Parallel Eternity: 10 Years Of A Sound Of Thunder


Written by: ScreamingSteelUS
Published: 10.12.2020


The year 2020 is significant for many reasons, the most obvious of which is the same reason why the bedroom in which I type these words is now doubling as my workspace and tripling as my quarantine chamber. 2020 also marks the 50th anniversary of Black Sabbath, the 20th anniversary of the year 2000, and the 799th birthday of Alexander Nevsky. But what concerns us right here and now is the 10th anniversary of the founding of a heavy metal band by the name of A Sound Of Thunder. You may know A Sound Of Thunder; you may well not, as to any MS user stumbling across their profile they probably seem like any ordinary heavy metal band. I'm sure you're bored out of your gourd waiting for me to explain why I've gone to the trouble of whipping up some special publication in their honor instead of just an ordinary album review onto which I can rubber-stamp my passionless approval.

I have a bit of a soft spot for A Sound Of Thunder, you see, as I often think of them as being the one band that I've been able to watch grow from local to global. The Baltimore-D.C. corridor has produced some noteworthy artists, of course (Dying Fetus, Bad Brains, Misery Index, The Obsessed, Corpsegrinder, Henry Rollins, and Ian MacKaye come to mind), and I've been to some pint-sized gigs in lettuce-strewn basements where guys I went to high school with and friends of friends of friends tore up the stage with clout and passion befitting better-established acts. Yet these are all artists that either climbed to national significance while I was still learning how to spell my name or dribbled away into the ether after recording a few demos and circumnavigating the Capital Beltway on tour; A Sound Of Thunder is the only band I've followed (albeit distantly) as they navigated the middle ground, surmounting that first-album hurdle and steadily growing in reputation until the present day, where they stand seven albums deep with cartoons and comic books and Catalonia all factoring into their legacy. Not bad for only a decade.

None of this is intended to slight the other hard-working artists of the local Maryland/D.C. scene, of whom there are many (do yourself a favor and go check out Wormhole, Yatra, and Drewsif Stalin's Musical Endeavors to start). Given how much of a locally engaged, grassroots, DIY sort of community heavy metal is at its heart, I'm sure it's not particularly impressive that I enjoy a band that lives within driving distance of my own house, but, well, I don't get out much (I mean, nobody does anymore, but I was a reclusive shut-in before it was mandatory). I'd like to say that I promote my local scene as much as Radu or shelter touring musicians as often as Marcel did or foster as many connections as Birgit or document regional acts as much as Bad English, but in spite of the fact that I'm the editor-in-chief of an international publication, I can't even muster the courage/fortitude/energy to be involved in the forums of the website I help run, let alone dash out the door on a weeknight to throw a few bucks at a house show and pick up a neighboring band's demo. Thus, for me, having a single band about whom I can say, "I remember when they were yay high, and now they're dominating Catalan national TV," is pretty special.

I saw A Sound Of Thunder for the first time on April 13, 2011. They were opening for Accept and Sabaton at the late, great Jaxx Nightclub in Springfield, Virginia (this was also the first of seven times I would see Sabaton, so it was a momentous occasion for more than one reason). Roughly one month prior, A Sound Of Thunder had released their debut album, Metal Renaissance; while I'm afraid I remember none of the details of their performance that night, I was evidently impressed enough to purchase the album and the self-titled EP that had preceded it. I was, at that time, 16 years old - not yet smart enough to be the bubbling swamp of self-doubt and worry that I would later evolve into, but still relatively inexperienced with metal shows and rather uncomfortable with having my presence acknowledged by strangers. As I leaned over the merch table, awkwardly clutching my wallet and working up the grit to announce my intention to fork over its contents, there was the band - vocalist Nina Osegueda, guitarist Josh Schwartz, drummer Chris Haren, and bassist Jesse Keen - standing around, chilling with fellow concertgoers, all smiles and sweating off the effort of a successful gig. After I fumbled with some bills and made a stilted overture towards purchasing the two CDs, I successfully completed the transaction with Josh, and then some conversation ensued with the four of them. About what, I don't know. I think I blacked out under the stress of speaking to new people. But I did leave that show thinking, "Huh… those guys were cool."



