CD REVIEWS


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


Spring/Summer 2007:

AFTER FOREVER-After Forever (Nuclear Blast)
With their latest self-titled effort, Holland’s AFTER FOREVER continue to make their mark as one of the most consistent metal bands on the planet. In vocalist Floor Jansen they have a true metal star with a giant voice. "Discord" sets things in motion as Floor’s strong vocals stand in stark contrast to the guttural death growls. The music is big and orchestral and sounds like it would be good on a movie soundtrack of some kind. Next up is "Evoke", which sees Floor at her operatic best. "Transitory" and first video track "Energize Me" were pleasing to these ears. Other highlights include: "De-Energized", The ballady "Cry With A Smile". A special guest appearance is made by the one and only Doro Pesch for a duet on the track "Who I Am". Many were surprised and excited at the prospect of this unusual pairing, but I am happy to say it works. Both vocalists pour their hearts out on this track. Perhaps the albums center piece is the eleven minute epic "Dreamflight", which is sure to draw comparisons to AYREON and STAR ONE. The thing that I have always loved about AFTER FOREVER is their ability to mix the operatic and symphonic styles with great song writing. The operatic stylings have its place, but it doesn’t take away from the songs. With AFTER FORVER, the songs come first. “After Forever” features thirteen songs and sixty-one minutes worth of high quality, symphonic power metal. Great vocals, musicianship and lyrics. AFTER FOREVER is a very dedicated band with loads of talent and heart. This is a keeper. Now, what about a US tour? Website: http://www.afterforever.com. [8 points] (Tony Cannella)

