Album Review – Sophist / Betrothal To The Stone: Conception of Mephisto (2019)

Inspired by some of the greatest names of the Black Metal and Grindcore scene, this Canadian duo is ready to disturb our peace of mind with their unholy and blistering fast creations.

soph·ist·ry
/ˈsäfəstrē/
noun
the use of fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving.

Conjured in June of 2019 in the city of Edmonton, capital of the Canadian province of Alberta, Black Metal/Grindcore duo Sophist has put their blackened hearts and souls into the making of their debut EP entitled Betrothal To The Stone: Conception of Mephisto, a frantic blend of extreme styles inspired by bands such as Anaal Nathrakh, Mayhem and Napalm Death in order to create a sound that is unholy as it is blistering fast. Both veterans in the local music scene, Michael Sparks (bass, guitars) and Davis Hay (vocals, programming) kept the writing process fairly simple, with Davis defining the drums and song structure followed by Michael’s overlay of bass and guitar. Engineered, mixed and mastered by Davis himself, and featuring an obscure artwork by Unexpected Specter, Betrothal To The Stone: Conception of Mephisto deals with the esoteric and the occult, with much of the inspiration for the lyrics on the album coming from an alchemical text called Hermaphrodite Child of the Sun and Moon (which you can find available in full HERE).

Musically speaking, Betrothal To The Stone: Conception of Mephisto is a feast of violent and blasphemous sounds, as already mentioned, with the title-track Betrothal to the Stone: Conception of Mephisto​ exploding into raw, obscure Black Metal after a short and creepy intro. Moreover, Davis roars and gnarls manically while Michael shreds his guitar chords nonstop in this lesson in bestiality, reminding me of truly old school Mayhem. Faster and more demented, Choke on Your Own Bile is infused with Grindcore and Hardcore elements, with Davis and Michael extracting pure hatred from their instruments. Not only that, albeit the drums are programmed, they do sound really organic, bringing even more ferocity to the music. Then get ready for total anarchy in the form of visceral Black Metal blasted by the Canadian duo in A Captive of Saturn’s Scythe, where the insanity flowing from their riffs and beats is perfect for Davis to keep vociferating like a demon, inviting us all to slam into the circle pit with them. And as a beyond special and interesting bonus, the duo offers us the instrumental versions of all three songs of the EP, showcasing the same rage and heaviness but obviously without Davis’ demonic growls.

If you enjoy exploring the darkest pits of extreme music and are addicted to the most visceral and unholy forms of Black Metal available out there, then Betrothal To The Stone: Conception of Mephisto will undoubtedly satisfy your cravings. Hence, go show your support to Sophist and to underground Black Metal in general by following the duo on Facebook, by subscribing to their YouTube channel, and by purchasing their flammable debut EP from their own BandCamp page or from other locations like Apple Music. And, of course, this is just the beginning for Sophist, as I’m pretty sure Davis and Michael will return with more of their razor-edged, blasphemous creations in a not-so-distant future, carving their names even deeper onto the darkened walls of Canadian extreme music.

Best moments of the album: Choke on Your Own Bile.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. Betrothal to the Stone: Conception of Mephisto​ 3:16
2. Choke on Your Own Bile 5:10
3. A Captive of Saturn’s Scythe 2:53

Bonus tracks
4. Betrothal to the Stone: Conception of Mephisto​ (Instrumental version) 3:16
5. Choke on Your Own Bile (Instrumental version) 5:10
6. A Captive of Saturn’s Scythe (Instrumental version) 2:53

Band members
Davis Hay – vocals, programming
Michael Sparks – bass, guitars

Album Review – Solborn / Dark Lights of Delirium (2018)

Welcome to a world of fantasy, childhood memories and beautiful dreams, all embraced by the stylish Symphonic Metal crafted by this very talented Canadian band.

Founded in 2014 by songwriter and keyboardist Anri Tsiskaridze, who was born in the Republic of Georgia and moved to Canada in 2008, Edmonton-based Symphonic Metal band Solborn (or Sōlborn, if you prefer) has suffered a few lineup changes and a noticeable musical evolution since their inception, until the band reached their final shape and form in 2018, culminating with the release of their debut album Dark Lights of Delirium. Featuring a dark and somewhat futuristic artwork by Pierre-Alain Durand (3mmi Design), Dark Lights of Delirium represents a world where you get to travel and witness fantasy, the mind’s beautiful plays, and fly through the clouds, walk on beaches on a moonlit night, and lay in the meadows of your childhood memories and be at peace with yourself and the worlds that surround you, all embraced by the powerful and symphonic arrangements delivered by McKenna Rae on lead vocals, Cody Lloyd on lead guitar, Mike Bell on rhythm guitars and growls, Dylan Mooney on bass, Anri Tsiskaridze on keyboards, and Danial Devost on drums.

Four years in the making, Dark Lights of Delirium is thematically and loosely based on Carl Sagan’s astronomical series ‘Cosmos’ (as well as Neil D. Tyson’s modern reboot of the series), with its lyrics taking your imagination to worlds of fantasy and memories of the most precious times of youth, childhood, and feelings of love and dreams. The songs dive into the escapism that Symphonic Metal is steeped in, where history is presented in a dream-like light, and fantasy and reality poetically collide. Starting with the revelation of an endless universe, soaring through the themes and imagery of the purge of knowledge, imaginary inner worlds, striving to find happiness or meaning in life, and ending with the tragic story of the execution of Giordano Bruno, whereby the narrator speaks to us as Bruno. Every song has its own individual meaning but still connects to each-other, and is still a part of the whole journey.

A cinematic, ethereal intro titled Aurora, led by the smooth piano notes and the imposing keys by Anri, sets the stage for the 7-minute aria Ad Infinitum, exploding into a modern and vibrant fusion of Melodic and Symphonic Metal where McKenna mesmerizes us all with her gorgeous voice, while Danial makes sure the word “heavy” is part of the music through his pounding, violent drums. The album couldn’t have started in a better way, and things get even better in Beast Of Oblivion, considerably more breathtaking and electrifying than the previous song, with McKenna having an interesting “beauty and the beast” duel with Mike, while the same Mike together with Cody slash their guitars beautifully from start to finish. Then Dylan’s rumbling bass and Danial’s fast and precise beats dictate the rhythm in another Symphonic Metal feast titled Pale Blue, bringing forward some stylish lyrics (“Visions in my sleepless night took me to the moonlit sky / I stood in awe before the greatest show / And took a step away from what I have ever known”), and of course I would love to see them giving life to this metallic symphony during their live performances; and slowing things down a bit and being highly inspired by iconic bands like Nightwish and Epica, the band delivers another solid tune named Arcane Shores (Compass to Light), showcasing gripping guitar riffs intertwined with the flammable keys by Anri and McKenna’s passionate vocals.

