Exiled Nightwish warbler Tarja Turunen returns with a double CD, double DVD an' Blu-Ray package, the extreme soprano and her band captured live in Argentina, utilizing a ten camera shoot. Although there's the obligatory Nightwish nod (well, 'Nemo', and covers of their covers), this is emphatically no Nightwish, due to an engaging raggedness to the thing. Yes, renditions are arranged to insane proggy extremes, but there's a groovy grind to the end result, not least of which is Tarja herself and her barely contained howlin'. For all her training, she knows how to take this seemingly incongruous voice of hers into rock 'n' roll terrain, evidenced right out the gates with 'Anteroom Of Death' from '09's What Lies Beneath, and indeed most bits where she is in healthy competition from the band at full tilt. Her accent is charming as well, but it's really the unleashing of a vocal right on the edge, like Meat Loaf, that makes this a more human experience than the efficiency of Nightwish. Granted, even Tarja sounds much more digital on the studio albums, but yeah, this is a much warmer way to consume symphonic metal. Visually, there are a number of dramatic ideas, particularly at the start, but the quick edits can be a bit irritating. Putting aside how I can't bear to watch music DVDs unless they are documentaries, man, you listen to 'Little Lies' for example and the crushing, bassy audio of it... this just isn't attempted in the studio in this genre, making, improbably, a live album more useful than a stacking of studio tricks. Fully amusing is Tarja's cover of Whitesnake's 'Still Of The Night' where her voice comes off more comical than anything, again, much because of the accent, although interest is maintained by the band's deconstruction of the riffery an' rhythm of this classic. The Celtic-tinged Gary Moore cover, 'Over The Hills And Far Away' obviously fits the concept better, but all told, it's the dynamic, groovy presentation of Tarja's own material that makes this a valuable addition to the catalogue, and not some rote package of mere, inferior (in)versions.
ENGEL-Blood Of Saints
Engel have turned in a third album that continues the band's manadate of pushing forward the Gothenburg melodic death metal sound through modest increments, that is, main gesture being industrial layerings manifest most controversially with the Skrillex skronks on opener 'Question Your Place'. After that however, we're into an efficient cross between the brisk thrash of Arch Enemy and the somewhat mournful key-tinged melodies of Evergrey. In Flames comparisons are unavoidable as well, given that this is a side-project for that band's guitarist Niclas Engelin. But really, this is a band with a fair bit of buzz on their own, given the favourable impact of their second album, 2010's Threnody. Quick, energetic, full up with layers (and maybe too many - just because you can, doesn't mean you should...), Blood Of Saints is a progressive thrash feast that is fully modern enough to rope in fans from dubstep and beyond, those who might not quite have it register that they're hearing relentless metal from a rich tradition they've never heard of, namely melodic death.
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