Album Review – Depths Above / Ex Nihilo (2018)

Crafting Black and Doom Metal “out of nothing”, this Brno-based band is here to introduce us all to their gloomy vision of underground metal with their debut album.

Ex nihilo is a Latin phrase meaning “out of nothing”, often appearing in conjunction with the concept of creation, as in creatio ex nihilo, meaning “creation out of nothing”, chiefly in philosophical or theological contexts, but also occurring in other fields. It’s with that concept in mind that Depths Above, a Czech Black/Doom Metal band formed in 2015 in the city of Brno by current and former members of the bands Bhagavat (Italy), Desert Witch (Slovakia) and Inferno (Czech Republic), are releasing their debut installment, the 32-minute 4-track album Ex Nihilo, introducing us all to their gloomy vision of underground metal in which genres like Black, Death and Doom Metal mix in various dosages and moods. The wicked album artwork, created by the band’s own vocalist and guitarist Vama Marga, is a very good indication of what to expect from Vama together with guitarist Dreamancer, bassist Ivan Teleranko Dvorsky and drummer Sarapis, but it’s when you hit play that you’ll actually be able to feel all the madness and fury flowing from their distinguished music.

Ominous and cavernous sounds ignite the Black and Doom Metal aria Here and Everywhere, morphing into a gargantuan feast of extreme sounds led by Sarapis’ frantic drums and Vama’s and Dreamancer’s choleric riffs, before Vama begins growling like a demonic entity. And the music remains menacing and austere until its Stygian finale, being flawlessly followed by the flammable The Descent, where Ivan and Sarapis make the ground rumble with their thunderous instruments, being perfect for breaking your neck headbanging. Furthermore, the music gets more atmospheric and eccentric as time goes by, also showcasing a beautiful and impactful work done by the band’s devilish guitar duo.

Almost tribal, but always hypnotizing and obscure, A Prayer presents Vama, Dreamancer and Ivan complementing Sarapis’ nocturnal beats flawlessly with their piercing and dense strings in an instrumental extravaganza of Blackened Doom and classic Doom Metal, infused with elements from Progressive Metal the likes of Tool and Mastodon; whereas the title-track Ex Nihilo closes the album as demented and vibrant as the other songs in the form of a massive wall of darkened sounds spearheaded by Vama and his enraged roars. Moreover, it’s by far the most Black Metal of all songs, spiced up by the utter melancholy and anguish of Doom Metal, without a single space being left empty, invading your ears mercilessly and therefore closing the album on a high, cryptic and malevolent note.

You can get in touch with the talented Vama and his henchmen through their Facebook page, and grab your copy of Ex Nihilo exclusively from their BandCamp page. As aforementioned, Ex nihilo means “creation out of nothing”, and Depths Above explored that concept to perfection when creating the music found in their new album, showing the world the band is here to stay, proudly carrying the flag of Black and Doom Metal as high as the sun, but of course with their hearts and minds being as blackened as extreme music demands.

Best moments of the album: The Descent and Ex Nihilo.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Here and Everywhere 7:30
2. The Descent 7:04
3. A Prayer (Instrumental) 7:31
4. Ex Nihilo 9:04

Band members
Vama Marga – vocals, guitars
Dreamancer – guitars
Ivan Teleranko Dvorsky – bass
Sarapis – drums

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Album Review – Sebastien / Act Of Creation (2018)

One of the biggest exponents of modern-day Czech metal returns with the next chapter in their always-evolving and exciting career.

One of the biggest exponents of modern-day Czech metal is back with a brand new album that will certainly please and entertain all fans of the most electrified form of Melodic Power Metal you can think of. After the releases of their debut album Tears Of White Roses, in 2010, and the critically acclaimed Dark Chambers Of Déjà-Vu, in 2015, it’s time for Brno-based metallers Sebastien to unleash their third full-length installment, titled Act Of Creation, continuing their evolution as a band and, as a consequence, cementing their name as the finest metal act you can find in the entire land of beer.

With its cover artwork designed by Hans Trasid (Dis-Art Design), and featuring an entourage of very special guests the likes of Swedish vocalist Apollo Papathanasio (Spiritual Beggars, Firewind) and Slovak vocalist Mayo Petranin (Signum Regis), Act Of Creation will bring to your avid ears fourteen exceptional compositions by skillful musicians who are at their prime, from passionate power ballads to those fast and crisp Melodic Metal anthems that will accelerate your heartbeat in an exciting and fun way. Furthermore, it’s very important to emphasize the fact that Sebastien maintained the same lineup from their previous album, which obviously translated into pure cohesiveness, precise timing and a powerful dynamism among all band members.

