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New tracks worth checking out: October 2017

Yes, I am aware of the fact that we are already halfway through November. University once again sabotaged my plans to post this on time. But it won’t stop me from sharing some of the best tracks released in October now. Better late than never!
It is safe to say that my attempt on making this a monthly series that goes online at the beginning of the month has failed. I am, however, determined to bring you my favorite new tracks at the end of every month from now on, mostly for the sake of diversion. There is such a thing as too many album reviews in my book!
October was quite full of new metalcore and modern metal releases – at least this is my impression. Ergo, you should definitely check out the bands and respective songs below if you are searching for new music from this category.
Without further ado, enjoy the following tracks.

Good Tiger – Blueshift
This is a very interesting track. Good Tiger in general are an interesting band I am willing to devote myself more to. “Bueshift” is a fairly new track off their upcoming second album “We Will All Be Gone” and clearly quite different from anything I have ever heard. Just listen for yourself.

Helloween – Pumpkins United
Helloween was one of the very first bands I started listening to as a teenager when I got into heavy music. I used to listen to Helloween every time I went for a run because their music really pushed me. Since then, a lot has changed: I haven’t been listening to Helloween a very much and I also gave up running. But now, as I am listening to this amazing new track, it feels as if I am beamed back in time. “Pumpkins United” is the perfect song to rise your energy levels, and I need a lot of that right now.

Attila – Three 6
Attila, one of the most successful metalcore bands at the moment, released a brand new song on Halloween 2017. There is no information on a new album yet, though. However, “Three 6” is a track that pleased many Atilla fans, and I do enjoy it a lot, as well. From time to time, everyone needs a little kick of energy, and that’s exactly what Attila are delivering with this track.

Polaris – Lucid
I have become a lot more open-minded when it comes to modern metal music. Polaris is a band I probably wouldn’t have checked out a couple of years ago, but little did I know that I would have missed out on some superb music! Polaris offer some of the angriest and simultaneously some of the most soothing vocals I’ve ever heard. The track “Lucid” combines everything I love in a metal song: Energetic, technical music, dynamic structure and powerful vocals, harsh or clean (in this case, we get both!).

Crystal Lake – Apollo
Another quite unique metalcore band – Crystal Lake are from Japan and I think that people outside the metalcore scene have never heard of this band before. On the same note as the aforementioned track “Lucid” by Polaris, “Apollo” feels like a fresh breeze of air. While being heavier, it still contains sprinklings of melody. Now who says modern metal is just bullshit! They clearly haven’t heard of Polaris or Crystal Lake.

Review: Epica – The Solace System (EP)

Release date: September 1, 2017
Rating: average (3)

Line-up:
Simone Simons – vocals
Mark Jansen – guitar, vocals
Isaac Delahaye – guitar
Rob van der Loo – bass
Coen Janssen – keyboard
Ariën van Weesenbeek – drums

Epica, to me, is the best example of a band that steadily climbed towards success. Nightwish may be the better known band in the genre, but Epica make up for that with hard work – they seem to have been working harder than their Finnish counterpart have for the past five years. Just look at how well they have been developing. They aren’t just another symphonic metal band anymore; Epica have become a symphonic metal powerhouse with all the bells and whistles. Not only do they collaborate with highly acclaimed orchestras and choirs for their very well-frequented shows and studio albums, they also release well-produced videos and have one of the biggest metal labels at their side since ten years.

Epica have even been working so hard that they wrote enough material for their latest full length record “The Holographic Principle” to release an EP called “The Solace System” with the songs that didn’t make it to the album, and this EP is more than overdue to be reviewed. So my first question here is: Why would a band do that? If the material isn’t good enough to make it to a full length album, then it probably isn’t good enough for an EP either. Yes, that is a harsh statement, but these days, I don’t believe that any band can afford releasing mediocre material when everybody knows they can do better. (In this case, though, I do have to add that there are a couple of tracks on “The Holographic Principle” that sound like garbage.) Also, if Mark Jansen and co. are so eager to put out all the material they have been writing, I’d rather have a new Mayan album, as I always liked their quasi Epica-side project more.
Of course, this EP doesn’t sound bad: Take tracks like “Architect Of Light” and “Decoded Poetry” or the heart-warming ballad “Immortal Melancholy” (Epica are great at ballads in general) – beautiful tracks that could have easily made it to “The Holographic Principle” in my opinion. But the rest, and even the aforementioned tracks, sounds so typical of Epica it’s almost ironic. This doesn’t have to be a negative point – if that’s what you want, be my guest. For me, it’s just not enough.
Also, what in the name of God is Simone doing on this EP? Her voice lacks any kind of warmth and emotion. Yes, everyone who knows me also knows that I had a hard time getting used to her vocals until I finally had to admit that she does a pretty good job – sometimes at least. Most of the time, her vocals sound like charivari to me. Additionally, beginning with the last full-length record “The Holographic Principle”, her voice has increasingly been sounding way too autotuned and quite bland most of the time. I much preferred the vocals in Epica ten years ago – just listen to “The Divine Conspiracy” and you will understand what I am talking about. Back then, Simons’ long notes had power and grip to them. Now she is doing … whatever she is doing. I am not attempting to understand what that exactly is, but she is definitely struggling.

