About Gustavo Scuderi

"If I could survive to live one more time I wouldn't be changing a thing at all Done more in my life than some do in ten I'd go back and do it all over again..."

Album Review – Clawfinger / Use Your Brain (1995)

Use your brain and listen to the cult album by this distinct Swedish act, presenting an austere and impactful fusion of Rap and Heavy Metal.

Rating4

use-your-brainA few years before Limp Biskit, Slipknot or any other band considered part of the Nu Metal scene from the 90’s/2000’s started, there was already a Swedish band called Clawfinger playing a very original mix of Rap Metal, Hardcore, Rapcore, Funk Metal and even Industrial Metal in a very aggressive, politicized and anti-racist way. Although the band was formed back in 1989, it was just in 1993 that they launched their debut album called Deaf Dumb Blind (which included a very controversial song called “Nigger”, but again, in the most anti-racist way possible), and a couple of years later, in 1995, they launched their most interesting album in my humble opinion, titled Use Your Brain. If you hate Rap by all means and/or if you’re too narrow-minded to accept it mixed with Heavy Metal, don’t even bother listening to it. However, if you enjoy heavy music no matter what, then Use Your Brain might be an amazing addition to your day-to-day playlist.

Use Your Brain starts at a high note with my favorite song from the album, Power, which talks about exactly the opposite of most songs with the word “power” in their names: power can be really harmful to anyone who doesn’t know how to use it properly, which happens to the majority of the people that have it anyway. “Power to the one who doesn’t want it / Do you want it why do you want it”, screams lead singer Zak Tell, accompanied by some excellent heavy riffs by Erlend Ottem and Bård Torstensen and keyboards by Jocke Skog. The song is followed by Pay the Bill, which keeps the energy level up, and Pin Me Down, a more rhythmic track with strong lyrics that ended up becoming one of the band’s biggest classics.

ClawfingerThe next song is called Wipe My Ass, a good example of how the band was able to unite Rap and Metal in a very solid way. The only thing I don’t understand is why sometimes I find this song with a different name, “Waste My Time”. Well, it’s probably due to the “beautiful” expression used in the original name, but honestly, who cares about that? Anyway, the next two tracks, Die High and It, are just average songs, especially the second one which is quite bland compared to the rest of the album. Fortunately the next song, called Do What I Say, takes the album back on track with its simple but strong riffs and amazing lyrics about the emotional and sometimes physical (and endless) war between parents and their kids, acidly declaimed by Zak Tell and his hostile vocals. I normally don’t add a huge chunk of any lyrics in my reviews, but this one is so good that deserves to be appreciated almost in full. Besides, although this song might have been recorded over 20 years ago, it still sounds fresh and contemporary, just to show you how parenting will never, ever be an easy task to anyone.

“I‘ve paid to raise you good
Done everything I could so don’t you dare to say
That I ever cared about you anyway
I gave you good food to eat
I kept you on your feet
I gave you all my good advice
Not once did I hear you
thank me for all that I’ve done
You don’t know anything
About my suffering
I went through a lot of pain
Just to get you where you are today
If I ever hit you
It’s because I have to
You have done something wrong
And you deserve the punishment, you’ll have to pay”

The rest of the album doesn’t have anything too special: Undone is considerably tasteless, while What Are You Afraid Of doesn’t do any good but at the same time it doesn’t harm the album. Things get a lot better with Back to the Basics, especially the eerie sound the band created with the guitars and keyboards working together; Easy Way Out with its addictive chorus and the groovy drums by Ottar Vigerstøl; and Tomorrow, a very good Rap Metal track that powerfully ends this very original and catchy album, with highlights to the rumbling sounds generated by Ottar and bassist André Skaug. In addition, the front cover is absolutely precise in summarizing the content of the music in the album (despite being fairly simplistic), and that “less is more” type of art is most probably the reason why I love it so much.

Use Your Brain_remastered

Use Your Brain 2004 Remastered Edition

The 2004 remastered version of the album also includes 3 bonus tracks and 3 bonus videos, so if you’re interested in buying it I suggest you go after the remastered one (which by the way is a lot easier to find in any webstore). Clawfinger released a statement around August 2013 saying they split up, which was a bummer at that time based on the quality of their music, but fortunately it seems those Swedish metallers are back in action and ready to deliver us another blast of their venomous music, going against the sea of boredom that dominates the scene nowadays. Hence, Use Your Brain (which can be enjoyed in its entirety HERE) is far from being a true masterpiece, but it’s an extremely enjoyable album with meaningful lyrics crafted by talented musicians and, above all, an excellent option to expand your horizons in the world of heavy music and a lot better choice than most of the crap the media makes us swallow every single day. In other words, use your goddamn brain at least once and enjoy the austere music by this unique band hailing from Sweden, alright?

Best moments of the album: Power, Pin Me Down, Do What I Say and Back to the Basics.

Worst moments of the album: It and Undone.

Released in 1995 WEA/MVG (Warner Music Group)

Track listing
1. Power 3:14
2. Pay the Bill 4:20
3. Pin Me Down 4:10
4. Wipe My Ass 3:13
5. Die High 2:34
6. It 5:21
7. Do What I Say 4:25
8. Undone 4:11
9. What Are You Afraid Of 3:47
10. Back to the Basics 2:27
11. Easy Way Out 2:39
12. Tomorrow 4:09

2004 Remastered Edition bonus tracks & videos
13. Better Than This 3:36
14. Three Good Riffs 3:56
15. Armageddon Down 3:36
16. Pin Me Down (Video Clip) 4:10
17. Tomorrow (Video Clip) 4:09
18. Do What I Say (Video Clip) 4:25

Band members
Zak Tell – lead vocals
Jocke Skog – keyboards, vocals
Erlend Ottem – lead guitar
Bård Torstensen – rhythm guitar
André Skaug – bass
Ottar Vigerstøl – drums

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Album Review – Carcass / Heartwork (1993)

Wake up and listen to this Melodic Death Metal wonder.

Rating3

carcass_heartworkWhen a band or artist changes their musical direction towards something more commercial or mainstream, in order to become more famous and consequently make more money without worrying about their morality or principles, their old diehard fans start calling them a sellout. We have seen this type of thing happening hundreds of times with different bands from a wide range of musical styles, especially in Heavy Metal which always tends to be a more conservative genre than any other. Who doesn’t remember all the negative reaction of the fans and the specialized media to Metallica’s Load or Judas Priest’s Turbo? However, sometimes this change is for better, and that’s exactly what happened to Liverpool’s Extreme Metal masters Carcass when they “abandoned” their old Splatter/Grindcore to show the world a more polished material with the album Heartwork, released in 1993, becoming the pioneers of what we call today as Melodic Death Metal.

Although Heartwork was considered a radical change by lots of their old fans, and as I mentioned before a sellout by many, the album is far from sounding commercial or any shit like that. This is a milestone in the world of extreme music, quickly becoming the source of inspiration for hundreds of bands all over the world due to the quality and complexity of its music. The first track, Buried Dreams, already shows a much “cleaner” Carcass than ever before, but it’s still very extreme and violent. That new Carcass, a lot more melodic, offer us then Carnal Forge, which is pure Melodic Death Metal with amazing vocals, especially the initial scream, and beautiful solos by both Bill Steer and Michael Amott.

