John Jackson

May 032018

Power metal band Millennial Reign is back with a new lineup for their third album continuing in vein of previous work.

Dallas Texas-based Millennial Reign traces its roots back to a solo project by founding member and guitarist Dave Harvey.  Writing began in 2010 and over the next couple of years, Dave added a full band and released the self-titled debut in 2012.  In 2015, the band released Carry the Fire on Ulterium Records and then toured with the likes of Stryper, Sonata Arctica, Leaves Eyes, Theocracy, Hammerfall, and Joe Lynn Turner.  For The Great Divide, Harvey added new members Travis Wills (vocals), Steve Nichols (drums), and Neil Bertrand (bass) and had performances recorded, mixed, and mastered by Ty Sims. As they did following their last release, Millennial Reign is scheduled to support Stryper and Hammerfall in June and then will play Mexico for the first time.

As you might expect from a power metal band, the opening track is merely an instrumental to set the tone for the album and while I usually don’t like them, this one featuring a fast, frenetic drum line backing a orchestral section sets up the anticipation very well.  “Break the Tide” starts out with a nice riff accented by keyboards before settling into a choppier section for the initial verse sections and sounding very much like older Queensryche both musically and vocally.  Travis Mills vocals are made for power metal and shows good range and overall tone.  Guitars are prominent in the mix and the keyboards nicely layered in while the rhythm section is also very clear in the mix as one would expect for power metal.  At this point, on first listen, I was pretty sure this was a European band, forgetting that I’ve reviewed some of their earlier releases, so seeing the Dallas, Texas part was a bit of a surprise.  One can easily see why Millennial Reign has supported the bands they have on tour. Continue reading »

Cruentis – “Alpha & Omega”

 Posted by on April 28, 2018 at 20:34  1 Response »
Apr 282018

Canadian melodic death metal band Cruentis are back with Alpha & Omega, their follow up to their epic first release, 2015’s Cold Stone,  and have matured their sound without losing the raw edge found on their debut.

A couple years before their debut album Cold Stone was released in 2015, guitarist and vocalist TyLer DeMerchant and bassist and vocalist Jesse Dean formed the band, adding guitarist Matt Sargent soon after.  The band is based in Quesnel on the west coast of Canada in British Columbia.  Cold Stone introduced listeners to their approach to melodic death metal blending a variety of elements and some progressive stylings while keeping a bit of wintry, cold Scandinavian metal feel.  Lyrically the band draws on their faith and Christian beliefs in songs about personal life experiences and struggles in life.

While Cold Stone literally erupted into the opening track, Alpha & Omega opens up very quietly with a nearly two-minute piano piece before the guitars come in backed the a rumbling rhythm section. The raw screamed vocals surprised me a bit as I was expecting the deep, dark death metal growls but those were nowhere to be found and the song even features a clean chorus.  Emotions in the vocals lend a very raw feel to it and the more monotone chorus contrasts well in this song about the internal struggles with sin. Continue reading »

Euphoreon – “Ends of the Earth”

 Posted by on April 20, 2018 at 16:14  No Responses »
Apr 202018

After a seven year hiatus, the death metal project Euphoreon is back with Ends of the Earth, an album filled with melodic, near symphonic death metal in many ways as epic as their cover art.

Bands with little fanfare or press or even any sizable amount of information are usually either really good or absolutely horrible and unknown for a reason.  Euphoreon, is a two-person melodic death metal project that comes by way of New Zealand and Germany and is one of those pleasant surprises.  From what I gather, the project/band has been around since 2009 and did release their self-titled debut in 2011, which though reviews were somewhat limited, did garner some critical acclaim, which is easy to understand after listening to Ends of the Earth.  The band is in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the physical copies of the album, which would be worth picking up on the basis of Gyula Havancsak’s glorious artwork alone.

Perhaps fittingly, the music on the album works well with the artwork: beauty, intensity, power, with an underlying sense of melody characterize the songs, much like the artwork.  The opening choir and guitar riff of “Euphoria” initially made me think this was going to be a power metal album, but then the tone shifted a bit darker and the growled death metal vocals came in.  The layers of sound in the song are expertly displayed allowing the brighter keyboards to offset the dark vocals rhythm section with the guitars seemingly bridging the two spheres.  The guitars do tend to dominate the mix, perhaps a bit too much, and end up hiding the drums and bass a bit more than  I would prefer.   Interestingly, the duo chose Tommi Halme to add in the guitar solos and they made a great choice there as the solos are blistering but well incorporated into the songs and without knowing it was a guest, you’d think it was one of the regular band members. Continue reading »

Apr 122018

As proof that nothing can keep a good ghoul down, Grave Robber have mastered Escaping the Grave  (pun always intended) and are back with a new found intensity in their fifth full-length album of soon-to-be horror punk favorites.

By now, I would hope everyone reading this has at least heard of Grave Robber as it’s not every day you get to see a band in full skeleton regalia playing horror-tinged punk rock at a furious pace.  Then again, their last full length was 2011’s You’re All Gonna Die, so there could be a number of you who haven’t seen/heard of them.  Dating all the way back to 2005, Grave Robber has released four full-length albums, at least one ep in Straight to Hell in 2014, and been on a host of compilations.  Be Afraid was the album that kicked it all off and from the very first play, many, including myself, were hooked at the combination of Misfits speed and fury, Wretched’s smooth, deep vocals, and a tongue-in-cheek, B-Horror movie approach to lyrics, that make it entirely appropriate to sing along with “I want to kill you over and over again” as the song is actually talking about pride.  Fun songs about sin, sacrifice, and redemption seems like an odd mix but they’ve made it work.  Since their last release the band has undergone numerous tragedies, family emergencies, consistent lack of a drummer, and multiple member changes, more than enough for most bands to call it quits, but following a successful crowdfunding campaign, the band pressed on and with some assistance from Jim Chaffin (Crucified) on drums, we are blessed with Escaping the Grave.  Now keep in mind the band hasn’t been on hiatus between albums and done everything from play on volcanoes in Mexico to eating gooey butter cake in St. Louis after a show and played everywhere they could between Mexico and their home in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Continue reading »

Peter 118 – Anthology and Live in L.A.

 Posted by on April 9, 2018 at 19:26  1 Response »
Apr 092018

Peter 118 returns again with an anthology of all previously released tracks on one album and a bonus album of live tracks performed at Harry’s House of Rebellion in LA.

Peter 118 started out as a solo project by Peter Szczepanski (Field), formerly of Senseless and Ambassadors of Shalom and featured Peter’s wife Janine on bass and friend Sam on drums. In 2014, the catchy “Radio” was released, followed by “Make it or Break it” in 2015. In 2016 the band’s Need You More ep caught the ear of legendary KROQ DJ Rodney Bingenheimer and band’s video started seeding mainstream airplay.  Alisha Palmer was added on rhythm guitar and the band has played  the Rainbow Rock Festival in Stockholm.

For the Anthology, all you need to know is that the album is filled with catchy pop punk songs with the kind of hooks that get stuck in your head and keep replaying in your head throughout the day but in a way that doesn’t make you immediately search for something else to drown it out.  Continue reading »