Etikettarkiv: Epica

Amberian Dawn – Circus Black (2012)

For one reason or another (or perhaps for no reason at all), I have missed out completely on music for a while. No good. Until this weekend I hadn’t heard Nightwish’ new ”The Crow, the Owl and the Dove” single with the previously unreleased ”The Heart Asks Pleasure First” b-track (cover of the theme song of the awesome film ”The Piano”), and I have yet to hear the new albums of both Epica, Eluveitie and Amberian Dawn. I suck, I know.

After going through Nightwish (which wasn’t a big surprise since I had heard a crappy live version recording before, but it’s nice to have it in good quality along with the lyrics and an instrumental version), I come to Amberian Dawn.

Last time AD released an album, ”End of Eden” in 2010, I was a huge fan after ”River of Tuoni” (2008) and ”The Clouds of Northland Thunder” (2009), and the result was me waiting like crazy for the release date, going through the forums day and night, staying home from school and waiting for the CD to land in the mail. The CD was awesome, and I wrote an extensive review of it immediately.

When the new ”Circus Black” comes, all is different. I know it’s been out for ages, yet I somehow haven’t bothered. I want to set aside time for it, I want to listen it through carefully and then go all fanboy-y on the internetz for a few days. I simply haven’t had the time.

Now is the time.

Here comes the mega awesome super cool extra turbulent Aki review of ”Circus Black”, written as I listen, with my very first impressions. Hell, I have yet to start it now, and I’m shaking… and it’s not just the coffee in front of me. Let’s go.

[Edit: I listen to a download version, as I can’t wait for my CD to arrive (in a couple days!). I therefore managed to screw up and missed ”Cold Kiss” and ”Guardian” at first, realising the mistake after reviewing ”Letter”. That’s why I complain about no song being over five minutes at one point. The ”Cold Kiss” review was thus done out of order and added afterwards.]

 

1. Circus Black (03:48)

I dislike starting with title tracks. It feels weird. The title track should be an intro of sort – not necessarily a short atmospheric intro, but some sort of kickstarter. Not the main song, as the title track tends to be. Oh well, let’s judge the music and not the title.

Starts with a creepy but cool sound, fits with the circus theme. The metal drums kicks in alongside the background sounds. Heidi sounds great as always, dulls the track down a tad. To nitpick, the chorus sounds like it comes to early, I wanted a longer pre-chorus section. Good vocal lines though, and still great background instruments. Good unexpected drum line before the second chorus. I don’t really listen to the lyrics first time around, but I’m sure there’s some awesome story somewhere.

Unusually interesting bridge section for AD, with good guitar lines and a quick yet suiting solo. Slows down in a good way, this is probably great live. Again, I think the chorus returns too early.

 

2. Cold Kiss (03:30)

Cool beginning! Melodic yet fast, classic AD. Nice whisper effects, but I’m a sucker for even the simplest background stuff. Timo Kotipelto’s guest vocals work great, I was worried if they would feel strange against Heidi’s but they sound excellent without taking over too much or feeling out of place. Nice riffing and cool keyboard solo. Overall a nice song, the riffing was indeed cool, and it feels like one that will grow on me.

 

3. Crimson Flower (04:24)

It looks weird to have three titles beginning with C in a row. Oh well. [written after realising the existence of ”Cold Kiss”: hey, four C’s!]

Good start, doesn’t really sound like AD but it’s good to vary. The vocal lines come in beautifully. Hard not to head bang, great mixture of exciting heavy metal and simply beautiful vocals. Unusually slow a tempo, but that’s what I’ve been looking for in AD for a while.

Wow, interesting turn after the chorus, slowing down completely. Great fairy tale-like theme in the music. The choirs complement Heidi’s vocals elegantly. I like how the tracks so far have had fairly lengty bridge sections, and with a cool solo in this one. That’s something I’ve hoped for in a while. The songs seem overall longer too, at over four allover, lenghtier than the previous ones (though I’m sad to see no five or six minutes tracks like on ”End of Eden”).

Epic finale!

 

4. Charnel’s Ball (04:27)

Another slow intro? Hm, alright. Exciting start with cool tempo and good guitar-bass-drum-combo. Feels a tad weird with another mid-to-slow-tempo after ”Crimson Flower”, but it might still turn. Oh, the intro turns into chorus (or chorus-like section)? Cool, it worked better than I’d imagine. The bass lines in the second verse are unusually imaginative and cool without disturbing Heidi’s vocal lines, I’d like to see more of that in the future.

The guitars and bass really kick in for the second chorus, it works truly epically. Again, this is probably really cool live. Cool drum solo line before the third chorus.

 

5. Fight (03:20)

I’m constantly paranoid about song titles and how they work in an album listing, which I know almost no-one else cares about, but still: I am truly disturbed by ideas such as having the three first track share the same progenital letter (C), and having two one-word tracks in the middle (”Fight” and ”Letter”) and two much longer titles close to the end (”I Share With You This Dream” and ”Rivalry Between Good and Evil”). I know no-one else cares, but IT FREAKS ME OUT. Please send this on to Who Gives a Shit Inc., Penny Lane 156, Switzerland.

