Album Review – The Black Swamp / Witches EP (2018)

Australia’s own five-headed creature from the swamp is back with a short and slimy album of Sludge and Southern Metal that celebrates the riff-driven sound they’ve become known for.

For the love of the riff, Australian Southern/Groove Metal group The Black Swamp was formed as a live act in 2012 in the Gold Coast, in South East Queensland, soon evolving to a full-bodied band and releasing their debut EP Foulness in 2014, followed by the full-length I Am, in 2016, not to mention a handful of unofficial releases on their way to support slots with Hellyeah, Black Label Society and Sebastian Bach, as well as their own national tours. Always playing a sludge sound reminiscent of the 70’s and 90’s, “the swamp” is back in 2018 with a short and slimy EP titled Witches, a celebration of the riff-driven sound they’ve become known for, also marking their first release with new frontman Luke Hosking (from Australian Groove/Thrash Metal band Azreal). Hence, the quintet comprised of Luke on vocals, Grant Scott and Jesse Kenny on the guitars, Rohan Downs on bass and Brendan Woodley on drums again focuses their energy and creativity on raw sounds, highly inspired by Heavy Metal pioneers Black Sabbath and Doom/Sludge Metal masters Crowbar.

And “the swamp” needs only a few seconds to blow our ears with their ruthless and heavy-as-hell Stoner Metal in the opening track Headless, with Luke delivering sheer rage through his Phil Anselmo-inspired deep, crude vocals, while Grant and Jesse are simply bestial with their crushing riffs. If that’s not heavy enough for you, just keep banging your head nonstop to another soulful and aggressive Sludge Metal creation by The Black Swamp, named Event Horizon, where the bass lines by Rohan feel like if he was rubbing metal to metal so piercing and thunderous they sound. Put differently, this is a drinking-smoking-slamming-headbanging tune, bringing a classic rhtythm tailored for lovers of the genre. Then we have 1487 C.E., a short and serene bridge that sets the stage for to the demolishing title-track Witches, showcasing the heaviest and most whimsical elements found in Sludge, Stoner and Doom Metal, with Brendan pounding his drums mercilessly while Luke continues his musical rant à la Pantera, not to mention the always crisp and furious riffage by the band’s guitar duo.

In a nutshell, it’s quite impressive the amount of heaviness and rage found in each one of the four tracks of the EP in a littles less than 17 minutes, proving The Black Swamp are not joking around when displaying their admiration and passion for Sludge and Doom Metal. If you want to show your support for this resonant quintet, go check what they’re up to on Facebook and buy your copy of Witches (which by the way is available for a full listen on YouTube) directly from The Black Swamp’s BandCamp page, as well as from iTunes or from CD Baby. After this brief “attack” by Australia’s own five-headed creature from the swamp, I’m sure you’ll get curious to know what comes next in their career, getting more and more addicted to their sluggish, vile and totally awesome music.

Best moments of the album: Headless and Witches.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Headless 4:32
2. Event Horizon 6:46
3. 1487 C.E. 1:00
4. Witches 4:13

Band members
Luke Hosking – vocals
Grant Scott – guitar
Jesse Kenny – guitar
Rohan Downs – bass
Brendan Woodley – drums

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Album Review – Dogmathica / Start Becoming Nothing (2018)

Delivering a clear message that only with the annulment of ego we can be reborn as a species, here comes a ruthless Italian squad and their austere fusion of Groove Metal and Metalcore.

Aiming to resume a path interrupted in 2003, Italian Groove Metal/Metalcore act Dogmathica was born in 2006 in Cagliari, the capital city of the island of Sardinia, from the ashes of another Italian band named L’Ego to deliver what’s called by the band itself as “Groovy, Claustrophobic, Polyrhythmic Metal from Cagliari”. The band has faced some significant changes through the years, until in 2017 they finally reached a stable lineup comprised of vocalist Stefano Pilloni, guitarist and founder Sergio Boi, guitarist Matteo Spiga, bassist Gianni Farci (The Blacktones), and drummer Alessandro Castellano (Acts of Tragedy), culminating with the release in 2018 of their brand new album Start Becoming Nothing.

Featuring a somber artwork by Sergio Boi himself and Elena Delogu, where the leafless tree represents the human condition within modern society, a society that slowly absorbs and consumes our vital energies making us dependent on material possession of objects and people, and with the annulment of ego (“start becoming nothing”) being the only way that leads to rebirth as a species, Start Becoming Nothing is a heavy and bold album of modern-day Metalcore highly recommended for admirers of the genre, inspiring you to slam into the circle pit while at the same time making you think about the awful condition our society is currently going through.

The guitars by Sergio and Matteo generate a heavy and rumbling ambience in the opening track Praghma, before Stefano begins declaiming the song’s austere words (“My fists-the only shots I have / Glass splinter plated knuckles / To blast mirrors and their lies / To fuck fake people / And their doll eyes / From today on I’ll trust / Just my scars”) in a solid display of contemporary Metalcore perfect for cracking your neck headbanging. If that heavy-as-hell start wasn’t enough for your ears, in Chanel N°0 we face bassist Gianni and session drummer Elia Altea (who by the way recorded the drums in the whole album) crushing their instruments mercilessly, making the ground tremble while the band’s stringed trio blasts a potent fusion of classic Melodic Death Metal with American Metalcore, not to mention how beastly Stefano keeps growling and yelling, and consequently inspiring you to headbang like a maniac as well. And led by the groovy and thunderous bass punches by Gianni, Decadancers presents a darker and heavier side of Dogmathica, incorporating the most aggressive and primeval elements of Groove Metal into their Metalcore, with the final result sounding beyond awesome.

Those talented Italian metallers keep hitting us hard in the head with their heavy and groovy sounds in the title-track Start Becoming Nothing, with the guitar duo Sergio and Matteo once again delivering sharp and metallic riffs while Stefano bursts his lungs screaming; and get ready to break your spinal cord in half in another brutally heavy Metalcore tune named Rise Up, also showcasing hints of Groove and Progressive Metal, therefore being recommended for fans of bands like Meshuggah and Gojira, with highlights to the pounding drumming by Elia. After such destructive hymn we have Screaming In The Darkness, a well-balanced blend of the heavier and slower sounds of Groove Metal with the more frantic approach of Metalcore, with all band members bringing tons of progressiveness to the music and with its lyrics being perfect for shouting along with Stefano (“I’m awake, sitting in the middle of nowhere / Feeling your hands around my neck / I feel the cold inside me / I hold the iron of my cage / I perceive all my suffering / And I screaming in empty space / Screaming in the darkness”).

