Album Review – High Priestess / Casting The Circle (2020)

Seasoning their psych-doom cauldron with tribal percussion and prog rock arrangements, this American trinity is ready to cast a spell on us with their excellent new album.

Convoking crushing riffs drenched with lush harmonies and hypnotic eastern themes, Los Angeles-based Doom Metal trinity High Priestess was formed in 2016 by bassist and vocalist Mariana Fiel when she recruited Katie Gilchrest on guitar and vocals and Megan Mullins on drums, crafting a sound that echoes both past and future incarnations of doom and psychedelia since then. After the release of their highly-acclaimed self-titled debut album in 2018, it’s time for High Priestess to captivate our senses once again with their sophomore opus Casting The Circle, featuring a dark and sexy artwork by Jill Colbert at Manfish Inc. and seasoning their psych-doom cauldron with keyboards, tribal percussion, signature harmonies and grandiose prog rock arrangements. “After playing these songs live for many months, we are pleased to have captured them in their definitive recorded versions for the whole world. We honor gods and goddesses, ancestors and spirits from the past, present and future and sing songs of misfortune,” commented Katie Gilchrest herself about the band’s amazing new album.

A tribal, dark mass is about to start in the deep and embracing Casting the Circle, led by Megan’s ritualistic beats while Katie and Mariana begin blasting their enthralling vocal lines in a true psychedelic and doomed manner. Put differently, it’s absolutely impossible not to get hypnotized by their music, which is also the case in the fabulous Erebus, where the trio leans towards the most obscure side of iconic acts like Black Sabbath and Candlemass, but with a delicious feminine touch added to the overall result. It’s almost ten minutes of enfolding passages, crisp riffs and the sluggish beats by Megan, all spiced up by Katie’s astounding, piercing guitar solos, whereas The Hourglass is a Psychedelic and Progressive Rock extravaganza blending the trademark sound from the 70’s with the band’s more contemporary doom, with Katie’s stunning riffs being complemented by the low-tuned bass by Mariana and the classic drums by Megan, not to mention the song’s fiery vocal lines.

Then it’s time to surrender to the most Stygian side of life in Invocation, offering our avid ears over 17 minutes of ethereal and somber passages led by Katie’s primeval, mesmerizing riffs while Mariana and Megan dictate the rhythm with their thunderous but delicate instruments, summoning the prince of darkness with their scorching Doom Metal. Flowing like an arrow on fire through the night and getting heavier and more imposing halfway through it, the song remains tribal and dense until its demolishing grand finale, with Katie heightening our senses with her cryptic organ keys. And lastly we have Ave Satanas, an ethereal and obscure outro by the trio where their somber vocalizations will drag you into their sinister lair in the name of Satan (which in the case of High Priestess is a beyond awesome opportunity for any metalhead, of course).

The circle of what the band itself likes to call “Heavy-Psych Doom” has been cast by Katie, Mariana and Megan in their newborn opus, and in order to join those three undeniably talented women in their quest for such unique style of heavy music simply follow them on Facebook and on Instagram, and grab your copy of Casting The Circle from Ripple Music’s BandCamp page or webstore (US and Europe), as well as from Amazon. The high priestesses of heavy and lustful Doom Metal are among us to stay, and as they conjure each and every one of us to become part of their devilish kingdom, there’s only one question left, and it’s indeed a very simple one. Who are we to say no to such distinguished and dexterous triumvirate of doom?

Best moments of the album: Erebus and The Hourglass.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Ripple Music

Track listing
1. Casting the Circle 5:10
2. Erebus 9:37
3. The Hourglass 6:46
4. Invocation 17:22
5. Ave Satanas 3:26

Band members
Katie Gilchrest – vocals, guitars, organ
Mariana Fiel – bass, vocals
Megan Mullins – drums, percussion

Metal Chick of the Month – Nadja Peulen

Say it, Nadja! We’re out for blood!

As part of our annual tradition here at The Headbanging Moose, the first metal chick of the year must be a badass bass player to properly kick things off with a lot of thunder and heaviness just the way we like it in Heavy Metal, and in 2020 that couldn’t be any different than that, of course. Having said that, get ready to venture through the realms of Alternative and Nu Metal with the one and only Nadja Peulen, a German-born bassist and backing vocalist currently based in Los Angeles, California, in the United States known for bringing tons of groove to our avid ears as the bassist for American metallers Coal Chamber from 1999 to 2000, again between 2002 and 2003, and one last time after a huge band hiatus from 2013 until 2016 when the group disbanded once and for all.

Born on January 10, 1975 somewhere in the always beautiful Germany, our 1.73m-tall blue-eyed, red-haired bassist started her life in music at a very early age due to her family travelling a lot and staying at several different places, always on the road in the name of Rock N’ Roll, always surrounded by distinct people, and always attending music concerts. Of Polish and German descent, Nadja grew up in the Netherlands and listened to a lot of 70’s music such as Motown, disco and classic rock at home because of her parents, being highly influenced by those styles in her current way of playing bass. Originally starting out studying art with aspirations to be a painter, Nadja naturally decided to switch to music, playing drums before becoming a bassist and continuing her career as a drummer after moving to Los Angeles when she was only 18, learning from renowned drummers and jamming with several different musicians (while at the same time working in different jobs such as tiling bathrooms and working as a waitress in a strip bar).

After a while, when Nadja decided she wanted to get more into songwriting, she was given a bass guitar (a cheap $100 one, by the way) and started playing with one finger only, gradually evolving to a couple more fingers and never having a single lesson in her life. Three months later, she was already in an all-girl band named Tail, playing around Hollywood for a couple of years at Whisky a Go Go, The Viper Room and whatever clubs were there at the time. After a couple of years, Nadja was invited to join Los Angeles-based Nu Metal outfit Coal Chamber in 1999 while bassist Rayna Foss-Rose was on maternity leave, and again after the recording of the 2002 album Dark Days when Rayna left the band for good, playing live with the band in several domestic and international tours with bands like Drowning Pool co-headlining the tours. Despite not having recorded the bass lines in Dark Days, Nadja is featured in the official video for Fiend, one of the band’s most well known songs which is thought to be about how the band and the Nu Metal genre were getting heavily criticized at the time. In addition, Nadja was also featured as the band’s bass player in the excellent concert Live at the Maritime Hall, San Francisco, CA, 1999 in the bonus DVD from the 2005 special re-release of their 1997 debut album Coal Chamber.

Then after a long period of silence from 2003 until 2011, Coal Chamber reunited for a short run of international shows with bassist Chela Rhea Harper instead of Nadja, but our talented red-haired bassist officially returned to the band in October 2013 shortly before the band signed to Napalm Records to record a new album. “Beyond happy and excited today to announce my return on bass with Coal Chamber,” Nadja wrote on the day of her official return to the band. “I’ve missed my brothers and can’t wait to rock the stage with them again and see all of you!” It was in May 2015 that Coal Chamber released their fourth album in thirteen years and their only studio album with Nadja on bass, entitled Rivals, adding a touch of Groove Metal to their musicality while at the same time distancing themselves from their previous Gothic Metal style. From Rivals, you can enjoy Nadja’s rumbling bass punching you in the face in songs like Another Nail In The Coffin, Suffer In Silence (featuring Ministry’s driving force Al Jourgensen on guest vocals), and I.O.U. Nothing.

Apart from her awesome stints with Coal Chamber, Nadja was also the bass player and backing vocalist for a Los Angeles-based Theatrical/Alternative Avantgarde Rock duo known as Vera Mesmer, together with vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist Christopher Mesmer, formerly of Reveille, as well as guest drummer Bones Elias (Julien K, formerly of Dead by Sunrise), from 2010 until 2013. Vera Mesmer left two very interesting releases to the world before the duo parted ways in 2013, those being the 2012 EP Orphans and the 2013 single Down the Hole, showing a different and very theatrical storytelling side of both Chris and Nadja, as you can see for example in the official video for the song Back from the Dead. “We’re constantly brainstorming and creating. We’ve completely let go of templates and we don’t stick to the genre game,” said Nadja about the artistic freedom she found with Vera Mesmer while the band was still active. “We encompass all music styles while still undeniably retaining that Vera Mesmer sound.”

You can also find Nadja lending her thunderous bass lines to a project entitled Roadrunner United from 2005 to 2008, having recorded the excellent single and video The End together with Dino Cazares (Fear Factory), Roy Mayorga (Stone Sour) and Matt Heafy (Trivium), among others, for the 2005 album The All-Star Sessions, as well as the 2008 DVD featuring a making of and a live concert with several artists such as Ville Valo (HIM), Scott Ian (Anthrax) and Tim “Ripper” Owens, with Nadja kicking some serious ass in songs like Type O Negative’s all-time classic Black No. 1 together with Ville Valo on vocals, Andreas Kisser on lead guitar, Dino Cazares on rhythm guitar, Joey Jordison on drums and Rob Caggiano on keyboards, and Tired ‘n Lonely together with Mina Caputo on vocals, Matt Baumbach on lead guitar, Acey Slade on rhythm guitar, Joey Jordison on drums and Rob Caggiano on keyboards. Furthermore, between 2004 and 2006, Nadja was also featured in the music videos for the songs (Rock) Superstar and What’s Your Number? as part of the backup band with Tim Armstrong (Rancid) and Christian Olde Wobbers (Fear Factory), both by American Hip-Hop group Cypress Hill.

