Album Review – Sata Kaskelottia / Sydän On Vuori (2018)

The most unconventional gam of sperm whales hailing from Finland strikes back with more of their flammable fusion of Stoner and Progressive Metal.

After three long years of writing and recording, the most unconventional gam of sperm whales hailing from the Finnish capital Helsinki is back with a brand new album, ready to show us all that the human heart is a mountain. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, then you should definitely take a listen at Sydän On Vuori (Finnish for “heart is a mountain”), the brand new album by Stoner/Progressive Metal act Sata Kaskelottia, following the success of the band’s 2015 debut self-titled release while experimenting with new sounds and nuances and exploring the breaking points of life, points in which difficult choices have to be made.

Sata Kaskelottia’s combination of progressive, darker tones and often catchy, lighter and strangely triumphant mood produces a unique musical blend that walks its own path, with Sydän On Vuori introducing the band’s evolved sound and songwriting. Comprised of Eetu Kauppinen on vocals and guitar, Matti Kangaskoski on the guitar, Markku Suoniemi on bass, and Ville Salonen on drums and percussion, Sata Kaskelottia, which means “one hundred sperm whales” (if you don’t know that already), are beyond sharp and electrified in Sydän On Vuori, and if you’re a fan of the music by bands such as Mastodon and Baroness I’m sure you’ll have a good time listening to the nine tracks of unrelenting rock and metal found throughout the album.

We need only a few seconds in the opening track Aamumandaatti (“the morning mandate” from Finnish) to know we’re dealing with the “Finnish Mastodon”, with the guitars by Eetu and Matti sounding as sharp as a sword, not to mention you’ll certainly feel compelled to sing along with the band even knowing nothing in Finnish. Just as psychedelic and heavy as its predecessor, Leskentekijä (“widow’s origins”) is a well-balance hybrid between Stoner and Progressive Metal, with Ville bringing an extra dosage of electricity with his intricate beats while Eetu keeps firing his wicked vocals nonstop; followed by Parantaja (“the healer”), where the whole band speeds things up a bit sounding more aggressive, rawer and denser, with the music being led by the crushing riffs by both Eetu and Matti. In addition, the bass guitar by Markku sounds thunderous and metallic, adding an extra dosage of heaviness to what’s by far one of my favorite songs of the album.

Samarkand might be known as a city in modern-day Uzbekistan and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Central Asia, but from now on it should also be recognized as a lesson in Progressive and Sludge Metal, with its guitar lines and rhythmic beats inspiring you to bang your head together with the band, whereas the title-track Sydän On Vuori begins in an atmospheric, almost psychedelic way, evolving into a dark and deep Stoner Metal feast with Markku and Ville smashing their respective instruments, therefore creating a beyond obscure background of sounds. And in Ennen Kuin Sateet Alkavat (“before the rain begins”), Sata Kaskelottia deliver sheer electricity through their music weapons in a top-of-the-line fusion of Stoner Metal with old school Rock N’ Roll and modern Hard Rock, with highlights to the fantastic job done by Eetu with his demented vocal lines.

Bringing elements from traditional Heavy Metal to their musicality (which ends up giving it an epic vibe), the band offers the listener the vibrant Musta Tähti (“black star”), once again showcasing Eetu and Makki in absolute sync with their riffs; while Lumimies (“abominable snowman”) lacks the same punch and energy from the rest of the album, despite presenting melodious guitar lines and a solid performance by Markku on drums. And lastly, instead of another hard and heavy tune, Sata Kaskelottia surprise us all with a pensive ballad titled Ovet (“doors”), closing the album in a unique and very interesting manner, with Eetu leading the sonority with his introspective vocals until the song’s somber finale.

What are you waiting for to dive into the sea of Progressive and Stoner Metal ruled by Sata Kaskelottia? You can listen to their new album in full on Spotify, follow them on Facebook for new and tour dates, listen to more of their music on YouTube and on SoundCloud, and buy a copy of Sydän On Vuori from their BandCamp page, from Record Shop X, on iTunes or on Amazon. As you might already know, there’s nothing better than listening to the potent nad harmonious metal music blasted by one hundred sperm whales, and the new album by Sata Kaskelottia is here to show us that.

Best moments of the album: Aamumandaatti, Parantaja and Ennen Kuin Sateet Alkavat.

Worst moments of the album: Lumimies.

Released in 2018 Rhoska Records

Track listing
1. Aamumandaatti 5:03
2. Leskentekijä 4:54
3. Parantaja 3:30
4. Samarkand 5:19
5. Sydän On Vuori 5:16
6. Ennen Kuin Sateet Alkavat 4:01
7. Musta Tähti 5:39
8. Lumimies 5:14
9. Ovet 4:56

Band members
Eetu Kauppinen – vocals, guitar
Matti Kangaskoski – guitar, vocals
Markku Suoniemi – bass, vocals
Ville Salonen – drums, percussion

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Album Review – Mad Agony / Mad Patrol (2018)

Join this mad patrol of Italian metallers where drinking beer, slamming into the pit and showing your passion for heavy music are the only rules you need to follow.

Forged in the distant year of 1991 in the metallic pits of Padua, a city in Northern Italy’s Veneto region, Italian Heavy/Thrash Metal squad Mad Agony went on a huge hiatus starting in 1993 due to the departure of one of its founding members, but their inner passion for true heavy music didn’t die at all, leading the band to rise from the ashes in 2011. After their rebirth to the world of heavy music, the band released in 2013 the full-length album Chernobitch, gaining positive feedback from fans and critics worldwide and, consequently, inspiring them to keep recording heavy music in the following years, culminating now in 2018 with the release of their second full-length installment, titled Mad Patrol.

Comprised of “Mad” Max Zane on vocals, Samael Von Martin on lead guitar, Andrea “Babetz” Babetto on rhythm guitar, Dani D3vine on bass, and Demian De Saba on drums, Mad Agony play a wild and straight-to-the-face fusion of several styles such as Heavy Metal, Trash Metal, Hard N’ Heavy, Hard Rock and even Black Metal, with their songs being characterized by endless amounts of electricity and being highly recommended as the playlist for any fun rock n’ roll party where drinking all the beer you can until you drop is mandatory. Put differently, Mad Agony don’t aim at reinventing the wheel with Mad Patrol, but just to keep partying and carrying the flag of Heavy Metal proudly in honor of the golden years of the music we all love so much.

The headbanging riffs by Samael and Andrea rev up the engines in the opening track Cold Stars, an old school fusion of the classic Thrash Metal played by Anthrax with the more visceral music blasted by Forbidden where Mad Max lives up to his own nickname with his rabid screams, and with the music ending powerfully with a flammable solo by Samael. Then crushing guitar lines kick off an epic and impactful ode to Thrash Metal by Mad Agony, titled Circle Of Fire, also bringing hints of the Power Metal played by bands like Grave Digger and Running Wild and, consequently, being highly recommended for admirers of 80’s traditional metal music; whereas in Let Me Die we’re treated to a mid-tempo sonority showcasing rumbling bass punches by Dani and steady, fierce beast by Demian, with its rhythm reminding me of the classic “Bang Your Head” by Quiet Riot. It gets a bit tiring after a while, though, but nothing to worry about.

More Beer is one of those old school thrashing hymns with a beyond fun theme, with the whole band destroying their instruments during the faster pieces, while the slower parts are spearheaded by the slashing riffs by Samael and Andrea; followed by Party Time (Zombie Version), a Rock N’ Roll party by Mad Agony where Mad Max couldn’t sound more inspired on vocals while Samael fires pure awesomeness through his riffs and solos. And in Warriors Of The Whales, which by the way has an amazing name, the vocals by Mad Max sound somehow inspired by the great Udo Dirkschneider, becoming an awesome option for slamming into the pit during their live performances, with Demian being utterly brutal on drums.

Antiochia – Back To Bare Metal is a classic instrumental Heavy Metal extravaganza showcasing potent drums and electrified guitar riffs and solos, before Mad Agony get back to a more Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock vibe in the flammable You Bring Me To The Ground. Simply grab your beer, slam into the pit and have fun with this exciting tune, with highlights to its catchy chorus and the exciting pace led by Damien and his solid beats. And lastly, we have Metal Thrashin’ Mad, their cover version for the classic by Anthrax from their 1984 album Fistful Of Metal (check out the original version HERE). Needless to say, Mad Agony’s version is just as incendiary, entertaining and old school, with the demented vocal performance by Mad Max being the icing on the cake.

You can get more details about Mad Agony and their unrelenting metal music through their official Facebook page, and purchase your copy of the well-crafted and upbeat Mad Patrol from the band’s own webstore (where you can buy the way buy the special edition with a bonus live CD) showing your support to such obstinate band and, as a consequence, keeping the flame of underground metal burning brighter than ever. And besides, how not to be tempted to join a “mad patrol” of Heavy Metal? You have to be really mad not to take part in such distinct squad.

Best moments of the album: Circle Of Fire, More Beer and Metal Thrashin’ Mad.

