Album Review – From Hell / Rats & Ravens (2020)

Are you ready for an excellent album of Horror Metal set in mid-13th Century Eastern Europe that weaves an eerie and epic tale of witchery?

Labeling themselves as a Horror Metal concept band in which each recording is intended to be its own horror story, San Francisco, California-based Thrash/Death Metal act From Hell are unleashing upon humanity the second chapter in their horror anthology since their inception in 2010, the dark and sinister Rats & Ravens, an album set in mid-13th Century Eastern Europe that weaves an eerie and epic tale of witchery throughout its ten original tracks. Produced by Greg Wilkinson (High on Fire, Necrot, Autopsy) and mastered by Maor Appelbaum (Faith No More, Annihilator, Cynic), Rats & Ravens is not only the natural follow-up to their 2014 effort Ascent From Hell, but an evolutionary step in the career of the quartet currently comprised of the band’s mastermind and founder Aleister Sinn (also known as George Anderson) on vocals and guitar, Steve Smyth also on the guitar, Stephen Paul Goodwin on bass and Wes Anderson on drums. “The story is about a witch who desires children of her own and steals them from the villages nearby,” Aleister explains. “When she kills them, she traps the ravens who come for their souls. She keeps the children on this earth, reanimates their corpses with rats and calls them ‘Lilium.’”

Right after a short and sinister intro entitled Dark Heart, From Hell come crushing in the modern-day Thrash Metal tune They Come At Night, with its dark lyrics being manically vociferated by Aleister (“Running through the forest as daylight starts to dim / Following close behind I hear them closing in / Demons of the forest. Spirits in the wind. / Whispering in the darkness. Whispering, ‘She comes again!’”) while Stephen brings the groove with his wicked bass, followed by Lilium, a song about the proclamations from the witch as to what she has done, where the band blasts a thunderous fusion of Thrash and Groove Metal the likes of Lamb of God and Overkill, and with Aleister and Steve being merciless with their venomous riffs. And after a brilliant drum intro by Wes it’s time to slam into the pit together with From Hell in the infernal The Witch, an old school thrashing extravaganza showcasing fulminating riffs and rumbling bass punches, or in other words, the whole package diehard fans of the genre are always searching for.

Venturing through darker and more demonic lands, From Hell brings to our ears a mid-tempo, spine-chilling tune titled Don’t Cry For Help, led by the rhythmic beats by Wes while the band’s guitar duo kicks some serious ass with their riffs and solos; whereas Three And Nine is a ritualistic Thrash and Groove Metal chant where the entire band makes the skies darker and the fires form the netherworld stronger and brighter with their refined techniques, therefore keeping the level of horror in the album extremely high, and with Wes once again smashing his drums in great fashion from start to finish. Then in Forest Of The Screaming Trees a sinister, uncanny background is gradually accompanied by acoustic guitars before all hell breaks loose, morphing into a movie score-inspired Thrash Metal beast where Aleister, Steve and Stephen are in absolute sync with their hellish strings.

In the excellent Room For One those four metallers deliver a classic thrashing riffage together with vicious, pounding beats, generating the perfect ambience for Aleister and his high-pitched, devilish roars and, as a result, living up to the legacy of bands like Exodus and Testament. It’s a true headbanger, I might say, and it’s time to put the pedal to the metal and blast our ears and skulls with the frantic Body Rats, a classic Thrash Metal composition for the masses where Aleister leads his horde with his inhumane screeches while Stephen and Wes keep the earth trembling with their respective weapons. Lastly, there’s nothing better than a straightforward, in-your-face thrashing tune with some good amount of shredding, soaring screams and intricate beats like Am I Dead to properly close the album, with Wes being once again insane on drums, providing his bandmates all they need to darken our hearts and souls in the album’s climatic finale.

If you’re a fan of horror movies and at the same time a longtime admirer of Thrash and Death Metal, I highly recommend you go grab a copy of Rats & Ravens either by clicking HERE (where you can also stream it in full on Spotify) or by visiting the Scourge Records webstore, and don’t forget to follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram for an additional share of horror, blood and mystery by keeping up to date with their news, releases and tour dates. From Hell did a fantastic job uniting their scorching metal music with witchcraft in Rats & Ravens, an album that doesn’t get tiresome nor bland at any given moment; quite the contrary, this is how heavy music should always sound. Heavy, dark, intricate and, above all that, absolutely evil.

Best moments of the album: Lilium, The Witch and Room For One.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Scourge Records

Track listing
1. Dark Heart 0:54
2. They Come At Night 5:49
3. Lilium 4:16
4. The Witch 5:50
5. Don’t Cry For Help 5:43
6. Three And Nine 5:29
7. Forest Of The Screaming Trees 5:49
8. Room For One 5:38
9. Body Rats 8:42
10. Am I Dead 6:56

Band members
Aleister Sinn – vocals, lead guitar
Steve Smyth – lead guitar
Stephen Paul Goodwin – bass guitar
Wes Anderson – drums

Album Review – High Priestess / Casting The Circle (2020)

Seasoning their psych-doom cauldron with tribal percussion and prog rock arrangements, this American trinity is ready to cast a spell on us with their excellent new album.

Convoking crushing riffs drenched with lush harmonies and hypnotic eastern themes, Los Angeles-based Doom Metal trinity High Priestess was formed in 2016 by bassist and vocalist Mariana Fiel when she recruited Katie Gilchrest on guitar and vocals and Megan Mullins on drums, crafting a sound that echoes both past and future incarnations of doom and psychedelia since then. After the release of their highly-acclaimed self-titled debut album in 2018, it’s time for High Priestess to captivate our senses once again with their sophomore opus Casting The Circle, featuring a dark and sexy artwork by Jill Colbert at Manfish Inc. and seasoning their psych-doom cauldron with keyboards, tribal percussion, signature harmonies and grandiose prog rock arrangements. “After playing these songs live for many months, we are pleased to have captured them in their definitive recorded versions for the whole world. We honor gods and goddesses, ancestors and spirits from the past, present and future and sing songs of misfortune,” commented Katie Gilchrest herself about the band’s amazing new album.

A tribal, dark mass is about to start in the deep and embracing Casting the Circle, led by Megan’s ritualistic beats while Katie and Mariana begin blasting their enthralling vocal lines in a true psychedelic and doomed manner. Put differently, it’s absolutely impossible not to get hypnotized by their music, which is also the case in the fabulous Erebus, where the trio leans towards the most obscure side of iconic acts like Black Sabbath and Candlemass, but with a delicious feminine touch added to the overall result. It’s almost ten minutes of enfolding passages, crisp riffs and the sluggish beats by Megan, all spiced up by Katie’s astounding, piercing guitar solos, whereas The Hourglass is a Psychedelic and Progressive Rock extravaganza blending the trademark sound from the 70’s with the band’s more contemporary doom, with Katie’s stunning riffs being complemented by the low-tuned bass by Mariana and the classic drums by Megan, not to mention the song’s fiery vocal lines.

