Album Review – Aephanemer / Prokopton (2019)

Blending the fury and harmony of Scandinavian metal with symphonic elements, here comes a French Melodic Death Metal unity ready to show the world what they got with their sophomore album.

If you’re a fan of modern-day Melodic Death Metal the likes of Arch Enemy, The Agonist, In Flames and Soilwork, I’m sure you’ll love the music found in Prokopton, the sophomore full-length album by French metallers Aephanemer. Blending the fury and harmony of the traditional Scandinavian sound from the Gothenburg scene with several distinct symphonic and epic elements, this talented French four-piece army will captivate your senses with the potency, speed and intricacy found in each one of the eight tracks of their brand new opus, positioning them as one of the most interesting and promising names not only of the current metal scene in their homeland France, but anywhere else in the world where the modernity and specially the intensity of Melodic Death Metal are truly appreciated.

Formed in 2013 in Toulouse, capital of France’s southern Occitanie region, as a one-man band by guitarist Martin Hamiche to release six instrumental pieces inspired by his Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal heroes (with the 2014 EP Know Thyself being forged of those six songs), Aephanemer, which is the merger of the French words “éphémère” (ephemeral) and “fânée” (folded), have been making a name for themselves since becoming a full-bodied group in 2015 when vocalist and guitarist Marion Bascoul, bassist Anthony Delmas (replaced by Lucie Woaye Hune in 2017) and drummer Mickaël Bonnevialle joined Martin in his quest for heavy music. Featuring a classy artwork by Niklas Sundin (Cabin Fever Media), mixed by Dan Swanö (Unisound AB) and mastered by Mika Jussila (Finnvox Studios), Prokopton is an amalgamation of everything the band stands for and what we can expect from them in the future, sounding as exciting as it can be from start to finish.

An epic, Arch Enemy-inspired intro morphs into a more symphonic version of Melodic Death Metal led by Martin’s razor-edged riffs and Marion’s demonic roars in the title-track Prokopton, flowing flawlessly like an arrow high in the sky until its grand finale; whereas  background orchestrations set the tone for the also inspiring The Sovereign, where Mickaël dictates the rhythm with his precise beats while Marion, Martin and Lucie offer the listener a feast of flammable sounds. Epicness keeps flowing from their music in Dissonance Within, another dense, multi-layered composition bringing the best elements from Symphonic and Melodic Death Metal where Marion growls its rebellious lyrics like a she-demon (“Time to fight, no backing down / For I will have no rest until my skill prevails / Disembodied, a whistling sound / The singing of my blade ravages the plain”), and flirting with Symphonic Black Metal at times, Snowblind is a fun headbanging extravaganza with highlights to the pounding drums by Mickaël and another thunderous performance by Marion on vocals, not to mention the song’s majestic atmosphere.

At Eternity’s Gate is an instrumental bridge the likes of Gamma Ray and Arch Enemy that sets the stage for the thrilling Back Again, perfect for slamming into the pit and enjoying a cold pint of beer while the quartet crushes our heads with their instruments, with the band’s stringed trio being in absolute (and totally awesome) sync. In the very progressive, intricate and exciting Bloodline, Marion takes the lead with her Black Metal-like gnarls while the rest of the crew doesn’t let the electricity go down, firing stunning guitar riffs and solos, thunderous bass punches and smashing beats. And last but not least, in the dark and imposing If I Should Die poetry flows majestically form its lyrics (“Maybe it is going to take me nowhere / But I reckon not having to go anywhere / I don’t keep any illusion to hold dear / I just need to be ready to disappear / Void comes from the self alone / Fear from what we believe we own / Stoics across time give an advice / May death be daily before our eyes”) while all band members showcase their refined skills, resulting in a hybrid of a metal opera with the devastation of extreme music.

In a nutshell, Aephanemer are ready to take you on a fun and thrilling music journey through the realms of contemporary Melodic Death Metal with Prokopton, and all you have to do to join them is following the band on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and obviously purchase their new album directly from their BandCamp page or from iTunes or Amazon, where by the way the album comes with instrumental versions for each and every song as a beyond special bonus from the band to you. Mr. Martin Hamiche had a dream when he started Aephanemer, and now based on the high quality of the music found in Prokopton we can say without a shadow of a doubt that dreams not only do come true, but sometimes they also kick some serious ass for our total delectation.

