Album Review – Hearts & Hand Grenades / Turning To Ashes (2021)

Featuring eight original songs full of savage riffs and powerfully deep lyrics, the debut album by this Buffalo, New York-based quartet is an ode to all things Rock N’ Roll.

Almost two years after the release of their debut EP in 2019, Buffalo, New York-based Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll outfit Hearts & Hand Grenades is ready to rock our hearts like there’s no tomorrow with their explosive fusion of rock and metal styles in their first full-length album, entitled Turning To Ashes. Originally founded as a cover band in 2012 by guitarist Mike Bress, it didn’t take long for Hearts & Hand Grenades to spread their wings and begin crafting original music for lovers of our good old Rock N’ Roll, culminating now in 2021 with the release of their awesome new album featuring eight original songs full of savage riffs and powerfully deep lyrics. Comprised of the same lineup since the band’s inception, with the aforementioned Mike Bress being accompanied by vocalist and bassist Stephanie Wlosinski, lead guitarist Kenny Blesy and drummer Tom Lafferty, Hearts & Hand Grenades are sharper than ever in Turning To Ashes, making it a must-listen for admirers of rock music with piercing female vocals and a rebellious attitude.

One of the songs from their 2019 EP, Turning to Ashes, becomes the opening track (and the title-track) in their debut full-length opus, an ode to Rock N’ Roll sounding modern, vibrant and fun from start to finish, followed by For the Weakened, also featured in their 2019 EP, where Stephanie is enraged with her high-pitched, raspy vocals while Kenny and Mike bring hints of Southern Rock to the music with their dirty riffs, showcasing all the band’s versatility. Then we have Daggers, inspired by 90’s Alternative Rock, the third (headbanging) tune from their previous effort where the rhythmic beats by Tom will put you to dance while Stephanie continues to kick ass with both her vocals and rumbling bass; whereas I Hide presents an introspective intro to an Alice In Chains-inspired sonority by the quartet, bringing forward a very pleasant pace boosted by the slashing Hard Rock riffage by Kenny and Mike. Needless to say, it will undoubtedly put a big smile on the faces of admirers of rock music from the 90’s.

The last composition from their 2019 EP, Adrenaline, is a lesson in Hard Rock transpiring sheer adrenaline, of course, with Kenny’s guitar solo bringing an extra touch of electricity to the overall result, and I must say this amazing song can be played on any radio station worldwide. Razor-edged guitars kick off the melodious Nothing Left, where Stephanie steals the spotlight with another fantastic vocal performance, leading her bandmates in this Rock N’ Roll party (not to mention another solid job done by Tom behind his drum set), and it’s time for the quartet to bring forth an entertaining fusion of styles such as Ska and Punk Rock in the amazing The In Crowd, where Stephanie is on fire with her piercing vocals as usual while Kenny and Mike alternate between minimalist guitar lines and pure stamina. Lastly, My Sickness is a classic Hard Rock creation that keeps the album at a high level of energy and heaviness, presenting elements form the music by renowned acts like Hole, AC/DC and Velvet Revolver, therefore leaving us all beyond excited for more of their music in a not-so-distant future.

Having said all that, what are you waiting for to join Stephanie, Kenny, Mike and Tom in the high-octane Rock N’ Roll party that is their debut album Turning To Ashes? You can start following the band on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their music and videos, stream their rockin’ tunes on Spotify, and above all that, purchase your copy of their incendiary album or stream it as many times as you want by clicking HERE sooner than you can raise your horns and scream “Rock N’ Roll!” Actually, maybe that’s exactly what we need to do, banging our heads and raising our horns nonstop to warm us all up for when Turning To Ashes is finally unleashed upon humanity, keeping our beloved rock music alive and kicking.

