Album Review – Antipope / Denial/Survival (2017)

Bending the genre boundaries and creating a unique musical journey in the spirit of classic progressive albums of the 70’s, this Finnish act returns from a four-year hiatus to offer us all their music in its most uncompromising form.

As a nice Christmas gift to all readers of The Headbanging Moose, I have for you today Denial/Survival, the fourth full-length album by Finnish Progressive Black Metal trinity Antipope, whose music is according to the band itself a free expression of whatever styles, themes or moods might be needed to relate the particular message to the listener. Although the band is considered by many as Black Metal, the name Antipope stands for liberation from any and all dogmas and renouncement of intellectual and ideological authorities, being the soundtrack for self-discovery, death and rebirth.

Formed in 2004 in the city of Oulu, the band comprised of founder Mikko Myllykangas on vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar and programming, Antti J. Karjalainen on guitars and Tuska E. on drums returns from a four-year hiatus with Denial/Survival, presenting their characteristic style of bending the genre boundaries and creating a unique musical journey in the spirit of classic progressive albums of the 70’s. Combining elements of Extreme Metal, Melodic Death Metal and even a bit of Flamenco, and featuring an imposing artwork by Finnish artist Tiina Kaakkuriniemi, Denial/Survival will offer you the music of Antipope in its most uncompromising form, and I’m sure you’ll have a good time while listening to such diverse album of extreme music.

In the opening track, titled Waters Below, we already face the multi-layered music by the trio, with an instrumental beginning that goes on for about two minutes before devastation arrives through the hellish growls by Mikko in a rhythmic and epic display of modern Black Metal; followed by Flat Circle, which presents hints of Atmospheric Black Metal infused in their more straightforward Scandinavian Extreme Metal. Moreover, Tuska does a solid job going from a more progressive style to visceral blast beats that live up to the legacy of Black Metal. And in the title-track Denial/Survival the band speeds up their pace and distills their venom through their austere words (“I woke up in the land of denial / It’s true the guilt is all you care for / Seeing you and the rest of your kind / Wallowing in self-pity and mutual rape”) in a true headbanging hymn perfect for cracking your spinal cord, which obviously translates into one of the top moments of the album.

The ominous, darkened instrumental bridge Der Sadist sets the tone for the even more obscure Black Metal chant Hunt, with the mid-tempo beats by Tuska being effectively blended with the crisp guitar lines by Antti, sounding more introspective and melancholic than the rest of the album. Then get ready to be smashed by the futuristic and melodic (but still very raw) onrush of extreme music named True Anarchist, sounding at times like Marilyn Manson, with Antti once again firing his captivating riffs, before the atmospheric and ominous creation Mindlessness Meditation brings forward cavernous bass lines by Mikko, who darkly declaims the song’s cryptic lyrics.

An Unconditional Ritual to Summon the Prince of Darkness, a slow-paced chant that could actually be used to summon an evil entity, presents words that sound and fell infernal (“This is how it begins, the last phase / A thousand step descent into the unknown / The words extend the rays of light / From the shadows a new mind”), whereas in Tragic Vision we can feel their music growing in intensity as time passes by, with Mikko and Antti making a great guitar duo by blasting some wicked riffs. Furthermore, the whole song has a touch of epicness that makes it very exciting to listen to, not to mention Tuska’s galloping beats in perfect sync with his bandmates’ stringed weapons. And as the closing song of the album Antipope deliver what is also the longest of all tunes, entitled Resolution, which could easily be used in the soundtrack for a slasher flick or a Tarantino-style movie, helping the album stand out among other extreme bands for its versatility and innovative approach.

I’m certain that, after listening to Denial/Survival, you’ll be more than curious to know more about Antipope and their distinct career, and in order to do that simply go check what Mikko & Co. are up to on Facebook, watch to their classy videos on YouTube and listen to their music on Spotify, and purchase the album through their BandCamp page or on iTunes. There’s nothing better than celebrating Christmas with some nice extreme music made in Finland, a country where Santa Claus is supposed to live (in the cold and charming Lapland, the largest and northernmost region of the country), so don’t waste your time and go show your support to this very interesting underground act. Well, if you don’t do so, I guess Santa will have to cross “somebody’s” name from his list next year.

Best moments of the album: Denial/Survival, Hunt and Tragic Vision.

