Album Review – Stratovarius / Episode (1996)

The best album from the best Finnish band of all time.

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stratovarius_episodeOi maamme, Suomi, synnyinmaa, soi, sana kultainen! Finland is by far one of the most Heavy Metal countries in the world, and I’m not inventing this information from out of nowhere: take a look at this map showing the number of Heavy Metal bands per 100,000 people and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Nightwish, Lordi, Amorphis, Sonata Arctica, Turisas, Apocalyptica, Teräsbetoni, Finntroll, HIM, Sentenced and Wintersun are just some of the biggest exponents of heavy music in this land that offers its people a lot more than just ice and snow, but none of them have changed the world of heavy music as the Power Metal/Melodic Heavy Metal band Stratovarius.

Since their start in 1984, Stratovarius have released many important albums which revolutionized Heavy Metal with intense and fast riffs, double bass, high-pitched screams and epic songs. Among those releases there was their fifth studio album, Episode, released over 20 years ago, which in my opinion was the most important step in the band’s history in terms of creativity and evolution. With the awesome Timo Kotipelto on vocals for the second time after the good album Fourth Dimension (and fortunately until present days), and the addition of the beasts Jens Johansson on keyboards and Jörg Michael on drums, Stratovarius became a synonym for Melodic Heavy Metal in the 90’s and influenced an infinite number of bands all around the world. That was the band’s most stable and powerful lineup of all time, until Timo Tolkki left the band in 2008.

The music in Episode is pretty straight forward, it’s fast and clean Heavy Metal with total synchronicity of instruments, together with lyrics talking about life, love, dreams, and all the struggles a man has inside his mind. Add to that the beautiful atmosphere created by the Sibelius String Orchestra and Sibelius Choir, and you have a musical masterpiece. The clock ticking in the beginning of the album just announces that what comes next is no less than memorable: Father Time is an incredible song that summarizes all the power and technique of the band’s members, especially Timo Tolkki and Jörg Michael. What those guys do with their instruments is beyond awesome, and seeing this song live is like having a musical orgasm. Furthermore, Tolkki’s riffs are a constant in the whole album and one of the elements that make it so special for all Heavy Metal fans.

The speed goes on with Will the Sun Rise, another classic showing how perfect the partnership Tolkki/Kotipelto used to be. Then things slow down a little with the beautiful Eternity, but after the instrumental intro Episode comes one of their fastest and most amazing compositions ever: Speed of Light can make even a Thrash Metal band jealous of its speed and riffs, and as Canadians love a mosh pit I can’t wait for a Stratovarius concert here in Toronto to slam into the pit with this song. On the other hand, Uncertainty is quite boring and the lowest point of the album, despite its nice intro.

stratovarius_1995The next track is another good ballad, Season of Change, where Kotipelto once again demonstrates why he’s a reference in Melodic Heavy Metal, followed by the instrumental song Stratosphere, where we can see an inspired Timo Tolkki and a crazy Jens Johansson “masturbating” their guitar and keyboards respectively for our pure delight. Babylon can be considered an “epic” song due to its lyrics, strong intro and variations, while Tomorrow brings back the band at full speed with its inspiring lyrics (“Feeling strong and brave inside / my head up high with pride / yes I’ll be back tomorrow”) and Jörg Michael pounding his drums with his unique technique.

Finally, we have the song Night Time Eclipse, a nice semi-ballad with pleasant riffs and solos, and then a ballad so beautiful I can’t even find the right words to describe it, Forever, where Timo Kotipelto melts the heart of any woman with his performance (“I’m still there everywhere / I’m the dust in the wind / I’m the star in the northern sky / I never stayed anywhere / I’m the wind in the trees / would you wait for me forever?”). The Japanese version of Episode also contains a good bonus track called When the Night Meets the Day, another nice song, albeit not as wonderful as the regular tracks.

If you don’t know Stratovarius, I would say Episode is probably the best album to start. The only “issue” would be the side effects of listening to this musical wonder, which are an extreme addiction to Finnish Heavy Metal and a compulsive obsession with the language, culture, drinks and people from the marvelous land of ice and snow.

Best moments of the album: Father Time, Speed of Light and Forever.

Worst moments of the album: Uncertainty is the only “weak” track of all, or let’s say the least awesome.

Released in 1996 Noise Records

Track listing
1. Father Time 5:01
2. Will the Sun Rise? 5:06
3. Eternity 6:55
4. Episode (instrumental) 2:01
5. Speed of Light 3:03
6. Uncertainty 5:59
7. Season of Change 6:56
8. Stratosphere (instrumental) 4:51
9. Babylon 7:09
10. Tomorrow 4:51
11. Night Time Eclipse 7:58
12. Forever 3:06

Japanese edition bonus track
13. When the Night Meets the Day 5:30

Band members
Timo Kotipelto – vocals
Timo Tolkki – guitars, backing vocals
Jens Johansson – keyboards
Jari Kainulainen – bass
Jörg Michael – drums

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Album Review – Behind the Shadows / Demons (2017)

Offering fans of heavy music an amalgamation of diverse metal genres and subgenres, this very interesting project hailing from Greece is ready to rumble with their brand new full-length album.

Here’s a very interesting project hailing from the always prolific city of Alexandroúpoli, the capital of the Evros regional unit in East Macedonia and Thrace, in Greece, offering fans of heavy music a unique amalgamation of diverse metal genres and subgenres to the point each one of their songs sound very distinct when compared to their other creations. I’m talking about Symphonic/Power Metal act Behind the Shadows, who started as Mind Mirror in the year of 1997, but who since 2008 has been blasting metal music under their new name for admirers of both heavier sounds and more melodic lines, as you’ll be able to see in their brand new album, titled Demons.

Comprised of Gian, the band’s mastermind who takes care of guitars and bass, and Pasxalis Nikiphoridis on vocals and on lead and rhythm guitars, Behind the Shadows had some fantastic support from several musicians from the Greek scene to bring Demons into being. For instance, the album features guest vocalists Zion (Crossover, Hocus) and Christos Kaliatsas, and guest guitarists Dimitris Haidemenos (Lost in Neverland), Stratos Vrachiolias (Defision), Sotiris Pavlidis (Bacchanalia) and Kyriakos Mpouloumpasis, all providing their personal share of electricity and feeling to the music found in the album. As aforementioned, the final result in Demons is really good, with the music being cohesive, diverse and, above all, as metal as it can be.

