Album Review – Rage Of Light / Imploder (2019)

A contrast made of light and rage in the form of an action-packed album of trance music and Melodic Death Metal.

A contrast made of light and rage. That’s exactly what you’re going to get in Imploder, the debut full-length album by Swiss Electronic Groove Metal unity Rage Of Light, the brainchild of vocalist and keyboardist Jonathan Pellet, known for his past works with Symphonic Power Metal band Trophallaxy/Dysrider. Offering a hybrid of trance and Melodic Death Metal, a unique combination of sounds that can be labeled as “Trance Metal”, Rage Of Light will stimulate all your senses with their brand new opus, showing why the multi-talented Jonathan, together with the gorgeous Melissa Bonny (Evenmore, Warkings, Ad Infinitum) on lead vocals and the talented Noé Schüpbach on guitars and bass, are more than ready to conquer the world of heavy music with their creativity, electricity and, of course, a lot of rage.

Jonathan came up with the idea to create a fusion of trance and metal music in 2007, but due to being busy with other projects it took almost a decade for the idea to fully bear fruit. Finally, in 2015, he recruited Melissa and Noé to complete the band, releasing in 2016 their debut five-track EP Chasing a Reflection, followed by a few very interesting singles in 2017 and 2018 including cover versions for Amon Amarth’s battle hymn “Twilight Of The Thunder God” and Lady Gaga’s hit “Judas”. After receiving very positive feedback from fans and critics from all over the world through the years, it’s time now in 2019 for Rage Of Light to reach new heights with Imploder, featuring a modern artwork by Brazilian artist Gustavo Sazes, cellist Joëlle “Jo” Graz (Trophallaxy/Dysrider) as a very special guest musician and, above all, three superb musicians who perfectly represent the union of endless talent and a deep passion for music.

The very atmospheric and entrancing intro Light captivates our senses from the very first second, dragging us to Rage Of Light’s lair of heavy music in Enraged, where the trio begins distilling their refined techniques and ethereal sounds, with Melissa’s hypnotizing vocals matching flawlessly with the song’s epic ambience and crushing beats, not to mention Noé’s amazing guitar solo as the icing on the cake. Following such powerful start, keep banging your head to Melissa, Jonathan and Noé to the heavy-as-hell Fallen, a beautiful fusion of modern-day Melodic Death Metal with trance music, or in other words, a rebellious hymn by Rage Of Light led by Jonathan’s whimsical keys and synths, all complemented by his own rabid growls. And in their 2018 single I Can, I Will we’re treated to a more frantic and electrified version of their Trance Metal, with both Melissa and Jonathan kicking some serious ass with their powerful roars, giving life to the song’s poetic lyrics (“My eyes drag me down / When I look around and see what I’m not / Is there, anywhere, a stairway to the top? / Watch me, never again / Will I look down and feel this pain / Cause now, step by step I start to climb and leave these cries behind”).

Experimenting even more with electronic and eccentric sounds, the band offers our ears another dancing fusion of 90’s trance with Heavy Metal infused with Symphonic Metal nuances in Away With You, where it’s quite impossible to stand still to its enfolding rhythm, while In The Shadow is another solid composition featuring classic beats and riffs mixed with the band’s trademark modernity (it falls flat after a while, though), with Melissa stealing the spotlight once again with her unique voice. Then the gentle and potent cello by Jo brings a touch of finesse to the beyond fantastic and insurgent Battlefront, with Melissa alternating between her crisp clean vocals and her she-demon roars in what’s probably the most detailed and multi-layered song from the entire album; and get ready for a trance-meets-metal party in the instrumental title-track Imploder, courtesy of Jonathan and Noé, who together generate a dense, mechanized and metallic atmosphere for admirers of the genre. Furthermore, despite the fact the drums in the entire album are programmed, they still sounds very organic, therefore smashing your skull mercilessly.

With lyrics sounding like a blend of cult flicks such as Terminator and Night of the Living Dead (“Our lives, threatened by this viral disease / We thought we could handle this affliction / No cure will stop the infection to spread / Condemned by our evolution”), Mechanicals, also previously released as a single, is a movie score-inspired extravaganza showcasing intricate guitar lines, pounding drums,  tons of insanity and a futuristic vibe in over seven minutes of first-class modern metal music, leaving us completely disoriented before Nothingness closes the regular version of the album, with Jo returning with her somber cello to add her share of melancholy and serenity to Rage Of Light’s vibrant music while Noé brings rage to the overrall result with his riffs, flowing smoothly until its delicate grand finale. And please I beg you to go for the deluxe edition of Imploder, as you’ll be absolutely stunned by the bonus track Twilight Of The Thunder God, their cover version for Amon Amarth’s most powerful tune of all time in my opinion (you can check the original version HERE). I saw somewhere a guy saying this version should be called “Twilight of the Thunder Goddess”, and I agree one hundred percent as Melissa is on her more-than-perfect “beast mode”, resulting in a flawless performance by one of the most versatile singers of the new era of metal music.

If you still can’t imagine how the flammable fusion of such distinct styles like trance and Melodic Death Metal sounds like, you can take a full listen at Imploder on Spotify, but in case you’re already familiar with (and addicted to) Rage Of Light’s breathtaking music, don’t forget to follow Jonathan, Melissa and Noé on Facebook and to purchase your copy of their excellent new album from their own BandCamp page, from the Napalm Records’ webstore (in Europe or in the United States), or from your regular retailers like iTunes and Amazon. In the end, no one knows for sure if Rage Of Light play a heavier-than-usual version of trance music, or a modernized and electronic version of Heavy Metal, and that very interesting contrast is what makes their music so unique and vibrant. That’s the beauty of it, don’t you agree?

Best moments of the album: Fallen, Battlefront, Mechanicals and Twilight Of The Thunder God.

