Album Review – Eshtadur / Mother Gray (2017)

Overflowing rage, despair and electricity, the brand new album by this implacable Colombian act will certainly help the band cement their name in the Extreme Metal underground scene worldwide.

Formed in the fall of 2005 in Pereira, the capital city of the Colombian department of Risaralda, Melodic Death/Black Metal act Eshtadur has been on a roll since their inception, making a name for themselves in all four corners of the world with their unrelenting fusion of extreme sounds in the vein of bands such as At The Gates, Behemoth, Soilwork, Dimmu Borgir and Septicflesh, always adding imposing and symphonic elements to their music to make it even more impactful to our ears. For instance, the band has already toured Colombia, Peru and Mexico, they headlined a stage at Rock Al Parque (which is not only the largest rock festival in Colombia and one of the most important in Latin America, but also arguably the largest free rock festival in the continent) in 2016, and they’re getting ready for their first ever US dates and many other festival appearances in the coming months.

Having already released the full-length albums Dominated by Dummies, in 2011, and Stay Away from Evil and Get Close to Me, in 2013, as well as their debut demo Rebellion of Angels, in 2007, and the EP Oblivion, in 2015, the band comprised of Jorg August on vocals and guitars, Alejo Bet on guitars, Victor Valencia on bass and Mauro Marin on drums is effectively expanding their exposure to the metal scene worldwide with their third full-length installment, the excellent Mother Gray, featuring a classy artwork designed by French artist Sylvain (Razorimages), guest guitar solos by Christofer Malmström (Darkane), and an endless amount of electricity and rage flowing from all their instruments, all led by the desperate growls by Jorg.

The heavy and dark guitars by Jorg and Alejo ignite the aggressive opening track Belong To Nowhere, a high-end fusion of Symphonic Black Metal with Death and Melodic Death Metal where Mauro sounds possessed with his demonic blast beats while Jorg screams in a rabid and desperate manner throughout the entire song. Building an instant connection with the previous tune, Plaguemaker keeps the menacing aura crafted by the band even stronger, displaying a good balance of guitar lines, growls and potent drumming, while the keyboards in the background give it a Dimmu Borgir-inspired vibe; followed by the Melodic/Symphonic Metal aria Cornered At The Earth, where the band engages in their most sinister mode by deepening their growling and strengthening their beats, culminating in a violent and gripping rhythm boosted by its dark lyrics (“Gray the future and gray the earth / Dust in the soil, foil the religion / And the permanent conclusion of being the one who brings pest /Back to the world”). Whereas the Doom Metal-inspired Desolation brings forward a melancholic intro that slowly grows into an imposing sonority, as heavy and dense as it can be, with some faster moments to keep it fresh and vibrant. Moreover, the desperation flowing from the vocals is outstanding, going on and on until the song’s visceral ending to the sound of deep and putrid roars.

Getting back to a faster and more melodic sounding but still presenting the band’s characteristic symphonic elements, also showcasing fiery guitar riffs and solos as well as total havoc blasted by Mauro’s insane beats, the powerful Time Hole To Paris will certainly generate some sick mosh pits during their live concerts, while in March Of The Fallen we face an epic and somewhat funereal beginning to yet another ominous creation by Eshtadur, an eccentric “waltz” of Dark Metal with its keyboards and vocals taking the obscurity to a whole new level, again presenting more of those putrid gnarls before all is said and done. And as their “formula” seems to be one Stygian song followed by a sonic demolition, it’s time to speed things up again with the high-octane chant The Day After I Die, presenting slashing guitars blended with epic keys and rabid growls, without a single second of peace during its five minutes of sheer devastation.

As the first bonus track added by Eshtadur to Mother Gray, we have another symphonic extravaganza that will attack our senses named Heavens to The Ground (originally released in their 2015 EP Oblivion), with the guitars by Jorg and Alejo and the drumming by Mauro being in absolute sync, while the song’s keys make sure the atmosphere remains eerie for the otherworldly vociferations by Jorg.  The second bonus offered by the band is entitled Last Day Of The Condors, also from their EP Oblivion, sounding slightly similar to its predecessor (in special its guitar and vocal lines), not as tasty but still very enjoyable. And lastly we have a very cohesive, potent and fresh version they recorded in 2014 for Survivor’s hit Burning Heart (check out the original version HERE) featuring guest musicians Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork) and Christopher Clancy (Mutiny Within) on vocals, and Per Nilsson (Scar Symmetry) and Allan Marcus (Arecibo) on lead guitars. Survivor might be better known by the usual rocker for the all-time Rocky Balboa-classic “Eye of the Tiger”, but this song also represents all the passion Survivor had for rock music, not to mention this cover version is Eshtadur’s own tribute to Survivor’s longtime frontman Jimi Jamison (R.I.P.), who died of a heart attack in September 2014.

If you enjoyed all the fury blasted by Eshtadur in Mother Gray, I highly recommend you go check their Facebook page and YouTube channel for more of their kick-ass music, and if you want to purchase Mother Gray (which you can listen in its entirety on Spotify), you can grab your copy of the album at the Bleeding Music Records’ BandCamp, on iTunes, on Amazon, or at several other locations such as Barnes & Noble and ImportCDs. As mentioned in the beginning of this review, Mother Gray overflows rage, despair and energy, and as you’re more than aware of, those are some of the main elements which make us love Heavy Metal so much. In other words, Eshtadur nailed it with Mother Gray, surely making all metalheads in Colombia proud of their music.

