The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2015

“Good day
My name is Necropolis
I am formed of the dead
I am the harvester of the soul meat
And I suck the lives from around my bed
My own two sons I gave them breath
And I filled their living corpses with my bile
What humanity I knew I have long forgotten
For me eternity is nothing
But a short while…” 

– If Eternity Should Fail, by Iron Maiden

Eternity might be nothing but a short while for the harvester of the soul meat, but for us mere mortals it looked like 2015 was never going to reach its end. Well, the year is finally phasing out and 2016 is already knocking on our doors, promising to be a much better (and less tragic) time for mankind. With that said, once again as a tribute to all bands and musicians who kept our hearts warm in the throes of a world crisis, here is The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2015, excluding of course all EP’s, best of’s and live albums. Profitez-en bien!

Iron Maiden_The Book of Souls1. Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls (REVIEW)
As you read through the pages of The Book Of Souls you’ll inevitably realize that Iron Maiden’s gonna get us all, no matter how far.
Best song of the album: The Red and the Black

moonspell_extinct2. Moonspell – Extinct (REVIEW)
While this distinguished Portuguese Dark Metal band is among us, we can rest assured good and meaningful music is far from being extinct.
Best song of the album: Extinct

Stratovarius_Eternal3. Stratovarius – Eternal (REVIEW)
The Finnish masters of Power Metal are back with a beautiful album made to be eternal.
Best song of the album: My Eternal Dream

battle beast_unholy savior4. Battle Beast – Unholy Savior (REVIEW)
Battle Beast want the world and everything in it, and they’re definitely on their way to conquer it all with their brilliant brand new album.
Best song of the album: I Want The World… And Everything In It

My God-Given Right5. Helloween – My God-Given Right (REVIEW)
It’s our God-given right to keep banging our heads to the music by the happiest and most awesome Power Metal band in the world.
Best song of the album: Creatures in Heaven

scorpions_return to forever6. Scorpions – Return to Forever (REVIEW)
This rock may be rolling home after so many years of good service, but it still has A LOT to teach the world on how to make true Hard Rock.
Best song of the album: Rock ‘N’ Roll Band

cover7. Marduk – Frontschwein (REVIEW)
The Babylonian gods of Black Metal return with more of their blasphemous and apocalyptic war-themed music.
Best song of the album: Thousand-Fold Death

CoF_Hammer of the Witches8. Cradle of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches (REVIEW)
The metallic coven instituted by one of the most important Extreme Metal bands of all time keeps haunting our world with their music.
Best song of the album: Onward Christian Soldiers

Survivalist Album Cover9. 4ARM – Survivalist (REVIEW)
A phenomenal heavy music album full of groove, fury and energy by an extremely talented Thrash Metal band from Down Under.
Best song of the album: Poisoned Mind

Slayer_Repentless10. Slayer – Repentless (REVIEW)
Live fast, on high, repentless, and keep listening to Slayer until the day you die.
Best song of the album: Repentless

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

11. Vanden Plas – Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld II (REVIEW)
12. Monolith – Against The Wall Of Forever (REVIEW)
13. The Agonist – Eye of Providence (REVIEW)
14. Acrassicauda – Gilgamesh (REVIEW)
15. Vingulmork – Chiaroscuro (REVIEW)
16. Vorna – Ei Valo Minua Seuraa (REVIEW)
17. Dys Inbunden – One With Morbidity, The Opus Misanthropy (REVIEW)
18. Deadly Circus Fire – The Hydra’s Tailor (REVIEW)
19. Tsar Bomb – Exterminans IX:XI (REVIEW)
20. Profane And The Sacred – Chapter 1 : A Long Time Coming (REVIEW)

As this year we had tons of amazing EP’s being released by extremely talented bands from all over the world, why not providing you our Top 10 EP’s of 2015, right? (To be fair, although shorter in duration, some of them are significantly better and more complex than several full-length albums that became available throughout the year.)

1. Goatchrist – The Epic Tragedy Of The Cult Of Enlil (REVIEW)
2. Dö – Den (REVIEW)
3. Chip DiMonick – Uncaged (REVIEW)
4. Omega Diatribe – Abstract Ritual (REVIEW)
5. The Passion Of Our Souls – Soulmates (REVIEW)
6. Velaverante – My Dark Images (REVIEW)
7. Novallo – Novallo II (REVIEW)
8. Meridius – Meridius (REVIEW)
9. Judas Avenger – Judas Avenger (REVIEW)
10. Pergana – The Visit (REVIEW)