Then it’s time to surrender to the most Stygian side of life in Invocation, offering our avid ears over 17 minutes of ethereal and somber passages led by Katie’s primeval, mesmerizing riffs while Mariana and Megan dictate the rhythm with their thunderous but delicate instruments, summoning the prince of darkness with their scorching Doom Metal. Flowing like an arrow on fire through the night and getting heavier and more imposing halfway through it, the song remains tribal and dense until its demolishing grand finale, with Katie heightening our senses with her cryptic organ keys. And lastly we have Ave Satanas, an ethereal and obscure outro by the trio where their somber vocalizations will drag you into their sinister lair in the name of Satan (which in the case of High Priestess is a beyond awesome opportunity for any metalhead, of course).

The circle of what the band itself likes to call “Heavy-Psych Doom” has been cast by Katie, Mariana and Megan in their newborn opus, and in order to join those three undeniably talented women in their quest for such unique style of heavy music simply follow them on Facebook and on Instagram, and grab your copy of Casting The Circle from Ripple Music’s BandCamp page or webstore (US and Europe), as well as from Amazon. The high priestesses of heavy and lustful Doom Metal are among us to stay, and as they conjure each and every one of us to become part of their devilish kingdom, there’s only one question left, and it’s indeed a very simple one. Who are we to say no to such distinguished and dexterous triumvirate of doom?

Best moments of the album: Erebus and The Hourglass.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Ripple Music

Track listing
1. Casting the Circle 5:10
2. Erebus 9:37
3. The Hourglass 6:46
4. Invocation 17:22
5. Ave Satanas 3:26

Band members
Katie Gilchrest – vocals, guitars, organ
Mariana Fiel – bass, vocals
Megan Mullins – drums, percussion

Metal Chick of the Month – Nadja Peulen

Say it, Nadja! We’re out for blood!

As part of our annual tradition here at The Headbanging Moose, the first metal chick of the year must be a badass bass player to properly kick things off with a lot of thunder and heaviness just the way we like it in Heavy Metal, and in 2020 that couldn’t be any different than that, of course. Having said that, get ready to venture through the realms of Alternative and Nu Metal with the one and only Nadja Peulen, a German-born bassist and backing vocalist currently based in Los Angeles, California, in the United States known for bringing tons of groove to our avid ears as the bassist for American metallers Coal Chamber from 1999 to 2000, again between 2002 and 2003, and one last time after a huge band hiatus from 2013 until 2016 when the group disbanded once and for all.

Born on January 10, 1975 somewhere in the always beautiful Germany, our 1.73m-tall blue-eyed, red-haired bassist started her life in music at a very early age due to her family travelling a lot and staying at several different places, always on the road in the name of Rock N’ Roll, always surrounded by distinct people, and always attending music concerts. Of Polish and German descent, Nadja grew up in the Netherlands and listened to a lot of 70’s music such as Motown, disco and classic rock at home because of her parents, being highly influenced by those styles in her current way of playing bass. Originally starting out studying art with aspirations to be a painter, Nadja naturally decided to switch to music, playing drums before becoming a bassist and continuing her career as a drummer after moving to Los Angeles when she was only 18, learning from renowned drummers and jamming with several different musicians (while at the same time working in different jobs such as tiling bathrooms and working as a waitress in a strip bar).

After a while, when Nadja decided she wanted to get more into songwriting, she was given a bass guitar (a cheap $100 one, by the way) and started playing with one finger only, gradually evolving to a couple more fingers and never having a single lesson in her life. Three months later, she was already in an all-girl band named Tail, playing around Hollywood for a couple of years at Whisky a Go Go, The Viper Room and whatever clubs were there at the time. After a couple of years, Nadja was invited to join Los Angeles-based Nu Metal outfit Coal Chamber in 1999 while bassist Rayna Foss-Rose was on maternity leave, and again after the recording of the 2002 album Dark Days when Rayna left the band for good, playing live with the band in several domestic and international tours with bands like Drowning Pool co-headlining the tours. Despite not having recorded the bass lines in Dark Days, Nadja is featured in the official video for Fiend, one of the band’s most well known songs which is thought to be about how the band and the Nu Metal genre were getting heavily criticized at the time. In addition, Nadja was also featured as the band’s bass player in the excellent concert Live at the Maritime Hall, San Francisco, CA, 1999 in the bonus DVD from the 2005 special re-release of their 1997 debut album Coal Chamber.

Then after a long period of silence from 2003 until 2011, Coal Chamber reunited for a short run of international shows with bassist Chela Rhea Harper instead of Nadja, but our talented red-haired bassist officially returned to the band in October 2013 shortly before the band signed to Napalm Records to record a new album. “Beyond happy and excited today to announce my return on bass with Coal Chamber,” Nadja wrote on the day of her official return to the band. “I’ve missed my brothers and can’t wait to rock the stage with them again and see all of you!” It was in May 2015 that Coal Chamber released their fourth album in thirteen years and their only studio album with Nadja on bass, entitled Rivals, adding a touch of Groove Metal to their musicality while at the same time distancing themselves from their previous Gothic Metal style. From Rivals, you can enjoy Nadja’s rumbling bass punching you in the face in songs like Another Nail In The Coffin, Suffer In Silence (featuring Ministry’s driving force Al Jourgensen on guest vocals), and I.O.U. Nothing.

Apart from her awesome stints with Coal Chamber, Nadja was also the bass player and backing vocalist for a Los Angeles-based Theatrical/Alternative Avantgarde Rock duo known as Vera Mesmer, together with vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist Christopher Mesmer, formerly of Reveille, as well as guest drummer Bones Elias (Julien K, formerly of Dead by Sunrise), from 2010 until 2013. Vera Mesmer left two very interesting releases to the world before the duo parted ways in 2013, those being the 2012 EP Orphans and the 2013 single Down the Hole, showing a different and very theatrical storytelling side of both Chris and Nadja, as you can see for example in the official video for the song Back from the Dead. “We’re constantly brainstorming and creating. We’ve completely let go of templates and we don’t stick to the genre game,” said Nadja about the artistic freedom she found with Vera Mesmer while the band was still active. “We encompass all music styles while still undeniably retaining that Vera Mesmer sound.”

You can also find Nadja lending her thunderous bass lines to a project entitled Roadrunner United from 2005 to 2008, having recorded the excellent single and video The End together with Dino Cazares (Fear Factory), Roy Mayorga (Stone Sour) and Matt Heafy (Trivium), among others, for the 2005 album The All-Star Sessions, as well as the 2008 DVD featuring a making of and a live concert with several artists such as Ville Valo (HIM), Scott Ian (Anthrax) and Tim “Ripper” Owens, with Nadja kicking some serious ass in songs like Type O Negative’s all-time classic Black No. 1 together with Ville Valo on vocals, Andreas Kisser on lead guitar, Dino Cazares on rhythm guitar, Joey Jordison on drums and Rob Caggiano on keyboards, and Tired ‘n Lonely together with Mina Caputo on vocals, Matt Baumbach on lead guitar, Acey Slade on rhythm guitar, Joey Jordison on drums and Rob Caggiano on keyboards. Furthermore, between 2004 and 2006, Nadja was also featured in the music videos for the songs (Rock) Superstar and What’s Your Number? as part of the backup band with Tim Armstrong (Rancid) and Christian Olde Wobbers (Fear Factory), both by American Hip-Hop group Cypress Hill.

