Album Review – Rifftera / Across the Acheron (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Inverse Records

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

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

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Metal Chick of the Month – Patricia Pons

I am a mecha, eternal live. Everything dies while I’m still alive.

The summer might be almost over on the Northern Hemisphere, but here at The Headbanging Moose we’ll help you keep things warm with the fiery and multi-talented Spanish singer Patricia Pons, the frontwoman of Valencia-based Melodic Death Metal squad SynlakrosS, and obviously the chosen metaller to be our Metal Chick of the Month. Owner of a powerful voice and displaying a wild and flammable look by blending several styles such as Gothic and cyberpunk in her attire, Patricia is ready to conquer the world of Heavy Metal together with her bandmates through the uniqueness of their music, and I’m sure you’ll love to read about how she does that, how she prepares for the band’s live performances, among other fun topics. Are you ready to enter the cyberworld of Patricia and her SynlakrosS?

Born on December 10, 1984 in Valencia, a port city located on Spain’s southeastern coast and the third-largest Spanish city after Madrid and Barcelona, Patricia loves metal music, anime and arts from the bottom of her heart, and if possible she wants to have them all at the same time, just to give you an idea of how creative and talented our multi-colored hair growler is. Also a proud vegan, Patricia makes sure she spreads the word of veganism and its benefits anywhere she goes, again connecting that philosophy to her music and arts whenever possible. First, let’s talk about her career as the frontwoman of Spanish act Synlakross, which basically represents her life in heavy music since she entered the band in 2010. Actually, before SynlakrosS, she was part of a band named Kakuseisha, a project that didn’t last long (due to the departure of its Italian guitar player) where she played keyboards and was also responsible for the melodic and guttural backing vocals.

According to the band itself, SynlakrosS (stylishly spelled with capital S at the end) is a “storytelling” Melodic Death Metal band formed in 2008 in Valencia, Spain “whose proposal seeks to inject a good dose of energy through songs that transport your mind to a world of adventure with a good deal of rebellion.” Although the band was conceived in 2008 by bassist Pablo “Roro” and drummer Tiko Martinez (who by the way played together with Patricia in Kakuseisha), it was only after 2010 when the band reached its desired shape and form that things started to take off for those Spanish metallers, having already released a self-titled demo in 2011, their first full-length album Melodichrome in 2013 and more recently the full-length Death Bullets for a Forajido, in 2016. In 2015, SynlakrosS won the metal award at the Granitorock Festival, receiving national recognition and opening the doors for the band to share the stage in 2016 with Canadian metallers The Agonist. Patricia herself describes the music by SynlakrosS as “Passionate Metal”, or even “Killer Metal Music”, because they simply love what they do. If you want to see and listen to Patricia kicking ass with SynlakrosS, there are several official videos and fan-filmed footage from their live performances. For instance, you can enjoy the official videos for the songs Billy The Kid and Paper In A History, the audio for their excellent cover version for Nightwish’s classic Wish I Had An Angel, the playthrough video of the song Beauty From The Deep, as well as excerpts from their amazing live performance at Granitorock Festival in 2015 with the songs On The Bridge TV and Dragon Egg.

Apart from SynlakrosS, Patricia has already lent her powerful voice to a song named The Great Heresy, featured on the 2015 album Fuck Your God by Canadian Black Metal one-man army Episcopal Holocaust, sounding very different from her regular work with SynlakrosS, as Melodic Death Metal and Black Metal, despite being both part of the overall concept of extreme music, are not usually associated and have very little in common musically speaking. And, by the way, it’s amazing for The Headbanging Moose to see she has some sort of connection with Canada. In addition to that, she’s also more-than-ready to join Spanish Melodic Thrash Metal band Keldark as a guest vocalist on the song Fear the Fear, which will be part of their upcoming album The Brotherhood, to be released later this year.

