Album Review – Steel Panther / Lower the Bar (2017)

The most depraved band in the world raises the bar once again with an ode to all the debauchery and joy of the golden age of Hard Rock, Glam and Heavy Metal.

After the considerable letdown that was All You Can Eat, released  by American Heavy Metal/Hard Rock band Steel Panther in 2014, I got a little worried about the future of one of the funniest metal acts in the history of music. Their jokes were not as good as before, their lyrics were way too repetitive, and there were no memorable anthems like in their previous albums. However, it seems that Michael Starr (vocals), Satchel (guitars), Lexxi Foxxx (bass) and Stix Zadinia (drums) have got their mojo back in Lower the Bar, their fourth major-label studio album and an ode to all the debauchery and joy of the golden age of Hair and Glam Metal.

Let’s be honest, after the first official video of the album was released exclusively on Pornhub, we knew Lower the Bar would bring back the good old Steel Panther we learned to love through the years. Musically speaking, the album kicks ass with its crisp production, enhancing even more the already potent impact of each instrument like a gigantic dildo would do to a young woman. Moreover, there’s a lot to enjoy in this album, from pure Hard Rock to a mellow ballad, from a Rock N’ Roll anthem to their personal tribute to a classic band from the 80’s, and so on. Put differently, it’s two in the pink, one in the stink, and Steel Panther blowing your speakers with the electricity flowing from Lower the Bar.

And Steel Panther blast great old school Glam Metal to kick off the party in Goin’ in the Backdoor, with Satchel delivering his always amazing riffs and solos while Michael Starr proves he’s by far one of the best singers in Hard Rock today, resulting in a solid musicality that lives up to the best songs of their career. The following song, Anything Goes, has all it takes to become a classic during their live concerts: its rhythm is perfect for headbanging, a beer and some tits at a rock n’ roll party, while its lyrics are absolutely mental (“Break out the tanks / Hand grenades / Minus Charlie Sheen / Cuz I don’t want AIDS”). Satchel, Lexxi and Stix definitely know how to generate pure Hard Rock, turning this into a fun rockin’ anthem for admirers of depraved music. In Poontang Boomerang, the song that had its official video debuted on Pornhub (which was in my opinion a fantastic idea), the music is pretty much a witty homage to Hard Rock icons Warrant, as it sounds a lot like their all-time hit “Cherry Pie”, but of course this one is nastier, sexier and more demented; whereas in That’s When You Came In we’re treated to an acoustic intro beautifully delivered by Michael and Satchel, slowly becoming one of those “romantic” and “touching” power ballads by Steel Panther, not to mention Satchel’s amazing solo before the song’s last piece.

My favorite song of the album, the fantastic Wrong Side of the Tracks (Out In Beverly Hills), is a blazin’ high-octane anthem highly recommended for your road trip playlist, with Michael kicking ass on vocals while Lexxi and Stix keep exhaling pure Rock N’ Roll with their bass lines and beats, which obviously means they have to play this awesome tune during their live concerts. Now the Fun Starts, a dark-ish low-tuned composition that kind of puts the listener in a trance, might be used to open their concerts, in special because there’s a lot going on in the lyrics that can be considered a warm-up for the show.  Getting back to their high voltage mode we have Pussy Ain’t Free, a modern and fresh Hard Rock tune with a Glam Metal twist and another top moment in Lower the Bar, with Satchel and Lexxi being on fire with their strings. And if you think the name of the song is already sexist, how about those lyrics (“Don’t need a certified public accountant / To run the numbers on my dick and balls / Don’t need to look at every Amex statement / Already know I’m getting charged for the booty calls”)? Anyway, Wasted Too Much Time might not be a bad song, musically speaking it’s quite fine and even reminds me of some Hard Rock classic ballads from the 80’s and 90’s, but it lacks that mighty punch from the rest of the album.

Mixing up the gripping Hard Rock by Scorpions and Motley Crüe with 80’s Pop Rock (in special its synths), I Got What You Want presents a very pleasant sonority with Michael having an amazing performance, supported  by the song’s old school backing vocals; whereas Walk of Shame ventures through the fields of American Country Rock with hints of Blues and obviously their kick-ass Glam Metal core. Stix dictates the rhythm with his groovy beats, while Michael sends a thoughtful message to all women (“No wonder then, every weekend is the same / Your vagina’s still eighteen / Baby, stand up tall and walk that walk of shame / That walk of shame / Go on, girl!”). And lastly, She’s Tight is their top-notch cover version of a summer-like hit, being heavier and more metallic than the original version and even featuring Robin Zander, lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the Rock N’ Roll band Cheap Trick, the band that recorded the original song back in the 80’s. I’m sure Robin is really happy with what Michael and the guys did not only with the music, but with the official video for it (by the way, Michael’s “Cheap Slut” shirt was a great tribute to Robin and his band).

In a nutshell, if you never get tired of Steel Panther’s sexist and dirty jokes, I’m sure you’ll love Lower the Bar, and album that does exactly the opposite of what its name says, raising the band’s bar once again in heavy music. In addition, there’s always new entertaining material on their YouTube channel, such as the one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime Lower the Bar Awards, which at least for me is already more important and honest than the Grammy Awards, don’t you agree? Anyway, you can buy some interesting Lower the Bar bundles at their official webstore, including one with a beer stein and one with a shirt. And no, there are no bundles with dildos, inflatable whores or anything like that. At least not yet.

Best moments of the album: Anything Goes, Wrong Side of the Tracks (Out In Beverly Hills) and Pussy Ain’t Free.

Worst moments of the album: Wasted Too Much Time.

Released in 2017 Kobalt Label Services

Track listing
1. Goin’ in the Backdoor 3:10
2. Anything Goes 3:01
3. Poontang Boomerang 3:22
4. That’s When You Came In 3:46
5. Wrong Side of the Tracks (Out In Beverly Hills) 3:07
6. Now the Fun Starts 3:43
7. Pussy Ain’t Free 3:56
8. Wasted Too Much Time 3:50
9. I Got What You Want 4:13
10. Walk of Shame 4:11
11. She’s Tight (Cheap Trick cover feat. Robin Zander) 2:54

Band members
Michael Starr – lead vocals
Satchel – lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Lexxi Foxxx – bass guitar, backing vocals
Stix Zadinia – drums, percussion, backing vocals

Guest musicians
Robin Zander – additional vocals on “She’s Tight”
Rudy Sarzo – bass on “Wrong Side of the Tracks (Out In Beverly Hills)”
Michael Catton – background vocals on “I Got What You Want”
Chris Catton – background vocals on “I Got What You Want”

Album Review – Avelion / Illusion of Transparency (2017)

An emotional journey through the fragility and strength of human nature presented by an up-and-coming Italian band ready to conquer the world of melodic and modern Heavy Metal.

Aiming at overpowering genre classification by creating a new form of Modern Metal mixed with Progressive Metal influences and expressions, the talented squad of Italian metallers known as Avelion are set to conquer the world of heavy music with their first full-length album, the beautiful Illusion of Transparency, an emotional journey through the fragility and strength of human nature. Founded in 2008 in Parma, a city in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, this Melodic Metal act already released two strong albums, the EP Cold Embrace in 2011 and another EP titled Liquid Breathing in 2013 (followed by a mini-tour in Austria, Czech Republic and Slovakia), but it’s with their new album that they’ve finally reached their most effective and promising shape to date.

