Tag Archives: Power Metal

Album Review: Eden’s Curse – Cardinal (2016)

28 Nov

edenscurse-cardinal

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve been slow in getting to the party that is Eden’s Curse. A very good friend recommended them and I’ve finally gotten around to taking a listen. So, first off, who are they? Formed in 2006, they have released five studio albums and one double live album. They have had a few line-up changes but the band currently consists of long-time members Paul Logue (Bass) and Thorsten Koehne (Guitars) alongside Nikola Mijic (Vocals), John Clelland (Drums) & Christian Pulkkinen (Keyboards).

They’ve released a new album in October called Cardinal which marks the first time Clelland and Pulkkinen appear on an Eden’s Curse studio album. Let’s check it out.

“Prophets of Doom” starts us off, full of pomp and polished writing which buries itself into your brain and has, my favourite, a catchy chorus! After a short intro build up the song kicks into gear with its double bass attack and crunchy riffing, add to that the hook-laden vocals and layered keyboards and it’s a strong start to what I found to be a fantastic album. It’s Eden’s Curse signalling their intent from the off, and how cool is “Prophets of Doom” as a title in the first place?

“Sell Your Soul” is the first single and is amongst the albums highlights for sure. It is an uplifting track, very upbeat. Strong keyboards and superb guitar playing throughout with lots of melodic hooks and again a really slick AOR polish. It has an 80s Journey sound to it and there is some deep sexy bass going on thanks to Mr Paul Logue. Mid-way through though it changes into a slightly slower direction and the dual solos of guitars and keyboards take the song into a powerful conclusion.

“The Great Pretender” continues in the same vein: catchy hooks galore and has a Bon Jovi feel about it. The track starts off with colossal riffs and has this massive instrumental intro. There are Symphonic Metal elements at play here. Vocalist Nikola Mijic possesses some epic pipes and this song gives him a chance to show off his outstanding range and the guitar work of Thorsten Koehne showcases what he can do also. “Messiah Complex” comes in a bit harder than the previous tracks with a cool riff and Mijic’s vocals containing more of an edge, before once again breaking out his upper range with vocals that remind me of DragonForce. Another song and another catchy chorus. There is an energy throughout as the song builds up the momentum. Possibly the albums heaviest song overall and it features another cracking solo.

“Find My Way” sees Eden’s Curse slow it down with a ballad. As you’d expect, the music is very powerful and grandiose and the song, epic. We’re in full Journey/AOR Power Ballad mode here with the Symphonic/Hard Rock edge. Whilst I can see why some people wouldn’t enjoy this song, I am quite partial to belting out power ballads now and then and this fit right into that for me. This track has it all really, cheesy keyboards, subtle piano, huge rhythms, Orchestral strings, passionate vocals and crushing guitars. An anthemic tour de force. Get those hands in the air.

Oh sorry, my playlist skipped to the Chili Peppers…oh no wait, this funk slap bass is “Kingdom of Solitude” – my mistake! Another piece of brilliance from Logue. It’s a bit of a stylistic change from all that comes before but it quickly settles back into full on rock territory with a killer riff. There is aggression mixed with some electronic elements. The band wanted to get a bit more heavy and technical on Cardinal and this is a song that I think showcases that for sure. “Utopian Dreams” starts off with some glorious lead keyboard riffery with its Symphony X/Dream Theater stylings. This is a song on speed. There is such a manic, hyper intensity about it, like they had one take and 5 minutes to nail it and they just blew through it. Power Metal levels turned to 100 on this one.

On first listen “This Is Our Moment” seemed to lack something to me and this is probably down to the fact that it has to follow the bonkers, ADHD affected track “Utopian Dreams” BUT that’s not to say that the song is bad, because its not. It rocks hard, it has fantastic keyboard and guitar work throughout and once again Nikola’s vocals are spot on. On subsequent listens it actually grabbed me the way it should have first time. It is an uplifting song and I would recommend it. I would advise that if you feel it lacks something on your first listen, to not fully dismiss it. “Rome’s on Fire” continues in the same vein with its Hard Rock/AOR sound and soaring chorus. I really enjoyed this track, it bounces around and the band are on point here. The galloping double bass drumming throughout gives it that extra punch and it’s very hard not to be singing along by the end of the song.

On “Unconditional” the band collaborate with ex-Leaves Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine. This is a classic 80s rock ballad right here and very radio friendly. The way Mijic’s and Kristine’s vocals weave around each other works really well. The contrast between the two is just superb.  It is slow and mellow and features a gorgeous bluesy rock solo in the middle before shifting gears into more of a shred whilst still retaining the melody. It’s sugary, it’s sweet but it’s certainly not bad for you. Again, if you have a penchant for the old power ballad, then you will enjoy this. However, if you pressed skip, you’ll be taken instantly to “Saints & Sinners” which goes back into double bass drums, monstrous riffing and takes us back into Power Metal territory.

“Jericho” closes the album out and at 7 minutes 50 seconds is the albums longest track. The song is based on the Biblical tale of the battle of Jericho. The keyboard and guitar work on display here is out of this world. Koehne and Christian Pulkkinen on top form here, as they are throughout the entirety of Cardinal to be fair. There is a long instrumental section, epic lyrics that outline the entire battle itself and the song musically shifts dynamics taking in multiple styles. One word. Epic. Actually two words! Epic Greatness!!

