Album Review – Floating Widget / The Sounds of Earth EP (2017)

One of the most celebrated bands from the Canadian independent scene is finally back in action after 13 years with an electrifying EP of old school Stoner Rock and Metal.

One of the most celebrated bands from the independent rock and metal scene from Montreal is finally back in action after 13 years with brand new material and the same rebellious attitude that made then famous among the Québécois fans of alternative music. I’m talking about Stoner Rock/Metal druids Floating Widget, who are ready to crush with their new EP The Sounds of Earth, their first original release since their 2004 debut album Praises To The Riff Monolith and a lesson in how our good old Rock N’ Roll sounds even better when the right amount of extra heaviness, speed and groove is added to the music.

Formed by vocalist and bassist Vincent Peake, who’s also the founder of the first Alternative Rock band in Quebec called Groovy Aardvark (which existed between 1986 and 2005) and who also played with bands such as GrimSkunk, Sabbath Café and even Voivod, Floating Widget are more than ready to regain their momentum with The Sounds of Earth, playing in the renowned Montebello RockFest this year with Queens of the Stone Age, Rammstein, At the Drive In, The Offspring, and many other bands, and there’s no secret formula for the band receiving all that love from the underground scene. Featuring a classy artwork displaying a “ceramic astronaut” by artist Brett Kern, The Sounds Of Earth exhales pure Stoner Rock and Rock N’ Roll, getting straight to the point without any shenanigans or artificial elements.

Vicent and his crew don’t waste a single second and begin blasting piercing Rock N’ Roll that will put everyone to dance in the opening track Rock & Roll Jubilee, just like in its official video, with guitarists Alex Leclerc and Stéphane Vigeant exhaling pure electricity through their metallic strings. And their guitars ignite another rockin’ chant, titled Psy Walker, with Vicent not only delivering awesome harsh vocals but also thunderous and groovy bass punches, while Matt Demon makes everything more rhythmic and appealing with his beats. Matt keeps the momentum going by kicking off the Stoner Rock tune I Am the Temple, with hints of Rockabilly and Hard Rock added to its upbeat rhythm, also showcasing another great performance by Vincent on vocals, as well as the perfect sync between Alex and Stéphane with their riffs.

Groovier and more melodic, Albatross (Nobody Loves an) is a solid Stoner Rock and Metal chant with a Blues-ish twist where Matt delivers some traditional, steady and sluggish beats while Vincent tells one of those fun, odd stories only found in this type of music. In other words, this is a song highly recommended for banging your head while enjoying a cold beer during the band’s live performances. And lastly, featuring the iconic Snake from Voivod as a guest vocalist, we have the very rhythmic and modern Stoner Metal tune Spiderzilla closing the EP on a high note, with longtime friends Vincent and Snake making a great vocal duo (which ends up enhancing the song’s taste even more), not to mention Vincent’s low-tuned rumbling bass.

Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 13 years for Floating Widget to release new material, because based on the amazing quality of the music found in The Sounds of Earth (which can be enjoyed in its entirety on YouTube or on Spotify), Vincent and his crew have all it takes to quickly reclaim their status as one of the most electrifying names in the underground rock and metal scene hailing from Quebec, and to remain sitting in their throne of Rock N’ Roll for many years to come. And if you live in Quebec or by any chance are going to visit the province anytime soon, keep an eye on their Facebook page for their live dates and all things Floating Widget. You can purchase The Sounds of Earth in digital format through the band’s own BandCamp page, on iTunes or on Amazon, as well as the cassette version through the GBS Records’ BandCamp page, with this version bringing on its second side 19 minutes of the famous recordings named “Sounds Of Earth” that NASA sent into space aboard Voyager 1 in 1977.

Best moments of the album: Rock & Roll Jubilee and I Am the Temple.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing 
1. Rock & Roll Jubilee 2:52
2. Psy Walker 3:16
3. I Am the Temple 3:26
4. Albatross (Nobody Loves an) 4:05
5. Spiderzilla (feat. Snake) 2:40

Band members
Vincent Peake – vocals, bass
Alex Leclerc – guitar
Stéphane Vigeant – guitar
Matt Demon – drums

Guest musician
Snake – additional vocals on “Spiderzilla”

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Album Review – Steel Panther / Lower the Bar (2017)

The most depraved band in the world raises the bar once again with an ode to all the debauchery and joy of the golden age of Hard Rock, Glam and Heavy Metal.

After the considerable letdown that was All You Can Eat, released  by American Heavy Metal/Hard Rock band Steel Panther in 2014, I got a little worried about the future of one of the funniest metal acts in the history of music. Their jokes were not as good as before, their lyrics were way too repetitive, and there were no memorable anthems like in their previous albums. However, it seems that Michael Starr (vocals), Satchel (guitars), Lexxi Foxxx (bass) and Stix Zadinia (drums) have got their mojo back in Lower the Bar, their fourth major-label studio album and an ode to all the debauchery and joy of the golden age of Hair and Glam Metal.

Let’s be honest, after the first official video of the album was released exclusively on Pornhub, we knew Lower the Bar would bring back the good old Steel Panther we learned to love through the years. Musically speaking, the album kicks ass with its crisp production, enhancing even more the already potent impact of each instrument like a gigantic dildo would do to a young woman. Moreover, there’s a lot to enjoy in this album, from pure Hard Rock to a mellow ballad, from a Rock N’ Roll anthem to their personal tribute to a classic band from the 80’s, and so on. Put differently, it’s two in the pink, one in the stink, and Steel Panther blowing your speakers with the electricity flowing from Lower the Bar.

And Steel Panther blast great old school Glam Metal to kick off the party in Goin’ in the Backdoor, with Satchel delivering his always amazing riffs and solos while Michael Starr proves he’s by far one of the best singers in Hard Rock today, resulting in a solid musicality that lives up to the best songs of their career. The following song, Anything Goes, has all it takes to become a classic during their live concerts: its rhythm is perfect for headbanging, a beer and some tits at a rock n’ roll party, while its lyrics are absolutely mental (“Break out the tanks / Hand grenades / Minus Charlie Sheen / Cuz I don’t want AIDS”). Satchel, Lexxi and Stix definitely know how to generate pure Hard Rock, turning this into a fun rockin’ anthem for admirers of depraved music. In Poontang Boomerang, the song that had its official video debuted on Pornhub (which was in my opinion a fantastic idea), the music is pretty much a witty homage to Hard Rock icons Warrant, as it sounds a lot like their all-time hit “Cherry Pie”, but of course this one is nastier, sexier and more demented; whereas in That’s When You Came In we’re treated to an acoustic intro beautifully delivered by Michael and Satchel, slowly becoming one of those “romantic” and “touching” power ballads by Steel Panther, not to mention Satchel’s amazing solo before the song’s last piece.

