Album Review – Rifftera / Pitch Black (2015)

Don’t be afraid of the dark and let this high-end futuristic Melodic Death Metal album satisfy your metallic desires.

Rating4

rifftera-coverAfter releasing a couple of demos in the past few years, it’s time for Finnish Melodic Death Metal band Rifftera to strike the world of heavy music with their debut studio album Pitch Black, a slashing feast of metallic and melodic tunes tailored for fans of Soilwork, In Flames, Arch Enemy, Megadeth, Trivium, among many other amazing heavy bands. In other words, if you’re one of those people who believe harmony and violence should always walk hand in hand to generate good music, Pitch Black will satisfy you in every sense, keeping you entertained from start to finish.

In my humble opinion, what really makes this promising band formed in 2010 in Vaasa, Finland stand out from other similar bands is the harmonious complexity of their compositions, which ends up helping the band tell the different stories within each song of the album, their evolution and consequences. For instance, although Pitch Black has only eight songs it goes on for over 54 minutes, an average of almost seven minutes per song. Not only that, I believe they wouldn’t have been able to produce an album so unique and complete without the futuristic sounding of the synths by keyboardist Antti Pöntinen, who is capable of leading the musicality even with all the heaviness of guitars, drums and harsh screams surrounding him.

And it’s those electronic effects generated by Antti that start the party in Back To Life, a violent Melodic Death Metal song that blends the Gothenburg sound with a more modern Finnish touch. In addition, singer/guitarist Janne Hietala does an awesome job delivering sheer rage through his vocal lines, enhanced by the song’s strong riffs and catchy chorus. Then we have One Step Closer,  where its synths remind me of some sounds from the classic album Turbo by Judas Priest, adding a lot of energy to the savagery brought forth by the other members of the band. However, in the faster and more brutal tune Lightbringer, synths remain in the background while the songs vicious riffs by Janne and Mikko and the nonstop drums by session drummer Thomas Tunkkari take the spotlight. It seems they love the “harsh screams during most parts of the song/clean vocals on chorus” formula, and they prove they have a very good reason for that, as this song is a pure delight for fans of Melodic Death Metal from Scandinavia.

Rifftera-PromoAshes Fall is another track full of melody and anger where a solid instrumental perfect for headbanging takes over the ambience, with its second half being truly melancholic, in special its guitar riffs and solos. The only negative comment in this song is that this time the chorus is not so powerful, harming the final result a bit. On the other hand, their Thrash Metal vein arises in the superb Rotten To The Core, featuring Swedish singer Björn “Speed” Strid from Soilwork, a flawless exhibit of melodic riffs, solos and drumming with spot-on lyrics about how all politicians are always deceiving us with their greedy lies and false promises (“How would this time be any different? / Haven’t we learned before? / How would this one make any difference? / You know one / You know ’em all”). It’s impossible not to love this whirlwind of ruthless Melodic Death Metal, one of the best contemporary compositions you can find anywhere, and I believe this is the path Rifftera should take in their future releases. Fans will surely have a good time inside the circle pits when this song is played, with kudos to Janne for sounding as choleric on vocals as the musicality demands.

They keep their music at a high level in Open Wounds, with Thomas contributing to its progressiveness and rage behind his drums, and pay attention to how the keyboards remain sharp and enhance the eerie atmosphere amidst the nonstop metal sounding. In the also wonderful The Ruins Of The Empire, the initial riff is so thrilling it’s hard not to play some air guitar and bang your head to it, with the sick growls by Janne during the chorus taking it to a deeper level of fury. Furthermore, there’s even time for a keyboard solo in this excellent tune, and it’s also remarkable how the professionalism and quality of the sound elevate the final result considerably. And finally, it looks like the last part of the album is dedicated to the heavier and darker side of Rifftera, which is confirmed in the title-track Pitch Black.  Its acoustic intro sets the tone for their most epic creation, flirting with Symphonic Black Metal so obscure and heavy it gets, with some moments reminding me a little of the guitar duos from the epic songs by Iron Maiden. It’s a sonic exhibit of wickedness and despair, almost a metal opera with imposing synths and orchestrations leading the music to a climatic ending.

In summary, if Melodic Death Metal is what you love the most in life, don’t be afraid of the dark and go check Rifftera’s Facebook page and YouTube channel, and buy your copy of Pitch Black at Record Shop X or Inverse Store, you won’t regret that at all. These talented Finnish metallers put their hearts and souls into the making of this high-end futuristic album, something you can feel in each and every song, turning it into a must-have item in your collection of melodic and angry tunes.

Best moments of the album: Lightbringer, Rotten To The Core and The Ruins Of The Empire.

Worst moments of the album: Ashes Fall.