The title-track Act of Creation kicks off Sebastien’s metallic feast with a heavier-than-usual sonority, bringing elements from modern-day Groove Metal to their traditional Power Metal. Moreover, frontman George Rain has (as expected) an amazing performance showcasing a wide range of vocal styles in the same song, while Pavel Dvorak brings epicness to the overall sound with his keys. Then we have No Destination, a fast-paced, aggressive tune that will please even non-metal fans due to its thrilling rhythm, presenting the always flammable vocals by George supported by Czech guest vocalist Kristýna Dostálová and endless energy flowing from all instruments; and Wake Up, an imposing tune where Lucas R. leads the crew with his pounding drums, with all orchestral and choir-like elements in the background enhancing the song’s already potent vibe. But it obviously wouldn’t be a Sebastien album without a classic power ballad like Amy, displaying spot-on riffs by George and his bandmate Andy Mons while bassist Petri Kallio not only delivers some powerful bass punches, but his 80’s Hard Rock-inspired backing vocals also add a lot of feeling to the final result.

Venturing through the realms of Symphonic and Melodic Metal, the band delivers a futuristic metal chant titled Evermore, presenting a pleasant paradox between clean and harsh vocals, not to mention how determined Pavel is to arouse our senses with his fiery keyboards. My Empire reminds me of some of the latest creations by Sonata Arctica (which unfortunately is not a good thing these days), with an interesting work done with all background elements but nothing that truly connects in the end, whereas Queen from the Stars is a melancholic, serene ballad with passionate performances by George on vocals and Andy with his acoustic and electric guitars. Put differently, simply hold your lighter high and wave it together with Sebastien to this beautiful song. And featuring guest vocalist Mayo Petranin, Winner is a song where the sound of keyboards is considerably higher than the one of the guitars, therefore uniting in a pleasant way the classic sounding of the 80’s with Sebastien’s contemporary metal.

With Czech guest guitarist Djordje Erič (Citron) slashing us all with a gripping, flammable guitar solo, Heal My Soul goes back to a more traditional musicality, albeit still presenting hints of heavy music from the 80’s, and consequently pleasing both fans of the classic metal by Sebastien as well as the ones who prefer more modern Melodic Metal. In Promises, Kristýna Dostálová returns with her charming vocals in another symphonic ballad by Sebastien, with Andi and Pavel being in total sync with their respective riffs and keys, therefore boosting the electricity of the whole song; and featuring guest Apollo Papathanasio on vocals, it’s time for our Czech squad to put the pedal to the metal in the electrifying hymn Die in Me, where the whole band fires pure Melodic Power Metal for our total delight. Displaying a beyond catchy chorus and endless adrenaline, this metal hymn should sound absolutely fantastic during their live performances.

And Act Of Creation might be considered a long album with its over 60 minutes of music, but every song has its purpose just like Full Moon Child, portraying a classic name for a straightforward and very cohesive Power Metal sonority boosted by the precise beats by Lucas, with highlights to the spot-on riffs and solos extracted by Andy from his unstoppable guitar. The second to last metallic act by those Czech rockers comes in the form of a semi-acoustic ballad entitled Hero, with another powerful performance by George on vocals, before the bonus track V Síti Štěstí (or “in the network of happiness” from Czech) closes the album in sublime fashion. It’s not a secret to anyone that Sebastien never get tired of delivering soulful ballads to our ears; however, this is a fresh one, being fully sung in Czech, which seems to have provided George some additional room for adding never-before-seen nuances to his vocal lines.

It’s always a pleasure to see a talented and hardworking band like Sebastien evolving in their already solid career, and if you want to know more about the best metal band hailing from the enchanting Czech Republic you should definitely go check their Facebook page and YouTube channel for news, tour dates (and they do tour several other countries if you ) and, of course, more of their awesome Power Metal. Act Of Creation, which can be purchased from the Pride & Joy Music webstore, from the band’s own Facebook, from iTunes or from Amazon, is one of those albums that will put a smile on your face no matter how hard your day has been, proving once again Sebastien are here to stay and to keep bringing top-tier heavy music to our never-resting metal hearts.

Best moments of the album: No Destination, Evermore, Promises and Die in Me.

Worst moments of the album: My Empire.

