Concert Review – Cradle of Filth (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 04/11/2018)

Four American boys, four Ukrainian metallers, a multi-cultural Extreme Metal institution and endless mosh pits. That’s what Toronto got in another memorable night of heavy music.

OPENING ACTS: Uncured and Jinjer

My neck and back still hurt today, and I don’t think it’s (just) because of my age, but because the three bands that hit the stage at the small but flammable The Opera House this Wednesday night in Toronto kicked some serious ass from start to finish, igniting nonstop circle pits during the whole night and, as a consequence, making every single fan at the venue more than happy to have spent a few good bucks on their concert tickets. It might be taking a while for the weather in Toronto to warm up in this beginning of spring, but the temperature inside The Opera House on Wednesday was definitely as hot as the fires from the depths of hell for another night of the CRYPTORIANA WORLD TOUR NORTH AMERICA 2018 with the bands Uncured, Jinjer and, above all, the majestic Cradle of Filth.

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

After having two slices of pizza in order to properly face the hurricane of metal music that was about to come, I headed to The Opera House (which by the way seemed to be sold out) to enjoy the first band of the night, the technical and heavy American Progressive Death/Groove Metal UNCURED. Formed in 2014 in New York City, the quartet comprised of brothers Rex and Zak Cox sharing the vocals and guitar duties (and before you ask, they’re not twins), Jon Kita on bass, and Liam Manley on drums delivered a very solid performance on stage, still promoting their latest album Medusa, released in 2017 (which you can listen in its entirety HERE). Those boys didn’t stop headbanging and shredding not even for a single second, receiving a very positive feedback from the crowd already jammed in the floor section. This is the second time I saw Uncured live and they’re just getting better and better, pointing to a bright future ahead of them. From their setlist I highly recommend the songs Stygian Valley and Myopic (both from Medusa), and their brand new song Terminal, the best of their concert in my opinion. And lastly, I just want to send a quick message to the guy from the crowd that called them “Backstreet Boys”: they might be boys, but they’re talented metalheads, so shut up and try doing something useful for society like what Uncured are doing with their first-class metal music, right?

Setlist
Stygian Valley
Petrified
Myopic
Dilate
Persia (Spontaneous Regeneration alternative version)
Terminal

Band members
Rex Cox – vocals, guitars
Zak Cox – vocals, guitars
Jon Kita – bass
Liam Manley – drums 

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

After a short break it was time for an explosion of Metalcore made in Ukraine, courtesy of the sexy frontwoman Tatiana Shmaylyuk and her interesting band JINJER. If you’ve never heard of Jinjer, the band was brought into being in 2009 in the city of Horlivka, having already released a few interesting studio albums, like their 2014 opus Cloud Factory (reissued now in 2018, only a couple of years after its original release for reasons beyond my comprehension). Their concert was energetic and straight to the point, with Tatiana leading her henchmen and having a very good interaction with the fans. The only issue for me was the quality of the sound coming from the drums, which sounded during most of their set like the annoying “frying pan beating” sound from Lars’ drums in Metallica’s hideous St. Anger, but nothing that could stop the band and their fans from having a very good time. As I enjoy Tatiana’s deep, enraged growls a lot more than her clean vocals, my top moments of their concert were for sure Who Is Gonna Be the One (from their 2014 album Cloud Factory) and Captain Clock (from their 2016 album King Of Everything), not only warming up the fans at the venue for the main attraction of the night, but also urging everyone to jump up and down and break their necks just like what we always expect from a good Metalcore band.

Setlist
Prologue
Who Is Gonna Be the One
Words of Wisdom
Sit Stay Roll Over
I Speak Astronomy
Just Another
Pisces
Captain Clock
Outlander
No Hoard of Value
Bad Water
Beggars’ Dance

Band members
Tatiana Shmaylyuk – vocals
Roman Ibramhalilov – guitar
Eugene Kostyuk – bass
Vlad Ulasevich – drums 

CRADLE OF FILTH

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

One thing that always impresses me at The Opera House is the insane speed and very little amount of time the bands and their crew take to switch the whole equipment from one band to another, which is why we didn’t have to wait for too long for another superb, violent and blackened performance by British Extreme Metal institution CRADLE OF FILTH. Spearheaded by the iconic Dani Filth and promoting their latest opus, the excellent Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay, released in 2017, the band didn’t show any mercy on our souls, blasting some of their most visceral, complex and beautiful compositions from their unparalleled career that already lasts for impressive 27 years (and please don’t ask me how Dani can still growl and scream flawlessly like a demon after almost three decades). Well, when you open the show with songs like the aggressive Gilded Cunt and one of my favorite songs of all time, the masterpiece Beneath the Howling Stars, you know the whole concert will be brutal.

