Thunderstone - The Burning
Two records deep into the jostled middle of the power metal holding pen, Thunderstone have expanded to fill their personalities, especially singer Pasi, who, despite being hankered by an accent, sounds like a rock lion with something to say and a sonorous, bluesy voice with which to say it. The keyboards are still gay (yet thankfully, only occasional), but the songs are sturdy and Stratovarian, not to mention the riffs, guitarist Nino Laurenne getting vicious on fast-trackers like 'Side By Side' and barroom rocking for the straight verse churn of 'Drawn To The Flame'. But the real gem is the mournful Royal Hunt-like AOR of 'Mirror Never Lies', on which Pasi gets to power his way over a sly, tasteful arrangement (check out the swirling twin and single axe soloing at the 1:56 mark) toward a great pre-chorus and chorus. I feel an obsessive flood of replaying coming on.
Pure Sweet Hell - The Voyeurs Of Utter Destruction As Beauty
This may be indie, and some call it a demo, but fact is, this collaboration between Nevermore drummer Van Williams and his buddy from back in New York Christ Eichhorn is a fully fleshed, highly technical, expertly crafted batch of avant-garde metal wonder tracks. Think Emperor (Ihsahn's vision for it) crossed with Nevermore, Arcturus, Dimmu, Dragonlord, even slow, circuitous US death. Van is actually the vocalist too (Jim Colson contributes as well), offering a variety of singing and speaking styles along with his battery of drum batteries. Eichhorn massages in programming and samples here and there, and his riffs are ladder-like, but the main vibe is one of relentless cold textures, sour melodies like any number of frosty Norwegian experiments. It all coalesces into a sort of harrowing drama, the classy graphics and emotional, real, yet oblique lyrics adding to the sculptured mass of the thing.
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