Album Review – Eight Lives Down / Humans (2020)

Four distinct musicians from four different countries united in the name of metal, bringing to us all a truly unique sound, unmistakably heavy and angry, yet refreshingly different and unpredictable.

Originally founded by Greek-Kiwi vocalist and lyricist Aliki Katriou in 2016 together with British guitarist James Scott (replaced by French guitarist Paul Allain in 2017), bassist Marcin Orczyk from Poland, and Brazilian drummer Rodrigo Moraes Cruz, London, UK-based Extreme Metal act Eight Lives Down has its roots in Groove and Thrash Metal, but constantly branches out stylistically incorporating influences from Progressive, Death and Black Metal, as well as various other musical genres such as Punk Rock, Blues, and traditional folk music, while vocals range from low growls and high screams to clean and even operatic phrases, creating a truly unique sound, unmistakably heavy and angry, yet refreshingly different and unpredictable. Now in 2020 the quartet is ready to invade our senses with their debut full-length opus, entitled Humans, showcasing all their versatility, dynamism, creativity and rage, all enhanced by the album’s top-notch mixing and mastering done by Dan Baune at Noise Foundry Productions, while embraced by a modern, stylish artwork by Dylan Sutton.

The blazing guitar riffs by Paul kick off the sick and groovy Opening Shots, bringing forward a fusion of Melodic Death Metal with more modern and alternative styles, with Aliki growling like a true she-demon for our total delight, followed by Misguided, where the metallic bass jabs by Marcin will hit you in the face while Aliki blasts her wicked mix of clean vocals and harsh gnarls, leaning towards contemporary Thrash and Groove Metal while Rodrigo dictates the pace with his classy beats. Then the mesmerizing vocalizations by Aliki accompanied by tribalistic sounds and tones ignite the heavy and experimental Angela, with Paul, Marcin and Rodrigo bringing sheer progressiveness to the music with their refined techniques, whereas From The Cradle is a lot more introspective, grim and atmospheric than its predecessors, starting in a semi-acoustic manner while Aliki declaims the song’s dark lyrics, sounding at the same time like a 90’s Groove and Funk Metal tune and a modern-day thrashing tune, something a wicked band like Faith No More would definitely do.

More of their rumbling sounds permeate the air in the also heavy and furious Sacrifice, a lecture in Groove Metal by Eight Lives Down where Aliki’s roars get deeper and more enraged while Rodrigo sounds pulverizing on drums, supported by Marcin’s menacing bass; and in Organize Your Mind the quartet offers us all a hybrid of the rebelliousness of Alternative Metal with the intricacy of Progressive Metal, with Paul being on absolute fire with his demented riffage, while also presenting interesting atmospheric passages and endless heaviness. After that it’s time to break our necks headbanging together with Aliki and the boys in Colder, adding hints of Heavy Rock to their already crushing sonority while Paul and Marcin have a fun duel with their strident riffs and solos and low-tuned bass punches, respectively. Lastly, you better get ready for nine minutes of introspection, groove and heaviness in the form of Why, starting in a serene way with Aliki declaiming the song’s cryptic words, evolving into a thunderous metal feast led by Rodrigo’s visceral beats, not to mention the incendiary solos by Paul as the icing on the cake.

This precious gem of Extreme and Experimental Metal can be enjoyed in its entirety on YouTube, but of course in order to show your support to Aliki and her loyal henchmen you should definitely buy a copy of Humans from their own BandCamp page, from their webstore or from Amazon, as well as follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know details about such up-and-coming metal band, and subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their idiosyncratic creations. It will certainly be more than just interesting to see what the future holds for Eight Lives Down with their upcoming releases, if they’ll keep experimenting like crazy or if they’ll set a defined shape and style for their music. Until then, while we wait for the creative mind of Aliki to provide us more insanity in the form of music, we can keep banging our heads nonstop to Humans, by far one of the best alternative albums of the year.

Best moments of the album: Opening Shots and Sacrifice.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Cult Of Parthenope

Track listing
1. Opening Shots 3:50
2. Misguided 4:01
3. Angela 3:56
4. From The Cradle 7:40
5. Sacrifice 3:52
6. Organize Your Mind 4:21
7. Colder 4:20
8. Why 9:02

Band members
Aliki Katriou – vocals
Paul Allain – guitar
Marcin Orczyk – bass
Rodrigo Moraes Cruz – drums

Album Review – Intercepting Pattern / The Encounter (2020)

A free-flowing 30-minute long composition ebbing and flowing between heavy syncopated grooves, Jazz fusion flourishes, ethereal synth-layered passages and cybernetic Death Metal.

Formed in 2016 in the city of Berlin, Germany, a distinguished Progressive Metal unity known as Intercepting Pattern is comprised of vocalist Daniel Sander, guitarist and keyboardist Marte Auer, bassist Clemens Engert and drummer Lille Gruber, all seasoned musicians known for their time in projects such as Defeated Sanity, Infecting the Swarm and Cerebric Turmoil. Produced, mixed & mastered by Tom ‘Fountainhead’ Geldschläger at FountainheadHQ and featuring a stunning artwork by Niklas Sundin (Mitochondrial Sun, Dark Tranquillity), Intercepting Pattern’s debut effort, entitled The Encounter, was created and designed as one free-flowing 30-minute long genre-bending composition, ebbing and flowing between heavy syncopated grooves, Jazz fusion flourishes, ethereal synth-layered passages and cybernetic Death Metal with seamless ease, appealing to fans of groups such as Meshuggah, Cynic and Panzerballett, among others. For release purposes, The Encounter is split into 10 “song” sections, although it is strongly suggested to listen to it in one session as it was intended when being created.