One thing that 2015 taught us all is that Heavy Fuckin’ Metal is still alive and on fire, and based on the music by countless independent bands reviewed here (that for different reasons did not make it to our top 10/20), it will keep shining brighter than ever for many years to come. Take a listen at the music by Rifftera and Amanita Virosa (Finland); Reanimator and Fractal Generator (Canada); Sarpentra and The Prophet (Russia); Dzhatinga and Irreversible Mechanism (Belarus); Helligators and Lykaion (Italy); Warmask and Hateful Warfare (Brazil); Morkesagn and Gasoline Guns (Ukraine); Void Creation (Austria); Nachtlieder (Sweden); Fjorsvartnir (Denmark); Broken Rain (Slovakia); Lanthanein (Argentina), among many others, and there you have the future of heavy music. And, obviously, don’t forget to listen to the METAL MOOSE RADIO SHOW every week, and to always HAIL SANTA!

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2016!

And now, last but not least, a Christmas message from Eddie and the boys…

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Metal Chick of the Month – Daísa Munhoz

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How dare you look at me in the eye?

Time to fly back to South America, more specifically to the municipality of Bariri, São Paulo, Brazil, located about 300km from the city of São Paulo (and about 700km from the city of Rio de Janeiro), to talk about another Brazilian Heavy Metal diva, Daísa Munhoz, the beautiful and talented frontwoman of Brazilian Progressive Metal band Vandroya. If you’re simply fanatic for traditional Heavy Metal, I would say she might be the girl of your dreams.

Owner of a very powerful and melodic voice, Daísa started singing when she was only 9 years old, and at the age of fourteen she was already part of a “travelling band”. Our diva said that although she never actually took any singing lessons, she grew up surrounded by every kind of musicians, rehearsals and jam sessions every single day, as her parents are musicians too. That helped her a lot in terms of getting used to how the world of music works, and she learned a lot from every musician that was close to her, especially her mother. She also plays the piano, but “in a mediocre way” in her own words, mainly because she ends up using it more like a guide during her writing and composing process, or sometimes just as a distraction or to relax a little.  Daísa said she never really had any interest in specializing herself in the piano, nor the patience or discipline to do so.

It was when our Heavy Metal bombshell was around 18 or 19 years old that she founded Vandroya, having recorded so far with the band a 2-track demo entitled Within Shadows, in 2005, and more recently their first full-length album, One, in 2012 via Spiritual Beast Records and in 2013 via Inner Wound Recordings. And stay tuned, because the compositions for the next Vandroya album are 100% finished and the recording process will start really soon. By the way, Daísa explained the word “Vandroya” means nothing specifically: it was just a suggestion from a friend back in their early years, based on a character in Avantasia who is called Vandroy. The band just loved the way it sounded.

In addition, you can also see our diva in action in many other different bands and projects. She has been performing for years, including her one time all female band called Inlakesh, as well as a Led Zeppelin tribute band named Black Dog. Not only that, she recorded the vocals on track Song of Deliverance, from the 2013 album Exodus by Slovakian Progressive Power Metal band Signum Regis, as well as the vocals as “Judith” or “Judith, The Princess” in three different albums by Brazilian Melodic Power Metal band Soulspell (a Metal Opera project created by Brazilian drummer Heleno Vale): A Legacy of Honor (2008), The Labyrinth of Truths (2010) and Hollow’s Gathering (2012), winning the Best Female Vocalist award from Whiplash.net in 2010 for her work with Soulspell.

There are so many awesome songs with Daísa on vocals on YouTube you can spend hours and hours just listening and watching to our diva kicking ass, so in order for you to get a delicious taste of her unique voice and the mighty metal music played by Vandroya, my recommendations are the beautiful ballad Why Should We Say Goodbye, the Helloween-ish Power Metal tune The Last Free Land (which I’m pretty sure will inspire you so much you’ll buy Vandroya’s debut album after the first listen), the smooth acoustic version of No Oblivion For Eternity, a live performance of one of their first songs, Within Shadows, as well as their recent cover version for the song Heaven, by Canadian icon Bryan Adams.

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In regards to her main music influences, it’s important to say that Robert Plant is her biggest idol of all time, with the way he sings and moves having a huge impact on her onstage performance, which by the way is beyond superb. However, there are so many awesome artists and bands that it’s hard to name just a few. Sacred names such as Dio, Freddy Mercury, David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Russel Allen, Robert Plant, Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, Doro and Ann Wilson are among her biggest idols, being also highly influenced by Iron Maiden, of course, and many German metal bands, especially Helloween, with the unique voice of Michael Kiske leading her into the world of heavy music. Vandroya playing one of my top Helloween songs of all time, the classic March Of Time, is truly outstanding and an amazing tribute from Daísa and her band to the best Teutonic metal band of all time.

