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

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Metal Chick of the Month – Rie a.k.a. Suzaku

Shredding is her business… and business is good!

If you’re a fan of the enthralling art of shredding, I’m sure you’ll have an absolute blast with our metal chick of the month of July, because not only she kicks some serious ass with her unstoppable guitar, but her looks are also beyond eccentric, sexy and mesmerizing. Born on November 26, 1985 in Funabashi, a city located in Chiba, a prefecture of Japan located in the Kantō region and the Greater Tokyo Area, the stunning Rie a.k.a. Suzaku, whose real name is Rie Tomimatsu (or if you prefer, it’s 富松里恵 in Japanese), is among us to show how a guitar should be treated, always delivering beautiful and electrifying riffs and solos. Highly influenced by traditional Heavy Metal, Power Metal and Hard Rock, Rie doesn’t limit her musical range to only those classic styles, being extremely adaptable to all kinds of music and situations with her refined technique. Having said that, are you ready to explore top-notch, unique metal music from the Land of the Rising Sun with our unstoppable Japanese guitarist?

As already mentioned, our Asian solo Heavy Metal guitar player draws a lot of influence from old school heavy music, with some of her favorite bands being Children of Bodom, Dream Theater, Arch Enemy, Helloween, In This Moment, Labyrinth, In Flames, Killswitch Engage, Ozzy Osbourne, Sonata Arctica and Nevermore, among several others, as well as other artists like American rock guitarist Eric Johnson, Japanese composer, arranger and musician Yoko Kanno, and electronic/orchestral musical and performing group Juno Reactor. Although her style is sometimes compared to Australian vistuoso Orianthi, Rie stands out by herself, crafting her own sound and style in the world of heavy music. First and foremost, she doesn’t sing, and second of all, she is a billion times more metal than Orianthi, playing Melodic Metal similar to Japanese bands like Destrose, Mary’s Blood, Aldious and Cyntia.

Rie’s solo career might have started back in 2008, but it was only in 2010 that she released her debut album, an EP titled Messiah, where she was responsible not only for playing the guitars, but also keyboards, programming and bass (on the song “Suzaku”), not to mention all lyrics and songwriting. As Rie is not a singer, the vocal duties on the EP were shared by Japanese female musicians Ibuki, Kaoru, Dia and Sattin, with bassist Hiroyasu Watanabe and drummer Isamu Tamaru completing the lineup. On her second EP, titled Mother Earth, which was released in 2011, Rie is supported once again by Hiroyasu Watanabe and Isamu Tamaru on bass and drums, respectively, as well as the returning Dia on vocals and newcomer Shizuka. The year of 2012 saw the birth of another EP by Rie a.k.a. Suzaku, entitled Dreaming Eyes, with almost the same lineup, except for Shizuka on vocals, and with vocalists Ibuki and Akane sharing vocals with Dia. After three EP’s in a row it was time for Rie to release her frist full-length album in 2013, named Kingdom of the Sun, a full instrumental album where Rie’s incendiary guitar riffs and solos were accompanied by Taku Yabuki on the piano, Isamu Tamaru on drums, and an array of bassists (Yoshihiro Naruse, Kenji Jino Hino, Ikuo and Isamu Takita) playing each in a different set of songs.

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In 2015 Rie released her second full-length installment, titled Noah’s Ark, a very interesting blend of instrumental songs with tracks featuring a guest female vocalist named Aira, including some of her longest compositions to date, which together formed some sort of concept aria within the album totalizing over 20 minutes of music split into four tracks (those being Noah’s Ark Prologue, Genesis, Noah’s Ark, and Noah’s Ark Epilogue). And the year of 2016 saw her latest release as a solo artist, an instrumental EP titled Seven Seas, comprised of seven “ocean-summer-like-inspired” tracks, such as Dolphin Dance, Sunrise and Ocean Breeze. Apart from those EP’s and full-length albums, you can also find in her portfolio three live DVD’s, those being Legend of Messiah (released in 2011), Dreaming Eyes Tour 2012, and Kingdom of the Sun Live Tour 2013, and a four-track single released in 2014 named Sonic City. As you can see, Rie is an extremely active musician with tons of releases already in her up-and-coming career, and if you want to enjoy her mind-blowing music you can check her official videos on YouTube for the songs Dreaming Eyes, Southern Wind‪, Seven Seas, Kingdom of the Sun, Messiah, Across the Sky, and Cyber Moon, as well as several videos with her stunning live performances.

Apart from her solo career, Rie also played the guitar live for Japanese Melodic Heavy/Power Metal band Crying Machine in 2011, and in January 2017 she joined forces with Japanese musicians Nicky (vocals), Ami (bass) and ViVi (drums) to form what would become a brand new band named RiViNi, with its name, which is a wordplay with the names of three of the band members (as bassist Ami only joined the band later), being chosen by their fans. Blending several elements form the rock and pop universes, RiViNi released earlier this year their debut mini-album titled Resistance, containing six distinct and very interesting tracks (幻想プラトニック, Emerald, Eternal Truth, Resistance, Sunflower and I Wish), and if you want to have a taste of their music you can watch their official videos for 幻想プラトニック (which means something like “platonic illusion” in English) and the title-track Resistance.

Fan of common things that most people also enjoy such as chocolate, ramen and swimming, Rie is also involved in quite a few other distinct projects and initiatives, such as playing original instrumental songs on a DVD for Young Guitar Magazine, appearing in a program named Effector Love for Roland, and performing at a booth at the Tokyo Guitar Show in 2011. However, perhaps the most curious fact about Rie also involves her own sister, Emi Tomimatsu, who’s a professional mixed martial arts fighter. Emi is not only a daredevil in the ring, but she gets pumped up for doing that by using Rie’s songs as her entrance themes, as you can see for example in this video posted on Twitter. Well, we have to agree that when you have a sister like Rie, delivering top-notch, electrifying metal music through her incendiary guitar, that’s all you need to get more than ready to rumble inside the octagon.

Equipment
Jackson USA RR-1 Skulls
Jackson USACorey Beaulieu Signature USA KV 7
Jackson USA RR-1 Ferrari Red Black
MXR (ZW – 44) BOSS (DD – 6) ERNIE BALL (VPJR) Maxon (AD – 80) (effector)

Rie a.k.a. Suzaku’s Official Facebook page
Rie a.k.a. Suzaku’s Official Twitter
Rie a.k.a. Suzaku’s Official Instagram
Rie a.k.a. Suzaku’s Official YouTube channel

Album Review – Preludio Ancestral / Oblivion (2018)

A magnificent opus of epic-painted Power Metal with symphonic arrangements and amazing guitar work, where various guest musicians help give form to an album that will be a delight for any lover of the genre.

