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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

CD Review: Tarot's Spell of Iron MMXI

Upon releasing their latest studio album, Gravity of Light, Finnish metal pioneers Tarot re-released a remake of their 1986 debut album Spell of Iron. All of the old songs were re-recorded while featuring vocalist Tommi Salmela and the keyboard work of Janne Tolsa, two elements that Tarot did not have back then. The new elements will add an interesting new twist on these old songs, but would they ruin what the old songs brought, or will it work? I have never been a big fan of re-recording old good songs because the 2nd time around usually never sounds as good as the originals, but I am very curious on what this sounds like since Tarot is one of my favorite metal bands.

Unlike my previous reviews, this one will be a comparison between the old and the new songs with the winner of the version by their year (1986 or 2011), but I will rate the new album at the end of this review as normal. So here is my song by song review:

1. "Midwinter Nights": Winner: 1986 Both versions sound good but the old version had a certain raw sound to it that cannot be duplicated, especially the old guitar work done on the first release just sounded so original. The keyboard playing in the new version fits very nicely and doesn't interfere too much with the overall sound. Tommi sings very good here too in a couple of sections of the song as well. Both are great, but the old version wins.

2. "Dancing on the Wire": Winner: 2011 This is another really catchy metal song that Tarot is good at producing. I think the 2011 version has more elements to it with the added modern double-bass pedal parts, Tommi's added vocal harmonies, and the heavier guitar tone. The original is good, but I think it needed a little more personality to it which the 2011 version definitely delivered.

3. "Back in the Fire": Winner: 1986 The keyboard synth in the main riff/melody sounds a little cheesy. Other than that, it stayed close to the original's energy and I think Tommi really sings this song well. My favorite version of this song is the Live Undeed version where Tommi sings the song with so much passion and Janne's keyboard had a much better sound at that show too. The 2011 version is still very well done, but I wish they would have used a better sound for the keyboard.

4. "Love's Not Made for My Kind": Winner: 1986 Despite the 80's metal sound of the original being a bit dated for today's standards, I think the 2011 version is too slowed down. With the song being slowed down this drastically, it sounds more like a metal ballad and is missing the energy and power the original had. The newer version sounds much more modern and not as dated, but this was one song I wish they would have kept the same tempo at since the original had so much energy to it.

5. "Never Forever": Winner: 2011 Both versions of this song sound great. I have always liked this song and I am glad the energy of the original is still present in the 2011 version. I always thought this sounded like Iron Maiden wrote it, especially the way the riffs were written. Of course, Iron Maiden was a big influence on Tarot's sound no doubt. The organ sound on the keyboard adds an interesting element and gives it the more updated Tarot sound of today. I think some fans of the old version are going to find that sound to be annoying since so many are used to hearing it raw. I find the keyboard sound to be a great new element to the song in my opinion. It was a close one to decide which one I liked better, but I think the 2011 version wins by a hair.

6. "The Spell of Iron": Winner: 1986 The album's title track and a great song of course. The 2011 version is slowed down and like "Love's Not Made for My Kind", it is missing the energy the original had plus Marco's vocals on the original were better than what Tommi and Marco did in the new version. I like the arrangement of the new version and it still sounds very well done overall, but the original wins on this song.

7. "De Mortui Nil Nisi Bene" Winner: A tie This is definitely the greatest instrumental of Tarot's career (I do not know of any other instrumentals the band did other than this one). The 2011 version sounds like a Latin version (since the name of the song is in Latin) with acoustic guitars and it has more of a dance feel to it. I would say that the 2011 version is more creative because of the fact that it doesn't use traditional metal instrumentation or arrangements. It's hard to say which is better because I really enjoy both versions a lot. I am going to give it a tie. Both versions are great in their own way. Either version is highly recommended to listen to!

8. "Pharao": Winner: 1986 Both versions are great with this song! I like the fact that they kept the energy of the original in tact, but with added modern metal elements to it. The winner here is the 1986 version only because they completely rewrote the lyrics in the 2011 version and I thought that they should have kept it the same (most of the lyrics in the songs were rewritten to an extent, but not this drastic).

