Random album reviews


Dark Passion Play - Nightwish
Format: CD/Digital

One of the ultimate tests for a band to see if they have staying power is if they can survive the first album after they switch lead singers. Dark Passion Play is an example of how to not only survive and thrive when you switch lead singers. Yes there has been an adjustment in sound, but the roots of Nightwish remain the symphonics are there, the theatrics, and the combination of male and female vocals remains. The major changes are an influence of poppier sounds and the vocal range is lower than with Tarja. That being said this album is phenomenal, it isn't as good as Once but it is close. Now lets dive into this album.

Lets get the weaker songs out of the way, there are two, Cadence Of Her Last Breath, and Whoever Brings The Night are the two tracks which aren't quite on par with the rest of the album, the former of those two took the pop influence from lead single Amaranth and went along the poppier vein, it isn't nearly as effective as the lead single and suffers from the mixture of the vocals and the poppier approach, while remaining a solid track. Whoever Brings The Night is a heavier track but the poppier voice of Anette falls short here and doesn't mix well with the heavier approach. The album also is a little long which could be cut back a little bit.

Onto the greatness, who opens an album with a new singer with a 14 minute epic, Nightwish does, The Poet And The Pendulum is a brilliant choice in opener and an equally brilliant track, an absolute masterpiece, split into 5 parts. The track is symphonic, features some of Anette's most melodic and powerful vocals from the entire album, this song alone is what had me purchase the album. Bye Bye Beautiful is a brilliant follow up one of the albums singles and a nice mix between Marko and Anette, they form a great combination vocally and the track showcases a slightly more harsh approach from Marko which is shown throughout most of the album from him. Amaranth is a good poppy single which shows another side of the band. Sahara is a masterful desert anthem, the track has a driving force to it while feeling mysterious as Kashmir from Zeppelin it is an excellent track which closes off the first LP, an absolutely brilliant mini-epic. The instrumental Last Of The Wilds is one of the best instrumentals I've ever heard, it has a massive folk feel to it which works brilliantly on the album, especially in its placement. I think it would be an amazing track to either open a show or an encore with. I know it has a finnish vocal version which would be cool to have on the album as a bonus track. Finally there are two ballads Eva and The Islander, the former is a nice piano ballad, The Islander is another masterpiece sung by Marko I have not heard him sing this way before but I want to hear more like this, beautiful.

5 Stars
I love “Cadence” but I agree that “Whoever Brings the Night” is the weakest link. “For the Heart I Once Had” is another lower song.
I love “Cadence” but I agree that “Whoever Brings the Night” is the weakest link. “For the Heart I Once Had” is another lower song.
Cadence could be one that grows a lot, For The Heart... was on the lower end but I felt it wasn't too far out from the middle of the pack.

Imaginaerum - Nightwish
Format: CD/Digital

Nightwish's second album with Annette falls far from the previous in terms of quality, and frankly it has a lot that should have been left on the writing rooms floor... first and foremost the album has two instrumentals neither of which should of been on the album, and the opening introductory track wouldn't have been here if it wasn't a concept record. If we cut those the album is still over an hour long with a fair bit of filler added to bulk it up. A Song For Myself has a back half which is filler ruining what should of been a strong mini-epic. Lets talk about what is actually well done on this album, I Want My Tears Back is for me the strongest track of the album, it feels like a natural combination of Annette and the band, a poppier form of what they once were. Storytime is a good choice of single and it works quite well, it is what the band could have become if they wanted to go fully down the pop route which I think would have been quite cool as well. Turn Loose The Mermaids is pretty good although as the band comes in more the track really begins to weaken and finally Last Ride Of The Day is another fast hard rocking track. The rest of the album is okay, and I'm intruiged by what will come with Floor.

2 Stars
Imaginaerum, for me at least, is a huge grower. There are pieces on that album that really only start to set for you after multiple spins. As with all their records, make sure to come back because you never know what you might get out of it next time!
Imaginaerum, for me at least, is a huge grower. There are pieces on that album that really only start to set for you after multiple spins. As with all their records, make sure to come back because you never know what you might get out of it next time!

Thus far this is the only one I would consider not going back to, but I do plan on going back at some point. I likely will get to Endless Forms... soon but I might break it up and do Michael Schenker's new album or one of the other 10 albums I have that I've gotten since December which I haven't had a chance to listen to yet... or ya know any of the ones I owned prior that I still need to get through.
Ouch, for me Imaginaerum belongs to the top half of Nightwish albums.
I found it quite bloated, and the whole concept record component weighted it down. That being said t has some great moments and in many spots is a natural follow up to Dark Passion Play. I think if the instrumentals/intro were gone and the second half of A Song For Myself, it likely would have faired better by my review. I do really like the folk approach they incorporated and the poppier metal approach is also cool. Just not the greatest package as a whole in my eyes.