Worst moments of the album: In The Shadow.

Released in 2019 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Light 1:48
2. Enraged 5:01
3. Fallen 4:32
4. I Can, I Will 4:36
5. Away With You 3:50
6. In The Shadow 6:47
7. Battlefront 4:30
8. Imploder (Instrumental) 5:58
9. Mechanicals 7:17
10. Nothingness 5:40

Digipak Edition/iTunes/Amazon bonus track
11.Twilight Of The Thunder God (Amon Amarth cover) 4:06

Band members
Melissa Bonny – lead vocals
Jonathan Pellet – vocals, keyboards, synth, drums programming
Noé Schüpbach – guitars, bass

Guest musician
Joëlle “Jo” Graz – cello

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Metal Chick of the Month – Melissa Bonny

Feel the fire dancing with your soul, now you’re alive…

I honestly find impressive the huge amount of excellent metal bands hailing from the glamorous Switzerland, a country of only around 8 million inhabitants, but that has already provided the world remarkable acts such as Celtic Frost, Eluveitie, Gotthard, Hellhammer, Krokus, Sybreed and my favorite Swiss band of all time Triptykon, as well as tons of amazing underground groups already reviewed at The Headbanging Moose like Voice of Ruin, Henriette B, Way Of Changes and Black Diamonds. We already had a while ago the absolutely stunning Vanja Šlajh as our Metal Chick of the Month, and now it’s time to get back to the “Land of Milk and Honey” to pay a tribute to another fantastic Swiss metaller, a rising star named Melissa Bonny, lead singer of the up-and-coming Swiss bands Rage Of Light and Evenmore.

Born in Montreux, a traditional resort town on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, on January 23, 1993, Melissa started her life in music when she was only 6 years old by singing in a school choir for several years.  When she finished school, she spent most of her free time making music by herself or with some friends and took part in several events in her area, singing on stage, alone or accompanied. She also mentioned that one of her favorite pastimes was to make parodies of famous songs, and that the unexpected success of those parodies convinced her that she should move forward with her music career. That was when she started looking for a band, singing during a short time with a cover band from Valais, a canton in southern Switzerland, in 2012 before being recruited that same year by Symphonic Folk Metal band Evenmore as their lead vocalist, which gave her the opportunity to release her creativity while writing music and the chance to broaden her horizons and perform on great stages before well-known bands such as Lacuna Coil, Eluveitie and Xandria.

Owner of a potent and versatile voice, which allows her to sing as a mezzo-soprano or to do guttural growls the likes of Angela Gossow and Alissa White-Gluz, Melissa is highly influenced by several amazing metal acts, in special female-fronted groups like Delain, Eluveitie, Arch Enemy, Nightwish, Within Temptation, The Agonist, Amaranthe and Epica, as well as bands with a very epic and melodic sonority such as Kamelot and Sonata Arctica. For instance, among her favorite albums you’ll find several classic releases that perfectly represent her passion for dark and imposing metal music, including the albums The Black Halo by Kamelot, Origins and Helvetios by Eluveitie, and Shadows Of The Dying Sun by Insomnium. As you can see, Melissa nurtures a profound admiration for more contemporary Melodic Metal, where the music is joined by an exciting theatrical piece that became a trademark of almost all bands from her playlist.

Her list of favorite songs obviously includes many compositions found in her favorite albums, and you’ll notice that all of those songs have an epic vein, a potent punch and a detailed focus on the overall harmony. You can bang your head together with our dark-haired muse and feel the energy flowing from modern classics such as Kamelot’s March of Mephisto (featuring the one and only Shagrath, from Dimmu Borgir, as a guest vocalist) and The Haunting (featuring the stunning Simone Simmons, from Epica); Epica’s Storm the Sorrow; Arch Enemy’s You Will Know My Name; Sonata Arctica’s Only the Broken Hearts; Delain’s Get the Devil Out of Me; After Forever’s Energize Me; and my favorite from this list, The Agonist’s kick-ass hit Thank you Pain. We have to admit this is a damn good playlist of modern-day metal music, don’t you agree?

Although Melissa is already working on her own solo material, which had been left aside for several months, let’s focus on her two bands, Evenmore and Rage of Light, as those are already a reality in the world of heavy music and also where Melissa has been shining bright with her fantastic vocal range and mesmerizing looks. Let’s begin with Evenmore, a Symphonic Folk Metal band from Romont, a municipality and capital of the district of Glâne in the canton of Fribourg in Switzerland, formed in 2011 which, since its creation, has for ambition to offer its audience intense moments while listening to its musical creations. Apart from Melissa, the band is composed of guitarist Landry Pernet, bassist Frederic Jorand, drummer Florian Bard and pipes/whistles player Matthieu Bopp.

It was in June 2014 that Melissa and her bandmates from Evenmore relased their first EP, titled The Beginning, comprised of four distinct songs, including the excellent The Black Knight. Welcoming new instruments and aiming at creating a beautiful balance between metal and traditional music, Evenmore worked hard on developing their Celtic vein, culminating with the release of their first full-length album in 2016, named Last Ride, which received many positive feedback thanks to the versatility and the quality of its compositions, transporting the audience into a story that evolves song after song. From that album, you can enjoy Melissa’s unique vocals in the songs The Ride Begins, Eleana and Breaking The Silence. Furthermore, if you prefer watching the band live to actually confirm if they have what it takes to succeed in the world of metal, I recommend you go to YouTube to check some good quality footage from their live concerts, such as the songs Winter is Over at the Grande Salle de Cojonnex in Montreux in 2014, The Ride Begins at the famous Z7 in Pratteln in 2015, and also Last Breath at the Rocking Chair in Vevey in 2014. Hence, after listening to such powerful tunes, you’ll see why Evenmore already had the pleasure of sharing the stage with renowned acts like Lacuna Coil, Eluveitie and Xandria in their short but solid career.

