Album Review – Paradise Lost / Obsidian (2020)

The overlords of doom return with another majestic album, exploring the unknown and opening new horizons with their awe-inspiring music.

Still reigning supreme as the overlords of doom after over three decades on the road, Halifax, England-based Doom Metal act Paradise Lost never gets tired of stunning us all with their refined hybrid of old school Doom and Death Metal with 80’s and contemporary Gothic Metal and Rock, proving why they’ve maintained their relevance in the world of heavy music without disappointing their loyal fans not even once in their vast career. Now in 2020 it’s time for frontman Nick Holmes, guitarists Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy, bassist Steve Edmondson and drummer Waltteri Väyrynen to darken the skies once again with Obsidian, their sixteenth studio album and the follow-up to their latest releases Medusa, from 2017, and The Plague Within, released in 2015. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Orgone Studios, with additional recordings done at Black Planet, and featuring a cryptic artwork by British artist Adrian Baxter, Obsidian might not be considered a classic yet like Gothic, Icon or Draconian Times, but I’m sure the album will reach its deserved cult status soon based on the amazing quality of the music found throughout its 47 astonishing minutes (plus the extra 10 minutes from the deluxe edition).

The gorgeous guest violin by Spanish musician Alicia Nurho adds a touch of finesse to the opening track Darker Thoughts, led by the always enfolding, deep vocals by Nick, sounding utterly grandiose, epic and doomed, and with Waltteri displaying all his refined skills behind his drum set. Then in Fall from Grace the band keeps slamming our heads mercilessly with their crushing riffage and damned beats, all led by Nick’s obscure roars while Steve makes the earth rumble with his bass (not to mention Greg’s hypnotizing solo), whereas Steve kicks off the 80’s-inspired dark tune titled Ghosts, enhanced by a brilliant performance by Nick with his Stygian vocals while his bandmates bring endless groove and electricity to the song from start to finish. And bringing forward contemplative lyrics that reek of modern-day poetry (“I’m tired of dreams, I’m tired of almost everything / Dreams deceive and living never lasts. / Too tired to sleep, denial of grief awakes my sins / Too weak to breathe, from living in deaths hands”), The Devil Embraced is another lesson in Gothic and Doom Metal spearheaded by Waltteri’s classic drums and the strident riffs by both Greg and Aaron.

Ominous sounds embellish the ambience in the also somber and heavy-as-hell Forsaken, where Nick is once again flawless on vocals supported by the slashing guitars by Greg and Aaron, while Steve and Waltteri sound absolutely thunderous with their respective instruments. After such dense tune, it’s time to bang our heads in darkness to the sound of Serenity, a hammering fusion of Doom and Death Metal tailored for admirers of the genre, also presenting some welcome breaks and variations, tons of progressiveness and the always macabre roars by Nick, followed by Ending Days, where Alicia returns with her gentle violin while the band gets back to a more serene and melancholic vibe, showcasing all their versatility and talent. Furthermore, the impact of the guitars and drums combined to the overall result is majestic, which can also be said about Hope Dies Young, featuring backing vocals by American singer Heather Mackintosh (Tapping the Vein), a very pleasant and enfolding sonority, and another round of their unique and stylish lyrics (“How could you know? / As pure as driven snow / Through a winter of descent / The splintered argument / Such a withering lament / Hopes will die young / Hopes will die young now”). The last song of the regular version of Obsidian, titled Ravenghast, brings to our ears a classic Paradise Lost sound, reminding me of some of their old school compositions from Draconian Times, with the level of heaviness and melancholy being beautifully insane while Waltteri blasts his drums in the best Doom Metal way possible and Nick fires his deep, demonic growls. If you decide to purchase the deluxe edition of Obsidian you’ll face the bonus tracks Hear the Night and Defiler, both very solid and classy Doom Metal compositions presenting all the elements we learned to love form the band’s distinguished music, making it totally worth the investment.

I guess I don’t need to ask you to take a good listen at Obsidian in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, especially if you’re a diehard fan of the band, and of course don’t forget to keep the fires of doom burning by purchasing your copy of the album by clicking HERE, and to follow Paradise Lost on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. If you search for the meaning of “obsidian” online, you’ll find out it’s a volcanic glass that’s supposed to be truth-enhancing, a strongly protective stone which forms a shield against negativity, blocking psychic attack and absorbing negative energies from the environment. Obsidian draws out mental stress and tension, stimulating growth on all levels, urging exploration of the unknown and opening new horizons. There couldn’t be a better representation of the new album by Paradise Lost, as their brand new opus is indeed a work-of-art perfect for heightening our senses and opening our minds and hearts for the glory of doom.

Best moments of the album: Darker Thoughts, Ghosts, Serenity and Ravenghast.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Darker Thoughts 5:46
2. Fall from Grace 5:42
3. Ghosts 4:35
4. The Devil Embraced 6:08
5. Forsaken 4:30
6. Serenity 4:46
7. Ending Days 4:36
8. Hope Dies Young 4:02
9. Ravenghast 5:30

Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
10. Hear the Night 5:34
11. Defiler 4:45

Band members
Nick Holmes – vocals
Greg Mackintosh – lead & rhythm guitar
Aaron Aedy – rhythm guitar
Steve Edmondson – bass
Waltteri Väyrynen – drums

Guest musicians
Alicia Nurho – violin on “Darker Thoughts” and “Ending Days”
Heather Mackintosh – backing vocals on “Hopes Die Young”

Album Review – Zebadiah Crowe / Host Rider (2020)

An infernal British duo returns after almost eight excruciating years of silence with the utmost sound of violence, horror, darkness, filth and savagery in their brand new opus.

