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[Album Review] Lord of the Lost – Weapons of Mass Seduction

For the uninitiated, Lord Of The Lost are a German band from Hamburg. Formed by frontman, Chris’s Harms in 2007 and initially meant as a solo project, but later evolved into a group. Their industrial / goth metal sound with fetish-adjacent imagery gets them a lot of attention, particularly in their homeland. They have earned themselves several top ten positions and even a number one chart placement over the years. While having a “cult following” Internationally, they have yet to break out of Europe in a big way, until now.

Barely one year after the release of their album, Blood and Glitter, Lord Of The Lost return with a new album released on December 29th, to close out a successful 2023.  

After representing Germany (and metal music in general) at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, England in May this year, and following that up with touring heavily during the Northern Hemisphere summer, Lord of the Lost surprise us with a new album made up entirely of cover songs.  

Weapons Of Mass Seduction opens with a 1993 Billy Idol rocker, Shock To The System, that powers along at a cracking pace and makes you want to get up and move. I made a mental note to add this to my “housework” playlist.  It’s a cracker of an opener! It’s followed up with the 2016 Sia hit song, Unstoppable, also a single from this album. It’s slightly darker than the original but Harms stays true to it.

Then Bronski Beat’s 1984 hit, Smalltown Boy, gets a darkwave makeover  where we hear Harms open up his harsh vocals for the first time. The next song starts and I am smiling as I recognise it as Judas Priest’s 1997 single,  Turbo Lover, a personal favourite of theirs, I sing along with Harms and by mid-way through I’m up and dancing. Harms honours Midge Ure’s vocal styling in the 1982 Ultravox song, Hymn. Next up is Give In To Me from the 1991 Michael Jackson album, Dangerous, sounding more goth than pop, followed by the 2018 single by Bishop Riggs, River which gets its bluesy roots styling eliminated and down tuned into more of a heavier rock ballad. The Keane 2004 banger Somewhere Only We Know gets a LotL style gothic revamp and then we get another 1980s hit with Cutting Crew’s 1986 number one hit,  (I Just) Died In Your Arms. LotL have made it into a duet with Berlin-based Independant Darkpop / Soft Rock singer Anica Russo. Russo is probably best known for her previous collaboration with Adam Lambert. Her sweet vocals harmonising with Harms’ gothic tones give the song a darkwave pop vibe. Next Lord Of The Lost tackle the 2015 Zella Day song, High, giving it a metal treatment with some harsh vocals. The album is rounded out with the 2014 Pretty Reckless song, House On The Hill with the original’s acoustic guitars being swapped for a piano intro that turns into a heavy rock ballad.

Weapons Of Mass Seduction is an eclectic mix of pop and rock tunes that comes off being surprisingly cohesive. However, I suspect that fans of Lord Of The Lost might find this album on the “lite” side of their usual sound. 

Vocalist, Chris Harms, has an approachable vocal style that has a nice measure of husk and grit.  Harm’s deep baritone gives dark, gothic vibes, especially when coupled with the heavily down-tuned guitars and darkwave-style keyboards. His use of harsh growls and screams are used (very) sparingly on this album, but fits perfectly when applied. I could have actually enjoyed more ‘grit and grunt’ had they been added. Overall, Weapons Of Mass Seduction is an accessible album, loaded with familiar tracks that are obviously aimed at a wider audience and I suspect that this was planned on the heels of their Eurovision appearance. 

A good one to dip your toe into the LotL discography.  

Weapons of Mass Seduction is released on December 29th 2023 and is available on all streaming services and in several different versions of CD and Vinyl through Napalm Records

Track list:— 

Shock To The System – Billy Idol cover

Unstoppable – Sia cover 

Smalltown boy – Bronski Beat cover

Turbo Lover – Judas Priest cover

Hymn – Ultravox cover

Give In To Me – Michael Jackson cover

River – Bishop Briggs cover

Somewhere Only We Know – Keane cover

(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight [ft Anica Russo] – Cutting Crew cover

High – Zella Day cover

House On A Hill – The Pretty Reckless cover

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Cradle of Filth – Trouble and Their Double Lives

With the release of a Live album, you need to make sure that the production of each recording is top notch and that the songs were played spot on, unless there is a planned deviation from the original. Trouble and Their Double Lives, Cradle of Filth’s second Live album ever, since Live Bait for the Dead in 2002, is a compilation of live recordings spanning between 2014 – 2019, which brings you some of your favourite COF tracks live from across the globe.

