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Thursday 7 November 2019

Reviews: Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra, Hazemaze, Otherwise, Project Renegade (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra: Legacy Of The Dark Lands (Nuclear Blast)

Legacy Of The Dark Lands is the debut from Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra, note the last two words in the band name. This is not a new Blind Guardian record, it is an orchestral/classical record from BG guitarist Andre Olbrich who has been writing this record in between writing breaks from Blind Guardian for around 23 years. So this is not a metal album, there is no traditional metal instrumentation here, just the massive scope of a full orchestra, it's as bombastic and symphonic as anything BG have done but this is another level up from anything they have attempted, not limited to the heavy metal sounds they are free to make a truly classical record similar to the album recorded by Nightwish's Tuomas Holopainen a few years ago.

The album was recorded featuring the Prague Filmharmonic who add their cinematic power to this record giving it the full soundtrack experience, they need it too as Blind Guardian are never ones to shy away from a concept and this album is a direct sequel to the bestselling novel Die Dunklen Lande (The Dark Lands) by Markus Heitz, the album apparently "tells the story of an apocalyptic secret in the dark times of the Thirty Years’ War." Massive in scope and heavy without the needs for guitar riffs and blast beats Legacy Of The Dark Lands is an album that needs to be listened to in one sitting due to its conceptual nature, for fans of Blind Guardian you will hear a lot of what has made the last few BG records so excellent and it will also appeal to classical music fans so it has huge crossover scope. 8/10

Hazemaze: Hymns Of The Damned (Ripple Music/Cursed Tongue Records)

Swedish doomster's Hazemaze have returned with their second full length record which ramps up their doom sound to a higher level than before. We're talking echoed vocals, down-tuned fuzzy riffs and lots of slow burning songs of the occult and of course praise for the might leaf. This second album is much darker than their EP and debut full length. It's burning down the 70's sound they had before in a blaze of bong smoke and Satanic rituals. The creeping Shadow In The Night crawls it's way through your speakers before the bass driven Morbid Lust brings some more traditional stoner riffs, as Thrill Seeker has almost a dark country vibe to it as Lobotomy grooves along at pace. Hymns Of The Damned is a fairly by the numbers proto-doom record, but it gives this trio room to grow into this newly found sound. For fans of Uncle Acid or Reverend Bizarre, Hazemaze are best enjoyed in blacklight with medicinal accompaniments through some fat headphones (and of course on vinyl if you can get it). Defiantly old school this is hymn sheet worth reading. 7/10  

Otherwise: Defy (Mascot Records)

Formed by brothers Adrian [lead vocals] and Ryan Patrick [guitar, vocals], Otherwise are a band from Las Vegas and they were apparently raised on a diet of Stone Temple Pilots, Third Eye Blind and Faith No More. It's a shame then that they don't sound like any of these bands. They are a modern American rock band, they have a vein of alternative metal about them with some fizzing electronics and even nu-metal touches. All in all it means they sound pretty much exactly like Shinedown, though Otherwise have bawdy lyrics about getting "fucked up" mostly. They want to "shoot for the stars" on this record but they have really just recycled a sound that has been done to death. Americans will love it, thoses stuck in the early 2000's will love it but anyone who wants progression should stay away. 5/10

Project Renegade: Order Of The Minus (Self Released)

Opening with The Big Boss which is a sample of one of the Alan Watts Electronic University series, The debut full length from Athenian band Project Renegade, is a rallying cry of a record that explores the subject of loss in the modern world. Musically Project Renegade are an alt-metal band who fuse big heavy grooves with buzzing electronics and some ambient elements. Yes ok it does sound like the early Lacuna Coil sound, especially on Products Of War, but unlike Otherwise, they do show their own style on these songs. There's variation here from the thick riffs to The New Joker and In Another Life as Respirator brings the more electronic touches all driven by the hard hitting songwriting of frontwoman Maria Ioanna Florou whose lyrics are the major attraction to this album making emotive numbers like the closing Black Mountain really resonate in your mind long after it ends. Project Renegade is the clearly the vehicle for Maria who also co-produces the record along with drummer Odyssefs Avgoulis the two of them the main creative force here. Order Of The Minus is a record that does modern alt=metal anthems well, hinting at the genre leaders while retaining it's own identity. 7/10

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