Album Review – Marduk / Viktoria (2018)

A furious and aggressive fusion of Marduk’s classic Black Metal with their more contemporary warlike sound, proving once again why they’re one of the biggest names in the history of extreme music.

Following a similar (and obviously amazing) pattern from their previous albums, focusing on historical World War II lyrical themes like what they did in the demolishing Frontschwein, released in 2015, Swedish Black Metal regiment Marduk returns to the battlefield with another skull-crushing release, entitled Viktoria, the fourteenth studio album in the undisputed career of those Babylonian gods of extreme music. From the devastating sonic assault blasted by the band on the opening track “Werwolf” to the very last second in the closing tune “Silent Night”, Marduk deliver a furious and aggressive fusion of their classic Black Metal with their more contemporary warlike sound, proving once again why they’re one of the biggest names in the history of extreme music.

And the horde comprised of Daniel “Mortuus” Rostén on vocals, Morgan “Evil” Steinmeyer Håkansson on the guitar, Magnus “Devo” Andersson on bass and Fredrik Widigs on drums is not afraid at all of the controversy and negative reaction that the society and the media might have regarding their music and lyrics. “Overall, I would say we have a fascination with the whole war machine,” comments Morgan. “At least from my point of view, the Germans had the most fascinating machinery and equipment. Viktoria is not a standpoint, however. It’s just a reflection of history, the way it happened. With that in mind, it’s more interesting to write a soundtrack tied to specific historical events. Look at movies, for example. They’ve tackled both sides of World War II. So, Viktoria is more about history. Nothing more. Nothing less,” the axeman clarifies.

Werwolf (German for “werewolf”), which was a Nazi plan that began development in 1944 to create a resistance force which would operate behind enemy lines as the Allies advanced through Germany, was the inspiration for the opening track in Viktoria, with the wailing sirens warning about the Black Metal attack that’s about to begin and with Mortuus sounding insane and enraged on vocals while Evil delivers his usual scorching riffs in two intense minutes of extreme music. Following that demonic start we have June 44 (the best known D-Day is during World War II, on June 6, 1944, the day of the Normandy landings, initiating the Western Allied effort to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi Germany), closer to their more classic sonority with Fredrik crushing his drums in a perfect depiction of how warlike Black Metal should always sound, with the rumbling bass by Devo adding more ferocity to the overall result and the lyrics vociferated by Mortuus matching the music flawlessly (“Stubborn Jabos rip the sky / on wings of inferno into chaos / Burnt offering – killing ground / drowning in blood over and over again / See naval fire rain down / living and dead unite in a stream of anguish / A dance in the sands / of Juno and Sword / a waltz in the flames / of June 44”). And their devastation goes on in Equestrian Bloodlust, a straightforward Black Metal blasted by the quartet where Mortuus sounds even more demented than in their previous albums, while Evil and Devo are in absolute sync with their strings, generating those reverberating, evil tones we all love so much.

Tiger I, a German heavy tank of World War II deployed from 1942 in Africa and Europe which final designation was Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf. E, gave the Wehrmacht its first armoured fighting vehicle that mounted the 8.8 cm KwK 36 gun. Musically speaking, it feels like a natural “sequel” to Frontschwein’s “503”, also bringing elements of Doom Metal and Blackened Doom; however, it’s not as imposing and a bit generic, despite its austere words (“Teutonic knights of old march once again / Grand horse of steel, sword of flame – the ground is shaking / Massive apparatus of death, 58 tons of hate / unforgivingly rolling in to seal your fate”). Narva, the third largest city in Estonia, suffered devastating bombing raids on March 6 and 7, 1944 by the Soviet Air Force, destrying the baroque old town. By the end of July, 98% of Narva had been destroyed, and the music blasted by Marduk flawlessly depicts the utter devastation that happened in the city, with Fredrik once again sounding bestial on drums while Mortuus growls and gnarls manically (not to mention the song’s uprising ending). In other words, this will certainly inspire fans to slam like beasts into the circle pit during their live concerts. After such awesome tune, the slashing riffs by Evil ignite the heavy and headbanging The Last Fallen, exploding into berserk Black Metal led by Fredrik and his machine gun-like beats and fills, being effectively accompanied by the thunderous bass by Devo.

The title-track Viktoria is that trademark in-your-face Black Metal by Marduk, sounding as frantic and furious as it can be, with Mortuus spearheading the horde with his sick growling. In addition, there’s even space for some welcome progressiveness added to the sound, not to mention how infernal Fredrik sounds behind his drums. Then we have The Devil’s Song, or “SS marschiert in Feindesland” (“SS march in enemy territory”), also known as “Teufelslied” (“The Devil’s song” in German), a marching song of the Waffen-SS (the armed wing of the Nazi Party’s SS organization) during World War II, and Marduk’s “tribute” to that song is simply devastating, with the initial riffs by the bulldozer Evil piercing your brain mercilessly before all hell breaks loose. Last but not least, closing the album we have another somber, sluggish tune inspired by the most demonic form of Doom Metal, named Silent Night, representing the aftermath, the sadness and pain post-war, with a perturbing performance by Mortuus on vocals. and while listening to this crushing chant don’t forget to break your neck and spinal cord with some full-bodied headbanging.

