Interview – Bastiën Baron (Shuulak)

How about an “alchemical” talk with Mr. Bastiën Baron, one of the founders of Dutch metal act Shuulak, talking about their brand new album Citrinitas and their passion for the occult?

Bastiën Baron (Shuulak)

The Headbanging Moose: Can you please begin by introducing the band to our readers? Who are Shuulak, when was the band formed, and what is your main goal in the world of heavy music?

Bastiën Baron: At heart we’re a heavy metal band, but we’ve given it a modern spin and drenched it in occultism. Our goal is to have a street named after us. Or a small town. Preferably the latter.

THM: Although your 2019 EP Citrinitas might be short in duration, there’s a lot of good stuff in each one of its four tracks. Why did you decide to release such a short album instead of a full-length one, and are you satisfied with the final result of the EP?

BB: Thanks for the compliments! There are many reasons for this. But foremostly, releasing a full-length album is a long and costly process. By keeping our releases short, we’re able to do them more frequently, which I think, people will appreciate. Especially in this day and age. That said, as our audience grows, so does demand for a physical release. We’ll relieve the itch soon.

THM: Can you explain in more details the concept behind Citrinitas and its connection to your previous EP’s Nigredo, released in 2017, and Albedo, from 2018?

BB: The EP’s are connected and are named after the steps towards the alchemist’s Magnum Opus; the goal of which is immortality and ultimate knowledge. It’s an ongoing story we’re not finished telling yet.

THM: What’s the main reason why you guys decided to explore such distinct topic in your albums? And can we expect more of this alchemical side of Shuulak in your future releases, or is it time for the band to venture through different lands and concepts?

BB: Alchemy is an exciting journey into the depths of the soul. There are, however, many more paths to take in the world of mysticism and the occult. So, we definitely won’t stop here.

Album Review – Shuulak / Citrinitas EP (2019)

THM: It’s simply fantastic to see more and more bands all over the world with women in their formation who are not only their lead singers, but also guitarists, bassists and drummers, which is exactly the case with Shuulak. How is it to have two girls on the band, Eve Laetitia and Puck Wildschut, taking care of the guitar and bass duties respectively?

BB: To us it’s quite.. normal. We don’t really think about it, to be honest. Though, Eve is really happy about it. She’s been the only girl for a long time, so it’s refreshing to have Puck around.

THM: How does your creative process work, I mean, do you all work together on the music and the lyrics, or are there any duties that are performed by only one or two of the band members? The process seems to be working well, as the music found in your albums sounds great, but is there anything the band thinks that could be done in a different or better way in the future?

BB: Angelo and Eve write the music, Bastiën handles the lyrics and vocals. Though it’s not set in stone, the process is quite fluid and ever changing. There’s a lot of back and forth. I don’t think there’s a ‘best’ or ‘better’ way to do things. Every song is different, and so is the way we write them. We’re constantly refining.

THM: Who are your biggest influences in music and in life in general, and how much do those influences impact the way Shuulak compose music?

BB: Musically we’re inspired by a great many artists but we don’t copy anyone. We’re all big horror fans and this definitely shines through in our music. Stuff like the books of Clive Barker or Dario Argento’s movies definitely inspire us as well as books on the real life history of the occult and ritual magic.

Shuulak

THM: What’s your opinion about the current metal scene in the Netherlands? Do you think this is a good time for bands like Shuulak to release more and more music and to tour around the country? And apart from the big names like Epica, Within Temptation and Delain, what other Dutch metal or even non-metal bands would you recommend to our readers?

BB: The Netherlands are very small, and so is the metal scene here. It’s very cozy and a good place to be. As for us, we’ve got our eyes set further. We frequently visit our southern neighbors in Belgium, as well as our friends in Germany.

It’s true The Netherlands is known for a blossoming female-fronted scene and you’ll find many wonderful bands here, but I would recommend a German band: Crownfall. We played our very first concert in Germany with them and not only are they amazingly talented musicians, they’re wonderful people too. So check them out!

THM: What does the future hold for Shuulak? And when would fans from other parts of Europe, from Asia and from North and South America be able to witness the band playing live in their countries?

BB: We’re focused on Europe right now, but we’re not dismissing the idea of an intercontinental tour. When demand is high enough, we’ll definitely visit those places.

THM: Thank you very much for your time. Please feel free to send your final considerations, goodbyes and anything else you would like to say to our readers.

BB: We’d like to thank The Headbanging Moose for this interview! To all of you reading this: you’re awesome for making it this far. If you’re curious, check us out on Bandcamp or find us on Spotify. We hope to see you at a show in the near future and are looking forward to finding new friends and disciples.

Links
Shuulak Official Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify | BandCamp | Apple Music

Album Review – Nightfear / Apocalypse (2020)

An unstoppable Heavy Metal entity hailing from Spain returns in full force with their most powerful and mature album to date, always true and loyal to their origins.

Formed in the already distant year of 2008 in Madrid, Spain, an unstoppable Heavy Metal force that goes by the name of Nightfear is about to take the world of heavy music by storm once again with their third full-length installment, entitled Apocalypse, by far their most powerful and mature album to date, featuring ten impressive compositions full of catchy melodies, razor-edged guitar riffs and the remarkable vocals by Lorenzo Mutiozabal, being highly recommended for fans of the fusion of Heavy and Power Metal blasted by iconic bands like Judas Priest, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Iron Maiden And Primal Fear.

Comprised of the aforementioned Lorenzo Mutiozabal on vocals, Ismael Retana and Ángel Fernández on the guitars, Manuel Moreno on bass and Osckar Bravo on drums, Nightfear released their debut album Inception in 2012, quickly establishing their name in the Spanish Heavy Metal scene, with their 2015 concept album Drums of War cementing their name as one of the most prominent national bands within the genre. However, it’s with Apocalypse that this unrelenting Spanish squad aims at conquering the world of heavy music, offering their fans and newcomers to their metal realm a new step in the evolution of the band while at the same time always staying true to their origins.

And Osckar already gives a taste of his refined skills in the opening track We are Back, kicking off the album on a high (and fast) note. In other words, this is definitely how any band should announce their return to action, with Lorenzo’s vocals reminding me of the golden years of Helloween’s own Andi Deris, not to mention the incendiary riffs and solos by the band’s guitar duo. Their ode to old school Heavy and Power Metal goes on in Shine, another Helloween-inspired anthem where Ismael and Ángel slash their strings majestically, resulting in an upbeat creation by the band where Manuel’s thunderous bass and Osckar’s nonstop beats generate a powerful atmosphere for our total delight, followed by Living Your Life, a mid-tempo rockin’ tune where Lorenzo is on fire with his high-pitched, passionate vocal lines, supported by spot-on backing vocals and classic, strident riffs.

