Album Review – Axel Rudi Pell / Knights Call (2018)

And Mr. Axel Rudi Pell strikes once again, delivering another entertaining collection of rock and metal tunes supported by his loyal army of skillful musicians.

If there’s a musician that truly loves what he does, that person has to be the iconic German Heavy Metal/Hard Rock guitarist Axel Rudi Pell. It’s incredible how consistent this accomplished guitar virtuoso is with his amazing solo band, not only by delivering top-tier music since the band’s inception in the far, far away year of 1989, but also by not taking too many years to record a new album. As a matter of fact, if you take a detailed look at the band’s complete discography, you’ll notice that every two years there’s a brand new Axel Rudi Pell full-length album released for our total delight. Furthermore, his creativity and ability to compose high-end music have been flourishing in the past decade, with the releases of the extremely well-crafted albums The Crest (2010),  Circle of the Oath (2012), Into the Storm (2014), Game of Sins (2016), and now in 2018 the excellent Knights Call, the 18th studio album in his undisputed career.

Featuring a traditional artwork by British illustrator Martin McKenna, who by the way has been working with the band since 2010 with the release of the aforementioned The Crest, the secret in Knights Call is not a secret at all, but the result of a lot of hard work, perfect synchronicity among all band members, and above all that, a solid and consistent lineup that has been accompanying Mr. Axel Rudi Pell for a while, comprised of the underrated Johnny Gioeli on vocals, Volker Krawczak on bass, Ferdy Doernberg on keyboards and Bobby Rondinelli on drums. Apart from Mr. Rondinelli, who joined the band in 2013, all others have been with Axel for a very long time, with Volker being a member of the band since the beginning in 1989 (and even before that if you consider his time with Steeler), while Johnny and Ferdy since 1998’s Oceans of Time. Actually, when you hit play and start listening to the flammable rock music blasted by those veterans in Knights Call, you can kind of feel how they know each other extremely well.

The Medieval Overture is  a classic medieval-inspired Axel Rudi Pell intro to the Rock N’ Roll feast titled The Wild And The Young, a song about getting old in style and having good memories of a time that’s never coming back (“Sometimes I’m dreaming of the past / Making love in the summer while it lasts / But life ain’t easy as it seemed / Much tougher and louder than I dreamed / I thought I was living in paradise / And those were the days of my life”), led by the unparalleled riffs by Mr. Axel Rudi Pell and the always flammable vocals by Johnny. Following such strong start we have Wildest Dreams, a keyboard-driven Hard Rock tune where Volker extracts rumbling sounds from his bass while the competent Bobby keeps the music at a very pleasant pace, bringing that characteristic sound from the band’s old releases; and Long Live Rock, their musical representation of our passion for Rock N’ Roll, or in other words, a tribute not only to themselves but to all rock and metal heroes of our lives, showcasing a thunderous kitchen by Volker and Bobby , with Ferdy complementing Axel’s metallic riffs and solos flawlessly.

Then it’s time for The Crusaders Of Doom, one of those imposing, epic creations by Axel and his henchmen, a mid-tempo song full of atmospheric keyboards and classy guitar lines, all embraced by a passionate vocal performance by the talented Johnny. Truth And Lies is another upbeat composition by the band, a 70’s-80’s-inspired instrumental party for lovers of Progressive Rock and Metal presenting gripping keys and the always mesmerizing riffs and solos by Axel, while in Beyond The Light Mr. Gioeli returns after a “break” with what’s most probably his strongest vocal performance of the album, powerfully declaiming the song’s lyrics (“Is there life beyond the light / In the valley of the souls we’d lost long ago / Is there life beyond the light / Only in our dreams or in reality”). Those guys definitely know how to craft beautiful and touching ballads, and this one is no exception to that.

Knights Call Limited Edition Boxset

Getting back to their 80’s Hard Rock sonority, Slaves On The Run is a straightforward tune presenting all elements we love in the music by Axel Rudi Pell, being a more than excellent option for their live concerts. Furthermore, Axel and Ferdy are once again in total sync, while Volker keeps pounding his bass in a very melodious way. The second to last song in Knights Call, Follow The Sun, brings more old school Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal for our avid ears, with the album’s crisp production allowing us to feel the beats by Bobby inside our heads while Johnny keeps firing his potent vocal lines, also bringing a chorus tailored for singing along with the band. And closing this very entertaining album we have a 9-minute aria of classic rock and metal with hints of Arabian music titled Tower Of Babylon, something we’ve seen the band doing before. You’ll find yourself wandering through the realms of epicness and intricacy forged by Axel and crew, with his guitar solos sounding absolutely hypnotizing.

After listening to Knights Call (and I’m sure that’s something I’ll be doing for a long time), I’m more than certain it’s quite impossible for Axel Rudi Pell to release a bad album. There are several versions of Knights Call available for purchase HERE, but if I were you I would go for the deluxe boxset which includes a red/black LP in gatefold cover and with printed innersleeve, a digipak CD + poster, a patch, a sticker, a photo card, a doople sided A1 poster, and a skull tin-cup with an engraving of the band logo. And after all is said and done, we can all rest assured that in less than two years we’ll be treated one more time to the captivating rock and metal music crafted by one of the best guitarists hailing from the beautiful Germany.

Best moments of the album: The Wild And The Young, Long Live Rock, Slaves On The Run and Follow The Sun.

Worst moments of the album: Truth And Lies.

Released in 2018 SPV/Steamhammer

Track listing  
1. The Medieval Overture (Intro) 1:43
2. The Wild And The Young 4:20
3. Wildest Dreams 5:43
4. Long Live Rock 5:34
5. The Crusaders Of Doom 8:01
6. Truth And Lies 4:48
7. Beyond The Light 7:45
8. Slaves On The Run 5:13
9. Follow The Sun 5:12
10. Tower Of Babylon 9:50

Band members
Johnny Gioeli – vocals
Axel Rudi Pell – guitar
Volker Krawczak – bass
Ferdy Doernberg – keyboards
Bobby Rondinelli – drums

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Album Review – Strangle Wire / The Dark Triad EP (2018)

Enjoy this short and sweet lesson in Death Metal made in Northern Ireland, taking you into the dark heart of the human condition.

