Album Review – Fenisia / The Spectator (2020)

Have fun with the third and final chapter of the conceptual discography by these Italian rockers, showcasing a fantastic fusion of styles from early Doom Metal to Southern Rock and Alternative Metal.

Produced by Ray Sperlonga (American Idol) at Rosary Lane Studios and mastered by Collin Davis (Imagica, Deeds of Flesh), The Spectator, the brand new album by Rome, Italy-based Alternative Rock/Metal act Fenisia, is a concept album featuring nine Southern Rock-influenced Alternative Metal songs that together represent a bold statement against organized religion, questioning the very roots of faith, telling a story surrounding the English enlightenment newspaper published in England from 1711 to 1712, which quickly became the symbol of modern journalism. Founded in 2009, Fenisia are currently comprised of Nic Ciaz on vocals and lead guitar, J Snake on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Doc Liquido on bass guitar and backing vocals, and Tig Smith on drums, all strongly influenced by the “deep south” sound of the American Southern Rock movement, and their new effort perfectly depicts that influence in their music, offering our ears an even more melodic side of the band if compared to their previous albums Lvcifer and Fenisia Café, released back in 2011 and 2015, respectively.

The opening track Lord Lumieres, the main character of the story told in The Spectator, is very melodic and atmospheric from the very first second, with Nic and J Snake showing no mercy for their stringed axes in a modern Hard Rock party with a 70’s and 80’s twist; and venturing through the lands of Stoner Rock and Metal they bring forth the awesome Sky Oracle, where Nic’s vocals remind me of the early days of the one and only Ozzy Osbourne, while Tig dictates the pace with his classic, neck-breaking beats and fills. Then the low-tuned, rumbling bass by Doc Liquido is quickly joined by the band’s heavy and strident riffs in Manifesto, another excellent tune blending elements from Alternative Rock with classic Rock N’ Roll and Stoner Rock, and you better get ready for another round of incendiary guitars and headbanging beats in Wake Me Up, where Doc Liquido continues to bring the groove to the music with his unstoppable bass, sounding fast and melodious from start to finish with Nic kicking ass on vocals.

Their 70’s vein keeps pulsing in Eternal Cult, with both Nic and J Snake firing their trademark riffs and solos accompanied by Tig’s rhythmic drums, whereas it’s time for a smooth ballad by the quartet titled Burned In My Brain, a pleasant tune albeit not as gripping as their usual Hard Rock, showcasing an introspective performance by Nic on vocals. After a moment of calmness, let’s bang our heads like true maniacs together with Fenisia in Wizard of the World, starting with an infernal riffage before morphing into a feast of Stoner Metal and Hard Rock, also presenting a fantastic sync between Tig and the band’s guitar duo, and adding elements from bands like Down to their Black Sabbath-ish sonority the band offers us the rockin’ Conspiracy Rules, with Nic delivering sheer electricity through his guitar solos. And lastly, as the icing on the cake we have a cover version for Lenny Kravitz’s biggest hit Are You Gonna Go My Way, an amazing rendition by Fenisia adding their own personal touch to the original song, with Doc Liquido being on fire with his bass jabs.

This fun and vibrant amalgamation of styles, from the early Doom Metal played by Black Sabbath to modern-day Alternative Rock and Metal, will soon be available from several locations such as Apple Music and Amazon, or you can simply click HERE and choose your preferred music service to get the album as soon as it’s unleashed upon us all. In addition, don’t forget to give the guys from Fenisia a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, and to listen to more of their music on YouTube and on Spotify, showing your support to such talented rock band from the beautiful Italy. Two years in the making, the third and final chapter of the band’s conceptual discography is finally ready to be released, exploring its roots in depth and extending the songwriting a step above the band’s previous releases, therefore putting a beyond climatic ending to such dark story. Having said that, what are you waiting for to join Fenisia and their “friend” Lord Lumieres in the rockin’ world brought into being in The Spectator?

Best moments of the album: Sky Oracle, Wake Me Up and Wizard of the World.

Worst moments of the album: Burned In My Brain.

Released in 2020 Eclipse Records

Track listing
1. Lord Lumieres 4:38
2. Sky Oracle 4:34
3. Manifesto 4:18
4. Wake Me Up 4:08
5. Eternal Cult 3:45
6. Burned In My Brain 5:42
7. Wizard of the World 4:00
8. Conspiracy Rules 4:33
9. Are You Gonna Go My Way (Lenny Kravitz cover) 3:39

Band members
Nic Ciaz – vocals, lead guitar
J Snake – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Doc Liquido – bass guitar, backing vocals
Tig Smith – drums

Album Review – Chaoseum / Second Life (2020)

After taking their first step to hell, it’s time for those Swiss metallers to stun us all with their sophomore album, showcasing a thrilling fusion of Metalcore and Nu Metal with a theatrical twist.

Founded in 2018 by Loïc Duruz and Valery Veings, both former guitarists of Symphonic Metal band Elferya, the up-and-coming Lausanne, Switzerland-based Metalcore act Chaoseum is back in action in 2020 with their sophomore album entitled Second Life, presenting the band’s trademark amalgamation of styles including Metalcore, Power Crossover and Nu Metal, among others. Recorded at both Chaos Studio and Conatus Studios, mixed by Gwen Kerjan from Slab Sound Studio, and featuring a beautiful artwork by Brazilian artist Gustavo Sazes, Second Life brings forward a new (and more theatrical) era in the career of Chaoseum, with its 11 original compositions thoroughly crafted by Loïc and Valery together with fontman CK Smile and drummer Greg Turini appealing to all fans of the modern metal music played by bands such as Lacuna Coil, Korn, Trivium, Killswitch Engage and Slipknot, among others.

The creepy, cinematic intro XXV-IX-MMXX (or September 15, 2020, the official release date of the album) will send shivers down your spine before the quartet comes crushing with their vicious Metalcore in Hell Has No Way Out, with Greg sounding like a machine gun on drums while Loïc and Valery fire melodious riffs for our total delight and CK roars and sings with tons of anguish. The melodic and aggressive title-track Second Life starts in an atmospheric way before exploding into a visceral fusion of Metalcore and Melodic Death Metal, with the rumbling sounds of the bass by Loïc punching us hard in the head, followed by Into My Split, a fulminating Alternative Metal tune tailored for banging our heads nonstop or simply enjoying the gentle guitars and beats by the band, all spiced up by CK’s introspective performance. Then we have the excellent Smile Again, clearly inspired by Nu Metal masters Korn, with CK doing his best Jonathan Davis impersonation while Loïc and Valery keep delivering pure metallic lines through their riffs and bass punches; whereas it’s time to speed things up and offer the listener the sinister and alternative Scream, with Loïc, Valery and Greg bringing tons of progressiveness to their wicked sonority, and with its futuristic and modern vibe being all CK needs to shine on vocals.

Stick Under My Skin is another song with a cryptic, mesmerizing intro, evolving into a feast of Alternative, Groove and Progressive Metal where CK’s clean and harsh vocals are nicely supported by his bandmates’ backing vocals, while Burn My Eyes is a solid rock and metal creation by Chaoseum, albeit a bit generic if compared to the rest of the album, with both Loïc and Valery doing a great job with their flammable guitars. And you better get ready as there’s still a lot more of the music by Chaoseum, starting with Feel, a modern, industrialized party perfect for their live performances where the quartet enhances their rage, punch and insanity. Put differently, this is a heavier version of traditional Alternative Metal led by the classic beats by Greg, while things can’t get more alternative nor groovier than in Sex In Hell, a suggestive song name that matches perfectly with the heavy but sexy music played by the band, resulting in a dark ballad where CK steals the spotlight with his devilish vocals. Lastly, there’s more of their groovy bass punches and rhythmic beats intertwined with futuristic background elements and the raspy vocals by CK in Frozen, a song which fans of Korn, Lacuna Coil and other modern metal bands will surely love.

