Album Review – Coiled Around Thy Spine / Shades (2018)

An astonishing combination of brutal violence, shredding guitar solos, blasting drums and soaring vocals inspired by classic and melodic Death Metal.

If you consider yourself a diehard fan of modern-day Melodic Death Metal you have to take a very good and detailed listen at Shades, the debut album by Italian metallers Coiled Around Thy Spine. Formed in 2017 in the city of Turin by Italian guitarist Sergio Costa, when he met American drummer David Archie Weiss online, Coiled Around Thy Spine not only have their core essence deeply rooted in Melodic Death Metal, but it’s the classic Death Metal influences spiced up by symphonic elements that make their music so entertaining, electrifying and vibrant, with all songs in Shades being highly recommended for slamming into the pit, banging your head nonstop or simply enjoy their intricate and flammable waves.

After Sergio and David started working on the music together, they decided to expand beyond the initial instrumental idea, recruiting Italian vocalist Daniele Rosso to complete the band’s lineup.  Unfortunately, David decided to quit the band for personal reasons before the release of Shades, but that doesn’t mean Coiled Around Thy Spine will call it quits and cease their quest for top-tier metal music. Quite the contrary, featuring a simple but very effective artwork by TheSmashedRabbit, Shades is an astonishing combination of brutal violence, shredding guitar solos, blasting drums and soaring vocals, inspired by classic and melodic Death Metal as well as contemporary metal masterpieces alike, proving this up-and-coming metal unity is here to stay, and after listening to the album you’ll certainly be eager for more of their music.

A movie-inspired intro named Candles builds the ambiance for the hard-hitting tune [God Mode: On], blending the most visceral and modern elements from Melodic Death Metal and Blackened Death Metal, sounding absolutely pulverizing form start to finish with Daniele blasting devilish gnarls and growls while Sergio Costa shreds his guitar in a demonic way. Put differently, this can be called an evil and bastard hybrid of Behemoth and Dimmu Borgir. Then we have Dissected, where David sounds beyond brutal on drums, elevating the impact of this hellish tune considerably, also presenting hints of the music by Arch Enemy on vocals and guitars and flowing demonically until the end; followed by How Freedom Dies, another crushing spawn by the power trio where the strident and sharp sound of guitars is simply outstanding, bringing a high dosage of malignancy to the music. Moreover, its background keyboards add a touch of delicacy to the ambience, bringing more balance to this well-crafted, full-bodied chant. And their Arch Enemy-like vein arises once again in the title-track Shades, a darker and more melodic metal extravaganza than its predecessors, with the only issue being that the music never reaches the same speed as the rest of the album (its level of heaviness and aggression is still quite gargantuan, though).

Their intricate and berserk feast of sounds and tones goes on in Subhumanized, led by the lancinating riffs and solos by Sergio while David keeps smashing his drums, sounding modern and vile from start to finish, whereas in The Sick Game, their most demonic song of all, guitars and keys complement each other flawlessly, supported by the pulverizing drumming by David. Furthermore, the song also displays interesting nuances of Progressive Death and Black Metal, resulting in a lesson in extreme music by the Italian trio where Daniele bursts his lungs screaming like a demon. The second to last spawn of dark sounds by Coiled Around Thy Spine, titled In Vain, showcases more of their high-octane, flammable music tailored for banging your head frantically, with all three members sounding demented with their instruments (in special David and his Stygian beats and fills), and  their final avalanche of extreme sounds, named Safe, is perhaps their most obscure one, leaning towards modern Black Metal in a true feast of rhythm, harmony, and darkness led by Daniele and his otherworldly growls, not to mention Sergio and his neck-breaking riffs, ending the album in a menacing and climatic manner.

You can listen to Shades in full on Spotify, and if you have what it takes to face the modern and absolutely threatening music by Coiled Around Thy Spine you should definitely visit their Facebook page for news, tour dates and everything else that’s related to the band, and purchase the album on iTunes or on Amazon. As aforementioned, Shades combines the brutality and heaviness of Death Metal with the finesse of modern-day Melodic Death Metal in a fantastic way, proving this now Italian duo (who will certainly find another sensational drummer to replace David soon) has all that’s needed to thrive in the world of heavy music. And we’ll all be eagerly waiting for more of their incendiary music in the near future, of course.

Best moments of the album: [God Mode: On], How Freedom Dies and The Sick Game.

Worst moments of the album: Shades.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Candles 1:54
2. [God Mode: On] 5:36
3. Dissected 6:17
4. How Freedom Dies 4:48
5. Shades 6:52
6. Subhumanized 5:54
7. The Sick Game 5:16
8. In Vain 5:59
9. Safe 7:50

Band members
Daniele Rosso – vocals
Sergio Costa – guitars, bass, synth
David Archie Weiss – drums, synth

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Album Review – Malefic By Design / Definitive Indication of Supremacy (2018)

Behold a band of underground veterans from Finland and their deadly debut full-length strike, a pulverizing opus that will summon you to a claustrophobic journey through blazing Armageddon.

Founded in 2015 in the city of Turku, Finland by underground metal veterans Mika Ikonen on vocals, Ville Pekkala, Sasu Haapanen and Miska Lehtivuori on the guitars and Antti Hakkala on drums (and if you haven’t noticed yet, there’s no bass player in their current lineup), who by the way have already released several previous efforts through multiple bands such as Searing Meadow, Ablaze In Hatred, Fall of the Leafe, Mormânt De Snagov and Devastracktor, Blackened Death Metal beast Malefic By Design has just released their deadly debut full-length strike, titled Definitive Indication of Supremacy, a pulverizing collection of catchy choruses and incendiary melodies that will certainly please all fans of modern extreme music.

Recorded in quiet solitude and far away from the public eye, Definitive Indication of Supremacy thoroughly blends the band’s Death Metal core essence with nuances from other styles such as Black and Doom Metal, summoning you to a sinister and claustrophobic journey through blazing Armageddon surrounded by a somber and devilish atmosphere.  The dark and primeval cover art is a good indication of what you’re going to face as soon as you hit play and start listening to the 12 Stygian tracks from Definitive Indication of Supremacy, showing Malefic By Design are among us to spread evil, hate and blasphemy. What else can you ask for in first-class Blackened Death Metal, right?

 The atmospheric and eerie intro Descending Sirens Of Evil opens the gates of the underworld to the demolishing Sickness Of Christ, a heavy and obscure Blackened Death Metal hymn with Mika delivering disturbing, deep growls while Antti dictates the rhythm with his precise beats. Then it’s time for almost seven minutes of pulverizing sounds and tones in Impending Doom, bringing together the most demonic elements of Black and Death Metal, with the band’s guitarists blasting a “melodic hell” with their strings; and the band goes full Black Metal in the visceral and brutal Enslaved By Birth, where Mika sounds more demented than before while Ville, Sasu and Miska bring forth another feast of satanic riffs and solos, resulting in one of the most complete (and therefore best) moments of the album.

Leaning towards traditional Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal, the band fires harmonious and visceral lines in the mid-tempo composition titled Repress The Oblivious, being beyond perfect for headbanging like a true disciple of darkness, whereas in Frozen Phantoms an ominous acoustic intro morphs into another explosion of blackened music by Malefic By Design, with the whole band being in some sort of demonic sync led by the boisterous drums by Antti, with Mika’s growls getting deeper and deeper as the music progresses. And Salvation For Everyone showcases hints of Symphonic Black Metal before reaching a frantic and heavy pace spearheaded by the once again furious drums by Antti, all embraced by a sinister background full of uncanny keyboard notes and sheer heaviness.