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As already mentioned, Nadja has a wide and eclectic taste for music, with her primary influences lying along the Trip Hop, Industrial and Alternative Rock and Metal vein the likes of Massive Attack, Killing Joke, The Cult, Faith No More, Jane’s Addiction, Ministry, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, David Bowie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Grand Funk Railroad and Stevie Wonder, with the one and only Iggy Pop being part of one of the most exciting moments in her career. A friend of hers called Whitney, who used to play guitar for Iggy Pop, invited Nadja for a jamming session one day, but she initially said no. “Why don’t you come down to the Swinghouse and jam with me and a couple of friends?”, said Whitney, and she promptly answered “Well I’m in bed. My bass is dusty and I’m watching TV. I really don’t feel like jamming with you right now.” Whitey called back a couple of times and finally said, “Well, it’s Iggy and he wants to jam with you.” Nadja didn’t believe her friend, saying “Yeah you’re fucking with me. You just want me to come down there and hang out.” Then she got another phone call from Iggy’s manager, which turned out to be his son Eric. He said, “Yeah, Iggy Pop is down here and he really, really wants to jam with you.” She still thought it was a prank, when she finally got a phone call from Iggy himself where she recognized his voice and nearly pissed her pants. Iggy said, “Nadja, I have heard a lot of really good things about you. I want to jam with you. Come down here – can you be here in 10 minutes?” Needless to say, Nadja joined her idol and they jammed for a few hours, with Nadja later saying in one of her interviews that she was always afraid to meet someone like Iggy Pop because she believed a person like that would probably be an asshole and she would never be able to listen to his music the same way. However, he was really nice to her, a humble guy exactly how anyone would expect.

Regarding her life on the road with Coal Chamber, Nadja mentioned in one of her interviews that she really loved playing the songs Another Nail In The Coffin and Bad Blood Between Us live with the band, both from the album Rivals, and that she would have loved to be in a tour co-headlined by Coal Chamber, System Of A Down and Korn, the latter with whom Coal Chamber only played at the same festivals such as Heavy Montreal in 2015 and Graspop Metal Meeting in 2013. When questioned about the fact she was the only female on the tours with Coal Chamber, she said that it was indeed challenging as she had for example to get dressed in the bathroom of the bus, which was a very small space. However, Nadja also said she was fine being the only girl in a “boy’s club”, complementing by saying that being utterly professional was what kept everything working well. Also, on a side note, Nadja mentioned being on stage, being in that moment, is when her mind stops and she can achieve some peace of mind, having also achieved that peace by doing yoga, more specifically Kundalini Yoga, a school of yoga influenced by Shaktism and Tantra schools of Hinduism.

Nadja also launched in 2003 her own T-shirt and apparel company called CruelTees, selling her products not only online but also through stores such as Hot Topic. Owner and head designer of CruelTees, Nadja has always loved painting and sketching, having even been in Art Academy before quitting it to move to Los Angeles, with her designs fusing dark Gothic and wild Rock N’ Roll images with clever slogans. However, if you click on the official website for CruelTees, it will redirect you to her website Sonic Dominion without any products available. There are a few items in her webshop, though, but nothing related to CruelTees. Perhaps Nadja is working on a new collection for the future? If you’re curious to know more about CruelTees and ask Nadja for any updates on the brand, you can message her directly through her official website contact form, and who knows, maybe you’ll be one of the first to receive news on a new series of CruelTees shirts and apparel.

Endorsed by Schecter Guitars, Mesa Boogie, Dean Markley Strings, Monster Energy Drink and Monster Cable, our skillful bassist, who by the way thinks labeling a music style is not really that relevant, commented in one of her interviews that she’s happy to see an increasing number of female bass players (as well as guitarists and drummers) out in the market playing with their bands, which is always a good thing in heavy music, also saying she likes the fact that several of those bassists are adopting the finger style when playing their instruments, something that was a taboo in the past. Nadja herself is a finger bass player, as mentioned before, and the fact this old school technique is becoming popular again brings a lot of joy to her heart. And last but not least, Nadja’s relationship with her fans is quite healthy, with some of her fans even becoming her personal friends. She said that she can’t obviously answer everything to everyone due to her busy schedule, as she doesn’t consider herself an Internet person with enough time for social media. She actually doesn’t enjoy engaging on social media on a personal level, focusing on her work as a musician and as a designer instead. We have to agree with Nadja on that, and if you want to know more about her professional career you can either follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or watch some of her interviews and other videos on YouTube like the BIAS FX demo, an interview during Heavy Montreal in 2015, an interview to INDIEPOWER TV! in 2015, or an interview she gave to Dean Markley at NAMM also in 2015. What are you waiting for to let one of the most badass female bassists of all time show you all she got? Nadja kicks some serious ass, and she will crush you like an insect with her thunderous bass, no doubt about that.

Nadja Peulen’s Official Facebook page
Nadja Peulen’s Official Instagram
Nadja Peulen’s Official Twitter
Nadja Peulen’s Official YouTube channel
Coal Chamber’s Official Facebook page
Coal Chamber’s Official Instagram
Coal Chamber’s Official Twitter

“To me being on stage and playing music is one of the best things because I have a very busy mind – I’m always thinking.” – Nadja Peulen

Album Review – Hiss From The Moat / The Harrier (2019)

A first-class album of Black and Death Metal made in Italy, inspired by the true harriers of our society such as politics, religion and dictatorship.

In case you’re not familiar with the brutality and rage of Italian Black/Death Metal horde Hiss From The Moat, the band was founded in 2006 by drummer James Payne (Vital Remains, Hour of Penance) with two Italian friends, bassist Carlo Cremascoli and guitarist Giacomo Poli, delivering a stream of very interesting releases since their inception, starting with their debut EP The Carved Flesh Message, in 2009, followed by their first full-length album Misanthropy, in 2013, eventually adding vocalist and guitarist Massimilano Cirelli to their lineup, and now their sophomore full-length opus The Harrier, in 2019. Regarding the album’s title, Mr. Payne says, “The Harrier refers to he who devastates. It’s not intended as someone whom we created to destroy, but rather to indicate everything that has devastated our history, like politics, religion and dictatorship etc. That’s why we used extracts of religious and political scripts in the lyrics.”

Based in the cities of Los Angeles (United States), London (England) and Milan (Italy), this multinational entity has recently issued a series of videos through their YouTube channel showing the band working on the recording of The Harrier in the city of Milan, therefore demonstrating their passion for what they do and a desire to be as honest and transparent as possible with their fans. Furthermore, regarding the album’s artwork designed by Stefano Bonora, Mr. Payne said that “the artwork of the album is defined by three elements: a head of a statue that represents the blind and apathetic attitude of mankind; the mechanical mask on top of the head that represents the institutions that oppress people (similar to the belt on the statue’s mouth and the crosses as blinders); and the alchemical circles that have the meaning of improving mankind through the mind and the body, to promote self-improvement without looking for external help,” just to give you an idea of how obscure and austere their music is.

The cryptic and serene intro The Badial Despondency suddenly explodes into the bestial title-track The Harrier, where the quartet begins pulverizing everything and everyone that crosses their path. Furthermore, James is unstoppable on drums, while Massimiliano roars the song’s dark lyrics manically from start to finish, and brutality and rage keep flowing from all instruments in I Will Rise, a beyond electrifying Melodic Black Metal tune where the guitars by both Massimiliano and Giacomo sound infernal, not to mention how fast, precise and ruthless James is on drums. Then some sort of “dark poem” is recited by Massimiliano before all hell breaks loose in The Passage To Hell, bringing not even a single second of peace for us to breathe, only sheer devastation in the form of classic Black Metal, with James once again hammering our heads with his hellish and intricate drumming.

Slaves To War is just as demonic as its predecessor, showcasing sick guitar riffs, endless violence and a sulfurous atmosphere only modern Black Metal can offer you, keeping the album on fire before the band comes ripping our hearts out with the magnificent Sine Animvs, a lecture in modern-day Melodic Black Metal infused with Death Metal nuances, close to the Blackened Death Metal blasted by the iconic Behemoth. Hence, it’s absolutely impossible to stand still to the incendiary riffs by the band’s guitar duo. In the interlude titled The Abandonment, acoustic guitars work as the “calm before the storm”, warming up our senses for The Allegory of Upheaval, another straightforward creation by those Italian metallers alternating between very complex and interesting moments and less inspired passages. It’s still a very good song though, proving how powerful the band always sounds.

