Album Review – Clawfinger / Use Your Brain (1995)

Use your brain and listen to the cult album by this distinct Swedish act, presenting an austere and impactful fusion of Rap and Heavy Metal.

Rating4

use-your-brainA few years before Limp Biskit, Slipknot or any other band considered part of the Nu Metal scene from the 90’s/2000’s started, there was already a Swedish band called Clawfinger playing a very original mix of Rap Metal, Hardcore, Rapcore, Funk Metal and even Industrial Metal in a very aggressive, politicized and anti-racist way. Although the band was formed back in 1989, it was just in 1993 that they launched their debut album called Deaf Dumb Blind (which included a very controversial song called “Nigger”, but again, in the most anti-racist way possible), and a couple of years later, in 1995, they launched their most interesting album in my humble opinion, titled Use Your Brain. If you hate Rap by all means and/or if you’re too narrow-minded to accept it mixed with Heavy Metal, don’t even bother listening to it. However, if you enjoy heavy music no matter what, then Use Your Brain might be an amazing addition to your day-to-day playlist.

Use Your Brain starts at a high note with my favorite song from the album, Power, which talks about exactly the opposite of most songs with the word “power” in their names: power can be really harmful to anyone who doesn’t know how to use it properly, which happens to the majority of the people that have it anyway. “Power to the one who doesn’t want it / Do you want it why do you want it”, screams lead singer Zak Tell, accompanied by some excellent heavy riffs by Erlend Ottem and Bård Torstensen and keyboards by Jocke Skog. The song is followed by Pay the Bill, which keeps the energy level up, and Pin Me Down, a more rhythmic track with strong lyrics that ended up becoming one of the band’s biggest classics.

ClawfingerThe next song is called Wipe My Ass, a good example of how the band was able to unite Rap and Metal in a very solid way. The only thing I don’t understand is why sometimes I find this song with a different name, “Waste My Time”. Well, it’s probably due to the “beautiful” expression used in the original name, but honestly, who cares about that? Anyway, the next two tracks, Die High and It, are just average songs, especially the second one which is quite bland compared to the rest of the album. Fortunately the next song, called Do What I Say, takes the album back on track with its simple but strong riffs and amazing lyrics about the emotional and sometimes physical (and endless) war between parents and their kids, acidly declaimed by Zak Tell and his hostile vocals. I normally don’t add a huge chunk of any lyrics in my reviews, but this one is so good that deserves to be appreciated almost in full. Besides, although this song might have been recorded over 20 years ago, it still sounds fresh and contemporary, just to show you how parenting will never, ever be an easy task to anyone.

“I‘ve paid to raise you good
Done everything I could so don’t you dare to say
That I ever cared about you anyway
I gave you good food to eat
I kept you on your feet
I gave you all my good advice
Not once did I hear you
thank me for all that I’ve done
You don’t know anything
About my suffering
I went through a lot of pain
Just to get you where you are today
If I ever hit you
It’s because I have to
You have done something wrong
And you deserve the punishment, you’ll have to pay”

The rest of the album doesn’t have anything too special: Undone is considerably tasteless, while What Are You Afraid Of doesn’t do any good but at the same time it doesn’t harm the album. Things get a lot better with Back to the Basics, especially the eerie sound the band created with the guitars and keyboards working together; Easy Way Out with its addictive chorus and the groovy drums by Ottar Vigerstøl; and Tomorrow, a very good Rap Metal track that powerfully ends this very original and catchy album, with highlights to the rumbling sounds generated by Ottar and bassist André Skaug. In addition, the front cover is absolutely precise in summarizing the content of the music in the album (despite being fairly simplistic), and that “less is more” type of art is most probably the reason why I love it so much.

Use Your Brain_remastered

Use Your Brain 2004 Remastered Edition

The 2004 remastered version of the album also includes 3 bonus tracks and 3 bonus videos, so if you’re interested in buying it I suggest you go after the remastered one (which by the way is a lot easier to find in any webstore). Clawfinger released a statement around August 2013 saying they split up, which was a bummer at that time based on the quality of their music, but fortunately it seems those Swedish metallers are back in action and ready to deliver us another blast of their venomous music, going against the sea of boredom that dominates the scene nowadays. Hence, Use Your Brain (which can be enjoyed in its entirety HERE) is far from being a true masterpiece, but it’s an extremely enjoyable album with meaningful lyrics crafted by talented musicians and, above all, an excellent option to expand your horizons in the world of heavy music and a lot better choice than most of the crap the media makes us swallow every single day. In other words, use your goddamn brain at least once and enjoy the austere music by this unique band hailing from Sweden, alright?

Best moments of the album: Power, Pin Me Down, Do What I Say and Back to the Basics.

Worst moments of the album: It and Undone.

Released in 1995 WEA/MVG (Warner Music Group)

Track listing
1. Power 3:14
2. Pay the Bill 4:20
3. Pin Me Down 4:10
4. Wipe My Ass 3:13
5. Die High 2:34
6. It 5:21
7. Do What I Say 4:25
8. Undone 4:11
9. What Are You Afraid Of 3:47
10. Back to the Basics 2:27
11. Easy Way Out 2:39
12. Tomorrow 4:09

2004 Remastered Edition bonus tracks & videos
13. Better Than This 3:36
14. Three Good Riffs 3:56
15. Armageddon Down 3:36
16. Pin Me Down (Video Clip) 4:10
17. Tomorrow (Video Clip) 4:09
18. Do What I Say (Video Clip) 4:25

Band members
Zak Tell – lead vocals
Jocke Skog – keyboards, vocals
Erlend Ottem – lead guitar
Bård Torstensen – rhythm guitar
André Skaug – bass
Ottar Vigerstøl – drums

Advertisements

Album Review – Paradise Lost / Draconian Times (1995)

The best, darkest and most detailed album by one of the pioneers of Gothic and Doom Metal.

paradise_lost-draconian_times-frontI remember when I was a teenager that there was a stupid “urban legend” about the album Icon, by British Gothic/Doom Metal band Paradise Lost, selling more copies worldwide than Metallica’s Black Album. We all know that was pure bullshit, but one thing was true: with the albums Icon and especially Draconian Times, Paradise Lost became one of the most respected bands of the 90’s, being recognized as one of the pioneers of Gothic/Doom Metal and appearing as one of the main attractions in many festivals all over the world, something not seen very often taking into account the dark and sluggish music played by the band.

Draconian Times, as any other album from a similar genre and/or style, is not an easy product to be assimilated, mainly due to its obscure and depressive themes, and of course, its slow pace (you shall never expect to hear some fast drums in a Gothic song, my friend). However, it’s a brilliant Heavy Metal album with several amazing moments, even if you’re not a big fan of this type of music. The first track of the album, Enchantment, is an excellent summary of the band’s music, with a beautiful piano intro and excellent riffs throughout the whole song. It’s a great mix of Gothic and Doom Metal, with particular highlights to Nick Holmes’ powerful voice and the song’s somber lyrics (“In depth grasp the chains / Struggle as the waters gain but I… / All I need is a simple reminder) and eerie atmosphere.

The second track, Hallowed Land, is what we can call pure Doom Metal,  while The Last Time became an instant hit with its faster than usual rhythm and lyrics and chorus tailored for being sung loud by all fans at their shows (“It’s a cruel misfortune / Forbidding us to see / When stories may collide / It’s a sad state of mind / Heart’s beating… / Heart’s beating for the last time”). This might be considered their biggest hit, despite its a more commercial approach not being well digested by their diehard fans. Then we have Forever Failure and its lyrics that deal with the constant losses in our lives, a very depressive and slow song not recommended for people who have some kind of suicidal tendencies. Once Solemn closes the first part of the album in a brilliant way, being a fast tune with a very good rhythm, and more Heavy Metal than any of the other songs (sometimes even sounding like Metallica).

Paradise LostIf Draconian Times was comprised of only its first five tracks, it would have deserved a flawless 5.0. However, after that the album loses a little its energy and creativity, but nothing that makes it less compelling. Shadowkings has nice riffs and its pace is good, albeit not enough to outdo the previous songs, while Elusive Cure, sounds extremely Gothic, eerie and deep. The following track, called Yearn for Change, showcases an obscure but pleasant rhythm, while Shades of God goes back to the more melancholic approach of “Elusive Cure”, despite not being as solid and entertaining. Finally, we have Hands of Reason, with a very beautiful guitar solo embellishing its overall result, followed by the sluggish and damned I See Your Face, and the final track, Jaded, which is extremely melancholic and another good example of how slow and somber the union of Gothic and Doom Metal can be.