It’s definitely impossible to stand still to the dynamic and high-octane A Better World, where Osckar and the band’s stringed trio are on absolute fire, therefore providing Lorenzo all he needs to shine on vocals. Furthermore, not only the song’s ending brings a beautiful guitar solo for our avid ears, but its utterly catchy chorus and sheer speed turn it into a must-listen for admirers of the genre. There’s no sign of slowing down, as in The Stranger, a very melodic and captivating tune once again drinking from the same fountain as several of their German neighbors, the band remains loyal to traditional Heavy Metal from start to finish. How can it get any better than this? Then even faster and more aggressive than its predecessors, the instrumental feast of metallic sounds and tones titled Psichokiller sounds like a Spanish version of Primal Fear, with Ismael and Ángel delivering pulverizing riffs and electrifying guitar solos nonstop; whereas the tribal beats by Osckar ignite the also incendiary Through the Stars, presenting over six minutes of flammable guitar lines and killer drums and bass punches, while Lorenzo keeps doing what he does best, which is blasting his soaring vocals majestically in this lecture in traditional Melodic and Power Metal.

Nuclear Winter is another pounding, headbanging creation by Nightfear where the entire band kicks some serious ass with their flammable vocals, piercing riffs, and thunderous bass and drums. Put differently, it’s an ode to 80’s and 90’s Heavy Metal, bringing forward beautiful, melodious lines intertwined with sheer adrenaline, and the band puts the pedal to the metal mercilessly, accelerating the pace and delivering a Power Metal extravaganza entitled The Evil in You, led by the intricate, high-octane shredding by the band’s talented guitarists while Osckar dictates the song’s frantic rhythm on drums. And lastly we have Angels of Apocalypse, one of the boldest creations of their career surpassing the eight-minute barrier, starting in a serene manner with a narration inviting the listener to join Nightfear in their new adventure and exhaling epicness, with Lorenzo giving a lesson in metal singing while the music flows smoothly and powerfully until the very end.

If you want to put your metallic hands on this precious gem of Heavy and Power Metal made in Spain, simply go to the Fighter Records’ BandCamp page or to Apple Music (and soon also available from the Xtreem Music webstore and other locations) to grab your copy of the album, and obviously don’t forget to follow Nightfear on Facebook and to listen to more of their music on Spotify, showing your true support to such distinct and talented metallers. A new year has just begun, and as several people are saying 2020 will be the year of the Apocalypse, at least we can rest assured Nightfear are among us to provide our ears and minds a vibrant and thrilling soundtrack to the end of the world.

Best moments of the album: We are Back, The Stranger, Through the Stars and Nuclear Winter.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Fighter Records

Track listing
1. We are Back 5:59
2. Shine 5:11
3. Living Your Life 5:00
4. A Better World 4:09
5. The Stranger 5:32
6. Psichokiller 4:29
7. Through the Stars 6:29
8. Nuclear Winter 6:05
9. The Evil in You 4:42
10. Angels of Apocalypse 8:27

Band members
Lorenzo Mutiozabal – vocals
Ismael Retana – guitar
Ángel Fernández – guitar
Manuel Moreno – bass
Osckar Bravo – drums

Album Review – Shuulak / Citrinitas EP (2019)

Five skillful Dutch “alchemists” of Heavy Metal continue their pursuit of alchemical enlightenment with their brand new EP.

In 2014 in Breda, a city and municipality in the southern part of the Netherlands, located in the province of North Brabant, a friendship formed during previous musical collaborations laid the foundation for what’s to become Dutch Heavy Metal act Shuulak, whose otherworldly songs, deeply rooted in alchemy and the occult, explore man’s obsession with things that would only  destroy him. Constantly challenging themselves through the years, the band comprised of Bastiën Baron on vocals, Eve Laetitia and Ricardo Kroon on the guitars, Puck Wildschut on bass and Angelo Tower on drums has already released three EP’s since their inception, those being Nigredo, in 2017, a concept signifying the first step in the alchemist’s magnum opus with its songs being a collection of tales telling of humanity’s desire for greatness inevitably ending in madness and depravity, Albedo, in 2018, and finally Citrinitas, now in 2019, where the band continues their pursuit of alchemical enlightenment. Not only that, the band does their own recording, photography, video editing and visual design, with their music standing as a testament to the undying power of our good old Heavy Metal, especially in the underground and independent scene.

And Shuulak don’t waste a single second and start blasting sheer awesomeness to our avid ears in the opening track, entitled The Chosen, where Eve and Ricardo cut our skin deep with their scorching riffs while Puck and Angelo generate a rumbling atmosphere in the background, spearheaded by Bastiën and his soaring vocals. Then blending the epicness of bands like Primal Fear with the Melodic and Progressive Metal of Dream Theater and Mastodon we have Altar of Gods, another solid and captivating tune by Shuulak where Puck’s bass punches will make your head tremble, while Eve spits fire from her excellent riffs and solos. In Chaosborn this talented five-piece act brings thunder and groove to their classic Heavy Metal, with Bastiën sounding truly obstinate and enraged on vocals as if he’s marching into battle, while the band’s guitar duo keeps embellishing the airwaves with their old school riffage and Angelo doesn’t stop pounding his drums in great fashion, before we’re treated to the title-track Citrinitas, an eerie, atmospheric composition where the sound of the organs and delicate female voices will hypnotize your senses, as if the band is warming up our souls for their upcoming release.

Hence, while we wait for Shuulak’s next step in their promising career, we can all enjoy Citrinitas, which by the way is a term given by alchemists to “yellowness” (being one of the four major stages of the alchemical magnum opus, and literally referred to “transmutation of silver into gold” or “yellowing of the lunar consciousness”), in full on YouTube and on Spotify, and purchase it directly from the band’s own BandCamp page or from Apple Music. In addition, don’t forget to follow such distinct band on Facebook, showing all your support to Bastiën, Eve, Ricardo, Puck and Angelo, five Dutch “alchemists” that definitely know how to transform their wicked ideas and thoughts into top-of-the-line Heavy Metal.

Best moments of the album: Chaosborn.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. The Chosen 3:52
2. Altar of Gods 4:39
3. Chaosborn 3:58
4. Citrinitas 1:08

Band members
Bastiën Baron – vocals
Eve Laetitia – lead guitar
Ricardo Kroon – rhythm guitar
Puck Wildschut – bass
Angelo Tower – drums

Album Review – Rexoria / Ice Breaker (2019)

One of the most promising names of the Swedish metal scene returns with an inspiring new album that will bring you right into the dark forests and up on high mountains.