Featuring the artwork, design and photography by Stefano Mattioni (Viron 2.0), Illusion of Transparency not only brings all the characteristics of high-end Melodic Metal, but its lyrics will also reach to your heart and your mind in an exciting manner. “The introspective lyrics revolve around the human condition: interpersonal conflict, dehumanization and the difficulty that someone could experience while trying to “fit” into society are the themes of the album”, said frontman William Verderi. Keyboardist Oreste Giacomini also complemented that thought, saying that “we all live in the illusion of transparency. Just think about the media, the internet and our cognitive bias. Reality is becoming more and more blurred and shady.”

In the opening track Fading Out the futuristic sounds by Oreste are suddenly joined by the melodic voice by William and the powerful, electrifying guitars and beats by Leonardo Freggi and Alessandro Ponzi, respectively, sounding like a fast-paced hybrid of Dream Theater and Stratovarius, therefore providing a flawless depiction of what this talented band is capable of doing. Echoes and Fragrance, a song that’s very progressive and exciting from start to finish, presents more modern sounds emanating from the whimsical keyboards by Oreste, while Leonardo and bassist Danilo Arisi deliver thunderous lines through their strings; followed by Burst Inside, where Oreste is once again responsible for building a metallic ambience for the rest of the band to deliver their potent fusion of Progressive and Melodic Metal. Furthermore, the intricate drumming by Alessandro and the Dream Theater-inspired performance by William on vocals are the highlights of this great song, making it even more compelling for fans of the genre.

Increasing the level of epicness and feeling, Avelion deliver an emotive tune titled Derailed Trails of Life, a futuristic semi-ballad showcasing a powerful atmosphere and featuring the tender, delicate backing vocals by guest singer Francesca Pasquinelli, not to mention the soulful guitar solo by Leonardo at the end. In the next track, Falling Down, a piano intro quickly turns into a modern Heavy Metal feast, yet again presenting elements from the music by bands such as Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica and DragonForce, with Leonardo and Danilo providing some good balance with their heavy strings in contrast with the smooth keyboards by Oreste. Innocence Dies, a progressive and dark creation by Avelion with a lot of intricacy added to its melody, is perfect for explaining to the average person what modern Melodic Metal is all about, while in the electrified tune Waste My Time the bass guitar by Danilo sounds absolutely thunderous. Moreover, this awesome composition presents several breaks amidst the heaviness blasted by all instruments, while William continues to impress with his tuneful vocals.

The last batch of songs from the album keeps the energy flowing smoothly, starting with Open Your Eyes, where more rumbling sounds permeate the song’s industrialized ambience. However, what starts as sheer heaviness suddenly morphs into a power ballad that, despite its complexity and energy, doesn’t live up to the rest of the album in terms of quality. Blending the underground aura of Progressive Metal with mainstream modern Hard Rock, Ain’t No Dawn displays a superb performance by Oreste and Alessandro with their respective instruments, not to mention the song’s precise tempo changes, before Never Wanted, the last track in Illusion of Transparency, presents a more-than-pure Avelion sonority, from its rhythmic drumming to its slashing and melodic riffs, with William stealing the spotlight with one of his strongest vocal performances of the whole album, flowing to a climatic and harmonious ending.

In a nutshell, Avelion sound more than ready to conquer the world of heavy music with the sheer awesomeness found in Illusion of Transparency, and you can start following this up-and-coming band on Facebook to know more about their music and projects, as well as listen to their music on YouTube or SoundCloud. If you’re a fan of Melodic Metal always searching for new amazing bands to enhance your collection, go to the Revalve Records’ Big Cartel, to iTunes or to Amazon and buy your copy of this top-tier, full-bodied album by Avelion. Illusion of Transparency might discuss about the fragility and strength of human nature, but its music is far from being fragile or weak. Quite the contrary, this is potent Heavy Metal, just the way we love it.

Best moments of the album: Fading Out, Derailed Trails of Life and Waste My Time.

Worst moments of the album: Open Your Eyes.

Released in 2017 Revalve Records

Track listing
1. Fading Out 4:46
2. Echoes and Fragrance 4:31
3. Burst Inside 3:44
4. Derailed Trails of Life 4:38
5. Falling Down 5:30
6. Innocence Dies 3:11
7. Waste My Time 4:03
8. Open Your Eyes 3:39
9. Ain’t No Dawn 4:47
10. Never Wanted 4:16

Bonus track
11. Echoes and Fragments (The Algorithm Remix) 4:01

Band members
William Verderi – vocals
Leonardo Freggi – guitars
Danilo Arisi – bass
Oreste Giacomini – keyboards, programming
Alessandro Ponzi – drums

Guest musicians
Gianmarco Soldi – guitar solos on “Open Your Eyes” and “Ain’t No Dawn”, backing vocals on “Ain’t No Dawn”
Olaf Thörsen – guitar solo on “Falling Down”
Francesca Pasquinelli – backing vocals on “Derailed Trails of Life” and “Falling Down”

Metal Chick of the Month – Mayara “Undead” Puertas

Sanity… What about Insanity…

Can you hear those demonic gnarls coming from Brazil, sounding like the putrid screams of an undead woman rising from her grave? That’s the powerful and mesmerizing guttural voice by our metallic girl this month, the talented Brazilian growler Mayara “Undead” Puertas, born Mayara Puertas and also known as May “Undead” Puertas or even May Undead, frontwoman of the iconic old school Brazilian Thrash/Death Metal band Torture Squad, and a woman that loves heavy music from the bottom of her blackened heart above all things. If this is the first time you’re getting to know the work by Mayara, you better be ready as the “Undead” is more than ready to kick your ass with her devilish growls and fiery onstage attitude (and I’m sure you’ll get addicted to the music by Torture Squad after that).

Born on March 16, 1993 in a region known as ABC Paulista, an industrial region located in the Greater São Paulo, Brazil, Mayara Puertas has always been connected to some sort of musical art since she was little, singing popular songs and playing the piano, guitar and electric guitar, always encouraged by her family and by studying old music books owned by her father, covering songs from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Secos e Molhados (an innovative Brazilian band formed in the beginning of the 70’s) and Kansas, for example. She never took any formal lessons to learn how to sing and to play those instruments, as she preferred learning everything by herself as a good self-taught musician that she is, adding her passion for music and her personal touch to shape her own style.

When she was around 12 or 13 years old, she already nurtured a strong interest for rock music, until a good friend of hers introduced her to Heavy Metal, bringing all his albums to her home where she could make copies of all of them. She instantly fell in love for bands like Iron Maiden, Manowar, Iced Earth, Blind Guardian, Hammerfall and Brazilian Celtic Metal band Tuatha de Danann, which as you can see have little to do with her singing style. Her curiosity and connection to heavy music only grew stronger and stronger in the coming years when she began searching for different bands and genres, including more brutal types of metal, finally finding in Thrash and Death Metal her true passion. Mayara then started to dedicate herself to learn more aggressive vocal techniques inspired by Extreme Metal titans such as Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Hypocrisy and Overkill, with some of her biggest influences being David Vincent (Morbid Angel), George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher (Cannibal Corpse), Rachel Heyzer (Infinited Hate, Occult, Sinister), Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, Pain), Sabina Classen (Holy Moses) and Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth (Overkill), a distinct selection of unique voices.

It was in 2013 when Mayara joined her first official band, Brazilian Death Metal act Necromesis, not only as a singer but by also recording some piano and acoustic guitars. As the screaming frontwoman of Necromesis, the “Undead” recorded the EP Echoes of a Memory in 2014 (which you can listen to in its entirety HERE) and the full-length album The Poet’s Paradox in 2015. You can enjoy Mayara’s beastly growling with Necromesis penetrating your ears in crushing songs such as Indifferent Echoes of Sensitivity and Desocial Inclusion, as well as this live version of the song Unlives as Undeads at a special event called I Domingo Metal BR in 2014 in São Paulo, Brazil. Her time with Necromesis also allowed her to tour several Brazilian cities, including a tour with American bands Master and Vital Remains, and being named one of the greatest Extreme Metal singers of the year of 2014.

