Album Review – Dakhma / Hamkar Atonement (2018)

Do you dare to submerge thyself within the daeva’s very depths? Then let this peculiar Swiss duo offer you the perfect soundtrack to that with their brand new opus of Zoroastrian Death Music.

Dakhma (Avestan for “grave”) is a term for a ”Tower of Silence” (which is an English neologism), a circular, raised structure used by Zoroastrians for exposure of the dead, particularly to scavenging birds for the purposes of excarnation (although in the Avesta, the term is pejorative and does not signify a construction of any kind). In heavy music, the term is used to name the cryptic and hellish Blackened Death Metal entity Dakhma, who are releasing their first full-length opus, the enigmatic Hamkar Atonement. Formed in 2014 in Zürich, the largest city in Switzerland, the band comprised of Kerberos on “Howls of Druj and Rites of Purification” (vocals, guitar and bass) and H.A.T.T. on “Thunderstorm of Daeva” (drums) plays what they like to call “Zoroastrian Death Music”, with their new album being a work of towering immensity, of unorthodox ritualism and subverted bestiality, descending and ascending with seven hymns within a staggering 61 minutes in a total sensory overload, an immersion that begets annihilation that begets rebirth.

As Dakhma explain of the title, the Avestan word “Hamkar,” which literally translates to “co-worker” or “helper,” is used in reference to the daeva of Angra Mainyu (Ahriman in middle Persia), himself the omnimalevolent and most destructive spirit. In the collection of texts describing Zoroastrian cosmogony and creation, traditionally called Bundahishn, Angra Mainyu creates a horde of daeva to counter the creation of cosmos by Ahura Mazda (Ohrmazd or Ormuzd in middle Persian), with each daeva mirroring an opposite Amesha Spenta. In mirroring the tasks of the Amesha Spentas as servants of Ohrmazd, daeva are the instrument through which Ahriman creates all the horrors in the world. Following the interpretation laid out in texts such as the “Shayest ne shayest,” where the daeva are seen as being utterly real and not mere philosophical representations, the music contained on Hamkar Atonement describes creation through the ultimate destruction of Ohrmazd’s good deeds, good thoughts, and good work by the daeva. Hamkar Atonement begins with the demise of Ohrmazd and therefore the destruction of all that is holy on the earth, allowing the daeva to roam free and corrupt human existence, described in greater detail throughout the album. Each song serves a specific narrative purpose, be it the dedication to a specific daeva or describing the results of their exploits on earth.

An esoteric intro ignites an 11-minute feast of wicked and tribal sounds titled The Glorious Fall of Ohrmazd (Hail Death, Triumphant), with the vociferations by Kerberos crawling deep inside your mind, mesmerizing your senses and haunting your soul, until all hell breaks loose and sheer darkness is unleashed with H.A.T.T. crushing his drums manically. And their scorching hot riffs, thunderous bass lines and pounding beats keep shaking the foundations of the earth in Akhoman (Spill the Blood), another full-bodied display of their Zoroastrian Death Music where Kerberos delivers some deep, obscure roars, effectively blending old school Black Metal with the visceral sound of Death Metal, just as devastating as its predecessor. Following such distinguished tune we have Varun (Of Unnatural Lust), where tribal, ancient drums are gradually joined by eerie noises and tones, until the music explodes into rumbling and vile Black Metal for our total delight. Furthermore, the sound of the bass by Kerberos is amazingly thunderous and vibrant, adding an extra layer of dementia to the overall result.

In Nanghait (Born of Fire) the duo sounds even more tribal than before, generating a reverberating exhibit of Black and Death Metal led by the demonic roars by Kerberos while H.A.T.T. is simply bestial on drums, with their wicked extravaganza of sounds going on and on, leaving you disoriented and eager for more of their Blackened Death Metal, ending in an absolutely raw and cryptic manner. Then smooth and serene tones permeate the air in the atmospheric instrumental bridge Spendarmad (Holy Devotion), elevating your soul to new heights and preparing you for the Stygian and visceral Gannag Menog (Foul Death, Triumphant), where the duo takes their Black Metal to a more menacing level, with the guttural growls by Kerberos growing in intensity and getting as deep as hell. In addition, the piercing riffs and bass punches by Kerberos bring tons of electricity to the musicality, with the song’s ending being as crazy and imposing as possible,  building an instant connection with the closing hymn titled …Of Great Prophets, with Kerberos extracting a strident sound from his guitar; and just like what happened throughout the entire album, the music remains mysterious and austere from start to finish, taking you on a one-way trip to the band’s dissident world of Extreme Metal, also showcasing somber breaks intertwined with pure devastation that turn the experience of listening to this breathtaking song truly unique.

In summary, it’s not every day that we face something so peculiar and gripping as the music by Dakhma, with Hamkar Atonement representing to perfection the true meaning of Zoroastrian Death Music. In order to show your utmost support to this infernal Swiss duo,  go check what they’re up to on Facebook, and grab your copy of the whimsical Hamkar Atonement from the Iron Bonehead Productions’ BandCamp or webstore, as well as from the Hells Headbangers’ webstore, from Record Shop X or from the Shadow Kingdom Records’ webstore. In other words, do you dare to submerge thyself within the daeva’s very depths? Then let Dakhma offer you the perfect soundtrack to that with Hamkar Atonement.

Best moments of the album: Akhoman (Spill the Blood) and Nanghait (Born of Fire).