Best moments of the album: Daggers, Nothing Left and The In Crowd.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Eclipse Records

Track listing
1. Turning to Ashes 4:18
2. For the Weakened 4:06
3. Daggers 3:39
4. I Hide 4:23
5. Adrenaline 5:30
6. Nothing Left 4:10
7. The In Crowd 3:51
8. My Sickness 4:18

Band members
Stephanie Wlosinski – vocals, bass
Kenny Blesy – lead guitars
Mike Bress – guitars, keyboards
Tom Lafferty – drums

Album Review – Waking Dream / Peculiarities of Evolution!!! EP (2020)

Hailing from Russia, this talented quartet is ready to put you to dance to the sound of their upbeat new EP of pure, unfiltered rock music.

Formed in Moscow, Russia in 2012 by guitarist Aleksandr Imaykin and singer Olga Karbusheva, Waking Dream are a hardworking band that plays an eclectic mix of Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Rock N’ Roll and Punk Rock with high-pitched female vocals as the icing on the cake, influenced by renowned acts the likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Nightwish, Ramones, Toy Dolls and Metallica. After releasing four full-length albums and two EP’s, it’s time for the band formed of the aforementioned Olga Karbusheva and Aleksandr Imaykin together with Mikhail Romanov on the guitars and Aleksandr Kislyakov on backing vocals and harmonica to kick some ass once again with their sixth release, the vibrant EP entitled Peculiarities of Evolution!!!, an upbeat album produced by Ivan Alyoshin and displaying a distinguished cover art by Russian artist Dasha Samsonova that will put you to dance to the sound of its four tracks filled with electricity, passion, rebelliousness and, more important than all that, pure, unfiltered rock music.

Featuring guest violinist Inna Hinkiladze, whose violin makes a beautiful paradox with the low-tuned bass by Aleksandr Imaykin, A Hit Song quickly morphs into a classic Rock N’ Roll song with Punk Rock, Ska and even some Folk influences, inviting us all to dance together with Olga and the boys, whereas the guitars by Mikhail and Aleksandr Imaykin bring a touch of 60’s and 70’s rock music to their core sonority in Broken Heart, while Aleksandr Kislyakov kicks some ass with his incendiary harmonica, resulting in a straightforward, no shenanigans tune that will undoubtedly put a smile on your face. Olga keeps embellishing the airwaves with her delicate but piercing vocals in Gift Frenzy, showcasing a great job done by Aleksandr Imaykin on drums and the trademark guitar solos by Mikhail Romanov, feeling modern and vibrant from start to finish, and let’s hit the dance floor one last time with the groovy Rock N’ Roll feast Peculiarities of Evolution, spearheaded by the unstoppable beats by Aleksandr Imaykin while the harmonica by Aleksandr Kislyakov adds a sense of nostalgia to the overall result.

In a nutshell, albeit extremely short in duration with just a little over 11 minutes of music, Peculiarities of Evolution!!!, which is by the way available for a full listen on Spotify, is another amazing stone in the Rock N’ Roll path paved by Waking Dream in their already solid career, showing us all the quartet will stand strong in their quest for good rock and metal music for many years to come. Hence, in order to sow them your support and inspire them to keep moving forward, go check what they’re up to on Facebook, on Instagram and on VKontakte, subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their music, official videos and live footage, and above all that, purchase a copy of their fun and dancing new EP from their BandCamp page, from Apple Music or from Amazon. Peculiarities of Evolution!!! might not be a revolution in music (well, that has never been the band’s goal anyway), but it’s indeed an extremely well-done and thrilling album of Rock N’ Roll, and in the end that’s all that really matters and, of course, everything a true rocker needs.

Best moments of the album: Broken Heart.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. A Hit Song 3:12
2. Broken Heart 2:40
3. Gift Frenzy 3:03
4. Peculiarities of Evolution 2:32

Band members
Olga Karbusheva – lead vocals
Mikhail Romanov – rhythm and lead guitars
Aleksandr Imaykin – rhythm guitars, bass, keyboards, drums
Aleksandr Kislyakov – backing vocals, harmonica

Guest musician
Inna Hinkiladze – violin on “A Hit Song”

Album Review – Sepsiss / Badd Blood EP (2019)

Bang your head to the debut EP by this emerging American outfit that plays uncompromising metal combining a more traditional sound with modern rhythms and urban hardcore.