Released in 2018 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Act of Creation 4:27
2. No Destination (feat. Kristýna Dostálová) 3:02
3. Wake Up 4:11
4. Amy 5:38
5. Evermore 4:32
6. My Empire 3:48
7. Queen from the Stars 4:34
8. Winner (feat. Mayo Petranin) 4:01
9. Heal My Soul (feat. Djordje Erič) 3:47
10. Promises (feat. Kristýna Dostálová) 3:29
11. Die in Me (feat. Apollo Papathanasio) 4:54
12. Full Moon Child 4:52
13. Hero 5:25

Bonus track
14.V Síti Štěstí 4:34

Band members
George Rain – vocals, guitars
Andy Mons – guitars
Petri Kallio – bass, backing vocals
Pavel Dvorak – keyboards
Lucas R. – drums

Guest musicians
Apollo Papathanasio – vocals on “Die In Me”
Mayo Petranin – vocals on “Winner”
Kristýna Dostálová – female vocals on “No Destination” and “Promises”
Djordje Erič – lead guitar on “Heal My Soul”
Vendula Skalová – backing vocals

Album Review – Sebastien / Dark Chambers Of Déjà-Vu (2015)

Are you ready to enter the dark chambers of complexity, professionalism and passion for Heavy Metal brought forth by this fine Czech band?

Rating4

sebastien-cover-finalWhen I saw my metal heroes Iron Maiden kicking ass last year in the pleasant city of Brno, located in the always amazing Czech Republic, I knew there was something special about that place, some sort of Heavy Metal aura surrounding its antique constructions and exquisite landscapes. Almost one year later, with the release of Dark Chambers Of Déjà-Vu, the brand new album by Melodic Power Metal band Sebastien, I can definitely feel that metallic energy flowing from that historical Moravian city.

Formed in 2008, and after releasing their debut album Tears Of White Roses in 2010 and touring the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria, among other European countries, together with bands such as Fates Warning, Masterplan and Circle II Circle in the next couple of years, it was time for the band to return to Grapow Studios in Slovakia to record Dark Chambers Of Déjà-Vu. And just like its predecessor, the new album includes some very special guest performances by Tony Martin (Black Sabbath), Sergey Baidikov (Inner Fear), Zak Stevens (Circle II Circle, Savatage), Roland Grapow (Masterplan), Ailyn Giménez (Sirenia) and Marlin Rya Poemy. Add to that considerable dosages of progressiveness, symphonic elements and riveting storylines, and the final result couldn’t sound more entertaining.

Fans of Power Metal and Symphonic Metal will get instantly hooked to the opening track Stranger at The Door, which relies heavily on that famous “heavy riffs and vocals with an atmospheric background provided by keyboards” formula without sounding cheesy. Moreover, the excellent vocals by George Rain remind me a lot of Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica, with the growls by guest vocalist Sergey Baidikov (Inner Fear) adding a lot of electricity to the song. Highland Romance, one of the few songs with no special guests, keeps the ball rolling with its old school Sonata Arctica vibe. It’s very cohesive and rhythmic, with a “medieval” touch thanks to the excellent work done by keyboardist Pavel “Dvorkys” Dvorak, followed by the semi-ballad inspired by the gripping Hard Rock from the 80’s entitled Crucifixion Of The Heart, where not only guitars and keyboards are in perfect sync, but its traditional lyrics about love also match perfectly with what the music is proposing.

Following a similar pattern of the previous track, Lamb Of God showcases a passionate performance by George, supported by the precise guest vocals by Tony Martin (Black Sabbath) and a beautiful solo by guitarist Andy Mons, while the symphonic and progressive The Walls Of Lyman-Alpha feels like a blend of Nightwish and Dream Theater, with highlights to the heaviness of its riffs and keyboards which end up making the whole song more enjoyable. And Sphinx In Acheron gets even more symphonic, with the strong ambience crafted by the band enhancing the beautiful vocal duo by Goerge and guest female vocalist Marlin Rya Poemy.

Booklet 16 Seiten - Maße.qxdWhen Frozen Nightingales starts it feels like a heavier version of Van Halen during the Sammy Hagar-era, with its catchy chorus, high-speed rhythm and thrilling symphony turning it into one of the best songs of the album; followed by Sleep In The Glass, where we must give kudos to drummer Lucas R. for being spot on with his solid technique; and the excellent metal ballad The Ocean, with guest singer Zak Stevens delivering a powerful performance together with  George, supported by the heavy artillery of Lucas and bassist Petri Kallio. Man In The Maze, the second song to feature guest singer Sergey Baidikov, is another melodic and straightforward Power Metal tune that will please all fans of the genre, and in case you’re not that much into harsh vocals this is an awesome option to start enjoying the “dark side of singing”.

