Album Review – Mavradoxa / Nightmarrow (2019)

The final breath of dark and heavy sounds by a now extinct metal unity will take you on a journey of isolation and hopelessness through the realms of Atmospheric Black Metal.

Let me begin this review by saying that I was absolutely shocked when I read earlier this year that the beyond promising and talented Rochester, New York-based Atmospheric Black Metal band Mavradoxa was calling it quits after only a few years of existence. Fortunately for all of us, fans of dark and atmospheric music, the band left us with three excellent full-length albums, those being their 2016 debut opus Sojourners, their fantastic 2017 release Lethean Lament, and more recently Nightmarrow, released earlier this year via Hypnotic Dirge Records. Although related to the tonal atmosphere and character of their previous albums, Nightmarrow sees the band developing and intensifying their song-writing ability, crafting simultaneously cohesive yet unpredictable songs with a progressive hue that is still rooted in Atmospheric Black Metal.

Engineered by Nicholas Alan at Subterranean Studios, mixed by Stephen Parker (Pillorian, Maestus), mastered by Justin Weis at Trakworx Recording, and featuring a stunning artwork by American artist Dylan Garrett Smith, Nightmarrow represents a meditation on the isolation and hopelessness of our age (particularly in the realm of the urban), and the consequences of technology and voracious consumption of resources. Mavradoxa’s founding duo Zachary Smith, also known as Nival, and Monica Finger, also known as Lux, together with guitarist Tyler Stasierowski (from The Highest Leviathan) and bassist Josh Mason (from Wandering Oak and Acrylazea), perfectly depict that feeling of solitude and desperation in Nightmarrow, positioning the unfortunately now defunct band as one of the most creative and interesting bands of the underground scene in the United States.

Featuring guest vocals by Matt Greenwood and an additional guitar solo by Nicholas Alan, the opening track Maple begins in full force with the razor-edged riffs by Zach and Tyler and the intricate beats by Monica generating a rumbling ambience perfect for Zach’s anguished roars, sounding as powerful and grim just the way we like it in Atmospheric Black Metal. Furthermore, the song’s progressive ending flows smoothly into the even darker musical voyage entitled The Carrion Shade, where Josh and Monica make the earth tremble with their respective instruments while the entire band darkly intones the song’s cryptic lyrics (“Black sun, black moon / In shadows, entombed / Flame, gold, & rust / slowly coalesced / in the pale of the / last winter sunset”). This is Progressive Black Metal at its finest showcasing all band members in absolute sync, therefore delivering a crushing wall of blackened sounds for our total delight, in special Zach and Tyler with their flammable guitars.

Matt Greenwood returns in the title-track Nightmarrow, where the music gets closer to what was offered to us in Lethean Lament, presenting more introspective and atmospheric sounds and passages. Zach sounds utterly enraged and acid on vocals, with Monica’s gentle clean vocals bringing more balance to this dense and bold feast of extreme music. Then an acoustic, ethereal bridge named Rustling Leaves soothes our souls and warms up our senses for Black Crystal Snowfall, featuring guest vocals by Swamp and sheer poetry flowing from its lyrics (“Ancestral whispers beckon us back / to a starless womb, to a time before / this place where all is languishing, / where all is ensnared by the grasp / of synthetic hands, becoming, / and ripping our bones from within”), also bringing forward elements from Blackened Doom added to their core atmospheric music. Monica’s steady beats and Zach’s and Tyler’s crisp riffs will undoubtedly embrace your soul from start to finish, reaching a climatic and piercing grand finale that gently morphs into a melancholic outro titled Umbra, where Zach and Tyler deliver a passionate performance with their acoustic guitars, concluding Nightmarrow on a high and pensive note.

If Nightmarrow, which by the way is available in full on YouTube and on Spotify, is indeed the last breath of Atmospheric Black Metal by Mavradoxa no one knows for sure. The band might decide to come back from their “retirement” one day to smash our senses again with their somber music, who knows? Until that day arrives (if it arrives,  of course), you can keep in touch with Zach and Monica on Facebook, and purchase your copy of Mavradoxa’s final journey through the realms of atmospheric and extreme music from the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp page (or click HERE for all details about the band and where to buy their music), as well as from your regular retailers such as Apple Music, Amazon, CD Baby and Discogs. Having said that, it’s with a heavy heart that I finalize this review (or maybe I should call it a tribute), as heavy, ominous and splendorous as the music by the now extinct Mavradoxa. Thank you for your music, Zah and Monica, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing from you two again in a not-so-distant future.

Best moments of the album: The Carrion Shade and Nightmarrow.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Maple 7:41
2. The Carrion Shade 9:25
3. Nightmarrow 9:34
4. Rustling Leaves 1:45
5. Black Crystal Snowfall 10:57
6. Umbra 3:40

Band members
Zachary Smith – vocals, electric and acoustic guitars
Monica Finger – drums, vocals
Tyler Stasierowski – electric guitars, 12-string acoustic guitar
Josh Mason – fretless bass guitar

Guest musicians
Matt Greenwood – guest vocals on “Maple” and “Nightmarrow”
Swamp – guest vocals on “Black Crystal Snowfall”
Nicholas Alan – additional lead guitar on “Maple”

Album Review – Uncured / Epidemic (2019)

Witness the evolution of the music crafted by the Cox Brothers with their pulverizing new album of Progressive Death and Groove Metal.

Founded in New York City by brothers Rex Cox and Zak Cox, who share the band’s vocal and guitar duties, American Progressive Death/Groove Metal unity Uncured has been making a name for themselves since their inception in 2016 when they released their debut EP Spontaneous Generation, followed by their first full-length opus Medusa, released in 2017, which attracted international attention for its combination of technical musicianship, brutal riffs and melodic interludes. After witnessing Uncured opening for renowned acts like Soulfly and the almighty Cradle of Filth last year while promoting their 2017 album Medusa, I’m happy to say those guys stepped up their game considerably with their brand new album, the powerful Epidemic, proving that although they might still be young faces in the scene, they already play and sound like veterans.

Recorded, mixed and mastered by their father Mitch Cox at Conclave Studios, in New York, Epidemic has everything a fan of modern and technical extreme music can ask for, with its crystal clear production enhancing the impact of each song thoroughly played by the aforementioned Zak and Rex on vocals, guitars and bass (as their current bassist Spencer Metela only joined the band after the recording of the album) and Liam Manley on drums.​ The only thing I don’t understand is why they left the excellent 2018 single Terminal out of the album, but that’s just me. And besides, who said Epidemic needed that song to be brutal? I’m pretty sure the boys know what they’re doing, and based on the feedback provided by their fans so far they’re undoubtedly on the right path to stardom with Epidemic.

The opening track Desecration is fast, furious and heavy from the very first second, with the Cox Brothers showcasing all their refined skills with their sick riffs and solos while Liam smashes his drums beautifully in a powerful display of modern Progressive Death Metal, sounding at the same time very technical and visceral. If that was not crazy enough for you, in Choke they take their progressiveness to the next level, and let me say both Zak and Rex are growling and screaming a lot better than in their previous releases, adding tons of rage and insanity to the song’s lyrics (“Tear your throat out / Reject everything from within / This is imperative, all will go black / The problem lies in the silence / There will be nothing that remains, only desolation / As our civilization reverts to dust / This will surely desecrate honor”), whereas in Conquistador the band drinks from the same fountain as modern-day bands like Trivium, delivering flammable riffs and intricate beats and also exploring new grounds by adding acoustic passages and distinct nuances from other metal and even non-metal genres to their music.

