New at Sonic Cathedral: Review of Misth’s “Rise Of A New Day”

Misth Rise Of A New Day cover

I’ll come right out and say it: Misth’s Rise Of A New Day will be at or near the top of my favorite albums list for 2013. This Swedish progressive hard rock band combines the talents of Mercury Fan’s musicians with the force-to-be-reckoned-with voice of Maria Rådsten (One More Time). And their debut album mixes elements of hard rock, classic rock, heavy metal, and progressive rock/metal to create a homogenous collective of 10 songs that are fun, emotive, and timeless. I actually go so far as to call Rise Of A New Day ” the “femme metal” revelation of the year.” But I’m sure you’d like to read more specifics than that, right?

Click here to read my review of Misth’s Rise Of A New Day.

And here’s the music video for the album’s title track. The mix of styles and Maria’s incredible voice grabbed me right away and convinced me to further investigate Misth’s music. There’s also a strong symphonic influence in the keyboards – something you don’t hear anywhere else on Rise Of A New Day, but that’s fine. It makes the song unique and compliments its bombastic tone.

Coming Soon: My review of Edenbridge’s eighth album The Bonding – and the next installment of “Chronicling The Craft”!

New at Sonic Cathedral: Review of Kandia’s “All Is Gone”


When it comes to second albums, artists take one of three possible routes: They either rehash their debut material and give it a new title, shake things up enough to create something new yet familiar, or do an about-face and give their audience something totally different. Kandia chose the risky third route for All Is Gone. They went from dynamic melodic metal on their 2010 debut CD (Inward Beauty Outward Reflection) to a full-scale electro-rock assault that fuses nu-metal and hard rock with industrial and electronic sounds. That might explain why I called it everything from a “F-5 tornado” to a “dazzling, roaring lioness ready to pounce on the metal world.”

Click here to read my review of Kandia’s All Is Gone.

“Scars” is the first single from All Is Gone. Though it’s slow-paced, it’s an excellent representation of Kandia’s new sound: driving riffs, Nya’s sensual vocals, and electronic details that add texture to the music. Here’s the lyric video for “Scars.” The band recently finished filming a video for this song. If you like what you in the lyric video, make sure to check out Kandia on Facebook and catch the video premiere when it happens!

Coming Soon: A write-up about the 2013 Massachusetts Poetry Festival, a review of Timo Tolkki’s highly anticipated Avalon album The Land Of New Hope, and my recent nomination for the Liebster Award! Stay tuned.

Review of La-Ventura’s “White Crow” Now at Sonic Cathedral

La-Ventura -- White Crow

If I had to make a list of my favorite albums from 2008, La-Ventura’s debut album A New Beginning would be in the top half of the list. The nu-metal-ish riffs, groovy rhythms, and Carla (Douw) van Huizen’s mature, passionate vocals made the band a stand-out act in their native Holland. But what really drew me to La-Ventura’s music was its emotional impact from the moody atmospheres and the earnestly written and delivered songs. Fast-forward to 2013, when White Crow presents the heavier side of La-Ventura. Here, the band focuses more on vocals and guitar riffs and grooves and less on keyboards. While the new material lacks the emotional impact of the old, I could still discern one important ingredient: “The passion we originally heard from La-Ventura still runs through the music’s veins… [T]hat quality is essential is making good music in any genre. And with White Crow, one of The Netherlands’ most promising female-fronted bands gives us another full-bodied dose of it.”

Click here to read my review of La-Ventura’s White Crow.

I know I’ve promised other blog entries. They’re coming – I just had some emerging priorities to tend to last week. So, stay tuned for a poetry announcement as well as the next installment of Chronicling The Craft!

To-Mera and Early Cross Reviews Now at Sonic Cathedral

Time for two reviews I recently wrote for Sonic Cathedral! They were published so close in time together that it seemed appropriate to post them in one site update together.

