The Metal Opera

SKU: CM8038-2
Label:
Century Media
Category:
Power Metal
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Super session put together by Tobias Stammet, vocalist of Edguy. Lineup reads like a who's who of power/speed metal: Kai Hansen, David DeFeis, Andre Matos, Oliver Hartmann, Sharon Den Adel, Rob Rock, Timo Tolkki on vocals. Musiciasn include Henjo Richter, Markus Grosskopf, and Alex Holzwarth. Basically an over the top power metal opera!

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  • "With the release of its sixth LP, The Parallax II: Future Sequence (the sequel to the Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues EP), in 2012, American progressive metal quintet Between the Buried and Me set a new benchmark for its genre. Sure, both 2007’s Colors and 2009’s The Great Misdirect are incredible records (the former was a breakthrough in terms of both approach and commercial appeal, while the latter was more polished, accessible, and vibrant), but Parallax II took the epic-suite-broken-into-sections format Colors introduced and perfected it. With its dramatic chronicle, seamless flow, hypnotic singing, inventive instrumentation, and self-referential continuity, it easily ranked not only as BTBAM’s best effort to date, but as one of the greatest progressive metal albums of all time.Naturally, expectations skyrocketed when the band announced its follow-up, Coma Ecliptic; fortunately, it surely satisfies them. Another seventy minute odyssey into imaginative soundscapes, mind-blowing arrangements, affective storytelling, and remarkable tonal shifts (both musically and vocally), the full-length retains everything that made their past few opuses so unique, breathtaking, and rewarding. However, as astounding as it is, Coma Ecliptic doesn’t quite surpass its predecessor, as it’s slightly less varied and daring; nevertheless, it comes very close to matching Parallax II, making it another absolutely extraordinary entry in their discography.Billed as another “modern rock opera,” the concept of Coma Ecliptic actually shares similarities with that of The Mars Volta’s debut, De-Loused in the Comatorium. As bassist Dan Briggs explains, the plot “follows the wanderings of an unidentified man, stuck in a coma, as he journeys through his past lives. Each song is its own episode in a modern day, sort of The Twilight Zone-esque fashion [sic]. The unidentified man enters each world and is offered a choice: stay, or move on to the next in search of something better, something more ‘perfect.’”  To reveal any more of the tale would ruin its surprises and most affective elements. Suffice it to say, though, that the quintet’s moral intention is to help listeners “make the best of [their lives]. People are constantly searching for something better without taking the time to appreciate the things they have. What we need may already be here . . .” Because of its coherent storyline and meaningful themes, Coma Ecliptic actually contains BTBAM’s strongest narrative yet.Along the same lines, it also features one of their best opening tracks to date: “Node”. Vocalist/keyboardist Tommy Giles Rogers plays an ethereal piano pattern as he sings beautiful yet mournful judgments. Eventually, harmonies, strings, biting guitar riffs, and thunderous percussion explode around him, culminating in a regal and dense declaration of the trauma to come. In typical Between the Buried and Me fashion, Giles’ voice even interlocks with itself a couple times; likewise, the composition alternates between calmness and catastrophe with exceptional build-ups. It’s a fine way to begin, and it demonstrates how the band continues to evolve with each new release. Like most of the “episodes” on Coma Ecliptic, “Node” segues into the next section, “The Coma Machine.”With its fluctuating structures, absorbing melodies, and exceptional musicianship, “The Coma Machine” follows a familiar template; nonetheless, it’s still a fascinating and creative venture. From the way Giles’ infectious chorus (“You teach us what was, out there”) complements the mechanical riffs, to the way the song’s essence moves from hellish to heavenly several times, this track is a stunning beast that never lets up. Of course, their trademark frantic rhythmic changes are in full force here, with gripping stop/start breaks on occasion. Similarly, the sharp intertwining patterns of guitarists Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring are as overwhelming as ever. Without a doubt, though, the single best moment of “The Coma Machine” comes at around the 3:15 mark, when an electrifying new riff crashes in, joined by bells and pounding drums. It’s wholly invigorating and awesome; in fact, it’s one of the best moments on any BTBAM creation. Finally, Giles’ closing bridge is subtle yet very moving.Like a lost gem by Dutch prog metal band Ayreon, “Dim Ignition” sneaks in with an ominous synthesized loop. Essentially, it’s a brief psychedelic interlude in which Giles proclaims foreboding notions over spacey effects and beats. It serves its purpose well and definitely adds to the thematic quality of Coma Ecliptic, but what’s really cool is how the loop bleeds into the introductory, sinister riff of “Famine Wolf” at its conclusion. As for “Famine Wolf” itself, its opening is also among the highlights on the disc. In general, its dynamic juxtapositions aren’t as striking as on some other tracks, but it still balances Giles’ screaming and singing well. The most interesting aspect appears about two-thirds of the way in, when the aforementioned loop returns as Giles evokes the peculiar accent that he used on past LPs. In this way, Coma Ecliptic feels connected to its precursors.Another transition takes place