Overtures: Artifacts (Sleaszy Rider Records)
Italy seems to be a hub of quality melodic power metal at the moment (although it has always been if I'm honest), Overtures is the latest band to come from the melodic power style, Artifacts is the band's fourth album and sees them continuing the trend of incorporating progressive styles into their music meaning that as opener Repentance kicks off the styles of Kamelot and Threshold are brought to mind with some progressive techniques, bombastic melodies and precision enveloping song-craft. The band is led by vocalist Michele Guaitoli who has an expressive and expansive vocal range and the European pronunciation, that he uses to great effect on the title track as it moves between the pounding start through to the soaring middle section replete with choirs, Luka Klanjscek's bass drives Gold giving the album one of it's heaviest but also more melodic tracks with Guaitoli once again impressing vocals even adding some screams to the mix.
Overtures are a technically proficient combo with Andrea Cum's drumming rumbling along with double kick drums coming thick and fast on Profiled and My Refuge which means guitarist Marco Falanga has to up his game also, which he does with the rampaging riffs on faster tracks like New Dawn, New Dusk where he also shows off his the scintillating solos and the classic power metal sound of Angry Animals which echoes Helloween, especially vocally, but also he plays with flair on on the slower, more dramatic tracks like Unshared Worlds and the orchestrally driven 8 minute plus epic Teardrop which is a cinematic piece that sees the band in full pomp bringing the Kamelot similarities loud and clear. Artifacts is a solid, prog/power effort from these Italians showing that Italy's power metal bands are equally as talented as ones from Germany or Sweden, if like your power metal progressive, with some dramatic touches then Overtures will be a band for you. 7/10
Teska: Primal Scream (Self Released)
When an album you think is by a metal band kicks off with a lullaby bells then you'd be forgiven for thinking that you've put the wrong album in, but this then moves into some top drawer riffage that blends hard rock with thrash metal and Teska's debut album starts proper with Welsome. Teska are from France, now you'd be hard pressed to name many French metal bands never mind french thrash bands but happily Teska carry that burden with aplomb, their style of thrash metal is firmly rooted in the modern variety with nods to Machine Head and Trivium from the gruff vocal of Guillaume and the double lead shredding of Alain and Frank which gives a rockier touch to the songs so they are not all out thrash madness. The gritty crunch of The Outcome comes next and gets your fist pumping with a Disturbed style groove heavy track that has killer guitar solo. Teska are a very good band indeed they don't try too hard to stick with one style expanding their palate with an excellent fusion of thrash metal and hard rock touches that give them the appeal of mid-period Metallica and the latter Machine Head albums. On the tracks such as White Crow they mix heavyweight riffage with a cleaner vocal from the frontman, before the creeping I Don't Know Yet slows the pace but still kicks you in the balls with it's chugging rhythm.
What I was surprised by was the quality of the production on this record, it's clean and modern sounding meaning the songs sparkle and impress even more so showing that not only are the band great musicians but pretty competent producers too. As the album progresses the tracks do seem to improve with Chapter Hate blasting away any mid album blues you may have with it's blast beat driven drive before Time Out is evidence of the to the bands more melodic credentials with a mid-pace track that leads into Dark Side that echoes the more metalcore sounds of Killswitch and the like on the final track Mind Prison shows the bands more progressive side continuing the tradition of thrash albums closing with their longest track. Hopefully Primal Scream will open doors for Teska as they are a very good band indeed, if you love your thrash metal with more melodic modern feel then they are worth investing in as soon as possible. 8/10
Black Absinthe: Early Signs Of Denial (Self Released)
Toronto trio Black Absinthe are riff-driven, alcohol fuelled metal popularised by Mastodon, Red Fang and High On Fire and over this six track EP they show their sound is one that merges the best of Sabbath with Motorhead with the previously mentioned bands. They show their stoner credentials on Is This Life which also let's Jack Cerre's vocalist use his roaring vocals to great effect, The Wild and Berj Khalifa both are major riff-fests that Mastodon would be proud of but with the clean leads of Lizzy or classic metal bands from Cerre. Much of this album's heaviness comes from the rhythm section duo of Kyle Scarlett and Austin Henderson who are the groove laden boiler room. This EP is a great introduction to the Canadian's sound, it's not revolutionary but it is done very well and hints at the bright future for the band. 7/10