Album Review – Grave Digger / Fields of Blood (2020)

One of the most influential and pioneering bands of the German scene celebrates 40 years of their undisputed Heavy Metal on a journey back to the vastness of the Scottish Highlands.

Standing tall as one of the most influential and pioneering bands of the German Heavy Metal scene since their inception in the early 80’s, Gladbeck’s own Power Metal institution Grave Digger is celebrating their 40th anniversary in great fashion with the release of their 20th studio album, entitled Fields of Blood, the logic consequence of a legendary trilogy which started in 1996 with the breathtaking Tunes of War and an auditory battle of unique traditional metal, continuing their epic Highlands story. One thing I must say is that although most fans of the band had a very good time with their latest albums Return of the Reaper, Healed by Metal and The Living Dead, it’s when the band comprised of the iconic frontman Chris Boltendahl and his henchmen Axel Ritt on the guitars, Jens Becker on bass and Marcus Kniep on drums takes us into the vastness of Scotland on a journey through explosive sound landscapes that they truly thrive. Featuring a classy, old school artwork by Russian artist Alexander Tartsus, Fields of Blood even had some of its parts recorded in the Scottish Highlands, giving an extra touch of epicness to their no-frills, traditional brand of metal with unwavering pure steel, which nevertheless offers surprises, celebrating such a special anniversary of one of the most successful German Heavy Metal acts in the most glorious style.

Featuring very special guests Les Tambours du Bronx, the intro The Clansman’s Journey showcases a stunning combination of their tribal beats with the strident sound of the bagpipes, resulting in one of the most inspiring intros I’ve ever heard in my life, therefore warming up our senses for a feast of classic, warlike Grave Digger tunes starting with All for the Kingdom, where Marcus dictates the rhythm with his fierce beats while Axel and Jens slash their strings majestically, all of course spearheaded by Chris and his trademark raspy vocals. Then we’re treated to Lions of the Sea, the battle of the Scots against the Vikings translated into fist-raising Power Metal made in Germany, a song that should sound amazing when played live especially due to its catchy, rebellious chorus, not to mention the crisp riffage by Alex, who also kicks some serious ass in the inspiring tune Freedom, an ode to William Wallace’s famous speech where the whole bands speeds things up providing us all we need to head into the battlefield, with Chris delivering a superb vocal performance supported by the song’s spot-on backing vocals.

And Les Tambours du Bronx are back to add an extra kick to the already piercing sound of the bagpipes in The Heart of Scotland, where Chris declaims the song’s words with tons of feeling (“Raise your voices – raise your fists / For the king – the pride of our nation / Praise him and kneel – a will strong as steel / He carries the heart of Scotland / Praise him and kneel – a will strong as steel / He carries the heart of Scotland”) while the music remains slow, steady and dark from start to finish. After such imposing composition, the band brings forward Thousand Tears, a gentle and melancholic ballad that only Grave Digger can offer us featuring the unrelenting Finnish she-wolf Noora Louhimo, and as Chris and Noora have a sensational vocal duet I personally hope she can join the band on stage for a few concerts in the near future. In Union of the Crown they get back to their traditional (and I would even say their most traditional) sonority, with Chris singing with a lot of rage and power while Markus continues to pound his drums mercilessly, accompanied by the rumbling bass by Jens, whereas it’s impossible to stand still to the beer-drinking battle hymn entitled My Final Fight, where Chris screams and shouts the song’s lyrics flawlessly (“The battle began in the morning light / Five thousand gathered for the fight / Tired, exhausted we stood side by side / Welcomed the English with brave and pride”). Put differently, it’s time to prance around the fire, raise your swords and praise our beloved Heavy Metal together with those Teutonic metallers.

Grave Digger Fields of Blood Wooden Box

Then more of their trademark metal music comes in Gathering of the Clans, a song about the unity of the Highland clans and their will to fight for their freedom until the very end, with Alex sounding infernal with his razor-edged riffs and solos while the atmosphere is spiced up by the rebellious bagpipes by guests Hans Grothusen, Paul Grothe and Florian Bohm. After that, be prepared to bang your heads like dauntless highlanders in the rockin’ extravaganza titled Barbarian, where Alex’s riffs are beautifully complemented by the thunderous kitchen by Jens and Marcus, sounding as if the whole song was taken from one of their epic albums from the 90’s, followed by the title-track Fields of Blood, where a sensational bagpipe-infused intro evolves into ten minutes of pure Grave Digger with Chris, Alex, Jens and Marcus being on fire with their respective sonic weapons, guiding the music smoothly and with an endless amount of epicness and fire until the very end. By the way, the song’s closing moments are not only climatic, but also somber, captivating and as metallic as they can be, putting a pensive ending to the battle before the symphonic and cinematic outro Requiem for the Fallen embraces us all and provides us moments of peace in the aftermath, allowing us to grieve for the countless fallen bodies of all brave Scotsmen who died fighting for their freedom.

If you have what it takes to join Grave Digger in their quest for freedom in the Highlands, you can enjoy Fields of Blood in it entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, watch Chris and his loyal bandmates talking about each and every track from the album on a special series on YouTube by clicking HERE, HERE and HERE, and of course purchase your desired version of this grandiose album of metal music by clicking HERE, such as the insanely awesome Wooden Box strictly limited to 300 units including the digipak CD version of the album, a bonus live DVD titled “Live in Japan”, a special Highland flask and a black 7″ single. Also, don’t forget to follow Grave Digger on Facebook and on Instagram, staying up to date with everything that surrounds the band such as their new releases, live concerts and other nice-to-know details. I’m absolutely thrilled this unstoppable Teutonic army decided to return to the Highlands once again in celebration of their 40th anniversary, filling our hearts and souls with their inspiring tunes of war and freedom, and I can’t wait to see what Chris Boltendahl & Co. will offer us in their future albums if they decide to stay in Scotland for a little longer, hopefully bringing to our avid ears more of their undisputed Heavy Metal for many years (and decades) to come.

Best moments of the album: All for the Kingdom, Freedom, My Final Fight and Barbarian.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. The Clansman’s Journey 1:27
2. All for the Kingdom 4:10
3. Lions of the Sea 3:58
4. Freedom 4:53
5. The Heart of Scotland 5:19
6. Thousand Tears 4:57
7. Union of the Crown 3:58
8. My Final Fight 4:09
9. Gathering of the Clans 3:57
10. Barbarian 3:43
11. Fields of Blood 10:10
12. Requiem for the Fallen 3:00

Band members
Chris Boltendahl – vocals
Axel Ritt – guitars
Jens Becker – bass
Marcus Kniep – drums

Guest musicians
Noora Louhimo – female vocals on “Thousand Tears”
John Jaycee Cujpers, Olaf Senkbeil, Andreas von Lippinski & Hacky Hackmann – backing vocals
Les Tambours du Bronx – percussion on “The Clansman’s Journey” and “The Heart of Scotland”
H.P. Katzenburg – keyboards on “Thousand Tears”
Hans Grothusen, Paul Grothe & Florian Bohm – bagpipes, uilleann pipes

Album Review – Axel Rudi Pell / Sign of the Times (2020)

Time doesn’t seem to be an issue at all for this German guitar virtuoso, as he keeps on rockin’ the nation with another round of his first-class fusion of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock.

It looks like the one and only guitar virtuoso Axel Rudi Pell and his henchmen Johnny Gioeli on vocals, Volker Krawczak on bass, Ferdy Doernberg on keyboards and Bobby Rondinelli on drums will keep on rockin’ the nation for many decades to come based on the electrifying fusion of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock found in Sign of the Times, the 19th studio album in the band’s impressive career, keeping up with their own stream of one studio album every two years and always delivering first-class music like what they did in 2018 with Knights Call, in 2016 with Game of Sins, in 2014 with Into the Storm, and so on. As a matter of fact, you’ll need to go back over 30 years to fully appreciate the entire work of such talented Bochum, Germany-based guitarist, not to mention the over 1.7 million albums sold worldwide as the perfect indicator of how awesome his music is. Hence, his consistency enjoys more and more respect and appreciation within the hard and heavy community as the years go by, with Sign of the Times proving once again why he has (deservedly) become a true legend among guitar players and all types of metalheads from all over the world, even without accepting such honorable title.