Metal Renaissance


When I dug into my purchases, I was amused by the defaced Mona Lisa that served as the cover of Metal Renaissance and the fact that Josh was credited as "Josh 'The' Schwartz" on A Sound Of Thunder; I liked the Black Sabbath-y riffs and Nina's bold vocal delivery and the whole concept of "Blood Vomit." Those recordings were rough around the edges, to be sure, and had a noticeable amateur quality, but for a while Metal Renaissance got pretty regular rotation in my house, and I'm pretty sure that "Blood Vomit" and "My Name Is Doom" made it onto some mixes I made for friends. It was kind of weird - I'd seen the whole band offstage. They were… like… regular, not untouchable geniuses as I then believed literally every other band I listened to was. But they could play.

One year later, on May 1, 2012, the video for "Kill That Bitch" was released. "Murderous Horde" had actually preceded it as a single, but "Kill That Bitch" became the song that I knew. What struck me about it most was how much more professional it sounded; Out Of The Darkness, the band's second album, was to be their first with producer Kevin "131" Gutierrez, who has worked with them ever since, and the difference between Metal Renaissance and what I was hearing on "Kill That Bitch" was astonishing. They sounded polished, totally in unison, like a band that was beginning to embrace security in its direction. I remember thinking quite distinctly that this single would be perfect for introducing A Sound Of Thunder to the broader metal market; they no longer sounded like a local band that sold CDs at gigs, but like a band that people outside that circle would be interested in. The video racked up views by the thousands and I saw people talking about it elsewhere. Despite all of these positive sentiments, it wasn't until more recently that I finally listened to the album in full, but I felt a little bit of vicarious pleasure at how much of a step up that production was. Looking back, I see that the video on Nightmare Records's YouTube channel includes in its description an endorsement of Out Of The Darkness as "a refreshingly familiar dose of metal that would stand up as well in 1981 as well as 2021." Well, I haven't been to 1981 and I probably never will be, but we're very nearly at 2021 and tracks like "Murderous Horde," "Discovery," and "Calat Alhambra" are standing up pretty darn well.



Already by the next year A Sound Of Thunder was on album #3, Time's Arrow. I was stunned to open Metal Storm one day and find a review of that album on the front page - and a well-deserved 9.0 from Susan, no less! Keep in mind that this was prior to my official involvement with Metal Storm and I had a somewhat naïve understanding of our site's importance in the outside world, so I suppose it wasn't really as earth-shattering to see A Sound Of Thunder represented so enthusiastically here as if they had made the cover of Kerrang! or Metal Hammer or something, but I was once again a little bit excited that this band whose debut EP was sitting on my shelf now had even more noticeable web exposure. I, uh, don't harbor any illusions about our own relevance anymore, but I still think it was cool. I enjoyed Time's Arrow then, but it has soared in my estimation since then from a reasonably solid heavy/power metal album to the band's masterpiece (so far, anyway).

Aside from the title track, which is a slightly proggy and not-so-slightly magnificent 9.5-minute epic, the album contains an epochal epic in "Queen Of Hell," which has the bearing of the band's signature song (acknowledging that they do have a song called "A Sound Of Thunder"). It's a deafening and energized composition that's familiar enough to sound classic and personalized enough to sound exciting, riding that fine line between traditional heavy and power metal with all of the flashy sonic momentum that such a title deserves. That song and "Time's Arrow" are easily my two favorite songs on the album, but another track worth drawing attention to is "I'll Walk With You." Its reticent gloom rests on a tense, crestfallen riff and builds to an emotional climax, making it a work of unusually sensitive songcraft, but just as important are the lyrics, which depict the tragedy of losing a loved one to a zombie apocalypse. I find that it's rare for a zombie-focused work to avoid any sense of camp and succeed as something more than a genre work; I love zombies, I do, but of the dozens and dozens of movies that I've seen that range from "watchable" to "masterpiece," there are maybe three that made me feel a little something at the untimely evisceration of a character (Train To Busan, you're so cruel). "I'll Walk With You" is one of those rare breakaway works that effectively communicates the despair and suffering of such a world without collapsing under its own absurdity or giving in to pure bloodthirst; it's a chilling and strikingly sentimental portrayal of zombie onslaught, and that's why I place it alongside my favorite zombie metal tracks (a list that includes Gama Bomb's "Zombie Blood Nightmare," Death's "Zombie Ritual," and Cannibal Corpse's "Kill Or Become" [and you can see that none of them deal with the topic quite as delicately]).



