Album Review – Crossbones / WWIII (2017)

The most longstanding and influential metal act from Albania returns with a brand new opus, combining American Thrash Metal influences with a dark sound and typical Eastern European sonorities.

When vocalist Olsi Ballta grabbed an Albanian-English dictionary in 1996 and picked the first word on the page he randomly opened, he had no idea he would be founding the most recognized metal act in Albania and the only band from the mid 90’s that kept going. That’s how everything started for Tirana-based Heavy/Thrash Metal band Crossbones, the first Albanian rock band to have released a genuine full-length album on CD (their debut album called Days Of Rage, from 1997), who led them to play several concerts and festivals in the local scene, as well as within the region comprised of Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece and Kosovo, and to perform alongside major names such as Ian Paice (Deep Purple’s legendary drummer) and Rotting Christ.

After the release of a few singles, demos, a live album, a compilation and a stylish box set in the following years, Crossbones are finally back with new material, the full-length record entitled WWIII, combining American Thrash Metal influences with a dark sound and typical Eastern European sonorities in order to provide the listener a full-bodied metal attack that effectively represents not only the name and the artwork of the album, but also the core essence of the band. Perhaps due to the fact that Crossbones have been active through a couple of decades already, the music found in WWIII will provide you a voyage through old school and modern metal music, which only brings more flavor to the entire album. And let’s be honest, for a band that comes from a country where metal has absolutely (and unfortunately) zero support, what these guys do with their music is beyond fantastic.

The high amount of heaviness and groove emanating from all instruments from the very first second in I’m God, a potent mid-tempo Groove Metal composition with blazing guitar solos and neck-breaking riffs, will punch you in the face mercilessly, with lead singer Olsi Ballta delivering classic and melodious Thrash Metal vocal lines. And that’s only the beginning, as the straightforward tune Gates of Hell, led by guitarist Ben Turku and his slashing riffs, will please all fans of heavy music, with drummer Theo Napoloni and bassist Klejd Guza adding tons of groove to the musicality with their pounding beats and thunderous notes, respectively. In the slightly more atmospheric (but still as heavy as hell) Gjallë, or “alive” from Albanian, Theo and Klejd once again become the dynamic duo of fierceness, setting the perfect tone for Olsi to growl the song’s lyrics (which by the way are in Albanian).

The interesting WTF, which obviously means “what the fuck”, is more alternative than all previous tracks, focusing on the cutting strings by both Ben and Klejd while Olsi fires anguished and acid vocals, therefore increasing the song’s obscurity, with its ending being a sheer Groove Metal feast; whereas Messing with the Masses is a lot more introspective and somber, albeit not as exciting as the rest of the album. The dissonant and macabre guitar solo by Ben halfway through it is very effective though, while its second half sounds like a completely different song, being a mix of Alternative and Nu Metal. Schizo gets back to a more direct metal sonority thanks to the high dosage of harmony coming from the guitars by Ben, with Olsi also singing in his mother tongue and sounding more aggressive and demented, in sync with the theme proposed by the song’s name.

Rise offers thrilling Heavy Metal the way we headbanging bastards like it, also bringing elements from Sludge and Stoner Metal (therefore showing the band’s versatility) while Klejd simply kicks ass with his bass lines, supporting the song’s old school metallic lyrics (“I’m taking my chances / Roaming the streets / A wild stab in the dark / And over the fences / A million of thoughts / And fresh blood in the heart”). After a short eerie intro, the band delivers a dark version of Groove Metal with elements from Gothic Rock and Metal in You Fool, where Olsi steals the spotlight with his melancholic growls, supported by the heavy, obscure sounds blasted by all other bands members; followed by That Kind of Feeling, a dark semi-ballad by Crossbones featuring melodic elements from contemporary metal music blended with traditional vocal lines and the punch of Groove Metal, adding more taste to the album. And the second installment of the opening track, simply titled I’m God, Pt. 2, closes WWIII, beginning in a very sorrowful and pensive manner and being a lot more atmospheric than any other song of the album. In other words, a beautiful ending for WWIII, with Olsi having a truly passionate performance on vocals.