That being said, I can see how people would love this record, right now it isn’t for me and it was borderline 3 stars if that helps

Flash Gordon Soundtrack - Queen
Format: Vinyl

Queen's ninth studio album is their firstsoundtrack album, and being so it only actually has 5 non-intstrumental tracks if you can call them that, I wouldn't normally wouldn't do a soundtrack album without some sort of rationale, the rationale behind this is I recently acquired the whole Queen studio album set on vinyl and I have to listen to it to go through the whole studio discography. As far as I remember Queen didn't do any instrumentals other than Procession and God Save The Queen so this album is really making up for that, although the instrumentals are naturally theatrical and frankly odd in spots. Maybe it would make sense if I'd seen Flash Gordon. Flash's Theme is a decent opening theme but isn't much of a song, even by opening theme standards of the 80s. The instrumental stories feel like a movie without images which suits what they are after and the film version has additional components added to it. The songs do have an 80s sci fi feel to them, and I quite enjoy the cheesier 80s sci fi sound tracks of movies like The Transformers but I don't need a whole album of it. Battle Theme is the first really excellent show of pure Queen it could be the middle instrumental and solo section of a normal Queen song. The Hero is a pretty strong closer but the album shouldn't be considered a true album.

1 Star

Tormato - Yes
Format: CD/Digital

The final album of the classic line up of Yes, Tormato is an interesting album, in that while it is a sizable step down from their monstrous albums Going For The One, Relayer and Close To The Edge in addition to being a little weaker overall than Fragile and The Yes Album. That being said, those five albums are incredible and are very hard to live up to, this one like those has different levels of quality in its tracks, although I feel they are less dynamic differences on this album than on Fragile and The Yes Album. The two side closers of this album Release Release and On The Silent Wings Of Freedom are two excellent and high quality Yes tracks, the former being a nice well constructed upbeat rocker which I feel is the hardest form of music to write with Jon Anderson's style of vocals, and it even incorperates a drum solo in a positive way! The latter goes into the bands proggy style while remaining at an accessible length by Yes standards. The weaker components of the album come from moments where Jon Anderson's vocal approach doesn't mesh well with the band, for example, Future Times/Rejoice has him trying too hard to sing upbeat, he is better as a passive singer surrounded by excellent musicians. The album has an odd track in Arriving UFO and some nice little ballads in Mardigal, Onward and Circus Of Heaven the last of which is the strongest of the three, it is very stripped back which could allow for breaks during a concert for the other players and a nice contrast to some of their other more epic tracks like Close To The Edge. That being said, this album isn't amazing and is only borderline for the ranking it recieves.

4 Stars

Endless Forms Most Beautiful - Nightwish
Format: CD/Digital

Floor's debut with Nightwish well studio version wise, is a monstrous album which nearly exceeds the length of a singular CD. It is also the first album to have Troy as a full member of the band, and he makes his vocal debut for the band as well. This line up is pretty darn amazing, although they are down Jukka due to his insomnia he left the band as a performer but I believe he is still involved behind the scenes. The band had professor Richard Dawkins come in and read two of his quotes on the album in additon to one from Charles Darwin. The album is pretty safe in spots which is fair seeing as they are now on their third singer, and have 3 new members for this album comparred to the previous.

The album lets each Male singer take 2 tracks as duets with Floor, Marko's are the 2nd and 4th tracks, Weak Fantasy and Yours Is An Empty Hope both of which are on the heavier side of the bands music and the tracks are both solid overall, each having some really strong aspects but a few holding the back, Weak Fantasy brings in some of the folk/celtic elements and feels like it would be a bit better if it had room to breath like it would in a live show. While Yours Is An Empty Hope has a lackluster chorus and provides the band with another quicker rocker. Troy handles My Walden and Edema Ruh the former of which is pretty darn strong feeling like a follow up to I Want My Tears Back while the latter is the weakest song on the album in my books, which has a good chorus but isn't really great otherwise.

Floor shines through on this album, her vocals suit the band really well, although in some spots she really could knock it further out of the park. She is absolutely incredible on the lighter track Elan and the ballad Our Decade In The Sun is an absolutely amazing track showing off the beauty of her voice. But it isn't all soft and nice, Shudder Before The Beautiful and Alpenglow among others show her vocals in a more rock oriented approach, with Alpenglow having a darker feeling to it in spots. She is in top form throughout.