Can we call the unique No Love Lost a Melodic Death Metal ballad? This song is a classic with its perfect riffs and lyrics (“Without emotion you heartstring’s played / Strummed and severed to the tune of a tragic serenade”), and as one of the album’s singles it got a pretty cool video too. Then comes the best song of all, the title-track Heartwork,  a heavy music masterpiece with incredibly fast riffs, awesome solos, an addictive chorus (“A canvas to paint, to degenerate / Dark reflections – degeneration / A canvas to paint, to denigrate / Dark reflections, of dark foul light”), and Jeff Walker being absolutely fantastic on vocals, sounding like an (extremely) evil version of Dave Mustaine. This is a Death Metal anthem with flawless synchronicity of all band members, and a mandatory track in any music selection for a heavy workout at the gym.

carcassAfter an impeccable start, the album loses a little momentum with Embodiment, which is not as amazing as all previous tracks. Moreover, this song reminds me a lot of what Arch Enemy do today, clearly due to Michael Amott’s influence, but not as cohesive. This Mortal Coil is an excellent song with awesome guitars, making it one of the best in the album and a great song for any live performances. The next song is fantastic too, albeit it has a very weird name: Arbeit Macht Fleisch is a derivation of “arbeit macht frei”, the famous German phrase found over the main gates of many Nazi concentration camps during World War II (including Auschwitz I) that means “work makes (you) free”. In this case, the meaning would be “work makes (you) meat”, a more suitable expression for the gruesome heavy music played by Carcass.

The last part of Heartwork begins with Blind Bleeding the Blind, a very technical song with lots of groove and electricity, followed by Doctrinal Expletives, which is a more straightforward, traditional metal song. The last track of the album, Death Certificate, has an amazing start and very interesting lyrics, but in my opinion it’s its fast and heavy rhythm what makes it so great. This is the end of an outstanding album, with Bill Steer and Michael Amott kickin’ ass from start to finish (what those two guys did with their guitars together in Heartwork was glorious) and Jeff Walker adding a creepy touch to it with his guttural, raspy voice. In addition, we can see here one of the most extraordinary front covers in the history of heavy music, called “Life Support 1993”, designed by the deceased Swiss artist H. R. Giger.

The band released Swansong in 1996, and 17 years later they got back with the amazing Surgical Steel, in 2013, but Heartwork is still their biggest work so far and something quite impossible to be beaten (and if I were you, I would definitely go for the Full Dynamic Range Edition with its four amazing bonus tracks). Carcass might have changed their musicality, with an almost complete shift in their vocal style and more diversity in their music and lyrics, but instead of a sellout they became a reference in Melodic Extreme Metal. If you love truly heavy, violent music with a solid melody in the background and insanely gory words, well, let’s just say that you must “wake up and smell the carcass”.

Best moments of the album: No Love Lost, Heartwork, This Mortal Coil and Arbeit Macht Fleisch.

Worst moments of the album: Embodiment.

Released in 1993 Earache Records

Track listing
1. Buried Dreams 3:58
2. Carnal Forge 3:54
3. No Love Lost 3:22
4. Heartwork 4:33
5. Embodiment 5:36
6. This Mortal Coil 3:49
7. Arbeit Macht Fleisch 4:21
8. Blind Bleeding the Blind 4:57
9. Doctrinal Expletives 3:39
10. Death Certificate 3:38

Full Dynamic Range Edition bonus tracks
11. This Is Your Life 4:09
12. Rot ‘n’ Roll 3:51
13. Carnal Forge (live in Tokyo) 4:25
14. Heartwork (live in Tokyo) 5:01

Band members
Jeff Walker – vocals, bass guitar
Bill Steer – lead guitar
Michael Amott – lead guitar
Ken Owen – drums

Album Review – Paradise Lost / Draconian Times (1995)

The best, darkest and most detailed album by one of the pioneers of Gothic and Doom Metal.

paradise_lost-draconian_times-frontI remember when I was a teenager that there was a stupid “urban legend” about the album Icon, by British Gothic/Doom Metal band Paradise Lost, selling more copies worldwide than Metallica’s Black Album. We all know that was pure bullshit, but one thing was true: with the albums Icon and especially Draconian Times, Paradise Lost became one of the most respected bands of the 90’s, being recognized as one of the pioneers of Gothic/Doom Metal and appearing as one of the main attractions in many festivals all over the world, something not seen very often taking into account the dark and sluggish music played by the band.

Draconian Times, as any other album from a similar genre and/or style, is not an easy product to be assimilated, mainly due to its obscure and depressive themes, and of course, its slow pace (you shall never expect to hear some fast drums in a Gothic song, my friend). However, it’s a brilliant Heavy Metal album with several amazing moments, even if you’re not a big fan of this type of music. The first track of the album, Enchantment, is an excellent summary of the band’s music, with a beautiful piano intro and excellent riffs throughout the whole song. It’s a great mix of Gothic and Doom Metal, with particular highlights to Nick Holmes’ powerful voice and the song’s somber lyrics (“In depth grasp the chains / Struggle as the waters gain but I… / All I need is a simple reminder) and eerie atmosphere.

The second track, Hallowed Land, is what we can call pure Doom Metal,  while The Last Time became an instant hit with its faster than usual rhythm and lyrics and chorus tailored for being sung loud by all fans at their shows (“It’s a cruel misfortune / Forbidding us to see / When stories may collide / It’s a sad state of mind / Heart’s beating… / Heart’s beating for the last time”). This might be considered their biggest hit, despite its a more commercial approach not being well digested by their diehard fans. Then we have Forever Failure and its lyrics that deal with the constant losses in our lives, a very depressive and slow song not recommended for people who have some kind of suicidal tendencies. Once Solemn closes the first part of the album in a brilliant way, being a fast tune with a very good rhythm, and more Heavy Metal than any of the other songs (sometimes even sounding like Metallica).

Paradise LostIf Draconian Times was comprised of only its first five tracks, it would have deserved a flawless 5.0. However, after that the album loses a little its energy and creativity, but nothing that makes it less compelling. Shadowkings has nice riffs and its pace is good, albeit not enough to outdo the previous songs, while Elusive Cure, sounds extremely Gothic, eerie and deep. The following track, called Yearn for Change, showcases an obscure but pleasant rhythm, while Shades of God goes back to the more melancholic approach of “Elusive Cure”, despite not being as solid and entertaining. Finally, we have Hands of Reason, with a very beautiful guitar solo embellishing its overall result, followed by the sluggish and damned I See Your Face, and the final track, Jaded, which is extremely melancholic and another good example of how slow and somber the union of Gothic and Doom Metal can be.

Many different special editions of Draconian Times have been released since the original version in 1995, all of them with some bonus songs, videos and other shenanigans. In addition, there’s a live album called Draconian Times MMXI, where the band plays the album in its entirety. If you cannot find any of the fancier versions of it, I suggest you at least search for the one that comes with The Sisters of Mercy cover Walk Away. It’s an amazing version for this classic song that’s worth the extra investment without a shadow of a doubt.

The front cover is beautiful and makes a great connection with the music in the album, representing all the sadness and sorrow found in the lyrics and rhythm. Another important thing is that despite being considered a Gothic band by many, very few songs have over 5 minutes in Draconian Times, making the album more “commercial” or at least easier for the radio stations at that time and MTV to play some of the songs during any of their daily programs. Those were good times when Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal were respected and admired, with Paradise Lost being competent (and lucky enough) to enjoy some fame in the world of mainstream music even playing mournful and unhappy sounds.

Best moments of the album: Enchantment, The Last TimeOnce Solemn and Walk Away.

Worst moments of the album: Shades of God.

Released in 1995 Music For Nations

Track listing
1. Enchantment 6:04
2. Hallowed Land 5:02
3. The Last Time 3:27
4. Forever Failure 4:18
5. Once Solemn 3:03
6. Shadowkings 4:41
7. Elusive Cure 3:21
8. Yearn for Change 4:19
9. Shades of God 3:54
10. Hands of Reason 3:58
11. I See Your Face 3:17
12. Jaded 3:26

Japanese Edition bonus tracks
13. Walk Away (The Sisters of Mercy cover) 3:24
14. Laid to Waste 3:16
15. Master of Misrule 3:07

Band members
Nick Holmes – vocals
Greg Mackintosh – lead guitar
Aaron Aedy – rhythm and acoustic guitars
Steve Edmonson – bass guitar
Lee Morris – drums

Album Review – Stratovarius / Episode (1996)

The best album from the best Finnish band of all time.