In October 2015, after talking with Fernanda Lira (lead singer and bassist of the badass Brazilian Thrash Metal power trio Nervosa), Mayara was told she had been referred to be the vocalist of an important Brazilian Death Metal band, but she didn’t know exactly which one then. After a few weeks, she was contacted by Amílcar Christófaro, longtime drummer of Torture Squad, to officially join the band. That was a big surprise for Mayara, as she had always admired the work by those guys, following their career and attending their live concerts, and she knew it was going to be a great honor and an even greater responsibility to replace the iconic Vitor Rodrigues on vocals, who left the band in April 2012 to pursue new musical experiences. The other band members provided her all the necessary support for her to thrive as their new singer, making her confident enough to accept the challenge and add her touch of aggressiveness, electricity and passion to their always high-octane music, showing how professional and dedicated Torture Squad are, and how loyal they’ve always been to heavy music. Of course it wasn’t easy for her to adapt to her new life at first, as she had to rehearse with the band almost everyday, she had to quit her job and move to a new city, but all that extra effort was worth it thanks to the amazing receptivity she always gets from the diehard fans of the band, enjoying her live performances of old school Torture Squad songs as well as their new tunes already with her on vocals.

Mayara recorded her first official release with torture Squad in 2016, the EP titled Return of Evil, comprised of four unrelenting, original tracks (Return of Evil, Swallow Your Reality, Dreadful Lies and Iron Squad). If you want to know more about how the first Torture Squad album with Mayara on vocals came to life, I highly recommend you watch the online documentary named Behind the Evil, filmed in December 2015 during the recordings of Return of Evil at Na Cena Studios. Another amazing video online showcasing all the vocal potency by Mayara with the band, singing some of the band’s classics like Pull The Trigger and Mad Illusions, as well as an interview piece, can be seen HERE. After watching such powerful performance by Mayara, you’ll understand why her nickname is “Undead”, given to her by Amilcar during their first rehearsals due to the fact her growls sounded like the screams of an undead woman rising from her grave. She even said that became her “alter ego”, which she lets dominate her body and soul when she’s on stage performing.

In regards to touring with Torture Squad, a band that’s always doing extensive tours all over Brazil and also in Europe, Mayara said that when you’re on the road you have to get used to the fact that your house will be a van. There’s very little time to sleep, eat and take care of yourself, which means the band as a whole has to learn how to live in a harmonious way to make things work during the tours. She also said that her biggest concern is with her voice as there are many shows to do each tour, and she takes care of it by drinking lots of water and having fun with moderation. Also, our screaming metaller said that, despite the lack of time, she enjoys knowing a little more about the places where she plays with the band, most of which she would never have been able to visit if she wasn’t with torture Squad. Mayara is also the youngest member of the band; for instance, she wasn’t even born when the band started, but that doesn’t mean the difference in age is a barrier to her relationship with the other members of the band. She said their passion for metal unites them, helping them become a big metallic family, as well as the fact that she’s using her time with them to learn as much as possible from their expertise in the world of heavy music.

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If you prefer some action instead of all these never-ending words, you can find online a lot of high-quality footage of Mayara growling like a rabid beast as the frontwoman of Torture Squad, as you can see in the songs Inner Strength, and Black Sabbath’s classic Symptom of the Universe (with changed instruments); this series of videos recorded at the traditional Clash Club in São Paulo, Brazil, on February 27, 2016, where the band played, among others, the songs Living for the Kill/ Chaos Corporation, The Unholy Spell, and Horror and Torture/Pandemonium; or this amazingly done footage of Torture Squad kicking ass at De Verlichte Geest, in Roeselare, Belgium. You can also enjoy some online interviews with Mayara (if, of course, you understand Portuguese), as for example when they played at Tocandira Ritual Fest II in Macapá, a province located in the North of Brazil, in 2016; and her chat with the YouTube channel For headS for their Metal Live Drops programme, where she talks a little about how she became the lead singer for Torture Squad.

There’s already a brand new song online with Mayara on vocals, which is actually Torture Squad’s cover version of Motörhead’s high-octane classic Overkill that will be feature on a Brazilian tribute named “Going To Brazil… The Brazilian Tribute To Motörhead”, featuring several renowned Brazilian bands such as Nervochaos, Voodoopriest, Genocídio, Ratos de Porão, Claustrofobia and Hatefulmurder, among others, to be released later this year by British label Secret Service Records. And the wait for more Torture Squad with Mayara on vocals won’t be long, as the band has already announced they’ll release in July this year their eight studio album, titled Far Beyond Existence, containing ten ruthless songs with the “Undead” gnarling manically as their frontwoman. As the band has been updating their official Facebook page with videos and other details about the recordings of the new album, I highly recommend you like and follow them HERE to avoid missing anything.

As any modern musician, Mayara already lent her potent voice to some interesting bands and projects away from the Torture Squad world. For instance, she recorded additional vocals for the 2015 album Afterlife in Darkness, by Brazilian Death Metal band Depressed, and guest vocals for the song Time Enough at Last from the 2017 album Red Eyes, by Brazilian Thrash/Death Metal band Hatefulmurder. In addition to that, Mayara also recorded in 2015 a cover version of Bathory’s Man of Iron with Bathory Brazilian Tribute, and began working with bassist Patricia Schlithler (Hellarise, Harppia) in an Extreme Metal project named Gorgona (which I couldn’t find any additional details about online).

Despite the fact that our society is still extremely sexist, when asked about the increasing influence of women in heavy music Mayara said that although she has already experienced a few awkward situations in her life she still believes Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll are the two types of music that foster creativity and freedom of speech, therefore providing more room for women to grow and to be more and more respected by everyone. She mentioned she always receives a lot of positive feedback from both men and women, even inspiring fathers to take their daughters to Torture Squad concerts to show them they can be whatever they want in life, which is obviously a great thing not only for Mayara but for heavy music in general.

She was also asked about the feeling of being on stage with the band, singing in front of hundreds or thousands of crazy fans everywhere they go, and if there’s a big difference between fans in Brazil and in Europe. Mayara said the main difference is that, in Europe, you can see several distinct tribes mixed in the crowd, such as diehard fans of Punk Rock and Death Metal together, which in the end was excellent for her as she could connect to people with complete different tastes and opinions than hers, and that she wished that could also be a reality in Brazil, where the heavy music tribes are a lot more distant from each other. However, in terms of receptivity and electricity, she said both Brazilian and European headbangers are absolutely amazing and have a very good time during their shows.

Mayara is not only an extremely talented growler, but she’s also an entrepreneur, being the owner of an online store named Bloodline, specialized in custom clothing and accessories. She said she opened the store during a very difficult time of her life, when she was unemployed and needed to find an alternative source of income. If you want to know more about Bloodline, check their official website or Facebook page and, who knows, you might find something fancy that suits your style. In addition, she also works as a costume consultant for a company called Loud Factory, an audio and video producer focused on Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll. And that’s all about the talented Mayara, a woman that never gets tired of her “eat, sleep, scream like a beast, repeat” routine.

