Album Review – Geisterwald / Geisterwald EP (2018)

From the haunted woods of the Swiss city of Geneva, here comes an infernal masked duo armed with their mechanized and uproarious Industrial Metal.

Formed in 2017 in Geneva, a city in Switzerland that lies at the southern tip of Lac Léman, Industrial Metal masked duo Geisterwald is unleashing upon humanity this year their self-titled debut EP, channeling all their passion for heavy music and their musical backgrounds into their newborn spawn. Comprised of Harald Wolken on vocals, guitars and synths and Gaëlle Blumer on drums, and with all of the songs from the album being entirely sung in their mother tongue German, Geisterwald are ready to make an uproarious impact on the underground Industrial Metal scene, with the music found in their debut EP being a fantastic taste of what those two Swiss metallers are capable of when armed with their gas masks and their metallic instruments.

The EP kicks off with an ominous intro sounding as if a beast is rising from a dark and tenebrous pit in the mechanized Alte Körper (which should translate as “old body” if I’m not mistaken), where Gaëlle crushes her drums while Harald alternates between deep, primeval growls and eerie clean vocals, resulting in a heavier-than-hell display of Industrial Metal infused with Neue Deutsche Härte. Just as insane and piercing, Kreuz (or “cross”) presents the duo building an industrialized atmosphere with their menacing sounds, with Gaëlle delivering both traditional metal beats and more factory-like sounds while Harald brings a touch of delicacy and lunacy to the overall music with his synths.

Then get ready for a dark and demented Neue Deutsche Härte extravaganza titled Wolf, sounding and feeling intense, macabre and demented all at once, with its somber guitars and the howl of a wolf being the details that make it so compelling and vibrant. Furthermore, Harald’s vocals feel truly demonic amidst the thunderous sound of the drums by Gaëlle, showcasing the amazing synchronicity between them. And the last blast of modern metal music by this infernal duo of masked marauders comes in the form of old school Industrial Metal the likes of Ministry and Rammstein, titled Schlag Stärker (which means something like “hit harder”). Simply bang your head nonstop to such heavy tune, where we’re able to enjoy a merciless Gaëlle on drums while Harald does what he knows best, which is growling deeply and in the most enraged way possible.

Whatever comes next for this talented duo is probably going to be even more insane and destructive than their debut EP, and while we wait for more top-tier Industrial Metal made in Switzerland let’s all go check what Geisterwald (which by the way is a wordplay in German for “ghost forest” or “haunted woods”) are up to on Facebook, including the dates for their wicked live performances, listen to their music on SoundCloud, and purchase a copy of their debut EP from BandCamp, from Big Cartel or from Amazon. As a matter of fact, I guess you wouldn’t mind getting lost in the haunted woods of Geneva and face the industrialized roars by Geisterwald, would you?

Best moments of the album: Schlag Stärker.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Intro 1:01
2. Alte Körper 3:20
3. Kreuz 3:33
4. Wolf 3:21
5. Schlag Stärker 4:20

Band members
Harald Wolken – vocals, synths
Gaëlle Blumer – drums

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Album Review – Malefic By Design / Definitive Indication of Supremacy (2018)

Behold a band of underground veterans from Finland and their deadly debut full-length strike, a pulverizing opus that will summon you to a claustrophobic journey through blazing Armageddon.

Founded in 2015 in the city of Turku, Finland by underground metal veterans Mika Ikonen on vocals, Ville Pekkala, Sasu Haapanen and Miska Lehtivuori on the guitars and Antti Hakkala on drums (and if you haven’t noticed yet, there’s no bass player in their current lineup), who by the way have already released several previous efforts through multiple bands such as Searing Meadow, Ablaze In Hatred, Fall of the Leafe, Mormânt De Snagov and Devastracktor, Blackened Death Metal beast Malefic By Design has just released their deadly debut full-length strike, titled Definitive Indication of Supremacy, a pulverizing collection of catchy choruses and incendiary melodies that will certainly please all fans of modern extreme music.

Recorded in quiet solitude and far away from the public eye, Definitive Indication of Supremacy thoroughly blends the band’s Death Metal core essence with nuances from other styles such as Black and Doom Metal, summoning you to a sinister and claustrophobic journey through blazing Armageddon surrounded by a somber and devilish atmosphere.  The dark and primeval cover art is a good indication of what you’re going to face as soon as you hit play and start listening to the 12 Stygian tracks from Definitive Indication of Supremacy, showing Malefic By Design are among us to spread evil, hate and blasphemy. What else can you ask for in first-class Blackened Death Metal, right?

 The atmospheric and eerie intro Descending Sirens Of Evil opens the gates of the underworld to the demolishing Sickness Of Christ, a heavy and obscure Blackened Death Metal hymn with Mika delivering disturbing, deep growls while Antti dictates the rhythm with his precise beats. Then it’s time for almost seven minutes of pulverizing sounds and tones in Impending Doom, bringing together the most demonic elements of Black and Death Metal, with the band’s guitarists blasting a “melodic hell” with their strings; and the band goes full Black Metal in the visceral and brutal Enslaved By Birth, where Mika sounds more demented than before while Ville, Sasu and Miska bring forth another feast of satanic riffs and solos, resulting in one of the most complete (and therefore best) moments of the album.

Leaning towards traditional Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal, the band fires harmonious and visceral lines in the mid-tempo composition titled Repress The Oblivious, being beyond perfect for headbanging like a true disciple of darkness, whereas in Frozen Phantoms an ominous acoustic intro morphs into another explosion of blackened music by Malefic By Design, with the whole band being in some sort of demonic sync led by the boisterous drums by Antti, with Mika’s growls getting deeper and deeper as the music progresses. And Salvation For Everyone showcases hints of Symphonic Black Metal before reaching a frantic and heavy pace spearheaded by the once again furious drums by Antti, all embraced by a sinister background full of uncanny keyboard notes and sheer heaviness.