next, as “King Redeem/Queen Serene” starts with a lovely acoustic guitar arpeggio supporting arguably the most touching melody and lyrics Giles has ever sung (“I can’t hear a thing / These waves crash faster”). Every measure comes with more luscious layers until the arrangement breaks into one of the most “prog” moments BTBAM has ever had. After some more heaviness, an essential rhythmic breakdown from “The Coma Machine” comes back, which is very cool, followed by more frantic transformations. Ultimately, the piece ends as it began, so it feels like a self-contained observation.Although all of “Turn on the Darkness” is astonishing in how moves around its various formations, the best part is the chorus, during which Giles brings the concept to the forefront. Following some warm and atmospheric passages, he seizes command by saying, “Welcome to our journey / Please walk with me / I’ll put your mind at ease.” Aside from this, the ways in which the guitar and keyboards echo each other from time to time also help the track stand out. Really, this selection feels like something from The Great Misdirect, which isn’t bad at all.“The Ectopic Stroll” possibly includes the most experimentation aspects on Coma Ecliptic, as Giles’s odd piano chords, coupled with his menacing crooning, make the main parts feel like a malevolent 1940s jazz excerpt. He screeches, “Whoa, can’t get it right!” while sing-a-long harmonies concur, and at first, it’s a bit toounconventional to feel appropriate; but, after a few listens it feels more fitting. Equally, the percussive spasticity and quality feel akin to some of the wilder tones used by Dream Theatre or Devin Townsend. Truly, these risks also show how fearless BTBAM still is in trying new techniques, so they deserve praise for that alone.As its name suggests, “Rapid Calm” is transcendent and lively, with keyboard and guitar outlines dancing around each other as more soothing melodies signal the beginning of the end. In particular, this song is a strong example of how Coma Ecliptic features the strongest emphasis on clean vocals of any Between the Buried and Me record; there’s still plenty of growling throughout, but Giles has never allowed his natural style to shine so densely or prevalently. During the chorus, for instance, he conveys dread and sorrow powerfully, realizing, “They don’t want you there / They don’t want me here / Remember my name / The machine is crumbling.” It’s an exceptional moment, as is the moody intermission near the end, whose somber timbres recall parts of the most recent Opeth collections.Beyond being the standout track on Coma Ecliptic by a mile, “Memory Palace” may be the single best Between the Buried and Me song ever. Each element is just about perfect; from its towering opening riffs and soaring lines to its meticulous and clever shifts, every second is spectacular. The group has never before moved between such drastic deviations with such silky expertise; above all, the leap into what’s likely the band’s most surreal segment yet (“Focus on melody / The sounds under my eyes / Dreaming inside of this / World inside my mind”) is amazing. Furthermore, the way they bring back past moments near the end is sublime. If ever there was a track that single-handedly proved why BTBAM is so special, it’s this one.Luckily, the reprisals continue during the final two tracks, “Option Oblivion” and “Life in Velvet.” The former bursts in from its predecessor with more spellbinding arrays. Brilliantly, Giles brings back a phrase that was first mentioned on “Rapid Calm”:  “A choice of gold or velvet / Do I go on, or follow the crown in the smoke?” A bit further on, he also references “The Coma Machine” by lamenting, “Looking back through the painful tunnel / They taught us what once was.” As for “Life in Velvet,” it continues the symbolic theme of velvet (as a catalyst for spiritual transformation) that runs throughout the album; it’s also lead by a modified version of the chord progression from “The Coma Machine.” Like “Node,” it features Giles singing softly while playing piano, and in doing so, it brings Coma Ecliptic full circle. As a final burst of brilliance, the aforementioned electrifying guitar riff and closing bridge from “The Coma Machine” also makes an appearance. Because of these numerous references, Coma Ecliptic has the most alluring, suitable, and clever conclusion of any Between the Buried and Me record.Coma Ecliptic is an exquisite masterpiece. As with most opaque works, it takes many listens to fully appreciate everything here (including multilayered production, parallel structures, and callbacks to prior parts); however, once listeners understand all that’s going on, they’ll be utterly blown away. Between the Buried and Me have proven time and time again how distinctive, ambitious, capable, and important they are within its genre; no other band can do what they do as well as they do, and this effort just proves that once again." - Pop Matters
    $16.00
  • Domestic release. One of two new albums released by Edguy's Tobias Sammet under the Avantasia moniker. Similar to what Arjen Lucassen does with his Ayreon projecdts, Sammet brings together some of the best vocalists and musicians from the metal world to create an over the top symphonic power metal concept album. Featured vocalists include Russell Allen (Symphony X), Jorn Lande (Masterplan), Michael Kiske (Helloween), Tim Owens , Klaus Meine (Scorpions), Andre Matos, Bob Catley and others. Featured performers include Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer (Kiss), Oliver Hartmann, Alex Holzwarth. Curiously, the second volume is called Angel Of Babylon and is not yet scheduled for a US release. We hope to have the import in stock soon.