ASTARTE-Demonized (Avantgarde Music)
ASTARTE has been a part of the black metal scene for twelve years now and they present us their fifth album, called “Demonized”. Their music has become even more brutal and possessed than ever before. Besides the well-known black metal influences, we hear much more death metal influences nowadays as well. In sixty-five minutes, we get fourteen new demons in our head. Thirteen own-penned songs, plus the ACCEPT cover “Princess Of The Dawn”. After three dead meat tracks, we get a short black metalish observation of Tristessa, called “Whispers Of Chaos”. It’s the introduction to title track “Demonized”. Then the door slams wide open for some guest appearances. Hear the wolves howl, when Attila Csihar of MAYHEM clears his lungs of some filth during “Lycon”. And if this isn’t enough, we also get a visit from Henri T.S.K. Sattler of our Dutch blasphemists GOD DETHRONED in “Queen Of The Damned”. His face turns really pale, because his lungs have filled with all the blood he has got in his body. The interaction between brutal male vocals and even more brutal female vocals is not too common. Most of the time, the lady is the innocent girl figure, who creates a big contrast with the male brutalness. Not with ASTARTE, as you will hear. And if this isn’t enough yet, there is another guest appearance in “God Among Men” by Nicolas S.I.C. Maiis of LLOTH. However, inbetween we also get some more brutal mayhem to chew on. In “Heart Of Flames (Burn)”, Tristessa uses her KATE BUSH-like vocals in some segments. Which she also did on their previous album “Sirens”. Besides Tristessa, the band consists of Derketa on synths, Hybris on lyrics, Ice on drums and Lycon on guitars and bass, now. “Everlast” is a piece of ‘rest’, dedicated to some lost souls in Tristessa’s life. While in “Black At Heart”, they’re blasting at full speed again. Guest vocals are done by a second mean, brutal, female growler this time, namely Angela Gossow of ARCH ENEMY. You decide, who has the meanest grunt. After “Black Star”, we will hear the ACCEPT cover. The CD closes with “Everlast” part II (Phoenix Rising)”. People, who put this CD into their PC will get even more value for money, including the video for CD opener “Mutter Astarte”. Get “Demonized” in sixty-five minutes with these true goddesses of dark metal. Website: http://www.astarteband.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BATTLELORE-Evernight (Napalm Records)
The fantasy metal of BATTLELORE has matured a lot these past eight years. Their fourth album “Evernight” is another huge step forward, and the band has slowly settled themselves next to the big names in this scene. The band from ‘the land of the thousand lakes’ still likes to concentrate their lyrics on the stories of Tolkien. On “Evernight”, they start a forty-five minute, nine song fantasy battle, including some brutal male vocals and angel-like female vocals. Besides the brutality, we also hear the more epical side of BATTLELORE, and it seems like they carry this sound through on this album. Some parts still contain the unmistakable CRADLE OF FILTH sound (for example“We Are the Legions”), but I think their fans will surely forgive them. These blast beats will always be connected to this English band, no matter who plays them. To me, one of the most outstanding songs on this album is “Into The New World”, which has a beautiful doomy funeral-like intro and a great bombastic keyboard sound. “Longing Horizons” could very well have been on a BLACKMORE’S NIGHT album (or CRUACHAN), considering the folky elements in this song. It’s a nice piece of rest before “Mask Of Flies” gallops in again. The CD closes with “Beneath The Waves”, a song the band probably likes to play before going to the war fields. BATTLELORE will definitely gain more popularity with this one. Website: http://www.battlelore.net/. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE COLOR GUARD-Cornucopia (Suziblade Music)
This new release of THE COLOR GUARD contains an EP and a DVD. Let’s have a listen to the audio part first. Six songs with a total length of about twenty-three minutes enter your room. Raunchy guitar riffs with fuzzy distortion sound opens this EP with “Capture”. “I Had A Dirty Dream” has a catchy rhythm and again some fuzzy guitar chops. Fans of the old BLONDIE stuff will surely like this. “Experience Exotica” is strange, but quite exciting at the same time. It’s a cool link between wave and rock. Maybe art rock is a good description of what’s happening in this particular song. “Heavenly Feeling” and “Unloaded Gun” have some remarkable harmony vocals as well. If you like that, then “Cornucopia” is definitely a must for you. “Kick Ass” is an instrumental tune, which closes this mini album. It sounds like an instrumental jam. There is not much variation in the songs at first, but halfway through, the beats gets up and the guitars sound more varied. The line-up of the band has slightly changed since their previous release in 2004. THE COLOR GUARD are now Lalena Fissure on lead vocals and guitar, Josh Zisman on vocals and guitar, Jeanne Gilliand on bass and vocals, and new hired drummer Joe Salvati. The DVD part of this two disc set contains live footage of the band, filmed at CBGB’s 313 gallery in New York City. “Dirty Dream” kicks off first. Lalena is wearing wings on her back and looks like an angel in disguise. The harmony vocals in “Experience Exotica” show us the artistic and alternative sound of THE COLOR GUARD. While “Capture” shows a more rocking side of the band. In “Your Kiss Is My Command”, we hear Jeanne play flute, while Lalena plays triangle. Not the most common instruments for a rock band. The instrumental parts are quite exciting, but the vocals are too BJORK-ish for me. “The Woman Behind The Woman” (Oh Mary Magdalene)” starts off as a slow, balladesque song, but gets more massive instrumentation later on. The DVD is a nice bonus for the fans of the band. If you like a mix of wave, rock and punk and a good feeling for harmony vocals, than this will be a cornucopia full of nice goodies for you. Website: http://www.thecolorguard.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CRYSTAL VIPER-The Curse Of Crystal Viper (Karthago Records)
A short spoken intro, called “….I See Him!”, leads us to the true metal hymn “Night Prowler”. A very promising start, if I may say so. This is the debut album of Poland’s new true metal sensation, CRYSTAL VIPER. And I must say, that I liked the album A LOT from back to forth. It really captures the true metal feeling in ten songs and forty-five exciting minutes. The voice of Leather Wych is a marvellous mix between Leather Leone (CHASTAIN) and Doro, when she was still the frontlady of WARLOCK. “Shadows On the Horizons” captures that old IRON MAIDEN feeling, mixed with the warrior vocals of MANOWAR and HAMMERFALL. In other words, this is true metal to the core! Except of wild frontlady/vocalist Leather Wych, CRYSTAL VIPER consists of Tommy Roxx on bass, Andy Wave on guitar, Vicky Vick on guitar and Golem on drums. The pedal is pressed to the metal in “The Last Axeman”. A song, that will raise many fists, when played live, I think. I can see it right before my eyes, in my imagination. In “Island Of The Silver Skull”, you can see the warriors rise their swords into the sky. A nice warrior hymn, in which the vocals reminded me of Jutta Weinhold in her ZED YAGO days. “I Am Leather Witch”, which has again some great twin guitar work, is some kind of a tribute to the frontlady of this band, I pressume. The spirit of old IRON MAIDEN sound wanders around in the fabulous guitarwork. While “Demons Dagger” sounds a bit darker. It’s the ballad on this album, which speeds up in the middle. Take a deep breath, because it’s time to bang your head again in the speed rocker “The Fury (Undead)”. “Sleeping Swords” closes this CD, which gives you the feeling that it is 1984 again. Starting off like MAIDEN’s “Strange World” (which is still one of the very best IRON MAIDEN songs to me), but it also switches to a more uptempo song and it has the same great drive. CRYSTAL VIPER is certainly a name to remember, and we can’t wait to catch the band live in action on one of the many upcoming Summer festivals (Note editor: the band recently played at the Swordbrothers festival in May). In the meantime, we can sit and enjoy this exciting tribute to the real true metal sound, by pushing the ‘play’ button again. The maximum score is well-deserved by this Polish true metal band. Thanks to Bart Gabriel of Dragonnight Agency for sending us a copy of this metal masterpiece. [FULL SCORE - 10 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DANTE FOX-Under The Seven Skies (Frontiers Records)
It’s always good to hear from DANTE FOX again. After seeing them supporting VIXEN and GIRLSCHOOL in 2005 , they convinced us that they were the same well-talented AOR, hard rock band, and now in 2007 they’ve released their third album, which is called “Under The Seven Skies”. Despite some line up changes, DANTE FOX still delivers a clean hard rock sound, with influences of MAGNUM and CHER (in her success days). Sue Willetts voice is warm and clear, and next to CHER, she sometimes reminds me of Ann Wilson of HEART. Tim Manford is the responsible man for the fiery guitar work on this album. And there’s so much to enjoy of that here. The songs vary from mellow (“Hold Out Your Hand”) to epic and progressive rock (title track “Under The Seven Skies”) but of course there are some cool rock songs like “Breaking Me Down” and “Walking The Line”, too!! (with some great HEART-like vocals of Sue!). Besides Sue and Tim, the band consists of Mick Hales on drums, Mike Dagnall on bass and Roman Wieckowski on keyboards. “Lucky Ones (Born Tonight In The Setting Sun)” starts off with a riff, that sounds just as catchy as “In The Still Of The Night” of WHITESNAKE. Most eye-catching though is the nine minute epical tune “Under The Seven Skies”, which has a cool guitar solo of Tim in the middle and a nice speed change at the end. Alltogether, the ten songs are worthy of over fifty minutes of some of the finest melodic hard rock one has got to offer. Website: http://www.dantefox.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DEATHLIKE SILENCE-Vigor Mortis (Dethrone Music)
Not too many people will know about this band, but this might change very soon. The band hails from Finland and consists of Ms Maya on vocals, Mr Catafalque on guitar, Mr Cerberos on guitar, Mr Gehenna on drums, Mr Ward on bass and Ms Erna on keyboards. Names, that probably won’t ring a bell to you, except perhaps for Ms Erna on keyboards. She used to play in LORDI and SINERGY, before joining DEATHLIKE SILENCE. However, this horror metal band sounds nothing like LORDI at all, I can tell you that much. True, Ms Erna has a connection with these Finnish shock horror rockers. But they are really the monster type of a band, while DEATHLIKE SILENCE is more the dark, macabre ‘grave digger at night’ type of band. They like to call their music grave digger metal, which is a great name indeed for this new rock sensation. Their music does sound melodic at times, too. Maybe “Six Feet Under The Ground” is a good example here. It’s a strong melodic rock song with some MALMSTEEN-like guitarwork. “Face Your Death” however, is a kick ass metal song, which reminds me of German legends WIZARD at times. I like the title “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie”, which has got nothing at all to do with the MICHAEL SCHENKER song “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”, by the way. This song is also dark, and it contains a nice riff. In their live shows, the band dresses up and turn their horror image into a good show element. Ms Maya’s voice is low, dark and clear. It fits very well to the obscure horror elements. “You Cannot Kill The Boogyman” contains a catchy feel and a strong guitar solo. “Next To Your Grave” is a ballad and Ms Maya sounds like the singer of horror wave band SCARY BITCHES here. Fans of Siouxie Sioux may also like Ms Maya’s singing style. The intro of “One Thousand Deaths” is done by Ms Erna on the old church organ. Again it fits pretty well to the horror image of the band. Together with the doomy, guitar riffs, it sounds very dark indeed. “Nosferatu” (let’s say, the German version of Dracula) ends this nice CD, which is full with dark tales and very diverse. Ten songs, forty-five minutes long, you’ll keep your breath, waiting for all these beautiful sounds to enter your room. The album is easy on the ears, and it even sounds good in broad daylight. It stands out well, when the clock strikes twelve, the grave diggers start their graveyard shifts, and the vampires come back to life again. Website: http://www.deathlikesilence.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DELIGHT-Breaking Ground (Roadrunner Records)
DELIGHT from Poland release their new album called “Breaking Ground”. For the first time, the record is sung in the English language. The twelve songs have a running time of about forty-five minutes and the band mixes gothic metal with wave, rock and electronic dance sounds (just listen to the beginning of “Your Name” and you’ll know what I mean). If you already liked the previous work of DELIGHT, you will also dig this release, I am sure. And people who like the sound of LEAVES EYES or LIV KRISTINE, may also want to check this one out. The vocals of Paulina Maslanka have become so much better over the years. She puts a lot of feeling in her singing, and she just has a nice voice to listen to, in my opinion. The most difficult parts for me are the electronic bleeps and the sound of the guitars. Showing some resemblance to bands like FEAR FACTORY and/or DEVIN TOWNSEND. Yes, this may sound pretty heavy, but not in the way that I like it. It all sounds too static. Mind you, it doesn’t really bother me, but I would have done it differently. Bottom line is, that DELIGHT has recorded another fine album. Unfortunately, their tour with EXILIA got cancelled though, because of illness of one of the band members. The Polish metal scene can be proud of this band, whose star is rising pretty fast. Besides the beautiful Paulina, the band consists of Jarek Baran on guitar, Grzegorz Gustof on guitar, Marek Tkocz on bass, Piotr Wojcik on drums and Jakub ‘Cube’ Kubica on keyboards. Website: http://www.delight.art.pl/. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DELPHIAN-Unravel (Lion Music)
This second attack of DELPHIAN consists of eight tracks and has a total playing time of almost fifty minutes. A variation of heavy rock songs fill your room, ranging from opener “Starting To Unravel”, which includes some thrashy guitar riffs, to the ten minutes-plus closer “Air”. Already on their debut album “Oracle”, the band made sure that they were not willing to follow any trends or hypes. Instead, they sounded a bit eccentric and presented a face of their own. They continue doing this on “Unravel” and that’s why it is so difficult to compare DELPHIAN to any other band in this genre. “Creation” is a nice example here. The drumming part would sound too odd for most bands, but on this DELPHIAN album, it sounds fresh and exciting. “Sleepless Lullaby” starts off as a lullaby. There is nothing exciting about that, I hear you say. But all of the sudden, the song slowly unfolds itself to a beautiful masterpiece, including some nice mood swings. And in “Focus On Acid”, we hear Aniek’s flute playing. Is there a link here or is this just a coincidence? Because FOCUS had a great flute player with Thijs van Leer. The progressive side of DELPHIAN is also still there, but somehow it’s put to the background a little. However, in “Hidden” it’s present and forming a fine contrast between the other, more heavy songs. Aniek’s flute playing will be heard on this song as well. Besides Aniek Janssen on vocals and flute, the band consists of Sjoerd Hoeijmakers on bass, Marcel Volleberg on rhythm guitar, Coert Bouten on lead and rhythm guitar and Roel van Helden on drums and percussion. The highlight on this new album is CD closer “Air”, which is a majestic masterpiece in the best DELPHIAN style imaginable. It’s a ballad-like duet between Aniek and Leon Brouwer of THE BARSTOOL PHILOSOPHERS. It’s a splendid way indeed to close “Unravel”. For more information about DELPHIAN, check out their website at http://www.delphian-metal.nl. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DUEL OF FATE-Don’t Leave This World (DOF)
While everybody is waiting to hear the name of the new female singer in NIGHTWISH, we’d like to focus ourselves on a very promising band from the other side of the ocean. They are called DUEL OF FATE and they hail from Puerto Rico, of all places. If you’ve always thought that they don’t play heavy metal in countries like that, then you’re terribly wrong. Prove is given on this full-length album “Don’t Leave This World”, containing eleven songs and a playing time of about fifty minutes. The sometimes operatic sounding voice of Vanessa Urrutia may sound a little odd at times, because it is not something you’ll hear that often in this particular music genre. It may also be the only link with the soprano voice of Tarja Turunen from their Finnish collegues NIGHTWISH. Even when Vanessa sings with a normal voice, she sounds very impressive. The music of the band could be described as gothic power metal with a sligthly progressive touch, because it contains an equal amount of both styles. And sometimes the instrumental outings of the band sound a bit progressive, too. Think in the direction of DREAM THEATER at times, if you like. Besides Vanessa, the band consists of Jorge Melendez on guitar, Danny Forty on guitar, Ruly Kuan on bass, Mario Vasquez on drums and Richard ‘Black Cat’ Cruz on keyboard. For me, one of the highlights on the album was a song called “Between Good And Evil”, which contains some breathtaking guitar work. DUEL OF FATE is really a name to check out, and this CD is a must for everybody, who believes there is much more to enjoy in the world of gothic (power) metal than NIGHTWISH alone. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ECHOES OF ETERNITY-The Forgotten Goddess (Nuclear Blast)
If I may believe my collegue-writers, ECHOES OF ETERNITY might be the next big thing in the female-fronted metal band scene. But I seldom let my own opinion be overruled by the opinion of others. Not that my opinion is always right, but most of the time I think so much different than other people. That’s why I enjoy writing reviews so much. People can jugde from many different angles and that’s what makes it all the more exciting. This debut album of ECHOES OF ETERNITY contains ten songs and about forty minutes of female-fronted heavy metal. And I must admit, that I was positively surprised after hearing the first riffs of “Expressing Of Flesh”, when the last notes of the short instrumental intro “Burning With Life” had faded away. And also “Voices In A Dream” has some very nice and heavy guitar riffs. Sometimes they even can be called thrashy, or could be used in a speed metal song. The vocals of Francine B. are crystal clear, but in contrast with the fast axework, they sound quite lazy. Her voice is comparable to Candice Night (BLACKMORE’S NIGHT) at times. In title track “The Forgotten Goddess”, we get the deal. Despite the English names of the bandmembers, we are dealing with a French band here. The lyrics are sung in French. For some people this might be a big surprise, because from the first four songs, you wouldn’t even have a clue. “The Kingdom Within” starts off as a ballad with acoustic guitars. The heavy riffs, that show up later on, really surprised me. The instrumental part at the end of the song is another nice contrast, which nobody would really expect. A surprising song, and because of that, one of the many highlights on this album. I think I’ll have to agree with my collegues this time. ECHOES OF ETERNITY is indeed one of the big newcomers in the metal scene. The CD closes with another short song, called “Adrift”. Check this one out, because they’re really worth the attention, and I think that Nuclear Blast did a great job signing them. Website: http://www.echoesofeternity.net/. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ELIS-Griefshire (Napalm Records)
We all know the sad story of Sabine Dünser, who died almost right after she recorded the vocal tracks to this album with her band ELIS. We owe it to Sabine to write a proper review of her last album. The music of ELIS is some of the purest goth metal you can think of. Bombastic, emotional, dark, and sometimes it even has some cool heavy riffs or solos. “Griefshire” is no exception to this rule. Sabine’s vocals are sweet and gentle and she has the perfect voice for a gothic metal band. “Seit Dem Anbeginn Der Zeit” is a beautiful romantic track with some very nice string arrangements. It’s followed by a true headbanger called “Remember The Promise”. The two songs together form a very exciting part of the CD. After this power explosion, they’re getting back to basic (read: the gothic metal style) again. Well, at least, it seems for the first seconds. Then, a fast rhythm proves there is a lot of power on this new ELIS album. The song is called “Phoenix From The Ashes”, by the way. Other collegues already wrote that this is the best ELIS album ever, and I am convinced quite easily after hearing these songs. “How Long” is only available on the digipack version of “Griefshire”. And in “Forgotten Love”, we finally get our well-deserved piece of rest on this album. An album, that is by far the best and most complete work of ELIS. Thirteen songs and a total length of about a full hour, gives you the final excitement of Sabine’s voice, backed by the gothic (power) metal sound of her band ELIS. The album closes with a nice version of the BLACK SABBATH classic “Heaven And Hell”. For this song alone, “Griefshire” is a must to all metal fans out there. ELIS will continue with Sandra Schleret on vocals, who we all know from her previous bands DREAMS OF SANITY, SIEGFRIED and SOULSLIDE. Rest in peace Sabine, welcome Sandra, and hail and much success to ELIS. Website: http://www.elis.li. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

