEZ INFINITY-Darkmind (BVM Records)
The debut album by BETO VAZQUEZ INFINITY has been positively reviewed all over the world. Although, I haven’t read a word about its successor “Flying Towards The New Horizon” from 2006, released in South America (Argentina) only. Recently, we discovered a third release, which came out in 2008. Anyway, we decided to review this most recent album, so here it goes… “Darkmind” contains twelve new songs and runs for about fifty minutes. The album opens with an instrumental, called “From Your Heart”, followed by the uptempo and wild sounding “Kingdom Of Liberty”. And in case you wonder, whether Beto has been using some guest musicians on this album as well, then the answer would be: yes of course! In this song, we’ll hear Sabrina Carrion of HEAVENFALLS on vocals. Next one “Magical Moments Of Time” takes back some speed and sounds more gothic in a way. And in “Mystic”, we hear the vocal skills by Manda Ophuis of NEMESEA, our own Dutch pride-n-glory, so to speak. While in “Darkmind”, the musicians ask for a little more space. Listen to the great bass sound in this one! This song has also got some male vocals. In “For Time Runs In My Veins”, we return to some female vocals by Elisa Luna of GASTHOF ROSE. And in “Sleepin In The Shadows”, we’ll hear Sandra Schleret of ELIS. It’s a ballad type of song, including a saxophone spot. Well, for once I will forgive him. Because after this, the speed goes up again and we’re in for something heavy with “Chronicles Of A World Without Gods” featuring Kiara of SKYLARK on vocals. Next song “Close Your Eyes” is an emotional ballad, followed by “Follow The Moonlight” with another female guest vocalist. This time, it’s Jessica Lehlo of ONCE THERE WAS.. The song has got a more gothic approach to it. While in “Memories Of Reinglow”, we are able to enjoy the female soprano voice of Ivana Anic Lara (ANGELSEED). The last song is a bonus track, called “The Tunnel Of The Souls”, which has Marcela Bovio of STREAM OF PASSION on vocals. She has a sweet voice, which matches very well to this balladesque tune. “Darkmind” might not be as heavy as the self-titled album, but if you like female-fronted heavy rock with a strong melodic edge to it, than this album is definitely a good choice. The female vocals on this album (next to the female guest vocalists) are done by Karina Varela. Besides Karina on vocals and Beto on bass, the band consists of Victor Rivarola on vocals, Carlos Ferrari on guitars, Lucas Perreyra on guitars and Norberto Román on drums. Buy “Darkmind” at Metalroxx: http://shop.metalroxx.com/ (Germany and Europe only). Note: Beto Vasquez just announced a forthcoming new double studio album for 2010! For more info, go to the official website at: http://www.betovazquezinfinity.com.ar [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

IZEGRIM-Point Of No Return (Rusty Cage records)
I am always glad to review a new CD by IZEGRIM. First of all, because I know that I will get to hear some high quality thrash metal and secondly, because nobody dares to come near to the threatening loud sounds coming out of my stereo, so I can work in peace. The four songs on this mini CD run for sixteen minutes and prove that IZEGRIM is still capable of combining old school thrash metal with some new elements. Now that Joep and Kristien have left the band, IZEGRIM is consisting of the four remaining members. And when you think, that they had to cut down on brutality then you’re totally wrong. Ivo has taken over the position of woodchopper in the back and Marloes, the blonde bass beast, is now singing. And this works out fine, judging by these four songs here. The title track is a fast and furious delight. The screaming voice by Marloes makes the sound of IZEGRIM lean a little bit more towards ARCH ENEMY. Just listen to the sound of the guitar solo in this song to hear some resemblance. “No Place Like A Glove” will fit the long term IZEGRIM fan like a glove. The screams in here are even harder and louder. “End Of Time” contains a darker, grinding sound with a SLAYER-like guitar solo. “Angel Of Demise” is a reworked version of the song, that got on the now sold out album “Guidelines For Genocide”. The thundering riffs will make you gasp for air, while you bang your head. I very much like the brutal sound on this one. The four songs presented here prove, that IZEGRIM is not over and done yet, but they might be even stronger than ever before. Next to Ivo and Marloes, the band consists of Jeroen on guitar and Bart on guitar. There is no way back now with this “Point Of No Return”, so you’d better be prepared for this brutal thunder thrash attack. My Space site: http://www.myspace.com/izegrim. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LEGLESS-Finding Mr. Perfect (independent)
It’s not a shame to be LEGLESS in Australia. Just listen to their happy punk rock music and you’ll be convinced of the weird statement made here. The CD by these four punky rock ladies contains ten catchy tunes with a great swinging rock and roll vibe. The band comes from Adelaide, where they obviously know how to rock. Let’s first introduce the four ladies to you, who are responsible for all these noisy rock sounds. We hear Schoolgirl Amanda on bass and lead vocals, Policewoman Shazza on on guitar and vocals, Nurse Ra on vocals and Virgin Bride Imaj on drums and vocals. The four ladies work themselves through songs like opener “Drinking Tonight” and “Get My Knickers Off” (the pleasure’s all mine – oops, excuse me as I got carried away!). In “Daisy”, they interpolated some chords of the ROLLING STONES song “Let’s Spend The Night Together”. “Pet Hate” is another uptempo song, but in “Too Many Bruises”, they take back some speed. It’s the first (obligatory) ballad here. After that, it’s time to party with “G.I.A.”, which stands for Girls In Action. Listening to their music, the first band that will come to mind are THE LUNACHICKS and I also hear some FABULOUS DISASTER influences here and there. Not only musically, but also because of the colourful outfits and make up.“Nutter” has got some filthy guitarwork and the song is also very catchy, so you will be able to sing along to the chorus really fast. “Hip Thrust” sounds very groovy and fast, while “Work It Out” is the second ballad on this album. An album, that plays for about half an hour (!), by the way. “Work It Out” sounds so different than the rest. It’s like THE LUNACHICKS are playing a PINK FLOYD cover here. Try to imagine that. This might be an impossible combination, but you’ll be astonished when you hear it. The CD closes with “Advance Australia Fair”, which is the most rocking version of the Australian national anthem, that you’ll probably ever hear in your whole life. After listening to this album, I only have two questions left. The first question is: Why does Mr. Perfect wear a pink bra?? Is Mr. Perfect legless maybe? I think, we’ll never find out the answers to these questions, but the music by LEGLESS is quite alright. Website: http://www.leglesstheband.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LOAD-Flames In Seconds (independent)