    $13.00
  • Not at all what I expected...vocal based project with Terry Bozzio and Billy Sheehan playing all the instruments. Obviously the predominant instrumentation revolves around bass and percussion so it's very rhythmically oriented music. Bozzio sings and contribues keys while Sheehan also plays some guitar. Music has a dark Crimsonish feel. Bozzio vocal approach is more talking than singing but it fits the moody noir-ish music. Clever disc!
    $9.00
  • Liquorish Allsorts is the first solo album from Robert Webb, keyboardist for the legendary Britsh band England.  The set collects a variety of material from different era, dating all the way back to the early 70s and runs up to the present day.  Much of the material fits firmly in the prog category and some of it...not so much.  There are an endless number of musicians that contribute to the set including his former England bandmates.  Even Nicko McBrain is here!  Current musicians participating are drawn from Kenso and Resistor.
    $12.00
  • Now here is a beautiful slice of contemporary progressive rock.  Anubis is an underrated band from Australia - bands down under don't seem to get the attention they deserve.  Hitchhiking is their third full length album.  2011's A Tower Of Silence was a big hit around here and frankly when it arrived it came as a huge surprise.  This long awaited follow up reinforces that the prog rock world needs to take notice.  The music has a cinematic Floyd-like feel.  Vocals from Robert James Moulding are emotion driven and have plenty of impact.  This is not a band who's music is filled with tons of soloing but what's here is solid.  In other words this is not old school prog - its very forward thinking but with a modern sound.  Highly recommended."I have long dreamt of an Australian progressive rock album that would inspire me to click the repeat button, in order to drift through its world all over again, and I am happy to declare that Hitchhiking to Byzantium has been on constant rotation for weeks at this point. Bringing an enchanting blend of Floydian melancholy and the energy of Rush to the table, Anubis have come to stake their claim as heavyweights in the Oz scene with their third opus.Whilst being equally impressed with their 2011 album A Tower of Silence (which I have only just heard recently also), I have found myself returning to Byzantium more to explore the subtle nuances contained within the album’s ten tracks. ‘Fadeout’ as an opening diddy is like riding a gentle breeze for just a short while before being swept up in all the drama and opulence of ‘A King with No Crown’, a reference quality track on every level, cinematic in scope and full of drama and tension and certainly an inspired choice as opening single for the album. ‘Dead Trees’ is a classic prog cut with all the bells and whistles sporting a vocal performance that harkens to a young James Labrie and a chorus that will have you by the balls from the first time you hear it.I mentioned a notable influence from Floyd and Rush earlier, but if I was to be honest, I would love to ask them if they are fans of American prog band Tiles and those wonderful Brits Anathema, because both bands are called to mind on this album amongst others like Sweden’s Anekdoten. The title track is a sublime centrepiece and features a plaintive aura that is sent soaring when spine-tingling female backing vocals lace the chorus. It’s so hard to choose a favourite song when they are all so filled with creamy goodness, but any of these three  - ‘Blood is Thicker than Common Sense’ (a seductive groover), ‘Tightening of the Screws’ (a majestic slice of melancholia reminiscent of early The Pineapple Thief) or ‘Partitionists’ (a lyrical and musical marvel) - could easily take the title for this humble listener.The final triptych features dark drama in ‘Crimson Stained Romance’, a song that reminded me most of a classic Floyd epic, the 15+ minute ‘A Room with a View’, which is nothing short of a sweeping symphony of moods and tones and the closing ‘Silent Wandering Ghosts’ sounds exactly like its title would suggest, haunting and transcendent with an outro to die for.These seven talented lads are a gifted lot, with every performance of outstanding quality, enhanced by a jaw-dropping production that let’s every instrument tell its own little story and play its part in this emotionally resonant work that as the band state themselves: "I feel that there's more of us in there - the hurdles that life throws at us and the only way to feel true inner peace - by examining the love around you. It's certainly an introspective record - but it's real life. It's about you, it's about me, it's about all of us. Hitchhiking to Byzantium. That journey is life."And somehow I believe them." - Loud Mag
    $15.00
  • Seventh album from one of the leading lights of the modern progressive rock movement.  The album demonstrates the band expanding the scope of their sound a bit as some of the material has a metallic quality.  Overall though the band stays true to their roots - plenty of 'tron, organ and analog keyboard sounds to be heard.  These guys didn't forget where they came from.  They just crossed over to the dark side...a little bit.  Embrace the crunch and enjoy.  Highly recommended.