Creating an inspiring sound with various folk and power influences which will bring you right into the dark forests and up on high mountains, Jönköping, Sweden-based Melodic Metal outfit Rexoria is back in action in 2019 with a brand new opus entitled Ice Breaker, the follow-up to their 2018 installment Queen of Light and, more important than that, an album that will undoubtedly put a huge smile on the faces of fans of the music played by renowned acts like Doro, Battle Beast, Imperia, Aldaria, and several other bands that beautifully unite the electricity of traditional Heavy Metal with melodic and epic nuances. Mixed and mastered at Studio Fredman in Gothenburg, Sweden by Fredrik Nordström, and featuring an epic artwork showcasing a fearless valkyrie designed by Brazilian artist Jobert Mello from Sledgehammer Graphix (who has already worked with bands like Sabaton, Primal Fear and Grenouer), Ice Breaker is the perfect depiction of everything the music crafted by vocalist and keyboardist Frida Ohlin, guitarist and bassist Jonas Gustavsson, guitarist Cristofer Svensson and drummer Martin Gustavsson represents, being at the same time heavy, fast, melodic and exhilarating, paving a very promising path for these extremely talented musicians.

The electrifying riffs by Jonas and Cristofer permeate the air in the magical Velvet Heroes, a pure Hard Rock tune taken from the 80’s with a metallic touch brought forth by Frida’s soaring vocals, making it impossible to stand still to its inspiring rhythm and pace. Drinking from the same metal fountain as the iconic Doro, Frida delivers strident, sharp vocal lines in Fight the Demons, while her bandmates blast their instruments with tons of precision and feeling, sounding like a Swedish version of Accept with a feminine vibe; then it’s time to slow things down a bit to a passionate performance by Frida and the boys in Endless Nights, where Jonas and Cristofer are on fire with their guitar solos, resulting in a beautiful power ballad to warm up our hearts before the winter arrives. And if you consider yourself a courageous person, simply head into the always dangerous wilderness with Rexoria in Into the Wild, a mid-tempo tune where the galloping bass by Cristofer together with the rhythmic drums by Martin take the lead, being tailored for admirers of the golden years of Heavy Metal.

There’s more Melodic Metal flowing from their razor-edged guitars and pounding drums in Reach for the Heavens in Time, bringing an endless amount of electricity that will inspire you to prance and sing together with the band, whereas the title-track Ice Breaker is a lesson in Melodic Metal with an important message about the dangers of climate change, with its powerful backing vocals and galloping rhythm (that bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest made famous) supporting Frida in her quest for a better world. A screaming eagle and gentle piano notes are the main ingredients in the classy instrumental bridge Wind and Rain, before Rexoria embellish the airwaves once again with their charming metal music in The Rise of the Phoenix, leaning towards the Symphonic Metal played by bands like Nightwish and Epica. Needless to say, Jonas and Cristofer have another solid performance with their guitars, not to mention the song’s epic aura crafted by Frida’s keys.

Putting the pedal to the metal the band salutes the gods of heavy music in Brothers of Asgaard, a song that has all it takes to become a fan-favorite where Frida ventures through more aggressive lands with her high-pitched vocals, also showcasing thrilling guitar solos and unstoppable beats, followed by The Raging Thunder, another song that blends the heaviness of classic metal music with the band’s ethereal and touching vibe, being highly recommended for banging your head nonstop or simply savoring Frida’s powerful vocal lines. The second to last track in Ice Breaker, titled Roaring, is by far one of the best songs of the album, a rockin’ extravaganza led by Martin’s crushing beats where it’s truly entertaining to witness Frida roaring like the she-wolf she is, alternating between rampant moments and high-octane passages. And closing the album we have Vår Verklighet (or our reality” in Swedish), featuring Swedish vocalist Niklas Isfeldt (Dream Evil), an epic composition by the band where Frida and Niklas make a fantastic vocal duet while the rest of the guys keep the music flowing nicely and powerfully, also bringing a soulful guitar solo as the icing on the cake.

In summary, the excellent Ice Breaker, which is available in full on Spotify and on sale from several locations such as the band’s own webstore, the Pride & Joy webstore, the Nuclear Blast webstore, Apple Music and Amazon, represents a huge step forward in the career of those four Swedish metallers, helping Rexoria emerge as one of the most promising names in the Melodic and Symphonic Metal scene worldwide. Hence, you can also show your support to Frida and the boys by following them on Facebook, getting connected to a band that’s not only going places, but that showcases a limitless potential to shine brighter and brighter as the years go by and, above all, with an honest and deep passion for our beloved heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Velvet Heroes, Brothers of Asgaard and Roaring.

Worst moments of the album: The Rise of the Phoenix.

Released in 2019 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Velvet Heroes 3:28
2. Fight the Demons 4:07
3. Endless Nights 4:38
4. Into the Wild 3:52
5. Reach for the Heavens in Time 5:08
6. Ice Breaker 5:38
7. Wind and Rain 1:26
8. The Rise of the Phoenix 5:04
9. Brothers of Asgaard 3:45
10. The Raging Thunder 4:12
11. Roaring 3:47
12. Vår Verklighet 4:31

Band members
Frida Ohlin – vocals, keyboards
Jonas Gustavsson – guitar, bass
Cristofer Svensson – guitar
Martin Gustavsson – drums

Guest musician
Niklas Isfeldt – vocals on “Vår Verklighet”

Album Review – Rifftera / Across the Acheron (2019)

Let’s brave the waters of the Acheron to the sound of the brand new opus by this talented Melodic Death and Thrash Metal squad from Finland.

If in 2015 a Finnish Melodic Death Metal band that goes by the stylish name of Rifftera stunned us all with their  aggressive and futuristic debut opus Pitch Black, now in 2019 it’s time for this talented Vaasa-base squad comprised of Janne Hietala and Mikko Kuoppamaa on vocals and guitars, Jupe Karhu on bass, Antti Pöntinen on keyboards and newcomer Ville Härkönen on drums to take another amazing step in their more-than-promising career with Across the Acheron, which is not only their sophomore release but an album that exhales harmony, electricity and rage, bringing a well-balanced and thrilling fusion of Death and Thrash Metal for both fans of what the band presented in their previous album as well as newcomers to their whimsical realm of modern-day metal music.

