Shadowkiller - Guardians Of The Temple

Genre: Heavy Metal, Power Metal

With this year’s output, Shadowkiller marks their third full length. The first two albums were generally well received, at least by the few people that heard them. With their first outputs, the American trio brought a big scope of storytelling of war and myth and matching it with equally big sounding guitars and progressive leanings and with plenty of power. Guardians Of The Temple was released only a few days apart from main man Joe Liszt’s other band, Ancient Empire, released their fourth full length. But whereas Ancient Empire - seemingly Liszt’s main focus - was rather bland and uninteresting, he goes out of his way to deliver more in depth progressive thematic with Shadowkiller, while still telling similar stories of myth, legends and fantastic tales. Especially in comparison to the first two albums, the third one kicks major ass.

Shadowkiller - Guardians Of The Temple

Without beating around the bush or draping it in fancy words, this is Shadowkiller’s strongest effort to date. No way around it, it is a fleshy, meaty album that should satisfy every need for rifftastic stateside power metal; there is little in the way of cheesy melodics or soaring choruses. Power chords and tasty riffs trade off with neat hooks and interesting leads, with bassist Dan Lynch’s input oozing with energy and character, driving his bass lines comfortably alongside Liszt’s riffing. They also don’t shy away from lengthy, bulky tracks, as evident from the opening two tracks, 1600 and The Last Templars, which mark a strong opening to the album as both songs compete for the title of album highlight, flashing heavy riffing with an old school touch, while staying in the fresh with deft storytelling.

Oddly enough, the least interesting track on the album is the title track, stowed away near the end of the album. While also showcasing some neat guitar harmonies and thriving riffage, it does little to the whole, such as behemoths like The Last Templars and straight up hammering power metal feast Into The Blight do. A downside would be that, while diverse in delivering goodly amounts of fleshy power metal, even in its best moments it has little in the way of emotive range; if Shadowkiller were to employ a keyboardist to add another level of depth to the already impressive soundscape, it might transform the sound and work wonders alongside Liszt’s thrifty guitars. Shadowkiller’s third full length release is an intriguing listen, and one that begs plenty of replays as it deals in a sort of gritty catchiness; an evenly strong album that’s sure to be a rivet in any murican power metal playlist.

 

Standout tracks: 1600, The Last Templars, Into The Blight

 

    

 

Lyrikvideo: Shadowkiller - 1600

Primal Fear - Apocalypse

Genre: Power Metal

At first glance Apocalypse seems like a fairly dull affair, playing it safe at most every turn. Then I remember that’s how most every Primal Fear album has played out in the past decade or so. The fresh off the presses Apocalypse comes two years after 2016’s Rulebreaker (which definitely played by most of the rules), and for the diehard fans, yay! It’s another Primal Fear album. For everyone else, it’s a Primal Fear album. It’s never bad, never anything short of energetic, high flying power metal, but also, it’s never anything truly outstanding or interesting. Sadly so, when all the members are such deadly musicians in their fields; Mat Sinner blows away regularly in his plenty of other venues, Magnus Karlsson decidedly does better in a melodic hard rock type of style rather than the fleshed out power metal riffage found here, and main man Ralf Scheepers, though his voice has aged well and he seems to sound better with every passing album, made a way bigger impact on another album dealing with the end of times in this year’s A Voice Unheard by Tomorrow’s Outlook.

Primal Fear - Apocalypse

There are still a few potent spots to shine a little light on, strewn like little sprinkles during the length of the album. The opening is stronger than any of the last few Primal Fear albums, pulling all the levers in opener New Rise and fleshing things out further in massive The Ritual, both showcasing some of the heaviest and strongest riffs the three guitarists have put together, well.. together. This is followed by a slightly more melodic tinge in King Of Madness, still keeping up the strong momentum from the beginning. After that’s when it gets stale and more of the same-old same-old; Supernova seems a bit like a play on what made stellar track The Sky Is Burning from the previous album so great, but misses most of the marks and falls flat, while closing track Cannonball is silly and stupid and equal measure, as well as dragging on beyond the obvious closer in eight minute Eye Of The Storm - another highlight, with its great buildup and theatricality neatly befitting the melodic flair and great use of the triple guitarist schtick.

