Album Review – Winter’s Verge / The Ballad of James Tig (2020)

One of Cyprus’ most successful metal bands returns with their most ambitious project to date, telling the story of a man who lost his family at sea seeking revenge against a sea monster.

One of Cyprus’ most successful metal bands of all time, Nicosia-based Symphonic Power Metal act Winter’s Verge has been on a roll since their inception in 2005, having released so far four studio albums and three EP’s, and building a strong reputation as one of the most exciting live acts in Cyprus with a powerful blend of Epic, Melodic and Symphonic Metal. Currently comprised of George Charalambous on vocals, Deniel Pavlovsky and Savvas Parperi on the guitars, Miguel Trapezaris on bass, Stavry Michael on keyboards and Danny Koullis Georgiou Conway on drums, Winter’s Verge’s music is highly conceptual and takes place within a mythological realm called Tiberon, with all songs and lyrics allowing fans to explore the themes, characters and locations for their own interpretation. Now in 2020, after three years in the making, the band is ready to stun us all once again with The Ballad of James Tig, their fifth full-length opus and their most ambitious projects to date, telling the story of James Tig, a man who lost his family at sea when he was a young boy and had set his life-long dream to find the legendary Killagorak, a sea monster who he believes was what killed his family when he was very young, therefore seeking revenge.

With a concept and lyrics by renowned local author and playwright Frixos Masouras, featuring a classic artwork designed by George Vasiliou, mixed and produced by vocalist George Charalambous himself, mastered by George Eracleous at Oneirism Studios, and featuring guest vocalist Teodora Stoyanova Freya (known for her work with Bulgarian Viking Metal band Freija and with a metal project called Magic of the North) playing the part of Nina in the story, The Ballad of James Tig is not just another concept storyline, but a much bolder project by Winter’s Verge with a huge sounding scope and symphonic sound, cementing the band’s name as one of the most exciting and innovative metal bands from the entire Eastern Mediterranean region.

Get ready to embark on a musical voyage together with Winter’s Verge, beginning with the symphonic and serene opening aria It Begins, with George taking the lead with his soulful vocals while his bandmates embellish the airwaves with their respective instruments, whereas the keys by Stavry and all background orchestrations are soon joined by the pounding Power Metal drums by Danny in the heavier and faster A Thousand Souls, where the band’s guitar duo Deniel and Savvas are on fire with their riffs and solos, also presenting tons of breaks and variations to make things even more impactful. Sounding very theatrical from the very first second, Dead Reckoning is a lot more symphonic than metallic, which obviously means the focus is on its melody rather than its heaviness, while George does a great job once again on vocals, and featuring Teodora as a guest vocalist for the first time we have the charming and enfolding Timeless, with the delicate piano notes by Stavry adding an extra touch of finesse to this beautiful ballad by Winter’s Verge.

Killagorak (yes, the monster itself) is a two-minute imposing, epic interlude that will embrace you and prepare your senses for the breathtaking I Accept, starting in full force spearheaded by Danny and his intricate and powerful beats while Deniel and Savvas keep slashing their strings in great fashion, once again with Teodora and George making a dynamic vocal duo for our total delight. Then we have Blood on the Foam, a pirate-inspired Metal Opera where the Progressive Power Metal played by Winter’s Verge is flawlessly intertwined with pure symphonic passages, not to mention how thunderous the bass jabs by Miguel and the drums by Danny sound; and we’re treated to one final round of Teodora’s gorgeous, operatic vocals in The Sea, offering our ears eight minutes of dark passages, introspective vocals and crushing riffs. In the end, you’ll feel absolutely mesmerized by such detailed and thrilling song, before The Ballad of James Tig, a true ballad of the seas, closes the album on a high note, with its semi-acoustic guitars and tribal beats permeating the air and putting a climatic and melancholic conclusion to the story told by Winter’s Verge.

You can get in touch with such distinguished band on Facebook and subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their stylish music and official videos, but of course in order to show your utmost support to underground Symphonic Metal you should definitely purchase The Ballad of James Tig from your favorite retailer such as Nuclear Blast, Season of Mist, EMP, Apple Music and Amazon, as well as stream the album in full on Spotify as soon as it’s released in the coming weeks. It’s truly mesmerizing the way Winter’s Verge told the tale of James Tig in their new album, uniting music and storytelling in a compelling way and, above all that, providing us fans of heavy music a very good reason to sail the unruly waters of the mythological realm if Tiberon together with James Tig himself, and obviously with our six talented Cypriot metallers.

Best moments of the album: A Thousand Souls, I Accept and The Sea.

Worst moments of the album: Dead Reckoning.