Many different special editions of Draconian Times have been released since the original version in 1995, all of them with some bonus songs, videos and other shenanigans. In addition, there’s a live album called Draconian Times MMXI, where the band plays the album in its entirety. If you cannot find any of the fancier versions of it, I suggest you at least search for the one that comes with The Sisters of Mercy cover Walk Away. It’s an amazing version for this classic song that’s worth the extra investment without a shadow of a doubt.

The front cover is beautiful and makes a great connection with the music in the album, representing all the sadness and sorrow found in the lyrics and rhythm. Another important thing is that despite being considered a Gothic band by many, very few songs have over 5 minutes in Draconian Times, making the album more “commercial” or at least easier for the radio stations at that time and MTV to play some of the songs during any of their daily programs. Those were good times when Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal were respected and admired, with Paradise Lost being competent (and lucky enough) to enjoy some fame in the world of mainstream music even playing mournful and unhappy sounds.

Best moments of the album: Enchantment, The Last TimeOnce Solemn and Walk Away.

Worst moments of the album: Shades of God.

Released in 1995 Music For Nations

Track listing
1. Enchantment 6:04
2. Hallowed Land 5:02
3. The Last Time 3:27
4. Forever Failure 4:18
5. Once Solemn 3:03
6. Shadowkings 4:41
7. Elusive Cure 3:21
8. Yearn for Change 4:19
9. Shades of God 3:54
10. Hands of Reason 3:58
11. I See Your Face 3:17
12. Jaded 3:26

Japanese Edition bonus tracks
13. Walk Away (The Sisters of Mercy cover) 3:24
14. Laid to Waste 3:16
15. Master of Misrule 3:07

Band members
Nick Holmes – vocals
Greg Mackintosh – lead guitar
Aaron Aedy – rhythm and acoustic guitars
Steve Edmonson – bass guitar
Lee Morris – drums

Album Review – Stratovarius / Episode (1996)

The best album from the best Finnish band of all time.

Rating2

stratovarius_episodeOi maamme, Suomi, synnyinmaa, soi, sana kultainen! Finland is by far one of the most Heavy Metal countries in the world, and I’m not inventing this information from out of nowhere: take a look at this map showing the number of Heavy Metal bands per 100,000 people and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Nightwish, Lordi, Amorphis, Sonata Arctica, Turisas, Apocalyptica, Teräsbetoni, Finntroll, HIM, Sentenced and Wintersun are just some of the biggest exponents of heavy music in this land that offers its people a lot more than just ice and snow, but none of them have changed the world of heavy music as the Power Metal/Melodic Heavy Metal band Stratovarius.

Since their start in 1984, Stratovarius have released many important albums which revolutionized Heavy Metal with intense and fast riffs, double bass, high-pitched screams and epic songs. Among those releases there was their fifth studio album, Episode, released over 20 years ago, which in my opinion was the most important step in the band’s history in terms of creativity and evolution. With the awesome Timo Kotipelto on vocals for the second time after the good album Fourth Dimension (and fortunately until present days), and the addition of the beasts Jens Johansson on keyboards and Jörg Michael on drums, Stratovarius became a synonym for Melodic Heavy Metal in the 90’s and influenced an infinite number of bands all around the world. That was the band’s most stable and powerful lineup of all time, until Timo Tolkki left the band in 2008.

The music in Episode is pretty straight forward, it’s fast and clean Heavy Metal with total synchronicity of instruments, together with lyrics talking about life, love, dreams, and all the struggles a man has inside his mind. Add to that the beautiful atmosphere created by the Sibelius String Orchestra and Sibelius Choir, and you have a musical masterpiece. The clock ticking in the beginning of the album just announces that what comes next is no less than memorable: Father Time is an incredible song that summarizes all the power and technique of the band’s members, especially Timo Tolkki and Jörg Michael. What those guys do with their instruments is beyond awesome, and seeing this song live is like having a musical orgasm. Furthermore, Tolkki’s riffs are a constant in the whole album and one of the elements that make it so special for all Heavy Metal fans.

The speed goes on with Will the Sun Rise, another classic showing how perfect the partnership Tolkki/Kotipelto used to be. Then things slow down a little with the beautiful Eternity, but after the instrumental intro Episode comes one of their fastest and most amazing compositions ever: Speed of Light can make even a Thrash Metal band jealous of its speed and riffs, and as Canadians love a mosh pit I can’t wait for a Stratovarius concert here in Toronto to slam into the pit with this song. On the other hand, Uncertainty is quite boring and the lowest point of the album, despite its nice intro.

stratovarius_1995The next track is another good ballad, Season of Change, where Kotipelto once again demonstrates why he’s a reference in Melodic Heavy Metal, followed by the instrumental song Stratosphere, where we can see an inspired Timo Tolkki and a crazy Jens Johansson “masturbating” their guitar and keyboards respectively for our pure delight. Babylon can be considered an “epic” song due to its lyrics, strong intro and variations, while Tomorrow brings back the band at full speed with its inspiring lyrics (“Feeling strong and brave inside / my head up high with pride / yes I’ll be back tomorrow”) and Jörg Michael pounding his drums with his unique technique.

Finally, we have the song Night Time Eclipse, a nice semi-ballad with pleasant riffs and solos, and then a ballad so beautiful I can’t even find the right words to describe it, Forever, where Timo Kotipelto melts the heart of any woman with his performance (“I’m still there everywhere / I’m the dust in the wind / I’m the star in the northern sky / I never stayed anywhere / I’m the wind in the trees / would you wait for me forever?”). The Japanese version of Episode also contains a good bonus track called When the Night Meets the Day, another nice song, albeit not as wonderful as the regular tracks.

If you don’t know Stratovarius, I would say Episode is probably the best album to start. The only “issue” would be the side effects of listening to this musical wonder, which are an extreme addiction to Finnish Heavy Metal and a compulsive obsession with the language, culture, drinks and people from the marvelous land of ice and snow.

Best moments of the album: Father Time, Speed of Light and Forever.

Worst moments of the album: Uncertainty is the only “weak” track of all, or let’s say the least awesome.

Released in 1996 Noise Records

Track listing
1. Father Time 5:01
2. Will the Sun Rise? 5:06
3. Eternity 6:55
4. Episode (instrumental) 2:01
5. Speed of Light 3:03
6. Uncertainty 5:59
7. Season of Change 6:56
8. Stratosphere (instrumental) 4:51
9. Babylon 7:09
10. Tomorrow 4:51
11. Night Time Eclipse 7:58
12. Forever 3:06

Japanese edition bonus track
13. When the Night Meets the Day 5:30

Band members
Timo Kotipelto – vocals
Timo Tolkki – guitars, backing vocals
Jens Johansson – keyboards
Jari Kainulainen – bass
Jörg Michael – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Cristina Scabbia

Follow me, follow me… As I trip the darkness…

If you write her name with an “h”, she will kick your ass mercilessly. That’s probably the most fun way to introduce you to our beyond special Metal Chick of the Month, the electrified Italian rocker Cristina Scabbia, one of the most influential and reputable women in the entire world of heavy music and the perfect choice for celebrating four metallic and totally awesome years of The Headbanging Moose webzine this October. Owner of a distinct and very potent voice, Cristina Scabbia, whose full name is Cristina Adriana Chiara Scabbia, was born on June 6, 1972 in the cosmopolitan city of Milan, a metropolis in Italy’s northern Lombardy region and a global capital of fashion and design. Best known as one of the two vocalists for Italian Alternative Rock/Metal band Lacuna Coil, Cristina is not only an accomplished singer and lyricist, but also a writer, a fashion model and, above all, a true headbanger who loves what she does and who has already devoted a good part of her life to Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll.

Cristina was not even 20 years old when she began singing professionally as a touring musician for other bands and providing backing vocals, in 1991. Later that year, she met vocalist Andrea Ferro and bass player Marco Coti Zelati, who would be the future founding members of Lacuna Coil, in Milan’s Midnight Club, and there’s no way of talking about Cristina without talking about her unique connection with Lacuna Coil. Actually, when the band started it was called Sleep of Right, having recorded a song called Bleeding Souls for the Noise of Bolgia compilation in 1995. The band soon changed its name to Ethereal, playing an interesting mix of Gothic and Doom Metal, with Cristina being initially employed only as a session singer, being asked to record backup vocals for the choruses of their demo tape, but the band members liked the way the male and female vocals sounded together and they asked her to be a permanent member then. After several lineup changes and after releasing a two-track demo in 1996, Ethereal were signed by Century Media Records at the end of 1997 and had to change their name to Lacuna Coil (which means “empty spiral”), as Ethereal was already taken by a band from Greece.

