Album Review – Hellfire / Goat Revenge EP (2017)

From the ominous pits of the Ukrainian underworld, comes a triad of black metallers ready to crush your soul with their demolishing debut album.

Are you ready for a demonic storm of Black Metal made in Ukraine, with strong influences from old school Thrash and Death Metal? If instead of simply answering yes you began banging your head and raised your devilish horns, then the darkened, blasphemous music crafted by the vicious power trio known as Hellfire in their debut EP titled Goat Revenge might be exactly what you’re looking for in extreme music. In a little less than 25 minutes, Hellfire unleash sheer fury and hatred upon humanity in Goat Revenge (which by the way features a beyond traditional and macabre artwork by artist Oleg Satanyugin), showcasing all their loyalty and passion for underground Black Metal.

Forged in 2014 in the hellish fires of Kremenchuk, an important industrial city in the Poltava Oblast, in central Ukraine, by lead singer and guitarist Karagh and bassist Necrobaphomet (former members of Ukrainian Black Metal band Paranomia), Hellfire have been gaining a lot of positive feedback wherever they play in their homeland, inspiring the trio to keep moving forward and never turning their backs to traditional Black Metal. If you check their biography online, you’ll see they don’t assign “regular instruments” to themselves, but they use more obscure words to describe their roles in the band. Karagh is responsible for “all guitar holocaust, screams and bulldozer”, Necrobaphomet takes care of the “four strings fornication and obscurant propaganda”, and their third element, drummer Skullcrusher, provides the “drums of doom and coffins”. After reading that, how putrid and aggressive do you think Hellfire might sound?

Goat Revenge starts with an Intro comprised of a minute of flies buzzing, gun shots and ominous sounds, directly followed by the cutting tune Hellmass Attack, where the band delivers devilish Black Metal with huge influences from Death Metal and hints of the badass Rock N’ Roll by Motörhead. Moreover, Karagh blasts pure evilness through his demonic growls and metallic riffs, boosting the song’s already visceral sonority. Following a similar pattern from its predecessor, the title-track Goat Revenge is led by the infernal and rhythmic beats by Skullcrusher, while its main riff will incite you to bang your head nonstop. In addition to that, Karagh sounds filthier on vocals than before, with Necrobaphomet maintaining a high level of obscurity in the music with his roaring bass guitar.

War Apocalypse Battery, another thunderous, badass composition by Hellfire and a mandatory choice for their live performances, presents a solid melody without abandoning the band’s old school sonority thanks to the amazing job done by all band members, in special Karagh with his fiery guitar; whereas investing in a darker and more visceral Black Metal sounding, the power trio fires pure hatred and evil through their music in Field of Screams, with Skullcrusher doing justice to his nickname by pounding his drums manically. And adding some groove to their musicality, Unholy Cult presents a more rhythmic display of their blasphemous Black Metal, with Karagh and Necrobaphomet slashing their strings in a powerful way while Skullcrusher takes care of the intricacy in the music through his beats.

Unleash the Beast is the closest the band gets to the most primeval form of Black Metal, with the song’s fiendish gnarls and blast beats impregnating the air and disturbing our minds. Not only that, Karagh once again offers the listener trenchant riffs during the whole song, and maybe because it’s the longest of all tracks it’s also the one presenting the highest amount of progressiveness and variations, resulting in an amazing full-flavored Extreme Metal chant. Lastly, the band hits us ruthlessly with their most vile fusion of Black and Death Metal titled Lord of the Mighty Horns, one more great option for their live concerts. The drumming by Skullcrusher reminds me of old school Cannibal Corpse, while Necrobaphomet leads the song’s pugnacious ending with his rumbling bass lines, concluding the album on an extremely savage note.

If you have the guts to brave the ominous pits of the Ukrainian underworld to the sound of Hellfire, simply visit their Facebook or VKontakte for news about the band (including their tour dates if you live in Ukraine or if you’re planning on visiting the country anytime soon), listen to Goat Revenge on Spotify, and purchase your copy of the album at the Witches Brew’s BandCamp or webshop, on iTunes or on Amazon. Hellfire will certainly crush your soul with their unrelenting Black Metal, which in the end is everything you crave when listening to good extreme music, right?

Best moments of the album: Hellmass Attack, War Apocalypse Battery and Unleash the Beast.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Witches Brew/Iron County Records

Track listing
1. Intro 0:53
2. Hellmass Attack 2:43
3. Goat Revenge 3:37
4. War Apocalypse Battery 3:44
5. Field of Screams 2:29
6. Unholy Cult 2:53
7. Unleash the Beast 4:39
8. Lord of the Mighty Horns 3:24

Band members
Karagh – guitars, vocals
Necrobaphomet – bass
Skullcrusher – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Viktoria Viren

She’s armed… and she’s dangerous…

There isn’t a lot of personal details about our metal chick for this month, but I don’t think you’ll really care that much about it as our chosen one kicks some serious ass with her devilish growls, stunning looks and a badass attitude. Furthermore, if you’re a diehard fan of Swedish Melodic Death Metal titans Arch Enemy, nurturing a special admiration for their almost 15 years with the unparalleled screaming queen Angela Gossow on vocals, you’ll certainly have a blast listening to the ravishing singer Viktoria Viren, the frontwoman of Finnish Melodic Death Metal band Evil Drive, bursting her lungs and delivering high-voltage Heavy Metal with her bandmates, proving once again that the importance of women in extreme music is only growing more and more through the years. So keep your eyes and ears open, because whenever you see a “double V” in Melodic Death Metal, you know it’s going to be brutal, thrilling and, obviously, awesome.

Born on November 11, 1988 (I guess) somewhere in Russia (but also Finnish at heart), Viktoria started her career in heavy music at an early stage of her life, singing in various bands from when she was only 14 years old, with her first major festival happening a couple of years later, when she was 16, performing with a Death Metal band at the Vyborg Castle, a Swedish-built medieval fortress originally constructed in the 1290’s and one of the three major castles of Finland, around which the town of Viborg (today in Russia) evolved. You won’t find many videos of Viktoria from her early metal days, except for this 2012 footage of our diva (at that time part of a band named Alistaja, which I couldn’t find any information about) singing Megadeth’s neck-breaking all-time classic Symphony of Destruction, and this one with a band named Soulcrypt at the Vyborg Castle in 2010; however, based on this sole sample of what Viktoria can do with her voice, it’s easy to understand how she quickly progressed in music until reaching her status today with Evil Drive.

“It was 2004 and the only woman in a metal band that I knew of was Angela Gossow”, said Viktoria in one of her interviews, and that’s one of the main reasons why she decided to follow the path of guttural singing in heavy music. She mentioned that she really likes the growling and screaming, that it makes the music more powerful and energetic, and that she feels stronger when doing guttural. Viktoria also said that, although she could be doing some clean singing with Evil Drive, she doesn’t think that can properly transmit the power of their compositions to their fans. We saw something similar happening with Alissa White-Gluz when she left The Agonist and joined Arch Enemy, when she completely ditched her clean vocals and began doing only guttural for Michael Amott’s iconic band due to the nature of their songs and their musical direction. Maybe we’ll see Viktoria doing some clean singing one day, but for now let’s keep enjoying her beastly roars (as if that wasn’t awesome enough for us metalheads).