Worst moments of the album: Let Me Die.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing      
1. Cold Stars 5:11
2. Circle Of Fire 4:33
3. Let Me Die 5:07
4. More Beer 2:24
5. Party Time (Zombie Version) 2:55
6. Warriors Of The Whales 3:48
7. Antiochia – Back To Bare Metal (instrumental) 6:13
8. You Bring Me To The Ground 3:24
9. Metal Thrashin’ Mad (Anthrax cover) 2:51

Disc 2 – Live Somewhere And Nowhere
10. Chernobitch 4:26
11. Back In Town! 3:04
12. Subconscious Fear 5:41
13. Presence 4:24
14. Boundaries Of Death 6:58
15. Iron Fist (Motörhead Cover) 2:56
16. Mad Agony 3:56
17. Mad Agony (feat. Pietro M Rock) (Video version) 4:20
18. Trick Or Treat (Fastway cover) 4:50

Band members
“Mad” Max Zane – vocals
Samael Von Martin – lead guitar & backing vocals
Andrea “Babetz” Babetto – rhythm guitar & backing vocals
Dani D3vine – bass & backing vocals
Demian De Saba – drums & backing vocals

Album Review – Axel Rudi Pell / Knights Call (2018)

And Mr. Axel Rudi Pell strikes once again, delivering another entertaining collection of rock and metal tunes supported by his loyal army of skillful musicians.

If there’s a musician that truly loves what he does, that person has to be the iconic German Heavy Metal/Hard Rock guitarist Axel Rudi Pell. It’s incredible how consistent this accomplished guitar virtuoso is with his amazing solo band, not only by delivering top-tier music since the band’s inception in the far, far away year of 1989, but also by not taking too many years to record a new album. As a matter of fact, if you take a detailed look at the band’s complete discography, you’ll notice that every two years there’s a brand new Axel Rudi Pell full-length album released for our total delight. Furthermore, his creativity and ability to compose high-end music have been flourishing in the past decade, with the releases of the extremely well-crafted albums The Crest (2010),  Circle of the Oath (2012), Into the Storm (2014), Game of Sins (2016), and now in 2018 the excellent Knights Call, the 18th studio album in his undisputed career.

Featuring a traditional artwork by British illustrator Martin McKenna, who by the way has been working with the band since 2010 with the release of the aforementioned The Crest, the secret in Knights Call is not a secret at all, but the result of a lot of hard work, perfect synchronicity among all band members, and above all that, a solid and consistent lineup that has been accompanying Mr. Axel Rudi Pell for a while, comprised of the underrated Johnny Gioeli on vocals, Volker Krawczak on bass, Ferdy Doernberg on keyboards and Bobby Rondinelli on drums. Apart from Mr. Rondinelli, who joined the band in 2013, all others have been with Axel for a very long time, with Volker being a member of the band since the beginning in 1989 (and even before that if you consider his time with Steeler), while Johnny and Ferdy since 1998’s Oceans of Time. Actually, when you hit play and start listening to the flammable rock music blasted by those veterans in Knights Call, you can kind of feel how they know each other extremely well.

The Medieval Overture is  a classic medieval-inspired Axel Rudi Pell intro to the Rock N’ Roll feast titled The Wild And The Young, a song about getting old in style and having good memories of a time that’s never coming back (“Sometimes I’m dreaming of the past / Making love in the summer while it lasts / But life ain’t easy as it seemed / Much tougher and louder than I dreamed / I thought I was living in paradise / And those were the days of my life”), led by the unparalleled riffs by Mr. Axel Rudi Pell and the always flammable vocals by Johnny. Following such strong start we have Wildest Dreams, a keyboard-driven Hard Rock tune where Volker extracts rumbling sounds from his bass while the competent Bobby keeps the music at a very pleasant pace, bringing that characteristic sound from the band’s old releases; and Long Live Rock, their musical representation of our passion for Rock N’ Roll, or in other words, a tribute not only to themselves but to all rock and metal heroes of our lives, showcasing a thunderous kitchen by Volker and Bobby , with Ferdy complementing Axel’s metallic riffs and solos flawlessly.

Then it’s time for The Crusaders Of Doom, one of those imposing, epic creations by Axel and his henchmen, a mid-tempo song full of atmospheric keyboards and classy guitar lines, all embraced by a passionate vocal performance by the talented Johnny. Truth And Lies is another upbeat composition by the band, a 70’s-80’s-inspired instrumental party for lovers of Progressive Rock and Metal presenting gripping keys and the always mesmerizing riffs and solos by Axel, while in Beyond The Light Mr. Gioeli returns after a “break” with what’s most probably his strongest vocal performance of the album, powerfully declaiming the song’s lyrics (“Is there life beyond the light / In the valley of the souls we’d lost long ago / Is there life beyond the light / Only in our dreams or in reality”). Those guys definitely know how to craft beautiful and touching ballads, and this one is no exception to that.

Knights Call Limited Edition Boxset

Getting back to their 80’s Hard Rock sonority, Slaves On The Run is a straightforward tune presenting all elements we love in the music by Axel Rudi Pell, being a more than excellent option for their live concerts. Furthermore, Axel and Ferdy are once again in total sync, while Volker keeps pounding his bass in a very melodious way. The second to last song in Knights Call, Follow The Sun, brings more old school Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal for our avid ears, with the album’s crisp production allowing us to feel the beats by Bobby inside our heads while Johnny keeps firing his potent vocal lines, also bringing a chorus tailored for singing along with the band. And closing this very entertaining album we have a 9-minute aria of classic rock and metal with hints of Arabian music titled Tower Of Babylon, something we’ve seen the band doing before. You’ll find yourself wandering through the realms of epicness and intricacy forged by Axel and crew, with his guitar solos sounding absolutely hypnotizing.

After listening to Knights Call (and I’m sure that’s something I’ll be doing for a long time), I’m more than certain it’s quite impossible for Axel Rudi Pell to release a bad album. There are several versions of Knights Call available for purchase HERE, but if I were you I would go for the deluxe boxset which includes a red/black LP in gatefold cover and with printed innersleeve, a digipak CD + poster, a patch, a sticker, a photo card, a doople sided A1 poster, and a skull tin-cup with an engraving of the band logo. And after all is said and done, we can all rest assured that in less than two years we’ll be treated one more time to the captivating rock and metal music crafted by one of the best guitarists hailing from the beautiful Germany.

Best moments of the album: The Wild And The Young, Long Live Rock, Slaves On The Run and Follow The Sun.

Worst moments of the album: Truth And Lies.

Released in 2018 SPV/Steamhammer

Track listing  
1. The Medieval Overture (Intro) 1:43
2. The Wild And The Young 4:20
3. Wildest Dreams 5:43
4. Long Live Rock 5:34
5. The Crusaders Of Doom 8:01
6. Truth And Lies 4:48
7. Beyond The Light 7:45
8. Slaves On The Run 5:13
9. Follow The Sun 5:12
10. Tower Of Babylon 9:50

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

Concert Review – Judas Priest (Tribute Communities Centre, Oshawa, ON, 03/28/2018)

A night of celebration of the purest form of British Heavy Metal in the Ontarian city of Oshawa, spearheaded by the unparalleled Judas Priest.

OPENING ACTS: Black Star Riders and Saxon

Getting from Oakville to Oshawa for a concert is always a nightmare due to the humongous distance (almost 100km) and the fact I have to drive there exactly during the peak of rush hour. However, for my total delight, it was fairly quick to get to the Tribute Communities Centre in Oshawa yesterday where the mighty Judas Priest was going to play their unparalleled classics, supported by the ass-kicking Black Star Riders and Saxon as the opening acts. After a Tuesday of rain and fog, the day yesterday was beyond perfect, being totally clean and dry, and with the temperatures reaching almost the positive double digit mark. I guess the weather knew it shouldn’t mess with the Metal Gods, right?

One thing I highly recommend if you ever attend a concert or a sports event at the Tribute Communities Centre is to grab a bite before (or maybe even during) the event at the Prospects Bar & Grill, the pub that’s right inside the venue. Good food, cold and crisp beer, and all for a very decent price, helping you to properly get ready for the event. Actually, because I arrived there right when BLACK STAR RIDERS, a band formed by members and ex-members of renowned acts like Thin Lizzy and Alice Cooper, started their concert, I couldn’t really watch them perform, but I was listening to their music from the pub with attention and they sounded solid and entertaining with their old school Rock N’ Roll, with their cover song for Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak and their own song Bound for Glory being the highlights of their performance.

