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Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Reviews: Timo Tolkki's Avalon, Legacy Of Brutality, Vexes, Holy Tide (Paul S & Matt)

Timo Tolkki's Avalon: Return To Eden (Frontier's Records) [Matt]

It's difficult to mention Timo Tolkki without talking about Stratovarius, the band he helmed as guitarist and lead songwriter from 1989 until 2005, since then he has formed and disbanded the bands Revolution Renaissance, Symfonia (featuring the recently deceased Andre Matos), he has also left Chaos Magic (new album due soon) so the Avalon metal opera project, now on it's third part, is now his sole creative output so he can take his time as has done with this new record. It comes six years after the previous edition and in this time Tolkki has battled a lot of personal demons so on this record he is aided by Aldo Lonobile of Secret Sphere in a co-producer role who was very beneficial when it came to recording all the featured artists on this album.

Yes like every good rock opera there are some very special vocalists adding their pipes to the various conceptual songs here the most recognisable is Anneke Van Giersbergen who you can instantly identify on We Are The Ones, she of course is no stranger to concept metal albums being a part of the Ayreon family. Away from Van Giersbergen he has more female talent from Tristiana frontwoman Mariangela Demurtas (on the beautiful ballad Godsend) with the male vocals coming from Riot V's Todd Michael Hall, Ex-Elergy man Eduard Hovinga and ex-Savatage, Circle II Circle man Zachary Stevens all giving their own unique voices to these songs, sometimes three of them on the title track. Return To Eden is a bombastic album from a man who's name has always been associated with symphonic, classically influenced guitar driven music. Welcome back Mr Tolkki! 8/10

Legacy Of Brutality: Realm Of The Banished Gods (Hecatombe Records/No Humano Records) [Paul S]

Legacy Of Brutality are a Spanish Death Metal band, who have been brutalising since 2006. In that time they have produced 3 EPs and 2 albums; Path Of Forgotten Souls in 2011 and Giants in 2014. The five piece have taken 5 years to produce their 3rd album, so, have the years been well spent?

Yes, they have. They have been spent writing and recording a fantastic piece of fairly brutal Death Metal. I said ‘Fairly’ as this album has a beautiful mix of Brutal Death Metal with some elements of technical Death Metal, and some of Melodic Death Metal. So what we are lucky to get is brutal Death Metal with bags of melody and tunefulness, and a good helping of technical ability, and innate musicality. The album is also beautifully produced, it sounds really great. All the individual instruments have very good sounds to them, and the mix is spot on, one of the best sounding Death Metal albums I’ve heard in a long time.

Musically we get brutal riffs and blast beats to batter us, while fantastic guitar harmonies, and more melodic riffs temper that brutality. So, on title track Realm Of The Banished Gods we get a very tight brutal and very nasty tempo on most of the song. The tempo is a little reminiscent of the last Krisiun album, designed to batter the audience; but when we get to the solo it flow beautifully and gives the audience a break from the battering. On As We March the track vacillates between tuneful mid-paced Death Metal and very fast and brutal blasting, giving a very pleasing juxtaposition. Sometimes the tracks are just fast and flowing death metal that feels like it has so much pace and inertia, Behind The Black is one of those tracks.

It’s not all about being fast, Gods Of The Deep is much slower and heavier, with a nice discordant ending. The song has a relentless quality that I really enjoyed, it also boasts a fantastic solo; although so do all the songs on this album, if you are a fan of amazing guitar solos then this is an album you will want to check out. Realm Of The Banished Gods is a fantastic album, well written, played and produced. In some ways it reminds me of 2 Death Metal albums that came out last year; Monstrosity’s Passage Of Existence, and Krisiun’s album Scourge Of The Enthroned. Both those albums were brilliantly produced albums, made by masters of this genre. Legacy Of Brutality can now be added to that category, they are masters, because Realm Of The Banished Gods is a masterpiece! 9/10

Vexes: Ancient Geometry (Silent Cult) [Paul S]

Vexes are made up of the ex-members of A Life Once Lost, Vessl, Fury Of Five, and Downstage. The New Jersey based band, seem to be happy to wear their influences on their sleeves, every bit of research I did for this review I found a list of bands that Vexes love, and sound like. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the list is mostly Nu Metal acts, although, not the ones I thought they sounded like. They appear to be saying that they sound like Deftones, and Cave In and Thrice, but mainly sound like Linkin Park, with maybe a little Korn thrown in as well. I’m going to wear my influences on my sleeve too, I hate Nu Metal, sorry but to me Nu Metal was just awful. To me it was just an attempt to sell pop music to metalheads, and I was happy as anything that it died, and this album demonstrates why I hated it so much.

