I am back with another five discs for your pleasure. This week, as with most, it's a mixed bag of material ranging from the alright to the really rather smashing. A couple of new albums, an older release I missed, and a reissue.
Echoes of Eternity: The Forgotten Goddess
This is a bunch of Americans trying to do the female fronted progressive goth thing and beat the Europeans at their own game. The band really works quite well on this disc, but there is really nothing that jumps out at you and blows you away. "Voices in a Dream" and "Expressions of Hesh" are a couple of tracks that do seem to stick after a few plays. Musically it's rather modern riffing metal with touches of Dream Theater and the added twist of a sweet voiced songstress. Some of the European purveyors of the same music seem to work better with female vocals than this lot; their vocals can seem to be a bit too lush and fluffy, without enough oomph behind 'em.
This is a decent album, just not yet to the level of some of the similar style coming out of Scandinavia and Italy. One thing that can be said about this lot though is that they are not by any means Evanescence-clones preferring a goth metal, as opposed to pop edge, with plenty of blast beat drumming. The album is just missing that something I can't quite put my finger on, which is a shame.
Khigh: Wise Hedonist
A re-release with bonus tracks of 2005 album, this one never really took off for me. I think it's very much the case of the irritating lead-singer that puts one off. I found myself looking forward to the end of the CD, which is never really a good sign, now is it. The musicianship on this CD is competent, if nothing special, and a bit directionless. There is nothing on here that would really have me coming back to it. The bonus tracks are nothing terribly special either. Let's hope that this band is going to get things sorted, ditch their singer, and actually get some decent songs.
This lots debut I absolutely adored and am still returning to it for a listen. Of course with the combination of two parts of Helloween (ex) and the vocal miracle that is Jorn Lande, how could you possibly go wrong? Well Masterplan has suffered a bit from the sophomore slump producing a patchy follow-up that does not hold a candle to the debut.
There are some great songs that really let Jorn rip, like the power balladry of "After this War" and the absolute class of "Black in the Burn." When this CD gets going its pretty impressive but there are just some songs that do not live up to the band's normally high standard. A bit of a nice surprise is the bonus track "Treasure World" which is a quite good one has to admit.
Alas Jorn has headed off to pastures new and Masterplan are back with a new singer with the album MK2. Aeronautics is not a bad album by any standards and most bands would love to come close to the class, musicianship and talent on this release.
Spellblast: Horns of Silence
Despite the death metal logo, this lot play heads down, classy power metal with some degree of skill and talent. Clearly coming from the Gamma Ray school of power metal (as opposed to the slightly more melodic Helloween/Masterplan variety), Spellblast show lots of promise. While the CD did not rise above the average power metal on first listen there are elements in there which show through on repeated listens.
Yes, there are daft songs like "Goblins Song" but the band pull it off without sounding silly. Imagine Blackmoore's Night and Helloween doing a joint tune Kiske on vocals. It's one of those songs as a reviewer you should loath but finding yourself smiling nonetheless. I quite enjoyed this album, it has to be said. Full of clichés, power metal noodling, symphonic pomp and a wee dollop of humour, the band shows great promise. Not essential, but worthy of your attention.
Within Temptation: The Heart of Everything
Readers of this column will know I rather liked this lot's last album and was worried they would have a hard time matching it. I needn't have. If anything this album matches it for quality and there is a song on here that makes "Angel" seem a bit week. "What Have You Done," which features Keith Caputo just stuns from the first listen. It's goth-pop pomp at its absolute best. As if that was not enough, there is the absolutely blinding "Our Solemn Hour."
There is absolutely nothing on the last Evanescence album which comes anywhere near close, and some have speculated that this song is WT laying the gauntlet down. Never mind the fact that Sharon Den Adel has probably the best voice in female goth metal completely eclipsing the vocals of Ms Lee. The vocalist can do sweet but also has enough grunt behind it to get out some wicked power. The band is providing music for the new RPG Spellborn as well as releasing a strong candidate for album of the year.
There is not one duff track on this CD, a powerhouse of the genre from start to finish. I will be amazed if there is anything this good for quite a while. Simply stunning stuff and essential if you like quality symphonic goth tinged metal.
That is your lot for this week. Next week I have several reissues to peruse as well as a new album from the great British band Burn. There might be a smattering of live reviews as well.
As always, I wish you safety and please check out live music where ever you might find it.