Album Review – Funeral Winds / Sinister Creed (2018)

A blasphemous and extremely austere album of old school Black Metal by a cult Dutch entity, offering us all endless fury, hate, rage and scorn, all spiced up by a bit of good old black magic.

Twenty seven years after their foundation, Dutch Black Metal horde Funeral Winds are more than ready to spread darkness upon the earth with the release of their fourth full-length album, titled Sinister Creed. Definitely not a prolific band, the Rotterdam-based offspring of multi-instrumentalist Hellchrist XUL won’t offer you anything that hasn’t been there since their beginning back in 1991, those being fury, hate, rage and scorn, all spiced up by a bit of good old black magic, allowing you to summon demons while listening to this blasphemous and extremely austere album of old school Black Metal. Written and recorded between 2014 and 2017 at Necromanteion Studio, in Belgium, Sinister Creed will please all fans of the darkest forms of extreme music without a shadow of a doubt, making your hearts and souls even darker than they already are.

Do not look for any fine music craftsmanship, as Funeral Winds are devoted to master the black arts, not some hip fine tune; therefore, there is only one thing you can expect from this infernal Dutch duo, and that’s total devastation. If you are into music evolutions, new genres and refined, subtle post-production gimmicks you are very welcome to look elsewhere, as Sinister Creed is an album for those whose thirst for blood was never satisfied, whose love for the early 90’s is still alive and kicking, and whose black flame never extinguished. It might have taken over 10 years for Funeral Winds to return with new material, with their previous installment, named Nexion Xul – The Cursed Bloodline, being released in the already distant year of 2007, but the duo is back in full force to destroy the silence that took place during their hiatus with endless dosages of hellspawn Black Metal.

Sinister noises ignite the ode to darkness entitled The Road to Perdition, before Hellchrist XUL comes crushing our souls mercilessly with his demented gnarls and pulverizing riffs, giving life (or I should say death) to the song’s darkly poetic lyrics (“The angles slowly align themselves / With every step I take / on this unpaved road to perdition / A path full of rocks with sharp edges / That cut strips of flesh / with each incautious step taken”). In Cursed is this Pantheon of Flesh we’re treated to absolute chaos and devastation in the form of Black Metal, with session drummer M.Z. Inversus sounding like an unstoppable bulldozer. Furthermore, the song has a hardcore feel that only makes it more flammable and therefore more enjoyable, setting the tone for another onslaught of aggressive, old school Black Metal named The Arrival, showcasing the always demented screams by Hellchrist XUL, powerfully boosted by the song’s sick drumming, insane guitar lines and endless obscurity.

The title-track Sinister Creed maintains the album’s acidity and rage at an extremely high level, With pure sulphur flowing from all instruments, in special from its blast beats and flammable guitars which will rip your heart out in a gruesome way. Then featuring Amon XUL on guest vocals, Funeral Winds manage to get even more frantic and demented than before in Blood, a fantastic display of visceral Black Metal that’s utterly loyal to the foundations of the genre; followed by Black Moon over Saturn: featuring Hekte Zaren on guest vocals, this insane tune presents an operatic, choir-like intro to a feast of blackened sounds and roars, resulting in a beautiful blend of raw Black Metal with Doom Metal and symphonic elements.

Never slowing down, never softening their music, Funeral Winds continue their path to the underworld by offering the listener an explosion of metallic riffs and bestial drums named Seven Arrows, Knife and Flame (Sekhmet), where Hellchrist XUL sounds truly possessed on vocals (which in Black Metal is always a very positive addition to the musicality, of course). And as the closing act of such demonic album we have Nunc et in Hora Mortis Nostrae, which means “now and at the hour of our death” in English, with its over seven minutes of first-class Black Metal that will disturb your peace and exterminate your mind, also presenting some insanely dark words vociferated by Hellchrist XUL (“I have crawled from the womb of eternal darkness / Out of the void into the light I abhor / I have crawled from the womb of emptiness / Out of the abyss into this world / I am here not to please, I am here not to bring joy”), with the music flowing flawlessly until its ungodly, transcendental ending.

You can take a full, detailed listen at Sinister Creed on YouTube or on Spotify, and in case you’re already a loyal member of the dark side you can purchase the album at the Funeral Winds’ BandCamp, at the Avantgarde Music’s BandCamp or Big Cartel, at the Season of Mist webshop, at Record Shop X, on iTunes or on Amazon. Also, don’t forget to follow Funeral Winds on Facebook and to keep an eye on their YouTube channel for more music and videos by such distinct Black Metal act, and may the pitch black darkness bred by Funeral Winds in their Mephistophelian career keep haunting our souls for decades to come.

