Album Review – Chthonic / Battlefields of Asura (2018)

Embark on an adventurous journey with Taiwanese immortals to the sound of the new opus by the Taiwanese masters of Orient Metal.

It might have taken five years for one-of-a-kind Taiwanese Melodic Black/Death/Folk Metal icons Chthonic to strike again with their high-end fusion of a captivating storytelling and their unique and exotic music that several people like to call “Orient Metal”, but the excruciating wait was definitely worth it. Over those past years, since the release of their 2013 masterpiece Bú-Tik the five members of the band have turned new pages of their lives, with lead vocalist Freddy Lim (林昶佐) having organized a new political party and being successfully elected to a seat in the Taiwanese parliament. Nonetheless, they never forgot their promise to their fans to deliver a new album, culminating with the release of Battlefields of Asura (政治) now in 2018, the prequel of their four albums with related story including Seediq Bale (2005), Mirror of Retribution (2009), Takasago Army (2011) and the already mentioned Bú-Tik, all combined with the acoustic album from another dimension Timeless Sentence (2014), the expanded novel Day 578 After the War (2014), and the movie Tshiong (2017).

And the story told in Battlefields of Asura by Freddy and his bandmates Jesse Liu (劉笙彙) on the guitars, Doris Yeh (葉湘怡) on bass and backing vocals, CJ Kao (高嘉嶸) on keyboards, synths and piano, and Dani Wang (汪子驤) on drums throughout the album’s 11 tracks is an adventurous journey with Taiwanese immortals, as explained in detail in the band’s “Souls Resposed” series. What lies ahead is full hostility, murderous emotions, walls of iron that are difficult to conquer, and lusts and desires that are not easy to bid farewell to, but there is also courage that inspires infinity. At the end of the adventure, it turns out to be a quest for the perpetual prajna. When you feel tears on your face, that’s when you will finally realize this is where all the stories told in Chthonic’s past albums come from, always embraced by the band’s harmonious, thunderous and unparalleled metal music.

Drawing Omnipotence Nigh, featuring Fang-Yun Chen on dizi (a Chinese transverse flute), is an insurgent battle-like intro only Chthonic can offer us, setting the stage for  the melodic and imposing The Silent One’s Torch, the perfect opening for their upcoming live concerts with Dani dictating the rhythm with his piercing beats while Freddy’s roars grow in intensity and rage as the music progresses, not to mention CJ’s always inspiring keys. Even more harmonious and thrilling, Flames upon the Weeping Winds has all it takes to become a fan favorite, with Doris not only shaking the foundations of earth with her bass punches, but her backing vocals also sound superb; followed by A Crimson Sky’s Command, another inspiring creation by Chthonic where CJ’s keys and synths sound and feel the most “Taiwanese” of the entire album (if we can say so), with highlights to the passionate growls by Freddy and the cutting riffs by Jesse.

Featuring Lamb Of God’s own frontman Randy Blythe on additional vocals, Souls of the Revolution is a flammable and rebellious anthem thoroughly crafted by our beloved Taiwanese horde where Jesse and Dani are on absolute fire and in perfect sync, elevating the song’s impact to a whole new level (not to mention it’s perfect for singing along with the band), whereas Taste the Black Tears carries a beautiful name for a crushing and epic tune, with Doris and Dani spearheading the band into the battlefield. Furthermore, the keyboards and synths by CJ bring an extra dosage of epicness to the overall result, with the music flowing powerfully form start to finish. And in One Thousand Eyes a dense and bold intro evolves into classic Chthonic, with Freddy gnarling like a demonic entity while CJ brings balance to the sonic havoc blasted by the band with his smooth keys, all boosted by the song’s extremely effective and exciting backing vocals and Jesse’s gripping guitar solo.

Chthonic Battlefields of Asura Box Set

Then we have Masked Faith, a whimsical and at the same time fierce bridge to Carved in Bloodstone, bringing elements form Epic Metal to their core Orient Metal. However, what starts in a promising way loses its strength after a while despite its imposing backing vocals and pounding drums, but that doesn’t last long as Chthonic are back on track with the fulminating Millennia’s Faith Undone, featuring Denise Ho (also known as HOCC) on vocals and Su-nung Chao on erhu (or hiân-á violin). This is undoubtedly the closest song to their previous installments Bú-Tik and Takasago Army, sounding epic, dense and electrifying, with highlights to the slashing work done by the band’s stringed duo Jesse and Doris, resulting in a true battle hymn by those unrelenting Taiwanese metallers, flowing into the ominous and stylish outro Autopoiesis. In addition, don’t forget to check the song’s acoustic version called Millennia’s Faith Undone (The Aeon’s Wraith Version), just as epic as the regular one.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a longtime fan of Chthonic or a newcomer to their sonic realm of rebellion and war, you’ll certainly have a blast listening to the top-of-the-line music found in Battlefields of Asura, proving why they’re perhaps the best metal band the East has ever provided the world. Needless to say, this is a must-have album in your metal collection, available at several locations such as IndieMerch, but if I were you I would go for the Battlefields of Asura Box Set available from the Ciong Zo webstore, including a long-sleeve shirt reflecting the song “Flames upon the Weeping Winds”, a cap reflecting the song “A Crimson Sky’s Command”, prayer beads reflecting the song “One Thousand Eyes”, a badge of honor reflecting the song “Taste the Black Tears”, a candle cup reflecting the song “The Silent One’s Torch”, the Taiwanese version of the album in CD format,  a special “Millennia’s Faith Undone (The Aeon’s Wraith Version)” 7″ vinyl single, and a treasure box reflecting the song “Carved in Bloodstone”. Then, and only then, you’ll be properly (and fully) armed to join Freddy, Jesse, Doris, CJ and Dani into the Battlefields of Asura.

Best moments of the album: Flames upon the Weeping Winds, Souls of the Revolution, Taste the Black Tears and Millennia’s Faith Undone.

Worst moments of the album: Carved in Bloodstone.

