Metal Chick of the Month – Aura Dănciulescu

Let’s go fucking wild, Aura!

The year of 2019 might be coming to an end, but not before we fill the airwaves with the stunning vocals by Aura Dănciulescu, the winged frontwoman for Romanian Symphonic Heavy/Power Metal band Scarlet Aura and our awesome metal chick of the month of December. Born Aura Gabriela Danciulescu on October 28, 1985 in Fălticeni, a city in Suceava County, north-eastern Romania, situated in the historical region of Moldavia, Aura is a multi-talented singer, lyricist and songwriter, always passionate about music and writing. Of light brown hair (but currently dyed blonde) and brown eyes, Aura has all the attributes fans of heavy music look for in a vocalist, and I’m sure after reading a little about our gorgeous metalhead you’ll get addicted to her music and be quite impressed with her skills, transparency and deep love for our good old Heavy Metal.

Aura, who by the way has a famous sister, Mihaela Pohoaţă, a Romanian aerobic gymnast who won five world championships medals (three gold and two bronze) and three European championships gold medals during her career, started singing when she was just a little kid, and her initial performance was so bad her parents actually decided to put her in vocal lessons to improve her skills. By the way, her parents have always supported her decisions, letting her be free, believe in herself and have her own goals. She then naturally decided to become a singer after the vocal lessons when she was around 10 years old, developing her voice through the years until reaching the superb level she sings nowadays. Although she’s always been a rock and metal fan, it was when she met her now husband, Mihai Danciulescu, lead guitarist and backing vocalist for Scarlet Aura, that she really started to adore it, with Mihai explaining to her all the different styles of rock and metal music and introducing her to some of his biggest idols. Furthermore, before dedicating her life to music from the year of 2011 onward, Aura went to University of Bucharest and studied political science and law school, also holding a few extra courses on diplomacy and national defense and having worked for a few years at the Romanian Senate.

After numerous music projects and her first rock band Steelborn, having recorded with the band the EP’s Un Nou Inceput and Intr-Un Vis, both in 2010, and the full-length album Trup De Apa, in 2012, all in her mother tongue Romanian (and if you want to listen to Aura beautifully singing the band’s pleasant Rock N’ Roll you can check a couple of YouTube videos with the songs Orice Ar Fi & Suflet Furat live and Ratacire), it all eventually led to creation in 2014 of Scarlet Aura, the exotic rising metal star of the East that quickly got the attention of promoters and fans worldwide. By the way, if you would like to enjoy a very interesting “fusion” of Aura’s past and present, Scarlet Aura recorded in 2018 a heavier version of one of Steelborn’s oldest songs, Un Nou Inceput, the title-track to their 2010 debut EP. Having already toured with renowned acts like Tarja Turunen, Beast in Black and Soto, the band comprised of our unstoppable Aura on vocals, the aforementioned Mihai on the guitars and backing vocals, Rene Nistor on bass and backing vocals, and Doru Gheorghita on drums are on a roll since their inception, positioning them as one of the most promising names in the current European scene.

As a matter of fact, the name scarlet Aura was only adopted in 2015, with the band’s original name AURA being used only during their first year of existence, having released under their old name the album The Rock Chick. In addition, as you might have noticed, Aura and Mihai met in 2010 while playing with Steelborn, and after a few years they fell in love, got married and decided to pursue a career together as Scarlet Aura. Under their new and powerful name, Aura and the boys have already released the full-length albums Falling Sky in 2016, Memories in 2017, and Hot’n’Heavy in 2018, as well as the EP The Beast Within Me in 2017 and the CD/DVD box set Scarlet Aura in Concert (recorded live at Quantic Pub in Bucharest on April 27, 2017) in 2018. Moreover, Scarlet Aura are set to release in 2020 their fifth album, entitled Stormbreaker, and the second one in the trilogy The Book Of Scarlet, once again combining metal music with fantasy literature, and if you want to show your true support to Aura and the boys you can help them make the album come true by participating in their Indiegogo campaign. also, the band’s official YouTube channel is and endless source of awesomeness, providing us metalheads several first-class videos for the best songs form all of their albums, such as Hail To You!, High in the Sky, Hate is Evanescent, Violence is Forever, My Own Nightmare, You’re Not Alone, Immortal In Your Eyes and Fallin’ to Pieces, not to mention other interesting videos from the band playing songs like In The Name Of My Pain at a Romanian TV show called  Antena 1, and their full performance at Transalpina Rock Fest in 2018.

In addition to all of the band’s original material, I would also recommend you take a very good listen at their 2017 album Memories, which is pretty much a tribute to all of their idols and influences in music, mixing some of the biggest metal hits in history with non-metal cover songs as well. For instance, you can enjoy Aura giving her own feminine twist to all-time Heavy Metal and Hard Rock classics like Judas Priest’s Breaking the Law, Blind Guardian’s A Past and Future Secret, Europe’s The Final Countdown, Iron Maiden’s Wasting Love, Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take It, Ozzy Osbourne & Lita Ford’s If I Close My Eyes Forever, and Dio’s Don’t Talk To Strangers, or maybe you fancy listening to her personal interpretation of hits by female-fronted bands from the most diverse styles like Skunk Anansie’s My Ugly Boy, Doro’s All We Are, and The Cranberries’ Zombie. You can obviously find these and all of their own original songs by directly visiting their Spotify profile, bringing to your metallic ears hours of first-class metal music made in Romania.

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Apart from her life with Scarlet Aura, was also a guest vocalist in a song called Plecăciune Zăului, from the album Zăul Moș, released in 2017 by Romanian Symphonic Black Metal band Syn Ze Șase Tri (with the name of the band translating as “I Am With Triple Six”, just to give you an idea of how dark their music is). Not only that, Aura has also been working as a moderator at Wacken Radio since April this year, spearheading the first ever English show of the radio called Go Wild. “I was invited to give an interview on Scarlet Aura in the S.T.U.N.T.S. metal show, for Wacken Radio, held by TinU and SlayerOfMadness. We connected immediately and the invitation to join them as host came naturally and I couldn’t be more honored and happy to say Yes! And soon I discovered that Wacken Radio supports radio hosts applicants that can join the family by applying and going through some tests and if they pass, they can be also part of Wacken Radio! I passed the tests too so here I am!”, said Aura about her new experience as a show host. Furthermore, this is not the first connection with Wacken organization for Scarlet Aura, as the band was supported by Wacken Foundation in 2018.

Aura doesn’t use only her voice as her instrument of work, as her brain also seems to be a nonstop source of great ideas and projects. For example, Aura is the managing director for a Tallinn, Estonia-based record label named Silver City Records, founded by Aura herself together with her husband and bandmate Mihai and Tatyana Shubina (from Outlanders Productions), exclusively for rock and metal bands, and if you have a band looking for an up-and-coming label you can contact them directly via Facebook or by e-mail at contact@silvercityrecords.com. She was also a guest speaker at an event held by Mastering the Music Business, the leading Romanian music conference and showcase event, where she talked about her music, her business and her vision as a a successful performing artist, manager and record label CEO that she is, and you can also hire Aura for marketing and advertising purposes as a voice actor through a website called Voices.com, where you can see our multi-talented diva has already worked for Vodafone România, real estate companies and other local advertising companies, being able not only to sing classical, rock and metal music, but also to impersonate voices from all ages in English, Romanian, French and Italian for an array of projects like animations, documentaries, movie trailers and video-games, among others. Well, in the end I think the question should be “is there something she CAN’T do?”

A lover of the simple things that make our lives more fun such as pizza, red wine, yoga, cats, writing, reading, carpentry and painting, with her favorite movie of all time being the 1939 classic Gone with the Wind and her favorite books being from English author Terry Pratchett, Aura has among her biggest idols some of the most iconic names in the history of Heavy Metal, including the one and only Ronnie James Dio (R.I.P.), the unstoppable Mr. Bruce Dickinson, and Slayer’s own roaring engine Tom Araya, as well as bands like German institution Helloween, and on a more feminine side she always mentions names like the unparalled Tarja Turunen and Doro. However, Aura mentioned in one of her interviews that she always searches inside herself for the power she needs to print her own convictions, her own beliefs and of course her own voice, also mentioning her own mother as her biggest idol of all, which is just fantastic, don’t you agree? She also considers scarlet as her favorite color (which makes total sense to me),  My Own Nightmare as her favorite Scarlet Aura song, and the day she married Mihai, on September 22, 2012, as the best day of her life.