Almost eight years after the release of their sophomore album Omak K’aah, a beyond infernal British duo that goes by the curious name of Zebadiah Crowe returns from the pits of the underworld with more of their incendiary hybrid of Black, Thrash and Industrial Metal with Grindcore nuances in their brand new opus entitled Host Rider, a new tome of foulness and fractured sanity featuring seven new psalms of wild abandon and dangerous delirium. Formed in 2006 in London, UK, the duo comprised of The Horrid on vocals, bass and drum programming and Forrrthen on the guitars sounds sharper and more caustic than ever in their newborn spawn, bringing forth the sound of violent punk attitude, suffocating black horror, gothic darkness, mechanistic filth and the savagery of the most vicious outliers of thrash, being highly recommended for admirers of the distinguished terror blasted by renowned acts such as Venom, Ministry, Mantar and Babylon Whores, leaving you broken and destroying your senses without a single drop of mercy.

Imposing, epic sounds explode into a venomous fusion of Black and Industrial Metal in the amazing opening track Knucklebones, where the dirty, scorching riffs by Forrrthen provide The Horrid exactly what he needs to thrive with his wicked gnarls, whereas the thunderous and metallic bass by The Horrid takes the lead in the pulverizing A Tincture of Malic, a song that will undoubtedly inspire you to slam into the circle pit together with this talented unity from hell. Moreover, although the drums might be programmed, they actually sound very organic and evil, giving the whole album an extra touch of rawness. And there’s no time to breathe at all as they keep hammering our heads with their frantic and industrialized sounds in Mantel of Nails and Orphan Skin, reminding me of some of the most vicious creations by Ministry, with The Horrid going full Black Metal with his vile screams while Forrrthen keeps slashing his stringed ax manically.

In The Neon Goat of Crimson Grief we’re treated to more of their blackened music, with the programmed drums working really well once again while the duo smashes their guitar and bass mercilessly, even bringing hints of Punk Rock to its core mechanized essence. Slightly groovier and more visceral than its predecessors, A Horror to the Eyes of Saintly Men is an underground lesson in savagery and dementia where Forrrthen’s riffage sounds bestial from start to finish, not to mention the trademark enraged roars by The Horrid, while in Godblind and Destitute they once again blend the heaviness of Black Metal with the violence of Thrash Metal and the metallic noises of industrial music, keeping the album’s electricity flowing at an insane speed. Lastly, closing such short but utterly extreme and malignant album we have Wormhavens Dance, where Zebadiah Crowe fire tons of rage and darkness through their razor-edged instruments, all spearheaded by The Horrid’s demonic screams and at the same time spiced up by futuristic background elements.

If you think you have what it takes to face Zebadiah Crowe and the anthems of horror and perversion found in their new album Host Rider, you should definitely follow them on Facebook to know more about this distinct entity hailing from the UK, including their tour dates and upcoming releases, but of course in order to show them you’re a creature of the dark just like The Horrid and Forrrthen themselves, you should purchase your copy of Host Rider from their own BandCamp page. No one knows if Zebadiah Crowe will take another long and excruciating eight years to bring to our ears a new sonic beast the likes of Host Rider, but for now let’s not worry about that, as we do have their new album to enjoy, letting their piercing, austere sounds penetrate deep inside our psyche, therefore dragging us to the world of horrors and dementia ruled by one of the most talented duos of the underground British scene.

Best moments of the album: Knucklebones, Mantel of Nails and Orphan Skin and A Horror to the Eyes of Saintly Men.

Worst moments of the album: A Tincture of Malic.

Released in 2020 Lore Breaker Records

Track listing
1. Knucklebones 4:17
2. A Tincture of Malic 2:58
3. Mantel of Nails and Orphan Skin 3:13
4. The Neon Goat of Crimson Grief 3:44
5. A Horror to the Eyes of Saintly Men 3:40
6. Godblind and Destitute 3:50
7. Wormhavens Dance 3:45

Band members
The Horrid – vocals, bass, drum programming
Forrrthen – guitars

Album Review – Deified / Anthrobscene EP (2020)

Playing dark, angry, philosophical and downright nihilistic Groove Metal, this UK-based outfit is ready to discuss everything that’s wrong in our society with their brand new EP.

Playing a dark, angry, philosophical and downright nihilistic fusion of Groove Metal, Metalcore and Melodic Death Metal since their inception in 2013, reflecting on some of the worst parts of today’s status quo and always targeting key political figures, nuclear annihilation and conscious degradation, Merseyside, England-based outfit Deified is unleashing upon humanity their third EP and fourth official album (taking into account their 2015 full-length opus Ascension), entitled Anthrobscene, following up on their critically acclaimed 2018 EP Inhuman Manifesto. A time capsule discussing modern times, Anthrobscene doesn’t hold back with its commentary on social media, the digital revolution, mental health, climate change, politics and more, showcasing all the talent and rage from frontman Jamie Hughes, guitarists Matthew Pike (who also produced, mixed and mastered the album) and Alistair Blackhall, bassist Tom Simm and drummer Jordan Stanley-Jones and, therefore, being highly recommended for admirers of the caustic metal blasted by renowned bands like Lamb Of God and Sylosis.

The cinematic intro Prelude heightens our senses for the acid Dark Desires, a visceral Lamb Of God-inspired tune where Jamie roars demonically accompanied by the razor-edged riffs by Matthew and Alistair, resulting in a high-speed dirty extravaganza overflowing madness and wrath, not to mention how Tom and Jordan give a lesson in groove with their respective bass and drums. Then it’s  time to bang our heads to the strident and melodic Broken Matrix, a modern-day Melodic Death and Groove Metal for the masses showcasing an ass-kicking shredding and classic beats, providing Jamie all he needs to bark like a beast, whereas sounding like a stone crusher on drums Jordan dictates the rhythm in Enemies Within, while Jamie declaims the song’s austere lyrics and Matthew and Alistair once again demolish our minds with their unrelenting guitars, all spiced up by Tom’s rumbling bass lines.

