Massachusetts-based Thunderforge run a nice line in straight-up power-infused trad metal, bursting with melody both in the vocal and guitar department; Indeed singer Adam Morini is a bit of a find, coming across like a less histrionic version of Stryper’s Michael Sweet at times, whilst the rest of the band would appear to be no slouches either. The band released an excellent EP, Call of the Conqueror, last month, and if you love classic US metal with a hard melodic bent I suggest you add it to your collections forthwith.
South Africans Strident – actually they bill themselves as ‘South Africa’s premier power metal band’- released their second album, When Gods Walked the Earth last month, and pretty exciting stuff it is too. Fast paced and deployed in the Rhapsody/Dragonforce theatre of operations, the band, led by guitarist/vocalist Deon van Heerden are clearly masters of their chosen art, and on When… they display a keen ear for both melody and muscle; Indeed they are so competent they might well be a bit higher up the ladder were they to hail from the US or mainland Europe, with only the slightly mannered vocals of van Heerden appearing to be an obstacle to higher honours. Well worth a listen!
Akron Ohio natives Shatter Messiah have released something of a gem in new album Orphans of Chaos; A raw, uncompromising mix of names like Symphony X, Metal Church and Nevermore, the album is as promising as those comparisons might suggest, with the gutter-level guitars of Curran Murphy and Pat Gibson being particularly impressive.
Murphy has at some point been in both Annihilator and Nevermore, which shows in the brutally uncompromising riffage, and as a whole the band’s experience shines through in the quality of the songwriting.
They’re Finnish! They’re female-fronted! You already know what they sound like! That’s as maybe, and there is an undeniable whiff of Nightwish around most of what Ravenia do; but there’s an indefinable something else, too, which makes their debut album, Beyond the Walls of Death (released in April on Inner Wound Recordings) an absolutely essential piece of symphonic metal nirvana.
Vocalist Armi Päivinen has a woozy charm to her voice that you won’t find in the phrasings of any of the girls who’ve helmed Nightwish, a dreamy, ethereal soprano that’ll really make you sit up and listen, and whilst the symphonic backdrops over which she sings might sound a bit generic at times to the untutored ear, nevertheless you’ll find yourself returning to tracks like For Those We Forsakened time again should you choose to invest.
“Probably the best Harry Potter– themed Symphonic Power Metal band to come out of West Sussex. Probably.”
That’s what the band say on their Facebook page, and who am I to argue? I’m ashamed to say I’ve neither read a Potter novel nor seen any of the films, so I’ve no idea how closely themed the band is, but their Alestorm-meets-Dragonforce metallic jollity is rather beguiling all the same. Fronted by the incredibly flexible vocals of Andy Barton – who also contributes keys and writes all the music, clever boy that he is- the band brew up infectious nonsense like Down the Hatch with as much joie de vivre as their Scottish counterparts Alestorm, but if anything have a more welcome, and steely, metallic edge to their tunes of war. Hugely enjoyable!
Minnesotans Hollowstone have been together for a while but have only just released their second album, Walking Between Worlds. Unburnished power metal with the odd symphonic flourish, Hollowstone deliver a nice balance between crunchy axework (courtesy of Nick Anderson and Chris Tacheny) and the soothing, quite unique vocals of Chelsea Wrathchild. Unfortunately both Wrathchild and Anderson have recently flown the coop, leaving the future of the band hanging in the balance. On the evidence of this release it would be a shame if oblivion is all the outfit has to look forward to.
Serbs Claymorean have been around for over 20 years, recording and releasing product under the slightly snappier Claymore moniker from 1994 to 2014; 2016 sees them recording their second album as Claymorean in the interim but they’ve released a free six track demo to satiate fans until the full length is ready. It’s good stuff, highlighting the power-packed vocals of Dejana Betsa Garčević, who stars alongside band leader Vlad Invictus on all half dozen of the new tracks, which veer in style from no-holds-barred epic power metal mayhem to slower, doomier material. Even in demo form, this is impressive stuff.
Wings of Destiny
Delivering magnificent heavy power metal from Costa Rica, of all places, Wings of Destiny are my pick of the crop from this month’s roundup. Heavily redolent of Angra but with angrier, dirtier vocals from Anton Darusso, their new album, Kings of Terror, released in May, is a near-perfect exposition of the genre. Thunderous drumming from Roberto Ulloa props the whole structure up, and his partner in crime Edgardo Monge keeps things tight with his bass in the engine room, but the stars here are guitarists Allan ‘Kalay’ Murillo and Cristian Jiménez who duel with keyboardist Alejandro Amador on tracks like Angels & Demons in spellbinding and utterly thrilling style. Much, much heavier than many of their Euro counterparts yet ready to go blow-for-blow in the melody stakes this is a bloody fantastic band that deserves the widest possible audience!