Best moments of the album: The Sovereign, Dissonance Within and Bloodline.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Primeval Records

Track listing
1. Prokopton 5:13
2. The Sovereign 5:17
3. Dissonance Within 6:12
4. Snowblind 4:24
5. At Eternity’s Gate 2:55
6. Back Again 5:50
7. Bloodline 5:29
8. If I Should Die 9:08

Band members
Marion Bascoul – vocals, rhythm guitar
Martin Hamiche – lead guitar
Lucie Woaye-Hune – bass
Mickaël Bonnevialle – drums

Advertisements

Metal Chick of the Month – Mayara “Undead” Puertas

Sanity… What about Insanity…

Can you hear those demonic gnarls coming from Brazil, sounding like the putrid screams of an undead woman rising from her grave? That’s the powerful and mesmerizing guttural voice by our metallic girl this month, the talented Brazilian growler Mayara “Undead” Puertas, born Mayara Puertas and also known as May “Undead” Puertas or even May Undead, frontwoman of the iconic old school Brazilian Thrash/Death Metal band Torture Squad, and a woman that loves heavy music from the bottom of her blackened heart above all things. If this is the first time you’re getting to know the work by Mayara, you better be ready as the “Undead” is more than ready to kick your ass with her devilish growls and fiery onstage attitude (and I’m sure you’ll get addicted to the music by Torture Squad after that).

Born on March 16, 1993 in a region known as ABC Paulista, an industrial region located in the Greater São Paulo, Brazil, Mayara Puertas has always been connected to some sort of musical art since she was little, singing popular songs and playing the piano, guitar and electric guitar, always encouraged by her family and by studying old music books owned by her father, covering songs from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Secos e Molhados (an innovative Brazilian band formed in the beginning of the 70’s) and Kansas, for example. She never took any formal lessons to learn how to sing and to play those instruments, as she preferred learning everything by herself as a good self-taught musician that she is, adding her passion for music and her personal touch to shape her own style.

When she was around 12 or 13 years old, she already nurtured a strong interest for rock music, until a good friend of hers introduced her to Heavy Metal, bringing all his albums to her home where she could make copies of all of them. She instantly fell in love for bands like Iron Maiden, Manowar, Iced Earth, Blind Guardian, Hammerfall and Brazilian Celtic Metal band Tuatha de Danann, which as you can see have little to do with her singing style. Her curiosity and connection to heavy music only grew stronger and stronger in the coming years when she began searching for different bands and genres, including more brutal types of metal, finally finding in Thrash and Death Metal her true passion. Mayara then started to dedicate herself to learn more aggressive vocal techniques inspired by Extreme Metal titans such as Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Hypocrisy and Overkill, with some of her biggest influences being David Vincent (Morbid Angel), George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher (Cannibal Corpse), Rachel Heyzer (Infinited Hate, Occult, Sinister), Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, Pain), Sabina Classen (Holy Moses) and Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth (Overkill), a distinct selection of unique voices.

It was in 2013 when Mayara joined her first official band, Brazilian Death Metal act Necromesis, not only as a singer but by also recording some piano and acoustic guitars. As the screaming frontwoman of Necromesis, the “Undead” recorded the EP Echoes of a Memory in 2014 (which you can listen to in its entirety HERE) and the full-length album The Poet’s Paradox in 2015. You can enjoy Mayara’s beastly growling with Necromesis penetrating your ears in crushing songs such as Indifferent Echoes of Sensitivity and Desocial Inclusion, as well as this live version of the song Unlives as Undeads at a special event called I Domingo Metal BR in 2014 in São Paulo, Brazil. Her time with Necromesis also allowed her to tour several Brazilian cities, including a tour with American bands Master and Vital Remains, and being named one of the greatest Extreme Metal singers of the year of 2014.