EVIL BEAVER-In The Spirit Of Resilient Optimism (E.Lago Entertainment Group)
EVIL BEAVER’s power continues on this six tracker, which takes you on a wild ride for over twenty minutes. It’s right in the middle between a full-length album and a long EP. The power is there all the way, and this new release opens with “Hands Of Fate”. This song already surprised me with an odd instrumental part in the middle. Evil Evie puts her bass guitar right upfront the mix. You can’t ignore it, and it’s a good thing she did this, because it plunders like hell. “Honey Pump” opens with another tight bass rhythm, and this time she even puts some distortion to it. When they gallop at full speed, the dirty guitar sound grinds at its very best. “Night Dreamer” is on next. Do I hear the sound of punk diva Debbie Harry of BLONDIE in Evie’s voice? “Happy All The Time” is more uptempo and reminded me of THE LUNACHICKS in a certain way. And somehow I really can’t explain how, I hear that well-known New York City street sound in this particular song. Next on is the song “Cracked” and its power is more underneath the skin, if you know what I mean. It sounds a bit like the many rough diamonds created by BABES IN TOYLAND, without the screaming voice of Kat Bjelland here. “Young Coconut” might become a real crowd pleaser, created to let all the sweat out, that is still left behind, in the best RAMONES tradition. Again it has a surprisingly instrumental part right down in the middle. The lyrics go “My lust for you goes on and on and on”. If Evil Evie sings this to you, you won’t say that you’ve got a terrible headache. No, just like this record, you go for it all the way and you just can’t stop. Website: http://www.evilbeaver.us. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FIREFLIGHT-The Healing Of Harms (Flicker Records)
FIREFLIGHT’s debut album is a nice mix of modern rock with a touch of metal and a catchy feel to it. Add to this the positive message in their lyrics and we can definitely speak of another great promise on the musical horizon. FIREFLIGHT has two ladies in their line up. Next to vocalist Dawn, who sounds like a cross between PINK and AVRIL LAVIGNE, we also have Wendy on bass. The band is completed by Glenn on guitar, Justin on guitar and Phee on drums. The band is based just outside of Orlando, Florida, and you might hear this back in their sound. It’s like the sun is always shining and a certain kind of happiness reflects in their lyrics, too. They like to give topics a positive twist. And Jesus is the foundation of their hapiness. I can live with that. Don’t worry, the band also shows their brutal side. Let’s take “Liar” for example. The screaming voices will say enough, I guess. Most of the songs are very catchy rock songs though, which are ready for radio airplay. If this band will ever achieve the success of people like AVRIL LAVIGNE and PINK remains to be seen, but the foundation is there. FIREFLIGHT really can play, they have good looks and a positive attitude, what more can you ask for? Well, you could always record an album, that runs a little longer than the thirty-five minutes it does now. This may be the only disadvantage about this cool rock album. Website: http://www.fireflightrock.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FORTALEZA-La Fortaleza De La Soledad (independent)
Gothic metal from Mexico with references to bands like AFTER FOREVER and NIGHTWISH, says the biography of FORTALEZA. But who gives this seven track CD a good listen, will hear that there is much more to meet the eye. The rather progressive aspect in their songs makes them sound more complex, but a lot more enjoyable. Just listen to the instrumental interlude in “Nunca Vuelvas La Mirada”, to know what I mean. Another huge difference between the aforementioned bands is the cello playing of vocalist Helena. Helena’s voice is sweet and beautiful to listen to. And her cello playing adds a special touch to their music. The guitars give the gothic sound some balls. And the speedy sound of a song like “Caballero De Honor” also shows the metal side of FORTALEZA. So you can see, the band is able to play a variety of styles. The riffs in “Cerca De La Media Noche” even sound a bit IRON MAIDEN-ish, but then with sweeter vocals. The song itself could very well be on an IRON MAIDEN album, when you think of Bruce Dickinson singing the lyrics. Here we also hear the progressive input of the band, who easily adds a few very nice speed and mood changes. In my opinion, this song is one of the highlights on the CD, next to “Nunca Vuelvas La Mirada”. The CD closes with “El Suspiro De Un Beso”, which is a short instrumental. In thirty-five minutes and seven songs, FORTALEZA proves that there is a lot of metal talent in Mexico. Something that the spoiled fans of European bands sometimes tend to forget. The band consists of Helena (vocals/cello), Yanko (keyboards/flute), Paco (drums), Rito (guitar), Javier (bass) and Alex (violin). This review was made possible by Rainer Krukenberg from Berlin. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HELLTOWN-Lead To Hell (independent)
The cover of this CD already confirms, that we’re in for some true metal action. Twelve songs and a full hour later, we’re still banging our head, while writing this review. HELLTOWN sounds ultra cool, and especially if you’re into the old IRON MAIDEN sound, you will be very pleased with this album. The band hails from Brazil, and they sure know how to rock over there, that’s a fact. “Metal’s Pride” is a short instrumental intro, which explodes right into “Run For Action”. Followed by “Wanted” and “Breaking The Time”, which are uptempo headbangers with double lead solos. “Alone In The Night” is a power ballad, and a damn good one, too. “Helltown” is definitely one of the highlights on this album for me. Why? Just listen to the fabulous, mindblowing guitar solo, and you’ll know why. HELLTOWN consists of Mikke Wildness on guitar and backing vocals, B. Holv on guitars and backing vocals, San Nat on bass, Marlon Bier on drums and Symone Syann on vocals. Title track “Lead To Hell” contains more stunning guitar work, which is why I pick this song as the second highlight off this album. In “Flames Of Fate”, Symone’s voice shows some resemblance to Skin of SKUNK ANANSIE, backed up by a true metal band of course. While “Higher Than You” sounds like the perfect mix between IRON MAIDEN (musically) and PEGAZUS (our metal brothers from Australia), including some outstanding guitar solos. “Forever A Rebel” has a strong riff, and “In The Heart Of The Storm” has a more DORO or ZED YAGO kind of sound, containing a very nice instrumental piece in the middle. The CD closes with “Reach The Highest Mountain”. HELLTOWN is only interesting for those, who still believe in the true metal spirit. If you dig the alternative scene, better leave this for what it is, because this is only meant for metalheads covered with leather, spikes and chains. If this band leads to hell, then it’s an absolute pleasure to be there. In the meantime, bassist San Rat has left the band, and is being replaced by Freddy Daniels. And also drummer Marlon Bier has been replaced by Derris Decker. Our thanks goes out to Rainer Krukenberg for making this review possible. Website: http://www.helltownband.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

IGNITOR-Take To The Sky (LP) (Dies Irae/Femetal Records)
Do I need to tell you more about the true metal spirit of these Texan metalheads? I don’t think so. After invading Germany one and a half year ago, they’re high on my list of well-talented heavy metal newcomers. A very short list, but you can take my word for it that they sound ultra hot. Their debut CD was reviewed in Metal Maidens #36 and the band has matured a lot ever since. Dies Irae Records has pressed this CD on vinyl now. You may think of it as a nice initiation, but wait until you’ve heard and seen it all. The bonus stuff turn it into an essential buy for all metalheads out there. First of all, there is a full coloured inlay sheet, including a zillion pictures (also from the Keep It True festival!), some flyers of festivals, where the band played, and a short biography. Plus there is an extra sheet with all the printed lyrics. If this can’t convince you to take out your wallet, the two bonus tracks definitely will. First you get a stunning version of “The Hellion”/“Electric Eye”, originally done by metal gods JUDAS PRIEST. This version stays very close by the original, completed with high pinching vocals and twin guitarsolos. The song was already released on their single “Rheinheitsgebot”. The second bonus track “Rock N Roller Derby” however is completely new and exclusively recorded for this album only. It has got that good old JUDAS PRIEST spirit, and it’s pounding from the beginning until the very end. Alltogether turning this release into a real collectors item for every die hard metalfan. The release is limited to a five hundred numbered copies only. So you’d better make sure that one of these five hundred is yours. For more information, contact Rainer Krukenberg in Berlin at: http://www.metaleros.de or Femetal records at http://www.femetal-records.com. And for more information about IGNITOR, go and check their website at: http://www.ignitor.org. [FULL SCORE - 10 points] (Toine van Poorten)