Released in 2020 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. It Begins 6:57
2. A Thousand Souls 4:57
3. Dead Reckoning 4:41
4. Timeless 6:57
5. Killagorak 2:11
6. I Accept 5:03
7. Blood on the Foam 6:06
8. The Sea 7:59
9. The Ballad of James Tig 4:07

Band members
George Charalambous – vocals
Deniel Pavlovsky – guitars
Savvas Parperi – guitars
Miguel Trapezaris – bass
Stavry Michael – keyboards
Danny Koullis Georgiou Conway – drums

Guest musician
Teodora Stoyanova Freya – female vocals on “Timeless”, “I Accept” and “The Sea”

Album Review – Re-Armed / Ignis Aeternum (2020)

A modern, melodic and entertaining album of heavy music about positivity, about constant change and seeing life as it is in every level, directly from Finland into your heart and soul.

Mixing their trademark Melodic Death Metal with classic Death and Thrash Metal and symphonic influences in order to bring to the scene a more vibrant and modern sound, Kerava, Finland-based unity Re-Armed has been on a constant evolution since their inception in 2001, moving from what’s usually known as the Gothenburg sound to their current shape and form, culminating with the release of their brand new album Ignis Aeternum, the fourth full-length opus in their solid career. Produced and recorded at Studio UG and mixed at ShedStudios in Kerava,  mastered at Audiamond in Niinikoski, Finland, and featuring a caustic and grim artwork by Brazilian artist Romulo Dias, Ignis Aeternum is about positivity, about constant change and seeing life as it is in every level. It is a trip, a breathtaking view about life’s diversity, and an ode to life, all embraced by the slashing metal music blasted by frontman Jouni Matilainen, guitarists Allan Välimaa and Oskari Niekka, bassist Juhana Heinonen and drummer Iiro Karjalainen with tons of precision, dexterity and feeling, just the way we like it in Melodic Death Metal.

It’s time to put the pedal to the metal together with the guys from Re-Armed in the epic and insurgent Dive Within, with Iiro sounding absolutely bestial on drums, providing his bandmates all they need to kick some serious ass with their respective sonic weapons, spiced up by a beautiful ending featuring a stanza taken from Eino Leino’s poem “Hymni Tulelle”. Then we’re treated to more of the melodic and electrifying sounds crafted by the quintet in Beyond the Horizon, sounding futuristic and extremely sharp while Allan and Oskari fire some Arch Enemy-inspired riffs accompanied by the whimsical keys by guest Sami Tiittanen; and the rumbling bass jabs by Juhana kick off the vibrant Melodic Death Metal extravaganza titled Ode to Life, featuring guest guitarist Euge Valovirta (CyHra, Godsplague), a song perfect for breaking your neck headbanging where their razor-edged guitars are nicely complemented by all epic background elements.

Gentle piano notes quickly explode into violent and atmospheric Melodic Metal in Eager to Collapse, with Iiro and Juhana bringing thunder and groove to the music while Jouni keeps vociferating rabidly, whereas Resistance is even darker and more epic than its predecessors, led by the vile riffage by Allan and Oskari while their bandmates add an extra touch of progressiveness, rage and heaviness to the overall result, inspiring us all to slam into the circle pit. Spiced up by futuristic background keys and tones, the band offers the thrilling The Hollow Lights, blending their trademark Melodic Death Metal with the most venomous elements from Death and Thrash Metal, flowing majestically until its climatic ending, while in Remain Unbounded the band’s guitar duo shreds their strings mercilessly until Iiro comes crushing with his Black Metal-inspired beats, keeping the song at a high level of violence and alternating between vicious, high-speed moments and more intricate, mid-tempo passages.

Get ready to bang your heads like there’s no tomorrow with Re-Armed in Words Left Unsaid, where the bass punches by Juhana will make your skull tremble while Jouni’s growls and roars sound as heavy as hell from start to finish. Following this vicious onrush of sounds the band brings forward Voyager, another solid composition showcasing all their talent and passion for Scandinavian metal, with Jouni and guest vocalist Micko Hell (Denigrate, Gloomy Grim) making a thrilling metallic duet on vocals while Iiro once again shines with his spot-on drumming. Lastly, Re-Armed conclude such great album of heavy music with another sample of their endless energy and firepower in the form of Built to Last, where Allan and Oskari are in absolute sync with Sami’s keys, therefore building the perfect setting for Jouni to thrive with his wicked gnarls until the song end’s in sheer melancholy.

