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 – Kantica / Reborn in Aesthetics (2018)

Binding Heavy and Power Metal sounds to the orchestral parts of classical music, here comes a promising Italian act with their very melodic and symphonic debut full-length album.

Raised from the ashes of a band named Keeper of Time (which by the way was originally called Guardian of Time when it was created back in 2012), Italian Symphonic Metal act Kantica was born around 2014 from the idea of guitarist Matteo “Vevo” Venzano, who searched for musicians to start a band where they could bind Heavy and Power Metal sounds to the orchestral parts of classical music.  After many lineup changes and a shift from male to female vocals, this Savona, Ligury-based band finally changed its name into Kantica in April 2016, reaching a stable lineup the following year and consequently getting into gear for the release of their debut album in 2018, titled Reborn in Aesthetics.

After the recording of the album, Kantica suffered another lineup change with drummer Daniele Barbarossa leaving the band, being immediately replaced by the young and talented Tiziana “Titti” Cotella. Titti now joins frontwoman Chiara Manese on vocals, Andy “K” Cappellari and Vevo on the guitars, Fulvio De Castelli on bass and Enrico Borro on keyboards, aiming at spreading their heavy and symphonic music born from the fusion of different styles, backgrounds and experiences from the band’s current and former members. In Reborn in Aesthetics (which by the way features an array of guest musicians such as Fabio Rinaudo on bagpipes and Stefano Pellegrino on cello), not only the band successfully achieves their main goal, but they also put the charming port city of Savona on the map of Melodic and Symphonic Metal.

The cinematic intro (Re)Born Unto Aestheticism transports us to the epic world ruled by Kantica, with Fascination of the Elements bringing a fast and furious start that quickly morphs into pure Symphonic Metal led by the beautiful voice by Chiara and the flammable guitars by Andy and Vevo. Then, getting to an even more symphonic sonority led by the band’s former drummer Daniele Barbarossa and his precise beats, the band enhances their epicness and electricity in And Then There Was Pain, with Chiara stealing the spotlight with her potent vocals. And presenting hints of Folk and Epic Metal (which boosts the flavor of the band’s classic Symphonic Metal) we have Hellborn Lust, showcasing a great job done by both Andy and Vevo on the guitars as well as Enrico with his whimsical keys.

Enrico continues to mesmerize us with his keys in another powerful tune by Kantica, titled Albatross, where Chiara’s voice sounds fantastic once again, not to mention Daniele and his kick-ass fast-paced drums. In order to makes things even more flavorful, the band offers us a gentle break before returning with their full-bodied sonority, with Andy and Enrico delivering excellent solos until the song’s finale. In R.E.M. State, operatic elements in the background make the music even more epic and impactful than usual, with Enrico, Andy and Vevo, together with Fulvio on bass, creating a wall of sounds with their strings; followed by From Decay to Ascension, another song with a Folk Metal vibe without losing the band’s core symphonic essence. Put differently, this is a movie score-inspired creation by Kantica where Chiara embellishes the ambience with her passionate vocal performance once again.

Illegitimate Son brings a Nightwish-like sonority, presenting all elements fans of the genre enjoy such as rhythmic drums, melodious riffs and strong female vocals, with adrenaline and passion flowing throughout the entire song which, in the end, makes it one of the top moments of the album without a shadow of a doubt. And speeding up their pace, Kantica awes us all with Psychological Vampire, a full-bodied shredding feast-like song with Andy and Vevo being absolutely on fire with their axes, also with Chiara increasing her vocal reach, culminating in a truly inspiring performance by our Italian diva. The second to last song in Reborn in Aesthetics, named Lovecide, is an interesting power ballad by Kantica, displaying pounding drums and a dark and ethereal atmosphere, with the music flowing smoothly from start to finish thanks to the excellent guitar lines by both Andy and Vevo. And closing the album there’s more first-class Melodic and Symphonic Metal for our avid ears in the form of a song titled Mescaline, with its solid and steady musicality being complemented by eerie sounds and elements in the background, captivating our attention while Enrico and Andy have a short and sweet solo duel.

You can take a full, detailed listen at Reborn in Aesthetics on Spotify, keep up-to-date with everything Kantica on their Facebook page, and grab your copy of such excellent display of symphonic and melodic music on the Revalve Records Big Cartel, as wel as on iTunes or on Amazon. After listening to Reborn in Aesthetics, it seems that after all lineup changes Kantica have finally reached their desired shape and form, providing fans of Symphonic Metal a well-balanced and fun alternative hailing from the Italian underground scene, and let’s hope the magic crafted by Kantica goes on for years to come with more top-tier releases like their debut installment.

Best moments of the album: Hellborn Lust, Albatross, Illegitimate Son and Psychological Vampire.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Revalve Records

Track listing
1. (Re)Born Unto Aestheticism (Instrumental) 1:14
2. Fascination of the Elements 5:55
3. And Then There Was Pain 4:23
4. Hellborn Lust 4:23
5. Albatross 4:59
6. R.E.M. State 4:42
7. From Decay to Ascension 3:10
8. Illegitimate Son 5:10
9. Psychological Vampire 5:00
10. Lovecide 5:11
11. Mescaline 5:13

Band members
Chiara Manese – vocals
Andy “K” Cappellari – lead guitars
Matteo “Vevo” Venzano – rhytm guitar
Fulvio De Castelli – bass
Enrico Borro – keyboards
Tiziana “Titti” Cotella – drums*

Guest musicians
Fabio Rinaudo – bagpipes
Michel Balatti – tin whistle, flute
Stefano Pellegrino – cello
Mattia Fenoglio – percussion

* Drums recorded by Daniele Barbarossa


Album Review – Mors Subita / Into the Pitch Black (2018)

Exploring a darker-than-usual path in their brand new album, this Finnish squad has all it takes to become a reference in modern and aggressive Melodic Death Metal.

Formed in 2000 in Oulu, a city located in central Finland, Mors Subita (Latin for “sudden death”) play what can be called “Aggressive Modern Melodic Death Metal”, having released since their inception two demos, two EP’s and two critically acclaimed full-length albums, the first titled Human Waste Compression, in 2011, and the second titled Degeneration, in 2015, which peaked at number 26 on the official Finnish album charts. Now after three years of touring and recording, the band comprised of Eemeli Bodde on vocals, Mika Lammassaari (Eternal Tears of Sorrow, Wolfheart) on guitars and backing vocals, Mika Junttila on bass, and Ville Miinala (Thyrane, Darker Grounds) on drums returns with a blistering new 11-track album titled Into the Pitch Black.

This new album from Mors Subita showcases just how far the band’s songwriting and musicianship has developed since the debut of their sophomore album, with these 11 new tracks being a testament to the work ethic employed within the band. With searing vocals, gut twisting melodies, fierce drumming and the fast yet always tasteful riffing the band has come to be known for, Into the Pitch Black builds on the identity Mors Subita has forged for themselves with their previous albums, and promises to not disappoint even the most hardened melodeath fan. These new compositions present a new dimension to the ever-evolving sound of the band, with even more emphasis being given to the melodies while also incorporating the use of industrial samples not heard on previous releases. The result has manifested in some of the heaviest and crushing tracks the band has ever written, while still encapsulating their signature sound which has set them apart from all others in the melodeath scene.

The short, futuristic intro Path to the Abyss revs up the engines for the melodic and aggressive As Humanity Weeps, with its lyrics about how vile the human soul can be (“How much more blood is there to shed before you realize, / That no one has the right to take another’s life. / Feed them pain, feed them fear. / Reduce yourself to human filth.”) and all the sonic devastation going on matching perfectly with the proposed theme. After such great start, the band fires another potent tune titled Dead Sun, where the guitar by Mika couldn’t sound more metallic and vibrant, while Eemeli delivers sheer rage through his screams in a solid display of modern Scandinavian Metal. And in Defeat we face contemporary sounds and tones in a very melodic and exciting atmosphere, again bringing Mika’s lancinating riffs and endless violence.

