Album Review – Nicumo / Inertia (2020)

Let’s explore the vast and melancholic lands of Melodic Gothic Metal and Rock together with five talented Finnish musicians and their breathtaking new album.

Formed in 2007 in Ylivieska, a town and municipality of Pohjois-Pohjanmaa, Finland, the talented Melodic Gothic Metal/Rock institution known as Nicumo returns with another blast of their stylish “Melancholic Metal” in Inertia, the third full-length album in their solid career. Recorded and mixed by Olli Tainio at Joshua Music, mastered by Svante Forsbäck at Chartmakers Mastering, and featuring guest saxophonist Mikko-Ilari Ojala, Inertia will guide through vast and melancholic lands together with lead singer Hannu Karppinen, guitarists Atte Jääskelä and Tapio Anttiroiko, bassist Sami Kotila and drummer Aki Pusa, keeping the band’s momentum going after the releases of their 2013 debut album The End of Silence and their 2017 sophomore effort Storms Arise. “Inertia continues kind of naturally from where our second album Storms Arise left. Atmosphere is even deeper and more intense than in previous albums. We have grown as a band during these years of course, and I believe that it can be heard on this album. Songs are more solid and thoughtful entities, composed by needs of the song. Sound-wise this album is most experimental in our discography. Saxophone and even concrete floor played with drumsticks can be heard from the album just for an example,” commented Aki about the band’s newborn spawn.

In the awesome opening track Three Pyres a melancholic and somber Gothic Rock-infused start gradually evolves into a feast of deep, dark vocals by Hannu and the delicate but piercing guitar lines by Atte and Tapio, being therefore highly recommended for fans of the music by HIM with a more obscure vibe, and we’re all invited to dive into the band’s Melodic and Gothic Metal waters in Dark Rivers, with the band’s guitar duo crushing their strings mercilessly while Aki dictates the song’s pace alternating between faster beats and more rhythmic passages. In Same Blood, a stunning ballad with the band’s guitar duo embellishing the airwaves with their solos together with Mikko-Ilari and his saxophone, Hannu darkly declaims the song’s introspective words accompanied only by acoustic guitars at times, whereas in Witch Hunt their music leans towards classic Melodic Metal, but of course bringing the band’s darker sounds. Moreover, Hannu delivers more of his enraged growls while Sami keeps blasting his rumbling bass nonstop, keeping the album’s Gothic flame burning bright.

Then alternating between thunderous sounds and cryptic, melancholic moments the band brings forward the captivating Tree of Life, where Sami once again delivers tons of groove through his bass while Hannu’s crisp vocals are effectively supported by all background elements, followed by Mother and the Snake, even more enfolding and atmospheric, with Atte and Tapio cutting our skin deep with their wicked riffs and solos while Hannu once again shines with both his clean vocals and deep roars. After such powerful display of Gothic Metal, get ready to dance and bang your heads to the sound of Who You Are, an amazing tune showcasing Hannu’s most visceral growls and the band’s characteristic, slashing guitar lines and spot-on drums; and venturing through the realms of old school Gothic Rock and Metal we have Time Won’t Heal, as melancholic as the best creations by Ville Valo and his HIM, displaying inspiring guitar lines and an embracing ambience that provide Hannu all he needs to thrive on vocals once again. Finally, closing such beautiful album of melancholic music we have Black Wolf with its almost seven minutes of serene passages and heavy riffs, darkening our hearts (in a good way, of course) and flowing like the unruly waters of a Stygian river until its climatic finale.

In short, Inertia is a very entertaining, pleasant and solid album of Melancholic Metal tailored for admirers of such distinct style, inviting the listener to join Nicumo in darkness and savoring every single moment of the album together with them. Hence, let’s show our utmost support to those Finnish metallers by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, by listening to more of their music on YouTube and on Spotify, and above all that by buying your copy of inertia from Nicumo’s official BandCamp page, from the Inverse Store, from Record Shop X or from Discogs, and may the breathtaking and somber music by Nicumo serve as the soundtrack to your most serene and melancholic moments in life.

Best moments of the album: Three Pyres, Same Blood and Mother and the Snake.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Three Pyres 3:57
2. Dark Rivers 4:38
3. Same Blood 4:20
4. Witch Hunt 4:41
5. Tree of Life 5:12
6. Mother and the Snake 3:55
7. Who You Are 4:32
8. Time Won’t Heal 3:46
9. Black Wolf 6:55

Band members
Hannu Karppinen – vocals
Atte Jääskelä – guitars
Tapio Anttiroiko – guitars
Sami Kotila – bass
Aki Pusa – drums

Guest musician
Mikko-Ilari Ojala – saxophone

Album Review – Crimson Sun / Fates (2020)

Known for their gripping live performances, catchy sounds and melodies, this Finnish Melodic Heavy Metal institution is ready to take the world of heavy music by storm with their sophomore album.

Known for their gripping live performances, catchy sounds and melodies, Finnish Melodic Heavy Metal institution Crimson Sun is ready to take the world of heavy music by storm with their sophomore album Fates, the follow-up to their debut full-length installment Towards the Light, released in 2015, and the EP The Spirit of Unchainable, from 2017. Formed under an unknown name in 2001 in the city of Hamina, Finland, and evolving into their current moniker in 2005, Crimson Sun have been making a name for themselves since their inception, quickly finding their way into the hearts of metalheads from all around the world and, as a consequence, leading the band currently formed by frontwoman Sini Seppälä, guitarist Joni Junnila, bassist Jukka Jauhiainen, keyboardist Miikka Hujanen and drummer Antti Rantavuo  to perform in some of the biggest metal festivals in Finland and to tour around Europe.

Thematically centered around different fates of people, and loosely referring to the band’s own experiences as well, Fates is an amalgamation of classic and contemporary rock and metal styles centered on the band’s Melodic, Symphonic and Alternative Metal core essence, offering their fans the perfect soundtrack to face our daily struggles and obstacles. “The album took its time as we all went through some major changes in our personal lives – some of us started families, some lost relationships or loved ones, built houses, gained new jobs… Life happened! ‘Fates’ proves however, that despite things changing we can get past all difficulties and challenges and move on – and make the kind of music we want to hear”, explained guitarist Joni Junnila about the band’s newborn spawn, complementing by saying that the album “represents continuity in our musical career. Some of the reviews of the first album suggested that we might just be a one-album-wonder. ‘Fates’ hopefully proves to everyone that this is not the case! We continue to grow and evolve – and we won’t even be just a ‘two-album-wonder’.”

