Tuesday, October 4

Black Wind Moving to new home!

Please Note:

After almost a year of existence, Black Wind has outgrown its home here at Blogspot. We are relocating to our new home at BlackWindMetal.com. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll be continuing to build this new site, but you can find our latest reviews posted regularly!

Please update your bookmarks, feeds, and reading habits, and we'll see you around!

Friday, September 30

Myrath - Tales Of The Sands

Tales Of The Sands


Those lucky few who’ve read my reviews on this site, may already know that I have a soft spot for the middle ground between power, progressive and symphonic metal. Earlier this very fine musical year I gave Serenity’s and Sons Of Seasons’ newest forthcomings a glowing review, and I’m about to extend the same courtesy to Myrath’s latest and brightest “Tales Of The Sands”. That is, as soon as I have changed from my belly-dancer’s outfit to my reviewing clothes (read: pajamas).

Before I continue carving a sculpture for these monuments of progressive metal, can I just say it’s weird to describe a band as “Eastern” when their actual country of origin, Tunisia, is geographically speaking north of the European village I live in? An observation you didn’t care about, but one that I had to get off my chest. Deep breaths, everyone. Anyway, a lot of bands may experiment with Eastern folk influences, but usually that’s what they are: influences. Myrath hails from the sweeping sands of the desert and they sweat their heritage from every pore, effortlessly and naturally combining it with their Symphony X-flavored type of progressive power metal. This time around there are more Arabic sections than on predecessor “Desert Call”, and even though it makes singing along a near impossible and incomprehensible task, they add that little extra touch of ethnicity that I admire so much in these noble nomads.

While “Desert Call” had a few longer compositions and a generally more languid (but not boring) atmosphere, relying on complex song structures and brief bursts of melodic genius, “Tales Of The Sand” has gone the newfound Pagan’s Mind route, choosing to focus on short but powerful songs that lose none of the intricacy and delicacy of previous outings. Nowhere is this more clear than in the first stretch of the album, where the almost hypnotic “Under Siege” segues nicely into the salty swagger of “Braving The Seas” and the melancholy of “Merciless Times”; all rivaling the splendor of Serenity’s “Death & Legacy”. The title track seems more concerned with the magic and mysticism of the literary tales of the sand, bathing in an aroma of mystery among the dunes. That concludes the most epic part of the album, and the rest of the record is more concerned with themes of introspection not unlike Evergrey in their heyday. Yet there is still a lot of wonder to behold, not in the least with the one-two punch of the record’s closers. The entrancing “Beyond The Stars” makes your blood pump with its pulsating rhythms and sets your limbs in motion in an almost uncontrollable fashion. It takes considerable willpower to refrain from dancing around like the serpentine subject of a snake charmer to this music, and what other metal band can say that? The swan song of the album, “Time To Grow”, takes a more straightforward power metal route, with an uplifting chorus to show you out in style.

September will be remembered in the annals of musical history as the month where there was more progressive metal than you could shake Mike Mangini’s drumstick at, and Myrath is among the finest of the fine. Unique, daring, and self-aware; they’re the Tunisian revolution of the progressive metal scene.  And yes, there’s a very clever political joke in there. Hey, it was either that or something about the camel on the album cover.

Arno Callens' rating: 4.25 out of 5

Wednesday, September 28

Angra - Rebirth



"Healing whispers of the angels bring the sunrise again..."

Thus sayeth the wise Edu Falaschi in the first few minutes of Angra's momentous return to form after parting ways with previous members Andre Matos, Ricardo Confessori (destined to return for 2010's "Aqua"), and Luis Mariutti. Just as many fans were left wondering what was to become of the band, "Rebirth" dropped jaws worldwide while baptizing the new lineup in a whole new high-octane style of power-prog that offered more punch and complexity than the band's previous efforts.

While the Brazilians previously established themselves as one of the premier metal acts in their home country with great records like "Holy Land" and "Angels Cry", the intensity of "Rebirth" left them alone at the top of the heap in their chosen genre. Not only did the band rebound quickly from losing half its members, but managed to write its strongest material yet. While the prelude/opening song combination has always been a strong point for Angra, "In Excelsis" and "Nova Era" take this strength to new heights, and the combination is one of my very favorites at the beginning of an album. Also known for blending tempos and incorporating native Brazilian elements and conventional symphonic sounds, "Rebirth" brings these sounds to the forefront, in addition to emphasizing the band's guitar work like never before.