In the title-track Into the Pitch Black, they engage in their most Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal mode, with Mika doing a great job with his riffs while Ville keeps the rhythm at a nice headbanging pace with his beats. Then in Alas Ville puts the pedal to the metal with his accelerated beats and double bass, accompanied by the metallic bass by the band’s other Mika (Mika Junttila), generating a thrilling vibe for Eemeli and his visceral growls, therefore keeping the album at a high level of adrenaline and fury. And Mors Subita managed to get even more ferocious and angry in the belligerent tune I, God, with all band member being on fire (in special Ville with his Black Metal-inspired beats), resulting in a top-notch Melodic Death Metal extravaganza for our total delight.

Never slowing down or selling off, they keep blasting anti-mainstream compositions like Vultures, showcasing very melodic guitar lines by Mika while Ville increases the intricacy of his beats; followed by Fear is Just the Beginning, presenting three minutes of demolishing riffs and beats, with the screams by Eemeli getting to a truly rabid stage. Hence, this song will certainly incinerate the crowd and incite them to slam their skulls into the circle pit. Despite its promising beginning and the solid work done on guitars during the entire song, the music in Shadows falls flat after a while, proving Mors Subita should stick to their most furious sounding to thrive. Fortunately, those Finnish metallers get back on track for one final blast of enraged Melodic Death Metal titled The Void, ending the album on a high note with highlights to the bestial job done by Ville on drums and Eemeli’s demented vociferations.

If you want to feel all the rage and violence flowing from the music by Mors Subita in more detail, I suggest you check their official Facebook page for news and tour dates, their YouTube channel and Spotify for more of their incendiary Melodic Death Metal, and obviously purchase Into the Pitch Black from the Inverse Records webstore, from Record Shop X, or from other physical and online retailers such as metalmailorder.com. The name Into the Pitch Black not only gives a sense of obscurity to the entire album, but it also points to a heavier (and consequently more interesting) future for Mors Subita, a band I’m sure will have a lot of fun exploring this new darker path in their future releases, which in the end will be extremely beneficial for themselves and, above all, for fans of their more austere form of melodeath music.

Best moments of the album: As Humanity Weeps, Into the Pitch Black and I, God.

Worst moments of the album: Shadows.

Released in 2018 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Path to the Abyss 0:35
2. As Humanity Weeps 4:08
3. Dead Sun 3:49
4. Defeat 4:41
5. Into the Pitch Black 4:22
6. Alas 4:42
7. I, God 4:01
8. Vultures 3:01
9. Fear is Just the Beginning 3:20
10. Shadows 5:06
11. The Void 7:03

Band members
Eemeli Bodde – vocals
Mika Lammassaari – guitars, backing vocals
Mika Junttila – bass
Ville Miinala – drums

Album Review – Judas Priest / Firepower (2018)

The Metal Gods are firing on all cylinders with their majestic new album of pure and highly inspired Heavy Metal.

When British Heavy Metal legends Judas Priest announced they were just about to release their 18th studio record, the magnificent Firepower, I already knew it was going to be an epic album. Not only it’s the first studio album since their 1988 release Ram It Down to be produced by Tom Allom and the first ever with the always precise and competent Andy Sneap as co-producer, but the entire band (Rob Halford on vocals, Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner on the guitars, Ian Hill on bass and Scott Travis on drums) is absolutely on fire throughout the album’s almost one hour of the purest form of “British steel” that will beautifully and powerfully pierce your ears and control your mind, compelling you to bang your head nonstop and raise your horns to the iconic Metal Gods. By the way, the amazing album art, created by Chilean artist Claudio Bergamin, breathes scorching fire like an enraged dragon, fully in line with the unparalleled history of one of the most formidable bands in heavy music.

Although their 2014 opus Redeemer of Souls was already fantastic, showcasing a veteran band at the top of their form, the metallic extravaganza found in Firepower is so majestic and inspiring that not even the terrible news of Glenn Tipton being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which unfortunately for all lovers of true metal music won’t allow him to tour as much as before with the band (being replaced by Andy Sneap during the upcoming Firepower 2018 World Tour), could ruin the magic crafted by the band in Firepower, and Glenn in his most humble “the show must go on” mode had a few nice words to say about his situation, encouraging the band to continue with the tour. “I want everyone to know that it’s vital that the Judas Priest tour go ahead and that I am not leaving the band – it’s simply that my role has changed. I don’t rule out the chance to go on stage as and when I feel able to blast out some Priest! So at some point in the not too distant future I’m really looking forward to seeing all of our wonderful metal maniacs once again”, said one of the greatest guitarists in the history of Heavy Metal.

Getting back to the album, five seconds are all that the mighty Judas Priest need to explode our senses with their incomparable metal music in the title-track Firepower, where Glenn and Richie begin their flammable riff-fest before the Metal God Rob Halford comes crushing with his unique metallic vocals. Put differently, the band offers us a high-octane, electrifying and straightforward 80’s-style version of themselves for our absolute delectation. And without wasting a single second the Metal Gods fire another superb hymn titled Lightning Strike, a mid-tempo, rumbling composition led by the always precise Scott Travis, with the rip-roaring way Halford declaims the lyrics being beyond thrilling (“I’ll bring you the head of the demon / I’m peeling the skin from his face / The life that you lead is inhuman / Its cause and effects a disgrace / You’re sowing the seeds of a nightmare from hell / Your prayers and your demons are tolling the bell / Walking through fire, fate’s in my hands / Waiting for lightning to strike / Man on a wire, bearing the brand / Waiting for lightning to strike / Lightning to strike”). Then darker riffs by Glenn and Richie permeate the air while Halford tells a somber story in Evil Never Dies, a sonic masterpiece perfect for hitting the road that will urge you to bang your head and scream together with Halford every single time you listen to its flawless lines.

Slowing down the pace a bit, but still sounding vibrant and epic, Never the Heroes brings forward lyrics about the fortunes of war and all the darkness that fills the heart of a soldier (“We were fearless but so afraid / Though in our hearts we still felt pain / We’re on fire but on a leash / We only ever wanted peace”), with the solos by both Glenn and Richie being a thing of beauty. Needless to say, this battle hymn will sound stunningly powerful when played live. Following such touching song we have Necromancer, a solid display of Heavy Metal infused with Stygian elements and nuances (mainly due to the nature of the song), closer to the band’s  sonority from the albums Angel of Retribution and Redeemer of Souls; and Children of the Sun, another song to sing along with Halford & Co., presenting a headbanging rhythm led by Scott with his steady beats and the simple but effective bass lines by Ian Hill. As usual,  the band’s guitar duo does an amazing job with their crisp solos, enhancing the song’s punch considerably.

Their metal feast goes on with a gentle piano bridge named Guardians, warming our ears and minds up for the powerful Rising from Ruins, displaying an elegant sonority where Halford has a titanic performance, stealing the spotlight with his deep and passionate vocals, not to mention how Scott keeps the music flowing smoothly with his classic beats. And what to say about the next tune, aggressively titled Flame Thrower? When I first saw the name of the song I was more than sure it was going to be ass-kicking, and guess what? It is indeed a true rockin’ extravaganza ignited by the slashing guitars by Glenn and Richie, in a blend of their own music from albums like British Steel and Ram It Down mixed with Halford’s solo career. Also uniting old school and modern Judas Priest, the quintet delivers the gripping Spectre, where Richie adds a touch of modernity to the band’s trademark sound with his guitar while Halford once again impersonates a “dark poet of metal”. Then a melancholic intro quickly morphs into a flammable and adventurous metal hymn entitled Traitors Gate, showcasing all elements we learned to love from NWOBHM, and, as a consequence, being tailored for admirers of the more epic side of the band. Furthermore, the guitars by Glenn and Richie are in total sync with Scott’s beats and especially with Halford’s potent roars and high-pitched screams, making it a true exhibit of classic metal.