Then we have another one of my favorite tracks, God Nephasto, and James himself had a few nice words to say about it. “The song is one of the most intense of the album as far as rhythm and atmosphere,” explained our talented drummer. “It has several parts of blast beats and breakdowns that combined with the dark atmosphere of the notes keep the song pretty nervous. This is to support the lyrics that have been taken from parts of the Enuma Elish and the Old Testament that talk about when the Gods mentioned in these scripts, ordered sacrifices in their honor.” Musically speaking, it’s a visceral sonic havoc that will please all fans of the genre, sounding crisp, thunderous and menacing, with highlights to Massimilano’s infernal growls and obviously to James’ demolishing beats. Their second to last Black Metal extravaganza, entitled Unperishing, is just as demonic and violent as the rest of the album, with its classic riffs and beats bringing endless heaviness to the overall musicality, while Carlo not only extracts thunder from his bass, but he also supports Massimiliano’s vociferations flawlessly with his backing vocals. And there’s still time for one final onrush of blackened sounds for our total delight, named The Decay of Lies, less frantic but as heavy as hell, working at times as a marching outro to such vile album. Needless to say, Massimiliano and Giacomo are absolutely demonic with their guitars from start to finish, ending the album on a high and obscure note.

There are several places where you can get your copy of such amazing album of Black and Death Metal, like the band’s own BandCamp page or Big Cartel, the M-Theory Audio’s webstore in regular CD or limited edition vinyl format, the Napalm Records’ webstore, iTunes, Amazon, and so on. Don’t forget to also follow Hiss From The Moat on Facebook, and to worship darkness to the sound of their crushing extreme music, always keeping a very good distance from all types of religion and from politics, the true destroyers of our decaying society. and that’s how you craft first-class extreme music, my friends. Music that not only makes you bang your head and raise your horns, but that above all that also makes you think.

Best moments of the album: I Will Rise, Sine Animvs and God Nephasto.

Worst moments of the album: The Allegory of Upheaval.

Released in 2019 M-Theory Audio

Track listing
1. The Badial Despondency 1:24
2. The Harrier 4:00
3. I Will Rise 3:56
4. The Passage To Hell 3:44
5. Slaves To War 4:35
6. Sine Animvs 3:48
7. The Abandonment (Interlude) 3:26
8. The Allegory of Upheaval 4:33
9. God Nephasto 4:12
10. Unperishing 4:46
11. The Decay of Lies 4:48

Band members
Massimilano Cirelli – vocals, guitar
Giacomo Poli – guitar
Carlo Cremascoli – bass, backing vocals
James Payne – drums

Concert Review – Godsmack & Volbeat (Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, ON, 05/10/2019)

And the city of Ottawa was more than ready to rumble with two of the best bands of the modern Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll scene.

OPENING ACT: Stitched Up Heart

Although my drive from Toronto to Ottawa on Thursday was a complete shit due to the nasty rain and all the trucks spraying tons of water on my windshield, that didn’t turn my energy level down not even a bit for the concert that was about to happen on Friday. I was really pumped to see what’s probably the best modern Rock N’ Roll bands available out there, the almighty Volbeat and the incendiary Godsmack, kicking some serious ass on stage at Richcraft Live (I honestly have no idea what that name means) at the Canadian Tire Centre. It was my first time at that venue and I must say it’s indeed a great place to watch a concert or a sports event, but unfortunately getting there is not that easy unless you drive, take a taxi or Uber to the venue, which ends up inflating the parking costs considerably.

Anyway, fans were still arriving at the venue when Los Angeles-based Hard Rock act STITCHED UP HEART began their short but effective performance, spearheaded by the beautiful Mixi on vocals. If you have no idea about what type of music Stitched Up Heart play, let’s say it’s a fusion of the contemporary Hard Rock played by Godsmack with Evanescence and Marilyn Manson, and the final result is very entertaining. It was a beyond solid warm-up for the main attractions of the night, and a very good welcome card from the band to us fans of rock music here in Canada, as I don’t actually remember seeing them anywhere around here before this tour opening for Volbeat and Godsmack. In other words, go to their official website for more information about the band, where they’re playing, where to buy their music, and so on, as those guys (and girl, of course) are definitely worth a shot.

Setlist
This Skin
Warrior
Catch Me When I Fall
Darkness
Straightjacket
Finally Free
Lost (feat. Sully Erna)

Band members
Mixi – vocals
Merritt – guitar
Randy – bass
Decker – drums 

VOLBEAT

After a short break, and with the Canadian Tire Centre already occupied by thousands of fans from different parts of Canada and the United States, it was time for Danish rockers VOLBEAT to bring to Ottawa their undisputed Rock N’ Roll infused with Heavy Metal nuances, proving once again that Copenhagen-based quartet is not one of the biggest names in the current Rock N’ Roll scene in vain. Still promoting their 2016 album Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie, but just about to release a brand new album (for our total delight), the band comprised of Michael Poulsen on vocals and rhythm guitar, Rob Caggiano on lead guitar, Kaspar Boye Larsen on bass, and Jon Larsen on drums set the venue on fire with their fast and melodic riffs and beats, and of course, endless electricity (despite the fact that Mr. Poulsen was visibly fighting some sort of cold or flu).

From the first few notes from the excellent The Devil’s Bleeding Crown to the closing moments from the already classic Still Counting, Volbeat delivered what’s expected from them, inspiring all fans from the floor section to ignite some fun (and furious) circle pits, especially during their most metallic songs such as A Warrior’s Call, 16 Dollars, Doc Holliday and Seal the Deal. Also, I think I’ve already mentioned this before, but it’s always impressive to witness how powerful and precise Mr. Caggiano is on the guitar, elevating the band’s sonority to new heights since entering the band in 2013. In addition, one song that I was extremely happy they played was Hallelujah Goat, one of my favorite Volbeat songs of all time due to its energy and heaviness, potentialized by Rob’s amazing technique and feeling. And before I forget, the band also played a brand new song for the first time ever in Ottawa, the 40-second Punk Rock tune Parasite, which albeit being extremely short it was well received by all fans who were paying attention at the moment, because you know, 40 seconds are not enough not even for a quick bathroom break. In a nutshell, I know that I just saw Volbeat live and that I’ll see them again with Slipknot, Gojira and Behemoth soon here in Toronto, but they’re so good live I cannot wait, and besides, their concerts are never long enough for them to play all of their classics.

Setlist
The Devil’s Bleeding Crown
Lola Montez
Sad Man’s Tongue (with Ring of Fire intro)
A Warrior’s Call / I Only Want to Be With You
Let It Burn
Black Rose
Parasite
16 Dollars
Dead but Rising
Fallen
Hallelujah Goat
Marie Laveau
Doc Holliday
Seal the Deal
Still Counting

Band members
Michael Poulsen – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob Caggiano – lead guitar
Kaspar Boye Larsen – bass guitar
Jon Larsen – drums

GODSMACK

It was close to 9:45pm when the lights went out, a fun mashup of classic rock songs started playing from the amps, and finally GODSMACK hit the stage with their unique mix of Alternative Rock and Heavy Metal. I confess I don’t think their 2018 album When Legends Rise is one of their best efforts to date; quite the contrary, it’s relatively weak compared for example to their previous album, the fantastic 1000hp, released in 2014, but Sully Erna and his henchmen are so amazing in what they do they managed to turn all of the songs they played from their new album, those being When Legends Rise, Say My Name, Unforgettable, Under Your Scars and Bulletproof, into truly amazing moments of their performance. By the way, as explained by Sully during the concert, inspired by their own song Under Your Scars, Godsmack have recently founded The Scars Foundation to help raise awareness of the mental health issues that so many are faced with today. Needless to say, donate and show your support to such important and noble cause.

Getting back to the concert, I have to say that even if they played bad music the whole thing would still have been at least great, as all the fire and other special effects on stage added a lot of energy to their performance. But, of course, Godsmack do not play bad music, and fantastic songs like 1000hp (my favorite of the night), Cryin’ Like a Bitch and Whatever put a huge smile on the faces of every single fan watching their concert. Furthermore, there were three very distinct moments that let’s say “surprised” most fans due to their uniqueness, those being their dark and enthralling performance of their all-time hit Voodoo, the interesting Batalla De Los Tambores (or “battle of the drums”, if you know nothing in Spanish) between Sully and the extremely talented drummer Shannon Larkin, and the Rock N’ Roll party established on stage when Rob Caggiano and the entire Stitched Up Heart joined them on stage for a cover version of AC/DC’s classic Highway to Hell.