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As already mentioned, Nadja has a wide and eclectic taste for music, with her primary influences lying along the Trip Hop, Industrial and Alternative Rock and Metal vein the likes of Massive Attack, Killing Joke, The Cult, Faith No More, Jane’s Addiction, Ministry, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, David Bowie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Grand Funk Railroad and Stevie Wonder, with the one and only Iggy Pop being part of one of the most exciting moments in her career. A friend of hers called Whitney, who used to play guitar for Iggy Pop, invited Nadja for a jamming session one day, but she initially said no. “Why don’t you come down to the Swinghouse and jam with me and a couple of friends?”, said Whitney, and she promptly answered “Well I’m in bed. My bass is dusty and I’m watching TV. I really don’t feel like jamming with you right now.” Whitey called back a couple of times and finally said, “Well, it’s Iggy and he wants to jam with you.” Nadja didn’t believe her friend, saying “Yeah you’re fucking with me. You just want me to come down there and hang out.” Then she got another phone call from Iggy’s manager, which turned out to be his son Eric. He said, “Yeah, Iggy Pop is down here and he really, really wants to jam with you.” She still thought it was a prank, when she finally got a phone call from Iggy himself where she recognized his voice and nearly pissed her pants. Iggy said, “Nadja, I have heard a lot of really good things about you. I want to jam with you. Come down here – can you be here in 10 minutes?” Needless to say, Nadja joined her idol and they jammed for a few hours, with Nadja later saying in one of her interviews that she was always afraid to meet someone like Iggy Pop because she believed a person like that would probably be an asshole and she would never be able to listen to his music the same way. However, he was really nice to her, a humble guy exactly how anyone would expect.

Regarding her life on the road with Coal Chamber, Nadja mentioned in one of her interviews that she really loved playing the songs Another Nail In The Coffin and Bad Blood Between Us live with the band, both from the album Rivals, and that she would have loved to be in a tour co-headlined by Coal Chamber, System Of A Down and Korn, the latter with whom Coal Chamber only played at the same festivals such as Heavy Montreal in 2015 and Graspop Metal Meeting in 2013. When questioned about the fact she was the only female on the tours with Coal Chamber, she said that it was indeed challenging as she had for example to get dressed in the bathroom of the bus, which was a very small space. However, Nadja also said she was fine being the only girl in a “boy’s club”, complementing by saying that being utterly professional was what kept everything working well. Also, on a side note, Nadja mentioned being on stage, being in that moment, is when her mind stops and she can achieve some peace of mind, having also achieved that peace by doing yoga, more specifically Kundalini Yoga, a school of yoga influenced by Shaktism and Tantra schools of Hinduism.

Nadja also launched in 2003 her own T-shirt and apparel company called CruelTees, selling her products not only online but also through stores such as Hot Topic. Owner and head designer of CruelTees, Nadja has always loved painting and sketching, having even been in Art Academy before quitting it to move to Los Angeles, with her designs fusing dark Gothic and wild Rock N’ Roll images with clever slogans. However, if you click on the official website for CruelTees, it will redirect you to her website Sonic Dominion without any products available. There are a few items in her webshop, though, but nothing related to CruelTees. Perhaps Nadja is working on a new collection for the future? If you’re curious to know more about CruelTees and ask Nadja for any updates on the brand, you can message her directly through her official website contact form, and who knows, maybe you’ll be one of the first to receive news on a new series of CruelTees shirts and apparel.

Endorsed by Schecter Guitars, Mesa Boogie, Dean Markley Strings, Monster Energy Drink and Monster Cable, our skillful bassist, who by the way thinks labeling a music style is not really that relevant, commented in one of her interviews that she’s happy to see an increasing number of female bass players (as well as guitarists and drummers) out in the market playing with their bands, which is always a good thing in heavy music, also saying she likes the fact that several of those bassists are adopting the finger style when playing their instruments, something that was a taboo in the past. Nadja herself is a finger bass player, as mentioned before, and the fact this old school technique is becoming popular again brings a lot of joy to her heart. And last but not least, Nadja’s relationship with her fans is quite healthy, with some of her fans even becoming her personal friends. She said that she can’t obviously answer everything to everyone due to her busy schedule, as she doesn’t consider herself an Internet person with enough time for social media. She actually doesn’t enjoy engaging on social media on a personal level, focusing on her work as a musician and as a designer instead. We have to agree with Nadja on that, and if you want to know more about her professional career you can either follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or watch some of her interviews and other videos on YouTube like the BIAS FX demo, an interview during Heavy Montreal in 2015, an interview to INDIEPOWER TV! in 2015, or an interview she gave to Dean Markley at NAMM also in 2015. What are you waiting for to let one of the most badass female bassists of all time show you all she got? Nadja kicks some serious ass, and she will crush you like an insect with her thunderous bass, no doubt about that.

Nadja Peulen’s Official Facebook page
Nadja Peulen’s Official Instagram
Nadja Peulen’s Official Twitter
Nadja Peulen’s Official YouTube channel
Coal Chamber’s Official Facebook page
Coal Chamber’s Official Instagram
Coal Chamber’s Official Twitter

“To me being on stage and playing music is one of the best things because I have a very busy mind – I’m always thinking.” – Nadja Peulen

Album Review – Death Angel / Humanicide (2019)

A solid and entertaining album of old school Thrash Metal that marks the band’s return to the wolves alongside a survivalist pack mentality.

Since their return from a long hiatus in 2001, American Thrash Metal wolfpack Death Angel has been on a constant and solid roll, releasing a series of albums that, although might not be considered masterpieces, are extremely high-quality albums of good old, classic thrash. If their 2016 installment The Evil Divide is in my humble opinion their strongest album of this new phase of the band and one of their all-time best ones in terms of creativity, speed and rage, we can say their brand new opus Humanicide, the ninth studio album in their career, continues to pave their thrashing path and keeps the band more than just relevant in the current metal scene, therefore keeping the flames of old school Thrash Metal burning brighter than a thousand suns.

Recorded and mixed at Audio Hammer Studios in Sanford, Florida, with additional recording at Spiderville Studios in Oakland, California and mastered at Sterling Sound in Nashville, Tennessee, Humanicide is the band’s fourth album in a row to be produced by Jason Suecof (Charred Walls of the Damned, Crotchduster, Capharnaum) and also to have the same lineup comprised of vocalist Mark Osegueda, guitarists Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar, bassist Damien Sisson and drummer Will Carroll. In addition to that, Humanicide also marks Death Angel’s return to the wolves alongside a survivalist pack mentality, which is also reflected in the album artwork designed by renowned American artist Brent Elliott White (Megadeth, Trivium, 4ARM, Thy Art Is Murder, Amon Amarth), who already worked with Death Angel in their 2010 album Relentless Retribution and in their 2013 album The Dream Calls for Blood. Having said that, are you ready to join this unrelenting wolfpack in their quest for Thrash Metal?