The last pair of unrelenting Metalcore tunes blasted by Dogmathica close the album on a high note, leaving you eager for more of their music. First we have Hatred, another good sample of how aggressive and intricate their music always sounds and feels, being full of breaks and variations, where Gianni and Elia continue to build a massive wall of rumbling sounds with their bass and drums, respectively, followed by Burnum, sounding more modern, belligerent and electrified than all previous tunes. Furthermore, it’s Elia with his complex, progressive beats and Stefano with his sick screams who dictate the rhythm, while Serigo and Matteo don’t get tired of slashing their strings.

In summary, if you love modern Metalcore with a strong Groove Metal essence, then Start Becoming Nothing (which you can listen in full on Spotify) is perfect for your avid ears, presenting all the heaviest and most rumbling elements from those metal styles. And if you want to show your support to Dogmathica, simply like them on Facebook, listen to more of their music on SoundCloud, and purchase Start Becoming Nothing directly from their BandCamp page or from CD Baby. Our society might be heading to its inevitable doomsday sooner than we can imagine, so why not at least banging our heads to the acid music by Dogmathica until the end?

Best moments of the album: Chanel N°0, Decadancers and Screaming In The Darkness.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Praghma 5:04
2. Chanel N°0 4:22
3. Decadancers 4:23
4. Start Becoming Nothing 4:53
5. Rise Up 4:25
6. Screaming In The Darkness 4:07
7. Hatred 3:50
8. Burnum 5:12

Band members
Stefano Pilloni – vocals
Sergio Boi – guitar
Matteo Spiga – guitar
Gianni Farci – bass
Alessandro Castellano – drums*

*Drums recorded by Elia Altea

Concert Review – Slayer (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 05/29/2018)

And Slayer said goodbye to Toronto in the most pulverizing (and best) way you can imagine.

OPENING ACTS: Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax and Lamb Of God

I don’t know what to say about the absolute devastation that happened at the always perfect (and I dare you to name one place in this planet that’s better than that for a live concert) Budweiser Stage yesterday in Toronto. When it was announced that there was going to be a Slayer Farewell Tour, I guess they forgot to say it was going to be a farewell to their diehard fans, brave people who lost their lives while crushing their heads and spines into the nonstop, infernal mosh pits that took over the entire venue (and I believe I saw some smaller ones even in the seated areas) during the more than SIX HOURS of brutal Thrash and Death Metal blasted by some of the best bands in the history of heavy music. As a matter of fact, whoever had the initial idea of putting together on the same day/night the great Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax, Lamb Of God and Slayer deserves a huge prize and our utmost respect forever. It was totally and amazingly insane from start to finish, on a beyond beautiful and sunny day in the city. My neck hurts and I’m as tired as hell, so I’ll try to be brief in writing a little about what was supposed to be the last fulminating performance by the almighty Slayer in Toronto (and I really, really hope it was not the last time we saw those guys here).

It was past 4pm when the gates finally opened and the fans could enter the venue for some beer, for getting a little shade away from the scorching sun, and for a few curious ones to enjoy the official pre-show party with Canadian Black Metal horde Panzerfaust at the River Bar at 4:30pm. As I was dying for a beer and pumped up already for TESTAMENT at 5pm, I unfortunately couldn’t attend that mini-gig, but I guess the band won’t be mad at us for doing that, right? Anyway, at 5 o’clock high there they were Chuck Billy, Eric Peterson, Alex Skolnick, Steve Di Giorgio and the demonic stone crusher Gene Hoglan for a short and demolishing lecture in Thrash Metal, still promoting their latest installment, the flawless Brotherhood Of The Snake, from 2016. It was insanity in the form of seven faster-than-a-bullet songs (who doesn’t love the thrashing classic Into the Pit?), with the bestial drums by Gene sounding like he was hired by TTC to help with the excavations for a new subway station, making our chests and even hats tremble with his beats. Yes, as awesome as that.

Setlist
Brotherhood of the Snake
Rise Up
Practice What You Preach
The Pale King
Into the Pit
The New Order
Disciples of the Watch

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums

After a short bathroom break, it was time for Poland’s most iconic metal band of all time to darken the stage with their blasphemous and sulfuric music. Polish Blackened Death Metal institution BEHEMOTH lived up to the expectations even playing a shorter setlist than usual (and at daylight, something they might not be used to), mixing classics with kick-ass songs from their latest album, their 2014 opus The Satanist, plus a brand new song named Wolves ov Siberia. Mr. Adam “Nergal” Darski was on fire throughout the entire performance, proving why he’s one of the most respected metal artists of the past decade, leaving the fans eager for more of their obscure music in a not-so-distant future. One funny thing is that Behemoth were the only band to not throw to the fans any guitar picks or drumsticks, but instead they were spitting blood on the people at the front row. If that doesn’t tell you how dark their music is, I don’t know what would.

Setlist
Ov Fire and the Void
Demigod
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Wolves ov Siberia
Chant for Eschaton 2000
O Father O Satan O Sun!

Band members
Adam “Nergal” Darski – lead vocals, guitars
Patryk Dominik “Seth” Sztyber – guitars
Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski – bass guitar
Zbigniew Robert “Inferno” Promiński – drums and percussion

Another bathroom break, another beer, and at 6:55pm sharp (don’t you feel amazed with how punctual all events are in Toronto?) it was time for the old school, slamming, riff-oriented Thrash Metal by the one and only ANTHRAX, who (guess what?) delivered a sequence of seven ass-kicking, frantic songs, including Evil Twin, from their 2016 album For All Kings, and beautiful classics such as I Am the Law, Madhouse and Indians. Scott Ian and Frank Bello were in their usual “I’m playing on stage but I’m also moshing up here together with you guys in the pit” mode, while Joey Belladonna was beyond happy with the warm reaction of the fans to each one of their songs. The low point of the show was that unfortunately Charlie Benante couldn’t play with the band as a result of an ongoing battle with carpal tunnel in his wrists, but the good thing is that he was replaced by the monstrous Gene Hoglan. Do I need to say more? In addition, Mr. Belladonna said that the concert yesterday was Anthrax’s biggest crowd ever in Toronto, and I’m sure everyone who was there banging their heads to their music was more than happy to have been part of such important day to the band.