Rating2

stratovarius_episodeOi maamme, Suomi, synnyinmaa, soi, sana kultainen! Finland is by far one of the most Heavy Metal countries in the world, and I’m not inventing this information from out of nowhere: take a look at this map showing the number of Heavy Metal bands per 100,000 people and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Nightwish, Lordi, Amorphis, Sonata Arctica, Turisas, Apocalyptica, Teräsbetoni, Finntroll, HIM, Sentenced and Wintersun are just some of the biggest exponents of heavy music in this land that offers its people a lot more than just ice and snow, but none of them have changed the world of heavy music as the Power Metal/Melodic Heavy Metal band Stratovarius.

Since their start in 1984, Stratovarius have released many important albums which revolutionized Heavy Metal with intense and fast riffs, double bass, high-pitched screams and epic songs. Among those releases there was their fifth studio album, Episode, released over 20 years ago, which in my opinion was the most important step in the band’s history in terms of creativity and evolution. With the awesome Timo Kotipelto on vocals for the second time after the good album Fourth Dimension (and fortunately until present days), and the addition of the beasts Jens Johansson on keyboards and Jörg Michael on drums, Stratovarius became a synonym for Melodic Heavy Metal in the 90’s and influenced an infinite number of bands all around the world. That was the band’s most stable and powerful lineup of all time, until Timo Tolkki left the band in 2008.

The music in Episode is pretty straight forward, it’s fast and clean Heavy Metal with total synchronicity of instruments, together with lyrics talking about life, love, dreams, and all the struggles a man has inside his mind. Add to that the beautiful atmosphere created by the Sibelius String Orchestra and Sibelius Choir, and you have a musical masterpiece. The clock ticking in the beginning of the album just announces that what comes next is no less than memorable: Father Time is an incredible song that summarizes all the power and technique of the band’s members, especially Timo Tolkki and Jörg Michael. What those guys do with their instruments is beyond awesome, and seeing this song live is like having a musical orgasm. Furthermore, Tolkki’s riffs are a constant in the whole album and one of the elements that make it so special for all Heavy Metal fans.

The speed goes on with Will the Sun Rise, another classic showing how perfect the partnership Tolkki/Kotipelto used to be. Then things slow down a little with the beautiful Eternity, but after the instrumental intro Episode comes one of their fastest and most amazing compositions ever: Speed of Light can make even a Thrash Metal band jealous of its speed and riffs, and as Canadians love a mosh pit I can’t wait for a Stratovarius concert here in Toronto to slam into the pit with this song. On the other hand, Uncertainty is quite boring and the lowest point of the album, despite its nice intro.

stratovarius_1995The next track is another good ballad, Season of Change, where Kotipelto once again demonstrates why he’s a reference in Melodic Heavy Metal, followed by the instrumental song Stratosphere, where we can see an inspired Timo Tolkki and a crazy Jens Johansson “masturbating” their guitar and keyboards respectively for our pure delight. Babylon can be considered an “epic” song due to its lyrics, strong intro and variations, while Tomorrow brings back the band at full speed with its inspiring lyrics (“Feeling strong and brave inside / my head up high with pride / yes I’ll be back tomorrow”) and Jörg Michael pounding his drums with his unique technique.

Finally, we have the song Night Time Eclipse, a nice semi-ballad with pleasant riffs and solos, and then a ballad so beautiful I can’t even find the right words to describe it, Forever, where Timo Kotipelto melts the heart of any woman with his performance (“I’m still there everywhere / I’m the dust in the wind / I’m the star in the northern sky / I never stayed anywhere / I’m the wind in the trees / would you wait for me forever?”). The Japanese version of Episode also contains a good bonus track called When the Night Meets the Day, another nice song, albeit not as wonderful as the regular tracks.

If you don’t know Stratovarius, I would say Episode is probably the best album to start. The only “issue” would be the side effects of listening to this musical wonder, which are an extreme addiction to Finnish Heavy Metal and a compulsive obsession with the language, culture, drinks and people from the marvelous land of ice and snow.

Best moments of the album: Father Time, Speed of Light and Forever.

Worst moments of the album: Uncertainty is the only “weak” track of all, or let’s say the least awesome.

Released in 1996 Noise Records

Track listing
1. Father Time 5:01
2. Will the Sun Rise? 5:06
3. Eternity 6:55
4. Episode (instrumental) 2:01
5. Speed of Light 3:03
6. Uncertainty 5:59
7. Season of Change 6:56
8. Stratosphere (instrumental) 4:51
9. Babylon 7:09
10. Tomorrow 4:51
11. Night Time Eclipse 7:58
12. Forever 3:06

Japanese edition bonus track
13. When the Night Meets the Day 5:30

Band members
Timo Kotipelto – vocals
Timo Tolkki – guitars, backing vocals
Jens Johansson – keyboards
Jari Kainulainen – bass
Jörg Michael – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Cristina Scabbia

Follow me, follow me… As I trip the darkness…

If you write her name with an “h”, she will kick your ass mercilessly. That’s probably the most fun way to introduce you to our beyond special Metal Chick of the Month, the electrified Italian rocker Cristina Scabbia, one of the most influential and reputable women in the entire world of heavy music and the perfect choice for celebrating four metallic and totally awesome years of The Headbanging Moose webzine this October. Owner of a distinct and very potent voice, Cristina Scabbia, whose full name is Cristina Adriana Chiara Scabbia, was born on June 6, 1972 in the cosmopolitan city of Milan, a metropolis in Italy’s northern Lombardy region and a global capital of fashion and design. Best known as one of the two vocalists for Italian Alternative Rock/Metal band Lacuna Coil, Cristina is not only an accomplished singer and lyricist, but also a writer, a fashion model and, above all, a true headbanger who loves what she does and who has already devoted a good part of her life to Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll.

Cristina was not even 20 years old when she began singing professionally as a touring musician for other bands and providing backing vocals, in 1991. Later that year, she met vocalist Andrea Ferro and bass player Marco Coti Zelati, who would be the future founding members of Lacuna Coil, in Milan’s Midnight Club, and there’s no way of talking about Cristina without talking about her unique connection with Lacuna Coil. Actually, when the band started it was called Sleep of Right, having recorded a song called Bleeding Souls for the Noise of Bolgia compilation in 1995. The band soon changed its name to Ethereal, playing an interesting mix of Gothic and Doom Metal, with Cristina being initially employed only as a session singer, being asked to record backup vocals for the choruses of their demo tape, but the band members liked the way the male and female vocals sounded together and they asked her to be a permanent member then. After several lineup changes and after releasing a two-track demo in 1996, Ethereal were signed by Century Media Records at the end of 1997 and had to change their name to Lacuna Coil (which means “empty spiral”), as Ethereal was already taken by a band from Greece.

