Album Review – Kaoteon / Damnatio Memoriae (2018)

Blending a dark atmosphere with Middle-Eastern riffs and incendiary lyrics, here comes a fearless Lebanese horde armed with their brand new album of skull-crushing Black Metal.

Brought into being as a one-man project in 1998 by Anthony Kaoteon (Death Drive) in the scorching fires of Ashrafieh, one of the oldest districts of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, under the name Chaotaeon (from the merger of Chaotic and Aeon), Black/Death Metal act Kaoteon is one of those bands that keep fighting for metal and for freedom of speech no matter how hideous the consequences might be for them. For instance, in 2001 the band was forced to change their name to Kaoteon after an incident with the authorities in which they got arrested, where the police though that Chaotaeon was the translation of “devils” from Arabic, leading to false accusations that the band is satanic. In addition, on December 20, 2003 while the band was playing live, a handful of undercover police entered the club with automatic rifles, took the band hostage, locked them in the trunks of unmarked cars, and interrogated them for days, shuttling them from one location to another.

Blending a brutally dark atmosphere with riffs that range from anthemic post-rock to Middle-Eastern folklore and incendiary lyrics driven by the band’s background in their turbulent homeland, Kaoteon (now based in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands) return once again to darken our souls with their brand new opus titled Damnatio Memoriae, the ancient Latin punishment of eradicating a person or figure from all memory and mention. Featuring a somber artwork by Mexican musician and artist Néstor Ávalos (Black Arts) as well as bass wizard Linus Klausenitzer of Obscura and drum master Fredrik Widigs of Marduk as session musicians, joining full-time members Anthony Kaoteon on guitar and Walid Wolflust (Ordum) on vocals, Damnatio Memoriae brings nine skull-crushing, unrelenting and explosive Black Metal hymns that will undoubtedly leave you feeling ravaged and raw after all is said and done.

The title-track Damnatio Memoriae is a modern and vibrant Black Metal composition that will fulminate your senses, bringing forward sheer aggression from the very first second. Furthermore, Fredrik as we all know is a demonic beast on drums, generating the perfect demolishing vibe for Walid to declaim the song’s controversial lyrics through his enraged roars (“My heaven differs from yours. / Where is the loving light? Where is the eternal peace? / Desolate, grey, tyrannic, lonesome / Lit with my passion to burn”). If that start wasn’t demented enough for you, Kaoteon keep burning our souls with their blackened music in Barren Lands, where Anthony is absolutely on fire with his guitar accompanied by Linus and his menacing bass, sounding devastating from start to finish, whereas in Raging HellFire they managed to sound even more visceral and disturbing, with Walid barking and screaming like a rabid beast in a flammable display of brutal (and therefore fantastic) Black Metal (and don’t forget to check the song’s guitar playthrough by Anthony HERE).

In the pulverizing Venom of Exalt, be prepared to be completely crushed by the nonstrop blast beats by Fredrik, while Anthony delivers more of his always insane riffs. In addition, Walid is in his most hellish mode, growling harsher and harsher as the music evolves in this tune highly recommended for lovers of true extreme music. Taking their sonority to the extreme, Kaoteon deliver another explosion of devilish growls, intricate beats and endless hatred flowing from Anthony’s stringed ax in The Will, with the desperate screams by Walid increasing the impact of this already boisterous song. And a soulful guitar solo by Anthony ignites a feast of darkened sounds entitled Non Serviam, blending old school Black Metal with contemporary Blackened Death Metal in a dense and menacing ambience. Needless to say, that powerful combination turns it into one of the top songs of the entire album.

In Light of Compassion their sounding keeps growing darker and darker, showcasing a fierce neck-breaking riff supported by the pounding drums by Fredrik, with Walid firing some deep enraged gnarls. Moreover, the last part of this chant is a thrilling Black Metal demolition with hints of old school Death Metal, piercing our minds mercilessly. The second to last tune in Damnatio Memoriae, the incredible sonic onrush of Black and Death Metal named Into the Mouth of Kaos, presents a high level of dementia bursting from Walid’s screams, with the riffs by Anthony exhaling pure Black Metal while Fredrik doesn’t stop detonating our ears with his crushing performance. And last but not least, it’s time for A Breath, a slightly different version of Kaoteon bringing forward more progressiveness than their usual destruction thanks to the intricate guitar lines by Anthony, and the final result couldn’t sound more compelling and vibrant, ending this sensational album of Extreme Metal in the best way possible.

While online, I suggest you go check out this interesting article about Kaoteon and their fascinating origin story via Revolver Magazine, giving you a much better idea of how hard it is to be a metal fan in the Middle-East. As a matter of fact, Kaoteon said in a group statement that “Lebanese metalheads are some of the friendliest and most amazing people to hang out with. It is sad to see great potential in this world gone to waste because someone somewhere decided to label people at birth and imprison them into their borders. The scene itself is thirsty for metal, so international bands should expect amazing interaction from the crowd. The Dutch scene – where we exist now – shows strong support for local talent, unlike the Lebanese scene. The Dutch scene loves their bands above all, while we feel that the Lebanese metal scene favors the international bands.” Hence, why not showing your support to true Lebanese metal by liking Kaoteon’s official Facebook page, subscribing to their YouTube channel and, above all that, purchasing the awesome Damnatio Memoriae from their BandCamp page, from CD Baby, from iTunes or from Amazon? Bands like Kaoteon are the reason why we all know from the bottom of our hearts that heavy music will never die, proving the passion for metal and for freedom of speech can beat any type of adversity, even if that means you’re putting your life at risk.

Best moments of the album: Damnatio Memoriae, Raging HellFire, Non Serviam and Into the Mouth of Kaos.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Damnatio Memoriae 4:33
2. Barren Lands 5:26
3. Raging HellFire 4:26
4. Venom of Exalt 4:35
5. The Will 5:41
6. Non Serviam 4:46
7. Light of Compassion 4:29
8. Into the Mouth of Kaos 4:18
9. A Breath 4:57

Band members
Walid WolfLust – vocals
Anthony Kaoteon – guitars

Guest musicians
Linus Klausenitzer – bass (session)
Fredrik Widigs – drums (session)

Advertisements

Album Review – Funeral Winds / Sinister Creed (2018)

A blasphemous and extremely austere album of old school Black Metal by a cult Dutch entity, offering us all endless fury, hate, rage and scorn, all spiced up by a bit of good old black magic.

