Album Review – Coldfells / Coldfells (2017)

Feel the beauty and desolation of the Appalachian landscapes through the Blackened Doom by a talented American power trio with their debut album, a perfect soundtrack to journeys outside frozen windows and within frozen souls.

“Visions of deep desire lay dormant, broken into fragments by an icy stare from the haggard, furrowed brow of nature – its cruel intent, to taunt the soul with beauty always out of reach, that disappears like mist with time…”

Hailing from Martins Ferry, a city in Belmont County, Ohio, United States, on the Ohio River, the extremely talented American Blackened Doom power trio Coldfells has just unleashed their debut full-length self-titled album upon us, bringing the aura of the band’s Appalachian surroundings as the album’s core essence. According to Coldfells themselves, the sonic purpose of the album is “to see the winter Appalachian landscapes we grew up around, the dead trees, grey skies, run-down mill towns, but, besides everything being desolate, it’s still beautiful.” And the trio comprised of Aaron Carey on vocals and additional guitars, Jonny Doyle on guitars, and Andrew D’Cagna on bass, drums and backing vocals definitely succeeded in providing with the music found in Coldfells a perfect soundtrack to journeys outside frozen windows and within frozen souls in a winter night of introspection.

Creepy, obscure keys ignite a 10-minute darkened feast of Doom Metal named The Rope, spearheaded by the sharp, slow-paced drumming by Andrew while Aaron fires his raspy gnarls tailored for the music and atmosphere created. This song brings a beautiful and melancholic musicality with a precise balance between clean and harsh vocals, or in other words, a very detailed composition recommended for fans of dark and smooth music with a piercing sonority, with its last part flirting with traditional Black Metal. With a melancholic start just like the opening track, The Sea Inside explodes into gripping Melodic Black Metal with highlights to the deep growls by Aaron and the mesmerizing riffs by Jonny, sounding atmospheric and doomed at all times and, consequently, providing amazing Blackened Doom for admirers of the genre. In Time Shall Be Forgotten, the shortest of all songs, is devastating from the very first second, with Andrew demolishing his drum set while Jonny fires sheer darkness through his strings. In addition, the song contains elements from the music by Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and other darkened bands, which ends up making it as menacing and lugubrious as hell.

All Night We Flew offers the listener sluggish and devilish Blackened Doom, with Aaron and Andrew adding tons of malignancy and darkness to the music with their anguished growls and steady, pounding beats. Once again, harsh and clean vocals complement each other in a fantastic manner, not to mention its magnificent main riff. Hence, while listening to this full-bodied hymn, simply bang your fuckin’ head nonstop until you feel that excruciating pain inside your head. And the last explosion of atmospheric Doom Metal by Coldfells, titled Eons Pass, sounds very stylish and harmonious, with the clean voice by Andrew bringing hope to our ears while Aaron reminds us all life is dark and dammed. Furthermore, the trio wants to drag us to a dark and cold side of life with the song’s mournful rhythm, and after a melancholic break the band returns in full force for one final breath of their Blackened Doom led by the blast beats by Andrew, until the song’s hellish conclusion.

In a nutshell, if what Coldfells wanted us all to feel while listening to their music was the beauty and desolation of the Appalachian landscapes, as aforementioned, they more than triumphed with each one of the five tracks of the album, which by the way can be enjoyed in its entirety on Spotify. And if you want to purchase Coldfells, the album is available at the band’s own BandCamp page, as well as on CD Baby and on Amazon. Actually, there’s a special edition of the album that’s already sold out at the Eihwaz Recordings’ webstore, which includes the two songs from their 2014 demo Black Breath as bonus tracks, but if I were you I would keep an eye on that just in case they print more copies of it.