Setlist
All Hell Breaks Loose
Jailbreak (Thin Lizzy cover)
Before the War
Heavy Fire
Who Rides the Tiger
Kingdom of the Lost
When the Night Comes In
Bound for Glory

Band members
Ricky Warwick – vocals, guitar
Scott Gorham – guitars
Damon Johnson – guitars
Robert Crane – bass
Chad Szeliga – drums

After a short break (and now already sitting in my proper place in the floor section), it was time for Biff Byford and his Heavy Metal institution SAXON to begin their sonic attack on stage, delivering pure metal from the NWOBHM, with songs like Power and the Glory, Motorcycle Man, Denim and Leather and Heavy Metal Thunder inciting all fans at the venue to start banging their heads nonstop to their classic Heavy Metal. The band was on fire from start to finish promoting their brand new album Thunderbolt, not giving any time for the crowd to breathe or take a bathroom break, with Mr. Byford being a true beast on vocals. My favorite tune played from their new album was by far They Played Rock and Roll, introduced by the band as their personal and honest tribute to the greatest Rock N’ Roll band of all time, the glorious Motörhead. And let’s face it, any tribute to the one and only Lemmy Kilmister is never enough, right? He always deserves more and more, and when that comes from such an amazing band like Saxon, the homage paid is even more powerful.

Setlist
Olympus Rising
Thunderbolt
Power and the Glory
The Secret of Flight
Motorcycle Man
Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz)
Dallas 1 PM
They Played Rock and Roll
Denim and Leather
Princess of the Night
Wheels of Steel
Never Surrender
Heavy Metal Thunder

Band members
Biff Byford – vocals
Paul Quinn – guitars
Doug Scarratt – guitars
Nibbs Carter – bass
Nigel Glockler – drums

JUDAS PRIEST

The intensity of the metal played by Saxon was exactly what everyone needed to get really warmed up for the main attraction of the night, the iconic metal behemoths JUDAS PRIEST. It was already past 9pm when Black Sabbath’s War Pigs started playing on the speakers, followed by the intro Guardians, before the band spearheaded by the Metal God Rob Halford hit the stage to the sound of their newborn classic Firepower, the opening track of their majestic new opus Firepower, putting a smile on everyone’s faces and showing everyone at the venue that the Metal Gods still got it no matter what happens to them. Of course I missed seeing the guitar hero Glenn Tipton (who’s not touring with the band due to the complications of his recently diagnosed case of Parkinson’s disease) slashing our senses with his riffs and solos on stage, but Andy Sneap did a pretty good job replacing him. And what to say about Richie Faulkner? The guy is undoubtedly a core piece of Judas Priest now, showcasing all his skills as a great guitarist that he is and also having an excellent performance on stage.

Nothing I can say about the setlist will represent its true beauty, as the Priest played a mix of some of the best songs of the new album, such as Lightning Strike and Evil Never Dies, with amazing classics from almost all of their albums, including really old school material such as Running Wild, The Ripper, Some Heads Are Gonna Roll and especially Saints in Hell, from Stained Class, and album that turned 40 years old this past February 10. After watching them playing that stunning song live, I once again must say their music is definitely like wine, getting better and better as time goes by. Furthermore, the video they played on their background screen during Saints in Hell was superb, with all the dark and red imagery of Christ, demons and wild beats being mesmerizing, and I wonder if one day they’ll upload it somewhere like YouTube as an alternative video for this beyond classic metal hymn.

My only complaint about their setlist was replacing one of the most touching metal ballads of all time, the absolutely beautiful Angel (which they were playing until their concert at The Anthem in Washington, D.C. on March 18), with the good-but-not-fantastic The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown). This song feels like when Iron Maiden play “Wrathchild” on their live concerts, as we all certainly enjoy it but we also know deep down inside there are far better options to be part of their setlist. Anyway, the last part of their setlist, including the encore, was a true feast of pure Heavy Metal, working like a tribute to the Rock N’ Roll lifestyle, with metallic hymns like Breaking the Law, Hell Bent for Leather and Living After Midnight being some sort of “motto” or “guide” to anyone who lives and breathes rock music 24/7. I was honestly hoping that Glenn would hit the stage out of nowhere to play the last batch of songs with the band last night, just like what he did at The Prudential in Newark, New Jersey on March 20, but unfortunately that did not happen in Oshawa. Well, I can’t complain at all, as seeing Judas Priest live once again was truly amazing and memorable, making even my 90km drive back a lot easier and smoother than I thought, and I can’t wait to see them again in a not-so-distant future, hopefully with Glenn back in action.

Setlist
War Pigs (Black Sabbath song)
Guardians
Firepower
Running Wild
Grinder
Sinner
The Ripper
Lightning Strike
Bloodstone
Saints in Hell
Turbo Lover
The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown) (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Evil Never Dies
Some Heads Are Gonna Roll
Breaking the Law
Hell Bent for Leather
Painkiller

Encore:
The Hellion
Electric Eye
Metal Gods
You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
Living After Midnight
We Are the Champions (Queen song)

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Andy Sneap – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums

Album Review – Judas Priest / Firepower (2018)

The Metal Gods are firing on all cylinders with their majestic new album of pure and highly inspired Heavy Metal.

When British Heavy Metal legends Judas Priest announced they were just about to release their 18th studio record, the magnificent Firepower, I already knew it was going to be an epic album. Not only it’s the first studio album since their 1988 release Ram It Down to be produced by Tom Allom and the first ever with the always precise and competent Andy Sneap as co-producer, but the entire band (Rob Halford on vocals, Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner on the guitars, Ian Hill on bass and Scott Travis on drums) is absolutely on fire throughout the album’s almost one hour of the purest form of “British steel” that will beautifully and powerfully pierce your ears and control your mind, compelling you to bang your head nonstop and raise your horns to the iconic Metal Gods. By the way, the amazing album art, created by Chilean artist Claudio Bergamin, breathes scorching fire like an enraged dragon, fully in line with the unparalleled history of one of the most formidable bands in heavy music.

Although their 2014 opus Redeemer of Souls was already fantastic, showcasing a veteran band at the top of their form, the metallic extravaganza found in Firepower is so majestic and inspiring that not even the terrible news of Glenn Tipton being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which unfortunately for all lovers of true metal music won’t allow him to tour as much as before with the band (being replaced by Andy Sneap during the upcoming Firepower 2018 World Tour), could ruin the magic crafted by the band in Firepower, and Glenn in his most humble “the show must go on” mode had a few nice words to say about his situation, encouraging the band to continue with the tour. “I want everyone to know that it’s vital that the Judas Priest tour go ahead and that I am not leaving the band – it’s simply that my role has changed. I don’t rule out the chance to go on stage as and when I feel able to blast out some Priest! So at some point in the not too distant future I’m really looking forward to seeing all of our wonderful metal maniacs once again”, said one of the greatest guitarists in the history of Heavy Metal.

Getting back to the album, five seconds are all that the mighty Judas Priest need to explode our senses with their incomparable metal music in the title-track Firepower, where Glenn and Richie begin their flammable riff-fest before the Metal God Rob Halford comes crushing with his unique metallic vocals. Put differently, the band offers us a high-octane, electrifying and straightforward 80’s-style version of themselves for our absolute delectation. And without wasting a single second the Metal Gods fire another superb hymn titled Lightning Strike, a mid-tempo, rumbling composition led by the always precise Scott Travis, with the rip-roaring way Halford declaims the lyrics being beyond thrilling (“I’ll bring you the head of the demon / I’m peeling the skin from his face / The life that you lead is inhuman / Its cause and effects a disgrace / You’re sowing the seeds of a nightmare from hell / Your prayers and your demons are tolling the bell / Walking through fire, fate’s in my hands / Waiting for lightning to strike / Man on a wire, bearing the brand / Waiting for lightning to strike / Lightning to strike”). Then darker riffs by Glenn and Richie permeate the air while Halford tells a somber story in Evil Never Dies, a sonic masterpiece perfect for hitting the road that will urge you to bang your head and scream together with Halford every single time you listen to its flawless lines.

Slowing down the pace a bit, but still sounding vibrant and epic, Never the Heroes brings forward lyrics about the fortunes of war and all the darkness that fills the heart of a soldier (“We were fearless but so afraid / Though in our hearts we still felt pain / We’re on fire but on a leash / We only ever wanted peace”), with the solos by both Glenn and Richie being a thing of beauty. Needless to say, this battle hymn will sound stunningly powerful when played live. Following such touching song we have Necromancer, a solid display of Heavy Metal infused with Stygian elements and nuances (mainly due to the nature of the song), closer to the band’s  sonority from the albums Angel of Retribution and Redeemer of Souls; and Children of the Sun, another song to sing along with Halford & Co., presenting a headbanging rhythm led by Scott with his steady beats and the simple but effective bass lines by Ian Hill. As usual,  the band’s guitar duo does an amazing job with their crisp solos, enhancing the song’s punch considerably.