Judging by the intro, the title and the length this seems to be one of the speedier ones. Yep, confirmed. ”River of Tuoni” flashback! This would probably have fit better right at the start, not as a wake up call after ”Charnel’s Ball”. I need either a cool atmospheric intro (read ”Of Silence…” by Sonata Arctica) or a kick-in-the-butt super power track to start an album.

Surprisingly kick-ass guitar solo, much heavier and much more… metallic than I’m used to see from AD. Might not work on every song, but this sort of thing should come around more often. ”Fight” certainly is a good title. I find myself drumming the keyboard with my fingers towards the end, awesome stuff. More of this live!

 

6. Letter (04:31)

Is this the quick-start section of the album, with both ”Fight” and ”Letter” starting with bass drums after the other three were much slower? Weird.

Interesting vocal section, and good pre-chorus section. Good tempo, I immediately start kicking with my feet. Good mix of slow and quick music, works organically as well as keeping it interesting and unexpected.

7. I Share With You This Dream (03:36)

Starts with a nice guitar melody and fitting riffing in the background, a tad sudden in my taste but at least it’s radio friendly. I have forgotten who’s doing guest vocals, but it feels like it works fine. I just hope Heidi comes in more than just the background. Nice chorus, but a little expected and too little heavy for my taste. Speaking of which, there has yet to come a real ballad. Is it ”Guardian” or ”Lily of the Moon”? I guess the latter.

In the second chorus I find myself drifting. It’s not bad, but it’s getting a little boring, nothing new comes. An okay solo, but nothing special or unexpected. Maybe it will grow on me in the future. A third solo comes, identical to the other two, only with a slight difference in drum pattern. What? It ends? This didn’t really work for me, at least not on first listen.

 

8. Rivalry Between Good and Evil (04:00)

A little too revealing a title, don’t you think?

Starts out like a fun and melodic instrumental (as it is). AD are skilled musicians who work well without vocals as well as with, and it’s nice to have a track per album to let them show it without restraints. At 1:20 I start hoping for a tempo shift or a turn of melody, and shortly after the song quickens. The circus theme seems to show again, or mayhap it’s just my imagination running wild without lyrics. At 2:20 I start to think the melody is getting a little overused, and shortly after it changes. They seem to know exactly what I want on this one, except that it might linger a little too long on certain sections (prior to the 2:40 mark or so). I hope this goes excellently into ”Guardian”, it sounds like it might. Oops, it didn’t really, but great finale!

 

9. Guardian (05:08)

I always look forward to the longer tracks, not because they _have_ to be better than the rest, but because they often are. They often leave a little more time to get the music across than the shorter tracks. In AD’s history, a lot of the shorter tracks feel somewhat incomplete and rushed, where I would have preferred more time devoted to intros, pre-chorus sections and bridge sections. Their longer (4-6 minutes) tracks are usually more interesting than the shorter (2-3 minutes).

Sounds like I was wrong about ”Lily of the Moon” being the ballad, this one seems to be it. Then again AD has a tradition of making their ballads longer than the standard songs. Heidi’s voice surprises me, it’s almost been a tad dull on the rest of the album but this felt unique. Maybe just because it’s almost alone? The dual-voice in the end of verse one seemed a little too much, but the double choirs shortly after worked nicely.

The chorus is epic without losing tranquility to speed. Slowing down a little too much? Feels a little too much like ”Willow of Tears” in that sense. Nice slowing down to another choir section though, it feels natural before the guitar melody and the second chorus. Nice drum section at around 03:40 before the fitting guitar solo. The heavy riffing is nice and unique to an AD ballad, as is the general heavyness of the song.

 

10. Lily of the Moon (04:06)

Ah, sudden! But nice. Cool to have another quick one, they have been slightly abscent as compared to other albums (especially the first two). I overall enjoy more AD songs being mid-tempo on ”End of Eden” and ”Circus Black”, but it’s nice to keep with the classic speed too. Cool chorus, background riffing seems to be a theme on this album.

The chorus and the overall speed and melody suits excellently for a closing song in a way no previous AD finish has. I can only imagine it would work greatly as a finale live too. I find myself drumming on the table of excitement, this just might be a new favourite. Awesome!

Google och jag

Det är alltid kul att se hur högt bloggen ligger i googlesökningar. Nej, jag sitter inte och googlar själv, men de vanligaste sökningarna som tar folk hit kommer fram genom FireStats.

Sökningen ”instuderingsfrågor stormakten” ger plats två till mina instuderingsfrågor från att jag läste historia på gymnasiet, en tre år gammal artikel. Andra sökresultat är bland annat olika skolors information om prov, Wikipedias artikel om svensk litteratur, och lektion.se.

Sökningen ”bokanalys” är otroligt vag, men ger ändå plats fem till min relativt nya analys av ”Kina: den haltande kolossen”. Andra resultat är främst beskrivningar av hur bokanalys är upplagda, men även ett par andra faktiska bokanalyser.

Sökningen ”kattbjörn” ger plats sex till min artikel om djuret, utöver resultat som Nationalencyklopedin och Wikipedia. En av bilderna i artikeln är dessutom resultat två vid sökning på bilder.