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Iron Bonehead

Track listing
1. The Glorious Fall of Ohrmazd (Hail Death, Triumphant) 11:08
2. Akhoman (Spill the Blood) 11:55
3. Varun (Of Unnatural Lust) 5:24
4. Nanghait (Born of Fire) 10:58
5. Spendarmad (Holy Devotion) 4:13
6. Gannag Menog (Foul Death, Triumphant) 10:33
7. …Of Great Prophets 16:01

Band members
Kerberos – vocals, guitars, bass
H.A.T.T. – drums

Guest musician
Menetekel – High Priest incantation on “Gannag Menog (Foul Death Triumphant)”

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Album Review – Down To The Heaven / [level -1] (2018)

Bringing forth complex arrangements combined with a large dose of modern electronic music, here comes a metal unity from Poland ready to smash our senses with their debut album of incendiary Metalcore and Djent.

Electronicore, also known as Trancecore or Synthcore, is a fusion of Metalcore and Djent with elements of various electronic music genres, such as trance, electronica, and dubstep, with bands and artists like Attack Attack! in the United States and Enter Shikari in the UK having contributed to the development and the dissemination of the genre all over the world. Furthermore, it looks like the style has been expanding in a healthy and interesting way in recent years with the rising of bands like Switzerland’s own Rage Of Light and Polish Metalcore/Djent unity Down To The Heaven, who are releasing this year their debut album curiously titled [level -1].

Formed in 2013 in the city of Bielsko-Biała, Down To The Heaven have all it takes to become one of the references in Eletronicore and Djent. Comprised of Rusty on vocals, Shaun and Majster on the guitars, Grzela on bass, Cyfrowe Zło on keys and electronic noises, and Hoomer on drums, the band brings forth a style characterized by complex arrangements with heavy guitar playing combined with a large dose of melody and modern electronic music. In [level -1], which was mixed and mastered at Seeker Studio in Wrocław, Poland in 2017 and which features a modern and captivating artwork by Sztuczny Horyzont, this Polish six-piece act showcases all they got, being ready to smash your senses with their vicious and rumbling sounds and noises.

As if a wicked horror flick was about to begin, a creepy intro titled Down to the… gets heavier and heavier as time goes by, generating a metallic and embracing atmosphere for the demolishing Catharsis, where frontman Rusty barks deeply like a beast while the whimsical keys by Cyfrowe Zło make a vibrant contrast with the furious beats by Hoomer, resulting in a fantastic and modern hybrid between Metalcore, Industrial Metal and Melodic Death Metal. Then Shaun and Majster ignite another crushing feast of sounds named Lost in Memories with their cutting riffs, while Grzela will make your head tremble with his sick bass lines. Moreover, the music remains bold and thunderous from start to finish, proving how talented and heavy Down To The Heaven are. And putting the pedal to the metal the band blasts sheer madness and aggression in Unbroken, an excellent sample of contemporary Djent infused with elements from heavier styles where Rusty is once again demented on vocals, while Cyfrowe Zło brings insanity to the music with his keys and special effects.

Even more modernized and eccentric than its predecessors, No Vision is a movie-inspired instrumental extravaganza where its beautiful piano notes go along really well with the guitar solos and the mesmerizing atmosphere, whereas in Kingdom of Delusion it actually feels we’re “entering” a movie, with the rhythmic and tribal beats by Hoomer setting the stage for Rusty and his deranged, lunatic growls. In addition, the music evolves to a potent industrialized sounding, with both Shaun and Majster firing sheer electricity through their crisp riffs. In Tyrant’s Fall we’re treated to an explosion of modern-day Metalcore with an electronic and demented twist, led by Cyfrowe Zło and his piercing keys while Hoomer keeps pounding and smashing his drums and Rusty growls the song’s rebellious lyrics (“Arise in rage! / Image of madness / Dripping from rusty chains / Like deadly poison inside our brains / Blood under feet / Groan of tormented souls / Who’s lurking behind the Throne / BURN THEM ALL!”), before We Are, the last track of the album, continues to punch you in the head with the violent sounds extracted from all instruments, being effectively complemented by the most electronic noises of the entire album. Moreover, the song also presents clean vocals at times, making the whole experience of listening to it even more tasteful and, therefore, ending the album on a high and wicked note.

In summary, Down To The Heaven nailed it in [level -1], creating something truly unique by adding their own twist and electricity to the already innovative Eletronicore, and if you want to know more about this skillful act from Poland simply pay them a visit on Facebook for news, tour dates and other shenanigans, subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their music, and purchase [level -1] directly from their BandCamp page or from iTunes. Put differently, if it’s fresh and modern music you’re craving, but without giving up that raw and aggressive vibe from heavy music, it’s time you get “down to the heaven”.

Best moments of the album: Catharsis, Unbroken and Tyrant’s Fall.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Down to the… 3:25
2. Catharsis 5:02
3. Lost in Memories 3:48
4. Unbroken 4:10
5. No Vision 6:07
6. Kingdom of Delusion 5:51
7. Tyrant’s Fall 3:32
8. We Are 3:02

Band members
Rusty – vocals
Shaun – guitar
Majster – guitar
Grzela – bass
Cyfrowe Zło – electronic noises, keys
Hoomer – drums

Album Review – Tannoiser / Alamut EP (2018)

An excellent album of crushing, distorted and obscure sounds, courtesy of an Italian power trio ready to spread darkness in the name of old school Sludge and Doom Metal.

Forged during the summer of 2015 in Salò, a town and comune in the Province of Brescia in the region of Lombardy on the banks of Lake Garda, in Italy, Stoner/Doom Metal power trio Tannoiser is a reality among us with their slow and obscure music inspired by cult acts such as Celtic Frost, Electric Wizard and Cathedral, also inserting some stylistic elements dear to the primordial Black Metal into the mix. Comprised of Bruno Almici on vocals and bass, Francesco Bellucci on the guitar and Davide Serpelloni on drums, Tannoiser are unleashing upon humanity their brand new EP, entitled Alamut, aiming at spreading darkness through their low-tuned, rumbling instruments and screams, all in the name of old school Doom Metal.