In a nutshell, it doesn’t matter if you’re a longtime fan of Alternative and Nu Metal or if you’re taking your first steps in this more modern side of heavy music, you should definitely add Second Life to your daily playlist (and you can do so by streaming the album in full on Spotify). Chaoseum put their hearts and souls into the making of their new opus, and you can sense that passion and hard work in each and every track of the album, proving those Swiss metallers are o the right path to stardom. Hence, don’t forget to show them your support by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, by subscribing to their YouTube channel and, above all that, by purchasing their new album from their own BandCamp page or webstore (where you can by the way find tons of ass-kicking merch as well), from Apple Music or from Amazon. Chaoseum’s “first step to hell” was already solid and vibrant, but it’s under this new era, or maybe I should call it their “second life”, that the band is ready to show the world what their music is all about.

Best moments of the album: Hell Has No Way Out, Scream and Stick Under My Skin.

Worst moments of the album: Burn My Eyes.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. XXV-IX-MMXX 0:58
2. Hell Has No Way Out 4:07
3. Second Life 4:18
4. Into My Split 4:18
5. Smile Again 4:27
6. Scream 3:38
7. Stick Under My Skin 4:51
8. Burn My Eyes 3:31
9. Feel 4:39
10. Sex In Hell 5:41
11. Frozen 4:41

Band members
CK Smile – vocals
Loïc Duruz – guitars, bass
Valery Veings – guitars
Greg Turini – drums

Album Review – Null Positiv / Independenz (2020)

A fantastic hybrid of Melodic Death Metal with Alternative Metal and Neue Deutsche Härte brought forth by one of the best new names of the underground German scene.

Forged in the fires of Lübbenau, Germany back in 2015 by the multi-talented frontwoman Elli Berlin, the up-and-coming Alternative/Nu Metal army known as Null Positiv has been on a constant and healthy rise in the underground scene releasing an array of electrifying albums since the band’s inception, starting with their 2016 debut EP Krieger until their brand new opus titled Independenz, or “independence” in English, brought into being earlier this year. Currently comprised of the stunning Elli Berlin on vocals, Bene Gugerbauer on the guitars, Manu Altendorfer on bass and Flo Schnablo on drums, Null Positiv are definitely one of the most interesting bands hailing from Germany from the past few years, not only presenting a fantastic hybrid of Melodic Death Metal with Alternative Metal, but singing all of their songs in their mother tongue German (just like their countrymen Rammstein), giving their music an organic and powerful vibe, with their new album Independenz beautifully representing their amalgamation of styles, their passion for heavy music and, therefore, pointing to an even brighter future for Elli and the boys.

In a truly Neue Deutsche Härte-inspired mode, Null Positiv begin their industrial feast with the excellent Freiheit (“freedom”), where Manu sounds bestial with his metallic bass jabs while Elli roars and screams rabidly from start to finish, followed by Insomnia, bringing forward a thrilling fusion of Alternative and Industrial Metal that reminds me of some of the best creations by Korn, led by the whimsical riffs by Bene and the pounding drums by Flo. Moreover, the music flows smoothly until the very end, setting the tone for the title-track Independenz, where you don’t need to speak a single word in German to understand and feel deep inside your soul what Elli passionately declaims, evolving into a dark ballad showcasing rumbling bass lines, melodious riffs and an empowering atmosphere. And growling like a demonic entity Elli steals the spotlight in the Melodic Death Metal tune Armageddon, infused with modern-day Groove Metal elements while Bene and Manu make a dynamic and incendiary duo with their thunderous strings.

Once again venturing through more alternative and modernized lands, Flo dictates the rhythm with his classy beats supported by the strident guitar lines by Bene in Gib Mir Ein Zeichen (“give me a sign”), while Elli “raps” the song’s lyrics. Then it’s time to be stunned by the gorgeous performance by Elli in the delicate but somber Blutdiamant (“blood diamond”), a stylish semi-ballad where its vicious bass and drums make an amazing paradox with its piano notes and all gentle background elements, whereas Phantomschmerz (“phantom pain”) sounds even more metallic and aggressive than its predecessors, with Elli singing and growling in great fashion while Flo shows no mercy for his drums (and consequently for our necks). After such amazing display of savagery by Null Positiv, grim vocalizations, a sense of hopelessness and endless electricity will penetrate deep inside your soul in Ich Fühl Nichts Mehr (“I don’t feel anything anymore”), one of their most atmospheric tunes while keeping their core Alternative Metal vibe intact.

Let’s keep banging our heads to their groove and melody in the exciting aria titled Fall Out, perfect for jumping up and down with Null Positiv in a fusion of contemporary Melodic Death Metal and alternative music, with Bene kicking ass with his riffs, and the quartet never seems tired of smashing our heads with their heavy-as-hell but very harmonious music as we can all witness in Schwarzes Labyrinth (“black labyrinth”), a very pleasant composition where Manu and Flo bring thunder and groove to our ears with their rumbling weapons. In Deine Haut (“your skin”) we’re treated to a rising metal intro where the guitars by Bene are intertwined with Elli’s striking vocals, resulting in a solid creation by Null Positiv (albeit not as flammable as the rest of the album), followed by Kommen Und Gehen (“come and go”), their last breath of insanity in the form of music with a welcome 80’s and 90’s vibe, bringing forward a great paradox between riffs and drums while Elli continues to hypnotize us all with her piercing clean vocals and evil gnarls.

In a nutshell, if you’re a fan of the Neue Deutsche Härte crafted by Rammstein and at the same time of female-fronted metal bands the likes of Arch Enemy, The Agonist and Infected Rain, you should definitely take a shot at Independenz, which is by the way available for streaming in its entirety on Spotify, as the new installment by Null Positiv might be exactly what you’re craving in heavy and alternative music. Hence, don’t forget to give Elli and the guys a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, to subscribe to their YouTube channel for all of their breathtaking videos, and of course to purchase Independenz from the band’s own webstore, as well as from Apple Music, from Amazon or from Discogs. Null Positiv not only reached new heights with Independenz, but as the name of the album already suggests, any band in the world can be one hundred percent independent (Triplebase Records is their own label, by the way) and still be successful and deliver first-class music to the masses, proving to all critics that heavy music might not be the exact same thing as decades ago, but it’s still alive and kicking.

Best moments of the album: Freiheit, Armageddon and Phantomschmerz.

Worst moments of the album: Deine Haut.

Released in 2020 Triplebase Records

Track listing
1. Freiheit 4:09
2. Insomnia 4:05
3. Independenz 5:29
4. Armageddon 2:55
5. Gib Mir Ein Zeichen 3:37
6. Blutdiamant 3:27
7. Phantomschmerz 3:55
8. Ich Fühl Nichts Mehr 3:37
9. Fall Out 4:00
10. Schwarzes Labyrinth 4:06
11. Deine Haut 5:02
12. Kommen Und Gehen 3:37

Band members
Elli Berlin – vocals
Bene Gugerbauer – guitars
Manu Altendorfer – bass
Flo Schnablo – drums

Album Review – Eight Lives Down / Humans (2020)

Four distinct musicians from four different countries united in the name of metal, bringing to us all a truly unique sound, unmistakably heavy and angry, yet refreshingly different and unpredictable.

Originally founded by Greek-Kiwi vocalist and lyricist Aliki Katriou in 2016 together with British guitarist James Scott (replaced by French guitarist Paul Allain in 2017), bassist Marcin Orczyk from Poland, and Brazilian drummer Rodrigo Moraes Cruz, London, UK-based Extreme Metal act Eight Lives Down has its roots in Groove and Thrash Metal, but constantly branches out stylistically incorporating influences from Progressive, Death and Black Metal, as well as various other musical genres such as Punk Rock, Blues, and traditional folk music, while vocals range from low growls and high screams to clean and even operatic phrases, creating a truly unique sound, unmistakably heavy and angry, yet refreshingly different and unpredictable. Now in 2020 the quartet is ready to invade our senses with their debut full-length opus, entitled Humans, showcasing all their versatility, dynamism, creativity and rage, all enhanced by the album’s top-notch mixing and mastering done by Dan Baune at Noise Foundry Productions, while embraced by a modern, stylish artwork by Dylan Sutton.