After the name change in 1997, Lacuna Coil became a reference in Alternative Rock and Metal worldwide, having already released eight studio albums, those being In a Reverie (1999), Unleashed Memories (2001), Comalies (2002), Karmacode (2006), Shallow Life (2009), Dark Adrenaline (2012), Broken Crown Halo (2014), and more recently Delirium (2016), as well as the EP’s Lacuna Coil (1998), Halflife (2000), Shallow Live: Acoustic at Criminal Records (2010) and The House of Shame / Delirium (2016). In addition to that, the band also released a DVD in 2008, titled Visual Karma (Body, Mind and Soul). Each album by Lacuna Coil is very unique, presenting a different sonority from the others, with the band always adding new elements to their music and experimenting with new sounds. If you want to have a journey through the various phases of the band, paying a detailed attention to the evolution of Cristina (whose highest note ever hit is claimed to be an A7) as a singer and a performer, you should definitely check their songs Falling Again (from In a Reverie), Senzafine (from Unleashed Memories), Swamped (from Comalies), Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence (from Karmacode), I Like It (from Shallow Life), Trip to Darkness (from Dark Adrenaline), Nothing Stands in Our Way (from Broken Crown Halo), and Blood, Tears, Dust (from Delirium). As a matter of fact, there are so many official videos as well as bootlegs online with Cristina and Lacuna Coil you can literally spend hours or even days just watching everything nonstop.

Apart from her solid career with Lacuna Coil, Cristina can be seen in several distinct projects from the most diverse bands and genres, and in all of them she adds her personal touch of rebelliousness, passion and electricity. First let’s talk about her participation in metal-related bands and projects, and then let’s show what she can do when she’s not in her metallic mode. In 2007, Cristina lent her voice to the song S.O.S. (Anything but Love), from the album Worlds Collide by Finnish Symphonic Heavy Metal band Apocalyptica, and the result was so interesting she ended up playing several live concerts with them in the coming years. And it seems the year of 2007 was very fruitful for her career outside Lacuna Coil, as she also recorded what’s probably her biggest non-Lacuna Coil hit, the revamped version of the all-time classic power ballad “A Tout le Monde”, this time named A Tout le Monde (Set Me Free), by American Speed Metal titans Megadeth, featured on their excellent album United Abominations. Needless to say, every time Megadeth and Cristina were in the same city or festival, they ended up playing that amazing song together for the delight of the fans at the venue, as I was able to enjoy during the 2012 version of Gigantour with Megadeth, Motörhead, Volbeat, and Lacuna Coil here in Canada.

You can also find Cristina in unique metal projects such as the character “The Mother” on the 2013 album The Theory of Everything, by Dutch Progressive Metal/Rock band Ayreon, and as a guest vocalist on the song Scars, by Thrash/Groove Metal project Metal Allegiance, from their 2015 self-titled album. In addition, Cristina is also one of the musicians interviewed on the 2007 documentary Over the Madness, a DVD that follows the career of British Doom/Death Metal icons Paradise Lost, including interviews from present and past band members, plus a host of others such as the aforementioned Cristina, Martin E. Ain, Aaron Stainthorpe and Alex Skolnick, presenting the band’s history from its formation up to 2006, in chronological order.

In regards to her contributions to non-metal acts, you can enjoy the charming and powerful vocals by Cristina on different songs such as Beautiful Lie, as a duet with Italian singer Emiliano Audisio (Line 77) to be part of the soundtrack for the 2013 Italian film Passione Sinistra; Nell’acqua, with Rezophonic; an alternate version of Watch Over You, with Alter Bridge; Basta!, with L’Aura and Rezophonic; Can You Hear Me?, also with Rezophonic; and I’m That, with Franco Battiato. By the way, when Cristina sang with L’Aura it was in 2008 at Festival di Sanremo, one of the most important pop festivals in Italy (if not the most important one). And you can also find some nice videos online of Cristina singing together with a Queen tribute band called Queenmania, such as in the all-time classics Bohemian Rhapsody and Under Pressure. And in addition to all that, she also used to write an advice column in the popular rock magazine Revolver, alongside the iconic American drummer Vinnie Paul (Pantera, Hellyeah).

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If you follow The Headbanging Moose you might have seen Cristina’s name as an inspiration for several of our previous metal chicks, just showing how important she is to the expansion of the presence of women in heavy music, but of course as any normal person she also has her idols and favorite bands in music. Among her main influences and names who contributed to her becoming a singer and pursuing a career in Heavy Metal, Cristina mentioned legendary bands such as Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, Motörhead, as well as darker bands like Paradise Lost and Type O Negative. By the way, some of her favorite songs, those that really make a good amount of adrenaline rush through her body, are Motörhead’s Ace of Spades and Type O Negative’s My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend, which despite being very distinct songs I have to agree that they surely put a smile on the face of anyone who enjoys some good old rock and metal. Of course Cristina as any other talented and professional artist listens to a lot of non-metal music, in special music from her homeland Italy, which in the end helps her diversify her vocals from song to song, explore new horizons and remain vibrant and relevant to the world of heavy music.

Slightly changing the focus to her personal life, many of you might think it’s a dream to date a woman like her, but as in any relationship there are always some hurdles and barriers to be overcome in order to keep the passion and love going on. Cristina has been in a relationship with Slipknot and ex-Stone Sour guitarist Jim Root for over 10 years already, but keeping that relationship fresh is not an easy task due to distance between them as they’re both very busy musicians who are always on tour (not to mention the fact that Root lives in Florida while Cristina resides in Italy). “Well, my lifestyle is challenging already,” Cristina explained. “Because I travel a lot and I work very hard. So you have to learn to live your life in a different way, but in a way that works for you. So for me to even think about a normal relationship would be something weird.” Before dating Root, she was in a relationship with Lacuna Coil’s own bassist Marco, and when they broke up let’s say it wasn’t easy for them to keep working together as a band, but fortunately as decent adults they overcame that “issue” and now they’re very good friends, loving each other in a different level.

Another interesting topic discussed by Cristina in one of her interviews was related to the recent deaths of Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, where she expressed her opinion about mental illnesses, from depression to dementia to other types of mental conditions, saying we should never judge the others’ decisions as there’s so much to understand about the whole situation before reaching any conclusion. That was also explored on Lacuna Coil’s latest album Delirium. “When we did Delirium, it was really important for us to treat it in the most respectful and delicate way possible,” said Cristina. “Because you can try to send a positive message and to try to tell people, ‘Oh, you should be positive all the time, you should be happy, you should overcome depression,’ and everything, but it’s not as easy as you speak. It’s way deeper than that and more complicated than this.”

As any good Italian woman, in special if that woman is born in the city of Milan, Cristina loves stylish clothes, trying on new make-up, taking care of her dark hair and everything else that’s a synonym to fashion. For instance, she considers her beauty and make-up signature the one she herself calls a “raccoon look”, or as described by Cristina, “a heavy sort of smokey eyes style with carbon black eyeshadow surrounding both whole eyes and heavily in the lower part of the eye as well.” She also mentioned that, because she likes to combine styles and to work with contrasts, she likes to observe everything around her and go to runway shows in Milan, listing as some of her style icons the always trendy Madonna and the very elegant and dark British and Irish designer Daphne Guinness. Furthermore, she said her make-up and outfit behavior is in constant change due to new products, styles and techniques that are always appearing in the market, stating that while thinking about a new look for her concerts she always takes into account several important factors such as if the clothes are easy to carry around, if they’re washable, and if they allow her to move a lot onstage. Also in the fashion world, American photographer Jeremy Saffer (an old-time friend of Cristina) invited her to be her calendar girl for the Halloween 2015 Special Edition of XPRESSIONS magazine, with the final result being beyond stunning, of course, being sold out in a really short time.

Regarding her preparation for getting onstage and spending a long time on the road during Lacuna Coil’s extremely busy agenda worldwide, Cristina said she doesn’t exercise a lot, saying she’s some sort of “lazy bum”, and that concentration is the most important part of the process for her together with some warming up exercises to keep her voice in good shape. She said travelling all the time and managing everything is definitely not for everyone, but it can be very rewarding if you love what you do. One funny thing connected to that hectic lifestyle is that Cristina collects all her flight boarding cards, saying that one day it will be nice to see and to show others how much she’s traveled in her life. And, in terms of the apps she uses regularly, apart from Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Twitter, she’s also been using an app named Master Tour, which she considers very helpful for whoever does her type of job, keeping you updated on tours and schedules like a tour book in your smartphone. Hence, if you’re a touring musician, why not trying the same app as the successful Cristina Scabbia, right?

