Ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Akris - 'Akris' (Domestic Genocide)
Genre: Sludge Metal
On many metal albums, the bass is buried deep in the mix. Not so with Akris on their self-titled full-length debut. Helena Goldberg is the band's vocalist and bassist, and her bass sounds like it's mixed even higher than her vocals.
Akris is sometimes groovy and catchy, other times more experimental and dissonant. Even though the music is metal, Goldberg's vocals add a punk vibe to the proceedings. From soft crooning to banshee screams, she displays a wide variety of styles. The thunderous bass gets fatiguing at times, but the payoff is worth it. This is an intriguing and ultimately rewarding listen.
Coldspell – 'Frozen Paradise' (Escape)
Genre: Melodic Heavy Metal
Sweden’s Coldspell play straight ahead melodic metal with driving guitar riffs and catchy choruses. Formed in 2005 by guitarist Michael Larsson, their third record is Frozen Paradise. The songwriting possess an AOR influence and it features an abundance of keyboard melodies. They mainly rely on vocalist Niklas Swedentorp’s catchy choruses to draw the listener in.
Their latest material is the best of their career and Larsson shines with his lead guitar playing. The production is outstanding as Tommy Hansen was brought in to mix the record. The sound and overall feel of the release is close to modern day Pretty Maids, whom Hansen also works with. Coldspell, while creating good material, aren’t quite on the same level of songwriters as Pretty Maids.
Genre: Modern Metal
Germany’s Dark Age started out as a straightforward melodic death metal outfit. With each successive release they have adopted more pop metal sensibilities. Now with their seventh release A Matter of Trust, they have finalized their transition and eliminated almost all elements of their death metal past. By also including electronic elements into their songwriting the band is tailored made for modern radio.
Vocalist Elike Freese has a dynamic voice and his utilization of his melodic range is a major strength of the band. Filled with groove orientated guitar riffs and grandiose melodies the band has no shortage of hooks. “Out of Time” showcases what the band does best, with its driving up-tempo beat and mixture of Freese’s aggressive and melodic vocals.
Daylight Misery - 'The Great Absence' (I For An I)
Genre: Melodic Death/Gothic Metal
The Great Absence is the second album from the Greek band Daylight Misery. As on their debut, they bring aboard several guest musicians on this one, including members of Rotting Christ, Nightfall, Illdisposed and Dark Fortress.
Daylight Misery play melodic death metal infused with a depressive, gothic atmosphere. The songs are generally mid to uptempo, but the mood is downbeat. There are some melodic vocals, but much of the melody on the album comes from really catchy guitar lines. There's a lot of diversity as well, such as including strings on the somber "Futile Salvation."
Empyrium - 'Into The Pantheon' (Prophecy)
Genre: Folk Metal
More than ten years after their last studio album, the German band Empyrium return with the live effort Into The Pantheon. It spans their four studio albums, which were released between 1996 and 2002. There's also one new song, "Dead Winter Ways."
The lineup for the show includes core members Ulf Theodor Schwadorf and Thomas Helm along with an all-star lineup including Konstanz (The Vision Bleak), Neige (Alcest), Eviga (Dornenreich), Fursy Teyssier (Les Discrets), Aline Deinert (Neun Welten) and Christoph Kutzer (Remember Twilight). It's a good overview of Empyrium and their somber style and melancholy vocals. The performance is excellent on the album. In addition to the CD, a DVD is also available of the concert along with a 100 minute documentary on the band's history.
Fyrnask - 'Eldir Nott' (Temple Of Torturous)
Genre: Black Metal
Germany’s Fyrnask take a giant leap forward with Eldir Nott, their second album. A huge improvement over the rather typical Bluostar, Eldir Nott is stuffed full with pleasing melodies piled on top of blastbeats, a drone like feel to the riffing, and loads of atmosphere.
Rather typically delivered rasps complete the package, but what stands out is the really engaging, dynamic songwriting, a trait that was only hinted at on Bluostar. Watch the buzz surrounding the release of the excellent Eldir Nott to exponentially grow over the coming weeks.
Genre: Melodic Alt Metal
After a huge hit in Great Britain with “Second Chance,” Glamour Of The Kill let loose with their most commercial album to date. Now that they have kicked the metalcore monkey off their backs, the band has turned to making hits the old-fashioned way, by writing sing-along tunes filled with hooks and minty-fresh vocals.
The harder elements that reach out from the band’s glam-metal background helps to give Savages credibility and style. The solos are vintage Steve Jones and Slash. The songs were born from the same oven used by One Direction, but GOTK makes them sound a million times better. Its pearly-white metal for an iTunes world, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Someone has to do it.
Harem Scarem - 'Mood Swings II' (Frontiers)
Genre: Hard Rock
After splitting up in 2008, the Canadian band Harem Scarem have reunited. Mood Swings II is a re-recording of 1993's Mood Swings with three new songs.
Harem Scarem play melodic, arena-ready hard rock. Fist pumping anthems alternate with power ballads. Frontman Harry Hess swaggers and croons his way through the album without missing a beat. Mood Swings II is wall to wall with singalong choruses and monstrous riffs. The new songs are solid as well. Harem Scarem are a band that flew under the radar in the U.S., but if you like late '80s/early '90s style hard rock, this will be right up your alley.
Genre: Alt Rock/Post-Hardcore
Swedish post-rockers Refused lend front man Dennis Lyxsén to a project called INVSN involving other Swedish thrashers and noise rockers. With the likes of Andre Sandström of DS-13, the band has enough firepower to come on like a drunken spitting match in a midsummer’s pub.
Instead, the ten songs are incredibly vapid exercises in early eighties electro-snare pop. Dismissible for the most part, INVSN does have moments, all too few, where the sound wobbles between A-Ha and a mutant offspring of the Xx and Interpol.
Obelyskkh - 'Hymn To Pan' (Exile On Mainstream)
Genre: Stoner/ Doom Metal
Germany’s Obelyskkh play a dirge-laden form of psychedelic stoner/doom metal characterized by very loud riffs and a pounding percussion. The backbone of such music is always the riffing, and Obelyskkh manage the trick quite well with plenty of sprawling jams and a haze inducing atmosphere.
Although not very original, the songwriting skills on Hymn To Pan are engaging enough to excite even the most jaded fans of bands such as Sleep, Lowrider, and Goatess. Good stuff.