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Saturday, 29 November 2014

Reviews: Neonfly, Axenstar, Yama

Neonfly: Strangers In Paradise (InnerWound)

Neonfly's first album Outshine The Sun is played often on my stereo so I was looking forward to their follow up and thankfully it is here and delivers what their debut did in spades and also improves on it greatly. Having witnessed the band supporting Dragonforce I was blown away by how great they are live and this bombastic, melodic heavy metal translates on to this second album. The multi-European crew bring, dual guitars galore from Patrick Harrington and Frederick Thunder, a hearty bass gallop from Paul Miller and some amazing drums from Boris La Gal. The band merge the classic metal of Maiden, the melodic metal of Firewind, the huge hooks of AOR, the baroque nature of Met Loaf and loads of technical progression all thrown into the mix. Highways To Nowhere is a great example of Neonfly at their best as it has huge modern sounding metal riff, a percussion driven Middle Eastern middle section, tight concise solos all of which is paired with some rapid fire vocals from Willy Norton to create a song to too dissimilar to Disturbed. However they can also deal with the pomp of AOR on Better Angels on which Norton shows off his excellent and somewhat unique set of pipes, the 80's sheen continues on the overwrought Bon Jovi-esque Rose In Bloom and indeed the entire album sounds like it could easily fit in that decade due to the production of  Pink Cream 69/Unisonic's Dennis Ward This album works through all types of music hoovering them up and adding them to the mix, the double header of Heart Of The Sun and Aztec Gold have a symphonic metal basis with some great keys from Gunter Werno and some great bass and drum work on the instrumental Aztec Gold. Before being plunged into the war on the Dragonforce-like Fierce Battalions and the rampaging Chasing The Night before the album ends with the firelight acoustic balladry of Falling Star which is pure cheesy but is an uplifting climax to this excellent album of glossy, crunchy melodic metal that will appeal to a wide audience. If you love some excellent songwriting, powerful tracks and a huge mix of ideas thrown into the pot then Neonfly could be your new favourite band. 9/10    

Axenstar: Where Dreams Are Forgotten (Inner Wound)

Swedish power metal, it's nearly always a by-word for quality, not necessarily invention but quality nonetheless. Axenstar started plying their brand of power metal in 1998 (as Powerage before changing to Axenstar in 2001) and now they are on album number six (I do sometimes wish I lived in the middle of the EU so I didn't find these bands so late). As the rapid fire drumming kicks of Fear all bets are off this is Euro power metal at its most bombastic, the guitars soar and Magnus Wintefield provides the bottom end, the keys and the strong European vocal style. With nods to Sonata, Dragonland and countrymen Hammerfall fans of Power metal will eat this up as the songs gallop like a band of wild horses, the vocals are emotive with choirs galore, the solos burn up the fret board, the keys are tasteful and understated and the album rarely gives you a break from the madness songs like My Sacrifice (thankfully not a Creed cover), the drum heavy Curse Of The Tyrant, the thrashy stomp of Greed and the Maidenesque The Reaper Axenstar really show off their power metal credentials, they a definitely a band that have been doing this for a long time indeed and as I've said the album doesn't slow down until the mid paced Sweet Farewell which is a very modern sounding track with a cracking choir in the chorus and a chugging middle eight that builds into a solo any power metal fan would get excited by. As with many genres of metal these days Sweden seems to be the place to be at the moment, but they do seem to excel at power metal and Axenstar are no exception to that rule; strong songs, great playing and a big heaving whack of fist pumping metal tuneage. 8/10

Yama: Ananta (Lighttown Fidelity)

Big sledgehammer grooves from Tilburg, NL now with Yama's debut album. As the tile track swaggers in with cocksure stoner riff the scene is set for a album of bluesy, grungy, doomy metal with a narcotic haze. Yama are named after the Verdic God Of Death and their songs are the sound of of aural deafening in the style of former tour mates  Orange Goblin, Graveyard and Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, Anchor Of Time is bass heavy and rumbles along with aplomb, things slow down on the psych influenced Hollow which sounds just that with it's reverbed guitar which starts things off before crashing into the heavy middle section, but it still keeps things mid-paced with it's swirling riffs, the shadow of the blues comes a looming on the mouth harp driven Ruach Elohim. The four men in this band obviously know their roles inside out the drums drive the rhythm in conjunction with the big low end, the riffs come with big layers of thickness and the vocals shout and snarl on top of the aural assault. Over these eight songs Yama have constructed an album full of fist pumping rock anthems that will get heads nodding, beers drunk and weed smoked like salmon. If you like huge slabs of stoner rock with a grungy underbelly Yama will be right up your street. 7/10 

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