Album Review – Judas Priest / Firepower (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Epic Records

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

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


Metal Chick of the Month – Tina Guo

A true metal cello Wonder Woman!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Blaze Bayley Recordings

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Fighter Records

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

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


Beverage Review – Megadeth’s À Tout Le Monde Beer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Metal Chick of the Month – Amanda Somerville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Album Review – Vinide / Reveal (2018)

A science fiction story in the form of first-class Symphonic and Melodic Metal, thoroughly crafted by a skillful four-piece act hailing from Finland.

Finnish Symphonic Metal band Vinide was formed back in 2003 in Kuhmo, a town in Finland located at the south-eastern corner of the Kainuu region, by five high school students who shared the same interest in playing heavy music. Since their inception, Vinide have already released the full-length albums Vinide (2007) and Odes For Thoughts (2014), as well as the EP’s The Puzzle (2008) and Into The Waters (2010), but it’s now in 2018 with their new full-length opus titled Reveal that the band has put the pedal to the metal, increasing the strength, complexity and reach of their music. The composing of the new album begun in the spring of 2015, when vocalist and guitarist Elmeri Kinnunen came up with an idea of science fiction story, and after one and a half year in the making the band is finally ready to pierce our minds with the imposing sonority found throughout Reveal.

Featuring a classy artwork by Finnish graphic designer Petri Lampela, Reveal is a science fiction story about a former employee of a large information technology company named OMEGA who finds himself locked in a mental asylum and is even sentenced to death. After he escapes the asylum, he starts to search for what is really going on and what the biggest interest of OMEGA’s artificial intelligence project is. The fears of the future seem to come true, while the humankind is driving itself towards definite termination. The story goes on and a lot of plot twists are going to happen. How big is the urge to create something that humans don’t fully understand? What is going to happen to our hero during his journey to find out the origin of everything?

A futuristic and cinematic intro builds the stage for the symphonic extravaganza titled The Beginning Scene, which kicks off in full force with orchestrations and crushing riffs filling all spaces, before Elmeri starts telling the story proposed. Moreover, this song has a touch of Avantasia and Stratovarius added to its core, all beautifully complemented by the stunning vocals by guest soprano Minna Seilonen. Then we have Breakout, sounding more melodic, intricate and electrifying, and presenting that traditional Scandinavian Melodic Metal sonority with drummer Jaakko Juntunen living up to the legacy of icons such as Jörg Michael and Jukka Nevalainen, not to mention the fiery guitar solos by Elmeri and his bandmate Mikko Kähkönen; followed by the title-track Reveal, an introspective power ballad led by Elmeri and his dark vocals, continuing to tell the obscure story of the main character with all melancholy being boosted by smooth guitar lines together with acoustic moments, as well as the song’s awesome background symphonic elements.

In a bridge named Anger, an eerie voice gives more details about the evolution of the facts, being the perfect warm-up for the Opera Metal-inspired tune The Rat, blending the finesse of symphonic music with the fury of Heavy Metal, with highlights to the fantastic job done by Heikki Polvinen and his keys, supported by the classic riffs by Elmeri and Mikko while Minna once again embellishes the atmosphere with her angelical voice. In Plea, it’s time for another guest musician, Kaija Kinnunen, to lend her voice to a different character, explaining who that person is in Emanuel, an upbeat symphony of Scandinavian Metal, feeling and sounding very classy and impactful with great performances by Elmeri on vocals and Jaakko on drums, also presenting those fun traditional duels between guitars and keyboards.

The whole plan is finally revealed in the interesting The Truth, building an instant (and obvious) connection with The Plan, a mid-tempo Melodic Metal tune the likes of Avantasia, being more symphonic and imposing than previous tracks during its seven minutes of melodious waves of heavy music; whereas Believe offers the listener pure Power Metal infused with orchestral elements to make it bolder and more gripping, also presenting what can be considered the heaviest riffs by Elmeri and Mikko in the entire album. In addition, Heikki steals the spotlight with his epic keys, resulting in a song more-than-recommended for lovers of the more orchestral side of heavy music. And Vinide bring forward a modern, metallic beginning to another blast of kick-ass Symphonic metal titled Bombs, where it’s quite interesting to see in detail how the band manages to combine the core heaviness of Melodic Metal with the gentle side of symphonic music, creating an amazing full-bodied musicality for fans of the genre.