The blazing guitar riffs by Paul kick off the sick and groovy Opening Shots, bringing forward a fusion of Melodic Death Metal with more modern and alternative styles, with Aliki growling like a true she-demon for our total delight, followed by Misguided, where the metallic bass jabs by Marcin will hit you in the face while Aliki blasts her wicked mix of clean vocals and harsh gnarls, leaning towards contemporary Thrash and Groove Metal while Rodrigo dictates the pace with his classy beats. Then the mesmerizing vocalizations by Aliki accompanied by tribalistic sounds and tones ignite the heavy and experimental Angela, with Paul, Marcin and Rodrigo bringing sheer progressiveness to the music with their refined techniques, whereas From The Cradle is a lot more introspective, grim and atmospheric than its predecessors, starting in a semi-acoustic manner while Aliki declaims the song’s dark lyrics, sounding at the same time like a 90’s Groove and Funk Metal tune and a modern-day thrashing tune, something a wicked band like Faith No More would definitely do.

More of their rumbling sounds permeate the air in the also heavy and furious Sacrifice, a lecture in Groove Metal by Eight Lives Down where Aliki’s roars get deeper and more enraged while Rodrigo sounds pulverizing on drums, supported by Marcin’s menacing bass; and in Organize Your Mind the quartet offers us all a hybrid of the rebelliousness of Alternative Metal with the intricacy of Progressive Metal, with Paul being on absolute fire with his demented riffage, while also presenting interesting atmospheric passages and endless heaviness. After that it’s time to break our necks headbanging together with Aliki and the boys in Colder, adding hints of Heavy Rock to their already crushing sonority while Paul and Marcin have a fun duel with their strident riffs and solos and low-tuned bass punches, respectively. Lastly, you better get ready for nine minutes of introspection, groove and heaviness in the form of Why, starting in a serene way with Aliki declaiming the song’s cryptic words, evolving into a thunderous metal feast led by Rodrigo’s visceral beats, not to mention the incendiary solos by Paul as the icing on the cake.

This precious gem of Extreme and Experimental Metal can be enjoyed in its entirety on YouTube, but of course in order to show your support to Aliki and her loyal henchmen you should definitely buy a copy of Humans from their own BandCamp page, from their webstore or from Amazon, as well as follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know details about such up-and-coming metal band, and subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their idiosyncratic creations. It will certainly be more than just interesting to see what the future holds for Eight Lives Down with their upcoming releases, if they’ll keep experimenting like crazy or if they’ll set a defined shape and style for their music. Until then, while we wait for the creative mind of Aliki to provide us more insanity in the form of music, we can keep banging our heads nonstop to Humans, by far one of the best alternative albums of the year.

Best moments of the album: Opening Shots and Sacrifice.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Cult Of Parthenope

Track listing
1. Opening Shots 3:50
2. Misguided 4:01
3. Angela 3:56
4. From The Cradle 7:40
5. Sacrifice 3:52
6. Organize Your Mind 4:21
7. Colder 4:20
8. Why 9:02

Band members
Aliki Katriou – vocals
Paul Allain – guitar
Marcin Orczyk – bass
Rodrigo Moraes Cruz – drums

Album Review – Donuts Hole / Fragmenta (2020)

Bang your heads to the third studio album by this excellent Spanish Alternative Metal crew, revolving around the human being’s own prison, isolated in the confines of his own mind.

Born in the year of 2009 in the charming city of Barcelona, Spain with a common philosophy among their musicians to create independent music without a fixed style, where expressivity rules over clichés, Alternative Rock/Metal unity Donuts Hole is set to release their third studio album now in 2020, entitled Fragmenta. Produced, mixed and mastered by the band’s own guitarist Marco A. Papiz at PlyGrnd Studio in Barcelona, and featuring a classy artwork by Spanish artist Alejandro Gómez Parker (Windbreaker Design), Fragmenta revolves around the human being’s own prison, isolated in the confines of his own mind, without knowing what he is or what he really wants, without sufficient expertise to focus the will towards a goal that transgresses yourself and that allows integrating all the fragments of our consciousness to connect with the community. Add to that pensive and contemporary theme the groovy and progressive fusion of rock and metal blasted by vocalist Ariel Placenti, guitarists Gun Sato and Marco A. Papiz, bassist Franx Jurado and drummer Sebastián Gonzalez and there you have one of 2020’s strongest albums of the European alternative scene, with the Spanish language giving the overall result a more organic and honest vibe.

The opening track Desde Las Ruinas (“from the ruins”, in English) sounds modern and piercing from the very first second, with Franx firing sheer heaviness and electricity from his bass while Ariel raps the song’s lyrics with tons of anger, therefore resulting in an excellent (and groovy) way to properly kick things off in Fragmenta, whereas Heridas, or “wounds”, is more atmospheric and metalized, blending American Alternative Metal with the band’s European twist, and with both Gun and Marco slashing their stringed axes nonstop. And they keep hammering their instruments in Fraccion De Ser, or “a fraction of being”, where Ariel sounds even more demented on vocals in another solid blast of modern-day metal music spearheaded by the crushing and rhythmic beats by Sebástian, not to mention its catchy chorus will work perfectly during their live concerts. Then a grim and heavy ambience enfolds us all in Espina (“thorn”), with the melodious guitars by Gun and Marco making a beautiful paradox with the rumbling bass by Franx, alternating between more visceral moments and serene passages, while Mapas (“maps”), one of the first singles released for the album promotion, brings to our ears the band’s trademark groove and progressiveness with Ariel venturing through more introspective lands.

Back to a more violent sonority, the band speed things up and fire the modern and exciting Revelador (“illuminating”), where Sebástian is unstoppable on drums providing Ariel all he needs to scream and roar manically from start to finish; followed by Tu, or “you”, a semi-ballad blasted by the quintet showcasing a very good job done by Sebástian on drums, while the guitars maintain the atmosphere at the same time heavy and gentle (albeit not as powerful as the previous songs, though). And you better get ready for a minimalist creation by Donuts Hole titled Pequeño Guerrero (“little warrior”), a more pensive tune compared to the rest of the album, bringing electronic elements in the background together with their usual alternative sounds, while the stylish piano interlude Calma (“calm”) sets the tone for the closing song entitled En La Tormenta (“into the storm”), bringing hints of Djent added to their core sonority. Put differently, it’s an inspiring composition overflowing hope and energy thanks to the crisp riffage by the band’s guitar duo and another passionate performance by Ariel on vocals.

The guys from Donuts Hole are waiting for you to join them in their quest for melodious, introspective and groovy music by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, by subscribing to their YouTube channel and by streaming more of their music on Spotify, and of course by purchasing a copy of Fragmenta from several locations such as their own BandCamp page or webstore and La Casa del Disco, as well as by adding it to your favorite streaming service. Fragmenta is more than just another album of Alternative Rock and Metal, but a solid statement by Donuts Hole that they are among us to stay, to make us think about our lives and decisions while enjoying their newborn creations and, above all, that the human mind is and will always be one o the most compelling sources for hardworking bands like Donuts Hole to keep embellishing the airwaves with their music.

Best moments of the album: Desde Las Ruinas, Fraccion De Ser and Revelador.

Worst moments of the album: Tu.

Released in 2020 Rock Estatal Records

Track listing
1. Desde Las Ruinas 2:53
2. Heridas 3:33
3. Fraccion De Ser 4:11
4. Espina 3:19
5. Mapas 3:22
6. Revelador 4:00
7. Tu 4:26
8. Pequeño Guerrero 4:48
9. Calma 1:04
10. En La Tormenta 3:13

Band members
Ariel Placenti – vocals
Gun Sato – guitar
Marco A. Papiz – guitar
Franx Jurado – bass
Sebastián Gonzalez – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Elli Berlin

Freiheit! Suche ich… Freiheit! Komm ans Licht… Sei mir unendlich!

