Now I enjoyed the early era of Iron Maiden in my youth (1980 – 1988). That was an era of Iron Maiden that I could really get into, and not at all dismissing the rest of their career beyond that, but it is certainly an era filled with classics from their archives. I must also say there are far less ‘classic’ albums out there today, and with the increase in bands that are peeling out the wood work, many ‘classics’, or potential classics often get over looked or discarded for main stream regurgitation. So what does this have anything to do with the review? Well…….
Every once in awhile an album comes out that deserves mention, an album that steps out from the mire of regurgitation and stands as footnote of how things should be done. An album that should effectively set the pulse of what a ‘classic’ should encompass and exude. It’s with that sentence that I call it an honor to announce, Azoria, a great new band from Sweden. Sweden has never been short of great bands and I would encourage folk to look up bands from Sweden, they hardly ever disappoint.
The band features some of the hottest talent in the metal scene today, Featuring Alex Oriz, Tommy ReinXeed, Chris David (ReinXeed), Snowy Shaw (Therion, King Diamond, Sabaton), Mike Andersson (Cloudscape). Azoria will be releasing their debut album, on the 28th February, 2014.
Azoria which means, ‘He whom God has helped’ and was the name carried by the son of Solomon’s high priest and both a king and a prince of Judah, was founded in early 2013 by the band leader and lead-guitarist Alexander Oriz. His a guitarist in the bands ReinXeed & Oriz! ReinXeed is a high caliber metal act, and if you have any love for a band like ReinXeed then this album should quickly find its way into your heart.
The debut album by Azoria called Seasons Change is featuring a fantastic all-star team with different vocalists just like Avantasia to make the best possible result for each song! A method that totally adds strength through diversity to the overall package, sweetening the listening pleasure.
The band landed a deal with King Records in Japan same label as ReinXeed and for the rest of the world Liljegren Records/Doolittle Group will handle the release of Azoria´s excellent debut album Seasons Change. My experience in listening to bands from the Liljegren Records/Doolittle Group is that they always bring high quality releases to the table, and that in itself should effectively cement a solid foundation for anyone whom may be interested in listening to Azoria.
In many cases the grand thing of a label, is that often you can measure the quality of a band whether to listen to it or not, by what quality the label itself has released in the past. That is one advantage for a band to be on a good label – generally equals good exposure that otherwise might not be there if you trying to market your band on your own laurels, particularly if you a new band.
Seasons of Change has the ability and range to appeal to a wide range of metal fans. Every song is colorfully presented and arranged and inhibits a large array of influences within the metal framework that culminate in what can only be termed an epic release.
Just like the phoenix is a classic Power-metal song featuring the Swedish power-metal star Tommy ReinXeed (ReinXeed/Golden Resurrection), the song is influenced by classic power-metal bands like Halloween, Gamma Ray, Stratovarius & Edguy but also from bands like Iron Maiden and Hammerfall. It reminded me of the good old power metal days, untainted by the progression of time. It hurls you right into the album, and opens the door of an album that erupts with metal epic-ness. The song gallops like along the lines of “run to the hills” of Iron Maiden. Tommy’s vocals are strong and carry a nice range that works nicely with the music. Solid introduction to the album.
Inside my heart is a classic love song about the feeling you get when you get all confused and don’t really know how to handle your love.
Here Azoria explore a more symphonic metal route and features singers Tommy ReinXeed (ReinXeed/Golden Resurrection) & Markng E Gunnardo (Nordic Mist/Jawbreakers) on lead vocals. It has a lovely intro that in itself sets for a romantic driven power metal charge, it is big music, and the vocals are again some of the shining moments of the song, along with the keyboard work. The song is great and glides effortless with a sense of mystery and adventure. Lyrically and musically the song works. Some great lead guitar and solid drumming seal the deal.
Everything changes, is explained that everything changes in a life time and that can sometimes feel weird, but even when the seasons change and nothing feels the same you have to remain firm in your believes and goals in life.
Again the focus of delivery is classic power/heavy-metal song sung by the great Mikael Dahl from the band Crystal Eyes! This one also has a Harpsichord in it played by Alex Oriz, in a classic Stratovarius style. This is a song strongly influenced by Stratovarius but also the Argentinean Heavy-Metal stars Rata Blanca! I think on a whole there is a strong Stratovarius influence that is a good gauge on what you can expect in terms of influences on this album. Again the compositions are strong and confident throughout, at times courageously bold, and at times remarkably executed. One can go terrible wrong with trying to be too bold when creating a large song if you do not know what you doing, but Azoria seems to hold it together for the most part creating large songs with great effectiveness.
