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”

Beverage Review – Iron Maiden’s Sun and Steel

Sun, steel, Iron Maiden and a nice and cold saké-infused beer. What else do you need in life?

“Sunlight, falling on your steel,
Death in life is your ideal,
Life is like a wheel, rolling on and on.”

Let’s celebrate the news of another round of the superb Legacy of the Beast Tour by the one and only Iron Maiden, which will conquer pretty much the entire world except for the Americas in 2020, with a review of Sun and Steel, the sixth beer from the unstoppable Bruce Dickinson together with Robinsons Brewery. And let me tell you that after having tried the original Trooper Beer, the amazing Hallowed, and now Sun and Steel, I must admit this saké lager by Mr. Bruce Dickinson is in my opinion the one with the best taste, aftertaste, freshness and punch. I still have to try the other Iron Maiden beers I haven’t found yet such as Trooper Red ‘N’ Black, of course, but I doubt those will be as good as Sun and Steel. And do you want to know why?

Sun and Steel is the first lager in the Trooper range and is one of the most complex beers that Robinsons Brewery has ever produced, a double fermented lager created with authentic Japanese saké yeast. The idea for the beer, designed once again by the one and only Mr. Bruce Dickinson along with Robinsons’ Head Brewer Martyn Weeks, was first conceived during the autumn of 2016 following a meeting between Bruce and a friend of the band and long-time Iron Maiden fan George Yusa, owner of the 300-year old family run Okunomatsu Saké Brewery in Fukushima, Japan. Bruce became intrigued with the idea of putting the two flavor profiles together, and thus Sun and Steel was born. George was able to deliver a sample of the saké yeast to Iron Maiden’s 2017 concert at London’s O2 Arena, which Bruce took up to Robinsons Brewery. Having obtained permission from the Japanese government to brew with it, Martyn and the team had carefully cultivated the strain ever since. “This has been such an exciting project. I had a crazy idea to try and make a saké infused lager and over two and a half years later, here we are! I know Martyn and the team at Robinsons have had to become mad scientists to make this work but the end result is a really unique hybrid beer that tastes fantastic. Trooper fans have been asking for a lager, and here it is. I bet you would never have guessed we would do it like this though,” commented Bruce about his newborn “baby”.

Needless to say, if you’re a diehard Maidenmaniac you already know Sun and Steel takes its designation from the Iron Maiden song of the same name that appears on their 1983 masterpiece Piece Of Mind, which was in turn inspired by the life of Japanese Samurai Miyamoto Musashi, hence the idea of uniting a lager yeast, for the initial fermentation, with a saké yeast, as saké is Japan’s national beverage,  for a second fermentation. The result is a crisp and refreshing 4.8% double-fermented, saké-infused pilsner style lager with a flash of honey and fruit that will please from the most demanding beer connoisseur to the average social beer drinker, showing how much effort Bruce and Martyn put into brewing such delicious beer. Of pale yellow color, gooseberry and honey lychee smell, and smooth and delicate taste, Sun and Steel is not too sweet nor too bitter, being the perfect beer for the winter while we all wait for the Legacy of the Beast Tour to kick off in 2020, or for the hot and sunny days of summer when Bruce, Steve & Co. will take several cities and countries all over the world by storm with their unparalleled live performances. For instance, you can find Sun and Steel on sale at selected LCBO stores if you live in Canada for 2.85 Canadian Dollars each 500ml can, at several other importers from all over the world, or simply go to the Robinsons Brewery official website to grab 12 bottles of 330ml each for £20. Having said that, what are you waiting for to purchase a few cans or bottles of Sun and Steel and enjoy them while listening to the song Sun and Steel itself and all other Iron Maiden classics we all love so much? UP THE IRONS AND… KANPAI!

Beer details
Country: England
Brewer: Robinsons Brewery
Style: Saké Lager
Alcohol Content (ABV): 4.8%
Color: Pale yellow
Smell: Gooseberry, honey lychee
Taste: Smooth, complex and delicate
Sweetness: 3 out of 5
Bitterness: 2 out of 5
Contains: Malted barley and wheat

Album Review – Tableau Mort / Veil of Stigma. Book I: Mark of Delusion (2019)

A spiritual journey exploring humanity’s fixation with knowledge, sacrifice and perfection in the form of atmospheric and emotional Black Metal.

Drawing on symbolic and thematic influences from Romanian Orthodox Christianity, Veil of Stigma. Book I: Mark of Delusion, the debut album by British Black Metal horde Tableau Mort, is a spiritual journey exploring humanity’s fixation with knowledge, sacrifice and perfection, which is often a path to madness. Recorded and produced by Jerry Sadowski and George Topor, mixed and mastered by Neil Haynes at Parlour Studios, and featuring a beyond obscure artwork by Alex Shadrin (Nether Temple Design), Veil of Stigma. Book I: Mark of Delusion will bring to your ears a truly atmospheric and emotional sound that is both melodic and melancholic, also mixing Orthodox chanting with frenzied screams to expand on the band’s macabre foundations.