My favorite song of the album, the fantastic Wrong Side of the Tracks (Out In Beverly Hills), is a blazin’ high-octane anthem highly recommended for your road trip playlist, with Michael kicking ass on vocals while Lexxi and Stix keep exhaling pure Rock N’ Roll with their bass lines and beats, which obviously means they have to play this awesome tune during their live concerts. Now the Fun Starts, a dark-ish low-tuned composition that kind of puts the listener in a trance, might be used to open their concerts, in special because there’s a lot going on in the lyrics that can be considered a warm-up for the show.  Getting back to their high voltage mode we have Pussy Ain’t Free, a modern and fresh Hard Rock tune with a Glam Metal twist and another top moment in Lower the Bar, with Satchel and Lexxi being on fire with their strings. And if you think the name of the song is already sexist, how about those lyrics (“Don’t need a certified public accountant / To run the numbers on my dick and balls / Don’t need to look at every Amex statement / Already know I’m getting charged for the booty calls”)? Anyway, Wasted Too Much Time might not be a bad song, musically speaking it’s quite fine and even reminds me of some Hard Rock classic ballads from the 80’s and 90’s, but it lacks that mighty punch from the rest of the album.

Mixing up the gripping Hard Rock by Scorpions and Motley Crüe with 80’s Pop Rock (in special its synths), I Got What You Want presents a very pleasant sonority with Michael having an amazing performance, supported  by the song’s old school backing vocals; whereas Walk of Shame ventures through the fields of American Country Rock with hints of Blues and obviously their kick-ass Glam Metal core. Stix dictates the rhythm with his groovy beats, while Michael sends a thoughtful message to all women (“No wonder then, every weekend is the same / Your vagina’s still eighteen / Baby, stand up tall and walk that walk of shame / That walk of shame / Go on, girl!”). And lastly, She’s Tight is their top-notch cover version of a summer-like hit, being heavier and more metallic than the original version and even featuring Robin Zander, lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the Rock N’ Roll band Cheap Trick, the band that recorded the original song back in the 80’s. I’m sure Robin is really happy with what Michael and the guys did not only with the music, but with the official video for it (by the way, Michael’s “Cheap Slut” shirt was a great tribute to Robin and his band).

In a nutshell, if you never get tired of Steel Panther’s sexist and dirty jokes, I’m sure you’ll love Lower the Bar, and album that does exactly the opposite of what its name says, raising the band’s bar once again in heavy music. In addition, there’s always new entertaining material on their YouTube channel, such as the one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime Lower the Bar Awards, which at least for me is already more important and honest than the Grammy Awards, don’t you agree? Anyway, you can buy some interesting Lower the Bar bundles at their official webstore, including one with a beer stein and one with a shirt. And no, there are no bundles with dildos, inflatable whores or anything like that. At least not yet.

Best moments of the album: Anything Goes, Wrong Side of the Tracks (Out In Beverly Hills) and Pussy Ain’t Free.

Worst moments of the album: Wasted Too Much Time.

Released in 2017 Kobalt Label Services

Track listing
1. Goin’ in the Backdoor 3:10
2. Anything Goes 3:01
3. Poontang Boomerang 3:22
4. That’s When You Came In 3:46
5. Wrong Side of the Tracks (Out In Beverly Hills) 3:07
6. Now the Fun Starts 3:43
7. Pussy Ain’t Free 3:56
8. Wasted Too Much Time 3:50
9. I Got What You Want 4:13
10. Walk of Shame 4:11
11. She’s Tight (Cheap Trick cover feat. Robin Zander) 2:54

Band members
Michael Starr – lead vocals
Satchel – lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Lexxi Foxxx – bass guitar, backing vocals
Stix Zadinia – drums, percussion, backing vocals

Guest musicians
Robin Zander – additional vocals on “She’s Tight”
Rudy Sarzo – bass on “Wrong Side of the Tracks (Out In Beverly Hills)”
Michael Catton – background vocals on “I Got What You Want”
Chris Catton – background vocals on “I Got What You Want”

Album Review – Dommin / Beautiful Crutch (2016)

Not only another step forward in the musical growth of this passionate Alternative Rock band from the United States, but also a highly recommended album for admirers of dark, lovesick music.

Rating4

dommin-beautiful-crutch-artworkTouching hearts and minds by making music that matters since their inception in Los Angeles, California in 1999, American Alternative/Gothic Rock quartet Dommin are releasing today their brand new full-length album Beautiful Crutch, following the great success achieved with their previous releases, the pain-ridden Love Is Gone (2010) and especially the darker Rise (2015). Overflowing romance, lust and hope, Beautiful Crutch is highly recommended for fans of the dark, lovesick music by renowned acts such as Type O Negative, Depeche Mode, Danzig, The Cure and HIM, among others, as well as the heavier Rock N’ Roll played by Volbeat and Bullet For My Valentine.

“Beautiful Crutch is another step forward in the band’s musical growth. While this is an expansion of the band’s soundscape, some of the moods will be familiar to those that fell in love with our first album”, stated the band’s enigmatic frontman and guitarist Kristofer Dommin. In Beautiful Crutch, Kristofer and his bandmates Billy James on bass, Konstantine on keyboards and Cameron Morris on drums deliver 11 beautiful, classy compositions blending elements from all the aforementioned bands with their own twist and personal experiences, making this a very personal and special album for them, and consequently a great addition to the collection of lovers of heartwarming rock music.

