Album Review – Orchid / Miasma (2019)

Immerse yourself in the debut full-length opus by four Indian metallers who are not afraid to experiment with the new and the unknown, always ready to push their own boundaries in heavy music.

Formed in late 2011 in Bangalore (also known as Bengaluru), the capital of India’s southern Karnataka state, Avantgarde/Progressive Metal entity Orchid is a four-piece band comprised of Kaushal on vocals, Vinay on the guitar, Rahil on bass and Mayur on drums that plays a dense and very distinct blend of Heavy Metal with several other genres and styles such as Progressive Rock, Hardcore and Psychedelic Rock leanings (as well as Mathcore), pushing the boundaries of heavy music in the subcontinental underground and remaining one of the most original bands to emerge from the region.

In 2016, Orchid released their much-awaited self-titled debut EP to critical acclaim with Rolling Stone India calling it “one of the best cult classics of 2016” and “one of the most intriguing metal releases of the year”, inspiring the guys to keep moving forward and keep spreading their distinguished music to all four corners of the earth with their debut full-length opus Miasma, an album tailored for fans of bands like Dillinger Escape Plan, Gorguts and Frank Zappa, among others. Unlike their previous EP, which touched upon themes of techno-surrealism, Miasma is more straightforward with sociopolitical themes, with the artwork, done by the band’s own drummer through Copycat, containing elements from every song on the album.

An enraged scream by Kaushal kicks off the low-tuned, sluggish and heavy-as-hell opening track Obsolescence, with Vinay delivering lancinating riffs while Mayur brings tons of intricacy and dementia to the musicality with his beats, remaining crazy, vibrant and unique from start to finish, whereas in Solipsist we’re treated to two and a half minutes of top-notch Progressive Metal where Kaushal growls and roars manically while Vinay and Rahil give a lesson in progressiveness and heaviness with their stringed weapons. Then we have Master Supreme, a short and sweet headbanging tune led by the crushing drums by Mayur, bringing to our avid ears the most insane elements from Progressive and Groove Metal. “The song is about the pervasive influence and the growing epidemic of gurus/godmen and their cults in Indian society as well as abroad. Religion and spirituality is the biggest scam in the world; and because we live in India, we have a front-row seat to the circus,” commented the band about this austere and captivating song.

After the shortest song of the album, it’s time for the longest one, titled Dead End, offering seven minutes of insanity, rage and eccentricity. In other words, a full-bodied sonic extravaganza full of breaks and variations, not to mention the beautiful Jazz-inspired passage featuring guest Aadarsh Subramaniam and his old school keyboard solo, building an instant bridge to the also pulverizing Identoid, where Rahil extracts truly thunderous roars from his bass while Mayur and Kaushal “duel” to see who’s the most aggressive and demented one, maintaining the album at a high level of ferocity and intricacy. Following such fun tune we have Sugar Pill, showcasing the most progressive of all starts but quickly morphing into a sonic onrush of crisp guitar riffs, Hardcore-inspired drums and raspy growls, fading into a very alternative and sluggish outro, before Zero-Sum Game comes crushing like a thunderbolt, already beginning in full force and bringing a violent Kaushal on vocals, while Vinay keeps firing his classic and slashing guitar lines in a lesson in modern-day Progressive Metal with Avantgarde Metal and Mathcore nuances. Lastly the band offers us all Disassembly Line, not as vibrant and crushing as all previous songs but still a good sample of all the madness the quartet can blast through their music, with highlights to the once again amazing job done by Mayur on drums.

In a nutshell, the guys form Orchid were able to condense all their skills, influences and rage in a very intricate and solid way throughout Miasma, placing their brand new album as a fresh option for fans of heavy music who are always in pursuit of bands that think outside the box and that are not afraid to experiment with the most distinct music styles and genres. Having said that, what are you waiting for to show your support to those Bangalore-based metallers? Go check what they’re up to on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their music, and purchase Miasma directly from their BandCamp page as well as from Instamojo. I bet you’ve never thought metal music made in India could sound so insane and eccentric like this, right?

Best moments of the album: Obsolescence, Dead End and Zero-Sum Game.

Worst moments of the album: Disassembly Line.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. Obsolescence 5:54
2. Solipsist 2:34
3. Master Supreme 1:10
4. Dead End (feat. Aadarsh Subramaniam) 6:59
5. Identoid 2:47
6. Sugar Pill 4:22
7. Zero-Sum Game 4:32
8. Disassembly Line 3:48

Band members
Kaushal – vocals
Vinay – guitars
Rahil – bass
Mayur – drums, percussion

Guest musician
Aadarsh Subramaniam – keyboard solo on “Dead End”

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Metal Chick of the Month – Wanda Ortiz

I’ve been looking so long for you now… You won’t get away from my grasp…

As 2019 promises to be another memorable year for Maidenmaniacs from all over the world, especially for the ones that reside in the United States, Canada, Mexico and South America who will have the utmost pleasure of seeing Steve, Bruce & Co. live during their upcoming Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019, there’s nothing better than kicking off our Metal Chick of the Month section with an amazing bass player that truly understands what it means to be part of the legacy (and also continuing our tradition of starting the year with a badass girl on bass guitar, of course). I’m talking about Wanda Ortiz (or Wanda A. Ortiz), the skillful bass player for the all-female tribute band The Iron Maidens (billed as the “World’s Only Female Tribute to Iron Maiden”) under the brilliant stage name of Steph Harris, who’s ready to crush your skull in half to the sound of her thunderous, galloping bass allied to her endless stamina when performing live.

Born on March 27, 1968 in Huntington Beach, a California city southeast of Los Angeles, Wanda first learned to play bass at the early age of nine years old, when the elementary school she attended had a music program that enabled students to sign up and choose an instrument. When she arrived late on the first day of music class, she wound up with a junior-sized double bass, and from that moment on we can say it was “love at first gallop”. In addition to that, while she took lessons on the double bass, also known as an upright bass, Wanda also taught herself how to play electric bass when she was 11 years old in order to play in the school jazz band, and she continued playing bass throughout her school years, eventually earning a Bachelor of Music in Performance (BMus) degree from UCI – University of California, Irvine. One funny thing about Wanda and her relationship with the bass guitar is that, according to Wanda herself, she felt a little sad about her instrument when in high school because she could rarely play the melody, which were the fun parts for her, as she got stuck with simpler lines meant to hold down the beat (in other words, a typical bass line), which despite being very important could get really boring at times. Luckily, she had a friend who told her about bands like Iron Maiden and Rush that really featured bass in their music and, after listening to them, she felt a lot better.

Moving on to her career as a musician, our dauntless bassist, who plays a variety of styles such as Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Blues and classical music armed with her glitter blue G&L SB-2 bass guitar and her black SB-2 bass guitar on select shows, started playing in a more professional way in 1997, when she joined a California-based Punk Rock/Rock N’ Roll band named Rotten Rod & The Warheads. She was their bassist from 1997 to 2002, having recorded with the band a demo in 1998 titled Practice Bomb (under the eccentric moniker of “Wanda Smart Bomb”), containing songs like Germs and Cruel World. I don’t know about you, but I would love to listen to the music by this fun and electrifying band on any rock n’ roll radio out there. Anyway, while still playing for Rotten Rod & The Warheads, she was also the bassist for Heartache City from 1999 to 2001, with whom she recorded the band’s self-titled album in 2001. I couldn’t find anything online form this band, but if Wanda was their bass player I’m sure their music was at least fun to listen to, right? Furthermore, Wanda was also the bassist for a Huntington Beach-based Rock/Blues band named Field of Vision in 2004, having recorded with them the six-track album FOV that same year, highly influenced by renowned acts such as David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Velvet Underground. Once again, there’s nothing online about this specific album, but as aforementioned we know from the bottom of our hearts it’s good music we’re talking about. As a matter of fact, in 1998 and 2004, she won the Best Female Bassist award at the Rock City News Awards and, in 2003, she also won the best bassist award at The All Access Music Magazine Awards, proving how talented and focused she has always been as a musician.