In regards to her band Evil Drive, I think we might say Viktoria and the band are one single entity. There’s no Viktoria Viren without Evil Drive, and vice-versa. Founded in 2013 in Kotka, a city located on the coast of the Gulf of Finland, by Viktoria, her husband and guitarist Ville Wiren (who by the way also plays for Finnish Symphonic Power/Gothic Metal band Domination Black), and drummer Juha Beck, the aim was to set up a band which has not been previously heard. All the musicians in the band have a history in a number of different bands and different genres, therefore incorporating many distinct musical styles into their compositions, sounding like a traditional Melodic Death Metal band with a twist of 80’s style Thrash Metal. When asked about the origin of the name “Evil Drive”, Viktoria mentioned the fusion of those two words has a strong influence on the band’s music, as everything they do and try to achieve is characterized by this name. The word “drive” connects to her love for motorcycles, energy and freedom, while “evil” was a wicked combination found by Viktoria, becoming a simple but powerful name in the end.

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In November 2013, Viktoria and her bandmates Ville Wiren (guitar), Niko Huusari (guitar), Marko Syrjala (bass) and Juha Beck (drums) released their debut self-titled EP, getting a lot of attention not only from the Finnish media, but from critics and fans all over the world. The EP consisted of four original songs that would later become part of their first full-length album, entitled The Land of the Dead, released in January 2016. In the official video for one of the tracks from the EP, the excellent Bullet, you can have a very good taste of what Evil Drive are capable of, providing a clear view of the musical direction the band was going to follow with their upcoming releases. The Land of the Dead, released in the beginning of 2016, contained the four songs from the Evil Drive EP plus six original belligerent tunes that helped cement the name of the band in the metallic scenario worldwide, in special in the world of Melodic Death Metal. You can check their two official videos recorded for the album, one for the song War, and the other for the title-track The Land of the Dead (which can be seen at the end of this essay), showcasing the evolution in their musicality and how their looks and the use of military imagery became a crucial part of the whole concept behind their music. Well, Viktoria and the rest of the band don’t need to worry too much about maintaining their warlike visual always fresh and renovated, as they have a healthy partnership with the highly acclaimed Finnish army supply store Varusteleka, making it easy for them to keep the war going.

In addition to that, the band even had some extra fuel to release the single Anti-Genocide on October 12, 2016, to be featured on their upcoming album which is scheduled to be released sometime this year. The new single, which features the band’s new guitarist Juha-Pekka Pusa (replacing Niko Huusari), offers the listener a different theme and feeling compared to The Land of the Dead, which was all about the current world politics and war, according to Viktoria herself. “The new track is about the history of the American Indians and about the fate they had to face when the white men came and took over their land”, said our gorgeous screamer, and as per the official video for the song you’ll be able to see the band truly immersed themselves in the topic, especially Viktoria with her awesome Indian attire.

As every metal band in the world, it’s when the musicians are performing live on stage that we finally know if the band is worth a place in Valhalla among the metal gods, right? Well, there’s a lot of good quality footage on YouTube where you can check Viktoria kicking fuckin’ ass with her Evil Drive, such as two videos from their first year as a band playing in St. Petersburg, Russia on November 22, 2013 (just click HERE and HERE); playing the song Screaming Soul at the now closed PRKL Club in Helsinki, Finland  on July 17, 2015; paying an awesome tribute to the iconic Lemmy and his Motörhead by playing a cover version of the classic Killed By Death at the traditional pub On The Rocks, also in Helsinki, on January 23, 2016; performing at the Finnish winter festival known as Metal Bath on March 4, 2016 in Hämeenlinna, Finland, as you can see in the songs War and again the Motörhead cover Killed By Death; and more recently playing their newest hymn Anti-Genocide live at Bar Bäkkäri in Helsinki on December 10, 2016.

When questioned if the presence of a frontwoman affects the career of a band, Viktoria said that in the past having a female band member attracted more attention because it was a world dominated predominantly by men, but today that’s not the case anymore. We see more and more talented women taking the stage on par with any male musician, and not only on vocals but in any other instrument. Viktoria also mentioned that over the years women have mastered the art of guttural singing, becoming more prominent in metal and, as a consequence, being more accepted in extreme music than before. She said the combination of factors such as the beauty, the strength and the unpredictability turn a female guttural singer into something mesmerizing, and we must agree with her it’s always astonishing to see a woman that looks delicate at first sight start screaming like a beast and headbanging like a maniac on stage, just like we got used to see with Angela Gossow, Alissa White-Gluz and many other exceptional growlers, don’t you agree?

Lastly, there couldn’t be a better place for Viktoria to live than Finland, a land that breathes Heavy Metal. When asked about how hard it is to find the right musicians in her homeland, our red-haired metaller said it’s actually quite easy to put a band together in Finland, as every other person is a guitarist, a bass player or a drummer, but that’s also extremely challenging to keep the band members working side by side in a productive and friendly way, as everyone has different ideas and visions on writing and making music. As long as Viktoria and her band members are able to keep working as a single powerful unity like what we’ve been witnessing with Evil Drive, the world of heavy music will remain happy and energized for more of her impactful demonic growls, no doubt about that.

Viktoria Viren’s Official Facebook page
Evil Drive’s Official Facebook page
Evil Drive’s Official Twitter
Evil Drive’s Official YouTube channel
Evil Drive’s Official Instagram

“Over the recent years females have shown to master the throat singing just as well as men. I think the interest in us is caused by many different factors: the beautiful, strong and the unpredictable – this is mesmerizing.” – Viktoria Viren

Concert Review –Testament (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/27/2017)

When you have two of the best and most iconic Thrash Metal bands of all time playing together in the city, you know exactly where you have to be.

OPENING ACTS: Prong and Sepultura

As much as I enjoy the Phoenix Concert Theatre and obviously the bands that were going to play last night, I truly and deeply hate the weekdays rush hour traffic to get from my town, the suburban Oakville, to Toronto whenever there’s a good metal concert I want to attend. At least the weather was fantastic (even with a short storm that happened at around 7pm), with the temperature being above 20 degrees, which means no one had to carry their burdensome jackets like what always happens when a concert is in the middle of the winter.

Anyway, due to traffic (and because I had to eat something before heading to the venue), I completely missed the performance by American Crossover Thrash power trio PRONG. I have absolutely no idea if it was a good concert or not. Well, probably yes as the group spearheaded by Tommy Victor has all it takes to deliver great music to the audience, but unfortunately I can’t say a word about what they did last night, not even write down their setlist.

Band members
Tommy Victor – lead vocals, guitar
Jason Christopher – bass guitar, backing vocals
Art Cruz – drums

Fortunately, I got to the Phoenix Concert Theatre just in time to see the always amazing show by Brazilian Thrash/Groove Metal masters SEPULTURA, who are currently promoting their latest album, the very experimental and exciting Machine Messiah.  Derrick Green, Andreas Kisser, Paulo Jr. and Eloy Casagrande put on an electrified performance on stage from start to finish, blending several songs of their new album like the excellent Phantom Self and Sworn Oath with all-time classics such as Desperate Cry, Inner Self (my favorite of the night) and Refuse/Resist, and of course the song most fans at the venue wanted to hear, their ritualistic hymn Roots Bloody Roots. The sound was very clear, cohesive and powerful, just like what the band offers us in their studio albums, proving Sepultura are a band that always provides their fans the same high level of quality found in their studio versions when they transport those compositions to the stage. As usual, the highlights of their performance were the insane riffs, solos and other awesome tricks done by Andreas with his guitar. That guy is one of the most gifted guitarists in the history of heavy music, which means if you’ve never seen him playing live, don’t miss that chance the next time “Sepultura do Brasil” visit your city.