Need evidence of the maturity of the band's composition? Look no further than the sublimely epic "Acid Rain", the breathtaking "Running Alone", or the superb blend of indigenously inspired melodies and power metal speed of "Unholy Wars". Even at their softer moments, the ballad "Heroes Of Sand" and the moderate title track, Angra has never to this day written more infectious and accessible material. The dual fire-spitting guitar attack of Loureiro and Bittencourt, always been a cornerstone, has manifested here in the fastest, most impressive example of their work together. From this point forward, it more or less became expected from them on every album.

"Rebirth" stands alone amongst Angra's catalog as being the one true example of pure high-speed melodic power metal that the band has produced. While highly technical, it doesn't have the pronounced progressive flair of the group's later albums, while simultaneously featuring much more bombast and dramatics than earlier efforts like "Holy Land" and "Fireworks". Along with the mighty "Temple Of Shadows", this is generally considered to be the band's finest work, and for good enough reason.

A couple of listens through will have any fan of fine progressive power on their knees, weeping and blubbering for mercy. Though it's a happy, religious-tuned, and rip-roaring power metal adventure, most metal fans will find something to appreciate on "Rebirth" (which is perhaps one of the most apt album titles I've ever come across). Some might call “Rebirth” the album that Angra produced before they "focused their energy" and created the epic “Temple Of Shadows”, but I think that this work was instrumental in phasing the band from one era to another, and what better way to do it than fill it with the galloping power metal that appears occasionally on albums across the rest of their career?

Angra is clearly pleased with this effort, and so overwhelmingly am I. As Edu stated for the band, it’s “time to fly”.

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The Protagonist's Rating: 4.75 out of 5

Steven Wilson - Grace For Drowning

Steven Wilson
Deform To Form A Star/Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye
(Grace for Drowning)


In a year that saw releases from Opeth, Dream Theater, Unexpect, Neal Morse, and Devin Townsend, Steven Wilson can still turn heads when he announces a double album. In more proper terms, Grace for Drowning is actually a set of two individual albums, titled “Deform To Form A Star” and “Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye”, packaged and sold together. These then mark the second and third solo albums for Mr. Wilson, and given how little he was involved in the writing of the most recent Blackfield album, his first real songwriting since the release of The Incident back in 2009.

It’s a little strange to think of an artist as prolific as Steven Wilson taking a break from songwriting, but I imagine the rest, however short, was valuable, especially given the results on Grace for Drowning. I had originally considered reviewing the two albums separately, as they both stand alone as beautiful and unique musical statements, however there is also so much that happens between the two, that I could not do the project full justice with standalone reviews.

As a project, Grace for Drowning is painted with a stunning sound palette, rich with sweeping orchestrations, flutes, saxophones, pianos, subtle guitar tones and a large force of choral work on nearly every song, and in some instances, building the bulk of the song’s melody. The Ambience of the album sweeps from dark and haunting lows, to triumphant and serene highs, and a presence of the classic progressive, psychedelic, and jazz eras.

The first disc, Deform to Form a Star, focuses more heavily on the choral aspects, with two songs (Grace for Drowning and Raider Prelude) featuring them almost exclusively, and, Raider Prelude aside, tends to be the lighter of the two discs. Remainder The Black Dog is the accessibility highlight, being the song that listeners are most likely to latch onto first, however Sectarian and Deform To Form A Star are my personal favorites.

The second disc, Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye, contains only 5 songs, one of them though, is the 23 minute “Raider II”. It is similar to Remainder The Black Dog for it’s over jazz influence, but it sums up the entire project much better, using a full range of the sound palette expressed in the rest of the disc. Index, one of the several songs to have a video recording, has a very dark and moody atmosphere, which is distinct, as most of the darker songs on Grace for Drowning tend more towards the direction of haunting.

