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

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Album Review – At Dawn’s Edge / Through Glass Eyes (2017)

An excellent debut album by a Canadian trinity that loves to experiment with several aspects from distinct music styles, incorporating all those nuances and vibes into their core Melodic Metal.

Hailing from Mississauga, a city of around 800,000 people that’s part of the culturally diverse Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada, here comes Melodic Metal trinity At Dawn’s Edge, a band that, albeit being rooted in the more aggressive qualities of metal, especially the core elements found in Melodic, Symphonic and Groove Metal, loves to explore new grounds and experiment with several aspects from distinct styles such as Flamenco, Electronic and Middle-Eastern sounds, incorporating all those nuances and vibes into one cohesive piece of music. That amalgamation of metal and non-metal genres culminated now in 2017 with the release of their debut full-length album, entitled Through Glass Eyes, highly recommended for fans of the music by bands like Epica, Evanescence and Nightwish, among many others.

The trio comprised of newcomer Tamara Filipovic as the band’s frontwoman and founding members Alexandru Oprea and Matt Ozzy on guitars were joined in Through Glass Eyes by a respectful group of guest musicians, with Spencer Creaghan taking care of the orchestral arrangements found throughout the entire album, Chris McConnell making a passionate vocal duo with Tamara on “Amorina”, and James Hayes adding an extra touch of delicacy to the songs “Cálida Brisa”, “Utter” and “Forgotten Isle” with his incredible violin solos, not to mention the talented drummer Marcus Sisk, who has been supporting the band during their live performances. In addition, three tracks in Through Glass Eyes (those being “Venus’s Rapture,” “Utter” and “From the Ashes”) were part of the band’s 2015 EP named First Contact, still with vocalist Ashavari Anna Joshi, but completely re-recorded with Tamara on vocals and boosted by a sharper and more thunderous production.

Where Do I Begin? Well, that’s the question proposed by the band in this instrumental intro led by potent bass sounds blended with electronic elements, building the stage for the groovy and melodic riffs by Alex and Matt in If Ghosts Were Men, with Tamara bringing epicness to the music with her mesmerizing voice, inviting the listener to the world of passion, adventure and high-end Heavy Metal brought forth by At Dawn’s Edge. In Sightless, rumbling sounds keep flowing from guitars and bass while Tamara keeps thriving on vocals, with the song’s pounding drums fusing perfectly with all orchestrations and electronic vibes. Moreover, it’s quite impressive how At Dawn’s Edge can sound extremely metallic but also commercially approachable at the same time, which is also the case in Venus’s Rapture, where the band speeds up their pace considerably, reminding me of the melodic sonority by Epica and Nightwish but presenting the band’s own twist and groove. In other words, this is a perfect choice for their live setlists, setting the crowd on fire with the exciting contrast between Alex and Matt’s slashing riffs with Tamara’s gentle voice.

Dangerous Excuses brings a hybrid of Progressive and Melodic Metal, as if Epica went Dream Theater, a more traditional approach to modern music by At Dawn’s Edge (despite losing its grip after a while) where guitars and orchestral elements take turns in leading the musicality; followed by Cálida Brisa (Interlude), an interesting instrumental bridge featuring elements from Mother Nature blended with hints of Flamenco, topped off with a beautiful violin solo by James, and Amorina, a song that presents elements from Folk Metal blended with Middle-Eastern nuances, flowing smoothly form start to finish while Tamara and Chris have their “beauty and the beast” moments. Then showcasing their most metallic vein we have Nightmare Reality, one of the heaviest and most intricate of all songs, bringing elements from Alternative Metal the likes of Evanescence fused together with the more symphonic sounds from Epica, with the strings by both Alex and Matt sounding sharper than ever.

Utter is another elegant display of modern and vibrant Symphonic Metal infused with hints of several other metal and non-metal styles as well as some orchestrations, also offering more of the band’s solid guitar solos and again featuring a classy violin solo by James, whereas in From The Ashes we’re treated to an epic vibe with tons of modernity and progressiveness thanks to the amazing job done by Matt and Alex on guitars, setting the tone for Tamara to steal the spotlight with her stunning vocals once again. And there’s still a lot more to go in Through Glass Eyes, starting with Evil Flamingo, one of the darkest compositions of the album where Tamara sets fire to the musicality with her powerful performance, enhanced by the crisp solos by Matt and Alex and a puissant wall of sounds created by both bass and drums. In Forgotten Isle, James’ violin strikes again in another feast of symphonic, progressive and groovy tones and reverberations, before the bonus track Dead Ashore We Lay concludes the album by offering the listener almost 9 minutes of the band’s sophisticated music, exhaling inventiveness, romance and electricity.

