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The best kept secret in music


"Portal of Illusion is a very unique CD"

Portal of Illusion is a very unique CD. It can be classified as a Hard Rock/Heavy Metal hybrid, but the most unique thing about the CD is the vocals. In a time when vocalists who sound like the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street are the norm, the band prides itself on the fact that not only can lead vocalist Kevin Razel sing well (which he does), but also on the fact that they feature 4-part harmonies. The harmonies are what set them apart from other Metal bands performing these days, and also lends a bit of a retro sound to the recording ... not to confuse the term "retro" to mean 80s or 90s ... nope, we’re talking retro 60s! They have a vocal sound similar to Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes’ “Journey To The Center Of The Mind” ... very full and powerful.
Stronghold is a 5-piece Hard Rock/Heavy Metal band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, with a lineup consisting of Alex Demos and Dave Climo on guitars, Dan Climo on bass guitar, Chris Batton on drums, and lead vocalist Kevin Razel. Portal of Illusion is their debut offering, and is quite an accomplishment indeed. It was produced by none other than D.C. Cooper, the former Royal Hunt frontman. The CD is a little over 50 minutes long, and consists of 12 tracks, one being a “hidden track.”
Portal of Illusion opens with what appears to be an army marching, and leads into “Power Rises,” which is a great intro to the CD -- full of hot guitar work and a strong backbone from the drums and bass, and, of course, the first sampling of the amazing 4-part harmonies prevalent throughout the CD. This is a song you’ll want to crank up on the stereo. Next, there’s nothing wrong with a little shameless self-promotion, if you can pull it off, which brings listeners to the second track, aptly named “Stronghold”. Luckily, they do pull if off. It’s another house-rocking tune with plenty of gutsy guitar work and a solid background, with a bit of synthesizer thrown in for good measure.
Unfortunately, almost every album has a stinker on it, and the next song, “Cyclone,” is the stinker on this album. It has a very cheesy, garage band sound to it, and the guitar work is repetitive to the point of being annoying. Skip to track 4, “Enemy Within,” which is a paradox unto itself. It opens with a Queensryche style lead-in, but totally morphs into some kind of zombie beach party style melody. You can almost envision Frankie and Annette, in undead form, doing the twist on the sand while trying to gnash on each other. Strangely enough, it works. It’s a heavy rocker with a ripping guitar lead played over some pounding double bass drums.
“Fractured” opens with the sound of breaking glass, leading into an unusual off-time rhythm that could also be described as fractured. The vocal harmonies are pretty cool in that they are reminiscent of The Moody Blues “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band).” The next tune, “Ironheart,” will make you want to put on your feather headdress and go on the warpath. It definitely has a Cowboys and Indians feel to it -- minus the Cowboys. The drums have that tribal sound, and the guitars, although repetitive, have a heavy native sound.
The second half of the CD just gets better and better. “Twilight” starts off as a middle of the road tune, but then switches gears during the chorus into an Iron Maiden-esque rocker with some fantastic vocals. One of the two ballads on the album, “All That I Am,” starts with ocean sounds behind an acoustic guitar, and builds into a full blown powerfest. It’s good enough to be a hit single and features soaring vocals and an introspective hook.
Possibly the best song on the CD, “Before My Eyes Awake,” opens with a single line done a cappella, and then BAM -- into a full blown headbanger that never lets up for the remainder of the song. The tenth selection on the CD is “Lockdown,” which is an open road, cruising down the highway anthem. It will make you long for summer and warmer days.
“Ad Astra” is the second ballad on the disc, and although not quite as impressive as “All That I Am,” the chorus is very explosive and powerful. During the guitar solo, for a slight moment it sounds as if the guitarist’s fingers are somewhat lost on the fretboard. However, he makes a perfect recovery and launches into some nifty Blues riffs. The last song on the CD, the “hidden track,” is a foot-stomping version of “S.O.S.,” originally written by Abba.
All in all, Portal of Illusion is a very impressive first outing, with the vocals being the main draw to this CD. There is a new E.P. due out in the spring of 2006, and it will be very interesting to see what musical direction the band has taken over the past two years.
- GEORGE WAGEMANN-Metal Express Radio

"Stronghold, "Portal of illusion""

Independent, 2003
Stronghold hails from Pittsburgh, PA and plays American Power Metal. They remind me a lot of a mixture of Savatage and Silent Force. Vocalist Kevin Rasel states in the credits that his vocal mentor is D.C. Cooper who is lead vocalist of Silent Force.

Portal of Illusion is their first album. Other than the graphic/anime art within the cd sleeve, the music is pretty good. Highlights include "Power Rises," "Iron Heart," "Twilight," and "Lockdown." A hidden track on the album as an added bonus is their cover of ABBA's "S.O.S". Imagine a metal band from Pittsburgh covering ABBA.