The name of the album is a clear reference to the mountain fortress, whose remains are located in the current Iran and which served as the basis for the sect of the Nizarites, better known as Hashashin, a story distinguished by mysteries that weave reality and legend. The dark, also understood as a lack of certainties, is another underlying macroscopic theme, starting from the subject chosen for the cover itself, the cannabis plant, whose history in the last century has been characterized by obscurantism and demonization, and which is linked to the history of the stronghold of Alamut. Musically speaking, as aforementioned Alamut brings to the listener doomed and distorted heavy music that lives up to the legacy of the genre, turning the album into a must-listen for diehard Doom Metal fans in pursuit of fresh alternatives in the market.

In the opening track, curiously named Baba Vanga after a blind Bulgarian mystic, clairvoyant, and herbalist, a beyond weird intro quickly explodes into piercing and rumbling Stoner Metal led by the low-tuned bass and the anguished roars by Bruno, while Francesco slashes his strings in a vibrant fusion of old school Doom Metal and modern Rock N’ Roll. And the trio wastes no time and keep firing their fun and vibrant Stoner Metal in Paradacsa, with the bass punches being nicely supported by Davide’s steady and fierce beats. Moreover, the song presents an even more menacing vibe than its predecessor, being highly recommended for banging your head really hard in pitch black darkness; whereas the scorching hot buzzing blasted by Bruno from his bass ignites a somber Doom Metal feast titled Necrophage, where he also growls in a perturbing way while Davide keeps pounding our heads with his drums, with the music flowing demonically until its crushing finale.

March of Wrecks continues to pave the power trio’s path of obscurity, anger and pain, even bringing more aggressive nuances from Black Metal to their dense musicality, with Francesco doing an awesome job with his razor-edged riffs, while The Void showcases the most serene start of all songs from the EP, sounding melancholic and eerie with Bruno’s Stygian bass lines taking the lead while Francesco’s guitar lines once again bring electricity to the music. Then it’s Davide who takes care of kicking off their last breath of top-of-the-line Doom and Stoner Metal, titled Mekkano, remaining as dark as doomed music can be, with all band members adding their touch of malignancy to the sonority, especially Francesco with his mesmerizing riffs.

Entering the dark and sluggish world of Tannoiser is quite easy, as all you need to do is follow them on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and of course purchase your copy of Alamut (available for a full listen on YouTube and on SoundCloud) directly from their BandCamp page or from Amazon. Tannoiser were spot on with their thrilling fusion of Stoner and Doom Metal in Alamut, and apparently the band will only grow stronger and stronger as time goes by, pointing to a bright future not only for the band but for the entire genre as well.

Best moments of the album: Baba Vanga and March of Wrecks.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Leynir Booking & Prod

Track listing
1. Baba Vanga 4:11
2. Paradacsa 5:33
3. Necrophage 5:20
4. March of Wrecks 3:59
5. The Void 5:52
6. Mekkano 4:38

Band members
Bruno Almici – vocals, bass
Francesco Bellucci – guitar
Davide Serpelloni – drums

Album Review – Akhenaten / Golden Serpent God (2018)

Steeped in the mythology and mysticism of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia while exploring forgotten paths of history, here comes an infernal duo armed with their brand new opus of crushing Blackened Death Metal.

Forged in 2012 in the fires of Manitou Springs, a resort city in Colorado, in the United States by the “Houseman Brothers” Wyatt Houseman on vocals and Jerred Houseman on all other instruments, here comes a unique and vibrant Black/Death Metal studio project infused with Middle Eastern Folk Influences (even called “Blackened Mesopotamian Folk/Death Metal”) known as Akhenaten with their brand new album Golden Serpent God, steeped in the mythology and mysticism of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia while exploring forgotten paths of history, extracting unknown lore and threads of truth. For instance, Akhenaten, known before the fifth year of his reign as Amenhotep IV, was a pharaoh of Egypt especially noted for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing worship centered on the Aten, giving you a very good idea of how distinct and aggressive the music by the duo sounds.

With parallel themes to what’s found in the brother’s Symphonic Black Metal band Helleborus, and featuring an imposing cover artwork by Tony Koehl of Sketch The Soul and a title page artwork by Dennis Lee Hughes of Cythraul Art, Golden Serpent God will appeal to fans of the music by bands such as Al-Namrood, Narjahanam, Melechesh and Kartikeya just like what happened in their previous release Incantations Through the Gates of Irkalla, from 2015, whispering to the most remote regions of primal memory to the sound of their Blackened Death Metal, filled with exotic instruments and rhythmic structures of the ancient Near and Middle East. “The album is a mural of epics from Egypt and Mesopotamia. It tells stories of belief, warfare, men and Gods,” said Jerred about their newborn opus, inviting the listener to an idiosyncratic and extreme music journey together with the duo.

In the excellent opening track, titled Amulets of Smoke and Fire, ominous sounds take us to the Mesopotamian world of Akhenaten, with Jerred generating a dark and embracing atmosphere with his scorching riffs, whimsical keyboards and demonic beats, while Wyatt growls like an Egyptian beast; followed by the also imposing and devastating Dragon of the Primordial Sea, where the guitar and bass lines create a beautiful paradox with the epicness flowing from keyboards, while Wyatt declaims the song’s lyrics with his deep, visceral growls, enhancing the song’s taste and impact even more, creating an instant link with the crushing chant Throne of Shamash, where the drums by Jerred get more and more demolishing as the music progresses in an excellent display of classic Blackened Death Metal, feeling like a battle hymn due to its thunderous vibe.

