Album Review – Nemesis / The War Is On (2020)

Waging war on mankind, this all-female Melodic Death Metal unity from Serbia will pulverize your senses with their astonishing debut album.

If you’re a fan of female-fronted Melodic Death Metal and old school Death Metal bands the likes of Arch Enemy, The Agonist, Nervosa and Abnormality, you’ll undoubtedly have an absolute blast with Belgrade, Serbia-based all-female Melodic Death Metal unity Nemesis, who has recently released their debut full-length installment entitled The War Is On. Mixed, mastered and produced by Luka Matković at Citadela Sound Production, and featuring a modern artwork and a sharp design by Serbian artists Vladimir Milovanović and Branislav Crvenkovic, The War Is On offers us all a superb balance between sheer brutality and melodious passages, captivating our senses from start to finish and presenting all the ability and passion for heavy music by frontwoman Sanja Drča, guitarists Aleksandra Petrović and Tijana Milivojević, bassist Biljana Sovilj and drummer Selena Simić, therefore proving it might have taken a while for those unrelenting women to release their first album since their inception in 2013, but the final result is grandiose, vibrant and absolutely honest and fresh.

The quintet doesn’t waste a single second and begin their feast of extreme and melodic sounds in Wake Up, led by the razor-edge, heavy-as-hell riffs by Aleksandra and Tijana while Selena smashes her drum set with tons of rage and power, followed by Uprising, bringing forward thrashing lyrics growled by the talented she-wolf Sanja (“Do you see the fire that burns in our eyes / Give us the truth, stop feeding us with your lies / Time is for persecution / No more this mass confusion!”) supported by the Arch Enemy-inspired sounds form her bandmates in an awesome fusion of harmony and violence. And a dense and imposing ambience will put you to bang your head nonstop in Oppression, a Melodic Death Metal tune infused with the more visceral elements from Thrash and Death Metal with Sanja and Selena kicking some serious ass with their respective roars and thunderous beats, not to mention the beautiful groove brought forth by Biljana’s bass punches.

Once again showcasing the band’s unstoppable guitar duo firing their Michael Amott-inspired riffs and solos, the band brings forth Divine Retribution, with the additional vocals by guests Stefan Tomić and Milica Jovanov providing a phantasmagorical support to Sanja’s demonic screams, whereas in Living Dead People we’re treated to almost six minutes of ass-kicking Melodic Death Metal tailored for pulverizing our ears and minds with an insane amount of electricity and rebelliousness. Moreover, Biljana and Selena will shake the foundations of the earth with their rumbling bass and drums, making it impossible to stand still to such thrilling composition. And it’s time for more of their adrenaline-fueled metal music in the form of Savages, where Aleksandra and Tijana display all their skills and addiction to heavy music with their refined riffage, keeping the album at a humongous level of savagery for our vulgar delectation.

In Dead End we face grim, poetic lyrics darkly gnarled by Sanja (“I cannot hold it, I’ve had enough / Watching the world becoming rough / Headless beasts, stripped of the skin / New generation, new king!”), while Selena offers her heavy artillery on drums, being therefore perfect for cracking your neck headbanging, and less infernal and more melodious than the previous songs, Pandemonium has an obscure vibe that’s beautifully complemented by the stunning solos by Aleksandra, resulting in the epitome of modern-day Melodic Death Metal. Back to their trademark berserk mode, the girls pulverize everything and everyone with their endless groove, aggressiveness and dexterity in Born Worthless, with Selena dictating the pace with her vicious beats while the guitars sound truly venomous and piercing. And last but not least, the title-track The War Is On will fuel the listener with the utmost depiction of the band’s hellish musicality, sounding and feeling bold, dense and austere from start to finish, with Sanja providing our ears a lesson in female harsh growls.

This precious gem of contemporary extreme music made in Serbia can be streamed in its entirety on Spotify, but as usual you should obviously grab a copy of the album from the Grom Records website, from Amazon or from Discogs to show those skillful Serbian women your true respect and appreciation for their music. In addition, don’t forget to follow them on Facebook and on Instagram to keep up to date with all things Nemesis, including their tour dates, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their crushing music and apocalyptic videos. I honestly hope Nemesis can continue to pave their path of destruction with their Melodic Death Metal for the following years and even decades, going against all odds and crushing all the barriers and hassles they might find on their way due to the fact they’re a pure underground band. And if they succeed in their quest for metal, I’m sure we metalheads will all have some awesome reasons to smile and bang our heads to the sound of their sensational creations, just like what we can find in one of the best underground albums of the year, the breathtaking The War Is On.

Best moments of the album: Uprising, Oppression, Living Dead People and The War Is On.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Grom Records

Track listing
1. Wake Up 3:07
2. Uprising 3:22
3. Oppression 3:28
4. Divine Retribution 3:55
5. Living Dead People 5:37
6. Savages 3:36
7. Dead End 3:51
8. Pandemonium 3:26
9. Born Worthless 3:52
10. The War Is On 4:06

Band members
Sanja Drča – vocals
Aleksandra Petrović – lead guitar
Tijana Milivojević – rhythm guitar
Biljana Sovilj – bass
Selena Simić – drums

Guest musicians
Stefan Tomić – additional vocals on “Divine Retribution”
Milica Jovanov – additional vocals on “Divine Retribution”

Album Review – Guardian Of Lightning / Cosmos Tree (2020)

Behold the mighty sound of the ultra-heavy electric bass by a Brazilian power trio who praises the gods of thunder and metal in their excellent debut opus.