Twenty seven years after their foundation, Dutch Black Metal horde Funeral Winds are more than ready to spread darkness upon the earth with the release of their fourth full-length album, titled Sinister Creed. Definitely not a prolific band, the Rotterdam-based offspring of multi-instrumentalist Hellchrist XUL won’t offer you anything that hasn’t been there since their beginning back in 1991, those being fury, hate, rage and scorn, all spiced up by a bit of good old black magic, allowing you to summon demons while listening to this blasphemous and extremely austere album of old school Black Metal. Written and recorded between 2014 and 2017 at Necromanteion Studio, in Belgium, Sinister Creed will please all fans of the darkest forms of extreme music without a shadow of a doubt, making your hearts and souls even darker than they already are.

Do not look for any fine music craftsmanship, as Funeral Winds are devoted to master the black arts, not some hip fine tune; therefore, there is only one thing you can expect from this infernal Dutch duo, and that’s total devastation. If you are into music evolutions, new genres and refined, subtle post-production gimmicks you are very welcome to look elsewhere, as Sinister Creed is an album for those whose thirst for blood was never satisfied, whose love for the early 90’s is still alive and kicking, and whose black flame never extinguished. It might have taken over 10 years for Funeral Winds to return with new material, with their previous installment, named Nexion Xul – The Cursed Bloodline, being released in the already distant year of 2007, but the duo is back in full force to destroy the silence that took place during their hiatus with endless dosages of hellspawn Black Metal.

Sinister noises ignite the ode to darkness entitled The Road to Perdition, before Hellchrist XUL comes crushing our souls mercilessly with his demented gnarls and pulverizing riffs, giving life (or I should say death) to the song’s darkly poetic lyrics (“The angles slowly align themselves / With every step I take / on this unpaved road to perdition / A path full of rocks with sharp edges / That cut strips of flesh / with each incautious step taken”). In Cursed is this Pantheon of Flesh we’re treated to absolute chaos and devastation in the form of Black Metal, with session drummer M.Z. Inversus sounding like an unstoppable bulldozer. Furthermore, the song has a hardcore feel that only makes it more flammable and therefore more enjoyable, setting the tone for another onslaught of aggressive, old school Black Metal named The Arrival, showcasing the always demented screams by Hellchrist XUL, powerfully boosted by the song’s sick drumming, insane guitar lines and endless obscurity.

The title-track Sinister Creed maintains the album’s acidity and rage at an extremely high level, With pure sulphur flowing from all instruments, in special from its blast beats and flammable guitars which will rip your heart out in a gruesome way. Then featuring Amon XUL on guest vocals, Funeral Winds manage to get even more frantic and demented than before in Blood, a fantastic display of visceral Black Metal that’s utterly loyal to the foundations of the genre; followed by Black Moon over Saturn: featuring Hekte Zaren on guest vocals, this insane tune presents an operatic, choir-like intro to a feast of blackened sounds and roars, resulting in a beautiful blend of raw Black Metal with Doom Metal and symphonic elements.

Never slowing down, never softening their music, Funeral Winds continue their path to the underworld by offering the listener an explosion of metallic riffs and bestial drums named Seven Arrows, Knife and Flame (Sekhmet), where Hellchrist XUL sounds truly possessed on vocals (which in Black Metal is always a very positive addition to the musicality, of course). And as the closing act of such demonic album we have Nunc et in Hora Mortis Nostrae, which means “now and at the hour of our death” in English, with its over seven minutes of first-class Black Metal that will disturb your peace and exterminate your mind, also presenting some insanely dark words vociferated by Hellchrist XUL (“I have crawled from the womb of eternal darkness / Out of the void into the light I abhor / I have crawled from the womb of emptiness / Out of the abyss into this world / I am here not to please, I am here not to bring joy”), with the music flowing flawlessly until its ungodly, transcendental ending.

You can take a full, detailed listen at Sinister Creed on YouTube or on Spotify, and in case you’re already a loyal member of the dark side you can purchase the album at the Funeral Winds’ BandCamp, at the Avantgarde Music’s BandCamp or Big Cartel, at the Season of Mist webshop, at Record Shop X, on iTunes or on Amazon. Also, don’t forget to follow Funeral Winds on Facebook and to keep an eye on their YouTube channel for more music and videos by such distinct Black Metal act, and may the pitch black darkness bred by Funeral Winds in their Mephistophelian career keep haunting our souls for decades to come.

Best moments of the album: Cursed is this Pantheon of Flesh, Blood and Nunc et in Hora Mortis Nostrae.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Avantgarde Music

Track listing  
1. The Road to Perdition 4:47
2. Cursed is this Pantheon of Flesh 3:59
3. The Arrival 3:30
4. Sinister Creed 2:44
5. Blood 3:05
6. Black Moon over Saturn 5:26
7. Seven Arrows, Knife and Flame (Sekhmet) 4:27
8. Nunc et in Hora Mortis Nostrae 7:37

Band members
Hellchrist XUL – vocals, all instruments
M.Z. Inversus – drums (session)

Guest musicians
Amon XUL – additional vocals on “Blood”
Hekte Zaren – additional vocals on ‘Black Moon over Saturn”

Metal Chick of the Month – Amanda Somerville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amanda Somerville’s Official Facebook page
Amanda Somerville’s Official Twitter
Amanda Somerville’s Official Instagram
Amanda Somerville’s Official YouTube channel

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

Metal Chick of the Month – Fallon Bowman

Then we lay there… Embracing our last stare… On a moonlit afternoon…

As The Headbanging Moose is based in Toronto, Canada, probably the most multi-cultural city in the world, there’s nothing better than having as our last metal chick of the year of 2017 a woman of Dutch and Indonesian descent that was born in Cape Town, South Africa, but that currently resides here in Toronto, playing an also diverse range of musical styles such as Alternative Metal, Nu Metal, Rock, Industrial and even Electronica. This woman, who’s a skillful vocalist and guitarist, goes by the name of Fallon Bowman, known for her involvement with the bands Kittie, Pigface and Amphibious Assault, as well as a solo career which she’s been pursuing since around 2011. Having said that, are you ready to bang your head to the electrifying music by the exotic Fallon?