Medieval Beliefs is an old school Black and Death Metal creation tailored for succumbing to the dark side and snapping your neck headbanging, with the band’s stringed trio firing more of their diabolical riffs, creating an instant connection with the also very melodic Counterstrike Despise, also closer to more modern Melodic Death Metal while maintaining a vile aura in the background. Furthermore, Mika and his sick gnarls make a good balance with the delicate but fierce riffs by Ville, Sasu and Miska, which is also the case in Regenerated Reflections, an eerie fusion of contemporary Death Metal with traditional waltz (if that makes sense to you), also presenting elements from Doom and Dark Metal, and that amalgamation of styles results in a bold and thrilling chant with highlights to its beyond eccentric and obscure vocal lines. Then an enfolding atmosphere builds the stage for the heavy, mid-tempo Black Metal tune At The Gates, which despite being a good song it’s below the rest of the album in terms of electricity, falling flat after a while, fading into the acoustic outro Satanic Harmony, an interesting way to “depressurize” from all the madness blasted during the entire album.

In summary, Definitive Indication of Supremacy, which is available for a full listen on Spotify and for purchase through several channels such as the More Hate Productions’ BandCamp, Keltainen Jäänsärkijä, Record Shop X, iTunes, Amazon and Discogs, not only brings top-tier Blackened Death Metal to your avid ears from start to finish, but it also positions Malefic By Design as one of the strongest new names in contemporary Scandinavian extreme music. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how impactful their debut album will be on Finnish territory as well as worldwide, and when we’ll be able to savor more of the band’s pugnacious malignancy in the form of a new album.

Best moments of the album: Enslaved By Birth, Salvation For Everyone and Regenerated Reflections.

Worst moments of the album: At The Gates.

Released in 2018 More Hate Productions

Track listing
1. Descending Sirens Of Evil (Instrumental) 1:58
2. Sickness Of Christ 3:46
3. Impending Doom 6:39
4. Enslaved By Birth 3:11
5. Repress The Oblivious 4:17
6. Frozen Phantoms 3:58
7. Salvation For Everyone 4:23
8. Medieval Beliefs 4:00
9. Counterstrike Despise 4:23
10. Regenerated Reflections 6:11
11. At The Gates 6:41
12. Satanic Harmony (Instrumental) 1:44

Band members
Mika Ikonen – vocals
Ville Pekkala – guitars
Sasu Haapanen – guitars, vocals
Miska Lehtivuori – guitars, vocals
Antti Hakkala – drums

Concert Review – Boonsdale Fest 2018 & Wacken Metal Battle Canada Final (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018)

After a year of silence, Wacken Metal Battle Canada returned in full force in a unique partnership with Boonsdale Fest to decide which underground band would raise the flag of Canadian metal high on “The Holy Land” of heavy music.

INTRODUCTION: BOONSDALE FEST AND WACKEN METAL BATTLE CANADA UNITED

There’s nothing better than a night of ass-kicking heavy music in the always fun month of June in the city of Toronto, and to make things even better how about uniting at The Opera House the 2nd annual Boonsdale Fest, organized by Boonsdale Records and featuring the bands MokomokaiOperus and Borealis, with the 2018 edition of Wacken Metal Battle Canada, where the Best from the West Hammerdrone battled the Best from the East Centuries of Decay for a place alongside the greatest names in the history heavy music at Wacken Open Air later this year. As there was no Wacken Metal Battle Canada in 2017 (each year Wacken allocates 28 slots at W.O.A. for the Metal Battle winners from 28 different countries, and due to the increasing number of countries some are asked to pause for a year to give the chance to others to participate, which was what happened to Canada last year), this year several Canadian independent and underground bands were more than eager to participate in the competition again, with qualifying rounds happening all over the country starting January 12,  until Calgary’s Hammerdrone and Toronto’s Centuries of Decay reached the desired final round in Toronto this Saturday.

In 2016, Wacken Metal Battle Canada crowned Death/Thrash Metal band Profaner as champions, who then by the way advanced to be 2nd place at the international Metal Battle at W.O.A. that same year, so who would be granted the chance to represent Canada at the biggest metal festival in the world in 2018? Well, it’s time to rumble to the heavy music by Centuries of Decay, Hammerdrone, Mokomokai, Operus and Borealis, and wait for guest judges Gustavo Valderrama (Navaja Music, Electric Flow), Tim Henderson (Bravewords.com), Andrew Epstein (Zombitrol Productions, Alan Cross’ A Journal of Musical Things), Chris Gonda (PureGrainAudio.com), Charlie Felix (Sound & Noise, Live Talent), Oscar Rangel (Operus, Ex-Annihilator), Wojtek Sokolowski (Operus) and Luc Lainé (CFLX 95,5 FM) to decide which band would rule them all!

CENTURIES OF DECAY

Centuries of Decay @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Precisely at 9pm Toronto’s own Progressive/Atmospheric Death Metal act Centuries of Decay hit the stage at The Opera House showing why they were chosen Eastern Canadian Metal Battle champions, led by the deep and very melodic growls by vocalist and guitarist Devin Doucette. Formed in 2014, the quartet released in 2017 their debut self-titled album, available for a listen (and obviously for purchase) at their own BandCamp page, and that album was basically what the metalheads at the venue had the pleasure to witness them playing live. With songs getting close to or even breaking the 10-minute mark, something unimaginable for any artist or band from most non-metal styles that are in pursuit of stardom, Centuries of Decay inspired everyone in the crowd to bang their heads nonstop and feel embraced by their atmospheric music, generating a very nice and interesting feeling in all of us. That’s how exciting progressive and atmospheric heavy music can be, and if these are just the initial steps in the promising career of Centuries of Decay, I can’t wait to see what those four metallers will bring next.

Band members
Devin Doucette – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob McAllister – lead guitar, backing vocals
Matt Hems – bass
Derrick Doucette – drums

HAMMERDRONE

Hammerdrone @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

After a quick bathroom/beer break, it was time for the winners of the West Hammerdrone to make a lot of noise and crush us with their unrelenting Melodic Death Metal, opening their performance with the violent Dark Harvest, the title-track from their 2017 opus Dark Harvest, which you can buy directly from their BandCamp page, a concept album inspired by the real life but obscure tale of the Scottish terrorist organization the Dark Harvest Commando. Frontman Grahma Harris was on fire during the entire concert, growling and roaring (and also making faces) like a beast, while his bandmates Rick Cardellini (lead guitars), Curtis Beardy (rhythm guitars), Teran Wyer (bass) and Vince Cardellini (drums) delivered a well-balanced fusion of the more harmonious lines from Melodic Death Metal with the sheer heaviness and aggressiveness of old school Death Metal. As a matter of fact, you can download for free a live EP by Hammerdrone titled Rituals of Battle from their BandCamp page, just to give you an idea of how awesome their music sounds live. And after Hammerdrone’s concert was over, I knew the judges were going to have a very difficult time deciding who should be crowned the 2018 champions. Well, at least they had a few more excellent concerts to go until then.

Band members
Graham Harris – vocals
Rick Cardellini – lead guitars
Curtis Beardy – rhythm guitars, backing vocals
Teran Wyer – bass, vocals
Vince Cardellini – drums

MOKOMOKAI

Mokomokai @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

When Peterborough-based four-piece band Mokomokai began blasting their electrifying blend of old school Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, I guess we could say it was the “official” start of Boonsdale Fest, and let me tell you it looked like their Rock N’ Roll party had no time to end. Formed in 2011, and having a distinct name inspired by the preserved heads of Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, the quartet formed by John Ellis on vocals and guitar, Bobby Deuce on the guitar, Jeremy Pastic on bass and J J Tartaglia on drums put everyone at the venue to dance with their flammable music, playing songs from their 2017 album The Poison Whiptail, like the excellent Heavy Metal Sky, as well as a cover version for the classic The Wizard, by Black Sabbath (check out the original version HERE), taken from their 1970 masterpiece Black Sabbath, with John even playing the song’s traditional harmonica. After such high level of adrenaline, I have only one thing to say about Mokomokai: if they visit your hometown, don’t miss the chance to see them kicking some serious ass live.