Mere months after Time's Arrow, The Lesser Key Of Solomon was already on the way, heralded by a highly entertaining animated music video for the single "Udoroth." As with "Kill That Bitch," the "Udoroth" song/video combination made me think, "Wow, they really scaled up when I wasn't looking." Its opening cannonade packs a riff-and-rhythm combo that has entrenched itself deep within my subconscious mind; its chorus is fun to bellow along to, and it helps that the eponymous demon lord looks like he jumped off a Manowar album cover and into an episode of Samurai Jack - but there's also a segment in the middle when the song turns into a radical frenzy and Nina launches her voice into a stratospheric glass-breaker. Having no context for this particular note at the time, I was suitably shocked; Nina's vocals have always had a lot of presence and volume, but the more I listened the more I felt I could sense growing confidence and range over the albums. And things kept ramping up even further, as the passing of another year brought yet another album, and this one even more ambitious: Tales From The Deadside, a concept album based on the Valiant Entertainment character Shadowman. Now, I'm not really a comic book guy - just a rough approximation of Comic Book Guy - and I'm not one to get invested in concept albums, either, but what I do love is that "Children Of The Dark" is the most Black Sabbath-y ASoT song since their debut, "Tower Of Souls" and "Losing Control (The Unquiet Shadow)" have creepy King Diamond vibes, and "Alyssa (Life In Shadows)" is an arresting power ballad. The album's narration (evidently provided by a preacher working under a pseudonym) adds a unique character as well - again, I'm not following the story terribly closely, but that voice does put me in mind of an abandoned, haunted church outside New Orleans, which further enhances the King Diamond sensation.

An unusually long gap followed (two whole years, wow), but then in 2017 came Who Do You Think We Are?, a collection of covers by fan-selected artists. Cover albums (well, covers in general) I have to take case-by-case; personally, I tend not to have any interest if I don't already know the song in question, since I like to compare (and, to be frank, it's relatively rare that a band will transform a song enough for it to stand as an original work). I haven't yet made my way through all of Who Do You Think We Are? for the very reason that I'm not familiar with all of the songs, but there are still a few that I'd like to compliment - Dio's "The Last In Line" and Mercyful Fate's "Gypsy," for starters, which demand that your vocalist bring their A-game. A-game was brought. I also appreciate the choice of "Who Do You Think We Are?" as the Alice Cooper cover; skipping right past "Poison," "No More Mr. Nice Guy," "School's Out," and the other obvious choices, ASoT pulled from the unkindly unappreciated Special Forces, evidently agreeing with me that there is no Alice album completely devoid of worth (you'll also see a From The Inside CD make an appearance in the "Kill That Bitch" video). Easily the most unique cover among these, and the one most worth talking about, is the stunning mirror trick pulled on Manowar's "Pleasure Slave," and not just because each member of the band manages a pretty keen impersonation of their counterpart (especially Nina, who absolutely outdoes herself). You probably wouldn't believe me if I told you that there is one Manowar song out there so moronic and cringe-inducing that it warrants individual rather than aggregate commentary, but there is, and that song is "Pleasure Slave" (it's hard to tell whether they're joking sometimes, you know?). I bought Kings Of Metal - my first Manowar album - when I was 14, and even then, I thought, "…………oof." A Sound Of Thunder have mercifully made it into a song worth listening to, and you should experience that for yourself.



It Was, and Remains, Metal


In 2018 came what is at present the band's most recent regular studio album and quite possibly my favorite after Time's Arrow: It Was Metal. Beginning with a glorious duet with Accept's Mark Tornillo and closing with a furious and futuristic thrashy power metal anthem, the album collects some of the band's strongest and most varied tracks to date, with ever-sharpening production and performances rounding out the album's essence. Most noteworthy is the metal arrangement of "Els Segadors," the national anthem of Catalonia, which has brought ASoT notoriety and some high-profile performances in Catalonia itself. Their version, mostly in English and subtitled "The Reapers," ranks alongside Chthonic's "Supreme Pain For The Tyrant" as a song that stirs in me the furor of patriotism for a culture that I have absolutely no personal connection to. I think I have a 15th-century French ancestor who once went to Barcelona and that's about the closest I get to being Catalan, but when I hear Jesse and Chris going full "Warriors Of The World" on that rhythm, Josh taking the fury to his strings, and Nina belting at Olympic volume, I start ransacking the neighbors' farmhouse looking for a scythe to raise.