Time for McKenna and her ethereal voice together with Anri’s gentle piano to take us to a world of love and peace in the enfolding ballad Crestfallen, with the song’s taste being nicely enhanced by all background orchestrations, flowing flawlessly until its climatic finale, whereas whimsical sounds ignite the epic and beyond symphonic Starbreathe, a song perfect for closing your eyes and embarking on a metal journey together with Solborn. Furthermore, Cody and Mike are on fire with their riffs and solos, slashing our senses while Danial doesn’t let the energy level go down not even for a single second, not to mention Anri’s futuristic (and therefore amazing) keyboard solo. In Voyage To The World’s End we’re treated to a galloping exhibit of classic metal music embraced by the stunning orchestrations by Anri and Danial, offering our avid ears over eight minutes of the best Symphonic Metal you can think of, including thrilling guitar and keyboard solos, spot-on breaks and variations, serene piano passages, epic orchestral moments, and once again presenting classy and poetic lyrics (“Paint my memory where we lay in haven of time / Play music of creek, sounds of wild clashing winds / With new life, awake from delirium / Spread your wings, come fly away with me”). And last but not least we have Last Curtains Fall, the perfect name for a closing song with the bass by Dylan bringing thunder to the sound while McKenna continues to deliver her romantic and fiery vocal lines. Although the overall result is not as thrilling as the rest of the album (and a bit too slow at times), it’s still a solid and entertaining creation by this skillful Canadian act.

Solborn might not be revolutionizing the world of Symphonic Metal with their music, but who said they were supposed to do that in Dark Lights of Delirium to succeed? They stuck to a well-known formula, added their own personal ingredients and twist, and voilà! There you have a full-bodied, imposing and enfolding album of classic Symphonic Metal (available for a full listen on Spotify, by the way). Having said that, if you want to know more about the band and show them your true support, don’t forget to check out their Facebook page and YouTube channel for news, tour dates and more of their music, and purchase your copy of Dark Lights of Delirium from their own BandCamp page or webstore. Because, as you already know, there’s nothing better than some first-class symphonic music to embark on an epic adventure through the eccentric realms of your own thoughts and dreams.

Best moments of the album: Beast Of Oblivion, Pale Blue and Voyage To The World’s End.

Worst moments of the album: Last Curtains Fall.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing 
1. Aurora 1:19
2. Ad Infinitum 7:08
3. Beast Of Oblivion 4:52
4. Pale Blue 5:07
5. Arcane Shores (Compass to Light) 4:53
6. Crestfallen 4:44
7. Starbreathe 6:04
8. Voyage To The World’s End 8:47
9. Last Curtains Fall 6:53

Band members
McKenna Rae – lead vocals
Cody Lloyd – lead guitars
Mike Bell – rhythm guitars, growls
Dylan Mooney – bass guitar
Anri Tsiskaridze – keyboards, orchestra
Danial Devost – drums, orchestra

Concert Review – Striker & Unleash The Archers (The Velvet Underground, Toronto, ON, 10/01/2018)

Do you want to know how to easily brave a cold and rainy Monday in Toronto? Striker and Unleash The Archers had the perfect recipe for that last night when they took our beloved city by storm.

OPENING ACT: Lutharö

Not only last night in Toronto was cold and rainy, but it was also a Monday, the day of the week all of us usually feel like doing absolutely nothing. However, when that same Monday offers us a night of pure Canadian Metal with the amazing bands Lutharö, Striker and Unleash The Archers at the small and very cozy The Velvet Underground, why not facing that shitty weather (I know it could have been a lot worse like what they’re having in Calgary now, but it’s still shitty) to meet some friends, enjoy a few beers and bang our fuckin’ heads to the best metal music you’ll find in the entire country? That, my friends, is the recipe for a packed (and hot) concert on what was supposed to be another boring Monday night, as simple as that.

Photos by Aline Cavalheiro – https://www.instagram.com/aline.cavalheiro81/

The first band of the night was Hamilton-based female-fronted squad LUTHARÖ, playing an extremely fun, crisp and pleasant fusion of 80’s Heavy Metal with modern-day Melodic Death Metal the likes of The Agonist and Arch Enemy. Spearheaded by the talented she-wolf Krista Shipperbottom, whose vocal style, hair and looks remind me of The Agonist’s stunning frontwoman Vicky Psarakis, the band delivered a solid performance for the fans at the venue who probably had zero knowledge of the band before the concert. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the names of all songs they played last night, but I do remember the names of my two favorite ones, I of the Axe and their newborn tune Unleash the Beast, and in both cases all band members kicked some serious ass. Having said that, don’t waste your time and go check their music out on YouTube and on BandCamp, and keep an eye on their Facebook page for news and tour dates, because you never know when Krista and her henchmen will mercilessly attack your hometown.

Band members
Krista Shipperbottom – lead vocals
Victor Bucur – lead guitars, backing vocals
John Raposo – guitar
Ruslan Lypovsky – bass
Cory Hofing – drums 

STRIKER

Photos by Aline Cavalheiro – https://www.instagram.com/aline.cavalheiro81/

After a short break, where fans either went to the washroom, got another beer or checked out the merch from the bands, it was time for my favorite Canadian band of the past decade to show everyone at the venue that Canada is indeed a land of first-class Heavy Metal. When award-winning Edmonto-based act STRIKER hit the stage, we all knew it was going to be a heavy, melodic and utterly entertaining performance, kicking things off with the opening track from their 2016 album Stand in the Fire, the electrifying Phoenix Lights, followed by two of my favorite tracks from their latest albums, Born to Lose, from their 2017 self-titled masterpiece Striker, and Heart of Lies, from their brand new opus Play To Win (to be officially released later this month). Needless to say, after such action-packed start, the game was already won by Striker.