An epic intro ignites the bold title-track Humanicide, with the strident guitars by both Rob and Ted morphing into a shredding feast while Mark’s vocals sound piercing and acid just the way we like it, thrashing our souls mercilessly for almost six minutes before we’re treated to Divine Defector, devastating form start to finish thanks to the pounding beats by Will, and albeit not a brilliant song it’s still classic Thrash Metal and a good option for slamming into the pit. And more melodic but utterly aggressive, Death Angel put the pedal to the metal in another feast of classic guitar lines, nonstop drums and raspy vociferations in Aggressor, with Rob and Ted doing a very good job with both their acoustic lines and electrified riffs.

I Came for Blood, my favorite of all songs, is a fast and infuriated explosion of old school thrash where its guitars couldn’t sound more thrilling, while Damien and Will bring sheer thunder with their respective instruments, not to mention the song’s aggressive, take-no-prisoners-like lyrics (“The bloody nose of victory / Fueled by seeds of hate / Make peace with my enemies? / No chance, not today / I’ve traveled through the unknown / That is where I thrive / You chose to say my name aloud / So I shall never die”). Featuring the smooth piano by Ukrainian guest musician Vika Yermolyeva, Immortal Behated is a pensive and beautiful metal tune, very detailed and full of layers and nuances, and also presenting crisp guitar solos, intricate drumming and endless darkness to heighten our senses, whereas in Alive and Screaming they get back to their trademark berserk mode, with Mark being on fire on vocals supported by his bandmates’ potent backing vocals, showcasing once again a demolishing job done by Will on drums. And The Pack, as Mark himself says, is a call to arms, sounding as if the band wants to gather all thrashing wolves to fight side by side with them, with Rob and Ted stealing the spotlight with their flammable riffage.

Children Of Bodom’s own Alexi Laiho delivers a vibrant guitar solo in Ghost of Me, another fast-paced, high-octane tune with Mark firing his trademark screams, bringing to our ears riffs and solos played at the speed of light, therefore inspiring us all to slam into the pit like maniacs. Next, it’s time for Jason Suecof to fire a guitar solo in Revelation Song, focusing on the melody rather than the speed and offering another blast of dark poetry by the band (“Watch for their people dawning / Watch for their evil task / A negative space revival / A negative faceless mask, hey / A child to be so wicked / Coming to steal your mind / Lost in a destructive space / Lost in a revolting time”), with Damien’s bass sounding truly ominous in the background. Of Rats and Men is a generic version of their own music, which despite Mark’s efforts to make it more engaging the music never really takes off, while The Day I Walked Away, some sort of a “bonus track” included in all versions of the album (and that’s why I don’t understand why it’s called a bonus track), is one more not-so-exciting song by the band with a bland sound and vibe, but still presenting some good moments such as the guitar solos blasted by Rob and Ted.

In summary, as already mentioned Humanicide (available for a full listen on YouTube and on Spotify, and on sale from several locations as you can see HERE) is far from being a masterpiece, but it’s still an above average album of old school thrash that definitely deserves a shot. To be honest with you, I would love to see Death Angel go back to the more diverse and crisp musicality found in The Evil Divide, but of course I wouldn’t complain at all if they decide to keep following the same formula and deliver to us another ten albums on the same vein as Humanicide in the coming years. And for a great band like Death Angel, who have always crafted first-class Thrash Metal since their beginnings, that’s more than enough to keep us happy.

Best moments of the album: Humanicide, I Came for Blood, Immortal Behated and The Pack.

Worst moments of the album: Of Rats and Men and The Day I Walked Away.

Released in 2019 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Humanicide 5:42
2. Divine Defector 3:24
3. Aggressor 5:11
4. I Came for Blood 3:12
5. Immortal Behated 6:08
6. Alive and Screaming 3:36
7. The Pack 3:33
8. Ghost of Me 4:34
9. Revelation Song 5:33
10. Of Rats and Men 4:08
11. The Day I Walked Away 3:29

Band members
Mark Osegueda – vocals
Rob Cavestany – guitar
Ted Aguilar – guitar
Damien Sisson – bass
Will Carroll – drums

Guest musicians
Alexi Laiho – lead guitars on “Ghost of Me”
Jason Suecof – lead guitars on “Revelation Song”
Vika Yermolyeva – piano on “Immortal Behated”

Album Review – Inanimate Existence / Clockwork (2019)

A pulverizing album of Technical and Progressive Death Metal by a ruthless Bay Area triumvirate, dealing with the human tendency to struggle with the acceptance of mortality and our limited time on earth.

Formed in 2011 in the renowned Bay Area, in the state of California, United States, Progressive/Technical Death Metal trio Inanimate Existence returns in 2019 with a brand new opus entitled Clockwork, the follow-up to the group’s highly praised fourth album, Underneath a Melting Sky, released in 2017. Featuring a futuristic and whimsical cover art by by Justin Abraham (who has already worked with bands like Equipoise, Aepoch and Oubliette), with additional artwork by Mark Erskine (from Erskine Designs), recorded by Inanimate Existence and Zack Ohren, and mixed and mastered by Zack Ohren at Shark Bite Studios in Oakland, California, Clockwork delves deeper into cerebral Progressive Death Metal depths, while buoyed by the group’s established penchant for merciless full-throttle brutality and frenetic tech-death driven terrain.

And the band comprised of Cameron Porras on vocals and guitar, Scott Bradley on bass and backing vocals, and Ron Casey (Continuum, Brain Drill) on drums had a few nice words to say about their newborn spawn. “We’re thrilled to finally be able to share our 5th studio album with all of you! This is definitely the most work we have ever put into an album by a long shot. Sound wise I’d say that it’s a continuation of our last album but much more polished and mature,” commented the band, describing Clockwork’s thematic focus as “dealing with the human tendency to struggle with the acceptance of mortality and our limited time on earth. It explores the questions we torment ourselves with during life along with the irony of how small and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of the universe. The title refers to the mechanisms of a clock and how every tick brings you closer to your doom.”

The trio begins firing their fusion of insanity and progression mercilessly in the title-track Clockwork, with Ron dictating the rhythm with his furious beats while Cameron brings a touch of delicacy to the music with his guitar riffs and solos, sounding at the same time devastating and very melodic; whereas in Voyager we’re treated to lyrics that exhale insanity (“Isolated, trapped inside the capsule / I fear that I may now be on my own / My crew have perished, and I am alone / Orbiting beyond the atmosphere / My communications are down and the power is cut / I gaze back to the Earth / Wondering, will I be remembered?”), with the music bringing elements from smoother styles like Jazz while Scott extracts sheer thunder from his intricate bass lines. This talented American triumvirate keeps smashing our senses with their vicious Progressive Death Metal attack in Apophenia, as complex and pulverizing as possible, sounding as if the almighty Krisiun went full progressive at times, offering to the listener several neck-breaking moments led by Ron’s insane drumming; and their metal extravaganza goes on in Desert, with all three member firing wicked and intricate sounds and tones from their respective instruments. Put differently, it’s straightforward Progressive Death Metal with a vibrant atmosphere, not to mention Cameron’s sick solos adding some welcome lunacy to the overall result.

