Album Review – Bast / Nanoångström (2018)

Set against a bleak science fiction backdrop, exploring the human conditions of loss, isolation, and change in the wake of time’s passage, the new album by this three-piece act from the UK has everything you crave in Sludge and Doom Metal.

Founded in 2008 in London, England, the three-piece experimental vortex of blackened intensity and forlorn, mournful doom known as Bast returns now in 2018 with Nanoångström, the follow-up to their 2014 critically acclaimed debut release Spectres, continuing the band’s trajectory into narrative driven arrangements and experimental compositions. Including a beautiful artwork designed and directed by the band’s own lead singer and guitarist Craig Bryant, and also featuring an exclusive piece by Manga legend Shintaro Kago as well as guest vocals by Chris Naughton of England’s leading purveyors of Black Metal Winterfylleth, Nanoångström is set against a bleak science fiction backdrop, exploring the human conditions of loss, isolation, and change in the wake of time’s passage, all enfolded by the crushing fusion of Sludge and Doom Metal blasted by Craig and his bandmates Gavin Thomas on bass and Jon Lee on drums and backing vocals.

Low-tuned, melancholic and whimsical sounds invade our senses in the intro Distant Suns, warming us up for the crushing Far Horizons, a 10-minute Sludge Metal exhibit led by the rip-roaring riffs and growls by Craig, while Jon flawlessly pounds his drums in a delicate but fierce way at the same time, with the song’s crisp and flammable riffs being intertwined with somber and more serene passages, even presenting hints of Atmospheric Black Metal. Then featuring the aforementioned guest vocals by Chris Naughton we have The Beckoning Void, an explosion of contemporary Sludge and Doom Metal where the bass punches by Gavin sound truly menacing and thunderous, while Craig keeps shredding his strings mercilessly. Moreover, the song also presents nuances of classic Black Metal added to the drumming by Jon, hammering our heads and piercing our minds mercilessly, with the song’s second half getting more progressive and vibrant until its majestic finale.

The title-track Nanoångström begins as sluggish, introspective and obscure as possible, with the band’s stringed duo extracting Stygian tones from their instruments, while Jon slowly and steadily smashes his drums. In addition, Craig’s anguished growls get more and more desperate as the music progresses, before everything evolves into a Progressive Sludge Metal extravaganza that would make the guys from Tool really proud. Then rumbling guitars and bass lines permeate the air in the also sluggish Doom Metal tune titled A Red Line Through Black, remaining at a truly obscure tone until a wave of progressiveness takes over and the music morphs into a hard-hitting feast of classic Sludge Metal riffs, frantic and intricate beats, and enraged roars. Put differently, it can’t get any heavier nor more eccentric than this. Lastly, Chris joins Bast once again in The Ghosts Which Haunt the Space Between the Stars, where the band brings forth 12 minutes of crude, melodic and cutting Progressive Sludge Metal, a full-bodied headbanging hymn spearheaded by Craig and his aggressive, harsh growls, while Jon keeps extracting sheer Black Metal sounds from his beats. And their sonic havoc goes on ruthlessly, not giving us a single second of peace until its abrupt and powerful ending.

In a nutshell, Nanoångström has everything fans of contemporary and dark Sludge and Doom Metal are always craving, elevating Bast to new heights and positioning them as one of the most interesting exponents of the genre. If Bast’s sluggish music is your cup of tea, you can grab your copy of Nanoångström from their own BandCamp page or from the Black Bow Records’ Big Cartel, and after you do that just remember your days will never be bright or peaceful again. Well, I guess those are not the sensations you want to fell while listening to first-class Doom Metal, which means Bast more than succeeds in taking you to the most obscure side of music with Nanoångström.

Best moments of the album: The Beckoning Void and The Ghosts Which Haunt the Space Between the Stars.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Black Bow Records

Track listing
1. Distant Suns 2:40
2. Far Horizons 10:24
3. The Beckoning Void (feat. Chris Naughton) 10:53
4. Nanoångström 11:10
5. A Red Line Through Black 9:56
6. The Ghosts Which Haunt the Space Between the Stars (feat. Chris Naughton) 12:34

Band members
Craig Bryant – vocals, guitars
Gavin Thomas – bass
Jon Lee – drums, vocals

Guest musician
Chris Naughton – guest vocals on “The Beckoning Void” and “The Ghosts Which Haunt the Space Between the Stars”

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Album Review – Pantheist / Seeking Infinity (2018)

After almost a decade, this London-based Funeral Doom institution returns to their musical roots with a 60-minute cinematic journey through obscure and atmospheric landscapes.