Antti sets fire to the album with his frantic beats in the opening track The Beast Within, presenting elements from Symphonic and Alternative Metal as if Nightwish and Lacuna Coil had a child together, all boosted by Miikka’s futuristic keys and Sini’s crisp, high-pitched vocals. Then continuing to venture through the realms of modern Alternative Metal the band offers us all Virtual Reality, with Joni and Jukka extracting sheer adrenaline from their stringed weapons while Miikka and his whimsical keys bring a touch of lunacy to the musicality; followed by We Are One, where the quintet adds a considerable dosage of passion, melancholy and hope to their core sound, with Antti dictating the rhythm while Sini continues to shine on vocals, not to mention the dense and smooth bass lines by Jukka.

The Prison is one of the most symphonic of all songs, but of course still showcasing the band’s trademark electricity, being highly recommended for fans of bands like Epica and Lacuna Coil, with Sini and Miikka being on absolute fire while supported by Jukka and Antti’s thunderous kitchen. And it’s time to slow things down and enjoy Sini’s passionate performance in Overcome while her bandmates generate a delicate and ethereal ambience, resulting in a beautiful break from the faster pace of the rest of the album, flowing into Fate of Nora, which starts in an introspective way before exploding into modern-day Symphonic Metal led by Miikka and his sharp keys. Moreover, Jukka brings thunder to the music with his potent bass jabs, keeping the album as vibrant as it can be, setting the tone for the excellent Trailblazer, the perfect depiction of how powerful the music by Crimson Sun truly is, blasting tons of electricity to the masses while Sini is effectively supported by all her bandmates, in special by Antti’s fierce beats and fills and Joni’s slashing riffs.

Slightly more futuristic than its predecessors, Distant Stars flirts at times with electronic music and Industrial Rock and Metal, and albeit being a good composition it’s a bit generic if compared to all other songs (but still presenting a great job done by Miikka on keyboards, though), whereas Essence of Creation, an upbeat tune blending modern metal music with several electronic nuances, brings forward a shot of stamina into our avid ears while Sini declaims the song’s poetic lyrics in great fashion (“Respect the unscripted rule / The lifeline of all things / From life to life the cosmic ways go / They outline every shape we know / The meaning of life can’t be held / Nor contained in the world we live / Not even identified in a way we are used to”). And their last blast of high-end metal music made in Finland comes in the form of Last Day on Earth, the boldest of all songs overflowing passion and epicness thanks to Sini’s stunning vocal performance and Miikka’s classy keys, while Joni continues to shred his strings until the song’s climatic conclusion.

You can listen to Fates in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, but if I were you I would show my utmost support to such talented Finnish band by purchasing the album from their official webstore, as well as from Record Shop X, from Apple Music or from Amazon. Also, don’t forget to follow Crimson Sun on Facebook and on Instagram, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their flammable music. Finland has always been considered a reference in Melodic and Symphonic Metal with bands like Nightwish and Stratovarius spearheading the local movement, and now with the rise of Crimson Sun we can all rest assured the land of ice and snow will also continue to be called the land of metal music for many years to come.

Best moments of the album: The Beast Within, The Prison, Trailblazer and Essence of Creation.

Worst moments of the album: Distant Stars.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. The Beast Within 3:32
2. Virtual Reality 3:06
3. We Are One 4:04
4. The Prison 4:57
5. Overcome 3:12
6. Fate of Nora 4:14
7. Trailblazer 3:18
8. Distant Stars 4:22
9. Essence of Creation 3:40
10. Last Day on Earth 5:33

Band members
Sini Seppälä – vocals
Joni Junnila – guitar
Jukka Jauhiainen – bass
Miikka Hujanen – keyboards
Antti Rantavuo – drums

Album Review – Vesperith / Vesperith (2019)

Experimental, intuitive, abstract and futuristic. This is Vesperith.

Experimental, intuitive, abstract and futuristic. That’s what an Experimental Black Metal one-woman project hailing from Tampere, a city in southern Finland, that goes by the stylish name of Vesperith, has to offer us all with her debut full-length self-titled opus, or as Vesperith herself likes to call it, get ready for an entrancing tempest of “Experimental Audiovisual Mysticism” made in Finland. Co-produced by Oranssi Pazuzu mainman Jun-His, Vesperith is the brainchild of the multi-talented artist Sariina Tani, former vocalist for Finnish Progressive Gothic/Melodic Doom Metal band Reveries End, who’s not only responsible for all vocals and instruments in her debut album, but also for the songwriting, lyrics, artwork and animation, channeling the depths of the cosmos through the vessel of Vesperith by fusing music, art and theosophy to otherworldly, meditatively chaotic dark radiance.

Musically speaking, Vesperith sounds and feels like a cosmic marriage of Björk meets Swans via Emperor (and we can also add Myrkur and Burzum to this amalgamation of sounds and styles), mirroring the duality of light and darkness and meditating on the nature of shadows and emptiness. “This new album is a pilgrimage to the abyss. For many, shadows, darkness, emptiness or void are almost stigmatized as evil, bad or scary, but I see almost heartbreaking beauty, light and infinity there,” explained the enchanting Sariina, with her album of entrancing astral visions certainly being one of the deepest, darkest things to come out of Finland in a while, therefore deserving your undivided attention. From atmospheric drones, screeching distortion and a mesmerizing ambience, Vesperith is a conduit for the chaotic harmony of the universe that suddenly blows up into euphoric phoenix-like waves of bewitching guitars and hypnotic siren song, inviting you to join Sariina in her whimsical journey to infinity.