    $9.00
  • "The news of Angela Gossow stepping down as the front of ARCH ENEMY is still fresh as the band launches their latest album, "War Eternal". The new record features THE AGONIST's Alissa White-Gluz on the mike and former ARSIS guitarist Nick Cordle, who gets his first album representation following the 2012 departure of Christopher Amott.Change often sucks, but hardly in this case. The new blood in ARCH ENEMY has propagated a tremendous creative spark in Michael Amott. Simply put, "War Eternal" is the best ARCH ENEMY album in years. Though Angela Gossow held her post with honor, the songwriting under her tenure fell into a script that's observed on occasion here, but stepped well beyond."War Eternal" captures immediate attention with an overture opening featuring harpsichord and choral lines, "Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F Minor)" before ripping straight into "Never Forgive, Never Forget". The latter yields the same structuring as most ARCH ENEMY songs during the Gossow years with bombastic thrash-grind lines melded with modified slowdowns. Overall, the song is a scorcher and it comes with guitar solos that are dealt at a zillion notes they're worth backing up.Afterwards, the title track jumps in with an excellent shredded intro and retains a harmonious curve all the way through its mid-tempo stamp. This and the gloriously anthemic "You Will Know My Name" are the closest "War Eternal" get to accessible and the strident focus of the band puts these songs at peaks of near-perfection, once again bringing active, detailed solo sections full of jerked strings and fret dances. The solo on "War Eternal" needs to be shaved by about ten seconds, but otherwise, that track is one of the most affecting tunes ARCH ENEMY's written in some time."As the Pages Burn" is completely savage on the verses, but the stepped-back choruses that make an attempt at neoclassical-based melody does the headstrong thrash a slight disservice. Still, the song's a cooker. Speaking of neoclassical, Michael Amott and Nick Cordle lead and fill the steady crusher "No More Regrets" with scales galore and the fret garnishments assume a stately flair beyond the song's gruesome double hammer and fierce breakdown. By this point, it's evident Michael Amott and ARCH ENEMY mean to outdo themselves on this album.The brief guitar interlude, "Graveyard of Dreams", is a nice set-up for the heavy thrust of "Stolen Life", which the shredding lines and Alissa White-Gluz's spit-flung delivery keep the energy level of the album from faltering. The lullaby opening to the massive "Time is Black" is the perfect opener as the song rolls through a symbiosis of classical lines and progression that jack up in both intensity and elegance.Suffice it to say, the concentration upon Bach and Mozart behind Michael Amott, Nick Cordle and Sharlee D'Angelo's intricate lines becomes a theme on "War Eternal" and the method elevates the band beyond their powers. Once more incorporating harpsichord and symphonic strings for the intro and the fills of the headbanging groove on "Avalanche", the opportunity for auxiliary grace is capitalized intuitively.The band's tireless performance on "War Eternal" is comparable to a veteran baseball team with a powerful batting lineup giving a new pitcher a seven run lead to break in with. Blue-coiffed Alissa White-Gluz can rip esophagi with them best of them and she's a natural fit for ARCH ENEMY. She possesses excellent pentameter even in ralphing mode and she sounds like a demoniac on "As the Pages Burn". It doesn't hurt to have her predecessor looming in the background as the band's new manager. Gossow must be feeling proud, if bittersweet that ARCH ENEMY hits a higher level of craft on "War Eternal" than they have in a long time. There are transitional moments in a band, but this is a veritable catharsis." - Blabbermouth.net
    $12.00
