Album Review – Soilwork / Verkligheten (2019)

One of the biggest exponents of the Swedish Melodic Death Metal scene returns in full force with a fresh, groovy and addictive album of first-class heavy music.

Although most people consider Helsingborg-based metal masters Soilwork to play a fusion of Metalcore and Melodic Groove Metal nowadays instead of the Melodic Death Metal we got used to from their early albums, I personally still see them as one of the biggest exponents of the Swedish Melodic Death Metal scene, having influenced (and still inspiring) countless bands worldwide, like for example Trivium. And to prove how relevant and ass-kicking the band is after all these years on the road, frontman Björn “Speed” Strid and his henchmen David Andersson and Sylvain Coudret on the guitars, Sven Karlsson on the keyboards and newcomer Bastian Thusgaard on drums are releasing upon humanity the superb Verkligheten, the eleventh studio album in their undisputed career.

Verkligheten, which by the way is the Swedish word for “reality”, is not only the first Soilwork album to feature Bastian on drums as the replacement of longtime member Dirk Verbeuren (who left the band to join Megadeth a couple of years ago), but it also marks the longest gap between their studio albums to date, with their previous installment, The Ride Majestic, having been released nearly three and a half years earlier. Well, at least the wait was absolutely worth it, because if there’s one word that can be used to describe the music found in Verkligheten is “addictive”. You won’t skip any song from the album, and as soon as it’s over you’ll go back to the first track and listen to everything all over again, which in other words means we’re undoubtedly facing a very strong candidate to be elected one of the best albums of 2019.

The title-track Verkligheten, a Western movie-Tarantino-inspired instrumental intro, flows smoothly and serene, inviting us all to join Soilwork in the realm of Melodic Death Metal with the crushing Arrival, presenting some pulverizing elements from Black Metal added to their core musicality, in special the demonic blast beats by Bastian, all enhanced by its classic lyrics beautifully declaimed by Björn (“The sky reflects in my hands / You took my world ’cause you can / Is it just me or is the light / Oh read me, you dust ridden seer / And prepare for the night”). The album couldn’t have started in a more thrilling and vibrant way, I might say. Moving on with the music, speed and violence are replaced with heaviness and an enfolding melody in the headbanging Bleeder Despoiler, where both David and Sylvain are on absolute fire with their scorching riffs, not to mention how the background keys by Sven and Bastian’s rhythmic drums complement each other flawlessly, and the band keeps blowing our speakers with their very melodic and fierce music in Full Moon Shoals, where once again all instruments are thoroughly connected, resulting in a dense and visceral sound complemented by another shot of their pensive and poetic words (“Anyone would cure it with blindness / There were moments where I thought I could be / A man who’s aching for the hour of closure / Darkness clearly kept on covering my needs / But it’s not what it seems / It’s just an inner endless shriek”).

Blending the most slashing elements from Rock N’ Roll, Melodic Death Metal and even Industrial Metal, Soilwork offer us an amazing composition titled The Nurturing Glance, perfect for banging your head, singing along with the band or simply enjoying Björn’s flawless vocal performance accompanied by the precise beats by Bastian, whereas in When the Universe Spoke  a serene intro explodes into top-notch Melodic Death Metal infused with Metalcore and Groove Metal nuances, with both Björn’s clean vocals and harsh growls being potentialized by the strident riffs by the band’s guitar duo (as well as the insane drumming by Bastian). Futuristic waves ignite what feels like a hybrid between contemporary Arch Enemy and Soilwork entitled Stålfågel (or “steel bird” from Swedish), featuring the stunning Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy as a guest vocalist. Björn and Alissa vigorously kick some serious ass together, while David and Sylvain hypnotize us with their riffs and solos in one of the top songs of the album without a shadow of a doubt, and putting the pedal to the metal this Swedish institution fires more of their razor-edged metal music in The Wolves Are Back in Town, showcasing headbanging beats, extremely melodic and sharp guitar lines, and yet another demolishing performance by Björn, spearheading his skillful horde like the true frontman he is.

Verkligheten Digipak CD Cover

Witan also presents a nice balance between harmonious and aggressive sounds, with Björn focusing slightly more on his clean vocals, flowing like a fast arrow until The Ageless Whisper comes ripping our hearts and minds in a solid display of modern-day Melodic Death Metal. Moreover, Bastian pounds his drums like there’s no tomorrow, while the band’s guitar duo continue to grind their axes with a lot of precision and energy. Then featuring guest vocals by Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis), Needles and Kin is classic Melodic Death Metal presenting a vibrant fusion of rage, electricity and harmony with the intricate beats by Bastian dictating its rhythm and pace, all boosted by David’s superb guitar solo, before the closing tune You Aquiver, with guest Dave Sheldon (Exes for Eyes, Annihilator) on the guitar, brings to our ears a good mix of their more ferocious side with the whimsical and ethereal sound of the keys by Sven, with best metal (and even non-metal) albums of 2019. Furthermore, what Mr. Björn “Speed” Strid & Co. did in their new album might not be a revolution in music (as some very demanding fans always expect from their favorite bands), but it’s indeed a solid statement that Melodic Death Metal is still alive and kicking, and that Soilwork will continue to be a reference in the genre no matter what happens to the band. Fortunately for us fans of heavy music, the band is far from calling it quits, which means we’ll certainly have the pleasure of enjoying more of their crisp and vibrant metal with their future releases, and if they’re just half as good as Verkligheten we’ll have a very good reason to celebrate and to keep banging our heads together with those Swedish metal icons.

Best moments of the album: Arrival, The Nurturing Glance, Stålfågel and The Wolves Are Back in Town.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Verkligheten (instrumental) 1:44
2. Arrival 3:47
3. Bleeder Despoiler 3:36
4. Full Moon Shoals 4:46
5. The Nurturing Glance 5:24
6. When the Universe Spoke 5:22
7. Stålfågel (feat. Alissa White-Gluz) 4:25
8. The Wolves Are Back in Town 3:24
9. Witan 3:48
10. The Ageless Whisper 5:01
11. Needles and Kin (feat. Tomi Joutsen) 4:57
12. You Aquiver (feat. Dave Sheldon) 4:03

Band members
Björn “Speed” Strid – vocals
David Andersson – lead guitar
Sylvain Coudret – rhythm guitar
Sven Karlsson – keyboards
Bastian Thusgaard – drums

Guest musicians
Alissa White-Gluz – guest vocals on “Stålfågel”
Tomi Joutsen – guest vocals on “Needles and Kin”
Dave Sheldon – guitars on “You Aquiver”
Taylor Nordberg – bass (live)

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Metal Chick of the Month – Wanda Ortiz

I’ve been looking so long for you now… You won’t get away from my grasp…

As 2019 promises to be another memorable year for Maidenmaniacs from all over the world, especially for the ones that reside in the United States, Canada, Mexico and South America who will have the utmost pleasure of seeing Steve, Bruce & Co. live during their upcoming Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019, there’s nothing better than kicking off our Metal Chick of the Month section with an amazing bass player that truly understands what it means to be part of the legacy (and also continuing our tradition of starting the year with a badass girl on bass guitar, of course). I’m talking about Wanda Ortiz (or Wanda A. Ortiz), the skillful bass player for the all-female tribute band The Iron Maidens (billed as the “World’s Only Female Tribute to Iron Maiden”) under the brilliant stage name of Steph Harris, who’s ready to crush your skull in half to the sound of her thunderous, galloping bass allied to her endless stamina when performing live.

