Album Review – Dark Station / Down in The Dark (2019)

Get ready for an overdose of heavy riffs, groovy sounds and soaring vocals by five talented guys who are among us to prove once and for all that modern rock music is alive and kicking.

In the spring of 2018, five Southern California musicians (Nathan Spades on vocals, Kyle Ort and David Bruno on the guitars, Eric Sinful on bass, and Dylan Roy on drums) came together to form a new band with the ability to seamlessly transition from crushingly heavy riffs to unforgettably haunting melodies and lyrics, leaving their respective project behind. That band is Hard Rock/Alternative Metal unity Dark Station, who are ready to unleash upon us their debut album entitled Down in the Dark, poised to cement the band’s name as a commendable force in the rock world. Put differently, get ready for an overdose of heavy riffs, groovy sounds, soaring vocals and electrifying passages by five talented guys who are among us to prove once and for all that modern rock music is alive and kicking.

A futuristic intro explodes into modern-day Alternative Metal in Ryse, where the groovy bass punches by Eric will make your head tremble while Nathan begins his enraged vocal attack amidst screeching guitar noises, resulting in a beyond solid welcome card by the band. Then drinking form the same fountain as icons like Nine Inch Nails, Marylin Manson and Korn, the quintet fires Heroes, a dark and melodic tune where Kyle and David once again pierce our ears with their riffs, not to mention its ominous aura, followed by New Age, with another wicked intro morphing into rumbling metal music, sounding very atmospheric and heavy. Moreover, Eric and his menacing bass are on fire throughout this headbanging song that perfectly depicts what modern American metal is all about. And Villain is even more alternative than all previous songs, showcasing a great job done by both Kyle and David on the guitars with their flammable riffs while Nathan’s vocals get more obscure and wicked, bringing an extra touch of lunacy to the overall musicality.

No Life sounds like the music from all bands from that period where we got Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace and so on, and although it might not be as vibrant as the other songs, its lyrics match perfectly with the music (“Summers eyes / Frienemies / Car exhaust  / I can’t believe / Something else was inside me / yeah  / You’ve gotta fight it alone now / It’s out of control”), whereas the born-to-be-a-radio-hit Obvious brings to our ears the utterly melodic bass punches by Eric while Nathan darkly declaims the song’s words (“We take the pain / Every day / Could we be the same / On the other side / I’ll try my luck again / Again / You know it’s not enough / For me”).After that awesome display of rock music we have Hollow, another somber, pensive creation by Dark Station where Nathan exhales melancholy from his vocals and with Dylan pounding his drums with tons of precision, also bringing crisp guitar solos and a huge dosage of anger for our total delight.

Leaning towards the most contemporary form of American Alternative Rock and Metal, Misery is a great option to be part of a soundtrack for hitting the road, with all instruments filling every single space in the air, therefore providing Nathan all he needs to thrive on vocals. Ghost keeps the album at a high level of adrenaline, flirting with Industrial Rock and Metal but keeping the band’s core essence intact. Not only that, Eric and Dylan make a very effective dynamic duo, bringing thunder to the music with their instruments; and modernized, metallic sounds keep permeating the air in Locked On, with its background futuristic touch helping enhance the impact of each instrument considerably, especially the guitars by Kyle and David alternating between more serene moments and razor-edged sounds. As their final blast of Alternative Metal, we’re treated to more of the band’s radio-ready rockin’ music in the form of Visions, where slashing riffs are powerfully complemented by the crushing bass by Eric and Dylan’s rhythmic beats, ending in a desperate and captivating way.

What are you waiting for to show those talented Southern Californians your support and appreciation? Go check what they’re up to on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel, bang your head to their music on Spotify, and get ready to rock to the sound of Down in The Dark sooner than you think by pre-ordering your copy of the album from the band’s official website or from Apple Music. There’s a new age of American Alternative Rock and Metal coming, and based on the quality and electricity flowing from Dark Station’s debut album I’m more than certain we’ll see those guys spearheading that very welcome movement in the coming years.

Best moments of the album: Ryse, Hollow and Misery.

Worst moments of the album: No Life.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. Ryse 3:37
2. Heroes 4:19
3. New Age 3:09
4. Villain 3:55
5. No Life 3:09
6. Obvious 4:01
7. Hollow 3:13
8. Misery 3:00
9. Ghost 4:20
10. Locked On 3:23
11. Visions 4:34

Band members
Nathan Spades – vocals
Kyle Ort – guitar
David Bruno – guitar
Eric Sinful – bass
Dylan Roy – drums

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Album Review – SiXforNinE / Parallel Universe (2019)

An amazing album of rock and metal music containing nine high-energy compositions overflowing groove and adrenaline, carefully brought forth by four talented musicians hailing from Greece.

It’s time to bang our heads to the groovy and melodic Alternative Metal blasted by SiXforNinE, a four-piece band formed in 2011 in the always fun city of Athens, Greece, who are releasing now in 2019 a brand new and extremely entertaining opus entitled Parallel Universe, a follow-up to their 2015 debut self-titled album being highly recommended for fans of the music by bands like Disturbed and Breaking Benjamin. Comprised of founding members Georga Kapa on the guitar, Herc Booze on bass and Pete Outfox on drums, as well as Fotis Benardo (Necromantia, Septicflesh) on vocals, SiXforNinE have been on a roll since their inception, having already shared the stage with renowned acts such as Monster Magnet, Fates Warning, Leprous, and Memory Garden, and with Parallel Universe representing an evolutionary step in their relatively short but already solid career.

Recorded at DevasoundZ Studios in Athens, produced by Fotis Benardo himself, mixed by Paul Pavao (Disturbed, Stone Temple Pilots, Breaking Benjamin), mastered by Tom Baker (Rob Zombie, Nine Inch Nails, Mötley Crüe), and featuring a stunning artwork by Vagelis Petikas (Revolver Design), Parallel Universe showcases a very special chemistry between all four band members in each of its nine high-energy rock anthems, dealing with distinct topics such as a galactic travel via astral projection and the story of a refugee hoping for a better future. In other words, you better get ready to rock with SiXforNinE, as the Rock N’ Roll party crafted by those four talented Greek metallers doesn’t seem to have a time to end based on the amount of adrenaline flowing from their new album.

The band begins their feast of mesmerizing and groovy sounds in Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining, a lecture in progressiveness by the quartet where Fotis and his Miles Kennedy-inspired vocals walk hand in hand with George’s crisp riffs, not to mention Herc’s rumbling bass lines, followed by the heavier and more progressive Life Devouring Demons, reminding me of some of the incendiary creations by Mastodon. Furthermore, Pete brings endless intricacy with his beats in an awesome fusion of Alternative Rock and Metal with the heaviness of Progressive Metal, while Herc is on absolute fire with his metallic bass. And as heavy as high-end Alternative Metal can be, the band explodes our ears with the melodic and vibrant Bullet Off Its Course, a song that could easily be played in any radio station with Fotis once again stealing the spotlight with his passionate vocals.

Then inspired by the music by Alter Bridge, Breaking Benjamin and other big names of the alternative scene, George slashes his strings beautifully while Pete’s beats bring groove and thunder to the music in Never Ending Road, whereas in More Than Words Can Say the band blends the heaviest elements from Progressive Metal with smoother rockin’ nuances, displaying a powerful job done by George on the guitar as well as Fotis on vocals, overflowing rage and anguish from start to finish. And it’s time to slow things down a bit and enjoy a pensive and whimsical musical journey by SiXforNinE in Counting Stars (a Parallel Universe), where George, Herc and Pete generate an enfolding ambience with their respective instruments, resulting in almost 10 minutes of ethereal passages and piercing sounds. Not only that, George’s guitar solo is a thing of beauty, adding an extra touch of finesse to a fantastic song that flows flawlessly into a catchy ending.

Very intricate and full of breaks and variations, Out of the Blue offers the listener the thunderous sound of the bass lines by Herc nicely complementing Pete’s wicked beats, being at the same time violent and very harmonious and with Fotis’ roars bringing even more stamina to the song’s already gripping vibe. In Sea of Lies we’re able to witness pure Rock N’ Roll flowing through the band’s instruments, sounding tailored for being played at top volume at a rock pub while everyone is enjoying a cold and tasty beer; moreover, George and Pete couldn’t sound more electrifying with their riffs and beats, also presenting the progressiveness that makes their music so compelling. And lastly, the angry bass by Herc ignites the closing tune Meditation Hyperjam, a sonic extravaganza of badass sounds and tones led by George’s heavy riffs while Fotis fires his potent vocals, putting a truly exciting ending to the album.

If you love rock and metal music with high dosages of complexity, groove and electricity, then Parallel Universe, which you can hear in full on YouTube and on Spotify, is the perfect solution to satisfy your craving. Hence, go check what SiXforNinE are up to on Facebook, including their tour dates, and grab your copy of the album from their own webstore, as well as from Apple Music or from Amazon. Fotis, George, Herc and Pete did one hell of a job in Parallel Universe, and there’s nothing better to show them our support and appreciation than by rocking like there’s no tomorrow together with this hardworking and amazing band coming from Hellenic lands.

