Album Review – Refusal / Epitome of Void (2019)

A straight-to-the-point album of Finnish Crust Old School Death Metal, as pulverizing, heavy and infernal as it can be.

Founded back in 2008 in the city of Helsinki, Finland by guitarist Tero Pirhonen and bassist Timo Pirhonen, before bringing in vocalist Niikka Lius, drummer Aleksi Roitto and more recently guitarist Kalle Kuosmanen to complete the band, the unrelenting squad that goes by the name of Refusal does not just play your regular Death Metal, but something they like to call “Finnish Crust Old School Death Metal”, smashing you like an insect with all their fury and heaviness without showing a single drop of mercy. After releasing several demos and their debut full-length album We Rot Within, in 2016, Refusal are back in action in 2019 with a brand new (and pulverizing) opus, beautifully titled Epitome of Void. Featuring a somber artwork by Finnish artist Sakke Vinko, Epitome of Void is highly recommended for fans of the music by iconic bands like Napalm Death, Nasum and Entombed, being absolutely perfect for slamming into the circle pit like there’s no tomorrow.

The distorted guitars by Tero and Kalle ignite the pulverizing opening track Suffocate, reminding me of the devilish sound by Turkish beasts Diabolizer, or in other words, a brutal slamming Death Metal extravaganza led by Niika and his deep, visceral growls. If you survive their initial onrush of extreme music get ready for the insanely heavy Hectic, showcasing an enraged Niikka on vocals while Aleksi decimates his drums in a precise and groovy manner, accompanied by Timo’s roaring bass; whereas Disregard brings forward a less frantic but still acid and violent version of the band, urging us all to bang our heads manically to the infernal riffs by Tero and Kalle while Timo smashes his bass chords nonstop.

Disgust is just as brutal as Death Metal can be, with Refusal inviting us all to crush our skulls into the circle pit while Niikaa vomits the song’s lyrics in a very traditional way; followed by Slaves, the darkest of all songs in Epitome of Void, showcasing hints of classic, obscure Black Metal added to their unrelenting music. Moreover, Tero and Timo bring some welcome balance to the sonic havoc going on with their crisp solos. Then it’s time for more demented slamming to the infernal beats by Aleksi in Exploit, while Niikka keeps growling and vociferating manically for our total delight. Put differently, this is the undisputed epitome of Refusal’s classic Death Metal, highly recommended for all fans of the genre.

If you think your neck will have a break from all the insane headbanging proposed by Refusal you’re absolutely wrong, as the band ignites their most demonic mode in the rip-roaring Bound, with their guitars and drums being in full destructive force. Then their second to last deranged Death Metal attack comes in the form of Futile, where all band members sound even more infuriated than ever, pleasing anyone who admires old school Brutal Death Metal from the bottom of their (blackened) hearts, setting the stage for the the thunderous and vile closing tune Void, where the smashing sounds of drums and bass provide Niikka the perfect atmosphere for his sick guttural vocals. There’s no escape from Refusal, and their most unfriendly, obscure and intricate creation beautifully represents all their fury and rage, ending the album on a very high note.

Do you have what it takes to face the demolishing Death Metal by Refusal? If your answer is yes, simply slam into the pit by listening to Epitome of Void in full on Spotify, by following the band on Facebook and by subscribing to their YouTube channel. In a nutshell, Epitome of Void, which by the way is on sale from Refusal’s own BandCamp page, from the Great Dane Records’ BandCamp page, from iTunes, from Amazon or from Discogs, will not change or revolutionize the underground metal scene at all; quite the contrary, it’s pure old school Death Metal, without any artificial elements nor any type of shenanigans, thoroughly crafted by five Finnish guys who are beyond loyal to the foundations of the genre, deserving all our admiration and support for keeping the flames of true Death Metal alive and kicking.

Best moments of the album: Hectic, Disgust and Exploit.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Great Dane Records

Track listing
1. Suffocate 2:20
2. Hectic 2:51
3. Disregard 3:13
4. Disgust 3:27
5. Slaves 4:33
6. Exploit 1:48
7. Bound 4:14
8. Futile 4:10
9. Void 5:19

Band members
Niikka Lius – vocals
Tero Pirhonen – guitars
Kalle Kuosmanen – guitars
Timo Pirhonen – bass, backing vocals
Aleksi Roitto – drums

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Album Review – Dark Archive / Cultivate Our Blood In Aeon EP (2018)

Sharing the same admiration and respect for the beauty of darkness and Satan, this infernal Finnish duo will pulverize your senses with 17 minutes of ruthless and vibrant Black Metal.

Formed in the summer of 2016 in Finland by vocalist and lyricist Niko “Perdition” Aromaa and composer and multi-instrumentalist Joakim “Lord Mordor” Lindholm, with a vision to form a Black Metal band that would create something fresh and something which would stand out from the scene, the demonic entity known as Dark Archive is ready to spread darkness upon the earth with their brand new EP titled Cultivate Our Blood In Aeon. Considering themselves as a satanic band, with both Niko and Joakim sharing the same admiration and respect for the beauty of darkness and Satan, Dark Archive will pulverize your senses with each of the five tracks in Cultivate Our Blood In Aeon, making you feel all that darkness growing inside you during the album’s 17 minutes of ruthless extreme music.

Sinister sounds are suddenly joined by a sulphurous onrush of Black Metal in the opening track, Cultivate Our Blood In Aeon, with Joakim blasting demonic beats and riffs nonstop while Niko growls the song’s blasphemous and poetic lyrics in a rabid way (“Hunger holds their brethren, as they hold this world dominion, even voices of our fathers can’t describe this burden / Beneath their holy sculptures, they see us as aberrations to their perfect heaven frame, we are the caricature”). Put differently, if you want violence, Dark Archive will give you violence, which can also be said about Closure Of Empyrean Delirium, where the duo brings modern and deranged Black Metal for your avid ears. In this flammable tune, Niko keeps screaming like a savage beast while Joakim continues to pave his path of devastation, with the overall result sounding like a less symphonic version of the early days of Dimmu Borgir.