The rest of the band was also on fire, providing the perfect instrumental for Dani to thrive on vocals, in special the bestial drummer Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka behind his glass cage (not sure if that cage is for sound or security purposes), and Oshawa-own beauty Lindsay Schoolcraft, who once again could not hide her happiness for playing with Cradle of Filth in front of her very own people. She was fantastic throughout the entire concert, and didn’t even know how to thank the fans for such warm reception. Actually, it’s us fans who have to thank her for such awesome performance, embellishing classic tunes like The Death of Love, Nymphetamine and Her Ghost in the Fog with her powerful voice.

One of the highlights of the night was undoubtedly the execution of the 11-minute extravaganza Bathory Aria, a marvelous and intricate song I honestly never thought I would be able to witness them playing live. Dani explained they’re playing it as the start of the celebrations of 20 years of what’s in my opinion the best Cradle of Filth album of all time, their 1998 concept opus Cruelty And The Beast (and get ready, because Dani mentioned already they’re planning to release a very special 20th anniversary edition of the album). The brand new songs from Cryptoriana also worked really well, with Heartbreak and Séance sounding simply astounding live, proving once again that Cradle of Filth are a band that don’t just defy time, they kick it in the ass and keep delivering awesomeness album after album, year after year, for our total delectation.

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

One thing I really enjoy about Dani is how fun and somehow cryptic he always sounds when interacting with the crowd (and he knows we love that). When he’s in town, he always makes sure he praises his Canadian fans, he shows his respect for his supporting acts (demanding a huge ovation for Uncured and Jinjer for their excellent performances), and always finds time to make a peculiar joke about something very Canadian. I remember a few years ago when he said he loved getting to Canada during winter, as our Canadian winter is truly unique, and this time he mentioned a lot of times his admiration for Canadian professional tennis player Eugenie Bouchard. I have absolutely no idea why he mentioned “Genie” Bouchard and dedicated so many songs to her, as she has pretty much no connection to heavy music as far as I know. Apart from being a bombshell and for having lots of serious issues in her tennis career, I don’t see why Dani loves her so much. Well, maybe those are the two reasons why, right?

Anyway, after the classic From the Cradle to Enslave, and after almost two hours of nonstop, electrifying mosh pits (even during a dark ballad like Nymphetamine there were people crushing their skulls inside the pit like wild beats), the concert was over and fans could head home, have another beer, take pictures with the guys from Uncured and Jinjer, and start thinking how they would be able to work the following day after a true avalanche of high-quality extreme music, courtesy of four American boys, four Ukrainian metallers, and a multi-cultural outfit that knows better than anyone else in the world how to perfectly blend Extreme Metal with a theatrical performance, fantastic lyrics and endless energy and pleasure for being able to be on stage for all of us fans.

Setlist
ACT I
Ave Satani (Intro)
Gilded Cunt
Beneath the Howling Stars
Blackest Magick in Practice
Heartbreak and Séance
Bathory Aria: Benighted Like Usher / A Murder of Ravens in Fugue / Eyes That
Witnessed Madness
Dusk and Her Embrace
The Death of Love
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
Nymphetamine (Fix)
Her Ghost in the Fog
Born in a Burial Gown
From the Cradle to Enslave
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

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Metal Chick of the Month – Morgan Lacroix

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In your nightmares you will find me… In this twilight you will taste my embrace…

Whenever a female performer is selected to be the Metal Chick of the Month here at The Headbanging Moose, she’s not chosen only because of her skills as a musician, but mainly due to her significant contribution to the development of women in the world of heavy music. Having said that, it couldn’t be different this month with our metallic diva, the darkling Italian succubus Morgan Lacroix (or MorgaN LacroiX), the sexy frontwoman, lyricist, composer, producer and (why not?) lady vampire of Italian Gothic/Dark/Industrial Metal band Mandragora Scream (also spelled MandragorA ScreaM). Are you ready for a journey through the dark realms of vampirism with our enigmatic modern-day medusa?

It was more than obvious that I wouldn’t be able to find anything about Morgan’s age, place of birth or music background. We’re talking about a vampire, creatures that, above all things, must remain in the shadows and keep their lives as secret as possible. Well, as Mandragora Scream is a band from the comune of Lucca, located on the Serchio river in Italy’s Tuscany region and famous for its intact Renaissance-era city walls, let’s assume she was also born in that same city. Whatever she did between being born and founding Mandragora Scream is something yet to be revealed by Morgan Lacroix herself, which means the focus will be solely on her career with the band.

