An Ode To… Within Temptation

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An Ode To… is a bimonthly meme where I pick one of my favorite musicians / bands and share some of my favorite songs by them. Maybe you’ve heard of said musician / band before, or maybe you’re about to discover fantastic music to add to your library. So, sit back, listen, and relax – or, in some cases, headbang. *wink* 

For this Ode, I’d like to introduce you to a Dutch band I’ve been a fan of for a long time. If you enjoy symphonic rock and metal bands like Evanescence and Nightwish, then you might already be familiar with this quintet. If you’re not familiar with any of those bands… Get ready for some orchestral and choir arrangements that will remind you of the Lord Of The Rings soundtracks, set over metal music with catchy melodies and an angel for a vocalist. 😉

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New at Sonic Cathedral: Review of Die So Fluid’s “The Opposites Of Light”


I didn’t expect that writing my final CD review for Sonic Cathedral would be such a challenge. But when reviewing a 16-track album that runs the rock and metal gamut, there’s no easy way to cover everything you want to talk about. So was the case with Die So Fluid’s The Opposites Of Light. This sprawling set revisits the British trio’s eclectic roots in two distinct halves: the first explores Die So Fluid’s heavier, grittier side, while the second takes a more brooding and balladic turn. Grunge, alternative, doom, punk, blues – Die So Fluid thrust all this and more at the listener while creating a weirdly cohesive sound. This band and album epitomize rebellion in a “fabulously dark way,” and fans will be grateful for it.

Click here to read my review of Die So Fluid’s The Opposites Of Light.

Die So Fluid have already released three music videos for songs from The Opposites Of Light: “Crime Scene,” “Comets,” and this one for “Black Blizzard.” The best way to describe this song is menacing melodic metal combined with the gravel of grunge and eerie cello / violin arrangements. A very cool combination, if you ask me.

Coming Soon: Passed 55,000 words on my novel this past weekend! Come back on Wednesday for a new installment of “Chronicling The Craft.”

Farewell to Sonic Cathedral

Dear friends and fellow fans of female-fronted rock and metal bands,

After over 5½ years of writing for the Sonic Cathedral WebZine, I have decided that my next CD review for the Zine will be my last. My review of Die So Fluid’s The Opposites Of Light will be online in late April / early May, just before the album’s May 5th release date.

Why stop now? Creatively speaking, my priorities have shifted, so I’m changing my activities to reflect that shift. Some of you may know I’m working on a novel. I’m super-excited about it, and I truly believe it deserves to be published once it’s ready. My goals are to finish the first draft before the end of 2014, then revise it and have it critiqued during the first half of 2015. I’d also like to pursue other freelance writing avenues where I can share lessons and techniques on the writing craft. To do all of this, I need to start clearing from my plate the things I’m not as passionate about. I still enjoy female-fronted rock and metal music – but I’ve lost the passion to write about it.

While I did have that passion, though, writing for SC was an absolute blast! In addition to writing CD reviews, I also interviewed bands, corresponded with PR and label representatives, attended fantastic live shows. In short, I got to live out my original college dream of becoming a journalist. I also met some awesome people and made friends I hope to have for the rest of my life. As for the milestones… So many I could list, but then this note would turn into a book! Although I will say that interviewing Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation) and Tommy Karevik (Kamelot) are two of the coolest events EVER in my life! Last but not least, I loved that I had a “professional” excuse to further immerse myself in some of the most beautiful, powerful, and life-changing music I’ve ever heard. I don’t even want to think about how many bands I might never have discovered had I not written for Sonic Cathedral. *lol* So, I have many reasons to be grateful for writing to “Big Boss” John on a whim almost 6 summers ago.

Now, for the thank-yous…

To the entire Zine staff – Robin, Terry, Max, Justin, Christiana, Allyson, John T., Chris, Mark, Ron, Angie, Lindsay, Emilie, Ton, and most importantly John W. and webmastress Becky: Thank you for your friendship, your enthusiasm for the music we love most, and the support and encouragement you offer one another with each assignment, milestone, and new idea. It’s been so much fun being a part of the team, and I hope you know how many people around the world appreciate your work and promotion. Let’s keep in touch!