In one of her interviews, Daísa stated she has so many idols it’s very hard to choose just a few for a “dream tour”, but that she would truly love to be part of a festival only formed by female-fronted metal bands. It’s about time someone from the Metal Female Voices Fest invites her and the other members of Vandroya to be part of any future editions of the festival, don’t you think?

Lastly, although Daísa grew up listening to a lot of classic rock and hard rock bands, always being completely fanatic for Led Zeppelin, when asked about the top 5 Heavy Metal albums that changed her life, she listed the following ones: Pink Bubbles Go Ape (Helloween), Cowboys from Hell (Pantera), …And Justice for All (Metallica), The Number of the Beast (Iron Maiden) and Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath), I guess not necessarily in this order. Take a good look at this list and answer me if this is not enough awesomeness to consider Daísa a true badass metalhead!

Daísa Munhoz’s Official Facebook page
Vandroya’s Official Facebook page

“…I actually started to search for more female singers and I discovered a lot of amazing and brave warriors that faced this male-dominated market and won it. You know what? I just realized I know so many female singers I could write a book about their careers!” – Daísa Munhoz

Album Review – Helloween / My God-Given Right (2015)

It’s our God-given right to keep banging our heads to the music by the happiest and most awesome Power Metal band in the world.

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My God-Given RightEvery single time Power Metal heroes Helloween release a new album, my metal heart is filled with joy. No other band beats those German metallers when the subject is fast and solid metal music charged with massive amounts of happiness and electricity. And when our beloved war dog guitarist Michael Weikath said My God-Given Right, the fifteenth studio album in their distinguished career, would be “just good old classic Heavy Metal the way it’s supposed to be”, I couldn’t get more excited to have it in my hands. What Mr. Weikath says, Mr. Weikath does, right?

After listening to My God-Given Right for the hundredth time let’s say he was absolutely spot on with his words, for the total delight of millions of Helloween maniacs all over the world, including myself. It’s beautiful and unswerving Heavy Metal, a metallic lecture to any musician on how to focus your energy and skills into crafting first-class music, and more important than that, it’s pure Helloween. In addition, guitarist Sascha Gerstner and drummer Daniel Löble seem to be getting more and more in sync with the rest of the band with each album, becoming an intrinsic part of the music by Helloween now, which of course brings only benefits to the band as a whole.

Thus, it’s when “Happy Happy Helloween” come ripping that you better get ready for an insane Rock N’ Roll party. Mixing elements from all of their albums, including even their iconic debut album Walls of Jericho, the opening track Heroes punches you right in the face with its powerful instrumental and beyond exciting rhythm and chorus (“Everyone can be a hero / We are, we are / Sometimes up then down to zero / We are, we are / Heroes, heroes”), followed by Battle’s Won, which reminds me a little of “Burning Sun” from their previous album, the also excellent Straight Out of Hell. It is Power Metal to the second power with Daniel leading the sonic attack, the type no other band in the world can create, with highlights to the balance between the lead vocals by Andi Deris and the efficient backing vocals. Then we have the title-track, My God-Given Right, which transpires Helloween from the Andi Deris-era, and I can’t wait to hear this tune live. Besides, you’ll be humming its beautiful riffs for weeks in a row, and it’s impossible not to love its “Star Wars meets Helloween” official video.

Right after that Power Metal trinity, why not hitting the dance floor with the entire band in the amazing Hard Rock/Heavy Metal tune Stay Crazy, one of the best tracks to be added to their setlist in my opinion? Those awesome riffs keep coming nonstop from the guitar duo comprised by Michael and Sascha, with kudos to Andi for an outstanding performance yet again. And sounding like a hybrid between “I Want Out” and “I Can”, the also excellent Lost in America is old school Helloween with the fresh touch of their latest works, with highlights to its fun lyrics and an amazing job done on guitars once again, especially in regards to the solos. Concluding this second trinity, the awesomeness goes on and on in Russian Roulé, a song that represents what I would call “badass Rock N’ Helloween”. Not only it has the heaviest riffs of the whole album, but Andi and Daniel are also thrilled while playing this song, with only one single question left to be answered: are you going to come out and play with the band?

Helloween 2015The Swing of a Fallen World is the weakest of all tracks, not actually fitting in with the rest of the album. Despite a desire for it to be epic, it ends up falling flat due to its very basic and repetitive instrumental, with no outstanding moments at all. Fortunatelly, the album quickly regains momentum with the relaxing ballad Like Everybody Else, a good option for soulmates to enjoy together. We know they’ve created better ballads through the years, but this is still a nice song, and of course the most interesting part are Andi’s vocals as they always work pretty well in slow songs. Then we have the superb Creatures in Heaven, a high-end Power Metal feast where Helloween prove why they’re the masters of this type of metal music: it’s exciting from start to finish, where they pay a tribute to themselves traveling back in time and back to the present and future of the band, with the riffs and solos by Michael and Sascha truly touching our hearts so amazing they are.