Born on November 16, 1983 in Cape Town, a port city on South Africa’s southwest coast, on a peninsula beneath the imposing Table Mountain, Fallon has been active in the world of alternative and heavy music since 1996, when at the age of fourteen years old she helped to form Canadian Alternative Metal act Kittie with classmate Mercedes Lander and Mercedes’ sister, Morgan Lander, playing guitar and performing backing vocals for the band from their inception in 1996 until August 2001, when she left the band. As a matter of fact, her passion for music actually started a few years before Kittie, when she was around 10 years old, when she was fascinated with a guitar her grandfather had at his home in South Africa. However, she mentioned the guitar was not her first choice, as at first she wanted to be a drummer when she was around 12, but her parents were against it and she ended up getting a guitar from them after they saw her performance playing the song Violet, by Hole, at a school assembly with a friend using a friend’s guitar. Getting back to Kittie, Fallon has already explained several times in different interviews why she left the band, saying she was unhappy with some things in the band so she felt that maybe it was time for her to depart. Our dauntless guitarist recorded two albums with Kittie, those being the full-length Spit, in 1999, and the EP Paperdoll, in 2000, comprised of a remix of Spit’s song Paperdoll and five songs from Spit recorded live on June 15, 2000 at the Hultsfred Festival in Sweden.

Regarding the writing and meaning of the song Choke in Spit, Fallon said that it is “about someone telling you that they love you so much, and they put you up on a pedestal and make you feel great, then they turn around and say “screw you”, and you can sense that feeling while listening to the song (which you can do HERE). Furthermore, just to give you an idea of the impact of the release of Spit, right after that Kittie went on tours with bands such as Chevelle, Slipknot, Suicidal Tendencies, and Shuvel, also performing at Ozzfest and at the 2001 SnoCore festival. Hence, if you want to listen to Fallon playing her flammable guitar with Kittie, I recommend the songs Brackish and Charlotte, both taken from Spit.

Right after her departure from Kittie, Fallon experienced a period of stress due to splitting up with her friends from the band, but she managed to overcome that difficult situation after a while and got involved with her two next endeavors, the distinct bands Pigface and Amphibious Assault. Pigface is an industrial music supergroup formed in 1990 by Martin Atkins (Ministry, Killing Joke) and William Rieflin (Ministry, KMFDM, R.E.M., King Crimson), featuring tons of guest musicians such as our metal babe Fallon. She ended up recording several tracks with Pigface for their 2003 album Easy Listening…, which led her to begin writing music again due to the enjoyment she had during the recording process. She then purchased a sequencer and began exploring the industrial music genre that she admired but had never actively pursued, also filling her basement in the following months with drum machines and synthesizers, which in the end led to the writing of the songs for District Six, the debut album by her upcoming industrial project Amphibious Assault, mixing lots of heavy elements and aspects with her passion for industrial music. The name of the project was chosen during a flight from Toronto to New Jersey, when Bowman, at the age of seventeen, was skimming through a Tom Clancy novel when she came upon the term “amphibious assault”, with the whole project being, according to our talented musician herself, her personal “homage” to her KMFDM days, when she was obsessed with them. Amphibious Assault went on for a few years, from 2003 until 2007, with two full-length albums released, the aforementioned District Six in 2003 and On Better Days and Sin-Eating in 2006. If you want to take a listen at this more electronic side of Fallon, I recommend you check the songs Tears In Rain, District 6, The Importance Of Finding Narcissism, Mistakes, Breaks, Way Too Lates, and Benedictine, among many others.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After the end of Amphibious Assault, Fallon mentioned that a new project was about to become a reality, tentatively named “Oh No, Torpedo!”, but that in the end became her solo project Fallon Bowman & The Grace Dynasty (with The Grace Dynasty being a five-piece band that included Rhim of The Birthday Massacre on drums), playing a series of live shows before announcing their forthcoming debut album, titled Human, Conditional, from 2011. However, right after the recording of the album was done, it was decided that the project would drop “The Grace Dynasty” from its name, being then just known as Fallon Bowman. You can take a detailed listen at Human, Conditional at Bowman’s own BandCamp page, with songs like the title-track Human, Conditional and Rio de Janeiro being a good sample of how her latest project sounds like.

Regarding her vocal range and her skills as a musician, Fallon mentioned in one of her interviews she’s highly influenced by R&B (thanks to her sister and parents), which allows her to do more than “just” scream and yell while singing, and that she hadn’t taken any singing lesson until she left Kittie. She said that her vocal teacher taught her all sorts of essential lessons about maintaining pitch while moving, and that she incorporated those into her performances to give it a more theatrical vibe. In addition, she also mentioned the emotion she transpires during her live performances is something that just happens, it’s very organic and it arises from the same place her lyrics and pain come from. And even in the middle of that sea of emotions, Fallon has time to sharpen her playing skills, being able to play guitar, keyboards, bass and sing (and getting there in regards to the piano), all helping her become a better composer. And did you know she has a degree in archeology? Well, that’s something almost no one actually knew until she was the subject of a prank for an episode of the short-lived Animal Planet series Freak Encounters a few years ago.

Fallon’s influences in music are just as diverse as her own background, with our talented multi-instrumentalist being highly influenced by R&B when it comes to her vocal style, but of course she also draws a lot of inspiration from electronic and rock music, saying that she loves the contrast between angelic singing and harder music. In terms of names, she said her taste for music varies from Whitney Houston to Deftones, from Calvin Harris to VNV Nation to Nirvana, and so on, mentioning that there’s beauty in all types of music. When asked about a band that she would have loved to tour with from the past, she promptly mentioned Nirvana, saying that meeting Kurt Cobain would have been a mind-blowing experience and that Nirvana, alongside with Hole, were the bands that made her want to be a musician. Furthermore, Fallon still had time to create her own dream band, that being David Gahan from Depeche Mode on vocals, Danny Carey from Tool on drums, Ryan from Mudvayne on bass, and Jimi Hendrix on guitar. How awesome do you think that supergroup would sound?