Medieval Beliefs is an old school Black and Death Metal creation tailored for succumbing to the dark side and snapping your neck headbanging, with the band’s stringed trio firing more of their diabolical riffs, creating an instant connection with the also very melodic Counterstrike Despise, also closer to more modern Melodic Death Metal while maintaining a vile aura in the background. Furthermore, Mika and his sick gnarls make a good balance with the delicate but fierce riffs by Ville, Sasu and Miska, which is also the case in Regenerated Reflections, an eerie fusion of contemporary Death Metal with traditional waltz (if that makes sense to you), also presenting elements from Doom and Dark Metal, and that amalgamation of styles results in a bold and thrilling chant with highlights to its beyond eccentric and obscure vocal lines. Then an enfolding atmosphere builds the stage for the heavy, mid-tempo Black Metal tune At The Gates, which despite being a good song it’s below the rest of the album in terms of electricity, falling flat after a while, fading into the acoustic outro Satanic Harmony, an interesting way to “depressurize” from all the madness blasted during the entire album.

In summary, Definitive Indication of Supremacy, which is available for a full listen on Spotify and for purchase through several channels such as the More Hate Productions’ BandCamp, Keltainen Jäänsärkijä, Record Shop X, iTunes, Amazon and Discogs, not only brings top-tier Blackened Death Metal to your avid ears from start to finish, but it also positions Malefic By Design as one of the strongest new names in contemporary Scandinavian extreme music. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how impactful their debut album will be on Finnish territory as well as worldwide, and when we’ll be able to savor more of the band’s pugnacious malignancy in the form of a new album.

Best moments of the album: Enslaved By Birth, Salvation For Everyone and Regenerated Reflections.

Worst moments of the album: At The Gates.

Released in 2018 More Hate Productions

Track listing
1. Descending Sirens Of Evil (Instrumental) 1:58
2. Sickness Of Christ 3:46
3. Impending Doom 6:39
4. Enslaved By Birth 3:11
5. Repress The Oblivious 4:17
6. Frozen Phantoms 3:58
7. Salvation For Everyone 4:23
8. Medieval Beliefs 4:00
9. Counterstrike Despise 4:23
10. Regenerated Reflections 6:11
11. At The Gates 6:41
12. Satanic Harmony (Instrumental) 1:44

Band members
Mika Ikonen – vocals
Ville Pekkala – guitars
Sasu Haapanen – guitars, vocals
Miska Lehtivuori – guitars, vocals
Antti Hakkala – drums

Album Review – Godsmack / When Legends Rise (2018)

A rollercoaster of good and bad moments in the band’s first effort away from more traditional Heavy Metal into a softer and exaggeratedly radio-friendly Hard Rock sound.

Almost four years after the release of the incendiary 1000hp, American Alternative Rock/Metal icons Godsmack are back in action with When Legends Rise, the seventh studio album in their solid career, and their first effort away from more traditional Heavy Metal into a softer and exaggeratedly radio-friendly Hard Rock sound. And when I say “exaggeratedly radio-friendly” I’m not exaggerating (not sure if I’m allowed to use that word and its variations so many times in just a couple of lines), because not only When Legends Rise doesn’t bring the same horsepower, rage and heaviness of 1000hp, but it sounds and feels way too mellow and generic compared to everything they’ve already released since their inception.

As early as 2015, frontman and guitarist Sully Erna spoke of his will to create a new sound for Godsmack in their next album, later describing the album in 2017 as a “reinvention” for the band, as a “new chapter” juxtaposed against older albums, of which he described as “vintage classic Godsmack”. Let’s say he succeeded and failed miserably at the same time, because it doesn’t matter if you’re a longtime fan of the band or if you’ve never heard of them before, as soon as you finish listening to the 11 tracks in When Legends Rise you won’t be able to tell if it was a good or bad experience so many highs and lows the entire album has. As a matter of fact, I guess if you follow Godsmack from the very beginning, the lowest moments of the album will make you feel extremely disappointed with this “new direction” chosen by Sully and his henchmen.

The tribal-like beats by Shannon Larkin kick off the best and most metal song of the entire album, the title-track When Legends Rise, which despite not being a masterpiece, it’s indeed a catchy and entertaining song led by the unique vocals by Sully, sounding as radio-friendly as the band wants but still bringing some of their old school aggressiveness. Then we have Bulletproof (if you’re a regular radio listener you might have heard it a billion times already), which is not that bad but with potential to be a lot better (and by that I mean heavier), with bassist Robbie Merrill doing a very good job in keeping the atmosphere dense and rumbling; followed by Unforgettable, probably the cheesiest song ever written by Godsmack, sounding way too happy for my taste and with the support choir by The Gilbert H. Hood and West Running Brook Choir being plain boring. Well, as I’ve mentioned a thousand times in this webzine, I hate generic choirs.

Every Part of Me presents hints of the sounding from their early days, especially through the melodious guitar lines by Tony Rombola, resulting in a very decent song that reminds us all of the potential Godsmack is throwing away by trying to sound more mainstream than they should, while Take It to the Edge sounds quite similar to its predecessor, but with heavier and more piercing guitar and bass lines. Furthermore, it’s good to hear Sully screaming and sounding a little angrier, and albeit this is not their classic Alternative Metal it can be considered something like a well-crafted version of modern-day Hard Rock. After that interesting sequence of heavy tunes the band offers us the ballad Under Your Scars, and although I’ve complained about almost every song so far I must admit this is indeed a good one, mainly due to the beautiful job done by guest violinist Zvezdelina Haltakova and guest cellist Irina Chirkova. And in Someday, after a not-so-exciting start the music evolves to a harder but still generic sonority that goes on for too long, ruining what could have been a good Hard Rock song. In addition, a weak song such as this would have benefited a lot from a guitar solo, something the whole album lacks by the way, and something that really started to bother me after a few listens.

And the “genericism” found in When Legends Rise goes on in Just One Time, even with Robbie and Shannon bringing some decent groove to the music, saving it from being a total failure. Then we have the excellent Say My Name, proving that when Sully and his crew speed up their pace and deliver stronger, more austere lyrics, they sound a billion times better. Hence, together with the opening track, this is by far one of the best songs of the album, presenting flammable Rock N’ Roll guitar riffs and rhythmic beats, which unfortunately cannot be said about Let It Out, another so-so creation alternating between heavier moments and very bland passages. It might once again sound good on the radio for the average listener, but definitely not for Rock N’ Roll fans, with the biggest issue for me being that the sound of both guitars is really low, or even worse, almost nonexistent. Furthermore, what’s also very irritating in the entire album is that there are moments like the closing song Eye of the Storm where a very promising start morphs into tasteless rock music; however, the more aggressive pieces of the song save it from total damnation, not to mention that we finally have a guitar solo added to it.

