Metal Chick of the Month – Brittney Slayes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Concert Review – Helloween (Espaço das Américas, São Paulo, Brazil, 10/29/2017)

What we once thought was unlikely to happen became reality and, my friends, it was one HELL of a night!

Have you ever imagined seeing Michael Kiske, Kai Hansen and Andi Deris together on the same stage? Yes, I know, we have seen Kiske and Hansen together with Unisonic before, we have seen Kiske singing HELLOWEEN classics beautifully, we have seen Hansen as a special guest on Helloween concerts, but the three pieces together feel so right that it is hard to think how it hasn’t happened before. The Pumpkins United World Tour is real now, it’s a huge celebration to the band’s legacy and I am not afraid to say that this is one of the most amazing tours of this year!

This tour was announced a year ago and the first date confirmed was in São Paulo (although the tour actually started in Mexico). I have got to say Brazilians love Helloween, tickets were sold out in a blink of an eye and the band announced a second date – again sold out. We were also informed that these two concerts were going to be recorded to a near future release in DVD, so we couldn’t be more excited. Unfortunately, guitarist Roland Grapow wasn’t invited to join the band on this historical moment (according to himself), which is really a shame.

Without an opening act, Helloween went straight to the point and got the party started at 7:30pm at the Espaço das Américas venue with the iconic Halloween, with Deris and Kiske singing together. This was enough to make 8,000 grown adults sing loud, smile, cry, jump, put their hands in the air, fall on their knees and thank for being there (I am not exaggerating, Brazilian fans are really this passionate and intense). After the song, both vocalists thanked all the fans and Deris remembered that 10 years ago they recorded a live album and DVD in São Paulo (Keeper of the Seven Keys – The Legacy World Tour 2005/2006) because Brazilian fans were the loudest in the world, so they wanted to do it again. The duo also introduced us to their two friends, Doc and Seth, the funny animated pumpkins on the screen who were responsible for “choosing” the night’s setlist, focusing on classics but also giving a space to songs released after the 2000s.

Photos by Leandro Anhelli – http://www.anhelli.com.br/

It was incredible to see Kiske and Deris singing side by side but the night wasn’t only about them. Kai Hansen, Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner were playing heavier and louder than ever, and in perfect harmony. Weikath was in his usual “low profile mode” on his corner of the stage, but as technical and impressive as always, while Hansen and Gerstner were moving all the time along the stage and interacting with the fans in the front row. Markus Grosskopf smiled all the time and alongside Dani Löble didn’t miss one beat at all. The whole team was clearly happy and connected.

When it was time for Hansen to take over the microphone on a medley of Starlight, Ride the Sky, Judas and Heavy Metal (Is the Law), the PA system died not once, but twice. On the first time, the musicians took some minutes to notice as the crowd kept singing in support as if nothing wrong was happening, until a sound technician came in to the stage and asked them to stop. They left and after some minutes Hansen apologized and said they were going to start over. When the sound failed for the second time, they left the stage for a little longer, 20 minutes or so, which made us think of a worst case scenario like a cancellation or something. Luckily, the team managed to fix everything and the band could hit the stage for Kai’s moment to shine.

Photos by Leandro Anhelli – http://www.anhelli.com.br/

Right after that, Deris and Kiske returned to the stage. Kiske joked that in all these years they have seen many things on the road, but never a PA that failed twice. Then, they gave the fans a moment to calm down a bit. Deris said it was a moment for a ballad, especially for the girls (he said the same thing before when they played If I Could Fly) and they made a beautiful duo singing Forever and One (Neverland); however, Kiske mentioned guys also love ballads, and all the fans shouted a loud “YEAAAH” in response.

There is no such thing as an ordinary concert for Helloween and they even know how to make a drum solo an emotional moment. Lights out on stage, Dani started with some beats and then images of a happy and precise Ingo Schwichtenberg – the original drummer, dead in 1995 at the age of 29 – were projected on the screen. Dani started to follow Ingo’s beats as if they both were on a very technical drums battle. It ended up with Ingo “playing alone” and many of us crying, clapping and shouting his name in a very loving tribute. It’s worth to mention that on the previous night the screen didn’t work for some time and unfortunately the fans couldn’t see such beautiful moment.

Power, How Many Tears, Eagle Fly Free, Keeper of the Seven Keys, Future World and I Want Out made a killer final sequence, with KOT7K being the highlight of the show undoubtedly. After 3 amazing hours the show was over, but we had energy left for more. Some great songs were left out of the setlist, including the recently released single Pumpkins United, but well, that’s okay. And despite the technical difficulties, I did not see one single person complaining; quite the contrary, everybody went back home with a big smile on their faces, and that feeling of being part of something really awesome and unique. To finish this review, if I can leave a piece of advice for you all, my metalhead friends, I’d say: please go see this concert if Helloween come to your town/country on this very special tour! You will remember this amazing night forever with a smile on your face and possibly tears of joy in your eyes.

Setlist
Intro: Let Me Entertain You (Robbie Williams song)
Halloween (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
Dr. Stein (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
I’m Alive (with Michael Kiske)
If I Could Fly (with Andi Deris)
Are You Metal? (with Andi Deris)
Rise and Fall (with Michael Kiske)
Waiting for the Thunder (with Andi Deris)
Perfect Gentleman (with Andi Deris)
Starlight / Ride the Sky / Judas / Heavy Metal (Is the Law) (with Kai Hansen)
Forever and One (Neverland) (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
A Tale That Wasn’t Right (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
I Can (with Andi Deris)
Drums Solo (Dani Löble & Ingo Schwichtenberg ‘battle’) – Ingo Tribute
Livin’ Ain’t No Crime / A Little Time (with Michael Kiske)
Why? (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
Sole Survivor (with Andi Deris)
Power (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
How Many Tears (with Andi Deris, Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen)
Eagle Fly Free (with Michael Kiske)
Keeper of the Seven Keys (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
Future World (with Michael Kiske)
I Want Out (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)

Band members
Andi Deris – vocals
Michael Kiske – vocals
Kai Hansen – vocals, guitars
Michael Weikath – guitars
Sascha Gerstner – guitars
Markus Grosskopf – bass
Dani Löble – drums

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

Gamma Ray return with their unmatched empire of Heavy Metal.

Rating4

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

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

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

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Empire of the Undead CD Jewelcase

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

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Empire of the Undead LP

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

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

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

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

Released in 2014 earMUSIC

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

European bonus track
11. Built a World 4:23

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

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

Album Review – Helloween / Walls of Jericho (1985)

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

Rating3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst moments of the album: Reptile and Gorgar.

Released in 1985 Noise Records

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

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

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