Album Review – netra / Ingrats (2017)

The perfect soundtrack for late-night walks in the city, combining several different music genres into a coherent stream of melancholy, might be right in front of your eyes thanks to this exquisite Urban Black Metal one-man project.

Conveying images of a grey, boring and anxiogenic city life, Urban Black Metal one-man project netra is back with its third full-length album, titled Ingrats (which is French for “ungrateful”), the perfect soundtrack for late-night walks in the city, combining several different music genres such as as Ambient Black Metal, Trip-Hop and moody Jazz into a coherent stream of melancholy. Put differently, the music found in Ingrats is highly recommended if you like bands such as Manes, Katatonia or Burzum, and especially if you are not afraid of trying something truly new that will defy your senses and concepts in music.

Formed in 2003 by French multi-instrumentalist Steven Le Moan in Quimper, a citiy located in Brittany, in northwestern France, netra relased its first album Mélancolie Urbaine in 2010. Two years later, netra presented the highly claustrophobic Sørbyen, recorded after relocating to the city of Gjøcik, Norway over the course of a year. In addition to that, netra also collaborated with Californian rap duo We’rewolves in 2013 to create a true hybrid between Hip-Hop and Black Metal, the EP entitled Dreading Consciousness. Now in 2017, after moving to Auckland, a major urban city in the North Island of New Zealand, Steven and his netra found the right amount of inspiration to mesmerize us once again with the Depressive Black Metal and all other styles featured in Ingrats.

Gimme a Break, a Jazz-like intro with smooth piano and drums, introduces us to the universe of Ingrats before netra’s Black Metal strikes the listener like a lightning bolt in Everything’s Fine, a dark and aggressive composition where netra manically grasps the song’s lyrics, full of anguish and hatred. Furthermore, the song’s hints of Jazz and Experimental Metal, together with some clean vocals by the end of the song, make the whole experience of listening to this multilayered tune even more exciting. In Underneath My Words the Ruins of Yours, an atmospheric instrumental composition alternating between electronic music and sheer obscurity, simply close your eyes and savor its musicality, getting ready for the melancholic Live with It, continuing with netra’s wicked fusion of sounds and proving music doesn’t need to be heavy and fast all the time to be good. Its clean vocals are spot-on, not to mention the gentle balance between acoustic guitars and electronic elements, turning it into one of the top moments of the album in my opinion.

Infinite Boredom, an instrumental bridge displaying gentle piano notes under the rain, paves a gray and sorrowful path for Don’t Keep Me Waiting, a movie-inspired creation by netra where all instruments keep growing in intensity, transpiring melancholy and pain. It’s interesting to notice how the saxophone somehow “replaces” the vocal parts, with a dense background voice, as well as the song’s Atmospheric Black Metal beats, enhancing the overall darkness present in the music. And A Genuinely Benevolent Man, the most modern and electronic of all songs, blends Trip-Hop with Atmospheric Black Metal elements, with the music gradually increasing in intensity while netra delivers only a few sick growls throughout the whole song.

The hopelessness depicted by netra continues in the ambient Paris or Me, where subtle hints of Jazz and Black Metal coming from the piano and guitar lines add to this instrumental piece a delicate feeling of solitude; whereas in Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve I highly recommend you keep your eyes closed and follow netra in his walk through the dark and hazy urban streets where he lives. Bringing forward Industrial and Alternative Metal nuances, there’s no sign of happiness in the music, which can be felt through his clean but acid vocals, reminding me of some of the best creations by Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson. And how about a sweet Jazz song as the closing act of this unusual album? In Jusqu’au-boutiste you’ll not only get that, but netra also offers trenchant riffs and blast beats in the best Atmospheric Black Metal style imaginable, like a sharp razor cutting our ears while the piano parts give peace to our souls, ending the album in a tempestuous fashion.

Only time will tell what’s next for the urban black metaller netra, but based on the amazing quality of the music found in Ingrats (which you can listen in its entirety HERE), I don’t think he’ll take too long to release more of his eccentric music. While we all wait for another blast of his multilayered creations, let’s keep in touch with him through his Facebook page, and purchase a copy of Ingrats through the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp (where you can find some interesting bundles like the “ultimate netra listener pack”) or official webstore in a 4 panel sleeve with 8 page booklet format or as a fantastic package containing the CD, a 11cm x 7cm all-weather vinyl netra sticker and a beyond awesome “Urban Black Metal” shirt, as well as on Amazon and on CD Baby. Now please excuse, as I’m going for a lonely walk through the dark and cold shadows of Toronto, and I guess you know which album I’ll be listening to.