The song choices for this album are a solid line up of classic Cradle of Filth, although it is missing some of my personal favourites, it’s still a great track list from start to finish. They have included Honey and Sulphur and Death of Love off Godspeed on the Devils Thunder, which I think has some amazing tracks that we never really get to hear live. Promise of Fever, off Damnation and a Day, a stand up heavy track on the Cradle spectrum makes the cut as well, another album I’d love to see more of live. The 11 minute track, Bathory Aria is placed about halfway through the album, such an incredible track and they do it well live.

Trouble and Their Double Lives starts off with one of the latest singles She Is A Fire, which is a new Cradle concoction bringing a great introduction to the next studio albums direction. For those of you who haven’t listened to it yet, it is along similar lines to the last couple of albums writing and production style. There is a cheeky second single halfway through the album Demon Prince Regent, there was a live footage video clip release alongside the album release. This track is incredibly melodic and heavy, another nice mix of a song to give further insight to the new direction. Cradle of Filth have been one of my favourite bands for the last 20 years, I have enjoyed the different approaches to each album, the concepts, the art, some of them have worked and some of them haven’t but it has always been them and I’m excited to hear what they come out with next.

Dani Filth is one of my all-time favourite front men, he wears the mantle well and in the last decade where I have seen them come out to Australia, I have seen him deal with hecklers, stage issues and poor crowd involvement and every time he has managed to turn it around. It’s good to hear some of the stage persona on this album as well as just his vocal work.

Listening to these live tracks brings back all the memories of the past shows I’ve seen. It’s great to reminisce on their shows, Nymphetamine will always make me think of watching a crowd slow dance, multiple couples, hand in hand, in the moment, dancing to gothic metal, I love being in this scene. There are tracks on here that cater to all Cradle of Filth fans, from all or most eras. Go out and get this Live album to tide you over until there is the release of a new studio album!

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Kamelot – The Awakening

Kamelot are an International Symphonic Power Metal Band. I say International because Founding member Thomas Youngblood is an American, as is Bassist, Sean Tibbetts, then there is German Keyboardist, Oliver Palotai, German drummer Alex Landenburg and Swedish singer, Tommy Karevik. 

Kamelot formed in 1987 by guitarist / composer Youngblood, in Tampa, Florida, USA. There have been numerous member changes throughout the years, one of the most notable is singer/songwriter Roy Khan who was in the band from 1998-2011, referred by many as ”The Khan Era”. To this day, you would be hard pressed to find a KamFan who didn't have a soft spot for Roy Khan and the contribution and legacy that Khan left with Kamelot. So in 2011 when Khan suddenly quit the band, it was some huge shoes for the relatively unknown Swedish vocalist, Karevik to fill. Tommy Karevik joined Kamelot as a fully fledged member of the band in 2012 for their 12th album (10th studio), Silverthorn.  The Awakening is Kareviks fifth Kamelot album, (fourth studio album). His other band, Swedish prog metal outfit, Seventh Wonder, released a cracking album in June 2022, The Testament,  followed by some touring, so now, it's all systems go for The Awakening album release and World Tour, starting now, in Europe. 

The last album from Kamelot was 2018’s The Shadow Theory and then during covid-struck 2020, we got the live album, I AmThe Empire. So, it's been well over four years since we've heard new music from Youngblood and co. 