Lastly, when asked if she considers herself a role model for young girls, she said she doesn’t see herself as one but that all the love she gets from fans when she’s on the road makes her sometimes believe she might be indeed an inspiration for all of them. She always tells them that they have to believe in themselves because, no matter what, it is impossible to make everyone happy, so the key is to make ourselves happy and conscious of our own unique potential, with her motto in life being “live in the present and make it beautiful. I never think too much about the past or the future. The past is… gone and we will never be able to plan the future the perfect way.’’ What do you think about Cristina and her way of life? Do you agree with what she does and thinks in music and life in general? Well, there are tons of interesting interviews and videos of Cristina online to help you know more about her, such as this one from Loudwire called Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction?, where she even tells if her highest note being an A7 is true or not. It seems that the world of heavy music and also the whole cyberworld can never get enough of the one and only Italian stunner Cristina Scabbia (without an “h”, per favore).

Cristina Scabbia’s Official Facebook page
Cristina Scabbia’s Official Twitter
Cristina Scabbia’s Official Instagram
Lacuna Coil’s Official Facebook page
Lacuna Coil’s Official YouTube channel
Lacuna Coil’s Official Instagram

“You have to sing with your heart, you have to sing with passion, you have to be sincere in what you’re singing, and you have to be totally convinced of what you’re doing. Most of all, you have to realize that this is a hard job that not everyone can take, so don’t look at the shiny part only, because there is a lot of work involved and a lot of sacrifice, so be ready for that as well..” – Cristina Scabbia

Album Review – Misanthrope Monarch / Regress To The Saturnine Chapter (2017)

Be prepared for 35 minutes of ruthless and crushing music offered by a German act that has all it takes to become the next big name in the underground Death Metal scene.

It brings me a lot of joy to see that one of the first independent acts reviewed at The Headbanging Moose over three years ago has kept growing as a band since then, evolving to a much stronger, thrilling and boisterous entity through the years. The band in question goes by the imposing name of Misanthrope Monarch, who after the release of their self-titled mini-album in 2014 are finally back with their first full-length installment, the bold, technical and absolutely devastating Regress To The Saturnine Chapter. It doesn’t matter if you like a more modern and technical version of Death Metal or that traditional old school havoc brought forth by bands such as Cannibal Corpse and Deicide, as Misanthrope Monarch offers you all of that and more during the album’s 35 minutes of extreme brutality.

Supported by the Wacken Foundation and featuring a menacing artwork by the band’s ex-guitarist Chris Salmen (Combat Colour) as well as Sami Yli-Sirniö of Kreator as a guest guitarist, Regress To The Saturnine Chapter is the epitome of European underground Death Metal, not only representing to perfection what this Oberhausen-based quintet is all about, but also what you can expect from any other German band that knows how to beautifully blend the gore and heaviness of Death Metal with tons of melody and devotion to extreme music. Furthermore, the album also marks the debut of lead singer Cristoph “Chris” Mieves, a Death Metal bulldozer who also growls like a beast for German acts Grind Inc. and Resurrected, and if you know those bands I’m sure you have a very good idea of how savage the music by Misanthrope Monarch shall sound now.

The short, dissonant intro Towards The Utopian Kingdom Of Fire warns the listener there’s a first-class metal tempest coming entitled Usurping The Throne, where drummer Max Scheefeldt decimates his drum set while Chris provides those old school Death Metal deep guttural, menacing growls we all love in this type of music, not to mention the song’s insane main riff and the kick-ass solo by guest musician Sami Yli-Sirniö. Put differently, this is an absolutely fantastic display of what Misanthrope Monarch are capable of doing, pumping us all up for a lot more of their crushing Death Metal, which is what we end up getting in Crushing The Unbeliever, a re-recording from their 2014 mini-album (you can check the original version HERE). The bands gives a new shape and form to the song, with the new version sounding more destructive due to the cavernous screams by Chris. Moreover, the guitar duo comprised of Kristian Gøbels and Richie Zubek will burn your ears and pierce your mind with their lancinating riffs. And the insanely heavy and thrilling The Brotherhood Of Destruction has the perfect name for the chaotic music presented, sounding old school and modern at the same time. Furthermore, if you love the music by Cannibal Corpse you’ll have a blast with the infernal gnarls by Chris and the rhythmic and precise drumming by Max, as well as the intricate bass lines à la Alex Webster by Pat Fleischmann.

In the next track, titled Dispelled, metallic guitars and bass pound our heads violently, while Chris keeps vociferating like a demonic creature. Kristian and Richie bring a lot of melody to the musicality with their solos, never letting the energy level go down. The title-track Regress To The Saturnine Chapter is amazingly brutal and obscure, presenting a more progressive side of the band, in special the intricacy brought forth by Pat and Max on bass and drums respectively; whereas Father Sin And The Hollow Spirit is the second old song to be redesigned (enjoy the original version HERE). I personally love both versions of it, with the new one having as its strongest elements the gory growls by Chris and the more polished and thunderous overall production, making each instrument more aggressive and therefore more enjoyable.

Black Sirens Lurking presents another side of the band, showcasing an atmospheric, acoustic beginning that suddenly explodes into an imposing sonority led by the beautiful guitars by Kristian and Richie, setting the tone for the technical The Omega Embrace, which keeps the violent aura of the album burning through the demonic riffs, beats and growls bred by the entire band, despite losing some of its grip after a while. On the other hand, Trail Of The Heretic (Maleficium) is brutal Death Metal from start to finish, living up to the most gruesome icons of the genre. Max sounds bestial on drums as well as Chris on vocals, with the riffs and solos blasted by the band’s dynamic guitarists being the song’s icing on the cake. And lastly, their final onrush of demonic sounds comes in the form of a more complex and eerie song titled Cosmic Maze, sounding and feeling more somber than all previous tunes, with the guitars exhaling darkness and despair while Chris sends a not-so-happy message through his devilish vociferations, ending in a melancholic and beautiful way.

In a nutshell, with the ruthless Regress To The Saturnine Chapter (which can be listened in its entirety on YouTube or Spotify), Misanthrope Monarch are accrediting themselves as one of the strongest names in the underground scene when the style in question is Death Metal, and who knows, maybe we’re facing the actual future of Death Metal with those guys. I guess I don’t need to say that they need our full support to turn that future into an exciting reality, right? In order to do that, go visit their Facebook page for news and other info, enjoy their music on YouTube, and purchase Regress To The Saturnine Chapter through their own BandCamp or Big Cartel (where you can choose between the regular CD version or the CD + T-shirt bundle), on iTunes, on Amazon or at CD Baby. I was going to say that I’m eager to see what’s next for Misanthrope Monarch, but their new album is so damn good I guess for now it’s better if we simply enjoy it as much as we can without thinking about the future, and let the band follow their natural path and keep smashing us all with their impeccable Death Metal for the coming decades.

Best moments of the album: Usurping The Throne, The Brotherhood Of Destruction, Father Sin And The Hollow Spirit and Trail Of The Heretic (Maleficium).