  • "The second installment of our 20th Anniversary celebration, "Off the Floor 02" continues with more live-in-the-studio performances of staples from our live sets. Taken from the same sessions as "Off the Floor (01)," the track list draws from each of our five studio albums and includes a healthy dose of improvisation, a bit of re-imagining and even a little new music in the form of a bass & drums interlude.We won't repeat the "Brief History of Tiles" from the OtF (01) liner notes, but will take a moment to revisit the basic 'off the floor' concept. After much discussion about our "platinum" milestone (unfortunely not for sales!), we decided to do a live album using the somewhat non-traditional approach of recording live in the studio. This is actually what the phrase 'off the floor' means in recording lingo: to record a song as a complete performance without adding more parts (overdubs) later. We recruited a few friends to be our audience – for inspiration and to keep us on our toes.Having the controlled environment of a private 'soundstage' allowed us to focus on the music. We didn't have to haul a bunch of equipment into a club and deal with recording technicalities, show promotion and other business distractions. Although we were in a studio, "OtF 02" is still "live" – complete with the occasional less-than-perfect note and other minor imperfection. We did, however, take advantage of the relaxed setting and usually played each song twice, picking the best version for the CD. Occasionally we didn't need a second take, but a couple of times we needed a third take ("Patterns" oddly enough!).To offer a little something different, "OtF (01)" had a couple special guests plus an expanded arrangement of 'The Wading Pool.' For "Off the Floor 02" we dug into our archives and dusted off a few tunes from our appearance at the 2005 Rites of Spring Festival (ROSfest). We had recorded our entire 2-hour set, but filed the hard drive away with little thought it would see the light of day. Technical problems had dogged us the moment we hit the stage and left us feeling unsatisfied with our performance. Sampler and keyboard sounds would mysteriously reset and the bass amp would cut in and out. Figuring out why these intermittant problems were happening was made even more challenging by Jeff's state of exhaustion; even though it was a good kind of exhaustion caused by the birth of his daughter just four days before the show. Since the problems were on his side of the stage he had to play detective and keep up with the songs! Eventually, the issue was discovered and duct tape strategically applied to a loose electrical wall outlet – which worked just fine unless someone happened to use the side-stage walkway.Although tempted by the 12-minute "venting" version of "Capture the Flag," we didn't want to repeat any songs already included on either Off the Floor disc. Fortunately, "Facing Failure," "Ballad of the Sacred Cows," "Paintings" and "Window Dressing" were in all-around good shape. We only needed to drop in a couple missing samples and a keyboard part. By including selections from ROSfest as part of the Off the Floor project we get to acknowledge Pat Deleon, our drummer from 1997 to 2005, and present a complete live history of Tiles." - Chris Herin/TilesDisc One: Off the Floor 021. Patterns (4.38)2. Hide & Seek (8.09)3. Taking Control (5.14)4. Remember To Forget (5.00)5. Analysis Paralysis (5.18)6. Cactus Valley (7.01)7. Sacred & Mundane (6.30)8. Dancing Dogs (5.45)9. Safe Procedures (7.31)10. Another's Hand (6.26)Mark Evans: Drums & PercussionChris Herin: Electric Guitar, Keyboards, Backing VocalsPaul Rarick: Lead VocalsJeff Whittle: Bass Guitar, Keyboards, Backing VocalsDisc Two: Live at the 2005 Rites of Spring Festival1. Intro/Facing Failure (6.48)2. Ballad Of The Sacred Cows (7.24)3. Paintings (5.04)4. Window Dressing (17.03)Paul Rarick: Lead VocalsChris Herin: Electric & Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards, Backing VocalsJeff Whittle: Bass Guitar, Keyboards, Backing VocalsPat DeLeon: Drums, PercussionBonus Videos (from the Off the Floor sessions):1. Landscrape (4.27)2. Remember To Forget (5.00)
    $15.00
  • Excellent US neoprog that will appeal to fans of Marillion and Iluvatar.
    $3.00
  • Maybe I have a soft spot for this album because it was the first Camel album I got turned on to. This great remastered edition features 5 bonus tracks. "Lunar Sea" is just as intense for me now as it was hearing it for the first time 26 years ago.