Released in 2018 Ciong Zo

Track listing
1. Drawing Omnipotence Nigh (feat. Fang-Yun Chen) 2:07
2. The Silent One’s Torch 4:02
3. Flames upon the Weeping Winds 3:10
4. A Crimson Sky’s Command 3:31
5. Souls of the Revolution (feat. Randy Blythe) 4:39
6. Taste the Black Tears 4:49
7. One Thousand Eyes 5:15
8. Masked Faith 2:18
9. Carved in Bloodstone 2:57
10. Millennia’s Faith Undone (feat. Denise Ho & Su-nung Chao) 5:05
11. Autopoiesis 2:04

English Version bonus track
12. “Battlefields of Asura” Album Concept Description by Freddy Lim 1:55

Limited Edition Box Set Disc 2 (Vinyl) bonus track
12. Millennia’s Faith Undone (The Aeon’s Wraith Version) 6:15

Band members
Freddy Lim (林昶佐) – vocals, erhu
Jesse Liu (劉笙彙) – guitars
Doris Yeh (葉湘怡) – bass, backing vocals
CJ Kao (高嘉嶸) – keyboards, synths, piano
Dani Wang (汪子驤) – drums

Guest musicians
Randy Blythe – additional vocals on “Souls of the Revolution”
Denise Ho – female vocals on “Millennia’s Faith Undone”
Fang-Yun Chen – dizi on “Drawing Omnipotence Nigh”
Su-nung Chao – erhu on “Millennia’s Faith Undone”
Chi-Jen Chen, Ching-Lan Hsu, Chun-Yu Yang, Hsiang-yi Wei, Hsuan-Yi Chen, Joey Kuo, Po-Jen Liao & Wei-Shun Liu – backing vocals, choirs

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Album Review – Derdian / DNA (2018)

Get ready for over one hour of top-of-the-line Symphonic Power Metal, courtesy of one of the most prominent and skillful bands from the Italian scene.

Hailing from the always fun and vibrant Italian city of Milan, a global capital of fashion and design, here comes one of the most important and most consistent metal acts from the European scene, Symphonic Power Metal squad Derdian, back with another vibrant and well-balanced album titled DNA, the seventh full-length release in their beyond prolific and interesting career. In an era where most renowned bands tend to release only a handful of songs per album, Derdian go against the tide by offering fans of their fusion of symphonic elements and Heavy Metal nothing more, nothing less than over one hour of first-class music split into 13 original songs, proving once again how much they love what they do.

Comprised of Ivan Giannini on vocals, Enrico Pistolese and Dario Radaelli on the guitars, Marco Banfi on bass, Marco Garau on keyboards and Salvatore Giordano on drums, which is the same extremely talented and focused lineup from their previous releases such as their 2014 album Human Reset and their 2016 release Revolution Era, Derdian keep blasting their usual sonic extravaganza full of symphonic layers, epic passages and endless electricity in DNA, all embraced by a crystal clear overall production that enhances the impact of their music even more, turning the experience of listening to DNA a musical orgasm for admirers of the genre.

Abduction, a symphonic-cinematic intro that sounds and feels very serene, sets the stage for Derdian to kick some serious ass with the title-track DNA, a fast and very melodic Power Metal feast inspired by the golden days of Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius, with Ivan showcasing a superb performance on vocals while Marco Garau and Salvatore have a healthy “duel” of delicacy versus stamina with their instruments. After such powerful start the band offers a top-notch Melodic Metal tune for the masses titled False Flag Operation, with its conspiracy theories-inspired lyrics (“It flies along the blue skies / No one knows what’s gonna happen / New York city will have / The right punishment to be / A nest of worms without a faith / Greedy hawks vultures and jackals / Soon the west will got a / Nice surprise to share with me!”) and sheer epicness flowing from the guitars by Enrico and Dario, followed by Never Born, where a smooth start evolves to a feast of harmonious and delicate sounds, but still bringing the traditional electricity of Melodic Power Metal. In addition, this is a great song to sing along with Ivan and the guys, with Enrico, Dario and Marco Banfi giving a lesson in intricacy, melody and feeling with their stringed weapons.

The next track in DNA, called Hail to the Masters, presents a fun fusion of Symphonic Power Metal with Epic and Folk Metal, considerably different from their traditional sonority, with Ivan singing like a true minstrel and with Marco Garau dictating the rhythm with his whimsical keys; while in Red and White, a perfect example of what Melodic Metal is all about, the band gets back to their old school musicality, which means fast and melodic riffs, nonstop drums and another great vocal exhibit by Ivan, flowing smoothly form start to finish. Then we’re treated to a prancing mid-tempo composition entitled Elohim, led by the rhythmic beats by Salvatore and feeling almost a hundred percent Folk Metal at times, before morphing into a Jazz-infused feast of bass punches, keyboard solos and an upbeat vibe. It’s indeed a fantastic and unique side of Derdian, but if that is not entertaining enough for you, we have another powerful tune named Nothing Will Remain for your avid ears, blending elements from classic and symphonic music with modern Progressive Metal, with highlights to the spot-on guitar solos by both Enrico and Dario.

While Fire from the Dust brings what’s perhaps their most aggressive lyrics (“Like a snake crawls out from the rocks / We go out from …this fucking hole / Let the hate becomes a fire / Fire from the dust! / Take the weapons, annihilate them / They are not machines! / Like a snake crawls out from the rocks  / Fire from the dust!”), musically speaking it’s a Symphonic Metal extravaganza tailored for diehard fans of the genre, with the solos by the band’s guitar duo and especially by Marco Garau adding even more electricity to the overall result. Then in Destiny Never Awaits a gentle piano intro evolves into a decent power ballad by this Italian six-piece squad, presenting pleasant guitar lines and potent vocals, but unfortunately never reaching the same electrifying vibe of the rest of the album; whereas in Frame of the End the band delivers a heavier version of their Symphonic Power Metal (it can even be considered a more symphonic and metallic version of the music by Dream Theater in my opinion) spearheaded by Ivan and his passionate and flammable vocal lines, with Stefano also having a precise and groovy performance on drums, not to mention all of the song’s nice breaks and variations. Marco Garau once again kicks things off in a vibrant feast of Melodic Metal titled Part of This World, where not only Enrico and Dario are in total sync with their riffs, but you should also pay attention to how they meticulously add several elements from classical music to their Power Metal. And lastly, as a “bonus” the band offers us a Spanish version for “Nothing Will Remain”, translated to Ya Nada Cambiara, bringing an extra dosage of epicness and an fresh kick to their Symphonic Power Metal.