And the quintet comprised of frontman Dan Cleary (what a voice, ladies and gentlemen!), guitarists Tim Brown and Chris Segger, bassist William Wallace and drummer Adam Brown kept blasting their fusion of old school Heavy Metal and Hard rock with contemporary Power Metal without giving a single second for us to breathe, impressing us all with their level of energy, professionalism and passion for what they do, with incendiary songs like Former Glory and Pass Me By (both from their 2017 self-titled album), and especially the high-octane Full Speed or No Speed (from their 2010 album Eyes in the Night) and the metal hymn Fight for Your Life (from their 2012 album Armed to the Teeth), representing to perfection what the music by Striker is all about. At a given moment of the show, when Dan was introducing us to the next song to be played (I don’t remember which one he was talking about, but it was of course amazing), he asked the crowd if there were any fans in the house of the music by metal giants like Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Anvil, complementing his joke by saying they were not going to play any of that, but “some old school Striker shit”. Well, who said we were expecting them to play any cover songs? When the band in question is a fantastic one like Striker, we want to listen to their own songs, and I can’t wait to do that again when they return to Toronto in a not-so-distant future.

Setlist
Phoenix Lights
Born to Lose
Heart of Lies
Lethal Force
Crossroads
Former Glory
Too Late
Out for Blood
Pass Me By
Locked In
Full Speed or No Speed
The White Knight
Fight for Your Life

Band members
Dan Cleary – lead vocals
Tim Brown – lead and rhythm guitar
Chris Segger – lead and rhythm guitar
William Wallace – bass
Adam Brown – drums

UNLEASH THE ARCHERS

Photos by Aline Cavalheiro – https://www.instagram.com/aline.cavalheiro81/

I was so entertained and electrified by the concert by Striker that I completely lost track of time, not knowing exactly what time their concert ended and what time the main attraction of the night, the unstoppable Vancouver-based metal warriors known as UNLEASH THE ARCHERS, hit the stage at The Velvet Underground. And keep in mind it was a Monday night, which means most people would be checking their watches all the time counting every minute to go home. Just like Striker delivered a flawless performance, the band led by the warrior princess Brittney Slayes was absolutely on fire on stage from start to finish, inspiring the fans to ignite some mosh pits (all pretty good except for a silly moron with a moustache that was either too drunk, too high or way too stupid to respect everyone else, to the point Brittney had to call his attention to stop acting like a jerk), to do some crowd surfing, to raise our fists in the air and to sing along every single song with them.

Still promoting their 2017 opus Apex, the quintet formed by the skillful, humble and sympathetic Brittney Slayes on vocals (sending hearts with her hands to the fans during the entire show), Grant Truesdell on the guitar, Andrew Kingsley on the  guitar and harsh growls, newcomer Nick Miller on bass and Scott Buchanan on drums returned to the city after three long years, proving how hard it is to travel and tour inside Canada, but that excruciating wait was definitely worth it. Firing the most awesome songs from Apex such as Awakening, The Matriarch and Cleanse the Bloodlines, mixed with battle hymns from their previous albums like Time Stands Still, Tonight We Ride and my favorite of all, Test Your Metal, from their 2015 opus Time Stands Still, Unleash The Archers fully captivated our senses during their whole concert, also showing their awe for the amount of fans that gathered at the venue on a rainy Monday night (and yes, I have to repeat that again) to celebrate metal with them (and to sing A-Ha’s Take On Me which was coming out of the speakers after all was said and done).

Today is Tuesday, most of us might have been really tired the entire day and probably bored at work (as Brittney herself said, fuck work!), but happy to have witnessed a true feast of the best Heavy Metal made in Canada you can think of. As already mentioned, let’s hope none of the bands take too long to return to the city, and that they play at a bigger venue so that a lot more metal maniacs from Toronto and from other parts of the province are able to enjoy the lesson in heavy music given by such distinct bands, even if they play on a snowy Monday night in the middle of the winter, with chilling temperatures and bitterly cold winds. Do you think you have what it takes to ride with Striker and Unleash The Archers under such adverse conditions? If you love metal music as much as I do, I’m sure you’ll be there with us.

Setlist
Intro
Awakening
The Matriarch
Cleanse the Bloodlines
Test Your Metal
Dreamcrusher
Time Stands Still
General of the Dark Army
Tonight We Ride

Encore:
Apex

Band members
Brittney Slayes – vocals
Grant Truesdell – guitar
Andrew Kingsley –  guitar, harsh growls
Nick Miller – bass
Scott Buchanan – drums

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Album Review – Striker / Play To Win (2018)

Blending classic Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Power Metal and 80’s Hair Metal, one of the biggest exponents of contemporary Canadian metal music strikes once again with a brand new album, always playing to win.

Champions in blending classic Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Power Metal and 80’s Hair Metal, Canadian shredders Striker are back with another good album titled Play To Win, the sixth in their undisputed career and a follow-up to their two previous award nominated winning albums, their 2017 breathtaking self-titled opus Striker (nominated for a JUNO award, winner of an Edmonton Music Award and Western Canadian Award) and the WCMA + EMA award winning album Stand In The Fire, released in 2016. That means this Edmonton-based squad comprised of frontman Dan Cleary, guitarists Tim Brown and Chris Segger, bassist William Wallace and drummer Adam Brown has been on an absolute roll in the past few years, not only delivering first-class metal for our total delight, but also spreading their music live across Europe and North America with bands like Sonata Arctica, Dark Tranquility and Warbringer, along with festival appearances at 70,000 Tons of Metal and Bang Your Head Festival, proving why they’re already considered one of the biggest exponents in contemporary Canadian Heavy Metal.

Mixed and Mastered by Hendrik Udd at Hendrik Udd Recording Studios, and featuring not only an old school artwork by Elvis Amaral (HipnoFX Audiovisual), but also the fantastic Randy Black (Annihilator, Primal Fear, Destruction) as a session drummer, who by the way also recorded the album Stand in the Fire with the band, Play To Win will please all fans of traditional metal and rock, keeping the name of Striker relevant and strong in the scene. “Play to Win: if you want to win you have to play the game. Find the rules and break them. This is our 6th album and 3rd independent release. If we followed the rules and listened to the industry people we’d have gone absolutely nowhere. Play To Win is about listening to yourself, following your own path, and playing that 5th ace hidden in your sleeve. This album is designed to light a fire under your ass and get you moving, and we made sure to get the most modern, ear melting sounds possible. It’s all about where metal is going, not where it has been, and this is our soundtrack to success,” commented Tim about the album.