Mayara “Undead” Puertas’ Official Facebook page
Mayara “Undead” Puertas’ Official YouTube channel
Mayara “Undead” Puertas’ Official Instagram
Torture Squad’s Official Facebook page
Torture Squad’s Official YouTube channel
Torture Squad’s Official Twitter

The Headbanging Moose Show – Thursdays @ 20:00 UTC exclusively at Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio

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Attention, metalheads!

It’s time to rumble with THE HEADBANGING MOOSE SHOW every Thursday @ 20:00 UTC (with a reprise on Saturdays @ 19:00 UTC) exclusively at Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio, your London-based web radio blasting the best of heavy music nonstop 24/7!

Presented by Gustavo Scuderi, The Headbanging Moose Show will bring to you the cream of underground metal music, giving you a short and sweet background on every band played on the show. No silly jokes, no shenanigans… THIS IS PURE F****N’ METAL!

So remember, EVERY THURSDAY @ 20:00 UTC (with a reprise on Saturdays @ 19:00 UTC) tune into Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio to enjoy one hour of kick-ass underground metal from all over the world, courtesy of The Headbanging Moose!

Here are all the options where can blow your speakers with Midnight Madness:

Official website
Facebook
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Online Radio Box
Tunein
Streema
Listen2MyRadio
Radio Garden
Streamitter.com

Don’t forget to follow The Headbanging Moose on Facebook to know beforehand which bands will be played on the show every week.

And if you want to have your new album reviewed at The Headbanging Moose AND played at Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio, simply get in touch with us through our CONTACT US page.

Album Review – Madness Of Sorrow / N.W.O. The Beginning (2017)

Depicting the corrupt and sick system in which humanity is living, the new album by this Italian duo of Gothic and Horror Metal will certainly entertain you with its high dosage of acidness, energy and creativity.

Although the ceaseless danger of the emergence of a totalitarian world government (the conspiracy theory known as the New World Order) might incite fear in our hearts, it also fuels the creativity from artists all over the world, including Italian Gothic/Horror Metal band Madness Of Sorrow with their brand new release, titled N.W.O. The Beginning, the fourth studio album in their career. Depicting the corrupt and sick system in which humanity is living, focusing specifically on corporations, sex and serial killers, and featuring a dark and acid artwork by Italian artist Graziano Roccatani, N.W.O. The Beginning will take you on a journey through the shadows of our decaying world, showcasing how exciting heavy music can be when powered by controversial and disturbing topics.

Formed in March 2011 by multi-instrumentalist Murihell (aka Muriel Saracino) from the ashes of Italian Gothic Metal/Hard Rock group Filthy Teens in the region of Pisa and Livorno, in Tuscany (but currently located in Val d’Aosta, a region of northwest Italy bordered by France and Switzerland), Madness Of Sorrow are constantly delivering high-quality music for fans of Gothic and Horror Metal, starting with their debut album Signs in 2011, which by the way led them to play in 2012 in Milan with Italian Gothic Metal icons Cadaveria, followed by Take the Children Away from the Priest in 2013 and more recently III: The Beast in 2015. The project takes now one step further with N.W.O. The Beginning, their first album featuring new singer Prophet (aka Diego Carnazzola), widening their music horizons and venturing on new sounds unexplored by the band in their previous releases.

The intro N.W.O. welcomes the listener with an eerie voice talking about the aforementioned conspiracy theory, working as a warm-up for Salomon, where Prophet blasts powerful growls as well as dark, clean vocals while Murihell delivers a Gothic, industrial and obscure musicality, blending the styles by Mercyful Fate and Ministry (which translates into pure wickedness, of course), followed by the excellent Inside the Church, a song that should sound fantastic when played live, bringing elements from Thrash and Death Metal in its riffs and beats, not to mention its awesome accelerated pace and catchy lyrics and chorus. And despite almost sounding as a ballad, You’re Not Alone also presents the darkened elements commonly found in the music by Madness Of Sorrow, being a very good example of a song by an extreme band that could be played in any radio station, with highlights to the top-notch clean vocals by Prophet.

Speeding things up again, the duo offers a fast-paced and aggressive tune drinking from the fountains of Thrash and Gothic Metal entitled Necrophilia, with the slashing guitar lines by Murihell together with Prophet’s demented screams being all that’s needed to ignite some fun mosh pits during their live concerts. More modern and Gothic than all previous songs, Slut brings forward lyrics that are extremely porn and nasty, in line with what the music proposes, but that for obvious reasons cannot be played on any radio station; whereas R.I.P. is a song where Murihell showcases all his talent and passion for metal, sounding more melodic, rhythmic and leaning towards more traditional Heavy Metal, with even some hints of Symphonic Metal coming from its background keyboards. In Zombified, smooth but dark keys and low-tuned bass lines build a demonic ambience perfect for Prophet to darkly declaim the song’s wicked lyrics in a solid display of contemporary Gothic Metal for fans of the genre.

Keep Your Head Down, an interesting composition by this skillful duo from Italy, offers more of their Gothic and Symphonic Metal, albeit being slightly repetitive in my opinion (in special its chorus), whereas in DNA what feels like Gothic Metal at first becomes a vicious display of Dark and Industrial Metal with elements from Thrash Metal, proving how versatile the duo is. Moreover, Murihell does an amazing job on drums and guitars, paving the path for Prophet and his raging vocals to thrive. And with a Down with the Sickness-inspired beginning, but bringing forward elements from Melodic Death Metal in its guitars and beats, the awesome S.O.S displays a rockin’ rhythm and effective breaks throughout its three minutes to keep the sound always fresh and vibrant, therefore turning it into one of the best songs of the album (if not the best), flowing into a tribal Outro that also presents the band’s trademark obscure sounding.

In summary, the New World Order might fortunately be just a theory (at least for now), but Madness Of Sorrow are an exciting reality and the music you’ll find in their new album is highly recommended for facing our everyday issues and struggles due to its elevated amount of energy and creativity. You can find more information about them at their official Facebook page, and enjoy their music on YouTube as well as on Spotify. And in order to grab your copy of N.W.O. The Beginning, simply go to iTunes or to Amazon. But hurry up, before the New World Order is finally born and comes to destroy our freedom, our music and arts in general.

Best moments of the album: Inside the Church, You’re Not Alone and S.O.S.

Worst moments of the album: Keep Your Head Down.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. N.W.O. 0:35
2. Salomon 3:26
3. Inside the Church 3:36
4. You’re Not Alone 3:21
5. Necrophilia 3:26
6. Slut 3:23
7. R.I.P. 3:26
8. Zombified 3:37
9. Keep Your Head Down 4:26
10. DNA 3:46
11. S.O.S 3:11
12. Outro 1:26

Band members
Prophet – vocals
Murihell – guitars, bass, drums

Live lineup
Prophet – vocals
Murihell – guitars
Hades – bass
Kronork – drums

Concert Review –Testament (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/27/2017)

When you have two of the best and most iconic Thrash Metal bands of all time playing together in the city, you know exactly where you have to be.

OPENING ACTS: Prong and Sepultura

As much as I enjoy the Phoenix Concert Theatre and obviously the bands that were going to play last night, I truly and deeply hate the weekdays rush hour traffic to get from my town, the suburban Oakville, to Toronto whenever there’s a good metal concert I want to attend. At least the weather was fantastic (even with a short storm that happened at around 7pm), with the temperature being above 20 degrees, which means no one had to carry their burdensome jackets like what always happens when a concert is in the middle of the winter.

Anyway, due to traffic (and because I had to eat something before heading to the venue), I completely missed the performance by American Crossover Thrash power trio PRONG. I have absolutely no idea if it was a good concert or not. Well, probably yes as the group spearheaded by Tommy Victor has all it takes to deliver great music to the audience, but unfortunately I can’t say a word about what they did last night, not even write down their setlist.