If you’re not familiar yet with the symphonic and electrifying world of Derdian, you can get more details about the band, their tour dates and their music on Facebook and on YouTube, and purchase a copy of DNA directly from their webstore, from iTunes or from Amazon. In a nutshell, DNA is more than just another ass-kicking, thrilling album by this Italian squad that lives and breathes Melodic and Symphonic Power Metal, but a beyond recommended option for anyone who admires some good old Heavy Metal with a precise amount of symphonic elements and an epic aura. Some bands are comprised of talented musicians while others work their asses off to provide good music to the listener, but in the case of Derdian we can say they combine the best of both worlds, with DNA being the perfect depiction of the beautiful thing that happens when you put undisputed talent together with endless amounts of hard work.

Best moments of the album: DNA, Never Born, Elohim and Frame of the End.

Worst moments of the album: Destiny Never Awaits.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Abduction 1:12
2. DNA 5:27
3. False Flag Operation 5:00
4. Never Born 5:43
5. Hail to the Masters 4:27
6. Red and White 5:04
7. Elohim 5:26
8. Nothing Will Remain 5:31
9. Fire from the Dust 6:21
10. Destiny Never Awaits 5:41
11. Frame of the End 5:00
12. Part of This World 6:05
13. Ya Nada Cambiara 5:31

King Records Edition bonus track
14. Never Born (Japanese version) 5:41

Band members
Ivan Giannini – vocals
Enrico Pistolese – guitars
Dario Radaelli – guitars
Marco Banfi – bass
Marco Garau – keyboards
Salvatore Giordano – drums

Album Review – North Hammer / Stormcaller (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

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

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

Guest musician
Doug Helcaraxë Nunez – drums

Album Review – Kantica / Reborn in Aesthetics (2018)

Binding Heavy and Power Metal sounds to the orchestral parts of classical music, here comes a promising Italian act with their very melodic and symphonic debut full-length album.

Raised from the ashes of a band named Keeper of Time (which by the way was originally called Guardian of Time when it was created back in 2012), Italian Symphonic Metal act Kantica was born around 2014 from the idea of guitarist Matteo “Vevo” Venzano, who searched for musicians to start a band where they could bind Heavy and Power Metal sounds to the orchestral parts of classical music.  After many lineup changes and a shift from male to female vocals, this Savona, Ligury-based band finally changed its name into Kantica in April 2016, reaching a stable lineup the following year and consequently getting into gear for the release of their debut album in 2018, titled Reborn in Aesthetics.

After the recording of the album, Kantica suffered another lineup change with drummer Daniele Barbarossa leaving the band, being immediately replaced by the young and talented Tiziana “Titti” Cotella. Titti now joins frontwoman Chiara Manese on vocals, Andy “K” Cappellari and Vevo on the guitars, Fulvio De Castelli on bass and Enrico Borro on keyboards, aiming at spreading their heavy and symphonic music born from the fusion of different styles, backgrounds and experiences from the band’s current and former members. In Reborn in Aesthetics (which by the way features an array of guest musicians such as Fabio Rinaudo on bagpipes and Stefano Pellegrino on cello), not only the band successfully achieves their main goal, but they also put the charming port city of Savona on the map of Melodic and Symphonic Metal.

The cinematic intro (Re)Born Unto Aestheticism transports us to the epic world ruled by Kantica, with Fascination of the Elements bringing a fast and furious start that quickly morphs into pure Symphonic Metal led by the beautiful voice by Chiara and the flammable guitars by Andy and Vevo. Then, getting to an even more symphonic sonority led by the band’s former drummer Daniele Barbarossa and his precise beats, the band enhances their epicness and electricity in And Then There Was Pain, with Chiara stealing the spotlight with her potent vocals. And presenting hints of Folk and Epic Metal (which boosts the flavor of the band’s classic Symphonic Metal) we have Hellborn Lust, showcasing a great job done by both Andy and Vevo on the guitars as well as Enrico with his whimsical keys.

Enrico continues to mesmerize us with his keys in another powerful tune by Kantica, titled Albatross, where Chiara’s voice sounds fantastic once again, not to mention Daniele and his kick-ass fast-paced drums. In order to makes things even more flavorful, the band offers us a gentle break before returning with their full-bodied sonority, with Andy and Enrico delivering excellent solos until the song’s finale. In R.E.M. State, operatic elements in the background make the music even more epic and impactful than usual, with Enrico, Andy and Vevo, together with Fulvio on bass, creating a wall of sounds with their strings; followed by From Decay to Ascension, another song with a Folk Metal vibe without losing the band’s core symphonic essence. Put differently, this is a movie score-inspired creation by Kantica where Chiara embellishes the ambience with her passionate vocal performance once again.

Illegitimate Son brings a Nightwish-like sonority, presenting all elements fans of the genre enjoy such as rhythmic drums, melodious riffs and strong female vocals, with adrenaline and passion flowing throughout the entire song which, in the end, makes it one of the top moments of the album without a shadow of a doubt. And speeding up their pace, Kantica awes us all with Psychological Vampire, a full-bodied shredding feast-like song with Andy and Vevo being absolutely on fire with their axes, also with Chiara increasing her vocal reach, culminating in a truly inspiring performance by our Italian diva. The second to last song in Reborn in Aesthetics, named Lovecide, is an interesting power ballad by Kantica, displaying pounding drums and a dark and ethereal atmosphere, with the music flowing smoothly from start to finish thanks to the excellent guitar lines by both Andy and Vevo. And closing the album there’s more first-class Melodic and Symphonic Metal for our avid ears in the form of a song titled Mescaline, with its solid and steady musicality being complemented by eerie sounds and elements in the background, captivating our attention while Enrico and Andy have a short and sweet solo duel.