Setlist
Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time (Joe Jackson cover)
I Am the Law
Madhouse
Evil Twin
Antisocial (Trust cover)
Indians

Band members
Joey Belladonna – lead vocals
Jon Donais – lead guitar
Scott Ian – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Frank Bello – bass guitar, backing vocals
Gene Hoglan – drums*

*Replaced Charlie Benante due to illness.

After all the havoc generated by Testament, Behemoth and Anthrax, there was still more to come with Groove Metal titans LAMB OF GOD, still promoting their 2015 album VII: Sturm und Drang, and let me tell you the show was so heavy and insane I think some people went missing after the demented circle pits ignited by Mr. Randy Blythe and his henchmen. Playing a solid mix of songs from all of their albums, with all of them of course being as brutal as hell, Lamb Of God put a huge smile on the faces of their diehard fans, with Randy also praising all the bands of the “mini-festival”, requesting everyone to pay a humble tribute to the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair with a few WOOOOO’s, and jumping up and down like a maniac on stage nonstop. Well, everything a Redneck loves in life, right? And please correct me if I’m wrong, but was Randy wearing some sort of ankle monitor still due to the manslaughter case he was involved and arrested for a few years ago? If that’s the case, well, that’s what I call a badass frontman, ladies and gentlemen.

Setlist
Omerta
Ruin
Walk With Me in Hell
Now You’ve Got Something to Die For
512
Engage the Fear Machine
Blacken the Cursed Sun
Laid to Rest
Redneck

Band members
Randy Blythe – vocals
Willie Adler – guitar
Mark Morton – guitar
John Campbell – bass
Chris Adler – drums

SLAYER

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” It’s with these classic words that I want to introduce you to the end of all days in the form of the Satanic Thrash Metal blasted by the heaviest, the most awesome and the most destructive band in the world, the all-powerful SLAYER. Actually, I should say FUCKIN’ SLAYER, or even SLAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRR, as this is the right way to refer to the unrelenting Tom Araya, Kerry King, Gary Holt and the second stone crusher of the night, the barbaric Paul Bostaph (another guy that probably got some money from TTC to speed up the subway excavations yesterday). Playing at least one song from each one of their crushing albums, from their 1983 masterpiece Show No Mercy to their 2015 opus Repentless (with the exception of their 1998 controversial album Diabolus in Musica), Slayer put on a flammable performance (and I’m not using the word flammable in vain, as there was A LOT of fire during the whole concert), turning the entire floor section into one supreme, hot-as-hell, motherfuckin’ savage circle pit.

And that mix of classic Slayer with their more contemporary albums workd extremely well, creating a hellish balance of sounds for the total delectation of all admirers of their undisputed Thrash Metal. It was fantastic watching them performing faster, newer tunes like Repentless, Disciple, Hate Worldwide and Jihad, while at the same time delivering their classic infernal melodies in Mandatory Suicide, Postmortem and Black Magic. For instance, in my humble opinion the sequence comprised of Payback (one of the most pulverizing songs of the night), Seasons in the Abyss, Dittohead and Dead Skin Mask simply proves how timeless their music is, and how important they’ll always be to the world of heavy music. Then from Hell Awaits until the grand finale with the all-time classic Angel of Death it was an absolute chaos, with the circle pit getting bigger and bigger, people screaming at the top of their lungs and crowd surfing nonstop like if there was no tomorrow, and sweat and beer flowing everywhere. And I’m not going to say how cataclysmic the metal hymn Raining Blood was. If you were not there, you don’t deserve to know.

One thing I’ll never understand is how Mr. Paul Bostaph managed to play drums at that insane speed and intensity with all those blistering hot fires burning almost all the time all around his drum set. I think that proves he’s not human, as none of the guys from Slayer are. As a matter of fact, Slayer are a four-headed, rabid beast that would make even the “hound of Hades” Cerberus put his tail between his legs and run away, and if this was in fact their farewell tour, well, they’ll be beyond missed by all of us, diehard Slayer fans who consider Dead Skin Mask one of the best “ballads” ever composed by any band. Let’s wait and see if we’ll be treated to at least one more Slayer apocalypse in Toronto in the coming years as a second, third or whatever leg of their farewell tour, I don’t care, as long as they return. Now it’s time to take some rest from all madness from yesterday, do the body count (and maybe there are even some bodies floating in Lake Ontario near the venue), take a deep breath and keep doing what we all know how to at home, at school, at work or anywhere else where some good and reverberating screaming in required. And you know what word you need to burst your lungs screaming, right?

Setlist
Delusions of Saviour
Repentless
Blood Red
Disciple
Mandatory Suicide
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
Jihad
When the Stillness Comes
Postmortem
Black Magic
Payback
Seasons in the Abyss
Dittohead
Dead Skin Mask
Hell Awaits
South of Heaven
Raining Blood
Chemical Warfare
Angel of Death

Band members
Tom Araya – vocals, bass guitar
Kerry King – guitar
Gary Holt – guitar
Paul Bostaph – drums

Album Review – Kaos Reign / Epiphany (2018)

This American Groove Metal power trio returns with a brand new album showcasing more of their crushing guitars, gritty vocals and thrash and groove drumming.

Norwalk, Connecticut-based Groove Metal power trio Kaos Reign is here to assault your senses with their unique mix of Death, Doom, Groove And Thrash Metal, drawing influences from early Sepultura, Slayer, Death and Pantera. Formed in 2013 by lead singer and guitarist Bill Klopfer and drummer Chris Anderson, the band has been on a roll since their inception, having already released the full-length albums Embrace the Fire, in 2014, Screaming for Salvation, in 2016, and now in 2018 their brand new opus Epiphany, an album that continues to follow Kaos Reign’s path of crushing guitars, gritty vocals, and thrash and groove drumming, but at the same time showing an evolution in their music.