Speeding up and getting heavier than before (mainly due to drummer Lucas being more “enraged” behind his drum kit), the last part of the album begins with The House Of Medusa, a high-end traditional tune containing all the elements necessary for a great metal song, before My Deepest Winter shows what happens to a song when you have Mr. Roland Grapow on the guitar. It’s slightly darker than most of the other songs, and in my humble opinion it could have even been a little longer to enhance its epicness. Then we have the celestial voice from Spanish diva Ailyn Giménez embellishing the smooth ballad Last Dance At Rosslyn Chapel, and let me tell you that her performance will undoubtedly touch your heart. In addition, it’s amazing how George and Ailyn turn their “dialogue” into sublime poetry, but obviously the song wouldn’t have been so intense without the atmosphere provided by the rest of the band. And last but not least, as I love live songs all I can say is that the two bonus tracks (Dorian and Headless Cross) are outstanding and add so much value to the album it makes me wonder if their next release should in fact be a live album (check the official video below and you’ll see what I’m talking about).

Sebastien can be reached through their Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud, and if you want to purchase Dark Chambers Of Déjà-Vu you can find it on Amazon or iTunes, among other locations. In other words, are you ready to enter the dark chambers of complexity, professionalism and passion for Heavy Metal brought forth by this fine Czech band?

Best moments of the album: Frozen Nightingales, The House Of Medusa and Last Dance At Rosslyn Chapel.

Worst moments of the album: Highland Romance.

Released in 2015 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Stranger at The Door (feat. Sergey Baidikov) 4:22
2. Highland Romance 4:26
3. Crucifixion Of The Heart 3:22
4. Lamb Of God (feat. Tony Martin) 4:03
5. The Walls Of Lyman-Alpha 3:16
6. Sphinx In Acheron (feat. Marlin Rya Poemy) 4:18
7. Frozen Nightingales 4:40
8. Sleep In The Glass 4:15
9. The Ocean (feat. Zak Stevens) 4:39
10. Man In The Maze (feat. Sergey Baidikov) 3:49
11. The House Of Medusa 3:30
12. My Deepest Winter (feat. Roland Grapow) 4:40
13. Last Dance At Rosslyn Chapel (feat. Aylin Giménez) 4:03

Bonus tracks
14. Dorian (Live) 5:53
15. Headless Cross (Live) 7:48

Band members
George Rain – vocals
Andy Mons – guitars, backing vocals
Petri Kallio – bass, backing vocals
Pavel “Dvorkys” Dvorak – keyboards
Lucas R. – drums

Guest musicians
Sergey Baidikov – harsh vocals on “Stranger at The Door” and “Man In The Maze”
Tony Martin – additional vocals on “Lamb Of God”
Marlin Rya Poemy – female vocals on “Sphinx In Acheron”
Zak Stevens – additional vocals on “The Ocean”
Roland Grapow – additional guitars on “My Deepest Winter”
Ailyn Giménez – female vocals on “Last Dance At Rosslyn Chapel”

Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Brno Velodrom, Brno, Czech Republic, 06/08/2014)

SCREAM FOR ME, BRNO!

INTRODUCTION: The City of Brno

tour_500Finally back from my awesome trip around Eastern Europe, there couldn’t be a better way to “reignite” the moose than with a review of another flawless performance from Heavy Metal behemoths IRON MAIDEN! But before I talk about the concert itself, let me do a quick intro about the city of Brno, where Maiden played for the first time ever in their brilliant career.

With a population of almost 400,000 people, Brno is the capital of the South Moravian Region and the second largest city of the Czech Republic (Prague is the first one with 1.3 million people). This beautiful city is located about 200km from both Prague and Vienna (Austria), so it doesn’t really matter where you fly to if you don’t live in Europe and want to visit there.

And believe me, it’s definitely worth a visit: the people from Brno are very friendly and beautiful, their food is amazing, their beer is not only delicious but also very cheap, and of course, there’s a lot to do in the city such as visiting the imponent Špilberk Castle (you can have a pint of Brno’s awesome Poutník light draft beer for less than two Canadian Dollars at the pub on the top of the castle), seeing the mummies at the Capuchin Crypt and Church, or visiting the Brno Ossuary. Or maybe if you’re planning to have a very romantic dinner in the city, my suggestion is the excellent La Bouchée Restaurant. You can find some good info about the city and its hotels, attractions and events at the website Brno.me.

