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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  • "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
    $13.00
  • "With a career spanning 25 years, German Heavy Metal / Hard Rockers AXXIS have come around with a sequel to their first full length, "Kingdom Of The Night". It's a real wonder why these metal veterans are as underrated as they are. The sequel is as Glam and driving as the genre gets, sure to draw in fans of EDGUY, GAMMA RAY and SCORPIONS.The title track is a solid opener, with synth and guitar-driven riffs reminiscent of modern EDGUY and lyrics that are the coy kind of cheesy that you can't help but enjoy. Listen on if you are enjoying the screamingly obvious domination of catchy and melodic hooks, since they dominate this track and the majority of the album. "The War" is a driving, mid-tempo groove with ingeniously creative riffs, again with the band's ever-present catchy chord and melodic progressions. Again, this is another track which may be respectfully compared to EDGUY, particularly their slightly more progressive "Age of the Joker". I thoroughly enjoyed that album, so I stress this to be taken as a compliment!"Soulfire" is a more upbeat track that blends slightly more aggressive riff construction, with liquid, melodic and easy-listening verses, and terrifically powerful choruses, where Bernhard's seemingly safe voice displays an impressive range. This track especially conveys the pop-infused infectiousness of 80's Glam with modern Power / Heavy Metal. "Bites Inside" display a somewhat heavier side to the band, whilst still keeping the immortalized sound of Euro Metal alive and shredding. What really drew me to the track were Bernhard's vocal similarities to Austrian vocalist Georg of SERENITY; both have a graceful, catchy voice with unique, melodic inflections that are capable of surprising displays of power.AXXIS is certainly a band to fit right in with the famous cadre of German Melodic Metal bands aforementioned, with whom they have been known to share various stages; tried and true, Euromelody-infused Heavy Metal." - Metal Temple
    $15.00
  • "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
  • After their last performance at Nearfest Apocalypse, Anglagard's lineup went through a bit of an upheaval.  Luckily it didn't materially affect the band's sound.  Anglagard is still Anglagard.  Prog Pa Svenska is a 2CD set that documents the band's three day residence at Club Citta in Tokyo, Japan back in March 2013.  Material is drawn from all three studio albums.  The recording is beautiful and the performances are stellar.  What else do you need to know?  How about this review:"May 14th of this year will see the release of a new Änglagård live album: Prog på Svenska—Live in Japan. Some of you may have been lucky enough to have been following Änglagård from the very beginning, but if you’re anything like me, you came into the game when Änglagård’s small catalog of music was either out of print or near impossible to find without spending a fortune; that is, with the exception of one little disc which somehow was available when snagging a copy of albums like Epilogue seemed to be a Herculean feat. That album was Buried Alive, the live recording of Änglagård’s last show prior to their 1994 breakup. While the liner-notes of Buried Alive reveal a band that was not 100% satisfied, 20 years later with the release of Prog på Svenska—Live in Japan, Änglagård is back and going strong with a new live recording that is rich in dynamic and deep in maturity, a performance that I am confident that they are proud to immortalize for their fans.Prog på Svenska represents the first of three consecutive nights that the masters of dark Swedish prog delivered at Club Città in Japan alongside The Crimson ProjeKCt (featuring the legendary Adrian Belew and Tony Levin). For me personally this is a special album that transports me back to when I witnessed their unbelievable performance only three weeks later at Baja Prog. Among a plethora of canonized acts at the festival (such as Hackett, New Trolls, and Three Friends), Änglagård’s remarkable performance showed that they stand in no one’s shadow. While there’s nothing like being there in person, Prog på Svenska is about as good a live recording and performance as I’ve ever heard on disc. I certainly am jealous of the Japanese fans who got to see them three nights in a row last year.The live-set on this album shows a balanced representation of the old and the new, featuring two tracks from each studio release along with an unreleased intro track which I assume (and hope) will be on Änglagård’s next studio