The guys have three guitarists, but it rarely ever shows. You’ve got your slight guitar licks throughout, but mostly it’s chugging riffage and power chords strewn with Karlsson’s melodic touch. Sometimes with some keys added. As I mentioned earlier, this is not a bad album. It’s definitely got its moments - like I said, not unlike previous Primal Fear albums. But unlike the guys heroes in Judas Priest who pulled all the stops and put out something ripe with firepower this year, Primal Fear just doesn’t do the same. The highlights are there, as usual, but beyond that, the music, the vision just seems stagnated, even though its played with ample conviction - and particularly Scheepers delivers with power aplenty. There’s also a tad too much filler here, and overall Apocalypse manages to be a passable album, if only that. And it’s a little sad from a band that helped define aggressive power metal, and hell, power metal itself.

 

Standout tracks: New Rise, The Ritual, Eye Of The Storm

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Primal Fear - The Ritual

Redemption - Long Night's Journey Into Day

Genre: Power Metal, Progressive Metal

Long Night’s Journey Into Day is Redemption’s seventh full length and first featuring Evergrey frontman Tom Englund. The musical tapestry herein is vivid and imaginative, staying true to the latter day course of Redemption stylistics, and opening strong with five of Redemption’s fleshiest tracks. The first half hour of the album is ridiculously strong, setting things off on the right foot with cleverly penned opener Eyes You Dare Not Meet In Dreams and stretching through a couple of massive tracks that take the very best of Redemption and pour them into interesting ideas and cool structures. It culminates in Indulge In Color, one of Redemption’s best songs to date. The song carries all the great ideas in place over the first half hour of the album; the heavy riffage, the down to earth stylistics of Englund (who still lets off quite a bit here) and the meaty melodics and thrifty soloing, all packaged in Redemption styled antics that just blows all resistance out of the gate.

Redemption - Long Night's Journey Into Day

Tom Englund is a fitting replacement for Ray Alder, and his vocals are a notch above those of the latter on the previous album. But he is not outstanding in his delivery, and rather takes a backseat to let the sometimes awesome instrumentals flow, and rightly so. There is however also a stagnancy in place, much like on the previous album. Englund, whose voice is as strong as it ever was - and he sounds way better than on the last Evergrey album - manages, despite his strengths, to not get swept away in a way the songs would have needed. Some of the material would demand the vocalist to go further toward the climaxes, but Englund mostly delivers with a uniform clarity. Great, but not awesome, and he takes a rightful back seat to the instrumentals, letting the album shine where it matters most; there’s plenty of variable material, yet sticks to the darkness and familiarity. The title track is the album’s longest, clocking in at over ten minutes, and one of the most inspired pieces on here.

Between it and the opening few, however, there are a few dragging slabs of punchable boring to sit through. The highly potent And Yet, a short ballad type of affair with plenty of melodramatic emotion, hidden away in the middle of the album, doesn’t carry the mid section made up of Little Men, The Last of Me and a lame ass U2 cover. These could easily have been cut and replaced with special edition bonus song Noonday Devil, which while not special like the first few songs, feel more in place and would lend the album better pacing and a substantially less bloated runtime. In all though, Long Night’s Journey Into Day is definitely a step up from the last album, and one worth most of its time. Nick Van Dyk just keeps tossing strong and emotive solos and gut punching, swirling melodic leads at us, while the rhythm section holds a steady grab at the heart of the music with thumping bass lines and driving drum patterns, and Englund giving strong performances in hooking you in with strong choruses abound, as Redemption indulges in color.

 

Standout tracks: Eyes You Dare Not Meet In Dreams, The Echo Chamber, Indulge In Color, Long Night’s Journey Into Day

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Redemption - Someone Else's Problem