Oh man that's a blast from the past, Two Steps From Hell got pretty popular back in 2010 or something, I forget what movie they were in or what they covered but I definitely listened to quite a bit of their stuff back then. While I enjoy the Symphonic part of Symphonic Metal as much as the next guy I think that a whole album of Two Steps From Hell was always a bit repetitive since most of their pieces are broken down into shorter songs rather than traditional Classical music that has a much more drawn out length and normally multiple movements to it. I'm willing to give it another shot though, it's been YEARS by now.
You chose the correct clan to post about “Black Metal” in my opinion Vinny. Well done!
P.S. “Sabotage” is my second favourite Sabbath studio album from “Paranoid”.
I really like the experimental side of Paranoid, it is such a challenging record in places which puts it just behind the superb Master Of Reality for me which is the all-time great of the Sabbath discography.
This clan was the only place for that Venom record to my ears as well. I realised that I had never played the second LP (my copy is a reissue gatefold) and there's a heap of BBC sessions and singles on sides C & D so been an interesting listen this morning.
Daniel, if you are enamoured with IE's Alive in Athens I would strongly recommend the double disc set, Days of Purgatory (my particular favourite Iced Earth release). It features re-recorded versions of previous IE tracks with vocalist Matt Barlow who sings on Alive in Athens and it's songs makes up most of the playlist of AiE.
I'm very well versed with Iced Earth's 90's material Sonny but have to admit that I've somehow managed to overlook "Days Of Purgatory" despite enjoying the majority of their other albums from the period. I'll add it to the list so as to complete the set.
I just checked out Judas Priest's "Exciter", and indeed it sounds like Riot took a lot of inspiration from that song for their own "Thundersteel". In fact, "Exciter" is known as the first ever speed metal song and would inspire the name of the first ever true speed metal band Exciter. Even though the song "Exciter" is good but not exciting enough for me (3.5/5, probably because of how old it is), it made me curious about the band Exciter, so I might check that band out sometime...
It may surprise a few of you to learn that I actually prefer King Diamond's solo material over anything that Mercyful Fate have ever released. I understand that that opinion is a little bit out of character for an old-school extreme metal fan like myself however I simply can't go past the more modern sounding metal-as-fuck approach & Andy LaRocque's stunning lead guitar work on records like 1987's "Abigail" (my King record of choice) & 1989's "Conspiracy". Unfortunately for 1998's "Them" album, it's surrounded on both sides by those two great records which has perhaps tainted my opinion of it a touch in comparison.
"Them" relies significantly more on its sinister storyline than either of those releases did as they contained some more immediately impactful heavy metal anthems. Lyrical themes have never been something that I've cared all that much about compared to other metal fans anyway to be honest. Concept albums? Even less so as it often annoys me that the music is forced in directions that it shouldn't naturally go in order to promote a unified storyline which more often than not sees the tracklisting being tainted by filler (at least from a purely musical point of view). So what I'm really trying to say here is that even though I enjoy almost all of "Them", I find that it's lacking in genuine highlight tracks & has been short-changed in the memorability department in comparison to the other late 80's King Diamond albums. There's no doubt that it's a pretty good heavy metal record performed by skilled craftsmen but at the same time I don't think it ever sees me making a glorious metal claw & holding it aloft towards the heavens. Ultimately I just think it's a little bit overrated.
For fans of Mercyful Fate, Judas Priest & Angel Witch.
Virgin Steele - "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part Two" (1995)
I really struggled with the first couple of albums from New York's Virgin Steele & it wasn't until I came across the second installment of their "The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell" concept that I began to understand their appeal. Certainly not to the same level as most fans of melodic metal mind you but I can't deny the appeal of some of these anthems, despite the over-the-top & inherently cheesy synthesizers which perpetuate the record. By this stage Virgin Steele were rocking a sound that sat largely in the US power metal camp but borders on the European variety at times due to the strong symphonic component. But it's front man David DeFeis' vocal hooks that really grab me & help me to accept the fact that Virgin Steele are still well & truly stuck in the 1980's. Sure, the tracklisting is fairly inconsistent & is book-ended by arguably the two weakest tracks however the more lengthy & significant inclusions tend to be the most substantial from a quality point of view & are just enough to give me a generally positive feeling at the the completion of the arduous 66 minute run time. For fans of Manowar, Savatage & Jag Panzer.
P.S. Terrible album cover but it strangely represents the music that lies within pretty accurately.
Lost Horizon - "A Flame To The Ground Beneath" (2003)
The 2003 sophomore album from Swedish power metallers Lost Horizon has never sounded like an attractive prospect to this extreme metal fan however, after taking the plunge over the last couple of days, I've had to admit that I've been missing out. Sure there's a great deal of cheesy keyboard pomposity on offer throughout "A Flame To the Ground Beneath" however the shredding guitar work & high quality upper-register vocals are a real drawcard along with the brilliant three minute dark ambient pieces that bookend the tracklisting. There's even a bit Manowar in some of the slower & more epic sections along with a touch of Dream Theater in the vocal melodies & phrasing. I was genuinely surprised at just how much I enjoyed this album & would actually go so far as to say that it I place it a close second to Blind Guardian's "Imaginations From The Other Side" for my favourite power metal record overall. It's a pity about the God-awful cover art though.