Prophecy sets up as a harder and bit more modern metal song that will please fans of Fullforce, Cloudscape & Alice Cooper (Brutal Planet era) . This song is a strong metal song with tons of attitude and great heavy vocals sang by Mike Andersson (Fullforce/Cloudscape). I think if you enjoyed Brutal Planet of Alice Cooper, then you would enjoy this song. Again the range of skill is outstanding and the variety of songs will certainly appeal to most who enjoy metal, it might be a little too diverse as it swoops across a multitude of metal genres, but that certainly does not distract on the quality that is delivered from song to song, over and over again.
Mike Andersson has great vocals and on The Land of Glory they really come through strong, beautiful execution on his part giving a solid performance that is on par with the best of this style of metal singing. The basis of the song is that on our ride to the land of glory we will find temptations, evils and hard paths in life, but If we stay strong, firm and are proud to be a soldier for the king we will reach the land of glory. One of the more complex compositions, but wonderfully executed, with solid drumming keeping the pace, and the raging guitars drawing you along for the ride with their chunky riffs and melodic guitar solos. A song for fans of Judus Priest.
When You Sleep – Sometimes when you sleep you will dream the strangest things. This song is all about dreams! This is one of the more symphonic songs on the album and the only one with a female vocalist! It was especially written for Matilda Eriksson and her majestic voice and goes in the style of Avantasia. It again has catchy riffs and a solid back bone of drumming, the bass is tasty and driving keeping the song racing forwardly smooth. Matilda’s voice compliments the song well, and you can hear that it has been written for her vocals, musically and vocally it marries well. It’s not the most exciting song on the album, but it holds itself strong amongst the rest of the album.
Love It Loud – It don’t matter if we are sad, angry, happy or tired our love for music & metal will always be there! The fastest song on the album! A real power-metal song in the style of Halloween, Gamma Ray & Edguy. A strong and catchy chorus that will speak to all Power/Heavy-Metal fans! This song features Mark E Gunnardo (Nordic Mist/Jawbreakers) on vocals. It is my personal favorite, and does remind me allot of Halloween. It races relentless from start to end. A power metal, bordering on thrash masterpiece.
Starlight – When you look up to the stars you can sometimes miss the persons you have lost but remember that they live in you! Starlight is a great and heavy metal song with no other then Snowy Shaw on Lead Vocals! (King Diamond, Dream Evil, Therion, Sabaton, Dimmu Borgir etc…)
Snowy´s vocals is the only one of its kind and fits perfect on this song that will please fans all over the world! Also a class A song. For fans of King Diamond. Each song is well crafted, as if designed specifically for the vocalist in mind, which cannot be easy. I know from experience that trying to fit your vocalist ability is no easy task to perform, and you really need to know your onions to pull it off effectively.
Peace Of Mind -Everyone needs something to believe in and someone that guides you in the right ways to find peace of mind. Peace of mind is a classic Heavy-Metal with a gothic influence song but with a modern touch and if you liked the song Starlight you will not be disappointed cause Snowy Shaw is back on another one! It’s a hard but also very catchy song that makes you sing along! Its Anthemic approach is very appealing on the ear, and is my 2nd favorite song on the release. It has that classic approach to it that could be played over and over again without tiring on you any time soon.
My overall opinion is that maybe this album is not a classic in its totality, but there are many gems on here that could be classics in themselves further in the future, given some time for it to root in with the listeners. Though there are some songs better than others on here, over all the compositions are creative and superbly executed and exude everything one would expect from a high caliber metal band. The overall sound is power metal that at times has a symphonic feel, or appeal to it. Its overall diversity is a picture of the wide range of influences that they have brought to the table; bands like Judus Priest, Iron Maiden, Halloween, Alice Cooper and Gamma Ray are all clear and deliberate influences. Rarely am I this impressed by a debut release, but these guys together span decades of musical experience. A choice metal release worthy of repeated plays.
Written by Donovan de Necker
1. Just like the phoenix
2. Inside My Heart
3. Seasons Change
5. To the Land Of Glory
6. When you sleep
7. Love It Loud
9. Peace of Mind
Alex Oriz – Lead Guitars
Chris David – Bass
Simon J – Rythm Guitars
Emil Eriksson – Drums
Snowy Shaw – Lead Vocals
Mike Andersson – Lead Vocals
Mikael Dahl – Lead Vocals
Mark E Gunnardo – Lead Vocals
Tommy ReinXeed – Lead Vocals
Matilda Eriksson – Lead Vocals
Record Label: Liljegren Records/Doolittle Group, Feb. 2014