production. So that the anticipation doesn’t kill anyone, I’ll start right off with the new song: ”Introvertus Fugu Part 1.” Perhaps the first thing to know about this track is that it’s our first look into the composition of the new band featuring Linus Kåse and Erik Hammarström alongside Anna, Johan, and Tord. I can happily say that “Introvertus” shows a band that knows how to move forward without abandoning the distinctive identity that they are known for, a fact that strongly hints at a powerful album to come in the future. The opening moments of the song show the band increasingly incorporating elements of modern classical and atonal music through the delicately dark chord changes on the piano before constructing a wave of tension with ambient bass noise, a distinctive guitar motif,  and a descending melody on flute playing against tuned percussion. As the ambient textures continue to swell, a big percussive crash shockingly interjects, setting the stage for an ominous swelling of Mellotron chords, resulting in an eerily delightful sound. The intensity continues to build with a drum roll on snare and cymbals that transition the piece into an aggressive angular instrumental attack featuring howling Minimoog modulation; enter a fiercely dark melody which is doubled or harmonized on most instruments before the band takes the listener into their signature dose of woodsy folkiness. Johan and Linus continue pounding in the rhythm section before the eerie central motif returns to bring “Introvertus” towards its close with the full force of Anna and Linus’ dueling woodwinds, one hanging on the melody while the other produces chaotic squeals before withering off the melody in a very unsettling (but cool) way.After kicking it off with an exciting intro the band takes us back 20 years with “Hostsejd.” The rich dynamics, especially the meticulously controlled Mellotron swells, really shine on this one while some small differences in instrumentation (such as the sax on the first main melody instead of flute) really keep the piece fresh and exciting. Although I was craving the intro on the follow up track, “Längtans Klocka,” the supreme level of interplay between all instruments that starts off the piece is fantastic. Furthermore, the guitar/Mellotron duet at about 6:30 that leads into a memorable theme is quite the highlight. Finally, the circus-y melody towards the end of the song somehow becomes even more diabolic in this slightly stripped down version as Tord’s demented waltzy riff serves as a perfect backdrop for the drunken saxes. Speaking of Tord, it certainly is nice to see him back in the band, and I must add that his guitar playing and sense of emotion is perfect for the band and has improved over the years. This is perhaps most clearly demonstrated on “Jordrök,” a quintessential song in Änglagård’s catalog. The reality of the matter is that despite the fact that the band was quite mature at the time of Hybris‘ release, their capacity to bring out all the nuances in pieces like this shows that they are musicians who have truly refined their craft over the years. “Jordrök” sounds more alive than ever; the Mellotron flute section in the middle, one of the band’s absolute trademark melodies, is to die for, and Linus’ superb use of phrasing and pacing in the piano intro certainly takes this classic piece up several notches.Moving deeper into the performance we see “Sorgmantel,” one of my personal favorites from Viljans Öga. The first thing I noticed about this particular performance is that the intro sounds much more raw due to differences in instrumentation, this version starting out with a guitar and bass call and response. While I absolutely adore the studio version, this new arrangement and performance was also wonderful and brought its own set of advantages to the table. First, the bass/guitar duet at the beginning really exposes the melody and shows you that its not just about fancy instrumentation, it’s a gorgeous melody through and through. Second, the band is not concerned in the least bit with rushing through the performance of this piece; the pacing is delicate, precise, and emotional with plenty of space for ritard and sway as the intro melody gets passed around from guitar to bass and flute and is then countered by the piano, making the fugue-nature of this piece even more evident. The playing is incredibly tight but busting with dynamic throughout as “Sorgmantel” takes its many twists and turns before working its way to a quiet ending; graceful… even breathtaking.To wrap up the night, Änglagård once again goes back to the early 90′s, this time with “Kung Bore” and “Sista Somrar.” Although the former leans more on