Patricia’s main influences in music might sound very different from one another, but if you pay good attention to the details of each one of her favorite artists you’ll see her own voice is some sort of amalgamation of all their styles with her own personal twist. Among her biggest influences, we’ll find names such as Floor Jansen (After Forever, Nightwish), Dani Filth (Cradle of Filth), Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Anders Friden (In Flames), Dez Fafara (DevilDriver, Coal Chamber), Jonathan Davis (Korn), Sandra Nasic (Guano Apes), Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) and Liv Kristine (Theatre of Tragedy, Leaves’ Eyes), and their respective bands, as well as other bands like Nobuo Uematsu, Koji Kondo and Dream Theater. For instance, the first album she bought with her own money was the classic Fallen, by Evanescence, and the first concert she’s ever attended as a fan was In Flames. In one of her interviews, Patricia made sure she explained a little about her main influences, saying she never listened to them singing just as men or women, she focused on the voice itself and enjoyed every part from their performances.

She’s also influenced and inspired by a ton of other non-music stuff, including books, videogames, films, anime and manga, with her favorite movie being The Matrix, her favorite book being Clive Barker’s 1988 horror novel Cabal, and her favorite writers being Edgar Allan Poe, E. T. A. Hoffmann, H. P. Lovecraft and Mary Shelley, among others, all present not only in her music but also in her stunning looks. In addition, Patricia mentioned in one of her interviews that her personal visual trademark is also highly influenced by the fact that she’s a woman proud of being in Heavy Metal (and proud of being a woman, of course), and she wants people to see that when looking at her. That’s also visible in her hair style, always showcasing unique, vibrant colors by Manic Panic España, the iconic hair coloring company that works with 100% vegan dyes with zero ammonia, such as Siren’s Song and Psychedelic Sunset, two of her favorite colors.

Regarding her live performances with SynlakrosS, as aforementioned they had the pleasure of opening for Canadian metallers The Agonist during their Spanish dates in Sevilla, Madrid and Bilbao in 2016, but they’ve also played in several other locations in Spain like Avilés, Barcelona, Valencia, A Coruña, and so on. However, Patricia wants the music by SynlakrosS to reach new heights, allowing them to play all over Europe as well as in many other parts of the world. In order to provide the audience the best experience possible with the music by SynlakrosS, Patricia said she not only does a series of vocals warm-ups, just like any other vocalist, but she also works on all types of physical warm-ups and stretching, as she’s a very dynamic musician with a flammable stage performance.

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When asked about the metal scene in Spain, Patricia believes that, although Spanish Metal is underrated, the only thing musicians and bands like SynlakrosS can do to change this situation is to work hard, creating high-quality music and touring as much as possible until people see the true value of their music, as well as understand the importance of learning English, as in Spain that’s their pending subject. In addition, she mentioned that the support underground bands have from the media is almost nonexistent, as big magazines and radio stations only talk about international (and sometimes national) big old bands, also saying that unfortunately if you’re a small band and you want promotion, you have to pay for it no matter how amazing and well-done your music is. When specifically asked about the Valencian Metal scene, Patricia said that although they have some amazing bands in the region, the scene is not a popular one. In her opinion, bands and metalheads in Valencia aren’t united and there’s some sort of competition between them. Lastly, when asked where the music style by SynlakrosS is more accepted, if it’s in the north or south of Spain, she said the reception from metal fans has always been great in both regions, mentioning cities like Bilbao and the whole region of Galicia as good examples of places where their experience was very positive in the north, and Seville in the south as having a very warmth and welcome attitude from the fans towards the band.

One topic that’s always discussed in heavy music is the growing presence and importance of women in heavy music, and of course Patricia has been doing her part in opening more space for women in a style usually dominated by men. She thinks that, although most women in metal are vocalists, there are more and more excellent female guitarists, bassists, drummers and other instrumentalists appearing in the scene every single day, all linked to the increasing interest of the society for metal music. However, one of the biggest problems for her is that, no matter how talented a female musician might be, there’s always an unsuitable question or comment from a sexist male fan directed to that female artist, such as “take off your shirt!” or “do you have a boyfriend?”, things that are completely off topic and add nothing to the music being presented. Even when she’s facing that type of situation, she keeps the atmosphere light by saying that when a man screams she’s beautiful, it’s because he hasn’t seen her at 8am with no makeup. That’s a very polite way to say “fuck off” to those inconvenient guys, don’t you think?