Featuring once again a beautiful cover art by Petri Lampela, who besides Rifftera has already worked with other excellent bands like  Vinide and Ratbreed, Across the Acheron might have taken longer than expected to be released, but the wait was definitely worth it as each and every song of the album is an absolute feast of first-class Melodic Death Metal. “The aim was basically to take steps forward from our debut in every aspect and we are really happy with the result. In my honest and not at all biased opinion I think that clear improvement was achieved musically, lyrically and production-wise,” commented lead singer and guitarist Janne, complementing his thought by saying that “when it comes to comparing the music between Across the Acheron and Pitch Black, I would say that our expression has reached new levels on both ends of the spectrum; some parts on the new album are more brutal than anything that what we had on Pitch Black and then again some songs are more straight forward and melodic than before. Overall it could be described that the building blocks are the same but writing and performing skills have evolved.”

The opening track Burning Paradise already showcases an epic start led by the always cinematic keys by Antti, being gradually joined by all other instruments until all hell breaks loose to a deep, enraged roar by Janne, becoming an almost Blackened Death Metal tune infused with Melodic and Industrial Metal elements where both Janne and Mikki slash their guitars in a piercing manner. Then we have the 8-minute extravaganza Two Sides of the Story, sounding very close to what they did in Pitch Black, with Ville simply demolishing his drums while Jupe and Antti generate a captivating background sounding with their instruments, also delivering tons of harmony and ethereal vibes for our total delight; followed by Eye of the Storm, a rhythmic, imposing and thrilling display of contemporary Scandinavian metal, showcasing pounding drums, epic keys and a dark and menacing atmosphere. Furthermore, Janne and Mikko have a very healthy “duel” of vocal styles, and as they sing during the entire song, it’s indeed beautiful to enjoy their ass-kicking metal music when you’re “in the eye of the storm”.

And those Finnish metallers keep invading our senses with their fusion of futuristic sounds and endless harmony in Cutthroat Game, with both guitars sounding as sharp as a knife while the bass punches by Jupe get even more thunderous then before, accompanied by Ville’s nonstop drums. After such crushing tune, it’s time to speed things up a bit in the superb Cry Wolf, led by Janne’s deranged growls and with Antti bringing an extra touch of lunacy to the sonority through his keys, resulting in what’s the most metallic and visceral of all songs; whereas Warmonger is another brutal composition tailored for cracking your neck in half headbanging, with Mikko’s clean vocals and Antti’s spot-on keys bringing some peace and hope to all devastation blasted by their bandmates. Not only that, the song’s main riff will entice you to keep bang your head nonstop, which obviously means this is an amazing option to be added to their setlist during their live concerts. Things slow down a bit in Deep Waters, getting more melodic, delicate and introspective than its predecessors but still exhaling the band’s characteristic rage, with the always inspiring keys by Antti stealing the spotlight and, therefore, keeping the level of electricity high, setting the stage for the 11-minute aria Across the Acheron, a very detailed and cinematic exhibit of their Melodic Death and Thrash Metal where you’ll be enfolded by inspiring passages, melodious riffs and solos, powerful vocals and violent growls. Moreover, this song has an amazing vibe and a touch of delicacy that only a band like Rifftera can bring you directly from the stunning Scandinavia, ending the album on a high, ominous and majestic mode.

It’s always a pleasure watching a hardworking and honest group of skillful musicians like Rifftera evolving like what they did from Pitch Black to their new album Across the Acheron, and in order to show them our true support don’t forget to follow them on Facebook and to listen to their music on Spotify, and of course purchase your copy of Across the Acheron from the Inverse Records webstore, from Record Shop X, from iTunes, or from Amazon. In ancient Greek mythology, the Acheron was known as the “river of woe”, and was one of the five rivers of the Greek underworld. Having said that, I guess it’s time for all of us fans of Melodic Death Metal to brave the waters of the Acheron together with Rifftera, and face all the perils the underworld might bring us to the sound of their brand new and excellent album.

Best moments of the album: Eye of the Storm, Cry Wolf and Warmonger.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Burning Paradise 6:12
2. Two Sides of the Story 8:04
3. Eye of the Storm 6:34
4. Cutthroat Game 6:12
5. Cry Wolf 5:08
6. Warmonger 6:29
7. Deep Waters 4:50
8. Across the Acheron 11:20

Band members
Janne Hietala – guitars, harsh vocals
Mikko Kuoppamaa – guitars, clean vocals
Jupe Karhu – bass
Antti Pöntinen – keyboards
Ville Härkönen – drums

Album Review – Solborn / Dark Lights of Delirium (2018)

Welcome to a world of fantasy, childhood memories and beautiful dreams, all embraced by the stylish Symphonic Metal crafted by this very talented Canadian band.

Founded in 2014 by songwriter and keyboardist Anri Tsiskaridze, who was born in the Republic of Georgia and moved to Canada in 2008, Edmonton-based Symphonic Metal band Solborn (or Sōlborn, if you prefer) has suffered a few lineup changes and a noticeable musical evolution since their inception, until the band reached their final shape and form in 2018, culminating with the release of their debut album Dark Lights of Delirium. Featuring a dark and somewhat futuristic artwork by Pierre-Alain Durand (3mmi Design), Dark Lights of Delirium represents a world where you get to travel and witness fantasy, the mind’s beautiful plays, and fly through the clouds, walk on beaches on a moonlit night, and lay in the meadows of your childhood memories and be at peace with yourself and the worlds that surround you, all embraced by the powerful and symphonic arrangements delivered by McKenna Rae on lead vocals, Cody Lloyd on lead guitar, Mike Bell on rhythm guitars and growls, Dylan Mooney on bass, Anri Tsiskaridze on keyboards, and Danial Devost on drums.

Four years in the making, Dark Lights of Delirium is thematically and loosely based on Carl Sagan’s astronomical series ‘Cosmos’ (as well as Neil D. Tyson’s modern reboot of the series), with its lyrics taking your imagination to worlds of fantasy and memories of the most precious times of youth, childhood, and feelings of love and dreams. The songs dive into the escapism that Symphonic Metal is steeped in, where history is presented in a dream-like light, and fantasy and reality poetically collide. Starting with the revelation of an endless universe, soaring through the themes and imagery of the purge of knowledge, imaginary inner worlds, striving to find happiness or meaning in life, and ending with the tragic story of the execution of Giordano Bruno, whereby the narrator speaks to us as Bruno. Every song has its own individual meaning but still connects to each-other, and is still a part of the whole journey.

