The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2016

“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” – David Bowie

The unexpected death of the most badass musician in history, Motörhead’s heart and soul Lemmy Kilmister, on December 28, 2015 was a harbinger of all the bad, shocking and revolting things that would turn the year of 2016 a true nightmare for mankind. That dark prophecy was confirmed less than two weeks later, more specifically on January 10 when we lost another true star in rock music to cancer, the unparalleled chameleon David Bowie, just two days after the release of his final masterpiece Blackstar. If that was not enough to make 2016 a miserable year, we also had to endure the passing of other icons who, despite not being metal, have always inspired countless bands and artists in heavy music. We lost Prince, Leonard Cohen and Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), to name a few, all irreplaceable losses to music in general. In addition, important names in the history of Heavy Metal also left us in 2016, such as Nick Menza (Megadeth) and Jimmy Bain (Rainbow, Dio), not to mention the disbandment of amazing groups like Eths (who are by the way part of our top 10 this year), Crucified Barbara and Bolt Thrower. And I’m not even going to talk about all other types of disasters and tragedies that happened all over the world, as the list is too macabre and grievous to be remembered in full.

Fortunately, 2016 was considerably generous for us headbangers in terms of the quantity and quality of albums released throughout the entire year, especially for diehard fans of old school Thrash Metal. Except for Slayer and Exodus, all other prominent names in Thrash Metal blasted the world with their high-speed, thrilling music, led by another superb album by Testament. Even Metallica released a decent album this year, just to give you an idea of how fruitful 2016 was for this rebellious type of music. Having said that, it’s time for The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2016, excluding EP’s, best of’s and live albums. And even if 2017 is as hideous as 2016, let’s never forget the wise words by Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan. Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!

testament_brotherhood-of-the-snake1. Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake (REVIEW)
Join the Brotherhood of Thrash Metal spearheaded by one of the heaviest, most technical and most electrifying bands on the entire planet.
Best song of the album: The Number Game

cover2. Charred Walls Of The Damned – Creatures Watching Over the Dead (REVIEW)
A magnificent lecture in Heavy Metal by four electrified beasts.
Best song of the album: As I Catch My Breath

Cover3. Eths – Ankaa (REVIEW)
One of the most prominent and innovative French bands of all time returns with a true masterpiece of complexity, darkness and heaviness.
Best song of the album: Nefas

cover4. Primal Fear – Rulebreaker (REVIEW)
Who said rules must be broken for a metallic eagle to spread its wings and soar high in the skies of heavy music?
Best song of the album: Rulebreaker

megadeth_dystopia5. Megadeth – Dystopia (REVIEW)
And the dystopian world portrayed in the brand new album by the iconic Dave Mustaine and his Thrash Metal army is beyond awesome.
Best song of the album: Lying In State

abbathsoloface_6386. Abbath – Abbath (REVIEW)
The one and only Abbath takes a new step in his career with a brand new band an album.
Best song of the album: Fenrir Hunts

death angel_the evil divide7. Death Angel – The Evil Divide (REVIEW)
Fast and furious anthems, dark mid-tempo songs, austere lyrics and endless stamina. This is how Thrash Metal should always be done.
Best song of the album: Hell To Pay

anthrax_for all kings8. Anthrax – For All Kings (REVIEW)
A classy and electrifying Thrash Metal album especially crafted for all of us, the real kings of heavy music.
Best song of the album: Breathing Lightning

front9. Axel Rudi Pell – Game of Sins (REVIEW)
You might be a sinner, but don’t be a fool and go relish another magnificent album by Mr. Axel Rudi Pell and his loyal henchmen.
Best song of the album: Falling Star

nervosa-agony-201610. Nervosa – Agony (REVIEW)
Brazil’s meanest power trio returns with another marvelous blast of their kick-ass high-octane Thrash Metal.
Best song of the album: Theory of Conspiracy

And here we have the runner-ups, completing the top 20 for the year:

11. Blaze Bayley – Infinite Entanglement (REVIEW)
12. The Silent Rage – The Deadliest Scourge (REVIEW)
13. Neverworld – Dremasnatcher (REVIEW)
14. Ancesttral – Web Of Lies (REVIEW)
15. Front – Iron Overkill (REVIEW)
16. Dö – Tuho (REVIEW)
17. Be Under Arms – Doomed To Life (REVIEW)
18. SystemHouse33 – Regression (REVIEW)
19. Gojira – Magma (REVIEW)
20. False Coda – Secrets and Sins (REVIEW)

As in Heavy Metal the artwork is just as important as the music itself, like what always happens with bands such as Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Metallica, KISS and tons of other metallic titans, we decided to list the Top 10 Cover Artworks of 2016. There are several reasons for an album art to be considered outstanding, such as its strong connection with the music like Iron Maiden’s Powerslave, its visual impact (usually associated with its controversial content) like Slayer’s God Hates Us All, or its perfect minimalism and finesse like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. Do you agree with our list?

1. Anthrax – For All Kings [by Alex Ross]
2. Primeval Mass – To Empyrean Thrones [by Karmazid]
3. Witches Of Doom – Deadlights [by Carlo Muselli]
4. Ragehammer – The Hammer Doctrine [by Robert A. von Ritter]
5. Howls Of Ebb – Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows [by Agostino Arrivabene]
6. Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake [by Eliran Kantor]
7. Henriette B – Tales of Reality (EP) [by Pierre-Alain D.]
8. Skáphe – Skáphe² [by H.V. Lyngdal]
9. Diabolizer – Apokalypse (MCD) [by Robert A. von Ritter]
10. Hostis – Hostis [by Zvonimir Grabić & Milena Nićić]

Rest assured in 2017 we at The Headbanging Moose will keep providing you the best of the underworld of Death, Thrash, Black, Symphonic, Epic, Power Metal and all other genres and subgenres of heavy music, as well as our view of the biggest names worldwide. There are already brand new albums confirmed for 2017 by Kreator, Sepultura, Grave Digger, Battle Beast and more, which means at least musically the new year promises to be really good. Thank you very much for your precious time, and keep on rockin’! Au revoir!