In addition to those previous acts and to The Iron Maidens, our ass-kicking bassist also works as a freelance musician in various groups and orchestras in the Southern California area, including The South Coast Symphony as principal bassist since 1996. When asked about how different it is playing for The South Coast Symphony and for The Iron Maidens, if that’s the type of diversity she needs in her playing style, Wanda said that she likes to play classical music just as much as metal, and after playing an upright bass she thinks it keeps her chops up, also saying that it’s like someone who enjoys playing basketball and baseball, two different sports but both fun, which is the same with classical music and metal for her. Moreover, her talent is also recognized by several important brands and companies, being endorsed by BBE Sound, Digitech, Dunlop Manufacturing, G&L Musical Instruments, RotoSound Strings, Schroeder Superior Sound Cabinets, Coffin Case and Monster Energy Drink, and she’s also been in a couple of interesting documentaries recently, those being Hair I Go Again (2016) and the upcoming Rock Is Dead? (2019).

It was in September 2002 when Wanda finally joined The Iron Maidens, remaining with the band ever since and adopting her stage name “Steph Harris” as an obvious reference to Iron Maiden’s iconic bassist and founder Mr. Steve Harris. So far, she has recorded with the band the albums World’s Only Female Tribute to Iron Maiden (2005), Route 666 (2007), The Root of All Evil (2008) and the video Metal Gathering Tour Live in Japan (2010), trying to be as loyal as possible to Iron Maiden’s original sound. In one of her interviews, Wanda said that when she joined the band everyone was just looking for a fun and original side project (there were already several all-female tribute acts for bands like AC/DC in the area), as they all had their own bands and projects, with a goal of playing maybe once or twice a month at some local pubs. However, after the first few shows a lot of people started calling them, with things really kicking off after the band had been together for about a year despite the fact they never took themselves too seriously at that time. As a matter of fact, if there’s one thing they always took very seriously was the music, always trying to replicate the original tones from Iron Maiden the best possible way even with the different instruments they use like Wanda’s bass, which is technically a Fender bass but not the same one used by Steve. If you want to take a good listen at how amazing Wanda and the girls from The Iron Maidens are, simply search for them on YouTube, as there are countless fantastic videos of their live performances such as The Trooper and Die With Your Boots On in California in 2014, or these two full concerts recorded in New York in 2018 and in California in 2013. Also, how about a nice and relaxed interview with the entire band conducted by Grasser Production in 2017 called “15 questions with The Iron Maidens”?

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Regarding the songs she likes to play the most from the Iron Maiden vast and rich discography, she said her all-time favorite are Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra), Phantom of the Opera, Powerslave and Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and when questioned if it’s hard for The Iron Maidens to come up with a setlist to please all fans she said it’s not difficult at all because it’s drummer Linda McDonald who keeps track of all places the band plays and what songs they played before, also taking into account her own endurance and the timing for their lead singer to do a costume change, for example, and always focusing on old songs not usually played by Iron Maiden during their current concerts and tours. She was also questioned if she ever struggles with identity, wanting to do her own original material and showcasing it, and she said she doesn’t really have any issues with that, stating that she actually enjoys playing music written by a wide variety of different composers, either metal or orchestral music, and that it doesn’t stop her from writing her own music which she has done before in original bands. Also, when asked if the band has ever had to deal with any issues related to artwork, royalties, cease-and-desists from lawyers or anything like that, she said the band does everything they can to avoid that, but that they were asked to change their logo many years ago (and they did). She complemented by saying that wasn’t a big deal, and she doesn’t think the guys from Iron Maiden were even aware of it; they simply have a good team of people who help look after everything.

Of course, it’s impossible not to talk about her “relationship” with Mr. Steve Harris and his two-fingered galloping bass method. In one of her interviews, Wanda talked about how much Steve Harris and his bass have influenced her taste for music and her playing style, talking about the aforementioned story of her playing only the basic notes while her friends would play the melodies with their violins and violas in high school, but that after listening to the all-time classic Piece of Mind she fell in love with her bass guitar again and never stopped listening to the music by Iron Maiden ever since. Apart from Steve Harris, she also cites Geddy Lee, lead vocalist, bassist, and keyboardist for Canadian Rock titans Rush, and Chris Squire, bassist and founding member of English Progressive Rock band Yes, among her influences, once again showing how much she loves the most intricate, unique and vibrant sounds anyone can extract from a bass guitar. There’s also a price to pay for having Steve Harris as her major influence, and especially for playing Iron Maiden’s music, which comes in the form of fans who believe they can offer her advice on how to perform that material beyond her considerable talent. “Every once in a while, there will be a bass player in the audience. There’s a couple songs that I’ve gotten used to playing it a certain way or maybe a different position, but they’re the same notes, but it’s not the same position (Harris) plays it in. Sometimes I’ll get that, or sometimes I’ll get like, ‘Well, Steve uses two fingers’. Well, okay. Sometimes I’ll hear that. Very rarely though,” said our talented bassist.

Wanda’s first ever Iron Maiden concert happened many years ago during the World Slavery Tour, when according to Wanda herself she didn’t drink anything to avoid having to leave to use the bathroom, as she didn’t want to miss any part of the show (well, it’s the same for me). Years later, Wanda was even able to get to know Iron Maiden in person when Michael Kenney, Steve’s long-time bass tech and the band’s onstage keyboard player, introduced the whole band to them at a concert in Irvine, California. Wanda and the other girls were obviously nervous at first for meeting their idols, but the guys were really friendly to them and down to earth, making the whole experience very pleasant. The only thing that didn’t go as planned was that they weren’t able to give them cookies that they baked specially for them, as their singer left them in her car. I’m pretty sure those cookies were delicious, but you know what was even better than that? The fact that The Iron Maidens were not only able to meet their icons in person for the first time ever, but also that the band led by Mr. Steve Harris supports them, acknowledging their undisputed talent, their passion for metal and their hard work, and that they can rest assured “Steph Harris” and the girls will always represent this more “feminine” and “delicate” side of Eddie with a lot of energy, respect and admiration. Having said that, don’t forget to check Wanda and the girls live whenever they take your city by storm, and of course, as usual… UP THE IRONS!

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“As a bass player, of course, you’re going to be drawn to music more challenging, interesting and fun. I’ve always been an Iron Maiden fan since I was very young. When the band first formed everybody wanted to do something different, something more challenging. Since we all wanted something unique that nobody else was really doing, we thought Iron Maiden would be a good fit. We are all coincidentally huge Iron Maiden fans, so that made it better.” – Wanda Ortiz

The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2018

“Chasing a dream as I go higher
Playing it mean, my heart’s on fire
Living my life, ain’t no pretender
Ready to fight with no surrender.” – No Surrender, by Judas Priest

Another year goes by and, as usual, we lost a lot of good people, including family and friends. In heavy music, 2018 was the year several amazing musicians passed away, such as Dave Holland (former drummer of Judas Priest), Ralph Santolla (former guitarist of Iced Earth, Deicide, Death and Obituary), Vinnie Paul (the talented drummer of Hellyeah, Pantera and Damageplan), Jill Janus (the stunning vocalist of Huntress), and “Fast” Eddie Clarke, one of the meanest guitarists in history and the last of Motörhead’s “Three Amigos”, signaling the definitive end of Motörhead’s classic lineup. Not only that, we also saw the one and only Glenn Tipton, the iconic lead guitarist for Heavy Metal giants Judas Priest and one of the most influential guitar players in the history of metal, opening up about his ongoing fight against Parkinson’s disease and, as a consequence, having to pull out of the 2018 tour due to his health issues. However, as the Metal Gods themselves sing in their new ass-kicking song No Surrender, we can’t surrender and should keep on fighting with our heads high, always listening to our good old Heavy Metal to inspire us to face our daily struggles.