To all the bands and artists I covered and corresponded with since August 2008: Thank you for having the guts and passion to do what you love. We need more people in this world who aren’t afraid to pursue music and other forms of creativity! So believe me when I say you’re an inspiration. A select few of you (you know who you are!) have also gone out of your way to keep me posted on your band activities and ask for my feedback between and after reviews. Your thoughtfulness blows me away every time. I wish you nothing but the best – and you know where to find me if you’d like to touch base.

To the friends and other fellow “femme metal” fans I’ve met over the past 5 ½ years: Thanks for sharing your passion for the music and your feedback on SC’s work. I’ve always appreciated your thoughts and opinions (even when they differed from mine), and it has made the work all the more worthwhile. And I’m willing to bet the rest of the Zine staff feels the same way.

If you’d like updates on my writing endeavors, feel free to continue following here at my blog or at my social media sites:



Lots of love, light, and \m/,


Coming Soon: Reached 50,000 words on the novel today! Stay tuned for a new installment of Chronicling The Craft next week.

Mini-Review Monday: Ideal Zero – “In Perfect Darkness”

Ideal Zero In Perfect Darkness

Ideal Zero – In Perfect Darkness

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Florida-based Ideal Zero is one of the few American bands who are willing to blend alternative rock with electro-rock, pop, and metal influences. They debuted their refreshing sound on their 2012 self-titled EP and quickly enchanted listeners with catchy melodies and captivating musical contrasts. I enjoyed Ideal Zero so much that it earned a spot on my Top 10 Albums of 2012 list. Ever since then, I’ve been looking forward to hearing a longer release from Ideal Zero and finding out what else they had to offer.

Enter Ideal Zero’s first full-length album, In Perfect Darkness. This CD shows Ideal Zero exploring their sound’s many angles and toning down the metallic edge from their EP (possibly because they have one guitarist instead of two now). Some tracks, including the moody lead single “Before We Drown,” still crunch with intensity. Others offer a lighter, more playful take. Listeners will find themselves exhilarated by the cartwheeling rhythms and synths of “Now That We Know” and touched by the sensitive arrangements and lyrics of “Walls” and “My Last Request.” My personal favorite, however, is “Little Blue Man.” It drifts on simple, effervescent soundscapes that let Irina Nicula’s imaginative lyrics be the focal point of the song.

While I like In Perfect Darkness enough to listen to it all the way through, it hasn’t left the same impact on me that Ideal Zero did. The EP contained brilliant hooks, memorable melodies, and lyrics exuding cleverness and vulnerability. In Perfect Darkness reaches those heights, but not quite as often. What In Perfect Darkness does accomplish, however, is reminding the listener that light always follows dark and hope always prevails – themes that match Ideal Zero’s evolved musical approach. And not only do I like neat artistic tie-ins, but I also like it when a record makes me smile. That’s why I give In Perfect Darkness my stamp of approval.

Highlights: “Little Blue Man,” “Before We Drown,” “Now That We Know”

Haven’t heard of Ideal Zero before? Check out their music if you’re a fan of Evanescence, The Birthday Massacre, Within Temptation, Lacuna Coil, Muse, and The Killers.

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Deciding whether to buy In Perfect Darkness from Amazon? Let me know whether you found my review helpful by clicking here and selecting either “Yes” or “No.”

Coming Soon: Next week’s Mini-Review Monday will be a change in flavor – Celtic instead of rock or metal! Stay tuned for a review of David Arkenstone’s latest album Celtic Garden.

Mini-Review Monday: Touchstone – “Oceans Of Time”

Touchstone Oceans Of Time

Touchstone – Oceans Of Time

Rating: 4 /5

Touchstone’s fourth studio album, Oceans Of Time, sees the UK band continue to home their signature prog rock sound. And when I say “prog rock,” I mean that in a rather broad way. Touchstone combine the edge and immediacy of hard rock with progressive tendencies, strong melodies, and vibrant keyboards to create music that’s colorful and unique. Vocalist Kim Seviour is pleasing to the ears. She’s a more reserved singer than I would have expected, especially for a band like Touchstone. She does, however, emphasize the melodic nature of Touchstone’s music with grace and vulnerability.