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2017!

Well, before we go, here’s a special gift from Iron Maiden to all metalheads all over the world… A nice festive yule log fireplace to keep our hearts warm during the entire season!

Advertisements

Album Review – +MROME+ / Noetic Collision on the Roof of Hell (2016)

If you’re eagerly looking for truly independent music in the world of Heavy Metal, this idiosyncratic Polish project will satisfy your craving with their fresh and unorthodox experimentations.

Rating5

mrome_ncotrohThe last review of the year is the epitome of independent metal, something we at The Headbanging Moose truly love to support, being absolutely raw, anti-mainstream, not interested in promoting band members and not interested in touring at all. Founded in the now far, far away year of 1995 by a group of teenage friends in the city of Andrychów, located in Southern Poland,  Death/Black Metal project +MROME+ was reborn in 2009 after almost a decade of silence, finally releasing as a duo now in 2016 the idiosyncratic album Noetic Collision on the Roof of Hell.

+MROME+ produce their music in their own primitive studio in complete isolation from the local scene, with their only principle being that every new recording is a new start for the band, a new stage, keeping things as different and interesting as possible, and they do that by not labeling their music nor sticking to a predetermined formula. If you take a listen at their collection of demos from 1997 to 1999 baptized as The Basement Sophisma, you’ll see how versatile +MROME+ are, ranging from devilish extreme music to unique cover version for non-metal classics such as Faith No More’s “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies”, and in Noetic Collision on the Roof of Hell the band continues with their heavy experimentations, always pushing their creative boundaries further and further.

When the opening track Colors begins, you’ll be facing a crossover of Death, Sludge and Progressive Metal, with its bass lines rumbling in your face, while Key V transpires aggressiveness through his harsh vocals and P provides the right amount of heaviness and intricacy behind his drums. Then +MROME+ turn up the heat and blast a dark and vile Death Metal composition titled Crush the Moon, sounding amazingly underground and powerful. It has an old school punch thanks to its catchy chorus and melodious, angry guitars, being in my opinion one of the best songs of the whole album. And in Migration Cult we have a great fusion of Death Metal and Rock N’ Roll, with its flammable Thrash Metal riffs complementing Key V’s deranged representation of the song’s wicked lyrics (“Marching far south from Eden / There is still something what push us on / Missing primal fixations / Will we abandon the code / The Holy Fuck”).

How the Gods Kill is an awesome tribute to one of the most eccentric musicians of all time, the one and only Danzig, keeping up with the obscurity of the original version with the low-tuned and menacing sound of bass guitar paving the path for an explosion of evil Heavy Metal. Following that superb cover song, Trust brings forward more of the band’s uproarious Death Metal with Key V and P delivering straightforward heavy music to our ears in a compelling way, whereas Generation Anthem is heavy and distorted music from the pits of Hell. Furthermore, the duo seems to love those menacing mid-tempo songs, firing blazing riffs and fierce beats nonstop. But just when you think the band is going to stick to some sort of formula they fire Piss & Laugh, showcasing a somber rhythm inspired by Dark Metal with the Blackened Doom guitars and the deep gnarls by Key V enhancing its damned atmosphere. At this point of the album, you’ll realize that calling +MROME+ just as Death or Black Metal is an understatement of their musical range and capabilities.

mromeOnce again bursting poetry and madness through the lyrics (“Monstrous iron worms / Feeding on fire / And flash / Choke the ground / March against the dawn / East from nest of crow / Days of hunger / Lions hunt”), Locust Follows Word presents a berserk intro followed by more thunderous bass lines and a grumpy attitude, with all additional elements in the background helping in strengthening the musicality considerably. The second to last blast of underground metal by this interesting project, titled Magister Figurae Morte, will kick you in the face with its pounding drums and energetic riffs in this solid display of ruthless metal from darkness, before The Arsonist closes the album majestically, with Key V impersonating the arsonist himself by setting fire to the musicality with his growls and riffs. In addition, P accelerates his beats to a traditional Black Metal style, generating a high-end feast of hellish music with a climatic ending.

+MROME+ do not have a Facebook page, a Twitter account or any other type of social media. As previously mentioned, it’s all about their music and the concept behind it, which means all things +MROME+ are summarized to their BandCamp page in the form of heavy music, with Noetic Collision on the Roof of Hell being their newest sonic experiment, but not their ultimate one at all. Fans of truly underground metal will hear more about +MROME+ in a not-so-distant future for sure, as they’re already recording Roi-de-Rats, their next full-length opus. Well, I’m already eager to see what Key V, P and the band’s original bassist (who has just rejoined the project after all these years) will offer from their arsenal of extreme and primeval music.

Best moments of the album: Crush the Moon, How the Gods Kill and The Arsonist.

Worst moments of the album: Generation Anthem.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Colors 4:03
2. Crush the Moon 4:33
3. Migration Cult 3:31
4. How the Gods Kill (Danzig cover) 5:46
5. Trust 4:09
6. Generation Anthem 3:45
7. Piss & Laugh 4:24
8. Locust Follows Word 3:48
9. Magister Figurae Morte 4:32
10. The Arsonist 6:18

Band members
Key V – vocals, guitars
P – drums

Album Review – Dommin / Beautiful Crutch (2016)

Not only another step forward in the musical growth of this passionate Alternative Rock band from the United States, but also a highly recommended album for admirers of dark, lovesick music.

Rating4

dommin-beautiful-crutch-artworkTouching hearts and minds by making music that matters since their inception in Los Angeles, California in 1999, American Alternative/Gothic Rock quartet Dommin are releasing today their brand new full-length album Beautiful Crutch, following the great success achieved with their previous releases, the pain-ridden Love Is Gone (2010) and especially the darker Rise (2015). Overflowing romance, lust and hope, Beautiful Crutch is highly recommended for fans of the dark, lovesick music by renowned acts such as Type O Negative, Depeche Mode, Danzig, The Cure and HIM, among others, as well as the heavier Rock N’ Roll played by Volbeat and Bullet For My Valentine.