In the end, after Godsmack played their heavier-than-hell hit I Stand Alone, all fans left the Canadian Tire Centre extremely satisfied, hoping the band doesn’t take another abysmal time to return to Canadian soil. On the other hand, if you live in Canada and missed Godsmack, I feel really sorry for your soul. A band like that is always busy, always touring the world, and they don’t have a lot of empty spot to fill out with Canadian dates. Well, don’t cry like a bitch if you missed it, simply stay tuned to their upcoming tours and do like the rockin’ citizens from Ottawa, whenever you hear the words “Volbeat” or “Godsmack”, put on your black shirt, you leather jacket and get ready to rumble like there’s no tomorrow with one of the best and most electrifying bands of the not-so-new generation of rock and metal music.

Setlist
When Legends Rise
1000hp
Say My Name
Keep Away (Moon Baby Outro)
Cryin’ Like a Bitch
Awake
Unforgettable
Something Different
Voodoo
Batalla De Los Tambores
Whatever

Encore:
Under Your Scars
Bulletproof
Highway to Hell (AC/DC cover)
I Stand Alone

Band members
Sully Erna – vocals, guitar
Tony Rombola – lead guitar
Robbie Merrill – bass
Shannon Larkin – drums

Concert Review – Cradle of Filth (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 03/27/2019)

One year after storming Toronto with their Cryptoriana World Tour for the first time, the one and only Cradle of Filth returned for another fantastic round of blasphemy, darkness and seductiveness.

OPENING ACT: Raven Black

First of all, I would like to ask anyone to explain to me why WEDNESDAY 13, the Hollywood-based Gothic/Dark Metal band led by Murderdolls’ frontman Joseph Michael Poole (aka Wednesday 13), didn’t open for the almighty Cradle of Filth last night at The Opera House like they’ve been doing together with Los Angeles-based Gothic/Dark Metal unity RAVEN BLACK during this second round of the Cryptoriana North American tour, nicely named CRYPTORIANA WORLD TOUR 2019 – THE SECOND COMING OF VICE. All websites showed Raven Black scheduled for 7pm, Wednesday 13 for 7:45pm and Cradle of Filth for 8:55pm, but what actually happened last night in Toronto was a huge (and tedious) delay that ended up with Raven Black playing at 7:45pm and Cradle of Filth at 8:55pm, with no sign of Wednesday 13 at all nor any communication from the venue or the organizers. Unless they played at 5pm when no one was there to watch them, or if they wanted to make a very bad joke with their own name saying they were “late” two weeks (as yesterday was Wednesday 27), there’s no official reason for their absence. Can anyone out there explain to me what happened, please?

Anyway, without Wednesday 13, Raven Black was left with the always demanding duty of warming up the fans at The Opera house for another night of wicked, sulfurous and dark metal music. Comprised of the stunning, talented and very sympathetic Raven on lead vocals, The Doctor on lead guitar and backing vocals, Stitches on bass and Muppet on drums and harsh vocals (plus another mysterious, unnamed guitarist who would go on and off stage depending on the song played), Raven Black put on a great show, entertaining the fans avid for the more extreme music by Dani Filth and his horde. Still promoting their 2018 album 13, Raven Black played a fairly different setlist from the ones of this same tour, either by changing the order of the songs or by adding new ones, such as their brand new single named Carnival (a very good song, by the way), probably due to Wednesday 13’s cryptic absence. And it was impossible not to keep your eyes turned to the darkly, darkly sexy Raven, who delivered a very entertaining performance impersonating an evil doll with a special artifact per song, including a hula hoop, handcuffs and a giant teddy bear. My favorite songs of their concert were Dollhouse and Twinkle Twinkle Little Scars, and if you also enjoy this type of freakish, circus-inspired metal music, go take a look at their BandCamp page not only to purchase those two songs but their entire (short but already solid) discography.

Band members
Raven – lead vocals
The Doctor – lead guitar, backing vocals
Stitches – bass
Muppet – drums, harsh vocals

CRADLE OF FILTH

After a short break it was time for British Extreme Metal warlocks CRADLE OF FILTH to haunt The Opera House once again for our total delight, still promoting their 2017 album Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay, almost exactly one year after their 2018 concert in the city, coincidentally also on a Wednesday night. The setlist was very close to their previous one, with a few changes to some of the songs such as the removal of Beneath the Howling Stars and The Death of Love and the inclusion of Nemesis and Honey and Sulphur. I love all those songs, so I was more than fine with those changes as it’s always a pleasure to see a fantastic band like Cradle of Filth playing different songs live, but there was one huge “mistake” made by the band, which was NOT closing the show with the all-time classic From the Cradle to Enslave. Sorry, Dani, but I can’t forgive you for that even after seeing your Instagram post where you say you were quite sick last night (so sick he said they dropped Saffron’s Curse instead of From the Cradle to Enslave). Just kidding, of course.

Anyway, I can’t get tired of watching Dani growling like a demonic beast (even when he’s under the weather) while his bandmates make sure the atmosphere remains as obscure, devilish and aggressive as possible, with one of the nicest keyboardists in the world, Lindsay Schoolcraft, and the unstoppable guitarist Richard Shaw providing an extra touch of delicacy and madness to the show, respectively. Richard didn’t stop jumping up and down, spinning around, spitting and urging the crowd to go crazy into the circle pit, and all that while at the same time he was flawless with his riffs and solos. That’s what I call a true metalhead, my friends, providing Dani some effective support and relief due to his illness. If you were there, I bet their performance during the unparalleled 10-minute infernal beast Bathory Aria left you completely disoriented. That says it all.

In the end, although we didn’t have Wednesday 13 for some unknown reason, it was indeed another amazing night of Extreme Metal, with Raven Black and specially Cradle of Filth, of course, showing Toronto everything they got. When all was said and done (and after all the devastation the fans were promoting inside the endless circle pit in the center of the venue), everyone had a huge smile on their faces, and not even an exhausting day at work (like the one I had) could stop the crowd from enjoying the concert to its fullest. Furthermore, there were several amazing Cradle of Filth shirts being sold by their crew or worn by the fans as usual, but there was a guy wearing a very specific one that caught my attention, where in the back it said “DANI FILTH LOVES YOU”’. Well, how can we argue with that? He surely loves Toronto, and Toronto loves him and his iconic band back. That is pure, mutual respect and admiration that makes them come back to the city again and again. Hence, it’s been just less than a day after the concert was over, but I’m already eager to see the mighty Cradle of Filth possessing our souls once again here in our beloved Toronto.

Setlist
ACT I
Ave Satani (Intro)
Gilded Cunt
Nemesis
Right Wing of the Garden Triptych
Heartbreak and Seance
Bathory Aria: Benighted Like Usher / A Murder of Ravens in Fugue / Eyes That Witnessed Madness
Wester Vespertine
Dusk and Her Embrace
You Will Know the Lion by His Claw
Creatures That Kissed in Cold Mirrors (Interlude)

ACT II
A Bruise Upon the Silent Moon (Intro)
The Promise of Fever
Saffron’s Curse
Nymphetamine (Fix)
Honey and Sulphur
Her Ghost in the Fog
Blooding the Hounds of Hell (Outro)

Band members
Dani Filth – lead vocals
Richard Shaw – guitars
Marek “Ashok” Šmerda – guitars
Daniel Firth – bass
Lindsay Schoolcraft – female vocals, keyboards
Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Margarita Monet

I wanna lose myself in you…

Attention, metalheads! It’s time for another metal chick of the month here on yours truly The Headbanging Moose, and this month let’s pay our humble tribute to an up-and-coming singer, pianist, composer and actress that truly knows how to blend the heaviness, madness and rage of Heavy Metal with the delicacy and feeling of classical music. Known for her powerful voice and incredible range, she’s the frontwoman and founder for American Hard Rock/Symphonic Metal band Edge Of Paradise. I’m talking about Margarita Monet, or Margarita Martirosyan if you prefer, born on February 15, 1990 in Yerevan, the capital and largest city of Armenia as well as one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, but who has been living in the United States since she was 11 years old.

Margarita moved from Armenia to Moscow, Russia at a very early age with her family, where she lived for about 10 years, starting music lessons at the age of four and quickly accelerating into a competitive and performance-ready pianist, competing and winning awards in numerous piano competitions. When she was 11 years old, her father (who is a scientist) got a job offer in Houston, Texas, in the United States, meaning her life was going to have a huge impact in regards to lifestyle and mindset. In Houston, she attended The High School For The Performing and Visual Arts, for musical theater, moving to New York shortly after where she got accepted into New York University’s Tisch School Of The Arts, majoring in Theater at the Meisner Studio and minoring in Music. While living in New York, she acted in off Broadway plays, independent short and feature films, and sang with local bands at the city’s clubs. In addition, as a teenager, Margarita used to go back to Russia during the summer seasons and did some performing and recording with concertos, being known within the community of people who follow classical mostly from competitions in the country.