Best moments of the album: Cursed is this Pantheon of Flesh, Blood and Nunc et in Hora Mortis Nostrae.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Avantgarde Music

Track listing  
1. The Road to Perdition 4:47
2. Cursed is this Pantheon of Flesh 3:59
3. The Arrival 3:30
4. Sinister Creed 2:44
5. Blood 3:05
6. Black Moon over Saturn 5:26
7. Seven Arrows, Knife and Flame (Sekhmet) 4:27
8. Nunc et in Hora Mortis Nostrae 7:37

Band members
Hellchrist XUL – vocals, all instruments
M.Z. Inversus – drums (session)

Guest musicians
Amon XUL – additional vocals on “Blood”
Hekte Zaren – additional vocals on ‘Black Moon over Saturn”

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Concert Review – Blaze Bayley (The Rockpile, Toronto, ON, 08/19/2017)

A journey through the past, present and future in the career of the unstoppable Blaze Bayley in the form of first-class Heavy Metal for his diehard fans in Toronto.

OPENING ACT: Cadillac Blood

I’ll never understand why people who call themselves diehard metalheads would miss a chance to attend a top-notch Heavy Metal concert like what we had this Saturday at the really nice venue The Rockpile, which despite being usually referred as located in Toronto, technically speaking it’s in Etobicoke, an administrative district and former city that makes up the western part of the city of Toronto, around 18km from downtown. The weather was perfect, the beer was nice and cold, the food was great and all prices were very, very reasonable (including the ticket price). And those so-called fans of heavy music keep complaining on Facebook, Twitter etc. that metal doesn’t have the proper support and all those shenanigans. How about instead of just typing, you get up from that couch, head to a place like The Rockpile and support underground metal?

If you do that, perhaps you’ll face an electrifying band like the young and restless thrashers from CADILLAC BLOOD, a completely independent act from Keswick, Ontario, located 70km north of Toronto. Blending elements from Thrash Metal, Punk Rock and Rock N’ Roll in their music, and being clearly inspired by bands such as Volbeat (by the way, the band’s name comes from Volbeat’s classic album Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood if you haven’t noticed yet), Metallica, Motörhead and Anthrax, the quartet comprised of Luke Morrell on vocals, Tyler Morrell on guitar, Sean Murphy on bass and Dean Fraser on drums delivered an excellent warmup to the fans that were there for Blaze Bayley, being extremely professional and excited from start to finish, in special Luke who didn’t stop jumping and headbanging for a single second while singing at the same time. Unfortunately I don’t have their full setlist, but you can go to their BandCamp page and check out songs like Crow’s Nest and Devil’s Brew, both played by the band on Saturday.

Band members
Luke Morrell – vocals
Tyler Morrell – guitar
Sean Murphy – bass
Dean Fraser – drums

BLAZE BAYLEY

When it was time for the unstoppable BLAZE BAYLEY to hit the stage with his Endure and Survive World Tour 2017, at around 10:30pm, The Rockpile was not even half full, maybe due to lack of better promotion or because the pub was a bit far for fans who rely on public transportation to move around, but I think those are just excuses for our society’s growing laziness to do anything that’s not online. Blaze deserved a much bigger crowd (he even joked it was his fault, as he asked that only true metalheads attended his concert), as he’s been doing superior music being totally independent, with very little support from anyone but himself and his bandmates. His music is powerful and vibrant, his lyrics are poetic and meaningful, and his energy on stage is simply fantastic. What else do you need in a metal concert?

Anyway, the brave fans who were at The Rockpile had the absolute pleasure of witnessing an amazing performance by Blaze and his amazing band formed by the talented Chris Appleton on guitars and backing vocals, Karl Schramm on bass and backing vocals, and Martin McNee on drums, who are not only the guys who recorded the first two parts of the kick-ass Infinite Entanglement trilogy with Blaze, the 2016 album Infinite Entanglement and the 2017 follow-up Endure And Survive (Infinite Entanglement Part II), but who are also three quarters of British Heavy Metal act Absolva, a great underground band highly recommended for lovers of old school metal music.

When Blaze was in Toronto for the last time, at the now defunct Hard Rock Café in 2014, he was supported by a Canadian Iron Maiden cover group named Maiden Quebec, and although they were a very good band, Blaze’s performance was somewhat hampered by their lack of chemistry. Fortunately for the fans at The Rockpile this Saturday, Blaze and the guys from Absolva were in perfect sync, a reflection of their years working together, delivering to the crowd a top-notch setlist encompassing the best of Blaze’s past, present, and even future (if you think of Infinite Entanglement as an evolving project), playing simply the best songs from Wolfsbane, Iron Maiden and his unparalleled solo career. From the very first notes of the inspiring Endure and Survive, to the speed and violence of Blood, Dark Energy 256 and Man on the Edge (see his intro video to this all-time classic HERE), and the epicness of The Clansman, their performance was flawless.