As soon as you hit play, get ready to have your senses invaded by The Black Serenade, a cinematic intro that’s always part of their albums, warming us up for the incendiary Gunfire, where Axel begins slashing his strings in great fashion as usual accompanied by Ferdy’s 70’s-inspired keys and the potent beats by Bobby. Needless to say, Johnny is absolutely superb on vocals, yet again showing us all that their best songs always burn such as “Burning Chains”, “Fire”, and now this amazing composition. Then we have Bad Reputation, a lesson in classic Hard Rock led by Axel’s trademark riffs and the always crisp vocals by Johnny, also bringing a very pleasant pace and vibe and a beyond catchy chorus, all spiced up by the sharp and precise guitar solos by Axel; followed by the title-track Sign Of The Times, where an atmospheric intro is gradually boosted by metallic riffs, classic drums and the rumbling bass by Volker. Put differently, simply relax and enjoy over seven minutes of top-of-the-line Hard Rock that’s at the same time slow, steady and always great to listen to.

Speeding things up a bit the quintet fires the solid The End Of The Line, showcasing Bobby’s old school drumming while Axel and Johnny complement each other’s incendiary performances flawlessly, resulting in another amazing choice for their live concerts, whereas in As Blind As A Fool Can Be it’s time for one of their trademark, classy ballads, where we’re all invited to hold our loved ones tight and enjoy their smooth and gentle musicality while Johnny gives a lesson in passion and reach with his unique voice. And Ferdy takes the energy of his magical keys to a whole new level in Wings Of The Storm, a mid-tempo tune where Johnny tells a thrilling story through his soaring vocal lines while his bandmates generate a well-balanced and captivating ambience in the background, maintaining the album at an absurd level of quality, groove and feeling.

How about one more thrilling Rock N’ Roll ride with the boys? That’s what you’re going to get in Waiting For Your Call, utterly loyal to their own traditions and living up to the legacy of bands such as Bon Jovi, Heart and Journey, with Volker, Ferdy and Bobby being spot-on with their fiery instruments, providing Johnny all he needs to shine on vocals. Following such fun tune, a Reggae-inspired intro beautifully spearheaded by Johnny and Axel soon morphs into a 70’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal extravaganza à la Rainbow titled Living In A Dream, bringing to our avid ears amazing performances by all band members, in special Ferdy with his whimsical keys, and showing a more alternative side of Axel while at the same time keeping his core essence intact. And last but not least, a fusion of epicness and dexterity concludes the album in Into The Fire, where Axel’s riffs sound insanely mesmerizing, therefore showcasing all his talent and skills as the fantastic guitarist that he is. Furthermore, this is such a gorgeous tune that I wish it was even longer and more atmospheric than its final shape and form just to provide us more time to enjoy Axel’s stunning music.

Sign of the Times Vinyl Boxset

I don’t think I need to tell you that if you consider yourself a diehard fan of classic rock and metal, you definitely need to purchase Sign of the Times, right? And you can do so by clicking HERE and selecting your favorite version of the album, with the deluxe vinyl boxset (which comes with a wall clock, a digipak CD version of the album, a double-LP gatefold in different colours, a magnet, a button, an A1 double sided poster, an A5 photo card and a sticker, all strictly limited to 1000 copies) being undoubtedly your go-to version of it. Also, don’t forget to give Mr. Axel Rudi Pell a shout on Facebook showing your respect and admiration for the amazing music he always brings to us fans, with Sign of the Times keeping the flames of such unparalleled guitarist and his loyal bandmates burning bright for the next couple of years until we see more of his stylish metal music. And as you might have already noticed, saying he’ll stun us once again with his captivating creations is not just a simple desire or a dream, but the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Best moments of the album: Gunfire, Bad Reputation, The End Of The Line and Living In A Dream.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 SPV/Steamhammer

Track listing
1. The Black Serenade (Intro) 1:40
2. Gunfire 5:21
3. Bad Reputation 5:41
4. Sign Of The Times 7:10
5. The End Of The Line 5:22
6. As Blind As A Fool Can Be 6:14
7. Wings Of The Storm 5:48
8. Waiting For Your Call 5:34
9. Living In A Dream 5:59
10. Into The Fire 6:01

Band members
Johnny Gioeli – vocals
Axel Rudi Pell – guitar
Volker Krawczak – bass
Ferdy Doernberg – keyboards
Bobby Rondinelli – drums

Album Review – Skognatt / Autumn Skies EP (2020)

Let your soul be embraced by 17 minutes of classy and piercing Atmospheric Black Metal made in Germany, perfectly representing what DIY is all about.

Two years after the release of his debut full-length opus Ancient Wisdom, Augsburg, Germany-based Atmospheric Black Metal/Dark Ambient one-man army Skognatt returns in full force with another solid EP entitled Autumn Skies, the third EP in the up-and-coming career of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Danijel Zambo after Stargazer and Ancient Wisdom, released in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Once again featuring guest musician Gerileme, from renowned underground acts such as Asche der Welten, Burial in the Woods and Osteon, who played and engineered all drums in the EP, Autumn Skies is an entertaining and detailed lesson in DIY, as Danijel not only wrote all music and lyrics in the album, but he was also responsible for all recording, mixing, mastering and layout aspects of it, showcasing all his talent as the Teutonic metaller he is.

Sounding as atmospheric as all of his previous creations, a sense of hopelessness and solitude permeates the air in Shadowlands, quickly exploding into modern-day Atmospheric Black Metal were Danijel slashes his guitar strings in great fashion while at the same time roaring and gnarling like a beast, accompanied by the classic Black Metal blast beats by Gerileme and also presenting acoustic, cryptic passages that will crawl deep inside your skin. Then we have Black Rain, even more atmospheric and melancholic with Danijel’s acoustic guitars bringing a touch of finesse to his scorching musicality, living up to the legacy of such distinct genre while our one-man army fires sheer rage and despair through his growls. And last but not least, the title-track Autumn Skies begins in a truly obscure and melodic manner, evolving into a multi-layered Atmospheric Black Metal feast where Danijel’s roars get deeper and darker than usual while Gerileme dictates the rhythm with his Doom Metal-inspired riffs, not to mention how darkly Danijel declaims the spoken words taken from a poem by John Keats, an English Romantic poet who was one of the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Moreover, the way the song ends is absolutely phantasmagorical, putting an enfolding finale to Autumn Skies.

You can take a full and detailed listen to Autumn Skies on YouTube and also follow Danijel Zambo and his Skognatt on Facebook and on Instagram, but of course in order to truly support underground musicians like Danijel you should definitely purchase your copy of the EP directly from his official BandCamp page. In summary, Autumn Skies is not only a 17-minute album of Atmospheric Black Metal made in Germany, but a fresh and vibrant statement by Danijel to the entire world reminding everyone that Skognatt is alive and kicking, ready to represent true independent metal under any circumstances and showing us all Atmospheric Black Metal is still a driving force of the underground with a lot of fuel to burn. In addition to that, it’s beyond clear how the music by Danijel is evolving album after album, and I personally can’t wait to see what’s next in his promising career.

Best moments of the album: Shadowlands.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Shadowlands 7:31
2. Black Rain 3:51
3. Autumn Skies 5:51

Band members
Danijel Zambo – vocals, all instruments

Guest musician
Gerileme – drums

Album Review – Bonded / Rest In Violence (2020)

Bonded by old school and modern Thrash Metal, these German metallers masterfully unite the past, present and future of the genre in their debut album.