For fans of Helloween, Gamma Ray & Blind Guardian.
I have posted my review. Grand Magus are absolutely one of my favourite bands, I have physical copies of all nine of their albums and I will probably buy their next before I've even heard it I'm that confident it'll be great. Their run of albums from 2008-12 - Iron Will, Hammer of the North and The Hunt - stack up against any three album run for my money. I'm stoked that everyone else seems to have enjoyed Hammer of the North and a metal website is finally acknowleding their brilliance - well done Metal Academy, once more proving to be ahead of the curve! If any of you haven't, I honestly think you would also enjoy the aforementioned Iron Will and The Hunt and should probably give them a spin too. Thanks for nominating this Vinny.
Had a very enjoyable morning blasting this playlist whilst working (which I normally avoid doing as I can't focus on the music enough as a result). I am finding that my resistance to Power Metal and the more Symphonic bands is slowly being broken down overtime as I listen to more of these lists. I am not saying that I am actively seeking out these bands discographies but I am not hitting skip as much on the likes of Epica etc.
That Týr peaked my interest too and like Andi, I have had a few failed attempts over recent years to get into them so maybe they will be one act I do explore more. I will be seeking more Cauldron and Ram as I picked up on them during my research for this playlist but didn't get much chance to explore much of their discogs.
Here, here Vinny, "detachment of the art from the individual is key in metal I find" is dead right. Metal artists have no end of unpalatable beliefs and have done no end of unpalatable acts, so if you can't separate art from artist then metal is probably not for you. The obsession with so-called celebrity lives (including metal musicians) and subsequent cancel culture is bordering on some kind of mass mania. Personally I couldn't give a damn what these people do or believe, as you say, within limits (no Lostprophets played here either) but why should we care what goes on in these people's lives just because they have some kind of minor celebrity? Let's focus on the music and ignore the bullshit.
By the way, I wasn't defending Schaffer in any way, but I feel he and his cohorts have been horribly manipulated by those with vested interests. The real culprits for the situation at the Capitol building will never find themselves anywhere near a courtroom and will continue to sow hatred and division unchecked. Just saying, as a bemused onlooker from the UK.
Apparently these two ballads sit amongst the most highly regarded songs in the entire Savatage back catalogue. My opinion on them couldn't be more opposed as not only do I find them to be the clear low points of the "Gutter Ballet" album but I wouldn't hesitate to label them as heinous crimes against music. Does anyone agree with me or am I all alone in these feelings?
Buckle up, it's gonna be a long one here. Since Inhuman Rampage is somewhat of a "classic" now, considering how notorious "Through the Fire and Flames" is, I might as well do some kind of review for it. I'd rather write some unfiltered thoughts here before trimming it down for a real review.
Considering the rest of the Academy leans towards the negative side here, I'll open with this: Dragonforce aren't a terrible band. Incredible take, I know, but Reaching Into Infinity, Maximum Overload, and Extreme Power Metal aren't bad albums by any stretch. I may be reaching on Extreme Power Metal, but I like how they finally and fully embraced their cheesiness in a love it or hate it kind of way. "Defenders" and "Symphony of the Night" off of Maximum Overload are good Power Metal songs that actually don't sound too much like "Through the Fire and Flames", believe it or not. “Seasons” is pretty good too! However, I concede that it's really easy to dislike DragonForce, so they've probably gotten a lot more hate than they deserve considering how many other over-the-top but boring Power Metal acts are out there making music.
The funny thing for me is that discussing DragonForce as an overall band or concept is way more interesting than their actual music. Most people only know DragonForce because of "Through the Fire and Flames", which by itself is a pretty good song. It's technically impressive, high-octane, and instantly recognizable even when compared to other Power Metal bands. However, DragonForce kind of had criticism coming to them when they decided that they were going to base their entire career around just playing that one song in different forms over, and over, and over for an entire album. Obviously Inhuman Rampage was released before the gigantic "Through the Fire and Flames" boom, so they chose this path before they knew that song was going to be their claim to fame. So, when people heard "Through the Fire and Flames" and wanted more DragonForce, they were greeted with 7 other tracks (plus a ballad) that sounded eerily similar to it. Alright, but most Bolt Thrower songs sound kind of the same, so only saying that doesn't necessarily make the album a dud, right?
Well, there's similar, and then there's DragonForce similar. As I was listening to the album I figured out a rough analogy to how I feel about everything that goes on in Inhuman Rampage. DragonForce has 5 or 6 interchangeable building blocks, or generic pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that all fit together but can be rearranged into whatever order to create the nonspecific structure of a song. Nothing necessarily fits perfectly, but it fits well enough. It feels like DragonForce has a guitar solo piece, a furious picking of the same note and calling it a "riff" piece, a random electronic transition or break piece, a power chord chorus piece, an outro that sounds suspiciously like the TTFAF outro piece, plus a few others that I can't be bothered to name. These same pieces are used in each and every song and are completely interchangeable. I guarantee that you can throw the guitar solo of "Revolution Deathsquad" into "Operation Ground and Pound" and it'd sound perfectly fine. You can replace the verse of "Storming the Burning Fields" with a verse of "Body Breakdown" and it'd probably work. I think the reason this works is because DragonForce's song structure is so incredibly segmented that I felt like I was listening to a Dream Theater song during certain parts with how random certain transitions, or lack thereof, are. There are so many parts where everything just stops for half a beat as if there was a blip in the system and the whole band goes "Ok another guitar solo? Yeah? Ok 3, 2, 1, GO". Everything just feels so pieced together in the most extreme way I've heard out of pretty much any album.