Best moments of the album: The Rope and All Night We Flew.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Bindrune Recordings/Eihwaz Recordings

Track listing
1. The Rope 10:26
2. The Sea Inside 8:18
3. In Time Shall Be Forgotten 5:36
4. All Night We Flew 8:28
5. Eons Pass 7:51

Eihwaz Recordings Black Breath Demo 2014 (Disc 2) bonus tracks
1. Dungeons Deep 8:32
2. On Carven Throne 8:17

Band members
Aaron Carey – vocals, additional guitars
Jonny Doyle – guitars
Andrew D’Cagna – bass, drums, backing vocals

Album Review – Shed the Skin / Harrowing Faith (2016)

Not only an amazing tribute to the life of American musician Tom Rojack (R.I.P.), but also a lesson in old school Death Metal by five skillful veterans.

Rating4

shed-the-skin-album-coverFormed in 2011 in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, in the United States by longtime friends Kyle Severn (drummer from Death Metal legends Incantation) and Matt Sorg (guitarist for Ringworm, Charred Walls of the Damned, Blood of Christ and Beyond Fear, among others) after playing together in a tribute to old school band Blood of Christ at a memorial show for their friend Tom Rojack, who passed away in 1997, Death Metal quintet Shed the Skin are unleashing upon the earth their highly anticipated debut full-length beast entitled Harrowing Faith, following their 2014 7” EP Rebirth Through Brimstone. More than just an album, Harrowing Faith is a statement that proves the fire of traditional and brutal Death Metal is far from being extinguished.

And let me tell you that the name of the band, inspired by the track also named “Shed the Skin” from Blood of Christ’s 1993 four-song promo cassette simply titled Promo ’93, perfectly illustrates what the music by this old school Satanic Death Metal horde will inflict in you. Featuring a gory artwork by James “Human Furnace” Bulloch (Ringworm), Harrowing Faith transpires violence and bloodshed, with each one of its 12 compositions offering the listener the talent and aggressiveness of the band’s five Death Metal veterans in a little less than 40 intense minutes.

The obscure and atmospheric intro Plasmic Flames can be considered the calm before the storm in Harrowing Faith, because when the metallic riffs by Matt ignite the mosh pit-generator Daimonic Adytum all hell breaks loose. Moreover, lead singer and guitarist Ash Thomas (FaithXtractor, Vladimirs, Acheron) vomits his deep guttural like a maniac beast, enhancing even more the impact of this excellent Death Metal devastation. Then we have the title-track Harrowing Faith, a brutal havoc played at full speed where Kyle is absolutely on fire, providing more fuel for Ash to thrive with his demonic gnarls. Albeit very technical, it’s still absolutely raw and dark just the way we love in Death Metal, especially the demented sound of guitars the likes of Cannibal Corpse.

shed-the-skin-bandBlackened bells tow in a sensational demonic intro for the next tune, Putrid and Pious, as fast and aggressive as the previous tunes. The growls by Ash get deeper and deeper, with the album’s outstanding production and hints of Doom Metal taking the song’s pugnacity to a whole new level. A somber ambience grows in obscurity in Unbound Revenant, once again venturing through the realms of Doom Metal, in special the slow and steady drumming by Kyle, being perfect for fans of extremely Stygian music. Right after that doomed exhibit, a sick guitar solo kicks off a two-minute feast of sheer Death Metal entitled Warband Under the Baphomet, with highlights to its amazing vibe, fierce beats and a superb job done by both guitarists Ash and Matt as well as bassist Ed Stephens (Ringworn, Vindicator, Charred Walls of the Damned) with their lacerating strings. And the band keeps the album at a very high level of quality with the deranged composition CSUM, where not only guitars and drums are in total sync, but the hints of progressiveness added amidst all savagery also increase the overall quality of such hostile chant.