    $9.00
  • "Credited with being amongst the saviours of true heavy metal in the late 90s, power metal behemoths HammerFall are back to infect your sound system with high-pitched vocals, galloping riffs and a thundering double-bass kick synonymous with Sweden’s finest.The marketing approach taken on Infected has a somewhat more modern edge to it with the logo being somewhat skewed, as if a product of the toxic wasteland that vocalist Joacim Cans sings about in Patient Zero.Another notable omission is beloved mascot Hector failing to make an appearance on the album cover, replaced by a seemingly infected human mutant’s hand (the original concept was for a biohazard logo, disputed by Biohazard’s Evan Seinfeld – I didn’t realise the international symbol was the nu-metal band’s property). This has caused uproar amongst the HammerFall faithful and Hector has since graced the cover of the single for Send Me A Sign, along with the original band logo.However, despite some unusual deviations in guitarist and chief songwriter Oscar Dronjak’s direction for the band, the sound is essentially a continuation of what we have always loved about the band. Fun lyrics complemented by fist-pumping music and guitar solos that would make the likes of Bill & Ted’s Rufus envious.Although the band seem like they will never come remotely close to topping the unforgettable Glory To The Brave and Legacy Of Kings albums, HammerFall continue to deliver solid power metal and although HammerFall have added a few different types of spirits to the mix this time, the end result is still the same and will have you raising the metal horns up high.In a world of the politically correct, fashionista, hipster, self-important many, HammerFall continue to wave the flag for the disinterested in conforming to a particular mould few, who instead know what they like and don’t need to be told to like it. Bang Your Head…Stand United….amen."- Faster Louder.com.au
    $13.00
  • This was formerly known as the Full Power release.At the moment Big Big Train are one of the best prog bands going.  This English crew take some of the best elements of old school Genesis and their ilk and marry it with something very contemporary and relevant.  The band was started years ago by Greg Spawton and Andy Poole.  There were a variety of iterations of the band and as the years went on they got better and better.  If you don't know, their vocalist Dave Longdon was a finalist to replaced Phil Collins in Genesis.  Rutherford and Banks obviously made the wrong choice, going with Ray Wilson instead.  Longdon's vocals remind very much of Gabriela and Collins making the Genesis connection quite easy.  Further on the band added Nick D'Virgilio on drums.  These guys totally grok prog.The band's most recent work was epic in nature.  English Electric was released about six months apart as two separate releases.  Further to this, there were 4 additional tracks which were left off and just released as the Make Some Noise EP."Originally released as two separate albums in 2012 and 2013, the English Electric CD's were subsequently brought together as a limited edition (and now out of print) double album called English Electric Full Power, a release which included four additional songs and a revised track listing from the separate album versions.This new double album version of the English Electric CD's retains the extended track listing of the Full Power release and has been remastered by Rob Aubrey to ensure the songs benefit from even greater dynamic range. It is presented in a softpack with a 40 page booklet."
    $12.00
  • Limited edition import 2CD set with 7 bonus tracks!"When you made the impact that Bigelf did in 2010 with their fourth album ‘Cheat The Gallows’ and the subsequent tour, it’s inevitable that people expected the highly rated band from Los Angeles to hit hard in 2011. But instead we got an astonishing silence. However, all that is about to change with the arrival of ‘Into The Maelstrom’, a new album of melodic prog-doom that eccentric frontman Damon Fox believes will take Bigelf to new heights. “I have been reflecting on the band and pondering what it would take to get us to the next level, I believe we have accomplished this task on the new record.The last three years for Fox have been confusing and difficult, to say the least, as he found the band he’d worked so hard to establish suddenly dissipated. “I’d call our break a spontaneous hiatus. I did genuinely feel that we’d go into 2011 with an album out early in the year, and then we’d build on what we had achieved up until that point. Instead, we came to a standstill. The momentum had vanished, and it halted the band. So, I was forced into an introspective state of hypersleep and had to contemplate my future. I love the other guys in the band as brothers, and I am extremely grateful for they contributed to help get Bigelf this far. I was heartbroken when that line-up came to an end but change nonetheless was upon the band.