Born on March 27, 1968 in Huntington Beach, a California city southeast of Los Angeles, Wanda first learned to play bass at the early age of nine years old, when the elementary school she attended had a music program that enabled students to sign up and choose an instrument. When she arrived late on the first day of music class, she wound up with a junior-sized double bass, and from that moment on we can say it was “love at first gallop”. In addition to that, while she took lessons on the double bass, also known as an upright bass, Wanda also taught herself how to play electric bass when she was 11 years old in order to play in the school jazz band, and she continued playing bass throughout her school years, eventually earning a Bachelor of Music in Performance (BMus) degree from UCI – University of California, Irvine. One funny thing about Wanda and her relationship with the bass guitar is that, according to Wanda herself, she felt a little sad about her instrument when in high school because she could rarely play the melody, which were the fun parts for her, as she got stuck with simpler lines meant to hold down the beat (in other words, a typical bass line), which despite being very important could get really boring at times. Luckily, she had a friend who told her about bands like Iron Maiden and Rush that really featured bass in their music and, after listening to them, she felt a lot better.

Moving on to her career as a musician, our dauntless bassist, who plays a variety of styles such as Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Blues and classical music armed with her glitter blue G&L SB-2 bass guitar and her black SB-2 bass guitar on select shows, started playing in a more professional way in 1997, when she joined a California-based Punk Rock/Rock N’ Roll band named Rotten Rod & The Warheads. She was their bassist from 1997 to 2002, having recorded with the band a demo in 1998 titled Practice Bomb (under the eccentric moniker of “Wanda Smart Bomb”), containing songs like Germs and Cruel World. I don’t know about you, but I would love to listen to the music by this fun and electrifying band on any rock n’ roll radio out there. Anyway, while still playing for Rotten Rod & The Warheads, she was also the bassist for Heartache City from 1999 to 2001, with whom she recorded the band’s self-titled album in 2001. I couldn’t find anything online form this band, but if Wanda was their bass player I’m sure their music was at least fun to listen to, right? Furthermore, Wanda was also the bassist for a Huntington Beach-based Rock/Blues band named Field of Vision in 2004, having recorded with them the six-track album FOV that same year, highly influenced by renowned acts such as David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Velvet Underground. Once again, there’s nothing online about this specific album, but as aforementioned we know from the bottom of our hearts it’s good music we’re talking about. As a matter of fact, in 1998 and 2004, she won the Best Female Bassist award at the Rock City News Awards and, in 2003, she also won the best bassist award at The All Access Music Magazine Awards, proving how talented and focused she has always been as a musician.

In addition to those previous acts and to The Iron Maidens, our ass-kicking bassist also works as a freelance musician in various groups and orchestras in the Southern California area, including The South Coast Symphony as principal bassist since 1996. When asked about how different it is playing for The South Coast Symphony and for The Iron Maidens, if that’s the type of diversity she needs in her playing style, Wanda said that she likes to play classical music just as much as metal, and after playing an upright bass she thinks it keeps her chops up, also saying that it’s like someone who enjoys playing basketball and baseball, two different sports but both fun, which is the same with classical music and metal for her. Moreover, her talent is also recognized by several important brands and companies, being endorsed by BBE Sound, Digitech, Dunlop Manufacturing, G&L Musical Instruments, RotoSound Strings, Schroeder Superior Sound Cabinets, Coffin Case and Monster Energy Drink, and she’s also been in a couple of interesting documentaries recently, those being Hair I Go Again (2016) and the upcoming Rock Is Dead? (2019).

It was in September 2002 when Wanda finally joined The Iron Maidens, remaining with the band ever since and adopting her stage name “Steph Harris” as an obvious reference to Iron Maiden’s iconic bassist and founder Mr. Steve Harris. So far, she has recorded with the band the albums World’s Only Female Tribute to Iron Maiden (2005), Route 666 (2007), The Root of All Evil (2008) and the video Metal Gathering Tour Live in Japan (2010), trying to be as loyal as possible to Iron Maiden’s original sound. In one of her interviews, Wanda said that when she joined the band everyone was just looking for a fun and original side project (there were already several all-female tribute acts for bands like AC/DC in the area), as they all had their own bands and projects, with a goal of playing maybe once or twice a month at some local pubs. However, after the first few shows a lot of people started calling them, with things really kicking off after the band had been together for about a year despite the fact they never took themselves too seriously at that time. As a matter of fact, if there’s one thing they always took very seriously was the music, always trying to replicate the original tones from Iron Maiden the best possible way even with the different instruments they use like Wanda’s bass, which is technically a Fender bass but not the same one used by Steve. If you want to take a good listen at how amazing Wanda and the girls from The Iron Maidens are, simply search for them on YouTube, as there are countless fantastic videos of their live performances such as The Trooper and Die With Your Boots On in California in 2014, or these two full concerts recorded in New York in 2018 and in California in 2013. Also, how about a nice and relaxed interview with the entire band conducted by Grasser Production in 2017 called “15 questions with The Iron Maidens”?

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Regarding the songs she likes to play the most from the Iron Maiden vast and rich discography, she said her all-time favorite are Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra), Phantom of the Opera, Powerslave and Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and when questioned if it’s hard for The Iron Maidens to come up with a setlist to please all fans she said it’s not difficult at all because it’s drummer Linda McDonald who keeps track of all places the band plays and what songs they played before, also taking into account her own endurance and the timing for their lead singer to do a costume change, for example, and always focusing on old songs not usually played by Iron Maiden during their current concerts and tours. She was also questioned if she ever struggles with identity, wanting to do her own original material and showcasing it, and she said she doesn’t really have any issues with that, stating that she actually enjoys playing music written by a wide variety of different composers, either metal or orchestral music, and that it doesn’t stop her from writing her own music which she has done before in original bands. Also, when asked if the band has ever had to deal with any issues related to artwork, royalties, cease-and-desists from lawyers or anything like that, she said the band does everything they can to avoid that, but that they were asked to change their logo many years ago (and they did). She complemented by saying that wasn’t a big deal, and she doesn’t think the guys from Iron Maiden were even aware of it; they simply have a good team of people who help look after everything.

Of course, it’s impossible not to talk about her “relationship” with Mr. Steve Harris and his two-fingered galloping bass method. In one of her interviews, Wanda talked about how much Steve Harris and his bass have influenced her taste for music and her playing style, talking about the aforementioned story of her playing only the basic notes while her friends would play the melodies with their violins and violas in high school, but that after listening to the all-time classic Piece of Mind she fell in love with her bass guitar again and never stopped listening to the music by Iron Maiden ever since. Apart from Steve Harris, she also cites Geddy Lee, lead vocalist, bassist, and keyboardist for Canadian Rock titans Rush, and Chris Squire, bassist and founding member of English Progressive Rock band Yes, among her influences, once again showing how much she loves the most intricate, unique and vibrant sounds anyone can extract from a bass guitar. There’s also a price to pay for having Steve Harris as her major influence, and especially for playing Iron Maiden’s music, which comes in the form of fans who believe they can offer her advice on how to perform that material beyond her considerable talent. “Every once in a while, there will be a bass player in the audience. There’s a couple songs that I’ve gotten used to playing it a certain way or maybe a different position, but they’re the same notes, but it’s not the same position (Harris) plays it in. Sometimes I’ll get that, or sometimes I’ll get like, ‘Well, Steve uses two fingers’. Well, okay. Sometimes I’ll hear that. Very rarely though,” said our talented bassist.

Wanda’s first ever Iron Maiden concert happened many years ago during the World Slavery Tour, when according to Wanda herself she didn’t drink anything to avoid having to leave to use the bathroom, as she didn’t want to miss any part of the show (well, it’s the same for me). Years later, Wanda was even able to get to know Iron Maiden in person when Michael Kenney, Steve’s long-time bass tech and the band’s onstage keyboard player, introduced the whole band to them at a concert in Irvine, California. Wanda and the other girls were obviously nervous at first for meeting their idols, but the guys were really friendly to them and down to earth, making the whole experience very pleasant. The only thing that didn’t go as planned was that they weren’t able to give them cookies that they baked specially for them, as their singer left them in her car. I’m pretty sure those cookies were delicious, but you know what was even better than that? The fact that The Iron Maidens were not only able to meet their icons in person for the first time ever, but also that the band led by Mr. Steve Harris supports them, acknowledging their undisputed talent, their passion for metal and their hard work, and that they can rest assured “Steph Harris” and the girls will always represent this more “feminine” and “delicate” side of Eddie with a lot of energy, respect and admiration. Having said that, don’t forget to check Wanda and the girls live whenever they take your city by storm, and of course, as usual… UP THE IRONS!