If you want to show your support to Crossbones and Albanian metal, simply visit their Facebook page, YouTube channel, SoundCloud and ReverbNation, and buy your copy of WWIII on iTunes, Amazon, Target, CD Universe, Walmart, hbdirect.com and several other retailers. We might not be ready for a real-life World War III, but we should all be more than happy with the music presented by this longstanding Albanian squad in WWIII, an album that will certainly cement the legacy of such important band for metal in Albania, in Eastern Europe and anywhere else where good music is appreciated.

Best moments of the album: Gates of Hell, Gjallë and Rise.

Worst moments of the album: Messing with the Masses.

Released in 2017 Nadir Music

Track listing
1. I’m God 6:55
2. Gates of Hell 5:52
3. Gjallë 4:39
4. WTF 6:32
5. Messing with the Masses 5:23
6. Schizo 6:05
7. Rise 4:41
8. You Fool 4:38
9. That Kind of Feeling 5:58
10. I’m God, Pt. 2 3:39

Band members
Olsi Ballta – vocals
Ben Turku – guitars
Klejd Guza – bass
Theo Napoloni – drums

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Metal Chick of the Month – Yoli Moreno

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Fall in my spell, I’ll save you from your hell!

Mexican headbangers are famous worldwide for their deep and true passion for all things Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, being undeniably among the craziest and wildest ones when responding to their metal idols performing live in their beautiful country. So why not paying a tribute to those loyal metalheads from the land of the Aztecs and the Mayas with our Metal Chick of the Month? Obviously, the chosen one couldn’t be any random musician but a girl that truly knows how to make some good noise and intensify the beat of our hearts, the lovable Mexican drummer Yolanda Moreno Quintos, or as she prefers to be called in the world of heavy music, Yoli Moreno.

Hailing from Mexico City, or México, D.F. in her native language, the power behind the drums of Mexican all-female Heavy Metal band Mystica Girls is a woman of very few words who strongly believes in teamwork above all things. Not only that, we’re talking about another example of a metal musician who trespasses the boundaries of music, having a bachelor’s degree in Economy from ITAM – Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, and who is also passionate about Orthography and Ecology. In other words, if you’re into girls who are far more than just a beautiful face, who are the whole package, the charming Yoli might be exactly what you are looking for.

Before joining Mystica Girls, Yoli was the drummer for a Mexican Death/Thrash Metal band called Inharmonious, with whom she recorded a demo consisting of four tracks in 2007 entitled Echoes of Rage. You can check a rare footage of Yoli with Inharmonious playing one of their demo tracks, Your Death, at the old school venue La Bodega del Metal, in Mexico City, as well as a pretty interesting cover for Sepultura’s all-time classic Refuse/Resist during the Festival Cultural Zacatecas in 2009. The quality of the videos is not perfect, but it’s enough to show you how Yoli and the other girls in the band can kick some serious ass together.

It was only in February 2012 when Yoli joined Mystica Girls, together with Chilean vocalist Mon Laferte, recording right after that in April 2012 the single The Conquest, including a promotional video for it, generating more than 30,000 plays in just one month and therefore increasing the band’s popularity in Mexico and in other parts of the world. That ended up leading to the re-recording of their 2011 album entitled MetalRose, now featuring Mon Laferte on vocals, in July 2012, and the release of a brand new EP named The Conquest one year later.

Then, in the beginning of 2014, Mystica Girls released a brand new full-length album entitled Gates of Hell, their first original full-length album with Yoli on drums. Gates of Hell had a very good reception from fans and critics, opening up lots of opportunities for the band in terms of tours and new projects, with the special event called SINFÓNICO.METALLICA., where the girls shared the stage with the OFIA – Orquesta Filarmónica de las Artes on June 6, 2015, being one of the highlights of their already reputable career. Check this nice video of Mystica Girls and the orchestra playing the classic Fuel on that night, paying attention to the performance by our beloved drummer, and you’ll see how good she is when holding her drumsticks.

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Getting back to when Yoli joined Mystica Girls, she mentioned during one of her interviews she was very nervous the day of her audition, even having already shared the stage with them during her years with Inharmonious in the underground scene. However, all that nervousness was not sufficient to outshine her skills, as a week after the audition she received a notification that she became then part of the group. In addition to that, although the music styles were considerably different between the two bands, with Mystica Girls playing a more straightforward Hard Rock/Heavy Metal while Inharmonious was a fast and furious Thrash/Death Metal band, she got truly happy and excited with this new challenge in her life as a musician. If you want to see Yoli live in action with Mystica Girls, my suggestions are some YouTube videos from a series called “Resistencia Modulada presenta”, especially the ones for the songs No More! and Tiny Blue Dot, and of course you can always check their official YouTube channel and their ReverbNation page, or Cinthya BlackCat’s YouTube channel.