Eradicate is another feast of incendiary riffs and solos by Uncured highly recommended for slamming into the pit during their live performances, blending Melodic Death Metal with Groove Metal and an endless amount of progressiveness; followed by Death Valley, where after a serene intro the band comes crushing once again with their groovy and heavy-as-hell sounds, sounding perfect for cracking your neck headbanging and remaining as complex and vibrant as it can be until the very end. And in Resist The Infection all instruments sound absolutely pulverizing and metallic, with Zak and Rex screaming and roaring together like maniacs while Liam keeps the rhythm flowing smoothly with his beats. Put differently, although it might be the shortest of all songs, it still brings tons of stamina, feeling and rage to our avid ears.

The last batch of songs from Epidemic will crush you mercilessly, starting with Sacrifice, a classic Groove Metal tune infused with Death Metal nuances where its guitars and bass penetrate deep inside our minds, making our heads tremble. Furthermore, it feels like a hybrid of the music by Meshuggah, Tool, Dream Theater and other iconic bands, showing once again how talented those guys are. Albeit not as exciting as its predecessors, Stone Fortress is still a very good song, overflowing progressiveness, heaviness and groove, not to mention the usual crisp and piercing guitar lines by the band’s frontmen, while in Blinded By Demise the level of aggressiveness goes through the roof in another metal feast full of breaks and variations where all three band members display their refined skills in great fashion. And last but not least, after a somber, almost tribal intro Uncured attack us all one last time with more of their Progressive Death Metal in Nothing But Disease, with the music alternating between dark passages and extreme rage like the soundtrack to a psychological horror movie, ending in a creepy and captivating way.

There’s no excuse to not listen to Epidemic, as the album is available in full on YouTube, on Spotify and on the band’s official website, and after taking a good listen at it you can purchase your copy from their own BandCamp page or from their webstore in CD or vinyl format, as well as from iTunes or from Amazon. In summary, the Cox Brothers, together with Liam and Spencer, are definitely going places based on the high quality of the music found in Epidemic, presenting a huge step forward in terms of creativity, feeling and overall production after the also good Medusa. Having said that, don’t forget to follow them on Facebook and to subscribe to their YouTube channel, as we might be in front of the next big name from the modern extreme music scene with a long (and prosperous) way to go yet in their promising career.

Best moments of the album: Desecration, Eradicate and Resist The Infection.

Worst moments of the album: Stone Fortress.

Released in 2019 Seek & Strike

Track listing
1. Desecration 4:12
2. Choke 4:19
3. Conquistador 4:45
4. Eradicate 5:07
5. Death Valley 4:47
6. Resist The Infection 2:51
7. Sacrifice 4:04
8. Stone Fortress 4:07
9. Blinded By Demise 4:45
10. Nothing But Disease 4:26

Band members
Zak Cox – vocals, guitars, bass
Rex Cox – vocals, guitars, bass
Liam Manley – drums

Guest musician
Spencer Metala – bass (live)

Metal Chick of the Month – Margarita Monet

I wanna lose myself in you…

Attention, metalheads! It’s time for another metal chick of the month here on yours truly The Headbanging Moose, and this month let’s pay our humble tribute to an up-and-coming singer, pianist, composer and actress that truly knows how to blend the heaviness, madness and rage of Heavy Metal with the delicacy and feeling of classical music. Known for her powerful voice and incredible range, she’s the frontwoman and founder for American Hard Rock/Symphonic Metal band Edge Of Paradise. I’m talking about Margarita Monet, or Margarita Martirosyan if you prefer, born on February 15, 1990 in Yerevan, the capital and largest city of Armenia as well as one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, but who has been living in the United States since she was 11 years old.

Margarita moved from Armenia to Moscow, Russia at a very early age with her family, where she lived for about 10 years, starting music lessons at the age of four and quickly accelerating into a competitive and performance-ready pianist, competing and winning awards in numerous piano competitions. When she was 11 years old, her father (who is a scientist) got a job offer in Houston, Texas, in the United States, meaning her life was going to have a huge impact in regards to lifestyle and mindset. In Houston, she attended The High School For The Performing and Visual Arts, for musical theater, moving to New York shortly after where she got accepted into New York University’s Tisch School Of The Arts, majoring in Theater at the Meisner Studio and minoring in Music. While living in New York, she acted in off Broadway plays, independent short and feature films, and sang with local bands at the city’s clubs. In addition, as a teenager, Margarita used to go back to Russia during the summer seasons and did some performing and recording with concertos, being known within the community of people who follow classical mostly from competitions in the country.

It was in 2010 when our red-haired diva had another significant move in her life, heading to Los Angeles after getting interest from various acting agents in the city. Just a week after arriving in Hollywood, Margarita already joined a singing and dancing group and recorded on their album Angels De Amor, going solo after various live shows with that group. After going solo and starting working on original material for her first solo album, she met guitarist Dave Bates, who was in search of a singer who could replace Irish rock vocalist Robin McAuley (McAuley Schenker Group, Survivor) in their project named BLEED. Soon their music partnership created tremendous results and solidified the band that took up the new name, Edge Of Paradise.

With Edge Of Paradise, which by the way is the official band of Nashville Knights, a women’s American football team of the Legends Football League (LFL) based in Nashville, Tennessee, and part of Rockers Against Trafficking (a foundation created by Kevin Estrada to raise awareness about human trafficking), Margarita released their debut album Mask, in 2011, featuring a rhythm section consisting of Gregg Bissonette on drums and Tony Franklin on bass (coming in at #6 most added on national CMJ radio, right behind Machine Head and Five Finger Death Punch), the EP Perfect Shade Of Black, in 2013, the full-length Immortal Waltz, in 2015, co-produced by Bob Kulick (Kiss, Motörhead) and  Michael Wagener (and coming at #12 on national rock and metal radio charts), and the six-track EP ALIVE, in 2017. If you want to get a fun and pleasant overdose of the gorgeous vocals by Margarita, go to their official YouTube channel (or their VEVO channel as well) for songs such as Mistery, Dust To Dust, Shade Of Crazy, Rise For The Fallen, In A Dream, Break Away and Perfect Shade Of Black, or even for some treats such as their cover versions for Darlene Love’s 1963 song Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), The Nightmare Before Christmas’ Sally’s Song Black Sabbath’s masterpiece Children of the Sea, Margarita’s voice-and-piano version for Scorpion’s all-time classic ballad Still Loving You, or the band’s live performance of the song Ghost at the Soultone Cymbals Studio in 2016. Thus, after listening to her stunning voice in all those songs, you’ll quickly understand why she was featured in Metalholic’s “Top 25 Women in Hard Rock and Metal” in 2012.

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Furthermore, as aforementioned, apart for her music career Margarita also has an acting and screen background going back to her New York days, including a part as a dancer in the 2009 short drama Alicia, playing a character called Amy in the 2010 action movie No Leaf Clover, and portraying an illegal prostitute in the 2011 documentary Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, all under her birth name Margarita Martirosyan. Now with Margarita dedicating a huge share of her time to Edge Of Paradise, it’s uncertain if we’ll see her again on screen, but at least we can rest assured the band will keep shooting videos for their songs, which means more Margarita for our avid eyes and ears.