Enough said already, how about we show the world that we metalheads are still here, always ready for a fight, and that metal music is alive and kicking with The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2018, excluding EP’s, best of’s and live albums? From classic bands like Judas Priest, Behemoth and Immortal, to underground bands from all four corners of the earth like Ukraine’s 1914, Australia’s Rise of Avernus and Canada’s Altars of Grief, we can say that 2018 was a damn good year for our beloved Heavy Metal, pointing to a promising future for all its genres and subgenres and proving once again that metal unites us all it doesn’t matter where we live, our culture, language, race or religion. So, get ready to raise your horns and bang your heads nonstop to our selection of best metal albums of the year, and always remember… NO SURRENDER!

1. Judas Priest – Firepower (REVIEW)
The Metal Gods are firing on all cylinders with their majestic new album of pure and highly inspired Heavy Metal.
Best song of the album: Firepower

2. Blaze Bayley – The Redemption of William Black (REVIEW)
What does the future hold for Mr. William Christopher Black? Enjoy the dramatic conclusion to Blaze’s stunning Infinite Entanglement Trilogy.
Best song of the album: The Dark Side of Black

3. Behemoth – I Loved You at Your Darkest (REVIEW)
Poland’s most blasphemous metal institution returns after four years with a much more melodic and dynamic approach than before.
Best song of the album: Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica

4. Dragonlord – Dominion (REVIEW)
Exploring themes of darkness, here comes Eric Peterson’s Symphonic Black and Thrash Metal project with their first album in 13 years.
Best song of the album: Northlanders

5. Primal Fear – Apocalypse (REVIEW)
The Teutonic eagles of Power Metal return with another sensational opus showcasing the perfect amount of creativity and melody.
Best song of the album: The Ritual

6. Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods (REVIEW)
The Gates of Blashyrkh have finally opened again to the sound of the pulverizing new album by the Northern Chaos Gods of Black Metal.
Best song of the album: Mighty Ravendark

7. 1914 – The Blind Leading the Blind (REVIEW)
It’s time to head into the battlefields of the Great War together with these Ukrainian Blackened Death and Doom Metal infantrymen.
Best song of the album: Passchenhell

8. Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau (REVIEW)
Here come Australia’s own Rise of Avernus with their most symphonic, heaviest and darkest opus thus far.
Best song of the album: Eigenlicht

9. Altars of Grief – Iris (REVIEW)
A superb album of Canadian Blackened Doom narrating a tragic story of a deeply flawed man and his dying daughter.
Best song of the album: Broken Hymns

10. Marduk – Viktoria (REVIEW)
A furious and aggressive fusion of Marduk’s classic Black Metal with their more contemporary warlike sound.
Best song of the album: Viktoria

And here we have the runner-ups, completing the top 20 for the year:

11. Stormzone – Lucifer’s Factory (REVIEW)
12. Motorjesus – Race to Resurrection (REVIEW)
13. Borgne – [∞] (REVIEW)
14. SynlakrosS – Malice Murder (REVIEW)
15. Xenoblight – Procreation (REVIEW)
16. Kaoteon – Damnatio Memoriae (REVIEW)
17. Tamerlan Empire – Age of Ascendancy (REVIEW)
18. Coiled Around Thy Spine – Shades (REVIEW)
19. Chthonic – Battlefields of Asura (REVIEW)
20. NovaReign – Legends (REVIEW)

In addition, how about another round of awesome albums released this year, this time presenting to you our Top 10 EP’s of 2018? Those shorter-than-a-regular-album but still heavier-than-hell releases are like going to a fancy restaurant, where you might not get a humongous amount of food, but what’s served on your plate is more than enough to please your palate (or your ears, in this case). And, of course, you leave the place eager for more of that tasty and exquisite metal music.

1. Violent Life Violent Death – Come, Heavy Breath (REVIEW)
2. Strangle Wire – The Dark Triad (REVIEW)
3. Godless – Swarm (REVIEW)
4. The Black Swamp – Witches (REVIEW)
5. Progenie Terrestre Pura – starCross (REVIEW)
6. Lebowskii – Liquidators (REVIEW)
7. Geisterwald – Geisterwald (REVIEW)
8. Soul Dissolution – Nowhere (REVIEW)
9. Dark Archive – Cultivate Our Blood in Aeon (REVIEW)
10. Forte Ruin – Rebuilding the Machinery (REVIEW)

Do you agree with our list? What are your top 10 albums of 2018? Once again don’t forget to check Antichrst Magazine’s Top 10 Albums of 2018 (Editorial Staff), tune in to Timão Metal every Tuesday on Rádio Coringão for a sensational fusion of metal and soccer, and to The Headbanging Moose Show every Thursday on Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio for the best of the underground and independent metal scene!

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2019!

And last but not least, if you want to support Glenn Tipton and everyone else on their personal battles against Parkinson’s, you can purchase the official Glenn Tipton Parkinson’s Foundation Charity T-shirt by clicking HERE or make a direct donation following the instructions found HERE. You can always help your family, friends and fellow metalheads, as simple as that, and who knows, maybe we can make this world a better place to live.

Accessories Review – Iron Maiden 2019 Calendar

Are you already on your personal countdown to become part of the legacy on the upcoming Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019?

As there are only a few days left until 2018 comes to its inevitable end, it’s time to get ready for the year that’s about to start with the already classic annual calendar by Heavy Metal titans Iron Maiden, allowing you to properly count the days until Bruce, Steve & Co. take your city by storm with their undisputed Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019. And although the Iron Maiden 2019 Calendar might not be a masterpiece, mainly because the manufacturer, your friendly neighborhood Danilo Promotions Limited, missed a fantastic chance of crafting the entire calendar based on all the different Eddies from their critically-acclaimed, epic mobile game Legacy of the Beast, it’s still a fun piece to add to your collection.

As I said, instead of assigning a distinct (and ass-kicking) Eddie from the game to each month of the calendar, such as the Eternity Eddie, the Vampire Hunter Eddie, the Grim Reaper Eddie or the Samurai Eddie, they decided to take a more conventional path by simply adding pictures of the band members taken during their Legacy of the Beast Tour 2018. The front cover and the photos chosen to be part of the calendar are amazing, no doubt about that, especially the ones from February, April and September, but as a Maidenmaniac I still believe the Eddies would have been a much more suitable choice. Well, we can’t actually complain about that if you take a look at all previous versions, as it seems the manufacturer alternates between an Eddie-themed calendar (like their amazing 2018 edition) and a version containing solely band photos from year to year. Having said that, who knows, maybe next year when the 2020 version of the calendar is released we get all those fancy Eddies from the game, right?

Iron Maiden 2019 Square Global (Multilingual Edition)

Anyway, just like in all previous years, the 2019 calendar dimensions (30.4 x 1.5 x 42.4 cm) and weight (299 g) are quite standard, and you can purchase your copy of it from your regular retailers such as the Iron Maiden webstore, Danilo.com, Amazon (USCanada or UK, for example), and Calendar Club. In addition, don’t forget there’s always the 12 x 12 version of the calendar named Iron Maiden 2019 Square Global (Multilingual Edition) if you prefer that specific format, although I believe it will be hard for anyone to find it online for purchase (it’s sold out in most locations) unless you go for the alternate version with a different front cover sold by BrownTrout. The price of the calendar, that being either the regular A3 version or the 12 x 12, varies depending on where you buy it, but I would say anything between 15 and 20 US Dollars should be fine.

Iron Maiden 2019 Square Global (BrownTrout Version)

In a nutshell, this is another good quality merch released by the one and only Iron Maiden that will certainly please most of their diehard fans (like this guy here who’s writing this review to you right now), also helping them count the days to their upcoming Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019 as already mentioned, especially if you live in North or South America. I’m already on my personal countdown to the two concerts in a row I’m attending here in Toronto, eager to see them performing their all-time classics mixed with some of my favorite “underground” hymns such as Where Eagles Dare, The Clansman, Flight of Icarus, Sign of the Cross and The Wicker Man for the first time after so many years and, as a consequence, becoming part of the legacy together with one of the most important bands not only in the history of metal, but of music in general.

