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

Album Review – Reternity / Facing the Demon (2019)

An exciting display of Melodic Heavy Metal by four experienced musicians from the German scene, dealing with the struggles we all have with our inner demons and temptations.

Founded in the summer of 2018 in Heilbronn, a city in northern Baden-Württemberg, Germany, by Stefan Zörner (SpiteFuel, Lanfear, Strangelet) on vocals, Carsten Sauter (Mighty D., Pyroclasm) on guitars and bass, Semen Brik (Echo.Mensch) also on the guitar, and Sascha Beul (Remember Twilight, Darkness Ablaze) on drums, four experienced and skillful musicians from the German Heavy Metal and Hard Rock scene, Melodic Heavy Metal outfit Reternity has just released their debut full-length album, entitled Facing the Demon, following up the successful release of their 2018 two-track demo, which received an amazing feedback from both fans and critics. Dealing with the struggles we all have with our inner demons and temptations, something that’s beautifully depicted in the album artwork, Facing the Demon was carefully produced by Jonas Kümmerle at Analog Mixing Studio, taking the album’s overall sound quality to a whole new level and, therefore, allowing those Swabian metallers to shine throughout 40 minutes of heavy music, ranging from classic Hard Rock to more berserk styles such as our good old Thrash Metal.

The acoustic guitars by Carsten and Semen kick off the intro Strings of Sor 1: Sunset, working as the calm before the storm for Last Days of War, a frantic and very melodic Heavy Metal tune with thrashing elements, as if Anthrax decided to play a faster version of Hard Rock. Moreover, Stefan leads his metal brigade with his ass-kicking, angry vocals, keeping the energy level really high until the next song, titled Tomorrow’s History, comes crushing our minds with another incendiary performance by the band’s guitar duo while Carsten keeps rumbling the foundations of the earth with his bass lines, also bringing some soulful guitar solos just the way we like it in Power Metal. Then the spoken words by Stefan in the melodic bridge Reternity II set the tone for the amazing Hard Rock power ballad I Love the Night, highly inspired by 80’s Glam Metal but with the band’s own modern twist. As the sound of guitars and bass fills every empty space in the air, get ready to sing the song’s awesome chorus alongside those German metallers in great fashion.

In Down. Not. Broken, one of the songs from their 2018 demo and another potent tune infused with Thrash Metal nuances, it’s time for Sascha to pound his drums mercilessly, therefore adding tons of electricity and stamina to the musicality, with Carsten and Semen once again kicking us in the face with their riffs and solos. The title-track Facing the Demon is a lesson in Symphonic Power Metal, with Stefan and guest vocalist Michaela “Ela” Eichhorn (frontwoman for German Melodic Heavy Metal band E:L:A) being on fire and utterly flawless on vocals, while the guitars and bass sound absolutely metallic from start to finish for our total delight; whereas in Singularity all instruments, in special the bass lines, present a lot of Progressive Metal nuances, sounding more modernized than the rest of the album, albeit not as vibrant. Furthermore, Stefan does a great job on vocals as usual, with the song’s acoustic ending also being a nice addition to the overall result.

The second song from their 2018 demo, Suicide Butterflies, is a very rhythmic and solid creation by Reternity, showcasing an electrified Sascha on drums while Carsten brings considerable amounts of progressiveness and groove with his riffs and bass punches; followed by Stone to Mouth, featuring German singer Chantal Freier doing a gorgeous introduction to the song in her mother tongue. Overall, it sounds like a fusion of the music by Skid Row, Gojira and Anthrax with alternative music from the 90’s, with all the shredding plus the German words being welcome extra touches to such vibrant composition. And last but not least, Carsten and Semen fire acoustic guitar lines one last time in the outro Strings of Sor 2: Sundown, closing the album on a serene note; however, keep listening to it for the hidden track All Grey, a fun and frantic Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll party with highlights to Stefan’s vocal performance boosted by the song’s effective backing vocals.

You can show your support to those skillful and unrelenting Teutonic metallers by following them on Facebook, and of course by purchasing your copy of Facing the Demon (also available for a full listen on Spotify) from the MDD Records webstore, from iTunes or from Amazon. Because, you know, if you’ve decided you’re finally going to face your inner demons from now on, keeping your head high and without any fear of failure, the best way to do that is accompanied by our good old Heavy Metal, no doubt about that.

Best moments of the album: Last Days of War, I Love the Night and Facing the Demon.

Worst moments of the album: Singularity.