Founded by vocalist Melissa Wolfe and guitarist William Savant in 2011 in Manchester, a city in the southern part of the U.S. state of New Hampshire, the incendiary female-fronted Hard Rock and Alternative Metal band that goes by the name of Sepsiss has been wowing crowds across their home state since their inception, playing uncompromising metal that combines a more traditional sound with modern rhythms, light synths and a blend of urban hardcore. Now in 2019 this five-piece outfit comprised of the aforementioned Melissa on clean vocals and William on harsh vocals and on the guitar, accompanied by Cam Loud also on the guitar, Mr Goodbarz on keyboards and Robbert Pann on drums is unleashing a very dynamic and fun EP entitled Badd Blood, offering fans of modern metal music eight unique tracks which prove that female-fronted metal bands can offer some of the most powerful, intriguing and diverse sounds in the genre, just like what bands such as their rock heroes Heart and more recently Evanescence have always done.

A cinematic intro evolves into a feast of modern-day Hardcore and Alternative Metal entitled Fair To Say led by Melissa’s classic vocal lines, giving life to the song’s lovesick lyrics (“You are my favorite vice, / The way you’re squeezing me tonight. / The way you’re screaming songs slice the sky for me… / I fell in love with your void, / I filled it up on my own accord. / And you’re bored with being broken… / SO I’LL BREAK US UP!!!!”), as if Green Day met Evanescence. Then with William making a flammable vocal duet with Melissa we have To Write Hate On His Arms, showcasing straightforward and precise beats by Robbert while Mr Goodbarz adds a touch of delicacy and madness to the background with his keys, resulting in what’s in my humble opinion the best track of the EP.

William and Cam bring tons of heaviness to the band’s modern Hard Rock in Sky Is Falling, a song that’s considerably faster and more dynamic than its predecessors, with the music remaining vibrant and fresh for over five minutes in an interesting fusion of different styles like Metalcore, Melodic Death Metal and contemporary Hard Rock; followed by The Swarm, where the band switches their gears to a more alternative sonority with Mr Goodbarz and Robbert keeping the atmosphere as modern as possible in perfect sync with the guitar riffs. Black Light Invasion follows a similar pattern, with Melissa’s vocals getting sexier as the music progresses, sounding groovy and catchy from the very first second and, therefore, being highly recommended for hitting the dance floor while both William and Cam kick some serious ass with their riffs and solos. And in Falling Unloved the band accelerates their pace to a frantic fusion of the music by Evanscence with Hardcore, Punk Rock and even Ska, crushing their instruments mercilessly and offering their fans a good reason to crack their necks headbanging.

And their Rock N’ Roll party goes on in Force You To Lay Down, where the vocals by Melissa sound inebriating and captivating, while her bandmates make sure the energy level doesn’t go down not even a bit by pounding their instruments nonstop. Last but not least, Eyes Of Empathy closes the album with five minutes of first-class Hard Rock, showcasing lyrics that are as catchy as they can be (“Eyes of empathy can never reason why… / It could never mend the things I’ve seen tonight… / Forever quell the screams of your denial… / I won’t ever wake.”). Not only that, Melissa is on absolute fire on vocals, with the amount of electricity and rage brought forth by William, Cam and Robbert being beyond outstanding.

Do you have what it takes to enter the alternative and metallic lands ruled by Melissa, William & Co.? You can certainly show your total support to such up-and-coming band by following them through their official Facebook page, by subscribing to their YouTube channel, by listening to their music on Spotify, and obviously by purchasing Badd Blood from the band’s own webstore as a regular physical version or as an autographed edition. And let’s hope Sepsiss keep on rocking and inspiring more and more women to follow a similar musical path not only in their home state, but anywhere else in the world where good music is appreciated, all in the name of Rock N’ Roll.