The last batch of songs in Firepower is quite interesting, as if the band decided not to release them as bonus tracks of a deluxe edition of the album despite their uniqueness, but instead they added them to the regular version of it as a gift to all metal maniacs who have been supporting the band since their inception. No Surrender is straightforward Rock N’ Roll infused with Heavy Metal nuances highly inspired by the band’s own 80’s musicality, or in other words, if this was part of British Steel, Defenders of the Faith or Screaming for Vengeance it would have been a metal classic today. Hence, can you feel their guitars penetrating deep inside your heart? Then the superb Lone Wolf feels like they wanted to pay a stylish tribute do Black Sabbath, Pantera and Down all at once in a fusion of top-notch Heavy Metal with the dementia and aggression of Stoner and Doom Metal. Even the usually quiet Ian Hill delivers some thunder through his bass, with Richie and Glenn stealing the spotlight with the heaviest riffs of the entire album while Halford is simply astounding on vocals. And last but not least, how about a touching and majestic ballad titled Sea of Red, closing this grandiose album in great fashion, with Halford’s voice sounding even more impactful together with the fiery guitars by Richie and Glenn? And don’t forget to pay very good attention to the lyrics as they’re simple but very potent.

In summary, Judas Priest are all fired up in Firepower, delivering everything we love and expect in their classic and always incendiary Heavy Metal, therefore proving once again they’re not called the Metal Gods in vain. There are several retailers where you can purchase this masterpiece of old school and contemporary metal perfectly united, such as iTunes, Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart, providing you the most exciting soundtrack for anything you need to do in life. After such brilliant job done in Firepower, let’s hope now that Glenn can somehow overcome Parkinson’s disease, and that we can see him sooner than anyone can expect on stage with the rest of the band, firing some of their biggest classic together with the new combustible songs from the new album, because that’s where a talented and hardworking guitar god like him should always be.

Best moments of the album: Firepower, Lightning Strike, Evil Never Dies, No Surrender and Lone Wolf.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Epic Records

Track listing
1. Firepower 3:27
2. Lightning Strike 3:29
3. Evil Never Dies 4:23
4. Never the Heroes 4:23
5. Necromancer 3:33
6. Children of the Sun 4:00
7. Guardians 1:06
8. Rising from Ruins 5:23
9. Flame Thrower 4:34
10. Spectre 4:24
11. Traitors Gate 5:34
12. No Surrender 2:54
13. Lone Wolf 5:09
14. Sea of Red 5:51

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums

Album Review – NovaReign / Legends (2018)

A fast, melodic and intricate album that perfectly represents the new age of Progressive Power Metal, telling stories in musical literature and speaking to a generation influenced by epic fantasy tales, comic books and video games.

Influenced by bands like Iron Maiden and Dream Theater, to Dragonforce and Angra, American metallers  NovaReign represent the new age of Progressive Power Metal, telling stories in musical literature and speaking to a generation influenced by epic fantasy tales, comic books and video games. Formed in 2010 in the city of Los Angeles, California, in the United States, NovaReign are not only inspired by the aforementioned classic metal acts, but they also incorporate elements from a multitude of non-metal styles such as Jazz, Funk and EDM (Electronic Dance Music) to their high-octane music, adding a little extra flavor to their already exciting compositions.

The band has been steadily and surely building a buzz and reputation for themselves in recent years, becoming a fixture with energy-abounding live shows filled with nonstop shredding guitar interplay and powerful traditional metal vocals, altogether culminating in the release of their debut full-length album this year, the nonstop metal attack titled Legends, an hour-plus of shred-tastic, over-the-top, epic power and progressive metal music. Not only that, the album art also transpires epicness, as explained by guitarist Danny Nobel. “The art was based off an idea I had pitched to have giant statues of god-like figures in an astral plain,” explains Danny. “Our bassist, Moises, took the idea and created the drawings you’ve seen so far. The characters are all based on warriors and mythical beings, which represent themes of courage, heroism, strength and virtue. These are characteristics and themes of the overall album. That along with a cosmic decor.”

The opening tune, titled Call On The Storm, brings forward progressiveness flowing from the very first second from the melodic guitar lines by Danny and his bandmate Balmore Lemus, gradually becoming a Power Metal feast led by the high-pitched vocals by frontman David Marquez. And the action doesn’t stop at all, with gripping solos and faster-than-a-bullet beats keeping the electricity at a really high level. Then get ready for 10 minutes of pure Melodic Heavy Metal in Mace Of A Fist, where Danny and Balmore are on fire with their Dragonforce-inspired riffs and solos while drummer Paul Contreras keeps blasting furious and precise beats, not to mention the second half of the song which is that type of sonic “masturbation” fans of Melodic and Progressive Metal truly love. And let’s say their “metal masturbation” goes on in another classic Power Metal extravaganza titled Beyond The Cold, presenting a galloping rhythm crafted by bassist Moises Gavez together with Paul, perfect for David to blast sheer epicness through his vocals and to Danny and Balmore to deliver some insane guitar solos.

The following song in Legends, the excellent Heavy Heart, reminds me of the sound by some of the best metal bands from Japan such as Moi Dix Mois, Versailles, Anthem and especially Saber Tiger and Loudness, being fast, intricate, electrifying and an absolute orgasm for fans of the genre. And have I mentioned their guitar solos are simply fantastic? Anyway, moving on with their sonic onrush, Skyline feels a lot less intense than its predecessors, but still presenting the band’s characteristic sonority. All band members are precise with their instruments, providing David all he needs to powerfully declaim the song’s lyrics, with the only issue being that the song goes on for too long with its almost 9 minutes of music.

The sound of rain and an acoustic guitar set the tone in the bridge To Wander The Stars, before NovaRegin return with another metallic, melodic and inspiring tune entitled The Builder. Led by the rhythmic drums by Paul, the song presents the band’s guitar duo simply slashing their strings mercilessly, therefore generating a piercing but very enjoyable sound in the end. In Black As The Dead Of Night we’re treated to a 9-minute onslaught of Power Metal with Danny and Belmore being two shredding and soloing machines, with the work done by Paul on drums being outstanding. Moreover, despite being as long as “Skyline”, it has a lot more flavor and punch, maintaining the energy flowing until the end. And lastly, the title-track Legends brings tons of progressiveness through the band’s intricate riffs and beats, as well as the awesome bass punches by Moises. Put differently, it’s a heavier and more melodic version of Dream Theater with hints of Iron Maiden, which means that if you’re a musician and into Power Metal, this song has everything you crave in heavy music.

In case you think my words are not detailed enough to describe the music by NovaReign, you can enjoy the band doing a really nice track by track breakdown on YouTube, and after enjoying such interesting video you should definitely go check what NovaReign are up to on Facebook, and purchase Legends through their official BandCamp page, through the M-Theory Audio webshop, on iTunes, on Amazon, and in other retailers like Target, Adipocere Records and DeepDiscount. And there you have the perfect (and very intricate and melodic) soundtrack for your most epic adventures, how about that?

Best moments of the album: Call On The Storm, Beyond The Cold, Heavy Heart and Black As The Dead Of Night.

Worst moments of the album: Skyline.

Released in 2018 M-Theory Audio

Track listing
1. Call On The Storm 6:58
2. Mace Of A Fist 10:10
3. Beyond The Cold 5:58
4. Heavy Heart 5:09
5. Skyline 8:56
6. To Wander The Stars 2:24
7. The Builder 5:22
8. Black As The Dead Of Night 8:44
9. Legends 9:25

Band members
David Marquez – vocals
Danny Nobel – guitars
Balmore Lemus – guitars
Moises Gavez – bass
Paul Contreras – drums

Album Review – Kaoteon / Damnatio Memoriae (2018)

Blending a dark atmosphere with Middle-Eastern riffs and incendiary lyrics, here comes a fearless Lebanese horde armed with their brand new album of skull-crushing Black Metal.