Cosmic waves and hypnotizing sounds permeate the air from the very first second in the opening track The Magi (the “wise men” from the East who brought gifts to the infant Jesus), before the angelical vocalizations by Sariina penetrate deep inside our minds like a tribal initiation to her ethereal world, working as an extended and enfolding intro that keeps growing in intensity and “invades” the following tune titled Fractal Flesh, where you can sense Sariina is about to unleash an endless amount of energy at any moment. That indeed ends up happening after around two and a half minutes in an explosion of Black Metal infused with experimental and atmospheric elements, not to mention Sariina’s devilish harsh vocals, which feel bestial and obscure while at the same time very delicate. And if you thought the two previous songs were already very eccentric get ready for Refractions, a Dark Ambient extravaganza where Sariina’s anguished roars emerge from the very depths as a sonic refraction pierces our ears and minds beautifully.

The musical experimentation by Sariina gets even more unique in Valohämärä, which should translate from Finnish as “twilight”, once again presenting stunning vocal lines by our skillful one-woman army amidst an overdose of doom-ish beats and serene background keys and tones. Furthermore, she fires her most demonic, she-wolf gnarls of the entire album and in her mother tongue, just to make things even more enthralling, dismantling our senses with her visceral sonority. Then you better be prepared to have your senses heightened with over ten minutes of an incredible journey through the realms of Experimental Black Metal entitled Quintessence, where Sariina will put you on a fantastic trance with her gorgeous vocals in an enfolding atmosphere perfect for gazing at the stars before an onrush of blackened sounds and hellish growls crushes your soul mercilessly, slowing things down gradually until imposing sounds crush our psyche in the closing tune Solar Flood, perhaps the most atmospheric and gentle of all tracks in Vesperith. All we have to do is close our eyes, free our minds from any dark thoughts, and let Sariina mesmerize us all with her otherworldly vocal lines until the song’s very last second.

If there’s one amazing thing that truly stands out in Vesperith, that is certainly how the music flows smoothly and flawlessly from start to finish, building a very detailed connection from track to track and, consequently, making the album feel like one single (and wonderful) entity. For instance, last week, more precisely on November 8, Sariina hosted a pre-listening party at the Helsinki Ursa observatory, where the lights were dimmed and the album was listened in full in the dark while the attendants could also watch the stars (and the event was also streamed live through the Svart Records’ YouTube channel, by the way), showing how important it is to listen to Vesperith as a whole without interruptions and with the only “distraction” being the charming lights up in the sky. Also, with a lineup of cohorts gathered around her, Sariina will also take Vesperith to the stages of Europe during the end of this year and into 2020, and if you want to know more about such distinguished artist, her tour dates and other nice-to-know details, go check what she’s up to on Facebook and on Instagram, and obviously buy your copy of Vesperith from the project’s own BandCamp page, from the Svart Records’ webstore, or simply click HERE for all locations where you can purchase and listen to Vesperith. Sariina and her Vesperith are not only the future of atmospheric heavy music, but a journey though space and time that should definitely be appreciated by anyone who loves music, nature and the stars, especially if all at once.

Best moments of the album: Fractal Flesh and Quintessence.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Svart Records

Track listing
1. The Magi 8:57
2. Fractal Flesh 6:37
3. Refractions 4:35
4. Valohämärä 7:51
5. Quintessence 10:31
6. Solar Flood 7:27

Band members
Sariina Tani – vocals, all instruments

Album Review – Kaamos Warriors / Shadows Of Northern Chaos (2019)

All hail the Finnish warriors of the eternal night and their brand new album of Dark Metal, beautifully reflecting the coldness and melancholy of the North.

Formed as a duo by vocalist and guitarist Mikko Ojala (Crowned with Black, Dark the Suns, The Beauty of Darkened Hearts) and guitarist Jani Moilanen (R2JBros) in the beginning of 2018 in Kempele, a municipality just south of the city of Oulu in Northern Finland, the sinister Dark Metal unity known as Kaamos Warriors is unleashing upon humanity their second full-length opus entitled Shadows Of Northern Chaos, a follow-up to their debut album Ikuisen Talven Sarastus (or “the dawn of eternal winter” in English), released earlier this year. Now a three-piece band with the addition of bassist Jyri Moilanen to their lineup, Kaamos Warriors once again reflect the coldness and melancholy of the North in the eight dark and somber compositions found in  Shadows Of Northern Chaos, combining the bitterly cold elements from Atmospheric and Doom Metal to their core Black Metal essence. As a matter of fact, the word “kaamos” means “the polar night”, or the period of darkness north of the Arctic Circle and south of the Antarctic Circle when the sun does not rise over the horizon, perfectly summarizing what the music by those Finnish metallers is all about.

Mikko and Jani generate a frosty and raw ambience with their riffs in the opening track Wolves in Storm, an ode to the North blending classic Black Metal with contemporary Blackened Death Metal and with Mikko’s vocals sounding deep and obscure just like the music demands. Then we have Chaos Walks the Earth, even darker and more demonic than its predecessor, with its guitars bringing the most visceral tones from classic Death Metal while Jyri’s bass lines sound absolutely ominous, therefore adding an extra dosage of malignancy to the music, all spiced up by spot-on blast beats and strident guitar solos. And get ready to crack your neck headbanging to the boisterous Chaos & Mayhem, where the brutal sounds of guitars and bass fill every single space in the air, resulting in a dense and violent atmosphere that leans towards Melodic Black Metal; whereas Ruined by Plague is a mid-tempo hellish hymn blasted by the trio with a huge focus on the very detailed work done on the guitars, which complemented by Jyri’s thunderous bass turns it into a storm of heavy music.

In the title-track Shadows of Northern Chaos this talented Finnish triumvirate goes full Black Metal, blasting our ears with an infernal sonority led by Mikko’s Stygian, guttural roars while its riffs add hints of melancholy and hopelessness to the overall result, and they keep slashing their strings in Where Shadows Grow, another classic Black and Death Metal composition showcasing spot-on beats, harsh gnarls and a perturbing, winter-like vibe, offering the listener a fusion of sheer aggressiveness and obscurity with a very pleasant melody. Ruins of Hope sounds as if Unleashed met Marduk and Behemoth for a jam session, with Mikko and Jani firing incendiary riffs from their axes while Jyri keeps delivering rumbling bass punches nonstop, and lastly the band fires Moon and Stars, one of the most melancholic and darkest of all tracks where you can feel the bitterly cold epicness of the North flowing from its riffs and beats, flirting with Doom Metal and remaining truly grim and dark until the very end.

