Kings & Queens

SKU: IW83044
Label:
Inner Wound Recordings
Category:
Gothic Metal
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"Leah’s 2012 debut, Of Earth and Angels, came out of nowhere and blew me away with its catchy, epic music and beautiful, ethereal vocals. Naturally, I bought her follow-up EP, Otherworld, but didn’t like it as much, since it was much mellower (except for “Dreamland” with guest Eric Peterson).

Thus, I was very excited to learn that Leah’s next release would feature Delain guitarist Timo Somers. I figured Timo was exactly what Leah needed to find her heavier sound again, since he has contributed some of Delain’s best guitar work. As an added bonus, Timo produced and arranged the album and also recruited ex-Delain drummer Sander Zoer.

Does Leah’s new team deliver? Yes. Kings & Queens is epic, heavy, and beautiful. Timo contributes excellent riffs and solos; Sander provides driving rhythms along with bassist Barend Courbois (from Blind Guardian); and Leah sounds as delicate and ethereal as ever. Her voice is high, clear and perfect, much like Liv Kristine’s.

The music, voice, and lyrics evoke far-away lands and heroic stories. Leah has explained: “One theme in particular is the historical and metaphorical grip around our throats we feel from top-down agendas that threaten our freedoms. It seems to be a never-ending game of chess between those who demand power and those who would preserve freedom. It’s the theme of every good fantasy book and film, and the message rings true for even our modern world. In addition, the line-up and stellar musicianship of the guys who came on board this project heightened the sheer epicness and caliber of the music itself.”

The album’s first single is “Enter the Highlands.” It starts heavy with aggressive guitars and drums before Leah’s otherworldly vocals kick in, and then builds with even more intense rhythms, a galloping riff, and choral vocals. Leah says she loves how heavy Timo made the song, and that the lyrics are about lost civilizations, with implications for our own.

Two other songs that really showcase Timo’s guitar skills are “Save the World” and “Angel Fell,” both of which feature blistering solos. These songs also show off the variety of Leah’s sound. “Save the World” starts as folk metal before becoming an anthem, then finishes with delicate voices and a harp after Timo’s solo. “Angel Fell” begins with a harpsichord and is quiet and powerful at first but has a driving finish.

What these songs lack is the catchiness I liked on songs like “Remember” and “Say Yes” from Of Earth and Angels, but that begins to reappear in later songs from Kings & Queens, notably “Heart of Poison” and “Hourglass.”

Perhaps the heart of the album is the epic “Palace of Dreams.” The song is long (at 7:46) and cinematic, with strong guitar and piano and a lyrical tie-in to the album title. Other notable songs include “The Present Darkness” (in which Leah uses a deeper voice) and “Remnant” (which at first sounds especially like Loreena McKennitt, to whom Leah is often compared, before building into heavy guitars). The album concludes with a pretty acoustic cover of a traditional Irish folk song, “Siúil a Rún,” about a lover lost to soldiering.

Overall, I would recommend Kings & Queens to all fans of epic music and ethereal vocals. While not as catchy as Of Earth and Angels, the new album certainly cements Leah’s reputation as the metal Loreena McKennitt (or Enya), with her strong Celtic and new age influences (not to mention her high fantasy look). The album is also a showcase for Timo Somers’ guitar work, and an example of successful crowd-funding, so fans of Delain and fans of independent music alike will want to check it out.

On the flipside, I would say the album and songs are too long. At 78 minutes, Kings & Queens is nearly twice as long as Of Earth and Angels or Delain’s The Human Contradiction. I think the music would have a greater impact if it were more condensed (just as I wish Peter Jackson would release a condensed version of The Hobbit). Delain fans should also know that the vocal variety is much narrower than what we get from Charlotte Wessels, who does fragile and beautiful but also raw and aggressive. Again, Leah is more like Liv Kristine. The lyrics are also subtle and metaphorical (and sometimes require careful listening to understand), so the themes discussed above about freedom and fallen civilizations don’t hit you in the face the way Delain’s (or Judas Priest’s) would." - Sonic Cathedral