After the name change in 1997, Lacuna Coil became a reference in Alternative Rock and Metal worldwide, having already released eight studio albums, those being In a Reverie (1999), Unleashed Memories (2001), Comalies (2002), Karmacode (2006), Shallow Life (2009), Dark Adrenaline (2012), Broken Crown Halo (2014), and more recently Delirium (2016), as well as the EP’s Lacuna Coil (1998), Halflife (2000), Shallow Live: Acoustic at Criminal Records (2010) and The House of Shame / Delirium (2016). In addition to that, the band also released a DVD in 2008, titled Visual Karma (Body, Mind and Soul). Each album by Lacuna Coil is very unique, presenting a different sonority from the others, with the band always adding new elements to their music and experimenting with new sounds. If you want to have a journey through the various phases of the band, paying a detailed attention to the evolution of Cristina (whose highest note ever hit is claimed to be an A7) as a singer and a performer, you should definitely check their songs Falling Again (from In a Reverie), Senzafine (from Unleashed Memories), Swamped (from Comalies), Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence (from Karmacode), I Like It (from Shallow Life), Trip to Darkness (from Dark Adrenaline), Nothing Stands in Our Way (from Broken Crown Halo), and Blood, Tears, Dust (from Delirium). As a matter of fact, there are so many official videos as well as bootlegs online with Cristina and Lacuna Coil you can literally spend hours or even days just watching everything nonstop.

Apart from her solid career with Lacuna Coil, Cristina can be seen in several distinct projects from the most diverse bands and genres, and in all of them she adds her personal touch of rebelliousness, passion and electricity. First let’s talk about her participation in metal-related bands and projects, and then let’s show what she can do when she’s not in her metallic mode. In 2007, Cristina lent her voice to the song S.O.S. (Anything but Love), from the album Worlds Collide by Finnish Symphonic Heavy Metal band Apocalyptica, and the result was so interesting she ended up playing several live concerts with them in the coming years. And it seems the year of 2007 was very fruitful for her career outside Lacuna Coil, as she also recorded what’s probably her biggest non-Lacuna Coil hit, the revamped version of the all-time classic power ballad “A Tout le Monde”, this time named A Tout le Monde (Set Me Free), by American Speed Metal titans Megadeth, featured on their excellent album United Abominations. Needless to say, every time Megadeth and Cristina were in the same city or festival, they ended up playing that amazing song together for the delight of the fans at the venue, as I was able to enjoy during the 2012 version of Gigantour with Megadeth, Motörhead, Volbeat, and Lacuna Coil here in Canada.

You can also find Cristina in unique metal projects such as the character “The Mother” on the 2013 album The Theory of Everything, by Dutch Progressive Metal/Rock band Ayreon, and as a guest vocalist on the song Scars, by Thrash/Groove Metal project Metal Allegiance, from their 2015 self-titled album. In addition, Cristina is also one of the musicians interviewed on the 2007 documentary Over the Madness, a DVD that follows the career of British Doom/Death Metal icons Paradise Lost, including interviews from present and past band members, plus a host of others such as the aforementioned Cristina, Martin E. Ain, Aaron Stainthorpe and Alex Skolnick, presenting the band’s history from its formation up to 2006, in chronological order.

In regards to her contributions to non-metal acts, you can enjoy the charming and powerful vocals by Cristina on different songs such as Beautiful Lie, as a duet with Italian singer Emiliano Audisio (Line 77) to be part of the soundtrack for the 2013 Italian film Passione Sinistra; Nell’acqua, with Rezophonic; an alternate version of Watch Over You, with Alter Bridge; Basta!, with L’Aura and Rezophonic; Can You Hear Me?, also with Rezophonic; and I’m That, with Franco Battiato. By the way, when Cristina sang with L’Aura it was in 2008 at Festival di Sanremo, one of the most important pop festivals in Italy (if not the most important one). And you can also find some nice videos online of Cristina singing together with a Queen tribute band called Queenmania, such as in the all-time classics Bohemian Rhapsody and Under Pressure. And in addition to all that, she also used to write an advice column in the popular rock magazine Revolver, alongside the iconic American drummer Vinnie Paul (Pantera, Hellyeah).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you follow The Headbanging Moose you might have seen Cristina’s name as an inspiration for several of our previous metal chicks, just showing how important she is to the expansion of the presence of women in heavy music, but of course as any normal person she also has her idols and favorite bands in music. Among her main influences and names who contributed to her becoming a singer and pursuing a career in Heavy Metal, Cristina mentioned legendary bands such as Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, Motörhead, as well as darker bands like Paradise Lost and Type O Negative. By the way, some of her favorite songs, those that really make a good amount of adrenaline rush through her body, are Motörhead’s Ace of Spades and Type O Negative’s My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend, which despite being very distinct songs I have to agree that they surely put a smile on the face of anyone who enjoys some good old rock and metal. Of course Cristina as any other talented and professional artist listens to a lot of non-metal music, in special music from her homeland Italy, which in the end helps her diversify her vocals from song to song, explore new horizons and remain vibrant and relevant to the world of heavy music.

Slightly changing the focus to her personal life, many of you might think it’s a dream to date a woman like her, but as in any relationship there are always some hurdles and barriers to be overcome in order to keep the passion and love going on. Cristina has been in a relationship with Slipknot and ex-Stone Sour guitarist Jim Root for over 10 years already, but keeping that relationship fresh is not an easy task due to distance between them as they’re both very busy musicians who are always on tour (not to mention the fact that Root lives in Florida while Cristina resides in Italy). “Well, my lifestyle is challenging already,” Cristina explained. “Because I travel a lot and I work very hard. So you have to learn to live your life in a different way, but in a way that works for you. So for me to even think about a normal relationship would be something weird.” Before dating Root, she was in a relationship with Lacuna Coil’s own bassist Marco, and when they broke up let’s say it wasn’t easy for them to keep working together as a band, but fortunately as decent adults they overcame that “issue” and now they’re very good friends, loving each other in a different level.

Another interesting topic discussed by Cristina in one of her interviews was related to the recent deaths of Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, where she expressed her opinion about mental illnesses, from depression to dementia to other types of mental conditions, saying we should never judge the others’ decisions as there’s so much to understand about the whole situation before reaching any conclusion. That was also explored on Lacuna Coil’s latest album Delirium. “When we did Delirium, it was really important for us to treat it in the most respectful and delicate way possible,” said Cristina. “Because you can try to send a positive message and to try to tell people, ‘Oh, you should be positive all the time, you should be happy, you should overcome depression,’ and everything, but it’s not as easy as you speak. It’s way deeper than that and more complicated than this.”

As any good Italian woman, in special if that woman is born in the city of Milan, Cristina loves stylish clothes, trying on new make-up, taking care of her dark hair and everything else that’s a synonym to fashion. For instance, she considers her beauty and make-up signature the one she herself calls a “raccoon look”, or as described by Cristina, “a heavy sort of smokey eyes style with carbon black eyeshadow surrounding both whole eyes and heavily in the lower part of the eye as well.” She also mentioned that, because she likes to combine styles and to work with contrasts, she likes to observe everything around her and go to runway shows in Milan, listing as some of her style icons the always trendy Madonna and the very elegant and dark British and Irish designer Daphne Guinness. Furthermore, she said her make-up and outfit behavior is in constant change due to new products, styles and techniques that are always appearing in the market, stating that while thinking about a new look for her concerts she always takes into account several important factors such as if the clothes are easy to carry around, if they’re washable, and if they allow her to move a lot onstage. Also in the fashion world, American photographer Jeremy Saffer (an old-time friend of Cristina) invited her to be her calendar girl for the Halloween 2015 Special Edition of XPRESSIONS magazine, with the final result being beyond stunning, of course, being sold out in a really short time.

Regarding her preparation for getting onstage and spending a long time on the road during Lacuna Coil’s extremely busy agenda worldwide, Cristina said she doesn’t exercise a lot, saying she’s some sort of “lazy bum”, and that concentration is the most important part of the process for her together with some warming up exercises to keep her voice in good shape. She said travelling all the time and managing everything is definitely not for everyone, but it can be very rewarding if you love what you do. One funny thing connected to that hectic lifestyle is that Cristina collects all her flight boarding cards, saying that one day it will be nice to see and to show others how much she’s traveled in her life. And, in terms of the apps she uses regularly, apart from Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Twitter, she’s also been using an app named Master Tour, which she considers very helpful for whoever does her type of job, keeping you updated on tours and schedules like a tour book in your smartphone. Hence, if you’re a touring musician, why not trying the same app as the successful Cristina Scabbia, right?