You can take a full, detailed listen at Reborn in Aesthetics on Spotify, keep up-to-date with everything Kantica on their Facebook page, and grab your copy of such excellent display of symphonic and melodic music on the Revalve Records Big Cartel, as wel as on iTunes or on Amazon. After listening to Reborn in Aesthetics, it seems that after all lineup changes Kantica have finally reached their desired shape and form, providing fans of Symphonic Metal a well-balanced and fun alternative hailing from the Italian underground scene, and let’s hope the magic crafted by Kantica goes on for years to come with more top-tier releases like their debut installment.

Best moments of the album: Hellborn Lust, Albatross, Illegitimate Son and Psychological Vampire.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Revalve Records

Track listing
1. (Re)Born Unto Aestheticism (Instrumental) 1:14
2. Fascination of the Elements 5:55
3. And Then There Was Pain 4:23
4. Hellborn Lust 4:23
5. Albatross 4:59
6. R.E.M. State 4:42
7. From Decay to Ascension 3:10
8. Illegitimate Son 5:10
9. Psychological Vampire 5:00
10. Lovecide 5:11
11. Mescaline 5:13

Band members
Chiara Manese – vocals
Andy “K” Cappellari – lead guitars
Matteo “Vevo” Venzano – rhytm guitar
Fulvio De Castelli – bass
Enrico Borro – keyboards
Tiziana “Titti” Cotella – drums*

Guest musicians
Fabio Rinaudo – bagpipes
Michel Balatti – tin whistle, flute
Stefano Pellegrino – cello
Mattia Fenoglio – percussion

* Drums recorded by Daniele Barbarossa

Album Review – Unshine / Astrala (2018)

Druids are coming directly from Finland, bringing with them songs from the invisible side of the Earth that aim at reuniting the old bonds between the dolmen gods and digitised mankind.

Hailing from the Finnish capital Helsinki, here comes a band that transcended their own influences to create their own unique sound, inspired by artists as diverse as Enslaved, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Tangerine Dream and Iron Maiden. That band is called Unshine, who since their inception in 2001 have been delivering a distinct fusion of styles described by themselves as “Druid Metal”. As a matter of fact, Mother Nature is the true influence on Unshine’s music, as all five members of Unshine, friends for many years, were all raised in the countryside villages of Western Finland. “The songs try to reunite the old bonds between the dolmen gods and digitised mankind. Nature is not our enemy, it’s our physical and especially spiritual home”, said the band’s guitarist, keyboardist and mastermind Harri Hautala.

With a long history of recording and playing behind them, Unshine are beyond excited with the release of their new full-length album Astrala, the fourth in their auspicious career, inspired by the “invisible side of the Earth”, as mentioned by Harri, who also complemented his though by saying that “the first five album songs address the manifestations of Astrala and the last five songs describe travels to Astrala. The album has a touch of Nordic melancholy written all over it, also in the lyrics, and it includes music meant to create landscapes and themes from folk stories, mythology and nature religions, but also to present personal views describing the spiritual meaning of a forest as a cultural concept. The binding theme here is forest, although this is not a theme album.” After such distinct explanation, are you ready to venture through the invisible side of the Earth with Unshine?

Birch of Fornjotr is one of those cinematic intros exhaling epicness, telling the listener a metallic adventure is about to begin in Kainuun Kuningas (or “king of Kainuu” from Finnish, with Kainuu being one of the 19 regions of Finland with its geography and landscape consisting of lakes, hills and vast uninhabited forest areas), a Scandinavian feast of Folk and Epic Metal led by the charming and potent vocals by frontwoman Susanna Vesilahti, with the song’s Finnish words giving it an extra touch of eccentricity. Furthermore, the band’s guitar tag team Harri and Jari Hautala provides a solid balance between rhythmic riffs and melodious solos to the overall musicality, which is also the case in Jack’s Feast, as melodic as its predecessor with drummer Jukka Hantula bringing heavier and tribal sounds to the music. The only problem is that despite having a lot of potential to be more thunderous, the song never really takes off, remaining too “folky” and for way too long.

The following tune, titled The Masks of Enchantment, is indeed a very interesting depiction of Druid Metal, with some orchestral elements in the background provided by Harri and his keys enhancing the taste of this semi-power ballad, also showcasing a beautiful performance by Susanna with her ethereal voice; whereas in Pan the One get ready to prance around the fire pit to the sound of the minstrel-like vocals by Susanna, accompanied by the whimsical sounds blasted by the rest of the band (especially the exciting keys by Harri). And if Irish singer Enya suddenly went full metal, the fun Druids Are A-Coming would probably be how she would sound like, being faster and more piercing than any of the previous tunes thanks to the cutting guitars by Harri and Jari, not to mention the galloping bass by Teemu Vähäkangas.

Their Epic Metal vein arises once again in the mid-tempo, heavy chant Slow Moving Creatures, with its guitars inciting you to bang your head together with the band, while in Visionary’s Last Breath it’s time for Unshine to invite us all to dance to a fanciful “druid waltz”, presenting very traditional elements from Folk Metal blended with the heaviness brought forth by Jukka’s beats. Then we have the touching ballad Suo (Kantaa Ruumiit), which should translate as “swamp (carry the bodies)”, also sung in the band’s mother tongue with Susanna stealing the spotlight with her passionate vocals. Moreover, there’s a lot of dark elements in this imposing composition, making it extremely catchy and somber from start to finish. And finally we’re treated to 10 minutes of epic and ethereal passages in The Forest, where the stringed trio Harri, Jari and Teemu keep the music flowing at a pleasant pace, allowing Susanna to shine once again with her vocals amidst the song’s symphonic elements and dense atmosphere, ending the album on a climatic and melancholic note.

You can take a full listen at Astrala on Spotify, follow the band on Facebook, nad purchase a copy of the album from the Rockshots Records webstore, from Record Shop X, on iTunes or on Amazon, and let your soul roam free through the forests of the invisible side of the Earth ruled by Unshine. And who knows, you might not only meet some druids during your visit to Astrala, but also decide to stay there permanently, dancing to the music by this talented Finnish squad forever and ever.