In the end, after When Legends Rise (available for a full listen on Spotify), we have to agree with this article from the online publication The Top Tens listing Godsmack as one of the top 10 bands that aren’t metal according to Encyclopaedia Metallum, together with names such as Avenged Sevelfold, Disturbed, Korn and Rage Against The Machine, but at least those bands still deliver a significant amount of rage and rebelliousness through their music, as opposed to what Godsmack (unfortunately) did in their new album. And if that toned-down version of Hard Rock is the direction Sully Erna really wants to take from now on with his band to reach a “broader audience”, well, good luck with that. I’ll personally stick to their more vibrant material from Godsmack, Awake and 1000hp.

Best moments of the album: When Legends Rise, Take It to the Edge and Say My Name.

Worst moments of the album: Bulletproof, Unforgettable, Someday and Let It Out.

Released in 2018 Universal Music

Track listing
1. When Legends Rise 2:52
2. Bulletproof 2:57
3. Unforgettable 3:28
4. Every Part of Me 3:20
5. Take It to the Edge 3:15
6. Under Your Scars 3:51
7. Someday 4:44
8. Just One Time 3:09
9. Say My Name 3:38
10. Let It Out 3:41
11. Eye of the Storm 3:21

Band members
Sully Erna – vocals, guitar
Tony Rombola – lead guitar
Robbie Merrill – bass
Shannon Larkin – drums

Guest musicians
Zvezdelina Haltakova – violin on “Under Your Scars”
Irina Chirkova – cello on “Under Your Scars”
The Gilbert H. Hood and West Running Brook Choir – additional vocals on “Unforgettable”

Album Review – The Black Swamp / Witches EP (2018)

Australia’s own five-headed creature from the swamp is back with a short and slimy album of Sludge and Southern Metal that celebrates the riff-driven sound they’ve become known for.

For the love of the riff, Australian Southern/Groove Metal group The Black Swamp was formed as a live act in 2012 in the Gold Coast, in South East Queensland, soon evolving to a full-bodied band and releasing their debut EP Foulness in 2014, followed by the full-length I Am, in 2016, not to mention a handful of unofficial releases on their way to support slots with Hellyeah, Black Label Society and Sebastian Bach, as well as their own national tours. Always playing a sludge sound reminiscent of the 70’s and 90’s, “the swamp” is back in 2018 with a short and slimy EP titled Witches, a celebration of the riff-driven sound they’ve become known for, also marking their first release with new frontman Luke Hosking (from Australian Groove/Thrash Metal band Azreal). Hence, the quintet comprised of Luke on vocals, Grant Scott and Jesse Kenny on the guitars, Rohan Downs on bass and Brendan Woodley on drums again focuses their energy and creativity on raw sounds, highly inspired by Heavy Metal pioneers Black Sabbath and Doom/Sludge Metal masters Crowbar.

And “the swamp” needs only a few seconds to blow our ears with their ruthless and heavy-as-hell Stoner Metal in the opening track Headless, with Luke delivering sheer rage through his Phil Anselmo-inspired deep, crude vocals, while Grant and Jesse are simply bestial with their crushing riffs. If that’s not heavy enough for you, just keep banging your head nonstop to another soulful and aggressive Sludge Metal creation by The Black Swamp, named Event Horizon, where the bass lines by Rohan feel like if he was rubbing metal to metal so piercing and thunderous they sound. Put differently, this is a drinking-smoking-slamming-headbanging tune, bringing a classic rhtythm tailored for lovers of the genre. Then we have 1487 C.E., a short and serene bridge that sets the stage for to the demolishing title-track Witches, showcasing the heaviest and most whimsical elements found in Sludge, Stoner and Doom Metal, with Brendan pounding his drums mercilessly while Luke continues his musical rant à la Pantera, not to mention the always crisp and furious riffage by the band’s guitar duo.

In a nutshell, it’s quite impressive the amount of heaviness and rage found in each one of the four tracks of the EP in a littles less than 17 minutes, proving The Black Swamp are not joking around when displaying their admiration and passion for Sludge and Doom Metal. If you want to show your support for this resonant quintet, go check what they’re up to on Facebook and buy your copy of Witches (which by the way is available for a full listen on YouTube) directly from The Black Swamp’s BandCamp page, as well as from iTunes or from CD Baby. After this brief “attack” by Australia’s own five-headed creature from the swamp, I’m sure you’ll get curious to know what comes next in their career, getting more and more addicted to their sluggish, vile and totally awesome music.

Best moments of the album: Headless and Witches.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Headless 4:32
2. Event Horizon 6:46
3. 1487 C.E. 1:00
4. Witches 4:13

Band members
Luke Hosking – vocals
Grant Scott – guitar
Jesse Kenny – guitar
Rohan Downs – bass
Brendan Woodley – drums

Album Review – Maverick / Cold Star Dancer (2018)

Enjoy this fun and reinvigorating album of old school Hard Rock which will put a huge smile on your face and remind you why our beloved rock music will never die.

Founded back in 2012 in Belfast, Northern Ireland by the “Balfour Brothers” (vocalist David Balfour and guitarist Ryan Balfour), Hard Rock band Maverick quickly established themselves in the European rock and metal scene with a series of amazing albums released, those being their debut EP Talk’s Cheap, in 2013, followed by the full-length albums Quid Pro Quo, in 2014, and Big Red, in 2016. And Maverick started gaining more and more recognition from fans and critics after each album, leading them to play alongside Swedish Hard Rock stars The Poodles and Swedish superstars Treat, as well as performing at several festivals such as H.E.A.T Festival (Germany), Icerock and Rocknacht Tennwil (Switzerland), and Rockingham (UK).

Now in 2018 it’s time for David and Ryan, together with bassist Richie Diver and drummer Jonathan Millar, to rock our world once again with their brand new album titled Cold Star Dancer, a groovy and modern display of Hard Rock that works as a consequent follow-up to their 2016 album Big Red, showcasing all this amazing quartet is capable of in heavy music. Featuring guest performances by guitarists Anders “Gary” Wikström (Treat) and Steve Moore (Stormzone), who by the way is currently helping the band during their live shows until they find a replacement for their departed second guitarist Terry McHugh, Cold Star Dancer will take you to the golden years of Hard Rock without sounding outdated or cheesy, putting a huge smile on your face and reminding you why Rock N’ Roll will never die as long as bands like Maverick keep playing such beautiful style.