Band members
John Ellis – vocals, guitar
Bobby Deuce – lead & rhythm guitar
Jeremy Pastic – bass
J.J. Tartaglia – drums 

OPERUS

Operus @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Perhaps the performance by the following band of the night, Toronto-based Epic Symphonic Metal squad Operus, was the most peculiar of the entire event due to all the unique elements found during their concert (and one of them was definitely not on purpose). Formed in 2005, this six-piece act put on an extremely entertaining and atmospheric show still promoting their 2017 album Cenotaph, featuring Oscar Rangel (ex-Annihilator) on the guitar, cellist Robin Howe adding an extra touch of epicness to the band’s music, masked-frontman David Michael Moote with his passionate and theatrical performance, J.J. Tartaglia back on drums to play a completely different style from Mokomokai, and an injured bassist Wojtek Sokolowski who twisted his ankle right at the beginning of the show, but who refused to stop and managed to play their full set before going to ER (and that’s what I call a true metalhead!). That’s another band I highly recommend you go watch live if they’re scheduled to play at a venue near you, and you can find their latest album available on different platforms such as iTunes if epic and symphonic music is your cup of tea.

Band members
David Michael Moote – lead vocals
Rob Holden – guitar
Oscar Rangel – guitar, backing vocals, growls
Robin Howe – cello, backing vocals
Wojtek Sokolowski – bass, backing vocals
J.J. Tartaglia – drums 

BOREALIS

Borealis @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Last but not least, the festival ended with another very progressive and melodic band named Borealis, formed in 2005 in the Ontarian city of Orangeville, who also delivered a solid and delightful performance playing songs from all of their five full-length albums, such as Revelation, from their 2015 album Purgatory, and The Awakening, from their brand new opus The Offering, released earlier this year. Comprised of lead singer and guitarist Matt Marinelli (who had his bottle of water wisely placed on his mic stand looking like he was going to deliver some “wah wah’s” with his guitar when he was actually just thirsty as hell), guitarist Ken Fobert, bassist Trevor McBride, keyboardist Sean Werlick and drummer Sean Dowell, Borealis did not disappoint their fans, filling all empty spaces in the air with their classy Melodic and Power Metal and keeping everyone pumped up even with the clock getting close to 2am. That’s another band I highly recommend you go check them live as well as go after their discography, because it’s not only top-tier metal music, but the overall production of their albums is also outstanding.

Band members
Matt Marinelli – vocals, guitars
Ken Fobert – guitars
Trevor McBride – bass
Sean Werlick – keyboards
Sean Dowell – drums

AND THE WINNER IS…

Centuries of Decay – 2018 Wacken Metal Battle Canada Winner

…Toronto’s own Progressive/Atmospheric Death Metal squad CENTURIES OF DECAY! It was indeed an amazing concert, and I’m sure they will proudly carry the flag of Canadian metal high during their journey through the holy land of Wacken. Actually, I really wish Wacken Metal Battle Canada could send two bands to the festival, because Hammerdrone were just as demolishing and professional as the Metal Battle winners. At least now more people will get to know Hammerdrone and all other bands of the night, which in the end is the ultimate goal of the Metal Battle and of festivals like Boonsdale Fest, keeping the fire of metal alive by always presenting to us fans new incredible bands from the underground scene. For instance, there was this old school, diehard metalhead (drinking beer at an insane speed of “two tall boys every five minutes”, but who was still able to walk, talk and headbang as if he was having just water) who asked me right after Operus if there was still more to come, and when I said there was still one more band he showed a huge and honest smile and said “this is great, eh?”, and if independent bands can still extract that type of reaction from a veteran like that guy, well, that’s another proof that metal music will never die. Now let’s wait until next year to see which new name will represent Canada at W.O.A. 2019, and if you already have your tickets for the festival this year, don’t forget to go say “hi” and raise your horns to the guys from Centuries of Decay.

Album Review – North Hammer / Stormcaller (2018)

Armed with his debut album and a strong passion for all things Viking and Folk Metal, here comes a dauntless one-warrior metal machine from the winterly lands of Canada.

“Thou camest near the next, O warrior Thor!
Shouldering thy hammer, in thy chariot drawn,
Swaying the long-hair’d goats with silver’d rein.” – from ‘Balder Dead’

Inspired by the Viking and folk music played by renowned acts such as Wintersun, Ensiferum, Amon Amarth and Blind Guardian, and in special by Swedish multi-instrumentalist Tomas Börje Forsberg, the iconic Quorthon (1966 – 2004) from Black Metal institution Bathory, who’s also credited with creating the Viking Metal style, here comes Folk/Viking Metal one-man army (or one-warrior metal machine, as he prefers) North Hammer armed with his debut full-length album, Stormcaller, a 21st century continuation of the work of Norse bards who inspired the ancient poem above.

Formed in 2017 in the northern lands of Edmonton, in the province of Alberta, Canada by multi-instrumentalist Andrew James (Eye of Horus, Shotgunner), North Hammer is the representation of the common theme winter that comes up in metal music and a reference to Canada (the “north”), and Andrew’s personal tribute to Mjolnir, or Thor’s Hammer. Andrew wrote and recorded the vocals, guitars, bass and orchestration in Stormcaller, along with drums done by Doug Helcaraxë Nunez and a classic artwork by Mark Erskine (Erskine Designs), and his goal with North Hammer and his new album is simple but powerful. “The experience I’m trying to give the listeners is that of a fellow fan. I want people to be euphoric for other bands that mean something to them like Ensiferum, Wintersun and Amon Amarth. To connect personally with my music and realize that I love and worship these bands.”

Epicness takes over the atmosphere in the opening track Avatar, filling every empty space before Andrew begins his growling attack, also bringing heavy and traditional riffs while Doug keeps the music at a vibrant pace. In other words, this is a beyond solid “welcome card” by North Hammer, setting the tone for Wanderer, and let me tell you it can’t get any more Folk Metal than this, as our minds and souls are treated to a strong and vibrant tune where Doug takes care of the song’s inspiring pace while Andrew continues to impress with all instruments and his harsh vocals. And presenting an introspective, catchy intro, Written in the Stars evolves into modern-day Folk Metal with Melodic Death Metal nuances, with Andrew’s vocals getting more intense and enraged, effectively accompanying the heaviness and melody of the guitars.

Magic Mead is one of those songs tailored for fans of the dancing heavy music by Ensiferum, showcasing more rhythmic, epic moments intertwined with sheer speed and progressiveness while its lyrics exhale Folk and Viking Metal (“Soilent earth sewn with blood / The enemy lays in the mud / A victory not to forget / And celebrate the worthy dead / In his eyes unrest subsides / For dreams of destiny he strides / Through the day and through the night / To behold this astral sight”); followed by an inspiring speech that ignites a feast of heavy and fast sounds titled Tip of the Spear, presenting the duo Andrew and Doug in perfect sync while they head together into the battlefield, with its classic guitar riffs and solos helping enhance its overall impact. Then it’s time to bang your head and raise your horns to all soldiers in the world to the flammable Folk Metal hymn A Soldier’s Song, led by the aggressive and potent growls by Andrew, keeping the album at a truly epic level.