Following such electrifying display of modern metal music, a brief, futuristic Intermission sets the stage for Deified to kill once again in the frantic and sharper-than-a-knife Apotheosis/Rebirth, where the entire band sounds furious and vile from start to finish, with Jamie taking the lead with his maniacal vocals while Tom and Jordan make the earth tremble with their avalanche of low-tuned and thunderous sounds. The second to last blast of Deified’s well-balanced music comes in the form of Blood Under the Bridge, where the band’s stringed trio is on absolute fire with their riffage and thunderous bass jabs, sounding absolutely perfect for headbanging nonstop or crushing your skull into the pit, consequently keeping the album at a high level of adrenaline, before the closing song An Ode to Armageddon comes ripping with its epic start and its explosion of fulminating Groove Metal, or in other words, it’s an instrumental outro showcasing crisp riffs, piercing solos and endless stamina flowing from its bass and drums for our total delight.

In a nutshell, it’s impressive how dynamic, versatile and meaningful Deified were able to sound in only 28 minutes of music in Anthrobscene, proving how skillful the band is and why they’ve been on a roll since they started back in 2013, having already being crowned the winners of Bloodstock M2TM in 2015 and having already toured with iconic bands the likes of Cattle Decapitation, Exodus, Incite and Krysthla. Hence, don’t forget to show the guys from Deified your support by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, to subscribe to their YouTube channel and, above all, to grab your copy of their brand new EP from their own BandCamp page or from Apple Music. Anthrobscene is about everything we fear the most, and at the same time about everything we can’t live without, showing how rotten our minds are and, of course, how heavy music is yet again one of the best ways to represent all that’s wrong with the society we live in, and we must thank the guys from Deified for offering us metalheads such high quality and honest music with each and every single one of their albums.

Best moments of the album: Dark Desires and Apotheosis/Rebirth.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Prelude 1:01
2. Dark Desires 4:33
3. Broken Matrix 4:05
4. Enemies Within 3:49
5. Intermission 0:48
6. Apotheosis/Rebirth 5:18
7. Blood Under the Bridge 5:40
8. An Ode to Armageddon 3:04

Band members
Jamie Hughes – vocals
Matthew Pike – guitars
Alistair Blackhall – guitars
Tom Simm – bass
Jordan Stanley-Jones – drums

Album Review – Absolva / Side By Side (2020)

Celebrating the great tradition of British Heavy Metal with huge riffs and massive hooks, this young and restless Manchester, UK-based unity returns with their breathtaking fifth full-length album.

If you’re a fan of the most recent solo albums by the indomitable Blaze Bayley, more specifically with his  Infinite Entanglement Trilogy, you’ve probably heard the names of vocalist and guitarist Christopher Appleton, bassist Karl Schramm and drummer Martin Mcnee, who together with Chris’ brother, guitarist Luke Appleton (of Iced Earth), have been making a lot of noise since 2012 with their Manchester, England-based Melodic/Heavy Metal band Absolva. Each member has a wealth of experience with an impressive pedigree recording and touring with their other above-mentioned associations with Iced Earth and Blaze Bayley, and have also toured as support artists with the likes of Saxon, Michael Schenker and Y&T. Now in 2020 it’s time for Absolva to strike again with Side By Side, their fifth studio album following on from Flames of Justice (2012), Anthems to the Dead (2014), Never a Good Day to Die (2015) and Defiance (2017).

Recorded at Rocksector Records headquarters in Manchester, produced by Chris Appleton himself, mastered by Ade Emsley at Table of Tone Mastering Ltd. in London, and featuring a classic artwork by Brazilian artist Alberto Quirantes of Akirant Illustration (Blaze Bayley, Iron Maiden, Star Wars), Side By Side undoubtedly celebrates the great tradition of British Heavy Metal with huge riffs and massive hooks. However, Absolva have never been scared to mix things up, and fans will discover light and shade across the ten original songs (plus two very special bonus tracks) found in such entertaining album that transpires metal music, showcasing an exceptional performance by all band members and, therefore, being highly recommended for fans of the music by Iron Maiden, Saxon, Judas Priest, Helloween and several other metal giants.

The strident guitars by Chris and Luke bring thunder to the opening track Advocate Your Fate, accompanied by the band’s heavy kitchen of Martin and Karl in a pure traditional Heavy Metal feast, with their guitar solos being absolutely incendiary; and blasting a Judas Priest-inspired mega-riff the band embellishes the airwaves with the high-octane Burning Star, where Chris’ soaring screams are beautifully supported by his bandmates’ backing vocals, sounding perfect for headbanging nonstop in the name of Heavy Metal. Then keep banging your heads and raising your horns to the sound of The Sky’s Your Limit, where the bass punches by Karl will reverberate inside your brain, feeling very melodic from start to finish and being obviously recommended for enjoying it while on a road trip, whereas the title-track Side by Side brings forward an inspiring, upbeat atmosphere showcasing the union among the band members, with both Chris and Luke taking the lead with their refined riffs and solos and, of course, living up to the legacy of the biggest exponents of the genre.