Even though these guys are talented players, they really needed to expand the amount of things they can play back then. Their drummer only knows one groove of galloping double bass and one or two fills, all three guitarists can only redo the solo structure of TTFAF for the entire album, the bassist is basically nonexistent until that one part in "Body Breakdown", and the vocalist is only serviceable in my opinion. There are also zero, absolutely no riffs in this album, which is why I think it's such a slog. The only "riff" DragonForce plays is either furious 16th note picking on the same note or drawn out power chords, meaning there's nothing memorable or interesting. There's also quite a few bad decisions made with the harsh vocals and with most of the electronic elements. The harsh vocals sound absolutely awful and are pushed back so far in the mix that I'm wondering why they even decided to include them at all. The electronic elements are incredibly cheesy and random, not necessarily going along with anything and only sounding at home in "Cry For Eternity" thanks to the schlocky (but good) chorus that pulls it all together.
The only thing left is the solos and man do DragonForce really, really try to create some impressive sounding solos. So much, in fact, that almost half of the album is solos. I counted. The album is around 55 minutes long, and there’s about 21 minutes of solo sections, give or take. That’s a LOT by any metric, and they don’t really do anything interesting with all that time.
Again, I don’t think that DragonForce is a bad band, and they’ve gotten a lot more hate than they deserve. But I need to rate this in line with everything else, so the score didn’t turn out so great. I listen to a lot of dull Power Metal that I feel like I never have to listen to again, and Inhuman Rampage on the whole falls into that category. Still though, DragonForce is an interesting topic in general considering how they got thrust into the spotlight in the way that they did.
I normally don't listen to too many of our playlists but I'm slowly coming around to checking them out every now and again, and yeah this was an extremely good one. Sadly I had to listen to it on shuffle so it lost a bit of its charm but looking at the listing here I can see that Daniel did a fantastic job structuring it.
I wouldn't get your hopes up for Accept or Todd La Torre Vinny, "Zombie Apocalypse" is good and is a decent showcase of how modern Accept sounds, but I personally found the rest of the album to be an awkward slog. There's still a few killer tracks in there though. Same with Todd La Torre, "Hellbound and Down" is an obvious highlight along with 2 or 3 other tracks but then it gets a bit monotonous.
The only thing I'll say on my end is that I was really surprised by "Symptom of the Universe", couldn't believe I was listening to Sabbath when it came on, and apparently I rated Sabatoge a 3.5 when I went on my short Sabbath kick? That just doesn't seem right, gonna have to go back and fix that sometime this month.
So I've only just gotten around to revisiting Manilla Road's "Mystification" album a good six months after I allocated this feature release with that very intention but it was definitely worth another look. Manilla Road & I have had a hit-&-miss relationship over the years. I quite liked their progressive rock-driven 1980 debut album "Invasion" but found the follow-up "Metal" to be disappointing. Strangely, their third album "Crystal Logic" (which is generally regarded as their best work & an unmitigated classic) did even less for me but 1985's "Open The Gates" saw my interest being restored with several incredible pieces appearing across a generally inconsistent tracklisting. So I guess it's fair to say that I approached "Mystification" fairly tentatively which may be why I didn't get to it until now.
"Mystification" may still sound very much like a Manilla Road album but it's also a very different beast to the other material I've heard from the band to date. For starters, this is the first time that I've had absolutely no question about a Manilla Road album's US power metal status. It's a noticeably thrashier affair than their early 80's records were with only a couple of tunes that fit comfortably under the heavy metal banner. The rest offer significantly more velocity & aggression than you'd usually expect from a classic metal band however Mark Shelton's higher register vocal performance generally keeps Manilla Road from completely crossing over into speed/thrash metal territory as he possesses a theatricality that definitely ties them to power metal. The short & high energy "Up From the Crypt" is probably the only exception with its slightly more grunty delivery & it's clear that bands like Slayer have had a significant impact on Mark & his band by this stage. Just check out that start of "Masque of the Red Death" if you don't believe me.
The performances are really quite brilliant, particularly Mark's lead guitar work & the exciting drumming of Randy Foxe who plays like a man possessed for the most part with his drum-rolls being a clear highlight. Unsurprisingly, I do struggle to connect with Mark's "epic" vocal delivery a little though & that's always been a bit of a stumbling block for me to tell you the truth. I'm always left wishing that he'd spend more time shredding away on his axe with that unpolished yet infectious technique of his rather than posing some dark & mystical question to me vocally. Some of his earlier works included more lower register grunt work than "Mystification" does & I think that's a shame as I do like that style a little better. Mark's guitar solos always sound like he's improvised the whole thing on the spot &, despite his clear command of his instrument, they're more to do with atmosphere than they are to do with chops which is something I have a lot of appreciation for. In fact, you could say similar things of the production job which gives Manilla Road that mid-80's underground authenticity that a lot of modern bands lack & that's always been a strength for the band.