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“As a bass player, of course, you’re going to be drawn to music more challenging, interesting and fun. I’ve always been an Iron Maiden fan since I was very young. When the band first formed everybody wanted to do something different, something more challenging. Since we all wanted something unique that nobody else was really doing, we thought Iron Maiden would be a good fit. We are all coincidentally huge Iron Maiden fans, so that made it better.” – Wanda Ortiz

Album Review – Where’s My Bible / M’N’R (2018)

Blending rock and punk influences with the violence of Death, Thrash and Black Metal, this Finnish squad is more-than-ready to mosh and roll in their first full-length release.

Blending rock and punk influences with the more violent and austere Death, Thrash and Black Metal sounds, Finnish Mosh N’ Roll squad Where’s My Bible (and yes, that’s the actual name of the band) was formed in 2014 in the city of Heinola with the intention to just have fun and play, although the thought of being taken seriously quickly kicked in, culminating with the release of their debut EP named The Beginning in early 2016. A major milestone for the band, which is reflected in the title itself, the EP led the band to participate in several concerts and festivals in the following months, including a spot in the main stage of the renowned Tuska Open Air in 2017, secured after winning the Tuska-Torstai competition hosted by the festival.

The band kicked off 2018 by starting the recording of their debut album, simply titled M’N’R (the acronym for Mosh N’ Roll), an energetic and upbeat representation of the band’s sound, being released in the fall this year. In other words, if you enjoy slamming into the circle pit and enjoying a cold beer while listening to our good old Rock N’ Roll, but with a more venomous metal twist, get ready to rock together with frontman Jussi Matilainen, guitarists Toni Hinkkala and Pasi Löfgren, bassist Jarno Laakkonen and drummer Antti Jokinen, and enjoy all those fun bruises that high-octane feast of sounds will leave on your body.

A wicked intro kicks things off, setting the tone for the thrashing party titled Speedload, led by the rip-roaring riffs by Toni and Pasi, while Antti hammers his drums like a good thrasher that he is. Also presenting elements from Hardcore and Metalcore, this is not only a true headbanger but a fantastic welcome card by the band, with highlights to the sick growling by Jussi. If you love hitting the dance floor and crushing your skull, well, the time is now, as Where’s My Bible deliver a neck-breaking and vibrant tune named Dancefloor, with Toni and Pasi getting the support of Jarno and his thunderous bass to generate a dense and electrifying ambience, living up to the legacy of 80’s Thrash Metal with a modern vibe; and Jarno ignites another classy exhibit of Mosh N’ Roll titled Absinthe, bringing elements from Punk Rock and Hardcore to their already incendiary sonority. In addition, Jussi sounds even more demented on vocals, helping to keep the music violent and melodic from start to finish.

Then the acoustic and somewhat atmospheric bridge Interlude gives us time to recover our energies before Jussi comes growling as deep as a knife would go in Meatholder, a demolishing display of Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore where the guitars by Toni and Pasi exhale heaviness, rage and harmony in an amazing sample of what the band is capable of. Faster than a bullet and as heavy as hell, Me Myself and I is a sonic extravaganza where Antti doesn’t stop pounding his drums in over six minutes of unrelenting Finnish Thrash Metal, getting considerably progressive and atmospheric towards its ending. Transcendence is another song that surpasses the six-minute barrier, something not very common for Thrash Metal bands, but that keeps the energy level high until its last second, which means there’s plenty of time for you to break your neck headbanging to the vicious riffs by Toni and Pasi while Jussi continues to bark and gnarl manically. And lastly as a bonus track we have Failure, originally recorded back in 2016 and featuring Leevi Luoto (responsible for guitars and clean vocals for Finnish Metalcore act One Morning Left), remaining aggressive, raw and frantic throughout its entirety.

In the end, I guess the best way to summarize M’N’R is by taking a few interesting steps. First of all, simply follow Where’s My Bible on Facebook and listen to M’N’R on Spotify or, even better, show your support to those Finnish metallers by purchasing the album from the Inverse Records webstore, from Record Shop X, from metalmailorder.com, from iTunes or from Amazon, then fill your refrigerator up with some good quality beer, invite your friends for the night, and there you have a true Rock N’ Roll party with a beyond special Finnish Mosh N’ Roll touch. What else can you ask for in good Scandinavian music, right?

Best moments of the album: Speedload, Absinthe and Meatholder.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Inverse Records

Track listing 
1. Intro 1:04
2. Speedload 4:54
3. Dancefloor 3:35
4. Absinthe 3:48
5. Interlude 1:21
6. Meatholder 5:10
7. Me Myself and I 6:14
8. Transcendence 6:06

Bonus track
9. Failure (feat. Leevi Luoto) 5:00

Band members
Jussi Matilainen – vocals
Toni Hinkkala – guitar
Pasi Löfgren – guitar
Jarno Laakkonen – bass
Antti Jokinen – drums

Guest musician
Leevi Luoto – additional guitars and vocals on “Failure”

Album Review – Afire / On the Road From Nowhere (2018)

Uniting the beauty of old school Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock with a modern twist, this awesome Finnish band is ready to take you on a ride on the road from nowhere with their debut full-length album.

As I mentioned in my review for their debut self-titled EP last year, anyone who got in contact with the music by Finnish Hard Rock outfit Afire was probably desperate for more of their music in a not-so-distant future due to the extreme quality, energy and harmony flowing from the three tracks presented by the band at that time. Fortunately for all of us, admirers of our good old Rock N’ Roll, this electrifying Oulu-based band wasted no time and brought forth now in 2018 their debut full-length installment, titled On the Road From Nowhere, a lesson in Melodic Hard Rock perfect for hitting the road, the gym, a special party with your loved ones, or anywhere else where classy and vibrant rock music is certainly needed.

With the same lineup as their debut EP, that being the stunning Suvi Hiltunen on vocals, Sami Kukkohovi (Sentenced, Kypck) and Antti Leiviskä (Poisonblack) on the guitars, Harri Halonen (Impaled Nazarene) on bass and Tarmo Kanerva (Poisonblack) on drums, Afire are indeed on absolute fire in On the Road From Nowhere, uniting the beauty of old school Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock with a modern twist and the always pleasant Scandinavian melodic waves in each one of the album’s ten powerful songs. Furthermore, bassist and songwriter Harri Halonen had a few nice comments about the album. “I’ve had a bunch of songs for quite a while, but for which I didn’t have an outlet, so we started Afire. With Suvi’s vocal lines and lyrics, the songs started molding into their current shape, and we finished them together. Lyrically the album is about leaving, departing. It’s not a theme album, but the lyrics do revolve around the subject anyhow,” said the talented Harri, inviting the listener to join the band in their rockin’ voyage.

And the album kicks off with a revamped version of their 2017 song The One to Take the Fall, sounding crisper and clearer than the original version thanks to the top-notch album production. Once again it’s a pleasure to listen to Suvi embellishing the airwaves with her vocals, while Sami and Antti deliver that catchy riff that made me enjoy this song so much from the very first listen last year. Their guitars keep invading our senses while Tarmo dictates the rhythm in the headbanging Not Coming Home, where they nailed it one more time in a lesson in modern-day Rock N’ Roll, setting the bar absurdly high in On the Road From Nowhere; followed by Let Me Be the One, a power ballad where Suvi shines with her passionate vocal lines while the rest of the band keeps the rhythm vibrant and impactful, with highlights to the potent bass punches by Harri, rumbling the ground like there’s no tomorrow.