The main problem, however, is that Epica are getting predictable: Choirs, epic melodies, heavy riffs and confusing vocals, we know the drill by now. The purpose of this EP probably wasn’t pushing boundaries, I will admit that, so for what this is, it’s solid. I just can’t help but think that Epica have released much better material before. “The Solace System” is average – not more and not less.

Tracks:
01. The Solace System
02. Fight Your Demons
03. Architect Of Light
04. Wheel Of Destiny
05. Immortal Melancholy
06. Decoded Poetry

Examining Arion’s last three singles

I didn’t plan to write this post. But as fate willed, Arion released a new track not long ago, and I just had to give it a listen (even though I should be doing something more important, for example calculus).
In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, Arion is a melodic power metal band from Finland. The band is formed by a couple of music students not older than a little over 20 years, with exception of their fairly new singer. Their debut album came out three years ago and I remember going nuts over it. It was my second favorite release of 2014 and I knew all the lyrics by heart. You get the idea.
As you might have guessed by the date of their first and latest album release, Arion haven’t managed to put out a new record, but they are making sure that they aren’t forgotten completely. Last year, they released two singles and a brand new one just yesterday. If they will be continuing like that, we will soon know all the songs off the new album without getting a new album … so shall we get into some details about the singles?

First of all, it never bothered me that Arion sounded like well-known and loved bands such as Nightwish, Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius, at times even like Children Of Bodom; they somehow managed to create a good mix of these bands and threw in their own style and signature sound. But now, it does bother me that their new tracks increasingly sound like bad copies of their greatest tracks off “Last Of Us”.

“At The Break Of Dawn” (feat. Elize Ryd)
Let’s face it, Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) has collaborated with numerous artists in the rock and metal scene, with pleasant and not so pleasant results. So having Elize sing on your song or album is no guarantee for success (Timo Tolkki, I’m looking at you…). However, in the case of Arion’s first single after their debut album, Elize took this song to the next level. It is fresh, catchy and energetic, the vocal line is absolutely stunning and it still sounds like Arion. I do have to admit that I was a little sad that former singer Viljami Holopainen (who by the way has nothing to do with Tuomas Holopainen) didn’t get to sing this duet with Elize, they would have sounded beautiful together, and he would have probably really loved to collaborate with her.
Note that this song is Arion’s most listened track on Spotify, with over double the amount of listens than their other top tracks. So I am definitely not the only one who thinks that Arion did everything right with this track. I am wondering, though, if Elize was involved in the songwriting process. It would explain why “At The Break Of Dawn” turned out so well…

“Unforgivable”
When this song was released, I listened to it one single time and I thought it was so mediocre that I didn’t feel the urge to listen to it again … ever. I still did for research purposes, though. The vocals are weird and I can’t really see where Arion are going with this song. It is kind of all over the place. Not a hit for me.

“No One Stands In My Way”
So first of all, what we have here is a song title that could easily fit onto an Arch Enemy record. I was expecting a cheesy song title! Alright, it is kind of cheesy, I suppose …
“No One Stands In My Way” starts with a riff that instantly reminded me of the opening riff of “10 Silver Bullets” by Swallow The Sun. Shortly after, you can hear a bass line that is very similar to the one on “Out Of The Ashes” from Arion’s first record. In general, this song sounds like a new version of the aforementioned song, and it is without question that I like “Out Of The Ashes” a lot better.

The weird thing about the last two tracks is that if you start listening at every single instrument individually, you really start questioning what these guys are trying to do. But weirdly enough, the tracks aren’t awful as a whole. I don’t get it.

I am very anxious about the new album, in case it will ever see the light of day. I truly doubt that I will adore it as much as their first album. Without their talented former singer Viljami Holopainen and with their new singer Lassi Vääränen (who is not bad but not exactly outstanding either), the quality of Arion’s songs seems to be decreasing with every new release. Could it be because they are on their own now? It is a known fact in the metal scene that Jani Liimatainen (Cain’s Offering) and Matias Kupiainen (Stratovarius, Arion’s drummer’s elder brother) helped the band in the songwriting process for “Last Of Us”. Are they lost without a little help from some more experienced musicians? Or have they been able to write such hits as “Seven”, “Lost” or “Last Of Us” all on their own, but are somehow drifting into the wrong direction now?

Let’s hope we will find out soon … until then, I will listen to “At The Break Of Dawn” and their first record on repeat.

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