In summary, if you love old school Black Metal and also nurture a deep interested in all things World War I and II, Viktoria is a must-have album in your “collection of evil”. The Swedish quartet takes no prisoners in their battle for extreme music, and their streak of amazing albums just keeps growing with Viktoria, which by the way is on sale at several locations as you can see HERE. Moreover, as Marduk are extremely active in the scene, always touring all over the world, keep an eye on their official Facebook page to be promptly informed of when they’re about to unleash a brutal Black Metal war in your city. Then, after the concert is over, if you’re one of the survivors you can celebrate “Viktoria” together with one of the most important and decimating Black Metal hordes of all time.

Best moments of the album: June 44, Narva, Viktoria and The Devil’s Song.

Worst moments of the album: Tiger I.

Released in 2018 Century Media

Track listing
1. Werwolf 2:02
2. June 44 3:49
3. Equestrian Bloodlust 2:51
4. Tiger I 4:12
5. Narva 4:31
6. The Last Fallen 4:25
7. Viktoria 3:26
8. The Devil’s Song 3:46
9. Silent Night 4:12

Band members
Daniel “Mortuus” Rostén – vocals
Morgan “Evil” Steinmeyer Håkansson – guitar
Magnus “Devo” Andersson – bass
Fredrik Widigs – drums

Guest musicians
Ella Thornell, Moa Asp & Tuva Ekstrand – backing vocals or “Werwolf”

Album Review – Butcher Babies / Lilith (2017)

The most dangerous and relentless demons of heavy music return with another crisp, visceral and fun album of present-day Metalcore.

As I said in our Metal Chick of the Month dedicated to the Butcher Babies in October 2016 celebrating three years of The Headbanging Moose, frontwomen Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey definitely know how to properly rumble, and now with the release of Lilith, their third full-length album, this Los Angeles-based Metalcore act spearheaded by those two gorgeous growlers more than cements their name in modern metal music. And don’t get fooled by their stunning looks, as Heidi and Carla can rip your heart out in the blink of an eye, just to show you how visceral and vibrant their music is.

After the release of the excellent Take It Like A Man, in 2015, an album that’s utterly entertaining from start to finish, fans of the Butcher Babies kept wondering if Heidi and Carla, together with Jason Klein on bass, Henry Flury on guitars and newcomer Chase Brickenden on drums would be able to deliver the same amount of aggressiveness and electricity that led them to play alongside giants like Marilyn Manson, Danzig, Rob Zombie and Cradle of Filth since the band’s inception, and for our total delight Lilith not only kicks some serious ass, but it also brings a more melodic side of the Butcher Babies that add an extra layer of intricacy and quality to their always fun compositions.

Now simply hit play and feel the metallic riffs by Henry crushing your skull before the dynamic duo Heidei and Carla begin their growling feast in Burn the Straw Man, not only a circle pit-generator with a catchy chorus and pure rage flowing from all instruments, but also a fantastic choice for opening their live concerts in full force. Following that flawless start we have the title-track Lilith, bringing their trademark ferocity infused with more melodic lines (mainly found in their cleaner vocals), with Chase proving why he was chosen to be the band’s new drummer; and Headspin, an almost-radio-friendly tune presenting a heavy but extremely sexy rhythm that will put you to dance and sing along with the band. Moreover, as a “bonus” the song got a lustful official video that deals with virtual reality (aka virtual sex) that’s definitely worth a watch. And in Korova the band gets back to a more underground Metalcore sonority, with Henry, Jason and Chase doing a solid job by supporting the screams by Carla and Heidi, all boosted by the song’s absolutely addictive chorus.

The beyond electrified #Iwokeuplikethis offers pure madness blasted by the entire band, with Chase sounding beastly on drums while our charming screamers fire some demented gnarls and deep growls nonstop. Things slow down a bit in The Huntsman, a dark Metalcore semi-ballad with hints of Alternative and Groove Metal which never really takes off despite the awesome rumbling bass lines by Jason, but everything returns to normal (if the Butcher Babies can be called “normal”) in Controller, a song that can be considered “old school Butcher Babies” by presenting all elements that made them famous in heavy music. Furthermore, its groovy and metallic tones are tailored for jumping up and down and breaking our necks headbanging with the band. And Oceana is another shot of insanity by Heidi and Carla, with the first firing her more strident screeches while the latter keeps growling deeper and deeper. In addition, Henry nails it with his crisp riffs, increasing the impact of the song to our ears.

In Look What We’ve Done we have more of their more melodic and commercial version (which means it should receive some decent air play in several radio stations), with both girls kicking ass with their potent clean vocals. And although they’re also great when singing smoother songs, I personally prefer their more enraged mode like what happens in POMONA (Shit Happens), a song that will cause some serious bruises inside the circle pit. Both girls sound demented throughout the entire song led by the frantic riffs and beats by Henry and Chase, respectively, turning it into one of the best songs of the whole album. And Underground and Overrated, the closing tune in Lilith, will pierce your ears with Henry’s cutting guitar riffs and solos and Heidi and Carla’s hellish screams. This is what I would call a “festival song”, being more than perfect for those open air festivals that happen all over Europe and North America during the summer.

