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Ravenheart Reviews: Archived

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BEYOND FORGIVENESS...'THE FERRYMAN'S SHORE' EP

(Self Released) Reviewed 19th February 2016

Beyond Forgiveness is female fronted Gothic/Symphonic Metal band from Fountain, Colorado. Melding musical influences from all metal genres mainly of European influence, Beyond Forgiveness mixes styles of doom metal, death metal and power metal with lush symphonic orchestrations and powerful lyrical concepts. Fronted by Talia Holt, this little piece of plastic is rather good, confirming the belief that the American bands are at least trying to gain a footing at playing the Europeans at their own game. This is I would call a beauty & the beast release, angelic/operatic female vocals blending in with male growls, in what is at times a complex musical environment, appealing to the listener that likes their music towards the heavier end of the spectrum. A consistently good record throughout nonetheless, with the closing epic 8 minute plus ‘Your Haunting Eyes’ one of my fave numbers. Well worth looking into - facebook here… 8.25/10 (Hannah Cooper)

BEYOND GOD...'DARK LIGHT OF DAWN' EP

(Self Release) Reviewed 1st September 2014

Beyond God fronted by Cynthia Knoch, is a female fronted Symphonic Metal band from yep, you've guessed it.... The Netherlands. And this EP offers up 4 tracks of rather decent Symphonic Metal. Okay, it can be said that this style of music is being done over and over again by many bands, and to an extent that is true, but if it is good, I basically do not give a toss! And this is rather good! The opener 'Destination Darkness' has a near cinematic intro before the song proper kicks in, and is a mid paced Symphonic Rocker to sink your teeth into. Next up 'Memories' has a choral intro reminding me of something from The Vatican, and is another rather cool slow to mid paced song with an acoustic undercurrent - great vocals from Cynthia! Third up, the up tempo 'Passion' offers up passionate and at times operatic vocals, while closer 'Nocturne' is a nice piano led ballad to end proceedings. If you like Within Temptation, Delain, Nightwish and the like, this I will imagine will be right up your alleyway. Check out the band's Facebook here... 8.5/10 (Aimee)

BEYOND GOD…’A MOMENT OF BLACK’

(JBM Events) Reviewed 8th April 2016

Beyond God come from the Netherlands, and released an EP ’Dark Light Of Dawn’ in 2014 that we reviewed on this very site. Now we have the full length offering, that features the 4 tracks on that aforementioned EP plus a further 7 riff-tastic numbers to wrap our ears around. And very good it is too. The EP featured Cynthia Knoch on vocals, but in 2015 Meryl Foreman replaced Cynthia. Anyway, with Meryl now taking the mic stand, and after an instrumental intro that seems to be the norm now on many albums of this style, first track proper on this record ’Prince Creep’ kicks in, a great Symphonic number with an awesome choral back drop. ‘Sail Away Upon A Cloud’ maintains the Symphonics but with a progressive undercurrent. And this incredible full length debut continues with numbers like the lovely ballads ‘Nocturne’, ‘Memories’ and ‘Cursed‘, the bombastic prowess of ‘Destination Darkness’ and ‘Ghost Ship’, and the epic sounding closer ‘Passion’. If you like the female fronted bands that come out of the Netherlands that shall remain nameless (you know who they are), then you will like this album, no doubt about it. This is a very good record from a very promising band. Check their website out here.. 8.75/10 (Dave)

BEYOND THE BLACK...'SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH'

(Airforce1 Records) Reviewed 21st May 2015

BEYOND THE BLACK is a female fronted Symphonic/Gothic Metal band from Mannheim in Germany, that was formed by 19-year-old Jennifer Haben along with some of her buddies. This is their debut and to be perfectly honest, this is a corker of an album. Similarities are apparent with bands such as Within Temptation and Nightwish, but hell, that can only be a good thing. The opening duo of 'In The Shadows' and 'Songs Of Love and Death' kick things off, and you will not get a better opening salvo of songs on many albums throughout this coming year (2015). And it doesn't stop there, 'Unbroken' slows things down but is equally as awesome, a real tear jerker of a power ballad - stunning!! 'When Angels Fall' picks up the pace flirting with Power Metal territory at times, but certainly a strong Symphonic Metal number in the process! 'Pearl In A World Of Dirt' is a beautiful ballad featuring Hannes Braun from the band KISSIN' DYNAMITE, while 'Hallelujah' opens slowly showcasing Jennifer's wonderful awesome voice, before it kicks off big time in Power Metal fashion. 'Running To The Edge' is an absolute melodic thumper, with the epic 'Numb' maintaining the melodic momentum of the previous number - amazingly good!! The band is motoring and this is confirmed by another stunning tune in 'Drowning In Darkness'!! 'Afraid Of The Dark' with subtle harsh male vocals within it's melodic chorus is another whopper, and the melodic sensibilities continue with the penultimate song 'Fall Into Flames'. The ballad 'Love Me Forever' (a MOTORHEAD cover) closes this breathtaking album so to summarise: I sometimes wonder whether BEYOND THE BLACK may have arrived into a saturated female fronted Symphonic Metal music scene a little too late, BUT nonetheless, if you are into bands like NIGHTWISH, EVANESCENCE, XANDRIA, DELAIN or WITHIN TEMPTATION (and the like) and you have not already got this, then buy now!! Simply a stunning masterpiece from an awesome band!.. 10/10 (Dave)

BEYOND THE BLACK...'LOST IN FOREVER'

(Airforce1) Reviewed 15th February 2016

'Lost In Forever' is the second studio album by the German Symphonic Metal band Beyond the Black, who is fronted by Jennifer Haben (ex-Saphir). This is the first album we believe by the band to feature all six band members instead of studio and guest musicians. Beyond the Black was conceived in 2014, released their first album 'Songs Of Love and Death' in 2015, and now we are barely in 2016 and this is their sophomore effort, so to say that the band has been sitting around doing nothing would be rather untrue. And throw into all that the gigs that the band has been partaking in as well, and it seems they are busy little bees. When I reviewed their debut album, I gave it a max score, therefore, I have indeed set the benchmark for this album! Okay, here goes... when Within Temptation changed their musical direction to a rather more rockier approach, they left a void, that was screaming to be filled by a band of some description from somewhere on this planet. Many have taken up the mantle, but none as much as Beyond the Black, who have taken up that mantle and have succeeded, but with a sound of their own, if that makes sense. This 13 track album is a sure fire winner, not a filler in sight, every track a killer - how do they do it? And they are so young! Jennifer I believe will be 21 in July. I am not going to sit here and highlight individual tracks, why bother, let me just say that everything on this record is from the top drawer, and this band must surely be staring at worldwide domination. I like this, I like it a lot, it is melodic, it is symphonic, it is bombastic and if the visitors to this website bought just one album this year, this has to be the one!! Enough said!!! 10/10 (Dave)

