The south Texas band Shattered Sun trace their origin back to 2005 and since then have managed to share the stage with the likes of legends like Testament and Exodus, supporting them on the Dark Roots of Thrash Tour and in summer of this year (2017) joined the Warped Tour for part of that run. Interestingly, even with the success and acclaim from their first album, Hope Within Hatred (2015), the band nearly self-destructed before recording The Evolution of Anger. In late 2015, guitarist Daniel Trejo decided to leave the band and other issues that came to the surface put the second album in question. In the end, Daniel came back and the band realized that chances like they were given were few and far between. The band worked with producer Mark Lewis (Devil Drive, Fallujah) in their hometown to narrow down the 26 songs to the 10 that made it onto The Evolution of Anger, and artist Marcelo Vasco (Slayer, Machine Head) was brought in for the album art depicting how anger can drive one into a maze that does nowhere, capturing the essence of the album and a bit of the band’s own struggles.
The debut album from Cellar Darling is perhaps perfectly titled . This is the Sound introduces the band and their unique blend of folk, metal, and rock and showcases the talents of the band in a way that should create a sizable fan base.
Cellar Darling traces its roots back to the Swiss folk metal legends Eluveitie and the summer of 2016 when Anna Murphy, Ivo Henzi, and Merlin Sutter left the band but realized they still wanted to craft music. Fusing metal, folk, and alternative styles with traditional instruments like the hurdy-gurdy, ethereal vocals, powerful drums, and heavy riffs, Cellar Darling began crafting their songs of lyrical tales of old. In fall of 2016, the singles “Challenge” and “Fire, Wind & Earth” were released and the band signed to Nuclear Blast Records in January 2017. Three more singles followed and This is the Sound was released at the end of June 2017.
One of the great things about reviewing albums is when you get a new artist you haven’t heard of, to just fire up the album and start listening. That’s what I did with Cellar Darling’s This Is the Sound and this is one of those albums that grabs you immediately. After seeing they are on Nuclear Blast, I had a feeling I likely knew something about the band, and after a bit of google, suspicions were confirmed as the band is made up of former Eluveitie members. While they can’t escape that, make no mistake, this is not Eluveitie-style folk metal. I would best describe this as folk-influenced almost hard alternative or perhaps radio-friendly metal, heavy enough to keep the metalheads engaged but not heavy enough to drive off the casual metal listener.
Hailing from Kaiserslautern, Germany, Adorned Graves advertise their sound as one of Old School Thrash with a touch of Doom Metal and their debut ep certainly lived up to that billing. Two years have passed since that ep and now Adorned Graves have released their debut full length, Out From the Depth of the Grave, a near concept album telling the tale of Jonah from the Old Testament. The album itself was recorded, produced, and mixed by guitarist Andreas Wormser at MUSICWORMSER K-Town in April of 2017.
Back in 2015, I had received Adorned Graves ep, The Hand of Death to review and the first track, “Adorned Graves” simply blew me away with its mix of old school Slayer and Black Sabbath with a touch of Halford. At the time it was some of the best metal I had heard for a while and it ended up on my “Best of” list for the year, so needless to say, I went into this review with very high expectations. A simple look at the song list can often tell a lot and in this case, you get eleven songs and nearly one hour of music and when you consider that a couple tracks are short interludes, it becomes apparent that there are some long songs here. Without having a chance to learn this, I thought the opening track was going to be a short intro song as “Out of the Deep” has a strong goth feel to it. Combine some dark acoustic guitar and throughout the song Cailen Wormser’s and guest vocalist’s Manuel’s smooth, deep vocals with some atmospheric keyboards and you have a great goth track. Later in the track, the full band comes in and things get louder but the pacing and choral-like vocals remain to carry the song to the end, nearly seven minutes later.
For those unfamiliar with Soulspell and I suspect that may be many readers, Brazilian drummer Heleno Vale writes songs and then assembles and all-star cast of Brazilian and global performers to record the songs. For this fourth installment, the cast includes and number of signers with impressive careers including: Ralf Sheepers (Primal Fear, Gamma Ray), Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest, Iced Earth), Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius), and Blaze Bayley (Iron Maiden), as well as Daisa Munhoz from Vandroya (which released one of my favorite albums so far this year). As a general rule, the Soulspell rock operas do follow a general musical theme of European power metal with some symphonic and progressive elements thrown in. Given the all-star cast and genre, one can expect blazing guitar solos throughout as well as an emphasis on the vocals. This is where some of challenge comes in listening to a project like this in that every song seems to have a different combination of singers and some of the combinations don’t work as well as others and as a result there can be a disconnected feel to the album since every song sounds different.
The Blessed (formerly Cradle of God) was formed in Novomoskovsk, Russia in 2012 and originally took its name from the book Cradle of God written by British author Llewelyn Powys in 1929. The album Remember was recorded using only live instruments and no keyboards and contains songs that date back to 2014 with “Children of God” and “Arise from the Dead” appearing on the band’s first ep released in January 2015. In June of that same year, the band changed its name to The Blessed and the full length album Remember was released in late 2016. Founder and singer Dmitry “Cross” Yusin tells of the lyrics being taken from the New Testament combined with personal reflections and set to melodic death metal in the hopes of showing listeners the consequences of their actions and how the real rebellion is to be against the things of this world.
“Children of God” kicks off the album and the opening guitars and drums sound more like this is going to be a grindcore album, but then some melody comes in for the main verse sections of the song it quickly becomes recognizable as melodic death metal. Drums do still play a big role in driving the song along with much of it filled with blast beats, but there is more to the song and it picks up a bit of a groove at one point. Vocals are mostly a gravelly, raspy growl with some clean choral backing vocals offering some contrast. Production quality is good with drums and bass more present than is typically the case, giving the songs a good punch.