the folky side of the band, as does much of their first album, the highlight of the piece actually ended up being the mysterious and ambient middle section where the band shows that they have mastered perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of music: playing quietly with vibrant emotion. Between the light swells of guitar, weird effects on bass, a steady organ pattern in the upper register, and a lightly beating drum, this section goes beyond merely doing justice to the original. Finally, the depth and emotion of “Sista Somrar’s” slow, dark intro is, quite frankly, deadly, and goes miles deeper than the original studio recording (which was in and of itself very impressive) as an ominous sax melody flanked by stormy percussion and effects guides us to the unleashing of an uncanny tron female solo voice that will haunt your nightmares for weeks to come.In my opinion, Prog på Svenska—Live in Japan is an essential live album that you don’t want to miss out on. Quite honestly, I am a person who rarely enjoys live albums because oftentimes the performances and production are either significantly worse than the studio recording, or the live version ends up being stripped down to the point where there’s just something missing, or the band simply doesn’t offer an experience which is significant enough to enjoy the live version deeply; in most cases you sort of ‘had to have been there’ to get what’s so great about it. Such is not the case with Änglagård’s latest live documentation. From the performances to the production and the differences in detail from the originals, Prog på Svenska is a stellar capturing of live art through and through. And of course, I might add that if you ever get the chance to see Änglagård perform, take the opportunity; if your significant other isn’t a prog fan, take them anyways. Änglagård’s extreme level of delicacy in phrasing and dynamic is a tough match to beat in progressive music and should hold up even in the face of the snootiest of music connoisseurs." - Progulator
    $25.00
  • "Mandragora Scream is without question one of the most prominent groups on the contemporary gothic rock/dark wave scene. Their amazing releases include all the best elements of the genre, resulting in unforgettable musical experiences that touch the deepest parts of the soul. With this exclusive re-issue of “A Whisper Of Dew” you will find yourself in a world of infinite beauty, clothed in joy, sorrow and melancholy… In 2002 the band returned with their second full-length album, entitled “A Whisper Of Dew”. This time Morgan’s lyrics were inspired by a vampire story written by Julio Angel Olivares Merino, a Spanish horror-gothic literature writer and philosophy teacher at the Universidad De Jaen. Adding more dark-wave elements to their music, Mandragora Scream managed to strengthen the gloomy atmosphere that was present on their debut and make it even more disturbing on “A Whisper Of Dew”. Perhaps the two most intriguing tracks on this album are “Close Every Door” and “Crow’s Love”, both written in an opera-like manner. Other highlights include “Silent Lullabies” (by some critics compared to Enigma!) and “A Vision They Shared”. Reviewers tried to put the band in the same category with Epica, Within Temptation and Lacuna Coil, but most of them quickly realized how original the group’s music really is. The success of “A Whisper Of Dew” was crowned with an European tour alongside Mortiis. New digipak edition, limited to numerated 2000 copies, digitally remastered using 24-Bit process on golden disc"
    $16.00
  • "The Roaring Wolves are back… On a strong wake of a surprising and a triumphal album in 2011, that was much simply called “Wolfpakk”, the turbulent duo of vocalists comprised of Mark Sweeney (ex-CRYSTAL BALL) and Michael Voss (MAD MAX/MSG / ex-CASANOVA) unleash the successor, named "Cry Wolf" , and again the choral all-star project shift is the trick to give a marketing format for this burning platter, by gathering a pack of many high-class guest musicians and a few full blooded terrific barking voices to produce another raving record in the same musical vein as the great and self-titled debut.Running and undaunted Guests on "Cry Wolf" are :Vocals: Amanda Somerville (AVANTASIA), Ralf Scheepers (PRIMAL FEAR / ex-GAMMA RAY), Göran Edman (ex-RISING FORCE / ex-GLORY), Johnny Gioeli (A.R.P. / HARDLINE), Tony Mills (ex-SHY/ ex-SIAM / ex-TNT), Doogie White (ex-RAINBOW / ex-RISING FORCE / ex-CORNERSTONE / MSG), Blaze Baley (ex-IRON MAIDEN / WOLFSBANE), Piet Sielck (IRON SAVIOR / ex-SAVAGE CIRCUS).Guitars: Kee Marcello (ex-EUROPE / ex-EASY ACTION), Mandy Meyer (UNISONIC / KROKUS / ex-GOTTHARD / ex-COBRA), Roland