Best moments of the album: Everything’s Fine, Live with It and Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve.

Worst moments of the album: A Genuinely Benevolent Man.

Released in 2017 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Gimme a Break 1:19
2. Everything’s Fine 5:24
3. Underneath My Words the Ruins of Yours 3:36
4. Live with It 4:30
5. Infinite Boredom 0:44
6. Don’t Keep Me Waiting 4:32
7. A Genuinely Benevolent Man 5:10
8. Paris or Me 3:32
9. Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve 5:00
10. Jusqu’au-boutiste 5:55

Band members
netra – vocals, all instruments

Album Review – Age of Atlas / Of Tongue and Tide. Of Flame and Honey. (2016)

Just hit play and enjoy a feast of heavy, catchy and groovy compositions, brought forth by four promising British musicians who are constantly challenging themselves and pushing the boundaries of progressive music.

Rating4

album-cover-frontIf you have never visited Kingston upon Hull, usually abbreviated to Hull, a city and unitary authority in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, you’re missing all the vitality and distinctiveness of the city’s culture and heritage. For instance, you can go check their Humber Mouth literature festival, the annual Hull Jazz Festival, as well as several other exhibitions, theaters and concerts. Such cultural richness could only translate into amazing heavy music, which is exactly the case with Alternative Rock/Metal band Age of Atlas, who are releasing their first full-length album entitled Of Tongue and Tide. Of Flame and Honey., following on from their debut EP The Scale of Things to Come, from 2014.

With Peter Measures on vocals, Mikey Scott on drums and the two nearly identical twins Keelan and Kye Beavers on guitar and bass, respectively (which is probably the main reason why they are in perfect synchronicity at all times), this very technical Hull-based group formed in the year of 2012 is highly recommended for fans of the progressive heavy music played by Coheed and Cambria and Tides of Man, among many other distinct bands. Self-recorded at Mikey’s own studio Fruit Trade Music and featuring a beautiful artwork by James Fenwick Illustration, Of Tongue and Tide. Of Flame and Honey. epitomizes everything Age of Atlas are today in a feast of gripping riffs, stunning breaks and poetic vocal lines, obviously pointing to an absolutely bright future that lies ahead for this talented quartet.

The progressive and sharp opening track Sleight Of Hand Of Glory already offers the listener a taste of what Age of Atlas are capable of, with its alternative and psychedelic intro being boosted by the metallic bass lines by Kye before lead singer Peter Measures starts firing his modern poetry (“The thunder in your tongue finger lisps the blood from the thumb / Your hunter handed stitching yearns and breaks and comes undone”), not to mention the elements of Blues and Jazz added to the musicality which end up expanding its range even more. And that’s only the beginning, as the punchy riffs by Keelan and the roaring drums by Mikey steal the show in Natural Sciences, a hybrid of Dream Theater and Gojira with a Hard Rock twist. Despite being considerably heavy for many average radio listeners, I’m more than sure this electrifying tune could still be played at any rock n’ roll radio station in the world and become an instant hit. While that doesn’t happen, you can keep enjoying the intricacy provided by Kye on bass and the spot-on guitar solos by Keelan in For The Feast That Follows, some sort of “controlled craziness” that works really well from start ot finish, bringing pure awesomeness to our ears.

Presenting a modernized ambience, Father Of The Fear Of Falling is a soulful and technical composition where the complexity provide by Mikey on drums flawlessly supports the alternating moments of melodious softness and headbanging riffs found throughout the entire music; while Echoes Of Empire, presenting even more tempo changes and a passionate performance by Peter on vocals, is another sonic experiment for fans of Progressive Metal, with its backing vocals adding an extra touch of liveliness to the song. In The Brackening, highly influenced by Groove Metal but still having Progressive Rock as its core element, pay good attention to the “battle” between brothers Keelan and Kye with their unstoppable stringed weapons while Peter continues to blast his fiery vocal lines. An in Dead Eyed Sigils Of Our Failures Against Distance the band presents a more mainstream approach through smooth and progressive Hard Rock lines. This can be considered the most generic (or least innovative) of all tracks, albeit being well-crafted and offering a solid performance by Peter supported by the song’s background keyboards.