In Alpha and Omega, guitar noises grow in intensity and are violently joined by all instruments, generating total madness in the form of high-end Death Metal for the delight of diehard fans of the genre; followed by Cambion, where Ash sounds like a demonic ogre on vocals. Furthermore, this song shows that Death Metal doesn’t need to be played at the speed of light to be awesome, being as heavy as hell due to its amazing riffs and bass lines. There’s still more destruction to come, starting with Inhuman Accretion, a solid composition with demented guitar solos and endless savagery where Kyle is a stone crusher on drums as usual. The last regular song of the album, named Innermost Sanctuary, is very melodic and keeps up with the rest of the album in heaviness, but sounding slightly generic compared to the other songs, with the piercing guitars by Ash and Matt being its best element, whereas the hellish outro Execration Divine, showcasing the Phantom of the Opera-inspired organ by Brian Boston and the demonic guitar lines by Ash and Matt, puts an end to this lesson in Death Metal.

If you’re not yet familiar with the works and projects by each of the five Death Metal war dogs behind Shed the Skin, I suggest you go check their Facebook page, and in case you want to purchase this scorching gem of extreme music called Harrowing Faith simply visit the band’s BandCamp page or the Hells Headbangers Records’ BandCamp page. Wherever Mr. Tom Rojack is, I’m certain he’s truly honored with the final result that Kyle, Matt & Co. achieved with Shed the Skin, a tribute to his life and to all things Death Metal.

Best moments of the album: Harrowing Faith, Putrid and Pious and Warband Under the Baphomet.

Worst moments of the album: Innermost Sanctuary.

Released in 2016 Hells Headbangers Records

Track listing
1. Plasmic Flames 2:06
2. Daimonic Adytum 1:55
3. Harrowing Faith 3:10
4. Putrid and Pious 3:39
5. Unbound Revenant 4:05
6. Warband Under the Baphomet 2:01
7. CSUM 3:28
8. Alpha and Omega 4:44
9. Cambion 4:21
10. Inhuman Accretion 2:42
11. Innermost Sanctuary 4:04
12. Execration Divine 2:38

Band members
Ash Thomas – vocals, guitars
Matt Sorg – guitars
Ed Stephens – bass
Brian Boston – keyboards
Kyle Severn – drums

Album Review – Winterhymn / Blood & Shadow (2016)

If your fearless heart claims for top-notch Epic Folk Metal, you’ll definitely enjoy this excellent compilation of songs perfect for your mead-drinking and mud-fighting parties.

Rating4

Blood&Shadow_FrontAlthough I couldn’t see Pagan/Folk Metal squad Winterhymn kicking ass live during Paganfest America Part V here in Toronto in 2014 due to traffic issues (as you can read HERE), I went after their music to get to know more about this American sextet, and let me tell you I was impressed with the energy, passion and creativity flowing from their symphonic and progressive compositions. With that said, I guess I don’t need to mention how excited I got when I received their brand new album for review, the melodious Blood & Shadow, right?

Since their inception in 2009, these folk metallers from Cincinnati, Ohio have been bringing the epicness of Celtic and Scandinavian Folk sounds to the United States, starting with their 2011 debut album Songs for the Slain until this year’s Blood & Shadow, also sharing the stage with renowned names like Eluveitie, Turisas, Chthonic, Arkona and many others. Featuring a beautiful and sanguinary artwork by Irish artist Vasilis Zikos, reflecting a scene from Winterhymn’s personal mythos (which the album is entirely based upon), Blood & Shadow is the soundtrack for drinking lots of mead and getting in random fights in the mud around a bonfire, all embraced by the undeniable talent of four brave lads and two stunning maidens.

Blending elements from Folk and Black Metal with hints of Power Metal, the melodic battle chant Blood of the Moon kicks off the album on a high note by bringing forward a very epic rhythm with highlights to the mesmerizing sound by violinist Umbriel, followed by Dream of Might, which leans towards pure Folk Metal. Albeit slower than the opening track, it still offers a high dosage of epicness, with the vocals by lead singer and guitarist Draug being perfectly complemented by the pounding drums by Valthrun and the once again incredible violin sounds by Umbriel. And the outstanding Pagan Metal composition Blood Burner is one of those songs tailored for fans of vicious battle chants who love to slam into the circle pit with a pint of cold beer in hand, with Draug and Varrik providing some exciting riffs and solos while Valthrun doesn’t let the amazing energy in the music go down.

