CD Review: “Alba” by Sleeping Romance

Sleeping Romance’s sophomore effort, Alba, is prime with heavy riffs and soaring operatic vocals. “Where The Light Is Bleeding” is a crushing track with pounding guitar riffs interspersed with piano and strings that accentuates the somber mood of this song. “Lost In My Eyes” is a fast paced catchy tune with intricate guitar harmonies that are both beautiful and haunting. Vocalist Federica Lanna’s voice is so serene yet powerful as she sings of fighting to uncover the truth. “Touch The Sun” continues the theme of self-discovery and determination. Musically, the song is groove oriented and features horns during the track’s midsection. “Forgiveness” is one of the longest songs on Alba and the centerpiece. A song about a scorned former lover, the emotional content of the lyrics makes way for a musical roller coaster of baroque riffs and guitar virtuosity. “Across The Sea” is a placid ballad that paints a picture of a crew resting for the night as the ship sails to its next destination. The title track is the penultimate song and barges in like an army through the gates of its enemy’s castle. The rolling percussion crashes like a battering ram while the guitars are lockstep in the melee. The unorthodox rhythm changes on the song add to the chaos making this a thrilling track from beginning to end.

This record is notable for its superb musicianship and songwriting. I have stated numerous times that symphonic and power metal bands are infamous for crafting pretentious compositions that go nowhere. That is not the case on Alba, as the songs are catchy but maintain a degree of complexity. The duel guitar attack of Truzzi Federico and Fabrizio Incao is both pulverizing and grandiose. Lanna’s vocals are strong and coherent and complements the sonic assault backing her.

Alba is a very good record and perfect for the season. There is a cold, rigid emotion on this album which makes it suitable for the Autumn and Winter. The album is somewhat accessible for casual fans of metal, although some tracks are fairly heavy. That being said, fans of Delain, Xandria or Serenity should definitely check this album out.

For news and tour dates check out the band’s website:

http://www.sleeping-romance.com/

Top 10 Heavy Metal Albums Of 2016

We wrap up another year and it is time for the annual “best of” list for 2016 heavy metal releases. Old school thrash metal acts like Testament and Sodom released stellar albums this year. Symphonic metal band Delain’s newest record was a solid metal record with commercial appeal. 2016 will be remembered as the “Year of Death” due to the passing of so many celebrities this year. However, metal was alive and well this year.

Testament – The Brotherhood of the Snake

This lean and mean release is unapologetic thrash metal. Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson unleash a hailstorm of riffs and Chuck Billy’s vocals are as biting and vitriolic as ever. Brotherhood faced stiff competition from releases by Anthrax, Megadeth and Metallica, but this band managed to stand out.

Crowbar – The Serpent Only Lies

The return of original bassist Todd Strange certainly played a factor in Crowbar returning to its roots on Serpent. Frontman Kirk Windstein remarked in interviews the he listened the band’s older records for inspiration and it certainly shows on this album. Songs like the title track and “Surviving The Abyss” would easily fit on Odd Fellows Rest or the self-titled album.

Sodom – Decision Day

The teutontic trio had a stellar year with its 15th album. The band’s raw, ripping sound has not dulled after 35 years and it shows on tracks like “In Retribution,” “Caligula,” and “Blood Lions.” A head banging affair from start to finish.

Nails – You’ll Never Be One Of Us

California grindcore act Nails separate the strong from the weak with this release. Clocking in at 21 minutes, You’ll Never Be One Of Us pulls no punches musically or vocally. Napalm Death and Terrorizer made the path for extreme metal and Nails is laying pavement over it.

Delain – Moonbathers

There is a zeal of commercial appeal on Moonbathers, but the heaviness is still present. This record successfully fuses symphonic metal, pop and electronic and makes for an interesting listen. Charlotte Wessain’s angelic help drive the music, soaring like a bird over a stream of riffs.

Prong – X: No Absolutes

Prong maintains the creative renaissance it’s enjoyed since 2012’s Carved Into Stone. There are elements of hardcore, thrash, industrial and a little avant garde on No Absolutes, which made for a diverse album. Tommy Victor’s guitar playing is second to none on this record with the face ripping “Sense of Ease” and sludgy “Belief System.”

Amon Amarth – Jomsviking

Amon Amarth can do no wrong and it shows on Jomsviking. The tales of viking, raids, blood, and victory never get old and the music complements the subject matter. The band’s sound is consistent and still potent almost 25 years since the band’s formation in 1992.

Witchery – In His Infernal Majesty’s Service

The blackened-thrash supergroup return from a six year absence with this 11 track hellraiser, that puts the dead on the notice. Tracks like “Lavey-athan” “The Burning of Salem” and “Escape From Dunwich Valley” showcase the band’s uncanny ability to thrash and groove without issue.

Entombed A.D. – Dead Dawn

L.G. Petrov and company continue to explore to death n’ roll sound created by his previous band Entombed. The doom of “As The World Fell” neatly parallels the battering hardcore of “Total Death”. The band’s sophomore album is much more cohesive than its debut album and shows a very confident band.

Product of Hate – Buried in Violence

I have said this band is America’s answer to The Haunted. Buried in Violence is modern American thrash sans the retro vibe that saturated the American metal scene for several years. “Blood Coated Concrete” is an aggressive pit-inducing track that will satisfy metalheads old and new.

CD Review: “Moonbathers” by Delain

Delain’s latest release, Moonbathers, successfully blends crunchy riffs with symphonic flair. The opening track, “Hands of Gold” is replete with galloping riffs and majestic orchestral samples. The track is straightforward with a stronger emphasis on heaviness than sheer complexity. There is a nice groove on “The Glory and The Scum”, the initial single on Moonbathers. A harsh critique on humanity and our lust for violence and corruption, vocalist Charlotte Wessels’ angelic voice contrasts with the track’s cynical lyrics. The downbeat “The Hurricane” is notable for its use of pathetic fallacy, using nature to symbolize human emotions. The track lacks the impact of other songs on the record and takes a while to grow on the listener. However, the somber ambience on “Chrysalis-The Last Breath” tugs at the heart thanks to the electronic percussion and dissonant piano. The aggressive “Pendulum” has a hooky riff that gets the head banging and a couple of nice guitar leads.

Moonbathers is an accessible record that is neither too heavy or too orchestral. Delain does not make things too complex on this record. The guitar riffs are catchy and crunchy and complement the classical samples. The production is top notch which is no surprise as Ted Jensen mastered the album. Jensen is a Grammy winning master engineer that has worked with such bands as Behemoth, Down, Pantera and Trivium.

Delain’s fifth album is a solid symphonic metal album. Fans of extreme metal will probably avoid Moonbathers, but the album’s polished sound and accessible songs will draw a large diverse audience. There is much to appreciate about Moonbathers and Delain’s popularity will continue to grow with this album.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s website: http://www.delain.nl/