In order to show your utmost support to those talented metallers from the land of ice and snow, simply follow them on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel and search for them on Spotify for more of their music, and above all that, purchase your favorite version of Ignis Aeternum from several locations such as the Black Lion Records’ BandCamp page and Big Cartel, from Record Shop X, from the EMP store, from IndieMerchstore or from Apple Music. The title of the album translates from Latin as “eternal fire”, and there’s nothing better to represent life as a fire that never ceases to exist no matter what, giving the entire album an even stronger meaning and purpose and, consequently, keeping Re-Armed’s inner fire also burning for many years to come in their homeland and anywhere else where modern and captivating metal music is truly appreciated.

Best moments of the album: Dive Within, Ode to Life and The Hollow Lights.

Worst moments of the album: Eager to Collapse.

Released in 2020 Black Lion Productions

Track listing
1. Dive Within 4:31
2. Beyond the Horizon 5:12
3. Ode to Life 4:10
4. Eager to Collapse 3:47
5. Resistance 4:34
6. The Hollow Lights 4:27
7. Remain Unbounded 5:17
8. Words Left Unsaid 4:37
9. Voyager 5:22
10. Built to Last 4:57

Band members
Jouni Matilainen – lead vocals
Allan Välimaa – guitars
Oskari Niekka – guitars, backing vocals
Juhana Heinonen – bass, backing vocals
Iiro Karjalainen – drums

Guest musicians
Euge Valovirta – guitars on “Ode to Life”
Micko Hell – additional vocals on “Voyager”
Sami Tiittanen – keyboards
Aapo Salo – orchestra, symphonic arrangements

Album Review – Bakken / This Means War (2020)

Are you ready for a fast and epic fusion of Thrash and Power Metal? That’s exactly what those UK-based headbangers have to offer us all in their brand new album.

Formed in 2011 in the city of Belfast, Northern Ireland, the unstoppable Thrash/Power Metal quintet known as Bakken has quickly amassed a loyal following thanks to the incredibly positive press attention gained worldwide since the release of their 2012 debut album Death Of A Hero, describing their sound as “combining the visceral edge, gruff vocals and choppy riffing of early Thrash Metal with melodic sensibilities and complex song structures of German Power Metal and NWOBHM”, being therefore highly recommended for fans of the incendiary music by renowned acts like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Megadeth, Dio, Helloween, Gamma Ray and so on. Now in 2020 the band comprised of Frank Levi on lead vocals, Simon Pickett and Shaun Nelson on the guitars, Thomas Alford on bass and Niall McGrotty on drums returns with the follow-up to Death Of A Hero and to their 2014 EP Worldwide Genocide, the full-length metal extravaganza titled This Means War, featuring eight powerful original tracks enfolded by an old school artwork by UK artist Isaac Levi, aiming at cementing Bakken as one of the driving forces of the new Northern Irish metal scene.

Imposing, cinematic sounds kick off the opening track This Means War, exploding into first-class classic Power Metal led by Niall’s crushing beats while Frank delivers his trademark high-pitched screams supported by his bandmates’ spot-on backing vocals, resulting in the best possible start to such fun album. Then drinking from the same metallic fountain as classic German acts such as Helloween, Primal Fear and Gamma Ray the band offers us all Cold Blooded Murder, where Simon and Shaun are on fire with their pure Heavy Metal riffs and solos; whereas Star Machine brings to our ears a galloping rhythm spearheaded by Niall and Thomas with their rumbling beats and bass jabs, respectively. It’s indeed a great option for banging your head nonstop, also presenting a high dosage of Thrash Metal in its flammable riffs, and putting the pedal to the metal it’s time for a high-octane Power and Thrash Metal attack titled Evil Walks This Way, a groovy and vibrant composition where Thomas is ruthless with his thunderous bass, providing Frank a strong base for his piercing vocal lines.

Sinister sounds and notes ignite the Dio/Queensrÿche-inspired semi-ballad In Requiem, where Frank displays a potent vocal performance while Simon and Shaun keep the atmosphere utterly dark with their classic riffs, despite the fact that the song goes on for a little too long, though. Back to a more aggressive and thrilling sonority the band blasts the epic Two-Edged Blade, another tune showcasing pounding and rhythmic beats, incendiary guitars and the always soaring vocal lines by Frank, all spiced up by their razor-edged guitar solos, making it impossible to stand still to their personal “tribute” to all things NWOBHM. After such breathtaking tune it’s time for We Fight, a rebellious anthem by Bakken exhaling pure Melodic Metal, as fast and electrifying as it can be with Niall obviously sounding like a machine gun on drums accompanied by the band’s inspired stringed trio. It will surely put you to heabang like a maniac and raise your horns in the name of metal, before an 80’s Hard Rock-inspired intro ignites the closing tune Storm Angels, with its smashing drums and crisp riffs generating a captivating ambience during its almost six minutes of potent and dense sounds masterfully delivered by the quintet, flowing smoothly until its climatic finale.