pic1Background electronic effects, rumbling bass lines and a headbanging rhythm make listening to the excellent Ambering a very positive experience, displaying even hints of pop music in certain moments. Furthermore, the last piece of the song is one of those progressive journeys loved by fans of the genre, which should sound incredible if played live. Then we have Needer, sounding heavier and sharper at first, but getting back to the band’s harmonious experimentations. Needless to say how bass and drums get inside your head and shake your brain in a good way, another remarkable characteristic of the music by Age of Atlas. And the icing on the cake comes in the form of an almost 7-minute aria of progressiveness named Gyromancer: it doesn’t matter if you prefer heavier and crazier sounds or a more serene complexity, the band brings forward all variations of Progressive Metal and Rock in this powerful tune, and the final result will certainly electrify the rest of your day.

As any other creative progressive band, Age of Atlas do not settle down at all and are already working on writing and refining new material for a follow up second album. While we wait for the next chapter in their promising career, let’s visit their Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud to know more about the band and to enjoy more of their music. And as an early Christmas gift (and to show how nice the citizens of Hull are), Of Tongue and Tide. Of Flame and Honey. is available as a free download for fans who sign up to the band’s mailing list (which you can do by clicking HERE). “We’ll always try and push ourselves in new ways and writing new material, working on new songs, is the most enjoyable way of challenging ourselves.” says vocalist Peter, and we must all agree that as long as they keep challenging themselves and releasing albums like Of Tongue and Tide. Of Flame and Honey., the future of progressive and groovy music looks more than good not only for Kingston upon Hull, but for the entire world.

Best moments of the album: Sleight Of Hand Of Glory, Natural Sciences and The Brackening.

Worst moments of the album: Dead Eyed Sigils Of Our Failures Against Distance.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing 
1. Sleight Of Hand Of Glory 4:26
2. Natural Sciences 3:06
3. For The Feast That Follows 3:49
4. Father Of The Fear Of Falling 3:43
5. Echoes Of Empire 4:08
6. The Brackening 5:28
7. Dead Eyed Sigils Of Our Failures Against Distance 4:37
8. Ambering 3:25
9. Needer 3:57
10. Gyromancer 6:52

Band members
Peter Measures – vocals
Keelan Beavers – guitar
Kye Beavers – bass
Mikey Scott – drums

Album Review – Witches Of Doom / Deadlights (2016)

The Italian coven of Doom and Gothic Metal returns in full force to put another electrifying Rock N’ Roll spell on you.

Rating4

WOD_DeadlightsAfter releasing their debut album Obey back in 2014, I knew it was just a matter of time until Italian Goth-Stoner-Doom Metal act Witches Of Doom returned with more of their mesmerizing Rock N’ Roll extravaganza. Two years have gone by since that amazing album, and here we have the Rome-based warlocks Danilo “Groova” Piludu on vocals, Federico “Fed” Venditti on the guitar, Jacopo Cartelli on bass, Graziano “Eric” Corrado on keyboards and Andrea “Budi” Budicin on drums offering all fans of old school dark music the likes of Type O Negative, Moonspell and The Cult their brand new album whimsically entitled Deadlights which, just like its predecessor, will put you to dance, drink and make love like there’s no tomorrow.

Although I’m not a professional musician, producer or anything similar to that, I must say the upward growth in the overall quality of the album in terms of its production and sound is one of those things that not only helped Witches Of Doom explore new horizons and add new elements to their music, but it also shows how professional those Italian metallers are and how much they are focused on what they do. Thus, due to the enhanced quality of their music and to the brand new songs added to their portfolio, I think the band is more than ready to reach new heights and start spreading their exciting music throughout the world by touring in places like the United States, Canada and South America, either by themselves or as one of the attractions of some music festivals held in those regions.