More refined and dynamic than its predecessors, and featuring a straightforward, dark artwork by the band’s own Bill Klopfer, Epiphany brings a band that’s in absolute sync, with Bill’s vocals sounding versatile while his riffs are memorable and captivating. Bassist Matt Duggan rounds out the sound with the execution of his distinctive bass lines, whereas Chris Anderson’s extreme drumming portrays confidence and style. With its lyrics touching on themes of inner struggle, determination to overcome, and societal issues, encouraging us to proceed with caution and understand the chaos that consumes us, Epiphany will certainly please fans of fast and extreme music who are also searching for gripping background stories that effectively spice up the music being played.

Wicked, dark sounds ignite a belligerent Groove Metal onslaught by Kaos Reign titled Selfish Backstabber, displaying a solid instrumental, endless electricity, and Bill screaming the song’s acid lyrics like there’s no tomorrow (“I watch your actions and learn / You preach your belief, you don’t believe / You taste so sour I yack / The aftertaste, post nasal burning”). Following such sharp start we have a hybrid of Thrash Metal and Hardcore named Dispatch the Threat, where Chris keeps smashing his drums, therefore inspiring us to slam into the pit, with the song’s cleaner vocals sounding like a metal version of Rage Against The Machine’s Zack de la Rocha; and Lethal Injection, bringing more rumbling and groovy sounds blasted by Bill and Matt while Chris continues to add intricacy to the band’s violent music. Put differently, this is an excellent choice for their live concerts and a fantastic addition to the playlist of anyone who loves modern Groove Metal. And the title-track Epiphany presents darker elements in its intro, suddenly morphing into another crushing metal attack and also displaying hints of Southern Metal, with all instruments together generating a hurricane of heavy sounds and tones.

The album loses its grip a little with the not-so-inspired tune The Criminal Inside, despite all aggressiveness showcased by the band and the always rhythmic beats by Chris, but fortunately in Parasite the band gets back on track with their flammable Groove Metal, with highlights to the thrilling guitar lines by Bill and to more of their austere and aggressive words (“Leeching off society / A parasite sucks the blood / Right from / the eye of the storm / The side effects / are visible”). Under the Knife is the most visceral and destructive of all songs, and therefore one of the top moments of the album, with all three band members extracting crushing sounds form their instruments, presenting a great sync between Bill’s riffs and Chris’ drums, not to mention the metallic bass lines by Matt, whereas in Everyone is Offended they slow down their dementia, but still sounding heavier than hell. In a nutshell, this is a mid-tempo, groovy creation by Kaos Reign where Bill keeps sending a not-so-happy message through his demented vocals.

And their slamming party goes on with another melodic and fierce song titled How Do You Sleep at Night?, where Chris doesn’t stop pounding his drums and Bill even brings forth some thrashier riffs the likes of Slayer and Testament. Punish Myself is perfect for headbanging like a maniac, blending the thunderous sounds of Groove Metal with the slashing insanity of Thrash Metal, with Bill smashing his strings mercilessly without forgetting to add harmony to the music; followed by Placebo, a lot less groovy and venturing through Southern Metal grounds, singing about the dangerous market of addictive legal drugs (“I am on a big dose / I feel so comforted and relaxed / Why live life sober? / When you can be prescribed happiness”). However, despite being a relatively good song, it definitely lacks the band’s characteristic speed. And Isolation Chamber, the most somber and wicked of all tracks, closes the album on a high (and obscure) note, even presenting elements from Doom Metal (especially on Chris’ beats and Bill’s vocals).

If you want to show your support to this talented and unrelenting American power trio, you can purchase Epiphany (which by the way is available for a full listen on Spotify) from the band’s own BandCamp page, from CD Baby or from Amazon, but as you already know the world of Kaos Reign is not limited to Epiphany only, which means you can get an overdose of their belligerent music by visiting them on Facebook, on YouTube, on ReverbNation and on SoundCloud. And I believe you might be asking yourself what will be the next step in the evolving path crafted by Kaos Reign, right? Well, let’s hope it doesn’t take too long for us all to have an answer to that and get more of their sharp metal music sooner than expected.

Best moments of the album: Selfish Backstabber, Lethal Injection, Parasite and Under the Knife.

Worst moments of the album: The Criminal Inside and Placebo.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Selfish Backstabber 5:12
2. Dispatch the Threat 4:11
3. Lethal Injection 4:45
4. Epiphany 4:09
5. The Criminal Inside 4:21
6. Parasite 4:54
7. Under the Knife 3:53
8. Everyone is Offended 4:39
9. How Do You Sleep at Night? 4:35
10. Punish Myself 5:26
11. Placebo 4:32
12. Isolation Chamber 4:53

Band members
Bill Klopfer – vocals, guitar
Matt Duggan – bass
Chris Anderson – drums

Album Review – Sebastien / Act Of Creation (2018)

One of the biggest exponents of modern-day Czech metal returns with the next chapter in their always-evolving and exciting career.

One of the biggest exponents of modern-day Czech metal is back with a brand new album that will certainly please and entertain all fans of the most electrified form of Melodic Power Metal you can think of. After the releases of their debut album Tears Of White Roses, in 2010, and the critically acclaimed Dark Chambers Of Déjà-Vu, in 2015, it’s time for Brno-based metallers Sebastien to unleash their third full-length installment, titled Act Of Creation, continuing their evolution as a band and, as a consequence, cementing their name as the finest metal act you can find in the entire land of beer.

With its cover artwork designed by Hans Trasid (Dis-Art Design), and featuring an entourage of very special guests the likes of Swedish vocalist Apollo Papathanasio (Spiritual Beggars, Firewind) and Slovak vocalist Mayo Petranin (Signum Regis), Act Of Creation will bring to your avid ears fourteen exceptional compositions by skillful musicians who are at their prime, from passionate power ballads to those fast and crisp Melodic Metal anthems that will accelerate your heartbeat in an exciting and fun way. Furthermore, it’s very important to emphasize the fact that Sebastien maintained the same lineup from their previous album, which obviously translated into pure cohesiveness, precise timing and a powerful dynamism among all band members.

