Metal Chick of the Month – Elina Siirala

The heat that licks my skin, it takes me high…

Brothers and sisters of metal, let’s all get together to praise our metal chick of the month of April 2018, the stunning Finnish soprano and vocal coach Elina Siirala, better known for being the founder and frontwoman for English Melodic Metal band Angel Nation (formerly known as EnkElination), and for joining German Symphonic/Viking Metal act Leaves’ Eyes as the second female vocalist in the history of the band, replacing the iconic Liv Kristine. Having said that, are you ready to know more about such talented musician, and obviously head into the battlefield side by side with her?

Elina was born on October 27, 1983 in the Finnish capital Helsinki, being the second cousin of Tuomas Holopainen, well known founder and keyboardist of Nightwish. And let’s say that music truly runs in her veins as her whole family is comprised of musicians, not to mention she’s the third generation of teachers, with her passion for singing having started at a very young age when she was only 5 years old. Both her parents are teachers at the renowned Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and her brother works as a professor in Munich, which means there was a lot of singing, playing and listening to music in her life while she was growing up. One funny story about her passion for music was that she basically begged her parents to start violin lessons, even building her own violin out of a piece of wood and rubber bands. She ended up playing the violin for seven years and also learned how to play piano by herself, but in the end singing was always what she loved the most in music.

After taking singing lessons at the age of 17, Elina got into the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki two years later, completing a Bachelor’s degree in classical music and performing in operas and concerts during that period, and after finishing her studies she decided to broaden her knowledge by moving from Helsinki to London, England, where she spent another year studying contemporary styles such as Rock & Soul (a very challenging one vocally speaking according to Elina herself), a course that also included a lot of performing by the way. In addition, throughout all those years of study, she was also a music teacher and wrote a lot of music, which culminated in 2011 with the creation of her own band EnkeliNation. As a matter of fact, her move to London was the true catalyst of her love for heavy music, with some hard times in her personal life being a source of inspiration for her music and lyrics.

In regards to her career with Angel Nation, as aforementioned it all started in November 2011 when she formed the band under the name EnkElination, with the band’s name being a play on words featuring “enkeli”, which is the Finnish word for “angel”, and also her own name “Elina” in the middle, changing the name to Angel Nation in 2016. Elina was initially joined by guitarist Shadow (Empyreal Destroyer, Stand Aside, Shadow Venger), playing the local London scene and developing the band as a live act while going through several lineup changes during the band’s first few years. Angel Nation also played a few important European festivals such as Bloodstock Open Air, Lankafest and The Dames of Darkness Festival, having released so far in their career the three-track, download-only EP titled Never Ending in 2012, and the albums Tears of Lust, in 2014, and Aeon, in 2017, as well as a couple of singles. Currently comprised of Elina on vocals and keyboards, Sonny Antoniou on the guitar, Julia B Cadau on bass, and Lucas Williamson on drums, Angel Nation play classic, straightforward Symphonic Metal, and you can enjoy their stylish music on their official YouTube channel, having the pleasure of listening to Elina’s powerful vocals in songs like Last Time Together (also available as an acoustic live version), Do It Anyway, and Tears Of Lust, as well as other live videos and special announcements.

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During one of the concerts where Angel Nation worked as a supporting act, Elina came up to the attention of Leaves’ Eyes, being invited in 2016 to join the band to replace their departing singer Liv Kristine. And she started touring and recording with Leaves’ Eyes immediately after joining the band, including a tour with Leaves’ Eyes alongside Sabaton in the United States in 2016 (while at the same time still managing and fronting Angel Nation), and some very unique concerts like the one in Indonesia where she sang in front of 21,000 people despite the heavy tropical storm that hit the venue before the gig, and a small but fully packed venue in Belgium that she considers one of the hottest shows she’s ever done, feeling like a sauna on stage. Since Elina became the new frontwoman for Leaves’ Eyes, the band has already released a handful of singles; an EP titled Fires in the North, in 2016, which includes an original song (also presented in acoustic format) and three re-recorded songs from the band’s 2015 album King Of Kings; and now in 2018 their first full-length album with Elina on vocals, entitled Sign of the Dragonhead. You can have a very good time together with Elina and Leaves’ Eyes by listening to excellent songs such as Edge of Steel, Across The SeaFires in the North, Jomsborg, and Sign Of The Dragonhead. When asked about her favorite songs by Leaves’ Eyes, our dauntless Valkyrie mentioned Take the Devil in Me (from the band’s 2010 album Njord) and Sacred Vow (originally from King Of Kings, but re-recorded with Elina on vocals for their EP Fires in the North) as two songs she would definitely add to her personal playlist, while Edge Of Steel and Swords In Rock (both also from King Of Kings and re-recorded with Elina on vocals for their EP Fires in the North) might be the ones she has the most fun playing live.

As previously mentioned, our Finnish diva has also been a vocal coach and teacher since she was 19, as during her years studying classical singing there was a a large variety of subjects such as music history, music theory and also music teaching, giving classes and lessons about breathing technique, vocal exercises (vocal placement and projection), stylistic awareness, repertoire, and stage and performance technique. Elina mentioned that she really loves teaching and that it’s been a pleasure for her to have already had many different students over the years, saying it’s at the same time challenging and rewarding. Of course, having to balance between Angel Nation and Leaves’ Eyes together with her vocal coach and teaching activities is not an easy task, with very little free time left, something she has to manage by scheduling and planning well in advance. Furthermore, she mentioned in one of her interviews that whenever she has some free time, she likes seeing her friends, watching movies and relaxing, also saying she doesn’t really have any time for hobbies. And to stay in shape on and off tours, Elina said she has an active lifestyle, practicing all kinds of sports to keep her fitness up, and while she’s on tour she said that being on stage is already a good workout for her, always resulting in her losing some weight.