Grapow (MASTERPLAN / ex-HELLOWEEN).Keys: Don Airey (ex-OZZY / DEEP PURPLE), Tony Carey (ex-RAINBOW).Drums: Brian Tichy (SUN / ex-WHITESNAKE), Hermann Rarebell (ex-SCORPIONS), Roland Jahoda (ex-PARADOX / F.U.C.K.)Under the leitmotiv of “if isn’t broken don’t fix it”, the Duet of Alpha Wolves and the fantastic AFM Records are teamed again in order to reedit the successful experience in giving the full and wild creative responsibility to the werewolf duet: the champions of Melodic Metal -Mister Sweeney and Doctor Voss.They wrote all the songs together (minus one surprise cover version from RAINBOW “Run With The Wolf” featuring the participation of the iconic keyboard player Tony Carey) and they were also in charge once again, for production and mixing duty, and of course they performed some ferocious vocals. This is a work of art tremendously and carefully polished that put some lights in a brilliant manner to the songwriting talent of the savage binomial Voss / Sweeney.The highlights of the albums are , the beginning track "Moonlight” with Ralf Scheepers who provide a very typical high flux of screaming and yelling, embellished by a fast pace and an epic dimension somewhere between HEAVENS GATE and MIND ODYSSEY with a little something from GAMMA RAY.In the same melodic power frenzy, the solid "A Matter of Time" that sounds like VICTORY meets BONFIRE, boosted by a share of battling vocals between Sweeney and Johnny Gioeli with an uplifting performance, courtesy of Mr. Brian Tichy beating his drum kit."Palace of Gold" reveals a new heaviness and a dark density before transforming in a more pompous style than usual with the participation to the voice of Tony Mills and a massive multi-layer backing vocal section choir, like a symphonic version of DIO merged with a delicate and fragile Prog Rock melody.Another fast double kick power number is "Beast In Me" with the always classy singing of Goran Edman, recalling that he was the singer for RISING FORCE / SPACE ODYSSEY / STRATOSPHERE and for 1999’s third album “The Last Viking” by The JOHANSSON BROTHERS and a true Neoclassical expertise demonstration in the lead spot provided by Roland Grapow.Then it's time for a real entertaining Teutonic Metal with an Hard Rock touch cut named "Pressure Down" with the very distinctive voice of Doogie White which is highlighted in a mid tempo heavy rhythm , and a strong sing along headbanging refrain with a great gang backing vocal unit, like ACCEPT meets SINNER with an extensive ad lib howling final.The rest of the tracklisting is also enjoyable mixing a few gimmick True Metal tracks as a simple sing along hymn as "Wakken" in the HAMMERFALL / IRON  SAVIOR / RUNNIG WILD and obliviously ACCEPT's fashion (…"bang your head…Metal attack"…)  or the less catchy but energetic, epic, tortuous and poignant title track "Cry Wolf" that extend to ten minutes with atmospheric sequence, special FX surreal sounds like wind and rain plus a few narrative parts in with a very surprising vocal interpretation of Blaze Bayley and a ultra-fast shredding piece of lead guitar signed by the one and the only, the other Swedish maestro Mr. Kee Marcello himself for a big fat guitar lesson and a serious beating .Before that we had a ballad with Mrs. Somerville but I think it's just a flat and ordinary number, very caricaturish, in a not really inspired style, before that it was the moment for the WOLFPAKK's leaders to be left alone in the vocal department at least, Voss / Sweeney are dueling in the single, a quite regular Euro Metal cut under the moniker of "Dark Revelation"…Not my favorite.The cover version of a legendary classic rock track, is as always, a double edged sword but secured with the approval and the additional playing of the early RAINBOW's keyboardist Tony Carey, to keep it in the right path, in this case "Run With The Wolf" is a good revision lightened in its rhythmic cadence structure as a result we have a more pompous rendition, with obviously the Hammond keyboards quite upfront.Finally, the album is the perfect sequel of the highly acclaimed debut; this sophomore episode fulfilled the dangerous task, with maybe a less impressive guest list but with a real focus on bringing back, proudly and under one united flag, the old nature of the pure roaring Euro-Metal mania." - Metal Temple
    $15.00