The howling wind is gradually accompanied by the sound of guitars and drums in the intro Dusk until an 80’s-inspired Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll feast begins in the title-track Cold Star Dancer, with David stealing the spotlight with his melodic vocals, giving life to the song’s catchy lyrics (“See the signs, Cold star Dancer! / Fill the skies with fallen souls tonight! / Don’t you cry… / Hear instead their song!”). Then with the guitar riffs and solos by Ryan getting sharper and heavier, the band offers a fast and fun Hard Rock tune with hints of NWOBHM titled Myrmidon, with Jonathan keeping the music at a thrilling pace; and fire is what you’ll get in the ass-kicking Kiss of Fire, showcasing rhythmic beats, flammable guitars and a powerful performance by David on vocals, or in other words, a born-to-be-a-radio-hit that will certainly drive the audience crazy during their live performances.

Goodbye brings a lighter version of Rock N’ Roll led by the smooth but impactful riffs by Ryan (it can actually be considered a heavier-than-average power ballad), also reminding me of several Hard Rock classics from the 80’s, whereas Ex Machina is a mid-tempo stylish composition by Maverick with pure electricity flowing from all instruments, in special from the bass punches by Richie and the classic beats by Jonathan, generating the perfect ambience for David to thrive once again on vocals. The band’s more “romantic” side comes in the form of the heavy and straightforward Magellan Rise, also leaning towards old school Hard Rock with good performances by all band members (despite the song being a bit too generic), and if you love old school, upbeat Rock N’ Roll from the 80’s you’ll have a blast listening to the fun Seize the Day in your car, at the cottage, at a party, or anywhere else you’re truly enjoying life. Furthermore, David once again has an absolute fantastic performance with his piercing vocals, elevating the song’s taste and impact to a whole new level.

Viper carries the perfect name for a beyond electrifying tune (and I dare you to stand still to such action-packed music journey), presenting Ryan on total fire with his riffs and solos, while Jonathan does what he knows best, which is smashing his drums in a fast and melodic way. Kings sounds like if it was taken from a cigarette TV ad from the 80’s or 90’s, displaying a headbanging pace and sheer energy flowing nonstop, with Randy dictating the rhythm with his guitar lines and with the music flowing smoothly until the song’s sharp ending, while closing the regular version we have a fun rockin’ tune named Devil’s Night, also inspired by the classic sonority from the band’s music heroes. Moreover, Ryan and Richie are in utter sync with their strings, while David continues to deliver his top-notch vocal lines. And as a bonus track we have Maverick’s version of Rick Springfield’s classic Jessie’s Girl (check the original version HERE), a very entertaining and well-crafted cover song that will certainly put you to dance and bring very good memories to your mind.

With that said, what are you waiting for to put your hands on such electrifying album of Hard Rock to embellish the soundtracks of your house parties and road trips? Cold Star Dancer is available at the band’s Big Cartel page in CD or vinyl, at Grooves Inc., at Discogs or on Amazon. And, of course, you can get to know more about Maverick and the Balfour Brothers by visiting their Facebook page, and by listening to more of their classy Hard Rock on their YouTube channel. Needless to say, keep an eye on their tour dates, because if Maverick visit your hometown it’s an almost mandatory event for you and your friends to attend, enjoying a fun and reinvigorating night dedicated to our good old Rock N’ Roll.

Best moments of the album: Cold Star Dancer, Kiss of Fire and Viper.

Worst moments of the album: Magellan Rise.

Released in 2018 Metalapolis

Track listing
1. Dusk 1:28
2. Cold Star Dancer 3:29
3. Myrmidon 4:05
4. Kiss of Fire 3:44
5. Goodbye 4:20
6. Ex Machina 3:38
7. Magellan Rise 4:59
8. Seize the Day 3:06
9. Viper 3:31
10. Kings 3:38
11. Devil’s Night 4:52

Digipak First Edition/Vinyl bonus track
12. Jessie’s Girl (Rick Springfield cover) 3:15

Band members
David Balfour – vocals
Ryan Balfour – guitar
Richie Diver – bass
Jonathan Millar – drums

Guest musician
Anders “Gary” Wikström – guitar on “Cold Star Dancer” and “Ex Machina”
Steve Moore – guitar on “Myrmidon”, “Viper” and “Devil’s Night”

Album Review – Inkvisitor / Dark Arts of Sanguine Rituals (2018)

After suffering major lineup changes, this underground Finnish thrashing machine is back with a concept album following a neo-noir murder mystery story laced with black magic and necromancy elements.

After going through major lineup changes in the past couple of years, Jyväskylä-based Thrash Metal squad Inkvisitor is finally back with their second full-length installment, titled Dark Arts of Sanguine Rituals, following up their fun and frantic full-length debut album Doctrine of Damnation, released in 2015. Part new Inkvisitor, part swansong of the old Inkvisitor, the album introduces the band’s new lead singer Markus Martinmäki and new drummer Tino Jäntti, while at the same time it also farewells their second guitarist Lauri Huttunen (not to mention their old friend and bassist Pekka Hölönen played bass on the album as a session musician).

Featuring an old school cover art by Petteri Ylitalo (Dear Death Designs), Dark Arts of Sanguine Rituals is a concept album following a neo-noir murder mystery story laced with black magic and necromancy elements, with a single storyline progressing through the songs, and that’s one of the most remarkable changes from the band’s previous album, where lyrics revolved around the usual topics most Thrash Metal bands sing about such as nuclear warfare and beer. Another major change are the vocals by Markus, sounding a lot raspier than the Joey Belladonna-inspired style from their previous vocalist, adding an extra touch of aggressiveness to the entire album. In the end, although Inkvisitor are playing a different type of Thrash Metal in the new album, as aforementioned their core essence remains intact, resulting in a more-than-healthy and fun clash between their past and present musicality.