BEYOND VIOLET...'FROZEN WORDS' EP

(Ravenheart Music) Reviewed 13th Feb 2014

Beyond Violet is a new Ravenheart Music acquisition and they offer up here five tracks of rather good Rock & Metal. The band combines catchy melodies with an aggressive edge and a harmonically rich, theatrical sound, being strongly influenced by Melodic Rock and Metal bands such as Lacuna Coil, Evanescence, Rammstein, Unsun, Sirenia, Within Temptation and Muse, as well as early progressive rock and new wave. Fronted by the angelic and rather nice vocals of Roxanne, the five tracks here are quite simply good and hideosuly catchy. The opening salvo of 'Frozen Words' and 'Deep Defence' set the bench mark which continue with the awesome 'Bright Star', one of my faves from the cd. The closing duo of 'Deceit' and 'Survivors' maintain the tempo and quality and I must say, this will be a good purchase (Ravenheart label or not) if you are at least into the above mentioned bands, let alone many other female fronted acts that are too numerous to mention. This is good and well recommended, their Facebook is here... 9/10 (Dave)

BEYOND VISIONS...'YOUR FACE IS FAMILIAR'

(Sliptrick Records) Reviewed 8th October 2013

Beyond Visions is a three piece metal band from Stockholm, Sweden formed in 2007 and fronted by Rebecka Heijel. The band’s first contact was when guitar player/songwriter Sauli Ranta and singer Rebecka met at 7 eleven where she worked in 2005. Sauli used to buy cigarettes (it's bad for ya :) ) from Rebecka, they started talking and found out they shared an interest in music. In a nutshell Beyond Visions was then born. 'Your Face Is Familiar' is the band's debut release and throws at the listener 12 tracks of Melodic Alternative Hard Rock and Metal done in the typical Stockholm tradition, kinda similar in a way to One Without amongst others. To be perfectly honest, I love this style of music - the fact that it engages the listener with a certain heaviness, but at the same time provides a strong melodic element. This is aptly proven when listening to numbers like 'Feeding The Crow', 'Septic Heart' and 'Compulsive Liar'. The band can also slow it down to with the balladry of catchy numbers like 'Leaves Are Falling', a song that screams hit single! I like this release very much and it is well worth checking out - their Facebook is here ...8.5/10 (Aimee)

THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE..'WALKING WITH STRANGERS'

(Repo Records) Reviewed 28th Sept 2007

I love The Birthday Massacre. I have all their previous releases, and for anybody like me that likes this band, this cd will not disappoint. If it ain't broken, why fix it - that's what I say!! 'Walking With Strangers' is this Canadian band's third release. It is classy catchy gothy electro pop/rock with hooks galore. The band are fronted by the gorgeous Chibi. Other band members include Rainbow on Guitar and programming, and Mike Falcore on Guitar, synths and percussion. The tracks on 'Walking With Strangers' merge into one another quite nicely. All the tracks here are of standout material, and I think I can honestly say that I have yet to hear a duff track from this band on this or any of their earlier cds! Indeed, closing track on this album, 'Movie' is one of the most beautiful you will hear this year! 'Walking With Strangers' is another awesome release by a very good band that has not really made any inroads here in the UK. No justice - shame! 9/10 (Reviewed by Dave).

The BIRTHDAY MASSACRE..'PINS and NEEDLES'

(Alive/Cellar Door) Reviewed 17th September 2010

The Birthday Massacre has been around a wee while now, and I must admit that they are one of my favourite bands, their previous releases regularly returning to my cd player. Indeed, I have every release of theirs, and they never fail to disappoint. 2010 sees their latest record hitting the shelves, and I love this cd already. The heavy 'In The Dark' kicks things off, a hideously catchy song with some heavy guitar riffs, but still featuring the trademark Birthday Massacre sound. Indeed, the 'if it ain't broken, why fix it' policy continues throughout the cd. All the songs on this release are typically so melodic and catchy, but unmistakebly Birthday Massacre, with Chibi's vocals a joy to behold. On my review of their last full length studio release, 'Walking With Strangers', I did state that this band has yet to produce a "duff track". Well, they have not here either. Every one is a winner...get this album! It will not let you down... 9.5/10 (Reviewed by Dave)

The BIRTHDAY MASSACRE - 'HIDE AND SEEK'

(Metropolis/Out Of Line/Rough Trade) Reviewed 31st October 2012

The Birthday Massacre is one of those acts that I just love. I have known this band since their early days, I have all their releases and I have even seen them live in Birmingham. This is their 7th release (if you include everything they have put out) and it follows the same formula as previous albums by this band. If I have one criticism, it is that their music can sound a little samey at times, but why fix something if it ain't broken. 'Hide And Seek' does not really depart from the band's already tried and tested formula. Some great atmospheric and catchy stuff here, and if you love The Birthday Massacre, you are gonna just love this! Where do I begin? I do not even think I am going to bother, just go to your local retailer, or visit Amazon or wherever and buy this little album. It only runs in at around 35 mins being perhaps "darker"lyrically than previous records, but you know what they say - "all killer, no filler" and that is what we have here. I also understand from the band that during the recording process, vocalist Chibi had developed polyps, which in effect, altered some of the qualities of her voice during the albums final recording, but it sounds amazingly fine to me - a totally awesome lass fronting a totally awesome band that has produced another totally awesome record!! Recommended... 9/10 (Dave)

The BIRTHDAY MASSACRE...'SUPERSTITION'