Their fusion of contemporary Blackened Death Metal and old school Black Metal gives form to another hellish composition titled Godfear Eradication, where Joakim kicks some serious ass with his scorching riffs while austere words are aggressively vociferated by Niko (“While they burden their grief / While puppets dance behind the curtains / Waiting to unleash / Still they flood air with words from bible / Toxic as gas”); followed by the pulverizing Unohda Ei Ikinä, or “never forget” from Finnish, with its demonic guitar riffs crawling deep inside your skin, sounding as belligerent, demented and enraged as it can be, but still bringing tons of harmony and feeling in an amazing exhibit of modern-day Extreme Metal. And the duo has time for one final blast of absolute darkness and hatred entitled Essence Of Death, with both Niko and Joakim sounding extremely vile and sharp with their harsh growls, fierce riffs and thunderous drums.

Cultivate Our Blood In Aeon, which by the way is available for a full listen on Spotify, certainly points to a dark future (in a good way, of course) for Dark Archive, and if you want to show your support for such up-and-coming name of the underground extreme music scene go check their Facebook page for news and tour dates, their YouTube channel and SoundCloud page for more of their disturbing music, and obviously grab your copy of the EP from their own BandCamp page or from iTunes. If this demonic Finnish duo was capable of creating such high level of devastation and obscurity in just a little over 17 minutes, can you imagine what they’ll be able to accomplish when they release their first full-length opus?

Best moments of the album: Cultivate Our Blood In Aeon and Unohda Ei Ikinä.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Cultivate Our Blood In Aeon 4:03
2. Closure Of Empyrean Delirium 2:22
3. Godfear Eradication 4:31
4. Unohda Ei Ikinä 3:36
5. Essence Of Death 2:40

Band members
Niko “Perdition” Aromaa – vocals
Joakim “Lord Mordor” Lindholm – all instruments

Album Review – Sata Kaskelottia / Sydän On Vuori (2018)

The most unconventional gam of sperm whales hailing from Finland strikes back with more of their flammable fusion of Stoner and Progressive Metal.

After three long years of writing and recording, the most unconventional gam of sperm whales hailing from the Finnish capital Helsinki is back with a brand new album, ready to show us all that the human heart is a mountain. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, then you should definitely take a listen at Sydän On Vuori (Finnish for “heart is a mountain”), the brand new album by Stoner/Progressive Metal act Sata Kaskelottia, following the success of the band’s 2015 debut self-titled release while experimenting with new sounds and nuances and exploring the breaking points of life, points in which difficult choices have to be made.

Sata Kaskelottia’s combination of progressive, darker tones and often catchy, lighter and strangely triumphant mood produces a unique musical blend that walks its own path, with Sydän On Vuori introducing the band’s evolved sound and songwriting. Comprised of Eetu Kauppinen on vocals and guitar, Matti Kangaskoski on the guitar, Markku Suoniemi on bass, and Ville Salonen on drums and percussion, Sata Kaskelottia, which means “one hundred sperm whales” (if you don’t know that already), are beyond sharp and electrified in Sydän On Vuori, and if you’re a fan of the music by bands such as Mastodon and Baroness I’m sure you’ll have a good time listening to the nine tracks of unrelenting rock and metal found throughout the album.

We need only a few seconds in the opening track Aamumandaatti (“the morning mandate” from Finnish) to know we’re dealing with the “Finnish Mastodon”, with the guitars by Eetu and Matti sounding as sharp as a sword, not to mention you’ll certainly feel compelled to sing along with the band even knowing nothing in Finnish. Just as psychedelic and heavy as its predecessor, Leskentekijä (“widow’s origins”) is a well-balance hybrid between Stoner and Progressive Metal, with Ville bringing an extra dosage of electricity with his intricate beats while Eetu keeps firing his wicked vocals nonstop; followed by Parantaja (“the healer”), where the whole band speeds things up a bit sounding more aggressive, rawer and denser, with the music being led by the crushing riffs by both Eetu and Matti. In addition, the bass guitar by Markku sounds thunderous and metallic, adding an extra dosage of heaviness to what’s by far one of my favorite songs of the album.

Samarkand might be known as a city in modern-day Uzbekistan and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Central Asia, but from now on it should also be recognized as a lesson in Progressive and Sludge Metal, with its guitar lines and rhythmic beats inspiring you to bang your head together with the band, whereas the title-track Sydän On Vuori begins in an atmospheric, almost psychedelic way, evolving into a dark and deep Stoner Metal feast with Markku and Ville smashing their respective instruments, therefore creating a beyond obscure background of sounds. And in Ennen Kuin Sateet Alkavat (“before the rain begins”), Sata Kaskelottia deliver sheer electricity through their music weapons in a top-of-the-line fusion of Stoner Metal with old school Rock N’ Roll and modern Hard Rock, with highlights to the fantastic job done by Eetu with his demented vocal lines.

Bringing elements from traditional Heavy Metal to their musicality (which ends up giving it an epic vibe), the band offers the listener the vibrant Musta Tähti (“black star”), once again showcasing Eetu and Makki in absolute sync with their riffs; while Lumimies (“abominable snowman”) lacks the same punch and energy from the rest of the album, despite presenting melodious guitar lines and a solid performance by Markku on drums. And lastly, instead of another hard and heavy tune, Sata Kaskelottia surprise us all with a pensive ballad titled Ovet (“doors”), closing the album in a unique and very interesting manner, with Eetu leading the sonority with his introspective vocals until the song’s somber finale.

What are you waiting for to dive into the sea of Progressive and Stoner Metal ruled by Sata Kaskelottia? You can listen to their new album in full on Spotify, follow them on Facebook for new and tour dates, listen to more of their music on YouTube and on SoundCloud, and buy a copy of Sydän On Vuori from their BandCamp page, from Record Shop X, on iTunes or on Amazon. As you might already know, there’s nothing better than listening to the potent nad harmonious metal music blasted by one hundred sperm whales, and the new album by Sata Kaskelottia is here to show us that.