Band members
Tommy Victor – lead vocals, guitar
Jason Christopher – bass guitar, backing vocals
Art Cruz – drums

Fortunately, I got to the Phoenix Concert Theatre just in time to see the always amazing show by Brazilian Thrash/Groove Metal masters SEPULTURA, who are currently promoting their latest album, the very experimental and exciting Machine Messiah.  Derrick Green, Andreas Kisser, Paulo Jr. and Eloy Casagrande put on an electrified performance on stage from start to finish, blending several songs of their new album like the excellent Phantom Self and Sworn Oath with all-time classics such as Desperate Cry, Inner Self (my favorite of the night) and Refuse/Resist, and of course the song most fans at the venue wanted to hear, their ritualistic hymn Roots Bloody Roots. The sound was very clear, cohesive and powerful, just like what the band offers us in their studio albums, proving Sepultura are a band that always provides their fans the same high level of quality found in their studio versions when they transport those compositions to the stage. As usual, the highlights of their performance were the insane riffs, solos and other awesome tricks done by Andreas with his guitar. That guy is one of the most gifted guitarists in the history of heavy music, which means if you’ve never seen him playing live, don’t miss that chance the next time “Sepultura do Brasil” visit your city.

Setlist
I Am the Enemy
Phantom Self
Choke
Desperate Cry
Sworn Oath
Inner Self
Alethea
Resistant Parasites
Refuse/Resist
Ratamahatta
Roots Bloody Roots

Band members
Derrick Green – lead vocals
Andreas Kisser – guitars
Paulo Jr. – bass
Eloy Casagrande – drums, percussion

TESTAMENT

After a short bathroom and beer break, it was time for American Thrash Metal behemoths TESTAMENT to create a sonic Armageddon in Toronto with their unparalleled aggression and refined technique. I guess I always say the same thing about Testament, but all band members are extremely talented and way above average, in special the guitar virtuoso Alex Skolnick and the human earthquake Gene Hoglan. Those two are not simple musicians, they’re demonic beasts when armed with their instruments, delivering the best of the best when it comes to heavy music.

Blasting some of their newest creations from the best metal album of 2016, the superb Brotherhood Of The Snake, especially the kick-ass tunes Brotherhood of the Snake, The Pale King and Stronghold, with old school songs and newer classics, they delivered a flawless performance for the delight of all metalheads at the venue. A few songs from their setlist deserve some special attention, like the brutal and sensational Rise Up for its enhanced mighty power when played live, the high-octane Centuries of Suffering for the insanely intricate magic Gene does behind his drums, and Electric Crown for the amount of groove and feeling flowing from the band’s instruments.

My only complaint about the concert was the excessive amount of solos, one for each band member. As much as I love each guy from the band, I personally prefer regular songs than solos. If they replaced those solos with newer songs like “The Number Game” or “Native Blood”, or with classic like “D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)” or “Burnt Offerings”, it would have been just perfect, but that’s just my opinion. The whole concert was fuckin’ awesome anyway; not even all those solos were able to cool down the audience, mainly because whenever there was a solo there was also a demolishing classic right after it, like when they played the circle pit-generator First Strike Is Deadly after Gene’s drum solo.

Before playing the encore, the iconic Chuck Billy, who by the way is singing better and better as time goes by, therefore being able to perfectly replicate his sensational deep growls live without making any extra effort, told the fans a story about when they were in Texas hanging out with the guys from one of the most respected, energized and violent bands of all time, the one and only Pantera, drinking Jack Daniel’s (and probably taking other stuff as well) with them. Can you imagine that? Testament and Pantera together? The 90’s were definitely the best period for Thrash Metal, no doubt about that. Chuck said that after a lot of drinking, something hit his head (maybe a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, or maybe it was the alcohol itself) and he told the other guys he had the name for their new album. It was going to be called Practice What you Preach, one of their biggest hits, and one of the best of the night as well.

There was still time for one last sick mosh pit with Over the Wall, and after all was said and done you could see how happy all fans of Testament were with their amazing performance. As Chuck said, I hope all promoters in Canada turn their eyes to Testament more often aiming at having more concerts all over the country, not only two or three cities. Let’s hope that those promoters listen to the deep voice by Chuck and we have more of the brotherhood of Thrash Metal in our currently not-so-cold country, because after such brilliant performance last night I’m sure all Torontonian fans of Testament are eager for more of their music.

Setlist
Brotherhood of the Snake
Rise Up
The Pale King
Centuries of Suffering
Alex Skolnick’s Guitar Solo
Electric Crown
Into the Pit
Low
Throne of Thorns
Stronghold
Eric Peterson’s Guitar Solo
Eyes of Wrath
Gene Hoglan’s Drum Solo
First Strike Is Deadly
Steve DiGiorgio’s Bass Solo
Urotsukidôji
Souls of Black
Seven Seals
The New Order

Encore:
Practice What You Preach
Over the Wall

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

Metal Chick of the Month – Caterina Nix

Wake up, this is my dream… Just let me sleep… In my loneliness, high above of me I fly.

The Republic of Chile might be known worldwide for its astounding attractions such as the arid Atacama Desert, the ski resort of Valle Nevado and the beach resort of Viña del Mar, as well as the country’s rich culture which has already provided the world the beautiful poetry of Pablo Neruda, for example. However, it’s time for the world to also know more about one of the most talented Chilean singers in heavy music, the gorgeous Caterina Nix, born Caterina Torrealba in Santiago, Chile and also known as Cati Torrealba, a solo artist better known for her partnership with the iconic Finnish guitarist Timo Tolkki in the Power Metal projects Chaos Magic and Timo Tolkki’s Avalon.

Caterina’s interest in singing and in music started at an early stage of her life, when she joined several rock bands during her adolescence at school and in the choir, discovering Heavy Metal during that period and falling in love for it. She started listening to classic bands such as Metallica, Pantera and Iron Maiden as a kid, expanding her metallic horizons a little more with bands like Tool and Fear Factory, before getting completely in love with female-fronted groups such as Lacuna Coil, Nightwish and After Forever. With metal and rock flowing through her veins, Caterina was always motivating her friends at school to play rock tunes when they were around 12 years old, which years later led to the creation of her first band, named Aghonya. In addition to that, our metal diva has a soprano vocal range and has received both classical and pop singing training, showcasing her versatility in music. Well, she mentioned in one of her interviews that her biggest idols in music are the unparalleled Freddy Mercury and Bruce Dickinson, and that singing along with them is like being in a master class, learning a lot by playing their music and imitating them. That alone says it all, don’t you think?

As aforementioned, Caterina’s first professional endeavor in the world of heavy music was with Chilean Gothic Metal band Aghonya, with whom she recorded a demo in 2006 and the full-length album Oxygen, in 2008, which she wrote all lyrics and vocal lines. Although the record was released independently, the band and Caterina garnered critical acclaim, leading the band to open for renowned acts like After Forever, Edguy and Within Temptation. In addition, Caterina believes that, as Aghonya started as a cover band for Nightwish, that helped shape her style to become the singer she is today, which you can see in songs such as Lead Me Into You (also check this nice live version at an extremely cheesy TV show from Chile called Sin Dios Ni Late) and the title-track Oxygen. Unfortunately, as it happens with several bands worldwide, Aghonya came to an end sometime in 2010, when each band member took a different path in life. The band’s drummer, Javier Guzman, moved to Australia; bassist Sergio Silva and guitarist Sebastián Coulon both got other jobs; and keyboardist Andres Cruz moved to a small town in the north of Chile.