Released in 2019 MDD Records

Track listing
1. Strings of Sor 1: Sunset (Intro) 1:05
2. Last Days of War 4:22
3. Tomorrow’s History 3:50
4. Reternity II 0:54
5. I Love the Night 2:55
6. Down. Not. Broken 3:32
7. Facing the Demon (feat. Michaela “Ela” Eichhorn) 4:31
8. Singularity 5:34
9. Suicide Butterflies 4:18
10. Stone to Mouth (feat. Chantal Freier) 4:47
11. Strings of Sor 2: Sundown (Outro) 1:12
12. All Grey (Hidden track) 2:39

Band members
Stefan Zörner – vocals
Carsten Sauter – guitars, bass
Semen Brik – guitars
Sascha Beul – drums

Guest musicians
Chantal Freier – female vocals (intro) on “Stone to Mouth”
Michaela “Ela” Eichhorn – female vocals on “Facing the Demon”

Album Review – Waldgeflüster / Mondscheinsonaten (2019)

The perfect soundtrack for those crystalline winter, woodland walks, courtesy of a Bavarian heathen horde armed with their Folk-drenched Black Metal.

There’s nowhere like Germany in winter time. The forests, the castles, the markets and the “gluhwein” (a type of mulled wine from German-speaking countries made from red wine with cinnamon and other herbs and spices), all offer solace for the wandering winter soul, as well as the music as you’ll be able to enjoy in Mondscheinsonaten, the brand new opus by Munich, Bavaria-based Black/Folk Metal horde Waldgeflüster. Both the name of the band (German for “forest whisperings”) and the album name (which translates as “moonlight sonatas”) already give you a very good idea of how powerful their new Folk-drenched Black Metal eyries are, melting the coldest of hearts, but it’s after hitting playing and immersing yourself in their music that you’ll finally understand what Bavarian heathen music is all about.

Formed in 2005 as a one-man project by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Winterherz (whose full name is Jan van Berlekom), Waldgeflüster evolved into a full-bodied band in 2014 when guitarists Dominik Frank and Markus Frey, bassist Arvagr and drummer Thomas Birkmaier joined Winterherz in his quest for metal music for good, after having played with him either as studio or live musicians in previous albums and concerts. Building strongly on the band’s heathen foundations, melding clean and harsh vocals seamlessly and integrating folk instrumentation sparsely enough to augment (but never over-embellish the exceptional blackened metal grounding), Mondscheinsonaten is perfectly pitched to fuel those crystalline winter, woodland walks with its immensely infectious melodies and haunting refrains, with the entire band sounding extremely crisp, mature and cohesive throughout the album’s over 60 minutes of stylish and enfolding music.

Embraced by the sound of the howling wind, the melancholic, acoustic Einleitung (“introduction”) warms up our hearts for the dense and thrilling Der Steppenwolf (“the steppenwolf”), with Winterherz growling deeply while Domink and Markus extract sheer darkness from their guitars. In other words, this is a journey through the realms of Atmospheric Black Metal and Blackened Folk Metal where the music keeps growing in intensity as time goes by, while Thomas, armed with his classic blast beats, makes sure not a single space is left empty. Then get ready for over twelve minutes of a flawless fusion of folk and extreme music entitled Gripfelstürme (“summit storm”), where the band’s guitar duo once again hypnotizes us with their scorching riffs and with Winterherz being on fire with both his demonic gnarls and his obscure clean vocals, also showcasing ethereal passages and backing vocals that add a touch of finesse to the overall result.  And Waldgeflüster continue to invade our minds and captivate our senses with the atmospheric Rotgoldene Novemberwälder (“red golden November forests”), uniting the most visceral elements from classic Black Metal with the melancholy of Atmospheric Black Metal, with strident guitar lines, intricate beats and pitch black darkness flowing nonstop from this bitterly cold aria.

In Und der Wind… (“and the wind…”), a serene intro explodes into sheer aggression and rage in the form of old school Black Metal with Thomas sounding bestial on drums while Arvagr delivers thunder through his bass lines. Moreover, your soul will certainly get lost throughout the song’s ten detailed and dense minutes; whereas in Von Winterwäldern und Mondscheinsonaten (“from winter forests and moonshine nights”) we’re treated to more flammable sounds flowing from all instruments, in special from Dominik’s and Markus’ guitars, with Winterherz roaring with all his strength while the music brings hints of Progressive Black Metal to make things even more entertaining. Then closing the regular version of the album we have the delicate Staub in der Lunge (“dust in the lungs”), beginning in the most serene way possible with its clean vocals and acoustic guitars dictating the rhythm before the entire band comes ripping one last time with their refined Black Metal sonority. In addition, Dominik and Markus once again steal the spotlight with their piercing guitar lines for our total delight. And if you acquire the black/grey double vinyl version of the album, you’ll also get the acoustic version for Der Steppenwolf as a bonus track, a beautiful and very delicate alternate rendering of one of the best songs of the album.