Best moments of the album: To Write Hate On His Arms and Eyes Of Empathy.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. Fair To Say 3:54
2. To Write Hate On His Arms 3:20
3. Sky Is Falling 5:17
4. The Swarm 2:27
5. Black Light Invasion 3:58
6. Falling Unloved 3:55
7. Force You To Lay Down 3:37
8. Eyes Of Empathy 5:03

Band members
Melissa Wolfe – vocals
William Savant – vocals, guitars
Cam Loud – guitars
Mr Goodbarz – keyboards
Robbert Pann – drums

Album Review – The Earth And I / The Candleman (2017)

Close your eyes and enjoy the first of two sister albums by this talented American band, introducing you to their unique fusion of groove-oriented sounds and captivating storytelling lyrics.

Playing a mix of groovy, moody, syncopated metal and more upbeat, accessible rock tunes inspired by bands like Periphery, Animals as Leaders and TesseracT, American Progressive Rock/Metal metallers The Earth And I (also known as TEAI, pronounced /tay/) are releasing their debut full-length album, titled The Candleman, the first of two sister albums (with the second one, named The Curtain, being scheduled for an early 2018 release). Featuring seven tracks through the course of 35 minutes, The Candleman will not only introduce you to the world of TEAI, but present to you in great fashion their unique music heavily focused on a fusion of groove-oriented sounds and captivating storytelling lyrics.

Formed in 2013 in the city of Warwick, New York, in the United States by guitarists Daniel Siew and Liam Zintz-Kunkel, drummer Suss Mackenzie and bassist Nick Petromilli, who were later joined by neo-soul vocalist Kendyle Wolven in 2017, TEAI aim at filling a serious need in the Progressive Metal world for non-operatic female vocals with The Candleman and The Curtain. Displaying a minimalist and classy artwork designed by the band’s own guitarist Daniel Siew, The Candleman definitely succeeds in bringing that vocal variation desired by TEAI to their metal music, effectively helping the band make a name for themselves in underground Progressive and Groove Metal.

The beautifully-titled atmospheric intro The Lake Under the Desert warms up the listener for the groovy and thunderous I. CGMTC (Life in the Sunset Zone), a powerful tune where Daniel, Liam and Nick create a wave of rumbling sounds with their strings, setting the stage for the mesmerizing vocals by Kendyle to shine brighter than the sun. Moreover, the song brings moments of hope flawlessly blended with passages full of anger, resulting in a full-bodied Progressive Metal experience for our senses enhanced by its poetic lyrics (“In the harbor, / the ship had turned to stone. / They watched from the Belfry, / long bones, and cold and unsound, / their skin drawn tight / over emaciated forms.”). Then in II. Little Frames, a more obscure, introspective creation by TEAI, the fiery Kendyle keeps blasting her potent vocals in a beautiful paradox with the harsh growls by Nick, with the musicality alternating between more technical Progressive Metal and rowdy Groove Metal. Put differently, simply close your eyes and let this feast of contrasting sounds penetrate deep inside your soul.

In the interesting And Now for a Slight Departure the band adds elements from Ska and Punk to their music, creating an upbeat vibe led by the high-pitched vocals by Kendyle and the rhythmic and precise beats by Adam, resulting in what can be considered a  more “radio-friendly” version of TEAI; while in Sugar High they get back to a darker sonority, with Daniel, Liam and Nick once again doing an amazing job with their axes, sounding like the bastard son of Dream Theater with Evanescence, but also presenting elements from Alternative Metal and Hard Rock to spice things up a bit.

Then as a break from all their groovy and wicked sounds TEAI offer us all a serene ballad named The Hollow Deluge, with Kendyle passionately (and effectively) declaiming its pensive words (“I stand before the most cloudy of waters. / I survey the scene with reserved apprehension. / There’s something not right here, like I’ve been here before. / It’s strangely familiar. / It’s almost uncomfortably comfortable.”), all boosted by the electricity that rises in the last part of the song, flowing into a climatic ending. And as the icing on the cake we have Skies Like Fences, bringing forward over 7 minutes of intricate drumming, metallic and extremely groovy bass lines, flammable guitar solos, deranged growls and endless energy, or in other words, an extravaganza of Progressive Metal once again led by Kendyle and her charming voice.