If you enjoy this fusion of extreme music with the chilling, melancholic landscapes from the North crafted by Kaamos Warriors, you should definitely follow the band on Facebook, listen to more of their music on Spotify, and purchase their music from different locations such as Apple Music and Amazon. Shadows Of Northern Chaos might not be a masterpiece nor a revolution in Black and Death Metal, but it’s definitely a very good, cohesive and well-balanced album by those warriors of the never-ending northern night highly recommended for fans of the genre, and if in their first year of existence they were already capable of delivering two really entertaining full-length albums, I can’t wait to see what’s next in their promising (and wintry) career.

Best moments of the album: Chaos Walks the Earth, Chaos & Mayhem and Shadows of Northern Chaos.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Wolves in Storm 2:28
2. Chaos Walks the Earth 2:28
3. Chaos & Mayhem 2:06
4. Ruined by Plague 2:35
5. Shadows of Northern Chaos 3:06
6. Where Shadows Grow 3:28
7. Ruins of Hope 2:28
8. Moon and Stars 4:00

Band members
Mikko Ojala – vocals, guitars
Jani Moilanen – guitars (lead/acoustic)
Jyri Moilanen – bass

Album Review – Dö / Astral Death Cult (2019)

Saluting the great forces of nature and the void that surrounds us, Finland’s own riff-praising, cosmos-worshiping metal unity returns with another round of their raw northern “döömer”.

Hail Cosmos! We’re all döömed!

Helsinki’s own riff-praising, cosmos-worshiping trio of doom, the infamous and heavy-as-hell unity known as , is ready to stimulate and distort our senses once again with what they like to call “döömer” in their brand new opus entitled Astral Death Cult. And if you have absolutely no idea of what “döömer” means, let’s say it’s simply dark astral energy masterfully compressed by our beloved sonic triumvirate comprised of Deaf Hank on vocals and bass, Big Dog on the guitar and Joe E. Deliverance on drums into a unique northern mix of stoner, doom, sludge and psychedelic elements with hints of Death and Black Metal. Or is this still too complicated for your terrestrial mind?

Astral Death Cult is the second full-length album released by Dö and their fifth release since the band’s inception in 2013 in “Hellsinki”, following the path of reverberating sounds and distortions paved in their previous releases, those being their debut self-tiled EP from 2014, the EP Den from 2015, their first full-length installment Tuho from 2016, and the EP Astral: Death/Birth from 2017. However, while their core essence remained intact through the years, with all albums being recorded live to get the genuine dynamics of the trio on each track, the lyrical themes have evolved from mysticism, misanthropy and anti-religiousness towards saluting the great forces of nature and the void that surrounds us, matching their musical direction flawlessly and, consequently, providing the listener a truly unique experience while listening to the album’s 36 minutes of pure “dööm”.

Joe’s funereal beats kick off the three-minute invitation to emptiness and obscurity titled Intergalacticlude, where the bass by Deaf Hank sounds as dirty and raw as it can be, also bringing to our ears and minds somber vociferations and a menacing aura. After such killer start we have the superb Atmosfear, which kicks off in a truly Stygian, atmospheric way before Deaf Hank begins exhaling evil and fear through his bass and raspy vocals, exploding into ass-kicking Doom and Sludge Metal for our total delight. Just break your damned neck headbanging to this visceral hymn, while Big Dog’s Black Sabbath-inspired demonic riffs add an extra touch of evil to the music. And the pounding drums by Joe together with Deaf Hank’s malevolent bass take the lead in Drifting (In a Methane Ocean), showcasing over nine minutes of sluggish passages, a grey ambience, endless heaviness, and desperate vocalizations amidst embracing, minimalist guitar lines, smashing our heads ruthlessly. Put differently, this is exactly what happens when distortion, harmony and heaviness unite in the name of doom.

Their astral journey goes on in the also pulverizing Cosmic Communion, bringing elements from Experimental and Progressive Metal to their already multi-layered sound. I simply love the rumbling sounds Deaf Hank blasts from his bass while Big Dog keeps shredding his strings beautifully, turning it into the perfect soundtrack to a futuristic slasher flick as they keep jamming like there’s no tomorrow. Planet Eater couldn’t have started in a more menacing way, representing the epitome of old school Doom and Stoner Metal. Big Dog is on fire with his riffs and solos, while Deaf Hank barks and roars nonstop, and let me tell you their synchronicity with their stringed weapons is amazing, complemented by Joe’s slow and potent beats. And lastly, never letting the level of energy, rage and distortions go down they offer us the groovy and dark Beyond the Cosmic Horizon, where its bass and drums will make your brain tremble. Deaf Hank’s anguish gnarls get darker and darker as the music progresses, with the soulful solo by Big Dog being the icing on the cake in this excellent closing tune.

This precious gem of doom, or maybe I should just start writing “dööm” all the time from now on, can be relished in full on YouTube and on Spotify, but of course if you want to show your absolute support to Finland’s meanest and most demented trio you can purchase the album from their official BandCamp, from the Dust & Bones Records webstore, from the Lay Bare Recordings webstore, form Apple Music or from Amazon. Also, don’t forget to give them a shout on Facebook and to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their raw and classy music, because as you’re all already aware of, we’re all “döömed” in this rotten and decaying world, and there’s nothing we can do about that apart from banging our heads and raising our horns together with Deaf Hank, Big Dog and Joe E. Deliverance until our inevitable end.

Best moments of the album: Atmosfear and Cosmic Communion.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Lay Bare Recordings/Mercyful Tapes

Track listing
1. Intergalacticlude 3:11
2. Atmosfear 5:50
3. Drifting (In a Methane Ocean) 9:18
4. Cosmic Communion 6:11
5. Planet Eater 5:43
6. Beyond the Cosmic Horizon 5:55

Band members
Deaf Hank – vocals, bass
Big Dog – guitar, backing vocals
Joe E. Deliverance – drums, backing vocals

Album Review – Refusal / Epitome of Void (2019)

A straight-to-the-point album of Finnish Crust Old School Death Metal, as pulverizing, heavy and infernal as it can be.