Behind the locked doors that lie in the shadows, at the end of forgotten passageways, in the depths of every human mind, madness waits, scratching at the splintered wood with bleeding fingers. However, sometimes those locks fail, or the keys are purposefully turned, unleashing the monsters from within. The Dark Triad, the brand new EP by Northern Irish Death Metal quartet Strangle Wire, is the sound of the monsters set free, the sound of broken minds and twisted personalities, and the sound of an insidious assault on the light that keeps the night at bay.

Formed in 2017 in Belfast, Northern Ireland’s capital, the band comprised of I (Pete Clarke) on vocals, II (Greg “Daff” Diffin) on bass, III (Ross Duffy) on the guitar, and IV (John Curlett) on drums plays what can be called “Psychological Death Metal”, being highly recommended for fans of Dying Fetus, Cannibal Corpse and Sinister, among several other Death Metal icons. Featuring a classic artwork by British musician and designer Tom Bradfield, The Dark Triad is divided into three sections, entitled Narcissism, Psychopathy and Machiavellianism, taking the listener into the dark heart of the human condition, propelling them ever onward with a musical force of savage intensity, Death Metal possessed of speed, groove and supreme heaviness.

III (or Ross, if you prefer) kicks off the Death Metal hurricane titled The Games They Play with his metallic riffs before pure anarchy and devastation take over the world, with I (Pete) firing his deep, enraged and bestial growls nonstop. Put differently, this is one of those songs tailored for fans of extreme music who simply love to slam into the pit more than they love anything else in life. Then tribal sounds start another heavier-than-hell, putrid Death Metal feast named The Narcissist, a slow and steady tune from the pits of hell led by the rhythmic beats by IV (John), while II (Greg) and III keep slashing our skin with their demonic strings. Then we have Psychopathic Blue, showcasing guitar lines that remind me of the work done by Thrash Metal acts like Slayer and Testament, but still being pulverizing and demonic as good old Death Metal should be. The quartet is on fire and in total sync throughout the entire song, delivering belligerent and rabid sounds for our total delight, with I’s hellish roars getting even deeper and more primeval.

And their metallic demolition goes on with more furious blast beats, infernal vociferations and crushing riffs in The Failure Exhibit, where the band practically demands that we all get into the circle pit and slam to the total havoc they generate by their instruments; whereas if you’re a diehard fan of old school Death Metal the likes of Cannibal Corpse you’ll have a blast with Through a Black Lens, where IV sounds like a machine gun on drums while I is a demonic bulldozer on vocals. Furthermore, there isn’t a single second of peace during the entire song, it’s nonstop action boosted by the excellent riffage by III and a beyond violent atmosphere. And last but not least, as the final onrush of extreme music by Strangle Wire we’re treated to a headbanging, menacing chant titled Den of Iniquity, sounding insanely heavy from the very first second until its neck-breaking end, while I keeps barking like a creature from a deep and dark cave.

The Dark Triad, which is available for purchase from the Grindscene Records’ webstore, from Code 7, or from Amazon, is not only a very promising and vibrant start for Strangle Wire, but also a “mini-lesson” in how to properly unite technique, feeling and rage in Death Metal and in extreme music in general. And if that’s just a mini-lesson as I said, can you imagine how pulverizing Strangle Wire will sound when they come back with their first full-length lecture?

Best moments of the album: The Games They Play and Through a Black Lens.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Grindscene Records

Track listing  
1. The Games They Play 3:33
2. The Narcissist 4:26
3. Psychopathic Blue 3:21
4. The Failure Exhibit 3:39
5. Through a Black Lens 3:56
6. Den of Iniquity 4:50

Band members
I – vocals
II – bass
III – guitar
IV – drums

Album Review – Lumnos / Ancient Shadows Of Saturn (2018)

Contemplate an ancient life born from a star longing in Saturn changing and elevating everything around, embraced by the ethereal and delicate sounds of Atmospheric Black Metal.

Atmospheric Black Metal act Lumnos is the solo project of the talented Breno Freire, a Brazilian multi-instrumentalist based in Vitória da Conquista, a city located in the state of Bahia, who’s been working in outer space since 2015 under the nickname Putrefactus. As brutal and austere as his nickname might be, the work by Putrefactus is completely immersed in distant nebulas and quasars lights year away from home, with the sound by Lumnos drawing inspiration from the most recent cosmic currents and bands such as Mesarthim, Lustre and Midnight Odyssey. The contemplative melodies by Lumnos draw pictures of distant planets, ancient celestial bodies, and the endless distances that separate them from us, small creatures scurrying around in haste.

After several digital releases in a span of just two years, Putrefactus took his fascinating work to a complete new level with his brand new album entitled Ancient Shadows Of Saturn, a journey through the deepest universe. Hosting multi-instrumentalists B.M. (from Russian Atmospheric/Post-Black Metal act Skyforest) and Unknown (from Russian Ambient/Atmospheric Black Metal project The Lost Sun) as session members, Ancient Shadows Of Saturn is a landmark album in Lumnos’ career, a mature work which will accompany your astral journeys through this solar system and beyond. The main idea behind this peculiar album is to create a history around Saturn since the very beginning to the fatal end, showcasing an ancient life born from a star longing in Saturn changing and elevating everything around.

Ethereal, atmospheric waves invade our senses from the very first second in the opening track I am Born From a Star, a modern and vibrant Atmospheric Black Metal aria where B.M.’s anguished gnarls match perfectly with the eccentricity of the lyrics (“I’m in a cosmic limbo / There’s no answer, there’s no escape / You won’t rest until you die / I’ll sink through my fade / Where I will go / What will I find / When pain gets too real / You simply can’t hide”). Furthermore, when this multi-layered musical voyage is over, you’ll certainly feel your soul wandering outside your body. Then gentle piano notes and a melancholic background set the stage for another eccentric creation by Lumnos titled Primordial Darkness, evolving into a piercing fusion of Atmospheric and Depressive Black Metal with highlights to the amazing job done by Putrefactus with all instruments, in special his steady, mournful beats and somber guitar lines. And the music remains whimsical, hypnotizing and dark from start to finish, creating a smooth and gripping bridge with the title track Ancient Shadows of Saturn, with its cinematic keys and pensive vibe kicking things off before morphing into an atmospheric and experimental journey that goes on for over four minutes. After that “extended intro” it’s time for B.M. to begin blasting his somber gnarls while the music flows gently and melancholically until its end.