A cinematic, ethereal intro titled Aurora, led by the smooth piano notes and the imposing keys by Anri, sets the stage for the 7-minute aria Ad Infinitum, exploding into a modern and vibrant fusion of Melodic and Symphonic Metal where McKenna mesmerizes us all with her gorgeous voice, while Danial makes sure the word “heavy” is part of the music through his pounding, violent drums. The album couldn’t have started in a better way, and things get even better in Beast Of Oblivion, considerably more breathtaking and electrifying than the previous song, with McKenna having an interesting “beauty and the beast” duel with Mike, while the same Mike together with Cody slash their guitars beautifully from start to finish. Then Dylan’s rumbling bass and Danial’s fast and precise beats dictate the rhythm in another Symphonic Metal feast titled Pale Blue, bringing forward some stylish lyrics (“Visions in my sleepless night took me to the moonlit sky / I stood in awe before the greatest show / And took a step away from what I have ever known”), and of course I would love to see them giving life to this metallic symphony during their live performances; and slowing things down a bit and being highly inspired by iconic bands like Nightwish and Epica, the band delivers another solid tune named Arcane Shores (Compass to Light), showcasing gripping guitar riffs intertwined with the flammable keys by Anri and McKenna’s passionate vocals.

Time for McKenna and her ethereal voice together with Anri’s gentle piano to take us to a world of love and peace in the enfolding ballad Crestfallen, with the song’s taste being nicely enhanced by all background orchestrations, flowing flawlessly until its climatic finale, whereas whimsical sounds ignite the epic and beyond symphonic Starbreathe, a song perfect for closing your eyes and embarking on a metal journey together with Solborn. Furthermore, Cody and Mike are on fire with their riffs and solos, slashing our senses while Danial doesn’t let the energy level go down not even for a single second, not to mention Anri’s futuristic (and therefore amazing) keyboard solo. In Voyage To The World’s End we’re treated to a galloping exhibit of classic metal music embraced by the stunning orchestrations by Anri and Danial, offering our avid ears over eight minutes of the best Symphonic Metal you can think of, including thrilling guitar and keyboard solos, spot-on breaks and variations, serene piano passages, epic orchestral moments, and once again presenting classy and poetic lyrics (“Paint my memory where we lay in haven of time / Play music of creek, sounds of wild clashing winds / With new life, awake from delirium / Spread your wings, come fly away with me”). And last but not least we have Last Curtains Fall, the perfect name for a closing song with the bass by Dylan bringing thunder to the sound while McKenna continues to deliver her romantic and fiery vocal lines. Although the overall result is not as thrilling as the rest of the album (and a bit too slow at times), it’s still a solid and entertaining creation by this skillful Canadian act.

Solborn might not be revolutionizing the world of Symphonic Metal with their music, but who said they were supposed to do that in Dark Lights of Delirium to succeed? They stuck to a well-known formula, added their own personal ingredients and twist, and voilà! There you have a full-bodied, imposing and enfolding album of classic Symphonic Metal (available for a full listen on Spotify, by the way). Having said that, if you want to know more about the band and show them your true support, don’t forget to check out their Facebook page and YouTube channel for news, tour dates and more of their music, and purchase your copy of Dark Lights of Delirium from their own BandCamp page or webstore. Because, as you already know, there’s nothing better than some first-class symphonic music to embark on an epic adventure through the eccentric realms of your own thoughts and dreams.

Best moments of the album: Beast Of Oblivion, Pale Blue and Voyage To The World’s End.

Worst moments of the album: Last Curtains Fall.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing 
1. Aurora 1:19
2. Ad Infinitum 7:08
3. Beast Of Oblivion 4:52
4. Pale Blue 5:07
5. Arcane Shores (Compass to Light) 4:53
6. Crestfallen 4:44
7. Starbreathe 6:04
8. Voyage To The World’s End 8:47
9. Last Curtains Fall 6:53

Band members
McKenna Rae – lead vocals
Cody Lloyd – lead guitars
Mike Bell – rhythm guitars, growls
Dylan Mooney – bass guitar
Anri Tsiskaridze – keyboards, orchestra
Danial Devost – drums, orchestra

Album Review – Once / After Earth (2018)

Inspired by neo-romantic soundtrack music, this talented German squad will take you to a world of fantasy, passion and mystery with their debut full-length album.

Heavily inspired by neo-romantic soundtrack music, and including typical elements of a classical Aristotelian drama combined with heavy guitars and drums in their music, German Symphonic Metal act Once has been embellishing the airwaves with their unique musicality since their inception in 2012 in North Rhine-Westphalia, culminating now in 2018 with the release of their debut full-length album, entitled After Earth. If you’re an admirer of the classy and enfolding Symphonic Metal crafted by iconic bands like Epica, Nightwish, Within Temptation and Beyond The Black, the creations by this German quartet comprised of Alina Lesnik on vocals, Marco Paulzen on the guitars, bass and harsh vocals, Frank Wypchol on keyboards, piano and orchestrations, and Alexander Hey on drums will certainly please your metallic soul.

Featuring a curious artwork by Tullius Heuer and orchestra and choir arrangements by Frank Wypchol, produced by Frank Wypchol and Marco Paulzen, recorded and engineered by Marco Paulzen in Münster, Germany, and having as a very special guest musician Shir-Ran Yinon (Krayenzeit, Haggard, Eluveitie and New Model Army) on violin, After Earth will take the listener to a world of fantasy, passion and mystery, which combined with the band’s imposing musicality and the album’s crisp and vibrant production will fully captivate your senses, making you eager for more of the music by this talented German squad. In other words, simply hit play, close your eyes, and let Once guide you through the exciting lands of After Earth.

Like the intro to an epic movie, Act 1 (Overture) invites us all to join Once in their musical journey starting with the imposing and symphonic Awake, a lesson in Symphonic Power Metal led by the classic keys and piano by Frank, with Alina living up to the legacy of stunning vocalists like Tarja Turunen and Floor Jansen. Then even more symphonic than its predecessor, My Masterpiece showcases another excellent performance by Frank with his keys while Marco brings passion to the music with his riffs and solos, as well as Alexander and his thunderous beats; followed by The Allure, presenting guest Shir-Ran Yinon and her whimsical violin in a beautiful feast of symphonic and melodic sounds and tones. Furthermore, Alina is magnificent on vocals, while Marco creates a very interesting paradox to the tenderness of the violin with his heavier-than-hell riffs.

