Sounds from Apocalypse - Reviews 2021

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Antti Martikainen - Carmina Gloria (2021) 7.5/10

For those who don't know, Antti Martikainen is a very productive composer/musician from Finland (as you guessed by his name ). Started in 2013, he's releasing 2 albums on average per year, and Carmina Gloria is thus the 15th full-length. As always, all songs are instrumental and another long album, lasting for 78 minutes. The music is quite cinematographic, seems made for epic movies such The Lord of the Rings, but on a more Metal side, incorporating Symphonic, Power, Folk, even Celtic or Oriental parts. Probably an album that I will not hear everyday, but quite good when in the mood for instrumental soundtrack epic Metal.
   Antti Martikainen Facebook
   Metal Crusade (symphonic power metal)
   Durandal (epic Celtic metal)

Vallendusk - Heralds Of Strife (2021) 10/10

Hailing from Indonesia, Vallendusk started in 2011 and have been releasing albums regularly. After the excellent Fortress of Primal Grace, reviewed in these pages, here is a new masterpiece, that I immediately ordered. As before, the cover is an unusual beautiful painting. The music is, as in the previous albums, an amazing epic Atmospheric Melodic Black Metal with some folk and calm passages. All well-composed songs lasts for more than 7 minutes, providing many surprises and a collection of feelings, without a single weak part. More than one hour of excellent Metal and another 2021 awesome release.
   Vallendusk Facebook
   Vallendusk - The Sovereign (Official Track Premiere)
   Vallendusk - Heralds of Strife (Full Album Premiere)

Cân Bardd - Devoured by the Oak (2021) 10/10

2021 runs to be one of the best Metal years ever. The absence of shows is somehow compensated with amazing releases. There are excellent musicians, there are excellent composers, and when these qualities are gathered in a 22 years old Swiss lad influenced by Summoning, Saor and Caladan Brood, you have Cân Bardd. Devoured by the Oak is already their third album, as usual Mr. Malo Civelli sings and plays everything except drums. The music is an Epic Atmospheric Black Folk Celtic Metal and all 57 minutes of the album are pure delight, easy to hear non-stop and auto-repeat. So glad he gathered a band and is booking concerts, for sure one of the shows I must go!
   Cân Bardd Facebook
   Cân Bardd - Une Couronne de Branches (Official Music Video)
   Autumn Shore

Sorcières - Empoisonné (2021) 9/10

Sorcières (witches) is a recent French band, started in 2017, and owns a very proper sound, mainly Melodic Black but with plenty of acoustic and folk parts, helped by violin and flute. Empoisonné (poisoned) is the debut album, after an Ep two years ago. If the first half of the first song is not well representative of their sound, with the second one we enter their dark universe, with plenty of variations, great riffs, exquisite violin, unusual melodies, beautiful melancholic moments, black vocals in French and rhythmic demolition. In many parts Black is forgotten and it seems just Folk and even French popular songs. Marie's unconventional violin playing is another trademark. My favorite song is Les Yeux Verts, but all songs are well contructed and contain many surprises. Another band to follow!
   Sorcières Facebook
   Sorcières - Les Yeux Verts
   Sorcières - L'Auberge des Corps Perdus

Théâtres des Vampires - In Nomine Sanguinis (2021) 7/10

There's no country like Italy to have these Theatrical Gothic Metal bands or, at least with some influences. Théâtres des Vampires got its name (yes in French) from the book Interview with the Vampire, written by Anne Rice, the same that lead to the film with Tom Cruise. Being vampires the main theme, the Gothic music fills like a glove. In Nomine Sanguinis is already their 11th album and it's quite interesting, to me better then the previous Candyland from 2016 and with Fernando Ribeiro as guest. The vocalizations of Sonya Scarlet are warm and sensual, perfect for the dark atmosphere. Gothic Metal fans must check this.
   Théâtres des Vampires Facebook
   THEATRES DES VAMPIRES - Christina (Official Video)
   THEATRES DES VAMPIRES - Till The Last Drop Of Blood [In Nomine Sanguinis]

Manora - Brave the Storm (2021) 8.5/10

Back in 2017 I reviewed the first EP from this Dutch Symphonic Metal band, and it was quite a good start. After 4 years and a pandemic (still going on) here is their first album. Comprising 12 songs, one full hour in total, the melodic symphonic sound, with some Power brushstrokes is maintained here. Including two songs from the EP, the album is quite homogeneous, with the excellent Mirta's clear vocals leading the way and well supported by keys and guitars and efficient bass/drums. Highlights to me are Another Destiny, the single Wired to Obey, the classic Symphony of Lies and the slower The Heavens. For Heavy Metal fans, specially those who follow Epica and Within Temptation.
   Manora Facebook
   Manora - Wired to Obey (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
   Manora - Brave The Storm (complete album)

Apostolica - Haeretica Ecclesia (2021) 8/10

With the huge Powerwolf's success, it would be a question of time for some influenced bands. Apostolica is a new misterious band, with four members with prophet's names and very elaborated masks. From Italy as stated in Metal Encyclopedia? Instead of the Metal Mass, we have the Church of Heresy, with lyrics interpreting the Book of Revelations. The music is closer to Sabaton style, with some Powerwolf and Orden Ogan in parts, but of course not as good as any of these bands. Production could also be better, specially on drums. Anyway, it's a good and entertaining Power Metal album, with catchy hooks and riffs. Quite curious to see them alive, to me Powerwolf is the best live band.
   Apostolica Facebook
   APOSTOLICA - Sanctus Spiritus (Official Video)
   APOSTOLICA - No More Place in Hell (Official Video)