Best moments of the album: Pan the One, Druids Are A-Coming and Suo (Kantaa Ruumiit).

Worst moments of the album: Jack’s Feast.

Released in 2018 Rockshots Records

Track listing
1. Birch of Fornjotr (Instrumental) 1:35
2. Kainuun Kuningas 5:13
3. Jack’s Feast 6:38
4. The Masks of Enchantment 4:54
5. Pan the One 4:44
6. Druids Are A-Coming 4:11
7. Slow Moving Creatures 5:19
8. Visionary’s Last Breath 5:32
9. Suo (Kantaa Ruumiit) 6:06
10. The Forest 10:28

Band members
Susanna Vesilahti – vocals
Harri Hautala – guitar and keyboards
Jari Hautala – guitar
Teemu Vähäkangas – bass
Jukka Hantula – drums and percussions

Album Review – Sex Dumpster / Lord Alcohol (2018)

Breathing in the rotten stench of humanity’s decay, here come Sex Dumpster and their one-way trip to the void in the form of filthy Black Metal.

The world we’ve built is a hard, unforgiving place, full of cruelty, dirt and despair. Every shadow hides a nightmare and every alleyway a nest of unreasoning hatred. You may want to avert your gaze, wrap yourself in a protective cloak of pretty lies and colourful deceptions, immerse yourself in the garish delusions of television and the distracting mundanity of music for the masses, but you can’t hide from reality forever. That’s why an infamous Black Metal duo that goes by the charming name of Sex Dumpster is among us, to tear away your blindfolds and grind your face into the filth of existence until you choke, and they’ll do that by mercilessly crushing your senses with their unrelenting new album, poetically titled Lord Alcohol.

The origins of Sex Dumpster can be traced back to frozen isolation in Alaska, where vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Hiram Lohr first pulled together the disparate souls that would form the band Thousand Year War. After releasing a full-length album and one EP, Thousand Year War collapsed into ruin, with Hiram turning his back on the ice and snow and heading to the sultry, putrefying heat of Mexico, more specifically to Cozumel, a mostly undeveloped Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea, where he breathed in the rotten stench of humanity’s decay and submerged himself in the conscienceless bile of bitter existence. Armed with riffs rusted in piss and blood, wielded with a vicious, vehement intent and radiating a haunting atmosphere of emptiness, Lord Alcohol is Sex Dumpster’s howling hymn to nothingness, a one-way trip to the void highly recommended for fans of bands like Taake, Urgehal and Nattefrost.

Put together a violent mix old school Black Metal with a Punk Rock attitude and the most aggressive lyrics you can think of, and there you have the demented Bible Up Your Ass (and you better get used to the “gentle” song names found in Lord Alcohol). In this inspiring chant, Hiram seems to be vomiting the song’s blasphemous words, which in the end works really well, while the bestial Grega Plamberger doesn’t stop crushing his drum set; and Hiram’s filthy rant of profanity goes on in Cunt World, firing some truly acid riffs and gnarls tailored for haunting our souls, therefore generating the perfect soundtrack for slamming into the pit or banging your head like a maniac. And Doom Metal-inspired lines set the tone for the vile Shit On My Grave, a darker and more melancholic tune where Grega switches between slower, almost sluggish beats and sheer devastation, with his infernal drumming flawlessly supporting Hiram’s deranged screams.

Ivar The Boneless is an Epic Black Metal-like creation by Sex Dumpster, a deviant battle hymn showcasing crushing beats, raw guitar riffs and an amazing performance by Hiram and his harsh vocals, and the final result couldn’t sound more compelling and vibrant; whereas Lord Alcohol continues with the epic vibe from its predecessor, worshiping our beloved alcohol through Grega’s rhythmic drumming and the spot-on atmospheric elements in the background, in an interesting fusion of raw Black Metal with modern Epic Metal. Then Sex Dumpster smash our heads with a brilliant cover version for GG Allin’s classic I Kill Everything I Fuck, from the album Brutality & Bloodshed for All by GG Allin & The Murder Junkies (check the original version HERE). In a nutshell, Sex Dumpster’s version is just as dirty, nasty and aggressive as the original one recorded by one of the most demented and controversial artists of all time. And there’s more craziness for your ears in This Lonely Rope, an obscure and sluggish chant where the strident sound of guitars make an interesting duo with the heaviness of drums, all embraced by an almost mesmerizing rhythm (despite not being as good as all previous songs).

With a name like Fist Fucking Motherfucker you can only expect violence, hatred and devastation flowing from all instruments, with a great job done by Hiram and his crisp Black Metal riffs. Let’s say that although this is perhaps one of the worst songs for listening in a public place (if you care about your personal reputation, of course), it’s indeed a damn fun composition. The second to last deranged tune in Lord Alcohol, entitled Klonopin Dreams, Suicidal Requiems, is an instrumental extravaganza where the duo goes mental, mixing Black Metal with other metal styles such as Power and Progressive Metal (and even hints of non-metal styles), turning it into a must-listen for fans of the more disturbed side of metal music. Lastly, closing the album we have more crude, belligerent and visceral sounds coming from the duo’s guitar lines and drums in Under The Night, with all the darkness bred by Sex Dumpster growing in intensity until the song’s abrupt finale.

Do you have the guts to enter the realm of sheer debauchery and sacrilege brought forth by Hiram Lohr and his bloodcurdling spawn Sex Dumpster? In case you consider yourself demented enough to face the band’s crusty Black Metal, all you have to do is visit Sex Dumpster’s Facebook page to get more info about this American-Mexican monstrosity and their irreligious music. Right now you won’t find Lord Alcohol for sale at any retailer such as BandCamp, iTunes or Amazon, and I have absolutely no idea if the album will ever be on sale at any of those. Maybe that’s what Hiram wants, right? Maybe the only place you’ll be able to find Lord Alcohol will be behind a dirty and stinking dumpster, in line with all the rottenness found throughout such distinct album.

Best moments of the album: Bible Up Your Ass, Ivar The Boneless and Fist Fucking Motherfucker.