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In regards to Swiss Trance Metal act Rage of Light, this hybrid project was actually conceived several years before our ebony growler joined the band in 2015. Rage Of Light was born in 2007 from the desire of its creator, multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Pellet, to combine two music styles that he loved for a long time, those being metal and trance, inspired by the Swiss trance scene of the early 2000’s and by the sound crafted by Melodic Death Metal bands. However, due to his duties with the bands Dysrider and Nodafreth, Jonathan had to put Rage of Light aside for a few years, until reigniting it again between 2011 and 2015 by writing new material and recruiting Melissa for the vocal duties and his bandmate from Nodafreth, Noé Schüpbach, for the guitars. The trio released in 2016 their debut EP, titled Chasing a Reflection (which can be enjoyed in its entirety HERE), comprised of four original songs, Beautiful Slave, Deception, Sick and Requiem, and a cover version for Lollipop (Candyman), a hit single from the 90’s originally recorded by Danish Dance-Pop group Aqua. You can compare Rage of Light’s version with the original one by clicking HERE, but I guess I don’t even need to point out that the new version by the Swiss power trio is a billion times better.

And it seems that Rage of Light truly enjoyed giving a new arrangement and taste to a classic hit, as earlier this year they released a stunning version for Amon Amarth’s unparalleled hymn Twilight of the Thunder God, which you can take a shot at the end of this tribute to Melissa. In my humble opinion, this is the perfect example of a cover song that’s already fantastic musically speaking, but that its official video makes it even more majestic thanks to the alluring solitude and passion exhaled by Melissa up in the Swiss Alps. If I were you, I would definitely keep an eye on Rage of Light’s BandCamp page, as I’m pretty sure this very entertaining project will soon publish more of their excellent material and maybe even another vibrant cover song for an old classic.

As aforementioned, Melissa is also working on a solo project which hasn’t taken its final shape and form yet, but that doesn’t mean you cannot have a good time watching her videos from her own YouTube channel, where she covers some of her favorite bands and artists, such as these versions for Kamelot’s March of Mephisto, Hozier’s Take Me To Church and Epica’s The Second Stone. If any of these cover songs are an indication of what’s her solo project is about to be, I guess we can be more than excited for her original material then, don’t you agree?

Melissa is obviously a very normal woman with more-than-usual habits, hobbies, likes and dislikes, just like any of us. In one of her interviews, she stated that among her favorite activities besides making music and her bands we’ll find travelling, hanging out with her friends, cooking, and watching several TV shows such as Vikings, The 100 and Game of Thrones. Well, let’s say those TV shows are indeed a great source of inspiration for Melissa when writing her music and obviously when performing live, as you can see in the official videos as well as all the unofficial footage of Evenmore playing live. Who knows, maybe one day the guys from Vikings or even Game of Thrones will get to watch her amazing performances with Evenmore and Rage of Light, and we can then enjoy our Swiss Valkyrie kicking ass on one of those shows with her stunning looks and magnificent voice.

Melissa Bonny’s Official Facebook page
Melissa Bonny’s Official Twitter
Melissa Bonny’s Official Instagram
Melissa Bonny’s Official YouTube channel
Evenmore’s Official Facebook page
Evenmore’s Official Twitter
Evenmore’s Official YouTube channel
Rage of Light’s Official Facebook page
Rage of Light’s Official BandCamp
Rage of Light’s Official YouTube channel

“Boredom follows me but I’m too fast!” – Melissa Bonny

Album Review – Amon Amarth / Jomsviking (2016)

Despite its interesting concept and excellent production, Jomsviking never truly takes off, offering the same old, same old fighting chants we’ve seen countless times before.

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amon amarth_jomsviking“The Jomsvikings and their world is the background for the story of a young man that is in love with a girl but unfortunately she’s being married off. He accidentally kills a man when this happens and he has to flee — but he swears to have revenge and win her back. He can’t let go of the past. He feels that he’s been wronged and his life has been destroyed. The way the story evolves is not a happy story.”, said frontman Johan Hegg in an interview to Blabbermouth about Jomsviking, the tenth studio album by Swedish Melodic Death Metal band Amon Amarth, and also the first concept album in their solid career. However, despite being quite an innovative idea, it didn’t thrill me at any single moment during the entire album, a huge letdown taken into account the high expectations I had when I first heard our talented Viking warriors were recording a concept album.

The Jomsvikings might have been a semi-legendary order of Viking brigands of the 10th and 11th centuries, but all we get in the album is the same old Amon Amarth with some slight changes in their musicality and nothing truly remarkable about those infamous mercenaries. For instance, their excellent 2011 release Surtur Rising tells a lot more about the mythical giant Surtr than Jomsviking tells about the Jomsvikings, and it’s not even close to being a concept album. At least the artwork, once again designed by Tom Thiel, keeps up with their previous releases, but musically speaking Jomsviking doesn’t bring anything fresh to the listener. It doesn’t harm the band’s career either, but it leaves that annoying sensation you feel when it’s more than obvious that a band like Amon Amarth can do a lot better than that.

Johan’s voice sounds really odd in the first few lines in First Kill, but fortunately that doesn’t last long and he gets back to his regular “Viking mode” after a few seconds. Although the song itself sounds traditional Amon Amarth at first, you can feel it’s a bit more melodic than usual, mainly due to the great job done by guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg. And can the intro in the exciting Wanderer be considered “Viking Heavy Metal/Hard Rock”? Anyway, I like what I hear even the song not being played at full speed like many of their classics. It’s groovy and dark Melodic Death Metal made in Scandinavia with a beautiful melody in the background, a powerful chorus and tons of melancholy, turning it into one of the best songs of the album. On a Sea of Blood, which brings forward some welcome elements of Power and Heavy Metal, was born to be an Amon Amarth classic, with session drummer Tobias Gustafsson doing an excellent job in keeping the energy flowing smoothly during the entire song. While listening to this tune, all you’ll think of is grabbing your sword and shield and heading to the battlefield, no doubt about that.