Their metal feast goes on with a gentle piano bridge named Guardians, warming our ears and minds up for the powerful Rising from Ruins, displaying an elegant sonority where Halford has a titanic performance, stealing the spotlight with his deep and passionate vocals, not to mention how Scott keeps the music flowing smoothly with his classic beats. And what to say about the next tune, aggressively titled Flame Thrower? When I first saw the name of the song I was more than sure it was going to be ass-kicking, and guess what? It is indeed a true rockin’ extravaganza ignited by the slashing guitars by Glenn and Richie, in a blend of their own music from albums like British Steel and Ram It Down mixed with Halford’s solo career. Also uniting old school and modern Judas Priest, the quintet delivers the gripping Spectre, where Richie adds a touch of modernity to the band’s trademark sound with his guitar while Halford once again impersonates a “dark poet of metal”. Then a melancholic intro quickly morphs into a flammable and adventurous metal hymn entitled Traitors Gate, showcasing all elements we learned to love from NWOBHM, and, as a consequence, being tailored for admirers of the more epic side of the band. Furthermore, the guitars by Glenn and Richie are in total sync with Scott’s beats and especially with Halford’s potent roars and high-pitched screams, making it a true exhibit of classic metal.

The last batch of songs in Firepower is quite interesting, as if the band decided not to release them as bonus tracks of a deluxe edition of the album despite their uniqueness, but instead they added them to the regular version of it as a gift to all metal maniacs who have been supporting the band since their inception. No Surrender is straightforward Rock N’ Roll infused with Heavy Metal nuances highly inspired by the band’s own 80’s musicality, or in other words, if this was part of British Steel, Defenders of the Faith or Screaming for Vengeance it would have been a metal classic today. Hence, can you feel their guitars penetrating deep inside your heart? Then the superb Lone Wolf feels like they wanted to pay a stylish tribute do Black Sabbath, Pantera and Down all at once in a fusion of top-notch Heavy Metal with the dementia and aggression of Stoner and Doom Metal. Even the usually quiet Ian Hill delivers some thunder through his bass, with Richie and Glenn stealing the spotlight with the heaviest riffs of the entire album while Halford is simply astounding on vocals. And last but not least, how about a touching and majestic ballad titled Sea of Red, closing this grandiose album in great fashion, with Halford’s voice sounding even more impactful together with the fiery guitars by Richie and Glenn? And don’t forget to pay very good attention to the lyrics as they’re simple but very potent.

In summary, Judas Priest are all fired up in Firepower, delivering everything we love and expect in their classic and always incendiary Heavy Metal, therefore proving once again they’re not called the Metal Gods in vain. There are several retailers where you can purchase this masterpiece of old school and contemporary metal perfectly united, such as iTunes, Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart, providing you the most exciting soundtrack for anything you need to do in life. After such brilliant job done in Firepower, let’s hope now that Glenn can somehow overcome Parkinson’s disease, and that we can see him sooner than anyone can expect on stage with the rest of the band, firing some of their biggest classic together with the new combustible songs from the new album, because that’s where a talented and hardworking guitar god like him should always be.

Best moments of the album: Firepower, Lightning Strike, Evil Never Dies, No Surrender and Lone Wolf.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Epic Records

Track listing
1. Firepower 3:27
2. Lightning Strike 3:29
3. Evil Never Dies 4:23
4. Never the Heroes 4:23
5. Necromancer 3:33
6. Children of the Sun 4:00
7. Guardians 1:06
8. Rising from Ruins 5:23
9. Flame Thrower 4:34
10. Spectre 4:24
11. Traitors Gate 5:34
12. No Surrender 2:54
13. Lone Wolf 5:09
14. Sea of Red 5:51

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Tina Guo

A true metal cello Wonder Woman!

She might not be a pure Heavy Metal woman, but her superior skills and her passion for music truly make her unique. Armed with her flammable cello or with her whimsical erhu (the same two-stringed bowed musical instrument used by Taiwanese metallers Chthonic), she has been embellishing stages, movies, television and video game scores with her refined technique and stunning looks since around 1994, when her unparalleled career kicked off. Born on October 28, 1985 in Shanghai, China’s biggest city, a global financial centre and transport hub and one of the most populous cities in the world with a population of more than 24 million as of 2017, but currently residing in Los Angeles, California, United States, here comes the internationally acclaimed and Grammy-nominated Chinese-American cellist, erhuist, recording artist and composer Tina Guo (or 郭婷娜 in Chinese), a woman with a multi-faceted career and mastery in a wide range of genres, showcasing a deep and strong passion for musical exploration, artistic expression and technology. And of course, among all that, there’s still time for her to demonstrate her appreciation for our good old heavy music.

Tina Guo was born in Shanghai to father Lu-Yan Guo, a concert cellist, and mother Fei-Fei Soong, a concert violinist, both artistic directors of the California International Music and Art Festival, an annual event held in San Diego, California. She began playing piano at the age of 3 in China, but once she moved to America at the age of 5 with her family, she began violin lessons with her mother. At the age of 7, she began studying the cello under the instruction of her father, with both her parents forcing her to practice 6 to 8 hours a day. She then continued her professional cello studies with Slovenian cellist Eleonore Schoenfeld (1925–2007), one of the most influential cellists of the 20th century (who also taught Guo’s father), at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music on full scholarship.

During her freshman year, Guo started dating a guitar player of an 80’s-style classic Heavy Metal band, and after attending one of their shows one night at The Whiskey in Hollywood, she started to think about how she could incorporate the cello into the metal style, experimenting with pedals and different techniques while trying to figure out how to play the cello and sound like a guitar player. While the fingering for both instruments were virtually the same, it took her three years and many YouTube videos to figure out what she was doing. She eventually left USC in her junior year, despite having a full scholarship to attend, after she found it increasingly difficult to balance performing and going to classes. Her parents were very angry and didn’t understand her decision at the time, getting used to the idea after a while. As a matter of fact, she claims to hold a Bachelors in Metaphysical Theology with a focus on Eastern Philosphy from the International College of Metaphysical Theology, but this is an unaccredited distance learning degree mill.

Her career has reached such a complex and diverse level I’m pretty sure you’ve listened to the cello by our Asian virtuoso at least once in your lifetime in a movie score, in a video game, or in a multitude of other media platforms. Known for her distinct videos showcasing her talent against theatrical backdrops and elaborate costumes, she has already appeared in her career as a soloist with the San Diego Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra in Mexico, the Thessaloniki State Symphony in Greece, the Petrobras Symphony in Brazil, and the Vancouver Island Symphony in British Columbia, not to mention her participation in the Civic Youth Orchestra at the age of 10, her performance with violinist Midori Goto in Dvorak’s American String Quartet at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and her four national tours of Mexico and Italy performing the Shostakovich, Dvorak, Haydn, and Saint-Saëns Cello Concertos. Tina endorses Larsen Strings, Yamaha, Line 6, Sennheiser, Focusrite, ENGL Amps, Voodoo Lab Pedals, Coffin Case, Samson, Reunion Blues, Analysis Plus Cables and Apogee Electronics.

Among her countless other projects and appearances as a special guest musician, some of the most interesting ones are her performance with the Tenerife Symphony and Choir in the Canary Islands performing Batman: The Dark Knight; her 2017 Australian tour with an all-girl crossover band named Metaphor; her 2008 Grammy Awards performance with the Foo Fighters; her 2011-2013 tour as the featured electric cellist with Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour; her performance for the League of Legends World Championship to a sold out arena at Staples Center in Los Angeles and an audience of 33 million streaming online; playing the electric cello in a super-band with The Crystal Method, Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit), Danny Lohner (NIN), Joe Letz (Combichrist) and the Hollywood Scoring Orchestra; playing with Brazilian guitarist Victor Biglione in a Jimi Hendrix Tribute Concert at the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro; performing as soloist on music from Vikings, Dexter, Game of Thrones, and Chicago Fire with the Krakow Symphony and Polish Radio Choir at the Krakow Film Music Festival; and completing an acoustic tour and two sold-out performances at Carnegie Hall in 2016 with Blues Legend Joe Bonamassa, as you can see in the song Black Lung Heartache.

Furthermore, Tina has already shared the stage in her career with The Tenors, Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel, Josh Groban, John Legend, LeAnn Rimes, Chris Isaak, Il Divo, Ariana Grande, Lupe Fiasco, and Michael McDonald, among others, and has been featured as a soloist on the scores of several movies such as Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Inception, Clash of the Titans, Olympus Has Fallen, Escape Plan, Sleepy Hollow, Hancock, Battle: Los Angeles, Predators and X-Men: First Class, as well as TV shows like  The Mentalist, Family Guy, American Dad, King of the Hill, commercials for Apple, Under Armour, and countless video games. As a solo artist, Tina has already released 8 albums, those being Autumn Winds and The Journey (both in 2011), Eternity (2013), Ray of Light and A Cello Christmas (both in 2014), Inner Passion (with Peter Kater) and Cello Metal (both in 2015), and more recently Game On! (2017). Furthermore, you can enjoy some very interesting videos on YouTube where Tina shows all her skills with her erhu, such as “Tina Guo plays music from Uncharted 2 on the Erhu with the GSPO”, and “Tina Guo and Michael Barry Random Jam: Danny Boy on Erhu and Piano”, or simply enjoy some of her official videos and songs like World of Warcraft, Dragonborn, Forrest Gump: Feather Theme and Genesis Rising.