Black Forest Rain is a serene, introspective instrumental bridge, with the sound of the acoustic guitars guiding us to the world of Spellbinder, where a soulful guitar solo by Andrew kicks things off before all hell breaks loose in another blast of classic Viking Metal perfect for singing along with Andrew and for slamming into the pit. Then we have the song that carries the name of the band, North Hammer, an Epic Metal extravaganza with all elements we love in the genre such as powerful vocal lines, gripping guitars, pounding drums and poetic lyrics (“Crack through the ice / Swim through the depths / Pulsing through your veins / Forget all the rest / High into the Skies / Relic of Old / North Hammer”), resulting into one of the best moments of the album without a shadow of a doubt; and North Hammer’s final breath of fire and thunder comes in the form of a song named Lion’s Winter, a demolishing Folk Metal chant where Doug is bestial on drums while Andrew takes his growling to a deeper and more violent level, flowing smoothly until its melodic finale.

One thing I’m only going to mention now about Stormcaller (which is available for a full listen HERE) is that this is a concept album describing the trials of a hero in a Nordic fantasy setting. The album has been rearranged in order to place appeal to the broader audience, but the actual progression of the story line is Written in the Stars, A Soldier’s Song, Magic Mead, Black Forest Rain, Wanderer, North Hammer, Tip of the Spear, Avatar, Spellbinder, and Lion’s Winter, which means if you buy the album from the band’s own BandCamp page, from Amazon or from CD Baby, you’ll be able to rearrange the tracks yourself and follow the story as it’s supposed to be. In addition, while North Hammer is a studio project at the moment, Andrew plans to put together a band of top-notch like-minded musicians in a not-so-distant future, and if you want to show your support for such brave metal warrior go check what he’s up to on Facebook, on SoundCloud and on ReverbNation. And of course, don’t forget to praise the Norse Gods whenever you’re about to enter the battlefield, inspired by the music by North Hammer and by all renowned Viking and folk bands Andrew loves so much.

Best moments of the album: Wanderer, Magic Mead and North Hammer.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Avatar 4:46
2. Wanderer 3:42
3. Written in the Stars 3:27
4. Magic Mead 4:11
5. Tip of the Spear 3:49
6. A Soldier’s Song 4:34
7. Black Forest Rain (Instrumental) 2:10
8. Spellbinder 3:36
9. North Hammer 3:26
10. Lion’s Winter 3:34

Band members
Andrew James – vocals, guitars, bass, orchestration

Guest musician
Doug Helcaraxë Nunez – drums

Album Review – The Fallen Prodigy / Relive//Regret//Repeat (2018)

Enjoy 11 stunning metal tracks influenced by a myriad of modern Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore elements, brought forth by a multi-talented female-fronted outfit hailing from New York City.

If you’re a fan of modern-day Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore, I highly recommend you go take a detailed listen at Relive//Regret//Repeat, the brand new album by New York City-based female-fronted outfit The Fallen Prodigy. Featuring a straight-to-the-point artwork by Rob Walden (Rob Walden Design), Relive//Regret//Repeat, the follow-up to the band’s 2015 EP Passengers, consists of 11 stunning metal tracks influenced by a myriad of modern metal elements, being absolutely perfect for fans of the high-octane music by renowned acts such as Trivium, Killswitch Engage, Arch Enemy, As I Lay Dying and All That Remains, among several others.

Comprised of the unstoppable Jay Jimenez on vocals, Andrew Padilla and Daniel Davenel on the guitars, Jonathan Rodriguez on bass, and Joseph Falzone on drums, The Fallen Prodigy solidified their lineup back in 2014 and wasted no time, putting together music that can crush the stereotypes that may surround the metal genre. Through hard work, dedication and great music, The Fallen Prodigy set out to bring something new and unique back to the metal scene, and the music found in Relive//Regret//Repeat will show you exactly what they mean by that, smashing you like an insect with its over 50 minutes of top-of-the-line Melodic Death Metal.

The opening track Extinct is modern, visceral and aggressive form the very first second, with the guitar duo Andrew and Daniel sounding absolutely fantastic. However, it’s Jay who steals the spotlight with both her deranged growls and her potent clean vocals, showcasing all her talented right from the start of the album. Even more violent than the album opener, Boy Who Cried Wolf presents a devilish Jay on vocals, singing and screaming about our vile human nature (“You live life like you deserve more than others / Manipulating everyone and everything to have things your way / You long for acceptance and will seek it at any cost / Consumed by arrogance you’ll always find yourself”), while Joseph doesn’t let the insanely high level of energy go down with his frantic beats; followed by Regret, which starts in an almost electronic vibe before exploding into vibrant Metalcore, with Jay once again providing a fantastic balance between her harsh screams and clean vocals and with the crisp sound of guitars boosting the song’s impact considerably.

Leaning towards more traditional Melodic Death Metal (especially the characteristic Scandinavian sound), the whole band blasts the fresh and gripping Stray, with highlights once again to the amazing sound extracted from the guitars by Andrew and Daniel, whereas Misery is led by the dynamic drumming by Joseph, with Jonathan delivering those rumbling Groove Metal punches from his bass while the music alternates between neck-breaking moments and total devastation. The awesome Eighty-Sixed is a heavier-than-hell, straight-to-the-face high-end Metalcore tune where the extremely talented Jay growls and screams nonstop like a rabid beast, or in other words, it’s that type of song that will ignite some serious circle pits during their live concerts; and featuring guest vocalist Lauren Babic of Canadian Alternative Metal act Red Handed Denial, Composure is a very technical and melodic creation by The Fallen Prodigy, yet still as aggressive as it can be, delivering a modern-day message from the band to our ears (“Disaster awaits those who find a home in a filth called misery / My soul is being held captive / Somewhere it’s screaming just let me go home / Just let me go home”).

Then get ready to bang your head like a maniac to the crushing main riff in Fractured, before a slamming feast begins led by the brutal beats by Joseph in a multi-layered composition where Jay thrives thanks to the amazing support provided by her bandmates. In Repeat, featuring guest vocals by Will Ramos of American Deathcore band A Wake in Providence, we face a band that doesn’t know the meaning of the word “soft”, with the total havoc blasted by the entire band being spiced up by the welcome dosage of progressiveness brought forth by the guitar duo to the musicality; followed by Relive, a good song that feels a bit confusing at times despite the always solid work done by the stringed trio Daniel, Andrew and Jonathan, accompanied by guest guitarist Angel Vivaldi. Last but not least, the final song of the album, titled Endure, is a solid statement by Jay and the guys that they will carry on no matter what, keeping the flame of Melodic Death Metal alive and kicking, enfolded in a classic sound with the band’s own twist, therefore ending the album on a truly high note.

You can listen to the entire Relive//Regret//Repeat on Spotify and get a better sense of how potent and dynamic the music by The Fallen Prodigy is, and also visit their Facebook page for news and tour dates, and their YouTube channel for more of their music. And in case you want to grab a copy of such electrifying album, there are several location where you can find it such as the band’s own BandCamp page and Big Cartel (as a CD + poster bundle or a CD + T-shirt bundle), on iTunes, on Amazon, or on CD Baby. If I were you I would definitely keep an eye on what The Fallen Prodigy are up to, because whenever they take your town by storm you must be there to experience a lesson in Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore, just like what they did in Relive//Regret//Repeat. In other words, do you think you have what it takes to face Jay and the guys?

Best moments of the album: Extinct, Boy Who Cried Wolf, Eighty-Sixed and Fractured.

