Early heavy metal taken from an obscure Aussie single that first saw the light of day as far back as 1971. Melbourne band Ash only got the chance to release two singles, the first having nothing to do with metal. Both sides of "MIdnight Witch/Warrant" comfortably qualify though in my opinion.
So just like that we find that a new month is upon us which of course means that we’ll be nominating a brand new monthly feature release for each clan. This essentially means that we’re asking you to rate, review & discuss our chosen features for no other reason than because we enjoy the process & banter. We’re really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on our chosen releases so don’t be shy.
This month’s feature release for The Guardians has been nominated by Shezma. It's 2018's "Battle Against Damnation" E.P. from Tokyo power metallers Lovebites.
I'm surprised, because I couldn't tell you off hand what would separate Blazon Stone from earlier or later Running Wild albums of the early '90s, despite having listened to them quite a lot a while ago. They were a band who very much kept a certain style to them, possibly assured by the musical genius/lunatic who more or less helmed the band the entire time.
The sole full-length from this Oklahoma US power metal outfit is a highly professional package from a very talented group of individuals who apparently recorded the record back in 1987 but couldn't get anyone to release it for a couple of years. The production & performances are excellent for the time & my only issues are some occasional vocal blemishes. I'd describe their sound as sitting somewhere between the US power metal of Lizzy Borden & Savage Grace & the more polished & proggy sound of Queensryche. It's not a bad album either but I can't say that I consider it to be essential listening.
I've kind of grown tired of melodic death/black metal and such sounds. Often, it feels like an excuse for a bunch of people who can't sing and some guitarists whose only virtue is their speed. How I long for more bands to style themselves after Satan's Host, but alas, I seem to be the only person on the planet to like them. Malkarpatan falls into the former category, but honestly, they aren't half bad. I can't quite put my finger on what their melodic parts sound like. I wanna say Iron Maiden, but I can't think of a single Iron Maiden song which sounds like something off this. It almost feels like a glam metal inspired riff style. To complicate matters, this is mixed in with at least a dozen instruments and synths. I had my answer on Panstvo Salamandrov, it's black metal ELP. Everything makes sense now. This isn't necessarily to pin the band into one specific thing, because this album does so many things yet feels very cohesive. They possess the unique talent to do something like play rigid black metal and then follow it up with something that wouldn't fit on 90% of albums that try it. Yet, they make it sound as natural as the calm before the storm. They're an interesting band, and I look forward to hearing more of them. 4.5/5
Blind Guardian - "Tales From The Twilight World" (1990)
Most of our regulars will likely be aware that German legends Blind Guardian are one of the rare European power metal exponents that I can generally tolerate. In fact, I can confidently say that I've enjoyed everything I've heard from them to date which includes 1992's "Somewhere Far Beyond", 1994's "Imaginations From the Other Side", 1998's "Nightfall in Middle-Earth" & 2003's "Live". It only makes sense that I complete the full set of their essential releases though so I recently decided to add their 1990 "Tales From The Twilight World" third album to the list in the hope of similarly positive experiences. Unfortunately, that hasn't really eventuated though.
"Tales From The Twilight World" is known as Blind Guardian's first true power metal record after their first two studio efforts were directed more towards speed metal. Don't kid yourself though, there's still plenty of speed metal on offer here as the European brand of power metal is pretty much built on the stuff but there's comfortably enough anthemic epicness to warrant the album's power metal claim. And that goes a long way to explaining my struggles with this record too to tell you the truth. Blind Guardian's later material offered significantly more maturity than this album can muster. Instead, their third full-length reminds me a lot of their less appealing German peers in that the performances & musicianship are high class but the hooks are often lacklustre & cheesy, particularly the backing vocals which regularly see me wincing. It's really only short instrumental "Weird Dreams" & album highlight "Goodbye My Friend" that offer me much in the way of enjoyment here which is disappointing after having experienced a record of the quality of "Imaginations From the Other Side".
"Tales From The Twilight World' is comfortably the weakest Blind Guardian record I've heard to date but I don't even try to deny that I'm not its target audience either. There's no doubt that it'll offer a lot more appeal to people that bow down & worship at the feet of Eurpean bands like Helloween & Gamma Ray but I'm not gonna kid anyone that that's me.
So those 3 Riot albums really show their hard rock/heavy metal sound for me, even though their is some debate over their first two albums being metal. If I'm ever up to making an exploration through another metal band starting out in the 70s, I might continue this thread later. But I'm done here for now...