Clearly inspired by classic TV shows and movies that dealt with alien forms of life, the opening track Extragalactic Radio presents Lille and Clemens bringing endless groove and intricacy to the music with their beats and bass punches while Marte adds a touch of finesse to the overall result with his riffs and solos, flowing into the Progressive Death Metal feast titled Signal-to-Noise, where Daniel fires anguished, raspy roars accompanied by the always blazing guitars by Marte, resulting in an excellent option for breaking your neck headbanging. And their mysterious, otherworldly story goes on in Interlude I, an atmospheric and futuristic creation by Intercepting Pattern that will certainly send shivers down your spine before Eigenlicht offers us all Jazz and Blues united with the band’s hybrid of Progressive and Groove Metal, or in other words, a complex and extremely enjoyable tune where Marte and Lille are in absolute sync with their incendiary riffs and beats, whereas Hypnagogia is another wicked instrumental creation by the quartet with Clemens’ bass jabs making your head tremble in awe, all spiced up by background voices and ethereal keys, and running smoothly until its whimsical conclusion.

Interlude II is a cinematic bridge created to keep the listener hypnotized and eager for what’s next, as Daniel returns in full force with his rabid growls in Rebiogenesis, with the band’s razor-edged guitars and rumbling bass together with the sick drums by Lille generating a multi-layered wall of sounds for our total delectation. Then featuring guest Jimmy Pitts (Eternity’s End, Eynomia, NorthTale, NYN, The Fractured Dimension) on keyboards we have Fuga Finalis, an explosion of Progressive Groove Metal infused with Jazz and other idiosyncratic sounds and tones. Not only that, can you feel the anger bursting from Daniel’s roars? It’s sick and amazing at the same time, of course. And the music makes an instant bridge with the also demented and progressive Asmodeus, sounding as bold and weird as possible while led by the jamming beats by Lille, being therefore highly recommended for musicians who love the fusion of metal and Jazz, before the outro Epilogue ends the album in a cryptic and again atmospheric manner, with its instrumental pieces exhaling melancholy and heaviness until all is said and done.

“Having played in various metal bands before, we were kind of drawn to modern jazz and fusion records at the time and wanted to challenge ourselves with a more complex and improvisational approach to music. Of course, being the metal kids that we are, we couldn’t totally hide from our roots, but overall we tried to emphasize extended harmonic concepts and recurring rhythmic motives common to a Jazz/Fusion context”, commented the band about their newborn spawn, and after listening to the album in its entirety it’s easy to understand exactly what they wanted to accomplish in The Encounter. Needless to say, they more than succeeded in their quest, and if you want to give Intercepting Pattern a try you can grab your copy of The Encounter from the Rising Nemesis Records’ BandCamp page, and soon also from the Rising Nemesis Records’ Big Cartel and from IndieMerchstore. You can also get to know more about the band by following them on Facebook, showing your appreciation for their wicked hybrid of Heavy Metal and Jazz, and inspiring them to keep exploring the outer space and alien life with their refined music for many years to come.

Best moments of the album: Signal-to-Noise, Rebiogenesis and Fuga Finalis.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Rising Nemesis Records

Track listing
1. Extragalactic Radio 3:26
2. Signal-to-Noise 1:56
3. Interlude I 1:38
4. Eigenlicht 3:07
5. Hypnagogia 3:56
6. Interlude II 1:46
7. Rebiogenesis 4:48
8. Fuga Finalis 2:34
9. Asmodeus 4:35
10. Epilogue 2:15

Band members
Daniel Sander – vocals
Marte Auer – guitars, synths
Clemens Engert – bass
Lille Gruber – drums

Guest musician
Jimmy Pitts – guest keyboards solo on “Fuga Finalis”

Album Review – Thundermother / Heat Wave (2020)

Let’s turn up the heat to the sound of the brand new album by a Swedish band that doesn’t just play Rock N’ Roll. They are Rock N’ Roll.

Founded by guitarist Filippa Nässil in 2009 in Växjö, a town in southern Sweden’s Kronoberg County, but currently based in the Swedish capital Stockholm, Hard Rock/Rock N’ Roll all-female squad Thundermother is back in action with a brand new album entitled Heat Wave, their fourth full-length opus and the follow-up to their 2018 self-titled release, offering the listeners another round of their fantastic fusion of Rock N’ Roll, Hard Rock, Blues, Punk Rock and Heavy Metal. Even groovier than its predecessors, Heat Wave presents 13 catchy compositions showcasing all the skills and passion for heavy music by Filippa and her bandmates Guernica Mancini on vocals, Majsan Lindberg on bass and Emlee Johansson on drums, with the fine tuning being provided at Medley Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark by Hard Rock hitmaker Søren Andersen, an experienced producer and gifted guitarist who has already worked with Glenn Hughes, Dave Mustaine and Tommy Aldrige, to name a few,  resulting in a sophisticated version of an “AC/DC meet Motörhead” sound with fresh modern rock elements and a rich 70’s groove.

An Airbourne-like vibe permeates the air in the electrifying opening tune Loud and Alive, with Emlee pounding her drums in great fashion while Guernica inspires us all to rock like there’s no tomorrow with her piercing vocals, all spiced up by Filippa’s slashing riffs and solos. Then rockin’ guitar lines are accompanied by the rumbling bass by Majsan in the Hard Rock extravaganza titled Dog from Hell, an ode to classic Rock N’ Roll highly recommended for hitting the road or enjoying a cold beer, followed by Back In ’76, another song perfect for a live concert inspiring us all to raise our fists to Thundermother’s undisputed rock music where Filippa and Majsan are once again on absolute fire with their stringed axes, offering Guernica all she needs to mesmerize us all with her amazing vocal performance. And it’s time for the girls to put the pedal to the metal and kick us all in the face with the frantic, breathtaking tune Into the Mud, with Emlee obviously dictating the pace with her unstoppable beats, therefore generating a fantastic ambience while Filippa’s shredding and Majsan’s metallic bass bring sheer thunder to the overall result.

