SpellBlast - Of Gold And Guns

Genre: Folk Metal, Power Metal

A show of hands for those who can say they’ve ever given SpellBlast more than a few minutes of attention in one sitting. The air is now emptier’n a prairie at high noon or some other mumbo jumbo with western words in it, because no one has done that. The Italian band has always been that standard folk power metal band that’s been unable to reach the levels of the likes of Elvenking in their folksier tunes, while their power metal antics have been shadowed by giants such as Rhapsody and Orden Ogan; songs about battle and glory blended with ye olde folk melodies out of the textbook. Apparently that’s about to change as they change the focus of their most recent outing, Of Gold And Guns, to the American wild west. It goes without saying that such a transformation needs to be felt in the overall sound; there has to be touches of Americana strewn across the runtime, while retaining the band’s original sound.Orden Ogan accomplished this on their latest album, giving it a distinct western flair. SpellBlast does not.

SpellBlast - Of Gold And Guns

The sound isn't as refined as it'd need, and the occasional banjo strumming doesn’t sell the illusion when vocalist Dest Ring sounds as far from an outlaw gunslinger as possible. His Italian accent is thicker’n gravy and his style decidedly European. A ‘yee-haw’ or two here and there doesn’t help either. Most of the tracks are named after historical figures from the American mid to late 19th century, such as Wyatt Earp, Jesse James and Sitting Bull, and the songs, moving quickly from one figure to another instead of building on some lore throughout, feel about as deep as the paragraph of a Wikipedia entry, which is sad when there is plenty of interesting events from the era to make interesting music about. There are a few exceptions, though the effect is nowhere near as big as it needs to be; Sitting Bull has a neat intro and a rhythm section that (albeit fairly stagnant) conjures the right setting, but then the entire song is so anti-climactic that after four minutes you’re just left there wondering where the song went, because it certainly wasn’t anywhere exciting.

And that’s how you can basically describe every single song on the album (and let’s not even get into the suck fest that is the closing ballad Wanted Dead Or Alive). Ring’s vocals toward the would-be zenith of each song just sound bored and the epic guitars or orchestrations are totally absent. The detriment of this album is that it’s so dull, grey and middle of the road that it’s almost unbelievable. The would-be mid tempo rompers end up just slowly plodding and the attempts at faster numbers just feel derivative and sub standard. There is no emotion behind a single note, everything’s just phoned in. A few enjoyable tracks and neat melodic pieces can be found, but that’s about it, and far from enough to make the entire 45 minutes worthwhile. Goblins In Deadwood has a neat saloon-y sound and a cheesy flair, with piano trilling and delivers with a smile and a fresh sounding rhythm section. It’s the best track on here, and even it is a decent song at best. Of Gold And Guns just isn’t a good album. A song or two could be called acceptable for what they are, but won't be good for anything more than an occasional future replay. The rest will have you slidin' away slicker'n slime on a doorknob.

 

Standout tracks: Jesse James, Goblins In Deadwood

 

    

 

SpellBlast - Wyatt Earp

Powerized - The Mirror's Eye

Genre: Power Metal

Wow, where to even begin describing an album like The Mirror’s Eye, that seems to be everywhere all at once. It’s the debut full length by Netherlands born Powerized, and a massive and highly ambitious album that takes more than a few cues from the old power metal antics of Tobias Sammet, taking bunches of inspiration from both the early Edguy days and the first two Avantasia albums. The album is in fact dauntingly big; at over seventy minutes and three tracks breaking the ten minute barrier, a few cuts would have been necessary to shorten the playtime and make the album more accessible. Boring ballad Forever Roaming is the obvious low point, bringing none of the emotion necessary to pull it off, but most of the tracks carry some padding to drag out the length beyond necessary. There is also a lack of dynamic range; everything always sounds big and epic, but without the emotional lows to contrast it.

