The title says it all! Opinions expressed here are those of the authors. Personal tastes may vary, and we are cool with that.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Some 2010 Lists

Top 10 tracks in the last 12 months:

1. Almora - Tilsim
2. Atargatis - Angels Crying
3. Sabaton - Union (Slopes of St. Benedict)
4. Tarja - Falling Awake
5. Almora - Sonbahar
6. Dawn of Destiny - Rain
7. Dawn of Destiny - Days of Crying
8. Dawn of Destiny - Lost
9. Atargatis - Eden (outro)
10. Tarot - End of Everything

Top 10 artists in the last 12 months:

1. Almora
2. Dawn of Destiny
3. Sabaton
4. Nightwish
5. Atargatis
6. Loreena McKennitt
7. Tarja
8. Bear McCreary (this is due to my love of the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack)
9. Amberian Dawn
10. Tarot

My favourite albums of 2010 (some are not metal), not necessarily in order:

1. Tarja - What Lies Beneath
2. Amberian Dawn - End of Eden
3. Liv Kristine - Skintight
4. Loreena McKennitt - The Wind that Shakes the Barley
5. UnSun - Clinic for Dolls
6. Wuthering Heights - Salt
7. Magica - Dark Diary
8. Tarot - Gravity of Light
9. Sabaton - Coat of Arms
10. Sarah Jezebel Deva - A Sign of Sublime

Best new finds of the year (again not all are metal), not necessarily in order:

1. Arkona
2. Akoma
3. The Decemberists
4. Where Angels Fall
5. Manticora
6. Wuthering Heights
7. Penumbra
8. Katra
9. Frightened Rabbit
10. Katherine Jenkins

Happy New Year to all our readers!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Come Cover Me: Bring Me To Life

I found this video for Katherine Jenkins's verions of Evanescene's "Bring Me to Life" on Anette Olzon's blog and gave it a listen. Here it is:

My first impression was "interesting." Knowing nothing about Katherine Jenkins, I was stunned, however, at the end of the song, that the sang out in full on classical mode, which was quite a pleasant surprise. Since then, I've learned that Katherine is a classically trained mezzo-soprano from Wales. I am currently dowloading some of her music so I can check her out a bit more, because her voice really is beautiful.

As for the cover, it's OK. I miss the angst, and the imagery in the video is a bit ho-hum given the subject matter of the song. I still prefer the original, but I am looking forward to hearing more of Katherine Jenkins's stuff.

Here is Evanescence's original.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Tuomas! (I'm unabashedly indulging in some fangirly behaviour - sue me!)

Ah, to be a Christmas baby. My dad's birthday is Christmas Eve, and he gets spoiled rotten. I'm sure Tuomas does, too!

So, happy birthday to the man whose chest I would gladly lick chocolate off - and to the guy who has brought me so much joy through his music.

Monday, December 20, 2010

New Sirenia: The End of it All

So, here is Sirenia's new single:

OK...My thoughts upon hearing this were along the lines of "this sounds soooooo much like The Path to Decay and Lost in Life from the previous album."

I don't want to make too many assumptions about their upcoming release based on one song, but shit, what has happened to this band? Back in the day Sirenia used to make some very decent, dark, atmospheric Gothic metal. What changed? The appearance of Nuclear Blast in their life is one theory.

Even the guitar solo sounds like all the rest from The 13th Floor!

People complain about Nightwish turning sappy and poppy and about Tuomas's obsession with the same depressing themes. I say Sirenia is a far, far more egregious example of a sell-out band who changed it's tune to become more commercially viable. Morten's themes haven't changed one iota, either, and because they are so simply expressed, the repetitiveness is even more aggravating.

Anyway, I am curious but not optimisitc.

Manuela Kraller: Xandria's New Singer

Finally, German Gothic metal band Xandria has announced its new singer! I have been waiting for this for a long time, since hearing that Kerstin Bischof left the band in February.

The new singer is Manuela Kraller, a 29 year old German soprano, who, excitingly enough, used to sing for Haggard! This is excellent news, and as I am a fan of Haggard, I am really looking forward to hearing Manuela singing with Xandria becuase I'm pretty sure she is going to be awesome.

More details here.

Here is the teaser video released by the band:

EDIT: Thanks to Almagest for finding me this clip of Manuela singing a cover of Tarja's "Sing for Me."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

CD Review: Liv Kristine's "Skintight"

Oh, how I love Liv Kristine! I love her voice, she rocks the corset, she is ridiculously gorgeous. I first encountered her a few years back when I discovered Leaves' Eyes, which subsequently became one of my favourite bands and Liv one of my favourite vocalists. It did take me some tome to clue in, however, to the fact that she had a solo career on the side that was more of the pop/rock persuasion than the metal. I listened to Deus ex Machina and it was not my cup of tea, though I love how she sounds on it.

When I heard Skintight was coming out, I wouldn't have given it much thought, except I read Liv's description of the concept, and I was intrigued. She said:

Most recordings were done 'in one go,' i.e. record a complete song without
breaks. Moreover, we've kept and paid attention to the natural processes which
take place during singing, like breathing, movements of the lips, emotional
expression and strength etc. All this makes the album authentic, real, and
direct. The music is played with only a few, however, original instruments.

Recording a song without breaks sounded very curious to me, since I am not unaware of the fact that the complex multi-tracked recordings I usually listen to are obviously not recorded all in one go. The simplicity Liv described above appealed to me, as did the idea of using only a few instruments. Upon the release of the "Skintight" video, I was a little skeptical. There is kind of a flashy, fashion-y thing going on here that put me off a bit. Things change!

Since finally receiving my copy of the CD and sitting down with the CD booklet and really listening to the songs, I am in love with this release. I am addicted to the song "Skintight."

I wouldn't necessarily class the CD as pop, per se. It's a mellow rock with a lot of acoustic elements in it that speak to the concept of simplicity. The lyrics, written by Liv herself, are beautiful: thoughtful, insightful, and expressive. They are honest. Liv's voice in Skintight leaves behind the drama of Leaves' Eyes; there is a pureness to it that I really enjoyed. Backing vocals are kept simple and minimal, and I found that a really cool thing to hear because I am so used to complex harmonies & backing vocals in LE.

I find myself quite haunted by this CD and I've barely been able to stop playing it since I got it in the mail last week (the same day that Loreena McKennitt's new CD arrived; another amazing disc that has been competing with Liv for play time here at home). Songs that I particularly love and find resonant are "Skintight", "Twofold" and "Wonders." The closing track, "The Rarest Flower" is also lovely.

This is definitely a CD to be savoured over and over again. Awesome job, Liv. Horns up. \m/

CD Review: Unsun's "Clinic for Dolls"

As I mentioned before, I have a soft spot for UnSun even though I have no idea why. I purchased their debut CD, End of Life, and liked it at the time, but I think what happened is that I just grew out of it. Compared to the bands I found after, this album seems quite mediocre now for the Gothic genre. But I wasn't exactly put off forever; I was curious to see what their follow-up sounded like and if there had been any growth since EoL's release in 2008. When the band released their first single, "Home", from the new album, Clinic For Dolls, I was optimisitic. It's a good song and it's actually a good video, too.

So, I have Clinic for Dolls, and I have listened to it many times. My impressions are these: it's a much stronger album than EoL. It's faster, heavier, and the writing is more complex. In fact, the composition end of it is really good and a huge improvement from their debut. The guitar work is better, as are the keyboards. This is a far less "poppy" (how I hate that term, but I can't find a better one right now) CD, and it's evident right from the beginning that a lot of time and thought has gone into writing something way more meaty music.

The intro to the first song, "The Lost Way" sets the tone and impressed me right off the bat. Heavy, melodic, and fast - great headbanging stuff for sure, and this is one of the strongest tracks on the album. "Home", as I mentioned, is also a strong song, and other notables are "Time", and "Mockers." The ballad "The Last Tears" is quite lovely and emotional, and is singer Aya's best peformance on this CD.

Lyrically, this is also a much stronger album. These songs are full of dark, desolate, and very lonely themes and images. They talk about abuse, marginalization, institutionalization, futility, secrets, death, and all kinds of stuff like that. Here is a good example, from "Time":

When rain washes blood off the ground
down the shadowy path I’ll come by
When you utter your last sin aloud
my star will shine in the sky
When time decides to kill
when time closes our eyes
our sins will vanish in tears
the ground will hush our cries

So, musically & lyrically, I like this. It's not up there with Nightwish, Epica, and bands like that I am into, but it's not bad, and like I said, it's a big improvement over EoL.

However, there is a rather disappointing, glaring weakness, and that is the vocal performance of Aya. The girl can sing; I don't think she has a bad voice. I just don't think she has a voice strong enough or powerful enough for this music. Her singing is heavily accented, but I'm not overly concerned about that. "Weak" is the only word I can find to describe how she sounds with this band. The only exception I found on this album where I really enjoyed her voice was the aforementioned "The Last Tears." She is excellent here: she brings power and some very poignant emotion to this piece and it's gorgeous. But overall...It's just not great.
She does sound decent live, I must say. UnSun seems to be getting some gigs at bigger venues lately, including appearances at Metal Female Voices Fest in 2009 and this past October, and I found this video of the band, and Aya sounds great.
This is still a highly listenable album and I have to say it shows a lot of promise for the future. I just think the vocals
Horns up, though. \m/ My soft spot is still in tact!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Visions of Atlantis Update

Excellent! Austrian symphonic metal outfit, Visions of Atlantis, with their new Greek vocalist Maxi Nil, have announced a release date and album information at last. Their new CD, entitled Delta, is to be released February 25, 2011. You can read more details here.

Very much looking forward to this one!