Worst moments of the album: Relive.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Extinct 4:12
2. Boy Who Cried Wolf 4:32
3. Regret 5:55
4. Stray 4:14
5. Misery 4:22
6. Eighty-Sixed 3:10
7. Composure (feat. Lauren Babic) 5:32
8. Fractured 4:20
9. Repeat (feat. Will Ramos) 3:47
10. Relive (feat. Angel Vivaldi) 4:56
11. Endure 5:04

Band members
Jay Jimenez – vocals
Andrew Padilla – guitar
Daniel Davenel – guitar
Jonathan Rodriguez – bass
Joseph Falzone – drums

Guest musicians
Lauren Babic – vocals on “Composure”
Will Ramos – vocals on “Repeat”
Angel Vivaldi – guitars on “Relive”

Album Review – Forte Ruin / Rebuilding the Machinery EP (2018)

A talented six-piece Melodic Death Metal act from Finland returns with a brand new EP where they step up their game in terms of quality, intricacy and professionalism.

If you’ve been following The Headbanging Moose for a few years already, you might remember a Finnish Melodic Death Metal band from the city of Lahti named Forte Ruin, who released in 2015 their debut self-titled EP comprised of three original compositions filled with memorable melodies, powerful riffs and catchy choruses. Now in 2018 that talented six-piece metal act returns with a brand new EP entitled Rebuilding the Machinery, where not only they step up their game in terms of quality and intricacy, but the band formed by Arttu Ruusunen on lead vocals, Saku and Samu Aaltonen on guitars and backing vocals, Arto Viitanen on bass and backing vocals, Veli-Matti Kyllönen on keyboards, and Jere Aaltonen on drums sounds a lot more professional and ready to spread their music throughout the four corner of the earth.

And the EP kick off in full force with Down in Perdition, a very melodic and pounding creation by the sextet showcasing clean and rumbling sounds, spiced up by the futuristic keys by Veli-Matti while Arttu growls the song’s poetic lyrics rabidly (“All these revelations and present / Are finally align so that we’ll understand / Our time here has come to an end / In perdition we could meet again perchance”). Furthermore, Saku and Samu not only deliver excellent riffs during the whole song, but their solos are also beyond thrilling. Then deeply rooted in classic Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal we have the title-track Rebuilding the Machinery, faster than its predecessor and presenting a great balance between visceral growls and clean vocals, as well as a great job done by all band members with their instruments, in special Jere with his fierce and rhythmic beats.

Displaying hints of American Alternative and Nu Metal (and once again with the keys by Veli-Matti bringing a whimsical aura to the musicality), Colony Collapse Disorder exhales sheer electricity, with Arto delivering thunder through his menacing bass lines while the guitar solos elevate the song’s impact and taste considerably. In Electric Frames, just like what they did in their previous EP, Forte Ruin add nuances of Jazz and electronic music to their Scandinavian Metal, and the the final result couldn’t sound more fantastic, all boosted by the song’s lyrics which seem taken from a song from the 70’s (“Great illusion within’ electric frames / We can see the integration / While we process all the traveling light / Of electric frames”). And Saturation Point, featuring guest vocals by Jules Näveri from Profane Omen, is tailored for banging your head nonstop or playing some ass-kicking air guitar, with the bass lines by Arto bringing tons of groove to the musicality while the keys by Veli-Matti keep adding a touch of delicacy to the overall result.

Featuring a modern and sinister artwork by Finnish artist Marianna Maaninka, Rebuilding the Machinery not only has all the elements we search for in Melodic Death Metal, but it also brings additional layers of intricacy and feeling thanks to all other music styles Forte Ruin incorporate in their music, and in order to show your proper support to this Finnish squad go check their Facebook page, YouTube channel and Spotify for news and more of their music. You can purchase Rebuilding the Machinery from their own BandCamp page, as well as from Record Shop X or CD Baby, and add such distinct collection of Scandinavian Metal songs to your personal playlist, courtesy of a band that might be taking their initial steps in the world of heavy music, but that at the same time already sounds like veterans due to the high quality of their compositions and their utter professionalism.

Best moments of the album: Rebuilding the Machinery and Electric Frames.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing  
1. Down in Perdition 4:18
2. Rebuilding the Machinery 3:57
3. Colony Collapse Disorder 4:29
4. Electric Frames 4:24
5. Saturation Point (feat. Jules Näveri) 6:27

Band members
Arttu Ruusunen – lead vocals
Saku Aaltonen – guitars & backing vocals
Samu Aaltonen – guitars & backing vocals
Arto Viitanen – bass & backing vocals
Veli-Matti Kyllönen – keyboards
Jere Aaltonen – drums

Guest musician
Jules Näveri – guest vocals on “Saturation Point”

Album Review – Dormanth / IX Sins (2018)

Succumb to the dark side with the well-crafted and entertaining collection of crushing, riff-oriented Doom and Death Metal tunes by an old school act hailing from Spain.

Born in Bilbao, Spain in January 1993 after various experiences of its components in different bands, such as Nopresion, Beer Mosh and Elbereth, Melodic Doom/Death Metal act Dormanth went on an almost 20-year hibernation period in 1996 after releasing their debut album Valley of Dreams, in 1995, breaking the silence in 2015 with the release of the EP Voice of the Soul… Under the Tears of Sun, followed by the full-length album Winter Comes, in 2016. And it looks like Dormanth are on a roll on this second phase of the band, as their brand new album, titled IX Sins, is an extremely well-crafted and entertaining collection of crushing, riff-oriented metal tunes that will certainly drag your soul into pitch black darkness.

Comprised of founding member Oscar del Val on vocals and guitar, Javi Prieto on lead guitar, newcomer Miguel A. Richart on bass and Victor Franquelo on drums, Dormanth are an unstoppable Extreme Metal machine in IX Sins, delivering nine pestilent, heavier-than-hell compositions (or maybe we should call them “sins”) that will please most fans of the darker and more lugubrious vibe of the fusion between Doom and Death Metal. Furthermore, Spanish artist Igor “Mugi” Mugerza (Abigor Artwork) is again the artist chosen for the cover art concept, with the nine knights (clearly inspired by the Nazgûl, from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings) representing all the heaviness and obscurity present in the music by Dormanth.

Oscar and Javi begin their Black Metal-riffage onrush in the opening track Human Claim, a pounding funeral march that tells us all darkness is about to take over our minds in a dense and potent hybrid of Doom and Death Metal with melodic influences. After such strong start, the strident sound of guitars keeps permeating the air in another atmospheric and melodic composition titled Lamb Or Wolf, with the band’s guitar duo accelerating their riffs until all hell breaks loose. Moreover, the vocals by Oscar get more putrid and devilish as the music progresses, while Victor becomes the band’s driving force with his potent beats. And in Let See The Wood, we’re treated to a frantic and furious Death Metal extravaganza with Thrash Metal and Hardcore influences where Victor and Miguel simply demolish their instruments. Hence, the nonstop violence contained in this gripping tune will certainly set the crowd on fire during their live performances.

Slowing things down considerably and venturing through the realms of modern Doom Metal, the band offers the listener Like Ice, keeping a solid pace and providing Oscar exactly what he needs to fire his deep, enraged growls; followed by Promised Land, where Dormanth get back to a more piercing mix of Death and Black Metal. During its almost five minutes, Victor delivers from blast beats to rhythmic, galloping moments, while the band’s guitarists keep the sound cohesive and gripping with their riffs and solos. And the sixth “sin” of the album, entitled Soul Shall Die, once again leans towards more old school, sluggish Doom Metal, with Oscar growls being in perfect sync with Victor’s steady beats.