9. "Wings of Darkness": Winner: 1986 Ah yes, this classic Tarot song and one of my favorites by this band. I love how they kept the same feel and overall sound of the original. Since Tarot plays this song at all of their live shows practically, they already have a good understanding of how it goes. I wish they would not have changed the way the lyrics were written in the newer version which is why the original is still the best one for me. Other than that, it sounds great! Both are a highly recommended listen. A true Finnish metal classic.

10. "Things That Crawl At Night": Winner: 2011 This is the ballad of the album. You can hear the improvement of Marco's softer vocal style in the 2011 version, even though he sounded great in the original too. The original sounds more raw while the new one sounds more modern and polished. I think that the new version is better because some of the lyrics were changed but actually improved instead of ruining them. Usually I am not a fan of changing the lyrics, but here it worked. Tarot has improved on their musical aspects in their slower songs and the 2011 version proves that with their experience and age, though both versions are very well done.

So that was my review of Spell of Iron MMXI. Here are my overall impressions:

Pros:

  • Much better production and sound as expected


  • Marco's vocals are better in some areas as heard


  • Most of the songs still kept the same intensity and feeling


  • The newer modern elements fit well in the old songs


  • Tommi sounds good and fits in many of the songs


  • Cons:

  • The lyrics should have been left alone instead of altering them


  • The newer elements, such as Tommi's vocals and the keyboards, were a bit much at times


  • Too polished at times


  • A couple of the songs were altered too much, such as "Love's Not Made for My Kind" and "Spell of Iron"


  • Honestly, I wish Tarot had this kind of production for Gravity of Light. This is by far Tarot's most professional sounding album and I think they did a really good job remaking these songs. I would have to say that even though the sound is better and the production is top notch, the 1986 Spell of Iron has a sound that will never be done again and I think that it still wins over the new released version. But I like the interpretations of the old songs on this new release as it is a must to have for Tarot fans everywhere! I don't think Tarot should do too many remakes because I do want to hear new stuff from them, but this was a very clever idea to get generations of metalheads interested in where the roots of metal from Finland were founded on and how it evolved. I give this album a horns up \m/. It's a great addition for anyone into old school metal done in a very good modern way! It shows how metal has really progressed since the mid 80's and I liked how I heard the evolution of Tarot's sound as well! Highly recommended!

    Overall rating: 4/5



    You can also read Jon's review of this album on his blog here.

    Friday, April 29, 2011

    Marco & Tuomas about Imaginaerum

    I am so sorry that I haven't updated any news during the week but I'm so busy with school that only today I got a bit of time to go on the Internet so it will take some time to put here all the news.

    Let's start with very good news/interview. Today Nightwish puts on thier website new interview with Marco and Tuomas speaking about Imaginaerum and the process of ''making of'''. Also Tuomas is playing the ''The Hearts Ask For Pleasure First'' song a bit. But check it out to learn more news.







    Sunday, April 24, 2011

    Tarja & Jyrki 69 duet for charity

    I know that it seems like there are news only about Tarja lately but I couldn't resist to put this one on here. Tarja and Jyrki Linnankivi from the band 69 Eyes made a duet for Unicef. Actually it's Tarja's Underneath song. Buy Underneath  Tonight they performed it together on Idols Tekee Hyvää on Finnish TV.
    I am sorry to say this but I absolutely don't like the duet. This guy sounds so bad. He doesn't fit in the song IMO. Now you're going to kill me for what I am about to write now but I don't even like the way Tarja sang this song tonight. I mean during her gigs she sings this song better and I found her performance affected. (Couldn't find better word) It could be the fact that she was on TV and it was a duet IDK or something esle.

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    Tarja taking break?

    If you still hesitate whether to go and see Tarja now or later do it now. Already 2 promoters made an announcement that the European and South American tour in 2012 will be the last ones for couple of years before Tarja will release a new CD. And the reason is in my opinion pretty obvious. Baby. Tarja has been talking about motherhood in interviews for couple of years now and I think that it is about time though it is her personal matter. And if you think that they are saying that just for selling more tickets I don't think so. Otherwise I believe Tarja or Marcello would already make an announcement that promoters are lying or something like that. So lets see who is right and who is wrong. AND I am NOT the only one who think about the baby matter.