Två bildsökningar som varit populära väldigt länge är på Simone Simons (sångaren i Epica) och Tuomas Holopainen (keyboardist i Nightwish). En sökning på ”simone simons hot” ger två bilder från min blogg på plats fyra respektive nio. Sökning på ”tuomas holopainen” ger en bild av honom på plats 22, samt en bild på Tarja Turunen (fråga mig inte varför) på plats tio.

Avantasia – The Wicked Symphony (2010)

I have loved the strange power metal project Avantasia since I first heard The Metal Opera Part II in 2007, and they were in fact the band that made me fall in love with concept albums (alongside Kamelot and their Epica / The Black Halo albums). I loved both two Metal Opera albums, and I loved The Scarecrow when released in 2008, even though I considered and still consider it to be below the Avantasia average of earlier albums.

The Wicked Symphony is the continuation of The Scarecrow, and it is followed by Angel of Babylon which was released simultaneously. I was afraid that The Wicked Symphony would fall below the average settled by The Scarecrow, especially when it came to the poppier tracks such as ”Carry Me Over”, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Out of The Wicked Symphony and Angel of Babylon, I place my vote on The Wicked Symphony. The album is covered with three giant epics (two of which follow eachother!) – the title track, ”Blizzard on a Broken Mirror” and ”Runaway Train” – and the latter two are easily in my top of favorite Avantasia tracks, alongside beauties such as ”The Scarecrow”, ”The Seven Angels” and ”Journey to Arcadia”. Even though ”Dying For an Angel” sound like an Bon Jovi meeting pop metal, it is rescued by the multiple heavy immediate power metal classics on the album, including ”Wastelands”, ”Forever is a Long Time” and ”States of Matter”, and ”Crestfallen” proves yet again that Avantasia easily can reach beyond traditional power metal.

The song that ends the album, ”The Edge”, is a strange song. I generally don’t like its ”kind”, if I may say so – loveydovey guitar ballads with a theme of hanging on when everything looks bleak. But this one is different. Maybe it’s different simply because I have my own personal interpretation of the Scarecrow saga and its story, and I can imagine what the song is really about. And if I am correct (don’t tell me if I’m not), it works phenomenally to end the album, and lead into The Angel of Babylon.

Sons of Seasons to release new album in April

German symphonic metal act Sons of Seasons, who debuted in 2009 with Gods of Vermin, has now announced the release of their second album Magnisphyricon on April 1, 2011.

Simone Simons of Epica reportedly lends her voice to the track Sanctuary.

Tracklist:

1. Magnisphyricon: Temperance
2. Bubonic Waltz
3. Soul Symmetry
4. Sanctuary
5. Casus Belli I: Guilt’s Mirror
6. Magnisphyricon: Adjustement
7. Into the Void
8. A Nightbird’s Gospel
9. Tales of Greed
10. Lilith
11. Casus Belli II: Necrologue to the Unborn
12. Magnisphyricon: The Aeon
13. 1413
14. Yesteryears

Amberian Dawn – End of Eden review

This review was first published on the official Amberian Dawn forum on October 21, 2010.

So I just downloaded the new Amberian Dawn album End of Eden (yes, I have preordered it, but it hasn’t come yet so I hope the band won’t mind me not waiting any longer), and I’m about to get my very first listen… And so I got the idea to record my primary listen experience in this thread, updating it as the album goes along. I’m currently just about to get a cup of coffee before finally pressing the play button on Talisman… so, wish me luck, and please comment!

Remember that this is my first listen, so don’t blame me all that much if I have the ”wrong” opinion all from the start. Some of the best albums out there (Kamelot’s ”Poetry For the Poisoned”, Epica’s ”Design Your Universe”, My Dying Bride’s ”34.788 %… Complete”, Tiamat’s ”Wildhoney”) are growers I didn’t like one bit on first listen.

Observe that I really don’t pay any attention to the lyrics on first listen, but I focus on the music (not to mention that they’re hard to distinguish in Heidi’s operatic vocals, and I don’t have them before me).

Let’s go.

1. Talisman (3:41)

Kicks off with an awesome intro – not really blast-off at all as on previous albums but slow and ghostly keyboards. It then moves into a nice verse and a chorus I really didn’t feel much from on first listen, but it grows on me on the second chorus. This track has some awesome guitar-keyboard play, especially the solo/instrumental before the last chorus, and it has an awesome neo-classical feel to it, as do the keyboard orchestrations in the chorus and the end of the track.

2. Come Now Follow (3:47)

An intro with piano-guitar work reminding me of Nightwish’ ”Gethsemane” (from 1998’s Oceanborn) with atmospheric vocals by Heidi. Moves into a really cool chorus that reminds a little of ”He Sleeps in a Grove” (in a good way). I’m a little disappointed with the solo leading directly into third chorus with no real bridge, as well as the outro not being longer – it builds up to an awesome riff there.

3. Arctica (4:59)

Ofcourse I’ve heard this track a million times before, seeing as it was released almost two months prior to the album, as its lead single. It has some awesome instrumental sections and Heidi sounds wonderful in the chorus. A great track with a wonderfully arctic feel – and I suppose that’s what they’re going for.