Patricia also said that instead of pointless questions like that, she would love to be asked why she became a vegan and why she doesn’t drink or smoke. She said that becoming a vegan was a spiritual change for her, while stopping drinking, smoking and using drugs started when she decided to focus on her voice and on being more professional as a musician. She said there was a case in her family where a person had issues with drugs, and that made her think about it, that it wasn’t what she wanted for her life. Regarding alcohol, she said no one in the band drinks before going out or playing live, being an example to other metalheads that you can still be crazy and have a great time without being drunk or high.

If you’re already a fan of SynlakrosS, what I’m about to say won’t be a surprise to you, but if you’re a newcomer to their world of Alternative Metal I’m sure you’ll be impressed by the fact that Patricia is a professional illustrator and designer, having graduated from EASD Valencia (or Escola d’Art i Superior de Disseny de València) in 2009 in Fashion Design, and doing merch for different metal bands and her own art with manga style with macabre, Gothic and fantastic inspiration. She’s, for instance, the designer responsible for all the graphic art found in SynlakrosS’ 2016 album Death Bullets for a Forajido, including the cover art, inspired by the Wild West concept mixed with the band’s metal essence. You can check a few pieces designed by Patricia on her own DeviantArt page, such as this amazing “Demon Girl”, and who knows, maybe if you have a band she can be the next artist to provide her lines and colors to represent your music.

Last but not least, it doesn’t matter if you understand Spanish or not, there are several interviews on YouTube with Patricia and the other guys from SynlakrosS where they talk about the band’s current status and future plans, their inspirations in music, the metal scene in Valencia and in Spain in general, the evolution of women in metal, among other topics. You can check for example the videos Keep Calm And Listen Synlakross con Entrevista!, 2 Rockeros Entrevista con SynlakrosS, and Tertulia con Synlakross, all showing a very relaxed and uncompromised side of the band, and all a good inspiration for lovers of rebellious and electrifying metal to learn one of the most important languages worldwide. In other words, wouldn’t you love to understand what the charming and skillful Patricia has to say about all kinds of topics?

Patricia Pons’ Official Facebook page
Patricia Pons’ Official Twitter
Patricia Pons’ Official Instagram
SynlakrosS’ Official Facebook page
SynlakrosS’ Official YouTube channel
SynlakrosS’ Official Instagram
SynlakrosS’ Official SoundCloud page

“In Spain, if you want promotion, in general, you have to pay, no matter how amazing and well done is your music.” – Patricia Pons

Album Review – Scenario II / A New Dawn (2017)

There’s a new dawn rising in the world of melodic extreme music thanks to a talented Dutch sextet who will guide you through dark scenarios of a post-apocalyptic world in their new album.

Rating4

s2_and_front_hrOriginating from Eindhoven, a city in the province of North Brabant in the south Netherlands known as the birthplace of Philips electronics, Melodic Dark Death/Thrash Metal act Scenario II aims at crafting distinguished heavy music for fans of the genre, always bringing spherical melodies fashioned with the frequent use of female vocals, grunts, twin guitars, quick riffs and killer drums. Inspired by bands like In Flames, Arch Enemy, Dimmu Borgir and Amorphis, the band will guide you through dark scenarios of a post-apocalyptic world in their new album, titled A New Dawn, comprised of eleven full-bodied compositions showcasing all the refined skills of each musician involved.

Since their inception in 2006 from the ashes of another Dutch band named Aura, Scenario II have acquired excellent recognition in the underground of metal music, with very positive reviews stemming from their debut album Uniforms of Death, released in 2009. That considerable success led the band to share the stage with renowned acts such as Volbeat, Dark Tranquillity, Anathema, Testament, Trail of Tears and Moonspell, among others, energizing the band to keep moving forward and keep writing new material for their fans, therefore culminating with the release of A New Dawn. In addition to that, Scenario II might be one of the most democratic bands in the world of heavy music, having three men and three women in their lineup, proving once again that it doesn’t matter your gender, age, race, religion or sexual orientation, you are always welcome in heavy music.

