Grade Scale adopted at MetalKings.com (starting from the lowest)

1 - Shite
2 - Could be worse
3 - Could be better
4 - Damn good
5 - Killer

Eagle Records
macabre metal/shock rock
"I don't get it! It's alternative and nu metal to the core! And not at all like my favourite AC albums from 1989-1991," that's what Big Daddy told me before I bought "Dragontown". Still I obtained the recod as soon as I could, for I remember damn well that "Brutal Planet" did not impress me after the first spin and now I consider it among the best records of 2000. "Dragontown" is hard to understand, too, especially if your favoutire Cooper record is "Hey Stoopid". In the year 2001 Alice goes totally alternative and the brutal guitars he employs can easily be mistaken for samples from Limp Bitzkit or Machine Head records. He even raps on the track "I Just Wanna Be God" (what a modest title! I love this man!). Nevertheless, "Dragontown" is a Cooper record from the beginning to the very end, for the Cooper style has never been based on any particular sound or genre, it's in the atmosphere that the man creates with his voice, lyrics and attitude. Stylistic elements aren't the purpose here, they're like colours that an artists uses to paint a picture. Try to approach "Dragontown" from this point of view, and you'll get a much better impression of the album even if nu metal is worse than a torture for you. The 2001record is a little weaker than the earthshaking "Brutal Planet", but it still has brilliant tracks ("Fantasy Man", "I Just Wanna Be God", "Every Woman Has A Name") that no nu metal or alternative band can rival. Cooper rocks! (Maniac)

The Dark Blood Rising
Code 666

Hey, seems like after all you can both be 'true' and have good sound. Furthermore you can both be 'true' and use a drum-machine. Hard to believe, eh? Well, you better believe it 'cause the new Diabolicum record is out already and that's too weighty an argument to oppose. Musically 'The Dark Blood Rising' Lies somewhere in-between gabba-dance and true black spiced with keyboard arrangements and noise addends. All of that madness goes right into your face at a speed of an ICBM leaving your consciousness a bloody mess rutted with pieces of dull dead-hearted metal. The primitive but with that no less cruel and frightening booklet is both scary and attractive drawing your eyes to itself with incomprehensive hypnotic magnetism. In a way Diabolicum possesses the attractiveness of a tv-show about famous mass-murderers or a war documentary with its black-and-white cold-blooded will to destroy we all keep within ourselves. This ain't no Dimmu Borgir with its sincere but yet too theatrical misanthropy. In fact you wouldn't deem it possible that someone can hate humankind so passionately Then again, you would after you listened to Diabolicum. (Troll)

A New Era Rises
No Fashion

An explanation for those of you to whom the names of Masse Broberg and Matti Makela are just another pair of funny Swedish names: these two are more known as Epmperor Magnus Kaligula and and Dominion (if that don't ring the bell either you are at the wrong URL, mate). The story is banal as usual: the Dark Funeral guys wanted to do something out of the almighty and all-controlling sight of Lord Arhiman. And so, cheerfully rubbing their sweaty palms and sneering balefully as if two school-kids about to do something very naughty, the jolly pair sneaked into Abyss Studios and recorded an album so mighty that for two years they hid it under their bed along with a stash of porn mags, a bottle of port-wine, and other handy things, afraid to show their secret to the public. However, as we all know, the temptation to share the secret with someone is always all too strong, so finally the guys gave in and brought the ADAT to No Fashion looking sheepish. Being used to the grim-o cheap-o tricks of the funerals the bosses at No Fashion were about to send the duo on a fragtastic erotic hitchhike, but finally figured they might go ahead and at least listen to the unknown material. No mistake. The provoking, cheery and slightly rock-n-rollish black-death metal with catchy riffs, big and phat guitar sound, Caligula's trademark singing and a powerful rhythm section was bound to be successful among everyone into the scene. Recommended as a good repose from the endless DF blast-beats and as a very fine sample of Swedish black-death metal too. . (Troll)

Morning Star
Music For Nations

Back in 2000 Entombed gave everyone a very nice surprise by releasing a very joyful and heavy 'Uprising' release and putting the old logo on the front cover together with a monster from their very first demo. Well, not wanting to stop in midair Lars Petrov & Co. figured that a right hook is only good if followed by a left uppercut and released 'Morning Star'. The end mixture of 'Clandestine' and 'Uprising' with a 1.5l injection of neurodestructive Slayer extract will undoubtedly lead to lethal effect in 99 cases out of 100. Despite the all too evident influence of the Anaheim thrash-masters, the new Entombed album still kept the band's own style, and signature guitar sound, which has been serving them for over a decade now, and that inexplicable bouncy syndrome people call rock'n'roll. It might be that 12 tracks are a bit on the excessive side here and closer to the end of the CD the Swedes' devilish thrust and demonic aggression become just a tiny bit tiresome, however that does not prevent us from splitting the listen into two spins, does it? (Troll)