The title-track Act of Creation kicks off Sebastien’s metallic feast with a heavier-than-usual sonority, bringing elements from modern-day Groove Metal to their traditional Power Metal. Moreover, frontman George Rain has (as expected) an amazing performance showcasing a wide range of vocal styles in the same song, while Pavel Dvorak brings epicness to the overall sound with his keys. Then we have No Destination, a fast-paced, aggressive tune that will please even non-metal fans due to its thrilling rhythm, presenting the always flammable vocals by George supported by Czech guest vocalist Kristýna Dostálová and endless energy flowing from all instruments; and Wake Up, an imposing tune where Lucas R. leads the crew with his pounding drums, with all orchestral and choir-like elements in the background enhancing the song’s already potent vibe. But it obviously wouldn’t be a Sebastien album without a classic power ballad like Amy, displaying spot-on riffs by George and his bandmate Andy Mons while bassist Petri Kallio not only delivers some powerful bass punches, but his 80’s Hard Rock-inspired backing vocals also add a lot of feeling to the final result.

Venturing through the realms of Symphonic and Melodic Metal, the band delivers a futuristic metal chant titled Evermore, presenting a pleasant paradox between clean and harsh vocals, not to mention how determined Pavel is to arouse our senses with his fiery keyboards. My Empire reminds me of some of the latest creations by Sonata Arctica (which unfortunately is not a good thing these days), with an interesting work done with all background elements but nothing that truly connects in the end, whereas Queen from the Stars is a melancholic, serene ballad with passionate performances by George on vocals and Andy with his acoustic and electric guitars. Put differently, simply hold your lighter high and wave it together with Sebastien to this beautiful song. And featuring guest vocalist Mayo Petranin, Winner is a song where the sound of keyboards is considerably higher than the one of the guitars, therefore uniting in a pleasant way the classic sounding of the 80’s with Sebastien’s contemporary metal.

With Czech guest guitarist Djordje Erič (Citron) slashing us all with a gripping, flammable guitar solo, Heal My Soul goes back to a more traditional musicality, albeit still presenting hints of heavy music from the 80’s, and consequently pleasing both fans of the classic metal by Sebastien as well as the ones who prefer more modern Melodic Metal. In Promises, Kristýna Dostálová returns with her charming vocals in another symphonic ballad by Sebastien, with Andi and Pavel being in total sync with their respective riffs and keys, therefore boosting the electricity of the whole song; and featuring guest Apollo Papathanasio on vocals, it’s time for our Czech squad to put the pedal to the metal in the electrifying hymn Die in Me, where the whole band fires pure Melodic Power Metal for our total delight. Displaying a beyond catchy chorus and endless adrenaline, this metal hymn should sound absolutely fantastic during their live performances.

And Act Of Creation might be considered a long album with its over 60 minutes of music, but every song has its purpose just like Full Moon Child, portraying a classic name for a straightforward and very cohesive Power Metal sonority boosted by the precise beats by Lucas, with highlights to the spot-on riffs and solos extracted by Andy from his unstoppable guitar. The second to last metallic act by those Czech rockers comes in the form of a semi-acoustic ballad entitled Hero, with another powerful performance by George on vocals, before the bonus track V Síti Štěstí (or “in the network of happiness” from Czech) closes the album in sublime fashion. It’s not a secret to anyone that Sebastien never get tired of delivering soulful ballads to our ears; however, this is a fresh one, being fully sung in Czech, which seems to have provided George some additional room for adding never-before-seen nuances to his vocal lines.

It’s always a pleasure to see a talented and hardworking band like Sebastien evolving in their already solid career, and if you want to know more about the best metal band hailing from the enchanting Czech Republic you should definitely go check their Facebook page and YouTube channel for news, tour dates (and they do tour several other countries if you ) and, of course, more of their awesome Power Metal. Act Of Creation, which can be purchased from the Pride & Joy Music webstore, from the band’s own Facebook, from iTunes or from Amazon, is one of those albums that will put a smile on your face no matter how hard your day has been, proving once again Sebastien are here to stay and to keep bringing top-tier heavy music to our never-resting metal hearts.

Best moments of the album: No Destination, Evermore, Promises and Die in Me.

Worst moments of the album: My Empire.

Released in 2018 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Act of Creation 4:27
2. No Destination (feat. Kristýna Dostálová) 3:02
3. Wake Up 4:11
4. Amy 5:38
5. Evermore 4:32
6. My Empire 3:48
7. Queen from the Stars 4:34
8. Winner (feat. Mayo Petranin) 4:01
9. Heal My Soul (feat. Djordje Erič) 3:47
10. Promises (feat. Kristýna Dostálová) 3:29
11. Die in Me (feat. Apollo Papathanasio) 4:54
12. Full Moon Child 4:52
13. Hero 5:25

Bonus track
14.V Síti Štěstí 4:34

Band members
George Rain – vocals, guitars
Andy Mons – guitars
Petri Kallio – bass, backing vocals
Pavel Dvorak – keyboards
Lucas R. – drums

Guest musicians
Apollo Papathanasio – vocals on “Die In Me”
Mayo Petranin – vocals on “Winner”
Kristýna Dostálová – female vocals on “No Destination” and “Promises”
Djordje Erič – lead guitar on “Heal My Soul”
Vendula Skalová – backing vocals

Album Review – Lebowskii / Liquidators EP (2018)

Presenting a fast, groovy and electrified fusion of 80’s and 90’s Thrash Metal with traditional Heavy and Death Metal sounding, please welcome a promising new act from the French underground scene.

It’s time for The Headbanging Moose to take a short and extremely fun and heavy trip to Nantes, a city on the Loire River in the Upper Brittany region of western France, to slam into the pit to the flammable Thrash Metal blasted by a brand new group in the French independent scene that goes by the name of Lebowskii. If you’re a diehard fan of bands such as Slayer, Death, Megadeth, Cannibal Corpse, Metallica and Tool, you’ll have a great time listening to the music by this four-piece act comprised of Damien on vocals and guitar, Jonathan on vocals and bass, Boris on the guitar and Laurent on drums. Together those four French horsemen are releasing their debut EP, titled Liquidators, presenting a high-octane, groovy and electrified fusion of 80’s and 90’s Thrash Metal with traditional Heavy and Death Metal sounding.