(Metropolis) Reviewed 1st Dec 2014

The Birthday Massacre fronted by Chibi never fails to deliver, being more reliable than the UK's Royal Mail postal delivery service. What we have are 10 tracks of classic Electro Goth Rock, all killer and no fillers here. Starting proceedings with 'Divide' the band have set the benchmark for this album - frikin' magic! A totally consistent release following the band's tried and tested formula mixing synths and heavy guitar. I am not going to highlight anything here as everything is top quality, although I do currently rather like the tracks 'Surrender' and 'The Other Side'. What I do like with the band is their ability to merge one track into another, a common trait with most if not all of their albums. A absolute must buy with a rock solid production although on the downside and this is nothing to do with the band - Amazon UK have now hiked the price to over 18 GB pounds - WTF!.. 9.5/10 (Natalie Gold)

KERSTIN BISCHOFF...'PROJECT AVA'

(Self Released) Reviewed 22nd November 2012

Kerstin Bischoff (ex Axxis and ex Xandria) has unleashed her 12 track offering onto the listening public, and to be honest, this is an album that should be well received into any female fronted music fan's music collection. 'Midnight Earth #1' opens the album, a piano intro from Kerstin herself, while 'second up 'Crimson' is a great mid paced rocker with a catchy chorus. Next up 'Frozen' is a another cool guitar driven alternative rocker, and like the previous track is one of the more heavier numbers on the album. 'Over The Stars' showcases Kerstin's awesome vocal style, and proves what a great drummer Guido is, plus we are graced with a choir that adds substance to the song - lovely and one of my album faves. 'Wish' rocks ala Evanescence/Xandria fasion, and five tracks in, this album is proving to be a worthy winner! 'Keep You From Harm' is a slower number with great vocals, and I can hear this on mainstream radio if given the chance. The awesome rockin' 'Shrink' is the single, of which there are two verions on this album, the video version and the long version, great stuff! 'Battery Eyes' drops the tempo in the verse, but ups the ante in the chorus, while the mellow 'In Contemplation' is another album fave of mine. 'Enough' is a mid paced number that I also rather like, the album closing with 'Midnight Earth # 2' and the long version of 'Shrink'. I like this album, I have mentioned those tracks that are faves of mine, but to be perfectly frank, this album overall is a good release and is a must buy to my ears. 8.75/10 (Dave)

BLACK DAFFODILS…’INTO THE SUN’

(7Hard) Reviewed 4th February 2016

Black Daffodils was formed in 2007 as a Metal covers band and come from Germany. They originally covered songs by Within Temptation, Nightwish, Evanescence, Lacuna Coil and other bands in this genre. They have now ditched the covers band image and play an interesting style of Melodic and rather catchy Gothic Metal on this their second album. The style is actually made rather more interesting by the vocal style of Andrea Weiß. Andrea’s vocals are more akin to those of an innocent schoolgirl, and it to me comes across very well indeed. This is immediately showcased in opening number ‘The Vision’ that starts like a child’s lullaby, before the band kicks in and knocks you back against the wall. An extremely melodic number featuring those awesome, poppy and somewhat unique vocals of Andrea, and it lays down the gauntlet as to what is to follow. Next track ‘Awakening’ awakens you as to what this band is all about, and I must admit that so far, I like what I hear. ‘Favourite Scar’ is a hideously catchy number with further highlights on this awesome album that have struck a chord to these ears. These tracks include the cool title track, the heavier ‘Dust and Stone’, the Symphonic Metal of ‘Gold of the Rhine’ and the bouncy synth driven ‘Before I Die’. These are just three from a tsunami of good tunes. Black Daffodils Facebook is here. The album gets released 19th February and will be well worth checking out... 8.75/10 (Dave)

BLACK DESERT…'THE ROAD IS OPEN’

(Yarhibol Records) Reviewed 14th June 2016

Fronted by the powerful lungs of Isabel Bermejo, Black Desert is a Melodic Metal Band that come from Spain. This is their second album following on from their 2013 release aptly titled ‘The Beginning’. The band via their Facebook page describe their music as Metal with ethnic-Arab and dark influences, and this comes to the fore in second number ‘Red Hour’ and the pen ultimate ‘Seduced By The Sand’, the former also possessing a catchy chorus to boot. There are also Progressive influences that surface at various times throughout the album, ‘Bells’ being one such track that I hasten to add also throws at the listener a rather catchy chorus. ‘Dreams of Glycerine (Pt.2)’ is a rather cool power ballad, ‘Dreams of Glycerine’, the Part 1 version by the way appearing on their debut. And the vocals of Isabel – awesome! The title track is a pounding melodic rocker, whilst closer ‘Horizonte’ is an instrumental featuring the Spanish guitar. This is a rather good album that has arrived in my post box and is a pleasant surprise. Check the band’s facebook here… 8.5/10 (Dave)

BLACK DIAMONDS...'UNBREAKABLE'

(Self Release) Reviewed 16th January 2016

Black Diamonds is an all girl Rock band from Sweden (steady on guys!). Fronted by Matilda Jansson, they play 70/80s style Rock as if the 70/80s were still the 70/80s :) Eleven numbers on this album, all mainly mid to up tempo, although the customary ballad pops up with the track 'A New Day'. And it is great to hear the hammond organ on some of the numbers adding to the retro feel of the music. All a bit run of the mill but it is rather good from these Swedes. Certainly worth looking into if you feel this may be your cuppa tea. Their YouTube channel is here...7.75/10 (Dave)

BLACKDRAFT...'RECIPE OF PAIN'

(Hotrock Records) Reviewed 14th April 2016

The debut album from these German rockers combines everything: powerful music from hard rock to death metal. Blackdraft are three men and a woman who have been active in the scene for some while. The music of the band is an intense and explosive mixture, unique Maiden-influenced guitar leads, a clear, pumping bass and powerful oppressive Drum Grooves, and of course the vocals of Julia D Wallenius coupled with the growls of guitarist Karsten Wallenius. Through the 12 tracks on this record, the music is an orgasmic experience, leaving you screaming for more. This is up tempo retro hard rock that has been dragged into the 21st century by the short and curlies and is well recommended, including the closing number, Abba's 'Gimme Gimme Gimee'. The band's Facebook is here... 8.5/10 (Hannah Cooper)