Formed back in 2005 by guitarist Leonardo Gatti in San Miguel, a city in the northwest region of Greater Buenos Aires located around 30km from the City of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Symphonic Power Metal band Preludio Ancestral has been making a name for themselves since their inception with a steady flow of high-quality releases, starting with the EP Silencio and the full-length album Hacia lo Inmortal, both in 2012, followed by the 2013 EP Putrefaction, the 2015 album Kybalion, and the 2016 album El Misterio de la Pasión Divina, gaining strong recognition not only in their native country, where they even opened for acts like Rhapsody of Fire and Stratovarius, but also everywhere where the epicness and electricity of Power Metal are admired.

Now in 2018 the band comprised of the aforementioned Leo Gatti on the guitars and keyboards, Ari Katajamäki on bass and Diego Camaño on drums are set to release a brand new album titled Oblivion, a magnificent opus of epic-painted Power Metal with symphonic arrangements and an awesome guitar work, where various guest musicians hailing from different parts of Argentina and Europe give form to an album that will be a delight for any lover of the genre. As a matter of fact, due to the fact that almost every song of the album has a different lead singer, Oblivion feels like three or four album in one, with the music always remaining fresh and captivating throughout its 10 distinct songs (or 12 if you purchase the special Japanese edition of the album).

Presagio is a cinematic intro that takes you to the world of Preludio Ancestral, where the flammable sound of the guitar by Leo and the unstoppable beats by Diego are joined by Alessio Perardi on vocals in King of Silence, a classic Melodic Power Metal tune the likes of Dragonforce and Stratovarius; followed by Storm, a Power Metal extravaganza led by the intricate drums by Diego with Enzo Donnarumma taking the vocal duties, while Leo and Ari bring tons of melody and feeling to the musicality. And Alessio is back on vocals for a fast and harmonious exhibit of modern-day Melodic Metal named Fear of Falling, showcasing all elements we love in this type of music. Furthermore, Ari is simply fantastic with his bass, smashing his strings mercilessly while guest keyboardist Gabliel Crisafulli embellishes the overall sound with his kick-ass solo.

With Fran Vázquez on vocals, Preludio Ancestral offer a mid-tempo, melodic tune titled Ready to Rock, leaning towards the darker and deeper metal crafted by icons such as Dio and Saxon. Moreover, can you feel those beats pounding inside your mind? Moving on with the album, the title-track Oblivion, featuring Juan Pablo Kilberg on vocals, could be part of a concept album due to its initial narration and pace, morphing into straightforward Power Metal the likes of Helloween and the early days of Sonata Arctica, with Juan Pablo also delivering a crisp guitar solo to make things even more epic. Then it’s time to slow things down a bit with a power ballad titled Universal Love, presenting more of the voice of Alessio Perardi, passionate solos by Leo and a dense background, but unfortunately with the overall result falling flat after a while.

In Reflection in the Wind they get back to a faster and more slashing musicality, presenting a solid instrumental base by Leo, Ari and Diego that sets the perfect stage for Kimmo Perämäki to thrive on vocals. This is one of those songs to sing along with the band wherever you are, not to mention another spectacular keyboard solo by Gabliel Crisafulli. In Dust World, a classic mid-tempo tune led by the powerful riffs by Leo, Alessio Perardi returns for one last breath of his potent vocals, while Ari and Diego keep the atmosphere as thunderous as it can be, before the closing act in Oblivion, titled Metal Walls, brings Daniel García on vocals in what can be considered the most modernized of all tracks, displaying elements from distinguished styles such as Alternative, Industrial, Dark Metal and Hard Rock, and let me tall you that the final result is above all expectations, in special due to the amazing job done by Leo on keyboards.

In summary, Oblivion (available for a full listen on Spotify) will not only cement the name of Preludio Ancestral as one of the best and most professional bands from this new wave of Symphonic and Power Metal in their homeland, but it will also help the band spread their wings and reach higher grounds in the world of heavy music. And if you wan to show your honest support to such up-and-coming act, simply go check their Facebook page and YouTube channel for news and other shenanigans, and purchase Oblivion through the band’s own BandCamp page, through the Xtreem Music webstore, through the Spiritual Beast webstore, or on Amazon. May the power of Heavy Metal be with Preludio Ancestral anywhere they go, and may other bands from Argentina and South America follow their steps and deliver more metal music to fans tired of having bad and fake music shoveled down their throats by their local TV shows, radio stations, and websites.

Best moments of the album: King of Silence, Fear of Falling and Reflection in the Wind.

Worst moments of the album: Universal Love.

Released in 2018 Fighter Records/Spiritual Beast

Track listing
1. Presagio 1:04
2. King of Silence 3:49
3. Storm 4:02
4. Fear of Falling 4:30
5. Ready to Rock 3:45
6. Oblivion 5:07
7. Universal Love 4:24
8. Reflection in the Wind 3:31
9. Dust World 4:49
10. Metal Walls 5:35 

Japanese Edition bonus tracks
11. Like A Star (New Version) 3:31
12. No Man’s Land 3:27

Band members
Leonardo Gatti – guitars, keyboards
Ari Katajamäki – bass
Diego Camaño – drums

Guest musicians
Alessio Perardi – vocals on “King of Silence”, “Dust World”, “Fear of Falling” and “Universal Love”
Fran Vázquez – vocals on “Ready to Rock”
Daniel García – vocals on “Metal Walls”
Juan Pablo Kilberg – vocals on “Oblivion”
Raffaele Raffo Albanese – vocals on “No Man’s Land”
Kimmo Perämäki – vocals on “Reflection in the Wind”
Enzo Donnarumma – vocals on “Storm”
Gabliel Crisafulli – keyboards solos on “Oblivion”, “Reflection in the Wind” and “Fear of Falling”
Juan Pablo Kilberg – guitar solos on “Oblivion”
José Paz – keyboards on “Presagio”

Album Review – Sebastien / Act Of Creation (2018)

One of the biggest exponents of modern-day Czech metal returns with the next chapter in their always-evolving and exciting career.

One of the biggest exponents of modern-day Czech metal is back with a brand new album that will certainly please and entertain all fans of the most electrified form of Melodic Power Metal you can think of. After the releases of their debut album Tears Of White Roses, in 2010, and the critically acclaimed Dark Chambers Of Déjà-Vu, in 2015, it’s time for Brno-based metallers Sebastien to unleash their third full-length installment, titled Act Of Creation, continuing their evolution as a band and, as a consequence, cementing their name as the finest metal act you can find in the entire land of beer.