Lastly, when asked if she considers herself a role model for young girls, she said she doesn’t see herself as one but that all the love she gets from fans when she’s on the road makes her sometimes believe she might be indeed an inspiration for all of them. She always tells them that they have to believe in themselves because, no matter what, it is impossible to make everyone happy, so the key is to make ourselves happy and conscious of our own unique potential, with her motto in life being “live in the present and make it beautiful. I never think too much about the past or the future. The past is… gone and we will never be able to plan the future the perfect way.’’ What do you think about Cristina and her way of life? Do you agree with what she does and thinks in music and life in general? Well, there are tons of interesting interviews and videos of Cristina online to help you know more about her, such as this one from Loudwire called Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction?, where she even tells if her highest note being an A7 is true or not. It seems that the world of heavy music and also the whole cyberworld can never get enough of the one and only Italian stunner Cristina Scabbia (without an “h”, per favore).

Cristina Scabbia’s Official Facebook page
Cristina Scabbia’s Official Twitter
Cristina Scabbia’s Official Instagram
Lacuna Coil’s Official Facebook page
Lacuna Coil’s Official YouTube channel
Lacuna Coil’s Official Instagram

“You have to sing with your heart, you have to sing with passion, you have to be sincere in what you’re singing, and you have to be totally convinced of what you’re doing. Most of all, you have to realize that this is a hard job that not everyone can take, so don’t look at the shiny part only, because there is a lot of work involved and a lot of sacrifice, so be ready for that as well..” – Cristina Scabbia

Concert Review – Megadeth & Scorpions (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 09/22/2017)

The city of Toronto was beautifully taken by storm by two of the greatest bands in the history of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock on the last day of the summer, and the result was absolutely fantastic.

OPENING ACT: Megadeth

When this Crazy World Tour 2017 was announced a few months ago, I instantly thought about how amazing it would be to witness on the same night two of the greatest bands in the history of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock playing some of their biggest classics (as well as a few newer songs) at what’s in my humble opinion one of the best and most pleasant venues in the world to watch any type of concert (and I’ve been to several different ones in distinct parts of the world), the Torontonian amphitheater now known as Budweiser Stage. Well, it was even better than anyone could have expected, with the combination of two bands full of energy and excited to please the crowd, thousands of fans eager for some rockin’ music, and a weather that, for the very last day of summer, was beyond perfect, making the whole night truly memorable.

As the opening act, or maybe I should call them co-headliners as they’re not your average band, we had the absolute pleasure of enjoying American Thrash/Speed Metal heroes MEGADETH. Spearheaded by the unstoppable Mr. Dave Mustaine, Megadeth were still promoting their latest installment, the excellent Dystopia, released last year, but only one song from the album (its title-track) was played during the show. The setlist was pretty much a selection of their biggest hits with a huge focus on their 1990 masterpiece Rust In Piece, kicking off the concert with the blazing Hangar 18, and also featuring from that classic album the hits Take No Prisoners, Tornado of Souls (my favorite of the show) and, closing their performance, a song that needs no introduction, Holy Wars… The Punishment Due.

And obviously “Megadave” and his henchmen David Ellefson, Kiko Loureiro (who proved to be the guitarist Mustaine needed by his side) and Dirk Verbeuren played every song to perfection, with the background screen complementing the music in a fun and exciting manner. For instance, the Nascar images used as a background for Mechanix and the official video for Dystopia (another fantastic moment of the show) played while the band executed the song were spot-on to keep the fans mesmerized and in total sync with the band. In addition, everyone at the venue singing the power ballad A Tout Le Monde guided by Mustaine was just beautiful, and the smile on his face after that moment was awesome. Now, as usual, let’s patiently wait until we can see such distinct band performing live again in our beautiful Toronto.

Setlist
Prince of Darkness
Hangar 18
Mechanix
Take No Prisoners
Sweating Bullets
A Tout Le Monde
Tornado of Souls
Dystopia
Symphony of Destruction
Peace Sells

Encore:
Holy Wars… The Punishment Due

Band members
Dave Mustaine – lead vocals, lead guitars, rhythm guitars
Kiko Loureiro – lead guitars, rhythm guitars, backing vocals
David Ellefson – bass guitar, backing vocals
Dirk Verbeuren – drums

SCORPIONS

If the venue wasn’t fully packed during Megadeth’s kick-ass performance, things changed considerably a few minutes before German Hard Rock institution SCORPIONS hit the stage with their flawless setlist, but before the concert started I had the pleasure of exchanging a few words with other fans close to where I was (which was right in front of the stage), in special one father with his 13-year old son. The name of the boy is T Bone Bentley, he’s a very talented drummer who loves metal and rock, and you can check him smashing his drums on his official YouTube channel (together with his dad), playing songs like Iron Maiden’s all-time classic “Run to the Hills” and Judas Priest’s metal anthem “Breaking the Law”. When I see little fellas like T Bone and their passion for heavy music, my hope for a better future for mankind gets renovated, so don’t waste your time and go check his YouTube videos. They’re surely going to make your day a lot better.

Back to the concert, it was around 8:30pm when the iconic vocalist Klaus Meine, the flammable guitarists Matthias Jabs and Rudolf Schenker, the talented bassist Paweł Mąciwoda and the one and only drummer Mikkey Dee hit the stage with an avalanche of Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll hits, starting with a fantastic song from their 2015 album Return to Forever, the rockin’ Going Out With a Bang, already showing the night was going to be insanely fun. Let’s say that the first part of the show worked more like a “warm-up”, with the band jamming and rocking nonstop, generating a very good vibe and showing why they’re still alive and kicking after so many decades on the road. That first segment of the show had as its highlights the classic The Zoo, the fairly new but amazing We Built This House, and from their mini-acoustic set (including a weird but useful drum kit by Mikkey) I would say the touching ballad Send Me an Angel definitely stole the spotlight.

After that, Mr. Klaus Meine simply introduced one of the band’s biggest and most beautiful classics, Wind of Change, obviously hypnotizing all of us with the song’s renowned whistling, followed by another sensational new song titled Rock ‘n’ Roll Band and their awesome tribute to the most badass rocker that this world will ever see, Lemmy Kilmister, playing a cover version of Motörhead’s hit Overkill. Right after that, Mikkey offered us all an amazing drum solo (which put the little T Bone into a state of pure ecstasy), while the rest of the band was getting ready for a flawless Hard Rock attack comprised of nothing more, nothing less than Blackout, Big City Nights, No One Like You, Still Loving You (what a lovely moment of the show!) and Rock You Like a Hurricane. What else can you ask for, right?

Before this review of the show is over, I just wanted to mention two things that truly caught my attention during the concert, one in a very positive way, while the other was quite sad.  First, I was completely impressed with the fact that Mr. Rudolf Schenker is almost 70 years old and he keeps running frantically around the stage, screaming and interacting with the fans, and playing his guitar as if he was in his early 30’s. That was plain awesome, and definitely an inspiration for me and lots of other fans on how you can get old but remain young at heart, enjoying life until the end (just like Lemmy did, by the way). On the other hand, while Mr. Schenker was a role model to all of us, there were a few spoiled bi… I mean, girls, that thought that just because they’re (still) young and pretty they can do whatever they want, including being rude, disrespectful and annoying to anyone around them. One of them was so disrespectful to a guy next to me, elbowing him and pretending he was harassing her, to the point everyone close to that scene even stooped enjoying the concert for a few moments until security finally (and fortunately) took that stupid Barbie doll away. I hope when she gets old, and she will, she learns how to be a better person and how to respect other people. Well, Little T Bone is only 13 and he already knows how to behave in a rock and metal concert, as well as other kids that attended the show with their parents. It’s just a matter of learning what true respect is at home, right? And I hope that next time Scorpions take Toronto by storm with another faultless performance like that, that irksome girl is somewhere else, like at a Justin Bieber concert. Let the real bands for the real fans, lady.

Setlist
Intro
Going Out With a Bang
Make It Real
The Zoo
Coast to Coast
Top of the Bill / Steamrock Fever / Speedy’s Coming / Catch Your Train
We Built This House
Delicate Dance (with Ingo Powitzer)
Always Somewhere / Eye of the Storm / Send Me an Angel
Wind of Change
Rock ‘n’ Roll Band
Overkill (Motörhead cover)
Drum Solo
Blackout
Big City Nights

Encore:
No One Like You
Still Loving You
Rock You Like a Hurricane

Band members
Klaus Meine – lead vocals
Matthias Jabs – lead guitars, rhythm guitars, acoustic guitars
Rudolf Schenker – rhythm guitars, lead guitars, backing vocals
Paweł Mąciwoda – bass guitar
Mikkey Dee – drums

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Album Review – Behind the Shadows / Demons (2017)

Offering fans of heavy music an amalgamation of diverse metal genres and subgenres, this very interesting project hailing from Greece is ready to rumble with their brand new full-length album.