“Beautiful Crutch is another step forward in the band’s musical growth. While this is an expansion of the band’s soundscape, some of the moods will be familiar to those that fell in love with our first album”, stated the band’s enigmatic frontman and guitarist Kristofer Dommin. In Beautiful Crutch, Kristofer and his bandmates Billy James on bass, Konstantine on keyboards and Cameron Morris on drums deliver 11 beautiful, classy compositions blending elements from all the aforementioned bands with their own twist and personal experiences, making this a very personal and special album for them, and consequently a great addition to the collection of lovers of heartwarming rock music.

Dommin are ready to melt the hearts of the ladies with their Blues-ish Alternative Rock in Desire, a fiery declaration of love from Kristofer to a very special woman in his life (“I hunger and thirst / Naturally cursed / Never satisfied / Until the day I die / It’s you I desire / Whether it’s lose or win / It’s you I desire / And I can’t help but give in / It’s you I desire”), with drummer Cameron Morris keeping the passion flowing in the music through his slow and steady Goth beats. Show Me is an upbeat Rock N’ Roll tune with hints of Rockabilly, reminding me of some songs by Volbeat, where Kristofer and Billy do a great job with their respective guitar and bass, in special during the song’s kick-ass guitar solo; whereas The Scene is a radio-friendly rock song with the keyboards by Konstantine adding melancholy to the sonority. Furthermore, Kristofer might have a soft voice compared to almost all singers reviewed here at The Headbanging Moose, but he truly knows how to exhale strong emotions with his passionate performance.

Highly inspired by the pleasant sounding crafted by The Smiths, the soft rock chant This World blends an 80’s atmosphere with modern rock elements, showcasing a precise connection between the heavy bass sounds by Billy and the rhythmic drumming by Cameron. The next song, the title-track Beautiful Crutch, is a feast of opposite emotions, alternating between calm and introspective passages and electrified peaks, with the guitar lines by Kristofer leading all those beautiful changes; followed by I Die, where smooth piano notes and the mellow voice by Kristofer make this serene and pensive ballad an amazing listen to anyone. In addition , elements from Gothic Rock from the 80’s and its dark ambience set the perfect stage for another soulful guitar solo by Mr. Dommin. And in Vulnerable, another ballad offered by the  quartet to the Rock N’ Roll ladies all over the world, albeit there’s a strong focus on vocals and lyrics, all instruments end up bringing their share of passion to the overall result.

domminThen Dommin deliver what can be called alternative rockin’ Waltz in the excellent The Flame, with the Volbeat-like vocals by Kristofer and the enchanting keyboards by Konstantine being the song’s main ingredients. In my humble opinion, this is by far the song with the highest amount of creativity in the album, with its rhythm getting more and more addictive the more you listen to it. Madly sounds like a fusion of Smiths, Danzig and Depeche Mode (which could only result in music excellence), with its guitar solos being exactly what the song needed to be even more gripping. To be fair, why songs like this one are not getting played nonstop at rock stations everywhere is beyond my knowledge. Anyway, The Saddest Dream is a somber and modern creation by Kristofer and his crew where Billy and Konstantine generate a fantastic ambience with their instruments, flowing to a very alternative and peculiar form in the end. And lastly, the band offers us Van Halen-like keyboards and a strong feeling of hope in Outer Space, where Alternative Rock and Blues are nicely combined by all instruments. Cameron and Billy once again provide Kristofer all the support he needs for another emotional vocal performance, a constant throughout the entire album.

You can get a sneak peek of each song in Beautiful Crutch by clicking HERE, but of course I suggest you go grab your copy of the album at different online stores such as iTunes and Amazon. I’m sure that, after Beautiful Crutch, the realm of meaningful and passionate music created by Dommin will only get stronger, giving even more stamina and inspiration for the band to keep writing all those love rockin’ songs, keeping the hearts of their fans warm even during the coldest nights of winter.

Best moments of the album: Desire, This World, The Flame and Madly.

Worst moments of the album: Vulnerable.

Released in 2016 DNRecords

Track listing
1. Desire 3:32
2. Show Me 3:31
3. The Scene 4:14
4. This World 3:47
5. Beautiful Crutch 4:07
6. I Die 5:25
7. Vulnerable 3:36
8. The Flame 3:55
9. Madly 3:25
10. The Saddest Dream 6:36
11. Outer Space 5:23

Band members
Kristofer Dommin – vocals, guitars
Billy James – bass
Konstantine – keyboards
Cameron Morris – drums

Album Review – Rage / The Devil Strikes Again (2016)

One of the biggest exponents of the German Power Metal scene strikes again with more of their enraged and metallic music.

Rating4

rage_the-devil-strikes-againFormed in 1984 by the iconic Peter “Peavy” Wagner, German Power Metal institution Rage are not even close to call it quits after over 30 years alive and kicking based on the energy flowing from their brand new album, titled The Devil Strikes Again, the 22nd studio installment in their monstrous career and another excellent sample of how exciting German Metal has always been despite all the changes in the world of music we’ve been witnessing. It might not be the best album of their career, but it still has that amazing vibe and punch that elevated Rage to the status of Power Metal icons in their homeland Germany as well as worldwide alongside bands such as Grave Digger, Running Wild and Blind Guardian.

The artwork by German artist Karim König is already a good indication of what you’ll find in The Devil Strikes Again: raw, honest and furious Rage-style Power Metal, with no shenanigans or any other “artificial ingredients”. In addition, although this is the first album to feature the power trio formed by Peavy on bass and vocals, Venezuelan musician Marcos Rodríguez on guitars (who by the way met Peavy on Rage’s 30th anniversary tour, when his own band Soundchaser were the support band for part of the tour) and Greek sledgehammer Vassilios “Lucky” Maniatopoulos on drums , that doesn’t mean their instruments are disconnected at all. Quite the contrary, spearheaded by Peavy, The Devil Strikes Again gives the sensation they’ve been together for decades due to its cohesiveness and overall quality.