The Awakening opens with the now expected, orchestral instrumental intro track, Overture – Intro, which invariably leads right into a pounding fist-to-the-face power metal track, this time it is called The Great Divide. Midway through after a smoking lead guitar solo by Youngblood, Tommys beautiful voice breaks through to sing the bridge, “… come break my bones, don't leave me dying, sticks and stones won't have me crying, even if I fall, I will keep trying, you will see my wings unfold…” the vocal laying is stunning, this leads us into the chorus and key change until the songs end. Its Kamelot is all their glorious epicness and I just bought up all the tickets for this ride. Next up is the new single, Eventide, a power metal track complete with machine gun drums and beautifully heavy guitar riffing. It has a catchy chorus and I find myself humming and singing along,“Shine your light in Eventide, Companion til all hope has died, Until life and death will reunite, Your song shall guide me through, My house of pain”. Then it's time for the first single, One More Flag In The Ground.  An anthemic song designed for fist-punching the air, “I am a soldier, I'm marching into battle, I am a warrior and this is my creed, One More Flag In The Ground.” I can easily imagine that this song is well received live, enticing the audience to sing along loudly. It's also perfect for a sporting event. A rousing and relentless anthem. The fourth track is the second single, Opus Of The Night (Ghost Requiem). This is a kind of part two to the song Ghost Opera from the 2007 album with the same name. Where some fans were divided on whether or not they liked the first single, the second was well received by most who found its harkening back to a much loved album, a lovely piece of nostalgia. This track also features cello by Tina Guo. I love this song and I sing along to the chorus,  “Rise to the queen of the symphony, watch her step into the light, Surrender your heart to the melody, She’ll sing to you the Opus of the Night”. Right at the end, Tommys breath brings a lump to my throat. Midsummer's Eve begins with a piano and strings intro, again featuring cellist Tina Guo. It has a celtic feel to it, then Karevik’s stunning voice breaks through, “Still unkissed, maiden of mist, don't let your soul go to waste, come pain, come grief, come precious relief, memories fade in the dark …”. It's a beautiful, sweet, romantic ballad that pulls at the heartstrings. The piano, violin, cello and acoustic guitar give it a “stripped down, acoustic” feel , but this is a full production track, complete with orchestration. Tommy has a real knack for putting so much emotion into his vocals, and this song is a prime example of that.  Around the 2:45 – 3:25 mark, there's a beautiful cello solo by Tina Guo that Wednesday Addams would love. And then Tommy sings us through to the luscious end. Bloodmoon begins with strings and a disco beat drum, I'm having Saturday Night Fever flashbacks until Youngbloods crunching guitars come in and we are back in metal territory. There are some catchy melodies on this track, both vocal and guitar. “I am burning the letters I wrote in my mind, To silence the voices that haunt me”. The more I listen to this song, the more it grows on me. It's kind of funky. It's a vibe.  Nightsky begins with a futuristic sounding synth that bounces from left to right. I have immersive headphones on and this sounds so cool, then the drums and bass kick in with the choir and I'm transported into the dark of night. In the second verse, Tommy sings “Even in the small-all-all-est vibrations, I am there, the whisper in your veins, To run like the river..”. The way he sings that word  “smallest” is just delicious. Next is The Looking Glass, and we are deep in power metal land now. The drums are driving the song and the guitars and bass chug. The title makes me think of Alice In Wonderland and this song definitely feels like Alice just fell through the rabbit hole and into a metal gig. Alice is in the moshpit with the white rabbit and the mad hatter and then I realise we are at the pre chorus, and it's so catchy, as Karevik sings “I'm making my way through the shallows, I'm washing the ashes away”, Youngblood plays a fantastic little guitar riff over the top of his vocals and it's like earcandy, I need more so I go back and repeat that bit a few times. Yummy!. I really love the lyrics, too. “What if the heart was never broken, How can we stand up and walk, If we never learn how to fall, and what if the truth was left unspoken, There's a way for us all, To make peace with the pain”. Wow!  New Babylon opens with choral and symphonic bombass. The kind I love. I knew I was going to enjoy this track, but I wasn't prepared for just how much.  This song features the vocal stylings of Melissa Bonny of Ad Infinitum. Ad Infinitum have a new album due to be released on March 31st, and are currently touring Europe supporting Kamelot, so Bonny is performing this and other songs with Kamelot each night.  Kamelot loves to play with the beauty and the beast concept, by twisting it on its end and having harsh vocals performed by women contrasted with the sweetness of Tommys poppier vocal style.  Ms Bonny does a stirling job on this track. This is the masterpiece song of the album. It's HUGE! It's big and bombastic, in your face, chaotic  and unapologetic. It's exhausting just listening to it, so to follow it with the power ballad, Willow is perfect. This is Kareviks lane. He has the perfect voice for a ballad, singing with deep emotion,  “Thank you for your humble grace, So motherly the love you gave me, In your care I grew to be, The man I have become”. The final song on The Awakening with lyrics is My Pantheon (Forevermore). Tommys expressive voice leading the way to power and symphony. Heavy drums and guitars juxtapose piano. “Born into violence, Our tethered souls, Keep asking questions why…”. Bonny’s clean and harsh vocals feature on this track also. The album rounds out with another instrumental, Ephemera – Outro, which I'm sure will be the song Kamelot will use to exit the stage after their performance. It's a big orchestral and choral soundscape that would fit easily on a movie soundtrack.  