One third in…

Seeing as there’s little to comment on Arctica I’m taking a little break to talk on my thoughts so far. I’m actually a little disappointed to see that both Talisman and Come Now Follow are real ”hits” with nothing extremely interesting to bring. Sure, every album needs a few pure rock songs, but I still feel too many AD tracks miss that little extra spark, that awesome solo or wonderful bridge – instead, most solos are pretty ”ordinary” and most tracks have no bridge whatsoever. Arctica do have a wonderful instrumental section before the last chorus though, and so almost makes up for the lack of this in the previous two tracks. Those I look the most forward to next are Ghostly Echoes, Virvatulen Laulu.

4. Ghostly Echoes (5:43)

This song has a really awesome 40-second intro of partly those ghostly echoes promised, and partly some extraordinary heavy metal riffing. Moves into a nice verse moving into an epic chorus, very much relying on background keyboard moves and some up front guitar riffing. Reminds me of Incubus in its strange atmosphere. This would have made for a great music video, I feel two minutes in out of almost six…

This was one of the songs I was really looking forward to, partly for its length (I’m a sucker for epics) and partly for its title. Three minutes in I’m already satisfied, and now it’s moving into a cool post-chorus instrumental, followed by a ripping guitar solo followed by some face-melting keyboard battling and background choral movements (ghostly echoes!) – this… is… awesomeness. A vocal movement follows leading up to the final chorus. This track is somewhat gothy, with its slow, heavy guitars and its background keyboards and choirs, and what sounds like church organ by the end. In short, an awesome track.

5. Sampo (3:12)

Kicks off with a nice but not extraordinary intro, and leads into a pleasant vocal-lead chorus – probably the perfect semi-joyful, melodic track after a heavier one like Ghostly Echoes. I notice the use of background choir in both this one and Ghostly Echoes and realise I really enjoy it. …at 2:02 I stand in shock before the awesome instrumental – my complaint on lack of bridges, forget about it! This is great, and that for a song that’s just a little beyond three minutes in length… wow! Nice idea with such a sudden and great instrumental. I’m using ”great” a little too much, huh?

7. Field of Serpents (3:39)

There’s something awesome about this album and its varying atmospheres. This one starts out like the big escape theme in a Hollywood thriller, and goes on through a stressful verse into a scream-out chorus, with varying crazy keyboard and ripping guitar riffs. I can’t imagine anything but running through a Field of Serpents in this awesome chorus. The bass-drums increase works perfectly and brings on just the right feel.

Moving into a nice instrumental section (proved wrong again, what is this?! :D) I realise this is one of the tracks with keyboard battle. Awesome!

Two thirds in…

As the last keyboard notes of Field of Serpents echo out I take another break for commenting on my thoughts so far. In the last one I were complaining about the lack of surprise and the lack of bridges, that the two new tracks so far had been nice ”hits” but weren’t really that original. That definititely changed now, with the awesome epic Ghostly Echoes and the speedy-as-hell-what-is-going-on Field of Serpents, as well as the next ”hit” Sampo which turned out to have quite a wonderful instrumental bridge.

The next three tracks all seem very exciting. City of Destruction (I recalled it to be ”corruption”, I have to do a quick Google search) has a very interesting name indeed, and I recall it to be the second one with a feature from Jens Johansson? Virvatulen Laulu is the classical piece with an opera singer, and seeing as I am a sucker for both classical music and opera it doesn’t take that many geniuses to calculate that I probably will love it (not to mention that mr Seppälä has only done great classical compositions so far). War in Heaven is 7:24 and I guess it is in this one we’ll see a reappearance by our dear friend James Goodman, that’s appeared on both previous albums as well. Put that together with its wonderful title and well, I think I’m sold before it begins. edit: After a Google search I realise that the title was indeed ”City of Corruption”, not Destruction. Damned be that torrent file.

8. City of Corruption (4:19)

Starts off real epic and moves into an even more epic neo-classical movement before the vocals start after a minute. The vocal lines are really beautifully done, and already the verse is stuck in my mind. The chorus is purely enchanting as well, even though I had assumed this song to be a ”rocker” judging by its title. :)Amberian Dawn is definitely moving into a more neo-classical direction as previously hinted on tracks likeIncubus, and I definitely enjoy this.

The song moves into a keyboard battle that rocks my brains out – as I had recalled, this was the one. The guitar riff featured in the intro as well is really wonderful as well.

9. Virvatulen Laulu (3:45)

I immediately notice that while this song starts out really nice, it definitely doesn’t suite well straight after City of Corruption. That aside, it’s really pleasant, with nice voices by both Nieminen and Heidi, and some extraordinary orchestration in the background. A style that immediately reminds me of the old classics. Moves into a wonderful piano-keyboard outro. Tuomas is really doing a lot of work in this one! A track I won’t really think is coming live, but it would be awesome if it did. Though this one didn’t strike me to be that amazing first run, it wouldn’t surprise me to be a grower.

10. War in Heaven (7:24)

Pure epic right from the start, with nice choir and guitar-drum-bass work, and background keyboard notes. Heidi’s voice sounds wonderfully tormented (am I sadistic? yes I am) and moves into a beautiful chorus (?) with a wonderful rhythm I really need them to play live.