With its cover artwork designed by Hans Trasid (Dis-Art Design), and featuring an entourage of very special guests the likes of Swedish vocalist Apollo Papathanasio (Spiritual Beggars, Firewind) and Slovak vocalist Mayo Petranin (Signum Regis), Act Of Creation will bring to your avid ears fourteen exceptional compositions by skillful musicians who are at their prime, from passionate power ballads to those fast and crisp Melodic Metal anthems that will accelerate your heartbeat in an exciting and fun way. Furthermore, it’s very important to emphasize the fact that Sebastien maintained the same lineup from their previous album, which obviously translated into pure cohesiveness, precise timing and a powerful dynamism among all band members.

The title-track Act of Creation kicks off Sebastien’s metallic feast with a heavier-than-usual sonority, bringing elements from modern-day Groove Metal to their traditional Power Metal. Moreover, frontman George Rain has (as expected) an amazing performance showcasing a wide range of vocal styles in the same song, while Pavel Dvorak brings epicness to the overall sound with his keys. Then we have No Destination, a fast-paced, aggressive tune that will please even non-metal fans due to its thrilling rhythm, presenting the always flammable vocals by George supported by Czech guest vocalist Kristýna Dostálová and endless energy flowing from all instruments; and Wake Up, an imposing tune where Lucas R. leads the crew with his pounding drums, with all orchestral and choir-like elements in the background enhancing the song’s already potent vibe. But it obviously wouldn’t be a Sebastien album without a classic power ballad like Amy, displaying spot-on riffs by George and his bandmate Andy Mons while bassist Petri Kallio not only delivers some powerful bass punches, but his 80’s Hard Rock-inspired backing vocals also add a lot of feeling to the final result.

Venturing through the realms of Symphonic and Melodic Metal, the band delivers a futuristic metal chant titled Evermore, presenting a pleasant paradox between clean and harsh vocals, not to mention how determined Pavel is to arouse our senses with his fiery keyboards. My Empire reminds me of some of the latest creations by Sonata Arctica (which unfortunately is not a good thing these days), with an interesting work done with all background elements but nothing that truly connects in the end, whereas Queen from the Stars is a melancholic, serene ballad with passionate performances by George on vocals and Andy with his acoustic and electric guitars. Put differently, simply hold your lighter high and wave it together with Sebastien to this beautiful song. And featuring guest vocalist Mayo Petranin, Winner is a song where the sound of keyboards is considerably higher than the one of the guitars, therefore uniting in a pleasant way the classic sounding of the 80’s with Sebastien’s contemporary metal.

With Czech guest guitarist Djordje Erič (Citron) slashing us all with a gripping, flammable guitar solo, Heal My Soul goes back to a more traditional musicality, albeit still presenting hints of heavy music from the 80’s, and consequently pleasing both fans of the classic metal by Sebastien as well as the ones who prefer more modern Melodic Metal. In Promises, Kristýna Dostálová returns with her charming vocals in another symphonic ballad by Sebastien, with Andi and Pavel being in total sync with their respective riffs and keys, therefore boosting the electricity of the whole song; and featuring guest Apollo Papathanasio on vocals, it’s time for our Czech squad to put the pedal to the metal in the electrifying hymn Die in Me, where the whole band fires pure Melodic Power Metal for our total delight. Displaying a beyond catchy chorus and endless adrenaline, this metal hymn should sound absolutely fantastic during their live performances.

And Act Of Creation might be considered a long album with its over 60 minutes of music, but every song has its purpose just like Full Moon Child, portraying a classic name for a straightforward and very cohesive Power Metal sonority boosted by the precise beats by Lucas, with highlights to the spot-on riffs and solos extracted by Andy from his unstoppable guitar. The second to last metallic act by those Czech rockers comes in the form of a semi-acoustic ballad entitled Hero, with another powerful performance by George on vocals, before the bonus track V Síti Štěstí (or “in the network of happiness” from Czech) closes the album in sublime fashion. It’s not a secret to anyone that Sebastien never get tired of delivering soulful ballads to our ears; however, this is a fresh one, being fully sung in Czech, which seems to have provided George some additional room for adding never-before-seen nuances to his vocal lines.

It’s always a pleasure to see a talented and hardworking band like Sebastien evolving in their already solid career, and if you want to know more about the best metal band hailing from the enchanting Czech Republic you should definitely go check their Facebook page and YouTube channel for news, tour dates (and they do tour several other countries if you ) and, of course, more of their awesome Power Metal. Act Of Creation, which can be purchased from the Pride & Joy Music webstore, from the band’s own Facebook, from iTunes or from Amazon, is one of those albums that will put a smile on your face no matter how hard your day has been, proving once again Sebastien are here to stay and to keep bringing top-tier heavy music to our never-resting metal hearts.

Best moments of the album: No Destination, Evermore, Promises and Die in Me.

Worst moments of the album: My Empire.

Released in 2018 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Act of Creation 4:27
2. No Destination (feat. Kristýna Dostálová) 3:02
3. Wake Up 4:11
4. Amy 5:38
5. Evermore 4:32
6. My Empire 3:48
7. Queen from the Stars 4:34
8. Winner (feat. Mayo Petranin) 4:01
9. Heal My Soul (feat. Djordje Erič) 3:47
10. Promises (feat. Kristýna Dostálová) 3:29
11. Die in Me (feat. Apollo Papathanasio) 4:54
12. Full Moon Child 4:52
13. Hero 5:25

Bonus track
14.V Síti Štěstí 4:34

Band members
George Rain – vocals, guitars
Andy Mons – guitars
Petri Kallio – bass, backing vocals
Pavel Dvorak – keyboards
Lucas R. – drums

Guest musicians
Apollo Papathanasio – vocals on “Die In Me”
Mayo Petranin – vocals on “Winner”
Kristýna Dostálová – female vocals on “No Destination” and “Promises”
Djordje Erič – lead guitar on “Heal My Soul”
Vendula Skalová – backing vocals

Metal Chick of the Month – Marjolaine Bernard

Behind shivering drops of my soul… Dancing under a dry sky the void’s pouring inside…

Let’s take a flight to Paris, the capital and most populous city of France, where among several activities and attractions you can visit the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum and the Notre Dame Cathedral, or simply find a traditional French café on the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées to enjoy a nice, traditional croissant. If you’re a metalhead, there are also some excellent metal pubs and venues for you to go, such as Le Black Dog, James Hetfeeld’s and Le Cavern, and if you’re lucky enough you might enjoy a live concert by Wildpath, a female-fronted Symphonic Power Metal band formed in Paris in 2001 where, since 2008, our metal chick of the month has been giving life to their lyrics. I’m talking about French vocalist Marjolaine Bernard, a very talented and young musician who will certainly attract the attention of fans of melodic female voices like Floor Jansen and Tarja Turunen.

