Tag Archives: mats leven

“Nuclear Blast 20th Anniversary: Into the Light” by Nuclear Blast All-Stars

Artist: Nuclear Blast All-Stars
Title: “Nuclear Blast 20th Anniversary: Into The Light”
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: 6/19/2007
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 4/5

Leave it to Nuclear Blast Records to start off their 20th Anniversary Celebration with a bang like no other and release a thundering CD of music featuring some of their best talent under the Nom de guerre of “Nuclear Blast All-Stars”. All of the music on the album was the result of Metal Mastermind Victor Smolski, that guitar virtuoso from the one and only Rage and with the exception of one track, all lyrics have been penned by Peter Wagner who sings and plays bass in that same band. If this fact didn’t pique your interest then perhaps knowing that all of the tunes feature different singers will do the trick. The CD features rotating vocalists who either are currently part of the labels roster or were at one time in their career. So as a result we find everyone from Tobias Sammet (Ed Guy) to Tarja Tarunen (Nightwish) contributing vocals and it continues to get interesting as you listen to each song. Rather than find this as another Rage album given its creators, the songs seem to have been tailored to the specific vocalist so the song that Tobias sings “On Dirty Wings” could have very well been an Ed Guy contribution. This continues along when it gets to what Tony Kakko of Sonata Arctica sings as it really comes across as something new by that band and while Kakko himself says he does not feel this way in the liner notes, I will have to disagree with him. Such is the ability of Smolski to craft interesting Metal that he seems to have approached this with relative ease. It’s a great listen as each offering brings to the table different levels of solid riffing and interesting vocals. It’s heavy all around and should be since this is a Metal celebration but some artists come up the heavier than the others such as when Marcel from Destruction performs, and also Wagner from Rage who gets his own tune. It was great to find Andi Deris from Helloween present and also the members of Nightwish but I admit that while I love Tarja’s voice her song didn’t do anything for me. There is also some vocal talent who many of the Metal legions should be following more and I am speaking of Mats Leven formerly of Therion and Oddleif Stensland of Communic. These two continually impress me and I am looking forward to their future contributions. The drumming on most of the album comes care of Andre Hilgers who is also a member of Rage. Victor, Peavey, Andre and everyone else you did a great job on this one.

The release also serves as a reminder of just how powerful the labels artist roster is and not only does it come from these new Smolski compositions but also from the music featured on the included bonus CD. There is some great stuff here and many of the songs have never been released before. Pay particular attention to new label signings such as After Forever and Threshold for they are set to explode with their latest albums. From beginning to end this rocks and is a fine way to start the celebration of the label’s launch. I have enjoyed so much of their output over the last couple of years and many of their bands have become personal favorites. It is based on this that I raise the high hails to the next decade to come.

Bonus CD: Hammerfall – Hearts On Fire, Helloween – The Madness Of The Crowds, Gotthard – El Traidor, After Forever – Sweet Enclosure, Ride The Sky – New Protection, Thunderstone – Forevermore, Threshold – Slipstream, Amorphis – The Smoke, Candlemass – Devil Seed, Sirenia – The Other Side.

Track Listing:
1. Dirty Wings (Tobias Sammet)
2. Terrified (Peter Wagner)
3. Ruling The World (Tony Kakko)
4. Death Is Alive (Mats Leven)
5. Bloodsucker (Marcel Schirmer)
6. Slaves To The Desert (Hansi Kursch)
7. A Perfect Day (Andi Deris)
8. Eternally (Oddleif Stensland)
9. Inner Sanctuary (Marco Hietala)
10. In The Picture (Tarja Turunen)

Official Website: www.nuclearblastusa.com
Official Website: www.victorsmolski.de

“Gothic Kabbalah” by Therion

Artist: Therion
Title: “Gothic Kabbalah”
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: 2/6/2007
Genre: Operatic Symphonic Metal
Rating: 4/5

Therion is always an interesting and impressive band to listen to and for twenty years they have brought the Metal world some of the most amazing Symphonic Metal that often touched upon a number of other areas like Folk, Gothic and Progressive long before it became a common occurrence. With Gothic Kabbalah, they have once again defied the conventional musical boundaries as they bring to life their latest epic adventure. This album finds four individual lead singers (two male and two female) and they immediately enrapture the listener for each of them brings a unique presence to the musical table. Given that each of them acts as a soloist rather than merely providing backup for the others it adds a more intense feel to an already dramatic CD. Band founder Christopher Johnsson (guitars, keys/organs) chose not to sing on their recordings anymore and has left this role in some truly capable hands. The singers feature among their number Mats Leven, who also served as lead man for the German Power Metal band At-Vance. If you heard that group before, you know exactly how good this guy can sing and believe me I think we have a lot more greatness coming from him in the future. Although it possesses the expected Symphonic elements that Therion are known for I did not see an over abundance of them as we found in the double CD masterpiece Lemuria/Sirius B. This album instead focuses on a moody and intense darkness at times and has some truly foreboding riffs and structures. I found this feel most prevalent during “The Wisdom And The Cage” as it mixes some growls amid the clean vocals. The other singers who are making the magical tale come to life are Snowy Shaw, and the incredible female contributors Hannah Holgersson & Katarina Lilja. The changes and grooves continue to amaze the listener for tracks like “Son Of The Staves Of Time” is a hard core rocker, but it begins with a solo operatic vocal by one of the girls. It is one of my favored tracks along with “The Perennial Sophia” (a name that is heard across a number of songs on the album). I also felt that this recording was a little more accessible than some of their others. It is deep and complex at points, but it does not tend to mystify you too much and instead will find you playing air keyboards, guitar and drums. “Trul” is one track that did that for me, and I even found some Jethro Tull feel going on in a portion of it. Outstanding music tends to find people finding their inner Rock Star.
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Therion @ B.B. King Blues Club (9/14/2005)

Logo - Therion

Artist: Therion
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Opener: Beyond The Embrace
Date: 9/14/2005
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

It was only recently that I first heard the music of Therion and I was excited to discover that they were coming to perform for the very first time in the USA as a headliner. One of the stops on the tour would be a show at the one and only B.B. King Blues Club. I have lost count of the amount of great shows this venue has had over the course of the year and this one will definitely add to it. New York City always seems to be a highlight of any bands tour and even more so when it is their first time to the Country ever. Therion was scheduled to play as headliner for one of the nights of the popular ProgPower USA Festival.
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