As I mentioned before, Blaze is a metal poet, and there was always a reason for a song to be inserted in his setlist, always bringing a powerful message to the fans who were singing along all lyrics with Blaze. For instance, his speech about how we all fail and how we all must stand up from our failures and fight our fears again and again in Fight Back, from his latest album, only shows how much he loves what he does and how much he’s passionate about Heavy Metal, as well as how he said us fans are his “home” in the emotional Calling You Home. Of course there was also room for lighter topics, like when he explained the origins of Wolfsbane and how we all would feel “sexier” after screaming the words “man hunt” during Wolfsbane’s biggest hit Man Hunt. By the way, the “duel” between Blaze and the rest of the band during this song was awesome, with Chris and Karl stealing the show with their refined techniques. Blaze made sure he acknowledged the undeniable talent of Chris not only as a guitarist, but also as a songwriter and producer, something we can easily see through his work with both Absolva and Blaze Bayley.

After the last song of the setlist, A Thousand Years (my favorite track from Infinite Entanglement), Blaze and the guys stayed at the venue for a free autograph and photo session with their fans, not charging a single penny as most band do nowadays with their “meet & greet experiences”, as a sign of his respect and admiration for us, supporters of independent music. All band members were very nice and courteous with everyone, talking about their tour across Canada and the US, their plans for the future and other topics. And all true metal fans who attended the concert on Saturday went back home with a huge smile on their faces, something that happens every single time you see a concert by the metal warrior Blaze Bayley. As simple as that.

Setlist
Endure and Survive
Escape Velocity
Futureal
Blood
Silicon Messiah
Fight Back
Virus
Calling You Home
Stare at the Sun
The Clansman
Man Hunt
Man on the Edge
Dark Energy 256
Lord of the Flies
A Thousand Years

Band members
Blaze Bayley – vocals
Chris Appleton – guitars, backing vocals
Karl Schramm – bass, backing vocals
Martin McNee – drums

Album Review – Blaze Bayley / Endure And Survive (Infinite Entanglement Part II) (2017)

The indomitable Blaze Bayley returns with the second installment of Infinite Entanglement, his most ambitious project to date, this time offering an action-packed album bursting with anger, passion and mystery.

Less than one year after the release of the gripping Infinite Entanglement, the indomitable Blaze Bayley returns with the also astounding Endure And Survive, the second part of his most ambitious project, a Sci-Fi trilogy about Mr. William Christopher Black, a man who doesn’t know if he’s a man or a machine on a futuristic mission to discover one of the new Kepler planets. After the dark and climatic ending of the first part, I’m sure all fans of the Heavy Metal crafted by Blaze (including myself, of course) have been waiting anxiously for the next chapter in the eccentric journey of our mysterious main character, and Endure And Survive offer us all that and more in a brilliant way.

Once again accompanied by the talented Chris Appleton (guitar), Karl Schramm (bass) and Martin McNee (drums), all from British Heavy Metal band Absolva, plus many other very special guests such as Anne Bakker (violin) and Thomas Zwijsen (acoustic guitars), Blaze continues to tell the story of William Black magnificently, with a lot of poetry in his lyrics and, as usual, endless passion and energy in his vocals. The album’s futuristic artwork, designed once again by Andreas Sandberg with additional images from Christopher Steenstrup (who is also working on a Blaze Bayley video game), builds an instant connection with part one, showing how focused Blaze was on providing his loyal fans the most cohesive and exciting story possible.

Shall we begin? That’s precisely how the powerful title-track Endure and Survive starts, exactly where the first part ended, with the music itself continuing to be heavy, melodic and thrilling. In my humble opinion, Blaze found in Chris the perfect guitarist for his vocals as we can see in this epic tune, not to mention the song’s inspiring chorus and the amazing narrations, effectively taking us to the Sci-Fi world created by Blaze. In Escape Velocity, the story goes on at the speed of light, with Chris, Karl and Martin crafting electrifying music full of exciting solos and fast beats, while Blaze canalizes all his passion for metal and science fiction into his potent vocals, resulting in another classic song that I can’t wait to see him performing live. And after a dark intro we’re treated to the best musicality Blaze and his bandmates can offer, titled Blood, a high-speed furious Heavy Metal hymn absolutely perfect for the song’s aggressive lyrics, with Chris being simply insane with his riffs. Furthermore, a man and a woman explain who William Black really is, a murderer with blood on his hands according to them. Is that really the truth? Well, I don’t know the answer, at least not yet, but I know this song kicks some serious ass.