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    Crimfall's "The Writ of Sword"

    All the credit goes to Eric for finding this band and introducing me to them! I have loved Crimfall from the first listen to the first song on their debut album As the Path Unfolds... and I waited very patiently for a a couple of years for them to release a follow-up. And, in March, they did so.

    Crimfall exemplifies for me the best that the viking/folk metal genre has to offer. Their stuff is big, epic, heavy as hell, atmospheric, and utterly haunting. As the Path Unfolds...was a very mature-sounding album for a debut. The music, the orchestrations, the choir - everything - was just top notch. It was impressive.




    The final song on that album was a in acoustic piece called "Novembré", and The Writ of Sword picks up where As the Path Unfolds...left off, with an instrumental prologue entitled "Dicembré." It features some ominous sound effects that immediately put the listener in the setting of the album: the cold, desolate, northern landscapes of the Vikings. There is a nice echo in here of the acoustic guitar melody in "Novembré" which I thought was a good touch.

    From there, we go into the completely phenominal "Storm Before the Calm", a track with a bombastic, bassy beginning with tons of balls. It's definitely one of the highlights of the album. We also hear that male lead vocalist Mikko Häkkinen has changed his style slightly from the previous album. In As the Path Unfolds..., he had a higher-pitched growl. It wasn't unlike a black metal shriek, but not quite. In The Writ of Sword, he's growling more like you're used to hearing in death metal. I'm not the biggest fan of growling, as you might know, but it works for me with Crimfall. Maybe because it's well-balanced with the powerful, bright vocals of female lead Helena Haaparanta, who remains to this day, in my opinion, one of the most underrated female vocalists in metal.

    Anyway, at almost 6 minutes in length and with a ton of stuff going on in it, "Storm Before the Calm" demonstrates once more how adept they are at creating complex, progressive tunes.

    The third track, "Frost Upon Their Graves", was released for streaming before the CD on the band's MySpace page, and once again, Helena shows her vocal prowess with a folky vocal intro akin to what she did in "Wildfire Season" from As the Path Unfolds...

    These two first vocal pieces set the stage for the power, complexity, and outstanding song-writing this album contains. It doesn't let up. Lyrically, these songs form quite the chilly, moody, and desolate narrative, and to add to the atmosphere there are lots of sound effects like the clashing of swords and battle cries, for instance, that add to the overall soundtrack-ish quality to the CD. Additionally, the folk elements, like the cello, violin, accordion, and harp all contribute towards making The Writ of Sword sweeping and theatrical. Of the 9 tracks, a full 3 are instrumental. "Geađgái" is amazing, pure and simple.

    Can you tell that I love it?




    I do have a couple of faily minor critiques, however. One is that there's not enough Helena! There can never be enough Helena! But in all seriousness, my perception even after many listens is that there is less of her on this CD than there was on the last one.

    The other kind of negative but, admittedly, nitpicky thing I didn't like was the font the lyrics andcredits are printed in in the CD booklet. First of all, the font is tiny and hard to read, but this is compounded by the fact that the print is all in one of those cool-to-look-at but totally impractical Olde English-esque typesets that can be barely legible. I had a hell of a time with it.

    One interesting note: you might recognize the voice of the priest in the title track, "The Writ of Sword." It's Tapio Wilska, who also guest starred in two tracks on Nightwish's Oceanborn's "Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean" and "Pharaoh Sails to Orion," and in "10th man Down."

    All in all, awesome release from Crimfall, and I hope with their new record deal with Spinefarm Records that they'll get a lot more exposure. Horns up! \m/

    It's Official: Roy Khan leaves Kamelot

    Kamelot hasn't been a band that has captured my heart, but that isn't to say I don't respect their work or their place in the metal scene. Roy Khan is an amazing vocalist, no doubt.  Today, Roy confirmed he's leaving the band, after months of speculation.