In the opening track, titled Why Are We Falling Down?, we already get to know who Lebowskii are, as we face four metallers crushing our heads with their fiery mix of Thrash and Groove Metal. Moreover, Laurent shows all his fury through his fierce beats in this great composition highly recommended for banging your head and cracking your spine, while Damien leads the battle with his enraged screams. Then we have Haunting A Shell Of Flesh, slightly slower but heavier than its predecessor due to the smashing drums by Laurent, also presenting hints of the Thrash Metal by Slayer and Testament, with Boris bringing a welcome balance to the song’s neck-breaking core rhythm with his precise guitar lines. And leaning towards modern Thrash Metal (without losing its old school vibe) the band offers us all the title-track Liquidators, bringing forward a great riffage by Boris while Damien effectively screams and shouts the song’s violent lyrics,supported by Jonathan and his backing vocals, who also delivers groovy, solid bass lines during the entire song.

Their feast of contemporary metal blended with traditional riffs and beats from Bay Area Thrash goes on in Your Brain Is Just Insane, another song tailored for headbanging nonstop with the band where Damien and Jonathan once again make a great duo on vocals, pumping up the listener to scream and shout together with them. Lastly, closing the EP the band blasts more aggression in the form of music in Narrow Minded, a song where you’ll be able to enjoy Lebowskii in their most Groove Metal mode, with the sound of bass and drums being truly thunderous. In addition, when you reach this point of the EP you’ll realize that although all five songs are longer than your usual Thrash Metal tune (mainly due to the progressiveness added by all band members with their refined techniques), that doesn’t mean they get tiresome or boring. Quite the contrary, Lebowskii are a band that knows how to captivate our attention for an extended period of time, no matter how long their compositions might be.

If you are a fan of straightforward heavy music with no shenanigans nor any artificial elements, then you should definitely give Lebowskii a try by liking their Facebook page, and obviously by buying your copy of the ass-kicking EP Liquidators through their BandCamp page or through the M.U.S.I.C. Records webstore. This is the type of music that once it gets into your day-to-day playlists, it will stay there forever, and you’ll find yourself banging your head to the flammable riffs and hardcore attitude by Lebowskii over and over again. As a matter of fact, remember we’re talking about a five-track EP only, which makes me wonder how insane a full-length album by such promising band shall sound like (and I hope Lebowskii deliver that sooner than later, for our total delight).

Best moments of the album: Why Are We Falling Down? and Liquidators.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 M.U.S.I.C. Records

Track listing
1. Why Are We Falling Down? 5:50
2. Haunting A Shell Of Flesh 5:58
3. Liquidators 5:12
4. Your Brain Is Just Insane 5:47
5. Narrow Minded 6:26

Band members
Damien – guitar, vocals
Jonathan – bass, vocals
Boris – guitar
Laurent – drums

Album Review – Xenosis / Devour and Birth (2018)

Behold the next step in the remarkable musical evolution by one of the biggest new names of the Progressive Death Metal scene.

Hailing from New Haven, a coastal city on Long Island Sound, in Connecticut, American Progressive Death Metal legion Xenosis set out from their formation in 2010 with a precise goal in mind: To create Death Metal that blurs the lines, that draws from the past and present equally, and to continually evolve as a band from release to release. To date, they’ve lived up to that aim, and have continued to up the ante with each new musical effort put forth. After the releases of their self-titled debut EP in 2010, followed by the full-length albums Haunted Skies, in 2012, and Sowing the Seeds of Destruction, in 2015, it’s time for Xenosis to strike again with their third full-length opus, titled Devour and Birth.

On Devour and Birth, Xenosis offer the listener their characteristic Progressive Death Metal that blends old school-inspired Death Metal with a fair bit of more modern Technical Death Metal ideas, rounding out there sound with a lot of groove and some thrashy Melodic Death Metal influences as well. Given the eclectic style of Progressive Death Metal that Xenosis play, their list of influences, which includes names such as Death, Meshuggah, Morbid Angel, Suffocation, Testament, Gojira and Emperor, among others, serves as a guide of sorts that the music on Devour and Birth does not fit neatly inside one mold or style of Death Metal, and after taking a detailed listen at the entire album you’ll certainly get addicted to their intricate fusion of extreme sounds.

In the opening track, named Night Hag, a brutal wall of heavy and groovy sounds comes crushing our senses mercilessly, led by the demonic drumming by Gary Marotta and the gruesome roars by frontman Sal Bova, resulting in an extremely technical but at the same time crude sonority highly recommended for fans of the genre. Then in Army of Darkness we face total devastation with a demented level of complexity flowing from all instruments, with guitarists Kenny Bullard and Mark Lyon firing some Dream Theater-ish riffs and solos while Sal keeps growling deeper and deeper; and their onrush of Death and Groove Metal continues in full force in Delirium (Death of a God), where the bestial and utterly complex beats by Gary are flawlessly complemented by the wicked bass lines by Dave Legenhausen in a prefect representation of modern-day Progressive and Technical Death Metal.

I guess I don’t need to say Concave also sounds insanely aggressive and harmonious at the same time, with Dave and Gary making a dynamic duo from the underworld, therefore generating a fierce and vile background for Kenny and Mark to go mental with their riffs and solos. Then we have Oxidation, a mechanized bridge that reminds me of some of the weirdest tracks by Industrial Metal titans Fear Factory, revving up the engines for the heavy-as-hell Ominous Opus, full of breaks and variations to give its Death Metal core essence a demented twist, uniting the words “progressive” and “aggressive” in a fantastic manner. Put differently, simply go break your neck headbanging to the brutish riffs delivered by the band’s guitarists while Sal keeps growling like a beast.