Best moments of the album: Belong To Nowhere, Cornered At The Earth and Time Hole To Paris.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Bleeding Music Records

Track listing
1. Belong To Nowhere 3:27
2. Plaguemaker 4:28
3. Cornered At The Earth 5:01
4. Desolation 6:50
5. Time Hole To Paris 5:21
6. March Of The Fallen 7:32
7. The Day After I Die 5:06

Oblivion/Burning Heart bonus tracks
8. Heavens to The Ground 3:26
9. Last Day Of The Condors 3:15
10. Burning Heart (Survivor cover) 4:33

Band members
Jorg August – vocals, guitars
Alejo Bet – guitars
Victor Valencia – bass
Mauro Marin – drums

Guest musician
Christofer Malmström – guitar solos

Album Review – Iron Savior / Rise of the Hero (2014)

If you’re addicted to traditional Power Metal, you’ll definitely love the new Iron Savior album.

Rating4

CoverNo one knows if Germany is going to win the 2104 World Cup in Brazil in a few months. However, if they play only half as amazing as the new releases from many Teutonic Heavy Metal bands, I’m pretty sure they’ll make it at least to the final four. After the sonic extravaganza we’ve already had the pleasure to enjoy this year from bands like Primal Fear, Axel Rudi Pell, Vanden Plas, Van Canto, and even Caliban (and there are many others, but I just can’t list all of them here), here come Piet Sielck and his mates from German Power Metal band Iron Savior with another damn good traditional Power Metal album, Rise of the Hero, the eighth full-length studio album in their solid career.

I must admit it’s hard to find any signs of innovation in the whole album, but remember we’re talking about POWER METAL here, a genre where basically no creativity is necessary in the making of a great album, and besides, it’s not an item requested by the diehard fans at all: we just want some heavy riffs, fast solos and sing-along chorus while we enjoy a beer and bang our heads with our friends at a concert or festival anywhere in the world.

In order to warm up their fans for some pure Power Metal, the band offers us the good intro Ascendence, full of “spaceship” effects and other interesting elements. Then it’s time for the real party to start with Last Hero, a song that couldn’t sound more traditional with its double bass and addictive chorus, which simply means it’s awesome, and Revenge of the Bride, a very Gamma Ray-like track (maybe as a tribute to his friend Kai Hansen, who was with the band from 1996 to 2001?) with direct riffs and drums.

The electricity continues with From Far Beyond Time, which starts with a nice riff before turning into another traditional fast Power Metal tune the likes of Blind Guardian, especially the singing and backing vocals, and Burning Heart, with its astounding rhythm, awesome raw bass lines, and a chorus that is perfect for those famous “Oh-oh-oh!” moments when played live. By the way, the video for this track is really funny: how did Piet find so much time to sing the whole song inside his car? Was the traffic so bad he couldn’t move for almost 5 minutes? Anyway, it’s for sure one of the best songs of the album, if not the best.

BandFor the ones that love that insanely fast Power Metal from the 80’s, Thunder from the Mountains is absolutely mandatory in your playlist: it has the same kind of punch found on Helloween’s classic Ride the Sky. But if you prefer those songs that are made for banging your head and playing some air guitar, you’ll love the great Iron Warrior and the following track, the not so amazing Dragon King, with its 100% Manowar-ish lyrics.

The next song was supposed to be just a bonus track, but the band liked the final result so much they decided to make it a regular album track, according to Piet himself: Dance with Somebody is a cover to Swedish Rock band Mando Diao’s hit, and I guess I don’t need to say which version is better, right? The following track, Firestorm, is a good song, but it lacks the same energy as the rest of the album and it falls flat after a while; the same happens with The Demon, a semi-ballad that doesn’t exactly match with Iron Savior’s style. The last track of the album, Fistraiser, puts things back where they belong, and if you don’t see yourself in the lyrics, I’m sorry, but you’re not a true Heavy Metal fan. Finally, if you purchase the special edition or the Japanese edition of the album, you’ll also get the 2014 version for Iron Savior’s old tracks I’ve Been To Hell or Mind Over Matter, respectively.

The beautiful album art by Colombian artist Felipe Machado Franco, who has worked with many other Heavy Metal icons such as Blind Guardian, Rage and Iced Earth, couldn’t represent better the music in Rise of the Hero. In other words (and I may sound repetitive here), it’s pure Power Metal, something the talented Piet and his band have managed to do extremely well since the formation of Iron Savior, and we can happily rest assured it’s something they will keep doing in the years to come.

Best moments of the album: Last Hero, Burning Heart, Iron Warrior and Dance with Somebody.

Worst moments of the album: Dragon King, Firestorm and The Demon.

Released in 2014 AFM Records

Track listing
1. Ascendence (Intro) 1:28
2. Last Hero 5:00
3. Revenge of the Bride 4:35
4. From Far Beyond Time 5:17
5. Burning Heart 4:39
6. Thunder from the Mountains 5:08
7. Iron Warrior 4:41
8. Dragon King 5:43
9. Dance with Somebody (Mando Diao cover) 3:55
10. Firestorm 4:58
11. The Demon 5:02
12. Fistraiser 4:40 

Bonus tracks
13. I’ve Been To Hell 2014 (Limited Edition) 4:04
14. Mind Over Matter 2014 (Japanese Edition) 5:34

Band members
Piet Sielck – vocals, guitars
Joachim “Piesel” Küstner – guitars, backing vocals, additional lead vocals on “I’ve Been To Hell 2014” and “Mind Over Matter 2014”
Jan-Sören Eckert – bass, backing vocals
Thomas Nack – drums, backing vocals