Best moments of the album: Life Devouring Demons, Counting Stars (a Parallel Universe) and Sea of Lies.

Worst moments of the album: Never Ending Road.

Released in 2019 Eclipse Records

Track listing
1. Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining 6:12
2. Life Devouring Demons 5:52
3. Bullet Off Its Course 5:00
4. Never Ending Road 4:53
5. More Than Words Can Say 5:02
6. Counting Stars (a Parallel Universe) 9:16
7. Out of the Blue 5:58
8. Sea of Lies 4:10
9. Meditation Hyperjam 5:12

Band members
Fotis Benardo – vocals
George Kapa – guitars
Herc Booze – bass
Pete Outfox – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Māra Lisenko

Label me insane… My madness is not my enemy!

Get ready to be absolutely stunned by the sick growling, screaming and roaring blasted by our metal lady of the month of September, a true metalhead who loves all types of extreme music from the bottom of her Latvian heart, with her music being highly recommended for diehard fans of renowned acts like Aborted, Cryptopsy, Cattle Decapitation, Decapitated, Bloodbath and Hideous Divinity, among several others, who are always in pursuit of new names in the scene and who also love a feminine touch amidst such level of devastation. Hailing from Riga, Latvia’s capital, set on the Baltic Sea at the mouth of the River Daugava, but currently residing in the metal heaven known as the Federal Republic of Germany, here comes the ferocious she-wolf Māra Lisenko, the indomitable growler for some of the best bands of the past few years coming from the Baltics, those being Ocularis Infernum and MĀRA.

Having studied vocals at Vocaltech – Thames Valley University (currently known as University of West London) in 2007 in the UK, as well as with some of the most prestigious vocal coaches worldwide such as rock and metal vocal coach Melissa Cross, rockstar vocal coach Mark Baxter, and “Death Metal Phoniatrician” Dr. Enrico H Di Lorenzo (Hideous Divinity), Māra is an extremely versatile vocalist, being able to sing from the most brutal and gory growls to fragile, emotional clean vocals. In addition, although she started to sing in bands and tour around Europe in 2003, her singing career started way earlier than that, when she was still a three-year old girl, mainly because her own mother was a choir leader and inspired her to follow a similar path. A self-starter and an autodidact, our dauntless growler is also a vocal coach, having taught several aggressive as well as melodic vocal techniques and training since 2011, and also offering studio session work for bands who need professional sounding vocals for their recordings (and you can get more details about her services by clicking HERE or HERE). In one of her interviews, she said all the energy in her singing and screaming is driven by her real-life experiences and emotions, never about fictional topics, which in her opinion makes it a lot easier for her to transform those feelings into ass-kicking vocals.

During hear early years as a professional vocalist, she was part of two distinct Latvian bands named Defame (which I couldn’t find any information online) and Karmafree, with whom she won a couple of awards, those being Best Vocalist in a band contest named “Rīgas Dzintars” with Karmafree in 2011, and a Grand Prix with Defame at Sinepes Un Medus in 2005. Karmafree, which is still active by the way, is an alternative bass and vocal duo comprised of Māra on vocals and her husband Dmitry Lisenko on bass formed in 2010 in London, England, playing many festivals and releasing a self-titled demo and video entitled Fresh Millionaire before the duo returned to their homeland Latvia. In 2012 they released their first EP, named Illusions, along with a music video for the song Fragile; after their debut album, Karmafree released a series of singles, with songs like InvisibleValidate Me and #SSDD beautifully representing the evolution of the project, their social and political fights, and of course Māra’s fantastic vocal range. You can listen to a lot more of the music by Karmafree on their official YouTube channel, as well as on their BandCamp page.

It was back in 2015 when Māra was able to present herself to a much broader audience after joining a Riga-based Melodic/Symphonic Death/Black Metal band named Ocularis Infernum, who have been on the road since 2002 but who had released only one demo and one EP before she became their frontwoman. Under the stage name of Māra Sekhmet, she released in 2017 together with the band’s founders Andris and Magnuss the excellent Expired Utopia (which you can purchase from their own BandCamp page or listen in full on Spotify), exploring themes like darkness, occultism and paganism, always embraced by a symphonic and Stygian aura inspired by renowned acts such as Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth. I personally loved listening to every single second of Expired Utopia, and if you’re also a fan of this fusion of extreme and symphonic music you can have a taste of the band’s darkness and of Māra’s refined gnarls and powerful clean vocals by listening to the songs A Confession Of Defeat and Lost Forest. There’s nothing on the band’s official Facebook page about an upcoming album, concerts nor anything like that since the end of 2018, but let’s hope they’re just taking a break and that the world can enjoy more of the music by Ocularis Infernum in a not-so-distant future.

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Right now, Māra’s main project is her own solo band named MĀRA, a Latvian/German four-piece outfit established in 2018 that plays a modern and sharp amalgamation of Death, Thrash, Alternative and Groove Metal. Currently based in two countries – Germany and Latvia – MĀRA have already played tours and summer festivals all across Europe since their inception, visiting countries like Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Germany, France and obviously Latvia, and opening for some of the biggest exponents of Extreme Metal such as Sepultura, Krisiun and Satyricon. So far Māra and her henchmen, including her aforementioned husband Dmitry on bass, released in 2018 their debut EP entitled Therapy For An Empath, which you can purchase from their BandCamp page or listen to in full on YouTube, and three music videos for the songs Sell Your Soul, Label Me Insane and Blameshifter, having already won Album Of The Year (with Therapy For An Empath, of course) and Best Vocalist at the  Latvian Metal Music Awards 2018. Moreover, you can enjoy MĀRA’s incendiary performance at the Latvian Metal Music Awards 2018,  which was held at an underground extreme music club in Riga named Melnā Piektdiena, playing the song Label Me Insane live during the event. As you might have already noticed, the name of the band was taken directly from her own name Māra, a very traditional Latvian girl name and, according to Māra herself, in Latvian folklore it’s also the name of a goddess, carrying a lot of strength rooted very deep in where the band comes from, also using Māra’s cross as their logo, a powerful Latvian magic sign.

Regarding her main idols in music, you just need to think of most classic Death, Thrash, Black and Groove Metal bands like Sepultura, Morbid Angel, Slayer, Carcass, Aborted, Cryptopsy and so on, with Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy) being perhaps her biggest idol as a vocalist. Māra even mentioned during an interview that one of her dreams as a musician would be to sing either Territory or Roots Bloody Roots together with Max as a very distinct and powerful duet, showing her total admiration and respect for a man that has undoubtedly revolutionized the way extreme vocalists sing all over the world. Not only that, you can also check all her passion for extreme music and vocalists on her official YouTube channel, where she uploads her own vocal covers for some of the heaviest and most awesome songs of all time, as for example Slipknot’s Psychosocial and The Heretic Anthem, Lamb Of God’s Laid To Rest and Sepultura’s Territory, with Slipknot having a huge influence on her vocal style and taste for music according to Māra herself, in special their 2001 masterpiece Iowa. As a matter of fact, she released her cover version for The Herectic Anthem on the same day Slipkont launched their brand new album We Are Not Your Kind this year, proving how much she loves and follows the band led by Corey Taylor. On a side note, our skillful vocalist also said that all metalheads from Latvia who dedicate a lot of their time to keep the local metal scene going, doing it just for their love for metal with basically no financial reward, also inspire her a lot in life, once again showing Māra has and will always have a beautiful connection with her homeland.

Māra also seems to be crazy four touring and performing live, as she mentioned in an interview that she could simply live out of touring. She enjoys visiting different countries, meeting and playing for different people, and learning about metal scenes everywhere she goes. She has already played in several European countries, and I’m pretty sure she can’t wait to expand her horizons to places like North and South America, Japan and Australia. As aforementioned, Māra and her husband Dmitry are currently residing in Germany (while the other band members, guitarist Denis Melnik and drummer Alberts Mednis, still live in Riga), and the reason why they decided to do that was purely due to music. She said that while metal in Latvia is considered underground and the opportunities for metal bands and artists there are very limited (albeit the internet can be very helpful in terms of worldwide exposure), even taking into account the metal scene in Latvia is healthy and friendly, Germany is the place to be for any type of metal band, complementing by saying that the fact her band is located in two different countries ended up helping them book gigs in more than one country. In addition to that, she said there are no metal radio stations in Latvia, and there are only 4 or 5 metal-oriented pubs in the entire country where local and touring bands can play. Well, let’s say that Māra is one of the most hardworking metal musicians (if not the most) hailing from Latvia that’s trying to change that, putting her beloved homeland on the global metal map even living in Germany.

