Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Monday 16 May 2022

Reviews: Crack The Sky Tribute, Battle Symphony, Sands Of Eternity, Echelon (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

A Crack In The Sky – A Tribute to William J Tsamis (Pitch Black Records)

A Crack In The Sky, celebrates the work of one of the most renowned, influential, underground artists in in Greek and American heavy metal. William J Tsamis passed away on May 13th 2021, so this album has been compiled to be released on the one-year anniversary. The co-founder of Warlord with Mark Zonder (Fates Warning) they blazed a trail in the post NWOBHM era with a sound that would go on to be defined as US Heavy Metal.

It's a style that has been an influence on bands such as Iced Earth, Savatage etc along with Manowar, Virgin Steele and Manilla Road. Though never quite as mainstream as these acts Tsamis' influence is audible still today with his classically trained guitar playing and songwriting in Warlord, Lordian Winds and Lordian Guard inspiring countless acts in Greece and the USA. Some of these acts pay tribute to Tsamis on this record, it's a decent mix of bands all of whom set themselves in the traditional/NWOBHM/power metal schools, so each able to interpret the songs in their own way, without changing them too much from the originals. As Tsamis' sound was heavily influenced by the European styles there are bands from all over the world though the lion's share hail from Greece/Cyprus or the USA.

The most known of these being Cypriot act Mirror who open the record with the propulsive Aliens, as 'Greek Maiden' Stray Gods take the excellent War In Heaven which gets proper Maiden vibes and Arrayan Path bring a bit of the epic to The Rainbow, which features former Warlord live guitarist Paolo Viani on guitar. Array Path guitarist Socrates Leptos also provides a poignant finale on the instrumental title track. The recognisable Americans on the record are Sumerlands who add that sense of melancholy Tsamis had in his work to Lost And Lonely Days. Firewölfe give Battle Of The Living Dead some lycanthropic viciousness, while Eternal Champion throw the fists up high for the anthemic Stygian Passage.

Elsewhere though Twisted Tower Dire have touch of Iced Earth/Mercyful Fate/Annihilator on the creepy Mrs. Victoria as Solitary Sabred also stay with the occult on Black Mass. Lucifer's Hammer comes from Maltese doom metal band Forsaken while Serbian heavy doomsters Claymorean are perfectly suited to the Maiden stomp of 70,000 Tears, Wotan give Winds Of Thor the right amount of histrionics. What I like about this record is that not only are these bands paying respect to a musician who is a big influence on all of them but they also give you a brief look at what they do as band, if found myself seeking out the bands I didn't know on this record to listen to more of what they had to offer, of course then kicking myself for not finding out about them earlier.

At 79 minutes and 16 songs there's plenty of music here, making Crack The Sky a weighty tribute to a hero of the heavy metal underground, I'd encourage you to pick this up as an entry point to not just the work of William J Tsamis but of all the bands featured as well. A must have for fans of trad metal. 9/10

Battle Symphony - War On Earth (Soman Records)

War On Earth is a concept record, well actually it's a metal opera, in the vein of Avantasia, though closer thematically to the Ayreon project. Created by journalist, author and keyboardist Nikos Tzouannis it's an album that doesn't have the progressive flourishes of Ayreon, getting more influences from bands such as Manowar, Blind Guardian and even Symphony X. There's a lot of folk flourishes that seep through the classic heavy metal sound as well as cinematic orchestrations that have been scored by Grigoris Giarelis,who also plays the guitar and programmed by George Halliwell, it' producer Ektoras Tsolakis, who provides bass and drums. 

The strings and classical influences make this album more than just traditional heavy metal, it's much fuller, rounded sound that really hits home the 'metal opera' tag. Thematically it deals with a conflict between a human rebellion and the human/alien inhabitants on Planet Earth, so it's science fiction fantasy, that has multiple parts throughout the 11 tracks. There is also a bonus track sung in Spanish, that isn't part of the concept. As with any record of this kind there is a plethora of vocalists playing the different parts, but the lead characters are portrayed by Tasos Lazaris of Fortress Under Siege and Katie Johnson, there are also contributions from Nicholas Leptos (Arrayan Path, ex - Warlord), Roberto Tiranti (Labyrinth), Daniel Heiman (ex - Lost Horizon)  Dee Theodorou (Illusory), Grigoris Giarelis (Badd Kharma), Julian Küster (Black Eden). 