The title-track Heat Wave is an AC/DC-inspired feast of classic riffs and beats, keeping the album at a high level of adrenaline (and heat, of course), and I would love to listen to this old school rock song played on any radio station worldwide, whereas despite Sleep might not be a bad composition, we must admit the girls sound a lot more cohesive and exciting when playing faster songs. I mean, it works well as a ballad, in special Guernica’s passionate vocals, but perhaps this was something asked by their record label as it feels a little out of place among the other songs from the album. Back to a more visceral and unrelenting mode, Filippa brings to our avid ears an Iron Maiden’s “Two Minutes to Midnight”-ish riff, setting fire to the excellent Driving In Style, supported by the heavy kitchen by Majsan and Emlee. Put differently, I dare you to stand still to such insane Rock N’ Roll hymn, and it looks like Thundermother never get tired of embellishing the airwaves with their vibrant Hard Rock as we can all witness in Free Ourselves, one more tune tailored for admirers of the music by AC/DC and Airbourne where Guernica and Emlee make a truly dynamic duo with their combination of soulful vocals and classic drums.

Venturing through the realms of Southern Rock mixed with tequila and endless electricity, the girls fire the riding tune Mexico, spearheaded by the groovy bass by Majsan and the always pounding beats by Emlee, definitely inspiring us all to rock in Mexican soil; and blending the groove by Lenny Kravitz with classic rock form the 70’s they offer us the radio-friendly Purple Sky, showcasing another spot-on performance by Filippa with her always strident and hypnotizing riffs and solos. Let’s keep clapping our hands and raising our glasses to the Rock N’ Roll by Thundermother in Ghosts, a straightforward and extremely catchy tune that could have easily been played on a TV show like Sons of Anarchy. Needless to say, Guernica has another flawless performance on vocals, and speeding things up once again they bring forward the high-octane, thrilling Somebody Love Me, one of those songs I bet Emlee loves to play due to its pace. Moreover, how can we not heed Guernica’s call to love her? The whole song presents a sensational job done by this talented Swedish quartet, no doubt about that, whereas Majsan’s rumbling bass sets the tone in the closing tune Bad Habits, where Thundermother yet again smash our senses with their hybrid of Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll, ending the extremely fun ride that is Heat Wave on a high note.

As the band itself likes to say, Thundermother don’t just play Rock N’ Roll. Thundermother are Rock N’ Roll, and Heat Wave is undoubtedly the perfect depiction of all their love for the genre, their undeniable talent and all the hard work they put on crafting each and every song of the album. Hence, don’t forget to give the girls a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, and to purchase your desired version of Heat Wave, which is also available for a full listen on Spotify, by clicking HERE (or HERE if you’re a Swedish customer). After all is said and done, why don’t we just forget about our problems and get back into the mud together with Guernica, Filippa, Majsan and Emlee, turning up the heat and enjoying the fantastic music blasted by four girls who put the word “thunder” in our good old, dirty and rebellious Rock N’ Roll?

Best moments of the album: Loud and Alive, Into the Mud, Driving In Style and Somebody Love Me.

Worst moments of the album: Sleep.

Released in 2020 AFM Records

Track listing
1. Loud and Alive 3:56
2. Dog from Hell 3:37
3. Back In ’76 3:34
4. Into the Mud 3:15
5. Heat Wave 3:56
6. Sleep 3:57
7. Driving In Style 3:43
8. Free Ourselves 3:52
9. Mexico 3:38
10. Purple Sky 4:48
11. Ghosts 3:45
12. Somebody Love Me 3:43
13. Bad Habits 3:35

Band members
Guernica Mancini – vocals
Filippa Nässil – guitar
Majsan Lindberg – bass
Emlee Johansson – drums

Album Review – Guardian Of Lightning / Cosmos Tree (2020)

Behold the mighty sound of the ultra-heavy electric bass by a Brazilian power trio who praises the gods of thunder and metal in their excellent debut opus.

Known as the the herald of a new wave of metal music, curiously labeled as “Thunder Metal”, Guardian Of Lightning are a three-piece band based in São Paulo, Brazil featuring lead bassist Iron King, his father Marco Fino on vocals and rhythm guitar, and Lord Drum on drums, with their unique sound being a fresh take on the metal genre, replacing the typical lead guitar role with that of an ultra-heavy thundering electric bass. Lead bassist Iron King (yes, that is his real name) grew up surrounded by music, inspiring him to follow in the footsteps of bass legends such as Cliff Burton, Joey DeMaio and Lemmy Kilmister and, therefore, leading him to form Guardian Of Lightning back in 2017. Produced by Eurico Tavares at Stage Record Power Audio Studio, the band’s debut opus Cosmos Tree makes it clear from the very first second that the electric bass is front and center throughout the entire album, but each individual song will also bring to you a wide variety of sounds, an undeniable sync and dynamism between the band members, and of course, the magic of our beloved Heavy Metal.

The album’s atmospheric Intro will certainly invite you to the heavy world of Guardian Of Lightning, setting the tone for the epic title-track Cosmos Tree, which reminds me of the mighty sound blasted by Grand Magus infused with the rockin’ elements from the music by Motörhead, with Lord Drum dictating the rhythm with his pounding beats while Iron King shreds his bass in great fashion.  In the superb Raise Your Sword, the Mark Tornillo-like vocals by Marco walk hand in hand with the thrilling Power Metal beats and bass punches fired by Lord Drum and Iron King, respectively, also bringing hints of 70’s Progressive Rock and Metal through their intricate and thunderous bass sounds, followed by the also epic Sound of Thunder, exactly what Iron King delivers from his rumbling bass, showcasing an accelerated pace and classic riffs and lyrics, therefore resulting in an ode to all things rock and metal tailored for fans of the music by Manowar and other bands that love to add endless epicness to their creations. And once again inviting us all to bang our heads in the name of metal, the trio masterfully smashes their instruments in Aligned With the Stars, where the riffage by Marco provides an amazing support to Iron King’s metallic bass.