Worst moments of the album: The Omega Embrace.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Towards The Utopian Kingdom Of Fire 0:44
2. Usurping The Throne 3:21
3. Crushing The Unbeliever 3:12
4. The Brotherhood Of Destruction 3:50
5. Dispelled 3:35
6. Regress To The Saturnine Chapter 3:22
7. Father Sin And The Hollow Spirit 2:43
8. Black Sirens Lurking 2:31
9. The Omega Embrace 3:15
10. Trail Of The Heretic (Maleficium) 3:25
11. Cosmic Maze 5:29

Band members
Chris Mieves – vocals
Kristian Gøbels – guitar
Richie Zubek – guitar
Pat Fleischmann – bass
Max Scheefeldt – drums

Guest musician
Sami Yli-Sirniö – lead guitar on “Usurping The Throne”

Album Review – Ezerath / Overture: The Heir Apparent (2017)

In the vast land known as Ezerath, the impending death of a king becomes first-class Progressive Death Metal through the hands of a talented Canadian multi-instrumentalist.

Before you start listening to Overture: The Heir Apparent, the debut full-length album by Canadian Progressive Death Metal act Ezerath, let me tell you that not only this is a one-man project where multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Vocino-Montpetit was responsible for recording all vocal parts (except of course for the female vocals by guest singer Felicia Weinmann) as well as all other instruments and programming, but the album also took three full years to be released between writing, learning how to sing, and learning how to mix and master. In other words, what Jeremy is offering the world of heavy music with his Ezerath is the perfect example of how talent, hard work and a good dosage of creativity, when properly combined, always result in sheer amusement for our ears and minds.

Formed in 2016 in the city of Montreal, Quebec, Ezerath is a project highly recommended for fans of the music by Behemoth, Opeth, Nile, Edge of Sanity, Bloodbath and several other bands that know how to unite extreme music with a gripping concept. Yes, Overture: The Heir Apparent is not just another regular metal album, bringing a full-bodied storyline in the background to support the music. The entire album, which by the way features an elegant artwork by Caelan Stokkermans (from Caelan Stokkermans Arts), is a first person narrative, depicting the thoughts of several main characters immediately before the death of Alton Nayan, the King of Gnara residing in Stonegate Castle, located in the vast land known as Ezerath.

The intro to the opening track, the flammable Temple of the Forsaken, feels like we’re watching a movie or reading a novel, which in the end is Jeremy’s main goal with the album, before he begins blasting a very intricate and melodic form of Death Metal. Furthermore, the destruction crafted by Jeremy is boosted by the song’s atmospheric background, not to mention how he effectively tells the story through his evil gnarls. A Heart, an Eye, and a Womb, an instant sequel to the opening track, begins in an ominous way with a dark narrative by Jeremy, with the demonic guitars and beats giving it a more menacing pace, but of course always bringing a lot of progressiveness (one of the main characteristics found in the music by Ezerath).

And the tale goes on with another blast of Progressive Death Metal titled Whispers of Ruin, where the intricacy found in the guitars and drums matches perfectly the eerie ambient sounds, feeling more epic and obscure than its predecessors and smoothly flowing into a complex and beautiful ending. Then we have In a Gale of Inferno, presenting an acoustic intro accompanied by choir-like sounds and the pleasant vocals by Felicia, evolving into another bold composition that nicely blends the aggressiveness of Death Metal with the storytelling and melodic elements of Progressive Metal, consequently becoming one of the top moments of the album; followed by Hand of a Serth, showcasing a much heavier and darker start as well as a great combination of slashing riffs, blast beats and deep guttural vocals, flirting with Black Metal at times due to its ferocity and speed. Moreover, even amidst so much carnage you’ll find very harmonious and gentle guitar lines and the pleasant clean vocals by Felicia, enhancing the song’s overall taste even more.

The story is almost coming to its end to the sound of acoustic guitars, wicked sounds and the demonic growls by Jeremy in The Sound of Knell, this time offering a more symphonic form of Death Metal by bringing elements from the music by Dimmu Borgir and Emperor, definitely feeling like the soundtrack to an epic movie, before we face Eternally Mine, the climatic conclusion to Overture. Its intro sounds even more movie-inspired than what we can find in all previous songs, also presenting an eccentric sonority boosted by Jeremy’s obscure guitar riffs and solos, as well as his rhythmic beats and whimsical keys, gradually moving towards a melancholic ending to the gentle sound of the piano.

The land of Ezerath, conceptualized and brought into being by Jeremy through his music, can be better appreciated on his Facebook page and YouTube channel, where you can by the way listen to the album in its entirety. Overture: The Heir Apparent, available for purchase on CreatespaceBandCamp, iTunes or Amazon, is not only a fantastic album of Progressive Death Metal with a solid concept supporting the music, as aforementioned, but also a small sample of what Jeremy is capable of providing to the world of heavy music if he receives proper support from fans like us, the media and record labels, or in other words, it’s up to us to help Jeremy keep Ezerath alive and prosper for many years to come. If you’re an admirer of technical and flammable Death Metal, I’m more than sure you’ll show your support and respect for Ezerath, getting lost in those lands where the imminent death of a king was amazingly transformed into first-class metal music.

Best moments of the album: Temple of the Forsaken, In a Gale of Inferno and Hand of a Serth.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Temple of the Forsaken 7:12
2. A Heart, an Eye, and a Womb 6:12
3. Whispers of Ruin 5:44
4. In a Gale of Inferno 5:46
5. Hand of a Serth 7:54
6. The Sound of Knell 7:03
7. Eternally Mine 6:49

Band members
Jeremy Vocino-Montpetit – vocals, guitar, programming

Guest musician
Felicia Weinmann – female vocals

Concert Review – Megadeth & Scorpions (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 09/22/2017)

The city of Toronto was beautifully taken by storm by two of the greatest bands in the history of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock on the last day of the summer, and the result was absolutely fantastic.

OPENING ACT: Megadeth

When this Crazy World Tour 2017 was announced a few months ago, I instantly thought about how amazing it would be to witness on the same night two of the greatest bands in the history of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock playing some of their biggest classics (as well as a few newer songs) at what’s in my humble opinion one of the best and most pleasant venues in the world to watch any type of concert (and I’ve been to several different ones in distinct parts of the world), the Torontonian amphitheater now known as Budweiser Stage. Well, it was even better than anyone could have expected, with the combination of two bands full of energy and excited to please the crowd, thousands of fans eager for some rockin’ music, and a weather that, for the very last day of summer, was beyond perfect, making the whole night truly memorable.

As the opening act, or maybe I should call them co-headliners as they’re not your average band, we had the absolute pleasure of enjoying American Thrash/Speed Metal heroes MEGADETH. Spearheaded by the unstoppable Mr. Dave Mustaine, Megadeth were still promoting their latest installment, the excellent Dystopia, released last year, but only one song from the album (its title-track) was played during the show. The setlist was pretty much a selection of their biggest hits with a huge focus on their 1990 masterpiece Rust In Piece, kicking off the concert with the blazing Hangar 18, and also featuring from that classic album the hits Take No Prisoners, Tornado of Souls (my favorite of the show) and, closing their performance, a song that needs no introduction, Holy Wars… The Punishment Due.

And obviously “Megadave” and his henchmen David Ellefson, Kiko Loureiro (who proved to be the guitarist Mustaine needed by his side) and Dirk Verbeuren played every song to perfection, with the background screen complementing the music in a fun and exciting manner. For instance, the Nascar images used as a background for Mechanix and the official video for Dystopia (another fantastic moment of the show) played while the band executed the song were spot-on to keep the fans mesmerized and in total sync with the band. In addition, everyone at the venue singing the power ballad A Tout Le Monde guided by Mustaine was just beautiful, and the smile on his face after that moment was awesome. Now, as usual, let’s patiently wait until we can see such distinct band performing live again in our beautiful Toronto.