If you say LOAD, then I’ll say: the sixth album by METALLICA. This has got to change. When you’ll say LOAD in the future, I’ll probably say: a powerful rock band from the Eastern part of our country. LOAD presents us their debut album, consisting of eleven rock songs. Let’s first introduce the four members to you here. We hear Wouter Bakker on drums, Pieter Dingerdis on bass guitar, Freek Gielen on guitar and Annalies Groen on vocals. The voice of Annalies shows some resemblance to ANOUK here and there, but the music sounds a bit more alternative and not as sweet as ANOUK on her last couple of albums. Annalies is not afraid to sing slow and emotional songs either. Prove is given in “One Day” and it’s here that the beauty of her voice shows up well, I think. The music, that accompanies her, sounds pretty exciting, too. We’ve heard that in opener “Goodbye”, “Sin” and “Running Away” already. But also in a more modest song like “What Comes Around”, the band has a lot of potential. I definitely like the sudden mood change in this song. The groovy sounds returns in “Destruction” and I must say that after a few more spins, this became one of my most favorite tracks on “Flames In Seconds”. Another rocking highlight is “Anything But”, which made by blood run faster and faster each second. One thing’s for sure, LOAD stands for high quality rock music with loads of variation on this debut album. “Fallen” is a fine example of what the band is capable of. Just feel the emotion and you’ll know how touching music can be. In “Wake Up Call”, the band demonstrates that they also can be wild, rude and heavy. Another highlight for me. Finally, “Control” closes the album with some Tony Iommi (BLACK SABBATH) like guitar parts, which is a fresh breeze in the Dutch rock scene for me. They are the Dutch equivalent to a band like SKUNK ANANSIE or a more rocking version of ANOUK, who tends to move to a more mainstream path nowadays. Both thumbs up for LOAD here at Metal Maidens. Forty-five mintues of high quality Dutch rock are yours with “Flames In Seconds”. Check them out at http://www.load-music.nl. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LORDI-Deadache (Sony BMG/GUN Records)
“Deadache” is a nice album title by the Finnish metal monsters of LORDI. It contains fourteen new tracks and runs for about fifty minutes. I review this new CD in the weekend, that the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 will take place. Which seems like a very suitable moment to me. Especially while the three Dutch guys didn’t make it to the finale, it’s the right moment to play this new album at full power. And I must admit, that I was already blown away by CD opener “Girls Go Chopping”, another brilliant song title, by the way. The songs sounds very powerful and they are focussed much more on the music rather than their image this time. What remains is a well- oiled machine with great impressive skills. Although I must say, that a song like “Monsters Keep Me Company” doesn’t sound very heavy at all. Just think of the average KISS or ALICE COOPER song here. They do insert a sweet piece of rest on every album, so in this context, it fits pretty well in here, I believe. “Man Skin Boots” sounds catchy, but because of the distorted vocals it still breathes the right atmosphere. While “Dr. Sin Is In” opens with an AC/DC type of guitar riff and some danceable, stomping beats. If “Hard Rock Hallelujah” ever was a hit single, then “The Ghosts Of The Hecceta Head” could very well be their follow up single. “Evilyn” is another horror metal ballad. And if this description doesn’t exist, than it’s the very first name, as far as I’m concerned. “The Rebirth Of The Countess” is a short interlude with some French spoken word parts. Followed very brutaly by the power explosions from “Raise Hell In Heaven” and the title track off this album. It’s also time for some fabulous guitarwork on this one. “Devil Hides Behind Her Smile” is another LORDI sing-along song with a leading role by the female keyboard player Awa. Next one “Missing Miss Charlene” also sounds quite catchy and ready to sing along to. The CD closes with the bonus track “Hate At First Sight”, which is another stunning title on this great new album by these Finnish monsters. LORDI now consists of Lordi on vocals, Awa on keyboards, Ox on bass, Kita on drums and Amen on guitars. I think, I’d better give this album another spin, instead of watching the Eurovision Song Contest tonight. As far as I’m concerned, my vote would be: Finland eight points. Website: http://www.lordi.org. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LUNA MORTIS-The Absence (Century Media)
Madison, Wisconsin's LUNA MORTIS used to be known as THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE. After releasing a CD and a demo under their previous moniker, the band decided to change their name to their current title before going in to record their new CD, which is titled "The Absence". The band is comprised of: Mary Zimmer (vocals), Brian Koenig (guitars), Cory Scheider (guitars), Jacob Bare (bass) and Erik Madsen (drums). The opening track "Ash" comes on with a buzz-saw like guitar riff as Mary's vocals join the fray, her voice is excellent and really melodic, before she goes into an Angela Gossow style with her voice. I had to do a double check to make sure that it is even the same person, but yep it is. The vocal diversity she shows is amazing. The next song is "Ruin" and from there things only get better. This song has a nice steady riff going throughout and I don't mean to sound redundent here but you have to just love Mary Zimmer's vocals. The next song "Reformation" ups the speed and aggression factor as it really goes for the jugular, check out the Yngwie-like solo on this tune. "This Departure" is next and after the sheer ferocity of the previous song, this one slows it down a notch and is starts off as a beautiful ballad before getting a little heavier and becoming just a great mid-tempo song. This is probably my favorite track. You can just feel the emotions that the number is trying to convey coming through the speakers. "The Absence" gets things back on the more aggressive path, Whilst "Forever More" and "Never Give In" keeps things moving full speed ahead. Other highlights include: "Phantoms" and "Last Defiance" before "Embrace The End" brings things to a conclusion with a bang! Having never heard their other material before it's hard for me to compare, but I will say this: with "The Absence" LUNA MORTIS has released a crushing, aggressive yet melodic, powerhouse of a CD that is loaded with memorable riffs and just all around great songs. The band mixes a wide range of styles from progressive metal, to thrash to aggressive metal. In the end, it all comes together to produce one damn good album. After listening to the ten songs and forty-six minutes worth of music on "The Absence", it is plain to see that LUNA MORTIS has something special to offer. [9 points] (Tony Cannella)

LUNATICA-New Shores (Napalm Records/SPV)
LUNATICA are inventing “New Shores” on their fourth album. They’ll have to do this without guitarplayer André Leuenberger, who left the band recently. Marc Toretti is taking over his duties and with this renewed team, LUNATICA from Switzerland started composing new songs for their next album. Eleven songs were recorded with a total length of fifty minutes. The music could be described as symphonic, melodic metal. Symphonic because of the bombastic orchestration, that is sometimes used in the songs and melodic because the melody plays a big part here. As a third factor, I would definately like to add metal to this description, because of the nice metal riffs you’ll get to hear, for example at the beginning of “The Chosen Ones”. The CD opens with the title track and in the first three songs, you’ll hear all the musical aspects, that I mentioned earlier. Orchestral parts, catchy song structures, heavy riffs and above all, there’s the beautiful clear voice of Andrea Dätwyler. Because of the whole concept and the spoken word intros, that you sometimes get to hear, it made me realize that “New Shores” could very well be the soundtrack of a musical. “Farewell My Love” is a duet with John Payne (formerly ASIA) and to be honest with you, this was actually a bit too sweet for me. While in “My Hardest Walk”, all musical ingredients come together in one song. It’s definitely one of the highlights for me. I must confess, that this album lost the raw edges and might even be suitable for radio airplay, because of its modesty. In other words, the metal level is very low. Still, it’s very enjoyable! LUNATICA consists of Andrea Dätwyler on vocals, Alex Seiberl on keyboards, Sandro D’Incau on guitars, Marc Toretti on guitars, Ronnie Wolf on drums and Emilio ‘MG’ Barrantes on bass. For more information, you can check out the bands website at http://www.lunatica.ch. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MOTHERSTONE-Biolence (independent)