Just like any other true metalhead, our Romanian bombshell simply loves touring and performing live, always eager to promote her music to the four corners of the earth and to inspire all girls out there to join her in her female-fronted metal movement. When asked about her experience sharing the stage with her idol Tarja Turunen in 2016, considered by many as the most influential woman in modern-day metal music, she said that meeting her was really overwhelming at first, and that she was able to learn a lot from her during that tour. One funny (and somewhat stressful) episode during the tour with Tarja happened when Scarlet Aura’s crew crew lost their stage clothing luggage, forcing the band to improvise by borrowing belts, T-Shirts and make up. Moreover, Aura also has very good memories of other conerts with renowned acts of the metal scene like Accept, Doro, Nazareth, Gotthard, Helloween and Europe, showing how much all members of Scarlet Aura are connected to metal and how much they admire and are influenced by their music idols. And last but not least, when Aura was asked about the current metal scene in her birthplace Romania, she said that it has been continuously growing, getting bigger and shinier as the years go by, and that she expects it keeps getting more and more important to the world of heavy music. She complemented by saying that growth, especially her own band’s rise to stardom, wouldn’t be possible without the support of metalheads in Romania and worldwide, always praising fans like us for all support and passion we have for our good old Heavy Metal.

Aura Dănciulescu’s Official Facebook page
Aura Dănciulescu’s Official VKontakte
Aura Dănciulescu’s Official Instagram
Aura Dănciulescu’s Official Twitter
Scarlet Aura’s Official Facebook page
Scarlet Aura’s Official VKontakte
Scarlet Aura’s Official Instagram
Scarlet Aura’s Official Twitter
Scarlet Aura’s Official YouTube channel

“As an artist I’m not afraid to dig into the unknown by approaching sensible subjects in our songs, subjects like the difficulty of being honest with others but also with yourself regarding your own feelings, the need of overcoming a huge sufferance that troubles you, the lack of courage when it’s about doing the right thing, the lack of love or the crying for it… subjects that make ourselves human, subjects that are in each one of us and that makes us who we are and maybe throughout our music, we get recovered, healed or better, we discover ourselves for who we really are because with any doubt music heals the spirit, metal heals the heart.” – Aura Dănciulescu

Album Review – R.U.S.T.X / Center Of The Universe (2019)

Deeply rooted into 70’s and 80’s rock and metal music, three brothers and one sister from Cyprus are unleashing upon us their sensational third full-length album.

Formed in Agioi Trimithias, a village located in the Nicosia District of Cyprus, in the year of 2003 under the name Flames In Ice, and known as R.U.S.T. from 2004 until 2014, Heavy Metal/Hard Rock four-piece act R.U.S.T.X is ready to take the world of rock and metal by storm once again with their third full-length album entitled Center Of The Universe, bringing to our avid ears truly from-the-heart and no bullshit melodic Heavy Metal with classic rocking passages highly inspired by renowned bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Warlord, Savatage, Stormwitch and Riot, their absolute passion as one can easily determine with just one listen. Comprised of three brothers and one sister, those being Peter Pan Xanthou on the guitars, George Xanthou on bass, Katerina Xanthou on keyboards and John Xanthou on drums, all four members share the vocal duties in the album, giving it an even more unique taste.

Enthusiastic and passionate about everything they do, their brand new opus will unquestionably convince old school lovers that they do mean serious business, with their outstanding positive energy and originality being accurately reflected by each of the album’s ten magnificent songs deeply rooted into 70’s and 80’s Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal. Featuring guest appearances by Paolo Nipa (Dark Quarterer) and Andrea Ramacciotti (Deadly Tide), recorded and mixed at Woodstock Recording Studio in Piombino, Italy by Andrea Ramacciotti, and displaying a magical artwork created by the amazing Chris Achilleos, known for his unique interpretation of stunning amazons, epic dragons and paintings inspired by ancient civilizations and mythology, Center Of The Universe will put you in a trance from start to finish, showing how powerful and gripping the music by R.U.S.T.X can be. “With this album we really pushed ourselves to the limit and the result is like something out of this planet. A comeback to the 70’s and 80’s era of Rock and Metal music that we so much adore,” commented the band, giving you a very good idea of the insane rock n’ roll party that’s about to begin as soon as you hit play.

Uniting the classic rock by AC/DC with the progressiveness of Rush, the Xanthou Brothers and Sister embellish the airwaves with the opening track Defendre Le Rock, showcasing a healthy and beautiful balance between the heavy riffs and piercing solos by Peter and the whimsical keys by Katerina, whereas in Running Man the quartet speeds things up and delivers sheer adrenaline in the form of music, with John taking the lead with his frantic drums while Katerina continues to blast her Deep Purple and Axel Rudi Pell-inspired keys, resulting in a true Cypriot Metal hymn. And in Black Heart the band takes us all to a journey back to the 70’s, blasting high-end Progressive Rock with George shaking the foundations of the earth with his bass. Not only that, it’s definitely very interesting how their vocal lines are always more enraged than the usual Progressive Rock and Metal acts throughout the entire song.

Then an eccentric intro grows in intensity until pure Rock N’ Roll hits us in the head in I Stand To Live, spearheaded by Katerina’s powerful vocals, and again it’s amazing how they can offer so many vocal styles in one album, not to mention their superb job on the guitars and bass (especially the flammable solos by Peter Pan); followed by Endless Skies, an upbeat composition by the band displaying classic Hard Rock infused with 80’s and 90’s elements, as well as numerous breaks and variations, presenting an amazing job done by both George and John with their rumbling instruments. And the sounds of nature and gentle voices ignite the title-track Center Of The Universe, feeling like the overture of a sonic ritual and sounding absolutely unique and experimental. Get ready for over ten minutes of complex guitar lines and classy keys, enfolding vocalizations and all of the band’s other magical sounds and tones until the song’s grand finale, turning it into a must-listen for admirers of the genre.

The electric guitars by Peter Pan dictate the rhythm in the dancing rock tune Widow’s Cry, sounding like a Hybrid between the early days of Nightwish with Doro where Katerina once again steals the spotlight with her gorgeous vocal lines, while Peter Pan’s slashing riffs and solos and George’s Iron Maiden-inspired bass lines are the icing on the cake. In Wake Up, an excellent Progressive Rock extravaganza, they sound like a younger and European version of Rush, bringing forward a fantastic work done by John with his intricate beats, and keys and riffs in total sync that will certainly warm up the listener’s heart and soul. And last but not least, the CD version of the album contains two awesome bonus tracks, starting with the headbanging rock tune Dirty Road, where the entire band breathes fire from their tuneful instruments, and Band On The Run, a sensational cover version of the song by Paul McCartney & Wings released in 1973 (check the original one HERE), where R.U.S.T.X give the song a more progressive and psychedelic vibe.

You can find Center Of The Universe available for a full and detailed listen on Spotify, but of course in order to show your utmost support to this talented family I recommend you purchase your desired version of the album from the band’s own webstore, from the Pitch Black Records’ BandCamp or webstore, and from several other locations such as Saturn.de, Apple Music, Amazon and Discogs. Also, why don’t you give them a shout on their Facebook page and also subscribe to their YouTube channel? Those are excellent ways to keep in touch with what’s certainly one of the best and most exciting bands hailing from Cyprus, and without any doubt the most united and passionate family from the underground Rock N’ Roll scene.

Best moments of the album: Running Man, I Stand To Live, Widow’s Cry and Band On The Run.

Worst moments of the album: Black Heart.

Released in 2019 Pitch Black Records

Track listing
1. Defendre Le Rock 4:51
2. Running Man 3:25
3. Black Heart 4:29
4. I Stand To Live 5:26
5. Endless Skies 4:32
6. Center Of The Universe 9:09
7. Widow’s Cry 5:38
8. Wake Up 4:45

CD bonus tracks
9. Dirty Road 4:17
10. Band On The Run (Paul McCartney & Wings cover) 5:18

Band members
Peter Pan Xanthou – guitars, vocals
George Xanthou – bass, vocals
Katerina Xanthou – keyboards, vocals
John Xanthou – drums, vocals

Guest musicians
Paolo “Nipa” Ninci – drums, percussion
Andrea Ramacciotti – guitars

Album Review – Grand Magus / Wolf God (2019)

It’s time to worship the almighty Wolf God together with one of the most talented and hardworking bands of the Swedish metal scene.