In case you’re already prepared to get lost in the heathen lands of Bavaria together with Waldgeflüster, you can enjoy Mondscheinsonaten in full  on YouTube and on Spotify, and purchase your copy of the album from the band’s own BandCamp page or from the Nordvis Produktion’s official webstore (as well as from several other locations by clicking HERE). In a nutshell, as aforementioned the “moonlight sonatas” by this talented horde of musicians hailing from the stunning Bavaria are the perfect soundtrack for a cold and pensive winter walk, proving once again Folkened Black Metal is more than just a subgenre of extreme music, but an intrinsic part of the lifestyle and culture of the coldest parts of earth.

Best moments of the album: Der Steppenwolf and Gripfelstürme.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Nordvis Produktion

Track listing
1. Einleitung 3:08
2. Der Steppenwolf 7:51
3. Gripfelstürme 12:21
4. Rotgoldene Novemberwälder 6:28
5. Und der Wind… 10:52
6. Von Winterwäldern und Mondscheinsonaten 9:51
7. Staub in der Lunge 5:48

Black/Grey Double Vinyl bonus track
8. Der Steppenwolf (Acoustic version) 7:57

Band members
Winterherz – vocals, mandolin, keyboards
Dominik Frank – guitars, backing vocals
Markus Frey – guitars
Arvagr – bass, backing vocals
Thomas Birkmaier – drums

Guest musician
Johannes Schermaul – cello

Album Review – Rammstein / Rammstein (2019)

A magnificent lecture in Neue Deutsche Härte from the bottom of the flaming hearts of the pioneers of the genre.

Since the band’s inception in 1994 in the stunning German city of Berlin, Neue Deutsche Härte six-man institution Rammstein has been shaking the foundations of the earth with their unparalleled fusion of classic Industrial Metal and contemporary Heavy Metal, all spiced up of course by their controversial lyrics (most of the time in their mother tongue German), their industrial-inspired attire and their incendiary live performances. And it was just like that from their debut album Herzeleid, released in 1995, until their 2009 release Liebe Ist Für Alle Da, before the band went on an unprecedented hiatus that left their fans wondering if the band would ever get back in action to crush our senses with their wicked creations.

Fortunately for all of us, fans of the crazy and electrifying music blasted by lead vocalist Till Lindemann, lead guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe, rhythm guitarist Paul Landers, bassist Oliver Riedel, keyboardist Christian “Flake” Lorenz and drummer Christoph Schneider (a lineup that has remained unchanged throughout the band’s existence, by the way), Rammstein have just returned now in 2019 better than ever with their untitled seventh studio album, also known by many as Rammstein, their first studio album in a decade, bringing to our avid ears everything we’ve learned to love in their music through the years and more. Featuring a minimalist and captivating artwork by Rocket & Wink, the band’s brand new masterpiece offers an amalgamation of their past, present and future, with elements from all of their albums such as Sehnsucht and Mutter, without sounding repetitive or outdated; quite the contrary, the entire album simply rocks.

The album couldn’t have started in a more brilliant way than with their newborn anthem Deutschland (or “Germany” in their mother tongue), bringing forward the perfect fusion of electronic and metal music right from the very first second. Its backing vocals will definitely mesmerize you, while Mr. Lindemann leads his industrial horde in this passionate ode to their homeland. Moreover, Christian is also sensational with his keys and synths, and I’m not even going to talk about the song’s official video, which is in my opinion one of the best videos ever made in the history of music. Radio is another classic and powerful depiction of what Neue Deutsche Härte is all about, with Richard and Paul slashing their strings beautifully and putting us to dance together with the band, also featuring a chorus perfect for singing along with them even if your German is extremely rudimentary. Then it’s time for The Academic Choir and the Symphony Orchestra of the National Television and Radio Company of Belarus, Minsk to add a touch of epicness to the bold and violent Industrial Metal tune Zeig Dich (“show yourself”), where Richard, Paul and Oliver are on fire with their stringed weapons, while Christoph pounds his drums just the way we like it and Mr. Lindemann is once again flawless with his demented vocals.