In October 2015, after talking with Fernanda Lira (lead singer and bassist of the badass Brazilian Thrash Metal power trio Nervosa), Mayara was told she had been referred to be the vocalist of an important Brazilian Death Metal band, but she didn’t know exactly which one then. After a few weeks, she was contacted by Amílcar Christófaro, longtime drummer of Torture Squad, to officially join the band. That was a big surprise for Mayara, as she had always admired the work by those guys, following their career and attending their live concerts, and she knew it was going to be a great honor and an even greater responsibility to replace the iconic Vitor Rodrigues on vocals, who left the band in April 2012 to pursue new musical experiences. The other band members provided her all the necessary support for her to thrive as their new singer, making her confident enough to accept the challenge and add her touch of aggressiveness, electricity and passion to their always high-octane music, showing how professional and dedicated Torture Squad are, and how loyal they’ve always been to heavy music. Of course it wasn’t easy for her to adapt to her new life at first, as she had to rehearse with the band almost everyday, she had to quit her job and move to a new city, but all that extra effort was worth it thanks to the amazing receptivity she always gets from the diehard fans of the band, enjoying her live performances of old school Torture Squad songs as well as their new tunes already with her on vocals.

Mayara recorded her first official release with torture Squad in 2016, the EP titled Return of Evil, comprised of four unrelenting, original tracks (Return of Evil, Swallow Your Reality, Dreadful Lies and Iron Squad). If you want to know more about how the first Torture Squad album with Mayara on vocals came to life, I highly recommend you watch the online documentary named Behind the Evil, filmed in December 2015 during the recordings of Return of Evil at Na Cena Studios. Another amazing video online showcasing all the vocal potency by Mayara with the band, singing some of the band’s classics like Pull The Trigger and Mad Illusions, as well as an interview piece, can be seen HERE. After watching such powerful performance by Mayara, you’ll understand why her nickname is “Undead”, given to her by Amilcar during their first rehearsals due to the fact her growls sounded like the screams of an undead woman rising from her grave. She even said that became her “alter ego”, which she lets dominate her body and soul when she’s on stage performing.

In regards to touring with Torture Squad, a band that’s always doing extensive tours all over Brazil and also in Europe, Mayara said that when you’re on the road you have to get used to the fact that your house will be a van. There’s very little time to sleep, eat and take care of yourself, which means the band as a whole has to learn how to live in a harmonious way to make things work during the tours. She also said that her biggest concern is with her voice as there are many shows to do each tour, and she takes care of it by drinking lots of water and having fun with moderation. Also, our screaming metaller said that, despite the lack of time, she enjoys knowing a little more about the places where she plays with the band, most of which she would never have been able to visit if she wasn’t with torture Squad. Mayara is also the youngest member of the band; for instance, she wasn’t even born when the band started, but that doesn’t mean the difference in age is a barrier to her relationship with the other members of the band. She said their passion for metal unites them, helping them become a big metallic family, as well as the fact that she’s using her time with them to learn as much as possible from their expertise in the world of heavy music.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you prefer some action instead of all these never-ending words, you can find online a lot of high-quality footage of Mayara growling like a rabid beast as the frontwoman of Torture Squad, as you can see in the songs Inner Strength, and Black Sabbath’s classic Symptom of the Universe (with changed instruments); this series of videos recorded at the traditional Clash Club in São Paulo, Brazil, on February 27, 2016, where the band played, among others, the songs Living for the Kill/ Chaos Corporation, The Unholy Spell, and Horror and Torture/Pandemonium; or this amazingly done footage of Torture Squad kicking ass at De Verlichte Geest, in Roeselare, Belgium. You can also enjoy some online interviews with Mayara (if, of course, you understand Portuguese), as for example when they played at Tocandira Ritual Fest II in Macapá, a province located in the North of Brazil, in 2016; and her chat with the YouTube channel For headS for their Metal Live Drops programme, where she talks a little about how she became the lead singer for Torture Squad.

