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.
Originally hailing from Richmond, Virginia, Broadside has relocated to Los Angeles and seems to have taken the environment to heart. For Paradise, the band teamed up again with producer Kyle Black (New Found Glory, All Time Low), and has spent the last couple years since their debut, Old Bones (2015), relentlessly touring and gathering accolades. From being named “Musician of the Month” in April 2017 by Alternative Press to being named “Best International Newcomer” by Rock Sound, to having Paradise being named as “One of 2017’s Most Anticipated albums” by AP and gathering fans at Warped Tour in 2016, the band has certainly demonstrated the appeal of their sound to audiences and critics alike. The band traces their roots back to 2010 and released a 5 song ep in 2011 that was re-recorded and expanded in 2012 for an independent release before they recruited current lead vocalist Ollie Baxxter in 2013. Add in some touring and then signing to Victory Records and the band released their debut album Old Bones in 2015 which was followed up by the aforementioned Warped Tour and acclaim.
ThumperPunk is proving to not only be persistent with this series, but also showing how serious they are with this latest addition to the series. Michael W. Stand is essentially a legendary figure in terms of Christian punk/alternative circles, having been in the Altar Boys back in the early 1980’s, moving on to Clash of Symbols in the 90’s and now the rockabilly Altar Billies, all of which showcased his vocal and guitar talents. With this three song acoustic album, Stand brings in some country influence in this collection of songs featuring just a long guitar and vocal.
As with other contributions to this series, one can expect a stripped-down sound that really allows the vocals and emotions behind the songs to come through and Michael W. Stand makes the most of this situation. Perfectly fitting with the cover for the ep, the sound is a vintage one that is definitely rare these days.
My first experience with TIMŌRĀTUS (full of reverence toward God, devout) was reviewing the ep’s Black and Death, which tell the story of Kafla Selaro in his battle for faith and life in the Dark Ages during the time of Black Plague. Now that the tale of Kafla is long past, David had the idea to put out an album that might give the listener the feeling of worship. David once again handled the instrumentation but this time brought on some additional vocalists, some of whom provide clean vocals for “In Christ Alone” and “Amazing Grace”.
First thing I noticed about the album was the overall length, with seven songs clocking in at over 50 minutes long. The album itself can be almost divided into three sections. The first section with “Weight of the World” and “Mere Symbols” could be described as ambient or atmospheric black/death metal, with perhaps some doom elements thrown in. In “Weight of the World”, you have the music greatly overwhelming the death metal growled vocals in the mix, which makes it a challenge, while in “Mere Symbols” the overall tone of the guitars is a bit darker but the vocals more pronounced. In both cases, the songs move slowly, in a crushing manner under a wall of sound.