Metal Chick of the Month – Māra Lisenko

Label me insane… My madness is not my enemy!

Get ready to be absolutely stunned by the sick growling, screaming and roaring blasted by our metal lady of the month of September, a true metalhead who loves all types of extreme music from the bottom of her Latvian heart, with her music being highly recommended for diehard fans of renowned acts like Aborted, Cryptopsy, Cattle Decapitation, Decapitated, Bloodbath and Hideous Divinity, among several others, who are always in pursuit of new names in the scene and who also love a feminine touch amidst such level of devastation. Hailing from Riga, Latvia’s capital, set on the Baltic Sea at the mouth of the River Daugava, but currently residing in the metal heaven known as the Federal Republic of Germany, here comes the ferocious she-wolf Māra Lisenko, the indomitable growler for some of the best bands of the past few years coming from the Baltics, those being Ocularis Infernum and MĀRA.

Having studied vocals at Vocaltech – Thames Valley University (currently known as University of West London) in 2007 in the UK, as well as with some of the most prestigious vocal coaches worldwide such as rock and metal vocal coach Melissa Cross, rockstar vocal coach Mark Baxter, and “Death Metal Phoniatrician” Dr. Enrico H Di Lorenzo (Hideous Divinity), Māra is an extremely versatile vocalist, being able to sing from the most brutal and gory growls to fragile, emotional clean vocals. In addition, although she started to sing in bands and tour around Europe in 2003, her singing career started way earlier than that, when she was still a three-year old girl, mainly because her own mother was a choir leader and inspired her to follow a similar path. A self-starter and an autodidact, our dauntless growler is also a vocal coach, having taught several aggressive as well as melodic vocal techniques and training since 2011, and also offering studio session work for bands who need professional sounding vocals for their recordings (and you can get more details about her services by clicking HERE or HERE). In one of her interviews, she said all the energy in her singing and screaming is driven by her real-life experiences and emotions, never about fictional topics, which in her opinion makes it a lot easier for her to transform those feelings into ass-kicking vocals.

During hear early years as a professional vocalist, she was part of two distinct Latvian bands named Defame (which I couldn’t find any information online) and Karmafree, with whom she won a couple of awards, those being Best Vocalist in a band contest named “Rīgas Dzintars” with Karmafree in 2011, and a Grand Prix with Defame at Sinepes Un Medus in 2005. Karmafree, which is still active by the way, is an alternative bass and vocal duo comprised of Māra on vocals and her husband Dmitry Lisenko on bass formed in 2010 in London, England, playing many festivals and releasing a self-titled demo and video entitled Fresh Millionaire before the duo returned to their homeland Latvia. In 2012 they released their first EP, named Illusions, along with a music video for the song Fragile; after their debut album, Karmafree released a series of singles, with songs like InvisibleValidate Me and #SSDD beautifully representing the evolution of the project, their social and political fights, and of course Māra’s fantastic vocal range. You can listen to a lot more of the music by Karmafree on their official YouTube channel, as well as on their BandCamp page.

It was back in 2015 when Māra was able to present herself to a much broader audience after joining a Riga-based Melodic/Symphonic Death/Black Metal band named Ocularis Infernum, who have been on the road since 2002 but who had released only one demo and one EP before she became their frontwoman. Under the stage name of Māra Sekhmet, she released in 2017 together with the band’s founders Andris and Magnuss the excellent Expired Utopia (which you can purchase from their own BandCamp page or listen in full on Spotify), exploring themes like darkness, occultism and paganism, always embraced by a symphonic and Stygian aura inspired by renowned acts such as Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth. I personally loved listening to every single second of Expired Utopia, and if you’re also a fan of this fusion of extreme and symphonic music you can have a taste of the band’s darkness and of Māra’s refined gnarls and powerful clean vocals by listening to the songs A Confession Of Defeat and Lost Forest. There’s nothing on the band’s official Facebook page about an upcoming album, concerts nor anything like that since the end of 2018, but let’s hope they’re just taking a break and that the world can enjoy more of the music by Ocularis Infernum in a not-so-distant future.