[2:16] Moving into a doomish guitar section with James Goodman’s beautiful screaming voice and some chaotic background keyboards… wow that’s hot. They should do more of this. [2:46] Back to Heidi’s calm, tormented verse. Slow drums and calm keyboards… moving into a chorus section again. ”God and his angel…”! Wonderful. Back to Goodman and the doom, moving into even cooler choral works and then slowing it down with some harpsichord moving into a scarily great keyboard-heavy instrumental leading into a guitar solo. [6:22] Goodman returns his part and repeats it with increasing drum action speeding up the tempo… background orchestration and keyboard sections returns and it all echoes out with a hauntingly epic harpsichord and church organ finishing it off… a perfect ending to this amazing album.

edit: I realised just now that 6. Blackbird wasn’t included among the files I downloaded… I fixed another download though, and I have to hurry now but I’ll comment on it later.

Kamelot – Poetry for the Poisoned review

Norwegian-American progressive power metal act Kamelot‘s 2010 album Poetry for the Poisoned is unlike anything they have ever released, and to some extent unlike anything anyone has ever released. It is an interesting joyride of traditional heavy metal hatered, emotions beyond music and and an experience hard to match nor describe, but let’s try.

The Great Pandemonium (4:23)

I was one of the few lucky ones to hear this one, Hunter’s Season and Thespian Drama on the spring 2010 Pandemonium Over Europe tour, and ofcourse I immediately found it to be a wonderful new track. The Great Pandemonium is interesting, being both one of Kamelot’s heaviest and catchiest songs, and that’s saying a lot. It brings on new inspirations and recalls old, bringing back growls from songs like March of Mephisto (fromThe Black Halo) and techno features that are getting more and more familiar on this album. The lyrics are top on this one, and it has a video that measure with some of the best ever produced.

If Tomorrow Came (3:56)

If Tomorrow Came is one of the album’s faster, catchier songs alongside Once Upon a Tale, but when acted out by Kamelot, even the catchiest song can’t turn away from metal. If Tomorrow Came is an in-your-face attack, a train of thought (getting there) that’s fast for the sake of being fast, and it works. It may not be a song that stays on the mind for long, but when it’s there it’s there, even for the mere moment

.

Dear Editor (1:19)

It’s not all too fair judging Dear Editor by itself as it is in fact an intro to The Zodiac, but I still will. For an intro, it is really interesting, managing to build up a heavier, spooky feel even after the race of If Tomorrow Came. The intro features the reading of a letter from the infamous Zodiac killer, which the next song is a long reference to, and not much more is needed. It works.

The Zodiac (4:01)

The Zodiac is clearly a new way Kamelot has never travelled before. Though its sinister, heavy feel is reminiscent of The Black Halo’s March of Mephisto, it is definitely not in the same vein. This is a portrait of a killer, and it is very well described. The notes travel between calm, ice-cold planning and sudden rage, before calming down again – the perfect idea of a homocidal psychopath.

Hunter’s Season (5:34)

Among the songs on the album, Hunter’s Season is probably the one which stays in the listeners’ mind best on first listen. It is both one of the speedier songs as well as one of the more emotional ones, immediately reminiscent of Finnish metal act Sonata Arctica‘s 2009 track The Last Amazing Grays. The song was written by guitarist Thomas Youngblood to the memory of his deseased mother, and the lyrics are some of Kamelot’s best.

House on a Hill (4:15)

Kamelot and ballads often go hand in hand, with golden tracks such as Sailorman’s Hymn, Abandoned and Wander, and House on a Hill is another one to add for future top lists. An emotional ballad with Epica’s Simone Simons, House on a Hill is a combination of beautiful music and wonderful lyrics. Though it is rather simplistic on first listen, allowing more casual listeners to enjoy it early, it is definitely a grower, alongside tracks such as the longer Poetry for the Poisoned. One complaint I have always had concerning Simons in Kamelot songs (such as The Haunting (Somewhere in Time) from ”The Black Halo”) is that she has never been given enough space, but her appearances on this album (this one as well as the title track) are much better, and the result is much better produced music.

Necropolis (4:18)

Necropolis is the first in a series of songs that felt extremely out of place on first listen, but this one especially is a real grower. A natural live track, it’s leading guitar alongside the technological editing of Khan’s voice hypnotises the listener, kidnapping along on a very interesting journey indeed.

My Train of Thoughts (4:07) & Seal of Woven Years (5:12)

My Train of Thoughts and Seal of Woven Years are the two of which I still have some extreme doubts. Both are really exciting songs, very different from anything Kamelot has ever done before, but they also pass by if you don’t pay attention. There is something about these two tracks that requires the listener to pay attention, maybe even just close his or her eyes and only listen to the music and lyrics and nothing else. But when you do, they are extremely interesting songs. And I don’t know if that is good or bad.

Poetry for the Poisoned I – IV

Let’s just take the splitting up thing first. This is the album’s big epic, and I should note immediately how I absolutely love it, but it is also divided into four tracks, for no apparant reason. It is seldom a good choice to divide a song up into sections, and one of the few times it is okay is when the songs can be played one by one and still enjoyed, but for example IV – Dissection can simply never be played on itself. Another reason would be if the tracks simply are so long it’s annoying (check Devil Doll‘s Dies Irae out). But on to the actual review.