After such amazing first batch of songs, it’s time to speed things up and slam into the pit together with the boys in Living a Lie, another lesson in traditional Heavy Metal where Martin is unstoppable on drums while its guitars will pierce your ears and Chris powerfully declaims the song’s austere lyrics, followed by Legion, presenting a “Stranger in a Stranger Land” vibe generated by Karl and his menacing bass, alternating between heavier moments spiced up by Chris and Luke’s shredding and more serene, melodic passages. And more metallic sounds permeate the airwaves in Eternal Soul, a galloping tune led by Karl and Martin armed with their thunderous instruments, feeling like a metal classic from the 80’s with a catchy chorus that will put you to sing along with the band, not to mention their trademark electrifying solos.

Chris leads his metal army in the rebellious anthem End of Days, a more epic and imposing tune where Martin’s beats dictate the pace and the band’s stringed trio doesn’t stop firing sheer electricity from their axes, and setting fire to the world the band brings forth the frantic, melodic and absolutely awesome Heart Let’s Go, where Chris keeps blasting his sharp vocals accompanied by the razor-edged sound of the guitars and the groovy bass by Karl. Finally, a serene Hard Rock-inspired intro ignites the melodic From This World, the last original song of the album where the quartet showcases a lot of passion and feeling, led by the pounding beats by Martin (albeit going on for a little too long, though), before we’re treated to two metallic and vibrant bonus tracks by Absolva showing their respect and admiration for the undisputed metal titans Iron Maiden, with 2 Minutes to Midnight, and Black Sabbath, with Heaven and Hell, with their Iron Maiden version sounding and feeling beyond stunning.

The guys form Absolva are waiting for you on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Spotify, ready to invade your senses with their refined old school Heavy Metal, and with Side By Side being the perfect representation of everything they stand for and what we can except from such talented band in a not-so-distant future. Hence, don’t forget to purchase your copy of the album from their Big Cartel page, from Apple Music or from Amazon, standing side by side with one of the youngest and most promising bands of the UK scene and, as a consequence, living and breathing metal music together with a band that proudly carries the flag of NWOBHM wherever they go.

Best moments of the album: Burning Star, Eternal Soul, Heart Let’s Go and 2 Minutes to Midnight.

Worst moments of the album: From This World.

Released in 2020 Rocksector Records

Track listing
1. Advocate Your Fate 4:39
2. Burning Star 4:02
3. The Sky’s Your Limit 5:22
4. Side by Side 4:39
5. Living a Lie 3:07
6. Legion 3:42
7. Eternal Soul 5:37
8. End of Days 6:07
9. Heart Let’s Go 4:21
10. From This World 5:51

Bonus tracks
11. 2 Minutes to Midnight (Iron Maiden cover) 5:49
12. Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath cover) 7:01

Band members
Christopher Appleton – lead vocals, lead guitar
Luke Appleton – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals
Karl Schramm – bass
Martin Mcnee – drums

Album Review – Tomorrow Is Lost / Therapy (2020)

Dance like there’s no tomorrow to the sound of eleven mind-blowing Alternative Metal anthems carefully crafted by one of the fastest-rising modern rock bands in the United Kingdom.

If you’re a fan of the radio-friendly but still heavy and incendiary Rock N’ Roll played by renowned heavyweights such as Halestorm, Evanescence and Paramore, you should take a shot at Therapy, the first full-length album by Newcastle Upon Tyne, England-based Rock N’ Roll/Alternative Metal band Tomorrow Is Lost and the follow-up to their highly acclaimed debut EP Shadowman, released in 2018. Produced by Dave Boothroyd (Phil Campbell, Don Broco, The Bastard Sons) at 6db Studios and mastered by Jon Astley (Judas Priest, The Who, The Rolling Stones) at Close To The Edge, Therapy features eleven mind-blowing Alternative Metal anthems carefully crafted by one of the fastest-rising modern rock bands in the United Kingdom, showcasing all the hard work and passion for rock music by frontwoman Cass King, guitarists Joe Mac and Ryan O’Hara, bassist Josh Fodden and drummer Marc Rush and, above all, positioning the band as one of the most promising names in a new era of British metal and rock that will undoubtedly endure the test of time for years to come.

A modern, eerie Intro sets the stage for Cass and the boys to kick some serious ass in Wildchild, a groovy and electrifying tune led by the crushing bass punches by Josh while Cass delivers a blend of delicate, dark vocals and rebellious screams, resulting in a great Rock N’ Roll dancing tune full of headbanging moments and infinite stamina. And more modernized sounds invade our ears in Smile, a song ready to be played on any rock station anywhere in the world with Ryan and Joe blasting sheer adrenaline from their strings, while Marc dictates the pace with his spot-on beats, whereas in White Noise we’re treated to more of their contemporary Rock N’ Roll showcasing metallic bass lines, classic riffs and the always stunning vocals by Cass, also bringing a welcome dosage of pop music to make the final result even more entertaining.

What starts in a gentle manner evolves into a feast of heavy sounds in Self Destruct, spearheaded by Joe and Ryan’s melodic guitar lines and alternating between more serene moments and electronic passages, with its heavier parts exhaling pure Alternative Metal. Then it’s time for Cass to mesmerize us all with her stunning voice in the semi-ballad Black and Blue, where a sexy sonority boosts her vocal reach even more, being perfect for enjoying it together with your significant other; while we face more of the metallic bass jabs by Josh in the incendiary and groovy Hideaway, where they let their alternative side dominate the atmosphere, presenting another beautiful performance by Cass on vocals in a very classy and powerful manner.