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Right now, Māra’s main project is her own solo band named MĀRA, a Latvian/German four-piece outfit established in 2018 that plays a modern and sharp amalgamation of Death, Thrash, Alternative and Groove Metal. Currently based in two countries – Germany and Latvia – MĀRA have already played tours and summer festivals all across Europe since their inception, visiting countries like Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Germany, France and obviously Latvia, and opening for some of the biggest exponents of Extreme Metal such as Sepultura, Krisiun and Satyricon. So far Māra and her henchmen, including her aforementioned husband Dmitry on bass, released in 2018 their debut EP entitled Therapy For An Empath, which you can purchase from their BandCamp page or listen to in full on YouTube, and three music videos for the songs Sell Your Soul, Label Me Insane and Blameshifter, having already won Album Of The Year (with Therapy For An Empath, of course) and Best Vocalist at the  Latvian Metal Music Awards 2018. Moreover, you can enjoy MĀRA’s incendiary performance at the Latvian Metal Music Awards 2018,  which was held at an underground extreme music club in Riga named Melnā Piektdiena, playing the song Label Me Insane live during the event. As you might have already noticed, the name of the band was taken directly from her own name Māra, a very traditional Latvian girl name and, according to Māra herself, in Latvian folklore it’s also the name of a goddess, carrying a lot of strength rooted very deep in where the band comes from, also using Māra’s cross as their logo, a powerful Latvian magic sign.

Regarding her main idols in music, you just need to think of most classic Death, Thrash, Black and Groove Metal bands like Sepultura, Morbid Angel, Slayer, Carcass, Aborted, Cryptopsy and so on, with Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy) being perhaps her biggest idol as a vocalist. Māra even mentioned during an interview that one of her dreams as a musician would be to sing either Territory or Roots Bloody Roots together with Max as a very distinct and powerful duet, showing her total admiration and respect for a man that has undoubtedly revolutionized the way extreme vocalists sing all over the world. Not only that, you can also check all her passion for extreme music and vocalists on her official YouTube channel, where she uploads her own vocal covers for some of the heaviest and most awesome songs of all time, as for example Slipknot’s Psychosocial and The Heretic Anthem, Lamb Of God’s Laid To Rest and Sepultura’s Territory, with Slipknot having a huge influence on her vocal style and taste for music according to Māra herself, in special their 2001 masterpiece Iowa. As a matter of fact, she released her cover version for The Herectic Anthem on the same day Slipkont launched their brand new album We Are Not Your Kind this year, proving how much she loves and follows the band led by Corey Taylor. On a side note, our skillful vocalist also said that all metalheads from Latvia who dedicate a lot of their time to keep the local metal scene going, doing it just for their love for metal with basically no financial reward, also inspire her a lot in life, once again showing Māra has and will always have a beautiful connection with her homeland.

Māra also seems to be crazy four touring and performing live, as she mentioned in an interview that she could simply live out of touring. She enjoys visiting different countries, meeting and playing for different people, and learning about metal scenes everywhere she goes. She has already played in several European countries, and I’m pretty sure she can’t wait to expand her horizons to places like North and South America, Japan and Australia. As aforementioned, Māra and her husband Dmitry are currently residing in Germany (while the other band members, guitarist Denis Melnik and drummer Alberts Mednis, still live in Riga), and the reason why they decided to do that was purely due to music. She said that while metal in Latvia is considered underground and the opportunities for metal bands and artists there are very limited (albeit the internet can be very helpful in terms of worldwide exposure), even taking into account the metal scene in Latvia is healthy and friendly, Germany is the place to be for any type of metal band, complementing by saying that the fact her band is located in two different countries ended up helping them book gigs in more than one country. In addition to that, she said there are no metal radio stations in Latvia, and there are only 4 or 5 metal-oriented pubs in the entire country where local and touring bands can play. Well, let’s say that Māra is one of the most hardworking metal musicians (if not the most) hailing from Latvia that’s trying to change that, putting her beloved homeland on the global metal map even living in Germany.

Last but not least, when asked if she also sings and writes in her mother tongue Latvian and in any other language rather than English, she said although English is her preferred language because she wants her lyrics and messages to be understood by as many people as possible, she also sings and writes lyrics in Latvian and Russian depending on the project she’s working on, as sometimes she feels she wants to communicate only with Latvian and Russian speaking people. In case you want to enjoy about one hour of Māra talking about her career, her goals, her personal life and many other topics in English, I highly recommend you take a shot at an interview she gave to Dani Zed Extreme Music Reviews & Liveshows via Skype a couple of months ago. How lucky is Dani Zed for having the utmost pleasure of talking to such nice and talented metal woman for an extended period of time like that? We need to thank him for uploading the interview on YouTube, and obviously keep supporting Māra on her quest for extreme music in Lativa, in Germany, and anywhere else in the world where powerful and visceral female roars like hers are truly appreciated.

