"Forces Of Doom" is the third release from Swiss Metalists Emerald, and it is unquestionably their BEST! In existence since `95, this 5-piece [Guitarist/vocalist Jvo Julmy, Guitarist Michael Vaucher, Bassist Stephan Kaufmann, Drummer Andy Bächler and Keyboardist Thomas Vaucher] deal in straight ahead European Epic Heavy Metal, pure and simple. Sounding more raw and a bit less polished [that`s a compliment, by the way; who wants their Metal all polished and perfect?!] than many of their Euro Metal peers, Emerald`s sound brings to mind many of the great 80's US Metal bands like "Deliver Us" era-Warlord, Medieval Steel and Virgin Steele [in fact they include a GREAT cover of Virgin Steele`s "On The Wings Of The Night" on "Forces...."]. No nostalgia here; the band truly live and love the music! That fact, coupled with superior musicianship and songwriting, helps set Emerald above much of their competition. Another interesting facet here is the band`s use of subtley and restraint in the songs; by that I mean they aren`t content to just clobber the listener over the head track after track, though there`s PLENTY of that on the album, as well! Much thought and care went into the arrangements, which is many Power Metal meisters get failing marks in. There`s no point in picking out a favorite track, as for me, this is one of those "put `er in and crank `er up!" albums. Over 52 minutes of pure headbanging glory; what MORE could and TRUE Metalhead want? On the back of the disc is written: "By The Power Of The Emerald-Heavy Metal Is Immortal!!!" No arguments HERE! One of the best Metal releases of 2004!!
I wouldn`t have though it possible, but Silent Force actually managed to TOP their last release "Infatuator"! "Worlds Apart" gives their fans more, more, MORE of what they crave, and add a few new twists as well. "Ride the Storm" kicks things off in that classc Silent Force kind of way, and you just KNOW you`re in for a treat! The line-up here has remained the same: lone Yank DC Cooper-Vocals, Alex Beyrodt-Guitars, Jürgen Steinmetz-Bass, André Hilgers-Drums and Torsten Röhre-Keyboards. Very few bands wield the sheer, unbridled power as these guys do; even fewer know how to use it! And of course, the production on the album is flawless but not to the point of total sterility. "Hold On" has an exotic feel, coupled with some of Cooper`s finest singing to date. The fact that this band isn`t selling out arenas in the US is one of THE musical crimes of our time! Other stand-out tracks [on an album FULL of stand-outs] include "Master Of My Destiny", "Heroes" [dedicated to those who died on September 11th] "Death Comes In Disguise", "Merry Minstrel" [featuring some heart stopping guitar work by Beyrodt!] the soaring "Spread Your Wings" [a heart-felt ode to Cooper`s son, who supplies the song`s intro], hey, I could go on! The point is that Silent Force has released one of THE highest quality Metal discs in many a moon, and certainly the best of their career. At least until their NEXT album! Highest recommendation possible!
And now for something a little different! Epizod is a Bulgarian Metal outfit in existence since 1989, having released their first album in 1992. Epizod`s current line-up consists of Emil Chendov [vocals], Ivo Georgiev [keyboards], Simeon Hristov [bass & vocals], Dragomir Draganov [guitars & vocal] and Hristo Gyosharkov [drums]. Their latest studio album, "St. Patriarch Evtimij" is [I believe] the band`s seventh. It is a concept album, or a "Rock Opera" if you will, dealing with specific historical figures and events in their native land. And that`s all I really have on this band! Their album and website is in Russian [my Russian is pretty rusty!] and there is scant information on the band, so if anyone out there can fill in the gaps for me, please get in touch. What I CAN tell you is this 14 track is AMAZING! Not Power Metal, but more straight Metal with some Doom elements, as well as various Bulgarian Folk instruments and arrangements. These all make for a seamless blend, allowing the band to weave a musical tapestry rich with powerful and vivid imagery. A Heavy Metal Folk tale, if you like! Obviously the band are all seasoned professionals, bringing the story brilliantly to life. Which just goes to show; Metal, like ALL good music, can break down ANY language barrier! Here are the song titles in English: "Intro", "Evtimij´S Speech", "Evtimij´S Heir", "Tzar Ivan Shishman", "I Want Turnovo City", "Turnovo Farewell", "One Last Sight", "War", "Massacre And Loot", "Battle", "Turnovo´s Demise", "Patriarch Evtimij", "Prayer For Bulgaria" and "Miracle". HIGHLY recommended!!