Featuring former Sodom members Bernd “Bernemann” Kost on the guitar and Markus “Makka” Freiwald on drums, as well as guitarist Chris Tsitsis (Suicidal Angels), bassist Marc Hauschild (Tauron) and vocalist Ingo Bajonczak (Assassin), German Thrash Metal squad Bonded was formed in 2018 in Dortmund, a city in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia region, aiming at creating nothing short of highly versatile and hard-hitting Thrash Metal with no shenanigans nor any type of artificial elements, and let’s say they more than succeeded in that with their debut full-length installment, the excellent and pulverizing Rest In Violence. Produced by Cornelius Rambadt (Sodom, Disbelief, Onkel Tom) at Rambado Recordings in Essen, Germany, ddsplaying an obscure artwork by German artist and musician Björn Gooßes (Killustrations), and featuring very special guest appearances by vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth (Overkill) and bassist Christian “Speesy” Giesler (Extinct the Scum, Kreator), Rest In Violence will bring to your avid ears a well-balanced mix of the past, present and future of Thrash Metal, showing how much those guys love such rebellious and heavy metal style.

A Testament-inspired intro quickly explodes into melodic and vibrant Bay Area Thrash in Godgiven, where Bernd and Chris waste no time and begin slashing their strings mercilessly, resulting in a great headbanging tune to properly kick things off, whereas the even faster and more infuriated Suit Murderer is an amazing thrashing tune by Bonded bringing elements from the traditional sonority by Sodom and Destruction, where Ingo roars deeply like a maniac while Markus doesn’t stop crushing his drums not even for a single second. And featuring guest vocals by the aforementioned Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth and guest bass by Christian “Speesy” Giesler, Rest In Violence is a bestial display of modern-day thrash where Ingo and Bobby make an infernal vocal duo while the rest of the band puts the pedal to the metal armed with their instruments of mass devastation, also blasting some wicked guitar solos for our total delight.

And there’s more of their pounding and visceral Thrash Metal in Je Suis Charlie (the slogan created by French art director Joachim Roncin and adopted by supporters of freedom of speech and freedom of the press after the January 7, 2015 shooting in which twelve people were killed at the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo), with Marc and Markus being responsible for keeping the “kitchen” heavy and dense, providing Ingo all he needs to vociferate the song’s austere words. Then razor-edged riffs dictate the rhythm in the also furious and groovy The Rattle & The Snake, where Markus is once again bestial on drums while Ingo keeps growling loudly and rabidly, turning it into a fantastic option for slamming into the pit and with the harmonica bringing a welcome touch of finesse to the overall musicality. Although the obscure No Cure For Life is darker and heavier than its predecessors and a good choice for breaking your neck headbanging, it looses its grip after a while, though, but nothing that would harm the album. And keep banging your heads nonstop to Where Silence Reverberates, leaning towards the vicious Groove Metal blasted by Lamb of God and with the demolishing riffage by both Bernd and Chris sounding beyond awesome; followed by Galaxy M87, where bonded get back to a more berserk mode inspired by Bay Area Thrash the likes of Exodus and Testament. Furthermore, Ingo is on fire with his demented roars, while his bandmates exhale heaviness and rage from their sonic weapons.

In the deranged Arrival we’re all treated to an amazing job done by the band’s guitar duo with their incendiary riffs and solos, not to mention the accelerate pace spearheaded by Markus and his venomous beats, and it looks like their circle pit extravaganza has no time to end based on the violence flowing from The Beginning Of The End, one of the bonus tracks from the album’s limited first-pressing edition CD, led by Ingo and his enraged gnarls. The entire band blasts a lesson in modern-day Thrash Metal infused with Groove Metal nuances, once again highly inspired by the most contemporary creations by thrashing masters Exodus. But wait, as there’s still more, as melodic guitar lines ignite the second bonus tracks of the CD version of Rest in Violence, entitled To Each His Own, also speeding things up and offering us fans a very good reason to crush our skull into the mosh pit, with Markus stealing the spotlight with his infernal performance on drums. Lastly, a serene, acoustic intro kicks off the introspective and grim The Outer Rim, with Ingo’s vocals getting closer to the clean voice by Soilwork’s own Björn “Speed” Strid, while Bernd and Chirs bring tons of feeling and groove to the song with their riffs and solos, ending the album in a truly powerful way.

The year of 2020 has barely started and it has already provided us all several amazing Thrash Metal albums, with Rest In Violence by Bonded being one of the most interesting and honest of all releases hands down. Hence, go check what those metallers are up to on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and click HERE to check all places where you can grab your copy of such killer album. As mentioned in the beginning of this review, while listening to Rest In Violence I’m sure you’ll identify all influences from the past of Thrash Metal in their music while at the same time sensing a modern and fresh sound, always moving forward and never sounding outdated or obsolete. Those German guys are definitely bonded by Thrash Metal, guaranteeing a lot of fun for us fans of violence and rebelliousness in music and, above all, of our beloved mosh pits.

Best moments of the album: Suit Murderer, Rest In Violence, The Rattle & The Snake and Galaxy M87.

Worst moments of the album: No Cure For Life.

Released in 2020 Century Media

Track listing
1. Godgiven 4:13
2. Suit Murderer 4:12
3. Rest In Violence 3:49
4. Je Suis Charlie 3:55
5. The Rattle & The Snake 4:00
6. No Cure For Life 4:40
7. Where Silence Reverberates 5:14
8. Galaxy M87 4:52
9. Arrival 3:52
12.The Outer Rim 4:42

First-Pressing Edition CD bonus tracks
10. The Beginning Of The End 4:15
11.To Each His Own 4:26

Band members
Ingo Bajonczak – vocals
Bernd “Bernemann” Kost – guitar
Chris Tsitsis – guitar
Marc Hauschild – bass
Markus “Makka” Freiwald – drums

Guest musicians
Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth – vocals on “Rest In Violence”
Christian “Speesy” Giesler – bass on “Rest In Violence”

Album Review – The Spirit / Cosmic Terror (2020)

The soundtrack to the fear of vast nothingness in the form of melodic and progressive Black and Death Metal made in Germany, beautifully dragging the listener into a musical catharsis.

As far-reaching as the literary, philosophical and psychological meanings behind the term Cosmic Terror might be, for German Black/Death Metal trio The Spirit naming their sophomore full-length album with this title opens up a world of its own. They do not want to explain anything nor to analyze their lyrics, characterized by misanthropy and social criticism, having only one simple goal in mind, which is to let their music speak for itself. The result is a bold and breathtaking album containing seven raging tracks that blend and bend Black and Death Metal, extensive instrumental passages and some of the most face-ripping riffs you’ll hear, which apparently even attracted nearby snakes to the studio’s terrace during the recording according to the band members themselves.

Formed in 2015 in Saarbrücken, the capital and largest city of the state of Saarland in the always beautiful and vibrant Germany, The Spirit are currently comprised of MT on vocals and guitars, AT on bass and MS on drums, a talented and unrelenting trio of fairly anonymous musicians who have been making a name for themselves in the underground scene since the release of their debut opus entitled Sounds from the Vortex, in 2017, being highly recommended for fans of bands like Dissection, Satyricon and Naglfar, among others. Finalized with a unique cover artwork by French artist Valnoir (Metastazis), Cosmic Terror tears the listener into a musical catharsis, with the band once again crafting their own soundtrack to the fear of vast nothingness.

The trio wastes no time and begin blasting their crisp and incendiary Black Metal in Serpent As Time Reveals, offering over six minutes of classy and vicious extreme music for our avid ears where MS is a true beast on drums, while MT growls the song’s beautiful lyrics in great fashion (“The ability to spread agony / A sick craft you truly master / The enduring thirst for power and dominion / Poison, obsessional voracity / Dangerous strength to the perverted insane / Unleash hell to enhance pathetic egotism”); and they continue their obscure and melodic attack in Strive For Salvation, with MT’s heavier-than-hell riffs and AT’s fulminating bass lines generating the perfect ambience for the enraged gnarls by MT while MS keeps pounding and smashing his drums manically. Then drinking form the same infernal fountain as renowned acts like Marduk, Immortal and Mayhem, the trio explodes our senses with the fantastic Repugnant Human Scum, a lesson in Black Metal infused with Death Metal and Melodic Black Metal nuances.

