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What In The World?: Quick Reviews Of Metallic Imports From Spain, Canada, Sweden, Finland, & Andorra



by Mark Gromen

Tierra Santa - Caminos De Fuego
Label: Maldito
Format: CD download
Released: 2010
Rating: 6.5/10

Eighth studio album from Spanish metallers who are approaching their 15th anniversary. Singing in their native tongue, they were once thought to be the Espanol Maiden. As if to prove the point, they begin with a lively Steve Harris inspired bass passage in the title cut. Elsewhere, it's those trademark galloping twin lead guitars ('Reina De Egipto' Queen Of Egypt, 'Arde Babilonia' Babylon Is Burning and the closing 'Eterna Y Sagrada' Eternal And Sacred), while 'Ejnrcitos De Las Tinieblas' cops the Deep Purple vibe (especially the keys). The Spanish language makes everything seem so urgent, even in the mid-tempo numbers.


Exciter - Death Machine
Label: Massacre
Format: CD download
Released: 2010
Rating: 6.5/10

Old school production values and belching, near death metal vocals greet the opening title track from these Canuck legends, which borrows liberal melodies from Judas Priest's 'Rapid Fire', albeit sped up. Towards the end of said tune, new boy Kenny Winter unveils his wicked falsetto yelp utilized elsewhere on these nine offerings (the finale is simply an instrumental/guitar solo). Adhering to an almost 30 year winning formula of John Ricci's buzzsaw guitar, muddy drum rumble and rudimentary lyrics ('Pray For Pain', 'Hellfire', 'Slaughtered In Vain' and 'Skull Breaker' are seemingly comprised solely of the titular phrase!), Exciter belie their age with spirited thrash. Only 'Power And Domination' breaks from the breakneck speed, a grittier grind ("Violence And Force" at 45 rpm). Nothing unexpected, as none of the songs crack the five minute mark.


Dark The Suns - Sleepwalking In A Nightmare
Label: Firebox
Format: CD download
Released: 2010
Rating: 7/10

Third album from depressive Finns who always seem to end up near the top of my annual Best Of, year-end lists. Like the mesmerizing Wildhoney, the opening track, 'Insomnia' is little more than piano and haunting spoken voiceover. While historically, there were stylistic similarities between the Swedes' classic album and Dark The Suns ('Walking With An Angel', 'Lake Of A Thousand Tears'), a more aggressive male vocal is evident on the latest ten songs, still backed with piano, symphonic strings and the occasional female voice. Good stuff, but not on par with their earlier material. Seek out "In Darkness Comes Beauty" and "All Ends In Silence" first!


Forgotten Tales - We Shall See The Light
Label: Zoom Japan
Format: CD download
Released: 2010
Rating: 6/10

Female fronted, Quebec based power metal outfit who I saw open for Nightwish's initial foray into North America, almost a decade ago. In that time, they've gone from a covers outfit to releasing three albums, although this is the first since '04! 'Guardian Angel' borrows heavily from the Finns' early career, particularly the keyboard intro. These nine cuts are more progressive than straight ahead power metal, with omnipresent synthesized strings. It's really not until 'Howling At The Moon' that things get lively, which at #7 is too little, too late. Adequate, but in a crowded fem-metal field, not worth a six year wait.


Terasbetoni - Maailma Tarvitsee Sankareita
Label: Sakara
Format: CD download
Released: 2010
Rating: 5/10

Once described as the Finnish Manowar, as much for their bare-chested bravado, as anything else, Terasbetoni (reinforced concrete) are back with their fourth full length, the first since leaving Warner Music in their homeland. The opening 'Myrsky Nousee' bears no resemblance to the Upstate NY warriors of metal, almost a joke vibe to the presentation, whereas 'Metalliolut' and the title cut have a beerhall sing-along quality, the piercing vocals backed by gang choruses. Lacking a definitive style, Terasbetoni touch on all realms of the metallic spectrum, from the pop rock 'Thanatos' to the Middle Eastern tinged proto-thrash of the best track, 'Konstantinopoli' and 'Jumalten Usva' owes a debt to the twin leads of Iron Maiden. Apparently it holds them in good stead at home, since all their previous albums have hit at least #2 on the national charts!


Amberian Dawn - End Of Eden
Label: Spinefarm
Format: CD download
Released: 2010
Rating: 7.5/10

Third album for the female fronted Finns begins with a short blast of choir, before kicking into the sympho-aria stylings exhibited on their previous works. The lively material is built around the cooing operatic voice of Heidi Parviainen and spirited guitar/key interplay (like so many Finnish acts). Exceptions are the more labored 'Come Now Follow', the Tarja solo sounding 'War In Heaven' and particularly the baritone-soprano duet, 'Virvatulen Laulu' which is a legitimate classic/opera workout devoid of rock/metal sensibilities. The likes of 'Ghostly Echoes' and a neo-classical 'City Of Corruption' are where the band excels.