Dommin are ready to melt the hearts of the ladies with their Blues-ish Alternative Rock in Desire, a fiery declaration of love from Kristofer to a very special woman in his life (“I hunger and thirst / Naturally cursed / Never satisfied / Until the day I die / It’s you I desire / Whether it’s lose or win / It’s you I desire / And I can’t help but give in / It’s you I desire”), with drummer Cameron Morris keeping the passion flowing in the music through his slow and steady Goth beats. Show Me is an upbeat Rock N’ Roll tune with hints of Rockabilly, reminding me of some songs by Volbeat, where Kristofer and Billy do a great job with their respective guitar and bass, in special during the song’s kick-ass guitar solo; whereas The Scene is a radio-friendly rock song with the keyboards by Konstantine adding melancholy to the sonority. Furthermore, Kristofer might have a soft voice compared to almost all singers reviewed here at The Headbanging Moose, but he truly knows how to exhale strong emotions with his passionate performance.

Highly inspired by the pleasant sounding crafted by The Smiths, the soft rock chant This World blends an 80’s atmosphere with modern rock elements, showcasing a precise connection between the heavy bass sounds by Billy and the rhythmic drumming by Cameron. The next song, the title-track Beautiful Crutch, is a feast of opposite emotions, alternating between calm and introspective passages and electrified peaks, with the guitar lines by Kristofer leading all those beautiful changes; followed by I Die, where smooth piano notes and the mellow voice by Kristofer make this serene and pensive ballad an amazing listen to anyone. In addition , elements from Gothic Rock from the 80’s and its dark ambience set the perfect stage for another soulful guitar solo by Mr. Dommin. And in Vulnerable, another ballad offered by the  quartet to the Rock N’ Roll ladies all over the world, albeit there’s a strong focus on vocals and lyrics, all instruments end up bringing their share of passion to the overall result.

domminThen Dommin deliver what can be called alternative rockin’ Waltz in the excellent The Flame, with the Volbeat-like vocals by Kristofer and the enchanting keyboards by Konstantine being the song’s main ingredients. In my humble opinion, this is by far the song with the highest amount of creativity in the album, with its rhythm getting more and more addictive the more you listen to it. Madly sounds like a fusion of Smiths, Danzig and Depeche Mode (which could only result in music excellence), with its guitar solos being exactly what the song needed to be even more gripping. To be fair, why songs like this one are not getting played nonstop at rock stations everywhere is beyond my knowledge. Anyway, The Saddest Dream is a somber and modern creation by Kristofer and his crew where Billy and Konstantine generate a fantastic ambience with their instruments, flowing to a very alternative and peculiar form in the end. And lastly, the band offers us Van Halen-like keyboards and a strong feeling of hope in Outer Space, where Alternative Rock and Blues are nicely combined by all instruments. Cameron and Billy once again provide Kristofer all the support he needs for another emotional vocal performance, a constant throughout the entire album.

You can get a sneak peek of each song in Beautiful Crutch by clicking HERE, but of course I suggest you go grab your copy of the album at different online stores such as iTunes and Amazon. I’m sure that, after Beautiful Crutch, the realm of meaningful and passionate music created by Dommin will only get stronger, giving even more stamina and inspiration for the band to keep writing all those love rockin’ songs, keeping the hearts of their fans warm even during the coldest nights of winter.

Best moments of the album: Desire, This World, The Flame and Madly.

Worst moments of the album: Vulnerable.

Released in 2016 DNRecords

Track listing
1. Desire 3:32
2. Show Me 3:31
3. The Scene 4:14
4. This World 3:47
5. Beautiful Crutch 4:07
6. I Die 5:25
7. Vulnerable 3:36
8. The Flame 3:55
9. Madly 3:25
10. The Saddest Dream 6:36
11. Outer Space 5:23

Band members
Kristofer Dommin – vocals, guitars
Billy James – bass
Konstantine – keyboards
Cameron Morris – drums

Album Review – Goatchrist / Discipline and Terror (The Timeless Praxes of the Drakon Covenant) EP (2016)

Offering an exciting amalgamation of styles and elements, one of the most gripping Blackened Death Metal projects from the UK is back with the next step in its prosperous career.

Rating5

goatchrist-discipline-and-terror-the-timeless-praxes-of-the-drakon-covenant-coverIt’s becoming a delightful routine at The Headbanging Moose to publish a detailed review of the idiosyncratic and whimsical creations by British Blackened Death Metal project Goatchrist at least once a year. With that said, as 2016 draws to its dramatic close, there’s nothing better than carrying on with this special tradition with another top-tier EP by this West Yorkshire-based act led by the young and restless Dominator Xul’Ahabra, this time vampirically entitled Discipline and Terror (The Timeless Praxes of the Drakon Covenant).

Featuring American musician Invoker (Defecrator, Gloriam Draconis) on vocal duties instead of Dominator himself, Discipline and Terror (The Timeless Praxes of the Drakon Covenant) is a robust continuation to the prosperous career of the talented Dominator, being different in many aspects from his previous releases, the 2014 full-length She Who Holds the Scrying Mirror and the 2015 EP The Epic Tragedy Of The Cult Of Enlil, by offering the listener new vibrant elements of extreme music spiced up with nuances of other non-metal genres. And despite all advancements and variations in the music found in the EP, it still has that Goatchrist trademark sounding that makes this project stand out in the independent scene.

Bursting violence and anger, Enter Morain presents elements from Black, Death and Thrash Metal united in an aggressive way, with Invoker firing some Hardcore rasp vocals while Dominator delivers his usual darkened riffs and beats, never slowing down and always sounding electrified. The sensational The Burning of Jerusalem follows a pattern closer to Goatchrist’s previous releases, with its guitar riffs and solos, as well as its rhythmic blast beats, bringing a lot progressiveness and epicness to the musicality, making Invoker’s work on vocals easier and more dynamic when growling the song’s insurgent lyrics (“Now burn, Jerusalem. / For your reign has been broken, / By the sword of Western might / Know that we, your enemy, / Gift this blaze to thee, / So ye may bathe beneath its radiant light.”). Moreover, the compelling experimentations of Dominator with all his eccentric sounds and instruments are always a breath of fresh air to his compositions, sounding as if there were three or four songs in one like what we can witness in this excellent tune.

goatchrist-discipline-and-terror-the-timeless-praxes-of-the-drakon-covenant-newlogoThen out of nowhere, Dominator simply surprises us with a gentle atmospheric (and almost symphonic) ballad named A Meditation in Dead Stillness, very introspective and melancholic from start to finish, not to mention its beautiful name, working as a cinematic intermission to all madness flowing from the following song, the elaborate The Shadow of Malintent. Invoker darkly declaims the song’s elegiac lyrics (“The darkness is coming / And I too there dwell: / Older than day or night, / With fury that none may quell. / Sever your causal ties. / And lift your head to meet / with my gaze; then in a daze / See your ego’s defeat.”) while the music brings forward a Blues-ish vibe with elements from classic Western scores, Doom Metal and Blackened Doom, never getting full Black Metal but still feeling as Stygian as the other songs. In addition, the precise sync between Dominator’s guitar solos and bass lines with Invoker’s growls help the duo tell the story proposed magnificently.