MOTHERSTONE sounds quite fresh and brutal at the same time. Their music is a mix between thrash metal, as we know it from the well-known Bay Area scene, and very brutal nu-metal. I think about bands like OTEP and MY RUIN, to give you an example here. MOTHERSTONE hails from Italy and if you like bloody, gruelsome stories, you can find thirteen of these insane musical stories spread on this first full- length album, which got the perfect title of “Biolence”. MOTHERSTONE has got two singers in their line-up, a male and a female vocalist. The full line-up consists of JJ Mammasasso on vocals, Vale on vocals, Danihell on guitars, Ivano on bass and Rik Mackey on drums. These five violators will shock you with their penetrating loud sound. Here and there, the male screams will remind you of CRADLE OF FILTH in a way: loud and filthy, so to speak. But the overall sound is a good mix of nu-metal and Bay Area thrash metal. Mind you, the songs on this album tell you true stories. The crimes described have actually happened in the past few decades. But let’s focus on the music here. The thirteen songs are worthy of sixty-five minutes. The first real highlights for me are opener “Romans 12:19 (It’s Mine To Avenge)” and “300 Days To Consciousness”, because of the aforementioned styles, that come together in here. Vale is the new female singer in the band, by the way. In 2007, the band’s former vocalist Eliana Volpe left the band, because of the usual musical differences. I believe, that they have found a very suitable replacement in Vale. If you’ve worked yourself through the thirteen stories, then it’s time to clean up the bloody mess in your room. While doing that, I have a nice surprise album to play on your stereo inbetween, called “Biolence”, because that is where this whole bloody mess started in the first place. Well done guys and I’m looking forward to hearing more! By the way, don’t forget to check out the interview, that Nick Rohm did with the band. You can find it in the ‘interviews’ section. Website: http:// www.motherstone.it. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MY RUIN-Live On The Other Side (Rovena Recordings/Cargo Records)
MY RUIN is well-known for their brutality and very exciting powerful nu-metal. Frontlady Tairrie B has been a true hero in our book for many years now. The band is at its best, when they are on stage. The live setting will surely guarantee the band’s sound to the max. Just feel the pounding rhythm in your stomach and the tones of Tairrie plundering your eardrums. This whole crazy atmosphere is presented to you on this great live CD. The music has got a high BLACK SABBATH / CATHEDRAL level in the groovy riffs, only topped with the brutal high screams by Tairrie B, rather than the lazy sound of OZZY OSBOURNE. Great examples are opener “Silverlake”, “The Devil Walks” and “Memento Mori”. On this live album, you’ll find fifteen songs with a total length of a little over a full hour. “Burn The Witch” sounds dark and of course doomy. While “Skeleton Key” adds some speed to their sound, but the SABBATH-like undertone still remains. In fact, it’s there all the time. This album is an honest reflection of what happens on stage. I think, there are hardly any overdubs on it, and what you see is what you get, including song introductions like the one before “Through The Wound”. One of the highlights for me is the groovy “Heartsick / Blasphemous Girl”. What a great power! “Slide You the Horn” has got a more rock and roll feel to it. And with “Hypocrite”, the band grabs back to the past by doing a stunning version of this old MANHOLE cover. Besides Tairrie B, the band contains one other former MANHOLE member, namely drummer Marcelo Palomino. The other band members are partner-in-crime and husband Mick Murphy on guitar and Chris Lisee on bass. The final song “The Beauty Medley” consists of three short segments; “Made To Measure”, “Get Pretty” and Beauty Friend”. And with this medley, we have come to the end of the live CD. There’s much more to enjoy on the DVD, that goes with the live CD. It contains the full live show on DVD plus much more goodies from this groovy, doomy metal outfit. Both horns up for Tairrie B and MY RUIN! My Space site: http://www.myspace.com/myruin [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NASHVILLE PUSSY-From Hell To Texas (SPV/Steamhammer)
I’ve got the hots for NASHVILLE PUSSY for many years now. This new CD contains twelve new songs and runs for almost forty minutes. Needless to say, that it’s full of hot rod, steaming and sexy rock and roll songs. The CD booklet unfolds itself into a movie poster for the movie “From Hell To Texas”. “Speed Machine” opens the CD with no real surprises, but I’m in already. No bullshit, this is rock and roll how it was meant to be. Title track “From Hell To Texas” opens in the best TED NUGENT tradition, including dito guitarwork of the meanest chick in the scene, Ruyter Suys. Before the song is clinging to your mind, the band’s already cranking out another monster with “Drunk Driving Man”. Yes, the lyrics of NASHVILLE PUSSY ain’t about angels and saints. Although they’ve made an exception with “Lazy Jesus”, that is if you would call Jesus a saint. I like that boogie rock sound, they created in this song. The childrens choir may be a little over the top, but it still rocks like hell. “I’m So High” may invite you to sing along to. And to prove this, they called in the help of DANKO JONES to do some guest vocals here. “Ain’t Your Business” sounds a bit like the NASHVILLE PUSSY re-arrangement of DAVID LEE ROTH’s “Shy Boy”. It shows some resemblance indeed. MOTÖRHEAD has a song, called “Dead Men Tell No Tales” and NASHVILLE PUSSY now has a song, called “Dead Men Can’t Get Drunk” and they’re damn right with that statement! In “The Late Great USA”, which is on next, including some handclapping, they sure lift up the speed again. And in the best RAMONES tradition of ‘1, 2, 3, 4!’, they continue with “Pray For The Devil”, another uptempo rocker with some juicy guitar licks by Ruyter. While “Why Why Why” is such a song, you simply can’t sit still and you really have to move. It surely is another highlight indeed for this guy. It will possibly remind you of “Kiss My Ass” by TED NUGENT, but hey, who cares?! That’s a son of a bitch metal song, too and that’s the way I like it! “Stone Cold Down” takes down the speed a bit. It contains some stunning guitarwork though. The album closes with “Gimme A Hit Before I Go”. And with one push on the ‘replay’ button, the whole party starts all over from scratch… Besides Ruyter ‘La Buona’ Suys on guitar, NASHVILLE PUSSY consists of Blaine ‘Il Cattivo’ Cartwright on guitar and vocals, Karen ‘La Pistolera’ Cuda (HEMI CUDA) on bass guitar and Jeremy ‘Il Remo’ Thompson on drums. Website: http://www.nashvillepussy.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NIGHTWISH-Made In Hong Kong (And Various Other Places (Road Runner)