Lastly, when asked about her biggest idols in music, and singers she admires and that inspired her in any way, Elina said that she really likes female singers such as Dutch goddess Sharon den Adel (from Within Temptation) and Whitney Houston, as she enjoys all kinds of styles, while her favorite male singers are Spanish tenor, conductor and arts administrator Placido Domingo, who she used to idolize when she was a teenager, and the one and only British icon Freddie Mercury, her all-time inspiration as a singer. Anyone who admires Mr. Freddie Mercury already deserves our utmost respect, and when that person is as talented, energetic and hardworking as our unstoppable Finnish banshee Elina Siirala, things get even better and more epic.

Elina Siirala’s Official Facebook page
Elina Siirala’s Official Twitter
Elina Siirala’s Official Instagram
Angel Nation’s Official Facebook page
Angel Nation’s Official Twitter
Angel Nation’s Official Instagram
Angel Nation’s Official YouTube channel
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official Facebook page
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official Twitter
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official Instagram
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official YouTube channel

“I think it’s amazing how much emotions music can awaken in people, how it can change your mood and bring back memories. It’s the perfect way of expressing myself as an artist and sometimes writing songs is almost like therapy that helps you through hard times. Compared to other instruments I’ve played, singing is definitely the most personal for me as I’m actually the instrument and I get to express everything through my own voice and of course lyrics.” – Elina Siirala

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Album Review – Mors Subita / Into the Pitch Black (2018)

Exploring a darker-than-usual path in their brand new album, this Finnish squad has all it takes to become a reference in modern and aggressive Melodic Death Metal.

Formed in 2000 in Oulu, a city located in central Finland, Mors Subita (Latin for “sudden death”) play what can be called “Aggressive Modern Melodic Death Metal”, having released since their inception two demos, two EP’s and two critically acclaimed full-length albums, the first titled Human Waste Compression, in 2011, and the second titled Degeneration, in 2015, which peaked at number 26 on the official Finnish album charts. Now after three years of touring and recording, the band comprised of Eemeli Bodde on vocals, Mika Lammassaari (Eternal Tears of Sorrow, Wolfheart) on guitars and backing vocals, Mika Junttila on bass, and Ville Miinala (Thyrane, Darker Grounds) on drums returns with a blistering new 11-track album titled Into the Pitch Black.

This new album from Mors Subita showcases just how far the band’s songwriting and musicianship has developed since the debut of their sophomore album, with these 11 new tracks being a testament to the work ethic employed within the band. With searing vocals, gut twisting melodies, fierce drumming and the fast yet always tasteful riffing the band has come to be known for, Into the Pitch Black builds on the identity Mors Subita has forged for themselves with their previous albums, and promises to not disappoint even the most hardened melodeath fan. These new compositions present a new dimension to the ever-evolving sound of the band, with even more emphasis being given to the melodies while also incorporating the use of industrial samples not heard on previous releases. The result has manifested in some of the heaviest and crushing tracks the band has ever written, while still encapsulating their signature sound which has set them apart from all others in the melodeath scene.

The short, futuristic intro Path to the Abyss revs up the engines for the melodic and aggressive As Humanity Weeps, with its lyrics about how vile the human soul can be (“How much more blood is there to shed before you realize, / That no one has the right to take another’s life. / Feed them pain, feed them fear. / Reduce yourself to human filth.”) and all the sonic devastation going on matching perfectly with the proposed theme. After such great start, the band fires another potent tune titled Dead Sun, where the guitar by Mika couldn’t sound more metallic and vibrant, while Eemeli delivers sheer rage through his screams in a solid display of modern Scandinavian Metal. And in Defeat we face contemporary sounds and tones in a very melodic and exciting atmosphere, again bringing Mika’s lancinating riffs and endless violence.

In the title-track Into the Pitch Black, they engage in their most Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal mode, with Mika doing a great job with his riffs while Ville keeps the rhythm at a nice headbanging pace with his beats. Then in Alas Ville puts the pedal to the metal with his accelerated beats and double bass, accompanied by the metallic bass by the band’s other Mika (Mika Junttila), generating a thrilling vibe for Eemeli and his visceral growls, therefore keeping the album at a high level of adrenaline and fury. And Mors Subita managed to get even more ferocious and angry in the belligerent tune I, God, with all band member being on fire (in special Ville with his Black Metal-inspired beats), resulting in a top-notch Melodic Death Metal extravaganza for our total delight.

Never slowing down or selling off, they keep blasting anti-mainstream compositions like Vultures, showcasing very melodic guitar lines by Mika while Ville increases the intricacy of his beats; followed by Fear is Just the Beginning, presenting three minutes of demolishing riffs and beats, with the screams by Eemeli getting to a truly rabid stage. Hence, this song will certainly incinerate the crowd and incite them to slam their skulls into the circle pit. Despite its promising beginning and the solid work done on guitars during the entire song, the music in Shadows falls flat after a while, proving Mors Subita should stick to their most furious sounding to thrive. Fortunately, those Finnish metallers get back on track for one final blast of enraged Melodic Death Metal titled The Void, ending the album on a high note with highlights to the bestial job done by Ville on drums and Eemeli’s demented vociferations.