BLACK KNIGHT SYMFONIA..'HEAVENLY CHAOS'

(Independent Release) Reviewed 13th November 2009

It’s time to don my armour, mount my trust warhorse Bayard, and ride into the Emerald Kingdom to do battle with the Chevalier Noir and the legions of the Lord of Chaos. This is the brainchild of Michael Fiori, ‘Saga’, a multi talented neo classical guitarist and keyboard player who also supplies a variety of suitably evil voices. He is joined by two enchanting damsels, the operatic Adelaide Allard de Stave, ‘Arya’, and Anais Chevallier, ‘Nymphadora’, on powerful melodic vocals. This is for fans of Rhapsody and Fairyland, but it is far more orchestral, atmospheric and dramatic. This is true story telling music; ‘Dragonland’ has wonderfully evocative lyrics about the Black Knight’s beloved, ‘She comes preceded by a rotten smell, monstrous of her splendour. Her beauty is torture. The atrocity of her golden eyes corrupts soul and heart’. Sounds like a nice girl! The songs are split between the more power metalish ‘Dark Era’, ‘Dragonland’ and ‘Hell on Earth’, and the full blown operatics of ‘Chevalier Noir’ and ‘Voyage Initiatique’, denoted by the use of English and French. The Middle Eastern flavoured ‘Eternal Life’ and ‘Akasha’ remind me of Therion. The stand out track is ‘Emerald Kingdom’ which shows all their facets, orchestral drama, superb guitar work, and the interplay between the three very different voices. There is so much packed into each song it really does repay repeat plays. Michael is looking for label to release this wonderful epic, coming from Monaco, it must be worth a gamble, to hear more go to www.myspace.com/bksymfonia. I’m off to get the blood out of my tunic; do you think Persil will do it? 9/10. (Reviewed by Phil)

BLACK LABEL...EP

(Self Release) Reviewed 20th March 2015

Black Label come from Holland, and unlike many other Dutch bands that take the Gothic or Symphonic route, Black Label adopt a rather more hard rockin' attitude. Their goal is to blow your mind with their energetic mix of old and new rock n roll and metal, coupled with a huge in yer face stage presence! I cannot speak for the stage presence having never seen them live, but having heard this EP, yep they do sure blow ya mind. Fronted by the powerhouse vocals of a young lass by the name of Marnix, the band offer the listener five tracks of Rock/Metal with attitude. No soppy ballads here, just all out but accessible Rock & Metal to play loud and annoy your loving neighbours. This is a consistent effort from this band for all you lovers of hard rock, rather cool! Check them out at www.reverbnation.com/blacklabel8...8.5/10 (Dave)

BLACKLANDS…’PEACEFUL SHORES'

(Blacklands Music) Reviewed 12th June 2016

Blacklands was founded in 2006 by Heavenwood drummer Thomas Kelleners and in 2007 Manfred Reinecke and singer Moja Nardelli joined the band. Since the ‘early days’ there have been some line up changes along the way, not helped unfortunately after the completion of the production of this cd, that saw singer Moja then leaving the band citing personal reasons. Blacklands didn’t hang around in finding a replacement, with the awesome Tanja Magolei-Schupper taking over vocal duties. Within three months, the entire album was re-sung and all artwork and pictures successfully re-edited. And that now takes us onto the album itself. This is the band’s second full length album and like the debut, is another near 80 minute epic that again is a classic Rock and Metal album, knocking on the door of Progressive Rock and Metal. This in turn offering up stax of melody in the process and a damn fine piece of musical work it is too. Highlights to be honest are too numerous to mention, as there is a tsunami of massive tunes, but there are personal faves of mine which I am sure will change with each listen. These fave cuts currently include the catchy ‘Alone Again’ with its amazing chorus, the mid-tempo ‘The River’, the metallic ‘Distant Warning’ with its thundering guitar and awesome keyboard interplay, the pompous 9+ minute ‘Grand Circles’, 'T.I.M.E' with its 40s Jazz band feel and the closing 16+ minute epic ‘Winter Skies’ (feat Markus Brand). To be honest, I have fallen in love with this CD, close on 80 minutes of awesomeness in-fact. An album trailer can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4TxuO4HOKg - well recommended.... 9/10 (Dave)

The BLACK LANTERN...'WE KNOW THE FUTURE'

(Self Released) Reviewed 4th December 2014

The Black Lantern hail from Long Beach in California, and they offer the listener a good dose of Alternative Rock with some good smutterings of Punk chucked into the mix for good measure. Fronted by Wendy Faraone and ably backed up by founding members Jesse Nason (Drums) and Andy Prickett (Guitar), with the addition of Russell Crain on bass, this band delivers the goods. Indeed, the band's goal was and is to make music that is not too melodic or predictable; The Black Lantern aims instead for anti-epic rock in arrangement, and punk rock more as a philosophy than as a genre. Tell you what though, whatever their goal is, this is damn good. Great guitar work from Andy throughout the eleven tracks (a kinda Boston feel with some of the effects), Wendy delivers vocally, and the remaining members kick ass. Indeed, there are no overdubs and no extra tracks. Since bassist Russell is actually a guitarist, his pedal effects are used in heavy doses to create the beyond-bass sound. Also, Andy is always playing just one guitar through two completely different setups, which creates a stereo image that resembles the schizophrenic pursuits of more than one personality. After that brief techincal rapport, there are fave tracks a plenty here, but check out the numbers 'Bleed It Out' and 'Anthropomancy' as these are current faves of mine. I must say that overall, this is rather good and well worth checking out. The Black Lantern's website is at www.theblackestoflanterns.com.. 8.75/10 (Dave)

BLACKLANDS...'A NEW DAWN'