IMPERIA-Queen Of Light (Massacre Records)
Helena Iren Michaelsen recently gave birth to a daughter, called Angel. Congratulations! Other than that, Helena gave birth to her new album “Queen Of Light”, which is also worth a celebration. The new album is a mix of bombastic power metal and a lot of emotion. The angel allows you to take another look inside her heart. Thirteen songs and almost seventy minutes later, she shines her light on today’s metal scene. “Broken Wings” is a good example of the emotional side of IMPERIA, whereas “Raped By The Devil” is one of the more powerful tracks. The bombastic side is there as well. Just listen to the intro of “Braveheart”, which is topped with heavy riffs, by the way. All in all, there’s variation all over. In “Facing Reality”, you even hear some MAIDEN-like riffs, while in “Norway” some brutal male vocals are added. After that, we seem to wander around in an ancient monastery or abyss, in a song called “Abyssum”. It’s a ballad-type of song, which is perfectly followed by “The Birth Of…”. Try to feel the deeper meaning of this song, and you’ll realise that it might represent the very deepest feelings of Helena in an instrumental track. After this, title track “Queen Of Light” explodes right in your face with a thundering triggered bass drum. “The Calling” presents us the high-pitched voice of Helena, sounding like KATE BUSH in a way. I think, this new album does sound so much better than “The Ancient Dance Of Qetesh”, which already was a very good debut album indeed. Helena shows, that she would have been capable enough to take over the vocals of Tarja Turunen in NIGHTWISH. But listening to this album, I am actually glad she didn’t (if there was a possibility at all), because I wouldn’t have missed this album, which gets the full score. Besides Helena, this multi-cultural band consists of Steve Wolz on drums, john Stam on guitars, Gerry Verstreken on bass, Jan ‘Örkki’ Yrlund on guitars and Audun Gr¸nnestadt takes care of the orchestral sounds and samples. Website: http://www.helena-michaelsen.com. [FULL SCORE - 10 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KAIRA-Volya Rocka (Irond)
I’m on my own now. Thinking about my summer holidays in Russia this year. Before me, I hold this CD from a band called KAIRA, hailing from White Russia or the Belarus, containing eleven tracks and forty-five minutes of heavy power metal. Trying to figure out their biography, which is printed in the Russian language. Luckily, everybody speaks the heavy metal language. I come to one conclusion: that I possibly might be the only one in Western Europe who actually reviews this album, which was released in 2006. Their new album from 2007 is called “Koleso Fortuny”, by the way. More about this release hopefully in our next lot of CD reviews. KAIRA [line-up: Pavel Drozdov-guitar; Kaira-female vocals; Gennady Shatilov-drums; Mikhail Bronshtein-bassguitar; Ser-keyboards; Aleksey Parfenov-violin/viola; Serge Parfenov-flute/viola] plays some kind of symphonic power metal. Somewhere down the line, their music contains a few progressive influences as well, but it’s almost impossible to name any bands from Western Europe, that could have influenced them. Main reason are the dark vocals of female frontlady Kaira. She has a pretty hoarse voise, which fits very well to the fact, that the band hails from the Belarus. “Skitalets” opens with the sound of motorcycles. While in “Mirazh”, we hear some very impressive axework. And the CD gets better all the time! One of the highlights is “Doch Egipta”, which starts off with some flashing guitarwork. If people already had their doubts, if heavy metal would even exist in the Belarus, well here’s some good news for you. Yes, they play some damn good heavy metal music in the Belarus! Watching the website of the band convinced me even more, that KAIRA have their heart in the right place. The pictures show a more typical black or gothic metal-like band, but to me, this is the real deal. A killer album, and hopefully, we will hear much more about KAIRA in the very near future. Sorry, that the information is a bit short here and there, but if your Russian knowledge is better than mine, go and check out their website at: http://www.kairamusic.com for more information. Our holidays are approaching and I am dying to visit the Belarus after hearing this magnificent CD. Our thanks go out to Rainer Krukenberg for making this review possible. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LANA LANE-Gemini (Think Tank Media)
“Gemini” is a collection of covers and for me, it was a very nice trip down memory lane. My rock roots are also in the seventies, while my metal roots are to be found in the eighties. If you like the seventies rock a lot, then this might be some kind of ‘best of..’ collection with that well-known LANA LANE twist to it. The CD opens with “White Room” of CREAM and “White Rabbit” of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE. It’s these kind of classics, that you will hear in the next fifty-five minutes. Halfway through, there is section, which the band called ‘The Pink Moon Suite’ and consists of “Breathe Introduction”, “Johnny Moon”, “Breathe In The Air”, “On The Run”, “Time” and “Breathe Reprise”. It’s the best part of the CD, I think. Especially “On The Run” sounds very spectacular and surprised me a lot. Try to find the difference between Ann Wilson (HEART) and Lana in “Dream Of The Archer”. It’s done in a very authentical way, that it’s almost too good to be true. “Starrider” of FOREIGNER was another nice surprise, which fits Lana really well. And a song like “Wooden Ships” (CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG) almost turns over into a LANA LANE original. So this is definitely not a dusty cover collection. Instead, it’s LANA LANE’s vision on some classic rock anthems. Some deserve a makeover, while others sound very much like the original version. It’s done with so much respect and love for the originals, that it is really a treat to sit down and relax and wander back in the history of classic rock music. Well done! Website: http://www.lanalane.com. The musicians on “Gemini” are Erik Norlander on keyboards, Vinny Appice on drums, Tony Franklin on bass, George Lynch on guitar, Mark McCrite on guitars and vocals, and Kelly Keeling on vocals. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LEVEL-C-Breaking The Vault (independent)
We’d never heard of LEVEL-C before, until we recently found the debut album by this all-female brutal metal band, sounding like a mix of KITTIE, PANTERA and BLACK LABEL SOCIETY. The band already toured with the likes of KITTIE, OTEP and CRISIS. And these last two names could very well be added on their list of influences. Aggressive sounding riffs, groovy melodies and loud growling, sometimes clean female vocals, is their trademark. Industrial computer noises (For example in “Relax”), it’s all part of the deal, which turns this album into more than just some average brutal metal pounders. Arizona can be proud of these four daughters of heavy metal, because there is a lot of potential in their music. Let’s introduce the band a bit closer to you. We have Janean Buch on bass, Christina Crago on guitar, Christine Maynard on vocals and Misty Everson on drums. They’re all damn fine musicians, as you will hear on these ten mindblowing metal tunes, which will enter your room for almost forty minutes. A song like “Chain Reaction” proves, this band is formed around a bunch of well-skilled musicians. It’s not a chain reaction of plain riffs, but it contains a remarkable mood change going into a more progressive part halfway through the song. More of these exciting outings are heard in “Back To My”, which is indeed another highlight on this CD. While “Blackout” has got this so-called PANTERA groove, sounding mean to the bone. Sure, LEVEL-C may sound too new fashioned to some of the older metalheads, but for those who have evolved a bit more in the metal revolution, this all-female outfit may be very interesting to check out. And if you listen to their album several times, you may start to dig their sound little by little. I am at Level B now, while C is the highest level imaginable. How to get there? Go and check the bands website at http://www.level-c.net. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LOURDS-Lourds (Breaking Records)
LOURDS are already well-known for their sphereful live gigs, and the frontlady of this New York City based band is also the lady behind the famous Medusa festival. Her album is simply called “Lourds” and it contains twelve songs and almost a full hour of solid rock craziness. A lot of different influences are to be found on this album, expertly waven into the band’s very own style. In “Astropop” we hear the ZEPPELIN-esque mandolin. While “Erased” has a more SKUNK ANANSIE approach, especially in the vocal parts. Again, the band leaves its own mark, this time by means of the violin played by Lourds. “Waiting” is a little piece of rest, but in “Last Day” the band is at going at full force again. A good rock song like “Always” gets a special treat, because of the violin playing of Lourds. It’s a killer song, made to sing or scream along to. “Kiss U Soft” and “Purple Sky” are draging songs with a slightly doomy undertone. “Krazy” sounds a bit crazee, but aren’t we all sometimes? The album closes with “Supergirl”, which Lourds probably wrote about herself. Besides Lourds on violin and vocals, the band consists of Gene Blank on guitar, Sarah Vasil on drums and Joey Sagarese on bass. Don’t forget to listen to the acoustic hidden track. LOURDS presents us a remarkable debut album. Our thanks go out to our good friends Barry Koopersmith and Dennis Samokiszuk for making this review possible. Website: http://www.lourdsmusic.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MALTEZE-Count Your Blessings (Femetal Records)
Besides the IGNITOR release on vinyl, we also see another classic metal CD being released on LP by Rainer Krukenberg. We’re talking about the “Count Your Blessings” album of MALTEZE. Eight pure metal tracks are divided on two vinyl sides, including a very cool four page inlay with lots of pictures, lyrics and flyers. All in black and white this time, but certainly not less impressive. The only disadvantage I could name here is the fact, that there are no bonus tracks enhanced. But despite this all, it is another essential release, that will easily find its way to the fans of female fronted metalbands, I hope. “Blessed Are The Strong” with RAINBOW-like intro and “Count Your Blessings” with the JUDAS PRIEST-like intro are the highlights for me on this album. For these two songs alone, the money you’ll have to spend on this release is well-worth it. Metal to the max and the voice of frontlady Barbara Malteze taking the central position, backed by a solid metal band consisting of Steve Cenker on guitar, Masami Fujimaki on guitar, Kriss Marx on bass and Mike Voss on drums. This album can be bought as a (I would almost say ordinairy) black vinyl version. But for the collectors, Femetal Records has also printed a blood red version of this metal classic. Tip for Rainer and Femetal Records is to release “Forever”, the second album by this band on vinyl. This would really become a collectors item. The album is released in a limited edition of a five hundred numbered copies. You can get in contact with Rainer by tuning in at: http://www.metaleros.de or Femetal records at: http://www.femetal-records.com. [FULL SCORE - 10 points] (Toine van Poorten)

McQUEEN-Break The Silence (Demolition Records)
Newcastle is a quiet little town in England. Allthough, this is changing pretty rapidly. McQUEEN is breaking the silence with their debut album, and in thirty minutes they spit out ten brutal rock songs with a punky feel. The album will catch you by the throat immediately, like KITTIE did when they released their debut album. The all-female outfit from England sound a bit more punky perhaps, but the intenseness of their music is exactly the same. However, when listening to the title track, you’ll have the right to doubt this comparision, because this song feels like you’re hit below the belt by a bloody hammer. It makes you mad, it makes you furious, it makes you scream your lungs out. “Numb” is more lightly, but not less catchy. The songs are kept short, so they don’t loose their catchiness. And I think that is the strength of the band. They’re not constantly screaming for attention, and play loud just for fun. Nope, they have a good feeling for writing short catchy songs with a very high level of brutalness. Okay, so far the music. But who are these four wild ladies, who crank out these heavy tunes? We have Leah Duors on vocals, who can sing sensible, yet switch pretty easily to screaming like a witch burning at the stake. On bass we have Sophie Taylor, on drums is Hayley Cramer and Cat de Casanove is torturing her guitar strings. I am glad, that McQUEEN decided to break the silence. The CD also contains the video for “Running Out Of Things To Say”. And that’s exactly what happens to me now. I’m sure, that things will stay turbulent for a while in Newcastle, while McQUEEN is around. Website: http://www.mcqueenmusic.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MYSTERY BLUE-Claws Of Steel (Mausoleum Records)
Before putting on her leather, spikes and chains, Nathalie exercises her voice on “The Twilight Zone”. A very well-known part of “The Enchanted Flute” by WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART. When she is ready to hit the stage, the band starts this brandnew album with title track “Claws Of Steel”. Nathalie shows us here, that she is also capable of singing a piece of opera, before displaying her skills as a metal singer. Thank God, there’s no space for gothic, death or black metal on this album. Instead, you’ll hear forty-five minutes of some of the purest metal around in this universe. Ten compact songs, and the intro we just spoke about, will rise many fists in the air. The guitar solo in “Electric Power” is truly mindblowing, and if you already liked the brute force they spread on their previous albums, this album will also work overtime in your stereoset now. “Psycho City” is a very fast headbanger, including the icely screams of Nathalie. They match really well with the title of the song, very psycho!! “Destructive Instinct” is a slower, ballad type of song. Still very powerful of course, but it’s a moment to give your neck some rest. “The Blade” will warm up your muscles again, before “Queen Of The Damned” starts off, which is another killer headbanger. MYSTERY BLUE gives the true metal scene a new boost, and next to bands like VAINGLORY and IGNITOR, they prove that the female-fronted metal ain’t dead yet. The CD closes with the Spanish “Fueggo” and “Contagious”. Spread the word and raise your swords for the French emperors of true metal: MYSTERY BLUE. They’re back and they have “Claws Of Steel”. If you don’t like true metal, you’d better look for a safe place to hide! Website: http://www.mysteryblue.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE NO-MADS-Deranged (Shark Records)
They couldn’t have come up with a better title than this one. The NO-MADS is also the name of a motor club in our country, and their name got deranged too after some problems with this club. Four members of this club were killed. Of course, this incident has got nothing to do with this Polish thrash metal band, but when I saw this odd combination, my mind immediately went out to this motor club. Let’s take a look at this eleven track CD now. They open at full speed with “The Day After”, which is followed directly by “Violence Riddled”. The ending of this song is a real surprise. “Thrash Alkoholisation” is quite brutal, too. The dark growls of Sylwia are brutal and show some influences of fellow German growlers like Tom Angelripper or Sabina Classen (HOLY MOSES). For me, it’s one of the highlights on this album. “Insane” captures some good guitarwork of Jaca and Przemek. Besides Sylwia, Jacek and Przemek, the band consists of Oskar on drums and Jædrzej on bass. “The Caprice” is a classical part from Rossini/Paganini. At first, you’d think it’s a joke, but it’s a good version of this aria, followed by an instrumental piece of Paganini on guitar. In “Keine Eintracht”, we hear a German song of this Polish band. Another highlight is “I Am Your God Part I”, which is very fast, including some flashing guitar work. Part II is a bit more doomy. The CD closes with “The Return”. If you like bold thrash music, based upon the German examples of KREATOR, HOLY MOSES and SODOM, you just have to lend an ear to this Polish band THE NO-MADS. You will be positively surprised. In the meantime, Jacek left the band, he will not be replaced by another guitarist. Our thanks go out to Rainer Krukenberg for making this review possible. Website: http://www.thenomads.metal.pl. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