Furthermore, despite being “una mujer de pocas palabras”, there’s a short but newsworthy interview with Yoli on YouTube done by Mexican news channel Siete24, where among other things she talks about Mystica Girls’ participation in the 2014 edition of the famous Mexican festival Hell & Heaven. The entire interview is in Spanish, as you can see, and if you do not understand it really well I can help you by summarizing the most relevant issues discussed. In regards to the festival, Yoli talks about the band’s excitement for playing in front of so many people, sharing the True Metal stage with renowned bands such as one of her favorite groups, American Death Metal icons Obituary, before linking that topic with the release at that time of their new album Gates of Hell, explaining that although it is not a concept album, there’s a special theme in it related to self-awareness and how you face your fears in life. And finally, she talks about her experience with Mystica Girls since joining the band in 2012, including the aforementioned immediate recording of the single The Conquest, how working with the band inspired her to grow musically speaking, and the recent boom of Mexican metal groups, many motivated by the music by Mystica Girls.

She might not be as skilled on drums as Quico from the brilliant TV show “El Chavo Del Ocho” (just kidding, of course), but in case you just fell in love for our talented Mexican drummer Yoli and want to take her home, let me tell you that’s something perfectly possible even if you do not believe so. All you have to do is visit the band’s official webstore, purchase their peculiar keychain Yoli Moreno model for 50 Mexican Pesos (around 4 Canadian Dollars) and voilà! There you have Yoli Moreno and her drums with you day and night 24/7 forever, isn’t that great?

Yoli Moreno’s Official Facebook page
Yoli Moreno’s Official Twitter
Mystica Girls’ Official Facebook page
Mystica Girls’ Official Twitter

Concert Review – Primal Fear (Virgin Mobile Mod Club,Toronto, ON, 05/03/2014)

Teutonic Power Metal icons take over Toronto to “deliver the black” in the city.

OPENING ACTS: Sovereign Council and Answer With Metal

primal fear_toronto_2014Just two days after the amazing Paganfest America Part V at The Opera House, it was already time for more PURE FUCKIN’ METAL at the small but cozy Virgin Mobile Mod Club, located in the Torontonian neighborhood known as Little Italy. This time, instead of Vikings and warriors, Toronto had the great pleasure to witness a lesson in POWER METAL by German Heavy Metal masters PRIMAL FEAR.

Before savoring the cream of heavy music by the Teutonic metalheads, the fans were surprised by two excellent opening acts “made in Canada”. The first band to hit the Virgin Mobile Mod Club stage was Kingston-based Symphonic Metal band SOVEREIGN COUNCIL, who presented an interesting and very professional mix of Symphonic and Alternative Metal which reminded me of bands such as Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation and Epica. All band members were noticeably excited with the opportunity of opening for Primal Fear and were all smiles during their whole concert, with highlights to lead singer Alexander MacWilliam and female singer Lisa Thompson, who did an amazing job “telling a story” together in each song of their setlist. Of course I have no idea of the names of their songs, but I remember enjoying a really nice one called Bring It Down, and the only issue in my opinion was that their music would be more suited if they were the opening act for a Symphonic Metal band, as some people present at the venue didn’t quite understand their message. Maybe if they are called to open for Within Tempation or Delain, who will be in Toronto soon, their music will be a lot more appreciated.

Band members
Alexander MacWilliam – vocals
Lisa Thompson – female vocals
Chris Thompson – guitars
Patrick Buczynski – guitars
Shaun Vanhoose – bass guitar
Jessica Marsden – keyboards
Brandon Schneider – drums

If someone asks you what you love the most in life, you simply ANSWER WITH METAL! This Stouffville-based Power Metal band delivered a very competent concert, with lots of shredding, guitar solos, fast drumming and everything else that makes traditional Heavy Metal so addictive. Straight-forward songs like Gates Of Hell and Two Wrongs (Don’t Make A Right), with their very traditional approach, were excellent for some headbanging while enjoying a beer, which is probably what the band actually aims with their music, right? Lead singer Dan Nielsen, who by the way is the owner of an amazing voice, seemed so happy for opening to Primal Fear that he “forgot” to look to the crowd in the eye during the concert. Well, we cannot blame him for that, as we can imagine how important yesterday night was for him and the rest of his band. What really matters is that they kicked ass, and just like Sovereign Council they’re a very welcome fresh new addition to the Canadian heavy music scene. Moreover, if they keep being so hard-working and honest in what they do, we can rest assured they will go places with their music.