If you want to feel all the rage and violence flowing from the music by Mors Subita in more detail, I suggest you check their official Facebook page for news and tour dates, their YouTube channel and Spotify for more of their incendiary Melodic Death Metal, and obviously purchase Into the Pitch Black from the Inverse Records webstore, from Record Shop X, or from other physical and online retailers such as metalmailorder.com. The name Into the Pitch Black not only gives a sense of obscurity to the entire album, but it also points to a heavier (and consequently more interesting) future for Mors Subita, a band I’m sure will have a lot of fun exploring this new darker path in their future releases, which in the end will be extremely beneficial for themselves and, above all, for fans of their more austere form of melodeath music.

Best moments of the album: As Humanity Weeps, Into the Pitch Black and I, God.

Worst moments of the album: Shadows.

Released in 2018 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Path to the Abyss 0:35
2. As Humanity Weeps 4:08
3. Dead Sun 3:49
4. Defeat 4:41
5. Into the Pitch Black 4:22
6. Alas 4:42
7. I, God 4:01
8. Vultures 3:01
9. Fear is Just the Beginning 3:20
10. Shadows 5:06
11. The Void 7:03

Band members
Eemeli Bodde – vocals
Mika Lammassaari – guitars, backing vocals
Mika Junttila – bass
Ville Miinala – drums

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 – Vinide / Reveal (2018)

A science fiction story in the form of first-class Symphonic and Melodic Metal, thoroughly crafted by a skillful four-piece act hailing from Finland.

Finnish Symphonic Metal band Vinide was formed back in 2003 in Kuhmo, a town in Finland located at the south-eastern corner of the Kainuu region, by five high school students who shared the same interest in playing heavy music. Since their inception, Vinide have already released the full-length albums Vinide (2007) and Odes For Thoughts (2014), as well as the EP’s The Puzzle (2008) and Into The Waters (2010), but it’s now in 2018 with their new full-length opus titled Reveal that the band has put the pedal to the metal, increasing the strength, complexity and reach of their music. The composing of the new album begun in the spring of 2015, when vocalist and guitarist Elmeri Kinnunen came up with an idea of science fiction story, and after one and a half year in the making the band is finally ready to pierce our minds with the imposing sonority found throughout Reveal.

Featuring a classy artwork by Finnish graphic designer Petri Lampela, Reveal is a science fiction story about a former employee of a large information technology company named OMEGA who finds himself locked in a mental asylum and is even sentenced to death. After he escapes the asylum, he starts to search for what is really going on and what the biggest interest of OMEGA’s artificial intelligence project is. The fears of the future seem to come true, while the humankind is driving itself towards definite termination. The story goes on and a lot of plot twists are going to happen. How big is the urge to create something that humans don’t fully understand? What is going to happen to our hero during his journey to find out the origin of everything?

A futuristic and cinematic intro builds the stage for the symphonic extravaganza titled The Beginning Scene, which kicks off in full force with orchestrations and crushing riffs filling all spaces, before Elmeri starts telling the story proposed. Moreover, this song has a touch of Avantasia and Stratovarius added to its core, all beautifully complemented by the stunning vocals by guest soprano Minna Seilonen. Then we have Breakout, sounding more melodic, intricate and electrifying, and presenting that traditional Scandinavian Melodic Metal sonority with drummer Jaakko Juntunen living up to the legacy of icons such as Jörg Michael and Jukka Nevalainen, not to mention the fiery guitar solos by Elmeri and his bandmate Mikko Kähkönen; followed by the title-track Reveal, an introspective power ballad led by Elmeri and his dark vocals, continuing to tell the obscure story of the main character with all melancholy being boosted by smooth guitar lines together with acoustic moments, as well as the song’s awesome background symphonic elements.

In a bridge named Anger, an eerie voice gives more details about the evolution of the facts, being the perfect warm-up for the Opera Metal-inspired tune The Rat, blending the finesse of symphonic music with the fury of Heavy Metal, with highlights to the fantastic job done by Heikki Polvinen and his keys, supported by the classic riffs by Elmeri and Mikko while Minna once again embellishes the atmosphere with her angelical voice. In Plea, it’s time for another guest musician, Kaija Kinnunen, to lend her voice to a different character, explaining who that person is in Emanuel, an upbeat symphony of Scandinavian Metal, feeling and sounding very classy and impactful with great performances by Elmeri on vocals and Jaakko on drums, also presenting those fun traditional duels between guitars and keyboards.

The whole plan is finally revealed in the interesting The Truth, building an instant (and obvious) connection with The Plan, a mid-tempo Melodic Metal tune the likes of Avantasia, being more symphonic and imposing than previous tracks during its seven minutes of melodious waves of heavy music; whereas Believe offers the listener pure Power Metal infused with orchestral elements to make it bolder and more gripping, also presenting what can be considered the heaviest riffs by Elmeri and Mikko in the entire album. In addition, Heikki steals the spotlight with his epic keys, resulting in a song more-than-recommended for lovers of the more orchestral side of heavy music. And Vinide bring forward a modern, metallic beginning to another blast of kick-ass Symphonic metal titled Bombs, where it’s quite interesting to see in detail how the band manages to combine the core heaviness of Melodic Metal with the gentle side of symphonic music, creating an amazing full-bodied musicality for fans of the genre.

