Battle Beast – No More Hollywood Endings

Only a month prior to the release of this record, former Battle Beast guitarist, founder and main-song writer Anton Kabanen released the new album From Hell With Love with his new outfit Beast In Black. It was a punch in the gut kind of album and just like its predecessor, Berserker, it kicked ass, sounding a lot like Battle Beast albeit with a male singer. Battle Beast’s first album without Kabanen, Bringer Of Pain (2017), was a substantial follow-up to 2015’s brilliant Unholy Savior and showed that Battle Beast didn’t have any problems to maintain their sound and to write great songs without Kapanen. However, Kabanen’s Beast In Black are breathing down Battle Beast’s neck with two albums just as good as his former band’s. When Battle Beast now are releasing their second album without Kapanen, they have a lot to prove. Was Bringer Of Pain just a lucky strike or will Battle Beast be one great album ahead of Beast In Black with this one?

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In Flames – I, the Mask

Since the last ten years or so, In Flames has turned into one of Sweden’s biggest music exports and when such things happen there’s always a whole lot of talk of selling out and being commercial. Those accusations have been coming In Flames’ way ever since they decided to take their already melodic Death Metal further away from pure Death Metal and adding other influences into the mix. I can understand that a move like that rubs old fans the wrongs way but does that mean that In Flames are selling out? I don’t think they have done so. Commercial? Well, sure but on the other hand, if you sell a lot of records and sell out stadiums, you’re commercial. Genres are never commercial by themselves – if you sell you’re commercial no matter what kind of music you play. Personally, I don’t give a rat. Mostly because I’m not a Death Metal fan to begin with and to me, if a (former) Death Metal band becomes more melodic, thumbs up from me.

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Queensrÿche – The Verdict

It looks like the world of Queensrÿche is never easy but on the other hand, it never gets dull either. The whole Geoff Tate debacle has been dwelled on enough by now but even when the band should be in a good place, things happen. First, drummer Scott Rockenfield took a paternity leave of absence to be at home with his newborn child which had the guys touring with a temporary replacement, Casey Grillo (Kamelot). When it was time to start writing for the new album, Scott wasn’t involved and when they didn’t hear from him whether he’d be back soon or not, the guys decided to record the album without him. As singer Todd LaTorre having a past as a drummer he took it upon himself to do the drum parts. If Scott will come back to the band at all or not remains to be seen.

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Spirits Of Fire – Spirits of Fire

So here we go with just another one of those all-star projects from Frontiers, right? Well, usually when Frontiers releases an all-star project it’s within the AOR or/and Melodic Rock genre but here’s a bonafide Heavy Metal project. Who are the dudes that has rounded up for this thing then? Well, we have Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest, Iced Earth, Yngwie Malmsteen) on vocals, Chris Caffery (Savatage, Dr Butcher, Trans-Siberian Orchestra) on guitar, Steve Di Giorgio (Testament, Death, Sebastian Bach, Obituary) on bass and drummer Mark Zonder (Fates Warning, Warlord) with Roy Z (Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford, Sebastian Bach) producing. Sounds interesting? Well, it does to me. What also differs this project is that it’s made solely by the members involved and of course Roy Z which means no involvement from the usual suspects that holds both song writing and producing duties at Frontiers normally. That aside, I think it’s time I get a good dose of Metal again – it was a long time since I found a new Metal act that could kick my ass right into next week!

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Dream Theater – Distance Over Time

Honesty time now. Things haven’t been the same since drummer Mike Portnoy packed his bags and left Dream Theater for other adventures. I really don’t wanna be that guy, but the fact is, on the three Portnoy-less albums – A Dramatic Turn Of Events (2011), Dream Theater (2013) and The Astonishing (2016) – I always feel that there is something lacking. It’s Mike Portnoy’s drumming. But it don’t mean that those albums aren’t anything to write home about. They are. And then some. The last album, the grandiose rock-opera The Astonishing is marvelous and even though it took some time to digest, I truly love that album. The same with their self-titled record from 2013. A great piece of work where Dream Theater dared to embrace their Melodic Hard Rock sides. But still, Portnoy is missed.