You can enjoy The Candleman in its entirety on YouTube or on Spotify, follow TEAI on Facebook, and buy your favorite version of the album through the band’s own BandCamp or webstore (in digipak or MP3 format, as well as on iTunes and on Amazon. In a nutshell, TEAI set the bar really high for themselves with The Candleman, but of course if they keep doing what they’re capable of in The Curtain next year, which is delivering high-end metal with a strong progressive vein, I’m sure all of us fans of Progressive Metal will be more than happy when their second album is released, just like how we are now with The Candleman.

Best moments of the album: I. CGMTC (Life in the Sunset Zone) and Skies Like Fences.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. The Lake Under the Desert 0:56
2. I. CGMTC (Life in the Sunset Zone) 4:34
3. II. Little Frames 8:35
4. And Now for a Slight Departure 4:05
5. Sugar High 4:06
6. The Hollow Deluge 5:01
7. Skies Like Fences 7:37

Band members
Kendyle Wolven – lead vocals
Daniel Siew – guitar, vocals
Liam Zintz-Kunkel – guitar
Nick Petromilli – bass, vocals
Adam Susskind – drums

Concert Review – Lordi (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 02/22/2017)

The God Of Thunder finally answered our call, and the most electrifying horde of Rock N’ Roll monsters in the universe stormed Toronto with their sensational, gory and theatrical performance for the first time ever.

OPENING ACTS: Mineta and Bookakee

lordi_toronto_2017The weather in Toronto couldn’t have been better for a night of heavy music, given the fact we’re in the middle of the winter and it was supposed to be freaking cold now. Not only there was no snow or rain, but with a temperature above 10 degrees we simply had the perfect conditions for praising the most awesome monsters in the world of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, our beloved Finnish metallers Lordi, at the always comfortable The Opera House. But before Mr. Lordi and his horde hit the stage to mesmerize us with their sensational music and performance, we were treated to two very interesting Canadian bands that, if you don’t know them yet, certainly deserve our attention.

img_0141The first attraction of the night, MINETA, which is Polish for “cunnilingus” or “fellatio” (or if you prefer, in plain English it means giving oral sex to a woman), was more than just a music band, but a talented group of street performers blasting a mix of Ska, Punk Rock and Heavy Metal with a circus-inspired attitude, or as Mineta themselves like to call it, they play “Circus Party Punk”. Formed in 2012 in the city of Toronto, Mineta have just released their debut full-length album Polyglamerous, which was the base of their fun setlist, including the entertaining Fag Beef. While lead singer Bella Muerta stapled Christmas lights to her thigh, showed her boobs and urged the crowd to sing “daj mi mineta” with her (or “give me oral sex” in Polish), guitarist Tony Patrick Olivero played his strings while doing some circus tricks, Arty Basinski pounded his drums from the top of his stilts, and Matt Pazzol (bettern known as YuMB YuMB) was the weirdest clown I’ve ever seen to play bass guitar. There was still time for a sexy bunny to take some bloody eggs from her pussy and eat them. Yes, that all happened during their wicked show. Are you excited to see them live now?

Band members
Bella Muerta – vocals
Tony Patrick Olivero – guitar
Matt Pazzol (YuMB YuMB) – bass
Arty Basinski – drums

img_0149The second opening act of the night was just as insane as Mineta, but instead of an upbeat Punk Rock they played a very violent and gory version of Death Metal defined by the band as “Progressive Theatrical Melodic Brutal Gore Death Metal”. I’m talking about Montreal-based act BOOKAKEE, a name that also has a sexual connotation meaning “a sexual practice in which several men ejaculate on the face of an individual woman”. Formed in 2007, the band comprised of Philippe Langelier, Simon-Pierre Gagnon, Mathieu Paré, Jonathan David and Jean-Philippe Bouchard haunted the souls of the fans at The Opera House with the visceral compositions from their latest album, named Whorrific, including the title-track Whorrific and the bestial Bookakee Blast. And just like mineta, those five metallers didn’t only play their infernal, technical and thrilling music, but also “helped” a girl give birth to her creepy baby, scalped a nun and were joined on stage by the one and only Donkey Kong. However, the most unusual part of the show was when what was supposed to be a wall of death became a dance floor to the sound of Haddaway’s dance hit “What Is Love”. I guess no one saw that coming.