One Against All keeps the violence at a high level, being extremely melodic at all times thanks to the guitar lines by both Olavi and Johan Söderberg, and despite offering nothing new musically speaking I guess not a single fan of the band will complain about it. And who doesn’t enjoy a song about drinking beer? That’s what you get in Raise Your Horns and its cliché but fun lyrics (“So pour the beer for thirsty men / A drink that they have earned / And pour a beer for those who fell / For those who did not return”). The music itself is quite lame, but again this is Amon Amarth, not a Progressive Metal band, which means fans will enjoy singing it along with Johan during the band’s live concerts. One might ask why I said bad things about the album in the beginning of this review, but so far I’ve made many positive comments about the songs presented until this part of the album. Well, that’s the main issue with Jomsviking: I’m not really sure how all songs are connected to the album concept, as they all sound regular songs to me with the word “Jomsviking” randomly added here and there. This is also the case in The Way of Vikings, sounding the same song Amon Amarth have recorded a billion times already, a below average chant with a strong “been there, done that” feeling.

amon amarthAfter a boring intro, At Dawn’s First Light gets to a decent melodic ambience that albeit generic ends up working well with the lyrics, but again don’t expect to find anything fresh in its musicality (except for the blood of your enemies, of course); followed by One Thousand Burning Arrows, by far the most boring track of all. I’m not kidding, after less than two minutes my attention turned to something else deu to the lack of anything interesting in it, a song filled with uninspired beats, riffs and vocals with absolutely nothing special, failing miserably in the end. At least Vengeance Is My Name puts the band back on track, translating the bloodshed of a battle into words (“The next man over reaches / And so he winds up dead / One cut is all that’s needed / I removed his head”), with the music also following the same level of violence.

Then we have the good A Dream That Cannot Be, featuring one of the greatest metal divas of all time, the unstoppable German amazon Doro Pesch. She kicks some serious ass together with Amon Amarth, bringing a breath of fresh air to their sometimes tiring music. Maybe they should have more female guests in their future releases, who knows? Anyhow, closing Jomsviking we have Back on Northern Shores, and I honestly don’t understand why Amon Amarth insist with long “epic” songs to conclude their albums as it never works as expected. Its riffs and rhythm are somewhat decent but way too repetitive for seven minutes, and again I turned my thoughts to something else after a short while. Next time they craft a lengthy chant, I hope they at least add some breaks, variations and additional layers to the sounding, otherwise I won’t even bother listening to it until the end.

To sum up, I’m sure a considerable part of the longtime fans of Amon Amarth all around the world will enjoy Jomsviking, saying it’s a great album and many other positive things about it, but as I said before it lacks a lot of power if compared to its predecessors and, a lot worse than that, it doesn’t say anything truly remarkable or worth about the Jomsvikings. Although the album has its moments and can entertain you for a few spins, I’m more than sure you’ll get really tired of it after a few weeks even with the new elements added to the music. And if they ever decide to write a concept album again in their career, may that be a true concept album and not just a bunch of same old, same old generic fighting chants they have done so many times before.

Best moments of the album: Wanderer, On a Sea of Blood and A Dream That Cannot Be.

Worst moments of the album: The Way of Vikings, One Thousand Burning Arrows and Back on Northern Shores.

Released in 2016 Metal Blade

Track listing
1. First Kill 4:21
2. Wanderer 4:42
3. On a Sea of Blood 4:04
4. One Against All 3:37
5. Raise Your Horns 4:23
6. The Way of Vikings 5:11
7. At Dawn’s First Light 3:50
8. One Thousand Burning Arrows 5:49
9. Vengeance Is My Name 4:41
10. A Dream That Cannot Be (feat. Doro Pesch) 4:22
11. Back on Northern Shores 7:08

Band members
Johan Hegg – vocals
Olavi Mikkonen – guitar
Johan Söderberg – guitar
Ted Lundström – bass guitar
Jocke Wallgren – drums (live)

Guest musicians
Tobias Gustafsson – drums (studo recording)
Doro Pesch – guest vocals on “A Dream That Cannot Be”

Concert Review – Amon Amarth (Sound Academy, Toronto, ON, 10/10/2014)

The most powerful Swedish Viking horde in the world attacks Toronto once again, setting the city on fire on a chilly night.

OPENING ACTS: Skeletonwitch and Sabaton

Amon-Amarth-PosterAs the fans of Game Of Thrones like to say, “Winter is coming” pretty soon, which means it’s getting colder and colder here in Toronto and, of course, in the entire Canada. So why not turning up the heat with some brutality, Viking music and good beer on a Friday night at the Sound Academy? The bands chosen to make our lives a lot warmer were American Thrash/Death Metal band Skeletonwitch, Swedish Power Metal band Sabaton and the main attraction of the night, Swedish Melodic Death Metal icons Amon Amarth.

Opening the night with the same energy of a stampede of raging bulls and still promoting their latest album, the insane Serpents Unleashed, the ‘Witch were absolutely awesome from start to finish, even with very limited time to deliver all their havoc. Chance Garnette’s unique devilish vocals and Dustin Boltjes killing everything on drums were the highlights of their wicked performance, with songs like I Am of Death (Hell Has Arrived), Serpents Unleashed and Within My Blood being so brutal I’m pretty sure most of the people who were already at the venue during Skeletonwitch might have an “interesting” pain in their necks and bodies until today. Chance said they’re returning to Toronto in the Spring, so I guess we have enough time to recover until we break our fuckin’ necks once again with more of their demonic metal.

