Evergrey: The Storm Within (AFM Records)
Evergrey are a band who are now on their ninth album and with the release of The Storm Within they are following up what many would consider to be their best album Hymns For The Broken, which is a lofty statement considering most of the bands releases are in the top tier of their genre. Now Evergrey have always been something of an enigma merging European progressive power metal with with a rich vein of emotion and darkness that stems from the mind of band founder Tom S Englund. After dealing with a lot of personal issues after The Glorious Collision, Hymns For The Broken was the band's first record in three years and it was not only their most accomplished, hardest hitting output in years but quite possibly the most impressive work of their storied career.
So how then do they follow it up? Surely The Storm Within can't stack up? Well it not only stacks up, in a lot of ways it's superior to it's predecessor (and stop calling me Shirley). Yet again the album is full of epic songwriting, with a cinematic feel from the first chord, the record melds intricate melodies with heavyweight progressive metal that is complex but not elitist, it's the kind of music Evergrey have always been masters of but they seem to be deep in a purple patch at the moment and once again the magic is evident.
The record opens with Distance which sets the tone for this ninth release, it opens with a haunting piano from Rikard Zander before the powerful riffage kicks in with Englund and Henrik Danhage handling guitar duties as Jonas Ekdahl and Johan Niemann provide the propulsive drums and bass respectively, the song is very modern feeling with it's chugging rhythm driven by the flaring drums, the down tuned riffs as the keys filter into the equation nicely behind Englund's impassioned vocal delivery, he has a rare gift for powerful emotive vocals. His rockier range is displayed on Passing Through which has some incredible guitar solos punctuating the hard rock. With two harder songs starting the album Someday allows the band to slow the pace with huge, uplifting chorus and a backing chant of "hey hey" that will sound simply stunning in the live arena, this is how modern arena metal should sound.
It leads into the excellent Astray which once again ramps things up but in the solo section it injects some passion as they put a choral touch to the final part. When there is so much talent on display sometimes it's difficult to take it all in and this is true about The Storm Within it's an album that grows the more times you listen to it, there's so much to discover as the record ebbs and flow there is polar opposition abound with tracks like The Impossible, which is led by a solitary piano and regretful vocal from Englund in direct contrast to the thunderous My Allied Ocean which is pure power metal full of pounding blast beats and dual guitar harmonies and The Lonely Monarch has the dramatic, prog sound that once again is written for stadia.
As the record goes into it's final part the the quality is maintained adding the two guests that appear on this record, first is In Orbit which is a stirring piece featuring Nightwish's Floor Jansen and on The Paradox Of The Flame Englund's wife (and long term vocalist) Carina adds her amazing vocals to the devastatingly beautiful orchestral piece. The Storm Within once again deals with internal and external conflict, mature themes and wraps it all up in some affecting, sensational music that doesn't just live up to Evergrey's previous feats it surpasses them and as the record comes to a close with the muscularly dense title track leaving you breathless but ready to replay the record from the beginning and basque in its opulence once again. You need to buy this album if you love intelligent, interesting metal music, it could just be the band's masterpiece. 10/10
Winterstorm: Cube Of Infinity (NoiseArt)
The Germans do power metal better than most with such a wide range of acts singing about fantasy, wars and battles, with such a glut of acts coming from the country some can be over looked. Winterstorm thankfully are one band that won't be having released an album every 2 years since 2010 they have always challenged the Teutonic Power metal sound making it more progressive and adding the traditional folk elements heard in bands such as Sweden's Falconer or countrymen Blind Guardian and Orden Ogan.
With two new members (drummer and guitarist) the Bayreuth band has dispensed with many of the hard progressive sounds from their earlier records for a more direct approach this time round the record I believe is a concept piece based around the titular cube as many of the songs seem to form a story surrounding it, as I've said the songs are a lot more immediate than on previous records most don't creep over the 7 minute mark but they all feature some excellent fluid playing from all concerned.
The guitars in unison with the keys the rhythm section galloping away with harder edges than before, some of the tracks on this record could lend themselves to thrash acts such is the riffage. Winterstorm continue to develop their sound and it's this constant improvement that will set them apart from many power metal acts around. 7/10
Lacrimus Profundere: Hope Is Here (Oblivion) [Review By Paul]
This is a real grower. On first listen the vocals of Rob Vitacca and the gothic overtures of the German outfit’s first release since 2013’s Antiadore was difficult to absorb but repeated plays have released substantial depth and context of a band that has slowly moved away from its death doom roots to a cleaner more mainstream sound. In fact, repeated plays have made it a 2016 favourite with the range of tracks completely in tune with my aural tastes for all things in the Paradise Lost and Anathema region. Add in some symphonic and classical elements and Radiohead influenced indie leanings and it is quite a fantastic album.
LP was founded in 1993 by Oliver Schmid. Hope Is Here is the 11th studio album from a band whose mix of styles switches from melancholic gothic to industrial to metal. Listen to the title track, Aramis, A Million Miles and the classical leanings of Awake for an illustration. Crushing Korn style riffs on A Million Miles still allow Vitacca’s individual delivery to be heard clearly whilst the addition of the symphonic element on Awake mixes it up quite brilliantly. In fact the vocalist who has been with the band for the best part of a decade has a quite stunningly miserable yet incredibly memorable voice that provides the narrative for Hope Is Here, a concept album about a young boy named Aramis drifting deep in a forest.
The band may have moved away from the darker doom delivery but the subject matter and delivery still allow the rainclouds to gather. It’s not all gloom though and this isn’t a plodder by any means. Short sharp tracks such as No Man’s Land race away with driving rhythm from Clemens and Christop Schepperle on bass and drums respectively. Schmid’s clever keyboards add layers whilst the guitar work of Tony Berger and Schmid is both delicate and amply aggressive when called for. Pageant strays from the metal scene with a mix of Iggy Pop, Bowie and Marilyn Manson, demonstrating the versatility of the band.
The highlights for me are the haunting penultimate track Black Moon with its acoustic delivery haunting, the title track which begins in similar acoustic fashion before soaring with a roaring chorus and the industrial stomp of album closer and remix Aramis (Eisbrecher Neuschnitt). However, there isn’t a dull track on this release and I realise that I am now on a mission to hunt out their extensive back catalogue and hope for a visit to the UK in the not too distant future. 9/10