Setlist
I Am the Enemy
Phantom Self
Choke
Desperate Cry
Sworn Oath
Inner Self
Alethea
Resistant Parasites
Refuse/Resist
Ratamahatta
Roots Bloody Roots

Band members
Derrick Green – lead vocals
Andreas Kisser – guitars
Paulo Jr. – bass
Eloy Casagrande – drums, percussion

TESTAMENT

After a short bathroom and beer break, it was time for American Thrash Metal behemoths TESTAMENT to create a sonic Armageddon in Toronto with their unparalleled aggression and refined technique. I guess I always say the same thing about Testament, but all band members are extremely talented and way above average, in special the guitar virtuoso Alex Skolnick and the human earthquake Gene Hoglan. Those two are not simple musicians, they’re demonic beasts when armed with their instruments, delivering the best of the best when it comes to heavy music.

Blasting some of their newest creations from the best metal album of 2016, the superb Brotherhood Of The Snake, especially the kick-ass tunes Brotherhood of the Snake, The Pale King and Stronghold, with old school songs and newer classics, they delivered a flawless performance for the delight of all metalheads at the venue. A few songs from their setlist deserve some special attention, like the brutal and sensational Rise Up for its enhanced mighty power when played live, the high-octane Centuries of Suffering for the insanely intricate magic Gene does behind his drums, and Electric Crown for the amount of groove and feeling flowing from the band’s instruments.

My only complaint about the concert was the excessive amount of solos, one for each band member. As much as I love each guy from the band, I personally prefer regular songs than solos. If they replaced those solos with newer songs like “The Number Game” or “Native Blood”, or with classic like “D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)” or “Burnt Offerings”, it would have been just perfect, but that’s just my opinion. The whole concert was fuckin’ awesome anyway; not even all those solos were able to cool down the audience, mainly because whenever there was a solo there was also a demolishing classic right after it, like when they played the circle pit-generator First Strike Is Deadly after Gene’s drum solo.

Before playing the encore, the iconic Chuck Billy, who by the way is singing better and better as time goes by, therefore being able to perfectly replicate his sensational deep growls live without making any extra effort, told the fans a story about when they were in Texas hanging out with the guys from one of the most respected, energized and violent bands of all time, the one and only Pantera, drinking Jack Daniel’s (and probably taking other stuff as well) with them. Can you imagine that? Testament and Pantera together? The 90’s were definitely the best period for Thrash Metal, no doubt about that. Chuck said that after a lot of drinking, something hit his head (maybe a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, or maybe it was the alcohol itself) and he told the other guys he had the name for their new album. It was going to be called Practice What you Preach, one of their biggest hits, and one of the best of the night as well.

There was still time for one last sick mosh pit with Over the Wall, and after all was said and done you could see how happy all fans of Testament were with their amazing performance. As Chuck said, I hope all promoters in Canada turn their eyes to Testament more often aiming at having more concerts all over the country, not only two or three cities. Let’s hope that those promoters listen to the deep voice by Chuck and we have more of the brotherhood of Thrash Metal in our currently not-so-cold country, because after such brilliant performance last night I’m sure all Torontonian fans of Testament are eager for more of their music.

Setlist
Brotherhood of the Snake
Rise Up
The Pale King
Centuries of Suffering
Alex Skolnick’s Guitar Solo
Electric Crown
Into the Pit
Low
Throne of Thorns
Stronghold
Eric Peterson’s Guitar Solo
Eyes of Wrath
Gene Hoglan’s Drum Solo
First Strike Is Deadly
Steve DiGiorgio’s Bass Solo
Urotsukidôji
Souls of Black
Seven Seals
The New Order

Encore:
Practice What You Preach
Over the Wall

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums

Album Review – Mastodon / Emperor of Sand (2017)

Follow the inspirational story of a desert wanderer who has been handed a death sentence in the brand new excellent album by the trailblazers of Progressive and Sludge Metal.

Anything I say about the music by American Progressive/Sludge Metal trailblazers Mastodon won’t be enough to describe the amount of madness, intricacy and feeling flowing from the instruments from this unique Atlanta-based quartet. Now with the fantastic Emperor of Sand, the seventh studio album in their remarkable career, Troy Sanders (bass), Brent Hinds (guitar), Bill Kelliher (guitar) and Brann Dailor (drums) add an extra layer of complexity to their music by revolving the entire album around the concepts of death and survival, inspired by experiences they had when members of their families and friends were recently diagnosed with cancer.

Featuring a beautiful artwork by Alan Brown (Medusawolf), the concept and story in Emperor of Sand follows a desert wanderer who has been handed a death sentence. “At the end of the story, the person simultaneously dies and is saved,” said Brann. “It’s about going through cancer, going through chemotherapy and all the things associated with that. I didn’t want to be literal about it. But it’s all in there. You can read between the lines.” Troy also had a few words to share about the whole concept behind Emperor of Sand. “We’re reflecting on mortality,” mentioned Troy. “To that end, the album ties into our entire discography. It’s 17 years in the making, but it’s also a direct reaction to the last two years. We tend to draw inspiration from very real things in our lives.”

Percussion sounds ignite pure heaviness in the form of music, titled Sultan’s Curse, where it’s impressive to see how those four guys can sound so polished and raw at the same time in a perfect fusion of Progressive and Sludge Metal. Furthermore, not only Brann has a superb performance on drums, but their already famous rotation of vocals only makes things even more entertaining. Despite sounding a bit too commercial at first, Show Yourself is a damn good song, being electrified and upbeat with the awesome vocals by Brann leading the musicality, while Brent and Bill deliver classic, sharp riffs and solos. In addition, if you want to see how awesome this tune sounds live, simply watch this excellent video of the band performing it at Jimmy Kimmel Live. Precious Stones is the type of song fans will love to see them playing live, offering another high-speed metallic voyage and showcasing more of their beautiful guitar lines and a rumbling performance by the unstoppable Troy on bass; whereas Steambreather starts with a dark, low-tuned sonority thanks to the guitars and bass sounds, keeping a blackened aura throughout the whole song but with faster passages to maintain the overall result very interesting (not to mention the once again excellent vocals from start to finish).

The next track, named Roots Remain, sounds heavier than all previous songs, with Brann smashing his drums while Troy fires his more aggressive vocals, also providing tons of progressiveness flowing from all instruments in a display of classy and modern Sludge Metal with hints of Groove Metal. In my humble opinion, Word to the Wise is the best of all songs in Emperor of Sand, with the poetic lyrics emanating from the harsh vocals by Troy matching the music flawlessly (“Diamond in the wishing well / Fallen underneath its spell / Save me from the wicked ways / Pulling me with all its weight”). Moreover, I love when they speed up their music without losing their progressive touch, maintaining a beautiful pace while at the same time firing some flammable guitar solos. Ancient Kingdom is another composition with a solid and intricate instrumental supporting the amazing vocal work done by all band members, and what Brann does with his beats is like a lecture in drum playing; followed by Clandestiny, which to my ears sounds like a less commercial and consequently heavier version of “Show Yourself”. It’s one of the songs with the strongest Progressive Metal base of all, and it’s impossible not to feel its energy flowing inside your mind.