Although Mandragora Scream were formed back in 1997 by Morgan, it was only in 1999 that the band released its debut self-titled demo containing four songs. Then in 2000 Morgan was introduced to Italian singer, guitarist and composer Terry Horn, and that artistic union resulted in their first full-length album, entitled Fairy Tales from Hell’s Caves, released in the year of 2001. According to the band, “Fairy Tales is definitely a concept album: a trip throughout the Dantean Hell, tormented by passion, anguish and insanity, where the character of Virgil is surprisingly replaced by an unusual bewitching vampire fairy.”

After that amazing debut, the band released the albums A Whisper of Dew (2003), Madhouse (2006), Volturna (2009) and Luciferland (2012), as well as the singles Jeanne d’Arc (2007) and From the Heart (2010), and a DVD named Dragonfly (2008), always providing us the lustful voice of our diva of darkness and also her own devilish touch to all lyrics, cover artwork, mixing, mastering, production and booklets. In addition, from those releases, A Whisper of Dew is also a concept album, centered on a vampire story purposely written for the band by Julio Angel Olivares Merino, horror-gothic literature writer and teacher of English Philosophy at the Spanish University of Jaén. Drawing inspiration from this tale, Lacroix composed the entire album lyrics. Also, in regards to their latest album Luciferland, there’s an interesting and extensive three-part interview on YouTube where both Morgan and Terry discuss about the album with Metal Hammer, which can be seen HERE, HERE and HERE.

Mandragora Scream are also featured on the international compilations Beauty in the Darkness Vol. 5 (2001), Mystic Art (2001), Nuclear Blast Vol. 6 (2001), Off Road Tracks Vol. 45 (2003) and Beautiful Voices (2005), toured with renowned dark bands Christian Death and The 69 Eyes in 2010 and with British Extreme Metal masters Cradle of Filth in 2011, and were the special guests in the 2010 edition of the Fantasy Horror Award. There are numerous videos on YouTube (and other platforms) where you can relish Morgan’s alluring vocals, sensuous moves and bewitching performance, as for instance in the songs A Vision They Shared, Blight Thrills, Medusa, Blindness, Breaking Dawn, Silent Lullabies, Bloody Ballade, the whimsical The Chant of Furies, and her awesome cover version for Cher’s Bang Bang, among others. Besides her work with Mandragora Scream, you can find Madame Lacroix lending her voice to the bonus song Watch Me Crawl Behind, from the 2012 album Happy Deathday by Greek Gothic Metal band SadDolls, and to the song The Promise, from the 2004 album Follow Me by Italian Power Metal band Wonderland.

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When asked in 2001 to provide more details about the history of Mandragora Scream, her explanation was beyond eccentric. In her own words, “The history of the name Mandragora Scream goes back to the medieval period. At that time witches used a root to make love and death potions called ‘Mandragora’.This root with man-shape was generated by the ejaculations of a hanged man and it needed to be pulled out from the earth with particular magic rites during full moon nights. When extracting the root from earth, witches had to be very careful not to break the arms or legs of the root, otherwise it would have screamed so loud to bring witches to death.” Interesting, isn’t it?

In regards to her unique style, our vampire queen mentioned her lyrics and the atmosphere found in her music reflect her soul, her life and her personality, preserving that way her own musical identity. Furthermore, Morgan grew up with fairy tales, in which she truly believes, feeling and living her own life like a fairy tale. In one of her old interviews, Morgan mentioned she wrote a book (probably in 2000) that is a fairy tale for her angels in the form of decadent poetry called “The Ballad Of The Angels”, but yet again I couldn’t find anything online about that book. It should be a very interesting and unusual reading, if that has ever been published, of course.

Another remarkable fact about her personal life is that she doesn’t actually feel Italian as her ancient blood is Transylvanian, and because of that she is fascinated with Dante’s La Divina Comedia (The Divine Comedy), considering it a masterpiece (who doesn’t?) as it deals with the dead and eternal pain.  And to make things even more complex, Morgan also loves the Scandinavian culture and is attracted to Vikings. Add to that her lovely obsession for fairy tales, and there you have one of the most distinctive and diverse fusion of topics you can think of.

Her favorite albums of all time are a classy mix of progressiveness, passion and liveliness, and do not expect to find anything too Gothic, modern or ghoulish on her list, as it includes Blackmore’s Night’s best album to date Shadow of the Moon, Dream Theater’s classic album Metropolis, Pink Floyd’s masterpiece The Dark Side of the Moon, King Crimson’s In the Wake of Poseidon, Yes’ Close to the Edge and Genesis’ Nursery Crime. In addition to that, she’s also a huge admirer of Queensrÿche and obviously of the vocals by Geoff Tate, especially the song Someone Else?, which she used to listen to when she started singing.