Then adding elements from Blues to their core sonority, the trio brings forward the beautiful Follow Your Silver Shine, where Iron King is once again majestic with his visceral and electrifying bass jabs and solos, while his father Marco showcases a fun and vibrant vocal performance from start to finish, whereas Inside of Us presents another solid fusion of Stoner, Sludge and Southern Metal with more epic styles such as classic Heavy and Power Metal, not to mention that what Iron King does with his bass is truly impressive, making our heads tremble with awe. Lord Drum begins hitting his drums harder than usual in the also rockin’ Another Place, where it’s a pleasure to witness the sonic synchronicity of father and son crushing their strings with power and dexterity, and they keep jamming with passion until the very end. Lastly, slowing things down a bit the band offers the more serene and classic Be Like the Moon, where Iron King once again showcases all his skills armed with his bass, and albeit this song is not as creative or inspiring as its predecessors, it still provides the listener a very good reason for having a cold beer and headbanging nonstop.

After taking a few detailed listens at Cosmos Tree, you’ll see it’s easy to understand what Guardian Of Lightning mean with the expression “Thunder Metal”, because that’s exactly what you’ll get throughout the album’s over 30 minutes of music, pure and mighty thunder in the form of our good old Heavy Metal, consequently paving an interesting path ahead of Iron King and his loyal henchmen for the coming years. Hence, don’t forget to follow such promising band on Facebook and on Instagram, to listen to more of their music on Spotify, and above all, to purchase your desired version of Cosmos Tree by clicking HERE, proving to the gods of thunder and metal you deserve a place right by their side in Valhalla.

Best moments of the album: Raise Your Sword, Sound of Thunder and Follow Your Silver Shine.

Worst moments of the album: Be Like the Moon.

Released in 2020 Eclipse Records

Track listing
1. Intro 1:09
2. Cosmos Tree 5:00
3. Raise Your Sword 3:41
4. Sound of Thunder 4:17
5. Aligned With the Stars 3:29
6. Follow Your Silver Shine 3:58
7. Inside of Us 3:15
8. Another Place 4:55
9. Be Like the Moon 3:29

Band members
Marco Fino – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Iron King – lead bass guitar
Lord Drum – drums

Album Review – Häxan / White Noise (2020)

Three Welsh girls are ready to bring the noise armed with their first full-length album, always in the name of our good old Rock N’ Roll.

With an impressive array of live shows and festivals under their belt, including Download Festival, Monsters Of Rock Cruise, Rock The Boat Cruise and Hard Rock Hell, Cardiff, Wales-based all-female Hard Rock trio Häxan is ready to take the world of rock and metal by storm with their brand new album White Noise, a lecture in classic rock tailored for fans of the music by Led Zeppelin, Suzi Quatro, AC/DC and Black Sabbath. Recorded at Stompbox Studios in Wales, the album was produced, mixed and mastered by Todd Campbell (Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons), who’s helped lead singer and guitarist Sam Bolderson, bassist Harriet Wadeson and drummer Jess Hartley reach a higher level with their music, all embraced by a straightforward and strong artwork by Matt Riste Illustration, and if you think the COVID-19 pandemic would stop the girls from embellishing the airwaves with their music you’re absolutely wrong. “We debated postponing the album launch until there was more certainty in our (and your) lives. We ultimately decided that so many of our fans and friends had been asking for this album for so long, that it was only right to continue with its launch and hopefully help to give everyone a little something to look forward to. We want White Noise to be able to mask the sounds of the uncertain outside world that’s around all of us currently, to allow people to escape it. It’s an opportunity to shut everything else out and enjoy the incredible potency of music.”

Let’s cut to the chase as it’s time to rock together with the girls from Häxan in the opening tune Damned If You Do, presenting elements from classic rock with the electrifying punk-ish sound blasted by bands like Volbeat, with Jess sounding fantastic on drums while Sam delivers sheer adrenaline with her spot-on riffs, followed by Killing Time, a mid-tempo headbanging tune led by the pounding drums by Jess accompanied by the crushing bass punches by Harriet, bringing a Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” vibe and, therefore, resulting in a lesson in 80’s Rock N’ Roll for admirers of the genre. After such great start the band offers us all Nine Lives, a Volbeat/Misfits-inspired composition by the trio where Sam and Harriet slash their strings beautifully while Sam blasts her delicate but potent vocals for our total delight. Needless to say, this is an amazing option for their live performances, which is also the case with Grave Digger, where the band ventures through more Blues-ish, Southern Rock lands. Furthermore, Sam poetically declaims the song’s lyrics while Jess keeps the song’s pace smooth and vibrant at the same time, not to mention the thrilling guitar solo blasted by Sam. And they keep smashing their instruments powerfully in the Hard Rock extravaganza Louder Than Words, with Harriet and Jess making the earth tremble with their thunderous bass and drums, also bringing to our avid ears soulful guitar riffs and solos and endless stamina.

In Black Sheep the trio gets back to a darker and groovier sonority, with Harriet hammering our heads with her fiery bass while Sam brings forward more of her charming vocals, sounding almost like a grim, badass rock ballad, whereas uniting the groove of Southern Rock with the old school Hard Rock by AC/DC Häxan offer us all the dancing Crash and Burn, with Sam’s vocals being nicely complemented by some crisp backing vocals, rockin’ guitar riffs and incendiary solos. In the flammable Skeletons, we’re treated to a high-speed, dirty pounding Rock N’ Roll party by the girls where Jess is unstoppable on drums, providing Sam all she needs to scream the song’s catchy chorus flawlessly (“Your skeletons are out to play, you thought you’d take them to your grave / You’ll always be the second best to demons that you’d laid to rest / Your skeletons are running wild, haunting you til the day you die / You believe what’s done is done, but you won’t ever run / From all your skeletons, skeletons”), before Living Dead closes the album in great fashion, albeit not as inspiring as the rest of the album, but still showcasing all the dexterity of the girls with Jess once again kicking ass with her beats together with Harriet’s rumbling bass jabs.