Although it was only in 2015 when Caterina and Timo Tolkki joined forces to form Finnish/Chilean Symphonic Power Metal band Chaos Magic (together with Finnish drummer Jami Huovinen), our metal diva had already met Timo many years before that at a meet-and-greet at a Stratovarius concert in Chile, and they kept in touch after that. Years later, she sent Timo her material and they started to think about recording music together, which ended up happening when Frontiers Records came up with the idea of having a female vocalist to have a solo project written and produced by Timo, who opted for Caterina among three names, culminating with the release of their self-titled album Chaos Magic in 2015. The name Chaos Magic was chosen by Caterina herself, aiming at portraying our positivity and spirituality towards the universe, with each one of us being just one piece of energy altogether. You can feel the energy proposed by Caterina and all her passion for Melodic Metal in the classy tunes One Drop of Blood and A Little Too Late, as well as in the official video for I’m Alive (which you can see at the end of this tribute to Caterina). However, when asked about her favorite tracks of the album, she said she has a special place in her heart for Seraphim and Passionflow, as both are sexy and put a woman in a position of power, making her dive into the femme fatale character and sing from a powerful point of view.

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Our Chilean bombshell can also be seen in different bands and projects as a guest vocalist, including  Finnish Symphonic Power Metal project Timo Tolkki’s Avalon (yes, her partnership with Timo started before Chaos Magic was born), where she sang in two songs from their 2014 album Angels of the Apocalypse together with Simone Simons (Epica), Elize Ryd (Amaranth) and Floor Jansen (Nightwish), those being High Above Of Me and Angels of the Apocalypse. You can also enjoy her sweet vocals in the gentle ballad Believe In Me, from the 2015 album Post-Apocalyptic, by Croatian Heavy/Power Metal act Undercode, as well as in the song Lost Innocence, from the 2016 album The March of the Fallen by Chilean Power Metal band Triboulet. In addition to that, Caterina is also part of Vivaldi Metal Project (you can see a short clip of our diva introducing herself to the fans of the project HERE), and has been working hard as a solo artist, consistently performing live in several venues and cities. For instance, she had the chance to open for Nightwish in her hometown Santiago in October 2015, being chosen by the production of the show among hundreds of applicants. As a few excellent samples of what Caternia has been doing for metal music in her career, you can see her singing together with members from the bands from Delta, Resilience and Witchblade in a cover version for Dio’s all-time classic Rainbow in the Dark during The Metal Tour 2016 in Chile; delivering a passionate performance of Queen’s No One But You together with Ronnie Romero (Lords of Black, Rainbow); presenting an acoustic version of a new song called I’d Give it All; showing her heavier and groovier side in the excellent Throw Me To The Wolves; and kicking some serious ass at Chile Rock Festival 2016.

Furthermore, Caterina has a law degree and currently works as an attorney specializing in liability cases. She mentioned in one of her interviews it’s tough to earn a living as a musician in Chile, although she always wanted to be an opera singer (which her parents were against). She went to college, got her degree and works as an attorney (for a loss adjustment company specializing in liability) for the money, but her true passion is music. I guess that’s not too different from many of us, don’t you agree? Caterina mentioned that, if she could dedicate herself to music 24/7 that would be a dream come true, but that’s unfortunately not the reality for her, at least not yet. Furthermore, our Chilean diva said being an attorney somehow helps her being more aware if someone is not being honest with you or if someone is trying to do shady things behind your back, but also that so far nothing bad has happened and her record label has treated her with the utmost respect and transparency.

In regards to her favorite places in the world, Caterina said she had a blast visiting cities like Florence and Venice, in Italy, and the Sedlec Ossuary, the church made of human bones located in Kutná Hora, in the Czech Republic, not to mention an amazing AC/DC concert she had a chance to attend in Paris after many years waiting for a chance to see the most important Hard Rock band of all time. She’s also an animal and nature lover, being the proud owner of cats, a turtle and some birds, going outside to connect with nature when searching for inspiration, staring at the sky and having that instance of being alone with nature. Those seem to be very basic things, but Caterina consider herself a very simple person who loves singing and creating music, being in love and being loved, spending time with her family and with her pets, working out, eating different types of food and, obviously, shopping.

Her taste for music couldn’t be better, as she enjoys listening to several types of rock and metal music such as Tool and In this Moment, her youth classics Korn, Pantera, Black Label Society and Fear Factory, and of course female-fronted bands like Lacuna Coil, Amaranthe and Nightwish. When asked about the metal scene in her homeland, she said everyone knows how Chileans are completely passionate about Heavy Metal, with fans smashing each other to see their biggest idols playing live. However, when it comes to the local metal scene, Caterina said Chile is very different from Europe, for example, with local bands lacking the necessary resources to be known or listened to, with things slightly improving nowadays with the use of several online tools. It’s a case similar to her own, where you have to do music in Chile because you love it, not because of the money. Well, Caterina, your passion for heavy music is truly inspiring, and we’re sure it will encourage numerous bands and musicians, including talented women like you, to keep the fire of metal music burning bright in your charming “Land of Poets”.

Caterina Nix’s Official Facebook page
Caterina Nix’s Official YouTube channel
Caterina Nix’s Official Instagram

“I’ll do my best to bring people beautiful strong music and I’ll keep on screaming that no one should ever give up on their dreams. We all deserve a chance. We all deserve to give ourselves that chance.” – Caterina Nix

Album Review – Crossbones / WWIII (2017)

The most longstanding and influential metal act from Albania returns with a brand new opus, combining American Thrash Metal influences with a dark sound and typical Eastern European sonorities.

When vocalist Olsi Ballta grabbed an Albanian-English dictionary in 1996 and picked the first word on the page he randomly opened, he had no idea he would be founding the most recognized metal act in Albania and the only band from the mid 90’s that kept going. That’s how everything started for Tirana-based Heavy/Thrash Metal band Crossbones, the first Albanian rock band to have released a genuine full-length album on CD (their debut album called Days Of Rage, from 1997), who led them to play several concerts and festivals in the local scene, as well as within the region comprised of Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece and Kosovo, and to perform alongside major names such as Ian Paice (Deep Purple’s legendary drummer) and Rotting Christ.

After the release of a few singles, demos, a live album, a compilation and a stylish box set in the following years, Crossbones are finally back with new material, the full-length record entitled WWIII, combining American Thrash Metal influences with a dark sound and typical Eastern European sonorities in order to provide the listener a full-bodied metal attack that effectively represents not only the name and the artwork of the album, but also the core essence of the band. Perhaps due to the fact that Crossbones have been active through a couple of decades already, the music found in WWIII will provide you a voyage through old school and modern metal music, which only brings more flavor to the entire album. And let’s be honest, for a band that comes from a country where metal has absolutely (and unfortunately) zero support, what these guys do with their music is beyond fantastic.

The high amount of heaviness and groove emanating from all instruments from the very first second in I’m God, a potent mid-tempo Groove Metal composition with blazing guitar solos and neck-breaking riffs, will punch you in the face mercilessly, with lead singer Olsi Ballta delivering classic and melodious Thrash Metal vocal lines. And that’s only the beginning, as the straightforward tune Gates of Hell, led by guitarist Ben Turku and his slashing riffs, will please all fans of heavy music, with drummer Theo Napoloni and bassist Klejd Guza adding tons of groove to the musicality with their pounding beats and thunderous notes, respectively. In the slightly more atmospheric (but still as heavy as hell) Gjallë, or “alive” from Albanian, Theo and Klejd once again become the dynamic duo of fierceness, setting the perfect tone for Olsi to growl the song’s lyrics (which by the way are in Albanian).