Let’s keep raising our horns and enjoying a cold beer while witnessing Suvi and her henchmen kicking ass in Nowherefound, another classy and thrilling composition by the quintet where the stringed trio Sami, Antti and Harri are in total sync from start to finish, whereas Tired of Being Broken is a more serene and introspective born-to- be-a-radio hit tune, with Harri and Tarmo building a solid background for the guitar riffs and solos to soar high together with Suvi’s potent vocals. Then drinking from the fountain of renowned rock and metal acts such as Volbeat, Godsmack and contemporary Metallica the band offers us the awesome Veiling the Tears, adding elements from Southern Rock and Metal to their already thunderous sonority and with the solos by Sami and Antti bringing an extra dosage of electricity to the overall result. Once again venturing through the realms of power ballads we have Shining Through, bringing forward a solid instrumental that works well in providing Suvi what she needs to give another potent vocal performance, keeping the album at a sensational level of energy.

Following a similar pattern as its predecessor, Rotten to the Core also presents a dense and complete sonority; it sounds a bit too generic, though, when compared to the rest of the album, but its guitar solos are powerful and sharp as usual. Strangers Again, the second song from their debut EP, was also upgraded to a more metallic version, sounding crystal clear which means we can all appreciate Suvi’s vocals and the band’s riffs in more detail, translating the whole experience into sheer awesomeness, and closing the album we have another 2017 song the band re-recorded, Forevermore, a fantastic ballad showcasing a focused and talented band delivering beautiful and passionate Rock N’ Roll to soothe our souls.

Do you want to know more about Afire and listen to more of their stylish Hard Rock made in Finland? All you have to do is follow them on Facebook for news and tour dates (and I wouldn’t miss the chance to see them live if I lived in Finland, by the way), and buy your copy of their ass-kicking album On the Road From Nowhere, available also on Spotify, from Record Shop X, from the Inverse Records webstore, or from iTunes. And there you have Suvi and the boys ready to take you on a fun and pleasant ride “on the road from nowhere” anytime you want, all in the name of Rock N’ Roll.

Best moments of the album: The One to Take the Fall, Not Coming Home and Veiling the Tears.

Worst moments of the album: Rotten to the Core.

Released in 2018 Concorde Music Company

Track listing
1. The One to Take the Fall 3:30
2. Not Coming Home 3:42
3. Let Me Be the One 4:36
4. Nowherefound 4:50
5. Tired of Being Broken 4:36
6. Veiling the Tears 4:06
7. Shining Through 4:04
8. Rotten to the Core 4:12
9. Strangers Again 3:49
10. Forevermore 5:33

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

Album Review – Brutal Order / Homo Homini Lupus EP (2018)

This unrelenting Thrash Metal quartet from Brazil will show you through their raw and groovy music why a man is a wolf to another man.

Born in early 2017 in the city of Recife, the capital of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, from the ashes of a band named Firetomb, the ruthless Thrash Metal outfit known as Brutal Order wasted no time and entered Estúdio Palco, in Recife, to give birth to their debut installment, an EP of sheer aggressiveness and speed titled Homo Homini Lupus. The expression, or in its unabridged form “Homo homini lupus est”, is a Latin proverb meaning “A man is a wolf to another man” or “Man is wolf to man”, in reference to situations where people are known to have behaved in a way comparably in nature to a wolf as a creature that’s predatory, cruel and inhuman, or in other words, more like an animal than civilized. Featuring a visceral artwork that exhales rage and chaos designed by Círculo Pintado, and recorded by recording technician Daniel Farias, Homo Homini Lupus perfectly depicts our inhumanity and cruelty in the form of the thrashing hymns blasted by lead singer and guitarist Tiago Xaves, guitarist Randall Silva, bassist Risaldo Silva and drummer Lulu Batera, and I’m sure you’ll also unleash your wolf instincts to the vibrant sound of this Brazilian quartet.

Enough said already, get ready to slam into the circle pit to the classic Thrash Metal brought forth by Brutal Order in the title-track track Homo Homini Lupus, blending the more hardcore attitude by Anthrax with the heavier sonority by Exodus (which obviously translates into a total sonic awesomeness), led by the roaring guitars by both Tiago and Randall. And there’s no time to breathe, as the band sets fire to the ambience with their flammable music in Burn, where the enraged screams by Tiago and the nonstop beats and fills by Lulu will smash you like an insect, being highly recommended for fans of the frantic thrashing music by bands like Forbidden, Overkill, Death Angel and Nuclear Assault, all spiced up by Tiago’s and Randall’s wicked guitar solos. And bringing elements from 80’s Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll to their brutal Thrash Metal, the band offers us all Working Till Death, a mid-tempo tune showcasing classic riffs effectively accompanied by Risaldo’s solid bass punches.

Brutal Order, the song that carries the band’s name, begins in an eerie way before exploding into old school Thrash Metal taken directly from the 80’s, with the unstoppable guitars by Tiago and Randall being in absolute sync (and therefore providing and extra kick to the sonority), while Risaldo and Lulu generate a thunderous atmosphere with their respective bass lines and crushing beats. If you think that their thrashing show is over, you’re absolutely wrong, as Brutal Order still has one final blast of Thrash and Groove Metal named Revolution Or Self Destruction, a song that will inspire you to bang your head like a maniac while Tiago growls rabidly, once again drinking form the classic fountain of bands like Anthrax. Put differently, it’s furious, violent and raw, but still very melodic, ending the EP in a pulverizing and thrilling manner.

If you’re already a fan of underground Brazilian metal, or if you’re a newcomer to this vast but unexplored world, Brutal Order might be one of the best options for you to get to know more about heavy music from a country where metalmaniacs go against all odds and keep showing the rest of society they will never surrender and keep on fighting no matter what. If you want to take a more detailed listen at Homo Homini Lupus, you can find the full EP on YouTube and on Spotify, but of course if you want to support such promising band you can grab your copy of the album from their own BandCamp page. You will find more details about Brutal Order on their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and be prepared to be slammed by a New World Order that, according to this talented horde from Brazil, is going to be beyond brutal.

Best moments of the album: Burn and Brutal Order.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing  
1. Homo Homini Lupus 2:45
2. Burn 4:20
3. Working Till Death 3:49
4. Brutal Order 4:10
5. Revolution Or Self Destruction 4:59

Band members
Tiago Xaves – vocals, guitar
Randall Silva – guitar
Risaldo Silva – bass
Lulu Batera – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Lilith Astaroth

Kneeling at my feet, encased in black sheaths of ecstasy… Fulfill your deepest desire to submit to me…

It’s time to set fire to The Headbanging Moose with a woman that’s perhaps the most eccentric, distinct and explosive of all metal chicks who have already embellished our pages through the years. She’s not only a professionally trained actress, dancer, singer, performer and an internationally recognized model in the Gothic and fetish genres, having been featured in several publications and websites, but also an activist and the frontwoman for an American metal act that blends the heaviest and most obscure elements from Gothic, Black and Death Metal. If you have absolutely no idea who that woman is, I bet you’ll be stunned by her talent, beauty and passion for music and arts in general. Having said that, let’s cut to the chase and begin our humble tribute to our last metal lady of 2018, the unstoppable and dauntless Lilith Astaroth (also known as Goddess Lilith), lead singer for Boston, Massachusetts-based metal entity Sorrowseed. In other words, are you ready for total chaos and anarchy with Lilith?