The talented and hardworking girls from Häxan are waiting for you on Facebook, on Instagram and on Spotify to rock your world like there’s no tomorrow, bu of course in order to show them your true support and to prove you deserve a place in the Rock N’ Roll heaven, go grab your copy of White Noise from their own BandCamp page, from Apple Music or from Amazon. In a nutshell, White Noise might not be a revolution in rock music, but that has never been the band’s intention anyway. Sam, Harriet and Jess just want to play pure, unfiltered rock music and give us all a very good reason for smiling, banging our heads and dancing the night away. After two astounding releases, those being their 2017 debut EP Breaking Down the Walls and now the top-of-the-line White Noise, what’s next for the girls from Häxan? Well, only time will tell, but we can all rest assured they will never sell out and will keep bringing the noise to our avid ears for many years to come, always in the name of our good old Rock N’ Roll.

Best moments of the album: Damned If You Do, Nine Lives and Skeletons.

Worst moments of the album: Living Dead.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Damned If You Do 4:50
2. Killing Time 4:07
3. Nine Lives 4:45
4. Grave Digger 5:03
5. Louder Than Words 4:07
6. Black Sheep 5:35
7. Crash and Burn 4:07
8. Skeletons 5:34
9. Living Dead 4:27

Band members
Sam Bolderson – vocals, guitar
Harriet Wadeson – bass
Jess Hartley – drums

Album Review – Grand Magus / Wolf God (2019)

It’s time to worship the almighty Wolf God together with one of the most talented and hardworking bands of the Swedish metal scene.

Hailing from the stunning city of Stockholm, Sweden, Heavy/Doom Metal three-piece act Grand Magus has been delivering a powerful and thrilling amalgamation of styles such as Blues, Hard Rock, Heavy and Doom Metal since their inception in the now distant year of 1999 (or even 1996 if you consider their years under the name Smack as part of their current career), gathering a respectable fanbase through the years around the entire world of heavy music. For instance, their self-titled debut album Grand Magus, released in 2001, stirred up the underground to the point it is now considered to be a cult favorite, and now in 2019 the band comprised of Janne “JB” Christoffersson on lead vocals and guitars, Mats “Fox” Skinner on bass and backing vocals, and Ludwig “Ludde” Witt on drums returns in full force with Wolf God, the ninth album in their solid career and undoubtedly one of the most interesting and epic albums of the year. Drawing influence from bands such as Motörhead, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Manowar, Grand Magus are absolutely focused, sharp and heavy-as-hell in Wolf God, blasting hymn after hymn for the delight of all lovers of the golden years of classic metal music.

With the majority of the songs being recorded on the first take at The Sweetspot Recording Studio in Sweden together with producer Staffan Karlsson (Arch Enemy, Firewind, Spiritual Beggars), Grand Magus achieved an honest, diverse and yet down-to-earth sound that envelops the trio’s true power, letting the music flow naturally throughout the album’s almost 40 minutes of undisputed Heavy Metal. “We decided to let go of the current philosophy to record drums first and then bass and then guitar etc. This time, we met up, jammed and created together during the last six months with the goal to record basic tracks live,” said the band about their newborn opus, and by enfolding it with the old school, aggressive artwork by American artist Anthony J. Roberts (Blackmindseye) the trio finally reached a new level of epicness that will certainly save a spot for them among the gods of metal.

Featuring orchestrations by Swedish musician Nico “Dyngwie” Elgstrand (guitarist for Entombed A.D.), who has already played acoustic guitars in a couple of tracks from their previous albums, Gold and Glory is a classy and epic intro to the howling title-track Wolf God, where Ludde pounds his drums in great Manowar-inspired fashion while JB delivers his trademark potent vocals, resulting in an old school metal song perfect for banging our heads while worshiping the Wolf God itself. And Fox’s thunderous bass take the lead in the also majestic A Hall Clad in Gold while Ludde continues to smash his drum set vigorously, not to mention all the passion and energy flowing from JB’s vocals, especially during the song’s absolutely catchy chorus.

Traditional, utterly metallic lyrics (“Ancient forces / Sleeping deep within my heart / Been searching / Through the ages in the dark / A secret / That will put me to the test / And guide me / So much stronger than the rest”) are the main ingredient in the headbanging tune Brother of the Storm, where JB fires pure electricity from his riffs while the beats by Ludde get more rhythmic and imposing, and you better keep banging your head like there’s no tomorrow in the incendiary Dawn of Fire, another classic, stylish Heavy and Doom Metal hymn led by JB’s crisp riffs and Fox’s rumbling bass. On a side note, I saw those guys playing this excellent tune live when they opened for Amon Amarth  here in Toronto, and it sounded beyond powerful and inspiring. Then putting the pedal to the metal the trio offers the circle pit-catalyst Spear Thrower, where we can enjoy Ludde’s berserk beats supporting the always pleasant vocals by JB, being tailored for fans of classic Heavy Metal while all is spiced up by JB’s piercing solos; whereas To Live and to Die in Solitude, one of the best songs in Wolf God with highlights to JB’s passionate performance and the unstoppable drums by Ludde, couldn’t be any more epic, vibrant and electrifying, or in other words, simply close your eyes and savor each and every note of such distinct ode to metal music.