Actually, you can consider all songs as one single entity if you prefer, as No Soul is Near continues from where its predecessor ended, an instrumental extravaganza thoroughly put together by Putrefactus with a strong focus on the balance between his gentle keyboard notes and his Stygian guitar lines, all embraced by slow and steady drums and an aerial vibe. Lastly, we face another instrumental blast of heavenly sounds and unorthodox experimentations entitled Existentialism, flirting with pure ambient music until after five minutes traditional Atmospheric Black Metal riffs invade our ears, giving the song a darker vibe and guiding it to a beautiful grand finale; followed by a bonus track that comes exclusively with the limited edition of the album (which you can by the way listen in its entirety HERE), named Crystal Clouds, Diamond Sun, a 9-minute instrumental tune that continues to showcase Putrefactus’ undeniable ability to craft high-quality ambient music.

The primordial darkness was gone and ancient shadows of Saturn were set free to conquer the entire galaxy, and in order to join Putrefactus in his otherworldly expedition, simply go check what he’s up to on Facebook, listen to his music on Spotify, and buy Ancient Shadows Of Saturn from Lumnos’ own BandCamp page, as well as from the Flowing Downward’s BandCamp page. Ancient Shadows Of Saturn is Ambient Black Metal at its finest, courtesy of a multi-talented Brazilian metaller who doesn’t seem to care about any boundaries when creating his musical universe, and that’s why he more than thrives in his endeavors.

Best moments of the album: I am Born From a Star and Primordial Darkness.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Flowing Downward

Track listing  
1. I am Born From a Star 12:09
2. Primordial Darkness 10:43
3. Ancient Shadows of Saturn 10:35
4. No Soul is Near 9:08
5. Existentialism 8:59

Flowing Downward Limited Edition bonus track
6. Crystal Clouds, Diamond Sun 9:46

Band members
Putrefactus – all instruments

Guest musicians
B.M. – vocals (session)
Unknown – clean vocals, additional Synths on “I am Born From a Star” (session)

Album Review – Dormanth / IX Sins (2018)

Succumb to the dark side with the well-crafted and entertaining collection of crushing, riff-oriented Doom and Death Metal tunes by an old school act hailing from Spain.

Born in Bilbao, Spain in January 1993 after various experiences of its components in different bands, such as Nopresion, Beer Mosh and Elbereth, Melodic Doom/Death Metal act Dormanth went on an almost 20-year hibernation period in 1996 after releasing their debut album Valley of Dreams, in 1995, breaking the silence in 2015 with the release of the EP Voice of the Soul… Under the Tears of Sun, followed by the full-length album Winter Comes, in 2016. And it looks like Dormanth are on a roll on this second phase of the band, as their brand new album, titled IX Sins, is an extremely well-crafted and entertaining collection of crushing, riff-oriented metal tunes that will certainly drag your soul into pitch black darkness.

Comprised of founding member Oscar del Val on vocals and guitar, Javi Prieto on lead guitar, newcomer Miguel A. Richart on bass and Victor Franquelo on drums, Dormanth are an unstoppable Extreme Metal machine in IX Sins, delivering nine pestilent, heavier-than-hell compositions (or maybe we should call them “sins”) that will please most fans of the darker and more lugubrious vibe of the fusion between Doom and Death Metal. Furthermore, Spanish artist Igor “Mugi” Mugerza (Abigor Artwork) is again the artist chosen for the cover art concept, with the nine knights (clearly inspired by the Nazgûl, from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings) representing all the heaviness and obscurity present in the music by Dormanth.

Oscar and Javi begin their Black Metal-riffage onrush in the opening track Human Claim, a pounding funeral march that tells us all darkness is about to take over our minds in a dense and potent hybrid of Doom and Death Metal with melodic influences. After such strong start, the strident sound of guitars keeps permeating the air in another atmospheric and melodic composition titled Lamb Or Wolf, with the band’s guitar duo accelerating their riffs until all hell breaks loose. Moreover, the vocals by Oscar get more putrid and devilish as the music progresses, while Victor becomes the band’s driving force with his potent beats. And in Let See The Wood, we’re treated to a frantic and furious Death Metal extravaganza with Thrash Metal and Hardcore influences where Victor and Miguel simply demolish their instruments. Hence, the nonstop violence contained in this gripping tune will certainly set the crowd on fire during their live performances.

Slowing things down considerably and venturing through the realms of modern Doom Metal, the band offers the listener Like Ice, keeping a solid pace and providing Oscar exactly what he needs to fire his deep, enraged growls; followed by Promised Land, where Dormanth get back to a more piercing mix of Death and Black Metal. During its almost five minutes, Victor delivers from blast beats to rhythmic, galloping moments, while the band’s guitarists keep the sound cohesive and gripping with their riffs and solos. And the sixth “sin” of the album, entitled Soul Shall Die, once again leans towards more old school, sluggish Doom Metal, with Oscar growls being in perfect sync with Victor’s steady beats.

Misery is a potent, galloping tune with tons of shredding and demented beats and fills, showcasing an almost-Black Metal sound mixed with old school Death Metal and, as a consequence, reminding me of some of the creations by Swedish masters Unleashed; whereas The Skin, the second to last display of blackened sounds by Dormanth, begins with an old school guitar solo before all instruments explode, generating a menacing atmosphere, while its second half is a feast of shredding and blast beats intertwined with an eerie female voice. And closing this obscure album we have another threatening tune named Sands Of Frozen Tears, yet again displaying the band’s solid instrumental and Oscar’s deep growls, albeit not as vibrant as the rest of the album.

