Album Review – Answer With Metal / Centralia (2019)

The answer to all your problems in life in the form of nine songs filled with speed, melody, powerful vocals and ear piercing solos, courtesy of one of the best names of the underground Canadian scene.

It’s time to return to Stouffville, a municipality in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario, Canada, approximately 50 kilometers north of downtown Toronto, to raise our horns once again to the classic and exciting Heavy Metal blasted by a five-piece group known as Answer With Metal, who are releasing now in 2019 their fourth full-length album, entitled Centralia, a fantastic follow-up to the band’s latest releases Handling the Blade (2015) and Return to the Gates (2016). Comprised of pretty much the same lineup from their previous installments, which is Dan Nielsen on vocals, Andrew Jarvis on the guitar, Jon Stallan on bass and Alejandro Gonzalez on drums (with the exception of rhythm guitarist Matt Hadaway, who left the band in 2018 for personal reasons), Answer With Metal are back to prove there’s no better answer to all problems in life than our good old Heavy Metal, having Centralia as their powerful weapon of persuasion.

Featuring a futuristic, eye-catching artwork by Brazilian graphic designer Caio Caldas from Cadies Art (who has already worked with DragonForce, Raven Lord, Soulspell, Hammerdrone and Xenosis, among several other bands), and mixed and mastered by the band’s own guitarist Andrew Jarvis, Centralia offers the listener nine songs filled with speed, melody, powerful vocals and ear piercing solos, delivering a blend of 80’s traditional metal with heavier thrashing elements in order to give it a rawer  sound. As a matter of fact, the title of the album is a reference to Centralia, a city in Pennsylvania, in the United States, which became a near ghost town due to the Centralia mine fire, which has been burning underground since 1962, giving you a very good idea of how hot and incendiary the music found throughout the entire album can be.

Slashing riffs a la Judas Priest kick off the frantic and very traditional No One’s to Own, a true headbanger where Andrew and Jon are in absolute sync with their stringed weapons, before Dan begins firing his high-pitched, metallic vocal lines for our total delight. In other words, the album couldn’t have started in a better way, and the band puts the pedal to the metal to make things even more thrilling in the fantastic Wild Hunt, exhaling old school Heavy Metal with an additional and very welcome Thrash Metal touch. I’m quite sure this is Alejandro’s favorite song to play due to its speed and fury, while Andrew and Jon keep crushing their strings beautifully, not to mention its absolutely catchy lyrics (“The huntsmen ride strong / The hunt goes on and on / The hounds of hell lead the way / Black as night you’ll die today”). And blending elements from the music by renowned acts such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween and Primal Fear (which obviously translates into awesomeness), Answer With Metal fire the excellent Stand and Fight, proving they do not need to play at the speed of light to sound amazing, with Dan stealing the spotlight with his strong voice.

Again focusing on heaviness instead of speed, the band delivers a powerful performance in Jenova, especially Andrew with his soulful riffs and solos, followed by the title-track Centralia, a marching/headbanging tune also inspired by the NWOBHM showcasing those old school lyrics we all love so much (“Fear not our fate rebirthed / Enter the reset – flood out the earth / Altered in restless dreams / Rise from the ashes of Centralia”) and a precise Ale on drums, effectively dictating the song’s rhythm. Then it’s time to speed things up once again just the way we like it in Power Metal with Don’t Know Why, perfect for hitting the highway (and get a ticket for over-speeding, of course), with Jon and Ale blasting thunderous and intricate roars from their respective instruments throughout the entire song.

And the Heavy Metal party has no time to end, as we’re treated to more of their classic musicality in Cry Wolf, where the entire band does a great job in what’s in my opinion the best song of the album, blasting sheer rage, speed and electricity, not to mention Andrew’s awesome shredding form start to finish. In No Heights a Home the band ventures through the realms of Thrash Metal one more time, which becomes even clearer in the vocal lines and riffs as the music progresses, also presenting a great chorus for singing along with the band, intricate bass punches by Jon and rabid beats by Ale, adding to the whole song tons of potency and stamina. Lastly, closing the album we have the mid-tempo, semi-ballad Last of You, a very good song but slightly below the rest of the album in terms of impact, creativity and feeling. There’s still a lot to enjoy though, such as Dan’s excellent vocal lines.

It’s time to join Answer With Metal in their journey to the obscure Centralia, and in order to do that simply grab your copy of the album (also available for a full listen on Spotify) from the band’s own BandCamp page or from iTunes. Also, don’t forget to follow them on Facebook for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know details, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their gripping music, showing your true support and admiration for this excellent Canadian band that has been proudly carrying the flag of traditional Heavy Metal since their inception, never giving up and always loyal to their foundations. And that’s how you make true heavy music, my friends.

Best moments of the album: Wild Hunt, Cry Wolf and No Heights a Home.

Worst moments of the album: Last of You.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. No One’s to Own 4:06
2. Wild Hunt 4:55
3. Stand and Fight 4:40
4. Jenova 4:36
5. Centralia 3:59
6. Don’t Know Why 4:06
7. Cry Wolf 3:34
8. No Heights a Home 3:56
9. Last of You 4:57

Band members
Dan Nielsen – vocals
Andrew Jarvis – guitars
Jon Stallan – bass
Alejandro Gonzalez – drums

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Album Review – Rifftera / Across the Acheron (2019)

Let’s brave the waters of the Acheron to the sound of the brand new opus by this talented Melodic Death and Thrash Metal squad from Finland.