Overall, this is clearly the most consistent Manilla Road record I've heard to date as there are no weak tracks included. But in saying that, I don't think we get the enormous highlights that a record like "Open The Gates" offered. I think perhaps the additional thrashiness of "Mystification" has seen Manilla Road losing a little bit of the psychedelia that I loved so much about their better earlier works. For that reason, "Open The Gates" still maintains the title of my favourite Manilla Road release however "Mystification" is another interesting album from a band that I generally maintain an appreciation for but are unlikely to ever quite connect with on the same level as the rest of the underground seem to.
Good month on the playlists so far with me finding more new bands to pick up on this Guardians list than any of the others I have gone through. That Blind Guardian track is my favourite one of theirs so glad to see it up there. My first time ever listening to Therion and I am suitably intrigued to discover more as I get chance. Nice to see the Maidens and Priests of this world get on the list also.
Decidedly entertaining album if not at risk of death by repetition in the main. Sterling lead work and a solid, driving percussion section. Tony's vocals I find a bit hit and miss overall but decent enough.
My thoughts on some of the tracks (including my suggested songs):
Avantasia – “Another Angel Down” (from “The Scarecrow”, 2008)
5/5. Avantasia is known for their conceptual metal operas, and I'm guessing this song is about a part of The Scarecrow story with Lucifer speaking to his army of demons to fight against humans and God. It's quite a picture to paint in this very awesome song I enjoy, especially the catchy chorus. Tobias Sammet is as talented as famous classical composers such as Beethoven and Vivaldi. I hear some influences from Iron Maiden, Iron Savior, and other "Iron" bands. Very great song!
Primal Fear – “Halo” (from “Metal Commando”, 2020)
5/5. Holy sh*t, what a masterpiece!! Ralf Scheepers still has his vocal power from the Gamma Ray albums he was in, maybe also influenced by Gamma Ray's Land of the Free. I gotta make my slight return to my earlier power metal taste to star listening to this band that I never did back then!
Blind Guardian – “Lost In The Twilight Hall” (from “Tales From The Twilight World”, 1990)
4.5/5. This song continues Blind Guardian's epic mastery. While Hansi Kursch is an amazing vocalist, the guest vocals by Kai Hansen really rule in the parts of the song where he sings. That's cool foreshadowing the later Gamma Ray albums with Kai Hansen as the lead vocalist.
Unleash The Archers – “Faster Than Light” (from “Abyss”, 2020)
5/5. Hello again, Unleash the Archers! You really unleashed another f***ing killer masterpiece!! This song can really goes faster than light with the fast pace of Stratovarius over Battle Beast-like vocals of a female warrior. FANTASTIC!!!
Lord – “United (Welcome Back)” (from “Fallen Idols”, 2019)
4.5/5. The moment I started listening to this song, it's like I am being welcomed back into my earlier power metal taste. The first thing I thought was: Australian DragonForce! And it seems like a reasonable thought to have, because of the fast speedy tempo, killer guitar shredding, and fantasy lyrics. Lord still has their original power metal sound, and I'm glad that band marks my return to a genre I left long ago but was convinced to return. Good to be back!!
I was once a champion of power metal, but that never went on eternally. Would I return with a potential classic of epic metal (US power/heavy metal)? Would this album live to my epic metal expectations, despite the nudity in the artwork (two barbarian babes near a throne of skulls each wearing nothing but a metal loincloth)? Well, this album is slightly better than probably the only other 2020 Guardians album I've listened to, Nightwish's Human Nature, in every aspect, including the sound, riffs, vocals, and confidence. Sadly, no symphonic orchestra, but thankfully, no orchestra-only tracks! Vocalist Jason Tarpey really lets loose a lot of vocal diversity, which is a boost of benefit for the band and other Guardians bands. His lyrics and concept could build worlds at strong points, such as bad-a** verses in a few songs. Those songs bring forward great influences from bands like Manilla Road and Sanctuary, all in passion and love to continue US power metal reign all over Earth. In a year lacking good power metal in the time of a dreaded virus, Eternal Champion has made an album that might surely hit many "best of metal" lists and most likely be the best US power metal album of 2020. But I don't quite feel up listening to more of that band because I've been trying to move out of power metal for a long time. Or am I? We'll see after I cross the Edenbridge (hint at a later review)....
My thoughts on some of the tracks (including my suggested songs):
Nightwish – “Noise” (from “Hvman. :||: Natvre.”, 2020)
10/10. One of the heavier metal songs in an otherwise highly symphonic album. This one represents a bit of the Tarja-era Nightwish sound at its best. Make some noise for the true Nightwish!
Kamelot – “III Ways To Epica” (from “Epica”, 2003)
10/10. This song marks the epic emotional end of the first album of one of the best two-part sagas of metal. 7 years ago, after being introduced to the world of metal via power metal bands such as DragonForce, Dragonland, and Power Quest, I felt the need to expand it with more than just speed. That was when this band Kamelot came in with epic songs like this one, opening a symphonic dimension for my power metal, leading to more terrific bands of that style like Within Temptation, Epica, After Forever, and of course, Nightwish. Symphonic power metal had been such a beautiful inspiration genre. I loved it, loved this band, and still love this song!