There’s already a brand new song online with Mayara on vocals, which is actually Torture Squad’s cover version of Motörhead’s high-octane classic Overkill that will be feature on a Brazilian tribute named “Going To Brazil… The Brazilian Tribute To Motörhead”, featuring several renowned Brazilian bands such as Nervochaos, Voodoopriest, Genocídio, Ratos de Porão, Claustrofobia and Hatefulmurder, among others, to be released later this year by British label Secret Service Records. And the wait for more Torture Squad with Mayara on vocals won’t be long, as the band has already announced they’ll release in July this year their eight studio album, titled Far Beyond Existence, containing ten ruthless songs with the “Undead” gnarling manically as their frontwoman. As the band has been updating their official Facebook page with videos and other details about the recordings of the new album, I highly recommend you like and follow them HERE to avoid missing anything.

As any modern musician, Mayara already lent her potent voice to some interesting bands and projects away from the Torture Squad world. For instance, she recorded additional vocals for the 2015 album Afterlife in Darkness, by Brazilian Death Metal band Depressed, and guest vocals for the song Time Enough at Last from the 2017 album Red Eyes, by Brazilian Thrash/Death Metal band Hatefulmurder. In addition to that, Mayara also recorded in 2015 a cover version of Bathory’s Man of Iron with Bathory Brazilian Tribute, and began working with bassist Patricia Schlithler (Hellarise, Harppia) in an Extreme Metal project named Gorgona (which I couldn’t find any additional details about online).

Despite the fact that our society is still extremely sexist, when asked about the increasing influence of women in heavy music Mayara said that although she has already experienced a few awkward situations in her life she still believes Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll are the two types of music that foster creativity and freedom of speech, therefore providing more room for women to grow and to be more and more respected by everyone. She mentioned she always receives a lot of positive feedback from both men and women, even inspiring fathers to take their daughters to Torture Squad concerts to show them they can be whatever they want in life, which is obviously a great thing not only for Mayara but for heavy music in general.

She was also asked about the feeling of being on stage with the band, singing in front of hundreds or thousands of crazy fans everywhere they go, and if there’s a big difference between fans in Brazil and in Europe. Mayara said the main difference is that, in Europe, you can see several distinct tribes mixed in the crowd, such as diehard fans of Punk Rock and Death Metal together, which in the end was excellent for her as she could connect to people with complete different tastes and opinions than hers, and that she wished that could also be a reality in Brazil, where the heavy music tribes are a lot more distant from each other. However, in terms of receptivity and electricity, she said both Brazilian and European headbangers are absolutely amazing and have a very good time during their shows.

Mayara is not only an extremely talented growler, but she’s also an entrepreneur, being the owner of an online store named Bloodline, specialized in custom clothing and accessories. She said she opened the store during a very difficult time of her life, when she was unemployed and needed to find an alternative source of income. If you want to know more about Bloodline, check their official website or Facebook page and, who knows, you might find something fancy that suits your style. In addition, she also works as a costume consultant for a company called Loud Factory, an audio and video producer focused on Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll. And that’s all about the talented Mayara, a woman that never gets tired of her “eat, sleep, scream like a beast, repeat” routine.

Mayara “Undead” Puertas’ Official Facebook page
Mayara “Undead” Puertas’ Official YouTube channel
Mayara “Undead” Puertas’ Official Instagram
Torture Squad’s Official Facebook page
Torture Squad’s Official YouTube channel
Torture Squad’s Official Twitter

Album Review – Festering / From The Grave (2015)

These undead Portuguese metallers are back from the grave to tear our flesh apart and provide us some high-quality old school Death Metal.

Rating5

Festering-FrontCover_smallJust like any gory and macabre zombie flick, there are times in our lives when people or things that we thought were dead and gone for good make an impactful return to feast on our flesh and haunt our souls. If you’re addicted to sordid old school Death Metal the likes of Dismember, Entombed and Grave, you won’t mind being devoured by the undead Portuguese Death Metal band Festering who, as per the name of their brand new album, are back From The Grave to tear all of us apart.