A pensive and anguished William is the centerpiece of the dark composition Eating Lies, showcasing all the talent of Blaze as a storyteller, as you can feel all the inner suffering from the story’s main character due to the lies being told about him through his vocals; followed by Destroyer, presenting that traditional sonority by Blaze seen in pretty much all his albums. In other words, it’s a very cohesive and rhythmic song about the “destroyer of worlds”, with the classic beats by Martin and the soulful riffs and solos by Chris supporting another excellent performance by Blaze. Then we have the epic Dawn of the Dead Son, where a woman with a suave voice seems to be talking inside William’s mind, with the music being a mix of his years with Iron Maiden with his contemporary material, displaying a galloping rhythm and blazing guitars. Each and every song has a reason to exist and this one is no exception to that, taking the listener once again on a dangerous but exciting journey before a serene ambience takes place in the stunning acoustic chant Remember. This troubadour-inspired folk version of Blaze is simply superb, being more melodic and romantic than “What Will Come” from part one, with Blaze flawlessly declaiming the song’s lyrics. Needless to say, his partnership with Thomas and Anne couldn’t sound more in sync, with the song’s female backing vocals also being a thing of beauty.

Returning to a more classic musicality, Fight Back is a song that would have already been amazing on its own in any of Blaze’s old albums, but that in Endure And Survive also plays an important part in the storyline, with Karl and Martin adding tons of heaviness to the music, therefore making it easier for Blaze to effectively deliver his potent vocals. Exhibiting hints of the classic Doom Metal played by Black Sabbath and some songs by Dio in his solo career, in special his biggest hit Holy Diver, the stunning The World Is Turning the Wrong Way brings forward a sensational aura and a profound, catchy chorus, with Chris’ guitar sounding heavier than hell, absolutely in line with all the darkness and agony found in the song’s lyrics. And finally, we have Together We Can Move the Sun, the most introspective and passionate of all songs, with Blaze’s strong voice being flawlessly complemented by the female vocal parts. Blaze and his crew offer us all eight minutes of a touching ballad, showcasing classy guitar lines, inspiring lyrics and an enigmatic (and extremely climatic) conclusion, building a sensational expectation for the third and final installment of the story of William Black, and in the end we all understand what has to happen in part three. William Black must… DIE!

Despite being avid for the conclusion of Blaze’s futuristic adventure, I’m more than happy to wait for it listening to both Infinite Entanglement and Endure And Survive in a row, savoring each and every line declaimed by the Messiah in those two albums. His official Facebook page is probably the best place to keep updated with all advancements in the recording of the next album and to know when he’ll be crushing your city with his amazing metal, and in order to put your hands on the second part of this kick-ass trilogy simply visit his official webstore, iTunes, Amazon or Discogs. Only Blaze knows the destiny of the dauntless voyager William Christopher Black, if he will live or die, or even if his entire life was real, and that marvelous uncertainty created by Blaze is the main ingredient that makes Endure And Survive (as well as Infinite Entanglement) stand out beautifully in contemporary heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Endure and Survive, Blood, Remember, The World Is Turning the Wrong Way and Together We Can Move the Sun.

Worst moments of the album: None. The whole album is awesome.

Released in 2017 Blaze Bayley Recordings

Track listing
1. Endure and Survive 4:27
2. Escape Velocity 3:27
3. Blood 4:41
4. Eating Lies 4:48
5. Destroyer 4:30
6. Dawn of the Dead Son 5:19
7. Remember 3:58
8. Fight Back 3:25
9. The World Is Turning the Wrong Way 4:35
10. Together We Can Move the Sun 8:14

Band members
Blaze Bayley – vocals
Chris Appleton – guitars, backing vocals
Karl Schramm – bass, backing vocals
Martin McNee – drums

Guest musicians
Corvin Bahn – accordion
Anne Bakker – violin, backing vocals
Thomas Zwijsen – acoustic guitars
Liz Owen, Melissa Adams, Joanne Kay Robinson & Luke Appleton – backing vocals
Michelle Sciarrotta – backing vocals, acoustic guitars, narration
Rob Toogood – backing vocals, narration
Aine Brewer – narration

Album Review – Selene / The Forgotten (2015)

These amazing Northern Irish metallers continue their symphonic path to stardom with their delightful and elaborate debut full-length album.