Even if you don’t understand a single word in German, I bet you’ll fall in love with the talent, the charisma and the energy flowing from our metal chick of this month of September. Owner of a beyond versatile voice, which allows her to deliver from the most serene, cleanest lines to truly demonic growls and roars, German vocalist and alternative model Elli Berlin will rip your heart out and mesmerize your senses with her stunning looks and incendiary performance, showing you why her fantastic Alternative Metal band, which goes by the stylish name of Null Positiv, is on a constant rise in the world of heavy music. After reading more about Elli and listening to her wicked creations, you’ll be absolutely addicted to her voice and to her music, placing Null Positiv among one of your favorite bands of our modern times hands down.

Elli started her career as a vocalist at a young age, more specifically when she was around 13 years old, as she became aware of her skills and capabilities when different people started to approach her and compliment her for her talent. She then went to take singing lessons, starting with classical music and gradually moving on to pop and rock music, making her first recordings in a professional studio, and then forming her first band when she was only 16 years old. Elli said in one of her interviews that was a really hard time for her, with over 150 shows per year, but she’s very thankful for all that as she simply loves her touring life. At first her band only played cover songs, but of course they started writing their own music as time passed by, and although metal music has always been an important part of her life, she only began growling and screaming a few years ago.

It was in 2015 in Lübbenau, a small town in the Oberspreewald-Lausitz district of Brandenburg, Germany, when Elli began looking for like-minded musicians to join her project and work on powerful, modern metal music, resulting in what is known today as her very entertaining and electrifying band Null Positiv, bringing to our ears an incendiary hybrid of Alternative and Nu Metal with Neue Deutsche Härte. Since their inception a few years ago, Null Positiv have released an array of unique and vibrant albums, including their debut EP Krieger, in 2016, followed by the full-length albums Koma (2017), Amok (2018), and their 2020 brand new opus Independenz (which will be reviewed here at The Headbanging Moose sooner than you can say “Scheiße!”), having also toured extensively with over 100 shows in just a few years, having played with renowned acts the likes of Anthrax, The Raven Age and Life of Agony, while also having in their short but solid career an appearance at the Wacken Open Air Festival in 2017 and an European tour with the iconic band Therion.

Currently comprised of our gorgeous frontwoman Elli Berlin, guitarist Bene Gugerbauer, bassist Manu Altendorfer and drummer Flo Schnablo, Null Positiv got its name from 0+, one of the most common blood types, as Elli herself explained we all share it, we all have it flowing within our veins, being essential to keep us alive and, therefore, becoming a synonym to the general equality all band members believe in. “Furthermore, it also translates to the mindset within the band, lyrically and musically. We believe in telling things how they are, without sugar-coating stuff and digging deep into the sentiments, good or bad, that motivate or prevent people to do things. We do this intending to rouse people, to give the initial spark to start to deal with the problems that we as humanity are facing in modern times,” commented our multi-talented diva.

In addition, Elli and her henchmen are one hundred percent, purely independent from any label or management company, having founded their own label, named Triplebase Records, from which they have released all of their albums. Not only that, Null Positiv also shoot and produce all of their official videos, available through their YouTube channel. For instance, you can see Elli kicking some serious ass with her potent vocals and her ravishing looks in songs such as Freiheit (one of my favorite Null Positiv songs), Turm Der, Trauma, Amok, Kollaps, Koma, Hass, Hoffnung Ist Ein Suesses Gift, Friss Dich Auf, Wo Rauch Ist, Ist Auch Feuer, Unvergessen, Zukunft Ungewiss, and a short and eerie film called Puppets Of Hate. Furthermore, if live performances and everything that surrounds them are your cup of tea, you can also enjoy Elli and the boys blasting insane performances at Rock Am Stück in 2019 and at Near Castle Festival also in 2019, playing the song Labyrinth on a live tour rehearsal in 2019, or go behind the scenes with them during their European tours in 2018 and 2019, during Wacken Open Air in 2017, and during Gefle Metal Festival in 2018. Also, don’t forget to show Elli and her Null Positiv your utmost support by purchasing their music and merch from their official webstore, by streaming all of their insane albums and songs on Spotify and YouTube, and by following them on all social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Highly influences by several renowned rock and metal acts including Korn, Slipknot, In This Moment, System of a Down, Papa Roach, Marilyn Manson, Linkin Park and Prodigy, among many, many others, as well as obviously by her countrymen Rammstein, Elli mentioned in a recent interview that the first album she’s ever bought was Life is Peachy, the second studio album by American Nu Metal band Korn, released in 1996, saying she deeply loves that album, and complementing by saying she got to know the other aforementioned bands through festivals she used to attend as a fan in her early days, and that nowadays it would be a dream come true to tour with bands the likes of Korn, Rammstein or Arch Enemy, and that her playlist currently includes Slipknot, I Prevail, Korn, Parkway Drive, Asking Alexandria, Infected Rain, Amon Amarth and Arch Enemy. Moreover, you can sense how much all those modern metal bands have influenced her taste and her style by taking a listen at the cover songs she uploaded to her own YouTube channel, like her version for German Neue Deutsche Härte/Medieval Metal band Tanzwut’s Ich bin der Nachtwind, and mainly her gorgeous version for American music duo Simon & Garfunkel’s all-time classic The Sound Of Silence, drawing inspiration not from the original song but from Disturbed’s majestic version released in 2015.

Elli also said that it’s hard for her to choose her favorite song or songs to play live, as she feels that a concert is like one single, big explosion, hitting the stage and then leaving it at the end without “paying attention” to each song played, feeling like one huge energetic track. When asked how she manages to stay healthy while on tour, Elli said that as tours can be lengthy and exhausting, she has to integrate a daily fitness program to them, being very disciplined despite the fact there are tons of parties to attend and have fun. Also, in early 2019 Elli suffered an unfortunate back injury which forced her to take a break for a few months before getting back to touring, and she said that although it was a very difficult time for her, she always got the support from her bandmates. The final result was that not only Elli returned in full force to play with Null Positiv in countries like Switzerland, France, Belgium and Italy, but the band also won an award as best new band at the Mera Luna Festival in 2019.

When questioned about the fact that women still face a lot of sexism both in our everyday life and in the metal community, Elli said that fortunately in her own case she has never experienced any negative experiences like that in her career, complementing by saying that she has always felt very comfortable and welcome in Heavy Metal, a very positive environment where people are united in the name of good music, in her opinion. In addition, when asked about who she considers the most influential women in metal today, her answer included the talented and unrelenting ladies Angela Gossow, Doro and Amy Lee, mainly for their hard work, technical capabilities and their persistence, and let’s say it’s easy to sense their influence on Elli’s vocal style, looks and taste for rock and metal, don’t you agree? Furthermore, besides her career with Null Positiv our dauntless vocalist said that among her hobbies we’ll find things like painting, editing the band’s videos and designing their own attire, saying she’s then an actress, director and alternative model beyond her vocal duties who loves to play with fashion and makeup and, therefore, showing how powerful and dynamic a woman can be.