Lutharo - Hiraeth (2021) 9.5/10

Finally, after 3 EPs (I already owned the last 2) and some singles, here is the first album of this Canadian Metal gem. The first advanced singles anticipated an excellent album and the promise was fulfilled. The music is a non standard Melodic Death Metal, with inclusions of Thrash, Power and Classic Heavy, with plenty of tempo changes, and always quite melodic. The excellent vocal abilities of Krista Shipperbottom, mixing harsh and clean, is a band trademark. Riffs and solos are great and fresh. Bass and drums, and orchestrations (from Elliot Vernon, Alestorm) fulfill perfectly. If you like Arch Enemy or Unleash The Archers, definitively you must listen to Lutharo, a band deserved to be widely known.
   Lutharo Facebook
   Lutharo - To Kill or to Crave (Official Video)
   Lutharo - Hopeless Abandonment (Official Video)

Nidhoeggr - Arise (2021) 8/10

When I received this review suggestion by Art Gates Records, I consulted my notes and I had an excellent impression from their debut, Nach Der Schlacht. So let's hear the second album from this Swiss band that plays Folk Metal with some Melodic Death. For now they sing in English. The intro is a Departure for an epic and folk Journey, well followed by the keyboard based Onwards. The troll party (Drakum, Korpiklaani, etc) is well present on the first half of the record until Rise and Fall with parts remembering Equilibrium. I don't find the remaining songs, less party and folk, so appealing, yet well played and sung. A good album worth to be checked!
   Nidhoeggr Facebook
   Nidhoeggr - Rise and Fall (Official Audio)
   Nidhoeggr - Twilight Zone (Official Audio)

Emerald Rage - High King (2021) 7/10

Five years after its start and several demos, singles and EPs, here is the debut album of this Heavy Power American band, gathering almost all past songs (exception made to The Devil's Warhead and multiple covers). The trio (drummer added occasionally) manages to get an old-school vibe with influences from Iron Maiden, Running Wild, Judas Priest, some Motorhead. An interesting debut, my focus are the solos and riffs, and favorite songs are Into the Sky and Wings of Solitude.
   Emerald Rage Facebook
   Into the Sky
   Wings of Solitude

Powerwolf - Call of the Wild (2021) 9.5/10

I'm running out of words to describe Powerwolf's releases, after reviewing the previous two albums. What I wrote for The Sacrament of Sin can be copied here, just changing the song's names. These German Powermetalers can only write catchy Metal hymns, no weak or fill-in songs, but nothing risky or original. If the formula is correct, why change it, when its popularity is increasing and getting fans even outside Metal? Anyway, songs are getting shorter, average length is 3m41s, total album length is 40m28s. As in the previous album, we have a nice celtic song, a ballad and a song in german with a latin intro. Metal Religion is spreading faster than any other and I'm looking to attend another Power Metal Mass.
   Powerwolf Facebook
   POWERWOLF - Dancing With The Dead (Official Video) | Napalm Records
   POWERWOLF - Alive Or Undead (Official Lyric Video)

Hexenklad - Heathenheart (2021) 7.5/10

An interesting Pagan Folk band from Canada, created in 2014 by guitarrist Michael Grund (SIG:AR:TYR) and drummer Sterling Dale, curiously both left the band, yet Grund after recording the album. Heathenheart is the second album with one hour of good Melodic Black Folk Metal, plenty of riffs, chorus and attractive orchestrations. Starting with the strong song that gives name to the album and first video appealing to all our heathen hearts, and one of the preferred, there are many variations, including an acoustic and a nice instrumental. Before the last second acoustic song that ends the album, there is a one-minute silent "song" dedicated to Remembrance Day. I raise a horn to Hexenklad and this album.
   Hexenklad Facebook
   Hexenklad - Heathenheart - Official Music Video
   Hexenklad - The Raven Returns to the Knoll

Duskmourn - Fallen Kings And Rusted Crowns (2021) 10/10

Another top release for 2021. I'm following this American duo since the first album and I'm the proud owner of all discography, signed. Duskmourn play an irresistible and consistent Melodic Black Folk Metal. Do you find Wintersun epic? Do you like Melodic Black as Shylmagoghnar? Do you like melody as in Insomnium? Do you like Folk inclusions as in Equilibrium? Hear no more, you have to check Duskmourn. This third album is an epic monument, submerging the listener into raw nature, an environment created by the twin guitars and leads, filled with keyboards. All eight songs provide 47 minutes of pure ecstasy. To me the best American export!
   Duskmourn Facebook
   Duskmourn - Deathless (Single)
   Blood of the Forest

Mentalist - A Journey Into The Unknown (2021) 9/10

Exactly one year less a week after their debut album, here it is the second chapter of this Power Metal international band. Maintaining the same quintet all-star lineup, for this album the guests are, again Oliver Palotai (Kamelot), Mike LePond (Symphony X, etc) and Henning Basse. Almost all songs are quite good, both guitars lead the way, and vocalist Rob Lundgren deserves a wide recognition. Surprisingly, the album ends with an avoidable Manchild cover from the pop rapper Neneh Cherry, despite the effort a song that can't be transformed into Metal. For every Heavy Power Metal fans, in particular Blind Guardian and Gamma Ray.
   Mentalist Facebook
   MENTALIST - A Journey Into The Unknown (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)

Saeko - Holy Are We Alone (2021) 8/10

The spoken intro tells us a bit of the story of this band. Saeko was created by the Japanese female vocalist, Saeko Kitamae, that came to Germany in 2003 following his Heavy Metal dream. Together with well known musicians from Metalium, Mob Rules and others, she released 2 albums and made several successful shows, before ending and flying back to Japan. But she's back with this concept album where each song is dedicated to a country. The music is varied, mainly Heavy Power, but also including folk (mostly related to each country), opera, classical and others. The result is quite good and Saeko is an excellent and versatile singer. The other members are Guido Benedetti (Trick Or Treat), Alessandro Sala (Rhapsody Of Fire) and Michael Ehré (Primal Fear, Gamma Ray, etc), so it's all said! Hail Iron Empress!
   Saeko Facebook
   SAEKO / RUSSIA: HEROES (lyrics video)
   SAEKO/JAPAN: IN MY DREAM (lyrics video)