A cryptic, semi-tribal intro evolves into another riff-fest titled Glory to the Brave, a beer-drinking, headbanging creation by the trio with Fox filling all spaces in the air with his bass jabs, perfect for raising your horns in the air together with Grand Magus, whereas in the thrilling He Sent Them All to Hel the skillful JB declaims the lyrics about a hero dealing with death and darkness in the aftermath (“First light in the morning – Foul smell of decay / He stands in silence – Nothing to say / Black ravens are calling / Flying high over head / Their wine is served by the dead / Once they rode together / Now he’s alone / Filling his soul with rage”), boosted by spot-on instrumental parts, endless stamina and the classic beats by Ludde, resulting in what’s in my humble opinion one of their best battle hymns of all time. And there’s nothing better than the pure Heavy Metal flowing from Untamed to close the album on a high note, showcasing a classic riffage and wild guitar solos by JB, while Fox and Ludde are on absolute fire on bass and drums, with the music flowing smoothly and powerfully until its epic finale.

It’s time for us all to praise the Wolf God, and we can do that by enjoying one of the best albums of 2019 in full on Spotify or by purchasing a copy of it from the Hamburg Records webstore or from the Nuclear Blast webstore. At this point of their career, we can all happily rest assured Grand Magus will never sell out, which means they’ll keep offering us all, lucky metalheads, precious gems of the underworld like Wolf God, bringing all their passion and respect for the gods of metal with each and every song of their albums and, more important than that, continuing to fight for Heavy Metal no matter what, always in the name of the almighty riff.

Best moments of the album: A Hall Clad in Gold, Brother of the Storm, To Live and to Die in Solitude and He Sent Them All to Hel.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Gold and Glory 2:18
2. Wolf God 3:49
3. A Hall Clad in Gold 5:02
4. Brother of the Storm 3:16
5. Dawn of Fire 5:12
6. Spear Thrower 2:55
7. To Live and to Die in Solitude 3:41
8. Glory to the Brave 5:15
9. He Sent Them All to Hel 3:37
10. Untamed 3:46

Band members
Janne “JB” Christoffersson – lead vocals, guitars
Mats “Fox” Skinner – bass, backing vocals
Ludwig “Ludde” Witt – drums

Guest musician
Nico “Dyngwie” Elgstrand – orchestrations on “Gold and Glory”

Album Review – Heavy Feather / Débris & Rubble (2019)

Get ready to rock to the debut album by four talented musicians of the Swedish Rock N’ Roll scene, bringing listeners back in time yet still offering hope about the future of rock music.

Four heavily talented musicians from the bands Siena Root, Lisa Lystam Family Band, Diamond Dogs, Stacie Collins and Mårran have decided to gather and create a heavy riff-based rock group highly influenced by the greats of the 60’s and 70’s such as Free, Cream and Lynyrd Skynyrd, with a strong belief that organic Roots Rock deserves more attention in today’s global rock scene. The final result of that fusion of talent and sheer passion for rock music is Stockholm, Sweden-based Hard Rock/ Rock N’ Roll act Heavy Feather, a hardworking and ambitious quartet that aims at bringing listeners back in time yet still offering hope about the future of rock music.

Comprised of the stunning Lisa Lystam on vocals and harmonica, Matte Gustavsson on the guitar, Morgan Korsmoe on bass and Ola Göransson on drums, Heavy Feather have just released their debut full-length album entitled Débris & Rubble, a must-have for admirers of the genre, and a fantastic gateway for anyone who’s still taking their first steps in the always exciting world of classic rock music. Throughout the 42 minutes of music split into 11 distinguished tracks found in Débris & Rubble, get ready to be mesmerized by an avalanche of heavy riffs, soaring vocal lines and classic rock passages, sounding raw, real and unique from start to finish, and therefore leaving you in absolute desire for more once the last song of the album is over.

The intro Débris & Rubble will already put you to dance with its groove, catchy beats and Lisa’s vocalizations and old school harmonica, warming up your senses for the fantastic Where Did We Go, where Matte is on absolute fire with his riffs and solos while Ola keeps the music flowing smoothly with his precise beats, not to mention how gorgeous Lisa’s vocal lines sound. In other words, this is a lesson in old school 70’s-inspired Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll, and we should all thank the band for providing our ears such amazing song. Then in Waited All My Life, another classic tune overflowing feeling and electricity, the band’s kitchen duo Morgan and Ola generate a rumbling and dense ambience perfect for Lisa to shine on vocals, turning it into a great option for hitting the road with your loved ones. And slowing things down a bit, Heavy Feather invest in a groovier and sexier sonority in Dreams, with Matte sounding like he’s in a trance or in a different dimension showcasing all his passion for his guitar, resulting in a great Rock N’ Roll song infused with Blues elements.

Higher (which official video live in Stockholm can be seen HERE) is a phenomenal Roots Rock composition by the quartet, elevating your spirit higher and higher while Ola pounds his drums beautifully, and with Matte’s soulful solo being the icing on the cake. Lisa’s harmonica returns to give an extra kick to the serene and touching ballad Tell Me Your Tale, where she will also soothe your soul with her vocals while Matte extracts simple, delicate sounds from his guitar in the most Blues-inspired way possible. If you think you can chain Lisa’s heart you’ve got another thing coming, because in Long Ride (which also has an official video live in Stockholm) she sings about uncompromising love (“Baby take me for the long ride / Oh, I want you to lose it / We can go by night time / Cus’ I love it when it’s spooky / Baby you don’t need to be my guy / We don’t need to be consistent / I love things that’s undefined / I like to keep a little distant”), with the music exhaling a 70’s sonority that’s beyond recommended for a strip-tease.

And the rock keeps on rolling in I Spend My Money Wrong, with Matte and Morgan being fast and metallic with their respective riffs and bass punches, dictating the rhythm in this old school rock feast. Put differently, simply grab a beer, relax and enjoy the song’s catchy vibe and sheer electricity, which also works for Hey There Mama, showcasing a vibrant and upbeat atmosphere where Lisa and Ola deliver incendiary performances, as well as Matte with his flammable guitar solo; and  fiery guitars and drums permeate the air in Please Don’t Leave, a solid tune by the quartet where Morgan and Ole’s passion for classic Blues becomes more than noticeable, with its second half morphing into a gentle and mesmerizing sonority until its classy finale. And lastly, a gorgeous and melancholic ballad entitled Whispering Things concludes the album on a high note, all embraced by Lisa’s delicate words (“I’m wandering all night and my bad conscious catch me / While I’m longing and hoping that maybe someday / Other times will me / I said I want things to be like they used to / You said if we could be real / I would marry you”), putting you in a delicious musical trance.