I happen to like the new NIGHTWISH with Annette Olzon on vocals. Of course whenever there is such a big line-up change in such a high profile band, there is usually a split among the devotees of said band. NIGHTWISH is no different. Their latest studio release (and their first with Annette) proved to be quite possibly the most successful of their career. The band has been touring non-stop for almost two years (a tour that is still going strong as of this writing). It was with great excitement that got their new DVD/CD collection: "Made In Hong Kong (And Various Other Places)”. I'm sorry to say, that it is somewhat of a disappointment. The CD of this set contains eleven songs and over an hour's worth of music. The first seven songs were recorded live on the "Dark Passion Play" tour in 2007-08. Only songs from that album are included in the live recordings. Don't get me wrong, I always love hearing "Bye Bye Beautiful", "Amaranth", "Sahara", "7 Days To The Wolves" and the epic majesty of "The Poet & The Pendulum", but having seen the band live on this tour I can attest to the fact, that Annette acquits herself quite well on the Tarja era songs. Just my opinion, but it would have been cool to include some of those songs. The final three songs are two b-sides: "The Escapist" and "While Your Lips Are Still Red" while the demo version of "Cadence Of Her Last Breath" brings it to a close. Moving on to the DVD end of things and this is where it should really shine. Unfortunately, it didn't. The DVD contains a thirty-six minute (!) documentary, titled "Back In The Day... Is Now". Unfortunately, it's not really that interesting. Not bad, mind you, just not what I was expecting. It features interviews with the band and the odd, live/behind-the-scenes clip. The best part of the DVD is the inclusion of the three video clips from "Dark Passion Play". "Bye Bye Beautiful", "Amaranth' and "The Islander" are all cool clips and it is nice to have them on one collection. Aside from that though this whole set leaves me a bit cold. I can totally see what the band were trying to do. Having already released a CD/DVD set for the Tarja era, they wanted all of the focus to be on the Annette era. I could be wrong, but that is only my take on it. It just doesn't seem like a lot of effort was put into it, especially when you put it next to the, oh so fabulous "End Of An Era" set. So, I would only recommend "Made In Hong Kong..." to the die-hards. The fans - such as myself - who must have everything on the band. [6 points] (Tony Cannella)

PRESENCE-Evil Rose (Black Widow Records)
PRESENCE hails from Italy and this is already their seventh album. It contains nine new songs, of which two are covers, and it has a total playing time of almost seventy minutes. Make sure, that you are ready for it, because PRESENCE may not be the average metal band and their songs don’t speak for itself. Let’s first introduce the band members to you, before we go into details. We have Sophya Baccini on vocals, Sergio Cassamassima on guitar and bass guitar, Enrico Iglio on keyboards and Valerio Silenzi on drums. Opener “Prologue” is an instrumental tune, while “Cassandra” is the first song with vocals. Obviously, we’re dealing with a dark prog metal band, that knows how to create a beautiful but obscure atmosphere. After that, we already arrive at one of the most important songs on this album, the twenty-two minutes epos “Evil Rose”, which starts off very melodramatic. It’s a suite in five parts, which may not be easy to comprehend for some of us. However, if you like to listen to a good soundtrack for a beautiful movie, this might be very interesting. Think about EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER to get a bigger picture. “Subterreans” still has that soundtrack kind of approach, but it starts with pounding riffs and is very heavy. The riffs might even appeal to METALLICA fans. Sophya’s voice is crystal clear and sometimes she even sounds like KATE BUSH, but not always. She definitely has a beautiful style of her own. The guitarsound in this song reminded me of David Gilmour of PINK FLOYD. “Funebre Dea” is a short instrumental and then it’s time for the first cover song on the album. It’s “The Prophet’s Song”, originally recorded by QUEEN on “A Night At The Opera”. Let the song hypnotise you, like it did to me. A stunning version of this old QUEEN classic. “No Reason Why” is short and I think that they have no reason for that. It’s followed by the second cover on this album. This time, they choose to do an original RAINBOW song, called “Gates Of Babylon”. And the guitar definitely sounds like Mr. Ritchie Blackmore in this one, I can assure you! The sphereful CD closes with another ten minute opus, called “Orphic”. The progressive aspect does justice to this song, but the vocals may be a little over the top. I had a very good time though listening to this album, that has many different moods. For the adventurous metal fan, it’s a must to listen to it, even if it’s only once. Website: http://www.presence.it. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE PRETENDERS-Break Up The Concrete (Shangri-La Music)
THE PRETENDERS are back! Yes, you bet this is also Metal Maidens food for the hungry music fan. Chrissie Hynde is considered as being the ‘grandmother’ of all those Riot Grrrls ladies and she still rocks her socks off in 2009. Prove is given on album number so much “Break Up The Concrete” (I guess, I lost count along the way…). An album, containing thirteen songs, including two bonus tracks and which plays for almost forty-five minutes. It opens with “Boots Of Chinese Plastic”, a fast boogie rock and roll song, just to get the pace here. The fire definitely hasn’t gone after all these years! Many people may know THE PRETENDERS from their many hit singles, some of them rockers, some of them ballads. So I was aware of the fact, that the whole album wouldn’t sound like this. But when you’re an musical omnivore, you’re ready for almost everything. “The Nothing Maker” is a nice ballad with a high campfire level. But the recognisable sound of Chrissie’s voice makes it more than pleasant to listen to. “Don’t Lose Faith In Me” is a slow blues, where Chrissie comes to the point in about three minutes. Most blues bands need at least ten minutes to get songs like this done. With “Don’t Cut Your Hair”, we’re back to the hillbilly boogie rock type of song with minimal country flavour. While “Love’s A Mystery” is a catchy rock song. Next track “The Last Ride” comes very close to the PRETENDERS sound, that we know and like. It could easily be a single, because it’s so ‘easy on the ear’ and it breathes that well-known ‘PRETENDERS atmosphere’ all over. “Almost Perfect” is the almost perfect Sunday morning song. It sounds lazy and laid back, and very suitable to listen to, if you’re not yet really awake. “You Didn’t Have To” is a nice balladesque song. “Rosalee” is a mid-tempo shuffle with some nice guitarwork, topped with the recognisable Hynde vocals. The title track of the album is on next. Rock it out one more time, Charley-eh-I mean Chrissie! This stunning rocker is definitely one of the highlights on the album for me. “One Thing Never Changed” closes the official album and it sounds like a bluegrass type of ballad. I heard some more country undertones in the songs. There are two bonus tracks included as well. First we have a new version of “I Go To Sleep”, one of the biggest hit singles of the band. It’s an acoustic version, the hitsingle in its naked form, so to speak. The second bonus track is called “Both Sides Of Goodbye”, which Chrissie performs together with country legend WILLIE NELSON. It’s a real tearjerker: the one, that will break your heart from the first notes on. Variation is the main slogan representing this new CD by THE PRETENDERS. On the album, the band consists of Chrissie Hynde on vocals and rhythm guitar, James Walbourne on lead guitar, piano and backing vocals, Jim Keltner on drums, Eric Heywood on pedal steel guitar and Nick Wilkinson on bass.Website: http://www.thepretenders.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