Setlist
1. More Cruel Than Weak
2. I Am of Death (Hell Has Arrived)
3. From a Cloudless Sky
4. Burned from Bone
5. Beyond the Permafrost
6. Unending, Everliving
7. Stand Fight and Die
8. Serpents Unleashed
9. Within My Blood

Band members
Chance Garnette – lead vocals
Nate “N8 Feet Under” Garnette – guitars
Scott “Scunty D.” Hedrick – guitars
Evan “Loosh” Linger – bass
Dustin Boltjes – drums

IMG_2975Having recently released their seventh studio album, entitled Heroes, Sabaton had the tough mission of entertaining a crowd extremely avid for Amon Amarth. Well, although I myself consider their music somewhat generic, they did a pretty good job and got a great reaction from the audience, especially during songs such as 40:1, Swedish Pagans and Metal Crüe. Frontman Joakim Brodén has a very limited vocal range if compared to many other Power Metal singers, but his interaction with the fans, in special his jokes about Canada always beating Sweden in ice hockey, were sufficient to avoid any negativity from the crowd and to keep everyone awake and pumped up for the main attraction. The only problem is, as aforementioned, their generic lyrics and musicality: how many other bands, and you can limit your analysis only to Sweden if you prefer, have songs with the words “pagan”, “warrior”, “fight” or “metal” in their names, and those more-than-generic galloping riffs? If they fix that, they can go a lot further in their career.

Setlist
1. Intro (The March To War)
2. Ghost Division
3. To Hell and Back
4. Carolus Rex
5. 40:1
6. Swedish Pagans
7. Resist and Bite
8. The Art of War
9. Primo Victoria
10. Metal Crüe
11. Outro (Dead Soldiers Waltz)

Band members
Joakim Brodén – vocals, keyboards
Pär Sundström – bass, backing vocals
Chris Rörland – guitar, backing vocals
Thobbe Englund – guitar, backing vocals
Hannes van Dahl – drums

AMON AMARTH

IMG_2983Perhaps one of the most stable band formations in the history of heavy music, with the same band members being together since 1998 (and three out of five since their beginnings in 1992), Swedish Viking horde Amon Amarth delivered almost everything their fans were asking for, except for their Viking ship and fireworks, which couldn’t be part of their performance due to venue limitations.

However, the absence of fireworks and other theatrical items was completely forgiven and forgotten when the band started playing their unique epic metal. It was pure brutal headbanging, fists and horns in the air, beer drinking and lots of singing throughout their whole concert, with everything getting even heavier and more fun during classics like Death in FireGuardians of Asgaard, Cry of the Black Birds, and of course the highly anticipated Viking hymns Twilight of the Thunder God (where frontman Johan Hegg entered wearing a Viking helmet and holding the Hammer of the Gods as usual) and The Pursuit of Vikings, with all fans screaming as loud as possible its famous epic chorus nonstop, for the band’s total delight. The sincere smile on Johan’s face was priceless.

IMG_2984In addition, their newer songs from their latest albums, Surtur Rising (2011) and Deceiver of the Gods (2013), also worked really well, with highlights to For Victory or Death, Father of the Wolf, Destroyer of the Universe and War of the Gods. I love metal music when it’s played as fast as the band is capable of, which was the case for all those songs. I just thought there were very few mosh pits, maybe because it was getting really late and all fans were exhausted after a long day at school or work, and after so many hours of energetic heavy music. Being a headbanger demands a lot of our bodies, especially when you have such electrifying bands like Skeletonwitch and Amon Amarth playing live in front of you, don’t you agree?

Anyway, during one of his many fun interactions with the crowd (while drinking beer from his horn), Johan Hegg also spoke about ice hockey and the NHL, which makes me wonder if this is the biggest connection between Canada and Sweden, or if Heavy Metal is indeed what makes these two cold but totally amazing countries be so close to each other. Based on the happiness and level of energy spread among all fans that attended the concert at the Sound Academy, and as a true heavy music lover, I have to go with the second option without a shadow of a doubt. And now, all that’s left for us fans is the never-ending wait for another Viking invasion of Canada.

Setlist
1. Deceiver of the Gods
2. Runes to My Memory
3. Death in Fire
4. Free Will Sacrifice
5. As Loke Falls
6. We Shall Destroy
7. For Victory or Death
8. Varyags of Miklagaard
9. The Fate of Norns
10. Father of the Wolf
11. Guardians of Asgaard
12. Warriors of the North
13. Destroyer of the Universe
14. Cry of the Black Birds
15. War of the Gods

Encore:
16. Twilight of the Thunder God
17. The Pursuit of Vikings 

Band members
Johan Hegg – lead vocals
Olavi Mikkonen – guitar
Ted Lundström – bass
Johan Söderberg – guitar
Fredrik Andersson – drums

Concert Review – Nova Rock Festival 2014 (Pannonia Fields II, Nickelsdorf, Austria, 06/14/2014)

A flawless festival at one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

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INTRODUCTION: The City of Nickelsdorf and 10 Years of Nova Rock

The town of Nickelsdorf is located in the district of Neusiedl am See in the Austrian state of Burgenland, it belonged to Hungary until 1920 (like the whole province of Burgenland) and it has a population of less than 2,000 people. Those details alone wouldn’t encourage anyone to visit this little town in the middle of nowhere in Austria, don’t you agree? However, over the past 10 years there are three very special days between the second and third weeks of June when its population increases almost 100 times and Nickelsdorf becomes the world capital of heavy music: that’s what happens when the awesome Nova Rock Festival hits the town.