Known as the the herald of a new wave of metal music, curiously labeled as “Thunder Metal”, Guardian Of Lightning are a three-piece band based in São Paulo, Brazil featuring lead bassist Iron King, his father Marco Fino on vocals and rhythm guitar, and Lord Drum on drums, with their unique sound being a fresh take on the metal genre, replacing the typical lead guitar role with that of an ultra-heavy thundering electric bass. Lead bassist Iron King (yes, that is his real name) grew up surrounded by music, inspiring him to follow in the footsteps of bass legends such as Cliff Burton, Joey DeMaio and Lemmy Kilmister and, therefore, leading him to form Guardian Of Lightning back in 2017. Produced by Eurico Tavares at Stage Record Power Audio Studio, the band’s debut opus Cosmos Tree makes it clear from the very first second that the electric bass is front and center throughout the entire album, but each individual song will also bring to you a wide variety of sounds, an undeniable sync and dynamism between the band members, and of course, the magic of our beloved Heavy Metal.

The album’s atmospheric Intro will certainly invite you to the heavy world of Guardian Of Lightning, setting the tone for the epic title-track Cosmos Tree, which reminds me of the mighty sound blasted by Grand Magus infused with the rockin’ elements from the music by Motörhead, with Lord Drum dictating the rhythm with his pounding beats while Iron King shreds his bass in great fashion.  In the superb Raise Your Sword, the Mark Tornillo-like vocals by Marco walk hand in hand with the thrilling Power Metal beats and bass punches fired by Lord Drum and Iron King, respectively, also bringing hints of 70’s Progressive Rock and Metal through their intricate and thunderous bass sounds, followed by the also epic Sound of Thunder, exactly what Iron King delivers from his rumbling bass, showcasing an accelerated pace and classic riffs and lyrics, therefore resulting in an ode to all things rock and metal tailored for fans of the music by Manowar and other bands that love to add endless epicness to their creations. And once again inviting us all to bang our heads in the name of metal, the trio masterfully smashes their instruments in Aligned With the Stars, where the riffage by Marco provides an amazing support to Iron King’s metallic bass.

Then adding elements from Blues to their core sonority, the trio brings forward the beautiful Follow Your Silver Shine, where Iron King is once again majestic with his visceral and electrifying bass jabs and solos, while his father Marco showcases a fun and vibrant vocal performance from start to finish, whereas Inside of Us presents another solid fusion of Stoner, Sludge and Southern Metal with more epic styles such as classic Heavy and Power Metal, not to mention that what Iron King does with his bass is truly impressive, making our heads tremble with awe. Lord Drum begins hitting his drums harder than usual in the also rockin’ Another Place, where it’s a pleasure to witness the sonic synchronicity of father and son crushing their strings with power and dexterity, and they keep jamming with passion until the very end. Lastly, slowing things down a bit the band offers the more serene and classic Be Like the Moon, where Iron King once again showcases all his skills armed with his bass, and albeit this song is not as creative or inspiring as its predecessors, it still provides the listener a very good reason for having a cold beer and headbanging nonstop.

After taking a few detailed listens at Cosmos Tree, you’ll see it’s easy to understand what Guardian Of Lightning mean with the expression “Thunder Metal”, because that’s exactly what you’ll get throughout the album’s over 30 minutes of music, pure and mighty thunder in the form of our good old Heavy Metal, consequently paving an interesting path ahead of Iron King and his loyal henchmen for the coming years. Hence, don’t forget to follow such promising band on Facebook and on Instagram, to listen to more of their music on Spotify, and above all, to purchase your desired version of Cosmos Tree by clicking HERE, proving to the gods of thunder and metal you deserve a place right by their side in Valhalla.

Best moments of the album: Raise Your Sword, Sound of Thunder and Follow Your Silver Shine.

Worst moments of the album: Be Like the Moon.

Released in 2020 Eclipse Records

Track listing
1. Intro 1:09
2. Cosmos Tree 5:00
3. Raise Your Sword 3:41
4. Sound of Thunder 4:17
5. Aligned With the Stars 3:29
6. Follow Your Silver Shine 3:58
7. Inside of Us 3:15
8. Another Place 4:55
9. Be Like the Moon 3:29

Band members
Marco Fino – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Iron King – lead bass guitar
Lord Drum – drums

Album Review – Vampiric / Supernatural Tales (2020)

Phoenix, Arizona’s own lone wolf returns with more of his blood-soaked Symphonic Black and Thrash Metal in a tribute to darkness and the supernatural.

Arising from the depths of his lair less than one year after the release of his debut full-length album The Magic of the Night, the Phoenix, Arizona-based one-man army Nik Williams, the mastermind behind Symphonic Black/Thrash Metal entity Vampiric, is back with more of his blood-soaked, dark and captivating music in his brand new opus entitled Supernatural Tales, bringing to our ears more of his fusion of extreme and symphonic sounds while singing about vampires, wolves and other creatures of the night. Not only that, Nik once again did everything by himself, including all music, lyrics, artwork and so on, proving how passionate he is about heavy music and vampirism, and how his undeniable talent allows him to unite those two distinct topics into a collection of dynamic and obscure compositions.