OVERDREAM-Navigator (Nail Records)
Let’s be simple for once and call this band the Hungarian equivalent of NIGHTWISH. It’s a bit narrow-minded, I know, but it really comes close to the sound of this Hungarian gothic metal band. The first two songs; “Guardian Eye” and title track “Navigator” have the definite NIGHTWISH appraoch. In “Orient Dream” however, we also hear some other influences. The song starts off with a symphonic piece, which will remind you of EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER. The same thing happens in “New Existance”, but then in a more EKSEPTION kind of way. The guitar riffs are the rocking part in the sound of OVERDREAM. However, the female vocals of Enikõ Tóth sound very much alike Tarja Turunen in every song. With a few sidesteps to some symphonic pieces, this release is really something special though. The band is being helped out by a string section consisting of three violin players and a cello player, which adds a slightly bombastic side to their sound, but this is not overdone. “Levittation” is a nice instrumental track. The navigator has started its work, and the band is ready to depart and vanish into thin air. But before they go, they leave a good impression with the dark and doomy song “Free Dive”. To be honest with you, the record gets better, when it’s close to the end. The CD closes with “Solace”. This debut album contains nine tracks, and has a running time of approximately forty-five minutes. For more information about the band, you can check out the band’s website at http://www.overdream.hu. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NIKKI PUPPET-Militant Mother (Armageddon Music/Rock Inc.)
NIKKI PUPPET provides you with eleven brandnew ‘in your face’ rock tracks on their new album “Militant Mother”. The songs are catchy and still have this irresistable rock drive. The first surprise shows up already in the third track, where they play a rocking version of the BILLY JOEL classic “We Didn’t Start The Fire”. Songs like “Open Up Your Mind” and “Words” captures some hot guitar work by Christos Mamalitsidis. Vocalist Nicky Gronewold has a very nice voice to listen to. Sometimes slightly screaming, sometimes punky like in “Paralized”, but always rocking. The release of their debut album “Puppet On A String” already led the way for this Hannover based female-fronted metal outfit. Their tour with VICTORY and MICHAEL SCHENKER was a huge success and with this album, they will only gain an even bigger fanbase. The highlight of their tour was a gig at the well-known Wacken Open Air Festival. This forty-five minutes new release is a crown on their success so far. Produced by former ACCEPT and VICTORY string puller Herman Frank. “Paltry” is slightly different, because of the semi-industrial beat underneath. And maybe therefore, it’s one of the highlights on this album for me, next to the aformentioned BILLY JOEL cover and album closer “I Don’t Know”, which includes some great ACCEPT-like riffage and a wonderful guitar solo. NIKKI PUPPET is definitely a name to remember, if you like your rock hard. Website: http://www.nikkipuppet.de. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

RUBY BULLET-Nothing Left To Bleed On (Victorious Pirate Music)
Doesn’t this lady look cute? But hey, watch out. Look very closely. She’s fully covered in blood. Still she tells you, that she loves you. Tender, warm music with a brutal and aggressive undertone. The CD cover also explains the title of the CD. I bet, that the lady in the bathtub has killed quite some people and now she’s washing away the blood from her body. The remainder of the picture was too gruesome to show. Here’s the story of RUBY BULLET. The band hails from New York City and consists of Suzanne Sterne on guitar, bass and vocals, and Pete Vassil on drums. The seven songs have a total running time of about twenty-seven minutes. The first two songs sound alternative and have a nice beat. Some groove is added in “Fall”. Gothic rock and progressive metal go hand in hand, and the instrumental part in this song remembered me of the good old RUSH, yet with an alternative twist. “Thorn” starts off with some heavy riffs, reminding me of KORN or PANTERA, but then they go back to the more alternative gothic style, that sounds similar to EVANESCENCE. This comparison is made because of the voice of Suzanne, who we already know from the band SEX DIGITAL. “What I Know” captures another fine instrumental piece, a lot of progressive rock bands would be damn proud of. Showing us, that the band is capable of turning alternative (or more gothic-sounding) parts into progressive moments and vice versa into one song. Look at the picture on the back of this CD. Suzanne smiles lovely, but on the other hand she looks so vicious. This also reflects in their music. It may look harmless on the outside, but there’s a lot of aggressiveness inside as well. OK, enough said about this CD. It’s time to clean up the blood from my bedroom walls. Website: http://www.rubybullet.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SHADOWSIDE-Theatre Of Shadows (Seven Music)
SHADOWSIDE hails from Brazil, and their album “Theatre Of Shadows” is a true killer, if you like bands such as ANGRA, HELLOWEEN, BLIND GUARDIAN and GAMMA RAY. Furious galloping rhythms, fast double bass beats and fabulous axe solos, topped with the mighty voice of Dani Nolden. Sphereful keyboards broaden their sound and add a special melodic aspect to it. The twelve songs on the album have a total playing time of about fifty-five minutes. After the short intro “Enter The Shadowside”, we get the first racemonster, called “Vampire Hunter”. The band proves, that they are capable of creating a full sound. “Queen Of The Sky” would be a nice example of this, when they take back a little speed. What remains is a hard rock sound with a very solid foundation. Biggest eye-catcher however is Dani with her golden voice. She pulls every song to a higher level with her strong voice. One of the highlights on the album for me is also one of the shortest tracks, called “Tonight”. Let the guitar solo speak for itself. The mood swings in “Kingdom Of Life” are a real surprise, while remainder of the song contains some SAXON influences. This sure makes the album exciting all the way to the end. The end, where “Theatre Of Shadows” is cut into two pieces, namely act 1 “Shadow Dance” and act 2 “Here To Stay”. SHADOWSIDE could easily become a huge band outside their country, when some big name would have the guts to take them along on tour. The band is ready for it, and prove is given on this album. Our thanks goes out to Rainer Krukenberg at http://www.metaleros.de for making this review possible. Website: http://www.shadowside.ws. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SHAH-MAT-Upstream (YeaYeaYeah Records/Rock Inc.)
SHAH-MAT are from Belgium and they present us their CD “Upstream”, which has a lot of hit potential. It contains twelve songs and has a playing time of almost forty-five minutes. Songs suitable for radio airplay, containing a high level of alternative and catchy sounds. “Sad Songs” opens with a reggae-like feeling, which comes back in “Love You Alive”. In this second song, we also hear a rap. If you’re open to those kind of styles infiltrating in the rock music, then you should check out SHAH-MAT and be surprised by the many music styles this band has to offer. Don’t worry, you will be surprised by their heaviness, too. Just listen to the dark riffs in the beginning of “Don’t Spit Your Hate”. The aggression in this song places them just outside the boundaries of what can and what cannot be played on national radio, I think. However, references to GUANO APES, ANOUK, KREZIP and SKUNK ANANSIE are definitely there. They also used variety and catchiness in their music, and even got some hit singles with that. If SHAH-MAT will ever get a hit single is still uncertain, but I wouldn’t be surprised, if they did. The band consists of Stephanie Vondenhoff on vocals, JP DeVox on guitars and programming, Gaby Fratelli on drums and Fax Lo Cascio on bass. “Resurgence” opens like a regular rock song, but when guest-vocalist Micky starts to scream, the band shows their strength again. And that’s exactly where they might surprise the listener by skipping from one beat to another. Sometimes they sound just too mainstream to be called rock, but a second later they rock out much too loud to be called mainstream. Better take your time, before judging this band. “Children” has got a great groove in that context, while the lyrics are sung without the screaming you might expect. Another little surprise. Great riffs appear on “Don’t You Forget”. “Shadow Puppet” even shows the jazzy side of SHAH-MAT. And CD closer “Woman In Chains” is also more mainstream than the remainder of the CD. This is definitely far away from the music, that I used to bang my head upon twenty-five years ago. They sure knew how to surprise me with this album though. The second CD contains a video of five songs of a live show, recorded at the Midpoint Festival in Cincinatti, USA. A nice bonus for every fan of this talented Belgian alternative rock band. Website: http://www.shah-mat.be. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SILENTIUM-Seducia (Dynamic Arts Records)
SILENTIUM are from Finland and their new album “Seducia” contains eights songs and almost fifty minutes of dark gothic metal and new wave. The line up of the band consists of Riina Rinkinen on female vocals, Matti Aikio on vocals and bass, Juha Lehtioksa on guitar, Toni Lahtinen on guitar, Jari Ojala on drums, Sami Boman on keyboard and backing vocals and Elias Kahlia on cello. Maybe this isn’t the time to review a dark CD like this. The sun is shining brightly outside with temperatures of over thirty degrees Celcius. When listening to the beginning of this album, one might easily say, that this is just another gothic metal album. Nothing more, nothing less. But when you listen to the album with a little more attention, you will soon find out the big difference between SILENTIUM and their many collegues. Namely, in the instrumental parts of the songs. There’s almost some kind of a progressive sound in there, which makes them very exciting to listen to. The male vocal parts in “Serpentized” are also less dark, than you would expect at first. The dark side of SILENTIUM returns in “Dead Silent”, which has a nice cello part in the middle. And maybe even more in “Unbroken”, where Riina’s weaping voice shows a lot of resemblance with the voice of Sharon den Adel of WITHIN TEMPTATION. The male vocals in “Children Of Chaos” sound a bit ‘chaotic’, just like the title predicts already and the way they were used in the aforementioned song “Serpentized”. “Seducia” closes the album with a playing time of a little bit over ten minutes. Let SILENTIUM seduce you with their album, because they know how to create a remarkable dark atmosphere with this new release. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SIRENIA-Nine Destinations And A Downfall (Nuclear Blast)
I always thought, that Morten Veland was the man of the heavy riffs in TRISTANIA. With his new outfit SIRENIA, he doesn’t seem to convince me one single moment. And I am afraid to say so, this new album has got a few nice moments, but that’s all there is to it. Sure, there are some nice bombastic parts and a few heavy riffs here and there. The voice of Monika Pedersen is also very beautiful, but their albums lack some good and catchy songs. Sometimes they lean too much towards pop instead of rock. The beeps and beats, that belong to dance and lounge music are still there too, and sometimes you might get excited by the string arrangements like in “One By One”. But if these small details would be a reason to call this album a killer, I don’t know. I slowly awake during the beginning of “Sundown”, but I’m afraid that this is only for a couple of seconds. The emotional undertone in Monika’s voice is beautiful though. Sometimes she reminds me of Anneke van Giersbergen (THE GATHERING). In “The Other Side”, a French choir sings some impressive parts, which gives the song an extra boost and maybe turns it into the highlights of this album. The choir parts in “Seven Keys And Nine Doors” are less interesting in my opinion, but the heavy riffs make up for that. All in all, I must admit that “Nine Destinations And A Downfall” is a small step forward, if I have to compare it to “At Sixes And Sevens”, but you still have to be very open-minded to understand the music of this Norwegian band. SIRENIA consists of Jonathan Perez on drums, Monika Pedersen on vocals, Morten Veland on guitars and vocals and Bjørnar Landa on guitars. [6 points] (Toine van Poorten)