Then Middle-Eastern and folk elements permeate the air in the captivating instrumental bridge Through the Stargate, setting the stage for Akhenaten to smash our senses in Erishkigal: Kingdom of Death, a full-bodied, metallic feast of darkened sounds and nuances where the Houseman Bothers are absolutely on fire and in total sync, with highlights to the rumbling sounds extracted from guitars and bass. And things get even more thrilling as the strident and piercing sound of keyboards take the lead in the melodic aria titled Pazuzu: Harbinger of Darkness, the perfect union of history, myths and metal music, with the vociferations by Wyatt matching the musicality flawlessly, whereas in Akashic Field: Enter Arcana Catacombs get ready for over seven minutes of tribal beats and Middle-Eastern tones and nuances in another fresh instrumental extravaganza by this talented band, with Jerred blasting hypnotizing beats while the atmosphere remains as cryptic as it can be.

Featuring Brian Palmer (Circaic) on the guitar, God of Creation is the most devastating and modern composition by Akhenaten, with Wyatt growling like a demonic entity while Jerred makes sure the ambience remains as violent as possible in a multi-layered, intricate feast of Black and Death Metal for our avid ears. After such furious explosion of extreme music we have another interesting display of Middle-Eastern music infused with Extreme Metal and even futuristic elements entitled Sweat of the Sun, sounding a bit too weird at times (not to mention it could have been slightly shorter and more metallic), while in Apophis: The Serpent of Rebirth the duo gets back to their more incendiary mode, blasting a potent fusion of Progressive and Blackened Death Metal, being therefore tailored for fans of bands like Behemoth. Furthermore, the intricacy flowing from guitars and bass are the exact background Wyatt needs to thrive with his gnarls, flowing like a firestorm until the music fades into the atmospheric and vibrant outro Golden Serpent God, with all its hypnotizing sounds generating an enfolding and obscure finale for such heavy and captivating album.

In case you want to explore in more detail the vast and eccentric realm of Akhenaten, simply pay them a visit on Facebook for news and other nice-to-know details, and grab your copy of Golden Serpent God (available for a full listen on YouTube, on Spotify and on SoundCloud) from their BandCamp page, from the Satanath Records’ BandCamp page, from the Cimmerian Shade Recordings’ webstore, from iTunes, from Amazon or from Discogs. Akhenaten offer you a one-way ticket into the blackened and mysterious lands of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia in Golden Serpent God, and I’m sure such distinguished experience will deeply encourage you to stay there and not come back of your own free will.

Best moments of the album: Dragon of the Primordial Sea, Pazuzu: Harbinger of Darkness and God of Creation.

Worst moments of the album: Sweat of the Sun.

Released in 2018 Satanath Records/Cimmerian Shade Recordings/Murdher Records

Track listing
1. Amulets of Smoke and Fire 3:42
2. Dragon of the Primordial Sea 3:22
3. Throne of Shamash 2:50
4. Through the Stargate 2:35
5. Erishkigal: Kingdom of Death 4:03
6. Pazuzu: Harbinger of Darkness 4:09
7. Akashic Field: Enter Arcana Catacombs 7:05
8. God of Creation (feat. Brian Palmer) 3:22
9. Sweat of the Sun 5:59
10. Apophis: The Serpent of Rebirth 5:49
11. Golden Serpent God 2:44

Band members
Wyatt Houseman – vocals
Jerred Houseman – all instruments

Guest musicians
Brian Palmer – guitars on “God of Creation”
Rose White – female vocals

Album Review – Morbid Spawn / And So It Begins EP (2018)

It’s time to get morbid and slam into the pit to the sound of the crushing Death Metal by this up-and-coming act hailing from Sweden.

It’s time to get morbid and vile with some old school Death Metal made in Karlskrona, known as Sweden’s only baroque city, pulverizing your senses and leaving you completely disoriented just the way we love in extreme music. I’m talking about the infernal duo comprised of guitarist J. Åberg and bassist R. Svensson, who together formed in the year of 2008 a demonic entity known as Morbid Spawn. Shortly after the formation of the band, a four-track demo called Demo Anthology was released in 2009 and the duo started looking for a drummer for the band, but unfortunately they couldn’t find a permanent one after several tests with different candidates. The project was then put on hold until 2015 when they recorded a single just for fun, culminating with the release now in 2018 of their first official album, the five-track EP And So It Begins.

And they need only two seconds to start pulverizing everyone and everything that crosses their path in the opening track S.G.T.D, where the drums sound deeply violent and bestial while J. Åberg smashes his strings mercilessly, not to mention the song’s classic Death Metal lyrics (“The Rightful deprivation everlost in Obsolete / Surrounded by the Conceit, a False Valor of Yourself / Pandemonic Treason, Your Treachery induce us all /Benighted Bastard Of Filth, your downfall will succeed”); turning it into a highly recommended option for slamming into a nasty circle pit. Then showcasing deeper growls, which end up giving the music a more ferocious and raw vibe, Path To The Celestrial Realm brings forward flammable riffs accompanied by low-tuned and menacing bass lines that will embrace you and prepare you for a demented drumming onrush. In other words, fans of classic Cannibal Corpse will love this crushing tune from the bottom of their bloody hearts; whereas Tortured feels even more rhythmic and devastating, with enraged and bestial roars permeating the air while the reverberating sounds of guitar and bass exhale sheer havoc and chaos, resulting in a first-class old school Death Metal hymn for the masses condensed in less than three minutes.