A melancholic and somber intro morphs into a mid-tempo headbanging feast titled The Path Of Solitude, where all band members are in absolute sync and with MT sounding diabolical with both his roars and riffs, resulting in an ode to darkness and solitude in the form of ass-kicking Black Metal. After such dense tune, it’s time for more disruptive and Stygian sounds by The Spirit in Pillars Of Doom, where MT sounds possessed with his demonic riffage while AT and MS make the earth tremble with their respective weapons of mass destruction. In The Wide Emptiness the band doesn’t stop hammering their instruments and consequently our heads, showcasing classic Black Metal with more contemporary nuances, not to mention how impressive it is that only three guys can generate such bold and hellish sound, with MT’s soulful solo serving as the icing on the cake. Lastly, the title-track Cosmic Terror comes as an arrow piercing our ears and minds, concluding the obscure Black Metal journey by the trio that started “long time ago” with the opening track. However, despite being an amazing display of extreme music, the fact that it’s only an instrumental song takes away a little of its rawness and energy, but that’s just my opinion as I truly enjoy MT’s harsh vocals.

In a nutshell, the excellent Cosmic Terror, which is available from the AOP Records’ BandCamp page, from the EMP webstore, from IndieMerchstore.com in CD or 12” vinyl format, as well as from several other locations which you can check by clicking HERE, not only points to a bright future for The Spirit, positioning the band as one of the most promising names of the German extreme music scene, but it’s also a mandatory listen for fans of the more contemporary wave of Black and Death Metal bands with a huge focus on progressiveness, melodies and atmospheric passages. Hence, don’t forget to give The Spirit a shout via their official Facebook page, and let the cosmic terror flowing form their wicked creations penetrate deep inside your damned soul.

Best moments of the album: Repugnant Human Scum, The Path Of Solitude and The Wide Emptiness.

Worst moments of the album: Cosmic Terror.

Released in 2020 AOP Records

Track listing
1. Serpent As Time Reveals 6:38
2. Strive For Salvation 4:34
3. Repugnant Human Scum 5:18
4. The Path Of Solitude 8:07
5. Pillars Of Doom 5:51
6. The Wide Emptiness 6:13
7. Cosmic Terror 6:32

Band members
MT – vocals, guitars
AT – bass
MS – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Nadja Peulen

Say it, Nadja! We’re out for blood!

As part of our annual tradition here at The Headbanging Moose, the first metal chick of the year must be a badass bass player to properly kick things off with a lot of thunder and heaviness just the way we like it in Heavy Metal, and in 2020 that couldn’t be any different than that, of course. Having said that, get ready to venture through the realms of Alternative and Nu Metal with the one and only Nadja Peulen, a German-born bassist and backing vocalist currently based in Los Angeles, California, in the United States known for bringing tons of groove to our avid ears as the bassist for American metallers Coal Chamber from 1999 to 2000, again between 2002 and 2003, and one last time after a huge band hiatus from 2013 until 2016 when the group disbanded once and for all.

Born on January 10, 1975 somewhere in the always beautiful Germany, our 1.73m-tall blue-eyed, red-haired bassist started her life in music at a very early age due to her family travelling a lot and staying at several different places, always on the road in the name of Rock N’ Roll, always surrounded by distinct people, and always attending music concerts. Of Polish and German descent, Nadja grew up in the Netherlands and listened to a lot of 70’s music such as Motown, disco and classic rock at home because of her parents, being highly influenced by those styles in her current way of playing bass. Originally starting out studying art with aspirations to be a painter, Nadja naturally decided to switch to music, playing drums before becoming a bassist and continuing her career as a drummer after moving to Los Angeles when she was only 18, learning from renowned drummers and jamming with several different musicians (while at the same time working in different jobs such as tiling bathrooms and working as a waitress in a strip bar).

After a while, when Nadja decided she wanted to get more into songwriting, she was given a bass guitar (a cheap $100 one, by the way) and started playing with one finger only, gradually evolving to a couple more fingers and never having a single lesson in her life. Three months later, she was already in an all-girl band named Tail, playing around Hollywood for a couple of years at Whisky a Go Go, The Viper Room and whatever clubs were there at the time. After a couple of years, Nadja was invited to join Los Angeles-based Nu Metal outfit Coal Chamber in 1999 while bassist Rayna Foss-Rose was on maternity leave, and again after the recording of the 2002 album Dark Days when Rayna left the band for good, playing live with the band in several domestic and international tours with bands like Drowning Pool co-headlining the tours. Despite not having recorded the bass lines in Dark Days, Nadja is featured in the official video for Fiend, one of the band’s most well known songs which is thought to be about how the band and the Nu Metal genre were getting heavily criticized at the time. In addition, Nadja was also featured as the band’s bass player in the excellent concert Live at the Maritime Hall, San Francisco, CA, 1999 in the bonus DVD from the 2005 special re-release of their 1997 debut album Coal Chamber.

Then after a long period of silence from 2003 until 2011, Coal Chamber reunited for a short run of international shows with bassist Chela Rhea Harper instead of Nadja, but our talented red-haired bassist officially returned to the band in October 2013 shortly before the band signed to Napalm Records to record a new album. “Beyond happy and excited today to announce my return on bass with Coal Chamber,” Nadja wrote on the day of her official return to the band. “I’ve missed my brothers and can’t wait to rock the stage with them again and see all of you!” It was in May 2015 that Coal Chamber released their fourth album in thirteen years and their only studio album with Nadja on bass, entitled Rivals, adding a touch of Groove Metal to their musicality while at the same time distancing themselves from their previous Gothic Metal style. From Rivals, you can enjoy Nadja’s rumbling bass punching you in the face in songs like Another Nail In The Coffin, Suffer In Silence (featuring Ministry’s driving force Al Jourgensen on guest vocals), and I.O.U. Nothing.

Apart from her awesome stints with Coal Chamber, Nadja was also the bass player and backing vocalist for a Los Angeles-based Theatrical/Alternative Avantgarde Rock duo known as Vera Mesmer, together with vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist Christopher Mesmer, formerly of Reveille, as well as guest drummer Bones Elias (Julien K, formerly of Dead by Sunrise), from 2010 until 2013. Vera Mesmer left two very interesting releases to the world before the duo parted ways in 2013, those being the 2012 EP Orphans and the 2013 single Down the Hole, showing a different and very theatrical storytelling side of both Chris and Nadja, as you can see for example in the official video for the song Back from the Dead. “We’re constantly brainstorming and creating. We’ve completely let go of templates and we don’t stick to the genre game,” said Nadja about the artistic freedom she found with Vera Mesmer while the band was still active. “We encompass all music styles while still undeniably retaining that Vera Mesmer sound.”

You can also find Nadja lending her thunderous bass lines to a project entitled Roadrunner United from 2005 to 2008, having recorded the excellent single and video The End together with Dino Cazares (Fear Factory), Roy Mayorga (Stone Sour) and Matt Heafy (Trivium), among others, for the 2005 album The All-Star Sessions, as well as the 2008 DVD featuring a making of and a live concert with several artists such as Ville Valo (HIM), Scott Ian (Anthrax) and Tim “Ripper” Owens, with Nadja kicking some serious ass in songs like Type O Negative’s all-time classic Black No. 1 together with Ville Valo on vocals, Andreas Kisser on lead guitar, Dino Cazares on rhythm guitar, Joey Jordison on drums and Rob Caggiano on keyboards, and Tired ‘n Lonely together with Mina Caputo on vocals, Matt Baumbach on lead guitar, Acey Slade on rhythm guitar, Joey Jordison on drums and Rob Caggiano on keyboards. Furthermore, between 2004 and 2006, Nadja was also featured in the music videos for the songs (Rock) Superstar and What’s Your Number? as part of the backup band with Tim Armstrong (Rancid) and Christian Olde Wobbers (Fear Factory), both by American Hip-Hop group Cypress Hill.