Legions Of The Night - Sorrow Is The Cure (2021) 8/10

Do you know Dawn of Destiny, a reasonable German Power Metal band with female vocals? Well, Legions Of The Night is a result of the Covid confinement, created by Jens Faber (guitars, bass) with the help of Philipp Bock (drums), both from Dawn of Destiny, and the charismatic vocalist Henning Basse (Mayan, ex Metalium and many others). The music is a good Heavy Power Metal, more on the US side. The main reference may be Savatage, and it's not strange the inclusion of a Sirens cover, quite good, by the way. The mix and production are excellent, all instruments and vocals in perfect proportions. A recent project, but actually seems quite mature, with excellent compositions and vocals.
   Legions Of The Night Facebook
   Legions Of The Night - Lie (Official Audio Video)
   LEGIONS OF THE NIGHT - Find The Truth (Official Audio Video)

Aephanemer - A Dream of Wilderness (2021) 10/10

These French friends are quite special to me and one of my top bands. Following them since 2014, it's a great joy to confirm that their quality is being worldwide recognized and the word is spreading fast. And they surpass themselves in each album. A Dream of Wilderness is a Melodic Death Metal masterpiece, if not the best epic MDM album ever. Everything in this album is perfect, starting by the cover and artwork, production, Marion's vocals (also in French), the rhythm section and... what to say about solos and riffs?! All songs are awesome, with many surprises, all album can be heard all day non-stop. It's unfair to highlight some songs, but... Le Radeau de La Méduse, Roots and Leaves and A Dream of Wilderness give me chills everytime. 2021 is being extraordinary in terms of releases, anyway to me this is the best album of the year, and a must in all discographies!
   Aephanemer Facebook
   AEPHANEMER - Panta Rhei (Official Video) | Napalm Records
   AEPHANEMER - Antigone (Official Video) | Napalm Records

Vandor - On A Moonlit Night (2021) 9/10

The first album, In The Land of Vandor, left a quite good impression, so let's hear the new opus from this young Swedish band. And after the intro, we are presented with 8 high quality Power Metal songs, with all instruments perfectly balanced, crispy solos and superb vocals. Sure there is a slow, Future to Behold, fast songs as Fate of Eltoria, and even an epic 17 minutes The Sword to End All Wars. Imagine the best of Angra, Stratovarius and Dragonfoce and you will get an idea. This album will guide Vandor to the Power Metal top, so we are going to hear a lot about them!
   Vandor Facebook
   VANDOR - Fate of Eltoria (Official Video)
   VANDOR - Enter Twilight (Official Video)

Path Of Destiny - The Seed Of All Evil (2021) 8/10

Despite existing since 2007 and 2 previous albums, this is a band that escaped from my radar. Coming from Germany, Path of Destiny offers us an efficient Melodic Death Metal with some Black inclusions. Among the 10 tracks, there is some diversity, since the more melodic From Heaven They Fall and Erased By Light (this one with my fave riffs, reminding Tribulation), the aggressive and fast Endbringer and As Stars Collide or the more black March Of The Antichrist. A good album and a good surprise!
   Path Of Destiny Facebook
   PATH OF DESTINY - The Division Of A Spiral Synergy

Wormwood - Arkivet (2021) 9.5/10

After reviewing the previous albums and attending an amazing show at Vagos Metal Fest in 2019, Wormwood is definitively on my top eight. So it was with great expectation that I waited for this new release. In the last 4 years the Swedes managed to create a very proper sound, mixing Melodic Black, Post-Black, Folk and Pink Floyd, among other subtle inclusions. With a minimalist yet efficient cover, Arkivet (meaning The Archive) includes 7 songs, all but one sung in english. The strong message on all album is how stupid mankind is f*cking our world. The sequence of the first six songs is perfect, I just feel that the last song, with 9 minutes, is not at the same level; the idea should have been to create an epilogue. One of the best albums of the year, can be played non-stop all day!
   Wormwood Facebook
   Wormwood - The Archive (Official Video)
   Wormwood - The Slow Drown (Lyric Video)

Chaos Over Cosmos - The Silver Lining Between the Stars (2021) 7/10

After reviewing their previous album from 2020, here is a new offer. This is the Rafal Bowman project, a Polish guy that assures all instruments. For this album, vocals are being taken by KC Lyon from USA, no other known bands. The sound is different from the previous album, less synths, less melodic, without traces of Power, and way more progressive technical Death Metal. With five songs, 2 of them around 10 minutes, it's an interesting album that will be appreciated by Prog Death fans. But I miss a song like We Will Not Fall, still my favorite from the band.
   Chaos Over Cosmos Facebook
   Chaos Over Cosmos The Silver Lining Between the Stars [FULL ALBUM 2021]

Burning Witches - The Witch of the North (2021) 9.5/10

The Witches are back, stronger than ever! For their fourth album in 6 years, the band improved in all aspects and was not afraid to try new approaches. Of course the music is still true Heavy Metal, most of the time fast, but also emotive when needed. Laura became one of the best vocals in Metal, the new guitar axe Larissa integrated perfectly with the band. After Judas Priest, Dio and Manowar, this time the cover is Savatage's Hall of the Mountain King (with a special guest). And looking forward to see again the ladies alive, at HRH Vikings if not before. We Stand as One, Heavy Metal is Our Way!
   Burning Witches Facebook

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen - Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen (2021) 9/10

Probably a good consequence of lockdown. Esa Holopainen, the Amorphis mastermind and exquisite guitar/composer, had the time to reunite ideas and compose his first solo album, under the name Silver Lake. For vocals he invited an all-star team: Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis), Björn Strid (Soilwork), Anneke Van Giersbergen, Håkan Hemlin (Nordman), Einar Solberg (Leprous) and Vesa-Matti Loiri (spoken parts, as in Ensiferum's Unsung Heroes). All songs feel like if they have been composed for the guest vocalists, quite different but with the remarkable guitar solos and riffs. The album includes delicious acoustic parts, a saxophone solo and even an Amorphis type song, In Her Solitude. Ordered the limited box as soon as I saw the fabulous first video Storm.
   Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen Facebook
   SILVER LAKE By Esa Holopainen - Alkusointu feat. Vesa-Matti Loiri (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)