Dark Moor - Ancestral Romance
Label: Scarlet
Format: CD download
Released: 2010
Rating: 7/10

Eighth full-length from Spanish power metallers. Oddly enough, after the initial trio of full-length albums, they ditched female singer Elsia Martin, yet almost every one of these latest ten songs features the fairer sex, in concert with Alfred Romero. Part Rhapsody (especially the soundtrack arrangements) and part classical Nightwish, apart from 'Just Rock' which starts with clapping hands, more of a cheerleader's rap. Definitely something that should have stayed on the editing room floor. 'Ah Wretched Me' starts off as if it were a Joe Lynn Turner era Rainbow single, before settling back into a progressive flair. The epic sounding 'Cancion Del Pirata', the lone inclusion sung in their native tongue, is Dark Moor at their finest, although the instrumental 'Ritual Fire Dance' is another slice of symphonic Iberian heritage.
Solid, but not the place to start your investigation of Dark Moor. For that, I'd suggest the Martin performed "The Hall Of Olden Dreams" or in keeping with their more recent sound, "Autumnal".


Signum Regis - The Eyes Of Power
Label: Inner Wound Recordings
Format: CD download
Released: 2010
Rating: 6/10

Second full-length from heretofore unknown outfit, the showcase for young Slovakian shredder Filip Kolus. More attuned ears might recognize the voice of Göran Edman (ex-Malmsteen) on the nine compositions. At times, the man has more than a little Michael Sweet (Stryper) in his vocals intonations. Lyrically, the album deals with (press quote): "real historical events that defined the Roman – Persian relations during the late antiquity (224 – 630 AD) in the Middle East, with a clear aim to capture the atmosphere of that particular time period and to keep the language as authentic as possible. Original written sources and scholar literature were carefully studied." Like many a likeminded guitarist, the disc opens with an instrumental and it's a couple of songs before we get the full-out widdly Malmsteen inspired 'One Fatal Enterprise', which is backed up with another emotional, Middle Eastern flavored stringbending instrumental, 'The Underground Temple' (complete with gong!).


Marionette - Enemies
Label: Listenable
Format: CD
Released: 2010
Rating: 5/10

Album #2 from one of the new breed of melodic Swedish death metal bands, best known for wearing dress shirts and ties. Throughout the 13 offerings, the vocals are decidedly harsh, firmly entranced in the death metal camp, yet the backing melodies (not the main rhythms) are quite tuneful, bordering on pop sensibilities: a unique dichotomy, yet ultimately quite difficult to listen to and/or enjoy. 'Stench Of The Herd' begins quite harmonious, until the blackened gremlin voice chimes in (as well as some unwelcome electronica elements reminiscent of countrymen In Flames/Soilwork). 'Anthropomorphism' adheres to the Children Of Bodom school of speedy riffs and the staccato 1:53 instrumental 'The Slaughter' works well, as opposed to the acoustic begun follow-up, 'The Lie'. Not sure there's a big market for schizophrenic listeners, but if there is, Marionette will surely please.


Persefone - Shin-Ken
Label: Kolony
Format: CD download
Released: 2010
Rating: 7/10

Here's a first, a metal outfit from the tiny European country of Andorra (180 sq. miles, population less than 85,000)! Actually, it's their third full length but the first to make it to my door. Mixed/mastered by the famous Tommy Hansen, one might expect some sort of power metal (given the man's track record), yet Persefone prefer what Kolony mislabel as a "symphonic death metal" approach (perhaps they're at a loss to accurately encapsulate the music herein). Rather novel, given their locale, but what's even more odd is the lyrical content, based on Japanese military tales. Truly can't judge a book (Lp/CD/digital download) by its cover!
While 'Fall To Rise' opens with a gruff throat that also gives way to blackened vocals, and a clean, nearly spoken, interlude. Meanwhile, the band speeds away on two different melodies, complete with piano. Ambitious, if nothing else. Speaking of piano (rain accompanied 2:26 classical interlude 'The Water Book'), along with synth, both are featured prominently in a very progressive 'Death Before Dishonour'. 'The Endless Path' returns to the Dani Filth inspired diatribe, but not without all that's come heretofore. A single electrified acoustic guitar, piano and appropriate sound effect comprise a short 'The Wind Book' intermezzo. The piano-dominated 'Purity' borders on jazz (or a Windam Hill version thereof) and ends with snippet of spoken female voice. 'Rage Stained Blade' follows and reverts back to the blackened death, even though a 70s keyboard is subversively hidden beneath the carnage. Since subtle bits are injected every couple of songs, can't really see the death heads getting into such purposeful inconsistency, would have to be a more adventurous, prog leaning listener.

 
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