Again featuring Shir-Ran Yinon, Distorted Smiles is a serene ballad where Alina smoothly declaims the song’s classy lyrics (“Winter’s fingers creeping chillingly / Across the rusty window bar / Through the stormy blizzard rings / A weary melody coming from afar”) before their crushing Symphonic Metal strikes again in The Hour of Eden’s Fall, presenting stylish words (“Images of a bursting sanity / Are turning into a lost reflection / Of the eternal bond of our affection / Painting the moment as a memory / Once my only world was your embrace / Now my heart is buried and erased”) and incendiary performances by Marco and Alexander, bringing rage and electricity to the music with their harsh growls, cutting riffs and nonstop beats. After such powerful display of symphonic music, a cinematic bridge titled Act II (Intermezzo) builds an imposing and adventurous atmosphere for the power ballad My Fairytale, with Alina stealing the spotlight with her fiery vocals while Frank and his keys and orchestrations add tons of electricity to the overall result, being perfect for fans of Epica and Nightwish.

Spiced up by a stunning work done on the piano by Frank we have Phenomena, a metallic symphony of sounds that feels like the soundtrack to a dangerous but thrilling adventure, with Marco carving the word “metal” onto the musicality with his Melodic Metal riffs and bass punches, connecting instantly with the Opera Metal-inspired tune The Sins of Saints, keeping the ambience vibrant and exciting with Frank and Marco being on absolute fire throughout the entire song, slashing our senses and dragging us to their fantastic world of heavy music. Then in Insane Schemes of Sanity an ethereal start morphs into a classy and gentle Symphonic Power Metal extravaganza, flirting with Folk Metal at times thanks to its pace and breaks, as well as Frank’s keys and Alina’s storytelling vocals, whereas in The Final Stage, where Shir-Ran Yinon embellishes the musicality once again with her magic violin, we’re treated to over 10 minutes of first-class Symphonic Metal led by Alina’s gorgeous vocal lines, all embraced by vibrant, stunning orchestrations and boosted by Marco’s deep roars, flowing flawlessly for our total delight until its grand finale, before Epilogue (A Memento of Our Hiraeth) concludes this album of symphony, melody and epicness in a beyond enfolding and theatrical way, mesmerizing our senses for over six minutes with its gentle piano notes and orchestral background elements.

It’s quite impossible to stand still or unemotional while listening to Once, especially if you’re a longtime fan of stylish, epic and heavy orchestral music, and in order to show your appreciation for such distinct band go check what they’re up to on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and purchase your copy of After Earth, a gorgeous lecture in Symphonic Metal, from the Pride & Joy Music webstore, from MBM Music By Mail, from the NEH Records webstore, from iTunes, or from Amazon. Once will certainly take you on a fantastic musical journey with After Earth, showing you how relevant Symphonic Metal still is nowadays, and how inspiring it can be in your everyday life.

Best moments of the album: The Allure, The Hour of Eden’s Fall, Phenomena and The Final Stage.

Worst moments of the album: Insane Schemes of Sanity.

Released in 2018 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Act 1 (Overture) 2:04
2. Awake 4:19
3. My Masterpiece 3:40
4. The Allure (feat. Shir-Ran Yinon) 3:59
5. Distorted Smiles (feat. Shir-Ran Yinon) 3:52
6. The Hour of Eden’s Fall 4:45
7. Act II (Intermezzo) 2:12
8. My Fairytale 3:55
9. Phenomena 4:35
10. The Sins of Saints 3:57
11. Insane Schemes of Sanity 4:31
12. The Final Stage (feat. Shir-Ran Yinon) 10:18
13. Epilogue (A Memento of Our Hiraeth) 5:51

Band members
Alina Lesnik – vocals
Marco Paulzen – guitars, bass, harsh vocals
Frank Wypchol – keyboards, piano, orchestrations
Alexander Hey – drums

Guest musician
Shir-Ran Yinon – violin on “The Allure”, “Distorted Smiles” and “The Final Stage”

Metal Chick of the Month – Brittney Slayes

There’s no hiding from her, she sees everything!

In order to properly celebrate nothing more, nothing less than FIVE years of The Headbanging Moose, there’s nothing better than paying a humble tribute to a true Warrior of the North as our metal chick of this month of October, a woman that perfectly represents all the passion, strength and perseverance from the people that make our beloved Canada one of the best places to live in the world. Born in 1985 in Vancouver, one of the most beautiful cities not only in the province of British Columbia but in the entire country, here comes the dauntless vocalist Brittney Slayes, whose real name is Brittney Hayes, frontwoman and founding member of Canadian Heavy Metal band Unleash The Archers, always ready to show you what metal music from the Great White North is all about.

The talented Brittney, who discovered her voice when she was five years old and began singing in her local community choir at the age of eight, traveled with several choirs during her school years, taking part in many musical theater productions and working with some of the best vocal coaches in Western Canada. In university, she attended the UVic School Of Music, but choosing instead to attain her undergraduate degree in History. Furthermore, during her time at the University of Victoria, she traveled the world as a member of the Juno Award-winning ensemble the Uvic Chamber Singers. As a UVic alumna and the lead singer of Victoria-born Unleash the Archers, Brittney gave a keynote talk on July 10, 2018 for UVic’s upcoming conference Boundaries and Ties: The Place of Metal Music in Communities, with her talk, entitled “View from the ‘Apex’: A Metal Musician’s Views on Metal and Community”, drawing on her firsthand experience with local, national, and international metal communities. And do you want to know what our metal warrior thinks about us, metalheads? “People are so open-minded. They’re not going to cast judgement and never give you a chance. From what I’ve seen, metalheads are very kind and caring and open-hearted. I just think that the metal community is uplifting, really,” said our wise vocalist.

Apart from her time singing with different choirs, our Canadian warrior had never been involved in any other bands or music projects before founding Unleash The Archers back in 2007 with her boyfriend and drummer Scott Buchanan, and according to Brittney herself starting the band was the best thing she could have ever done (and we all agree with that, of course), allowing her to use her background in classical music and her four octave range to provide a more dynamic approach to the band’s incendiary fusion of traditional Heavy Metal with Power and Melodic Metal. In late 2008, the band recorded a self-titled four-song demo, which featured two songs (Black Goat of the Woods and Destroyer) they would end up re-recording for their first studio album. In one of her interviews, Brittney explained a little more about the origins of the band, saying it all began when Scott, former guitarist Brayden Dyczkowski (who left the band in 2014) and herself were in university, when Scott and Brayden were playing in a Death Metal band together, and as the drummer’s girlfriend Brittney simply loved to go to their shows and rock out. When the band broke up, she called Brayden and asked him if he wanted to start a band with herself as the vocalist and Scott on drums, and from that day on Unleash The Archers became a reality, leading the band to grow and become a reference in Canadian metal music, winning the Best Metal Band and Best Vocalist awards during the 2015 Vancouver Whammy Awards, as well as being voted number 6 in Exclaim Magazine’s Readers Choice Awards for Best Metal Albums of 2009.