Hailing from the stunning city of Stockholm, Sweden, Heavy/Doom Metal three-piece act Grand Magus has been delivering a powerful and thrilling amalgamation of styles such as Blues, Hard Rock, Heavy and Doom Metal since their inception in the now distant year of 1999 (or even 1996 if you consider their years under the name Smack as part of their current career), gathering a respectable fanbase through the years around the entire world of heavy music. For instance, their self-titled debut album Grand Magus, released in 2001, stirred up the underground to the point it is now considered to be a cult favorite, and now in 2019 the band comprised of Janne “JB” Christoffersson on lead vocals and guitars, Mats “Fox” Skinner on bass and backing vocals, and Ludwig “Ludde” Witt on drums returns in full force with Wolf God, the ninth album in their solid career and undoubtedly one of the most interesting and epic albums of the year. Drawing influence from bands such as Motörhead, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Manowar, Grand Magus are absolutely focused, sharp and heavy-as-hell in Wolf God, blasting hymn after hymn for the delight of all lovers of the golden years of classic metal music.

With the majority of the songs being recorded on the first take at The Sweetspot Recording Studio in Sweden together with producer Staffan Karlsson (Arch Enemy, Firewind, Spiritual Beggars), Grand Magus achieved an honest, diverse and yet down-to-earth sound that envelops the trio’s true power, letting the music flow naturally throughout the album’s almost 40 minutes of undisputed Heavy Metal. “We decided to let go of the current philosophy to record drums first and then bass and then guitar etc. This time, we met up, jammed and created together during the last six months with the goal to record basic tracks live,” said the band about their newborn opus, and by enfolding it with the old school, aggressive artwork by American artist Anthony J. Roberts (Blackmindseye) the trio finally reached a new level of epicness that will certainly save a spot for them among the gods of metal.

Featuring orchestrations by Swedish musician Nico “Dyngwie” Elgstrand (guitarist for Entombed A.D.), who has already played acoustic guitars in a couple of tracks from their previous albums, Gold and Glory is a classy and epic intro to the howling title-track Wolf God, where Ludde pounds his drums in great Manowar-inspired fashion while JB delivers his trademark potent vocals, resulting in an old school metal song perfect for banging our heads while worshiping the Wolf God itself. And Fox’s thunderous bass take the lead in the also majestic A Hall Clad in Gold while Ludde continues to smash his drum set vigorously, not to mention all the passion and energy flowing from JB’s vocals, especially during the song’s absolutely catchy chorus.

Traditional, utterly metallic lyrics (“Ancient forces / Sleeping deep within my heart / Been searching / Through the ages in the dark / A secret / That will put me to the test / And guide me / So much stronger than the rest”) are the main ingredient in the headbanging tune Brother of the Storm, where JB fires pure electricity from his riffs while the beats by Ludde get more rhythmic and imposing, and you better keep banging your head like there’s no tomorrow in the incendiary Dawn of Fire, another classic, stylish Heavy and Doom Metal hymn led by JB’s crisp riffs and Fox’s rumbling bass. On a side note, I saw those guys playing this excellent tune live when they opened for Amon Amarth  here in Toronto, and it sounded beyond powerful and inspiring. Then putting the pedal to the metal the trio offers the circle pit-catalyst Spear Thrower, where we can enjoy Ludde’s berserk beats supporting the always pleasant vocals by JB, being tailored for fans of classic Heavy Metal while all is spiced up by JB’s piercing solos; whereas To Live and to Die in Solitude, one of the best songs in Wolf God with highlights to JB’s passionate performance and the unstoppable drums by Ludde, couldn’t be any more epic, vibrant and electrifying, or in other words, simply close your eyes and savor each and every note of such distinct ode to metal music.

A cryptic, semi-tribal intro evolves into another riff-fest titled Glory to the Brave, a beer-drinking, headbanging creation by the trio with Fox filling all spaces in the air with his bass jabs, perfect for raising your horns in the air together with Grand Magus, whereas in the thrilling He Sent Them All to Hel the skillful JB declaims the lyrics about a hero dealing with death and darkness in the aftermath (“First light in the morning – Foul smell of decay / He stands in silence – Nothing to say / Black ravens are calling / Flying high over head / Their wine is served by the dead / Once they rode together / Now he’s alone / Filling his soul with rage”), boosted by spot-on instrumental parts, endless stamina and the classic beats by Ludde, resulting in what’s in my humble opinion one of their best battle hymns of all time. And there’s nothing better than the pure Heavy Metal flowing from Untamed to close the album on a high note, showcasing a classic riffage and wild guitar solos by JB, while Fox and Ludde are on absolute fire on bass and drums, with the music flowing smoothly and powerfully until its epic finale.

It’s time for us all to praise the Wolf God, and we can do that by enjoying one of the best albums of 2019 in full on Spotify or by purchasing a copy of it from the Hamburg Records webstore or from the Nuclear Blast webstore. At this point of their career, we can all happily rest assured Grand Magus will never sell out, which means they’ll keep offering us all, lucky metalheads, precious gems of the underworld like Wolf God, bringing all their passion and respect for the gods of metal with each and every song of their albums and, more important than that, continuing to fight for Heavy Metal no matter what, always in the name of the almighty riff.

Best moments of the album: A Hall Clad in Gold, Brother of the Storm, To Live and to Die in Solitude and He Sent Them All to Hel.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Gold and Glory 2:18
2. Wolf God 3:49
3. A Hall Clad in Gold 5:02
4. Brother of the Storm 3:16
5. Dawn of Fire 5:12
6. Spear Thrower 2:55
7. To Live and to Die in Solitude 3:41
8. Glory to the Brave 5:15
9. He Sent Them All to Hel 3:37
10. Untamed 3:46

Band members
Janne “JB” Christoffersson – lead vocals, guitars
Mats “Fox” Skinner – bass, backing vocals
Ludwig “Ludde” Witt – drums

Guest musician
Nico “Dyngwie” Elgstrand – orchestrations on “Gold and Glory”

Beverage Review – Iron Maiden’s Sun and Steel

Sun, steel, Iron Maiden and a nice and cold saké-infused beer. What else do you need in life?

“Sunlight, falling on your steel,
Death in life is your ideal,
Life is like a wheel, rolling on and on.”

Let’s celebrate the news of another round of the superb Legacy of the Beast Tour by the one and only Iron Maiden, which will conquer pretty much the entire world except for the Americas in 2020, with a review of Sun and Steel, the sixth beer from the unstoppable Bruce Dickinson together with Robinsons Brewery. And let me tell you that after having tried the original Trooper Beer, the amazing Hallowed, and now Sun and Steel, I must admit this saké lager by Mr. Bruce Dickinson is in my opinion the one with the best taste, aftertaste, freshness and punch. I still have to try the other Iron Maiden beers I haven’t found yet such as Trooper Red ‘N’ Black, of course, but I doubt those will be as good as Sun and Steel. And do you want to know why?

Sun and Steel is the first lager in the Trooper range and is one of the most complex beers that Robinsons Brewery has ever produced, a double fermented lager created with authentic Japanese saké yeast. The idea for the beer, designed once again by the one and only Mr. Bruce Dickinson along with Robinsons’ Head Brewer Martyn Weeks, was first conceived during the autumn of 2016 following a meeting between Bruce and a friend of the band and long-time Iron Maiden fan George Yusa, owner of the 300-year old family run Okunomatsu Saké Brewery in Fukushima, Japan. Bruce became intrigued with the idea of putting the two flavor profiles together, and thus Sun and Steel was born. George was able to deliver a sample of the saké yeast to Iron Maiden’s 2017 concert at London’s O2 Arena, which Bruce took up to Robinsons Brewery. Having obtained permission from the Japanese government to brew with it, Martyn and the team had carefully cultivated the strain ever since. “This has been such an exciting project. I had a crazy idea to try and make a saké infused lager and over two and a half years later, here we are! I know Martyn and the team at Robinsons have had to become mad scientists to make this work but the end result is a really unique hybrid beer that tastes fantastic. Trooper fans have been asking for a lager, and here it is. I bet you would never have guessed we would do it like this though,” commented Bruce about his newborn “baby”.