All of the singers to the dense musical tapestry Tzouannis weaves. There's also some guest shredders as Gus Drax (Sunburst, Suicidal Angels and Black Fate), Stathis Pavlantis (Reflection) and Helena Kotina all give solos to the epic final track. It's a hell of record, difficult to digest in one sitting for sure, this needs repeated listens and a booklet to paw over as you listen to tracks such as the the stirring Hail Mankind, Hail!, the electronic pulse of Power And Glory or the emotional thrust of Soul Survivors which has Roberto Tiranti giving his all on track that sounds a lot like Labyrinth. You can hear that Nikos Tzouannis is a real lover of heavy metal as every song on this conceptual debut offering has an influence or acknowledgement to the leaders of the genre. What the story is about? Haven't a clue. The music? Brilliant. 8/10 

Sands Of Eternity – Beyond The Realms Of Time (Symmetric Records)

The latest signing to Bob Katsionis’ Symmetric Records are Athens based traditional/power metal band Sands Of Eternity. Now when I say debut I mean that this is the first album from Sands Of Eternity, though main songwriter/guitarist Ioannis Ioakimides was the creative force between Hourglass Sands of Eternity who released two demos and record in 2002. Upon seeing that the Hourglass SOE were a bit of cult band, in the Greek heavy metal online world, he decided to create new band and trim down the original name, thus Sands Of Eternity were born with an album full of compositions Ioakimides had been working on since Hourglass SOE split. Employing the services of singer Michael ‘Dice’ Papadakis and joining with producer/keyboardist/guitarist Bob Katsionis, who is reviving more cult bands than Andy Sneap. 

Sands Of Eternity started to record this new album. The band is rounded out by Thanassis Skoutelis (bass), Vangelis Kalentzis (keys), Michael Skoutelis (drums) and Kostas Nanos (guitars), though I’m not sure if they are all on the recordings as the keys are done by Katsionis. Still Beyond The Realms Of Time is a classic sounding heavy metal album taking cues from Hammerfall, Helloween and Greek legends Warlord, there’s plenty of dual guitar harmonies on the power metal bounce of Enlightened (Mighty Warrior), which has an anthemic chorus and keyboard solo, there’s the occasional lighters aloft ballad of Desire and the triumphal Red Flag a proper fantasy metal sing along Manowar would be proud of. 

To go with this there’s mid paced, melodic rockers such as The Hitman and the symphonic epics like Faded and So Far Away (A Soldier's Cry) both of which bring in hints of Kamelot. Vocally Papadakis has touch of both Joacim Cans (Hammerfall), Andi Deris (Helloween) and Chris Boltendahl (Grave Digger), a raspy snarl that can hit high notes when needed, such as on Shadows Of Light, as the instrumentation is rich with experience, the solos hitting all the right notes as the riffs add differentiation, the rhythm section just as impressive in full flight or keeping the pace for the slower moments. 

Many in the Greek trad/power metal scene will be pleased to see Sands Of Eternity returning after 20 years, luckily the music on Beyond The Realms Of Time is worthy of a triumphant comeback. 8/10

Echelon - Secret Power (Sleaszy Rider Records)

Secret Power is the debut album from Corfian power/symphonic metal band Echelon, they are band that have dual male/female vocals and cite Helloween and Sonata Arctica as influences. You can hear that throughout this debut, unfortunately they don't do much else other than play straight forward symphonic/power metal like so many. 

Because there are thousands of bands doing this sort of thing  means that the vocals have to be on top form, and on Secret Power they just aren't, the title track being the worst culprit. Now the band split up in 2006 but reformed in 2018 to honour their bold bass player Lefteris Doumpos who passed away in 2015. That's admirable of course but doesn't really lift this record up from being lost in a pretty sizable genre. I'm sure someone will love it but it's not for me due to those vocals. 5/10

No comments:

Post a Comment