The amazing title-track Devour and Birth takes their ferocity to a whole new level, sounding exciting form start to finish with the whole band displaying all their skills, in special Gary, Kenny and Mark, blasting sheer havoc through their sick beats and very technical shredding respectively. And the last track of the album, titled The Projector, is another hurricane of Death Metal masterfully executed by Xenosis, a circle pit-catalyst that sounds and feels very complete and detailed, being absolutely perfect for slamming into the pit during the band’s live performances.

Featuring a futuristic and menacing artwork by Brazilian graphic designer Caio Caldas (CadiesArt), Devour and Birth, which can be purchased through the band’s own BandCamp page, as well as on iTunes or on Amazon, not only cements Xenosis as one of the most interesting exponents of the current independent Progressive Death Metal scene, but it is also an album of extreme music that’s utterly recommended for all metalheads who are searching for a monumental amount of intricacy and progressiveness amidst all the chaos and destruction usually delivered in Death Metal. You can find more details about Xenosis and their elaborate music at their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and keep witnessing (and of course supporting) for years to come the remarkable musical evolution this talented five-piece act has been enjoying since their beginnings.

Best moments of the album: Night Hag, Concave and Devour and Birth.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing   
1. Night Hag 6:45
2. Army of Darkness 5:14
3. Delirium (Death of a God) 5:51
4. Concave 5:15
5. Oxidation 0:54
6. Ominous Opus 5:59
7. Devour and Birth 4:28
8. The Projector 5:56

Band members
Sal Bova – vocals
Kenny Bullard – guitar
Mark Lyon – guitar
Dave Legenhausen – bass
Gary Marotta – drums

Album Review – Terror Universal / Make Them Bleed (2018)

Behold the rise of the masked fearsome foursome of modern American metal and their bloodthirsty, action-packed debut album.

Comprised of current and former members of rock and metal renowned acts such as Machine Head, Ill Niño, Soulfly and Upon A Burning Body, here comes American Horror Metal masked supergroup Terror Universal, who have been unstoppable since the band’s inception back in 2014, having released their debut EP Reign of Terror in 2015 and shared the stage alongside heavy hitters including Korn, Asking Alexandria, Papa Roach and Fear Factory, among others. Now in 2018 those masked marauders are set to release their debut full-length album Make Them Bleed via minus HEAD Records, an album that can undoubtedly be considered the musical equivalent of a slasher film due to its aggressiveness, tension, lunacy and obviously the distinctiveness and eccentricity of each of the band’s bizarre members.

Snapping from moments of intense sonic bloodletting into menacing melodic mayhem, before creeping back into the shadows to do it all over again, the fearsome foursome Plague on vocals, Thrax on the guitar, Diabolus on bass and Massacre on drums live up to the legacy of modern-day American Alternative and Groove Metal the likes of Slipknot, Mushroomhead, Five Finger Death Punch, Deftones, Disturbed and so on. Produced by the band’s own members and mixed by Eddie Wohl (Smile Empty Soul, Fuel, Ill Niño, 36Crazyfists), Make Them Bleed will become the soundtrack to your most wicked nightmares, blasting your senses with its avalanche of heavy and metallic sounds and noises.

And the monstrous quartet kicks off their freak show of metal with a ferocious tune titled Passage of Pain, where Diabolus and Massacre make sure the ambience remains as heavy, menacing and obscure as possible with their rumbling bass and drums, respectively, while Plague screams and shouts like a true beast. Then in Welcome to Hell (which you can also watch as a guitar playthrorugh and as a bass playthrough on YouTube) Plague sounds utterly enraged, while Thrax transforms his guitar into a bloodthirsty weapon, resulting in the perfect depiction of modern extreme and alternative music made in the USA; followed by Spines, where an electronic-ish intro quickly evolves into a very dark and melodic sonority that could easily be played on any radio station, but still feeling extremely heavy. Featuring guest musician John Moyer (Disturbed) on bass, this can be called “a love song crafted by monsters”, sounding somehow romantic and violent at the same time.

Taking their animosity to a much higher level, Terror Universal bring forth the title-track Make Them Bleed, with the amazing low-tuned punches by Diabolus making the whole song more impactful. Moreover, its neck-breaking rhythm is effectively boosted by Plague’s demented growls, turning it into their personal hymn of sheer rage against everything and everyone, perfect for “spreading the violence” and “fucking the world” as Plague himself screams during the song. Then in Through the Mirrors they engage in their most Slipknot/Stone Sour-inspired mode, with the sick beats by Massacre guiding the musicality while Plague fires his crisp, acid vocals, not to mention Thrax and his cutting riffs; followed by the excellent Dig You A Hole with its gripping pace and vocal lines, enhanced by the fierce circus-like beats by Massacre and the song’s spot-on backing vocals. This is definitely one of the best new Alternative/Nu Metal songs you can find out there, making us bang our heads like maniacs without even noticing together with those four masked beasts.

Featuring the unstoppable Tony Campos (Fear Factory, Ministry, Soulfly, Static-X) on bass, who ends up giving the overall sound an Industrial Metal-like vibe with his crushing bass lines, Dead on Arrival is an excellent option for the band’s live performances to make everyone jump up and down together with them, whereas Into Darkness offers the listener another blast of their modern-day Horror Metal, albeit not as exciting as the rest of the album. Let’s say that it’s not a bad tune, but those freaks of nature sound way too “docile” in this case. On the other hand, their most savage and bestial mode arises in a great explosion of Groove and Thrash Metal named Your Time Has Come, with Thrax and Diabolus leading the carnage with their razor-edged strings, before Piece by Piece concludes the album like a bulldozer, with its metallic sounds penetrating deep inside our ears while Plague alternates between growling like a demon and firing his keen clean vocals.

In summary, if you enjoy modern American metal with an extra dosage of insanity and fury, all wrapped up by the grim and monstrous faces of Terror Universal, you’ll certainly have a good time listening to the music from Make Them Bleed. You can face those four creatures from hell anytime through their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and purchase your copy of the album through their BandCamp page, through their Pledge Music page, on iTunes or on Amazon. Just make sure you’re in good shape and ready to rock to the sound of Terror Universal because, you know, you won’t be dealing with regular people, but with rabid monsters of modern metal eager to taste your blood.

Best moments of the album: Welcome to Hell, Make Them Bleed and Dig You A Hole.