The song starts out amazing with an atmospheric build in I – Incubus, and the lyrics are some of Kamelot’s finest works. The song however somehow works into a strange quotation on the being of the incubus, and while it doesn’t ruin it doesn’t help either – it could easily have been skipped or replaced and the song would have kept more of its atmosphere.

But most of the atmosphere is kept, and works wonderfully into II – So Long, with Simone Simons making another beautiful appearance. This is the other track that could be called a ballad on the album, and it works phenomenally. It is the longest part of the song, and it is perfect by that length, including a wonderful chorus, verses and a solo before moving into III – All is Over and IV – Dissection (I find great difficulty finding where one end and the other begin). These two have some phenomenal instrumental moments, as well as the beautiful Mozartian What if all is over? section. These parts definitely could have been longer, but they overall make it. While I at first listen thought the instrumental end of Dissection was anticlimactic, destroying what was built up in All is Over, but on additional listens it appears more and more aggressive and interesting, and while it stops quite suddenly it seems to be suiting this magnificent suite of tracks.

Once Upon a Time (3:46)

Someone described Once Upon a Time as ”if EdenEcho and Season’s End had a beautiful lovechild”, and it is true. Kamelot has always managed to find some light in the end of even the darkest story – on ”Epica” it’s Snow, on ”The Black Halo” Serenade and on ”Ghost Opera” EdenEcho – and I keep finding it harder and harder to match. But this one is a track with wonderful lyrics (I notice I keep praising the lyrics on this album), a catchy chorus and a shredding guitar solo. This is too much. This is the epitome of greatness. This is Kamelot.

Epica + Kells + ReVamp in Stockholm 26/9 2010 – concert review

Arriving at 16:00, three hours before the show, Stina and I considered ourselves pretty late, often waiting for at least four hours for most shows, but we also noticed the line being exceptionally short, with only five or so people before us (the gang just ahead of us had waited for two and a half additional hours, and the two before them were Dutch, presumably following the band around). As it turned out, the lines stayed pretty much the same, and when the show was just an hour away there were hardly fifty people in line, most of them die hard 21st century goth chics.

When the entrance open at 19:20 the line has grown somewhat, but hardly what I could have expected, and I and Stina easily make our way into the front line, the rest of the audience a mixture of symphmetalgoths and your traditional beer drinking vikings by the pub section (this is a club concert after all). As a club the audience is surely less enthusiastic and the special effects are less outstanding, but this also makes an intimate environment, perfect especially for the fans of less wellknown acts such asReVamp (and Kells I guess, but I didn’t see anyone coming for their sake).

Floor Jansen in ReVamp

ReVamp are the first to kick off, and they immediately fire the crowd up with their album intro Here’s My Hell, followed by a number of their faster tracks before the duet ballad Sweet Curse, in which lead singer Floor Jansen does both verses in comparison to the studio version (though backed up in the chorus). Still a very beautiful song, if not more beautiful, with Floor getting more part, especially as I’ve never been to fond of the almostLinkin Park-ish sound of the male verse. I’m also happy to see one of my favorites, Kill Me With Silence, and one of their biggest hits Million, with its Epica– and After Forever-like chorus that really got the crowd going before a both heavy and catchy finale with In Sickness ‘Till Death Do Us Part: Disgraced and Head Up High. I’m sure ReVamp garnered a new section of Swedish fans as well as pleased a number of old fans. I, who never got the chance to see After Forever (Jansen’s ex band, founded by Epica leader Mark Jansen) and never having seen ReVamp before (this being their first Sweden show in existence) was certainly pleased, being met with an even more powerful sound than the album, and a band that surely had experience on stage. Jansen has an amazing spirit in her vocals, and it seems to me that she’s really been reborn with this new band.

One of the guitarists in Kells

Kells was second on stage, and they were the only band I didn’t come for. I had never heard of this French semi-symphonic metal band before the announcement of the concert, and I missed to check them out on forehand. And while I loved every moment of both ReVamp and Epica, I’m sad to say that most of Kells music seemed all too general and boring to me. The fact that they sung on French, a language I only barely understand, means less than the fact that most songs had very basic structures, that there were no interesting guitar riffs whatsoever, and that the singer sounded like a drugged-up daughter of Avril Lavigne and Amy Lee, and her very confusing dance, seeming like a strange rip-off of Sharon den Adel, destroyed the few really good moments. If the band is reading this and wants a pointer from a miserable music geek, the concept The heavier the better really works on this band. I was honestly surprised in one of the earlier songs (possibly Ailleurs) when the band fell into some crazed-out punk metal growl, and the lead singer’s vocals suddenly turned extremely promising, even reminiscent of the angrier sections of ReVamp tracks such as Kill Me With Silence. Why not turn into some female-fronted punk metal act (and I certainly don’t mean that in a bad way)?