Kicking off this heavy album we have the title-track The Devil Strikes Again,  an enraged storm of Power Metal made in Germany, fast and berserk just the way we love, where Lucky starts blasting his drums before Peavy comes firing his unmistakable raspy screams. Well, with that devilish name I couldn’t expect anything less badass than this. My Way is another classic Rage tune with the grim guitar riffs by Marcos giving a touch of modernity to it, boosted by its addictive chorus flawlessly sung by Peavy, who also rumbles his bass like no one else; whereas Back on Track sounds taken from an old Rage album, being recommended for admirers of  old school German Power Metal due to its very traditional fast-paced rhythm, not to mention its melodic vocal lines that prove Peavy is just getting better with age.

The Final Curtain is slightly generic compared to the previous tracks but still a good listen, with the metallic guitar sound by Marcos (including his nice solos) being the main ingredient of the song, followed by War, one of the most thrilling of all songs of the album. Overflowing Heavy Metal and adrenaline, this sensational tune presents a brutal intro followed by a sinister break, with Peavy grasping the song’s acid lyrics powerfully (“In the eyes of the big global players everything’s alright, / It’s their god-given right to abuse us, / So thank you and good night. / In the world’s biggest money machine / They’re delivering the fuel. / Let there be some collateral damage, / That’s their pervert rule, / Yes, that’s their perfect rule.”).

rage-2016In Ocean Full of Tears we’re treated to a thunderous hymn for hitting the road that epitomizes the contemporary sonority by Rage, with Peavy and Marcos delivering sheer metal through their strings, in special the soulful solos by Marcos. They don’t lose a single second and continue their Power Metal extravaganza in Deaf, Dumb and Blind, which follows a similar structure as the previous tune (meaning more high-end metal for us fans). Besides, if you’re a guitar player no matter your style, you’ll simply love the job done by Marcos on this song. And living up to the legacy of the sharper and more visceral German Metal created by Rage and their countrymen Grave Digger and Running Wild, Spirits of the Night brings forward cutting riffs and an old school chorus, with Peavy’s vocals being effectively supported by the song’s potent backing vocals.

The obscure Times of Darkness offers the listener tons of heaviness, but it gets a bit repetitive as time goes by, falling flat after a while even with the potent Doom Metal beats provided by Lucky. On the other hand, the almost 6-minute song The Dark Side of the Sun is by far the most progressive and complex of all tracks, with its blackened lyrics (“In my nightmares, when I die, / I just see my long forgotten, breaking eyes. / I’m afraid I lived a lie, / My life’s challenges, I never did reply. / All so many doors I haven’t tried, / All those wasted chances, ’cause I was afraid. / All the people that I never reached a hand, / ‘Til it was too late, I’m on my final stand.”) matching perfectly with the aggressive musicality crafted by Peavy and his crew. And in case you purchase the Digibook Edition of the album, you’ll get an awesome bonus CD containing three brand new B-sides and three fantastic covers for classics by Skid Row, Rush and Y&T, with Slave to the Grind being the most gripping of them. It might not be as perfect as their versions for “The Trooper” and “Jawbreaker”, but it’s truly electrifying, with Peavy’s vocals fitting the music perfectly.

In summary, the unstoppable Rage, one of the biggest exponents of the German Power Metal scene (although we can say that today they’re only one third German, right?), strike again with more of their infuriated metal for our total delight, pointing to a bright future with this new band lineup without a shadow of a doubt. You can enjoy The Devil Strikes Again even if you’re not a fan of traditional heavy music from Germany, which proves once again that bands like Rage and musicians like Peavy don’t just generate music, they go far beyond that threshold, breathing more adrenaline and power into our everyday lives. And that’s what real metal is all about.

Best moments of the album: The Devil Strikes Again, My Way, War and Slave to the Grind.

Worst moments of the album: The Final Curtain and Times of Darkness.

Released in 2016 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. The Devil Strikes Again 4:25
2. My Way 4:23
3. Back on Track 4:23
4. The Final Curtain 4:13
5. War 4:24
6. Ocean Full of Tears 4:04
7. Deaf, Dumb and Blind 4:18
8. Spirits of the Night 4:52
9. Times of Darkness 5:21
10. The Dark Side of the Sun 5:56

Digibook Edition bonus CD
11. Bring Me Down 5:01
12. Requiem 3:55
13. Into the Fire 5:25
14. Slave to the Grind (Skid Row cover) 3:24
15. Bravado (Rush cover) 4:36
16. Open Fire (Y&T cover) 4:38

Band members
Peter “Peavy” Wagner – vocals, bass
Marcos Rodríguez – guitars, additional vocals
Vassilios “Lucky” Maniatopoulos – drums, additional vocals

Album Review – Goatchrist / Discipline and Terror (The Timeless Praxes of the Drakon Covenant) EP (2016)

Offering an exciting amalgamation of styles and elements, one of the most gripping Blackened Death Metal projects from the UK is back with the next step in its prosperous career.

Rating5

goatchrist-discipline-and-terror-the-timeless-praxes-of-the-drakon-covenant-coverIt’s becoming a delightful routine at The Headbanging Moose to publish a detailed review of the idiosyncratic and whimsical creations by British Blackened Death Metal project Goatchrist at least once a year. With that said, as 2016 draws to its dramatic close, there’s nothing better than carrying on with this special tradition with another top-tier EP by this West Yorkshire-based act led by the young and restless Dominator Xul’Ahabra, this time vampirically entitled Discipline and Terror (The Timeless Praxes of the Drakon Covenant).

Featuring American musician Invoker (Defecrator, Gloriam Draconis) on vocal duties instead of Dominator himself, Discipline and Terror (The Timeless Praxes of the Drakon Covenant) is a robust continuation to the prosperous career of the talented Dominator, being different in many aspects from his previous releases, the 2014 full-length She Who Holds the Scrying Mirror and the 2015 EP The Epic Tragedy Of The Cult Of Enlil, by offering the listener new vibrant elements of extreme music spiced up with nuances of other non-metal genres. And despite all advancements and variations in the music found in the EP, it still has that Goatchrist trademark sounding that makes this project stand out in the independent scene.