Best moments of the album: Aamumandaatti, Parantaja and Ennen Kuin Sateet Alkavat.

Worst moments of the album: Lumimies.

Released in 2018 Rhoska Records

Track listing
1. Aamumandaatti 5:03
2. Leskentekijä 4:54
3. Parantaja 3:30
4. Samarkand 5:19
5. Sydän On Vuori 5:16
6. Ennen Kuin Sateet Alkavat 4:01
7. Musta Tähti 5:39
8. Lumimies 5:14
9. Ovet 4:56

Band members
Eetu Kauppinen – vocals, guitar
Matti Kangaskoski – guitar, vocals
Markku Suoniemi – bass, vocals
Ville Salonen – drums, percussion

Metal Chick of the Month – Elina Siirala

The heat that licks my skin, it takes me high…

Brothers and sisters of metal, let’s all get together to praise our metal chick of the month of April 2018, the stunning Finnish soprano and vocal coach Elina Siirala, better known for being the founder and frontwoman for English Melodic Metal band Angel Nation (formerly known as EnkElination), and for joining German Symphonic/Viking Metal act Leaves’ Eyes as the second female vocalist in the history of the band, replacing the iconic Liv Kristine. Having said that, are you ready to know more about such talented musician, and obviously head into the battlefield side by side with her?

Elina was born on October 27, 1983 in the Finnish capital Helsinki, being the second cousin of Tuomas Holopainen, well known founder and keyboardist of Nightwish. And let’s say that music truly runs in her veins as her whole family is comprised of musicians, not to mention she’s the third generation of teachers, with her passion for singing having started at a very young age when she was only 5 years old. Both her parents are teachers at the renowned Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and her brother works as a professor in Munich, which means there was a lot of singing, playing and listening to music in her life while she was growing up. One funny story about her passion for music was that she basically begged her parents to start violin lessons, even building her own violin out of a piece of wood and rubber bands. She ended up playing the violin for seven years and also learned how to play piano by herself, but in the end singing was always what she loved the most in music.

After taking singing lessons at the age of 17, Elina got into the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki two years later, completing a Bachelor’s degree in classical music and performing in operas and concerts during that period, and after finishing her studies she decided to broaden her knowledge by moving from Helsinki to London, England, where she spent another year studying contemporary styles such as Rock & Soul (a very challenging one vocally speaking according to Elina herself), a course that also included a lot of performing by the way. In addition, throughout all those years of study, she was also a music teacher and wrote a lot of music, which culminated in 2011 with the creation of her own band EnkeliNation. As a matter of fact, her move to London was the true catalyst of her love for heavy music, with some hard times in her personal life being a source of inspiration for her music and lyrics.

In regards to her career with Angel Nation, as aforementioned it all started in November 2011 when she formed the band under the name EnkElination, with the band’s name being a play on words featuring “enkeli”, which is the Finnish word for “angel”, and also her own name “Elina” in the middle, changing the name to Angel Nation in 2016. Elina was initially joined by guitarist Shadow (Empyreal Destroyer, Stand Aside, Shadow Venger), playing the local London scene and developing the band as a live act while going through several lineup changes during the band’s first few years. Angel Nation also played a few important European festivals such as Bloodstock Open Air, Lankafest and The Dames of Darkness Festival, having released so far in their career the three-track, download-only EP titled Never Ending in 2012, and the albums Tears of Lust, in 2014, and Aeon, in 2017, as well as a couple of singles. Currently comprised of Elina on vocals and keyboards, Sonny Antoniou on the guitar, Julia B Cadau on bass, and Lucas Williamson on drums, Angel Nation play classic, straightforward Symphonic Metal, and you can enjoy their stylish music on their official YouTube channel, having the pleasure of listening to Elina’s powerful vocals in songs like Last Time Together (also available as an acoustic live version), Do It Anyway, and Tears Of Lust, as well as other live videos and special announcements.

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During one of the concerts where Angel Nation worked as a supporting act, Elina came up to the attention of Leaves’ Eyes, being invited in 2016 to join the band to replace their departing singer Liv Kristine. And she started touring and recording with Leaves’ Eyes immediately after joining the band, including a tour with Leaves’ Eyes alongside Sabaton in the United States in 2016 (while at the same time still managing and fronting Angel Nation), and some very unique concerts like the one in Indonesia where she sang in front of 21,000 people despite the heavy tropical storm that hit the venue before the gig, and a small but fully packed venue in Belgium that she considers one of the hottest shows she’s ever done, feeling like a sauna on stage. Since Elina became the new frontwoman for Leaves’ Eyes, the band has already released a handful of singles; an EP titled Fires in the North, in 2016, which includes an original song (also presented in acoustic format) and three re-recorded songs from the band’s 2015 album King Of Kings; and now in 2018 their first full-length album with Elina on vocals, entitled Sign of the Dragonhead. You can have a very good time together with Elina and Leaves’ Eyes by listening to excellent songs such as Edge of Steel, Across The SeaFires in the North, Jomsborg, and Sign Of The Dragonhead. When asked about her favorite songs by Leaves’ Eyes, our dauntless Valkyrie mentioned Take the Devil in Me (from the band’s 2010 album Njord) and Sacred Vow (originally from King Of Kings, but re-recorded with Elina on vocals for their EP Fires in the North) as two songs she would definitely add to her personal playlist, while Edge Of Steel and Swords In Rock (both also from King Of Kings and re-recorded with Elina on vocals for their EP Fires in the North) might be the ones she has the most fun playing live.

As previously mentioned, our Finnish diva has also been a vocal coach and teacher since she was 19, as during her years studying classical singing there was a a large variety of subjects such as music history, music theory and also music teaching, giving classes and lessons about breathing technique, vocal exercises (vocal placement and projection), stylistic awareness, repertoire, and stage and performance technique. Elina mentioned that she really loves teaching and that it’s been a pleasure for her to have already had many different students over the years, saying it’s at the same time challenging and rewarding. Of course, having to balance between Angel Nation and Leaves’ Eyes together with her vocal coach and teaching activities is not an easy task, with very little free time left, something she has to manage by scheduling and planning well in advance. Furthermore, she mentioned in one of her interviews that whenever she has some free time, she likes seeing her friends, watching movies and relaxing, also saying she doesn’t really have any time for hobbies. And to stay in shape on and off tours, Elina said she has an active lifestyle, practicing all kinds of sports to keep her fitness up, and while she’s on tour she said that being on stage is already a good workout for her, always resulting in her losing some weight.