Here’s a very interesting project hailing from the always prolific city of Alexandroúpoli, the capital of the Evros regional unit in East Macedonia and Thrace, in Greece, offering fans of heavy music a unique amalgamation of diverse metal genres and subgenres to the point each one of their songs sound very distinct when compared to their other creations. I’m talking about Symphonic/Power Metal act Behind the Shadows, who started as Mind Mirror in the year of 1997, but who since 2008 has been blasting metal music under their new name for admirers of both heavier sounds and more melodic lines, as you’ll be able to see in their brand new album, titled Demons.

Comprised of Gian, the band’s mastermind who takes care of guitars and bass, and Pasxalis Nikiphoridis on vocals and on lead and rhythm guitars, Behind the Shadows had some fantastic support from several musicians from the Greek scene to bring Demons into being. For instance, the album features guest vocalists Zion (Crossover, Hocus) and Christos Kaliatsas, and guest guitarists Dimitris Haidemenos (Lost in Neverland), Stratos Vrachiolias (Defision), Sotiris Pavlidis (Bacchanalia) and Kyriakos Mpouloumpasis, all providing their personal share of electricity and feeling to the music found in the album. As aforementioned, the final result in Demons is really good, with the music being cohesive, diverse and, above all, as metal as it can be.

And their heavy and epic symphony begins in full force in the opening track, the excellent Become The Apocalypse, where the dynamic duo Gian and Pasxalis do a great job with their potent vocals and riffs, specially during the song’s catchy chorus, not to mention the series of kick-ass solos by guest guitarists Dimitris, Stratos and Kyriakos. Coma To Hell, also featuring Kyriakos on lead guitar, presents a darker and more lancinating vibe, sounding like the early days of Metallica and Megadeth with a Death Metal twist, with the band relying on the song’s brutal drumming as their heavy artillery, therefore enhancing the impact of this hellish creation considerably; while in the vicious Power Metal hymn Piece Of Shadows, Gian and Pasxalis keep blasting pure metal from their guitars, with the harsh growls bringing more obscurity to the overall result. Moreover, pay good attention to the traditional Heavy Metal guitar duo the likes of Iron Maiden during the whole song as the icing on the cake. And featuring guest musician Zion on vocals adding an extra touch of “thrashiness” to the music with his hardcore attitude, The Beast Rises From The East brings to the listener a vibrant and heavy-as-hell sonority, with both Gian and Pasxalis delivering slashing riffs and bass lines nonstop.

Zombie Flesh Eaters, featuring Christos on vocals, is another kick-ass hybrid of Power Metal and more extreme forms of music such as Death Metal, sounding visceral from start to finish with some electrifying guitar lines by Gian and Pasxalis, keeping the momentum going for the title-track Demons, where cavernous growls bring ferocity to the music while the guitars bring melody and balance to the final result, feeling quite epic at times, not to mention the awesome contribution by Stratos and Sotiris on lead guitar. Then elements from Thrash Metal and Hardcore can be seen in the fast-paced tune Necrophilia, a devastating tune perfect for their live performances with a frantic flow, followed by Holy Lie, perhaps the song with the highest amount of extreme elements from Death and Black Metal, in special it’s demonic drumming and deep growling. Furthermore, their work on guitars is simply superb in this dark and melodic chant.

Crucified For The Innocences keeps the album’s quality at a good level through its flammable riffs, hellish growls and piercing rhythm, with once again the guitar solos stealing the spotlight so thrilling they sound. Moreover, there’s not even a single second of peace during the whole song, which is always a good thing in metal. Sweet Darkness, the second to last track in Demons, definitely lives up to its name, with its eerie intro morphing into a tempest of heaviness and aggressiveness led by its gruesome growls, culminating in an amazing Extreme Metal extravaganza; and lastly, Nightmare is as vile and demonic as its predecessors albeit not as creative, falling flat after a while but nothing that could truly harm the overall quality of the album.

In summary, it doesn’t really matter if you’re a fan of traditional Heavy Metal, dark and piercing Black Metal, modern Death Metal or Symphonic Metal, as Behind the Shadows will always have good music to offer you from their metallic arsenal. You can take a very detailed listen at their music at their BandCamp page, where by the way you can purchase Demons, as well as on ReverbNation, and continue to support bands like Behind the Shadows to keep underground Greek metal (and of course metal in general) alive and on fire.

Best moments of the album: Become The Apocalypse, Piece Of Shadows, Demons and Sweet Darkness.

Worst moments of the album: Nightmare.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Become The Apocalypse 5:18
2. Coma To Hell 4:34
3. Piece Of Shadows 4:51
4. The Beast Rises From The East 6:51
5. Zombie Flesh Eaters 4:13
6. Demons 4:54
7. Necrophilia 4:09
8. Holy Lie 4:29
9. Crucified For The Innocences 5:22
10. Sweet Darkness 3:48
11. Nightmare 4:04

Band members
Gian – rhythm guitars, bass
Pasxalis Nikiphoridis – lead & rhythm guitars, vocals

Guest musicians
Dimitris Haidemenos – lead guitar on “Become The Apocalypse”
Christos Kaliatsas – vocals on “Zombie Flesh Eaters”
Stratos Vrachiolias – lead guitar on “Become The Apocalypse” and “Demons”
Sotiris Pavlidis – lead guitar on “Zombie Flesh Eaters”
Kyriakos Mpouloumpasis – lead guitar on “Become The Apocalypse” and “Coma To Hell”
Zion – vocals on “The Beast Rises From The East”

Metal Chick of the Month – Patricia Pons

I am a mecha, eternal live. Everything dies while I’m still alive.

The summer might be almost over on the Northern Hemisphere, but here at The Headbanging Moose we’ll help you keep things warm with the fiery and multi-talented Spanish singer Patricia Pons, the frontwoman of Valencia-based Melodic Death Metal squad SynlakrosS, and obviously the chosen metaller to be our Metal Chick of the Month. Owner of a powerful voice and displaying a wild and flammable look by blending several styles such as Gothic and cyberpunk in her attire, Patricia is ready to conquer the world of Heavy Metal together with her bandmates through the uniqueness of their music, and I’m sure you’ll love to read about how she does that, how she prepares for the band’s live performances, among other fun topics. Are you ready to enter the cyberworld of Patricia and her SynlakrosS?

Born on December 10, 1984 in Valencia, a port city located on Spain’s southeastern coast and the third-largest Spanish city after Madrid and Barcelona, Patricia loves metal music, anime and arts from the bottom of her heart, and if possible she wants to have them all at the same time, just to give you an idea of how creative and talented our multi-colored hair growler is. Also a proud vegan, Patricia makes sure she spreads the word of veganism and its benefits anywhere she goes, again connecting that philosophy to her music and arts whenever possible. First, let’s talk about her career as the frontwoman of Spanish act Synlakross, which basically represents her life in heavy music since she entered the band in 2010. Actually, before SynlakrosS, she was part of a band named Kakuseisha, a project that didn’t last long (due to the departure of its Italian guitar player) where she played keyboards and was also responsible for the melodic and guttural backing vocals.

According to the band itself, SynlakrosS (stylishly spelled with capital S at the end) is a “storytelling” Melodic Death Metal band formed in 2008 in Valencia, Spain “whose proposal seeks to inject a good dose of energy through songs that transport your mind to a world of adventure with a good deal of rebellion.” Although the band was conceived in 2008 by bassist Pablo “Roro” and drummer Tiko Martinez (who by the way played together with Patricia in Kakuseisha), it was only after 2010 when the band reached its desired shape and form that things started to take off for those Spanish metallers, having already released a self-titled demo in 2011, their first full-length album Melodichrome in 2013 and more recently the full-length Death Bullets for a Forajido, in 2016. In 2015, SynlakrosS won the metal award at the Granitorock Festival, receiving national recognition and opening the doors for the band to share the stage in 2016 with Canadian metallers The Agonist. Patricia herself describes the music by SynlakrosS as “Passionate Metal”, or even “Killer Metal Music”, because they simply love what they do. If you want to see and listen to Patricia kicking ass with SynlakrosS, there are several official videos and fan-filmed footage from their live performances. For instance, you can enjoy the official videos for the songs Billy The Kid and Paper In A History, the audio for their excellent cover version for Nightwish’s classic Wish I Had An Angel, the playthrough video of the song Beauty From The Deep, as well as excerpts from their amazing live performance at Granitorock Festival in 2015 with the songs On The Bridge TV and Dragon Egg.