I know I'll likely be in the extreme minority here when I tell you that the first release I purchased from legendary Danish heavy metal icons Mercyful Fate was this 1987 compilation back in the early 1990's. It brings together the band's very strong 1982 self-titled debut E.P. with three alternative versions of tracks taken from their 1983 "Melissa" album that were recorded for the BBC's "The Friday Rock Show" & the B-side from the "Black Funeral" single. It also succeeds in its intent due to the very high quality of everything the band attempt.
I've always rated the self-titled E.P. very highly. In fact, I place it a cut above Mercyful Fate's widely celebrated sophomore album "Don't Break The Oath" these days which is saying something. "Melissa" is my favourite Fate record too so I really couldn't go wrong with this material. The BBC recordings are well produced with the versions of "Curse Of The Pharaoh" & "Satan's Fall" being particularly strong. The B-side "Black Masses" suffers a little in the production department but still possesses that classic Mercyful Fate aura which gives it enough appeal to make it interesting too. The highlight is undoubtedly "A Corpse Without Soul" from the E.P. though as it's one of the great heavy metal anthems from the early 80's.
All of the qualities you look for in a Mercyful Fate record are here in spades. The soaring vocals, the dark atmosphere, the searing solos... You can't really go wrong with "The Beginning" & it should be regarded as essential listening if you're a devotee of those first couple of Fate releases.
Nightwish is one of the most popular symphonic/power metal bands today, and was an essential band for me long ago. I could listen to this band while playing RuneScape, which fits well with the fact that one of the first song I've discovered from this band in this album was used in a video for that game. Here are my thoughts:
Once I had a dream of what metal would sound like with lots of TSFH-like orchestration, and this was it when I discovered this nearly a decade ago. Today I feel like I had been too optimistic. As varied as this album is, I'm starting to think the orchestra overpowers the metal. But what else is there from a full orchestra? Despite the orchestral overdose, many songs stay heavy, and founding keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen is able to display his own synth work. But let's get over the whole "selling out" nonsense... There are plenty of heavy anthems, and while I enjoy the orchestration in many of the tracks, it's when they rely too much on the orchestration without balancing it out with the metal, and ends up sounding too draggy. But when the metal and the orchestration have the correct balance, that's what creates the magic. All in all, I would consider this album the weakest in my revisit trip, but I would never consider Once or Nightwish super-bad. However, there are some things I might object to. The production and style is a bit over-the-top, but still mostly enjoyable. I would recommend this album for any fan of gothic-infused symphonic power metal. It is different from their earlier material, yet worth trying this bombastic rollercoaster. Though this is Tarja's last ride...
And that's it for the bands I have in mind for this thread. If I have any more in my mind, I'll continue this thread, but that's all for now, metal folks!
What if Mercyful Fate were Brazillian and Christian? Its uncanny hearing Dark Night because of how exactly it nails that sound, right down to vocalist Roberto Castro's perfect imitation of King Diamond falsetto and clean vocals. It comes off as the good version of the band from some mirror universe or another. While there are those obvious Mercyful Fate influences, it's not quite as strong as the rest of the music. Dark Night tries to maintain some of the dynamicism, they lack the prog influences. They try to make up for this with sheer aggression. It does work, but between the noticeably different songwriting and the cheap-sounding midi keyboard, it's an odd effect. As three members of the band are also in a few death and black metal bands, this explains the vast change. There's this Doom-esque usage of lyrics, which seems unintentional, where the lyrics are repeated like some kind of strange pattern, less like conveying something to the listener and more surrealistic insanity. So called because the Japanese band Doom used this almost constantly in their songs. I'm not so sure that's intentional here as much as accidental. More like they took 9's overuse of choruses to it's logical extent, add in songs with lyrics that often sound similar to one from King Diamond, and they accidentally created some fever dream of music. Despite their problems, I found myself enjoying the album. Most of it, anyway. Gotta say the last track, In the Dark Side so strange and questionable on so many levels it boggles belief. It starts with a bizarre intro reminding me of Scarborough Fair, before alternating between out of place blast beats and then a musical cover of Temple of Love by Sisters of Mercy. No part of which is done competently. It'd be a demo track if it weren't as high quality a production as everything else. This is very much just an album for people who feel disappointed in the lack of new material from King Diamond or just want such an album that isn't childishly edgy. If you're satisfied with what exists or didn't care for their inspiration, you'll hardly find much worth listening to here. Unless you always felt sheer aggression was what was lacking.