Less violent and with a more progressive flow (but still very impactful), Legacy in Flames offers lyrics about the everyday life of a warrior nicely declaimed by Draug and bassist Alvadar (“We hunt our prey / With our last breath / By the sanguine moon / Through realms of death / So curse our name / You’ll be slaughtered all the same / Your legacy in flames”), with its last part being highly recommended for prancing around a fire pit with a pint of mead; whereas The Summoning displays a higher focus on Death Metal guttural vocals while instrumental is purely Folk Metal, a good balance that works well for a while but that unfortunately falls flat close to the end of it. Seafarer, a “Middle Earth-inspired song”, is a semi-acoustic ballad where violin and acoustic guitars generate the perfect atmosphere for Draug and his clean vocals, a soulful break from the band’s traditional battle hymns before Silenced by the Northern Winds gets back to brutal folk music with Draug leading the band’s onrush with his imposing growls, boosted by an excellent guitar solo to properly conclude this thrilling tune.

zGroup (22)In Shadow We Ride, another classic Folk Metal tune by Winterhymn, offers the listener slower beats and a fighting vibe, with its second half getting slightly heavier and, consequently, adding some extra flavor to the overall result (especially the potent bass lines by Alvadar). And in Huntsman, a serene intro morphs into brutal Pagan Metal, with its lyrics being everything a fan of this type of music loves (“They marched across the Iron Jaw with sword and helm / Seeking fabled woodland doorways to the twilight realms / The proudest of their captains are now hunted like boars / Their banners lie in gory pools upon the forest floor”). Moreover, all instruments sound potent and sharp, accrediting it to be one of the best songs of the new album for their live performances.

The final triad of Folk Metal in Blood & Shadow begins with the electrifying The Wolf’s Head, where Death and Power Metal elements arise. The song’s riffs and solos, together with the precise drumming by Valthrun, set the music on fire, with both guttural and clean vocals and the background sonority crafted by Umbriel and Exura on violin and keyboards, respectively, being absolutely outstanding. Into the Depths shows the whole band still has enough fuel for more Epic Pagan Metal, which after a solid intro gets heavier than almost everything from the album, not to mention the heroic singing by Draug. And lastly, Umbriel dictates the rhythm through her fast and melodious violin in The Chosen End, where all band members unite to provide the listener a full-bodied composition overflowing courage, passion and pain, a climatic ending for such a professional album.

If your courageous heart claims for top-notch Epic Folk Metal, go check Winterhymn’s Facebook page, as well as their YouTube channel and ReverbNation page, and don’t forget to buy their new album at the SoundAge Productions’ webstore, at the band’s BandCamp page, on iTunes or on Amazon. As aforementioned, there’s no better way to get drunk with mead and engage into mud-fighting than to the sound of such an amazing band like Winterhymn.

Best moments of the album: Blood Burner, Silenced by the Northern Winds and The Wolf’s Head.

Worst moments of the album: The Summoning.

Released in 2016 SoundAge Productions

Track listing
1. Blood of the Moon 3:48
2. Dream of Might 3:59
3. Blood Burner 3:19
4. Legacy in Flames 4:51
5. The Summoning 4:12
6. Seafarer 3:20
7. Silenced by the Northern Winds 6:53
8. In Shadow We Ride 4:47
9. Huntsman 5:23
10. The Wolf’s Head 3:39
11. Into the Depths 6:25
12. The Chosen End 4:31

Band members
Draug – vocals, lead guitar
Varrik – guitar
Alvadar – bass, backing vocals
Exura – keyboards
Umbriel – violin
Valthrun – drums

Album Review – Verment / Death’s Domain EP (2016)

These up-and-coming metallers from Cincinnati, Ohio will show you how Death Metal can easily embrace elements from all other genres and subgenres of heavy music without losing its essence, always remaining loyal to its violent and gruesome roots.

