Monday, November 19, 2007

Holiday Buyer's Guide (Symphonic/Power/Folk Metal)

Other Sections:

-Introduction
-Progressive
-Symphonic/Power/Folk Metal
-Accessible Metal
-Alternative
-Classic Metal
-Mainstream Rock
-Melodeath/Doom/Goth
-Extreme Metal
-Other

Symphonic/Power/Folk Metal

None of these genres had great enough years to warrant a category to themselves, but together it contains more essential albums than maybe any of the other eight categories. Fans of the “artsy” styles of metal should recognize most of the names of this list, as the genres’ best just keep getting better.

Epica
The Divine Conspiracy

It would seem that Epica can do no wrong. From beautiful ballads to brutal death grunts to some of the finest symphonic metal ever recorded, everything Epica does on The Divine Conspiracy is pure bliss. Not enough can be said about the pure beauty of the album. The contrast between Simone Simmons mesmerizing vocals and the backing death growls allows for an experience filled with variety and emotion. Every metalhead should give this album a chance, whether or not you’re into symphonic metal, and even those aren’t interested in metal would do well giving this one a try. This is one of the best albums of the year regardless of the genre, and it deserves to be appreciated by any fan of music. If you want to give (or receive) the gift of beautiful music, there’s no better option than The Divine Conspiracy.

Firewind
Allegiance

Although it was released last year in Europe, Firewind’s Allegiance was finally brought to the United States in January. Power metal fans would be wise to take advantage of that. Despite the addition of a new vocalist, Firewind sounds as polished as ever on this record. Gus G.’s melodic riffs get better and better with each release, and power metal fans that haven’t had the pleasure of hearing him are in for a treat. Add in a duet with the lovely Tara Teresa, and you have a very solid power metal album that fans of the genre should get a lot of enjoyment out of.


Helloween
Gambling with the Devil

Gambling with the Devil isn’t going to change the way power metal is played, but Helloween already did that 20 years ago. Since the glory days of this band, the genre has evolved immensely. Helloween may not have improved their sound much in the last 20 years, but compared to their last few releases, Gambling with the Devil is a classic. It’s not going to replace their early albums that arguably created the modern power metal sound as the most recommendable albums in their discography, but it’s a relief that Gambling with the Devil gets the band back on track. For better or for worse, it’s a solid power metal release, and playing solid power metal is one thing Helloween certainly knows how to do. Whether you’re looking for a quality power metal album or simply a quality Helloween album to add to your collection, Gambling with the Devil is both a solid and safe bet.

Kamelot
Ghost Opera

Ghost Opera could very easily be called a disappointment compared to Kamelot’s masterful work on 2005’s The Black Halo. That being said, Ghost Opera is still an outstanding work of art. Kamelot continues to combine high quality power metal with equally high quality symphonic metal, but the balance isn’t as great on this particular album. The band has moved into a more symphonic direction, and as purely a symphonic album, Ghost Opera is excellent. This may not be the best album Kamelot has released, but that only means the competition is slightly closer to the greatness that is Kamelot. It may not be the band at their best, but Ghost Opera is still well worth owning.

Korpiklaani
Tervaskanto

If you or the person you’re shopping for isn’t as keen on the seriousness of bands like Nightwish, Epica, and Kamelot, then maybe a good fun folk metal album will be more to their liking. If that’s the case, then look no farther than Korpiklaani’s Tervaskanto. Tervaskanto is a good fun folk metal that should please anyone amused by songs about wolves, Vikings, and ale. It’s hard to deny the band’s talent, and it’s somewhat of a breath of fresh air that they don’t take things too seriously. Tervaskanto isn’t a comedy by any means, but instead an album that sounds fresh and fun. Unlike many of their peers, you don’t need to embrace yourself in the music to be able to enjoy Korpiklaani. Tervaskanto is fast and fun and it should be an enjoyable experience for any folk metal fan that doesn’t take their music too seriously.