So, let’s start with the music. Firstly the production job is very good, the mix isn’t but that is a trait of Nu Metal rather than something wrong with the album. All the instruments sound very good, it has clearly been recorded and engineered very well. The mix is an issue, but then so is the mix on every Nu Metal album. The sound is all about drums and vocals, slightly hip-hop style drumming, with horrifically over the top, angsty vocals. The guitar and bass are too low in the mix, and are not at all riffy, Nu Metal is NOT about riffs, it’s just one chord going into another chord, there's no damping, to choppiness, nothing that I would consider a riff. I’ve always thought that the Nu Metal style of guitar and bass is much closer to indy or pop, but with distortion; trying to sell pop music to Metalheads. The vocals are a major issue as well, very similar to Linkin Park, and so overly emotional.

On some of the bands social media it talks about having huge choruses, what it really means is the choruses push that overly emotional style to ridiculous levels. I have always felt that there is an infantile aspect to these overly emotional Nu Metal tropes. I can understand it when Nu Metal bands were selling records to kids and younger teenagers, but surely they’ve grown up by now. On some of the more ballad like songs like Lush or Ancient Geometry, this comes across as being saccharine sweet and is almost vomit inducing. Let’s not forget the worst thing about this album; the track No Color contains a Rap. It’s as bad as it sounds, like a white, middle class guy trying to do an impression of Will Smith, and it is so bad, just awful. So, if you liked the worst bands in the worst type of metal, then here is an album for you.

I realise that this review is pretty bad, but the album comes with a surprise at the end. The version of the album I have has 3 bonus tracks at the end. They are covers of eighties pop songs, not kiddies pop, but slightly more grown up pop. We get covers of Tears For Fears track Head Over Heels, Johnny Hates Jazz’s Shattered Dreams and ’Til Tuesday’s Voices Carry, and they are great! By far the best thing about this album! The guitar can be heard, ok it isn’t distorted but it’s nice to be able to hear it. The terrible overly emotional vocals have been replaced by normal vocals, that are very good. The quality on offer from the bonus tracks is really impressive, Vexes should be doing stuff like this, not dire Nu Metal. If Vexes tried to be a modern Tears For Fears, they could really go somewhere.

It says a lot for how I feel about Nu Metal that I’ve just suggested this band go pop, but they are so much better when they don’t do a half arsed impression of Linkin Park. I realise I’ve been harsh, but Nu Metal should stay dead, I’d much rather have an ok pop act than anything that sounds like Nu Metal. 5/10

Holy Tide: Aquila (My Kingdom Music) [Matt]

Holy Tide are an international metal band that play melodic heavy metal with a few symphonic elements added to lashings of heavy metal. I'll get my biggest gripe out of the way first this is a power/traditional metal styled album and as such doesn't really differ too much from the countless other bands out there playing this style of music so at 14 songs, it's too damn long, each track is between 3 and 5 minutes making the album over an hour in length with very little variation except when they have some special guests, The Shepherd's Stone has some massive organs courtesy of Don Airey and as such sounds like Deep Purple, while Lamentation has some German language vocals from Tilo Wolff and a dramatic Rammstein stomp, in fact weirdly there are a lot of changes towards the end of the record. Holy Tide are Italian Joe Caputo and Brazilian Gustavo Scaranelo on guitars, Brazilian Fabio Caldeira behind the mic and Brit Michael Brush on the drums, this international membership makes for well performed metal music that won't change the world but may keep you entertained for just over an hour. 7/10

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