Another Dimension is in my opinion the most generic of all songs despite presenting solid guitars and keys and the always pleasant vocals by Minna, but fortunately that small slide doesn’t last for too long as Vinide fire another ass-kicking song named The Great Voyage, leaning towards more traditional Heavy Metal spiced up by Hard Rock elements, but of course without losing the band’s symphonic essence. In other words, it’s indeed a voyage through the realms of Scandinavian Metal full of classic guitar lines, whimsical keys and epic passages. And the ending song in Reveal, entitled Save the Earth, couldn’t sound more furious and potent, with the entire band delivering faster and heavier riffs and beats while Kaija adds a touch of modernity to the song by impersonating the program voice.

The best way to know more about Vinide and their futuristic realm of Symphonic Metal is by following them on Facebook and on VKontakte, and by listening to their music on YouTube, on Spotify and on SoundCloud. And if you’re a huge admirer of Symphonic and Melodic Metal with a thrilling story behind the music, you can purchase Reveal at the Inverse Records webstore, at Record Shop X or on Amazon, among other locations. To be fair, Reveal is already an excellent album even if you pay zero attention to the story being told, just to give you an idea of how talented the quartet is; but of course, I highly recommend you listen to the album from start to finish while being fully immersed in the perils faced by the main character. That is something truly unique, and something that only heavy music can provide you.

Best moments of the album: Breakout, The Rat, Believe and Bombs.

Worst moments of the album: Another Dimension.

Released in 2018 Inverse Records

Track listing    
1. Intro 1:31
2. The Beginning Scene 5:05
3. Breakout 4:20
4. Reveal 6:13
5. Anger 0:52
6. The Rat 5:00
7. Plea 0:27
8. Emanuel 5:46
9. The Truth 2:37
10. The Plan 7:04
11. Believe 4:50
12. Bombs 4:41
13. Another Dimension 5:49
14. The Great Voyage 5:44
15. Save the Earth 3:43

Band members
Elmeri Kinnunen – guitars, vocals
Mikko Kähkönen – guitars
Heikki Polvinen – keyboards
Jaakko Juntunen – drums

Guest musicians
Minna Seilonen – violin, soprano voice
Kaija Kinnunen – program voice, woman

Album Review – Antipope / Denial/Survival (2017)

Bending the genre boundaries and creating a unique musical journey in the spirit of classic progressive albums of the 70’s, this Finnish act returns from a four-year hiatus to offer us all their music in its most uncompromising form.

As a nice Christmas gift to all readers of The Headbanging Moose, I have for you today Denial/Survival, the fourth full-length album by Finnish Progressive Black Metal trinity Antipope, whose music is according to the band itself a free expression of whatever styles, themes or moods might be needed to relate the particular message to the listener. Although the band is considered by many as Black Metal, the name Antipope stands for liberation from any and all dogmas and renouncement of intellectual and ideological authorities, being the soundtrack for self-discovery, death and rebirth.

Formed in 2004 in the city of Oulu, the band comprised of founder Mikko Myllykangas on vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar and programming, Antti J. Karjalainen on guitars and Tuska E. on drums returns from a four-year hiatus with Denial/Survival, presenting their characteristic style of bending the genre boundaries and creating a unique musical journey in the spirit of classic progressive albums of the 70’s. Combining elements of Extreme Metal, Melodic Death Metal and even a bit of Flamenco, and featuring an imposing artwork by Finnish artist Tiina Kaakkuriniemi, Denial/Survival will offer you the music of Antipope in its most uncompromising form, and I’m sure you’ll have a good time while listening to such diverse album of extreme music.

In the opening track, titled Waters Below, we already face the multi-layered music by the trio, with an instrumental beginning that goes on for about two minutes before devastation arrives through the hellish growls by Mikko in a rhythmic and epic display of modern Black Metal; followed by Flat Circle, which presents hints of Atmospheric Black Metal infused in their more straightforward Scandinavian Extreme Metal. Moreover, Tuska does a solid job going from a more progressive style to visceral blast beats that live up to the legacy of Black Metal. And in the title-track Denial/Survival the band speeds up their pace and distills their venom through their austere words (“I woke up in the land of denial / It’s true the guilt is all you care for / Seeing you and the rest of your kind / Wallowing in self-pity and mutual rape”) in a true headbanging hymn perfect for cracking your spinal cord, which obviously translates into one of the top moments of the album.

The ominous, darkened instrumental bridge Der Sadist sets the tone for the even more obscure Black Metal chant Hunt, with the mid-tempo beats by Tuska being effectively blended with the crisp guitar lines by Antti, sounding more introspective and melancholic than the rest of the album. Then get ready to be smashed by the futuristic and melodic (but still very raw) onrush of extreme music named True Anarchist, sounding at times like Marilyn Manson, with Antti once again firing his captivating riffs, before the atmospheric and ominous creation Mindlessness Meditation brings forward cavernous bass lines by Mikko, who darkly declaims the song’s cryptic lyrics.