Lilith might be known as a dangerous demon of the night who is sexually wanton (and who steals babies in the darkness), but from now on she will also be known as the Butcher Babies’ bitch, because no woman in metal can top Heidi and Carla in terms of stamina, fury and passion for the more alternative side of Heavy Metal. If I were you, I would certainly keep an eye on their Facebook page for their tour dates to promote Lilith (which by the way can be purchased through several different platforms, and if you’re lucky enough you might be able to find the Japanese edition with five sick bonus tracks), because as a guy that has already seen Heidi, Carla & Co. live I can assure you their concerts are insanely enjoyable. And needless to say, the Butcher Babies will keep on rocking and showing their love for heavy music until the end as true metalheads that they are.

Best moments of the album: Burn the Straw Man, Headspin, #Iwokeuplikethis and POMONA (Shit Happens).

Worst moments of the album: The Huntsman.

Released in 2017 Century Media

Track listing
1. Burn the Straw Man 4:05
2. Lilith 3:27
3. Headspin 3:32
4. Korova 4:05
5. #Iwokeuplikethis 3:01
6. The Huntsman 3:06
7. Controller 3:04
8. Oceana 3:32
9. Look What We’ve Done 3:35
10. POMONA (Shit Happens) 3:13
11. Underground and Overrated 3:59

Japanese Edition bonus tracks
12. Beer Drinker & Hell Raisers 2:54
13. They’re Coming To Take Me Away 3:16
14. Don’t Give A Fuck 2:22
15. Crazy Horses 2:55
16. Pussy Whipped 2:32

Band members
Heidi Shepherd – vocals
Carla Harvey – vocals
Henry Flury – guitar
Jason Klein – bass
Chase Brickenden – drums

Album Review – Arch Enemy / Will to Power (2017)

A good balance between the classic days of the band with the more modern path they decided to venture after the arrival of frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz. But please, they need to stay away from clean vocals.

Will to Power, the tenth studio album by Swedish Melodic Death Metal icons Arch Enemy, might be far from being a masterpiece, but at least in my humble opinion it’s a considerable improvement from their previous installment, the uninspired War Eternal, released in 2014. The first Arch Enemy album to feature guitarist Jeff Loomis (Nevermore, Conquering Dystopia) as well as clean singing as lead vocals, Will to Power presents a good balance between the classic days of the band with Angela Gossow on vocals with the more modern path they decided to venture after the arrival of frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz, with each song having its own soul and purpose on the album.

Although Jeff definitely brought a new dynamism to the music by Arch Enemy after joining the band in 2014, I guess it was the departure of Nick Cordle that same year that had the most positive impact on the songwriting by Michael Amott, who seems to have gotten rid of the damaging “generic” virus that infested his music in War Eternal. Furthermore, another nice touch in Will to Power is the album’s stylish and meaningful cover art, designed by American artist Alex Reisfar. “The human skull as a central focal point, the flesh sort of falling off into the circular pattern. The snake ouroboros weaving in and out of the mouths and throats of the severed heads of a wolf, a goat and a vampire bat… All representing self-determination and a predatory, almost parasitic will to power”, explained Mr. Amott, and as the music progresses in the album you’ll realize how powerful the art is and how much it enhances the impact of the whole album.

Set Flame to the Night is a classy intro perfect for their live performances, warming up the listener for the high-octane anthem The Race, my favorite song of the album, where Alissa and drummer Daniel Erlandsson take the lead with their wicked growls and unstoppable beats, respectively, violently questioning the dangerous direction our society is taking (“I heard there was a race / Where we’re all one race / Color, gender, age never could dictate / I saw there was a time / When we valued all life / Nobody oppressed, everyone had rights / Suddenly, in an age where the distance between us is binary / All we see, is an internal war friendly fire in the sky and respect on the floor”). Less intense and more melodic, Blood in the Water, another fantastic choice for their live concerts, transpires old school Arch Enemy with a pinch of their contemporary creations, with the flawless guitar duo comprised of Michael and Jeff being absolutely on fire, blasting slashing riffs and solos throughout the whole song. And in The World Is Yours we face more insane riffs by Michael and Jeff, not to mention the always awesome keys by guest musician Jens Johansson (Stratovarius) and the song’s sing-along, catchy chorus (“If you want the world / Use your mind / Take control / Feel the strength / Rise from within / If you really want it the world is yours”).