A pantheist is someone who believes that God and the universe are the same, or in other words, that “All Is God”, as pantheism literally means “God Is All” (pan means all and Theos means God when translated from Greek). Brought to life in the year 2000 in Antwerp, Belgium by vocalist and keyboardist Kostas Panagiotou, but currently based in London, England, the dark and vile Progressive/Funeral Doom Metal entity known as Pantheist, one of the standard bearers of the Funeral Doom sound, is among us to prove that “All is Doom” with their brand new opus entitled Seeking Infinity, their fifth full-length album and their first release in seven years. Seeking Infinity is a 60-minute cinematic journey through Funeral Doom landscapes, a decisive return to Pantheist’s musical roots whilst still incorporating the atmospheric and progressive elements that have become an integral part of their sound over the years.

The long journey leading to the creation of this album started all the way back in the summer of 2012, when Kostas announced to his then band members an outline for a new concept album. A lot of things have changed since then and the concept and sound have evolved dramatically until the creation of the album; however, despite the changes, the philosophy behind this concept album and its singular purpose have remained intact. Recorded, mixed and engineered by drummer Daniel “Dan” Neagoe (Shape of Despair, Clouds) and enhanced with the enchanting artwork of the band’s visual artist Cheryl, the album sounds and looks both modern and familiar, surely to fill with nostalgia fans of old-school traditional Funeral Doom/Death Metal, while also drawing to its mystical sound new followers for the years to come.

An ominous intro named Eye of the Universe keeps growing in intensity, with an eerie and somber narration setting the stage for the sluggish, obscure and visceral Control and Fire, a lesson in Funeral Doom with Kostas sounding demonic with both his deep growls and his phantasmagorical keys, while Dan keeps the rhythm as lugubrious as it can be with his slow and potent beats, being effectively supported by Frank Allain and his slashing riffs, with the music flowing darkly and smoothly until 500 B.C. to 30 A.D.- The Enlightened Ones comes crushing with its beyond atmospheric start on the piano, complemented by its cryptic words darkly declaimed by Kostas (“You can run, but you can’t hide from the quiet flow of time / the dark tentacles of fate push you towards your destiny / and when you think you are free to live your life as you please / you’ll find you’re nothing but a pawn of history / There is a fire, a desire in my head / eat my battered body, drink my wasted blood / and tell me endless tales of who I am: / the man who feels inside him that change has come”). Put differently, this is a funeral march of metal music tailored for admirers of the genre, with its second half getting creepy and enigmatic, beautifully exploding into classy Blackened Doom.

Amidst obscure background elements and nuances, the acoustic guitar by guest Pete Benjamin (Voices, Akercocke) kicks off another multi-layered feast of Doom Metal by Pantheist titled 1453: an Empire Crumbles, also showcasing the deep Gregorian chant-inspired vocals by the other guest Andy Koski-Semmens (Syven, Pantheist), offering the listener six minutes of what can be called a Stygian and mesmerizing mass. Then the serene keys by Kostas are the main ingredient in the also slow and dense Emergence, with the low-tuned bass lines by Alexsej creating a menacing ambience in paradox with the delicacy of the piano notes. In other words, Pantheist will crush your senses mercilessly throughout the entire song in the perfect depiction of how visceral and vibrant Doom Metal can be. And lastly we have Seeking Infinity, Reaching Eternity, another deep and full-bodied display of Funeral Doom led by Kostas’ anguished roars and church-like keys, giving life to the song’s imposing, poetic lyrics (“I hear the sound of horns, I see a beast appearing from the sea / it has ten horns and seven heads / looks like a lion, like a leopard it crawls / I stretch out my shaking hand / and touch the body of the dancing Shiva / I want to scream, but I can’t / instead I cry, shake and shiver”), with Dan pounding his drums in perfect sync with Frank’s harmonious and fierce riffs and, therefore, keeping the atmosphere vibrant and thunderous until its climatic finale.

Pantheist are a Funeral Doom institution that’s certainly worth a shot, no doubt about that, and the extremely high quality of the music found in Seeking Infinity is a solid statement that this very talented band is here to stay, living up to the legacy of all classic and old school Doom Metal, Funeral Doom and Blackened Doom bands from all over the world. Having said that, I highly recommend you follow the band on Facebook and subscribe to their YouTube channel for more details about them and to enjoy more of their music. And, of course, purchase your copy of Seeking Infinity from their own BandCamp or webstore, from The Vynil Division’s BandCamp or webstore, from iTunes or from Discogs, and may the somber and lugubrious sounds and tones blasted by Pantheist permeate your thoughts whenever you visit the darkest corners of your mind.