While we wait for their first world tour, let’s rock to the sound of the superb opening track in Deadlights, called Lizard Tongue, where after an alternative and electronic we are embraced by a modernized goth atmosphere and the band’s pure Rock N’ Roll attitude. These guys know how to bring that magic aura from the 80’s to our present days, with frontman Danilo being better than ever with his inebriate and dark vocals, perfectly declaiming the song’s catchy lyrics (“Daughter of a thousand sins / Angel praying for your last wish / The city crawls in the dead of night / A knife cuts deep flesh open wide / Trick or treat is the only law / Merchant on the killing floor / The city crawls in the dead of night / A knife cuts deep flesh open wide”). In Run with the Wolf, an eerie waltz mixed with symphonic elements in what’s probably their most obscure composition to date, keyboardist Andrea crafts the perfect doomed ambience, supported by the low-tuned bass lines by Jacopo; whereas in Deface (The Things That Made Me a Man), heavier and weirder than usual due to the rumbling bass by Jacopo and the always passionate guitar riffs and experimentations by the band’s mastermind Fed, the listener faces a solid blend of Gothic Rock with Alternative Rock and Metal.

WOD 2016Melancholy and sorrow flow from the beautiful Winter Coming, where Danilo once again provides an additional layer of emotion to the musicality with his vocal lines (not to mention the song’s sorrowful lyrics), followed by Homeless, another shot of wickedness provided by this talented band with the groovy bass lines by Jacopo and the progressive drumming by Andrea enhancing the song’s punch. In other words, this could become a radio hit anytime, anywhere. And get ready to be hypnotized by the Black Voodoo Girl, with its Gothic start getting heavier and darker until it becomes another one of the band’s “striptease” hymns. The keyboard passages by Graziano match perfectly with the heavy riffs by Fed and the somber vocals by Danilo, and you’ll surely have a good time singing its chorus along with the band.

In Mater Mortis, what begins as an epic chant quickly morphs into a futuristic tune, more specifically into an ode to the music from the 80’s with highlights to its awesome keyboards, and this instrumental voyage sets the tone for Gospel for War, a badass Gothic/Stoner Rock chant tailored for fans of Rock N’ Roll pub fights where Fed keeps blasting his excellent riffs while Andrea takes his drumming to a whole new and amazing level of intricacy. And last but not least, bringing elements from non-metal genres like Jazz and Blues to their sounding, the band offers us all the introspective and soulful I Don’t Want to Be a Star, showcasing smooth but fierce piano notes by Eric and strong performances by Danilo on vocals and by Fed with his fiery solos. If you love long and experimental songs with the energy and feeling of Rock N’ Roll, you might have found your new favorite song in rock music.

In summary, the music presented in Deadlights, which features a stunning artwork by Italian artist Carlo Muselli (who by the way is the big boss at Sliptrick Records) and is available on iTunes or on Amazon, has everything a true fan of heavy rock always looks for and more, and in order to know more about the Witches Of Doom, including their future plans and tour dates, don’t forget to go check their official Facebook page. This skilled coven of Doom and Gothic Metal is not among us to simply play some rock tunes, but in special to put an electrifying Rock N’ Roll spell on all of us, lovers of dark and rhythmic heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Lizard Tongue, Black Voodoo Girl and Gospel for War.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Sliptrick Records

Track listing
1. Lizard Tongue 4:13
2. Run with the Wolf 4:49
3. Deface (The Things That Made Me a Man) 5:45
4. Winter Coming 4:35
5. Homeless 5:32
6. Black Voodoo Girl 4:46
7. Mater Mortis 3:01
8. Gospel for War 4:35
9. I Don’t Want to Be a Star 6:59

Band members
Danilo “Groova” Piludu – vocals
Federico “Fed” Venditti – guitars
Jacopo Cartelli – bass
Graziano “Eric” Corrado – keyboards
Andrea “Budi” Budicin – drums

Album Review – Novallo / Novallo II EP (2015)

A wicked fusion of metal, rock, pop, electronic, jazz and tons of other contrasting genres, crafted by a talented and promising American band.

Rating4

cover artRanging from the delightful turmoil brought forth by Progressive Metal to the catchy tunes from modern Pop/Rock, the vibrant experimentations by American Alternative/Experimental Metal band Novallo will definitely hit you like a bullet train at full speed and put you to dance, bang your head or simply move your body in any unconventional way you might enjoy. And let me tell you that such a weird sounding ends up making the task of putting a label to Novallo extremely hard. I personally can’t say if they’re a pop version of Dream Theater or a heavier version of Justin Timberlake, if not both at the same time.