Born on June 4, 1983, Marjolaine started in the world of music at a very young age, first with the piano, then by joining a choir after watching a children’s concert, and since then she has never stopped singing. Furthermore, our French girl has been singing metal for a long time, being part of different small independent bands as a teenager and being clearly inspired by names like Floor and Tarja. However, Marjolaine stated that, despite Floor and Tarja (among other renowned vocalists) still being a reference to her, they’re not necessarily what she listens to nowadays and she doesn’t see herself as a Symphonic Metal singer, but just as a musician among other musicians trying to work with her voice in the best way possible, always in line with the music being played.

Marjolaine and her bandmates from Wildpath draw inspiration to create their music from several distinct sources, from electro to reggae, from metal to ambient music, like a giant melting pot. Furthermore, she mentioned she loves movie scores and soundtracks, being highly influenced by amazing composers such as Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman, also getting ideas from music from video games. She said that metal is a style where you’re allowed to let go with musical expressions and experimentations, and that’s the path that’s being constantly explored by the band in recent years. Forging elements from rock, metal, electro, folk, symphonic and traditional music, always caring for harmony and energy, Wildpath are a band in continuous evolution, and Marjolaine’s voice is exactly what the music needs to become more lively and appealing, as you’ll see below when we talk about her career with the band.

However, before Wildpath, there was Ad Vitam Aeternam, which is Latin for “To (or Towards) Eternal Life”, a Melodic Gothic Metal band formed in 1999 in Paris with whom Marjolaine played until 2005. She recorded the album Abstract Senses with Ad Vitam Aeternam in 2004, that being the only official release by the band since their inception. You can take a listen at the entire album HERE, or also enjoy individual songs from the album such as Dementia and In The Throes of Apocalypse, always paying attention to how different the music style by Ad Vitam Aeternam was from Wildpath, which only shows how versatile Marjolaine is as a vocalist.

It was in the year of 2008 that she finally joined Wildpath, which as already mentioned was formed back in 2001 by keyboardist Alexis Garsault and guitarist Olivier Caron in Paris, having released their debut album Nyx Secrets in 2005 (without Marjolaine on vocals, obviously). After Marjolaine became the lead singer for Wildpath, the band released three full-length albums, Non Omnis Moriar in 2009 (which by the way had its name inspired by the Odes by Roman lyric poet Horace and means “I shall not all die” or “not all of me will die”), Underneath in 2011 and Disclosure in 2015, as well as a very special release featuring acoustic versions of tracks from previous albums in 2016, titled Still – Acoustic Live Experience. You can get a very good taste of how smooth and tuneful Marjolaine’s vocals are in songs such as Petrichor, The Raven, Absentia, Confined and Excinere, listen to the entire albums Disclosure and Underneath, enjoy the acoustic versions from Still for the songs Everlasting Wish and Unborn, or also have fun with Marjolaine and the others with two live “studio” versions for the songs Buried Moon and Secret’s Case.

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If you prefer Wildpath live in front of a bunch of metalheads, I recommend this 2012 version of Buried Moon and Dive live at Le Grand Rex in Paris during the IronSquid StarCraft 2 World Championship Finals, as well as Non Omnis Moriar live in Eloyes, France in 2010; Unborn and Ghost Memories live at Le Divan Du Monde in Paris in 2015; or even this full concert  in 2012 during a mini-festival named Metal Symphonic Quest II in Tours, a city located in the centre-west of France. The festival also had the bands Adrana, Lost Opera, Roman Rouzine The Tria and Eidon, but it was Wildpath who headlined the night. And if you think you need to go all the way to France to watch Wildpath live, you’re wrong, as in 2016 the band played their first gig in the UK at The Quinphonic Festival 2 at The Roadhouse Birmingham. How far do you think Marjolaine and Wildpath can go?

As a guest musician, Marjolaine was part of the only album released by French Melodic Heavy/Power Metal band Silent Fall, entitled Otherwise, from 2010, doing choir vocals in the whole album and main female vocals on the song This Could Have Been. If you’re curious to know how she was invited to be part of the album, the answer is quite simple. Olivier Caron, Wildpath’s own guitarist, was also the lead guitarist for Silent Fall, making it a lot easier for Marjolaine to add her vocals to their music in an effective and exciting way.

When asked about her favorite song of all time, including all types of music and eras, her answer was quite unique, citing the classic Sanvean: I Am Your Shadow (or simply Sanvean) by the iconic Australian musical project Dead Can Dance, featured on their first official live album Toward the Within, released in 1994, an album that contains 15 songs, of which only four appeared on their previous albums. Sanvean was later re-recorded by one of the masterminds behind Dead Can Dance, Lisa Gerrard, on her 1995 solo album The Mirror Pool. In regards to heavy music, her first rock album was the classic Angels Fall First, the debut studio album by Finnish Symphonic Metal band Nightwish. With cult songs such as Elvenpath, Beauty and the Beast and Astral Romance, it’s easy to understand why Marjolaine fell in love for Symphonic Metal, right?

Marjolaine was also questioned about her favorite or best moments as an artist, and albeit she said there have been already lots of amazing memories with Wildpath, one of her favorite experiences was a concert with a “quatour” (a special form of string quartet that developed in Paris around 1775 and became one of the leading genres of Parisian music until the French Revolution) and a choir at La Scène Bastille, saying that seeing a symphony coming alive was truly fantastic. In addition, she also listed as one of her favorite moments when the band played with French progressive guitarist Patrick Rondat, and lastly the band’s famous performance in 2015 at Le Divan du Monde.

As previously mentioned, among her main influences we’ll find names such as Floor and Tarja, with Floor in particular being a huge inspiration for Marjolaine as she’s one of the few contemporary female singers who can combine lyrical songs with very dynamic rock vocals in a precise manner. However, out of the metal and rock scene, her favorite singer is Lisa Gerrard, who apart from her work with Dead Can Dance was also responsible for several other renowned projects, including a Golden Globe Award for the music score to the film Gladiator, on which she collaborated with Hans Zimmer.

Another interesting fact about Marjolaine is that her stage outfit is created by one of her students, who proposed to create special clothes tailored for their live performances, working with the band’s colors and adding her own personal touch to the creations. That stylist is from a company called Le Paon, a new brand from the independent French scene. Marjolaine and the stylist collaborate with each other in the creation of the outfits, first discussing new ideas orally and then working together on drawings and other details, until the stylist begins working on the whole realization of the clothes. One of her first new looks debuted at the concert at Le Divan du Monde in 2015, and in her opinion it was already a great evolution from her previous costumes.

Lastly, when asked about places or regions she would like to play with Wildpath, Marjolaine answered she would love to go to Brittany (a cultural region in the north-west of France) because she has family there, or also other French cities such as Lyon. Outside of France, she mentioned Belgium, Switzerland and Luxemburg as countries she would love to visit with her band, as well as other more distant places like Japan and South America, but that the high cost of playing in those places make the trip almost impossible, at least for now. It’s interesting that she didn’t mention the United States or Canada on her list, two major markets for heavy music, in special our French-speaking province of Quebec here in Canada. Well, let’s hope she just “forgot” to mention Canada, and that one day we have the pleasure of seeing Wildpath kicking ass live in our home and native land.