What are you waiting for to let your guard down and surrender to Lisa and her henchmen from Heavy Feather? You can follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram for news and tour dates, subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their stylish rock music, and if Roots Rock is your cup of tea you should definitely purchase Débris & Rubble directly from BandCamp or from several other retailers by clicking HERE. After listening to such excellent album of Rock N’ Roll, I can tell you we can all rest assured the genre not only has a future, but that future is groovy, exciting and flammable, all thanks to those four skillful musicians hailing from Sweden.

Best moments of the album: Where Did We Go, Higher and Hey There Mama.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 The Sign Records

Track listing
1. Débris & Rubble 1:30
2. Where Did We Go 4:19
3. Waited All My Life 3:09
4. Dreams 3:44
5. Higher 2:43
6. Tell Me Your Tale 5:12
7. Long Ride 4:03
8. I Spend My Money Wrong 3:04
9. Hey There Mama 3:45
10. Please Don’t Leave 5:26
11. Whispering Things 4:58

Band members
Lisa Lystam – vocals, harmonica
Matte Gustavsson – guitars
Morgan Korsmoe – bass
Ola Göransson – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Wanda Ortiz

I’ve been looking so long for you now… You won’t get away from my grasp…

As 2019 promises to be another memorable year for Maidenmaniacs from all over the world, especially for the ones that reside in the United States, Canada, Mexico and South America who will have the utmost pleasure of seeing Steve, Bruce & Co. live during their upcoming Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019, there’s nothing better than kicking off our Metal Chick of the Month section with an amazing bass player that truly understands what it means to be part of the legacy (and also continuing our tradition of starting the year with a badass girl on bass guitar, of course). I’m talking about Wanda Ortiz (or Wanda A. Ortiz), the skillful bass player for the all-female tribute band The Iron Maidens (billed as the “World’s Only Female Tribute to Iron Maiden”) under the brilliant stage name of Steph Harris, who’s ready to crush your skull in half to the sound of her thunderous, galloping bass allied to her endless stamina when performing live.

Born on March 27, 1968 in Huntington Beach, a California city southeast of Los Angeles, Wanda first learned to play bass at the early age of nine years old, when the elementary school she attended had a music program that enabled students to sign up and choose an instrument. When she arrived late on the first day of music class, she wound up with a junior-sized double bass, and from that moment on we can say it was “love at first gallop”. In addition to that, while she took lessons on the double bass, also known as an upright bass, Wanda also taught herself how to play electric bass when she was 11 years old in order to play in the school jazz band, and she continued playing bass throughout her school years, eventually earning a Bachelor of Music in Performance (BMus) degree from UCI – University of California, Irvine. One funny thing about Wanda and her relationship with the bass guitar is that, according to Wanda herself, she felt a little sad about her instrument when in high school because she could rarely play the melody, which were the fun parts for her, as she got stuck with simpler lines meant to hold down the beat (in other words, a typical bass line), which despite being very important could get really boring at times. Luckily, she had a friend who told her about bands like Iron Maiden and Rush that really featured bass in their music and, after listening to them, she felt a lot better.

Moving on to her career as a musician, our dauntless bassist, who plays a variety of styles such as Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Blues and classical music armed with her glitter blue G&L SB-2 bass guitar and her black SB-2 bass guitar on select shows, started playing in a more professional way in 1997, when she joined a California-based Punk Rock/Rock N’ Roll band named Rotten Rod & The Warheads. She was their bassist from 1997 to 2002, having recorded with the band a demo in 1998 titled Practice Bomb (under the eccentric moniker of “Wanda Smart Bomb”), containing songs like Germs and Cruel World. I don’t know about you, but I would love to listen to the music by this fun and electrifying band on any rock n’ roll radio out there. Anyway, while still playing for Rotten Rod & The Warheads, she was also the bassist for Heartache City from 1999 to 2001, with whom she recorded the band’s self-titled album in 2001. I couldn’t find anything online form this band, but if Wanda was their bass player I’m sure their music was at least fun to listen to, right? Furthermore, Wanda was also the bassist for a Huntington Beach-based Rock/Blues band named Field of Vision in 2004, having recorded with them the six-track album FOV that same year, highly influenced by renowned acts such as David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Velvet Underground. Once again, there’s nothing online about this specific album, but as aforementioned we know from the bottom of our hearts it’s good music we’re talking about. As a matter of fact, in 1998 and 2004, she won the Best Female Bassist award at the Rock City News Awards and, in 2003, she also won the best bassist award at The All Access Music Magazine Awards, proving how talented and focused she has always been as a musician.

In addition to those previous acts and to The Iron Maidens, our ass-kicking bassist also works as a freelance musician in various groups and orchestras in the Southern California area, including The South Coast Symphony as principal bassist since 1996. When asked about how different it is playing for The South Coast Symphony and for The Iron Maidens, if that’s the type of diversity she needs in her playing style, Wanda said that she likes to play classical music just as much as metal, and after playing an upright bass she thinks it keeps her chops up, also saying that it’s like someone who enjoys playing basketball and baseball, two different sports but both fun, which is the same with classical music and metal for her. Moreover, her talent is also recognized by several important brands and companies, being endorsed by BBE Sound, Digitech, Dunlop Manufacturing, G&L Musical Instruments, RotoSound Strings, Schroeder Superior Sound Cabinets, Coffin Case and Monster Energy Drink, and she’s also been in a couple of interesting documentaries recently, those being Hair I Go Again (2016) and the upcoming Rock Is Dead? (2019).