In a nutshell, if fast and classic Heavy Metal is your cup of tea, don’t waste a single second and go take a good and detailed listen at This Means War in its entirety on Spotify, and of course grab your copy of the album from the band’s own BandCamp page or from Apple Music. Also, don’t forget to follow those Northern Irish metallers on Facebook to keep informed about their news, releases and tour dates, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their traditional metal music. Bakken might not be reinventing Heavy Metal with This Means War, and that has never been their goal anyway, but they’re indeed providing us metalheads a very enjoyable option for hitting the road with your loved ones, working out at the gym or simply for staying home and savoring our beloved Heavy Metal, showing all your admiration and respect for one of the most important (and most captivating) genres in the history of music.

Best moments of the album: Cold Blooded Murder, Two-Edged Blade and We Fight.

Worst moments of the album: In Requiem.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. This Means War 5:09
2. Cold Blooded Murder 5:10
3. Star Machine 3:34
4. Evil Walks This Way 4:10
5. In Requiem 6:09
6. Two-Edged Blade 5:54
7. We Fight 5:30
8. Storm Angels 5:57

Band members
Frank Levi – lead vocals
Simon Pickett – guitar, vocals
Shaun Nelson – guitar
Thomas Alford – bass
Niall McGrotty – drums

Album Review – Absolva / Side By Side (2020)

Celebrating the great tradition of British Heavy Metal with huge riffs and massive hooks, this young and restless Manchester, UK-based unity returns with their breathtaking fifth full-length album.

If you’re a fan of the most recent solo albums by the indomitable Blaze Bayley, more specifically with his  Infinite Entanglement Trilogy, you’ve probably heard the names of vocalist and guitarist Christopher Appleton, bassist Karl Schramm and drummer Martin Mcnee, who together with Chris’ brother, guitarist Luke Appleton (of Iced Earth), have been making a lot of noise since 2012 with their Manchester, England-based Melodic/Heavy Metal band Absolva. Each member has a wealth of experience with an impressive pedigree recording and touring with their other above-mentioned associations with Iced Earth and Blaze Bayley, and have also toured as support artists with the likes of Saxon, Michael Schenker and Y&T. Now in 2020 it’s time for Absolva to strike again with Side By Side, their fifth studio album following on from Flames of Justice (2012), Anthems to the Dead (2014), Never a Good Day to Die (2015) and Defiance (2017).

Recorded at Rocksector Records headquarters in Manchester, produced by Chris Appleton himself, mastered by Ade Emsley at Table of Tone Mastering Ltd. in London, and featuring a classic artwork by Brazilian artist Alberto Quirantes of Akirant Illustration (Blaze Bayley, Iron Maiden, Star Wars), Side By Side undoubtedly celebrates the great tradition of British Heavy Metal with huge riffs and massive hooks. However, Absolva have never been scared to mix things up, and fans will discover light and shade across the ten original songs (plus two very special bonus tracks) found in such entertaining album that transpires metal music, showcasing an exceptional performance by all band members and, therefore, being highly recommended for fans of the music by Iron Maiden, Saxon, Judas Priest, Helloween and several other metal giants.

The strident guitars by Chris and Luke bring thunder to the opening track Advocate Your Fate, accompanied by the band’s heavy kitchen of Martin and Karl in a pure traditional Heavy Metal feast, with their guitar solos being absolutely incendiary; and blasting a Judas Priest-inspired mega-riff the band embellishes the airwaves with the high-octane Burning Star, where Chris’ soaring screams are beautifully supported by his bandmates’ backing vocals, sounding perfect for headbanging nonstop in the name of Heavy Metal. Then keep banging your heads and raising your horns to the sound of The Sky’s Your Limit, where the bass punches by Karl will reverberate inside your brain, feeling very melodic from start to finish and being obviously recommended for enjoying it while on a road trip, whereas the title-track Side by Side brings forward an inspiring, upbeat atmosphere showcasing the union among the band members, with both Chris and Luke taking the lead with their refined riffs and solos and, of course, living up to the legacy of the biggest exponents of the genre.