Another Dimension is in my opinion the most generic of all songs despite presenting solid guitars and keys and the always pleasant vocals by Minna, but fortunately that small slide doesn’t last for too long as Vinide fire another ass-kicking song named The Great Voyage, leaning towards more traditional Heavy Metal spiced up by Hard Rock elements, but of course without losing the band’s symphonic essence. In other words, it’s indeed a voyage through the realms of Scandinavian Metal full of classic guitar lines, whimsical keys and epic passages. And the ending song in Reveal, entitled Save the Earth, couldn’t sound more furious and potent, with the entire band delivering faster and heavier riffs and beats while Kaija adds a touch of modernity to the song by impersonating the program voice.

The best way to know more about Vinide and their futuristic realm of Symphonic Metal is by following them on Facebook and on VKontakte, and by listening to their music on YouTube, on Spotify and on SoundCloud. And if you’re a huge admirer of Symphonic and Melodic Metal with a thrilling story behind the music, you can purchase Reveal at the Inverse Records webstore, at Record Shop X or on Amazon, among other locations. To be fair, Reveal is already an excellent album even if you pay zero attention to the story being told, just to give you an idea of how talented the quartet is; but of course, I highly recommend you listen to the album from start to finish while being fully immersed in the perils faced by the main character. That is something truly unique, and something that only heavy music can provide you.

Best moments of the album: Breakout, The Rat, Believe and Bombs.

Worst moments of the album: Another Dimension.

Released in 2018 Inverse Records

Track listing    
1. Intro 1:31
2. The Beginning Scene 5:05
3. Breakout 4:20
4. Reveal 6:13
5. Anger 0:52
6. The Rat 5:00
7. Plea 0:27
8. Emanuel 5:46
9. The Truth 2:37
10. The Plan 7:04
11. Believe 4:50
12. Bombs 4:41
13. Another Dimension 5:49
14. The Great Voyage 5:44
15. Save the Earth 3:43

Band members
Elmeri Kinnunen – guitars, vocals
Mikko Kähkönen – guitars
Heikki Polvinen – keyboards
Jaakko Juntunen – drums

Guest musicians
Minna Seilonen – violin, soprano voice
Kaija Kinnunen – program voice, woman


Album Review – Sonic Prophecy / Savage Gods (2018)

Enjoy 10 fist-pounding tracks rooted in traditional Heavy Metal melded with the symphonic beauty of Power Metal, courtesy of a band that has the purest form of heavy music running through their veins.

Following their 2015 release Apocalyptic Promenade, an album that combined the melody and beauty of Symphonic Power Metal while maintaining the crunch, drive and power of traditional metal, plus their 2011 debut A Divine Act of War, which had its music placed in the television series Rock n’ Lock, the video game Volgarr the Viking and Danny Trejo’s 2006 movie Vengeance, American Power Metal warriors Sonic Prophecy return in 2018 with a brand new full-length album titled Savage Gods, featuring 10 fist-pounding tracks rooted in traditional Heavy Metal melded with the symphonic beauty of Power Metal, capturing the excitement and sound of such bands as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween, Hammerfall and Kamelot while blending other musical styles to arrive at a sound of their own.

Officially founded in 2008 in Salt Lake City, the capital and the most populous municipality of the state of Utah, in the United States, Sonic Prophecy showcase all their passion and commitment to old school Heavy Metal in Savage Gods, with the album lyrics covering topics commonly found in heavy music, such as medieval wars, mechanized genocide and the dangers associated with extremist ideologies. “We think our fans will love this album! Savage Gods, as a record, basically combines all of the things I think people liked about our previous releases and then moves us forward into new areas musically and lyrically. For our fans, there will be no mistaking this is Sonic Prophecy, but we definitely cover some new exciting ground on this record”, commented frontman Shane Provstgaard on the album, also adding that “this is pure heavy metal with driving guitars, thundering drums, and some of what I feel is my best vocal work to date. With songs Night Terror, Unholy Blood and the album title track, we’ve really laid down a brutal sonic backdrop, along with keeping the melody, which is important to our music.”

An Iced Earth-inspired intro ignites the full-bodied title-track Savage Gods, led by the sharp axes by guitarists Darrin Goodman and Sebastian Martin while tons of epicness flow from the potent vocals by Shane. And their feast of old school metal music goes on with another amazing tune titled Night Terror, where Shane elevates the impact of his vocals to an even higher level, boosted by the beyond classic beast by drummer Matt LeFevre, followed by Unholy Blood, a song that begins in full force with a spot-on guitar solo before becoming a mid-tempo epic chant. Needless to say, this amazing song will definitely please fans of bands like Iron Maiden, Iced Earth, Blind Guardian, Judas Priest, and so on.