Brought into being as a one-man project in 1998 by Anthony Kaoteon (Death Drive) in the scorching fires of Ashrafieh, one of the oldest districts of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, under the name Chaotaeon (from the merger of Chaotic and Aeon), Black/Death Metal act Kaoteon is one of those bands that keep fighting for metal and for freedom of speech no matter how hideous the consequences might be for them. For instance, in 2001 the band was forced to change their name to Kaoteon after an incident with the authorities in which they got arrested, where the police though that Chaotaeon was the translation of “devils” from Arabic, leading to false accusations that the band is satanic. In addition, on December 20, 2003 while the band was playing live, a handful of undercover police entered the club with automatic rifles, took the band hostage, locked them in the trunks of unmarked cars, and interrogated them for days, shuttling them from one location to another.

Blending a brutally dark atmosphere with riffs that range from anthemic post-rock to Middle-Eastern folklore and incendiary lyrics driven by the band’s background in their turbulent homeland, Kaoteon (now based in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands) return once again to darken our souls with their brand new opus titled Damnatio Memoriae, the ancient Latin punishment of eradicating a person or figure from all memory and mention. Featuring a somber artwork by Mexican musician and artist Néstor Ávalos (Black Arts) as well as bass wizard Linus Klausenitzer of Obscura and drum master Fredrik Widigs of Marduk as session musicians, joining full-time members Anthony Kaoteon on guitar and Walid Wolflust (Ordum) on vocals, Damnatio Memoriae brings nine skull-crushing, unrelenting and explosive Black Metal hymns that will undoubtedly leave you feeling ravaged and raw after all is said and done.

The title-track Damnatio Memoriae is a modern and vibrant Black Metal composition that will fulminate your senses, bringing forward sheer aggression from the very first second. Furthermore, Fredrik as we all know is a demonic beast on drums, generating the perfect demolishing vibe for Walid to declaim the song’s controversial lyrics through his enraged roars (“My heaven differs from yours. / Where is the loving light? Where is the eternal peace? / Desolate, grey, tyrannic, lonesome / Lit with my passion to burn”). If that start wasn’t demented enough for you, Kaoteon keep burning our souls with their blackened music in Barren Lands, where Anthony is absolutely on fire with his guitar accompanied by Linus and his menacing bass, sounding devastating from start to finish, whereas in Raging HellFire they managed to sound even more visceral and disturbing, with Walid barking and screaming like a rabid beast in a flammable display of brutal (and therefore fantastic) Black Metal (and don’t forget to check the song’s guitar playthrough by Anthony HERE).

In the pulverizing Venom of Exalt, be prepared to be completely crushed by the nonstrop blast beats by Fredrik, while Anthony delivers more of his always insane riffs. In addition, Walid is in his most hellish mode, growling harsher and harsher as the music evolves in this tune highly recommended for lovers of true extreme music. Taking their sonority to the extreme, Kaoteon deliver another explosion of devilish growls, intricate beats and endless hatred flowing from Anthony’s stringed ax in The Will, with the desperate screams by Walid increasing the impact of this already boisterous song. And a soulful guitar solo by Anthony ignites a feast of darkened sounds entitled Non Serviam, blending old school Black Metal with contemporary Blackened Death Metal in a dense and menacing ambience. Needless to say, that powerful combination turns it into one of the top songs of the entire album.

In Light of Compassion their sounding keeps growing darker and darker, showcasing a fierce neck-breaking riff supported by the pounding drums by Fredrik, with Walid firing some deep enraged gnarls. Moreover, the last part of this chant is a thrilling Black Metal demolition with hints of old school Death Metal, piercing our minds mercilessly. The second to last tune in Damnatio Memoriae, the incredible sonic onrush of Black and Death Metal named Into the Mouth of Kaos, presents a high level of dementia bursting from Walid’s screams, with the riffs by Anthony exhaling pure Black Metal while Fredrik doesn’t stop detonating our ears with his crushing performance. And last but not least, it’s time for A Breath, a slightly different version of Kaoteon bringing forward more progressiveness than their usual destruction thanks to the intricate guitar lines by Anthony, and the final result couldn’t sound more compelling and vibrant, ending this sensational album of Extreme Metal in the best way possible.

While online, I suggest you go check out this interesting article about Kaoteon and their fascinating origin story via Revolver Magazine, giving you a much better idea of how hard it is to be a metal fan in the Middle-East. As a matter of fact, Kaoteon said in a group statement that “Lebanese metalheads are some of the friendliest and most amazing people to hang out with. It is sad to see great potential in this world gone to waste because someone somewhere decided to label people at birth and imprison them into their borders. The scene itself is thirsty for metal, so international bands should expect amazing interaction from the crowd. The Dutch scene – where we exist now – shows strong support for local talent, unlike the Lebanese scene. The Dutch scene loves their bands above all, while we feel that the Lebanese metal scene favors the international bands.” Hence, why not showing your support to true Lebanese metal by liking Kaoteon’s official Facebook page, subscribing to their YouTube channel and, above all that, purchasing the awesome Damnatio Memoriae from their BandCamp page, from CD Baby, from iTunes or from Amazon? Bands like Kaoteon are the reason why we all know from the bottom of our hearts that heavy music will never die, proving the passion for metal and for freedom of speech can beat any type of adversity, even if that means you’re putting your life at risk.

Best moments of the album: Damnatio Memoriae, Raging HellFire, Non Serviam and Into the Mouth of Kaos.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Damnatio Memoriae 4:33
2. Barren Lands 5:26
3. Raging HellFire 4:26
4. Venom of Exalt 4:35
5. The Will 5:41
6. Non Serviam 4:46
7. Light of Compassion 4:29
8. Into the Mouth of Kaos 4:18
9. A Breath 4:57

Band members
Walid WolfLust – vocals
Anthony Kaoteon – guitars

Guest musicians
Linus Klausenitzer – bass (session)
Fredrik Widigs – drums (session)

Album Review – Antichrist / Pax Moriendi (2018)

Get ready for 45 minutes of the most visceral form of old school Doom Metal made in Peru, dragging you to an eternal voyage into the most obscure side of your mind.

Formed in 2004 in Lima, the alluring capital of Peru, but not really kicking into recorded gear until a decade later, Doom/Death Metal act Antichrist soon released a steady stream of demos between 2014 and 2016, all harbingers of the colossal beast that was going to haunt our souls now in 2018, the brutally obscure album Pax Moriendi. Not only this is their highly anticipated debut album, but above that, it’s a piercing, funereal ode to the end of life as we know it. As a matter of fact, Pax Moriendi translates as “the peace of dying” from Latin, just to give you an idea of how lugubrious the whole album sounds and feels.

Across the 45 minutes of music split into five Stygian songs in Pax Moriendi, the listener is taken down into sewers a mile deep (or more), tweaking that immortal doom-death schematic into something righteously foul and filthy, but still well within the range of melancholic human experience. Led by the cavernous growls by lead singer and founder Agalariept, Antichirst are a true behemoth of darkness, blasting low-tuned, macabre sounds and tones that will reach deep inside your skin, bringing you venomous thoughts and, as a consequence, dragging you to an eternal voyage into the most obscure side of your mind.