Born on October 31, 1997 in Cambridge, just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States, Lilith (whose real full name is Eve Lilith Cassidy) loves music from the bottom of her heart, having started her musical pursuits at the age of five when she learned to play the piano. At the age of fourteen, she began to teach herself how to play the guitar, and in the following year she started her first band, curiously named Satan’s Kids, a Grunge and Rock N’ Roll project inspired by the music from icons like Marilyn Manson, Nirvana and Pantera. And Lilith received a lot of criticism in her early days as a singer, as people kept saying she sounded “like a guy” and that she should start singing “like a normal person”. However, despite that continuous criticism, including being kicked out of a band for “screaming too much”, she refused to change her vocal style and kept working hard for several years, until Sorrowseed came along in 2009 after numerous failed band attempts.

Her style of singing combines low guttural growling and high-pitched shrieking, being often compared to famous extreme vocalists like Dani Filth and Angela Gossow, but also exploring after 2010 a more operatic style in the soprano range, like in her 2011 cover version for the classic Christian Woman, by Type O Negative (I guess all women who succumbed to the dark side of music are admirers of the deceased Peter Steele). A true lover of cybergoth, steampunk and latex fashions, Lilith explores her sexuality while creating music at the same time, offering her fans a full-bodied experience during her live performances and on her videos. Using a combination of inhalation and exhalation screams, she is able to produce a vast array of sounds with her voice, turning each live show into a ferocious display of intensity. Since the beginning of her career, she has released several solo works and has lent her voice and performed live with many different projects throughout New England including Sorrowseed, Mostri and Pandora’s Toybox, always loyal to the Doom, Death, Industrial and Gothic Metal styles. Her biggest inspirations when writing and composing music are quite straightforward and interesting. Lilith was very clear and honest when saying that hatred, or unbridled hatred for humanity and its ignorance, always inspire her to write music, as her day-to-day experiences with other human beings gave her plenty of reason to be angry much of the time. Obviously all that hatred and anger couldn’t be better represented than the flammable fusion of Extreme Metal styles from all her bands and projects.

In regards to her most famous project, American Melodic Doom Metal band Sorrowseed, Lilith formed the band in 2009 in Boston highly influenced by bands like Amorphis, Behemoth, Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Satyricon and Therion, singing about controversial topics like the Apocalypse and anything related to the total annihilation of mankind, as well as spreading stories of madness, death, destruction, dark mythology and horror to the masses, all embraced by the band’s obscure musicality.  As a matter of fact, the band started in 2008 by Josh Carrig, of Pandora’s Toybox, evolving to its desired shape and form only in 2010, with the concept behind the band being based on the story of two characters, the Reaping Willow and the Scarab Prophet. Lilith obviously portrays the Reaping Willow, who was once the nature Goddess, Demeter.  Over time, she watched humankind’s pollution, ignorant destruction and environmental abuse overcome the earth. She wept for the ignorance of mankind, becoming enraged with madness and, as a consequence, transforming into the Reaping Willow who, along with the Scarab Prophet, is set upon the destruction of mankind, unleashing apocalyptic terror onto humanity. The band has already released one EP titled Portents, in 2009, and four full-length albums since their inception, those being The Extinction Prophecies (2011), Descent of the Scarab Prophet (2012), Dread Sylvan Summonings (2012), and Nemesis Engine (2013), including incendiary songs like Ocean Scorn (and you can always listen to their albums and obviously purchase them from their own BandCamp page). Working as a way for Lilith to channel her powerful feelings into something creative and non-destructive, as she’s always been very much about vengeance, wrath, and destruction, Sorrowseed kick some serious ass live as you can see in their performance during the Damsels of Darkness Tour playing the song Arcana (of the Lich Queen), with their first ever concert happening at the launch party of 420Mass.com during the 2010 Boston Freedom Rally.

You can also find Lilith lending her beautiful and devilish voice to several distinct bands and projects in the world of heavy music, such as doing vocals for Chilean/American Thrash/Death Metal band Angor from 2014 to 2015, and for American Blackened Death Metal band Coffin Birth starting in 2016. She also worked as a guest vocalist in the song Bloodborne Penance, from the 2016 album The Bowels of Chaos, by Coffin Birth; in the song Halle Ravine, from the 2017 album The Sachem’s Tales, by American Atmospheric Black Metal band Dzö-nga; and in the song The Black Feathered Vixen, from the 2013 EP Unleash the Inferno, by American Death Metal one-man band Eric Pellegrini. There are other projects which are not as “clear” as the ones listed above, such as her involvement as the lead singer of Nemesis Engine, a hybrid of ex-Sorrowseed and ex-Theogonia members, as well as her participation with other bands including a Groove Metal act with former bandmate Chris Adamcek, and an electronic collaboration with digital songstress Amber Ladd.

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As aforementioned, Lilith is not only a regular vocalist and musician, but also an actress focused on the underground and independent scene. It was in 2009 when she began exploring the world of acting, starting with taking courses from Harvard University, doing extra work for major films, and landing minor roles in independent films such as God of Vampires, Nun of That, Heaven and Hell, Legless and Scrooge in the Hood. She has also appeared on NESN as a ring girl for Boston Boxing, has done several interviews in the cosplay documentary Cosplayer Nation, appeared on NBC’s The Dr. Keith Show to talk about safety as a public figure on the internet, and appeared several times in the reality-based web series Quiet Desperation. You’ll also find Lilith in many different music videos as an actress, such as When Steel and Bone Meet, by Goatwhore; Misbegotten Candy, Down in the Mire, and Slaves to the Sleigh, by Pandora’s Toybox; Runnin From Jesus, by Matalon; and Babylon Train, by Desar.

Furthermore, you can take a look at her her IMDb profile to see in detail all B-movies, shorts and TV series she’s been featured, like playing a character named Petunia Pete Sawyer in the 2017 comedy-horror movie Groundhog. In addition to that, Lilith has also attended a good amount of public events through the years, like doing public speaking in different editions of the annual Boston Freedom Rally and the Philadelphia Freedom Festival Benefit, as well as constantly improving her acting skills by taking several training sessions and courses like Introduction to Acting and Advanced Acting from Harvard University, in 2009, Acting Shakespeare and Introduction to Public Speaking also from Harvard University, in 2010, and private classes in C.O.R.E. Acting, in 2013. Do you think that’s already a lot for just one person? Well, you better be prepared, because there’s still a lot more to come.

If you haven’t noticed yet, Lilith is also an internationally recognized professional model, having shot in different exotic locations ranging from Iceland to Montreal, Ireland, Costa Rica, London, Germany and Italy, as well as all over the United States, with some of her favorite runway events being the Montreal Fetish Weekend Fashion Show, and the New Designer’s Fashion Show of New England. A versatile model with 8 years of experience and a wide variety of looks, ranging from classic pinup, swimsuit, Gothic, cosplay, fantasy, fetish, sci-fi, horror, among many others, Lilith has already done event hosting, art modeling, spokesmodeling, living art, bodypainting, being a Ring Girl, Go-Go dancing, and modeling for some of the edgiest latex designers emerging in the fetish fashion scene. However, when asked which career out of music, modeling, dancing and acting she would like to pursue the most, our devilish goddess said music is what she’s really focused on (as we all know, screaming is something that has always been very natural to her), but she also truly wants to pursue professional acting to the fullest. Acting is according to Lilith herself the most challenging of all activities because there’s always room for improvement with anyone, but finding appropriately paying work in modeling and dancing is the most challenging thing she’s been facing on a regular basis. In addition, maintaining a healthy balance of all those activities and responsibilities is not an easy task at all (by the way, she’s also a LMT – Licensed Massage Therapist, an activist for cannabis legalization, animal rights, and preservation of nature, and a reiki master), but as a great and very efficient multi-tasker she is, nothing stops Lilith from always moving forward in her life and career.

