Classics Appreciation

Classics Appreciation: Fates Warning – The Spectre Within

The Spectre Within is a peculiar album, both out of context and within the one of Fates Warning’s career to that point. Night on Brocken, their debut, was an album that was frankly, very derivative Iron Maiden worship. It isn’t really a terrible album so much as one that shows a young band very unsure of their direction and what they’d actually want to do (Jim Matheos, the main songwriter of the band, reputedly never liked it very much). I submit that The Spectre Within, its immediate successor, represented one of the biggest leaps of maturity and quality in metal history, at least up to that point. And, for a vanishingly small window, it helped position Fates Warning as one of the unquestioned masters of metal genre, both of their era and of all time.

Demo Dungeon

Demo Dungeon: MaelstroM – This Battle to Make History, Yet History Never Comes Review

Some bands, such as Oblivion or Enchanter, make me scratch my head at the fact that they’re completely unknown, as they rule extremely hard and are similar to some more well-known bands (Sanctuary and Fates Warning, respectively). Clearly some metalheads just aren’t willing to go the extra mile and find the hidden gems – because plenty of people would go apeshit over those two acts, I’m pretty confident. A band like MaelstroM though – their obscurity is no surprise whatsoever – in fact I’d be surprised if they were well-known. Not because they suck, but because they’re so absurdly esoteric; neoclassical power/speed/thrash with extremely progressive song structures, random acoustic segments, and proto-death metallish yells alternated with really, really fucking strange and off-putting cleans. Add in songs that average around 7 minutes in length, and you have an inaccessible demo by some no-name power/thrash band.

New Releases

New Release Highlight: Magnabolt – Magnabolt Review

It doesn’t matter how closely you pay attention to labels, hot new bands, the NWOTHM Full YouTube channel, or whatever your method of keeping up with new music is – there will always be surprises each year and it’s one of my favorite things about the experience. No demo, no promotion, a wonky name, some poorly photoshopped artwork (honestly it’s probably Microsoft paint) that looks like it belongs on an early 2000s power metal album cover, just a few years of playing small live shows in the hipster paradise of Portland, and a self-released “pay your price” demo on bandcamp – that’s it. That’s all we have to go off of for Magnabolt’s self titled debut. In reality, none of this matters at the end of the day. What ultimately matters is the quality of the music, and in Magnabolt’s case they certainly bring quality.

New Releases

New Release Highlight: Twisted Tower Dire – Wars in the Unknown Review

There are few US power metal bands that I personally consider as important as Twisted Tower Dire. They formed in 1995 and released their debut album The Curse of Twisted Tower in 1999 while remaining very active through the 2000s – this is far and away the lowest point for the genre. Outside of a handful of exceptions, US power metal was on its last breath, hiding away in the darkness. Twisted Tower Dire were the light in that darkness and the torchbearers for the American style of power metal, helping keep it alive. They have a long and storied history as a band, filled with its fair share of successes and tragedies alike, but it’s been close to eight years since we’ve had any proper activity from them – until now that is. The wait is over and their highly anticipated sixth studio album, Wars in the Unknown, is finally upon us.

Lost in Time

Lost in Time: Longings Past – Meadows of Maseilya Review

Epic heavy metal is one of those few musical genres that still remains largely unexplored, and even more so in 1992. In fact, in 1992 a metal band of any sort had to be fairly bold to release an album and expect it to gain them a profit of any sort, as metal was quickly on the decline and the Seattle-based monstrosity called grunge was quickly on the rise. However, James Shellberg and his cohorts seemed to have no concern with popularity and success at all throughout their career, as is evident through their very esoteric musical style as much as the date of their releases. Despite the lack of commercial success with his previous band, Enchanter, Shellberg would not be deterred, quickly putting together a new mishmash of individuals and giving them the moniker “Longings Past”.

Demo Dungeon

Demo Dungeon: Enchanter – Defenders of the Realm Review

Since the conception of metal, myriads of bands have dwindled in obscurity, taking it upon themselves to release only a few songs over one or two demos or singles before vanishing from the face of the earth, never to return again. We generally tend to polarize these bands based on the fact that they have so little material that it’s not likely to be diverse enough to facilitate a mixed opinion; thus the band is either thrown out the window as complete garbage, or elevated to a legendary status of a band untarnished by mediocrity, and, if they somehow reformed today, could certainly do no wrong. Enchanter falls into the latter category, releasing only eight songs over the span of two demos and a single in the late 1980s, but in this case, every song was absolutely killer, making for a spectacular compilation album and thrusting the band, at least in my mind, onto a pedestal of the grandest heights.

Relisten

Relisten: Briton Rites – For Mircalla Review

Cauldron Born – Born of the Cauldron is perhaps the best 90s US power metal release there is. It’s a truly harmonious blend between Fates Warning and Helstar with incredible riffs, vocals, and a fine mix of the aggressive and progressive styles of USPM. So what happens when Howie Bentley, the mastermind behind this standout USPM release, decides to try his hand at what is essentially the polar opposite – old school traditional doom metal. Very few musicians are able to traverse multiple genres, but what we have here is quite honestly my favourite modern Traditional Doom album and a release that not only pays respect to the masters of Doom and Old School Heavy Metal but truly stands alongside them as an equal.

New Releases

New Release Highlight: Ice Sword – Dragon Magic Review

December and January are typically quiet months where few bands and labels put out any releases. It’s a time to decompress from the end of the previous year and ramp up for starting a whole new one. I use this opportunity to revisit both favorites from the past year and albums that I wasn’t quite so keen on. Typically my opinion doesn’t change very much, but in some cases I’ve found myself drastically changing it once I’ve given a release another try and proper time to sink in – either for better or for worse. In the case of Ice Sword’s debut album Dragon Magic, it’s the former.