Band members
Dan Nielsen – vocals
Andrew Jarvis – lead guitar
Matt Hadaway – rhythm guitar
Jon Stallan – bass guitar
Alejandro Gonzalez – drums

PRIMAL FEAR

pf2014_primal fear02Finally, when the clock precisely struck 11pm, Ralf, Mat & Co. hit Toronto again after a long wait of over 4 years, delivering the most powerful and awesome Heavy Metal one can imagine. After playing two intros in a row (Countdown To Insanity and Jaws Of Death), the Heavy Metal extravaganza began with the classic tune Final Embrace, from their second album, the perfect Jaws Of Death (1999). Although the gig wasn’t sold out, the good crowd went crazy with the band from the very first second, with lots of headbanging and fists and horns in the air. And that was only the beginning!

How can Primal Fear be so fuckin’ awesome? First of all, if there’s one thing that I love in Primal Fear is their undeniable ability to ALWAYS release excellent albums, no matter what happens to the band, which was the case again this year with Delivering The Black. It was clear last night the fans love their new material, as songs such as Alive & On Fire, Delivering The Black, One Night In December and When Death Comes Knocking were sung at full force by all fans at the Mod Club.

pf2014_ralf02Secondly, all of their ballads are truly beautiful, and more important than that, a million light-years away from being cheesy. Last night the band perfectly played two of their best ones, the thrilling Seven Seals and the epic Fighting The Darkness, “spreading the love” among the couples who attended the concert. I wish they had played another one such as “Diabolus” or “Under your Spell”, but I was more than happy with last night’s setlist anyway.

However, it’s when the band plays that raw, fast and heavy Power Metal that things get even better, and the reaction of the fans to that type of music is priceless. Nuclear Fire, Chainbreaker, and especially Angel In Black (my favorite of the night), Bad Guys Wear Black and the Heavy Metal anthem Metal Is Forever were responsible for so much headbanging yesterday I’m pretty sure the Rub A-535 sales will go up today. That was an easy task for Primal Fear: they sent us a simple message (“Bang your head / And never turn it down / Bang your head / Bad guys wear black”), we promptly responded without any mercy to our necks and bodies.

It was already past midnight and the concert was almost over, but there was still time for two more strong songs, the electrifying Unbreakable (Part 2) and the superb Running In The Dust, showcasing one more time how great all band members are. The instrumental played by Mat, Alex, Tom and Randy, all really happy and excited for playing in Toronto after so many years, was totally flawless, and during pretty much the entire setlist I thought I was listening to the studio albums or even to an improved version of that. The guitar solos were impressive, the rumbling sound of Mat’s bass was reaching the hearts of the fans, and Edmontonian “stone crusher” Randy Black gave hope to all Canadian metalheads at the venue that have to suffer everyday with nasty things such as Justin Bieber and Avril Lavigne.  However, it was the unique voice by Mr. Ralf Scheepers what really captivated the attention of everyone at the concert. Ralf is like a good wine: the older he gets, the more awesome his voice gets. His performance in all songs was stellar, with no exception, and lest we forget he has to perform at that level almost every single day, which makes things even more amazing.

pf2014_primal fear04To sum up, a memorable night for fans of traditional Heavy Metal, and once again Primal Fear made our lives a lot more enjoyable with their mighty metal music. Because although they came to Toronto just to “deliver the black”, they ended up delivering the awesome, and now let’s just hope the Metal Commando does not take so long to come back to the city for another round of impeccable Heavy Metal.

Band members
Ralf Scheepers – lead vocals
Mat Sinner – bass guitar, vocals
Alex Beyrodt – guitars
Tom Naumann – guitars*
Randy Black – drums

* Replacing guitarist Magnus Karlsson on this tour.

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