(Self Release) Reviewed 2nd April 2013

Blacklands from Germany was founded in 2006 by drummer Thomas Kelleners, with keys player Manfred Reinecke and lovely singer Moja Nardelli joining shortly afterwards. Many different guitarists and and bassist came and went until they finally found in 2010 bassist Rüdiger Sartingen and Michael Stockschläger on guitar and vocals. Moja has a premier league rich soulful voice and when Michael's excellent vocals and various guests join her here and there they combine with terrific effect. They music lies at the point where classic rock/metal meets prog rock/metal, so you get top quality songwriting allied to terrific instrumental solos, outstanding vocals combined with exemplary musicianship, in the same general area as Flaming Row, Beyond the Bridge, Roswell 6, Ayreon, Pendragon, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Touchstone. Opener 'Cold Embrace' sets out their signature style, building from poignant ballad sections to powerful peaks, rising and falling, rousing and easing seamlessly, with highlights including the Celtic infused 'Dance of the Witches', the dramatic 'A New Dawn' featuring Giles Lavery from Dragonsclaw, the awesome anthem 'I Can Hear Your Heart' which you will be singing for weeks, and the rocking 'Floating Pictures'. The album would be incomplete without a closing epic, the mighty 15 minute middle eastern flavoured 'Power Play' written by Thomas based on the events of 9/11, with guest appearances from singer Lennie Rizzo of Exxplorer and guitarist Terry Gorle of Heir Apparent. It's rounded off with the lovely reflective piece 'The Meaning' sung by Michael. You get 80 minutes of top quality music without a moment of weakness rammed into the grooves, all impeccably produced by Michael. This album bridges across multiple genres and is a must buy for fans of prime quality classic/prog rock/metal. Head across the blacklands to their website, www.blacklands.de, a building 9/10 (Phil).

BLACKMORE'S NIGHT..'AUTUMN SKY'

(Spinefarm Records) Reviewed 8th September 2010

Richie Blackmore has been a minstrel in Blackmore’s Night for almost as long as he was a guitar hero with Purple and Rainbow, rarely has anyone had two such divergent but successful careers. Hoary old Purple fans want still want him to strap on his trusty old Stratocaster, but why should he, he’s perfectly happy doing what he does. In 2008 Richie married his long time partner the lovely Candice Night, and appropriately this album is dedicated to their new baby daughter, Autumn Esmeralda Blackmore. Candice is also known to us for her appearances in Aina and Beto Vazquez’s Infinity. Their music is renaissance and mediaeval inspired fantasy folk rock, which they often perform in suitably magical mediaeval settings. The songs are divided into three broad categories. Up-tempo folk rock numbers with drums and subtle electric guitar like ‘Highland’ and ‘Journeyman’. Secondly, there are the more contemporary Mike Oldfield/Seekers/Steelye Span esque folk ballads such as ‘Believe in Me’ and ‘Strawberry Girl’. Finally, traditional/mediaeval/renaissance ballads and dances full of weird and wonderful medieval tranklements, with ‘Song and Dance’ and ‘Dance of the Darkness’ giving you the perfect excuse to don your doublet, hose and codpiece and go prancing around the living room. It’s all lovely stuff and great fun, a million miles and a fair few centuries away from our normal fayre. Verily I say unto thee, ‘tis available from all ye olde merchants of minstrel merriment, a veritable 8.5/10 (Reviewed by Phil)

BLACKMORE'S NIGHT...'DANCER and the MOON'

(Frontiers Records) Reviewed June 10th 2013

DANCER AND THE MOON is BLACKMORE’S NIGHT’s 8th original studio album, and is a distinctive album, that is both melodic, rhythmic and full of classic influences. Led by the dynamic and signature alto vocals of Candice Night and the phenomenal fret work from one of my heroes and a much respected icon Ritchie Blackmore, this is another awesome effort from this married couple who since the release of their last album, have produced two lovely children, Autumn Esmeralda and Rory. Sticking to the tried and tested formula of placid but rather quirky folk songs, this is a very good album from this duo and their band. There are some covers on this album too, with proceedings kicking off with Randy Newman's 'I Think It's Going To Rain Today', which is given the Blackmore's Night treatment and very good it is too. Uriah Heep's 'Lady In Black' is included plus the rather beautiful 'Temple Of The King', which is in fact a Rainbow cover and sees Ritchie letting rip! We also hear a version of the rather familiar 'The Ashgrove', which is a traditional Welsh Folk Song whose melody has been set to numerous sets of lyrics over the years. The album closes with the number 'Carry On...Jon', an instrumental dedicated to the late Jon Lord. This is a very good record and it seems that the tracks 'The Moon Is Shining (Somewhere Over The Sea)' and 'Dancer and the Moon' are being pushed out to radio stations, so expect to hear these cool tunes on the radio soon (hopefully). DANCER AND THE MOON continues to establish the band that has been growing its following steadily in the jam, pagan/wiccan scene, new age, folk and progressive worlds, as well as the classic rock community. This release is very good and well worth the spend if you like your music at the lighter end of the scale, so light up those camp fires and bring out the ale!. Due June 14th.. 8.75/10 (Dave)

BLACKMORE'S NIGHT...'NIGHT WITH ALL OUR YESTERDAYS'

(Frontiers Records) Reviewed 25th October 2015

Blackmore's Night is a British/American traditional folk rock duo formed in 1997, consisting of Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night. To date they have released nine studio albums; this their latest being released on September 18, 2015. And this continues to show the duo on top form if you are into this style of music. Rockers and headbangers may wish to avoid however! There are some corking numbers here nonetheless, that will have you up and dancing around the camp fire in no time whatsoever. Among the gems that include the rather awesome and magical guitar/violin/organ intrumental 'Darker Shade Of Black', the album offers up the Linda Ronstadt hit 'Long Long Time' (penned by Gary White), the Mike Oldfield song, 'Moonlight Shadow' and an inspiring Maypole Dance treatment of Sonny & Cher's 'I Got You Babe'. Furthermore of note, from all the legendary artists Ritchie Blackmore who by the way is 70 yrs old (making me feel old too) has cooperated with, Candice Night is the one who has lasted the longest. I loved Purple and Rainbow, and Ritchie to me is an icon, this is a great album but as I said earlier in the review, hardened headbangers may wish to avoid... 8.75/10 (Dave)