The ominous and cinematic intro The Darkest Hour introduces us to the post-apocalyptic landscape proposed by the band, with the title-track A New Dawn and its metallic guitars a la Terminator by Mark van Doren and Simone van Straten, together with the harsh growls by Bas de Kruyff and the angelic voice of Myrthe van Beest, generating a modern Melodic Death Metal feast with Symphonic and Black Metal elements that will please all types of metalheads in the world. Supremacy begins in an atmospheric way, with the growls by Bas de Kruyff giving a nice touch of aggressiveness to the musicality while bassist Liza Hoek and drummer Bas van den Boom maintain a thunderous sound in the background; followed by the heavy Awake, a visceral Melodic Death Metal tune with the gentle vocals by Myrthe bringing harmony to the music.Moreover, both Mark and Simone have excellent performances with their sharp riffs, which together with the electronic and symphonic elements, as well as the song’s hellish atmosphere, make it one of the best of the album.

scenarioii_largeRapture follows the aggressive path of its predecessor, being a dense composition showcasing elements of Melodic Death Metal, Symphonic Black Metal and sheer Black Metal, in special its guitar lines, with Bas van den Boom being once again very technical behind his drums, never letting the energy level go down. Then we have the serene, atmospheric instrumental bridge The Promised Wasteland, building a direct link with Hysteria, an epic and symphonic creation by Scenario II, bursting despair and anger through the potent screams by Bas de Kruyff, with the vocals by Myrthe bringing yet again peace to our souls. And flirting with old school Death Metal we have Endgame, again displaying a solid performance by Bas van den Boom on drums, who together with Mark and Simone fire tons of progressiveness through their instruments, enhancing the song’s taste and electricity, not to mention all its breaks and variations which help turn it into the best of all songs in my opinion.

The whole album exhales rage and hopelessness, and in Disclosure it couldn’t be different than that, with Bas de Kruyff and Myrthe being in great sync complementing each other’s vocals, while Liza blasts her bass guitar in a delicate but powerful way. In Nocturnal, we face a heavy and flammable sonority thanks to the guitars by Mark and Simone, as well as the rhythmic and blast beats by Bas van den Boom; and it doesn’t matter how fast or slow the music is, the band always keeps a sinister and obscure atmosphere in the background. Last but not least, the ferocious but very melodic Stand Ablaze, a climatic ending to a very professional and exciting metal album, blends the harmony of Melodic Death Metal with the potency of Epic Metal, with Bas de Kruyff leading the musicality with his precise growls.

There’s a new dawn rising in the world of melodic extreme music thanks to this talented Dutch sextet, and if you want to know more about Scenario II you can visit their Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud. You can grab your copy of A New Dawn at the band’s official webshop in digital or physical format, as well as through their BandCamp page, on iTunes or on Amazon. The post-apocalyptic music blasted by Scenario II in A New Dawn keeps up with the legacy of Dutch metal, being harmonious, heavy and gripping at the same time, and it will surely maintain their inner fire burning for more amazing music in the following years, which is always what we want to see when the band in question is as talented as this up-and-coming squad.

Best moments of the album: A New Dawn, Awake and Endgame.

Worst moments of the album: Supremacy.

Released in 2017 Hysteria Music

Track listing
1. The Darkest Hour 2:09
2. A New Dawn 5:16
3. Supremacy 4:12
4. Awake 4:06
5. Rapture 4:46
6. The Promised Wasteland 1:48
7. Hysteria 5:11
8. Endgame 5:19
9. Disclosure 5:32
10. Nocturnal 4:30
11. Stand Ablaze 4:04

Band members
Myrthe van Beest – female vocals
Bas de Kruyff – vocals
Mark van Doren – guitars
Simone van Straten – guitars
Liza Hoek – bass
Bas van den Boom – drums