Worst moments of the album: This Lonely Rope.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing   
1. Bible Up Your Ass 4:20
2. Cunt World 4:41
3. Shit On My Grave 4:49
4. Ivar The Boneless 5:08
5. Lord Alcohol 6:01
6. I Kill Everything I Fuck (GG Allin cover) 2:23
7. This Lonely Rope 5:06
8. Fist Fucking Motherfucker 3:30
9. Klonopin Dreams, Suicidal Requiems 4:26
10. Under The Night 5:34

Band members
Hiram Lohr – vocal, guitar, bass
Grega Plamberger – drums

Album Review – Ritual of Odds / Ritual of IX (2017)

Join the wrathful and mordant ritual spearheaded by the Melodic Death Metal masters of underground Greek music.

Formed in the year of 2003 in Patras, Greece’s third-largest city and the regional capital of Western Greece, Melodic Death Metal quartet Ritual of Odds (known as Existence Edge until 2005) is unleashing upon us their third full-length installment, peculiarly titled Ritual of IX, taking influences from renowned bands such as At The Gates, In Flames and Carcass. Forging a unique sound by infusing elements of Thrash, Horror and Epic Metal into their own musicality, Ritual of Odds will show you with Ritual of IX why they’ve been called the “Melodic Death Metal Masters of Greece”, blasting a high-quality fusion of harmony and havoc throughout the album’s ten unrelenting compositions.

One curious fact about the band is that, before Ritual of IX, their two previous full-length albums were released on the same year, in 2010, those being Underverse and God is an Atheist (not to mention their highly acclaimed demo entitled Building Up the Underverse, from 2008). In addition, the band has already toured Europe and the United States to support the release of their albums, sharing the stage with important names like Paul Di’Anno, Septicflesh and Nightrage. With such a strong background both inside the studio and on the road, it isn’t a surprise to anyone that the music found in Ritual of IX would sound so cohesive and energetic, reinforcing the band’s importance in contemporary Melodic Death Metal.

Tailored for fans of the modern metal played by Arch Enemy blended with old school In Flames, the title-track Ritual of 9 offers a constant and aggressive drumming by Petros Haritos, while the vocals by Kostas Fotopoulos lean towards a more visceral fusion of Death and Black Metal, inviting the listener to the band’s own ritual (“Deteriorated in agony – Screw it all and gone with me / There’s no escape / Insanity / The limitless eternity / A life infected with vanity? / Welcome to a new reality / Wither and die? – Ritual of 9 / This is the ritual of 9”). In Hunt You Down, a somber beginning flows into an atmospheric, dark composition where a possessed Kostas leads his bandmates in an extremely vile onslaught, with guitarist Nikolas Perlepes delivering some classic melodic and headbanging riffs; followed by Feargas, bringing elements from Progressive and Groove Metal while singing about modern-day topics (“Who do you think you are? / Your nations look like herds of sheep / Intoxicated souls with lies and fear / Lethal frequencies radio, TV / Twisted minds tell me how I should be / For fuck sake I’m not a part of your army of zombies”). Moreover, the infernal gnarls by Kostas are powerfully supported by the rhythmic and heavy beats by Petros during the entire song.

Displaying a great name for a metal tune, Hate at First Sight presents a weird intro with excerpts from different TV and radio news, quickly turning into more pounding music by these talented Greeks. In a nutshell, this is the type of song made to lacerate your neck headbanging, with its drums sounding like a machine gun. Sirens in the background warn Ritual of Odds are coming to crush with their violent metal music in A Part of Me, showcasing a modernized sonority thanks to the guitar lines by Nikolas, but of course without losing the essence of Melodic Death Metal. And following almost the same tone and pace as its predecessor we have Digital Hell, a fantastic song to make people jump up and down during their live concerts with the bass lines by Marios Kanellopoulos emanating those thunderous, groovy sounds that beautifully increase the song’s impact.

The kick-ass neck-breaking tune Why So Serious is their personal tribute to the iconic Joker played by Heath Ledger (R.I.P.), with its intro (and chorus) being inspired by one of the most memorable scenes in the history of action movies, while the music itself is as violent and demented as the Joker, especially through the deep growling by Kostas. Put differently, how not to enjoy this smashing creation by Ritual of Odds? And there’s more of the band’s stabbing musicality, as the riffs in the fast and berserk Greed exhale pure metal, also presenting very harmonious guitar lines and nonstop beats, which altogether will work really well when the song is played live, whereas The Dual Substance of Man, also sounding modern and old school at the same time, is perhaps the closest one to traditional Death Metal, with Nikolas having a great performance with his riffs and solos. Lastly, in the eerie and obscure What I’ve Become, a psychological song about violence, death, hatred and all other “nice things” that transform the human being into a beast, a solid instrumental provides Kostas exactly what’s needed for his vocals to get more deranged and pugnacious.

After listening to the potent music by Ritual of Odds, I’m sure you’ll be more than eager to be part of the band’s melodic and vicious ritual, and that’s why I’m going to be very helpful by providing you the links to their Facebook page, YouTube channel and ReverbNation. And, as usual, you can support Greek metal and heavy music in general by grabbing your copy of Ritual of IX at the Swimming With Sharks Records’ BandCamp page (which includes as a more-than-amazing bonus a free download of the band’s 2010 album God is an Atheist) or on Amazon. These guys are not called the “Melodic Death Metal Masters of Greece” in vain, and you’ll certainly start referring to them as that after adding Ritual of IX to your private collection of underground metal.

Best moments of the album: Ritual of 9, Digital Hell and Why So Serious.

Worst moments of the album: The Dual Substance of Man.

Released in 2017 Swimming With Sharks Records

Track listing
1. Ritual of 9 3:15
2. Hunt You Down 5:38
3. Feargas 3:54
4. Hate at First Sight 4:09
5. A Part of Me 3:20
6. Digital Hell 3:36
7. Why So Serious 4:12
8. Greed 3:40
9. The Dual Substance of Man 3:23
10. What I’ve Become 5:49

Band members
Kostas Fotopoulos – vocals
Nikolas Perlepes – guitars
Marios Kanellopoulos – bass
Petros Haritos – drums

Album Review – Scenario II / A New Dawn (2017)

There’s a new dawn rising in the world of melodic extreme music thanks to a talented Dutch sextet who will guide you through dark scenarios of a post-apocalyptic world in their new album.