In a nutshell, as previously mentioned it’s simply amazing how At Dawn’s Edge were capable of drawing influences from so many distinct types of music, putting all of them together and creating fresh and captivating metal in Through Glass Eyes without sounding cheesy, convoluted or over the top. Hence, you can get more details on the band, their music and why and how their creative process works so well by following them on Facebook, listening to their music on YouTube and on Spotify, and obviously by purchasing Through Glass Eyes through their BandCamp page, on iTunes or on Amazon. I believe the band’s next steps will be to spread their music all over the world, touring as much as possible not only in the Greater Toronto Area but also in the rest of Canada, in the US and even overseas, and Through Glass Eyes is certainly the right type of fuel they need to reach all those places and succeed in their career, having what it takes to please all types of fans of heavy music.

Best moments of the album: If Ghosts Were Men, Venus’s Rapture, Nightmare Reality and Evil Flamingo.

Worst moments of the album: Dangerous Excuses.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Where Do I Begin? (Intro) 0:51
2. If Ghosts Were Men 4:43
3. Sightless 3:36
4. Venus’s Rapture 3:35
5. Dangerous Excuses 6:17
6. Cálida Brisa (Interlude) 2:37
7. Amorina 4:17
8. Nightmare Reality 3:51
9. Utter 5:55
10. From The Ashes 6:25
11. Evil Flamingo 5:13
12. Forgotten Isle 6:25

Bonus track
13. Dead Ashore We Lay 8:49

Band members
Tamara Filipovic – vocals
Alexandru Oprea – guitars
Matt Ozzy – guitars

Guest musicians
Spencer Creaghan – orchestral arrangements
Chris McConnell – male vocals on “Amorina”
James Hayes – violin solo on “Cálida Brisa”, “Utter” and “Forgotten Isle”
Marcus Sisk – drums (live)

Album Review – Sepultura / Machine Messiah (2017)

“Sepultura do Brasil” are back with an exciting, multilayered journey through countless music genres and styles, proving there’s still room for innovation in heavy music.

Rating4

sepultura_machine_messiahIf you’re one of those diehard fans of Brazilian Thrash/Groove Metal icons Sepultura that doesn’t accept anything the band has done after the departure of Max Cavalera, you can stop reading this review right now as that version of Sepultura is long gone. Machine Messiah, the fourteenth studio album by the most important band in the history of Brazilian Metal, is not only their best release since their 1998 album Against, but also (and more important than that) their most experimental album since their 1996 classic Roots, completely different from that basic Thrash Metal formula from their early days, therefore offering admirers of innovative music an exciting, multilayered journey through countless music genres and styles.

Machine Messiah, which features a stylish artwork designed by visual artist Camille Della Rosa that feels like a play with the cover art from their 1991 cult album Arise, is also the band’s first studio album in over three years since The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart, from 2013, marking the longest gap between two studio albums in their career. In addition, this is the second album with Eloy Casagrande on drums, who’s definitely a lot more comfortable now with the band and, consequently, he ends up adding a lot more intricacy, electricity and groove to the music by Sepultura. And regarding Mr. Andreas Kisser, well, nothing I write in this review will be enough to describe what he did in Machine Messiah with his superb technique.

Venturing on new lands never before explored by Sepultura, the title-track Machine Messiah is a dark, slow and atmospheric tune where we have Derrick’s clean and somber vocals complemented by Andreas’ unique riffs and soulful solos, showcasing elements from Doom and Stoner Metal that increase the song’s obscurity; whereas I Am the Enemy, with its rebellious lyrics (“Powered by thoughts of revolution / Building all bridges of error / Search and destroy my sick innerself / To realize I’m not a fraud”), gets closer to the brutal Hardcore found in albums like Against, with Eloy smashing his drums while Andreas and Derrick emanate sheer violence in this excellent high-octane hymn. And in Phantom Self, an experimental Groove Metal composition with hints of Alternative Metal, regional elements from the Brazilian and Middle-Eastern cultures are nicely added to the musicality, enhanced by the song’s thoughtful lyrics (“The crash. Flash backs. Carnage the blood keeps on flowing / Killing me. Trapped inside this tragedy / Can’t see the road in front of me / Replay this nightmare over and over”).