Ausländer (“foreigner”) is by far the most disco-dancing song of the album, boosted by the band’s trademark riffs and beats and its acid and fun official video (which is another work-of-art). As a matter of fact, Rammstein are so good in what they do they’re capable of making metalheads enjoy dance music, and pay good attention to the song’s lyrics as they’re sung in several languages like French, Italian and English. It’s time to get heavier and more immoral than ever (something those German guys know how to do to perfection) with Sex, with Oliver and Christoph dictating the song’s violent rhythm. In the end, you’ll either crack your neck banging your head or have some wild sex while listening to it, both being highly recommended activities, of course. And the Belarusian orchestra returns for another round of majestic sounds in Puppe (“doll”), the most obscure and vile of all songs, with the vocals by Mr. Lindemann exhaling anger, fear and anguish while Christoph shows no mercy for his drums.

The romantic and enfolding Was Ich Liebe (“what I love”) is another great song showcasing rumbling bass lines, rhythmic beats and the always whimsical keys by Christian, and by far the one with the most melodic guitar lines of the entire album; whereas in the touching Diamant (“diamond”) the music remains utterly ominous while Mr. Lindemann darkly recites its lyrics, feeling as melancholic, beautiful and dense as it can be, or in other words, it’s absolutely awesome. Then Christian takes the lead in the modern Industrial Metal song Weit Weg (“far away”), where a delicate but at the same time potent background provides all Mr. Lindemann needs to thrive on vocals, with the riffs and solos by Richard and Paul bringing even more electricity to the overall result, followed by Tattoo, which kind of sounds taken from one of their previous albums. Put differently, it’s pure Neue Deutsche Härte tailored for the band’s diehard fans, with Christoph hammering our heads violently with his unstoppable, mechanized beats, while the song’s guitar riffs will cut your skin deep. Hence, I would simply love to listen to those Teutonic metallers playing this neck-breaking tune live. And lastly, Oliver makes the earth tremble with his bass punches in Hallomann (“Helloman” / “Announcer”), closing the album on a high note with the music flowing smoothly until its climatic and serene ending.

In a nutshell, anything I say about the brand new opus by the one and only Rammstein won’t be enough to describe its density, depth and energy. We’re facing the best rock and metal album of the year, my friends, there’s no doubt about that, and you can enjoy each and every song from such distinct release directly from the band’s official YouTube channel or on Spotify, and of course buy your copy of this multi-layered feast of top-of-the-line Neue Deutsche Härte from your favorite retailer by clicking HERE. As a matter of fact, I guess the best words that can be used to depict the music found in Rammstein are the ones already sung by Mr. Lindemann & Co. in the opening track of the album. “Deutschland / Mein Herz in Flammen / Will dich lieben und verdammen / Deutschland / Dein Atem kalt / So jung / Und doch so alt / Deutschland!”

Best moments of the album: Deutschland, Radio, Zeig Dich, Puppe and Tattoo.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Universal Music

Track listing
1. Deutschland 5:23
2. Radio 4:37
3. Zeig Dich 4:15
4. Ausländer 3:51
5. Sex 3:56
6. Puppe 4:33
7. Was Ich Liebe 4:29
8. Diamant 2:34
9. Weit Weg 4:20
10. Tattoo 4:11
11. Hallomann 4:11

Band members
Till Lindemann – lead vocals
Richard Z. Kruspe – lead guitar, backing vocals
Paul Landers – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Oliver Riedel – bass guitar
Christian “Flake” Lorenz – keyboards, samples, synthesizers
Christoph Schneider – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
The Academic Choir and the Symphony Orchestra of the National Television and Radio Company of Belarus, Minsk – strings, choir on “Zeig Dich” and “Puppe”
Meral Al-Mer – backing vocals on “Deutschland” and “Tattoo”
Carla Bruhn – backing vocals on “Hallomann”

Album Review – Vorga / Radiant Gloom EP (2019)

Combining modern Melodic Black Metal aesthetics with atmospheric and cosmic influences, this up-and-coming multinational horde is ready to bring us all chaos and devastation with their debut EP.

Formed by multi-instrumentalist Atlas back in 2016 in Scotland but currently located in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany, the multinational Black Metal unity known as Vorga aims at creating emotionally resonant music that could capture the spirit of dissonance, frustration and harm in the modern world, which is exactly what you’re going to feel while listening to their debut EP, entitled Radiant Gloom. With members from the UK, Bulgaria and Germany, Vorga’s intention has always been to create music that combined modern Melodic Black Metal aesthetics with atmospheric and cosmic influences, with a lyrical focus on looking at the world from an anti-anthropocentric stance.