Last but not least, when asked if she also sings and writes in her mother tongue Latvian and in any other language rather than English, she said although English is her preferred language because she wants her lyrics and messages to be understood by as many people as possible, she also sings and writes lyrics in Latvian and Russian depending on the project she’s working on, as sometimes she feels she wants to communicate only with Latvian and Russian speaking people. In case you want to enjoy about one hour of Māra talking about her career, her goals, her personal life and many other topics in English, I highly recommend you take a shot at an interview she gave to Dani Zed Extreme Music Reviews & Liveshows via Skype a couple of months ago. How lucky is Dani Zed for having the utmost pleasure of talking to such nice and talented metal woman for an extended period of time like that? We need to thank him for uploading the interview on YouTube, and obviously keep supporting Māra on her quest for extreme music in Lativa, in Germany, and anywhere else in the world where powerful and visceral female roars like hers are truly appreciated.

Māra Lisenko’s Official Facebook page
Māra Lisenko’s Official Instagram
Māra Lisenko’s Official YouTube channel
MĀRA’s Official Facebook page
MĀRA’s Official Instagram
MĀRA’s Official YouTube channel
MĀRA’s Official BandCamp page

“I love touring, I could live like that. I love visiting different countries, meeting and playing for different people, learning about metal scenes everywhere I go. It’s very exciting.” – Māra Lisenko

Concert Review – Slipknot (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 08/20/2019)

An awesome night of heavy music spearheaded by the world’s most beloved and rebellious masked horde, showing everyone that if you’re 555, then Toronto is 666.

OPENING ACTS: Behemoth, Gojira and Volbeat

Blackened Death Metal, Progressive Groove Metal, Rock N’ Roll and Alternative Metal. What at first it might look like the distinct styles you usually find at an European metal fest during the summer is actually the lineup of the 2019 edition of the highly-acclaimed Knotfest Roadshow, and fortunately for us Torontonians the one and only Slipknot and their friends from Behemoth, Gojira and Volbeat brought that amalgamation of very different but utterly electrifying genres to the always great Budweiser Stage on another hot summer day in the city. It was a Tuesday, just the beginning of the week, which means most people who attended the show still had an entire week of work after around six intense hours of loud beats, unstoppable riffs and demented circle pits. Well, who cares, right? It’s all in the name of our good old Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll.

Just by arriving at the venue you could see it was going to be a very special day for longtime fans of Slipknot, with several of them being properly dressed as their idols, including some wicked (and a few weird) masks, showing how much those people love and respect a band that revolutionized metal music 20 years ago and that are still alive and kicking. If you had the opportunity to arrive to the Budweiser stage right when the gates were opened, you were able to enjoy a lot of different attractions such as a special Slipknot exhibition right beside where 2018 Wacken Metal Battle Canada winners Centuries of Decay (you can see more details about their 2018 win HERE) where blasting their first-class Progressive/Atmospheric Death Metal, enjoy one or more of the several food trucks available, test your knowledge of metal music by taking a fun quiz at the Monster Energy truck (needless to say, I had all six answers correct and got myself a nice Monster Energy bandana), or even take a picture with that crazy dude who tried to swim back to the Slayer concert in 2018 at that same venue. He was wearing a personalized shirt about his 2018 incident and two arm floats. Yes, he’s that crazy.

However, when the clock hit 5:30pm sharp, it was time for the gods and demons of heavy music and all fans that were already at the venue (and I was surprised by the huge number of people that managed to get there in time for the very first concert) to witness another blasphemous, theatrical and absolutely heavy-as-hell performance by Poland’s own BEHEMOTH. Still promoting their awesome 2018 opus I Loved You At Your Darkest, the iconic Nergal and his henchmen Seth, Orion and Inferno delivered a short and sweet concert for fans of their darker version of Death Metal, literally spitting fire, blood and blasphemy on our faces for around 40 minutes, with songs like Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer,  Bartzabel and Chant for Eschaton 2000 proving why they became one of the most beloved extreme bands of the past decade, and also one of the most hated and abhorred by any type of church (which in the end is a very positive thing).

Setlist
Solve
Wolves ov Siberia
Daimonos
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Bartzabel
Conquer All
Sabbath Mater
Chant for Eschaton 2000

Band members
Adam “Nergal” Darski – lead vocals, guitars
Patryk Dominik “Seth” Sztyber – guitars
Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski – bass guitar
Zbigniew Robert “Inferno” Promiński – drums and percussion

After a quick break the stage was ready with all of its lights aiming at our faces to warn us the pulverizing concert by French Progressive/Groove Metal institution GOJIRA was about to begin, and let me tell you it was simply fantastic and insanely heavy from start to finish. The Duplantier Brothers Joe and Mario, together with Christian Andreu on the guitar and Jean-Michel Labadie on bass delivered a neck-breaking performance for our total delight, leaving us all eager for more of their music in Canadian lands. I loved how heavy, dense and thrilling songs like Stranded, Flying Whales (my favorite of their setlist) and Silvera sounded last night, and we must thank Mr. Mario Duplantier for that. The guy is an untamed beast on drums, crushing his drum set flawlessly and throwing almost all of his sticks to the fans throughout his bestial performance. After such devastating concert by Gojira, I must say once again there’s only one thing I hate about festivals, and that’s the fact bands like Gojira do not have enough time to show the crowd everything they got.

Setlist
Toxic Garbage Island
Backbone
Stranded
Flying Whales
Love
The Cell
Silvera
The Gift of Guilt

Band members
Joe Duplantier – vocals, guitar
Christian Andreu – guitar
Jean-Michel Labadie – bass
Mario Duplantier – drums

After two demolishing concerts of extreme music, it was time to cool things down a bit with the heavier-than-usual Rock N’ Roll by Danish institution VOLBEAT, who are just beginning to promote their newest album Rewind, Replay, Rebound. As a big fan of Volbeat, I was a little worried about how the most berserk Slipknot fans would react to their fusion of lighter styles like Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock, and during the first few songs let’s say most fans weren’t impressed with their music. However, after Sad Man’s Tongue (preceded by a snippet of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”) and Black Rose, featuring Toronto’s own Danko Jones on vocals together with Michael Polsen, things started to pick up and the more than 13 thousand fans at the venue who were already anxious for Slipknot had a great time with the band, especially when they played their heavier stuff like A Warrior’s Call, Dead But Rising and Seal the Deal. In a nutshell, it might not have been the best slot to add Volbeat, right after Behemoth and Gojira and right before Slipknot, but you know what? In the end it all worked really well, something only talented bands like Volbeat can do even against all odds.

Setlist
Born to Raise Hell (Motörhead song)
The Devil’s Bleeding Crown
Lola Montez
Sad Man’s Tongue
Black Rose (with Danko Jones)
The Everlasting
Slaytan
Dead But Rising
A Warrior’s Call / I Only Want to Be With You
Last Day Under the Sun
Doc Holliday
Seal the Deal
Still Counting
Sawdust in the Blood (Rob Zombie song)

Band members
Michael Poulsen – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob Caggiano – lead guitar
Kaspar Boye Larsen – bass guitar
Jon Larsen – drums

SLIPKNOT

It was already past 9pm when the speakers began playing AC/DC’s rock anthem “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”, getting our engines revved up for a storm of heaviness, insanity and explosions by American institution SLIPKNOT. It was total chaos and anarchy from start to finish, with the first few songs from their setlist, those being the classics People = Shit, (sic) and Get This, already inspiring all their fans to go absolutely mental into the pit. The temperature at the Budweiser Stage was just going up, with their new songs Unsainted, Solway Firth (both from their brand new, ass-kicking album We Are Not Your Kind) and All Out Life working even better than expected. As a matter of fact, I was more than sure those three songs would sound fantastic on stage, first because they’re already damn good songs, but mainly due to the fact Slipknot on stage always take their heaviness to the next level.

Corey, Mick, Jim and all others were on fire during their long and incendiary performance, with all their stage paraphernalia (and the Budweiser Stage is just perfect for that type of concert) adding a very welcome touch of insanity to the night. Not only that, it was visible how Corey was extremely happy to be back in Toronto after a long time, letting all the energy coming from the crowd penetrate deep inside his mind and helping him growl and scream like a beast until the very end. “We’ve been at this for 20 years! It hasn’t always been easy, but looking at all of you here tonight, I can safely say we’ll be doing it for another 20,” said a more-than-excited Corey to his fans before crushing their heads once again with their venomous music. I honestly have no idea if they can keep that level of violence on stage for another two decades, but if they keep going and delivering top-of-the-line heavy music like what Slayer have been doing until now, we can rest assured rock and metal will never die.

Although the fans at the floor section were out of control inside some killer circle pits, I must say the most demented guy from the entire night was the band’s newest member Tortilla Man. How deranged and talented is that guy? He kept pounding his drums, screaming, jumping up and down, dancing and hitting his beer kegs as hard as possible without showing any signs of fatigue for almost two hours; now I fully understand why the rest of the band is so happy and excited to have Tortilla Man in the band. The only field where he wasn’t number 1 in madness and precision was dancing, because that’s Mr. Sid Wilson’s undisputed title. I don’t know for sure what exactly he does behind his turntables, but when he’s there dancing and having fun around the stage it’s a whole new thing. That guy is just as sick as his music, no doubt about that. Anyway, after the all-time hits Spit It Out (including their famous “get down/jump the fuck up” interaction with the crowd) and Surfacing, it was time for Slipknot to say goodbye, to promise us all they will return to Toronto, and for the fans to breather a little and try to recover their energies to try to get home safe and sound. And as one final message after such amazing night of metal music, all I have to say to you is that if you’re 555, then I’m 666. As simple as that.