What really brought home the cohesiveness of the album to me were the twin guitar solos that populate the title tracks of both discs. They’re slow, melodic, and full of emotion. Steven Wilson has never regarded himself as a very talented guitarist, or a very talented vocalist, and truth be told, he does not have the massive range or technical ability as some of his peers within the progressive genre. He is however, the premier innovative songwriter, and a master of ambiance and sonic atmosphere, and all of this are on full display.

This album is a skillful summation of the proper influence of the classic era of progressive music, full of modern flourishes and masterful presentation. AOTY considerations go without saying here, as I can find no major faults, and indeed, it’s been an extremely difficult album to put down since it’s release


Dagg’s rating: 4.75/5

Tuesday, September 27

Crimfall - The Writ of the Sword


The Writ of the Sword



“The Writ of the Sword” is the sophomore album by Finnish metal band Crimfall. This band really made a bit of a splash in the scene with their debut “As the Path Unfolds…” which, from what I heard was mostly worthy of its praise. However, Crimfall seems to have fallen victim to the dreaded curse of the second album.

For one to label this band with a genre is rather difficult, as they cross many boundary lines. They use the dual vocalist system, switching between clean, folksy female vocals and harsh growls and screams, which are fairly common of folk metal. The performances of both vocalists are amiable, even if there are some vocal lines that aren’t all that great and some of the high pitched growls are weak.

Apart from the vocals, there are quite a few violin passages which add to the folk feeling. There are a few symphonic elements, however they’re far between and don’t add much to the overall sound. Choirs and chants are more common and more effective.

There are a couple of acoustic guitar passages that are rather compelling, but apart from that, the guitar is mostly uninteresting and boring. There is a real lack of entertaining riffs, and the few solos that there are, are very simplistic, emotionless and quite frankly a waste of time. Having some obvious melodic death metal influences didn’t help their cause, as they tended to take weaker aspects that tend to appear in the genre. There are some great drum moments on this however, which makes up for the lack of inspirational guitar playing.

Despite having very talented musicians, the lack of inspiration in the majority of the song writing really holds this album back. Being a young band however, they do have potential to make something of themselves yet.


Claus’ Rating 2.25 /5

Monday, September 26

Opeth - Heritage



I'm going to assume that most of you know a bit about Opeth. Whether you like them or not, you have to admit their importance as one of the most influential metal bands of the last twenty years. Since the release of the groundbreaking "Orchid" in 1995, they have constantly pushed their unique brand of progressive death metal in ever new and surprising directions, freely adding hints of folk, jazz, progressive rock, and whatever else mastermind Mikael Åkerfeldt wants to play. Within this paradigm, they have carved out their own very specialized niche in the world of metal. However, Opeth has never been known to shy away from experimentaion (see 2003's mellowed-out "Damnation"), and their latest offering, "Heritage," marks another rather dramatic shift in their sound.

First of all, Mikael's growls are gone. This is not an unprecedented move; he has already written an album (again, "Damnation") with no death growls. But "Heritage" is most certainly not another "Damnation." Opeth has opted this time to go for a "retro" progressive rock sound, featuring mellotron, hammond organ, and album artwork bearing an uncanny resemblance to that of the Moody Blues's "In Search of the Lost Chord." Their experimental side is restless as ever, featuring songs that switch, in traditional Opethian fashion, from quiet folky sections, to heavy riffing, to modern-jazzy bits, and back again, bringing me to my next point: "Heritage" is not really a huge departure from the Opeth of the past. Despite the notable changes in sound, many of the elements that made Opeth so important in the first place are still there. One could almost say that they have merely substituted progressive rock for progressive death metal, changing relatively little compared to what they did on "Damnation."

But, you may be wondering, how good is "Heritage" as an album? Will I find it worth my time and money? This is a rather difficult question; not only is Opeth an infamous divider of opinions, but their new sound has thrown another rather formidable wrench into the whole mix. In general, I found it to be a strong album, though perhaps not as focused as it could have been. The songwriting is all over the place, from the jazzy "Nepenthe" to the hard-rocking Dio tribute "Slither," and this can be both a good thing and a bad thing. While it makes for an interesting listen, it also costs the album a bit of artistic cohesion; it seems more like a collection than a single cohesive piece. In a way, "Heritage" plays like a debut album, and perhaps it is a debut album of sorts - Opeth is exploring some new musical territory, and although "Heritage" is perhaps less polished than we are used to, it also displays a great deal of creative vitality.