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Avantasia – Moonglow

Ever since I discovered Avantasia for real with The Scarecrow back in 2008, every new release from Tobias Sammet and his rock-opera has been a small Christmas for me. I write “for real” because when I first gave Avantasia a shot years prior to that – a friend recommended them to me – I wasn’t impressed at all. To this day, I find the two first records, The Metal Opera twin records, too much Power Metal for my taste and I hardly ever listen to those. But ever since The Scarecrow, Avantasia’s records has bettered the previous one, something that culminated with the amazing Ghostlights that came out almost three years ago. That album totally floored me and to me that record is nothing but a damn masterpiece. With six brilliant records under his belt, expectations are always high whenever Sammet release a new Avantasia record but after a record like Ghostlights, chances to top it – or even equal it – are slim. And that’s what I was prepared for with the new effort.

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Beast In Black – From Hell With Love

I was very hesitant to give Finish Metal-stompers Battle Beast even the tiniest break for quite the while. I thought their name sucked, I was confident that they were just another cheesy Power Metal band that would bore me to tears so I didn’t bother. When I finally gave them a shot – and fell for them immediately – original guitar player and main song writer Anton Kabanen had left the band for reasons I’m still not sure of. Luckily enough, Battle Beast proved that they could make great music on their own. What had happened to Kabanen and what he was up to, I was pretty clueless of. I had read the name Beast In Black somewhere but I didn’t know that it was Kabanen’s new baby. And to be honest, I can say that I wasn’t exactly looking either. Battle Beast for me are a band that I really like but I haven’t gotten to the point where my interest is that big that I feel the need to explore everything the ex- members are doing.

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Within Temptation – Resist

I must admit that after 2007’s The Heart Of Everything, my interest in Within Temptation faded in an almost worrying speed. I got hooked on the band with their second album Mother Earth (2000) and my interest in the band increased with the releases of the follow-up’s The Silent Force (2004) and the mentioned record above (I still haven’t gotten around to listen to their 1997 debut Enter), but after that, I felt that their music became more and more mainstream. Today, I hardly ever get around to listen to The Unforgiving (2011) and Hydra (2014), but when I do, I always feel that I gave those albums too high points in my reviews (6/10 and 7/10) respectively – a five or maybe a six for both albums feels more accurate today). Maybe that’s why the news of a new Within Temptation release was for me merely a shrug of my shoulder.

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Evergrey – The Atlantic

It has of lately come to my knowledge that Evergrey’s later albums are a bit of a watershed among their fan-base. Why that is, I’m not really sure of as to me, Evergrey have always sounded like Evergrey. Not that they are on repeat at all, but they do have their own sound and identity and you could spot an Evergrey-song in seconds miles away. It seems like for the fans that discovered the band from day one, their later releases aren’t up to match with their earlier (est) efforts. I wasn’t a fan since day one, I discovered the band with 2003’s Recreation Day and even though I dug the album – and every release after that – I never became a huge fan. I liked the band and that’s it. It would take me up to 2011 and Glorious Collision, one of their most disputed albums ever, to get it and from that moment on, things have just gotten better and better.

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Sunflower Dead – Coma

Three years ago, a download link for reviewing purposes by a band called Sunflower Dead found its way into my mailbox. I wasn’t sure about their name but I checked it out, of course. The first thing I saw was the artwork for the album cover – the whole thing was stolen right from Kiss’ 1976 album Rock And Roll Over – if you shall steal then steal from the best. It was all done with humor and respect and for a huge Kiss fan myself I had to dive right into their music – maybe the sound would be influenced and borrowed from 70’s classic Kiss. It wasn’t. But that don’t mean that the album was bad, quite the contrary, I enjoyed the hell out of it. It’s Time To Get Weird was a heavy album but held a some very catchy and memorable melodies. At times they moved towards modern, American Metal and the production was a bit too compressed and thick which affected the dynamics. But despite that, the album was a damn good one.

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