Dominator Xul’Ahabra and his Goatchrist, an amazing project that has been on an upward spiral in the Extreme Metal independent scene in the UK since its inception, can be contacted through their official Facebook page, and their brand new opus Discipline and Terror (The Timeless Praxes of the Drakon Covenant) is available at their BandCamp page, where you can also take a very good listen at and even buy all Goatchrist’s previous albums. In summary, Discipline and Terror (The Timeless Praxes of the Drakon Covenant) is another solid step in Dominator’s career, offering fans of extreme music an exciting amalgamation of styles and elements and, consequently, fortifying the name of Goatchrist and helping the project achieve new heights and spread darkness all over the world.

Best moments of the album: The Burning of Jerusalem.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Enter Morain 4:27
2. The Burning of Jerusalem 7:31
3. A Meditation in Dead Stillness 2:08
4. The Shadow of Malintent 8:43

Band members
Invoker – vocals
Dominator Xul’Ahabra – all instruments

Album Review – False Coda / Secrets and Sins (2016)

A lesson in progressiveness and feeling by a five-piece Greek band that brings forth a classy fusion of different musical styles, highly recommended for fans of top-of-the-line Heavy Metal.

Rating4

album-coverI think I’ve never faced a boring band from Greece to review here at The Headbanging Moose, and Greek Progressive Metal act False Coda is no exception to that. Formed in 2009 in Athens by brothers Andreas Milios (drums) and Vasilis “Bill” Milios (guitars), this five-piece band brings forth a marvelous fusion of genres and subgenres of heavy music, including Progressive Rock, Heavy Metal, Power Metal and Doom Metal, among many others, as well as other styles such as classical music, never getting tiresome or repetitive even playing songs that go on for over eight or nine minutes. Quite the opposite, it looks like the longer their compositions are, the more exciting they get.

However, it was only in 2014, after considerable lineup changes, that False Coda were able to release their debut album, entitled Closer to the Edge, which received excellent reviews from magazines and webzines from around the globe. And that positive feedback fueled those Greek metallers with confidence for more, culminating with the release this year of their brand new album Secrets and Sins, a lesson in progressiveness and feeling featuring Stefanos Zafeiropoulos as their new lead singer, a classy artwork by French artist Nihil, world-famous guitarist Jeff Loomis (Arch Enemy, Nevermore) with a special solo for one of the album songs, and of course an infinite amount of first-class heavy music.

An exotic and pleasant intro with elements from the East ignite the excellent Throne Of Blood, an upbeat heavy music composition with cutting guitar lines and a high dosage of complexity the likes of Dream Theater, with the keyboards by Lefteris Kapetanios sounding sharp and exciting throughout the whole song (and as you’ll see, throughout the whole album as well). Moral Compass brings forward more intricacy and metallic sounds to us fans of Progressive Metal, where Bill showcases all his abilities with his stringed weapon while the vocals by Stefanos remind me of both Matt Barlow and Stu Block (Iced Earth), adding an extra touch of violence to the overall result; whereas in New Paradigm a gentle intro flows into pure progressiveness, morphing into a song that could easily be played on any rock n’ roll station with highlights to the spot-on performances by Stefanos on vocals and Nick Pogkas with his groovy bass lines.

false-codaThe title-track Secrets and Sins couldn’t be more imposing and symphonic, a feast of tempo changes, beautiful solos and tons of heaviness flowing from all instruments, sounding as if Dream Theater merged with Iced Earth in the most effective way. Needless to say, it’s one of the best songs of the album, highly recommended for some good headbanging. Flickering Lights, despite having an amazing intro and some interesting moments (in special the solid riffs by Bill), is not as captivating as the rest of the album, sounding a bit generic compared to the other songs. And Monolith, perhaps the darkest of all songs, is also one of the most thrilling, with its dense ambience and the theatrical vocals by Stefanos, together with the powerful Doom Metal-ish beats by Andreas and the sensational solo by guest guitarist Jeff Loomis, making listening to it simply mandatory to any fan of modern and organic Heavy Metal.

The multilayered Moment, with its rumbling bass lines and eerie atmosphere, is the longest of all tracks and, thanks to that, it’s also the song where the band had the highest amount of freedom to showcase all their creativity and passion for heavy music, with highlights to the final guitar solo by Bill, while The Truth Lies, a passionate power ballad by these talented Greek metallers, presents another sensational job done by the guitar/keyboard duo comprised of Bill and Lefteris, enhancing the song’s appeal. Furthermore, I simply love the smooth break with the piano notes, bringing a good balance to the heaviness of the rest of the song. And lastly, California is a very innovative way to finish such powerful album, a beautiful ballad with elements from Blues added to the musicality, tailored for listening to it together with your significant other as he or she will surely enjoy the moment a lot.

You can get more details on False Coda through their Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud, with the sophisticated Secrets and Sins being available at their BandCamp page, on iTunes or on Amazon. As aforementioned, several distinct Greek bands from different genres and styles have already been reviewed by The Headbanging Moose, and none of those were even close to being boring. Now we can definitely add False Coda to this select Hellenic team, hoping that their music can travel the seven seas and reach the ears of headbangers avid for high-quality Heavy Metal all over the world for many years to come.

Best moments of the album: Secrets and Sins, Monolith and The Truth Lies.

Worst moments of the album: Flickering Lights.