Setlist
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) (AC/DC song)
(515)
People = Shit
(sic)
Get This
Unsainted
Before I Forget
Solway Firth
The Heretic Anthem
Psychosocial
The Devil in I
Prosthetics
Vermilion
Custer
Sulfur
All Out Life
Duality

Encore:
Spit It Out
Surfacing
‘Til We Die

Band members
(#0) Sid Wilson – turntables, keyboards
(#4) Jim Root – lead and rhythm guitars
(#5) Craig “133” Jones – samples, media, keyboards
(#6) Shawn “Clown” Crahan – custom percussion, backing vocals
(#7) Mick Thomson – lead and rhythm guitars
(#8) Corey Taylor – lead vocals
Alessandro Venturella – bass
Jay Weinberg – drums
Tortilla Man – custom percussion, backing vocals

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Album Review – Slipknot / We Are Not Your Kind (2019)

Heavier and more experimental than usual, those masked metallers are back with a fantastic album that proves once again why Heavy Metal is our kind of music.

From the obscure depths of the human psyche, American Alternative Metal horde Slipknot returns after five long years with a brand new album, entitled We Are Not Your Kind, the sixth studio album in the career of those masked marauders and a beyond solid statement by the band saying that, despite all the losses and problems they’ve had in the past decade or so, they can still deliver top-of-the-line metal music for the masses. Produced by Greg Fidelman, who has already worked with several renowned bands like Metallica, Black Sabbath, Slayer and with Slipknot themselves in the albums .5 The Gray Chapter in 2014 and Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) in 2004, We Are Not Your Kind has been described as a heavier and more experimental album than their previous releases featuring moody instrumentals and electronic elements, and the final result is simply stunning.

Not only that, We Are Not Your Kind is the band’s first album since the firing of longtime member Chris Fehn, while the rest of the crew remains the same, with Sid Wilson and Craig “133” Jones on turntables, samples, media and keyboards, Jim Root and Mick Thomson on the guitars, Shawn “Clown” Crahan on custom percussion and backing vocals, Corey Taylor on lead vocals, Alessandro Venturella on bass and Jay Weinberg on drums, not to mention their newest member “Tortilla Man” also on custom percussion and backing vocals, who joined the band for their live performances earlier this year. Jim Root himself said that the album is “the most time we’ve had to write a record, and work stuff out together” and that “while the industry is moving toward singles, Slipknot wanted to make an album experience, front to back.” On a side note, while the title of the album is taken from a line in the band’s standalone single “All Out Life”, released in 2018, that specific song is not featured on the standard edition, but only on the Japanese edition for a reason beyond my knowledge. Well, who cares, right? As long as the music found in the standard edition of the album kicks ass we can live without “All Out Life” despite that being a damn good song.

Insert Coin is one of those fantastic, ethereal intros that transport the listener into the wicked world of Slipknot, before their new anthem Unsainted, featuring the Angel City Chorale, invades our senses, with the thunderous percussion blasted by Jay and Shawn reeking classic Slipknot, all boosted by the sick shredding by Jim and Mick and lyrics that deal with Corey’s fight against depression (“Oh, I’ll never kill myself to save my soul / I was gone but how was I to know? / I didn’t come this far to sink so low / I’m finally holding on to letting go”). Needless to say, I can’t wait to watch them playing this song live next week in Toronto, like what they did on Jimmy Kimmel Live earlier this year. Birth of the Cruel, a mid-tempo tune perfect for headbanging while Corey alternates between his demented clean vocals and harsh roars, is a lot less violent but still creepy and thunderous, with Jim, Mick and Alessandro delivering tons of groove through their strings; followed by the somber bridge Death Because of Death, featuring guest vocalist Kat Primetau, warming us up for Nero Forte, bringing forward a classic fusion of Heavy and Alternative Metal and a great job done by Jay on drums, dictating the song’s pounding rhythm while Corey sounds as crazy as he can be, always supported by smooth but piercing backing vocals.

Critical Darling is an almost-radio-friendly tune by Corey, Shawn & Co., showcasing slashing riffs by the band’s badass guitar duo while Corey gnarls manically, once again supported by spot-on backing vocals which end up making the chorus extremely catchy; whereas in A Liar’s Funeral a cryptic intro morphs into some sort of “new version” of their own dark ballad “Snuff”, suddenly exploding into a neck-breaking sonority with hints of Doom and Sludge Metal, alternating between sheer melancholy and raging madness from start to finish. Then in the magnificent Red Flag we face the most classic version of Slipknot in the album, overflowing insanity, heaviness, fury and that awesome blend of the wicked noises by Sid and Craig with the venomous percussion by Shawn. Hence, this should sound outstanding if played live, not to mention how sharp both guitars and Alessandro’s bass punches sound. Then after the uncanny bridge What’s Next we’re treated to one of Slipknot’s most experimental songs of all time, Spiders, which sounds absolutely addictive, demented and fun, with all its background noises and percussion generating a unique ambience for our avid ears and mind. Put differently, simply relax, sit down and sing the song’s weird lyrics along with Corey, while Jim and Mick deliver short but crushing riffs as the music progresses.

Somber beats and riffs ignite the pulverizing Orphan, presenting the band’s trademark sonority that made them famous worldwide, and with Alessandro and Jay being on fire with their rumbling instruments while Corey’s vocals get utterly deranged, sounding perfect for smashing your skull into the circle pit. The last part of album is comprised of longer-than-usual songs that surpass the 6-minute barrier, starting with the very experimental My Pain, presenting an eerie atmosphere created by Sid and Craig and low, pensive vocalizations; however, the music never gets as heavy or fast as we’re used to, making me wonder if fans of classic Slipknot will enjoy it. Anyway, that eccentric vibe goes on in Not Long for This World, where Corey and the band’s electronic duo Sid and Craig set the tone before the rest of the band comes ripping with their acid instruments, bringing to our ears a beautiful melody and rumbling bass lines, with its creepy ending building an instant connection with Solway Firth, a circle pit-catalyst showcasing scorching riffs by Jim and Mick and endless electricity flowing from Jay’s beats, while Corey declaims the song’s austere words in great fashion (“I’m not ahead of my time- I just drew the first breath – If I’m alive tomorrow / I will alleviate the pressure… by cutting you out of me / I found my bottom line – dead on the front lines- I know I’ll never go home / So set fire to your ships and past regrets and be free”). And lastly, as aforementioned, All Out Life might be only present in the Japanese edition of the album, but it’s such a great song, perfect for slamming and screaming its lyrics together with the band (like you can see on their performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live), it makes the investment in this version of the album totally worth it.

In a nutshell, one of the most innovative and influential bands of modern metal music from the past 20 years, the one and only Slipknot, managed to deliver a fantastic album against all odds, proving once again that there’s nothing better than adversity to makes us (and, in this particular case, the entire band) stronger and more focused. Having said that, I highly recommend you grab your copy of the album, as well as other well-crafted merch, from the Slipknot Official Store, and buy your ticket for the Knotfest Roadshow when the band invades your city with their chaotic and rebellious anthems. We Are Not Your Kind might sound a bit too experimental or modern for some people, but I’m pretty sure most fans of contemporary heavy music will have a very good time listening to this multi-layered and very dense album. And whenever you catch yourself screaming “we are not your kind!” together with Corey and the guys, you’ll be at the same time showing everyone Heavy Metal is and will always be YOUR kind of music.

Best moments of the album: Unsainted, Red Flag, Spiders, Orphan and All Out Life.

Worst moments of the album: My Pain.

Released in 2019 Roadrunner Records

Track listing
1. Insert Coin 1:38
2. Unsainted 4:20
3. Birth of the Cruel 4:35
4. Death Because of Death 1:20
5. Nero Forte 5:15
6. Critical Darling 6:25
7. A Liar’s Funeral 5:27
8. Red Flag 4:11
9. What’s Next 0:53
10. Spiders 4:03
11. Orphan 6:01
12. My Pain 6:48
13. Not Long for This World 6:35
14. Solway Firth 5:56

Japanese Edition bonus track
15. All Out Life 5:40

Band members
(#0) Sid Wilson – turntables, keyboards
(#4) Jim Root – lead and rhythm guitars
(#5) Craig “133” Jones – samples, media, keyboards
(#6) Shawn “Clown” Crahan – custom percussion, backing vocals
(#7) Mick Thomson – lead and rhythm guitars
(#8) Corey Taylor – lead vocals
Alessandro Venturella – bass
Jay Weinberg – drums

Guest musicians
Angel City Chorale – choral performance on “Unsainted”
Kat Primetau – additional vocals on “Death Because of Death”

Concert Review – Heavy Montréal 2019 Day 2 (Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, QC, 07/28/2019)

The fans at Heavy Montreal will always be thankful to the almighty Slayer for their final and utterly devastating concert in Quebec.