The personalities of each song on Oceans Of Time vary as greatly as song length. Bluesy melancholy (“Contact”), scintillating synth-rock with metallic riff hooks (“Flux”), Pink Floyd-like classic prog with a crunch (“Spirit Of The Age”), oscillation between the band’s soft and heavy sides (“Shadow’s End”) – Touchstone never repeat themselves musically, and that’s what makes their music all the more enjoyable. Long-time fans will also be delighted by “Solace 2013,” a rock-oriented re-imagining of the ambient ballad from Touchstone’s 2009 album Wintercoast.

I won’t compare Oceans Of Time to any of Touchstone’s previous albums, since I haven’t heard them in their entirety. But if you haven’t checked out this band before, Oceans Of Time is a good place to start. My only true critique on this album is that the songwriting quality drops off a little after “Flux,” the opening track. I sometimes get discouraged when a band puts the most salient track up front, then follows it up with other songs that don’t seize your attention right away. “Flux” is still far and away my favorite on Oceans Of Time, but I’ve grown to like the rest of the album through repeated listens and am happy for it.

Highlights: “Flux” (check it out below), “Contact,” “Solace 2013”

For fans of Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Anathema, Arjen Lucassen, Evanescence, and Halestorm

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Deciding whether to buy Oceans Of Time from Amazon? Let me know whether you found my review helpful by clicking here and selecting either “Yes” or “No.”

Coming Soon: Next week’s edition of Mini-Review Monday will cover Elysion’s new album, Someplace Better.

Mini-Review Monday: Legend – “Spirit”

Legend Spirit

Legend – Spirit

Rating: 3 / 5

I admit that Legend is a new name to me. However, these UK prog rockers have been around for a while. Keyboardist / band leader Steve Pain founded the band back in 1988, and Spirit is their fifth album. With that experience comes the layered, complex sound that Legend have honed during their career (except during their 13-year hiatus). Varied guitarwork, dynamic drumming, and a colorful palette of keyboards / synths swirl in winding, labyrinthine song structures. Singer Beck Sian swoops from bewitching lows to piercing highs as she sings. Quite often she’s accompanied by a massive-sounding (and non-classical) choir that amps up the bombast even more. Yes, you’re going to hear myriad sounds on Spirit: organs, acoustic and electric guitars, percussion, sitars, ambient keys, cosmic blips and bleeps – and that’s just to start! Apparently the lyrics have a pagan slant, but apart from “Wood For The Trees” the themes are universal enough for all listeners to relate to.

All this sounds like a recipe for great prog music – but Spirit hasn’t really grown on me since I bought it. A huge reason is that there’s almost too going on in Legend’s music. They’re like a prog rock version of Blind Guardian: The melodies and musical elements compete against each other, making it hard for the listener to concentrate on a song without getting overwhelmed. Also, I prefer Beck’s low- / mid-range vocals to her high notes. Her lower register’s got a spellbinding quality that draws you in. But her higher register peaks so high, it makes me cringe. There are some lovely songs on Spirit, though. “Crossing Of The Ways” entrances with its mix of ethereal soundscapes and tribal percussion; and “A Tangled Skein” and “State Of Grace” have some cool moments (especially the Native American / doom-laced outro of the former, and Beck’s a capella harmonies on the latter). Unfortunately, that’s not enough to percolate my lukewarm feelings into stronger enthusiasm.

If you’re a fan of prog bands like Rush, Renaissance, and Marillion or female vocalists like Kate Bush and Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel, you might like Legend’s Spirit. Just because I think it’s only OK doesn’t mean that other people won’t like it more.

Deciding whether to buy Spirit from Amazon? Let me know whether you found my review helpful by clicking here and selecting either “Yes” or “No.”

Coming Soon: Just a few hundred words away from 40,000 on my novel-in-progress! I hope to make enough progress to get a new “Chronicling The Craft” online in the next couple weeks.

New at Sonic Cathedral: Best Releases of 2013

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Sonic Cathedral’s annual year-end article is now online! My fellow staff writers and I have compiled our lists of our favorite 2013 albums by female-fronted rock and metal bands, as well as our online store’s top-selling albums and our picks for Bands To Watch For in 2014.