Best moments of the album: 500 B.C. to 30 A.D.- The Enlightened Ones and Emergence.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Melancholic Realm Productions

Track listing
1. Eye of the Universe 1:59
2. Control and Fire 11:45
3. 500 B.C. to 30 A.D.- The Enlightened Ones 13:13
4. 1453: an Empire Crumbles 6:04
5. Emergence 12:17
6. Seeking Infinity, Reaching Eternity 14:39

Band members
Kostas Panagiotou – vocals, keyboards
Frank Allain – guitars
Aleksej Obradović – bass
Daniel “Dan” Neagoe – drums

Guest musicians
Pete Benjamin – acoustic guitar on “1453: an Empire Crumbles”
Andy Koski-Semmens – vocals on “1453: an Empire Crumbles”

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

The Headbanging Moose Show – Thursdays @ 20:00 UTC exclusively at Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio

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Attention, metalheads!

It’s time to rumble with THE HEADBANGING MOOSE SHOW every Thursday @ 20:00 UTC (with a reprise on Saturdays @ 19:00 UTC) exclusively at Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio, your London-based web radio blasting the best of heavy music nonstop 24/7!

Presented by Gustavo Scuderi, The Headbanging Moose Show will bring to you the cream of underground metal music, giving you a short and sweet background on every band played on the show. No silly jokes, no shenanigans… THIS IS PURE F****N’ METAL!

So remember, EVERY THURSDAY @ 20:00 UTC (with a reprise on Saturdays @ 19:00 UTC) tune into Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio to enjoy one hour of kick-ass underground metal from all over the world, courtesy of The Headbanging Moose!

Here are all the options where can blow your speakers with Midnight Madness:

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Don’t forget to follow The Headbanging Moose on Facebook to know beforehand which bands will be played on the show every week.

And if you want to have your new album reviewed at The Headbanging Moose AND played at Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio, simply get in touch with us through our CONTACT US page.

Album Review – Lunatic Hooker / Embracing The Filth (2017)

Be embraced by the filthy and crushing Grindcore with a Sludge Metal twist crafted by five British musicians who got together to reignite their inner fire and passion for extreme music.

The music business can be spirit crushing and soul destroying, where bands that start as groups of friends with a passion for music can end up disillusioned, with the flames of their passion near extinguished. This happened to British musicians George (vocals), Ross (guitar), Tim (guitar), Duncan (bass, vocals) and Rafael (drums) in their respective bands, but rather than let those last flickering embers burn out for good, they got together to reignite the fire, forging in 2014 a new evil entity that goes by the name of Lunatic Hooker, blasting a roaring fusion of Grindcore and Sludge Metal perfect for nonstop slamming and headbanging.

After the release of a two-track demo in 2015 and a single with their cover version for Motörhead’s all-time classic (We Are) The Road Crew in 2016, this London-based squad is unleashing upon humanity their debut full-length opus, titled Embracing The Filth. Featuring twelve tracks of unrelenting, punishing and pulverizing Extreme Metal, all enfolded by a captivating artwork by Dan Capp (Winterfylleth) and crackling with that irresistible rediscovered electricity, Embracing The Filth is one of those albums you might not know what you’re dealing with at first, but that you’ll get addicted to as soon as you hit play and let its piercing sounds invade your ears.

Rafael and his doomed beats ignite the sludgy party named My God Is Bigger than Yours (what a clever name for a song), before chaos reigns through the putrid gnarls by George and the dirty and fast riffage by Ross and Tim. Once again uniting Grindcore with Sludge Metal, demonic sounds emanate from all instruments in Beard Feared, in special the blast beats by Rafael and the devilish growling by George, with its brutal slamming rhythm drawing influences from Slayer, Napalm Death and other devastating groups; followed by The Pen Is Mightier than the Sword, another song with a very intelligent name that also presents crushing riffs and beats while George sounds more demonic than ever (and let me say that, if you survive the intense circle pit this song can generate, you’re pretty much immortal), and Unearthed Dead Children, a sonic onslaught of Grindcore bursting heaviness through the cavernous growls by George and Rafael’s ruthless drumming.

The title-track Embracing the Filth lives up to its name, being a dirty, crude and absolutely vile composition of darkness. Moreover, it feels like the guitars by Ross and Tim are an extension of George’s sick vocals, consequently enhancing the song’s overall impact, with Rafael once again showing no mercy for his drum set. In Blood Eagle we face an eerie start that lasts for almost half of the song before the band gets back to their sick high-speed musicality, with its guitars and drums exhaling sheer Grindcore, whereas Fucks All brings elements from Hardcore and Thrash Metal to their already aggressive sonority. Tim and Ross keep firing some sick dirty riffs to make the whole song more demonic, also presenting Black and Death Metal blast beats thanks to the unwearying Rafael. And the excellent Cult Chaos begins at full speed, reminding me of some of the most visceral creations by Cannibal Corpse, with all instruments sounding extremely sharp from start to finish. Hence, this slamming composition should work really well during their live performances.