Formed in 2017 in London, the band comprised of veteran musicians of the underground scene (all of Romanian origin), those being James Andrews on lead vocals, George Topor on the guitar, keys and backing vocals, Cristian Giurgiu also on the guitar, Marek Basista on bass and George Bratosin on drums and backing vocals, might describe themselves as a Black Metal band, but there are in fact a lot more aspects and layers to their sound, resulting in the modern and powerful music found in Veil of Stigma. Book I: Mark of Delusion. Not only that, the band also invests heavily on their onstage performance and attire, proving those servants of the dark are more than prepared to spread their blasphemous message all over the world no matter who their enemies are.

Darkness is already upon us in the melodic and boisterous opening track Impending Corruption, where atmospheric keys complement the slashing riffs by George Topor and Cristian while James leads the horde with his fiendish gnarls and screeches. After such ominous start it’s time for Fall of Man and its darkly poetic lyrics (“And I find in your face, a most unfamiliar maze / I gaze at the sky as the colour bleeds out of space / In this moment of grief I light myself ablaze”), a Black Metal mass with hints of classic Blackened Doom (which obviously makes it even more menacing) where George Bratosin sounds extremely precise and brutal at the same time on drums. And it seems Tableau Mort want to get darker and darker as the album progresses, just like what we’re able to witness in Carpenter Of Sorrow, with Marek’s low-tune, devilish bass lines building a thunderous base for James to thrive with his unearthly roars; whereas Broken On The Wheel is a sonic mass of Stygian and venomous sounds where George Topor and Cristian are absolutely infernal with their guitars, while George Bratosin alternates between blast beats and doomed, intricate passages for our vulgar delectation.

Leaning towards classic Norwegian Black Metal, the band offers us an explosion of the most aggressive and obscure sounds you can think of in Tapestry Sewn, where James and George Bratosin sound utterly demonic on vocals and drums, respectively, and also bringing the most obscure elements from old school Doom Metal, therefore being prohibited for the lighthearted.  The band’s guitar duo keep crushing their sulfurous strings in Mother’s Promise while Marek and George Bratosin make the earth tremble with their weapons, inspiring us all to bang our heads and raise our horns to this ode to all things evil. Last but not least, a gargantuan amount of heaviness flows from all instruments in Beyond His Gaze, reeking of despair and insanity and showcasing captivating, poetic lyrics (“In Every blade of grass that shoots from the ground / The animals that graze, the parasites that feed / The rays of the sun that penetrate the darkness / The breeze that carries the rain”). Furthermore, the beyond demonic growling by James adds an extra touch of malignancy to this devilish aria, putting a climatic ending to such astounding album.

Tableau Mort’s lecture in Romanian Orthodox Christianity in the form of somber and disturbing Black Metal can be appreciated in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, but of course if you want to show your true support to those UK metallers simply follow them on Facebook and purchase your copy of Veil of Stigma. Book I: Mark of Delusion from Loud Rage Music’s BandCamp or webstore, as well as from Apple Music, Amazon or Discogs. Tableau Mort are definitely pinning the entire UK on the worldwide map of Black Metal with their music, and based on their skills, passion for heavy music and creativity, they have the potential to become one of the references of the genre in the coming years, leaving their mark already upon humanity with Veil of Stigma. Book I: Mark of Delusion, and leaving us eager for more of their cryptic creations.

Best moments of the album: Fall of Man and Tapestry Sewn.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Loud Rage Music

Track listing
1. Impending Corruption 4:32
2. Fall of Man 6:17
3. Carpenter Of Sorrow 4:37
4. Broken On The Wheel 4:55
5. Tapestry Sewn 5:02
6. Mother’s Promise 4:41
7. Beyond His Gaze 6:18

Band members
James Andrews – lead vocals
George Topor – guitar, keys, backing vocals
Cristian Giurgiu – guitar
Marek Basista – bass
George Bratosin – drums, backing vocals

Album Review – Sathamel / Horror Vacui (2019)

A seething cauldron of fire and blood in the form of Blackened Death Metal made in the UK, feeding the primal fear that writhes in our souls.

Is there anything more terrifying to the human mind than the void? Is it not the emptiness that lies beyond our last breath that props up all our dreams of heaven? That’s what a Black/Death Metal band formed in 2012 in Leeds, a city in the northern English county of Yorkshire, under the name Sheol, but currently known as Sathamel, is going to tell us all in their brand new album entitled Horror Vacui, a concept in art that is approximately translated from Latin to “fear of empty spaces”, continuing the path of darkness from their previous releases after a two-year hiatus while creating a more cohesive sound, and with the title applied in a more literal sense in terms of the void felt while the entity that is Sathamel had halted all activity.