Mixed and Mastered by Simon Jameson at Black Art Audio Studios, and featuring a dark and cryptic artwork by Bulgarian artist Georgi Georgiev (Moon Ring Design), Radiant Gloom is a powerful welcome card by this talented quartet comprised of Пешо Спейса on vocals, Volker on lead guitar, the band’s founder Atlas on rhythm guitar and bass, and Jervas on drums, leaving us eager for more of their music in the form of another EP or, even better, a full-length opus in a not-so-distant future. Hence, you better be prepared before hitting play and listening to Radiant Gloom, because although we’re talking about only four songs in the span of 22 minutes, it’s already more than enough to bring chaos and destruction to your twisted mind.

Jervas and his unstoppable beats ignite a feast of darkened sounds named The Black Age, before Пешо begins roaring like a demonic entity while Volker and Atlas sound infernal with their axes. Put differently, it’s fast, furious and heavy just the way we like it, blending the most powerful elements from old school Black Metal and contemporary Melodic Black Metal. Argil is another rhythmic and obscure creation by the quartet, showcasing rumbling bass lines, razor-edged guitars and a demonic aura, with Пешо’s growls getting more piercing and devilish as the music progresses, not to mention how bestial but at the same time precise Jervas is once again on drums, resulting in a top-notch Melodic Black Metal extravaganza for your metallic heart.

Divine brings forward a tornado of obscurity led by the crushing riffs by Atlas and Volker, sounding absolutely perfect for going mental inside the circle pit or banging your head nonstop. Furthermore, get ready to be consumed by the flames of hell in almost seven minutes of classic Black Metal, courtesy of this sulfurous entity that goes by the name of Vorga. Then sounding utterly menacing and mesmerizing from the very first second, Hunger showcases a neck-breaking rhythm boosted by Jervas’ pounding beats, while Пешо uses his hellish gnarls to vociferate the song’s austere words manically before the music fades into darkness, putting a beyond somber ending to the EP.

Enter the realm of Melodic Black Metal ruled by Vorga by listening to Radiant Gloom in full on YouTube and on Spotify, by following this promising new name of the underground scene on Facebook, and by purchasing a copy of the EP from their own BandCamp page, as well as from iTunes or Amazon. In a music genre that several people consider as already saturated, it’s always a pleasure seeing the birth of excellent bands like Vorga, shutting those unbelievers up with huge dosages of talent, hard work and loyalty to the foundations of Black Metal, with Radiant Gloom representing just their first of many steps in the right direction, no doubt about that.

Best moments of the album: The Black Age and Divine.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. The Black Age 5:01
2. Argil 5:02
3. Divine 6:48
4. Hunger 5:17

Band members
Пешо Спейса – vocals
Volker – lead guitar
Atlas – rhythm guitars, bass
Jervas – drums

Album Review – Der Rote Milan / Moritat (2019)

Enjoy these German tales from the past connected to the present through themes of freedom, fear and fighting oneself in the face of death, all embraced by first-class Black Metal.

I, II, III, IV and V. More than just Roman numerals, those represent the five pillars of a German Black Metal unity known as Der Rote Milan, who are beyond ready to keep haunting  our souls with their second full-length opus, entitled Moritat, the follow-up to and a logical progression from their 2016 debut album Aus der Asche. Not only that, their new album can also be considered a concept release, as Moritat tells local stories based on real events during a thirty-year war that took place during the 17th century, with its central character being the historical figure Schinderhannes, an outlaw considered by some to be the “German Robin Hood”.  These stories, which take place in the southwestern Germany’s Hunsrück region, are connected to the present through themes of freedom, fear and fighting oneself in the face of death.

Forged in 2015 in the fires of Trier, a southwestern German city in the Moselle wine region lying in a valley between low vine-covered hills of red sandstone in the west of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, near the border with Luxembourg, Der Rote Milan (which would translate to English as “the red kite”) continue to play Melodic Black Metal in Moritat, finding their identity in a combination of vicious blast beats, catchy melodies, and calm, thoughtful moments. The lyrics are performed in German to underscore the local character of the stories, giving the whole experience of listening to their music an extra touch of aggressiveness, obscurity and pure evil. Comprised of six very detailed and bold songs, Moritat surpasses the 40-minute barrier in great fashion, positioning this cryptic entity as one of the most promising new names of the underground German scene.