Māra Lisenko’s Official Facebook page
Māra Lisenko’s Official Instagram
Māra Lisenko’s Official YouTube channel
MĀRA’s Official Facebook page
MĀRA’s Official Instagram
MĀRA’s Official YouTube channel
MĀRA’s Official BandCamp page

“I love touring, I could live like that. I love visiting different countries, meeting and playing for different people, learning about metal scenes everywhere I go. It’s very exciting.” – Māra Lisenko

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Concert Review – Slipknot (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 08/20/2019)

An awesome night of heavy music spearheaded by the world’s most beloved and rebellious masked horde, showing everyone that if you’re 555, then Toronto is 666.

OPENING ACTS: Behemoth, Gojira and Volbeat

Blackened Death Metal, Progressive Groove Metal, Rock N’ Roll and Alternative Metal. What at first it might look like the distinct styles you usually find at an European metal fest during the summer is actually the lineup of the 2019 edition of the highly-acclaimed Knotfest Roadshow, and fortunately for us Torontonians the one and only Slipknot and their friends from Behemoth, Gojira and Volbeat brought that amalgamation of very different but utterly electrifying genres to the always great Budweiser Stage on another hot summer day in the city. It was a Tuesday, just the beginning of the week, which means most people who attended the show still had an entire week of work after around six intense hours of loud beats, unstoppable riffs and demented circle pits. Well, who cares, right? It’s all in the name of our good old Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll.

Just by arriving at the venue you could see it was going to be a very special day for longtime fans of Slipknot, with several of them being properly dressed as their idols, including some wicked (and a few weird) masks, showing how much those people love and respect a band that revolutionized metal music 20 years ago and that are still alive and kicking. If you had the opportunity to arrive to the Budweiser stage right when the gates were opened, you were able to enjoy a lot of different attractions such as a special Slipknot exhibition right beside where 2018 Wacken Metal Battle Canada winners Centuries of Decay (you can see more details about their 2018 win HERE) where blasting their first-class Progressive/Atmospheric Death Metal, enjoy one or more of the several food trucks available, test your knowledge of metal music by taking a fun quiz at the Monster Energy truck (needless to say, I had all six answers correct and got myself a nice Monster Energy bandana), or even take a picture with that crazy dude who tried to swim back to the Slayer concert in 2018 at that same venue. He was wearing a personalized shirt about his 2018 incident and two arm floats. Yes, he’s that crazy.

However, when the clock hit 5:30pm sharp, it was time for the gods and demons of heavy music and all fans that were already at the venue (and I was surprised by the huge number of people that managed to get there in time for the very first concert) to witness another blasphemous, theatrical and absolutely heavy-as-hell performance by Poland’s own BEHEMOTH. Still promoting their awesome 2018 opus I Loved You At Your Darkest, the iconic Nergal and his henchmen Seth, Orion and Inferno delivered a short and sweet concert for fans of their darker version of Death Metal, literally spitting fire, blood and blasphemy on our faces for around 40 minutes, with songs like Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer,  Bartzabel and Chant for Eschaton 2000 proving why they became one of the most beloved extreme bands of the past decade, and also one of the most hated and abhorred by any type of church (which in the end is a very positive thing).

Setlist
Solve
Wolves ov Siberia
Daimonos
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Bartzabel
Conquer All
Sabbath Mater
Chant for Eschaton 2000

Band members
Adam “Nergal” Darski – lead vocals, guitars
Patryk Dominik “Seth” Sztyber – guitars
Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski – bass guitar
Zbigniew Robert “Inferno” Promiński – drums and percussion

After a quick break the stage was ready with all of its lights aiming at our faces to warn us the pulverizing concert by French Progressive/Groove Metal institution GOJIRA was about to begin, and let me tell you it was simply fantastic and insanely heavy from start to finish. The Duplantier Brothers Joe and Mario, together with Christian Andreu on the guitar and Jean-Michel Labadie on bass delivered a neck-breaking performance for our total delight, leaving us all eager for more of their music in Canadian lands. I loved how heavy, dense and thrilling songs like Stranded, Flying Whales (my favorite of their setlist) and Silvera sounded last night, and we must thank Mr. Mario Duplantier for that. The guy is an untamed beast on drums, crushing his drum set flawlessly and throwing almost all of his sticks to the fans throughout his bestial performance. After such devastating concert by Gojira, I must say once again there’s only one thing I hate about festivals, and that’s the fact bands like Gojira do not have enough time to show the crowd everything they got.