One of the first tracks in Will to Power to be revealed, The Eagle Flies Alone, is not as gripping as the rest of the album despite its powerful lyrics, with Alissa showcasing a good vocal performance, though, as well as the good job done by Michael and Jeff on the guitars; followed by Reason to Believe, which really feels like if Arch Enemy meets The Agonist as it’s the first ever Arch Enemy song with lead clean vocals in almost its entirety (with some growls added to make it less cheesy). It’s indeed a power ballad that might make their newer fans happy, but it’s unfortunately too generic compared to what they’re capable of. Not even Michael’s own brother, ex-Arch Enemy guitarist Christopher Amott, is capable of saving it from being tiresome. On the other hand, bassist Sharlee D’Angelo kicks off the dark and belligerent tune Murder Scene, where Alissa sounds truly enraged adding even more electricity to the song’s already boisterous rhythm. Put differently, it’s top-notch Melodic Death Metal with hints of traditional Death Metal, with highlights to the superb job done by both Michael and Jeff with their fiery strings; whereas First Day in Hell, the most ominous of all songs, brings forward a neck-breaking main riff boosted by Alissa’s obscure, deep gnarls and screams, and as the story being told evolves you’ll feel your soul getting darker and darker.

Then we have the instrumental bridge Saturnine, shaping up the sonority for the multi-layered and gripping Dreams of Retribution, a Melodic Death Metal feast that brings together the past, present and future of the band, with its guitars and bass being in total sync while Daniel adds progressiveness to the musicality and Jens once again kicks ass with his spot-on keyboard notes. The second to last song of the regular version of the album, titled My Shadow and I, is another violent creation by Arch Enemy, sounding slightly less inspired than some of the previous songs but still above average, mainly due to the intricacy found in drums and bass lines. Finally, A Fight I Must Win might be slower than most songs, but that doesn’t mean it’s not cohesive, piercing and metallic, representing almost to perfection the path Arch Enemy has been following with their latest albums, closing Will to Power in a strong way. Actually, if you go for the limited edition digipak, you’ll be treated to their cover for English Street Punk band Charged GBH’s 1982 song City Baby Attacked by Rats (you can listen to the original version HERE), an amazing version by Michael, Alissa & Co. that’s definitely worth the investment in the special edition of the album.

Overall, Will to Power is a pretty decent album by Michael and his crew, being recommended for all fans of modern Melodic Death Metal. After listening to the album for the very first time, I had some mixed feelings about some of the songs, while others (the ones where clean vocals where pretty much nonexistent) hit me in a very positive manner right from the first second, proving that, at least to my ears and my heart, Arch Enemy still got it and can deliver high-end metal music if they want to. I honestly believe the best thing the band can do right now is to stay away from the idea that clean vocals are a good addition or variation to their music, because in the end that’s certainly not what made this band so relevant and admired in Heavy Metal. I’m not saying Alissa is not a good singer when using her clean voice; quite the contrary, she’s an incredible vocalist, but Arch Enemy are a synonym to rebelliousness and anger, things that can only be represented by some high dosages of rabid screams and deep guttural growls.

Best moments of the album: The Race, Blood in the Water, Murder Scene and Dreams of Retribution.

Worst moments of the album: The Eagle Flies Alone and Reason to Believe.

Released in 2017 Century Media

Track listing
1. Set Flame to the Night (instrumental) 1:18
2. The Race 3:15
3. Blood in the Water 3:55
4. The World Is Yours 4:53
5. The Eagle Flies Alone 5:15
6. Reason to Believe 4:47
7. Murder Scene 3:50
8. First Day in Hell 4:48
9. Saturnine (instrumental) 1:09
10. Dreams of Retribution 6:40
11. My Shadow and I 4:05
12. A Fight I Must Win 6:37

Limited Edition Digipak bonus track
13. City Baby Attacked by Rats (Charged GBH cover) 2:48

Band members
Alissa White-Gluz – vocals
Michael Amott – lead guitars, backing vocals
Jeff Loomis – lead guitars, backing vocals
Sharlee D’Angelo – bass
Daniel Erlandsson – drums

Guest musicians
Jens Johansson – keyboards on “The World Is Yours”, “Saturnine” and “Dreams of Retribution”
Christopher Amott – guitars & keyboards on “Reason to Believe”

Album Review – Krisiun / Forged In Fury (2015)

These Brazilian veterans show us once again how good old school Death Metal sounds better when forged in sheer fury.

Rating5

Krisiun_Forged In FurySince the year of 1990, Brazil has become a synonym for fast, brutal and technical Death Metal due to the volcanic music engendered by Death Metal brothers Krisiun. And although there has been significant and obvious changes in their music from their 1995 debut album Black Force Domain to their brand new release entitled Forged In Fury, especially their move from that nonstop demonic carnage highly influenced by Black Metal from their early days to today’s melodic and metallic groove, they keep kicking ass and crushing our bones no matter what.

The professionalism and complexity of the artwork, designed by renowned American artist Joe Petagno, already gives the listener a good taste of what Forged In Fury is about: straightforward and deeply infuriated Death Metal. It might not be their best album to date (it doesn’t get close to that), with a couple of songs sounding like filler just to add extra time to the album, but it’s still a solid Krisiun release that will cause some serious damage to the spinal cord of fans of extreme music and admirers of the work of this talented Brazilian power trio.

