Elvellon - Spellbound

Genre: Symphonic Metal

German based Elvellon start out their career with a five track EP, reaching my ears by way of Spotify’s weekly tips. Obviously, Elvellon have taken lots of cues from Nightwish, right down to Nele Messerschmidt sounding like a mix between Tarja Turunen’s theatricality and Floor Jansen’s metalized cleans, but without overdoing it like the former, and without the gruffness of the latter. In fact, Messerschmidt brings her own style, but does sound perhaps a bit too much like those giants. Nevertheless she is certainly a fine vocalist and her style fits the music perfectly. The similarities do not end there, and I’d have full understanding if this was too close to Nightwish for some people. For a full length it might be, but in an EP it works. Elvellon also lacks the male contrasting vocals, but relies solely on Messerschmidt, who handles the responsibility.

Elvellon - Spellbound

Musically, it’s very symphonic and triumphant, with choral arrangements and a keyboard (Pascal Pannen) driven sound that stands to fill the void after Nightwish turned more commercial. Metallic elements are put into place by Gilbert Gelsdorf who adds layers of guitar showmanship, but never goes overboard. His riffs aren’t very experimental, but some leads and solos are certainly not bad, as in opener ‘Oraculum’ or ‘My Wings’. Also worthy of mention are the instrumental parts of ‘Born From Hope’ wherein keys and guitars just complement each other just right. The music, though well written and with no small amount of passion, generally lacks high flying, triumphant choruses. The songs are all epic in sound, but also seems to have something melancholic about them. Not unwelcome per se, but couple it with something uplifting to contrast and it’ll make it so much better.

All five tracks feel somewhat standard, and doesn’t challenge, but still manages not to be boring - actually, standard, but still pretty good. The fifth and closing track, ‘Shore To Aeon’, starts out somewhat reminiscent of something you’d find Serenity’s Death & Legacy (2011) with six minutes of balladry (perhaps just a tad too long), then towards the last few minutes makes an epic finish complete with operatic performance by Messerschmidt and a cool guitar lead that fades out. And it really does feel like it brings it all together; all in all, this EP is not bad, and I’d definitely check out a full length if they get around to putting one out. Fans of symphonic metal should check it out.

 

Standout tracks: Oraculum, Shore To Aeon

 

    

Read the review on the Metal Archives

 


Lyrikvideo: Elvellon - Oraculum

Striker - Stand In The Fire

Genre: Heavy Metal

Striker has never been a real favourite of mine, but they’ve always come across as highly capable and not least passionate about what they do. Previous effort, City Of Gold (2014), was likely their best album thus far, with its ‘80s inspired but decidedly runaway feel and a solid cover of all time classic ‘2 Minutes To Midnight’. It seems they’re making a habit of releasing a full length album every two years, as fresh of the press is the new album Stand In The Fire. No bullshit, no pretend epic 70 minute albums dragging on over their due. This, their fourth in line, is 45 minutes and right on the punch, with eleven songs filling it out. An homage, on their own - as usual - to the bands that made them what they are. When Stand In The Fire kicks off with ‘Phoenix Lights’, you get exactly what you expect. High octane, ‘80s styled riffage packaged in a modern speed metal production. The production, by the way is very professional sounding for an independent release, as they’re apparently not with Napalm Records any more. It’s all packing a punch, and has absolutely no fucks to give.

Striker - Stand In The Fire

The guitars are obviously in focus on an album like this, Timothy Brown working a lot on his own, but mainly with Trent Halliwell (who appears on six tracks). Both carry parts that are just manic. Not least the solos are usually the highlights of their respective songs (mentionable is title track ‘Stand In The Fire’), in that they just stick out. Good riffs are also not hard to come by, as they make up most every song. ‘Outlaw’ is a fluent mix of blistering leads and Maiden-esque riffs, making a potent song - perhaps lacking a strong chorus, while ‘United’ take some cues from the likes of Priest, in trying to make a fast paced arena rocker. Then you have a track named ‘Escape From Shred City’, I mean what do you expect? Brandon Ellis (Arsis) guests on the instrumental shredder, which might not be up to par with the legends of shred, but still is a damn fine mid-album track. It perfectly shows what I’ve been saying; the importance of the guitars on this work. And they do not disappoint.