Hailing from the southern German town of Ulm, Ligeia`s [the name comes from Edgar Allen Poe`s "Tomb Of Ligeia"] stock-in-trade is high-decible `eighties Germanic Power Metal. Surprised? Neither was I. So, does their first official album, "Gloria", get high marks for originality? No. Does it get high marks for being one of the most kick ASS, blow yer Goddamn head off at 50 paces, headbanging` Metal maniacs delights to be released in 2004? YES!!! Ligeia is made up of Daniela Unglert (Vocals), Jörg Mayer (Guitars), Michael Sommer (Bass), & Roland Klein (Drums). I suppose being a Female fronted Metal band from Germany is bound to get you compared to Warlock; but is that a BAD thing? And the band pulls it off with such skill, power and panache, who CARES if it`s not "original"? [really, what IS totally original these days?] First up is the crunching "Mistress of the Night", which sets the mood for the rest of the album. What better way to get the old blood pumpin`? Next is the anthemic "Angelwitch", followed by the title track, featuring a killer riff and easily my favorite cut. After that is "Heaven is Hell", "Walpurgisnight", "Last Desire", "Beyond the Sky", "Wings of Fire", "Light of the Gods", and the breath-taking "Silence", argh!! There`s no WAY I`m gonna point out the highlights on an album with nothing BUT highlights! Loud and clear production gives the tunes that extra kick, and all instruments are set on "Destroy". Daniela´s voice is the main selling point here; she can go from full-throated Doro-style powerhouse vocals to banshee wails, from gentle whispers to Death growls that would make Sabine [Holy Moses] proud! At the same time giving the vocals her own personal stamp. Epic choruses, soaring vocals, crunching guitar riffs and powerhouse drums. What MORE could you ask? 2004 was a GREAT year for Metal, 2005 is looing even better, and it`s all due to bands such as Ligeia! Believe you me, NO self-respecting Metalhead worth his/her denim and leather wants to miss this album! Two Horns \m/ \m/ waaaaaayyyyy up!!!!
YEAH! Now THIS is what I`m talkin` about! "Fire In The Hole" is the sophomore outing this Italian Hard Rock wrecking crew, and these boys mean business! Wine Spirit is IL Conte [guitars/lead vocals], El Guapo [bass/vocals] and Nail [drums/vocals]. Yep, just three guys making all this beautiful noise! The music is a bit of a throwback to the good ol` days, to the late Seventies/early Eighties. Think Motorhead, Rainbow, Deep Purple, UFO. The days before MTV ruined everything by turning Rock/Metal into a trend-ridden musical equivalent of a MacDonald`s Happy Meal! The 12 tracks here are honest and straight from the gut, no apologies, the arrangements clever and well thought out. The musicianship is of the highest calibre. I can`t think of a single tune here that DOESN`T blow me away, but if pressed I could point to "A New Mankind", "Hide & Kill", the beautiful "Midnight Touch (instrumental)", and my personal fave, the majestic "Sailing Ships". And damn if this album isn`t just plain FUN to listen to! Remember fun? That`s what Hard Rock USED to be, and still is, thanks to bands` like Wine Spirit! A band with a sound and style all their own! One of my top 10 albums of 2004, and it`s gonna be one of YOURS too, trust me! Highest recommendation possible! [VERY special thanks to Nail for the disc!!]