Released in 2016 Freia Music

Track listing
1. Throne Of Blood 6:06
2. Moral Compass 6:11
3. New Paradigm 5:37
4. Secrets and Sins 8:25
5. Flickering Lights 4:09
6. Monolith (feat. Jeff Loomis) 5:29
7. Moment 9:20
8. The Truth Lies 6:03
9. California 3:36

Band members
Stefanos Zafeiropoulos – vocals
Vasilis “Bill” Milios – guitars
Nick Pogkas – bass
Lefteris Kapetanios – keyboards
Andreas Milios – drums

Guest musician
Jeff Loomis – guitar solo on “Monolith”

Album Review – Hammerhands / Largo Forte (2016)

The soundtrack to your darkest days is here, courtesy of a talented Canadian band and their sluggish, heavy and rowdy music.

Rating4

hh-largo-forte-coverFew subgenres of heavy music can be so disturbingly awesome as Sludge and Doom Metal thanks to those low-tuned sounds, wicked screams and sluggish beats that penetrate our hearts and souls every single time we listen to them, making our lives a little more miserable just the way we like it. Hailing from the city of Mississauga, Ontario (extremely close to our “headquarters”), here comes Canadian Sludge Metal quartet Hammerhands offering their moodiness, blasphemy and grudge in their brand new album, entitled Largo Forte, a solid display of atmospheric and doomed heavy music that will accompany your misery during those dark and rainy days.

Formed in the year of 2012, Hammerhands released their debut album, Glaciers, one year later in 2013, also releasing that same year a special covers EP named 1995 containing their versions for two of their biggest influences in music (“X.Y.U.” by The Smashing Pumpkins, and “To Bring You My Love” by PJ Harvey). It might have taken three years for the band to release new original material, but based on the music found in Largo Forte it was definitely worth the wait. Featuring a dark and pensive artwork by their own bassist Justin Hunt, Largo Forte brings forward the band’s trademark Atmospheric Sludge and Doom Metal blended with Alternative Metal and other subgenres of heavy music, generating a metallic ambience tailored for fans of sheer heaviness.

The rumbling bass by Justin kicks off the groovy Eighteen, a sluggish composition that becomes a dark feast of modern and crude Sludge Metal when the inebriate and desperate vocals by NJ Borreta join the musicality, with its anguish ending only increasing its impact even more; followed by THUNDERCHUNK, a dense Stoner Metal chant emanating pure anger from its lyrics (“You are a brave man, / some father’s son. / Hammer your hard head, / against the ground. / You’re going to flex your muscles, / and bare your teeth. / Break everything around you, / you know I’ll hold my god damn stance.”). Guitarist Collin Young does a superb job with his wicked noises while drummer Jon Galletly delivers those slow and extremely heavy beats we love in this type of music, with yet another ending transpiring hopelessness and anguish.

hammerhandsHigh Plains is just perfect for an eerie strip-tease done by a mischievous and devilish woman, an obscure Sludge and Doom Metal tune led by the thunderous bass by Justin and the slow and steady beats by Jon, not to mention the spot-on vocals by Collin throughout the entire song. And the title-track Largo Forte begins as obscure as its predecessor, with the bass lines kicking you in the face while Collin fires some Sabbath-inspired riffs in the background. Moreover, the music is kept low and dark almost in its entirety, suddenly exploding into pure hatred through the desperate screams by NJ. Mezzo Grave, displaying some wicked noises and screeches, works as a bridge to If You’re Not Part of the Party, You’re Part of the Problem, showcasing downright distortion and an endless dosage of aggressiveness. The thunderous sounds blasted by bass and drums will pierce your mind, whereas NJ continues delivering his anguished lines until the song’s chaotic and heavy ending.

With a start lot lighter than all previous tunes, Where We Go brings forward more melodious and melancholic sounds thanks to the guitar lines by Collin. Albeit being a good composition, it’s slightly below the rest of the album in terms of quality and creativity, but fortunately that doesn’t last long as we’re treated to the almost pure Doom Metal tune Darkerness with its low-tuned sonority and slow, heavy pace. This song presents a tormented intro that goes on for over two minutes, warning the listener that darkness is upon us, which is only confirmed through its macabre lyrics (“We’ll gut them, / and bleed them dry. / They’ll scream for hope, / but die inside. / Now that they plunge, / there is no right. / This place, / no light.”). Furthermore, as already happened in previous songs, its ending is a noisy and deranged chaos. In The Hardest Thing we have one final blast of distress, with Collin declaiming the lyrics through his somber and funereal vocals while the rest of the band plays some sort of Tarantino-inspired noisy Blues, an interesting way to close such a substantial album.

There’s a nice way to enjoy the whole album on YouTube in the 49-minute official video crafted by the band, displaying deserted landscapes, predatory reptiles, burning lava, among other beautiful scenes from Mother Nature, and you can also visit their Facebook page and YouTube channel to know more about their music and future projects. Obviously, you can purchase Largo Forte at Hammerhands’ BandCamp page to show your true support to these talented Mississaugans whose job is to provide us fans of Sludge metal exactly the type of music needed on our gloomiest days.

Best moments of the album: THUNDERCHUNK, High Plains and If You’re Not Part of the Party, You’re Part of the Problem.

Worst moments of the album: Where We Go.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Eighteen 4:58
2. THUNDERCHUNK 7:11
3. High Plains 4:57
4. Largo Forte 6:44
5. Mezzo Grave 2:34
6. If You’re Not Part of the Party, You’re Part of the Problem 3:39
7. Where We Go 5:50
8. Darkerness 7:58
9. The Hardest Thing 5:25

Band members
NJ Borreta – vocals, guitar
Collin Young – guitar, vocals on “High Plains”, “Where We Go” and “The Hardest Thing”
Justin Hunt – bass, backing vocals
Jon Galletly – drums, backing vocals

Guest musician
Andrew Couto – saxophone on “Darkerness”

Album Review – Age of Atlas / Of Tongue and Tide. Of Flame and Honey. (2016)

Just hit play and enjoy a feast of heavy, catchy and groovy compositions, brought forth by four promising British musicians who are constantly challenging themselves and pushing the boundaries of progressive music.