Sunrise In Riverland
No Fashion

Damn, I haven't had such violent qualms of oscitation since my last biology lesson in high school. I'm a huge fan of Nordic power metal, and Insania are just the right band to fit into the category, but If this disk had appeared in the early 90s it could have made a sensation for the entire metal world. Unfortunately it comes out ten years later, when the harmonies invented by Stratovarius, Rhapsody and others, have been cloned by thousands of talented (or not so talented) bands. Even nice melodies here are killed by total lack of individuality because there are two ways of imitating somebody - to do it inventively or to be a thoughtless repeater. The first two compositions are rather good, but listening to other songs is just unbearable for one can see guys drowning deeper in the sea of plagiarism. Incredibly banal lyrics can only cause irritation, just look at the song titles such as "Heaven Or Hell", "Lost In Time" or "Heading For Tomorrow". How many times have we heard such cliches in the past years? Restless Mikko Karmila from the Finnvox Studios who has worked with scores of famous bands created a quality sound for "Stockholm madmen", but it is too standard and only does them harm - thee disk has nothing to be distinguished for even as far as the sound is concerned. What a bore. (Fireball)

Brotherhood Of The Wolf - Original Soundtrack
Virgin Records/GALA Records
Here is something that many neoclassic power metal musicians use as a source of inspiration, a movie soundtrack. MetalKings have never done reviews of such things before, and what's worse, no one in the editorial has watched the movie. Having an interest in all things strange and unusual, I was chosen to give this record a try. Well, it was a very interesting experience, sitting in a room and trying to imagine what kind of scenes a particular piece of music was written for. A very good stimulator for fantasy, I must say. The author of the soundtrack, Joseph Do Luca, is a prominent composer of music for historic and horror movies, including "Xena: Warrior Princess" and "Evil Dead". On "Brotherhood Of The Wolf" he comes up with 20 pieces of music and a theme song added in the end of the record. The song did not impress memuch , it was pure pop with female vocals, however the music is well worth listening. It reminds me at times of something dark ambiental, not as dark, but still captivating and terrifying. Visions of mystifyingly beautiful night-time forests, dark riders, dragons and witchcraft are brought to life so vividly that you get an impression of being lost in a strange and mysterious world. The pop piece aside, you will doubtless enjoy that musical journey into the land of the unknown. If you don't believe me, ask Luca Turilli, he should know the matter for the entire Italian power metal scene is inspired by works like "Brotherhood Of The Wolf". (Maniac)

From the Cradle to the Grave
atmospheric black
Good lord, now this sucks! It sucks ass! It sucks ass so much its almost turned inside out! I mean, come on, if your only intent in the studio is recording such crap, why bother at all? Don't we have enough of talent-deprived and bad bands around? Haven't we heard enough of dull and unoriginal albums? Did you have to make yet another one? Why of course, I do understand there isn't too many Bulgarian black metal bands around in these parts, but is that a reason enough to be Korozy? Loose musicianship, total absence of originality, pathetic image and an unconvincing sound. Frag it, I don't care two-pence about how ideologically-correct and true you fragging are, it does not make you a musician. I really hope we won't hear anything from here anymore. (Troll)

Be Aware of Scorpions
hard rock blues
They say that taste in music comes with age. After almost 20 years of neo-classic and heavy jerking-off the brother of the now-poppy 'scorpion' Rudolf figured that this didn't turn him on anymore. So he grew a ZZ-Toppish beard (not really that long, tho) and started playing yer good-ole blues-rock with hard elements and some unusual decorations like acoustic gipsy bits. As a result we get a real freaking good record with a bit dirty and totally live guitar sound, catchy melodies, thoughtful and well-placed solos, and that indispensable integrity which most of the metal 'guitarerros' lack. Err oh, that's it. :) (Troll) SPV/

Darkness And Hope
Century Media
gothic metal
"It has become hip and fashionable nowadays to criticize Moonspell," complains Fernando Ribeira on the band's official web-site. I'm afraid he gets all things wrong. It's not that everyone enjoys scolding Moonspell so much, it's that there are enough reasons to criticize them. Their last two works generally fail to stand comparison with brilliants like "Wolfheart" that the band produced in the beginning of its career. Of the unique mixture of doom, death, black, heavy, folk, ethno and gothic, only gothic and heavy survived. Fernando & Co try to compensate the loss by adding other tastes to their music, these being rock and even grunge. Not all these components suit the band nicely, for instance, the song "How We Became Fire" sounds like early Pearl Jam with keyboards. "Darkness And Hope" is advertised as a back-to-the-roots record, however this is not true at all, at least because the ratio between clean and growling vocals is by far different in comparison with "Wolfheart". Yes, there are some growling parts, but they are occasional, to say the least. I'm not saying that "Darkness and Hope" is a bad record, it is, in fact, a very good gothic rock/metal release, and songs like "Firewalking" and "Than The Serpents In My Hands" deserve to be heard by just everybody. Also of interest is the song "Os Senhores Da Guerra" sung entirely in Portuguese. However Moonspell are now just one of many gothic metal bands, and there are people who do this music better, and nobody does better what Moonspell once did. Ya know what I mean? (Maniac)

The Great Beast
Massacre Records
atmospheric dark/black metal
In principle, should we consider the innovation factor in the composition, three points for this album are somewhat a credit. I mean, these four Germans did not really make anything new. The lyrics too don't really shine with stylistic brilliancy or wisdom of ages, but again it's not that important here. They're not the first and surely not the last, but when it comes to quality, and I mean quality in the way they play, and the way it's mixed, and the way it sounds, Mystic Circle are like no other. A deep and greasy growl, drums and keyboard parts that remind of Dimmu Borgir's 'Enthrone Darkness Triumphant', an avalanche of guitars and a very thick sound instantly put the album a couple of feet above the rest of the blank and inert black metal swamp-mass. Besides what a genius cover of Bathory's 'One Rode to Asa Bay'. (Troll)

Black Side Production
We are too used to the fact that all of the good domestic stuff is being recorded in the capital, or, at best, in St. Petersburg. However not all the heroes of doom/black metal are gone, and this time we have a perfect example of this rooted in the western Russian town of Vyborg "Psilocybe Larvae". Majestic keyboard arrangements in the key of mid-90ies Dimmu Borgir, powerful vocals that go from black metal screams to death growls and back in one song, and heavy-weight riffing - all of that forms a perfect picture of the Art Du Mort in one of its most expressive forms. Burning Sunset - one of the two instrumental tracks on the record, draws an image of dawn-red autumn trees and lonely pedestrians in the streets hiding desperately under their umbrellas from the blades of rain. The Mystery - the other instrumental on the CD on the contrary is a reflection of times long-forgotten. We see knights of valor fight in fire and blood for the eternal ideals of Middle Age. The title track Stigmata should also be paid some extra attention, with its seemingly simple lyrics and a payload of riffage together forming a highly explosive mixture that gets right under your skin. In short this one is highly recommended to all of the fans of melodic black metal. However I did allow myself to remove one point for the cover artwork - a banal but very important thing, in my opinion. Too many screenshots from Stigmata the movie starring Gabriel Byrne. It's not that they do not fit there, it's just that own ideas have always been of higher value, haven't they? 5 minus one for the cover. (Rag Doll)

industrial hard rock & a lot more
When you're a 50-something-aged musician playing in a renown band that has done dozens of enormously successful records, when the leader of your country is your dedicated fan and when transatlantic superstars such as Rammstein are eager to contribute to your compositions, the last thing you are expected to do is to go experimenting. However Germany's Die Puhdys have never traded beaten paths, and here it is, their second "modern" record. Crushing guitars, fashionable beats, lots of electronic sounds and 30 years of experience in writing classic hard rock and psychedelic music produce an explosive mixture that will either make you a fan instantly or force you to throw the CD out the window as soon as it stops playing. "Zufrieden?" is even more advanced, so to say, than its predecessor "Wilder Frieden", and a less catchy one, so it might be more difficult to get into it. Another problem is that the record is too fashionable for the band's old fans and too outfashioned for the new generation, but with hits such as "Unsichtbare" and "Geister" Die Puhdys just can't go wrong. Actually, they say it themselves in the track "Stars" - "we don't need superstars from America, we have enough of our own stuff". Tired of listening to the same limited style of music? Want something fresh? Try Die Puhdys, the band that won over the time itself! (Maniac)

Spikefarm / FONO

A stunningly beautiful release from the Finnish seven-piece does not frequent my stereo and is unlikely to frequent yours. You need to be in a certain state of mind to appreciate it. Silentium's second album contains 53 minutes of high-quality doom/gothic enriched with synthesizers, piano, violin and female vocals - all things traditional for this style of music. What is not traditional is the mood. It's not desperation when you feel that everything is lost, it's not anguish that you feel when some of your beloved ones is dying and you can't help it, it's not melancholy when you realize that the world is imperfect and there's no way to change it, it's more like when you're sitting at the window looking at autumn nature dying under the cold rain only to be reborn next year. "Altum" is just the right record to soothe your sadness, the only stuff that's better is the brilliant "Forever Autumn" by Lake Of Tears. Some people may be telling you that Silentium is commercial, since they have almost no extreme vocals and are much easier to appreciate than, for instance, early My Dying Bride. To this I can only reply that "Altum" is just not as monotonous as early My Dying Bride, and the sound quality is better. People may also say that the record is boring, but hey, doom/gothic isn't the genre that you enjoy instantly, you need to learn to appreciate it, and "Altum" is not an album for amateurs. (Maniac)

Live On The Edge Of Forever
Inside Out / SPV / Soyuz
mindtwisting music

Do you wanna get your mind twisted? Try the latest double live album by Symphony X. These U.S. adepts of progressive metal have been around for some time, but I've never really enjoyed their studio releases because of the feeling that Symphony X values technical skills higher than anything. It was hard for me to get into their live effort too, and as the first CD was playing in my stereo, I was pondering whether to rate it at three or four points, for there was nothing interesting to me except supreme musicianship. An ungodly cut version of my favorite "Candlelight Fantasia" seemed to be the limit. However as I turned on the second disc something strange happened: I at once got into this music and started to enjoy it immensely. Say, how can I not enjoy Symphony X going speed/power metal on "Smoke and Mirrors"? Or how can I stay indifferent to progressive-to-the-core epics like "Church Of The Machine" or "Through The Looking Glass"? And when the band started doing Bay Area thrash with keyboards in the beginning of "Of Sins And Shadows" I realized that my soul was lost. The recording and playing quality go beyond comments, a band of such class wouldn't release crappy-sounding stuff where musicians cannot be heard or where they make mistakes. Overall, "Live On The Edge Of Forever" deserves to be called excellent, but with such difficulties needed to understand it, I just can't rate it at five. All great things are simple, a proverb says. (Maniac)

World Of Glass
Napalm Records
new gothic metal star rising

A daring effort like that is bound to cause controversy. You may have heard many people saying that "World Of Glass" is a worthless piece of plastic and the worst album in Tristania's career. You may also have heard others saying that the record is great, generally more diverse and more complicated, with wonderful male and female vocals and advanced symphonic arrangements. Yours truly is gonna advocate the second point of view, after all, what you can expect from a maniac evaluating a band fronted by SUCH a beautiful woman But seriously, there is more to this combo than the attractiveness of its singer, for it managed to create an outstanding record. Tristania's previous albums were in the true doom/death vein, now they take their music a giant step further to symphonic gothic metal with four (!) vocalists and a choir, at the same time acquiring a solid share of industrial and almost blackish drum patterns. Judging from the first couple of tracks, "World Of Glass" seems less melodic than the band's earlier releases, but the fifth track "Deadlocked" turned out to be so beautiful and fragile that no more arguments were needed for me to rate the album at five points. I should also single out an angry composition called "Selling Out" and the final track "Crushed Dreams" where Tristania breaks all the boundaries of all the genres and goes avant-garde. Fans of growling vocals and heavy guitars need not worry - there is plenty of this stuff here. Just brilliant! (Maniac)

NEMS Enterprises
meditational rock and a bunch of famous singers
"The thing that I once started isn't mine anymore" This quote from Michael Kiske is the best illustration to the state of things on the modern progressive metal scene. When Arjen Lucassen invited all his friends to sing for him on Ayreon's debut album, he was hardly aware that this approach would become a trend five years later. Why is this approach so popular? Because it works! How many of you have heard Nepal, the main band of Argentinian Beto Vazques? Nearly nobody, I guess. And how many of you are eager to hear Beto's solo album because it features Tarja Turunen (Nightwish), Fabio Leone (Rhapsody), Candice Night (Blackmore's Night) and Sabine Edelsbacher (Edenbridge)? That will be thousands! Personalities and treds aside, "Infinity" is really deserves to be heard, because it is a meditational rock affair that is very melodic, very atmospheric, very transcendent and very relaxing. Don't expect Rhapsody-like symphonic metal crunch or blockbusters like "Wanderlust", just sit back and relax. Each singer does his/her job really great, and each is assigned a role he/she is most suitable for. Fabio Leone's track is the heaviest, and the five-part epic "Voyagers Of Time" sung by Candice Night is the most folkish. Actually, "Infinity" will work the best as background music for a romantic evening with your significant other on condition that he/she is at least a bit into rock. It is that rare case when slow and atmospheric doesn't mean sad and deppressing. (Maniac)

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