I'm a KamFan, I love both Khan and Karevik’s vocal styles, and their original bands, Conception and Seventh Wonder. I also love the drummer's other project, Cyhra with Jake E. I love Epica, Amaranthe, Arch Enemy, and Ad Infinitum – in fact, all the female fronted bands who have toured with Kamelot and vocalists who have shared the stage with them during particular songs. Everything about this band is my vibe, so I've been looking forward to hearing new music from Thomas Youngblood since before the pandemic. It has definitely been a lesson in patience.  I've been excitedly awaiting the release day of The Awakening all year. Counting down three singles that have been released and finally I am hearing the album in full from Intro to Outro. I have to admit this makes me so happy. I'm bubbling with joy at hearing this album.

As with all Kamelot albums, the listener is taken away on an epic soundscape, often otherworldly by design. The choral and symphonic orchestration brings a lush atmosphere to the overall sound of the album.  Thomas Youngblood is a gifted composer and he has a real talent for finding the right players to execute his music beautifully. The production is top notch, as we've come to expect, with Sasha Paeth once again at the helm doing an incredible job of bringing it all together perfectly. I'm not an engineer or drummer, but the mix on the drums is primo. I don't know if this is because of the style of newest member, drummer Alex Landenburg, or if it is just the way they wanted it mixed this time, either way, I love it. Sean Tibbetts bass and the drums hold the power metal together and Oliver Palotai’s keyboards and Thomas Youngbloods guitar riffs fill in the missing pieces to present us with a stunning symphony.

Tommy Karavik is an amazing singer/songwriter. I've enjoyed listening to his evolution as a member of Kamelot. With each album, he seems to be injecting more and more of himself into the Kamelot soundscape. His vocal gymnastics are beyond impressive. I really love how he has respectfully adopted some of the vocal “Khan-isms” that older fans originally gravitated to. The background vocals and layering are fantastic. With The Awakening, Tommy has pulled out all the stops to take the listener on the album's emotional journey and he does it with aplomb. 

Before I had even listened to the entire album, based just on the three singles alone, I was already rating this album as one of 2023’s highlights, and now, … I stand by it.  It was totally worth the wait! And now it's on high rotation in my home. The Awakening by Kamelot is available on all streaming platforms and good music stores, released on the 17th of March through Napalm Records. 

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Delain – Dark Waters

DELAIN is a Dutch female-fronted symphonic metal band formed in 2002 and is the brainchild of former Within Temptation keyboardist, Martjin Westerholt. They have just recorded their seventh full length album. As a person who loves the Symphonic metal genre I've enjoyed the DELAIN albums in the past, Apocalypse and Chill (2020) being their standout for me.

