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  • Writer's pictureThe Metal Mayan

The Metal Mayan Mixtape - 08 March, 2024

Alterium - Of War and Flames (AFM Records)

"A bedazzling and spectacular crimson blur of Italian power metal."

Coming to prominence as the siren at the helm of Kalidia, vocalist extraordinaire Nicoletta Rosellini took all of zero moments of downtime following the group's disbandment in 2022 before building the framework for Alterium. Following several singles released since then, Alterium has at last released their epic debut, Of War and Flames.

Falling in the power metal sub-genre, albeit on the melodic side, tracks like "Drag Me to Hell", "Siren's Call" and "Heroine of the Sea" are captivating and exquisite. Fans of Visions of Atlantis and Eleine should certainly have Alterium on their radar, but, with the high flying fun that is "Crossroads Inn", Korpiklaani and Alestorm legions will absolutely adore this band.

Between her work in television in her native Italy, her social media presence, and her roles in Walk in Darkness and The Erinyes, Nicoletta no doubt has quite a busy schedule these days in tandem with releasing a brand new album. Still, fans worldwide surely hope she can find time in her schedule to take Alterium to stages across the globe to bring Of War and Flames to life.

Before the Dawn - Archaic Flame (Napalm Records)

"Four tracks to put the 'EP' in 'Epic'."

Though well known and respected today as the founder of the mighty Wolfheart, for some fourteen years beforehand, multiinstrumentalist Tuomas Saukkonen was hard at work churning out stellar melodic death metal with Before the Dawn. After a decade long hiatus, Before the Dawn made their return in 2023 and, still hot on the heels of last year's Stormbringers, are back again with their new EP, Archaic Flame.

Leading off with the title track, the iconic Finnish sound rings loud and proud. Lacing their brand of metal with gothic overtones akin to fellow Finns Amorphis and Insomnium, guitarist Juho Räihä graces the track with a soaring lead over infectious grooves.

Switching to something more driving, "Chaos Sequence" lives up to its name as an avalanche of sound and grit. Segueing into a no doubt unexpected but nonetheless excellent cover of Bryan Adams' "Run to You", vocalist Paavo Laapotti shimmers over a guitar and snyth heavy backdrop.

While a short listen at less than fifteen minutes in run time, Archaic Flame is quality fix of Before the Dawn to hold fans over until the next full length.

Exhorder - Defectum Omnium (Nuclear Blast Records)

"The triumphant saga of Nola's grooving and grinding pioneers rumbles on."

To fill an article with bands that owe their style to the ground laid by Exhorder would be one that exceeds the number of words that can be entered in one segment. Daring to introduce groove and catchy hooks into thrash metal back in 1985, a time when the traditional thrash formula was in full effect, the New Orleans based sluggers set the pace for bands from Pantera and Down to Chimaira and DevilDriver to name a few.

Incredibly, yet rightfully so, a twenty seven year break between albums didn't slow Exhorder in the least - in fact, it gave them ample time to come back swinging harder than ever. Fortunately, fans have only waited five years since the band's return before the much anticipated followed up, Defectum Omnium.

Biting down like an angry alligator, "Wrath of Prophecies" and "Under the Gaslight" twists and turns mercilessly in a manner that hurts so good. Slowing to a menacing crawl, "The Tale of Unsound Minds" lurches forward like a wicked swamp beast.

Though plenty of tracks fit for Death Angel and Exodus devotees make appearances, it is on "Three Stages of Truth/Lacing the Well" where the band's secret weapon is unleashed. Having joined the band earlier this year, Cannibal Corpse alumnus Pat O'Brien delivers a soaring guitar solo on the track, demonstrating his iconic axe slinging skills.

The new age of Exhorder thunders on at full speed - step up, buy a ticket, die on the ride.

Midnight - Hellish Expectations (Metal Blade Records)

"And from the jaws of Hell came ten fast and furious sermons."

While many metal bands describe the underworld as being something either grand and wreathed in flames, or a torturous abyss, Cleveland's Midnight present a different picture. In place of shackles and demons is a grimy, dimly lit bar - a Club Inferno of sorts.

From the word go, the band's sixth album, Hellish Expectations, is packed to the brim with hot licks and huge riffs to make even the meanest servant of Satan tap their feet. Blurring black metal and thrash tones with catchy influences akin to Motörhead, "Expect No Hell", "Masked And Deadly" and "Slave Of The Blade" are as anthemic as they are lethal.