And their heavy and epic symphony begins in full force in the opening track, the excellent Become The Apocalypse, where the dynamic duo Gian and Pasxalis do a great job with their potent vocals and riffs, specially during the song’s catchy chorus, not to mention the series of kick-ass solos by guest guitarists Dimitris, Stratos and Kyriakos. Coma To Hell, also featuring Kyriakos on lead guitar, presents a darker and more lancinating vibe, sounding like the early days of Metallica and Megadeth with a Death Metal twist, with the band relying on the song’s brutal drumming as their heavy artillery, therefore enhancing the impact of this hellish creation considerably; while in the vicious Power Metal hymn Piece Of Shadows, Gian and Pasxalis keep blasting pure metal from their guitars, with the harsh growls bringing more obscurity to the overall result. Moreover, pay good attention to the traditional Heavy Metal guitar duo the likes of Iron Maiden during the whole song as the icing on the cake. And featuring guest musician Zion on vocals adding an extra touch of “thrashiness” to the music with his hardcore attitude, The Beast Rises From The East brings to the listener a vibrant and heavy-as-hell sonority, with both Gian and Pasxalis delivering slashing riffs and bass lines nonstop.

Zombie Flesh Eaters, featuring Christos on vocals, is another kick-ass hybrid of Power Metal and more extreme forms of music such as Death Metal, sounding visceral from start to finish with some electrifying guitar lines by Gian and Pasxalis, keeping the momentum going for the title-track Demons, where cavernous growls bring ferocity to the music while the guitars bring melody and balance to the final result, feeling quite epic at times, not to mention the awesome contribution by Stratos and Sotiris on lead guitar. Then elements from Thrash Metal and Hardcore can be seen in the fast-paced tune Necrophilia, a devastating tune perfect for their live performances with a frantic flow, followed by Holy Lie, perhaps the song with the highest amount of extreme elements from Death and Black Metal, in special it’s demonic drumming and deep growling. Furthermore, their work on guitars is simply superb in this dark and melodic chant.

Crucified For The Innocences keeps the album’s quality at a good level through its flammable riffs, hellish growls and piercing rhythm, with once again the guitar solos stealing the spotlight so thrilling they sound. Moreover, there’s not even a single second of peace during the whole song, which is always a good thing in metal. Sweet Darkness, the second to last track in Demons, definitely lives up to its name, with its eerie intro morphing into a tempest of heaviness and aggressiveness led by its gruesome growls, culminating in an amazing Extreme Metal extravaganza; and lastly, Nightmare is as vile and demonic as its predecessors albeit not as creative, falling flat after a while but nothing that could truly harm the overall quality of the album.

In summary, it doesn’t really matter if you’re a fan of traditional Heavy Metal, dark and piercing Black Metal, modern Death Metal or Symphonic Metal, as Behind the Shadows will always have good music to offer you from their metallic arsenal. You can take a very detailed listen at their music at their BandCamp page, where by the way you can purchase Demons, as well as on ReverbNation, and continue to support bands like Behind the Shadows to keep underground Greek metal (and of course metal in general) alive and on fire.

Best moments of the album: Become The Apocalypse, Piece Of Shadows, Demons and Sweet Darkness.

Worst moments of the album: Nightmare.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Become The Apocalypse 5:18
2. Coma To Hell 4:34
3. Piece Of Shadows 4:51
4. The Beast Rises From The East 6:51
5. Zombie Flesh Eaters 4:13
6. Demons 4:54
7. Necrophilia 4:09
8. Holy Lie 4:29
9. Crucified For The Innocences 5:22
10. Sweet Darkness 3:48
11. Nightmare 4:04

Band members
Gian – rhythm guitars, bass
Pasxalis Nikiphoridis – lead & rhythm guitars, vocals

Guest musicians
Dimitris Haidemenos – lead guitar on “Become The Apocalypse”
Christos Kaliatsas – vocals on “Zombie Flesh Eaters”
Stratos Vrachiolias – lead guitar on “Become The Apocalypse” and “Demons”
Sotiris Pavlidis – lead guitar on “Zombie Flesh Eaters”
Kyriakos Mpouloumpasis – lead guitar on “Become The Apocalypse” and “Coma To Hell”
Zion – vocals on “The Beast Rises From The East”

The Headbanging Moose Show – Thursdays @ 20:00 UTC exclusively at Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio

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Attention, metalheads!

It’s time to rumble with THE HEADBANGING MOOSE SHOW every Thursday @ 20:00 UTC (with a reprise on Saturdays @ 19:00 UTC) exclusively at Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio, your London-based web radio blasting the best of heavy music nonstop 24/7!

Presented by Gustavo Scuderi, The Headbanging Moose Show will bring to you the cream of underground metal music, giving you a short and sweet background on every band played on the show. No silly jokes, no shenanigans… THIS IS PURE F****N’ METAL!

So remember, EVERY THURSDAY @ 20:00 UTC (with a reprise on Saturdays @ 19:00 UTC) tune into Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio to enjoy one hour of kick-ass underground metal from all over the world, courtesy of The Headbanging Moose!

Here are all the options where can blow your speakers with Midnight Madness:

Official website
Facebook
Twitter
Online Radio Box
Tunein
Streema
Listen2MyRadio
Radio Garden
Streamitter.com

Don’t forget to follow The Headbanging Moose on Facebook to know beforehand which bands will be played on the show every week.

And if you want to have your new album reviewed at The Headbanging Moose AND played at Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio, simply get in touch with us through our CONTACT US page.

Album Review – Bellator / I EP (2017)

In a bold and trenchant move, three dauntless ligériens decided to save humanity from boredom with their exciting and raw mix of Power and Thrash Metal.

As the end of 2012 was drawing near, the fear that the world was coming to an inexorable and grievous finale started to grow stronger in the hearts of men. However, three dauntless ligériens (Aymeric “Tørick” Plaëtevoet on vocals and guitars, Simon “Nomis” Bonnet on bass and backing vocals, and Thibault “Wilk” Roger on drums) decided to save humanity from utter boredom by forming together a new band named Bellator (which means “warrior” in Latin, just like the famous MMA promotion company), delivering an exciting, raw mix of Power and Thrash Metal recommended for fans of bands like Metallica, Grip Inc., Megadeth and Sepultura.