ToMera Exile cover

First up is my review of Exile, the fourth release by UK prog metallers To-Mera. Anyone who’s familiar with To-Mera’s music knows how unpredictable it can be: lengthy, labyrinthine compositions with tempo and time signature changes galore, myriad keyboard sounds, thrash influences, jazz interludes, and Julie Kiss’ delicate and ethereal vocals. Exile is also the band’s first concept album, following the protagonist as she struggles to protect herself from emotional harm through a self-imposed “exile.” This review is one of those rare “Jekyll & Hyde” critiques from me: I enjoyed listening to Exile and now have a better appreciation for To-Mera’s music, yet I had difficulty  connecting with the songs.

Click here to read my review of To-Mera’s Exile.


I had a much easier time reviewing Early Cross’ Pathfinder, on the other hand. Pathfinder is an inspiring debut album by this Japanese progressive / atmospheric rock band that will draw comparisons to The Gathering, Autumn, and Anathema. As I described in my review, “Early Cross marries elements from the gothic, folk, progressive, and atmospheric realms to present a heavy, evocative rock style with carefully crafted songs and entrancing vocals.” Pathfinder also has pastoral and vintage tones, thanks to acoustic guitars and a mellotron. I already like this album enough to call it an early contender for my Album of the Year for 2013. Why? Well, you’ll have to read the review to find that out!

Click here to read my review of Early Cross’ Pathfinder.

I’d like to end today’s post with a thank-you and prayer for Paul Tom Norton, who recently passed away. Paul and I had never met in person, but he followed my reviews and poetry on Facebook and always left comments about my work. He was a great source of encouragement as well as a fellow music lover – two things I appreciate greatly. I will always be grateful for Paul’s enthusiasm and feedback, and I hope his family continues to draw comfort from their memories of him and from the thoughtful messages people have left since the news of Paul’s passing.

Paul, may you find the same joy in angels’ voices that you found in the voices of your favorite singers.

~ Sara

New at Sonic Cathedral: Review of Apparatus’s “Evolution”

Apparatus Evolution cover

At first listen, Apparatus sounds like your typical North American alternative rock/metal band. But once you’re two songs into their second album Evolution, it’s clear that they’re far from the typical. This quartet from Sudbury, Ontario, Canada weaves progressive influences through in-your-face alternative metal and top it off with sweeping clean vocals, guttural screams (all from the same singer, Melanie Laquerre), and lyrics that embrace social awareness and spirituality. Those are all reasons why I said Evolution “takes you on a journey that’s as intense as it is insightful.”

Click here to read my review of Apparatus’s Evolution.

Updates: Venturia, Vajra, and Progtopia!

Things have been hectic lately between Thanksgiving, preparations for Christmas, and life in general. So we have a lot of catching up to do today: two CD reviews for Sonic Cathedral, and a reference to one of those reviews on a podcast!

First is my review of Venturia’s third album, Dawn Of A New Era. This album marks two major changes for the French melodic prog metal band. #1: The band has a new drummer and a new male vocalist (in current band member and founding guitarist Charly Sahona), and the vocal focus is now on female singer Lydie Lazulli instead of on the male singer. #2: Venturia has simplified their sound from quirky, experimental electro-prog to more straightforward, balanced melodic metal with reminders of the band’s unconventional roots. No wonder they named their album Dawn Of A New Era – and it’s “an era that shows real promise.”

Click here to read my review of Venturia’s Dawn Of A New Era.

Next is my review on Pleroma, the debut album by Vajra. This NYC-based band, founded by singer / songwriter / multi-instrumentalist Annamaria Pinna, combines progressive rock with Indian music. However, the Indian music is actually the more dominant style. As I point out in my review of Pleroma, “[it’s] as though Pinna focused on the Indian-inspired rhythms and melodies first and then wove in the rock influences… [Also, the] diction and subject matter (mostly spirituality and introspection) fits the music’s zen like a sword in its sheath.” This is hands down the most hypnotic album I’ve ever covered for Sonic Cathedral, and one of the most unique.

Click here to read my review of Vajra’s Pleroma.