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Album Review – mTORR / North (2018)

Enjoy the brainchild of a true Northman highly influenced by 80’s True Metal and Nordic themes, delivering raw and merciless riffs for admirers of the golden years of traditional heavy music.

Hailing from the Finnish city of Äänekoski, here comes a Heavy/Viking Metal one-man band highly influenced by 80’s True Metal bands such as Running Wild, Manowar, Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol, as well as the always interesting Nordic themes, delivering raw, uncompromised and merciless music for admirers of the golden years of traditional metal music. I’m talking about mTORR, the brainchild of Finnish multi-instrumentalist Arska (whose real name is Ari Honkonen), from renowned underground bands like Heathen Hoof, Minotauri and Morningstar, a solo project formed in 2017 who’s unleashing upon humanity  in 2018 the full-length opus North. Featuring a cover photo by Timo Honkonen and guest drummer Viljami (or Viljami Kinnunen) lending his talent to a few songs from the album, North is the natural follow-up to the project’s two previous EP’s, Nordic Iron Age and Viking Metal Rock, both also released in 2018, once again translating into music all the passion for Heavy Metal coming from the heart of a true Northman like Arska.

The album’s intro will take you to the shores of the realm ruled by the true metal warrior Arska and his mTORR, warming your senses up for the Manowar-inspired hymn Thundergod with its four minutes of crisp guitar riffs, galloping bass lines, pounding drums and an epic Running Wild-like rhythm and vibe, and exhaling epicness and might we have The Golden Fields of Tawastia, where Arska’s guitar lines sound captivating from start to finish, adding an extra touch of adrenaline to the music. However, the drums sound and feel slightly weird, not as precise as in the previous song, reducing the overall impact considerably. Then again blending the classic sonority by bands like Manowar, Running Wild and Iron Maiden, Arska delivers inspiring Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll music in Nordic Rocker, with his bass lines and drums generating a powerful support for his warlike vocals.

Razor-edged guitars ignite another old school tune named A Halo from the Gods, perfect for banging your head and raising your fists together with mTORR, also bringing fiery guitar solos and endless stamina, setting the tone for Nordic Hammer, with its pure Manowar lyrics (“In the hammer we trust! / You can’t take it away! / That’s the way we believe! / We’re the sons of the North!”), while the song’s pace and atmosphere remind me of the early days of Running Wild, or in other words, a combination that translates into awesomeness of course. Arska keeps smashing and pounding his strings like the mighty Thor with his hammer in another rhythmic and rumbling song titled Rock för North, where the bass lines get more thunderous than ever, keeping the music vibrant and fresh from start to finish; and putting the pedal to the metal, Arska is once again supported by the headbanging beats by Viljami in Guardians of Light, a song that will please all fans of the fusion between Heavy Metal, Rock N’ Roll and Viking Metal.

Then a video game-ish bridge named The Raid of Sigtuna warms up our senses for Metal for the North, a fast-paced, epic creation by Arska showcasing cutting riffs and classic drums, not to mention its lyrics which are a beautiful ode to his homeland (“Beautiful Scandinavia – Ancient Fennoscandia – Are the soul of a northern warrior – And the crystal clear ice! / Metal makes us stronger – And the northern legacy / Forward together – We’re playing metal for the North!”). mTORR’s second to last blast of battle-like metal and rock from the North comes in the form of Fennoscandian Nights, displaying a galloping bass in total sync with Arska’s always classic riffs, boosting its impact on the listener considerably, before the demo version for Fennoscandian Heathens (actually, the sound quality is just as good as the rest of the album despite being called a demo) comes crushing, sounding faster and just as epic and imposing as all previous songs, being a recommended choice for singling along with Arska and a climatic conclusion to this interesting tribute to all things North.

As already mentioned, North is not just an album of old school metal music, but the musical depiction of all the passion and appreciation the talented Arska nurtures for his homeland, and if you also want to show your support to his new project mTORR and to the stunning landscapes of the North, you can purchase your copy of the album from the Alone Records’ webstore in CD or vinyl format, as well as from the High Roller Records’ webstore (also in CD or vinyl) or from Discogs (in CD or vinyl), with all 250 hand-numbered vinyl copies coming with a sticker and the first 100 copies with a poster. As you can see, you cannot simply download North like most albums nowadays. North is a tribute to the past, and that’s how it’s supposed to be admired by us, old school metalheads.

Best moments of the album: Thundergod, Nordic Rocker, Nordic Hammer and Metal for the North.

Worst moments of the album: The Golden Fields of Tawastia.

Released in 2018 Alone Records

Track listing
1. Intro 1:05
2. Thundergod 4:08
3. The Golden Fields of Tawastia 3:27
4. Nordic Rocker 3:39
5. A Halo from the Gods 3:59
6. Nordic Hammer 2:07
7. Rock för North 3:34
8. Guardians of Light 3:07
9. The Raid of Sigtuna (Instrumental) 1:17
10. Metal for the North 3:36
11. Fennoscandian Nights 3:54
12. Fennoscandian Heathens (Demo) 3:10

Band members
Arska – vocals, all instruments

Guest musician
Viljami – drums on “Thundergod”, “Guardians of Light” and “Fennoscandian Heathens”

Album Review – Tyrannic / Ethereal Sepulchre (2018)

A dark beast of doom in the form of an uncompromising album of true and raw heavy music, courtesy of a trinity whose veins pump with the pulse of Black, Thrash and Doom Metal.

Formed in 2010 under the antipodean sky of Sydney, Australia, the ruthless Thrash/Doom Metal entity known as Tyrannic has been paving their own twisted path with a dark and sinister mindset since their inception, and despite several lineup changes over the years the band’s founding member R has constantly driven the band forward from behind the kit with his signature vocal style and dedication to the “do-it-yourself” principles and aesthetic of the underground. After releasing a couple of demos, a split album and a live tape through the years, it’s time for Tyrannic to unleash their dark beast of doom with their honest and uncompromising debut album titled Ethereal Sepulchre, crafted with a very personal approach to carving its own unique and disgusting mould.

Featuring four long tracks of heinous, horrific and bizarre sounds, the most primitive rumblings straight from the beast’s belly, Ethereal Sepulchre offers the listener unadulterated metal from a trinity whose veins pump with the pulse of Heavy Metal. Furthermore, R describes the album as a release which “projects complete darkness in the most obscure form”, with its lyrical content being an expression of his innermost exploration into abstract thought, madness and insanity, all driven by experiential death worship. In other words, if you’re a fan of the obscure music by iconic bands from distinct genres but with the same appreciation for the dark, like Black Sabbath, Celtic Frost, Emperor and Dark Funeral, among several others, get ready for a visceral and thunderous descent into the pits of hell with Tyrannic.

The first track of the album, a demonic welcome card by the trio entitled Serpent Scythe, brings forward classic, old school Black Metal from the very first second spiced up by hints of the Doom Metal played by Black Sabbath, with R’s growls being a demonic fusion of the vocals by Tom Araya (Slayer) and Mortuus (Marduk), while Morgan and J slash their strings in a hellish manner. And Tyrannic’s evil triumvirate keeps delivering darkness and dementia through their instruments in the sluggish and medieval Possession of Accursed Inheritance, offering over 12 minutes of obscurity in the form of Black Metal infused with Blackened Doom nuances. Moreover, R gets more and more deranged on vocals while his beats exhale madness and aggressiveness, until the band’s sonic onslaught of Stygian sounds ends with the creepy sound of a mysterious organ.