Offering a little something to fans of Venom and Slayer, "Merciless Slaughter" and "Nuclear Savior" crank up the speed, sure to incite massive circle pits at live shows. Not forgetting a little something to get chants from the crowd, closing track "F.O.A.L" demands shouting the chorus loud in every venue.

Forging his craft over twenty years, Midnight mastermind Athenar, who performs all instruments and vocals on every release, continues to set the bar higher and higher with each album.

Myrath - Karma (earMUSIC)

"An incredible journey to an elegant and enigmatic metal realm."

At less than forty bands on Metal Archives dot com, Tunisia's metal scene might not be the highest in quantity, but if Myrath have anything to say about it, it is certainly one of the highest quality. Formed well over twenty years ago, the band's sixth album, Karma, is a masterwork of progressive metal laced with Middle Eastern folk influences in sound and lyrics.

Hailing from the Tunis suburb, Ez Zahra, Karma drops listeners in an exotic realm where the sun and sands of North Africa meet the vast Mediterranean Sea. "To the Stars" and "Into the Light" bring on sensations of the unknown, a heart pounding trip into somewhere new and exciting. Turning to something more hard rocking, and with bass tones to rival classic Faith No More, "Candle Cry" is written for huge stadium shows Myrath certainly deserves to play.

Painting with brushes Dream Theater, Symphony X and Epica, these bands really only reflect the size of sound on "The Wheel of Time" and "Let It Go" - the rest is simply original and refreshing.

If there is a band to add to one's 'watch list', Myrath is certainly it. After two decades forging an incredible, unique style, they are mandatory listening for any fans of progressive, symphonic metal.

Shadohm - Through Darkness Towards Enlightenment (Selfmadegod)

"A devastating audio assault delivered by an all-star ensemble."

With a lineup of members boasting tenure with bands like Decapitated, Hate, Batushka and Vader, one would expect a megaton hammer of sound to come from Poland's next heavy sensation, Shadohm, And indeed, over the course of five slamming tracks, Through Darkness Towards Enlightenment delivers exactly that and more.

Though certainly showcasing some comparable elements to the aforementioned Polish powerhouses, Shadohm also taps from the keg of Meshuggah, Vildhjarta and Soilwork. Wielding low tuned guitars to carve deep grooves under the growls and stellar baritones of vocalist Adrian "Klama" Meissner, "Through Darkness" and "Fair Weather Friend" are prime examples of great things to come from Shadohm.

Stepping up the thrash level a bit to something closer to After the Burial territory, "Blurred" and "Ripped Apart" are sure to rile things up at future shows. The latter song sprinkling in a little In Flames style vocal delivery sure to please any fan of the Stockholm sound.

Coming out of the gates swinging, Through Darkness Towards Enlightenment is certainly an impressive debut release. Expect big things to come from Shadohm.

Sonata Arctica - Clear Cold Beyond (Atomic Fire Records)

"Another fantastic tale becomes part of a twenty five year long legacy."

Odds are, even the most casual fans of power metal fan know the name Sonata Arctica. Celebrating their twenty fifth anniversary this year, many bands of the subgenre owe their existence to the Finnish speedsters. Releasing their eleventh album, Clear Cold Beyond is as captivating as the northern lights and brisk as the icy winds that come with it.

Setting the tempo high with "First In Line", one can easily imagine a dash through a snow covered land under the freezing moon. Ironically, it might be said that too much cold can be an issue and, with "California", visions of sled dogs on a snowy trailed are replaced with a red Corvette zooming down the Pacific Highway.

As the longest song on the album at just over six minutes, "Dark Empath" slows things down a little (we're definitely over the speed limit but under 100mph) to introduce a bit more groove. Really demonstrating their ability to go beyond simply fast music, "The Best Things" has a nearly swing tempo, perfect for lighters/phone cameras to sway in the air, while "A Monster Only You Can't See" starts off with acoustic guitars before picking up the pace again.

If an epic and fantastic journey to far away lands is what you seek, Clear Cold Beyond will certainly take you there and back again.

Advanced copies courtesy of Atom Splitter PR, Earsplit PR, Hardman PR, and Secret Service PR


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