When asked about her biggest idols in beauty, fashion and music, Margarita provided some interesting and beyond awesome names in all fields. Her inspirations in the modelling and fashion business are first Audrey Hepburn, who she has admired since she was a kid due to her feminine, classy and effortless look and style, and also Doro Pesch and Joan Jett due to their edgier styles. When it comes to music, her list of icons is even more impressive, with unparalleled names such as Ronnie James Dio, Robert Plant, Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford and Freddie Mercury being her favorite ones due to their distinct and timeless sound, as well as their emotion, attitude and conviction when singing and performing.

Margarita doesn’t see herself as a fashion and make-up junkie, but more like a “creative junkie”, meaning that because of her role with Edge Of Paradise she always strives to create something different and attractive for the fans, leading her to experiment with different looks, and having the freedom to express herself through music and while performing on stage. Having said that, Margarita’s typical makeup and style signature can be considered a mix of Rock N’ Roll with a bit of Gothic fashion, blending leather and lace with bold accessories such as belts and chains, always wearing black with accent colors like red, silver and gold. And, of course, her trademark blood-red lips. All those strong colors and accessories are complemented by Margarita’s endless energy when she hits the stage, being very expressive and putting her heart and soul into each song played, and by her creativity, as she simply loves experimenting with different chains, spikes, fabrics and other material when creating her stage outfit. When asked about how she prepares herself for a concert, Margarita said she tries to rest as much as possible and stay hydrated, and that she doesn’t take too long to get dressed and put on her makeup as she always knows what she’s going to wear. She also said being in a band is a lifestyle she truly loves, and although it’s not an easy one she has a lot of fun and pleasure while working on new material, creating new visual arts for the band and rehearsing, always aiming at moving forward with the band.

Regarding being an artist, our red-haired muse mentioned that she’s always been determined to become an artist since her childhood in Russia, where she was surrounded by art. Her mom used to take her to theaters, concerts and ballets, inspiring her to start performing at a very young age. So far, it has been a thrilling and rewarding ride to her (despite being a very demanding way of life), with honesty, hard work and creativity being some of the most important elements in her career, not to mention her life motto which is “do it because you love it and enjoy every part of the journey, it goes by fast!’’ In addition, singing metal music in front of a huge crowd and recording vocals for Edge Of Paradise were initially a brand new experience and a challenge for her, despite her previous experience as an artist and her passion for classic voices like Dio and Freddie Mercury. Furthermore, Margarita said that coming up with melody ideas and finding her own style were very rewarding steps for her, and of course she’s always interested in evolving as a singer and as an artist in general.

Last but not least, when asked about the importance of image in her life and career, and how social media has had an impact on those, she said that as we live in a digital world where everything is over saturated, social media ends up working as a double-edged sword because we have the tools to reach people, but if you don’t have the best content (both visually and musically) you won’t be able to attract people’s attention. She complemented by saying you really have to create a world that people will want to be part of, inspiring people to follow you, and therefore boosting your creative process. Well, I guess Margarita is absolutely right about that, because if you think about it, who doesn’t want to be part of the unique and whimsical world created by Edge Of Paradise?

Margarita Monet’s Official Facebook page
Margarita Monet’s Official Instagram
Edge Of Paradise’s Official Facebook page
Edge Of Paradise’s Official YouTube channel
Edge Of Paradise’s Official Instagram

“Your music has to speak for itself, invest in your content, in the quality of your sound, if you have a great product you will get your foot in the door! Of course it’s important to promote, and that takes a lot of money too. If you’re an independent band you gotta hire your own publicity, but if you don’t have great content to promote you won’t go very far, so I would say make the music that’s authentic and you’re really proud of and you’ll find your way!” – Margarita Monet

Album Review – The Fallen Prodigy / Relive//Regret//Repeat (2018)

Enjoy 11 stunning metal tracks influenced by a myriad of modern Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore elements, brought forth by a multi-talented female-fronted outfit hailing from New York City.

If you’re a fan of modern-day Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore, I highly recommend you go take a detailed listen at Relive//Regret//Repeat, the brand new album by New York City-based female-fronted outfit The Fallen Prodigy. Featuring a straight-to-the-point artwork by Rob Walden (Rob Walden Design), Relive//Regret//Repeat, the follow-up to the band’s 2015 EP Passengers, consists of 11 stunning metal tracks influenced by a myriad of modern metal elements, being absolutely perfect for fans of the high-octane music by renowned acts such as Trivium, Killswitch Engage, Arch Enemy, As I Lay Dying and All That Remains, among several others.

Comprised of the unstoppable Jay Jimenez on vocals, Andrew Padilla and Daniel Davenel on the guitars, Jonathan Rodriguez on bass, and Joseph Falzone on drums, The Fallen Prodigy solidified their lineup back in 2014 and wasted no time, putting together music that can crush the stereotypes that may surround the metal genre. Through hard work, dedication and great music, The Fallen Prodigy set out to bring something new and unique back to the metal scene, and the music found in Relive//Regret//Repeat will show you exactly what they mean by that, smashing you like an insect with its over 50 minutes of top-of-the-line Melodic Death Metal.

The opening track Extinct is modern, visceral and aggressive form the very first second, with the guitar duo Andrew and Daniel sounding absolutely fantastic. However, it’s Jay who steals the spotlight with both her deranged growls and her potent clean vocals, showcasing all her talented right from the start of the album. Even more violent than the album opener, Boy Who Cried Wolf presents a devilish Jay on vocals, singing and screaming about our vile human nature (“You live life like you deserve more than others / Manipulating everyone and everything to have things your way / You long for acceptance and will seek it at any cost / Consumed by arrogance you’ll always find yourself”), while Joseph doesn’t let the insanely high level of energy go down with his frantic beats; followed by Regret, which starts in an almost electronic vibe before exploding into vibrant Metalcore, with Jay once again providing a fantastic balance between her harsh screams and clean vocals and with the crisp sound of guitars boosting the song’s impact considerably.

Leaning towards more traditional Melodic Death Metal (especially the characteristic Scandinavian sound), the whole band blasts the fresh and gripping Stray, with highlights once again to the amazing sound extracted from the guitars by Andrew and Daniel, whereas Misery is led by the dynamic drumming by Joseph, with Jonathan delivering those rumbling Groove Metal punches from his bass while the music alternates between neck-breaking moments and total devastation. The awesome Eighty-Sixed is a heavier-than-hell, straight-to-the-face high-end Metalcore tune where the extremely talented Jay growls and screams nonstop like a rabid beast, or in other words, it’s that type of song that will ignite some serious circle pits during their live concerts; and featuring guest vocalist Lauren Babic of Canadian Alternative Metal act Red Handed Denial, Composure is a very technical and melodic creation by The Fallen Prodigy, yet still as aggressive as it can be, delivering a modern-day message from the band to our ears (“Disaster awaits those who find a home in a filth called misery / My soul is being held captive / Somewhere it’s screaming just let me go home / Just let me go home”).

