Welcome to the latest edition of Time Flies!It’s my version of a monthly update, where I recap the past month’s accomplishments and articles, share news and random things from my offline life, and hint at what may be coming in the month ahead.
Is anyone else having a hard time believing that 2015 is now halfway over? Insane, isn’t it? But so far, 2015 has been an awesome year. Creatively, personally,… and now statistically! Because of your visits, comments, social media shares, and reblogs, this site has already topped 2014’s total page view counts – meaning it’s having its best year EVER. Thank you all so, SO much for your support and feedback. It means the world to me. And that’s going to make next month’s blogoversary that much sweeter. 😀
Which reminds me: I’m still taking questions for Eva’s blogoversary character interview! Submissions will be accepted through 11:59 pm on Friday, July 3rd. Click here for details and to see which questions have been asked so far.
If I could use one word to describe the music of 2014 for me, it would be “weird.” Firstly, it was a year of transition and rediscovery music-wise. In May, I left my music-reviewing post at Sonic Cathedral after 5½ years so I could concentrate on novel-writing and other creative pursuits. Suddenly I had more freedom – and time! – to listen to genres besides female-fronted rock and metal. That explains why this year’s Top 10 list features the most variety I’ve ever had in my end-of-year countdowns. Yay! 🙂
Secondly, the quality of 2014’s music took me on a bumpy rollercoaster ride. There were awesome surprises, huge disappointments, and an unusually high number of “in-betweens” that I needed to replay several times before knowing how I felt about them. And in some ways, my #1 pick summarizes my year of music: It tips its hat to my “head-banging” past while shocking the hell out of me – in the best way possible. In fact, I don’t think my SC colleagues would have seen this one coming (except for one – she knows who she is, because it’s all her fault *winks*).
**NOTE: Starting with today’s review, Mini-Review Mondays will be renamed to Music Monday Reviews.**
Vanishing Point – Distant Is The Sun
Rating: 4 /5
I first heard of Vanishing Point in 2011 when frontman Silvio Massaro joined prog-symphonic metallers and fellow Australians Divine Ascension for the duet “Answers” (featured on Divine Ascension’s As The Truth Appears – a great album, by the way!). Silvio’s powerful and gravelly yet melodic voice caught my attention right away, and I knew I’d have to check out his band and their music. Turns out Vanishing Point was in the midst of a hiatus due to lineup changes and creative blocks at the time. Now they’ve returned with Distant Is The Sun, their first album in 7 years and a superb example of melodic power metal.
Distant Is The Sun combines the fast tempos and rapid-fire rhythms of power metal with lush keyboards and synths and occasional progressive turns. This description might cause new listeners to think Vanishing Point’s a Kamelot copycat –that couldn’t be further from the truth. Vanishing Point focuses more on guitar muscle and opts for symphonic atmospheres instead of full-blown bombast. Lead single “Where Truth Lies” is a fantastic example of Vanishing Point’s sound, with an incredible chorus that sticks in your head long after the song finishes.
As most power metal bands do, Vanishing Point sticks mostly to uptempo tracks on Distant Is The Sun. “King Of Empty Promises,” the title track, and “Circle Of Fire,” which features Sonata Arctica singer Tony Kakko, are among the strongest of the bunch. The band does foray into ballad territory with the rousing sing-along “Let The River Run” and the forlorn “Story Of Misery.” They also surprise listeners with two exceptional instrumentals, the short yet power-packed “Beyond Redemption” and the delicately acoustic “April.”
At the same time, Distant Is The Sun has its flaws. Power metal has never been known for its variety, and this record’s an example of that. It excels at maintaining energy from start to finish, but after an hour’s worth of almost all uptempo tracks my brain feels as though it’s run a marathon. Vanishing Point also overindulge themselves musically at times. With a few songs, they cram in too many dramatic elements (usually synth-strings) or rhythm enhancers (staccato riffs, machine-gun drumming and double-kicking) all at once and risk overwhelming the listener.
Apart from that, Vanishing Point have done themselves proud with Distant Is The Sun. They capture their genre’s melodramatic glory by relying on guitar muscle and melodic flair and not so much on symphonic bravado. This record should win back long-time Vanishing Point fans as well as attract new followers who enjoy Kamelot, Sonata Arctica, Silent Force, and other similar bands. And when an album can succeed with that goal, you know you’ve got a winner.
Highlights: “King Of Empty Promises,” “Where Truth Lies,” “Let The River Run,” “April”
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Deciding whether to buy Distant Is The Sun from Amazon? Let me know whether you found my review helpful by clicking here and selecting either “Yes” or “No.”
Coming Soon: The next Music Monday Review will cover another excellent album – Stream Of Passion’s A War Of Our Own! I’ll also post a Recent Read later this week on Insurgent, the second book in Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” trilogy.
As you may already know, I’m celebrating 5 years of writing for Sonic Cathedral by counting down my 20 favorite artists covered at the SC WebZine. I revealed Artists #20 through #16 last week. Today, it’s time to reveal #15 through #11. So let’s continue!