One very important topic to Lilith is her utmost support to the legalization of marijuana, and she has a very strong opinion about what should be done in this case. In one of her interviews, she said that people need to focus the war on drugs against the real problems, like pills, which originate with drug companies, and crime which is funded in large part from marijuana. In her own words, Lillith said that “no one is making pills at home – they come from drug companies with bad policies, operating under bad laws with bad inventory and bad control, they have huge lobby groups that let them get away with this and pills have become one of the most major problems in America.” She complemented by saying that she personally would rather not put any chemicals in her body or take the risk of becoming addicted to a chemical, and she has found that she doesn’t need to take those risks, because marijuana helps alleviate her health issues. “We need to take ‘the money’ out of the illegal marijuana equation; by legalizing and regulating we would lower the prices by lowering the value (the price is artificially propped up by its illegal status), and this would take a big bite out of the pocketbook that funds guns and harder drugs, and open the door to affordable, safe and legal medical marijuana.”

When asked in one of her interviews about the current music scene in the United States and what has changed since she started her career in 2009, Lilith said that it actually hasn’t changed much, despite an increase in the number of metal bands in her area, New England, which according to Lilith herself is at the same time a good and a bad thing because some of those bands are very talented, but others are just terrible. She also said there are some bands she’s a good friend of, such as Faces of Bayon, Matalon, Abnormality, AbSynthe, Necrophiliac Meat Circus, Fever Vein and Voices of the Dead, among others, and that she loves to meet and work with bands that play a similar style to hers because those are not only easier to keep in touch, but to also play more shows together. And last but not least, when asked how important her fans are to her, she was pretty straightforward saying that without fans there would be no one to perform for. She does her best to treat her fans well and hook them up with good prices and merch, and communicate with them every day through her website and all her social media. That being said, I guess no one can complain at all that Lilith is a lazy or an arrogant person; quite the contrary, although we all know how unique she is, the world of metal music definitely needs more women with the same attitude, stamina and passion as the multi-talented Lilith Astaroth.

Lilith Astaroth’s Official Facebook page (music)
Lilith Astaroth’s Official Facebook page (acting & modeling)
Lilith Astaroth’s Official YouTube channel
Lilith Astaroth’s Official Twitter
Goddess Lilith’s Official Instagram
Goddess Lilith’s Official Twitter
Sorrowseed’s Official Facebook page
Sorrowseed’s Official YouTube channel
Sorrowseed’s Official Twitter

“Since I was young, I’ve always been the center of attention. My parents were always sticking a camera or video camera in my face, so I got used to it early. It wasn’t until I was 15, however, that I decided I wanted to front a band. Oddly enough, it was Nirvana that inspired me to find this path. I taught myself how to play guitar and formed my first band shortly thereafter.” – Lilith Astaroth

Album Review – Bouquet of Dead Crows / Motus Octo (2018)

Enjoy the “eight movements” of modern-day rock music presented by this talented Cambridge, England-based Alternative Rock and Metal squad.

If you’re not only a fan of all the aggressiveness and speed of more extreme forms of metal music, but also an admirer of the melodious and gentle waves of Alternative Rock and Metal, you’ll be extremely pleased to know that Cambridge, England-based alternative rockers Bouquet of Dead Crows are finally back after three long years with a brand new album  titled Motus Octo, the follow-up to their 2015 debut album Of The Night. The title, referring to the fact that there are eight tracks on the album, essentially means “eight movements”, or eight emotions, and that’s exactly what you’ll get throughout the entire album, with each of its tracks awakening different emotions and reactions from deep inside your heart and mind.

Featuring a beautiful packaging designed by Stewart Harris Designs, Motus Octo is a very different beast to the band’s previous work, moving into more of a progressive direction but still showcasing all the characteristics that made people enjoy their first album, such as the huge wall-of-sound guitar riffs by Neil Bruce, the pounding bass lines by Graeme Clarke and the bat-shit drumming by Andrew Coxall, all sitting beautifully underneath vocalist Antoinette Cooper’s soaring vocals. Furthermore, the quartet goes from the heavier waves of Alternative Metal to the charm of British Rock and the melancholy of Blues, extracting crisp and vibrant sounds from their instruments throughout the entire album, keeping us hooked on their music and always eager for more.

Distorted, whimsical waves ignite the fun Faultlines, before Graeme and Andrew come crushing with their bass lines and beats respectively in a modern display of British Rock infused with alternative elements from bands like Garbage and Hole, while Neil slams and slashes his guitar mercilessly. And their music gets even more piercing and rumbling in The Devil’s in the Detail, with the beautiful voice by Antoinette leading the band in this Alternative Rock feast while Neil fires his classic solos, presenting hints of Ska and traditional Rock N’ Roll; followed by No Tomorrow, a song perfect for enjoying a nice and relaxed road trip with your loved ones, once again showcasing an inspired Antoinette on vocals and a precise and groovy Andrew on drums. Then Bouquet of Dead Crows deliver an introspective and enfolding ballad titled Slow Motion Ghosts, where all band members provide Antoinette all she needs to thrive, exhaling passion and delicacy through her vocals until the music gently fades away.

Fragments (Black Hole Eyes) contains some very welcome elements from the music by AC/DC blended with contemporary Rock N’ Roll and even Stoner Rock, not to mention how inspired Neil is with his stylish riffs and solos, while Andrew pounds his drums with tons of precision, therefore turning it into one of the best songs of the album. In Cold Inside, the band slows things down a bit in another gentle rock ballad, with highlights to the solid synchronicity between Neil and Graeme with their strings, getting considerably heavier at times in special when Neil is firing his guitar solos; whereas in Incessant Desire things get groovier, faster and heavier, which obviously translates into awesomeness, being highly inspired by classic Ska and Rock N’ Roll music from the 90’s, spearheaded by Neil and Andrew while Antoinette sounds extremely sexy with her fiery vocal lines. And lastly we have Undone, bringing forward an eerie intro to the thunderous sounds of Graeme’s bass punches and the passionate vocals by Antoinette, evolving into a Stoner Rock extravaganza perfect for headbanging while enjoying a cold beer (or even a strip-tease, it’s up to you), until wicked noises put an end to the song and, obviously, to the entire album.

As you already know, all you need to do to keep in touch with Bouquet of Dead Crows and stay informed about their plans for the future, tour dates and other shenanigans is follow them on Facebook and subscribe to their YouTube channel, but of course if you want to show your true support to one of the most promising names from the current British Rock scene, you should definitely purchase your copy of Motus Octo from the German Shepherd Records’ BandCamp page, as well as from the band’s own webstore in CD or vinyl. In addition, in order to celebrate the release of Motus Octo, the band will be playing a special launch gig at The Blue Moon  in Cambridge on November 24, where they’ll play the full album live. If you’re going to be around the Cambridge area that day, why not joining Antoinette, Neil & Co. for a night of kick-ass rock music accompanied by good food, cold beer and nice people? You can buy your ticket HERE, get ready to rock, and show your “eight movements” on the dance floor, how about that? That’s the way our good old Rock N’ Roll should always be enjoyed, and Motus Octo is the perfect soundtrack for that.

Best moments of the album: The Devil’s in the Detail, Fragments (Black Hole Eyes) and Incessant Desire.

Worst moments of the album: Cold Inside.

Released in 2018 German Shepherd Records

Track listing
1. Faultlines 7:14
2. The Devil’s in the Detail 3:29
3. No Tomorrow 3:56
4. Slow Motion Ghosts 5:42
5. Fragments (Black Hole Eyes) 3:49
6. Cold Inside 8:37
7. Incessant Desire 3:40
8. Undone 6:14

Band members
Antoinette Cooper – vocals
Neil Bruce – guitars
Graeme Clarke – bass
Andrew Coxall – drums

Album Review – mTORR / North (2018)

Enjoy the brainchild of a true Northman highly influenced by 80’s True Metal and Nordic themes, delivering raw and merciless riffs for admirers of the golden years of traditional heavy music.