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    $12.00
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    $15.00
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    $10.00
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    $13.00
  • Wolf People are an incredible ensemble from the UK.  They channel the late 60's/early 70's British sound.  Definitely psychedelic buzz from these guys.  Folk elements crop up that will remind you a little bit of Fairport Convention but the electric side dominates and it constantly reminds me of bands like The Groundhogs and High Tide - think TS McPhee and Tony Hill blazing away.  This is guitar oriented music that is completely immersed in THAT SOUND.  Killing solos through out.  Man I love this band!!!  Highly recommended.
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  • "The Scottish heavy metal scene is well known for being heavy as hell – bringing the world some of the finest death metal and grindcore bands around. From Cerebral Bore to Achren the musical calibre from Scottish musicians is superb, and it only seems fitting to introduce who break free of this typical scene and go for a more traditional approach to metal. Presenting Ascension, a melodic power metal band from Aberdeen who has so much flare and style in their music, they give the likes of Power Quest, Freedom Call and Blind Guardian a run for their money. By combining lightning fast guitar riffs, powerful melodies and superb, sing along chorus’s, Ascension have created one of the finest power metal albums of the past ten years with Far Beyond the Stars, and hopefully we will see the eventual rise to power of this Scottish five piece within the next few years!Ascension are a band who are putting the British heavy metal scene on the map, and it’s songs such as ‘Blackthorn’, ‘Moongate’ and ‘Orb of the Moons’ that really show just how amazing British musicians are. From the moment the album kicks in, every instrument has it’s time to shown, and whether it be the powerful dual guitar lines, or Ricki Carnies’ phenomenal falsetto voice. Ascension flies the flag, not only for power metal musicians. But all metal musicians, showing that if you have a pure talent for something, you should go out and use it, and that’s what Far Beyond the Stars is jammed full of, brilliant musical talent.Every track on Far Beyond the Stars is a potential single, purely because each song has the wow factor needed to hook a listener. Every song has an extremely catchy chorus that will have you singing along like the characters of Brave Heart on a monster energy drink in no time. Songs like ‘Somewhere Back In Time’, ‘Reflected Life’ and ‘Heavenly’ will sound heavenly when played live and as soon as they come pouring out of the PA – one thing is for sure, the crowd is going to go mental!There are some absolutely mind blowing progressive and acoustic elements on this album too, giving Far Beyond the Stars an extra dimension to this already mind blowing album. Not only showing the bands diversity, but also the bands song writing skills, Ascension have thought outside the box with this release, and through tracks like the beautiful power ballad that is ‘The Silver Tides’ and the 10 minute epic ‘The Avatar’, show just why they are one of the best UK based metal bands….. Hell to that in fact, one of the world’s best metal bands.If you are a fan of power metal, you will absolutely be blown away by Far Beyond the Stars. If you call yourself a metal fan, you will also be blown away by Far Beyond the Stars. It’s an album that appeals to everyone. People say that European power metal rocks…… The fact is that Scottish power metal doesn’t just rock…….. It kills! " - Planet Mosh
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  • "Since a long time I have stored in one of the synapses in the very deep part of my brain some information about a small country named Andorra somewhere in Europe. By its name I would assume that it would be close to Spain if I ever need to recall that information for further processing. In 2011 that information surfaced back into my brain when I found out (thanks to my dear friend Vagelis) that not only it exists but it a band from that country kicks serious ass. That was the time that I found about NAMI. Upon further inspection and research I found that while NAMI was at their first album there was another band that had already released three albums and they were also into kicking arse. That band is PERSEFONE. Two years later and back into present I was really excited to hold the promo for their brand new release “Spiritual Migration” and indeed the only two words that came out of my mouth from the first notes were “Fuck” and “Yeah” with lots of exclamation marks.“Spiritual Migration” is the fourth progressive death metal album follower of the “Shin-Ken”, a conceptual story that unfolds in 13 tracks. The album starts with the instrumental “Flying Sea Dragons” creating an epic tone before the first blast of highly concentrated progressiveness strikes with “Mind As Universe”. Riffs high as the sky, terrific solos, crazy drumming, kick arse bass, raging and beautiful clean vocals and on top of all keyboards that dress and bind everything into one solid entity. Nothing gets into standard forms but instead the band is insanely unpredictable changing tempos, styles, brutality and whatever else you name with amazing ease making each part flow into the next one effortlessly and naturally. The duration of the compositions is varying, having four out of them clocking over seven minutes (“The Majestic of Gaia”, “Inner Fullness”, “Spiritual Migration” and “Returning To The Source”). There