It was in September 2002 when Wanda finally joined The Iron Maidens, remaining with the band ever since and adopting her stage name “Steph Harris” as an obvious reference to Iron Maiden’s iconic bassist and founder Mr. Steve Harris. So far, she has recorded with the band the albums World’s Only Female Tribute to Iron Maiden (2005), Route 666 (2007), The Root of All Evil (2008) and the video Metal Gathering Tour Live in Japan (2010), trying to be as loyal as possible to Iron Maiden’s original sound. In one of her interviews, Wanda said that when she joined the band everyone was just looking for a fun and original side project (there were already several all-female tribute acts for bands like AC/DC in the area), as they all had their own bands and projects, with a goal of playing maybe once or twice a month at some local pubs. However, after the first few shows a lot of people started calling them, with things really kicking off after the band had been together for about a year despite the fact they never took themselves too seriously at that time. As a matter of fact, if there’s one thing they always took very seriously was the music, always trying to replicate the original tones from Iron Maiden the best possible way even with the different instruments they use like Wanda’s bass, which is technically a Fender bass but not the same one used by Steve. If you want to take a good listen at how amazing Wanda and the girls from The Iron Maidens are, simply search for them on YouTube, as there are countless fantastic videos of their live performances such as The Trooper and Die With Your Boots On in California in 2014, or these two full concerts recorded in New York in 2018 and in California in 2013. Also, how about a nice and relaxed interview with the entire band conducted by Grasser Production in 2017 called “15 questions with The Iron Maidens”?

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Regarding the songs she likes to play the most from the Iron Maiden vast and rich discography, she said her all-time favorite are Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra), Phantom of the Opera, Powerslave and Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and when questioned if it’s hard for The Iron Maidens to come up with a setlist to please all fans she said it’s not difficult at all because it’s drummer Linda McDonald who keeps track of all places the band plays and what songs they played before, also taking into account her own endurance and the timing for their lead singer to do a costume change, for example, and always focusing on old songs not usually played by Iron Maiden during their current concerts and tours. She was also questioned if she ever struggles with identity, wanting to do her own original material and showcasing it, and she said she doesn’t really have any issues with that, stating that she actually enjoys playing music written by a wide variety of different composers, either metal or orchestral music, and that it doesn’t stop her from writing her own music which she has done before in original bands. Also, when asked if the band has ever had to deal with any issues related to artwork, royalties, cease-and-desists from lawyers or anything like that, she said the band does everything they can to avoid that, but that they were asked to change their logo many years ago (and they did). She complemented by saying that wasn’t a big deal, and she doesn’t think the guys from Iron Maiden were even aware of it; they simply have a good team of people who help look after everything.

Of course, it’s impossible not to talk about her “relationship” with Mr. Steve Harris and his two-fingered galloping bass method. In one of her interviews, Wanda talked about how much Steve Harris and his bass have influenced her taste for music and her playing style, talking about the aforementioned story of her playing only the basic notes while her friends would play the melodies with their violins and violas in high school, but that after listening to the all-time classic Piece of Mind she fell in love with her bass guitar again and never stopped listening to the music by Iron Maiden ever since. Apart from Steve Harris, she also cites Geddy Lee, lead vocalist, bassist, and keyboardist for Canadian Rock titans Rush, and Chris Squire, bassist and founding member of English Progressive Rock band Yes, among her influences, once again showing how much she loves the most intricate, unique and vibrant sounds anyone can extract from a bass guitar. There’s also a price to pay for having Steve Harris as her major influence, and especially for playing Iron Maiden’s music, which comes in the form of fans who believe they can offer her advice on how to perform that material beyond her considerable talent. “Every once in a while, there will be a bass player in the audience. There’s a couple songs that I’ve gotten used to playing it a certain way or maybe a different position, but they’re the same notes, but it’s not the same position (Harris) plays it in. Sometimes I’ll get that, or sometimes I’ll get like, ‘Well, Steve uses two fingers’. Well, okay. Sometimes I’ll hear that. Very rarely though,” said our talented bassist.

Wanda’s first ever Iron Maiden concert happened many years ago during the World Slavery Tour, when according to Wanda herself she didn’t drink anything to avoid having to leave to use the bathroom, as she didn’t want to miss any part of the show (well, it’s the same for me). Years later, Wanda was even able to get to know Iron Maiden in person when Michael Kenney, Steve’s long-time bass tech and the band’s onstage keyboard player, introduced the whole band to them at a concert in Irvine, California. Wanda and the other girls were obviously nervous at first for meeting their idols, but the guys were really friendly to them and down to earth, making the whole experience very pleasant. The only thing that didn’t go as planned was that they weren’t able to give them cookies that they baked specially for them, as their singer left them in her car. I’m pretty sure those cookies were delicious, but you know what was even better than that? The fact that The Iron Maidens were not only able to meet their icons in person for the first time ever, but also that the band led by Mr. Steve Harris supports them, acknowledging their undisputed talent, their passion for metal and their hard work, and that they can rest assured “Steph Harris” and the girls will always represent this more “feminine” and “delicate” side of Eddie with a lot of energy, respect and admiration. Having said that, don’t forget to check Wanda and the girls live whenever they take your city by storm, and of course, as usual… UP THE IRONS!

The Iron Maiden’s Official Facebook page
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The Iron Maiden’s Official Twitter

“As a bass player, of course, you’re going to be drawn to music more challenging, interesting and fun. I’ve always been an Iron Maiden fan since I was very young. When the band first formed everybody wanted to do something different, something more challenging. Since we all wanted something unique that nobody else was really doing, we thought Iron Maiden would be a good fit. We are all coincidentally huge Iron Maiden fans, so that made it better.” – Wanda Ortiz

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”

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”