And Tim and Chris begin slashing and shredding their strings from the very first second in the opening tune Heart of Lies, where the band delivers their usual ass-kicking fusion of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, with Dan declaiming the song’s chorus beautifully (“Another victim to a heart of lies / Can’t see the truth behind those venom eyes / Another victim to a heart of lies / On deaf ears will fall the eagle’s cry”). Then leaning towards pure 80’s Hard Rock and Glam Metal, in special the crisp and passionate vocal lines by Dan, we have Position of Power, with William and Randy maintaining a solid and rumbling background throughout the entire song; followed by Head First, a good song that gets a bit too commercial at times, but that obviously brings Striker’s old school punch, sounding very rhythmic, groovy and melodic. In addition, Tim and Chris are once again on fire with their riffs and solos, making it a highly recommended addition to your road trip playlist.

Blending the music by Iron Maiden with Motley Crüe, Stratovarius and Van Halen, which in the end resulted in sheer awesomeness, Striker offer us the thrilling On The Run, showcasing a brilliant vocal performance by Dan while William keeps extracting that metallic sound we all love form his bass, whereas The Front is another classic song by Striker, also feeling as it was taken from an 80’s Hair Metal album. It’s a bit too smooth compared to the sonic massacre from their previous albums, but the crisp sound of the guitars and the precise beats by Randy make it very enjoyable and fun. The title-track Play To Win, a mid-tempo feast of rockin’ sounds, sounds even more inspired by the golden years of Hard Rock than ever, with the guitar riffs and solos by both Tim and Chris getting sharper and groovier, and albeit its lyrics are extremely cheesy, the message the band wanted to send is there (and that’s what really matters in the end). Then despite the excellent vocals by Dan, its tuneful guitar solos and a pleasant vibe, the power ballad Standing Alone never really takes off, getting way too mellow compared to what Striker are capable of doing.

Back to a heavier and more epic sonority, those talented Canadian metallers fire an electrified Heavy Metal and Hard Rock tune entitled Summoner, inspired by many classics by Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and other behemoths from the NWOBHM, also presenting the best guitar work of the entire album in my opinion. In Heavy Is The Heart the band shows how to do a proper power ballad, bringing passion to the musicality without forgetting the always needed dosages of electricity and rage, again presenting an inspired Dan leading his bandmates from start to finish. However, the closing tune Hands Of Time is another generic song that sounds and feels extremely soft if you’re a longtime fan of Striker, lacking the same potency and kick from their already classic tunes. Put differently, it’s far from being a bad song, but as we all got used to a lot heavier riffs and faster beats by Striker it’s hard to truly relish it.

As a huge fan of their self-titled album released last year, which I personally considered one of the best metal albums of 2017, I felt slightly disappointed with the final result in Play To Win. Nothing to worry about, though, as I guess I’m being too harsh on the guys from Striker, almost “demanding” that they had released another Heavy Metal masterpiece instead of actually enjoying their new album. There’s still a lot of top-of-the-line music to savor in Play To Win, available from their official website as a digital download or as a special edition CD, as well as from iTunes and Amazon, and you can also follow the band on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel and listen to more of their music on Spotify (if you don’t do all that already). Striker are a band that keeps winning no matter what with each and every release (despite singing in their previous album that they were “born to lose”), and the flame of Canadian metal will remain alive and vibrant while we have those skillful metalheads from Edmonton among us, always playing to win.

Best moments of the album: Heart of Lies, On The Run and Summoner.

Worst moments of the album: Standing Alone and Hands Of Time.

Released in 2018 Record Breaking Records

Track listing
1. Heart of Lies 4:04
2. Position of Power 3:41
3. Head First 4:02
4. On The Run 3:52
5. The Front 4:02
6. Play To Win 3:49
7. Standing Alone 4:56
8. Summoner 4:04
9. Heavy Is The Heart 4:54
10. Hands Of Time 3:47

Band members
Dan Cleary – lead vocals
Tim Brown – lead and rhythm guitar
Chris Segger – lead and rhythm guitar
William Wallace – bass
Adam Brown – drums

Guest musician
Randy Black – drums (session)
Lindsay Robinson, John Kennedy and Nathan Schadeck – gang vocals

Album Review – North Hammer / Stormcaller (2018)

Armed with his debut album and a strong passion for all things Viking and Folk Metal, here comes a dauntless one-warrior metal machine from the winterly lands of Canada.

“Thou camest near the next, O warrior Thor!
Shouldering thy hammer, in thy chariot drawn,
Swaying the long-hair’d goats with silver’d rein.” – from ‘Balder Dead’

Inspired by the Viking and folk music played by renowned acts such as Wintersun, Ensiferum, Amon Amarth and Blind Guardian, and in special by Swedish multi-instrumentalist Tomas Börje Forsberg, the iconic Quorthon (1966 – 2004) from Black Metal institution Bathory, who’s also credited with creating the Viking Metal style, here comes Folk/Viking Metal one-man army (or one-warrior metal machine, as he prefers) North Hammer armed with his debut full-length album, Stormcaller, a 21st century continuation of the work of Norse bards who inspired the ancient poem above.

Formed in 2017 in the northern lands of Edmonton, in the province of Alberta, Canada by multi-instrumentalist Andrew James (Eye of Horus, Shotgunner), North Hammer is the representation of the common theme winter that comes up in metal music and a reference to Canada (the “north”), and Andrew’s personal tribute to Mjolnir, or Thor’s Hammer. Andrew wrote and recorded the vocals, guitars, bass and orchestration in Stormcaller, along with drums done by Doug Helcaraxë Nunez and a classic artwork by Mark Erskine (Erskine Designs), and his goal with North Hammer and his new album is simple but powerful. “The experience I’m trying to give the listeners is that of a fellow fan. I want people to be euphoric for other bands that mean something to them like Ensiferum, Wintersun and Amon Amarth. To connect personally with my music and realize that I love and worship these bands.”