Anyways, I recommend this cd for anyone who likes Savatage (Zak Stevens era) or Circle II Circle , Silent Force, Skid Row, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest. You can purchase this cd at cdbaby/stronghold and Stronghold's Official Website is
- Scott Sloan- "Spinning-A Review"

"Portal of Illusion, Stronghold"

(Portal of Illusion)
This release, produced by DC Cooper of Silent Force fame, is an impressive slab o' metal from a band, I confess, I have never heard of before. Despite the fact this lot hail from Pittsburgh, they sound straight out of mainland Europe. There is an obvious nod to Queensryche and there are certainly touches of Helloween and Masterplan on here. This lot play tight melodic power metal with all the elements that are good about the genre with none of the minuses. As with any good CD; it sounds familiar yet original at the same time. Apeing the aforementioned bands they cover, as an unlisted track, Abba's 'SOS' and pull it off with aplomb. For reasons I am not quite sure of, I have been sent their touring package and rider as well. As might have guessed from reading this review, I rather like this lot and expect to be listening to it for some time to come. Although I doubt they will be hitting the UK soon; the band have played with bands as diverse as UFO and Damageplan. If you like quality and intelligent power metal then you can do far worse than picking up this CD. You can get it on CD Baby. Lets hope Cooper's label takes a look at these guys and picks them up.

- MArty Dodge "Blog"UK


STRONGHOLD has succeeded in doing what most bands have forgotten how to do-PERFORM!. In a staggering, awe-inspiring, energy draining, sweat soaked two hour set jammed with great sound and lights; killer solos; some audience participation, and a sprinkle of pyrotechnics , they make sure every one walks away believing they just saw a show at the Garden!

Unlike so many bands out there, these guys refuse to slow down. Too often an artist or group will wait for a wave and then ride it out. However, this band creates its own waves. Usually waves large enough to engulf an entire city when delivered!

Already work has started on the next album, with one extra bonus: Lead screamer Kevin is also an accomplished rhythm/lead guitarist that adds a “triple-axe-attack” to the firestorm they already have on stage.

Combine that with catchy riffs; fully orchestrated ensembles; 5-way operatic harmonies and multiple vocal interludes, this band stands at the top of what I can best describe as ‘Cataclysmic Rock’!
- David Marks "The Working Musician"


It’s rare to find heavy metal this good- The world needs to know. Every song is good. There are at least three and up to six potential hits if it will be aired on the radio. The lyrics and vocals, guitars, bass and drums all mesh together in perfection. Every rock enthusiast must obtain a copy. I especially like Twilight, All That I Am, Before My Eyes Awake, and Lockdown-any of these can become a big hit. - Roger Sigler "Rock-Critic"

"Demos: Stronghold-Portal of Illusion"

Self-Financed) Total Time: 50:18

Well, here we have to deal with a big injustice. It is really a pity that this is not an official release. From any point of view that I looked this CD, I wasn’t able to find no weakness at all. STRONGHOLD plays classical Heavy – Power metal at its best. Nice compositions full of great ideas that make us think why bands like them don’t manage to make a carrier with works like “Portal Of Illusions” in the same time when others release the one CD after the other and have nothing to say to us. I don’t say that they play something original or something that you haven’t heard before. What I say is that what they play is really nice and solid and it is a work that has been done in a very professional way. This is a must have CD for all the fans of true, pure Heavy sound (especially those who love the 80’s sound). This is a leader CD for all those bands who believe that they have released a self financed album only because they recorded their material and they put it in a box. The artwork is amazing something that adds another plus to the whole idea of this work. I don’t really know what else to say about this CD which’s production was made by the well known D.C. Cooper itself! I only hope that they will soon get what they deserve from the music industry and they will create in the future more works like this one. Look for this CD wherever you can. It is truly a masterpiece of the underground!

Rating: 5 skulls
Added: May 20th 2005
- Andreas Kourtidis ""

"Bravo Guys!,Great group of Extremely Talented Musicians"

great recording quality, this CD was jam packed with powerful vocals and jabbing lyrics. A must have for any metal fans tired of the same old ***
- Erin Soule @


Translated Version:
Stronghold from Pennsylvania knows to convince already times purely optically with its own production "portal OF illusion". Strongly opened Booklet with all texts and mad Fantasy designs, whose female eyecatcher reminds me around other time of the work of the highly gifted artist Luis Royo. With the music is not that much different. , on "portal if OF is to be called illusion" becomes native Melodic Heavy Metal with obliging/pleasing melodies, guitars grease and a remarkably good singer required, who admits somehow however in many places sounds. Which is simply because of the fact that the Pittsburgh pittsburgh-Fuenfer does not rip-off anywhere, but the roots of the troop, which out volume such as Iron Maiden, praised, Queensryche and something Savatage lie, quite the more frequent one through-gleam. Large plus that CD is the singing of Kevin Rasel, which settles down somewhere between Crimson Glory, Queensryche, Maiden and Savatage as well as by its Mentor D. C. Cooper (ex-Royal Hunt, now silent Force) was affected noticeably and the "portals OF illusion" also produced. As Hidden TRACK waits the Combo funny-proves with a Coverversion of ABBAs Gassenhauer "S.O.S." up. Actually an output at that it all around nothing too say bad about, one however wishes those volume at the same time still further from itself would have gone, would have new paths to enter and thereby also a certain risk would have been received. The potential for it has it. To that extent there are "also only" breath-thin eight points. Anspieltipps: "power Rises" (famose Opener), "" Ironheart "," universe That I to "as well as" Before My Eyes Awake ". In Germany might you the part also with Hellion get.
Otherwise checkout Rating: 8 out of 10- SBr
- Stephan