Simone Simons of Epica performing Tides of Time

Epica, the main attraction, kicked off beautifully with their latest album intro Samadhi ~ Prelude ~ and Resign To Surrender ~ A New Age Dawns – Part IV ~, which immediately got people going. I have always said that this is the perfect intro to both an album and a concert, and I continue believing so – not only does Samadhi build up wonderful hinting and suspense that is wonderfully brought down by the immediate action of Resign to Surrender, but the latter goes really far – about two minutes if I don’t missrecall – before lead singer Simone Simons joins on stage. And while the rest of the band is awesome, Simons is for many the one big attraction (sorry, boys). The setlist is quite phenomenal, mixing old and new songs – the constant live favorite Sensorium and Epica’s answer to UnOpened; the exotic and catchy Martyr of the Free Word; the beautiful piano balladTides of Time; the more folk metal track Quietus. The (original) setlist end with two of the band’s longer tracks, The Obsessive Devotion from The Divine Conspiracy and the title track Design Your Universe ~ A New Age Dawns – Part VI ~ off their latest album – both of which are some of my favorite Epica tracks. The band leave the stage and I start to wonder whether there will be any encores (this is after all a club playing) when the keyboardist returns to congratulate us for being a wonderful audience (in a way that actually sounded honest in comparison to most when the band doesn’t know where they are and won’t remember tomorrow). The band comes up on stage and runs a trio of songs, including another one of my favorite, their first song everCry for the Moon and the all-time fan classic Consign to Oblivion (or, well, Consign to Stockholm as they called it).

I leave happy, and Stina keeps telling me the whole way home how she can’t believe the concert, immediately marking the spot for her favorite ever.

But there’s more…
Members of both ReVamp and Kells stayed for signing merchandise, and Epica offered some really awesome shirts I wish I could have bought. With my poor economy I decided upon buying a ReVamp poster and I had it signed by Floor Jansen herself (after I couldn’t speak a word and she had to ask if I wanted her to sign it – possibly more nervous than meeting both Kamelot and Sonata Arctica.

Setlist ReVamp
1. Here’s My Hell
2. In Sickness ‘Till Death Do Us Part: All Goodbyes Are Said
3. Fast Forward
4. Sweet Curse
5. In Sickness ‘Till Death Do Us Part: Disdain
6. Kill Me With Silence
7. Million
8. In Sickness ‘Till Death Do Us Part: Disgraced
9. Head Up High

Setlist Kells
1. Réminiscences
2. Avant que tu
3. Ailleurs
4. Le Manége Déchanté
5. Mes Réves
6. Sans teint
7. L’Heure Que Le Temps
8. Korn
9. La sphère
10. Lueur

Setlist Epica
1. Samadhi ~ Prelude ~
2. Resign To Surrender ~ A New Age Dawns – Part IV ~
3. Sensorium
4. The Last Crusade
5. Unleashed
6. Martyr of the Free Word
7. Tides of Time
8. Quietus
9. The Obsessive Devotion
10. Design Your Universe ~ A New Age Dawns – Part VI ~
Encore 1. Cry for the Moon
Encore 2. Sancta Terra
Encore 3. Consign to Oblivion


The Golden Age of Symphonic Metal – Review of Epica's Design Your Universe (2009)

I was born in 1992, and if I could choose I wouldn’t change it for a second. Sure, I was only four when Therion released Theli, considered one of the earliest symphonic metal albums, and I was only six when Nightwish released Oceanborn in 1998, but I have lived to witness the release of many great albums since the mid-2000’s.

This is what I concider the golden age of symphonic metal. Right here, right now. It is a genre that develop well on its own as well as into other genres – Leaves’ Eyes blend it perfectly with folk music (Njord of 2009 for example) and Sonata Arctica earlier this fall released The Days of Grays which was the first album that really showed a mixture of power, prog and symphonic metal without one taking the overly control.

A certain cliff in the history of symphonic metal was released only a month ago… Epica‘s Design Your Universe is the album I will speak of today.

This phenomenal, epic, melodic, bombastic album kicks of with their best instrumental yet, the intro song Samadhi ~ Prelude ~, before entering Resign to Surrender ~ A New Age Dawns – part IV ~. DYU is the first album to continue the A New Age Dawns saga, first started on the 2005 album Consign to Oblivion. The first three parts told of the collapse of the Mayan civilization, and this 2009 release show the next three parts. To me, Resign to Surrender sounds like an amazing intro song, the perfect way to reawaken the saga in. It builds up perfectly, before finishing and leaving the scene for the next song (and the first video for the album), Unleashed. Unleashed is far from the best song of the album, but I understand they used it as a video. It is a real catchy song, and Simone sounds amazing in it. I can’t see why it’s their most popular on Last.fm, but still a great track.

The fourth song on the album is Martyr of the Free Word, and here I must speak my mind. Why, oh why, couldn’t this be the third song? I would much prefer it to be ahead of Unleashed, simply because Unleashed is a bit too grande and bombastic, whilst Martyr is more of a metal song. Resign to Surrender followed by Unleashed just doesn’t sound as good as followed by Martyr of the Free Word. This aside, it’s a really cool track, one of the more special on the album, with influences from oriental music in the vocal lines. Mark Jansen’s grunts right after the chorus really is an amazing part that does the song.

The next song is another more bombastic one – Our Destiny. I’m sad to say this is one of the weaker songs on the album, if I have to choose one. It is a great song, but compared to the rest of the album it’s kind of dull. The thing is that it’s too long… it’s only 6 minutes, not much to Epica standards, but I feel it’s a little too much. If it were to be cut down into at least 4:40, 5, it would be much higher in my ratings.