In case you're not aware,  long story short … in February 2021 four members of the band left en masse, leaving only the original founding member, Martjin Westerholt. For the most part it seemed the split was amicable and done quietly and as classy as these situations allow.  There was some speculation as to why four members would just up and quit the band when they seemed to have finally hit their stride as a group, but most people simply figured it was just another casualty of covid and lockdowns.

In February 2021, Westerholt posted on the official DELAIN instagram account, “For the last year or so, the collaboration within the band ceased to work as well as it once had. Some of us were no longer happy with the current roles in the band. We all tried very hard to find a solution for over a year but sadly we are unable to find one. As a result we will all be going our own ways and pursuing our own endeavours”. You don't expect to hear from a band again once there's a mammoth split like that, but in June 2021, Martjin Westerholt made an announcement that DELAIN will be continuing with a new lineup and they were working on a new album.  Westerholt has brought back the original drummer and guitarist and added some new talent, most notably, new vocalist, Romanian born Italian resident, Diana Leah (Diana Orga). Leah, 32, was previously known as a Dance / Trance vocalist.  All of this considered, when I put the new DELAIN album on my list of albums I'd like to review, I did so out of curiosity. Not sure what to expect. 

On the 9th August 2022 The Quest And The Curse was released as the brand new single and music video for the brand new DELAIN, and introducing the brand new vocalist.  It was followed on November 29 by a second single, Beneath featuring singer Paolo Ribaldini. January 10th 2023 saw the third single released, Moth To A Flame. The new album, DARK WATERS, is finally released on Friday, so here’s my thoughts. 

Dark Waters begins with Hideaway Paradise, a rock tune with a pop sensibility that suits Diana's voice perfectly, it's a toe-tapper and great track to open the album, that easily leads into the epic symphonic bombass of The Quest and The Curse, with its catchy hooks that get you singing along and banging your head. The introduction of choral chanting and Diana's lilting vocals had me smiling, ahh, now this is more my vibe. Leading us straight into second single, Beneath, featuring vocals by Italian born Helsinki based, Paolo Ribaldini (Skiltron, Beast In Black, Rhapsody Of Fire) begins with an ocean soundscape setting the scene for the theme of the song then introducing crunching guitars and driving rhythm by the bass and drums. I particularly enjoy the background vocals on this track, which add to the atmosphere of the song. The last minute of the song is my favourite moment of the album. Mirror Of Night featuring Within Temptation guitarist Ruud Jolie is a heavy power ballad complete with choir backing and a piano and vocal interlude leading to a big keychange taking us through to the song's end. The drama continues as Tainted Hearts starts with drums and a choral introduction before Diana enters the song with a Sharon den Adel-esque melodyline and vocal sound. The Cold is a classic symphonic metal track. Opening with a big, full sounding orchestra and choral chanting, leading into the distorted riffy guitars and heavy drum and bass rhythm, you can feel this is epic. This soundscape is bold and lush. Ending at a modest 4:37 I could have easily listened to another minute or so of that. Next up is latest single, Moth To A Flame, a song which Diana Leah says is “a song about being addicted to a situation or a person that you know is not that good for you but you keep going back to relive the excitement or pain of that time.” It starts with Leah singing acapella, the guitar riff sounds familiar and I suddenly have Separate Ways by Journey stuck in my head. This is a very approachable up-tempo track that is classic rock 101 with catchy hooks and rhythms that will have you humming and drumming along. An obvious choice for a single. Of Queen Of Shadow, Diana says “is about someone who is living stuck in the past and can't seem to break free of it.“ Orchestral synth leads the way to catchy guitar riffs and a heavy rock sound and then the song suddenly takes a wonderful turn and becomes a duet with Paolo Ribaldini. It's like honey to my ears, so I play it again. Then it's time for Invictus opening with heavy orchestration, choral chanting and guitar chug. Leah's voice comes in low and ominous “you're heading towards your own destruction…”, ooh so this is the “dark” part of the album. Well, no, not really, however, the song progresses into a heavy track with Paolo Ribaldini and Marko Hietala’s (ex-Nightwish, Tarot, Northern Kings) throaty rasp adding some masculine texture to the vocals which really makes this track quite delicious. The album closes out with Underland another atmospheric song with choir and synth orchestration. Nice clean pop-rock style vocals. There's a cool guitar hook and chuggy riff a’la Nightwish. It's a great way to round out the album and come full circle. The fade out at the end tho, sorry, not a fan.   