Steignyr - The Legacy of Wyrd (2021) 7/10

Fifth album of this Celtic Death Metal from Barcelona whose I have good references. This one starts with a long prologue, quite promising and introducing the concept of the album. But the first songs show a different direction, now mainly with female vocals, many times in unison with male death vocals. The music is also different, less melodic, with less protagonism and more orchestral, yet still including some folk and celtic elements. This project includes spoken contributions of Kit Harrington and Peter Dinklage (John Snow and Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones) and Ian McKellen (Gandalf from Lord of the Rings). While interesting, I prefer their previous albums.
   Steignyr Facebook
   Steignyr - "Rhythm of Time" (Official Lyric Video)
   Steignyr - "Everything Silent" (Official Audio)

Rampart - WWII: Memories For The Future (2021) 7.5/10

I follow Rampart since their first album, it was my first Metal reference coming from Bulgaria. Formed by vocalist Maria Diese 15 years ago, this is their 5th album. As in the name, it's a conceptual album with each song related to less known facts of World War II. The music is pure steel Heavy Metal, quite technical and innovative. Guitars, bass and drums are faultless, deserving attention to details. Maria has a characteristic timbre maybe not appreciated by some but I can't imagine Rampart's with different vocals. Crystal Viper meets Girlschool with a Sabaton visual ☺ "In Metal We Trust!".
   Rampart Facebook
   RAMPART June 22nd (Official Video)
   RAMPART Now We Are One

Ankhara - Premonición (2021) 7.5/10

Another proof of the dynamism and quality of the Spanish Metal Scene. Ankhara started in 1995 and released 3 albums before they split in 2004. After reunion in 2013 and a good album Sinergia in 2018, this is the second one. The music is a good headbanging Heavy Power, a bit old-school and in the line of other Spanish bands as Tierra Santa, well served by experienced musicians (all but the drummer since the origins). As with most bands from our neighbouring country, lyrics are in Spanish and Pacho has a strong voice. Favorite songs are both videos and Levantar Mi Alma (what happens to me when I hear good Metal).
   Ankhara Facebook
   Videoclip Oficial - "Huida"
   Videolyric "Esperando en la Eternidad"

Reinforcer - Prince of the Tribes (2021) 7/10

Debut album of a German quintet that plays Classical Heavy Metal with a Power feeling. They started in 2015 and released previously an EP in 2018. Prince of the Tribes includes 9 good Metal songs, all different but all quite strong. I do like the music construction and melodies, twin guitars dueling and riffs, and efficient rhythms. I only don't appreciate vocals in this, too monotone and sometimes I don't think they fit in the music. An album to be appreciated by old and new Heavy Metal fans.
   Reinforcer Facebook
   REINFORCER - Allegiance and Steel (Official Video)
   REINFORCER - Prince Of The Tribes (LYRIC VIDEO)

Thy Kingdom Will Burn - Thy Kingdom Will Burn (2021) 7.5/10

Another good debut for the current year. Thy Kingdom Will Burn come from the land of the thousand lakes, was created by guitar/vocal Sami Kujala in 2016, after 15 years in some unknown bands except for playing live with To/Die/For. Most songs are good, I particularly liked the guitar work, just vocalizations in some songs could be improved. If you like Death Metal quite melodic, like Insomnium or Dark Tranquillity, this band is a good addition to your playlist.
   Thy Kingdom Will Burn Facebook
   THY KINGDOM WILL BURN - Rise Against (Official Video)
   THY KINGDOM WILL BURN - Follow The Fallen (Lyric Video)

Helloween - Helloween (2021) 7.5/10

Of course bands can progress and try new sounds as it happened to Helloween post-Kai Hansen. And of course fans, that dislike the new direction, are free to ellect another top band, as it happened to me, despite attending several shows and own many post Keeper CDs (with some dust on top). So this new album, maintaining the successful reunion line-up, had to be checked. The result is quite unbalanced. We have some great tunes, specially Skyfall (single duration would be better), remembering Keepers age, while others are boring and still I never liked Deris vocals. All songs are well constructed, riffs are excellent, and Kiske/Deris vocals at the same time result quite well. A good album, but yet not bringing Helloween to my top 100 bands.
   Helloween Facebook
   HELLOWEEN - Fear Of The Fallen (Official Lyric Video) br />

Avaland - Theater Of Society (2021) 7.5/10

Tobias Sammet has a heir, that is, there's a new kid in the Metal Opera block. Drinking from Avantasia influences, Avaland is a new band from France, created by 22 years od Adrien Gzagg. He developed the concept, wrote an epic story involving 8 characters, and formed the band with some friends, two from his other band Eyezery. A Metal Opera means guests, and this debut includes Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear), Zak Stevens (Savatage/TSO), Zaher Zorgati (Myrath), Emmanuelson (Rising Steel), Madie (Nightmare) and more. Some songs are quite good, namely the first 5, while a few are "where have I heard this before". Anyway, a good debut, better than the last Avantasia's albums. Let's wait for some impressive live shows.
   Avaland Facebook
   AVALAND - Theater of Sorcery (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)
   AVALAND - Never Let me Walk Alone (feat. Madie) OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO

This Ending - Needles of Rust (2021) 8/10

The roots of this historical Swedish band go back to 1991 (when the Melodic Death Metal genre started), first as A Canorous Quartet, then as A Canorous Quintet (meanwhile reactivated). As This Ending, since 2005, they previously released 3 albums and Needles of Rust is the fourth. The music is solid, melodic, homogeneous, very much in the line of the mighty Amon Amarth. Fredrik Andersson, also drummer of Amon Amarth between 1999 and 2015, left This Ending and drums recording had to be repeated, but maintained the credits as songwriter. A quite good album, where my highlights go for the videos linked below and Eclipse of the Dead.
   This Ending Facebook
   This Ending - Annihilate - ( Official Lyric Video 2021) | Black Lion Records
   This Ending - Needles of Rust (Official Lyric video 2021) | Black Lion Records

SuidAkrA - Wolfbite (2021) 9.5/10

To me one of the most anticipated albums of the year. The irresistible Melodic Death Celtic Folk Metal of Mr. Arkadius Antonik is back (trivia, the band's name is his name backwards). Among a familiar and characteristic sound, there is place for many Celtic Folk inclusions, bagpipes, flutes, violins and with several vocals, including again Miss Tina Stabel. All album must be listened carefully due to the many details, but my favorite songs are Resurgence (Equilibrium feeling) and Faoladh. So far, one of the best albums of the year, of course I ordered it. And I must see this band alive again, after a 2017 almost clandestine show in Cascais.
   SuidAkrA Facebook
   SUIDAKRA - Vortex Of Carnage (official video)
   SUIDAKRA - Resurgence (official Lyricvideo)

Phoenix Rising - Acta Est Fabula (2021) 8/10

Spain has already got us used to good Power and Heavy Metal bands, some I follow since my youth. This band, from the Community of Madrid and whose full name is Phoenix Rising / Fire & Ashes, started in 2007 as Quinta Enmienda and changed to the current name in 2012 with the first contract and album. Acta Est Fabula is the fourth chapter of a good and pompous Power Metal, very much in the line of other bands from Spain and Italy, like Opera Magna and Rhappsody of Fire. Quite well sung, in Spanish, the music is normally fast, with good melodies and riffs, and well inserted keyboards. Looking forward for seeing these Brothers alive!
   Phoenix Rising Facebook
   PHOENIX RISING - Deriva Speranza - [2020] - Official Lyric Video [SPANISH POWER METAL]
   PHOENIX RISING - El Caminante - [2021] - Official Lyric Video [SPANISH POWER METAL]

Morgarten - Cry of the Lost (2021) 8.5/10

After an excellent debut in 2015, this Black Folk Metal band from Switzerland comes with another good release. Named after a XIV century battle, Morgarten offers a quite epic album, to me more Pagan than Black, full of military hymns, where keyboards have an important role and some bagpipes add the folk feeling. For this album the band decided to write a novel based on a medieval Swiss hero and only after to compose the lyrics and music, thus expressing different states and feelings. Fans of Gwydion, Black Messiah or Ensiferum must check this album!
   Morgarten Facebook
   Morgarten - To Victory [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO]
   Morgarten - Tales of My Lands [OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO]

Bloodshed Walhalla - Second Chapter (2021) 8.5/10

Mr. Thomas Forsberg, aka Quorthon, must feel honoured in Valhalla. Bloodshed Walhalla was founded in 2006 by Drakhen as a Bathory cover band and where he sings and plays all instruments. The first album was released in 2010 and since then, the music is quite close to Bathory, the Viking Metal age initiated on the first recorded songs of Blood On Ice. As in the previous album Ragnarok, this Second Chapter includes four long songs for an epic total of 78 minutes. The music is pompous, melodic, with adequate folk inclusions, plenty of chorus and very well played and sung. Heroes never die, and Bloodshed Walhala do pay a due hommage!
   Bloodshed Walhalla Facebook
   Bloodshed Walhalla - HAMMERHEART (Bathory cover)

Illusory - Crimson Wreath (2021) 8.5/10

Illusory comes from Greece, a country known for its good taste in Metal. Being the third album, five years after the good Polysyllabic, Crimson Wreath offers us, lucky Metalheads that are hearing this, a quite solid Heavy Metal album. Despite the 78 minutes length, the album has many different moments, with also some Progressive, but above all, extremely melodic. Along the album, several spoken intros situates the themes, mainly antiwar and human loss. All members are good, but I would highlight the vocalist Dee Theodorou, quite impressive. There are no weak moments, and the album ends perfectly with an emotive trilogy for Loss and Sorrow, with a total of 22 min, and the epic 10 minutes of Fortress of Sadness.
   Illusory Facebook
   ILLUSORY - Crimson Wreath (VISUALIZER)

Ildaruni - Beyond Unseen Gateways (2021) 9/10

Armenia is a country which I used to have no Metal references, but Ildaruni, with this excellent debut, brought the country into the Metal Map. This is a mandatory album for all Melodic Black Metal fans that like Pagan Reign, Wormwood, Saor and Rotting Christ. With an ambient intro song, based on flute, and seven long and intricate compositions, between 6 to 8 minutes, Beyond Unseen Gateways will get your attention from beginning to end. Old local heritage, besides the band's name, provides rich dark ambients and lyrics, with riffs and flutes delivering memorable melodies. To me the best songs are the videos below. Album ordered, looking forward to have it in my collection!
   Ildaruni Facebook
   Ildaruni - Treading the Path of Cryptic Wisdom (Official Lyric Video 2021) | Black Lion Records
   Ildaruni - Towards Subterranean Realms Official Audio 2021| Black Lion Records

Havamal - The Shadow Chapter (2021) 9/10

Another excellent 2021 release, this time Havamal from Sweden. Their first album, Tales From Yggdrasil in 2019, was quite a pleasant surprise, and the confirmation arrived now with this new album. The sonority is a Melodic Death quite epic and full of Viking references. All songs are good, extremely melodic, great riffs, efficient bass/drums, good vocals, and with keyboards defining a common base. My favorite is Nidhoggr, also Empire Of The Ashen Sun, with a Therion vibe. If you like old Ensiferum and Kalmah, you will love this band! As they are on the same label as Gwydion, definitively a common Iberian tour would be awesome. And they care a lot with the visual.
   Havamal Facebook
   Havamal - "Nidhoggr" (Official Video)
   Havamal - "Hel" (Official Lyric Video)