Hailing from the Finnish city of Äänekoski, here comes a Heavy/Viking Metal one-man band highly influenced by 80’s True Metal bands such as Running Wild, Manowar, Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol, as well as the always interesting Nordic themes, delivering raw, uncompromised and merciless music for admirers of the golden years of traditional metal music. I’m talking about mTORR, the brainchild of Finnish multi-instrumentalist Arska (whose real name is Ari Honkonen), from renowned underground bands like Heathen Hoof, Minotauri and Morningstar, a solo project formed in 2017 who’s unleashing upon humanity  in 2018 the full-length opus North. Featuring a cover photo by Timo Honkonen and guest drummer Viljami (or Viljami Kinnunen) lending his talent to a few songs from the album, North is the natural follow-up to the project’s two previous EP’s, Nordic Iron Age and Viking Metal Rock, both also released in 2018, once again translating into music all the passion for Heavy Metal coming from the heart of a true Northman like Arska.

The album’s intro will take you to the shores of the realm ruled by the true metal warrior Arska and his mTORR, warming your senses up for the Manowar-inspired hymn Thundergod with its four minutes of crisp guitar riffs, galloping bass lines, pounding drums and an epic Running Wild-like rhythm and vibe, and exhaling epicness and might we have The Golden Fields of Tawastia, where Arska’s guitar lines sound captivating from start to finish, adding an extra touch of adrenaline to the music. However, the drums sound and feel slightly weird, not as precise as in the previous song, reducing the overall impact considerably. Then again blending the classic sonority by bands like Manowar, Running Wild and Iron Maiden, Arska delivers inspiring Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll music in Nordic Rocker, with his bass lines and drums generating a powerful support for his warlike vocals.

Razor-edged guitars ignite another old school tune named A Halo from the Gods, perfect for banging your head and raising your fists together with mTORR, also bringing fiery guitar solos and endless stamina, setting the tone for Nordic Hammer, with its pure Manowar lyrics (“In the hammer we trust! / You can’t take it away! / That’s the way we believe! / We’re the sons of the North!”), while the song’s pace and atmosphere remind me of the early days of Running Wild, or in other words, a combination that translates into awesomeness of course. Arska keeps smashing and pounding his strings like the mighty Thor with his hammer in another rhythmic and rumbling song titled Rock för North, where the bass lines get more thunderous than ever, keeping the music vibrant and fresh from start to finish; and putting the pedal to the metal, Arska is once again supported by the headbanging beats by Viljami in Guardians of Light, a song that will please all fans of the fusion between Heavy Metal, Rock N’ Roll and Viking Metal.

Then a video game-ish bridge named The Raid of Sigtuna warms up our senses for Metal for the North, a fast-paced, epic creation by Arska showcasing cutting riffs and classic drums, not to mention its lyrics which are a beautiful ode to his homeland (“Beautiful Scandinavia – Ancient Fennoscandia – Are the soul of a northern warrior – And the crystal clear ice! / Metal makes us stronger – And the northern legacy / Forward together – We’re playing metal for the North!”). mTORR’s second to last blast of battle-like metal and rock from the North comes in the form of Fennoscandian Nights, displaying a galloping bass in total sync with Arska’s always classic riffs, boosting its impact on the listener considerably, before the demo version for Fennoscandian Heathens (actually, the sound quality is just as good as the rest of the album despite being called a demo) comes crushing, sounding faster and just as epic and imposing as all previous songs, being a recommended choice for singling along with Arska and a climatic conclusion to this interesting tribute to all things North.

As already mentioned, North is not just an album of old school metal music, but the musical depiction of all the passion and appreciation the talented Arska nurtures for his homeland, and if you also want to show your support to his new project mTORR and to the stunning landscapes of the North, you can purchase your copy of the album from the Alone Records’ webstore in CD or vinyl format, as well as from the High Roller Records’ webstore (also in CD or vinyl) or from Discogs (in CD or vinyl), with all 250 hand-numbered vinyl copies coming with a sticker and the first 100 copies with a poster. As you can see, you cannot simply download North like most albums nowadays. North is a tribute to the past, and that’s how it’s supposed to be admired by us, old school metalheads.

Best moments of the album: Thundergod, Nordic Rocker, Nordic Hammer and Metal for the North.

Worst moments of the album: The Golden Fields of Tawastia.

Released in 2018 Alone Records

Track listing
1. Intro 1:05
2. Thundergod 4:08
3. The Golden Fields of Tawastia 3:27
4. Nordic Rocker 3:39
5. A Halo from the Gods 3:59
6. Nordic Hammer 2:07
7. Rock för North 3:34
8. Guardians of Light 3:07
9. The Raid of Sigtuna (Instrumental) 1:17
10. Metal for the North 3:36
11. Fennoscandian Nights 3:54
12. Fennoscandian Heathens (Demo) 3:10

Band members
Arska – vocals, all instruments

Guest musician
Viljami – drums on “Thundergod”, “Guardians of Light” and “Fennoscandian Heathens”

Album Review – Tannoiser / Alamut EP (2018)

An excellent album of crushing, distorted and obscure sounds, courtesy of an Italian power trio ready to spread darkness in the name of old school Sludge and Doom Metal.

Forged during the summer of 2015 in Salò, a town and comune in the Province of Brescia in the region of Lombardy on the banks of Lake Garda, in Italy, Stoner/Doom Metal power trio Tannoiser is a reality among us with their slow and obscure music inspired by cult acts such as Celtic Frost, Electric Wizard and Cathedral, also inserting some stylistic elements dear to the primordial Black Metal into the mix. Comprised of Bruno Almici on vocals and bass, Francesco Bellucci on the guitar and Davide Serpelloni on drums, Tannoiser are unleashing upon humanity their brand new EP, entitled Alamut, aiming at spreading darkness through their low-tuned, rumbling instruments and screams, all in the name of old school Doom Metal.

The name of the album is a clear reference to the mountain fortress, whose remains are located in the current Iran and which served as the basis for the sect of the Nizarites, better known as Hashashin, a story distinguished by mysteries that weave reality and legend. The dark, also understood as a lack of certainties, is another underlying macroscopic theme, starting from the subject chosen for the cover itself, the cannabis plant, whose history in the last century has been characterized by obscurantism and demonization, and which is linked to the history of the stronghold of Alamut. Musically speaking, as aforementioned Alamut brings to the listener doomed and distorted heavy music that lives up to the legacy of the genre, turning the album into a must-listen for diehard Doom Metal fans in pursuit of fresh alternatives in the market.

In the opening track, curiously named Baba Vanga after a blind Bulgarian mystic, clairvoyant, and herbalist, a beyond weird intro quickly explodes into piercing and rumbling Stoner Metal led by the low-tuned bass and the anguished roars by Bruno, while Francesco slashes his strings in a vibrant fusion of old school Doom Metal and modern Rock N’ Roll. And the trio wastes no time and keep firing their fun and vibrant Stoner Metal in Paradacsa, with the bass punches being nicely supported by Davide’s steady and fierce beats. Moreover, the song presents an even more menacing vibe than its predecessor, being highly recommended for banging your head really hard in pitch black darkness; whereas the scorching hot buzzing blasted by Bruno from his bass ignites a somber Doom Metal feast titled Necrophage, where he also growls in a perturbing way while Davide keeps pounding our heads with his drums, with the music flowing demonically until its crushing finale.

March of Wrecks continues to pave the power trio’s path of obscurity, anger and pain, even bringing more aggressive nuances from Black Metal to their dense musicality, with Francesco doing an awesome job with his razor-edged riffs, while The Void showcases the most serene start of all songs from the EP, sounding melancholic and eerie with Bruno’s Stygian bass lines taking the lead while Francesco’s guitar lines once again bring electricity to the music. Then it’s Davide who takes care of kicking off their last breath of top-of-the-line Doom and Stoner Metal, titled Mekkano, remaining as dark as doomed music can be, with all band members adding their touch of malignancy to the sonority, especially Francesco with his mesmerizing riffs.