Marjolaine Bernard’s Official Facebook page
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Wildpath’s Official Facebook page
Wildpath’s Official Twitter
Wildpath’s Official YouTube

Album Review – Titanium / Atomic Number 22 (2016)

This prosperous five-piece act from Poland brings to us all the strongest element in the world in the form of beautiful Melodic Power Metal.

Rating4

titanium_atomic-number-22In case you didn’t already know, titanium is a chemical element with symbol Ti and atomic number 22, recognized mainly for its high strength. However, since 2010 this metallic element has also been a very important part of the Polish Metal scene, being represented by the skillful Melodic Heavy/Power Metal squad Titanium who released this September their second full-length album, cleverly entitled Atomic Number 22. After listening to this high-end album, you’ll realize titanium is not only very strong, but also extremely melodious, invigorating and brisk.

Formed in late 2010 by Pathfinder guitarist Karol Mania in Ostrów Wielkopolski, a city located in central Poland, Titanium have been on a constant rise since their inception, having released an EP entitled We Come to Rock! in 2012 and their self-titled full-length album the following year.  Now in 2016, Atomic Number 22 not only cements Titanium as one of the most promising bands from Poland, but also sets a new era for the band with Ukrainian singer Konstantin Naumenko (from Kiev’s Power Metal band Sunrise) taking the microphone and elevating the strength and epicness of the band’s already powerful musicality.

You better be ready for the Heavy Metal battle ignited by the title-track, Atomic Number 22, with the flawless connection between guitars and keyboards reminding me of Scandinavian Metal bands such as Stratovarius and Battle Beast, not to mention its superb backing vocals supporting Konstantin in this upbeat hymn. In addition, I have to admit I honestly can’t think of lyrics that sound more metal than this (“Atomic number 22 the father and the thunder / We’re coming right for you / Atomic number 22 no compromise just metal / Titanium comes for you”). And there’s no time to breathe as Titanium keep firing pure Melodic Power Metal for us in World of Contradictions, where drummer Filip Gruca dictates the rhythm with his fast beats and fills while the band’s guitar duo comprised of Karol Mania and Jaroslav Bona delivers those traditional riffs and solos we all love in Power Metal. Slower but more melodic and thrilling, Torn Reality brings forward heavy guitar riffs inspired by Hard Rock from the 80’s mixed with contemporary Melodic Metal, with another spot-on performance by Konstantin and an interesting ending with smooth piano notes and a melancholic vibe.

Defusive Skies is pure Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica, overflowing harmony and being probably one of Filip’s favorite songs due to its speed, with Karol and Jaroslav sounding simply amazing with their intricate solos; followed by Time Is Out, where we’re treated to a feast of sheer Melodic Metal. Once again, Konstantin keeps amusing us with his potent high-pitched vocals while Karol and Jaroslav set fire to the music through their unstoppable guitars. One Single Night, another track highly inspired by Melodic Metal from Finland, showcases a pleasant melody with the heavier punch of Power Metal enhancing its electricity, whereas the headbanging tune Guardians of Might, featuring  guest singer Piet Sielck (kicking some serious ass as he always does with his marvelous band Iron Savior), is a very traditional composition that couldn’t sound more metallic, in special due to its inspiring chorus (“In our realm We are one / Like the blazing stars will shine forever / We’re the saviors, guardians of might / We deny the fate”).

titanium-2016Future of Mankind, the longest of all tracks, is a Melodic Power Metal extravaganza with a cheerful vibe and a great balance between the main vocals by Konstantin and all backing vocals. Moreover, the musicality never slows down, keeping the level of energy always at its peak in this lesson in melodious music for fans of the genre. The last song of the regular version of Atomic Number 22, titled The Way of the White Flag, is another explosion of Melodic Metal thanks to its fast-paced drumming and truly harmonious vocal lines. Furthermore, bassist Szymon Szydłowski delivers some rumbling uppercuts while both guitarists are absolutely on fire with their fantastic riffs and solos. In case you go for the Japanese edition of the album, you’ll be nicely rewarded with Titanium’s cover version for Eagleheart, one of the biggest classics by Melodic Metal heroes Stratovarius. Very different from the original version, the band managed to switch the original base of this metal hymn to their own musicality without losing the song’s uplifting essence.

Titanium are waiting for you at their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and you can put your hands on the strongest and most melodic element in the world of heavy music at Amazon (exclusively at their Japanese store) or also at Discogs. This beautiful display of Melodic Power Metal will enliven your toughest days without a shadow of a doubt, proving one more time the sensational effect high-quality heavy music always has on our hearts and souls.

Best moments of the album: Atomic Number 22, Torn Reality and Guardians of Might.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Avalon/Marquee

Track listing
1. Atomic Number 22 5:50
2. World of Contradictions 4:45
3. Torn Reality 5:57
4. Defusive Skies 5:13
5. Time Is Out 4:00
6. One Single Night 5:37
7. Guardians of Might (feat. Piet Sielck) 4:50
8. Future of Mankind 8:52
9. The Way of the White Flag 4:01

Japanese Edition bonus track
10. Eagleheart (Stratovarius cover) 5:30

Band members
Konstantin Naumenko – vocals
Karol Mania – guitars
Jaroslav Bona – guitars
Szymon Szydłowski – bass
Filip Gruca – drums

Guest musician
Piet Sielck – additional vocals on “Guardians of Might”

Album Review – Axxen Conners / Nowhere to Escape Sins EP (2016)

And the calm and turquoise waters of Antalya will never be the same after the turmoil of extreme music generated by this up-and-coming masked duo from hell.

Rating5

album-coverThe Turkish city of Antalya, the country’s biggest international sea resort located on the Turkish Riviera and a gateway to Turkey’s southern Mediterranean region, known as the Turquoise Coast for its blue waters, is about to have its peaceful and breathtaking landscapes intensely disturbed by a wicked turmoil of extreme music crafted by a new dynamic duo known as Axxen Conners. If you’re planning on visiting the city anytime soon to enjoy its beaches and atmosphere, you better watch out because Axxen Conners might be hiding in the shadows just waiting to attack you when you least expect.

Formed in 2015 by the sinful outlaws Bilge Ozce (known as Serpent) and Serdar Evren (known as Croc), Axxen Conners somehow managed to turn all the usual inspiration that comes from a place like Antalya upside down. In other words, instead of playing any type of beach-like smooth music for teenage girls, they decided to join the dark side of music and fire a high-octane fusion of Progressive Black and Death Metal upon humanity. Hence, the result of their rebelliousness and passion for heavy music can be seen in Nowhere to Escape Sins, the technical and very enjoyable debut EP by this unstoppable masked duo of darkness.