Nightwish
Dark Passion Play

Fans of Nightwish that are still mourning the departure of Tarja Turunen should grow up. That may sound harsh, but to pass on an album as spectacular as Dark Passion Play just because Tarja is no longer with the band would be unfortunate. Nightwish is too good of a band to crumble because of one member’s departure, and in a way, the change to a vocalist that isn’t an opera singer works out to their advantage. If there’s one thing that can be said about Dark Passion Play, it’s that the band never sounds generic. Nightwish hasn’t done anything quite like this before, and the tracks that work (which are most of them) range from stunningly beautiful to exceptionally heavy to just plain epic. There’s a lot to like about Dark Passion Play, and at 70+ minutes of 13 varied tracks, there’s a good chance any fan of music will find something to enjoy.

Sonata Arctica
Unia

After 2004’s brilliant Reckoning Night, it’s surprising that Sonata Arctica has gone in a completely different direction. Far more symphonic and progressive than Sonata Arctica’s past albums, Unia is an interesting experiment that works well enough to warrant a recommendation to both power and symphonic metal fans. Unfortunately, the parts that work are the same parts that have worked on previous Sonata Arctica albums. Only this time, there are less of those parts. The progressive elements don’t work well at all, and the album sometimes sounds far too pop-like for its own good. However, most of the album works, and when Unia works, it works exceptionally well. It’s not the best album in their discography by any means, but Unia may be a solid introduction for the few power metal fans that have to yet to hear Sonata Arctica, and fans of the band that haven yet to hear the album should get enjoyment out of most of Unia.

Therion
Gothic Kabbalah

It’s been a long time since Therion had any sort of misstep, and Gothic Kabbalah continues that trend. In fact, Gothic Kabbalah may even be better than Therion’s last few albums, and that’s saying something. Gothic Kabbalah is a concept album that tells an epic fantasy story and incorporates some of the best symphonic metal the genre has to offer. With nearly 20 musicians working on the album, this is truly one of the best and most unique experiences of the year. Often beautiful and always epic, Gothic Kabbalah is an album that every symphonic metal fan should experience. It’s among the year’s best releases, and it’s easily the most epic metal album released in 2007.

Vintersorg
Solens Rötter

Solens Rötter is certainly an odd album to say the least. Andreas Hedlund and Mattias Marklund have shown once again that they are one of the best duos in metal today, and it’s safe to say that their music deserves to be in the collection of any fan of folk metal, black metal, progressive metal, or any type of European metal. As previously mentioned, the combination will mostly likely sound odd to newcomers, and the Swedish lyrics won’t do anything to help that, but fans of the band and genres they mix would do well to give this one a consideration. The combination of folk, black, and prog metal is as heavy as one would expect, but its Vintersorg’s beauty that really allows Solens Rötter to reach greatness. This is easily one of the best folk metal albums of the year, and it’s in no way a stretch to call it one of the overall best metal albums of the year either.

Within Temptation
The Heart of Everything

Within Temptation has gone through a major style change since their last album, and unfortunately, it’s mostly for the worse. However, that doesn’t mean The Heart of Everything is bad. Instead, it’s an album that may not satisfy symphonic metal purists (especially those who have heard the latest Epica and Nightwish albums), but anyone looking for a quality hard rock album with great lyrics and outstanding vocals should be more than pleased with it. Unfortunately, the change to a more mainstream sound has garnered comparisons to Evanescence, but the quality of the songs on The Heart of Everything far surpasses anything Evanescence has done in their career. For fans of hard rock/metal bands with female vocals, The Heart of Everything is highly recommended, and even though it may be a disappointment to symphonic fans, it’s still worth recommending to them as well.

2 comments:

DFan said...

Solens Rotter is my personal pick for album of the year.

Noah "Broom" Martin said...

Thanks...I significantly enjoyed Korpiklaani. Great band to do homework to. >.<