Metal in all its forms and colours

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If you had told me even a year or two ago that we would see Tarja Turunen and Marko Hietala, who were in Nightwish together from 2001-2005, on stage together again, I would have scoffed. After all, they haven't been together since Tarja left Nightwish in 2005. But then last summer they were appearing at the same festival and reunited on stage for Phantom of the Opera, one of the songs from that era of Nightwish. And then came the even bigger news that they were touring Latin America together this winter. And now the biggest one yet: A new song by the two of them, debuted live on the tour with the studio version coming this week. And with Nightwish themselves off the circuit, fans are eating this up. Besides this, they've been doing an assortment of old Nightwish songs from the albums Century Child and Once, the two from the period when both were in the band.


And even better, Marko speculated in a recent interview about them forming a band. I swooned.
 
From the same concert, Tarja in all her vocal glory with "Innocence", one of the best tracks from her post-Nightwish solo career.

 
Ape has been banging his head today. Two new releases from artists with looming new albums.

First up, to keep the CRTC off our backs, some Can-con. Unleash the Archers first came to my attention two or three years ago. They are based in BC and are a solid power metal outfit fronted by the powerful voice of Brittany Hayes. Metal flies under the radar a bit here in Canada, but there are some Canadians doing great work in the genre.


Then we skip over to Sweden for the latest from Anette Olzon. Best known for a short tenure in Nightwish, Anette is a solid vocalist who has had a very diverse career in recent years. This is from her upcoming third solo album but she has also fronted a couple bands over the past five or so years.


And I already know that there's a new track and video coming from Dutch symphonic/gothic metal band Blackbriar tomorrow.
 
And the run on new metal releases continued on Wednesday.

As expected, Blackbriar released a new video. Lead singer Zora Cock is paired with a new (to me) face, Marjana Semkina. Marjana is a great match for Zora vocally and the two interact nicely in the video, too. As for the song, it's terrific; the kind of somewhat subdued, melancholy symphonic metal that Blackbriar have become known for.


The other new release was one I did not know was coming, but was thrilled to see. Austrian symphonic metal band Visions of Atlantis is releasing a sequel to Pirates, their epic 2022 album, entitled Pirates II - Armada. That is coming in July, but they released a spectacular video for the title track yesterday to kick things off. The song is the kind of epic pirate metal that was the mark of Pirates and singers Clementine Delauney and Michele Guaitoli are in fine form. Looking forward to this one. Be warned, it goes kind of dark at the end.

 
Canadian Death Metal. Sounds almost like a contradiction in terms given our reputation for politeness. Fast riffs, heavy rhythms, and deep, guttural harsh vocals hardly seem the stuff of Canada. But then again, we produced Alissa White-Gluz, one of the best female harsh vocalists, and the metalcore band Spiritbox, with its wonderful growler and singer Courtney Laplante whose interest in harsh singing was inspired by death metal greats Cannibal Corpse. And this weekend, the Juno for Best Metal/Hard Music Album (which Spiritbox won in 2022) went to Cryptopsy, who have been carrying the banner for death metal in Canada since 1988 and are currently signed with Nuclear Blast, a major label for metal based in Germany.

 
So I have known as long as I have lived in London that there is a fairly active music scene here. And it is a fairly diverse mix of jazz, pop, folk, country, and rock. Kittie, however, is the first metal band I have come across from London. It's an all-female outfit founded by sisters Mercedes (drums, backing vocals) and Morgan (vocals, rhythm guitar) Lander in 1996. And after a 13-year hiatus, they have dropped two new singles this year, leading up to the first album of their new relationship with Sumerian Records.


 
Longtime, no metal. And not from a lack of material to post. So here we go with some recent metal that has caught my interest.

Starting with the newest, we have Swiss band Ad Infinitum with a new single today. Lead singer and founder Melissa Bonny has been a very busy lady over recent years, with Ad Infinitum releasing 3 albums in 4 years plus an album with her side project Dark Side Of The Moon plus guest appearances with various other bands. And she got married in there somewhere, to drummer Morten Løwe Sørensen of the band Amaranthe, who I talked about a page or two back in this thread. Moren also got behind the kit for her Dark Side Of The Moon project. Fringe benefit of marrying a drummer, I guess.


I mainly know Anna Brunner of League of Distortion through her other project, the female metal supergroup Exit Eden. So this was my first time hearing her with League.... And, wow, this is heavy punch-to-the-face metal about hate and revenge and the damage they do. The video's storyline is dark, strong stuff with a downright brutal ending.


Speaking of revenge, Canadian power metallers Unleash the Archers dropped a third single from Phantoma, their album due May 10. The new track is "Seeking Vengeance".


And some more Can-con. Red-handed Denial is a metalcore act out of Toronto and features singer and teacher Lauren Babic on lead vocals. I first encountered Lauren through solo work on Youtube and then checked out her band.