Rating4

album-cover-frontIf you have never visited Kingston upon Hull, usually abbreviated to Hull, a city and unitary authority in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, you’re missing all the vitality and distinctiveness of the city’s culture and heritage. For instance, you can go check their Humber Mouth literature festival, the annual Hull Jazz Festival, as well as several other exhibitions, theaters and concerts. Such cultural richness could only translate into amazing heavy music, which is exactly the case with Alternative Rock/Metal band Age of Atlas, who are releasing their first full-length album entitled Of Tongue and Tide. Of Flame and Honey., following on from their debut EP The Scale of Things to Come, from 2014.

With Peter Measures on vocals, Mikey Scott on drums and the two nearly identical twins Keelan and Kye Beavers on guitar and bass, respectively (which is probably the main reason why they are in perfect synchronicity at all times), this very technical Hull-based group formed in the year of 2012 is highly recommended for fans of the progressive heavy music played by Coheed and Cambria and Tides of Man, among many other distinct bands. Self-recorded at Mikey’s own studio Fruit Trade Music and featuring a beautiful artwork by James Fenwick Illustration, Of Tongue and Tide. Of Flame and Honey. epitomizes everything Age of Atlas are today in a feast of gripping riffs, stunning breaks and poetic vocal lines, obviously pointing to an absolutely bright future that lies ahead for this talented quartet.

The progressive and sharp opening track Sleight Of Hand Of Glory already offers the listener a taste of what Age of Atlas are capable of, with its alternative and psychedelic intro being boosted by the metallic bass lines by Kye before lead singer Peter Measures starts firing his modern poetry (“The thunder in your tongue finger lisps the blood from the thumb / Your hunter handed stitching yearns and breaks and comes undone”), not to mention the elements of Blues and Jazz added to the musicality which end up expanding its range even more. And that’s only the beginning, as the punchy riffs by Keelan and the roaring drums by Mikey steal the show in Natural Sciences, a hybrid of Dream Theater and Gojira with a Hard Rock twist. Despite being considerably heavy for many average radio listeners, I’m more than sure this electrifying tune could still be played at any rock n’ roll radio station in the world and become an instant hit. While that doesn’t happen, you can keep enjoying the intricacy provided by Kye on bass and the spot-on guitar solos by Keelan in For The Feast That Follows, some sort of “controlled craziness” that works really well from start ot finish, bringing pure awesomeness to our ears.

Presenting a modernized ambience, Father Of The Fear Of Falling is a soulful and technical composition where the complexity provide by Mikey on drums flawlessly supports the alternating moments of melodious softness and headbanging riffs found throughout the entire music; while Echoes Of Empire, presenting even more tempo changes and a passionate performance by Peter on vocals, is another sonic experiment for fans of Progressive Metal, with its backing vocals adding an extra touch of liveliness to the song. In The Brackening, highly influenced by Groove Metal but still having Progressive Rock as its core element, pay good attention to the “battle” between brothers Keelan and Kye with their unstoppable stringed weapons while Peter continues to blast his fiery vocal lines. An in Dead Eyed Sigils Of Our Failures Against Distance the band presents a more mainstream approach through smooth and progressive Hard Rock lines. This can be considered the most generic (or least innovative) of all tracks, albeit being well-crafted and offering a solid performance by Peter supported by the song’s background keyboards.

pic1Background electronic effects, rumbling bass lines and a headbanging rhythm make listening to the excellent Ambering a very positive experience, displaying even hints of pop music in certain moments. Furthermore, the last piece of the song is one of those progressive journeys loved by fans of the genre, which should sound incredible if played live. Then we have Needer, sounding heavier and sharper at first, but getting back to the band’s harmonious experimentations. Needless to say how bass and drums get inside your head and shake your brain in a good way, another remarkable characteristic of the music by Age of Atlas. And the icing on the cake comes in the form of an almost 7-minute aria of progressiveness named Gyromancer: it doesn’t matter if you prefer heavier and crazier sounds or a more serene complexity, the band brings forward all variations of Progressive Metal and Rock in this powerful tune, and the final result will certainly electrify the rest of your day.

As any other creative progressive band, Age of Atlas do not settle down at all and are already working on writing and refining new material for a follow up second album. While we wait for the next chapter in their promising career, let’s visit their Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud to know more about the band and to enjoy more of their music. And as an early Christmas gift (and to show how nice the citizens of Hull are), Of Tongue and Tide. Of Flame and Honey. is available as a free download for fans who sign up to the band’s mailing list (which you can do by clicking HERE). “We’ll always try and push ourselves in new ways and writing new material, working on new songs, is the most enjoyable way of challenging ourselves.” says vocalist Peter, and we must all agree that as long as they keep challenging themselves and releasing albums like Of Tongue and Tide. Of Flame and Honey., the future of progressive and groovy music looks more than good not only for Kingston upon Hull, but for the entire world.

Best moments of the album: Sleight Of Hand Of Glory, Natural Sciences and The Brackening.

Worst moments of the album: Dead Eyed Sigils Of Our Failures Against Distance.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing 
1. Sleight Of Hand Of Glory 4:26
2. Natural Sciences 3:06
3. For The Feast That Follows 3:49
4. Father Of The Fear Of Falling 3:43
5. Echoes Of Empire 4:08
6. The Brackening 5:28
7. Dead Eyed Sigils Of Our Failures Against Distance 4:37
8. Ambering 3:25
9. Needer 3:57
10. Gyromancer 6:52

Band members
Peter Measures – vocals
Keelan Beavers – guitar
Kye Beavers – bass
Mikey Scott – drums

Album Review – Witches Of Doom / Deadlights (2016)

The Italian coven of Doom and Gothic Metal returns in full force to put another electrifying Rock N’ Roll spell on you.

Rating4

WOD_DeadlightsAfter releasing their debut album Obey back in 2014, I knew it was just a matter of time until Italian Goth-Stoner-Doom Metal act Witches Of Doom returned with more of their mesmerizing Rock N’ Roll extravaganza. Two years have gone by since that amazing album, and here we have the Rome-based warlocks Danilo “Groova” Piludu on vocals, Federico “Fed” Venditti on the guitar, Jacopo Cartelli on bass, Graziano “Eric” Corrado on keyboards and Andrea “Budi” Budicin on drums offering all fans of old school dark music the likes of Type O Negative, Moonspell and The Cult their brand new album whimsically entitled Deadlights which, just like its predecessor, will put you to dance, drink and make love like there’s no tomorrow.