In Transformation Walrus, a song inspired by and featuring footage in its official video from Kevin Smith’s 2014 film Tusk, darkness takes control of the band from the very first second, with George leading his crew with his deranged growls, before See the Light, perhaps the most violent of all tracks, showcases deeper guttural vocals by George and the merciless drums by Rafael highly influenced by old school Death Metal. In other words, Lunatic Hooker offer us two and a half minutes of pure brutality, with some harmonious guitar lines and solos to give more balance to the overall result. There are two more songs to go in this demonic opus, starting with Spain in the Neck, another recommended soundtrack for a sick mosh pit where Ross and Tim sound like two beasts with their flammable strings, while Rafael keeps the adrenaline high with his unstoppable beats. And finally, the closing of their awesome casket comes in the form of a 6-minute demented extravaganza named Sarlac, where George reaches the deepest and most obscure growls of the entire album. Slow and steady, almost sounding like Funeral Doom, this composition is very different from all previous tracks, showing the band’s crisp versatility in Extreme Metal.

If you feel more than ready to be embraced by Lunatic Hooker’s filthy and crushing Grindcore with the sluggish twist coming from their Sludge Metal vein, go join their demented crew at their official Facebook page and enjoy more of their cutting music at their YouTube channel. In Embracing The Filth, available at the band’s Big Cartel, at the Black Bow Records’ BandCamp and on Amazon, Lunatic Hooker were extremely successful in concentrating all their passion for extreme music and transform that metallic amalgam into reality, leaving all doors open for another blast of their vicious music anytime soon, and hopefully for many years to come as well.

Best moments of the album: My God Is Bigger than Yours, Embracing the Filth and Cult Chaos.

Worst moments of the album: Blood Eagle.

Released in 2017 Black Bow Records

Track listing
1. My God Is Bigger than Yours 3:16
2. Beard Feared 2:32
3. The Pen Is Mightier than the Sword 3:08
4. Unearthed Dead Children 2:48
5. Embracing the Filth 3:07
6. Blood Eagle 4:13
7. Fucks All 2:46
8. Cult Chaos 3:24
9. Transformation Walrus 3:32
10. See the Light 2:35
11. Spain in the Neck 2:46
12. Sarlac 6:24

Bonus track
13. (We Are) The Road Crew (Motörhead cover) 2:44

Band members
George – vocals
Ross – guitar
Tim – guitar
Duncan – bass, vocals
Rafael – drums

Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio Promo Hour Of The Day – From Monday To Friday @ 8pm GMT

http://midnight-madness.is-a-rockstar.com/Great news for all of you metalheads!

FROM MONDAY TO FRIDAY @ 8pm GMT, one of our kick-ass partners, Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio, broadcasting directly from London, England, will blast the best of underground metal music reviewed here at The Headbanging Moose during the PROMO HOUR OF THE DAY!

So remember, FROM MONDAY TO FRIDAY @ 8PM GMT tune into Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio to get your daily shot of the cream of the underground metal music crop, from Hard Rock to Black Metal, from Folk Metal to Thrash Metal, from Doom Metal to Metalcore, and so on! You’ll have the unique pleasure of listening to the superb music by bands like Charm Designer, Neverworld, Majesty Of Revival, Nervosa, False Coda, Atonismen, Diabolizer, The Silent Rage, Terrifier, Gaerea, and tons of other amazing metal acts from all over the world!

Here are all the options where can blow your speakers with Midnight Madness:

Official website
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And if you want to have your new album reviewed at The Headbanging Moose AND played at Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio, simply get in touch with us through our CONTACT US page.

Album Review – Avenford / New Beginning (2017)

A lecture in melodic, progressive and vigorous Power Metal by a band that has all it takes to be one of the greatest names in Power Metal within the next few years.

Rating4

avenford-new-beginningFormed in the summer of 2012 by guitarist Peter Szehoffner and lead singer and guitarist Arpie Gamson in Hungary, inspired by the music by Masterplan, Jorn Lande, Yngwie Malmsteen and Iron Maiden, among others, but currently residing in London, England, Power Metal quartet Avenford has been making a name for themselves in the world of heavy music since their inception, delivering first-class Heavy Metal for fans of melodic guitars, fast and rhythmic drums and epic high-pitched vocal lines. After releasing their debut album in 2014, titled Mortal Price, and after beginning to conquer Europe and the rest of the world with their music, it’s time for Avenford to strike us all again with their fresh new album New Beginning.

The list of guest musicians in New Beginning is quite extensive, each one adding their own share of adrenaline to the final result. We have Apollo Papathanasio (Spiritual Beggars, Firewind), Zoltan Marothy (Kiss Forever Band), Roland Grapow (Masterplan, Helloween), Zoltan Kiss (Iron Maidnem), Bodor Mate (Alestorm) and Piotr Sikora (Exlibis) lending their feeling and refined techniques to Avenford, contributing with Peter, Arpie, bassist Tom Longbottom and drummer Jivodar Dimitrov in crafting beautiful and exciting Heavy Metal perfect for hitting the road, for having a good time with your friends, or for simply relaxing and enjoying it by yourself.