Epicness takes over the atmosphere in the opening track Avatar, filling every empty space before Andrew begins his growling attack, also bringing heavy and traditional riffs while Doug keeps the music at a vibrant pace. In other words, this is a beyond solid “welcome card” by North Hammer, setting the tone for Wanderer, and let me tell you it can’t get any more Folk Metal than this, as our minds and souls are treated to a strong and vibrant tune where Doug takes care of the song’s inspiring pace while Andrew continues to impress with all instruments and his harsh vocals. And presenting an introspective, catchy intro, Written in the Stars evolves into modern-day Folk Metal with Melodic Death Metal nuances, with Andrew’s vocals getting more intense and enraged, effectively accompanying the heaviness and melody of the guitars.

Magic Mead is one of those songs tailored for fans of the dancing heavy music by Ensiferum, showcasing more rhythmic, epic moments intertwined with sheer speed and progressiveness while its lyrics exhale Folk and Viking Metal (“Soilent earth sewn with blood / The enemy lays in the mud / A victory not to forget / And celebrate the worthy dead / In his eyes unrest subsides / For dreams of destiny he strides / Through the day and through the night / To behold this astral sight”); followed by an inspiring speech that ignites a feast of heavy and fast sounds titled Tip of the Spear, presenting the duo Andrew and Doug in perfect sync while they head together into the battlefield, with its classic guitar riffs and solos helping enhance its overall impact. Then it’s time to bang your head and raise your horns to all soldiers in the world to the flammable Folk Metal hymn A Soldier’s Song, led by the aggressive and potent growls by Andrew, keeping the album at a truly epic level.

Black Forest Rain is a serene, introspective instrumental bridge, with the sound of the acoustic guitars guiding us to the world of Spellbinder, where a soulful guitar solo by Andrew kicks things off before all hell breaks loose in another blast of classic Viking Metal perfect for singing along with Andrew and for slamming into the pit. Then we have the song that carries the name of the band, North Hammer, an Epic Metal extravaganza with all elements we love in the genre such as powerful vocal lines, gripping guitars, pounding drums and poetic lyrics (“Crack through the ice / Swim through the depths / Pulsing through your veins / Forget all the rest / High into the Skies / Relic of Old / North Hammer”), resulting into one of the best moments of the album without a shadow of a doubt; and North Hammer’s final breath of fire and thunder comes in the form of a song named Lion’s Winter, a demolishing Folk Metal chant where Doug is bestial on drums while Andrew takes his growling to a deeper and more violent level, flowing smoothly until its melodic finale.

One thing I’m only going to mention now about Stormcaller (which is available for a full listen HERE) is that this is a concept album describing the trials of a hero in a Nordic fantasy setting. The album has been rearranged in order to place appeal to the broader audience, but the actual progression of the story line is Written in the Stars, A Soldier’s Song, Magic Mead, Black Forest Rain, Wanderer, North Hammer, Tip of the Spear, Avatar, Spellbinder, and Lion’s Winter, which means if you buy the album from the band’s own BandCamp page, from Amazon or from CD Baby, you’ll be able to rearrange the tracks yourself and follow the story as it’s supposed to be. In addition, while North Hammer is a studio project at the moment, Andrew plans to put together a band of top-notch like-minded musicians in a not-so-distant future, and if you want to show your support for such brave metal warrior go check what he’s up to on Facebook, on SoundCloud and on ReverbNation. And of course, don’t forget to praise the Norse Gods whenever you’re about to enter the battlefield, inspired by the music by North Hammer and by all renowned Viking and folk bands Andrew loves so much.

Best moments of the album: Wanderer, Magic Mead and North Hammer.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Avatar 4:46
2. Wanderer 3:42
3. Written in the Stars 3:27
4. Magic Mead 4:11
5. Tip of the Spear 3:49
6. A Soldier’s Song 4:34
7. Black Forest Rain (Instrumental) 2:10
8. Spellbinder 3:36
9. North Hammer 3:26
10. Lion’s Winter 3:34

Band members
Andrew James – vocals, guitars, bass, orchestration

Guest musician
Doug Helcaraxë Nunez – drums

Album Review – Striker / Striker (2017)

Canadian Heavy Metal has never been more vibrant and rapturous than today, thanks to the brand new rip-roaring album by one of the biggest names in heavy music hailing from the Great White North.

In case you’ve never heard of Canadian Heavy/Power Metal act Striker, there couldn’t be a better moment to get to know such distinct band and their classic mix of Heavy Metal, Hard Rock and 80’s Hair Metal. This Edmonton-based quartet, which was formed in 2007 and has toured across dozens of countries as headliners as well as support for major metal acts in their rising career, are unleashing their fifth studio album, self-titled Striker, a kick-ass follow-up to their two previous albums Stand In The Fire (2016) and City of Gold (2014), perfect for fans of the unparalleled music by Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motley Crüe, as well as Swedish metallers Enforcer and Steelwing. After listening to this flammable metal album, I’m sure Striker will feature among your favorite bands of the past decade.

Featuring a neat, straightforward artwork by Rizky Putranto (Rish XXV), Striker is an ode to traditional metal, with no new elements or any type of shenanigans added to it, just plain good old heavy music. “This is our no bullshit album. We cut out everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary and kept everything short and to the point. We pray at the altar of heavy metal everyday, and there are some musical ideas that persist through time and some that don’t. We focused in on what keeps listeners coming back and got rid of everything else. You can’t climb Mount Everest dragging any useless shit with you; if you want to make it to the top, only bring with you what is absolutely necessary: Lethal Amounts of Shred”, said the band about their new album, and based on these words you can get a very good sense of what you’ll find in Striker.

Guitarist Tim Brown doesn’t waste time and starts firing electrifying Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll riffs and solos from the very first second in Former Glory, a song about enjoying life and being the best person you can, where frontman Dan Cleary keeps up with the greatest vocalists in Hard Rock delivering sheer awesomeness through his melodious voice. Sounding like a hard rockin’ version of Anthrax, in special due to its cutting riffs and demented vocals, Pass Me By presents a kick-ass fusion of Heavy Metal with old school Thrash Metal, with drummer Adam Brown pounding his drums mercilessly, therefore adding more stamina and heaviness to the overall musicality. And the first single of the album, Born To Lose, is in my humble opinion a newborn Hard Rock hymn, bringing all elements that make heavy music so thrilling, such as the metallic guitar lines by Tim, which  together with the rumbling bass by William Wallace (not the Scottish warrior) take the song’s impact to a whole new level.  Add to that already fantastic formula the song’s catchy chorus and a high dosage of adrenaline, and there you have not only the best song of the album, but also one of Striker’s most sensational creations to date.

