Testament – Titans of Creation

Reading around on forums and talking to people it seems like Testament fans are divided in two parts when the favorite eras of their career is being discussed. Either you dig their classic, 80’s era the most – which it seems most of their fans do – or you prefer their more recent stuff, after the reunion of the classic line-up, a line-up that has been changed around since then. Very few seems to hold their Death Metal influenced Demonic (1997) era (that’s the only Testament record I can’t stand, by the way) or their more melodic Metal era of The Ritual (1992) as their faves. I was never a Testament fan when I grew up. Thrash and Speed Metal never was my music of choice and from the little I had heard, I dismissed them as nothing but Metallica wannabees. Fact is, the only Testament album I liked for a long time was actually The Ritual. But everything changed when I stumbled over the reunion album The Formation Of Damnation (2008).

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Semblant – Obscura

As soon as the link for this album hit my mailbox, I reacted to the name. Semblant. I knew I had heard about this lot before. In fact, I was sure I had listened to them at some point. A quick search through my iTunes library told me that yes, I had an album by the band. Don’t ask me how it landed there because I just can’t recall. Neither can I recall what they sounded like or if I dug it or not. Well, the record obviously didn’t make much of an impression with me and when I googled the band I knew why. Melodic, gothic Heavy/Death Metal. Death Metal is one of the Hard Rock sub-genres I still can’t wrap my head around and Goth? Well, it’s very rare that I take an interest in that. But since quitting is for quitters, I’d be damned if I didn’t give the band a fighting chance, so I took on the album with an open mind.

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Novena – Eleventh Hour

Frontiers keeps on trying to develop their musical directions – a great move, I think even though I’m not a huge fan of everything they release. From being a label that put focus on AOR, Melodic Rock and reunited 80’s Hard Rock acts, they now include plenty of genres which branches out from the Hard Rock tree. The label has released stuff by progressive hard-rockers before but there are not a whole lot of those coming from their stables. A new signing in that genre comes with new, upcoming British rockers Novena consisting of members from bands such as Haken, Slice The Cake, Bleeding Oath, Ravenface and The HAARP Machine, to mention but a few. Since I’m not overly conversant in the prog-genre, I’m not even gonna pretend that I have ever heard of any of those bands. To be honest, Prog isn’t my first choice when it comes to Rock and there are only a few bands that I truly love.

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Allen/Olzon – Worlds Apart

Magnus Karlsson is back for another ride of melodic Metal. We all know the guy from Free Fall, Starbreaker, The Ferrymen and his day-job in Primal Fear, to mention but a few. We also know him from Allen/Lande where he (and Frontiers Records, to be honest) gathered singers Jorn Lande (Masterplan, Millenium, Ayreon, Avantasia) and Russell Allen (Symphony X, Adrenaline Mob, Star One, Avantasia, Ayreon) for a collaboration. The first album The Battle (2005) was brilliant and is today looked upon as a more or less a classic. The second, The Revenge (2007) was a big let-down but he/they took their revenge (sic!) with the third outing The Showdown (2010), not as good as the debut but still a damn good record. The fourth album The Great Divide (2014) was also good but that one was written by Timo Tolkki (Startovarious) and Lande (lyrics only).

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Dynazty – The Dark Delight

I’m gonna start this review with a question that usually ends my reviews – and I think I have ended a couple of Dynazty reviews with it. Why isn’t Dynazty a headlining act yet? Why aren’t they headlining festivals and arenas around the world? I can’t get it through my skull. After six albums, none of them worse than good, most of them brilliant, it feels like the band just doesn’t get much bigger compared to the last album no matter how awesome the records are. Sure, they went on an up when they changed their sound from more traditional Hard Rock to Metal with a modern twist, but still, with reviews from both media and audience getting better and better, the big break is still lurking around the corner. Lord knows they deserve to be a big, headlining act by now.

