Bombus – Vulture Culture

It’s more than three years since Bombus released their last album, their third, Repeat Until Death. For me, it was also one of 2016’s biggest and most positive surprises. Bombus’ two first albums, the eponymous debut album from 2010 and The Poet And The Parrot (2013), didn’t impress me much (at first) – I didn’t think those albums were bad at all, they just didn’t stick with me at all. Repeat Until Death did – and then some. The album was a compete jawbreaker where everything came together exactly how it should. It was raw, hard, aggressive and gritty but also melodic and even catchy and every song on that album struck a nerve with me. I gave it a 9/10 but had I written the review today, it would have gotten the full monty from me. Repeat until death? You bet I will.

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Edge Of Paradise – Universe

Here’s an act I have never ever heard of before. But reading the press-release for this album, I found stuff that really caught my attention. This quintet – singer/pianist Margarita Monet, guitarist Dave Bates and David Ruiz, bassist Vanya Kapetanovic and drummer Jimmy Lee – was formed in Los Angeles back in 2011 and has released two full-length albums prior to this one: Mask (2012) and Immortal Waltz (2015), but also a 5-track E.P. called Alive in 2017. What caught my interest here was the people involved with this, pretty much unknown act.

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The Dark Element – Songs the Night Sings

When former Nightwish vocalist Anette Olzon joined forces with Finish guitarist/keyboardist Jani Liimatainen (Sonata Artica, Cain’s Offering) back in 2017 and formed the band The Dark Element, I thought that their self-titled debut album, released on Frontiers records, was one of those endless all-star projects that more than often shows up at that label. But, it turned out that The Dark Element was a real band and just not some kind of project. Together with bassist Jonas Kuhlberg and drummer Jani Hurula, Anette and Jani hit the road. Anette is easily my favorite Nightwish-singer and her time in that band is my favorite era so it was sad that I missed their gig at Sweden Rock Festival in 2018.

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Vanden Plas – The Ghost Xperiment: Awakening

I must admit that I’m not a huge fan of Progressive Metal/Rock. Some of my friends might go “WHAT??!!” on that comment because there are, of course, Progressive Metal bands that I do enjoy. Dream Theater, Shadow Gallery, Opeth, Bigelf, Queensrÿche, Flying Colors, Sons Of Apollo. And I do love those acts dearly. However, it pretty much stops there. It’s not that I dislike the genre, it’s just that most of the stuff that I have tried to listen to throughout the years has left me underwhelmed, I have a hard time grasping most it. I can certainly hear that they’re all great musicians and they’re great at what they do, it’s just that I for the most part can’t get the songs to stay with me and I lose interest too quickly. The first time I ever heard German prog-rockers Vanden Plas was when they opened for Dream Theater some aeons ago – and I wasn’t overly impressed. Since then I have only heard a few songs, none of them made a lasting impression on me at all, but for some reason I got curious when I saw that I had the promo of their new album – their ninth and their first in four years – in my mail-box.

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The Ferrymen – A New Evil

Many are the songs that have travelled from guitarist/song writer Magnus Karlsson’s pen – sometimes his work has been very good, sometimes it has been underwhelming. Karlsson’s day-job, Primal Fear, has had their ups and downs with some really good records but also some – like their latest effort Apocalypse (2018) – that was a bit disappointing. The debut from Russell Allen & Jorn Lande, The Battle (2005) is one example of a project that came out brilliantly. Earlier this year, Karlsson released the third Starbreaker (featuring Tony Harnell) album, an uneven record and just a couple months later, the second album by The Ferrymen – Karlsson’s project with singer Ronnie Romero (Rainbow, CoreLeoni) and drummer Mike Terranna (Yngwie, Axel Rudi Pell, Beau Nasty and a million other projects) – shows up. The debut from 2017 was a good enough record without being spectacular so my expectations are of the medium kind. I hope I’m positively surprised, though.

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Michael Sweet – Ten

Michael Sweet is probably one of the hardest working musicians in the business right now. If there’s not a new album out by his main priority band Stryper, you can rest assured that there is or will be one out by either Sweet & Lynch or a solo album. What’s even more impressive is that he’s the main song-writer on all of those projects – and the quality is always amazingly high. The guy is a song writing machine – the song production from Michael seems to be without limits, there have been lo less than eleven records coming out from Sweet the last ten years, including the new solo album. Impressive to say the least, in a time when three, four years between albums is the norm. Since the music from Sweet’s different constellations have been so strong, I do expect a whole lot from him when a new album is due for release. His new record also sports some very interesting – and in some cases surprising – guests which makes the album even more intriguing.

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Skyblood – Skyblood

It’s been a long time coming! The word that singer Mats Levén has been working on his own project has been around for years now, but no news has surfaced – until now. Since Levén left Swedish Erotica in the early 90’s he have been the go-to-guy whenever an artist or a band was in need of quality singing, be it as a guest on a project or a replacement in a band – but we haven’t exactly been showered with albums from the man himself. There has been no use in complaining as whenever Levén put his vocal-cords over something, the project in question has always been bettered by it – and there has been a whole lot of different things for his CV during the years. Treat, Abstrakt Algebra, Yngwie Malmsteen, Therion, Krux, At Vance and Candlemass only to mention a few – and I need to state that I’m happy for it. Vocally, Treat, Yngwie and Therion never sounded better and in the case of Candlemass, Levén was the guy that made them interesting at all since I’ve never been much of a fan of that band.

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Opeth – In Cauda Venenum

Since Opeth decided to go all in on Prog-rock and lose the growling, much of the Metal in their music went the same way. Not that they’re not Metal anymore, they are, but the most brutal parts, the Death Metal in their music pretty much disappeared. So from Heritage (2011) and forward, that’s what Opeth has provided us with which in turn has become a watershed (sic!) among their fans. Some hate their new stuff, some prefer the new stuff and some – like me – love both. But I can understand the criticism, that old fans miss the heaviness and raw Metal because I miss it at times as well – my favorite album is still Watershed (2008). That said, Opeth still have their own sound and it’s not like they have stopped sounding like Opeth which in turn makes it hard to grasp how anyone can love the older albums and hate the newer ones.

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Kobra And The Lotus – Evolution

Prevail I and II – from 2017 and 2018 respectively – are both great albums, albums I still listen to quite the bit. The first one was also the one that I discovered Kobra And The Lotus with. The albums contained everything that I love about Metal. Well-written songs, striking and memorable melodies, hooks, good musicians and a stellar singer, heaviness, rawness and catchy choruses. The bands first three albums, however, was more underwhelming when I checked them out afterwards. Not bad but they left a bit too much to be desired for me. Let’s say they weren’t really there yet. When the band now releases their 6th record, big expectations follows it – and a hope for the big break, both from me and the band itself. The first spin of the record turned out a disappointment for me. Not a crappy record but nothing really stuck and I missed the immediate hooks of the two predecessors. However, every record needs a few spins before the final judgement.

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Liv Sin – Burning Sermons

I was – and still am – a big fan of Sister Sin so for me it was a huge disappointment when they decided to call it quits back in 2015. However, I always saw Sister Sin as singer Liv Sin’s band. Unfair to the others, probably, especially as they were the main song writers. But Liv was without a doubt the focal point and the one that always was on their album covers. Also, Liv (Jagrell) Sin is one of the most intense and amazing front(wo)men I have ever had the pleasure watching on a stage. As a big fan of hers, I looked forward to her first solo outing. Follow Me came out in 2017 but unfortunately, the album was something of a disappointment for me. Yes, Liv sang as awesomely aggressive as usual but there was flaws in the material.

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