Among other topics that Elli has already discussed in her career are crowdfunding, politics and social networks, and her opinion on all those subjects proves why she’s been experiencing such high level of success and admiration in the world of heavy music. First of all, when questioned about crowdfunding, she thinks it’s a great idea that gives interested people the direct possibility of influencing the market by supporting the artists, bands or any other projects they like, complementing by saying that as everybody knows the music business can be extremely hard in the beginning, and due to lack of funding many bands cannot put into practice all of their amazing ideas, which is why the band has an option for fans to financially support them directly through their official website (where you can also buy their music and merch). Regarding politics in music, Elli believes music is, and has always been throughout history, a very powerful tool for bringing positive change to the world and problems to the light, saying that writing about political issues is as useful and valuable as writing about human emotions like love, suffering or hate. And last but not least, our unstoppable, multi-talented artist considers social networking a beautiful way to communicate and to keep in touch with her fans, complementing by saying it’s a powerful way to receive love and encouragement and, therefore, to get all strength and inspiration needed to keep moving forward. However, she said people must not be obsessed with it, searching for what truly motivates you, being honest all the time and selective of who you follow. Well, I wonder who would dare to make any negative comments on social media about one of the most talented, promising and hardworking women from the current German rock and metal scene, right?

Elli Berlin’s Official Facebook page
Elli Berlin’s Official Instagram
Elli Berlin’s Official YouTube channel
Null Positiv’s Official Facebook page
Null Positiv’s Official Instagram
Null Positiv’s Official Twitter
Null Positiv’s Official YouTube channel

“I believe that music is, and has been throughout history, a very powerful tool for bringing positive change to the world and problems to the light.” – Elli Berlin

Album Review – Bouquet of Dead Crows / Hemispheres Part 1: Celestial EP (2020)

Adopting a more progressive sound, this unstoppable UK-based Alternative Rock unity is more than ready to rock your world with the first half of their third full-length album.

After embellishing the airwaves with their refined fusion of Alternative Rock and Metal with nuances of Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock in their previous efforts, those being their 2015 debut album Of The Night and their 2018 release Motus Octo, Cambridge, UK’s own Bouquet of Dead Crows are back from outer space with the first part of their third full-length album Hemispheres, the six-track EP titled Hemispheres Part 1: Celestial. Adopting a more progressive sound with their trademark riffs with big melodies approach being enhanced to incorporate more layered and nuanced elements, the band currently comprised of Antoinette Cooper on vocals, Neil Bruce on the guitars, newcomer Karen Gadd on bass, and Andrew Coxall on drums and synths is more than ready to rock your world with Celestial, also preparing us all for the second half of their musical journey, Cerebral, scheduled for a late 2020 or maybe even an early 2021 release.

Recorded at the beginning of the year at Parlour Studios, mixed and produced by Neil Haynes, and featuring a stylish artwork by longtime collaborator Stewart Harris, from Stewart Harris Designs, Celestial has an overall theme of mental health, which is a topic all band members are very passionate about. With each song, they’ve written about issues that affect them individually and personally. There’s been a lot of stigma about depression and anxiety over the years, and as the mood slowly shifts, this album captures the zeitgeist of our current unpredictable day-to-day life, the fears we are all experiencing right now. In addition, although written before the pandemic that the world is currently experiencing, a lot of the lyrics do seem strangely prescient and also very relevant, such as the chorus of the title track which says that “it’s not the end of the world this time, it feels like the end of the world every time.”

Atmospheric and eerie from the very first second, the Sci-Fi intro Terraformer will captivate your senses and warm you up for the British Rock extravaganza titled Before The Storm, where Neil and Karen are in absolute sync with their riffs and bass, respectively, providing Antoinette exactly what she needs to shine on vocals while also bringing elements of Jazz to their core alternative essence, flowing smoothly into the gentle and enfolding Caged, where Andrew does a superb job with both his beats and his ethereal synths. In addition, Karen brings the groove to the overall result, also full of nice breaks and variations, whereas Neil begins slashing his strings in great fashion in the fast and thrilling Left to Rot, the most metallic of all songs of the EP with Antoinette adding a touch of finesse to the rumbling sounds blasted by her bandmates with her piercing vocals. Then it’s time to celebrate all giant monsters from the Japanese culture like Godzilla and Gamera in Kaiju Hijinks, another explosion of groove and adrenaline by the quartet presenting elements from Stoner Rock and Jazz to make things more interesting, not to mention the razor-edged riffs by Neil, followed by the title-track for the full album, Hemispheres, an introspective and futuristic song that evolves into a gentle Hard Rock ballad led by Andrew’s rhythmic drums and Neil’s classic riffs, ending the EP on a high note and setting the bar high for the second act Cerebral in the coming months.

Celestial, which is available for a full listen on YouTube (as six very entertaining visualizers) and on Spotify, is definitely a step forward in the career of Bouquet of Dead Crows, and in order to show those rockers your true appreciation don’t forget to follow them on Facebook and on Instagram, to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their music, and of course to grab your copy of the EP from the German Shepherd Records’ BandCamp page, from Music Glue, from Apple Music or from Amazon. After putting your hands on this excellent EP, you’ll have the perfect soundtrack for rockin’ around your house or in your car during such strange times we’re living, while we all wait for Antoinette, Neil & Co. to deliver more of their stylish Rock N’ Roll with the next chapter in their evolutionary career, Cerebral.

Best moments of the album: Left to Rot and Kaiju Hijinks.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 German Shepherd Records

Track listing
1. Terraformer 1:32
2. Before The Storm 2:34
3. Caged 3:49
4. Left to Rot 3:31
5. Kaiju Hijinks 2:36
6. Hemispheres 5:22

Band members
Antoinette Cooper – vocals
Neil Bruce – guitars
Karen Gadd – bass, backing vocals
Andrew Coxall – drums, synths, programming, backing vocals

Metal Chick of the Month – Lena Scissorhands

Walking in the night, I am trying to find you…

Before even starting this tribute to our metal chick of the month of July, let me just say her life is pretty much an open book. I mean, you can find pretty much anything about her online, and what you’re about to read might not be a surprise for you at all. However, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve to be featured on our webzine, as she’s not only extremely talented and passionate for heavy music, but she’s also a hardworking metalhead that never stops creating top-of-the-line music and videos for the delight of hundreds of thousands of metalheads from all over the world. Not only that, apart from her life in Heavy Metal she’s also a model and a makeup artist, proving her success, respect and admiration from her fans are not in vain. I’m talking about the unstoppable Moldovan vocalist Lena Scissorhands, the ravishing frontwoman for an up-and-coming Alternative and Nu Metal act that goes by the classy name of Infected Rain. Having said that, are you ready to be “infected” by Lena’s charisma and electricity here on The Headbanging Moose?

Born on November 22, 1986 in Chișinău, also known as Kishinev, the capital and largest city of the Republic of Moldova, nestled between Ukraine and Romania in Eastern Europe, Lena Scissorhands, whose real name is Elena Kataraga, fell in love with alternative music when she was 13 years old, although her real “crush” for metal music happened when she was 14 as she got simply mesmerized by the energy flowing from the sound of heavy guitar riffs and the brutality from harsh, guttural vocals. Due to her poor beginnings in Moldova, life was quite challenging for Lena and her family, forcing her to start working at a very young age to support her parents (who were very young when they had Lena) and her two younger sisters, with whom she mentioned she used to share her clothes and eat whatever was available (as well as pretend to be the Powerpuff Girls with them to lighten things up a bit). Looking on the bright side of life, those tough early days turned Lena into a very strong woman, always eager to achieve more through her work and always ready to provide help to the ones in need.

Currently residing in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the United States, Lena mentioned in one of her interviews that the idea that the “Sin City” is a weird place bursting with people from all over the world only works if you’re a visitor, as living there is a complete different thing. She said if you live in Vegas you’re not really that much in contact with that lifestyle, unless of course that’s part of your job, but living there is pretty quiet due to the city’s remote location. Furthermore, apart from her current life in Vegas, Lena has also lived in different European countries, which kind of explains why she’s fluent in four languages, those being Russian, Romanian, English and Italian. “I’m very proud to speak all these four languages, and unfortunately I used to speak another language fluently. When I was a child, I used to live in Armenia, and I used to know Armenian like I know English – very, very well. I lived there for many years. But unfortunately, because of different life changing and living in different countries, and I was not in touch with my father because my parents separated and stuff like that, so I didn’t really use it. And a language, you lose it when you don’t use it. I do understand a little bit, and I can say a few things, but that’s it. So I don’t even consider that,” said Lena, who also explained she writes all her lyrics in English as the language became very natural to her, especially when she was attending university, although she actually started writing lyrics in Russian when she was a teenager at the age of 14.

