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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Reviews: Sonata Arctica, Grand Magus, Delain, Hydrogyn

Sonata Arctica: Stones Grow Her Name (Nuclear Blast)

Finland's purveyors of melodic romantic metal return with their newest album and after the sonic experimentation that featured on both Unia and Days Of The Grays this album is more of a return to the what Sonata do so well. With tracks like Losing My Insanity and Only The Broken Heart Sonata use their signature keyboard heavy power metal sound backed by the blast beating drums with some superfast riffage and melodic soloing thrown in for good measure. There are also the bombastic ballads in the shape of Alone In Heaven. Tony Kakko's voice is still one of the best in the business and this is shown by I Have A Right which layers his vocals over a symphonic backing. There are however still some of the progressive and experimental elements with Wildfire Parts 2 And 3 (the continuation of the song Wildfire that appeared on their opus Reckoning Night) both clocking in at over 7 minutes and on the other end of the scale the ludicrously titled Shitload Of Money is more akin to AOR than anything else. This is a true return to aforementioned Reckoning Night era but also adds what the band has learned from their sonic experimentation. 7/10

Grand Magus: The Hunt (Nuclear Blast)

Is Grand Magus the heavy metal Rush? Well they are from snowy climes, they are a three piece that provide a big noise without adding any members live and they have reached their purple patch with their sixth album (Rush’s was Hemispheres fact fans). As I have already said The Hunt is their sixth album and it again is following the classic heavy metal sound that the band has been pioneering since Iron Will. This album immediately sets out its stall with the old school riffage of frontman JB and the rhythm heavy bass of Fox leading the way. From the relentless NWOBHM riffage of Starlight Slaughter the album doesn’t drop in quality for the next 8 tracks with Valhalla Rising, Silver Moon, and Iron Hand all being future classics. The band are heavy without resorting down tuning, JB's voice is sonorous and strong and fits their playing style excellently and his superb guitar playing can be witnessed at its best on the very Manowar sounding(and acoustically opened) title track. The band also add dashes of prog on this release mainly on the mainly acoustic and cello backed Son Of The Last Breath which is just as epic and proggy as Rush but still able to sound authentic in just six minutes. The whole classic sound is bolstered by the old school production which adds depth to proceedings. All in all a great traditional metal album from a band that are at their creative peak, now they just need a concept album! 9/10

Delain: We Are The Others (Roadrunner)

Dutch symphonic metallers Delain return with their third and most accomplished effort to-date. The album kicks off with the very heavy Mother Machine and what is immediately evident is that Charlotte Wessels' voice has become a monster she now has huge power and range meaning she can straddle both classical and pop. There is less of an in-your face orchestration than before with the lead guitars of Timo Somers taking more of a precedence, this means that the keyboards of Martijn Westerholt provide more electronic and background elements. One of the best tracks on the album is the defiant title track that was inspired by Sophie Lancaster and mixes the right amount of power with some large poppy hooks slight change away from the female-fronted symphonic metal pack. The heavy metal quotient is increased by Where Is The Blood which features the roar of Fear Factory's Burton C Bell and following track Generation Me. Big bombastic ballads come in the shape of I Want You and Are You Done With Me. This is Delain finally finding their sound which maybe more mainstream and heavier than many of the bands in the genre but is all the better for it. 8/10

Hydrogyn: Private Sessions (Music Buy Mail)

Kentucky rockers return with their fourth album. The band is still a foil for vocalist Julie Westlake and her guitarist husband Jeff with the rest of the band changing every album. Julie's voice is very good being both adept at heavy rocking and more pop-orientated in the ballads. She seems on very good form considering having a serious illness before the albums writing. Jeff has taken a back seat in the production for this album to concentrate on his writing and guitar playing. Production wise they have invested in a team, this shows as the album has a richer sound and is very similar in style their first album Bombshell. Also the concentration on guitar is also very evident as the guitar riffs and solos are as good as they were on the debut and the band have done some meddling with their sound on the modern metal edge of previous effort Judgement but they have definitely returned to their initial hard rock sound.  Forbidden Kind is a large orchestral ballad which shows Julie's great range and Scream has overtones of a hard rock Garbage mixing heaviness and pop sensibilities. This is a very good hard rock record and it is one of the best albums the band has released. 7/10

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