JOSS STONE-Introducing (Virgin Records)
I still have the hots for JOSS STONE. She’s one of a kind singer for me. No matter, if there is more dance or soul than metal on this album, I simply love the sound of her voice. It’s not easy to rhyme maybe, but that’s just the way it is. This new album sounds very good, too. Okay, I may be having problems with the rapping parts in “Music”, done by LAURYN HILL. But songs like “Tell Me ‘Bout It” or “Put Your Hands On Me Baby” are definitely very cool. It’s the reference to JANIS JOPLIN maybe, that makes this happen. And although Joss’s sound contains much more soul instead of rock, it’s still a pleasure to listen to her. Good music doesn’t always have to be loud. The fourteen songs have a total playing time of about forty-five minutes. And for people, who dig the sound of JANIS JOPLIN’s voice backed with soul music, this JOSS STONE CD may be very much worth checking out. Metal heads should forget about this one. Period. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SUPREMACY-Vicious Circle (Supremacy Records - independent)
It’s good to hear again from our Australian friends of SUPREMACY. Some bands have a special place in our heart, and SUPREMACY is definitely one of them. They return with a new album, which contains eleven songs and fifty minutes of exciting songs. The classic metal of the band has many faces. Some songs are catchy, while others will touch you deep down inside. “Salted Wounds” is definitely a nice example here. I would like to compare it to “Dianne” of THERAPY, but this time with a proper guitar solo in it. Monika Dee is a guitar player, who puts a lot of emotion in her playing, and when the song needs more power, they simply get more power from this guitar wizard. I’ve already compared her to YNGWIE MALMSTEEN before, and there’s no reason for changing my opinion after hearing this new album. However, I think we can also add a certain adoration for the guitarsound of IRON MAIDEN to her influences. The sound of the band, as a whole, has matured a lot though. And I believe, SUPREMACY is still growing. “Fading To Nothing” is a great example of this. Once again spiced up with a perfect guitar solo, it shows that the band is capable of writing catchy songs, without losing the heavy metal spirit. “Fate” is a typical metal tune, played in a way, that JETHRO TULL would have done it. Touches of folk are included, yet the metal spirit remains. Very well done, if you’d ask my opinion. In “Dreams Of Destiny”, we hear Jadi-Anne in duet with a male vocalist. It’s the perfect choice for a single release! The male vocals are done by nobody else but Danny Cecati of EYE FEAR, formerly singer of the Australian metal gods PEGAZUS (hail to our metal brother, it’s good to see you around again!!) “Dee Classical” says it all. It’s an instrumental track, in which Monika Dee shows her skills. And no, it’s definitely not a short classical filler. It’s more like an “Into The Arena” (MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP) type of song actually. By the way: have I told you already, that their gothic influences have nearly gone now? Well, they may still be out there a little, but they’re wisely put into the background of their bombastic sound. There’s still some left in “Inner Truth”, but this song has got such a tremendous heavy beat that it can hardly be noticed. SUPREMACY still breathes witches metal. Prove is given in the next track; “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, a cover by TWISTED ‘F*cking’ SISTER, sung by Monica. If you’ve survived this vicious attack, then there’s no escape for you anymore. You won’t be able to break through this vicious circle anymore. And after CD closer “Serene”, which is a beautiful instrumental song written by Nawar Dalati, you will only be able to push the ‘repeat’ button again and again, until the Grim Reaper comes to get you. That’s the curse of this new “Vicious Circle” album. Once you’re sucked into it, you can’t break the circle, no matter how hard you try. And I’m glad it does. SUPREMACY now consists of Jadi-Anne on vocals, Monika Dee on guitar, Nawar Dalati on guitar, Bec on bass and Beau on drums. Check out the website of this marvellous Australian metal band by surfing to http://www.supremacy.com.au. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TRIOSPHERE-Onwards (Face Front)
TRIOSPEHERE hails from Norway and consists of three people. So far so good and not too many surprises, one might think. But this will change quickly, when you put this silver disc into your stereo set. Yes, you would expect to hear a much different sound by this metal band from Norway. But there they also know to play some decent true metal. No black, death or thrash influences for TRIOSPHERE, instead their sound breathes true metal to the max. The band consists of Marcus Silver on guitar (ex-GRIFFIN, Norway), Ida Haukland (DOMINION RED, CAT EYE) on vocals and bass guitar, and Ørjan Jørgensen (DOMINION RED) on drums. The band has already played live with the likes of SINERGY, TNT, PAUL DI ANNO, TONY MARTIN and WASP. Their sound shows some resemblance to BLACK SABBATH (Ronnie James Dio era) and DIO, because of Ida’s voice. While the guitars sound flashing and more in the style of HELLOWEEN with a touch of YNGWIE MALMSTEEN. There is plenty to enjoy here, and I could easily point out at some highlights like “The Silver Lining”, because of the extraordinairy guitar sound. In that context, I could also mention “Gunning For Glory” here. I highly recommend you to buy the album and find out for yourself that TRIOSPHERE is not just another no-hoper. They’re definitely the future of true heavy metal. The only negative thing that might pop up is, what the band wants to achieve with “Onwards Part IV”, which is a long instrumental piano (?) song. However, this is just a minor detail. I am very pleased to be introduced to this well-talented band! TRIOSPHERE is now touring with ELIS, KOTIPELTO and CHRIS CAFFERY, so go and catch them if you can, when they invade your town. Website: http://www.thetriosphere.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TRISTANIA-Illumination (Steamhammer/SPV)
It’s so strange to know, that I am listening to the last CD of TRISTANIA with Vibeke Stene right now. To me, she was the prototype of the perfect singer. Great looks, a beautiful voice and not an ‘over the top’ attitude, as she always prefered to stay more in the background. Rumours said, that she would become the new NIGHTWISH singer, but I think she would have been a little too shy for this job. Well, let’s cut the speculations and talk about the new TRISTANIA album here. It contains eleven new songs and has a playing time of about fifty-five mintes. Surprisingly enough, the male vocals of Østen Bergøy play a much more important role on this album, than ever before. His voice sounds quite similar to DAVID BOWIE sometimes. In “The Ravens”, they get some help from Vorph of SAMAEL on vocals. Their sound is a bit darker on this album, too and I think “Ashes” (their previous album) sounded much opener, clearer and more heavy. Bonus track “In The Wake” is one of the darker TRISTANIA songs, together with CD closer “Deadlands”. For me, this was definitely not the best TRISTANIA album. I am very curious what the band will sound like with their new singer. I do hope, they will find a suitable singer soon, because the band wants to promote “Illumination” on tour of course. But I am more interested in what Vibeke’s plans for the future will be. We will keep you updated. Until that time, I’ll give this one another spin or two to let it grow on me some more. Website: http://www.tristania.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TARJA TURUNEN-Henkäys Ikuisuudesta ("Breath From Heaven" Universal Music
We all know the story of Tarja Turunen and NIGHTWISH, so we will leave these details for what it is. We also know, that NIGHTWISH has given the name of the successor of Tarja recently: Anette Olzon, a singer from Sweden and whose voice is to be heard on their first download single “Eva” (Note: the new NIGHTWISH album is expected in September, entitled “Dark Passion Play”). What you can hear here is the first solo CD of Tarja, after she left NIGHTWISH. It’s a Christmas CD, and so it may not represent one hundred percent what she will sound like in the future. Her first solo CD will be released somewhere in 2007. This album is filled with fourteen classical Christmas hymns. Many of them are covers like “Happy New Year” of ABBA and “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” of JOHN LENNON. We don’t have to tell you, that Tarja has a great voice, and that this CD is a very nice Christmas record. But we hope, this new album will sound so much different than what she does here. Anyway, the fans of Tarja will surely enjoy her lovely voice for fifty-five minutes and get into the Xmas spirit. No guitars, only the classical sound of an orchestra, that’s the deal. It’s very well done though. It’s a bit odd to review a Christmas album on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It’s nice to know though that this album exists. The next steps of both Tarja and NIGHTWISH will be much more interesting for the average rock and metal fan out there. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VAINGLORY-Vainglory (Rebellion Records US)
Sirens, alarmbells, metal alert!!!! People, youve been warned, because there is a new metal sensation on the horizon. Their name is VAINGLORY and nobody else but Kate French is the frontlady of this magical outfit. Their debut album is a first-class killer product from the first note on until the last one slowly fade away. Its pure metal to the max. For over sixty-five minutes, youre caught in a web of heavy riffs, loud screaming vocals, pounding drums, galloping rhythms and a never ending salvo of guitar solos. The album also has a lot of variation. First, you get four up tempo power metal tracks attacking your ears. Then Midnight Hellfire is a hellish motordrivers anthem. Undying Love is a more ballad-like song with lots of power, whereas Decapitation Attack is an instrumental song, which could well be written by YNGWIE MALMSTEEN. The guitarwork in general has got a lot in common with this Swedish guitar juggler, by the way. And the axemen Corbin King and John Michael Youngblood may see this as a big compliment. Corbin can easily be put in the category new guitarheroes. He can show his skills in every song, and people who like ultrafast guitarwork will enjoy this CD even more. The rhythm tandem consists of Chris Banja on bass and Dan Lynch on drums. Together they form a very tight team. Kates voice comes very close to the strength and power of Jon Oliva (SAVATAGE, JON OLIVAS PAIN), but she looks so much better than the mountain king. She lifts VAINGLORY to the highest level imaginable. Sometimes with high screams, sometimes with a sensitive, very emotional sounding voice, but always with a lot of power. CHASTAIN was a very good start for this blonde metalvixen, but believe me, VAINGLORY is the real thing for her. And people still think that heavy metal is dead? Give me a break. I guess, theyve never heard of VAINGLORY. Welcome back, Kate! Our metal fists will rise again for you with this new album.Were behind you for one hundred percent and reward this album with the full score. Buy or dont call yourself a metalhead anymore!!! [FULL SCORE - 10 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VAN CANTO-A Storm To Come (General Schallplatten)
If you sound different than others, you might get some special attention. If you do something that nobody else has done before, you might start a new hype. I really hope, that this new product will become a new hype. You will have to give it a try, and be open-minded before listening of course. But after a few songs I started to become a bit nervous. Not knowing, if I would listen this album out until the end. VAN CANTO sings a capella heavy metal songs, without guitars, bass or keyboards. Only five voices and a drummer are on the nine songs on this album. The voices come from Philip Dennis Schunke, Stefan Schmidt, Ross Thompson, Ingo Sterzinger and Inga Scharf of FADING STARLIGHT. The drums are played by Dennis Strillinger (SYNASTHASIA). I’m waiting for the breaks, the twin solos, and the high-pinching voices. This sounds more like a Christmas choir with human voices taking over the instrumental parts. Inga’s voice shows some resemblance to Candice Night (BLACKMORE’S NIGHT) here and there, but not even her voice is able to convince me of this so-called a cappela metal project. At the end of the CD, the choir sets in for the METALLICA cover “Battery”. At that point, I was sure about my judgement of this CD. This one is definitely not for me. I know, that many people might like this, but a lot of headbangers will agree with me, that this is too far away from what heavy metal is all about. Nice try, but no thanks! [4 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VICE SQUAD-Defiant (S.O.S. Records)
Do I still need to introduce Beki and VICE SQUAD to you? I don’t think so, or you must have been living under a giant rock these last few years. The new album “Defiant” is filled with fourteen kick ass punk rock anthems, and has a running time of a little bit over forty minutes. The songs have a catchy attitude, but they sure hold an important message, too. Beki and her boys show the youngsters how punk rock needs to be played. The kick ass mentality of the band goes hand in hand with the catchy and easy on the ears rhythms. Beki’s voice sounds distorted in “Fast Forward”, while they press the pedal to the metal. This one will create a nice mosh pit, when played live, I think. “Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down” is a bit more mainstream and easy to sing along to. The message in this song will reach the listener the same way though. Title track “Defiant” is the “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” of VICE SQUAD, which is another killer track. “You Can’t Do That” is certainly one of the highlights, which reminded me of the Australian BLITZ BABIEZ here and there. “War Of Attrition” is slow in the verses, but raw, energetic, aggressive and fast in the chorusses. Another highlight for me. The last four songs are announced as bonus tracks. Don’t see them as fillers or leftovers, because they easily reach the high quality of the other songs. And with “The Great Fire Of London” and “Spitfire”, we get two more highlights from this album. Besides Beki, who sings and plays rhythm guitar, we have Payl Rooney on lead guitar, Mike Giaquinto on bass and Tony Piper on drums. VICE SQUAD still knows what the fans like to hear, and prove is given on “Defiant”. For more info on the band, you can go to http://www.vicesquad.co.uk. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VIRGIN BLACK-Requiem – Mezzo Forte (Massacre Records)
VIRGIN BLACK are real masters in translating depression and melancholy into music. If you’re not into the classical-based gothic metal or rock with bombastic orchestrations and choir vocals, please leave this for what it is. If you like to dream away into a well of depressive thoughts and funeral march rhythms, you have come to the right place. VIRGIN BLACK lifts gothic rock up to an absolute form of art. And like me, the real fans will weep in silence while listening to the heavenly anthems of darkness on this album. Seven songs with a total playing time of a bit over fifty-minutes will colour your world blacker than the blackest black. “Requiem, Kyrie” contains all the ingredients, I would have expected. A funeral march, with classical voices and classical string arrangements. For the orchestrations of the songs, the band called in the help of the Adelaide Sympho Orchestra. Besides that, they used classical voices and choir. The band itself consists of Luke Faz on drums, Grayh on bass and vocals, Rowan London on vocals and piano and Samantha Escarbe on guitar. Samantha and Rowan wrote the songs. “In Death” is another long and sphereful anthem. One of the huge masterpieces on the album is the ten minute plus “….And I Am Suffering”. It’s a song, that could even be appreciated by people who are into ultraslow dark doom metal. After hearing this lament, you know for sure that the sun won’t shine anymore. It’s strange, that you can get this feeling on a bright sunny day. That’s the strength of VIRGIN BLACK. They put so much beautiness and depressive tones in their songs, that it simply won’t miss its target. “Domine” contains a death growl. The band is slowly gaining speed and show their skills in this fast track. Well, at least it is fast in VIRGIN BLACK’s dictionary. “Lacrimosa (I Am Blind With Weeping)” places the band back on earth again, where they can hide in their shells, to let their tears flow without other people noticing it. The outburst of speed and death growls make them tired and their sound is returning to funeral march rhythms again. The requiem mass comes to an end with “Rest Eternal”, where the lost soul is laid to rest in his grave. Don’t grief too long, because there will be follow up to this album soon I hope, with more bitterness and dark melancholic music like this. If you’re not in the mood for “Requiem – Mezzo Forte”, you may think of it as a well of depressions. I loved every single second of it, and I know that the suffering is over, when the CD ticks away its final seconds of bitterness. And the sun begins to shine again. Website: http://www.virginblack.com. [10 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VISIONS OF ATLANTIS-Trinity (Napalm Records)
I liked the first two VISIONS OF ATLANTIS albums, but there always seemed to be something missing. Now, with their third album, entitled "Trinity", VISIONS OF ATLANTIS may have found that missing piece in newly acquired American vocalist Melissa Ferlaak. Not only that, but the rest of the Austrian metal band have seemed to pick up their game and deliver an inspired album. "At The Back Of Beyond" kicks things off and is a great opener. The first thing you notice is Melissa’s captivating operatic voice and then the voice of male singer Mario Plank, who sounds better than I can ever remember. Next up is "The Secret", which is a definite highlight for me as Melissa and Mario switch off vocals and do some great work together. Next is "Passing Dead End", another great song that keep things going in the right direction. Other highlights include: "The Poem", "Nothing Left" and "My Darkside Home"."Trinity" is eleven songs and forty-eight minutes worth of high class symphonic power metal. The addition of new singer Melissa Ferlaak seems to have made a huge difference and the rest of the band continues to prove how talented they are as well. The songs are catchy, well crafted and bombastic. In my opinion, this is the album of 2007 so far. [10 points] (Tony Cannella)