Band members
Philippe Langelier – vocals
Simon-Pierre Gagnon – lead guitar
Mathieu Paré – rhythm guitar
Jonathan David – bass
Jean-Philippe Bouchard – drums 

LORDI

img_0164After such unique performances, it was time for Mr. Lordi and his horde of monsters to deliver an absolutely flawless performance to an audience avid for their music. It was the first time ever that LORDI performed in the city of Toronto, and the whole band gave their best to make it a memorable night for their Torontonian fans. Still promoting their latest release, the excellent Monstereophonic (Theaterror vs. Demonarchy), the band blasted all types of songs in their solid setlist, from the beautiful ballad It Snows in Hell to the high-octane rockin’ anthem Bringing Back the Balls to Rock, from the very old school song Icon of Dominance to their newest hit Hug You Hardcore, and so on, putting a huge smile on everyone’s faces the whole night.

But Lordi also had some help in their theatrical performance from the very beginning like what happened with Mineta and Bookakee, with the iconic Skeletor introducing the band and displaying the decapitated head of the sissy He-Man in the opening song of the night, the cheesy but fun Let’s Go Slaughter He-Man (I Wanna Be the Beast-Man in the Masters of the Universe). Also, a priest tried to exorcise Mr. Lordi but failed miserably. Who did he think he was dealing with, right? Anyway, Mr. Lordi was on fire the whole presentation, always interacting with the fans and singing all his classics better than ever. Moreover, before playing the fantastic The Riff, he mentioned the song had the same “special ingredient” (which is obviously a heavy riff, if you have no idea what he was talking about) present in the music by behemoths such as KISS, Judas Priest, Motley Crüe, Skid Row and Black Sabbath, proving that before being a monster, he’s a crazy metalhead just like the rest of us.

img_0166Despite being slightly “hidden” at the back of the stage, Mana and Hella both had amazing performances with their powerful beats and keys, in special our stunning  schizo doll emanating charm and electricity during the entire show. And while OX blasted his strings in an entertaining disco-rock-dancing bass solo, Mr. Lordi’s right-hand man Amen was the personification (or should I say “monsterification”?) of a true Rock N’ Roll guitarist, being unstoppable on stage with his cutting riffs and solos. Let’s say their job gets easier than other average bands as they have tons of beyond-catchy hymns to mesmerize us like Hard Rock Hallelujah and Devil Is a Loser, and when they ended the concert with their two most famous “questions”, Who’s Your Daddy? and Would You Love a Monsterman?, they left us all questioning when we’ll have the pleasure of seeing those incredible monsters of rock once again in the city. I personally hope it doesn’t take another 20 years for Lordi to come to Toronto, but I guess I don’t need to worry too much about it as, based on the flammable response by their fans, it won’t take more than a few months for that to happen.

Setlist
God of Thunder (KISS song)
SCG VIII: Opening Scene
Let’s Go Slaughter He-Man (I Wanna Be the Beast-Man in the Masters of the Universe)
Babez for Breakfast
Nailed by the Hammer of Frankenstein
The Riff
Bass Solo
Bite It Like a Bulldog
Icon of Dominance
Drum Solo
Bringing Back the Balls to Rock
Hug You Hardcore
It Snows in Hell
The Children of the Night
Keyboard Solo
Down With the Devil
Blood Red Sandman
Hard Rock Hallelujah
Devil Is a Loser

Encore:
Who’s Your Daddy?
Would You Love a Monsterman?
The Night the Monsters Died

Band members
Mr. Lordi – vocals
Amen – guitars
OX – bass
Hella – keyboards
Mana – drums