It was from June 9 to June 12, 2005 when the first edition of Nova Rock brought to town names such as System of a Down, Marylin Manson, Nightwish, Audioslave and Green Day, with over 30,000 fans per day. The following year, with huge bands like Metallica, Motörhead and Guns N’ Roses, the festival received over 150,000 visitors, becoming the largest ever rock festival in Austria. Since then, names like Volbeat, The Prodigy, Rage Against the Machine, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, Rammstein, Kreator, Testament, In Flames and many other heavy music icons have helped put Nickelsdorf in the route (and in the hearts) of metalheads from all over the world during the always incredible European summer.

This year the lineup was once again more than amazing, starting on Friday, June 13 with the power of Volbeat, Slayer, Steel Panther and Sepultura; kicking fuckin’ ass on Saturday, June 14 with Epica, Trivium, Anthrax, Amon Amarth and Iron Maiden (and believe me, American actor David Hasselhoff); and topping it off with Rob Zombie, The Offspring, Bad Religion, Arch Enemy and Black Sabbath. You can take a look at the full lineup per day by clicking HERE.

As I was travelling around Austria and Eastern Europe I couldn’t attend all three days of the festival due to time and money restrictions, so this review is solely in regards to Day 2, with focus on the performances by Trivium, Anthrax, Amon Amarth and Iron Maiden. Unfortunately (or not), I couldn’t stay later to see “The Hoff” singing the hit song Du or doing whatever he was going to do there.

NOVA ROCK FESTIVAL: Where to Stay, How to Get There and Overall Organization

If you’re planning on attending Nova Rock next year for only one or two of the three days of the festival, or if you’re not a huge fan of camping sites, the two best options available are staying in the capital Vienna (about 70km from Nickelsdorf) and driving for about one hour or taking the train to the festival, or staying in the very pleasant city of Bratislava, in Slovakia, which is only 40km from Nickelsdorf (or a quick 40-minute drive). We chose to stay in Bratislava, mainly because it was our first time in Slovakia and our chance to know that amazing city, and we do not regret that at all: it’s a lot cheaper than Vienna, the food and drinks are amazing, and it is full of breathtaking views like the one of the entire city from the top of the Bratislava Castle during the sunset.

The festival itself was very well-organized, with a huge free parking lot, good camping space, lots of different options to eat, good toilets, decent prices for the merchandise available, and more important than all that, both the blue and the red stages were set up in a way you could see and listen to everything no matter where you were. There were also lots of different activities going on, keeping the fans entertained before their favorite bands hit the stages, including a huge party zone. The only issue this year was the unbearable dust that impregnated the entire festival due to the dry and sunny weather in Nickelsdorf, which was responsible for lots of people wearing bandanas to cover their faces like if they were some kind of outlaws. Anyway, it was better than a heavy storm, especially because driving back to Bratislava all covered in mud wouldn’t have been a nice experience.

TRIVIUM

IMG_1976Because I had some sightseeing to do in the morning and part of the afternoon, I was able to get to Nova Rock only at 4pm, which means I unfortunately missed Epica (and fortunately missed Ghost). However, I was there just in time for one of the best bands of the past 10 years: American Heavy Metal band Trivium started their powerful and fun concert at around 4:30pm setting the crowd on fire, especially the ones in the front row/section. The band’s sonority was better than the last time I saw them, partially thanks to drummer Mat Madiro: he seems to be an excellent replacement for Nick Augusto, helping the band sound more cohesive with him on drums.

A constant presence in previous editions of Nova Rock, the band seemed pretty happy to be back in Austria and, with heavy and technical songs such as Strife, Black, Through Blood and Dirt and Bone and Down from the Sky, Matt Heafy and his crew delivered what in my opinion was the second best show of the day, only behind Iron Maiden. Matt said numerous times the fans were kickin’ ass at Nova Rock, which is an absolute truth, leaving the doors open for more Trivium at future editions of the festivals, maybe one day as the main attraction (and they indeed deserve that opportunity).

Band members
Matt Heafy – lead vocals, guitars
Corey Beaulieu – guitars, backing vocals
Paolo Gregoletto – bass guitar, backing vocals
Mat Madiro – drums

ANTHRAX

IMG_1996After a short break, American Thrash Metal icons Anthrax started their energetic show at around 6pm, showing why they have their spot in the famous “Big Four”. What an amazing performance! Mixing some old mighty classics like Caught in a Mosh, Got the Time, Indians and Antisocial with songs from their latest album from 2011, Worship Music (with highlights to the fun zombie-anthem Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t), Anthrax kept a very positive energy flowing among the fans and got the recognition they deserved from everyone in the end.

Two things should be said about their performance: first of all, in regards to the band members, Joey Belladonna proved one more time why, just like Ozzy, he’s a horrible singer but an incredible frontman. The man doesn’t stop running around the stage, cheering up the fans and making the whole experience of watching Anthrax live really awesome! And Scott Ian might not be the best guitar player in the world, but he is a true Heavy Metal hero, banging his head and delivering lots of awesome heavy riffs during all songs.

And last but not least, the tribute the whole band payed to Dio (R.I.P.) and Dimebag Darrell (R.I.P.) with the banners and the song In the End, and the other tribute to Australian masters AC/DC in the form of a beautiful cover version of T.N.T., just proved how humble all members of Anthrax are and how much they love heavy music. Anthrax were not only an excellent warm-up for Iron Maiden, but a superb lesson in Thrash Metal for everybody at Nova Rock.

Band members
Joey Belladonna – lead vocals
Scott Ian – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Charlie Benante – drums, percussion
Frank Bello – bass guitar, backing vocals
Jonathan Donais – lead guitar 

AMON AMARTH

IMG_1997Then came one of the most anticipated attractions of the day for me, as I love most of their albums and it was the first time I was able to see them live, but sadly it was not as powerful as I was expecting: Swedish Melodic Death Metal warriors Amon Amarth had a very competent performance, playing some great tunes such as Father of the Wolf, Guardians of Asgaard and The Pursuit of Vikings, and Johan Hegg is becoming one of the top frontman in heavy music. However, probably due to the fatigue everyone was feeling after so many electrifying attractions that day, their concert sounded a bit tiring after a while.