VOLNAYA STAYA-Staya (CD Maximum)
Finding the Holy Grail wasn’t an easy thing to do. This time we found two grails, which is rather uncommon and exceptional. We already had the Swedish metal goddesses of HYSTERICA and this band is called VOLNAYA STAYA (=FREE FLIGHT) and they come from Russia. They’re also an all-female heavy metal band and their debut album “Staya” contains eleven songs, worthy of over forty minutes of excellent heavy metal songs. “Flight”, the English translation of “Staya” opens strong after the short Russian spoken intro. SAXON-like riffs and a chorus, that simply asks for shouting along to. “For You” has again this early SAXON or ACCEPT sound, and in my imagination I can see the heads go up and down already. After the powerful “Russian Roulette”, we’re in for a ballad called “Don’t Call And Don’t Ask”, which is sung with a low-pitched voice and loads of emotion. The guitarparts in “Give Me Fire” remind me of JUDAS PRIEST in a way. As you can see, these ladies know their classics very well. “Like A Bird Into The Sky” relives the mighty sound of WARLOCK, mixed with the hooky sound of U.D.O. But whatever they may sound like, it’s done with a lot of style and class. They sure sound great and these young ladies stole my heart from the very first moment, that I listened to their album. They are unique, especially in Russia, which is quite conservative in their opinion about hard rock and heavy metal. MARQUIS and PRIMA DONNA are also rock bands from Russia, but no other band knows to play havey metal like VOLNAYA. Just listen to the guitarwork in “My Day” for example. The CD closes with another ballad-like song called “To Return Back”. “Flight” is a killer album of five ladies, who show us that heavy metal is very much alive in Russia. The band consists of Ksenia Timonina on lead vocals, Julie Main on guitar and vocals, Anna Mailova on guitar (recently being replaced by Natalie Terekhova), Marina Malakhova on bass and vocals and Svetlana Deinekina on drums. Have a good flight, while listening to this! Website: http://www.volnayastaya.ru. [FULL SCORE - 10 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WITHIN TEMPTATION-The Heart Of Everything (Sony BMG)
WITHIN TEMPTATION has just released the new album, that will bring them a step further on the road to world domination. This might be a very big step, which will be explained later on in this review. First of all, let’s put some facts straight. The band consists of Ruud Jolie on mandolin, acoustic & electric guitar, Jeroen van Veen on bass, Stephen van Haestregt on drums, Martijn Spierneburg on keyboards, Robert Westerholt on guitars and Sharon den Adel on vocals. The new album contains twelve songs, which means that you can listen a full hour to new WITHIN TEMPTATION material. The CD opens with “The Howling”, followed by the first hit single from this new album “What Have You Done”. And here’s the explanation this could be a major step forward in the career of WITHIN TEMPTATION. Guest vocals on this strong single are done by Keith Caputo, who is well-known for his work with LIFE OF AGONY. This may open doors for the band to tour in America, which might be a giant step forward on the ladder of success. Keith might be even more well-kown in our own country though, but his connections may do the trick. Anyway, I hope this really works out for them, because the potential to become really huge worldwide is surely there. The band puts on a wonderful and dynamic show, and their songs all have that little extra, that makes them accessible for the fans of gothic metal, rock and metal and everyone in general, who listens to the local radio. All songs contain that hit potential ingredient, that is missing with so many other bands. Somehow WITHIN TEMPTATION knows how to add that special touch, that makes these songs good enough to become a hit, without sounding commercial. The choirs create a bombastic touch in “Our Solemn Hour”, but the lyrics will invite you to sing along to this song. From the start of “Hand Of Sorrow”, you already know that this could be their next single. Big orchestrations and a huge role for singer Sharon, backed with a steady rhythm comprise this great song. The band is going for the throat here! Same goes for “Final Destination”, which brings out the best in them. “All I Need” is an emotional love song, in the best WITHIN TEMPTATION tradition possible. I think, we can put the ‘ballad label’ on “Forgiven”. The album closes with a rock mix of “What Have You Done”. I would have like more steaming guitars here, that fullfill a bigger role during their live shows. I really want to compliment the band with this great new album. There is more though. And that’s the new technique, used on this CD. A new technique, that will please the fans even more. Put the disc in your PC and enjoy the so-called ‘Opendisc’ technology. Just do it and be surprised with all the bonus stuff, that the band is giving you. The website will be able to give you all the other informarmation, that you may need of WITHIN TEMPTATON at http://www.within-temptation.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WIZARDS’HYMN-Hymnal (Majestic Rock Records)
The warning, I am starting this review has got nothing at all to do with the Japanese band WIZARDS’ HYMN. But we need to address it anyway. Please think twice before ordering your stuff directly from Majestic Records. We tried to order this CD directly from the label, together with the live CD of JAGUAR. We received the live CD of JAGUAR much later than was planned, but that’s another story. To our big surprise the parcel did not contain this CD. But we did pay for it, together with the payment for the JAGUAR CD. The correspondence about this resulted in a radio silence from Majestic Records. Nice way to promote your stuff. Let people pay a lot of money for a CD and then just don’t send the product. This resulted into an illegal download of the “Hymnal” CD. So think twice before you buy something directly from Majestic Records, and just rip the shit from the net. These labels, no matter what brilliant stuff they release, just force the people to act like this. What a shame! This warning does not effect our judgement towards this great album of WIZARDS’ HYMN though. Although, the start of “Wings Of Time” sounded a bit over the top at first, the band showed their real face in the other songs. This Japanese metal band was influenced by the big names from the German powermetal scene like GAMMA RAY, HELLOWEEN, BLIND GUARDIAN and EDGUY. In songs like “Olden Story Tells” and “The Glory Of The Desert”, they slow things down a bit and sound less forced than on the aforementioned opener. “Firestorm” is definitely one of the highlights for me. Just listen to the guitarwork on this one, to know what I mean. “Through The Wilderness” sounds a bit like the opener. It’s too galloping and a bit too fast in my eyes. It doesn’t sound bad at all, but it’s just not my favorite style. STRATOVARIUS fans will like it a lot, I think. The guitars sound a bit like YNGWIE J MALMSTEEN in this one. Same goes for “A Drop In The Ocean”, which sounds like a second real highlight to me. “Live My Life” is the sensitive ballad on “Hymnal”. “The Call Of The Unknown” starts off as another speed monster, but later on, it develops into a just above average song. The band consists of Kimiko Shirao on vocals (female), Tsutomu Aruga on guitar, Toshimasa Kato on bass and Kensuke Imai on drums. The band exists for six years already and “Hymnal” is their debut album, which contains ten songs and has a playing time of about fifty minutes. People, who like the bands mentioned in this review should definitely check this one out. Again we would like to point out, that the warning at the beginning of this review has got nothing at all to do with the great musical qualities of this Japanese metal band. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