It’s time to get down to business and start talking about Lena’s life with her awesome band Infected Rain, the band she started over ten years ago together with guitarist Vidick and Dj Kapa. At first, Lena said she didn’t know if she would be able to sing in a band in a professional way, but with the support from her bandmates and after starting taking vocal lessons with Tatiana Robertovna, with whom Lena learned how to breathe, how to feel the music and how to sing, Infected Rain became her number one priority and her reason to live. Formed in 2008 in her hometown Chișinău, Infected Rain combine a wide variety of styles such as Alternative, Death and Nu Metal with Metalcore and even elements from electronic music in an infectious sound, having already released a self-titled demo in 2008, the EP Judgemental Trap in 2009, and four full-length albums, those being Asylum (2011), Embrace Eternity (2014), 86 (2017) and more recently the excellent Endorphin (2019), showcasing all the power and versatility of the band currently comprised of our metal goddess Lena and her henchmen Vidick and Sergey on the guitars, Vladimir on bass and Eugene on drums. There are several official videos on YouTube for some of the best creations by Infected Rain, such as Me Against You, Mold, Stop Waiting, At The Bottom Of The Bottle, Serendipity, Enslaved By A Dream, a kick-ass cover version for Slayer’s Stain Of Mind, Judgemental Trap, Sweet, Sweet Lies, Fool The Gravity, Intoxicating, Orphan Soul, the absolutely stunning The Earth Mantra, Storm, Lure and Passerby, or you can also go to their official website or Big Cartel page to purchase their albums and some pretty cool merch.

Before signing with Napalm Records in 2019, Lena and the boys used to manage Infected Rain by themselves for around 10 years, booking their own concerts, taking care of all agreements and duties of a regular manager and so on, facing tons of challenges and hassles along the way. In one of her interviews, she mentioned that one of the biggest obstacles for Infected Rain during those years were promoters and booking agencies that didn’t want to work with them simply because they were independent, thinking they were a difficult band and that’s the reason why they were independent, when the only reason for that was the fact they came from a poor country with no possibilities at all. Having said that, why not enjoying a full performance by Infected Rain from their independent years, more specifically from their 2016 incendiary performance at Rockstadt Extreme Fest or from their 2017 concert at Club Thing in Germany? In addition, simply check this video titled “10 questions with Lena Scissorhands | Infected Rain” to know a little more about Lena and the band.

Apart from her life with Infected Rain, you can also find our multi-talented artist on a few other distinguished bands and projects, showcasing all her skills as a musician and her passion for music in general. For instance, she has been doing some singing during the live performances for a Moldovan Progressive Death Metal act called Neuromist since 2010 (although I couldn’t find any online video recording of her with the band), she has recorded a cover version for Russian duo t.A.T.u’s biggest hit All The Things She Said together with LA-based Alternative Rock act Chase The Comet, and also participated in some of the songs by Moldovan Progressive Metal/Rock band Seas on the Moon such as Promise and Hovering. As you can see, singing and playing became Lena’s own type of “drug”, her personal and healthy addiction, inspiring her to exercise and experiment a lot with her voice in different styles. All that work and experimentation would leave her voiceless for days in the beginning, but after starting her vocal lessons with renowned vocal coach Melissa Cross in 2013 everything changed for better in her life and career, allowing Lena to start delivering all the emotions, experiences, fears and disappointments in life from her very personal lyrics on stage without hurting her vocal cords.

As the amazing frontwoman that Lena is, she has obviously been asked a lot of times about how she views the current role and importance of women in heavy music, and what can be done to further enhance their relevance in the scene. However, although feminism and sisterhood in the metal scene are quite popular topics nowadays, she doesn’t consider herself a true feminist. “I know a lot of people expect me to be a little bit more feminist, or to talk more about how awesome it is to be a girl in metal. I really don’t do this big of a difference. I love seeing many girls in metal in general. It’s really cool because it takes dedication and women usually are very busy with their everyday life, with their families, with their kids, and it’s not that easy if you’re a woman, to give up everything. It’s a little bit easier for a man. Maybe. I don’t know,” said Lena, who also thinks that there isn’t a big difference between men and women in metal music, especially due to the fact she grew up in the company of boys in her neighborhood and considered herself very boyish until she was 15 or 16 years old. “I became more feminine later, but that’s it. That’s only the way I look. Inside I’m very fragile, I like being a woman, I like being fragile, I like being loved, I like being taking care of. But trust me, a man can say the same. Men also love to be loved, men also loved to be weak sometimes, and men also have weaknesses and emotions. We have blood, muscles, we are the same! Right? So, I really don’t see a big difference.”

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Lena is unsurprisingly addicted to sports, to touring and to adrenaline, saying she’s disciplined enough to work out at home, backstage or in a hotel room before her concerts. “I love yoga a lot because I become stretched really well. I like building up my body and you know, doing some weights sometimes. I don’t do cardio, because I have very low blood pressure, but at the same time I love hiking, I tried climbing as well, and I like biking a lot,” said Lena, who also mentioned she has a ritual before hitting the stage every show and sometimes even during her days off, requiring between half and a full hour of exercising and a minimum half hour of vocal warm-up, plus another hour to do her makeup, allowing her to feel perfectly prepared, stretched and warmed up prior to each concert. Moreover, Lena’s creations with Infected Rain are all meant to be played live, as according to our talented growler they’re extremely close to reality, expressing exactly what Lena was feeling when writing them, with some songs becoming even stronger during the band’s live performances.

As a huge fan of cartoons and horror flicks, Lena seems to be really into Disney and vampire movies, two completely different things that ended up helping her shape up her own persona quite well. “I became a big Disney nerd at an older age. When I was a kid I grew up in a pretty poor family and we didn’t really watch Disney movies unless they were on TV. So, I would say I really love Lion King because this was my first Disney movie I’ve ever seen and it’s very emotional. I also absolutely love Snow White, because I think it’s just amazing how unique it is, and it was the first cartoon movie that was made so… I also love a lot Alice in Wonderland, because I’m a big fan of the book as well, and I really like how unique the movie is, but still – you know – having the lot from the book… I can go on and on like this forever and ever. There are so many good ones,” commented Lena, who also said in one of her interviews that as she grew up with the tales of Dracula, she loves every type of vampire movie ever made, even lower budget productions or comedies about vampires, complementing by saying that she has also been watching a lot of zombie movies, that she has already gone through all the Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises, and that now she wants to watch all the Resident Evil and A Nightmare on Elm Street movies as well.

As already mentioned, Lena also used to be a hair stylist and makeup artist, and as a proud vegan she usually tries to use vegan makeup instead of the regular brands you can find anywhere, saying one of her favorite brands is Kat Von D as she’s a vegan artist and all her makeup line is vegan as well. However, despite working with makeup, she truly believes charisma and kindness are what really attract her in people, saying that’s the true beauty in everyone. Furthermore, she also thinks there’s too much judgement or bias based on how a person looks nowadays, saying she doesn’t reply and she deletes all types of unnecessary comments such as “you’re too skinny”, “you have too many tattoos” and so on from her social media, complementing by saying we all punish ourselves too much already inside our minds to allow strangers to do the same for no reason.