Lastly, when asked about her biggest idols in music, and singers she admires and that inspired her in any way, Elina said that she really likes female singers such as Dutch goddess Sharon den Adel (from Within Temptation) and Whitney Houston, as she enjoys all kinds of styles, while her favorite male singers are Spanish tenor, conductor and arts administrator Placido Domingo, who she used to idolize when she was a teenager, and the one and only British icon Freddie Mercury, her all-time inspiration as a singer. Anyone who admires Mr. Freddie Mercury already deserves our utmost respect, and when that person is as talented, energetic and hardworking as our unstoppable Finnish banshee Elina Siirala, things get even better and more epic.

Elina Siirala’s Official Facebook page
Elina Siirala’s Official Twitter
Elina Siirala’s Official Instagram
Angel Nation’s Official Facebook page
Angel Nation’s Official Twitter
Angel Nation’s Official Instagram
Angel Nation’s Official YouTube channel
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official Facebook page
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official Twitter
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official Instagram
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official YouTube channel

“I think it’s amazing how much emotions music can awaken in people, how it can change your mood and bring back memories. It’s the perfect way of expressing myself as an artist and sometimes writing songs is almost like therapy that helps you through hard times. Compared to other instruments I’ve played, singing is definitely the most personal for me as I’m actually the instrument and I get to express everything through my own voice and of course lyrics.” – Elina Siirala

Album Review – Unshine / Astrala (2018)

Druids are coming directly from Finland, bringing with them songs from the invisible side of the Earth that aim at reuniting the old bonds between the dolmen gods and digitised mankind.

Hailing from the Finnish capital Helsinki, here comes a band that transcended their own influences to create their own unique sound, inspired by artists as diverse as Enslaved, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Tangerine Dream and Iron Maiden. That band is called Unshine, who since their inception in 2001 have been delivering a distinct fusion of styles described by themselves as “Druid Metal”. As a matter of fact, Mother Nature is the true influence on Unshine’s music, as all five members of Unshine, friends for many years, were all raised in the countryside villages of Western Finland. “The songs try to reunite the old bonds between the dolmen gods and digitised mankind. Nature is not our enemy, it’s our physical and especially spiritual home”, said the band’s guitarist, keyboardist and mastermind Harri Hautala.

With a long history of recording and playing behind them, Unshine are beyond excited with the release of their new full-length album Astrala, the fourth in their auspicious career, inspired by the “invisible side of the Earth”, as mentioned by Harri, who also complemented his though by saying that “the first five album songs address the manifestations of Astrala and the last five songs describe travels to Astrala. The album has a touch of Nordic melancholy written all over it, also in the lyrics, and it includes music meant to create landscapes and themes from folk stories, mythology and nature religions, but also to present personal views describing the spiritual meaning of a forest as a cultural concept. The binding theme here is forest, although this is not a theme album.” After such distinct explanation, are you ready to venture through the invisible side of the Earth with Unshine?

Birch of Fornjotr is one of those cinematic intros exhaling epicness, telling the listener a metallic adventure is about to begin in Kainuun Kuningas (or “king of Kainuu” from Finnish, with Kainuu being one of the 19 regions of Finland with its geography and landscape consisting of lakes, hills and vast uninhabited forest areas), a Scandinavian feast of Folk and Epic Metal led by the charming and potent vocals by frontwoman Susanna Vesilahti, with the song’s Finnish words giving it an extra touch of eccentricity. Furthermore, the band’s guitar tag team Harri and Jari Hautala provides a solid balance between rhythmic riffs and melodious solos to the overall musicality, which is also the case in Jack’s Feast, as melodic as its predecessor with drummer Jukka Hantula bringing heavier and tribal sounds to the music. The only problem is that despite having a lot of potential to be more thunderous, the song never really takes off, remaining too “folky” and for way too long.

The following tune, titled The Masks of Enchantment, is indeed a very interesting depiction of Druid Metal, with some orchestral elements in the background provided by Harri and his keys enhancing the taste of this semi-power ballad, also showcasing a beautiful performance by Susanna with her ethereal voice; whereas in Pan the One get ready to prance around the fire pit to the sound of the minstrel-like vocals by Susanna, accompanied by the whimsical sounds blasted by the rest of the band (especially the exciting keys by Harri). And if Irish singer Enya suddenly went full metal, the fun Druids Are A-Coming would probably be how she would sound like, being faster and more piercing than any of the previous tunes thanks to the cutting guitars by Harri and Jari, not to mention the galloping bass by Teemu Vähäkangas.

Their Epic Metal vein arises once again in the mid-tempo, heavy chant Slow Moving Creatures, with its guitars inciting you to bang your head together with the band, while in Visionary’s Last Breath it’s time for Unshine to invite us all to dance to a fanciful “druid waltz”, presenting very traditional elements from Folk Metal blended with the heaviness brought forth by Jukka’s beats. Then we have the touching ballad Suo (Kantaa Ruumiit), which should translate as “swamp (carry the bodies)”, also sung in the band’s mother tongue with Susanna stealing the spotlight with her passionate vocals. Moreover, there’s a lot of dark elements in this imposing composition, making it extremely catchy and somber from start to finish. And finally we’re treated to 10 minutes of epic and ethereal passages in The Forest, where the stringed trio Harri, Jari and Teemu keep the music flowing at a pleasant pace, allowing Susanna to shine once again with her vocals amidst the song’s symphonic elements and dense atmosphere, ending the album on a climatic and melancholic note.