‘Too Late’, the longest track on here at just under five minutes, is a mid tempo track heavy on the feeling, brought in from the likes of Whitesnake. Vocalist Dan Cleary makes his best effort to show a vulnerable side, and while the track isn’t bad, it’s also not quite up to par with the highlights on the album. Actually, Cleary is worthy of a mention. He has a strong voice that works incredibly well especially in the fast verses, but he’s also lacking... something. In the chorus of the aforementioned ‘United’ (for example) he sounds, in lack of better words, lonely. Some layered vocals would certainly have helped create a bigger feel that I’m certain they were going for. Among that, there are a few tracks that feel a bit like filler, but mainly the songs are pretty strong - none standing out as weak per se - if somewhat similar in style and structure to each other and to what we’ve already heard on previous Striker albums. This is a good album no doubt about it, albeit not exceptional. Whoever liked City Of Gold will likely fall head over heels for this one, and if one is new to Striker, it’ll make a good first album to try.

 

Standout tracks: Phoenix Lights, Stand In The Fire

 

    

Read the review on the Metal Archives

 


Musikvideo: Striker - Too Late

Winters Bane - Heart Of A Killer

Genre: Power Metal

En stapel, klassiker i övergången mellan vad som kallas speed och power metal, eller kanske ännu mer ett klassiskt exempel av amerikansk power. Den första blicken som världen fick av Tim Owens - sedermera också benämnd Ripper - kom inte på 1997 års Jugulator, den inte helt välmottagna uppföljaren på Judas Priests monstrum Painkiller (1990), utan på Winters Banes debut Heart Of A Killer. Egentligen ett par demoinspelningar med thrashbandet Brainicide före, men i fullängdarsammanhang är Heart Of A Killer först, släppt 1993. Winters Bane, nu aktiva utan Owens, sammanställde då ett album bestående till hälften av en historia om Domare Cohagen som efter en hjärtattack får en avrättad mördares hjärta, och därefter upplever mördarens minnen och tankar. Owens själv (ty han är ju i dagsläget dragplåstret för den här skivan) gör en otroligt stark insats, mer vibrant än de båda albumen med Priest, mer i linje med Beyond Fears debut (2006) eller skivorna han släppte med Iced Earth 2003 och 2006. Hans gedigna röst påminner stundtals om Rob Halford - lyssna på låten Night Shade - och så klart med bitar av Ralf Scheepers fast utan överdrifterna.

Winters Bane - Heart Of A Killer

Musikaliskt är albumet levande, med målande och kreativt gitarrspel av Lou St. Paul. Riffen som bygger upp majoriteten av skivan är samtliga klara och med riv i järnet. St. Pauls solon och starka framtoning i mixen ger en känsla av grånad nittiotalsatmosfär ur amerikansk medelklass, medan de behåller en tydlig känsla av den tyska skolans aggressiva power metal i stil med Iron Savior och Paragon. I titelspåret, där Cohagen får mördarens hjärta i en transplantation, är huvudriffet uppbyggt för att framstå som en sjukhusmaskin; artificiellt, men med St. Pauls sprakande känsla. Bassisten Dennis Hayes, som jag vanligtvis inte är helt förtjust i efter anonymt spel på ett par Iced Earth-låtar och framför allt stela och icke-närvarande livespel med just Iced Earth, är inte heller dålig på det han gör, även om han också just här förhåller sig - med rätta - till bakgrunden, då den gitarrdrivna musiken snarare släpper fram St. Pauls stämningsgivande spel istället.

De första sex spåren behandlar alltså Domare Cohagens skrämmande fall, varpå ytterligare fyra väl valda spår följer. Haunted House, ett snabbare speed metal-alster bjuder till med höga falsetter från Owens, medan den instrumentala Winters Bane ser St. Paul glänsa allra mest, här i samröre med Hayes och en imponerande snygg sammanvävning mellan de båda i en rytmiskt driven historia. Låtuppbyggnaden är kanske inte häpnadsväckande och innovativ i sig, då det mesta följer ett inte helt ogivet mönster, men det blir aldrig tråkigt, utan det hålls på sin spets. Mycket tack vare levande insatser av Tim Owens, vars hemsökande närvaro i de tematiskt mörka spåren vittnar om en teatralisk känsla. Horror Glances håller jag som den bästa låt han välsignat med sin röst, där framför allt refrängen är spöklik och ond i stämning. Ett sammanhållet band i starten av karriären, som sedermera kom att brytas upp med Owens avfärd till mer breddade utsikter, släpper i Heart Of A Killer en stark debut. En uppföljare borde vara på sin plats, men Owens är troligtvis för upptagen i restaurangbranschen och att vara en bitter högernisse i sociala medier för att återförenas med gamla kompisar.

 

Bästa låtar: Horror Glances, The Silhouette, Haunted House

 

    

 


Winters Bane - Horror Glances