Ominous, eerie sounds permeate the air in the opening track, darkly titled Forgotten in Nameless Suffering, where the duo Luis M. Guerra on drums and Manolo Zaren on keyboards create a truly phantasmagoric atmosphere, perfect for the deep, dark grunts by the band’s demonic frontman Agalariept. Furthermore, this song brings to you the most primeval form of Doom Metal you can think of, spiced up by orchestral elements in the background and, therefore, being highly recommended for your one-way descent into the pits of hell. Then their Death Metal side arises in brutal and somber fashion in Obscurantism, with Manolo slashing his guitar while bassist Gustavo Rodriguez makes sure our brains detach from our skulls with his low-tuned punches, with the whole musicality being nicely complemented by a whimsical, ethereal break. Also, in order to make things even more sepulchral, Agalariept fires intense, deep gnarls to the point he doesn’t sound human.

In the Dark and Mournful Corner is a flawless depiction of depressive, mournful and obscure Blackened Doom where Luis delivers those slow, sluggish and extremely evil beats, turning the song into some sort of evil mass, while Manolo not only burns our senses with his guitar but he also adds a touch of delicacy to the musicality with his keys. Moreover, it’s impressive how Antichrist alternate between old school Doom Metal and heavy-as-hell Death Metal so smoothly and effectively during the song’s gripping 10 minutes. After such demented aria, it’s time for a frantic display of aggression by Antichrist entitled Screams and Lamentations Drowned, with Luis smashing his drums while Agalariept barks and growls like a devilish beast, becoming a more visceral version of Doom Metal with its core essence reeking of putrid Death Metal. And You Will Never See Sun Light, the longest and murkiest of all songs, brings forward over 12 minutes of sluggish beats, hellish roars and uncanny sounds, with the ghoulish noises in the background making the whole song even more impactful and perturbing, flowing into a lugubrious ending led by the sinister piano by Manolo. Hence, if you survive this tenebrous aria, you’re indeed a true servant of darkness.

And as a servant of all things hellbound it’s your duty to follow Antichrist on Facebook and to buy your copy of the perilous and reverberating Pax Moriendi from Record Shop X, from the NWN! Productions webshop, from the Dark Descent Records webshop, or from the Invictus Productions webshop. Peru might not be known worldwide for its metal scene, but when you dig deep into the Peruvian underworld and find an amazing band like Antichrist, you know it’s time to surrender to the dark side of the “Land of the Incas” and crack your neck headbanging to such powerful display of old school Doom Metal.

Best moments of the album: Obscurantism and In the Dark and Mournful Corner.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Iron Bonehead

Track listing
1. Forgotten in Nameless Suffering 8:54
2. Obscurantism 7:44
3. In the Dark and Mournful Corner 10:53
4. Screams and Lamentations Drowned 4:47
5. You Will Never See Sun Light 12:16

Band members
Agalariept – vocals
Manolo Zaren – guitars, keyboards
Gustavo Rodriguez – bass
Luis M. Guerra – drums

Album Review – Sebastien / Act Of Creation (2018)

One of the biggest exponents of modern-day Czech metal returns with the next chapter in their always-evolving and exciting career.

One of the biggest exponents of modern-day Czech metal is back with a brand new album that will certainly please and entertain all fans of the most electrified form of Melodic Power Metal you can think of. After the releases of their debut album Tears Of White Roses, in 2010, and the critically acclaimed Dark Chambers Of Déjà-Vu, in 2015, it’s time for Brno-based metallers Sebastien to unleash their third full-length installment, titled Act Of Creation, continuing their evolution as a band and, as a consequence, cementing their name as the finest metal act you can find in the entire land of beer.

With its cover artwork designed by Hans Trasid (Dis-Art Design), and featuring an entourage of very special guests the likes of Swedish vocalist Apollo Papathanasio (Spiritual Beggars, Firewind) and Slovak vocalist Mayo Petranin (Signum Regis), Act Of Creation will bring to your avid ears fourteen exceptional compositions by skillful musicians who are at their prime, from passionate power ballads to those fast and crisp Melodic Metal anthems that will accelerate your heartbeat in an exciting and fun way. Furthermore, it’s very important to emphasize the fact that Sebastien maintained the same lineup from their previous album, which obviously translated into pure cohesiveness, precise timing and a powerful dynamism among all band members.

The title-track Act of Creation kicks off Sebastien’s metallic feast with a heavier-than-usual sonority, bringing elements from modern-day Groove Metal to their traditional Power Metal. Moreover, frontman George Rain has (as expected) an amazing performance showcasing a wide range of vocal styles in the same song, while Pavel Dvorak brings epicness to the overall sound with his keys. Then we have No Destination, a fast-paced, aggressive tune that will please even non-metal fans due to its thrilling rhythm, presenting the always flammable vocals by George supported by Czech guest vocalist Kristýna Dostálová and endless energy flowing from all instruments; and Wake Up, an imposing tune where Lucas R. leads the crew with his pounding drums, with all orchestral and choir-like elements in the background enhancing the song’s already potent vibe. But it obviously wouldn’t be a Sebastien album without a classic power ballad like Amy, displaying spot-on riffs by George and his bandmate Andy Mons while bassist Petri Kallio not only delivers some powerful bass punches, but his 80’s Hard Rock-inspired backing vocals also add a lot of feeling to the final result.

Venturing through the realms of Symphonic and Melodic Metal, the band delivers a futuristic metal chant titled Evermore, presenting a pleasant paradox between clean and harsh vocals, not to mention how determined Pavel is to arouse our senses with his fiery keyboards. My Empire reminds me of some of the latest creations by Sonata Arctica (which unfortunately is not a good thing these days), with an interesting work done with all background elements but nothing that truly connects in the end, whereas Queen from the Stars is a melancholic, serene ballad with passionate performances by George on vocals and Andy with his acoustic and electric guitars. Put differently, simply hold your lighter high and wave it together with Sebastien to this beautiful song. And featuring guest vocalist Mayo Petranin, Winner is a song where the sound of keyboards is considerably higher than the one of the guitars, therefore uniting in a pleasant way the classic sounding of the 80’s with Sebastien’s contemporary metal.

With Czech guest guitarist Djordje Erič (Citron) slashing us all with a gripping, flammable guitar solo, Heal My Soul goes back to a more traditional musicality, albeit still presenting hints of heavy music from the 80’s, and consequently pleasing both fans of the classic metal by Sebastien as well as the ones who prefer more modern Melodic Metal. In Promises, Kristýna Dostálová returns with her charming vocals in another symphonic ballad by Sebastien, with Andi and Pavel being in total sync with their respective riffs and keys, therefore boosting the electricity of the whole song; and featuring guest Apollo Papathanasio on vocals, it’s time for our Czech squad to put the pedal to the metal in the electrifying hymn Die in Me, where the whole band fires pure Melodic Power Metal for our total delight. Displaying a beyond catchy chorus and endless adrenaline, this metal hymn should sound absolutely fantastic during their live performances.

And Act Of Creation might be considered a long album with its over 60 minutes of music, but every song has its purpose just like Full Moon Child, portraying a classic name for a straightforward and very cohesive Power Metal sonority boosted by the precise beats by Lucas, with highlights to the spot-on riffs and solos extracted by Andy from his unstoppable guitar. The second to last metallic act by those Czech rockers comes in the form of a semi-acoustic ballad entitled Hero, with another powerful performance by George on vocals, before the bonus track V Síti Štěstí (or “in the network of happiness” from Czech) closes the album in sublime fashion. It’s not a secret to anyone that Sebastien never get tired of delivering soulful ballads to our ears; however, this is a fresh one, being fully sung in Czech, which seems to have provided George some additional room for adding never-before-seen nuances to his vocal lines.

It’s always a pleasure to see a talented and hardworking band like Sebastien evolving in their already solid career, and if you want to know more about the best metal band hailing from the enchanting Czech Republic you should definitely go check their Facebook page and YouTube channel for news, tour dates (and they do tour several other countries if you ) and, of course, more of their awesome Power Metal. Act Of Creation, which can be purchased from the Pride & Joy Music webstore, from the band’s own Facebook, from iTunes or from Amazon, is one of those albums that will put a smile on your face no matter how hard your day has been, proving once again Sebastien are here to stay and to keep bringing top-tier heavy music to our never-resting metal hearts.