Starting in an Anthrax-like way, with both guitars exhaling metallic sounds while Tino pounds his drums mercilessly, the title-track Dark Arts of Sanguine Rituals feels a lot more hardcore and pugnacious than their previous album (mainly thanks to the visceral screams by Markus, as already mentioned), and their hostile Thrash Metal extravaganza goes on in another circle pit-catalyst named Second Sacrament, with both guitarists Mikko Saviranta and Jesse Kämäräinen (as well as the departing Lauri) sounding infernal with their riffs, not to mention how bestial Tino is once again behind his drums. More modern and heavier than its predecessors and featuring the only  guest  musicians of the album  on  lead  guitars  (Sebastian Frigren and Kasper Koutonen, of  Nuclear  Omnicide  and  Devenial  Verdict), A Shadow Suspended by Dust brings massive, rumbling bass sounds which set the perfect stage for Markus and his demented growls, inspiring us to crack our necks in half headbanging.

Then speeding up their pace and mixing elements from traditional Hard Rock, Punk Rock and Rock N’  Roll with their frantic Thrash Metal, Inkvisitor deliver a full-bodied thrashing extravaganza named The Confession, with highlights to the incendiary performances by Markus and Tino. Moreover, it’s quite impossible to stand still to such high level of electricity and insanity, which can also be said about Mindslaver, another Anthrax-inspired tune with classic guitar riffs and headbanging beats, presenting lyrics about how our society has failed and how we need to start everything over (“Mankind has failed, brotherhood has been lost / The prison of the mind / And the cancer of your soul / Complete the ritual, sacrifice your family / Through death you ́ll be born again / Reclaim your throne”). In Necromancy Cascade, a slower but still very heavy and impactful composition, Markus delivers deeper, more introspective vocals while the energy in the music remains at a decent level (it never really takes off, though, falling flat after a while); whereas Paradigm Shift is a berserk, demented and totally awesome hymn by Inkvisitor showcasing all elements we love in old school Thrash Metal, with the demolishing drumming by Tino dictating the rhythm while the stringed trio Mikko, Jesse and Pekka sounds absolutely thunderous with their riffs, solos and punches.

Violence keeps flowing from all instruments in the belligerent War is Path to Victory, a song tailored for slamming into the pit with your friends while Markus screams its lyrics right in your face (“What do I think I know ́bout war? / Spare a life hand over your own / Violence consists of certainty / That war is a path to victory”), before the imposing and ruthless The Revenant (Redeemer) closes the regular version of the album, bringing to our avid ears menacing drums and bass lines, soulful riffs and solos, and the most demonic vocal lines of the entire album. And last but not least, as a bonus track for the ones who buy the album either in CD or digital (and you also get an instrumental version of the whole album and a 12-page booklet with liner notes) we have Quagmire Twilight (Deleted Scene), Inkvisitor’s darkest creation, a doom-ish tune with obscure vocal lines and piercing bass lines, with that dark and heavy aura going on until the song’s devilish ending.

As aforementioned, this new version of Inkvisitor is just as electrifying and heavy as their previous release, sounding more unfriendly (in a good way) due to their new vocal approach, and if you like what the band has to offer in this new phase you can purchase Dark Arts of Sanguine Rituals (available for a full listen on Spotify) from the band’s own BandCamp page, from Record Shop X, or from iTunes, and don’t forget to follow them on Facebook and on YouTube for more of their music, news, tour dates and all things Inkvisitor. Let’s hope that Inkvisitor’s days of major lineup changes are over and that they can now focus on touring and writing more Thrash Metal, because based on what they’re offering us all in Dark Arts of Sanguine Rituals the band is on a beyond promising (and thrashing) path to success.

Best moments of the album: The Confession, Mindslaver and Paradigm Shift.

Worst moments of the album: Necromancy Cascade.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Dark Arts of Sanguine Rituals 3:31
2. Second Sacrament 3:24
3. A Shadow Suspended by Dust 5:14
4. The Confession 3:39
5. Mindslaver 3:42
6. Necromancy Cascade 5:49
7. Paradigm Shift 4:38
8. War is Path to Victory 4:46
9. The Revenant (Redeemer) 5:45

Bonus track
10. Quagmire Twilight (Deleted Scene) 5:29

Band members
Markus Martinmäki – vocals
Mikko Saviranta – guitar
Jesse Kämäräinen – guitar
Sakari Soisalo – bass
Tino Jäntti – drums

Guest musicians
Lauri Huttunen – second rhythm guitar & lead guitar on “Second Sacrament”
Sebastian Frigren & Kappe Koutonen – lead guitars on “A Shadow Suspended by Dust”
Pekka Hölönen – bass (recording)
Kalle Raijonkari & Sampo Riikkilä – additional gang vocals

Concert Review – Boonsdale Fest 2018 & Wacken Metal Battle Canada Final (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018)

After a year of silence, Wacken Metal Battle Canada returned in full force in a unique partnership with Boonsdale Fest to decide which underground band would raise the flag of Canadian metal high on “The Holy Land” of heavy music.

INTRODUCTION: BOONSDALE FEST AND WACKEN METAL BATTLE CANADA UNITED

There’s nothing better than a night of ass-kicking heavy music in the always fun month of June in the city of Toronto, and to make things even better how about uniting at The Opera House the 2nd annual Boonsdale Fest, organized by Boonsdale Records and featuring the bands MokomokaiOperus and Borealis, with the 2018 edition of Wacken Metal Battle Canada, where the Best from the West Hammerdrone battled the Best from the East Centuries of Decay for a place alongside the greatest names in the history heavy music at Wacken Open Air later this year. As there was no Wacken Metal Battle Canada in 2017 (each year Wacken allocates 28 slots at W.O.A. for the Metal Battle winners from 28 different countries, and due to the increasing number of countries some are asked to pause for a year to give the chance to others to participate, which was what happened to Canada last year), this year several Canadian independent and underground bands were more than eager to participate in the competition again, with qualifying rounds happening all over the country starting January 12,  until Calgary’s Hammerdrone and Toronto’s Centuries of Decay reached the desired final round in Toronto this Saturday.