Phantasmagorical synths and a stench of blood permeate the air in the opening track Endless Night, where Nik generates a bold atmosphere with all instruments, also firing both harsh growls and cryptic clean vocals and uniting Black and Thrash Metal in the name of darkness. In Bloodthirst we’re treated to sheer brutality, with Nik barking the song’s vampiric lyrics manically (“Do you hear it? / Does it not sound like the shadows calling your name? / At midnight’s strike, piercing the dark / Calling to you as if in dream / His presence made known / His shadow crawls across the wall”) while the music brings a fusion of Second-Wave Black Metal with classic Bay Area Thrash, all spiced up by its background keys; and blasting a more straightforward and rockin’ sonority, Nik offers us all the dark and dancing tune The Wolves Of Winter, showcasing slashing riffs and massive beats and bass punches, being tailored for admirers of Gothic Rock and Metal from the 80’s and 90’s with a more venomous twist. Then Nik continues to blast his drums and extract sheer malignancy from his guitar, resulting in a hybrid of Blackened Death Metal and Symphonic Black Metal entitled Heart Of Fire, where our lone wolf sings about how fear sometimes controls our lives (“Rise from the fire whose flames burn you not / Become the fire / It matters not the fear that lives inside of your heart / But how you go forth and face that fear / Times of turmoil beget times of peace”).

Melodic guitars ignite the also frantic and obscure The Embrace Of The Vampire, with Nik growling and gnarling while at the same time generating a truly wicked ambience with his Phantom of the Opera-inspired keys, also presenting some elements found in the music by the almighty Cradle Of Filth, whereas an exciting ride through the lands of Rock N’ Roll, Black Metal and symphonic music is condensed into the multi-layered The Darkness Reborn, where Nik does a superb job with all instruments, in special with his demonic riffage and vicious roars. A Descent Into Madness is a visceral, in-your-face Extreme Metal tune where the bass sounds are absolutely metallic and thunderous, making a solid paradox with all the ethereal keys in the background, while Fall From The Sky leans towards the rawer musicality from his 2019 album, also bringing forward a spot-on balance between aggressiveness and melody while the drums sound as Black Metal as they can be. It’s a bit lengthy, though, despite all of its breaks and variations, but nothing to worry about, before the cinematic outro The Dawn Is No More puts a melancholic and at the same time epic conclusion to this bloodthirsty album.

Not only Supernatural Tales represents a healthy and interesting step forward in the career of Nik Williams and his Vampiric, but it’s also a solid statement that Nik is an unstoppable force of the underground, always working on new material and always eager to release original music to fans of that more extreme side of metal, having released so far two excellent albums in less than one year, and I’m not even counting his debut EP Death Tore Through, also released in 2019. Hence, you can show your support to such up-and-coming, hardworking artist by following him on Facebook, by subscribing to his official YouTube channel, and obviously by purchasing Supernatural Tales sooner than you can expect from his own BandCamp page (where you can by the way take a listen at a couple of his new songs already, as well as his previous releases). In a nutshell, in praising darkness and the supernatural with his new album, Nik is also carving his name in the metal underworld, leaving us eager for more of his vampiric tales and extreme sounds until the end of days.

Best moments of the album: Bloodthirst, The Wolves Of Winter and The Darkness Reborn.

Worst moments of the album: Fall From The Sky.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Endless Night 5:28
2. Bloodthirst 2:50
3. The Wolves Of Winter 5:40
4. Heart Of Fire 4:51
5. The Embrace Of The Vampire 5:31
6. The Darkness Reborn 3:36
7. A Descent Into Madness 3:20
8. Fall From The Sky 6:22
9. The Dawn Is No More (Outro) 2:31

Band members
Nik Williams – vocals, all instruments

Album Review – Dead Tree Seeds / Push The Button (2020)

Simply slam into the circle pit like there’s no tomorrow to the sound of the brand new album by these talented thrashing maniacs hailing from France.

Born from the ashes of a Thrash Metal band named Triakanthos in 2009 in Paris, France, an unstoppable thrashing beast known as Dead Tree Seeds is back in action after seven long years with their sophomore full-length album, entitled Push The Button, the follow-up to their 2013 release Seeds of Thrash. Inspired by the biggest names of the scene, from Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer to the most violent fringe of Kreator or Sepultura, as well as the groovy forays the likes of Testament and Pantera, Dead Tree Seeds go straight to the point in Push The Button, paying a vibrant and aggressive tribute to that classic Thrash Metal sound from the 80’s and 90’s while at the same time adding their own French twist to each one of the ten original tracks of the album. Currently comprised of Frank Vortex on vocals, Francois Odonnet and Aurelien Gonzalez on the guitars, Sidi Assila on bass and Alexandre Prudent on drums, Dead Tree Seeds are definitely back on track in their explosive new album, inviting us all to join them into the circle pit to the sound of their American Thrash Metal-fueled creations.