are also four instrumental tracks that are very beautiful and add to the overall atmosphere of the record.PERSEFONE continue to evolve the sound that has defined in “Snin-Ken”. They continue based on the soul recipe of progressive and very technical Death Metal that is fused with atmospheric parts that enhance the overall outcome of the record. This time the lyrics deal with Buddhism, meditation and spirituality and it is really cool to see bands that deviate from the classical hate god / praise Satan stereotype (sic). The songs are heavier than before and the brutal vocals tend to be a bit deeper than those of the previous records. Concerning the performance of the band all the band members are delivering astonishing performances using the best of their instruments. The brutal vocals might estrange some (I quickly got used to them) but they serve their purpose more than well while the clean ones contradict perfectly with them and offer moments of tranquility amongst the Death Metal onslaught. The artwork has been done by none other than Travis Smith and is another great work by him. Finally the record was mixed by Jacob Hansen in Denmark who also has worked with VOLBEAT, PESTILENCE and DESTRUCTION.It is surprising, in a good way, that Andorra has very cool bands which deliver very good records. PERSEFONE being one of those bands, has delivered an amazing record that is full of complex structures, unpredictable riffing, epic atmospheres and sheer raw brutality and a very intelligent concept. Put the speakers on, sit down comfortably, close your eyes, open your mind and get ready for “Spiritual Migration”." - Metal Temple
    $13.00
  • Christina Booth is the charismatic vocalist for British symphonic rock band Magenta.  Her voice has always brought about comparisons to Annie Haslam (and in fact they recorded together).  Christina had a well documented successful battle with breast cancer.  It was during this time that she wrote the material for her second solo album.  The music doesn't have the complexity or full on "prog" nature but she is helped out by members of the prog community including Rob Reed, Chris Fry, JOhn Mitchell, Andy Tillison, and Theo Travis.  It would be difficult to call this commercial music.  I guess they call this adult alternative these days.  Its a great showcase for her wonderful vocal talents and is filled with tons of atmosphere.  Good late night listening.
    $14.00
  • "I've always been rather impressed Mastercastle, the Italian melodic metal band created by expert guitarist Pier Gonella and fronted by the powerful vocals of Giorgia Gueglio. They return with bassist Steve Vawamas and newcomer the respected drummer John Macaluso (Ark, Yngwie Malmsteen, and James LaBrie). The strength of the band has always been the ability to create great sounding melodic metal songs with a rock groove, besides merely showcasing Gonella's amazing fret work.That's what you get on their fourth album, On Fire. It's a worthy title: every song here will burn up your speakers with rocking melodic metal. That's not to say that Gonella doesn't get his turn. There's two instrumentals, The Final Battle and Almost A Fantasy, where he displays his significant guitar skills. And they're in the other songs as well.You'll note that the other songs have some metal or reference to metal in the title. Lyricist Gueglio intended to write a concept album around metal, metallurgy, and alchemy. But she discovered that the words turned more sentiment and emotion, "the passion of making music in a difficult world." Considering the strength and pure entertainment value of these songs, any band could use a bit more of her passion. The songs with that burning rock groove leap from speakers with huge melodies and vocal arrangements. Notable are Silver Eyes, Leaden Roads, Platinum, with Giorgia's most haunting vocals, and the hugely addictive Chains (watch and listen above). Leaning more to the heavy metal side of things are Titanium Wings and the speedy Quicksilver. It's all good: some of the best songs Mastercastle has ever written. On Fire is strongly recommended." - Danger Dog
    $13.00
  • "(Mostly) UK-based symphonic/power metal band Damnation Angels is back with a new album, their second overall, titled The Valiant Fire. It’s the highly-anticipated follow-up to their breakthrough 2013 debut full-length Bringer of Light, and on it the Graney brothers and vocalist Per Fredrik “Pellek”Asly have taken just about everything to the next level.As you might expect after the grandeur of Bringer of Light, The Valiant Fire is, in a word, epic. The orchestrations in particular are massive, swirling around the guitars and drums to create a majestic atmosphere throughout the album. It’s a consistent atmosphere too, almost giving The Valiant Fire a concept album feel, even though the songs are independent of each other. The atmosphere connects them all, and makes this album that much more rewarding when taken as a whole listening experience. The melodies are a little more subtle this time around, but still play a large part in the album’s overall sound. And of course there’s the vocal performance. Pellek is one of the brightest young stars in the genre, and being in Damnation Angels seems to bring out his best performances. The power, range and emotion he conveys is what makes these songs resonate so much.Unlike Bringer of Light, which immediately drew you in with huge melodies, The Valiant Fire is going to take a few spins to really sink in. When it does though, it simply won’t let you go. That’s not to say there aren’t incredible melodies and hooks. They just seem dialed back in comparison to the debut. You’re