Divine Ascension - The Uncovering

Genre: Power Metal, Progressive Metal, Symphonic Metal

Divine Ascension’s third full length is an intense album, and it’s packed with both technical prowess and the workings of great showmanship. The Aussie foursome has shown growth throughout their albums, no more so here. The Uncovering is set with a dark atmosphere, and a gloomy sense of hopelessness. The individual song structure and outlay remains fairly uniform throughout the album, as the songs are pretty similar to each other. This of course has both a good side and a bad side; the good side being that the album feels very much like the concept album it is, while the bad side is that it feels somewhat repetitive. The quality of the songwriting and the precision and passion on display in the musicianship however outweighs the bad side, since even though it’s slightly repetitive and a song or two might be cut, it’s still an overall very enjoyable listen.

Divine Ascension - The Uncovering

The guys certainly have big, powerful choruses covered, as almost every song on here just blows away in that department, but that’s never the sole focus. Opening track Evermore is a fairly slow affair, progressive and groovy in rhythm, but big and melodic in the lead section, with Jennifer Borg’s vocals and the vocal melodies shining atop. Tom Englund (Evergrey, Redemption) makes a guest appearance on Pursuit of Desire. While Borg needs no help to hold things up on her own, Englund adds another dimension and another layer, which adds to the overall feel; his style fits the music entirely and it’s just a shame he’s not on more of the album. Other tracks, like Beyond the Line and major highlight Bittersweet Divide have that gloomy feel and bring the feel to a high point, atmospheric and technically proficient alike, with Borg especially delivering great performances.

The riffs are clear and crisp all throughout, and Karl Szulik pulls some incredible leads that are as flashy as they are technichally proficient. The Fallen definitely stands out as a mention in that regard, with that neat intro and the mid passage, as well as New World which is just melodic sweetness from Szulik’s part. The guitars are definitely among the highlights, along with the keyboards always taking a prominent role, and always battling the guitars in swift solo duels or slower, atmospheric lead parts as in Prisoner or Revolution Phase. There’s something decidedly somber about the album, set in the lyrics, the theme, and the atmosphere, but it’s never to the album’s detriment; it’s wholly fitting. Divine Ascension have really come into their own with this album. It shows not only how they’ve grown from their previous efforts, but it’s also a great effort overall in the symphonic progpower genre. Overall, The Uncovering is a very strong album, and I can only see Divine Ascension going up from here.

 

Standout tracks: Evermore, Revolution Phase, Beyond the Line, Bittersweet Divide

 

    

 

Divine Ascension - Pursuit of Desire

Beyond The Black - Heart Of The Hurricane

Genre: Power Metal, Symphonic Metal

So. Yeah. Here’s the thing. Beyond The Black were always so very hit and miss. The only reason anyone ever noticed them is that a few tracks on their debut kicked major ass. Songs Of Love And Death (2015) showcased some incredible talent but never let loose in full that could turn freaking lethal given the proper chance. But then they got big, without ever really deserving it by playing Wacken. Then a year after their debut album they confirmed their stance in basically radio friendly Nightwish influenced symphonic metal dragging towards rock based areas with follow up Lost In Forever (2016). That album, too, had some redeeming qualities, but never soared as high as the first one at times managed to do. Interestingly, the bonus songs released with the special edition of Lost In Forever held the album’s best moments - mainly an awesome duet between Jennifer Haben and seemingly everywhere Herbie Langhans.

Beyond The Black - Heart Of The Hurricane

Now, two years since their sophomore effort, they release Heart Of The Hurricane, with all fresh members, except for Haben. To make sure something hits, they’ve stuffed the album with 13 tracks, but still only nearly hitting the one hour mark. Add to that two bonus tracks which are on all versions of the album, so not very bonus, to hit it just over one hour. Therein lies the problem; it’s quantity over quality, style over substance. Now for sure, Heart Of The Hurricane has its high points, but they are sadly too few and far in between to warrant an entire album. It opens of fresh and strong enough with Hysteria, sounding a bit like In The Shadows from the debut, taken on with another angle and with neat, invigorating hooks, even though it’s nothing groundbreaking it’s the kind of high point that makes you notice the band to begin with. It’s a great opener, one of those immediate hits that Beyond The Black do so well; great hooks, simple yet catchy melodies and Haben is great.