I don’t know if most of the fans there were not that much into their Viking theme, but I saw lots of people simply static and some even yawning during the entire show. I would say that huge festivals are not the best place for a band like Amon Amarth, because let’s face it: singing about Vikings is not considered cool by a huge part of the society, so I’ll wait until they come to Toronto this fall during their own tour to better analyze them live. I’m pretty sure it will be a lot better than their performance at Nova Rock.

Band members
Johan Hegg – lead vocals
Olavi Mikkonen – guitar
Johan Söderberg – guitar
Ted Lundström – bass
Fredrik Andersson – drums 

IRON MAIDEN

IMG_2010And at around 9pm, guess what happened? My sixth “Maiden England” concert, which was also my second one in less than a week (and of course the second of this Maiden England Tour 2014), was once again totally awesome. Because it was a festival, which means you’ll find all types of people there and not only true Maidenmaniacs, I just felt the audience wasn’t as great as in Brno, but that doesn’t mean people didn’t go crazy with classics like Aces High, Run to the Hills, The Prisoner and The Trooper. Revelations was again one of the top moments in my opinion, and the energy people put into singing Fear of the Dark always reminds us why they keep it in the setlist even if lots of diehard fans want them to change it for something else.

I’m not sure if the band was running out of time or if they just wanted to end the show earlier to watch the World Cup match between England and Italy, but without any further explanation they simply removed Wrathchild from that night’s setlist. I bet it was because of the match, as Bruce was wearing a weird English white jumpsuit during Aces High and said a couple of times that we all had to get back to our tents to see England beat Italy 10-0. Well, I guess Mick Jagger is not the only jinx around.

Apart from that minor upset (I’m talking about Wrathchild, not about England losing to Italy, of course), all fans were able to witness another memorable performance from the most influential Heavy Metal band of all time, which was corroborated by everybody happily singing Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life when the concert was over. Now I really hope “Maiden England” is over (after three years) and they come back with a new album, because although I’m 100% passionate about all those classics, I also love when Bruce, Steve & Co. provide us some fresh compositions. Let’s hope they deliver us something as good as The Final Frontier, and that they keep on rockin’ all over the world with their unique and marvelous tours.

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass, backing vocals
Dave Murray – guitars
Adrian Smith – guitars, backing vocals
Janick Gers – guitars
Nicko McBrain – drums

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Album Review – Valknacht / Le Sacrifice D’Ymir (2014)

There are Vikings in Canada, and they play extraordinary heavy music.

Rating4

coverWhat if someone told you there’s a band from Canada that merges the extremely rich Norse mythology, constantly present in the Melodic Death Metal from Amon Amarth, with the more extreme sonority and obscure atmosphere from Black Metal in a very powerful and engaging way? Fortunately that band indeed exists: it goes by the robust name of Valknacht, and in order to make things even more unique their new album, the excellent Le Sacrifice D’Ymir, is entirely sung in Canadian French.

This Heathen Black Metal band from Quebec (or “Black Métal Païen Québecois”, as they would prefer) started back in 2005 and has already released three full-length albums: When the Might of the Storm Becomes Mine (2009), Chants de Guerre (2011), and now Le Sacrifice D’Ymir (2014), with the latest being in my opinion their strongest work so far. Moreover, although I’m not an expert in Canadian French, it’s easy to notice the presence of very interesting themes such as mythology, history and paganism in their lyrics and compositions, making the whole experience of listening to Valknacht even more enjoyable.

For instance, the name of the album, “The Sacrifice Of Ymir” in English, seems to be inspired by Ymir, father of the race of giants in Norse mythology and the grandfather of Odin, King of the Gods. “In Norse mythology, Ymir is the primordial giant and the progenitor of the race of frost giants. He was created from the melting ice of Niflheim, when it came in contact with the hot air from Muspell.”, according to the Encyclopedia Mythica. Honestly, it’s been quite a while since I saw such an original and appealing album name for the last time. But of course, not only the album name is good: each and every song from Le Sacrifice D’Ymir is a boisterous sonic storm that will please any headbanger that enjoys heavy riffs and a dense atmosphere together with an awesome lyrical content.

Le Sacrifice D’Ymir begins with the intro Normandnorum Ira, which opens the album at a high note and sounds as if it was tailored for an epic movie, followed by the perfect soundtrack for any battle La Bataille De Maldon, an excellent mix of Amon Amarth and Bathory with awesome vocals and damn heavy riffs and drums in its almost 10 minutes of awesomeness. And the Nordic battle rages on with Chants De Guerre, a Heavy Metal storm with a strong chorus that makes it one of the best of the entire album without any doubt.

valknachtThe next track, Sur Les Ruines De Rome, has a very dark and powerful atmosphere, and the addition of some folk elements (such as the flute) works really well when mixed with lead singer Thorleïf’s potent vocal range, which goes from sharp piercing vocals to totally gruesome guttural. And pay attention to the female vocals towards the end of the song, they’re pretty interesting too. Then comes what might be soon considered Valknacht’s biggest masterpiece: Le Sacrifice D’Ymir is a fast tune with an amazing intro and over 10 minutes of pure sonic massacre. It’s impossible not to love the riffs and the whole journey this song takes you through, and as soon as it’s over you’ll probably go back to listen to it again and again.

Furthermore, the epic side of the band continues to dominate their compositions in the last part of the album, with over 20 minutes of music in only three songs: De Murmures Et De Givre is more Folk and Black Metal than all other songs, albeit not as good; while Que Le Sang Constelle Mes Mains kicks off with a nice folk intro before turning into an extremely heavy song with massive riffs and drums. By the way, one interesting detail about this track are its rhythmic variations throughout the entire song, including nice acoustic passages and atmospheric keyboards. And finally we have Le Carmin Des Anges, a very Black Metal tune with an amazing riff in the beginning that remains as heavy as hell until the very end, closing the album in a very powerful way.