It was in 2010 when our red-haired diva had another significant move in her life, heading to Los Angeles after getting interest from various acting agents in the city. Just a week after arriving in Hollywood, Margarita already joined a singing and dancing group and recorded on their album Angels De Amor, going solo after various live shows with that group. After going solo and starting working on original material for her first solo album, she met guitarist Dave Bates, who was in search of a singer who could replace Irish rock vocalist Robin McAuley (McAuley Schenker Group, Survivor) in their project named BLEED. Soon their music partnership created tremendous results and solidified the band that took up the new name, Edge Of Paradise.

With Edge Of Paradise, which by the way is the official band of Nashville Knights, a women’s American football team of the Legends Football League (LFL) based in Nashville, Tennessee, and part of Rockers Against Trafficking (a foundation created by Kevin Estrada to raise awareness about human trafficking), Margarita released their debut album Mask, in 2011, featuring a rhythm section consisting of Gregg Bissonette on drums and Tony Franklin on bass (coming in at #6 most added on national CMJ radio, right behind Machine Head and Five Finger Death Punch), the EP Perfect Shade Of Black, in 2013, the full-length Immortal Waltz, in 2015, co-produced by Bob Kulick (Kiss, Motörhead) and  Michael Wagener (and coming at #12 on national rock and metal radio charts), and the six-track EP ALIVE, in 2017. If you want to get a fun and pleasant overdose of the gorgeous vocals by Margarita, go to their official YouTube channel (or their VEVO channel as well) for songs such as Mistery, Dust To Dust, Shade Of Crazy, Rise For The Fallen, In A Dream, Break Away and Perfect Shade Of Black, or even for some treats such as their cover versions for Darlene Love’s 1963 song Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), The Nightmare Before Christmas’ Sally’s Song Black Sabbath’s masterpiece Children of the Sea, Margarita’s voice-and-piano version for Scorpion’s all-time classic ballad Still Loving You, or the band’s live performance of the song Ghost at the Soultone Cymbals Studio in 2016. Thus, after listening to her stunning voice in all those songs, you’ll quickly understand why she was featured in Metalholic’s “Top 25 Women in Hard Rock and Metal” in 2012.

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Furthermore, as aforementioned, apart for her music career Margarita also has an acting and screen background going back to her New York days, including a part as a dancer in the 2009 short drama Alicia, playing a character called Amy in the 2010 action movie No Leaf Clover, and portraying an illegal prostitute in the 2011 documentary Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, all under her birth name Margarita Martirosyan. Now with Margarita dedicating a huge share of her time to Edge Of Paradise, it’s uncertain if we’ll see her again on screen, but at least we can rest assured the band will keep shooting videos for their songs, which means more Margarita for our avid eyes and ears.

When asked about her biggest idols in beauty, fashion and music, Margarita provided some interesting and beyond awesome names in all fields. Her inspirations in the modelling and fashion business are first Audrey Hepburn, who she has admired since she was a kid due to her feminine, classy and effortless look and style, and also Doro Pesch and Joan Jett due to their edgier styles. When it comes to music, her list of icons is even more impressive, with unparalleled names such as Ronnie James Dio, Robert Plant, Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford and Freddie Mercury being her favorite ones due to their distinct and timeless sound, as well as their emotion, attitude and conviction when singing and performing.

Margarita doesn’t see herself as a fashion and make-up junkie, but more like a “creative junkie”, meaning that because of her role with Edge Of Paradise she always strives to create something different and attractive for the fans, leading her to experiment with different looks, and having the freedom to express herself through music and while performing on stage. Having said that, Margarita’s typical makeup and style signature can be considered a mix of Rock N’ Roll with a bit of Gothic fashion, blending leather and lace with bold accessories such as belts and chains, always wearing black with accent colors like red, silver and gold. And, of course, her trademark blood-red lips. All those strong colors and accessories are complemented by Margarita’s endless energy when she hits the stage, being very expressive and putting her heart and soul into each song played, and by her creativity, as she simply loves experimenting with different chains, spikes, fabrics and other material when creating her stage outfit. When asked about how she prepares herself for a concert, Margarita said she tries to rest as much as possible and stay hydrated, and that she doesn’t take too long to get dressed and put on her makeup as she always knows what she’s going to wear. She also said being in a band is a lifestyle she truly loves, and although it’s not an easy one she has a lot of fun and pleasure while working on new material, creating new visual arts for the band and rehearsing, always aiming at moving forward with the band.

Regarding being an artist, our red-haired muse mentioned that she’s always been determined to become an artist since her childhood in Russia, where she was surrounded by art. Her mom used to take her to theaters, concerts and ballets, inspiring her to start performing at a very young age. So far, it has been a thrilling and rewarding ride to her (despite being a very demanding way of life), with honesty, hard work and creativity being some of the most important elements in her career, not to mention her life motto which is “do it because you love it and enjoy every part of the journey, it goes by fast!’’ In addition, singing metal music in front of a huge crowd and recording vocals for Edge Of Paradise were initially a brand new experience and a challenge for her, despite her previous experience as an artist and her passion for classic voices like Dio and Freddie Mercury. Furthermore, Margarita said that coming up with melody ideas and finding her own style were very rewarding steps for her, and of course she’s always interested in evolving as a singer and as an artist in general.

Last but not least, when asked about the importance of image in her life and career, and how social media has had an impact on those, she said that as we live in a digital world where everything is over saturated, social media ends up working as a double-edged sword because we have the tools to reach people, but if you don’t have the best content (both visually and musically) you won’t be able to attract people’s attention. She complemented by saying you really have to create a world that people will want to be part of, inspiring people to follow you, and therefore boosting your creative process. Well, I guess Margarita is absolutely right about that, because if you think about it, who doesn’t want to be part of the unique and whimsical world created by Edge Of Paradise?

Margarita Monet’s Official Facebook page
Margarita Monet’s Official Instagram
Edge Of Paradise’s Official Facebook page
Edge Of Paradise’s Official YouTube channel
Edge Of Paradise’s Official Instagram

“Your music has to speak for itself, invest in your content, in the quality of your sound, if you have a great product you will get your foot in the door! Of course it’s important to promote, and that takes a lot of money too. If you’re an independent band you gotta hire your own publicity, but if you don’t have great content to promote you won’t go very far, so I would say make the music that’s authentic and you’re really proud of and you’ll find your way!” – Margarita Monet

Album Review – NovaReign / Legends (2018)

A fast, melodic and intricate album that perfectly represents the new age of Progressive Power Metal, telling stories in musical literature and speaking to a generation influenced by epic fantasy tales, comic books and video games.

Influenced by bands like Iron Maiden and Dream Theater, to Dragonforce and Angra, American metallers  NovaReign represent the new age of Progressive Power Metal, telling stories in musical literature and speaking to a generation influenced by epic fantasy tales, comic books and video games. Formed in 2010 in the city of Los Angeles, California, in the United States, NovaReign are not only inspired by the aforementioned classic metal acts, but they also incorporate elements from a multitude of non-metal styles such as Jazz, Funk and EDM (Electronic Dance Music) to their high-octane music, adding a little extra flavor to their already exciting compositions.

The band has been steadily and surely building a buzz and reputation for themselves in recent years, becoming a fixture with energy-abounding live shows filled with nonstop shredding guitar interplay and powerful traditional metal vocals, altogether culminating in the release of their debut full-length album this year, the nonstop metal attack titled Legends, an hour-plus of shred-tastic, over-the-top, epic power and progressive metal music. Not only that, the album art also transpires epicness, as explained by guitarist Danny Nobel. “The art was based off an idea I had pitched to have giant statues of god-like figures in an astral plain,” explains Danny. “Our bassist, Moises, took the idea and created the drawings you’ve seen so far. The characters are all based on warriors and mythical beings, which represent themes of courage, heroism, strength and virtue. These are characteristics and themes of the overall album. That along with a cosmic decor.”

The opening tune, titled Call On The Storm, brings forward progressiveness flowing from the very first second from the melodic guitar lines by Danny and his bandmate Balmore Lemus, gradually becoming a Power Metal feast led by the high-pitched vocals by frontman David Marquez. And the action doesn’t stop at all, with gripping solos and faster-than-a-bullet beats keeping the electricity at a really high level. Then get ready for 10 minutes of pure Melodic Heavy Metal in Mace Of A Fist, where Danny and Balmore are on fire with their Dragonforce-inspired riffs and solos while drummer Paul Contreras keeps blasting furious and precise beats, not to mention the second half of the song which is that type of sonic “masturbation” fans of Melodic and Progressive Metal truly love. And let’s say their “metal masturbation” goes on in another classic Power Metal extravaganza titled Beyond The Cold, presenting a galloping rhythm crafted by bassist Moises Gavez together with Paul, perfect for David to blast sheer epicness through his vocals and to Danny and Balmore to deliver some insane guitar solos.