Founded back in 2008 in the city of Helsinki, Finland by guitarist Tero Pirhonen and bassist Timo Pirhonen, before bringing in vocalist Niikka Lius, drummer Aleksi Roitto and more recently guitarist Kalle Kuosmanen to complete the band, the unrelenting squad that goes by the name of Refusal does not just play your regular Death Metal, but something they like to call “Finnish Crust Old School Death Metal”, smashing you like an insect with all their fury and heaviness without showing a single drop of mercy. After releasing several demos and their debut full-length album We Rot Within, in 2016, Refusal are back in action in 2019 with a brand new (and pulverizing) opus, beautifully titled Epitome of Void. Featuring a somber artwork by Finnish artist Sakke Vinko, Epitome of Void is highly recommended for fans of the music by iconic bands like Napalm Death, Nasum and Entombed, being absolutely perfect for slamming into the circle pit like there’s no tomorrow.

The distorted guitars by Tero and Kalle ignite the pulverizing opening track Suffocate, reminding me of the devilish sound by Turkish beasts Diabolizer, or in other words, a brutal slamming Death Metal extravaganza led by Niika and his deep, visceral growls. If you survive their initial onrush of extreme music get ready for the insanely heavy Hectic, showcasing an enraged Niikka on vocals while Aleksi decimates his drums in a precise and groovy manner, accompanied by Timo’s roaring bass; whereas Disregard brings forward a less frantic but still acid and violent version of the band, urging us all to bang our heads manically to the infernal riffs by Tero and Kalle while Timo smashes his bass chords nonstop.

Disgust is just as brutal as Death Metal can be, with Refusal inviting us all to crush our skulls into the circle pit while Niikaa vomits the song’s lyrics in a very traditional way; followed by Slaves, the darkest of all songs in Epitome of Void, showcasing hints of classic, obscure Black Metal added to their unrelenting music. Moreover, Tero and Timo bring some welcome balance to the sonic havoc going on with their crisp solos. Then it’s time for more demented slamming to the infernal beats by Aleksi in Exploit, while Niikka keeps growling and vociferating manically for our total delight. Put differently, this is the undisputed epitome of Refusal’s classic Death Metal, highly recommended for all fans of the genre.

If you think your neck will have a break from all the insane headbanging proposed by Refusal you’re absolutely wrong, as the band ignites their most demonic mode in the rip-roaring Bound, with their guitars and drums being in full destructive force. Then their second to last deranged Death Metal attack comes in the form of Futile, where all band members sound even more infuriated than ever, pleasing anyone who admires old school Brutal Death Metal from the bottom of their (blackened) hearts, setting the stage for the the thunderous and vile closing tune Void, where the smashing sounds of drums and bass provide Niikka the perfect atmosphere for his sick guttural vocals. There’s no escape from Refusal, and their most unfriendly, obscure and intricate creation beautifully represents all their fury and rage, ending the album on a very high note.

Do you have what it takes to face the demolishing Death Metal by Refusal? If your answer is yes, simply slam into the pit by listening to Epitome of Void in full on Spotify, by following the band on Facebook and by subscribing to their YouTube channel. In a nutshell, Epitome of Void, which by the way is on sale from Refusal’s own BandCamp page, from the Great Dane Records’ BandCamp page, from iTunes, from Amazon or from Discogs, will not change or revolutionize the underground metal scene at all; quite the contrary, it’s pure old school Death Metal, without any artificial elements nor any type of shenanigans, thoroughly crafted by five Finnish guys who are beyond loyal to the foundations of the genre, deserving all our admiration and support for keeping the flames of true Death Metal alive and kicking.

Best moments of the album: Hectic, Disgust and Exploit.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Great Dane Records

Track listing
1. Suffocate 2:20
2. Hectic 2:51
3. Disregard 3:13
4. Disgust 3:27
5. Slaves 4:33
6. Exploit 1:48
7. Bound 4:14
8. Futile 4:10
9. Void 5:19

Band members
Niikka Lius – vocals
Tero Pirhonen – guitars
Kalle Kuosmanen – guitars
Timo Pirhonen – bass, backing vocals
Aleksi Roitto – drums

Album Review – Rifftera / Across the Acheron (2019)

Let’s brave the waters of the Acheron to the sound of the brand new opus by this talented Melodic Death and Thrash Metal squad from Finland.

If in 2015 a Finnish Melodic Death Metal band that goes by the stylish name of Rifftera stunned us all with their  aggressive and futuristic debut opus Pitch Black, now in 2019 it’s time for this talented Vaasa-base squad comprised of Janne Hietala and Mikko Kuoppamaa on vocals and guitars, Jupe Karhu on bass, Antti Pöntinen on keyboards and newcomer Ville Härkönen on drums to take another amazing step in their more-than-promising career with Across the Acheron, which is not only their sophomore release but an album that exhales harmony, electricity and rage, bringing a well-balanced and thrilling fusion of Death and Thrash Metal for both fans of what the band presented in their previous album as well as newcomers to their whimsical realm of modern-day metal music.

Featuring once again a beautiful cover art by Petri Lampela, who besides Rifftera has already worked with other excellent bands like  Vinide and Ratbreed, Across the Acheron might have taken longer than expected to be released, but the wait was definitely worth it as each and every song of the album is an absolute feast of first-class Melodic Death Metal. “The aim was basically to take steps forward from our debut in every aspect and we are really happy with the result. In my honest and not at all biased opinion I think that clear improvement was achieved musically, lyrically and production-wise,” commented lead singer and guitarist Janne, complementing his thought by saying that “when it comes to comparing the music between Across the Acheron and Pitch Black, I would say that our expression has reached new levels on both ends of the spectrum; some parts on the new album are more brutal than anything that what we had on Pitch Black and then again some songs are more straight forward and melodic than before. Overall it could be described that the building blocks are the same but writing and performing skills have evolved.”