And now, ladies and gentleman, get ready to dance with Serpent and Croc in the first of the three tracks of the EP, entitled Behind The Walls Of Primal Existence, where an atmospheric intro by guest keyboardist Brook gradually morphs into a metallic blend of Melodic Death, Black and Power Metal. While Serpent begins spilling his venomous gnarls, Croc focus on his harmonious and aggressive riffs and solos, bringing more balance to the overall result. The special musicality generated by Axxen Conners in this tune is what happens when progressiveness and obscurity meet in metal music, I should say.

_mg_9239Not only Serpent is Axxen Conners’ lead singer, but he’s also the drummer and bassist for the project, and as you’ll notice in the puissant and extremely belligerent Creator Became Absolute he simply loves to smash his drum set and his four-stringed low-tuned weapon. Flirting with contemporary Black Metal (especially its demonic aura and high-pitched demon growls), this devilish hymn showcases all the refined skills of the duo, sounding like an established full-bodied band even being two brand new guys from the independent scene. That alone deserves a lot of respect from us headbangers, no doubt about that.

In the third and last composition, beautifully named Cursed Messiah For Doomed Society, the guitar lines by Croc lean towards pure Melodic Death Metal the likes of Arch Enemy with hints of Amon Amarth, resulting in a musicality absolutely opposed to what we call “mainstream”, which by the way is always a good thing in Extreme Metal. Moreover, the right amount of progressiveness led by Croc’s ominous synths and the beats and fills by Serpent are exactly what Serpent needs to vociferate the song’s lyrics, which as excpeted do not point to a happy ending (“Fuelled by fear / All living things will perish / The lost from the world above / have nowhere to escape sins / Feel the Hellish dreams / Death to those who stray from the path / hear the voice of dark destruction / your body  will rot in pain”).

I personally consider Nowhere to Escape Sins a debut way beyond expectations for Axxen Conners taking into account the limited resources Serpent and Croc have available for generating music in their homeland, and I’m curious to know what those masked metallers could offer the world of heavy music with proper support. Well, I just saw that they became part of the Butcher Records family, which means we now should patiently wait to see what surprises that will bring to us all and the impact that will have on their musicality. In the meantime, don’t forget to like their Facebook page, enjoy their music through their YouTube channel and on Spotify, and if possible purchase Nowhere to Escape Sins through their BandCamp page.

Best moments of the album: Creator Became Absolute.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing  
1. Behind The Walls Of Primal Existence 4:03
2. Creator Became Absolute 3:24
3. Cursed Messiah For Doomed Society 4:58

Band members
Serpent – vocals, bass, drums
Croc – guitars, synths, backing vocals

Guest musician
Brook – keyboards on “Behind The Walls Of Primal Existence”

Live musicians
Brook – keyboards
Oni – guitars
Todd – drums

Album Review – Whispered / Metsutan – Songs Of The Void (2016)

Armed with their powerful fusion of Melodic Death Metal and eccentric sounds from the East, these unstoppable Scandinavian samurais strike again with another thrilling tribute to the Japanese culture.

Rating4

whispered2400pixThe term “Samurai Metal” might not make sense to most fans of heavy music who have never had any contact with Melodic Death/Power Metal act Whispered. And if you think the band hails from Japan, you’re absolutely wrong, as those metallic samurais come from a country well-known for their Heavy Metal bands, but that has nothing to do with the Japanese culture and history. Whispered are a group formed in 2004 in the city of Tampere, Finland by lead singer and guitarist Jouni Valjakka, and despite all members having a pure Scandinavian background, their hearts are filled with the passion, talent and courage of real samurais from the “Land of the Rising Sun”.

It’s not only their Samurai-inspired face-painting, outfits and lyrics that refer to the ancient Japanese culture, but the music itself is a fusion of Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal with Japanese folk music, blending heavy riffs and growls with the sounds of traditional instruments such as the shamisen, the shakuhachi and the koto. After releasing their debut album Thousand Swords in 2010 and the more brutal Shogunate Macabre in 2014, both which led them to share the stage with renowned Finnish bands like Korpiklaani, Turisas and Ensiferum, appearing in major festivals like Tuska Open Air and Nummirock, and even supporting Battle Beast during their 2013 tour in Japan, it’s time for Whispered to strike again with their guitars and katanas in Metsutan – Songs Of The Void, their third full-length installment.

The very entertaining intro Chi No Odori (or “the dance of Chi” in English), with all its wicked sounds and voices, tells the listener the battle is about to begin in the fast-paced hymn Strike!, with its lyrics depicting the relationship between a Samurai warrior and his sword (“And he moves / with the swift pace unrivaled / unseen by the aspirants’ eyes / And he knows / in his heart so unbridled / That he’ll soon execute / the flawless / STRIKE!”). This is the perfect example of how awesome the mix of Melodic Death Metal with Orient Metal (as well as other elements from Japanese culture) can be, with the guitars by Jouni and his fellow swordsman Mikko Mattila adding a lot of electricity to the musicality. Exile Of The Floating World is fury to the second power, a melodic devastation led by drummer Jussi Kallava where the elements from the East become even more evident; followed by Sakura Omen, a thrilling Melodic Power Metal madness showcasing Arch Enemy-inspired riffs and a headbanging rhythm in what is undoubtedly one of the best of all tracks in the album. At this point of Metsutan – Songs Of The Void, there’s absolutely no doubt that “epicness” is a word that can be used to describe all songs by Whispered, don’t you agree?

whispered_promopicWhile listening to Kensei (or “restraint” in English), it truly felt like watching a Japanese anime or a tokusatsu due to its totally adventurous pace and background elements. However, it’s the band’s furious Melodic Death Metal that stands out in this good composition where once again Jussi is relentless on drums; whereas in Our Voice Shall Be Heard the band simply slashes the listener with their razor-edged instruments, with all atmospheric breaks, guitar solos and ancient sounds being inserted in the right place and moment, therefore boosting the song’s impact. And in Tsukiakari (or “moonlight”), the second longest track of the album, a calm intro represents the serenity of our warriors before heading into the battle, with highlights to its melodious passages and riffage following the lines of classic Swedish Melodic Death Metal.