No one else could have written If God Loves Rock ‘n’ Roll but Mr. Andi Deris, as it’s pure Hard Rock with the entire band on fire delivering divine rock music to us mere mortals, enhanced by its witty lyrics (“Leather suits you better / Got to let your hair grow / Take the black and enjoy the new show / Welcome to an army spreading over the world / Wild and proud brothers / Haven’t you heard?”). And following the same rockin’ pattern, Living on the Edge is highly recommended to be part of your soundtrack for a road trip, where Michael, Sascha and one of my favorite bassists of all time, Mr. Markus Grosskopf, give us a lesson on how to flawlessly tame their strings.

Are you tired already? There’s no way you can get bored with Helloween, with more Power Metal at its finest to you in the form of Claws, a good complement to an amazing album, as well as You, Still of War, the longest of all tracks, which has an inner beauty that will turn it into a fan favorite without any doubt. It’s a lot more progressive than usual, showcasing those unique guitar duos we learned to love in their music, closing the regular version of the album the best possible way. And if you grab one of the special editions of My God-Given Right, there are different bonus songs, all pretty good, with Free World being my favorite due to its riffs.

However, as Helloween is not an ordinary band, My God-Given Right comes with the whole package. The artwork, once again created by German international photographer Martin Häusler, comes available as a 3D lenticular print (visible without 3D glasses), and you can also be totally entertained by the Helloween family providing their words of wisdom about each track of the album HERE, HERE and HERE.  Because, in the end, what really matters is that it’s our God-given right to stay crazy and keep banging our heads to the music by the happiest and most awesome Power Metal band in the world.

Best moments of the album: My God-Given Right, Stay Crazy, Russian Roulé, Creatures in Heaven and If God Loves Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Worst moments of the album: The Swing of a Fallen World.

Released in 2015 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Heroes 3:51
2. Battle’s Won 4:53
3. My God-Given Right 3:30
4. Stay Crazy 4:05
5. Lost in America 3:35
6. Russian Roulé 3:53
7. The Swing of a Fallen World 4:53
8. Like Everybody Else 4:04
9. Creatures in Heaven 6:36
10. If God Loves Rock ‘n’ Roll 3:21
11. Living on the Edge 5:19
12. Claws 5:52
13. You, Still of War 7:21

Digital/Limited/Earbook Edition bonus tracks
14. I Wish I Were There 4:12
15. Wicked Game 3:56
16. Free World* 3:34
17. Nightmare** 4:43
18. More Than a Lifetime** 3:58

*Limited Edition Bonus track only
**Earbook Edition Bonus track only

Band members
Andi Deris – lead vocals
Michael Weikath – lead and rhythm guitars
Sascha Gerstner – lead and rhythm guitars
Markus Grosskopf – bass
Daniel Löble – drums

Album Review – Gamma Ray / Empire Of The Undead (2014)

Gamma Ray return with their unmatched empire of Heavy Metal.

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CoverAfter a very long and exciting wait, Empire Of The Undead, the new album by German Power Metal masters Gamma Ray is finally among us, and once again the one and only Kai Hansen and his crew deliver us excellent music full of great riffs, nice lyrics, and above all that, lots of passion for what binds us all together. Yes, I’m talking about pure HEAVY METAL. And yes, Germany keeps on rockin’ nonstop in 2014.

As a long-time fan of the band, from the times when Dirk Schlächter was still the guitarist and Ralf Scheepers was still on vocals, I, for one, am a huge advocate of Gamma Ray’s music and style. In my humble opinion, they have reached that same stage bands such as Motörhead, AC/DC and The Ramones have, a stage where changing their music direction would be the major mistake of their lives. Who wants to see to Kai Hansen singing Rap or the band adding any electronic elements to their music? Other less important bands can try that, but Gamma Ray exist to provide us the most traditional heavy music we so much love.

BandTo kick off things in an exceptional way, how about the 9-minute epic tune Avalon, with its excellent solos and harmony, which reminds me of one of their biggest classics, “Rebellion In Dreamland”? Then comes the best, fastest and most awesome song of the album,  the pure fuckin’ metal song Hellbent, with its lyrics and especially chorus being  a tribute to Heavy Metal fans all around the world (“Hellbent for Metal / That’s what we are / Hellbent for Metal / Straight from the heart”). Kai Hansen is not only always amazing on vocals and on the guitar, but he’s also one of the best Heavy Metal poets of all time.