With guest musician Kevin Sharp of Brutal Truth on vocals, Andromeda, a great tune to break your neck headbanging, also presents a darker side of Mastodon. Brann is absolutely on fire throughout the whole album and it couldn’t be different in this amazing chant, which makes me wonder how powerful it should sound during their live concerts. And featuring another guest vocalist, this time Scott Kelly of Neurosis, we have Scorpion Breath, the second to last track of the album, being very rhythmic with the bass lines by Troy bringing thunder to the musicality, while the guitars by Brent and Bill will cut your skin like a razor-edged blade. Last but not least, if someone asked me to summarize the music by Mastodon in two words, those would definitely be Jaguar God. This is a complex, detailed and very creative creation by the band, presenting amazing guitar riffs and solos, an intricate and groovy drumming, smoother passages, and beyond whimsical lyrics (“Terrestial fire, ascending from underground / Godspeed divine, so we control our mound / Shape shifter, spirits whisper / Guide me through this black sorcery”), not to mention that when the music gets really heavy, it becomes the best Progressive Metal you can think of.

I personally recommend that before (or maybe after) listening to the album in its entirety you go check the band’s outstanding series of videos on YouTube titled The Making of Emperor of Sand, as those will make a lot of difference to your own view of the music found in Emperor of Sand, giving additional details and even new meanings to what you think you know about Mastodon. You can also check what the band is up to at their official Facebook page, and get ready for their always fun visit to your city in a not-so-distant future. Some will say Emperor of Sand is their strongest work to date, and some that the band lost their touch, just like what happens with every renowned band nowadays. All I know is that Emperor of Sand is a bold, cohesive and inspirational metal album, and that it will hit you hard no matter what, proving Mastodon are not among the biggest and most influential names in contemporary heavy music in vain.

Best moments of the album: Sultan’s Curse, Precious Stones, Word to the Wise and Jaguar God.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Reprise Records

Track listing
1. Sultan’s Curse 4:09
2. Show Yourself 3:03
3. Precious Stones 3:46
4. Steambreather 5:03
5. Roots Remain 6:28
6. Word to the Wise 4:00
7. Ancient Kingdom 4:54
8. Clandestiny 4:28
9. Andromeda (feat. Kevin Sharp) 4:05
10. Scorpion Breath (feat. Scott Kelly) 3:19
11. Jaguar God 7:56

Band members
Brent Hinds – lead guitar, lead and backing vocals
Bill Kelliher – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Troy Sanders – bass guitar, lead and backing vocals
Brann Dailor – drums, percussion, lead and backing vocals, bass on “Jaguar God” intro 

Guest musicians
Kevin Sharp – additional vocals on “Andromeda”
Scott Kelly – additional vocals on “Scorpion Breath”
Mike Keneally – keyboards

Album Review – Primal Age / A Silent Wound EP (2017)

One of the most influential bands in the history of underground French Metalcore brings forth four striking new songs, blending the best of Heavy Metal and Hardcore in a fresh, vibrant and honest way.

Delivering a huge amount of energy, power and passion for heavy music to their fans since 1993, always exploring important topics such as the defense of the animal rights, vegetarianism, ecology and the denunciation of the overconsumption of mass, French Metalcore act Primal Age marked the 90’s by being among the first European bands to mix Heavy Metal and Hardcore into their music, gaining a lot of positive feedback from fans of both styles. That amazing reaction from the audience opened the doors for the band to spread their music globally, sharing the stage with renowned acts like Napalm Death, Caliban, Madball, Hatebreed and Agnostic Front, as well as playing many festivals such as Free Edge Fest, Hellfest and Sonisphere and performing in distant lands like Brazil and Japan through the years.

Hailing from Évreux, a commune in Haute Normandie in northern France, Primal Age released their debut EP The Light to Purify in 1999, followed by the full-length albums A Hell Romance in 2007 and The Gearwheels of Time in 2010, while the year of 2014 saw the birth of a split album with French Metalcore band Absone named My Legacy / Eternal Struggle – The Best of 17 Years XVX 90’s Metalcore (And Still Going Strong). Now in 2017, they’re back in full force with a brand new EP titled A Silent Wound, featuring a stylish artwork by Visual Injuries and four original songs that perfectly represent their core essence and their undisputed allegiance to classic European Metalcore.

The opening track, nicely entitled The Whistleblowers vs World Health Organization, is a frantic Hardcore chant boosted by hints of Death and Thrash Metal (and therefore an amazing choice for slamming into the pit) where drummer Mehdi Abou is simply insane behind his drums, while the sick growls by lead singer Didier are in total sync with the demonic strings by Benoit, Florian and Dimitri. Following that high-octane start, we have the title-track A Silent Wound, featuring Felipe Chehuan from Brazilian Deathcore band Confronto, another Punk Rock and Thrash Metal onslaught flawlessly blasted by Primal Age. Furthermore, both guitars by Benoit and Florian sound very tuneful and melodic, strengthening the song’s bestial vibe even more, which I believe will cause some “desired” body injuries and bruises to their fans during their live concerts.

Can the excellent Counterfeiters of the Science be labeled as “Tribal Metalcore”? It’s a fuckin’ furious and ruthless composition, in special the harsh and aggressive growls by Didier, with its unstoppable and vicious sounding being the epitome of the music by such distinct act. And featuring singers Julien Truchan (Benighted) and Koba (Loyal To The Grave), the remarkable Slayer medley named To Jeff is a beautiful tribute to the one and only Jeff Hanneman (R.I.P.). You have to listen to it to feel its potency, but as a quick summary of what you’ll find in the music (or I should say a “spoiler”), it starts with a few nice words from Jeff himself, followed by the band’s excellent versions for parts of the all-time classics “South of Heaven”, “Dead Skin Mask” and “Raining Blood”, ending with a good chunk of “Angel of Death” and back to a “Raining Blood” finale. In my humble opinion, this is a superb homage to Jeff and there’s no way you can stay indifferent to its energy and rhythm.

This superb EP by Primal Age, which can be streamed in its entirety HERE, is on sale at several locations such as the band’s Big Cartel as a regular CD version or as a special red vinyl collector edition (limited to 100 copies only); at the Deadlight Entertainment’s BandCamp or webstore; at the Bound By Modern Age Records’ BandCamp or webstore; or on Amazon. After listening to A Silent Wound it’s easy to understand how Primal Age, who can be contacted through their Facebook page and whose music can be appreciated at their YouTube channel and ReverbNation, are still alive and kicking after almost 25 years playing underground heavy music, without selling out to the mass media. This French quintet definitely knows how to bring the best of Heavy Metal and Hardcore together in their music, always sounding fresh, vibrant, honest and loyal to their foundations. Add to that their undeniable talent with their instruments, and there you have the recipe for at least another 25 years blasting awesome music to their fans and to anyone who enjoys tons of heaviness with a good melody behind.