Needless to say, if you’re a diehard Maidenmaniac you already know Sun and Steel takes its designation from the Iron Maiden song of the same name that appears on their 1983 masterpiece Piece Of Mind, which was in turn inspired by the life of Japanese Samurai Miyamoto Musashi, hence the idea of uniting a lager yeast, for the initial fermentation, with a saké yeast, as saké is Japan’s national beverage,  for a second fermentation. The result is a crisp and refreshing 4.8% double-fermented, saké-infused pilsner style lager with a flash of honey and fruit that will please from the most demanding beer connoisseur to the average social beer drinker, showing how much effort Bruce and Martyn put into brewing such delicious beer. Of pale yellow color, gooseberry and honey lychee smell, and smooth and delicate taste, Sun and Steel is not too sweet nor too bitter, being the perfect beer for the winter while we all wait for the Legacy of the Beast Tour to kick off in 2020, or for the hot and sunny days of summer when Bruce, Steve & Co. will take several cities and countries all over the world by storm with their unparalleled live performances. For instance, you can find Sun and Steel on sale at selected LCBO stores if you live in Canada for 2.85 Canadian Dollars each 500ml can, at several other importers from all over the world, or simply go to the Robinsons Brewery official website to grab 12 bottles of 330ml each for £20. Having said that, what are you waiting for to purchase a few cans or bottles of Sun and Steel and enjoy them while listening to the song Sun and Steel itself and all other Iron Maiden classics we all love so much? UP THE IRONS AND… KANPAI!

Beer details
Country: England
Brewer: Robinsons Brewery
Style: Saké Lager
Alcohol Content (ABV): 4.8%
Color: Pale yellow
Smell: Gooseberry, honey lychee
Taste: Smooth, complex and delicate
Sweetness: 3 out of 5
Bitterness: 2 out of 5
Contains: Malted barley and wheat

Album Review – Iced Earth / Horror Show (2001)

Are you looking for the ultimate Heavy Metal soundtrack to spice up your Halloween party? Mr. Jon Schaffer and his henchmen can definitely help you with that.

IcedEarth-HorrorShowTampa, Florida-based Power/Thrash Metal veterans Iced Earth might be one of the most underrated bands in the history of heavy music, and I believe they’re not bigger or more famous due to Mr. Jon Schaffer’s fickle temper, which has resulted in countless (and unstable) lineup changes in the history of the band, lowering any expectations a fan might have about their future. I personally don’t care that much about the mood of any musician, as long as this doesn’t negatively affect the overall quality of the music. Take a look at Dave Mustaine and Dani Filth, for example, and you’ll notice there are some changes in their music, but the core essence of Megadeth and Cradle of Filth is always there for the delight of their fans. Due to those constant changes you never know exactly what to expect from Iced Earth, as they sometimes deliver really bad material, but fortunately for all of us their 2001 album Horror Show showcases the Iced Earth we all want to listen to, sounding powerful, well-engendered and, above all, very creative and entertaining.

Horror Show is not just a traditional Heavy Metal album, also bringing a lot of the energy from Power Metal and some of the violence found in Thrash Metal, and that’s in my opinion the best “formula” Jon and his crew can offer us. Furthermore, it’s kind of  a concept album focused on different horror stories, making it even more interesting for Heavy Metal fans that also enjoy reading a frightful book or going to the movies to see a good dosage of monsters and blood. For instance, all songs on the album are based on classic horror films, from werewolves to vampires and mummies, and many of the lyrics are lifted directly from the source material, proving that when Jon doesn’t let his personal issues interfere in his music, the final result is always fantastic. Add to all that some incredibly talented musicians like Matt Barlow on vocals, Larry Tarnowski on the lead guitar, Steve DiGiorgio (Testament, Death, Charred Walls of the Damned) on bass and Richard Christy (Death, Charred Walls of the Damned) on drums, and there you have the utmost recipe for awesomeness.

Wolf, the first track of the album inspired by The Wolf Man films, is an excellent heavy song to kick things off, showing why Jon is considered by many one of the best riff-makers in Heavy Metal. The speed of the song and its grinding riffs give it an amazing Thrash Metal touch, not to mention its chorus inspired by a poem that is recited in the 1941 film The Wolf Man, making any fan excited for the rest of the album. Then we have Damien, inspired by The Omen films, presenting outstanding lyrics that make a lot of sense if you have read the book or seen the movies like I’ve done (“When the Jews return to Zion / And a comet fills the sky / The Holy Roman Empire rises / And you and I must die”). As a matter of fact, the chorus was taken from the 1976 film The Omen, and the spoken section was adapted from a speech in its 1981 sequel, Omen III: The Final Conflict, just to give you a sense of how detailed this song is. Things get even better in Jack, inspired by the one and only Jack the Ripper, with Jon slashing our ears with his riffs in great “Ripper” fashion. Moreover, perhaps the funniest thing about this song is that Horror Show was the last studio album (apart from their album of cover songs called Tribute to the Gods, from 2002) Matt recorded before Tim “Ripper” Owens (The Ripper himself!) joined the band in 2003 and recorded The Glorious Burden in 2004, which is for me one of their best and most consistent albums of all.

The album continues with Ghost of Freedom, the only song that wasn’t inspired by any horror movie or character. It’s a very beautiful ballad and one of the top moments of the whole album, showing us a more “romantic” side of Jon and how good Matt’s voice can be even when he’s not screaming. The following three songs might not be masterpieces, but they surely keep the album at a high level of adrenaline and epicness. Im-Ho-Tep (Pharaoh’s Curse) (inspired by The Mummy), Jekyll & Hyde (inspired by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), and Dragon’s Child (inspired by Creature from the Black Lagoon) not only have amazing concepts, but the music itself is very pleasant and cohesive, embracing us all and pulling us deeper into the world of horror created by the band throughout the entire album.

IcedEarth_Promo2001Frankenstein (“surprisingly” inspired by Frankenstein) is even better than those three tracks, raising your energy level and making you want to headbang like a crazy motherfucker, followed by the best song of Horror Show without a shadow of a doubt, the stunning Dracula (also “astoundingly” inspired by Dracula), a metal masterpiece that’s absolutely flawless from start to finish, presenting to the listener the duo Jon and Matt at the peak of their forms. This is an all-time fan favorite and a mandatory track in any of the band’s live setlists, also bringing to our avid ears ass-kicking lyrics (“Do you believe in love? / Do you believe in destiny? / True love may come only once in a thousand lifetimes…”). Lastly, we have The Phantom Opera Ghost, obviously inspired by The Phantom of the Opera, and despite all the additional elements and musicians it sounds too pretentious and doesn’t deliver what the fans are actually expecting.

The limited edition has a bonus disc with two totally opposite moments: an incredible cover for Iron Maiden’s Transylvania, where Jon does what he does best with his guitar; and a tedious interview with him that lasts for over an hour. I guess there’s a one-disc version of Horror Show that includes Transylvania as a regular track, so if I were you that’s the one I would buy. And finally, one thing that Iced Earth have always delivered are stunning album arts. The band’s own mascot, Set Abominae, might not be part of the compositions this time, but he certainly makes the front cover of Horror Show designed by Danny Miki and Travis Smith darkly captivating. In a nutshell, Horror Show, which makes the already distant year of 2001 look like it just happened yesterday, is a mandatory choice for that Heavy Metal Halloween party you’re planning with your friends (as well as a good source of inspiration for your costumes), or maybe you can just dress up as Jon Schaffer and walk around your neighborhood playing some of the tracks from Horror Show on your guitar, how about that? We could even call this new Halloween tradition as “Trick or Thrash”.

Best moments of the album: Wolf, Damien, Ghost of Freedom, Dracula and Transylvania.

Worst moments of the album: The Phantom Opera Ghost.