Powerized - The Mirror's Eye

Now that the biggest criticisms are out of the way, The Mirror’s Eye is a fun, energetic album that pushes its boundaries in constant twists and turns. There are progressive elements to be found, but mostly Powerized focus on power and an epic sound, meaning that the songs do not just lead to massive, choral, epic conclusions; everything is set to be epic, from the intros to the interludes to the bridges. The noodling guitar tracks care of Bart Geisen carefully delivering one potent solo after another and putting airy lead melodies over Joris van Rooij’s rhythm guitar and Bart van Unen’s brimming bass lines. Tracks like Where Worlds Meet The Eye and King Alas! sees the efficient melodics beautifully blending the swift guitars and fresh sounding rhythm section with theatric keys and swiveling vocal melodies from Nick Holleman. He may not have Sammet’s quirky style and simplistic but effective songwriting, but Holleman (Martin Beck’s Induction, ex- Vicious Rumors) brings a certain unique style to his theatric performance. At times he sounds exactly like Sammet, and at others he takes off in a completely different twist, soaring falsettos and a distinct Kiske feel.

Certainly a big prospect that attempts to get everything in there, every little shred of influence from the likes of Helloween to Freedom Call to Edguy and Avantasia. It’s not a game changer, and it certainly won’t go for every moment, but when the feel comes on, The Mirror’s Eye will do more than satisfy. It’s a melodic feast with something that should be interesting to every power metal fan; cheesy vocals, epic keys and fast melodic lead guitars sprinkles the entire length of the album, made with lots of passion and plenty of skill to match the epic scope. While faltering slightly on behalf of its length and overwhelming size, the album is at the very least a good debut album that shows heaps of promise and begs to get a follow up that knows boundaries. Shorten it down by a track or two and chop a couple minutes of the longest tracks and it’d be a great one.

 

Standout tracks: Where Worlds Meet The Eye, King Alas!, Ire Of The Monster

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Powerized - For The Fallen

Sisare - Leaving The Land

Genre: Progressive Metal

Finnish born prog metal outfit Sisare may have started out on extreme grounds, but even at their first full length those thoughts had been left behind. Atmosperically driven prog metal bordering the Haken-ish lines of prog rock and metal, with hints of acts like Thence, they then broke into something softly breathing, which has now been evolved a step further. Come their second full length, titled Leaving The Land, the extreme elements have given way to something less experimental, leaving much of the heaviness present on debut album Nature’s Despair (2013) at the door, resulting in an experience that is in its entirety and cut into pieces more convincing, more a whole entity than its predecessor. Severi Peura and Timo Lehtonen, both handling guitars (the former also on vocal duty), are the key factors on the album, bringing technical skills as well as emotional timing aplenty across the playtime. The album, at just over 40 minutes long and six tracks, leave little room for filler, as every song on here deliver the same amount of emotional serenity. Though they differ in mood and setting they all have in common the toned down beginning and growth into something much, much bigger.

Sisare - Leaving The Land

The songs start off slow, melodic lead guitar somewhat subdued in the background, but ultimately build in intensity, leading to crescendos heavy on the feeling and dense with emotion. Hermanni Piltti’s bass lines litter the album like gravy thick fog, coating it in a dense splendor, delivered not in rumbling ferocity or driving heaviness, but in building an atmospheric foundation based on simplicity that at times delve into the arcane but always staying one pace behind the guitars as they deliver blistering solos or energetically low key lead passages. Though not aiming for the stars, they all progress into majestic pieces of starlight in their own right. Be it the thrifty soloing in Mountains or the emotional yet simple leads in Geno or the fickle vocal lines of Peura in closing track Perception, they all lead the same place, though never failing to be interesting in their own right; there is nothing that feels same-y, it all helps build the whole into something entirely unique.

The six songs vary in length by only a minute, Shattered clocking in at just over six minutes and Mountains and Perception both finishing at slightly over seven. That gives all the songs time aplenty to evolve on their own, but one downside is that one finds oneself wanting more! It’s not based on showmanship or noodling one way or the other, but on solid songwriting with a purpose that does not fail; no track truly stands out as superior to another, they all deliver something unique and equally important to the overall feeling of the album. The guitars remain ever present, marking the melodic tinges, and there are hooks aplenty that see the music turn into highly efficient and emotional solos. With Leaving The Land the boys from the land of the northern lights seem to evoke some hidden, warm feeling inside, and the album entire makes for a serene, yet uplifting experience. The album is not perfect, but in its peaks it paints soundscapes unparalleled. Turn the lights off, the volume up and let the tunes flow naturally, peace of mind follows.

 

Standout tracks: Do yourself a favor and just give the entire album a whirl

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Sisare - Geno