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In regards to Tina’s contributions to the metal scene, she has been featured as a guest cellist in numerous distinguished bands and projects since 2009. For instance, in 2009 she played the cello in the songs The Lone Spaniard and So Far Gone, from the album Molecular Heinosity by American Progressive Metal/Rock keyboardist Derek Sherinian; in the song I Am the Nothing, from the 2014 album The Beauty of Destruction by  American Metalcore act Devil You Know (now called Light The Torch); in the 2017 album Störtebeker, by German Heavy/Power/Progressive Metal band FB1964; in the single Let Down, from the 2011 album Secret Passion by Dutch Symphonic Gothic Metal group Imperia; in the song Duet for Electric Guitar and Electric Cello in A Minor, from the 2010 album Speed Force by American shredder Maxxxwell Carlisle; and in the 2015 album The Life I Remember, by American Groove Metal act Once Human.

Among her main influences in music, we’ll find the most diverse range of bands and artist like Rammstein, Jacqueline du Pre, System of a Down, Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, Lady Gaga, Apocalyptica, Metallica, Sevendust, Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, just to give you an idea of how eclectic our stunning cellist is. Moreover, when asked about what music means for her, Tina said that playing music requires an intense emotional connection, and that she didn’t always have such level of creative freedom in her life due to her strict childhood with her parents, who lived through the Chinese Cultural Revolution and who consequently didn’t allow her to listen to any other types of music at home besides classical music. However, it was through a critically acclaimed album by one of the aforementioned influences, the classic Antichrist Superstar by the iconic American rockstar Marilyn Manson, that she got her first taste of Industrial Metal and heavy music in general, getting to know the rebellious music by bands like Daft Punk and Guns N’ Roses from then on.

The indomitable Tina Guo is not our metal chick of the month in vain, having released in 2015 a majestic album of heavy music titled CELLO METAL, with Tina obviously on the electric cello and featuring Wes Borland and John Huldt on the guitars, Marty O’Brien (We Are The Fallen) on bass, and Glen Sobel (Alice Cooper, Alcatrazz) on drums, as well as guitarists Al Di Meola, John 5 (Marilyn Manson) and Nita Strauss (The Iron Maidens). Tina and her henchmen delivered ass-kicking cello-infused cover songs for some of the biggest metal classics with this album, which by the way took around three years to be ready, those being Iron Maiden’s The Trooper, Slayer’s Raining Blood, Black Sabbath’s Iron Man, Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell, and Metallica’s Sanitarium, together with five original songs (Child of Genesis, The God Particle, Eternal Night, Forbidden City and Queen Bee). By the way, Tina spent her entire life savings (a little under US$ 6,000) on the official video for Queen Bee, a metal-inspired take on the orchestral interlude “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and that risk paid off as what’s probably her “most extreme” music video to date (it got an 18+ restriction on YouTube) caught the attention of Hans Zimmer, who at that time was searching for a cellist to play on the score of Sherlock Holmes. “I wasn’t trying to get into the soundtrack world. Actually, I was hoping that Rammstein would see the video and invite me to play with them”, said our skillful cellist in one of her interviews. Anyway, you can have a very detailed listen at Cello Metal on Spotify, and see why this Asian bombshell is respected and admired by the entire world of music, including the always-demanding metal scene.

And Tina is not only an accomplished cellist, but she’s also a writer, a philanthropist and a very successful businesswoman. As a writer, her first published work was called “Event Horizons of Yin and Yang”, a collection of philosophical prose and poetry. As a philanthropist, Guo is a passionate supporter of the Academy of Music for the Blind, Partners in Health, Animal Welfare Institute, Homes for our Troops and Child Find of America. For instance, in 2015, she released a Charity album with 13 composer friends called Tina Guo & Composers for Charity, with 100% of the proceeds from the album going directly to Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation in support of music education. And last but not least, as a businesswoman, she runs a Los Angeles-based venture named Tina Guo Contracting, which provides exclusive musicians and entertainment for live performances, recording and corporate events; she has a sample library that composers and producers can purchase and use; and above all that, she started her own music instrument line, named Tina Guo Strings, selling custom acoustic cellos, carbon fiber cases, and colourful “unicorn hair” bows for the violin, viola, and cello, with her first products available being the Tina Guo Model 300 cello, the Tina Guo Elite Master Art Model 600 cello, and a full line of custom Tina Guo bows. As a matter of fact, she has been self-managing her career since the beginning, having only signed an exclusive recording contact with Sony Music in 2016, as she thinks it’s very important to understand the business aspect and see everything that’s going on, especially because managers are always going to have other clients they’re dealing with.

However, despite being a successful musician and entrepreneur, she hasn’t been immune to sexism yet, noting that image sells in the performing world, and as a young Asian-American woman she’s more than familiar with the challenges that come with working in these two very white male-dominated spheres. “As a performing artist, we don’t only listen with our ears”, she said in one of her interviews. “If I look different or wasn’t as young, I might have a very different experience.” You can get a sense of all the awesomeness surrounding Tina as a musician and as a woman by watching several videos on YouTube where she’s either playing her cello or talking about her career and skills, such as “Tina Guo and her troublesome cello”, an interview with Tina Guo on classical and electric cello, or a mini-tutorial on playing fast, proving she’s more-than-ready to conquer the entire world of music and arts no matter how sexist that world might be.

Equipment
Gand & Bernardel Cello (Paris, France, 1878)
Custom Tina Guo Model Yamaha SVC-210
Erhu (Shangai, China)

Tina Guo’s Official Facebook page
Tina Guo’s Official Twitter
Tina Guo’s Official Instagram
Tina Guo’s Official YouTube channel

“When I make music, I am completely pure, naked, and open. I long for the moments when my outer shell no longer matters. I hunger for every genuine tear of sorrow, joy, or understanding shared. When you can hear me for who I am, and see me in a way that doesn’t involve looking at me, but rather looking through me, only then can I be satisfied.” – Tina Guo

Album Review – Blaze Bayley / The Redemption of William Black (Infinite Entanglement Part III) (2018)

What does the future hold for Mr. William Christopher Black? Here he is, the indomitable Heavy Metal icon Blaze Bayley, to tell us the dramatic conclusion to his stunning Infinite Entanglement Trilogy.

All good things must come to an end, including the beyond fantastic Infinite Entanglement Trilogy by the indomitable British Heavy Metal icon Blaze Bayley. After the stunning two first parts Infinite Entanglement and Endure And Survive (Infinite Entanglement Part II), it’s time for Blaze and his amazing band to tell us the conclusion to this thrilling sci-fi story in the third and final installment The Redemption of William Black (Infinite Entanglement Part III), the tenth solo album in Blaze’s unique career, and believe me, the story of Mr. William Christopher Black couldn’t have ended in a more dramatic, exciting and electrifying way.

Featuring guest vocal performances from Fozzy singer and WWE superstar Chris Jericho and from Luke Appleton, bassist from American powerhouse Iced Earth and rhythm guitarist with British metallers Absolva, as well as several other guest vocalists and narrators such as Liz Owen and Harry Webster Appleton II, The Redemption of William Black continues where the earlier albums left off, with Blaze’s trademark infectious choruses, blistering lead guitar work from Chris Appleton and a bedrock rhythm section from Karl Schramm on bass and Martin McNee on drums, all three also members of Absolva. Co-written by Blaze and Chris Appleton, everything in the album is perfectly aligned with the previous two albums in the trilogy, including its rip-roaring artwork and layout designed by Akirant Illustration. Hence, get ready for another lecture in traditional Heavy Metal by Blaze and his henchmen, and to finally know what the future holds for the dauntless William Black.

The album starts with our anti-hero seeking for redemption, saying he will “save the best of this world”, and Blaze Bayley & Co. make it quite clear with the high-octane, heavy and thrilling opening track Redeemer, with the guitar by Chris sounding extremely acute like a sharpened axe, also bringing one of those electrifying choruses tailored for singing along with Blaze. Then without giving us any time to breathe Blaze and his bandmates fire another metallic hymn titled Are You Here, where Chris and Karl sound thunderous with their strings while Martin never lets the energy level go down with his pounding beats; followed by Immortal One, a powerful song about immortality showcasing a fantastic guitar solo by Chris and an imposing rhythm, increasing in intensity until its crushing finale. Put differently, it can’t get any more Heavy Metal than this, my friends.

In the outstanding The First True Sign the band doesn’t get tired of smashing our ears with pure Heavy Metal, with its initial tribal sounds being suddenly joined by Chris’ most awesome, lancinating riffs of the whole album, turning it into a terrific choice for their live performances. Moreover, Blaze as usual passionately declaims the song’s poetic lyrics, captivating our attention from start to finish. After such metallic extravaganza, it’s time for one of those stunning ballads by Blaze, entitled Human Eyes, where acoustic guitars are accompanied by a pensive Blaze reciting the song’s extremely touching words, and all that dedication and focus by Blaze goes on until the song’s melancholic ending; whereas in Prayers of Light, the aforementioned guest Chris Jericho delivers some cryptic words before the flammable riffs by Chris ignite another explosion of traditional metal music. It’s indeed an upbeat tune perfect for cheering up your day, with both Jericho and Luke Appleton doing an amazing job on backing vocals. And Blaze’s minstrel side strikes again in 18 Days, where he poetically sings the song’s potent lines amidst a feast of mid-tempo heavy riffs and beats, making a sensational vocal duo with guest Liz Owen who delivers beautiful, ethereal vocals together with the Messiah.