In the instrumental opening track Thrash Tales, Francois and Aurelien begin extracting serene, acoustic sounds form their guitars, gradually enhancing their rage and punch while accompanied by Alexandre’s fierce drums, setting the tone for Fangs Of The White Wolf, an old school Thrash Metal hymn perfect for crushing your skull into the pit, with Frank rabidly vociferating the song’s epic lyrics (“Fear, frost, blizzard in your eyes, welcome to the great white storm / Lost in travel, gone to the North, hailstones like a swarn / You’ve been followed by hungry eyes, the wild is craving for your flesh / Meet the Lord of the frozen wastelands, killer of a million wanderers”), whereas drinking form the same rebellious fountain as Anthrax, Exodus and Overkill, it’s time for the quintet to put the pedal to the metal in Thru God For Vengeance, where the band’s guitar duo fires their trademark shredding and solos while Frank keeps barking and growling like a true thrashing maniac.

No Time To Complain stats in a darker way before morphing into classic Thrash Metal led by Frank’s rabid roars while Sidi keeps smashing his bass mercilessly, maintaining the level of adrenaline in Push The Button extremely high, followed by the title-track Push The Button, a demented thrashing extravaganza where Alexandre sounds brutal and demolishing on drums, therefore providing his bandmates all they need to thrive, in special Frank with his raspy, punk-ish vocals, not to mention the sick guitar solos fired by Francois and Aureliene. Then strident guitar sounds permeate the air in the melodic bridge The Way To Eternity before tribal beats hammer our heads in the headbanging tune Abjection, blending the obscurity from Slayer with the inebriate sounds from the early years of Exodus while also showcasing a great balance between their razor-edged riffage, visceral growls and groovy background sounds.

And Alexandre doesn’t let their wrath and electricity go down with his vicious beats in Enemies Of Rome, where Frank’s deranged screams are effectively supported by the band’s old school backing vocals, all spiced up by their accelerated pace halfway through it for our total delight. Wailing Wall reminds me of both old school and contemporary Testament, which is obviously an amazing feature of the song, focusing on the precise and incendiary riffs by the band’s guitarists while Frank alternates between deeper growls and more desperate screams, paving the band’s path of destruction to the closing tune Shotdead, offering over seven minutes of savagery, rebelliousness and, above all, pure 80’s Thrash Metal spearheaded by Alexandre’s blast beats. Furthermore, their sharp riffs will pierce your ears in great fashion, and despite all breaks and atmospheric passages not sounding bad, they end up taking away some of the song’s ferocity in the end.

As I already mentioned in a few older reviews, if thrashing is your business (and business is good), you can start following Dead Tree Seeds on Facebook to know more about those talented French thrashers, and in order to show them your utmost support and admiration you can purchase a copy of Push The Button from their own BandCamp page, as well as from the Rock Metal Market webstore in regular CD format, in vinyl format, as a special CD + vinyl bundle, or as a very special CD + vinyl + cassette bundle. It might have taken seven years for the seeds of thrash planted by Dead Tree Seeds to finally grow into their newborn spawn Push The Button, but the wait was definitely worth it for all fans of classic Bay Area Thrash, who know have another excellent reason for having a cold beer and slamming into the circle pit just the way we love doing since the beginning of the glorious decade known as the 80’s.

Best moments of the album: Fangs Of The White Wolf, Push The Button and Abjection.

Worst moments of the album: Shotdead.

Released in 2020 M.U.S.I.C. Records

Track listing
1. Thrash Tales (Instrumental) 1:42
2. Fangs Of The White Wolf 3:40
3. Thru God For Vengeance 3:52
4. No Time To Complain 6:27
5. Push The Button 4:12
6. The Way To Eternity (Instrumental) 2:03
7. Abjection 4:34
8. Enemies Of Rome 6:00
9. Wailing Wall 4:53
10. Shotdead 7:29

Band members
Frank Vortex – lead vocals
Francois Odonnet – guitar
Aurelien Gonzalez – guitar
Sidi Assila – bass
Alexandre Prudent – drums

Album Review – Hearts & Hand Grenades / Adrenaline EP (2020)

Bang your heads nonstop to this fresh breath of Hard Rock that is not just built around the youth of today, but for all generations of true rock addicts.

In striving to create a true rock revival, and up-and-coming female-fronted Hard Rock unity that goes by the name of Hearts & Hand Grenades was formed in the beginning of 2019 in Buffalo, the second largest city in the state of New York, in the United States, focusing on creating a fresh breath of Hard Rock that is not just built around the youth of today, but for all generations of true rock addicts. After the release of their 2019 EP’s Wait and Nothing Left, it’s time for lead singer and bassist Stephanie Wlosinski, guitarists Kenny Blesy and Mike Bress, and drummer Tom Lafferty to showcase all their passion for rock music and dexterity with a new EP entitled Adrenaline, drawing influences from the likes of Metallica, AC/DC, Flyleaf and Halestorm, among many others. “We have been working very hard to bring our collective efforts to create a true hard rock sound with some meaningful lyrics. There is an undertone of frustration, desire, hope, and self- examining on these tracks. The agenda is to have something that anyone can relate to, no matter what walk of life you come from,” stated the band, aiming at filling the hole where true rock used to live with their new EP.