Then get ready to bang your head like a maniac to the crushing main riff in Fractured, before a slamming feast begins led by the brutal beats by Joseph in a multi-layered composition where Jay thrives thanks to the amazing support provided by her bandmates. In Repeat, featuring guest vocals by Will Ramos of American Deathcore band A Wake in Providence, we face a band that doesn’t know the meaning of the word “soft”, with the total havoc blasted by the entire band being spiced up by the welcome dosage of progressiveness brought forth by the guitar duo to the musicality; followed by Relive, a good song that feels a bit confusing at times despite the always solid work done by the stringed trio Daniel, Andrew and Jonathan, accompanied by guest guitarist Angel Vivaldi. Last but not least, the final song of the album, titled Endure, is a solid statement by Jay and the guys that they will carry on no matter what, keeping the flame of Melodic Death Metal alive and kicking, enfolded in a classic sound with the band’s own twist, therefore ending the album on a truly high note.

You can listen to the entire Relive//Regret//Repeat on Spotify and get a better sense of how potent and dynamic the music by The Fallen Prodigy is, and also visit their Facebook page for news and tour dates, and their YouTube channel for more of their music. And in case you want to grab a copy of such electrifying album, there are several location where you can find it such as the band’s own BandCamp page and Big Cartel (as a CD + poster bundle or a CD + T-shirt bundle), on iTunes, on Amazon, or on CD Baby. If I were you I would definitely keep an eye on what The Fallen Prodigy are up to, because whenever they take your town by storm you must be there to experience a lesson in Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore, just like what they did in Relive//Regret//Repeat. In other words, do you think you have what it takes to face Jay and the guys?

Best moments of the album: Extinct, Boy Who Cried Wolf, Eighty-Sixed and Fractured.

Worst moments of the album: Relive.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Extinct 4:12
2. Boy Who Cried Wolf 4:32
3. Regret 5:55
4. Stray 4:14
5. Misery 4:22
6. Eighty-Sixed 3:10
7. Composure (feat. Lauren Babic) 5:32
8. Fractured 4:20
9. Repeat (feat. Will Ramos) 3:47
10. Relive (feat. Angel Vivaldi) 4:56
11. Endure 5:04

Band members
Jay Jimenez – vocals
Andrew Padilla – guitar
Daniel Davenel – guitar
Jonathan Rodriguez – bass
Joseph Falzone – drums

Guest musicians
Lauren Babic – vocals on “Composure”
Will Ramos – vocals on “Repeat”
Angel Vivaldi – guitars on “Relive”

Concert Review – Cradle of Filth (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 04/11/2018)

Four American boys, four Ukrainian metallers, a multi-cultural Extreme Metal institution and endless mosh pits. That’s what Toronto got in another memorable night of heavy music.

OPENING ACTS: Uncured and Jinjer

My neck and back still hurt today, and I don’t think it’s (just) because of my age, but because the three bands that hit the stage at the small but flammable The Opera House this Wednesday night in Toronto kicked some serious ass from start to finish, igniting nonstop circle pits during the whole night and, as a consequence, making every single fan at the venue more than happy to have spent a few good bucks on their concert tickets. It might be taking a while for the weather in Toronto to warm up in this beginning of spring, but the temperature inside The Opera House on Wednesday was definitely as hot as the fires from the depths of hell for another night of the CRYPTORIANA WORLD TOUR NORTH AMERICA 2018 with the bands Uncured, Jinjer and, above all, the majestic Cradle of Filth.

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

After having two slices of pizza in order to properly face the hurricane of metal music that was about to come, I headed to The Opera House (which by the way seemed to be sold out) to enjoy the first band of the night, the technical and heavy American Progressive Death/Groove Metal UNCURED. Formed in 2014 in New York City, the quartet comprised of brothers Rex and Zak Cox sharing the vocals and guitar duties (and before you ask, they’re not twins), Jon Kita on bass, and Liam Manley on drums delivered a very solid performance on stage, still promoting their latest album Medusa, released in 2017 (which you can listen in its entirety HERE). Those boys didn’t stop headbanging and shredding not even for a single second, receiving a very positive feedback from the crowd already jammed in the floor section. This is the second time I saw Uncured live and they’re just getting better and better, pointing to a bright future ahead of them. From their setlist I highly recommend the songs Stygian Valley and Myopic (both from Medusa), and their brand new song Terminal, the best of their concert in my opinion. And lastly, I just want to send a quick message to the guy from the crowd that called them “Backstreet Boys”: they might be boys, but they’re talented metalheads, so shut up and try doing something useful for society like what Uncured are doing with their first-class metal music, right?

Setlist
Stygian Valley
Petrified
Myopic
Dilate
Persia (Spontaneous Regeneration alternative version)
Terminal

Band members
Rex Cox – vocals, guitars
Zak Cox – vocals, guitars
Jon Kita – bass
Liam Manley – drums 

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

After a short break it was time for an explosion of Metalcore made in Ukraine, courtesy of the sexy frontwoman Tatiana Shmaylyuk and her interesting band JINJER. If you’ve never heard of Jinjer, the band was brought into being in 2009 in the city of Horlivka, having already released a few interesting studio albums, like their 2014 opus Cloud Factory (reissued now in 2018, only a couple of years after its original release for reasons beyond my comprehension). Their concert was energetic and straight to the point, with Tatiana leading her henchmen and having a very good interaction with the fans. The only issue for me was the quality of the sound coming from the drums, which sounded during most of their set like the annoying “frying pan beating” sound from Lars’ drums in Metallica’s hideous St. Anger, but nothing that could stop the band and their fans from having a very good time. As I enjoy Tatiana’s deep, enraged growls a lot more than her clean vocals, my top moments of their concert were for sure Who Is Gonna Be the One (from their 2014 album Cloud Factory) and Captain Clock (from their 2016 album King Of Everything), not only warming up the fans at the venue for the main attraction of the night, but also urging everyone to jump up and down and break their necks just like what we always expect from a good Metalcore band.

Setlist
Prologue
Who Is Gonna Be the One
Words of Wisdom
Sit Stay Roll Over
I Speak Astronomy
Just Another
Pisces
Captain Clock
Outlander
No Hoard of Value
Bad Water
Beggars’ Dance

Band members
Tatiana Shmaylyuk – vocals
Roman Ibramhalilov – guitar
Eugene Kostyuk – bass
Vlad Ulasevich – drums 

CRADLE OF FILTH

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

One thing that always impresses me at The Opera House is the insane speed and very little amount of time the bands and their crew take to switch the whole equipment from one band to another, which is why we didn’t have to wait for too long for another superb, violent and blackened performance by British Extreme Metal institution CRADLE OF FILTH. Spearheaded by the iconic Dani Filth and promoting their latest opus, the excellent Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay, released in 2017, the band didn’t show any mercy on our souls, blasting some of their most visceral, complex and beautiful compositions from their unparalleled career that already lasts for impressive 27 years (and please don’t ask me how Dani can still growl and scream flawlessly like a demon after almost three decades). Well, when you open the show with songs like the aggressive Gilded Cunt and one of my favorite songs of all time, the masterpiece Beneath the Howling Stars, you know the whole concert will be brutal.

The rest of the band was also on fire, providing the perfect instrumental for Dani to thrive on vocals, in special the bestial drummer Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka behind his glass cage (not sure if that cage is for sound or security purposes), and Oshawa-own beauty Lindsay Schoolcraft, who once again could not hide her happiness for playing with Cradle of Filth in front of her very own people. She was fantastic throughout the entire concert, and didn’t even know how to thank the fans for such warm reception. Actually, it’s us fans who have to thank her for such awesome performance, embellishing classic tunes like The Death of Love, Nymphetamine and Her Ghost in the Fog with her powerful voice.

