Anthriel: Transcendence (Lion Music)
If you're a Finnish band that play neo-classical progressive power metal then you will immediately be compared to the genre leaders Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica, Wintersun, so Anthriel will have a mountain to climb from the first track. The Calling starts the record with Bowie/Floyd-like acoustic number as the synths shimmer giving a interstellar opening for the proceedings that lulls you in to the record as the orchestral elements swell and the riff for Under Burning Skies comes in like it's travelling on the wind and then the drums kick in and we have the first indication of Anthriel's true style, which is American sounding progressive metal with Symphony X and Fates Warning coming to mind.
You immediately focus on the technical riffs and virtuoso solos of Timo Niemistö who handles a fret board with the tenderness of a lover but abuses it like a metalhead does their liver. Behind him are the frantic rhythm section of Antti Horttana (bass) and Henrikki Markkula (drums) they control the changes of pace, the rampaging metallic sections but also give the lighter more melodic parts a deft hand, check out the aggressive opening of the 11 minute Oath Of Darkness which has all of this in one song the chunky verses, frequent tempo changes and a hook-laden chorus a towering guitar solo, impassioned vocals phrasing and a keyboard solo.
Those last to parts along with the shredding guitars are key to Anthriel's appeal, Antti Hakulinen's keyboards take the reins as a lead instrument in their own right duelling and soloing with it's six-string cohort in unison, on Siren's Song they take a more classic prog route but Painted Shadows is pure Stratovarius baroque-metal. Simo Silvan's vocals to round out the top class performances on this record, they are powerful, reasonably low and raspy but in this sort of music I prefer it to the soaring ear-piercing delivery of Timo Kotipelto, Silvan has similar elocution to Russel Allen of Symphony X thus the earlier comparison. Transcendence is the band's second album and it's a must buy for anyone that loves progressive/power metal. 9/10
Greta Van Fleet: Black Smoke Rising (Republic Records)
"In the days of my youth I was told what it means to be a man" these are the opening lines to one of the most iconic debut albums of all time. Led Zeppelin I was the start of the biggest thing to hit rock n roll since The Beatles, in January 1969 the swaggering mix of classic Southern US blooze and rock n roll was brought to the nth degree with fuzzy guitars, thundering bass, powerhouse drumming and a blue-eyed soul howl like no other. Zep grabbed the population by the crotch and didn't let go until they were megastars. Well no it seems four young men from Frankenmunth, Michigan are trying to do the same, the mysteriously named Greta Van Fleet (who apparently is a Frankenmunth native) have arrived with four track EP that has balls bigger than the NBA, FA and NFL combined. The band is made up of three brothers Joshua, Samuel, Jacob Kiszka and along with Daniel Wagner they have written an EP that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, we've probably said numerous times on this blog so and so sounds like Zeppelin, well other bands may sound like, Greta Van Fleet are the closest you can get.
Jacob's guitars are loose and explosive, Samuel contributes the stomping basslines and the organs that drive the title track, while Daniel Wagner thumps the tubs like he hates them. "So far so what?" I hear you cry well on top of this nice classic rock noise are the astonishing vocals of Joshua, he is a dead ringer vocally for Robert Plant having the same phrasing and range as Percy, which is even more impressive when you watch their video for Black Smoke Rising and see that he is just the slip of a boy. The four tracks on this record all point to great things for the band, I've already mentioned the funky title track, well that's proceeded by the folky Flower Power which sits in the vein of Going To California and Gallows Pole. The heavy rockers come from Highway Tune which leaves you breathless before punching you in the goolies on Safari Song, both of these tunes are primal rock fury and in conjunction with the other two songs on this EP, Greta Van Fleet have the chops to go stratospheric, they know what it means to be a man, lets see if they can grow into something special. 8/10
Moscow: Queen Of Sin (Self Released)
Whether you call her Tsaritsa (queen) like the Russian fans do or you use Moscow – her nom de guerre in the international music scene, she certainly knows how to attract the bearded rocker to her cause, much like classic metal pin-up Lita Ford, the young and beautiful Moscow knows how to use her sexuality to sell her musical ability. Leaving Russia at a young age she trained for singing, acting and dancing in both Cambridge and New York this girl has rock n roll spirit that drew her to the Sunset Strip where her favourite bands lived in a maelstrom of excess and debauchery, this seemed to be the place for Moscow and if you watch the video for this EP's title track you can see she revels in the dangerous, overly sexualised, sleazy rock favoured by Motley Crue, GNR and Aerosmith with distinct modern sound of Asking Alexandria and In This Moment.
I've concentrated on her image a lot in this review so far, perhaps unfairly, it's blatantly part of the package of course but she can actually perform, her vocals are strong with Maria Brink an obvious comparison in both the cleans and the screams, she is called the Queen Of Rock by many of supporters and there is a royal charisma and confidence to her performances with a strong cast of musicians forming her studio band, Queen Of Sin does what a an EP should it makes you want to hear a full length and see the performer live, let's hope that's sooner rather than later. 7/10