Worst moments of the album: Flat Circle.

Released in 2017 Antipope/TCM Entertainment

Track listing
1. Waters Below 5:25
2. Flat Circle 5:40
3. Denial/Survival 5:06
4. Der Sadist 3:22
5. Hunt 7:08
6. True Anarchist 4:23
7. Mindlessness Meditation 4:34
8. An Unconditional Ritual to Summon the Prince of Darkness 5:29
9. Tragic Vision 4:25
10. Resolution 7:13

Band members
Mikko Myllykangas – vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, programming
Antti J. Karjalainen – guitars
Tuska E. – drums


Album Review – Afire / Afire EP (2017)

When you put together five renowned musicians from the Finnish underground metal scene, you can rest assure your ears will be pierced by a kick-ass Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll extravaganza.

When you put together renowned musicians from the underground metal scene from Finland, you can rest assured your ears will be pierced by a sonic extravaganza full of catchy choruses, flammable riffs, groovy beats and an endless amount of electricity. That’s exactly what happened when the talented vocalist Suvi Hiltunen joined forces in 2016 with long-term Oulu-based musicians Sami Kukkohovi (Sentenced, Kypck) on guitar, Antti Leiviskä (Poisonblack) also on guitar, Harri Halonen (Impaled Nazarene) on bass and Tarmo Kanerva (Poisonblack) on drums, forming the fiery Melodic Hard Rock entity known as Afire.

Now in 2017 it’s time for Afire to provide the world of heavy music a short and sweet sample of what they’re capable of with their debut self-titled EP, comprised of three hard rockin’ tunes tailored to be played at any rock n’ roll radio station or party, or anywhere else good rock music is appreciated. Suvi, who by the way is a well-established musician in her homeland as you can see in her official website (if you know Finnish, of course), having released a few solos albums since 2008, steals the spotlight in the EP with her potent voice, making the solid rock music played by the other band members sexier and more impactful. Besides, you can feel from the final result that very, very little work was needed on her voice in the studio versions, which makes me wonder how amazing her voice should sound live.

The first of the three tracks of the EP, The One to Take the Fall, transpires modern and gripping Hard Rock from the very first second, presenting an amazing pace and extremely catchy lyrics, with Sami and Antti kicking ass with their guitar riffs while Suvi showcases all her vocal potency, sounding like a hybrid of the iconic Doro and the fiery Lzzy Hale. Put differently, this is the type of song that can be played in any rock n’ roll radio worldwide hands down. Then Afire offer the listener a pleasant Rock N’ Roll power ballad named Forevermore, with hints of Heavy Metal added to its musicality in order to make the final result more tasteful. In addition, Harri and Tarmo keep a strong and sharp base for Suvi to shine with her passionate vocal performance, not to mention the song’s traditional (and effective) guitar solos. Lastly, heaviness and speed return in the Hard Rock anthem Strangers Again, where once again Sami and Antti bring electricity to the music with their piercing, metallic riffs, while Tarmo continues to deliver pure rockin’ beats supported by the classy bass lines by Harri. And what to say about Suvi in this song? Her voice is charming, sexy and potent, leaving us all eager for more Afire in a not-so-distant future.

If you want to take a deep dive into the world of Afire, simply go check what they’re up to on their Facebook page, listen to their music on YouTube and on Spotify, and purchase their blazing debut EP on iTunes or on Amazon. As usual, this is the type of release that makes you desperate for more of the band’s music, and let’s hope Suvi and the guys do not take too long to provide us their first full-bodied, electrifying album, keeping the flame of Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll burning bright in the cold but always cozy Finland.

Best moments of the album: The One to Take the Fall.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. The One to Take the Fall 3:30
2. Forevermore 5:32
3. Strangers Again 3:50

Band members
Suvi Hiltunen – vocals
Sami Kukkohovi – guitar
Antti Leiviskä – guitar
Harri Halonen – bass
Tarmo Kanerva – drums

Album Review – Denominate / Those Who Beheld The End (2016)

Behold the ascension of an awesome band from Finland that adds a lot of progressiveness to their Death Metal without losing the genre’s core viciousness.