The opening track Dead or Alive doesn’t waste a single second and comes ripping in a heavy and melodic way led by the guitars by Arpie and Peter, suddenly turning into a fast-paced metal feast with guest singer Apollo Papathanasio kicking some serious ass on vocals, resulting in Power Metal at its finest; whereas Back in Time is a Symphonic Power Metal composition with a strong focus on its electrified atmosphere and the fierce drumming by Jivodar, also featuring an amazing solo by guest guitarist Zoltán Maróthy. And progressiveness, intricacy and tons of feeling are the main ingredients in the fast-paced chant Assassin, where not only both guitarists are on fire, blasting beautiful riffs and solos, but the rumbling bass lines by Tom are also very effective and add a lot of groove to the music.

avenfordAlbeit slightly slower, Fury Road is still very progressive and heavy, with the one and only Roland Grapow doing what he does best, which is of course delivering awesomeness though his guitar solo, before the short and pleasant instrumental bridge Maze of Visions builds the ambience for the title-track New Beginning, a heavy power-ballad where Arpie has an amazing performance on vocals while the rest of the band sounds extremely cohesive and focused on delivering top-tier Power Metal to the masses. And in Overlord, a futuristic warlike intro explodes into Progressive Power Metal due to the accelerated beats by Jivodar, with both Arpie and Peter making the perfect dynamic duo on guitars. In other words, if you love high-octane Melodic Heavy Metal, this thrilling tune will definitely please your metallic ears.

With guest singer Zoltán Kiss giving a lesson in melodic vocals, Dark Angel presents the perfect combination of guitars and keyboards the likes of Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica, having all it takes to become a classic among fans of the genre. Besides, how not to get excited with the song’s amazing chorus? In Mask, we’re treated to more electricity and passion for heavy music from Avenford, a very traditional sonority led by the potent vocals by Arpie and the unstoppable drums by Jivodar, and featuring a great guitar solo by another guest Máté Bodor; while Return from the Land of Emeralds is the dream of every musician that loves complex and metallic Power Metal. All band members are in perfect sync in this instrumental feast, with Tom and Jivodar crafting the perfect atmosphere for all the song’s inspiring guitar solos. And my favorite track of the album, Unholy Game, featuring the sharp keyboards by guest musician Piotr Sikora, brings elements from old school Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock that truly elevate the song’s electricity to a whole new level. No one can stand still to such amazing tune, with Arpie being absolutely fantastic on vocals.

In a nutshell, New Beginning is a lecture in melodic, progressive and vigorous Power Metal by a band that sounds like veterans of the genre, despite being on the road for less than a decade, and if you’re fond of this always galvanized genre of heavy music I highly recommend you go visit Avenford’s Facebook page and YouTube channel to get more details on this excellent band and their inspiring music. And of course if you want to add New Beginning to your distinct collection of Power Metal albums, you can find it at the Pride & Joy webshop, at Record Shop X, on iTunes or on Amazon. The name of the album might be New Beginning, but what we have is actually a solid continuation to the career of a band that has an immeasurable potential to become one of the greatest names in Power Metal within the next few years.

Best moments of the album: Dead or Alive, New Beginning, Dark Angel and Unholy Game.

Worst moments of the album: Back in Time.

Released in 2017 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Dead or Alive 4:22
2. Back in Time 3:50
3. Assassin 4:30
4. Fury Road 4:32
5. Maze of Visions 1:21
6. New Beginning 7:13
7. Overlord 5:41
8. Dark Angel 3:43
9. Mask 3:56
10. Return from the Land of Emeralds 5:49
11. Unholy Game 3:48

Band members
Arpie Gamson – vocals, guitar
Peter Szehoffner – guitar, backing vocals
Tom Longbottom – bass
Jivodar Dimitrov – drums

Guest musicians
Apollo Papathanasio – vocals on “Dead or Alive”
Zoltán Maróthy – lead guitars on “Back in Time”
Roland Grapow – lead guitars on “Fury Road”
Zoltán Kiss – vocals on “Dark Angel”
Máté Bodor – lead guitars on “Mask”
Piotr Sikora – keyboards on “Unholy Game”

Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON, 04/03/2016)

Not even a bitterly cold and snowy night in Toronto could stop Iron Maiden from writing another beautiful and epic chapter in The Book Of Souls.