Regarding veganism and her view of what’s happening to our environment, our skillful vocalist said she decided to become a vegan to see how she would feel, how much that would impact her health and her body, realizing she started to have a lot more energy on tour after adapting her eating habits around three years ago. Hence, you can notice the impact of her vegan lifestyle in the music by Infected Rain, with songs like the amazing The Earth Mantra beautifully (and darkly) representing everything that’s wrong with mankind in terms of all the wicked things we are doing to our planet. Despite not considering herself a true environmentalist, Lena is trying to be sensitive about nature, about animals and plants, and being more aware of her surroundings and how her actions impact everything and everyone in her life. Although a lot of people are trying hard to change their habits to have a minimal impact on our planet, Lena still thinks that’s not enough, that the current situation is extremely bad and that unfortunately it will take decades for the human race to change. If you’re also trying to make the world a better place you’ll certainly love the official video for The Earth Mantra, where Lena “interacts” with different bugs and other animals most people are not comfortable dealing with. “All the animals were real. I was very gentle with them. The owner of them was there, telling me how to hold those animals so no harm was done. I’m not scared of any bugs or anything. It’s actually a problem because I’m not afraid and I want to pet them and I want to touch them. So no, I’m not afraid,” commented the dauntless Lena.

Lastly, as also mentioned in the beginning of this tribute to Lena, her life is like an open book online, and let’s say she’s very proud of not being afraid of sharing all aspects of her life with her family, friends and fans worldwide. One of the main places where you can know everything about Lena is her official YouTube channel curiously titled BANANAS (as well as her own Patreon page), where you’ll find pretty much anything about her life, her hobbies, her career, her tattoos and other nice-to-know details, including also some interviews and chats with artists the likes of Melissa Cross and CJ McMahon (Thy Art Is Murder), and with all videos being edited by one of her bandmates, guitarist Vidick. For instance, there’s a very interesting video of Lena talking about the origins of Infected Rain which you might find very entertaining and informative, showing how much she’s not only a fantastic singer, but also that she was born to be in the spotlight so natural and smooth her onscreen performance is, and that’s exactly how she wants her YouTube channel to be for the foreseeable future. “When I decided to have my own YouTube channel and I saw that the band is becoming more known around the world and people are curious about me as a person, I made myself one promise, and I’m just trying to stick with that, and that’s it. It’s just I’m always going to be myself, and if people are not gonna like what they see or what they hear, it’s not in my power to change anybody’s mind, and I will never try to do that,” said Lena, inviting us all to join her in her world of heavy music, veganism, tattoos, and of course, bananas.

Lena Scissorhands’ Official Facebook page
Lena Scissorhands’ Official VKontakte
Lena Scissorhands’ Official Instagram
Lena Scissorhands’ Official Twitter
Lena Scissorhands’ Official YouTube channel
Infected Rain’s Official Facebook page
Infected Rain’s Official VKontakte
Infected Rain’s Official Instagram
Infected Rain’s Official Twitter
Infected Rain’s Official YouTube channel

“Reality is frustrating sometimes, music has become my escape. I want to help as many people as I can with my music. I want to touch people somewhere deep inside, try to end their fears and give them that escape that they always search for. Music saved my life, but when I started to sing is when my life acquired color.” – Lena Scissorhands

Album Review – Katatonia / City Burials (2020)

The most free-spirited of modern metal bands returns with absorbing 58 minutes of meticulously crafted melodies and inspired, idiosyncratic arrangements.

“In days and nights of black and silver, the dead end king will come. From pieces of broken mirrors there will be a crown bestowed upon his head. In reflections of shattered glass not only the seasons will turn, but also the change disguised by the lapse of time. His mind will have to come to bear the weight of everything that was left behind and forgotten. Archiving the inaccessible. Celebrating the abandoned and mourning the destroyed. The city burials.” – Anders Nyström

Revered masters of melancholy for nearly 30 years, Swedish Progressive/Alternative Rock/Metal icons Katatonia have always pursued a profound emotional connection with their music and those who listen to it. Formed in Stockholm, Sweden in 1991 by now vocalist Jonas Renkse and guitarist Anders Nyström, the most free-spirited of modern metal bands has taken a slow and steady but at the same time endless fascinating journey from primitive beginnings in the extreme music underground to their current status as darlings of both the metal world and the Progressive Rock scene. Now in 2020, after a well-deserved break taken by Jonas and Anders together with their henchmen Roger Öjersson on the guitars, Niklas Sandin on bass and Daniel Moilanen on drums since the release of their last album The Fall Of Hearts in 2016, Katatonia return in full force with City Burials, the eleventh studio album in their unique career. From its grim album art by Beech (The Pineapple Thief, Godsticks, Jen Cloher) to the very last second of the closing song, City Burials is the ultimate proof of Jonas and Anders’ enduring artistic bond throughout the album’s absorbing 58 minutes of meticulously crafted melodies and inspired, idiosyncratic arrangements, perfectly representing the band’s ever-evolving sound.

And a beyond whimsical start led by Jonas’ serene clean vocals kicks off the opening track Heart Set to Divide before his bandmates come crushing with a harmonious fusion of Progressive Metal and Alternative Rock, with the bass by Niklas bringing sheer groove to their music, whereas in Behind the Blood the flammable guitars by Anders and Roger embellish the airwaves in a lesson in modern rock and metal music that lives up to the band’s own legacy, not to mention the song’s poetic lyrics (“Rivers rush, behind the blood / The cinder skies come alive with this drop of sunset / How far can we go? Along the elusive flood / I’ve been waiting all of my life to be with you”). Then slowing things down and adding a good amount of melancholy and grief to their musicality Katatonia offer us all Lacquer, with all instruments, including the programmed drums by guest Joakim Karlsson (from Swedish Black Metal act Craft), providing all Jonas needs to shine on vocals.

A futuristic and cinematic feel permeates the air in Rein, where the minimalist guitar sounds blasted by Anders and Roger walk hand in hand with Daniel’s intricate beats, culminating in a delicate sound that will certainly please all fans of this more contemporary version of the band, followed by The Winter of Our Passing, a HIM-inspired composition showcasing beautiful passages and an ethereal vibe led by the band’s sharp guitar duo and the always groovy bass by Niklas, leaning at time towards pure Progressive Rock. After such embracing song it’s time for Vanishers, an utterly experimental and atmospheric tune by Katatonia featuring the angelic vocals by Anni Bernhard (from Swedish rock band Full Of Keys) where we’re all inspired to close our eyes and savor each note while witnessing a beautiful sunrise. And displaying nuances from the music played by rock acts like Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam without forgetting their melancholic core essence, the band offers our avid ears the also progressive and gentle City Glaciers, presenting another great job done by Anders and Roger with their crisp riffs and solos.

The last batch of songs in City Burials couldn’t have sounded more experimental and ethereal, with gentle piano notes intertwined with rumbling bass punches igniting the cryptic Flicker, where Jonas beautifully declaims the song’s words (“So cruel your desire / It pulled me under / But the drapery of my eye won’t fall / I lie in wait for the night to find you / Sephia teeth and claw”) while its modernized and atmospheric vibe penetrates deep inside your soul. Once again investing in serene and somber sounds and tones instead of the heaviness of their early days, Jonas takes the lead with his enfolding vocals in Lachesis, a too-short song that could have been a lot more detailed than its final shape and form, while in Neon Epitaph they get back to a heavier and groovier sound, with the tribal, fierce beats by Daniel and the mesmerizing riffs by Anders and Roger resulting in a lesson in modern-day Progressive Rock and Metal. Finally, intricate and progressive sounds conclude the album in Untrodden, never getting too heavy nor too mellow, but reaching a very pleasant balance exhibiting the absolute synchronicity between Jonas’ vocals and Anders’ precise riffs and solos.

In summary, the experimental and multi-layered City Burials, which you can stream in its entirety on YouTube or on Spotify, continues to pave Katatonia’s path through the more serene and melancholic lands of Progressive Rock and Metal while also presenting to the band’s longtime fans an even more alternative side of Jonas, Anders & Co., positioning them as one of the most important bands of the genre (apart from their already important role in more extreme styles decades ago). Hence, go check what they’re up to on Facebook, on Instagram and on YouTube to know more about them and of course about their music, and grab your copy of City Burials from several distinct locations by clicking HERE. I’ve recently read somewhere that City Burials is the perfect album to listen to at dawn, and after taken a few good listens at it I must agree with such beautiful comment about it. Well, I’m sure you’ll also have the same feeling while listening to it, no doubt about that.