Released in 2001 Century Media Records

Track listing
1. Wolf 5:20
2. Damien 9:12
3. Jack 4:14
4. Ghost of Freedom 5:12
5. Im-Ho-Tep (Pharaoh’s Curse) 4:45
6. Jekyll & Hyde 4:39
7. Dragon’s Child 4:21
8. Frankenstein 3:50
9. Dracula 5:54
10. The Phantom Opera Ghost 8:41

Limited Edition Disc Two
11. Transylvania (Iron Maiden cover) 4:30
12. Interview with Jon Schaffer (conducted by Sumit Chandra) 69:27

Band members
Matt Barlow – vocals
Jon Schaffer – guitar
Larry Tarnowski – lead guitar
Steve DiGiorgio – bass
Richard Christy – drums

Guest musicians
Yunhui Percifield – lead vocals on “The Phantom Opera Ghost” as “Christine”, backing vocals
Jim Morris – guitar solo on “Ghost of Freedom”, keys, backing vocals
Howard Helm – keys (pipe organ) on “The Phantom Opera Ghost”
Richie Wilkison, Rafaela Farias & Sam King – backing vocals

Album Review – Rexoria / Ice Breaker (2019)

One of the most promising names of the Swedish metal scene returns with an inspiring new album that will bring you right into the dark forests and up on high mountains.

Creating an inspiring sound with various folk and power influences which will bring you right into the dark forests and up on high mountains, Jönköping, Sweden-based Melodic Metal outfit Rexoria is back in action in 2019 with a brand new opus entitled Ice Breaker, the follow-up to their 2018 installment Queen of Light and, more important than that, an album that will undoubtedly put a huge smile on the faces of fans of the music played by renowned acts like Doro, Battle Beast, Imperia, Aldaria, and several other bands that beautifully unite the electricity of traditional Heavy Metal with melodic and epic nuances. Mixed and mastered at Studio Fredman in Gothenburg, Sweden by Fredrik Nordström, and featuring an epic artwork showcasing a fearless valkyrie designed by Brazilian artist Jobert Mello from Sledgehammer Graphix (who has already worked with bands like Sabaton, Primal Fear and Grenouer), Ice Breaker is the perfect depiction of everything the music crafted by vocalist and keyboardist Frida Ohlin, guitarist and bassist Jonas Gustavsson, guitarist Cristofer Svensson and drummer Martin Gustavsson represents, being at the same time heavy, fast, melodic and exhilarating, paving a very promising path for these extremely talented musicians.

The electrifying riffs by Jonas and Cristofer permeate the air in the magical Velvet Heroes, a pure Hard Rock tune taken from the 80’s with a metallic touch brought forth by Frida’s soaring vocals, making it impossible to stand still to its inspiring rhythm and pace. Drinking from the same metal fountain as the iconic Doro, Frida delivers strident, sharp vocal lines in Fight the Demons, while her bandmates blast their instruments with tons of precision and feeling, sounding like a Swedish version of Accept with a feminine vibe; then it’s time to slow things down a bit to a passionate performance by Frida and the boys in Endless Nights, where Jonas and Cristofer are on fire with their guitar solos, resulting in a beautiful power ballad to warm up our hearts before the winter arrives. And if you consider yourself a courageous person, simply head into the always dangerous wilderness with Rexoria in Into the Wild, a mid-tempo tune where the galloping bass by Cristofer together with the rhythmic drums by Martin take the lead, being tailored for admirers of the golden years of Heavy Metal.

There’s more Melodic Metal flowing from their razor-edged guitars and pounding drums in Reach for the Heavens in Time, bringing an endless amount of electricity that will inspire you to prance and sing together with the band, whereas the title-track Ice Breaker is a lesson in Melodic Metal with an important message about the dangers of climate change, with its powerful backing vocals and galloping rhythm (that bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest made famous) supporting Frida in her quest for a better world. A screaming eagle and gentle piano notes are the main ingredients in the classy instrumental bridge Wind and Rain, before Rexoria embellish the airwaves once again with their charming metal music in The Rise of the Phoenix, leaning towards the Symphonic Metal played by bands like Nightwish and Epica. Needless to say, Jonas and Cristofer have another solid performance with their guitars, not to mention the song’s epic aura crafted by Frida’s keys.

Putting the pedal to the metal the band salutes the gods of heavy music in Brothers of Asgaard, a song that has all it takes to become a fan-favorite where Frida ventures through more aggressive lands with her high-pitched vocals, also showcasing thrilling guitar solos and unstoppable beats, followed by The Raging Thunder, another song that blends the heaviness of classic metal music with the band’s ethereal and touching vibe, being highly recommended for banging your head nonstop or simply savoring Frida’s powerful vocal lines. The second to last track in Ice Breaker, titled Roaring, is by far one of the best songs of the album, a rockin’ extravaganza led by Martin’s crushing beats where it’s truly entertaining to witness Frida roaring like the she-wolf she is, alternating between rampant moments and high-octane passages. And closing the album we have Vår Verklighet (or our reality” in Swedish), featuring Swedish vocalist Niklas Isfeldt (Dream Evil), an epic composition by the band where Frida and Niklas make a fantastic vocal duet while the rest of the guys keep the music flowing nicely and powerfully, also bringing a soulful guitar solo as the icing on the cake.

In summary, the excellent Ice Breaker, which is available in full on Spotify and on sale from several locations such as the band’s own webstore, the Pride & Joy webstore, the Nuclear Blast webstore, Apple Music and Amazon, represents a huge step forward in the career of those four Swedish metallers, helping Rexoria emerge as one of the most promising names in the Melodic and Symphonic Metal scene worldwide. Hence, you can also show your support to Frida and the boys by following them on Facebook, getting connected to a band that’s not only going places, but that showcases a limitless potential to shine brighter and brighter as the years go by and, above all, with an honest and deep passion for our beloved heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Velvet Heroes, Brothers of Asgaard and Roaring.

Worst moments of the album: The Rise of the Phoenix.

Released in 2019 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Velvet Heroes 3:28
2. Fight the Demons 4:07
3. Endless Nights 4:38
4. Into the Wild 3:52
5. Reach for the Heavens in Time 5:08
6. Ice Breaker 5:38
7. Wind and Rain 1:26
8. The Rise of the Phoenix 5:04
9. Brothers of Asgaard 3:45
10. The Raging Thunder 4:12
11. Roaring 3:47
12. Vår Verklighet 4:31

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

Guest musician
Niklas Isfeldt – vocals on “Vår Verklighet”

Album Review – Halcyon Reign / The Voyage (2019)

Dealing with the metaphoric beasts we all hide from, the debut album by this Australian trio will take you on a theatrical journey through the realms of prog.

Formed in 2016 in the city of Sydney, Australia, a Progressive Metal three-piece act that goes by the name of Halcyon Reign has just released their debut opus entitled The Voyage, offering the listener a prog feast recommended for fans of iconic bands such as Mastodon, Twelve Foot Ninja and Karnivool. Recorded and mixed by Adam Jordan at Main Street Studios, mastered by Don Bartley  at Benchmark Mastering, and featuring an interesting album art by Edi Udo at Edi Udo Illustrations, which seems to be a tribute to Mastodon’s Leviathan and Gojira’s From Mars to Sirius (and I’m pretty sure those are two of the band’s main influences), The Voyage deals with the metaphoric beasts we all hide from, with those theatrical beastly metaphors being embraced by an atmospheric, intricate and groovy sound blasted by lead singer and guitarist Lachlan Arvidson, bassist Luke Delbridge and drummer Simon Bowles, resulting in a fresh, full-bodied experience for any type of metalhead in search for a good balance between heaviness and creativity.

Emerging from the underworld of prog, the band comes ripping in the opening track ‘Welcome Reality’, a multi-layered musical journey through the realms of Progressive Metal where Lachlan’s classic metal vocals match the music perfectly, not to mention the great job done by Luke with his thunderous bass lines, feeling like a hybrid of Mastodon and Tool. Then a serene intro evolves into an even more progressive and intricate creation by the trio titled The Kraken, with Simon bringing a blend of Progressive, Doom and Heavy Metal with his beats while Lachlan fires his slashing riffs and potent vocals nonstop. Moreover, this great tune is full of breaks and variations, with its mesmerizing instrumental ending being tailored for admirers of the genre. And Peleliu is another classy composition by Halcyon Reign, showcasing the duo Lachlan and Luke in absolute sync with their stringed weapons, supported by Simon’s spot-on beats. Alternating between heavier and more complex moments and gentle, melancholic passages, the final result gets close to that sonic extravaganza the one and only Dream Theather enjoy doing all the time.