Rating5

Deathsdoamin COVER HiDischarging their fast and furious Death Metal directly from the city of Cincinnati, Ohio to the entire world since 2012, American metallers Verment are ready to attack once again with their brand new EP entitled Death’s Domain. If you’re a fan of bands like Morbid Angel, Deicide, The Black Dahlia Murder, Suffocation and Angelcorpse, let me tell you that you’ll definitely have a very good time during the 24 minutes of deep vociferations, crushing beats and blazing riffs found in this unrelenting 7-track album.

Although some of the band’s main influences are purely Death Metal, Verment do not stick only to that genre of heavy music in their compositions, blending elements from Thrash, Melodic Death and even Blackened Death Metal in their musicality, not to mention they also add a modern twist to their sounding in order to sound fresher and more impactful than other regular Death Metal bands. And if you’re good at “deciphering” what lead singer and bassist Eric Payne is vociferating throughout the entire EP, your experience listening to Verment will become even more interesting than expected.

And the band is not kidding when they say they’re not purely Death Metal, as the excellent opening track Casket Fever is actually a bit more Thrash than Death Metal per se. Moreover, the growling by Eric Payne is full of anger and perfectly represents the message in the lyrics (“Exhuming corpses in the darkness / Taking from the hand of death / All to please the inner demon / That is keeping me from rest”), with the clean and melodic solos by Dustin Stockhoff bringing a welcome harmony to the music. That blustering fusion of extreme music subgenres also work really well in Amon’s Wrath, where Black and Death Metal are put together in a neck-breaking tune made to listen at top volume, full of violent riffs by Nick Moeller while drummer Alex Hooper is as heavy and precise as he can be behind his drum set.

VermentWings of Bone, which is perhaps the most Death Metal song of all, offers the listener two and a half minutes of brutal and technical devastation flawlessly led by Nick and Alex, with both deep guttural and sharper demonic growls by Eric being spot-on; while Vile Incisions leans towards more traditional Death Metal, especially due to its technical riffs and solos. In addition, Eric’s screams match perfectly with all instrumental pieces, with the last part of the song being a demented feast of blast beats commonly found in old school Black Metal. And get ready for the insane circle pits that will be generated by Obsolescence Reality, which has that constant metallic rhythm we all love in Death Metal, but with the addition of some nice breaks to add more flavor to it.

Before the album is over, their Thrash Metal vein returns in Chemical Indoctrination, without of course being less Death Metal than expected. It’s a faster and more straightforward tune where both Dustin and Nick have amazing performances with their riffs and solos, providing Eric all he needs to fire his hostile screams. And lastly, Parade of Filth closes the album in a solid way showcasing putrid lyrics that are the nightmare of every soccer mom (“It’s quite a sight to behold / All walks of life convening / It makes me sick to see this rotten malánge / Flesh folding over, repulsive odor / I am no better but I certainly do not reek of shit”), while Alex displays all his darkest abilities during the song’s almost four minutes. In other words, this is basically the opposite of mainstream, which means diehard fans of old school Death Metal will love it.

Whether you’re a hardcore Death Metal fan looking for a new addition to your collection of aggressive hymns, or a not-so-delicate soccer mom who felt significantly insulted when I said the music by Verment might be one of your worst nightmares, go check their Facebook, SoundCloud and ReverbNation for more of their venomous music. Death’s Domain, which can be purchased at the band’s BandCamp page, will show you once again why Death Metal is, and will forever be, the only type of extreme music that can easily embrace elements from all other genres and subgenres of heavy music without losing its essence, always remaining loyal to its roots.

Best moments of the album: Casket Fever and Wings of Bone.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Casket Fever 3:18
2. Amon’s Wrath 3:26
3. Wings of Bone 2:31
4. Vile Incisions 3:27
5. Obsolescence Reality 3:41
6. Chemical Indoctrination 3:30
7. Parade of Filth 3:47

Band members
Eric Payne – vocals, bass
Dustin Stockhoff – lead guitar
Nick Moeller – rhythm guitar
Alex Hooper – drums, backing vocals

Album Review – Novallo / Novallo II EP (2015)

A wicked fusion of metal, rock, pop, electronic, jazz and tons of other contrasting genres, crafted by a talented and promising American band.