Apart from the aforementioned self-titled debut demo, Unleash The Archers have already released four full-length albums and one EP, those being their 2009 debut album Behold the Devastation (when she was still known as as B. Hayes), the 2011 album Demons of the AstroWaste, the 2012 EP Defy the Skies, the 2015 album Time Stands Still, and last year’s highly acclaimed opus Apex. Currently comprised of our Canadian Valkyrie of metal Brittney on vocals, Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley on the guitars and harsh growls, and Scott Buchanan on drums, as well as Nick Miller taking care of the bass duties during their live performances, Unleash The Archers have a great selection of official videos, lyric videos and unofficial live footage for us to enjoy for hours on YouTube. For instance, you can join Unleash The Archers in their quest for metal with the songs Tonight We Ride, Ten Thousand Against One, Apex, General Of The Dark Army, Time Stands Still, Cleanse The Bloodlines, Awakening, The Matriarch and Dawn Of Ages. And if live concerts and performances are your cup of tea, you can enjoy Brittney and the guys kicking ass with the songs Dreamcrusher and Time Stands Still live in Montreal in 2015; General Of The Dark Army live at the Pont Rouge in Monthey, Switzerland  in 2016; an acoustic version of The Outlander recorded live at CHSR in New Brunswick with Matt Nightingale during the 2011 “Tour Through The AstroWaste”; and their full set during their 2015 appearance at ProgPower USA in 2015. When asked about her favorite Unleash The Archers songs, those she believes a newcomer to their metal world should definitely take a listen at, Brittney said she has always loved Battle In The Shadow (Of The Mountain), from their second album Demons of the AstroWaste, saying she has a strong emotional connection to that song, also including on the list Four In Hand, from their debut album Behold the Devastation, as it’s about sin becoming personified as a cloaked figure riding around in a chariot pulled by the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Interesting, isn’t it?

Brittney has also been featured in several other bands and projects as a guest musician, each one of them being very peculiar and showcasing all the talent and range of our metal warrior. For instance, she provided additional vocals to the song Leather Lord, featured on the 2013 EP Live at Mushroom: Vol. I, by Canadian Power/Heavy Metal band 3 Inches of Blood; guest vocals on the song Queen of the Galaxy, from the 2014 EP Queen of the Galaxy (and also featured on the 2018 album The Extraterrestrial Compendium), by American Power/Thrash Metal band Dire Peril (and you can also check a cool live version of it in 2016 at the Blue Lamp HERE); vocals on the song Lunar Sunrise, from the 2014 album The Age of Ether, by American Power/Progressive Metal band Disforia; vocals for the full 2018 album Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster, by American Power Metal band Helion Prime, like in the song Spectrum; vocals for the excellent song Burn It Down (With Fire), from the 2018 album Shadows from the Past, by American Heavy Metal band Lords of the Trident; and last but not least, she was also a guest on the song Siren’s Song, from the 2016 album Lawful Evil, by The Dread Crew of Oddwood (an acoustic pirate band from San Diego, California).

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Regarding her career and life on the road, Brittney said that living life through music is every musician’s dream, living and breathing music every second of every day while on tour, and she wants to keep playing with Unleash The Archers everywhere, every corner of the globe, every continent and every type of venue, from Japan to Scotland, from Brazil to Antarctica (if they can find metalheads there, of course). When asked about the main difference between festivals and regular shows, she said that in the end they’re not that different, only that there are a lot more bands hanging out backstage waiting for their turn and the atmosphere seems quite a bit more laid back. Having already played with Unleash The Archers all over the world, from North America to China and Japan, Brittney has been collecting a lot of good memories and moments from each and every concert, such as their performance at Hell & Heaven Fest in Mexico City in 2014, where they played a side stage but were able to see the concerts by some of their favorite bands like Angra and KISS. Furthermore, all that passion for heavy music and her family had a very positive impact on her performance on stage. For instance, her brother used to play in a punk band and her father worked as a musician for a long time in the 60’s and 70’s. She used to play with his music equipment when she was a little kid, and there are many pictures of Brittney rocking out with an old SM57 in her hand standing on a table or any other stage-like apparatus. Also, as aforementioned, she was always involved in musical theater, drama, choir or any other sort of performing art, making her feel very comfortable when facing the crowd, it doesn’t matter if at a small venue or at a big renowned festival.

As it happens with any up-and-coming artist in metal music, Brittney has been asked several times through the years about who her biggest idols and influences are in music and in life in general, and her answers couldn’t be more classic, more inspiring and, of course, more metal. She said in one of her interviews that as a vocalist she has always been highly influenced by the one and only Bruce Dickinson, the metal god Rob Halford, Geoff Tate, Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray), Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork), Daniel Heiman (Lost Horizon), and Jonas Heidgert (Dragonland), among many others, with bands such as Iron Maiden, As I Lay Dying, All That Remains, Helloween and Septicflesh playing an important role in the development of her taste for music and her singing style. Furthermore, Brittney mentioned that the unparalleled Countdown To Extinction, released by Megadeth in 1992, was the first metal record she’s ever heard in her life, and that was basically the moment that would define her musical preferences for the rest of her life, but she also complemented her thought by saying Best Of The Beast, Iron Maiden’s first “best of” album, released in 1996, was the album that inspired her to use her vocal talents as a singer in a metal band. In addition, when questioned which bands she would choose if she could create her own festival, Brittney simply listed Iron Maiden, Lost Horizon, Iced Earth, Sabaton and Dragonland, all beyond formidable acts, also saying that she would love to tour with Iced Earth, one of her favorite bands of all time, as their music speaks to her on a whole other level.

And last but not least, When Brittney was asked how it feels to be in a Power Metal band from a country like Canada where the Power Metal scene is not as developed as in other places like Scandinavia and Japan, she admitted it’s a bit tough for bands that play metal the likes of Unleash The Archers due to the music culture in Canada being a lot more inclined to Death Metal and other more extreme styles, with Canadian metalheads growing up with bands like Kataklysm and Voivod,  even saying a Power Metal band can feel very “lonely” in the country. However, she also mentioned that even in that not-so-inspiring scenario there are still lots of traditional Power Metal acts all over the country, proving that as long as Power Metal bands keep playing music from their hearts and stay united and strong, the genre has all it takes to grow in popularity among Canadian fans. And there’s no one better than the warrior princess Brittney to lead that metal army and “unleash the archers” upon all of us.