The following song in Legends, the excellent Heavy Heart, reminds me of the sound by some of the best metal bands from Japan such as Moi Dix Mois, Versailles, Anthem and especially Saber Tiger and Loudness, being fast, intricate, electrifying and an absolute orgasm for fans of the genre. And have I mentioned their guitar solos are simply fantastic? Anyway, moving on with their sonic onrush, Skyline feels a lot less intense than its predecessors, but still presenting the band’s characteristic sonority. All band members are precise with their instruments, providing David all he needs to powerfully declaim the song’s lyrics, with the only issue being that the song goes on for too long with its almost 9 minutes of music.

The sound of rain and an acoustic guitar set the tone in the bridge To Wander The Stars, before NovaRegin return with another metallic, melodic and inspiring tune entitled The Builder. Led by the rhythmic drums by Paul, the song presents the band’s guitar duo simply slashing their strings mercilessly, therefore generating a piercing but very enjoyable sound in the end. In Black As The Dead Of Night we’re treated to a 9-minute onslaught of Power Metal with Danny and Belmore being two shredding and soloing machines, with the work done by Paul on drums being outstanding. Moreover, despite being as long as “Skyline”, it has a lot more flavor and punch, maintaining the energy flowing until the end. And lastly, the title-track Legends brings tons of progressiveness through the band’s intricate riffs and beats, as well as the awesome bass punches by Moises. Put differently, it’s a heavier and more melodic version of Dream Theater with hints of Iron Maiden, which means that if you’re a musician and into Power Metal, this song has everything you crave in heavy music.

In case you think my words are not detailed enough to describe the music by NovaReign, you can enjoy the band doing a really nice track by track breakdown on YouTube, and after enjoying such interesting video you should definitely go check what NovaReign are up to on Facebook, and purchase Legends through their official BandCamp page, through the M-Theory Audio webshop, on iTunes, on Amazon, and in other retailers like Target, Adipocere Records and DeepDiscount. And there you have the perfect (and very intricate and melodic) soundtrack for your most epic adventures, how about that?

Best moments of the album: Call On The Storm, Beyond The Cold, Heavy Heart and Black As The Dead Of Night.

Worst moments of the album: Skyline.

Released in 2018 M-Theory Audio

Track listing
1. Call On The Storm 6:58
2. Mace Of A Fist 10:10
3. Beyond The Cold 5:58
4. Heavy Heart 5:09
5. Skyline 8:56
6. To Wander The Stars 2:24
7. The Builder 5:22
8. Black As The Dead Of Night 8:44
9. Legends 9:25

Band members
David Marquez – vocals
Danny Nobel – guitars
Balmore Lemus – guitars
Moises Gavez – bass
Paul Contreras – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Tina Guo

A true metal cello Wonder Woman!

She might not be a pure Heavy Metal woman, but her superior skills and her passion for music truly make her unique. Armed with her flammable cello or with her whimsical erhu (the same two-stringed bowed musical instrument used by Taiwanese metallers Chthonic), she has been embellishing stages, movies, television and video game scores with her refined technique and stunning looks since around 1994, when her unparalleled career kicked off. Born on October 28, 1985 in Shanghai, China’s biggest city, a global financial centre and transport hub and one of the most populous cities in the world with a population of more than 24 million as of 2017, but currently residing in Los Angeles, California, United States, here comes the internationally acclaimed and Grammy-nominated Chinese-American cellist, erhuist, recording artist and composer Tina Guo (or 郭婷娜 in Chinese), a woman with a multi-faceted career and mastery in a wide range of genres, showcasing a deep and strong passion for musical exploration, artistic expression and technology. And of course, among all that, there’s still time for her to demonstrate her appreciation for our good old heavy music.

Tina Guo was born in Shanghai to father Lu-Yan Guo, a concert cellist, and mother Fei-Fei Soong, a concert violinist, both artistic directors of the California International Music and Art Festival, an annual event held in San Diego, California. She began playing piano at the age of 3 in China, but once she moved to America at the age of 5 with her family, she began violin lessons with her mother. At the age of 7, she began studying the cello under the instruction of her father, with both her parents forcing her to practice 6 to 8 hours a day. She then continued her professional cello studies with Slovenian cellist Eleonore Schoenfeld (1925–2007), one of the most influential cellists of the 20th century (who also taught Guo’s father), at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music on full scholarship.

During her freshman year, Guo started dating a guitar player of an 80’s-style classic Heavy Metal band, and after attending one of their shows one night at The Whiskey in Hollywood, she started to think about how she could incorporate the cello into the metal style, experimenting with pedals and different techniques while trying to figure out how to play the cello and sound like a guitar player. While the fingering for both instruments were virtually the same, it took her three years and many YouTube videos to figure out what she was doing. She eventually left USC in her junior year, despite having a full scholarship to attend, after she found it increasingly difficult to balance performing and going to classes. Her parents were very angry and didn’t understand her decision at the time, getting used to the idea after a while. As a matter of fact, she claims to hold a Bachelors in Metaphysical Theology with a focus on Eastern Philosphy from the International College of Metaphysical Theology, but this is an unaccredited distance learning degree mill.

Her career has reached such a complex and diverse level I’m pretty sure you’ve listened to the cello by our Asian virtuoso at least once in your lifetime in a movie score, in a video game, or in a multitude of other media platforms. Known for her distinct videos showcasing her talent against theatrical backdrops and elaborate costumes, she has already appeared in her career as a soloist with the San Diego Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra in Mexico, the Thessaloniki State Symphony in Greece, the Petrobras Symphony in Brazil, and the Vancouver Island Symphony in British Columbia, not to mention her participation in the Civic Youth Orchestra at the age of 10, her performance with violinist Midori Goto in Dvorak’s American String Quartet at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and her four national tours of Mexico and Italy performing the Shostakovich, Dvorak, Haydn, and Saint-Saëns Cello Concertos. Tina endorses Larsen Strings, Yamaha, Line 6, Sennheiser, Focusrite, ENGL Amps, Voodoo Lab Pedals, Coffin Case, Samson, Reunion Blues, Analysis Plus Cables and Apogee Electronics.

Among her countless other projects and appearances as a special guest musician, some of the most interesting ones are her performance with the Tenerife Symphony and Choir in the Canary Islands performing Batman: The Dark Knight; her 2017 Australian tour with an all-girl crossover band named Metaphor; her 2008 Grammy Awards performance with the Foo Fighters; her 2011-2013 tour as the featured electric cellist with Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour; her performance for the League of Legends World Championship to a sold out arena at Staples Center in Los Angeles and an audience of 33 million streaming online; playing the electric cello in a super-band with The Crystal Method, Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit), Danny Lohner (NIN), Joe Letz (Combichrist) and the Hollywood Scoring Orchestra; playing with Brazilian guitarist Victor Biglione in a Jimi Hendrix Tribute Concert at the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro; performing as soloist on music from Vikings, Dexter, Game of Thrones, and Chicago Fire with the Krakow Symphony and Polish Radio Choir at the Krakow Film Music Festival; and completing an acoustic tour and two sold-out performances at Carnegie Hall in 2016 with Blues Legend Joe Bonamassa, as you can see in the song Black Lung Heartache.

Furthermore, Tina has already shared the stage in her career with The Tenors, Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel, Josh Groban, John Legend, LeAnn Rimes, Chris Isaak, Il Divo, Ariana Grande, Lupe Fiasco, and Michael McDonald, among others, and has been featured as a soloist on the scores of several movies such as Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Inception, Clash of the Titans, Olympus Has Fallen, Escape Plan, Sleepy Hollow, Hancock, Battle: Los Angeles, Predators and X-Men: First Class, as well as TV shows like  The Mentalist, Family Guy, American Dad, King of the Hill, commercials for Apple, Under Armour, and countless video games. As a solo artist, Tina has already released 8 albums, those being Autumn Winds and The Journey (both in 2011), Eternity (2013), Ray of Light and A Cello Christmas (both in 2014), Inner Passion (with Peter Kater) and Cello Metal (both in 2015), and more recently Game On! (2017). Furthermore, you can enjoy some very interesting videos on YouTube where Tina shows all her skills with her erhu, such as “Tina Guo plays music from Uncharted 2 on the Erhu with the GSPO”, and “Tina Guo and Michael Barry Random Jam: Danny Boy on Erhu and Piano”, or simply enjoy some of her official videos and songs like World of Warcraft, Dragonborn, Forrest Gump: Feather Theme and Genesis Rising.