In the following tune, named Tyrannic Deluge, what starts in a somber Doom Metal-inspired manner suddenly explodes into flammable Black Metal from the netherworld, with J firing scorching hot riffs form his guitar. This can be considered the most complete and electrifying of all four tracks, remaining pulverizing throughout its 14 devilish minutes, flowing like an ardent blaze through the forest until its Funeral Doom-inspired grand finale. And R, J and Morgan unite their darkened forces once again for one final blast of hellish Black Metal in the title-track Ethereal Sepulchre, delivering blasphemous vociferations, somber riffs and bass punches, and pounding beats, evolving into a menacing hybrid between old school Black Metal and low-tuned, demonic Doom Metal that remains utterly disturbing and vile for our total delight.

In summary, if you are one of those metalheads who simply love to have your soul darkened by the damned sounds blasted by bands from the underworld of heavy music, then Ethereal Sepulchre should definitely become part of your devilish collection. Hence, in order to put your hands on such sulfurous album, simply go to the Séance Records’ BandCamp or webstore (where you’ll find it in CD or in an old school, primeval tape format), as well as Discogs, to purchase your copy of it. And last but not least, don’t forget to show your support to such demented power trio by following them on Facebook, joining R, J and Morgan in their sonic crusade in the name of raw and aggressive Black, Thrash and Doom Metal.

Best moments of the album: Tyrannic Deluge.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Séance Records

Track listing
1. Serpent Scythe 6:07
2. Possession of Accursed Inheritance 12:13
3. Tyrannic Deluge 14:05
4. Ethereal Sepulchre 7:00

Band members
R – vocals, drums
J – guitars
Morgan – bass

Concert Review – Striker & Unleash The Archers (The Velvet Underground, Toronto, ON, 10/01/2018)

Do you want to know how to easily brave a cold and rainy Monday in Toronto? Striker and Unleash The Archers had the perfect recipe for that last night when they took our beloved city by storm.

OPENING ACT: Lutharö

Not only last night in Toronto was cold and rainy, but it was also a Monday, the day of the week all of us usually feel like doing absolutely nothing. However, when that same Monday offers us a night of pure Canadian Metal with the amazing bands Lutharö, Striker and Unleash The Archers at the small and very cozy The Velvet Underground, why not facing that shitty weather (I know it could have been a lot worse like what they’re having in Calgary now, but it’s still shitty) to meet some friends, enjoy a few beers and bang our fuckin’ heads to the best metal music you’ll find in the entire country? That, my friends, is the recipe for a packed (and hot) concert on what was supposed to be another boring Monday night, as simple as that.

Photos by Aline Cavalheiro – https://www.instagram.com/aline.cavalheiro81/

The first band of the night was Hamilton-based female-fronted squad LUTHARÖ, playing an extremely fun, crisp and pleasant fusion of 80’s Heavy Metal with modern-day Melodic Death Metal the likes of The Agonist and Arch Enemy. Spearheaded by the talented she-wolf Krista Shipperbottom, whose vocal style, hair and looks remind me of The Agonist’s stunning frontwoman Vicky Psarakis, the band delivered a solid performance for the fans at the venue who probably had zero knowledge of the band before the concert. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the names of all songs they played last night, but I do remember the names of my two favorite ones, I of the Axe and their newborn tune Unleash the Beast, and in both cases all band members kicked some serious ass. Having said that, don’t waste your time and go check their music out on YouTube and on BandCamp, and keep an eye on their Facebook page for news and tour dates, because you never know when Krista and her henchmen will mercilessly attack your hometown.

Band members
Krista Shipperbottom – lead vocals
Victor Bucur – lead guitars, backing vocals
John Raposo – guitar
Ruslan Lypovsky – bass
Cory Hofing – drums 

STRIKER

Photos by Aline Cavalheiro – https://www.instagram.com/aline.cavalheiro81/

After a short break, where fans either went to the washroom, got another beer or checked out the merch from the bands, it was time for my favorite Canadian band of the past decade to show everyone at the venue that Canada is indeed a land of first-class Heavy Metal. When award-winning Edmonto-based act STRIKER hit the stage, we all knew it was going to be a heavy, melodic and utterly entertaining performance, kicking things off with the opening track from their 2016 album Stand in the Fire, the electrifying Phoenix Lights, followed by two of my favorite tracks from their latest albums, Born to Lose, from their 2017 self-titled masterpiece Striker, and Heart of Lies, from their brand new opus Play To Win (to be officially released later this month). Needless to say, after such action-packed start, the game was already won by Striker.

And the quintet comprised of frontman Dan Cleary (what a voice, ladies and gentlemen!), guitarists Tim Brown and Chris Segger, bassist William Wallace and drummer Adam Brown kept blasting their fusion of old school Heavy Metal and Hard rock with contemporary Power Metal without giving a single second for us to breathe, impressing us all with their level of energy, professionalism and passion for what they do, with incendiary songs like Former Glory and Pass Me By (both from their 2017 self-titled album), and especially the high-octane Full Speed or No Speed (from their 2010 album Eyes in the Night) and the metal hymn Fight for Your Life (from their 2012 album Armed to the Teeth), representing to perfection what the music by Striker is all about. At a given moment of the show, when Dan was introducing us to the next song to be played (I don’t remember which one he was talking about, but it was of course amazing), he asked the crowd if there were any fans in the house of the music by metal giants like Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Anvil, complementing his joke by saying they were not going to play any of that, but “some old school Striker shit”. Well, who said we were expecting them to play any cover songs? When the band in question is a fantastic one like Striker, we want to listen to their own songs, and I can’t wait to do that again when they return to Toronto in a not-so-distant future.

Setlist
Phoenix Lights
Born to Lose
Heart of Lies
Lethal Force
Crossroads
Former Glory
Too Late
Out for Blood
Pass Me By
Locked In
Full Speed or No Speed
The White Knight
Fight for Your Life

Band members
Dan Cleary – lead vocals
Tim Brown – lead and rhythm guitar
Chris Segger – lead and rhythm guitar
William Wallace – bass
Adam Brown – drums

UNLEASH THE ARCHERS

Photos by Aline Cavalheiro – https://www.instagram.com/aline.cavalheiro81/

I was so entertained and electrified by the concert by Striker that I completely lost track of time, not knowing exactly what time their concert ended and what time the main attraction of the night, the unstoppable Vancouver-based metal warriors known as UNLEASH THE ARCHERS, hit the stage at The Velvet Underground. And keep in mind it was a Monday night, which means most people would be checking their watches all the time counting every minute to go home. Just like Striker delivered a flawless performance, the band led by the warrior princess Brittney Slayes was absolutely on fire on stage from start to finish, inspiring the fans to ignite some mosh pits (all pretty good except for a silly moron with a moustache that was either too drunk, too high or way too stupid to respect everyone else, to the point Brittney had to call his attention to stop acting like a jerk), to do some crowd surfing, to raise our fists in the air and to sing along every single song with them.

Still promoting their 2017 opus Apex, the quintet formed by the skillful, humble and sympathetic Brittney Slayes on vocals (sending hearts with her hands to the fans during the entire show), Grant Truesdell on the guitar, Andrew Kingsley on the  guitar and harsh growls, newcomer Nick Miller on bass and Scott Buchanan on drums returned to the city after three long years, proving how hard it is to travel and tour inside Canada, but that excruciating wait was definitely worth it. Firing the most awesome songs from Apex such as Awakening, The Matriarch and Cleanse the Bloodlines, mixed with battle hymns from their previous albums like Time Stands Still, Tonight We Ride and my favorite of all, Test Your Metal, from their 2015 opus Time Stands Still, Unleash The Archers fully captivated our senses during their whole concert, also showing their awe for the amount of fans that gathered at the venue on a rainy Monday night (and yes, I have to repeat that again) to celebrate metal with them (and to sing A-Ha’s Take On Me which was coming out of the speakers after all was said and done).