OPENING ACT: Ghost

IMAG2183We flew from Toronto directly to Vienna from the evening of June 7 to the morning of June 8, picked up a car at the airport, enjoyed the 2-hour drive to Brno, checked in at our hotel located only 500m from the venue (the open-air Brno Velodrom, which seemed really old and not very well-maintained from the inside), slept for about 2 hours to recover our energies, and then simply walked to the Velodrom. When we got there, Swedish Hard Rock band Ghost was already onstage, but we couldn’t care less as we’re not fans of the band nor will ever be. We really don’t get why so many people love this overrated band. Well, Ghost did exactly what we expected: despite their good instrumental, interesting lyrics and all their theatrical performance, the vocals are extremely bad and the songs sound way too boring for big venues or festivals. I wasn’t able to distinguish any of the songs from one another, so for me it sounded like a single 40-minute boring song being played all the time. Anyway, even the most diehard fans of Iron Maiden respected the band and not even a single boo was heard, which was good for the band members, but that left me wondering how cool it would have been with Anthrax instead of Ghost opening for Maiden, as it happened in previous concerts this year.

Band members
Papa Emeritus II – vocals
Nameless Ghouls – all instrumentalists (lead guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, drummer, rhythm guitarist)

IRON MAIDEN

IMG_1829It was around 9pm when, after the traditional intro with UFO’s Doctor Doctor and the video showing scenes of ice meltdown with the epic orchestral song Rising Mercury in the background, Steve, Bruce & Co. hit the stage with the classic Moonchild (by the way, the sound quality was excellent). I don’t need to say how great that was, right? And it doesn’t matter if it’s a huge festival like Rock Am Ring or a small city like Brno: Iron Maiden are ALWAYS on fire and ALWAYS deliver the most electrifying show one can ever imagine! “What a lovely evening!”, Bruce said in regards to the sunny and hot weather in Brno, with the temperatures above +35°C making it even hard to breathe sometimes. Nothing that cannot be solved with some cold beer, though.

Besides that, it was clear to me that the vast majority of the fans there were not from Brno, but from other parts of Czech Republic and major European cities like Prague, Vienna and Bratislava (as well as other distant parts of Europe like England and Finland), which means only true Maidenmaniacs attended the concert, enhancing the connection between band and fans even more. Moreover, as it already happened in 2012 and 2013, each and every all-time classic like Can I Play With Madness, The Trooper, Wasted Years and Run to the Hills didn’t let the energy down not even for a single second throughout the entire concert. Not even the limited English from most fans in the venue curbed their enthusiasm and their will to sing along all songs with the band. And what was that crazy dude on the fence with the British flag? He was 100% drunk, his T-shirt was all torn because of the fence (and I believe he was also bleeding because of that), but he was so happy seeing Maiden live that none of that could stop him from enjoying every song played. That was awesome.

IMG_1809In addition, the highlights of this concert (and of the whole Maiden England Tour 2014) were once again the thrilling masterpieces The Prisoner and Aces High, the undeniable perfection of the epic Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, and of course the three changes the band made to the setlist this year. This was my fifth “Maiden England” concert (after three in Canada in 2012 and one in Germany in 2013), and by far the best in terms of setlist: replacing Afraid to Shoot Strangers, The Clairvoyant and Running Free by Revelations, Wrathchild and Sanctuary was an awesome move that added more power to their performance, especially the wonderful Revelations, one of my favorite Maiden songs of all time. Bruce had such an outstanding performance on this song, one of the best I’ve ever seen, that it was impossible not to get emotional with its perfect lyrics. Can someone please ask the band to NEVER remove it from the setlist again?

Talking about Bruce, he was singing A LOT better than a few days before at Rock Am Ring. For instance, during the encore it sounded like the concert was just starting, and we’re talking about very difficult songs to sing like Aces High and The Evil That Men Do. Maybe he had more time to rest until the concert at Brno, or maybe he feels more excited when it’s a smaller venue and not a huge festival? The same can be said about the other band members, especially Dave Murray and Nicko McBrain, who were both in top form even after so many years on the road. They simply love what they do, and that’s why we love them so much. Just Google it and you’ll see what I’m talking about, there are many good videos shot at the concert in Brno that you can compare with their performance at Rock Am Ring.

In summary, as the band itself always says, “Iron Maiden’s gonna get ya, no matter how far”, even if it’s as far as Brno, in the amazing Czech Republic. No one knows if Maiden will return to the city in the future for more concerts, but based on this first one and on all the beauty, peace and the enthusiastic people there, Brno truly deserves to be constantly visited by our beloved Heavy Metal giants. And if they do so in the following years, I hope I can take some days off again to witness Bruce shouting out loud “SCREAM FOR ME, BRNO!” under the beautiful and clear Czech sky during one more of their superb summer tours.

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

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