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In regards to Tina’s contributions to the metal scene, she has been featured as a guest cellist in numerous distinguished bands and projects since 2009. For instance, in 2009 she played the cello in the songs The Lone Spaniard and So Far Gone, from the album Molecular Heinosity by American Progressive Metal/Rock keyboardist Derek Sherinian; in the song I Am the Nothing, from the 2014 album The Beauty of Destruction by  American Metalcore act Devil You Know (now called Light The Torch); in the 2017 album Störtebeker, by German Heavy/Power/Progressive Metal band FB1964; in the single Let Down, from the 2011 album Secret Passion by Dutch Symphonic Gothic Metal group Imperia; in the song Duet for Electric Guitar and Electric Cello in A Minor, from the 2010 album Speed Force by American shredder Maxxxwell Carlisle; and in the 2015 album The Life I Remember, by American Groove Metal act Once Human.

Among her main influences in music, we’ll find the most diverse range of bands and artist like Rammstein, Jacqueline du Pre, System of a Down, Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, Lady Gaga, Apocalyptica, Metallica, Sevendust, Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, just to give you an idea of how eclectic our stunning cellist is. Moreover, when asked about what music means for her, Tina said that playing music requires an intense emotional connection, and that she didn’t always have such level of creative freedom in her life due to her strict childhood with her parents, who lived through the Chinese Cultural Revolution and who consequently didn’t allow her to listen to any other types of music at home besides classical music. However, it was through a critically acclaimed album by one of the aforementioned influences, the classic Antichrist Superstar by the iconic American rockstar Marilyn Manson, that she got her first taste of Industrial Metal and heavy music in general, getting to know the rebellious music by bands like Daft Punk and Guns N’ Roses from then on.

The indomitable Tina Guo is not our metal chick of the month in vain, having released in 2015 a majestic album of heavy music titled CELLO METAL, with Tina obviously on the electric cello and featuring Wes Borland and John Huldt on the guitars, Marty O’Brien (We Are The Fallen) on bass, and Glen Sobel (Alice Cooper, Alcatrazz) on drums, as well as guitarists Al Di Meola, John 5 (Marilyn Manson) and Nita Strauss (The Iron Maidens). Tina and her henchmen delivered ass-kicking cello-infused cover songs for some of the biggest metal classics with this album, which by the way took around three years to be ready, those being Iron Maiden’s The Trooper, Slayer’s Raining Blood, Black Sabbath’s Iron Man, Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell, and Metallica’s Sanitarium, together with five original songs (Child of Genesis, The God Particle, Eternal Night, Forbidden City and Queen Bee). By the way, Tina spent her entire life savings (a little under US$ 6,000) on the official video for Queen Bee, a metal-inspired take on the orchestral interlude “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and that risk paid off as what’s probably her “most extreme” music video to date (it got an 18+ restriction on YouTube) caught the attention of Hans Zimmer, who at that time was searching for a cellist to play on the score of Sherlock Holmes. “I wasn’t trying to get into the soundtrack world. Actually, I was hoping that Rammstein would see the video and invite me to play with them”, said our skillful cellist in one of her interviews. Anyway, you can have a very detailed listen at Cello Metal on Spotify, and see why this Asian bombshell is respected and admired by the entire world of music, including the always-demanding metal scene.

And Tina is not only an accomplished cellist, but she’s also a writer, a philanthropist and a very successful businesswoman. As a writer, her first published work was called “Event Horizons of Yin and Yang”, a collection of philosophical prose and poetry. As a philanthropist, Guo is a passionate supporter of the Academy of Music for the Blind, Partners in Health, Animal Welfare Institute, Homes for our Troops and Child Find of America. For instance, in 2015, she released a Charity album with 13 composer friends called Tina Guo & Composers for Charity, with 100% of the proceeds from the album going directly to Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation in support of music education. And last but not least, as a businesswoman, she runs a Los Angeles-based venture named Tina Guo Contracting, which provides exclusive musicians and entertainment for live performances, recording and corporate events; she has a sample library that composers and producers can purchase and use; and above all that, she started her own music instrument line, named Tina Guo Strings, selling custom acoustic cellos, carbon fiber cases, and colourful “unicorn hair” bows for the violin, viola, and cello, with her first products available being the Tina Guo Model 300 cello, the Tina Guo Elite Master Art Model 600 cello, and a full line of custom Tina Guo bows. As a matter of fact, she has been self-managing her career since the beginning, having only signed an exclusive recording contact with Sony Music in 2016, as she thinks it’s very important to understand the business aspect and see everything that’s going on, especially because managers are always going to have other clients they’re dealing with.

However, despite being a successful musician and entrepreneur, she hasn’t been immune to sexism yet, noting that image sells in the performing world, and as a young Asian-American woman she’s more than familiar with the challenges that come with working in these two very white male-dominated spheres. “As a performing artist, we don’t only listen with our ears”, she said in one of her interviews. “If I look different or wasn’t as young, I might have a very different experience.” You can get a sense of all the awesomeness surrounding Tina as a musician and as a woman by watching several videos on YouTube where she’s either playing her cello or talking about her career and skills, such as “Tina Guo and her troublesome cello”, an interview with Tina Guo on classical and electric cello, or a mini-tutorial on playing fast, proving she’s more-than-ready to conquer the entire world of music and arts no matter how sexist that world might be.

Equipment
Gand & Bernardel Cello (Paris, France, 1878)
Custom Tina Guo Model Yamaha SVC-210
Erhu (Shangai, China)

Tina Guo’s Official Facebook page
Tina Guo’s Official Twitter
Tina Guo’s Official Instagram
Tina Guo’s Official YouTube channel

“When I make music, I am completely pure, naked, and open. I long for the moments when my outer shell no longer matters. I hunger for every genuine tear of sorrow, joy, or understanding shared. When you can hear me for who I am, and see me in a way that doesn’t involve looking at me, but rather looking through me, only then can I be satisfied.” – Tina Guo

Album Review – Butcher Babies / Lilith (2017)

The most dangerous and relentless demons of heavy music return with another crisp, visceral and fun album of present-day Metalcore.

As I said in our Metal Chick of the Month dedicated to the Butcher Babies in October 2016 celebrating three years of The Headbanging Moose, frontwomen Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey definitely know how to properly rumble, and now with the release of Lilith, their third full-length album, this Los Angeles-based Metalcore act spearheaded by those two gorgeous growlers more than cements their name in modern metal music. And don’t get fooled by their stunning looks, as Heidi and Carla can rip your heart out in the blink of an eye, just to show you how visceral and vibrant their music is.

After the release of the excellent Take It Like A Man, in 2015, an album that’s utterly entertaining from start to finish, fans of the Butcher Babies kept wondering if Heidi and Carla, together with Jason Klein on bass, Henry Flury on guitars and newcomer Chase Brickenden on drums would be able to deliver the same amount of aggressiveness and electricity that led them to play alongside giants like Marilyn Manson, Danzig, Rob Zombie and Cradle of Filth since the band’s inception, and for our total delight Lilith not only kicks some serious ass, but it also brings a more melodic side of the Butcher Babies that add an extra layer of intricacy and quality to their always fun compositions.

Now simply hit play and feel the metallic riffs by Henry crushing your skull before the dynamic duo Heidei and Carla begin their growling feast in Burn the Straw Man, not only a circle pit-generator with a catchy chorus and pure rage flowing from all instruments, but also a fantastic choice for opening their live concerts in full force. Following that flawless start we have the title-track Lilith, bringing their trademark ferocity infused with more melodic lines (mainly found in their cleaner vocals), with Chase proving why he was chosen to be the band’s new drummer; and Headspin, an almost-radio-friendly tune presenting a heavy but extremely sexy rhythm that will put you to dance and sing along with the band. Moreover, as a “bonus” the song got a lustful official video that deals with virtual reality (aka virtual sex) that’s definitely worth a watch. And in Korova the band gets back to a more underground Metalcore sonority, with Henry, Jason and Chase doing a solid job by supporting the screams by Carla and Heidi, all boosted by the song’s absolutely addictive chorus.

The beyond electrified #Iwokeuplikethis offers pure madness blasted by the entire band, with Chase sounding beastly on drums while our charming screamers fire some demented gnarls and deep growls nonstop. Things slow down a bit in The Huntsman, a dark Metalcore semi-ballad with hints of Alternative and Groove Metal which never really takes off despite the awesome rumbling bass lines by Jason, but everything returns to normal (if the Butcher Babies can be called “normal”) in Controller, a song that can be considered “old school Butcher Babies” by presenting all elements that made them famous in heavy music. Furthermore, its groovy and metallic tones are tailored for jumping up and down and breaking our necks headbanging with the band. And Oceana is another shot of insanity by Heidi and Carla, with the first firing her more strident screeches while the latter keeps growling deeper and deeper. In addition, Henry nails it with his crisp riffs, increasing the impact of the song to our ears.

In Look What We’ve Done we have more of their more melodic and commercial version (which means it should receive some decent air play in several radio stations), with both girls kicking ass with their potent clean vocals. And although they’re also great when singing smoother songs, I personally prefer their more enraged mode like what happens in POMONA (Shit Happens), a song that will cause some serious bruises inside the circle pit. Both girls sound demented throughout the entire song led by the frantic riffs and beats by Henry and Chase, respectively, turning it into one of the best songs of the whole album. And Underground and Overrated, the closing tune in Lilith, will pierce your ears with Henry’s cutting guitar riffs and solos and Heidi and Carla’s hellish screams. This is what I would call a “festival song”, being more than perfect for those open air festivals that happen all over Europe and North America during the summer.