BLACK SPRING RISING..S/T

(Cauldron Soundwerx) Reviewed 4th April 2011

Black Spring Rising is a three piece all girl Essex based rock band fronted by Liverpool lass Trish Black, who also takes care of the guitar dept within this set up. I have been following the career of Trish for a wee while now, and have spoken to her on occasion, and a lovely girl she is too, as are the other members of the band..Jan Black (Bass & Keys) and Lisa Steadman (drums). I have some earlier promos recorded by Trish in 2007 (when she was known as Kayl Black) and there was a lot of promise being shown in that early material, so it was of no surprise that Trish and her band picked up interest from the fledgeling US label Cauldron Soundwerx. And indeed two of those earlier songs ('Trouble' and 'Envy') appear on this record. I have to be honest and say that this is the sort of material the Americans would love. Just imagine driving along the highway, roof down, wind blowing through your hair, and Black Spring Rising's cd blasting out loud :) The cd doesn't let up, from the opening salvo of 'Trouble' and 'Misfit', to the closing duo of 'One Small Step' and 'Tick Tick Tock'. Great rock music for the 21st Century to brighten up these dull economically recessed days. I can see this band touring in the USA with the likes of the Niki Barr Band or in the UK with Janey Summer or even the heavier Cult of Whores and Dogs. I do not have any particular faves here as every track is good, production is awesome and the vocals of Trish...well I can't wait for album number two. This is good, damn good and forget those Essex Girl jokes - take a trip to their website and buy the music! 8.75/10 (Dave)

BLACK STARS FALLING...' A MEMORY - A MELODY'

(Self Release) Reviewed 10th June 2013

This German trio is the creation of one man band Lars (capital A), and it fronted by two luscious ladies, Regina and Jasmine. They have a unique style, light symphonic metal that bounces along joyfully, like a jollier Silent Force era Within temptation, or Nightwish in their merrier moments. Regina and Jasmine sing along cheerfully with their innocent young voices, and normally in unison which again is unusual. It's all very enchanting, charming, enjoyable and easy to listen to, a million miles away from brain bashing metal with screaming vocals, they obviously had a great deal of fun recording the album, with a real love of this type of music. LArs's orchestration really are superb, it must have been a real labour of love that took countless hours, and you get a second CD with just the music. Opener is like the intro music for a Hollywood fantasy blockbuster, and this sets the frolicking fairytale tone of the whole album, in fact one song is called 'Fairytales' (without an I) and they give their address as SunDownCity, Arcadien. Each song is short and sweet and all jolly good, the piano motif to 'Starlight' is frighteningly close to Nightwish's Nemo, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and 'Orkland' has a very atmospheric spoken bit. If you like you music merry and melodic rather than hard and heavy, then you will be captivated by the charm of this album. Gambol along to their Facebook www.facebook.com/BlackStarsFalling to find out more, a frolicking 8.5/10 (Phil)

BLACK STARS FALLING...'DIARY OF BROKEN DREAMS'

(Self Release) Reviewed 30th September 2015

Featuring 2 female vocalists and a male vocalist, German band Black Stars Falling on this their 2nd record, offer the listener an experience near second to none. There are on the ten tracks here, classical arrangements associated with a mechanical spirit of the new age and a good charge of bombast. We have dark-romantic soundscapes that are based on hard rhythms and groovy guitar work, all this merges together into one unit, with the two sopranos (Regina and Jasmin) and one energetic male vocalist (Nio) being the topping on the cake. And lets us not forget the awesome orchestration from LArs, making this is a damn cool cake too. And indeed, I think the description given above, does describe the album quite nicely, with personal highlights galore such as the rather cool, atmospheric and orchestrated instrumental opening track 'Prelude', a track of film score proportions, second track, the bouncy ‘Forever And Never’ featuring male and female vocals, the choral influenced ‘Send My Wings Back’ (I just love it!) and the riff-tastic ’Meaning of the Rain’. Indeed, not a filler in sight actually and certainly well recommended from the team here. Check out the band‘s Facebook at www.facebook.com/BlackStarsFalling. And just one more thing to add - there is a limited edition double cd featuring instrumental tracks of those on the main cd, in a digipak format with awesome artwork… 9/10 (Dave)

BLACKTHORN.. 'GOSSAMER WITCHCRAFT'

(Ravenheart Music Records/Code7) Reviewed 2nd December 2009

This was first reviewed on our website 1st March 2009, and since then, Ravenheart Music has signed the band for distribution of this album via Code7. Blackthorn also has a new line-up, and we thought we should review the cd again. Take it away Phil:- This is the intoxicating debut of five enchanting witches from the spirit realms of Russia, an elixir for the mind, body and soul. They blend in their diabolical cauldron a haunting alchemy of symphonic, power and gothic metal, with a devilish infusion of the black arts. Aina’s siren’s call has a pure phantom operatic essence, which will draw you onto the rocks of delirium. It starts with the beguiling ‘Immortelle for a Hollow Grave’, leading you into the Nightwish nightmare of ‘Edenbeast’. An unearthly roar calls you to the demonic dance of ‘Necromance’, howling winds summon the twilight power of ‘The Moon Emerged From Behind The Clouds’, bells toll for the rapture of ‘Saturnia’, followed by the storm lashed roaring thunder of ‘Blackthorn Winter’. The creeping melancholy of ‘The Blackness I Prowl’, then the supernatural allure of ‘Gossamer Witchcraft’, the hypnotic trance of the ethereal ‘Will-o-the-Wisp, and the curtain falls with the macabre piano of ‘The Cobweb Veils Fall Down With Grace’. Let these entrancing sorceresses cast you under their spell, haste ye to the spider’s web http://www.ravenheartmusicrecords.com/products.html , and imbibe in their incandescent incantations. I am drawn by an irresistible force beyond human comprehension, drawn from the depths of Hades, to bestow upon them a 9/10 (Reviewed by Phil).