AFTER FOREVER-Energize Me (CDsingle) (Nuclear Blast)
We have just witnessed the release of the new CD of WITHIN TEMPTATION and yet another national product announces itself. This is the new single of AFTER FOREVER, taken from their self-titled album on Nuclear Blast, which will be out soon. Good times have come for the Dutch metal scene. This single contains three songs and eleven minutes of music. First we hear two versions of “Energize Me”, the radio edit and the album version. I feel a possible hitsingle coming up, when I listen to this song. It has the same catchiness, that WITHIN TEMPTATION made famous. The third track is called “Sweet Enclosure”, which contains the well-known orchestrations and great guitar riffs. Despite the bombastic start, and really simple song structure, we still get a surprisingly heavy ending of “Sweet Enclosure”, which lifts the song up to a very high level. I am ready to hear the new full-length album, after this single. More info can be found on http://www.afterforever.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DELAIN-Frozen (CDsingle) (Roadrunner Records)
The marketing strategy of selling a single is constantly seeking new ways to get it to the shops and make people buying it for the bonus material. This single contains the video clip for “Frozen” and you get a free sticker, when you buy the single. A great way to get your product sold, in my opinion. The two songs have a playing time of about nine minutes. The single version comes from the album “Lucidity”. The second song is a longer version, which is baptised by the name of “(Deep) Frozen”. Does humor belong to music? Yes, it does! At the moment DELAIN is touring through our country and the name of the band can be seen on many festival posters. This single will make some good, extra promotion for this band, that easily found their place in the premier ranks of the Dutch metal scene. Website: http://www.delain.nl. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ILSE DE LANGE-I Love You (CDsingle) (Universal Music)
It’s not only a good choice to launch this song as a single, but it’s also one of the sentences, that you love to hear the most. This particular song is written for a theater play, called “Steel Magnolias”. The ballad is beautiful and just perfect for Ilse’s voice. Sensitive and soft, it always touches me deeply hearing this beautiful lady sing. The first version on this eight minute, two track single, is the regular single version. The second version is recorded live at the Gelredome in Arnhem in October 2006, and is previously unreleased. Everything that Ilse touches with her velvet toncils turns into gold pretty easily, and it’s still a puzzle for me why she never received that recognition in the USA. Hopefully, this will change soon, when the American people take out their earplugs. Website: http://www.ilsedelange.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HUNTRESS-Back From The Dead To Kill (CDsingle) (MySpace.com/HuntressKills)
MySpace is the perfect way to discover new bands. Just listen to this two track single of HUNTRESS, and you’ll know what I mean. I listened to the first track “Back From The Dead To Kill” with my mouth open wide. This sure is some great stuff! Powerful vocals with an old school IRON MAIDEN like rhythm and ditto solo guitarwork. Fast and furious ripping metal. Man, this the stuff that I would like to hear! And it gets even better in “Call Of The Wild”. This song is slowly gaining speed and again I would like to name IRON MAIDEN as an influence, without copying the sound of Steve Harris and his Iron men. The lady with the golden voice is called Tuesdae, and if these two songs are a good example of what her music is all about, then she really has a killer taste for riffs, solos, rhythms and songs. What an axework on this song! I definitely want to hear more after I had a good listen to these two songs. HUNTRESS kills and you know now where you read it first. Website: http://www.tuesdae.com or http://www.myspace.com/huntresskills. [10 points] (Toine van Poorten)

OXYGEN-Oxygen (CDsingle) (independent)
What we have here is a two track single of a band called OXYGEN from New York City. Please pay some special attention here, because we don’t only get to hear the beautiful voice of Melissa D. Brown, but we also hear Jack DiFiore on bass, Tony Catania (BONHAM) on guitars, Frank Gilchriest (VIRGIN STEELE) on drums and David DeFeis (VIRGIN STEELE) on keyboards. Some pretty amazing names, I would say. “A Lot On My Mind” is a nice laid back ballad type of song with a great guitar solo. Think about the better songs of BON JOVI or BRYAN ADAMS. “Figure It Out” is a rocker with Melissa sounding like the sister of Blackie Lawless. A raspy voice with a nice rocking attitude. This band sure rocks with a capitol R. The ballad is suitable for radio airplay, and people who like it louder go for the rock song on this nine minute two tracker. But believe me, you ain’t heard nothing yet, when you pay a visit to the MySpace website of OXYGEN, because Melissa has a special treat for people, who want to hear more from this band, after this two song pre-taster. You can listen to a song there, called “A Case Of The Blues”, which is a LED ZEPPELIN-like kind of blues song. OXYGEN rocks, and prove is given on this two track single, but surfers on the internet will find out that this lady has got a lot more on her sleeve. Check it out, because we all need OXYGEN to survive! Website: http://www.myspace.com/oxygenrox. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TACERE-A Voice In The Dark (EP) (Suomen Musikki Oy)
TACERE might become the next big thing from Finland. Once the circus has started again around NIGHTWISH, this might change a little, but right now the first comments about this band are very positive. Are they comparable to NIGHTWISH? Maybe, they also have a female singer. They also use massive orchestrations in their songs and operate in the gothic metal scene. Helena Haaparanta is the female singer in the band, who apparently started out as a guest singer in the band on one of their demos. Her voice is strong and sometimes even reminded me of Ann Wilson of HEART. Not always, but in some parts she did. Her looks are more similar to Tarja Turunen than her voice in a way. Karri Knuuttila is the male singer in the band, who also plays bass, keyboards and guitar. He sings the brutal parts on the EP, and he does it very convincing without really grunting. He is more the angry, screaming kind of singer. The band is completed by Jake on drums and Janne on keyboards. This mini CD or EP contains five songs and has a running time of approximately twenty minutes. “Excursion (Dramatic Version)” is the second song on the EP, and for me one of the highlights. Nice guitarwork, good interaction between the two singers and a brave uptempo rhythm make this song to an outstanding track. “Autumn Rain Part 1: I Have No Soul” is a doomy track, that slowly gains speed. The second part of this song (“Another World”) moves in at an uptempo speed from the start. This five tracker closes with “Born Of The Ground (postfix demo)”, containing the high Ann Wilson-like high- pinches of Helena. They are not the new NIGHTWISH and they never pretended to be, but I think we have to keep the name of this band in mind. Their new full length album “Beautiful Darkness” is out already and will be reviewed next time. For more information about this well-talented Finnish band, go to their website at: http://www.tacere.net. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TOTALLY STRESSED-Female Art Rock In D-Minor (EP) (independent)
We would like to bring this sextet from Berlin, Germany under your attention. These are six girls, who call their music art rock, because of the many different styles they put together and creating their own style. The six songs on this EP, which is completely sold out right now, have a total playing time of twenty five minutes. Let’s first introduce the band to you. We have Michaela Stahl on drums, Caroline Kalweit on violin and vocals, Julia Milster on guitar, Magdalena Albrecht on vocals, Christine Görn on vocals and guitar and Anne Engelhardt on bass. “Resigned To No One” has harmony vocals, a joyful fiddle, but also some strong guitars here and there. It sounds a bit folky, mixed with rock rhythms. Nice start, which is followed by “Hungry Girls Are Popular”, which is a pop rock song. “Deep Desire” is a bit more uptempo with a nice keyboard sound. “Fairy Tales” sounds folky, because of the input of the violin. Again we hear some nice guitarwork of Christine, although it never gets really heavy. I think, this music is suitable for a lot of people. For real metalheads though, it may sound too soft. However, there are enough rocking elements in a song like “Misguided”. The CD closes with “Dead Man Walking”. At least, the band shows a lot of variation in their sound and they also know to play their instruments. Check them out, if you like. It won’t hurt you. Thanks to Rainer Krukenberg for providing their material. Website: http://www.totallystressed.de. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WITHIN TEMPTATION-What Have You Done (CDsingle) (Gun Records)
Twenty-five minutes of music on a single. What a great way to treat your fans! The five songs on this new single by WITHIN TEMPTATION range from their hit single, a bonus track and two live songs. First of all, we hear the single of course. It’s a stripped version of “What Have You Done”, followed by the full-length album version of that same song. The bonus track is called “Blue Eyes”. The previously unreleased live tracks were recorded at the well-known live gig at Java Island in Amsterdam, where they also shot their most recent live DVD. “Aquarius” and “Caged” take care of ten minutes of live pleasure here. It is a pity, that you miss the visual effects of “Caged” here, but you can see it on the DVD, which is of course in every fan’s collection already. WITHIN TEMPTATION is still growing and has certainly not forgotten to please their fans. Hopefully, the cooperation with Keith Caputo on this single will take them to the USA, where they can spread their wings. Website: http://www.within-temptation.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

[Updated: June 23, 2007]

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