You can take a full listen at Astrala on Spotify, follow the band on Facebook, nad purchase a copy of the album from the Rockshots Records webstore, from Record Shop X, on iTunes or on Amazon, and let your soul roam free through the forests of the invisible side of the Earth ruled by Unshine. And who knows, you might not only meet some druids during your visit to Astrala, but also decide to stay there permanently, dancing to the music by this talented Finnish squad forever and ever.

Best moments of the album: Pan the One, Druids Are A-Coming and Suo (Kantaa Ruumiit).

Worst moments of the album: Jack’s Feast.

Released in 2018 Rockshots Records

Track listing
1. Birch of Fornjotr (Instrumental) 1:35
2. Kainuun Kuningas 5:13
3. Jack’s Feast 6:38
4. The Masks of Enchantment 4:54
5. Pan the One 4:44
6. Druids Are A-Coming 4:11
7. Slow Moving Creatures 5:19
8. Visionary’s Last Breath 5:32
9. Suo (Kantaa Ruumiit) 6:06
10. The Forest 10:28

Band members
Susanna Vesilahti – vocals
Harri Hautala – guitar and keyboards
Jari Hautala – guitar
Teemu Vähäkangas – bass
Jukka Hantula – drums and percussions

Album Review – BloodBlind / BloodBlind EP (2017)

Mixing a punk attitude with metal music, a group of four Finnish musicians are ready to rock the world with the flammable amalgamation of different styles and ideas found in their debut album.

Mixing a punk attitude with metal music, a group of four musicians from Helsinki and Joensuu (a city and municipality in North Karelia in the province of Eastern Finland), has been working together for the past two years to give life to Melodic Thrash/Punk Metal entity BloodBlind, bringing their own influences to the mix and therefore creating a very unique sound. The result of that amalgamation of styles and ideas can be better appreciated in their debut self-titled EP, comprised of three electrified compositions that will help spread the word of BloodBlind throughout the world of independent heavy music.

The young and restless BloodBlind, formed by Tommi Kokko on vocals, Antti Kalliomäki on guitars, Janne Saksola on bass and Frank Fagerström on drums, were responsible for all of the production, visuals and themes found in the EP, with only some external help used in the mixing process. With their first release out, the band is gearing up to take to the stages and setting up to record their first full-length in a proper studio, but before that happens I highly recommend you open up some space in your room to bang your head and jump up and down to the invigorating and acid music offered in the EP by those four metallers who certainly know how to put the words “punk” and “metal” together in a compelling way.

Janne ignites the opening track Fuel for Fury with his heavy-as-hell, low-tuned bass punches, with the sound evolving to a blend of Thrash, Groove and Punk Metal led by the enraged growls by Tommi, while Antti makes sure the music remains as sharp and hostile as possssible with his riffs and solos. In the following tune, Will to Fight (featuring gang vocals on chorus by Finnish Thrash Metal band Maniac Abductor), BloodBlind deliver an anti-bullying message (“never give up, never give in”, says the band), joining in on the campaign against online bullying. With a stronger Rock N’ Roll vibe and endless electricity, Tommi’s screams sound even angrier than before (for a good reason), leaning towards Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore-like vocals, while Antti and Frank dictate the rhythm in this obscure anthem destined to be their biggest hit without a shadow of a doubt. And last but not least, we have another blast of Thrash and Punk Metal united with hints of Metalcore in Cancer of Society, a mid-tempo aggressive tune with highlights to the once again pounding beats by Frank and the menacing bass lines by Janne, not to mention the soulful solos by Antti and the flammable sounds emanating from both guitar and bass during the whole song.

In a nutshell, BloodBlind definitely succeeded in delivering exciting metal music through their short and sweet self-titled EP (which can be listened in its entirety on on YouTube or on Spotify), and if you want to show your support to this promising band go check their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and buy a copy of the album on BandCamp, on iTunes or on Amazon. There’s no doubt that those Finnish metallers are ready to rock the world with their thrilling music, proving one more time that talent and hard work, when properly put together, always result in something good.

Best moments of the album: Will to Fight.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Fuel for Fury 3:59
2. Will to Fight 4:53
3. Cancer of Society 4:21

Band members
Tommi Kokko – vocals
Antti Kalliomäki – guitars
Janne Saksola – bass
Frank Fagerström – drums

Guest musician
Maniac Abductor (band) – gang vocals on “Will to Fight”

Album Review – Dö / Astral: Death/Birth EP (2017)

A cathartic 20-minute experience in the form of a concept EP inspired by things happening around us at this very moment, and the future that does not look that bright for mankind, brought forth by the Finnish propagators of “Dööm Metal”.

There’s a wicked phenomenon that has been happening once a year in the city of “Hellsinki”, Finland for the past few years, when a trio of ill-tempered creatures that goes by the uncanny name of  leaves their secret, somber den to unleash upon us mere mortals all their wrath and negativity in the form of raw Doom and Stoner Metal, or simply “Dööm Metal”, as christened by Dö themselves. It first happened in 2014 with the release of their self-titled EP, then again in 2015 with an EP titled Den, and once again in 2016 with the full-length Tuho. Now in 2017 it’s time for this eerie tradition (or perhaps I should call it an annual ritual) to strike us again with the release of their brand new scathing EP Astral: Death/Birth.

Featuring a minimalist but meaningful cover art by the band’s own guitarist Big Dog, Astral: Death/Birth brings all the traditional elements found in their previous albums without forgetting to move forward in their already solid career. “Over a year has passed since we released Tuho, and now we’re back with a brand new two song EP called Astral: Death/Birth. It’s a concept EP inspired by things happening around us at this very moment, and the future that does not look that bright for mankind. The songs were recorded live during one session at our rehearsal den, as we wanted to capture the intensive live feeling and maintain their roughness. The tracks are basically individual, but we highly recommend you to enjoy Astral: Death/Birth as one cathartic 20 minute experience”, said the band about the album. I guess I don’t need to say more, right? Just relax and join Dö in their doomed astral voyage of life and death, feeling every second of their coarse sounds penetrating deep into your mind.

