GMA - Vol 191 - Estampida, Spydor, Crescent Lament, Gemini Abyss, OST: "The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt", Percival Schuttenbach, Frantic Amber, Azurica, Kymatica, Storm Upon The Masses
'Hard As The Wolfram'
Celebrating their 20th year anniversary, Argentinian quartet Estampida unleash an apocalypse with their 'Thrashtastic' EP 'Hard As The Wolfram'. Sure the simile used in the EP title might raise a few eyebrows given Wolfram is the alternate name for Tungsten, which in turn derives from Swedish for 'Heavy Stone', but if this is meant to describe the music then hell the words explain themselves. If you prefer your metal to be full of throttling pace, combined with an atmosphere that guarantees to spark a mosh-pit and one that harbors a sound that will snap your neck in two, then you are reading a review about that exact release. Wallowing between the furious pace of Bay Area Thrash Metal and the guttural harmonics of Melodic Death Metal, 'Hard As The Wolfram' is an EP to raise a pint to. They may be old in the scene, but their music is still fresh as daisies.
Download This: "Face The Fear (Captive Soul)" - Click here to listen
For Fans of: The Haunted, The Arcane Order, Dying Fetus
 RHYS STEVENSON
Despite all their efforts to sound unique and original, German Thrash Metallers Spydor just don't quite cut it. No disrespect to their debut EP 'Predator' which is a good solid slab of Thrash Metal, it just doesn't have anything excellent going for it, no 'wow' factor, no breakneck elements, nothing. It just doesn't seem whether they want to follow the Teutonic Thrash sound or the Bay Area Thrash sound, leaving them to ponder clueless as to where they want to be. 'Predator' for all it's might falls at the very last hurdle that otherwise would have given the band potential to establish a name for themselves in their homeland. Granted the members may well come from well-respected bands in their region, but as far as an international perspective goes, this EP is just another one to shelve in the category 'generic thrash', here's hoping their next effort is an improvement.
Download This: "War" - Click here to listen
For Fans of: Kreator, Slayer, 'Generic Thrash'
[6.5] RHYS STEVENSON
'花殤' ("Elegy For The Blossoms")
Crescent Lament's second album answers the anticipation surrounding it with such conviction, that this could be the release that gives Crescent Lament international recognition. '花殤' ("Elegy For The Blossoms") tells the story of A-hiong, a Taiwanese geisha who endured sorrow and anxiety throughout the late-Japanese period, the Pacific campaign in WWII and thereafter upon the dawn of the Chinese Nationalist Party's dominance in Taiwanese history. By utilizing traditional Taiwanese and Japanese instruments to give the sound a Oriental-yet-traditional feel to the music, Crescent Lamant establish themselves as the pioneers of ''Oriental Gothic Metal' and as this album goes, delivers a dark, saddening and theatrical sound. What also makes this release all the more magical, is the entire story concept, with two cultures clashing on one record, this is one album everyone should have in their collection. If any Far Eastern film delves into the realm of the geisha, Crescent Lament should make an appearance on the strength of this release.
Download This: " 晴雨 " - Click here to listen
For Fans of: Epica, Lacrimosa, After Forever
 RHYS STEVENSON
Gemini Abyss' third full-length release 'Regenerate', at times feels like there is too much going on and thus loses track on what could be a powerful album. The male vocals hinder the album this time round, constricting the evident Symphonic Power Metal sound and clogging it up, whereas the female vocals need greater space instead of battling against the crunchy guitar riffs and blitzing drums. Despite this, 'Regenerate' is a respectable release that will surely give the fans of said metal genre and band to chew on, but in a holistic sense it might not be enough to propel the band into the international spotlight. Instead of growling, perhaps Marcin ought to adopt a Phantom of the Opera singing style; this combined with Klaudia's graceful singing would send the atmospherics sky-rocketing. There are pockets of songs that stand out as true anthems, such as 'Like The Wind' which ideally is the sound Gemini Abyss ought to follow more.
Download This: "Like The Wind" - Click here to listen
For Fans of: Nightwish, Rhapsody Of Fire, Kamelot
 RHYS STEVENSON
'The Witch 3: Wild Hunt Official Soundtrack - Special Edition'
CD PROJEKT RED
To hear this momentous soundtrack from the Windows/PS4/Xbox One game 'The Witch 3: Wild Hunt' is a delight beyond all belief. Featuring a wide array of instrumentalists and an all-Polish-choir, the end product is one of sheer emphatic and epic proportions that relates to the LOTR trilogy in it's suspense, elements and dramatic numbers. It also features the Progressive / Folk Metal band Percival using only acoustic instruments (Percival Schuttenbach is the metal counterpart) of whose metal name ties in with one of the gnomes from "The Witcher" saga, which in turn is a book series and forerunner to the video game series. In fact, this all Polish affair really has put the spotlight on the band and musicians involved, but as for the soundtrack itself for those who manage to secure a copy it is worth the listen. With 31 tracks spanning over 70 minutes-worth of listening time, listeners will be spoiled for choice onto what to listen to, overall this is a majestic work of art that will enthrall anyone who plays the game and as said listens to the soundtrack (if you're lucky enough to get a copy).
Listen to it here: "Official Soundtrack"
For Fans of: Video game instrumentals
[8.5] RHYS STEVENSON
PERCIVAL SCHUTTENBACH / PERCIVAL
'Wild Hunt' & 'Mniejsze Zło'
INDEPENDENT / INDEPENDENT
Lubin-based Percival Schuttenbach and their sister band Percival lock horns on their folkloric split release 'Wild Hunt' and exercise their traditional Slavic roots with pomp, majestic atmospherics and similar pace to that of their national dance the Polonez. The evident difference between the two bands is that Percival uses solely acoustic elements and yet whilst the Russian-Polish group have their musical differences with both bands, the essence of folk music remains on both accounts. Yet, Percival Schuttenbach (whose name comes from a gnome in the "The Witcher" saga) go international and perform other traditional folk songs from Belarus, Bulgaria and Croatia and thus deliver a fantastic multicultural product.
Listeners will not get bored of this, nor will they get bored of the metal counterpart known (as said) as Percival. Sure whilst the latter band only has four songs on this 12-track release, it still delivers that excitement and folk-feeling you would expect. Singing exclusively in Polish, Percival keep their heritage and traditions alive through a cocktail blend of Progressive Metal guitar work and Folk Metal harmonics, just don't confused them with Pagan Metal because they are far from it. For Slavic Folk Metal, Percival stick true to their sister bands sounds and turn the amp up past 13. Overall this split is a remarkable testament to the Polish Metal scene, and is one that you ought to have in your collection.
As for Percival Schuttenbach's fourth album 'Mniejsze Zło', more of their Progressive Folk Metal is brought out again. Maxing out at over an hour, this is a joy to listen to as the Polish verbiage flows out like a cascading waterfall. Much alike to fellow contemporary Polish Folk Metal bands, Percival Schuttenbach weave together traditional sounds with the harsh grittiness of metal music to create a sound that will enthrall many fans alike. Sure the balance between clean and screeching vocals is paramount to making a release dynamic, and that is what exactly has happened, by mixing two types of vocals that are reminiscent of many Slavic Metal bands and of the bouncy and melodic traditional type, 'Mniejsze Zło' will surely stand the test of time as a true honor to Polish Slavic Metal.
Download This: "Żmij I Dziewczyna" - Click here to listen
For Fans of: Arkona, At The Lake, Żywiołak
 +  RHYS STEVENSON
Metal knows no boundaries, so when Sweden-based quintet Frantic Amber unleash their debut album 'Burning Insight' upon the masses, what comes with it is a new take on the Melodic Death Metal style. With members from Sweden, Japan, Norway and Denmark bringing together their own unique tastes for metal, the consequential output is a mixing pot of different influences that all mesh together to create the Frantic Amber sound. Dynamic atmospherics laced with the unrelenting pummeling of the drums come colliding and crashing against the crunchiness of the riffs and sickening feminine-ish vocals. It may well be 7 years since the band's inception, but the wait is well worth it. 'Burning Insight' shows a vast improvement across the years since the band's first EP and with this effort, clearly deserve to be signed, for they are certainly Sweden's hottest-property-of-2015.
For Fans of: Arch Enemy, Scar Symmetry, Deals Death
Download This: "Soar" - Click here to listen
 RHYS STEVENSON
'Warriors Don't Die'
Not to be confused with their second EP of the same name, Azurica's humble beginning started with their 2013 EP 'Warriors Don't Die' which takes the form of a Keyboard-led style of Melodic Death Metal. Despite it's might, the vocals seem to be whispered and thereby allowing the guitars to take center stage alongside the keyboards. And what with the drums providing very little agility let alone sound quality, you begin to question where the band wants to be heading and where they are actually heading. Suffice to say despite Azurica's attempts to make 'Warriors Don't Die' a feasibly and exciting release, it fails to make the cut and as a result, begs for their next release to be the one to gobsmack. How will the German quintet move on from this is the next question, one of which should have an interesting answer.
Download This: "The Inseparable Part" - Click here to listen
For Fans of: 'Melodic Death Metal'
[6.5] RHYS STEVENSON
Just utter the genre and you will raise an eyebrow. Symphonic Extreme Metal might be a paradox in terms of how the opposites of the metal scale collide on Kymatica's self-debut album, but it certainly leaves an ever-lasting taste for more. Whilst their first major release might not be a clear-cut work of art, it certainly delivers something fresh to the table, with a concoction of sounds deriving from Symphonic Metal, Black Metal, Post-Metal and Doom Metal, you would be left pondering what on earth did Kymatica drink in order to deliver this golden-piss-of-an-album. Despite its lack of presence for the most part, 'Kymatica' is a promising sign of good things to come from this Canadian quartet and whilst it may leave some listeners befuddled, the end result is as good as the start. Watch this band with some interest.
Download This: "Fate, Doom" - Click here to listen
For Fans of: Dimmu Borgir, Cradle Of Filth, White Empress
 RHYS STEVENSON
STORM UPON THE MASSES
'Vengeance Of Madness'
Slamming the ground with a fist of fury is Belgian Brutal Death Metal masochists Storm Upon The Masses, now their EP 'Vengeance Of Madness' is a little heavier than your last hangover. By bolting together a furious rally of drumming, riffs and guttural verbiage, this quintet emerge victorious as perhaps becoming the natural successor to Aborted. 'Vengeance Of Madness' will grapple onto your senses, pound your skull into tiny fragmented pieces and leave you begging for your mummy; unless of course she's into brutally-crafted Brutal Death Metal. Whilst there is only three tracks, there is enough firepower to blow away any poser Death Metal band with ease and cement Storm Upon The Masses' place as one of 2015's hottest prospects, let alone place 'Vengeance Of Madness' as an early contender for Belgian release of the year. All in all, watch this band with interest.
Download This: "The Skin Collector" - Click here to listen
For Fans of: Aborted, Suffocation, Nile
 RHYS STEVENSON
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