In 2016, Wacken Metal Battle Canada crowned Death/Thrash Metal band Profaner as champions, who then by the way advanced to be 2nd place at the international Metal Battle at W.O.A. that same year, so who would be granted the chance to represent Canada at the biggest metal festival in the world in 2018? Well, it’s time to rumble to the heavy music by Centuries of Decay, Hammerdrone, Mokomokai, Operus and Borealis, and wait for guest judges Gustavo Valderrama (Navaja Music, Electric Flow), Tim Henderson (Bravewords.com), Andrew Epstein (Zombitrol Productions, Alan Cross’ A Journal of Musical Things), Chris Gonda (PureGrainAudio.com), Charlie Felix (Sound & Noise, Live Talent), Oscar Rangel (Operus, Ex-Annihilator), Wojtek Sokolowski (Operus) and Luc Lainé (CFLX 95,5 FM) to decide which band would rule them all!

CENTURIES OF DECAY

Centuries of Decay @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Precisely at 9pm Toronto’s own Progressive/Atmospheric Death Metal act Centuries of Decay hit the stage at The Opera House showing why they were chosen Eastern Canadian Metal Battle champions, led by the deep and very melodic growls by vocalist and guitarist Devin Doucette. Formed in 2014, the quartet released in 2017 their debut self-titled album, available for a listen (and obviously for purchase) at their own BandCamp page, and that album was basically what the metalheads at the venue had the pleasure to witness them playing live. With songs getting close to or even breaking the 10-minute mark, something unimaginable for any artist or band from most non-metal styles that are in pursuit of stardom, Centuries of Decay inspired everyone in the crowd to bang their heads nonstop and feel embraced by their atmospheric music, generating a very nice and interesting feeling in all of us. That’s how exciting progressive and atmospheric heavy music can be, and if these are just the initial steps in the promising career of Centuries of Decay, I can’t wait to see what those four metallers will bring next.

Band members
Devin Doucette – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob McAllister – lead guitar, backing vocals
Matt Hems – bass
Derrick Doucette – drums

HAMMERDRONE

Hammerdrone @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

After a quick bathroom/beer break, it was time for the winners of the West Hammerdrone to make a lot of noise and crush us with their unrelenting Melodic Death Metal, opening their performance with the violent Dark Harvest, the title-track from their 2017 opus Dark Harvest, which you can buy directly from their BandCamp page, a concept album inspired by the real life but obscure tale of the Scottish terrorist organization the Dark Harvest Commando. Frontman Grahma Harris was on fire during the entire concert, growling and roaring (and also making faces) like a beast, while his bandmates Rick Cardellini (lead guitars), Curtis Beardy (rhythm guitars), Teran Wyer (bass) and Vince Cardellini (drums) delivered a well-balanced fusion of the more harmonious lines from Melodic Death Metal with the sheer heaviness and aggressiveness of old school Death Metal. As a matter of fact, you can download for free a live EP by Hammerdrone titled Rituals of Battle from their BandCamp page, just to give you an idea of how awesome their music sounds live. And after Hammerdrone’s concert was over, I knew the judges were going to have a very difficult time deciding who should be crowned the 2018 champions. Well, at least they had a few more excellent concerts to go until then.

Band members
Graham Harris – vocals
Rick Cardellini – lead guitars
Curtis Beardy – rhythm guitars, backing vocals
Teran Wyer – bass, vocals
Vince Cardellini – drums

MOKOMOKAI

Mokomokai @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

When Peterborough-based four-piece band Mokomokai began blasting their electrifying blend of old school Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, I guess we could say it was the “official” start of Boonsdale Fest, and let me tell you it looked like their Rock N’ Roll party had no time to end. Formed in 2011, and having a distinct name inspired by the preserved heads of Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, the quartet formed by John Ellis on vocals and guitar, Bobby Deuce on the guitar, Jeremy Pastic on bass and J J Tartaglia on drums put everyone at the venue to dance with their flammable music, playing songs from their 2017 album The Poison Whiptail, like the excellent Heavy Metal Sky, as well as a cover version for the classic The Wizard, by Black Sabbath (check out the original version HERE), taken from their 1970 masterpiece Black Sabbath, with John even playing the song’s traditional harmonica. After such high level of adrenaline, I have only one thing to say about Mokomokai: if they visit your hometown, don’t miss the chance to see them kicking some serious ass live.

Band members
John Ellis – vocals, guitar
Bobby Deuce – lead & rhythm guitar
Jeremy Pastic – bass
J.J. Tartaglia – drums 

OPERUS

Operus @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Perhaps the performance by the following band of the night, Toronto-based Epic Symphonic Metal squad Operus, was the most peculiar of the entire event due to all the unique elements found during their concert (and one of them was definitely not on purpose). Formed in 2005, this six-piece act put on an extremely entertaining and atmospheric show still promoting their 2017 album Cenotaph, featuring Oscar Rangel (ex-Annihilator) on the guitar, cellist Robin Howe adding an extra touch of epicness to the band’s music, masked-frontman David Michael Moote with his passionate and theatrical performance, J.J. Tartaglia back on drums to play a completely different style from Mokomokai, and an injured bassist Wojtek Sokolowski who twisted his ankle right at the beginning of the show, but who refused to stop and managed to play their full set before going to ER (and that’s what I call a true metalhead!). That’s another band I highly recommend you go watch live if they’re scheduled to play at a venue near you, and you can find their latest album available on different platforms such as iTunes if epic and symphonic music is your cup of tea.

Band members
David Michael Moote – lead vocals
Rob Holden – guitar
Oscar Rangel – guitar, backing vocals, growls
Robin Howe – cello, backing vocals
Wojtek Sokolowski – bass, backing vocals
J.J. Tartaglia – drums 

BOREALIS

Borealis @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Last but not least, the festival ended with another very progressive and melodic band named Borealis, formed in 2005 in the Ontarian city of Orangeville, who also delivered a solid and delightful performance playing songs from all of their five full-length albums, such as Revelation, from their 2015 album Purgatory, and The Awakening, from their brand new opus The Offering, released earlier this year. Comprised of lead singer and guitarist Matt Marinelli (who had his bottle of water wisely placed on his mic stand looking like he was going to deliver some “wah wah’s” with his guitar when he was actually just thirsty as hell), guitarist Ken Fobert, bassist Trevor McBride, keyboardist Sean Werlick and drummer Sean Dowell, Borealis did not disappoint their fans, filling all empty spaces in the air with their classy Melodic and Power Metal and keeping everyone pumped up even with the clock getting close to 2am. That’s another band I highly recommend you go check them live as well as go after their discography, because it’s not only top-tier metal music, but the overall production of their albums is also outstanding.