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Empire of the Undead CD Jewelcase

And Empire of the Undead continues in a very enjoyable way, with the excellent Pale Rider with its totally Judas Priest-ish riffs and another awesome performance from the whole band; and Born to Fly,  a very traditional Gamma Ray tune with a great chorus. The following two tracks are not exactly new, as they featured in the Master of Confusion EP, released in the beginning of 2013, but who cares? Both Master of Confusion and Empire of the Undead are powerful songs, with the latest having those classic riffs and guitar solos that explain why Gamma Ray are so fuckin’ awesome. Moreover, I had the pleasure to see them playing both live already last year, and those songs kick some serious ass.

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Empire of the Undead LP

In order to give us some air, Kai & Co. come with the smooth ballad Time for Deliverence, with its beautiful lyrics, and Demonseed, which despite its weird intro and headbanging riffs, is not a very entertaining track; however, the band gets back to their roots with Seven, another classic tune that will surely please all of their fans. And to end this pretty cool album, we have the song I Will Return, which starts with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous “I’ll Be Back!” quote, but doesn’t keep up with the same energy level as the previous tracks. And if I were you, I would buy any of the special editions of the album (each with a different front cover color), because all bonus tracks and other stuff are worth the extra money.

In terms of the musicians, kudos to drummer Michael Ehré, as although he had some big shoes to fill he nailed it, and of course to Mr. Kai Hansen, the creator of Power Metal, Helloween and Gamma Ray. Kai is the “Midas” of heavy music: everything he touches becomes GOLD, and that’s valid for Empire of the Undead, another very good release from one of the most influential German bands of all time. May the amazing empire of Heavy Metal built by this great guy “hellbent for Metal” live forever more.

Best moments of the album: Avalon, Hellbent, Pale Rider and Empire of the Undead.

Worst moments of the album: Demonseed and I Will Return.

Released in 2014 earMUSIC

Track listing
1. Avalon 9:21
2. Hellbent 5:23
3. Pale Rider 4:24
4. Born to Fly 4:32
5. Master of Confusion 4:55
6. Empire of the Undead 4:26
7. Time for Deliverence 5:11
8. Demonseed 6:39
9. Seven 5:07
10. I Will Return 6:56

European bonus track
11. Built a World 4:23

Limited Edition Digipack bonus tracks
12. Avalon (Live from Studio) 9:52
13. The Spirit (Live from Studio) 4:19
14. Empire of the Undead (Live from Studio) 4:27

Band members
Kai Hansen – lead vocals, rhythm & lead guitar
Henjo Richter – lead & rhythm guitar, keyboards
Dirk Schlächter – bass
Michael Ehré – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Dani Nolden

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You know what I am… An angel with horns!

Brazil has a lot more to offer than just samba, caipirinha and half-naked mulatas dancing during Carnival. Especially in regards to women there, that stereotype really makes me sick: I guess not even 1% of the Brazilian girls are like that, and a very good example is the stunning Daniela Nolden, or simply Dani Nolden, lead singer of Brazilian Heavy Metal band Shadowside.

Dani Nolden was born on December 26, 1982 in the coastal city of Santos, Brazil, located about 70 km from the city of São Paulo and 500 km from the city of Rio de Janeiro. She started her life in music at the age of 8, taking piano lessons, but after she was introduced to bands such as Guns N’ Roses, Judas Priest and Skid Row, she took a completely different path of what their parents were expecting from her. She then became a Metal/Rock singer and songwriter, being with many independent bands until founding Shadowside back in 2001. The band then reached some success and status in the world of heavy music in its first year of existence, being one of the opening bands for the South American/Brazilian tours of Nightwish and Primal Fear.

In the following years, Dani Nolden and her band Shadowside literally “went places”: in 2006, Shadowside supported German Heavy Metal icons Helloween during their tour in Brazil; in 2007, the band won the AirPlay Direct‘s  “All Things Digital Hard Rock/Heavy Metal” among over 1,000 bands worldwide; and due to that exposure they signed a major worldwide deal and began touring the United States, Europe and South America, performing with bands such as Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P., Kittie, Sepultura and Temple of Brutality (feat. David Ellefson of Megadeth). One of Dani’s career highlights happened during Shadowside’s first US tour in 2008, at the Flight of the Valkyries festival in St. Paul, Minnesota, when she shared the stage with American heavy metal band Benedictum for a few Dio cover songs as part of an exclusive performance.

To date, Dani has recorded one EP and three full-length albums with Shadowside, being responsible for the vocals and keyboards in all recordings: Shadowside – Demo EP (2001), Theatre of Shadows (2005), Dare to Dream (2009), and Inner Monster Out (2011). By the way, the album Theatre of Shadows brings an awesome cover version for Dio’s unique classic Rainbow in the Dark, where Dani beautifully shows all her vocal range and potency. Besides Shadowside, Dani has also played with the symphonic band Sphaera Rock Orchestra, a project created by musician Alexey Kurkdjian that mixes Classical and Rock music, and appeared as a guest vocalist with the Brazilian Power Metal band Soulspell during their 2011 tour. She also works as a music consultant for the company The Ultimate Music when she’s not recording or on tour with her band.