Misery is a potent, galloping tune with tons of shredding and demented beats and fills, showcasing an almost-Black Metal sound mixed with old school Death Metal and, as a consequence, reminding me of some of the creations by Swedish masters Unleashed; whereas The Skin, the second to last display of blackened sounds by Dormanth, begins with an old school guitar solo before all instruments explode, generating a menacing atmosphere, while its second half is a feast of shredding and blast beats intertwined with an eerie female voice. And closing this obscure album we have another threatening tune named Sands Of Frozen Tears, yet again displaying the band’s solid instrumental and Oscar’s deep growls, albeit not as vibrant as the rest of the album.

The dark and sinister realm of Dormanth can be better explored by visiting their Facebook page, and if you want to put your hands on IX Sins simply go to the band’s BandCamp page, to the Necromance Records’ Big Cartel or webshop, to the Dead Sheep Productions’ webshop, or to Discogs. Dormanth are also beyond ready to hit the road and bring to the stage the same energy and darkness flowing from their music, with the only difference being that their live lineup has studio bassist Miguel on the lead guitar (instead of bass), Isma Fernandez on bass, and original member Javi Martinez on drums, but of course still spearheaded by Oscar on vocals and guitar. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t really matter if you prefer staying home to listen to their studio version of the songs or if seeing them live is what really excites you, as long as you succumb to their captivating fusion of Death and Doom Metal.

Best moments of the album: Lamb Or Wolf, Let See The Wood and Misery.

Worst moments of the album: Sands Of Frozen Tears.

Released in 2018 Necromance Records/Base Record Production/Dead Sheep Productions

Track listing  
1. Human Claim 4:02
2. Lamb Or Wolf 4:29
3. Let See The Wood 4:46
4. Like Ice 4:38
5. Promised Land 4:55
6. Soul Shall Die 4:08
7. Misery 4:26
8. The Skin 4:32
9. Sands Of Frozen Tears 5:02

Band members
Oscar del Val – vocals, guitar
Javi Prieto – lead guitar
Miguel A. Richart – bass
Victor Franquelo – drums

Live members
Oscar del Val – vocals, guitar
Miguel A. Richart – lead guitar
Isma Fernandez – bass
Javi Martinez – drums

Album Review – Ways. / Aftermath EP (2018)

One of the most promising alternative bands from France returns with another powerful, dynamic and melodic display of modern-day rock and metal music.

After a promising career start with the release of their debut EP Watching From Afar, in 2016, Paris-based Alternative Rock/Metal act Ways. is back with the second installment of their always-evolving musical path, entitled Aftermath, an 8-track EP that brings all the band’s characteristic elements from their previous release, sounding powerful, dynamic and melodic throughout its almost 27 minutes of music.

Featuring a minimalistic and stylish artwork by Maxime Larrouturou, Aftermath once again presents an inspired band mixing several influences and styles in their music, from Alternative Rock and Metal to Post-Hardcore, while at the same time maintaining a very cohesive and solid core essence. Comprised of Clément on vocals, Bruno and Nico on the guitars, newcomer Niko on bass, and Tony on drums, Ways. are ready to strike once again with their uncompromising, unrelenting and modern music, and I’m sure you’ll have a good time listening to their unique creations in Aftermath.

Sheer melancholy flows from the guitars by Bruno and Nico in the introspective intro Twilight Until Dawn, before the band begins firing an acid message together with their aggressive, adrenaline-fueled instrumental in the modern-day Alternative Metal tune Death Row, with Clément growling the song’s lyrics in a desperate and anguished mode (“But the people around me / Don’t seem to want to play with me. / My neighbors, day after day, / Are caught, / The cages emptied and filled, / The door is closed behind me, / I believe in a game full of life and joy”). In However…, Rock N’ Roll riffs are blended with the more aggressive lines of Alternative Metal, with Tony smashing his drums and, consequently, giving the song a stronger vibe, while Clément presents some cleaner vocals amidst his furious screams; whereas in And Nobody Cares, Ways. accelerate their speed and increase their electricity, bringing hints of Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore to their characteristic sonority. In a nutshell, this is the song tailored for banging your heads nonstop, thanks to the crushing riffs by Bruno and Nico and the violent beats by Tony.

So Far So Good brings forward a belligerent sound led by the razor-edged riffs by the band’s guitar duo, while bassist Niko joins Tony to create a beyond dense background. Then we have a somber, pensive instrumental bridge titled Thirteen, setting the tone for the also fierce With Love, the most alternative of all songs from the EP, ignited by the metallic bass by Niko and with Clément delivering his piercing clean vocals as well as his deranged growls while the rest of the band fires melodious and heavy sounds from start to finish. And lastly, as a bonus track the band offers us all I See No Beauty, showcasing more of their slashing Alternative Metal and Rock and presenting austere lyrics about ecology, global warming, poaching and animals mistreatment (“Dropped in the jungle, / Still so young, / I try using violence, / I test, / I experience, / I grow up and feed myself / I see no beauty in the species that made me”).

To sum up, the second step in the career of Ways. is beyond solid and promising, showcasing a band that’s even sharper and more focused than before, and if you want to show your support to this French quintet go check what they’re up to on Facebook and on YouTube, and purchase Aftermath (which is available for a full listen on Spotify or on YouTube) from the band’s own BandCamp page. I’m certain that the next step for this talented Post-Hardcore/Metal act will be the release of their first full-length album, which will represent the combination of a lot of hard work, dedication and energy, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes for that to happen, if it’s as half as good as the music found in Aftermath it will certainly be worth the wait.

Best moments of the album: Death Row and And Nobody Cares.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Twilight Until Dawn 2:01
2. Death Row 3:14
3. However… 3:13
4. And Nobody Cares 3:32
5. So Far So Good 3:44
6. Thirteen 2:20
7. With Love 6:02

Bonus track
8. I See No Beauty 2:41

Band members
Clément – vocals
Bruno – guitar
Nico – guitar
Niko – bass
Tony – drums

Album Review – Mors Subita / Into the Pitch Black (2018)

Exploring a darker-than-usual path in their brand new album, this Finnish squad has all it takes to become a reference in modern and aggressive Melodic Death Metal.

Formed in 2000 in Oulu, a city located in central Finland, Mors Subita (Latin for “sudden death”) play what can be called “Aggressive Modern Melodic Death Metal”, having released since their inception two demos, two EP’s and two critically acclaimed full-length albums, the first titled Human Waste Compression, in 2011, and the second titled Degeneration, in 2015, which peaked at number 26 on the official Finnish album charts. Now after three years of touring and recording, the band comprised of Eemeli Bodde on vocals, Mika Lammassaari (Eternal Tears of Sorrow, Wolfheart) on guitars and backing vocals, Mika Junttila on bass, and Ville Miinala (Thyrane, Darker Grounds) on drums returns with a blistering new 11-track album titled Into the Pitch Black.

This new album from Mors Subita showcases just how far the band’s songwriting and musicianship has developed since the debut of their sophomore album, with these 11 new tracks being a testament to the work ethic employed within the band. With searing vocals, gut twisting melodies, fierce drumming and the fast yet always tasteful riffing the band has come to be known for, Into the Pitch Black builds on the identity Mors Subita has forged for themselves with their previous albums, and promises to not disappoint even the most hardened melodeath fan. These new compositions present a new dimension to the ever-evolving sound of the band, with even more emphasis being given to the melodies while also incorporating the use of industrial samples not heard on previous releases. The result has manifested in some of the heaviest and crushing tracks the band has ever written, while still encapsulating their signature sound which has set them apart from all others in the melodeath scene.

