My Top 10 Albums of 2013

After an unforgettable year of music in 2012, I had no idea what to expect from this year’s releases. It turned out to be pretty good! Even though no 2013 album came close to leaving the same impact on me as some of my favorites from last year, a number of strong albums earned heavy rotation in my iPod playlist. So, let’s get started! Continue reading

MindMaze and Serenity Reviews Now at Sonic Cathedral

Since I wrote these two reviews one right after the other, I decided to wait until both were online at Sonic Cathedral before posting them here. So, here they are!

MindMaze -- Mask of Lies

First is my review of MindMaze’s debut album, Mask of Lies. This traditional heavy metal quartet from Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA spices up their classic sound with progressive and power metal influences, relying on creative songwriting and soaring refrains to heighten the excitement. Listeners may be surprised by MindMaze’s use of acoustic guitars on Mask of Lies as well as the clean, theatrical vocals of frontwoman Sarah Teets. I certainly was. And those surprises were some of the reasons why I called Mask of Lies “a thrill ride through the many sides of classic heavy metal.”

Click here to read my review of MindMaze’s Mask of Lies.


Next is my review of Serenity’s fourth album, War Of Ages. Anyone who’s familiar with this Austrian symphonic power metal band may be wondering, “Why is she covering a male-fronted band?” Well, Georg Neuhauser isn’t Serenity’s only vocalist anymore. He now shares the forward charge with Clémentine Delauney, former Whyzdom frontwoman and Serenity’s touring backup singer since 2011. And the band’s evolution doesn’t end there. War Of Ages features an improved balance of symphonics and metal and an overall darker edge musically and lyrically. Serenity’s greatest asset, however, is their entertainment factor. As I said in my review of War Of Ages, “you’ll find yourself immersed in its majesty and enjoying the journey each time.”

Click here to read my review of Serenity’s War Of Ages.

Review of Kobra And The Lotus at Sonic Cathedral

Say, who and the what?! Yes, Kobra And The Lotus is an attention-grabbing band name, isn’t it?  And these female-fronted heavy metallers from Calgary, Alberta, Canada are the focus of my latest review at Sonic Cathedra.

A number of female-fronted bands are bringing back classic metal with a vengeance. And this year, Kobra And The Lotus seems to have leapfrogged to the front of the movement. Critics have compared them to legends such as Iron Maiden, Queensryche, and Judas Priest; and Kiss frontman Gene Simmons has signed the band to his Canadian record label. But after listening to Kobra And The Lotus’s self-titled second album, I don’t quite understand what all the excitement’s about. Sure, it’s heavy and powerful, and a huge improvement over KATL’s debut album Out of the Pit. At the same time, though, it “leaves so much room for improvement that fans of classic metal might find themselves returning to their favorite old-school records instead of giving Kobra And The Lotus another chance.”

Click here to read my review of Kobra And The Lotus.

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

New at Sonic Cathedral: Evince Ethos EP Review and Triosphere Interview

Better late than never again, I suppose? Anyway, here are my two most recent articles at Sonic Cathedral!

First is my review of Evince Ethos’ self-titled EP. Like Avariel and Era For A Moment (which I’ve discussed here in the past), Evince Ethos is from my local area. They began as a darkwave project in 2005 and gradually evolved into something grander and heavier. The EP I reviewed was recorded in 2009 but never fully finished, as three of Evince Ethos’ six members left due to creative differences. That didn’t stop the remaining members from releasing the EP, a “sea of stormy, majestic symphonic power metal” that’s equally impressive and refreshing.

Click here to read my review of Evince Ethos’ self-titled EP.

Also new at Sonic Cathedral is my interview with Ida Haukland, the vocalist and bassist of the Norwegian progressive heavy metal band Triosphere. What’s exciting about this article are its exclusive details about Triosphere’s new music video, “Marionette,” as well as the band’s plans for their upcoming third album. So it was neat to be the first to learn the news and then pass it on to the world! Ida also talked about what led her to play the bass, people’s reactions towards Triosphere’s music, and the band’s desire to play in North America. It’s a thoughtful glimpse into one of female-fronted metal’s most powerful and promising bands.

Click here to read my interview with Ida Haukland of Triosphere.

Now, for your listening and viewing pleasure – and since I still think it’s gorgeously done – here’s the video for “Marionette”!

New at Sonic Cathedral: Review of A Sound Of Thunder’s “Out Of The Darkness”

Time for another review at Sonic Cathedral!

I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of “old school” heavy metal. That kind of metal doesn’t appeal to me as much as others do. But since I enjoyed reviewing previous albums by UK’s Triaxis and Norway’s Triosphere, I decided to check out A Sound Of Thunder’s upcoming second album Out Of The Darkness when the promo came my way. And it turns out I liked it – more than I thought I would!

Imagine a band that mixes the classic sounds of Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden with the modern prog and power metal influences of Sabaton, Hammerfall, and Everygrey, then topped off with a female singer whose charisma, rawness, and projection is like that of Russell Allen (Symphony X). For these reasons and much more, A Sound Of Thunder is one of those rare records that metalheads of all ages will enjoy. Perhaps that’s why I said in my review, “[I]f you’re willing, hop into the DeLorean – or maybe an antique Harley Davidson is more fitting here – and turn the dial to Out Of The Darkness.”

Click here to read my review of A Sound Of Thunder’s Out Of The Darkness.

Stay tuned for more article announcements! I’ve got a new interview for Sonic Cathedral (with a female-fronted band from the UK) and a new review for Suite101 (on an upcoming album from a male-fronted band, also from the UK) in the works.

~ Sara