One of the highlights of the night was undoubtedly the execution of the 11-minute extravaganza Bathory Aria, a marvelous and intricate song I honestly never thought I would be able to witness them playing live. Dani explained they’re playing it as the start of the celebrations of 20 years of what’s in my opinion the best Cradle of Filth album of all time, their 1998 concept opus Cruelty And The Beast (and get ready, because Dani mentioned already they’re planning to release a very special 20th anniversary edition of the album). The brand new songs from Cryptoriana also worked really well, with Heartbreak and Séance sounding simply astounding live, proving once again that Cradle of Filth are a band that don’t just defy time, they kick it in the ass and keep delivering awesomeness album after album, year after year, for our total delectation.

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

One thing I really enjoy about Dani is how fun and somehow cryptic he always sounds when interacting with the crowd (and he knows we love that). When he’s in town, he always makes sure he praises his Canadian fans, he shows his respect for his supporting acts (demanding a huge ovation for Uncured and Jinjer for their excellent performances), and always finds time to make a peculiar joke about something very Canadian. I remember a few years ago when he said he loved getting to Canada during winter, as our Canadian winter is truly unique, and this time he mentioned a lot of times his admiration for Canadian professional tennis player Eugenie Bouchard. I have absolutely no idea why he mentioned “Genie” Bouchard and dedicated so many songs to her, as she has pretty much no connection to heavy music as far as I know. Apart from being a bombshell and for having lots of serious issues in her tennis career, I don’t see why Dani loves her so much. Well, maybe those are the two reasons why, right?

Anyway, after the classic From the Cradle to Enslave, and after almost two hours of nonstop, electrifying mosh pits (even during a dark ballad like Nymphetamine there were people crushing their skulls inside the pit like wild beats), the concert was over and fans could head home, have another beer, take pictures with the guys from Uncured and Jinjer, and start thinking how they would be able to work the following day after a true avalanche of high-quality extreme music, courtesy of four American boys, four Ukrainian metallers, and a multi-cultural outfit that knows better than anyone else in the world how to perfectly blend Extreme Metal with a theatrical performance, fantastic lyrics and endless energy and pleasure for being able to be on stage for all of us fans.

Setlist
ACT I
Ave Satani (Intro)
Gilded Cunt
Beneath the Howling Stars
Blackest Magick in Practice
Heartbreak and Séance
Bathory Aria: Benighted Like Usher / A Murder of Ravens in Fugue / Eyes That
Witnessed Madness
Dusk and Her Embrace
The Death of Love
You Will Know the Lion by His Claw
Creatures That Kissed in Cold Mirrors (Interlude)

ACT II
A Bruise Upon the Silent Moon (Intro)
The Promise of Fever
Nymphetamine (Fix)
Her Ghost in the Fog
Born in a Burial Gown
From the Cradle to Enslave
Blooding the Hounds of Hell (Outro)

Band members
Dani Filth – lead vocals
Richard Shaw – guitars
Marek “Ashok” Šmerda – guitars
Daniel Firth – bass
Lindsay Schoolcraft – female vocals, keyboards
Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka – drums

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Album Review – The Earth And I / The Candleman (2017)

Close your eyes and enjoy the first of two sister albums by this talented American band, introducing you to their unique fusion of groove-oriented sounds and captivating storytelling lyrics.

Playing a mix of groovy, moody, syncopated metal and more upbeat, accessible rock tunes inspired by bands like Periphery, Animals as Leaders and TesseracT, American Progressive Rock/Metal metallers The Earth And I (also known as TEAI, pronounced /tay/) are releasing their debut full-length album, titled The Candleman, the first of two sister albums (with the second one, named The Curtain, being scheduled for an early 2018 release). Featuring seven tracks through the course of 35 minutes, The Candleman will not only introduce you to the world of TEAI, but present to you in great fashion their unique music heavily focused on a fusion of groove-oriented sounds and captivating storytelling lyrics.

Formed in 2013 in the city of Warwick, New York, in the United States by guitarists Daniel Siew and Liam Zintz-Kunkel, drummer Suss Mackenzie and bassist Nick Petromilli, who were later joined by neo-soul vocalist Kendyle Wolven in 2017, TEAI aim at filling a serious need in the Progressive Metal world for non-operatic female vocals with The Candleman and The Curtain. Displaying a minimalist and classy artwork designed by the band’s own guitarist Daniel Siew, The Candleman definitely succeeds in bringing that vocal variation desired by TEAI to their metal music, effectively helping the band make a name for themselves in underground Progressive and Groove Metal.

The beautifully-titled atmospheric intro The Lake Under the Desert warms up the listener for the groovy and thunderous I. CGMTC (Life in the Sunset Zone), a powerful tune where Daniel, Liam and Nick create a wave of rumbling sounds with their strings, setting the stage for the mesmerizing vocals by Kendyle to shine brighter than the sun. Moreover, the song brings moments of hope flawlessly blended with passages full of anger, resulting in a full-bodied Progressive Metal experience for our senses enhanced by its poetic lyrics (“In the harbor, / the ship had turned to stone. / They watched from the Belfry, / long bones, and cold and unsound, / their skin drawn tight / over emaciated forms.”). Then in II. Little Frames, a more obscure, introspective creation by TEAI, the fiery Kendyle keeps blasting her potent vocals in a beautiful paradox with the harsh growls by Nick, with the musicality alternating between more technical Progressive Metal and rowdy Groove Metal. Put differently, simply close your eyes and let this feast of contrasting sounds penetrate deep inside your soul.

In the interesting And Now for a Slight Departure the band adds elements from Ska and Punk to their music, creating an upbeat vibe led by the high-pitched vocals by Kendyle and the rhythmic and precise beats by Adam, resulting in what can be considered a  more “radio-friendly” version of TEAI; while in Sugar High they get back to a darker sonority, with Daniel, Liam and Nick once again doing an amazing job with their axes, sounding like the bastard son of Dream Theater with Evanescence, but also presenting elements from Alternative Metal and Hard Rock to spice things up a bit.

Then as a break from all their groovy and wicked sounds TEAI offer us all a serene ballad named The Hollow Deluge, with Kendyle passionately (and effectively) declaiming its pensive words (“I stand before the most cloudy of waters. / I survey the scene with reserved apprehension. / There’s something not right here, like I’ve been here before. / It’s strangely familiar. / It’s almost uncomfortably comfortable.”), all boosted by the electricity that rises in the last part of the song, flowing into a climatic ending. And as the icing on the cake we have Skies Like Fences, bringing forward over 7 minutes of intricate drumming, metallic and extremely groovy bass lines, flammable guitar solos, deranged growls and endless energy, or in other words, an extravaganza of Progressive Metal once again led by Kendyle and her charming voice.

You can enjoy The Candleman in its entirety on YouTube or on Spotify, follow TEAI on Facebook, and buy your favorite version of the album through the band’s own BandCamp or webstore (in digipak or MP3 format, as well as on iTunes and on Amazon. In a nutshell, TEAI set the bar really high for themselves with The Candleman, but of course if they keep doing what they’re capable of in The Curtain next year, which is delivering high-end metal with a strong progressive vein, I’m sure all of us fans of Progressive Metal will be more than happy when their second album is released, just like how we are now with The Candleman.