Apart from SynlakrosS, Patricia has already lent her powerful voice to a song named The Great Heresy, featured on the 2015 album Fuck Your God by Canadian Black Metal one-man army Episcopal Holocaust, sounding very different from her regular work with SynlakrosS, as Melodic Death Metal and Black Metal, despite being both part of the overall concept of extreme music, are not usually associated and have very little in common musically speaking. And, by the way, it’s amazing for The Headbanging Moose to see she has some sort of connection with Canada. In addition to that, she’s also more-than-ready to join Spanish Melodic Thrash Metal band Keldark as a guest vocalist on the song Fear the Fear, which will be part of their upcoming album The Brotherhood, to be released later this year.

Patricia’s main influences in music might sound very different from one another, but if you pay good attention to the details of each one of her favorite artists you’ll see her own voice is some sort of amalgamation of all their styles with her own personal twist. Among her biggest influences, we’ll find names such as Floor Jansen (After Forever, Nightwish), Dani Filth (Cradle of Filth), Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Anders Friden (In Flames), Dez Fafara (DevilDriver, Coal Chamber), Jonathan Davis (Korn), Sandra Nasic (Guano Apes), Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) and Liv Kristine (Theatre of Tragedy, Leaves’ Eyes), and their respective bands, as well as other bands like Nobuo Uematsu, Koji Kondo and Dream Theater. For instance, the first album she bought with her own money was the classic Fallen, by Evanescence, and the first concert she’s ever attended as a fan was In Flames. In one of her interviews, Patricia made sure she explained a little about her main influences, saying she never listened to them singing just as men or women, she focused on the voice itself and enjoyed every part from their performances.

She’s also influenced and inspired by a ton of other non-music stuff, including books, videogames, films, anime and manga, with her favorite movie being The Matrix, her favorite book being Clive Barker’s 1988 horror novel Cabal, and her favorite writers being Edgar Allan Poe, E. T. A. Hoffmann, H. P. Lovecraft and Mary Shelley, among others, all present not only in her music but also in her stunning looks. In addition, Patricia mentioned in one of her interviews that her personal visual trademark is also highly influenced by the fact that she’s a woman proud of being in Heavy Metal (and proud of being a woman, of course), and she wants people to see that when looking at her. That’s also visible in her hair style, always showcasing unique, vibrant colors by Manic Panic España, the iconic hair coloring company that works with 100% vegan dyes with zero ammonia, such as Siren’s Song and Psychedelic Sunset, two of her favorite colors.

Regarding her live performances with SynlakrosS, as aforementioned they had the pleasure of opening for Canadian metallers The Agonist during their Spanish dates in Sevilla, Madrid and Bilbao in 2016, but they’ve also played in several other locations in Spain like Avilés, Barcelona, Valencia, A Coruña, and so on. However, Patricia wants the music by SynlakrosS to reach new heights, allowing them to play all over Europe as well as in many other parts of the world. In order to provide the audience the best experience possible with the music by SynlakrosS, Patricia said she not only does a series of vocals warm-ups, just like any other vocalist, but she also works on all types of physical warm-ups and stretching, as she’s a very dynamic musician with a flammable stage performance.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When asked about the metal scene in Spain, Patricia believes that, although Spanish Metal is underrated, the only thing musicians and bands like SynlakrosS can do to change this situation is to work hard, creating high-quality music and touring as much as possible until people see the true value of their music, as well as understand the importance of learning English, as in Spain that’s their pending subject. In addition, she mentioned that the support underground bands have from the media is almost nonexistent, as big magazines and radio stations only talk about international (and sometimes national) big old bands, also saying that unfortunately if you’re a small band and you want promotion, you have to pay for it no matter how amazing and well-done your music is. When specifically asked about the Valencian Metal scene, Patricia said that although they have some amazing bands in the region, the scene is not a popular one. In her opinion, bands and metalheads in Valencia aren’t united and there’s some sort of competition between them. Lastly, when asked where the music style by SynlakrosS is more accepted, if it’s in the north or south of Spain, she said the reception from metal fans has always been great in both regions, mentioning cities like Bilbao and the whole region of Galicia as good examples of places where their experience was very positive in the north, and Seville in the south as having a very warmth and welcome attitude from the fans towards the band.

One topic that’s always discussed in heavy music is the growing presence and importance of women in heavy music, and of course Patricia has been doing her part in opening more space for women in a style usually dominated by men. She thinks that, although most women in metal are vocalists, there are more and more excellent female guitarists, bassists, drummers and other instrumentalists appearing in the scene every single day, all linked to the increasing interest of the society for metal music. However, one of the biggest problems for her is that, no matter how talented a female musician might be, there’s always an unsuitable question or comment from a sexist male fan directed to that female artist, such as “take off your shirt!” or “do you have a boyfriend?”, things that are completely off topic and add nothing to the music being presented. Even when she’s facing that type of situation, she keeps the atmosphere light by saying that when a man screams she’s beautiful, it’s because he hasn’t seen her at 8am with no makeup. That’s a very polite way to say “fuck off” to those inconvenient guys, don’t you think?

Patricia also said that instead of pointless questions like that, she would love to be asked why she became a vegan and why she doesn’t drink or smoke. She said that becoming a vegan was a spiritual change for her, while stopping drinking, smoking and using drugs started when she decided to focus on her voice and on being more professional as a musician. She said there was a case in her family where a person had issues with drugs, and that made her think about it, that it wasn’t what she wanted for her life. Regarding alcohol, she said no one in the band drinks before going out or playing live, being an example to other metalheads that you can still be crazy and have a great time without being drunk or high.

If you’re already a fan of SynlakrosS, what I’m about to say won’t be a surprise to you, but if you’re a newcomer to their world of Alternative Metal I’m sure you’ll be impressed by the fact that Patricia is a professional illustrator and designer, having graduated from EASD Valencia (or Escola d’Art i Superior de Disseny de València) in 2009 in Fashion Design, and doing merch for different metal bands and her own art with manga style with macabre, Gothic and fantastic inspiration. She’s, for instance, the designer responsible for all the graphic art found in SynlakrosS’ 2016 album Death Bullets for a Forajido, including the cover art, inspired by the Wild West concept mixed with the band’s metal essence. You can check a few pieces designed by Patricia on her own DeviantArt page, such as this amazing “Demon Girl”, and who knows, maybe if you have a band she can be the next artist to provide her lines and colors to represent your music.

Last but not least, it doesn’t matter if you understand Spanish or not, there are several interviews on YouTube with Patricia and the other guys from SynlakrosS where they talk about the band’s current status and future plans, their inspirations in music, the metal scene in Valencia and in Spain in general, the evolution of women in metal, among other topics. You can check for example the videos Keep Calm And Listen Synlakross con Entrevista!, 2 Rockeros Entrevista con SynlakrosS, and Tertulia con Synlakross, all showing a very relaxed and uncompromised side of the band, and all a good inspiration for lovers of rebellious and electrifying metal to learn one of the most important languages worldwide. In other words, wouldn’t you love to understand what the charming and skillful Patricia has to say about all kinds of topics?

Patricia Pons’ Official Facebook page
Patricia Pons’ Official Twitter
Patricia Pons’ Official Instagram
SynlakrosS’ Official Facebook page
SynlakrosS’ Official YouTube channel
SynlakrosS’ Official Instagram
SynlakrosS’ Official SoundCloud page

“In Spain, if you want promotion, in general, you have to pay, no matter how amazing and well done is your music.” – Patricia Pons

Concert Review – Blaze Bayley (The Rockpile, Toronto, ON, 08/19/2017)

A journey through the past, present and future in the career of the unstoppable Blaze Bayley in the form of first-class Heavy Metal for his diehard fans in Toronto.

OPENING ACT: Cadillac Blood

I’ll never understand why people who call themselves diehard metalheads would miss a chance to attend a top-notch Heavy Metal concert like what we had this Saturday at the really nice venue The Rockpile, which despite being usually referred as located in Toronto, technically speaking it’s in Etobicoke, an administrative district and former city that makes up the western part of the city of Toronto, around 18km from downtown. The weather was perfect, the beer was nice and cold, the food was great and all prices were very, very reasonable (including the ticket price). And those so-called fans of heavy music keep complaining on Facebook, Twitter etc. that metal doesn’t have the proper support and all those shenanigans. How about instead of just typing, you get up from that couch, head to a place like The Rockpile and support underground metal?