Alethea is another distinct composition in such diverse album, albeit not as crisp and exciting as the previous songs despite its progressiveness and experimentations. Once again, it’s Andreas who delivers the best pieces of the song with his flammable guitar, which also happens in Iceberg Dances, a kick-ass instrumental extravaganza where Andreas, Paulo and Eloy are in perfect sync, firing powerful riffs, thunderous bass lines and groovy beats. It reminds me a lot of the music by Mastodon, which means it’s at the same time insane and harmonious, with its Deep Purple-inspired keyboards and Flamenco acoustic guitar lines bringing even more awesomeness to the overall result. The symphonic and sometimes epic Sworn Oath, the longest of all songs, is not just another good surprise in Machine Messiah, but also in my humble opinion the best sonority for Derrick’s voice when he’s not singing fast-paced Hardcore. Moreover, if played live with a proper orchestra, it should sound simply astounding.

sepultura_2017In the dark Resistant Parasites, Paulo delivers sheer heaviness with his bass lines, taking the song’s modern Groove Metal to the extreme, exhibiting a powerful and innovative vibe without losing the band’s characteristic aggressiveness, followed by Silent Violence, another track that reminds me of the craziness blasted by Mastodon. It’s fuckin’ heavy and complex at the same time, a tune to break your neck where Derrick fires madness and anger with his growls while Andreas continues to deliver pure creativity and feeling through his riffs and solos. Eloy and Andreas speed things up in the thrilling mosh pit-generator hymn Vandals Nest, bringing forward tons of creativity, complexity and groove (needless to say, I can’t wait to feel this song played live), before Cyber God gets back to the doomed sonority found in many parts of the album. This is a beautiful, somber ending to the regular version of the album, displaying low-tuned bass punches and piercing guitars, and blending elements from several styles such as Industrial, Groove, Gothic and Doom Metal, among many others, being extremely hard to define its style. And of course, if you go for the special edition of Machine Messiah, you’ll be treated to two top-notch bonus tracks, in special their cover version for Ultraseven no Uta from the cult tokusatsu science fiction TV series Ultra Seven, originally recorded by The Echoes & Misuzu Children’s Choral Group, not to mention the version that comes with a DVD with the making of Machine Messiah available at the Nuclear Blast webstore.

After Machine Messiah, I wonder where Andreas, Paulo, Derrick and Eloy will go next with their music. It’s such an experimental, intense and elaborate album it’s hard to imagine those four guys will be able to top it in terms of complexity with their future releases. But who am I to doubt what the iconic Sepultura will offer the world in the future? Andreas keeps getting better and better in what he does, putting his heart and soul into his music and uniting with his guitar in the most perfect way imaginable, with the other band members supporting him with precision and stamina. Sepultura are and will always be Brazil’s most prominent metal band no matter what, and with Machine Messiah they’re sending a solid message to the world there’s still room for innovation in heavy music, always keeping their core essence heavy and electrifying.

Best moments of the album: I Am the Enemy, Iceberg Dances and Vandals Nest.

Worst moments of the album: Alethea.

Released in 2017 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Machine Messiah 5:54
2. I Am the Enemy 2:27
3. Phantom Self 5:30
4. Alethea 4:31
5. Iceberg Dances 4:41
6. Sworn Oath 6:09
7. Resistant Parasites 4:58
8. Silent Violence 3:46
9. Vandals Nest 2:47
10. Cyber God 5:22

Special Edition bonus tracks
11. Chosen Skin 3:17
12. Ultraseven no Uta (The Echoes & Misuzu Children’s Choral Group cover) 1:18

Band members
Derrick Green – lead vocals
Andreas Kisser – guitars
Paulo Jr. – bass
Eloy Casagrande – drums, percussion