Ready, set, go! Brothers Kolesne warm up the listener for a minute before the massacre starts in Scars of the Hatred, with drummer Max Kolesne being so precise and fast it’s hard to believe he’s only human. In addition, this song perfectly represents the evolution in their musicality, with the addition of lots of groove but always keeping their viciousness burning. And Max keeps sounding like a machine gun on drums in Ways of Barbarism, a brutish tune that makes it impossible not to slam into the pit. Their technique is impressive, with Alex Camargo and Moyses Kolesne giving a lesson in Death Metal with their powerful bass lines and guitar riffs and solos, respectively. Strident bass and riffs kick off the fuckin’ excellent Death Metal attack Dogma of Submission, where Alex sounds truly barbaric with his growls and Max continues his path of destruction with his unique fury and skills. If you love violence in music, this track is tailored for you.

KrisiunStrength Forged in Fury is very rhythmic and aggressive, offering everything modern Death Metal is comprised of, including sick guitar solos, harsh lyrics and a hellish atmosphere. It feels like a “special package” with three awesome songs in one thanks to the amazing job done by all band members. On the other hand, Soulless Impaler is way below the other songs in the album. The music itself never really takes off, as if something keeps holding it down, becoming quite disappointing after a while. Fortunately, in Burning of the Heretic it looks like the three brothers are mad at something or someone based on the level of devastation presented. I loved its riffs and how the vocals match flawlessly with all instruments, and what to say about the demented guitar solos delivered after four minutes?

If you want to do some sick headbanging, take a listen at The Isolated Truth to have your neck broken by its intensity. This is a good example of how they can sound clean and vicious at the same time, one of the main characteristics that took them to stardom. And like a squad marching to war, Krisiun deliver another Death Metal feast in Oracle of the Ungod, with highlights to the great work done by Moyses on the guitar, enhancing the song’s melody and flow, not to mention the metallic bass lines by Alex puncturing our ears. Following that sonic havoc, the groovy and progressive Timeless Starvation showcases the outstanding production of the album, with Alex mercilessly growling the story told in the song amidst a precise and intricate musicality. This great tune should sound amazing live, with highlights to its superb ending thanks to the flawless guitar lines by Moyses. I’m not sure what the short acoustic track Milonga de la Muerte is doing in the album, but it ends up being an interesting outro for its regular version. And if you grab a special version of it, you’ll be delighted with more of Krisiun’s unique destruction in Earth’s Cremation and with their brilliant tribute to Black Sabbath with their dark version for the classic Electric Funeral.

To sum up, as previously mentioned, Forged In Fury might not be masterpiece nor be among Krisiun’s best albums, but it’s still above average and a decent addition to the band’s belligerent discography. If you’re a longtime fan of the band and has been having fun witnessing their development through the years, you’ll have a good time listening to Forged In Fury. And if you’re new to Krisiun, go check out how Death Metal sounds a lot better when it’s forged in sheer fury.

Best moments of the album: Ways of Barbarism, Dogma of Submission and Electric Funeral.

Worst moments of the album: Soulless Impaler and The Isolated Truth.

Released in 2015 Century Media

Track listing
1. Scars of the Hatred 5:42
2. Ways of Barbarism 6:32
3. Dogma of Submission 4:55
4. Strength Forged in Fury 6:07
5. Soulless Impaler 6:11
6. Burning of the Heretic 6:21
7. The Isolated Truth 4:09
8. Oracle of the Ungod 4:43
9. Timeless Starvation 5:56
10. Milonga de la Muerte 0:53

Special Edition bonus tracks
11.Earth’s Cremation 3:49
12.Electric Funeral (Black Sabbath cover) 4:40

Band members
Alex Camargo – bass, vocals
Moyses Kolesne – guitar
Max Kolesne – drums

Album Review – Paradise Lost / The Plague Within (2015)

They’re the most amazing plague within the world of Doom and Gothic Metal, and they’re back with more of their unique dark music.

Rating4

paradise lost-the plague withinWhen the band in question are British Gothic/Doom Metal icons Paradise Lost, we all must forget about that disposable Goth teen attitude that infests thousands of websites, TV programs, YouTube channels and alternative nightclubs. These guys don’t need all those shenanigans to craft the darkest and most melancholic sounding you can think of, and they’ve been doing that with their faces “clean” for decades, releasing masterpieces such as Draconian Times and Icon. This is Doom Metal for grown-ups, and a true pleasure to listen to anytime of the day.

Now once again Mr. Nick Holmes and his crew offer us all their doomed excellence in The Plague Within, the 14th studio album in their stupendous career. Everything in the album was meticulously put together, from the album art to its obscure lyrics, without losing that raw feeling that made them famous worldwide two decades ago. If you think their previous album, Tragic Idol (2012), was a strong release, you’ll probably enjoy this new one as well, as it keeps up with the same level of complexity and deepness, but of course always providing the listener some fresh and exquisite elements to differentiate it from their other albums.