In Solitude the band offers us pensive and modern lyrics (“I return to solitude / Where once again I contemplate / What my purpose is inside this burdensome reality / I return to solitude / Where once again I contemplate / What is my purpose?”), while its instrumental parts are absolutely mental, with both Cameron and Ron crushing their weapons nonstop, followed by Diagnosis, where the band continues to slash our ears with the modernized and very complex version of Death Metal. Moreover, the bass lines by Scott sound insanely heavy and metallic, with the music also bringing interesting eerie passages and breaks (despite going on for a bit too long). Then back to a more demonic and infuriated mode we have Ocean, blending the most violent and thrilling elements from Progressive and Death Metal with Ron sounding infernal on drums, therefore providing Cameron the perfect ambience for gnarling deeply and rabidly, once again presenting spot-on melodic and ethereal passages. Lastly, Liberation closes the album with more of the dynamic, electrifying sounds from the depths of the human psyche by the trio, with Scott and Ron bringing thunder to the musicality while Cameron keeps delivering harmonious riffs and solos while growling like a beast until the song’s visceral ending.

You can have your brain shredded into pieces by listening to Clockwork in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, and after being stunned by Inanimate Existence simply go check what they’re up to on their official Facebook page, including their tour dates, and purchase your copy of their brand new opus from their BandCamp page, from The Artisan Era webstore (in several exclusive formats and bundles), from Apple Music or from Amazon. As aforementioned, the band itself said that we all struggle with the concept of mortality and our limited time on this planet, which means we should not waste too much time thinking but enjoying some good, destructive and complex Death Metal while we’re alive, with Clockwork being an excellent choice for that.

Best moments of the album: Voyager, Desert and Ocean.

Worst moments of the album: Diagnosis.

Released in 2019 The Artisan Era Records

Track listing
1. Clockwork 4:34
2. Voyager 5:40
3. Apophenia 4:37
4. Desert 4:06
5. Solitude 4:42
6. Diagnosis 5:34
7. Ocean 4:55
8. Liberation 6:43

Band members
Cameron Porras – vocals, guitar
Scott Bradley – bass, vocals
Ron Casey – drums

Concert Review – Godsmack & Volbeat (Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, ON, 05/10/2019)

And the city of Ottawa was more than ready to rumble with two of the best bands of the modern Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll scene.

OPENING ACT: Stitched Up Heart

Although my drive from Toronto to Ottawa on Thursday was a complete shit due to the nasty rain and all the trucks spraying tons of water on my windshield, that didn’t turn my energy level down not even a bit for the concert that was about to happen on Friday. I was really pumped to see what’s probably the best modern Rock N’ Roll bands available out there, the almighty Volbeat and the incendiary Godsmack, kicking some serious ass on stage at Richcraft Live (I honestly have no idea what that name means) at the Canadian Tire Centre. It was my first time at that venue and I must say it’s indeed a great place to watch a concert or a sports event, but unfortunately getting there is not that easy unless you drive, take a taxi or Uber to the venue, which ends up inflating the parking costs considerably.

Anyway, fans were still arriving at the venue when Los Angeles-based Hard Rock act STITCHED UP HEART began their short but effective performance, spearheaded by the beautiful Mixi on vocals. If you have no idea about what type of music Stitched Up Heart play, let’s say it’s a fusion of the contemporary Hard Rock played by Godsmack with Evanescence and Marilyn Manson, and the final result is very entertaining. It was a beyond solid warm-up for the main attractions of the night, and a very good welcome card from the band to us fans of rock music here in Canada, as I don’t actually remember seeing them anywhere around here before this tour opening for Volbeat and Godsmack. In other words, go to their official website for more information about the band, where they’re playing, where to buy their music, and so on, as those guys (and girl, of course) are definitely worth a shot.

Setlist
This Skin
Warrior
Catch Me When I Fall
Darkness
Straightjacket
Finally Free
Lost (feat. Sully Erna)

Band members
Mixi – vocals
Merritt – guitar
Randy – bass
Decker – drums 

VOLBEAT

After a short break, and with the Canadian Tire Centre already occupied by thousands of fans from different parts of Canada and the United States, it was time for Danish rockers VOLBEAT to bring to Ottawa their undisputed Rock N’ Roll infused with Heavy Metal nuances, proving once again that Copenhagen-based quartet is not one of the biggest names in the current Rock N’ Roll scene in vain. Still promoting their 2016 album Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie, but just about to release a brand new album (for our total delight), the band comprised of Michael Poulsen on vocals and rhythm guitar, Rob Caggiano on lead guitar, Kaspar Boye Larsen on bass, and Jon Larsen on drums set the venue on fire with their fast and melodic riffs and beats, and of course, endless electricity (despite the fact that Mr. Poulsen was visibly fighting some sort of cold or flu).

From the first few notes from the excellent The Devil’s Bleeding Crown to the closing moments from the already classic Still Counting, Volbeat delivered what’s expected from them, inspiring all fans from the floor section to ignite some fun (and furious) circle pits, especially during their most metallic songs such as A Warrior’s Call, 16 Dollars, Doc Holliday and Seal the Deal. Also, I think I’ve already mentioned this before, but it’s always impressive to witness how powerful and precise Mr. Caggiano is on the guitar, elevating the band’s sonority to new heights since entering the band in 2013. In addition, one song that I was extremely happy they played was Hallelujah Goat, one of my favorite Volbeat songs of all time due to its energy and heaviness, potentialized by Rob’s amazing technique and feeling. And before I forget, the band also played a brand new song for the first time ever in Ottawa, the 40-second Punk Rock tune Parasite, which albeit being extremely short it was well received by all fans who were paying attention at the moment, because you know, 40 seconds are not enough not even for a quick bathroom break. In a nutshell, I know that I just saw Volbeat live and that I’ll see them again with Slipknot, Gojira and Behemoth soon here in Toronto, but they’re so good live I cannot wait, and besides, their concerts are never long enough for them to play all of their classics.

Setlist
The Devil’s Bleeding Crown
Lola Montez
Sad Man’s Tongue (with Ring of Fire intro)
A Warrior’s Call / I Only Want to Be With You
Let It Burn
Black Rose
Parasite
16 Dollars
Dead but Rising
Fallen
Hallelujah Goat
Marie Laveau
Doc Holliday
Seal the Deal
Still Counting

Band members
Michael Poulsen – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob Caggiano – lead guitar
Kaspar Boye Larsen – bass guitar
Jon Larsen – drums

GODSMACK

It was close to 9:45pm when the lights went out, a fun mashup of classic rock songs started playing from the amps, and finally GODSMACK hit the stage with their unique mix of Alternative Rock and Heavy Metal. I confess I don’t think their 2018 album When Legends Rise is one of their best efforts to date; quite the contrary, it’s relatively weak compared for example to their previous album, the fantastic 1000hp, released in 2014, but Sully Erna and his henchmen are so amazing in what they do they managed to turn all of the songs they played from their new album, those being When Legends Rise, Say My Name, Unforgettable, Under Your Scars and Bulletproof, into truly amazing moments of their performance. By the way, as explained by Sully during the concert, inspired by their own song Under Your Scars, Godsmack have recently founded The Scars Foundation to help raise awareness of the mental health issues that so many are faced with today. Needless to say, donate and show your support to such important and noble cause.