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Her biggest influences in music include Heavy Metal legends Iron Maiden, Helloween, Nightwish and Sepultura, Hard Rock giants W.A.S.P., Skid Row and Guns N’ Roses, and more modern or contemporary bands like Disturbed, Soilwork and Rammstein. Moreover, she mentioned in an interview that if she had to choose only one band or artist for the “tour of her dreams”, that band would certainly be Iron Maiden. Up the Irons, Dani!

Last but not least, when this gorgeous metalhead is not doing anything related to her career with Shadowside, she enjoys playing videogames, reading books, watching movies, surfing, and practicing Kung Fu. She also loves soccer, which might be her biggest Brazilian characteristic, even being a teenage soccer player before having to abandon that potential career due to her increasing amount of work and tours with Shadowside. I know the world of heavy music is a lot better with Dani Nolden as a Heavy Metal singer rather than as a soccer player, but I guess no one would mind watching a simply stunning epic duel between our “Metal Chick of the Month” for Brazil and Hope Solo for the United States, don’t you agree? At least visually speaking, that would be a lot more pleasant to watch than any of the matches between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Dani Nolden’s Official Facebook page
Dani Nolden’s Official Twitter

“Dare to dream, it just might come true!” – Dani Nolden

The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2013

Christmas is just around the corner, and it’s that time of the year where our ears are tortured by those boring old songs (unless you listen to something like this, the best Christmas song ever!), but at least our stomachs are rewarded with some delicious food and drinks. It’s time to look back and see what went right in our lives, our mistakes, and make plans for the coming year. And why not listing the best Heavy Metal and Hard Rock albums of 2013, which pretty much constituted the soundtrack of both our good and bad moments this year? Here are my top 10 albums of 2013, excluding EP’s, best of and live albums. I hope you enjoy the list!

Helloween_Straight Out of Hell1. Helloween – Straight Out of Hell
The German Power Metal masters are back with their most awesome album since The Time of the Oath.
Best song of the album: Straight Out of Hell

Chthonic-Bu-Tik2. Chthonic – Bú-Tik (REVIEW)
The best Heavy Metal band of the East delivers another superb album full of strength and creativity.
Best song of the album: Defenders of Bú-Tik Palace

TriviumVengeance3. Trivium – Vengeance Falls (REVIEW)
A brilliant lesson in heavy and fast riffs from Matt Heafy and his crew, proving why they are a reference in the world of heavy music.
Best song of the album: Brave This Storm

Outlaw_Gentlemen_&_Shady_Ladies_Album_Cover4. Volbeat – Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies
This band from beautiful Denmark takes another huge step to conquer the world of music.
Best song of the album: Dead But Rising

Serpents_Unleashed5. Skeletonwitch – Serpents Unleashed (REVIEW)
A magnificent and gruesome Thrash/Death Metal album from one of the most prominent new bands in the U.S.
Best song of the album: I Am Of Death (Hell Has Arrived)

Motörhead_Aftershock6. Motörhead – Aftershock (REVIEW)
Do you enjoy some good old Rock N’ Roll? If so, you must listen to this album.
Best song of the album: Do You Believe

Nemesis_by_Stratovarius7. Stratovarius – Nemesis
Stratovarius delivers an amazing album, their best since Timo Tolkki left the band in 2009.
Best song of the album: Halcyon Days

Amon-Amarth-Deciever-of-the-Gods8. Amon Amarth – Deceiver of the Gods
Not as unique as Surtur Rising, but still a mighty and powerful album from this Swedish Melodic Death Metal band.
Best song of the album: Father of the Wolf

Black_Dog_Barking_(Album_Cover)9. Airbourne – Black Dog Barking
As long as our mates from Down Under are alive, Rock N’ Roll will never die. Get ready to rock!
Best song of the album: Live It Up

SuperCollider10. Megadeth – Super Collider
“MegaDave” and his band return with a very interesting mix of Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Country and Folk music.
Best song of the album: Kingmaker

And here are the other albums that would make my top 20 list this year:

11. Black Sabbath – 13
12. Lordi – To Beast or Not to Beast
13. Carcass – Surgical Steel
14. Tarja – Colours in the Dark (REVIEW)
15. DevilDriver – Winter Kills (REVIEW)
16. Sepultura – The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart (REVIEW)
17. Children of Bodom – Halo of Blood
18. Six Feet Under – Unborn
19. Dream Theater – Dream Theater
20. Pink Cream 69 – Ceremonial