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As already mentioned, Nadja has a wide and eclectic taste for music, with her primary influences lying along the Trip Hop, Industrial and Alternative Rock and Metal vein the likes of Massive Attack, Killing Joke, The Cult, Faith No More, Jane’s Addiction, Ministry, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, David Bowie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Grand Funk Railroad and Stevie Wonder, with the one and only Iggy Pop being part of one of the most exciting moments in her career. A friend of hers called Whitney, who used to play guitar for Iggy Pop, invited Nadja for a jamming session one day, but she initially said no. “Why don’t you come down to the Swinghouse and jam with me and a couple of friends?”, said Whitney, and she promptly answered “Well I’m in bed. My bass is dusty and I’m watching TV. I really don’t feel like jamming with you right now.” Whitey called back a couple of times and finally said, “Well, it’s Iggy and he wants to jam with you.” Nadja didn’t believe her friend, saying “Yeah you’re fucking with me. You just want me to come down there and hang out.” Then she got another phone call from Iggy’s manager, which turned out to be his son Eric. He said, “Yeah, Iggy Pop is down here and he really, really wants to jam with you.” She still thought it was a prank, when she finally got a phone call from Iggy himself where she recognized his voice and nearly pissed her pants. Iggy said, “Nadja, I have heard a lot of really good things about you. I want to jam with you. Come down here – can you be here in 10 minutes?” Needless to say, Nadja joined her idol and they jammed for a few hours, with Nadja later saying in one of her interviews that she was always afraid to meet someone like Iggy Pop because she believed a person like that would probably be an asshole and she would never be able to listen to his music the same way. However, he was really nice to her, a humble guy exactly how anyone would expect.

Regarding her life on the road with Coal Chamber, Nadja mentioned in one of her interviews that she really loved playing the songs Another Nail In The Coffin and Bad Blood Between Us live with the band, both from the album Rivals, and that she would have loved to be in a tour co-headlined by Coal Chamber, System Of A Down and Korn, the latter with whom Coal Chamber only played at the same festivals such as Heavy Montreal in 2015 and Graspop Metal Meeting in 2013. When questioned about the fact she was the only female on the tours with Coal Chamber, she said that it was indeed challenging as she had for example to get dressed in the bathroom of the bus, which was a very small space. However, Nadja also said she was fine being the only girl in a “boy’s club”, complementing by saying that being utterly professional was what kept everything working well. Also, on a side note, Nadja mentioned being on stage, being in that moment, is when her mind stops and she can achieve some peace of mind, having also achieved that peace by doing yoga, more specifically Kundalini Yoga, a school of yoga influenced by Shaktism and Tantra schools of Hinduism.

Nadja also launched in 2003 her own T-shirt and apparel company called CruelTees, selling her products not only online but also through stores such as Hot Topic. Owner and head designer of CruelTees, Nadja has always loved painting and sketching, having even been in Art Academy before quitting it to move to Los Angeles, with her designs fusing dark Gothic and wild Rock N’ Roll images with clever slogans. However, if you click on the official website for CruelTees, it will redirect you to her website Sonic Dominion without any products available. There are a few items in her webshop, though, but nothing related to CruelTees. Perhaps Nadja is working on a new collection for the future? If you’re curious to know more about CruelTees and ask Nadja for any updates on the brand, you can message her directly through her official website contact form, and who knows, maybe you’ll be one of the first to receive news on a new series of CruelTees shirts and apparel.

Endorsed by Schecter Guitars, Mesa Boogie, Dean Markley Strings, Monster Energy Drink and Monster Cable, our skillful bassist, who by the way thinks labeling a music style is not really that relevant, commented in one of her interviews that she’s happy to see an increasing number of female bass players (as well as guitarists and drummers) out in the market playing with their bands, which is always a good thing in heavy music, also saying she likes the fact that several of those bassists are adopting the finger style when playing their instruments, something that was a taboo in the past. Nadja herself is a finger bass player, as mentioned before, and the fact this old school technique is becoming popular again brings a lot of joy to her heart. And last but not least, Nadja’s relationship with her fans is quite healthy, with some of her fans even becoming her personal friends. She said that she can’t obviously answer everything to everyone due to her busy schedule, as she doesn’t consider herself an Internet person with enough time for social media. She actually doesn’t enjoy engaging on social media on a personal level, focusing on her work as a musician and as a designer instead. We have to agree with Nadja on that, and if you want to know more about her professional career you can either follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or watch some of her interviews and other videos on YouTube like the BIAS FX demo, an interview during Heavy Montreal in 2015, an interview to INDIEPOWER TV! in 2015, or an interview she gave to Dean Markley at NAMM also in 2015. What are you waiting for to let one of the most badass female bassists of all time show you all she got? Nadja kicks some serious ass, and she will crush you like an insect with her thunderous bass, no doubt about that.

Nadja Peulen’s Official Facebook page
Nadja Peulen’s Official Instagram
Nadja Peulen’s Official Twitter
Nadja Peulen’s Official YouTube channel
Coal Chamber’s Official Facebook page
Coal Chamber’s Official Instagram
Coal Chamber’s Official Twitter

“To me being on stage and playing music is one of the best things because I have a very busy mind – I’m always thinking.” – Nadja Peulen

Album Review – Mindead / Mindead (2019)

Playing a gritty kind of Melodic Groove Metal, this German squad is ready to put Stuttgart on the world map of modern metal music with their brand new album.

Hailing from the beautiful city of Stuttgart, capital of southwest Germany’s Baden-Württemberg state, Thrash/Groove Metal five-piece act Mindead plays a gritty kind of modern metal music with lots of passion and a unique flavor, having quickly established themselves in the local scene surrounding Ludwigsburg and Stuttgart since their inception in 2001. After the release of their debut EP Still Empty in 2004, followed by their first full-length album Abandon All Hope in 2008 (re-released in 2016, by the way) and more recently their sophomore opus Controlling The Tides in 2015, it’s time for Mindead to strike once again with their third installment, self-titled Mindead, a solid statement showing the band has become aware of their own self and that they are proud of what they currently stand for.

And the band comprised of frontman Timo Fielker, guitarists Pablo Mateo and Chris Lohrmann, bassist Benedikt Wagner and drummer Benjamin Hölle had a strong and clear idea of what they wanted to do in their new album, translating that into nine solid and vibrant compositions where the quintet never repeats themselves. “Let’s do something different, deeper, more intense, heavier. We’ll still sound like us, no matter what others may say,” commented Mindead about what the listener can expect to find in the album, an amalgamation of heavy and melodic styles highly recommended for fans of bands like Slipknot, Lamb Of God, Killswitch Engage, Tool, Machine Head and Deftones, just to name a few.

An atmospheric intro is gradually “invaded” by the classic beats by Benjamin and the crushing riffs by Pablo and Chris in The Edge, evolving into a modern-day Melodic Groove Metal feast and sounding neck-breaking and very harmonious from start to finish; whereas Killing The Flame is as groovy as it can be thanks to the rumbling bass by Benedikt, while frontman Timo alternates between deranged screams and darker, more serene vocals, also bringing elements from more contemporary styles like Metalcore and Deathcore. The band’s electrifying party goes on in One Last Time, presenting a similar sound as the current American metal scene and feeling a lot more introspective and melodic than its predecessors. Moreover, pay attention to the amazing job done by Benedikt with his metallic bass lines, adding more stamina to the overall result.

And the dark clouds from the previous song keep blocking any sunlight in At The Borderline while the band blasts minimalist sounds and a female voice sends an obscure message, before Timo begins roaring with a lot of anguish and rage. In the even more modern and melodic Every Second, Timo sounds absolutely enraged on vocals while the rest of the band keeps the ambience grim and pensive with their razor-edged riffs and rhythmic beats, generating a catchy musicality full of interesting breaks and variations. Then drinking from the same ravenous fountain as Lamb Of God the quintet fires the excellent The Narcissist King, an ass-kicking Groove Metal tune with Timo stealing the spotlight with his growls while Pablo and Chris continue to slash our ears with their riffage.

All That’s Left is a touching and gripping ballad by Mindead where Benjamin adds some punch to the acoustic guitars with his precise beats, while Timo delivers his most passionate vocal performance of the whole album, and distorted lines permeate the air in To Fight A Demon, igniting the most Slipknot-inspired song of the album and presenting classic and heavy-as-hell riffs by the band’s dynamic guitar duo, which provide Timo all he needs to thrive with his Black Metal-ish vocals. Lastly, closing the alum we have the obscure and groovy Tired, where Pablo, Chris and Benedikt sound at the same time aggressive and gentle with their stringed weapons. In my humble opinion, the only issues with this song is that it goes on for a little too long, albeit still dense and entertaining. Moreover, in most versions of the album you’ll also be treated to an acoustic version of All That’s Left, a beautiful rendition of what’s already a damn good song, enhancing the reach and all  other details of Timo’s vocals considerably.