Founded in the city of Columbus, Ohio (the 15th largest city in the United States) in 2006, Novallo released their self-titled debut EP in 2012, earning them some considerable recognition and appreciation by a growing fan base, as well as a spot on the 2015 edition of the Rock on the Range festival (as the only unsigned band on the bill, by the way), playing on May 16 alongside renowned acts such as  Saxon, Ministry, Babymetal, Godsmack, In Flames and Judas Priest. Now, after beginning to solidify their path to stardom, they’re back with a brand new EP entitled Novallo II, another wicked fusion of unlike music genres crafted by these talented and professional musicians.

How crazy, electronic and innovative can an intro be? Take a listen at Wake and you’ll see, right before Betty Phage Goes to Bronxton offers you a  unique mix of Alternative and Progressive Metal with hints of Jazz and electronic music. Put differently, it’s a very fun tune that’s appealing and complex all at once, something not so common in music nowadays. Drummer Nick Salvatore kicks ass behind his drum set hands down, which is also the case in the even more electronic I AM, a well-crafted rock-ish version of dance music where it’s pretty easy to notice their influences from the King of Pop Michael Jackson.

novalloA lot heavier than all other tracks from the EP, Sideways Bird nicely blends elements from Groove Metal with Alternative Rock. Besides, I dare you to try to make any sense out of the song’s loco lyrics (“First ride hitched on a glitch – am I coming or going? / Insanity photographed consciousness flowing. / Discount tricks shaped like bits from the back corner store man. / Liquid crime – amplified to extract and delete even more.”). In contrast, Give Gravity a Choice is significantly smoother and more progressive, with its calm passages and stronger soundings creating together a relaxing environment enhanced by the solid vocals by Sam Gitiban, who provides the song all the necessary energy and balance.

Showcasing freakish electronic effects that sound like something you would find in a Mario Bros. videogame, White Phoenix keeps the madness rolling thanks to the sick riffs by Gino Bambino and the precise breaks by Nick Salvatore, not to mention the brilliant work done by Brandon Johnson with his metallic bass lines. And although the movie-ish outro Sleep might put an end to the album, we all know the band is just starting their promising journey through the world of eccentric music.

To sum up, what Novallo has to offer in Novallo II, available at their BandCamp page (or you can take a peek at what the band can do at their YouTube channel, if you prefer), is indeed unique, or maybe I should say substantially distinct when compared to almost any other band or artist you can think of. Their music will most probably suit you no matter if you’re one of those orthodox fans of Progressive Metal that looks down on anything that doesn’t contain a billion intricate notes and riffs, or if you don’t give a shit about complexity as long as you can feed your inner dancer with the music. In other words, whilst you have a craving for a special type of music, Novallo definitely have the righteous tunes to fulfill all your needs.

Best moments of the album: Betty Phage Goes to Bronxton and Sideways Bird.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Independent

Track listing
1. Wake 0:29
2. Betty Phage Goes to Bronxton 3:07
3. I AM 3:35
4. Sideways Bird 3:35
5. Give Gravity a Choice 5:18
6. White Phoenix 4:21
7. Sleep 1:05

Band members
Sam Gitiban – vocals
Gino Bambino – guitar
Brandon Johnson – bass
Nick Salvatore – drums, percussion

Album Review – Antlion / The Prescient (2015)

A progressive, technical and “psychedethic” album by a Canadian band that has all it takes to dominate the world of Death Metal.

Rating4

antlion artHave you ever heard of the expression “psychedethic” in your life? That’s how Canadian Progressive/Technical Death Metal band Antlion refers to their music, a powerful combination of the wrath found in Death Metal with an unbounded burst of groove and progressiveness. Based on what their debut full-length album The Prescient has to offer, I must agree this new term created by the band should be added to the dictionary, and as soon as you hit play you’ll have the perfect explanation to that in the form of high-quality Canadian metal.

Although the band was formed in 2012 in the city of Ottawa, Canada, it’s just now in 2015 that they’re releasing their first material, which for me at least indicates they might be extremely rigorous with the quality of their compositions, right? Anyway, featuring a more-than-psychedelic album art by Chris Volion (The Gilley van Weirden Workshop), The Prescient has all it takes to get deep into your mind and make you feel completely dazed, so exquisite the album is. And especially if you’re a musician, pay good attention to the details those guys offer within each and every song, and you might have encountered a new favorite band for your collection.