With elements from Hard Rock added to the band’s classic Heavy Metal, we’re treated to the very precise and exciting work done on strings by Chris and Karl in Already Won, providing Blaze all he needs to thrive on vocals. And Blaze definitely knows how to reach deep inside our hearts with his introspective vocals like what happens in Life Goes On, being powerfully accompanied by lighter, acoustic parts intertwined with heavier moments crafted by his band members. The second to last act in the epic and futuristic tale of William Black comes in the form of The Dark Side of Black, a thrilling tune bringing forward all we love in the music by Blaze Bayley, that being fast-paced beats, melodic and cutting riffs, and obviously his resonant, potent vocals. Furthermore, Chris once again fires a superb guitar solo as the icing on the cake of the most obscure side of our protagonist translated into first-class metal. Last but not least we have Eagle Spirit, ignited by a special narration by a British war hero, Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Harry Webster Appleton II, before the band offers us all over nine minutes of gripping passages and flammable riffs, with Martin delivering rhythmic, puissant beats to make the whole song even more impactful. And after all is said and done, William finally finds his redemption as the story comes to a climatic and absolutely beautiful ending.

You can buy your copy of The Redemption of William Black (Infinite Entanglement Part III) directly from Blaze Bayley’s official webstore, as well as from other retail outlets such as iTunes, Amazon, Heartland Music, Collectors’ Choice Music and metalmailorder.com, among others. At the same time, a special deluxe box will be available exclusively from Blaze’s website, specially made to house all three albums from the Infinite Entanglement Trilogy (needless to say, I highly recommend you listen to all three albums in a row without breaks to properly experience the full saga), and later this year the new album will also be made available as a vinyl LP, again in a specially-made deluxe box to house all 3 LP’s. Now that the astonishing tale of Mr. William Christopher Black is over, let’s all keep an eye on Blaze’s official Facebook page for news and tour dates, as he’s certainly going to kick some ass live in a city near you pretty soon (just like he did last year in Toronto). I have absolutely no idea if we’ll ever see William Black again, but if there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that the daredevil Blaze Bayley is in the best shape of his life and will therefore keep blowing our minds with his unmatched fusion of old school Heavy Metal and top-tier sci-fi storytelling.

Best moments of the album: Redeemer, The First True Sign, 18 Days and The Dark Side of Black.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Blaze Bayley Recordings

Track listing 
1. Redeemer 4:11
2. Are You Here 2:32
3. Immortal One 2:56
4. The First True Sign 4:04
5. Human Eyes 5:36
6. Prayers of Light 3:25
7. 18 Days 4:03
8. Already Won 2:58
9. Life Goes On 5:00
10. The Dark Side of Black 3:25
11. Eagle Spirit 8:50

Band members
Blaze Bayley – vocals
Chris Appleton – guitars, backing vocals
Karl Schramm – bass, backing vocals
Martin McNee – drums

Guest musicians
Chris Jericho – narration, backing vocals on “Prayes of Light”
Luke Appleton – backing vocals on “Prayes of Light”
Liz Owen – female vocals on “18 Days”
Melissa Adams & Joanne Kay Robinson – backing vocals, choir
Aine Brewer, Rob Toogood, Michelle Sciarrotta & Harry Webster Appleton II – narration

Album Review – Death Keepers / Rock This World (2018)

A fresh, catchy and incredibly addicting blend of classic Power Metal with Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll influences that will rock your world like there’s no tomorrow.

Born in the fires of Barcelona, the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, in late 2011 by the fusion of the experience and talent of an array of musicians who were driven into gathering the best of Heavy Metal of yesterday and today, five-piece squad Death Keepers sticks to the all-time Heavy Metal style, that quintessential sound and energy that so many fans fell in love with back in the 80’s, spiced up by the technological developments of our era, thus, bringing to life an experience of epic proportions like what you’ll find in their debut album, entitled Rock This World, a fresh and fulfilling Heavy Metal extravaganza pushed into the next wave of Heavy Metal evolution.

Death Keepers released their debut EP On the Sacred Way in 2013, and since then they’ve been working on their debut album, developing their own sound by adding more and more Hard Rock influences to their previous Power Metal sound. Including both revamped songs from their EP as well as brand new tunes, Rock This World brings to the listener a fresh, catchy and incredibly addicting blend of classic Power Metal the likes of of Helloween and Judas Priest with Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll influences that give the whole album an unusual and tremendously infectious feel. With that said, simply put on your old school leather jacket and get ready to rock like there’s no tomorrow with those five Spanish metallers.

Ladies and gentlemen, start up your engines and join Death Keepers in their frantic race for Rock N’ Roll in the opening track straightforwardly titled Rock & Roll City, where frontman Dey Rus fires those classic metallic vocals we all love so much in heavy music, complemented by the fantastic guitars by both Eddy Gary and Antonio Maties. Fire Angel sounds and feels more melodic and epic with pure Heavy Metal flowing from all instruments, reminding me of the music by icons such as Edguy, Avantasia and Sebastien, being perfect for singing along with the band with your fists in the air; whereas in Death Keepers the band tells the world who they are by delivering an ass-kicking Heavy Metal sonority led by the fast and rhythmic beats by Miki Hunter (who’s by the way flawlessly supported by the rumbling bass by Gorka Alegre), being clearly inspired by old school Helloween. And the band’s guitar duo sounds even more Helloween-ish than before in Haven’s Heaven, showcasing great pace and dynamism among all band members in another ode to classic metal.

In the title-track Rock This World, not only the sound of the guitars by Eddy and Antonio keeps burning our skin, but their solos are also a thing of beauty, not to mention another solid performance by Dey on vocals. Put differently, Death Keepers definitely know how to rock our world in a beyond fun way, right? And it’s time to add a pinch of their Spanish musical heritage to the album through the melancholic acoustic guitars in Thriving Forcast, before all their electricity returns in this instrumental power ballad featuring some excellent guitar solos and tons of feeling; followed by Love’s Within (Yourself), where it’s quite interesting to see how the vocals by Dey feel like a fusion of Andi Deris and Tobias Sammet, while Miki keeps the sonority at full speed with his beats and Eddy, Antonio and Gorka create a thrilling onrush of metal with their strings.

If you consider yourself a diehard metalhead with true Heavy Metal flowing through your veins you’ll love Wildfire, with Dey being flawlessly supported by the song’s backing vocals. Hence, you’ll start playing some air guitar with Death Keepers without even noticing so compelling the entire song is. Then the bridge Invention IV presents one minute of pure dexterity on guitars before Metallia comes ripping our metal hearts in superb fashion, with the entire band firing the purest form of Heavy Metal you can think of with their scorching instruments. Furthermore, Gorka is a beast with his galloping bass lines, while Dey provides some excellent high-pitched vocals in this top-tier tribute to all things metal. And in the closing tune, named Smooth Hit Love, a Hard Rock-like acoustic start evolves into a passionate power ballad led by the touching riffs and solos by Eddy and Antonio, while Dey puts his heart and soul into declaiming the song’s love words until the sound of the ocean comes to end it beautifully.

You can take a full listen at Rock This World on Spotify, but if you love traditional Heavy Metal more than you love your own life and family I highly recommend you go purchase the album right now without even blinking through the Fighter Records BandCamp, through the Xtreem Music webstore, on iTunes or on Amazon, and add each one of its hard rockin’ songs to the playlist of your most electrifying moments in life. Because, you know, they are Death Keepers, and they’re among us with one single purpose in mind, to keep rocking our world like there’s no tomorrow.

Best moments of the album: Rock & Roll City, Death Keepers, Wildfire and Metallia.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Fighter Records

Track listing   
1. Rock & Roll City 3:24
2. Fire Angel 4:40
3. Death Keepers 5:08
4. Haven’s Heaven 5:21
5. Rock This World 4:25
6. Thriving Forcast (Instrumental) 4:54
7. Love’s Within (Yourself) 5:04
8. Wildfire 6:38
9. Invention IV (Instrumental) 0:56
10. Metallia 4:37
11. Smooth Hit Love 8:50

Band members
Dey Rus – lead vocals
Eddy Gary – lead & rhythm guitar
Antonio Maties – lead & rhythm guitar
Gorka Alegre – bass
Miki Hunter – drums

Beverage Review – Megadeth’s À Tout Le Monde Beer

A superb beer that tastes smooth and fresh without losing the core punch and energy of a good brew, just like its beyond-classic eponymous Heavy Metal ballad.