    While the speculation seems to mostly revolve around some kind of religious conversion, I read something else that is far more insidious: I suspect there is a mental health issue at play here, and that is something I have a hell of a lot of empathy for.  I can't imagine having a mental health challenge and living the life of a rock star on the road, without some self-destrucitve behaviour coming in to play. It seems to me that Roy is making this decision to take care of himself in the best way possible. As someone who pretty much gave up a career due to a mental health issue, I can relate to this, and I sincerely wish Roy all the best with whatever path he chooses.  It takes a lot of bravery to step back, set boundaries, and make difficult decisions in the interest of having a healthy life.

    Roy, I wish you a path of healing, strength, and serenity.

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    Walking In The Air:The Greatest ballads by Nightwish

    Drakkar Records, the label which released first 4 NW albums, will release "the greatest ballads" on 27th May.
    When I read the track list I was kinda disappointed. No Ever Dream!
    I won't ever understand why they left out this great track.
    If you wonder why there aren't any songs from Once or Dark Passion Play albums the answer is simple. These 2 albums were released under Nuclear Blast so Drakkar Records has no copyrights for these songs.
    There's no way for me to buy this album. I find it not worth spending a single penny since I am not collector, I have all these tracks on my albums and I dislike the cover.


    Track list:

    1. Walking In The Air
    2. Angels Fall First
    3. Sleepwalker
    4. Sleeping Sun
    5. Dead Boy's Poem
    6. Deep Silent Complete
    7. Feel For You
    8. The Phantom Of The Opera
    9. Ocean Soul
    10. Lagoon
    11. Swanheart
    12. Two For Tragedy
    13. A Return To The Sea
    14. Away
    15. Forever Yours

    Pain's new single

    If you happen to be a fan of Swedish industrial metal band Pain, you can listen now to their new single "Dirty Woman" from the upcoming album "You Only Live Twice" which will be released on 3rd June via Nuclear Blast.

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Tarja & Liv interview

    Today tarjaofficial put on YT interview with both singers who are going on German tour together.
    You can hear the instrumental version of Underneath in the background which is on the Underneath single. 

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Tarja's new single

    Yesterday it was announced on Tarja's official site that the new single from What Lies Beneath will be Underneath. The 3 songs single will be released only in digital version on 22nd April. The release has been confirmed for Austria, Switzerland, Russia, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Ukraine, France and UK.

    Here's the track list:                                                                 
    1 Underneath (Radio Mix)
    2 Underneath (Orchestral Mix)
    3 Montañas de Silencio

    On 24th May The End Records will release an exclusive limited edition (only 500 copies) 7 inches 2 track vinyl single in the U.S.

    To be honest I was quite surprised about the choice of the single. I really hoped for In for a Kill! Since this is only digital version it seems that no video will be made for the single.


    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Tarja & "Stargazers"

    One of my Facebook friends posted this video, and I can't say how happy it makes me to see this song still being performed live with all the zest, enthusiasm, and joy it deserves.  I love the cello, too. Tarja has it going on, babies!  Rock on!

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    Within Temptation's new single

    Couple of days ago WT annouced on thier site new single. I am so damn happy coz it is Sinéad, which is my beloved track of The Unforgiving album! As for now only cover of the single was revealed but the band promised to update us pretty soon.








    Tarja to record new album

    If you happen to be fan of Tarja and her classical singing then you will be very pleased. Tarja confirmed in one interview that she will record her first classical album by year’s end with Finnish organist Kalevi Kiviniemi in a Finnish church with excellent acoustics. The location of church is unknown yet and we have to wait for more info. We will keep you updated.

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    Sonic Cathedral Interviews Imperia's Helena Iren Michaelsen

    If you happen to be an Imperia fan, Robin from Sonic Cathedral had an opportunity to interview Helena Iren Michaelsen and you can read that here.  It's a great interview and Helena had a lot of interesting stories and insights to share. Definitely worth a read.

    Midnattsol: "Kong Valemons Kamp" Video Released

    In anticipation of Midnattsol's upcoming release, The Metamorphosis Melody, the band released this video clip of the song "Kong Valemons Kamp".  In short, I love it!



    The CD comes out on April 22 in Europe and May 3 in North America. Woo-hoo!