What seems like it’s going to be just relaxing progressive music in the opening track, Incubation, suddenly turns into a wild feast of Progressive Death Metal for fans of Tool and Mastodon, with guitarists Shane Williams and Joe Kruger giving a lesson in creativity with their strings. In the amazing Hubris, imagination and complexity keep walking hand in hand, with drummer Arend Nijhuis stealing the spotlight with his breaks and double bass, sounding as if Dream Theater and Cannibal Corpse merged into one band. And Cycle of Failure presents Jazz elements in a crazy journey guided by Shane and Joe, as if there were three or four songs in one due to its progressiveness.

The next tune, named Hive, flirts with Melodic Deah Metal by providing the listener awesome guttural vocals and flowing electricity. It’s definitely one of the best tracks of the album due to its excellent riffs and rhythm, not to mention its violent ending, before A Seer’s Elegy showcases another display of heaviness and creativity by the band, with Adam kicking ass on both vocals and bass. I would say this song has all the “attributes” of a serial killer, being violent but extremely methodical and/or surgical at the same time.

Spire offers an awesome blend of Groove and Progressive Metal (it can’t get any crazier than this!), with its background effects enhancing the song’s oddity and, once again, Arend providing the listener incredible beats and breaks. And as a final treat for us metalheads, Antlion bring forth an insane two-piece title-track, with the first part, The Prescient (Part I), delivering madness, beautiful riffs and lots of variations, being heavier than most tracks of the album mainly due to its resonant bass lines; and the second part,The Prescient (Part II), concluding the album in a solid and progressive way, again including hints of Jazz to provide extra layers of intricacy to it.

All this metallic lunacy can be found at their official Facebook page and YouTube channel, and you can find The Prescient for sale at the band’s BandCamp page. If you’re not only a connoisseur of Death Metal, but also a fan of visionary metal bands, I must say The Prescient might have a significant impact on your headbanging life, as it’s indeed an important breakthrough in this “psychedethic” band’s path to conquer the world of extreme music.

Best moments of the album: Hubris and Hive.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Independent

Track listing
1. Incubation 4:46
2. Hubris 5:55
3. Cycle of Failure 6:02
4. Hive 4:34
5. A Seer’s Elegy 4:10
6. Spire 6:18
7. The Prescient (Part I) 3:53
8. The Prescient (Part II) 4:37

Band members
Adam Pell – vocals, bass
Shane Williams – guitar
Joe Kruger – guitar
Arend Nijhuis – drums

Album Review – Faith No More / Sol Invictus (2015)

It might have taken 18 long years for Mr. Mike Patton and his demented squad to release a new album, but the result is so good it was definitely worth the wait.

Rating4

FNM_frontAt long last, after 18 fuckin’ excruciating years, the demented squad composed by the gentlemen Mike Patton, Jon Hudson, Billy Gould, Roddy Bottum and Mike Bordin, “usually” known as American Alternative Metal/Rock band Faith No More, is back with another freakish experiment entitled Sol Invictus (Latin for “Unconquered Sun”), the seventh studio album in their revolutionary career. Without Faith No More there wouldn’t be Alternative Metal, Funk Metal, Nu Metal, Grunge, contemporary Hard Rock, and so on. And if you think what I’m saying is bullshit, how about what Corey Taylor, frontman of the biggest Alternative Metal group in the world, Slipknot, said after seeing Mike Patton and his crew performing the all-time classic “Epic” at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards? “I was mesmerized by that. I never felt a moment like that until that moment. It completely turned me around.”, stated the iconic #8.

Perhaps the greatest question in everyone’s minds, after knowing the band was officially getting out of their state of “creative hibernation”, was that if they were going to be capable of releasing something as amazing as their previous albums, especially the masterpieces The Real Thing (1989), Angel Dust (1992) and King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime (1995). Well, although Sol Invictus doesn’t have any “A Small Victory”, “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies” or “Digging the Grave” among its songs, it’s still a well-set album with lots of thrilling moments, showcasing a band that doesn’t seem to have been on hiatus (not including their sporadic live performances and tours along all those 18 years) since their previous release, the also spectacular Album of the Year, from 1997.

