Album Review – Burning Witches / Dance with the Devil (2020)

The witches are back to mesmerize us all and put us to dance with them forever and ever to the sound of their incendiary Heavy Metal.

Swiss Heavy/Power Metal outfit Burning Witches is by far one of the hottest exports from the Alpine Republic since the release of their self-titled debut album in 2017, receiving a very positive feedback from fans and critics from all over the world. Formed in 2015 in Brugg, a Swiss municipality and a town in the canton of Aargau, the band currently comprised of Dutch newcomer Laura Guldemond on vocals (replacing the band’s original singer Seraina Telli in 2019), Romana Kalkuhl and Sonia Nusselder on the guitars, Jeanine Grob on bass and Lala Frischknecht on drums is ready to show the world everything they got once again with their third full-length installment Dance with the Devil, the follow-up to their highly acclaimed sophomore album Hexenhammer, released in 2018, and a lesson in Heavy Metal by five talented ladies who have always loved and breathed heavy music that will certainly inspire you to raise your horns and bang your head like there’s no tomorrow.

An eerie, mesmerizing intro titled The Incantation captivates our senses for the infernal Lucid Nightmare, with Romana and Sonia blasting sheer adrenaline through their sick riffage. Put differently, it’s classic Heavy Metal from the 80’s with Laura kicking some serious ass with her witch-like, soaring vocals, setting the bar really high for the rest of the album. Then it’s time to dance with our beloved Swiss witches in the title-track Dance with the Devil, a Hard Rock extravaganza led by Lala’s spot-on beats and Laura’s stunning vocals while the band’s stringed trio fills every single space in the air with adrenaline and electricity; followed by Wings of Steel, originally released in their 2019 EP Wings of Steel, a pure Heavy Metal tune showcasing the band’s dexterity and passion for what they do, all spiced up by Romana’s and Sonia’s classy guitar solos.

And Laura keeps blasting her high-pitched, piercing vocal lines in Six Feet Underground, another solid tune where Jeanine and Lala make the earth tremble with their low-tuned, metallic weapons, whereas in Black Magic we’re treated to an introspective, melancholic intro where Laura beautifully declaims the song’s words, evolving into a stunning ballad presenting passionate guitar solos and an ethereal atmosphere, showing a more delicate side of the band. Less visceral than the previous songs but still heavy-as-hell, Sea of Lies is a good composition bringing to our ears a great performance by Lala on drums, providing her bandmates a solid base for them to effectively slash their strings, while a Judas Priest-inspired riff kick off the metallic anthem The Sisters of Fate, perfect for banging your head nonstop with the girls or for hitting the road with your loved ones. This is the epitome of the band’s killer Heavy Metal with a Rock N’ Roll twist, with their guitar riffs and solos penetrating deep inside our minds.

Necronomicon is one of the darkest and most devilish of all songs, with Laura impersonating a true witch with her raspy, demonic vocals while Jeanine doesn’t stop hammering her bass strings, also presenting more of the band’s razor-edged riffs and solos, and bringing forward Helloween-inspired riffs blended with the classic Hard Rock by bands like Europe and Survivor we have The Final Fight, another lesson in charisma and vocal potency by Laura, therefore highly recommended for singing along with the band. Then taking their heaviness to a new level the quintet blasts the battle anthem Threefold Return, presenting an old school shredding infused with rumbling bass punches and rhythmic drums which will please all fans of classic Heavy and Power Metal without a shadow of a doubt, and lastly we have their cover version for Manowar’s classic Battle Hymn, featuring guest guitarist Ross the Boss (Manowar, Ross the Boss) and guest bassist Mike LePond (Symphony X, Ross the Boss). This is a sensational rendition by the witches with a welcome feminine touch, and still as strong and insurgent as the original version (which you can take a listen at HERE).

If you consider yourself a true metalhead and you think you have what it takes to face the stunning metal witches from Switzerland, go check what they’re up to on Facebook and on Instagram, and of course go grab your copy of the breathtaking Dance with the Devil (also available for a full listen on Spotify) from the Nuclear Blast webstore in different formats by clicking HERE or HERE. Hence, after putting your hands on such entertaining album of heavy music, you’ll quickly realize the unrelenting Burning Witches have taken over your mind for good, inspiring you to dance with them forever and ever to the sound of their undisputed Heavy Metal.

Best moments of the album: Lucid Nightmare, Dance with the Devil, The Sisters of Fate and The Final Fight.

Worst moments of the album: Sea of Lies.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. The Incantation 0:57
2. Lucid Nightmare 4:50
3. Dance with the Devil 4:26
4. Wings of Steel 4:29
5. Six Feet Underground 4:31
6. Black Magic 5:06
7. Sea of Lies 4:56
8. The Sisters of Fate 3:31
9. Necronomicon 4:12
10. The Final Fight 4:35
11. Threefold Return 3:56
12. Battle Hymn (Manowar cover) 6:55

Band members
Laura Guldemond – vocals
Romana Kalkuhl – guitars
Sonia Nusselder – guitars
Jeanine Grob – bass
Lala Frischknecht – drums

Guest musicians
Ross the Boss – guitars on “Battle Hymn”
Mike LePond – bass on “Battle Hymn”

Album Review – Derdian / Human Reset (2014)

Do you think contemporary Symphonic Power Metal is outdated? Just listen to the excellent new album by this Italian squad and you’ll see how biased you are.