The interesting WTF, which obviously means “what the fuck”, is more alternative than all previous tracks, focusing on the cutting strings by both Ben and Klejd while Olsi fires anguished and acid vocals, therefore increasing the song’s obscurity, with its ending being a sheer Groove Metal feast; whereas Messing with the Masses is a lot more introspective and somber, albeit not as exciting as the rest of the album. The dissonant and macabre guitar solo by Ben halfway through it is very effective though, while its second half sounds like a completely different song, being a mix of Alternative and Nu Metal. Schizo gets back to a more direct metal sonority thanks to the high dosage of harmony coming from the guitars by Ben, with Olsi also singing in his mother tongue and sounding more aggressive and demented, in sync with the theme proposed by the song’s name.

Rise offers thrilling Heavy Metal the way we headbanging bastards like it, also bringing elements from Sludge and Stoner Metal (therefore showing the band’s versatility) while Klejd simply kicks ass with his bass lines, supporting the song’s old school metallic lyrics (“I’m taking my chances / Roaming the streets / A wild stab in the dark / And over the fences / A million of thoughts / And fresh blood in the heart”). After a short eerie intro, the band delivers a dark version of Groove Metal with elements from Gothic Rock and Metal in You Fool, where Olsi steals the spotlight with his melancholic growls, supported by the heavy, obscure sounds blasted by all other bands members; followed by That Kind of Feeling, a dark semi-ballad by Crossbones featuring melodic elements from contemporary metal music blended with traditional vocal lines and the punch of Groove Metal, adding more taste to the album. And the second installment of the opening track, simply titled I’m God, Pt. 2, closes WWIII, beginning in a very sorrowful and pensive manner and being a lot more atmospheric than any other song of the album. In other words, a beautiful ending for WWIII, with Olsi having a truly passionate performance on vocals.

If you want to show your support to Crossbones and Albanian metal, simply visit their Facebook page, YouTube channel, SoundCloud and ReverbNation, and buy your copy of WWIII on iTunes, Amazon, Target, CD Universe, Walmart, hbdirect.com and several other retailers. We might not be ready for a real-life World War III, but we should all be more than happy with the music presented by this longstanding Albanian squad in WWIII, an album that will certainly cement the legacy of such important band for metal in Albania, in Eastern Europe and anywhere else where good music is appreciated.

Best moments of the album: Gates of Hell, Gjallë and Rise.

Worst moments of the album: Messing with the Masses.

Released in 2017 Nadir Music

Track listing
1. I’m God 6:55
2. Gates of Hell 5:52
3. Gjallë 4:39
4. WTF 6:32
5. Messing with the Masses 5:23
6. Schizo 6:05
7. Rise 4:41
8. You Fool 4:38
9. That Kind of Feeling 5:58
10. I’m God, Pt. 2 3:39

Band members
Olsi Ballta – vocals
Ben Turku – guitars
Klejd Guza – bass
Theo Napoloni – drums

Album Review – Blaze Bayley / Endure And Survive (Infinite Entanglement Part II) (2017)

The indomitable Blaze Bayley returns with the second installment of Infinite Entanglement, his most ambitious project to date, this time offering an action-packed album bursting with anger, passion and mystery.

Less than one year after the release of the gripping Infinite Entanglement, the indomitable Blaze Bayley returns with the also astounding Endure And Survive, the second part of his most ambitious project, a Sci-Fi trilogy about Mr. William Christopher Black, a man who doesn’t know if he’s a man or a machine on a futuristic mission to discover one of the new Kepler planets. After the dark and climatic ending of the first part, I’m sure all fans of the Heavy Metal crafted by Blaze (including myself, of course) have been waiting anxiously for the next chapter in the eccentric journey of our mysterious main character, and Endure And Survive offer us all that and more in a brilliant way.

Once again accompanied by the talented Chris Appleton (guitar), Karl Schramm (bass) and Martin McNee (drums), all from British Heavy Metal band Absolva, plus many other very special guests such as Anne Bakker (violin) and Thomas Zwijsen (acoustic guitars), Blaze continues to tell the story of William Black magnificently, with a lot of poetry in his lyrics and, as usual, endless passion and energy in his vocals. The album’s futuristic artwork, designed once again by Andreas Sandberg with additional images from Christopher Steenstrup (who is also working on a Blaze Bayley video game), builds an instant connection with part one, showing how focused Blaze was on providing his loyal fans the most cohesive and exciting story possible.

Shall we begin? That’s precisely how the powerful title-track Endure and Survive starts, exactly where the first part ended, with the music itself continuing to be heavy, melodic and thrilling. In my humble opinion, Blaze found in Chris the perfect guitarist for his vocals as we can see in this epic tune, not to mention the song’s inspiring chorus and the amazing narrations, effectively taking us to the Sci-Fi world created by Blaze. In Escape Velocity, the story goes on at the speed of light, with Chris, Karl and Martin crafting electrifying music full of exciting solos and fast beats, while Blaze canalizes all his passion for metal and science fiction into his potent vocals, resulting in another classic song that I can’t wait to see him performing live. And after a dark intro we’re treated to the best musicality Blaze and his bandmates can offer, titled Blood, a high-speed furious Heavy Metal hymn absolutely perfect for the song’s aggressive lyrics, with Chris being simply insane with his riffs. Furthermore, a man and a woman explain who William Black really is, a murderer with blood on his hands according to them. Is that really the truth? Well, I don’t know the answer, at least not yet, but I know this song kicks some serious ass.

A pensive and anguished William is the centerpiece of the dark composition Eating Lies, showcasing all the talent of Blaze as a storyteller, as you can feel all the inner suffering from the story’s main character due to the lies being told about him through his vocals; followed by Destroyer, presenting that traditional sonority by Blaze seen in pretty much all his albums. In other words, it’s a very cohesive and rhythmic song about the “destroyer of worlds”, with the classic beats by Martin and the soulful riffs and solos by Chris supporting another excellent performance by Blaze. Then we have the epic Dawn of the Dead Son, where a woman with a suave voice seems to be talking inside William’s mind, with the music being a mix of his years with Iron Maiden with his contemporary material, displaying a galloping rhythm and blazing guitars. Each and every song has a reason to exist and this one is no exception to that, taking the listener once again on a dangerous but exciting journey before a serene ambience takes place in the stunning acoustic chant Remember. This troubadour-inspired folk version of Blaze is simply superb, being more melodic and romantic than “What Will Come” from part one, with Blaze flawlessly declaiming the song’s lyrics. Needless to say, his partnership with Thomas and Anne couldn’t sound more in sync, with the song’s female backing vocals also being a thing of beauty.

Returning to a more classic musicality, Fight Back is a song that would have already been amazing on its own in any of Blaze’s old albums, but that in Endure And Survive also plays an important part in the storyline, with Karl and Martin adding tons of heaviness to the music, therefore making it easier for Blaze to effectively deliver his potent vocals. Exhibiting hints of the classic Doom Metal played by Black Sabbath and some songs by Dio in his solo career, in special his biggest hit Holy Diver, the stunning The World Is Turning the Wrong Way brings forward a sensational aura and a profound, catchy chorus, with Chris’ guitar sounding heavier than hell, absolutely in line with all the darkness and agony found in the song’s lyrics. And finally, we have Together We Can Move the Sun, the most introspective and passionate of all songs, with Blaze’s strong voice being flawlessly complemented by the female vocal parts. Blaze and his crew offer us all eight minutes of a touching ballad, showcasing classy guitar lines, inspiring lyrics and an enigmatic (and extremely climatic) conclusion, building a sensational expectation for the third and final installment of the story of William Black, and in the end we all understand what has to happen in part three. William Black must… DIE!