In Too Young to Know the quintet brings forth another soulful ballad showcasing an ethereal vibe and the always enfolding vocals by Cass, not to mention it’s a song about the issues we all face in our relationships, which in the end is always a great topic in rock music. Moreover, the band’s guitar duo takes the lead in the song’s second (and heavier) part with their riffs and solos for our total delectation. In Electric the name of the song says it all, or in other words, it’s a feast of slashing riffs and thunderous bass lines spiced up by Marc’s classic beats and another sensational vocal performance by Cass, while Pause Rewind presents elements of the Nu Metal played by Limp Bizkit blended with the alternative sounds by Paramore, with Ryan and Josh doing a great job with their electrified strings once again. And last but not least, closing the album we have one final shot of adrenaline and fun in the form of the title-track Therapy, a song that will definitely please all fans of contemporary rock music, with Marc blasting fierce beats while Cass hypnotizes us all with her piercing voice.

If you also think the motto “I know it’s only Rock N’ Roll, but I like it!” perfectly represents your state of mind, as aforementioned you should undoubtedly give Therapy a chance by listening to the album in full on YouTube and on Spotify, and obviously by adding it to your personal collection by purchasing a copy of the album from the band’s own webstore, or click HERE for all options where you can buy or stream such entertaining opus of rock music. Also, don’t forget to give them a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, showing your support for such promising band of the UK scene in the name of our good old Rock N’ Roll.

Best moments of the album: Wildchild, Hideaway and Electric.

Worst moments of the album: Pause Rewind.

Released in 2020 Eclipse Records

Track listing
1. Intro 1:09
2. Wildchild 2:27
3. Smile 3:25
4. White Noise 2:27
5. Self Destruct 2:56
6. Black and Blue 4:14
7. Hideaway 4:02
8. Too Young to Know 4:22
9. Electric 3:46
10. Pause Rewind 2:58
11. Therapy 3:27

Band members
Cass King – vocals
Joe Mac – guitar
Ryan O’Hara – guitar
Josh Fodden – bass
Marc Rush – drums

Album Review – My Dying Bride / The Ghost Of Orion (2020)

A lesson in how to transform pain, agony and grief into beautiful metal music by one of the pioneers of the death and doom style.

It’s impressive when even after 30 years on the road a veteran band like West Yorkshire, UK-based Gothic/Doom Metal masters My Dying Bride, one of the pioneers of the death and doom style alongside Anathema and Paradise Lost, is capable of still delivering top-of-the-line music without sounding repetitive, outdated or tiresome, just like what they have to offer us now in 2020 with their 13th studio album, the majestic The Ghost Of Orion, proving once again why the band currently comprised of Aaron Stainthorpe on vocals, Andrew Craighan and Neil Blanchett on the guitars, Lena Abé on bass, Shaun Macgowan on keyboards and violin and Jeff Singer on drums is and will always be a reference in extreme music. Produced by Mark Mynett (Mynetaur), portraying a stunning artwork by Israeli artist Eliran Kantor (Testament, Tristania, Fleshgod Apocalypse), and featuring very special guest appearances by British cellist Jo Quail and Norwegian singer Lindy Fay Hella (from Folk/Ambient band Wardruna), The Ghost Of Orion not only marks the band’s longest gap between studio albums to date, being released five years after their previous effort Feel the Misery, but it’s also a lecture in how to transform pain, agony and grief into beautiful Doom Metal.

As soon as you hit play, get ready to dive deep into the Stygian waters of doom ruled by Aaron and his horde in the opening track Your Broken Shore, with Jeff dictating the rhythm with his somber, sluggish beats while Aaron is absolutely superb with both his anguished, clean vocals and his demonic roars, resulting in the perfect anthem for savoring endless darkness and solitude, not to mention the delicate and whimsical sounds of the cello by Jo Quail and the violin by Shaun throughout the entire song as the icing on the cake. And that lugubrious vibe goes on in the also captivating To Outlive the Gods, with sheer melancholy flowing from its words (“A fool will believe every single word said / And yes you may speak with only me now on the sunrise / Child of my sore and bleeding body come over here / Sit here and say your words feeding only me till sunrise”) while Andrew, Neil and Lena make our hearts tremble with their crushing riffs and bass punches.

Clearly inspired by Aaron’s arduous experience with his five-year-old daughter, who was diagnosed with cancer a couple years after the release of Feel the Misery, from which she was thankfully declared in remission later, Tired of Tears brings forward gentle and serene sounds that graciously permeate the air while Shaun is absolutely amazing with his violin, with Lena and Jeff keeping the atmosphere dense and mournful with their sonic weapons. Put differently, this is a lesson in Gothic and Doom Metal with nuances of Depressive Black Metal and Blackened Doom, showcasing My Dying Bride’s undisputed ability to turn pure sadness into grandiose metal music. Following such touching tune we have The Solace, where the hypnotizing vocals by Lindy Fay Hella are solely accompanied by the grim guitar lines by Andrew and Neil in a minimalist and enfolding creation by My Dying Bride.

In the brilliant The Long Black Land the energy emanating from the cello by Jo Quail together with the low-tuned, menacing bass by Lena is outstanding, embellishing even more the song’s over ten minutes of obscure passages spearheaded by the clean and aggressive gnarls by Aaron, giving life to its poetic lyrics  for our total delight (“On the lap of the world I lay my head / Pick my way carefully through our long past / Hold my hand, young one / Hold my hand / Listen to my voice / Hold my hand / Face your God / Your God”) and ending in a classy and mournful manner. The semi-acoustic, phantasmagorical bridge The Ghost of Orion sets the stage for the also bold and intricate The Old Earth, starting also in a gentle and somber way led by Andrew’s and Neil’s acoustic lines, suddenly exploding into a lecture in devilish and sluggish Doom Metal where Aaron declaims the song’s lyrics with passion and rage, overflowing sheer melancholy before the outro Your Woven Shore brings to the listener an ethereal, sinister atmosphere and sonority, putting a cinematic and therefore fabulous closure to the album.

