Friday, December 24, 2010

Heavy inspiration

Hopefully, you’ll forgive me for a little sappiness on Christmas. Since I’ve done the metal Christmas song bit a couple of times, I thought I’d try something a little different this year. Instead, I’m going for inspirational hard rock and metal tunes. I’m not talking about religious tunes (as some of the choices will clearly show) or, necessarily, songs that will inspire others. These are simply songs that have inspired or moved me for some particular reason over the years. Feel free to discuss your own in the comments section, if you wish.

“Believe,” Savatage. In my mind, this is one of the finest rock songs ever written – period. It’s amazing. It’s moving. And no matter my mood, it’s a song that always makes me feel better and more hopeful. It’s far from the only Savatage song that I find inspiring (at least half this list could have been from the band), but it’s far and away the most inspiring.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review: Athorn, "Phobia"

Phobia, the debut album from Germany’s Athorn, seems to be right up my alley. In the vein of a band like Kiuas, one of my favorite discoveries of the last 10 years or so, Athorn blends power metal melodics with thrash and groove and maybe just a little hint of death here and there. I love the combination, and while it’s not a perfect melding, Phobia is a very promising debut.

In the band’s heavier moments, they sound a lot like Lamb of God, particularly on second track “Emperor of Ruins.” There’s the chunky down-tuned riffing, and vocalist Carsten Frank doing his best Randy Blythe impression. But in the more majestic moments, there’s much that will win over the power and melodic metal crowd.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Review: Symphorce, "Unrestricted"

Fans of Symphorce are likely to be split on their latest record, Unrestricted. The album moves the band farther away from the progressive and symphonic elements of their earlier work and puts more of a straight-ahead hard rock spin on their sound.

Album opener “The Eternal” gives us a dark piano intro that sounds promising, but quickly moves into a groove-driven traditional metal/hard rock guitar riff. I like it, since I happen to be a fan of groove-driven hard rock, but those looking for the band’s old sound will likely be disappointed. “Whatever Hurts” takes the shift a step further, opening with a very 1980s hard rock influenced guitar riff. Vocalist Andy Franck also uses a more restrained vocal style on much of the record, particularly on this track. There’s a Nevermore-ish bent to “Whatever Hurts,” and his vocals sound a bit like a cross between Warrel Dane and Dave Mustaine. A huge memorable chorus on the song should win over just about any fan of melodic metal, though.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review: Circle II Circle, "Consequence of Power"

I’ll preface this review, as I usually do, by admitting to my fanboy admiration for Savatage and the projects of the various members. That said, Zakk Stevens’ Circle II Circle has never completely connected with me since the band’s best effort, their debut record Watching in Silence in 2003. Their last outing, 2008’s Delusions of Grandeur, might have done that if it hadn’t been for the awful mix on the record. Their latest effort, Consequence of Power, sounds much better than the previous, but still is a bit flat and dry in places.

Musically, though, there’s a nice mix here. Naturally, with Stevens’ vocals out front and in your face, there will be comparisons to Savatage, and as with past Circle II Circle efforts, there’s much of his old band. But he offers up some variety, too.