Kingdom of Heaven ~ A New Age Dawns – part V ~ is the fifth chapter of the A New Age Dawns saga, and the longest song on the album at 13:35. It is an awesome track, especially the first eight minutes, but it’s still a disappointment to me. Maybe I had too high hopes – before I heard it I saw an interview with Mark Jansen explaining how he had worked on the song for three years, and how he considered it their best by far. To me it’s pretty low on the list of top tracks on DYU, after the title track, Martyr of the Free Word, Burn to a Cinder, and Resign to Surrender. As with Our Destiny, maybe this song would be much better if it were to be cut down, maybe with as much as three or four minutes. Another remark is the spoken parts in the second half of the song… I don’t mind cheese, in fact I order a triple cheese sandwich listening to Stratovarius and Rhapsody of Fire, but these spoken parts really shift the song from epic to humorous, not a completely reparable damage I’m afraid.

After an epic song like Kingdom of Heaven, it’s often tough to hear another song right away. Many bands solve this problem with either putting an easier rock song right after (Nightwish‘s The Poet and the Pendulum was followed by Bye Bye Beautiful), or the epic song is the final track on the album. The dilemma here is how there are two epic songs, Kingdom of Heaven as well as the title track, which is put as the final song (a perfect choice, more of that later). So the choice was to have an interlude as the seventh track, entitled The Price of Freedom ~ Interlude ~, a clip of people speaking of the price of freedom being death and orchestral music in the background resembling of many horror pictures from the 1920’s.

The interlude leads elegantly into Burn to a Cinder, one of my favorites on the album. It is one of the more melodic songs, going back to the power metal territories of Consign to Oblivion and The Phantom Agony. The song ends with an epic moment leading into deep sorrow (”Why can’t I bleed with you?”) followed by the album’s first ballad, the moving Tides of Time.

To me, both Deconstruct and Semblance of Liberty are pretty standard symph metal songs – no big surprises, catchy choruses, nothing really special except for the speaking part in Semblance of Liberty (”Read… my… lips”).

The second ballad of the album is also the weakest song Epica has ever made. I was glad when they announced that Tony Kakko of Sonata Arctica would guest feature on the song White Waters, but this doesn’t feel like Tony at all. All Tony touches turns to gold, but this is as far from gold as you could get. White Waters is not beautiful, it is boring and weird, and the only thing that saves it is that Semblance of Liberty leading into the final track of the album would be very weird. And the final track is gold.

Design Your Universe ~ A New Age Dawns – part VI ~ is the best song Epica has ever written, and that’s final. It is just perfect, from it’s epic chorus (”We can’t undo what we have done, so show us now what we’ve become”) to its final, heartbreaking, whispering verse that always makes me weep.

This is Epica’s best release to date, and I’m really excited if they will ever top it, because let’s face it…. this is the latest chapter in the history of awesome music.

Thought of the Day #2: Religion

How do I feel on religion? I am not Christian, nor Muslim or Satanist. I am simply not religious – but I have nothing against religion. The thing is that people take religion so damn serious. To me (and I may offend someone), religion is just a mythology among the rest. The Norse mythology once was a religion like Christendome is today. But for some reason people don’t like to see Norse or Egyptian or Roman mythology as a religion. If I would say I believe in the Almighty Thor, they would laugh. I can’t see the difference. Christianity’s main point is that a person called Jesus Christ was born from a virgin, and raised learning he was the Son of God. He performed miracles and tried to help man kind, and then man kind killed him. To me, this is a nice story, but then the weird things start to happen – he raise from the dead, and goes up to heaven with daddy. Sure, people can believe this, I don’t mind… and I also very well know that Christianity is about so much more, it’s about being nice to eachother, turning the other cheek… these are all ideas I share. But why do you have to call it a religion? Can’t you just say that it’s good to behave nicely? I don’t think anyone disagrees on that.

The thing is, that IF this is a truth and not just a bunch of stories – why do so many people believe it? How did they find out? What are the odds that EVERYONE writing the Bible told truths and not fairy tales, or for that matter rumours? The Bible was not written by God, I try to tell believers, it was written by men. I believe in science, but if I found a 2000 year old book telling me 1 + 1 = 5 I wouldn’t believe it just because. Nor would I if it said in the book that it was Albert Einstein who had said it, because he was born 1900 years later and it wouldn’t make any sense.

To finish off by quoting Epica: ”Follow your common sense, you cannot hide yourself behind a fairy tale forever”.

Simone Simons… and the rest

SimoneEvery day, I get about 6500 hits for one single post on this blog: ”Simone Simons infected by MSRA”, mainly for that damn pic. The second most popular is the main page, with circa 500(!). I don’t mind, it brings quite a lot of people to my blog. I did a search on Simone Simons on Google just a minute ago, and that picture on this site is the first hit! I didn’t think it was that big. Hihi, cool. So now I know how to get audience here: Hot metal singers!

Sharon den Adel

 Simone 2

Tarja

Liv Kristine

Scabbia

Sharon 2

Mary