What always intrigues me about the year-end articles is how similar yet different our staff’s tastes in music can be. Several albums appear on multiple lists; some writers even share #1 picks. Yet, between the 13 writers who contributed this year, a total of 66 different albums are listed in this year’s article. Wow.

By the way, “brownie points” go to anyone who reads the article and finds out which singer – yes, which singer, not which band – appears most often on this year’s lists. 😉

Click here to read “Sonic Cathedral’s Best Releases of 2013.”

Coming Soon: We’ll see what happens next. I have a lull in Sonic Cathedral assignments right now, so I’ve been plugging away at the novel-in-progress. I’m also itching to get back to the open mic circuit in my area. Other ideas are percolating as well. So stay tuned!

New at Sonic Cathedral: Review of the Jessica Prouty Band’s “Set Me Free”

JPB Set Me Free cover

Before I fell in love with metal music, I was a pop-rock girl. Part of me still has a soft spot for that genre of music, although I can’t stand most of the cookie-cutter garbage that’s overplayed on the radio these days. However, if one band has the potential to lure me back to the radio just so I could hear their songs, it would be the Jessica Prouty Band. This young quartet from Boston, Massachusetts (three of whom attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music) has cooked up a delicious and energetic blend of Southern rock, blues, pop, metal, and punk. With electric performances by all band members, including frontwoman Jessica Prouty, JPB’s upcoming third album Set Me Free will be a must-have for fans of female-fronted rock music.

Click here to read my review of the Jessica Prouty Band’s Set Me Free.

Below is a lyric video for the title track to Set Me Free. JPB struck a gold mine by choosing this song as the album’s lead-off single. It’s fun, gritty, and incredibly catchy. Not to mention it comes with one of the best crescendos I’ve heard in a long time! What do you think?

Coming Soon: The posting blitz is done for a little while. So it’s a matter of what I finish first: 5,000 more words in my novel-in-progress so I can post the next edition of “Chronicling The Craft”; or my next CD review, which will cover Hydria’s new studio album Freakshow.

Five Years at Sonic Cathedral – A Retrospective, Part 4: Artists #5 through #1

We’ve reached the end of the Sonic Cathedral Retrospective countdown! I’ve been listing my 20 favorite artists that I’ve covered in my five years of writing at the Sonic Cathedral WebZine. And today, it’s time to reveal the top five – including the artist I chose for #1!

First, in case you’ve missed the previous installments, here they are:

Part 1: Artists #20 through #16

Part 2: Artists #15 through #11

Part 3: Artists #10 through #6

So if we left off at #6, that means we’ll start tonight with…

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The Mariana Hollow’s “Scars, Not Wounds” – A Documentary

I’m thrilled to announced that I’m one of several fans featured in The Mariana Hollow’s new documentary, “Scars, Not Wounds.” You may have read other posts here about The Mariana Hollow. This alternative metal quintet from the United Kingdom is one of my favorite musical discoveries of the past few years, on an artistic level as well as a personal level. (You’ll find out more in the next installment of my Sonic Cathedral Retrospective countdown, coming later this week.)

“Scars, Not Wounds” chronicles the making of The Mariana Hollow’s new EP of the same title. It also focuses on the major line-up change that led to the evolution in TMH’s sound. The band also took time to interview fans about why they like The Mariana Hollow’s music. Those fans include Mark Ashby of ProgTopia Radio, members of UK bands The Neon Choir and Breed77, photographer Thanira Rates, and some of TMH’s regular gig-goers in the London area. You can catch me twice in the documentary (2:37 to 2:47, and 24:42 to 24:58).

Prepare to listen, laugh, and learn. Be ready to lose yourself in the heavy, oceanic music of The Mariana Hollow. And most of all, enjoy! (NOTE: This video contains some adult language and may not be appropriate for young audiences.)

Coming Soon: As mentioned yesterday, I’ve got one more installment of the Sonic Cathedral 5-Year Retrospective countdown, as well as a new review coming at Sonic Cathedral and the next “Chronicling The Craft” article. It’s going to be an active week here, so stay tuned!