Setlist
Toxic Garbage Island
Backbone
Stranded
Flying Whales
Love
The Cell
Silvera
The Gift of Guilt

Band members
Joe Duplantier – vocals, guitar
Christian Andreu – guitar
Jean-Michel Labadie – bass
Mario Duplantier – drums

After two demolishing concerts of extreme music, it was time to cool things down a bit with the heavier-than-usual Rock N’ Roll by Danish institution VOLBEAT, who are just beginning to promote their newest album Rewind, Replay, Rebound. As a big fan of Volbeat, I was a little worried about how the most berserk Slipknot fans would react to their fusion of lighter styles like Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock, and during the first few songs let’s say most fans weren’t impressed with their music. However, after Sad Man’s Tongue (preceded by a snippet of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”) and Black Rose, featuring Toronto’s own Danko Jones on vocals together with Michael Polsen, things started to pick up and the more than 13 thousand fans at the venue who were already anxious for Slipknot had a great time with the band, especially when they played their heavier stuff like A Warrior’s Call, Dead But Rising and Seal the Deal. In a nutshell, it might not have been the best slot to add Volbeat, right after Behemoth and Gojira and right before Slipknot, but you know what? In the end it all worked really well, something only talented bands like Volbeat can do even against all odds.

Setlist
Born to Raise Hell (Motörhead song)
The Devil’s Bleeding Crown
Lola Montez
Sad Man’s Tongue
Black Rose (with Danko Jones)
The Everlasting
Slaytan
Dead But Rising
A Warrior’s Call / I Only Want to Be With You
Last Day Under the Sun
Doc Holliday
Seal the Deal
Still Counting
Sawdust in the Blood (Rob Zombie song)

Band members
Michael Poulsen – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob Caggiano – lead guitar
Kaspar Boye Larsen – bass guitar
Jon Larsen – drums

SLIPKNOT

It was already past 9pm when the speakers began playing AC/DC’s rock anthem “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”, getting our engines revved up for a storm of heaviness, insanity and explosions by American institution SLIPKNOT. It was total chaos and anarchy from start to finish, with the first few songs from their setlist, those being the classics People = Shit, (sic) and Get This, already inspiring all their fans to go absolutely mental into the pit. The temperature at the Budweiser Stage was just going up, with their new songs Unsainted, Solway Firth (both from their brand new, ass-kicking album We Are Not Your Kind) and All Out Life working even better than expected. As a matter of fact, I was more than sure those three songs would sound fantastic on stage, first because they’re already damn good songs, but mainly due to the fact Slipknot on stage always take their heaviness to the next level.

Corey, Mick, Jim and all others were on fire during their long and incendiary performance, with all their stage paraphernalia (and the Budweiser Stage is just perfect for that type of concert) adding a very welcome touch of insanity to the night. Not only that, it was visible how Corey was extremely happy to be back in Toronto after a long time, letting all the energy coming from the crowd penetrate deep inside his mind and helping him growl and scream like a beast until the very end. “We’ve been at this for 20 years! It hasn’t always been easy, but looking at all of you here tonight, I can safely say we’ll be doing it for another 20,” said a more-than-excited Corey to his fans before crushing their heads once again with their venomous music. I honestly have no idea if they can keep that level of violence on stage for another two decades, but if they keep going and delivering top-of-the-line heavy music like what Slayer have been doing until now, we can rest assured rock and metal will never die.

Although the fans at the floor section were out of control inside some killer circle pits, I must say the most demented guy from the entire night was the band’s newest member Tortilla Man. How deranged and talented is that guy? He kept pounding his drums, screaming, jumping up and down, dancing and hitting his beer kegs as hard as possible without showing any signs of fatigue for almost two hours; now I fully understand why the rest of the band is so happy and excited to have Tortilla Man in the band. The only field where he wasn’t number 1 in madness and precision was dancing, because that’s Mr. Sid Wilson’s undisputed title. I don’t know for sure what exactly he does behind his turntables, but when he’s there dancing and having fun around the stage it’s a whole new thing. That guy is just as sick as his music, no doubt about that. Anyway, after the all-time hits Spit It Out (including their famous “get down/jump the fuck up” interaction with the crowd) and Surfacing, it was time for Slipknot to say goodbye, to promise us all they will return to Toronto, and for the fans to breather a little and try to recover their energies to try to get home safe and sound. And as one final message after such amazing night of metal music, all I have to say to you is that if you’re 555, then I’m 666. As simple as that.