The dark and sinister realm of Dormanth can be better explored by visiting their Facebook page, and if you want to put your hands on IX Sins simply go to the band’s BandCamp page, to the Necromance Records’ Big Cartel or webshop, to the Dead Sheep Productions’ webshop, or to Discogs. Dormanth are also beyond ready to hit the road and bring to the stage the same energy and darkness flowing from their music, with the only difference being that their live lineup has studio bassist Miguel on the lead guitar (instead of bass), Isma Fernandez on bass, and original member Javi Martinez on drums, but of course still spearheaded by Oscar on vocals and guitar. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t really matter if you prefer staying home to listen to their studio version of the songs or if seeing them live is what really excites you, as long as you succumb to their captivating fusion of Death and Doom Metal.

Best moments of the album: Lamb Or Wolf, Let See The Wood and Misery.

Worst moments of the album: Sands Of Frozen Tears.

Released in 2018 Necromance Records/Base Record Production/Dead Sheep Productions

Track listing  
1. Human Claim 4:02
2. Lamb Or Wolf 4:29
3. Let See The Wood 4:46
4. Like Ice 4:38
5. Promised Land 4:55
6. Soul Shall Die 4:08
7. Misery 4:26
8. The Skin 4:32
9. Sands Of Frozen Tears 5:02

Band members
Oscar del Val – vocals, guitar
Javi Prieto – lead guitar
Miguel A. Richart – bass
Victor Franquelo – drums

Live members
Oscar del Val – vocals, guitar
Miguel A. Richart – lead guitar
Isma Fernandez – bass
Javi Martinez – drums

Album Review –Tamerlan Empire / Age of Ascendancy (2018)

Behold the rise of a metal empire and their marvelous fusion of Symphonic Black Metal with Central-Asian and Middle-Eastern melodies and rhythms.

It’s time to travel once again to Sydney, Australia to behold the rise of a metal empire that will leave you speechless after listening to its marvelous fusion of Symphonic Black Metal with Central-Asian and Middle-Eastern melodies and rhythms. I’m talking about Tamerlan Empire, a savage horde formed in 2011 by drummer Khan, with the band’s name and lyrical content being inspired by Tamerlan (also known as Timurlan, Amir Temur, Timurleng or Timur Khan), a powerful Mongol/Turkish emperor from the 14th century. Not only their songs are about the emperor’s battles and conquests, but they have also drawn a much deeper influence from his dark brutal side and strategic mind, with his detailed forward-thinking always being many steps ahead of the enemies and allies.

Playing what can be called “Turkic/Uzbek Middle-Eastern Symphonic Black Metal”, an aggressive and very unique atmospheric style of Black Metal, Tamerlan Empire are releasing their highly anticipated debut album entitled Age of Ascendancy, perfectly describing the overlord’s meteoric rise and his great interest and contribution to science, politics, architecture, astronomy and literature during his reign, as well as the era in general where empires strove for dominance through war, bloodshed and destruction. And this distinct band, comprised of Ghorr on vocals and guitar, Ferus on the guitar, Vezir on keyboards and orchestrations, and Khan on drums and percussion, more than succeeded in translating the grandiosity of the empire ruled by the aforementioned warlord, creating an unparalleled, multi-layered sound that will certainly please all fans of the orchestral vein of extreme music.

The title-track Age Of Ascendancy is an epic, cinematic intro that effectively sets the stage for the symphonic onslaught titled Battle Of Tyrants, a song that begins in full force with the orchestrations by Vezir enhancing the overall impact on your ears and mind. Put differently, this grandiose, intricate hymn will make you feel you’re in the middle of the battlefield, with Khan sounding impressive behind his drums. Even more atmospheric and imposing, Vengeance In Blood presents Ghorr and Ferus delivering melodious and aggressive riffs nonstop, while Khan keeps smashing his drums mercilessly. Furthermore, Ghorr’s enraged growls live up to the legacy of Symphonic Black Metal, sounding vile and piercing, and therefore making me think if we can call Tamerlan Empire the “Dimmu Borgir from the East”. And be prepared for another feast of blackened sounds entitled Ottoman’s Demise, a headbanging tune led by the blazing guitars by Ghorr and Ferus, spiced up by the uniqueness of Middle-Eastern music and sounding utterly dense and bold from start to finish.

Slightly less epic and a lot more devastating, Ascension of Iron showcases all band members in their fastest and most furious mode, with the musicality being led by the classic blast beats by Khan while Ghorr keeps barking like a demon; whereas in Behest Of The Chosen we’re treated to a whimsical intro where classic Middle-Eastern elements and percussion are suddenly joined by a gripping and dark sonority, feeling very rhythmic, mesmerizing and detailed until its atmospheric grand finale. Tribal beats ignite another superb metal extravaganza by Tamerlan Empire named Winter March, the perfect soundtrack to an epic adventure presenting what’s perhaps the strongest balance between Black Metal and Middle-Eastern music, with Vezir sounding absolutely fantastic with his keys and orchestrations, followed by Dominion Of Ashes, leaning towards modern Symphonic Black Metal and also presenting elements from traditional Norwegian Black Metal, but with its core essence still bringing the band’s unique Middle-Eastern Black Metal. In addition, the deranged vocals by Ghorr remind me of Marduk’s Mortuus, which of course translates into sheer violence and awesomeness.

Then phantasmagoric keys kick off the demolishing Marauder’s Mark, taking the band’s onrush of blackened sounds to a whole new level and also presenting some interesting breaks and variations to add a few extra layers to the overall result; and Of Dust Returned, which sounds similar to its predecessor but bringing even heavier and darker nuances. In other words, this is contemporary Black Metal blended with Symphonic and Atmospheric Black Metal, with its in-sync keys and guitars generating a truly Stygian ambience. And there’s time for one last blast of their unparalleled Black Metal with the magnificent Scattered Sands, a climatic conclusion to such incredible album of extreme music showcasing an interesting paradox between Ghorr’s devilish gnarls and the ethereal sounds emanating from Vezir’s keys. Furthermore, what I’m about to say might sound weird for some of you, but I can easily visualize a lustful woman doing a heavier-than-usual belly dance to this amazing metal tune.