The opening track Burning Paradise already showcases an epic start led by the always cinematic keys by Antti, being gradually joined by all other instruments until all hell breaks loose to a deep, enraged roar by Janne, becoming an almost Blackened Death Metal tune infused with Melodic and Industrial Metal elements where both Janne and Mikki slash their guitars in a piercing manner. Then we have the 8-minute extravaganza Two Sides of the Story, sounding very close to what they did in Pitch Black, with Ville simply demolishing his drums while Jupe and Antti generate a captivating background sounding with their instruments, also delivering tons of harmony and ethereal vibes for our total delight; followed by Eye of the Storm, a rhythmic, imposing and thrilling display of contemporary Scandinavian metal, showcasing pounding drums, epic keys and a dark and menacing atmosphere. Furthermore, Janne and Mikko have a very healthy “duel” of vocal styles, and as they sing during the entire song, it’s indeed beautiful to enjoy their ass-kicking metal music when you’re “in the eye of the storm”.

And those Finnish metallers keep invading our senses with their fusion of futuristic sounds and endless harmony in Cutthroat Game, with both guitars sounding as sharp as a knife while the bass punches by Jupe get even more thunderous then before, accompanied by Ville’s nonstop drums. After such crushing tune, it’s time to speed things up a bit in the superb Cry Wolf, led by Janne’s deranged growls and with Antti bringing an extra touch of lunacy to the sonority through his keys, resulting in what’s the most metallic and visceral of all songs; whereas Warmonger is another brutal composition tailored for cracking your neck in half headbanging, with Mikko’s clean vocals and Antti’s spot-on keys bringing some peace and hope to all devastation blasted by their bandmates. Not only that, the song’s main riff will entice you to keep bang your head nonstop, which obviously means this is an amazing option to be added to their setlist during their live concerts. Things slow down a bit in Deep Waters, getting more melodic, delicate and introspective than its predecessors but still exhaling the band’s characteristic rage, with the always inspiring keys by Antti stealing the spotlight and, therefore, keeping the level of electricity high, setting the stage for the 11-minute aria Across the Acheron, a very detailed and cinematic exhibit of their Melodic Death and Thrash Metal where you’ll be enfolded by inspiring passages, melodious riffs and solos, powerful vocals and violent growls. Moreover, this song has an amazing vibe and a touch of delicacy that only a band like Rifftera can bring you directly from the stunning Scandinavia, ending the album on a high, ominous and majestic mode.

It’s always a pleasure watching a hardworking and honest group of skillful musicians like Rifftera evolving like what they did from Pitch Black to their new album Across the Acheron, and in order to show them our true support don’t forget to follow them on Facebook and to listen to their music on Spotify, and of course purchase your copy of Across the Acheron from the Inverse Records webstore, from Record Shop X, from iTunes, or from Amazon. In ancient Greek mythology, the Acheron was known as the “river of woe”, and was one of the five rivers of the Greek underworld. Having said that, I guess it’s time for all of us fans of Melodic Death Metal to brave the waters of the Acheron together with Rifftera, and face all the perils the underworld might bring us to the sound of their brand new and excellent album.

Best moments of the album: Eye of the Storm, Cry Wolf and Warmonger.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Burning Paradise 6:12
2. Two Sides of the Story 8:04
3. Eye of the Storm 6:34
4. Cutthroat Game 6:12
5. Cry Wolf 5:08
6. Warmonger 6:29
7. Deep Waters 4:50
8. Across the Acheron 11:20

Band members
Janne Hietala – guitars, harsh vocals
Mikko Kuoppamaa – guitars, clean vocals
Jupe Karhu – bass
Antti Pöntinen – keyboards
Ville Härkönen – drums

Album Review – Where’s My Bible / M’N’R (2018)

Blending rock and punk influences with the violence of Death, Thrash and Black Metal, this Finnish squad is more-than-ready to mosh and roll in their first full-length release.

Blending rock and punk influences with the more violent and austere Death, Thrash and Black Metal sounds, Finnish Mosh N’ Roll squad Where’s My Bible (and yes, that’s the actual name of the band) was formed in 2014 in the city of Heinola with the intention to just have fun and play, although the thought of being taken seriously quickly kicked in, culminating with the release of their debut EP named The Beginning in early 2016. A major milestone for the band, which is reflected in the title itself, the EP led the band to participate in several concerts and festivals in the following months, including a spot in the main stage of the renowned Tuska Open Air in 2017, secured after winning the Tuska-Torstai competition hosted by the festival.

The band kicked off 2018 by starting the recording of their debut album, simply titled M’N’R (the acronym for Mosh N’ Roll), an energetic and upbeat representation of the band’s sound, being released in the fall this year. In other words, if you enjoy slamming into the circle pit and enjoying a cold beer while listening to our good old Rock N’ Roll, but with a more venomous metal twist, get ready to rock together with frontman Jussi Matilainen, guitarists Toni Hinkkala and Pasi Löfgren, bassist Jarno Laakkonen and drummer Antti Jokinen, and enjoy all those fun bruises that high-octane feast of sounds will leave on your body.

A wicked intro kicks things off, setting the tone for the thrashing party titled Speedload, led by the rip-roaring riffs by Toni and Pasi, while Antti hammers his drums like a good thrasher that he is. Also presenting elements from Hardcore and Metalcore, this is not only a true headbanger but a fantastic welcome card by the band, with highlights to the sick growling by Jussi. If you love hitting the dance floor and crushing your skull, well, the time is now, as Where’s My Bible deliver a neck-breaking and vibrant tune named Dancefloor, with Toni and Pasi getting the support of Jarno and his thunderous bass to generate a dense and electrifying ambience, living up to the legacy of 80’s Thrash Metal with a modern vibe; and Jarno ignites another classy exhibit of Mosh N’ Roll titled Absinthe, bringing elements from Punk Rock and Hardcore to their already incendiary sonority. In addition, Jussi sounds even more demented on vocals, helping to keep the music violent and melodic from start to finish.