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Derdian-Human_Reset_front_coverRhapsody Of Fire, Stratovarius, Symphony X and Angra are just a few of many excellent Symphonic Power Metal bands from different parts of the world, and among them there’s another name that also deserves to be recognized as one of the biggest contemporary exponents of this genre of heavy music due to the quality of their work. I’m talking about Italian Symphonic Power Metal band Derdian and their brand new album Human Reset, a highly recommended option for anyone that loves seeing the words “symphonic” and “metal” together.

Born in 1998 in Milan, Italy, Derdian have always offered us lots of heavy and fast riffs from traditional Power Metal and beautiful symphonic orchestrations, without sounding repetitive as even some well-established bands sound nowadays. They somehow managed to keep their sound unique, and add to that the fact that their lyric themes moved from only fantasy, a constant in their “New Era” albums, to more direct (not to mention more important) issues our society has always faced. I’m not saying fantasy is boring, it’s just that being able to write and sing about a wider variety of topics helps any type of band in their creative process, which in the case of Derdian worked really well.

Right after the video game-ish symphonic intro Eclipse, the energetic and vibrant title-track Human Reset makes us think we’re listening to an “Italian Angra” from the Angels Cry-era, with its very traditional drums and keyboards perfect for fans of fast-tempo songs blended with symphonic elements. The symphonic extravaganza goes on with the awesome In Everything, with highlights to its guitar solos, fast drumming and a chorus that should put a smile on the faces of the fans while they sing it together with the band. Moreover, it’s easy to notice all the melody present in most European bands, and the part of the lyrics sung in Italian complements the song in a very pleasant way.

The following track, Mafia, has a totally different approach with a more modern sonority and truly melodic and enjoyable vocals, and its music variations kind of interestingly “break” the traditional metal from previous tracks; while These Rails Will Bleed, the shortest song of the album, has that “Symphonic Power Metal” formula with nothing really new to offer, albeit it’s far from being boring. In Absolute Power, the band focus on stronger Power Metal riffs similar to what Manowar used to do in the past (maybe due to the name of the song), and the band’s talented musicians were able to add some hints of progressive music to it to make the song even better. This is the type of song you’ll start headbanging and beating your feet nonstop without even noticing.

derdian_01Human Reset continues with a song that is mandatory in your playlist if you’re hitting the road soon: Write Your Epitaph is an outstanding symphony full of awesome Hard Rock riffs and another thrilling vocal performance by Ivan Giannini, turning it into the best song of the whole album without a shadow of a doubt. Then we have the good Music is Life (I couldn’t agree more with the name of this song), with its intro that seems to be inspired by Helloween’s all-time classic “Future World” and all its beautiful Power Metal moments, especially the keyboards and piano passages by Marco Garau; Gods Don’t Give A Damn, where the bass guitar, guitars, drums and everything else sound somewhat like Dream Theater, keeping the energy level really high and the song truly interesting; and After The Storm, a symphonic and emotive ballad that is excellent for the listener to breathe for a while after so many powerful tracks.

Finally, it’s time to speed things up again with the powerful Alone, with great synergy among all instruments, the quick and fun instrumental track Delirium, which sounds a lot like many songs by Stratovarius, and My Life Back, a song that starts as a semi-acoustic piano ballad that turns into another very symphonic tune to close the album as traditionally as possible. In addition, the less fanciful and more distressful album art for Human Reset, which in my opinion is by far the most beautiful in their career, also supports this more serious path Derdian decided to take and perfectly summarizes what to expect from the album and, of course, from the band.

And last but not least, remember to support Derdian by purchasing their music at their official website or in other places such as iTunes or Amazon, because this band is here to prove us all once again our good old Symphonic Power Metal is not obsolete at all and can be as exciting as any new genre of heavy music.

Best moments of the album: In Everything, Mafia and Write Your Epitaph.

Worst moments of the album: These Rails Will Bleed and My Life Back.

Released in 2014 Independent

Track listing
1. Eclipse 1:14
2. Human Reset 5:53
3. In Everything 6:16
4. Mafia 6:41
5. These Rails Will Bleed 2:49
6. Absolute Power 5:26
7. Write Your Epitaph 4:08
8. Music is Life 6:25
9. Gods Don’t Give A Damn 5:44
10. After The Storm 4:58
11. Alone 7:24
12. Delirium 1:15
13. My Life Back 6:34

Band members
Ivan Giannini – vocals
Enrico Pistolese – guitars
Dario Radaelli – guitars
Marco Banfi – bass
Marco Garau – keyboards
Salvatore Giordano – drums

Album Review – Teräsbetoni / Metallitotuus (2005)

The best Manowar album of all time not recorded by Manowar. And what’s even better, it’s entirely sung in Finnish.