In summary, as aforementioned, Aaron and his bandmates from My Dying Bride simply nailed it in The Ghost Of Orion, available for purchase from the Nuclear Blast webstore and for streaming on Spotify, filling our ears, minds and hearts with an immeasurable amount of melancholy, sorrow and distress in what’s undoubtedly one of the best metal albums of 2020. Having said that, I highly suggest you go check what the band is up to on Facebook and on Instagram, including their tour dates, as they’ll bring the music found in The Ghost Of Orion to the stages near you without a shadow of a doubt. Hence, after listening to such distinguished album of Gothic and Doom Metal (again and again), I’m sure you’ll understand once and for all why My Dying Bride are so important and relevant to the world of heavy music, getting better and better as the years go by just like that fancy red wine you enjoy savoring all by yourself on a cold and rainy night while listening to their undisputed doom.

Best moments of the album: Your Broken Shore, The Long Black Land and The Old Earth.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Your Broken Shore 7:43
2. To Outlive the Gods 7:56
3. Tired of Tears 8:37
4. The Solace 5:52
5. The Long Black Land 10:01
6. The Ghost of Orion 3:31
7. The Old Earth 10:32
8. Your Woven Shore 2:09

Band members
Aaron Stainthorpe – vocals
Andrew Craighan – guitars
Neil Blanchett – guitars
Lena Abé – bass
Shaun Macgowan – keyboards, violin
Jeff Singer – drums

Guest musicians
Jo Quail – cello
Lindy Fay Hella – female vocals on “The Solace”

Album Review – Wolvencrown / Of Bark And Ash (2019)

Close your eyes and enjoy this excellent album of Atmospheric Black Metal made in the UK, blending the obscurity and melodies of extreme music with Nature and the emotions she conveys.

From the heart of the Midlands, the central part of England, more specifically from the city of Nottingham, comes an Atmospheric Black Metal quintet that goes by the stylish name of Wolvencrown, blending the obscurity and melodies of Black Metal with Nature and the emotions she conveys, therefore being highly recommended for admirers of the music by bands like Winterfylleth, Wodensthrone and Fen. Formed in 2015, the band now comprised of Nick on vocals and guitar, Jack also on the guitar, Reece on bass, Will on keyboards and Matt on drums is unleashing upon us their first full-length opus entitled Of Bark And Ash, following the naturalistic and atmospheric path of melodies and feelings of longing and yearning of their 2017 self-titled debut EP, being packed with stunning riffs, inspiring passages and enfolding keyboards, turning it into a must-listen for anyone who enjoys the absolute heaviness of extreme music spiced up by an embracing atmosphere.

The opening tune, titled Earths Eternal Dawn, sounds brutal and grim from the very first second, with the keys by Will adding a phantasmagorical touch to the band’s classic Black Metal while Matt provides us all we need to headbang like maniacs and Nick growls and gnarls in a truly devilish manner. After such classy welcome card, the band offers us an epic composition divided in two parts, starting with 1194 pt.I, exhaling intricacy, progressiveness and obscurity, with Nick and Jack slashing their axes beautifully. Furthermore, Matt’s beats and fills couldn’t have sounded more complex and violent, while Will’s keys once again bring a delicate balance to the overall result; whereas the second part, simply titled 1194 pt.II, is as grandiose and dense as part one, with Nick leading his horde with his anguished roars while the guitars sound absolutely pulverizing and sharper than a knife, living up to the legacy of both old school and more contemporary Black Metal and with its last part being an amazing, massive sonic havoc.

More rhythmic and atmospheric thanks to the outstanding job done by both Will and Matt, Infernal Throne presents Stygian vociferations by Nick that will penetrate deep inside your soul, while their riffs blacken our hearts mercilessly, and Wolvencrown keep hammering our heads and darkening the skies with their top-of-the-line Atmospheric Black Metal in  the title-track Of Bark and Ash, filled with folk and epic elements. Moreover, the beats by Matt are powerfully complemented by Reece’s thunderous bass lines, resulting in a full-bodied aria that’s at the same time an ode to darkness and Nature, which in the end obviously coexist in perfect harmony, not to mention Nick’s furious screams to make things even more intense and disturbing, just the way we like it in extreme music.

Leaning towards classic Atmospheric Black Metal, Towards Broken Depths mixes scorching riffs with ambient keys and blast beats, again bringing to our avid ears the demonic gnarls by Nick while Reece keeps the atmosphere as dense as possible with his bass lines. Then the cryptic keys by Will ignite the also furious and melodic Destined, perhaps the most epic of all tracks, with all instruments sounding austere and flammable throughout the entire song and with both Nick and Jack stealing the spotlight with their unstoppable riffage, whereas endless melancholy flows from the closing tune titled S.A.D., a lot more melodic and atmospheric than its predecessors while at the same time working as a grim “goodbye” or “farewell” by Wolvencrown, with the violent and harmonious sound of guitars crushing our minds in great fashion, ending in a contemplative and ethereal way.

You can enjoy this precious gem of underground extreme music in its entirety on YouTube, purchase your copy from the Avantgarde Music BandCamp page or from several other locations such as ImportCDs, Barnes & Noble, FYE and Sound Cave, and follow Wolvencrown on Facebook to stay up-to-date with everything related to their music and upcoming tour dates. Every single time our good old Black Metal is infused with the delicate but powerful sounds of Mother Earth, the final result is extremely pleasant to say the least, and Wolvencrown simply nailed it in Of Bark And Ash, showing once again how Atmospheric Black Metal is always the perfect choice for those times in your life where all you want to do is escape from your everyday life and dive deep into the wild.