Best moments of the album: No Destination, Evermore, Promises and Die in Me.

Worst moments of the album: My Empire.

Released in 2018 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Act of Creation 4:27
2. No Destination (feat. Kristýna Dostálová) 3:02
3. Wake Up 4:11
4. Amy 5:38
5. Evermore 4:32
6. My Empire 3:48
7. Queen from the Stars 4:34
8. Winner (feat. Mayo Petranin) 4:01
9. Heal My Soul (feat. Djordje Erič) 3:47
10. Promises (feat. Kristýna Dostálová) 3:29
11. Die in Me (feat. Apollo Papathanasio) 4:54
12. Full Moon Child 4:52
13. Hero 5:25

Bonus track
14.V Síti Štěstí 4:34

Band members
George Rain – vocals, guitars
Andy Mons – guitars
Petri Kallio – bass, backing vocals
Pavel Dvorak – keyboards
Lucas R. – drums

Guest musicians
Apollo Papathanasio – vocals on “Die In Me”
Mayo Petranin – vocals on “Winner”
Kristýna Dostálová – female vocals on “No Destination” and “Promises”
Djordje Erič – lead guitar on “Heal My Soul”
Vendula Skalová – backing vocals

Metal Chick of the Month – Tina Guo

A true metal cello Wonder Woman!

She might not be a pure Heavy Metal woman, but her superior skills and her passion for music truly make her unique. Armed with her flammable cello or with her whimsical erhu (the same two-stringed bowed musical instrument used by Taiwanese metallers Chthonic), she has been embellishing stages, movies, television and video game scores with her refined technique and stunning looks since around 1994, when her unparalleled career kicked off. Born on October 28, 1985 in Shanghai, China’s biggest city, a global financial centre and transport hub and one of the most populous cities in the world with a population of more than 24 million as of 2017, but currently residing in Los Angeles, California, United States, here comes the internationally acclaimed and Grammy-nominated Chinese-American cellist, erhuist, recording artist and composer Tina Guo (or 郭婷娜 in Chinese), a woman with a multi-faceted career and mastery in a wide range of genres, showcasing a deep and strong passion for musical exploration, artistic expression and technology. And of course, among all that, there’s still time for her to demonstrate her appreciation for our good old heavy music.

Tina Guo was born in Shanghai to father Lu-Yan Guo, a concert cellist, and mother Fei-Fei Soong, a concert violinist, both artistic directors of the California International Music and Art Festival, an annual event held in San Diego, California. She began playing piano at the age of 3 in China, but once she moved to America at the age of 5 with her family, she began violin lessons with her mother. At the age of 7, she began studying the cello under the instruction of her father, with both her parents forcing her to practice 6 to 8 hours a day. She then continued her professional cello studies with Slovenian cellist Eleonore Schoenfeld (1925–2007), one of the most influential cellists of the 20th century (who also taught Guo’s father), at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music on full scholarship.

During her freshman year, Guo started dating a guitar player of an 80’s-style classic Heavy Metal band, and after attending one of their shows one night at The Whiskey in Hollywood, she started to think about how she could incorporate the cello into the metal style, experimenting with pedals and different techniques while trying to figure out how to play the cello and sound like a guitar player. While the fingering for both instruments were virtually the same, it took her three years and many YouTube videos to figure out what she was doing. She eventually left USC in her junior year, despite having a full scholarship to attend, after she found it increasingly difficult to balance performing and going to classes. Her parents were very angry and didn’t understand her decision at the time, getting used to the idea after a while. As a matter of fact, she claims to hold a Bachelors in Metaphysical Theology with a focus on Eastern Philosphy from the International College of Metaphysical Theology, but this is an unaccredited distance learning degree mill.

Her career has reached such a complex and diverse level I’m pretty sure you’ve listened to the cello by our Asian virtuoso at least once in your lifetime in a movie score, in a video game, or in a multitude of other media platforms. Known for her distinct videos showcasing her talent against theatrical backdrops and elaborate costumes, she has already appeared in her career as a soloist with the San Diego Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra in Mexico, the Thessaloniki State Symphony in Greece, the Petrobras Symphony in Brazil, and the Vancouver Island Symphony in British Columbia, not to mention her participation in the Civic Youth Orchestra at the age of 10, her performance with violinist Midori Goto in Dvorak’s American String Quartet at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and her four national tours of Mexico and Italy performing the Shostakovich, Dvorak, Haydn, and Saint-Saëns Cello Concertos. Tina endorses Larsen Strings, Yamaha, Line 6, Sennheiser, Focusrite, ENGL Amps, Voodoo Lab Pedals, Coffin Case, Samson, Reunion Blues, Analysis Plus Cables and Apogee Electronics.

Among her countless other projects and appearances as a special guest musician, some of the most interesting ones are her performance with the Tenerife Symphony and Choir in the Canary Islands performing Batman: The Dark Knight; her 2017 Australian tour with an all-girl crossover band named Metaphor; her 2008 Grammy Awards performance with the Foo Fighters; her 2011-2013 tour as the featured electric cellist with Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour; her performance for the League of Legends World Championship to a sold out arena at Staples Center in Los Angeles and an audience of 33 million streaming online; playing the electric cello in a super-band with The Crystal Method, Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit), Danny Lohner (NIN), Joe Letz (Combichrist) and the Hollywood Scoring Orchestra; playing with Brazilian guitarist Victor Biglione in a Jimi Hendrix Tribute Concert at the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro; performing as soloist on music from Vikings, Dexter, Game of Thrones, and Chicago Fire with the Krakow Symphony and Polish Radio Choir at the Krakow Film Music Festival; and completing an acoustic tour and two sold-out performances at Carnegie Hall in 2016 with Blues Legend Joe Bonamassa, as you can see in the song Black Lung Heartache.

Furthermore, Tina has already shared the stage in her career with The Tenors, Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel, Josh Groban, John Legend, LeAnn Rimes, Chris Isaak, Il Divo, Ariana Grande, Lupe Fiasco, and Michael McDonald, among others, and has been featured as a soloist on the scores of several movies such as Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Inception, Clash of the Titans, Olympus Has Fallen, Escape Plan, Sleepy Hollow, Hancock, Battle: Los Angeles, Predators and X-Men: First Class, as well as TV shows like  The Mentalist, Family Guy, American Dad, King of the Hill, commercials for Apple, Under Armour, and countless video games. As a solo artist, Tina has already released 8 albums, those being Autumn Winds and The Journey (both in 2011), Eternity (2013), Ray of Light and A Cello Christmas (both in 2014), Inner Passion (with Peter Kater) and Cello Metal (both in 2015), and more recently Game On! (2017). Furthermore, you can enjoy some very interesting videos on YouTube where Tina shows all her skills with her erhu, such as “Tina Guo plays music from Uncharted 2 on the Erhu with the GSPO”, and “Tina Guo and Michael Barry Random Jam: Danny Boy on Erhu and Piano”, or simply enjoy some of her official videos and songs like World of Warcraft, Dragonborn, Forrest Gump: Feather Theme and Genesis Rising.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In regards to Tina’s contributions to the metal scene, she has been featured as a guest cellist in numerous distinguished bands and projects since 2009. For instance, in 2009 she played the cello in the songs The Lone Spaniard and So Far Gone, from the album Molecular Heinosity by American Progressive Metal/Rock keyboardist Derek Sherinian; in the song I Am the Nothing, from the 2014 album The Beauty of Destruction by  American Metalcore act Devil You Know (now called Light The Torch); in the 2017 album Störtebeker, by German Heavy/Power/Progressive Metal band FB1964; in the single Let Down, from the 2011 album Secret Passion by Dutch Symphonic Gothic Metal group Imperia; in the song Duet for Electric Guitar and Electric Cello in A Minor, from the 2010 album Speed Force by American shredder Maxxxwell Carlisle; and in the 2015 album The Life I Remember, by American Groove Metal act Once Human.