Band members
Matt Marinelli – vocals, guitars
Ken Fobert – guitars
Trevor McBride – bass
Sean Werlick – keyboards
Sean Dowell – drums

AND THE WINNER IS…

Centuries of Decay – 2018 Wacken Metal Battle Canada Winner

…Toronto’s own Progressive/Atmospheric Death Metal squad CENTURIES OF DECAY! It was indeed an amazing concert, and I’m sure they will proudly carry the flag of Canadian metal high during their journey through the holy land of Wacken. Actually, I really wish Wacken Metal Battle Canada could send two bands to the festival, because Hammerdrone were just as demolishing and professional as the Metal Battle winners. At least now more people will get to know Hammerdrone and all other bands of the night, which in the end is the ultimate goal of the Metal Battle and of festivals like Boonsdale Fest, keeping the fire of metal alive by always presenting to us fans new incredible bands from the underground scene. For instance, there was this old school, diehard metalhead (drinking beer at an insane speed of “two tall boys every five minutes”, but who was still able to walk, talk and headbang as if he was having just water) who asked me right after Operus if there was still more to come, and when I said there was still one more band he showed a huge and honest smile and said “this is great, eh?”, and if independent bands can still extract that type of reaction from a veteran like that guy, well, that’s another proof that metal music will never die. Now let’s wait until next year to see which new name will represent Canada at W.O.A. 2019, and if you already have your tickets for the festival this year, don’t forget to go say “hi” and raise your horns to the guys from Centuries of Decay.

Album Review – Dogmathica / Start Becoming Nothing (2018)

Delivering a clear message that only with the annulment of ego we can be reborn as a species, here comes a ruthless Italian squad and their austere fusion of Groove Metal and Metalcore.

Aiming to resume a path interrupted in 2003, Italian Groove Metal/Metalcore act Dogmathica was born in 2006 in Cagliari, the capital city of the island of Sardinia, from the ashes of another Italian band named L’Ego to deliver what’s called by the band itself as “Groovy, Claustrophobic, Polyrhythmic Metal from Cagliari”. The band has faced some significant changes through the years, until in 2017 they finally reached a stable lineup comprised of vocalist Stefano Pilloni, guitarist and founder Sergio Boi, guitarist Matteo Spiga, bassist Gianni Farci (The Blacktones), and drummer Alessandro Castellano (Acts of Tragedy), culminating with the release in 2018 of their brand new album Start Becoming Nothing.

Featuring a somber artwork by Sergio Boi himself and Elena Delogu, where the leafless tree represents the human condition within modern society, a society that slowly absorbs and consumes our vital energies making us dependent on material possession of objects and people, and with the annulment of ego (“start becoming nothing”) being the only way that leads to rebirth as a species, Start Becoming Nothing is a heavy and bold album of modern-day Metalcore highly recommended for admirers of the genre, inspiring you to slam into the circle pit while at the same time making you think about the awful condition our society is currently going through.

The guitars by Sergio and Matteo generate a heavy and rumbling ambience in the opening track Praghma, before Stefano begins declaiming the song’s austere words (“My fists-the only shots I have / Glass splinter plated knuckles / To blast mirrors and their lies / To fuck fake people / And their doll eyes / From today on I’ll trust / Just my scars”) in a solid display of contemporary Metalcore perfect for cracking your neck headbanging. If that heavy-as-hell start wasn’t enough for your ears, in Chanel N°0 we face bassist Gianni and session drummer Elia Altea (who by the way recorded the drums in the whole album) crushing their instruments mercilessly, making the ground tremble while the band’s stringed trio blasts a potent fusion of classic Melodic Death Metal with American Metalcore, not to mention how beastly Stefano keeps growling and yelling, and consequently inspiring you to headbang like a maniac as well. And led by the groovy and thunderous bass punches by Gianni, Decadancers presents a darker and heavier side of Dogmathica, incorporating the most aggressive and primeval elements of Groove Metal into their Metalcore, with the final result sounding beyond awesome.

Those talented Italian metallers keep hitting us hard in the head with their heavy and groovy sounds in the title-track Start Becoming Nothing, with the guitar duo Sergio and Matteo once again delivering sharp and metallic riffs while Stefano bursts his lungs screaming; and get ready to break your spinal cord in half in another brutally heavy Metalcore tune named Rise Up, also showcasing hints of Groove and Progressive Metal, therefore being recommended for fans of bands like Meshuggah and Gojira, with highlights to the pounding drumming by Elia. After such destructive hymn we have Screaming In The Darkness, a well-balanced blend of the heavier and slower sounds of Groove Metal with the more frantic approach of Metalcore, with all band members bringing tons of progressiveness to the music and with its lyrics being perfect for shouting along with Stefano (“I’m awake, sitting in the middle of nowhere / Feeling your hands around my neck / I feel the cold inside me / I hold the iron of my cage / I perceive all my suffering / And I screaming in empty space / Screaming in the darkness”).

The last pair of unrelenting Metalcore tunes blasted by Dogmathica close the album on a high note, leaving you eager for more of their music. First we have Hatred, another good sample of how aggressive and intricate their music always sounds and feels, being full of breaks and variations, where Gianni and Elia continue to build a massive wall of rumbling sounds with their bass and drums, respectively, followed by Burnum, sounding more modern, belligerent and electrified than all previous tunes. Furthermore, it’s Elia with his complex, progressive beats and Stefano with his sick screams who dictate the rhythm, while Serigo and Matteo don’t get tired of slashing their strings.

In summary, if you love modern Metalcore with a strong Groove Metal essence, then Start Becoming Nothing (which you can listen in full on Spotify) is perfect for your avid ears, presenting all the heaviest and most rumbling elements from those metal styles. And if you want to show your support to Dogmathica, simply like them on Facebook, listen to more of their music on SoundCloud, and purchase Start Becoming Nothing directly from their BandCamp page or from CD Baby. Our society might be heading to its inevitable doomsday sooner than we can imagine, so why not at least banging our heads to the acid music by Dogmathica until the end?