Entering the dark and sluggish world of Tannoiser is quite easy, as all you need to do is follow them on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and of course purchase your copy of Alamut (available for a full listen on YouTube and on SoundCloud) directly from their BandCamp page or from Amazon. Tannoiser were spot on with their thrilling fusion of Stoner and Doom Metal in Alamut, and apparently the band will only grow stronger and stronger as time goes by, pointing to a bright future not only for the band but for the entire genre as well.

Best moments of the album: Baba Vanga and March of Wrecks.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Leynir Booking & Prod

Track listing
1. Baba Vanga 4:11
2. Paradacsa 5:33
3. Necrophage 5:20
4. March of Wrecks 3:59
5. The Void 5:52
6. Mekkano 4:38

Band members
Bruno Almici – vocals, bass
Francesco Bellucci – guitar
Davide Serpelloni – drums

Album Review – Stormzone / Lucifer’s Factory (2018)

Featuring mysterious places and characters from the Northern Ireland folklore, the new album by this Belfast-based band will take you on a journey back to the golden years of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock.

What was born as a studio project in 2004 in Belfast, Northern Ireland’s capital, by vocalist John “Harv” Harbinson (No Sweat, Fastway, Sweet Savage, Den of Thieves), who was itching for a new creative outlet after a brief break from the rock industry, quickly evolved into a full-bodied band known as Stormzone, an unstoppable machine of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock anthems that has been embellishing the airwaves with their first-class music since the release of their debut album Caught in the Act, in 2007. Now in 2018, after five awesome full-length albums and countless live concerts, the band comprised of  the aforementioned frontman Harv on vocals, Steve Moore and Junior Afrifa on the guitars, Graham McNulty on bass and backing vocals, and Gordy Gray on drums is ready to stun us all once again with their classic metal music in Lucifer’s Factory, the sixth studio album in their short but already brilliant career.

Furthermore, not only the music kicks ass, but Stormzone have also stepped up their songwriting and lyrics, with the theme throughout Lucifer’s Factory concentrating on famous Irish myths and legends on each one of the 13 tracks of the album, featuring mysterious places or characters and their stories which have become embedded in Northern Ireland folklore. For instance, we have “Cushy Glen”, the notorious cut-throat highwayman, “Albhartach”, the original Irish vampire known to have inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula, “Dark Hedges”, the Northern Irish landmark now immortalized in the famous TV series Game of Thrones, and “Hallows’ Eve”, confirming that Halloween did actually originate in Northern Ireland, plus the album’s compelling title track “Lucifer’s Factory”, the origin of which is destined to surprise all, among many other compelling stories. With that said, are you ready to party like there’s no tomorrow to the incendiary Heavy Metal blasted by Stormzone, setting the tone for this upcoming Halloween?

In the opening track Dark Hedges, which by the way legend has it that one June night each year a beautiful ghostly lady appears under the extensive branches of the Dark Hedges trees for an evening of dancing and interaction with the spirits she has previously invited from the graveyard nearby, we’re treated to ass-kicking Heavy Metal from the very first second with an epic vibe in the background. The album couldn’t have started in a better way, bringing beautiful guitar solos, powerful vocals and exciting lyrics  (“Each new day, you’ll hide away / In strength you’ll sway / You’re growing through these centuries / Across entwined, to each you’ll bind / The strength you’ll find / A place in others fantasies”). Then the title-track Lucifer’s Factory keeps blowing our speakers mercilessly, with the guitars by Steve and Junior sounding as sharp as a razor blade, bringing the most thrilling elements from old school Hard Rock blended with contemporary metal music; followed by Cushy Glen, the story of the outlaw and highwayman who terrorized residents and travelers around the Coleraine area of Northern Ireland for many years just over two centuries ago, with Gordy dictating the rhythm in this mid-tempo feast of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock perfect for having a cold beer while singing the lyrics along with the band (“From the brave young men, to the brave old men /They’ll drink to the capture of the Cushy Glen / Flags will fly, and they’ll hang him high / Never no more shall we see him again”). And in Last Night in Hell the talented Harv fires his tuneful, classic vocal lines while the guitar duo continues to deliver their usual heavier-than-hell riffs, not to mention Graham and his thunderous bass lines.

The following tune, titled Albhartach, is just as fast and crisp as good old metal music should always be, and you’ll probably go over the speed limit while listening to it on the road, with its headbanging beats and fantastic backing vocals providing all the support Harv needs to kick ass once again on vocals. Then we have We Are Strong, another flammable tune drinking from the fountain of 80’s Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, and therefore keeping the album at a high level of stamina and fun, with highlights to the excellent job done by Gordy on drums and the once again beautiful solos by Steve and Junior; and Broken Window, a darker tune by Stomrzone also inspired by the golden years of Hard Rock, with Harv taking the lead with his sharp vocals while the sound of the guitars keeps cutting our skin beautifully. And blending the music by Helloween and Motörhead (which obviously means awesomeness), the band fires crushing, fast and melodic metal music from their instruments in The Heaven You Despise, with Gordy spearheading this thrilling extravaganza with his unstoppable drums while the band’s stringed trio is astounding with their axes.

Although Hallows’ Eve can be considered a good song showcasing slashing guitar riffs and another potent performance by Harv on vocals, feeling like a song by Merciful Fate without King Diamond on vocals, it unfortunately loses its grip after a while (nothing that harms the album, though), whereas Your Hell Falls Down takes us back to the 80’s, with pure Rock N’ Roll flowing from the band’s stunning riffs and beats while the bass by Graham shakes the foundations of the earth, bringing even more electricity to the music. In the exciting In for the Kill, an epic intro with an imposing Harv on vocals evolves into a galloping old school Heavy Metal anthem, presenting elements found in the music by metal warriors like Manowar, Gamma Ray and Hammerfall, and the party has no time to end based on the level of energy and fun blasted in The Last Goodbye, perfect for playing some air guitar together with the band, raising your fists while singing it along with Harv, or simply banging your head nonstop to the ass-kicking drums by Gordy. And last but not least Stomrzone offer us Time to Go, a semi-acoustic ballad that slows things down a bit, providing a smooth and passionate ending to such incredible album of Hard Rock, with Harv showcasing one last time all his skills as the excellent singer he is.

You might be asking yourself where you can find Lucifer’s Factory for purchase, and the the answer to that is quite simple, as all you need to do is go to eBay, iTunes, Amazon or Discogs to put your hands on this precious gem of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock made in Northern Ireland, also available for a full listen on Spotify. Hence, don’t forget to pay Stormzone a visit on Facebook for new and tour dates, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their breathtaking music. As you might have already noticed, Stormzone do not just play Heavy Metal, they live and breathe it, and Lucifer’s Factory represents all their dedication to the music we all love and their respect and admiration for their homeland’s folklore, important ingredients that make the entire album even better than we could have expected and a must-have in the collection of any true metal fan.

Best moments of the album: Dark Hedges, Cushy Glen, The Heaven You Despise and Your Hell Falls Down.

Worst moments of the album: Hallows’ Eve.

Released in 2018 Metal Nation Records

Track listing  
1. Dark Hedges 4:39
2. Lucifer’s Factory 5:08
3. Cushy Glen 4:47
4. Last Night in Hell 5:35
5. Albhartach 3:40
6. We Are Strong 4:20
7. Broken Window 5:49
8. The Heaven You Despise 5:24
9. Hallows’ Eve 5:51
10. Your Hell Falls Down 4:55
11. In for the Kill 5:23
12. The Last Goodbye 4:41
13. Time to Go 4:58

Band members
John “Harv” Harbinson – vocals
Steve Moore – guitars
Junior Afrifa – guitars
Graham McNulty – bass, backing vocals
Gordy Gray – drums