If you have what it takes to join the empire of flammable and epic Black Metal ruled by this up-and-coming Australian horde, simply go check what they’re up to on Facebook, listen to their music on Spotify and on ReverbNation, and grab your copy of Age of Ascendancy (which by the way is available for a full listen on YouTube) from the Metal Hell Records’ BandCamp or webstore (as a regular CD version or as a special bundle that includes the CD plus a metallic gold embroidered logo patch, a 1.25″ pin back button, a vinyl logo sticker, and a download code for the digital version of the album), as well as from CD Baby, iTunes or Amazon. And after putting your hands on such distinct album, I dare you to not get completely addicted to the band’s vibrant and bold Middle-Eastern Symphonic Black Metal.

Best moments of the album: Vengeance In Blood, Ascension of Iron, Winter March and Scattered Sands.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Metal Hell Records

Track listing
1. Age Of Ascendancy 1:57
2. Battle Of Tyrants 4:49
3. Vengeance In Blood 5:02
4. Ottoman’s Demise 5:44
5. Ascension of Iron 4:54
6. Behest Of The Chosen 7:39
7. Winter March 7:00
8. Dominion Of Ashes 4:54
9. Marauder’s Mark 5:32
10. Of Dust Returned 5:13
11. Scattered Sands 7:10

Band members
Ghorr – vocals, guitars
Ferus – guitars
Vezir – keyboards, orchestration
Khan – drums, percussion

Live musicians
Yassa – vocals
Ramz – bass

Album Review – Ways. / Aftermath EP (2018)

One of the most promising alternative bands from France returns with another powerful, dynamic and melodic display of modern-day rock and metal music.

After a promising career start with the release of their debut EP Watching From Afar, in 2016, Paris-based Alternative Rock/Metal act Ways. is back with the second installment of their always-evolving musical path, entitled Aftermath, an 8-track EP that brings all the band’s characteristic elements from their previous release, sounding powerful, dynamic and melodic throughout its almost 27 minutes of music.

Featuring a minimalistic and stylish artwork by Maxime Larrouturou, Aftermath once again presents an inspired band mixing several influences and styles in their music, from Alternative Rock and Metal to Post-Hardcore, while at the same time maintaining a very cohesive and solid core essence. Comprised of Clément on vocals, Bruno and Nico on the guitars, newcomer Niko on bass, and Tony on drums, Ways. are ready to strike once again with their uncompromising, unrelenting and modern music, and I’m sure you’ll have a good time listening to their unique creations in Aftermath.

Sheer melancholy flows from the guitars by Bruno and Nico in the introspective intro Twilight Until Dawn, before the band begins firing an acid message together with their aggressive, adrenaline-fueled instrumental in the modern-day Alternative Metal tune Death Row, with Clément growling the song’s lyrics in a desperate and anguished mode (“But the people around me / Don’t seem to want to play with me. / My neighbors, day after day, / Are caught, / The cages emptied and filled, / The door is closed behind me, / I believe in a game full of life and joy”). In However…, Rock N’ Roll riffs are blended with the more aggressive lines of Alternative Metal, with Tony smashing his drums and, consequently, giving the song a stronger vibe, while Clément presents some cleaner vocals amidst his furious screams; whereas in And Nobody Cares, Ways. accelerate their speed and increase their electricity, bringing hints of Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore to their characteristic sonority. In a nutshell, this is the song tailored for banging your heads nonstop, thanks to the crushing riffs by Bruno and Nico and the violent beats by Tony.

So Far So Good brings forward a belligerent sound led by the razor-edged riffs by the band’s guitar duo, while bassist Niko joins Tony to create a beyond dense background. Then we have a somber, pensive instrumental bridge titled Thirteen, setting the tone for the also fierce With Love, the most alternative of all songs from the EP, ignited by the metallic bass by Niko and with Clément delivering his piercing clean vocals as well as his deranged growls while the rest of the band fires melodious and heavy sounds from start to finish. And lastly, as a bonus track the band offers us all I See No Beauty, showcasing more of their slashing Alternative Metal and Rock and presenting austere lyrics about ecology, global warming, poaching and animals mistreatment (“Dropped in the jungle, / Still so young, / I try using violence, / I test, / I experience, / I grow up and feed myself / I see no beauty in the species that made me”).

To sum up, the second step in the career of Ways. is beyond solid and promising, showcasing a band that’s even sharper and more focused than before, and if you want to show your support to this French quintet go check what they’re up to on Facebook and on YouTube, and purchase Aftermath (which is available for a full listen on Spotify or on YouTube) from the band’s own BandCamp page. I’m certain that the next step for this talented Post-Hardcore/Metal act will be the release of their first full-length album, which will represent the combination of a lot of hard work, dedication and energy, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes for that to happen, if it’s as half as good as the music found in Aftermath it will certainly be worth the wait.

Best moments of the album: Death Row and And Nobody Cares.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Twilight Until Dawn 2:01
2. Death Row 3:14
3. However… 3:13
4. And Nobody Cares 3:32
5. So Far So Good 3:44
6. Thirteen 2:20
7. With Love 6:02

Bonus track
8. I See No Beauty 2:41

Band members
Clément – vocals
Bruno – guitar
Nico – guitar
Niko – bass
Tony – drums

Album Review – Pestilent Reign / Pyres (2018)

Get ready for a feast of modern Death Metal blasted by a hardworking German act with their debut full-length opus, singing about the constant anger borne from injustice, human stupidity and religious bigotry.

It’s time to be absolutely pulverized by the frantic, modern and very technical Death Metal played by a German four-piece act known as Pestilent Reign, who are releasing their debut full-length album this year, entitled Pyres. Formed in 2013 by guitarist Lars Hägele and vocalist Christoph Sauner in the city of Sttutgart, in Southern Germany, Pestilent Reign released two EP’s after their inception, those being Shivering Chaos, in 2015, and The Zealot, in 2016, leading the band to play from local to international shows at festivals like Monthly Assault in Switzerland and Nice To Eat You in the Czech Republic, and sharing the stage with well-known bands like Benighted, Wormed, Unfathomable Ruination, Implore, Pighead, Analepsy, Omophagia, Spasm, Gutalax, Serrabulho, Deserted Fear, Rottenness, Warfuck and Abysmal Torment.