If you think The Voyage has been beyond amazing so far, get ready for almost ten minutes of dense, top-of-the-line metal music in Beyond The Cape, where Lachlan sounds at the same time delicate and infuriated on vocals. Furthermore, Luke and Simon make the earth tremble with their respective beats and bass punches, and they keep pounding their weapons with tons of precision and feeling until the song’s epic and enthralling finale. After such lecture in Progressive Metal, an atmospheric, futuristic bridge named Last Horizon sets the stage for the trio to shine once again in the title-track The Voyage, bringing to our ears and minds more of their beautifully crafted music, uniting progressiveness and heaviness in great fashion. Not only the sound of guitars and bass will pierce your ears mercilessly, but the music also brings hints of Sludge Metal to the band’s core essence, and that healthy amalgamation of styles makes the song feel like two or three songs in one, with the three band member jamming freely and stunningly until all fades into a space void.

The past decade has been more than just great for heavy music from Down Under, with countless excellent groups like Halcyon Reign showing the world everything they got, and if you want to show your support to this up-and-coming Australian triumvirate of Progressive Metal you can purchase The Voyage from their own BandCamp page, from Apple Music, from Amazon or from CD Baby, as well as listen to the album in full on Spotify. Also, don’t forget to give them a shout on Facebook, therefore joining Lachlan, Luke and Simon on their theatrical trek through space and progressive lands and, of course, inspiring them to keep delivering first-class metal music for all of us lovers of the underground scene.

Best moments of the album: The Kraken and Beyond The Cape.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. ‘Welcome Reality’ 6:14
2. The Kraken 8:18
3. Peleliu 5:09
4. Beyond The Cape 9:15
5. Last Horizon 1:27
6. The Voyage 7:28

Band members
Lachlan Arvidson – vocals, guitars
Luke Delbridge – bass
Simon Bowles – drums, vocals

Concert Review – Amon Amarth (Rebel, Toronto, ON, 10/09/2019)

A night of epic battles, endless circle pits and heavy-as-hell anthems offered by a horde of Swedish bands to all of us “Vikings” in Toronto, spearheaded by one of the biggest names of the current metal scene.

OPENING ACTS: Grand Magus, At The Gates and Arch Enemy

What a fun night, my fellow Vikings! The Swedish invasion that took the city of Toronto by storm last night at Rebel was beyond entertaining, and I can’t find the right words to describe the heaviness and power from all four bands of the night, Grand Magus, At The Gates, Arch Enemy and the almighty Amon Amarth (all hailing from Sweden, of course). There was a lot of beer drinking, endless mosh pits, lots of screaming, horns in the air, the encounter (although playing at different times with their respective bands) of the talented “Erlandsson Brothers” Adrian and Daniel, and a humongous dosage of our good old Heavy Metal.

The first band of the night was Stockholm-based Heavy/Doom Metal power trio GRAND MAGUS, which I confess I didn’t know much before last night. And let me tell you they kick some serious ass with their fusion of classic doom with Nordic themes, setting the stage on fire with their crisp and thunderous performance. Currently promoting their new album Wolf God, the band comprised of vocalist and guitarist JB Christoffersson, bassist Fox Skinner and drummer Ludwig Witt thanked all fans that were able to arrive early at Rebel to witness their fantastic concert, with their closing song, the battle hymn entitled Hammer of the North, being the icing on the cake to their flawless performance. I hope they return to Toronto soon for another killer concert, and if I were you I would search for their music right now on Spotify or on YouTube as it’s definitely worth it.

Setlist
I, the Jury
Dawn of Fire
Like the Oar Strikes the Water
Iron Will
Hammer of the North

Band members
JB Christoffersson – vocals, guitar
Fox Skinner – bass
Ludwig Witt – drums 

After a very short break it was time for Gothenburg’s own Melodic Death Metal institution AT THE GATES to bring to Toronto all their rage and darkness, inspiring the fans that were already filling up all the spaces at the venue to ignite some serious circle pits. Also, although the band has recently released two EP’s named The Mirror Black and With the Pantheons Blind, it felt like they “ignored” that and kept playing the same setlist used during their tour to promote their 2018 album To Drink from the Night Itself, with songs such as To Drink From the Night Itself and The Colours of the Beast being among my favorite ones of their solid performance. Needless to say, Tomas Lindberg was amazing with his harsh, desperate vocals throughout the entire concert, as well as Adrian Erlandsson, who was perhaps trying to “set the tone” for his brother Daniel with Arch Enemy right after that. A great warm-up concert as usual, and a great band for anyone who loves violence and mosh pits from the bottom of their blackened hearts.

Setlist
Der Widerstand
To Drink From the Night Itself
Slaughter of the Soul
At War With Reality
The Colours of the Beast
Cold
Heroes and Tombs
El Altar del Dios Desconocido
Death and the Labyrinth
Blinded by Fear
The Night Eternal

Band members
Tomas Lindberg – vocals
Martin Larsson – guitars
Jonas Stålhammar – guitars
Jonas Björler – bass
Adrian Erlandsson – drums

The venue was already packed when the one and only ARCH ENEMY hit the stage and began their high-octane, incendiary concert, and within a few seconds the entire floor section was already turned into a massive circle pit for our total delight. The multi-talented frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz was absolutely brutal and unstoppable, reminding us all she was the only Canadian in this tour and, consequently, asking us all to show those Swedish guys how awesome Canadian metallers are. Their setlist was quite solid for the time they had available, mixing a few songs from their latest album Will to Power, released in 2017, with some of their older classics. Also, I guess I don’t need to say how brilliant both Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis were with their axes, right? And if you were there last night, I bet you know what the words Ravenous and Nemesis mean to your neck, elbows and throat.

Setlist
Set Flame to the Night
The World Is Yours
War Eternal
My Apocalypse
Ravenous
The Eagle Flies Alone
First Day in Hell
Saturnine
As the Pages Burn
Nemesis
Enter the Machine

Band members
Alissa White-Gluz – vocals
Michael Amott – lead guitars, backing vocals
Jeff Loomis – lead guitars, backing vocals
Sharlee D’Angelo – bass
Daniel Erlandsson – drums

AMON AMARTH

After all those insanely heavy and electrifying bands warmed us up really well on a not-so-cold Torontonian night, we were more than ready to join the berserkers from AMON AMARTH on their musical journey to Valhalla, and that journey was perfect from start to finish, no doubt about that. Playing a good chunk of songs form their 2019 opus Berserker, which by the way worked really well live as the whole album kicks ass, such as Raven’s Flight, Crack the Sky, Fafner’s Gold and one of my favorites of the night, the battle hymn Shield Wall, the Swedish horde spearheaded by Johan Hegg showed us everything they got, including a Viking ship, a Viking battle, a demonic entity that looked like a skeleton version of Loki, and their traditional beer drinking horn during the party anthem Raise Your Horns.

Not sure if you noticed what I’m about to say, but all my photos of the concert are really bad, and that’s solely because it was impossible to stand still and try to take any decent pictures in the floor section due to the never-ending, gigantic and brutal circle pits happening. There was a bit of everything into the pit, from giant Viking guys to tiny (but still violent) Chinese girls, proving how big Amon Amarth are getting and how their theatrical performance combined with their powerful music is attracting more and more people to their concerts. And what can I say about what the fans did during a good part of their all-time classic Twilight of the Thunder God? I would say more than half of the floor section simply sat down on the floor and started rowing all together, as if they were true Vikings on a Viking ship sailing towards battle! That was a memorable and extremely fun moment of the night (and I don’t recall seeing that happen anywhere else, unless it’s a new thing during Amon Amarth concerts that I’m not aware of), and something that only proves how strong the band has become since their inception.

The entire band was more than happy with the reception they got from us here in Toronto, smiling back to us and banging their heads nonstop, and only stopping all that devastation to say THANK YOU, TORONTO! a thousand times. If that wasn’t a statement that they’re coming back to our city again and again, and every single time with a bigger and better concert, I don’t know what would be. Would Amon Amarth be the next “metal giant” after dinosaurs like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica and Slayer call it quits? Will those classic bands pass the torch to our beloved Swedish Vikings? Well, only time will tell, but based on the quality of their discography and, above all, the high energy and epicness of their live performances, they more than deserve that place among the metal gods. All hail Amon Amarth, and may Toronto witness their epic, heavy-as-hell metal hymns and onstage battles countless more times in the coming decades!