Warriors Of Yama, a three-minute instrumental track that pays homage to the Asian culture, introduces us to the violent Victory Grounds Nothing, with its lyrics portraying the fortunes of a Samurai life (“Age of strife has finally turned away / Fear so strong and sound fades to bliss of the day / Bloodstains on the sword will scene the tale / manifold test of might, honor, verdict and pain”). This high-speed composition feels like a sharp sword cutting our flesh, where Jussi and bassist Kai Palo craft a solid base for Jouni and Mikko to keep delivering their blazing riffs. And lastly, we have Bloodred Shores of Enoshima, the longest and most epic of all tracks divided in 5 distinguished acts: “五頭龍 – Gozuryu”, “The Chord of a Goddess”, “Divine Affection”, “The Fury of the Five” and “龍口山 – Tatsu-no-kuchi Yama”. Each act has its purpose, ranging from imposing and symphonic instrumental passages to pure metallic music led by the growls by Jouni, all enhanced by its outstanding background choir until it reaches its climatic ending, resulting in a masterpiece of the East.

Featuring a powerful artwork by Japanese artist ToK, Metsutan – Songs Of The Void can be purchased from Record Shop X, iTunes or Amazon, and in case you want to know more about this exciting fusion of Scandinavian and Japanese music you can go check the band’s Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud. As an admirer of both Finnish and Japanese cultures, I must say it’s impressive how these Scandinavian samurais are capable of creating such a powerful fusion of Melodic Death Metal and different sounds from the East without sounding cheesy, incongruous or even desultory. And that, in the current state of heavy music, is definitely worth gold.

Best moments of the album: Strike!, Victory Grounds Nothing and Bloodred Shores of Enoshima.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Chi No Odori 1:51
2. Strike! 4:50
3. Exile Of The Floating World 4:12
4. Sakura Omen 7:31
5. Kensei 5:29
6. Our Voice Shall Be Heard 5:43
7. Tsukiakari 8:05
8. Warriors Of Yama (Instrumental) 3:07
9. Victory Grounds Nothing 3:20
10. Bloodred Shores of Enoshima 11:23

Band members
Jouni Valjakka – vocals, guitar
Mikko Mattila – guitar
Kai Palo – bass
Jussi Kallava – drums

Album Review – The Silent Rage / The Deadliest Scourge (2016)

A superb display of modern and melodic Power Metal by an emerging band from Greece who unite the past, present and future of heavy music in their compositions, always sounding fresh, vigorous and exciting.

Rating3

The Silent Rage - The Deadliest Scourge Cover_HighResInvesting your energy and resources into making Power Metal in modern society “is a dangerous business, Frodo”. Apart from the mass hysteria caused by the swords and dragons from Game Of Thrones, just a very small niche of the world population still finds delight and excitement while listening to old school bands such as Manowar, Blind Guardian and many others who devoted their careers to singing about warriors and battles. Maybe it’s just a momentary trend and Power Metal will return to its glorious days soon, or maybe the advancements in technology and the modern-day life do not match with its thematic anymore. Luckily for all of us metalheads, there are still some newborn bands that not only know how to deliver high-end Power Metal, but they have also adapted their style to a more contemporary approach, sounding fresh and interesting even playing a subgenre of heavy music that’s becoming more and more relegated to the underground. Having said that, one of the best examples of how a band can be successful in this new world order are Greek Melodic Power Metal troopers The Silent Rage, who have just released their first (and superb) full-length album The Deadliest Scourge.

Formed by guitarist Nikos Siglidis in Athens, Greece in 2006, The Silent Rage have been on a roll since then, releasing their self-titled debut EP in 2009 (which got impressive feedback from global media) and another EP entitled Harvester Of Souls in 2011, thus sharing the stage with icons like Rage, Grave Digger, Stratovarius and Rotting Christ during their Greek tours. Displaying a somber artwork designed by Polish artist Michal Karcz of Parallel Worlds (who has already worked with Metal Church and VNV Nation), and featuring special guest musicians Apollo Papathanasio (Spiritual Beggars, Firewind), Yossi Sassi (Orphaned Land), Vladimir “Wolf” Reshetnikov (Arkona) and Theophilos Kritikos (Feel), The Deadliest Scourge unites the past, present and future of Power Metal in such a solid and compelling way those guys sound like veterans, but obviously always looking forward without being imprisoned in a past that unfortunately will never return.

Signal Of War, an atmospheric and somewhat tribal intro composed by guest musician Theophilos Kritikos, warms up the listener for the first song of the album named My Race Won’t Last, a modern Heavy Metal hurricane led by the unstoppable drummer Stamatis Katsafados, showcasing an amazing synchronicity between lead and backing vocals which end up strengthening the story told through the lyrics. Right after that excellent start, the title-track The Deadliest Scourge begins at full speed through the blazing riffs by Nikos and his bandmate Kostas Krikos, before Steve Venardo joins the music with his potent vocals in a solid display of contemporary Power Metal, reminding me of old school Iced Earth but with the band’s own touch and a high dosage of electricity. And pedal to the metal in what can be considered a tribute to traditional Heavy Metal by The Silent Rage entitled StormWarrior, a song that will inspire you to grab your sword and shield and head into the battlefield to the sound of its accelerated rhythm, its catchy chorus and a beyond powerful performance by Steve on vocals.

Those Greek metallers provide us another shot of pure Power Metal in Between Harmony & Sorrow, where both lead and rhythm guitars sound cutting and electrified, being beautifully complemented by the heavy and tuneful bass lines by Stavros Tsilivarakos and, consequently, keeping the level of stamina really high in the album. With guest musician Apollo Papathanasio on lead vocals, Sin Of A Pilgrim is a hybrid of traditional Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, presenting many elements found in the music by Iced Earth such as the fiery guitar solo delivered by Kostas amidst the precise beats by Stamatis. And when a song starts with an amusing guitar solo inspired by Heavy Metal from the 80’s like what we see in Leading The Legions, a powerful tune about courage and leadership, you know it’s going to be awesome. Furthermore, all band members put their hearts and souls into the making of this chant, which obviously enhances its impact and beauty.

The Silent Rage 2015e_WebResProselytize The Masses can be described as “when progressive music meets pure Heavy Metal”, because this is exactly what you get in this great composition where lyrics are as traditional as possible (“You know that they’ve ruined your life / Led your behavior this way / Forming the limits and guiding your thoughts / Setting the borders, around and around as we’ll go / There’s no awakening from this oblivion / No escape or salvation, Gatekeepers leading you blind”). It’s quite impossible not to get thrilled by its lancinating riffs, with Kostas once again stealing the spotlight with his guitar solos. If you think there can’t be more awesomeness in The Deadliest Scorge, you’re completely mistaken, because even after so many epic songs they still have the necessary energy to craft more amazing metal such as in The Right To Dream, where Stamatis continues to smash his drums relentlessly while the guitar riffs by Nikos and Kostas keep piercing our ears.