Gentle notes gradually morph into a brutal but very melodic devastation entitled Die Habsucht (or “the greed” in English), where IV begins fulminating everything and everyone with his demonic beats while lead singer III fires some absolutely enraged roars, with the music flowing majestically until a somber and atmospheric break takes over, powerfully getting back to an infernal Black Metal ending. Then it’s time for I and II to pulverize our ears with their scorching riffs in Drohende Schatten (“threatening shadows”), a lesson in Melodic Black Metal by this Teutonic horde, sounding even more demented and violent than the opening track, whereas Gnosis der Vergänglichkeit (“gnosis of transience”) is an ode to all things dark and mournful with a melancholic Atmospheric Black Metal-inspired intro where III’s otherworldly growls and vociferations sound utterly anguished and grim, while V keeps the ambience menacing with his low-tuned bass.

And that intricate and lugubrious vibe keeps haunting our souls in Der letzte Galgen (“the last gallows”), where III growls demonically while his bandmates extract the most vicious and piercing sounds possible from their instruments, with IV once again stealing the spotlight with his precision and technique, getting almost tribal with his beats at times (which in the end enhances the song’s taste and punch even more). There’s no time to breathe with more of their vibrant fusion of classic Black Metal with distinct melodic and atmospheric styles in Der Findling (“the boulder”), reaching deep inside our hearts and blackening them beautifully, with I, II and V being in a fantastic and extremely evil sync with their strings, before the title-track Moritat (“ballad”) brings to our metallic ears 12 minutes of visceral sounds and noises, with the amount of aggression and obscurity flowing from each instrument being truly outstanding. Not only that, IV keeps demolishing his drums in a very precise and melodic way, while the guitars sound and feel extremely sharp, therefore cutting our skins mercilessly, with the music remaining epic until the song’s triumphant and dark finale.

In case these simple, straightforward words are not enough to show you how potent and somber the music by those German metallers sounds and feels, you can take a more detailed listen at Moritat in its entirety on YouTube, and of course after getting stunned by their disturbing sonic waves you must check what Der Rote Milan are up to on Facebook, and purchase Moritat from their own BandCamp page, from the Unholy Conspiracy Deathwork’s BandCamp page or Big Cartel, from iTunes or from Amazon. In a nutshell, the gates to the underworld of German Black Metal are open, and Der Rote Milan are right there waiting to claim your soul to the sound of their brand new, pulverizing concept album of first-class Melodic Black Metal.

Best moments of the album: Drohende Schatten and Moritat.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Unholy Conspiracy Deathwork

Track listing
1. Die Habsucht 6:10
2. Drohende Schatten 3:26
3. Gnosis der Vergänglichkeit 7:42
4. Der letzte Galgen 7:21
5. Der Findling 4:16
6. Moritat 12:01

Band members
III – vocals
I – guitars
II – guitars
V – bass
IV – drums

Album Review – Suffering Souls / In Synergy Obscene (2019)

After ten long years, Lord Esgaroth returns with a brand new album presenting a somber and satanic identity which will appeal to all of those who respect and love the Black Metal scene from the 90’s.

Forged in 1994 in the fires of Kümmersbruck, a municipality in the Amberg-Sulzbach district, in Bavaria, Germany under the name Dismal by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Tobias “Lord Esgaroth” Micko, Symphonic Black Metal one-man army Suffering Souls is ready to darken our hearts and minds once again with his epic and stylish extreme music found in his fourth full-length opus, entitled In Synergy Obscene, coming out exactly 10 years after the release of its predecessor Sadistic Goat Complex as if time had not stopped, with all new tracks following the path of the previous album, almost unchanged from the basic principle.

On In Synergy Obscene, Lord Esgaroth presents a somber and satanic identity which will appeal to all of those who respect and love the Black Metal scene from the 90’s, sounding powerful and imposing thanks to the refined sound of all classic instruments, lead guitars and clean vocal passages, creating a new and interesting atmosphere never before seen in any of the works by Suffering Souls. Also feeling a bit more mature than its previous album, In Synergy Obscene brings forward a neat and unique musicality without sounding cheesy or repetitive, showcasing all of Lord Esgaroth’s abilities as a composer, musician and as a loyal servant to the most obscure side of Extreme Metal.

Idolised And Vilified, a melancholic, romantic and cinematic intro the likes of Cradle Of Filth, kicks off the album by setting the tone for the imposing title-track In Synergy Obscene, crushing our senses mercilessly with Lord Esgaroth’s demonic gnarls and his background orchestrations matching perfectly with his infernal Black Metal riffs and solos; and more epicness mixed with his flammable Black Metal hits us in the face in Inheritance Of Irony, where not a single space is left empty, with its guitars, keys and drums invading your senses in a full-bodied feast of symphonic sounds, ending with a long, melodic and extremely beautiful guitar solo for our total delight. That vile start is followed by In Death Reborn, perhaps the least Black Metal of all songs despite Lord Esgaroth’s old school growls and gnarls, sounding very modern and distinct from the rest of the album while its backing vocals feel a bit unstable.