 
Lots of new metal out yesterday, and these three were the ones I had on my "waiting for" list.

To kick off, Swedish vocalist Anette Olzon released her third solo album. She has also appeared with several bands, including a 5 year stint with Nightwish that first brought her to prominence in the metal world. The album is titled Rapture and, as you might expect from that title, there seems to be a lot of inspiration from the more apocalyptic stream of Christianity. It's also quite heavy in many of the songs, however the final single/video release that came out yesterday with the album is a gorgeous power ballad.


Then another act with a Nightwish connection, Crownshift. Crownshift is a supergroup of Finnish metal musicians drawn from various bands, including current Nightwish bassist Jukka Koskinen. A heavier, darker sound, almost leaning into melodic death metal at times. Probably my favourite of the three.


And finally, some Canadian content, as Vancouver power metal group Unleash the Archers released Phantoma, their sixth album. It's a concept album, something they do a lot of, telling the story of an AI gaining sentience. Some terrific music and all featuring the powerful voice of Brittany Slayes, a singer who really deserves to be better known at home even as her prominence in the European modern metal scene increases. Hoping to see this one get some attention come Juno time, at least in the Metal/Rock Album category.

The final single came out a couple days before the album.


One song on that last one that surprised and delighted me, but doesn't seem to have a video, is "Give it up or Give It All", which hearkens to 80s Canadian rock and metal. Triumph in particular came to mind as I heard for the first time.
 
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And one from early in the week that came as a surprise to many. Simone Simons, lead vocalist of the Dutch symphonic metal band Epica, dropped her first solo single and announced an album to come in August. She doesn't stray too far from her roots on this first release, putting out some solid symphonic metal and giving us a nice dose of her powerful mezzo voice. Her partner in the project is Dutch musical wizard (guitarist, songwriter, producer, impresario) Arjen Lucassen, with whom she has worked before on some of his projects. One of them (I forget which) commented that this track is the most like Epica or Ayreon (Lucassen's main ongoing project) so I am eager to see what other directions this goes in.

 
Lots and lots of metal to talk about after my two weeks away.

First up, here's Spanish band Ankor with Chapter 6 of their new album (which appears to be a concept album). Lead singer Jessie Williams is solid as ever.


And there's Americans Seven Spires, whose new album came out today along with this video.


From London, Ontario, we have Kittie with their first album in 13 years and it's a real banger. This is the title track.

 
Formed and based in Austria but with French and Italian lead singers, Visions of Atlantis are on a roll. Their 2022 album Pirates was a fantastic album and was followed up by a live version recorded at the 2023 Wacken Open Air festival in Germany. And like any great movie these days, there's a sequel. Pirates II - Armada dropped today. Just listening to the album but everything that I loved about Pirates is back in spades.

The final single was the lively Tonight I'm Alive


And from earlier, Monsters is a heavier banger of a song


The band has solid players on all instruments but the highlight has to be Clementine Delauney and Michele Guaitoli on vocals.
 
And from the original Pirates, one of the songs that first hooked me on Visions.... This performance is from Bloodstock, a huge metal and rock festival in the UK.

 
Charlotte Wessels went from lead singer of symphonic metal band Delain to successful solo artist. Simone Simons has led symphonic metal band Epica since 2002 (when she was 16) and is now releasing her first solo album on the side. Both pack beautiful voices honed by a couple decades of experience. And they teamed up for the latest release from Charlotte's upcoming third solo album. It's like Dutch metal heaven.


Those identical wigs make it hard to tell them apart. Charlotte has a nose ring, which helps. Simone is a redhead naturally and usually sports some shade of that colour so this look is a bit weird on her, too.
 
And now, Charlotte's duet partner has released her next "solo" single. I put "solo" in quotes because Simone's got a host of Dutch metal musicians joining in on this one. As with other songs on her upcoming solo album, music is by Arjen Lucassen who also produces with lyrics by Simone. Her Epica bandmate Mark Jansen provides some of his trademark growls in the chorus and the rest of the band joins a bunch of Dutch metal luminaries (including Arjen and his partner Lori Linstruth, and the ever present Joost Van Den Broek) to form the "R.E.D. Crowd Chant".


Meanwhile, Swedish guitarist and vocalist (he has one of the highest male voices I have ever heard in metal or in rock in general) Tommy Johansson left the band Sabaton earlier this year to resume his various other projects. First out (besides his weekly covers on his YouTube channel) is a new song from his band Majestica. The band formed in 2000 as ReinXeed and took on the current name in 2019. They have the almost unique distinction of being a power metal band with a Christmas album, 2020's A Christmas Carol.

 
Now forty years old and counting, Helloween are deserved legends of heavy metal and one of the original power metal bands. This performance of two songs comes from their appearance at Wacken Open Air last year. The current lineup boasts seven members including two lead vocalists. Two members have been there from the beginning, and there's a couple old members who left and then returned.

 
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