Across 39 minutes split in eight fulminating tracks, Pyres draws strength from a multitude of influences such as Psycroptic, Dying Fetus, Aborted and Revocation in a multi-faceted manner that’s as rewarding to listen to as it is fun. On Pyres, Pestilent Reign strikes the perfect balance between straightforward modern Death Metal, sledgehammer-like brutality, thrashy hooks, technically adept flourishes, and monstrous grooves. Featuring an obscure cover artwork by Bahrull Marta (Abomination Imagery) from Indonesia, and with lyrical themes based on the constant anger borne from injustice, human stupidity and religious bigotry, Pyres is the result of the band’s dedication and hard work, powerfully representing their passion and devotion to extreme music.

A song that starts with a crazy voice barking the sentence “PEOPLE ARE CANCER!” has to be violent and austere, and Martyr is all that, igniting the intricate and piercing devastation by the quartet with Sebastian Unić showcasing all his skills behind his drum kit, before Christoph starts firing his Barney Grimway-inspired growls in an entertaining exhibit of modern and aggressive Progressive Death Metal. And their sonic demolition goes on in You Will Kneel in Piss and Blood, a Death Metal tune with some Black Metal nuances where Lars sounds pulverizing with his metallic riffs. Moreover, it’s impossible not to love the breaks and variations presented by the band throughout the song, while Christoph keeps blasting furious gnarls and screeches nonstop. And the band offers another explosion of their scorching Death Metal in Saviour, which also sounds melodic and extremely vile at the same time, showcasing a beastly Sebastian on drums while Lars and his flammable guitar add an extra touch of dementia to the musicality. And in Ouroboros, it’s impressive how they master the art of blending the aggressiveness and rage from Death Metal with the intricacy of Progressive Metal, with Christoph sounding like a vile creature on vocals while the rest of the band will inspire you to crush your head into the circle pit.

Cleanse the Flesh presents razor-edged riffs and nonstop annihilation flowing from start to finish, with bassist Matthias “Mick” Figura together with Sebastian creating a dense background perfect for the rabid screams by Christoph; whereas in Zealot a brutal and electrifying intro morphs into ass-kicking Progressive Death Metal, with Sebastian and his blast beats adding a touch of darkness to the music. In addition, pay good attention to the interesting narration about going to a Death Metal concert and its connection with Satan, as it brings a pinch of comedic relief to their crushing music. A demonic screech ignites another circle pit-catalyst titled I.M.T.R.M., a great tune by this demented German squad with both Lars and Matthias grinding their axes like there’s no tomorrow. And last but not least we have Gutter´s Filth, perhaps the most intricate and wicked of all songs in Pyres, where all four band members are smashing and pounding their instruments mercilessly. Moreover, the level of complexity flowing from the guitar lines by Lars is outstanding, not to mention the demented performance by Christoph on vocals.

The fury spawned by Pestilent Reign can be better appreciated by following them on Facebook, and if you want to carry all the rottenness of old school Death Metal fused with the complexity of progressive music from Pyres (which by the way is available for a full listen on YouTube) with you wherever you go, you can buy a copy of the album at the Rising Nemesis Records BandCamp or Big Cartel, at the Rebirth the Metal Productions BandCamp or Big Cartel, as well as on iTunes, Amazon or City Disc, and keep supporting the always fun and always exhilarating underground Extreme Metal scene.

Best moments of the album: You Will Kneel in Piss and Blood, Ouroboros and Gutter´s Filth.

Worst moments of the album: Saviour.

Released in 2018 Rising Nemesis Records/Rebirth the Metal Productions

Track listing
1. Martyr 4:20
2. You Will Kneel in Piss and Blood 3:34
3. Saviour 5:28
4. Ouroboros 4:02
5. Cleanse the Flesh 3:08
6. Zealot 6:59
7. I.M.T.R.M. 4:58
8. Gutter´s Filth 6:07

Band members
Christoph Sauner – vocals
Lars Hägele – guitar
Matthias “Mick” Figura – bass
Sebastian Unić – drums

Album Review – Ov Shadows / The Darkness Between Stars (2018)

Representing an exploration beyond the sane and mentally sound, this talented Swedish horde is ready to haunt our souls with seven unrelenting tracks of atmospheric and sinister Black Metal.

“Embrace your shadow self – your dark aspects. Don’t hide away. Let those harmless creatures, turn into raging monsters. Let chaos guide your consciousness. You are ov Shadows.”

Those few sentences frame the concept behind Swedish Black Metal horde Ov Shadows, representing an exploration beyond the sane and mentally sound. With their music and lyrics, Ov Shadows acknowledge the duality that divide a persona and the shadow self, continuing further into the dark, a portal into chaos without barriers and rules. And after crossing that portal, you’ll be ready to explore the sinister realms of Atmospheric Black Metal ruled by Ov Shadows in their brand new album, entitled The Darkness Between Stars.

Formed in the city of Gothenburg in 2016, the band comprised of RA (aka Ronny Attergran) on vocals and bass, AF (aka Andreas Frizell) and AA (aka Anders Ahlbäck) on the guitars, and JW (aka Jonas Wickstrand) on drums returns after their 2016 debut EP Monologues with more of their Stygian sound, delivering epic riffs that turn from mournful to triumphant in a way that is stirring and emotionally satisfying. In other words, The Darkness Between Stars has everything that one could possibly want out of a Black Metal album, those being a truly dark atmosphere, an epic feel, the right mix of melody and grimness, and an engaging song structure.

Ominous sounds emerge from the dark chambers of hell until the quartet begins their devilish mass in the title-track The Darkness Between Stars, blasting sheer brutality and blasphemy during its almost 7 minutes of music.  RA sounds like a possessed demon on vocals, while JW delivers the most classic form of blast beats, generating a straightforward musicality recommended for admirers of the genre. In Bellowing Shadows, darkness and rage keep flowing from the band’s instruments in an excellent display of Black Metal, with their evil guitar duo AF and AA cutting our skin with their old school riffage, whereas RA’s gnarls sound and feel even more disturbing. And displaying hints of Doom Metal and Blackened Doom (but still reeking of putrid Black Metal) we have The Hanged Man, where JW continues his pulverizing path while both guitars sound as sulfurous as they can be, all spiced up by a sinister atmospheric passage before all hell breaks loose again.