And our hearts begin beating to the rhythm of their classy Hard Rock in the title-track Adrenaline, where Stephanie and Tom will make the earth shake with their respective bass and drums while the band’s guitar duo extracts sheer electricity from their stringed axes, all spiced up by Stephanie’s thrilling vocals. Put differently, simply bang your head nonstop together with those talented rockers, just the way we love it in first-class Rock N’ Roll. Kenny and Mike keep hammering their guitars in great fashion in For the Weakened, bringing elements of Southern Rock and hints of Doom Metal to their already crushing musicality while Stephanie ventures through more aggressive lands with her piercing vocal lines. Then drinking from the more metallic fountain of NWOBHM, but still loyal to their Hard Rock foundations, Stephanie and the boys kick some serious ass once again with Daggers, a born-to-be-a-hit extravaganza where Kenny and Mike are on fire with their riffs, and there’s no sign of the band slowing down as they keep putting the pedal to the metal in the also headbanging Turning to Ashes, with its thrilling rhythm being dictated by Tom’s old school beats while the rest of the band fills out every single space in the air with the magic of Rock N’ Roll.

If you want to increase the amount of adrenaline in your life you can listen to such fun and vibrant EP in its entirety on YouTube, on Spotify and on Pandora, and of course purchase it directly from the band’s own webstore, as well as from Apple Music and Amazon. Also, don’t forget to follow Stephanie and the boys on Facebook and on Instragram, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel, to let their electrifying rock music penetrate deep inside your minds and your hearts each and every day where our good old Rock N’ Roll is required to lighten up our humor and make our lives a little better. After three awesome EP’s in just one year, Hearts & Hand Grenades are more than ready to focus their energy and passion for rock music in the creation of their first full-length opus, and as long as they keep loyal to their foundations, which means as long as they keep delivering more of the vibrant and fresh music found in Adrenaline, we can rest assured classic Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll will never die.

Best moments of the album: Adrenaline and Daggers.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Adrenaline 5:29
2. For the Weakened 4:05
3. Daggers 3:31
4. Turning to Ashes 4:17

Band members
Stephanie Wlosinski – vocals, bass
Kenny Blesy – lead guitars
Mike Bress – guitars, keyboards
Tom Lafferty – drums

Album Review – Scent Of Darkness / Insanitude EP (2020)

Touching themes like depression, psychosis and solitude, the debut album by this promising Italian project will take you on a one-way journey to the desolate lands of doom.

Formed in 2018 in Brescia, a city in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, Funeral Doom project Scent Of Darkness was born from the artistic expression of the band’s mastermind and guitarist Gianluca Moreo, known from his work with Vereor Nox, aiming at delivering lugubrious and unsettling doom tailored for fans of bands like Saturnus, Novembers Doom and Ahab. Now in 2020, after partnering with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Lorenzo Telve (from Canticum Diaboli), Gianluca and his Scent Of Darkness are unleashing upon us the project’s debut EP entitled Insanitude, a concept album which speaks of psychological and social experiences lived in first person by Gianluca himself, touching themes like depression, psychosis, abandonment, mistrust, delirium, solitude and hope. And let me tell you that the final result, consisting of four Depressive Funeral Doom Metal songs with painful, desolated and sick traits, will certainly leave you completely disoriented after the album’s 30 macabre and sluggish minutes are over.

The somber acoustic guitars by Gianluca kick off the first track of the EP, the grim Reborn, being gradually accompanied by Lorenzo’s slow and steady beats and an enfolding atmosphere, with Lorenzo growling deeply and demonically and, consequently, resulting in a black mass of Funeral Doom for admirers of the genre. Then featuring lyrics by Alex Gothnesia and guest vocals by Gray Ravenmoon (Hateful Desolation), Trust Issues sounds even heavier and more caustic than the opening tune, with Gianluca and Lorenzo generating a menacing ambience with their Stygian riffs, bass jabs and drums, and with the raspy and hellish roars by Gray bringing an extra dosage of malignancy to their already visceral Doom Metal, followed by Crowded Solitude, another brutal, smashing Doom Metal extravaganza led by the funereal drums by Lorenzo while Gianluca keeps extracting sheer obscurity from his razor-edge riffs, sounding perfect for savoring each second in pitch black darkness. And last but not least, anguished spoken words will penetrate deep inside your psyche in the 10-minute aria entitled Whispers From Nowhere, where the band’s infernal duo continues to pave a sinister and dark path with their rumbling music, also presenting cryptic passages, eerie narrations, endless solitude and savage madness, all embraced by the gruesome gnarls by Lorenzo while the music flows like a dark river from hell until the song’s grandiose finale.

This 30-minute ode to all things doom can be better appreciated in full on YouTube, but of course I highly recommend you purchase a copy of the album from the Masked Dead Records’ BandCamp page or from Discogs to show your support to such up-and-coming Italian project, keeping the flames of doom burning in the depths of the underworld of heavy music. Also, you can get to know more about Scent Of Darkness by following the project on Facebook and by subscribing to its YouTube channel, darkening your heart and your thoughts even more as you join Gianluca in his one-way journey to hopelessness and desolation. If this high-end and very detailed EP is just the first release by Scent Of Darkness, I wonder where the project can go in the Doom Metal universe, leaving all fans of the slow, visceral and somber side of doom eager for more of his unrelenting creations in a not-so-distant future.

Best moments of the album: Trust Issues and Whispers From Nowhere.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Masked Dead Records

Track listing
1. Reborn 5:45
2. Trust Issues 7:41
3. Crowded Solitude 6:26
4. Whispers From Nowhere 10:04

Band members
Gianluca Moreo – guitars
Lorenzo Telve – vocals, bass, drums

Guest musician
Gray Ravenmoon – vocals on “Trust Issues”

Album Review – Jessica Wolff / para dice (2020)

An unstoppable Finnish singer and her loyal “Wolffpack” will rock your world with their electrifying new album of modern-day Hard Rock.