Then the acoustic and somewhat atmospheric bridge Interlude gives us time to recover our energies before Jussi comes growling as deep as a knife would go in Meatholder, a demolishing display of Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore where the guitars by Toni and Pasi exhale heaviness, rage and harmony in an amazing sample of what the band is capable of. Faster than a bullet and as heavy as hell, Me Myself and I is a sonic extravaganza where Antti doesn’t stop pounding his drums in over six minutes of unrelenting Finnish Thrash Metal, getting considerably progressive and atmospheric towards its ending. Transcendence is another song that surpasses the six-minute barrier, something not very common for Thrash Metal bands, but that keeps the energy level high until its last second, which means there’s plenty of time for you to break your neck headbanging to the vicious riffs by Toni and Pasi while Jussi continues to bark and gnarl manically. And lastly as a bonus track we have Failure, originally recorded back in 2016 and featuring Leevi Luoto (responsible for guitars and clean vocals for Finnish Metalcore act One Morning Left), remaining aggressive, raw and frantic throughout its entirety.

In the end, I guess the best way to summarize M’N’R is by taking a few interesting steps. First of all, simply follow Where’s My Bible on Facebook and listen to M’N’R on Spotify or, even better, show your support to those Finnish metallers by purchasing the album from the Inverse Records webstore, from Record Shop X, from metalmailorder.com, from iTunes or from Amazon, then fill your refrigerator up with some good quality beer, invite your friends for the night, and there you have a true Rock N’ Roll party with a beyond special Finnish Mosh N’ Roll touch. What else can you ask for in good Scandinavian music, right?

Best moments of the album: Speedload, Absinthe and Meatholder.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Inverse Records

Track listing 
1. Intro 1:04
2. Speedload 4:54
3. Dancefloor 3:35
4. Absinthe 3:48
5. Interlude 1:21
6. Meatholder 5:10
7. Me Myself and I 6:14
8. Transcendence 6:06

Bonus track
9. Failure (feat. Leevi Luoto) 5:00

Band members
Jussi Matilainen – vocals
Toni Hinkkala – guitar
Pasi Löfgren – guitar
Jarno Laakkonen – bass
Antti Jokinen – drums

Guest musician
Leevi Luoto – additional guitars and vocals on “Failure”

Album Review – Afire / On the Road From Nowhere (2018)

Uniting the beauty of old school Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock with a modern twist, this awesome Finnish band is ready to take you on a ride on the road from nowhere with their debut full-length album.

As I mentioned in my review for their debut self-titled EP last year, anyone who got in contact with the music by Finnish Hard Rock outfit Afire was probably desperate for more of their music in a not-so-distant future due to the extreme quality, energy and harmony flowing from the three tracks presented by the band at that time. Fortunately for all of us, admirers of our good old Rock N’ Roll, this electrifying Oulu-based band wasted no time and brought forth now in 2018 their debut full-length installment, titled On the Road From Nowhere, a lesson in Melodic Hard Rock perfect for hitting the road, the gym, a special party with your loved ones, or anywhere else where classy and vibrant rock music is certainly needed.

With the same lineup as their debut EP, that being the stunning Suvi Hiltunen on vocals, Sami Kukkohovi (Sentenced, Kypck) and Antti Leiviskä (Poisonblack) on the guitars, Harri Halonen (Impaled Nazarene) on bass and Tarmo Kanerva (Poisonblack) on drums, Afire are indeed on absolute fire in On the Road From Nowhere, uniting the beauty of old school Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock with a modern twist and the always pleasant Scandinavian melodic waves in each one of the album’s ten powerful songs. Furthermore, bassist and songwriter Harri Halonen had a few nice comments about the album. “I’ve had a bunch of songs for quite a while, but for which I didn’t have an outlet, so we started Afire. With Suvi’s vocal lines and lyrics, the songs started molding into their current shape, and we finished them together. Lyrically the album is about leaving, departing. It’s not a theme album, but the lyrics do revolve around the subject anyhow,” said the talented Harri, inviting the listener to join the band in their rockin’ voyage.

And the album kicks off with a revamped version of their 2017 song The One to Take the Fall, sounding crisper and clearer than the original version thanks to the top-notch album production. Once again it’s a pleasure to listen to Suvi embellishing the airwaves with her vocals, while Sami and Antti deliver that catchy riff that made me enjoy this song so much from the very first listen last year. Their guitars keep invading our senses while Tarmo dictates the rhythm in the headbanging Not Coming Home, where they nailed it one more time in a lesson in modern-day Rock N’ Roll, setting the bar absurdly high in On the Road From Nowhere; followed by Let Me Be the One, a power ballad where Suvi shines with her passionate vocal lines while the rest of the band keeps the rhythm vibrant and impactful, with highlights to the potent bass punches by Harri, rumbling the ground like there’s no tomorrow.

Let’s keep raising our horns and enjoying a cold beer while witnessing Suvi and her henchmen kicking ass in Nowherefound, another classy and thrilling composition by the quintet where the stringed trio Sami, Antti and Harri are in total sync from start to finish, whereas Tired of Being Broken is a more serene and introspective born-to- be-a-radio hit tune, with Harri and Tarmo building a solid background for the guitar riffs and solos to soar high together with Suvi’s potent vocals. Then drinking from the fountain of renowned rock and metal acts such as Volbeat, Godsmack and contemporary Metallica the band offers us the awesome Veiling the Tears, adding elements from Southern Rock and Metal to their already thunderous sonority and with the solos by Sami and Antti bringing an extra dosage of electricity to the overall result. Once again venturing through the realms of power ballads we have Shining Through, bringing forward a solid instrumental that works well in providing Suvi what she needs to give another potent vocal performance, keeping the album at a sensational level of energy.

Following a similar pattern as its predecessor, Rotten to the Core also presents a dense and complete sonority; it sounds a bit too generic, though, when compared to the rest of the album, but its guitar solos are powerful and sharp as usual. Strangers Again, the second song from their debut EP, was also upgraded to a more metallic version, sounding crystal clear which means we can all appreciate Suvi’s vocals and the band’s riffs in more detail, translating the whole experience into sheer awesomeness, and closing the album we have another 2017 song the band re-recorded, Forevermore, a fantastic ballad showcasing a focused and talented band delivering beautiful and passionate Rock N’ Roll to soothe our souls.

Do you want to know more about Afire and listen to more of their stylish Hard Rock made in Finland? All you have to do is follow them on Facebook for news and tour dates (and I wouldn’t miss the chance to see them live if I lived in Finland, by the way), and buy your copy of their ass-kicking album On the Road From Nowhere, available also on Spotify, from Record Shop X, from the Inverse Records webstore, or from iTunes. And there you have Suvi and the boys ready to take you on a fun and pleasant ride “on the road from nowhere” anytime you want, all in the name of Rock N’ Roll.