In the following tune, the action-packed, demolishing Immolated Incantation, visceral words are beautifully growled and barked (“Deceptional Distress / Pernicious Pain / Piercing through Me / From Within; Prevailed by Horrid struggle / Feeling it through my vein / Starting to feel insane /Insane!”), proving Death Metal gets even more entertaining when the lyrics are as aggressive as the music. As a matter of fact, the name of the song is already an ode to the purest form of Death Metal, sounding vile, crude and demented, in special the song’s nonstop beats and fills. And last but not least, Morbid Spawn fires another putrid and obscure tune named Never To Return, a crushing feast of demonic guitars, thunderous bass punches and endless violence, also presenting over six minutes of gruesome vociferations and that somber intricacy we love in Death Metal riffs, with the music flowing powerfully until everything morphs into an eccentric and Stygian ending.

You can listen to And So It Begins in its entirety on YouTube, purchase the album from Morbid Spawn’s BandCamp page and from the Podreira Records’ BandCamp page, or simply follow the band on Facebook. No matter which one of these options better suits your needs, you should be prepared to be pulverized inside the circle pit, slamming like a beast to the sound of this skillful Death Metal act from Sweden that might have taken a while to deliver their first opus to the world, but the wait was definitely worth it and opens a promising (and devastating) path for the band in a not-so-distant future in the world of underground extreme music.

Best moments of the album: Tortured and Immolated Incantation.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. S.G.T.D 4:41
2. Path To The Celestrial Realm 3:47
3. Tortured 2:37
4. Immolated Incantation 4:05
5. Never To Return 6:29

Band members
J. Åberg – guitar, drum programming
R. Svensson – bass, drum programming

Album Review – Pantheist / Seeking Infinity (2018)

After almost a decade, this London-based Funeral Doom institution returns to their musical roots with a 60-minute cinematic journey through obscure and atmospheric landscapes.

A pantheist is someone who believes that God and the universe are the same, or in other words, that “All Is God”, as pantheism literally means “God Is All” (pan means all and Theos means God when translated from Greek). Brought to life in the year 2000 in Antwerp, Belgium by vocalist and keyboardist Kostas Panagiotou, but currently based in London, England, the dark and vile Progressive/Funeral Doom Metal entity known as Pantheist, one of the standard bearers of the Funeral Doom sound, is among us to prove that “All is Doom” with their brand new opus entitled Seeking Infinity, their fifth full-length album and their first release in seven years. Seeking Infinity is a 60-minute cinematic journey through Funeral Doom landscapes, a decisive return to Pantheist’s musical roots whilst still incorporating the atmospheric and progressive elements that have become an integral part of their sound over the years.

The long journey leading to the creation of this album started all the way back in the summer of 2012, when Kostas announced to his then band members an outline for a new concept album. A lot of things have changed since then and the concept and sound have evolved dramatically until the creation of the album; however, despite the changes, the philosophy behind this concept album and its singular purpose have remained intact. Recorded, mixed and engineered by drummer Daniel “Dan” Neagoe (Shape of Despair, Clouds) and enhanced with the enchanting artwork of the band’s visual artist Cheryl, the album sounds and looks both modern and familiar, surely to fill with nostalgia fans of old-school traditional Funeral Doom/Death Metal, while also drawing to its mystical sound new followers for the years to come.

An ominous intro named Eye of the Universe keeps growing in intensity, with an eerie and somber narration setting the stage for the sluggish, obscure and visceral Control and Fire, a lesson in Funeral Doom with Kostas sounding demonic with both his deep growls and his phantasmagorical keys, while Dan keeps the rhythm as lugubrious as it can be with his slow and potent beats, being effectively supported by Frank Allain and his slashing riffs, with the music flowing darkly and smoothly until 500 B.C. to 30 A.D.- The Enlightened Ones comes crushing with its beyond atmospheric start on the piano, complemented by its cryptic words darkly declaimed by Kostas (“You can run, but you can’t hide from the quiet flow of time / the dark tentacles of fate push you towards your destiny / and when you think you are free to live your life as you please / you’ll find you’re nothing but a pawn of history / There is a fire, a desire in my head / eat my battered body, drink my wasted blood / and tell me endless tales of who I am: / the man who feels inside him that change has come”). Put differently, this is a funeral march of metal music tailored for admirers of the genre, with its second half getting creepy and enigmatic, beautifully exploding into classy Blackened Doom.

Amidst obscure background elements and nuances, the acoustic guitar by guest Pete Benjamin (Voices, Akercocke) kicks off another multi-layered feast of Doom Metal by Pantheist titled 1453: an Empire Crumbles, also showcasing the deep Gregorian chant-inspired vocals by the other guest Andy Koski-Semmens (Syven, Pantheist), offering the listener six minutes of what can be called a Stygian and mesmerizing mass. Then the serene keys by Kostas are the main ingredient in the also slow and dense Emergence, with the low-tuned bass lines by Alexsej creating a menacing ambience in paradox with the delicacy of the piano notes. In other words, Pantheist will crush your senses mercilessly throughout the entire song in the perfect depiction of how visceral and vibrant Doom Metal can be. And lastly we have Seeking Infinity, Reaching Eternity, another deep and full-bodied display of Funeral Doom led by Kostas’ anguished roars and church-like keys, giving life to the song’s imposing, poetic lyrics (“I hear the sound of horns, I see a beast appearing from the sea / it has ten horns and seven heads / looks like a lion, like a leopard it crawls / I stretch out my shaking hand / and touch the body of the dancing Shiva / I want to scream, but I can’t / instead I cry, shake and shiver”), with Dan pounding his drums in perfect sync with Frank’s harmonious and fierce riffs and, therefore, keeping the atmosphere vibrant and thunderous until its climatic finale.