If you do that, perhaps you’ll face an electrifying band like the young and restless thrashers from CADILLAC BLOOD, a completely independent act from Keswick, Ontario, located 70km north of Toronto. Blending elements from Thrash Metal, Punk Rock and Rock N’ Roll in their music, and being clearly inspired by bands such as Volbeat (by the way, the band’s name comes from Volbeat’s classic album Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood if you haven’t noticed yet), Metallica, Motörhead and Anthrax, the quartet comprised of Luke Morrell on vocals, Tyler Morrell on guitar, Sean Murphy on bass and Dean Fraser on drums delivered an excellent warmup to the fans that were there for Blaze Bayley, being extremely professional and excited from start to finish, in special Luke who didn’t stop jumping and headbanging for a single second while singing at the same time. Unfortunately I don’t have their full setlist, but you can go to their BandCamp page and check out songs like Crow’s Nest and Devil’s Brew, both played by the band on Saturday.

Band members
Luke Morrell – vocals
Tyler Morrell – guitar
Sean Murphy – bass
Dean Fraser – drums

BLAZE BAYLEY

When it was time for the unstoppable BLAZE BAYLEY to hit the stage with his Endure and Survive World Tour 2017, at around 10:30pm, The Rockpile was not even half full, maybe due to lack of better promotion or because the pub was a bit far for fans who rely on public transportation to move around, but I think those are just excuses for our society’s growing laziness to do anything that’s not online. Blaze deserved a much bigger crowd (he even joked it was his fault, as he asked that only true metalheads attended his concert), as he’s been doing superior music being totally independent, with very little support from anyone but himself and his bandmates. His music is powerful and vibrant, his lyrics are poetic and meaningful, and his energy on stage is simply fantastic. What else do you need in a metal concert?

Anyway, the brave fans who were at The Rockpile had the absolute pleasure of witnessing an amazing performance by Blaze and his amazing band formed by the talented Chris Appleton on guitars and backing vocals, Karl Schramm on bass and backing vocals, and Martin McNee on drums, who are not only the guys who recorded the first two parts of the kick-ass Infinite Entanglement trilogy with Blaze, the 2016 album Infinite Entanglement and the 2017 follow-up Endure And Survive (Infinite Entanglement Part II), but who are also three quarters of British Heavy Metal act Absolva, a great underground band highly recommended for lovers of old school metal music.

When Blaze was in Toronto for the last time, at the now defunct Hard Rock Café in 2014, he was supported by a Canadian Iron Maiden cover group named Maiden Quebec, and although they were a very good band, Blaze’s performance was somewhat hampered by their lack of chemistry. Fortunately for the fans at The Rockpile this Saturday, Blaze and the guys from Absolva were in perfect sync, a reflection of their years working together, delivering to the crowd a top-notch setlist encompassing the best of Blaze’s past, present, and even future (if you think of Infinite Entanglement as an evolving project), playing simply the best songs from Wolfsbane, Iron Maiden and his unparalleled solo career. From the very first notes of the inspiring Endure and Survive, to the speed and violence of Blood, Dark Energy 256 and Man on the Edge (see his intro video to this all-time classic HERE), and the epicness of The Clansman, their performance was flawless.

As I mentioned before, Blaze is a metal poet, and there was always a reason for a song to be inserted in his setlist, always bringing a powerful message to the fans who were singing along all lyrics with Blaze. For instance, his speech about how we all fail and how we all must stand up from our failures and fight our fears again and again in Fight Back, from his latest album, only shows how much he loves what he does and how much he’s passionate about Heavy Metal, as well as how he said us fans are his “home” in the emotional Calling You Home. Of course there was also room for lighter topics, like when he explained the origins of Wolfsbane and how we all would feel “sexier” after screaming the words “man hunt” during Wolfsbane’s biggest hit Man Hunt. By the way, the “duel” between Blaze and the rest of the band during this song was awesome, with Chris and Karl stealing the show with their refined techniques. Blaze made sure he acknowledged the undeniable talent of Chris not only as a guitarist, but also as a songwriter and producer, something we can easily see through his work with both Absolva and Blaze Bayley.

After the last song of the setlist, A Thousand Years (my favorite track from Infinite Entanglement), Blaze and the guys stayed at the venue for a free autograph and photo session with their fans, not charging a single penny as most band do nowadays with their “meet & greet experiences”, as a sign of his respect and admiration for us, supporters of independent music. All band members were very nice and courteous with everyone, talking about their tour across Canada and the US, their plans for the future and other topics. And all true metal fans who attended the concert on Saturday went back home with a huge smile on their faces, something that happens every single time you see a concert by the metal warrior Blaze Bayley. As simple as that.

Setlist
Endure and Survive
Escape Velocity
Futureal
Blood
Silicon Messiah
Fight Back
Virus
Calling You Home
Stare at the Sun
The Clansman
Man Hunt
Man on the Edge
Dark Energy 256
Lord of the Flies
A Thousand Years

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

Album Review – Accept / The Rise of Chaos (2017)

Let total chaos and destruction rise to the sound of the brand new album by the unstoppable Teutonic masters of Heavy Metal.

I guess I might have already said that with different words in my review for the excellent Blind Rage, from 2014, but I can guarantee you that you can buy any album by German Heavy Metal institution Accept from the Mark Tornillo-era without even listening to a single second of it, and you won’t regret your decision at all. Quite the contrary, you’ll always be treated to the cream of Teutonic metal music, just like what happens with pretty much every new release by traditional German acts such as Rage, Grave Digger, Kreator, Primal Fear and Helloween, and that trend goes on in 2017 with another sensational release by Wolf Hoffmann, Mark Tornillo & Co., titled The Rise of Chaos, the fifteenth studio album in their unparalleled career.

The Rise of Chaos, which by the way was released just one day after their memorable performance at Wacken Open Air this year, is their first album with guitarist Uwe Lulis (Grave Digger, Giftdwarf) and drummer Christopher Williams (War Within, Blackfoot), replacing Herman Frank and Stefan Schwarzmann, respectively. The album is also the first of their career to feature the amazing art by Hungarian artist Gyula Havancsák, from Hjules Illustration and Design (who has already worked through the years with iconic bands like Grave Digger, Destruction and Annihilator), perfectly representing the chaotic and desperate situation our society has been through lately, as well as all the power and electricity flowing from the top-tier Heavy Metal played by Accept.

The initial guitars by the flammable duo Wolf and Uwe already send a clear message of the old school feast that’s about to start in Die by the Sword, showcasing classic kick-ass Accept with a modern twist to avoid sounding outdated. It’s simply impossible not to raise your fists and sing its blackened, catchy lyrics together with the band (“We’re sinking deeper in a world of darkness / It’s kill or be killed from the day we are born / We’re an evil seed from the soul of a serpent / An evil breed in a valley of thorns”), I should say. In Hole in the Head the whole band keeps blasting sheer awesomeness in the form of our good old Heavy Metal, with Christopher being precise and groovy on drums while Mark sounds, as usual, fantastic with his raspy, melodic vocals in this mid-tempo dark tune. And the title-track The Rise of Chaos, an apocalyptic hymn poised to become a classic, could be considered the epitome of the new Accept that was reborn with the superb Blood of the Nations, from 2010, bringing fast and thrilling riffs, spot-on bass and drums, and a classy performance by Mark on vocals.

Inspired by the November 1978 Jonestown deaths, in which over 900 members of the Peoples Temple, who were followers of Jim Jones, died, many of whom committed suicide by drinking a mixture of a powdered soft-drink flavoring agent laced with cyanide and prescription drugs Valium, Phenergan, and chloral hydrate, while the rest of the members, including 89 infants and elderly, were killed by forced ingestion of the poison, the rockin’ tune Koolaid is a beyond fun composition by Wolf and his crew, perfect for their live performances or to sing by yourself while driving on the highway (“Running through the jungle / Way back in ’78 / Here’s the story of the people’s temple / And my great escape / Communing with a madman / The promise of utopia / White nights, suicide drills / Shades of things to come”). Perhaps the most important message in the end should be: don’t drink the Koolaid, no matter what the preacher says! Anyway, back to the album we have No Regrets, one of the heaviest songs of all where Christopher speeds up the pace while bassist Peter Baltes keeps his bass rumbling in the background. This is traditional and straightforward German metal the way we like it, with highlights to the excellent guitar solo face-off between Wolf and Uwe; followed by Analog Man, a song that’s not only an ode to the 80’s, but it definitely feels it was actually written in the 80’s. What a fun metal hymn to sing along with those “old school sons of bitches trapped in this digital hell”, with Mark’s amazing vocals being effectively supported by the song’s traditional backing vocals. There’s no way not to get addicted to its cheesy lyrics (“I was born in a cave, when stereo was all the rage / Gatefold vinyl and eight tracks ruled the world / Now there’s flat screens in 3D / My cell phone’s smarter than me / I can’t keep up, my brains are beginning to burn”), and what to say about the dial-up internet sound at the end?