Despite being avid for the conclusion of Blaze’s futuristic adventure, I’m more than happy to wait for it listening to both Infinite Entanglement and Endure And Survive in a row, savoring each and every line declaimed by the Messiah in those two albums. His official Facebook page is probably the best place to keep updated with all advancements in the recording of the next album and to know when he’ll be crushing your city with his amazing metal, and in order to put your hands on the second part of this kick-ass trilogy simply visit his official webstore, iTunes, Amazon or Discogs. Only Blaze knows the destiny of the dauntless voyager William Christopher Black, if he will live or die, or even if his entire life was real, and that marvelous uncertainty created by Blaze is the main ingredient that makes Endure And Survive (as well as Infinite Entanglement) stand out beautifully in contemporary heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Endure and Survive, Blood, Remember, The World Is Turning the Wrong Way and Together We Can Move the Sun.

Worst moments of the album: None. The whole album is awesome.

Released in 2017 Blaze Bayley Recordings

Track listing
1. Endure and Survive 4:27
2. Escape Velocity 3:27
3. Blood 4:41
4. Eating Lies 4:48
5. Destroyer 4:30
6. Dawn of the Dead Son 5:19
7. Remember 3:58
8. Fight Back 3:25
9. The World Is Turning the Wrong Way 4:35
10. Together We Can Move the Sun 8:14

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

Guest musicians
Corvin Bahn – accordion
Anne Bakker – violin, backing vocals
Thomas Zwijsen – acoustic guitars
Liz Owen, Melissa Adams, Joanne Kay Robinson & Luke Appleton – backing vocals
Michelle Sciarrotta – backing vocals, acoustic guitars, narration
Rob Toogood – backing vocals, narration
Aine Brewer – narration

Album Review – SpiteFuel / Second To None (2017)

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a new flammable entity hailing from Germany is born, bringing you a broad spectrum of Heavy Metal, Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll always true to their motto “we don’t care, we just rock!”

There are countless instances in the world of heavy music when a fresh new start is necessary to fix some issues and flaws a band might have in order to move forward with their career, and in the case of German metallers SpiteFuel those changes couldn’t have been done at a better time, culminating with the release of their gripping new album titled Second To None. After the split-up of the also German group Strangelet in the beginning of 2016, three of the former members of the band, lead singer Stefan Zörner, guitarist Tobias Eurich and bassist Finn Janetzky joined forces with ex-Devil’s Darling members Timo Pflüger (guitar) and Björn-Philipp Hessenmüller (drums) to form SpiteFuel, aiming at blasting their traditional Heavy Metal and Hard Rock the likes of Judas Priest, Accept, Guns N’ Roses and Queensrÿche throughout the entire world, always remaining true to their motto “we don’t care, we just rock!”

Hailing form Heilbronn, a city in northern Baden-Württemberg, Germany, SpiteFuel offer the listener during Second To None’s over 45 minutes of music a broad spectrum of Heavy Rock, from hard neck-breakers and heavy mid-tempo pounders to fragile ballads full of emotion, all in the name of Rock N’ Roll. The cover artwork, made by renowned American artist Travis Smith (Seempieces), who has already worked with several iconic bands such as Nevermore, Iced Earth and Death, among others, completes a coherent overall picture of the music found in Second To None. Furthermore, despite being a newly reformed group, SpiteFuel still keeps the initial fire that gave birth to Strangelet burning inside them, proving their excitement and passion for heavy music will never cease no matter what.

The tribal and enthralling On Burning Wings introduces us to a Hard Rock extravaganza named Purified, where its blazing guitars and nonstop action fill every single space in the music. Moreover, Tobias and Timo blend the fury of German Power Metal and the fun of American Hard Rock in their riffs and solos, also presenting hints of the sonority crafted by Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Then we have a good dosage of headbanging riffs and crushing beats in a badass feast named By My Hand, an excellent choice for a rock n’ roll radio playlist where Stefan effectively plays the role of the band’s frontman like Vince Neil, Brett Michaels and so many other Hard Rock idols; followed by the even better Whorehouse Symphony, venturing through heavier fields with hints of Metallica and Avenged Sevenfold added to its already solid musicality. That fusion of metal styles ends up working extremely well, turning it into the best and most unique song of the album in my opinion, with highlights to the great performance by Stefan with his more aggressive vocals and to Finn with his rumbling bass lines.

In Regrets, what starts in a melancholic way quickly morphs into a pleasant power ballad, showcasing a passionate performance by Stefan on vocals while the rest of the band maintains a dark but smooth vibe flowing, including a soulful guitar solo to spice things up a bit; whereas in the first single of the album, Sleeping With Wolves, a howling wolf warns the listener a heavy music party is about to begin. It’s another song with pounding drums and heavier-than-usual riffs à la Avenged Sevenfold, without losing the harmony of Hard Rock and with highlights to the gripping performances by Stefan on vocals and the skillful Björn on drums. And the rising instrumental bridge Adamah’s Tribes works as a mysterious intro to Triad Of Faith, where the old school Heavy Metal riffs and solos by Tobias and Timo, together with the always thunderous bass guitar by Finn, give the Hard Rock played by SpiteFuel a more serious and epic taste.

Fly, a serene ballad by these talented German rockers, is a moment of peace amidst all the heaviness blasted throughout the rest of the album, with an absolute focus on the gentle vocals by Stefan, but all that tranquility doesn’t last for too long as the band gets back to their flammable rockin’ sounding in Devil’s Darling, named in allusion to one of the bands that originated SpiteFuel. Once again presenting sharp riffs and bass lines, it’s a good Hard Rock composition, albeit not as exciting as the rest of the album (it should sound a lot better if played live, though). And lastly, despite its melancholic start, It Remains Empty Forever quickly becomes an electrified Rock N’ Roll chant with modern Hard Rock and Heavy Metal elements, also displaying hints of progressiveness thanks to the drumming by Björn.

As mentioned in the beginning of this review, a new entity known as SpiteFuel was born from the ashes of Strangelet, and based on the high-quality of the music found in Second To None these German rockers seem to have finally found their desired shape and sound, which will certainly propel them to new heights in the rock and metal universe. You can get in touch with the guys through their official Facebook page, listen to their music through their BandCamp page, and buy your copy of Second To None at the MDD Records webstore, at the Nuclear Blast webstore, at the EMP webstore, on Amazon and at several other retailers such as Saturn and Media Markt. SpiteFuel don’t care, they just rock, and after taking a good listen at Second To None you’ll realize that’s exactly what they want us all to do together with them. Well, we can’t say no to some good old Rock N’ Roll, right?

Best moments of the album: Purified, Whorehouse Symphony and Sleeping With Wolves.

Worst moments of the album: Devil’s Darling.

Released in 2017 MDD Records

Track listing
1. On Burning Wings 1:14
2. Purified 3:49
3. By My Hand 4:21
4. Whorehouse Symphony 5:20
5. Regrets 6:17
6. Sleeping With Wolves 6:14
7. Adamah’s Tribes 0:40
8. Triad Of Faith 4:19
9. Fly 4:19
10. Devil’s Darling 4:10
11. It Remains Empty Forever 4:45

Band members
Stefan Zörner – vocals
Tobias Eurich – guitar
Timo Pflüger – guitar
Finn Janetzky – bass
Björn-Philipp Hessenmüller – drums