Best moments of the album: The Whistleblowers vs World Health Organization and To Jeff.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Deadlight Entertainment

Track listing
1. The Whistleblowers vs World Health Organization 3:12
2. A Silent Wound (feat. Felipe Chehuan) 3:11
3. Counterfeiters of the Science 3:35
4. To Jeff (feat. Julien Truchan & Koba) 4:20

Band members
Didier – vocals
Benoit – guitars
Florian – guitars
Dimitri – bass
Mehdi Abou – drums

Guest musicians
Felipe Chehuan – additional vocals on “A Silent Wound”
Julien Truchan – additional vocals on “To Jeff”
Koba – additional vocals on “To Jeff”

Album Review – Nighon / The Somme (2017)

Inspired by cinematic music and all extreme forms of metal, this up-and-coming Finnish squad presents their new concept album with stories from World War I, World War II and the crisis we see in our world today.

Greatly inspired by cinematic music and all extreme forms of metal, blending darkness with light in a unique and aggressive sound, Finnish Symphonic Shock Metal troopers Nighon are releasing their second full-length opus, entitled The Somme, a concept album with stories from World War I, World War II, the similarities between those events and the crisis we see today in our world. Sounding much more extreme than Nighon’s 2014 debut album Cor Oblivionis, The Somme is supposed to be heard in its entirety without any pauses or breaks, in order to provide the listener an in-depth, detailed view of the whole concept behind the music.

Formed in 2008 in Pietarsaari, Finland, this up-and-coming sextet not only delivers high-end music to metalheads all over the world, but they also host their own podcast called Nighon Propaganda-cast, where the idea is to provide uncensored content and a free flow of information, discussing themes such as literature, politics, several different types of music, nature and arts in general, among others. The diversity of topics found in their podcast will give you an idea of how creative the band is, and how much they’re all willing to explore new ideas and transform everything into good heavy music. Furthermore, if you’re ready to war, The Somme might be the perfect soundtrack for you to rise up, bringing a precise balance between heavy, melodic sounds and a more-than-meaningful content.

The album starts with the ominous intro Marseille 1914, narrating the tragic event that happened on June 28, 1914, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie were shot to death by a Bosnian Serb nationalist during an official visit to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. The killings sparked a chain of events that led to the outbreak of World War I by early August that same year. After that history lesson, The Greatest Of Catastrophes (a blend of the outbreak of World War I and the Ukraine crisis) brings forward modern Symphonic Metal with hints of Industrial and Melodic Death Metal, exploding into a thrilling musicality led by the potent clean vocals by Alva Sandström and showcasing a great balance between mechanized sounds and more melodic, powerful lines, therefore enhancing the song’s impact. The Dirge goes straight to the point, being utterly ferocious through the growls by Nico Häggblom and the brutal riffs by Michael Mikander and Björn Johansson, not to mention how potently the bass by Mats Ödahl will hit you in the face, with Alva once again bringing  light to all darkness blasted by the rest of the band. And just as symphonic and rampant as its predecessor, Lest We Forget presents all instruments exhaling a truly metallic vibe, in special the bass lines by Mats and the nonstop beats by Mika Paananen. However, in my opinion the only problem is that the song never decides if it’s a power ballad or a traditional heavy tune, getting a bit confusing at times.

Medic works as an eerie bridge to the vicious Blow Them To Hell, an aggressive composition tailored for fans of Dimmu Borgir where Nico growls deeper than ever, while Mika continues to deliver his arsenal of blast beats, not to mention the elements from Black Metal added to the musicality which end up increasing the song’s overall darkness even more. During World War II, there was a German naval base along the Kåfjorden, which branches off the main Altafjord, another short, ominous bridge to Scharnhorst, inspired by a battleship from Nazi Germany and displaying a well-balanced fusion of modern metal music and old school Death and Black Metal. Michael, Björn and Mats make sure our necks break in half with the headbanging sounds coming from their strings, with the musicality also presenting a good amount of epicness to help the band tell the desired story during the song’s almost nine minutes.

Leaning towards traditional Melodic Death Metal with hints of Industrial Metal (which ends up giving it a more menacing aura), Reclaiming Ravenpoint presents an amazing vocal duo by Nico and Alva, with their harsh growls and clean vocals complementing each other’s performance beautifully. Even weirder than the other instrumental passages and bridges, You Do Not Know What The Night May Bring consists of a phantom voice repeating the song’s name like a mantra, before the neck-breaking chant Minor Secundus comes crushing with its amazing guitars, bass and drums. However, what seems to be pure heaviness evolves into a more melodic sonority thanks to the vocals by Alva and the song’s electrifying vibe, which only makes the whole experience of listening to such excellent tune even better.

Tragédie reminds me of some of the best songs by Lacuna Coil, being one of the fastest and most dynamic of all songs with Nico firing his hellish screams in contrast with Alva’s delicate but potent voice. This full-bodied creation by Nighon not only feels like a movie score, but Mika’s precise performance once again on drums deserves our humble appreciation. And their dark symphony of war goes on in I Fear For Tomorrow, featuring Mathias Lillmåns (Finntroll, Magenta Harvest, Chthonian), with the extremely aggressive vocal lines and heavier-than-hell riffs being the highlights of the song. Nevertheless, despite being a good composition with a decent pace, it lacks more creativity to ignite the spark inside us metalheads. Lastly, the title-track Somme, inspired by the Battle of the Somme, a battle of World War I fought by the armies of the British and French empires against the German Empire, showcases a touching beginning with the mournful sound of the bagpipes signing to the end of the conflict, morphing into a power ballad with Alva leading the music while Michael delivers the most beautiful solo of the entire album, with the music smoothly flowing into an impactful ending.

You can get more details on the music by Nighon at their Facebook page and SoundCloud, and purchase The Somme at the Inverse Records’ webstore, at Record Shop X or on Amazon. It seems that our leaders and rulers never learn the lesson, with the threat of a new war always haunting the innocent in our modern-day society, and if you want to learn a little more about the wars from the past and their outcomes, The Somme might be an interesting source of information for your studies, with the advantage of being loud, fast and heavy, of course.

Best moments of the album: The Greatest Of Catastrophes, The Dirge, Minor Secundus and Tragédie.

Worst moments of the album: Lest We Forget and I Fear For Tomorrow.

Released in 2017 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Marseille 1914 1:24
2. The Greatest Of Catastrophes 4:01
3. The Dirge 4:43
4. Lest We Forget 5:11
5. Medic 0:52
6. Blow Them To Hell 6:03
7. Altafjord 0:44
8. Scharnhorst 8:36
9. Reclaiming Ravenpoint 5:32
10. You Do Not Know What The Night May Bring 2:09
11. Minor Secundus 4:47
12. Tragédie 4:29
13. I Fear For Tomorrow (feat. Mathias Lillmåns) 5:47
14. Somme 7:09

Band members
Nico Häggblom – harsh vocals
Alva Sandström – clean female vocals
Michael Mikander – lead guitar
Björn Johansson – guitar
Mats Ödahl – bass
Mika Paananen – drums

Guest musician
Mathias Lillmåns – additional vocals on “I Fear For Tomorrow”

Album Review – Cloud Catcher / Trails Of Kozmic Dust (2017)

Blasting top-of-the-line music since their genesis in 2013, this cosmic power trio is inviting you for an electrified journey through the realms of Rock N’ Roll, Experimental Metal and Acid Rock with their brand new album.

There’s a cosmic power trio hailing from Denver, the capital of Colorado, in the United States, that has been forging their own path in music by blasting top-of-the-line Heavy Rock since their genesis in 2013, described by the band members themselves as “heavy-boogie rock on acid”. The trio, known as Cloud Catcher and consisting of Rory Rummings on guitar and vocals, Kam Wentworth on bass and Jared Soloman Handman on drums, has spent considerable time crafting their own style of heavy cosmic rock, taking deep inspiration from the music by Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad, Spirit Caravan, Led Zeppelin and tons of other classic groups, resulting in their brand new amazing album titled Trails Of Kozmic Dust.

Cloud Catcher have been on a roll since day one, delivering year after year high-quality material, starting with their debut EP Colossus in 2013, followed by some rehearsal demos in 2014, the full-length album Enlightened Beyond Existence in 2015, and the single Righteous Ruler in 2016, before returning with the full-bodied Trails Of Kozmic Dust now in 2017. Displaying an enthralling cover art designed by Adam Burke of Nightjar Illustration, this is an album that will expand your music horizons and put you on a trance from start to finish, and you won’t even need to take any acid to feel the band’s chaotic, groovy and intricate music flowing through your veins and especially through your mind.

Psychedelic sounds warm up the listener for a journey back to the 60’s and 70’s entitled Astral Warlord, a vibrant and electrified tune full of breaks and variations where albeit all musicians sound incredibly creative and focused, it’s Jared who steals the spotlight with his refined technique, setting the perfect tone for the song’s crazy, poetic lyrics (“Winds of dawn are howlin’ / Calling your name in the dark of the night / Winter comes for your life / Cold is the steel that ends your strife”). Celestial Empress brings more top-tier Heavy Rock smoothly flowing from the band’s sharp instruments, with Rory delivering an inspired performance on vocals. Moreover, the instrumental pieces sound like a hybrid of the early days of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, in special the excellent bass lines by Kam and the fiery guitar solos by Rory. And without allowing the listener to breathe, the power trio keeps blasting rumbling bass lines and distorted riffs in the groovy Beyond The Electric Sun, a song that contains all elements fans of the genre are always searching for, those being heaviness, progressiveness, craziness and  tons of feeling, with its final instrumental sequence being beyond astounding.

Then we have quick Jazz-inspired break from all insanity going on, named Dimensional Interlude, followed by Visions, a psychedelic composition tailored for lovers of Grand Funk Railroad and Captain Beyond (with a metallic twist à la Iron Maiden), with sheer acidity emanating from the guitar lines and vocals by Rory while Kam and Jared keep the reverberation at a maximum level with their pounding bass and drums. After listening to such powerful song, you’ll certainly ask yourself how far into space this talented band can go with their music. Anyway, the title-track Trails Of Kozmic Dust is yet another a complex, soulful creation by Rory, Kam and Jared, quickly transporting you to another dimension, not to mention the song’s eccentric lyrics (“Trails of kozmic dust connect my soul / Tellin’ me secrets that should not be told / Time is iridescent in black holes / Trails of kozmic dust will guide you home”).

Before the final curtains fall in Trails Of Kozmic Dust, the low-tuned, menacing bass guitar by Kam slowly drags us to the world of Cloud Catcher in the  Blues-ish Heavy Rock instrumental trip Super Acid Magick, with its last minute being a demolishing display of how intricate Experimental Rock can be; whereas Righteous Ruler, which builds an instant connection with its predecessor, sounds as if the band is returning to planet earth after such otherworldly voyage through the realms of rock music, again showcasing potent riffs by Rory and the always roaring bass by Kam, while Jared continues to do magic behind his drums. In addition, if you want to know how good this power trio sounds when they convey all their music madness to the stage, you can enjoy an amazing live performance by Cloud Catcher at the Marquis Theater in Denver, on December 19, 2015 playing several songs from Trails Of Kozmic Dust by clicking HERE, HERE and HERE.

If you enjoyed becoming part of the hallucinatory sonic expedition led by Cloud Catcher, go check their Facebook page for more news, and purchase Trails Of Kozmic Dust at the band’s own BandCamp page, at the Totem Cat Records’ Big Cartel in CD or LP format, at the Stickman Records’ webstore, at Discogs or on Amazon. The never-failing fusion of Rock N’ Roll, Experimental Metal and Acid Rock has always had an enormous potential to blow our minds under any circumstances, but when the band in question has an undisputed, full-blown talent like Cloud Catcher as we can see in Trails Of Kozmic Dust, we know that mental explosion will be even stronger and more potent than anyone could expect.

Best moments of the album: Astral Warlord, Beyond The Electric Sun and Visions.

Worst moments of the album: Righteous Ruler.

Released in 2017 Totem Cat Records

Track listing
1. Astral Warlord 5:31
2. Celestial Empress 5:41
3. Beyond The Electric Sun 7:06
4. Dimensional Interlude 1:03
5. Visions 4:28
6. Trails Of Kozmic Dust 6:21
7. Super Acid Magick 3:34
8. Righteous Ruler 5:42

Band members
Rory Rummings – guitar, vocals
Kam Wentworth – bass, backing vocals
Jared Soloman Handman – drums

Album Review – Engulfed / Engulfed In Obscurity (2017)

Get ready for over 45 minutes of pure Turkish Death Metal darkness that will ruthlessly shatter your skull and rip your spine out.

The arts of death worship and devilry have been executed once again in the madness-filled streets of Kadıköy, a large, cosmopolitan district of Istanbul, Turkey. Engulfed, the notorious Death Metal quartet formed in 2010 and known for their putrid smelling 2012 EP entitled Through The Eternal Damnation, are back with their first full-length album, the crushing Engulfed in Obscurity. Featuring members from other honorable Turkish Metal desecrators such as Decaying Purity, Burial Invocation and Diabolizer, this demonic entity will shatter your skull and rip your spine out in over 45 minutes of visceral extreme music, showing you why whenever a band hails from Turkey, you better be ready for a fantastic devastation.

Two of the members of Engulfed, guitarist Mustafa and drummer Aberrant, were our “guests” at The Headbanging Moose last year with their pulverizing album Apokalypse, from their other band Diabolizer, and if you enjoyed that album you’ll certainly keep banging your head nonstop to the music found in Engulfed In Obscurity, as it’s at the same level of destruction, quality and electricity, showcasing all the talent and passion for Death Metal by those two crusaders. In addition, the classy and grim cover art by renowned New Zealand-based artist Nick Keller brings an additional layer of darkness to Engulfed In Obscurity, strengthening the overall malignancy emanating from the entire album even more.

The ominous Escalation of Darkness opens the gates to the disturbing and violent world ruled by Engulfed in The Halls Of Grim Eternity, and be prepared because, when you enter it, there’s no way out as you’ll be mercilessly smashed by the band’s brutal music. Needless to say how demolishing Aberrant sounds on drums, with lead singer and bassist Serkan violently barking his putrid guttural growls throughout the whole song. Darkened sounds kick off another vile creation by Engulfed named Conqueror From Beyond The Outer Gates, a vile hymn made to crush your spinal cord where Mustafa and Kasil sound beyond gory with their cutting guitar riffs in the best old school Death Metal style imaginable.