Brittney Slayes’ Official Facebook page
Brittney Slayes’ Official Instagram
Brittney Slayes’ Official Twitter
Unleash The Archers’ Official Facebook page
Unleash The Archers’ Official Instagram
Unleash The Archers’ Official Twitter

“There’s always going to be those faces in the crowd that you have known since the beginning, and that you know will always be there for you; they were fans, and they’ve become friends. I think that there’s very much this foundation of fans that keep you standing. That will never change. The only thing that happens is that it just grows.” – Brittney Slayes

Album Review – Derdian / DNA (2018)

Get ready for over one hour of top-of-the-line Symphonic Power Metal, courtesy of one of the most prominent and skillful bands from the Italian scene.

Hailing from the always fun and vibrant Italian city of Milan, a global capital of fashion and design, here comes one of the most important and most consistent metal acts from the European scene, Symphonic Power Metal squad Derdian, back with another vibrant and well-balanced album titled DNA, the seventh full-length release in their beyond prolific and interesting career. In an era where most renowned bands tend to release only a handful of songs per album, Derdian go against the tide by offering fans of their fusion of symphonic elements and Heavy Metal nothing more, nothing less than over one hour of first-class music split into 13 original songs, proving once again how much they love what they do.

Comprised of Ivan Giannini on vocals, Enrico Pistolese and Dario Radaelli on the guitars, Marco Banfi on bass, Marco Garau on keyboards and Salvatore Giordano on drums, which is the same extremely talented and focused lineup from their previous releases such as their 2014 album Human Reset and their 2016 release Revolution Era, Derdian keep blasting their usual sonic extravaganza full of symphonic layers, epic passages and endless electricity in DNA, all embraced by a crystal clear overall production that enhances the impact of their music even more, turning the experience of listening to DNA a musical orgasm for admirers of the genre.

Abduction, a symphonic-cinematic intro that sounds and feels very serene, sets the stage for Derdian to kick some serious ass with the title-track DNA, a fast and very melodic Power Metal feast inspired by the golden days of Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius, with Ivan showcasing a superb performance on vocals while Marco Garau and Salvatore have a healthy “duel” of delicacy versus stamina with their instruments. After such powerful start the band offers a top-notch Melodic Metal tune for the masses titled False Flag Operation, with its conspiracy theories-inspired lyrics (“It flies along the blue skies / No one knows what’s gonna happen / New York city will have / The right punishment to be / A nest of worms without a faith / Greedy hawks vultures and jackals / Soon the west will got a / Nice surprise to share with me!”) and sheer epicness flowing from the guitars by Enrico and Dario, followed by Never Born, where a smooth start evolves to a feast of harmonious and delicate sounds, but still bringing the traditional electricity of Melodic Power Metal. In addition, this is a great song to sing along with Ivan and the guys, with Enrico, Dario and Marco Banfi giving a lesson in intricacy, melody and feeling with their stringed weapons.

The next track in DNA, called Hail to the Masters, presents a fun fusion of Symphonic Power Metal with Epic and Folk Metal, considerably different from their traditional sonority, with Ivan singing like a true minstrel and with Marco Garau dictating the rhythm with his whimsical keys; while in Red and White, a perfect example of what Melodic Metal is all about, the band gets back to their old school musicality, which means fast and melodic riffs, nonstop drums and another great vocal exhibit by Ivan, flowing smoothly form start to finish. Then we’re treated to a prancing mid-tempo composition entitled Elohim, led by the rhythmic beats by Salvatore and feeling almost a hundred percent Folk Metal at times, before morphing into a Jazz-infused feast of bass punches, keyboard solos and an upbeat vibe. It’s indeed a fantastic and unique side of Derdian, but if that is not entertaining enough for you, we have another powerful tune named Nothing Will Remain for your avid ears, blending elements from classic and symphonic music with modern Progressive Metal, with highlights to the spot-on guitar solos by both Enrico and Dario.

While Fire from the Dust brings what’s perhaps their most aggressive lyrics (“Like a snake crawls out from the rocks / We go out from …this fucking hole / Let the hate becomes a fire / Fire from the dust! / Take the weapons, annihilate them / They are not machines! / Like a snake crawls out from the rocks  / Fire from the dust!”), musically speaking it’s a Symphonic Metal extravaganza tailored for diehard fans of the genre, with the solos by the band’s guitar duo and especially by Marco Garau adding even more electricity to the overall result. Then in Destiny Never Awaits a gentle piano intro evolves into a decent power ballad by this Italian six-piece squad, presenting pleasant guitar lines and potent vocals, but unfortunately never reaching the same electrifying vibe of the rest of the album; whereas in Frame of the End the band delivers a heavier version of their Symphonic Power Metal (it can even be considered a more symphonic and metallic version of the music by Dream Theater in my opinion) spearheaded by Ivan and his passionate and flammable vocal lines, with Stefano also having a precise and groovy performance on drums, not to mention all of the song’s nice breaks and variations. Marco Garau once again kicks things off in a vibrant feast of Melodic Metal titled Part of This World, where not only Enrico and Dario are in total sync with their riffs, but you should also pay attention to how they meticulously add several elements from classical music to their Power Metal. And lastly, as a “bonus” the band offers us a Spanish version for “Nothing Will Remain”, translated to Ya Nada Cambiara, bringing an extra dosage of epicness and an fresh kick to their Symphonic Power Metal.

If you’re not familiar yet with the symphonic and electrifying world of Derdian, you can get more details about the band, their tour dates and their music on Facebook and on YouTube, and purchase a copy of DNA directly from their webstore, from iTunes or from Amazon. In a nutshell, DNA is more than just another ass-kicking, thrilling album by this Italian squad that lives and breathes Melodic and Symphonic Power Metal, but a beyond recommended option for anyone who admires some good old Heavy Metal with a precise amount of symphonic elements and an epic aura. Some bands are comprised of talented musicians while others work their asses off to provide good music to the listener, but in the case of Derdian we can say they combine the best of both worlds, with DNA being the perfect depiction of the beautiful thing that happens when you put undisputed talent together with endless amounts of hard work.

Best moments of the album: DNA, Never Born, Elohim and Frame of the End.

Worst moments of the album: Destiny Never Awaits.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Abduction 1:12
2. DNA 5:27
3. False Flag Operation 5:00
4. Never Born 5:43
5. Hail to the Masters 4:27
6. Red and White 5:04
7. Elohim 5:26
8. Nothing Will Remain 5:31
9. Fire from the Dust 6:21
10. Destiny Never Awaits 5:41
11. Frame of the End 5:00
12. Part of This World 6:05
13. Ya Nada Cambiara 5:31

King Records Edition bonus track
14. Never Born (Japanese version) 5:41

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