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Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man

Did anyone really see this one coming? It’s been a good ten years since the double-O last provided us with new solo music and even though he has been touring and releasing an album with Black Sabbath, the news of a new solo album came as a surprise. From nothing to bam, a new single was out and around the same time it stood clear that a new record was ready for release. Usually when a huge artist like the Ozzman enters the studio, the news are all over the internet in no-time, but with this record it was single out and the album’s due any day now. I dunno about you but I was highly surprised when those news were out. The questions were many. Who wrote all those songs and when were they written? Who plays on the album? Was everything ready and done when Ozzy walked into the studio to record his vocals? And the biggest question of all, would this be anything to write home about?

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Seven Spires – Emerald Seas

I admit that whenever Frontiers presents a new Metal signing, I usually have a hard time keeping the interest up. What we usually get then is some kind of Power Metal band or a female fronted gothic sounding Metal act with symphonic undertones – I am not a fan of neither of those. But the new album by Seven Spires did sport an interest in me, something that can be explained in two words: Adrienne Cowan. My first encounter with the singer was at an Avantasia gig where she totally blew my mind with an enormous set of pipes and one helluva stage presence. That made me very intrigued to hear what she had accomplished as the singer in Sascha Paeth’s Masters Of Ceremony. That project’s album Sign Of Wings (2019) was clearly in the realms of Power Metal but it really spoke to me anyway. Good songs and a stellar production did that for me but without Cowan’s splendid vocal-performances, it would probably not had gone to the heights it did.

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Archon Angel – Fallen

My relationship with lead singer Zak Stevens has been a love-hate one. Well, maybe not hate, that’s a too strong word, but I have never been a fan. Still, he came in and pretty much saved Savatage at a crucial time in their career. I’m not gonna say that I have been a life-long Savatage fan but when I discovered them with the amazing Gutter Ballet (1989), I was forever lost to the band. I do like some of the stuff prior to that album but those records really couldn’t hold a candle to Gutter Ballet and all the records that came after. That’s why it came as a huge shock when singer Jon Olivia quit the band after the masterpiece Streets: A Rock Opera (1991), without a doubt Savatage’s strongest effort to this day. To me, Jon and his guitar playing brother Criss – with producer and co-writer Paul O’Neill (RIP) – were Savatage and I couldn’t really imagine the band going on without Jon fronting the band.

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Sons Of Apollo – MMXX

When the news broke back in 2017 that yet another prog-metal super-group, formed by the ever hard-working drummer Mike Portnoy (Flying Colors, Dream Theater, Transatlantic, The Winery Dogs, Liquid Tension Experiment etc.), I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to give a rat about yey another one of his projects. However, when I saw which musicians who had joined him, I changed my mind. You just don’t look the other way when singer Jeff Scott Soto (Talisman, W.E.T., Trans Siberian Orchestra, Yngwie Malmsteen, Eyes, Axel Rudi Pell), guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (Guns N Roses, Asia, Lita Ford), bassist Billy Sheehan (Mr Big, The Winery Dogs, David Lee Roth, Talas), keyboarder Derek Sherinian (Black Country Communion, Alice Cooper, Dream Theater, Kiss, Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Bonamassa) and Portnoy joins forces. Worst case scenario, it would only had been an interesting mixture of killer musicians.

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The Murder Of My Sweet – Brave Tin World

This year it’s 10 years since the debut album Divanity by Swedish rockers The Murder Of My Sweet popped up. Time flies, huh? I instantly took a liking to the band’s cinematic, theatrical and symphonic mixture of AOR, Goth, Metal, Hard Rock and Melodic Rock and singer Angelica Rylin’s gorgeous voice seduced me right off the bat as it held a broad range and was both technical, emotional, smooth and raw at the same time. My relationship with the band has been mostly a good one. The follow-up Bye Bye Lullabye (2012) was an even better effort and Beth Out Of Hell (2015) almost got the full monty for me – a brilliant piece of work. So my expectations were set high for 2017’s Echoes Of The Aftermath but the album wasn’t even close to live up to those expectations. It was an uneven album where the best song couldn’t hold a candle to the ones on the predecessor. Now TMOMS are back with a new effort and this time I’m not sure how high my expectations should be.

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