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Music Reviews: Seven Thorns, Shakra, Illwill, Arch Enemy, Alestorm, Tyr

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Another collection of fine metal for your listening pleasure. However, before we start I have an EP to mention. It’s for charity and it stars Ian GIllan, Tony Iommi, Jason Newsted, Jon Lord and Nicko McBrain among others. Two tracks, a video and a documentary are included to raise money for music education in Albania under the name Who Cares.

CD reviews

Seven Thorns: Return to the Past

Yes, it’s power metal all right; no messing about, a straight shooter . If you like well done power metal then you might enjoy this. The cast of players on here includes Olaf Lenk of At Vance on one track. Lots of solos and wilding on this release, as is to be expected with two guitar players. There is a bit of Judas Priest feel to this all at times, which is in fact no bad thing. As is normal with this music there is a smattering of keyboards, mostly supplied by Mikkel Henderson of Fate fame.

“Spread your Wings” is pure Dragonforce at their best. It’s one of the catchiest things on this release. Well they all have their catchy elements; this song is just purely aimed at the festival sing-along crowd. This bunch of Danes are getting quite a bit of kudos from the power metal fraternity. Some would say they don’t necessarily add much to the genre, but that can be over-rated. It’s a solid release of uber-clever over-wrought power metal, which is pretty much what fans of the genre clamour for. More serious than Helloween, but less po faced that much of genre.

You could always say this is a bit production-line power metal. However sometimes that fits the bill. Then again they are a newish band and need some time to develop.

Shakra: Back on Track

Not to be confused with the death metal outfit of the same name, of course. This bunch do a great line is Scandinavian-type hard rock which is heavier than Europe, but still retains that epic sing-along quality in the choruses. They may be Swiss, but they sound nothing like Krokus. On their previous releases they haven’t gone as much for the sing-alongs as on this one. Every chorus is brimming with that quality, which makes this release quite a joy to listen to.

The title track and the song “Stronger than Ever” probably is a nod to the fact the band has replaced their singer in between albums. Of course, it would not be this sort of release without the light-in-air acoustic-intro heavy ballad “When I see You”. It’s just this side of twee and works nicely to break things up for a bit. And the chorus is positively infectious.

This is yet another band that could have been huge in another decade. They will just have to be happy with chart success in their homeland and the admiration of the hard rocking hordes outside their borders. A solid slab of hard rock that will no disappoint.

Illwill: Lake of Tears

Despite the name, this bunch do not do death metal. It’s more traditional metal with some gothic touches. It’s a bit all over the place to be honest, which starts out as a bit off-putting, but ends up being a tad endearing. There are touches of Fields of Nephilim and their ilk. I mean “Behind the Green Door” is surely their entrance ticket to the goth club scene if they are not already there. You can just imagine the black-out eyeliner crowd dancing around in their own world to this one. It’s a floor-filler in the making, as is “Out of the Door”, which comes across as a touch of The Cult.

And therein lies the problem with this CD. Those with eclectic tastes might just enjoy the drifting between doomy goth, melodic goth, sometimes hitting their mark, occasionally not. There is even a touch of prog on here with the interesting track “House of the Setting Sun”. It’s a release that is all over the place and decent if you give it a chance. Those wanting a straight-ahead goth doom album may wish to look elsewhere. Hell, they even toss in a bit of punk on the track “Parasite”.

Is this a trial balloon to see which direction the band’s fans want them to go? Who knows, but it sure is one varied release.

Arch Enemy: Khaos Legions

This is the band that has a woman singing up front of an extreme power metal band. Rather than go for the goth metal or the pretty frock metal route, this lot have a woman with sandpaper coating her throat singing. Her vocals are called ferocious and no one who has no idea about this band will have any clue she is a woman. The great thing about it, is instead of banshee ear-piercing screeching, she takes on her male counterparts and their own game.

Whether you call this melodic death metal or power metal with death metal vocals it doesn’t matter. This release is decent for sure, but there is something missing in it. First of all there seems to be no bass in the mix at all and secondly none of the songs really leap out at you. It’s solid overall but there is little in the form of a standout. One track seems to meld into the next. Quality playing from the Amott brothers, but it’s just missing that extra something to push it over the top

Still their/Angela’s fans will be all over this. They will hit the festival scene to appreciative crowds. The thing with this genre is there is quite a bit of quality kicking around and this is just decent. Quite frankly most will expect more from this band.

Alestorm: Back Through Time

This is one of those albums, a bit like Blackmore’s Night CDs, that a reviewer has to listen to two ways. The sober rational music critic way and the way it was meant to be heard. The latter requires ale, or your preferred tipple, and a bit of a pissy mood. Its hard not to smile about this release in either mode, however the latter makes it all the more fun. This is drinking metal, as if the name weren’t a good enough hint, and not bashful about it. Songs are about reasons to drink or the tall tales told when you have had too much.

The band even manage to have some fun at the expense of their critics lyrically in the tune. They promise never to run out of lyrics. They are a bunch of Scots having a good time and not caring who it annoys. The opening track is obviously a nod to Pirates movies and Jack Sparrow. Clearly this is a band that it’s hard to take seriously and there is nothing wrong with that. That said there is nothing half-arsed about the playing or song-writing. Choruses are catchy as they should be and it moves along rather nicely.

While Koriklaani, Turisas, and even Tyr do a similar brand of seafaring tall tale telling folk metal, this is far more tongue-in-cheek. The aural version of the Sparrow saga with a touch of Jimmy Buffet moonlighting in a metal band.

 

Tyr: The Lay of Thrym

Topping their last effort was going to be pretty damn hard for this bunch of Faroe Islanders. By the Light of the Northern Star was a tour de force that wasn’t even ruined for me by the “water-mark voice-over” in the review copy I received. It was a great collection of power progressive folk metal done by a bunch of clever clogs who really know their chops. If you took my advice, grabbed a copy of that album and liked it, then don’t bother reading this review. There is no need really as this takes that formula and polishes it just enough to make it damn near perfect.

Tyr could have rested on their laurels and delivered the same again. But there is something extra special about this release. They have raised the bar of folk progressive metal for their fellow Scandinavian metallers. Tyr has the hammer of Thor and daring those other guys to take it back. Not one duff track to be had, all those elements you loved from the band and the genre. I defy you not to be signing along in Faroe, on the native language tracks, with the chorus second or third time through.

They even delve into the foggy sea-grass of Nordic images with “Shadow of Swastika”. Lyrically the song takes back those images so badly sullied by the mid-20th century evil arising from Germany. Tyr have raised their swords and taken back what is rightfully theirs. Oh yes and showing they’ve got iron for bones, they even include a “ballad” (of sorts) for good measure.

I guess the only thing left to wonder if they can top this next time out. It’s going to be hard that is for sure. The genre does not get any better than this.

When on that epic Viking note, I need to end. As I ponder next week’s column, make sure to stay safe and rocking.

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About Marty Dodge

  • http://www.earsplitcompound.com Earsplit

    The name of the band is actually LAKE OF TEARS and the album is called Illwill.