still going to be headbanging and singing along with the catchy “This Is Who We Are” and “Everlasting.” Oddly enough, the most bombastic song on the album is the instrumental title track. It makes a statement, but you can’t help but wish Pellek was there doubling the impact of such strong melodies. The album boasts a pair of nine-minute epics – “The Frontiersman” and “Under An Ancient Sun” – that are very different from each other but equally memorable. Honestly, all nine of the songs on The Valiant Fire are sensational, and there isn’t a weak moment anywhere on the album.New releases from Nightwish and Kamelot will – deservedly – garner the lion’s share of attention from the Symphonic Metal community, but The Valiant Fire has to be considered one of the best – if not the best – entry in that genre in 2015. Even stepping away from genre tags, this is just one of the best albums you’ll hear all year if you like your metal grand, powerful and epic. If you haven’t yet experienced Damnation Angels, now is the perfect time to discover one of the most exciting bands in recent years." - Hard Rock Haven
    $15.00
  • "Too many people mislabel “technical” or “math” for “progressive”. The vast majority of the bands in the djent movement are, at best, technical. The only prog-like changes in the music are from a riff to a breakdown. Elsewhere, some noodly math band is labeled “progressive” because the guitars make pretty twinkle noises. That is hardly the stuff of prog legends. Enter The Omega Experiment, whose debut helps re-define a genre that really needs clarification.I don’t mean to get ahead of myself, as The Omega Experiment is no classic. These Michigan natives have the story of a djent group, but the sound of a bygone era. The group consists of multi-instrumentalist Dan Wieten and keyboardist Ryan Aldridge. The group is, in essence, a bedroom project, one of the many disciples of the prophet Misha Mansoor. Yet, The Omega Experiment treks down a different sonic road than Periphery.While the latter worshiped at the altar of Meshuggah, these gentlemen prefer to take heed from the success of Rush, Dream Theater, and most evidently, Devin Townsend. The band’s particular brand of progressive metal is light on the metal, favoring towering vocals to screamed sentiments. Also, half of the group is the keyboardist, so you bet your sweet ass that the keyboard plays a heavy role on the proceedings here. The blazing solos aren’t too shabby either.The album tells the story of Dan Wieten’s struggles over the past ten years and his search for a way out of his own mess. The music helps tell the story of transcendence; each melody seems to come from a place of light as Dan fights off his inner demons. Like any concept album, The Omega Experiment is best enjoyed in one sitting. Because of this, the album lacks absolute highlights and lowlights. If you are a fan of the throwback prog style, surely each new track will uncover something pleasing to your ears. The entire album is laden to the brim with vocal melodies, guitar pyrotechnics, and enough keyboards to please any Styx fan. The record is such a treat that the band even named its first track “Gift”.With an album like this, it’s not easy to point out complaints, but two become evident upon multiple listens. While the drum programming is certainly adequate, there is no substitute for live drums. For the most part, the kicks and snare sound good enough, but the programmed nature of the percussion occasionally irked me. The other complaint is really a matter of preference. The album’s standout track, “Furor”,  is also the only track where the band seems to really unleash the metal they're clearly holding in. I wish the band let loose a few more times throughout The Omega Experiment; however, too much gusto might detract from the sound the band has cultivated.Overall, The Omega Experiment has reminded this reviewer how progressive music can be when it’s actually progressive. If the mention of Devin Townsend or Rush makes you want to run to the hills, then The Omega Experiment will not change your viewpoint. However, if you’re looking for a sampling of a new crop of progressive metal acts, then take a careful listen to The Omega Experiment." - Decoy Music
    $15.00
  • "Machine II Machine is the fifth studio album by the German female hard rock singer Doro Pesch. The album was released in March 1995 and mixed by Kevin Shirley and Greg Smith. It is the more mainstream oriented album of the German singer to date, thanks to the production of Jack Ponti (Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, Baton Rouge) and the collaboration of musicians and authors coming from pop, country and even Latin music. The lyrics break new ground for Doro, as many of the songs deal with erotic themes. The last track is a remix done by members of the German industrial metal band Die Krupps, who worked with Doro in her next albums."
    $6.00
  • New Finnish supergroup of sorts featuring past and current members of Amorphis, Swallow The Sun, Moonsorrow, and Kreator. The music is a mix of death and doom with very strong underpinnings of progressive metal (some tasty keyboard solos - for real!). Vocals are a blend of clean and coarse and there is an overriding mournful feel to the music. The band enlisted the perfect guy to mix this album - Dan Swano! Opeth and Leprous fans need to check this band out.LINE-UPMikko Kotamäki – Vocals (Swallow The Sun)Olli-Pekka Laine – Bass (Ex-Amorphis, Mannhai)Kasper Mårtenson –Keyboards (Ex-Amorphis, Ben Granfelt Band)Janne Perttilä – Guitar (Rytmihäiriö)Marko Tarvonen – Drums (Moonsorrow)Sami Ylisirniö – Guitar (Kreator, Waltari)
    $7.00