Best moments of the album: The One to Take the Fall, Not Coming Home and Veiling the Tears.

Worst moments of the album: Rotten to the Core.

Released in 2018 Concorde Music Company

Track listing
1. The One to Take the Fall 3:30
2. Not Coming Home 3:42
3. Let Me Be the One 4:36
4. Nowherefound 4:50
5. Tired of Being Broken 4:36
6. Veiling the Tears 4:06
7. Shining Through 4:04
8. Rotten to the Core 4:12
9. Strangers Again 3:49
10. Forevermore 5:33

Band members
Suvi Hiltunen – vocals
Sami Kukkohovi – guitar
Antti Leiviskä – guitar
Harri Halonen – bass
Tarmo Kanerva – drums

Album Review – mTORR / North (2018)

Enjoy the brainchild of a true Northman highly influenced by 80’s True Metal and Nordic themes, delivering raw and merciless riffs for admirers of the golden years of traditional heavy music.

Hailing from the Finnish city of Äänekoski, here comes a Heavy/Viking Metal one-man band highly influenced by 80’s True Metal bands such as Running Wild, Manowar, Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol, as well as the always interesting Nordic themes, delivering raw, uncompromised and merciless music for admirers of the golden years of traditional metal music. I’m talking about mTORR, the brainchild of Finnish multi-instrumentalist Arska (whose real name is Ari Honkonen), from renowned underground bands like Heathen Hoof, Minotauri and Morningstar, a solo project formed in 2017 who’s unleashing upon humanity  in 2018 the full-length opus North. Featuring a cover photo by Timo Honkonen and guest drummer Viljami (or Viljami Kinnunen) lending his talent to a few songs from the album, North is the natural follow-up to the project’s two previous EP’s, Nordic Iron Age and Viking Metal Rock, both also released in 2018, once again translating into music all the passion for Heavy Metal coming from the heart of a true Northman like Arska.

The album’s intro will take you to the shores of the realm ruled by the true metal warrior Arska and his mTORR, warming your senses up for the Manowar-inspired hymn Thundergod with its four minutes of crisp guitar riffs, galloping bass lines, pounding drums and an epic Running Wild-like rhythm and vibe, and exhaling epicness and might we have The Golden Fields of Tawastia, where Arska’s guitar lines sound captivating from start to finish, adding an extra touch of adrenaline to the music. However, the drums sound and feel slightly weird, not as precise as in the previous song, reducing the overall impact considerably. Then again blending the classic sonority by bands like Manowar, Running Wild and Iron Maiden, Arska delivers inspiring Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll music in Nordic Rocker, with his bass lines and drums generating a powerful support for his warlike vocals.

Razor-edged guitars ignite another old school tune named A Halo from the Gods, perfect for banging your head and raising your fists together with mTORR, also bringing fiery guitar solos and endless stamina, setting the tone for Nordic Hammer, with its pure Manowar lyrics (“In the hammer we trust! / You can’t take it away! / That’s the way we believe! / We’re the sons of the North!”), while the song’s pace and atmosphere remind me of the early days of Running Wild, or in other words, a combination that translates into awesomeness of course. Arska keeps smashing and pounding his strings like the mighty Thor with his hammer in another rhythmic and rumbling song titled Rock för North, where the bass lines get more thunderous than ever, keeping the music vibrant and fresh from start to finish; and putting the pedal to the metal, Arska is once again supported by the headbanging beats by Viljami in Guardians of Light, a song that will please all fans of the fusion between Heavy Metal, Rock N’ Roll and Viking Metal.

Then a video game-ish bridge named The Raid of Sigtuna warms up our senses for Metal for the North, a fast-paced, epic creation by Arska showcasing cutting riffs and classic drums, not to mention its lyrics which are a beautiful ode to his homeland (“Beautiful Scandinavia – Ancient Fennoscandia – Are the soul of a northern warrior – And the crystal clear ice! / Metal makes us stronger – And the northern legacy / Forward together – We’re playing metal for the North!”). mTORR’s second to last blast of battle-like metal and rock from the North comes in the form of Fennoscandian Nights, displaying a galloping bass in total sync with Arska’s always classic riffs, boosting its impact on the listener considerably, before the demo version for Fennoscandian Heathens (actually, the sound quality is just as good as the rest of the album despite being called a demo) comes crushing, sounding faster and just as epic and imposing as all previous songs, being a recommended choice for singling along with Arska and a climatic conclusion to this interesting tribute to all things North.

As already mentioned, North is not just an album of old school metal music, but the musical depiction of all the passion and appreciation the talented Arska nurtures for his homeland, and if you also want to show your support to his new project mTORR and to the stunning landscapes of the North, you can purchase your copy of the album from the Alone Records’ webstore in CD or vinyl format, as well as from the High Roller Records’ webstore (also in CD or vinyl) or from Discogs (in CD or vinyl), with all 250 hand-numbered vinyl copies coming with a sticker and the first 100 copies with a poster. As you can see, you cannot simply download North like most albums nowadays. North is a tribute to the past, and that’s how it’s supposed to be admired by us, old school metalheads.

Best moments of the album: Thundergod, Nordic Rocker, Nordic Hammer and Metal for the North.

Worst moments of the album: The Golden Fields of Tawastia.

Released in 2018 Alone Records

Track listing
1. Intro 1:05
2. Thundergod 4:08
3. The Golden Fields of Tawastia 3:27
4. Nordic Rocker 3:39
5. A Halo from the Gods 3:59
6. Nordic Hammer 2:07
7. Rock för North 3:34
8. Guardians of Light 3:07
9. The Raid of Sigtuna (Instrumental) 1:17
10. Metal for the North 3:36
11. Fennoscandian Nights 3:54
12. Fennoscandian Heathens (Demo) 3:10

Band members
Arska – vocals, all instruments

Guest musician
Viljami – drums on “Thundergod”, “Guardians of Light” and “Fennoscandian Heathens”