In Dreaming Of The Storm the band brings forward darker, more introspective lines to give the sense of a storm inside our minds, with bassist Ron Zemanek making sure there’s a good amount of thunder in the given storm while Matt keeps the musicality flowing smoothly through his precise beats. Then we have the aggressive Man The Guns, an 80’s-inspired hymn with hints of Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll presenting galloping bass punches, exciting double bass roars and a good amount of shredding and solos, all embraced by Shane’s enraged performance on vocals.  What else can you ask for in heavy music, right? And leaning towards Melodic Metal the band fills our ears with very harmonious lines and smooth piano notes to make the overall result bolder in Walk Through The Fire, where Matt does a great job with his rhythmic beats while Darrin and Sebastian simply kick ass with their solos; whereas A Prayer Before Battle is one of those epic songs perfect for heading into the battlefield, with Shane evoking the gods of war with his Matt Barlow-like vocals, not to mention the NWOBHM-inspired drumming by Matt, guiding us to Valhalla together with Sonic Prophecy.

Iron Clad Heart is another song with a beautiful name and endless electricity flowing from all instruments, sounding like a hybrid between the music by Iced Earth and Iron Maiden, presenting accelerated riffs and beats while Shane continues to thrive on vocals. Put differently, if you love traditional metal from the bottom of your heart, this tune is absolutely made for you. The second to last song in Savage Gods, named Man and Machine, is one of those cases where if you listen to it as an individual song you’ll certainly enjoy it a lot, but compared to the rest of the album it lacks energy and impact. The low-tuned bass lines by Ron sound amazing throughout the whole song, though, but they’re not enough for the song to keep up with the other tracks. And last but not least Sonic Prophecy goes full Power Metal in Chasing The Horizon, delivering gripping riffs and fast-paced beats that effectively support another solid performance by Shane on vocals, with some nice variations making it sound like two songs in one.

It’s time to join Sonic Prophecy’s quest for traditional Heavy Metal by following them on Facebook and listening to their music on YouTube, and of course by purchasing the excellent Savage Gods at the band’s own webshop, at the Rockshots Records’ webshop, at the JPC webshop, and also on your usual online stores iTunes and Amazon. When Shane said Savage Gods is pure Heavy Metal he wasn’t exaggerating at all; quite the contrary, he was actually being slightly modest in his comment, as this album exhales the purest form of Heavy Metal, courtesy of a band that has incandescent metal running through their veins.

Best moments of the album: Night Terror, Man The Guns, A Prayer Before Battle and Iron Clad Heart.

Worst moments of the album: Man and Machine.

Released in 2018 Rockshots Records

Track listing   
1. Savage Gods 6:44
2. Night Terror 5:38
3. Unholy Blood 5:13
4. Dreaming Of The Storm 4:55
5. Man The Guns 5:04
6. Walk Through The Fire 7:09
7. A Prayer Before Battle 5:46
8. Iron Clad Heart 5:24
9. Man and Machine 6:44
10. Chasing The Horizon 6:14

Band members
Shane Provstgaard – vocals
Darrin Goodman – guitar
Sebastian Martin – guitar
Ron Zemanek – bass
Matt LeFevre – drums


Album Review – Rexoria / Queen Of Light (2018)

Welcome to the amazing world of Melodic Metal ruled by an up-and-coming four-piece act from Sweden.

Hailing from Jönköping, is a city on the shores of Lake Vättern, located in southern Sweden, Melodic Metal quartet Rexoria have been on a fast and healthy rise since their inception in 2016, having already toured several countries with bands like Bloodbound and Crystal Viper, as well as supporting renowned acts such as Backyard Babies, Entombed A.D. and Battle Beast in their homeland Sweden. And the reason for that amazing upward trend is obviously the extreme talent of their band members, their devoted passion for Heavy Metal and, as the icing on the cake, the stunning performance by frontwoman Frida Ohlin, who by the way was one of the finalists in the Swedish competition Årets Rockröst in 2016 (which would translate as “The Rock Voice”).

Blending their core Melodic Metal with folk influences, Rexoria released their debut EP in 2016, entitled Moments Of Insanity, followed by another EP in 2017, The World Unknown, both presenting what this talented Swedish band is capable of. However, it’s now with their first full-length album, elegantly named Queen Of Light, that fans of the more melodious side of Heavy Metal will be able to experience a full-bodied, detailed blast of the classy music crafted by Rexoria, heavily inspired by the golden years of Heavy Metal and spiced up by nuances of contemporary Power and Folk Metal. Put differently, if you’re crazy for Scandinavian Metal the likes of Stratovarius and Nightwish, you might have found your next addiction in heavy music.