Best moments of the album: I. CGMTC (Life in the Sunset Zone) and Skies Like Fences.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. The Lake Under the Desert 0:56
2. I. CGMTC (Life in the Sunset Zone) 4:34
3. II. Little Frames 8:35
4. And Now for a Slight Departure 4:05
5. Sugar High 4:06
6. The Hollow Deluge 5:01
7. Skies Like Fences 7:37

Band members
Kendyle Wolven – lead vocals
Daniel Siew – guitar, vocals
Liam Zintz-Kunkel – guitar
Nick Petromilli – bass, vocals
Adam Susskind – drums

Album Review – Mavradoxa / Lethean Lament (2017)

A whirlwind of emotions from raw carnal aggression, nature reverence, despair, longing and bliss in the form of stunning Laurentian Black Metal.

“And all that we are,
all that we are,
is silhouettes
in silent
rain 

And all that we are,
all that we are,
is a blackbird
with wings
aflame”

Recorded in the spring of 2017, Lethean Lament, the second full-length installment by American Atmospheric Black Metal duo Mavradoxa, is not only a contemplative and majestic album that is expansive, atmospheric and melancholic, but it’s perhaps the best depiction in modern underground music of what’s commonly referred to as “Laurentian Black Metal”, being highly recommended for dreary and rain-soaked days during solitary walks, or in any moment of introspection. Formed in 2015 in the city of Rochester, New York, in the United States, the duo comprised of Nival (Zachary Smith) on vocals, guitar and bass and Lux (Monica Finger) on vocals and drums is sharper than ever in Lethean Lament, delivering long, progressive songs that flow with purpose where the atmosphere dictates and paints vivid stories in its movement and direction throughout the entire album, encapsulating a whirlwind of emotions from raw carnal aggression, nature reverence, despair, longing and bliss. Featuring contributions by violinist Andy McGirr on the songs “Cicadan” and “Across the Nival Grove”, and vocalist Makr Welden on the song “Crimson Waves of Autumnal Flame”, as well as a darkly distinguished and impactful artwork, Lethean Lament is honest and genuine Atmospheric Black Metal that beautifully carries on the tradition of bands like Agalloch, Waldgeflüster, Falls of Rauros and Obsidian Tongue.

In the opening track, titled Cicadan, the acoustic guitars by Nival generate the perfect atmosphere for the beyond pleasant violin by Andy to soothe our souls in a comforting and melancholic way, setting the stage for the 11-minute extravaganza The Phantom Visages, showcasing an avalanche of sluggish, somber guitars and beats by the talented duo, spiced up by harsher and more aggressive moments and also bringing elements from Black and Doom Metal, resulting in devilish Blackened Doom tailored for admirers of the genre. Furthermore, its mournful lyrics are effectively gnarled by Mavradoxa (“And soon into the graveyard’s maw the lustrous glow shall fade / Their echoing laments no longer stain the past / Their fleeting memories are borne to midnight rot / My lifeless frame upon the black tombstone is cast”), giving the entire song and even darker and more hypnotizing feel. Crimson Waves of Autumnal Flame is the absolute soundtrack for wandering through cold landscapes by yourself with its almost 18 minutes of melancholic passages, introspective clean vocals by Mark Welden, gentle but piercing guitars by Nival and steady, mesmerizing beats by Lux. The music in this underground masterpiece of winter-like sounds keeps growing in intensity inside your mind, turning it into a one-way journey into darkness.

Exploring their more progressive and atmospheric vein, Mavradoxa hone their instruments to pierce our souls with their depressive sounds in Across the Nival Grove, where vocals couldn’t sound and feel more anguished, flowing through several layers of contrasting tunes and nuances until its climatic ending led by Andy’s ethereal violin. Then we have From Fog, a magnificent composition where you can sense the night and the cold embracing the desperate vociferations blasted by the duo (“Shivering, staring at haze from breath on a shattered mirror / Streaking through shadowy groves / Skeletal roots, an edifice… / but where am I?”) in an amazing display of modern Atmospheric Black Metal. In addition, the song offers the listener old school Black Metal blast beats by Lux and a metallic riffage by Nival in perfect sync with the dense ambience surrounding the music, flirting with Progressive Black Metal and, therefore, keeping the music always fresh, vibrant and gripping. And lastly, there’s nothing better than a serene acoustic outro, named Metanoia, to wrap up this voyage through the obscure and gelid kingdom of extreme music reigned by Mavradoxa.

All you need to do to brave the storm of idiosyncratic sounds found in Lethean Lament (which by the way is our album review number 500, and there couldn’t have been a better choice to celebrate that expressive milestone than this) is go to YouTube for a full listen at the album, follow Mavradoxa on Facebook, and buy your copy of the album at the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp or webshop (as a regular CD or as a CD + shirt + sticker bundle), as well as at Discogs. And after facing such distinguished tempest of emotions, from sheer aggression to moments of hope and melancholy, you’ll certainly place Laurentian Black Metal, especially the one masterfully crafted by Mavradoxa, as one of your top choices for your most isolated and meditative moments in life.

Best moments of the album: Crimson Waves of Autumnal Flame and From Fog.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Cicadan 3:52
2. The Phantom Visages 11:25
3. Crimson Waves of Autumnal Flame 17:50
4. Across the Nival Grove 15:32
5. From Fog 11:00
6. Metanoia 1:59

Band members
Nival – vocals, guitar, bass
Lux – vocals, drums

Guest musicians
Andy McGirr – violin on “Cicadan” and “Across the Nival Grove”
Mark Welden – vocals on “Crimson Waves of Autumnal Flame”

Album Review – Cannibal Corpse / Red Before Black (2017)

Always loyal to their foundations and sounding rawer and more aggressive than ever, here comes the most hardworking act in Death Metal with another first-class onslaught of sheer brutality.

If there’s a band in extreme music that not only remains loyal to their foundations, but that also keeps delivering excellence with each and every album release, that band are American death metallers Cannibal Corpse. This Buffalo-based Death Metal institution never disappoints, always providing us fans everything we crave in extreme music, playing their music almost to perfection while maintaining a high level of rawness and aggressiveness in their sonority at all times, which is exactly the case in Red Before Black, the fourteenth studio album in their vile, ruthless and gory career. Having said that, do you have what it takes to face another brutal installment by the Corpse?

Released three years after the good A Skeletal Domain and featuring a slashing artwork by American comic book artist Vince Locke, Red Before Black not only proves why Cannibal Corpse are still alive and kicking after almost 40 years on the road, fighting against all odds and always going against anything that can be considered mainstream, but it also shows that there’s no sign of the band slowing down or venturing through less violent fields. Quite the contrary, it seems that the Corpse is thirstier for guts, entrails and blood than ever.  “We always try to make our music aggressive, but where an album like ‘A Skeletal Domain’ was definitely aggressive, it has a targeted refinement that the new album doesn’t. ‘Red Before Black’ is as well executed as anything we’ve done, but it has a rawness to it that we haven’t had in a long time,” asserted bassist Alex Webster.