The title-track, Sol Invictus, is just as weird as the album artwork, which means it’s perfect for opening their live performances. It’s short and melancholic, just like they’ve mastered doing through the years, and we all have to agree that with that piano intro and those whispering vocals you know somehow it’s Faith No More even if you’ve never heard anything about the band in your entire life. The same can be said about the awesome Superhero, a very melodic and alternative tune with interesting keyboard notes by Roddy Bottum, where after only two seconds you know it’s pure Faith No More. I guess there’s no need to mention how incredible Mr. Patton’s crazy screams and vocals are, but it’s valid to mention that the lyrics beautifully follow that vocal craziness (“Like an American drug / Makes a mean cock grow / …kill a priest / Makes a superman of glass”).

The next track, Sunny Side Up, sounds a lot like many songs from Album of the Year, with a stylish blend of Jazz, Blues, Rock N’ Roll and everything else. In other words, fans of the band will enjoy it for sure, while others will probably ask themselves “what the fuck is this?” Even if you don’t understand that song really well, you’ll relish Separation Anxiety and its stronger Rock N’ Roll vein. Mike Patton once again steals the show with his wicked voice and proves why he’s among the best and most versatile singers in the world. The only setback in this exciting tune is the drumming: I was expecting more from Mike Bordin, despite him doing a relatively decent job throughout the whole song.

FNMThe dark intro in Cone of Shame corroborates they really enjoy sounding bizarre, with its last part getting a lot more vibrant and intense, while Rise of the Fall offers the listener some elements from Reggae music and more audible guitar lines, as well as more rhythmic beats. Moreover, the crazy screams by Mike Patton end up adding a lot of electricity to a song that’s below average for a band like Faith No More. Following the lowest point of the album we have Black Friday, a song purely inspired by 80’s classic rock music which despite its lack of creativity has a good blend of semi-acoustic parts and heavier riffs and screams.

And just when you think Faith No More cannot get weirder, they come up with the stupendous Motherfucker, another perfect choice for opening their live concerts, where the focus is obviously on Mike Patton’s vocal lines and the song’s eerie lyrics (“Get the motherfucker on the phone, the phone…”), also including the best guitar solo of the entire album. Not only that, I doubt you won’t be singing this song everywhere, even at work with your boss by your side. Unless you don’t know shit about the band, you probably know how much they love songs with Portuguese or Spanish names (and sometimes lyrics), but unfortunately the boring Matador doesn’t get close at all to the marvelous classic “Caralho Voador”, for example. It’s just an average song with nothing new or outstanding, except for the strong bass lines by Billy Gould. And sounding like a B-side from King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime, From the Dead gives a melancholic ending to Sol Invictus with the band’s trademark. It’s a good listen if you’re at home or in your car, but definitely not recommended for their live performances.

I wish there were a few more guitar solos by Jon Hudson and some faster beats by Mike Bordin in this or that song, as Sol Invictus sounds too calm for me in many of its moments, but at least we can loosen up knowing Faith No More are not “dinosaurs”. They are a more-than-alive group that still got it in them, and from now on (well, they’ve been doing this already) there are even more outstanding tunes in their lunatic arsenal to be masterfully played during their live concerts all around the world. And we’re all very thankful to the unparalleled Mr. Patton and his fellow mates for that, even if it took so many years for them to return.

Best moments of the album: Superhero, Separation Anxiety and Motherfucker.

Worst moments of the album: Rise of the Fall and Matador.

Released in 2015 Reclamation Records

Track listing
1. Sol Invictus 2:37
2. Superhero 5:15
3. Sunny Side Up 2:59
4. Separation Anxiety 3:44
5. Cone of Shame 4:40
6. Rise of the Fall 4:09
7. Black Friday 3:19
8. Motherfucker 3:33
9. Matador 6:08
10. From the Dead 3:06

Band members
Mike Patton – vocals
Jon Hudson – guitar
Billy Gould – bass guitar
Roddy Bottum – keyboards, vocals
Mike Bordin – drums

Album Review – Orisonata / Orisonata (2014)

Beautiful vocals, superb saxophone solos, classical guitar, jazz, piano and many other elements make this Progressive Symphonic Metal album a very fresh and attractive alternative in the world of heavy music.

Rating4

orisonata-cover-artIf anyone asks you about Symphonic Metal, you automatically think of bands from countries like Finland, Netherlands, Italy, Germany or any other European country, but never of American bands, right? Well, that’s about to change with the self-titled debut album from American Progressive Symphonic Metal band Orisonata, a project by composer and guitarist, Jason Lee Greenberg, and his wife, vocalist Jennifer Grassman.