Hailing from Angers, a city located in Pays de la Loire in western France, about 300 km southwest of Paris, Bellator aim at hitting us hard with the aggressiveness of the music found in their brand new EP titled I, comprised of six straightforward metallic compositions with no shenanigans or artificial elements. Having already conquered several different territories in France such as Nantes, Angers and Rennes with their music, Bellator want to expand their kingdom even more with the release of I, with circle pits and walls of death being mere formalities for these metal warriors.

The initial guitar lines by Tørick in the opening track, Fromlor Agard, already show the listener what Bellator are all about, and when he starts screaming the song’s lyrics accompanied by the metallic bass by Nomis (who also provides some sick backing vocals throughout the entire EP), the music gets even more vibrant and potent. Thrashier and therefore more violent, Petit Orc sounds like a hybrid of Megadeth, Down and Body Count, blending several elements from Thrash, Groove and Speed Metal, with highlights to the amazing job done by Tørick on both vocals and guitar while Wilk maintains the song at a great speed with his precise beats; followed by Padnom, where Nomis increases the heaviness of his bass lines, adding tons of punch to the musicality. After listening to this old school Thrash Metal chant with belligerent vocals and a headbanging rhythm, I believe you will be able to notice they sing all their songs in their mother tongue French, which ends up working extremely well for their music style.

Closer to traditional Power Metal with hints of Thrash and Death Metal, Epic is an instrumental extravaganza showcasing blazing riffs and solos by Tørick and groovy beats by Wilk, with its second half being an ode to Speed Metal the likes of Megadeth. Then we have the song that carries the name of the band, Bellator, an awesome depiction of their core essence displaying enraged growls, fiery guitars and crushing beats, with Tørick inviting us to bang our heads and scream the name of the band manically together with him. And Blood Eagle, the last track of the EP, keeps bursting the band’s trademark aggression, with Tørick and Nomis making an awesome stringed duo (not to mention the bestial deep growls by Tørick), leaning towards modern Groove Metal.

After such solid debut, all metalheads will surely be looking forward for more of Bellator’s antagonistic music in the form of a new EP or, even better, a full-length album. While we wait for their next stride, let’s keep updated with all things Bellator through their Facebook page, YouTube channel, SoundCloud and ReverbNation, and buy a copy of their new EP at their BandCamp page, at the M.U.S.I.C. Records’ webshop or on iTunes. They might not be able to actually save the entire human race only with their music due to the endless amount of shit going on in the world right now, but I’m sure that at least they’ll be able to provide a lot of fun to metalheads worldwide with their high-octane unswerving compositions.

Best moments of the album: Petit Orc and Bellator.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 M.U.S.I.C. Records

Track listing
1. Fromlor Agard 5:33
2. Petit Orc 4:22
3. Padnom 5:38
4. Epic 4:42
5. Bellator 4:07
6. Blood Eagle 4:53

Band members
Tørick – lead vocals, guitars
Nomis – bass, backing vocals
Wilk – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Caterina Nix

Wake up, this is my dream… Just let me sleep… In my loneliness, high above of me I fly.

The Republic of Chile might be known worldwide for its astounding attractions such as the arid Atacama Desert, the ski resort of Valle Nevado and the beach resort of Viña del Mar, as well as the country’s rich culture which has already provided the world the beautiful poetry of Pablo Neruda, for example. However, it’s time for the world to also know more about one of the most talented Chilean singers in heavy music, the gorgeous Caterina Nix, born Caterina Torrealba in Santiago, Chile and also known as Cati Torrealba, a solo artist better known for her partnership with the iconic Finnish guitarist Timo Tolkki in the Power Metal projects Chaos Magic and Timo Tolkki’s Avalon.

Caterina’s interest in singing and in music started at an early stage of her life, when she joined several rock bands during her adolescence at school and in the choir, discovering Heavy Metal during that period and falling in love for it. She started listening to classic bands such as Metallica, Pantera and Iron Maiden as a kid, expanding her metallic horizons a little more with bands like Tool and Fear Factory, before getting completely in love with female-fronted groups such as Lacuna Coil, Nightwish and After Forever. With metal and rock flowing through her veins, Caterina was always motivating her friends at school to play rock tunes when they were around 12 years old, which years later led to the creation of her first band, named Aghonya. In addition to that, our metal diva has a soprano vocal range and has received both classical and pop singing training, showcasing her versatility in music. Well, she mentioned in one of her interviews that her biggest idols in music are the unparalleled Freddy Mercury and Bruce Dickinson, and that singing along with them is like being in a master class, learning a lot by playing their music and imitating them. That alone says it all, don’t you think?

As aforementioned, Caterina’s first professional endeavor in the world of heavy music was with Chilean Gothic Metal band Aghonya, with whom she recorded a demo in 2006 and the full-length album Oxygen, in 2008, which she wrote all lyrics and vocal lines. Although the record was released independently, the band and Caterina garnered critical acclaim, leading the band to open for renowned acts like After Forever, Edguy and Within Temptation. In addition, Caterina believes that, as Aghonya started as a cover band for Nightwish, that helped shape her style to become the singer she is today, which you can see in songs such as Lead Me Into You (also check this nice live version at an extremely cheesy TV show from Chile called Sin Dios Ni Late) and the title-track Oxygen. Unfortunately, as it happens with several bands worldwide, Aghonya came to an end sometime in 2010, when each band member took a different path in life. The band’s drummer, Javier Guzman, moved to Australia; bassist Sergio Silva and guitarist Sebastián Coulon both got other jobs; and keyboardist Andres Cruz moved to a small town in the north of Chile.

Although it was only in 2015 when Caterina and Timo Tolkki joined forces to form Finnish/Chilean Symphonic Power Metal band Chaos Magic (together with Finnish drummer Jami Huovinen), our metal diva had already met Timo many years before that at a meet-and-greet at a Stratovarius concert in Chile, and they kept in touch after that. Years later, she sent Timo her material and they started to think about recording music together, which ended up happening when Frontiers Records came up with the idea of having a female vocalist to have a solo project written and produced by Timo, who opted for Caterina among three names, culminating with the release of their self-titled album Chaos Magic in 2015. The name Chaos Magic was chosen by Caterina herself, aiming at portraying our positivity and spirituality towards the universe, with each one of us being just one piece of energy altogether. You can feel the energy proposed by Caterina and all her passion for Melodic Metal in the classy tunes One Drop of Blood and A Little Too Late, as well as in the official video for I’m Alive (which you can see at the end of this tribute to Caterina). However, when asked about her favorite tracks of the album, she said she has a special place in her heart for Seraphim and Passionflow, as both are sexy and put a woman in a position of power, making her dive into the femme fatale character and sing from a powerful point of view.