“À tout le monde, à tous mes amis
Je vous aime, je dois partir
These are the last words I’ll ever speak
And they’ll set me free”

À Tout Le Monde, which gained a revamped version titled À Tout Le Monde (Set Me Free) in 2007 featuring Cristina Scabbia, is not only one of the biggest hits by Thrash/Speed Metal titans Megadeth, but also one of the most touching, most recognizable and most powerful metal ballads of all time without a shadow of doubt. However, in 2016 À Tout Le Monde also became a synonym to a new beer by Unibroue, a brewery located in Chambly, Quebec, Canada that was started by Serge Racine and Quebec native André Dion in 1990, and known for some of the most admired craft beers in Quebec and in the rest of Canada such as Blanche de Chambly (Witbier), Don de Dieu (Tripel Wheat Ale), Maudite (Strong Red Ale), and Unibroue’s flagship beer La Fin du Monde (Tripel).

Born of the friendship between Unibroue’s brewmaster Jerry Vietz and the one and only Dave Mustaine, À Tout Le Monde is a flavorful Belgian-style, dry-hopped saison with hoppy and spicy notes, a clean, fresh taste and a crisp dry finish, dedicated to all fans of Heavy Metal and Belgian-style ales from around the world, using a dry hopping technique and, to date, having the lowest alcohol content of any Unibroue beer at 4.5%. Furthermore, À Tout Le Monde is not the first strike into the business of alcoholic beverages by “Megadave”, as back in 2014 he teamed up with Fallbrook Winery winemaker Vernon Kindred to create the Mustaine Vineyards. Although I haven’t tried any of the wines by the Mustaine Vineyards yet (and I do enjoy a good wine), as a beer guy I’m absolutely certain none of their wines can beat À Tout Le Monde, nor any of the several beers brewed by any other band in the world. And don’t worry, as I won’t be cheesy by jesting with you guys saying À Tout Le Monde is a beer “for everyone”. Or will I?

If you access the official Unibroue page for À Tout Le Monde, you’ll see their beer and food pairings list includes very distinct options such as  grilled steak, charcuteries, nachos, mussels and comté-style cooked pressed cheese, but to be honest I think you can pair this outstanding beer even with marshmallows, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a slice of watermelon so good and fresh it tastes. Displaying a yellow color, slightly golden with hazy appearance, and tasting slightly spicy and astringent with notes of tropical fruits and citrus like mango and litchi, À Tout Le Monde can usually be found in Canada as 341 ml or 750 ml bottles, as a 30,000 ml keg, or as draft beer, being sold at The Beer Store or at LCBO with prices going from CAD$ 14.95 for a pack of 6 bottles of 341 ml to CAD$ 222.15 for the keg. As a matter of fact, it actually took a long time for the closet The Beer Store to where I live to start selling À Tout Le Monde, which means if you do not live in Quebec your pursuit for À Tout Le Monde can get a little tedious, frustrating and time-consuming (unless you have some extra money to buy it directly online and deal with the delivery fees, of course).

The idea for the beer came about when Megadeth headlined the Festival d’été de Québec, playing their kick-ass Thrash and Speed Metal in front of eighty thousand people in 2015. “We had pulled up in the middle of the day and went to the hotel with this guy named Jerry Vietz from Unibroue. And we both had a lot of stuff in common and we hit it off right away. I was kind of sampling some of the different beverages that he had. And I told him, ‘I like this. I like this about this one. I like this about that one.’ And we made a second round, brought the liquid down to Nashville and tried it again. And I said, ‘Okay, so it’s getting really close. I like this about this, and I like this about that.’ And then I got to taste the final product for the first time in Orlando”, said Mustaine, who also had a few interesting words to say about the boom of music-inspired beers from other bands. “It’s funny, because I’ve spoken with a couple of beer magazines now — I didn’t know they had beer magazines, but evidently they do — and they said, ‘Have you tried the Iron Maiden beer?’ ‘Oh, yeah, of course.’ ‘Have you tried the AC/DC beer?’ ‘No. How is it?’ ‘Oh, it’s terrible.’ ‘Have you tried the Motörhead beer?’ ‘No. How is it?’ ‘Well, it’s okay.’ And they told me that Mastodon has a beer, I think, and then New Order has a beer too”, Mustaine said. “And it’s, like, okay, well, maybe these dudes got into it just to kind of slap their name on a can of beer or something like that. I did this because when we did the wine… In April of 2014, we made wine [to coincide with Mustaine’s performance with the San Diego Symphony], so that there was something really cool that would be like a social lubricant with everybody, but also be like an adhesive where everybody would come together with the two worlds colliding.”

Of course, as any other beer inspired or crafted by a Heavy Metal band, there are a lot of “extras” available for diehard fans of Megadeth who loved the beer like myself, some of those being free like the YouTube videos with Bernard Johnson, a Regional Sales Manager from Unibroue, talking about À Tout Le Monde, and Dave Mustaine himself talking about making his own beer and wishing us all Happy Holidays (in 2016, when the beer was launched); and if you have some spare cash to invest on some À Tout Le Monde merch you can go to the official Megadeth webstore and select whatever suits you best from the options available. I’ll personally save my money for the beer itself, buying at least the pack with 6 bottles whenever I find it here in Ontario or when I visit Quebec, and not only because I’m a longtime fan of the music by Dave Mustaine & Co., but because À Tout Le Monde is indeed a superb beer, tasting smooth and fresh without losing the core punch and energy of a good brew, just like its beyond-classic eponymous Heavy Metal ballad.

Beer details
Country: Canada
Brewer: Unibroue
Fermentation: Top
Style: Belgian Style Dry, Hopped Saison
Alcohol Content (ABV): 4.5%
Color: Yellow, slightly golden with hazy appearance
SRM: 5,5
Clarity: Slightly cloudy
Head: Egg whites
Bubbles: Fine
Effervescence: Medium and sustained
IBU: 22
Body: Medium
Aftertaste: Medium
Price: CAD$ 14.95 (6 × Bottle 341 ml), CAD$ 26.95 (12 × Bottle 341 ml), CAD$ 50.95 (24 × Bottle 341 ml), CAD$ 222.15 (1 × Keg 30000 ml)

Metal Chick of the Month – Amanda Somerville

I hide you, I find you, I catch your fall…  I’ll be there when the lights go out…

She has already been involved with so many distinct bands and projects it feels like she’s a 100-year old veteran in heavy music, when in fact she’s just about to turn 39 years old. I’m talking about the unstoppable American vocalist Amanda Somerville, our metal chick of the month who’s not only a singer and songwriter, but also a vocal coach, being known primarily for her work with several renowned European Symphonic Metal bands such as Edguy, Avantasia, Epica, Kamelot and After Forever, and having also produced two solos albums and two solo EP’s so far, as well as a wide range of more underground acts like Aina, Trillium and Exit Eden. also, there are countless albums and songs from other artists in the world of heavy music where you can find the stunning Amanda delivering her beautiful vocal notes, only proving how professional she is and how much other musicians admire her talent and skills as a vocalist. Having said that, are you ready to get delightfully “lost” in the world of Amanda Somerville?

Born on March 7, 1979 in Flushing, a city in Genesee County in the U.S. state of Michigan, Amanda Somerville, whose full name is Amanda Somerville-Scharf, attended Flushing Senior High School, graduating a full year early and winning a scholarship for graduating with high honors to the University of Michigan in Flint, Michigan, where she majored in psychology. In 1999 she moved from the United States to Wolfsburg, Germany, working mainly in Germany and in the Netherlands. Her voice has a wide range, but she has said herself that her tessitura is in the alto range, and if you have no idea of what that means you can take a quick look at this short and sweet explanatory video HERE. On August 19, 2013, she announced that she was engaged to be married to After Forever’s former guitarist Sander Gommans, and the pair were married in July 2014; less than one year after their marriage, on January 8, 2015, the couple announced they were expecting their first child, who was born on July 17, 2015 and named Lana Elise Gommans, and now in January the couple and little Lana were joined by the identical twins Anya Jayne and Juliet Marlies (and you can expect to hear more from Amanda and her new babies through her official blog).

Amanda has started singing from a very early age in her life, having grown up in a very musical family where music was a very basic and essential part of life. Furthermore, not only she had that influence and inspiration at home, but she mentioned she also had very good music mentors at elementary school, learning how to read music and play the piano at a rather young age. In addition, she said she has always dreamed about becoming a musician, and that’s all she ever wanted to do. For instance, throughout her life she has always performed in talent shows, competitions and concerts, hosting karaoke, singing in cover bands and jazz combos to earn money while she was in university, and even doing some appearances as a DJ. However, albeit being famous worldwide for her participation in several metal bands and projects, Amanda said that when she started her career she was a solo artist directed to the Pop Rock genre with some American folk elements. It was only when she decided to record a single with her bass player and drummer years ago that she met German guitarist, bassist and musical producer Sascha Paeth, who at that time was related to her bass player and owned a recording studio. Both Sascha and German keyboard player and musical producer Michael “Miro” Rodenberg were at the spot, helped them set up everything and listened to them performing, until they asked Amanda if she wanted to do something together with them, opening the doors of heavy music for our stunning diva. And regarding her education in music and arts in general, she said she never really studied music in a formal way, nor was she classically trained in singing. Amanda mentioned that it was her grandmother who taught her how to read music and gave her the basic foundation that she still uses for composing until today. Furthermore, as a vocal coach she was able to work with several distinguished musicians, always being open to learn from her students and to face new challenges they might bring her, therefore growing as a musician and as a person.