Best moments of the album: Behind the Blood, City Glaciers and Neon Epitaph.

Worst moments of the album: Lachesis.

Released in 2020 Peaceville Records

Track listing
1. Heart Set to Divide 5:29
2. Behind the Blood 4:37
3. Lacquer 4:42
4. Rein 4:28
5. The Winter of Our Passing 3:18
6. Vanishers 5:07
7. City Glaciers 5:42
8. Flicker 4:45
9. Lachesis 1:54
10. Neon Epitaph 4:32
11. Untrodden 4:29

Limited Edition bonus tracks
12. Closing of the Sky 5:24
13. Fighters (Enter The Hunt cover) 3:38

Band members
Jonas Renkse – vocals
Anders Nyström – guitars
Roger Öjersson – guitars
Niklas Sandin – bass
Daniel Moilanen – drums

Guest musicians
Anni Bernhard – vocals on “Vanishers”
Anders Eriksson – programming
Joakim Karlsson – drum programming on “Lacquer”

Interview – Angela Di Vincenzo (Secret Rule)

Are you already tired and bored of staying home during this quarantine? Why not enjoying this exclusive interview with the multi-talented Angela Di Vincenzo, talking about her band Secret Rule and their brand new album Against?

Angela Di Vincenzo (Secret Rule)

The Headbanging Moose: First of all, thanks a lot for having time to chat with us, and let’s start with a very simple question: who are Secret Rule? When did the band start, how do you define the band’s sound, and what are your main goals in the world of heavy music?

Secret Rule: Hi and thank you for this space. Secret Rule is a female-fronted metal band from Italy. We have been active since 2014 and have released 5 albums. Our sound is modern metal with a lot of other influences (electronic, symphonic, etc.). Our goal is to find a space in the metal market, and at the moment we’re really satisfied.

THM: Although the band was formed only a few years ago, in 2014, your excellent new album Against is already the fifth studio album in your career. How do you manage to release such amazing amount of music in such a short period of time, what are the main differences between Against and your previous albums, and how do you see the evolution of your music through the years?

SR: It’s very simple for us. We play around 30/40 gigs per year, and the other 10 months, we are free to work on new material. I think that’s a good lapse of time to produce new songs. In addition, as you know, when you do something with passion nothing is boring or tiresome. About Against, I think it’s a more aggressive album than the other ones, and this is what we wanted. For sure, we don’t consider ourselves a symphonic metal band. It would be very limiting for us and not respectful to those who play that kind of music. No doubt there are some symphonic atmospheres in our music, but at the same time, there are a lot of electronic inserts. So in our future the sound will always have something new, and I have to say you that we like this more aggressive approach.

THM: Some of my favorite songs from the album, those being Rise Again, Digital Revolution and Outsiders, bring a high level of energy while at the same time sounding very melodic. How do you guys manage to reach that great balance in your music? Can you give us more details about your writing and recording process?

SR: Andy and I are the main composers of the band. Personally, I grew up with Italian melodic pop music and I met metal music only around my 20s, so all my catchy melodies come from this melting of styles.

Andy was born with metal music in his veins so the heavy aspects come from him! About the writing process, I record all my vocal ideas on my phone each time I have one, at whatever hour and wherever. Andy does the same on his PC when he has an idea for a riff. When we start on a new album, we actually already have a lot of stuff to analyze and in 2 months we work on it and record the album, more or less!

THM: What inspires Secret Rule to write and record heavy music? Do you avoid repeating the themes covered in each song and album, or is this something that’s “out of control” due to the way you create your music?

SR: We can say it’s “out of control” LOL Actually, we like to experiment with new influences and everything comes naturally. We like heavy music but as you can hear, you also can find electronic, symphonic, pop and rock influences in our music, because we are all these things together. For the variety you can find inside, our albums are like a playlist on Spotify instead of a single album.

Album Review – Secret Rule / Against (2020)

THM: As you guys are from Italy, it’s impossible not to ask you about the current COVID-19 crisis that’s having devastating effects on your beautiful country. How are you guys managing the band amidst all the chaos that’s going on there? Also, I hope all is well with you and your loved ones during such difficult times.

SR: Thank you for your question and interest. Here the situation is a little bit hard. At the moment we have been at home just over three weeks. We can go out only to get food or medicine. We have to have a piece of paper with us with our name and reason we’re out and there are heavy penalties for those who don’t respect the government restrictions. It has been difficult for some people to understand they have to stay at home. Now things seem to be getting better in the North of Italy but we have to still wait to have a clearer picture of the situation. About us, we have had to postpone our tour with Semblant in September and we have had to postpone our tour in the UK as well. Since we can’t go on tour and we can’t meet with each other, Andy and I (we live in the same building) have started to work on some cover songs and new stuff. The first music video was released on the 24th of March and was Gets Me Through by Ozzy Osbourne and the second one on the 2nd of April was The Bitter End by Placebo. We already have other songs in mind. In this way, we keep busy and give our fans something new in this difficult period we all are living. We hope to return to normality very soon!

THM: I’ve been following the whole COVID-19 situation in Italy, and during the past couple of weeks I received some videos of Italians playing and singing metal songs such as Slayer’s “Raining Blood” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” on their balconies during this never-ending quarantine. Having said that, how important do you think Heavy Metal and music in general are for everyone in Italy right now?

SR: You have been lucky to see these videos because around my house I only hear people who sing classic Italian music, every day at 6 pm! At the moment here in Italy a lot of newfound musicians and singers are coming out on their balconies every evening hahahaha But this has been fun and it has been a way to give positive vibes in this dark moment. Italian people have great energy and sense of humor.

Unfortunately, this is not the right country for the metal music genre. There are more musicians than fans. But at least they are very good musicians 🙂

THM: How’s the current underground metal scene in Italy in terms of bands, venues and live concerts? And can you tell us about any Italian bands apart from Secret Rule that we should take a listen to?

SR: mmmm…hard question. In Italy there are a lot of metal bands, probably there are more musicians than listeners 😀 ….unfortunately, the scene is not so good. There’s no great cultural movement to listen to new bands. So it’s always very hard to bring people to little shows. Anyway, the few people who follow metal music give a warm welcome and support.

If you wanna listen to THE ITALIAN METAL BAND, you should obviously listen to Lacuna Coil!! Hahahahh LOL

Secret Rule

THM: Who are your biggest idols in music? And who do you dream of sharing the stage with?

SR: Personally, I like a lot of bands and singers but if I had to choose, I would say Lacuna Coil and Within Temptation. Sharing the stage with them would be awesome, a dream. I might cry if I were to meet Cristina and Sharon. I think they have great talent and unique voices. There’s no one like them. First and foremost, I’m a fan of theirs.

THM: As a Symphonic and Alternative Metal band, your whole performance is obviously impacted by your attire, or by the way you look on stage. Who’s responsible for creating all the clothing you guys wear during your promo pictures and on stage during your live concerts?

SR: What you see on us reflects our taste and work.

It’s not simple but for the last album, we made a deal with the fashion brand PUNK RAVE. This has been awesome because they believe in us and we love their style. So it’s been a perfect marriage.

In addition, the mood and the meaning they put in their fashion style fits perfectly with the messages in our latest album “AGAINST”.

THM: Thanks again for your time, and please feel free to send your final message to our readers, to your fans and to anyone else that’s getting in touch with Secret Rule for the first time ever.

SR: Thank you for this opportunity. We invite all readers to get a taste of our music if they haven’t done so before and to trust their perceptions.

You can find our music on the best digital platforms like Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and so on. The album is distributed worldwide so you can find it everywhere.

Links
Secret Rule Official Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube | Spotify | Apple Music