Album Review – The Prophet / Essence (2019)

A vibrant and demolishing fusion of classic Black and Death Metal with contemporary Melodic Death Metal by a Russian band that’s been on an exciting rise since their inception.

It’s time to return to Siberia, Russia, more specifically to the city of Tomsk, for another round of violence, speed and rage in the form of the Melodic Death and Black Metal blasted by a very talented group of musicians collectively known as The Prophet. After releasing the full-length albums Sunrise (2011), Across the Sphere (2013) and Dying (2015), which by the way I had the pleasure of reviewing here at The Headbanging Moose when it was released, as well as the EP’s Chronos (2013) and Another Damned World (2016), the band comprised of Theodor on bass and vocals, Doctor on the guitar and backing vocals, and Raziel on drums (also featuring now Deathbringer on the guitar) returns now in 2019 with another amazing opus, entitled Essence. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Project Studio Infernal Records, in Tomsk, and featuring a grim artwork by Mark Erskine, from Erskine Designs, Essence will undoubtedly please all fans of both old school Death Metal and contemporary Melodic Death Metal, proving once again why the band is on a constant and exciting rise since their inception in 2010.

Ethereal sounds permeate the air in the beautiful and melancholic intro Essence before the trio begins hammering our minds and hearts in From the Endless Vortex, a brutal Melodic Death Metal tune infused with classic Death Metal elements, with Raziel crushing his drums while Theodor growls and roars like a beast, kicking off the album on a sulfurous note. Then the talented Doctor shreds his chords manically, igniting the also frantic and pulverizing Defeated by the Demons, even more aggressive than its predecessor and showcasing deep and demented growls mixed with unstoppable blast beats and low-tuned bass jabs; and there’s no sign of the band slowing down, as Emerald Eyes is another great song for banging your head vigorously, presenting a solid instrumental with highlights to the perfect sync between Doctor and Raziel.

A lot more introspective and dark, Blackword sounds closer to traditional Swedish Melodic Death Metal, spearheaded by Doctor’s razor-edged riffs while Theodor exhales anger from his harsh gnarls, ending with a smooth piano that builds a classy connection with the instrumental bridge Dreamside Areas, a touch of delicacy added amidst all the havoc blasted by the trio, soothing our souls and preparing our minds for World of Pain, an obscure and absolutely visceral display of Death Metal by The Prophet. Featuring absolutely no shenanigans nor any artificial elements, we’re treated to pure old school Death Metal flowing from all instruments into our avid ears, with the bass lines by Theodor sounding truly violent and metallic, whereas Flying is another straightforward composition that keeps Essence at a very good level of quality and stamina (albeit not as exciting as the rest of the album), with its background orchestral elements bringing an extra dosage of eccentricity to the music.

Back to a full demolishing mode, Time is highly recommended for slamming like an animal into the circle pit while Theodor’s bass and Raziel’s drums smash your senses mercilessly, flowing into an inspiring acoustic finale before another instrumental bridge titled Grand Deliriozo Part I (Imago) brings more peace to our hearts to the sound of stylish piano notes, enfolding us all until The Prophet begins firing their most ambitious and boldest creation to date, the somber and heavy-as-hell In the Dying Sunset. This is undoubtedly an excellent option for breaking your neck headbanging, with all band members delivering sheer aggression from their respective weapons, in special Theodor with his deep guttural roars, putting a dark and at the same time gentle ending to the album.

As I know my simple words are not enough to actually describe the strength and heaviness of the music by The Prophet, I suggest you take a good listen at their new album Essence in full on on YouTube and on Spotify, and in case you’re a diehard fan of this more aggressive version of Swedish Melodic Death Metal you should definitely pay The Prophet a visit on Facebook and on VKontakte, and subscribe to their YouTube channel. Hence, you can purchase Essence from the Soundage Productions’ webstore, from Apple Music, from Google Play, from Amazon or from Discogs. Russian Melodic Death Metal has never been so good, and we have to thank the guys from The Prophet not only for leading that trend, but also for showing a healthy and interesting evolution in their sonority just the way we always like it in heavy music.

Best moments of the album: From the Endless Vortex, Defeated by the Demons and World of Pain.

Worst moments of the album: Flying.

Released in 2019 Soundage Productions

Track listing
1. Essence (Intro) 1:22
2. From the Endless Vortex 3:45
3. Defeated by the Demons 2:49
4. Emerald Eyes 3:44
5. Blackword 4:17
6. Dreamside Areas 1:56
7. World of Pain 2:50
8. Flying 3:23
9. Time 3:32
10. Grand Deliriozo Part I (Imago) 2:06
11. In the Dying Sunset 7:44

Band members
Theodor – bass, vocals
Doctor – guitar, backing vocals
Raziel – drums

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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