When asked about all changes that have impacted the music industry since she started her career back in 1996, she said when Kittie started they had almost no focus on the internet, as there wasn’t Facebook or anything like that at that time, saying it was all about street teams made up of fans that would spread the word about each band, something that doesn’t happen anymore nowadays. Fallon has been trying to learn about new apps and platforms to promote her music, and you can find her in several places, as for example you can buy her music on BandCamp, something that didn’t exist at all in the 90’s. Well, she’s also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, so let’s say she has adapted to this new reality in the music business as much as her taste in music has changed and evolved, right? Well, now let’s wait and see what the future holds for this young and restless musician, hoping that she keeps “invading” all current and new types of social media sites and music apps with her uniqueness and electricity.

Fallon Bowman’s Official Facebook page
Fallon Bowman’s Official Twitter
Fallon Bowman’s Official Instagram
Fallon Bowman’s Official YouTube channel
Fallon Bowman’s Official BandCamp

“I didn’t consciously think of what I was doing as a step for me as a woman of colour – it was more simple than that – being a teenager wanting to be a rockstar. In retrospect however, no one besides maybe Skin was doing that style of music and was also a woman of colour. It’s a bit mind blowing really. There was really no one else doing that at that level.” – Fallon Bowman

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

Concert Review – Rotting Christ (L’Astral, Montreal, QC, 09/08/2016)

No Marduk? No problem at all, as Montreal still got an incredible night of extreme music spearheaded by the best Greek band of all time, the one and only Rotting Christ.

OPENING ACTS: Necronomicon and Carach Angren

marduk-tourFinally back from a lengthy trip to Montreal and Quebec City, it’s time to get the ball rolling again at The Headbanging Moose, and let’s begin with an outstanding night of Extreme Metal this Thursday in Montreal. First and foremost, in my opinion it was a huge lack of respect to all fans who had bought their tickets to see Marduk, Rotting Christ, Carach Angren and Necronomicon Thursday night at L’Astral in Montreal (by the way, what an amazing venue) to inform that Marduk had not received their Canadian working visas on time and, therefore, could not perform together with the other three bands of the night, only a couple of hours before the doors actually opened. I don’t believe the organizers were expecting the decision to not provide the visas to Marduk reversed the same day of the show, and I’m pretty sure most of you will agree with me it looks a lot more like an attempt to avoid a significant loss of money due to tickets being returned and refunded.

Anyway, Necronomicon, Carach Angren and Rotting Christ didn’t disappoint at all and put up a sensational show from start to finish, minimizing the pain we all had to endure due to the absence of the main band of the night. The first band to hit the stage was Canadian Symphonic Black/Death Metal horde NECRONOMICON, who after over a month on the road were finally back to their hometown to once again spread darkness over their beloved city at a packed L’Astral. Promoting their latest (and kick-ass) album Advent of The Human God, the band led by the talented (and also really cool guy) Rob “The Witch” Tremblay played a well-balanced mix of old songs with new demolishing tunes such as I (Bringer of Light) and Crown of Thorns, letting every single fan at the venue with a darkened heart and a huge smile on their faces. After their performance, Rob stayed at the band’s merch booth taking pictures with fans and selling high-quality T-shirts (really good stuff for only $25 each) and CD’s, which by the way are being re-printed already due to the high demand by fans worldwide. It’s so good to see bands like Necronomicon succeeding like that in an era where very few people buy physical music, and even better to see that when they play live they can transfer all the obscurity and potency of their music to the stage.

Band members
Rob “The Witch” Tremblay – vocals, guitar
Mars – bass
Rick – drums

img_1735After a short break, it was time for Dutch Horror Metal act CARACH ANGREN to haunt L’Astral with their theatrical and blackened performance. In case you know nothing about this excellent band from the city of Limburg, in the Netherlands, I highly recommend you go after their material because it’s not only very professional, but also unique and exciting. Furthermore, things get even better live, as all band members make sure they offer their fans a true depiction of their diabolical music. While Namtar kept smashing his drums and Ardek built a Mercyful Fate-inspired atmosphere through his keyboard notes, it were frontman Seregor and guest guitarist Jack Owen (let me say the presence of the famous ex-Cannibal Corpse guitarist was a huge and awesome surprise for me) who stole the show with their precise performances. I believe everyone at the venue loved the concert by Carach Angren, with songs such as When Crows Tick on Windows and Killed and Served by the Devil proving once again the fusion of theatre and extreme music, like what Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir do, always has a very positive impact on any live audience. There was even a wall of death close to the end of their show, which always translates into greatness for fans of demolishing music like myself.

Band members
Seregor – vocals
Ardek – keyboards, orchestrations
Namtar – drums 

Guest musician
Jack Owen – guitars 

ROTTING CHRIST

img_1744As aforementioned, we did not get Marduk, but who said the night wasn’t superb even with that unforeseen letdown? Well, that was only possible thanks to the flawless performance by Greek Black/Dark Metal titans ROTTING CHRIST, a concert that I personally recommend to anyone who loves violence and groove blended with history in heavy music. Call it tribal, ritualistic or warlike music, what Mr. Sakis Tolis and his army delivered to the fans in Montreal was beyond magnificent, with Sakis inciting every metalhed at the venue to “fight” in the circle pit. It was a neck-breaking, mind-blowing metal extravaganza that only a distinguished band like Rotting Christ is capable of delivering, leaving every single person in the crowd absolutely thrilled during their entire show.