Raw and putrid sounds impregnate our ears from the very first second in Only One Will Die, with the guitars by Pat O’Brien and Rob Barrett sounding pulverizing while George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher barks manically as usual, showing why he’s one of the most respected and consistent growlers still in action. Furthermore, its lyrics reek of traditional Cannibal Corpse (“Both of us will throttle / Strangling with rage / Both consumed by madness, revenge has us enslaved / Both are badly wounded / And struggle to survive / Both are fighting to the death but only one will die”). Brutality keeps flowing from all instruments in the fantastic title-track Red Before Black, where the competent old school drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz maintains the pace at a frantic level while Corpsegrinder vociferates the song’s lancinating name ferociously. And those guys never get tired of blasting sheer Death Metal to our metallic ears, delivering violence and bloodshed from start to finish in this ominous circle pit-generator Code of the Slashers, with their always demonic guitar solos enhancing the song’s electricity to the limit; whereas Shedding My Human Skin is mid-tempo slashing tune where guitars penetrate deep inside our mind while Alex and Paul keep punching us in the head ruthlessly. The song loses its taste a bit after a while, though, but it’s still a decent creation by our beloved Corpse.

Get ready to be massacred by Corpsegrinder and his henchmen in Remaimed (let’s see if you can survive this hurricane of Death Metal), with all instruments played with extreme violence, in special the bass by Alex who once again proves why he’s in my humble opinion the best Extreme Metal bassist of all time; followed by Firestorm Vengeance, a heavy-as-hell metal tempest ignited by putrid, raw riffs that grow in intensity until all hell breaks loose, led by the unstoppable Paul on drums. Put differently, if you’re getting to know Cannibal Corpse at this point in your life, this is a very good sample of their more contemporary sound. Heads Shoveled Off is perfect for banging your head like Corpsegrinder himself, while Paul keeps demolishing his drums and the guitar duo Pat and Rob shows no mercy by cutting our ears with their sharp-edged strings, not to mention the song’s slashing words (“Back in Nam he killed a man / A shovel was used to cut his head off / Now forever changed lust to decapitate / Chop at the neck to keep the skull intact / Going insane / Come back deranged”), and displaying hints of progressiveness but still maintaining the band’s crude sonority, Corpus Delicti is another great job done by Rob and Pat with their axes, delivering amazing riffs and solos nonstop.

Red Before Black Collectors Bundle

In Scavenger Consuming Death we have the pleasure to witness Mr. Webster doing what he does best, shaking the foundations of the earth with his devilish bass lines, also presenting a fantastic chorus to follow along with Corpsegrinder, as well as visceral guitar solos and a thrilling pace. In other words, it can’t get any more Cannibal Corpse than this. The crude, primeval sonority found in In the Midst of Ruin, a beyond perfect tune for some carnage inside the circle pit, takes us back to the band’s early days, with Alex Webster firing bestial, rumbling tunes from his bass; while Destroyed Without a Trace, the second to last tune in Red Before Black, is filled with the band’s trademark harmony and aggressiveness (and a Corpsegrinder sounding more enraged than you can imagine), with all breaks and changes from slower, heavier moments to sheer devastation making it a great choice for their live concerts. Lastly, closing this crushing record we have more of the band’s old school Death Metal in Hideous Ichor, which despite being slightly below the rest of the album in terms of quality, it’s still very enjoyable if you’re a longtime fan of the band.

Metal Blade Records kind of surprised us all by uploading the full album on their YouTube channel, but of course in case you’re also a “Corpse addict” like myself you’re certainly going to buy your favorite version of the album at their webstore, like the Red Before Black Collectors Bundle, including among a ton of pretty cool stuff a bonus CD named “Blood Covered”, featuring Cannibal Corpse turning some metal classic by Accept, Metallica, Kreator, Possessed and other bands into their own infernal sound. Red Before Black exhales pure Cannibal Corpse, and it will surely maintain this fantastic Death Metal horde relevant in the minds of old school metal fans, it will show newcomers to the world of heavy music how Death Metal should always be played, and last but not least, it will keep haunting the souls of those who are not brave enough to face the most hardworking band in the history of extreme music.

Best moments of the album: Only One Will Die, Red Before Black, Heads Shoveled Off and Scavenger Consuming Death.

Worst moments of the album: Shedding My Human Skin and Hideous Ichor.

Released in 2017 Metal Blade Records

Track listing 
1. Only One Will Die 3:24
2. Red Before Black 3:12
3. Code of the Slashers 4:45
4. Shedding My Human Skin 3:28
5. Remaimed 4:13
6. Firestorm Vengeance 3:43
7. Heads Shoveled Off 3:37
8. Corpus Delicti 3:29
9. Scavenger Consuming Death 4:33
10. In the Midst of Ruin 3:25
11. Destroyed Without a Trace 4:01
12. Hideous Ichor 4:33

Limited edition bonus disc “Blood Covered”
13. Sacrifice (Sacrifice cover) 3:04
14. Confessions (Possessed cover) 2:58
15. No Remorse (Metallica cover) 6:16
16. Demon’s Night (Accept cover) 4:17
17. Bethany Home (A Place to Die) (The Accused cover) 3:20
18. Endless Pain (Kreator cover) 3:11
19. Behind Bars (Razor cover) 2:20

Band members
George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher – vocals
Pat O’Brien – guitar
Rob Barrett – guitar
Alex Webster – bass
Paul Mazurkiewicz – drums

Guest musician
Erik Rutan – backing vocals on “Only One Will Die”, lead guitar on “In the Midst of Ruin”

Album Review – False Gods / Wasteland EP (2016)

Doom Metal from Long Island has never been that sludgy, heavy and awesome.

Rating5

false gods_wastelandIf you’re a heavy music fan heading to the multicultural city of New York anytime soon, I recommend you check the agenda of Sludge/Doom Metal act False Gods, because if there’s one thing those metallers are capable of doing is delivering kick-ass music as heavy as hell. Inspired by the dark music crafted by bands such as Black Sabbath, Crowbar and Corrosion of Confomity, False Gods blend the traditional sounding of Sludge, Stoner and Doom Metal with hints of Hardcore injected into their musicality due to the humongous amount of excellent bands that play that type of music in their area, and as a result we have their debut EP entitled Wasteland.

Would the title of the EP be a reference to their hometown Patchogue, a village on the south shore of Long Island in Suffolk County, located about two hours from New York? Anyway, formed in 2015, this talented four-piece group aims at creating music with no boundaries, always adding to their compositions elements found in the music by distinct extreme bands like Eyehategod, Black Flag and Carnivore, as well as the aforementioned biggest influences of the band. And although Wasteland is comprised of only five tracks, there’s enough material, hatred and energy for you to bang your head nonstop and have a few pints while listening to the band’s unruly metal music.

Can you feel the drums pounding your brain in the opening track, named Despot? Well, when the guitars by Greg March and especially the angered grasps by Mike Stack join those beats by Paulie Stack, we’re treated to the darkest form of sludge Metal available, with highlights to the solid and exciting second half of this grim chant. Following that promising start, the title-track Wasteland brings forward a traditional doom-ish ambience where Mike has all he needs to sound visceral and crusty, with his barks getting to a point they sound like coming out of a Grindcore vocalist (or a dying pig, in a good way of course). And get ready for the song’s ending, with an angry Paulie pounding his drums pitifully for our total delight.

false godsMy favorite of the five songs is undoubtedly Grant Me Revenge, a dynamic and thrilling fusion of Sludge Metal with Thrash and Death Metal where Greg has an amazing performance firing his disturbing riffs, no matter if the speed of the song is as fast as a traditional thrashy tune or if it’s sludger than a classic Doom Metal hymn. I must say we should all give a lot of respect to False Gods for what they put together in this amazing song, and I really hope they provide us more of this modern and at the same time old school Sludge Metal in a not-so-distant future (most probably when they release their first full-length album).