The stunning Helsinki, Finland-based Hard Rock vocalist Jessica Wolff is a very busy young Finnish artist who’s not only committed to music, but she is also into acting, practicing kung fu and doing stunt work. However, behind the actions of this adrenaline junkie, you’ll find a warm-hearted girl with a striking personality, which is beautifully reflected in the music, in the catchy melodies and in the thought-provoking lyrics of her brand new album titled para dice, the follow-up to her 2013 album Renegade and her 2017 release Grounded, being highly recommended for fans of Pink Floyd, Joan Jett and Morcheeba, among others. Produced by Jonas Olsson, para dice, which title refers to going against the stream and daring to take risks in life if you want to achieve your goals, will offer your avid ears a direct and entertaining fusion of Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll, showcasing all the talent by Jessica and her “Wolffpack” formed by guitarists Ari Manninen and Sebastian Lindqvist, bassist Taneli Tulkki and drummer Jarno Vanhanen.

Ari and Sebastian begin slashing their strings in great fashion in the opening track Ella’s Song, providing Jessica exactly what she needs to shine on vocals in a thrilling hybrid of modern-day Hard Rock with classic Rock N’ Roll. Not only that, this song is particularly special for Jessica and a little girl named Ella. “A couple of years ago I saw a post from the charity organization called Brother Christmas. It was about a girl who had been so school bullied she didn’t dare to go outside the house.  I contacted her mother and offered to come and hang out with Ella, talk, take walks or work out. I started to meet Ella who opened about her story. Ella is a true fighter with the heart of an angel. Her story really touched me and I asked if we could write a song about it,” said Jessica about the inspiration for such amazing tune. And keeping the adrenaline level truly high the band fires another dancing tune titled Perfect Kind Of Wrong, with Jarno dictating the rhythm with his classic beats while Jessica continues to embellish the airwaves with her piercing vocals, followed by All The Tight Things, a radio-friendly composition where Tanelli and his bass punches together with Jarno’s beats build a solid base for Jessica’s crisp vocals, while the band’s guitar duo delivers strident rockin’ riffs nonstop.

Then it’s time for a Blues-ish ballad by Jessica and the boys entitled The Sunny Side Of The Bay, with its delicate ambience being effectively boosted by Jarno’s minimalist beats, inviting us all to simply relax and enjoy the serene sounds and introspective lyrics of such enfolding song. In Kill Switch the unstoppable Jessica and her henchmen continue to venture through the gentle and passionate lands of rock ballads, but this time increasing their punch and electricity significantly and presenting a solid job done by both Ari and Sebastian with their riffs and solos, whereas in Fight Forever they blend contemporary Rock N’ Roll the likes of Paramore with the groove and heaviness of Hard Rock, also bringing forward another awesome vocal performance by Jessica supported by her loyal bandmates. Needless to say, this is a great option for hitting the road with your loved ones during the hot and fun days of summer.

The awesome Superhero offers us all a high dosage of acid lyrics with Jessica’s own feminine touch (“You say you need nobody / Here we go again why do you pretend / I see the pain inside you / You ain ́t fooling me, you ́re not a mystery / Yeah, come and look at mister cool, hey / Mister all the time, mister blow my mind, yeah / Come and look at mister fool, hey / I get so tired of your shit”) while at the same time presenting the heaviest riffs of the whole album, endless stamina and pounding beats, which together turn it into the best song of para dice hands down. Adding hints of Southern Rock to their Rock N’ Roll core essence, the band brings forth Demons, a headbanging tune where all guitar riffs and heavy beats create an interesting paradox with Jessica’s delicate but powerful vocals, while Take Me Away is another heavy ballad that keeps the momentum going with Jessica’s pensive vocal performance bringing a touch of finesse to the overall result while Taneli keeps hammering his bass, generating a welcome rumbling background sound. Lastly, closing the album we’re treated to the Rock N’ Roll extravaganza titled Strangers, offering the listener classic heavy riffs intertwined with lighter and more melodious moments and, therefore, putting a very pleasant and embracing ending to para dice.

If you’re more than curious to take a full and detailed listen at para dice, you can stream the album in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, but of course if you want to show your utmost support to such talented vocalist from the land of ice and snow you can purchase your desired version of the album by clicking HERE, as well as follow her on Facebook and on Instagram, and subscribe to her official YouTube channel. Jessica is definitely poised to become one of the biggest contemporary female singers of her homeland, following the steps of renowned vocalists such as Tarja Turunen (Nightwish, Tarja) and Suvi Hiltunen (Afire), with para dice representing a fantastic step in her career and the perfect path for her to follow in order to keep on rocking our world and our hearts with her classy and electrifying music.

Best moments of the album: Ella’s Song, Fight Forever and Superhero.

Worst moments of the album: All The Tight Things.

Released in 2020 Metalapolis Records

Track listing
1. Ella’s Song 3:14
2. Perfect Kind Of Wrong 3:45
3. All The Right Things 3:19
4. The Sunny Side Of The Bay 3:28
5. Kill Switch 3:44
6. Fight Forever 3:33
7. Superhero 4:09
8. Demons 3:23
9. Take Me Away 3:42
10. Strangers 3:08

Band members
Jessica Wolff – vocals
Ari Manninen – guitar
Sebastian Lindqvist – guitar
Taneli Tulkki – bass
Jarno Vanhanen – drums

Album Review – Paradise Lost / Obsidian (2020)

The overlords of doom return with another majestic album, exploring the unknown and opening new horizons with their awe-inspiring music.