Bursting violence and anger, Enter Morain presents elements from Black, Death and Thrash Metal united in an aggressive way, with Invoker firing some Hardcore rasp vocals while Dominator delivers his usual darkened riffs and beats, never slowing down and always sounding electrified. The sensational The Burning of Jerusalem follows a pattern closer to Goatchrist’s previous releases, with its guitar riffs and solos, as well as its rhythmic blast beats, bringing a lot progressiveness and epicness to the musicality, making Invoker’s work on vocals easier and more dynamic when growling the song’s insurgent lyrics (“Now burn, Jerusalem. / For your reign has been broken, / By the sword of Western might / Know that we, your enemy, / Gift this blaze to thee, / So ye may bathe beneath its radiant light.”). Moreover, the compelling experimentations of Dominator with all his eccentric sounds and instruments are always a breath of fresh air to his compositions, sounding as if there were three or four songs in one like what we can witness in this excellent tune.

goatchrist-discipline-and-terror-the-timeless-praxes-of-the-drakon-covenant-newlogoThen out of nowhere, Dominator simply surprises us with a gentle atmospheric (and almost symphonic) ballad named A Meditation in Dead Stillness, very introspective and melancholic from start to finish, not to mention its beautiful name, working as a cinematic intermission to all madness flowing from the following song, the elaborate The Shadow of Malintent. Invoker darkly declaims the song’s elegiac lyrics (“The darkness is coming / And I too there dwell: / Older than day or night, / With fury that none may quell. / Sever your causal ties. / And lift your head to meet / with my gaze; then in a daze / See your ego’s defeat.”) while the music brings forward a Blues-ish vibe with elements from classic Western scores, Doom Metal and Blackened Doom, never getting full Black Metal but still feeling as Stygian as the other songs. In addition, the precise sync between Dominator’s guitar solos and bass lines with Invoker’s growls help the duo tell the story proposed magnificently.

Dominator Xul’Ahabra and his Goatchrist, an amazing project that has been on an upward spiral in the Extreme Metal independent scene in the UK since its inception, can be contacted through their official Facebook page, and their brand new opus Discipline and Terror (The Timeless Praxes of the Drakon Covenant) is available at their BandCamp page, where you can also take a very good listen at and even buy all Goatchrist’s previous albums. In summary, Discipline and Terror (The Timeless Praxes of the Drakon Covenant) is another solid step in Dominator’s career, offering fans of extreme music an exciting amalgamation of styles and elements and, consequently, fortifying the name of Goatchrist and helping the project achieve new heights and spread darkness all over the world.

Best moments of the album: The Burning of Jerusalem.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Enter Morain 4:27
2. The Burning of Jerusalem 7:31
3. A Meditation in Dead Stillness 2:08
4. The Shadow of Malintent 8:43

Band members
Invoker – vocals
Dominator Xul’Ahabra – all instruments

Album Review – Memoriam / Ravaged Approach EP (2016)

Powerful and poetic heavy music directly from the ancient island of Aphrodite into your metallic ears, blending modern aspects of Melodic Death Metal along with an old school Death Metal atmosphere.

Rating5

ravaged-approach-coverThe Republic of Cyprus might not be known worldwide for its metal scene like Finland, Germany or Italy, with less than 60 active bands hailing from the ancient island of Aphrodite as per Encyclopaedia Metallum, but since 2012 there’s a band from the capital city of Nicosia that wants to change that image through their vigorous music. Playing a unique style that blends modern aspects of Melodic Death Metal along with an old school Death Metal atmosphere, Cypriot metallers Memoriam have just released their debut EP titled Ravaged Approach, containing five distinct compositions tailored for fans of bands that know how to generate some good harmonious noise such as Amorphis, Amon Amarth and Children of Bodom.

Displaying a grisly artwork by Greek artist and musician Manthos Stergiou (Manster Design), Ravaged Approach will provide you a different story in each of its songs, with concepts such as political and religious corruption, as well as human ignorance and arrogance, being utilized to pinpoint and cauterize the human psyche as the music progresses. Put differently, you’ll face introspective passages followed by heavier and angrier moments, pure savagery amidst harmonious lines, among other paradoxal but complementary elements, all embraced by the poetry found in the lyrics by those five talented musicians.

In the opening track Incessant Martyrdom, a gentle intro quickly becomes a dense feast of Melodic Death Metal, with the guttural vocals by Artemis Choutris leaning towards old school Death Metal while the top-notch quality of the album’s recording elevates the power of guitars, bass and drums to the next level. Moreover, not only lyrics are extremely poetic, but also amazingly cryptic (“I am someone else / I can’t accept my mind / Passive-Aggressiveness / I hear a bluebird cry / I am invincible / I am inaudible / Self-Ultimatum / A conscious Pendulum”). Following that great start, Deception Inc. brings forward more sharp riffs blasted by guitarists Andreas Haggiandreou and Panayiotis Chrysostomides, with bassist Thirsos Makloklas and drummer Barnabas Koromias leading this violent tempest of modern metal music with an old school punch on vocals.

bandThen we have lots of progressiveness and feeling in the excellent song Metaphysical Idiom, where Andreas and Panayiotis fire some razor-edged riffs and solos while Artemis continues to showcase all his vocal power; and Sated Bull, with its encouraging lyrics about never giving up (“If we must die, we must die defending our rights / Then every seed is awakened / Along with all animal life / Stone in my heart, / A buffalo ready to fight, / Unshackled lost prophets, / A bloodsport that perished all tribes.”). Once again displaying an amazing amount of intricacy through all instruments, this hymn is highly recommended for some sick headbanging, with the bass guitar by Thirsos beautifully vibrating nonstop in the background. And the fifth and last song of the EP, named Βάκχαι (The Bacchae), inspired by an ancient Greek tragedy, sounds very metallic and extremely heavy, with its old school Death Metal guitars contrasting with the song’s contemporary rhythm effectively, also exhibiting another excellent performance by Barnabas on drums.

