MOONSPELL - "Darkness and Hope" (2001 Century Media, 56 min) Sample (166 k)
New album for the most known portuguese band. After IMO the disappoiting "Butterfly Effect", this one represents some improvements, being considered as a mix between Irreligious and Butterfly, but always keeping the characteristic Moonspell sound, with the unique Fernando Ribeiro's singing. This album initiates very well with the strong "Firewalking" and the melodics "Nocturna" and "Heartshaped Abyss". But then starting with "Ghostsong" it comes the monotonous and electronic based parts. The ending is OK with "Than the Serpents in my Hands" and a curious version of a song from the well known non-metal portuguese band Madredeus "Os Senhores da Guerra", sung in portuguese. The limited edition, in a nice black box, includes an interesting Ozzy's "Mr. Crowley" cover. Trying to please to greeks and trojans...

THRAGEDIUM - "Theatrum XXIII" (2001 Half Beast,37 min) Sample (184 k)
Finally this portuguese band saw the light of the day. The subtitle "Lusitanian essence" gives the clue to the album: lots of Heavenwood, some Moonspell, several acoustic guitars, specially the portuguese guitar (used for fado). This album came from the demo with the same name recorded late 1999 and very well received. Then this year they got the chance to release it competently mastered at Finnvox Studios by Mika Jussila (Nightwish and Children of Bodom, among others) and completed with an acoustic moment spoken by Fernando Ribeiro (Moonspell). Very interesting album and without keyboards, as the band highlights.

GAMMA RAY - "No World Order" (2001 Sanctuary, 52 min) Sample (156 k)
The kings of German Metal (or European Power Metal) are back with another great album, the first under Sanctuary and after a long collaboration with Noise (bought by Sanctuary). On the nice and colored cover, Fang is more evil than ever. Coincidence that Sonata Arctica, tour mates, also have a divided cover. Any Gamma Ray album is an assured value: great Heavy Metal, great songs, that you'll hear and hear. My favorite songs: the fast "Dethrone Tyranny", the first single "Heaven or Hell" or the back to roots "Solid". In the actual perturbed period and despite the science-fiction orientation, the album subject seems a premonition: "... a global conspiracy by powerful secret societies". Just read the introduction lyrics and you'll understand what I mean.

SONATA ARCTICA - "Silence" (2001 Spinefarm, 62 min) Sample (157 k)
One of the most successful newcomers to the Power Metal scene. This Finnish band, sometimes called Stratovarius younger brothers, took the metal by storm with last year's "Ecliptica". It's hard to point any weak part, the band has a natural feeling to produce very melodic songs, most of them fast, but the slower ones can be compared to the best Scorpions moments. Hearing all the album, it seems so easy to write great hymns. "San Sebastian", that was already on the mini CD "Successor", is IMHO one of the best Power themes of the year.

MAGO DE OZ - "Finisterra", 2CD (2000 Locomotive, 48+61 min) Sample (230 k)
This is actually one of the most known spanish bands, but only recently I heard these "Wizard of OZ" for the first time (thanks to a promo video for the Rock Machina 2001 great festival). Finally, I got this double album, that recently became platinum (!!) in Spain. First, let me comment the digipack cover: one of the best I've ever seen, plenty of color and humor. Then, the music: an excellent mix of Metal and Folk, specially Celtic, and sung in spanish. For this album the band is considered to be composed of 11 members, including violins, pipes, flutes, etc, plus a bundle of guests. Finally the concept: after World War III, the Famine War, the few survivors were ruled by a dictator in a region called Satania, supposed to be an artificial paradise. Then, some rebels found a relic from the XX century, a CD called Finisterra with the story of an old and strange pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Great album, a pleasure to hear, but those who are not used to non-english singing may have to check.

TIERRA SANTA - "Tierras de Leyenda" (2000 Locomotive, 43 min) Sample (155 k)
Third album (Legend lands) for this spanish act, also one of the most representative Metal bands there. Playing classic Heavy Metal, the music reminds me old Iron Maiden, very well balanced and played. As Mago de Oz (and as almost all spanish bands) they sing in spanish and IMHO this language fits very well into Metal. The lyrics speak about kings, pirates, mummies, Babel tower, Trojan horse and other ancient themes. Another great album, very well produced. I'm looking forward to hear their fourth album "Sangre de Reyes" (Kings blood), soon to be released.

RED WINE - "Hijos del Despertar" (2001 Arise Records, 42 min) Sample (162 k)
"Hijos del Despertar" predicts an auspicious career for this new spanish band, label mates of Dark Moor. Melodic classic metal, plenty of hymns but without missing the technical skills of the six members, here and there with some progressive additions. The excellent voice of Mario Suárez place the exact amount of emotion and color to the music. BTW, they also sing in spanish. Last, but not least, the inspiring Luis Royo cover.

AVALANCH - "El Angel Caído" (2001 Avispa, 61 min) Sample (165 k)
Here is a spanish band that I already knew, from their 1997 second album "La Llama Eterna". From the symphonic power with some vocal limitations, but anyway a good album, to this fifth album they changed vocals and added a permanent keyboard. Never heard the in-between albums, so comparisons are made with what I know. The cover, great drawing from Luis Royo, and booklet are miles away. The first sounds show a mature band, a much better vocals and an effort to find their own way. Totally composed and produced by Alberto Rionda, the album alternates mid tempo songs with great power hymns. As usual, spanish lyrics. Some songs need a couple auditions to enter but the objectives were fulfilled.

DARK MOOR - "The Fall of Melnibone" (2001 Arise Records, 36 min) Sample (195 k)
Dark Moor is probably the most known spanish Metal band outside their country. Despite their quality (including one of the best female vocals around) and power, it's one of the few bands there that sing in english. This mini CD (at least in price, I have shorter albums!!!) came out some months ago and includes two original songs, one that was a bonus in eastern countries and two from tributes. The original title song is a 10 min long power metal hymn plenty of variations, followed by the epic "Silver Lake" and the original acoustic "Wood's Song". The CD includes "Halloween" from the Helloween tribute and "Cuentos de Ayer y de Hoy" from the Nu tribute (a spanish band), being this the only spanish theme that Dark Moor recorded. Big mini CD, must be checked by all that like Power Metal.

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