No Hope in Sight is a great tune to open the album, where its first few seconds take us back to the 90’s when Paradise Lost were rising to stardom. I believe everyone, including myself, loves how Nick can deliver some growls and his deep dark clean vocals at the same time, and of course those superb heavy riffs accompanied by the slow beats which are exactly what diehard fans of the band wanted to hear. Speeding up things a bit we have the excellent Terminal, with highlights to its truly obscure lyrics (“I can hope as silence and torture grows / The violence we now condemn infests our inner souls”) and to the amazing guitar duo by Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy, enhancing the musicality to Blackened Doom (with even the vocals by Nick getting darker than usual). In An Eternity of Lies, an orchestral intro turns into a beautiful display of melancholy and hate, and as much as I enjoy guttural vocals, in my opinion Nick’s clean voice sounds simply perfect in this song.

paradise lostThe lyrics from the following song, Punishment Through Time, are perfect for the sounding provided by the band (“Neglect afraid to say / Repentance awaits / Rejected jaded decayed / A vengeance awaits”), and it’s practically impossible not to get thrilled by this tune. I see it as a modern version of the music in Draconian Times, boosted by the awesome riffs and solos by Greg and Aaron. And if you love when Paradise Lost let their doomed side take control of the music you’ll go crazy with Beneath Broken Earth, where Nick’s vocals are so demonic you might even feel disturbed with them, with highlights to the low-tuned bass lines by Steve Edmondson and the constant and dark beats by Adrian Erlandsson. Furthermore, the lugubrious shadow doesn’t give any sign of going away with Sacrifice the Flame, another beautiful composition of sorrow and pain led by the powerful voice by Nick. Long story short, it’s slow and soulful, and that’s all we need from Paradise Lost to have a good time.

When Victim of the Past starts just as somber as the previous tunes, you will notice how dark the second half of the album is, with the atmosphere created by the keyboard notes being amazingly gruesome while the rest of band delivers some solid obscure lines. However, Paradise Lost get a lot faster and heavier in Flesh from Bone, an old school Doom Metal tune with imposing lyrics (“See the righteous fall at the rise of the damned, denied / See others crawl in the hour demand and fight”), and when a band has a superb musician like Adrian on drums they can range from the slowest Doom Metal to the most bestial Black Metal flawlessly. Letting their Stoner Rock/Metal vein arise, Cry Out is an awesome pub-fighting song which will make you headbang and raise your beer to the band for sure, with the addition of an 80’s Gothic touch to make the whole experience even better. And lastly, the masters of the genre deliver the most traditional Doom Metal in Return to the Sun, where its symphonic/choir intro is a work-of-art and every element contained in the entire song is thoroughly connected. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer the harsh vocals by Nick or the funereal drums by Adrian, if you don’t fall in love for this song forget about Doom Metal, because that’s definitely not your cup of tea.

The deluxe edition of this beautiful album comes with three interesting bonus tracks: Fear of Silence, Never Look Away and Victim of the Past (which is a live recording of an orchestral version of the original song, by the way), and you can also enjoy or even study all its lyrics HERE. As long as Paradise Lost keep releasing strong albums like this one, maintaining the fires of darkness alive, they will always be the awe-inspiring plague within the world of Doom and Gothic Metal.

Best moments of the album: Terminal, Punishment Through Time, Sacrifice the Flame and Return to the Sun.

Worst moments of the album: Victim of the Past.

Released in 2015 Century Media

Track listing
1. No Hope in Sight 4:54
2. Terminal 4:28
3. An Eternity of Lies 5:58
4. Punishment Through Time 5:13
5. Beneath Broken Earth 6:09
6. Sacrifice the Flame 4:42
7. Victim of the Past 4:29
8. Flesh from Bone 4:19
9. Cry Out 4:31
10. Return to the Sun 5:44

Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
11. Fear of Silence 3:59
12. Never Look Away 5:17
13. Victim of the Past (Orchestral Version) 5:13

Band members
Nick Holmes – vocals
Greg Mackintosh – lead guitar
Aaron Aedy – rhythm guitar
Steve Edmondson – bass guitar
Adrian Erlandsson – drums

Album Review – Arch Enemy / War Eternal (2014)

More melodic than ever, less brutal than usual: this is the new album from one of the most important Swedish bands of all time. But isn’t their music getting too melodic to the point it fails to deliver?

Rating5

CoverWhen Swedish Melodic Death Metal icons Arch Enemy released a statement earlier this year about the unparalleled and irreplaceable diva Angela Gossow stepping down as the lead singer of the band to become their business manager, I must say I was truly shocked, not to mention I felt really worried about the future of one of my favorite bands from the past decade. However, when they announced the also amazing Alissa White-Gluz (from Canadian Melodic Death Metal/Metalcore band The Agonist) as her replacement, I knew the band was going to be in very good hands, which is proven by the good War Eternal, their ninth studio album and, more important than that, the beginning of a new phase in their extensive history.