PROPHECIA-Eye Of The Storm (Black Listed Records)
PROPHESIA are from Japan, and they were formed in 2005. In that year they also released a single, but this is their debut album. Their progressive power metal sounds melodic, yet speedy. PROPHESIA consists of Akira Ishihara on vocals (ex-AZRAEL), Michael on guitar and keyboards (ex-XANADU), Takao on bass, Tashiro on drums and Ayuco on keyboards. The album contains eleven songs and plays for forty-five minutes. “Prophet” is the instrumental opener, followed by two speedy songs, namely “Into The Eye of The Storm” and “Glorious”. Names like HELLOWEEN and STRATOVARIUS come to mind very quickly. While in “Samsara”, the band takes back some speed by adding more melody. I think of EDGUY and YNGWIE MALMSTEEN here. “Destiny” even tends to lean towards the sound of ALCATRAZZ and to be honest with you, I don’t mind a bit. “Disaster In The Gray World” is fast again and the keyboards have a leading role here. Now I think of it, a name like CONCERTO MOON also comes to mind, while listening to the fast MALMSTEEN-like chants. “Living For The Night” is the odd one out maybe. But in “Reality” the band has got their act together again and they press the pedal to the metal. If you’re waiting for the obligatory ballad, then you’re at the right spot with “Lionheart”. While “Take A Chance On Love” is another ALCATRAZZ type of song and definitely tipped as a highlight. The CD closes with a song, called “Neverland”, another uptempo rocker. If you like speedy power metal, then this album might be something to dig into. Go to http://www.prophesia.net for all the information you need about this Japanese band. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ULI JON ROTH-Under A Dark Sky (Steamhammer/SPV)
This concept album of ULI JON ROTH consists of twenty-five songs and runs for about sixty-five minutes. You have to be open-minded to like the album, because it contains many choir vocals and orchestration. I mean, it may not sound like the regular metal album to you. The fact, that former SAHARA vocalist Liz Vandall sings on the album, makes it all worthwhile to have a listen to it. Also, add to this the great guitarplaying of Uli and you’ll have the two main ingredients for a very interesting album, that can’t go wrong. The positive message and the lyrics on this album will definitely set you thinking about how to handle the world that we are living in… But let’s concentrate on the music, because that’s what we are here for, right? I think, that we can talk about a real masterpiece again after listening to this album. It’s so well-thought out and the songs hold such a strong cohesion, that it is a real joy to listen to it. Okay, the rock or metal level might be a bit low for some of us, but there are still some rock and metal elements on the album. Just listen to the three part song “Land Of Dawn” with vocal parts by Liz Vandall and Mark Boals (RING OF FIRE, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN). The guitar sounds a bit like RITCHIE BLACKMORE in his DEEP PURPLE days. Sometimes, these magical moments are carefully hidden underneath the beautiful soundscapes, but the maestro’s guitar sound is still breathtaking and matches just perfect with the orchestral parts on this album. “Lion Wings” is a short uptempo song and if you listen really well, you’ll definitely agree with me that you can hear some RAINBOW-like guitar chords on this one. While “Letter Of The Law” has got some beautiful choir vocals and some really breathtaking and threatening guitar parts as well. “Stay In The Light” is a ballad type of song. “Benediction” sounds very modest, before the speed is slowly lifted up during the beautiful “Light & Shadows”. However, the ‘piece of resistance’ is the nineteen minute opus “Tanz In Die Dammerung”, which consists of eleven (!) parts. Better sit down for this one! There is a lot happening here and it’s just marvellous to listen to the different soundscapes in this true masterpiece. Again, this may not be an ‘easy’ album to absorb, but once you discover the beauty of it, you will acknowledge that this is some truly great stuff for all the connoisseurs among us! Website: http://www.ulijonroth.com/ [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SHADOW-Forever Chaos (Spikefarm Records)
Thundering blast beats enter my room, while listening to the title track of the new album by the Japanese metal band SHADOW. Wow, this will certainly hurt your eardrums, if you haven’t been fully prepared! My thoughts regularly go out to ARCH ENEMY, when listening to the brutal metal songs on “Forever Chaos”. The album contains eleven new tracks, worthy of forty-five minutes of brutal Japanese metal mayhem. Just try to bang your head to the speed of “The Orators”. It’s simply impossible! In “Wings Of Flame”, they even try to break the speed record. Sometimes, it’s a bit too much for me and their sound comes close to CRADLE OF FILTH at times. However, there’s also a lot to enjoy here. Tokiko shows to be a worthy competitor for Angela Gossow. And melodic-edged songs like “My Apologies” are definitely among my fave tunes here. Some of the highlights on this album are the melodic “Hand Of A Dream” and CD closer “Black Magic”, because of the strong riffs. SHADOW has proven to be a great brutal metal band and their second album will definitely please a lot of fans out there. The band consists of Yoshio Kubo on bass, Yuichi Sumimoto on guitar, Mitsuhiro Enomoto on drums and the aforementioned Metal Maiden in the band Tokiko Shimamoto on vocals. For more info about these brutal thrashers from Japan, you can visit their website at http://www.shadow666.net. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SISTER SIN-Switchblade Serenades (Victory Records)
The band SISTER SIN is being pushed forward as ‘street metal’. That’s a category, that I didn’t know yet. As long as it refers to the music, that I hear on this eleven minute CD, I am alright with it. There is a lot of power and energy in the music of SISTER SIN and I hear many influences of great names like WASP, MOTLEY CRUE, KISS and TWISTED SISTER. The band consists of Liv on vocals, Jimmy on guitar, Chris on bass (at the moment the band is searching for a new bass player though) and Dave on drums. Their hometown is Gothenburg in Sweden. Mostly, the music, that comes from this area sounds quite thrashy and it’s good to hear that Gothenburg has more in their pocket for us. This album will definitely get all those heads move up and down, just for all time sake. That’s simply what this music asks for and that’s what they’re gonna get! The songs, that we get to hear on “Switchblade Serenades” are very ‘easy on the ear’ and contain a certain catchy vibe, that urge you to sing along to it. Just do it, it will make you feel good. One of the real highlights for me is “Make My Day”, which is a real power bomb in the best GIRLSCHOOL / MOTÖRHEAD tradition. “Hostile Violent” is also heading into that same direction and you can really feel the power in that one. The “Switchblade Serenade” gives you a bit of time to gasp for air, but in “Love / Hate”, SISTER SIN goes full speed ahead again. Finally, CD closer “Eye To Eye” will push the last drop of sweat out of the bodies of these Swedish rockers. This second album is absolutely mindblowing, so we will be searching for their debut album “Dance Of The Wicked”, released in 2003, as well. In the meantime, the band has found themselves a new bass player in Benton. I think, we will definitely hear more about SISTER SIN on these pages, because I loved every minute of this forty-five minute album and they really kicked the shit out of me with their “Switchblade Serenades”. Website: http://www.sistersin.com/ [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE SUNDIAL-Transition (Renaissance Records)