One interesting fact about the EP is that the band itself has already provided their own “review” of each one of the two songs. According to Dö, the first track of the EP, titled Astral Death, is “a song that’s heavy as the burden we carry with us when scuffing towards the inevitable end”, and let’s say they’re spot-on with their description of this tune perfect for breaking your already damaged neck into pieces. The distorted guitar lines by Big Dog, together with the damned drums by Joe E. Deliverance, kick off this beyond obscure Doom Metal hymn, before reaching a sluggish, heavy feast of demonic riffs that flawlessly support the hellish raspy vocals by Deaf Hank. Moreover, Big Dog blasts one of his traditional guitar solos while Deaf Hank shakes the earth with his ominous bass, resulting in a thrilling thunderstorm of sounds.

“A cosmic rebirth in form of a song. Starts as calm, mantra-like levitation, until it transforms into vicious, unstoppable force of nature.” Those are their words to describe the metallic extravaganza titled Astral Birth, where their demented sounds intoxicate the air throughout the song’s 12 minutes of melodious Doom and Stoner Metal. Deaf Hank and Big Dog align their strings powerfully, while Joe fires his steady and rhythmic old school beats. The vocals never get too harsh in the beginning, sounding arcane and hypnotizing, but that lasts for only around four minutes. After a gripping display of dark music, the band’s demonic vein arises again with Deaf Hank gnarling in a bestial way, being effectively complemented by the song’s tribal beats, wicked distortions and pure psychedelia, with all those sounds and noises invading our ears until the song’s harrowing ending.

The full EP is already available for a detailed listen on YouTube and on Spotify, and you can always keep updated with all things Dö through their Facebook page as usual. And, of course, you can support the most villainous power trio of the entire Scandinavia by purchasing Astral: Death/Birth through their BandCamp page or on iTunes. Now that their yearly rite of “Dööm Metal” has been successfully consummated, it’s time for Dö to spread their damned sounds across the earth with their live performances before they get back to their lair and start working again on new material, for the delight of admirers of obscure, sluggish and low-tuned music.

Best moments of the album: Astral Death is my favorite of the two songs, but Astral Birth is also pretty amazing.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Astral Death 7:46
2. Astral Birth 12:16

Band members
Deaf Hank – vocals, bass
Big Dog – guitar, backing vocals
Joe E. Deliverance – drums, backing vocals

Album Review – Crucify the Faith / New Breed EP (2017)

Enjoy this short and sweet display of excellent Deathcore, brought forth by a promising squad of young and restless metallers from Finland.

Combining several distinct genres of heavy music into their compositions, Helsinki-based five-piece Melodic Deathcore group Crucify the Faith has been making a name for themselves as one of the new faces of modern Metalcore in their homeland Finland since their inception in 2014, with their sound being compared to renowned acts such as Bullet For My Valentine, Avenged Sevenfold and Suicide Silence. For instance, after the release of the band’s debut single “The World is Mine” in 2015, the band won second place in Finland’s largest band competition named Emergenza Festival, and that was when the band members were still only 16-18 years old, to make things even more impressive.

Fast forward to 2017 and here we have Crucify the Faith delivering the world their debut EP entitled New Breed, fully recorded and produced by the band itself. With each band member having a different musical background, from Hip Hop to Deathcore, and adding their personal touch to the music, New Breed ends up displaying a very cohesive musicality full of melody, feeling and electricity, therefore representing the heart and soul of Crucify the Faith in great fashion. Of course the band still has a long way to go in their quest for fame and recognition, but based on the quality of the music found in New Breed I should say they couldn’t have started their journey in a better way.

The opening track Make It Through already offers the listener an explosion of Melodic Death Metal led by the intense riffs by Jermu Laine and Jere Kontiainen, while Aki Juvonen screams manically with all his strength. Furthermore, his clean vocals might not be as impactful as his growls, but they’re still effective and positive to the music, not to mention the additional female vocals by guest musician Roosa Ahonen which bring even more balance to the overall melody. In The Strong Will Survive we face more of the band’s melodic lines the likes of Arch Enemy, with its lyrics being a straightforward display of modern Melodic Death Metal (“And the sky above you will fall / Before I’ll give up my dream! / I wish you could see it all / See what I’m trying to reach for! / I will not let my pain break through, / I will stand through it all. / I wish you would stand beside me help me / Pay the price of the cause.”). In addition, drummer Valtteri Estola seems to truly enjoy slamming his drum set, while Jermu and Jere show they not only kick ass with their riffs, but their solos are also flammable as hell.

The title-track New Breed bursts with sheer heaviness and aggression, with high dosages of anger and hatred flowing from Aki’s growls, from its neck-breaking riffs and from its imposing atmosphere, while the calmer break halfway through it gives time for the listener to breathe before the band gets back with more metallic sounds. Despite its melancholic intro, This Generation Falls quickly morphs into more of the belligerent Deathcore by Crucify The Faith, with bassist Lauri Kurkela making sure the song’s background is as heavy and groovy as possible, consequently building the desired ambience for Aki to powerfully blast his demented growls. And in the last track of the EP, named Unreal, Aki invests into deeper growls, with the music being a frantic fusion of Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore. Furthermore, Valtteri and Lauri are on fire with their beats and rumbling strings, respectively, with the whole music matching perfectly the song’s lyrics about the war between science and religion inside our minds (“You created madness and desire. / You are the god that controls the fire. / And still you think, / That above I control and give the signs, / That are the work of your over developed mind.”).

Do you want to give a shot at the excellent Deathcore brought forth by this squad of young and restless metallers from Finland with their brand new EP? First, go to YouTube or to Spotify where you can listen to the full EP and get more familiar with the music by Crucify the Faith. Then visit their Facebook page and follow them to be the first to know about their projects and tour dates. And last but not least, buy their music on iTunes and show your honest support to another promising band from the usually cold but always as-metal-as-hell Republic of Finland.