An Unconditional Ritual to Summon the Prince of Darkness, a slow-paced chant that could actually be used to summon an evil entity, presents words that sound and fell infernal (“This is how it begins, the last phase / A thousand step descent into the unknown / The words extend the rays of light / From the shadows a new mind”), whereas in Tragic Vision we can feel their music growing in intensity as time passes by, with Mikko and Antti making a great guitar duo by blasting some wicked riffs. Furthermore, the whole song has a touch of epicness that makes it very exciting to listen to, not to mention Tuska’s galloping beats in perfect sync with his bandmates’ stringed weapons. And as the closing song of the album Antipope deliver what is also the longest of all tunes, entitled Resolution, which could easily be used in the soundtrack for a slasher flick or a Tarantino-style movie, helping the album stand out among other extreme bands for its versatility and innovative approach.

I’m certain that, after listening to Denial/Survival, you’ll be more than curious to know more about Antipope and their distinct career, and in order to do that simply go check what Mikko & Co. are up to on Facebook, watch to their classy videos on YouTube and listen to their music on Spotify, and purchase the album through their BandCamp page or on iTunes. There’s nothing better than celebrating Christmas with some nice extreme music made in Finland, a country where Santa Claus is supposed to live (in the cold and charming Lapland, the largest and northernmost region of the country), so don’t waste your time and go show your support to this very interesting underground act. Well, if you don’t do so, I guess Santa will have to cross “somebody’s” name from his list next year.

Best moments of the album: Denial/Survival, Hunt and Tragic Vision.

Worst moments of the album: Flat Circle.

Released in 2017 Antipope/TCM Entertainment

Track listing
1. Waters Below 5:25
2. Flat Circle 5:40
3. Denial/Survival 5:06
4. Der Sadist 3:22
5. Hunt 7:08
6. True Anarchist 4:23
7. Mindlessness Meditation 4:34
8. An Unconditional Ritual to Summon the Prince of Darkness 5:29
9. Tragic Vision 4:25
10. Resolution 7:13

Band members
Mikko Myllykangas – vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, programming
Antti J. Karjalainen – guitars
Tuska E. – drums

Album Review – BloodBlind / BloodBlind EP (2017)

Mixing a punk attitude with metal music, a group of four Finnish musicians are ready to rock the world with the flammable amalgamation of different styles and ideas found in their debut album.

Mixing a punk attitude with metal music, a group of four musicians from Helsinki and Joensuu (a city and municipality in North Karelia in the province of Eastern Finland), has been working together for the past two years to give life to Melodic Thrash/Punk Metal entity BloodBlind, bringing their own influences to the mix and therefore creating a very unique sound. The result of that amalgamation of styles and ideas can be better appreciated in their debut self-titled EP, comprised of three electrified compositions that will help spread the word of BloodBlind throughout the world of independent heavy music.

The young and restless BloodBlind, formed by Tommi Kokko on vocals, Antti Kalliomäki on guitars, Janne Saksola on bass and Frank Fagerström on drums, were responsible for all of the production, visuals and themes found in the EP, with only some external help used in the mixing process. With their first release out, the band is gearing up to take to the stages and setting up to record their first full-length in a proper studio, but before that happens I highly recommend you open up some space in your room to bang your head and jump up and down to the invigorating and acid music offered in the EP by those four metallers who certainly know how to put the words “punk” and “metal” together in a compelling way.

Janne ignites the opening track Fuel for Fury with his heavy-as-hell, low-tuned bass punches, with the sound evolving to a blend of Thrash, Groove and Punk Metal led by the enraged growls by Tommi, while Antti makes sure the music remains as sharp and hostile as possssible with his riffs and solos. In the following tune, Will to Fight (featuring gang vocals on chorus by Finnish Thrash Metal band Maniac Abductor), BloodBlind deliver an anti-bullying message (“never give up, never give in”, says the band), joining in on the campaign against online bullying. With a stronger Rock N’ Roll vibe and endless electricity, Tommi’s screams sound even angrier than before (for a good reason), leaning towards Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore-like vocals, while Antti and Frank dictate the rhythm in this obscure anthem destined to be their biggest hit without a shadow of a doubt. And last but not least, we have another blast of Thrash and Punk Metal united with hints of Metalcore in Cancer of Society, a mid-tempo aggressive tune with highlights to the once again pounding beats by Frank and the menacing bass lines by Janne, not to mention the soulful solos by Antti and the flammable sounds emanating from both guitar and bass during the whole song.

In a nutshell, BloodBlind definitely succeeded in delivering exciting metal music through their short and sweet self-titled EP (which can be listened in its entirety on on YouTube or on Spotify), and if you want to show your support to this promising band go check their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and buy a copy of the album on BandCamp, on iTunes or on Amazon. There’s no doubt that those Finnish metallers are ready to rock the world with their thrilling music, proving one more time that talent and hard work, when properly put together, always result in something good.

Best moments of the album: Will to Fight.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Fuel for Fury 3:59
2. Will to Fight 4:53
3. Cancer of Society 4:21

Band members
Tommi Kokko – vocals
Antti Kalliomäki – guitars
Janne Saksola – bass
Frank Fagerström – drums

Guest musician
Maniac Abductor (band) – gang vocals on “Will to Fight”

Album Review – Afire / Afire EP (2017)

When you put together five renowned musicians from the Finnish underground metal scene, you can rest assure your ears will be pierced by a kick-ass Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll extravaganza.