Still reigning supreme as the overlords of doom after over three decades on the road, Halifax, England-based Doom Metal act Paradise Lost never gets tired of stunning us all with their refined hybrid of old school Doom and Death Metal with 80’s and contemporary Gothic Metal and Rock, proving why they’ve maintained their relevance in the world of heavy music without disappointing their loyal fans not even once in their vast career. Now in 2020 it’s time for frontman Nick Holmes, guitarists Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy, bassist Steve Edmondson and drummer Waltteri Väyrynen to darken the skies once again with Obsidian, their sixteenth studio album and the follow-up to their latest releases Medusa, from 2017, and The Plague Within, released in 2015. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Orgone Studios, with additional recordings done at Black Planet, and featuring a cryptic artwork by British artist Adrian Baxter, Obsidian might not be considered a classic yet like Gothic, Icon or Draconian Times, but I’m sure the album will reach its deserved cult status soon based on the amazing quality of the music found throughout its 47 astonishing minutes (plus the extra 10 minutes from the deluxe edition).

The gorgeous guest violin by Spanish musician Alicia Nurho adds a touch of finesse to the opening track Darker Thoughts, led by the always enfolding, deep vocals by Nick, sounding utterly grandiose, epic and doomed, and with Waltteri displaying all his refined skills behind his drum set. Then in Fall from Grace the band keeps slamming our heads mercilessly with their crushing riffage and damned beats, all led by Nick’s obscure roars while Steve makes the earth rumble with his bass (not to mention Greg’s hypnotizing solo), whereas Steve kicks off the 80’s-inspired dark tune titled Ghosts, enhanced by a brilliant performance by Nick with his Stygian vocals while his bandmates bring endless groove and electricity to the song from start to finish. And bringing forward contemplative lyrics that reek of modern-day poetry (“I’m tired of dreams, I’m tired of almost everything / Dreams deceive and living never lasts. / Too tired to sleep, denial of grief awakes my sins / Too weak to breathe, from living in deaths hands”), The Devil Embraced is another lesson in Gothic and Doom Metal spearheaded by Waltteri’s classic drums and the strident riffs by both Greg and Aaron.

Ominous sounds embellish the ambience in the also somber and heavy-as-hell Forsaken, where Nick is once again flawless on vocals supported by the slashing guitars by Greg and Aaron, while Steve and Waltteri sound absolutely thunderous with their respective instruments. After such dense tune, it’s time to bang our heads in darkness to the sound of Serenity, a hammering fusion of Doom and Death Metal tailored for admirers of the genre, also presenting some welcome breaks and variations, tons of progressiveness and the always macabre roars by Nick, followed by Ending Days, where Alicia returns with her gentle violin while the band gets back to a more serene and melancholic vibe, showcasing all their versatility and talent. Furthermore, the impact of the guitars and drums combined to the overall result is majestic, which can also be said about Hope Dies Young, featuring backing vocals by American singer Heather Mackintosh (Tapping the Vein), a very pleasant and enfolding sonority, and another round of their unique and stylish lyrics (“How could you know? / As pure as driven snow / Through a winter of descent / The splintered argument / Such a withering lament / Hopes will die young / Hopes will die young now”). The last song of the regular version of Obsidian, titled Ravenghast, brings to our ears a classic Paradise Lost sound, reminding me of some of their old school compositions from Draconian Times, with the level of heaviness and melancholy being beautifully insane while Waltteri blasts his drums in the best Doom Metal way possible and Nick fires his deep, demonic growls. If you decide to purchase the deluxe edition of Obsidian you’ll face the bonus tracks Hear the Night and Defiler, both very solid and classy Doom Metal compositions presenting all the elements we learned to love form the band’s distinguished music, making it totally worth the investment.

I guess I don’t need to ask you to take a good listen at Obsidian in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, especially if you’re a diehard fan of the band, and of course don’t forget to keep the fires of doom burning by purchasing your copy of the album by clicking HERE, and to follow Paradise Lost on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. If you search for the meaning of “obsidian” online, you’ll find out it’s a volcanic glass that’s supposed to be truth-enhancing, a strongly protective stone which forms a shield against negativity, blocking psychic attack and absorbing negative energies from the environment. Obsidian draws out mental stress and tension, stimulating growth on all levels, urging exploration of the unknown and opening new horizons. There couldn’t be a better representation of the new album by Paradise Lost, as their brand new opus is indeed a work-of-art perfect for heightening our senses and opening our minds and hearts for the glory of doom.