In summary, the talented Mindead are more than ready to put their hometown Stuttgart and the entire Germany on the map of modern metal music with their new album, breaking free from the confines of local stardom by effectively blending classic and modern-day elements in their inspiring creations and pointing to a bright future ahead of them. Hence, don’t forget to follow the band on Facebook, to subscribe to their YouTube channel, to listen to more of their music on Spotify and, of course, to purchase their self-titled opus from your favorite location by clicking HERE. In case modern and very melodic Groove Metal is your cup of tea, simply give Mindead a chance and you won’t regret at all; quite the contrary, I bet you’ll end up at a concert venue in Stuttgart having a beer and raising your horns to such up-and-coming Teutonic squad.

Best moments of the album: The Edge, The Narcissist King and All That’s Left.

Worst moments of the album: Tired.

Released in 2019 Metalapolis Records

Track listing
1. The Edge 4:30
2. Killing The Flame 3:48
3. One Last Time 5:25
4. At The Borderline 4:37
5. Every Second 3:53
6. The Narcissist King 3:44
7. All That’s Left 3:13
8. To Fight A Demon 5:26
9. Tired 6:07
10. All That’s Left (Acoustic) (Hidden track) 3:06

Band members
Timo Fielker – vocals
Pablo Mateo – guitar
Chris Lohrmann – guitar
Benedikt Wagner – bass
Benjamin Hölle – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Māra Lisenko

Label me insane… My madness is not my enemy!

Get ready to be absolutely stunned by the sick growling, screaming and roaring blasted by our metal lady of the month of September, a true metalhead who loves all types of extreme music from the bottom of her Latvian heart, with her music being highly recommended for diehard fans of renowned acts like Aborted, Cryptopsy, Cattle Decapitation, Decapitated, Bloodbath and Hideous Divinity, among several others, who are always in pursuit of new names in the scene and who also love a feminine touch amidst such level of devastation. Hailing from Riga, Latvia’s capital, set on the Baltic Sea at the mouth of the River Daugava, but currently residing in the metal heaven known as the Federal Republic of Germany, here comes the ferocious she-wolf Māra Lisenko, the indomitable growler for some of the best bands of the past few years coming from the Baltics, those being Ocularis Infernum and MĀRA.

Having studied vocals at Vocaltech – Thames Valley University (currently known as University of West London) in 2007 in the UK, as well as with some of the most prestigious vocal coaches worldwide such as rock and metal vocal coach Melissa Cross, rockstar vocal coach Mark Baxter, and “Death Metal Phoniatrician” Dr. Enrico H Di Lorenzo (Hideous Divinity), Māra is an extremely versatile vocalist, being able to sing from the most brutal and gory growls to fragile, emotional clean vocals. In addition, although she started to sing in bands and tour around Europe in 2003, her singing career started way earlier than that, when she was still a three-year old girl, mainly because her own mother was a choir leader and inspired her to follow a similar path. A self-starter and an autodidact, our dauntless growler is also a vocal coach, having taught several aggressive as well as melodic vocal techniques and training since 2011, and also offering studio session work for bands who need professional sounding vocals for their recordings (and you can get more details about her services by clicking HERE or HERE). In one of her interviews, she said all the energy in her singing and screaming is driven by her real-life experiences and emotions, never about fictional topics, which in her opinion makes it a lot easier for her to transform those feelings into ass-kicking vocals.

During hear early years as a professional vocalist, she was part of two distinct Latvian bands named Defame (which I couldn’t find any information online) and Karmafree, with whom she won a couple of awards, those being Best Vocalist in a band contest named “Rīgas Dzintars” with Karmafree in 2011, and a Grand Prix with Defame at Sinepes Un Medus in 2005. Karmafree, which is still active by the way, is an alternative bass and vocal duo comprised of Māra on vocals and her husband Dmitry Lisenko on bass formed in 2010 in London, England, playing many festivals and releasing a self-titled demo and video entitled Fresh Millionaire before the duo returned to their homeland Latvia. In 2012 they released their first EP, named Illusions, along with a music video for the song Fragile; after their debut album, Karmafree released a series of singles, with songs like InvisibleValidate Me and #SSDD beautifully representing the evolution of the project, their social and political fights, and of course Māra’s fantastic vocal range. You can listen to a lot more of the music by Karmafree on their official YouTube channel, as well as on their BandCamp page.

It was back in 2015 when Māra was able to present herself to a much broader audience after joining a Riga-based Melodic/Symphonic Death/Black Metal band named Ocularis Infernum, who have been on the road since 2002 but who had released only one demo and one EP before she became their frontwoman. Under the stage name of Māra Sekhmet, she released in 2017 together with the band’s founders Andris and Magnuss the excellent Expired Utopia (which you can purchase from their own BandCamp page or listen in full on Spotify), exploring themes like darkness, occultism and paganism, always embraced by a symphonic and Stygian aura inspired by renowned acts such as Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth. I personally loved listening to every single second of Expired Utopia, and if you’re also a fan of this fusion of extreme and symphonic music you can have a taste of the band’s darkness and of Māra’s refined gnarls and powerful clean vocals by listening to the songs A Confession Of Defeat and Lost Forest. There’s nothing on the band’s official Facebook page about an upcoming album, concerts nor anything like that since the end of 2018, but let’s hope they’re just taking a break and that the world can enjoy more of the music by Ocularis Infernum in a not-so-distant future.

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Right now, Māra’s main project is her own solo band named MĀRA, a Latvian/German four-piece outfit established in 2018 that plays a modern and sharp amalgamation of Death, Thrash, Alternative and Groove Metal. Currently based in two countries – Germany and Latvia – MĀRA have already played tours and summer festivals all across Europe since their inception, visiting countries like Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Germany, France and obviously Latvia, and opening for some of the biggest exponents of Extreme Metal such as Sepultura, Krisiun and Satyricon. So far Māra and her henchmen, including her aforementioned husband Dmitry on bass, released in 2018 their debut EP entitled Therapy For An Empath, which you can purchase from their BandCamp page or listen to in full on YouTube, and three music videos for the songs Sell Your Soul, Label Me Insane and Blameshifter, having already won Album Of The Year (with Therapy For An Empath, of course) and Best Vocalist at the  Latvian Metal Music Awards 2018. Moreover, you can enjoy MĀRA’s incendiary performance at the Latvian Metal Music Awards 2018,  which was held at an underground extreme music club in Riga named Melnā Piektdiena, playing the song Label Me Insane live during the event. As you might have already noticed, the name of the band was taken directly from her own name Māra, a very traditional Latvian girl name and, according to Māra herself, in Latvian folklore it’s also the name of a goddess, carrying a lot of strength rooted very deep in where the band comes from, also using Māra’s cross as their logo, a powerful Latvian magic sign.

Regarding her main idols in music, you just need to think of most classic Death, Thrash, Black and Groove Metal bands like Sepultura, Morbid Angel, Slayer, Carcass, Aborted, Cryptopsy and so on, with Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy) being perhaps her biggest idol as a vocalist. Māra even mentioned during an interview that one of her dreams as a musician would be to sing either Territory or Roots Bloody Roots together with Max as a very distinct and powerful duet, showing her total admiration and respect for a man that has undoubtedly revolutionized the way extreme vocalists sing all over the world. Not only that, you can also check all her passion for extreme music and vocalists on her official YouTube channel, where she uploads her own vocal covers for some of the heaviest and most awesome songs of all time, as for example Slipknot’s Psychosocial and The Heretic Anthem, Lamb Of God’s Laid To Rest and Sepultura’s Territory, with Slipknot having a huge influence on her vocal style and taste for music according to Māra herself, in special their 2001 masterpiece Iowa. As a matter of fact, she released her cover version for The Herectic Anthem on the same day Slipkont launched their brand new album We Are Not Your Kind this year, proving how much she loves and follows the band led by Corey Taylor. On a side note, our skillful vocalist also said that all metalheads from Latvia who dedicate a lot of their time to keep the local metal scene going, doing it just for their love for metal with basically no financial reward, also inspire her a lot in life, once again showing Māra has and will always have a beautiful connection with her homeland.