Lilith might be known as a dangerous demon of the night who is sexually wanton (and who steals babies in the darkness), but from now on she will also be known as the Butcher Babies’ bitch, because no woman in metal can top Heidi and Carla in terms of stamina, fury and passion for the more alternative side of Heavy Metal. If I were you, I would certainly keep an eye on their Facebook page for their tour dates to promote Lilith (which by the way can be purchased through several different platforms, and if you’re lucky enough you might be able to find the Japanese edition with five sick bonus tracks), because as a guy that has already seen Heidi, Carla & Co. live I can assure you their concerts are insanely enjoyable. And needless to say, the Butcher Babies will keep on rocking and showing their love for heavy music until the end as true metalheads that they are.

Best moments of the album: Burn the Straw Man, Headspin, #Iwokeuplikethis and POMONA (Shit Happens).

Worst moments of the album: The Huntsman.

Released in 2017 Century Media

Track listing
1. Burn the Straw Man 4:05
2. Lilith 3:27
3. Headspin 3:32
4. Korova 4:05
5. #Iwokeuplikethis 3:01
6. The Huntsman 3:06
7. Controller 3:04
8. Oceana 3:32
9. Look What We’ve Done 3:35
10. POMONA (Shit Happens) 3:13
11. Underground and Overrated 3:59

Japanese Edition bonus tracks
12. Beer Drinker & Hell Raisers 2:54
13. They’re Coming To Take Me Away 3:16
14. Don’t Give A Fuck 2:22
15. Crazy Horses 2:55
16. Pussy Whipped 2:32

Band members
Heidi Shepherd – vocals
Carla Harvey – vocals
Henry Flury – guitar
Jason Klein – bass
Chase Brickenden – drums

Album Review – Body Count / Bloodlust (2017)

Controversy, acidity and hatred are just some of the main ingredients in one of the heaviest and most complete albums in the career of the bloodthirsty Ice-T, Ernie C and Co.

We as human beings all got a deranged sickness deeply rooted inside our minds, a will to kill for sport and for revenge, an inner desire to make the ones who disagree with us or who hurt us suffer in pain, and that’s exactly what the iconic Ice-T and his henchmen, collectively known as American Thrash/Groove Metal band Body Count, have to offer us in their new installment, the excellent Bloodlust. Since their inception in 1990 in Los Angeles, the band has been delivering a high quality hybrid of Groove Metal and Hip Hop, but in Bloodlust they managed to increase the heaviness of their compositions significantly, resulting in what can be considered their most metal album of all time.

Not only Bloodlust is the sixth studio album in their solid career, but the controversy, acidity and hatred flowing from each one of the album’s 11 tracks puts it almost side by side with their cult self-titled debut album, from 1992. That only shows how passionate Ice-T and the other are about heavy music, always playing it with a lot of energy, trying to send a clear message to their fans and showing the bitter truth of the lives of the less fortunate people in the United States and all over the world. Besides, when you have guest musicians the likes of Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), Randy Blythe (Lamb of God) and Max Cavalera (Soulfly, Sepultura), you know the music will hit you in the face like an uncontrolled bulldozer.

Loud sirens and the more-than-special guest Mr. Dave Mustaine himself declare martial law, before Body Count begin delivering sheer heaviness, chaos and groove in the opening track, the awesome Civil War, with Ice-T having a fantastic performance with his hostile rap-like vocals, resulting in one of their darkest compositions to date; and keep banging your head to the always boisterous riffs by Ernie C and Juan of the Dead while Ill Will smashes his drums mercilessly in this Groove Metal anthem The Ski Mask Way. Needless to say, the song’s lyrics are as aggressive as hell (“I’m in your rear view, when you leave the club / How cold could I be, you look like food to me / All on instagram, showin’ that cash off / What you really hope, is I don’t take this mask off don’t make me punish you don’t want to hurt your wife / Come up off that watch, it ain’t worth your life / I gotta crew of wolves, life has no meaning / We roll late night and hunt human beings”). Slowing the pace down a bit and increasing the groove considerably, This Is Why We Ride is a song where Ice-T is nicely supported by the excellent job done by Vincent Price on bass and Ill Will on drums, not to mention that the sounds of the shots and the sirens of the cops together with the insane heaviness blasted by the band will crack your neck mercilessly.

If you’re already feeling that pain in your neck after such intense headbanging music, All Love Is Lost will terminate it for good. Featuring the unparalleled growls by guest Max Cavalera, the vocals in this song burst with acidity while the instrumental pieces are a work of anger. Moreover, Ernie C and Juan sound like two serial killers slitting throats with their bestial riffs. Then the band offers us a fantastic version of two all-time classics by Slayer, Raining In Blood / Postmortem 2017, with Ice-T kicking ass on “Raining Blood” while Vincent Price takes care of the vocal duties on “Postmortem”. Furthermore, the intro to the song is already a lot of fun, with Ice-T explaining the origins of Body Count saying he wanted to have a Heavy Metal and Hip-Hop band by blending the music by Black Sabbath, Suicidal Tendencies and, of course, Slayer. God, Please Believe Me works as a poetic bridge by Ice-T and his crew to the fulminating Walk With Me…, one of my favorite songs of the album where guest singer Randy Blythe vociferates like a beast, while Ill Will sounds insane on drums and Ice-T is just as rabid as Randy. This is a flawless hybrid of Thrash, Groove and Rap Metal, showcasing even hints of Death Metal, perfect for stage diving, mosh pitting and sick headbanging due to its beyond brutal rhythm.

Here I Go Again, a re-recording of a demo track from Ice T’s Return of the Real sessions, brings a somber ambience with Ice-T delivering some darker-than-usual vocals, with its instrumental being pretty solid which results in an effective support to the craziness flowing from the song’s lyrics and the demented screams in the background. Then we have the controversial No Lives Matter, another high-end explosion of Groove Metal by Body Count which blends their heavy music with an austere discussion about the issues surrounding the “Black Lives Matter” initiative. Put differently, it’s an extremely politicized tune with insane bass lines by Vincent and a great performance by Sean E Sean with his samplers, paving the track for the title-track Bloodlust, a song about our attraction for death and brutality, about the inner desire of mankind for killing, portraying it as a sickness inside our hearts and minds. While Ernie C and Juan fire fierce and melodious riffs, Ill Will continues his technical and groovy attack on drums, showing how amazing this song will sound when played live.

And if you think Ice-T and his henchmen would give you a break from all their sonic havoc, they come crushing one last time with the best song of the album as their closing act, the flammable Black Hoodie, an amalgamation of their past, present and future where poetry and violence are powerfully united (“Got on a black hoodie, its hood up on my head / I didn’t have a gun so why am I dead / You didn’t have to shoot me and that’s a known fact / And now I’m laying face down with bullets in my back”), with all instruments exhaling metallic and belligerent sounds while Ice-T keeps rapping nonstop.

It deosn’t matter if you are a metalhead that’s not very fond of rap or a rapper that doesn’t get too excited to the sound of a heavy riff, when you have an album like Bloodlust (which by the way you can find in different bundles at the Control Industry webstore) on your hands it’s almost mandatory that you start banging your head to Body Count, acknowledging they are indeed the biggest exponent in the history of Rap Metal and one of the most fun acts from the 90’s that’s still alive and kicking without sounding Jurassic. And I’m pretty sure the counting of bodies done by Ice-T, Ernie C and Co. is far from being over.

Best moments of the album: Civil War, Walk With Me…, Bloodlust and Black Hoodie.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Century Media

Track listing   
1. Civil War (feat. Dave Mustaine) 4:23
2. The Ski Mask Way 3:36
3. This Is Why We Ride 5:26
4. All Love Is Lost (feat. Max Cavalera) 3:36
5. Raining In Blood / Postmortem 2017 (Slayer cover) 4:31
6. God, Please Believe Me 1:23
7. Walk With Me… (feat. Randy Blythe) 3:07
8. Here I Go Again 3:32
9. No Lives Matter 4:23
10. Bloodlust 3:34
11. Black Hoodie 3:29

Band members
Ice-T – vocals
Ernie C – lead guitar, backing vocals
Juan of the Dead – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Vincent Price – bass, backing vocals, lead vocals on “Postmortem”
Ill Will – drums
Sean E Sean – sampler, backing vocals
Little Ice – backing vocals

Guest musicians
Dave Mustaine – spoken word and lead guitar on “Civil War”
Max Cavalera – additional vocals on “All Love Is Lost”
Randy Blythe – additional vocals on “Walk With Me…”