Against Evil - End of the Line (2021) 9/10

This is one of the few cases that, upon downloading the promo to review, I preordered the CD. Against Evil comes from a country that I admire for its ancient culture, India, but with few references on the Heavy Metal world. Formed in 2014, they released an EP in 2015 and the first album in 2018, followed by a tour in central Europe in 2019. And this is a hell of a band, playing traditional Heavy Metal with inserts from Power and Speed, but sounding quite fresh. As references, some Saxon, Judas Priest and Manowar. Vocals, guitars and bass/drums are quite well balanced and all songs are great. It would be awesome if they could come on another tour. Heavy Metal is well and alive, in all parts of the world \m/
   Against Evil Facebook
   Against Evil - The Sound of Violence (Music Video)
   Against Evil - Metal or Nothin' (Music Video)

Massen - Contraesthetic (2021) 9/10

At first it seemed a new band to me, but then I found that this Belarus band used to be known as Massenhinrichtung (meaning Mass Extinction). Searching my notes, I remembered that I loved their 2018 album! So this album is the fourth, and I'm sure that it will open doors around the world. The music is an exquisite, dense, surprising Pagan Black Metal, quite melodic, and... with violin! Vocals are harsh but often the fury is cut by delicate female vocals, giving a Slavic folk vibe, and violin. I had to order this, another album that will enrich my collection! And glad they shorten the band's name. Those who don't know, must check the videos below!
   Massen Facebook
   MASSEN - By Water To The Sun (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
   MASSEN - The Flock Of Whores (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

Wolfchant - Omega: Bestia (2021) 9/10

As an old-timer Metalhead, I own a vest full of patches accompanying me to all shows. Wolfchant's is proudly a presence on the front. After the excellent Bloodwinter in 2017, and an interruption in 2018, here is the seventh album of this pagan melodic death metal German band. The main band distintion, two vocals, harsh and clean, is here, the main evolution is a melodic death less folk and more power metal, with awesome solos and riffs, bass and drums always noticed. While not having a hit like the epic Das Bollwerk, the collection of 14 songs divided in two disks will get you headbanging for 65 minutes. A miss in my live shows that must be solved!
   Wolfchant Facebook
   WOLFCHANT : Komet (Official Video) | German Epic Pagan Death Metal
   Wolfchant - Der Geist und die Dunkelheit (Official Video)

Vexillum - When Good Men Go To War (2021) 9/10

There's no better country for Power Folk than Italy. Following masters Elvenking, here is another excellent band. When Good Men Go To War is the fourth album, six years after the reasonable Unum. The first song, Enlight the Bivouac, and the title song shows the main influence, while the second one, Sons Of A Wolf, seems like a folkish Blind Guardian. Among the other songs we got lots of variations, also some fast and folk songs, some bagpipes, flutes, but always with excellent vocals and players. The album ends with an exquisite Italian acoustic. A band that would be very welcome to play in Portugal for the first time and in Spain again.
   Vexillum Facebook
   VEXILLUM - When A Good Man Goes To War (Visualizer)
   VEXILLUM - Sons Of A Wolf (Official Video)

Ulthima - Symphony Of The Night (2021) 9.5/10

Another 2021 awesome release and best newcomer so far. Follow your dreams could be the leitmotiv of this band, formed by two Mexicans that moved to Finland, to be close to their musical inspirations. I believe the first times were not easy but in 2018 they came with a six-piece stable lineup. The first album is now available and is a collection of nine Melodic Death anthems that will blow your speakers and will hurt your neck. The first reference is Children of Bodom, but with better vocals, and getting the melody of Aephanemer. Other reference coming to mind is Frosttide. Only 40 minutes? Play in loop!
   Ulthima Facebook
   Ulthima - Eternity
   Ulthima - Symphony Of The Night

The Prowlers - Closing Circle (2021) 7/10

Here it is the fifth album from this Italian band, and curiously all from different record companies. I had no references, so this was my first contact. As many others, they were formed, in 1996, as an Iron Maiden cover band, and some years later started to release their own stuff. The previous album was released 8 years ago, so Closing Circle is like a return. The music is a reasonable Heavy Metal, with Progressive, Hard Rock and Power elements, well played and sung, revealing the years on the road. Best songs to me Rush Hour, Liar and I’ll Never Be (A Rich Man). The album ends with the curious A-ha cover Take On Me (oh boy, a band that I can't stand).
   The Prowlers Facebook
   Rush Hour
   I’ll Never Be (A Rich Man)

Frozen Crown - Winterbane (2021) 9/10

Third album in a little more than three years! And my third review for this excellent Italian band. After 3/5 of the members have left the band, remaining only Giada and Federico, there was some expectation. As before, Federico composes all songs and took care of the artwork. The symphonic parts and occasional harsh vocals are less important and the result is pure Heavy Power, without addictives, and straight in your face! Musically, there is an approach to Dragonforce (Far Beyond), maybe influences of the common tour ☺ . Also quite good is the Night Crawler cover (excellent Giada) And I'm impressed with the new members, specially the new Axe Queen Sheena. Hopefully the pandemic will stop, I want again to see this band alive!
   Frozen Crown Facebook
   FROZEN CROWN - Far Beyond (Official Video)
   FROZEN CROWN - Embrace The Night (Official Video)

Silent Line - Death and Perspective (2021) 8/10

If you are a fan of Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum, you probably will like this Canadian band, being around since 2008. For their fourth album, Silent Line present 14 songs, along almost 70 minutes. Vocalizations, both death and clean, are good, with some memorable refrains, guitar work is what to expect from a good Melodic Death Metal band, keyboards are enough to fill in. Besides the two MDM monsters referred, Amon Amarth can be catched in few parts (as in Blood of the North). In summary: original, not much; good and entertaining MDM, Yes!
   Silent Line Facebook
   New Dominion
   Heart of the Sea