Dragonland – “Holy War” (from “Holy War”, 2002)
11/10 (not exaggerating). The most bad-a** power metal song I've listened to over 7 years ago besides DragonForce! This band and song has pretty much kickstarted my path to become a power metal. I think I played this song while playing Skyrim during a few of the in-game battles. The epic organ intro might remind some of Castlevania. Some parts have reminded me how much I used to love power metal, including when the soloing starts at the two and a half minute mark. I especially love the voice of singer Jonas Heidgert. This band would lead to more awesome bands like Avantasia, Dragonland, and Stratovarius. The whole reason this was my first song from this band, at the time probably when I was in late middle school (age, not actually in school), was because the band was mislabeled as DragonForce (the band that got me into power metal), a hilarious misunderstand led to a glorious discovery! Seriously, this is real music, not that mundane radio pop sh*t. It wasn't until late high school-ish years when I forgot about this song when I started making my move out of the earlier epic metal taste, but now a bit of my power metal past is back! I heard that this song was used in the Counter-Strike frag video Pubmasters 2. Also, a more recent DragonForce song "Symphony of the Night" kinda reminded me of this one, which is why I love them both. Those two Dragon-bands have changed my life and swept away my earlier days of listening to nothing but Breaking Benjamin and Disturbed when following my brother's music footsteps. Not only do I love Jonas' voice, but I also enjoy his catchy drums performed in the first two albums. The keyboard/guitar soloing are some of the best I've heard! Some people think power metal is cheesy, but I found that genre brilliant. Dragonland has made some of the most awesome power metal songs including their own Helloween song cover. This band does very d*mn epic power metal with great soloing of creative dimensions! It has been years since my last full listen of this song, and it still sounds epic as f***, and I felt proud of the power metal journey I had. All hail Dragonland!! Along with DragonForce! This song does sound a bit like DragonForce and Stratovarius, along with other progressive power metal bands all around. I think it was my recent interest in Sanctuary that brought back some power metal memories. The Dragonland concept is a bit similar to Game of Thrones, and should be part of its soundtrack. Maybe the Dragonland Chronicles should have its own movie series! Both Dragon-bands have their own unique sound while staying in the same genre. Dragonland has probably also been known for covering a Mozart piece. I'm still enjoying the pure melodic power metal epicness! I also enjoy the speed, and other bands that followed. Now I'm over 21 and have already moved on from my gateway metal genre for a more mature and heavier taste instead of just Bach-inspired metal epic cheesiness. Still can't believe I got attracted to this band for the most unlikely reason, because some jacka** confused the band with DragonForce, but worth it! And that was long before the screaming heavier metal that I like now. I shall ignore any complainers and enjoy the music! Thank you, Daniel, for including this small historical monument of a track....
This compilation is never ordinary. The first disc has songs from the era of their first vocalist Ralf Scheepers, while the second disc has songs from the vocal era of no other than Kai Hansen! All selected songs from the Ralf Scheepers era and Land of the Free were re-recorded (possibly to fit with E-flat tuning, though some songs have to stuck to the original E tuning). Are ya curious? Look no further and find many of the greatest hits, along with a few sh*ts including the weak ballad "The Silence". Despite a few flawed tracks, everything else is some of the best songs in the first decade of Gamma Ray's career. Personally, if I were to pick two songs, each for one of the discs, to be added in, they would be the cover of the "Gamma Ray" song the band was named after, and the "It's a Sin" cover. Both great covers! Blast From the Past is a greatest hits album the way it was meant to be done; an awesome overview of mostly their best songs, with the older songs re-recorded to please both newer and older fans. Highly recommended for power metal fans as big as I used to be. Indeed a blast from my power metal past!
My thoughts on some of the tracks (including my suggested songs):
Dee Snider – “Tomorrow’s no Concern” (from “For The Love Of Metal”, 2018)
8/10. Look, it's cool that this playlist has started with classic heavy metal performed by a metal veteran, but that's not really my thing. Though this is actually d*mn better than the Twisted Sister classics I've stumbled upon, and it sounds like Dee still has what it takes. H*ll yeah!!
Edguy – “Mysteria” (from “Hellfire Club”, 2004)
9/10. Here's a tight heavy song that would make a slightly better playlist starter than that Dee Snider track. Vocalist Tobias Sammet yells like a circus ringmaster, "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the freak show!!" Then the power metal action begins, having some influences from thrash/speed metal. In fact there's even an alternate version with Mille Petrozza of Euro-thrash legends Kreator on guest vocals as a bonus track in the limited edition.
9/10. I've listened to this song for the first time in a few years after listening to the live version as part of their new live album Live! Against the World. This killer song is from an album that helped bridge the earlier and middle era, and it has a big chorus you just gotta sing along to.