In order to start exploring the realms of Cypriot Metal, go check Memoriam’s Facebook page and YouTube channel, where you’ll see their level of professionalism, passion and determination for heavy music is just as grandiose as in any other country with a more developed scene. And if you want to show your true support for metal from the ancient island of Aphrodite (which would be an amazing name for a song or album, don’t you agree?), go grab your copy of Ravaged Approach at their BandCamp page, at CD Baby, on iTunes or on Amazon. After Ravaged Approach, it’s just a matter before Memoriam begin spreading their wings all over the world, reaching new heights (and several different countries) with their music and live performances.

Best moments of the album: Deception Inc. and Sated Bull.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Incessant Martyrdom 4:27
2. Deception Inc. 2:56
3. Metaphysical Idiom 3:55
4. Sated Bull 5:43
5. Βάκχαι (The Bacchae) 4:02

Band members
Artemis Choutris – vocals
Andreas Haggiandreou – guitars
Panayiotis Chrysostomides – guitars
Thirsos Makloklas – bass
Barnabas Koromias – drums

Album Review – Gaerea / Gaerea EP (2016)

This five-piece faceless and nameless horde from Italy will blast your ears and minds with the darkened, dissonant and furious extreme music flowing from their debut self-titled album.

Rating5

front_coverPlaying darkened, dissonant and furious Black Metal without displaying any hints of mercy for mankind in the demonic 27 minutes of their self-titled debut EP Gaerea, Italian Black Metal quintet Gaerea will please fans of controversial groups such as Mgła, Secrets Of The Moon, Celeste and Behemoth, among others, bringing an infinite amount of obscurity and consternation to our ears and souls. Hailing from the cities of Rome and Lazio, this five-piece faceless and nameless act is one of the biggest promises in the Italian underground scene, and after listening to this professional and multi-layered album I’m sure the beautiful name of this phantasmagoric horde will stick inside your mind forever.

“Let’s make one thing clear. We need to stress the fact that our era is lost in a huge void of numbness. We are here to bring and present you what your system could not solve by itself. We’ll cover the daylight with ashes and smash the massive skull that’s blocking your brain and will to evolve. We’re Gaerea.” Those interesting words spilled by the band itself are precise in describing their musicality, a dense mix of different extreme styles such as Blackened Death Metal and Funeral Doom, which obviously leads to tenebrous lyrics and a total lack of happiness or hope in each one of the five tracks of the album.

An ominous intro with eerie background noises grows until guitars and deep guttural vocals join the musicality in Santificato, a demonic display of Black and Doom Metal that sounds disturbing from start to finish, setting the tone for the next tune, titled Final Call. Boisterous bass and guitar sounds open the gates to the underworld in this darkened chant blending Atmospheric Black Metal with elements from Funeral Doom and traditional Doom Metal, with its lyrics dealing with our personal struggles and all issues our society faces in this rotting world (“Why we all fight if the end is the same? / Six feet under is deep enough to make us equal like an unborn child / Black or white we want to be someone / We are all made of choices so why do we choose the wrong one? / War is not the answer to stop this carnage / So stand up and face it”).

img_0429Crisp guitar lines ignite the blackened tune Pray To Your False God, where drums come crushing like a steamroller. Moreover, desperate growls and an obscure vibe are the main ingredients in the most menacing of all songs, with its second half getting more sluggish with Black and Doom Metal flawlessly merging into one forbidding organism; followed by the sinister Through Time, a song fans of Behemoth and Triptykon will enjoy for sure due to its flammable Black Metal guitar riffs, anguished screams and a rhythmic and fierce drumming. And singing about death (“You scream for silence / You yell for pain / You just want to be quiet / On this pleasant dream / It burns you must feel / Your flesh going to ashes”), Void Of Numbness is Blackened Death Metal at its finest with a great performance by all band members, closing the EP in a more-than-fantastic and somber way. Furthermore, its drums sound amazingly powerful and heavy, making a precise duo with the satanic gnarls blasted by the band’s phantom vocalist.

Gaerea can be found (but not unmasked) at their official Facebook page, with their devilish EP being available for purchase at their BandCamp page and at the Everlasting Spew Records’ BandCamp page or webstore, but if you want to put your perverse hands on an awesome bundle containing the album and an exclusive, stylish T-shirt, simply visit the Everlasting Spew Records’ webstore for that very special offer. In short, Gaenea might be faceless and nameless, but they’re undoubtedly a solid evil identity that will reach the darkest depths of your mind with their unrelenting music.

Best moments of the album: Pray To Your False God and Void Of Numbness.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Everlasting Spew Records

Track listing
1. Santificato 3:32
2. Final Call 6:25
3. Pray To Your False God 5:50
4. Through Time 6:31
5. Void Of Numbness 5:09

Band members
*Information not available*

Album Review – Ashes To Fire / Still Waters EP (2016)

A sea of complexity and groove thoroughly presented by an auspicious French quintet that definitely knows how to craft high-quality Djent and Metalcore.

Rating5

cover-ashes-to-fire-still-watersThe subgenre of heavy music known as Djent, a development of progressive metal named for an onomatopoeia for the distinctive distorted, low-pitch guitar sound first employed by Swedish icons Meshuggah, with bands like After The Burial, Sikth, Animals As Leaders and Born Of Osiris becoming some of its biggest exponents, has been also represented worldwide since 2013 by a dexterous quintet hailing from the charming city of Bordeaux, France named Ashes To Fire. Fans of Metalcore, Djent, Hardcore and Post-Hardcore will have a great time listening to the music by these French metallers, in special the six potent compositions from their brand new EP entitled Still Waters.

Featuring members of local French bands such as Hate To Eleven, Defeat The Foe and Heaven Can Wait, Ashes To Fire offer the listener a very professional and punchy fusion of all their metal inspirations. The artwork in Still Waters, designed by French artist Serge Cleoron, features an ocean that represents the harmony among all band members while the octopus and its tentacles depict some of the band’s main influences in music like August Burns Red, Thy Art Is Murder and Born Of Osiris, among others, continuing the musical path initiated with their 2014 self-titled demo and their 2015 debut EP Karmalogy. It doesn’t matter if you’re a longtime fan of Djent or not, you’ll certainly sense elements from all those bands in Still Waters, and will probably start banging your head to Ashes To Fire’s powerful compositions without even noticing.