That brings us finally to what was originally the focus of this piece, the celebratory compilation that serves as a formal marker of all the ground covered in these last ten years: Parallel Eternity. Parallel Eternity gathers a collection of songs old and new, all recorded once again (or for the first time) for this occasion, and puts them in the hands of composer Brad Charles of Magic Giraffe Soundworks. Charles's added orchestrations allow us to experience an alternate universe in which A Sound Of Thunder is a symphonic power metal band (the "video game editions," perhaps). Combined with the prodigious sonic maturation the band has undergone since some of the original recordings, these new versions mean the songs are really getting upgraded twice: once to reflect the band's current skill, once to bestow them with orchestral garnish. The catalogue reaches as far back as "Walls" from the original A Sound Of Thunder EP and includes a brand new-ish song: "Explorer," begun long ago and never completed until now, a little slice of extra bombast at nearly 14 minutes. It's hard to identify a favorite from Parallel Eternity, since the track selection looks almost like a greatest hits release, though "Explorer" certainly ranks, as do the new arrangements of "Udoroth" and "Discovery." (It's worth mentioning that the two best songs from the debut - "Blood Vomit" and "My Name Is Doom" - already received a hearty update on the 2018 EP Second Lives, appearing alongside my favorite ASoT cover, Judas Priest's "Blood Red Skies.")



Parallel Eternity


I myself purchased the limited two-CD edition, so I can avail myself of that second half when citing highlights. Fortunately, it appears that the standard edition does include the remix of "Udoroth" subtitled "That One Club From That Movie Blade Where The Sprinklers Spray Blood," bundled onto the second disc of the limited edition; that disc contains several like-minded remixes, of which this is probably the most fun (and you may be able to guess how it sounds). A "classical" version of "Els Segadors (The Reapers)" also makes for one of the whole collection's best offerings; of course the metal version is incredible, as is the orchestral arrangement on disc one, but Nina has the voice of three people and she spends this entire track waving that voice around and absolutely towering over an orchestral backing track. It's a great opportunity to showcase her strengths. This particular edition also includes a 72-page booklet containing a summary of the band's history, notes on each track, liner notes for the album, photos from across the last decade - it's a glossy memento bursting with nostalgia and fun facts that I strongly encourage fans to invest in (you still have time to preorder, after all).

To introduce an element of anticlimax, it would be more accurate to say that I recently rediscovered A Sound Of Thunder than that I've been following assiduously this entire time. By the end of 2012, I was off to college, so I wasn't going to any local shows (as "local" was now 400 miles away); I was being introduced to more extreme forms of metal, which were diverting my attention from the more traditional styles that bands like A Sound Of Thunder played; I was becoming inundated with more music than I knew what to do with, especially as I took on a greater role in Metal Storm's operations. I would check in on their progress occasionally, but I didn't feel the same immediacy that I felt after that first show, and I basically just idled for a few years, not taking much active interest. What got me invested again was my second show, which somehow is the only other time I've seen A Sound Of Thunder (but also ranks among the best gigs I've ever been to).

It was September 10, 2017, at Café 611 in Frederick, Maryland, a lovely little place that can fit nearly four people if they're on the skinny side. Like my first ASoT show, this event enjoyed some other special significance in that it was the most international show I have yet attended: headlining were Orphaned Land (Israel) and Pain (Sweden), supported by VooDoo KungFu (China/USA), and our own A Sound Of Thunder. Rather diverse, no? I made sure to set out early, as the café is an hour-plus drive for me and I was excited to see ASoT again now that six years and four albums had passed. It's a good thing I left when I did, because I walked in just in time to see A Sound Of Thunder getting ready to begin their set - and when they did, with "Children Of The Dark," I remember thinking two things. The first was something along the lines of, "Man, this riff is heavy." The second was, "Why are there, like, five people paying attention to this?" I guess it was still too early for some people's blood, but I always hate seeing the front of the room so empty when the first band starts playing; to be that band must be to bear a weight greater than that of the sun. Thus I made it my business to have a good time.