Best moments of the album: The Strong Will Survive and New Breed.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Make It Through 5:19
2. The Strong Will Survive 4:33
3. New Breed 4:27
4. This Generation Falls 4:40
5. Unreal 4:02

Band members
Aki Juvonen – vocals
Jermu Laine – guitar
Jere Kontiainen – guitar
Lauri Kurkela – bass
Valtteri Estola – drums

Guest musician
Roosa Ahonen – additional female vocals on “Make It Through”

Album Review – Battle Beast / Bringer Of Pain (2017)

Bringing to our ears and hearts first-class music inspired by the golden years of Heavy Metal, the most electrified metal squad from Finland are ready to storm the world once again with their brand new kick-ass classy album.

Rating3

battle-beast_bringer-of-painAfter listening to Bringer Of Pain, the fourth full-length album by Finnish metallers Battle Beast, there are two immediate conclusion that come to my mind. First, that the motto “100 % Heavy Metal – 0 % Bullshit!” couldn’t be more precise to describe the electrified Heavy and Power Metal compositions by this Helsinki-based squad. And second, the entire album feels like it was recorded back in the 80’s or 90’s due to its sensational old school aura, but only released now in 2017. And perhaps paying a tribute to the golden years of heavy music was the original goal of the band with Bringer Of Pain, starting with its impactful name. “The title is more than just a catchy punchline,” bassist Eero Sipilä explains. “’Bring the pain’ as a phrase means ‘giving your best’, stepping up against the odds, something that really sums up the spirit of this band and this album. The fact that the name also brought to mind a certain Judas Priest album definitely didn’t hurt either.”

The album’s classic album art, crafted by the specialist of realistic fantasy art Jan Yrlund (Darkgrove), is the perfect depiction of what Battle Beast have to offer their fans this time. “The cover art is mainly involved with the title track of the album, “Bringer of Pain”, which is obviously about this super evil female character destroying stuff. We brainstormed a little around this topic and then sent some sketches to Jan, who returned with the picture, some mean-looking woman who appears like she’s coming through the box art to kick your ass. And since ‘kicking ass’ is pretty much exactly what this band is about, we considered it a very fitting cover.” In addition to that, the main change from their previous album, the flammable Unholy Savior, is the departure of guitarist and main songwriter Anton Kabanen, but that doesn’t mean the band couldn’t maintain their signature sound alive, with newcomer Joona Björkroth fitting perfectly to everything Battle Beast stands for.

The first track of this rousing album, Straight to the Heart, brings to the listener pure upbeat Heavy Metal from the 80’s with the electrified keyboards by Janne Björkroth and the flawless vocals by the fiery metal goddess Noora Louhimo turning it into an instant classic. Put differently, it’s that type of metal music that will put you to dance right away while you scream its chorus from the top of your lungs together with Noora. Albeit the name of the album and its cover art bring the unbeatable Painkiller to our minds, the title-track Bringer of Pain actually reminds me of another high-octane classic by the almighty Judas Priest, “Freewheel Burning”, which obviously means it’s beyond awesome. Furthermore, the frantic performances by Pyry Vikki on drums and both Juuso Soinio and Joona with their blazing guitar riffs and solos, together with the song’s epic background vibe, turn it into the best of all tracks in my humble opinion. Whereas the first single of the album, King for a Day, unites classic Heavy Metal with old school Hard Rock, feeling at times like a modern metallic version of Survivor’s hit “Eye of the Tiger” with another blast of the sensational keyboards by Janne, not to mention its catchy chorus, which will certainly stick inside your mind for a long time (“King for a day / He kills the truth and looks away / King for a day / Lives like the world would end today / King for a day / What do you hide, why do you lie? / Who made the rules for this game? / Who is paying your champagne? / All the mercy in the world / Cannot save you anymore / King for a day”).

battle-beast-2017In Beyond the Burning Skies, Battle Beast deliver a beautiful and inspiring musicality, with Noora stealing the spotlight with her powerful and precise vocal lines while the rest of the band maintains a high level of energy flowing from their instruments. Needless to say, listening to this classy chant will make your day better for sure. Then we have Familiar Hell, a song about our inexplicable fear of change and how change can actually bring happiness and joy to our lives, with Janne and bassist Eero Sipilä keeping the adrenaline running from start to finish (if this song had been written in the 80’s, it would have definitely been a top-chart hit); followed by Lost in Wars, a mid-tempo composition showcasing an epic atmosphere with Noora and guest vocalist Tomi Joutsen sounding like the beauty and the beast, boosted by the song’s heavy riffs and thunderous keyboards. And Bastard Son of Odin might have the cheesiest song name, lyrics and rhythm of all, but that ends up working really well as Battle Beast are masters in crafting this type of music. In a nutshell, their “Viking mode” sounds absolutely great, especially the raspy screams by Noora and the galloping bass and drums à la Iron Maiden by Eero and Pyry, respectively.

We Will Fight, an potent Power Metal hymn tailored for singing along with the band while holding your fists in the air, is another mid-tempo tune that enhances Noora’s vocals through its mystical aura and steady beats, while Dancing with the Beast is a very good surprise amidst so many heavy tunes. The first time I saw the song’s name, I honestly thought it would be more ferocious like any song with the word “beast” in it. However, it’s a smooth 80’s Hard Rock ballad with very gentle instrumental pieces, with the sexy voice by Noora leading its pleasant sonority. On the other hand, Far from Heaven is just a below average song that’s way too mellow, sounding like a lame ballad from any of those generic “top 40” artists, which obviously means it’s the worst of all songs hands down. It’s well-played and very melodic indeed, but it lacks punch and electricity. anyway, if you go for the digipack edition of Bringer Of Pain (which can be purchased HERE), you’ll be treated to three amazing bonus tracks, all displaying the band’s trademark high-voltage Power Metal, with Rock Trash being by far the most awesome of them. This is a superb metal hymn that should have been part of the regular version of the album, perhaps its closing tune instead of that boring ballad.