Setlist
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) (AC/DC song)
(515)
People = Shit
(sic)
Get This
Unsainted
Before I Forget
Solway Firth
The Heretic Anthem
Psychosocial
The Devil in I
Prosthetics
Vermilion
Custer
Sulfur
All Out Life
Duality

Encore:
Spit It Out
Surfacing
‘Til We Die

Band members
(#0) Sid Wilson – turntables, keyboards
(#4) Jim Root – lead and rhythm guitars
(#5) Craig “133” Jones – samples, media, keyboards
(#6) Shawn “Clown” Crahan – custom percussion, backing vocals
(#7) Mick Thomson – lead and rhythm guitars
(#8) Corey Taylor – lead vocals
Alessandro Venturella – bass
Jay Weinberg – drums
Tortilla Man – custom percussion, backing vocals

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Album Review – Slipknot / We Are Not Your Kind (2019)

Heavier and more experimental than usual, those masked metallers are back with a fantastic album that proves once again why Heavy Metal is our kind of music.

From the obscure depths of the human psyche, American Alternative Metal horde Slipknot returns after five long years with a brand new album, entitled We Are Not Your Kind, the sixth studio album in the career of those masked marauders and a beyond solid statement by the band saying that, despite all the losses and problems they’ve had in the past decade or so, they can still deliver top-of-the-line metal music for the masses. Produced by Greg Fidelman, who has already worked with several renowned bands like Metallica, Black Sabbath, Slayer and with Slipknot themselves in the albums .5 The Gray Chapter in 2014 and Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) in 2004, We Are Not Your Kind has been described as a heavier and more experimental album than their previous releases featuring moody instrumentals and electronic elements, and the final result is simply stunning.

Not only that, We Are Not Your Kind is the band’s first album since the firing of longtime member Chris Fehn, while the rest of the crew remains the same, with Sid Wilson and Craig “133” Jones on turntables, samples, media and keyboards, Jim Root and Mick Thomson on the guitars, Shawn “Clown” Crahan on custom percussion and backing vocals, Corey Taylor on lead vocals, Alessandro Venturella on bass and Jay Weinberg on drums, not to mention their newest member “Tortilla Man” also on custom percussion and backing vocals, who joined the band for their live performances earlier this year. Jim Root himself said that the album is “the most time we’ve had to write a record, and work stuff out together” and that “while the industry is moving toward singles, Slipknot wanted to make an album experience, front to back.” On a side note, while the title of the album is taken from a line in the band’s standalone single “All Out Life”, released in 2018, that specific song is not featured on the standard edition, but only on the Japanese edition for a reason beyond my knowledge. Well, who cares, right? As long as the music found in the standard edition of the album kicks ass we can live without “All Out Life” despite that being a damn good song.

Insert Coin is one of those fantastic, ethereal intros that transport the listener into the wicked world of Slipknot, before their new anthem Unsainted, featuring the Angel City Chorale, invades our senses, with the thunderous percussion blasted by Jay and Shawn reeking classic Slipknot, all boosted by the sick shredding by Jim and Mick and lyrics that deal with Corey’s fight against depression (“Oh, I’ll never kill myself to save my soul / I was gone but how was I to know? / I didn’t come this far to sink so low / I’m finally holding on to letting go”). Needless to say, I can’t wait to watch them playing this song live next week in Toronto, like what they did on Jimmy Kimmel Live earlier this year. Birth of the Cruel, a mid-tempo tune perfect for headbanging while Corey alternates between his demented clean vocals and harsh roars, is a lot less violent but still creepy and thunderous, with Jim, Mick and Alessandro delivering tons of groove through their strings; followed by the somber bridge Death Because of Death, featuring guest vocalist Kat Primetau, warming us up for Nero Forte, bringing forward a classic fusion of Heavy and Alternative Metal and a great job done by Jay on drums, dictating the song’s pounding rhythm while Corey sounds as crazy as he can be, always supported by smooth but piercing backing vocals.