I simply loved their precise mix of old classics, like the infernal The Sign of Evil Existence and Non Serviam, more contemporary tunes like the bestial 666, and brand new songs from the excellent Rituals, such as the hypnotizing chant Ze Nigmar, the delivish and rhythmic Apage Satana and my favorite song of the new album, the aggressive and energetic Elthe Kyrie (even with the stunning female vocals by Danai Katsameni not being live for obvious reasons). Nobody seemed to care about the fact that very few parts of the songs were sung in English, with most of their setlist being sung in Greek and other languages. The ritualistic and demonic aura of each song, played to perfection by all band members (in special by guitarist George Emmanuel, who was on fire during the whole concert as if he was possessed by an evil entity), was all that Rotting Christ needed to dominate the hearts, minds and souls of every fan at L’Astral.

img_1749I already nurture a lot of respect for Rotting Christ, but after what I saw in Montreal that respect grew even bigger than before. When you see a gorgeous girl that unfortunately has to be on a wheelchair (probably for the rest of her life) due to reasons beyond our control having an absolute blast the entire concert, getting totally mesmerized by the band’s powerful and primeval music, you know the band has something special in them. There are things only heavy music is capable of doing, especially bringing together all types of people it doesn’t matter how the person looks, the gender, religion, race or anything else. Unfortunately as I was still in Montreal until yesterday I couldn’t see them in Toronto Friday night, but I’m sure their Torontonians fans got exactly what they paid for: a stupendous concert of extreme music, perfectly fired by the most important and influential Greek band of all times. Put differently, next time Rotting Christ visit your city, don’t even think about missing the chance of seeing them live. Period.

Setlist
Ze Nigmar
Kata ton Demona Eautou
Athanati Este
Elthe Kyrie
Apage Satana
Grandis Spiritus Diavolos
Konx om Pax
666
The Sign of Evil Existence
Noctis Era

Encore:
Non Serviam

Band members
Sakis Tolis – vocals, guitars
George Emmanuel – guitars
Van Ace – bass
Themis Tolis – drums

Concert Review – Epica & Moonspell (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 01/22/2016)

An electrifying fusion of Melodic Death Metal, Dark Metal and Symphonic Metal from distinct parts of the world storms the Opera House in Toronto in a memorable celebration of music.

OPENING ACT: Starkill

The North American Enigma PosterAlthough the winter hasn’t been too harsh so far in the city of Toronto this year, there’s nothing better than warming it up even more with some high-quality metal music from different parts of the world, all at the same place and time, don’t you agree? That’s what happened this Friday at the nice and cozy The Opera House, where fans could witness the riveting fusion of Melodic Death Metal from the United States, Dark Metal from Portugal and Symphonic Metal from the Netherlands on a cold but (thankfully) snowless night.

And I was finally able to get a full concert in Toronto from the very first second, without missing anything, starting with the young and restless metallers from STARKILL. Still promoting their latest album, the good Virus of the Mind, from 2014, this talented American quartet distilled their Melodic Death Metal in a precise way, warming up the crowd for the main attractions yet to come. Lead singer/guitarist Parker Jameson and guitarist Tony Keathley seemed very comfortable on stage and also among the crowd right after their concert was over, having a few beers with their fans, therefore showing how humble these guys are too. Despite adding a couple of nice unreleased songs to their setlist (entitled Burn Your World and Cloudless), in my opinion they truly thrived with songs from their two studio albums, in special the excellent Be Dead or Die and Fires of Life. I just wish they had played a faster song such as “Breaking the Madness” or “Skyward” instead of Before Hope Fades to close the show, but that was just a minor detail in their solid overall performance.

Setlist
Be Dead or Die
Burn Your World
Cloudless
Fires of Life
Virus of the Mind
Before Hope Fades

Band members
Parker Jameson – lead guitar, vocals
Tony Keathley – guitar, backing vocals
Shaun Andruchuk – bass guitar
Spencer Weidner – drums

MOONSPELL

IMG_1037About 24 hours before the moon in the city transitioned from First Quarter to Full Moon, and after an interesting alternate version of La Bafomette working as an intro, the iconic Portuguese Dark Metal wolf pack MOONSPELL stormed the Opera House with their obscurity, heaviness, electricity and undisputed talent. I really don’t know what to say about their performance so perfect it was. Perhaps that it took me too long to watch those old school Gothic metallers live for the first time? Anyway, their live concert is so damn brilliant it feels like an enhanced version of their studio albums, especially the performance by frontman Fernando Ribeiro. There’s so much passion emanating from his voice, either through his deep clean vocals, through his powerful growls or through his “real-time poetry” (or even when he made a joke about the guys from Starkill being so young they could be his children),  that it’s impossible not to get completely mesmerized and stunned by him during the entire show.

IMG_1032Of course, the rest of the band contributes enormously to the perfection of their music, with highlights to the polished and soulful riffs and solos by guitarist Ricardo Amorim, and to the sinister notes by keyboardist Pedro Paixão. There’s an absolute attention to detail coming from each musician involved, turning the experience of seeing Moonspell live into something unique. In addition, when you have such a masterpiece like their 2015 album Extinct guiding the setlist, with incredible compositions like Breathe (Until We Are No More), Extinct and The Last of Us complementing their old classics Night Eternal, Opium, Vampiria and Full Moon Madness, it’s extremely easy to put a sincere smile on the faces of the fans that attended the concert.

My only complaint is that their setlist was way too short and didn’t live up to their dark legacy. When the show was over after a little less than one hour, I was eager for more of their Gothic Metal, something you can expect from such an amazing band with a dazzling career like Moonspell. Well, they haven’t risen to stardom for no reason, right? If they had another 20 or 30 minutes to showcase more of their beautiful music, maybe by adding songs like “White Skies” and “Scorpion Flower” to their setlist, the night was going to be epic and, more important than that, more than eternal for us mere mortals. I cannot wait to see the “gajos” from Monspell live again, and next time, before the lights go out and before our time is gone, they better be the headliners or we riot!

Setlist
La Bafomette (Intro)
Breathe (Until We Are No More)
Extinct
Night Eternal
Opium
Awake
The Last of Us
Funeral Bloom
Vampiria
Alma Mater
Full Moon Madness

Band members
Fernando Ribeiro – vocals
Ricardo Amorim – guitars
Pedro Paixão – keyboards
Aires Pereira – bass
Miguel Gaspar – drums

EPICA

IMG_1069However, as most fans at the venue were there to see the main attraction of the night, the Dutch metallers from EPICA, I had to cope with the fact Moonspell’s concert was over and get ready for another good performance by the red-haired bombshell Simone Simons and her loyal crew. Due to personal reasons, they had to cancel their concerts in Toronto, Chicago and Minneapolis last September, which is why I believe their fans at the Opera House were so excited this Friday night.