Finally we need to address the final two tracks, The Eyes Of Sharbat Gula is an instrumental which was meant to have vocals, I think it should have been saved for an upcoming album, it would have helped reduce the length of the whole album. The Greatest Show On Earth as a closer is too long, but it really doesn't fit at any other spot in the album. The track is strong but it is too long, part 4 seems pointless, while 1 takes up a little too long of a time. I think 2 and 3 are excellent components with 1 and 5 being good with nice uses of narration to bookend the track, it almost feels like this should have been given the Shine On Your Crazy Diamond treatment splitting it up to open and close the album. I think it will grow upon further listenes but it really is a bit self indulgent.

4 Stars

I haven't decided if I will do the additional disc on Human :ll: Nature just yet, I might count it as a bonus EP of sorts​
I haven't decided if I will do the additional disc on Human :ll: Nature just yet, I might count it as a bonus EP of sorts
I think you should, if only for your first listen through. The album segues together quite well between discs.
Good to note. Whats your album order right now for them?
1. Once
2. Century Child
3. HVMAN. :||: NATVRE.
4. Wishmaster
5. Endless Forms Most Beautiful
6. Dark Passion Play
7. Imaginaerum
8. Oceanborn
9. Angels Fall First

List was compiled by rating the songs and using averages. This changes all the time though so even right now I may feel differently. Only assurances are the #1 and #9 and every album is amazing so yeah.


I think the thing that has most disappointed me most about the evolution of heavy metal over the 40 years I've cared about it is its fragmentation — the increasing hyperfocus on one particular aspect of the genre, and the way most bands (or their fans) want to cling to that tight little box.

Many do what they do particularly well, but they are often specialists in particular niche holes, very good at providing what the fans that occupy that niche crave but providing little else. Some bands wallow in the aggression, some the despair, some the pomp and the glory. Some have embraced the melodies and shined them to a soulless sheen that may as well be pop. Some have embraced the technique and polished it to the point where the music is to be marveled at more than get lost in. Some have embraced the darkness until aught but violence or gloom remains.

I miss the versatility and accessibility of the classic era where Priest or Dio or Maiden would offer me the epic and the intimate, the frenetic and the pensive, the fantastic and the possible, the light and shade, and all of it in the same album. Or sometimes even the same song.

And then there is Unleash the Archers.

Abyss is one of few post-millennium metal albums willing to step outside the box of sub-genre and use a little bit of all things metallic in the service of the musical story it wants to tell. It sounds entirely like it was conceived and produced in 2020. But it is an old-school, diverse, widely-aimed blockbuster: big and bold, with a voice unafraid to embrace the band's formative elements, yet framing that integrity with all the considerable polish and technique that members have at their disposal.

The band's biggest weapon is vocalist Brittney Hayes: a versatile powerhouse able to sing in the same style of metal gods like Halford and Tate while also punching in their weight class. She's got the chops, but she's also got the tone and, just as importantly the conviction. I miss the virtuoso bass playing from the Apex album, but drummer Scott Buchanan keeps things grounded in metal with furious fills and eye-popping time changes. And while the twin guitars of Andrew Kingsley and Grant Truesdell can shred with the best of them (and have distinct voices) they never lose sight of the fact that it's the notes they play — and when they play them — that are more important than how fast. There are some tasty guitar riffs. But there are also synths, lots of synths, and songs that seem to be written on synths. And there are judiciously placed harsh vocals. And I'll be goddamned if these things don't function quite well in the service of the songs.

And that's what sets this record apart for me: all of this stuff is thoughtfully used in service of the songwriting, the way a movie director uses sets and lighting. It is the melodies and the compositions that stick with me, and the way they are showcased, structured and sequenced. Abyss was truly created to be enjoyed as an album, and it shows. It would feel like an epic sci-fi concept album even if you didn't know a word of the story. There are blistering metal tracks like "Return to Me" and "Soulbound," amphetamine-paced power metal songs like "Faster than Light", multi-part epics with irresistible choruses like "The Wind That Shapes the Land" and "Afterlife," and even a throwback to Dio's most commercial '80s moments in Carry the Flame. There are tracks that are going to appeal to different sensibilities, but they are all good. And they all land right in my ballpark even if it happens to be in different corners of that stadium.

Certainly my album of the past year and probably destined among my favourite ever by a band that is younger than me.