Elvenking – “Reader Of The Runes – Book I” (from “Reader Of The Runes - Divination”, 2019)
10/10. From the runes of Spotify comes a song available for this playlist. This is a fantastic great monolithic end to the band's folk-power metal return album trilogy that started in Pagan Manifesto, but it might hint at a different saga starting with a possible "Reader Of The Runes – Book II". I was an Elvenking fan a few years ago in my earlier epic metal taste, and now I wish I could have the chance to return to the band for the album that has this song that's probably their best since Heathenreel, especially since it has a killer black-ish soloing section in the middle. I'm grateful for this exhausting yet powerful masterpiece of f***ing impressive epic metal sorcery, greater than the epics made by Helloween. I love it! I might review this album soon. Thanks Xephyr for submitting it and Daniel for accepting it!
Lord – “Chaos Raining” (from “Fallen Idols”, 2019)
9/10. This is from an album that I was asked to do a special review for, but didn't get fully interested in the band until I switched from The Horde to The Guardians. The song shows Lord getting a little more chaotic while staying in a mid-tempo pace, getting up to the level of Trivium's Silence in the Snow.
Having gone back and re-listened to Black Sabbath's first six studio albums have made me realize how much their sound changed over the first five years. Given that this band was taking rock and roll to places it had never been before and were ridiculed by the mainstream for it, but Ozzy and company were not simply contempt with their sound from Paranoid and Master of Reality. And this record proves it.
I never truly realized how remarkable until just recently. For the longest time, I felt as if the debut self-titled album was the pinnacle of Black Sabbath's career. But It was clear with Sabbath Bloody Sabbath that they were going to take the more alien tones of what we now know as doom metal from the self titled debut, and the more rock leaning "accessibility" of the Paranoid and Master of Reality LP's. The title track is excellent, "Sabbra Cadabra" is slightly more uptempo, but the grooves are heavy, Ozzy's vocal performance is stunning, and the guitar leads/solos are among some of the best in Black Sabbath's entire discography. The album ends with a really cheesy strings outro on "Spiral Architect" that is reminiscent to "The End" of Abbey Road, but it fits the environment so incredibly well that it is almost impossible to hate. I even really enjoy the acoustic interlude, "Fluff" as a show of restraint and anticipation.
The self titled debut may have been the record that invented heavy metal, but Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is the album that nearly perfected it. Almost every song on this record (with the exception of "Looking for Today") has purpose. Sabbath must have known about the shockwaves they were making in the underground, even as the mainstream had to reluctantly acknowledge their existence. But Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is the magnum opus and has forced to reconsider my favourite Sabbath album.
My thoughts on some of the tracks (including my suggested songs):
Avantasia – “Runaway Train” (from “The Wicked Symphony”, 2010)
10/10. Beautiful song from symphonic power metal-opera project Avantasia! This makes a great soundtrack for when I move out alone probably a few years from now and I have to decide which train that I can't control takes me to the airport and hope for the best to start a new life, whether it's a great long healthy life or one that is cut short if the path leads to being trapped in a drug alley. Man, I almost cried thinking of this whole scenario. It's so emotional and epic, a bit like one of the earlier Sonata Arctica ballads. A beautiful song as a farewell while you start a journey for a new life, hopefully not a drug-laden one.
Savatage – “Hall Of The Mountain King” (from “Hall of The Mountain King”, 1987)
9/10. This is an underrated 80s heavy metal classic. It works awesomely for an epic D&D session. Unbelievable! If you thought this track resembles Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King", nope! That's its intro "Prelude to Madness". The band's guitar king Criss Oliva does a great job there. RIP Criss. F*** that drunk driver! Great lyrics, good music, still a little too old for my taste range, unless my taste changes in the future...
Edenbridge – “Shine” (from “Shine”, 2004)
10/10. Edenbridge has served as another milestone in the bridge of symphonic fantasy after Nightwish, after Epica, after Two Steps From Hell (the latter being an epic trailer music company I used to listen to before my metal interest blasted off). This is one of my favorite Edenbridge songs with the enchanting voice of Sabine Edelsbacher in a shining direction especially in the epic crescendo chorus. I guess you can think of Edenbridge as Epica without the growling vocals. Wonderful song with a beautiful unique voice, and I still have that opinion since I first got hooked to listening to this band when I was around age 16 or 17. I think this song is about the circle of life throughout the universe and God's creations. Shine is one of my favorite Edenbridge albums and this song is an awesome progressive highlight with the best guitar talent from Lanvall and Sabine's expanding vocal range and passion. Around that time, Sabine guest-appeared in a couple songs on Angra's Temple of Shadows and Power Quest's Neverworld, two more excellent power metal albums! When I first listened to this song, album, and band, I've realized how well this band can make awesome masterpieces. One of the best bands in my earlier epic metal taste besides Symphony X, Avantasia, and of course, Nightwish and Epica! Her beautiful voice brightens up this marvelous composition. The lyrics are weird, but a good pretty type of weird. Pop artists like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber already had their fame, Edenbridge should have their turn! I say this band has an excellent combo of Sonata Arctica power metal, Within Temptation orchestration, and Lacuna Coil female vocals. Of course, my epic metal taste wasn't all just symphonic metal back then, there's of course the power metal of Sabaton, DragonForce, Stratovarius, and in my current arsenal, Lord. With all this talk about other bands, I'd like to make it clear that Edenbridge is unique symphonic power metal with female vocals, symphonic strings, and harmonic guitar solos. Thanks for including this glorious piece, Daniel!