The movie-inspired intro The Land in Between transports the listener to the whimsical and unknown world of Rexoria, with the guitar duo comprised of Jonas Gustavsson and Cristofer Svensson opening the gates for the harmonious vocals by Frida to welcome us all to the first song of the album, titled Stranded, a precise fusion of Melodic and Symphonic Metal highly inspired by bands like Epica and Nightwish; followed by the title-track Queen of Light, feeling even more imposing and melodic and also bringing elements from the classic Heavy Metal played by Doro, or in other words, it’s 80’s metal with a catchy chorus and electrifying riffs and beats where you can sense the amazing smell of epicness and power that permeates the air throughout the whole song. And leaning towards modern Folk Metal we have Voice of Heaven, with the keyboards by Frida generating a gentle ambience while the rest of the band makes sure the sounding remains as metal as it can be.

Way to Die is another stylish tune that effectively combines the more trenchant elements of Heavy Metal with the elegance and delicacy of symphonic and operatic music, with Frida once again having a remarkable performance with her potent voice. After such high-end display of heavy music we’re treated to a passionate, melancholic and gripping ballad named Song by the Angels, again taking us back to 80’s Heavy Metal with pure romance flowing from all instruments, especially the guitars by both Jonas and Cristofer which add tons of feeling and electricity to the overall result, whereas in Next Generation old school guitar riffs are in perfect sync with the precise beats by drummer Martin Gustavsson, not to mention the song’s fiery guitar solos and the epic vibe that supports the band from start to finish. The next tune, entitled The Saviour, offers more of Rexoria’s traditional metal lines with hints of Folk Metal and 80’s Hard Rock, with Jonas and Cristofer displaying all their passion for Melodic Metal by delivering smooth lines with their instruments and building the stage for Frida’s vocals to shine once again.

Hurricane is perhaps the most Heavy and Power Metal of all songs of the album (and definitely the most inspiring one), which is something you can already expect taking into account its name, showcasing an accelerated rhythm led by the potent drumming by Martin while Frida steals the spotlight yet again with her resonant vocal lines. Now think about an epic tune with a serene background led by the stunning vocals of a female warrior? That’s exactly what you’ll get in My Spirit Will Run Free, a song that can’t get any more 80’s than that, before the closing act You’ll Be Alright brings more of the band’s traditional musicality, with Jonas, Cristofer and Martin providing a beyond solid support for Frida to mesmerize us one last time, and when the song is over you’ll simply realize there’s nothing bad or out of place in the entire album.

You can purchase Queen Of Light at several online stores such as Pride & Joy Music, Nuclear Blast, and Bengans, as well as on iTunes and on Amazon, and remember you can always keep track of all things Rexoria through their official Facebook page, and listen to their music on YouTube and on Spotify. Then after having Queen Of Light on your hands, you’ll finally be allowed to enter the fantastic world of Melodic Metal ruled by Rexoria and let those four Swedish metallers guide you on a journey through the waves of harmonious and elegant Heavy Metal.

Best moments of the album: Queen of Light, Song by the Angels and Hurricane.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing   
1. The Land in Between 1:40
2. Stranded 4:49
3. Queen of Light 4:18
4. Voice of Heaven 4:43
5. Way to Die 4:16
6. Song by the Angels 5:36
7. Next Generation 4:18
8. The Saviour 4:44
9. Hurricane 4:53
10. My Spirit Will Run Free 5:11
11. You’ll Be Alright 5:37

Band members
Frida Ohlin – vocals, keyboards
Jonas Gustavsson – guitar, bass
Cristofer Svensson – guitar
Martin Gustavsson – drums


Album Review – Magick Touch / Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire (2018)

A “magickal” music journey to the golden years of rock and metal, reminding us all why we love those electrifying sounds so much.

In these times where trends seem to come and go on an almost monthly basis, sometimes it’s never more satisfying than to simply sit back and rock out. And that’s exactly what Norwegian Hard Rock/Rock N’ Roll power trio Magick Touch will make you do with their highly anticipated second full-length album, entitled Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, a beyond exciting follow-up to their critically acclaimed debut endeavor Electrick Sorcery, released in 2015. In other words, there are no tricks, no special effects nor any other type of shenanigans in Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, just three skillful musicians declaring all their passion for classic rock and metal through their music.