THE SUNDIAL started their career as NO TIME TO CRY. The band hails from Kalingrad in Russia and was formed in 2002. The ten songs on the album play for fifty minutes and their music could be described as gothic doom metal. The piano sounds in opener “Sundial” already set the pace for this album. “Dreamland” and “The Dream” can both be categorised as gothic doom metal. Mind you, the female vocals are not upfront in the mix and they more or less complete the whole sound. Singer Anastacia ‘Remedios’ Kuznecova also plays the keyboards, that have a more prominent place in the music of THE SUNDIAL. Songs such as “Of Paradise And Love” and “Dead Man’s Love” sound a bit like MOONSPELL, because of the male vocals in here. In “Dream Within A Dream” we hear Anastacia finally sing upfront in the mix. She really has a nice voice, that could be compared to Anneke van Giersbergen (formerly THE GATHERING, now AGUA DE ANNIQUE). It’s a shame, that she only gets such a small part on this album. Besides Anastacia, THE SUNDIAL consists of Dimitry Muratov on vocals, Aleksey ‘Ergwath’Smirnov on violin, Alexander Shablin on drums and Zavodnoy Apesin on guitar. In “Sleeping Out Full Moon”, we’ll be able to enjoy the voice of Anastacia some more. The introduction of the bonus track “The Curse” made me sweat a bit. Computerised dance beats enter my room for a couple of seconds and then they go way……oh-no, they return again after a short while. How can I stop this? This is a very useless bonus track, that doesn’t really fit to the rest of their material in my opinion. It doesn’t mean that the music by THE SUNDIAL is bad. Their sometimes dark and gothic sounding doom metal is in fact really nice to listen to. Website: http://www.sundial.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

3 KISSES-American Breakdown (Stolen Kisses Music)
This is not our first introduction to 3 KISSES and it won’t be our last either, I guess. This full-length album contains some good punk rock music with influences from bands like GREEN DAY, THE DONNAS and JOAN JETT. After title track “American Breakdown”, “Ordinary” and “It’s Not About You”, which all have that great punk rock vibe, the band adds some danceable reggae sounds in a song, called “Bricks”. It gets a very catchy feel, because of that. Then it’s time for the JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS cover “I Hate Myself For Loving You”. This will most definitely invite you to sing along, you can count on that! “Nut Job” is funny, because of the giggling, while “PMS” is another punk rock and roll tune, that will easily stick in your head. Think about THE DONNAS here with a touch of JOAN JETT. The Texas party punkers have grown a lot, since their previous albums; “Wings”, “It All Comes Down To Me” and “Nut Job”. “Summer Love Song” is just what it says it will be: a melodic punky love song. Same goes for “Without You” as a matter of fact. “Out Of Control” is the highlight off the album for me. It’s fast and furious and the band gives its best and most powerful performance on this one. “Shake It Up” is very uptempo and fast, too and “Hope Is Contagious” closes the CD. This last song is a possible single and ready for radio airplay. Maybe it’s the odd one out here, but it also is the one with the most hit potential for the 3 KISSES. The band consists of Tish Meeks on lead vocals, rhythm guitar and lead guitar, Tony Meeks on backing vocals, lead guitar and rhythm guitar, Brian Hymel on bass and backing vocals and Sean Strelecki on drums and backing vocals. Let these fourteen punk rock songs grab you by the balls and enjoy the power by these 3 KISSES. Go to their website: http://www.3kisses.com for more information. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WHITE SKULL-Forever Fight (SPV Records)
We’re very proud to present you this new CD by WHITE SKULL. The Italian heavy metal band is back with a vengeance and sounding like they are willing to strike back even harder than they already did with their earlier work. The new album “Forever Fight” contains twelve powerful tracks, that play for about fifty-five minutes. Opener “We Are Coming” is short and it’s kind of an introduction to “Escape”, a very powerful outing that will raise some fists in the air. I must admit, that I also hear some NIGHTWISH or WITHIN TEMPTATION influences in “Feel My Rage”, but WHITE SULL is cleverly hiding it under the sound of guitars. It’s there allright, but it’s not disturbing at all. In the next two songs, I hear a certain progressive vibe to their sound as well. In “Spy”, the keyboards sound very much upfront. And the various mood and speed changes in “Attle And Bleba” remind me of IRON MAIDEN in a way. While the title track is a straight forward, ‘in-your-face’ metal song, followed by a more balladesque song, called “Boudicca’s Speech”. In “A Mother’s Revenge” the speed goes up and it’s time to shake your head up and down again. “Heavy Metal Aces” is a fast metal song, where you can shout your heart out. The intro of this song is very special, too. “Etzel” is a metal tune in the best HAMMERFALL tradition, very catchy and yet really heavy. The choir vocals in “Visions” give the song an epic feel. The CD closes with a party song, called “Beer, Cheers”, which they could have left out, in my opinion. Anyway, “Forever Fight” has become an honest heavy metal album, which brings back this Italian band to the premier ranks of the female-fronted heavy metal scene for us. The line up of WHITE SKULL is now consisting of Alex Mantiero on drums, Jo Raddi on bass, Alessio Lucatti on keyboards, Danio Bar on lead guitar, Captain Tony Mad on rhythm guitar and Elisa ‘Over’ de Palma on vocals. Beware of a long hard battle, because WHITE SKULL will “Forever Fight”, which they have fulfilled one hundred percent on this new album. Website: http://www.whiteskull.it. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WITHIN TEMPTATION & THE METROPOLE ORCHESTRA-Black Symphony (Roadrunner Records/GUN Records)
Just when you think, that the latest masterpiece by WITHIN TEMPTATION has been the biggest production you’ve ever seen, they surely know to astound you with another, that is probably even bigger than the previous one. What an amazing two CD, two DVD set, I have in my hands here! Even before I could have a listen to it or take a look at the DVD footage, it was a real treat to have a look at the amazing booklet, featuring many wonderful pictures from all around the world. What a very well taken care of package we have here. If the music sounds as good as it looks, this will easily get the full score from me. So let’s get things going. The two CDs are each worthy of an hour of live music. If I take a look at the setlist, I guess that we can call it a ‘best of / live’ set, including a real orchestra and accompanying choirs. The music of WITHIN TEMPTATION is very suitable for choirs and orchestration. They already use it on their studio material, but to do this live is something different of course. And if this isn’t good enough, we can also enjoy some guest appearances. More about that later on, when they arrive. First we start with a really beautiful “Ouverture”, which runs for over seven minutes. This is not just a simple intro of a few seconds. On the contrary, this is already a highlight, in which you can feel the tension rising. After that, you are able to enjoy “Jillian (I’d Give My Heart)”. The registration of the double CD took place on February 7th, 2008 at the Ahoy in Rotterdam, NL. “The Howling” sounds superb and the