The acid Disguised As Altruism is another demolishing Black Metal feast by Ov Shadows, with its guitars getting more and more scorching as the music progresses while the overall malignancy is considerably boosted by JW’s unstoppable beats, living up to the legacy of Scandinavian Black Metal. The Ritual of the Natural Flame already begins in full force, with the four members of the band summoning total darkness with their Stygian instruments, in special RA and his high-pitched demonic roars (not to mention the song’s somber and absolutely menacing break). After such beautiful blast of Black Metal, strident riffs and gnarls set the tone in the dense metallic extravaganza named Hordes Abiding the Narrator, with all instruments generating a mesmerizing dark ambience perfect for RA and his vociferations. Lastly, their final onrush of blasphemy and obscurity comes in the form of a 7-minute devastating tune named A Sky In Vain, where AF and AA create a wall of darkness with their riffs while JW switches between classic Black Metal drumming and Doom Metal-inspired beats, flowing into a melancholic and obscure ending.

If you want to take a detailed listen at The Darkness Between Stars, click HERE and enjoy this very cohesive and professional album in its entirety. Also, in order to show your true support to this skillful Swedish horde, simply visit their Facebook page for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know details about the band, and their YouTube channel for more of their unrelenting Black Metal. And of course, purchase The Darkness Between Stars on BandCamp or on Big Cartel, letting the somber music by Ov Shadows penetrate deep inside your mind, blackening your thoughts until there’s no way back.

Best moments of the album: Disguised As Altruism and The Ritual of the Natural Flame.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Black Market Metal

Track listing
1. The Darkness Between Stars 6:58
2. Bellowing Shadows 5:40
3. The Hanged Man 6:26
4. Disguised As Altruism 5:56
5. The Ritual of the Natural Flame 7:19
6. Hordes Abiding the Narrator 5:58
7. A Sky In Vain 7:42

Band members
RA – vocals, bass
AF – guitars
AA – guitars
JW – drums

Album Review – The Rocket Dolls / DeadHead (2018)

A fresh, contemporary collection of music that combines the best bits of heavy rock, grunge, punk, and pop smart sensibilities, symbolizing a reflection on personal demons and modern day society.

Brighton, England-based Heavy Rock trio The Rocket Dolls are ready to set fire to the scene with their brand new studio album DeadHead, featuring just the right amount of melody with straight up hook laden driven riffs combined with curveballs when you least expect them, being highly recommended for fans of the music by Alice In Chains, Foo Fighters and Kings X, among many other renowned rock bands. Recorded at London’s award winning British Grove Studios (David Gilmour, Razorlight, Mark Knopfler), and featuring a stylish arwork by Sam Hayles at DOSEprod (Earthtone 9, Pitchshifter, Jayce Lewis), DeadHead offers the listener a fresh, contemporary collection of music that combines the best bits of heavy rock, grunge, punk, and pop smart sensibilities, all meticulously put together by the band’s unstoppable trio.

Lead singer and guitarist Nikki Smash had a few words to say about the album art and how it connects to the music. “Sam captured the essence of what our new album is about. It’s a reflection on personal demons and modern day society; the split in the wolf (half animal/half machine) symbolizes the transformation between good to bad and bad to good. It demonstrates not just the struggle of depression and anxiety that inflicts itself upon our society, but also the wolf in motion should be seen as a symbol of hope and the need to fight and overcome what’s wrong in our world.” And you better get ready to rock with this wolf pack hailing from the UK, as they’re not kidding when they say DeadHead is their strongest collection of music to date.

Crushing their instruments from the very first second as if they were the Incredible Hulk of Hard Rock the trio offers us None Of This Is Right, a song about recovering from being ill and being addicted to prescription painkillers presenting a solid instrumental with rumbling bass lines and potent beats, all led by the slashing riffs by Nikki. Then we have She’s Starting Something Now, where Nikki discusses about domestic violence against women and their sweet revenge, showcasing heavier-than-usual riffs and beats (and even with all that heaviness this song can still be played on any radio station), and the title-track DeadHead, narrating Nikki’s battles with depression, drugs and prescription painkillers. Furthermore, although the song does have a darker feel when compared to its predecessors, it’s still very vibrant, with drummer Benji Knopfler showing he’s not only precise with his drums, but he also knows how to properly pound them.

A lot smoother and more melodic, She Said is a radio-friendly composition where Nikki fires some interesting semi-acoustic guitar lines while bassist Joe Constable makes sure the atmosphere remains as dense as possible; whereas The Last Thing On My Mind is an introspective heavy ballad by the trio displaying a great vocal performance by Nikki, while the song’s background orchestral elements bring a sense of melancholy to the overall result. Nikki said that Stop The Dead Men Crying is the hardest song for him to sing and play due to its content and meaning, and the final result couldn’t sound more obscure, including even hints of old school Doom Metal, with his henchmen Joe and Benji providing him a fantastic support with their thunderous instruments. And in Drowning, a somber tune about suicidal thoughts (which explains its gentle but at the same time piercing sonority), you can sense that lancinating feeling flowing from both Nikki’s clean vocals and his enraged screams.

Putting the pedal to the metal The Rocket Dolls fire the thrilling and harmonious The Desperate, inspired by modern-day Punk Rock and led by the rhythmic beats by Benji, while Nikki fires what are probably his best riffs of the whole album. Following that explosive tune, his battle with mental health issues goes on in the also dark and pensive Strain, where Benji shows no mercy for his drum kit by smashing it like there’s no tomorrow (and the same can be said about Joe, who produces an ominous sound with his bass). In Rusty Bones, Nikki once again talks about taking painkillers for his osteoarthritis knee pain, and all the drinking and abusing that can sometimes make everything feel sluggish and slow, with the music being highly inspired by Stoner Rock and Metal, therefore bringing a neck-breaking riff and tons of agony and pain to our minds; and the band’s last blast of fury comes in the form of another thunderous Stoner Metal-like tune titled Trigger, where Joe doesn’t get tired of crushing his strings. It’s a very dense and bold composition, and needless to say a fantastic closing act for such personal album for the band’s talented frontman.