Among her main influences in music, we’ll find the most diverse range of bands and artist like Rammstein, Jacqueline du Pre, System of a Down, Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, Lady Gaga, Apocalyptica, Metallica, Sevendust, Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, just to give you an idea of how eclectic our stunning cellist is. Moreover, when asked about what music means for her, Tina said that playing music requires an intense emotional connection, and that she didn’t always have such level of creative freedom in her life due to her strict childhood with her parents, who lived through the Chinese Cultural Revolution and who consequently didn’t allow her to listen to any other types of music at home besides classical music. However, it was through a critically acclaimed album by one of the aforementioned influences, the classic Antichrist Superstar by the iconic American rockstar Marilyn Manson, that she got her first taste of Industrial Metal and heavy music in general, getting to know the rebellious music by bands like Daft Punk and Guns N’ Roses from then on.

The indomitable Tina Guo is not our metal chick of the month in vain, having released in 2015 a majestic album of heavy music titled CELLO METAL, with Tina obviously on the electric cello and featuring Wes Borland and John Huldt on the guitars, Marty O’Brien (We Are The Fallen) on bass, and Glen Sobel (Alice Cooper, Alcatrazz) on drums, as well as guitarists Al Di Meola, John 5 (Marilyn Manson) and Nita Strauss (The Iron Maidens). Tina and her henchmen delivered ass-kicking cello-infused cover songs for some of the biggest metal classics with this album, which by the way took around three years to be ready, those being Iron Maiden’s The Trooper, Slayer’s Raining Blood, Black Sabbath’s Iron Man, Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell, and Metallica’s Sanitarium, together with five original songs (Child of Genesis, The God Particle, Eternal Night, Forbidden City and Queen Bee). By the way, Tina spent her entire life savings (a little under US$ 6,000) on the official video for Queen Bee, a metal-inspired take on the orchestral interlude “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and that risk paid off as what’s probably her “most extreme” music video to date (it got an 18+ restriction on YouTube) caught the attention of Hans Zimmer, who at that time was searching for a cellist to play on the score of Sherlock Holmes. “I wasn’t trying to get into the soundtrack world. Actually, I was hoping that Rammstein would see the video and invite me to play with them”, said our skillful cellist in one of her interviews. Anyway, you can have a very detailed listen at Cello Metal on Spotify, and see why this Asian bombshell is respected and admired by the entire world of music, including the always-demanding metal scene.

And Tina is not only an accomplished cellist, but she’s also a writer, a philanthropist and a very successful businesswoman. As a writer, her first published work was called “Event Horizons of Yin and Yang”, a collection of philosophical prose and poetry. As a philanthropist, Guo is a passionate supporter of the Academy of Music for the Blind, Partners in Health, Animal Welfare Institute, Homes for our Troops and Child Find of America. For instance, in 2015, she released a Charity album with 13 composer friends called Tina Guo & Composers for Charity, with 100% of the proceeds from the album going directly to Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation in support of music education. And last but not least, as a businesswoman, she runs a Los Angeles-based venture named Tina Guo Contracting, which provides exclusive musicians and entertainment for live performances, recording and corporate events; she has a sample library that composers and producers can purchase and use; and above all that, she started her own music instrument line, named Tina Guo Strings, selling custom acoustic cellos, carbon fiber cases, and colourful “unicorn hair” bows for the violin, viola, and cello, with her first products available being the Tina Guo Model 300 cello, the Tina Guo Elite Master Art Model 600 cello, and a full line of custom Tina Guo bows. As a matter of fact, she has been self-managing her career since the beginning, having only signed an exclusive recording contact with Sony Music in 2016, as she thinks it’s very important to understand the business aspect and see everything that’s going on, especially because managers are always going to have other clients they’re dealing with.

However, despite being a successful musician and entrepreneur, she hasn’t been immune to sexism yet, noting that image sells in the performing world, and as a young Asian-American woman she’s more than familiar with the challenges that come with working in these two very white male-dominated spheres. “As a performing artist, we don’t only listen with our ears”, she said in one of her interviews. “If I look different or wasn’t as young, I might have a very different experience.” You can get a sense of all the awesomeness surrounding Tina as a musician and as a woman by watching several videos on YouTube where she’s either playing her cello or talking about her career and skills, such as “Tina Guo and her troublesome cello”, an interview with Tina Guo on classical and electric cello, or a mini-tutorial on playing fast, proving she’s more-than-ready to conquer the entire world of music and arts no matter how sexist that world might be.

Gand & Bernardel Cello (Paris, France, 1878)
Custom Tina Guo Model Yamaha SVC-210
Erhu (Shangai, China)

Tina Guo’s Official Facebook page
Tina Guo’s Official Twitter
Tina Guo’s Official Instagram
Tina Guo’s Official YouTube channel

“When I make music, I am completely pure, naked, and open. I long for the moments when my outer shell no longer matters. I hunger for every genuine tear of sorrow, joy, or understanding shared. When you can hear me for who I am, and see me in a way that doesn’t involve looking at me, but rather looking through me, only then can I be satisfied.” – Tina Guo

Interview – Stein Akslen (Minneriket)

Let’s talk about the darkness with the multi-talented Stein Akslen, the mastermind behind Norwegian Romantic Black Metal project Minneriket.

Stein Akslen (Minneriket)

The Headbanging Moose: Can you please start by introducing yourself to our readers? Who is Stein Akslen, and what is Minneriket? Why and when did you decide to start such distinct project, and where do you want Minneriket to be in the following years?

Stein Akslen:   Minneriket is a solo project I started a few years ago to be able to create music focusing solely on atmosphere and an internal dialogue with myself. It’s about being nostalgic but still innovative, rooted in tradition but walking new paths and carving out a whole new beast. As some might know, I started in Blodsgard long before Minneriket and I saw great success with that band where we hold our art to the highest standards truly representing the elite of the genre, but I needed another outlet – something more egocentric, minimalistic and completely without ambitions. With Blodsgard we have goals, but in Minneriket there are no goals – there are only soundscapes, audio therapy and a straight-to-the-core kind of songwriting. The only thing I know about the future for Minneriket is that it will continue to evolve, that no ground is too sacred to tread upon, and that there are no barriers for sound, message or aesthetics.

THM: As mentioned in our review to your latest album Anima Sola, Minneriket plays what can be called “Romantic Black Metal”. Can you explain us what such distinct label truly means? What’s the real definition of it? And do you enjoy having your music categorized this way?

SA:   Well I coined the term, so of course I enjoy it. The Romantic era was an artistic and intellectual movement that originated in Europe towards the end of the 18th century. The Romantic art had an emphasis on strong emotions, individualism and a glorification of the cultural past and the nature that surrounds us. This is a philosophy that resonates with what I do with Minneriket.

Romance is so much more than just the popularization of love. Romance is strong and deep emotional desires, a yearning to connect to something and to grow emotionally attached. This approach, trying to convey the deep longing for something outside of yourself, either in nature or spirit, is the essence of what I wish to achieve with Minneriket.

THM:  The title and artwork (designed by Czech artist Anna Marine) in Anima Sola (or “lonely soul” in English) are based on the catholic imagery of the lonely spirit burning in purgatory. In addition to that, you mentioned you composed Anima Sola because “we need to talk about the darkness”. Can you tell us more details about that?

SA:   “We need to talk about the darkness” become like a tag-line for this release. You know, Black Metal music has become this watered-down version of itself: people compose music in a certain way and sing about certain topics because they’re expected to – because they have this blue-print of what an album should look and sound like. It’s a very shallow understanding of art, and I oppose that with every fiber of my body. You can spew out album after album claiming you’re the Antichrist incarnate, and nobody bats an eye because that’s just “how it’s supposed to be”. I need to make something that’s real. That will speak directly to your emotions. To make you question your existence and reflect on your life and values.