When you put together renowned musicians from the underground metal scene from Finland, you can rest assured your ears will be pierced by a sonic extravaganza full of catchy choruses, flammable riffs, groovy beats and an endless amount of electricity. That’s exactly what happened when the talented vocalist Suvi Hiltunen joined forces in 2016 with long-term Oulu-based musicians Sami Kukkohovi (Sentenced, Kypck) on guitar, Antti Leiviskä (Poisonblack) also on guitar, Harri Halonen (Impaled Nazarene) on bass and Tarmo Kanerva (Poisonblack) on drums, forming the fiery Melodic Hard Rock entity known as Afire.

Now in 2017 it’s time for Afire to provide the world of heavy music a short and sweet sample of what they’re capable of with their debut self-titled EP, comprised of three hard rockin’ tunes tailored to be played at any rock n’ roll radio station or party, or anywhere else good rock music is appreciated. Suvi, who by the way is a well-established musician in her homeland as you can see in her official website (if you know Finnish, of course), having released a few solos albums since 2008, steals the spotlight in the EP with her potent voice, making the solid rock music played by the other band members sexier and more impactful. Besides, you can feel from the final result that very, very little work was needed on her voice in the studio versions, which makes me wonder how amazing her voice should sound live.

The first of the three tracks of the EP, The One to Take the Fall, transpires modern and gripping Hard Rock from the very first second, presenting an amazing pace and extremely catchy lyrics, with Sami and Antti kicking ass with their guitar riffs while Suvi showcases all her vocal potency, sounding like a hybrid of the iconic Doro and the fiery Lzzy Hale. Put differently, this is the type of song that can be played in any rock n’ roll radio worldwide hands down. Then Afire offer the listener a pleasant Rock N’ Roll power ballad named Forevermore, with hints of Heavy Metal added to its musicality in order to make the final result more tasteful. In addition, Harri and Tarmo keep a strong and sharp base for Suvi to shine with her passionate vocal performance, not to mention the song’s traditional (and effective) guitar solos. Lastly, heaviness and speed return in the Hard Rock anthem Strangers Again, where once again Sami and Antti bring electricity to the music with their piercing, metallic riffs, while Tarmo continues to deliver pure rockin’ beats supported by the classy bass lines by Harri. And what to say about Suvi in this song? Her voice is charming, sexy and potent, leaving us all eager for more Afire in a not-so-distant future.

If you want to take a deep dive into the world of Afire, simply go check what they’re up to on their Facebook page, listen to their music on YouTube and on Spotify, and purchase their blazing debut EP on iTunes or on Amazon. As usual, this is the type of release that makes you desperate for more of the band’s music, and let’s hope Suvi and the guys do not take too long to provide us their first full-bodied, electrifying album, keeping the flame of Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll burning bright in the cold but always cozy Finland.

Best moments of the album: The One to Take the Fall.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. The One to Take the Fall 3:30
2. Forevermore 5:32
3. Strangers Again 3:50

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

Album Review – Stratovarius / Episode (1996)

The best album from the best Finnish band of all time.

Rating2

stratovarius_episodeOi maamme, Suomi, synnyinmaa, soi, sana kultainen! Finland is by far one of the most Heavy Metal countries in the world, and I’m not inventing this information from out of nowhere: take a look at this map showing the number of Heavy Metal bands per 100,000 people and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Nightwish, Lordi, Amorphis, Sonata Arctica, Turisas, Apocalyptica, Teräsbetoni, Finntroll, HIM, Sentenced and Wintersun are just some of the biggest exponents of heavy music in this land that offers its people a lot more than just ice and snow, but none of them have changed the world of heavy music as the Power Metal/Melodic Heavy Metal band Stratovarius.

Since their start in 1984, Stratovarius have released many important albums which revolutionized Heavy Metal with intense and fast riffs, double bass, high-pitched screams and epic songs. Among those releases there was their fifth studio album, Episode, released over 20 years ago, which in my opinion was the most important step in the band’s history in terms of creativity and evolution. With the awesome Timo Kotipelto on vocals for the second time after the good album Fourth Dimension (and fortunately until present days), and the addition of the beasts Jens Johansson on keyboards and Jörg Michael on drums, Stratovarius became a synonym for Melodic Heavy Metal in the 90’s and influenced an infinite number of bands all around the world. That was the band’s most stable and powerful lineup of all time, until Timo Tolkki left the band in 2008.

The music in Episode is pretty straight forward, it’s fast and clean Heavy Metal with total synchronicity of instruments, together with lyrics talking about life, love, dreams, and all the struggles a man has inside his mind. Add to that the beautiful atmosphere created by the Sibelius String Orchestra and Sibelius Choir, and you have a musical masterpiece. The clock ticking in the beginning of the album just announces that what comes next is no less than memorable: Father Time is an incredible song that summarizes all the power and technique of the band’s members, especially Timo Tolkki and Jörg Michael. What those guys do with their instruments is beyond awesome, and seeing this song live is like having a musical orgasm. Furthermore, Tolkki’s riffs are a constant in the whole album and one of the elements that make it so special for all Heavy Metal fans.