These are some of the new releases already announced for 2014 that deserve to be listened to, and that will most probably be reviewed on this blog:

Axel Rudi Pell – Into The Storm
Chrome Division – Infernal Rock Eternal
Iced Earth – Plagues Of Babylon
Primal Fear – Delivering The Black
Gamma Ray – Empire of the Undead
Within Temptation – Hydra
Steel Panther – All You Can Eat
Behemoth – The Satanist

And finally, maybe we’ll have brand new material from giants such as Iron Maiden, Slayer and Judas Priest, who knows? Or something new from great bands that have been “quiet” for a good period of time like Exodus, Arch Enemy, In Flames, Cannibal Corpse, Testament, The Agonist, among others. Let’s wait and see, or even better, let’s wait and LISTEN!

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2014!

Album Review – Helloween / Walls of Jericho (1985)

Happy, Happy Helloween” revolutionize music with the first Power Metal album of all time.

Rating3

walls-of-jerichoMany Heavy Metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest already had pretty solid careers when Helloween started back in the 80’s, yet they became heavy music pioneers too when they released Walls of Jericho, the first Power/Melodic Metal album in the history of music. By the way, they have also made a lot of people confused ever since about the spelling of “Halloween” (with “A”) vs. the name of the band (with “E”).

Although Walls of Jericho was originally launched in 1985, this review also includes the extra songs added to the 1988 CD Edition from the 1985 EP/mini-LP Helloween and from the 1986 EP Judas for a very simple reason: they’re too good to be left out. Those extra songs are Starlight, Murderer, Warrior, Victim of Fate, Cry for Freedom and Judas, all very fast and heavy songs that at the time they were launched were a synonym for innovation in music. My favorite ones are Starlight and Victim of Fate, especially the first one with its unique intro and amazing riffs.

The intro to Starlight was taken from the movie Halloween III, and because it was so cool it became some kind of anthem sung by the Helloween fans before, during or after their live performances.

“Happy, Happy Helloween, Helloween, Helloween!
Happy, Happy Helloween, Silver Shamrocks!
Happy, Happy Helloween, Helloween, Helloween!
Happy, Happy Helloween, Silver Shamrocks!” 

Of course, the “Silver Shamrocks” part is usually substituted by some generic “oh oh oh oh” by the crowd, but that doesn’t make the song less cool. Due to its great success, the same rhythm was used to generate the intro Walls of Jericho (with no lyrics, though), which opens all Helloween concerts until today.

Then comes one of the top moments of the entire album: Ride the Sky is powerful, it has some crazy riffs and solos, and the lyrics are excellent to sing especially live. The following tracks are not marvelous, but are very consistent and add a lot of value to the album, like Metal Invaders (despite its stupid name). And finally we have what I consider the best songs from the album: Heavy Metal (Is the Law) has those Manowar-ish lyrics, chorus and attitude, while How Many Tears is the most perfect Power Metal song I’ve ever heard in my whole life.

helloween01All band members were amazing in Walls of Jericho, mainly the amazing guitar, singer and composer Kai Hansen and the drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg (R.I.P.). Unfortunately they’re no longer with the band, but at least Helloween still has Michael Weikath and Markus Grosskopf to keep alive the flame of the most influential Power Metal band in the world. And let’s not forget that we also have another great band now, Gamma Ray, which is pretty much Kai Hansen playing the same type of music from Walls of Jericho since his departure from Helloween.

In summary, Walls of Jericho is a revolutionary album that has never been mainstream, nor will ever be, but that is mandatory for all music fans that enjoy fast riffs and solos, superb guitar duos, and songs with a lot of energy. Moreover, if you’re a metalhead and you don’t know if the correct spelling is “Halloween” or “Helloween”, follow my advice and always write it with “E” even when you’re talking about the celebration. It’s a lot more badass this way.

Best moments of the album: Starlight, Ride the Sky, Heavy Metal (Is the Law) and How Many Tears.

Worst moments of the album: Reptile and Gorgar.

Released in 1985 Noise Records

Track listing
1. Starlight* 5:17
2. Murderer* 4:26
3. Warrior* 4:00
4. Victim of Fate* 6:37
5. Cry for Freedom* 6:02
6. Walls of Jericho / Ride the Sky 6:45
7. Reptile 3:45
8. Guardians 4:19
9. Phantoms of Death 6:33
10. Metal Invaders 4:10
11. Gorgar 3:57
12. Heavy Metal (Is the Law) 4:00
13. How Many Tears 7:15
14. Judas** 4:43

* Originally released in the 1985 EP/mini-LP Helloween
** Originally released in the 1986 EP Judas

Band members
Kai Hansen – vocals, guitar
Michael Weikath – guitar
Markus Grosskopf – bass
Ingo Schwichtenberg – drums

Concert Review – Helloween (The Opera House,Toronto, ON, 09/28/2013)

Helloween teaches a lesson in Power Metal at a venue too small for the importance of the band in the world of music.