Modern sounds together with heavy guitars in the EP’s Intro kick things off in a thunderous way, before guitarists Nico and Dylan lead the Metalcore massacre Real Life, with lead singer Yas growling like there’s no tomorrow. In addition, the song gets less violent and more melodic at times, keeping the sonority always fresh in an awesome display of what this French quintet is capable of. The violence of Hardcore turns Dad And Mum into the most electrifying and complete track of the EP, where once again again Yas demonstrates all his vocal potency while Corekie and William generate a true storm of metal music with their respective rumbly, noise bass and dense beats.

photo-ashes-to-fireBringing elements from Melodic Death Metal the likes of In Flames mixed with the modern American Metalcore from August Burns Red, To Disappear displays a flawless sync between the heavy riffs by Nico and Dylan and the roaring bass by Corekie, whereas in Roots To Sheet, the sound of guitars grows and is complemented by bass and drums in another solid exhibition of Djent and Metalcore by this awesome band. Moreover, a constant, heavy ambience keeps the music at a truly dark level perfect for Yas to fire his distressed harsh vocals. Finally, a sinister intro ignites the last track in Still Waters, titled Sara, being sharply joined by the intricate bass wallops by Corekie, with Nico delivering his solid guitar solos in a sea of complexity and groove that goes on until the song’s abrupt and effective ending.

In summary, the excellent Still Waters, available at Ashes To Fire’s BandCamp page or at M.U.S.I.C. Records’ webstore, is definitely your go-to album for contemporary high-quality Djent and Metalcore, and if you want to explore the already mentioned groovy sea of heavy music created by those French metallers simply visit their Facebook page and YouTube channel, consequently showing your support and appreciation for a music style that keeps reinventing itself, proudly carrying the flag of modern metal music all over the world.

Best moments of the album: Dad And Mum and To Disappear.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 M.U.S.I.C. Records

Track listing
1. Intro 1:11
2. Real Life 2:45
3. Dad And Mum 4:25
4. To Disappear 4:28
5. Roots To Sheet 4:18
6. Sara 5:04

Band members
Yas – vocals
Nico – lead guitar
Dylan – rhythm guitar
Corekie – bass
William – drums

Album Review – Titanium / Atomic Number 22 (2016)

This prosperous five-piece act from Poland brings to us all the strongest element in the world in the form of beautiful Melodic Power Metal.

Rating4

titanium_atomic-number-22In case you didn’t already know, titanium is a chemical element with symbol Ti and atomic number 22, recognized mainly for its high strength. However, since 2010 this metallic element has also been a very important part of the Polish Metal scene, being represented by the skillful Melodic Heavy/Power Metal squad Titanium who released this September their second full-length album, cleverly entitled Atomic Number 22. After listening to this high-end album, you’ll realize titanium is not only very strong, but also extremely melodious, invigorating and brisk.

Formed in late 2010 by Pathfinder guitarist Karol Mania in Ostrów Wielkopolski, a city located in central Poland, Titanium have been on a constant rise since their inception, having released an EP entitled We Come to Rock! in 2012 and their self-titled full-length album the following year.  Now in 2016, Atomic Number 22 not only cements Titanium as one of the most promising bands from Poland, but also sets a new era for the band with Ukrainian singer Konstantin Naumenko (from Kiev’s Power Metal band Sunrise) taking the microphone and elevating the strength and epicness of the band’s already powerful musicality.

You better be ready for the Heavy Metal battle ignited by the title-track, Atomic Number 22, with the flawless connection between guitars and keyboards reminding me of Scandinavian Metal bands such as Stratovarius and Battle Beast, not to mention its superb backing vocals supporting Konstantin in this upbeat hymn. In addition, I have to admit I honestly can’t think of lyrics that sound more metal than this (“Atomic number 22 the father and the thunder / We’re coming right for you / Atomic number 22 no compromise just metal / Titanium comes for you”). And there’s no time to breathe as Titanium keep firing pure Melodic Power Metal for us in World of Contradictions, where drummer Filip Gruca dictates the rhythm with his fast beats and fills while the band’s guitar duo comprised of Karol Mania and Jaroslav Bona delivers those traditional riffs and solos we all love in Power Metal. Slower but more melodic and thrilling, Torn Reality brings forward heavy guitar riffs inspired by Hard Rock from the 80’s mixed with contemporary Melodic Metal, with another spot-on performance by Konstantin and an interesting ending with smooth piano notes and a melancholic vibe.

Defusive Skies is pure Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica, overflowing harmony and being probably one of Filip’s favorite songs due to its speed, with Karol and Jaroslav sounding simply amazing with their intricate solos; followed by Time Is Out, where we’re treated to a feast of sheer Melodic Metal. Once again, Konstantin keeps amusing us with his potent high-pitched vocals while Karol and Jaroslav set fire to the music through their unstoppable guitars. One Single Night, another track highly inspired by Melodic Metal from Finland, showcases a pleasant melody with the heavier punch of Power Metal enhancing its electricity, whereas the headbanging tune Guardians of Might, featuring  guest singer Piet Sielck (kicking some serious ass as he always does with his marvelous band Iron Savior), is a very traditional composition that couldn’t sound more metallic, in special due to its inspiring chorus (“In our realm We are one / Like the blazing stars will shine forever / We’re the saviors, guardians of might / We deny the fate”).

titanium-2016Future of Mankind, the longest of all tracks, is a Melodic Power Metal extravaganza with a cheerful vibe and a great balance between the main vocals by Konstantin and all backing vocals. Moreover, the musicality never slows down, keeping the level of energy always at its peak in this lesson in melodious music for fans of the genre. The last song of the regular version of Atomic Number 22, titled The Way of the White Flag, is another explosion of Melodic Metal thanks to its fast-paced drumming and truly harmonious vocal lines. Furthermore, bassist Szymon Szydłowski delivers some rumbling uppercuts while both guitarists are absolutely on fire with their fantastic riffs and solos. In case you go for the Japanese edition of the album, you’ll be nicely rewarded with Titanium’s cover version for Eagleheart, one of the biggest classics by Melodic Metal heroes Stratovarius. Very different from the original version, the band managed to switch the original base of this metal hymn to their own musicality without losing the song’s uplifting essence.