Today is Tuesday, most of us might have been really tired the entire day and probably bored at work (as Brittney herself said, fuck work!), but happy to have witnessed a true feast of the best Heavy Metal made in Canada you can think of. As already mentioned, let’s hope none of the bands take too long to return to the city, and that they play at a bigger venue so that a lot more metal maniacs from Toronto and from other parts of the province are able to enjoy the lesson in heavy music given by such distinct bands, even if they play on a snowy Monday night in the middle of the winter, with chilling temperatures and bitterly cold winds. Do you think you have what it takes to ride with Striker and Unleash The Archers under such adverse conditions? If you love metal music as much as I do, I’m sure you’ll be there with us.

Setlist
Intro
Awakening
The Matriarch
Cleanse the Bloodlines
Test Your Metal
Dreamcrusher
Time Stands Still
General of the Dark Army
Tonight We Ride

Encore:
Apex

Band members
Brittney Slayes – vocals
Grant Truesdell – guitar
Andrew Kingsley –  guitar, harsh growls
Nick Miller – bass
Scott Buchanan – drums

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Metal Chick of the Month – Brittney Slayes

There’s no hiding from her, she sees everything!

In order to properly celebrate nothing more, nothing less than FIVE years of The Headbanging Moose, there’s nothing better than paying a humble tribute to a true Warrior of the North as our metal chick of this month of October, a woman that perfectly represents all the passion, strength and perseverance from the people that make our beloved Canada one of the best places to live in the world. Born in 1985 in Vancouver, one of the most beautiful cities not only in the province of British Columbia but in the entire country, here comes the dauntless vocalist Brittney Slayes, whose real name is Brittney Hayes, frontwoman and founding member of Canadian Heavy Metal band Unleash The Archers, always ready to show you what metal music from the Great White North is all about.

The talented Brittney, who discovered her voice when she was five years old and began singing in her local community choir at the age of eight, traveled with several choirs during her school years, taking part in many musical theater productions and working with some of the best vocal coaches in Western Canada. In university, she attended the UVic School Of Music, but choosing instead to attain her undergraduate degree in History. Furthermore, during her time at the University of Victoria, she traveled the world as a member of the Juno Award-winning ensemble the Uvic Chamber Singers. As a UVic alumna and the lead singer of Victoria-born Unleash the Archers, Brittney gave a keynote talk on July 10, 2018 for UVic’s upcoming conference Boundaries and Ties: The Place of Metal Music in Communities, with her talk, entitled “View from the ‘Apex’: A Metal Musician’s Views on Metal and Community”, drawing on her firsthand experience with local, national, and international metal communities. And do you want to know what our metal warrior thinks about us, metalheads? “People are so open-minded. They’re not going to cast judgement and never give you a chance. From what I’ve seen, metalheads are very kind and caring and open-hearted. I just think that the metal community is uplifting, really,” said our wise vocalist.

Apart from her time singing with different choirs, our Canadian warrior had never been involved in any other bands or music projects before founding Unleash The Archers back in 2007 with her boyfriend and drummer Scott Buchanan, and according to Brittney herself starting the band was the best thing she could have ever done (and we all agree with that, of course), allowing her to use her background in classical music and her four octave range to provide a more dynamic approach to the band’s incendiary fusion of traditional Heavy Metal with Power and Melodic Metal. In late 2008, the band recorded a self-titled four-song demo, which featured two songs (Black Goat of the Woods and Destroyer) they would end up re-recording for their first studio album. In one of her interviews, Brittney explained a little more about the origins of the band, saying it all began when Scott, former guitarist Brayden Dyczkowski (who left the band in 2014) and herself were in university, when Scott and Brayden were playing in a Death Metal band together, and as the drummer’s girlfriend Brittney simply loved to go to their shows and rock out. When the band broke up, she called Brayden and asked him if he wanted to start a band with herself as the vocalist and Scott on drums, and from that day on Unleash The Archers became a reality, leading the band to grow and become a reference in Canadian metal music, winning the Best Metal Band and Best Vocalist awards during the 2015 Vancouver Whammy Awards, as well as being voted number 6 in Exclaim Magazine’s Readers Choice Awards for Best Metal Albums of 2009.

Apart from the aforementioned self-titled debut demo, Unleash The Archers have already released four full-length albums and one EP, those being their 2009 debut album Behold the Devastation (when she was still known as as B. Hayes), the 2011 album Demons of the AstroWaste, the 2012 EP Defy the Skies, the 2015 album Time Stands Still, and last year’s highly acclaimed opus Apex. Currently comprised of our Canadian Valkyrie of metal Brittney on vocals, Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley on the guitars and harsh growls, and Scott Buchanan on drums, as well as Nick Miller taking care of the bass duties during their live performances, Unleash The Archers have a great selection of official videos, lyric videos and unofficial live footage for us to enjoy for hours on YouTube. For instance, you can join Unleash The Archers in their quest for metal with the songs Tonight We Ride, Ten Thousand Against One, Apex, General Of The Dark Army, Time Stands Still, Cleanse The Bloodlines, Awakening, The Matriarch and Dawn Of Ages. And if live concerts and performances are your cup of tea, you can enjoy Brittney and the guys kicking ass with the songs Dreamcrusher and Time Stands Still live in Montreal in 2015; General Of The Dark Army live at the Pont Rouge in Monthey, Switzerland  in 2016; an acoustic version of The Outlander recorded live at CHSR in New Brunswick with Matt Nightingale during the 2011 “Tour Through The AstroWaste”; and their full set during their 2015 appearance at ProgPower USA in 2015. When asked about her favorite Unleash The Archers songs, those she believes a newcomer to their metal world should definitely take a listen at, Brittney said she has always loved Battle In The Shadow (Of The Mountain), from their second album Demons of the AstroWaste, saying she has a strong emotional connection to that song, also including on the list Four In Hand, from their debut album Behold the Devastation, as it’s about sin becoming personified as a cloaked figure riding around in a chariot pulled by the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Interesting, isn’t it?

Brittney has also been featured in several other bands and projects as a guest musician, each one of them being very peculiar and showcasing all the talent and range of our metal warrior. For instance, she provided additional vocals to the song Leather Lord, featured on the 2013 EP Live at Mushroom: Vol. I, by Canadian Power/Heavy Metal band 3 Inches of Blood; guest vocals on the song Queen of the Galaxy, from the 2014 EP Queen of the Galaxy (and also featured on the 2018 album The Extraterrestrial Compendium), by American Power/Thrash Metal band Dire Peril (and you can also check a cool live version of it in 2016 at the Blue Lamp HERE); vocals on the song Lunar Sunrise, from the 2014 album The Age of Ether, by American Power/Progressive Metal band Disforia; vocals for the full 2018 album Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster, by American Power Metal band Helion Prime, like in the song Spectrum; vocals for the excellent song Burn It Down (With Fire), from the 2018 album Shadows from the Past, by American Heavy Metal band Lords of the Trident; and last but not least, she was also a guest on the song Siren’s Song, from the 2016 album Lawful Evil, by The Dread Crew of Oddwood (an acoustic pirate band from San Diego, California).

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Regarding her career and life on the road, Brittney said that living life through music is every musician’s dream, living and breathing music every second of every day while on tour, and she wants to keep playing with Unleash The Archers everywhere, every corner of the globe, every continent and every type of venue, from Japan to Scotland, from Brazil to Antarctica (if they can find metalheads there, of course). When asked about the main difference between festivals and regular shows, she said that in the end they’re not that different, only that there are a lot more bands hanging out backstage waiting for their turn and the atmosphere seems quite a bit more laid back. Having already played with Unleash The Archers all over the world, from North America to China and Japan, Brittney has been collecting a lot of good memories and moments from each and every concert, such as their performance at Hell & Heaven Fest in Mexico City in 2014, where they played a side stage but were able to see the concerts by some of their favorite bands like Angra and KISS. Furthermore, all that passion for heavy music and her family had a very positive impact on her performance on stage. For instance, her brother used to play in a punk band and her father worked as a musician for a long time in the 60’s and 70’s. She used to play with his music equipment when she was a little kid, and there are many pictures of Brittney rocking out with an old SM57 in her hand standing on a table or any other stage-like apparatus. Also, as aforementioned, she was always involved in musical theater, drama, choir or any other sort of performing art, making her feel very comfortable when facing the crowd, it doesn’t matter if at a small venue or at a big renowned festival.