That said, those who find Opeth to be tedious and boring will certainly not be won over, and those who like Opeth as a death metal band will find little of value here. "Heritage" marks an important and decisive turning point for Opeth, and it will probably not sink in easily. However, it is a well-written album, and a respectable addition to Opeth's catalogue.

- - -

Morpheus's Rating: 3.75/5

Thursday, September 22

Morton - Come Read The Words Forbidden

Come Read The Words Forbidden
The evidence can no longer be ignored: an Eastern European power metal surge is coming and we’d all best stock up on Dragonland and Lost Horizon before they overtake us all. This year Chronology and Wisdom already raised the flag for Hungary and now Morton has come to hoist the banners of Ukraine.  Safe to say music as we know it will never be the same again. Max “Morton” Pasechnik is a renowned sound-producer (or at least his website claims he is) who put his own band together under his last name. No offense, but can I just say this is becoming an increasingly annoying trend? What happened to Steeldragon and Firehammer, people? Anyway, uninspired band name or not, Morton proves to be a powerhouse on the other side of the studio glass as well, because this is a smashing debut the likes of which we do not see too often anymore from western Europe.

“Come Read The Words Forbidden” features four songs from last year’s EP “Grimoire” and nine new ones. Unlike Thaurorod’s debut there isn’t a major difference in quality between the two releases, and ‘oldies’ have no problem keeping up with ‘newbies’. I’d even give some of the previously existing material an edge. “Oblivion” is the kind of song whose lyrics you’ll want to memorize as quickly as possible because humming is just not going to cut it in the shower. The rapturous “Werewolf Hunt” opens with a manic keyboard intro, as if actual lycanthropes were chasing you around the music-playing device of your choosing. ‘You can almost feel the caress of their jaws…,’ singer Morton assures us and I almost really did indeed. “Grimoire” is a softer song of sorts, opting for an unconventional structure and a haunting atmosphere, not unlike Kamelot in their golden days.

On to the new material.  The album fires on all cylinders from minute one with a triptych of pure power metal pornography. “Calling For The Storm” gives Hammerfall, Silent Force, Gamma Ray (and probably a bunch of other bands) a run for their money, as this is off now the best opener about storms and such in the business. Every power metal band is ancestrally and legally obligated to have at least one song about eagles, and “Eaglemark” easily soars among the greatest skydivers in the genre, like Helloween, Gamma Ray and Stratovarius. And the holy trinity of power metal tropes wouldn’t be complete without some kind of reference to brotherhood, unity in strength, and standing side by side for fighting purposes. “Brotherhood Of Light” is all you want from an uplifting and belligerent song about keeping up your spirits in the face of whatever danger besets your Dungeons & Dragons-character Flungo, the kickboxing gnome.

Taking a slight plunge into less stellar territory (which they can quite afford after all that yummyness) is the next set of tracks, with “Sleeping King” being an agreeable tune and “We Are The Shades” building up some medieval tension again not unlike Kamelot, who used to have some Renaissance-flair back in the days of “The Fourth Legacy”. Closer “Weeping Bell” again shows off the bands willingness to go the distance and come up with something unfound on the rest of the album. A melancholic and slow dirge with an unforgettable chorus, it closes the album miles away from the glorious pomp of the opener. The diversity on offer is just another one in the plus column, which has taken over the minus column almost entirely at this point.

Still this album is not without its flaws, and three to four tracks don’t meet the mark set by their colleagues. Minor filler notwithstanding “Come Read The Words Forbidden” makes up for the occasional dud with daring, varied and above all sparkling power metal, marking Ukraine firmly on the map of countries we now have to reckon with. Whether it’s an intense study of the genre or the fallout of Chernobyl that turned these guys into the power metal powerhouse they are, I dare not say, but Morton is here to stay and we’d better damn get used to it.

Arno Callens' rating: 4.0 out of 5