Rating4

Selene - The ForgottenJust like thousands of other fans of Symphonic Power Metal (and good music in general) from all over the world, I’m glad to see it didn’t take too long for Northern Irish metallers Selene to come back in action with the release of their first full-length album, entitled The Forgotten. It’s always a pleasure to witness the evolution and success of a hardworking band such as Selene, who translate all their passion for heavy music into ravishing tunes tailored for admirers of the combination of heartwarming female vocals and intricate riffs, accompanied by a unique symphonic aura in the background.

Formed in Northern Ireland in 2013, Selene released their debut EP named Among the Frozen in 2013, and more recently another EP entitled Paradise Over, in 2014, which I had the pleasure of reviewing as you can check by clicking HERE. By the way, on its first week of release, Paradise Over became the 3rd best selling metal release worldwide on BandCamp, and has since been featured heavily on a number of radio stations worldwide (including our friends from The Metal Moose Radio). However, it’s now with The Forgotten that these talented musicians are truly shaping up their style, adding layers of complexity and creativity to their already solid music for an even more consistent result.

The opening track, Dorian, is undoubtedly an excellent start to the album, showcasing all the skills of the musicians involved.  The great performance by Shonagh Lyons in this song is enhanced by the atmosphere created by the rest of the band, with highlights to the powerful keyboards by guitarist/keyboardist John Connor. Paradise Over is the first of the three songs from their 2014 EP to feature on the album, being once again one of the best songs in my opinion, and the same words I used in the review to the EP are still valid. And Never-Ending Silence is a gentle and passionate heavy ballad where Shonagh takes the spotlight with her smooth vocals, never exaggerating on her tone or emotions while John provides his classic guitar lines full of feeling, not to mention the song’s beautiful chorus.

But that’s just the beginning of The Forgotten, as there’s still a lot more symphony and electricity to come as in the melodic Not Enough, another track from their 2014 EP where it’s impossible not to get touched by its warmness, followed by Fade Away, the last of the “old” EP songs and a potent chant for fans of Symphonic Metal with drummer Cameron Åhslund-Glass simply kicking some serious ass. Sweetest Dreams, a lovely ballad full of passion and melancholy, offers the listener beautiful piano passages, intense guitar lines and the always gentle vocals by the pretty Shonagh; while Blind presents a strong influence from bands such as Nightwish and Within Temptation, being considerably faster and more melodic than all previous tracks and flirting with modern Hard Rock with the addition of symphonic elements. It’s indeed very exciting from start to finish, yet again displaying a catchy chorus for all of us to sing along with the band.

Selene_1In Our Story, a nimble and heavy intro expands into a blend of symphony and speed, with the duo John/Cameron doing a superb job with their riffs and beats in total sync. And the band’s characteristic keyboards and heavy riffs keep penetrating our souls in Blood, an amazing composition by John and his crew where not only its rhythm is exciting, but also its guitar solos and vocal lines help turn it into one of the best of all songs in the entire album (if not the best one). Then we have Memories, the most “medieval” tune in The Forgotten, sounding like a chant to be sung while prancing around the fire pit due to all the Celtic and Scandinavian elements added to the musicality, and finally Piano Black, their boldest composition to date with almost 10 minutes of pure Symphonic Metal, featuring all those classic background effects, a choir, heavy riffs and vigorous beats, until its last part fades away into melancholy. In addition, Shonagh’s performance is beyond pleasant in this epic tune, proving why she was chosen by John to be the voice of Selene.

To sum up, The Forgotten lives up to all the complexity and excitement found in traditional Symphonic Metal, and it will surely feature among the top metal albums on BandCamp and anywhere else where honest music is appreciated, just like what happened with Paradise Over. You can get more details about Selene at their Facebook page, listen to their music at their YouTube channel, and above all, purchase The Forgotten at their BandCamp page. And when you’re there, pay some good attention as there are a few different versions of the album available such as the awesome Special Edition Digipak, which comes along with a digital download code for 23 (twenty-three!) bonus tracks, including an instrumental version of the whole album, orchestral versions of 9 tracks and also 3 tracks re-recorded from their 2013 EP Among the Frozen. What else can you ask for, Mr. or Ms. Symphonic Metal?

Best moments of the album: Paradise Over, Never-Ending Silence and Blood.

Worst moments of the album: Our Story.

Released in 2015 Independent

Track listing
1. Dorian 4:54
2. Paradise Over 3:31
3. Never-Ending Silence 3:50
4. Not Enough 5:03
5. Fade Away 5:04
6. Sweetest Dreams 3:56
7. Blind 4:21
8. Our Story 4:43
9. Blood 4:15
10. Memories 4:30
11. Piano Black 9:30

Band members
Shonagh Lyons – vocals
John Connor – guitar, keyboards
Thomas Alford – bass
Cameron Åhslund-Glass – drums