In a nutshell, I believe Nikki more than succeeded in turning all his personal demons and struggles with drug and alcohol abuse into high-quality rock music, pointing to a great direction for The Rocket Dolls wolf pack to keep following with their future albums. If you want to know more about the band and about how music has helped Nikki overcome all his fears and problems, go visit their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and don’t forget to grab your copy of DeadHead from the band’s own Big Cartel page, from iTunes, from Amazon or from Cargo Records. It’s always a pleasure to see how rock and heavy music can help a normal person like Nikki beat such delicate topics like drug and alcohol addiction and abuse, and an album like DeadHead only confirms that while Rock N’ Roll exists, nobody is alone in this world.

Best moments of the album: None Of This Is Right, The Desperate and Trigger.

Worst moments of the album: She Said.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1 .None Of This Is Right 3:54
2. She’s Starting Something Now 3:35
3. DeadHead 4:35
4. She Said 2:58
5. The Last Thing On My Mind 3:51
6. Stop The Dead Men Crying 4:29
7. Drowning 4:25
8. The Desperate 4:05
9. Strain 4:45
10. Rusty Bones 4:04
11. Trigger 3:43

Band members
Nikki Smash – vocals & guitar
Benji Knopfler – drums & backing vocals
Joe Constable – bass & backing vocals

Album Review – High Reeper / High Reeper (2018)

Reeper, deadly reeper, it’s time to rumble to the flammable fusion of Stoner Rock and Doom Metal by this up-and-coming five-piece act from Philadelphia.

Formed in 2016 in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest city, in the United States by Zach Thomas on vocals, Pat Daly and Andrew Price on the guitars, Shane Trimble on bass and Napz Mosley on drums, Hard Rock/Doom Metal act High Reeper originally started as a studio band, but it rapidly became apparent that their music was meant to be heard live and loud, making their debut in the Philly stoner rock scene in early 2017 with success and, as a consequence, being followed up by the release of their self-titled debut album now in 2018. Deeply rooted in modern Stoner Rock but still giving a nod to the early days of Black Sabbath, the band’s first offering is driven by pounding rhythms, thick guitars and soaring, screeching vocals, meant to be played loud and to be played often.

In other words, High Reeper is an unapologetic punch in the face for fans of early 70’s proto-metal, with the sound and smell of leather, weed, boozing, gambling and death permeating the record from start to finish. Produced, engineered and mixed by bass player Shane Trimble at TTR studios in Philadelphia as well as his home studio Delwood Sound in Delaware, the sound is laced with old school elements while still maintaining the focus of a modern-sounding release, being highly recommended for fans of the aforementioned Black Sabbath, as well as other noisy and obscure bands like Saint Vitus and Orchid. Throughout its 42 minutes of music split into nine unique tracks, each one with its own purpose and soul, High Reeper will take you on a psychedelic and stoner musical journey, running from up-tempo straight-ahead rock, to slowed down, heavy, early doom.

Otherworldly riffs kick off the flammable Doom Metal feast titled Die Slow, a fun tune that will certainly put you into a trance where Shane with his rumbling bass and Napz with his rhythmic beats set the stage for the Ozzy-inspired vocals by Zach; and enhancing their electricity and stamina to a whole new level, the quintet delivers a rockin’ hymn titled Chrome Hammer, showcasing a great riffage by the guitar duo comprised of Pat and Andrew in what’s in my humble opinion the best song of the entire album. Keep in mind the party is just starting, as in Soul Taker we’re treated to another excellent Black Sabbath-like anthem by High Reeper, with Napz smashing his drums and Pat and Andrew delivering pure feeling with their strings.

The title-track High Reeper is sluggish and somber as expected in good old Doom Metal, ignited by the low-tuned bass by Shane before it becomes a drum feast by Napz, flowing into a thrilling, metallic ending; whereas in Reeper Deadly Reeper a dark and menacing intro evolves into a hard rockin’ Stoner and Doom Metal mass, with Zach putting his heart and soul into his performance, therefore enhancing the song’s already powerful vibe considerably. Then we have Weed & Speed, where the name says it all, with the weed part coming in the form pure Stoner Metal flowing from their instruments, while the speed appears every now and then amidst the most sluggish and soulful riffs you can think of. However, the final result doesn’t feel as cohesive as the other songs, falling flat after a while.

In the fantastic Double Down And Let It Ride, simply let their doomed sounds and noises invade your senses, led by the always thrilling guitars by Pat and Andrew. This is what I would call the perfect depiction of a hybrid between old school Doom Metal with modern Stoner Metal and Southern Rock, and a path High Reeper should definitely keep exploring in their future releases. Black Leather (Chose Us) is an ode to the 70’s lifestyle where heavy rockers used to wear black no matter what, translated into top-tier Stoner Rock full of crisp riffs and solos, rhythmic beats and the inebriate vocals by Zach. And last but not least, closing this feast of witchcraft and psychedelia we have another solid tune titled Friend Of Death, where we’re able to enjoy all the dexterity by the band’s guitar duo as well as the precision and feeling of Napz on drums for over six minutes, not to mention Shane with his blackened low-tuned punches, with its last part being a thing of beauty for fans of the genre.

You can easily enter the psychedelic world ruled by High Reeper by visiting their Facebook page and by purchasing their incendiary album through the Heavy Psych Sounds BandCamp or webstore (as a regular version or as a bundle that includes the album plus a T-shirt and a patch), as well as on iTunes, on Amazon, and on other retailers like Saturn and Best Buy. Because, you know, it’s time to rumble to the flammable fusion of Stoner Rock and Doom Metal by this excellent band from Philadelphia, and once you get into their vibe there’s no way out.

Best moments of the album: Chrome Hammer, Reeper Deadly Reeper and Double Down And Let It Ride.

Worst moments of the album: Weed & Speed.

Released in 2018 Heavy Psych Sounds Records

Track listing
1. Die Slow 5:28
2. Chrome Hammer 2:53
3. Soul Taker 3:27
4. High Reeper 4:37
5. Reeper Deadly Reeper 6:09
6. Weed & Speed 5:37
7. Double Down And Let It Ride 4:40
8. Black Leather (Chose Us) 3:28
9. Friend Of Death 6:07

Band members
Zach Thomas – vocals
Pat Daly – guitar
Andrew Price – guitar
Shane Trimble – bass
Napz Mosley – drums