By the way, a big apology that the artist photos in the previous SC Retrospective article. I’m not sure what happened in the uploading process, since they were all of decent size to begin with.
Edenbridge have been quiet over the past two years, and for good reason. Members of the Austrian symphonic power metal band endured personal hardships during that time, leading to the delay in recording new music. But as the saying goes, “good things come out of bad situations.” Edenbridge’s eighth studio album, The Bonding, weaves tales of pain, loss, and revelation into the band’s signature mix of majesty and mysticism. In my opinion, The Bonding is much stronger than Edebridge’s previous effort, 2010’s Solitaire, especially with the live orchestra. As I said in my review of The Bonding, you’ll hear “not only the band’s signature majesty, but also catharsis and hope.”
Here’s the official music video for “Alight A New Tomorrow,” the first single from The Bonding. It shows Edenbridge’s commercial side without compromising their music’s ethereality or the orchestra’s bombast. And I guarantee this song will be stuck in your head before you know it.
Coming Soon: It might be a quiet here for a few days. I will have a couple open mic appearances to announce soon. As for projects, my review of Agharti’s debut album Change is underway, and two other reviews (new released by Baliset and Second Empire) are also on my to-do list. Between working on those, my book, and poetry, who knows what will be ready first? 😉
As soon as Frontier Records announced they would release a new metal opera manned by ex-Stratovarius guitarist Timo Tolkki, The Land Of New Hope became one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2013. And for good reason. In addition to being the (latest) comeback for the legendary power metal shredder and songwriter, it boasted an all-star vocal lineup: Russell Allen (Symphony X), Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation), Rob Rock (Impellitteri), Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica), and Michael Kiske (Unisonic, ex-Helloween).
Does this first Avalon album live up to all of its promises? Depends on who you ask, I guess. Other reviewers have heaped on the praise for The Land Of New Hope. As for me, I enjoyed hearing Elize Ryd thrive as the central vocalist and thought the album was an easy, breezy power metal jaunt overall. But, in all honesty, The Land Of New Hope “pledges a magnificent journey but takes the listener on a relatively dull one instead.”
Here’s the official music video for “Enshrined In My Memory,” the album’s first single. Elize sounds very comfortable and confident on this song. Then again, her recent work with Kamelot may have prepared her for this kind of role. The song itself could benefit from stronger melodies, in my opinion. But it does get stuck in your head after a while, and I didn’t mind it doing so.
Coming Soon: My report on the 2013 Massachusetts Poetry Festival, and my website’s recent nomination for the Liebster Award.
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!
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.”
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.”
With a new singer, the multi-national symphonic power metal band goes back to their comfort zone with renewed energy and confidence.
NOTE: I had intended to publish this review with Suite101 this weekend. However, the website is currently experiencing kinks and bugs that will make it impossible to publish the review there before the album’s release date on Tuesday, October 30th. So, I’m posting the review here instead. Enjoy! And feel free to comment about the album or my review below.
When Kamelot’s long-time frontman Roy Khan left the band in 2010, fans and critics alike were nervous. Khan was part of the band’s songwriting nucleus; and his deep, velvety voice had woven itself into Kamelot’s symphonic power metal trademark. What would his departure mean for the band? Would there be a drastic change in sound? And, would the new singer be able to rise above the metal world’s mountainous expectations? With Kamelot’s tenth studio album, Silverthorn, the answers to those last two questions are respectively – and firmly – “no” and “yes.” Continue reading →
It’s no secret that I’ve been looking forward to Seven Kingdoms’ new album The Fire Is Mine all year long. So as soon as the release date (October 9th) was announced, I volunteered for the review faster than you can say, “Yes, please!” I knew that Seven Kingdoms, a female-fronted power metal band from Deland, Florida, had planned to shed the remaining death metal influences from their early days. (Their previous album, Seven Kingdoms, features sporadic male grunting.) And Seven Kingdoms didn’t deviate from those plans. The Fire Is Mine is straight-up power metal with lots of grit and fire, as well as a frontwoman (Sabrina Valentine) who’s more confident in her role than ever before. You’ll have to read my review for my entire verdict, though. *wink*
Oh, am I thrilled to share this new article from Sonic Cathedral with you!
Kamelot have been one of my favorite bands for years. I bought (what I consider to be) their masterpiece, The Black Halo, in 2007 and was instantly smitten by their melodic, intelligent brand of power metal. But it wasn’t until last week that I went to my first Kamelot gig in Worcester, Massachusetts. The band was opening for Nightwish’s North American headlining tour. And Kamelot put on a fantastic set! They had so much energy and passion during their 45-minute set (which should’ve been longer!), and the entire crowd felt it. I already can’t wait for their own headlining tour next year.
Before the show, I sat down with new Kamelot frontman Tommy Karevik (center in above photo) for an interview. We talked about the Nightwish tour, Kamelot’s upcoming concept album Silverthorn, and the latest female singers to be featured in Kamelot’s songs (tying the interview in to Sonic Cathedral’s focus on female singers in rock and metal), among many other topics. It truly was a pleasure to talk to Tommy and to see in person how this softspoken young man with such a powerful singing voice is excited and humbled to be a part of this band.