Mixed and mastered by Samuel Turbitt at Ritual Sound Studios, Horror Vacui is a seething cauldron of fire and blood, a declaration of war, an edict of domination and a sentence of death, all embraced by the fulminating and devilish sounds blasted by Sathamel’s brand new lineup comprised of vocalist Kruk, guitarists KVN and Cygnus, bassist Nadir and drummer Reykr, being therefore highly recommended for fans of the scorching music by Hate, Behemoth, Deicide and Marduk. Each song in Horror Vacui carries that touch of darkness from beyond the world and feeds the primal fear that writhes in our souls, powerfully representing all your fears unleashed in an unrelenting firestorm of terror.

In the opening tune Libera Me, a cinematic intro will enfold you in darkness until the music reaches a devilish level led by Kruk’s enraged roars, growing into modern-day Black Metal showcasing scorching riffs by KVN and Cygnus and the infernal blast beats by Reykr. Needless to say, this is not recommended for the lighthearted, being effectively spiced up by phantasmagorical background sounds and vocalizations. The title-track Horror Vacui is brutal and blasphemous in the vein of Behemoth, with its dense and sulfuric instrumental penetrating deep inside your skin while you can enjoy dark poetry flowing form its lyrics (“Together as one / A carrion beast and tyrant’s fist / to consume the stars with purest joy / and to feed on covenants of creation / I create a masterpiece of horror and ecstasy / My canvas – your hollow smile / The front line expands under mastro’s hands / Universe bends to painter’s will”); and it’s time for total devastation with Sathamel in Raise Flame From Ash, an explosion of Blackened Death Metal where the vocals by Kruk sound as bestial and deep as they can be, with a venomous stench reeking in the air during its two and a half minutes of darkened sounds smashing your brain mercilessly.

KVN and Cygnus, supported by the rumbling bass by Nadir, dictate the rhythm in A New Age Of Lycanthropy, a neck-breaking, malevolent tune presenting all elements we love in extreme music, including a truly obscure and evil aura, whereas in The Devil’s Hand we’re treated to another onrush of demonic words (“Alive but intimate in death / Like maggots we nest / Nest in dead flesh / Alive but dependant on death / Like red fields we blossom embracing the dead”) while the music is beyond infernal, bringing to our ears flammable riffs by the band’s guitar duo and an intricate drumming by Reykr to give the whole song an extra kick. Then Kruk growls and gnarls like a beast from the underworld in Whispers Of A Husk, where the vicious beats by Reykr will crack your skull mercilessly in a lesson in technique and obscurity in the name of Black Metal.

Blazing guitars ignite the also hellish Świt, a cult-like, headbanging hymn crafted by the band, with Nadir extracting sheer thunder from his bass while the background choir makes the whole song more epic and imposing, not to mention how Kruk’s vocals remind me of Unleashed’s own Johnny Hedlund. There’s no time to breathe as Sathamel keep haunting our souls with their fiendish Blackened Death Metal in There Where Is No Time, not as complex and vibrant as the rest of the album but still presenting the band’s characteristic riffage and harsh vocals, and you better get ready for almost eight minutes of virulent and Stygian sounds in Of Spilled Wine And Broken Glass, more rhythmic than all previous songs and full of breaks and variations, but obviously still unleashing pure evil on us, ending in a twisted and obscure way.

If your heart is as dark as the music by Sathamel, and if you do not fear being trapped for all eternity in the void, you can follow the band on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and grab your copy of such otherworldly album, which by the way is available in full on Spotify, from their own BandCamp page or Big Cartel, as well as from Apple Music and Amazon. Sathamel’s onrush of darkness and void will leave you completely disoriented from start to finish, proving once and for all there’s nothing better than some first-class Blackened Death Metal hailing from our beloved United Kingdom to feed all of our inner demons and fears.

Best moments of the album: Horror Vacui, Raise Flame From Ash and Whispers Of A Husk.

Worst moments of the album: There Where Is No Time.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. Libera Me 5:51
2. Horror Vacui 4:32
3. Raise Flame From Ash 2:38
4. A New Age Of Lycanthropy 4:20
5. The Devil’s Hand 3:55
6. Whispers Of A Husk 3:48
7. Świt 3:55
8. There Where Is No Time 3:53
9. Of Spilled Wine And Broken Glass 7:41

Band members
Kruk – vocal
KVN – guitar
Cygnus- guitar
Nadir – bass
Reykr – drums