Back to a more symphonic and violent mode, Lord Esgaroth fires a well-balanced fusion of classic Black Metal with melodic and modern nuances titled As The Truth Unfolds, living up to the legacy of bands like Cradle Of Fitlh and Dimmu Borgir and displaying an amazing job done on drums, being intricate and furious at the same time. Then we have The True Endless, another classic composition by Suffering Souls presenting a huge amount of epicness and delicacy coming from the keyboards while its guitars keep slashing our senses, maintaining the album’s ambience very impactful and electric before the most symphonic, melodic and introspective of all songs, The Cynic God, invites us to dance together with Lord Esgaroth, sounding at times like a fantasy movie score. The second to last breath of Symphonic Black Metal by Suffering Souls comes in the form of All You Little Devils, where Lord Esgaroth’s vocals get very close to what Shagrath does with Dimmu Borgir, elevating the song’s taste and potency considerably, whereas the closing hymn Unseen Phenomenon is a feast of blackened, melodic and symphonic sounds and tones led by Lord Esgaroth’s harsh vociferations and blast beats, with its piano and keys building a climatic ending for the album.

It might have taken 10 years for Tobias Micko to morph into his alter-ego Lord Esgaroth again and bring his Suffering Souls back from the underworld, but based on the high quality of the music found in In Synergy Obscene, which you can listen in full on Spotify and purchase from the Schwarzdorn Production’s BandCamp or webstore, from the Season of Mist webstore or from iTunes, the wait was definitely worth it. With that said, I’m sure we’ll start seeing Lord Esgaroth and Suffering Souls a lot more often than only every decade, spreading his darkness upon us and carrying the flag of Symphonic Black Metal high for years to come.

Best moments of the album: Inheritance Of Irony, As The Truth Unfolds and All You Little Devils.

Worst moments of the album: In Death Reborn.

Released in 2019 Schwarzdorn Production

Track listing
1. Idolised And Vilified 2:29
2. In Synergy Obscene 5:30
3. Inheritance Of Irony 9:23
4. In Death Reborn 5:13
5. As The Truth Unfolds 6:28
6. The True Endless 5:16
7. The Cynic God 6:28
8. All You Little Devils 4:49
9. Unseen Phenomenon 6:43

Band members
Tobias “Lord Esgaroth” Micko – vocals, guitars, strings, choirs, drums, programming

Album Review – Once / After Earth (2018)

Inspired by neo-romantic soundtrack music, this talented German squad will take you to a world of fantasy, passion and mystery with their debut full-length album.

Heavily inspired by neo-romantic soundtrack music, and including typical elements of a classical Aristotelian drama combined with heavy guitars and drums in their music, German Symphonic Metal act Once has been embellishing the airwaves with their unique musicality since their inception in 2012 in North Rhine-Westphalia, culminating now in 2018 with the release of their debut full-length album, entitled After Earth. If you’re an admirer of the classy and enfolding Symphonic Metal crafted by iconic bands like Epica, Nightwish, Within Temptation and Beyond The Black, the creations by this German quartet comprised of Alina Lesnik on vocals, Marco Paulzen on the guitars, bass and harsh vocals, Frank Wypchol on keyboards, piano and orchestrations, and Alexander Hey on drums will certainly please your metallic soul.

Featuring a curious artwork by Tullius Heuer and orchestra and choir arrangements by Frank Wypchol, produced by Frank Wypchol and Marco Paulzen, recorded and engineered by Marco Paulzen in Münster, Germany, and having as a very special guest musician Shir-Ran Yinon (Krayenzeit, Haggard, Eluveitie and New Model Army) on violin, After Earth will take the listener to a world of fantasy, passion and mystery, which combined with the band’s imposing musicality and the album’s crisp and vibrant production will fully captivate your senses, making you eager for more of the music by this talented German squad. In other words, simply hit play, close your eyes, and let Once guide you through the exciting lands of After Earth.