The speed goes on with Will the Sun Rise, another classic showing how perfect the partnership Tolkki/Kotipelto used to be. Then things slow down a little with the beautiful Eternity, but after the instrumental intro Episode comes one of their fastest and most amazing compositions ever: Speed of Light can make even a Thrash Metal band jealous of its speed and riffs, and as Canadians love a mosh pit I can’t wait for a Stratovarius concert here in Toronto to slam into the pit with this song. On the other hand, Uncertainty is quite boring and the lowest point of the album, despite its nice intro.

stratovarius_1995The next track is another good ballad, Season of Change, where Kotipelto once again demonstrates why he’s a reference in Melodic Heavy Metal, followed by the instrumental song Stratosphere, where we can see an inspired Timo Tolkki and a crazy Jens Johansson “masturbating” their guitar and keyboards respectively for our pure delight. Babylon can be considered an “epic” song due to its lyrics, strong intro and variations, while Tomorrow brings back the band at full speed with its inspiring lyrics (“Feeling strong and brave inside / my head up high with pride / yes I’ll be back tomorrow”) and Jörg Michael pounding his drums with his unique technique.

Finally, we have the song Night Time Eclipse, a nice semi-ballad with pleasant riffs and solos, and then a ballad so beautiful I can’t even find the right words to describe it, Forever, where Timo Kotipelto melts the heart of any woman with his performance (“I’m still there everywhere / I’m the dust in the wind / I’m the star in the northern sky / I never stayed anywhere / I’m the wind in the trees / would you wait for me forever?”). The Japanese version of Episode also contains a good bonus track called When the Night Meets the Day, another nice song, albeit not as wonderful as the regular tracks.

If you don’t know Stratovarius, I would say Episode is probably the best album to start. The only “issue” would be the side effects of listening to this musical wonder, which are an extreme addiction to Finnish Heavy Metal and a compulsive obsession with the language, culture, drinks and people from the marvelous land of ice and snow.

Best moments of the album: Father Time, Speed of Light and Forever.

Worst moments of the album: Uncertainty is the only “weak” track of all, or let’s say the least awesome.

Released in 1996 Noise Records

Track listing
1. Father Time 5:01
2. Will the Sun Rise? 5:06
3. Eternity 6:55
4. Episode (instrumental) 2:01
5. Speed of Light 3:03
6. Uncertainty 5:59
7. Season of Change 6:56
8. Stratosphere (instrumental) 4:51
9. Babylon 7:09
10. Tomorrow 4:51
11. Night Time Eclipse 7:58
12. Forever 3:06

Japanese edition bonus track
13. When the Night Meets the Day 5:30

Band members
Timo Kotipelto – vocals
Timo Tolkki – guitars, backing vocals
Jens Johansson – keyboards
Jari Kainulainen – bass
Jörg Michael – drums

Album Review – Dö / Astral: Death/Birth EP (2017)

A cathartic 20-minute experience in the form of a concept EP inspired by things happening around us at this very moment, and the future that does not look that bright for mankind, brought forth by the Finnish propagators of “Dööm Metal”.

There’s a wicked phenomenon that has been happening once a year in the city of “Hellsinki”, Finland for the past few years, when a trio of ill-tempered creatures that goes by the uncanny name of  leaves their secret, somber den to unleash upon us mere mortals all their wrath and negativity in the form of raw Doom and Stoner Metal, or simply “Dööm Metal”, as christened by Dö themselves. It first happened in 2014 with the release of their self-titled EP, then again in 2015 with an EP titled Den, and once again in 2016 with the full-length Tuho. Now in 2017 it’s time for this eerie tradition (or perhaps I should call it an annual ritual) to strike us again with the release of their brand new scathing EP Astral: Death/Birth.

Featuring a minimalist but meaningful cover art by the band’s own guitarist Big Dog, Astral: Death/Birth brings all the traditional elements found in their previous albums without forgetting to move forward in their already solid career. “Over a year has passed since we released Tuho, and now we’re back with a brand new two song EP called Astral: Death/Birth. It’s a concept EP inspired by things happening around us at this very moment, and the future that does not look that bright for mankind. The songs were recorded live during one session at our rehearsal den, as we wanted to capture the intensive live feeling and maintain their roughness. The tracks are basically individual, but we highly recommend you to enjoy Astral: Death/Birth as one cathartic 20 minute experience”, said the band about the album. I guess I don’t need to say more, right? Just relax and join Dö in their doomed astral voyage of life and death, feeling every second of their coarse sounds penetrating deep into your mind.

One interesting fact about the EP is that the band itself has already provided their own “review” of each one of the two songs. According to Dö, the first track of the EP, titled Astral Death, is “a song that’s heavy as the burden we carry with us when scuffing towards the inevitable end”, and let’s say they’re spot-on with their description of this tune perfect for breaking your already damaged neck into pieces. The distorted guitar lines by Big Dog, together with the damned drums by Joe E. Deliverance, kick off this beyond obscure Doom Metal hymn, before reaching a sluggish, heavy feast of demonic riffs that flawlessly support the hellish raspy vocals by Deaf Hank. Moreover, Big Dog blasts one of his traditional guitar solos while Deaf Hank shakes the earth with his ominous bass, resulting in a thrilling thunderstorm of sounds.