After such amazing first batch of songs, it’s time to speed things up and slam into the pit together with the boys in Living a Lie, another lesson in traditional Heavy Metal where Martin is unstoppable on drums while its guitars will pierce your ears and Chris powerfully declaims the song’s austere lyrics, followed by Legion, presenting a “Stranger in a Stranger Land” vibe generated by Karl and his menacing bass, alternating between heavier moments spiced up by Chris and Luke’s shredding and more serene, melodic passages. And more metallic sounds permeate the airwaves in Eternal Soul, a galloping tune led by Karl and Martin armed with their thunderous instruments, feeling like a metal classic from the 80’s with a catchy chorus that will put you to sing along with the band, not to mention their trademark electrifying solos.

Chris leads his metal army in the rebellious anthem End of Days, a more epic and imposing tune where Martin’s beats dictate the pace and the band’s stringed trio doesn’t stop firing sheer electricity from their axes, and setting fire to the world the band brings forth the frantic, melodic and absolutely awesome Heart Let’s Go, where Chris keeps blasting his sharp vocals accompanied by the razor-edged sound of the guitars and the groovy bass by Karl. Finally, a serene Hard Rock-inspired intro ignites the melodic From This World, the last original song of the album where the quartet showcases a lot of passion and feeling, led by the pounding beats by Martin (albeit going on for a little too long, though), before we’re treated to two metallic and vibrant bonus tracks by Absolva showing their respect and admiration for the undisputed metal titans Iron Maiden, with 2 Minutes to Midnight, and Black Sabbath, with Heaven and Hell, with their Iron Maiden version sounding and feeling beyond stunning.

The guys form Absolva are waiting for you on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Spotify, ready to invade your senses with their refined old school Heavy Metal, and with Side By Side being the perfect representation of everything they stand for and what we can except from such talented band in a not-so-distant future. Hence, don’t forget to purchase your copy of the album from their Big Cartel page, from Apple Music or from Amazon, standing side by side with one of the youngest and most promising bands of the UK scene and, as a consequence, living and breathing metal music together with a band that proudly carries the flag of NWOBHM wherever they go.

Best moments of the album: Burning Star, Eternal Soul, Heart Let’s Go and 2 Minutes to Midnight.

Worst moments of the album: From This World.

Released in 2020 Rocksector Records

Track listing
1. Advocate Your Fate 4:39
2. Burning Star 4:02
3. The Sky’s Your Limit 5:22
4. Side by Side 4:39
5. Living a Lie 3:07
6. Legion 3:42
7. Eternal Soul 5:37
8. End of Days 6:07
9. Heart Let’s Go 4:21
10. From This World 5:51

Bonus tracks
11. 2 Minutes to Midnight (Iron Maiden cover) 5:49
12. Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath cover) 7:01

Band members
Christopher Appleton – lead vocals, lead guitar
Luke Appleton – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals
Karl Schramm – bass
Martin Mcnee – drums

Album Review – Ani Lo. Projekt / A Time Called Forever (2020)

May your heart and soul be filled with the timeless Heavy Metal blasted by Ani Lo. and her henchmen forever and ever in their sophomore full-length opus.

Brought into being in 2010 in Sofia, the capital of the Balkan nation of Bulgaria, when well-known Bulgarian singer Ani Lozanova (also known as Ani Lo.) and her long-term musical partner, drummer Konstantin Dinev (also known as Kossy D.) decided to join forces to create a project of their own, Symphonic Heavy/Power Metal act Ani Lo. Projekt will bring to your ears a powerful and metallic sound in their sophomore album, entitled A Time Called Forever, the follow-up to their 2011 opus Miracle presenting 12 breathtaking creations composed by Jens Faber (Dawn Of Destiny), who also played guitar, bass and keyboards on the entire album, as well as some growls and clean vocals. Recorded and mastered by Markus Teske at Bazement Studio, featuring an array of guest musicians the likes of Eric Dow (Helsótt), Michael Thionville (Voodoma) and Ani Lo.’s own husband Lachezar Stefanov, and displaying a classy artwork by Bulgarian artist Deliana Stoyanova, A Time Called Forever will undoubtedly please all fans of the music played by bands such as Lords Of Black, Almanac, The Unity and Within Temptation, blending the most symphonic, epic and harmonious elements form classic Heavy and Power Metal.

Kossy begins hammering his drums in the epic and symphonic opening track Break My Chains, with Jens providing Ani all she needs to shine with her potent vocals by blasting crisp background keys and wicked growls, followed by the title-track A Time Called Forever, a beyond mesmerizing tune showcasing Arabian elements and the piercing vocals by Ani, inspiring you to bang your head nonstop while the band smashes your senses with their kick-ass Symphonic Heavy Metal. Featuring guest vocals by Lachezar Stefanov, Bleed is an upbeat composition where the keys by Jens and the beats by Kossy generate an incendiary paradox perfect for admirers of the very melodic but still ferocious and high-octane side of Power Metal, and even more epic and imposing than its predecessors, End Up in Sorrow is a song where Ani steals the spotlight with her enfolding vocals, sounding as if Nightwish and Epica had the mighty Doro on vocals, not to mention Jens’ stunning keys.