    Anette Olzon and her solo album

    Some of you will be very happy and some of you very disappointed. Today Anette announced on her blog that the solo album won't be released due to several reasons. One of them concerns the producer of her album. For more info click

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    Imaginaerum by Nightwish

    According to Anette's blog click the mixing of Imaginaerum began on Wednesday. Yay! Can't wait to hear it! Still there are some months of waiting in front of us...sadly.

    Also according to Troy Donockley's update (the guy with bagpipes) he's going on the tour with them and is singing backing vocals. For more info click

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Borealis's "Fall From Grace" Album Art

    I just saw the new album cover for Canadian power metal band, Borealis, new CD, Fall from Grace. Here it is:


    The band also has a new web site, which is here.  Additionally, they are playing a gig with Symphony X and Blackguard at the Opera House in Toronto April 27.

    Fall from Grace is set for release on May 20.

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    Xandria: New Live Video Featuing Manuela Kraller

    If there are Xandria fans out there dying to hear their new vocalist, Manuela Kraller, singing with the band, a video of their performance together January 7th 2011 with the Bielefeld Philharmonic Orchestra is now available online at Xandria's official YouTube channel.

    Here she is singing Ravenheart.



    I think it sounds really promising and look forward to hearing more!

    Leaves' Eyes New Video: "To France"

    This would make a great "Come Cover Me" post actually, but for now, let's just let us Leaves' Eyes freaks enjoy the new song & video for what it is: a great new song from a fantastic band!

    Enjoy!

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Mape Ollila vs Marcelo Cabuli

     I assume most of you know these two names. At least NW's and Tarja's fans. But to make it clear for others: Mape Ollila is the one who wrote NW's official biography "Once Upon a Nightwish" and Marcelo is Tarja's husband and manager. And what is going on now?  








    On 7 April Marcelo's sue was presented in Helsinki. In 2007 Marcelo sued the writer Mape Ollila and the managing director of the publishing house for the insults and lies that were written in the book (Marcelo's business activities and other stuff). Also three Brazilian partners who were blaimed for doing illegalities sued the publishers. Marcelo requires 50 000 euros for loosing his reputation and the three Brazilians 15 000 per each. The assize will take place sometime in autumn. As soon as some news will be out there I will post an update.


    Now I would like to know what do you think about it. I know maybe not all of you have read the book but still it would be nice to read some opinions.

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    CD Review: Imperia's "Secret Passion"

    I really enjoyed Imperia's Queen of Light, which came out in 2007, and do this day the track "Abyssum" still creates an bit of a lump in the old throat. So I was very excited when this Norwegian/Dutch metal outfit fronted by Helena Iren Michaelsen released this follow-up last week. Imperia is pretty underrated, IMHO. Queen of Light had so many fantastic elements, and Secret Passion continues on from there. Helena has a powerful, versatile voice, and in this most recent release, we can hear her working out some of the lower edge of her range, as well as pounding out those high notes at the top. Her voice is rich and textured, and it's one of the highlights of this CD. Although there seemed to be just a bit less choir parts in SP, the symphonic elements are still there and sound great. As with Queen of Light, there are some Eastern-ish elements in here, too, which add to the overall atmosphere.

    I found the songwriting overall to be good, with some nice catchiness and a lot of heavy-as-hell moments. One song that has taken a while to grow on me is "Suicide" which starts out with Helena doing some high-pitched squeaky thing where she sounds like a wicked witch, and then moves quite seamlessly into her classical soprano mode. It's a chaotic, heavy, dark song and I now think it's one of the strongest songs on the album. She also uses the F-word in the chorus, which I quite liked. "Suicide" is immediately followed by "Hold On", which is a slower piece that implores "hold on, hold on, life is a gift, don't throw it away" - an apt reply to the previous song's despair.


    Other highlights of the album for me are "Let Down" which is a fan-fucking-tastic, emotional power ballad with a great catchy chorus, and a nice ballad featuring a duet with a guy whose name I don't know called "My Sleeping Angel."


    My version included a bonus track called "Mistress" which was a bit of a surprising addition as it is a dance mix.