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Our Chilean bombshell can also be seen in different bands and projects as a guest vocalist, including  Finnish Symphonic Power Metal project Timo Tolkki’s Avalon (yes, her partnership with Timo started before Chaos Magic was born), where she sang in two songs from their 2014 album Angels of the Apocalypse together with Simone Simons (Epica), Elize Ryd (Amaranth) and Floor Jansen (Nightwish), those being High Above Of Me and Angels of the Apocalypse. You can also enjoy her sweet vocals in the gentle ballad Believe In Me, from the 2015 album Post-Apocalyptic, by Croatian Heavy/Power Metal act Undercode, as well as in the song Lost Innocence, from the 2016 album The March of the Fallen by Chilean Power Metal band Triboulet. In addition to that, Caterina is also part of Vivaldi Metal Project (you can see a short clip of our diva introducing herself to the fans of the project HERE), and has been working hard as a solo artist, consistently performing live in several venues and cities. For instance, she had the chance to open for Nightwish in her hometown Santiago in October 2015, being chosen by the production of the show among hundreds of applicants. As a few excellent samples of what Caternia has been doing for metal music in her career, you can see her singing together with members from the bands from Delta, Resilience and Witchblade in a cover version for Dio’s all-time classic Rainbow in the Dark during The Metal Tour 2016 in Chile; delivering a passionate performance of Queen’s No One But You together with Ronnie Romero (Lords of Black, Rainbow); presenting an acoustic version of a new song called I’d Give it All; showing her heavier and groovier side in the excellent Throw Me To The Wolves; and kicking some serious ass at Chile Rock Festival 2016.

Furthermore, Caterina has a law degree and currently works as an attorney specializing in liability cases. She mentioned in one of her interviews it’s tough to earn a living as a musician in Chile, although she always wanted to be an opera singer (which her parents were against). She went to college, got her degree and works as an attorney (for a loss adjustment company specializing in liability) for the money, but her true passion is music. I guess that’s not too different from many of us, don’t you agree? Caterina mentioned that, if she could dedicate herself to music 24/7 that would be a dream come true, but that’s unfortunately not the reality for her, at least not yet. Furthermore, our Chilean diva said being an attorney somehow helps her being more aware if someone is not being honest with you or if someone is trying to do shady things behind your back, but also that so far nothing bad has happened and her record label has treated her with the utmost respect and transparency.

In regards to her favorite places in the world, Caterina said she had a blast visiting cities like Florence and Venice, in Italy, and the Sedlec Ossuary, the church made of human bones located in Kutná Hora, in the Czech Republic, not to mention an amazing AC/DC concert she had a chance to attend in Paris after many years waiting for a chance to see the most important Hard Rock band of all time. She’s also an animal and nature lover, being the proud owner of cats, a turtle and some birds, going outside to connect with nature when searching for inspiration, staring at the sky and having that instance of being alone with nature. Those seem to be very basic things, but Caterina consider herself a very simple person who loves singing and creating music, being in love and being loved, spending time with her family and with her pets, working out, eating different types of food and, obviously, shopping.

Her taste for music couldn’t be better, as she enjoys listening to several types of rock and metal music such as Tool and In this Moment, her youth classics Korn, Pantera, Black Label Society and Fear Factory, and of course female-fronted bands like Lacuna Coil, Amaranthe and Nightwish. When asked about the metal scene in her homeland, she said everyone knows how Chileans are completely passionate about Heavy Metal, with fans smashing each other to see their biggest idols playing live. However, when it comes to the local metal scene, Caterina said Chile is very different from Europe, for example, with local bands lacking the necessary resources to be known or listened to, with things slightly improving nowadays with the use of several online tools. It’s a case similar to her own, where you have to do music in Chile because you love it, not because of the money. Well, Caterina, your passion for heavy music is truly inspiring, and we’re sure it will encourage numerous bands and musicians, including talented women like you, to keep the fire of metal music burning bright in your charming “Land of Poets”.

Caterina Nix’s Official Facebook page
Caterina Nix’s Official YouTube channel
Caterina Nix’s Official Instagram

“I’ll do my best to bring people beautiful strong music and I’ll keep on screaming that no one should ever give up on their dreams. We all deserve a chance. We all deserve to give ourselves that chance.” – Caterina Nix

Album Review – Striker / Striker (2017)

Canadian Heavy Metal has never been more vibrant and rapturous than today, thanks to the brand new rip-roaring album by one of the biggest names in heavy music hailing from the Great White North.

In case you’ve never heard of Canadian Heavy/Power Metal act Striker, there couldn’t be a better moment to get to know such distinct band and their classic mix of Heavy Metal, Hard Rock and 80’s Hair Metal. This Edmonton-based quartet, which was formed in 2007 and has toured across dozens of countries as headliners as well as support for major metal acts in their rising career, are unleashing their fifth studio album, self-titled Striker, a kick-ass follow-up to their two previous albums Stand In The Fire (2016) and City of Gold (2014), perfect for fans of the unparalleled music by Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motley Crüe, as well as Swedish metallers Enforcer and Steelwing. After listening to this flammable metal album, I’m sure Striker will feature among your favorite bands of the past decade.

Featuring a neat, straightforward artwork by Rizky Putranto (Rish XXV), Striker is an ode to traditional metal, with no new elements or any type of shenanigans added to it, just plain good old heavy music. “This is our no bullshit album. We cut out everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary and kept everything short and to the point. We pray at the altar of heavy metal everyday, and there are some musical ideas that persist through time and some that don’t. We focused in on what keeps listeners coming back and got rid of everything else. You can’t climb Mount Everest dragging any useless shit with you; if you want to make it to the top, only bring with you what is absolutely necessary: Lethal Amounts of Shred”, said the band about their new album, and based on these words you can get a very good sense of what you’ll find in Striker.

Guitarist Tim Brown doesn’t waste time and starts firing electrifying Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll riffs and solos from the very first second in Former Glory, a song about enjoying life and being the best person you can, where frontman Dan Cleary keeps up with the greatest vocalists in Hard Rock delivering sheer awesomeness through his melodious voice. Sounding like a hard rockin’ version of Anthrax, in special due to its cutting riffs and demented vocals, Pass Me By presents a kick-ass fusion of Heavy Metal with old school Thrash Metal, with drummer Adam Brown pounding his drums mercilessly, therefore adding more stamina and heaviness to the overall musicality. And the first single of the album, Born To Lose, is in my humble opinion a newborn Hard Rock hymn, bringing all elements that make heavy music so thrilling, such as the metallic guitar lines by Tim, which  together with the rumbling bass by William Wallace (not the Scottish warrior) take the song’s impact to a whole new level.  Add to that already fantastic formula the song’s catchy chorus and a high dosage of adrenaline, and there you have not only the best song of the album, but also one of Striker’s most sensational creations to date.

Cheating Death is a short and atmospheric bridge to the incendiary Shadows In The Light, a dancing tune that lives up to the legacy of old school Hard Rock ignited by the potent bass punches by William, also offering the listener beautiful guitar solos and thrilling beats; followed by Rock The Night, another song by Striker that was born to be a classic. Dan is fantastic on vocals, supported by the song’s powerful backing vocals and the precise instrumental blasted by the rest of the band from start to finish, not to mention its extremely cheesy but entertaining lyrics (“You always seem to be on my mind / I can’t let you go / I can’t let you stay / You always seem to be a mystery to me / I can’t let you go / I can’t let you stay / The more that I think about you / The more that I know what to do / There’s something out there and it’s calling me / To rock the night / You’ve gotta bring them to their knees / There’s something out there and it’s calling me / To rock the night / Yeah you’ve got to make them see / What you can be”).

Over The Top, a fast-paced, potent Power Metal extravaganza where Tim and William are absolutely on fire with their stringed axes, brings forward elements of the traditional Heavy Metal played by Judas Priest and Iron Maiden combined with the Melodic Metal by Stratovarius, and the result is obviously beyond awesome. The same can be said about the second to last track of the album, titled Freedom’s Call, which will pump you up once again with its perfect balance of the heaviness of Power Metal with the harmony of Hard Rock. Needless to say, Dan doesn’t stop impressing with his puissant voice, never getting tired nor sounding uninspired. And the unstoppable Striker fire more of their kick-ass metal music for our total delight in the superb Curse of The Dead, where Adam takes the lead with his frantic beats whereas Tim keeps delivering his amazing riffs. Moreover, guest guitarists Simon Fallon and Adam Grimmelt only make things even more fantastic with their spot-on solos, turning the song into another memorable moment of the album.

In a nutshell, Striker not only have released a mighty Heavy Metal album, but they have also made us at The Headbanging Moose really proud of being Canadian. You can get in touch with Striker and their fiery metal music through their Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud, and in order to put your metallic hands on this first-class album all you need to do is go to the Napalm Records’ webshop to grab the CD or the LP version of it, as well as on CD Baby, on iTunes and on Amazon. If you manage to get the special edition of the album, you’ll also be treated to Striker’s cover version for Ozzy Osbourne’s Desire, from his 1991 classic No More Tears, one of the four songs co-written by the most beloved badass in the word, Lemmy Kilmister (R.I.P.), showing how much the band loves old school heavy music. We’re all born to lose, but if we work hard and have the new rip-roaring album by one of the biggest names in heavy music from the Great White North as the soundtrack to our endeavors, we’ll surely win in life and rock the night.

Best moments of the album: Former Glory, Born To Lose, Rock The Night and Curse of The Dead.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Record Breaking Records

Track listing
1. Former Glory 3:59
2. Pass Me By 3:33
3. Born To Lose 3:58
4. Cheating Death 0:53
5. Shadows In The Light 3:29
6. Rock The Night 4:30
7. Over The Top 4:38
8. Freedom’s Call 4:30
9. Curse of The Dead 3:49

Special Edition bonus track
10. Desire (Ozzy Osbourne cover) 5:27

Band members
Dan Cleary – lead vocals
Tim Brown – lead and rhythm guitar
William Wallace – bass
Adam Brown – drums

Guest musicians
Simon Fallon – guitar solo on “Curse of the Dead”
Adam Grimmelt – outro solos on ““Curse of the Dead”
John Kennedy, Dave Arnold, Chris Segger, Lindsay Robinson, Clayton Parent and Tyler Dory – gang vocals

Album Review – Grave Digger / Healed by Metal (2017)

The iconic Chris Boltendahl and his battalion of metal have the right cure to heal any type of apathy, fatigue or mental stress in our lives, and you know what that is.

Rating4

healed-by-metalIf you’re one of those people suffering from the horrible disease called “boredom”, which makes your life miserable even if there isn’t a good reason for that, it means your heart and soul are dangerously injured and need to be healed as soon as possible by something special, something that will inject a good amount of adrenaline into your body and make you feel electrified. In other words, you need to be Healed by Metal, which by the way is the name if the eighteenth studio album by German Power Metal warriors Grave Digger. It might not be a classic like Tunes of War or Heart of Darkness (as you might have noticed, I always mention these two albums in my reviews of the band), but it’s a very cohesive and fun album that once again proves Grave Digger are far from calling it a day.

With the cover art designed once again by Gyula Havancsák, from Hjules Illustration and Design, Healed by Metal is a feast of traditional Grave Digger, blending the sounding of their early days with more contemporary material and especially with their warlike mode, which is in my humble opinion where the band truly thrives. Also, despite being the first album to feature new keyboardist Marcus Kniep as The Reaper since H.P. Katzenburg’s departure in 2014 after the average Return of the Reaper, that doesn’t impact the music negatively as keyboards are not the main ingredient in Healed by Metal. Quite the contrary, they are actually not very audible throughout the whole album, leaving more space for the band’s piercing guitars and the unmatched growls by the iconic Chris Boltendahl to shine.

grave-digger-2017Grave Digger kick off the album with the old school title-track Healed by Metal, with its lyrics and chorus being as cheesy as they can be (“The blind will see / And the deaf will hear / The dumb will speak / And the lame will walk / We are the law / We are still mesmerized / Leave the fear behind / We save the human kind / We all break out in rage / We’re ready for the stage / We live like a rebel / We’re all sent by the devil / We are… / Healed by metal / We rock / Healed by metal”). While Chris fires his trademark gnarls, the rest of the band keeps the music potent and metallic, with highlights to the mighty bass guitar by Jens Becker. The next tune, When Night Falls, reminds me of the sonority from their classic albums Tunes of War and Excalibur (if you’re a fan of old school German Power Metal, you’ll have a blast listening to this chant), with drummer Stefan Arnold being as precise as usual; whereas Lawbreaker sounds like a tribute to Judas Priest and their all-time classic “Breaking the Law”, displaying even the sound of a roaring Harley-Davidson in the beginning. The keen riffs and solos by the high-skilled Axel Ritt and the song’s rebellious chorus make it a must-listen for fans of our good old Heavy Metal, not to mention its pure metallic lyrics (“Hundred pounds of metal / Steaming through the shattered night / Roaring wheels cry out for battle / Magic stars our guardian light”).

I might be going crazy, but the main riff in the amazing Free Forever sounds a lot like the one from “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’”, also by Judas Priest. Needless to say, it’s the perfect soundtrack for hitting the road, with the crisp and heavy sounds of guitar and bass increasing the song’s impact even more. Call for War brings more classic Grave Digger to your ears, with Chris firing his always pleasant raspy vocals in this great fighting composition, in special due to its uproarious chorus. Put differently, it could have easily been part of one of their previous concept albums about historical battles. Then in Ten Commandments of Metal, a metal hymn reminding us to always stay true to heavy music, we’re treated to a catchy, cheesy and extremely fun chorus (“What do you think who we are / Disciples of satan or something bizarre / For what do you think we fight this battle / We follow the ten commandments of metal”), with the instrumental pieces being classic mid-tempo Power Metal showcasing cutting guitars and steady double bass.

healed-by-metal-canvas-edition

Healed by Metal Canvas Edition

In The Hangman’s Eye, we have more high-octane heavy music courtesy of Chris and his battalion of metal, exhibiting a solid instrumental with a powerful and traditional chorus. This is probably the moment when fans will forget it’s “just” Power Metal and will surely ignite a fun circle pit; while Kill Ritual, albeit not as thrilling as the rest of the album, is still a good composition with highlights to its fun lyrics the always sharp riffs by Axel. And Grave Digger fire another one of their classic songs about religion and holy wars, this time titled Hallelujah, where Axel and Jens aim at lacerating our souls with their strings. Not only this is a great mix of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, but I bet you’ll be singing its chorus without even noticing (not to mention the awesome final solos by Axel). And lastly we have Laughing with the Dead, a creepy, slow-paced somber tune that ends up working well despite its weird chorus. It should be interesting to sing it together with the band during their live performances, in special if you’re drunk, don’t you agree?

In a nutshell, it doesn’t matter how sick you are of our society, you can always be healed by the power of our good old Heavy Metal, and Grave Digger definitely know how to turn the bitter taste of any medication into a high level of entertainment. And if you’re a diehard fan of the band and want to get an extra dosage of their distinct metal music, I suggest you go for the Healed by Metal Canvas Edition, where you’ll also be able to enjoy a couple of very decent bonus tracks, especially the rockin’ tune Bucket List. As aforementioned, Grave Digger are still many years away from coming to an end, always delivering high-end straightforward metal music that will cure any sign of apathy, fatigue or mental stress in our lives, and that’s what we can always expect from Chris and his henchmen.

Best moments of the album: Healed by Metal, Lawbreaker, Free Forever and Ten Commandments of Metal.

Worst moments of the album: Kill Ritual.

Released in 2017 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Healed by Metal 3:45
2. When Night Falls 3:56
3. Lawbreaker 3:07
4. Free Forever 3:23
5. Call for War 3:21
6. Ten Commandments of Metal 3:27
7. The Hangman’s Eye 3:07
8. Kill Ritual 3:43
9. Hallelujah 3:30
10. Laughing with the Dead 5:17

Limited Edition bonus tracks
11. Kingdom of the Night 4:07
12. Bucket List 3:02

Japanese Edition bonus track
13. Brave, Young And Innocent 4:20

Band members
Chris Boltendahl – vocals
Axel Ritt – guitars
Jens Becker – bass
Stefan Arnold – drums
Marcus Kniep – keyboards

Guest musicians
Hacky Hackman, Frank Konrad & Andreas von Lipinski – backing vocals

Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio Promo Hour Of The Day – From Monday To Friday @ 8pm GMT

http://midnight-madness.is-a-rockstar.com/Great news for all of you metalheads!

FROM MONDAY TO FRIDAY @ 8pm GMT, one of our kick-ass partners, Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio, broadcasting directly from London, England, will blast the best of underground metal music reviewed here at The Headbanging Moose during the PROMO HOUR OF THE DAY!

So remember, FROM MONDAY TO FRIDAY @ 8PM GMT tune into Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio to get your daily shot of the cream of the underground metal music crop, from Hard Rock to Black Metal, from Folk Metal to Thrash Metal, from Doom Metal to Metalcore, and so on! You’ll have the unique pleasure of listening to the superb music by bands like Charm Designer, Neverworld, Majesty Of Revival, Nervosa, False Coda, Atonismen, Diabolizer, The Silent Rage, Terrifier, Gaerea, and tons of other amazing metal acts from all over the world!

Here are all the options where can blow your speakers with Midnight Madness:

Official website
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Online Radio Box
Tunein
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And if you want to have your new album reviewed at The Headbanging Moose AND played at Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio, simply get in touch with us through our CONTACT US page.

Album Review – Battle Beast / Bringer Of Pain (2017)

Bringing to our ears and hearts first-class music inspired by the golden years of Heavy Metal, the most electrified metal squad from Finland are ready to storm the world once again with their brand new kick-ass classy album.