Getting back to the concert, I have to say that even if they played bad music the whole thing would still have been at least great, as all the fire and other special effects on stage added a lot of energy to their performance. But, of course, Godsmack do not play bad music, and fantastic songs like 1000hp (my favorite of the night), Cryin’ Like a Bitch and Whatever put a huge smile on the faces of every single fan watching their concert. Furthermore, there were three very distinct moments that let’s say “surprised” most fans due to their uniqueness, those being their dark and enthralling performance of their all-time hit Voodoo, the interesting Batalla De Los Tambores (or “battle of the drums”, if you know nothing in Spanish) between Sully and the extremely talented drummer Shannon Larkin, and the Rock N’ Roll party established on stage when Rob Caggiano and the entire Stitched Up Heart joined them on stage for a cover version of AC/DC’s classic Highway to Hell.

In the end, after Godsmack played their heavier-than-hell hit I Stand Alone, all fans left the Canadian Tire Centre extremely satisfied, hoping the band doesn’t take another abysmal time to return to Canadian soil. On the other hand, if you live in Canada and missed Godsmack, I feel really sorry for your soul. A band like that is always busy, always touring the world, and they don’t have a lot of empty spot to fill out with Canadian dates. Well, don’t cry like a bitch if you missed it, simply stay tuned to their upcoming tours and do like the rockin’ citizens from Ottawa, whenever you hear the words “Volbeat” or “Godsmack”, put on your black shirt, you leather jacket and get ready to rumble like there’s no tomorrow with one of the best and most electrifying bands of the not-so-new generation of rock and metal music.

Setlist
When Legends Rise
1000hp
Say My Name
Keep Away (Moon Baby Outro)
Cryin’ Like a Bitch
Awake
Unforgettable
Something Different
Voodoo
Batalla De Los Tambores
Whatever

Encore:
Under Your Scars
Bulletproof
Highway to Hell (AC/DC cover)
I Stand Alone

Band members
Sully Erna – vocals, guitar
Tony Rombola – lead guitar
Robbie Merrill – bass
Shannon Larkin – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Kayla Dixon

Death falls so heavy on my soul… Death falls so heavy, makes me moan…

Things are about to get doomed, heavy and extremely sexy here at The Headbanging Moose with our metal chick of the month of May. Trained in classical, jazz and musical theatre vocals, as well as acting and dance, the talented and stunning Kayla Dixon, frontwoman for Doom Metal institution Witch Mountain and for Alternative Metal outfit Dress the Dead, is among us to prove once again that black girls do have a place in the world of heavy music, and she has been doing that in great fashion with her beyond powerful vocals since joining Witch Mountain in 2015. Hence, after listening to Kayla singing for the very first time you’ll get absolutely addicted to her voice and performance, no doubt about that, therefore going after everything she has already recorded in her career, it doesn’t matter if it’s metal or not.

Born on March 20, 1995 in Glendale, California and raised between Lancaster, Pennsylvania, California, and Maryland (as you can see, she moved a lot when she was a kid), Kayla has been singing since the age of five, joining a Jazz band at the age of 13, when she began to hone her vocal skills and discovered her passion for performing. Having studied ballet, modern and contemporary techniques at the American Dance Institute, the Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Maryland Youth Ballet, among others, not to mention she’s a trained actor of Stanislavski and Meisner techniques (which contributed to her deep understanding of the importance of storytelling on stage), Kayla has already participated in several projects in her career, such as productions at the Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C., the Levine Music, and the Interlochen Center for the Arts, also making an appearance in in the Sundance award winning movie I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore, on Netflix, as well as in the TV series Portlandia, Grimm and Outlaw. In addition, she said in one of her interviews she doesn’t sit at a keyboard or think about intervals or scales, unless she’s writing harmonies. She usually writes the melody first, thinking about “what words match this melody and how can I put this melody into words?”

Kayla got her first contact with heavy music during her teens due to her sisters, who used to listen to bands like Marilyn Manson, Tool and Nine Inch Nails, and she fell in love for that type of music. After straying away from that for a while, she said it was when she was in the ninth grade that she rediscovered all those bands, later turning her attention to other heavier and more complex bands such as Meshuggah. She mentioned in one of her interviews that it was the intensity of metal music that really caught her attention at first, as she feels she can express all her emotions and feelings through metal. In addition, she also said that the energy coming from the audience while you’re on stage is also what makes heavy music so special for her.

Regarding her career with both Witch Mountain and Dress the Dead, everything started back in 2015 when Kayla, who had recently discovered the music by Witch Mountain, saw on their Facebook page they were auditioning for a new vocalist after the departure in 2014 of the amazing Uta Plotkin, prior to the release of the album Mobile of Angels. She then decided to take a shot at that by submitting a video audition, admitting she was a little nervous as she loved Uta’s lyrics and the vocal melodies, but fortunately for all of us fans of rock and metal Kayla became the band’s new frontwoman (and let’s not forget she was only 19 years old at the time). Four years later, this excellent Portland, Oregon-based band formed back in 1997 released their first full-length album with Kayla on vocals, self-titled Witch Mountain (which by the way she was responsible for all lyrics), not to mention their 2016 single Burn You Down, impressing not only the band’s diehard fans with her potent voice and her ability to easily switch between clean and harsh vocals,  but also her own band members. “When she laid down a scratch track in the studio and was going back and forth between the cleans and the dirties, our producer Billy and us were just sitting there laughing with joy,” recalls guitarist Rob Wrong. “For her that was just a scratch track, and we’re just like ‘most people in the world can’t do this.’ For Dixon, the possibility to cross styles and alternate between clean and screaming vocals is ‘a breath of fresh air.’”

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Then in 2018, one year after parting ways with former The Haunted vocalist Peter Dolving, Dress the Dead announced a new lineup with our goddess Kayla on vocals in an unexpected move by many. “A mutual friend reached out to me about Dress the Dead.  One of my first thoughts was, ‘I don’t know if I’m ready or even at an appropriate talent level to be replacing someone like Peter Dolving for these guys.’  I’d battled with the idea in my head for several months before finally reaching out.  I had listened to and loved 1969, but what really hit me hard was when I heard the other songs that are still unreleased that they sent me.  I had no idea how musically diverse this band would turn out to be,” said Kayla about joining her second major band, but as what happened with Witch Mountain her vocals matched Dress the Dead’s music flawlessly, as you can enjoy in the excellent songs 1969, There Goes The Sun and Promises & Kisses. In addition to that, just to give you an idea of how healthy her relationship with her new bandmates is, take a look at this fun YouTube video titled “Dress The Dead – Crappy Comments”, where Kayla and the rest of the band read and discuss about the most ridiculous comments they received from fans via social media.