Blending old classics with newer songs from their 2014 album The Quantum Enigma, Epica captivated the hearts of most people at the venue, with Simone connecting every single moment with the fans. As it happened with Moonspell, songs like The Second Stone and The Essence of Silence, despite not being classics yet, set fire to the crowd and boosted even more the impact of their classics, creating a very positive atmosphere among the crowd. And what can I say about the weird keyboards by Coen Janssen? What the hell was that? I mean, it looks cheesy, but it ends up working well with the music. If you like Epica, you know what I’m talking about.

IMG_1066There was just one minor issue with Epica’s performance, that being Moonspell. Well, not actually Moonspell, but the quality of the sound by the Portuguese metallers was way above what Epica provided the fans, which in the end felt odd. Sometimes their music sounded a bit muffled or tangled, not as clean as their studio versions, with Simone’s voice sounding lower (and almost inaudible in some moments) than all instruments. Nothing that could diminish the excitement among the fans at the venue, though, and obviously nothing that would make the night less memorable. If that mix of different subgenres of heavy music from distinct countries will ever happen again, only time will tell. In the meantime, all that’s left for us is keep those good moments deep in our hearts and wait until these bands come back to Toronto (especially Moonspell, in my case) for another shot of top-notch Heavy Metal.

Setlist
Originem (Intro)
The Second Stone
The Essence of Silence
Sensorium
Unleashed
Martyr of the Free Word
Cry for the Moon (with drum solo)
Storm the Sorrow
The Last Crusade
The Obsessive Devotion
Victims of Contingency
Design Your Universe

Encore:
Sancta Terra
Unchain Utopia
Consign to Oblivion

Band members
Simone Simons – lead vocals
Mark Jansen – rhythm guitar, harsh vocals
Isaac Delahaye – lead guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Rob van der Loo – bass guitar
Coen Janssen – keyboards, piano
Ariën van Weesenbeek – drums, harsh vocals

Metal Chick of the Month – Dianne van Giersbergen

dianne01

You will die for my love tonight!

When you think about the Netherlands, the first (if not the only) things that come to your mind are probably prostitution, drugs and those famous wooden shoes. However, you should forget about all that touristic bullshit and start admiring the true wonders of that picturesque European country: their female Heavy Metal singers. It’s amazing how many talented girls can be found in such a small country, as for example Anneke van Giersbergen (Agua de Anneke, The Gathering), Sharon den Adel (Within Tempation), Charlotte Wessels (Delain), and our last Metal Chick of the year, the stunning soprano Dianne van Giersbergen, frontwoman of Dutch Progressive Metal band Ex Libris and German Symphonic Metal band Xandria.

Dianne was born on June 3, 1985 in the village of Liempde in the Netherlands, about 100km from the capital Amsterdam, but currently resides in the city of Dordrecht, close to Rotterdam, the second-largest city in the country. Her beautiful and potent voice started to be defined and polished really early in her life: when she was a kid, Dianne used to listen to many pop female singers such as Whitney Houston (R.I.P.), which developed in her a true fascination for the human voice and, at the age of four, her parents gave her as a birthday gift her first singing lessons. In the following years, she had several other music teachers and sang in different choirs.

In the year of 2005, this long dark-haired beauty began her studies in Classical Music at the ArtEZ School of Music with singer Elena Vink, and also became a trainee at the Nationale Reisopera. Besides her classical Music studies, in her free time our gorgeous soprano also braved the worlds of popular music and musical theatre. Finally, in May 2009, Dianne graduated from her studies with distinction, and her newly acquired Bachelor’s also worked as the admission for her Master studies, when she improved her technique to have classical and metal music mixed together. Not only that, this nonstop diva also attended composition courses, wrote poems on behalf of composers, and was the chairman of the New Artez Student Association group of master students. We have to admit this is a very respectable resume, which makes me wonder if she somehow has part of the DNA from Iron Maiden’s “multi-man”, Mr. Bruce Dickinson.

Moving on to her career as a Heavy Metal singer, Dianne has been with Ex Libris since their beginning in 2003, and has already recorded the demos Drawn (2005) and Medea (2011), and the full-length albums Amygdala, in 2008, and Medea, now in 2014. In one of her interviews, she explained the reason for the name of the band.  “An Ex Libris is used to indicate ownership of products of a craft-guild and can come in different forms like a seal, stamp or a brand. You could say that by naming the band Ex Libris we would like to brand our products as our own.”, she said. In case you have never heard the voice of Dianne with Ex Libris, here are a few songs to make your day a lot more pleasant: From Birth to Bloodshed, A Mother’s Lament, Love Is Thy Sin, and Dawn Of Sugars.

In October 2013, Dianne was chosen as the new frontwoman for Xandria, replacing German singer Manuela Kraller. She made her live debut with Xandria in November 2013 during a Spanish tour, and has recently recorded her first album with the band, entitled Sacrificium. You can for example check her astonishing voice beautifying Xandria’s music in the very enjoyable song Dreamkeeper, from Sacrificium.

Besides that, she was a guest soprano for Polish Symphonic Power Metal band Pathfinder during their Blood Aliance Tour in 2011, and in December 2013 she was a guest vocalist during one of the concerts from Dutch Symphonic Gothic Metal band Stream Of Passion, when together with lead singer Marcela Bovio they performed the duettino Sull’aria, from Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro”, and one of Stream of Passion’s own songs. And, of course, you can always check all her other projects and videos on her official website and also on her official YouTube channel.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A woman so talented like that could never have a bad taste for music, and this can be easily seen on her awesome list of favorite bands and artists, which includes music icons such as Nightwish, Dream Theater, Tarja Turunen, Devin Townsend Project, Anneke van Giersbergen, Anathema, System of a Down, Dire Straits, and many more. And before you ask about it, despite having the same last name as Anneke, those two divas are not related at all. “We share the same surname but are very different in voice type and vocal techniques. I like her style though.”, Dianne said during an interview. Not only that, she also listens to a lot of classical music (mostly choir pieces, songs and opera), with Wagner, Rachmaninoff, Zemlinsky, Berg and Verdi being among her favorite composers.