INTRODUCTION: Alive and Kicking 10 Years On

The 10th anniversary of Canada’s biggest and most important metal festival, our beloved Heavy Montreal, couldn’t have been celebrated in greater fashion than what metalheads from all over Canada and from several other countries were able to enjoy at the always beautiful Parc Jean-Drapeau. Although this was just my second time at Heavy Montreal, not counting the two editions of Heavy T.O. in 2011 and 2012, I must say the overall organization this year was a lot better than in 2014 (check our reviews for both days of the 2014 edition HERE and HERE), with a better layout, better access and exit, better facilities, food trucks, washrooms and so on, which was reflected in the happiness and good vibes flowing from all fans that were literally burning under a merciless sun in a (finally) scorching hot Canadian summer. As I was only able to attend day 2 of the festival, I’m not going to talk about any of the Saturday attractions, so if you’re curious to know how that day was go check the festival’s official Facebook page. And if you’re a hungry metalhead visiting Montreal for Heavy Montreal next year or any other metal concert, I highly recommend Il Focolaio for a delicious pizza or calzone to recharge your batteries before slamming into the circle pits.

SKILLET

Let’s begin with the first band I saw on Sunday, American Christian Hard Rock act SKILLET, who began their fun but not-so-heavy performance at 4:05pm when the sun and the temperature were hotter than the fires of hell. John Cooper, Korey Cooper, Seth Morrison and Jen Ledger put on a pretty good concert during the 45 minutes they had, with songs like Legendary, Sick of It and Hero receiving a very warm feedback from the crowd. I honestly had no idea they were a Christian band, but who cares? They might not be as heavy as most attractions of the festival (or maybe they’re too heavy for less extreme festivals), but they play with a lot of passion and energy, and I guess everyone who was watching their performance noticed that and showed a lot of respect for the band. Not only John is a great frontman, but the two girls Korey (who’s John’s wife) and Jen kicked ass on the guitar, piano, drums and vocals, bringing an amazing feminine touch to the entire festival. In a nutshell, if a heavier-than-usual (but not too extreme) version of modern-day Rock N’ Roll is your cup of tea, I’m sure you’re going to have a very good time watching Skillet live.

GAMMA RAY

As soon as Skillet’s performance was over, it was time for German Power Metal masters GAMMA RAY to fill the airwaves of the festival with some true old school Heavy Metal, especially because the band comprised of the iconic vocalist and guitarist Kai Hansen, bassist Dirk Schlächter, guitarist Henjo Richter, drummer Michael Ehré and second (or first) vocalist Frank Beck was the only attraction of the entire festival who played that type of music. I’m a longtime fan of Mr. Hansen’s music and I was very happy I could witness them playing at Heavy Montreal instead of another Alternative Metal band, but I don’t think most of the attendees had the same reaction when the band hit the stage. I mean, there were still countless fans banging their heads and raising their fists to classics like Master of Confusion, Heavy Metal Universe and Send Me a Sign, but there was something missing to make the show memorable. And to be fair, I still don’t understand why the band needs Frank Beck; he’s a good vocalist, but he doesn’t bring any real value to Gamma Ray’s performance. His microphone was lower than Kai’s, he didn’t sing most of the songs, and the songs he did sing were just OK. I think putting that crazy dude that was all wet dancing samba (and several other rhythms) nonstop on the gray mud to dance on stage would have been a lot more fun than Frank’s performance, don’t you agree?

IN THIS MOMENT

There was no time to breathe as, the second Gamma Ray were over, we were all able to witness a fantastic and very theatrical performance by the stunning Maria Brink and her henchmen (and henchwomen), collectively known as American Alternative Metal/Metalcore band IN THIS MOMENT. The aforementioned Maria, who I dare to say looks and feels like an evil (and of course improved) version of Lady Gaga, together with Chris Howorth on lead guitar, Randy Weitzel on rhythm guitar, Travis Johnson on bass and Kent Diimmel on drums, plus the two sexy masked dancers who worked as some sort of “mirrors” to Maria, delivered a truly hypnotizing concert, with their music being a blend of the blasphemy and anti-religiousness of Marilyn Manson and Cradle of Filth with the insanity of Slipknot and Ghost. The final result was obviously fantastic, with my two favorite songs of their setlist being by far the demented Big Bad Wolf and the closing song Whore, where Maria’s dancers entered dressed up as characters from the excellent dystopian novel and TV series The Handmaid’s Tale, holding sings with the words “SHAME” and “WHORE”. In the end, In This Moment kicked some serious ass without a shadow of a doubt, leaving all fans at Heavy Montreal extremely satisfied and eager for more of the music by metal’s favorite “whore” in a not-so-distant future.

HEAVY MANIA

When the next attraction from the Apocalypse Stage started, American stoner metallers Clutch, I went for a walk as I needed a break and some water. Terror and Demolition Hammer were on fire on the Forest and Garden stages, respectively, but I decided to watch the last wrestling show of the festival in the area called HEAVY MANIA, featuring wrestlers of the International Wrestling Syndicate like The Green Phantom, Sexxxy Eddy and Tabarnak De Team. The name of the fatal-four battle I was able to watch was “Le Cauchemar D’Oppenheimer”, and it was so fun I even missed the beginning of Slash’s concert. Well, it was definitely worth it, with Sexxxy Eddy winning the match amidst some trash talk and a few destroyed tables, just the way we like it in underground wrestling.

SLASH FEATURING MYLES KENNEDY AND THE CONSPIRATORS

Back to the Heavy Stage, it was time for the one and only SLASH, accompanied by Myles Kennedy on vocals, Frank Sidoris on the guitar, Todd Kerns on bass and Brent Fitz on drums to bring old school Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock to our avid ears. It was still very hot in Montreal, but because the show started at 7:15pm the sun was already lower and we were able to enjoy the concert without sweating like pigs. Myles Kennedy, who looks like a rocker version of Kevin Bacon, is such a great singer to the point I even forgot it was Slash on the guitar at times, showcasing all his refined skills in excellent songs like Anastasia, World on Fire and, of course, their cover version for one of Guns N’ Roses biggest hits, Nightrain. Slash was precise as usual with his unmatched riffs and solos, not to mention how happy he looked on stage, making me wonder if he’s only playing with Guns N’ Roses nowadays to have enough money to fund his solo career. Well, I’m actually happy he’s in both bands, so I can’t complain about that at all. Anyway, at this point of the festival we had already had several subgenres of heavy music, as you can see, except for our good old Thrash Metal. Guess what happened next?

ANTHRAX

From 8:15pm on, Heavy Montreal became Thrash Montreal, with Anthrax and the almighty Slayer leading us all the way into the eye of the circle pit. First, it was American Thrash Metal institution ANTHRAX who revved up our engines with their punk/hardcore-infused thrash, blasting classic moshing hymns like Caught in a Mosh, Got the Time and Antisocial for our vulgar delectation, as well as their already classic tribute to the deceased Dio, Lemmy and Dimebag with the beautiful In The End. Joey Belladonna, Jon Donais, Scott Ian, Frank Bello and Charlie Benante were unstoppable during their short but extremely vibrant performance, inspiring all fans to raise their fists and horns in the air and mosh like there’s no tomorrow. Moreover, I don’t know why but the festival organization decided it was a good idea to throw more cold water on the crowd when it was already nighttime, making some people run away from the stage due to that. Maybe they were trying to calm down the more excited fans who were crushing their skulls into the circle pit, who knows. What I know for sure is that I love Thrash Metal, just like Scott Ian asked us all, and I was more than happy to be able to witness one of the bands of the Big Four once again in my life.

SLAYER

Lastly, the moment everyone at Heavy Montreal was waiting for. The heaviest, most evil and most demonic band in the history of music, Thrash Metal titans SLAYER, took the province of Quebec by storm for one final time before calling it quits by the end of this year, which is something I still cannot believe but that makes total sense taking into account their age, everything that has happened to the band in the past decade, and the humongous amount of energy needed to play their music at the required (and insane) level. Although the opening acts might not have been as demolishing as their 2018 concerts in Canada, when Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax and Lamb Of God opened for them like their pulverizing concert at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto, Tom Araya, Kerry King, Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph were beyond possessed during their incendiary performance at Heavy Montreal, proving once and for all why you can play Black Metal, Death Metal or any other type of extreme music, but you’ll never be as badass as Slayer.