Dream Evil – “Dream Evil” (from “Six”, 2017)
10/10. Dream Evil's glorious comeback after a 7-year gap between albums, and their potential new theme/anthem. Enough said!
Space Odyssey – “Embrace The Galaxy” (from “Embrace The Galaxy”, 2003)
9/10. First there was 2001: A Space Odyssey, and then there's 2003: Richard Andersson's Space Odyssey! Personally, I think this sounds a bit like another Yngwie/Dio collaboration with Rush. Beautiful song with nice vocals and spacey keys, and I probably would've perfectly loved it back in my earlier epic metal era, but now not too much.
Machinae Supremacy – “Laser Speed Force” (from “Rise Of A Digital Nation”, 2012)
10/10. Ah yes, Machinae Supremacy, a band that mixes power metal with 8-bit/trance synths. This song is a fantastic reason why they should've been more famous than they are currently, one of my favorite songs from them! When I first heard of this band 5 years ago, I decided to download a demo of Jets'n'Guns, the computer game with their own soundtrack. I gave up interest in that game after a few days but never that band, at least for a few years. If I ever have a smartphone instead of a Nokia, I would make this awesome song my ringtone. If this band ever comes to my country, you bet I will spend my money to see them live. I just love this fantastic tune with awesome lyrics! This would make great music for PVP on MMORPGs. Seriously, this is another great reason to consider metal "real" music. Still getting pumped with this song for gaming battles. It's really clear that Machinae Supremacy are the true masters of epic 8-bit metal. A solid jam for video game soundtrack fans and metalheads to love!
Gloryhammer – “Beneath Cowdenbeath” (from “Tales From The Kingdom Of Fife”, 2013)
8/10. That's interesting, Xephyr, choosing an instrumental song from an awesome epic concept album. That's perfectly fine because even though it would've been better with the sung narrations of Angus McFife, they leveled up the symphonic power metal instrumentation. If I was to choose a song from that album, I would probably picked one of their great hits like "Angus McFife", "Quest for the Hammer of Glory", or the 10-minute "Epic Rage of Furious Thunder". Either way, good song suggestions all!
My thoughts on some of the tracks (including my suggested songs):
Freedom Call – “The Darkness” (from “Legend Of The Shadowking”, 2010)
9/10. This is one of the darkest power metal songs I've heard in my earlier epic metal taste. I suppose anyone can say Powerwolf is darker than this but for some reason I've never really listened to that band back then, so we'll go with this Freedom Call track that I was more familiar with. This one starts with a doomy intro before switching to a typical power metal song with a dark vibe. I chose that one because it seems so Halloween-ish enough for the October playlist.
DragonForce – “Cry Thunder” (from “The Power Within”, 2012)
11/10 (not exaggerated). Another one of my favorite DragonForce songs, and my favorite with their new vocalist Marc Hudson! An amazing song worth playing air-guitar until your fingers break and headbanging until you sprain your neck. Its mid-tempo pace (unlike their usual faster songs) reminds me of Irish folk and especially the Skyrim theme. This would fit well for when Thor has his own army to lead him into war and fight. Seriously, it's that awesome!! You can't miss this! It fits well not just for Skyrim or Final Fantasy but also for any MMORPG that has ever existed. I agree with anyone who says this is nice and beautiful. It's really good for when medieval dragons face off against space aliens. An epic hit that has established DragonForce as one of the greatest modern power metal bands besides Alestorm. Well done, DF!
Blind Guardian – “Majesty” (from “Battalions Of Fear”, 1988)
10/10. The one song that opened Blind Guardian's career in their own big bang, a speed metal classic chosen for this playlist because it foreshadows their more majestic power metal sound. But what's with the odd circus organ intro though!? This is the ultimate opener for a speed/power metal band's discography, as grand as how Black Sabbath made their grand opening of heavy metal with the first track of their first album back in 1970. The mix of Lord of the Rings lyrics with speed metal is known as a prototype for their power metal sound, and is tied with "Valhalla" as their best song from their earlier speed metal era, both caught in a 3-way tie with "Mirror Mirror" for the ultimate Blind Guardian song. The last two minutes are absolutely killer with amazing majesty and speedy force, especially the drums. It's enough to even make Metallica surprised by how superb this band is. A majestic beginning of a band's glorious journey!
I have to admit, I've never really cared for Helloween in the same way that I have for the bands that would have taken influence from Helloween, particularly during the early part of the 1990s. For me, Blind Guardian and Nightwish have always been my go to groups. Whether or not that is the byproduct of my age and not growing up with Helloween is a very likely possibility, but I have always viewed Helloween as the birthplace of the style, not as its de-facto form.
As a result, my experience with Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II was not at all surprising. Good stuff, solid hooks, Michael Kiske's strong vocal timbre to play out the heightened fantastical storytelling, but carried by less than stellar production that keeps much of the low end muted. I would have liked to hear more developed song structures, rather than rapid transitions between ideas, an idea that was carried in a greater capacity in the same year by Queensrÿche on Operation: Mindcrime. And yes, that album does share a lot of similarities with Helloween's album.