Back to a more frantic and very sharp sonority, The Letter presents Kossy kicking some serious ass with his Helloween/Stratovarius-inspired beats, with Jens once again sounding bestial with his guitar riffs and solos; whereas again investing in more melodious and fiery sounds the band offers the gorgeous ballad Back to You, where the passionate vocals by Ani are boosted by Jens’ souful riffage while Kossy keeps the pace very pleasant with his beats. Then we have Cold Death, a galloping and fierce aria of Power Metal by the trio with Ani’s vocals sounding even more captivating, feeling like a song form the Middle Ages turned into modern-day metal music, and Feel Inside, perhaps the most generic of all songs despite its positive message and another solid performance by all band member, especially Jens with his guitar solos, never really taking off (but nothing that causes any damage to the album).

Featuring guest vocals by Michael Thionville, who by the way makes a flammable duo with Ani, Fly with Me is another passionate ballad by Ani and her henchmen, showcasing epic keys and spot-on drums, being therefore perfect for enjoying it with your significant other in your arms. Then again venturing through the realms of Symphonic Power Metal the band explodes our senses with the fantastic Don’t Leave (This World), where Ani hypnotizes us all with her potent, high-pitched lioness roars while guest Eric Dow delivers sheer rage through his growls, making it impossible not to raise your fists to such epic tune; and it’s time to put the pedal to the metal in a Melodic Metal extravaganza titled My Misery, where again we’re treated to the awesome Ani-Eric duet, living up to the legacy of renowned acts like Stratovarius and Kamelot, sounding absolutely fast and thrilling thanks to the unstoppable beats by Kossy. And the last blast of heavy music by Ani Lo. Projekt comes in the form of the ballad Walk Alone, where Ani’s deep vocals are accompanied by gentle piano notes and an embracing atmosphere until the very end.

The multi-talented Ani Lo., Kossy D. and Jens Faber are waiting for you on Facebook, and if you want to show your utmost admiration and support for such distinguished group of musicians you should definitely purchase A Time Called Forever from countless locations such as the Season of Mist webstore, Record Shop X, HMV, Apple Music and Amazon, as well as stream it in its entirety from YouTube and from Spotify. And may Ani and her awesome Ani Lo. Projekt keep reigning forever and ever not only in the metallic Republic of Bulgaria, but anywhere else in the world where our good old Heavy Metal is truly appreciated.

Best moments of the album: A Time Called Forever, End Up in Sorrow and My Misery.

Worst moments of the album: Feel Inside.

Released in 2020 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Break My Chains 4:52
2. A Time Called Forever 5:47
3. Bleed 4:27
4. End Up in Sorrow 5:16
5. The Letter 3:53
6. Back to You 3:23
7. Cold Death 4:07
8. Feel Inside 3:13
9. Fly with Me 5:13
10. Don’t Leave (This World) 3:19
11. My Misery 3:53
12. Walk Alone 4:15

Band members
Ani Lo. – vocals
Kossy D. – drums
Jens Faber – guitars, bass, keyboards, growls, clean vocals

Guest musicians
Eric Dow – vocals on “Don’t Leave (This World)” and “My Misery”
Michael Thionville – vocals on “Fly With Me”
Lachezar Stefanov – vocals on “Bleed”

Album Review – Nicumo / Inertia (2020)

Let’s explore the vast and melancholic lands of Melodic Gothic Metal and Rock together with five talented Finnish musicians and their breathtaking new album.

Formed in 2007 in Ylivieska, a town and municipality of Pohjois-Pohjanmaa, Finland, the talented Melodic Gothic Metal/Rock institution known as Nicumo returns with another blast of their stylish “Melancholic Metal” in Inertia, the third full-length album in their solid career. Recorded and mixed by Olli Tainio at Joshua Music, mastered by Svante Forsbäck at Chartmakers Mastering, and featuring guest saxophonist Mikko-Ilari Ojala, Inertia will guide through vast and melancholic lands together with lead singer Hannu Karppinen, guitarists Atte Jääskelä and Tapio Anttiroiko, bassist Sami Kotila and drummer Aki Pusa, keeping the band’s momentum going after the releases of their 2013 debut album The End of Silence and their 2017 sophomore effort Storms Arise. “Inertia continues kind of naturally from where our second album Storms Arise left. Atmosphere is even deeper and more intense than in previous albums. We have grown as a band during these years of course, and I believe that it can be heard on this album. Songs are more solid and thoughtful entities, composed by needs of the song. Sound-wise this album is most experimental in our discography. Saxophone and even concrete floor played with drumsticks can be heard from the album just for an example,” commented Aki about the band’s newborn spawn.