OPENING ACT: The Raven Age

iron maiden_the book of souls world tour 2016Here we go again, another blistering cold night in Toronto when it was supposed to be already warming up, with around 15cm of snow out of nowhere just to make the beginning of this spring even weirder than the warmest winter in history. However, when you have the best Heavy Metal band in the entire world playing live in the city, who truly cares about some harmless snowflakes? My only concern was if we were going to have the same sound issues from the concert Friday night in Montreal also here in Toronto, but fortunately the sound quality at the Air Canada Centre was a billion times better than at the Bell Centre, making the whole night even more memorable.

After facing over 30 minutes out in the cold in a never-ending line where there was even an Elvis with an Eddie mask from Powerslave (would that make him the “Presleyslave” or the “Elvis High”?), I got back to the place where I belong in concerts, the floor section (and not those uncomfortable seats from Bell Centre). I might be wrong, but the floor section was quite empty for a sold out concert, even during Iron Maiden. If that’s for safety reasons, no problem, but I think they could have added at least a thousand extra tickets for that area. Anyway, my comments about the opening act, British Melodic Metal THE RAVEN AGE, are exactly the same from Friday night, which means if you read my review for Montreal you can apply each and every word to Toronto as well.

Setlist
Uprising
Promised Land
The Death March
Eye Among the Blind
The Merciful One
Salem’s Fate
Angel in Disgrace

Band members
Michael Burrough – vocals
Dan Wright – guitar
George Harris – guitar
Matt Cox – bass
Jai Patel – drums

IRON MAIDEN

IMG_1236While some bands look and sound the exact same every single night, there’s something about IRON MAIDEN that makes each of their live performances unique even if they do not change anything in their setlist during the entire tour, as it’s happening during the amazing The Book Of Souls World Tour 2016. We all know which songs they’re going to play, and some people even complain about the band’s predictability, but when the concert starts Bruce, Steve and Co. manage to be different, to sound different and to always offer something new to their fans. Maybe that’s the main reason why they’re who they’re today, right?

Thanks to the almighty Eddie, there were no problems with the sound! Quite the contrary, each instrument was loud and clear, especially the pounding drums by the one and only Mr. Nicko McBrain and the rumbling bass guitar by the band’s mastermind Mr. Steve Harris, who made the epic tune The Book of Souls sound more powerful than ever. By the way, what an amazing reaction the fans had to all new songs from The Book Of Souls, especially the opening song If Eternity Should Fail and what was once again the highlight of the show for me, The Red and the Back. Of course fans went crazy when they played classics such as The Trooper, Powerslave (with Bruce wearing the same “luchador” mask from the past couple of shows due to Wrestlemania weekend), Hallowed Be Thy Name (with everyone at the ACC beautifully singing it together with the band), The Number of the Beast and Wasted Years, but it’s nice to see Iron Maiden are not trapped in the past and are still releasing awesome music for our total delight.

iron maiden torontoNow let’s talk about those special details that made last night unique, and I’m not talking about the cold and the snow. We all know how intelligent and skillful Mr. Bruce Dickinson is, and that was once again proved after the band performed the heavy and fast Death or Glory. Any other musician would have ignored the fact the song has a special importance to Toronto and to Canada, but Bruce made sure he spent the necessary time to explain the song is about Baron Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the “Red Baron”, who was shot down by Canadian air ace Captain Roy Brown in 1918, and that the seat of Red Baron’s triplane was donated by the dauntless Canadian pilot to a museum in Toronto. Bruce only forgot to mention the name of the museum, so if you’re interested in visiting it and seeing the airplane seat from the renowned Red Baron you need to go to the Royal Canadian Military Institute Museum (RCMI). As a side note, “Turns like a devil, climbs like a monkey!” (or something like that) were the Red Baron’s words about the Fokker Dr I, the most successful triplane in history. Guess where you can also find these words? And before I forget, poor Janick Gers, his guitar stopped working in the middle of the song and he had to spend about two minutes backstage trying to fix it. I’m not going to mention that most people didn’t even notice that “small” detail mainly because Dave Murray and Adrian Smith were on fire with their flawless riffs and solos, ans also because I like Janick’s performance (I think he IS important to what Iron Maiden are today), but if you also saw that you know what I’m talking about.

IMG_1225By the end of the show, while introducing the melodic Blood Brothers, Bruce spoke about the differences in terms of safety and quality of life found everywhere the band goes, comparing for example our always safe Canada to one of the most dangerous countries in the world, El Salvador, but also saying if there’s one thing that unites us all and helps us face any adversities in life is Heavy Metal, in special if you’re part of the MAIDEN FAMILY. On the train back to my small city, Oakville, an “old school” couple who also attended the concert sat in front of us and we instantly started chatting about Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Anthrax, Slayer, Metallica (the guy even fist pumped me full of joy when I said Metallica is the most overrated band on earth), sports, and several other topics. They even gave us a customized pair of hockey blade tapes from The Book Of Souls without even knowing us! That moment I realized how big, fun and unified the Maiden Family mentioned by Bruce is. And I’m happy to be part of it, so happy I didn’t even care I had to wipe a ton of snow from my car at the train station, at midnight, and under a frigid temperature of around -6oC. Actually, I was very relaxed while doing that, humming the “Oh-oh Oh-oh-oh! Oh-oh Oh-oh-oh!” from The Red and the Black and already thinking about when I’ll be able to watch Iron Maiden kicking some serious ass once again.