A Sound Of Thunder played a fabulous and all-too-short set that included "Queen Of Hell" and "Udoroth," among others, and after they vacated the tiny stage I picked my way over to their merch table, where I finally purchased Time's Arrow and The Lesser Key Of Solomon. I won't spare any time detailing VooDoo KungFu's and Orphaned Land's sets - this is not their article, so it will suffice to note that both bands performed with uncommon grace, style, and energy and I would eagerly go to see either (or both) in the future. Instead, I'll skip to the part where Pain came out, which, incidentally, I also skipped. I'm not terribly interested in Pain - if I had to pick a Tägtgren project, it would be Lindemann - and so I had anticipated an hour of polite head-banging while waiting for Orphaned Land, but it transpired that I would have that problem solved for me. After VooDoo KungFu left the audience shaken and unsure of its surroundings, I availed myself of the opportunity to purchase a t-shirt and get a picture with frontman Li Nan, who looks like this and sounds like this.

Now, Café 611 has a sort of back room where the merch tables are usually set up, and it's actually moderately spacious (despite my previous descriptors, this is not the smallest venue I've ever been in, and by a good amount), so while I'm waiting for Li to circle around and make his presence known (or, alternatively, for anyone to man their table), I'm pretty much standing in the middle of this room with a reasonable sphere of distance around myself. There I am, not talking to anybody, looking at the floor, just waiting for something to happen. I look like I'm totally comfortable and having a great time. And, wouldn't you know it, Nina comes over to me and tells me that I look kind of miserable (which is fair, although frowning and standing motionless is actually how I express contentment). Then she tells me that I look like a ginger Adonis, which is very generous considering that my combined muscle mass could probably fit into half a mason jar, but she nonetheless displays me to the rest of the band for second opinions. Prompted by her oft-displayed Star Wars shirt, we strike up a conversation about recent developments in the franchise, and Jesse becomes passionately involved in this as we discuss everything that was wrong or just okay with Rogue One, then the most recently released film and, to my poor, innocent, naïve brain, also the worst that Star Wars could do (yes, The Phantom Menace is a better movie, shut up, and no, the Holiday Special is not a movie). From there, my nerves loosen, my momentary isolation gives way to this welcoming environment, and I remember that I can enjoy more things about shows than just the very music itself. I can have fun.

So that's where I spent Pain's set: absent-mindedly half-watching from the other room, but mostly hanging out with A Sound Of Thunder and talking about music and movies and what it's like to be in a band. Again, I know some of you are thinking, "Wow, you had a conversation, good job," but, hey, I have, like, one of those a year. And, you know, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that that hour we spent shooting the breeze was as important as that first show I saw: it gave me a sense of greater context for those albums that I had purchased and it made me feel like I wanted to root for this band even more. So I did. Here I am. I guess this really goes to show just how rewarding it can be for everyone involved to go to shows; even as someone who kind of dislikes having to drive an hour on, like, a Wednesday night to go be around a bunch of sweaty inebriates so that my neck hurts at work the next day, I can't deny how much I've missed being able to feel that energy, to feel the sound that fills every iota of the atmosphere, to feel that connection with an artist onstage and people around me. Now that we're facing the prospect of never, ever doing that ever again, I've found myself reflecting on some of those great shows of the past and what it means to support bands I love, and especially artists like A Sound Of Thunder, who are fully independent and answer to/can rely on themselves alone. Plus, I had Judas Priest tickets, dammit. This sucks. But with the help of Bandcamp Fridays, I've been steadily filling in the gaps in my ASoT collection, including, obviously, Parallel Eternity (and my logo-bearing mask is on its way as we speak). Even if we can't all gather in a confined, unventilated space and absolutely drench each other in infectious particles like in the old days, we still have ways of marking a significant occasion like a band's tenth anniversary, such as buying albums and posting gratuitously periphrastic odes on the internet. Thank goodness we live in 2020 and not 1920; imagine trying to order a CD from Bandcamp when half the people you know are lying dead in the street from Spanish flu and you can't pay your internet bill because you came back from the war without legs and you can't work 18 hours a day in the coal mines anymore.