Critical Darling is an almost-radio-friendly tune by Corey, Shawn & Co., showcasing slashing riffs by the band’s badass guitar duo while Corey gnarls manically, once again supported by spot-on backing vocals which end up making the chorus extremely catchy; whereas in A Liar’s Funeral a cryptic intro morphs into some sort of “new version” of their own dark ballad “Snuff”, suddenly exploding into a neck-breaking sonority with hints of Doom and Sludge Metal, alternating between sheer melancholy and raging madness from start to finish. Then in the magnificent Red Flag we face the most classic version of Slipknot in the album, overflowing insanity, heaviness, fury and that awesome blend of the wicked noises by Sid and Craig with the venomous percussion by Shawn. Hence, this should sound outstanding if played live, not to mention how sharp both guitars and Alessandro’s bass punches sound. Then after the uncanny bridge What’s Next we’re treated to one of Slipknot’s most experimental songs of all time, Spiders, which sounds absolutely addictive, demented and fun, with all its background noises and percussion generating a unique ambience for our avid ears and mind. Put differently, simply relax, sit down and sing the song’s weird lyrics along with Corey, while Jim and Mick deliver short but crushing riffs as the music progresses.

Somber beats and riffs ignite the pulverizing Orphan, presenting the band’s trademark sonority that made them famous worldwide, and with Alessandro and Jay being on fire with their rumbling instruments while Corey’s vocals get utterly deranged, sounding perfect for smashing your skull into the circle pit. The last part of album is comprised of longer-than-usual songs that surpass the 6-minute barrier, starting with the very experimental My Pain, presenting an eerie atmosphere created by Sid and Craig and low, pensive vocalizations; however, the music never gets as heavy or fast as we’re used to, making me wonder if fans of classic Slipknot will enjoy it. Anyway, that eccentric vibe goes on in Not Long for This World, where Corey and the band’s electronic duo Sid and Craig set the tone before the rest of the band comes ripping with their acid instruments, bringing to our ears a beautiful melody and rumbling bass lines, with its creepy ending building an instant connection with Solway Firth, a circle pit-catalyst showcasing scorching riffs by Jim and Mick and endless electricity flowing from Jay’s beats, while Corey declaims the song’s austere words in great fashion (“I’m not ahead of my time- I just drew the first breath – If I’m alive tomorrow / I will alleviate the pressure… by cutting you out of me / I found my bottom line – dead on the front lines- I know I’ll never go home / So set fire to your ships and past regrets and be free”). And lastly, as aforementioned, All Out Life might be only present in the Japanese edition of the album, but it’s such a great song, perfect for slamming and screaming its lyrics together with the band (like you can see on their performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live), it makes the investment in this version of the album totally worth it.

In a nutshell, one of the most innovative and influential bands of modern metal music from the past 20 years, the one and only Slipknot, managed to deliver a fantastic album against all odds, proving once again that there’s nothing better than adversity to makes us (and, in this particular case, the entire band) stronger and more focused. Having said that, I highly recommend you grab your copy of the album, as well as other well-crafted merch, from the Slipknot Official Store, and buy your ticket for the Knotfest Roadshow when the band invades your city with their chaotic and rebellious anthems. We Are Not Your Kind might sound a bit too experimental or modern for some people, but I’m pretty sure most fans of contemporary heavy music will have a very good time listening to this multi-layered and very dense album. And whenever you catch yourself screaming “we are not your kind!” together with Corey and the guys, you’ll be at the same time showing everyone Heavy Metal is and will always be YOUR kind of music.

Best moments of the album: Unsainted, Red Flag, Spiders, Orphan and All Out Life.

Worst moments of the album: My Pain.

Released in 2019 Roadrunner Records

Track listing
1. Insert Coin 1:38
2. Unsainted 4:20
3. Birth of the Cruel 4:35
4. Death Because of Death 1:20
5. Nero Forte 5:15
6. Critical Darling 6:25
7. A Liar’s Funeral 5:27
8. Red Flag 4:11
9. What’s Next 0:53
10. Spiders 4:03
11. Orphan 6:01
12. My Pain 6:48
13. Not Long for This World 6:35
14. Solway Firth 5:56

Japanese Edition bonus track
15. All Out Life 5:40

Band members
(#0) Sid Wilson – turntables, keyboards
(#4) Jim Root – lead and rhythm guitars
(#5) Craig “133” Jones – samples, media, keyboards
(#6) Shawn “Clown” Crahan – custom percussion, backing vocals
(#7) Mick Thomson – lead and rhythm guitars
(#8) Corey Taylor – lead vocals
Alessandro Venturella – bass
Jay Weinberg – drums

Guest musicians
Angel City Chorale – choral performance on “Unsainted”
Kat Primetau – additional vocals on “Death Because of Death”

Album Review – Slipknot / .5 The Gray Chapter (2014)

One of the most controversial heavy bands of all time strikes again with a very solid and aggressive tribute to their deceased bassist.