Cheating Death is a short and atmospheric bridge to the incendiary Shadows In The Light, a dancing tune that lives up to the legacy of old school Hard Rock ignited by the potent bass punches by William, also offering the listener beautiful guitar solos and thrilling beats; followed by Rock The Night, another song by Striker that was born to be a classic. Dan is fantastic on vocals, supported by the song’s powerful backing vocals and the precise instrumental blasted by the rest of the band from start to finish, not to mention its extremely cheesy but entertaining lyrics (“You always seem to be on my mind / I can’t let you go / I can’t let you stay / You always seem to be a mystery to me / I can’t let you go / I can’t let you stay / The more that I think about you / The more that I know what to do / There’s something out there and it’s calling me / To rock the night / You’ve gotta bring them to their knees / There’s something out there and it’s calling me / To rock the night / Yeah you’ve got to make them see / What you can be”).

Over The Top, a fast-paced, potent Power Metal extravaganza where Tim and William are absolutely on fire with their stringed axes, brings forward elements of the traditional Heavy Metal played by Judas Priest and Iron Maiden combined with the Melodic Metal by Stratovarius, and the result is obviously beyond awesome. The same can be said about the second to last track of the album, titled Freedom’s Call, which will pump you up once again with its perfect balance of the heaviness of Power Metal with the harmony of Hard Rock. Needless to say, Dan doesn’t stop impressing with his puissant voice, never getting tired nor sounding uninspired. And the unstoppable Striker fire more of their kick-ass metal music for our total delight in the superb Curse of The Dead, where Adam takes the lead with his frantic beats whereas Tim keeps delivering his amazing riffs. Moreover, guest guitarists Simon Fallon and Adam Grimmelt only make things even more fantastic with their spot-on solos, turning the song into another memorable moment of the album.

In a nutshell, Striker not only have released a mighty Heavy Metal album, but they have also made us at The Headbanging Moose really proud of being Canadian. You can get in touch with Striker and their fiery metal music through their Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud, and in order to put your metallic hands on this first-class album all you need to do is go to the Napalm Records’ webshop to grab the CD or the LP version of it, as well as on CD Baby, on iTunes and on Amazon. If you manage to get the special edition of the album, you’ll also be treated to Striker’s cover version for Ozzy Osbourne’s Desire, from his 1991 classic No More Tears, one of the four songs co-written by the most beloved badass in the word, Lemmy Kilmister (R.I.P.), showing how much the band loves old school heavy music. We’re all born to lose, but if we work hard and have the new rip-roaring album by one of the biggest names in heavy music from the Great White North as the soundtrack to our endeavors, we’ll surely win in life and rock the night.

Best moments of the album: Former Glory, Born To Lose, Rock The Night and Curse of The Dead.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Record Breaking Records

Track listing
1. Former Glory 3:59
2. Pass Me By 3:33
3. Born To Lose 3:58
4. Cheating Death 0:53
5. Shadows In The Light 3:29
6. Rock The Night 4:30
7. Over The Top 4:38
8. Freedom’s Call 4:30
9. Curse of The Dead 3:49

Special Edition bonus track
10. Desire (Ozzy Osbourne cover) 5:27

Band members
Dan Cleary – lead vocals
Tim Brown – lead and rhythm guitar
William Wallace – bass
Adam Brown – drums

Guest musicians
Simon Fallon – guitar solo on “Curse of the Dead”
Adam Grimmelt – outro solos on ““Curse of the Dead”
John Kennedy, Dave Arnold, Chris Segger, Lindsay Robinson, Clayton Parent and Tyler Dory – gang vocals

Concert Review – Wacken Metal Battle Canada Final (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016)

One Canadian Band to rule them all, One Canadian Band to find them. One Canadian Band to bring them all, and in Wacken Open Air bind them.

INTRODUCTION: ONE BAND TO RULE THEM ALL!

wacken metal battle_canada_final2016If you were at the charming The Opera House in Toronto this Saturday, June 11, you were able to witness the future of Canadian Metal in pursuit of a sacred placed among the Gods of Metal at the 2016 edition of Wacken Open Air, which will be held during the first week of August this year. Five amazing bands made in Canada showcased all their skills and passion for heavy music during the final and decisive round of the fourth annual edition of Wacken Metal Battle Canada, but only one of them secured a spot in the most important metal festival in the world. Do you want to know which band was crowned the kings of the night?

This year, guest judges Noel Peters (Inertia Entertainment), Sarah Lutz (Metal Blade Canada), Darryl Hurs (Indie Week), Chris Gonda (PureGrainAudio.com), Tim Henderson (Bravewords.com), Andrew Epstein (Zombitrol Productions) and Glenn Fricker (Spectre Media Group) had the difficult mission to decide who would play at Wacken Open Air this August, but before I get into more details, let me say it’s impressive how well organized Wacken Metal Battle is in Canada, it doesn’t matter the city or the qualifying round. With over 100 independent Canadian metal bands from the cities of Toronto, Hamilton, London, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, and after 27 qualifying rounds, 9 semi-finals and the national final this Saturday, all we can say in a huge THANK YOU to everyone involved in this awesome project, with a special thanks to my friend Jon Asher (Asher Media Relations) for letting me be part of this. And now, let’s get ready to rumble!

DISTORTHEAD

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DistortHead @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

The first group to hit the stage, at around 8pm, was Melodic Death Metal/Metalcore band DistortHead, from Montreal, Quebec, who were obviously the Quebec Final winners this year. With all band members elegantly wearing lumberjack shirts, DistortHead fired a good mix of modern and groovy metal music the likes of The Black Dahlia Murder and Suicide Silence with the more ferocious sound of old school Death Metal, which translated into a solid and unstoppable performance by this talented quintet. Lead singer Phil Ranger led his troop during the entire setlist, demanding some furious circle pits from the fans at the venue and, as any proud Québécois, made good usage of “Bill 101” to teach the audience how to curse in French. If brutal Melodic Death Metal is your cup of tea, go check their BandCamp page, where you can enjoy their 2014 album Invasive Species in its entirety.