In terms of cinema and literature, Dianne once again showcases a splendid cultural background by mentioning among her favorite movies masterpieces such as Braveheart and Lord of the Rings (and anything from masters Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton), great TV series like Breaking Bad and Lost, and everything from one of the greatest and most mysterious writers of all time, the unparalleled American poet Edgar Allan Poe. Add to that the fact that she loves French food and red wine, and there you have a perfect European “milady”!

Last but not least, Dianne even said once that she would love to have an alto (or contralto) voice for a day. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, just for your reference the female voice can be divided into three categories: alto, mezzo-soprano and soprano, with the alto being the lowest standard female voice type (you can see a very good explanation of all types of voices HERE, including a perfect example of how an alto sounds like). But even after reading all that information about voice types you didn’t really get it, don’t worry: I’m pretty sure that, as long as our Dutch princess Dianne keeps singing Heavy Metal, your metal heart will keep beating delightfully.

Dianne van Giersbergen’s Official Facebook page
Ex Libris’ Official Facebook page
Ex Libris’ Official Twitter
Xandria’s Official Facebook page
Xandria’s Official Twitter

“Smile and you will be rewarded.” – Dianne van Giersbergen

Album Review – Xandria / Sacrificium (2014)

Listening to this album is far from being a sacrifice. Quite the opposite, it’s a true pleasure.

Rating4

CoverChanging the lead singer of any band has always been considered a very a bold move, and when the music genre in question is Heavy Metal the impact of that change is even more significant due to the loyalty and connection all diehard fans usually have with the most “traditional” members of the band. In other words, this change can be a very welcome breath of fresh air to the band’s musicality in some cases, or a complete disaster in others depending on how much the voice influences their music direction. Fortunately for German Symphonic Metal band Xandria their choice for the band’s new lead singer, the very talented Dutch soprano Dianne van Giersbergen, ended up being better than anyone could have imagined, which can be verified in their excellent brand new album Sacrificium, the sixth in their career.

Dianne, who is also the frontwoman for Dutch Smyphonic Metal band Ex Libris,  replaced German singer Manuela Kraller (who was with the band from 2010 to 2013) just before the recording of Sacrificium began, which made fans really apprehensive of what would happen with the band then. It’s also the first with bassist Steven Wussow, and add to that “the choir of the sacrificed” by the PA’dam choir (from the Netherlands) and some narration by American singer Amanda Somerville and Mark Burnash, and the amount of changes and new elements compared to their previous records is even higher. However, as aforementioned, it’s all for a very good purpose.

To begin with, if Sacrificium, the 10-minute epic track that opens the album, is not the most awesome “business card” Dianne could offer us, then I have no idea what could be. Xandria seems to be in very good hands (or voice) now based on what we can see in this song: after a symphonic intro, it turns into great and fast Power Metal, with Dianne’s voice sounding gorgeous when blended with more modern riffs. Moreover, the good rhythm variations and breaks, the “movie soundtrack” chorus halfway through the song and all solos make it easy to follow the “story” being told, turning it into an instant fan favorite. Nightfall, the second track of the album, keeps the energy level up. It is definitely another top moment of the album with its choir intro, heavy riffs, beautiful vocals and chorus giving the song an epic touch, and it will sound amazing live without any doubt.

Then we have the semi-ballad Dreamkeeper, which despite its more melodic riffs and delicate lyrics (“I will send a dying rose / For you all to be close / To its scent that has never been”) is not really an exciting song, and Stardust, where Dianne’s voice is nicely complemented by some Progressive Metal elements; but it’s the next song, The Undiscovered Land, which really helps elevate the overall quality of the album: this “medieval” ballad has some sort of “Lord of the Rings” intro that works pretty well, an awesome instrumental, and of course another brilliant vocal performance by Dianne. Sacrificium goes on with the pure Symphonic Power Metal song Betrayer, which takes the album back to a stronger and faster sonority, and Until the End, a “video-game” track that albeit not bad, sounds too generic compared to the rest of the album.

xandriaThe last part of Sacrificium is composed by a sequence of shorter songs with a very traditional approach, where the goal seems to be showcasing Dianne’s skills as a soprano. Come With Me is a very rhythmic Symphonic Metal tune with a chorus full of emotion, which can also be said about the next song, Little Red Relish, and Our Neverworld, a smooth ballad with heavier passages. Finally, we have the totally boring Temple of Hate, the worst song of all, and closing the album we have one last ballad, the melancholic and captivating Sweet Atonement, another lesson in singing by Dianne, who puts so much passion in her voice it’s hard not to get thrilled with her performance.

In summary, Sacrificium is a highly recommended album for all types of female singers (not only Heavy Metal), or for lovers of bands with female vocals, but it might be too much sometimes for more traditional metal fans. I myself was going to give it a 3.0 mainly because it’s not the most creative album in the world, but the choir, all the narrative, and especially the addition of the stunning Dianne to the band were so amazing it actually deserved a 3.5 in the end. Only time will tell if Dianne will be able to balance her career between Ex Libris and Xandria, but for now I’m impressed with her abilities as a musician. And what can I say about the album art? It’s not only beautiful, but would it also be a message to their oldest fans saying the band’s music has been reborn like a phoenix from the ashes? At least one thing we know for sure: listening to Sacrificium is not a sacrifice at all, but a very delightful experience.

Best moments of the album: Sacrificium, Nightfall, The Undiscovered Land and Sweet Atonement.

Worst moments of the album: Dreamkeeper, Until the End and Temple of Hate.

Released in 2014 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Sacrificium 10:21
2. Nightfall 4:02
3. Dreamkeeper 4:36
4. Stardust 4:00
5. The Undiscovered Land 7:34
6. Betrayer 6:15
7. Until the End 5:47
8. Come With Me 3:46
9. Little Red Relish 4:39
10. Our Neverworld 3:51
11. Temple of Hate 5:59
12. Sweet Atonement 4:20

Band members
Dianne van Giersbergen – vocals
Marco Heubaum – vocals, guitar, keyboard
Philip Restemeier – guitar
Steven Wussow – bass
Gerit Lamm – drums

Album Review – Epica / The Quantum Enigma (2014)

The new album from Epica just corroborates how good Symphonic Metal from the Netherlands has been in recent years.