Here are my thoughts on all the selected tracks in this playlist I've made in Xephyr's absence:
DragonForce - "Doomsday Party" from Doomsday Party (2023)
5/5. LET'S F***ING GO!!! The UK speedy power metal heroes are back with a brand-new catchy singalong single! With the one-two-punch of Reaching Into Infinity and Extreme Power Metal, could they could that streak with their next album?!? I certainly hope so...
4.5/5. My brother likes a couple songs from this band, this song being one of them. When he plays this song during one of our car rides, it's like a sunny day has become much brighter and happier! Even in rush-hour traffic, I'm in a superb mood.
Ozzy Osbourne - "Dead and Gone" from Patient Number 9 (2022)
4/5. Depression is a battle some people out there are facing. I'm not one of those people, but I'm someone who can help. Ozzy's lyric-writing has really paid off. I can imagine this song being great for a funeral.
Iron Maiden - "Days of Future Past" from Senjutsu (2021)
4.5/5. Wow, this song can give listeners more pure energy than Red Bull! It's short but it full displays the vocal strength of Bruce Dickinson, the guitar wizardry of Adrian Smith, and the songwriting abilities of both. Bruce is still so Bruce since starting his second era with the band in Brave New World. They might just rock this song out live! Some might be reminded of Cain and Stephen King's The Dark Tower in the lyrics. The band is still as hard-working as ever throughout nearly half a century.
Queensryche - "Realms" from Digital Noise Alliance (2022)
4/5. Another heavy metal track with lots of energy! Queensryche is still pretty strong with a different lead vocalist.
Judas Priest - "Turbo Love" from Turbo (1986)
3.5/5. Now let's head back to the 80s when songs like this can easily end up in action movies or shows. I can hear how lively this song is, but it's from their most glam album Turbo and sounds a bit cheesy.
Scorpions - "The Zoo" from Animal Magnetism (1980)
4/5. Same thing with this song. However, the "Roots of Metal" project has made me realize its appeal. The chorus is melodic while having aggressive metal fury in the leads, hard to match in most of the band's other tracks with its bouncy groove.
W.A.S.P. - "Wild Child" from The Last Command (1985)
3.5/5. More glam, but better lyrics. This song sounds quite cool despite coming out 14 years before I was born. Some oldies don't have a lot of perfect glory but can still be good. And sh*t, this is so mesmerizing! Children of Bodom frontman Alexi Laiho adopted his nickname "Wild Child" from this song. RIP... Also, the part at the 3 and a half minute mark with what sounds like cat meowing kind of threw me off.
Warrior - "Fighting for the Earth" from Fighting for the Earth (1985)
4/5. Great mastering on this track for an 80s song. Warrior have done their motivational fantasy lyrics that are popularized by Manowar. Somehow this reminds me of the first two Stratovarius albums, specifically the mid-paced tracks like "Break the Ice". 80s greatness is hard to find nowadays...
Motley Crue - "Too Young to Fall in Love" from Shout at the Devil (1983)
3.5/5. Although I'm still not getting the glam appeal, I have to admit, Mick Mars is an underrated guitarist.
Vicious Rumors - "Digital Dictator" from Digital Dictator (1988)
4/5. RIP Carl Albert. His golden voice is what made tunes like this quite killer. And that guitar solo is the most brilliant part of the song here. Believe in the Digital Dictator!
Dio - "Wild One" from Lock Up the Wolves (1990)
4.5/5. Another great song for the classic heavy metal crowd. RIP Dio
Trivium - "Blind Leading the Blind" from Silence in the Snow (2015)
5/5. One of many favorite Trivium songs of mine, casting a great surge of immediacy and riffing.
Rhapsody - "Land of Immortals" from Legendary Tales (1997)
4.5/5. This was one of my favorite Rhapsody (of Fire) songs when I was still listening to that band. I thought it was an epic classic. Even though the tremendous Fabio Lione is out of the band (one reason for my initial move out of power metal), the sound of his albums with Rhapsody will live on.