I generally enjoy 1990s (and beyond) power metal, so it was nice to go back and hear the genre in its earliest form. And I did enjoy parts of what I heard, even if I personally believe that Helloween were surpassed in nearly every way by artists/bands taking influence from them in the future.
Probably my favourite playlist so far right here. Never heard anything off Technical Ecstasy before but adding the whole record to my library later based on that track alone. I was predictably unimpressed with Vinnie Moore (guitar only albums aren’t my thing) and won’t be going back to More, Arion, Dragonland or Tytan anytime soon but loved more or less everything else. That Twilight Force track just happens to be my favourite and I have a lot of time for that Dragonforce track also. New bands added to my radar are Unleash The Archers and Atlantean Kodex. Thanks for sharing Daniel.
While I'm no Sabbath expert... Tymell, based on the other lists in this thread, yours actually makes sense in the "top 10" order starting with the #1 song. Even an unordered list can come out as ordered!
Ha, you're right. I may have gone through the albums picking the 10 :p You can also see my album prefs pretty clearly there: I never really cared so much for Vol. 4 or Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (and I've never bothered listening to Never Say Die or Technical Ecstasy).
This list confirmed my dislike for the guitar wankery of Malmsteen, Becker and Friedman as well as Michael Angelo. Some interesting stuff but a lot of it was already very familiar to me. Will probably explore Jaguar more and the list underlined my need to pick up more Tygers of Pan Tang stuff. Thanks for sharing.
I gave "Perpetual Burn" a few revisits today & found that I still quite enjoy it. I actually bought it on CD way back in the very early 1990's & was blown away by Becker's technique at the time, especially for someone so young. I do have to admit that I've never been particularly comfortable with his neoclassicisms though as they often sound like exercises more than actual music & even delve into Xmas carol schmaltz at times (see the disappointing "Air" for example). Thankfully a good half of "Perpetual Burn" takes a more traditional progressive metal approach & it's this material that really interests me. The album highlights are certainly when Jason goes for melody over technique & the crunchier metal sections are also among the more exciting moments so fans of Marty Friedman, Cacophony & Yngwie Malmsteen should be all over this record. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I slightly prefer it to Yngwie's highly celebrated "Rising Force" debut.
I love shred albums, and this one was no exception. This one struck me a bit differently though, since many of these neoclassical jam sessions are more or less the same once you get down to the nitty-gritty of what they really are. Maximum Security felt like it had a bit more meaning and substance to it apart from the shred, more movement and feeling. It's most likely because the shredding is used more sparingly, but there's also some great choices of melody and extra bits and pieces like the piano interlude that make this feel like a fleshed out album rather than just notes crammed onto a late 80's disk. I found this collection of instrumentals to be immediately more recognizable and memorable than the likes of Malmsteen, but maybe not as much as someone like Joe Satriani. The piano interlude is great as it really plays into the neo-classical style that these 80's shredders worshiped, and the synth aspects are smoothly incorporated, not sounding too forced whatsoever.
I found Maximum Security a pleasure just to have on in the background, which is a huge testament to Tony Macalpine's smooth and more subdued songwriting. While not the most adventurous record, I definitely prefer the likes of this over the 1,000 notes per second scales that have been played one too many times before. Maximum Security also succeeds in keeping the song length lower, with only a few tracks reaching the 4 and a half minute mark, which I think is fair for guitar noodling like this. Just a classy instrumental shred album through and through.
After writing out my review and listening to both Theli and Secret of the Runes many, many times as well as checking out Vovin (What happened there guys, god that was boring), I have to say I prefer Secret of the Runes even though it's very close. Theli is the classic Symphonic Metal experience with galloping riffs and bombastic strings, but Secret of the Runes really brings a progressive thematic element to Therion that I really enjoy. I love the premise behind this album of being about the nine realms of Norse Mythology and even though it can get repetitive I think the tracks are meant to share some similarities to really sell the theme. It's a totally unique Symphonic Metal album that, in my opinion, goes hand in hand with Theli to show how classical music influences can work extremely well with darker and more mysterious themes.
Inspired by Chris Van Ettan splitting hairs over which genre an album from a different clan has (thrash or speed metal, death metal or grindcore, power metal or trad metal and sludge vs. stoner vs. doom), I decided to continue the DIS vs DAT activity with an interesting twist; instead of voting on which album has the greater edge, we do it with genres from one of the clans instead. Single-genre clans (like The Gateway and The Sphere) would be divided into hidden subgenres that some of us have heard of but are never listed in the site (for example, alternative metal vs nu metal, industrial metal vs neue Deutsche härte). This should be a nice interesting challenge for Chris and other members of the site. Got two or three albums from a different genre in the same clan and same release year but can't decide which one has the greater edge? Share them here!
Let's starts off with two Guardians albums released in 2000, one of which I've already listened to myself. If you have been following my journey through my unofficial Metal Evolution band challenge, you probably know which one I like better, but I won't tell you until I get at least one or a few responses. Which one of these albums with a different genre has the greater edge? Choose one and explain the reason!