However, after the great opening, the songs are way too many, and some are way too short to even notice. They fly by and once they’ve ended they’re forgotten.Everything follows the same formula, once again, to make sure it’s all uniform and hitting the same tingles. Lyrics about love, longing and this and that do work with Haben’s voice, which is oddly emotive even for the shallow instrumentals accompanying (and if I wasn’t such a sentimental sap I’d call them ridiculous). There is little in the way of memorable riffs, standout solos or, which is a detriment to the album. Some parts here and there do the trick just fine - take the keyboard backdrop in Through The Mirror or the choral layered vocals accompanying Haben that add more big to what’s already pretty big, in tracks like Fairytale Of Doom and Beneath A Blackened Sky - adding some dynamic sense of musical direction that isn’t just your run of the mill mainstream symphonic metal.All in all, Heart Of The Hurricane is just about what one might expect, but with the high points a little too few to make it stand up to the previous effort, which stands as Beyond The Black’s strongest.

 

Standout tracks: Hysteria, Echo From The Past

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Beyond The Black - Million Lightyears

Trillium - Tectonic

Genre: Power Metal, Symphonic Metal

Amanda Somerville is a versatile vocalist, able to fit into a wide variety of styles, as evident from her stints in Avantasia and other groupings with bigger names above hers on the roster. Her own project, titled Amanda Somerville’s Trillium (because we’re not talking about Aina) released their first album in 2011, not exactly to rave reviews, and has been quiet since while Somerville has been plenty busy elsewhere. The follow up, Tectonic, was a long time coming, and finally hit in mid 2018. And it’s supposed to be her time to shine, and show she doesn’t need no Sammet or Kiske to deliver the goods. But what always seems to have been sort of glossed over is the fairly ill fit, musically, that is Somerville and husband Sander Gommans. The man has a background in decidedly more extreme styles of metal, as evident from HDK, whereas Somerville’s very Simone Simmons like vocal style goes much better with a loftier hard rock kind of guitar style, like that of Magnus Karlsson in the surprisingly well fitting Kiske/Somerville project, or the more grandiose symphonic style of Avantasia. 

Trillium - Tectonic

While far from a perfect album, Alloy still did lots of stuff right, including the right personnel in Sascha Paeth, Michael Rodenberg and Simon Oberender. From there, the songwriting style felt like a complementing mix of power metal, symphonic and gothic elements. Not so much on Tectonic, which tries to be grittier and more hard-edged than is needed. Gommans is a fine guitarist - in fact, he’s darn good, and he puts out some hella sweet solos and some high quality riffs strewn like sprinkles on the Trillium icing - but the gritty mindset does Somerville few favors, and Erik van Ittersum’s keyboards should need a higher place in the mix as well as a more prominent role in defining the melodic output, rather than playing background and adding the token symphonic backdrop to Gommans’ guitars. Gommans handles the bass as well on the album, and here there are some liberties taken which certainly do work; tiny little twists and turns in the bass lines that elevate them beyond just following the guitars add a quirky touch that works well.

Problem is, every song here sounds the same. They just plod along doing the same things over and over. Gritty riffs to start off, quickly followed by Somerville entering the state in a high, symphonic flair, but then quickly devolving into the more standardized power metal cruiser that just do things by the numbers. Opening track Time To Shine is likely the best track on here, perhaps because the rest of the album just seems like variations of the same. (Damn, they should have brought back Jørn Lande for a follow up to Scream It.) You’d expect a track named Nocturna to give a dark impression of the night, or Cliché Freak Show to try and stick out in terms of oddity or quirkiness, but nope, they’re more or less the same. Other than that, you’ve got song titles like Stand Up, Hit Me and Fighting Fate; just your every day inoffensive power metal. Not bad, but in no way deserving of more than a single play through, and not the comeback that Trillium would have deserved. Damn, Somerville can do so much better.

 

Standout tracks: Time To Shine, Shards

 

    

 

Lyrikvideo: Trillium - Shards