Māra also seems to be crazy four touring and performing live, as she mentioned in an interview that she could simply live out of touring. She enjoys visiting different countries, meeting and playing for different people, and learning about metal scenes everywhere she goes. She has already played in several European countries, and I’m pretty sure she can’t wait to expand her horizons to places like North and South America, Japan and Australia. As aforementioned, Māra and her husband Dmitry are currently residing in Germany (while the other band members, guitarist Denis Melnik and drummer Alberts Mednis, still live in Riga), and the reason why they decided to do that was purely due to music. She said that while metal in Latvia is considered underground and the opportunities for metal bands and artists there are very limited (albeit the internet can be very helpful in terms of worldwide exposure), even taking into account the metal scene in Latvia is healthy and friendly, Germany is the place to be for any type of metal band, complementing by saying that the fact her band is located in two different countries ended up helping them book gigs in more than one country. In addition to that, she said there are no metal radio stations in Latvia, and there are only 4 or 5 metal-oriented pubs in the entire country where local and touring bands can play. Well, let’s say that Māra is one of the most hardworking metal musicians (if not the most) hailing from Latvia that’s trying to change that, putting her beloved homeland on the global metal map even living in Germany.

Last but not least, when asked if she also sings and writes in her mother tongue Latvian and in any other language rather than English, she said although English is her preferred language because she wants her lyrics and messages to be understood by as many people as possible, she also sings and writes lyrics in Latvian and Russian depending on the project she’s working on, as sometimes she feels she wants to communicate only with Latvian and Russian speaking people. In case you want to enjoy about one hour of Māra talking about her career, her goals, her personal life and many other topics in English, I highly recommend you take a shot at an interview she gave to Dani Zed Extreme Music Reviews & Liveshows via Skype a couple of months ago. How lucky is Dani Zed for having the utmost pleasure of talking to such nice and talented metal woman for an extended period of time like that? We need to thank him for uploading the interview on YouTube, and obviously keep supporting Māra on her quest for extreme music in Lativa, in Germany, and anywhere else in the world where powerful and visceral female roars like hers are truly appreciated.

Māra Lisenko’s Official Facebook page
Māra Lisenko’s Official Instagram
Māra Lisenko’s Official YouTube channel
MĀRA’s Official Facebook page
MĀRA’s Official Instagram
MĀRA’s Official YouTube channel
MĀRA’s Official BandCamp page

“I love touring, I could live like that. I love visiting different countries, meeting and playing for different people, learning about metal scenes everywhere I go. It’s very exciting.” – Māra Lisenko

Album Review – HerezA / Death Metal Drunks (2019)

Join this horde of ruthless headbanging bastards in their quest for metal and booze, armed to the teeth with their brand new opus of straightforward Death N’ Roll.

Vodka, whiskey, gin, rakija, black tooth grin, tequila, Jägermeister and Jack Daniel’s, all mixed with humongous dosages of rebelliousness, depravity and violence. That’s the extremely combustible recipe found in Death Metal Drunks, the brand new album by Croatian/German Punk/Death Metal horde HerezA and a fantastic follow-up to their 2017 release I Become Death. As the band itself likes to say, there’s no “pre”, no “post”, no “tech”, no “prog” and not even any “swe” references or connotations in their new opus, but a straightforward Death N’ Roll attack highly recommended for fans of the demolishing music played by iconic acts like Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death, The Exploited, Carcass, Kreator, Motörhead and several other relentless rock and metal entities.

Formed in 2014 in Beli Manastir, Croatia, but currently located in the beautiful Stuttgart, capital of southwest Germany’s Baden-Württemberg state, what used to be a duo comprised of vocalist Ivan Kovačević and guitarist Slobodan Stupar is now a full-bodied squad with the additions of bassit Holger and drummer Thomas Polder, which translates into not only a more dynamic musicality but also makes it possible for HerezA to tour a lot more, spreading their nihilistic, inebriate and boisterous creations to the four corners of our decaying world. Produced by Slobodan himself, recorded, mixed and mastered by Mario Marković, and featuring an absolutely superb cover art by Croatian artist Andrej Bartulović (All Things Rotten), perfectly representing what HerezA are all about, Death Metal Drunks is one of those albums that will put a huge smile on your face every single time you listen to it, inspiring you to join other metalheads into the sickest circle pits you can think of.

Wicked distortions and a menacing aura suddenly explode into sheer violence in the form of music in Back From The Grave, where Ivan’s roars sound even more enraged than in their previous album, while guest vocalist Adrie Kloosterwaard (Sinister) delivers deep, guttural Cannibal Corpse-inspired lines to make things even more brutal. Then Slobodan shows no mercy for our necks with his incendiary riffs in Genocid, where Thomas keeps hammering his drums frantically, therefore being recommended for fans of a thrashier and more hardcore version or our good old Death Metal; whereas Kopam Oči, Režem Jezik, Prste, Nos I Uši (“I dig my eyes, I cut my tongue, my fingers, my nose and my ears” from Croatian), featuring guest vocals by Igor Buljin (Gorthaur’s Wrath), follows a similar pattern as most songs in I Become Death, or in other words, it’s  an onrush of vicious sounds that will inspire you to slam into the pit like a maniac while Slobodan and Holger don’t stop slashing their stringed weapons mercilessly.

Blazing guitars and punk-infused drums dictate the rhythm in the boozy metal hymn Death Metal Drunks, by far my favorite song of the album showcasing utterly entertaining lyrics vociferated by Ivan (“We are back once again / To show you how it’s done / Pedal to the metal, full speed ahead / Breaks are for the weak / Head through the wall, we don’t care at all / Heading for selfdestruction / Give us booze, give us beer / We are ready for execution”), followed by Rak n’Roll, bringing forward less than two minutes of total sonic anarchy as if the Exploited and Napalm Death had a son (and if that son was trained by Cannibal Corpse), with highlights to Thomas’ crushing performance on drums. Horses bring the noise in Dullahan, a thunderous tune infused with badass Rock N’ Roll elements the likes of Motörhead, also presenting a great job done by Slobodan with his scorching riffs and featuring the third guest vocalist of the album, Aleister Kainulainen (King Satan), to give the whole song and extra kick. And if you think HerezA will slow down at any given point you’re absolutely wrong, as Do Kosti Bez Milosti (“to the bone without mercy”) is another overdose of violence, insanity and rage sung in their mother tongue Croatian, with Ivan’s demented growls and Thomas’ nonstop beats inspiring the listener to violently crack their spinal cords in half.

Beneath The Wheels Of Death is hell on wheels once again led by the berserk grunts by Ivan while Slobodan delivers spot-on riffs and solos, and there’s no time to breathe at all as after a weird semi-acoustic intro the quartet blasts their own version of what can be called “Country Metal” in Necrobitch, Cowgirl From The Morgue, with its lyrics seeming like they were taken from a Steel Panther song but embraced by the heaviness and speed of Punk Rock. In addition to that, pay good attention to how Holger’s groovy and rumbling bass lines add a lot of electricity to the overall result. In Stupid Spoiled Whore the quartet once again brings to our ears very “classy” lyrics (“Spoiled, rich, little girl / You have everything in the world / Mommy and daddy love you so / They can’t see you’re just a / Piece of shit / You make me sick / An ugly boar / Stupid spoiled whore / Shit for brains / You leave stains / Everywhere you go / You’re stupid spoiled whore”), with the music being a feast of raw, razor-edged noises and tones that couldn’t sound more violent. And lastly, Monstrum is a beyond thrilling and deranged way to close such excellent album of extreme music where Thomas steals the spotlight with his frantic drumming while Ivan, Slobodan and Holger fill out every empty space with their respective growls, riffs and bass punches.