Formed in 2014 in Bergen, a southwestern coastal town in Norway, Magick Touch are HK Rein on guitar and vocals, Christer Ottesen on bass and vocals, and Bård Nordvik on drums, blending in their music several elements from the most classic forms of Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll with a strong focus on the synchronicity between their vocal lines and the slashing power of their guitar riffs. This Norwegian trinity of rock will take you on a journey to the golden years of rock music through the 10 electrifying tunes featured in Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, always reminding you why you love the gripping sounds of rock so much in your life.

And the Rock N’ Roll running through their veins becomes latent in the opening track, the upbeat Under The Gun, bringing the purest form of rockin’ riffs and the high-pitched, electrified vocals by HK, with the bass punches by Christer knocking us out within seconds, and keep banging your freakin’ heads nonstop and raising your beers to the soulful guitar lines by HK in The Great Escape, while Bård keeps pounding his drum kit mercilessly. Following such electrified start to the album we have Midnite Sadusa and its Cat Scratch Fever-inspired main riff, an ode to 70’s and 80’s Rock N’ Roll where Christer and Bård are responsible for creating a massive wave of rumbling tones perfect for the classic vocals by HK. Put differently, this is one of those songs that would have been an all-time classic if written 30 years ago.

Leaning towards more contemporary Hard Rock with hints of the sonority by bands like Nickelback and Breaking Benjamin (but also showcasing the band’s old school core essence), Believe In Magick is a song tailored for dancing together with your boyfriend or girlfriend at a rock n’ roll party; whereas the roaring bass by Christer takes the lead in this potent fusion of Southern Rock, Stoner Metal and Hard Rock titled Polonium Blues, which will certainly please all fans of the golden years of Southern Rock. In Siren Song we’re treated to a thrilling intro that keeps growing in intensity until groovy Rock N’ Roll fills our ears, presenting sharp guitar lines with psychedelic elements while the vocal lines sound hard and heavy just the way we all love in rock music. And speeding up their pace, Magick Touch deliver a flammable rockin’ chant named Lost With All Hands, with its guitar and bass slashing our brains while the beats by Bård don’t let us stop dancing for a single second.

Slowing down again and bringing elements from Blues Rock to their sonority, the band offers us After The Fire, a radio-friendly composition with a solid drumming and a catchy rhythm, despite losing its grip after a while, followed by Electrick Sorcery, the second to last Hard Rock comet by Magick Touch and, more important than that, their personal tribute to 70’s and 80’s Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal, showcasing amazing performances by all band members (especially HK with his passionate vocals and spot-on riffs), and with its backing vocals adding an extra touch of awesomeness to the overall result. Furthermore, the last part of the song is absolutely fantastic, with the band paying homage to KISS, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Dio, Motörhead and other rock and metal idols through the song’s clever lyrics. At long last we have a song which name could have been easily used by Manowar in one of their songs, the title-track Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, a mid-tempo heavy-as-hell hybrid of pure Rock N’ Roll with the most rumbling form of Southern Rock and Metal, also displaying an amazing chorus accompanied by the lowering bass by Christer and the slow, steady and fierce beast by Bård, even presenting some Iron Maiden-ish moments effectively inserted throughout its faster and more complex passages.

I guess I don’t need to say you should definitely let your rockin’ heart be touched by the electrifying and magical waves crafted by Magick Touch in Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, and in order to do that simply go visit their Facebook page, YouTube channel, Spotify and SoundCloud for news, tour dates, videos and, above all that, first-class Rock N’ Roll. Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, which is already on sale through several online stores such as the band’s own BandCamp page, the Edged Circle Productions’ webstore (in CD or LP format) and the Season of Mist’s webstore, as well as on Amazon, on iTunes or at Discogs, doesn’t aim at revolutionizing rock and metal music. Quite the contrary, Magick Touch’s main goal with their new album is simply to remind the whole world how awesome our good old Rock N’ Roll is and will always be, and the band not only nailed it, but they also provided us all a “magick” soundtrack to our days and moments on the road, at work, at school or anywhere else good music is needed.

Best moments of the album: Under The Gun, Midnite Sadusa and Electrick Sorcery.

Worst moments of the album: After The Fire.

Released in 2018 Edged Circle Productions

Track listing
1. Under The Gun 2:53
2. The Great Escape 2:56
3. Midnite Sadusa 3:39
4. Believe In Magick 3:36
5. Polonium Blues 4:17
6. Siren Song 4:30
7. Lost With All Hands 3:13
8. After The Fire 4:10
9. Electrick Sorcery 4:26
10. Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire 6:18

Band members
HK Rein – guitar, vocals
Christer Ottesen – bass, vocals
Bård Nordvik – drums, vocals