Another very significant change in the band was the departure (for the second time) of Michael’s brother, the superb guitarist Chris Amott, replaced by American guitarist Nick Cordle in 2012, because although Nick has been with the band for two years now, this is his first studio album with them. I’m a huge fan of the Amott brothers playing together, and again I was a worried about the final result in War Eternal. Guess what? Once again I was “happily wrong”, as Mr. Cordle showcases an excellent performance throughout the whole album. So this means there’s nothing wrong in War Eternal? Well, let’s say the album is far from being a failure, but it has lots of highs and lows which you’ll be able to notice as soon as you take your first listen to it.

War Eternal kicks off with the interesting intro Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F minor), which is the Latin for “Time Heals Nothing”, before the band strikes the listener with the reverberating havoc named Never Forgive, Never Forget. This song is way better than I expected, especially after listening to the singles released earlier this year: this is the true Melodic Death Metal we learned to love from Arch Enemy, with the always bestial riffs and solos from Mr. Michael Amott and a totally inspired Daniel Erlandsson pounding his drums. On the other hand, War Eternal shows us a more contemporary Arch Enemy, which means less brutal and more melodic than ever. Moreover, the lyrics and chorus are annoyingly cheesy (“Try to tell you what to do / They love to have control of you / Back against the wall / In danger of losing it all / Search deep inside / Remember who you are”), which is kind of the same issue found in Khaos Legions, but thanks to its traditional riffs and Alissa’s excellent performance the song is not a complete disaster.

The following track, As the Pages Burn, is the Arch Enemy most fans want for sure: it is A LOT better than “War Eternal” in terms of rhythm, lyrics and creativity, with highlights to the beautiful solos by Michael and Nick at the end; while No More Regrets is the perfect example of how Michael Amott masters the art of starting songs with quick and efficient guitar solos, and by here you’ll be able to notice Alissa won’t use her clean vocals in Arch Enemy, at least not in this album, which in my opinion is completely understandable, expected and correct. Although I’m also a fan of The Agonist, simply remember the band here is and will always be Arch Enemy.

Then we have the biggest disappointment of the entire album, the unbearable You Will Know My Name, a song that cannot be considered Arch Enemy, but a totally disposable track that sounds like a rip-off of “No Gods, No Masters” with less intensity and horrible lyrics. Fortunately, after a traditional instrumental bridge called Graveyard of Dreams, the band gets back on track with the good Stolen Life, a song that reminds me of the musicality from their last two albums, especially its heavy groove, and the even better Time Is Black, with an excellent start, lots of shredding and some keyboard parts, sounding like some of their songs from Doomsday Machine.

arch enemyThe last part of the album is a music rollercoaster that starts with On and On, which despite its very cohesive sonority, lacks a lot of creativity and ends up falling flat; Avalanche, a good song with more keyboards and quick but awesome guitar solos, which should sound a lot better if played live; and the excellent Down to Nothing, where Daniel Erlandsson is kickin’ fuckin’ ass one more time. In addition, the bad chorus prevents it from being really awesome, but it’s one of the best songs of the album anyway (especially the guitar solos). Michael & Co. still have time for the instrumental Not Long for This World, a very traditional way to end an Arch Enemy album.

One might ask why I gave it only a 3.0 if I said so many good things about the album. Well, there are two main issues for me in War Eternal, which I do not expect everyone to agree 100% but at least acknowledge them: first of all, the lyrical themes are too cheesy and shallow again. Where’s all that obscurity and violence from their old records? And secondly, although some of the songs sound very strong, there isn’t a single one with that “wow factor” found in masterpieces such as “Enemy Within”, “Nemesis”, “Diva Satanica” or “I Am Legend/Out for Blood”. It’s not Alissa’s or Nick’s fault, though, it’s the lack of brutality that bothers me in War Eternal, not to mention the fact that the whole album seems to have been done a lot faster than it should, which probably hampered more in-depth and complex compositions.

Not only that, it looks like the main goal with their two official videos so far has been to literally showcase Alissa’s physical attributes to the fans instead of focusing on the music, as they were by far the worst songs of the whole album. Alissa is extremely hot, but I’m pretty sure all Arch Enemy fans prefer a more rampant musicality than fancy music videos. At least the excellent artwork for the album, created by Romanian artist Costin Chioreanu, lives up to Arch Enemy’s legacy.

To sum up, War Eternal is good, but not memorable, and I don’t believe that’s because Alissa is new to the band: she’s a superb singer and performer, and Arch Enemy couldn’t have found a better person to replace Angela. As I said a couple of times in this same review, it’s the extremely melodic (and sometimes too commercial) path the band has chosen to take that concerns me. For instance, I personally consider Johan Liiva just an average vocalist, but the music Arch Enemy used to play with him was so much more intense that lots of fans still miss him nowadays, even after the outstanding work done by Angela. I’ll keep loving Arch Enemy and headbanging to their music as always, but unfortunately most of the songs from War Eternal won’t be missed on my personal playlist in a couple of months.

Best moments of the album: Never Forgive, Never Forget, As the Pages Burn and Down to Nothing.

Worst moments of the album: War Eternal, You Will Know My Name and On and On.