The short, futuristic intro Path to the Abyss revs up the engines for the melodic and aggressive As Humanity Weeps, with its lyrics about how vile the human soul can be (“How much more blood is there to shed before you realize, / That no one has the right to take another’s life. / Feed them pain, feed them fear. / Reduce yourself to human filth.”) and all the sonic devastation going on matching perfectly with the proposed theme. After such great start, the band fires another potent tune titled Dead Sun, where the guitar by Mika couldn’t sound more metallic and vibrant, while Eemeli delivers sheer rage through his screams in a solid display of modern Scandinavian Metal. And in Defeat we face contemporary sounds and tones in a very melodic and exciting atmosphere, again bringing Mika’s lancinating riffs and endless violence.

In the title-track Into the Pitch Black, they engage in their most Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal mode, with Mika doing a great job with his riffs while Ville keeps the rhythm at a nice headbanging pace with his beats. Then in Alas Ville puts the pedal to the metal with his accelerated beats and double bass, accompanied by the metallic bass by the band’s other Mika (Mika Junttila), generating a thrilling vibe for Eemeli and his visceral growls, therefore keeping the album at a high level of adrenaline and fury. And Mors Subita managed to get even more ferocious and angry in the belligerent tune I, God, with all band member being on fire (in special Ville with his Black Metal-inspired beats), resulting in a top-notch Melodic Death Metal extravaganza for our total delight.

Never slowing down or selling off, they keep blasting anti-mainstream compositions like Vultures, showcasing very melodic guitar lines by Mika while Ville increases the intricacy of his beats; followed by Fear is Just the Beginning, presenting three minutes of demolishing riffs and beats, with the screams by Eemeli getting to a truly rabid stage. Hence, this song will certainly incinerate the crowd and incite them to slam their skulls into the circle pit. Despite its promising beginning and the solid work done on guitars during the entire song, the music in Shadows falls flat after a while, proving Mors Subita should stick to their most furious sounding to thrive. Fortunately, those Finnish metallers get back on track for one final blast of enraged Melodic Death Metal titled The Void, ending the album on a high note with highlights to the bestial job done by Ville on drums and Eemeli’s demented vociferations.

If you want to feel all the rage and violence flowing from the music by Mors Subita in more detail, I suggest you check their official Facebook page for news and tour dates, their YouTube channel and Spotify for more of their incendiary Melodic Death Metal, and obviously purchase Into the Pitch Black from the Inverse Records webstore, from Record Shop X, or from other physical and online retailers such as metalmailorder.com. The name Into the Pitch Black not only gives a sense of obscurity to the entire album, but it also points to a heavier (and consequently more interesting) future for Mors Subita, a band I’m sure will have a lot of fun exploring this new darker path in their future releases, which in the end will be extremely beneficial for themselves and, above all, for fans of their more austere form of melodeath music.

Best moments of the album: As Humanity Weeps, Into the Pitch Black and I, God.

Worst moments of the album: Shadows.

Released in 2018 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Path to the Abyss 0:35
2. As Humanity Weeps 4:08
3. Dead Sun 3:49
4. Defeat 4:41
5. Into the Pitch Black 4:22
6. Alas 4:42
7. I, God 4:01
8. Vultures 3:01
9. Fear is Just the Beginning 3:20
10. Shadows 5:06
11. The Void 7:03

Band members
Eemeli Bodde – vocals
Mika Lammassaari – guitars, backing vocals
Mika Junttila – bass
Ville Miinala – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Amanda Somerville

I hide you, I find you, I catch your fall…  I’ll be there when the lights go out…

She has already been involved with so many distinct bands and projects it feels like she’s a 100-year old veteran in heavy music, when in fact she’s just about to turn 39 years old. I’m talking about the unstoppable American vocalist Amanda Somerville, our metal chick of the month who’s not only a singer and songwriter, but also a vocal coach, being known primarily for her work with several renowned European Symphonic Metal bands such as Edguy, Avantasia, Epica, Kamelot and After Forever, and having also produced two solos albums and two solo EP’s so far, as well as a wide range of more underground acts like Aina, Trillium and Exit Eden. also, there are countless albums and songs from other artists in the world of heavy music where you can find the stunning Amanda delivering her beautiful vocal notes, only proving how professional she is and how much other musicians admire her talent and skills as a vocalist. Having said that, are you ready to get delightfully “lost” in the world of Amanda Somerville?

Born on March 7, 1979 in Flushing, a city in Genesee County in the U.S. state of Michigan, Amanda Somerville, whose full name is Amanda Somerville-Scharf, attended Flushing Senior High School, graduating a full year early and winning a scholarship for graduating with high honors to the University of Michigan in Flint, Michigan, where she majored in psychology. In 1999 she moved from the United States to Wolfsburg, Germany, working mainly in Germany and in the Netherlands. Her voice has a wide range, but she has said herself that her tessitura is in the alto range, and if you have no idea of what that means you can take a quick look at this short and sweet explanatory video HERE. On August 19, 2013, she announced that she was engaged to be married to After Forever’s former guitarist Sander Gommans, and the pair were married in July 2014; less than one year after their marriage, on January 8, 2015, the couple announced they were expecting their first child, who was born on July 17, 2015 and named Lana Elise Gommans, and now in January the couple and little Lana were joined by the identical twins Anya Jayne and Juliet Marlies (and you can expect to hear more from Amanda and her new babies through her official blog).

Amanda has started singing from a very early age in her life, having grown up in a very musical family where music was a very basic and essential part of life. Furthermore, not only she had that influence and inspiration at home, but she mentioned she also had very good music mentors at elementary school, learning how to read music and play the piano at a rather young age. In addition, she said she has always dreamed about becoming a musician, and that’s all she ever wanted to do. For instance, throughout her life she has always performed in talent shows, competitions and concerts, hosting karaoke, singing in cover bands and jazz combos to earn money while she was in university, and even doing some appearances as a DJ. However, albeit being famous worldwide for her participation in several metal bands and projects, Amanda said that when she started her career she was a solo artist directed to the Pop Rock genre with some American folk elements. It was only when she decided to record a single with her bass player and drummer years ago that she met German guitarist, bassist and musical producer Sascha Paeth, who at that time was related to her bass player and owned a recording studio. Both Sascha and German keyboard player and musical producer Michael “Miro” Rodenberg were at the spot, helped them set up everything and listened to them performing, until they asked Amanda if she wanted to do something together with them, opening the doors of heavy music for our stunning diva. And regarding her education in music and arts in general, she said she never really studied music in a formal way, nor was she classically trained in singing. Amanda mentioned that it was her grandmother who taught her how to read music and gave her the basic foundation that she still uses for composing until today. Furthermore, as a vocal coach she was able to work with several distinguished musicians, always being open to learn from her students and to face new challenges they might bring her, therefore growing as a musician and as a person.

Trying to list every single band and project Amanda was or is still involved in Heavy Metal might be one of the toughest tasks one can try to accomplish, as she has already written and recorded with several renowned acts like the ones mentioned in the beginning of this essay about our gorgeous American vocalist, as well as her solos releases (which by the way were primarily soft and elegant Pop Rock with some Hard Rock, folk and soul music influences) and a rock opera, among other distinct endeavors. Let’s start with her solo career, with the releases of the albums In the Beginning There Was… (2000) and Windows (2008), and the EP’s Blue Nothing (2000) and Never Alone (2003), with her upcoming album Conformity Challenged to be announced soon. You can have a listen at her softer and more graceful side in songs like I Miss America and Puzzling Rapunzel, from her debut album, and Inner Whore and Sometimes, from Windows, but that’s the lightest music you’ll find in this tribute to Amanda, as from now on it’s going to be pure heavy music flowing through her veins and vocals.

