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Music Reviews: Coma Divine, Axel Rudi Pell, Ken Hensley & Live Fire, Skalmold and Visions of Atlantis

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I have some power, symphonic and ethnic metal for you today, with a bit of classic hard rock thrown in for good measure.

CD reviews

Coma Divine: Dead End Circle

This band loves a bit of swirly guitar and keyboards which is no bad thing. This is very good female led goth heavy rock. It’s accessible for the genre, never getting too heavy or scary. From the get-go, this bunch sounds like they should be opening for Evanescence or their ilk. They have got that vibe about them. This is a very together debut; then again, it features members of the band Persephone so they know their chops.

Sonja Kraushofer’s dulcet tones blend well with the symphonic gothy sounds that swirl around her. That said, nothing on here smacks of being over-produced or pretentious. There isn’t much that would make for good dance tracks at your local goth club, but it’s still damn good. These veterans of the genre take their music to a new level on this CD. It’s approachable for newbies to this type of music, yet deep enough to satisfy the even most jaded of goth rockers.

This is some good, gloomy-textured goth heavy rock. It does a good job of satisfying that itch. I am sure this bunch will go down well at their first festival, Mera Luna (August 13-14, 2011), with the eyeliner and lace set.

Axel Rudi Pell: The Ballads IV

As you might have gathered from the name, this is the fourth collection of Axel Rudi Pell’s (ARP’s) ballads. There are new recordings plus nine that have been previously released. Hardline’s Johnny Gioeli uses his ample pipes to deliver the emotion that is necessary on every one of these tracks. Sometimes it’s a bit over the top, but that is par for the course.

The one that might get many bemused is the ballad treatment of the late Ronnie James Dio’s “Holy Diver” which works surprisingly well. What doesn’t work as well is their version of that god-awful song that featured heavily in Shrek, “Hallelujah”. Not sure that “Love Gun” needed the treatment either, as it just comes across as trying too hard. One song that does come over rather well is their version of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”. The band does enough with it to make it an interesting cover.

The one original and new song on here, “Where the Wild Waters Flow,” is a great example of ARP’s talent. But one original song is not enough to make this a worthwhile buy for his fans. And this is certainly not a good introduction to the talent that is ARP. I’m not really sure who this release is aimed at, enjoyable though it is, most of the time.

Ken Hensley & Live Fire: Faster

This was recorded five years ago when Ken Hensley of Uriah Heep fame decided it was time to make another record. He hooked up with the Norwegian band Live Fire to produce this release. It was recorded over a three week period in Latvia, of all places. This is a great sounding CD that not surprisingly sounds a great deal like Uriah Heep. Hensley wrote most of the hits that you would know about, so it makes sense.

That said, this is not a man living on his past accomplishments. This is a fresh sounding heavy rock album. It might be a bit heavy on the Hammond organ, but there is no retro sound by any means. This is clearly a man trying to expand his musical horizons with this new opportunity. There is a bonus track, “Circle of Hands,” which features the NRK Orchestra,

This is a good rock record full stop. All these tracks have merit and are enjoyable for the listener. The clean crisp production probably helps quite a bit., but there is a live feeling to this disc. Whether a Hensley fan or merely a fan of hard rock, this is worth a listen.

Skalmold: Baldur

This is a really awesome stuff. The band sing in their native Icelandic and use a children’s chorus as well as male choral arrangements. They stick to strict Icelandic poetry rules, yet still produce some damn good Viking metal. This is, as you might have gathered, a collection of songs based on the tale of Baldur. This is music that meant to evoke the feeling of the cold north Atlantic in the midst of a mighty tumult.

This was initially released by a label based in the Faroe Islands, a place that seems to have a taste for Viking metal. After all it’s the home of the mighty Tyr. Napalm picked the band up for worldwide distribution. As you might imagine with an epic Viking metal concept album sung in Icelandic, there is a pretty high bar for accessibility.

However if you don’t mind your metal in native tongue, then this bunch could be quite a find. I got to say I enjoy every bit of this release. It is a truly epic in feel with its mixture of heavy metal and more folkly material. This is certainly not a release for the faint of heart, but it’s one for the brave of musical soul.

Visions of Atlantis: Delta

This is melodic metal with a slight goth tinge and symphonic elements. Maxi, the new female singer in the band, is a bit underused at times, but that might be the fact she is new to the band for this album. Maybe next time out there will be more male-female vocal interaction. When they do it like on “New Dawn” this band really shines. That said there is nothing wrong with any of this. There are some great tracks here like “Momento” with its melody and drive.

This particular genre is stocked full of bands that deliver the goods competently. It takes quite a bit of class to be able to rise above it all. I am not sure if VoA are quite there. This is a damn good album, but it lacks a certain something that would make it great which I can’t quite put my finger on even after repeated listens. Its an enjoyable and that would not disappoint anyone who likes this type of music.

It’s all delightfully catchy and shows there is still life in the genre. These bands are all making it much harder for bands like the mighty Nightwish to regain their crown with the next release.

Well on that sweeping note I am off. Stay safe and hope all my UK readers did not suffer too badly in the recent riots.

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