"Pittsburgh is the home of The Steel Curtain"

Band Name: Stronghold
Album Name: Portal of Illusion
Genre: Metal
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Record Label: Independent
Demo or official release: Official
Release Date (year): 2004

Pittsburgh is the home of The Steel Curtain but deep in the trenches of the mines is another hidden gem named Stronghold. The band is working on a new spring release on Perris records but in the meantime we have their last release from 2004 “Portal of Illusions”. The opening track “Power Rises” is a brilliant array of musicianship with vocals that will capture the minds of all hard rock and power metal fans. Kevin Rasel does a magnificent job as he mesmorizes you with his range, mildly sounding like Geoff Tate of Queensryche. The collaboration and style of Stronghold is unique bouncing from progressive to traditional hard rock in the vein of Styx. I am not going to sit here and tell you I liked every track on the CD but more then half the tracks will get your blood pumping. The guitar work by Dave Climo is above average and at times letting lose. “Ironheart” is another good track which Dave Climo showing some of his chops but not over doing it. “All That I Am” is the highlight track. Just sit back and pump the sound up because this song is on fire. The vocals are killer, the breaks and riffs are fantastic and the background vocals just bring this song to life. This CD should defiantly be in your collection. Stronghold are also working on the song "Visions" for the new Lizzy Borden Tribute called "Baptized in Blood" due out this spring on Metallicarchangel Records. - : Brian

"Stronghold - Portal Of Illusions"

From Pittsburgh (USA) comes this band called Stronghold. With skilled members (years of experience) forced joined in 2001. This is their 2nd release and contains 12 songs of classic power metal. Multiple vocalchords, melodic riffing with nice leads in mid tempo songs. A sound in clear production and very capable of getting airplay on national rock stations. Maybe it not delivers an earthquake for extreme metal fans but good enough for those who listen to real and true hardrock. -


"Twilight Passage" E.P. - released in 2002
"Portal of Illusions" L.P. - released in 2004

We have current radio play on Various College and FM stations in the U.S. and overseas as well as our home town Pittsburgh.

Labels/online distribution:
*Perris records (U.S.)
*Hellion records (Germany)
* (U.S.)
* (U.S.)
* (Sweden)


Feeling a bit camera shy


A group of 5 individuals dedicated to the annihilation of the mainstream. In an era of sequenced sounds, unrecognizable vocals and 4 chord angry bands, the band has held stedfast to the belief that an audience deserves more. Whether it's the smallest of local clubs or the largest of U.S. stages, each performance drives a nail into the coffin of the mundane. STRONGHOLD have proven time and time again that Hard Rock/Metal holds more than a place in Today's Music but commands the lead! The band steam rolled it's way into the Pittsburgh scene in 2001 and quickly started sharing the bill with National acts from Def Leppard to Saliva, Playing the world famous Rolling Rock Town Fair in 2003 at the Heinz field stadium Pittsburgh for an incoming crowd of almost 15,000 people as well as the Post Gazette Pavilion with Whitesnake, Warrant and Skid Row. The Band Quickly became The Headliner for other premier clubs and events such as the Hard Rock cafe and the Yearly Cycle Source Magazine Annual custom Chopper shows boasting 10 to 15,000 custom choppers and spectators. Most Recently STRONGHOLD has opened for the Devastation across the nation Tour for the Pittsburgh Show on November 28th. This Metal event featured The bands Shadows Fall, Damageplan(late Dimebag Darrel from Pantera's new band) and The Haunted. STRONGHOLD caters to a wide range of people with different tastes in music allowing them to gain fans from the ages of 5 to 55 and being asked to open for classic bands such as Mountain and UFO along with some of the most popular Metal acts like Symphony X, Kings X and Devon Townsend. STRONGHOLD are influenced by Yesterday's Heavy metal legends like Iron Maiden, Queensryche and Judas Priest, and mix in sounds of todays metal monsters such as Godsmack, Disturbed and Saliva. They are a METAL Melting Pot of 4 part vocal harmonies and Blazing Guitar leads with Thundering Bass And Drums. This band brings the BIG STAGE attitude and larger than life Light shows back to to the people, making concerts exciting and uplifting, not depressing and Angry like most of today's cookie cutter bands pressed from the same mold. You will walk away from a STRONGHOLD show believing you just saw a show at Madison Square Garden!!!!