Rating4

cover artRanging from the delightful turmoil brought forth by Progressive Metal to the catchy tunes from modern Pop/Rock, the vibrant experimentations by American Alternative/Experimental Metal band Novallo will definitely hit you like a bullet train at full speed and put you to dance, bang your head or simply move your body in any unconventional way you might enjoy. And let me tell you that such a weird sounding ends up making the task of putting a label to Novallo extremely hard. I personally can’t say if they’re a pop version of Dream Theater or a heavier version of Justin Timberlake, if not both at the same time.

Founded in the city of Columbus, Ohio (the 15th largest city in the United States) in 2006, Novallo released their self-titled debut EP in 2012, earning them some considerable recognition and appreciation by a growing fan base, as well as a spot on the 2015 edition of the Rock on the Range festival (as the only unsigned band on the bill, by the way), playing on May 16 alongside renowned acts such as  Saxon, Ministry, Babymetal, Godsmack, In Flames and Judas Priest. Now, after beginning to solidify their path to stardom, they’re back with a brand new EP entitled Novallo II, another wicked fusion of unlike music genres crafted by these talented and professional musicians.

How crazy, electronic and innovative can an intro be? Take a listen at Wake and you’ll see, right before Betty Phage Goes to Bronxton offers you a  unique mix of Alternative and Progressive Metal with hints of Jazz and electronic music. Put differently, it’s a very fun tune that’s appealing and complex all at once, something not so common in music nowadays. Drummer Nick Salvatore kicks ass behind his drum set hands down, which is also the case in the even more electronic I AM, a well-crafted rock-ish version of dance music where it’s pretty easy to notice their influences from the King of Pop Michael Jackson.

novalloA lot heavier than all other tracks from the EP, Sideways Bird nicely blends elements from Groove Metal with Alternative Rock. Besides, I dare you to try to make any sense out of the song’s loco lyrics (“First ride hitched on a glitch – am I coming or going? / Insanity photographed consciousness flowing. / Discount tricks shaped like bits from the back corner store man. / Liquid crime – amplified to extract and delete even more.”). In contrast, Give Gravity a Choice is significantly smoother and more progressive, with its calm passages and stronger soundings creating together a relaxing environment enhanced by the solid vocals by Sam Gitiban, who provides the song all the necessary energy and balance.

Showcasing freakish electronic effects that sound like something you would find in a Mario Bros. videogame, White Phoenix keeps the madness rolling thanks to the sick riffs by Gino Bambino and the precise breaks by Nick Salvatore, not to mention the brilliant work done by Brandon Johnson with his metallic bass lines. And although the movie-ish outro Sleep might put an end to the album, we all know the band is just starting their promising journey through the world of eccentric music.

To sum up, what Novallo has to offer in Novallo II, available at their BandCamp page (or you can take a peek at what the band can do at their YouTube channel, if you prefer), is indeed unique, or maybe I should say substantially distinct when compared to almost any other band or artist you can think of. Their music will most probably suit you no matter if you’re one of those orthodox fans of Progressive Metal that looks down on anything that doesn’t contain a billion intricate notes and riffs, or if you don’t give a shit about complexity as long as you can feed your inner dancer with the music. In other words, whilst you have a craving for a special type of music, Novallo definitely have the righteous tunes to fulfill all your needs.

Best moments of the album: Betty Phage Goes to Bronxton and Sideways Bird.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Independent

Track listing
1. Wake 0:29
2. Betty Phage Goes to Bronxton 3:07
3. I AM 3:35
4. Sideways Bird 3:35
5. Give Gravity a Choice 5:18
6. White Phoenix 4:21
7. Sleep 1:05

Band members
Sam Gitiban – vocals
Gino Bambino – guitar
Brandon Johnson – bass
Nick Salvatore – drums, percussion