Although I’m not a professional musician, producer or anything similar to that, I must say the upward growth in the overall quality of the album in terms of its production and sound is one of those things that not only helped Witches Of Doom explore new horizons and add new elements to their music, but it also shows how professional those Italian metallers are and how much they are focused on what they do. Thus, due to the enhanced quality of their music and to the brand new songs added to their portfolio, I think the band is more than ready to reach new heights and start spreading their exciting music throughout the world by touring in places like the United States, Canada and South America, either by themselves or as one of the attractions of some music festivals held in those regions.

While we wait for their first world tour, let’s rock to the sound of the superb opening track in Deadlights, called Lizard Tongue, where after an alternative and electronic we are embraced by a modernized goth atmosphere and the band’s pure Rock N’ Roll attitude. These guys know how to bring that magic aura from the 80’s to our present days, with frontman Danilo being better than ever with his inebriate and dark vocals, perfectly declaiming the song’s catchy lyrics (“Daughter of a thousand sins / Angel praying for your last wish / The city crawls in the dead of night / A knife cuts deep flesh open wide / Trick or treat is the only law / Merchant on the killing floor / The city crawls in the dead of night / A knife cuts deep flesh open wide”). In Run with the Wolf, an eerie waltz mixed with symphonic elements in what’s probably their most obscure composition to date, keyboardist Andrea crafts the perfect doomed ambience, supported by the low-tuned bass lines by Jacopo; whereas in Deface (The Things That Made Me a Man), heavier and weirder than usual due to the rumbling bass by Jacopo and the always passionate guitar riffs and experimentations by the band’s mastermind Fed, the listener faces a solid blend of Gothic Rock with Alternative Rock and Metal.

WOD 2016Melancholy and sorrow flow from the beautiful Winter Coming, where Danilo once again provides an additional layer of emotion to the musicality with his vocal lines (not to mention the song’s sorrowful lyrics), followed by Homeless, another shot of wickedness provided by this talented band with the groovy bass lines by Jacopo and the progressive drumming by Andrea enhancing the song’s punch. In other words, this could become a radio hit anytime, anywhere. And get ready to be hypnotized by the Black Voodoo Girl, with its Gothic start getting heavier and darker until it becomes another one of the band’s “striptease” hymns. The keyboard passages by Graziano match perfectly with the heavy riffs by Fed and the somber vocals by Danilo, and you’ll surely have a good time singing its chorus along with the band.

In Mater Mortis, what begins as an epic chant quickly morphs into a futuristic tune, more specifically into an ode to the music from the 80’s with highlights to its awesome keyboards, and this instrumental voyage sets the tone for Gospel for War, a badass Gothic/Stoner Rock chant tailored for fans of Rock N’ Roll pub fights where Fed keeps blasting his excellent riffs while Andrea takes his drumming to a whole new and amazing level of intricacy. And last but not least, bringing elements from non-metal genres like Jazz and Blues to their sounding, the band offers us all the introspective and soulful I Don’t Want to Be a Star, showcasing smooth but fierce piano notes by Eric and strong performances by Danilo on vocals and by Fed with his fiery solos. If you love long and experimental songs with the energy and feeling of Rock N’ Roll, you might have found your new favorite song in rock music.

In summary, the music presented in Deadlights, which features a stunning artwork by Italian artist Carlo Muselli (who by the way is the big boss at Sliptrick Records) and is available on iTunes or on Amazon, has everything a true fan of heavy rock always looks for and more, and in order to know more about the Witches Of Doom, including their future plans and tour dates, don’t forget to go check their official Facebook page. This skilled coven of Doom and Gothic Metal is not among us to simply play some rock tunes, but in special to put an electrifying Rock N’ Roll spell on all of us, lovers of dark and rhythmic heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Lizard Tongue, Black Voodoo Girl and Gospel for War.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Sliptrick Records

Track listing
1. Lizard Tongue 4:13
2. Run with the Wolf 4:49
3. Deface (The Things That Made Me a Man) 5:45
4. Winter Coming 4:35
5. Homeless 5:32
6. Black Voodoo Girl 4:46
7. Mater Mortis 3:01
8. Gospel for War 4:35
9. I Don’t Want to Be a Star 6:59

Band members
Danilo “Groova” Piludu – vocals
Federico “Fed” Venditti – guitars
Jacopo Cartelli – bass
Graziano “Eric” Corrado – keyboards
Andrea “Budi” Budicin – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Noora Louhimo

noora01

Let It Roar, Noora!

It is a well-known fact that all Finnish women are pretty and charming, absolutely no doubt about that. But it’s when a girl from the land of ice and snow releases her inner beast that things get even more exciting, which is exactly the case with our Metal Chick of the Month, the ravishing Noora Louhimo, lead singer of Finnish Heavy Metal band Battle Beast. And if you don’t like the voice and the looks of this blonde “warrior princess”, honestly, I don’t know what to say.

Noora was born on November 6, 1988 in Tampere, Finland, around 180km north of the capital Helsinki, and she has been singing since she was only 4 years old. She had many hobbies before she started focusing on singing, such as dancing, acting, drawing, painting and anything else she could do to express herself. When she was around 13 years old, she had her first band at school, singing Finnish pop songs as well as love ballads from artists like Whitney Houston and Celine Dion.

Despite being a huge fan of Heavy Metal from the 80’s when she was a teenager, when she was 16 years old she had some classical singing lessons, before starting to study music in a more Pop/Jazz-line and doing some jam sessions at bars at the age of 19. That was also when she found her first band, called Admiral Octopus, at a place called BluesBar. The band used to play Rock N’ Roll and Blues from the 60’s, 70’s, and also songs from Janis Joplin, which according to Noora herself is the reason why she got the rasp in her voice. After Admiral Octopus, Noora took part in a singing competition called “Wanna Be A Rock N’ Roll Star” at a place called Henry’s Pub, also in Tampere, and guess what? She won the competition singing Janis Joplin’s classic Piece of My Heart. That’s how her single Relax was born, and that’s pretty much her history before joining Battle Beast.

