It doesn’t take a genius to work out that I am a big fan of metal. Even though I now cut my hair, shy away from wearing chains on everything, and genuinely don’t break out into screaming “SLAY-ARGH” at social functions, I still wear my choice of band shirts regularly and try to head-bang at least once a day. It’s good for the soul. Here are six exciting developments from the metal world that have got me quite excited. Warning:- haters of power/symphonic might want to shy away at this point. This article isn’t for you.
PowerQuest are reforming!
At Bloodstock 2013, I had a brilliant time. As a Power metal fan, it was chock-a-block full of bands that appealed to my tastes- Firewind, Sabaton, Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia. But perhaps the most important of all was the booking of Power Quest, underground heroes and cult legends of the small-scale British power metal scene, who were playing their last show ever on the festival’s second stage. Or at least that’s what they said at the time.
A few short years later, their Facebook page began to buzz. The former members had an announcement. Maybe it was a reformation, or another farewell tour (they wouldn’t be the first band to do it), or perhaps it was just a compilation album coming out in memory of their years as a working band. Part of me hoped they would be coming back, but I tried not to get too excited about things- so often the music world lets you down. But the rumours were true- the band were coming back just a few years after announcing they were done for good. According to founding member Steve Williams, it is because he sat down one day and decided that the band had ‘unfinished business’. Alright, so it isn’t a reformation so much as a new line-up, with a fresh vocalist and a few familiar faces returning, but they’re back! They are set to release a new EP entitled Face The Raven, which is going to feature a few new songs that will stay true to their tried and tested musical formula. Okay, so it isn’t an album, but it is still new material and it may pave the way for another tour and- hopefully- a full length record in due time. Place your bets on what band will ‘reform’ after a ‘farewell tour’ next. My money’s on Motley Crue.
Sonata Arctica are touring the UK.
Ever since secondary school, when a friend of mine let me listen to their song Wildfire, I have had a love affair with Sonata Arctica. The titans of Finnish power metal have released a few albums since those days, and although they have broken away somewhat from the over-the-top power metal of old, they still create beautiful music that just makes you want to sing out loud and lose yourself in its depths. For years, I have been waiting for the chance to see them live and- due to the fact they rarely play the UK- hoping that perhaps a festival might book them. Instead, though, they clearly heard my call: 2017 will see them include the UK in their European tour.
Even better is that they are playing a date in Bristol. On a Saturday, which means my job in education won’t get in the way of thing. So they’re only an hour’s drive away, and they’re playing on a day off. Truly epic. Tickets are already on sale, and I totally plan on splashing out for them, whatever it takes. There are only a few bands left on my bucket list, and SA are one of them. The thing is, SA have a huge cult following- a small but fanatical fan-base over here. So I can see every date selling well, and every crowd being pretty wild.If you like your metal ‘widdly’, as Sonata Arctica were once described, then make sure you check them out.
Amaranthe have released their fourth studio album.
Okay. I am going to admit something here. The only reason I initially got into Amaranthe is because of Elize Ryd, their beautiful, leggy, talented and all-round adorable frontwoman. At a gig in Bristol this one time, she touched me, and it was amazing, and Elize is so awesome that my girlfriend didn’t even mind. Amaranthe, though, are not to everyone’s taste, and I can accept and understand that.
Their new album- their fourth- is called Maximalism and I think it is fair to say that the title matches their vision here. This album is far and away their most ambitious, although I highly doubt they’ll be winning any awards for innovation in the music industry. The announcement of the new album’s release came alongside the song- That Song being the title- in an audio and video format. On first listen, I really didn’t like the pop sensibilities of the track. They’ve always been a band to embrace pop music influences, but to transform themselves into a pop band with rock and metal influences seemed too much. Luckily, a lot of the other tracks on their album demonstrate that they’re still rock/metal at their core. Let us not forget, too, this this band isn’t even a decade old yet, and they are on their fourth album and are travelling on a very, very fast upward trajectory.
Floor Jansen has a bun in the oven
After the Tarja Turunen debacle, and then the Olzen disaster, Nightwish desperately needed to get their third vocalist appointment right. And they managed that in Floor Jansen, who has the versatility to sing in an operatic style, a slightly rockier style, or even to full-blown scream on occasion. When I saw them at Wembley Arena in December, it was one of the best gigs of my life, and excitement reached fever pitch when I realised that footage from that show was going to be included on their live DVD.
And then rumours started circulating that the band,- who were on a break anyway- were taking time to congratulate one of their members, who was going to become a parent. That person was Floor Jansen, who is pregnant, and understandably will be taking a break from being a musician in order to bring a new life into the world. What makes this story even cooler is that the baby’s father- and therefore, by extension, her partner- is Sabaton drummer Hannes van Dahl, which means that baby is going to grow up with some seriously good taste in music. Either that, or it’ll rebel against its parents and become a pop star.
Metallica stream their third single.
The legends that are Metallica don’t need to release new material. Their legacy is enough that they could, if they chose to, tour forever on a wave of nostalgia until they all passed away or retired. However, not wanting to be outdone by their fellows such as Iron Maiden, they have finally announced their new album- Hardwired…to Self Destruct. That’s a pretty dramatic name for an album that I only hope will live up to the hype.
Early signs are positive, though. The current singles Hardwired and Moth Into The Flame are absolute bangers, typifying everything the band stand for- epic vocals, almighty riffs and that familiar Hetfield scowl ‘n’ growl. Their third single is now streaming on selected sites and it has the name of Atlas, Rise! This has me seriously wondering what the band have in store in this song. Will it be about the ancient god of the same name who carried the world on his back? Will it be about something more mundane, you know, like an actual, normal, everyday atlas? Is it about something completely unrelated to the title? I mean, I’ll find out when I go and listen to the track, but one this is for sure: the signs so far are good that Metallica’s return will be emphatic.
In Flames release a new album
In Flames have come a long way- and have changed immensely- since their early days as part of the Swedish ‘Gothernburg’ melo-death movement. Whilst their friends in At The Gates and Dark Tranquillity continue to fly the flag, IF have moved with the times, always keeping their music heavy but embracing melody, harmonics, clean vocals and even the occasional ballad into their sound. Fans of the band who still bitch and moan that they aren’t releasing a Whoracle Part 2 should have really moved on about a decade ago. And there are other fans, like me, who like what band’s modern output as much as their earlier work.
The band’s latest release seems to be a mix of everything they’ve done in their ‘second phase’. The album, entitled Battles, has been accompanied by the release of three tracks, the best of which is The End, which is accompanied by an awesome first-person video, clearly inspired heavily by the movie Hardcore Henry. All three of the tracks are typical ‘single’ fodder- catchy, but certainly not the best the album has to offer. In Flames are shaping their sound, and whilst it may lose them older fans on the way, there’s every chance it’ll win them newer ones as they progress.
So there you have. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 things that have got me excited for the next few months and the new year. Keep posted for more updates in the future!