“Forging ahead, I didn’t feel that I could get it done on my own”, Fox admits. Thankfully, he found a kindred spirit in famed drum god Mike Portnoy, with whom he’d bonded with in 2010 when Bigelf toured with Dream Theater. “We hung out a lot back then, and got very close. Mike and I discussed how similar our situations were with our respective bands going through our ‘Let It Be’ phases. This was around the time when Mike had his dramatic press-laden departure from Dream Theater. I knew Mike loved Bigelf, and he told me not to give up on it and to keep the band going. His encouragement really helped me to carry on through dark times.”"Getting the songs fully realized was something of a laborious experience", Fox explains. “In the past while I had written most of the material, I always had a incredibly gifted band to bounce ideas off of and we would often jam out to fully realize the song . But this time, I had to write, arrange and envision everything on my own. Once I got the selection of songs together, I sent the demos to Portnoy (who had agreed to play on the album). Mike is the busiest man in Prog, so the next time he was in LA, we laid down the drums at Linda Perry's studio, Kung-Fu Gardens where we did ‘Gallows’. I also wrote a song with her for the new album. The rest of the sessions and instrumentation were recorded at my home studio ITM.“I feel this album is going to prove to a lot of MP haters that Portnoy can really lay down a groove and has a serious vibe as a drummer. It’s not just about his chops and his pyrotechnic style, for which he’s known for, especially with Dream Theater. The feel and emotion in his playing on this record is really unique and it’s unlike anything else he’s done before in my opinion” Lovable lefty bassist Duffy Snowhill, who’s been with the band since 2000, is bringing his thundering Viking bass tones to the recording of ‘Into The Maelstrom’. Luis Maldonado is also climbing aboard the Elf vessel for his first trek. “Luis is a close friend who I’ve known for many years. He has his own band, Into The Presence, and works with a lot of established artists as well. Luis is a phenomenal guitarist, he delivered some really blistering leads on the new album. I'm supplied all of the rhythm guitar tracks and managed to squeeze in a few leads as well too. People usually associate me with keyboards – and there are copious amount on the album, to be certain – but originally Bigelf was founded around my guitar riffs, and it was really rewarding to be able to play guitar again from a nucleus standpoint.”‘Into The Maelstrom’ was produced by Fox (who also handles all the vocals), and believes this album proves that Bigelf are now exploring alien musical landscapes. “There’s a fresh aura and energy on there that’s completely different to our previous releases, but it also sounds like Bigelf. I view this album as being very psychedelic cinematic. It has a ‘Mad Max’ post-apocalyptic feel – a futuristic world that’s rather dirty and desolate filled with chaos and despair. The bludgeoning Sabbath guitars and “Karn-Evil” keys are still there, but the modern setting is what makes the record have a creative edge.While ‘Into The Maelstrom’ isn’t a concept album as such, Fox does reveal that there is a theme that links much of his lyricism. “It’s about traveling through time into one’s past and into the future, to experience and examine your pain and fears, in order to move forward in life. A lot of my baggage from the my travels provides the cathartic inspiration. Deep, personal feelings like the tragic death of my best friend and former Bigelf guitarist A.H.M. Butler-Jones. And my fears of mankind eventually destroying itself a la, ‘Planet Of The Apes’. I suppose the opening song, ‘Incredible Time Machine’, sums it all up.”Fox is clearly inspired and reinvigorated by the new focus Bigelf have made here. For him it’s not just about how the album sounds, but also the process involved in getting there. “Making the record has been a certain kind of journey. A few years ago I had to completely let go of Bigelf, which was painful but it came back with force and vision. As such, the music began to shape from a different perspective and I have been able to see an alternative way of accomplishing my goals. To me, ‘Into The Maelstrom’ is a genesis, a bridge between the band and a larger audience. Strap yourselves in ladies and gentlemen, you're in for a wild ride.”"
    $15.00
  • Limited edition embossed digipak with one bonus track."It was the friendly split heard round the world: two bands – same logo, same history….huh? Two Rhapsody’s? Would they sound the same? What does Rhapsody even sound like without Luca? All those questions are now about to be answered as Rhapsody of Fire (RoF) will finally present the response album to the overwhelmingly cinematic masterpiece spewed by Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody (LTR) in 2012. In the interim, there is a new record company (AFM), the first North American Tour and a Hess in….a Hess out. The split with the former HolyHell guitarist has left Roberto De Micheli as the lone guitarist, which turns out to be the best move of all. Meanwhile, Fabio Lione has been the busiest and a singer for hire – guest starring on a multitude of releases, including a long stint with Brazil giants Angra – and permanently joining Hollow Haze on top of Vision Divine. Fans wondered, when would that long awaited response album from Alex Staropoli be heard? The time is now and “Dark Wings of Eternity” is upon us. Right, right….you want the verdict! Well this album will definitely distinguish the band from LTR, but at the same time all of the key RoF qualities remain.Is it a win? Absolutely! Alex Staropoli takes RoF in a more organic and metallic direction, which on the first listen may come across sounding “under produced” when compared to the grandiose “overly produced” previous albums. Successive listens unveil the beauty of “Dark Wings of Steel,” an album that favors drama over theatric, proving there really is room for two Rhapsodys without picking sides.Luca’s vision of Rhapsody is the cinematic grandiose direction – a grand production