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s2_and_front_hrOriginating from Eindhoven, a city in the province of North Brabant in the south Netherlands known as the birthplace of Philips electronics, Melodic Dark Death/Thrash Metal act Scenario II aims at crafting distinguished heavy music for fans of the genre, always bringing spherical melodies fashioned with the frequent use of female vocals, grunts, twin guitars, quick riffs and killer drums. Inspired by bands like In Flames, Arch Enemy, Dimmu Borgir and Amorphis, the band will guide you through dark scenarios of a post-apocalyptic world in their new album, titled A New Dawn, comprised of eleven full-bodied compositions showcasing all the refined skills of each musician involved.

Since their inception in 2006 from the ashes of another Dutch band named Aura, Scenario II have acquired excellent recognition in the underground of metal music, with very positive reviews stemming from their debut album Uniforms of Death, released in 2009. That considerable success led the band to share the stage with renowned acts such as Volbeat, Dark Tranquillity, Anathema, Testament, Trail of Tears and Moonspell, among others, energizing the band to keep moving forward and keep writing new material for their fans, therefore culminating with the release of A New Dawn. In addition to that, Scenario II might be one of the most democratic bands in the world of heavy music, having three men and three women in their lineup, proving once again that it doesn’t matter your gender, age, race, religion or sexual orientation, you are always welcome in heavy music.

The ominous and cinematic intro The Darkest Hour introduces us to the post-apocalyptic landscape proposed by the band, with the title-track A New Dawn and its metallic guitars a la Terminator by Mark van Doren and Simone van Straten, together with the harsh growls by Bas de Kruyff and the angelic voice of Myrthe van Beest, generating a modern Melodic Death Metal feast with Symphonic and Black Metal elements that will please all types of metalheads in the world. Supremacy begins in an atmospheric way, with the growls by Bas de Kruyff giving a nice touch of aggressiveness to the musicality while bassist Liza Hoek and drummer Bas van den Boom maintain a thunderous sound in the background; followed by the heavy Awake, a visceral Melodic Death Metal tune with the gentle vocals by Myrthe bringing harmony to the music.Moreover, both Mark and Simone have excellent performances with their sharp riffs, which together with the electronic and symphonic elements, as well as the song’s hellish atmosphere, make it one of the best of the album.

scenarioii_largeRapture follows the aggressive path of its predecessor, being a dense composition showcasing elements of Melodic Death Metal, Symphonic Black Metal and sheer Black Metal, in special its guitar lines, with Bas van den Boom being once again very technical behind his drums, never letting the energy level go down. Then we have the serene, atmospheric instrumental bridge The Promised Wasteland, building a direct link with Hysteria, an epic and symphonic creation by Scenario II, bursting despair and anger through the potent screams by Bas de Kruyff, with the vocals by Myrthe bringing yet again peace to our souls. And flirting with old school Death Metal we have Endgame, again displaying a solid performance by Bas van den Boom on drums, who together with Mark and Simone fire tons of progressiveness through their instruments, enhancing the song’s taste and electricity, not to mention all its breaks and variations which help turn it into the best of all songs in my opinion.

The whole album exhales rage and hopelessness, and in Disclosure it couldn’t be different than that, with Bas de Kruyff and Myrthe being in great sync complementing each other’s vocals, while Liza blasts her bass guitar in a delicate but powerful way. In Nocturnal, we face a heavy and flammable sonority thanks to the guitars by Mark and Simone, as well as the rhythmic and blast beats by Bas van den Boom; and it doesn’t matter how fast or slow the music is, the band always keeps a sinister and obscure atmosphere in the background. Last but not least, the ferocious but very melodic Stand Ablaze, a climatic ending to a very professional and exciting metal album, blends the harmony of Melodic Death Metal with the potency of Epic Metal, with Bas de Kruyff leading the musicality with his precise growls.

There’s a new dawn rising in the world of melodic extreme music thanks to this talented Dutch sextet, and if you want to know more about Scenario II you can visit their Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud. You can grab your copy of A New Dawn at the band’s official webshop in digital or physical format, as well as through their BandCamp page, on iTunes or on Amazon. The post-apocalyptic music blasted by Scenario II in A New Dawn keeps up with the legacy of Dutch metal, being harmonious, heavy and gripping at the same time, and it will surely maintain their inner fire burning for more amazing music in the following years, which is always what we want to see when the band in question is as talented as this up-and-coming squad.

Best moments of the album: A New Dawn, Awake and Endgame.

Worst moments of the album: Supremacy.

Released in 2017 Hysteria Music

Track listing
1. The Darkest Hour 2:09
2. A New Dawn 5:16
3. Supremacy 4:12
4. Awake 4:06
5. Rapture 4:46
6. The Promised Wasteland 1:48
7. Hysteria 5:11
8. Endgame 5:19
9. Disclosure 5:32
10. Nocturnal 4:30
11. Stand Ablaze 4:04

Band members
Myrthe van Beest – female vocals
Bas de Kruyff – vocals
Mark van Doren – guitars
Simone van Straten – guitars
Liza Hoek – bass
Bas van den Boom – drums

The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2016

“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” – David Bowie

The unexpected death of the most badass musician in history, Motörhead’s heart and soul Lemmy Kilmister, on December 28, 2015 was a harbinger of all the bad, shocking and revolting things that would turn the year of 2016 a true nightmare for mankind. That dark prophecy was confirmed less than two weeks later, more specifically on January 10 when we lost another true star in rock music to cancer, the unparalleled chameleon David Bowie, just two days after the release of his final masterpiece Blackstar. If that was not enough to make 2016 a miserable year, we also had to endure the passing of other icons who, despite not being metal, have always inspired countless bands and artists in heavy music. We lost Prince, Leonard Cohen and Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), to name a few, all irreplaceable losses to music in general. In addition, important names in the history of Heavy Metal also left us in 2016, such as Nick Menza (Megadeth) and Jimmy Bain (Rainbow, Dio), not to mention the disbandment of amazing groups like Eths (who are by the way part of our top 10 this year), Crucified Barbara and Bolt Thrower. And I’m not even going to talk about all other types of disasters and tragedies that happened all over the world, as the list is too macabre and grievous to be remembered in full.