band continues with the first big hit on the setlist; “Stand My Ground”. When Sharon asks the audience to sing along here, she even created a second choir, which has an amazing intention. “The Cross” is another beautiful song. Like I mentioned already, this is really the best of WITHIN TEMPTATION. A huge surprise, but almost an unavoidable one, is the guest appearance by Keith Caputo (LIFE OF AGONY) during “What Have You Done”. The machine continues with “Hand Of Sorrow” (which gets an enthusiastic response from the crowd), “The Heart Of Everything” (including some beautiful choir vocals) and “Forgiven”, where Sharon sings with her heart more than ever. Then it’s time for the second guest appearance. In Somewhere”, Anneke van Giersbergen (AGUA DE ANNIQUE) shows up for a breathtaking duet. “The Swan Song” is another modest ballad with a leading role for Sharon and the beautiful orchestration to accompany her. The first CD closes with another hitsingle, called “Memories”. Better get yourself ready for act two, which starts with “Our Solemn Hour”. Ahoy explodes during “The Other Half (Of Me)”, which features another guest. This time it is former ORPHANAGE vocalist George Oosthoek, who grunts his lungs out on this one. This is the last guest appearance at the Black Symphony gig, by the way. “Frozen” is another hitsingle and on “The Promise”, there’s a leading role for the orchestra during an bombastic intro. “Angels” is on next, which is also taken from the category hitsingles. You’ll notice, that the catchy popular hitsingles mix very nicely with the more obscure pearls and they cannot exist without one another during this live show. At the end of the show, the hitsingles play a major role, which is not a real surprise of course. “Mother Earth”, which is one of their biggest hitsingles ever, allows a wild audience during its introduction. The orchestration and choir also play a prominent role, when the band introduces this song to the public. The intro of “The Truth Beneath The Rose” sounds very bombastic, while “Deceiver Of Fools” develops into a real bombastic masterpiece as well. “All I Need”is on next and then we’re getting ready for the grand finale with “Ice Queen”, which really makes my skin crawl. There is still some time to do a bow towards the audience and then the second set of this amazing double live disc set is over. I definitely go for the full score, because the band deserves it after twelve and a half years of hard work. I can’t wait to check out the two DVDs, that feature more interesting items on the band, including this live show at the Ahoy, Rotterdam. Website: http://www.within-temptation.com. [10 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE ACCOLADE-Pinocchio (CD single) (independent)
You live in Saudi Arabia and you like rock music. Just start a metal band and record a single. But what if you are a woman? You can do the same. But what if you are in an all-female rock band? Then you’ll find out about this band at these pages. THE ACCOLADE is an all-female rock band from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and this is their one track single, called “Pinocchio”. These three minutes of music prove that also in Saudi, women can be very destined to follow their heart and they can record a good, catchy sounding rock single. The song has got a powerful drive and it shows that band is able to play their instruments very well. A touch of gothic rock, a lot of melody and a very powerful bite is what you get here. Musically, it may not be innovative, but this particular all-female rock band might be the biggest innovation in rock history for years. Women, who play rock music in countries like Saudi Arabia are breaking traditions, that are existing for ages and ages. These ladies cannot perform in public, they can never put up a show or something. It’s too soon for that, but right now they’ve already presented us this three minute single, which is a giant step forward already. Check it out, because these ladies deserve it to be heard. Break down those barriers, because music should be a global way of expressing yourself to others. And this is as far as I will take it politically. http://www.myspace.com/accoladeofficial is their official My Space site and I’d like to encourage everybody to have a look at it. “Pinocchio” was a fairytale, but this is the real world in which we’re living and THE ACCOLADE is clearing the way for more ladies to express themselves this way. The band consists of Dina, Dareen, Lamia and Amjad. Both thumbs up for these ladies! If I would have to rate this single for their courage and persistence, THE ACCOLADE would definitely receive ten points out of ten, musically the rating below counts. Note: THE ACCOLADE have just added a new single on their website, called “Destiny”. Check it out!!!! [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ILSE DE LANGE-Miracle (CD single) (Universal Music)
This is the new single by ILSE DE LANGE. And finally, the whole population of Holland is slowly discovering the amazing talent by this lady. “Miracle” is on this CD single in two versions. The single version and the ‘Bride Flight Version’. The video of this song can also be watched. I just cannot say too much about this release. I think you’ll just have to listen to it and enjoy it. And while this single is still active, the next release is pushed forward already. It’s a song, called “Puzzle Me” from her incredible new album “Incredible”. ILSE finally gets what she deserves and that does not come to me as a real “Miracle”. Website: http://www.ilsedelange.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE DEVILS BLOOD-Come, Reap (EP) (Van Records)
After the single “The Graveyard Shuffle” b/w “Waxing Moon Over Babylon”, THE DEVIL’S BLOOD releases their first EP. And I must admit, that it got my interest right away. Not only because of the fact, that guitarist Sekim Lemouchi (ex-POWERVICE) is part of the band, but also because of their very interesting music. This “Come, Reap” EP contains five tracks, including one cover song. Their sound is not easy to describe, but the love for occult and dark music from the seventies is very much present. Think about COVEN, BLACK WIDOW or BLACK SABBATH, just to name a few influences. The gore EP cover assumes, that we’re dealing with a death metal band here, however that is definitely out of the question. THE DEVIL’S BLOOD sounds retro and I like it that way. Opener “Come Reap” is an instrumental tune, while the guitars in “River Of Gold” even remind me of Ritchie Blackmore in his very early DEEP PURPLE days. Let’s say, there’s a certain sincerity and catchiness in their sound, but there are always enough guitars present not to make it interesting for the mainstream pop/rock fan. “The Heavens Cry Out (For The Devils Blood)” sounds very psychedelic and so I’d like to add HAWKWIND and JEFFERSON AIRPLANE to the aforementioned list of influences. If the band would mention some of their influences, I guess they’d go for ROKY ERICKSON and THE 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS. “White Faces” is a cover by ROKY ERICKSON. The final song is called “Voodoo Dust” and from the very first notes on, my mind goes out to JEFFERSON AIRPLANE. However, the guitar solo is truly mindblowing and Mr. Blackmore’s spirit wanders around again. To me, this is the absolute highlight on this thirty minutes EP. About the line-up of the band, there are a lot of question marks. We are sure that there is a female singer in the band (Farida?), which makes them interesting to review on our website. The live shows of the band are announced as ‘rituals’, so you’d better become part of such a ritual, when THE DEVIL’S BLOOD comes to a town near you. You will be pleasantly surprised, because their show must be mindblowing, too. It’s still too early to give this a full score, but it comes very close. Website: http://www.myspace.com/thedevilsblood. Note: the first full-length CD by THE DEVIL’S BLOOD is scheduled for a September 2009 release. Don’t miss it! [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DENYALL-Dehumanized (EP) (independent)