Setlist
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Children of the Damned
Tears of a Clown
The Red and the Black
The Trooper
Powerslave
Death or Glory
The Book of Souls
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Number of the Beast
Blood Brothers
Wasted Years
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python song)

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

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Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Bell Centre, Montreal, QC, 04/01/2016)

Criez pour moi, Montréal! Criez pour moi, Canada!

OPENING ACT: The Raven Age

iron maiden_the book of souls world tour 2016Finally, after endless hours of rain, strong winds, sun, rain again, snow, sun again and snow again on the road, I’m back from Montreal where I had the pleasure to see for the 17th time in my life the almighty Iron Maiden at the Bell Centre. Before I talk about the concert itself, I would like to recommend the excellent Hôtel Bonaventure no matter what you’re planning to do in Montreal. Not only the hotel is extremely well located (for example, it’s only a 5 to 10-minute walk away from the Bell Centre), but the staff is very friendly, the rooms are comfortable and clean, and their heated outdoor pool is a relaxing option after a busy day in the city.

Getting back to the gig, I don’t have much to say about the opening act THE RAVEN AGE mainly because I didn’t have time to listen to their music before the concert. This London-based band plays a solid mix of Melodic Metal and Metalcore, but nothing new to the world of heavy music. If this is your cup of tea, you’ll probably have a good time listening to them, otherwise do not expect to be blown away by their music. One might ask why those guys are the opening act for Iron Maiden during their entire world tour. Well, one of the guitarists is called George Harris, son of the best and most important bass player in the history of Heavy Metal. Do I need to say more?

Setlist
Uprising
Promised Land
The Death March
Eye Among the Blind
The Merciful One
Salem’s Fate
Angel in Disgrace

Band members
Michael Burrough – vocals
Dan Wright – guitar
George Harris – guitar
Matt Cox – bass
Jai Patel – drums

IRON MAIDEN

DSC06715Unless you spent the last few months or so stranded in a space station in Mars like Matt Damon in the fun movie The Martian, you already know how grandiose and special The Book Of Souls World Tour 2016 has been so far for all Maidenmaniacs worldwide. Promoting their masterpiece The Book Of Souls, Heavy Metal titans IRON MAIDEN are better than ever on stage, led by obviously Mr. Steve Harris with his galloping bass guitar and an unstoppable Bruce Dickinson proving us all that cancer can be overcome if your will to live is stronger than your fear of dying.

iron maiden montrealA few marvelous details caught my attention before and during the concert, things that only Iron Maiden can provide you and no one else. First of all, there was a group of friends a few rows below mine proudly flying a flag from the distant territory of Nunavut, in northern Canada. I have no idea if they live in Montreal or if they were there just for the concert, but just for you to better understand this, its capital city Iqaluit is located over 2,000km from Montreal, and it can only be reached by plane in a 5-hour direct flight. Iron Maiden are capable of shortening any distance in such a powerful way it’s hard to describe the feeling, don’t you agree? Secondly, about three rows below me, there was a couple where the mom was carrying a beautiful 6-month (or even less) baby who had a mini Iron Maiden flag hanging from his back (and of course a “fancy” pair of earphones to protect his tiny ears), something so pure and gracious it gives a good amount of hope to our decaying world. Although there were many other kids with their parents at the venue (another thing only Iron Maiden can provide us fans), I’ll never forget the image of that baby and his badass flag. And lastly, that was not only the first time I saw Iron Maiden from a numbered seat, but also the first time I witnessed Bruce interacting with the crowd in French all the time. I have to point out how unique Bruce is. Who else can do all the stuff he does at the same time and thrive in every single one of them?

DSC06719Talking about the concert itself, nothing I say here will properly express all the passion and emotion of watching those six old school British metallers live once again. Blending old classics like Children of the Damned and The Trooper with new kick-ass tunes such as The Red and the Black (my favorite moment of the night) and Death or Glory, they offered all types of fans everything we could expect for. Not even the horrible sound quality at the Bell Centre, which almost ruined the magnificent intro in If Eternity Should Fail, could make the whole experience less superb. From the entire setlist, the aforementioned The Red and the Black, the incredible The Book of Souls, the all-time classic Hallowed Be Thy Name and the meaningful Blood Brothers (or “frères de sang”, as Bruce introduced it), where that mom was literally cradling her baby “metalhead” to the song’s lovely rhythm, were the moments where I felt in another dimension so perfect they were.