OPENING ACTS: Battlesoul and Coldsteel

When I arrived at the Opera House, the band Battlesoul was already playing for a while, but from what I could see they did not inspire me to go after their songs when I got home. It’s just plain Folk Metal with nothing new added to their music, and the fact they were wearing kilts on stage didn’t help at all. Maybe in the future they can generate something more interesting, or at least improve their vocals because that was really annoying.

Then came Coldsteel with their Thrash Metal similar to what Anthrax used to do in the 80’s, which seems to be a pretty cool idea, but when the band hits the stage it’s not that cool. I didn’t know the band was created back in 1986 and that they got back to life in 2012 after a 20-year hiatus, but anyway they sounded like an amateur band to me. It was almost impossible to hear what the singer was saying between songs, and even worse to understand the lyrics due to the quality of the sound and music. The band had a lot of energy on stage, though, and as their setlist was not too long I didn’t feel bothered at all with their concert.

HELLOWEEN

IMG_0934Honestly, I’ll never understand why Helloween is so underrated in North America. They are so big in Brazil, Europe and Japan, that was hard for me to believe they were playing in such a small venue as the Opera House for less than 800 people. The band that invented Power/Melodic Metal should be playing for over 5,000 people in Canada and the USA, just like it happens in the rest of the world, but it seems North America is more into Thrash and Death Metal, and that no one here really cares about non-American bands.

However, one excellent thing about that is the fact that I had never been able to be so close to the band as during the Toronto gig. I’ve seen Helloween many times in Brazil and one in Russia, but always in huge sold-out venues with at least 3,000 people smashing each other to get closer to the stage. Being able to see in details every riff and solo from Michael Weikath, one of the best Power Metal guitarists of all time, and all the technique from Markus Grosskopf with his bass guitar, was totally awesome!

IMG_0925But the most important member of the band nowadays is Andi Deris. He’s been with Helloween for 20 years now, he’s an awesome frontman, he makes the fans go crazy, and although many “old school” fans keep complaining about his voice and that Michael Kiske should return to the band and blah blah blah, Andi has recorded so many amazing albums (Master of the Rings, The Time of the Oath, The Dark Ride, 7 Sinners and their most recent album, Straight Out of Hell) that I wouldn’t mind at all going to see Helloween playing only songs from the Deris-era. Besides, who wants to listen to anything from the horrible Pink Bubbles Go Ape or Chameleon live?

Back to the concert, the setlist was amazing and the crowd was insane! I’ve never seen so many mosh pits at a Helloween concert. In fact, I’ve NEVER seen ANY mosh pits at a Helloween concert! I guess that happened for a few reasons: as it was a small venue, there were only true Helloween fans there celebrating the band together; when huge bands play at smaller venues, they feel so happy to be back to their origins that they play faster, louder and heavier; North American headbangers love mosh pits more than they love their families; and besides two (beautiful) ballads, Helloween played only the most pure and fast Power Metal music a fan can ask for.

The entire concert was unforgettable, except for that useless drum solo that could have been substituted by another song like Burning Sun (which they’re also playing in some of their concerts instead of Steel Tormentor), and if I need to pick a few songs as the highlights of the night I would say Straight Out of Hell, Waiting for the Thunder and Live Now!, where Andi made that “stupid game” of left and right work even with less than a thousand people there. You sing Live Now! And you… shut the FUCK up!”

IMG_0936Of course people went crazy with classics such as Eagle Fly Free and I’m Alive, but the fact that the best songs of the night were brand new ones just proved Helloween is still very relevant not only to heavy music, but to everybody that enjoys GOOD music. and I really hope next time they come to Toronto they play at a better venue, even if that means I won’t be able to stay so close to my Power Metal heroes and get one of their guitar picks again.

Setlist
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) (AC/DC tape)
Walls of Jericho (tape/intro)
Eagle Fly Free
Nabataea
Straight Out of Hell
Where the Sinners Go
Waiting for the Thunder
Steel Tormentor
Drum Solo
I’m Alive
Live Now!
Hold Me in Your Arms
If I Could Fly
Hell Was Made in Heaven
Power

Encore:
Are You Metal?
Dr. Stein

Encore II:
Future World
I Want Out
A Tale That Wasn’t Right (tape/outro)

Band members
Andi Deris – lead vocals
Michael Weikath – lead & rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Markus Grosskopf – bass, backing vocals
Sascha Gerstner – lead & rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Daniel Löble – drums