Released in 2015 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Back To Life 5:22
2. One Step Closer 5:53
3. Lightbringer 5:27
4. Ashes Fall 7:03
5. Rotten To The Core (feat. Björn “Speed” Strid) 6:20
6. Open Wounds 5:24
7. The Ruins Of The Empire 6:40
8. Pitch Black 11:48

Band members
Janne Hietala – guitar, harsh vocals
Mikko Kuoppamaa – guitar, clean vocals
Antti Pöntinen – keyboards
Jupe Karhu – bass

Guest musicians
Björn “Speed” Strid – additional vocals on “Rotten To The Core”
Thomas Tunkkari – session drummer

Album Review – Witches Of Doom / Obey (2014)

These Italian guys bring you some awesome Doom and Stoner Metal with a unique goth vibe. They’re the Witches of Doom, yeah!

Rating4

Witches-Of-Doom-ObeyThere were so many brilliant Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll bands from the 80’s and part of the 90’s with a strong goth vibe it’s hard to name just a few, like for example The Cult, Paradise Lost and Sisters of Mercy. However, very few bands playing that type of music were created (and survived) in the past decade or so, which unfortunately ended up dragging such a rich genre down to the underground of music. Let’s say that this little “problem” is almost over with the blessed birth of Italian Goth-Stoner-Doom Metal band Witches Of Doom and their outstanding debut album Obey, released a couple of months ago.

Although they’re not reinventing goth, doom or anything else, the way this Rome-based band blends all the elements from those music genres, also adding hints of 70’s Hard Rock and elements of more contemporary heavy music, is beyond amazing. In other words, you’ll be able to easily identify the influence of bands such as Moonspell and Depeche Mode in their music, but it’s far from being just a “cover” band. Witches Of Doom have their own musicality, a modern and personalized goth heavy rock that will please all fans of good occult music.

The Betrayal begins with a Breaking Bad-ish intro before turning into a thrilling mix of Doom Metal and Southern Rock, with highlights to the great vocal performance by Danilo “Groova” Piludu. The last part of the song sounds a lot like American Sludge Metal supergroup Down, especially its raw riffs and soulful solo. Following that excellent beginning, we have Witches of Doom, a much heavier version of that goth music from the 80’s played by Sisters of Mercy and an excellent “business card” from the band (“We are the Witches of Doom, yeah!”), and To the Bone, a song that could be played in any radio station in the world: it’s 100% catchy with a really cool atmosphere. Besides, it’s easy to see how much guitarist Federico “Fed” Venditti loves 80’s rock music based on his guitar lines.

The next track, Needless Needle, is another interesting song full of guitar effects the likes of Paradise Lost and a nice old-fashioned keyboard solo at the end, but its main strength is how the band supports the chorus with their instruments, making it exciting and unique; while the piano ballad Crown of Thorns focus on a more melancholic feeling, especially its lyrics, getting heavier halfway through it.

DSC_0683The second half of the album starts with the awesome distorted guitar and bass lines of Dance of the Dead Flies, which can be considered the first of the two songs that sound like a tribute to the one and only Type O Negative. It’s Doom and Stoner Metal to the maximum heaviness, with kudos to singer Groova for his badass performance on vocals one more time. The second and most Type O Negative-ish song of the album is entitled Rotten to the Core: this is one of those songs tailored to be played during a strip-tease at the most underground Rock N’ Roll strip club in the world, something like From Dusk Till Dawn (and I can even imagine Salma Hayek, or I should say Santanico Pandemonium, doing her sexy dance). In addition, once again the guitar solo enhances the overall energy of the song.

Last but not least, we have It’s My Heart (Where I Feel the Cold), a heavier and a lot better ballad than “Crown of Thorns” with nice piano notes by Graziano “Eric” Corrado and some really dark low riffs, giving it an intense goth vibe; and the title-track Obey, with its tribal intro, powerful keyboards, poetic lyrics (“I was waiting for you in the sky”), and a mesmerizing rhythm. It even has some interesting sitar notes to boost its delicious eerie atmosphere. And just for your information, this song doesn’t actually have 14 minutes: it ends at around minute 8 or 9, “returning” at minute 12 as some kind of “hidden track” that contains only some weird distorted noises.

In summary, Witches Of Doom’s Obey, available at their Big Cartel page, on iTunes and other different places, brings back to you directly from Italy that awesome 80’s goth sonority, offering you everything you loved so much in that era but without sounding obsolete at all. Quite the contrary, those guys are looking to the future of music, supported by their technique, their influences and, more important than that, a lot of feeling and passion for Rock N’ Roll.

Best moments of the album: The Betrayal, Dance of the Dead Flies and Rotten to the Core.

Worst moments of the album: Crown of Thorns.

Released in 2014 Sliptrick Records

Track listing
1. The Betrayal 3:49
2. Witches of Doom 3:54
3. To the Bone 3:49
4. Needless Needle 5:01
5. Crown of Thorns 5:25
6. Dance of the Dead Flies 5:06
7. Rotten to the Core 4:10
8. It’s My Heart (Where I Feel the Cold) 4:17
9. Obey 14:45

Band members
Danilo “Groova” Piludu – vocals
Federico “Fed” Venditti – guitar
Jacopo Cartelli – bass
Graziano “Eric” Corrado – keyboards
Andrea “Budi” Budicin – drums