BLACKTHORN..'CODEX ARCHAOS'

(MSR Productions) Reviewed February 14th 2012

All girl Russian band Blackthorn fronted by Aina, is a band that blew me away with their previous release 'Gossamer Witchcraft', so much so I even ended up distributing the album for them here in the UK and Ireland. This, their second release with English lyrics, is one of the most lavishly packaged independent releases I have ever set my eyes upon, and if the way an album is packaged is a major selling point, then this should sell by the bucket load! 'Gossamer Witchcraft' was an awesome album, and for the band to follow that, well they had a big task on their hands. But to be honest, not only have they done a grand job with the new release, they have upped the ante as well. Aina continues to serve up a massive contribution vocal wise, and not only with a Soprano voice, but she offers up growls aswell, together with guitarist and keyboardist Elvira. And I am sorry, but I have to say it, a female growler I do actually find rather sexy :) Anyway, I digress, let's get back to the music on offer, and we even have a full time violinist in the band plus the Choral Ensemble of the Moscow Conservatory, to add a rather wonderful choral component to the music. Sung in Russian, English, German and Italian, lyrically this is sinister stuff. But then what do you expect when you have an all girl band pouding out Black Demonic music of the highest calibre, with titles like 'Divination in Blood', 'Gorgon The Ascendant' and 'Bestial Satan of Grotesque Beauty'. I kid you not, this is quite simply awesome, and the violin and the Choral Ensemble just about makes it for me. Great all round musicianship from all concerned, the aforementioned violin, the soprano, the growls, superb keys and guitars, plus some kick ass drumming from Varaska. It is all here and waiting to grab you where it hurts most. I like Russia as a country, they have some great bands at the moment as well, but I will say this, Blackthorn has now climbed into the Premier League, absolutely no doubt about that...10/10 (Dave)

BLIND EXISTENCE…’HURRICANE’ EP

(Lion Music) Reviewed 2nd March 2016

Another pleasant surprise - BLIND EXISTENCE is a Progressive Metal band from Pesaro, (Italy) consisting of Francesco Federici (guitar), Gabriele Manocchi (keyboards) and Monia Rossi (vocals). The band was formed in 2014 and this EP is a project composed of four tracks which describes the sense of restlessness that we have to face every day in our lives, expressing a wide arrange of emotions. There has been a great deal of attention given to the creation of the sound and to the construction of the melody within the EP, and this is well showcased throughout the four numbers. Also another thing to note is that the tracks are fairly brief and to the point (around the 4 to 5 minute mark), which one may not normally associate with Progressive Rock/Metal bands. Personally, I like all the tracks on this little EP, it is progressive, it is heavy and there is commercial appeal there as well, which will please fans that like their music a little more ‘straight forward’. This EP isn’t the preview of the album 'Million Faces', due for release in July 2016 by Lion Music, but It is a completed work with its own features, a perfect link between the past and the future of the musical path of the band. Check them out at www.lionmusic.com/cd/Blind_Existence.html - released March 18th and well recommended…8.75/10 (Dave)

BLINDFALL..'SCARS and SECRETS'

(Self Release) Reviewed 14th September 2010

Spain seems to be producing a fair quota of decent bands just recently, and now I have stumbled across Blindfall from Granada. 'Scars and Secrets' is Blindfall's second full release, their first entitled 'Beside' being released in 2007. Fronted by Inga, this band produces a kind of contemporary style of music that mixes Rock, Metal, Funk and Grunge, so not your normal female fronted Gothic Metal fare. But it was this different style that has attracted me to this band. There may even be a progressive edge on some their songs too. Of the tunes on offer, 'Truth Left Behind' is a short slow number that caught my attention, while there are plenty of upbeat numbers too, including 'Lost Children' and 'The Question Song' that happen to be fave tracks of mine on this release - 'The Question Song' being a funk/rap type of song - cool! The title track is a quirky song too, with the album closing with the instrumental, 'Suspiro', featuring Spanish Flamenco Guitar. There is a lot happening on this album that would require two or three listens to get into, but this is a good offering from this Spanish Band. Check them out at www.myspace.com/blindfall. 8.25/10 (Reviewed by Dave)

BLISS IN THE ABYSS…’THE GRACE OF MY DEMONS’

(Self Release) Reviewed 13th August 2016

Bliss In The Abyss fronted by Maria Storck (also front lady with The Grim) is a Swedish Metal/Rock band founded in 2016 by experienced musicians who are truly passionate in the way they approach their music. Starting with the recording of this their first studio album, the band members aspired to an organic, old school sound, resisting the temptation of an over production. The album contains ten epic songs, widely varied as composition and arrangement. The lyrics meanwhile, are a natural extension of this musical experience being tales of a spiritual journey. At times they talk about the invisible side of the world, other times they speak of fairy tale magic characters. Human nature and the causal dynamic of human interactions are also among the approached topics. This indeed is an impressive album, Maria’s vocals being more Pop/Rock in style, but she is also the queen of growling, and gives workshops for those who want to learn. So now you know! I have to recommend this record to all fans of female fronted Rock & Metal and beyond, there is some good catchy stuff here coupled with some awesome musicianship together with a subtle Symphonic undercurrent. And the pipes even pop up on a couple of the tracks. The band’s Facebook is here…8.5/10 (Dave)

BLODWEN..'BLACK SYMPHONY'

(Red Rivet Records) Reviewed 24th November 2010

Blodwen are the first band from Indonesia to enter the annuls of Ravenheart. Leading lady and main composer is the rather fetching Bernice Nikki who has a truly remarkable voice, she can do everything from deep crooning to folk to powerful rock to semi operatic to full operatics, what a range! Most of the songs are in English, she even mentions Harry Potter, is there any getting away from that pesky wizard? Songs like the catchy opener 'World as One', 'Into the Darkness' and 'Night – Black Symphony' are Amberian Dawn esque neoclassical light metallers, without the double peddling, while numbers such as 'Pengakuanku (My Confession)', and the gentler tunes 'Flower Song' and 'Your Wings' are more like Wildpath. Two songs deserve special mention, the deceptively simple ballad 'Two Notes' is seriously angry, with Bernice emotionally singing “The world is so ugly, ugly, ugly like you, The world is so evil, evil, evil like you”, leaving no doubt as to how she is feeling. The ace in the hole is the Heart like 'Cry Out To Me' with Bernice using the deep, rich, soulful end of her range. Production is generally pretty good, perhaps it could do with a bit more oomph at times and the reverb turned down a touch. In Bernice they have a singer who can take on the best of the west. If you like bands such as Amberian Dawn, Wildpath and Area 51 then this is the perfect purchase, just beat a path to www.myspace.com/blodwenband, a most meritorious 8.75/10 (Reviewed by Phil).