In the awesome opening track Three Pyres a melancholic and somber Gothic Rock-infused start gradually evolves into a feast of deep, dark vocals by Hannu and the delicate but piercing guitar lines by Atte and Tapio, being therefore highly recommended for fans of the music by HIM with a more obscure vibe, and we’re all invited to dive into the band’s Melodic and Gothic Metal waters in Dark Rivers, with the band’s guitar duo crushing their strings mercilessly while Aki dictates the song’s pace alternating between faster beats and more rhythmic passages. In Same Blood, a stunning ballad with the band’s guitar duo embellishing the airwaves with their solos together with Mikko-Ilari and his saxophone, Hannu darkly declaims the song’s introspective words accompanied only by acoustic guitars at times, whereas in Witch Hunt their music leans towards classic Melodic Metal, but of course bringing the band’s darker sounds. Moreover, Hannu delivers more of his enraged growls while Sami keeps blasting his rumbling bass nonstop, keeping the album’s Gothic flame burning bright.

Then alternating between thunderous sounds and cryptic, melancholic moments the band brings forward the captivating Tree of Life, where Sami once again delivers tons of groove through his bass while Hannu’s crisp vocals are effectively supported by all background elements, followed by Mother and the Snake, even more enfolding and atmospheric, with Atte and Tapio cutting our skin deep with their wicked riffs and solos while Hannu once again shines with both his clean vocals and deep roars. After such powerful display of Gothic Metal, get ready to dance and bang your heads to the sound of Who You Are, an amazing tune showcasing Hannu’s most visceral growls and the band’s characteristic, slashing guitar lines and spot-on drums; and venturing through the realms of old school Gothic Rock and Metal we have Time Won’t Heal, as melancholic as the best creations by Ville Valo and his HIM, displaying inspiring guitar lines and an embracing ambience that provide Hannu all he needs to thrive on vocals once again. Finally, closing such beautiful album of melancholic music we have Black Wolf with its almost seven minutes of serene passages and heavy riffs, darkening our hearts (in a good way, of course) and flowing like the unruly waters of a Stygian river until its climatic finale.

In short, Inertia is a very entertaining, pleasant and solid album of Melancholic Metal tailored for admirers of such distinct style, inviting the listener to join Nicumo in darkness and savoring every single moment of the album together with them. Hence, let’s show our utmost support to those Finnish metallers by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, by listening to more of their music on YouTube and on Spotify, and above all that by buying your copy of inertia from Nicumo’s official BandCamp page, from the Inverse Store, from Record Shop X or from Discogs, and may the breathtaking and somber music by Nicumo serve as the soundtrack to your most serene and melancholic moments in life.

Best moments of the album: Three Pyres, Same Blood and Mother and the Snake.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Three Pyres 3:57
2. Dark Rivers 4:38
3. Same Blood 4:20
4. Witch Hunt 4:41
5. Tree of Life 5:12
6. Mother and the Snake 3:55
7. Who You Are 4:32
8. Time Won’t Heal 3:46
9. Black Wolf 6:55

Band members
Hannu Karppinen – vocals
Atte Jääskelä – guitars
Tapio Anttiroiko – guitars
Sami Kotila – bass
Aki Pusa – drums

Guest musician
Mikko-Ilari Ojala – saxophone

Album Review – Crimson Sun / Fates (2020)

Known for their gripping live performances, catchy sounds and melodies, this Finnish Melodic Heavy Metal institution is ready to take the world of heavy music by storm with their sophomore album.

Known for their gripping live performances, catchy sounds and melodies, Finnish Melodic Heavy Metal institution Crimson Sun is ready to take the world of heavy music by storm with their sophomore album Fates, the follow-up to their debut full-length installment Towards the Light, released in 2015, and the EP The Spirit of Unchainable, from 2017. Formed under an unknown name in 2001 in the city of Hamina, Finland, and evolving into their current moniker in 2005, Crimson Sun have been making a name for themselves since their inception, quickly finding their way into the hearts of metalheads from all around the world and, as a consequence, leading the band currently formed by frontwoman Sini Seppälä, guitarist Joni Junnila, bassist Jukka Jauhiainen, keyboardist Miikka Hujanen and drummer Antti Rantavuo  to perform in some of the biggest metal festivals in Finland and to tour around Europe.