  • "Right from the start I was impressed with the debut from this Roman Power/Prog Metal quintet, Noveria. Even just inspecting the artwork, which was created by none other than Simone Bertozzi, sparked my immediate interest. The bands sound instantly reminded me of Nevermore. The guitar work churned out by Francesco Mattei is very Loomis’-esque; super heavy chugging guitar, bordering almost death metal riffage (again ala Loomis) carries the songs into interesting territory.I anxiously awaited the vocals to enter not knowing if I’d be hearing Warrel Dane stylings or a more raspy approach ala Arch Enemy based on the riffage alone. Once Frank Corigliano‘s vocals finally entered it all made sense. Corigliano has more of a traditional power metal alarm clock vocal, but not overly zealous where it becomes comical. Frank’s vocals remind me very much of Jonny Lindkvist of Swedish Power Metal band, Nocturnal Rites (whom I am a fan of).Everything is very solid here, big heavy fast pace riffage, locomotive drumming, fanciful keys, and a booming vocal that complete this Roman outfit. While nothing super stands out, it is a release I definitely want to give more listens to see what else I can pick from. I also don’t mean to downplay the technical abilities of this band, they can all play…well! The unfortunate thing is t’s just all been done before. This release upon first listen is Nevermore with Jonny Lindkvist on vocals. This is not a bad thing, but it’s not necessarily flattering either. Fans of these bands will completely dig on Noveria. I hope to hear more from them in the future to see if Noveria expand upon the ideas from Risen and make it their own." - All About The Rock
    $15.00
  • Like Uriah Heep?  Deep Purple?  What about Black Bonzo?  Yeah???  Well we've got a band for you.  Tarot are a trio from Australia.  Using the pseudonyms of The Hermit, The Hierophant, and The Magician they whip up some awesome retro-hard rock/proto prog that will make you think you are listening to some recently unearthed archival album from 1972.  Heavy swirls of Hammond organ and analogue synths abound underpinning the old school guitar solos.  Is that a real 'tron?  No clue but it sounds close enough for me!!This CD is actually a compilation that pools together the bands previous cassette releases and adds on 2 new tracks.The spirit of Jon Lord wafts through the aether as you listen to this one.  Its got the vibe through out.  If they would have just added some flute I think they would have sent me over the edge but as is its a non-stop killer that pushes all the right buttons.  BUY OR DIE!"Here's a very intriguing release brought to us by Australian label Heavy Chains Records, the latest from psych/prog/hard rock act Tarot (not to be confused with the veteran Finnish metal band of the same name). The Warrior's Spell contains songs from various 2014 cassette & compilation releases and brings them all together on one CD. Tarot are comprised of The Hermit (guitar, organ, synths, vocals), The Hierophant (bass), and The Magician (drums)...not household names by any means, but their music is just as mysterious as their stage names. "The Watcher's Dream" and "Twilight Fortress" offer swirling, '70s styled prog rock keyboards, effects laden vocals, and heavy rock guitars, and the nightmarish "The Wasp" gives the listener a heavy dose of occult rock mixed with some serious Deep Purple & Uriah Heep influences. You'll hear some vintage Wishbone Ash on the soaring "Eyes in the Sky" as well as the title track, two majestic rockers with plenty of searing lead guitar, Hammond organ, acoustic guitar, and emotional vocals. Other highlights include the heavy "Street Lamps Calling", complete with irresistible harmony guitar work, the gritty blues/prog rocker "Mystic Cavern" (which could have been a leftover from Deep Purple's Machine Head), the evil sounding "Dying Daze", the lumbering psych/doom that is "Life and Death", and the dark yet groove laden "Vagrant Hunter".To be honest, there's not a weak track to be found here on The Warrior's Spell, an album full of surprises and more than a healthy nod to classic sounds of the '70s. Though a name change would probably be recommended to differentiate themselves from Finland's Tarot, either way this is a serious band with some serious talent, and this new release is going to get some major time in my CD player for the foreseeable future. Highly recommended, and a band to keep your eye on." - Sea Of Tranquility 
    $10.00
  • "The Electric Goddess is a powerful all-instrumental CD drenched in Borislav s soulful guitar work, played against a thundering hard rock soundtrack."
    $15.00
  • Second (or first - they are interchangeable) half of the simultaneous release from this Argentinian prog rock band.  "The Facts" might differentiate itself slightly from "The Tales" in that there seems to be a bit more of a crunch factor in the guitarwork but overall this is still symphonic rock.  Pretty damn good too!  Guesting on this album is the great Damian Wilson on vocals.