We can never get tired of the indomitable Battle Beast, right? That’s why the band is always willing to share more of their music and their lives with us, which in the case of Bringer Of Pain comes in the form of three entertaining official track-by-track videos from the band that can be seen HERE, HERE and HERE. And Valentine’s Day might be dead and gone this year, but I’m sure if you give your significant other the “Bringer Of Pain special bundle” (for guys or for girls), his or her love for you will only grow stronger than metal. Or you can go to the official Nuclear Blast webstore and choose your favorite option from several versions available. Battle Beast are more than ready to storm the world once again with Bringer Of Pain, bringing to our ears and hearts another shot of their first-class heavy music, and we should be more than thankful for that, as well as for the band not giving us any sign at all of slowing down or giving up metal. Quite the contrary, it seems that their battle will rage on for many years to come.

Best moments of the album: Straight to the Heart, Bringer of Pain, Beyond the Burning Skies, Bastard Son of Odin and Rock Trash.

Worst moments of the album: Far from Heaven.

Released in 2017 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Straight to the Heart 3:31
2. Bringer of Pain 3:04
3. King for a Day 4:33
4. Beyond the Burning Skies 4:39
5. Familiar Hell 4:04
6. Lost in Wars (feat. Tomi Joutsen) 4:34
7. Bastard Son of Odin 3:34
8. We Will Fight 3:26
9. Dancing with the Beast 3:42
10. Far from Heaven 4:20

Limited Edition Digipack bonus tracks
11. God of War 3:56
12. The Eclipse 4:30
13. Rock Trash 3:13

Band members
Noora Louhimo – lead vocals
Juuso Soinio – guitar
Joona Björkroth – guitar, backing vocals
Eero Sipilä – bass guitar, backing vocals
Janne Björkroth – keyboards, backing vocals
Pyry Vikki – drums

Guest musician
Tomi Joutsen – male vocals on “Lost in Wars”

Album Review – The Hypothesis / Origin (2016)

A complete lineup change and almost four years to conclude an album? In the case of these Finnish metallers, it was definitely worth the wait.

Rating4

The_Hypothesis_cover_2400After what happened with Guns N’ Roses and their controversial album Chinese Democracy (2008), whenever a band suffers significant lineup changes and takes a good amount of time to release an album, people get really skeptical about the final result. Fortunately, that’s not the case with Finnish Modern Melodic Metal band The Hypothesis, who after a complete change in their lineup and four years locked in the middle of a dark forest of Viitasaari, in Central Finland, are finally releasing their debut full-length album, entitled Origin, an excellent display of modern and melodic heavy music.

Formed in the city of Kouvola, Finland in 2009, but currently based about 130km to the southwest of that, in the capital Helsinki, The Hypothesis have already built a solid reputation in Melodic Death Metal, playing in renowned festivals such as Nummirock and Qstock, and sharing the stage with names like Swallow The Sun, Scar Symmetry, Wolfheart and Before The Dawn. And that’s after having released only one EP, named Nightshade, back in 2010. And now, without further ado, it’s time to hit play and start moshing with those Finnish metallers.

Right from the first few notes in Shades to Escape, you’ll notice how much they love futuristic keyboard noises, providing a sound that’s very harmonious and polished as usual, but always as violent as this type of music demands. In addition, frontman Antti Seppälä offers sharp and harsh growls nicely complemented by some clean vocals to give more balance to the song, with the powerful riffs and solos by both guitarists Juuso Turkki and Asko Sartanen filling all the spaces left. Leak, an old school Melodic Death Metal with hints of Metalcore, sounds less experimental and a lot heavier and more vicious, with the precise drumming by Waltteri Väyrynen enhancing the electricity found in the music; while End of Your Days somehow “takes off” from where the opening track stopped, with Antti going on with his furious screams and both guitars blasting some awesome riffs, all supported by the song’s background keyboards and the intricate bass lines by Markku “Neissu” Ruuskanen.

The_Hypothesis_promopic_largeOnce again exhibiting a futuristic and metallic aura, Scarface is a decent composition that unfortunately doesn’t live up to the energy found throughout the rest of the album, with its rhythm sounding a bit confusing (or maybe too progressive compared to what the other songs offer). Exit puts the band back on track with its high level of violence and nonstop action, boosted by an amazing guitar solo by guest musician Daniel Freyberg. Moreover, Markku can’t stop pounding his thunderous strings in this modern and melodic Death Metal chant tailored for fans of the genre, and almost immediately they connect it to Atonement, another song presenting potent riffs and high-end solos by Juuso and Asko where Antti showcases some clean vocals before going back to his demonic mode.

In Eye for an Eye, the rhythmic beats by Waltteri craft the perfect sonic tornado for Antti to fire desperate and harsh vocal lines in the best song of the album. This is how a Melodic Death Metal band should always add progressive elements to their musicality, not to mention its yet again flawless keyboard notes. On the other hand, Weak Story, despite its instrumental pieces being as good as the rest of the album (in special its guitar solos), brings forward out-of-place clean vocals that sound taken from a generic Metalcore song. And closing the album we have the interesting instrumental song Second Chance, where the modern elements added to its polished production turn it into a nice experimental voyage in Melodic Death Metal. Besides, you can pretend to be Antti and add your own lyrics and vocals to it, how about that? Or you can simply relax and relish the beautiful guitar riffs and rumbling bass lines offered by the band during the whole song as well.

This up-and-coming band from Finland can be found on Facebook and on YouTube, and you can purchase Origin at the Inverse Records’ webshop, on iTunes or on Amazon. It might have taken almost four years for The Hypothesis to conclude their first full-length record, but after listening to it you’ll realize it was definitely worth the wait thanks to all the energy and passion those guys put into the making of the album.

Best moments of the album: Leak, Exit and Eye for an Eye.

Worst moments of the album: Scarface and Weak Story.

Released in 2016 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Shades to Escape 4:20
2. Leak 4:25
3. End of Your Days 4:47
4. Scarface 3:51
5. Exit 3:34
6. Atonement 3:28
7. Eye for an Eye 4:46
8. Weak Story 4:03
9. Second Chance (Instrumental) 4:43

Band members
Antti Seppälä – vocals
Juuso Turkki – guitar
Asko Sartanen – guitar
Markku “Neissu” Ruuskanen – bass
Waltteri Väyrynen – drums

Guest musician
Daniel Freyberg – guitar solo on “Exit”