Setlist
Raven’s Flight
Runes to My Memory
Deceiver of the Gods
First Kill
Fafner’s Gold
Crack the Sky
The Way of Vikings
Shield Wall
Guardians of Asgaard
Raise Your Horns
The Pursuit of Vikings
Twilight of the Thunder God

Band members
Johan Hegg – vocals
Olavi Mikkonen – guitar
Johan Söderberg – guitar
Ted Lundström – bass guitar
Jocke Wallgren – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – The Harp Twins

Can you feel the wind of the north, my dear Camille and Kennerly?

How about we celebrate insane six years of The Headbanging Moose with two very talented women who have the unique ability of transforming the heaviest and most intense metal classics into serene and touching ballads only armed with their ethereal harps? I’m talking about Camille and Kennerly Kitt, known worldwide as The Harp Twins, who have achieved an unprecedented success not only among metal fans but in countless other music genres and entertainment segments, leading them to tour across several countries in North and America, Europe and anywhere else where their whimsical sounds are truly appreciated. And no, you’re not seeing double, as The Harp Twins are indeed identical twins, providing your avid ears double the pleasure with their refined skills by mixing all types of rock, metal and soundtrack arrangements with the gentle sounds flowing form their harps. Not only that, Camille and Kennerly are also accomplished actresses, showing there’s no actual limit for this talented American duo.

Born in the city of Chicago, Illinois, United States in 1989, with their heritage being mostly Norwegian mixed with Swedish, Finnish, English, Scottish, French, German and a little Cherokee Indian, Camille and Kennerly began playing the piano when they were children, followed by the harp when they went to junior high school. The duo was drawn by the beauty of the harp, saying it seemed like a magical instrument to them. By the way, their first harps (small, pre-owned lever harps) were bought with money they got from jobs such as babysitting and dog-walking, in order to show their mother they were really serious about playing the instrument. Classically trained in piano and also capable of playing a little percussion, the two blonde harpists also love to sing, which can be seen in some of their own original compositions and cover songs, although of course their main focus is and will always be their mesmerizing harps.

Having already played their electric harps, acoustic and electro-acoustic concert grand harps in several concert series, festivals, fairs and conventions in front of the most diverse crowds, even playing for US presidents, tech geniuses and global leaders, Camille and Kennerly have released over 100 singles online since the beginning of their career, as well as some very interesting cover albums, developing a huge cult of followers worldwide through their social media and becoming undoubtedly the most famous harp duo in the world. All that success is not in vain, of course, as both sisters hold a Bachelor of Music degree in Harp Performance and graduated with highest honors (“Summa Cum Laude”) at Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, located in Wheaton, Illinois, not to mention their previous years in a music studies program at a local college where they were in the Honors Scholar Program and represented the college at several collegiate summits.

Despite being formally trained in classical music and having the aforementioned degrees, their true obsession in music has always been taking the harp to new heights and exploring new grounds, nurturing a deep passion for arranging and performing rock, metal and soundtrack music as a harp duet, as well as their Nordic-inspired original songs thanks to their Scandinavian origin, always without any backtracks, studio productions or record labels involved, beautifully representing what it truly means to be an independent artist. And after listening to their duet arrangements of contemporary songs from artists including Iron Maiden, The Rolling Stones, Metallica, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, Enya and Journey, among many, many others, you’ll be able to fully understand why they have chosen to follow such distinguished path, embellishing the airwaves with their gentle, melodic and classy harp fingering.

As already mentioned, The Harp Twins, who by the way perform on Venus “Classic” Concert Grand pedal harps and Lyon & Healy “Silhouette” Electric lever harps, have several albums released (also in physical format) apart from their hundreds of online singles and videos, with their YouTube videos totaling over 106 million views with over 600,000 subscribers as of September 2019. For instance, their cover of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven alone garnered over three million YouTube hits as of September 2019, while their version of Iron Maiden’s Fear of the Dark received over 11 million views as of September 2019. Their six self-produced albums are Harp Attack (2013), Harp Attack 2 (2015), Harp Attack 3 (2018), Harp Fantasy (2013), Harp Fantasty 2 (2016), and Winter Lights (2017); while the Harp Attack series are dedicated to covers of Rock N’ Roll, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal songs and the Harp Fantasy series focus on covers of video game, anime, film and television soundtracks such as Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Pirates of the Caribbean, Final Fantasy, Star Trek, Star Wars, Vikings, Silent Hill and The Lord of the Rings, just to name a few, Winter Lights was their first-ever holiday album, including two new original songs and ten new arrangements of holiday classics from years gone by. Furthermore, their music has also been featured in countless media like National Geographic, The Huffington Post, ABC News, Conan O’Brien’s TeamCoco, AMCtv.com, Guitar World, Revolver, and many more, having also been praised by different music icons like Megadeth, Billy Idol, Kansas and Within Temptation, who shared the twins’ music on their official social media.

As a metalhead, I’m pretty sure you’re eager to listen to Camille and Kennerly playing some of your favorite metal classics of all time, right? Well, all you have to do is subscribe to their YouTube channel, sit down and enjoy their harp versions for, but not limited to, Rush’s Closer to the Heart, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, Dio’s Rainbow in the Dark, Metallica’s Fade to Black, Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills, and Megadeth’s A Tout le Monde. Go visit their official YouTube channel, or buy their music from CD Baby or from Apple Music, relax and enjoy these and countless other classic like Send Me an Angel, Smoke on the Water, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Hotel California, Don’t Stop Believin’, Every Breath You Take, and so on.

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Camille and Kennerly always say they switch off playing melody and accompaniment, even within the same piece, and also that apart from all cover songs they do either by request or by their own choice, they have also been composing original music for their harps for years, which can be seen in songs like North and the music theme for their own animated logo. In addition, you can also find Camille and Kennerly as guest harpists in the intro Time to Set You Free,  from the album The Second Big Bang, released in 2017 by Brazilian Melodic Power Metal project Soulspell. And regarding her main influences and idols in music, the twins mentioned in one of their interviews that their earliest musical influences were rock and classic rock because that’s what their mother used to listen to, including bands like The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Billy Idol, Van Halen, ZZ Top and Johnny Cash, later expanding their range due to their classical training to most artists and bands who think outside the box and follow their own path.

Although their main focus is obviously on their harp career, the duo is also famous for their acting and modeling skills, being members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and AFTRA and having already acted in theater, film and television. For instance, in the season 6 finale of The Walking Dead, they played a walker nicknamed “Ouch That’s My Hair”, who was fought and killed by the character Carol, and had roles as “The Marcelli Twins” in the dark teen comedy Blacktino (as you can see in the official trailer by clicking HERE), from 2011, as well as appearances in many other movies like Delivery Man (2013), Elephant Medicine (2010) and The End of Lost Beginnings (2009), and in several commercial such as a national Japanese commercials for Chupa Chups lollypops. Still talking about their film career, Camille and Kennerly always like to mention that they do all their videos by themselves, arranging the music, finding the filming location, making their own costumes, filming everything with a small hand-held video camera on a tripod, recording the sound in their own living room and editing the video themselves. Needless to say, there’s no such thing as playbacks or any other “magic tricks” in their videos, as what you hear is exactly how it’s being played by our multi-talented twins. Also, when asked about their life on the road, Camille and Kennerly said in several interviews they have lots of memorable moments to share, like when they represented the United States at the World Harp Festival in Paraguay, where they had extensive support from the American embassy resulting in a full concert the day after the event to a sold out theater, and all of their performances at several Walker Stalker Cons, playing right before panels with Norman Reedus, Andrew Lincoln, Chandler Riggs and Greg Nicotero. It’s impossible to list all events they have participated so far in their career, featuring in all types of public, private, philanthropic, academic, corporate, cultural and political events, proving once again how talented and professional they are.