As it happens with any up-and-coming artist in metal music, Brittney has been asked several times through the years about who her biggest idols and influences are in music and in life in general, and her answers couldn’t be more classic, more inspiring and, of course, more metal. She said in one of her interviews that as a vocalist she has always been highly influenced by the one and only Bruce Dickinson, the metal god Rob Halford, Geoff Tate, Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray), Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork), Daniel Heiman (Lost Horizon), and Jonas Heidgert (Dragonland), among many others, with bands such as Iron Maiden, As I Lay Dying, All That Remains, Helloween and Septicflesh playing an important role in the development of her taste for music and her singing style. Furthermore, Brittney mentioned that the unparalleled Countdown To Extinction, released by Megadeth in 1992, was the first metal record she’s ever heard in her life, and that was basically the moment that would define her musical preferences for the rest of her life, but she also complemented her thought by saying Best Of The Beast, Iron Maiden’s first “best of” album, released in 1996, was the album that inspired her to use her vocal talents as a singer in a metal band. In addition, when questioned which bands she would choose if she could create her own festival, Brittney simply listed Iron Maiden, Lost Horizon, Iced Earth, Sabaton and Dragonland, all beyond formidable acts, also saying that she would love to tour with Iced Earth, one of her favorite bands of all time, as their music speaks to her on a whole other level.

And last but not least, When Brittney was asked how it feels to be in a Power Metal band from a country like Canada where the Power Metal scene is not as developed as in other places like Scandinavia and Japan, she admitted it’s a bit tough for bands that play metal the likes of Unleash The Archers due to the music culture in Canada being a lot more inclined to Death Metal and other more extreme styles, with Canadian metalheads growing up with bands like Kataklysm and Voivod,  even saying a Power Metal band can feel very “lonely” in the country. However, she also mentioned that even in that not-so-inspiring scenario there are still lots of traditional Power Metal acts all over the country, proving that as long as Power Metal bands keep playing music from their hearts and stay united and strong, the genre has all it takes to grow in popularity among Canadian fans. And there’s no one better than the warrior princess Brittney to lead that metal army and “unleash the archers” upon all of us.

Brittney Slayes’ Official Facebook page
Brittney Slayes’ Official Instagram
Brittney Slayes’ Official Twitter
Unleash The Archers’ Official Facebook page
Unleash The Archers’ Official Instagram
Unleash The Archers’ Official Twitter

“There’s always going to be those faces in the crowd that you have known since the beginning, and that you know will always be there for you; they were fans, and they’ve become friends. I think that there’s very much this foundation of fans that keep you standing. That will never change. The only thing that happens is that it just grows.” – Brittney Slayes

Album Review – Striker / Play To Win (2018)

Blending classic Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Power Metal and 80’s Hair Metal, one of the biggest exponents of contemporary Canadian metal music strikes once again with a brand new album, always playing to win.

Champions in blending classic Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Power Metal and 80’s Hair Metal, Canadian shredders Striker are back with another good album titled Play To Win, the sixth in their undisputed career and a follow-up to their two previous award nominated winning albums, their 2017 breathtaking self-titled opus Striker (nominated for a JUNO award, winner of an Edmonton Music Award and Western Canadian Award) and the WCMA + EMA award winning album Stand In The Fire, released in 2016. That means this Edmonton-based squad comprised of frontman Dan Cleary, guitarists Tim Brown and Chris Segger, bassist William Wallace and drummer Adam Brown has been on an absolute roll in the past few years, not only delivering first-class metal for our total delight, but also spreading their music live across Europe and North America with bands like Sonata Arctica, Dark Tranquility and Warbringer, along with festival appearances at 70,000 Tons of Metal and Bang Your Head Festival, proving why they’re already considered one of the biggest exponents in contemporary Canadian Heavy Metal.

Mixed and Mastered by Hendrik Udd at Hendrik Udd Recording Studios, and featuring not only an old school artwork by Elvis Amaral (HipnoFX Audiovisual), but also the fantastic Randy Black (Annihilator, Primal Fear, Destruction) as a session drummer, who by the way also recorded the album Stand in the Fire with the band, Play To Win will please all fans of traditional metal and rock, keeping the name of Striker relevant and strong in the scene. “Play to Win: if you want to win you have to play the game. Find the rules and break them. This is our 6th album and 3rd independent release. If we followed the rules and listened to the industry people we’d have gone absolutely nowhere. Play To Win is about listening to yourself, following your own path, and playing that 5th ace hidden in your sleeve. This album is designed to light a fire under your ass and get you moving, and we made sure to get the most modern, ear melting sounds possible. It’s all about where metal is going, not where it has been, and this is our soundtrack to success,” commented Tim about the album.

And Tim and Chris begin slashing and shredding their strings from the very first second in the opening tune Heart of Lies, where the band delivers their usual ass-kicking fusion of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, with Dan declaiming the song’s chorus beautifully (“Another victim to a heart of lies / Can’t see the truth behind those venom eyes / Another victim to a heart of lies / On deaf ears will fall the eagle’s cry”). Then leaning towards pure 80’s Hard Rock and Glam Metal, in special the crisp and passionate vocal lines by Dan, we have Position of Power, with William and Randy maintaining a solid and rumbling background throughout the entire song; followed by Head First, a good song that gets a bit too commercial at times, but that obviously brings Striker’s old school punch, sounding very rhythmic, groovy and melodic. In addition, Tim and Chris are once again on fire with their riffs and solos, making it a highly recommended addition to your road trip playlist.

Blending the music by Iron Maiden with Motley Crüe, Stratovarius and Van Halen, which in the end resulted in sheer awesomeness, Striker offer us the thrilling On The Run, showcasing a brilliant vocal performance by Dan while William keeps extracting that metallic sound we all love form his bass, whereas The Front is another classic song by Striker, also feeling as it was taken from an 80’s Hair Metal album. It’s a bit too smooth compared to the sonic massacre from their previous albums, but the crisp sound of the guitars and the precise beats by Randy make it very enjoyable and fun. The title-track Play To Win, a mid-tempo feast of rockin’ sounds, sounds even more inspired by the golden years of Hard Rock than ever, with the guitar riffs and solos by both Tim and Chris getting sharper and groovier, and albeit its lyrics are extremely cheesy, the message the band wanted to send is there (and that’s what really matters in the end). Then despite the excellent vocals by Dan, its tuneful guitar solos and a pleasant vibe, the power ballad Standing Alone never really takes off, getting way too mellow compared to what Striker are capable of doing.

Back to a heavier and more epic sonority, those talented Canadian metallers fire an electrified Heavy Metal and Hard Rock tune entitled Summoner, inspired by many classics by Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and other behemoths from the NWOBHM, also presenting the best guitar work of the entire album in my opinion. In Heavy Is The Heart the band shows how to do a proper power ballad, bringing passion to the musicality without forgetting the always needed dosages of electricity and rage, again presenting an inspired Dan leading his bandmates from start to finish. However, the closing tune Hands Of Time is another generic song that sounds and feels extremely soft if you’re a longtime fan of Striker, lacking the same potency and kick from their already classic tunes. Put differently, it’s far from being a bad song, but as we all got used to a lot heavier riffs and faster beats by Striker it’s hard to truly relish it.

As a huge fan of their self-titled album released last year, which I personally considered one of the best metal albums of 2017, I felt slightly disappointed with the final result in Play To Win. Nothing to worry about, though, as I guess I’m being too harsh on the guys from Striker, almost “demanding” that they had released another Heavy Metal masterpiece instead of actually enjoying their new album. There’s still a lot of top-of-the-line music to savor in Play To Win, available from their official website as a digital download or as a special edition CD, as well as from iTunes and Amazon, and you can also follow the band on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel and listen to more of their music on Spotify (if you don’t do all that already). Striker are a band that keeps winning no matter what with each and every release (despite singing in their previous album that they were “born to lose”), and the flame of Canadian metal will remain alive and vibrant while we have those skillful metalheads from Edmonton among us, always playing to win.