of sight and sound, dazzling and spectacular. Alex Staropoli has side stepped and stripped down Rhapsody of Fire just a bit towards a purer “heavy metal” direction. Fans might take that statement as a step backward, but keep in mind, having two bands that are exactly the same would be silly and certainly wouldn’t help either. The guitar sound is more prominent, darker, and little less speedy as in the past (save for two of the album’s tracks). The choirs and choruses that fans have come to expect remain intact, as well as those building and sweeping melodies, written to perfectly balance the strengths of Fabio’s voice. Clearly, this is Staropoli’s band and he makes his presence known in a huge way (more on that later), and Roberto’s work is absolutely brilliant and cannot go unnoticed! His riffs are engaging and his solos are masterful, in many ways exceeding Luca’s own (which Turilli would freely admit). Many people do not realize that Roberto was actually in Thundercross in 1993, the band that would change its name to the famous Rhapsody in 1995 (though he did not play on the “Land of Immortals” demo of 1994).For any true fan of the band, approaching “Dark Wings” brings a certain level of both excitement and concern, especially considering Luca’s absence, the band’s back catalog and history, and LTR's post-split opening salvo that only raised the bar. It is nearly impossible for any fan of these bands to simply turn off the past and not instantly begin with comparisons. By giving “Dark Wings of Eternity” room to fly and breathe, I guarantee with each successive spin any concerns will quickly fade. In the end, you will find that RoF really isn’t all that far from where it already was! As soon as "Vis Divina" (intro) and opening track “Rising From Tragic Flames” begin you will notice the hallmarks – choirs, speedy riffs, Fabio – are all there, but the sound, especially the drums, is more natural. Staropoli’s keyboard play is much more modern and flamboyant juxtaposed to De Micheli’s neoclassical style. When that choir bridges you to Fabio’s first verse, you quickly realize this is classic RoF.For purposes of keeping this review from becoming more like a novel, lets group the tracks into “quicker” and “slower.” History has proven that Rhapsody of Fire is more often than not associated with quicker tunes, which are the ones that tend to be prominent among the fans. “Rising From Tragic Flames” is akin to classics like “Unholy Warcry” as the choir and speed is strikingly similar. “Silver Lake of Tears” presents a fierce and angry Fabio on the verses, which will be just what many fans have been hoping for (and no…we aren’t talking “Reign of Terror” angry). The title track is slightly more mid-paced with a De Micheli riff that is just as lethal as the speed. The song has one of the coolest guitar vs. keyboard solo battles, something that happens in multiple tracks on the album. “A Tale Of Magic” is an up-tempo half-speed with one of the most memorable choruses on the release. It’s a challenge to pick and outright favorite, but for now the pendulum swings in favor of “Tears of Pain,” with its simple, though highly fetching, riff that just draws more anger from Fabio’s voice.As for the “slower” side, which encompasses ballads and mid-paced tracks, the crop includes the building layers of “Fly to Crystal Skies” - galloping into the chorus along the bass pedals of Alex Holzwarth and the stunning ballad “Custode Di Pace”- a song like so many other greats from RoF and another pedestal for Fabio. “Angel of Light” showcases Fabio’s current strengths - the upper mid vibrato – matched in perfection only by Alessandro Conti. The song sports another one of the best choruses, as well as a slow Manowar type gallop as the song progresses. One of the real standouts in this category is “My Sacrifice,” which rises like a mountain, each level progressively heavier, ranging from near ballad from the onset, to mid-paced bass centric while pausing on the bridge with a uniquely Italian acoustic flair before cascading into the chorus.As mentioned earlier, a word about Alex Staropoli. For starters, I’ll admit that I had my concerns about his “flying solo” as a writer and those concerns were dispelled by “Dark Wings.” His play is much more flamboyant and modern than on previous releases, including a number of keyboard solos that battle back and forth with Roberto’s guitar. It’s an exciting element that really enhances the album. If I had one stylistic gripe, it would be that the keyboards are so prominent in the mix that they suffocate the guitar riffs at times (examples include the opening riff to the title track and “A Tale Of Magic.”). In those heavier tunes, the riffs could easily drive the melody alone.In summary, “Dark Wings of Steel” is a well written and fantastic effort. It demands attentive and successive listens before its true beauty is revealed. Changes are both bold and subtle, especially the more organic sound. The mix meter tilts with Staropoli, which throttles the riffs at times, but the quality of play is superb. The song writing is top notch, leaning more dramatic and less theatrical to distinguish the band from LTR, and Fabio shines not only with his voice, but also in his role as lyric writer. Enough cannot be said about Roberto, who has taken over and stepped up in the absence of Luca. For me, this album is a testament to his play. “Dark Wings of Steel” will not replace the classics, but it will find its place among them. The future is bright for one of heavy metal’s veteran acts." - Metal Underground
    $16.00