Orisonata can be compared not only to bands such as Nightwish, Within Temptation, Kamelot, Tarja Turunen and Blind Guardian, but also to the progressive musicality from Dream Theater and even to the Pop/Rock from Evanescence, Sarah Brightman and Muse. And the band was able to generate that high quality mix of classical guitar, jazz, and heavy music in a very solid and professional way, which in my opinion is the biggest strength of this project: being so diverse without losing their value proposition. In other words, Orisonata deliver what they promise, which is some very creative and unique heavy music.

And as the music is what really matters here, let’s get down to it. The album might have only 7 songs in total, but together they are responsible for over 50 minutes of music, highlighting the band’s progressive vein. The first track of the album is also the longest one: with almost 9 minutes, Journey to the Center of the Earth is a pleasant Heavy Metal voyage the likes of Nightwish, with amazing saxophone solos, changes in tempo, breaks and everything else you want to see in a progressive heavy song. Then come Once And Future King, a very progressive tune with interesting riffs and guitar solos, and The Great Baptism, a song that mixes the sonority of Dream Theater and Tarja Turunen in a way that would make both band and artist very proud of Orisonata.

The following track, Unholy Creation,  can be considered the most Heavy Metal one of the album with its fast drums, heavy riffs and many hints of Nightwish from their Oceanborn times, accompanied by the amazing piano from jazz artists Pamela York. Furthermore, the vocals and lyrics fit the song perfectly, making it the best track of the album in my opinion.

Oath Breaker keeps the energy level up with the great singing done by Jennifer, together with some awesome solos and music variations, while Robin Hood offers us more delightful saxophone solos amidst pure Symphonic Metal. The album ends with the beautiful ballad The Muses, a very “medieval” tune with highlights to the amazing contribution by Cynthia Butler on flutes.

orisonata-jennifer-grassman-photo-by-laughlin-photographyRegarding the lyrics, they’re all based on literature, legend and ancient mythology, and remind me of some old Nightwish songs such as “Sacrament of Wilderness” (you can check the lyrics from Onisonata’s “Unholy Creation” in the video at the bottom of this review), and in terms of the album art, it is also very well-done and matches with the album’s proposal and musicality.

And finally, all musicians involved in this project are extremely talented, but we have to salute the couple Jason and Jennifer for their brilliant work with all instruments and beautiful operatic vocals, respectively. Although they’ve been on the road for quite some time and won many awards for their previous music creations, it’s amazing to see the amount of passion they still have for composing new material. Besides the “dynamic duo”, I would say the most important piece of the music found in Orisonata are the stunning solos by world-renowned classical saxophonist Todd Oxford. What this guy does with his saxophone is unbelievable and adds so much value to the music that it’s hard to imagine any of the songs without it.

So far, the album as had a soft release on CD Baby and on Orisonata’s official website, but will shortly be available through Amazon, Spotify, and other major retailers, and you can also check more information about the band on their official Facebook page and on Twitter.

Of course, the band has yet a long way to go and only time will tell if they’ll succeed or not, but two lessons can already be learned from Orisonata: for all other independent bands in the world, this is the level of work, professionalism and creativity you need to put on your music in order for it to be successful, otherwise you’ll be just “one more band” in the market; and for heavy music lovers, Orisonata show how good the indie scene can be and that we should support it as much as we can if we want to keep the flame of Heavy Metal alive.

Best moments of the album: Journey to the Center of the Earth, Unholy Creation and Oath Breaker.

Worst moments of the album: Once And Future King.

Released in 2014 Independent

Track listing
1. Journey to the Center of the Earth 8:42
2. Once And Future King 6:35
3. The Great Baptism 8:04
4. Unholy Creation 7:18
5. Oath Breaker 5:01
6. Robin Hood 7:55
7. The Muses 5:07

Band members
Jason Lee Greenberg – all guitars & instruments
Jennifer Grassman – all vocals

Guest musicians
Todd Oxford – saxophone
Wade Vandesande – bass on “Oath Breaker”
Brad Shearhart – bass on “Robin Hood”
Pamela York – piano on “Unholy Creation”
Cynthia Butler – flutes on “The Muses”
Marco Bayarena – synth solo on “Journey to the Center of the Earth”