Heleven - Into The Oceans (2021) 7/10

Alternative Metal is not my beach but found this interesting and a bit hypnotic, enough to review it. Heleven comes from Granada, Spain, was founded in 2016 and Into The Oceans is their second album. Not compromising with a single genre, some progressive, grunge, gothic, doom, metalcore, acoustics are also included, but instead of an amalgam of genres, the result is curiously uniform. The vocalist and chorus are the main responsible for the melodic parts, while all the instruments don't avoid to follow experimental paths. Best songs to me are Into The Oceans and Lesson Learned.
   Heleven Facebook
   Heleven - "Into the Oceans" (Official Video)
   Heleven - "Broken" (Lyric Video)

Alkonost - Ведомые ветром / Vedomye Vetrom (2021) 9/10

For those who don't know, Alkonost is a Russian Epic Folk Metal band, being around since 1996. With many line-up changes, they succeed to manage a solid career and released recently this 12th album. The first words for the beautiful digipack and artwork. With an epic entrance like the french new-age project Era, all following songs have similar quality, with emotive clean female vocals of Ksenia, sung in Russian, and exquisite solos and guitar riffs, that give a proper and unique feeling. The last song, Bird, in English, has the special participation of Petri Lindroos (Ensiferum). Besides this, Tam Gde Zhivut Vetra, is also a favorite. A band I would love to see alive!
   Alkonost Facebook
   Alkonost feat Petri Lindroos (Ensiferum) - Bird (Lyric video)
   Alkonost - Prorochestvo (lyric video)

Silent Winter - Empire of Sins (2021) 9/10

One of the most solid European Power Metal scene band strikes back. Coming from the amazing Greece, Silent Winter had a demo period between 1995 and 2001, and was reborn in 2018, releasing since then one EP and the first album in 2019. Empire of Sins is the confirmation, if needed, of high quality Power Metal with a Progressive touch. Almost all songs are quite good, blinking to some Helloween, Stratovarius and Manowar, but with a proper identity. Mike Livas is an excellent and versatile vocalist, also I love those riffs. Favorite song is Hunter's Oath. The only negative aspect is the Belinda Carlisle cover that closes the album, boring as the original.
   Silent Winter Facebook
   Silent Winter - Gates Of Fire (Official 3d Lyric Video 2021)
   Silent Winter - Empire Of Sins (Official Cinematic 4k Video)

Stormtide - A Throne of Hollow Fire (2021) 9/10

Here it is an example how I like my Metal, excelent melodic death, good vocals, some folk, some oriental influences, and principally epic as hell. Stormtide come from Australia, released an excellent debut in 2016 and now the second album. Comparing both albums, this one is less folk and less oriental, but still quite good. The quartet, with no permanent bass player, delivers a set of epic 10 songs, full of orchestrations that don't give much space to bass, and catchy guitar lines. Reuben Stone's vocals add the necessary emotion. I wished it had more than 40 minutes. If you like old Equilibrium, Atlas Pain or Wintersun, don't loose this one! And a tour with Valhalore would be memorable!
   Stormtide Facebook
   Stormtide - She Who Would Name The Stars
   Stormtide - Awakening | Epic Death Metal

Orden Ogan - Final Days (2021) 9.5/10

After the excellent Gunmen and seeing the band on tour, I confirmed that this is a band for the Power Metal podium. So, anxiously waiting, me and many others, for the next album, delayed several months. And the wait was worth it! At least the album is as good as Gunmen, with ten solid melodic songs. Seeb Levermann, now only as vocals, only knows how to compose hits, and he again assures a crystal clear production. The album concept moved from the dark West to the Dark Sci-Fi, ending with the final days of mankind. An emotive slow could not be missed, with the participation of Ylva Eriksson (Brothers Of Metal vocalist). Looking forward to receive my box edition and to review the band alive.
   Orden Ogan Facebook
   ORDEN OGAN - Inferno (2021) // Official Music Video // AFM Records
   ORDEN OGAN - Heart Of The Android (2020) // OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO // AFM Records

Númenor - Draconian Time (2021) 8/10

Now here it is an interesting band coming from Serbia, or how to mix Epic Power with Symphonic Black. Númenor was created in 2009, while coming from other projects, and released 3 albums before this Draconian Time. The album start quite well with a good epic power with the participation of Blind Guardian's Hansi Kürsch. Diversity is not missing in this matured album, or how to mix Rhapsody with Bal-Sagoth or Blind Guardian with Dimmu Borgir. The rhythms and riffs are generally fast, alternating between Power and Symphonic Black. Vocals are mainly black but fit quite well in all tracks. If you like Stormlord and the other mentioned bands, check this one. Pity it's only 34 minutes.
   Númenor Facebook
   Númenor - Make the Stand feat. Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian)
   Numenor - Numenor

Ablaze My Sorrow - Among Ashes and Monoliths (2021) 7.5/10

This Swedish band appeared when the Gothenburg Melodic Death sound started to be known, being from a city not far. Before splitting up in 2006 they released 3 reasonable albums. Reuniting in 2013, they released Black in 2016, in my oppinion a weak album with some metalcore. Without having much expectations, actually this Among Ashes and Monoliths surprised me positively, with a back to the roots sound. Almost all songs are reasonable, riff based, some more melodic (Black Waters, Her Cold Embrace), others thrashy (Noexistence). A worthy representative of the Swedish Melodic Death scene.
   Ablaze My Sorrow Facebook
   Ablaze My Sorrow - Black Waters (Official Music Video 2021)
   Ablaze My Sorrow - My Sorrow (Official Lyric Video 2020)

