Reviews

Chain Collector-"The Masquerade"-2005

At last! Norway`s very own Chain Collector have unleashed their debut full-length on the world, and it was most definitely worth the wait! Featuring members of Carpathian Forest and Green Carnation, Chain Collector`s sound is a bit difficult to nail, but you know it when you hear it, believe me. After the release of the `04 demo "Forthcoming Addiction", expectations were high, and have been exceeded with "The Masquerade". A cleaner production highlights the band`s super-heavy delivery, and in addition to re-recorded versions of the demo tracks ["Crucifixtion", "Fallen Angel", "Wicked Mask" and "Winter Princess"] we get 6 KILLER new tunes, all brimming with the dark, crushing, high-powered riffage that is the bands` stock-in-trade. Have to admit, I prefer the demo tracks to the re-recorded versions, but I suppose I have to get used to `em. Not a problem, actually; I`ve been spinnin` this one for a few days now [and so will you!], and it keeps getting better with each listen! Chain Collector are a rarity; a band with their own identifiable sound and style. Big things are in store for these guys, and we can ensure that happens. So get thee to your favorite shop, pick up "The Masquerade" and prepare to have yer head caved in! BUY OR DIE!! [Thanks to Sound Riot for the advance promo copy!]At last! Norway`s very own Chain Collector have unleashed their debut full-length on the world, and it was most definitely worth the wait! Featuring members of Carpathian Forest and Green Carnation, Chain Collector`s sound is a bit difficult to nail down, but you know it when you hear it, believe me. After the release of the `04 demo "Forthcoming Addiction", expectations were high, and have been exceeded with "The Masquerade". A cleaner production highlights the band`s super-heavy delivery, and in addition to re-recorded versions of the demo tracks ["Crucifixtion", "Fallen Angel", "Wicked Mask" and "Winter Princess"] we get 6 KILLER new tunes, all brimming with the dark, crushing, Metallic energy and high-powered riffage that is the bands` stock-in-trade. Have to admit, I prefer the demo tracks to the re-recorded versions, but I suppose I have to get used to `em. Not a problem, actually; I`ve been spinnin` this one for a few days now [and so will you!], and it keeps getting better with each listen! Chain Collector are a rarity; a band with their own identifiable sound and style. Big things are in store for these guys, and we can ensure that happens. So get thee to your favorite shop, pick up "The Masquerade" and prepare to have yer head caved in! BUY OR DIE!! [Thanks to Sound Riot for the advance promo copy!]

Chain Collector

Excalion-"Primal Exhale"-2005

What is UP with Finland?! It seems as if there you can throw a rock in any direction and hit three great bands! The list is already long and ever-growing, and you better add Excalion to that list. In existence since 2000, they`ve released one HELL of a debut with "Primal Exhale". The disc has that "typical" Finnish production: crisp and full-bodied, like a good ale! Not just another generic Power Metal act, though comparisons to Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius would not be out of place. Lyrically, the band stands out above many of their peers; no songs about dragons or Hobbit`s to be found here. The band seems to go more for the heart than the throat, featuring lyrical themes that practically anyone can identify with. "A Moment In The Spotlight" is one of THE key tracks here, vocalist Jarmo Pääkkönen giving a gut-wrenching performance. Again, the SONGS are on display here, not the bands` msical abilities, though there`s PLENTY of that, as well! [check out "Reality Bends" for but a sample of Excalion`s musical wizardry] "Dire Waters" and "Stage Of Lies" are soon-to-be Metal classics, while "Heart & Home" is a fine ballad that blends in perfectly with the rest of the tracks, and is one of the high points of the album. "Megalomania" is sure to get the blood pumping in ANY headbanger worth their denim `n` leather! "Obsession To Prosper" is a nearly 8 minute workout that never lets up and NEVER gets boring. Actually, that pretty much sums up the whole album. How the HELL can 6 guys sound like an entire orchestra?! Buy "Primal Exhale" and find out! [Thanks once again to Sound Riot for the promo!]

Excalion

Gaia Epicus-"Symphony Of Glory"-2005

Gaia Epicus are a 4-piece from Norway who specialize in straight up Power Metal of the Blind Guardian/Helloween school. Yep, "Happy Metal" right in the Black Metal capitol of the world! "Symphony Of Glory" is the band`s sophomore effort, and is loaded with enough fire `n` flash to bring out a smile in the even the most jaded Metal maven. The 10 cuts found here are all brimming with an uplifting, anthemic feel; positive vibes abound! These guys are havin` a ball, and it shows. The tunes are delivered with both high speed velocity and/or mid-paced crunch, and the band threw in some silly [in a good way] melodies as well some brief "experimental" sounds [a kettle drum?] to keep things fresh, allowing these crazy guys to stand out from the crowd. Highest quality production values, first-rate song writing, and musicians who know when to hold back and when to cut loose. [and they`re fellow Harry Potter fans, to boot!:)] Sounds like a "can`t miss" combination to me! The whole damn album is loaded with great tracks, so I`m not gonna waste your time choosing the best; I`ll let YOU do that! Buy it and believe! [another HUGE thanks to Sound Riot Records for the promo!;)]

Gaia Epicus

Svarsyn-"Bloodline"-2005

Dark, diabolical Black Metal mayhem from this legendary Swedish cult band. A somewhat confusing situation here; "Bloodline" is [I believe] the bands` 5th full-length release, yet was recorded in 1997/98, then re-mastered for release in 2005! Anyway, Savartsyn has been at it since 1991, with guitarist/vocalist Ornias being the only constant in an ever-changing line-up. [such is the case with many bands of this genre] This latest release has bassist Kolgrim and drummer Draugen completing the unholy triumvirate, and the results are pretty much what you`d expect; walls of crushing guitars, blast beats a` plenty, vocal "sounds" rather than vocals, and basically just mass Death! But behind the standard corpse paint and metal spikes lurks a keen sense of melody, as well as some fine songwriting craftmanship, a genuine rarity in Black Metal. And it`s catchy, too! You can honestly remember the songs after you`ve heard them, and each track stands apart from the other, another point for the band. "From Haunted Depths" [my favorite cut and certainly one of the most powerful tunes I`ve heard this year!] and "Witches Dance For Satan" bear this out. The 2 bonus tracks, "Goat Throne" and "Throne Of The Antichrist", are a bit of an anti-climax, as production-wise they don`t really fit with the rest of the album. Minor quibbles aside, this is without a doubt one of the finest Black Metal releases in many a full moon [Cradle Of Filth? Please!], and is sure to add to the bands reputation. Recommended! [Thanks yet again to Sound Riot Records for the promo!]

Svartsyn

Metal Ostentation IV/Kingdom Of Glory-2005

Two great compilations from Enclave, a subsidiary of Sound Riot Records. Metal Ostentation Volume IV [there are now seven volumes as of this writing] features 18 tracks by bands from all over the globe; Spain, Belgium, Sweden, USA, Finland, Italy, Japan, etc. This compilation covers all genres of Metal, from Power to Black, to Death to various "`core" Metal acts. Kingdom Of Glory has a similar mix of bands and styles; it even includes TWO tracks from my old buds Shinjuku Cactus!:) These compilations are well put together, with the booklet featuring brief bios of each artist, as well as contact addresses. Perhaps the quality may vary, but that`s one of the cool things about these types of releases. They bring to mind the Metal Blade and Nuclear Blast compilations of old. You`re usually guaranteed to find SOMETHING good, and hey, a few of these bands could be tomorrows` big names! Highly recommended!

Enclave Records
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