It was during autumn in 2012, right after Battle Beast finished touring some summer rock festivals in Finland, that singer Nitte Valo, who was with the band since its inception in 2008, announced to be leaving the band due to family issues. In September 2012, guitarist Anton Kabanen found Noora by accident on YouTube when he was searching for a new vocalist for Battle Beast, and after a couple of calls Noora accepted the challenge to be the new frontwoman of the band. In 2013 our blonde diva recorded her first full-length release with the band, the powerful self-titled album Battle Beast, and more recently the also amazing Unholy Saviour, in January 2015.

The Finnish lioness mentioned in one of her interviews that she does many different exercises with her voice, rest it when needed and then a lot more, and also that working out is a very important part of keeping her vocals in a good shape. Whatever she’s actually doing with her voice, it’s working more than perfectly, as we can notice in her excellent performance on a Finnish television program in 2014 singing the song Into the Heart of Danger, her contributions to the good song Satans of Swing by Finnish band Somehow Jo! and to the inspiring Eye to Eye by Swiss Melodic Power Metal band Crystal Ball, and also singing one of her favorite songs from Battle Beast, the electrifying tune Let It Roar. One interesting fact about her singing style is that, as much as she wants to sound like a female singer with “balls”, she wants to sound feminine and sexy at the same time.

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In regards to her main influences in life, our warrior princess doesn’t only sing Heavy Metal, but a huge variety of music genres such as Soul, Rock, Blues, among others, and those different styles are what keep her in balance and inspired as a singer. As aforementioned, she started listening to metal music when she was 16 years old, and that “fire” started actually with Guns N’ Roses. When she heard Welcome to the Jungle for the first time, she knew there was no coming back. Then there came Dio, Judas Priest, W.A.S.P. and of course Iron Maiden. Although her list of influences is endless, including names such as Robert Plant, Freddie Mercury, Ronnie James Dio, Whitney Houston, Blackie Lawless, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Michael Jackson, Axl Rose and many more, her biggest idols in music are first Janis Joplin and second Ann Wilson.

And last but not least, when asked if she’s addicted to any bad habit or guilty pleasure, her answer couldn’t be more feminine than that: chocolate. Well, our “blonde ninja” is an extremely talented and beautiful woman, and Finnish chocolate is by far one of the best in the world. I guess there couldn’t be a better combination than that to celebrate two years of The Headbanging Moose, right?

Noora Louhimo’s Official Facebook page
Battle Beast’s Official Facebook page

“My passion has always been music and different ways of expressing myself as an artist.” – Noora Louhimo

Album Review – Cherry White / Staring at the Sun EP (2015)

Sit down, relax and enjoy this beautiful display of Blues Rock by an emerging British band destined to conquer the world with their elegant music.

Rating5

cherry white_staring at the sunSometimes we all must slow down a bit in our hectic lives, relaxing our minds before we go nuts with all the wildness surrounding us. In order to achieve that desired level of peacefulness, there’s nothing better than enjoying some soft and passionate Rock N’ Roll, and the music crafted by British Contemporary Rock band Cherry White has exactly what it takes to help soothe our weary spirits. However, do not think the music you’ll find in their brand new EP entitled Staring at the Sun lacks excitement. Quite the contrary, the EP emanates electricity, gripping your attention even during its smoothest passages.

Insired by life in London during its austerity era, encompassed by the greed of the wealthy, the six tracks in Staring at the Sun circle around an aspiration for this London-based four-piece band to reach higher and achieve their goals in the music industry and beyond. Blending the Soft Rock by Fleetwood Mac with the Blues Rock from bands like The Raconteurs, Cherry White seem to be in the right path to accomplish their mission, offering their fans high-quality rock music that sounds incredibly authentic and original, making you feel good while listening to it.

Despite never getting truly heavy, the opening tack Drifter can still be considered badass Southern Rock, starting in a groovy and catchy way with frontwoman Donata Sounds needing only a few seconds to show her exceptional skills as a singer. In addition, it’s when the rest of the instruments hit the music (especially the power of the harmonica) that things get really exciting without exaggerating on the dosage, making it the perfect example for the famous expression “less is more”. The next tune, Do It Better, sounds a lot more commercial, a mix of Alternative Rock and Pop Rock that could be played on any radio station in the world, with highlights to guitarist Russell Jones and drummer Felipe Drago for their superb job building the atmosphere for Donata to deliver her gorgeous vocal lines.

cherry whiteAngel is a smooth Rock N’ Roll ballad that will unquestionably become a fan favorite, and although the main focus is on Donata’s voice there’s room for all band members to shine. Pay good attention to the strong bass lines by Ralph Beeby in the background and you’ll see what I’m talking about, and also don’t forget to enjoy the melancholy in the last part of the song as it will touch your heart in a lovely way. Following that gentle music exhibit, we have the modern but at the same time very old school rock song 7 Days, where the dirty and exciting riffs sound totally inspired by the music from the 70’s, and there’s no way you won’t get thrilled with the song’s amazing guitar solo and chorus.

Then it’s time for Cherry White to sing the Blues in Blue Eyes, an introspective tune where all instruments sound so clean and polished to the point that, by just closing you eyes, you can perfectly imagine a scene at a first-class pub with Donata’s sexy performance in the spotlight while the rest of the band is wearing black suits and playing in the shadows. Moreover, some passages remind me of the classic ballads by Faith No More, and if you know how much I like Mike Patton and his crew you can have an idea of my joy while listening to this song. And closing the EP we have another delicate and progressive rock tune brought forth by these talented musicians, the title-track Staring At The Sun, a song full of passion and sorrow with a short but very enjoyable rockin’ ending that could work as a bridge or connection to their next release, if they haven’t thought about that already.

Cheery White can be found on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and SoundCloud, and if you’re a fan of softer and lively rock music and want to grab your copy of Staring at the Sun, simply go to their BandCamp page to do so. Now please excuse me because it’s time to relax and enjoy this beautiful display of Blues Rock by Cherry White, an emerging band from the UK that will soon conquer the entire world with their elegant music, no doubt about that.

Best moments of the album: Drifter and Blue Eyes.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Independent

Track listing
1. Drifter 3:39
2. Do It Better 3:11
3. Angel 7:06
4. 7 Days 3:25
5. Blue Eyes 4:42
6. Staring At The Sun 6:16

Band members
Donata Sounds – lead vocals
Russell Jones – guitars, vocals
Ralph Beeby – bass guitars, piano, organ, harmonica, vocals
Felipe Drago – drums