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metallitotuusAs any normal person in the world, I developed a passion for a country very different from my own many years ago: the Republic of Finland. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, right? And I had some very good reasons for that, because especially in terms of music and drinks, Finland is way better than Brazil. So I started studying Finnish and saving money for the “trip of my dreams”, which finally happened in the beginning of 2006. I was able to see the snow for the first time (which now that I live in Canada doesn’t seem to be that cool anymore); I tried lots of different types of beer, vodka and other typical Finnish drinks; I made some really good friends; I saw Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica and Lordi live, as well as a theatrical play with Tarja Turunen; and went to a heavy karaoke where I saw a guy singing an amazing song called Metallisydän. Wait, what the hell was that song? What band was that?

Then the next day or the other one (of course I don’t remember exactly when), I went to a nice pub called On the Rocks, and there was this cover band playing some classics from Queen, Rolling Stones etc., when they played another powerful heavy song in Finnish called Taivas Lyö Tulta from that same band, and that was more than enough to make me ask a guy at the pub the name of the band and run to a record store the next day to buy their album. This is the story of how I discovered the Power Metal band Teräsbetoni (“Reinforced Concrete” in English) and bought their debut album, the almost perfect Metallitotuus (“Metal Truth” in English), one of the best, if not THE best, Power Metal album of the past 10 years at least (and a million light-years better than anything Manowar has produced since Louder Than Hell).

terasbetoniThe album starts in the most powerful way possible with a track that has the same name as the band, Teräsbetoni (Reinforced Concrete), which could easily be used as the Finnish National Army’s anthem. It’s impossible not to compare each part of the song with some old Manowar classics, and I’m pretty sure that was the band’s original intention. The next track is one of my favorites: Älä Kerro Meille (Don’t Tell Us) has an amazing riff and the lyrics have that message about the fight for freedom and making your own decisions. Then comes my top Teräsbetoni track of all, not only of this album: Taivas Lyö Tulta (Sky Strikes Fire) is the perfect “battle track”, with a superb chorus that even if you don’t know a single word in Finnish you’ll start singing it as soon as you listen to it. This is a masterpiece that could have been a Manowar classic in a parallel world, if Manowar hasn’t become the most arrogant and laziest band in the world of Heavy Metal.

The following tracks might not be as good as the first three, but they’re very interesting in terms of riffs and rhythm: Vahva Kuin Metalli (Strong as Metal) and Silmä Silmästä (Eye for an Eye). Then comes another instant classic called Metallisydän (Metal Heart), a beautiful ballad I heard for the first time at that heavy karaoke I mentioned and that until today makes my “metal heart” beat stronger, and the funny Orjatar (Slavewoman), which in my opinion was some kind of tribute (or joke?) to Manowar’s Pleasure Slave. Anyway, it’s an awesome tune for all headbanging girls of the world.

The last part of the album keeps the energy level up with the fast and heavy Tuonelaan (To the Underworld); the title-track Metallitotuus (Metal Truth); another of my favorites Voittamaton (Invincible), which has the most Manowar-ish riff and drums of all (it sounds a lot like Fighting the World); and the interesting Teräksen Varjo (Shadow of Steel). The ONLY crappy song of all is the last one, Maljanne Nostakaa (Raise Your Cup), not due to its instrumental which is fairly good, but the singing done by Arto Järvinen makes you skip this track and go back to the beginning of the album. It’s simply mediocre.

digipak

Metallitotuus special digipak front cover

The front cover is a piece of junk (albeit not as bad as this one, and besides you can be lucky to find the special digipak version anyway), Jarkko Ahola oversings 99% of the time, and their Manowar-ish lyrics didn’t add much to my limited Finnish vocabulary, but I don’t really care about those minor details. Metallitotuus is pure Heavy Metal, and a very exciting album to listen to at any occasion.

Teräsbetoni, as well as many excellent European bands, are really underrated in North America.  Add to that the fact they do not sing in English and are in an indefinite career hiatus and it seems absolutely impossible to see them one day playing live here in Canada. Anyway, despite all that, it’s a band definitely worth listening to, which has recorded some very good albums with Metallitotuus being their biggest masterpiece. Let’s just hope they get back in action, and that for the power of Odin they somehow come to Toronto for at least one single concert.

Best moments of the album: Taivas Lyö Tulta, Älä Kerro Meille, Metallisydän and Voittamaton.

Worst moments of the album: Maljanne Nostakaa, mainly due to the horrible singing as I mentioned before.

Released in 2005 Warner Music Finland

Track listing
1. Teräsbetoni 5:54
2. Älä Kerro Meille 3:29
3. Taivas Lyö Tulta 3:21
4. Vahva Kuin Metalli 3:02
5. Silmä Silmästä 3:41
6. Metallisydän 5:27
7. Orjatar 3:11
8. Tuonelaan 3:33
9. Metallitotuus 4:30
10. Voittamaton 3:50
11. Teräksen Varjo 4:32
12. Maljanne Nostakaa 6:05

Band members
Jarkko Ahola – lead vocals, bass
Arto Järvinen – guitar, vocals
Viljo Rantanen – guitar
Jari Kuokkanen – drums