Setlist
Prince of Darkness
Hangar 18
Mechanix
Take No Prisoners
Sweating Bullets
A Tout Le Monde
Tornado of Souls
Dystopia
Symphony of Destruction
Peace Sells

Encore:
Holy Wars… The Punishment Due

Band members
Dave Mustaine – lead vocals, lead guitars, rhythm guitars
Kiko Loureiro – lead guitars, rhythm guitars, backing vocals
David Ellefson – bass guitar, backing vocals
Dirk Verbeuren – drums

SCORPIONS

If the venue wasn’t fully packed during Megadeth’s kick-ass performance, things changed considerably a few minutes before German Hard Rock institution SCORPIONS hit the stage with their flawless setlist, but before the concert started I had the pleasure of exchanging a few words with other fans close to where I was (which was right in front of the stage), in special one father with his 13-year old son. The name of the boy is T Bone Bentley, he’s a very talented drummer who loves metal and rock, and you can check him smashing his drums on his official YouTube channel (together with his dad), playing songs like Iron Maiden’s all-time classic “Run to the Hills” and Judas Priest’s metal anthem “Breaking the Law”. When I see little fellas like T Bone and their passion for heavy music, my hope for a better future for mankind gets renovated, so don’t waste your time and go check his YouTube videos. They’re surely going to make your day a lot better.

Back to the concert, it was around 8:30pm when the iconic vocalist Klaus Meine, the flammable guitarists Matthias Jabs and Rudolf Schenker, the talented bassist Paweł Mąciwoda and the one and only drummer Mikkey Dee hit the stage with an avalanche of Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll hits, starting with a fantastic song from their 2015 album Return to Forever, the rockin’ Going Out With a Bang, already showing the night was going to be insanely fun. Let’s say that the first part of the show worked more like a “warm-up”, with the band jamming and rocking nonstop, generating a very good vibe and showing why they’re still alive and kicking after so many decades on the road. That first segment of the show had as its highlights the classic The Zoo, the fairly new but amazing We Built This House, and from their mini-acoustic set (including a weird but useful drum kit by Mikkey) I would say the touching ballad Send Me an Angel definitely stole the spotlight.

After that, Mr. Klaus Meine simply introduced one of the band’s biggest and most beautiful classics, Wind of Change, obviously hypnotizing all of us with the song’s renowned whistling, followed by another sensational new song titled Rock ‘n’ Roll Band and their awesome tribute to the most badass rocker that this world will ever see, Lemmy Kilmister, playing a cover version of Motörhead’s hit Overkill. Right after that, Mikkey offered us all an amazing drum solo (which put the little T Bone into a state of pure ecstasy), while the rest of the band was getting ready for a flawless Hard Rock attack comprised of nothing more, nothing less than Blackout, Big City Nights, No One Like You, Still Loving You (what a lovely moment of the show!) and Rock You Like a Hurricane. What else can you ask for, right?

Before this review of the show is over, I just wanted to mention two things that truly caught my attention during the concert, one in a very positive way, while the other was quite sad.  First, I was completely impressed with the fact that Mr. Rudolf Schenker is almost 70 years old and he keeps running frantically around the stage, screaming and interacting with the fans, and playing his guitar as if he was in his early 30’s. That was plain awesome, and definitely an inspiration for me and lots of other fans on how you can get old but remain young at heart, enjoying life until the end (just like Lemmy did, by the way). On the other hand, while Mr. Schenker was a role model to all of us, there were a few spoiled bi… I mean, girls, that thought that just because they’re (still) young and pretty they can do whatever they want, including being rude, disrespectful and annoying to anyone around them. One of them was so disrespectful to a guy next to me, elbowing him and pretending he was harassing her, to the point everyone close to that scene even stooped enjoying the concert for a few moments until security finally (and fortunately) took that stupid Barbie doll away. I hope when she gets old, and she will, she learns how to be a better person and how to respect other people. Well, Little T Bone is only 13 and he already knows how to behave in a rock and metal concert, as well as other kids that attended the show with their parents. It’s just a matter of learning what true respect is at home, right? And I hope that next time Scorpions take Toronto by storm with another faultless performance like that, that irksome girl is somewhere else, like at a Justin Bieber concert. Let the real bands for the real fans, lady.

Setlist
Intro
Going Out With a Bang
Make It Real
The Zoo
Coast to Coast
Top of the Bill / Steamrock Fever / Speedy’s Coming / Catch Your Train
We Built This House
Delicate Dance (with Ingo Powitzer)
Always Somewhere / Eye of the Storm / Send Me an Angel
Wind of Change
Rock ‘n’ Roll Band
Overkill (Motörhead cover)
Drum Solo
Blackout
Big City Nights

Encore:
No One Like You
Still Loving You
Rock You Like a Hurricane

Band members
Klaus Meine – lead vocals
Matthias Jabs – lead guitars, rhythm guitars, acoustic guitars
Rudolf Schenker – rhythm guitars, lead guitars, backing vocals
Paweł Mąciwoda – bass guitar
Mikkey Dee – drums

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Album Review – Cradle of Filth / Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay (2017)

UK’s most visionary and hellish outfit returns with another blast of malignancy and eroticism in the form of the twelfth studio album in their undisputed career.

After their 2015 majestic and imposing album Hammer Of The Witches, British Extreme Metal institution Cradle of Filth had the arduous task of maintaining such high level of malignancy, electricity and eroticism in their brand new opus, stylishly titled Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay, the twelfth studio album in their undisputed career. Despite not being as fantastic and cohesive as its predecessor, Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay still brings forward the classic sound by Cradle of Filth we all learned to love through the years, solidifying even more their already distinguished reputation among fans of extreme music.

The band’s iconic mastermind and vocalist Dani Filth said the album “is deeply infused with Victorian gothic horror and thus the title is a reflection of that.’Cryptoriana’ implies the Victorians’ infatuation with the supernatural, the grave and the ghoulish. And the subtitle, ‘The Seductiveness of Decay’, further cements this attraction to death and the glittering lengthy process of self-annihilation”. In addition to that, one very interesting fact about Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay is that this is their second album in a row with the exact same lineup, which for an ever-changing band like Cradle of Filth is a huge milestone. The artwork was also created by the same artist from Hammer Of The Witches, Latvian designer Arthur Berzinsh, and form that you can have a very good idea of how similar both albums are visually and musically speaking, although as aforementioned the band had an almost impossible mission to surpass Hammer Of The Witches in regards to its exceptional quality.

Exquisite Torments Await can be considered a 2-minute “expanded” intro, showcasing demented and dark noises together with the band’s characteristic melody and potency, already bringing forward their usual blast beats and devilish orchestrations. Well, Dani’s first high-pitched scream says it all. The following tune, the first single of the album titled Heartbreak and Séance, kicks off at full speed with the gentle but powerful guitars by both Richard Shaw and Marek “Ashok” Šmerda bringing balance to the havoc led by the flammable Dani and the insanely talented drummer Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka. In other words, it’s classic and modern Cradle of Filth united in a solid and exciting manner (and don’t forget to check the uncensored version for its official video, it’s definitely worth it). And in Achingly Beautiful, an esoteric beginning quickly explodes into Cradle of Filth’s unique Black Metal, feeling like two or three songs in one due to its complexity and all breaks and variations, with the keyboards by Canadian beauty Lindsay Schoolcraft generating an amazing vibe in the background, not to mention her always pleasant backing vocals.