If their 2015 album Repentless was indeed their last studio album ever, let’s say they’re retiring in style, as the intro Delusions of Saviour plus the frantic thrashing hymn Repentless were everything they needed to set fire to Heavy Montreal. After that insane start it was pure Armageddon, with old school classics such as Evil Has No Boundaries and Mandatory Suicide being intertwined with newer songs like World Painted Blood and Payback (as Mr. Araya said, “payback is a bitch, motherfucker!”), and even songs they haven’t played in a while such as Gemini, Temptation and Born of Fire. By the way, Slayer played nothing more, nothing less than FIVE songs from Seasons in the Abyss, including of course the battle hymn War Ensemble (where Mr. Araya kindly asked us all to scream “WAAAAAAAAAR!” together with him), the serial killer-inspired classic Dead Skin Mask, and obviously the album’s flawless obscure title-track, or in other words, half of their 1990 masterpiece for our total delight. Furthermore, it was absolutely amazing witnessing all fans at the festival screaming “SLAAAAAYYYYEEEERRRR!”, “FUCKIN’ SLAYER!” and even “OLE OLE OLE OLE! SLAYER, SLAYER!” at the top of their lungs before, during and after the concert, showing a beautiful connection with the band as they masterfully played an avalanche of Thrash Metal classics amidst the flames burning on stage, ending with the all-time classic Angel of Death, including Mr. Araya’s famous demented roar at the beginning.

Gary Holt was once again fantastic on the guitar (needless to say, I can’t wait for the next Exodus album), Paul Bostaph couldn’t stop smashing his drums and our skulls, and Kerry King was the usual beast incarnate shredding his guitar chords manically from start to finish while all fans slammed their souls into the never-ending mosh pits. However, it was Tom Araya who stole the show with a perfect vocal performance, and after everything was said and done he didn’t leave the stage until he could thank each and every fan at the festival for our passionate support through the years. We could clearly see he was very emotional, very touched by our love for Slayer, and we were able to read his lips when he said “I’m gonna miss you, guys…” while tears fell from his eyes. Well, we’re going to miss his screams too, if that’s actually going to be the end of Slayer. Kerry King didn’t cry but he simply raised both fists in the air and roared like a wild beast, as the “demonic machine of Thrash Metal” he is. Maybe that’s his way of saying “thank you!” and crying tears of joy? At least that’s what all fans kept doing while returning from the festival on the subway, screaming SLAYER! SLAYER! SLAYER! nonstop. And that’s what we’ll keep doing forever and ever, even if Quebec, the rest of Canada and any other part of the world never see the band playing live again after this farewell tour is over. Thank you, SLAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYEEEERRRRR! Heavy Montreal loves you!

Setlist
Delusions of Saviour
Repentless
Evil Has No Boundaries
World Painted Blood
Postmortem
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
Gemini
Disciple
Mandatory Suicide
Chemical Warfare
Payback
Temptation
Born of Fire
Seasons in the Abyss
Hell Awaits
South of Heaven
Raining Blood
Black Magic
Dead Skin Mask
Angel of Death

Band members
Tom Araya – vocals, bass guitar
Kerry King – guitar
Gary Holt – guitar
Paul Bostaph – drums

Album Review – Sharks In Your Mouth / Sacrilegious (2019)

A travel to the year of 1799 in Italy, where an elite group of rich and evil people founded a secret society called “The First Order”, in the form of incendiary Post-Hardcore and Djent.

From Post-Hardcore to Djent, including elements from Melodic Metalcore, Alternative Metal and Deathcore, to name a few, the Ancona, Italy-based band comprised of Andrea Pali on vocals, Valerio Quirini on lead guitar, Daniele Monaldi on the guitar, Diego Nardelli on bass and Enrico Rivetti on drums, collectively known as Sharks In Your Mouth, has never stopped improving their sound and style since their inception in 2010, always in pursuit of the “ultimate sound”. Now in 2019 the band returns with another round of heavy and melodic sounds with their sophomore album Sacrilegious, a follow-up to their 2016 debut opus Promises. Not only that, the album also narrates what the band calls “The Covenant” saga, bringing additional layers to their already dense and aggressive music.

Engineered by Federico Ascari and Sharks In Your Mouth, reamped, mixed and mastered by Federico Ascari at Wavemotion Recordings, and featuring a stylish artwork by Mattia Castiglia, Sacrilegious takes us to the year of 1799 in Italy,  where an elite group of rich and evil people founded a secret society called “The First Order”, possessing an ancient magical book that must be burned to avoid letting them dictate the social and moral laws of the future. A young boy gets caught up in one of their rituals and “The Order” kills him, but not before painting some “black tears” on his face as their tradition. From that you can already have a very good idea of how obscure their lyrics are, which together with the thunderous sounds blasted by their guitars, bass and drums generate a dark and enfolding atmosphere that will please all fans of the genre.

The cinematic intro Black Tears opens the gates of the underworld to the violent The Covenant, where Andrea begins roaring rabidly just the way we like it in Metalcore and Deathcore while Enrico makes sure our heads don’t stop trembling with his beats, resulting in a beyond amazing start to the album. Then Valerio and Daniele shred their axes mercilessly while Diego exhales rage from his metallic bass in the title-track Sacrilegious, presenting acid lyrics that match perfectly with the music (“What we did is sacrilegious / We’ve been fighting against the odds / What we did is sacrilegious / But we had to burn that book / They will give to this world their idols and the illusion of choice / Illusion of choice / Impostors, who will rise and who will fall?  / The Order is born”); and featuring guest musician Daniele Gottardo, who adds his personal touch of evil to the song with a sick guitar solo, we have another bestial Deathcore tune named Dethroned. Furthermore, it’s impressive how somber those guys can sound while at the same time being extremely melodic, with Diego and Enrico never stopping extracting low-tuned, thunderous roars from their instruments while Andrea alternates between clean vocals and demented screams.

In Sinner, an acoustic intro morphs into a crushing Symphonic Metalcore hymn led by Andrea while Diego smashes his bass chords manically, with all symphonic background elements adding a good amount of finesse to the sonority and also sounding very progressive at times, whereas R.I.P., one of the darkest songs of the album, showcases a focused and demonic duo on the guitars, supported by Enrico’s intricate drums and a berserk Andrea on vocals, and also presenting some creepy, obscure passages to give the whole song an extra infernal kick. Keep banging your head and slamming into the pit to the pulverizing As Above So Below, where you will feel Diego’s bass rumbling at the back of your head, providing the listener a fresh and vibrant fusion of more melodic lines and sheer aggression, and venturing through more modernized and radio-friendly lands, the band offers us the fast-paced This Is Gonna Hurt, incorporating elements from Alternative Metal and Rock to their more vicious style.

If Limp Bizkit suddenly turned into a heavier band, Fear Me, Feed Me is how they would sound, with its instrumental pieces being pretty solid as well as Andrea’s growls, bringing tons of rage and progressiveness for our avid ears, although his rap-like vocals don’t work as expected. Keeping their aggressiveness and dementia at a high level, the quintet fires the Melodic Metalcore tune Marked, bringing forward sick, distorted riffs by Valerio and Daniele, not to mention Enrico’s bestial drumming, while Curtain is a short and sweet piano bridge to the epic and visceral Fall (The Covenant Part II), an imposing tune where all rage flowing from drums is complemented by flammable riffs and bass punches while Andrea darkly declaims the song’s poetic lyrics (“I still hear their cry for help / While I paint my black tears on my face / Shadows in the night, trying to resist / Hunted from the ancient creed / All is lost, erased from reality / Paint your black tears / Paint your black tears”).

If you nurture a deep passion for Hardcore, Metalcore and Djent, and if you are constantly searching for new names in the market that can offer you something more than just well-crafted heavy music, you must give Sharks In Your Mouth a chance without a shadow of a doubt. Not only those guys master their instruments, but as already mentioned the theme found in Sacrilegious (available in full on Spotify) is way more flavorful and interesting than your average bands out there. Hence, don’t forget to show your support to those Italian metallers by following them on Facebook, by subscribing to their YouTube channel, and of course by purchasing Sacrilegious from their official webstore or from several other locations like Apple Music and Amazon by clicking HERE, consequently joining the band’s army known as “Covenants” and banging your head like a beast to some high-end Djent made in Italy.

Best moments of the album: The Covenant, Sacrilegious and R.I.P.

Worst moments of the album: Fear Me, Feed Me.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. Black Tears 1:04
2. The Covenant 4:39
3. Sacrilegious 4:12
4. Dethroned (feat. Daniele Gottardo) 4:03
5. Sinner 3:29
6. R.I.P. 3:23
7. As Above So Below 4:08
8. This Is Gonna Hurt 3:43
9. Fear Me, Feed Me 3:43
10. Marked 4:36
11. Curtain 0:23
12. Fall (The Covenant Part II) 4:40

Band members
Andrea Pali – vocals
Valerio Quirini – lead guitar
Daniele Monaldi – guitar
Diego Nardelli – bass
Enrico Rivetti – drums

Guest musician
Daniele Gottardo – guitar solo on “Dethroned”

Album Review – Grenouer / Ambition 999 (2019)

Over 55 minutes of classy and modern rock music showcasing a different side of this talented Russian band, but still keeping their amazing core Alternative Rock and Metal intact.