Like the intro to an epic movie, Act 1 (Overture) invites us all to join Once in their musical journey starting with the imposing and symphonic Awake, a lesson in Symphonic Power Metal led by the classic keys and piano by Frank, with Alina living up to the legacy of stunning vocalists like Tarja Turunen and Floor Jansen. Then even more symphonic than its predecessor, My Masterpiece showcases another excellent performance by Frank with his keys while Marco brings passion to the music with his riffs and solos, as well as Alexander and his thunderous beats; followed by The Allure, presenting guest Shir-Ran Yinon and her whimsical violin in a beautiful feast of symphonic and melodic sounds and tones. Furthermore, Alina is magnificent on vocals, while Marco creates a very interesting paradox to the tenderness of the violin with his heavier-than-hell riffs.

Again featuring Shir-Ran Yinon, Distorted Smiles is a serene ballad where Alina smoothly declaims the song’s classy lyrics (“Winter’s fingers creeping chillingly / Across the rusty window bar / Through the stormy blizzard rings / A weary melody coming from afar”) before their crushing Symphonic Metal strikes again in The Hour of Eden’s Fall, presenting stylish words (“Images of a bursting sanity / Are turning into a lost reflection / Of the eternal bond of our affection / Painting the moment as a memory / Once my only world was your embrace / Now my heart is buried and erased”) and incendiary performances by Marco and Alexander, bringing rage and electricity to the music with their harsh growls, cutting riffs and nonstop beats. After such powerful display of symphonic music, a cinematic bridge titled Act II (Intermezzo) builds an imposing and adventurous atmosphere for the power ballad My Fairytale, with Alina stealing the spotlight with her fiery vocals while Frank and his keys and orchestrations add tons of electricity to the overall result, being perfect for fans of Epica and Nightwish.

Spiced up by a stunning work done on the piano by Frank we have Phenomena, a metallic symphony of sounds that feels like the soundtrack to a dangerous but thrilling adventure, with Marco carving the word “metal” onto the musicality with his Melodic Metal riffs and bass punches, connecting instantly with the Opera Metal-inspired tune The Sins of Saints, keeping the ambience vibrant and exciting with Frank and Marco being on absolute fire throughout the entire song, slashing our senses and dragging us to their fantastic world of heavy music. Then in Insane Schemes of Sanity an ethereal start morphs into a classy and gentle Symphonic Power Metal extravaganza, flirting with Folk Metal at times thanks to its pace and breaks, as well as Frank’s keys and Alina’s storytelling vocals, whereas in The Final Stage, where Shir-Ran Yinon embellishes the musicality once again with her magic violin, we’re treated to over 10 minutes of first-class Symphonic Metal led by Alina’s gorgeous vocal lines, all embraced by vibrant, stunning orchestrations and boosted by Marco’s deep roars, flowing flawlessly for our total delight until its grand finale, before Epilogue (A Memento of Our Hiraeth) concludes this album of symphony, melody and epicness in a beyond enfolding and theatrical way, mesmerizing our senses for over six minutes with its gentle piano notes and orchestral background elements.

It’s quite impossible to stand still or unemotional while listening to Once, especially if you’re a longtime fan of stylish, epic and heavy orchestral music, and in order to show your appreciation for such distinct band go check what they’re up to on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and purchase your copy of After Earth, a gorgeous lecture in Symphonic Metal, from the Pride & Joy Music webstore, from MBM Music By Mail, from the NEH Records webstore, from iTunes, or from Amazon. Once will certainly take you on a fantastic musical journey with After Earth, showing you how relevant Symphonic Metal still is nowadays, and how inspiring it can be in your everyday life.

Best moments of the album: The Allure, The Hour of Eden’s Fall, Phenomena and The Final Stage.

Worst moments of the album: Insane Schemes of Sanity.

Released in 2018 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Act 1 (Overture) 2:04
2. Awake 4:19
3. My Masterpiece 3:40
4. The Allure (feat. Shir-Ran Yinon) 3:59
5. Distorted Smiles (feat. Shir-Ran Yinon) 3:52
6. The Hour of Eden’s Fall 4:45
7. Act II (Intermezzo) 2:12
8. My Fairytale 3:55
9. Phenomena 4:35
10. The Sins of Saints 3:57
11. Insane Schemes of Sanity 4:31
12. The Final Stage (feat. Shir-Ran Yinon) 10:18
13. Epilogue (A Memento of Our Hiraeth) 5:51

Band members
Alina Lesnik – vocals
Marco Paulzen – guitars, bass, harsh vocals
Frank Wypchol – keyboards, piano, orchestrations
Alexander Hey – drums

Guest musician
Shir-Ran Yinon – violin on “The Allure”, “Distorted Smiles” and “The Final Stage”