When the concert was over it was easy to see a huge smile on everyone’s faces, proving once again the positive power Iron Maiden always have on us all. And please forgive me for such a short review, but I have to get ready to see my favorite band of all time once again tonight at the Air Canada Centre, here in Toronto. UP THE IRONS!

Setlist
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Children of the Damned
Tears of a Clown
The Red and the Black
The Trooper
Powerslave
Death or Glory
The Book of Souls
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Number of the Beast
Blood Brothers
Wasted Years
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python song)

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

Album Review – Cherry White / Staring at the Sun EP (2015)

Sit down, relax and enjoy this beautiful display of Blues Rock by an emerging British band destined to conquer the world with their elegant music.

Rating5

cherry white_staring at the sunSometimes we all must slow down a bit in our hectic lives, relaxing our minds before we go nuts with all the wildness surrounding us. In order to achieve that desired level of peacefulness, there’s nothing better than enjoying some soft and passionate Rock N’ Roll, and the music crafted by British Contemporary Rock band Cherry White has exactly what it takes to help soothe our weary spirits. However, do not think the music you’ll find in their brand new EP entitled Staring at the Sun lacks excitement. Quite the contrary, the EP emanates electricity, gripping your attention even during its smoothest passages.

Insired by life in London during its austerity era, encompassed by the greed of the wealthy, the six tracks in Staring at the Sun circle around an aspiration for this London-based four-piece band to reach higher and achieve their goals in the music industry and beyond. Blending the Soft Rock by Fleetwood Mac with the Blues Rock from bands like The Raconteurs, Cherry White seem to be in the right path to accomplish their mission, offering their fans high-quality rock music that sounds incredibly authentic and original, making you feel good while listening to it.

Despite never getting truly heavy, the opening tack Drifter can still be considered badass Southern Rock, starting in a groovy and catchy way with frontwoman Donata Sounds needing only a few seconds to show her exceptional skills as a singer. In addition, it’s when the rest of the instruments hit the music (especially the power of the harmonica) that things get really exciting without exaggerating on the dosage, making it the perfect example for the famous expression “less is more”. The next tune, Do It Better, sounds a lot more commercial, a mix of Alternative Rock and Pop Rock that could be played on any radio station in the world, with highlights to guitarist Russell Jones and drummer Felipe Drago for their superb job building the atmosphere for Donata to deliver her gorgeous vocal lines.

cherry whiteAngel is a smooth Rock N’ Roll ballad that will unquestionably become a fan favorite, and although the main focus is on Donata’s voice there’s room for all band members to shine. Pay good attention to the strong bass lines by Ralph Beeby in the background and you’ll see what I’m talking about, and also don’t forget to enjoy the melancholy in the last part of the song as it will touch your heart in a lovely way. Following that gentle music exhibit, we have the modern but at the same time very old school rock song 7 Days, where the dirty and exciting riffs sound totally inspired by the music from the 70’s, and there’s no way you won’t get thrilled with the song’s amazing guitar solo and chorus.

Then it’s time for Cherry White to sing the Blues in Blue Eyes, an introspective tune where all instruments sound so clean and polished to the point that, by just closing you eyes, you can perfectly imagine a scene at a first-class pub with Donata’s sexy performance in the spotlight while the rest of the band is wearing black suits and playing in the shadows. Moreover, some passages remind me of the classic ballads by Faith No More, and if you know how much I like Mike Patton and his crew you can have an idea of my joy while listening to this song. And closing the EP we have another delicate and progressive rock tune brought forth by these talented musicians, the title-track Staring At The Sun, a song full of passion and sorrow with a short but very enjoyable rockin’ ending that could work as a bridge or connection to their next release, if they haven’t thought about that already.

Cheery White can be found on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and SoundCloud, and if you’re a fan of softer and lively rock music and want to grab your copy of Staring at the Sun, simply go to their BandCamp page to do so. Now please excuse me because it’s time to relax and enjoy this beautiful display of Blues Rock by Cherry White, an emerging band from the UK that will soon conquer the entire world with their elegant music, no doubt about that.

Best moments of the album: Drifter and Blue Eyes.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Independent

Track listing
1. Drifter 3:39
2. Do It Better 3:11
3. Angel 7:06
4. 7 Days 3:25
5. Blue Eyes 4:42
6. Staring At The Sun 6:16

Band members
Donata Sounds – lead vocals
Russell Jones – guitars, vocals
Ralph Beeby – bass guitars, piano, organ, harmonica, vocals
Felipe Drago – drums