Along the Vajra vein, my review of Pleroma was referenced in the latest episode of Progtopia! This Podomatic podcast airs every 2 to 3 weeks and features a wide variety of progressive rock and metal acts, both well-known and up-and-coming. Each episode (about 45 minutes in length) is dedicated to one artist and consists of an interview as well as clips of the featured artist’s songs. I’ve listened to several Progtopia episodes since the show began earlier this year, and I’ve found this show to be informative as well as entertaining. It’s great to discover new bands and to learn so much about their careers, artistry, and little-known facts about them. So, many thanks to Progtopia and host Mark Ashby for the shout-out! And keep up the awesome work.

Click here to listen to Progtopia’s episode “Inside The Flame Of Vajra.” The review is referenced during the first 2 to 3 minutes. And if you like the style of this podcast, make sure to check out other Progtopia episodes.

Finally, in case it’s a while before my next website update, I wish you and yours the happiest of holidays!

~ Sara

Review of Armonight’s “Tales From The Heart” at Sonic Cathedral

And on the heels of my Kamelot interview comes a new CD review. Well, the review’s not about Kamelot – but I guess I’ve busy lately for Sonic Cathedral!

Armonight is the latest of myriad Italian female-fronted rock and metal bands to have their turn in the spotlight. The band formed in 2007 and crafted a heartfelt blend of melodic, symphonic, and gothic rock and metal. Tales From The Heart, Armonight’s second album, betters the band’s 2010 debut album, Suffering and Passion, in that it features more polished songwriting with improved sound quality. While I thought the band could further experiment with their music, I still liked Tales From The Heart more each time I listened to it.  That quality was redeeming enough to convince that Armonight are indeed on the right path artistically.

Click here to read my review of Armonight’s Tales From The Heart.

Two New EP Reviews at Sonic Cathedral

My two latest reviews at Sonic Cathedral are on EPs from two very different American bands. And both were quite good!

First up is the Chicago-based hard rock / heavy metal quartet Burning Eve. I discovered this band after checking out this year’s Dame-Nation 2012 line-up. While I couldn’t attend the festival (also in Chicago), I was still interested in hearing what the highlighted acts sounded like. In the end, I liked Burning Eve’s self-titled debut EP enough to buy it and tell the world about it. All three songs comprise of great musical and melodic hooks, charismatic vocals, and a wickedly in-your-face approach. And I’ll quote one of my favorite observations about this EP: “…[the] songs are concise and catchy enough to earn heavy radio rotation without compromising the music’s edge and power.” Not a bad start quality-wise for a relatively new band, right?

Click here to read my review of Burning Eve.

The more recent of the two EP reviews is on Ideal Zero, another newcomer band from Orlando, Florida. This quartet has already developed a rather unique sound: heavy alternative rock driven by enthralling vocals, heartfelt lyrics and bold choice in subject matter, and layers upon layers of keyboards. It’s not quite electro-rock, but not your average North American hard rock, either. Normally I try not to give EPs a rating higher than an 8.5 out of 10, since I like to hear more than just a few songs to realize just how good (or terrible) an artist can be. But Ideal Zero’s five-track, self-titled debut EP isn’t the least bit terrible. In fact, it was the first real test for my EP-rating rule – and it won. Ideal Zero is officially my album for this summer and, in my opinion, it’s “one of 2012’s most breathtaking surprises.”

Click here to read my review of Ideal Zero.

More reviews and other projects are in the works, so stay tuned!

~ Sara

Review of Forward Shapes’ “Legacy” at Sonic Cathedral

I like to deviate every now and then from the normal “femme metal” fare at Sonic Cathedral and cover something different that our readers might like. Forward Shapes is a good example. This project out of Orange County, California performs piano-driven progressive rock that will appeal to fans of piano rock (Tori Amos, The Fray, Coldplay), progressive rock (Rush, Anathema), or female-fronted rock with soaring melodies (Within Temptation, Evanescence).

While I found the music to be too intricate at times and the ballads unable to grab my interest, I couldn’t help but admire the musicianship and ambition of Forward Shapes’ debut album Legacy. The musical style, vocals, and lyrical subjects all contribute to the album’s spirit of hope and optimism. That’s why I called Legacy “smart,” “upbeat,” and a “decent summer record.”

Click here to read my full review of Forward Shapes’ Legacy.

Poetry news is coming later this week! Stay tuned!

~ Sara