Released in 2014 Century Media

Track listing
1. Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F minor) 1:12
2. Never Forgive, Never Forget 3:43
3. War Eternal 4:16
4. As the Pages Burn 4:01
5. No More Regrets 4:05
6. You Will Know My Name 4:37
7. Graveyard of Dreams (Instrumental) 1:10
8. Stolen Life 2:58
9. Time Is Black 5:23
10. On and On 4:04
11. Avalanche 4:38
12. Down to Nothing 3:47
13. Not Long for This World (Instrumental) 3:29

Band members
Alissa White-Gluz – vocals
Michael Amott – lead guitars
Nick Cordle – lead guitars
Sharlee D’Angelo – bass
Daniel Erlandsson – drums

Album Review – Lacuna Coil / Broken Crown Halo (2014)

Milan-based Heavy Metal icons are back with another good album that will please their fans for sure.

Rating5

lacuna_coil_bchSome like to call them Alternative Metal, some Gothic Metal, and some even Alternative Rock. No matter which definition you believe suits them better, Italian band Lacuna Coil have always been recognized as one of the most creative and influential bands in heavy music from the past two decades, and now Andrea Ferro, la bella ragazza Cristina Scabbia & Co. return with another good album, Broken Crown Halo, which according to the band was in part influenced by classic Italian horror movies, and it’s also the last to feature drummer Cristiano “Criz” Mozzati and guitarist Cristiano “Pizza” Migliore.

We must admit it might be pretty hard for the band to stay relevant and generate innovative material after all those years on the road, but this Milan-based band always manages to provide us something that’s at least enjoyable, which is the case with this new album. I don’t know how much the departure of Criz and Pizza might have impacted the recording of Broken Crown Halo, nor how this will affect the band’s live performances, but one thing we can rest assured: the album is not disappointing at all.

Nothing Stands in Our Way opens the album in a very traditional “Lacuna Coil” way, with some good riffs and keyboards together with Cristina’s potent voice, making it one of the best tracks of the album. Then we have a more Heavy Metal track called Zombies, in which Andrea and Cristina do a very good job, with highlights also to the pretty cool and strong bass lines, followed by Hostage to the Light, which gets the album back to a more gothic atmosphere (especially due to its beautiful vocal lines).

Victims follows almost the same line as the previous track, although not as good and sometimes too generic, while Die & Rise sounds very alternative with some electronic elements. Can it be considered some kind of “heavy dance music”? Anyway, the next track I Forgive (But I Won’t Forget Your Name) reminds me a little of Within Temptation, albeit too repetitive and even too pop for a heavy music album.

lacuna_coilBroken Crown Halo goes on with another alternative semi-ballad called Cybersleep, which is not engaging at all; Infection, a heavier track with Nu Metal bass lines and an interesting chorus; and one of my favorites, I Burn in You, with its vocals, harmony and rhythm inspired by some good old 80’s Gothic Rock mixed with the musicality of bands like Paradise Lost and The Gathering. I wish they had added more of this to the album, as it’s really pleasurable to listen to and avoids that “generic” feeling we’re all afraid of finding in our favorite bands’ material.

The last two tracks of Broken Crown Halo are the good In the End I Feel Alive, especially because of its heavy riffs and bass lines (which I really enjoyed) and another very cohesive vocal duet, and the melancholic ballad One Cold Day, the longest track of the album totally focused on piano passages, beautiful lyrics and Cristina’s delicate vocals. By the way, what else can be said about Cristina that hasn’t been said yet? She’s totally awesome.

In summary, Broken Crown Halo will please almost all fans of the band, because although it’s not a masterpiece it’s far from being a “schifo” (as the band members would say), and the talent and professionalism of the whole band is always remarkable. Besides, in my opinion it’s slightly better than its predecessor, Dark Adrenaline, or at least less pop, which is a good thing for Heavy Metal fans like myself that prefer the heavy riffs found in this album than any overproduced videos or excessive cheesiness done just to make more money, and therefore it will help the band keep their fire burning for many years to come.

Best moments of the album: Nothing Stands in Our Way, Hostage of the Light, I Burn in You and In the End I Feel Alive.

Worst moments of the album: Victims, I Forgive (But I Won’t Forget Your Name) and Cybersleep.

Released in 2014 Century Media

Track listing
1. Nothing Stands in Our Way 4:07
2. Zombies 3:47
3. Hostage to the Light 3:56
4. Victims 4:31
5. Die & Rise 3:44
6. I Forgive (But I Won’t Forget Your Name) 3:56
7. Cybersleep 4:26
8. Infection 4:23
9. I Burn in You 4:15
10. In the End I Feel Alive 4:21
11. One Cold Day 6:09

Band members
Cristina Scabbia – vocals
Andrea Ferro – vocals
Marco Coti Zelati – bass
Marco ‘Maus’ Biazzi – guitars
Cristiano ‘Pizza’ Migliore* – guitars
Cristiano ‘Criz’ Mozzati* – drums

*Retired from the band in February 2014