Best moments of the album: 1194 pt.I, 1194 pt.II and Of Bark and Ash.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Avantgarde Music

Track listing
1. Earths Eternal Dawn 4:14
2. 1194 pt.I 4:54
3. 1194 pt.II 6:42
4. Infernal Throne 4:08
5. Of Bark and Ash 6:43
6. Towards Broken Depths 5:09
7. Destined 7:27
8. S.A.D. 5:46

Band members
Nick – vocals, guitars
Jack – guitars
Reece – bass
Will – keyboards
Matt – drums

Album Review – Arx Atrata / The Path Untravelled (2019)

Close your eyes and enjoy this Atmospheric Black Metal beast by a talented UK-based one-man army, bringing the beauty of vast and unspoiled landscapes and cold, cleansing winds to our hearts.

Wherever you may be in your life, the music by British Atmospheric Black Metal one-man band Arx Atrata can open a window onto that moment of hope and clarity you have always been searching for, bringing the beauty of vast and unspoiled landscapes and cold, cleansing winds to your heart, therefore being highly recommended for fans of the music by Winterfylleth, Ashbringer, Imperium Dekadenz and Agalloch, to name a few, or simply for those who still seek magic beneath the trees and under the stars. Formed in 2010 in Nottingham, a city in central England’s Midlands region, by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ben Sizer, Arx Atrata is offering to your avid ears and soul now in 2019 his third full-length opus, entitled The Path Untravelled, the follow-up to his debut album Oblivion, from 2013, and his sophomore installment Spiritus in Terra, from 2016, featuring a darkly stylish artwork by British artist Ellie Mowforth (Namurian Visions). With The Path Untravelled, Ben has unveiled even more of the qualities that have delighted fans and reviewers so far on his journey, digging deeper, reaching further and dreaming in even more vibrant colors to create something truly special.

The soothing sounds of nature and acoustic guitars invade our senses and grow in intensity in the instrumental intro MCMLXXVII until To Be Reborn comes crushing with its strident, razor-edged guitars and Doom Metal-inspired beats in an absolutely atmospheric, captivating and aggressive manner, also presenting lyrics that exhale melancholy (“A once-proud people, now brought to their knees / Their downfall created by their own hand, it seems / The end was coming quicker than foretold / The tears of young and old were heard throughout the land”). In An Undying Verse, the talented Ben keeps blasting his obscure and melodic Black Metal for our total delight, generating an enfolding ambience full of somber passages, demonic roars and crisp riffs, and let me tell you that Ben does a fantastic job matching the sharp sounds of his guitar with his anguished gnarls, with all background keys and ethereal elements bringing an extra touch of delicacy to the overall result, building an instant connection with the title-track The Path Untravelled, a grandiose display of classic Atmospheric Black Metal that instantly darkens our hearts and fills our souls with melancholy and grief. Moreover, the song also brings forward minimalist piano notes amidst potent doomed beats and hellish vociferations, resulting in a voyage through dark and desolate lands that goes on for over ten minutes of awesomeness.

Elmet is another stunning creation by Ben, showcasing a very melodious and pleasant rhythm where his riffs sound more acute and austere than ever, not to mention his blast beats and whimsical keys, inspiring us all to close our eyes and let his music embrace us completely. Brethren And Betrayer, the second to last aria in The Path Untravelled, presents the most gentle intro of all songs, evolving into a heavy but utterly harmonious display of extreme music where Ben once again delivers a lesson in Atmospheric Black Metal with his deep gnarls and endless obscurity, whereas the final song The Wraith already beings in full force, setting the tone for Ben to darkly declaim its pensive lyrics (“Beyond our knowledge there is a lost place / And none who reach there will ever return / Here he stands / Stalwart protector of all his lands / Until the end / At his hand, enemies were vanquished / Until he could fight no more / The spirit endures… the body is weak”). All instruments are in perfect sync throughout this superb composition, where not even a single space is left empty in its over ten minutes of metallic, ambient and Stygian sounds and tones, majestically flowing until an epic and somber finale.

Once again we’re having the pleasure of facing a multi-talented, hardworking musician that “multiplies” himself in order to generate full-bodied and dense musical beasts to metalheads like us, and if I were you I would definitely show my appreciation and support to Ben and his Arx Atrata by purchasing The Path Untravelled from his own BandCamp page and by listening to it in full on Spotify, as well as by following him on Facebook. If Ben’s main goal with his Arx Atrata is to take us all to unexplored, bitterly cold lands where we can isolate ourselves from the rest of the world and finally find our inner light or darkness, let’s say he more than succeeded with The Path Untravelled, leaving us stunned and, consequently, eager for the next step in his vibrant musical journey through the vast world of extreme music.

Best moments of the album: An Undying Verse and The Wraith.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. MCMLXXVII 2:27
2. To Be Reborn 5:52
3. An Undying Verse 8:17
4. The Path Untravelled 10:15
5. Elmet 8:51
6. Brethren And Betrayer 6:44
7. The Wraith 10:41

Band members
Ben Sizer – vocals, all instruments and synths

Album Review – Goatchrist / Pythagoras (2019)

Like a phoenix arising from the ashes, one-man project Goatchrist returns with a thrilling melding of Black Metal, Jazz and progressive music, exploring the various metaphysical and occult philosophies of Pythagoras.