After all is said and done, I have only one very simple question to you, and I’m pretty sure your answer will be positive. Do you consider yourself a Death Metal drunk? Well, if you’re reading this review to the very end I believe you are, which means you’re more than ready to join HerezA in their quest for metal and booze by following them on Facebook, and especially by purchasing your copy of Death Metal Drunks (available for a full listen on Spotify and on YouTube) from the Godz ov War Productions’ BandCamp or webstore, as well as from Apple Music and Discogs. And after putting your hands on the album and hitting play, you know what to do. It’s booze, slamming, more booze, headbanging while slamming, an extra dose of booze, and so on.

Best moments of the album: Kopam Oči, Režem Jezik, Prste, Nos I Uši, Death Metal Drunks and Do Kosti Bez Milosti.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Godz ov War Productions

Track listing
1. Back From The Grave (feat. Adrie Kloosterwaard) 2:56
2. Genocid 1:58
3. Kopam Oči, Režem Jezik, Prste, Nos I Uši (feat. Igor Buljin) 2:53
4. Death Metal Drunks 3:10
5. Rak n’Roll 1:34
6. Dullahan (feat. Aleister Kainulainen) 2:42
7. Do Kosti Bez Milosti 3:15
8. Beneath The Wheels Of Death 2:10
9. Necrobitch, Cowgirl From The Morgue 3:23
10. Stupid Spoiled Whore 2:35
11. Monstrum 1:38

Band members
Ivan Kovacevic – vocals
Slobodan Stupar – guitar, vocals
Holger – bass
Thomas Polder – drums

Guest musicians
Adrie Kloosterwaard – vocals on “Back From the Grave”
Igor Buljin – vocals on “Kopam Oči, Režem Jezik, Prste, Nos I Uši”
Aleister Kainulainen – vocal on “Dullahan”

Metal Chick of the Month – Ela

ELA ROCKS!

Hailing from the charming Stuttgart, capital of southwest Germany’s Baden-Württemberg state and known for the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche headquarters and museums, our metal chick of the month of August is ready to set fire to The Headbanging Moose with her powerful vocals, stunning looks and deep passion for Hard Rock, Rock N’ Roll, and Heavy and Power Metal. Furthermore, you’ll certainly find her evolution in music quite interesting, from her mellower, radio-friendly Pop Rock early days to her current ferocious beast mode, blasting first-class Heavy Metal for our absolute delectation, always ready to rock like there’s no tomorrow. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the raven-haired vocalist Michaela “Ela” Eichhorn, or if you prefer you can simply call her Ela, frontwoman for German Melodic Heavy Metal band ELA and a woman that beautifully represents the power and importance of women in contemporary metal music.

You won’t find a lot of personal details about our dauntless Ela on the internet, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to read, learn and enjoy about her. Let’s say that if you want to know more about Ela, all you have to do is search for her own band ELA, as in the end the two can be considered the same entity. In other words, there’s no Michaela Eichhorn without ELA and vice-versa, which means we’ll be focusing on Ela’s career with her band on this humble tribute to this talented German singer, starting with the band’s inception over ten years ago, in the year of 2006. As a matter of fact, we can go a bit further than that, to the year of 2004, when Ela was part of a Karlsruh, Baden-Württemberg-based band named Com’n Rail, with whom she released the full-length album Out of My Universe that same year (and you can still buy the album from Amazon or from Discogs).

After several concerts all over Germany to promote Out of My Universe in the following years, Com’n Rail split up in 2006, with Ela finally founding what’s known today as ELA. However, as already mentioned, the band’s first releases, those being the EP’s Out of Time and Little Lies, both released in 2008, and the full-length albums Passion, from that same year, and Make My Day, from 2009, showed a much smoother side of Ela, offering her fans a fusion of classic Hard Rock with pop and alternative music. Ela’s debut EP Out of Time featured German musician J.R. Blackmore (the son of Ritchie Blackmore and his former German wife Margit, and known from bands like EBC Roxx and Over the Rainbow) on the guitar, with the invitation originating from Ela herself after listening to one of his instrumental pieces during a radio interview in Hamburg and falling in love with his refined technique. Upon returning home that night, she sent an email to Mr. Blackmore inviting him to participate in her album, he obviously accepted the invitation, and two weeks later the single Out Of Time was recorded (check out the official video shot at the legendary rock club Headbangers Ballroom in Hamburg HERE), with the full EP featuring the aforementioned single, a couple of original songs  by Ela and instrumental pieces by Mr. Blackmore, and a cover version for UFO’s Queen of the Deep. As a consequence of the very positive feedback received from fans and the specialized media, the duo went on a fairly extensive European tour after the release of the EP, not to mention the official video was played on many German music channels such as iMusic1 TV, Hit24, Deluxe TV and Streetclip.Tv.

The year of 2008 also witnessed the release of her first full-length album Passion, which you can listen in full on YouTube, again drawing excellent feedback and very positive reviews from the media. This was Ela’s first cooperation with Martin Engler of Mono Inc., which also happened in her next album. Songs like After the Rain and Out of Time achieved great success among fans of her music, the first single Little Lies made it onto several radio playlists for several weeks, her cover versions for Credence Clearwater Revival’s Who’ll Stop the Rain and Cheap Trick’s I Want You To Want Me were simply amazing, and Bleed got its own official video, shot at a castle for Ela’s own delight. “I’m a huge fan of castles, and it was my utmost wish to film on the historic grounds of a fortress. Just the masonry is ever so fascinating, and for a song like ‘Bleed’ I couldn’t have imagined any other location”, said our talented frontwoman.

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In 2009 Ela was back in action with a more rockin’ sonority with the album Make My Day, featuring re-recorded songs form her previous releases, and new songs like Here to Stay, Who (Won’t You Tell Me) and Right for the Devil, and once again featuring Martin Engler on drums, percussion, keyboards, programming and other arrangements. Ela had a few nice words to say about this heavier and harder version of her music. “The atmosphere in a studio is different to the one on stage, where you’re being swept away by the energy of your fans. Before you pick a song for an album, you work for weeks on that tune until it is to your perfect liking. However, and I think I speak for many of my musician colleagues here, after a while you may dislike this song and/or you suddenly get new ideas for it. Music has a lot to do with emotions, so I think that your own feelings play a major role here. When you know that you’re due to play live shows, it gets you in a different mood, you feel changed. I can only speak for myself, but I felt an overpowering urge to bring these songs across way harder – well, I guess, I simply wanted to ROCK more,” she commented, already pointing to a heavier future for her band.

Although Ela might not have released any new material under her own band until 2015, in 2010 she founded together with J.R. Blackmore and keyboardist Tony Carey (Rainbow) the project EBC Roxx,  having released the album Winners Vol.1 that same year,  with the song Silver Arrows being the anthem to accompany the first race of Mercedes Formula 1 pilots Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg that season. Then after a short hiatus Ela returned in 2015 with her band ELA showcasing a more visceral and metallic sound in Nervous Breakdown, featuring among several hard and heavy songs a medley of two of Slade’s biggest classics, Cum On Feel the Noize and Gudbuy T’Jane. Produced by Jörg Uken (Soundlodge Tonstudio) and mixed by Sascha Paeth (Avantasia, Beyond the Black, Edguy), Nervous Breakdown led Ela and her bandmates to promote the album on a tour with the iconic band Bonfire, proving once again she was on the right path in heavy music.

In 2016 Ela and her henchmen got even more metal with the release of the EP Out Of This World, presenting a much harder sonority closer to the Symphonic Metal played by bands such as Nightwish and Lacuna Coil, as you can see in this live version of the song This Kaleidoscope from 2017. Then in 2017 ELA finally achieved its most metallic form with the release of the full-length opus Second Reality, featuring powerful songs like Deadly Sins, therefore explaining why the album stayed in the Top 20 of the German Rock and Metal Charts for weeks. Ela’s metal side received so much praise from fans, critics and media from all over the world her band even toured around Germany as a supporting act for the one and only Grave Digger, not to mention Ela’s guest vocals in 2019 in the title-track Facing the Demon, from the album Facing the Demon, by German Melodic Heavy Metal act Reternity. Having said all that, you might be asking yourself what’s next for Ela, right? Well, no one knows exactly what our dark-haired singer will bring to our avid ears in the future, but we can rest assured it’s definitely going to rock our world.

ELA’s Official Facebook page
ELA’s Official Instagram
ELA’s Official YouTube channel