Immortal - Michael Schenker Group
Format: CD/Digital

Michael Schenker Group releases yet another album, this time back in the MSG name, as the guitar god has cycled through several names over the years but really it all boils down to the same thing when you think about it. Like the more recent Michael Schenker Fest albums this one features several lead singers primarily being Ralf Scheepers, Ronnie Romero, Joe Lynn Turner and Michael Voss while previous MSG singers Robin McAuley, Gray Barden and Doogie White also appear on the albums closing track. This revolving door of singers adds a ton of variety, but it also creates a lack of consistency throughout the albums, I'd almost rather Michael Schenker chose 1 or 2 of the singers to play on an album and release short and compact albums more frequently than cramming them all onto a single album.

Ralf's tracks are pretty good, they are on the quicker side and they are nice and solid hard rock tracks throughout, he only sings on two of the albums 10 tracks but I do think he is a pretty good fit for Michael's style of playing and his vocals compliment the melodic guitar work quite well. Joe Lynn Turner sadly is the weakest overall performance by a singer on the album, especially his first track of the album Don't Die On Me Now which sadly just makes him sound old, the man is 69 which makes sense but his vocals aren't so great here, the second track with him is stronger but from the list of 4 main singers his performance is the weakest. A side notes, this album is definetely back loaded with the last half being very consistent and better crafted as a whole when compared to the first half.

Ronnie Romero sings solo-lead on 3 tracks and is one of the four singers on the albums closer, his performance is strong throughout, he benefits the most from the multiple singer approach since his vocals can become grating when a full album is just him, good singer, well done songs and a strong overall quality. Michael Voss is my personal favourite of the 4 singers, his voice and songs call right back to the 80s and the power ballad After The Rain, he sings on the first half is my favourite track of the album. He wasn't supposed to sing on the album, only produce and make demo vocal recordings but I'm happy Schenker made him sing the songs he did. The album closes with In Search Of The Peace Of Mind, which features many of the former singers on it, a well done rendition of one of the first handful of tracks that Michael released when he was part of the Scorpions. Excellent rendition, I was iffy on the multiple vocals for this track but it is well done.

I wish that going forwards Michael will work further with these singers but primarily Robin McAuley and Michael Voss. Melodic and powerful singers with Schenker riffing beneath would be amazing.

3 Stars
I've held off on really listening to this band for the obvious issues associated with them right now but seeing as this album is on my shelf and it comes up in the next set of GMAC match ups. I figured I should give it a listen


Burnt Offerings - Iced Earth
Format: CD/Digital

Iced Earth returns with their third lead singer in 3 album Matt Barlow who would stay with the band for the next chunk of albums and their iconic live album Alive In Athens. Burnt Offerings is not an album I could have listened to two years ago, maybe not even 6 months ago, but I guess heavier music such as thrash is growing on me slowly. Burnt Offerings is a heavy and aggressive album, with excellent musicianship, there is no question about that. The album is a masterpiece.

Burnt Offerings is prettyy consistent throughout itself, with four tracks on the album that I would consider perfect, two near perfect and two tracks remaining as strong tracks. Burnt Offerings and Last December open up the album with a great one two punch and fall into the first catagory, strong and heavy, especially the former which features a call and answer vocal approach, between Barlow and Schaffer? if thats not the case then Barlow is incredible, well actually regardless he is. Last December is another excellent track and a quite a well done short rocker. The Pierced Spirit and Creators Failure round out the tracks which I feel are perfect from the album. Dante's Inferno, is a well done track, but for me it is too much at this point, the track is well constructed and a great epic but it didn't keep me the whole time so for me it falls into the catagory of strong but not great.

Musically the entire album is amazing, brilliant guitar work, a thundering bass, well placed keyboards and excellent drumming. All combined with the amazing vocals of Matt Barlow forming an excellent album.

5 Stars

Glad you like that album! For me it good a while to grow on me, though I loved “Dante’s Inferno” almost instantly. It’s definitely a dark and heavy work, but it’s a killer album. Might be my fave after Horror Show and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Also yeah, that’s Schaffer and Barlow taking turns at the mic during the title track.
Glad you like that album! For me it good a while to grow on me, though I loved “Dante’s Inferno” almost instantly. It’s definitely a dark and heavy work, but it’s a killer album. Might be my fave after Horror Show and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Also yeah, that’s Schaffer and Barlow taking turns at the mic during the title track.

Then they were brilliant at taking turns. I don't own any other Iced Earth, I'm hoping to find Something Wicked when I go record/cd shopping next weekend since the songs I have heard from it are great. Horror Show is on the list but isn't as important for me to find.