After releasing a split album back in 1992 and remaining dormant for almost two decades, this talented band from Santo António dos Cavaleiros, Portugal was reformed in 2011, releasing a demo tape entitled From The Grave and an EP named Exhumed, both in 2012. Now in 2015, following the same gruesome path of those releases, their debut full-length album From The Grave, which features cover illustration and artworks by renowned artist César Valladares (Asphyx, Nominon, Graveyard, among many others), will provide the listener a full-bodied portrait of what these cold-blooded Portuguese metallers are capable of.

The quick and sinister intro Festering initiates the sonic cannibalism that becomes extremely barbaric in Exhumed, an old school Death Metal song with absolutely no shenanigans, just straightforward devastation where riffs and growls take the spotlight (as expected), also showcasing drums highly influenced by the blast beats of Black Metal but slightly groovier. Following that promising start, we have the perverse Infected and its hints of Doom Metal, with the bestial vocals by Pedro Gonçalves inspired by old Sepultura and Morbid Angel. It’s a great song for headbanging led by its wicked riffs, where the band accelerates the rhythm, slows it down and goes on with that alternation a few more times, reaching an outstanding result in the end.

The Myth Of Creation can be considered a circle-pit generator chant, with drummer Norberto Arrais kicking ass behind his kit while the guitar lines by João Galego seem as if they’re going to decapitate us so sharp they are, not to mention the aggressiveness of the low-tuned bass lines by Koja Mutilator. And if you think Festering will give you a break you’re damn wrong, because they keep kicking you in the head with their nonstop viciousness in Consuming From Within, a very traditional tune with lots of groove, feeling sometimes like a tribute to Cannibal Corpse and other classic gory bands due to its lyrics (“Open sores all over my body and exuding a foul scent / With an intense suffering, the anguish spend my days / With the excruciating pain that runs through my body / And wanton my flesh like a cold steel blade”); followed by the “infected” musicality and dirty melody found in Submerged In Emptiness, with highlights to the rhythmic beats by Norberto. This tune lives up to the sanguinary tradition of Death Metal, or in other words, it’s fast, heavy and wicked, and we love all that.

Promo-PictureThe next track, Bloodline, has a deranged ambience boosted by the demented deep growls by Pedro, with its hardcore riffs and extreme violence being the icing on the cake of this sensational feast of blood and death that should work marvelously if played live. Moreover, kudos to João for his spot-on guitar solo, adding more electricity to the overall result. In the Blackened Doom Metal tune Proliferation Of Infected Leucocytes their demonic side arises, and if you pay good attention to the music you’ll find hints of Rock N’ Roll and Southern Metal in it, increasing its complexity and harmony but obviously always keeping it carnivorous. Lastly, closing the album we have the slashing Ascent Of The Blessed, where the combination of its direct shredding and high-speed drums turns it into an excellent option for mosh pits, with Pedro once again delivering his amazing sick roars to give life (or death) to the song’s lyrics (“The angels all ascended, / The demons left behind / A new generation was born / From their hatred and cruelty – We”), and the shortest of all tracks, Psychic Convulsions Of Neurasthenia, a beautiful name for a violent composition with highlights to the evil bass lines by Koja.

There are several places where you can find more details about the music by Festering, such as their YouTube channel and especially at their ReverbNation page, and grab your copy of From The Grave at the band’s BandCamp, at the Caverna Abismal Records BandCamp, or at the Caverna Abismal Records webstore. As aforementioned, these talented (and undead) metallers are back from the grave not only to tear our flesh apart but, more important than that, to also provide us all high-quality old school Death Metal. But that’s if you’re not afraid of living dead musicians, of course.

Best moments of the album: Infected, Submerged In Emptiness and Bloodline.

Worst moments of the album: Proliferation Of Infected Leucocytes.

Released in 2015 Caverna Abismal Records/War Productions/Sinais Produções

Track listing
1. Festering (Intro) 0:23
2. Exhumed 3:15
3. Infected 4:36
4. The Myth Of Creation 4:15
5. Consuming From Within 4:21
6. Submerged In Emptiness 4:36
7. Bloodline 4:13
8. Proliferation Of Infected Leucocytes 3:36
9. Ascent Of The Blessed 5:21
10. Psychic Convulsions Of Neurasthenia 2:53

Band members
Pedro Gonçalves – vocals
João Galego – guitars
Koja Mutilator – bass
Norberto Arrais – drums

Album Review – Slayer / God Hates Us All (2001)

It’s heavy, fast, furious, controversial, violent, and more important than that, it’s Slayer.