DELAIN has always had this interesting dichotomy of symphonic metal juxtaposed with other genres of metal and even elements of softer rock and pop. Unlike other, similar bands in the genre who tend to stick pretty close and true to the symphonic metal borderline, DELAIN seemed to enjoy mixing things up a bit on previous albums, and this is what set them apart and made them interesting. With Dark Waters, it seems that they are staying firmly within the boundaries this time. Dare I say, playing it a bit safe? The tracks lead into each other and create a soundscape atmosphere, which is great if you're going to listen to the album from go to woah. For the purists, they will approve of this move as this album feels like there is more cohesion compared to past ones. To the ones who enjoyed that “whoa, where'd that come from” aspect in the past, you may be disappointed. For fans of previous singer, Charlotte Wessels’ vocal style and tone, rest assured, DELAIN is in safe hands with Diana Leah, who holds her own and does a stellar job of stepping in as the new vocalist. While I listened to Dark Waters, there were times I forgot that there was a new singer, it feels like a pretty seamless change of players, and with the rejoining of the original guitarist and drummer, this feels more like a revamp than a total makeover. I'm pleasantly surprised at how much this album has grown on me. If you enjoy this genre of music, or are a fan of DELAIN’s previous work then I recommend you definitely check out DELAIN – Dark Waters available on all streaming platforms from Thursday 9th February and instore and online through NAPALM RECORDS.

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Xandria – The Wonders Still Awaiting

XANDRIA, are a chart-topping, German, female-fronted Symphonic Metal band formed by Guitarist / Keyboardist / Composer, Martin Heubaum in 1994. Throughout the years there have been various lineup changes, including five different singers. Ambre Vourvahis was announced as the latest singer to join XANDRIA in May 2022 when the band posted a music video of their new single, Reborn. Along with a new singer, Bassist Tim Schwarz, Drummer Dimitrios Gatsios and Guitarist Rob Klawonn were announced as the new and current lineup. The single’s title seems apt since the entire band except for one member has been replaced thus bringing a rebirth to the band.  

In September 2022 a second single and music video was released, You Will Never Be Our God featuring Primal Fear frontman, Ralf Scheepers. Then in November a third single and music video, Ghosts was released and the band announced that their eighth studio album, titled The Wonders Still Awaiting, was to be released – the first in six years – on 3rd February 2023 through Napalm Records. Shortly after, they released yet another music video for the title track, The Wonders Still Awaiting. On January 31st one more single and music video, this time for the opening track, Two Worlds, dropped, so if I am counting this correctly, of the thirteen tracks on the album, five of them are singles all with accompanying music videos. That’s ALOT of hype to live up to!

Lyrically, this album was inspired by the recent pandemic where questions regarding dystopian society and treating each other with respect were brought to our attention. This seems to be a common theme with many  bands who have already or are in the process of releasing new albums post-pandemic. This is not a criticism, merely an observation. It appears to me that the covid restrictions and lockdowns have had an impact on the general vibe of current music being released, especially the lyric themes, and it has brought a certain darkness to the energy of the music.

XANDRIA have gone all out on this album in order to create an epic, dark, heavy, cinematic sound. With the implementation of a 40-piece classical choir in The Bulgarian National Radio Children’s Choir, authentic Celtic instruments, Primal Fear frontman Ralf Scheepers, violin and cello performed by Subway For Sally’s Ally Storch, and orchestrations by Lukas Knobl, they are sparing no expense and they are leaving no stone unturned in presenting the biggest, boldest, most bombastic symphonic metal release of 2023. It’s early in the year, but XANDRIA have definitely thrown down the gauntlet with this album and it appears that Napalm are backing them to the hilt. I strongly suspect that this is going to be an interesting journey of discovery into the new XANDRIA ….