Best moments of the album: Heart of Lies, On The Run and Summoner.

Worst moments of the album: Standing Alone and Hands Of Time.

Released in 2018 Record Breaking Records

Track listing
1. Heart of Lies 4:04
2. Position of Power 3:41
3. Head First 4:02
4. On The Run 3:52
5. The Front 4:02
6. Play To Win 3:49
7. Standing Alone 4:56
8. Summoner 4:04
9. Heavy Is The Heart 4:54
10. Hands Of Time 3:47

Band members
Dan Cleary – lead vocals
Tim Brown – lead and rhythm guitar
Chris Segger – lead and rhythm guitar
William Wallace – bass
Adam Brown – drums

Guest musician
Randy Black – drums (session)
Lindsay Robinson, John Kennedy and Nathan Schadeck – gang vocals

Album Review – Stormzone / Lucifer’s Factory (2018)

Featuring mysterious places and characters from the Northern Ireland folklore, the new album by this Belfast-based band will take you on a journey back to the golden years of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock.

What was born as a studio project in 2004 in Belfast, Northern Ireland’s capital, by vocalist John “Harv” Harbinson (No Sweat, Fastway, Sweet Savage, Den of Thieves), who was itching for a new creative outlet after a brief break from the rock industry, quickly evolved into a full-bodied band known as Stormzone, an unstoppable machine of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock anthems that has been embellishing the airwaves with their first-class music since the release of their debut album Caught in the Act, in 2007. Now in 2018, after five awesome full-length albums and countless live concerts, the band comprised of  the aforementioned frontman Harv on vocals, Steve Moore and Junior Afrifa on the guitars, Graham McNulty on bass and backing vocals, and Gordy Gray on drums is ready to stun us all once again with their classic metal music in Lucifer’s Factory, the sixth studio album in their short but already brilliant career.

Furthermore, not only the music kicks ass, but Stormzone have also stepped up their songwriting and lyrics, with the theme throughout Lucifer’s Factory concentrating on famous Irish myths and legends on each one of the 13 tracks of the album, featuring mysterious places or characters and their stories which have become embedded in Northern Ireland folklore. For instance, we have “Cushy Glen”, the notorious cut-throat highwayman, “Albhartach”, the original Irish vampire known to have inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula, “Dark Hedges”, the Northern Irish landmark now immortalized in the famous TV series Game of Thrones, and “Hallows’ Eve”, confirming that Halloween did actually originate in Northern Ireland, plus the album’s compelling title track “Lucifer’s Factory”, the origin of which is destined to surprise all, among many other compelling stories. With that said, are you ready to party like there’s no tomorrow to the incendiary Heavy Metal blasted by Stormzone, setting the tone for this upcoming Halloween?

In the opening track Dark Hedges, which by the way legend has it that one June night each year a beautiful ghostly lady appears under the extensive branches of the Dark Hedges trees for an evening of dancing and interaction with the spirits she has previously invited from the graveyard nearby, we’re treated to ass-kicking Heavy Metal from the very first second with an epic vibe in the background. The album couldn’t have started in a better way, bringing beautiful guitar solos, powerful vocals and exciting lyrics  (“Each new day, you’ll hide away / In strength you’ll sway / You’re growing through these centuries / Across entwined, to each you’ll bind / The strength you’ll find / A place in others fantasies”). Then the title-track Lucifer’s Factory keeps blowing our speakers mercilessly, with the guitars by Steve and Junior sounding as sharp as a razor blade, bringing the most thrilling elements from old school Hard Rock blended with contemporary metal music; followed by Cushy Glen, the story of the outlaw and highwayman who terrorized residents and travelers around the Coleraine area of Northern Ireland for many years just over two centuries ago, with Gordy dictating the rhythm in this mid-tempo feast of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock perfect for having a cold beer while singing the lyrics along with the band (“From the brave young men, to the brave old men /They’ll drink to the capture of the Cushy Glen / Flags will fly, and they’ll hang him high / Never no more shall we see him again”). And in Last Night in Hell the talented Harv fires his tuneful, classic vocal lines while the guitar duo continues to deliver their usual heavier-than-hell riffs, not to mention Graham and his thunderous bass lines.

The following tune, titled Albhartach, is just as fast and crisp as good old metal music should always be, and you’ll probably go over the speed limit while listening to it on the road, with its headbanging beats and fantastic backing vocals providing all the support Harv needs to kick ass once again on vocals. Then we have We Are Strong, another flammable tune drinking from the fountain of 80’s Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, and therefore keeping the album at a high level of stamina and fun, with highlights to the excellent job done by Gordy on drums and the once again beautiful solos by Steve and Junior; and Broken Window, a darker tune by Stomrzone also inspired by the golden years of Hard Rock, with Harv taking the lead with his sharp vocals while the sound of the guitars keeps cutting our skin beautifully. And blending the music by Helloween and Motörhead (which obviously means awesomeness), the band fires crushing, fast and melodic metal music from their instruments in The Heaven You Despise, with Gordy spearheading this thrilling extravaganza with his unstoppable drums while the band’s stringed trio is astounding with their axes.

Although Hallows’ Eve can be considered a good song showcasing slashing guitar riffs and another potent performance by Harv on vocals, feeling like a song by Merciful Fate without King Diamond on vocals, it unfortunately loses its grip after a while (nothing that harms the album, though), whereas Your Hell Falls Down takes us back to the 80’s, with pure Rock N’ Roll flowing from the band’s stunning riffs and beats while the bass by Graham shakes the foundations of the earth, bringing even more electricity to the music. In the exciting In for the Kill, an epic intro with an imposing Harv on vocals evolves into a galloping old school Heavy Metal anthem, presenting elements found in the music by metal warriors like Manowar, Gamma Ray and Hammerfall, and the party has no time to end based on the level of energy and fun blasted in The Last Goodbye, perfect for playing some air guitar together with the band, raising your fists while singing it along with Harv, or simply banging your head nonstop to the ass-kicking drums by Gordy. And last but not least Stomrzone offer us Time to Go, a semi-acoustic ballad that slows things down a bit, providing a smooth and passionate ending to such incredible album of Hard Rock, with Harv showcasing one last time all his skills as the excellent singer he is.

You might be asking yourself where you can find Lucifer’s Factory for purchase, and the the answer to that is quite simple, as all you need to do is go to eBay, iTunes, Amazon or Discogs to put your hands on this precious gem of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock made in Northern Ireland, also available for a full listen on Spotify. Hence, don’t forget to pay Stormzone a visit on Facebook for new and tour dates, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their breathtaking music. As you might have already noticed, Stormzone do not just play Heavy Metal, they live and breathe it, and Lucifer’s Factory represents all their dedication to the music we all love and their respect and admiration for their homeland’s folklore, important ingredients that make the entire album even better than we could have expected and a must-have in the collection of any true metal fan.

Best moments of the album: Dark Hedges, Cushy Glen, The Heaven You Despise and Your Hell Falls Down.

Worst moments of the album: Hallows’ Eve.

Released in 2018 Metal Nation Records

Track listing  
1. Dark Hedges 4:39
2. Lucifer’s Factory 5:08
3. Cushy Glen 4:47
4. Last Night in Hell 5:35
5. Albhartach 3:40
6. We Are Strong 4:20
7. Broken Window 5:49
8. The Heaven You Despise 5:24
9. Hallows’ Eve 5:51
10. Your Hell Falls Down 4:55
11. In for the Kill 5:23
12. The Last Goodbye 4:41
13. Time to Go 4:58

Band members
John “Harv” Harbinson – vocals
Steve Moore – guitars
Junior Afrifa – guitars
Graham McNulty – bass, backing vocals
Gordy Gray – drums