Rating3

Slayer-GodHatesUsAllAs Thrash Metal titans Slayer will be performing live here in Toronto on November 21, I decided to write some posts dedicated to them, one of my top bands of all time together with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. The first one is about an album that might not be as classic as Reign In Blood or South of Heaven, but it is for sure one of their most badass records to date, starting by its controversial name: God Hates Us All. Can you think of a more impactful name for a Thrash Metal album than that? I don’t think so.

There are no ballads in this album (in fact, there are no ballads in ANY Slayer album!), no acoustic songs, no beautiful lyrics or moral lessons. Kerry King may not be the best lyricist in the world, but he delivers the message he wants in every song, which in this album are more focused on religion and revenge than any previous Slayer albums. Not only that, none of the lyrics is suitable at all for any religious person. And what can I say about the album art? It’s a masterpiece that perfectly represents the musical content in God Hates Us All. I just feel sorry for the fans that couldn’t buy the album with its regular version of the front cover, but with that shitty white one instead (see it HERE).

Before the massacre starts, there a truly badass intro, Darkness of Christ, which is there to pump you up and show you what’s about to happen with your neck. Then comes the classic Disciple, one of the best and heaviest Slayer songs ever, with an awesome chorus that will make you scream the name of the album out loud every time you hear it until you lose your voice. God hates us all! God hates us all! If you’re a very religious person, well, stop listening to this album before you reach the next song: God Send Death is another powerful track, also excellent when played live and again with strong dark lyrics.

SlayerThe sequence of tracks after that, from New Faith to Seven Faces, shows a more modern Slayer, maybe not as modern as what they did in Diabolus in Musica but modern enough to make some diehard fans a little distrustful. It’s good material, though, especially the song Exile. After that, the band delivers us a not so fast track, but as heavy as it can be: Bloodline, which also featured in the soundtrack of the movie Dracula 2000, has the best lyrics of the album, a cool heavy riff, and an excellent chorus. It’s the only reason why I would watch that movie again, because honestly it’s a very bad one! After Deviance, the weakest track of the album for me, we have three amazing songs: War Zone is perfect for mosh pits, Here Comes the Pain has a very nice riff, and Payback is recommended for anyone that is looking for, well, a violent payback.

What doesn’t change in the whole album is how amazing the band is: Tom with his unique voice, Kerry and Jeff with an avalanche of sick riffs and solos, and Paul smashing his drums like there’s no tomorrow. Although I consider Dave Lombardo the best drummer in the world, I also enjoy Paul Bostaph with his insane speed and technique. This guy is a monster behind his drums, especially when he plays live, and all the material he recorded with Slayer, Testament, Exodus etc. is pure Thrash Metal worth every penny. In my humble opinion, God Hates Us All is the best album with Bostaph on drums, and if you don’t agree with me just listen to War Zone, Payback or God Send Death and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

In summary, a very substantial Thrash Metal album with a more modern Slayer than usual, recommended for anyone who wants to bang their heads until they break their necks. Besides, it’s FUCKIN’ SLAYER after all!

Best moments of the album: Disciple, God Send Death, Bloodline and Payback.

Worst moments of the album: Seven Faces and Deviance.

Released in 2001 American Recordings

 Track listing
1. Darkness of Christ 1:30
2. Disciple 3:35
3. God Send Death 3:45
4. New Faith 3:05
5. Cast Down 3:26
6. Threshold 2:29
7. Exile 3:55
8. Seven Faces 3:41
9. Bloodline 3:36
10. Deviance 3:08
11. War Zone 2:45
12. Here Comes the Pain 4:32
13. Payback 3:03

Band members
Tom Araya – bass guitar, vocals
Jeff Hanneman – guitar
Kerry King – guitar
Paul Bostaph – drums