    $13.00
  • "Death.Taxes.Ozric Tentacles.Since 1984 this loose collective have been releasing reliably great music from the mind of leader Ed Wynne. Their margin of error is enviably tiny – there is no such thing as a bad Ozrics album. Sure, some are better than others, but the body of work is as inescapably consistent as mortality and societal contributions. Technicians of the Sacred is their fifteenth studio album, second double album and the first release in this format since Erpland in 1990. It is also one of the best they have ever recorded.The blend of electronica and inner-space rock is instantly recognisable with ‘The High Pass’. World music and gently undulating synths take their time to ease us back into the required frame of cosmic consciousness. It takes almost 6 minutes for the secret weapon, Wynne’s signature lysergic lead guitar, to be deployed and that is the modus operandi of the whole album – nothing is rushed, each track unfolds lotus-like.‘Changa Masala’ distils all the band’s ingredients into a spicy side-dish. Sequencers, vocal samples and a reggae skank provide the base while acoustic guitar rips like a John McLaughlin solo, interjecting a nod to their past, a musical in-joke for the fans, which I won’t spoil for those who haven’t yet heard it.The Steve Hillage (Gong, System 7 and sometime Ozrics collaborator) influence is foregrounded in the first disc’s closer, ‘Switchback’. Tap-delay guitar slithers over a web of ambient keyboard washes. Portamento bass notes slide and glide their way through the patchouli-scented psychedelic haze.f the first disc was an aromatic treat, then the second is manna. ‘Epiphlioy’ recalls the classic ‘Saucers’. Its serpentine twelve-string acoustic riffs employ Eastern modes to evoke a scene that is paradoxically earthy and otherworldly. Staccato strings conjure Kashmir while a celestial orchestra of whooshing keyboard pads threatens to levitate us into the stratosphere and beyond. We are back in the bizarre bazaar, folks. Brandi Wynne pins down the ethereal mix with a heavy dub bassline. The track changes constantly. This is the most compositionally complex music the band has ever produced.While there are references to Ozric history and a more organic feel similar to early classics with the occasional use of non-electric instruments and ethnic voices, the album as a whole is a step forward. The painstakingly crafted symbiosis of synthesised sounds and rock instrumentation, coupled with a slick production, lend Technicians of the Sacred a holistic integrity not heard since Jurassic Shift (which incidentally entered the UK charts at a very respectable number 11 in 1993). The whole gels together and flows with the multi-layered sophistication of a symphony while retaining some of the jam-band aesthetic of the free festival days.‘Smiling Potion’ features interlocking sequences even Tangerine Dream would be proud of and a tribal metronome-sense beat straight out of Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack for The Last Temptation of Christ.As ‘Rubbing Shoulders With The Absolute’ throbs along on a blissed-out dub rhythm artificially generated voices ensure the weirdness meter is kept firmly in the red.Hungarian drummer Balázs Szende makes his first studio appearance and throughout the album he proves to be a superb addition to the group, whether approximating the tight programmed style of The Hidden Step era or, as on the closing track, ‘Zenlike Creature’, tackling elusive prog time signatures with ease and finesse. As Ed Wynne winds up a solo worthy of fusion maestros Mahavishnu Orchestra he introduces a shimmering Hillage-esque repeating motif that stays in the mind long after the music has stopped.Technicians of the Sacred, for all its dynamic shifts and intricacies, is a very chilled-out release, one for relaxing to and for transportation to the other, wherever that may be. There are no jarring wig-out rock guitar hero sections or all-out sonic attacks like ‘The Throbbe’. Rather this is Ozric Tentacles’ most cohesive and accomplished effort in almost 20 years and a highlight of a long and peerless career." - Echoes And Dust
    $13.00
  • "With 1985's Metal Heart, German metal institution Accept attempted to add catchier choruses and melodies to their high-octane guitar riffing in a clear ploy to crack the American market. Not that this move in any way upset the balance of their thus-far smooth-running metal machine, which had been gaining momentum with every release since the start of the decade. No, Metal Heart was certainly a step toward accessibility, but a cautious one at that -- and, frankly, there was no toning down when it came to the lacerated larynx of gifted lead screamer Udo Dirkschneider. You gotta hand it to Accept, they sure knew how to make an entrance by now, and the apocalyptic title track is about as dramatic as it gets (the operatic "Bound to Fail" comes close), with guitarist Wolf Hoffman taking the helm on a long, mid-song solo excursion containing equal nods to Beethoven (very nice) and Edward Van Halen (get real). First single "Midnight Mover" is next, and along with the even more melodic "Screaming for a Love-Bite," it places obvious emphasis on hooks and melodies (and proved to be the toughest to stomach for the band's more hardcore fans). But despite another strange detour into jazz territory with the bizarre "Teach Us to Survive," Accept still packed amazing power, heaping on their Teutonic background vocals for the ultraheavy "Dogs on Leads" and gleefully pile-driving their way through relentless moshers like "Up to the Limit" and "Wrong Is Right." The brilliantly over-the-top "Too High to Get It Right" finds Dirkschneider screeching like never before, and to cap things off, the band really cooks on "Living for Tonight" -- arguably the best track all around. A winning set." - Allmusic Guide