The title-track Engulfed In Obscurity begins with a gruesome welcome card by Serkan, almost vomiting the lyrics, while Aberrant is unstoppable on drums just like what he does in Diabolizer. Furthermore, all instruments are roaring like demonic entities, keeping the song’s hellish vibe burning from start to finish. Moving on with the band’s sonic havoc, guitars, bass and drums will smash your senses in the putrid chant of vileness titled Invocation Of Death And Misery, where the cavernous growls by Serkan together with the pounding drums by Aberrant become the epitome of old school Death Metal; whereas Demonic Manifest Of Devastation is a gory Death Metal tune perfect for breaking your neck headbanging or slamming into the pit like a wild beast, with highlights to its rhythmic infernal beats and the truly deep gnarls by Serkan.

A faster and more furious version of Engulfed (if that’s humanly possible) comes in the form of Inseminated With Demon Seed, with its guitar lines reeking of sulfur while Aberrant keeps the musicality as heavy and impactful as it can be. In other words, get ready for six minutes of darkness and demonic sounds from the deepest dungeons of Turkey. If you’re a diehard fan of Death Metal you’ll definitely feel your blood burning listening to the classic tune Mayhemic Flames Of Doom, led by devilish riffs by Mustafa and Kasil until its brutal finale, before the outro The Blackened Skies puts an end to the earthquake named Engulfed In Obscurity, giving a sense of a post-apocalyptic landscape as a conclusion to the album.

After listening to over 45 minutes of the barbaric Death Metal blasted by Engulfed, my respect for underground Turkish Metal only grew in intensity, making me wonder what a fertile country like Turkey could offer the world of heavy music with proper support. You can explore the dark catacombs of Engulfed in more detail through their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and grab your copy of Engulfed In Obscurity (which can be streamed in its entirety HERE or HERE) at Engulfed’s BandCamp page, at the Hellthrasher Productions’ BandCamp page or webshop (as a regular CD or as a two CD bundle containing Engulfed In Obscurity and Through The Eternal Damnation), or at Discogs. But you better be prepared before you descend into the underworld of Engulfed, as you’ll be entrapped in the filthy darkness crafted by this amazing band for all eternity.

Best moments of the album: The Halls Of Grim Eternity, Engulfed In Obscurity and Inseminated With Demon Seed.

Worst moments of the album: Demonic Manifest Of Devastation.

Released in 2017 Hellthrasher Productions/Blood Harvest Records

Track listing
1. Escalation of Darkness 2:17
2. The Halls Of Grim Eternity 5:07
3. Conqueror From Beyond The Outer Gates 6:14
4. Engulfed In Obscurity 7:29
5. Invocation Of Death And Misery 5:32
6. Demonic Manifest Of Devastation 5:04
7. Inseminated With Demon Seed 6:29
8. Mayhemic Flames Of Doom 7:16
9. The Blackened Skies 3:04

Band members
Serkan – vocals, bass
Mustafa – guitars
Kasil – guitar
Aberrant – drums

Album Review – Black Diamonds / Once Upon A Time (2017)

Inspired by the golden years of Hard Rock and Hair Metal, these Swiss rockers are more than ready to shake the world with their brand new upbeat, electrified album.

Proudly waving the flag of 80’s Hard Rock since their inception in 2004, Swiss rockers Black Diamonds are more than ready to shake the world with an electrifying Rock N’ Roll extravaganza titled Once Upon A Time, their third full-length album and in my humble opinion their strongest and most cohesive release to date. If major bands such as Gotthard and Krokus helped put Switzerland on the map of Hard Rock with their flammable music, it’s time for this farily new talented quartet formed by Michael Kehl (vocals, guitar), Andreas Rohner (lead guitar), Andi Fässler (bass) and Manuel Peng (drums) to take the lead and keep the rock n’ roll party going on in the Land of Milk and Honey.

Based in the Rhine Valley in eastern Switzerland, Black Diamonds are not only musically inspired by the golden years of Hard Rock and Hair Metal, but their looks and attitude are also deeply rooted in that period, which translates into pure energy when their music is blasted through the speakers. After releasing their debut album First Strike in 2008, followed by Perfect Sin in 2013 and an extended tour through their home country and the adjacent countries named Perfect Swiss Tour that same year, the band aims at reaching new horizons with the excellence found in Once Upon A Time. For obvious reasons, don’t expect to find anything truly innovative in the whole album, but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to have tons of fun listening to its twelve catchy, melodic and upbeat songs.

The symphonic intro Tales Untold kicks off the album before Michael Kehl and Andreas Rohner begin firing their heavy riffs in The Ghost and the Shadow, a rockin’ song that can be summarized as a fusion of Manowar and Motley Crüe (or maybe “Hard Rockin’ Power Metal”), being very melodic and impactful with highlights to the great vocal lines by Michael. Love Stick Love brings more Hard Rock from the 80’s with a contemporary twist and the always beautiful European harmony, making me imagine how successful this song would be in the 80’s. Simply follow the beats by drummer Manuel Peng and enjoy the ride, with its catchy chorus, awesome backing vocals and a classy guitar solo embellishing the overall result even more. And presenting a Van Halen-inspired vibe (in special its main guitar riff), Romeo & Juliet is a song about the most famous romantic duo in history, with a solid background built by Manuel’s drumming and the bass lines by Andi Fässler. The narration halfway through it is a bit weird though, but nothing that harms the overall quality of the song.

Although Pieces of a Broken Dream feels like a ballad in the beginning, it quickly morphs into a stylish Rock N’ Roll tune perfect for any radio station mainly thanks to the rhythmic beats by Manuel, while Andreas continues to set fire to the musicality with his solos; whereas Love, Lies, Lonelines, a true ballad from start to finish, is a soulful and melancholic composition with a strong performance by Michael on vocals, with a gentle ambience and more of the band’s tuneful guitar solos and bass lines complementing the music. And get ready for a kick-ass Rock N’ Roll party by Black Diamonds titled Thrillride, showcasing guitars à la Scorpions and a classy, dancing rhythm, with Michael delivering raspier vocals and, consequently, sounding dirtier just like the music needs. Moreover, Manuel couldn’t sound more old school on drums than what he offers in this awesome tune, one of the best of the album in my opinion. When the night comes, it’s time for the Swiss vampires of Hard Rock to attack with their high-end metallic sounds in Vampires of the Night, a great song for their live performances bringing elements from the 80’s and 90’s with razor-edged guitars and a badass attitude.

These guys don’t seem to get tired of filling the air with upbeat rock music based on what they offer the listener in Not Going Home, a pub hymn with the electrified guitar lines by Michael and Andreas adding a high dosage of groove to the band’s already exciting Rock N’ Roll; followed by Hard to Let Go, another Scorpions-inspired classic tune that sounds heavy and very harmonious just the way we love, also presenting a perfect synchronicity among all instruments with highlights to the piercing metallic bass lines by Andi. Years, the second to last rockin’ missile in Once upon A Time, keeps up with the rest of the album in terms of quality and energy, being one more song that could be played on any rock n’ roll radio show, with an inspiring performance by Michael on vocals supported by the precise drumming by Manuel. And closing the album we have This Is a Love Story, presenting an interesting balance between more introspective moments and faster passages, despite being slightly repetitive and below the album’s amazing average.