I’m a melancholic person by nature, and decided to dwell in that mental basement for a lot longer than usual when crafting this album. A lot of Black Metal listeners have a very superficial understanding of the darkness they pride themselves in representing and that’s what makes this an uncomfortable album for many; it’s true, it’s real, and it’s challenging. There’s no aggression here, no hatred or other lyrical “staples” – no easy way out – it’s solitude, depression, anxiety and a yearning for something outside of your reach. We all feel this from time to time, some more than others, but I wanted to take the time to really explore this. I don’t respect either taboos nor your perfect presentation of life on social media – I want what’s real, what’s uncomfortable and the raw and untainted emotions… And that is why we need to talk about the darkness.

THM: In Anima Sola, you offer the listener the chance to enjoy your classic Black Metal in both English and Norwegian, with pretty much half of the album being in one language, half in the other.  How do you decide if a song will be sung in English or Norwegian? What’s your process to write the lyrics for a song?

SA:   Earlier I used to think that it was a conscious choice I did. That the songs in Norwegian perhaps were closer to heart, and that the ones in English were more directed outwards to an audience. But I’m not so sure anymore. I prefer Norwegian myself, but I’ve got to be pragmatic about it too – some things just sound better in English. I can’t force it into one way or another, if a translation would diminish the value of the lyrics. So I really just let the songs decide the language themselves.

I always start with the lyrics, or at least some half-finished lyrics. Maybe just a title or a few sentences. Then I build the words and the music around this idea. I’m looking for “What was the essence of this word?”, “What were I feeling when I wrote this sentence?”, then I revisit that place inside myself time after time until the lyrics are done and I can start creating an audio representation of the words, which then turns into the whole song. I go back and forth a lot of course, but that’s the main framework I work within.

Album Review – Minneriket / Anima Sola (2018)

THM:  Although Minneriket is considered a one-man band, you had the help of guest musician Fredrik Rex (Blodsgard) on guitars and bass in two songs of the album, An All Too Human Heart and Det lyset jeg ikke kan se (“the light I cannot see”). How did you invite Fredrik to be part of the album, and how was the recording process with him?

SA:   Well I’ve worked with Rex in Blodsgard for about 10 years now, so it’s only natural that if I’m looking for creative input that he’s my go-to-guy. He’s got a whole other kind of musical understanding than I have, and he’s both very creative and have good techniques. I have pretty deep trust-issues when it comes to my art, so it’s best for me to use him because we’re able to communicate well. So I just invited him over one day, played him some of music I was working on, it was mostly finished already and just needed the right kind of flavor and seasoning, so I asked him for a few lead-guitar parts and a bass-line. Very low-key and informal, just how it should be. After using about 30 minutes to tell me how weird it is that I tune my guitars a half step down, he took about 15 minutes to record the parts.

And here’s where I need to admit a mistake… He actually played on “Tro, håp og kjærlighet” and not “An All Too Human Heart”. That’s a typo in the booklet!

THM: One of my favorite songs of the album, the full-bodied aria Det lyset jeg ikke kan se, feels like a 13-minute descent into the pits of hell. How was it for you to compose such bold song? And is the final result exactly what you wanted it to be after listening to it now that the album is out?

SA:   I’m glad you like that one! It was a very challenging song to do. I needed it to be this kind of huge sonic behemoth, and it’s difficult to maintain the claustrophobic atmosphere throughout 13 whole minutes. The music had to fit the lyrics, which really takes you to the dark corners of your mind. It needed to be repetitive and monotonous, a feeling of hopelessness but still dynamic and drive the song forward, and at the same time without becoming boring or losing the listener on the way. But I think that the way the guitars blend with the different vocal techniques I used here really makes it work.

Hindsight will always be 20-20 (to do some Megadeth-paraphrasing), but looking back on it I’m really proud of that song. It has a little of everything that Minneriket is about, and it’s objectively a great piece of music too.

THM: The closing song of the album, Time for Suicide, seems to deal with a very delicate and controversial topic. The lyrics for this song are dark, pensive and somewhat disturbing, like “Headaches taunt me with flashbacks of the past / Call it fear, but I think it runs deeper / an infection that eats away at my soul / furthering my suffering and doubling my agony”. What details can you tell us about this song? What were your main goal when you wrote it?

SA:   I guess this is a song with no hidden meaning, haha! It’s a pretty obvious thing. “Time for Suicide” is just that, a song about suicidal thought patterns and self-destructive behavior that may have risen above you and become its own entity. The moment where you lose your autonomy and your control. This all goes back to what I said initially about how we need to talk about the darkness. These things build up inside of a lot of people, and it’s controversial, it’s taboo, and even hidden away in shame. That’s not healthy, not at all. We need to face it, own it, and in that way rise above it and take back control. It’s not a song that advocates suicide or self-harm, not at all, but it’s a song that let’s you know that it’s out there, that we shouldn’t hide it just because it’s uncomfortable. There’s no reason to be ashamed of who you are or what emotions you’re experiencing, and I find it very important to shine some light on these subjects. Nothing good comes from keeping quiet.

THM: Now let’s talk about the musician Stein Akslen. Who are your biggest influences in music? And what other sources do you usually go to while crafting your Black Metal music?

SA:   I always credit the ambient albums by Burzum and Mortiis/Vond with being my initial inspiration to start making music myself. This extreme minimalistic synth atmosphere was something unlike anything I’d ever heard when I first experienced it, and I instantly knew that I would be able to convey emotions in a similar manner. The “Stormblåst” album by Dimmu Borgir (the original one of course, not the re-recording) meant a lot to me with how it balances harmonies with rhythms, and “Pentagram” by Gorgoroth have some of the best rock’n’roll drums you’ll ever hear within Black Metal, that was a bold choice and really lifted that album to a new bar.

Lyric-wise I don’t look so much to other bands, as I honestly believe most of the lyrics – especially in the metal genre – is complete and utter crap. There’s a few exceptions, but they are few and far between. I rather look to older poets, like Ulven, Jonsson, Crowley, Ibsen, etc., to see how it’s possible to say a lot with few words. To really grasp just how minimalistic you can be and still present a mountain of meaning.

Stein Akslen (Minneriket) at the legendary Nidarosdomen in Trondheim, Norway

THM: Do you envision Minneriket playing live one day as a full band, with other musicians helping you take your music to the stage? Or is it always going to be a pure studio project? And do you dream of touring with any specific renowned Black Metal band in the future with any of your bands or projects (Blodsgard, V0id&Khaos, Vakslen or Minneriket)?

SA:   I’ll go live with Minneriket when I can co-headline with Burzum and have Darkthrone as supporting act.

THM:  What’s your view of the current metal scene in Norway, the birthplace of Black Metal? Is it pointing to an exciting future? What other underground acts hailing from Norway like Minneriket can you recommend to our readers?

SA:   Mostly just a bunch of self-obsessed drunken party-rockers who thinks spikes and corpse paint gives them some sort of credibility or validity. Doing their best to re-enact the music they like themselves, while completely failing to grasp or present anything of integrity or artistic value. I can’t recommend anyone in good conscience.

THM: Thank you very much for your time, and I hope to hear more from Minneriket in a not-so-distant future as your music is truly captivating. Please feel free to send your final words and considerations to our readers, and to invite everyone to join the dark world of Minneriket.

SA: Thank you. I released the last video from Anima Sola for the song “Alle hjerter banker ei” (Not all hearts beat) a few days ago for a fitting celebration of Valentines day… And after popular demand I also made Minneriket merchandise available for the first time ever, and everything can be ordered through the links on www.minneriket.com.

Minneriket Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | BandCamp