Band members
Phil Ranger – vocals
Vincent Rousseau – guitar
Alex Guindon – guitar
Felix Bourcier – bass, backing vocals
Max Arseneau – drums

PYRAMID THEOREM

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Pyramid Theorem @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

In my opinion, one of the best things in any Wacken Metal Battle round is the variety of sounds you can listen to within a short span of time, getting truly paradoxical at times, but as awesome as usual. That was confirmed when Progressive Hard Rock act Pyramid Theorem began their psychedelic and electrifying performance. Those Torontonians, who were the Ontario Final 2/2 winners, sounded so professional, polished and in sync it’s hard to believe they do not have an agreement with a record label yet. Take a listen at the excellent tunes Outlaw for Good and Drive and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The crowd was excited during the whole show, mainly due to the thrilling performance by the dynamic duo Christian Di Mambro (vocals and bass) Sam Ermellini (guitar and vocals), who didn’t stop interacting with the audience for a single second while at the same time displaying their refined techniques on stage. Some of the guitar solos by Sam were simply outstanding.

Band members
Christian Di Mambro – vocals, bass
Sam Ermellini – guitar, vocals
Stephan Di Mambro – synths, guitar, vocals
Vic Dee – drums, percussion

THE MOUNTAIN MAN

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The Mountain Man @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

Fans of the relentless music by icons such as Lamb of God, Whitechapel, Gojira and Pantera definitely had an awesome time during the performance by Vancouver-based five-piece act The Mountain Man, who blasted a nice fusion of Melodic Death Metal and Groove Metal, proving why the band was the B.C. Final winner. The whole festival seemed to be turning into “the night of the frontmen”, with lead singer Parker Lane keeping up with the vocalists from both previous bands with his unique screams and endless energy on stage. We have to give a round of applause to those guys, coming all the way from the other side of the country, paying all expenses from their own pockets, and still having enough strength to kill on stage. If you want to know more about their music, you can listen to their debut EP entitled Bloodlust at their BandCamp page, and if by any chance the band members themselves read this, please send us the EP for a detailed review.

Band members
Parker Lane – vocals
Tyson Tambellini – guitar
Jordan Orr – guitar
Tevyn Pacey – bass
Ryan McCreedy – drums

PROFANER

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Profaner @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

After a quick break and another cold beer, it was time for Melodic Death/Thrash Metal band Profaner to distill their acid metal music upon the audience. Hailing from the city of Hamilton, around 70km southwest of Toronto, the Ontario 1/2 Final winners didn’t waste time and started kicking ass on stage from the very first notes of the opening song of their setlist. If you visit their BandCamp page, you’ll be able to listen to a few songs they played this Saturday, such as the awesome Marked For Death, and see how good and violent those guys are. Guided by the uncontrollable frontman Anthony “Tooty” Tuttolomondo, Profaner showed everyone at the venue how old school brutal music is done, with the blazing riffs by guitarists Jason Crook and Pat Rogers, together with the boisterous drumming by Craig Piggot, being the recipe for success in heavy music. I loved their music and charisma, and so did the vast majority of the fans at The Opera House. A good sign of the band’s future, don’t you agree?

Band members
Anthony “Tooty” Tuttolomondo – vocals
Jason Crook – guitar, backing vocals
Pat Rogers – guitar
Rusty – bass
Craig Piggot – drums

TALES OF THE TOMB

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Tales Of The Tomb @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

There was still a lot more to come Saturday night, even with the clock getting closer to (or past) midnight, with the unique Psychological Horror/Death/Murder Metal brutally fired by Edmontonian metallers Tales Of The Tomb, who stood tall as the Prairie Final winner band. With lead singer Connor Adams, guitarist Corey Skerlak and bassist Bryn Herbert growling like possessed beats, Tales of The Tomb crushed the audience with their music inspired by icons such as Dying Fetus and Bloodbath, and the dark and gory vibe of classic slasher films. Those guys unleashed hell upon The Opera House, playing songs from their debut EP named Volume One: Morpras, as you can listen to at their BandCamp page. Nonstop violence is always fun in extreme music, and in the case of Tales Of The Tomb that enjoyment is multiplied by a thousand due to their demonic screeches and bestial riffs. In other words, a highly recommended band for fans of vicious Extreme Metal.

Band members
Connor Adams – vocals
Tres Thomas – guitar
Corey Skerlak – guitar, vocals
Bryn Herbert – bass, vocals
John Thomson – drums 

SPECIAL GUEST HEADLINERS: CRIMSON SHADOWS

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Crimson Shadows @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

And before that incredible night of Canadian Metal was over, we were treated to the Epic Death/Power Metal by special guest headliners Crimson Shadows, winners of the first edition of Wacken Metal Battle Canada in 2013, and also crowned the Metal Battle international winners at Wacken Open Air that same year. Well, the epic devastation crafted by these talented Torontonians, mixing the speed and intricacy of Dragonforce and Rhapsody with the vileness and heaviness of Children of Bodom, sounded even more potent on stage, with highlights to the excellent performance of newcomer Paul “Ablaze” Zinay with his harsh screams, and especially Mr. Greg Rounding with his fantastic riffs, solos and clean vocals. If you know nothing about Crimson Shadows, I suggest you take a listen at the high-end battle hymns Rise to Power and Braving the Storm, which were played to perfection during their electrifying concert. I believe that whenever Rise to Power is played, if you do not start singing it together with Crimson Shadows, raising your fists in the air, drinking a pint of beer and getting ready to die in the battlefield, you’re not a honorable warrior.