    There is a lot going on in this CD - lots of fast heavy stuff, lots of slower emotional stuff, lots of nice guitar work - and all of it is good shit! There are a lot of different moods captured here, and I liked that about it. I'm very impressed with this CD, and I hope this underrated band gets some decent exposure with it because they certainly deserve it. Definitely a big horns up! \m/

    Friday, April 8, 2011

    Amberian Dawn News


    An email arrived from the staff at the Amberian Dawn forum this morning announcing that the band is now in the process of making a new album! 

    The email said,

    Tuomas states that the next album will be a little different from its predecessors and a bit different than what we are used to. According to him there have been changes in the creation method and there will be the integration of backing vocals (previously these were never used). We can expect some 80s sounding songs like Kokko- Eagle of Fire and Valkyries. As we’ve come to expect from Amberian Dawn though, there will also be some very fast songs on the album.
    A quote from Tuomas says, “Technically there's great challenges for the band and all the skills possessed by the new line-up will be essential. We're going to break some new limits again and lift the level of our quality even higher than before. With some guesting vocalists or musicians on this album, just like on all our previous albums, this new album is going to be more solid than our latest album.”

    Heidi did have thing on her Facebook asking for ideas about a myth or legend fans would like to have her write about.  I suggested Boudicca - one of my favourite stories.

    All in all, very exciting news!  End of Eden was so excellent and I can't wait to hear the new stuff!

    CD review: Tearstained by Charon

    Tearstained is the second full-length album. It contains 11 songs with interesting titles such as Christina Bleeds, Sin or Holy. One big positive thing for me is that they left out the growls. The female backing vocals remained the same. Tearstained contains one acoustic ballad.








    Worthless – the opener represents for me Charon the best: guitars, female vocals and gloomy lyrics.

    Sorrowbringer – one of the slower tracks with piano parts.

    4 Seasons Rush – JP uses mostly his low register and also cello is used. This one belongs to my favourite ones.

    Christina Bleeds – another typical Charon song containing guitar solo but this time no female vocals.

    Deepest Scar – basing on first couple of seconds one would say that it’s another heavy track but as the song progresses the track evolves into heart-broken confession.

    The Drift – the shortest one but for me the best track of Tearstained. I wouldn’t absolutely mind if Charon release one day acoustic album. JP voice works great with acoustic guitar and cello.

    Sin – this is kind of blaming, confessing mixed together with determination to die for “you” very interesting.

    Holy – here you can hear probably the longest guitar solo in band’s history.

    Your Christ – on the other hand this track is one of the faster ones. To be honest I skip this one.

    As We Die – I like this track mostly for its guitars and for the first time ever I’m gonna say I don’t like the backing vocals. In my opinion they don’t fit into the track.

    The Stone – even though this track is almost 6 minutes long it’s not a boring one. Slower parts are mixed together with faster ones and it still sounds good and keeps listener attention. I am quite picky when it comes to longer tracks. Usually I get bored pretty easily because some of them just repeat the chorus like 1000 times and lacks dynamics.

    All in all this is another good album of Charon. My personal favs are As We Die, The Drift, Deepest Scar and The Stone.



    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    Tuomas Holopainen

     If you want to see and hear young Tuomas playing saxophone back in 1994 please follow this link http://www.tuomas-holopainen.com/main/sax
    I can't imagine him playing saxophone now. 

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Come Cover Me: Running Up That Hill by Within Temptation

    This song was covered by WT in 2003 released as a single. The original song is by the British singer/songwriter Kate Bush and was released in 1985. This song has been covered by many bands and appeared in couple of TV serials such as CSI, Vampire Diaries or Bones. I came across this song last year and it was Placebo's cover. Later on I realised that I had heard that song already. It was WT's cover which I saw many years ago on VIVA channel but I totally forgot about it. I am not a big fan of this song. The video and movements of Sharon are awkward and as I already said I have never really been fond of the white line across her eyes. I must admit that Placebo's cover is the one that I like the most.

    So here you go:

    WT's version:
                       
    Placebo's version:  

    Icon & The Black Roses's version:  

    Club For Five's version:

    Kate Bush's version: