ASTRAL DOORS – JERUSALEM

Out now on Metalville Records.

Hitting their 10th anniversary, Swedishn traditional metallers Astral Doors celebrate their sixth studio album with “Jerusalem”.  If you’re new to the band, simply said they are straight up classic metal ala Dio/Tony Martin era Sabbath or Dio.  A classic guitar/Hammond tag team over a driving rhythm section coupled with the vocals of the Dio/Jorn Lande-esque Nils Patrik Johansson, a fine vocalist who just happens to have sung on some of my favourite albums with Richard Andersson’s Space Odyssey.

“Jerusalem” for the most part is more of the same, bred from the same pot that produced their other works and whilst it may all seem a little too predictable to some, the band manage to maintain your attention throughout with good riffs and strong hooks.  Nothing overtly fancy or pretentious just good riffs, a solid back beat and a charismatic frontman and really its all you need.

The production however is not quite as strong as on earlier albums ala “Of The Son And Father” and “Evil Is Forever” but again not too much to gripe about.

Highlights are plentiful from the opening assault of “7th Crusade”, “Pearl Harbour”.  “Babylon Rise” shows a slight variation in the bands theme taking some unexpected turns.  “Suicide Rime” is sure to get some dandruff flying at gigs whilst fans of epic productions will be well pleased with “The Battle Of Jacob’s Ford”.

Overall album number 6 doesn’t through up any real surprises, yet the quality of song writing is still on a par with albums of yore.  Solid and dependable, get some Astral Doors into your life with “Jerusalem” being as good a place to start as any.

Rating – 84%

 

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VANDEN PLAS – THE SERAPHONIC CLOCKWORK (ARCHIVE)

The German melodic progressive metallers are one of the longest running bands on the scene, with a pedigree of delivering quality output. Their last effort “Christ O” was arguably their best and their new effort has just seen the light of day on Frontiers Records. Once again a concept is in place with story written by vocalist Andy Kuntz and tells about a journey in time. With the main protagonist, who lives in 16th century Rome, coming under the spell of an Old Testament prophecy. He travels back to Jerusalem in the year 33 anno Domini where he must face his God-given destiny. Its all quite intense stuff but luckily you don’t need to follow the story to enjoy the album.

“The Seraphic Clockwork” could be described as text book Vanden Plas – Heavy riffs, elaborate keyboard and orchestra arrangements plus catchy hook lines come together in a very strong manner. However, for the first time I feel a little outside influences coming into the fray from the at times Symphony X-ish feel of opener “Frequency”. “Holes In The Sky” is fuelled by an opening riff not a million miles from Dream Theater’s “Pull Me Under” but it’s moves into its own territory and is arguably a highlight. “Scar Of An Angel” sees the pace drop a little but is a classy melodic number, the riff count is kept high in “Sound Of Blood” (another highlight) whilst “The Final Murder” sees great use light and shade and is classic Vanden Plas in every sense. The more morose “Quicksilver” plods along until halfway through when a nice acoustic guitar motif breathes some life into the track which then builds into a very nice offering. The ten minutes of “Rush Of Silence” are well served whilst the epic of the album “On My Way To Jerusalem” is another highlight, yet one that takes a few listens to fully reveal itself. The bonus track of “Eleyson” is unfortunately nothing to get too excited about lacking the class and feel of its predecessors but then as not part of the actual concept we’ll overlook this one.

Overall Vanden Plas have delivered another fine effort. Whilst maybe not as good as “Christ O” to these ears it may well achieve that distinction with further listens. However it shows a band that deserves to be better known and hopefully Frontiers can push the band towards a new audience. The album is home to a strong powerful production with good performances from all involved. A very strong return after a 4 year absence and a recommended purchase for melodic progressive metal fans.
 
Hot spots : Holes In The Sky, Sound Of Blood, On My Way To Jerusalem
Rating : 90%