The Wonders Still Awaiting opens with the latest single, Two Worlds, an epic 7:09 minutes of symphonic proggy-ness with double-kick drums and driving guitar layered with a 40 piece choir and the soaring vocals of Ambre Vourvahis, with lyrics such as “Around every corner now, Orwell’s next dystopia, Is this world the closer one, Chosen over wonders? How can all these dreams prevail? It’s such a fragile hope, Cause a spark can give such light but also burn it all”.It asks the listener what kind of world do they want to live in and as an opening track, it’s definitely a statement. I’m intrigued to hear more.

Moving into Reborn Ambres vocals travel from melodic pop-rock to operatic and back while the choir sings sweetly behind her. It’s an anthem for a band ‘reborn’.

You Will Never Be Our God is a power metal track, the orchestration and choir are given a rest and the guitar, bass and drums drive the rhythm, featuring harsh vocals by Ralf Scheepers of Primal Fear, this is where 80’s heavy metal meets Arch Enemy. This is a song about human rights.

Next is the album title track, The Wonders Still Awaiting. This gives me Nightwish (circa Anette Olzen) feels. Ambres voice soars, as she reminds us that there is still beauty in the world and not to give up on hope. The chorus tells us “Fly far away, Goodbye, until your last day, See the stars, Hear the melodies play, The notes that show us the way”.

Ghosts rockets along then around 3:36 the song suddenly slows and quiets for the bridge until 4:15 where unexpectedly, the angelic voice of Ambre suddenly turns demonic. “Ghosts actually started as a reminiscence to good old Swedish melodic death metal and with that archetypical guitar riff that you hear right in the beginning. And then we integrated it into our XANDRIA soundscape with lots of film score atmosphere and big choirs…”

Your Stories I’ll Remember is a sentimental and emotional power ballad. With the use of traditional Celtic instruments it gives it that “ye olde worlde” atmosphere while Vourvahis holds our hand and tells us, “All these moments I’ll remember, All the stories that you’ve shared with me, I will never get to hear your voice again, But they’ll stay,…”.

My Curse Is My Redemption starts softly, “I’m on my way, but still it stays, I’m walking in silence, For no-one to see, There’s nowhere to go from here…” as it builds into an epic cinematic track. Vourvahis’ vocals rock the song into the keychange while the choir gently backs her.

Illusion is Their Name pulsating double-kick drums drive this song about the powerful deceiving the world with their lies. “I have been holding the key, And I won’t give up my life anymore, To slavery of your kind, We have been waiting so long to be free, To finally see, The truth of this grand design…”  Ambre executes this with equal measure of death growl and melodic vocals.

Paradise brings some relief from the previous songs frenetic drumming and at a slower pace, has a melodic metal-pop sensibility with strong hooks.

Mirror Of Time is a song about hope and despair and everything in between. The tale is told with clean vocals layered with death growls, thumping drums, and intense orchestration. The last 1:40  Ambre builds to the end, her voice reaching higher and higher, layered with the screaming lead guitar solo.

Scars begins with a futuristic-synth sound that would be comfortable on an Ayreon track. Enter the strings – they build in intensity as guitars take over and the death growls blanket the melodic clean vocals. There is a rhythmic heaviness to the song as it ends with an intimate whisper, “It’s never enough” by Vourvahis. 

With chorale chanting punctuating the melody line The Maiden and the Child begins its aural assault as double-kick drums set the pace and the sweet vocals of Vourvahis commences. The death growls two-thirds of the way through, reintroduces the chanting again, along with Ambres vocal melody line building to the conclusion.