And Wolf, Mark and the rest of the guys are absolutely on fire, delivering another powerful tune full of electrified riffs, potent drums and a true headbanging rhythm, titled What’s Done Is Done, which can be described in short as four minutes of top-notch Accept for our avid ears, whereas the trademark guitar lines by Wolf ignite one more blast of awesome Heavy Metal named Worlds Colliding, with Mark putting his heart and soul into delivering the message from the song’s lyrics in the most beautiful way possible. Moreover, the guitar solos provided by Wolf and Uwe throughout the song are just superb, adding a lot of electricity to this already kick-ass composition. But if you’re a fan of their faster creations, then Carry the Weight is tailored for you, with Christopher keeping the energy level really high while Wolf and Uwe continue their slashing attack, resulting in a more-than-recommended alternative to cheer you up when facing tough times and situations (as Mark says during the song, don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders). And closing another flawless album by this iconic German institution we have more old school Heavy Metal in the form of the solid tune Race to Extinction, where an imposing intro turns into a dark and harmonious display of classic metal sounds led by Mark’s vigorous voice and the sharp riffs by Wolf and Uwe.

What else can be said about Accept and their unstoppable Heavy Metal killing machine that hasn’t been said yet? They have delivered to us, crazy metalheads, four first-class albums of old school metal music in a row since Mark joined the band back in 2009, and based on the amount of passion they put on creating each one of their electrifying songs it doesn’t seem that they’re planning to call it quits anytime soon. If you want to add The Rise of Chaos to your Accept collection (and you certainly should), there are several awesome options available at the Nuclear Blast webstore, all of them bringing to you the best soundtrack imaginable to watch all the chaos and destruction caused by mankind rise. And if the world as we know it is indeed coming to an end, can we ask it to “wait” until Accept release at least one more album of superior Heavy Metal like this one?

Best moments of the album: Die by the Sword, The Rise of Chaos, Koolaid, Analog Man and Worlds Colliding.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Die by the Sword 5:00
2. Hole in the Head 4:01
3. The Rise of Chaos 5:16
4. Koolaid 4:58
5. No Regrets 4:20
6. Analog Man 4:10
7. What’s Done Is Done 4:08
8. Worlds Colliding 4:28
9. Carry the Weight 4:33
10. Race to Extinction 5:24

Band members
Mark Tornillo – lead vocals
Wolf Hoffmann – guitar
Uwe Lulis – guitar
Peter Baltes – bass guitar
Christopher Williams – drums

Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 07/15/2017)

On a pleasant summer day in the city of Toronto, over 18,000 metalheads had a beautiful time screaming, singing, jumping up and down, raising their horns and “climbing like a monkey” to the flammable music by the unparalleled Iron Maiden.

OPENING ACT: Ghost

As opposed to last year’s Iron Maiden concert at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, when it was freaking cold and a snow blizzard covered the city and made driving a true nightmare, this Saturday the weather couldn’t be more perfect, with a temperature close to 30 degrees in a sunny day, resulting in another memorable night for all Maidenmaniacs that attended the concert at the always amazing Budweiser Stage (which used to be called Molson Canadian Amphitheatre). You could see in the eyes of the fans that everyone was in a great mood, probably because they spent the whole day getting ready for the concert, drinking beer, enjoying a nice BBQ or simply listening to Iron Maiden while getting tanned by the nice afternoon sun. And besides, everyone would have the whole Sunday to recover before returning to work on Monday (unless you were also seeing Metallica on Sunday, but that’s a different story).

It was around 7:30pm when the opening act hit the stage, Heavy Metal blue-eyed boys GHOST, who for some reason are deeply loved by most musicians, but not as much by fans of metal music. Even Metallica’s James Hetfield himself was at the venue watching the performance by Papa Emeritus III (also known as Tobias Forge) and his nameless ghouls. Anyway, this was my second time seeing Ghost, once again opening for Iron Maiden as in 2014 in the Czech Republic, and this time was way better than the first, I must admit. Papa Emeritus III was more dynamic on stage, more communicative and less “stuck” to the pope gimmick. A considerable amount of fans that were at the venue enjoyed their performance, singing together with the band songs like Ritual, Year Zero and Absolution, and as their performance wasn’t too long I guess not even the most diehard fan of Iron Maiden got bored with Ghost.

Setlist
Masked Ball (Jocelyn Pook song)
Square Hammer
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
Ritual
Cirice
Year Zero
Absolution
Mummy Dust
Monstrance Clock

Band members
Papa Emeritus III (Tobias Forge) – vocals
Nameless Ghouls – all instrumentalists:

  • Fire – lead guitarist
  • Ether – rhythm guitarist
  • Water – bassist
  • Wind – keyboardist
  • Earth – drummer

IRON MAIDEN

Finally, after over one year (and another cold winter), it was time for Toronto to scream one more time for the one and only IRON MAIDEN, this time during their The Book Of Souls World Tour 2017, the second leg of their majestic tour promoting their 2015 masterpiece The Book Of Souls. The setlist was pretty much the same as last time, except for Tears of a Clown being replaced with The Great Unknown, and the saddest change of all time, Hallowed Be Thy Name being replaced with Wrathchild due to a legal dispute with retired rock band manager Barry McKay, who is taking Steve Harris and Dave Murray to court over the song. Barry claims Hallowed Be Thy Name reproduces major parts of a song titled “Lying in my Shadow”, written by musician Brian Quinn (under the name Brian Ingham), and because of that Iron Maiden couldn’t play one of their most beautiful and powerful classics during their 2017 tour.

That didn’t stop Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris & Co. to kick ass one more time on stage for the delight of over 18,000 metalheads at the Budweiser Stage, blasting as usual a well-balanced mix of old school songs and newer compositions. Fans were already pumped up during the classic “Doctor Doctor” intro, exploding into sheer ecstasy when Bruce appeared at the top of the band’s Mayan-inspired stage to ignite their “ritual” with the initial spoken words of their new classic If Eternity Should Fail. After that it was an avalanche of hits played to perfection with Bruce interacting with the crowd all the time, while Steve was unstoppable with his galloping bass and Janick seemed as if he was high on something so electric his performance was. And I guess I don’t need to say how awesome Adrian, Dave and Nicko were with their instruments, right? There was only one minor issue with Bruceç mic, which kept failing a little once in a while, but nothing that could harm such sensational concert.

In my humble opinion, the best sequence of the night started with the classic Children of the Damned, where Bruce gave his already traditional speech about most of the fans not being born when the song was written and, for the ones born in 83 or 84, they might be the true “children of the damned”, conceived when the song was written in 82 (as Bruce mentioned, your parents had sex at least once in their lives!). After such stylish composition, the band invited all of us to fly with them and “fight” the Red Baron in the high-octane Death or Glory, with Bruce and his monkey mask enticing us to “climb like a monkey”, a fun move he started last year that became sort of mandatory every time they play this song. And the stunning sequel went on with the 13-minute hymn The Red and the Black, with all fans jumping up and down and singing the “Oh-oh oh-oh-oh! Oh-oh oh-oh-oh!” parts along with Bruce, followed by one of my top Maiden songs of all time, The Trooper, where guess what? It was time to burst our lungs again screaming the song’s famous “Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh!” together with the band. And closing their killer sequel, the imposing Powerslave, which almost made me blind with its initial flames as I was quite close to the stage.

The newer songs like The Great Unknown and the epic The Book of Souls (where Eddie had his heart “ripped out” by Bruce) kept their momentum going, making everyone even more excited for their final batch of unparalleled classics such as Iron Maiden, The Number of the Beast (with the stage fires making us literally burn), and Wasted Years. However, it was their 2000 creation Blood Brothers that really stole the show, with all fans signing its heartening lyrics together with the band, after Bruce’s inspiring intro where he spoke about how diverse and welcoming the city of Toronto is, and how there shouldn’t be no differences among us all, as we’re all blood brothers. What a brilliant performance of such amazing tune, I have to say! One of the best I’ve seen live together with the one from Rock In Rio III in 2001. As Bruce said close to the end of the show, Iron Maiden are far from being done, and they’ll return to Toronto with more of their unmatched metal music in a not-so-distant future. Needless to say, all 18,000 fans at the concert Saturday are more than eager for that without a shadow of a doubt. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hot and sunny day like this Saturday or if it’s in the middle of a cold winter, we all know that Iron Maiden’s gonna get us all.

Setlist
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Wrathchild
Children of the Damned
Death or Glory
The Red and the Black
The Trooper
Powerslave
The Great Unknown
The Book of Souls
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Number of the Beast
Blood Brothers
Wasted Years
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python song)

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums