Album Review – Heterochrome / Melancholia (2017)

Embark on a journey through the aggressive peaks and heavenly calm moments of life and death, crafted by a five-piece Iranian act that’s willing to face all adversities in their homeland to spread their music all over the world.

Every single time we at The Headbanging Moose do a review of an album by a band hailing from the Middle-East, we never know exactly how hard and dangerous it was (and is) for that specific band to record that album due to all restrictions imposed by religious and political parties in those countries. If you have no idea of what I’m talking about, take a quick read at this short and sweet article titled “How playing heavy metal in Iran can put your life in danger”, posted online at the Huck Maganize website. Formed in 2014 in Tehran, the capital of Iran located in the north of the country, female-fronted five-piece Progressive Metal act Heterochrome have just released their debut effort entitled Melancholia, a journey through the aggressive peaks and heavenly calm moments of life and death, and it seems that they are willing to face all perils and adversities in their homeland to spread their music all over the world.

The band was brought into being when guitarist Mohammadreza Rezaei and vocalist Mida met each other in 2014 and started writing music together, with the rest of the band members joining the duo in the coming years. Displaying a delicate but powerful artwork designed by Caelan Stokkermans, from Caelan Stokkermans Arts (who already worked with another band recently reviewed at The Headbanging Moose, called Ezerath), Melancholia is an amalgamation of sounds and styles, from the darkest and heaviest screams and thoughts to moments of tenderness, love and hope, all meticulously embraced by the band’s progressive and intricate passages. Furthermore, Mida ends up stealing the spotlight with her passionate vocal performance throughout the entire album, and if what people say is true about how women are completely discouraged to create music (in special Heavy Metal) in Iran, putting even their lives in danger for doing that, then she’s not only a highly skilled singer, but also a daredevil metalhead.

The opening track Cage displays tons of progressiveness flowing from all instruments from its very first second, being led by the sharp guitars by Mohammadreza and his bandmate Khashayar Oveisi, with Mohammadreza and the angelical voice of Mida bringing a classy and melancholic vibe to the music. Then leaning towards Progressive Rock blended with contemporary Hard Rock we have Hang, where Mida enchants us all to the precise beats by drummer Mohammad Mirboland and the metallic bass by Armin Afzali, with the songs harsh growls adding  an extra dosage of heaviness and electricity to the song’s introspective lyrics (“Every breath I take, brings me closer / Every second wasted, counts past the border / Every bridge falls broken, burning over  / As I sprint through the myst, the night is over”).

The following track, named Regret, is a smooth instrumental Progressive Metal tune with hints of Acid Rock, generating a dark and soulful “waltz” perfect for closing your eyes and banging your head together with the band. Moreover, Mohammad becomes the “captain” of the ship with both his fast-paced beats and more rhythmic drumming, with the song ending with a kick-ass guitar solo by Mohammadreza. And the band keeps the momentum going with Purgatory, a song highly recommended for fans of all types of heavy music that can be broken down into several distinct pieces, from the hypnotizing, gentle parts led by Mida to a pure metallic extravaganza and more progressive passages, therefore showcasing all the band’s versatility and also experimenting with darker sounds and nuances of Rock N’ Roll.

Their most experimental vein rises in Paradise, with the guitar duo comprised of Mohammadreza and Khashayar spearheading this feast of whimsical tunes and notes, boosted by the intricate bass lines by Armin. Furthermore, this pleasant composition proves Heterochrome definitely know how to use the fusion of male and female vocals in all their creations in a beyond compelling way. And last but not least, let the fires burn to the sound of the thrilling chant Inferno, a multi-layered mid-tempo tune that will pierce your mind and hypnotize you, while the bass lines by Armin embrace Mida’s stunning voice. Once again presenting a gripping guitar solo by Mohammadreza and beautiful, poetic lyrics as the icing on the cake (“Let me bleed / Naked by the fire / I’m drowning deep / Drowning in denial / Burning in / The inferno I made for myself”), the song remains flawless from start to finish, flowing to a gentle ending full of melancholy bursting from both Mida’s and Mohammadreza’s voices.

As aforementioned, I don’t know for sure how dangerous it is for a band like Heterochrome to craft their music in Iran, but it seems that they’re more than ready to take all possible risks in the name of Heavy Metal. With that said, we should all show our utmost support to those Iranian metallers (and to their freedom of speech) by liking their Facebook page, listening to their music on YouTube or on Spotify, and especially by purchasing Melancholia on BandCamp, iTunes, Amazon or CD Baby, always hoping that they succeed in their arduous journey and that they keep delivering good metal music to our ears, therefore inspiring others in Iran to do the same.

Best moments of the album: Hang and Inferno.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Cage 3:36
2. Hang 3:59
3. Regret 4:54
4. Purgatory 5:55
5. Paradise 3:55
6. Inferno 7:53

Band members
Mida – vocals
Mohammadreza Rezaei – guitars, backing vocals
Khashayar Oveisi – guitars
Armin Afzali – bass
Mohammad Mirboland – drums

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Album Review – Within Temptation / Hydra (2014)

As the name of the album says,  Within Temptation show all their “heads” with an interesting mix of Symphonic Metal, Pop, Rock, Rap and other musical variations.

Rating4

CoverLess symphonic, but a lot more eclectic: that’s a good definition for Hydra, the brand new studio album by the Dutch Symphonic Metal band Within Temptation, with so many special guests that it makes me wonder if they asked Pitbull or J-Lo for some tips on how to sell more albums. Anyway, 39-year old Dutch princess Sharon and keyboard player Matijn were responsible for almost all songs, all full of different elements from other musical genres, and it’s even hard to keep calling what the band does as Symphonic Metal after listening to it.

I’m not sure if the diehard fans of the band will enjoy it due to all the new stuff added to the music, but one thing I have no doubt about: the professionalism and talent of all members of the band. Hydra doesn’t have a single moment where it sounds amateur, showing how much the band cares about the final result of their material, and that becomes 100% clear with the opening track, Let Us Burn, an awesome start with its symphonic atmosphere, excellent keyboards and chorus, and Sharon’s voice as beautiful and potent as ever.

The next track, Dangerous, has an interesting duo on vocals with Howard Jones (ex-Killswitch Engage) together with Sharon and a more Heavy Metal approach, while And We Run, despite following a similar formula with rapper Xzibit on vocals, sounds too pop for me, but might be interesting for part of the fans. The next song is also the best track of the album undoubtedly: Paradise (What About Us?), featuring the one and only goddess Tarja Turunen with her unique perfect voice, has some great guitar solos and was born to become an instant hit. Not only that, this amazing song also has a music video made for our pure delight, with a “green” message against technology and, of course, all the beauty of Tarja and Sharon together.

Hydra continues with the semi-acoustic Edge Of The World, a beautiful song where Sharon shows a smoother side of her voice, and Silver Moonlight, another strong moment of the album with a very enjoyable pace and with the keyboards giving it all that special atmosphere. The next song, Covered By Roses, lacks creativity and it’s one of the albums weakest tracks (despite Sharon’s performance being beautiful again), followed by another nice song, Dog Days. The regular version of Hydra ends with the good song Tell Me Why with its strong chorus and keyboards, and Whole World Is Watching, featuring Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum), a nice ballad but nothing special if compared to the other songs of the album.

Within-Temptation-2014However, if you acquire the digital premium or the deluxe album box version of Hydra, the total running time of the album goes up to over 90 minutes of music with all the bonus tracks. There’s a bunch of cover songs and alternate versions, including the music video for Paradise (What About Us?), but the best one by far is their version for the song Radioactive, from the American alternative rock band Imagine Dragons. This version is way better than the original (which by the way is not bad), and the same can be said about Summertime Sadness, from Lana Del Rey, and Dirty Dancer, from Enrique Iglesias.

The album art is simple but very effective, representing well the Hydra and what the band is delivering with the album. Regarding the musicians, as I previously mentioned, they’re all very professional and know what to do with their instruments, but it’s impossible not to get addicted to Sharon’s voice and “forget” the instrumental parts sometimes. And yes, she will be the “Metal Chick of the Month” one day for sure.

To sum up, Hydra might not be a wonderful album, but it’s pretty consistent and a good choice for the road, the gym or anytime you don’t want to get too heavy. Don’t worry, Within Temptation is still Symphonic Metal, and it’s totally entertaining to see how they were able to add so much unusual stuff to their music without losing their identity. Maybe Hydra will grant them the so desired ticket to stardom, who knows?

Best moments of the album: Let Us Burn, Paradise (What About Us?) and Silver Moonlight. Among the cover songs/bonus tracks, I would say Radioactive is the best one by far.

Worst moments of the album: Covered By Roses and Whole World Is Watching.

Released in 2014 Nuclear Blast/Universal Music

Track listing
1. Let Us Burn 5:31
2. Dangerous (feat. Howard Jones) 4:52
3. And We Run (feat. Xzibit) 3:50
4. Paradise (What About Us?) (feat. Tarja Turunen) 5:22
5. Edge Of The World 4:55
6. Silver Moonlight 5:17
7. Covered By Roses 4:48
8. Dog Days 4:47
9. Tell Me Why 6:12
10. Whole World Is Watching (feat. Dave Pirner) 4:03

Digital Premium/Deluxe Album Box bonus tracks
11. Radioactive (Imagine Dragons cover) 3:15
12. Summertime Sadness (Lana Del Rey cover) 4:07
13. Let Her Go (Passenger cover) 3:44
14. Dirty Dancer (Enrique Iglesias cover) 4:15
15. And We Run (evolution track) 5:41
16. Silver Moonlight (evolution track) 6:05
17. Covered By Roses (evolution track) 4:43
18. Tell Me Why (evolution track) 5:00
19. Paradise (What About Us?) (feat. Tarja Turunen) music video – iTunes Premium Version 5:51

Band members
Sharon den Adel – vocals
Robert Westerholt – guitars, vocals on “Silver Moonlight” and “Tell Me Why”
Ruud Jolie – guitars
Martijn Spierenburg – keyboards
Jeroen van Veen – bass guitar
Mike Coolen – drums
Stefan Helleblad – additional guitars

Guest musicians
Howard Jones – vocals on “Dangerous”
Xzibit – vocals on “And We Run”
Tarja Turunen – vocals on “Paradise (What About Us?)”
David Pirner – vocals on “Whole World Is Watching”