Band members
Paul “Ablaze” Zinay – vocals
Ryan Hofing – guitar
Greg Rounding – guitar, vocals
Alex Snape – bass
Cory Hofing – drums

AND THE WINNER IS…

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Profaner – 2016 Wacken Metal Battle Canada Winner

…everyone that attended the event this Saturday, especially the bands and the amazing crew that helped that metal celebration become true! Unfortunately, only one band could win the tournament and head to Wacken Open Air in August, but all five bands were simply amazing and deserve our humble recognition for keeping the fire of Canadian Metal alive. Congratulations to runner-ups DistortHead, who won a bunch of cool stuff from PureGrainAudio.com and Los Cabos Drumsticks that will be very beneficial to their career, and in special to the 2016 Wacken Metal Battle Canada winners PROFANER! YOU GUYS KICK ASS!

As previously mentioned, Crimson Shadows went to Wacken Open Air and won the international battle in 2013, and in 2015 Vesperia (who were there on Saturday to pass the crown to Profaner) re-lived that success by once again bringing the first place from Germany to Canada. Now it’s time for Profaner to show to the craziest metal fans in the entire world who will attend the festival in August how awesome Canadian Metal is. If you want to have a good overview of what happens to all independent bands while at Wacken Open Air, I recommend you watch the movie Wacken 3D – Louder Than Hell, from 2014. But that’s just in case you’re not going to join Profaner in their thrilling quest in Teutonic lands, of course.

Album Review – Display of Decay / Dust of Existence (2015)

After being infected by this deadly Death Metal virus from Canada, you’ll pleasantly suffer from brutal headbanging, deep growling and an impetuous urge to slam into the pit.

Rating5

display of decay artworkThere’s a deadly virus spreading from Edmonton, Canada to the rest of our rotting world since 2007, which major symptoms include brutal headbanging, deep growling and especially an urge to slam into some sick circle pits, similar to what happens when we listen to Death Metal icons such as Deicide, Cannibal Corpse and Cryptopsy, commonly known as Display of Decay. This five-piece infection truly knows how to bring forth pungent and coarse Death Metal tunes intensified by the addition of elements from Thrash and Doom Metal, making sure all songs from their brand new release, entitled  Dust of Existence, have something unique to offer to the listener.

In addition, Dust of Existence is not just a new album, but a direct epilogue to their 2014 EP named Outbreak of Infection, telling what happened to mankind after the horrifying events caused by the devastating virus presented in the EP. That’s also portrayed in the artwork of the new album, showing how focused the band was during its writing and composing period, and therefore adding an extra layer of complexity to the final result. However, don’t expect to find any gentle passages or progressiveness in the music by Display of Decay as you would in most “concept” albums, but pure malevolence with a raw attitude that will get inside your brain and relentlessly crush it.

The opening track, Created to Kill, needs less than ten seconds to show how visceral the band’s musicality is, presenting crude riffs enhanced by rumbling and intricate bass lines. Not only that, the demonic vocals by Jessy Leduc, supported by the harsh backing vocals by Sean Watson, create a truly evil atmosphere that perseveres until the end of Dust of Existence, which in my opinion provides a good consistency to the entire album. Relentless Reprisal also offers an intense sounding where its belligerent lyrics (“Shadows in the night, New plight of terror / Seeking revenge, Silent abduction / Eye for an eye, I take your life / Revenge prolonged, calculated”) and the blustering bass guitar by Jacob Maisonneuve turn it into a delight for all types of death metallers, followed by the pulverizing High Voltage Castration and its “cute” lyrics, so morbid I’m not going to add them to this review. Regarding the music itself, it is catchy and intense, and I’m sure you’ll start banging your fuckin’ head to its kick-ass riffs while Jacob continues his “ode to Alex Webster” through his sick bass lines. Besides, the special sound effects halfway through the song are truly “electrifying”, giving life to its lyrics.

The next song, Maruta, has a very interesting name which I’m not quite sure if that was the inspiration for the band to compose it. Maruta is the name of a special program of experimentation on human beings at the Imperial Japanese Army’s Unit 731 (a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit), and it makes total sense taking into account the concepts and ideas of the album. Maybe the band can confirm that? Anyway, it showcases such a brutish rhythm as if giant trolls were playing the instruments instead of humans, presenting one of the sickest versions of Death Metal you can think of (but, of course, with the talent of the musicians involved elevating its overall quality). Cellar Goreatory is yet another solid display of traditional Death Metal, with highlights to its vile vociferations, headbanging riffs and nonstop violence, but it’s in Messiah Complex that the band takes bestiality to the next level. It’s that always interesting variation of Death Metal where speed gives place to gore and heaviness, with kudos to rhythm guitarist Jeremy Puffer for his amazing performance delivering tons of melody and violence through his unrelenting riffs. Moreover, Jessy sounds so inhuman with his growls it makes me wonder how his actual voice is, and how hard it’s for him to switch it to this extremely rough mode.

Display-of-Decay---2015---PNyctophilia means a love or preference for night or darkness, which is perfectly depicted in its lyrics (“Blinded by light, Darkness arise, / From the tomb, I revive! / Last of my kind, Ancient sacrifice, / Empty carcass , Cloak of darkness!”). It’s more of the band’s old school Death Metal for us, with its instrumental being as dark and heavy as the name of the song demands. And although one might say there’s no creativity in tunes like this, who said good Death Metal needs that? Closing this poisonous album, the title-track Dust of Existence, also the longest of all songs, showcases some interesting melancholic moments that end up supporting this excellent Death/Doom Metal chant of desolation and despair. The whole band proves they can also craft metallic compositions from other subgenres of Extreme Metal, with the rawer than usual production becoming essential for the music to work in this demonic tune.

What are you waiting for to get infected by this talented Death Metal act? Follow them on Facebook, check their YouTube channel and SoundCloud page for more of their music, and also purchase Dust of Existence at their BandCamp page. I’m sure you’ll pleasantly suffer from all the aforementioned symptoms after listening to this solid album.

Best moments of the album: Created to Kill, High Voltage Castration and Messiah Complex.

Worst moments of the album: Cellar Goreatory.

Released in 2015 Independent

Track listing
1.Created to Kill 3:41
2.Relentless Reprisal 2:53
3.High Voltage Castration 5:16
4.Maruta 4:21
5.Cellar Goreatory 3:26
6.Messiah Complex 4:30
7.Nyctophilia 3:23
8.Dust of Existence 7:10

Band members
Jessy Leduc – vocals
Sean Watson – lead guitars, vocals
Jeremy Puffer – rhythm guitars
Jacob Maisonneuve – bass
Avery Desmarais – drums