Our hardcore vegan (yes, she’s a vegan) had also been involved with several other bands and projects before joining Witch Mountain and Dress the Dead, each one offering Kayla a chance to showcase all her highly developed vocal skills. For instance, she was (apparently) the vocalist for a Cleveland, Ohio-based Groove/Death Metal band named Demons Within during an unknown period of time, and the lead singer for Sacramento, California-based Power Metal act Helion Prime from 2016 until 2017, with whom she recorded the sensational single Remnants of Stars, in 2017. Apart from that, she also started lending her unique voice now in 2019 to a British/Romanian Atmospheric Doom/Death Metal band named Clouds during some of their live performances, and she also appeared as a guest vocalist in the song Buried In Sand, from Clouds’ 2018 release Dor – Bonus Album;  in the electrifying title-track Terminal, from the 2017 album Terminal, by British Melodic Progressive Metal band Divinity Compromised; and more recently in Living Light, from the 2019 album Divided by Darkness, by Phoenix, Arizona-based Doom Metal act Spirit Adrift, to be released later this month.

Touring is always one of the most difficult and demanding tasks in the life of a musician, and as a talented vocalist that Kayla is she obviously warms up her voice (and mind) properly before going on stage, sometimes meditating for a few minutes to reach her desired state of mind prior to performing. As a matter of fact, Kayla mentioned that meditation was one of the main activities she discovered through the years to fight her childhood traumas, to work on her spirituality and to remain strong when facing any type of adversity. She also said that, to keep her body and mind healthy while touring with Witch Mountain, who by the way have a very aggressive touring agenda, she tries to eat well and work out whenever she can, avoiding things like partying and drinking. Even with all those precautions to stay in shape, Kayla said that due to her incendiary performances each show ends up being fairly exhausting for her but energizing at the same time, saying it’s another form of “meditation” for her. “Music is a way for me to express that negativity and get it out. There’s also a positivity about it. So, it’s very energizing. Music is what makes me happy and I believe it is my life’s purpose,” commented Kayla, and if you take into account the fact that when she’s not on tour she can be giving vocal lessons or acting (albeit she hasn’t being doing a lot of that lately due to her busy schedule), it’s the utmost proof she was born to be an artist.

As curious as this might sound, Kayla always mentions in her interviews that she considers herself an introvert, although she’s not actually afraid of talking to people. Despite having introverted tendencies, she confronts that inner fear by working really hard on it, saying that fear doesn’t have to be who she really is or her story. And even more curious than that, she mentioned that one thing she loves doing for relaxation and fun is watching horror movies, with her favorite one being the 1982 cult movie Poltergeist and also mentioning Suspiria as another movie she enjoyed a lot (I just don’t know if she’s talking about the 1977 original one or the 2018 version). She said Poltergeist really freaked her out, that it was extremely scary in her opinion, so how can this be a relaxing activity, right? Anyway, still talking about ghosts and paranormal activities, she said she had a few paranormal experiences in her life, as her mother was really into that kind of thing and would tell her about ghosts she saw. She mentioned that when she was seven years old she was sitting in the living room around Christmas time watching the classic TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and when she went to her room there was this white figure of an old man standing. In addition, her dad, who’s by the way a pastor, also claims he’s seen a ghost in his church, which used to be an old-fashioned one-room school house back in the 1900’s, describing the appearance of the ghost in great detail. If ghosts truly exist or not, no one knows for sure, but if Kayla channels those encounters and experiences into her music, and we all know the unknown has always been a magnificent inspiration for all genres and subgenres of heavy music, we can rest assured she’ll keep providing us first-class rock and metal for decades to come.

Kayla Dixon’s Official Facebook page
Kayla Dixon’s Official Instagram
Kayla Dixon’s Official Twitter
Kayla Dixon’s Official YouTube channel
Witch Mountain’s Official Facebook page
Witch Mountain’s Official Instagram
Witch Mountain’s Official Twitter
Witch Mountain’s Official BandCamp page
Dress the Dead’s Official Facebook page
Dress the Dead’s Official Instagram

“When I get on stage, I lose control and there’s not much I can do about that.” – Kayla Dixon

Concert Review – Cradle of Filth (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 03/27/2019)

One year after storming Toronto with their Cryptoriana World Tour for the first time, the one and only Cradle of Filth returned for another fantastic round of blasphemy, darkness and seductiveness.

OPENING ACT: Raven Black

First of all, I would like to ask anyone to explain to me why WEDNESDAY 13, the Hollywood-based Gothic/Dark Metal band led by Murderdolls’ frontman Joseph Michael Poole (aka Wednesday 13), didn’t open for the almighty Cradle of Filth last night at The Opera House like they’ve been doing together with Los Angeles-based Gothic/Dark Metal unity RAVEN BLACK during this second round of the Cryptoriana North American tour, nicely named CRYPTORIANA WORLD TOUR 2019 – THE SECOND COMING OF VICE. All websites showed Raven Black scheduled for 7pm, Wednesday 13 for 7:45pm and Cradle of Filth for 8:55pm, but what actually happened last night in Toronto was a huge (and tedious) delay that ended up with Raven Black playing at 7:45pm and Cradle of Filth at 8:55pm, with no sign of Wednesday 13 at all nor any communication from the venue or the organizers. Unless they played at 5pm when no one was there to watch them, or if they wanted to make a very bad joke with their own name saying they were “late” two weeks (as yesterday was Wednesday 27), there’s no official reason for their absence. Can anyone out there explain to me what happened, please?

Anyway, without Wednesday 13, Raven Black was left with the always demanding duty of warming up the fans at The Opera house for another night of wicked, sulfurous and dark metal music. Comprised of the stunning, talented and very sympathetic Raven on lead vocals, The Doctor on lead guitar and backing vocals, Stitches on bass and Muppet on drums and harsh vocals (plus another mysterious, unnamed guitarist who would go on and off stage depending on the song played), Raven Black put on a great show, entertaining the fans avid for the more extreme music by Dani Filth and his horde. Still promoting their 2018 album 13, Raven Black played a fairly different setlist from the ones of this same tour, either by changing the order of the songs or by adding new ones, such as their brand new single named Carnival (a very good song, by the way), probably due to Wednesday 13’s cryptic absence. And it was impossible not to keep your eyes turned to the darkly, darkly sexy Raven, who delivered a very entertaining performance impersonating an evil doll with a special artifact per song, including a hula hoop, handcuffs and a giant teddy bear. My favorite songs of their concert were Dollhouse and Twinkle Twinkle Little Scars, and if you also enjoy this type of freakish, circus-inspired metal music, go take a look at their BandCamp page not only to purchase those two songs but their entire (short but already solid) discography.

Band members
Raven – lead vocals
The Doctor – lead guitar, backing vocals
Stitches – bass
Muppet – drums, harsh vocals

CRADLE OF FILTH

After a short break it was time for British Extreme Metal warlocks CRADLE OF FILTH to haunt The Opera House once again for our total delight, still promoting their 2017 album Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay, almost exactly one year after their 2018 concert in the city, coincidentally also on a Wednesday night. The setlist was very close to their previous one, with a few changes to some of the songs such as the removal of Beneath the Howling Stars and The Death of Love and the inclusion of Nemesis and Honey and Sulphur. I love all those songs, so I was more than fine with those changes as it’s always a pleasure to see a fantastic band like Cradle of Filth playing different songs live, but there was one huge “mistake” made by the band, which was NOT closing the show with the all-time classic From the Cradle to Enslave. Sorry, Dani, but I can’t forgive you for that even after seeing your Instagram post where you say you were quite sick last night (so sick he said they dropped Saffron’s Curse instead of From the Cradle to Enslave). Just kidding, of course.