After a huge and cryptic hiatus that lasted for three long years, the talented multi-instrumentalist Jacob Guilherme, or J. Guilherme if you prefer, previously known as Dominator Xul’Ahabra, is back in action with his Leeds, UK-based one-man project Goatchrist, now venturing through the realms of Experimental Black Metal instead of the Blackened Death Metal from his early days. If you’re familiar with Goatchrist’s discography, let’s say the more vicious and austere music found in his previous albums, those being She Who Holds the Scrying Mirror, from 2014, The Epic Tragedy of the Cult of Enlil, from 2015, and Discipline and Terror (The Timeless Praxes of the Drakon Covenant), from 2016, gave place to a much more experimental and melodic sonority with a focus on metaphysical philosophies, and that new era of Goatchrist can be fully appreciated in his brand new opus, entitled Pythagoras, a conceptual full-length album about the Greek metaphysical philosopher, father of the Western philosophical tradition and ideological precursor to occultism.

Dedicated to R. R. Givens (also known as Proscriptor McGovern, from American Black/Thrash Metal band Absu), a man of great talent and understanding and a significant inspiration in the creation of the album, Pythagoras features a thrilling melding of Black Metal, Jazz and progressive music, exploring the various metaphysical and occult philosophies of the ancient Greek sage, such as the ontology of all existence, the five three-dimensional solids whose faces are regular polygons and their links to the five pre-scientific “elements” (air, fire, earth, water and aether), and the Pythagorean attitude towards reincarnation. Written, recorded, mixed and mastered between J. Guilherme’s home studio and V. Calin’s home studio, who by the way lends his musical talents to a couple of songs in the album, Pythagoras might be one of the best fusions of extreme music (and other styles) with science and philosophy from the underground and independent scene of the past few years, proving why although Jacob shouldn’t have stopped making music under his project Goatchrist a few years ago, his break was more than healthy and inspiring as we can all enjoy now with Pythagoras.

The Initiation of Pythagoras by Thoth Hermes Tresmegistus is an instrumental, epic intro that sets the stage for Worlds, a lot more melodic and ethereal than Goatchrist’s previous endeavors, where Jacob does a great job on the guitars and drums, generating an enfolding and experimental atmosphere and also presenting an interesting paradox between demonic screeches and clean, anguished vocals. Moreover, right from the beginning you can sense the aforementioned hints of Jazz added to the music, which is also the case in The Tetractys, offering more experimentations and idiosyncratic sounds from Jacob’s (un)usual instruments and, consequently, feeling a lot more Progressive Metal than Black Metal, with its lyrics being some sort of lecture about what the title of the song truly means (“Tetractys of the Decad: / One, two, three and four / in union; musica universalis – / Unity; Dyad; Harmony; Kosmos.”).

Back to a more berserk and violent mode, Jacob slashes his strings while at the same time he blasts delicate and futuristic sounds and tones in Pythagorean Solids, with his harsh gnarls and whimsical keys being in absolute sync form start to finish, whereas in Introduction to Numbers we’re treated to one minute of madness flowing from his keys before all hell breaks loose in Numbers, reminding me of some of his oldest creations in terms of fury and heaviness, blending old school Black Metal with tons of progressiveness and the gentleness of Jazz. In other words, this is a full-bodied creation that lives up to Goatchrist’s own legacy, and undoubtedly one of the best moments of the album.

Then we have Harmony of the Spheres, a somber, atmospheric and minimalist composition that works like an extended bridge to Metempsychosis, bringing forward elements from the Stygian music by Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir and Rotting Christ, with the hellish growls by Jacob matching perfectly with the instrumental pieces and also presenting a lot of groove flowing from his wicked bass lines and intricate piano notes. And lastly, The Death of Pythagoras is a very introspective tune spiced up by deep, dark lyrics (“Then the sun will set over Croton, / The folk tire of his ways – of his ways. / The greatest mind in all of time, / Approaches the end of his days – of his days. / Enemies travelled in the dead of night, / To the meeting house in Milo, setting it alight.”) and nuances of R&B and Indie Rock in the vocal lines, and if you are a patient person simply wait for a while as after a few minutes of silence Jacob offers us all nothing more, nothing less than his own bizarre and fun “cover” version for American singer Billie Eilish’s hit Bad Guy. I bet you’ll be surprised with the final result of this moment of relaxation by Mr. Guilherme.

As already mentioned, I’m quite happy and excited with the return of Jacob Guilherme to the world of extreme music under his one-man army Goatchrist, and let’s hope the feedback he receives from metal fans like us is enough to inspire him to release more and more Goatchrist albums in the future, always dealing with the most diverse and interesting themes like what we see in Pythagoras. Hence, don’t forget to show him your support by following Goatchrist on Facebook, and by purchasing Pythagoras from his own BandCamp page, from Apple Music or from Amazon. Amidst the seriousness of all the metaphysical and occult philosophies by Pythagoras there’s still room for the crushing and experimental sounds of Black Metal, and fortunately we have Mr. Jacob Guilherme to channel that amalgamation of styles and topics through his inner beast Goatchrist, exactly how underground extreme music is supposed to be.

Best moments of the album: Worlds, Pythagorean Solids and Numbers.

Worst moments of the album: Harmony of the Spheres.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. The Initiation of Pythagoras by Thoth Hermes Tresmegistus 1:12
2. Worlds 8:44
3. The Tetractys 4:00
4. Pythagorean Solids 4:19
5. Introduction to Numbers 1:01
6. Numbers 5:45
7. Harmony of the Spheres 4:14
8. Metempsychosis 8:28
9. The Death of Pythagoras / Bad Guy (Billie Eilish cover) (Hidden track) 10:50

Band members
J. Guilherme – vocals, all instruments

Guest musicians
V. Calin – lead guitar on “Worlds”, vocals (chorus) on “The Death of Pythagoras”
D. Tann – vocals on “Worlds”