Best moments of the album: Chanel N°0, Decadancers and Screaming In The Darkness.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Praghma 5:04
2. Chanel N°0 4:22
3. Decadancers 4:23
4. Start Becoming Nothing 4:53
5. Rise Up 4:25
6. Screaming In The Darkness 4:07
7. Hatred 3:50
8. Burnum 5:12

Band members
Stefano Pilloni – vocals
Sergio Boi – guitar
Matteo Spiga – guitar
Gianni Farci – bass
Alessandro Castellano – drums*

*Drums recorded by Elia Altea

Album Review – North Hammer / Stormcaller (2018)

Armed with his debut album and a strong passion for all things Viking and Folk Metal, here comes a dauntless one-warrior metal machine from the winterly lands of Canada.

“Thou camest near the next, O warrior Thor!
Shouldering thy hammer, in thy chariot drawn,
Swaying the long-hair’d goats with silver’d rein.” – from ‘Balder Dead’

Inspired by the Viking and folk music played by renowned acts such as Wintersun, Ensiferum, Amon Amarth and Blind Guardian, and in special by Swedish multi-instrumentalist Tomas Börje Forsberg, the iconic Quorthon (1966 – 2004) from Black Metal institution Bathory, who’s also credited with creating the Viking Metal style, here comes Folk/Viking Metal one-man army (or one-warrior metal machine, as he prefers) North Hammer armed with his debut full-length album, Stormcaller, a 21st century continuation of the work of Norse bards who inspired the ancient poem above.

Formed in 2017 in the northern lands of Edmonton, in the province of Alberta, Canada by multi-instrumentalist Andrew James (Eye of Horus, Shotgunner), North Hammer is the representation of the common theme winter that comes up in metal music and a reference to Canada (the “north”), and Andrew’s personal tribute to Mjolnir, or Thor’s Hammer. Andrew wrote and recorded the vocals, guitars, bass and orchestration in Stormcaller, along with drums done by Doug Helcaraxë Nunez and a classic artwork by Mark Erskine (Erskine Designs), and his goal with North Hammer and his new album is simple but powerful. “The experience I’m trying to give the listeners is that of a fellow fan. I want people to be euphoric for other bands that mean something to them like Ensiferum, Wintersun and Amon Amarth. To connect personally with my music and realize that I love and worship these bands.”

Epicness takes over the atmosphere in the opening track Avatar, filling every empty space before Andrew begins his growling attack, also bringing heavy and traditional riffs while Doug keeps the music at a vibrant pace. In other words, this is a beyond solid “welcome card” by North Hammer, setting the tone for Wanderer, and let me tell you it can’t get any more Folk Metal than this, as our minds and souls are treated to a strong and vibrant tune where Doug takes care of the song’s inspiring pace while Andrew continues to impress with all instruments and his harsh vocals. And presenting an introspective, catchy intro, Written in the Stars evolves into modern-day Folk Metal with Melodic Death Metal nuances, with Andrew’s vocals getting more intense and enraged, effectively accompanying the heaviness and melody of the guitars.

Magic Mead is one of those songs tailored for fans of the dancing heavy music by Ensiferum, showcasing more rhythmic, epic moments intertwined with sheer speed and progressiveness while its lyrics exhale Folk and Viking Metal (“Soilent earth sewn with blood / The enemy lays in the mud / A victory not to forget / And celebrate the worthy dead / In his eyes unrest subsides / For dreams of destiny he strides / Through the day and through the night / To behold this astral sight”); followed by an inspiring speech that ignites a feast of heavy and fast sounds titled Tip of the Spear, presenting the duo Andrew and Doug in perfect sync while they head together into the battlefield, with its classic guitar riffs and solos helping enhance its overall impact. Then it’s time to bang your head and raise your horns to all soldiers in the world to the flammable Folk Metal hymn A Soldier’s Song, led by the aggressive and potent growls by Andrew, keeping the album at a truly epic level.

Black Forest Rain is a serene, introspective instrumental bridge, with the sound of the acoustic guitars guiding us to the world of Spellbinder, where a soulful guitar solo by Andrew kicks things off before all hell breaks loose in another blast of classic Viking Metal perfect for singing along with Andrew and for slamming into the pit. Then we have the song that carries the name of the band, North Hammer, an Epic Metal extravaganza with all elements we love in the genre such as powerful vocal lines, gripping guitars, pounding drums and poetic lyrics (“Crack through the ice / Swim through the depths / Pulsing through your veins / Forget all the rest / High into the Skies / Relic of Old / North Hammer”), resulting into one of the best moments of the album without a shadow of a doubt; and North Hammer’s final breath of fire and thunder comes in the form of a song named Lion’s Winter, a demolishing Folk Metal chant where Doug is bestial on drums while Andrew takes his growling to a deeper and more violent level, flowing smoothly until its melodic finale.

One thing I’m only going to mention now about Stormcaller (which is available for a full listen HERE) is that this is a concept album describing the trials of a hero in a Nordic fantasy setting. The album has been rearranged in order to place appeal to the broader audience, but the actual progression of the story line is Written in the Stars, A Soldier’s Song, Magic Mead, Black Forest Rain, Wanderer, North Hammer, Tip of the Spear, Avatar, Spellbinder, and Lion’s Winter, which means if you buy the album from the band’s own BandCamp page, from Amazon or from CD Baby, you’ll be able to rearrange the tracks yourself and follow the story as it’s supposed to be. In addition, while North Hammer is a studio project at the moment, Andrew plans to put together a band of top-notch like-minded musicians in a not-so-distant future, and if you want to show your support for such brave metal warrior go check what he’s up to on Facebook, on SoundCloud and on ReverbNation. And of course, don’t forget to praise the Norse Gods whenever you’re about to enter the battlefield, inspired by the music by North Hammer and by all renowned Viking and folk bands Andrew loves so much.

Best moments of the album: Wanderer, Magic Mead and North Hammer.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Avatar 4:46
2. Wanderer 3:42
3. Written in the Stars 3:27
4. Magic Mead 4:11
5. Tip of the Spear 3:49
6. A Soldier’s Song 4:34
7. Black Forest Rain (Instrumental) 2:10
8. Spellbinder 3:36
9. North Hammer 3:26
10. Lion’s Winter 3:34

Band members
Andrew James – vocals, guitars, bass, orchestration

Guest musician
Doug Helcaraxë Nunez – drums