Asteria returns the listener to the prog metal influence with a whopping 9:08 mins of epicness.  This track evokes images of an ancient place with a Middle-Eastern violin and zither sound, it begins with chorale chanting and heavy orchestration. Ambre starts to sing, “I came from far away to save my soul..” and we are taken on this final journey of the album. Pulsating double-kick drums, distorted guitar, death growls, and chanting, this is a song that would fit comfortably on an Epica album. Vourvahis sings some of the vocals in Greek, lyrics written by her. It’s big, bold and epic. This track is the exclamation mark at the end of the album!

Ambre Vourvahis brings to XANDRIA an impressive vocal wealth from sweet pop, to gritty rock, to operatic highs and death metal growl lows. If you wondered why she was chosen to be the new lead vocalist, a listen to this album should give you a satisfactory answer. She has the ability to carry the listener on the journey with her, expressing the emotion of the song beautifully.

The Wonders Still Awaiting is an album interspersed with many influences, rich in different styles and genres while still staying within the boundaries of the Symphonic metal genre. It’s brash, bombastic and unapologetic. Often resembling a film score. With a live choir, orchestration by a Hollywood heavyweight, integrated with different instrumentation, coupled with guest appearances by respected artists, a lead vocalist who can sing clean, operatic and harsh vocals, a rhythm section that keeps a cracking pace, guitars and keys that colour and fill each track to tell the story of each song, I can imagine Martin Haubaum must be smiling because XANDRIA have their proof right here that they are indeed, Reborn. 

XANDRIA online:





Napalm Records

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Katatonia – Sky Void of Stars

If you listen to the void, you will be able to hear incredible things. Once you think you’ve heard everything it has to offer, you will find something else that will draw you in even deeper. Welcome to Katatonia’s, Sky Void of Stars. Katatonia have covered a lot musical soundscapes in their 22 years of playing and now they take the very stars from the sky and leave us with a stellar album, filled with Jonas’ incredible voice and melodies behind him that will have you headbanging, swaying or singing along from start to finish.

Three years since the previous album, City of Burials, Sky Void of Stars follows a similar writing style and production. This album is just as crisp and clean as you would expect from these gents, with arrangements that just form and melt into another for a smooth journey that will have you questioning where some songs are left off or begin.

The first three singles, Birds, Austerity and Atrium are great choices for Sky Void of Stars, they all give elements of what to expect out of the album, giving a good overview to anyone who hasn’t listened to Katatonia before and are wanting just great songs to chuck on any prog rock playlist. Birds has a great bass driven verse section, I always fall for a good bass tone, it’s an incredibly melodic song that will hook you in from the get go. Atrium is a bit more poppy with a big chorus and open guitar playing, a bit more atmosphere about this song and Austerity being the album opener, it has everything a song needs bring its listener to focus, rock riff straight out of the gate, catchy vocal melodies and hints of things yet to come.

My personal favourite track was Colossal Shade, a heavy rock song that kicks in with a fair amount of melody as well. It plays on a duality of light and dark very well, you have a solid rock riff and drum beat that kicks in to a low heavy chugg pre chorus then into a big chorus with strong vocals that match each mood perfectly. I had this song on repeat quite a bit. Impermanence was another track that stood out to me, this track was maybe the most epic or cinematic sounding off the album. There was so much in this track that I had it on repeat to make sure I could hear everything. Guided by a slower guitar riff that dances between clean and distorted to then bring in an amazing guitar solo just adds to the flow of the album, a standout track for sure.

Speaking on duality, this album has an equal amount of both light and dark moments. You have a few heavy rock songs but then you also have your quieter, melodic songs like Drab Moon, with a slower pace that lets the drummer shine. This guy nails everything about this album, his drumming fits all moods. The more I listened, the more I found little cymbal or tom rolls that just get captured in the mix that make it all the more interesting. Dynamics are an integral part of this bands playing and overall sound. I can’t imagine a song that doesn’t have a flow or certain arrangement style to it.

This is such an easy album to just put on a rock out to. There’s enough here to keep you entertained from a background music vibe but then you get a hell of a lot more in the writing and playing when sitting there paying attention. I really hope there is a Katatonia tour on the horizon, two albums have now been released since they were here, and I would love to see these songs live. Go and check this album out now!

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