Titanium are waiting for you at their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and you can put your hands on the strongest and most melodic element in the world of heavy music at Amazon (exclusively at their Japanese store) or also at Discogs. This beautiful display of Melodic Power Metal will enliven your toughest days without a shadow of a doubt, proving one more time the sensational effect high-quality heavy music always has on our hearts and souls.

Best moments of the album: Atomic Number 22, Torn Reality and Guardians of Might.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Avalon/Marquee

Track listing
1. Atomic Number 22 5:50
2. World of Contradictions 4:45
3. Torn Reality 5:57
4. Defusive Skies 5:13
5. Time Is Out 4:00
6. One Single Night 5:37
7. Guardians of Might (feat. Piet Sielck) 4:50
8. Future of Mankind 8:52
9. The Way of the White Flag 4:01

Japanese Edition bonus track
10. Eagleheart (Stratovarius cover) 5:30

Band members
Konstantin Naumenko – vocals
Karol Mania – guitars
Jaroslav Bona – guitars
Szymon Szydłowski – bass
Filip Gruca – drums

Guest musician
Piet Sielck – additional vocals on “Guardians of Might”

Album Review – Malacoda / Ritualis Aeterna EP (2016)

The fallen angel of Symphonic and Horror Metal returns with six dark, romantic compositions that will beautifully captivate your metallic mind and heart.

Rating4

final-ritualis-aeternaThe city of Oakville, a small suburban town located in Southern Ontario, Canada, might be the headquarters of The Headbanging Moose, but it’s far from being considered a metal city, and that has always bothered me a bit. Fortunately, for the total delectation of all metalheads in Oakville, things are starting to get more metallic in this peaceful and charming city thanks to the awe-inspiring fusion of Power, Symphonic and Horror Metal crafted by Malacoda, a very talented band that will truly impress fans of renowned acts like Kamelot, King Diamond and Dimmu Borgir. Taking their name from a demon from the Inferno of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Malacoda’s dark and romantic vision of the world will certainly captivate you through the epic musicality found in their brand new EP, titled Ritualis Aeterna, a fantastic follow-up to their self-titled debut album from 2014.

Lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Lucas Di Mascio, the mastermind behind Malacoda who studied Literature and Religion at university, explains the band’s concept. “Malacoda was the name of a very minor character in the book, a fallen angel who flies around with a small army of demons torturing helpless souls in Hell. From a literary perspective, I found it interesting that he wasn’t merely an evil creature being tortured for his sins, but was given free reign to do what he pleases and takes it upon himself to torture other wicked souls in the spiritual prison that is Dante’s Inferno. I wanted a powerful name that fit not only the sound of the band but also the lyrical themes I touch upon. I wanted something dark, but not something that would be blatantly devilish sounding. The name translates roughly in Italian to ‘Cruel Tail’ and most people don’t see it and think “this band is named after a demon” and see it as something more romantic sounding.”

malacoda-pressphoto-credit-garykuiperwebA theatrical intro sustained by a background choir warms up the listener for a Mercyful Fate-like aria named Penny Dreadful, inspired by the since canceled Showtime TV show by the same name, with the keyboards by Jonah Weingarten being a blend of Symphonic Metal with the ominous sounds of Dimmu Borgir, while the King Diamond-ish vocals by Lucas maintain an interesting level of mystery during the whole song. In the excellent I Got A Letter, ominous piano notes beautifully grow into a blend of passion and anger, especially in the vocals by Lucas alternating between clean, melancholic lines and harsh growls. This is a wonderful display of Gothic and Horror Metal that will enchant the minds of fans of dark music for sure, with the final guitar solo by Brad Casarin being absolutely perfect for the music and concept proposed.

You’ll have a very good time experiencing tons of epicness and mystery in the Symphonic Metal composition Pandemonium, where Jonah continues to impress with his somber keyboards while drummer Mike Harshaw is precise with his potent beats. The Wild Hunt is even more symphonic and theatrical than all previous tunes, with Jonah and Mike providing all the support for Lucas to once again fire his demented vocals inspired by Danish legend Kim Bendix Petersen (and I bet you know who this guys is), followed by Linger Here, a gentle piano ballad full of melancholy and agony. Focusing on the combination of the piano sounds with the emotional vocals by Lucas, this tune proves this talented band can also generate high-end love songs, expanding their musical range considerably. However, all that calmness doesn’t last long, as epic and somber elements are back in the modern There Will Always Be One, a contrast to the tenderness of the previous track, with its powerful backing vocals and the solo by Brad elevating its overall potency.

This dark theatre of heavy music can be better appreciated by visiting Malacoda’s Facebook page or YouTube channel, with Ritualis Aeterna being on sale at their BandCamp page or at their official webstore. The six dark and romantic songs in Ritualis Aeterna, thoroughly crafted by the fallen angel of Symphonic and Horror Metal called Malscoda, will undoubtedly enthrall you from start to finish, definitely putting our glorious city of Oakville on the map of Canadian Metal once and for all.

Best moments of the album: Penny Dreadful and I Got A Letter.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Penny Dreadful 5:34
2. I Got A Letter 4:37
3. Pandemonium 3:39
4. The Wild Hunt 4:20
5. Linger Here 2:23
6. There Will Always Be One 3:47

Band members
Lucas Di Mascio – vocals, bass, rhythm guitar
Brad Casarin – lead guitar
Jonah Weingarten – keyboards
Mike Harshaw – drums

Guest musicians
Jessy Oppenheimer – guitar solo on “Penny Dreadful”
Joe Waller – guitar solo on “Penny Dreadful”

Live musician
Cooper Seldon – bass