Rating4

Slipknot-5-Album-CoverWhen American Alternative Metal band Slipknot helped put the city of Des Moines, Iowa, United States on the map in the end of the 90’s with their never-before-seen ruthless music, few people believed they would last longer than a couple of years due to several reasons, one of them being their too unorthodox approach, or in other words, they did not play “traditional” heavy music. Well, guess what? Even after all these years and all their countless internal issues, especially the painful death of bassist Paul Gray (R.I.P.) in 2010 and the departure of drummer Joey Jordison in the end of 2013, they’re still alive and more than capable of delivering some good heavy music, like what’s found in their brand new album .5: The Gray Chapter.

Although .5: The Gray Chapter, which by the way is the fifth studio album in the band’s career, the first in six long years and the first to not feature the two aforementioned members, is not as good as most of their previous releases, it’s still a very enjoyable and violent album that surpasses 75 minutes of music, with all those “special effects” only Slipknot can offer us. It sounds like a modern mix of the excellent Iowa and Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses), with all lyrics being even more wicked and controversial than before.

And there’s no better way to start a Slipknot album than with one of their trademarks, a dark and creepy intro this time named XIX, with beautiful words such as “This song is not for the living / This song is for the dead” setting up the tone for the ferocious Sarcastrophe, a song that begins as melancholic as the intro before turning into a mix of all Slipknot phases, sounding a lot like “Gematria (The Killing Name)”, especially the vocal lines and riffs (albeit a lot less complex), followed by the Thrash Metal riffs in AOV, which also follows the same musical pattern as in All Hope Is Gone.

I have no idea who the new/session drummer is, but he does a pretty decent job in songs like The Devil in I, where he provides the whole song an extra dose of violence even during its lighter parts, saving it from becoming too soft or too bland. The following track will generate lots of positive and negative reactions from the listeners: Killpop is one of those cases where Slipknot proves once again they know how to craft some cool semi-ballads, this time 100% focused on the vocal lines (both clean and harsh) by Corey Taylor, but many people will end up complaining it sounds too commercial. If you love it, simply enjoy this nice song, otherwise skip to Skeptic, a very old school Slipknot song, and everything you truly love in this band will be there for you, including riffs, drums and vocals, sounding a lot like their material from Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses). Besides, it seems to be one more explicit tribute to Paul Gray based on its sorrowful lyrics (“The world will never see another crazy motherfucker like you / The world will never know another man as amazing as you”).

SlipknotLech is one of those Slipknot songs you wait for during their performances to start jumping up and down like crazy when Corey gives the signal, with drums, percussion and guitar lines boosting its energy level, while Goodbye is just filler: I don’t know what they wanted to accomplish with this song, but it didn’t work at all, making it totally disposable. Then we have Nomadic, a good song with interesting breaks and chorus, nothing special but its Iowa-ish vibe keeps it far away from being boring, and The One That Kills the Least, which reminds me of some Stone Sour songs.

After all those highs and lows, it is the last part of the album what all diehard fans of Slipknot were truly waiting for, and it all begins with Custer, that type of sonic madness Slipknot feel really comfortable in playing. It’s a fuckin’ sick “party” full of weird electronic music effects, with a chorus that will drive fans crazy during their live performances (“Cut – Cut – Cut me up and Fuck – Fuck – Fuck me up / CUT – CUT – CUT ME UP AND FUCK – FUCK – FUCK ME UP!”). It’s the best song of the album, and it will sound absolutely amazing live, no doubt about that. The sinister intro Be Prepared for Hell works as an excellent warm-up for the “hell” that comes next, the disturbing The Negative One: it has that raw instrumental and direct sounding like their old classics, with highlights to the great job done by Sid Wilson and Craig “133” Jones in adding a lot of bizarreness to the song. Do I need to mention it’s another perfect option for some insane circle pits? The regular version of the album ends in a pretty weird way with If Rain Is What You Want, a song that’s a lot less metal and more alternative than any other track in .5 The Gray Chapter. And if you purchase the special edition of it you’ll also get two bonus songs that are relatively boring compared to the official album tracks: Override is just an average song, and The Burden focus too heavily on the atmosphere and forgets about the music itself.

You can take a listen to some or all of the tracks in .5 The Gray Chapter on Slipknot’s official YouTube channel, and also see them kicking ass live during their Knotfest dates. Love them or hate them, no matter how controversial they are, we all have to admit their music is unique and each member of the band deserves our recognition for being able to create such a solid, aggressive and entertaining album/tribute even after all the hell they have been through in recent years.