If in 2015 a Finnish Melodic Death Metal band that goes by the stylish name of Rifftera stunned us all with their  aggressive and futuristic debut opus Pitch Black, now in 2019 it’s time for this talented Vaasa-base squad comprised of Janne Hietala and Mikko Kuoppamaa on vocals and guitars, Jupe Karhu on bass, Antti Pöntinen on keyboards and newcomer Ville Härkönen on drums to take another amazing step in their more-than-promising career with Across the Acheron, which is not only their sophomore release but an album that exhales harmony, electricity and rage, bringing a well-balanced and thrilling fusion of Death and Thrash Metal for both fans of what the band presented in their previous album as well as newcomers to their whimsical realm of modern-day metal music.

Featuring once again a beautiful cover art by Petri Lampela, who besides Rifftera has already worked with other excellent bands like  Vinide and Ratbreed, Across the Acheron might have taken longer than expected to be released, but the wait was definitely worth it as each and every song of the album is an absolute feast of first-class Melodic Death Metal. “The aim was basically to take steps forward from our debut in every aspect and we are really happy with the result. In my honest and not at all biased opinion I think that clear improvement was achieved musically, lyrically and production-wise,” commented lead singer and guitarist Janne, complementing his thought by saying that “when it comes to comparing the music between Across the Acheron and Pitch Black, I would say that our expression has reached new levels on both ends of the spectrum; some parts on the new album are more brutal than anything that what we had on Pitch Black and then again some songs are more straight forward and melodic than before. Overall it could be described that the building blocks are the same but writing and performing skills have evolved.”

The opening track Burning Paradise already showcases an epic start led by the always cinematic keys by Antti, being gradually joined by all other instruments until all hell breaks loose to a deep, enraged roar by Janne, becoming an almost Blackened Death Metal tune infused with Melodic and Industrial Metal elements where both Janne and Mikki slash their guitars in a piercing manner. Then we have the 8-minute extravaganza Two Sides of the Story, sounding very close to what they did in Pitch Black, with Ville simply demolishing his drums while Jupe and Antti generate a captivating background sounding with their instruments, also delivering tons of harmony and ethereal vibes for our total delight; followed by Eye of the Storm, a rhythmic, imposing and thrilling display of contemporary Scandinavian metal, showcasing pounding drums, epic keys and a dark and menacing atmosphere. Furthermore, Janne and Mikko have a very healthy “duel” of vocal styles, and as they sing during the entire song, it’s indeed beautiful to enjoy their ass-kicking metal music when you’re “in the eye of the storm”.

And those Finnish metallers keep invading our senses with their fusion of futuristic sounds and endless harmony in Cutthroat Game, with both guitars sounding as sharp as a knife while the bass punches by Jupe get even more thunderous then before, accompanied by Ville’s nonstop drums. After such crushing tune, it’s time to speed things up a bit in the superb Cry Wolf, led by Janne’s deranged growls and with Antti bringing an extra touch of lunacy to the sonority through his keys, resulting in what’s the most metallic and visceral of all songs; whereas Warmonger is another brutal composition tailored for cracking your neck in half headbanging, with Mikko’s clean vocals and Antti’s spot-on keys bringing some peace and hope to all devastation blasted by their bandmates. Not only that, the song’s main riff will entice you to keep bang your head nonstop, which obviously means this is an amazing option to be added to their setlist during their live concerts. Things slow down a bit in Deep Waters, getting more melodic, delicate and introspective than its predecessors but still exhaling the band’s characteristic rage, with the always inspiring keys by Antti stealing the spotlight and, therefore, keeping the level of electricity high, setting the stage for the 11-minute aria Across the Acheron, a very detailed and cinematic exhibit of their Melodic Death and Thrash Metal where you’ll be enfolded by inspiring passages, melodious riffs and solos, powerful vocals and violent growls. Moreover, this song has an amazing vibe and a touch of delicacy that only a band like Rifftera can bring you directly from the stunning Scandinavia, ending the album on a high, ominous and majestic mode.

It’s always a pleasure watching a hardworking and honest group of skillful musicians like Rifftera evolving like what they did from Pitch Black to their new album Across the Acheron, and in order to show them our true support don’t forget to follow them on Facebook and to listen to their music on Spotify, and of course purchase your copy of Across the Acheron from the Inverse Records webstore, from Record Shop X, from iTunes, or from Amazon. In ancient Greek mythology, the Acheron was known as the “river of woe”, and was one of the five rivers of the Greek underworld. Having said that, I guess it’s time for all of us fans of Melodic Death Metal to brave the waters of the Acheron together with Rifftera, and face all the perils the underworld might bring us to the sound of their brand new and excellent album.

Best moments of the album: Eye of the Storm, Cry Wolf and Warmonger.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Burning Paradise 6:12
2. Two Sides of the Story 8:04
3. Eye of the Storm 6:34
4. Cutthroat Game 6:12
5. Cry Wolf 5:08
6. Warmonger 6:29
7. Deep Waters 4:50
8. Across the Acheron 11:20

Band members
Janne Hietala – guitars, harsh vocals
Mikko Kuoppamaa – guitars, clean vocals
Jupe Karhu – bass
Antti Pöntinen – keyboards
Ville Härkönen – drums