    $5.00
  • "The vast riches lying within the reach of Google have included a lot of bands I’ve discovered by typing long strings of words bookended by “metal” in an effort to root out underground music of varying sub-genres that I might enjoy. Forum posts often proved most fruitful, those splendid user-generated gifts of musical knowledge. One particular band I heard mentioned glowingly a few years back via a forum post was Serdce.They are a Minsk-based group and one whose 2004 album, Cyberly, was being billed as an unknown classic. I take comments like that with a pound of fucking salt. Yet it turned out to be true. So it gave me much pleasure that Blood Music worked with Islander here at NCS to premiere music from Serdce’s soon-to-be-released record, Timelessness. It was doubly nice that Heavy Blog Is Heavy began to post about them as well with yet another song premierel, because Serdce are a quirky progressive death metal band worth checking out — and worthy of that tag.I admit to feeling jarred when I first heard this album. It’s a big shift from their last record, 2009’s The Alchemy Of Harmony, a record I worship and regard as a masterpiece, although the changes make sense because they’ve been expanding toward a more prog-metal-focused sound with each release. As this was always a big part of their style, the shift away from calculating, mid-paced death metal into lighter Cynic-focused realms works phenomenally well. And it’s not as confined or as prog-by-numbers as you might think.he fusion side of this record isn’t a minor flirtation, like most of your average jazz-inflected metal dubbed progressive. In reality, it makes up the majority of the album’s sound and journey — and it’s a dense and dream-decorated journey at that. While the style on display in Timelessness is brilliant and multi-faceted to these ears, it may not be aggressive enough for the tastes of some people. For those in that camp, I urge you to examine their prior albums.That observation is not intended as an indictment or an implication that this new album is not as good as their past work — to the contrary, I would venture to say this is Serdce’s most eclectic and strongest album yet. I merely mean to say that it’s of a more airy and progressive nature and that not all metalheads may be open-minded enough to appreciate it.Serdce have been creating Meshuggah groove-gliding influenced death metal long before most of the pack who followed that lead, and they continue to do it better than most. But for those who are groove-averse, that’s far from the totality of what they have to offer. Throughout Timelessness you will hear a lot of piano playing and orchestral/carnival-esque synths, and in addition, the vocals are primarily sung this time around. Overall, the strong Cynic-vibe of the record comes not only from the riffing and fusion elements; the effusive, prominent, and exploratory bass playing brings that comparison to mind as well.Huge artistic shifts in a band’s sound remain a double-edged sword, usually causing long-time fans to quarrel for and against such transformations in equal measure. Serdce have skillfully navigated these tricky waters and come out the other side a totally different, yet no less intriguing group. Timelessness doesn’t last forever, yet it contains innumerable timelessly memorable moments within its titanic, fluid, multi-part songs. Jump on the bandwagon or crawl in the dust – Timelessness will find an interested and eager audience either way — though I urge you to give it a chance and get on board." - No Clean Singing
    $16.00
  • "The somber black and white cover could have been a knowing allusion to Meet the Beatles!, but it's really a signal that Van Halen is playing it for keeps on OU812, their second record with Sammy Hagar. Indeed, the striking thing about OU812 is that all its humor is distilled into a silly punny title, because even the party tunes here -- and there are many -- are performed with a dogged, determined vibe. When David Lee Roth fronted the band, almost everything that Van Halen did seemed easy -- as big, boisterous, and raucous as an actual party -- but Van Hagar makes good times seem like tough work here. Apart from a few cuts -- the countryish hook on "Finish What Ya Started," the slow, bluesy strut "Black and Blue" -- the riffs are complicated, not catchy, the rhythms plod, they don't rock, and Sammy strains to inject some good times by singing too hard. It gives OU812 a bit of a dour feel, not entirely dissimilar to Fair Warning, but unlike that early unheralded gem, this isn't a descent into darkness; it's merely a very inward rock record, as Eddie Van Halen pushes the band toward interesting musical territory. Often, this takes the form of jazzy chord changes or harmonies -- most evidently on the sleek opener, "Mine All Mine," but also on the otherwise metallic boogie "Source of Infection" -- but there's also "Cabo Wabo," the longest jam they've laid down on record to date, and a cover of Little Feat's "A Apolitical Blues" (which could have been a salute to producer Ted Templeman's early glories as much as a chance to do some down-n-dirty blues rock). Of course, there's also a pair of power ballads here, both poppier than the ones on 5150 -- "When It's Love" is pure balladry, "Feels So Good" rides along on a gurgling synth -- but really, they're red herrings on a record that's the hardest, darkest rock Van Halen has made since Fair Warning. And if it isn't as good as that record (even if it's nearly not as much fun), it's nevertheless the best showcase of the instrumental abilities of Van Hagar." - Allmusic Guide
    $5.00