In case you want to know more about Black Diamonds and their top-notch rock music, go check their Facebook page for news and tour dates, and go listen to their music on YouTube and SoundCloud. Once Upon A Time is available at several locations, such as the band’s official webstore, AOR Heaven, Nuclear Blast, Target, Amazon, NEH Records, and many more, most of them offering two awesome bonus tracks with the album. If you’re ready to dance, drink some beer and have fun to the sound of high-quality old school, uncompromised Rock N’ Roll, then this album is definitely what you’ve been searching for. Just don’t forget to put on your tight leather pants before heading to the party.

Best moments of the album: Love Stick Love, Thrillride and Hard to Let Go.

Worst moments of the album: This Is a Love Story.

Released in 2017 AOR Heaven

Track listing
1. Tales Untold 1:08
2. The Ghost and the Shadow 4:13
3. Love Stick Love 5:03
4. Romeo & Juliet 4:20
5. Pieces of a Broken Dream 3:51
6. Love, Lies, Loneliness 5:37
7. Thrillride 4:52
8. Vampires of the Night 4:46
9. Not Going Home 4:42
10. Hard to Let Go 4:38
11. Years 5:21
12. This Is a Love Story 6:40

Bonus tracks
13. Rock’n’roll Music 4:02
14. Vampires of the Night (Piano Version) 3:50

Band members
Michael Kehl – vocals, guitar
Andreas Rohner – lead guitar
Andi Fässler – bass
Manuel Peng – drums

Album Review – Ritual of Odds / Ritual of IX (2017)

Join the wrathful and mordant ritual spearheaded by the Melodic Death Metal masters of underground Greek music.

Formed in the year of 2003 in Patras, Greece’s third-largest city and the regional capital of Western Greece, Melodic Death Metal quartet Ritual of Odds (known as Existence Edge until 2005) is unleashing upon us their third full-length installment, peculiarly titled Ritual of IX, taking influences from renowned bands such as At The Gates, In Flames and Carcass. Forging a unique sound by infusing elements of Thrash, Horror and Epic Metal into their own musicality, Ritual of Odds will show you with Ritual of IX why they’ve been called the “Melodic Death Metal Masters of Greece”, blasting a high-quality fusion of harmony and havoc throughout the album’s ten unrelenting compositions.

One curious fact about the band is that, before Ritual of IX, their two previous full-length albums were released on the same year, in 2010, those being Underverse and God is an Atheist (not to mention their highly acclaimed demo entitled Building Up the Underverse, from 2008). In addition, the band has already toured Europe and the United States to support the release of their albums, sharing the stage with important names like Paul Di’Anno, Septicflesh and Nightrage. With such a strong background both inside the studio and on the road, it isn’t a surprise to anyone that the music found in Ritual of IX would sound so cohesive and energetic, reinforcing the band’s importance in contemporary Melodic Death Metal.

Tailored for fans of the modern metal played by Arch Enemy blended with old school In Flames, the title-track Ritual of 9 offers a constant and aggressive drumming by Petros Haritos, while the vocals by Kostas Fotopoulos lean towards a more visceral fusion of Death and Black Metal, inviting the listener to the band’s own ritual (“Deteriorated in agony – Screw it all and gone with me / There’s no escape / Insanity / The limitless eternity / A life infected with vanity? / Welcome to a new reality / Wither and die? – Ritual of 9 / This is the ritual of 9”). In Hunt You Down, a somber beginning flows into an atmospheric, dark composition where a possessed Kostas leads his bandmates in an extremely vile onslaught, with guitarist Nikolas Perlepes delivering some classic melodic and headbanging riffs; followed by Feargas, bringing elements from Progressive and Groove Metal while singing about modern-day topics (“Who do you think you are? / Your nations look like herds of sheep / Intoxicated souls with lies and fear / Lethal frequencies radio, TV / Twisted minds tell me how I should be / For fuck sake I’m not a part of your army of zombies”). Moreover, the infernal gnarls by Kostas are powerfully supported by the rhythmic and heavy beats by Petros during the entire song.

Displaying a great name for a metal tune, Hate at First Sight presents a weird intro with excerpts from different TV and radio news, quickly turning into more pounding music by these talented Greeks. In a nutshell, this is the type of song made to lacerate your neck headbanging, with its drums sounding like a machine gun. Sirens in the background warn Ritual of Odds are coming to crush with their violent metal music in A Part of Me, showcasing a modernized sonority thanks to the guitar lines by Nikolas, but of course without losing the essence of Melodic Death Metal. And following almost the same tone and pace as its predecessor we have Digital Hell, a fantastic song to make people jump up and down during their live concerts with the bass lines by Marios Kanellopoulos emanating those thunderous, groovy sounds that beautifully increase the song’s impact.

The kick-ass neck-breaking tune Why So Serious is their personal tribute to the iconic Joker played by Heath Ledger (R.I.P.), with its intro (and chorus) being inspired by one of the most memorable scenes in the history of action movies, while the music itself is as violent and demented as the Joker, especially through the deep growling by Kostas. Put differently, how not to enjoy this smashing creation by Ritual of Odds? And there’s more of the band’s stabbing musicality, as the riffs in the fast and berserk Greed exhale pure metal, also presenting very harmonious guitar lines and nonstop beats, which altogether will work really well when the song is played live, whereas The Dual Substance of Man, also sounding modern and old school at the same time, is perhaps the closest one to traditional Death Metal, with Nikolas having a great performance with his riffs and solos. Lastly, in the eerie and obscure What I’ve Become, a psychological song about violence, death, hatred and all other “nice things” that transform the human being into a beast, a solid instrumental provides Kostas exactly what’s needed for his vocals to get more deranged and pugnacious.

After listening to the potent music by Ritual of Odds, I’m sure you’ll be more than eager to be part of the band’s melodic and vicious ritual, and that’s why I’m going to be very helpful by providing you the links to their Facebook page, YouTube channel and ReverbNation. And, as usual, you can support Greek metal and heavy music in general by grabbing your copy of Ritual of IX at the Swimming With Sharks Records’ BandCamp page (which includes as a more-than-amazing bonus a free download of the band’s 2010 album God is an Atheist) or on Amazon. These guys are not called the “Melodic Death Metal Masters of Greece” in vain, and you’ll certainly start referring to them as that after adding Ritual of IX to your private collection of underground metal.

Best moments of the album: Ritual of 9, Digital Hell and Why So Serious.

Worst moments of the album: The Dual Substance of Man.

Released in 2017 Swimming With Sharks Records

Track listing
1. Ritual of 9 3:15
2. Hunt You Down 5:38
3. Feargas 3:54
4. Hate at First Sight 4:09
5. A Part of Me 3:20
6. Digital Hell 3:36
7. Why So Serious 4:12
8. Greed 3:40
9. The Dual Substance of Man 3:23
10. What I’ve Become 5:49

Band members
Kostas Fotopoulos – vocals
Nikolas Perlepes – guitars
Marios Kanellopoulos – bass
Petros Haritos – drums