The main riff in Wester Vespertine reminds me of some of the guitar lines from their 1998 cult album Cruelty and the Beast, more specifically from the classic “Thirteen Autumns and a Widow”, proving Dani knows how to blend the past, present and future of his band in a very cohesive manner. Moreover, Marthus continues his sonic onrush with his potent and unstoppable beats and fills, enhancing the song’s potency considerably. Then it’s time for Richard and Ashok to lead the epic intro in The Seductiveness of Decay, before the band speeds up the pace delivering a neck-breaking, smashing tune tailored for both old school fans and newcomers to the world of Cradle of Filth. Dani has an absolutely flammable performance with his demonic growls and screeches, with the music becoming a symphonic devastation halfway through it with highlights to the awesome solos by Richard and Ashok. And featuring Liv Kristine as a guest vocalist (turning it into some sort of “beauty and the beast” duo with Dani), Vengeful Spirit maintains the album at a high level of seductiveness, vileness and darkness, with Marthus being totally diabolical on drums whereas Lindsay continues to deliver delicate and whimsical key notes to bring more balance to the music.

Despite bringing the trademark wicked lyrics by Dani (“Purring the sweet tempered soughing / Of lucrative Savannah wind / Stirs the great flotsam of clouds that are vowing / To usher the evening in / Affecting the set of the reckoning sun / From burnished gold to crimson hue / Before this night is quite sorely undone / The Devil is coming for you”), You Will Know the Lion by His Claw doesn’t sound as inspired as the rest of the album, presenting generic guitar lines and no gripping moments at all; whereas a beyond imposing beginning, full of symphonic elements, opens the gates of hell for Dani and his bandmates to blast the mysterious and funereal tune Death and the Maiden. Furthermore, a somber shadow remains above the band from start to finish, with Dani spearheading the musicality with his satanic growls, while Marthus and Lindsay craft a truly powerful atmosphere with their respective beats and keys until the song’s hellish finale.

And if I were you I would certainly go for the special edition of the album, which contains two amazing bonus tracks that are worth your additional investment. The first one, named The Night at Catafalque Manor, brings more of Cradle of Filth’s renowned Symphonic Black Metal, with highlights to its amazing orchestrations and the rumbling bass lines by Daniel Firth. Then closing the limited edition we have a flawless cover version for Annihilator’s biggest classic Alison Hell (if you’re from another planet and has never listened to the original version, you can take a shot at it HERE), from their 1989 cult album Alice in Hell. This is indeed a superb tribute to this Canadian institute, and Dani simply nailed it like what he did in the past with other all-time metal hits like Iron Maiden’s “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, Slayer’s “Hell Awaits” and Venom’s “Black Metal”.

Dani and his Cradle of Filth still have a lot of fire to burn in their career, and Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay is a strong statement that they’re still relevant to the world of heavy music, being capable of producing excellent material year after year. Simply visit Nuclear Blast’s official webstore to pick your version of the brand new album by UK’s most visionary and hellish outfit in the history of extreme music, and be more than prepared for when Dani and his devilish horde take your city by storm with their live performances (if they haven’t done so yet).

Best moments of the album: Heartbreak and Séance, The Seductiveness of Decay and Alison Hell.

Worst moments of the album: You Will Know the Lion by His Claw.

Released in 2017 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Exquisite Torments Await 2:15
2. Heartbreak and Séance 6:24
3. Achingly Beautiful 7:02
4. Wester Vespertine 7:24
5. The Seductiveness of Decay 7:38
6. Vengeful Spirit (feat. Liv Kristine) 6:00
7. You Will Know the Lion by His Claw 7:22
8. Death and the Maiden 8:48

Limited Edition Digipak/Vinyl bonus tracks
9. The Night at Catafalque Manor 7:31
10. Alison Hell (Annihilator cover) 5:01

Band members
Dani Filth – lead vocals
Richard Shaw – guitars
Marek “Ashok” Šmerda – guitars
Daniel Firth – bass
Lindsay Schoolcraft – female vocals, keyboards
Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka – drums

Guest musician
Liv Kristine – female vocals on “Vengeful Spirit”

Album Review – Helslave / Divination EP (2017)

Prepare yourself for a grim and murky fusion of old school and modern Swedish-inspired Death Metal by five Italian troopers in their path of destruction and killing.

Formed in 2009 by guitarist Jari, Italian Death Metal act Helslave is a Rome-based band taking its influences from the 90’s Death Metal and Melodic Death Metal Swedish scene, adding their personal twist to generate a mix of old and modern school metal music. After releasing a self-titled demo in 2010, followed by the EP Ethereal Decay in 2013 and their first full-length album An Endless Path in 2015, the band started playing shows all over Italy and Europe, sharing the stage with acts such as Grave, Asphyx, Havok, Hideous Divinity and Destroyer 666, also appearing at Metaldays in 2014, keeping themselves busy and always charged up to continue their path of destruction wherever they go.

In the beginning of the year, Helslave entered the studio to record a brand new EP titled Divination, comprised of four brand new tracks leaning towards darker and heavier sounds, playing their already traditional Swedish-inspired Death Metal in the vein of Grave, Entombed and Desultor, all embraced by the devilish artwork designed by Misanthropic Art. Prepare yourself for grim and murky old school Death Metal, the kind of stuff that doesn’t rely on triggered blast beats, light-in-the-loafers warbling, or anything but the crudest building blocks to construct its killing art. Hence, although Divination lasts for only around 16 minutes, that’s more than enough for Helslave to crush your spine mercilessly.

In the opening track, beautifully titled Summoning The Eternal Eclipse, an ominous intro morphs into sheer devastation by Jari and his henchmen, with drummer Francesco Comerci dictating the song’s demented rhythm in a solid display of Swedish Death Metal. In addition, newcomer Diego Laino and his Unleashed-inspired vocals keep the song’s ferocity at an extremely high level, perfect for declaiming the song’s menacing lyrics (“Silence falls, it freezes all around / the arrival of divine / ancestral ritual summon
/ Blinding lights, no human eye can see
/ let the plague fall on the weak”). And there’s no time to breathe, as the band rises from the pits of hell with another brutal carnage named Lord Of Lies, presenting old school, visceral Death Metal with hints of other extreme genres such as Black and Thrash Metal to add more dynamism to the musicality. The guitar duo Jari and Lorenzo Fabiani are simply fantastic, blasting scorching, darkened riffs through their instruments, not to mention the intricate beats by Francesco in this ode to obscurity.

In The Spawn Of Astaroth, the band slows things down a bit, but that doesn’t mean they don’t fire truly dismembering riffs and beats, with Diego growling like a beast while Francesco and bassist Luca Riccardelli maintain a dense ambience in the background. Moreover, the final guitar lines exhale pure Black Metal, not to mention the song’s insurgent lyrics (“The fate of a great battle / has to be faced / an indomitable army has to be defeated / We are the ones who walk the left hand path / As written in the blood of the prophecy / The only way to conquer this land”). And Desecration, their last spawn of vicious Death Metal, is fast, demonic and amazingly neck-breaking, again presenting traditional piercing riffs and solos by Jari and Lorenzo as well as the complex and vibrant drumming by Francesco, being highly recommended for fans of Unleashed and Obituary.

You can take a full listen at Divination on YouTube, and follow Helslave through their Facebook page, YouTube channel, ReverbNation and SoundCloud. And if you want to show your true support to high-end underground Death Metal, you can purchase the EP at Helslave’s BandCamp or Big Cartel, at the Black Market Metal’s Big Cartel, or at Discogs. The only “issue” with Divination is that it’s only 15 minutes long, but as aforementioned that doesn’t stop Helslave from shining and destroying with their unrelenting Death Metal, leaving us eager for more kick-ass extreme music by this hardworking Italian squad.

Best moments of the album: Summoning The Eternal Eclipse.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Black Market Metal

Track listing
1. Summoning The Eternal Eclipse 4:08
2. Lord Of Lies 3:32
3. The Spawn Of Astaroth 3:43
4. Desecration 4:35

Band members
Diego Laino – vocals
Jari – lead guitars
Lorenzo Fabiani – guitars
Luca Riccardelli – bass
Francesco Comerci – drums