Fortunately, 2016 was considerably generous for us headbangers in terms of the quantity and quality of albums released throughout the entire year, especially for diehard fans of old school Thrash Metal. Except for Slayer and Exodus, all other prominent names in Thrash Metal blasted the world with their high-speed, thrilling music, led by another superb album by Testament. Even Metallica released a decent album this year, just to give you an idea of how fruitful 2016 was for this rebellious type of music. Having said that, it’s time for The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2016, excluding EP’s, best of’s and live albums. And even if 2017 is as hideous as 2016, let’s never forget the wise words by Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan. Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!

testament_brotherhood-of-the-snake1. Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake (REVIEW)
Join the Brotherhood of Thrash Metal spearheaded by one of the heaviest, most technical and most electrifying bands on the entire planet.
Best song of the album: The Number Game

cover2. Charred Walls Of The Damned – Creatures Watching Over the Dead (REVIEW)
A magnificent lecture in Heavy Metal by four electrified beasts.
Best song of the album: As I Catch My Breath

Cover3. Eths – Ankaa (REVIEW)
One of the most prominent and innovative French bands of all time returns with a true masterpiece of complexity, darkness and heaviness.
Best song of the album: Nefas

cover4. Primal Fear – Rulebreaker (REVIEW)
Who said rules must be broken for a metallic eagle to spread its wings and soar high in the skies of heavy music?
Best song of the album: Rulebreaker

megadeth_dystopia5. Megadeth – Dystopia (REVIEW)
And the dystopian world portrayed in the brand new album by the iconic Dave Mustaine and his Thrash Metal army is beyond awesome.
Best song of the album: Lying In State

abbathsoloface_6386. Abbath – Abbath (REVIEW)
The one and only Abbath takes a new step in his career with a brand new band an album.
Best song of the album: Fenrir Hunts

death angel_the evil divide7. Death Angel – The Evil Divide (REVIEW)
Fast and furious anthems, dark mid-tempo songs, austere lyrics and endless stamina. This is how Thrash Metal should always be done.
Best song of the album: Hell To Pay

anthrax_for all kings8. Anthrax – For All Kings (REVIEW)
A classy and electrifying Thrash Metal album especially crafted for all of us, the real kings of heavy music.
Best song of the album: Breathing Lightning

front9. Axel Rudi Pell – Game of Sins (REVIEW)
You might be a sinner, but don’t be a fool and go relish another magnificent album by Mr. Axel Rudi Pell and his loyal henchmen.
Best song of the album: Falling Star

nervosa-agony-201610. Nervosa – Agony (REVIEW)
Brazil’s meanest power trio returns with another marvelous blast of their kick-ass high-octane Thrash Metal.
Best song of the album: Theory of Conspiracy

And here we have the runner-ups, completing the top 20 for the year:

11. Blaze Bayley – Infinite Entanglement (REVIEW)
12. The Silent Rage – The Deadliest Scourge (REVIEW)
13. Neverworld – Dremasnatcher (REVIEW)
14. Ancesttral – Web Of Lies (REVIEW)
15. Front – Iron Overkill (REVIEW)
16. Dö – Tuho (REVIEW)
17. Be Under Arms – Doomed To Life (REVIEW)
18. SystemHouse33 – Regression (REVIEW)
19. Gojira – Magma (REVIEW)
20. False Coda – Secrets and Sins (REVIEW)

As in Heavy Metal the artwork is just as important as the music itself, like what always happens with bands such as Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Metallica, KISS and tons of other metallic titans, we decided to list the Top 10 Cover Artworks of 2016. There are several reasons for an album art to be considered outstanding, such as its strong connection with the music like Iron Maiden’s Powerslave, its visual impact (usually associated with its controversial content) like Slayer’s God Hates Us All, or its perfect minimalism and finesse like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. Do you agree with our list?

1. Anthrax – For All Kings [by Alex Ross]
2. Primeval Mass – To Empyrean Thrones [by Karmazid]
3. Witches Of Doom – Deadlights [by Carlo Muselli]
4. Ragehammer – The Hammer Doctrine [by Robert A. von Ritter]
5. Howls Of Ebb – Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows [by Agostino Arrivabene]
6. Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake [by Eliran Kantor]
7. Henriette B – Tales of Reality (EP) [by Pierre-Alain D.]
8. Skáphe – Skáphe² [by H.V. Lyngdal]
9. Diabolizer – Apokalypse (MCD) [by Robert A. von Ritter]
10. Hostis – Hostis [by Zvonimir Grabić & Milena Nićić]

Rest assured in 2017 we at The Headbanging Moose will keep providing you the best of the underworld of Death, Thrash, Black, Symphonic, Epic, Power Metal and all other genres and subgenres of heavy music, as well as our view of the biggest names worldwide. There are already brand new albums confirmed for 2017 by Kreator, Sepultura, Grave Digger, Battle Beast and more, which means at least musically the new year promises to be really good. Thank you very much for your precious time, and keep on rockin’! Au revoir!

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2017!

Well, before we go, here’s a special gift from Iron Maiden to all metalheads all over the world… A nice festive yule log fireplace to keep our hearts warm during the entire season!

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

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

INTRODUCTION: ONE BAND TO RULE THEM ALL!

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

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

DISTORTHEAD

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

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

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

PYRAMID THEOREM

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

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

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

THE MOUNTAIN MAN

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

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

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

PROFANER

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

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

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

TALES OF THE TOMB

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

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

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

SPECIAL GUEST HEADLINERS: CRIMSON SHADOWS

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

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

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

AND THE WINNER IS…

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Profaner – 2016 Wacken Metal Battle Canada Winner

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

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