Offering over 55 minutes of modern and melodic Alternative Metal with several distinct rock elements, Ambition 999, the ninth album in the career of Saint Petersburg, Russia-based act Grenouer, turned out to be a long-term project due to all the re-recording needed until the band reached its desired sound. That resulted into one of the biggest gaps between albums in their career, with nothing more, nothing less than four years separating Ambition 999 from their previous album, Unwanted Today, released in 2015. However, all that wait was definitely worth it as their new album is indeed a fresh addition to their discography, with each one of its 15 songs offering a different approach when compared to the band’s two previous efforts in terms of riff intensity and rapid-fire solos, balancing between new and clichés, double density and marked vocal temperament.

Engineered and recorded by Al Bolo at RDS& Moscow Gates Apartment Studios, Anssi Kippo at Astia-Studio, and Luigi Del Missier at BlackMirror Studios, produced, mixed and mastered by Giuseppe “Dualized” Bassi from dysFUNCTION Productions, and featuring a futuristic artwork by Brazilian artist Jobert Mello (Sledgehammer Graphix) and Italian artist Zimon (New Breed Graphic Studio), Ambition 999 feels like a heavier version of bands such as Depeche Mode and Duran Duran, presenting a more than inspired and electrified band comprised of Andrey Ind on lead vocals, Dmitry Rubanovsky and Alexander Motor on the guitars, Al Bolo on bass and Danny D on drums, and bringing to our avid ears everything we need to have a good time on the road, at a pub, at home, or anywhere else where good rock music is properly appreciated.

Electric waves permeate the air before the band begins blasting their modernized blend of Alternative Rock and Metal in Burnt to the Ground, with highlights to the slashing guitar riffs and solos by Dmitry and Alexander; followed by Nevermind Tomorrow, a song perfect for banging our heads to their riffs and beats while Andrey gives life to its party-like lyrics (“Fast and tight / High heel party night / Tomorrow never knows and never dies / Drinks on me / Any chicks for free? / We’re born to make some noise, so sing with me / Or you’d better shout”), and One Day, another thrilling tune in the same vein as bands like Godsmack, Shinedown and Three Days Grace, sounding very melodic and showcasing a passionate performance by Andrey on vocals while Danny D dictates the rhythm with his spot-on beats. Then in Infinite Grace the band adds a good amount of heaviness to their music, getting closer to the musicality by bands like Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson but still keeping their core Alternative Rock intact, also presenting some sick guitar solos for our total delectation, whereas in Medicine Treats No Lies the quintet continues their feast of modern-day rock and metal music, with Al together with Danny D bringing thunder to the music with their respective instruments.

If Cure for the Lonely is even more futuristic and atmospheric, displaying a strong focus on Andrey’s vocals and feeling at times like a hybrid of modern rock music with the electronic and alternative sounds by old school bands like Depeche Mode, Uncommon Faith is a good song for hitting the highway, presenting great sync between the band’s stringed trio and Danny D’s beats, all infused with Hard Rock elements. On the other hand, Back on Track is slightly below the rest of the album in terms of electricity, albeit it does bring forward a considerable amount of progressiveness as well as Andrey’s smooth but potent vocals; while Universe of My Heaven sounds very modern and progressive, also bringing some symphonic elements in the background to give it an extra taste. Moreover, Al’s bass sounds as groovy as it can be, while Danny D pounds his drums just the way we like it in good modern Rock N’ Roll. After that, it’s time for Grenouer to take their musicality to even more eccentric lands with the weird, atmospheric and fun Crimson Lines, with highlights to its classy, poetic lyrics (“Read between the crimson lines / Sacred destination / Go behind the scenes of life / Steady irritation / Read between the crimson lines / Go behind the sonic nightmares / Black and white visions in the sky”).

It’s interesting how Grenouer manage to keep their essence while exploring new sounds, which is the case in the almost electronic-dancing tune Chase the Sun, and although the final result is quite entertaining the guitars by both Dmitry and Alexander needed an extra kick for the whole song to work even better. Then melancholic, acoustic guitars ignite the introspective Ingenious Care, showcasing smooth vocal lines, complex and serene drums, and featuring guests Chayka Chursina on vocals and Zimon on bass, sounding dark from start to finish and, therefore, sending the desired message by the band. Dangerous Girls takes the band back to a heavier, more pounding sonority, with their guitar duo being on fire as well as Al and his rumbling bass, or in other words, this is a well-balanced hybrid of Progressive and Alternative Metal for admirers of the genre. The second to last blast of Grenouer’s rockin’ sounds comes in the form of Paranormal Star, sounding as whimsical and piercing as its name, placing it as another serious candidate to be part of their live setlists, whereas the last tune from Ambition 999 is a superb acoustic ballad entitled Alone in the Dark, which not only presents beautiful guitars and vocals, but its official video is amazingly obscure and captivating. Put differently, it might not be the usual electrified Grenouer we’re used to, but this somber, pensive side of the band is just as enfolding as their more regular sonority.

What are you waiting for to put your hands on 15 extremely well-crafted and energizing rock songs made in Russia? Simply go to the band’s official BandCamp page to grab your copy of the album, as well as to the Sleaszy Rider Records’ BandCamp or webstore, to iTunes or to Amazon, and keep an eye on their Facebook page, VKontakte and YouTube channel for news, tour dates and more of their crisp rock music. As an already established and successful band in the world of heavy music, we can rest assured Grenouer are far from calling it quits, hoping that all of their future releases are just as good as the music found in Ambition 999 and that they proudly keep carrying the flag of Rock N’ Roll wherever they go.

Best moments of the album: Nevermind Tomorrow, Medicine Treats No Lies, Crimson Lines and Alone in the Dark.

Worst moments of the album: Back on Track and Chase the Sun.

Released in 2019 Sleaszy Rider Records

Track listing
1. Burnt to the Ground 3:30
2. Nevermind Tomorrow 3:32
3. One Day 4:15
4. Infinite Grace 4:07
5. Medicine Treats No Lies 3:25
6. Cure for the Lonely 2:37
7. Uncommon Faith 5:13
8. Back on Track 3:41
9. Universe of My Heaven 3:49
10. Crimson Lines 4:16
11. Chase the Sun 3:17
12. Ingenious Care 3:24
13. Dangerous Girls 4:08
14. Paranormal Star 3:10
15. Alone in the Dark 3:20

Band members
Andrey Ind – lead vocals
Dmitry Rubanovsky – guitars
Alexander Motor – guitars
Al Bolo – bass
Danny D – drums

Guest musicians
Chayka Chursina – female vocals on “Ingenious Care”
Zimon – bass on “Ingenious Care”

Concert Review – Godsmack & Volbeat (Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, ON, 05/10/2019)

And the city of Ottawa was more than ready to rumble with two of the best bands of the modern Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll scene.

OPENING ACT: Stitched Up Heart

Although my drive from Toronto to Ottawa on Thursday was a complete shit due to the nasty rain and all the trucks spraying tons of water on my windshield, that didn’t turn my energy level down not even a bit for the concert that was about to happen on Friday. I was really pumped to see what’s probably the best modern Rock N’ Roll bands available out there, the almighty Volbeat and the incendiary Godsmack, kicking some serious ass on stage at Richcraft Live (I honestly have no idea what that name means) at the Canadian Tire Centre. It was my first time at that venue and I must say it’s indeed a great place to watch a concert or a sports event, but unfortunately getting there is not that easy unless you drive, take a taxi or Uber to the venue, which ends up inflating the parking costs considerably.

Anyway, fans were still arriving at the venue when Los Angeles-based Hard Rock act STITCHED UP HEART began their short but effective performance, spearheaded by the beautiful Mixi on vocals. If you have no idea about what type of music Stitched Up Heart play, let’s say it’s a fusion of the contemporary Hard Rock played by Godsmack with Evanescence and Marilyn Manson, and the final result is very entertaining. It was a beyond solid warm-up for the main attractions of the night, and a very good welcome card from the band to us fans of rock music here in Canada, as I don’t actually remember seeing them anywhere around here before this tour opening for Volbeat and Godsmack. In other words, go to their official website for more information about the band, where they’re playing, where to buy their music, and so on, as those guys (and girl, of course) are definitely worth a shot.

Setlist
This Skin
Warrior
Catch Me When I Fall
Darkness
Straightjacket
Finally Free
Lost (feat. Sully Erna)

Band members
Mixi – vocals
Merritt – guitar
Randy – bass
Decker – drums 

VOLBEAT

After a short break, and with the Canadian Tire Centre already occupied by thousands of fans from different parts of Canada and the United States, it was time for Danish rockers VOLBEAT to bring to Ottawa their undisputed Rock N’ Roll infused with Heavy Metal nuances, proving once again that Copenhagen-based quartet is not one of the biggest names in the current Rock N’ Roll scene in vain. Still promoting their 2016 album Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie, but just about to release a brand new album (for our total delight), the band comprised of Michael Poulsen on vocals and rhythm guitar, Rob Caggiano on lead guitar, Kaspar Boye Larsen on bass, and Jon Larsen on drums set the venue on fire with their fast and melodic riffs and beats, and of course, endless electricity (despite the fact that Mr. Poulsen was visibly fighting some sort of cold or flu).