If you thought the previous songs in Wasteland were sludgy, you’ll be surprised by the obscurity found in Worship As Intellectual Tyranny, thanks mainly to the magic Brian “Bro Town” Krasinkey does with his potent bass lines. This song proves that sometimes Sludge and Doom Metal can be heavier than the meanest form of Black Metal depending on how talented the members of a band are, which is the case with False Gods. And lastly, the longest of all five tracks, named I Can See You (For What You Truly Are), closes the EP on “doom mode” with its six minutes of shadows and grief, with Paulie providing spot-on beats while Greg and Bro Town smash their chords like there’s no tomorrow, culminating in a darkened and climatic ending.

I guess Doom Metal from Long Island has never been that good, and in order to know more about this promising quartet go check their Facebook and SoundCloud, and obviously go grab your copy of Wasteland at the band’s official BandCamp or at CD Baby. As I said before, despite this excellent EP being just a “sample” of what False Gods can do, it still has enough darkness and heaviness for you, diehard fan of Sludge Metal, and after listening to it you’ll be eager for more of their disquieting sounding.

Best moments of the album: Grant Me Revenge.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Despot 4:51
2. Wasteland 5:15
3. Grant Me Revenge 4:11
4. Worship As Intellectual Tyranny 4:02
5. I Can See You (For What You Truly Are) 5:48

Band members
Mike Stack – vocals
Greg March – guitar
Brian “Bro Town” Krasinkey – bass
Paulie Stack – drums

Album Review – Acrassicauda / Gilgamesh (2015)

A modern, visceral and compelling album by the Arabian black scorpions of Thrash Metal.

Rating3

CoverThe story I’m about to tell you is not only inspiring, but also shows the strong and positive influence music can have on any of us, helping us face our deepest fears and overcome the hardest challenges in our path. Acrassicauda (or أكراسكودا in Arabic), the latin name of a black scorpion species known as the Arabian fat-tailed scorpion (Androctonus crassicauda), is also the name of an incredible Iraqi Thrash Metal band formed in 2000, made famous by the award-winning documentary Heavy Metal in Baghdad and often credited as being the first Heavy Metal group to emerge from Iraq, who unfortunately had to undergo all the agonies and pain of witnessing their homeland being devastated by politics and war.

After being granted refugee status in the United States in 2009 and after releasing a couple of demos and one EP, the band now based in New York brings forth their first full-length album, the unique Gilgamesh, a tribute to the ancient Mesopotamian civilization using the Epic of Gilgamesh, an ancient poem written in the Acadian language in the 3rd millennium BC, originally inscribed on 12 tablets in cuneiform script. With a fascinating theme like that turned into solid and heartfelt music by skillful musicians, you’ll rapidly be absorbed by the story told in Gilgamesh, going back to the start once the album is over and listening to it in its entirety again and again.

Right after the ominous and introspective intro Cedar Forest, where hints of the Middle-Eastern culture are already present, we are offered a blasting mix of modern heavy music and uprising Thrash Metal entitled Rise: the harsh vocals by frontman Faisal Mustafa have the necessary fierceness to transmit the desired message (and you’ll be tempted to scream the chorus together with him and the rest of the band), while guitarist Moe Al Hamawandi helps shape the band’s soul with his riffs and solos. In the potent and very progressive Quest for Eternity, thanks to the job done by Marwan Hussein on drums, they continue their journey through Middle-East by perfectly adding elements of their own culture to the music just like Sepultura did in Chaos A.D. and especially in Roots, while Amongst Kings and Men has a more modern sonority with great vocal lines and a progressive rhythm. In addition, its clean and backing vocals are also amazing and make the whole song even more powerful.

Shamhat, the name of a sacred prostitute who plays an important role on the Epic of Gilgamesh, is a sharp and rumbling intro that flows nicely into the following track, the superb multi-layered clash The Cost of Everything & the Value of Nothing, a groovy and metallic tune with an outstanding percussion, a strong message and a violent atmosphere. The entire band is kicking ass, with highlights to Faisal and Marwan who are truly electrified and end up elevating the inner beauty of this song. Nonetheless, as even warriors have love in their hearts, Acrassicauda provide the listener an awe-inspiring and touching ballad named Requiem for a Reverie, where its thoughtful lyrics and a passionate performance by Faisal turn it into one of the best moments of the whole album. Their special Middle-Eastern touch is used once again to add rage and balance to House of Dust, a Thrash Metal song that feels really fresh and modern due to the welcome addition of clean vocals, with highlights to its lyrics, which in my opinion should work perfectly when played live (“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I take my last oath / As I take my first step in your house of dust I should have known from the start / Where will it all ends? / Right here right now / Where it began / What went wrong? / And what have we done”).

acrassicaudaI can see the fans jumping up and down to the thrilling Unity, which direct and impetuous instrumental together with some eerie passages make the final result truly interesting, followed by Elements, where the band keeps delivering high-end metal embraced by their country’s culture. Needless to say, Moe and Marwan effectively take this song to the next level so good their performances are. Uruk, an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia ruled by Gilgamesh in the 27th century BC, is the second instrumental track of the album, where Acrassicauda showcase their well-developed skills as Iraqi musicians one more time, enhancing your senses for the last track of the album, the startling Rebirth, a song about revolution and the fight for freedom. With its Terminator-inspired riffs and Slayer-ish vibe (especially the one found in the all-time classic “Seasons in the Abyss”), it’s absolutely impossible not to bang you fuckin’ head to it, just before everything converges to a melancholic ending.

According to the band, Gilgamesh is an ode to modern Iraq, a home from which they are sadly exiled today. As bitter as it may sound, darkness seems to be a necessary evil in the conceptualization of superior music, and if you want to come into contact with that intense synthesis of passion and sorrow you can visit Acrassicauda’s FacebookBandCamp page and YouTube channel, and also buy Gigalmesh at their official website as a digital download or physical copy. Lastly, in order to properly finish off this review, I leave you with drummer Marwan Hussein’s own words about what Gilgamesh represents to the band and, inevitably, to everyone else that might have the pleasure of listening to it.

“The whole album’s concept is about journeys, life and death, love, the divine, success and failure, and the eternal struggle for immortality. Acrassicauda immortalizes the legacy of this character and his struggles through music, thousands of years later…” – Marwan Hussein

Best moments of the album: Rise, The Cost of Everything & the Value of Nothing, Requiem for a Reverie and Rebirth.

Worst moments of the album: Absolutely none. The whole album kicks ass.

Released in 2015 Independent

Track listing
1. Cedar Forest 1:29
2. Rise 5:04
3. Quest for Eternity 3:47
4. Amongst Kings and Men 5:11
5. Shamhat 0:25
6. The Cost of Everything & the Value of Nothing 3:09
7. Requiem for a Reverie 4:04
8. House of Dust 4:06
9. Unity 4:01
10. Elements 2:56
11. Uruk 2:02
12. Rebirth 4:32

Band members
Faisal Mustafa – vocals
Moe Al Hamawandi – guitar
Firas Abdul Razaq – bass
Marwan Hussein – drums