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battle-beast_bringer-of-painAfter listening to Bringer Of Pain, the fourth full-length album by Finnish metallers Battle Beast, there are two immediate conclusion that come to my mind. First, that the motto “100 % Heavy Metal – 0 % Bullshit!” couldn’t be more precise to describe the electrified Heavy and Power Metal compositions by this Helsinki-based squad. And second, the entire album feels like it was recorded back in the 80’s or 90’s due to its sensational old school aura, but only released now in 2017. And perhaps paying a tribute to the golden years of heavy music was the original goal of the band with Bringer Of Pain, starting with its impactful name. “The title is more than just a catchy punchline,” bassist Eero Sipilä explains. “’Bring the pain’ as a phrase means ‘giving your best’, stepping up against the odds, something that really sums up the spirit of this band and this album. The fact that the name also brought to mind a certain Judas Priest album definitely didn’t hurt either.”

The album’s classic album art, crafted by the specialist of realistic fantasy art Jan Yrlund (Darkgrove), is the perfect depiction of what Battle Beast have to offer their fans this time. “The cover art is mainly involved with the title track of the album, “Bringer of Pain”, which is obviously about this super evil female character destroying stuff. We brainstormed a little around this topic and then sent some sketches to Jan, who returned with the picture, some mean-looking woman who appears like she’s coming through the box art to kick your ass. And since ‘kicking ass’ is pretty much exactly what this band is about, we considered it a very fitting cover.” In addition to that, the main change from their previous album, the flammable Unholy Savior, is the departure of guitarist and main songwriter Anton Kabanen, but that doesn’t mean the band couldn’t maintain their signature sound alive, with newcomer Joona Björkroth fitting perfectly to everything Battle Beast stands for.

The first track of this rousing album, Straight to the Heart, brings to the listener pure upbeat Heavy Metal from the 80’s with the electrified keyboards by Janne Björkroth and the flawless vocals by the fiery metal goddess Noora Louhimo turning it into an instant classic. Put differently, it’s that type of metal music that will put you to dance right away while you scream its chorus from the top of your lungs together with Noora. Albeit the name of the album and its cover art bring the unbeatable Painkiller to our minds, the title-track Bringer of Pain actually reminds me of another high-octane classic by the almighty Judas Priest, “Freewheel Burning”, which obviously means it’s beyond awesome. Furthermore, the frantic performances by Pyry Vikki on drums and both Juuso Soinio and Joona with their blazing guitar riffs and solos, together with the song’s epic background vibe, turn it into the best of all tracks in my humble opinion. Whereas the first single of the album, King for a Day, unites classic Heavy Metal with old school Hard Rock, feeling at times like a modern metallic version of Survivor’s hit “Eye of the Tiger” with another blast of the sensational keyboards by Janne, not to mention its catchy chorus, which will certainly stick inside your mind for a long time (“King for a day / He kills the truth and looks away / King for a day / Lives like the world would end today / King for a day / What do you hide, why do you lie? / Who made the rules for this game? / Who is paying your champagne? / All the mercy in the world / Cannot save you anymore / King for a day”).

battle-beast-2017In Beyond the Burning Skies, Battle Beast deliver a beautiful and inspiring musicality, with Noora stealing the spotlight with her powerful and precise vocal lines while the rest of the band maintains a high level of energy flowing from their instruments. Needless to say, listening to this classy chant will make your day better for sure. Then we have Familiar Hell, a song about our inexplicable fear of change and how change can actually bring happiness and joy to our lives, with Janne and bassist Eero Sipilä keeping the adrenaline running from start to finish (if this song had been written in the 80’s, it would have definitely been a top-chart hit); followed by Lost in Wars, a mid-tempo composition showcasing an epic atmosphere with Noora and guest vocalist Tomi Joutsen sounding like the beauty and the beast, boosted by the song’s heavy riffs and thunderous keyboards. And Bastard Son of Odin might have the cheesiest song name, lyrics and rhythm of all, but that ends up working really well as Battle Beast are masters in crafting this type of music. In a nutshell, their “Viking mode” sounds absolutely great, especially the raspy screams by Noora and the galloping bass and drums à la Iron Maiden by Eero and Pyry, respectively.

We Will Fight, an potent Power Metal hymn tailored for singing along with the band while holding your fists in the air, is another mid-tempo tune that enhances Noora’s vocals through its mystical aura and steady beats, while Dancing with the Beast is a very good surprise amidst so many heavy tunes. The first time I saw the song’s name, I honestly thought it would be more ferocious like any song with the word “beast” in it. However, it’s a smooth 80’s Hard Rock ballad with very gentle instrumental pieces, with the sexy voice by Noora leading its pleasant sonority. On the other hand, Far from Heaven is just a below average song that’s way too mellow, sounding like a lame ballad from any of those generic “top 40” artists, which obviously means it’s the worst of all songs hands down. It’s well-played and very melodic indeed, but it lacks punch and electricity. anyway, if you go for the digipack edition of Bringer Of Pain (which can be purchased HERE), you’ll be treated to three amazing bonus tracks, all displaying the band’s trademark high-voltage Power Metal, with Rock Trash being by far the most awesome of them. This is a superb metal hymn that should have been part of the regular version of the album, perhaps its closing tune instead of that boring ballad.

We can never get tired of the indomitable Battle Beast, right? That’s why the band is always willing to share more of their music and their lives with us, which in the case of Bringer Of Pain comes in the form of three entertaining official track-by-track videos from the band that can be seen HERE, HERE and HERE. And Valentine’s Day might be dead and gone this year, but I’m sure if you give your significant other the “Bringer Of Pain special bundle” (for guys or for girls), his or her love for you will only grow stronger than metal. Or you can go to the official Nuclear Blast webstore and choose your favorite option from several versions available. Battle Beast are more than ready to storm the world once again with Bringer Of Pain, bringing to our ears and hearts another shot of their first-class heavy music, and we should be more than thankful for that, as well as for the band not giving us any sign at all of slowing down or giving up metal. Quite the contrary, it seems that their battle will rage on for many years to come.

Best moments of the album: Straight to the Heart, Bringer of Pain, Beyond the Burning Skies, Bastard Son of Odin and Rock Trash.

Worst moments of the album: Far from Heaven.

Released in 2017 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Straight to the Heart 3:31
2. Bringer of Pain 3:04
3. King for a Day 4:33
4. Beyond the Burning Skies 4:39
5. Familiar Hell 4:04
6. Lost in Wars (feat. Tomi Joutsen) 4:34
7. Bastard Son of Odin 3:34
8. We Will Fight 3:26
9. Dancing with the Beast 3:42
10. Far from Heaven 4:20

Limited Edition Digipack bonus tracks
11. God of War 3:56
12. The Eclipse 4:30
13. Rock Trash 3:13

Band members
Noora Louhimo – lead vocals
Juuso Soinio – guitar
Joona Björkroth – guitar, backing vocals
Eero Sipilä – bass guitar, backing vocals
Janne Björkroth – keyboards, backing vocals
Pyry Vikki – drums

Guest musician
Tomi Joutsen – male vocals on “Lost in Wars”

Album Review – Avenford / New Beginning (2017)

A lecture in melodic, progressive and vigorous Power Metal by a band that has all it takes to be one of the greatest names in Power Metal within the next few years.

Rating4

avenford-new-beginningFormed in the summer of 2012 by guitarist Peter Szehoffner and lead singer and guitarist Arpie Gamson in Hungary, inspired by the music by Masterplan, Jorn Lande, Yngwie Malmsteen and Iron Maiden, among others, but currently residing in London, England, Power Metal quartet Avenford has been making a name for themselves in the world of heavy music since their inception, delivering first-class Heavy Metal for fans of melodic guitars, fast and rhythmic drums and epic high-pitched vocal lines. After releasing their debut album in 2014, titled Mortal Price, and after beginning to conquer Europe and the rest of the world with their music, it’s time for Avenford to strike us all again with their fresh new album New Beginning.

The list of guest musicians in New Beginning is quite extensive, each one adding their own share of adrenaline to the final result. We have Apollo Papathanasio (Spiritual Beggars, Firewind), Zoltan Marothy (Kiss Forever Band), Roland Grapow (Masterplan, Helloween), Zoltan Kiss (Iron Maidnem), Bodor Mate (Alestorm) and Piotr Sikora (Exlibis) lending their feeling and refined techniques to Avenford, contributing with Peter, Arpie, bassist Tom Longbottom and drummer Jivodar Dimitrov in crafting beautiful and exciting Heavy Metal perfect for hitting the road, for having a good time with your friends, or for simply relaxing and enjoying it by yourself.

The opening track Dead or Alive doesn’t waste a single second and comes ripping in a heavy and melodic way led by the guitars by Arpie and Peter, suddenly turning into a fast-paced metal feast with guest singer Apollo Papathanasio kicking some serious ass on vocals, resulting in Power Metal at its finest; whereas Back in Time is a Symphonic Power Metal composition with a strong focus on its electrified atmosphere and the fierce drumming by Jivodar, also featuring an amazing solo by guest guitarist Zoltán Maróthy. And progressiveness, intricacy and tons of feeling are the main ingredients in the fast-paced chant Assassin, where not only both guitarists are on fire, blasting beautiful riffs and solos, but the rumbling bass lines by Tom are also very effective and add a lot of groove to the music.

avenfordAlbeit slightly slower, Fury Road is still very progressive and heavy, with the one and only Roland Grapow doing what he does best, which is of course delivering awesomeness though his guitar solo, before the short and pleasant instrumental bridge Maze of Visions builds the ambience for the title-track New Beginning, a heavy power-ballad where Arpie has an amazing performance on vocals while the rest of the band sounds extremely cohesive and focused on delivering top-tier Power Metal to the masses. And in Overlord, a futuristic warlike intro explodes into Progressive Power Metal due to the accelerated beats by Jivodar, with both Arpie and Peter making the perfect dynamic duo on guitars. In other words, if you love high-octane Melodic Heavy Metal, this thrilling tune will definitely please your metallic ears.

With guest singer Zoltán Kiss giving a lesson in melodic vocals, Dark Angel presents the perfect combination of guitars and keyboards the likes of Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica, having all it takes to become a classic among fans of the genre. Besides, how not to get excited with the song’s amazing chorus? In Mask, we’re treated to more electricity and passion for heavy music from Avenford, a very traditional sonority led by the potent vocals by Arpie and the unstoppable drums by Jivodar, and featuring a great guitar solo by another guest Máté Bodor; while Return from the Land of Emeralds is the dream of every musician that loves complex and metallic Power Metal. All band members are in perfect sync in this instrumental feast, with Tom and Jivodar crafting the perfect atmosphere for all the song’s inspiring guitar solos. And my favorite track of the album, Unholy Game, featuring the sharp keyboards by guest musician Piotr Sikora, brings elements from old school Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock that truly elevate the song’s electricity to a whole new level. No one can stand still to such amazing tune, with Arpie being absolutely fantastic on vocals.

In a nutshell, New Beginning is a lecture in melodic, progressive and vigorous Power Metal by a band that sounds like veterans of the genre, despite being on the road for less than a decade, and if you’re fond of this always galvanized genre of heavy music I highly recommend you go visit Avenford’s Facebook page and YouTube channel to get more details on this excellent band and their inspiring music. And of course if you want to add New Beginning to your distinct collection of Power Metal albums, you can find it at the Pride & Joy webshop, at Record Shop X, on iTunes or on Amazon. The name of the album might be New Beginning, but what we have is actually a solid continuation to the career of a band that has an immeasurable potential to become one of the greatest names in Power Metal within the next few years.

Best moments of the album: Dead or Alive, New Beginning, Dark Angel and Unholy Game.

Worst moments of the album: Back in Time.

Released in 2017 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Dead or Alive 4:22
2. Back in Time 3:50
3. Assassin 4:30
4. Fury Road 4:32
5. Maze of Visions 1:21
6. New Beginning 7:13
7. Overlord 5:41
8. Dark Angel 3:43
9. Mask 3:56
10. Return from the Land of Emeralds 5:49
11. Unholy Game 3:48

Band members
Arpie Gamson – vocals, guitar
Peter Szehoffner – guitar, backing vocals
Tom Longbottom – bass
Jivodar Dimitrov – drums

Guest musicians
Apollo Papathanasio – vocals on “Dead or Alive”
Zoltán Maróthy – lead guitars on “Back in Time”
Roland Grapow – lead guitars on “Fury Road”
Zoltán Kiss – vocals on “Dark Angel”
Máté Bodor – lead guitars on “Mask”
Piotr Sikora – keyboards on “Unholy Game”