Going in, I hadn’t heard any previous material from Eden’s Curse other than “Sell Your Soul” but coming out of Cardinal I will be checking out everything and hope to catch them live very soon. If you like your bands with a bit of Power Metal, a dash of Symphonic Metal, a pinch of Hard Rock and a sprinkle of AOR then Eden’s Curse will be the band for you. Heavy instrumentation with soaring, powerful vocals singing catchy melodies. What more could you want?

More hooks than a pirate convention, catchier than a bout of crabs. You need Cardinal and Eden’s Curse in your life!

David

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Album Review: Gamma Ray – Empire Of The Undead (2014)

21 Apr

7/10

Guitarist Kai Hansen first emerged onto the heavy metal music scene in 1984 as one of the founding members of Helloween. During his tenure with the band, he made an appearance as both lead guitarist and lead vocalist on the band’s debut EP and studio album, before ultimately stepping away from the mic in ’87 to allow Michael Kiske to take over vocal duties and provide Halloween their first taste of International stardom. Soon after departing in 1989 he formed the highly influential German Power Metal band, Gamma Ray.

It’s been almost twenty years since Gamma Ray released two of the genre’s defining albums in “Land Of The Free” and “Somewhere Out In Space,” but the quartet is still alive and well into its fourth decade. Lately, however, Hansen seems content to rest on his laurels, as the band’s last two albums have played things about as safely as possible. It’s been a full four years since “To the Metal!” raised concerns over whether Gamma Ray had anything left in the tank, between the album’s inconsistency and borderline plagiarism, so “Empire Of The Undead” has some questions to answer.

The album begins promisingly enough with “Avalon”, a song that harkens back to the glory days, winding through nine minutes of shimmering guitar verses, melodic grooves and a nice solo. New drummer Michael Ehré certainly proves his mettle, if somewhat more conservatively than the departed Dan Zimmerman, as he effortlessly throws in back-beat fills and changes styles on a dime throughout the song. This song showcases Hansen’s striking vocal abilities, engaging guitar work and a handful of energetic tempo changes that strap the listener down for a chaotic ride. Seven minutes into this nine minute long anthem, you begin to believe the song has reached it’s triumphant end, only to be launched off once again into another melody driven chorus.

Throughout “Empire Of The Undead’s” recording and mixing, Hansen stated that the album would have a more “thrashy” sound, and there are a number of songs that live up to that promise. “Hellbent,” “Empire Of The Undead”, and “Seven” are the more speedy sides of this album, all of which are incredibly fun and catchy whilst ballad “Time For Deliverance” provides a Queen/Freddie Mercury inspired moment. Listen to the chorus and try your best not to sing “Weeeeee are the chaaaaampions”

“Master Of Confusion” references the bands troubles with actually making the album, as drummer Dan Zimmerman unexpectedly retired and the band’s studio burned to the ground during the mixing stage. This track is a clear stand-out and has the feel of a classic Gamma Ray song, probably because it’s almost literally a composite of previous Hansen-penned singles.
The main riff, verse, and solo are ripped straight from Helloween’s “I Want Out,” while both the chords and lyrics of the pre-chorus (“and now I’m riding on the wind, but I won’t have much time”) echo “No World Order!’s” “Heaven and Hell” (“riding on the wind, there’s only one place left to go”).
During the song’s post-solo build, Dirk Schlächter lays down some walking bass as Hansen changes the lyrics up a bit, giving the final chorus a feeling of satisfying resolution.

“Born To Fly” may not be a bad song in its own right, perhaps the lowest point of the album maybe, but guess what? It’s another anthem about flying high like an eagle in the sky! Though I’m not going to bash the lyrics because it’s Power Metal and all Power Metal lyrics are cheesy, you do have to ask the question,’how many more songs can be written about soaring like an eagle?’

Further solidifying the album’s centre is the title track “Empire Of The Undead,” a thrash/speed number built on unrelenting drumming and shredded guitar leads. Kai’s screech fits much better here than say, on “Pale Rider,” with his signature dramatic screams ushering in both the bridge and solo section. With “Pale Rider” he just has a tendency to oversing every line and it gets very old, very fast.

“I Will Return” starts off with a sample from Terminator with Arnie saying the classic line “I’ll Be Back”. With strong leads and catchy verses and choruses, this seven-minute shot of energy is a Gamma Ray classic right from the start.
Placing the album’s two best songs as the opener and closer really increases “Empire Of The Undead’s” replay value, and in the end, weaker cuts like “Demonseed” prove relatively easy to gloss over.

So my final thoughts? Well, whilst “Empire Of The Undead” does have largely the same DNA as Gamma Ray’s last three albums, the difference here is that “Empire Of The Undead” showcases flashes of the top-notch Power Metal Gamma Ray built its reputation on for the first time in a while, and that, in itself, is worthy of your attention.
My only issue with this record is that Kai Hansen’s song-recycling comes off as an uninspired and, dare I say, lazy approach to songwriting.
The singing/screeching, killer guitar leads, melodic choruses and dynamic synths should make this an appealing listen for any Power Metal fan and, I think, could offer a way in for newcomers to the genre also.

David