Rating4

coverIt definitely looks like whenever a Heavy Metal band from the Netherlands releases a new album, especially if it has female vocals, we can purchase their new material without even listening to it. All releases from bands from the “Land of Windmills” in the past few years have been simply amazing, with no exception, and that’s also valid for the excellent The Quantum Enigma, the sixth studio album by Dutch Symphonic Metal band Epica.

Although it’s the first with new bassist Rob van der Loo, who replaced Yves Huts in 2012, that didn’t hurt the overall quality of the album. Quite the contrary, the other members of the band have been together for some good years, which translates into cohesiveness and an outstanding flow of the music. Not only that, the addition of a chamber choir and some strings (violins, viola and celli), along with the excellent guest musicians Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion) on backing vocals and Daniël de Jongh (Textures) as additional male vocals were extremely positive from a quality standpoint.

The Quantum Enigma starts with the beautiful symphonic intro Originem, tailored to create a special atmosphere for everything else to come and already introducing to us the choir, which will be a constant throughout the whole album. Also, I don’t need to say this track will be used as an intro to their upcoming live concerts, right? But it’s when the first actual song begins that we’re able to notice how grandiose the band wants its music to be in this album: The Second Stone is a great song with lots of Power Metal elements, Simone Simons’ unique voice sounding superb as usual, and the fast solos and harsh vocals complementing what might be considered the best track of the album by many fans.

The next track, The Essence of Silence, has that characteristic sonority from some old Epica songs without sounding repetitive, a beautiful chorus (“Retrieve your balance / Use your senses to observe / The essence of silence / Search for essence / Find the silence within you / The essence is…”), and all the extra strings fit perfectly with the musicality not only of this track but of the whole album. It’s a very good track but not really awesome, though, which is the case for the amazing Victims of Contingency, where its heavy riffs balance really well with the keyboards and orchestral parts. Moreover, the Death Metal punch found in this song blended with Simone’s lyrical voice is above the average, and add to that Mark Jansen and Isaac Delahaye doing an excellent job with their guitars and you have another memorable track in the album.

Perhaps the weakest track of all is the next one, Sense Without Sanity (The Impervious Code), which despite having a nice and smooth vocal intro, strong keyboard notes and a good balance of harsh and female vocals, ends up being a bit tiring, especially after the 4th minute,  losing all momentum gained. Unchain Utopia might not be a brilliant song, but it’s indeed better than the previous track and Simone’s performance once again gives it some extra energy; while The Fifth Guardian (Interlude), despite being just an instrumental bridge, is really well-crafted and perfect for energizing the listener for the following track, the excellent Chemical Insomnia. What an awesome Symphonic Metal tune! The music keeps growing and growing until it reaches a truly climatic ending, with all band members playing their parts beautifully, and also proving to us all a song doesn’t need to be absurdly long to be epic.

epicaReverence (Living in the Heart) seems to be the song chosen by Ariën van Weesenbeek to mercilessly smash his drums, with some excellent riffs, choir, and especially the quick but awesome keyboard solo adding a special touch to this sonic massacre. On the other hand, Omen (The Ghoulish Malady), with its piano intro and all orchestral parts, sounds too bland for an album so full of intense music and do not keep up with the other tracks.

The final part of The Quantum Enigma starts with the beautiful ballad Canvas of Life, where we can savor a great performance by Simone one more time. She simply steals the show here, mainly due to all the poetry in the lyrics (“The stains come alive where the paint has gone dry / You float above looking down reaching out to me / Depicting a beautiful scene that shapes divinity”) enhancing the emotion in her voice. Then comes Natural Corruption, another good track with all those Epica elements fans learned to enjoy, and The Quantum Enigma (Kingdom of Heaven Part II), an epic song with over 11 minutes with the orchestra and choir dominating the first part of the song. However, it then becomes a bit generic and, although it maintains a good rhythm, unfortunately it’s not enough for such a long song, making it a little tiresome in the end. The bottom line is, if you’re going to compose a long song make sure it has different “songs” inside of it, as for example the classics “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, from Iron Maiden, and “Halloween”, from Helloween, otherwise just keep it simple. As previously mentioned, a band can be epic without extending the length of a song too much, which Epica themselves did in this same album. It’s not that the song is not good, let’s say it’s exaggeratedly ambitious.

Anyway, add to this very good album some interesting bonus tracks (each version of the album has a different one) and its beautiful album art done by visual artist Stefan Heilemann, who has already worked with Epica in other opportunities and with many other famous artists and bands, and you have another high quality album worth buying and, of course, worth listening to many times. Because as I said, if it’s Symphonic Metal from the Netherlands, especially if it’s an album from Epica, just go for it without thinking twice.

Best moments of the album: The Second Stone, Victims of Contingency, Chemical Insomnia and Canvas of Life.

Worst moments of the album: Sense Without Sanity (The Impervious Code), Omen (The Ghoulish Malady) and The Quantum Enigma (Kingdom of Heaven Part II).

Released in 2014 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Originem 2:11
2. The Second Stone 5:00
3. The Essence of Silence 4:47
4. Victims of Contingency 3:31
5. Sense Without Sanity (The Impervious Code) 7:42
6. Unchain Utopia 4:45
7. The Fifth Guardian (Interlude) 3:04
8. Chemical Insomnia 5:12
9. Reverence (Living in the Heart) 5:02
10. Omen (The Ghoulish Malady) 5:28
11. Canvas of Life 5:28
12. Natural Corruption 5:24
13. The Quantum Enigma (Kingdom of Heaven Part II) 11:53

Bonus tracks
14. In All Conscience (Digipack additional track) 5:04
15. Dreamscape (Earbook additional track) 4:59
16. Memento (Vinyl additional track)
17. Banish Your Illusion (iTunes additional track) 6:11
18. Mirage of Verity (Japanese additional track) 5:59

Band members
Simone Simons – lead vocals
Mark Jansen – rhythm guitar, harsh vocals
Isaac Delahaye – lead guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Rob van der Loo – bass guitar
Coen Janssen – keyboards, piano
Ariën van Weesenbeek – drums, harsh vocals

Guest musicians
Marcela Bovio – backing vocals
Daniël de Jongh – additional male vocals