Pantheist are a Funeral Doom institution that’s certainly worth a shot, no doubt about that, and the extremely high quality of the music found in Seeking Infinity is a solid statement that this very talented band is here to stay, living up to the legacy of all classic and old school Doom Metal, Funeral Doom and Blackened Doom bands from all over the world. Having said that, I highly recommend you follow the band on Facebook and subscribe to their YouTube channel for more details about them and to enjoy more of their music. And, of course, purchase your copy of Seeking Infinity from their own BandCamp or webstore, from The Vynil Division’s BandCamp or webstore, from iTunes or from Discogs, and may the somber and lugubrious sounds and tones blasted by Pantheist permeate your thoughts whenever you visit the darkest corners of your mind.

Best moments of the album: 500 B.C. to 30 A.D.- The Enlightened Ones and Emergence.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Melancholic Realm Productions

Track listing
1. Eye of the Universe 1:59
2. Control and Fire 11:45
3. 500 B.C. to 30 A.D.- The Enlightened Ones 13:13
4. 1453: an Empire Crumbles 6:04
5. Emergence 12:17
6. Seeking Infinity, Reaching Eternity 14:39

Band members
Kostas Panagiotou – vocals, keyboards
Frank Allain – guitars
Aleksej Obradović – bass
Daniel “Dan” Neagoe – drums

Guest musicians
Pete Benjamin – acoustic guitar on “1453: an Empire Crumbles”
Andy Koski-Semmens – vocals on “1453: an Empire Crumbles”

Album Review – Ritual Aesthetic / Wound Garden (2018)

One of Denver’s most promising metal outfits returns with a hard-hitting album of terrifying digital aggression, blending melodic dance rhythms, harsh metal guitars and dark experimental noise atmospheres.

Formed in 2013 in Denver, Colorado, in the United States by Sean Ragan (also known as Sean Von Helvete), who was drumming for Los Angeles-based Industrial/Melodic Black Metal band Dawn of Ashes at that time, Industrial Metal outfit Ritual Aesthetic returns in 2018 with their second full-length installment titled Wound Garden, not only a follow-up to their 2014 debut release Decollect, but more important than that, a highly recommended album of terrifying digital aggression for fans of the most demented form of industrial music, blending melodic dance rhythms, harsh metal guitars, aggressive EBM styled vocals and dark experimental noise atmospheres.

What was born as a solo project by Sean quickly evolved into a full-bodied mechanized beast, now featuring the aforementioned Sean on vocals, Grant Nachbur on the guitar, Daniel Combs on bass and Jeremy Portz on drums, delivering high-quality, berserk Industrial Metal through their sharp instruments. Written by Sean and Jeremy together with Alex Crescioni and Ron Hutchinson, engineered by Sean in Denver, and mixed and mastered by Alex Crescioni at Stygian Sound in Los Angeles, Wound Garden is a step forward in the career of Ritual Aesthetic, showcasing a focused and talented band that definitely knows how to effectively travel between the worlds of electronic and metal music, always sounding fresh, vibrant and insane for our total delectation.

An ominous and mechanized intro named Stasis kicks off the album by setting the stage for the sonic onrush entitled Life Amnesia, where the quartet gives a lesson in lunacy, blasting piercing, industrialized sounds spearheaded by Sean and his eccentric roars. Furthermore, the song’s background electronic effects help boost its impact even more, not to mention Jeremy’s assembly line-like pounding beats. And The Analog Flesh feels almost like an ode to the thunderous music by giants like Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and Fear Factory, blending the most powerful elements from Industrial Metal and Neue Deutsche Härte, with the guitar lines by Grant being at the same time very subtle but as venomous as hell.

And it looks like their wicked party has no time to end, as they blast another dense and disruptive Industrial Metal tune titled Divided, where the guitars and background keys create an interesting paradox of sounds while Sean continues his ode to madness through his raspy growls; followed by the slower, darker and more demonic Dread, showcasing creepy guitar lines and vocalizations, as well as a heavy as hell atmosphere, cutting our skin deep from the very first second just like what happens in Malefaktor, a modernized wall of industrial and robotic sounds and noises. Throughout this insane tune, Daniel and Jeremy beautifully generate a rumbling and Stygian base for Sean and his demented vocals.

If you think their regular music is not weird enough for your twisted mind, you’ll have a sonic orgasm with the rest of the album, where Ritual Aesthetic offer the best of the metal and electronic worlds combined. The first remixed tune of this wicked combo is called Mechanism Of Desire (Electronic Substance Abuse Remix), being highly recommended for lovers of pure industrial and electronic music, sounding as crazy and eccentric as it can be with the help of their friends from British Industrial Noise project Electronic Substance Abuse. Then it’s time for American Industrial Metal act Seraphim System to experiment with Ritual Aesthetic’s music in Chemical Weapons (Seraphim System Remix), also bringing forth a metallic, industrialized extravaganza of sounds, almost like the soundtrack to a horror movie. And last but not least, it’s American Dark Electro entity Xentrifuge who adds huge dosages of electricity to the song Amnesiac (Xentrifuge Remix), with Sean’s vocals matching perfectly the music proposed.

In a nutshell, if you’re searching for a crisp and heavy alternative in the world of Industrial Metal, Ritual Aesthetic are among us to offer you exactly what you’re craving in the form of Wound Garden, which by the way is available for a full listen on YouTube. Hence, don’t forget to show your support to such distinct entity from the always fruitful underground Industrial Metal scene by paying a visit to their official Facebook page, and grab your copy of the album from the band’s own BandCamp page, from the Cleopatra Records webstore, from iTunes or from Amazon. And then, as soon as you have Wound Garden on your hands, let your soul be embraced by its hard-hitting mechanized sounds. You won’t regret having that wicked experience at all.