Isatha - From Here to Beyond (2021) 8/10

Another new band to me. Isatha come from Hungary, the name meaning "forefather" (not confirmed by google translate) and are composed by eight members. They released the first album in 2013 and here is the second one. Announced as Extreme Folk Metal, I would say that it's a mix between Folk and Melodic Death, where harsh male vocals and death riffs are compensated with flute, crystal clean female vocals and acoustic parts. In parts remind Waylander with Celtic Folk replaced by Slavic Folk, other parts countrymen Dalriada. I do like all nine songs, but Feast With The Fallen is the fave one. A band to follow!
   Isatha Facebook
   Isatha - Feast With The Fallen
   Isatha - Pan

Crystallion - Heads Or Tails (2021) 7.5/10

Long time not hearing from this German band. Founded in 2003, they released the first three albums between 2006 and 2009, being then compared to Rhapsody or Freedom Call. The previous album, Killer, in 2013, represented a style change, more to a classic Heavy and Hard direction. On 2019, the longtime vocalist left, being replaced by a female singer. Heads Or Tails maintains the same direction, with Kristina Berchtold giving a Girlschool / Warlock touch. The 11 songs are well constructed, with simple refrains, nice intros, good riffs (also a new element) and rhythms. The slowest song Sleeping Emperor is better than any Doro song in recent years. A band to be seen alive, when conditions make it possible.
   Crystallion Facebook
   Crystallion - Knights And Heroes (Official Video)
   Crystallion - Living On A Lie (Official Music Video)

Ephemerald - Between the Glimpses of Hope (2021) 9.5/10

A new star on the constellation of Finnish Melodic Death! I remember when Joni Snoro left the awesome band Frosttide, months later I heard about Ephemerald for the first time. Together with friends belonging to other Finnish fine acts, five singles were released since 2017 and now the first album. Time for sure contributed for the excellency of the 9 tracks, all melodic, all epic, all different, with fast drums, good riffs, good harsh and clean vocals. Joni's guitar gives a Frosttide feel, besides the obvious Wintersun (the student surpasses the master?) and Children of Bodom influences. If not enough, All There Is is one of the most beautiful songs of the year. Another must-to-buy record!
   Ephemerald Facebook

Marco Garau's Magic Opera - The Golden Pentacle (2021) 9.5/10

Missing the old Rhapsody? Now multiply their Symphonic Power by two and you will get Magic Opera. This is a new solo project by the keyboardist of Derdian, with the participation of members from Wings of Destiny (vocals), Seven Thorns, Shadowstrike and, of course, Derdian. The concept story is about a fantasy kingdom, wizards, a lost golden pentacle and good versus evil (no dragons). All songs are an homage to Music itself, extremely melodic and symphonic, normally fast, with many classical inserts and some references to other musical styles. The comparison to Avantasia crossed my mind, but I do prefer Magic Opera. Another candidate to best album of the year.
   Magic Opera Facebook
   Magic Opera - Free Again (Official Lyric Video)
   Magic Opera - Until The End Of Time (Official Lyric Video)

Immortal Guardian - Psychosomatic (2021) 9.5/10

Since finding Duskmourn, several years ago, I haven't heard such a thrilling band coming from the States. Immortal Guardian was founded in 2008 by Gabriel Guardian a Texan virtuous guitarist/keyboardist and... yes, he plays both instruments at the same time. Together with one of the best vocalists around, the Brazilian Carlos Zema, and also quite good drums and bass players, the lineup was setup for Super Metal, on their words. I will call it Prog Power with many incursions on Classical. This second album is another 2021 masterpiece, quite varied, and a direct result of the members lockdown. Depressed with confinement? Just hear this to bring joy to your life!
   Immortal Guardian Facebook
   Immortal Guardian - Lockdown (Official Music Video)
   IMMORTAL GUARDIAN - Read Between The Lines (Lyric Video)

Winterage - The Inheritance of Beauty (2021) 9/10

Another new band to me, despite being around for some time. Winterage comes from Italy, the land of Melodic Power Metal, and the first impression on their music is Rhapsody of Fire, with a quite strong symphonic component. But hearing more there are several differences, like the inclusion of violin instead of keyboards, so an Elvenking vibe, a complete orchestra, folk instruments and an Irish folk component, and plenty of choirs. And what about the lyrics? You must pay attention to it, all have a story related to beauty and decadence, well ending with a cinematographic and varied 16 minutes The Amazing Toymaker. Another excellent release on this year's beginning.
   Winterage Facebook
   WINTERAGE - Orpheus and Eurydice (Official Video)
   WINTERAGE - Of Heroes And Wonders (Lyric Video)

Mirzadeh - Sauna (EP 2021) 9.5/10

Seven years after the last album, Desired Mythic Pride, by the way a masterpice, here it is an EP from this Finnish Band. Mirzadeth started in 2000, released 3 albums and now this EP. The music is mainly Melodic Black but with other influences like Folk and Gothic. Sauna includes five songs, while different all are headbang demanding and extremely melodic. The highlight goes to the epic Valakea, sung in the local dialect of the holy mountain where the video was recorded, with superb riffs and clean choruses. Very underrated band, but deserving much better recognition, and for sure one of the best EPs of the year.
   Mirzadeh Facebook
   Mirzadeh - Valakea (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
   Mirzadeh - Rotten Sights (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

Incursed - Baskavígin (2021) 10/10

When reviewing Amalur, back in 2017, I wrote that this is a band I must see alive. So glad I had the chance to see them twice in 2019. Incursed comes from the Basque country, Spain, and the songs reflect well their origins. Baskavígin is the story of the dramatic slaying of more than 30 basque whales hunters in 1615 on northern Iceland. The music follows the same pattern of Amalur, but more matured. It's still an easy identifiable Viking Pagan Folk Metal, fast, with harsh vocals, plenty of clean choruses and folk moments. Impossible to choose songs, all are great. The first runner for best album of the year!
   Incursed Facebook
   INCURSED - Baskavígin (Official Music Video)
   INCURSED - Who Stole My Beer? (Official Lockdown Video)


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