Those_Who_Beheld_the_End_Cover640It’s not a secret to anyone that Finland always delivers when the music in question is Melodic Death Metal. However, the Land of a Thousand Lakes now offers a more brutal and old school version of the genre the likes of Death and Carcass thanks to Progressive/Technical Death Metal band Denominte. This powerful five-piece act has just released their debut full-length album entitled Those Who Beheld The End, experimenting with melody and progressiveness while at the same time keeping the heaviness and aggression of Death Metal flowing from each of the album’s seven demolishing compositions.

Formed in 2009 in the city of Oulu under the name Encrypted and having released their debut EP named Realms of Confusion in 2014, the band decided to change their name to Denominate in 2015 (with no changes to their lineup, though) as well as to increase their focus on the harmonious parts of their music instead of just pounding their instruments manically. As a result, in Those Who Beheld The End, recorded and mixed at a private studio in Oulu in two separate sessions due to their studio engineer’s personal projects (which ended up delaying the release date for some time), Denominate bring forward a strong balance of violence and melody that will please both fans of old school Death Metal and admirers of the more modern sounding of Melodic Death Metal.

As soon as you start listening to the opening track, In A Chasm Of Stone, you’ll be able to notice those core ingredients in their music due to the high level of intricacy found in their guitar lines. As aforementioned, they play a very technical version of Death Metal without losing the genre’s inner havoc, with the exceptional drummer Joni Määttä sounding like a machine gun and, consequently, bringing an additional layer of brutality to their music. Degradation is an old school chant led by the vicious growling by Ville Männikkö, and even with all the devastation going on you can still savor the progressiveness of the riffs and solos by guitarists Kimmo Raappana and Eetu Pylkkänen; whereas the heavier-than-hell bass lines by Tuomas Pesälä kick off the obscure song Penumbra, enhanced by the low-tuned gnarls by Ville and the unstoppable beast by Joni, guiding the listener to darkness. In other words, this is definitely the type of composition that will pave Denominate’s path to stardom in extreme music.

Promokuva_3The Demented Scholar of Abatos not only has an awesome name, but it’s also an extremely well-crafted composition where bass guitar and riffs generate the requested obscurity for Ville to keep growling and screaming. Moreover, this progressive song, less bestial and presenting more melodious lines, perfectly depicts the new concept proposed by the band, and as you’ll be able to notice while listening to it the final result is quite interesting. And following that stampede of progressiveness we have the 11-minute visceral hymn Torments of Silence, starting with a somber acoustic intro before darkness takes over the sonority and the band’s crushing Death Metal dominates your mind. Not only the sharp riffs by Kimmo and Eetu take the spotlight, but add to that the song’s precise tempo changes and the sonic impact of this excellent full-bodied composition increases considerably.

A very technical riffage together with blasting drums can only result in good music, which is the case in Apeirophobia (the fear of eternity), highly recommended for guitarists that love extreme music thanks to the job done by both Kimmo and Eetu, not to mention the song’s thoughtful and hellish lyrics (“Arising from a need, to achieve and repeat / tainted by fear to be doomed to predict / every action from here to eternity / linked to the past, past to the future / the ageless serpent ever devouring itself / the Styx ever-flowing, towards the source”). And lastly, walking through the realms of Melodic Death Metal we have Terrestrial Funeral, one final shot of progressiveness blended with endless pugnacity where the bass lines by Tuomas get even more complex than before, while Ville keeps screaming with anger in his heart until an excellent guitar solo concludes the song and the album.

In summary, the music found in Those Who Beheld The End might not be that very traditional form of Death Metal that stormed the world decades ago, but it maintains the vicious essence of those golden years without sounding outdated or repetitive, pointing to a very promising future of the genre. With that said, behold the ascension of this awesomely heavy band by visiting their Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud, and grab your copy of Those Who Beheld The End (you can listen to the entire album HERE) at Record Shop X, at the Inverse Records’ webstore, at Denominate’s BandCamp page, on iTunes and several other locations.

Best moments of the album: In A Chasm Of Stone and Penumbra.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. In A Chasm Of Stone 5:08
2. Degradation 4:05
3. Penumbra 5:07
4. The Demented Scholar of Abatos 5:40
5. Torments of Silence 11:16
6. Apeirophobia 6:04
7. Terrestrial Funeral 5:49

Band members
Ville Männikkö – vocals
Kimmo Raappana – guitars
Eetu Pylkkänen – guitars
Tuomas Pesälä – bass
Joni Määttä – drums