Trying to list every single band and project Amanda was or is still involved in Heavy Metal might be one of the toughest tasks one can try to accomplish, as she has already written and recorded with several renowned acts like the ones mentioned in the beginning of this essay about our gorgeous American vocalist, as well as her solos releases (which by the way were primarily soft and elegant Pop Rock with some Hard Rock, folk and soul music influences) and a rock opera, among other distinct endeavors. Let’s start with her solo career, with the releases of the albums In the Beginning There Was… (2000) and Windows (2008), and the EP’s Blue Nothing (2000) and Never Alone (2003), with her upcoming album Conformity Challenged to be announced soon. You can have a listen at her softer and more graceful side in songs like I Miss America and Puzzling Rapunzel, from her debut album, and Inner Whore and Sometimes, from Windows, but that’s the lightest music you’ll find in this tribute to Amanda, as from now on it’s going to be pure heavy music flowing through her veins and vocals.

Her first venture in metal was her collaboration with German multi-instrumentalist Robert Hunecke-Rizzo (Heavens Gate, Luca Turilli, Kamelot, Rhapsody of Fire), co-writing the rock opera Aina, a Symphonic and Progressive Heavy/Power Metal project featuring a number of guest appearances including Glenn Hughes, Michael Kiske and Candice Night, where the concept and lyrics were written by Amanda herself. There was only one album released under the project, the 2003 opus Days of Rising Doom (which you can listen in its entirety HERE), and don’t expect to see anything new from Aina in the short or even long-term. After Aina, she made a similar collaboration with her husband-to-be Sander Gommans, providing vocals and lyrical concept for HDK (the acronym for Hate Death Kill), a Melodic Death/Gothic Metal project with whom she released the albums System Overload, in 2009, and Serenades of the Netherworld, in 2014. Do you want to bang your head to the music by HDK? Try the songs System Overload and Mortal Zombie, one from each release by the project, and see if you like this more ferocious side of Amanda.

Perhaps her most remarkable project to date is her partnership with the iconic German vocalist Michael Kiske (Helloween, Unisonic) on a musical project entitled Kiske/Somerville, also featuring Primal Fear’s own Mat Sinner on bass and Magnus Karlsson on guitars (who by the way are the two main songwriters of the project), and Czech drummer Veronika Lukešová. In 2010, the project released their debut self-titled album, followed by another full-length release named City of Heroes, in 2015. From their debut installment, you can enjoy on YouTube songs such as Silence and If I Had A Wish, and from City of Heroes you should take a listen at Walk on Water.

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Another very interesting project by Amanda goes by the name of Trillium, a Symphonic Metal band formed in 2011 in the Netherlands (where she currently resides), featuring some of her longtime fellow musicians Sander Gommans, Sascha Paeth and Michael “Miro” Rodenberg, having released in 2011 the full-length album Alloy. She described the music by Trillium as “more like an expedition with my musical family to explore and celebrate the metamorphosis I’ve gone through as an artist over the past several years”, while the name of the band “symbolizes a trinity because things are always showing up in 3s in my environment and there are a number of triads occurring in this project, as well”. And she went on saying that “the name of the album, Alloy, is symbolic and metaphorical. An alloy is a substance composed of two or more metals, or of a metal or metals combined with a non-metal, intimately mixed. It also means standard; quality; fineness and is an admixture, as of good with evil. I’m a Pisces, so I’m all about duality and combining known elements – sometimes opposing each other – to create something different. Though I’ve been working myself further and further into the metal scene, I still always feel the need to add an extra element to make it shine, bling, stand out”. From Alloy, you should check the song Coward, and if you like what you hear you can enjoy the full album HERE.

In 2017, Amanda joined a new project entitled Exit Eden, featuring four female singers from the rock and metal scene from four different countries, those being Clémentine Delauney (Visions of Atlantis, Serenity) from France, Marina La Torraca (Highlight Kenosis, Phantom Elite) from Brazil, newcomer Anna Brunner from Germany, and obviously Amanda Somerville. The band was conceived with the plan “to show the world that almost every classic song can be transformed into a solid metal-rock song”, a concept similar to Finland’s Northern Kings, releasing in 2017 the album Rhapsodies In Black, comprised of 11 metallic versions for some of the biggest pop and rock classics like Rihanna’s Unfaithful, Depeche Mode’s A Question Of Time, Shontelle’s Impossible, Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi, Backstreet Boys’ Incomplete, and Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse Of The Heart, with the stunning Dutch goddess Simone Simons also appearing in two songs of the album, Madonna’s Frozen, Adele’s Skyfall.

Apart from all those bands and projects, Amanda has also been involved with several iconic acts either live or as a guest musician in some of their studio albums. For instance, in 2008, she toured America with Dutch Symphonic Metal icons Epica, while Simone Simons recovered from a staph infection; she was also one of the live guest vocalists for Tobias Sammet’s metal opera Avantasia world tours in 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2016, where she performed both backing vocals and lead vocals for a few songs; she was featured on Douglas R. Docker’s space metal opera Docker’s Guild in 2012 in a duet with Goran Edman on the debut album The Mystic Technocracy – Season 1: The Age of Ignorance, and again in 2016 in the Flash Gordon Suite on the album The Heisenberg Diaries – Book A: Sounds of Future Past; and also played the part of the “Queen of the Nile” in an album titled The Book of Gates, by a metal opera project from the Middle-East named EON, produced by Lebanese guitarist Amadeus Awad. And the list goes on and on with Amanda lending her beautiful voice to several interesting songs recorded by bands like After Forever, Edguy, Lunatica, Serenity, Wolfpakk, Shaman, DesDemon, Hollow Haze, Sebastien, Soulspell, and many, many others.

When asked about her experience working with several renowned artists such as Alice Cooper, Ian Gillan and Eric Martin due to her role in projects like Rock Meets Classic and Avantasia, Amanda answered that working with all those metal icons is always a pleasure for her, as she always enters a new situation or project with a very open mind and loves to be surprised by those artists, not to mention she also said most of them are amazing human beings. In addition, when asked which musician or artist she would love to work with in the future, Amanda mentioned some important names in music such as John Fogerty, the mastermind behind Creedence Clearwater Revival; Grace Slick, an American musician and former model, widely known in Rock N’ Roll history for her role in San Francisco’s burgeoning psychedelic music scene in the 60’s, being the voice of bands like Jefferson Airplane and Starship; and as a solo artist she would also love to work with Paul Simon and Tori Amos. As you can see although those musicians listed by Amanda are not your regular metal icons, they do have a huge influence on countless metal artists and bands from different styles, proving once again heavy music is not and can never be isolated from the rest of the world of music.

Regarding her inspirations for her music and lyrics and her full creative process, Amanda said she doesn’t really have a “normal process” as far as songwriting goes, with her songs beginning sometimes as a chorus or a verse, sometimes as just the lyrics with the body of the composition coming later, and sometimes the song will come to her from start to finish in its entirety. She complemented by saying that as a songwriter, the lyrics are of extreme importance to her, and that her songs are always very emotional because she doesn’t believe in writing or performing anything that can’t make people feel along with her. All her songs are personal-based, talking about human struggles and relationships, whether it was something she went through, a dream, or inspired by someone or something, and all being “little windows” into the innermost workings of Amanda Somerville.

Last but not least, apart from all her projects and adventures in music in general, Amanda still found some time in June 2014 to be part of a German television show named Keep Your Light Shining, which aired from the end of May to June 2014 by ProSieben, singing the song Addicted To You by Avicii (and you can also see her personal message about the show HERE). She said she accepted the challenge because she enjoys getting out of her comfort zone, pushing herself to her own limits. However, the show had to make some special arrangements for her due to her touring schedule and other details, as she was only able to join their third show. Many people asked her why she was doing that, because she didn’t need it, but she said she actually wanted to participate on the show as a new experience for her. Moreover, despite the final result not being very positive for her, she said she wasn’t sad or anything like that as in the end she was the only member with a career while some of the others went backstage and cried their hearts out. What’s next for Amanda Somerville? Now with the twins she will probably take some time off from all her endeavors in heavy music, but I’m sure it won’t take long for us metalheads to have the pleasure of listening to her beautiful voice once again accompanied by some flammable guitar riffs and headbanging beats in another ass-kicking song, band or project.

Amanda Somerville’s Official Facebook page
Amanda Somerville’s Official Twitter
Amanda Somerville’s Official Instagram
Amanda Somerville’s Official YouTube channel

“I’ve never really been able to force a song. I don’t believe in doing anything contrived, especially when it comes to songwriting. I think it’s a blasphemy to one’s art. Music is my emotional outlet and I let it take me wherever it leads.” – Amanda Somerville