The last “triumvirate” of this flammable album brings forward more high-end Heavy Metal, starting with the metallic Thoughts Collapse, a fast and heavy tune perfect for diehard fans of old school Power Metal, with highlights to the superb job done by the dynamic duo Nikos and Kostas on guitars and to the violent growling by Steve and Nikos. In A Piece Of Eden, the band offers the listener an uplifting chorus and another spot-on performance by Stamatis on drums, not to mention Kostas’ epic solo that leads to the song’s powerful conclusion, before Shadow Spirit, an awe-inspiring and medieval Folk Metal acoustic tune, puts an end to this brilliant opus. Guest musicians Yossi Sassi and Vladimir “Wolf” Reshetnikov add an extra dosage of epicness with their eccentric instruments, while the smooth ending of the song brings peace to our beaten and bruised metal hearts, sounding delightfully melancholic.

Available as a 500 hand-numbered digipack format (which includes a bonus track entitled Inner Scars), a regular jewel case format and digital download at the band’s BandCamp page or at the Alone Records’ webstore, The Deadliest Scourge is one of those albums that definitely put a smile on the faces of all admirers of good old Power Metal. You can find more about The Silent Rage and their incredible album at their Facebook page, YouTube channel, SoundCloud and ReverbNation, and witness how Power Metal is still relevant and puissant in the world of music. May the Gods of Metal always be by the side of The Silent Rage, helping them generate a lot more top-notch Heavy Metal for many years to come, never sounding cheesy or outdated and, therefore, continue taking virtuous and precise steps on the bright path ahead of them.

Best moments of the album: The Deadliest Scourge, StormWarrior, Proselytize The Masses and Shadow Spirit.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Alone Records

Track listing
1. Signal Of War (Intro) 2:29
2. My Race Won’t Last 3:46
3. The Deadliest Scourge 3:43
4. StormWarrior 5:10
5. Between Harmony & Sorrow 4:21
6. Sin Of A Pilgrim 3:17
7. Leading The Legions 4:16
8. Proselytize The Masses 4:10
9. The Right To Dream 4:16
10. Thoughts Collapse 4:59
11. A Piece Of Eden 4:51
12. Shadow Spirit 6:01

500 Hand-Numbered Digipak bonus track
13. Inner Scars 3:57

Band members
Steve Venardo – lead vocals, growls
Nikos Siglidis – guitars, growls
Kostas Krikos – lead guitar
Stavros Tsilivarakos – bass
Stamatis Katsafados – drums

Guest musicians
Theophilos Kritikos – programming and orchestration on “Signal Of War”
Apollo Papathanasio – lead vocals on “Sin Of A Pilgrim”
Yossi Sassi – ud on “Shadow Spirit”
Vladimir “Wolf” Reshetnikov – galician bagpipe and sopikla on “Shadow Spirit”

Metal Chick of the Month – Noora Louhimo

noora01

Let It Roar, Noora!

It is a well-known fact that all Finnish women are pretty and charming, absolutely no doubt about that. But it’s when a girl from the land of ice and snow releases her inner beast that things get even more exciting, which is exactly the case with our Metal Chick of the Month, the ravishing Noora Louhimo, lead singer of Finnish Heavy Metal band Battle Beast. And if you don’t like the voice and the looks of this blonde “warrior princess”, honestly, I don’t know what to say.

Noora was born on November 6, 1988 in Tampere, Finland, around 180km north of the capital Helsinki, and she has been singing since she was only 4 years old. She had many hobbies before she started focusing on singing, such as dancing, acting, drawing, painting and anything else she could do to express herself. When she was around 13 years old, she had her first band at school, singing Finnish pop songs as well as love ballads from artists like Whitney Houston and Celine Dion.

Despite being a huge fan of Heavy Metal from the 80’s when she was a teenager, when she was 16 years old she had some classical singing lessons, before starting to study music in a more Pop/Jazz-line and doing some jam sessions at bars at the age of 19. That was also when she found her first band, called Admiral Octopus, at a place called BluesBar. The band used to play Rock N’ Roll and Blues from the 60’s, 70’s, and also songs from Janis Joplin, which according to Noora herself is the reason why she got the rasp in her voice. After Admiral Octopus, Noora took part in a singing competition called “Wanna Be A Rock N’ Roll Star” at a place called Henry’s Pub, also in Tampere, and guess what? She won the competition singing Janis Joplin’s classic Piece of My Heart. That’s how her single Relax was born, and that’s pretty much her history before joining Battle Beast.

It was during autumn in 2012, right after Battle Beast finished touring some summer rock festivals in Finland, that singer Nitte Valo, who was with the band since its inception in 2008, announced to be leaving the band due to family issues. In September 2012, guitarist Anton Kabanen found Noora by accident on YouTube when he was searching for a new vocalist for Battle Beast, and after a couple of calls Noora accepted the challenge to be the new frontwoman of the band. In 2013 our blonde diva recorded her first full-length release with the band, the powerful self-titled album Battle Beast, and more recently the also amazing Unholy Saviour, in January 2015.

The Finnish lioness mentioned in one of her interviews that she does many different exercises with her voice, rest it when needed and then a lot more, and also that working out is a very important part of keeping her vocals in a good shape. Whatever she’s actually doing with her voice, it’s working more than perfectly, as we can notice in her excellent performance on a Finnish television program in 2014 singing the song Into the Heart of Danger, her contributions to the good song Satans of Swing by Finnish band Somehow Jo! and to the inspiring Eye to Eye by Swiss Melodic Power Metal band Crystal Ball, and also singing one of her favorite songs from Battle Beast, the electrifying tune Let It Roar. One interesting fact about her singing style is that, as much as she wants to sound like a female singer with “balls”, she wants to sound feminine and sexy at the same time.

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In regards to her main influences in life, our warrior princess doesn’t only sing Heavy Metal, but a huge variety of music genres such as Soul, Rock, Blues, among others, and those different styles are what keep her in balance and inspired as a singer. As aforementioned, she started listening to metal music when she was 16 years old, and that “fire” started actually with Guns N’ Roses. When she heard Welcome to the Jungle for the first time, she knew there was no coming back. Then there came Dio, Judas Priest, W.A.S.P. and of course Iron Maiden. Although her list of influences is endless, including names such as Robert Plant, Freddie Mercury, Ronnie James Dio, Whitney Houston, Blackie Lawless, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Michael Jackson, Axl Rose and many more, her biggest idols in music are first Janis Joplin and second Ann Wilson.

And last but not least, when asked if she’s addicted to any bad habit or guilty pleasure, her answer couldn’t be more feminine than that: chocolate. Well, our “blonde ninja” is an extremely talented and beautiful woman, and Finnish chocolate is by far one of the best in the world. I guess there couldn’t be a better combination than that to celebrate two years of The Headbanging Moose, right?

Noora Louhimo’s Official Facebook page
Battle Beast’s Official Facebook page

“My passion has always been music and different ways of expressing myself as an artist.” – Noora Louhimo