At long last, are you curious to know what the meaning of life and death is to our goddess of Dark Metal? Morgan firmly believes in reincarnation, which means life for her is a long path we are following and while we walk along this path we have to learn lessons, sometimes highly spiritual lessons. She completes her train of thought by saying that we always have to give our souls a chance to fly a little higher, closer to the divine, and that we could probably say that death is a little like “changing skin”. In my opinion, this is a stunning concept by an even more stunning diva of heavy music.

Morgan Lacroix’s Official Facebook page
Morgan Lacroix’s Official Twitter
Mandragora Scream’s Official Facebook page
Mandragora Scream’s Official Twitter

“Try and wake up the valiant warrior sleeping within you, he may have fallen asleep in one of your previous lives. And, first and foremost, don’t let your flesh be just food for worms.  Let there be someone with your blood after you, in this way you’ll be able to prove you did not live in vain and your image will be reflected by your heirs as if in a mirror.” – Morgan Lacroix

Album Review – Tarja / Colours in the Dark (2013)

While Nightwish unfortunately perishes day after day without a decent singer, Tarja keeps providing us some excellent heavy music with her strong solo career.

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Tarja_Colours-In-The-Dark_StandardWhen Tarja Turunen (the prettiest female singer in the world!) left Nightwish a few years ago, everybody thought she was over in the world of heavy music (she even said so in some interviews). Tuomas Holopainen is a very talented and creative musician, and without him nobody knew how she would be able to survive. Well, today I guess it’s the exact opposite: Tarja has a very solid solo career, while Tuomas is completely lost with his band due to his gigantic ego. And now once again Tarja releases a very good album full of melody, consolidating her as one of the most important female voices in Heavy Metal of all time.

Victim of Ritual, the opening track, is a kind of “Metal Opera” that joins Tarja’s beautiful voice, a nice rhythm, and an interesting mix of different sounds. I love the chorus when she sings victim of rrrrrrrrrritual! Then comes 500 Letters, a regular song from Tarja with nothing new to show us. The next song, Lucid Dreamer, is a good example of what she can do with her voice, while in Never Enough she gives her special Nordic ingredient to it by starting with the words y, ka, ko, ne! This is our famous one, two, three, four, but in Finnish, and I must say a nice start to one of the best songs of the album, followed by a track called Mystique Voyage, a good ballad totally focused on her unique voice.

Tarja_Colours-In-The-DarkThe next track is a cover song: I listened to the original version from Peter Gabriel for the song Darkness, and I think Tarja’s version is very similar to it. It’s good, but not even close to the quality of her version for Alice Cooper’s Poison. Anyway, I would really enjoy seeing Peter and Tarja doing a duet for Darkness live someday! Deliverance is just another one of Tarja’s typical ballads, while Neverlight has that type of heavy riff I was expecting to find more in the rest of the songs. The album ends with another nice ballad, Until Silence, and the song Medusa, which in my opinion is the most beautiful song from Colours in the Dark.

Regarding the musicians, it’s always good to listen to Mike Terrana. He is amazing on drums even when he’s not playing at full speed. The other band members do a good job too: nothing extraordinary, though, but enough for what Tarja needs. The front cover is beautiful, of course, as it has Tarja on it! and not only that, it has a psychedelic touch that makes it very interesting for album art lovers.

To sum up, Colours in the Dark is not as original as My Winter Storm, which is my favorite Tarja album, but it’s a good work worth buying if you enjoy heavy music with a female voice, just not so heavy as Arch Enemy or The Agonist. And did anybody notice how Tarja is getting more and more beautiful year after year? I hope she comes to Canada for a full tour soon.

Best moments of the album: The songs Victim of Ritual, Never Enough, Neverlight and Medusa.

Worst moments of the album: The keyboards and piano seem to be more important than the guitar, which is not that bad, but I feel there’s a lack of good riffs and solos in the whole album that could have given more punch to it.

Released in 2013 earMUSIC

Track listing
1. Victim of Ritual 5:54
2. 500 Letters 4:22
3. Lucid Dreamer 7:28
4. Never Enough 5:20
5. Mystique Voyage 7:14
6. Darkness 5:38
7. Deliverance 7:27
8. Neverlight 4:33
9. Until Silence 5:03
10. Medusa (feat. Justin Furstenfeld) 8:12

iTunes edition bonus tracks
11. Neverlight (Full Orchestral Version)
12. Until Silence (Orchestral Version)

Band members
Tarja Turunen – Lead vocals and piano
Alex Scholpp, Julian Barrett – Guitar
Kevin Chown, Doug Wimbish – Bass guitar
Christian Kretschmar – Keyboards
Mike Terrana – Drums
Max Lilja – Cello