Her first venture in metal was her collaboration with German multi-instrumentalist Robert Hunecke-Rizzo (Heavens Gate, Luca Turilli, Kamelot, Rhapsody of Fire), co-writing the rock opera Aina, a Symphonic and Progressive Heavy/Power Metal project featuring a number of guest appearances including Glenn Hughes, Michael Kiske and Candice Night, where the concept and lyrics were written by Amanda herself. There was only one album released under the project, the 2003 opus Days of Rising Doom (which you can listen in its entirety HERE), and don’t expect to see anything new from Aina in the short or even long-term. After Aina, she made a similar collaboration with her husband-to-be Sander Gommans, providing vocals and lyrical concept for HDK (the acronym for Hate Death Kill), a Melodic Death/Gothic Metal project with whom she released the albums System Overload, in 2009, and Serenades of the Netherworld, in 2014. Do you want to bang your head to the music by HDK? Try the songs System Overload and Mortal Zombie, one from each release by the project, and see if you like this more ferocious side of Amanda.

Perhaps her most remarkable project to date is her partnership with the iconic German vocalist Michael Kiske (Helloween, Unisonic) on a musical project entitled Kiske/Somerville, also featuring Primal Fear’s own Mat Sinner on bass and Magnus Karlsson on guitars (who by the way are the two main songwriters of the project), and Czech drummer Veronika Lukešová. In 2010, the project released their debut self-titled album, followed by another full-length release named City of Heroes, in 2015. From their debut installment, you can enjoy on YouTube songs such as Silence and If I Had A Wish, and from City of Heroes you should take a listen at Walk on Water.

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Another very interesting project by Amanda goes by the name of Trillium, a Symphonic Metal band formed in 2011 in the Netherlands (where she currently resides), featuring some of her longtime fellow musicians Sander Gommans, Sascha Paeth and Michael “Miro” Rodenberg, having released in 2011 the full-length album Alloy. She described the music by Trillium as “more like an expedition with my musical family to explore and celebrate the metamorphosis I’ve gone through as an artist over the past several years”, while the name of the band “symbolizes a trinity because things are always showing up in 3s in my environment and there are a number of triads occurring in this project, as well”. And she went on saying that “the name of the album, Alloy, is symbolic and metaphorical. An alloy is a substance composed of two or more metals, or of a metal or metals combined with a non-metal, intimately mixed. It also means standard; quality; fineness and is an admixture, as of good with evil. I’m a Pisces, so I’m all about duality and combining known elements – sometimes opposing each other – to create something different. Though I’ve been working myself further and further into the metal scene, I still always feel the need to add an extra element to make it shine, bling, stand out”. From Alloy, you should check the song Coward, and if you like what you hear you can enjoy the full album HERE.

In 2017, Amanda joined a new project entitled Exit Eden, featuring four female singers from the rock and metal scene from four different countries, those being Clémentine Delauney (Visions of Atlantis, Serenity) from France, Marina La Torraca (Highlight Kenosis, Phantom Elite) from Brazil, newcomer Anna Brunner from Germany, and obviously Amanda Somerville. The band was conceived with the plan “to show the world that almost every classic song can be transformed into a solid metal-rock song”, a concept similar to Finland’s Northern Kings, releasing in 2017 the album Rhapsodies In Black, comprised of 11 metallic versions for some of the biggest pop and rock classics like Rihanna’s Unfaithful, Depeche Mode’s A Question Of Time, Shontelle’s Impossible, Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi, Backstreet Boys’ Incomplete, and Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse Of The Heart, with the stunning Dutch goddess Simone Simons also appearing in two songs of the album, Madonna’s Frozen, Adele’s Skyfall.

Apart from all those bands and projects, Amanda has also been involved with several iconic acts either live or as a guest musician in some of their studio albums. For instance, in 2008, she toured America with Dutch Symphonic Metal icons Epica, while Simone Simons recovered from a staph infection; she was also one of the live guest vocalists for Tobias Sammet’s metal opera Avantasia world tours in 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2016, where she performed both backing vocals and lead vocals for a few songs; she was featured on Douglas R. Docker’s space metal opera Docker’s Guild in 2012 in a duet with Goran Edman on the debut album The Mystic Technocracy – Season 1: The Age of Ignorance, and again in 2016 in the Flash Gordon Suite on the album The Heisenberg Diaries – Book A: Sounds of Future Past; and also played the part of the “Queen of the Nile” in an album titled The Book of Gates, by a metal opera project from the Middle-East named EON, produced by Lebanese guitarist Amadeus Awad. And the list goes on and on with Amanda lending her beautiful voice to several interesting songs recorded by bands like After Forever, Edguy, Lunatica, Serenity, Wolfpakk, Shaman, DesDemon, Hollow Haze, Sebastien, Soulspell, and many, many others.

When asked about her experience working with several renowned artists such as Alice Cooper, Ian Gillan and Eric Martin due to her role in projects like Rock Meets Classic and Avantasia, Amanda answered that working with all those metal icons is always a pleasure for her, as she always enters a new situation or project with a very open mind and loves to be surprised by those artists, not to mention she also said most of them are amazing human beings. In addition, when asked which musician or artist she would love to work with in the future, Amanda mentioned some important names in music such as John Fogerty, the mastermind behind Creedence Clearwater Revival; Grace Slick, an American musician and former model, widely known in Rock N’ Roll history for her role in San Francisco’s burgeoning psychedelic music scene in the 60’s, being the voice of bands like Jefferson Airplane and Starship; and as a solo artist she would also love to work with Paul Simon and Tori Amos. As you can see although those musicians listed by Amanda are not your regular metal icons, they do have a huge influence on countless metal artists and bands from different styles, proving once again heavy music is not and can never be isolated from the rest of the world of music.

Regarding her inspirations for her music and lyrics and her full creative process, Amanda said she doesn’t really have a “normal process” as far as songwriting goes, with her songs beginning sometimes as a chorus or a verse, sometimes as just the lyrics with the body of the composition coming later, and sometimes the song will come to her from start to finish in its entirety. She complemented by saying that as a songwriter, the lyrics are of extreme importance to her, and that her songs are always very emotional because she doesn’t believe in writing or performing anything that can’t make people feel along with her. All her songs are personal-based, talking about human struggles and relationships, whether it was something she went through, a dream, or inspired by someone or something, and all being “little windows” into the innermost workings of Amanda Somerville.

Last but not least, apart from all her projects and adventures in music in general, Amanda still found some time in June 2014 to be part of a German television show named Keep Your Light Shining, which aired from the end of May to June 2014 by ProSieben, singing the song Addicted To You by Avicii (and you can also see her personal message about the show HERE). She said she accepted the challenge because she enjoys getting out of her comfort zone, pushing herself to her own limits. However, the show had to make some special arrangements for her due to her touring schedule and other details, as she was only able to join their third show. Many people asked her why she was doing that, because she didn’t need it, but she said she actually wanted to participate on the show as a new experience for her. Moreover, despite the final result not being very positive for her, she said she wasn’t sad or anything like that as in the end she was the only member with a career while some of the others went backstage and cried their hearts out. What’s next for Amanda Somerville? Now with the twins she will probably take some time off from all her endeavors in heavy music, but I’m sure it won’t take long for us metalheads to have the pleasure of listening to her beautiful voice once again accompanied by some flammable guitar riffs and headbanging beats in another ass-kicking song, band or project.

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“I’ve never really been able to force a song. I don’t believe in doing anything contrived, especially when it comes to songwriting. I think it’s a blasphemy to one’s art. Music is my emotional outlet and I let it take me wherever it leads.” – Amanda Somerville