Best moments of the album: Skeptic, Custer and The Negative One.

Worst moments of the album: The Devil in I and Goodbye.

Released in 2014 Roadrunner Records

Track listing
1. XIX 3:10
2. Sarcastrophe 5:06
3. AOV 5:32
4. The Devil in I 5:42
5. Killpop 3:45
6. Skeptic 4:46
7. Lech 4:50
8. Goodbye 4:35
9. Nomadic 4:18
10. The One That Kills the Least 4:11
11. Custer 4:14
12. Be Prepared for Hell 1:57
13. The Negative One 5:25
14. If Rain Is What You Want 6:20

Special Edition bonus tracks
15. Override 5:37
16. The Burden 5:23

Band members*
(#0) Sid Wilson – turntables
(#3) Chris Fehn – percussion, backing vocals
(#4) Jim Root – guitars, bass
(#5) Craig “133” Jones – sampling, keyboards
(#6) Shawn “Clown” Crahan – percussion, backing vocals
(#7) Mick Thomson – guitars, bass
(#8) Corey Taylor – vocals

Additional musicians
Alessandro Venturella – bass
Donnie Steele – bass

*A new drummer is currently in the band but has not yet been named by the band, rumors circulate about his identity but so far no official statement has been made as to who it is.

Attraction Review – Rock Legends Wax Museum (Niagara Falls, Canada)

This “Rock N’ Roll version” of Madame Tussauds is an excellent option for all headbangers visiting the Canadian side of the falls.

Rating5

dsc02909So you decided to visit Niagara Falls, either because you’re a tourist or to spend a weekend or a holiday there with your family. Not only that, you’re also a true metalhead. How about instead of the boring routine of seeing the falls/playing at the casino/eating at Boston Pizza/etc. you do something different and unique, something dedicated to your passion for Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal? If you like the idea, you’ll enjoy visiting the ROCK LEGENDS WAX MUSEUM at Niagara Falls, Ontario. Of course nothing there is going to be as perfect as the attractions you can see at the renowned Madame Tussauds,  but this is the only place where you can see Angus Young, Geddy Lee, Slipknot or Metallica, which are way better options than garbage such as the cast from Twilight or Katy Perry.

dsc02845Located at the top of Clifton Hill and Victoria Ave, the access to the museum is extremely easy, and just by passing in front of it you can already see some of their attractions: when I was there they had one of the guys from Slipknot on display, as well as Gene Simmons, Slash and Ozzy right at the entrance. However, you can only take pictures of those if you actually buy a ticket to the museum. If you choose to visit the museum, you’ll be able to see not only some Heavy Metal icons (located at the entertaining Heavy Metal Chamber), but also many important musicians from the early days of Rock N’ Roll like Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and Freddie Mercury; more contemporary musicians like Kurt Cobain and Bono Vox; and even some Pop artists such as Madonna and Snoop Dogg (or however he’s called nowadays). All these attractions were sculpted by local Niagara Falls artist Pasquale Ramunno, who did a pretty good job in almost all cases in my opinion. One of my favorites, of course, is a giant Eddie based on the Killers album, but with some chains like the Eddie from the World Slavery Tour.

dsc02868As soon as your tour through the museum is over, you’ll find yourself inside their store, called Rockworld. I was quite impressed with their huge selection of shirts, hats, belts, action figures and even some baby clothes for the future headbangers of Canada. The prices are not bad, and everything seemed to be made of good quality material. You can buy a new AC/DC or Pantera T-shirt to give you good luck for your time at the casino right after the visit to the museum, how about that? And as I’m talking about money now, don’t forget to print their online coupon to get a $1 discount per person for the museum admission. If you’re a group of 5 friends, for example, you’re saving the money of a beer.

imag0596There are some legends missing from the museum, of course: Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford are two examples (at least as far as I know), but their current collection of over 60 figures is pretty decent and, as I mentioned before, totally different from any other wax museum in the world. I doubt you’ll find an Eddie in any of the Madame Tussauds unless of course it’s Eddie Murphy, but that’s not what we’re looking for, right?

Opening hours
Their website doesn’t say anything about the opening hours of the museum or the store, but I know it stays open until late on weekends and holidays, just as any other attraction in the city. You can give them a call anytime, just in case you’re planning to visit the museum.

Contact info & location
Rock Legends Wax Museum
5020 Centre Street
Niagara Falls, Ontario L2G 3N7
(905) 354-6255
info@rocklegendswaxmuseum.com
http://www.rocklegendswaxmuseum.com/

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