Best moments of the album: The Analog Flesh and Divided.

Worst moments of the album: Dread.

Released in 2018 Cleopatra Records

Track listing 
1. Stasis 1:29
2. Life Amnesia 4:27
3. The Analog Flesh 3:32
4. Divided 4:33
5. Dread 3:12
6. Malefaktor 4:33
7. Mechanism Of Desire (Electronic Substance Abuse Remix) 6:58
8. Chemical Weapons (Seraphim System Remix) 3:23
9. Amnesiac (Xentrifuge Remix) 5:11

Band members
Sean Ragan – vocals
Grant Nachbur – guitar
Daniel Combs – bass
Jeremy Portz – drums

Album Review – Striker / Play To Win (2018)

Blending classic Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Power Metal and 80’s Hair Metal, one of the biggest exponents of contemporary Canadian metal music strikes once again with a brand new album, always playing to win.

Champions in blending classic Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Power Metal and 80’s Hair Metal, Canadian shredders Striker are back with another good album titled Play To Win, the sixth in their undisputed career and a follow-up to their two previous award nominated winning albums, their 2017 breathtaking self-titled opus Striker (nominated for a JUNO award, winner of an Edmonton Music Award and Western Canadian Award) and the WCMA + EMA award winning album Stand In The Fire, released in 2016. That means this Edmonton-based squad comprised of frontman Dan Cleary, guitarists Tim Brown and Chris Segger, bassist William Wallace and drummer Adam Brown has been on an absolute roll in the past few years, not only delivering first-class metal for our total delight, but also spreading their music live across Europe and North America with bands like Sonata Arctica, Dark Tranquility and Warbringer, along with festival appearances at 70,000 Tons of Metal and Bang Your Head Festival, proving why they’re already considered one of the biggest exponents in contemporary Canadian Heavy Metal.

Mixed and Mastered by Hendrik Udd at Hendrik Udd Recording Studios, and featuring not only an old school artwork by Elvis Amaral (HipnoFX Audiovisual), but also the fantastic Randy Black (Annihilator, Primal Fear, Destruction) as a session drummer, who by the way also recorded the album Stand in the Fire with the band, Play To Win will please all fans of traditional metal and rock, keeping the name of Striker relevant and strong in the scene. “Play to Win: if you want to win you have to play the game. Find the rules and break them. This is our 6th album and 3rd independent release. If we followed the rules and listened to the industry people we’d have gone absolutely nowhere. Play To Win is about listening to yourself, following your own path, and playing that 5th ace hidden in your sleeve. This album is designed to light a fire under your ass and get you moving, and we made sure to get the most modern, ear melting sounds possible. It’s all about where metal is going, not where it has been, and this is our soundtrack to success,” commented Tim about the album.

And Tim and Chris begin slashing and shredding their strings from the very first second in the opening tune Heart of Lies, where the band delivers their usual ass-kicking fusion of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, with Dan declaiming the song’s chorus beautifully (“Another victim to a heart of lies / Can’t see the truth behind those venom eyes / Another victim to a heart of lies / On deaf ears will fall the eagle’s cry”). Then leaning towards pure 80’s Hard Rock and Glam Metal, in special the crisp and passionate vocal lines by Dan, we have Position of Power, with William and Randy maintaining a solid and rumbling background throughout the entire song; followed by Head First, a good song that gets a bit too commercial at times, but that obviously brings Striker’s old school punch, sounding very rhythmic, groovy and melodic. In addition, Tim and Chris are once again on fire with their riffs and solos, making it a highly recommended addition to your road trip playlist.

Blending the music by Iron Maiden with Motley Crüe, Stratovarius and Van Halen, which in the end resulted in sheer awesomeness, Striker offer us the thrilling On The Run, showcasing a brilliant vocal performance by Dan while William keeps extracting that metallic sound we all love form his bass, whereas The Front is another classic song by Striker, also feeling as it was taken from an 80’s Hair Metal album. It’s a bit too smooth compared to the sonic massacre from their previous albums, but the crisp sound of the guitars and the precise beats by Randy make it very enjoyable and fun. The title-track Play To Win, a mid-tempo feast of rockin’ sounds, sounds even more inspired by the golden years of Hard Rock than ever, with the guitar riffs and solos by both Tim and Chris getting sharper and groovier, and albeit its lyrics are extremely cheesy, the message the band wanted to send is there (and that’s what really matters in the end). Then despite the excellent vocals by Dan, its tuneful guitar solos and a pleasant vibe, the power ballad Standing Alone never really takes off, getting way too mellow compared to what Striker are capable of doing.

Back to a heavier and more epic sonority, those talented Canadian metallers fire an electrified Heavy Metal and Hard Rock tune entitled Summoner, inspired by many classics by Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and other behemoths from the NWOBHM, also presenting the best guitar work of the entire album in my opinion. In Heavy Is The Heart the band shows how to do a proper power ballad, bringing passion to the musicality without forgetting the always needed dosages of electricity and rage, again presenting an inspired Dan leading his bandmates from start to finish. However, the closing tune Hands Of Time is another generic song that sounds and feels extremely soft if you’re a longtime fan of Striker, lacking the same potency and kick from their already classic tunes. Put differently, it’s far from being a bad song, but as we all got used to a lot heavier riffs and faster beats by Striker it’s hard to truly relish it.