DENYALL from Finland present their debut three tracker here. Finland, female vocals, this must be a NIGHTWISH type of band! No way, just check out the power and the force, this band unloads in title track “Dehumanized” and you’ll know enough. The riffs are loud in “Garden Of The Condemned” and well certainly, the first dark death grunts are here to enjoy. I think, we don’t want to draw a comparison with NIGHTWISH after these brutal outings anymore. Besides vocalist Terhi Palomäki, the band also has a second female member. Her name is Satu-Maaria Mäkiniemi and she plays keyboards and sings backing vocals. The three track EP closes with “Late”. Well, in this case, better ‘Late’ than never, I would say. Check out the cool riffs and get those heads banging, you hear! They are definitely not another NIGHTWISH clone in my book. DENYALL is an amazing new band and they deserve to be checked out by you, so give them a break! Besides Terhi and Satu-Maaria, the band consists of Tatu Pajula on guitars, Karri Kallio on guitars, Rami Rissa on drums and Janne Raiski on bass. If Finland has got more talented and ‘still to be discovered’ bands like DENYALL, please give me a call, because I can do with more, where this came from. Classy! Website: http://www.myspace.com/denyallband. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ENCHAINED SOULS-Memories From The Silence (EP) (Haunted Shore Records)
For this EP, we have to move all the way to Argentina. The EP by ENCHAINED SOULS consists of six tracks, four songs and two piano versions, worthy of thirty-five minutes of dark gothic metal. The hoarse male voice in opener “Moon Tears” reminded me of MOONSPELL in a way. The female voice by Carolina ‘Caro’ Villamayor however sounds crystal clear and is very beautiful to listen to. She fits very well to the gothic calibre of the band. Their music may sound a bit dark, but it surely doesn’t sound doomy or slow. Just listen to the speed in “El Velo De La Ilusión”, which also contains some magical guitar work by Pablo ‘Costa’ Costamagna. “Change” reminded me a bit of NIGHTWISH, but the grunting male voice makes the song much more heavy than these Finnish mega sellers. The title and the intro of the last song, “My Own Requiem” made me think of VIRGIN BLACK for a second, but as soon as the uptempo rhythm and the female vocals burst in, these thoughts disappear very quickly. What remains is a beautiful ballad type of song. I like the mood changes halfway through this song a lot. We also hear a more soprano-like sound in Carolina’s voice. The two piano versions of “So Many Tears” and “My Own Requiem” are very sphereful and that’s when I decided to uprate this EP from seven points to eight points. I like it loud, but this is very well done indeed and proves that these people know what they’re doing and they are very gifted musicians. ENCHAINED SOULS alrady shared the stage with ANATHEMA in their home country. If ANATHEMA is on your list of favorite bands, then it is good to check out the music by ENCHAINED SOULS as well. Besides vocalist Carolina and guitarist Costa, the band consists of drummer Bruno Reggiani and bass player Marcos Lacalle. Website: http://www.enchainedsouls.net. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

OUT OF EMBERS-Out Of Embers (EP) (independent)
OUT OF EMBERS is an all-female band from the U.K. and this is their 2008 four track EP. The four tracks give me a very good idea of what this band is all about, musically of course. You can never tell what goes on in the mind of these four young ladies. The band is a follow op to THE TOMMYS. “Back To Bed” opens the EP. It sounds to me like a radio friendly song, but the strong riffs make sure that this will possibly never happen. Grunge meets THE CRANBERRIES with some raw, pointy edges, that can harm you firmly. “Just Once More” reminds me of KREZIP (from Holland) and also the first song could be compared to this band. Perhaps OUT OF EMBERS sounds more punky and the guitars definitely play an important role in their music. They sound very much upfront and ask for a lot of attention. Way to go, ladies! The vocals show some resemblance to Kelly Clarkson or Avril Lavigne, but with more power. “Dead End Town” opens firmly and becomes a true highlight, because of that. In a nutshell, their sound is very powerful, mixed with catchy hooks and a radio friendly vibe. The real highlight on this EP is kept for last. “Mesmerise” is an uptempo rocker with a very heavy sound. Yes, that’s the way to steal my heart! OUT OF EMBERS sounded (yes, past tense!) like a band, that had a long fruitful career ahead of them. I was rather surprised though to find out, that the band broke up and is no longer existing. Well, that was a short ride on the musical rollercoaster. Anyway, for anyone who wants to set the record straight here, OUT OF EMBERS were Stevie Shepperson on guitar and vocals, Kat Upton on guitar and vocals (ex-IDLE SILVER), Lauren ‘Loz’ Bennett on bass (ex-HELEN KELLER) and Chelsea Bishop on drums (ex-SWALLOW). What a shame, that this band pulled the plug so soon! [Update news: guitarist Stevie joined the band OUTRAGE and the other girls are looking for other bands, too. To be continued…..] [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TARJA TURUNEN -The Seer (EP) (Universal Music)
I would recommend this EP to every fan of TAJA TURUNEN. It gives you value for your money and besides that, it’s a very nice addition to your collection. It starts off with a duet by Tarja and Doro Pesch, which is the title track of this EP. After that, we hear a lot of different mixes and alternative versions from the album. The fifty minute EP closes with four live tracks. It has been released in the UK only and was limited to 2,000 copies only. A rather rare and interesting release, I would say. “The Seer” is a duet with DORO and a very nice collaboration between these two heavy metal queens. Think about the well-known Tarja sound here. Both voices match very well together. “Lost Northern Star” is on next in the ‘Tägtren remix’. It sounds like WITHIN TEMPTATION’s “Ice Queen” with heavy guitar riffs and dance beats. “The Reign” continues in the ‘Scoremix’, where it becomes an instrumental track. “Die Alive” is to be found here in an alterative version, followed by the ‘izumix’ of “Boy And The Ghost”, which is a beautiful piano ballad. The ‘full version’ of “Calling Grace” sounds very much alike and it’s a good choice to put these two songs back to back here. Then we get another version of “Lost Northern Star”. It’s a much darker ‘ambience sub low mix’. After that, the live set starts, recorded in Kuursankoski in Finland. The first three songs “Damned And Devine”, “You Would Have Loved This” and “Our Great Divide” are beautiful ballads, which create a great atmosphere. Tarja’s voice plus some instrumentation is all you get. The fourth song is the highlight on this whole EP. “Ciaran’s Well” is a groovy piece of music, in which Tarja shows her vocal skills and her band pumps out some heavy riffs to go with it. By far the best song on this ‘must have’ EP. Not everything may be interesting, but in general this fifty minutes, eleven track EP is a treat to every fan of this Finnish soprano. Website: http://www.tarjaturunen.com/. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

[Updated: August 31, 2009]

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