Of course, there’s no Camille and Kennerly without their harps and vice-versa, and that’s why it’s important and truly interesting to know more about the girls’ ethereal weapons. Their acoustic concert grand harps are 6’3” (or 1.9 m) and weigh 90 lbs (or 40.8 kg), while their electric harps are 4’ (or 1.22 m) and weigh 16 lbs (or 7.25 kg); regarding the number of strings, their acoustic concert grand harps have 47 strings (which can have three different pitches, those being flat, natural and sharp), their electric lever harps have 33 strings (which can have two different pitches, either flat/natural or natural/sharp), and their Harpsicle Harps have 26 strings. In addition, although it’s possible for the twins to use distortion on their electric harps, they don’t actually do that due to the difficulty to use distortion while still continuing the melody and accompaniment; however, you can enjoy Camille and Kennerly blasting distorted harp sounds on their cover version for Billy Idol’s White Wedding (by the way, Billy Idol himself even said that “if you live long enough you get to see this version of White Wedding”), and a slight effect in their Doctor Who Theme and The Smith’s Asleep covers. When asked about how they manage to carry their harps everywhere and how they handle their weight while playing, they said they put a strap on their backs to do that, but that they also bruise their hips from the straps if they wear the harps for too long. They love the freedom of movement, though, helping them to properly perform rock songs with their electric harps. Some people like to ask them why they don’t move even more while playing, and they said it’s tougher to reach a necessary balance with the harps than with a guitar or violin, for example.

Aside from being impressive harpists, Camille and Kennerly also have a variety of other interests and hobbies in their lives, keeping them absolutely busy pretty much all of the time. For instance, the twins are third degree black belts in Tae Kwon Do and former Tae Kwon Do instructors, which by the way caused two broken fingers to Kennerly while sparring one day, and stitches to Camille’s face as a result of puncture wound sustained while holding a board that Kennerly was breaking. In the end, those incidents made them decide to stop practicing martial arts and focus on their career as harpists. Our beloved blonde musicians were also competitive swimmers as kids (having both qualified for the Junior Olympics five times), are experts in rifle marksmanship, and are trained in horseback riding, not to mention their passion for other activities and hobbies such as hiking, working out, watching TV shows like The Walking Dead and Vikings, reading, writing, and so on. Moreover, the Kitt Twins are also actively involved in their community, supporting education and health initiatives for unprivileged children overseas, and volunteering for many years at a monthly deaf/hard-of-hearing social gathering (and yes, they know sign language), among other endeavors, as they strongly believe in the importance of giving back. The girls also sponsor a few kids in Ethiopia, helping to provide them school, food, clothing and medical care, always hoping more and more people will follow their steps to make the world a better place.

Last but not least, Camille and Kennerly’s connection as twins is beautifully externalized in the way they always look at each other while they’re playing, and in their twin costumes (which as mentioned are always put together by the twins themselves by mixing and matching things they already have at home), unless of course they need to dress differently for a commercial, film or media project. Having said that, if you want to have double the fun with the classy and mesmerizing music by Camille and Kennerly, or if you are an event organizer who’s searching for a truly unique attraction to captivate the attention of your guests on your next big event, you can get in touch with The Harp Twins by sending an email to HarpTwins@HarpTwins.com, and don’t forget to keep an eye on their Events Page on Facebook for all of their public performances, concerts and other events. And if you want to show your support to their distinguished work with their harps, as aforementioned you can purchase their music from Apple Music and from CD Baby, or simply visit their official website for all music, news, tour dates and other nice-to-know information about the unstoppable twins who give a beyond welcome touch of delicacy to our good old rock and metal music.

Camille and Kennerly’s Official Facebook page
Camille and Kennerly’s Official Instagram
Camille and Kennerly’s Official Twitter
Camille and Kennerly’s Official YouTube channel

“When someone tells us that our music has helped them through an illness, or inspired their child to learn an instrument, or even just given them some peace after a trying day, that means the world to us. As musicians, it’s the greatest feeling to know that our music has touched someone else in some way.” – Camille and Kennerly Kitt

Album Review – Corrosive Sweden / Blood and Panic (2019)

An electrifying fusion of an old school feeling twisted and coated perfectly with a modern sound, hailing from the beautiful (and corrosive) Sweden.

Described as a hybrid between old school Thrash Metal and Melodic Death Metal, Swedish five-piece unity Corrosive Sweden has recently released a brand new opus entitled Blood and Panic, dealing with personal issues and changes faced by all band members. “The album has really been worked through and is a pure reflection of our personal lives. It is probably the best material we have done so far,” said the band in an interview, with the music found in Blood and Panic, recorded over a few years by the members themselves in their own studio Dark City Sounds, being a well-balanced mix of an old school feeling twisted and coated perfectly with a modern sound, being highly recommended for fans of bands like Metallica, In Flames and Soilwork, among others.

Formed in the distant year of 1997 in Hudiksvall, Sweden, the band comprised of Johan Bengtsson on vocals, Christer Ulander on the guitar and keyboards, Peter Forss also on the guitar, Magnus Nordin on bass and Daniel Hedin on drums has already released a number of recordings and played at several clubs and festival in Sweden through the years, bringing their Heavy Metal infused with a wide range of elements from classic Hard Rock to Punk Rock and Power Metal to the ears of metalheads from all over the world. Now with Blood and Panic the band continues to pave their metallic path, sounding unique but at the same time offering recognizable fragments from their musical influences in each of the nine songs from the album.

The riffs by Christer and Peter will pierce your skin until Daniel comes crushing with his beats in Fire from a Gun, a fusion of modern-day Heavy Metal with Groove Metal showcasing an amazing balance between clean vocals and harsh roars, followed by the title-track Blood and Panic, just as electrifying as the opening track. Both guitars are on absolute fire, providing Johan all he needs to vociferate manically in a hard-hitting, straightforward display of Melodic Death Metal by the quintet, also delivering some sick guitar solos to our avid ears. And it seems like they want to slash our faces in half with their vicious riffs in Speed, even more modern and melodic, and with its backing vocals providing a powerful support to Johan while Daniel pounds his drums just the way we like it in heavy music.

Venturing through more aggressive and darker lands, Christer and Peter kick some ass with their Iron Maiden-inspired riffs and solos in Angry Me, whereas Angel or a Beast sounds like a bastard hybrid of Pantera, Rob Zombie and Godsmack, which obviously translates into awesomeness. Once again the band’s dynamic guitar duo shreds their axes nonstop, extracting sheer rage and groove from their stringed weapons while Johan delivers one of his best vocal lines of the entire album; and bringing forward elements from more alternative styles of heavy music, Terrified as I Die showcases Magnus’ thunderous bass and Daniel’s hammering beats adding a lot of stamina to the overall result (despite not being as exciting as the rest of the album).

Dirtier-than-usual vocals and riffs are the main ingredients in Parasite, a great option for hitting the road or slamming into the mosh pit, as long as you don’t stop banging your head to their neck-breaking riffs and beats, of course. At the Top is another high-octane extravaganza by Corrosive Sweden, bringing forward a solid instrumental led by Daniel’s classic drums while Johan keeps screaming and shouting with a lot of energy and precision, before more rage and despair flow from Johan’s vocal lines in the closing tune Black Paint, with the music remaining absolutely heavy and groovy from start to finish, putting a vibrant ending to Blood and Panic.

After the album is over, just keep raising your horns for Corrosive Sweden as those guys deserve it for their hard work and deep passion for heavy music, and of course don’t forget to give them a shout on Facebook and to subscribe to their YouTube channel. As mentioned in the beginning of the review, Blood and Panic, available for a full listen on YouTube and on Spotify and on sale from several locations like Apple Music and Amazon, is a solid and thrilling amalgamation of styles and subgenres of heavy music, beautifully celebrating the band’s devotion to all things metal and showing the world once again why (corrosive) Sweden has always been one of the most important and prolific countries in the history of heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Fire from a Gun, Angry Me and Angel or a Beast.

Worst moments of the album: Terrified as I Die.

Released in 2019 BMP Records Sweden

Track listing
1. Fire from a Gun 3:31
2. Blood and Panic 3:13
3. Speed 3:39
4. Angry Me 5:24
5. Angel or a Beast 3:40
6. Terrified as I Die 5:04
7. Parasite 4:21
8. At the Top 3:57
9. Black Paint 3:37

Band members
Johan Bengtsson – vocals
Christer Ulander – guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
Peter Forss – guitar, backing vocals
Magnus Nordin – bass
Daniel Hedin – drums