Worst moments of the album: Into Darkness.

Released in 2018 minus HEAD Records

Track listing    
1. Passage of Pain 3:57
2. Welcome to Hell 3:41
3. Spines (feat. John Moyer) 3:18
4. Make Them Bleed 3:32
5. Through the Mirrors 4:10
6. Dig You A Hole 4:35
7. Dead on Arrival (feat. Tony Campos) 3:34
8. Into Darkness 4:17
9. Your Time Has Come 3:21
10. Piece by Piece 3:06

Band members
Plague – vocals
Thrax – guitars
Diabolus – bass
Massacre – drums

Guest musicians
John Moyer – bass on “Spines”
Tony Campos – bass on “Dead on Arrival”

Album Review – Butcher Babies / Lilith (2017)

The most dangerous and relentless demons of heavy music return with another crisp, visceral and fun album of present-day Metalcore.

As I said in our Metal Chick of the Month dedicated to the Butcher Babies in October 2016 celebrating three years of The Headbanging Moose, frontwomen Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey definitely know how to properly rumble, and now with the release of Lilith, their third full-length album, this Los Angeles-based Metalcore act spearheaded by those two gorgeous growlers more than cements their name in modern metal music. And don’t get fooled by their stunning looks, as Heidi and Carla can rip your heart out in the blink of an eye, just to show you how visceral and vibrant their music is.

After the release of the excellent Take It Like A Man, in 2015, an album that’s utterly entertaining from start to finish, fans of the Butcher Babies kept wondering if Heidi and Carla, together with Jason Klein on bass, Henry Flury on guitars and newcomer Chase Brickenden on drums would be able to deliver the same amount of aggressiveness and electricity that led them to play alongside giants like Marilyn Manson, Danzig, Rob Zombie and Cradle of Filth since the band’s inception, and for our total delight Lilith not only kicks some serious ass, but it also brings a more melodic side of the Butcher Babies that add an extra layer of intricacy and quality to their always fun compositions.

Now simply hit play and feel the metallic riffs by Henry crushing your skull before the dynamic duo Heidei and Carla begin their growling feast in Burn the Straw Man, not only a circle pit-generator with a catchy chorus and pure rage flowing from all instruments, but also a fantastic choice for opening their live concerts in full force. Following that flawless start we have the title-track Lilith, bringing their trademark ferocity infused with more melodic lines (mainly found in their cleaner vocals), with Chase proving why he was chosen to be the band’s new drummer; and Headspin, an almost-radio-friendly tune presenting a heavy but extremely sexy rhythm that will put you to dance and sing along with the band. Moreover, as a “bonus” the song got a lustful official video that deals with virtual reality (aka virtual sex) that’s definitely worth a watch. And in Korova the band gets back to a more underground Metalcore sonority, with Henry, Jason and Chase doing a solid job by supporting the screams by Carla and Heidi, all boosted by the song’s absolutely addictive chorus.

The beyond electrified #Iwokeuplikethis offers pure madness blasted by the entire band, with Chase sounding beastly on drums while our charming screamers fire some demented gnarls and deep growls nonstop. Things slow down a bit in The Huntsman, a dark Metalcore semi-ballad with hints of Alternative and Groove Metal which never really takes off despite the awesome rumbling bass lines by Jason, but everything returns to normal (if the Butcher Babies can be called “normal”) in Controller, a song that can be considered “old school Butcher Babies” by presenting all elements that made them famous in heavy music. Furthermore, its groovy and metallic tones are tailored for jumping up and down and breaking our necks headbanging with the band. And Oceana is another shot of insanity by Heidi and Carla, with the first firing her more strident screeches while the latter keeps growling deeper and deeper. In addition, Henry nails it with his crisp riffs, increasing the impact of the song to our ears.

In Look What We’ve Done we have more of their more melodic and commercial version (which means it should receive some decent air play in several radio stations), with both girls kicking ass with their potent clean vocals. And although they’re also great when singing smoother songs, I personally prefer their more enraged mode like what happens in POMONA (Shit Happens), a song that will cause some serious bruises inside the circle pit. Both girls sound demented throughout the entire song led by the frantic riffs and beats by Henry and Chase, respectively, turning it into one of the best songs of the whole album. And Underground and Overrated, the closing tune in Lilith, will pierce your ears with Henry’s cutting guitar riffs and solos and Heidi and Carla’s hellish screams. This is what I would call a “festival song”, being more than perfect for those open air festivals that happen all over Europe and North America during the summer.

Lilith might be known as a dangerous demon of the night who is sexually wanton (and who steals babies in the darkness), but from now on she will also be known as the Butcher Babies’ bitch, because no woman in metal can top Heidi and Carla in terms of stamina, fury and passion for the more alternative side of Heavy Metal. If I were you, I would certainly keep an eye on their Facebook page for their tour dates to promote Lilith (which by the way can be purchased through several different platforms, and if you’re lucky enough you might be able to find the Japanese edition with five sick bonus tracks), because as a guy that has already seen Heidi, Carla & Co. live I can assure you their concerts are insanely enjoyable. And needless to say, the Butcher Babies will keep on rocking and showing their love for heavy music until the end as true metalheads that they are.

Best moments of the album: Burn the Straw Man, Headspin, #Iwokeuplikethis and POMONA (Shit Happens).

Worst moments of the album: The Huntsman.

Released in 2017 Century Media

Track listing
1. Burn the Straw Man 4:05
2. Lilith 3:27
3. Headspin 3:32
4. Korova 4:05
5. #Iwokeuplikethis 3:01
6. The Huntsman 3:06
7. Controller 3:04
8. Oceana 3:32
9. Look What We’ve Done 3:35
10. POMONA (Shit Happens) 3:13
11. Underground and Overrated 3:59

Japanese Edition bonus tracks
12. Beer Drinker & Hell Raisers 2:54
13. They’re Coming To Take Me Away 3:16
14. Don’t Give A Fuck 2:22
15. Crazy Horses 2:55
16. Pussy Whipped 2:32

Band members
Heidi Shepherd – vocals
Carla Harvey – vocals
Henry Flury – guitar
Jason Klein – bass
Chase Brickenden – drums