From the first few notes from the excellent The Devil’s Bleeding Crown to the closing moments from the already classic Still Counting, Volbeat delivered what’s expected from them, inspiring all fans from the floor section to ignite some fun (and furious) circle pits, especially during their most metallic songs such as A Warrior’s Call, 16 Dollars, Doc Holliday and Seal the Deal. Also, I think I’ve already mentioned this before, but it’s always impressive to witness how powerful and precise Mr. Caggiano is on the guitar, elevating the band’s sonority to new heights since entering the band in 2013. In addition, one song that I was extremely happy they played was Hallelujah Goat, one of my favorite Volbeat songs of all time due to its energy and heaviness, potentialized by Rob’s amazing technique and feeling. And before I forget, the band also played a brand new song for the first time ever in Ottawa, the 40-second Punk Rock tune Parasite, which albeit being extremely short it was well received by all fans who were paying attention at the moment, because you know, 40 seconds are not enough not even for a quick bathroom break. In a nutshell, I know that I just saw Volbeat live and that I’ll see them again with Slipknot, Gojira and Behemoth soon here in Toronto, but they’re so good live I cannot wait, and besides, their concerts are never long enough for them to play all of their classics.

Setlist
The Devil’s Bleeding Crown
Lola Montez
Sad Man’s Tongue (with Ring of Fire intro)
A Warrior’s Call / I Only Want to Be With You
Let It Burn
Black Rose
Parasite
16 Dollars
Dead but Rising
Fallen
Hallelujah Goat
Marie Laveau
Doc Holliday
Seal the Deal
Still Counting

Band members
Michael Poulsen – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob Caggiano – lead guitar
Kaspar Boye Larsen – bass guitar
Jon Larsen – drums

GODSMACK

It was close to 9:45pm when the lights went out, a fun mashup of classic rock songs started playing from the amps, and finally GODSMACK hit the stage with their unique mix of Alternative Rock and Heavy Metal. I confess I don’t think their 2018 album When Legends Rise is one of their best efforts to date; quite the contrary, it’s relatively weak compared for example to their previous album, the fantastic 1000hp, released in 2014, but Sully Erna and his henchmen are so amazing in what they do they managed to turn all of the songs they played from their new album, those being When Legends Rise, Say My Name, Unforgettable, Under Your Scars and Bulletproof, into truly amazing moments of their performance. By the way, as explained by Sully during the concert, inspired by their own song Under Your Scars, Godsmack have recently founded The Scars Foundation to help raise awareness of the mental health issues that so many are faced with today. Needless to say, donate and show your support to such important and noble cause.

Getting back to the concert, I have to say that even if they played bad music the whole thing would still have been at least great, as all the fire and other special effects on stage added a lot of energy to their performance. But, of course, Godsmack do not play bad music, and fantastic songs like 1000hp (my favorite of the night), Cryin’ Like a Bitch and Whatever put a huge smile on the faces of every single fan watching their concert. Furthermore, there were three very distinct moments that let’s say “surprised” most fans due to their uniqueness, those being their dark and enthralling performance of their all-time hit Voodoo, the interesting Batalla De Los Tambores (or “battle of the drums”, if you know nothing in Spanish) between Sully and the extremely talented drummer Shannon Larkin, and the Rock N’ Roll party established on stage when Rob Caggiano and the entire Stitched Up Heart joined them on stage for a cover version of AC/DC’s classic Highway to Hell.

In the end, after Godsmack played their heavier-than-hell hit I Stand Alone, all fans left the Canadian Tire Centre extremely satisfied, hoping the band doesn’t take another abysmal time to return to Canadian soil. On the other hand, if you live in Canada and missed Godsmack, I feel really sorry for your soul. A band like that is always busy, always touring the world, and they don’t have a lot of empty spot to fill out with Canadian dates. Well, don’t cry like a bitch if you missed it, simply stay tuned to their upcoming tours and do like the rockin’ citizens from Ottawa, whenever you hear the words “Volbeat” or “Godsmack”, put on your black shirt, you leather jacket and get ready to rumble like there’s no tomorrow with one of the best and most electrifying bands of the not-so-new generation of rock and metal music.

Setlist
When Legends Rise
1000hp
Say My Name
Keep Away (Moon Baby Outro)
Cryin’ Like a Bitch
Awake
Unforgettable
Something Different
Voodoo
Batalla De Los Tambores
Whatever

Encore:
Under Your Scars
Bulletproof
Highway to Hell (AC/DC cover)
I Stand Alone

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

Album Review – Sepsiss / Badd Blood EP (2019)

Bang your head to the debut EP by this emerging American outfit that plays uncompromising metal combining a more traditional sound with modern rhythms and urban hardcore.

Founded by vocalist Melissa Wolfe and guitarist William Savant in 2011 in Manchester, a city in the southern part of the U.S. state of New Hampshire, the incendiary female-fronted Hard Rock and Alternative Metal band that goes by the name of Sepsiss has been wowing crowds across their home state since their inception, playing uncompromising metal that combines a more traditional sound with modern rhythms, light synths and a blend of urban hardcore. Now in 2019 this five-piece outfit comprised of the aforementioned Melissa on clean vocals and William on harsh vocals and on the guitar, accompanied by Cam Loud also on the guitar, Mr Goodbarz on keyboards and Robbert Pann on drums is unleashing a very dynamic and fun EP entitled Badd Blood, offering fans of modern metal music eight unique tracks which prove that female-fronted metal bands can offer some of the most powerful, intriguing and diverse sounds in the genre, just like what bands such as their rock heroes Heart and more recently Evanescence have always done.

A cinematic intro evolves into a feast of modern-day Hardcore and Alternative Metal entitled Fair To Say led by Melissa’s classic vocal lines, giving life to the song’s lovesick lyrics (“You are my favorite vice, / The way you’re squeezing me tonight. / The way you’re screaming songs slice the sky for me… / I fell in love with your void, / I filled it up on my own accord. / And you’re bored with being broken… / SO I’LL BREAK US UP!!!!”), as if Green Day met Evanescence. Then with William making a flammable vocal duet with Melissa we have To Write Hate On His Arms, showcasing straightforward and precise beats by Robbert while Mr Goodbarz adds a touch of delicacy and madness to the background with his keys, resulting in what’s in my humble opinion the best track of the EP.

William and Cam bring tons of heaviness to the band’s modern Hard Rock in Sky Is Falling, a song that’s considerably faster and more dynamic than its predecessors, with the music remaining vibrant and fresh for over five minutes in an interesting fusion of different styles like Metalcore, Melodic Death Metal and contemporary Hard Rock; followed by The Swarm, where the band switches their gears to a more alternative sonority with Mr Goodbarz and Robbert keeping the atmosphere as modern as possible in perfect sync with the guitar riffs. Black Light Invasion follows a similar pattern, with Melissa’s vocals getting sexier as the music progresses, sounding groovy and catchy from the very first second and, therefore, being highly recommended for hitting the dance floor while both William and Cam kick some serious ass with their riffs and solos. And in Falling Unloved the band accelerates their pace to a frantic fusion of the music by Evanscence with Hardcore, Punk Rock and even Ska, crushing their instruments mercilessly and offering their fans a good reason to crack their necks headbanging.

And their Rock N’ Roll party goes on in Force You To Lay Down, where the vocals by Melissa sound inebriating and captivating, while her bandmates make sure the energy level doesn’t go down not even a bit by pounding their instruments nonstop. Last but not least, Eyes Of Empathy closes the album with five minutes of first-class Hard Rock, showcasing lyrics that are as catchy as they can be (“Eyes of empathy can never reason why… / It could never mend the things I’ve seen tonight… / Forever quell the screams of your denial… / I won’t ever wake.”). Not only that, Melissa is on absolute fire on vocals, with the amount of electricity and rage brought forth by William, Cam and Robbert being beyond outstanding.

Do you have what it takes to enter the alternative and metallic lands ruled by Melissa, William & Co.? You can certainly show your total support to such up-and-coming band by following them through their official Facebook page, by subscribing to their YouTube channel, by listening to their music on Spotify, and obviously by purchasing Badd Blood from the band’s own webstore as a regular physical version or as an autographed edition. And let’s hope Sepsiss keep on rocking and inspiring more and more women to follow a similar musical path not only in their home state, but anywhere else in the world where good music is appreciated, all in the name of Rock N’ Roll.

Best moments of the album: To Write Hate On His Arms and Eyes Of Empathy.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. Fair To Say 3:54
2. To Write Hate On His Arms 3:20
3. Sky Is Falling 5:17
4. The Swarm 2:27
5. Black Light Invasion 3:58
6. Falling Unloved 3:55
7. Force You To Lay Down 3:37
8. Eyes Of Empathy 5:03

Band members
Melissa Wolfe – vocals
William Savant – vocals, guitars
Cam Loud – guitars
Mr Goodbarz – keyboards
Robbert Pann – drums