In conclusion, I guess, I think that A Sound Of Thunder is great, so preorder Parallel Eternity, support your favorite artists, buy on Bandcamp instead of streaming from Spotify, write to your local representative/MP/alderman and demand that they politely ask the pandemic to leave, learn to locate Catalonia on a map, support our Estonian brethren by using Skype instead of Zoom, wear a mask, remain indoors, watch more silent films, buy the new Violet Evergarden Blu-ray set, pick up a book and read it since I know you've probably been neglecting your library for far too long, start learning another language, beat Takeshi's challenge, and continue reading Metal Storm.

This is as good a place as any to say that Jesse's bass lines are generally of a high quality and more metal bands should consider letting their bassists be important.



 



Written on 10.12.2020 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments

Comments: 5   Visited by: 24 users
10.12.2020 - 10:04
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Quote:

my combined muscle mass could probably fit into half a mason jar

That's it. From now I'm no longer bugging you to update the Facebook page, I'll henceforth bug you to do 60 sit-ups, push-ups and crunches. I'll also order some dumbbells and whey protein to your house.

Wonderful read btw, I'll check them out.
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Father: How can a picture of a field be sad without a sad person looking sad in the field?
Young Woman: That's an interesting problem. Yeah, I struggle with that.
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10.12.2020 - 14:59
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
You make local band Shine some days and get more attention, share this on their Facebook page. Good job man.

Abbatoir a bit cover local live gigs, radu as well. Boat users can do more in articles about local scene. Old Nikos can do good job whit greek scene. I try add new home town bands, local Luleå, Piteå, Boden, Gällivare, Kiruna, Arvidsjaur acts since True sweden is north from here, South is fake hehe.
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Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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11.12.2020 - 00:03
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by RaduP on 10.12.2020 at 10:04

Quote:

my combined muscle mass could probably fit into half a mason jar

That's it. From now I'm no longer bugging you to update the Facebook page, I'll henceforth bug you to do 60 sit-ups, push-ups and crunches. I'll also order some dumbbells and whey protein to your house.

Wonderful read btw, I'll check them out.

Good luck getting any results from me. High school gym class couldn't do it, going to college on a giant hill couldn't do it, and even watching One Punch Man couldn't do it. I'll settle for getting out of my chair to pace my room every two hours.

ASoT may be too conventionally heavy metal for your tastes (I mean, there's no bari sax drones or mysterious hazes or anything), but if you do check them out, I'd start with Time's Arrow or It Was Metal.
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"Earth is small and I hate it" - Lum Invader

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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20.12.2020 - 13:44
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by ScreamingSteelUS on 11.12.2020 at 00:03

ASoT may be too conventionally heavy metal for your tastes (I mean, there's no bari sax drones or mysterious hazes or anything), but if you do check them out, I'd start with Time's Arrow or It Was Metal.

So I did check a couple of their releases, and now I came back here and ironically neither of them are the ones you recommended. I guess I will come back to those as well. I really liked it, really glad to hear more vocals where the vocals are this awesome and powerful without being power metal.
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Father: How can a picture of a field be sad without a sad person looking sad in the field?
Young Woman: That's an interesting problem. Yeah, I struggle with that.
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20.12.2020 - 16:13
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by RaduP on 20.12.2020 at 13:44

Written by ScreamingSteelUS on 11.12.2020 at 00:03

ASoT may be too conventionally heavy metal for your tastes (I mean, there's no bari sax drones or mysterious hazes or anything), but if you do check them out, I'd start with Time's Arrow or It Was Metal.

So I did check a couple of their releases, and now I came back here and ironically neither of them are the ones you recommended. I guess I will come back to those as well. I really liked it, really glad to hear more vocals where the vocals are this awesome and powerful without being power metal.

I'm glad you enjoyed them, in any event. I don't know what it is about small people having big voices, but Nina is fantastic.
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"Earth is small and I hate it" - Lum Invader

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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