“A cosmic rebirth in form of a song. Starts as calm, mantra-like levitation, until it transforms into vicious, unstoppable force of nature.” Those are their words to describe the metallic extravaganza titled Astral Birth, where their demented sounds intoxicate the air throughout the song’s 12 minutes of melodious Doom and Stoner Metal. Deaf Hank and Big Dog align their strings powerfully, while Joe fires his steady and rhythmic old school beats. The vocals never get too harsh in the beginning, sounding arcane and hypnotizing, but that lasts for only around four minutes. After a gripping display of dark music, the band’s demonic vein arises again with Deaf Hank gnarling in a bestial way, being effectively complemented by the song’s tribal beats, wicked distortions and pure psychedelia, with all those sounds and noises invading our ears until the song’s harrowing ending.

The full EP is already available for a detailed listen on YouTube and on Spotify, and you can always keep updated with all things Dö through their Facebook page as usual. And, of course, you can support the most villainous power trio of the entire Scandinavia by purchasing Astral: Death/Birth through their BandCamp page or on iTunes. Now that their yearly rite of “Dööm Metal” has been successfully consummated, it’s time for Dö to spread their damned sounds across the earth with their live performances before they get back to their lair and start working again on new material, for the delight of admirers of obscure, sluggish and low-tuned music.

Best moments of the album: Astral Death is my favorite of the two songs, but Astral Birth is also pretty amazing.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Astral Death 7:46
2. Astral Birth 12:16

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

Album Review – Crucify the Faith / New Breed EP (2017)

Enjoy this short and sweet display of excellent Deathcore, brought forth by a promising squad of young and restless metallers from Finland.

Combining several distinct genres of heavy music into their compositions, Helsinki-based five-piece Melodic Deathcore group Crucify the Faith has been making a name for themselves as one of the new faces of modern Metalcore in their homeland Finland since their inception in 2014, with their sound being compared to renowned acts such as Bullet For My Valentine, Avenged Sevenfold and Suicide Silence. For instance, after the release of the band’s debut single “The World is Mine” in 2015, the band won second place in Finland’s largest band competition named Emergenza Festival, and that was when the band members were still only 16-18 years old, to make things even more impressive.

Fast forward to 2017 and here we have Crucify the Faith delivering the world their debut EP entitled New Breed, fully recorded and produced by the band itself. With each band member having a different musical background, from Hip Hop to Deathcore, and adding their personal touch to the music, New Breed ends up displaying a very cohesive musicality full of melody, feeling and electricity, therefore representing the heart and soul of Crucify the Faith in great fashion. Of course the band still has a long way to go in their quest for fame and recognition, but based on the quality of the music found in New Breed I should say they couldn’t have started their journey in a better way.

The opening track Make It Through already offers the listener an explosion of Melodic Death Metal led by the intense riffs by Jermu Laine and Jere Kontiainen, while Aki Juvonen screams manically with all his strength. Furthermore, his clean vocals might not be as impactful as his growls, but they’re still effective and positive to the music, not to mention the additional female vocals by guest musician Roosa Ahonen which bring even more balance to the overall melody. In The Strong Will Survive we face more of the band’s melodic lines the likes of Arch Enemy, with its lyrics being a straightforward display of modern Melodic Death Metal (“And the sky above you will fall / Before I’ll give up my dream! / I wish you could see it all / See what I’m trying to reach for! / I will not let my pain break through, / I will stand through it all. / I wish you would stand beside me help me / Pay the price of the cause.”). In addition, drummer Valtteri Estola seems to truly enjoy slamming his drum set, while Jermu and Jere show they not only kick ass with their riffs, but their solos are also flammable as hell.

The title-track New Breed bursts with sheer heaviness and aggression, with high dosages of anger and hatred flowing from Aki’s growls, from its neck-breaking riffs and from its imposing atmosphere, while the calmer break halfway through it gives time for the listener to breathe before the band gets back with more metallic sounds. Despite its melancholic intro, This Generation Falls quickly morphs into more of the belligerent Deathcore by Crucify The Faith, with bassist Lauri Kurkela making sure the song’s background is as heavy and groovy as possible, consequently building the desired ambience for Aki to powerfully blast his demented growls. And in the last track of the EP, named Unreal, Aki invests into deeper growls, with the music being a frantic fusion of Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore. Furthermore, Valtteri and Lauri are on fire with their beats and rumbling strings, respectively, with the whole music matching perfectly the song’s lyrics about the war between science and religion inside our minds (“You created madness and desire. / You are the god that controls the fire. / And still you think, / That above I control and give the signs, / That are the work of your over developed mind.”).

Do you want to give a shot at the excellent Deathcore brought forth by this squad of young and restless metallers from Finland with their brand new EP? First, go to YouTube or to Spotify where you can listen to the full EP and get more familiar with the music by Crucify the Faith. Then visit their Facebook page and follow them to be the first to know about their projects and tour dates. And last but not least, buy their music on iTunes and show your honest support to another promising band from the usually cold but always as-metal-as-hell Republic of Finland.

Best moments of the album: The Strong Will Survive and New Breed.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Make It Through 5:19
2. The Strong Will Survive 4:33
3. New Breed 4:27
4. This Generation Falls 4:40
5. Unreal 4:02

Band members
Aki Juvonen – vocals
Jermu Laine – guitar
Jere Kontiainen – guitar
Lauri Kurkela – bass
Valtteri Estola – drums

Guest musician
Roosa Ahonen – additional female vocals on “Make It Through”