Thematically centered around different fates of people, and loosely referring to the band’s own experiences as well, Fates is an amalgamation of classic and contemporary rock and metal styles centered on the band’s Melodic, Symphonic and Alternative Metal core essence, offering their fans the perfect soundtrack to face our daily struggles and obstacles. “The album took its time as we all went through some major changes in our personal lives – some of us started families, some lost relationships or loved ones, built houses, gained new jobs… Life happened! ‘Fates’ proves however, that despite things changing we can get past all difficulties and challenges and move on – and make the kind of music we want to hear”, explained guitarist Joni Junnila about the band’s newborn spawn, complementing by saying that the album “represents continuity in our musical career. Some of the reviews of the first album suggested that we might just be a one-album-wonder. ‘Fates’ hopefully proves to everyone that this is not the case! We continue to grow and evolve – and we won’t even be just a ‘two-album-wonder’.”

Antti sets fire to the album with his frantic beats in the opening track The Beast Within, presenting elements from Symphonic and Alternative Metal as if Nightwish and Lacuna Coil had a child together, all boosted by Miikka’s futuristic keys and Sini’s crisp, high-pitched vocals. Then continuing to venture through the realms of modern Alternative Metal the band offers us all Virtual Reality, with Joni and Jukka extracting sheer adrenaline from their stringed weapons while Miikka and his whimsical keys bring a touch of lunacy to the musicality; followed by We Are One, where the quintet adds a considerable dosage of passion, melancholy and hope to their core sound, with Antti dictating the rhythm while Sini continues to shine on vocals, not to mention the dense and smooth bass lines by Jukka.

The Prison is one of the most symphonic of all songs, but of course still showcasing the band’s trademark electricity, being highly recommended for fans of bands like Epica and Lacuna Coil, with Sini and Miikka being on absolute fire while supported by Jukka and Antti’s thunderous kitchen. And it’s time to slow things down and enjoy Sini’s passionate performance in Overcome while her bandmates generate a delicate and ethereal ambience, resulting in a beautiful break from the faster pace of the rest of the album, flowing into Fate of Nora, which starts in an introspective way before exploding into modern-day Symphonic Metal led by Miikka and his sharp keys. Moreover, Jukka brings thunder to the music with his potent bass jabs, keeping the album as vibrant as it can be, setting the tone for the excellent Trailblazer, the perfect depiction of how powerful the music by Crimson Sun truly is, blasting tons of electricity to the masses while Sini is effectively supported by all her bandmates, in special by Antti’s fierce beats and fills and Joni’s slashing riffs.

Slightly more futuristic than its predecessors, Distant Stars flirts at times with electronic music and Industrial Rock and Metal, and albeit being a good composition it’s a bit generic if compared to all other songs (but still presenting a great job done by Miikka on keyboards, though), whereas Essence of Creation, an upbeat tune blending modern metal music with several electronic nuances, brings forward a shot of stamina into our avid ears while Sini declaims the song’s poetic lyrics in great fashion (“Respect the unscripted rule / The lifeline of all things / From life to life the cosmic ways go / They outline every shape we know / The meaning of life can’t be held / Nor contained in the world we live / Not even identified in a way we are used to”). And their last blast of high-end metal music made in Finland comes in the form of Last Day on Earth, the boldest of all songs overflowing passion and epicness thanks to Sini’s stunning vocal performance and Miikka’s classy keys, while Joni continues to shred his strings until the song’s climatic conclusion.

You can listen to Fates in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, but if I were you I would show my utmost support to such talented Finnish band by purchasing the album from their official webstore, as well as from Record Shop X, from Apple Music or from Amazon. Also, don’t forget to follow Crimson Sun on Facebook and on Instagram, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their flammable music. Finland has always been considered a reference in Melodic and Symphonic Metal with bands like Nightwish and Stratovarius spearheading the local movement, and now with the rise of Crimson Sun we can all rest assured the land of ice and snow will also continue to be called the land of metal music for many years to come.

Best moments of the album: The Beast Within, The Prison, Trailblazer and Essence of Creation.

Worst moments of the album: Distant Stars.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. The Beast Within 3:32
2. Virtual Reality 3:06
3. We Are One 4:04
4. The Prison 4:57
5. Overcome 3:12
6. Fate of Nora 4:14
7. Trailblazer 3:18
8. Distant Stars 4:22
9. Essence of Creation 3:40
10. Last Day on Earth 5:33

Band members
Sini Seppälä – vocals
Joni Junnila – guitar
Jukka Jauhiainen – bass
Miikka Hujanen – keyboards
Antti Rantavuo – drums

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