Best moments of the album: Darker Thoughts, Ghosts, Serenity and Ravenghast.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Darker Thoughts 5:46
2. Fall from Grace 5:42
3. Ghosts 4:35
4. The Devil Embraced 6:08
5. Forsaken 4:30
6. Serenity 4:46
7. Ending Days 4:36
8. Hope Dies Young 4:02
9. Ravenghast 5:30

Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
10. Hear the Night 5:34
11. Defiler 4:45

Band members
Nick Holmes – vocals
Greg Mackintosh – lead & rhythm guitar
Aaron Aedy – rhythm guitar
Steve Edmondson – bass
Waltteri Väyrynen – drums

Guest musicians
Alicia Nurho – violin on “Darker Thoughts” and “Ending Days”
Heather Mackintosh – backing vocals on “Hopes Die Young”

Album Review – Descend into Despair / Opium (2020)

It’s time to get lost in the musical and lyrical universe developed around a pervasive feeling of “weltschmertz” by this distinguished Romanian Funeral Doom act.

Founded in 2010 in Rădăuți, Suceava County, in Romania, but currently located in Cluj-Napoca, Cluj County, also in Romania, an idiosyncratic Doom Metal/Funeral Doom entity known as Descend into Despair has been gradually rising from that point into one of the most noteworthy bands in the local scene, fusing together Death, Black and Sludge Metal with Electronica and Dark Ambient elements to further refine what they like to call “Introspective Doom Metal”, pushing creative boundaries and taking pride in experimenting as much as they can. The band currently comprised of Xander Coza on vocals, analogue synthesizer and guitars, Florentin Popa on clean and choir vocals, lap steel guitars and field recordings, Dragoș C. and Cosmin Farcău on the guitars, Alex Costin on bass, Flaviu Roșca on keyboards and piano, and Luca Breaz on drums developed a musical and lyrical universe around a pervasive feeling of “weltschmertz”, a brooding and ever-looming feeling that physical reality can never fully satisfy the demands of the mind. Now in 2020 the band returns with their third full-length opus, simply titled Opium, offering fans of Funeral Doom almost one hour of cryptic and melancholic passages split into three unique compositions, all embraced by a stunning cover artwork conceptualized by Xander himself, featuring model Melinda Nagy, painting by István Bába and bodypaint by Brigitta Adorjan. “Opium’s conceptual driving force is, we believe, fully grasped within this image, blurring the lines between painting and photography. Twisting classical beauty into modern obsession, weaving harmony of proportion into the disharmony of meaning that soaks through the fabric of existence, our Venus rises forth from horror and remembrance, drained by her rebirth, as murky as the sea that bore her,” commented the band about the connection between the concept of the art and the musical content of their newborn opus.

Featuring guest female vocals by Tara Vanflower, an atmospheric and peaceful start slowly and gradually evolves into a lugubrious feast of doom in ensh[r]ine, with the band’s guitarists Dragos and Cosmin meticulously smashing their stringed axes while Luca brings the thunder with his potent beats. Furthermore, Xander sounds like a beast from the pits of hell with his deep guttural gnarls, with the crisp and crystalline background keys and synths by Flaviu adding a touch of finesse to their mournful musicality. In other words, it’s truly impressive how they fill every single space in the air with tons of heaviness but sounding melodic and ethereal at the same time, ending such massive composition in a beyond enfolding way. Then sinister, atmospheric sounds and tones permeate the air in the also extensive, multi-layered and utterly doomed antumbra, where Xander’s gruesome roars get even more introspective and grim accompanied by the sluggish and melancholic beats by Luca, while the raw sounds of the guitars generate a beautiful paradox with all background keys and synths, also presenting several breaks and variations throughout its 17 lugubrious minutes, and once again bringing an orchestral, cinematic vibe until the very end. Lastly, an array of guests doing choir vocals and spoken pieces are one of the main ingredients in the pensive and obscure closing tune dis[re]member, where the delicate piano notes by Flaviu and the slow and steady beats by Luca walk hand in hand in a hypnotizing Doom Metal voyage. It’s by far the most intricate and the darkest of all three songs, with Dragos, Cosmin and Alex bringing an otherworldly vibe to the music with their sonic weapons, not to mention the breathtaking final act showcasing grim spoken words, crisp guitars and infernal roars amidst a perturbing sense of hopelessness.

In summary, if you can’t live without your daily dosage of Funeral Doom, then this excellent album made in Romania is exactly what you need to fulfill your darkest needs. Hence, don’t forget to show your true support to the guys from Descend into Despair by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, and above all that, by purchasing Opium (which is also available in full on YouTube and on Spotify) from Funere’s Bandcamp page, or go to DistroKid for all options where you can buy or stream the album. Mixed by Indee Rehal Sagoo in London, UK, and mastered by Greg Chandler at Priory Recording Studios in Birmingham, UK, Opium will certainly please all admirers of the most introspective and funereal side of Doom Metal, leaving a scathing mark in the hearts of those who dare to venture through the album’s 59 minutes of sheer obscurity, solitude and sorrow.

Best moments of the album: dis[re]member.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Funere

Track listing
1. ensh[r]ine 22:27
2. antumbra 17:08
3. dis[re]member 19:54

Band members
Xander Coza – vocals, analogue synthesizer, guitars
Florentin Popa – clean and choir vocals, lap steel guitars, field recordings
Dragoș C. – guitars
Cosmin Farcău – guitars
Alex Costin – bass
Flaviu Roșca – keyboards, piano
Luca Breaz – drums, choir vocals on “dis[re]member”

Guest musicians
Tara Vanflower  – female vocals on “ensh[r]ine”
Irina Movileanu & Eva Breaz – choir vocals on “dis[re]member”
Bogdan Neciu & Răzvan Târnovan – spoken words on “dis[re]member”