All band members did a wondrous job in this album, with highlights to the excellent lead singer Thorleïf and the monstrous drummer Matoleos. Not only that, the album art representing the sacrifice of Ymir is so professional and nicely done it could easily be mistaken with an actual painting at any vernissage, as even non-Heavy Metal fans would certainly appreciate it. The album is available for purchase HERE and HERE. By the way, you can also find an awesome limited edition available through the second link, which consists of a limited digipack (DVD size) hand numbered to 250 that includes the same booklet as the CD version and some extras.

To sum up, Le Sacrifice D’Ymir is a very good album that is here to prove to all of us that “la belle province” of Quebec has a lot more to offer than just smoked meat, poutine, Céline Dion and the Montreal Canadiens, and it will surely make not only the band members, but all “Québecois” metalheads and other Heavy Metal fans across the rest of Canada, very proud of their music.

Best moments of the album: La Bataille De Maldon, Chants De Guerre and Le Sacrifice D’Ymir.

Worst moments of the album: De Murmures Et De Givre.

Released in 2014 PRC Music

Track listing
1. Normandnorum Ira (Intro) 3:07
2. La Bataille De Maldon 9:32
3. Chants De Guerre 6:45
4. Sur Les Ruines De Rome 8:37
5. Le Sacrifice D’Ymir 10:07
6. De Murmures Et De Givre 7:17
7. Que Le Sang Constelle Mes Mains 7:24
8. Le Carmin Des Anges 4:56

Band members
Thorleïf – vocals
Dörv – guitars
Froidure – guitars
Siger – bass
Matoleos – drums

The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2013

Christmas is just around the corner, and it’s that time of the year where our ears are tortured by those boring old songs (unless you listen to something like this, the best Christmas song ever!), but at least our stomachs are rewarded with some delicious food and drinks. It’s time to look back and see what went right in our lives, our mistakes, and make plans for the coming year. And why not listing the best Heavy Metal and Hard Rock albums of 2013, which pretty much constituted the soundtrack of both our good and bad moments this year? Here are my top 10 albums of 2013, excluding EP’s, best of and live albums. I hope you enjoy the list!

Helloween_Straight Out of Hell1. Helloween – Straight Out of Hell
The German Power Metal masters are back with their most awesome album since The Time of the Oath.
Best song of the album: Straight Out of Hell

Chthonic-Bu-Tik2. Chthonic – Bú-Tik (REVIEW)
The best Heavy Metal band of the East delivers another superb album full of strength and creativity.
Best song of the album: Defenders of Bú-Tik Palace

TriviumVengeance3. Trivium – Vengeance Falls (REVIEW)
A brilliant lesson in heavy and fast riffs from Matt Heafy and his crew, proving why they are a reference in the world of heavy music.
Best song of the album: Brave This Storm

Outlaw_Gentlemen_&_Shady_Ladies_Album_Cover4. Volbeat – Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies
This band from beautiful Denmark takes another huge step to conquer the world of music.
Best song of the album: Dead But Rising

Serpents_Unleashed5. Skeletonwitch – Serpents Unleashed (REVIEW)
A magnificent and gruesome Thrash/Death Metal album from one of the most prominent new bands in the U.S.
Best song of the album: I Am Of Death (Hell Has Arrived)

Motörhead_Aftershock6. Motörhead – Aftershock (REVIEW)
Do you enjoy some good old Rock N’ Roll? If so, you must listen to this album.
Best song of the album: Do You Believe

Nemesis_by_Stratovarius7. Stratovarius – Nemesis
Stratovarius delivers an amazing album, their best since Timo Tolkki left the band in 2009.
Best song of the album: Halcyon Days

Amon-Amarth-Deciever-of-the-Gods8. Amon Amarth – Deceiver of the Gods
Not as unique as Surtur Rising, but still a mighty and powerful album from this Swedish Melodic Death Metal band.
Best song of the album: Father of the Wolf

Black_Dog_Barking_(Album_Cover)9. Airbourne – Black Dog Barking
As long as our mates from Down Under are alive, Rock N’ Roll will never die. Get ready to rock!
Best song of the album: Live It Up

SuperCollider10. Megadeth – Super Collider
“MegaDave” and his band return with a very interesting mix of Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Country and Folk music.
Best song of the album: Kingmaker

And here are the other albums that would make my top 20 list this year:

11. Black Sabbath – 13
12. Lordi – To Beast or Not to Beast
13. Carcass – Surgical Steel
14. Tarja – Colours in the Dark (REVIEW)
15. DevilDriver – Winter Kills (REVIEW)
16. Sepultura – The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart (REVIEW)
17. Children of Bodom – Halo of Blood
18. Six Feet Under – Unborn
19. Dream Theater – Dream Theater
20. Pink Cream 69 – Ceremonial

These are some of the new releases already announced for 2014 that deserve to be listened to, and that will most probably be reviewed on this blog:

Axel Rudi Pell – Into The Storm
Chrome Division – Infernal Rock Eternal
Iced Earth – Plagues Of Babylon
Primal Fear – Delivering The Black
Gamma Ray – Empire of the Undead
Within Temptation – Hydra
Steel Panther – All You Can Eat
Behemoth – The Satanist

And finally, maybe we’ll have brand new material from giants such as Iron Maiden, Slayer and Judas Priest, who knows? Or something new from great bands that have been “quiet” for a good period of time like Exodus, Arch Enemy, In Flames, Cannibal Corpse, Testament, The Agonist, among others. Let’s wait and see, or even better, let’s wait and LISTEN!

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2014!