EX DEO – Romulus (Nuclear Blast – 2009)

ex-deoNobody said anything about an atomic bomb destroying Rome, but that’s pretty much what Ex Deo’s debut amounts to. An ambitious “little” history lesson cooked up by Kataklysm frontman Maurizio Iacono, Romulus plays out as the ultimate blood-and-guts soundtrack dedicated to the Roman Empire, putting all past cartoonish attempts by Virgin Steele to do the same to shame. More importantly, this doesn’t sound like a safety-first Kataklysm rehash even though Iacono’s brethren are heavily involved in bringing the material to life. Nope; the man has thrown himself off the highest tower he could find with the intention of creating something unforgettable upon impact, and he’s hit the ground running. Continue reading EX DEO – Romulus (Nuclear Blast – 2009)

HDK – System Overload (Season Of Mist – 2009)

hdkcoverIt was iconic cinema baddie Darth Vader that spouted the line “You don’t know the power of the Dark Side.” No shit. The brainchild of ex-After Forever guitarist Sander Gommans, HDK hits like a pick-axe wielding maniac on a rampage; straight to the point rather than adopting After Forever’s meandering symphonic / progressive / melodic / metal approach that often confused the hell out of people. Quite an unexpected outing given Gommans was the driving force behind his old band’s music and that he’s teamed up with rock-pop-metal-new age vocalist / lyricist Amanda Somerville (unfairly dubbed a “guest” artist here by the promo department) to create this death-thrash monster. Continue reading HDK – System Overload (Season Of Mist – 2009)

THE AGONIST – Lullabies For The Dormant Mind (Century Media – 2009)

agonsit-coverI still say it should be “Lullabyes” in the title, but nobody likes a know-it-all so I’ll let that supposed gaffe slide. What matters is the music, and the new Agonist album is a huge step up from the debut, Once Only Imagined. Unlike the first record, which was bogged down by a poor track sequence, Lullabies For The Dormant Mind goes for the throat from the very first track (‘The Tempest’) and doesn’t let up for a moment until the welcome mid-album acapella version of Tchaikowsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ (executed top to bottom by vocalist Alissa White-Gluz). The aforementioned lead-off track is the bookend to the stellar ‘Business Suits And Combat Boots’ from the first album, sort of a kiss goodbye to the band’s younger days. Continue reading THE AGONIST – Lullabies For The Dormant Mind (Century Media – 2009)

AMANDA SOMERVILLE – Windows (Hya – 2009)

amandanewHaving risen to fame in the metal world over the last several years writing and recording with After Forever, Edguy, Kamelot, Epica and Avantasia – extensive tours with the latter two included – vocalist Amanda Somerville has stepped up with her second full length solo album. A 12 song journey through what will be unexpected territory for some fans, Windows sees Somerville returning to her first love, namely making music on her own terms. That said, the album is diverse mix of musical styles tied neatly together by her instantly recognizable voice, making it a riveting listen as you wonder what’s coming next. Continue reading AMANDA SOMERVILLE – Windows (Hya – 2009)

CHRIS CAFFERY — House Of Insanity (iTunes – 2009)

cafferyhouseofinsanityAfter two solo albums (three if you count W.A.R.P.E.D., the pimped-up version of his 2004 debut Faces), Savatage / Trans-Siberian Orchestra / Doctor Butcher guitarist Chris Caffery has decided to give the diehard (read: pig-headed) Sava-legions a record closer to their collective comfort zone. Kind of ironic considering he was trying to respect his band’s legacy by not ripping it off when he started pumping out his own music. Thankfully, while there are some definite Savatage moments on House Of Insanity, Caffery hasn’t sold out on his original plan of attack to create something with its own identity. The record is raw and, if such a thing exists, under-produced to the point it sounds like it was recorded analog and live off the floor. A very good thing if you understand the term “old school.” Continue reading CHRIS CAFFERY — House Of Insanity (iTunes – 2009)

SHADOW’S MIGNON — Midnight Sky Masquerade (ProgRock Records – 2009)

shadowsmFrameshift guitarist / songwriter / producer Henning Pauly is known for going off on a tangent every now and then to explore avenues outside his usual prog-metal haunts, whether it be epic Ayreon-styled storytelling (Babysteps) or tongue-in-cheek tributes to punk (The Anthologies) and controversial “rock stars” who don’t really have their shit together after all (Credit Where Credit Is Due). His latest venture, Shadow’s Mignon, most certainly falls into the second category, celebrating the all-powerful heavy metal cliché by offering up every riff, lick and lyric that made Dio, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden famous. Midnight Sky Masquerade isn’t brain surgery and was never meant to be, focusing instead on taking traditional metalheads back to that old school comfort zone through simple off-the-wall guitar shred (Pauly really should do this more often) and killer vocals from Transmission singer Juan Roos, easily the most underrated vocalist in the biz. Continue reading SHADOW’S MIGNON — Midnight Sky Masquerade (ProgRock Records – 2009)