BLODWEN...'WINTER FALLS'

(Self Release) Reviewed 28th March 2016

Blodwen fronted by Bernice Nikki hail from Indonesia and this is the long awaited follow up to their 'Black Symphony' album that we reviewed back in 2010 (8.75/10). And I have to say that it has been well worth the wait. Bernice has a fine set of vocal chords with a fine range from Rock to Operatics at the flick of a switch. I also feel that her voice would go down well on the West End stage or indeed on Broadway, associated with some of the fine productions that these stages put out. But her home is with Rock & Metal music I am glad to say, and it is well showcased within the music on this album. There are twelve tracks here of prime time Symphonic/Melodic Metal coupled with the occasional ballad. Rockers include the symphonic 'For A New World', the dynamic pulsating 'Ghost Town' and the rather cool 'Rabbit Hole Suite', and who did kill the baby? Meanwhile, 'Lovelorn' is one of the awesome ballads from the album being sung with such emotion. Everything on this record is so damn cool it has to be on one's shopping list. The band's website is at www.blodwensymphony.com/home.html... 9/10 (Dave)

BLOODFLOWERZ..'DARK LOVE POEMS'

(Silverdust Records) Reviewed 25th Sept 2006

This is Bloodflowerz third release, and a good album it is too. However, I feel 'Dark Love Poems' is perhaps not as immediate as their previous releases. I am not even sure that there is a track on this album that actually jumps out and grabs you like their other two releases. It is I would say an album that grows on you. Nonetheless, you will find on this cd a fine collection of melodic gothic rock/metal songs, with 'Anthem For A Stranger' being a particular fave of mine. It seems that this German band are going to see this album released in the States together with their previous releases. It is a great pity the UK doesn't wake up to this type of music! A good effort! 7/10 (Reviewed by Aimee)

BLOOD STAIN CHILD..'EPSILON'

(Coroner Records) Reviewed 6th October 2011

My friend and Blood Stain Child fan Glen says that this Japanese band “have released 5 albums in total. The first 2 were death-metal, the next 2 started to incorporate more industrial keyboard sounds, still with a lot of death grunts and a Japanese female singer, she had a very heavy accented voice and they had pretty much a niche market in Japan and the East”, which is probably why they are still classified as melodic death metal (MDM). Now the striking Greek singer and lyricist Sophia has come on board for this fifth album and it marks a new sound and direction as they take on the west with their brand of electro gothic dance metal, recently making first appearance in America. If you imagine a mash up of Lacuna Coil, XE-None, and Amaranthe then you will be in the right sort of ballpark. Unlike western groups who favour jeans and black T-shirts, Japanese bands certainly know how to create a striking visual image and the famous Gothic & Lolita brand Chantilly and Atelier-Pierrot created the exclusive stage costumes for Sophia and and female guitarist RYU who writes all the music. Blood Stain Child rampage through a cataclysm of amphetamine fuelled, highly infectious, raging rockers, with the songs falling into three loose categories, those that are more alt metal, those that are more MDM, and those that will leave you in a bloodied and battered heap on the dance-floor. Extreme vocals seem to be the in thing at the moment but regular readers will know I'm not a growl fan, however although bass player Ryo sounds to me like a very angry Taz being put through a mangle, Sophia with her excellent and very American sounding pop-rock voice is very much the star of the show. Ettore Riggotti from the Italian death metal outfit Disarmonia Mundi is in charge of the production knobs, and his band-mate Claudio Ravinale crops up as a guest on a couple of songs. Aki's synths provide a lot of catchy hooks and zest to the mix, Ryo and G.S.R.'s fast and furious guitars add the metal, and goodness knows what new drummer Gami is on, but I'll have some. Personal trance dance rave faves include the astronomical 'Stargazer' and the live-wire 'Electricity', and amongst the alt-rockers 'S.O.P.H.I.A' and the starlit 'Moon Light Wave'. Strangely the only ballad and another personal fave 'Sai-Ka-No' (all lyrics are in English btw) comes at the end, it would have been nice to have had a slower number or something different in the middle just to give your poor body a rest from the grooving mayhem, so it's appropriate they're on Coroner, you'll need one after dancing your way through this. BDS have certainly produced an album that will have worldwide commercial appeal, so strut your funky stuff to here for more low down, a fully fueled 8.5/10 (Phil)

AMANDA BLOOM..'THE HISTORY OF THINGS TO COME'

(Self Release) Reviewed 9th November 2010

The album’s rich rococo baroque artwork is set in the Vienna of the mid 18th century, a time of hedonistic pleasure and opulent romanticism, creating the perfect stage backdrop for this debut by the gorgeous Australian singer songwriter and pianist Amanda Bloom. Then upon that stage imagine Tory Amos joining Evanescence with Haydn sitting at the piano and you have some idea of her music. Amanda is a classically trained pianist who wrote her first sonata at the age of 6, and her compositions have been performed at the iconic Sydney Opera House. You get plenty of diversity, catchy symphonic rock numbers ‘Rosetta’ and ‘Magdalene’, emotional power ballads ‘Fallacy’ and ‘Leave Me Lightly’ (live video on Female Voices blog), gentler songs ‘It Must Be the Living’ and ‘Beautiful Beautiful’, and classical pieces ‘My Heart, My Master’, and ‘The Truth in the Sky’. The centrepiece is the wonderful title track ‘The History of Things to Come’’ which reminds me of a mix of Al Stewart, Kate Bush and Rick Wakeman, a truly dramatic and descriptive piece. All the songs are packed with Amanda’s rippling piano and her vibrant expressive voice. My only criticism is that most of the meatier numbers are in the first half and it ends with a couple of instrumentals (including an instrumental version of the title track) which makes the album rather lopsided, a couple of ‘Rosetta’ type numbers towards the end would have given a better balance. The fact that Amanda is almost unknown is scandalous, while talentless celebrities who can’t sing like Cheryl Cole get £6 million contracts, artists with genuine talent are hidden in the shadows. If you enjoy any of the artists mentioned (apart from Cheryl Cole of course!) then you will relish this album, waltz to www.myspace.com/themusicofamandabloom for more information, a delightful 8.75/10 (Reviewed by Phil).