Anyway, I can’t get tired of watching Dani growling like a demonic beast (even when he’s under the weather) while his bandmates make sure the atmosphere remains as obscure, devilish and aggressive as possible, with one of the nicest keyboardists in the world, Lindsay Schoolcraft, and the unstoppable guitarist Richard Shaw providing an extra touch of delicacy and madness to the show, respectively. Richard didn’t stop jumping up and down, spinning around, spitting and urging the crowd to go crazy into the circle pit, and all that while at the same time he was flawless with his riffs and solos. That’s what I call a true metalhead, my friends, providing Dani some effective support and relief due to his illness. If you were there, I bet their performance during the unparalleled 10-minute infernal beast Bathory Aria left you completely disoriented. That says it all.

In the end, although we didn’t have Wednesday 13 for some unknown reason, it was indeed another amazing night of Extreme Metal, with Raven Black and specially Cradle of Filth, of course, showing Toronto everything they got. When all was said and done (and after all the devastation the fans were promoting inside the endless circle pit in the center of the venue), everyone had a huge smile on their faces, and not even an exhausting day at work (like the one I had) could stop the crowd from enjoying the concert to its fullest. Furthermore, there were several amazing Cradle of Filth shirts being sold by their crew or worn by the fans as usual, but there was a guy wearing a very specific one that caught my attention, where in the back it said “DANI FILTH LOVES YOU”’. Well, how can we argue with that? He surely loves Toronto, and Toronto loves him and his iconic band back. That is pure, mutual respect and admiration that makes them come back to the city again and again. Hence, it’s been just less than a day after the concert was over, but I’m already eager to see the mighty Cradle of Filth possessing our souls once again here in our beloved Toronto.

Setlist
ACT I
Ave Satani (Intro)
Gilded Cunt
Nemesis
Right Wing of the Garden Triptych
Heartbreak and Seance
Bathory Aria: Benighted Like Usher / A Murder of Ravens in Fugue / Eyes That Witnessed Madness
Wester Vespertine
Dusk and Her Embrace
You Will Know the Lion by His Claw
Creatures That Kissed in Cold Mirrors (Interlude)

ACT II
A Bruise Upon the Silent Moon (Intro)
The Promise of Fever
Saffron’s Curse
Nymphetamine (Fix)
Honey and Sulphur
Her Ghost in the Fog
Blooding the Hounds of Hell (Outro)

Band members
Dani Filth – lead vocals
Richard Shaw – guitars
Marek “Ashok” Šmerda – guitars
Daniel Firth – bass
Lindsay Schoolcraft – female vocals, keyboards
Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka – 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!

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“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 – Elegiac / Pagan Storm (2018)

Forging the New Wave of American Black Metal, behold this talented one-man army from Portland, Oregon and his brand new melodic, aggressive and bestial full-length opus.

Forging the New Wave of USBM (or American Black Metal), Portland, Oregon-based one-man army Elegiac is into this creative and productive overwhelming attitude that all the most influential bands of the 90’s were in at their very beginning, dwelling with the most typical references of the early Scandinavian heritage influenced by the more pragmatic synthesis of the USBM roughness in the project’s brand new opus entitled Pagan Storm. Since its inception in 2014 in San Diego, California by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Zane Young (from several underground acts such as Airengrav, Blitzgeist, Gormanudr, Lord Impotent and Tideless), Elegiac has released three EP’s and four full-length albums, as well as a demo and several split albums, but it’s with Pagan Storm, which features a classy and epic cover art by Joe McEvoy, that this Black Metal beast has reached its most melodic, aggressive and flammable shape and form.

Zane wastes no time and quickly darkens our minds with his sluggish Doom Metal-inspired beats and demonic gnarls in the opening track titled Rituals of War, evolving into a dissonant and Mephistophelian feast of Black Metal without a single empty space in its over eight minutes of obscurity. Then we have Allegiance and Honor, more brutal and piercing than its predecessor, presenting darkly poetic lyrics (“Calling to the gods of my blood / Deep within my memory / Return my mind to the patterns of old / And teach me the wisdom now tossed away / By the desert god of Abraham / A true plague of the mind and flesh / An empty shell… / An empty slave… / An empty shell… / An empty slave… / Molded for their every will…”) and leaning towards contemporary Melodic Black Metal, with Zane’s roars reaching a truly infernal level throughout the entire song; and dark clouds of Black and Doom Metal spread upon humanity in the 10-minute aria Somber Morning, where Zane delivers the most Stygian guitar lines and delicate but vile beats of the whole album in a demonic display of extreme music that will haunt the souls of the lighthearted. And strident guitar lines kick off the also blackened extravaganza named Through Ancient Eyes, where Zane keeps growling like a demonic entity while pounding his drums in a damned and somber manner. Put differently, if you love the rawest and most sulfurous form of underground Black and Doom Metal, this song is just perfect for you.

A lot more vibrant and electrified than its predecessors,  Purity of Winter brings forward a rumbling and dense sonority for our avid ears, or in other words, a lesson in visceral Black Metal with both guitar and bass lines sounding as crude as they can be, resulting in an enfolding fusion of melancholy, crushing sounds and tones, and the desolation of the winter. In Golden Fires of Victory we face the menacing, obscure gnarls by Zane accompanied by his blast beats and demented guitars, sending a sound message to the unbelievers that the gates of hell are open and darkness is upon us, feeling vile and crushing from start to finish; whereas in the title-track Pagan Storm the talented Zane takes his fury to a whole new level, growling and screaming in the most bestial way while unleashing demonic but at the same time very harmonious riffs from his guitar, once again adding a considerable dosage of modern-day Melodic Black Metal to his raw core sonority. And last but not least, how about 10 minutes of melodic and dynamic Black Metal to darken your metal heart even more? That’s what Zane offers in the closing tune Ancient Spirit, a fantastic “waltz of the damned” where his anguished lamentations add an extra layer of melancholy to the musicality, while his flammable riffs keep invading our ears until the music fades into pitch black darkness.

The somber and eccentric world of extreme music crafted by Zane and his Elegiac can be better explored by visiting the project’s official Facebook page, and of course if you have what it takes to dive deep into the crypts of Hades together with Zane you can purchase Pagan Storm from the ATMF’s BandCamp page or webstore. Hence, after listening to this potent and hellish opus by Elegiac, I bet USBM, our beloved American Black Metal, will be one of your favorite genres whenever straightforward and devilish extreme music is needed in your everyday life, with Pagan Storm becoming your personal reference in the underworld of heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Purity of Winter, Pagan Storm and Ancient Spirit.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 De Tenebrarum Principio

Track listing
1. Rituals of War 8:17
2. Allegiance and Honor 5:07
3. Somber Morning 10:20
4. Through Ancient Eyes 7:33
5. Purity of Winter 7:03
6. Golden Fires of Victory 6:49
7. Pagan Storm 7:16
8. Ancient Spirit 9:41

Band members
Zane Young – vocals, all instruments