As a huge fan of their self-titled album released last year, which I personally considered one of the best metal albums of 2017, I felt slightly disappointed with the final result in Play To Win. Nothing to worry about, though, as I guess I’m being too harsh on the guys from Striker, almost “demanding” that they had released another Heavy Metal masterpiece instead of actually enjoying their new album. There’s still a lot of top-of-the-line music to savor in Play To Win, available from their official website as a digital download or as a special edition CD, as well as from iTunes and Amazon, and you can also follow the band on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel and listen to more of their music on Spotify (if you don’t do all that already). Striker are a band that keeps winning no matter what with each and every release (despite singing in their previous album that they were “born to lose”), and the flame of Canadian metal will remain alive and vibrant while we have those skillful metalheads from Edmonton among us, always playing to win.

Best moments of the album: Heart of Lies, On The Run and Summoner.

Worst moments of the album: Standing Alone and Hands Of Time.

Released in 2018 Record Breaking Records

Track listing
1. Heart of Lies 4:04
2. Position of Power 3:41
3. Head First 4:02
4. On The Run 3:52
5. The Front 4:02
6. Play To Win 3:49
7. Standing Alone 4:56
8. Summoner 4:04
9. Heavy Is The Heart 4:54
10. Hands Of Time 3:47

Band members
Dan Cleary – lead vocals
Tim Brown – lead and rhythm guitar
Chris Segger – lead and rhythm guitar
William Wallace – bass
Adam Brown – drums

Guest musician
Randy Black – drums (session)
Lindsay Robinson, John Kennedy and Nathan Schadeck – gang vocals

Album Review – Violent Life Violent Death / Come, Heavy Breath EP (2018)

Take a deep breath and enjoy a vicious and nostalgic feast of heavy sounds made in the United States, proving modern-day Metalcore can be just as pulverizing as old school extreme music.

Hailing from Charlotte, the most populous city in the U.S. state of North Carolina, the incendiary Metalcore unity known as Violent Life Violent Death made their mark in late 2016 with the release of their first studio offering, V-EP, a five-track vicious, nostalgic effort blending the most visceral elements of Metalcore with hints of heavier-than-hell genres such as Thrash and Death Metal. Now in 2018 the band formed by vocalist Scott Cowan, guitarists Joseph Benham and Joey Park, bassist Justin Campbell and drummer David Holquin returns with a refreshed and even more ruthless contribution in the form of their second release, a brand new EP entitled Come, Heavy Breath, proving modern-day Metalcore can be just as pulverizing as old school extreme music.

“Our goal was to create a piece of music that had nostalgic qualities to it but with a new-school edge. Having spent some time in other bands has definitely helped create the sound we have adapted with this band, as we took a good look into what we feel has worked and not worked for us in the past and narrowed it down,” said Violent Life Violent Death, also explaining a little more the concept behind their new EP. “With Come, Heavy Breath, we really wanted to illustrate moments of fervor that draw a gasp, or, a heavy breath, as the title depicts. These are the moments of awe that we each experience in life, whether they be conjured through excitement, joy, sadness, loss, lust, love, wonder, etc., while bringing them each to life through our music in as straight forward of a manner possible, demanding the attention of the listener.”

The title-track Come, Heavy Breath, an austere and dynamic Metalcore tune tailored for disturbing the peace of your neighborhood, couldn’t have started in a more distorted and violent way, with Scott beginning his growling attack while Justin and David generate a brutal neck-breaking ambience with their metallic weapons, whereas in Backbiter the band puts pedal to the metal in a sonic onslaught of contemporary Metalcore infused with Melodic Death Metal and traditional Death Metal elements, with the guitar duo Joseph and Joey being on absolute fire with their crushing riffs while Scott screams almost like if he was not human. Put differently, this magnificent song lives up not only to the band’s own name, but also to the legacy of the most violent forms of Metalcore and Hardcore. And in Rot they keep the level of aggressiveness and destruction extremely high, with the razor-edged sound of the guitars inspiring us all to slam into the pit while David also adds his touch of adrenaline to the music through his fierce and straightforward beats.

Mourn is another tune perfect for cracking your spine in half headbanging and for jumping up and down with the band, with the vocals by Scott sounding even more deranged and furious, making it quite impossible to stand still to such demonic display of modern metal music, and there’s no sign of the band slowing down as we face the next song in the EP, entitled Lovers/Deceivers. Quite the contrary, Violent Life Violent Death blast sheer aggression from their instruments, with highlights to the amazing synchronicity between David’s beats and Joseph and Joey’s infernal riffs. And as the last act in Come, Heavy Breath it’s time to roar and gnarl together with Scott during the six minutes of classy Metalcore featured in the song Narcissist, bringing some welcome elements and nuances from Thrash Metal, which in the end translates into an accelerated pace, groovier bass lines, and obviously not a single second of peace, with Joseph and Joey sounding crisp, raw and very melodic at the same time until the music fades into a somber and menacing finale.

After all is said and done, the excellent Come, Heavy Breath, which is by the way available for a full listen on YouTube, will certainly help Violent Life Violent Death cement their name as one of the most promising (and one of the heaviest) Metalcore acts of the past few years, leaving us eager for more of their flammable music. And in order to show your support to those five metallers from Charlotte, you can go check what they’re up to on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and purchase Come, Heavy Breath from their own BandCamp page or Big Cartel, as well as from iTunes or Amazon. And when you have the album on your hands, simply take a deep, heavy breath and enjoy Violent Life Violent Death’s chaotic onrush of sounds just the way the band itself expects you to do.

Best moments of the album: Backbiter and Mourn.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing 
1. Come, Heavy Breath 3:51
2. Backbiter 3:39
3. Rot 2:50
4. Mourn 3:41
5. Lovers/Deceivers 2:10
6. Narcissist 6:05

Band members
Scott Cowan – vocals
Joseph Benham – guitar
Joey Park – guitar
Justin Campbell – bass
David Holquin – drums