Elvenking - "Your Heroes Are Dead" from Red Silent Tides (2010)
4/5. This Elvenking song is still like because rather than having the heavy emphasis on folk from as early as Heathenreel, the strength lies in the metal instrumentation. A bad-a** evolution! Well this isn't the heaviest the band has gone, there's also the dark melodeath elements blended with their usual power/folk metal in The Scythe. This folky power metal sound might work well while playing World of Warcraft and RuneScape. Of course, if a band decides to go a different path, it's their decision, not the audience's. The track has some beautiful moments, like the violin solo at the one and a half minute mark that shows creativity and variety in just a small serene melody, probably more so than Nightwish. If anyone prefers the band's earlier material over this killer song, that's all right. Also I heard that the name of this band comes from Schubert's "Der Erlkönig". The music video for this Elvenking song is pretty cool too, having some Metalocalypse-esque animation. And don't forget those interesting poetic lyrics. It's power metal bands like Elvenking that really made my teen days. But this song kind of foreshadows my metalcore era that I would subsequently dump my folk/power metal taste for. H*ll, this actually reminds me of Bullet for My Valentine's Scream Aim Fire album. And even though I'm tired of folk/power metal, that song still works pretty well for me.
Lost Horizon - "World Through My Fateless Eyes" from Awakening the World (2001)
4.5/5. F***ing mighty vocals by Daniel Heiman, singing lyrics written by guitarist Wojtek Lisicki. So I'm not too tired of power metal in some cases.
Blind Guardian - "Violent Shadows" from The God Machine (2022)
4/5. The God Machine has been hailed as a prime example of the power metal sound the band is known for. However, this song is filled with the violent thrashy speed metal sound from their late-80s era. "I will not surrender, let it be"
Epica - "Code of Life" from Omega (2021)
4.5/5. This song shows that Epica still have what it takes with enjoyable vocal technique, both the operatic singing and demonic growling, the former shining the most in the sublime final chorus close to the last minute. The f***ing kick-A riffing helps balance things out. I say this should end up in a soundtrack for a Prince of Persia/The Mummy movie. Of course, this album also has some ballads to make sure things don't have too much heavy power. The Arabic lyrics are a godly touch, sung by Zaher Zorgati of Myrath. So everyone keep calm and listen to Epica!
Xandria - "The Wonders Still Awaiting" from The Wonders Still Awaiting (2023)
4/5. Beautiful choirs and unpredictable melodies give the track cinematic freshness. During the bridge that starts the last third of the track, Ambre Vourvahis' vocals rise into sounding as operatic as Simone Simons of Epica. Gorgeous!
Within Temptation - "Forsaken - The Aftermath" from Forsaken (The Aftermath) (2022)
4.5/5. Excellent re-recording with great lyrics. Enough said!
Amberian Dawn - "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" from Take a Chance - a Metal Tribute to ABBA (2022)
4/5. Amberian Dawn have recently released an entire tribute cover album to ABBA. Capri Virkkunen can perform such phenomenal vocals. I guess you can call this band "ABBArian Dawn", am I right?
Helloween - "Halloween" from Keeper of the Seven Keys, Pt. 1 (1987)
3.5/5. It's October, so you know there's gotta be a Halloween song in this playlist. Somehow I was never really interested in Helloween, not even my European power metal-loving teen years, despite this band having pioneered that genre. This 13-minute epic has some good potential. IT'S HALLOWEEN!!!
Cacophony - "Speed Metal Symphony" from Speed Metal Symphony (1987)
4/5. Now here's one more epic to end this playlist, and it's a neoclassical metal instrumental. This dense energy would've also been better for me in my teenage years, but it's out of this universe! Those notes are meant to be nicely absorbed into your mind. Jason Becker was 17 at that time, and he's still a musical genius, even with his crippling ALS. This heavily guitar-focused composition can be considered quite an achievement for Jason and Marty Friedman. Geniuses like those two guys can be a sheer rarity.
Pretty good playlist I've made, huh? Despite a bit of bumpiness... Anyway, I would recommend this to heavy/power/symphonic/neoclassical metal fans and anyone who isn't into those genres but is up to getting into a great start in enjoying them. Thanks Daniel for letting me take over on the Guardians playlist for this month, and your help with your submission, and I hope the rest of you enjoy it like I've had!
I wanted to like this album, there's basically no reason for me to not like this album. I like NWOTHM bands, and I like the sort of epic concept they've got going here. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it...but there's nothing I actually like about it. Nothing that I could call in any way, bad. It just found a way not to appeal to me.
I did notice a funny comparison though. The mystical and dark lyrics along with the heavily electronic voice effects on the lead singer made me think of Idle Hands/Unto Others. But whereas Idle Hands has some very cringey lows and some very amazing highs, this just sort of didn't make that same mark that Idle Hands did.