Album Review – Sinners Moon / Far Beyond The Stars EP (2017)

What are you waiting for to fly far beyond the stars with the brand new (and extremely fun) EP by this Symphonic Metal squad from Slovakia?

If you’re a fan of the music by bands such as Nightwish, Epica, Sonata Arctica, After Forever and Kamelot, among several others, you’ll be happy to know that an up-and-coming Symphonic Metal band hailing from Sereď, a town in southern Slovak Republic, is back with their imposing sounding in a brand new EP that not only lives up to the legacy of the genre, but that also offers some interesting variations and surprises that keep it truly entertaining from start to finish. I’m talking about Sinners Moon and their EP titled Far Beyond The Stars, another solid step in their recent but already exciting career and a highly recommended option for fans of the fusion of heavy music with operatic vocals and fantasy.

The fact the Sinners Moon managed to keep the exact same lineup (Simona and Derick on vocals, LukeN on guitars, Viktor on bass, Jarthuusen on keyboards and Jan on drums) that recorded their 2015 full-length opus Atlantis also helped the band in maintaining a high level of cohesiveness and dynamism in their new EP. As a matter of fact, one of the most complex songs in Atlantis, the 8-minute aria Fly to the Moon, works as the prequel to the music found in Far Beyond The Stars, proving LukeN and his bandmates are extremely focused when creating the music by Sinners Moon, always trying to give it a purpose and a soul.

The first half of the EP presents the trademark musicality by Sinners Moon, with their metal symphony permeating the air form the very first second in the intro Awakening (The Suite), creating the perfect ambience for the title-track Far Beyond The Stars, an electrifying fusion of Symphonic Metal with the more traditional version of Scandinavian Melodic Metal, where frontwoman Simona delivers her passionate and delicate vocal lines in contrast with Derick’s demonic gnarls. Moreover, LukeN is on fire with his guitar, making a flammable duo with Jarthuusen, and if you love Melodic Metal I’m sure you’ll feel energized by the song’s powerful lyrics (“Reach out your hand for the stars high above / We are hungry to find this world left aside / Please take me there we will fly to the moon / Far beyond all the stars we will touch them together”). Then in the awesome Travelers the rumbling bass by Viktor is quickly joined by Jarthuusen and LukeN, generating an amazing metallic vibe while Jan keeps the song’s pace at a thrilling level. In addition, the guitar riffs fired by LukeN provide Simona all she needs to declaim the song’s beautiful lyrics in a compelling way (“Dreams of love, dreams of life / Somewhere else we gain our hopes / With this heart and these hands / We will build a ourselves a new home / Never give up, never give in on our ways”).

After that blast of Symphonic Metal, the band brings forward two welcome surprises in Far Beyond The Stars, starting with their cover version for Skúsime To Cez Vesmír, which translates as “let’s try it through the universe”, by Slovak 80’s rock band Tublatanka (watch a vibrant live version of Tublatanka playing it in 1989 HERE). Sinners Moon added their own symphonic twist to this excellent rock song, with highlights to the amazing job done by Jan on drums as well as the electrified vocals by Simona. And the second treat of the EP is the opening track Far Beyond The Stars in a smooth and lovely piano-ballad version, with total focus on the beautiful voice of Simona, being the perfect soundtrack for being “captured” in a warm and comforting embrace by the person you love the most.

In summary, after all the epicness and imposing sounds found in Atlantis, it looks like Sinners Moon wanted to take an “alternative break” from all the seriousness that surrounded that album and show fans of heavy music a more relaxed side of the band, and let’s say they nailed it in Far Beyond The Stars, which can be purchased on BandCamp, at the Slovak Metal Army webstore or at Discogs. Also, don’t forget to visit the band’s Facebook page and YouTube channel for more of their top-tier metal music, and if you’re already addicted to their symphonic sounds you should definitely go for the deluxe digital version of the album, including a bonus demo track from their early days (before the lineup was even solidified) titled Dawn Of War, which by the way displays an above average overall production and a high-end sound quality for being just a demo, as well as few bonus featurettes including a special digital EP wallpaper, a digital booklet and a “thank you” note from the band. With that said, what are you waiting for to grab your copy of this fun EP and fly with Sinners Moon far beyond the stars?

Best moments of the album: Travelers and Skúsime To Cez Vesmír.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Slovak Metal Army

Track listing
1. Awakening (The Suite) 1:42
2. Far Beyond The Stars 4:19
3. Travelers 4:10
4. Skúsime To Cez Vesmír (Tublatanka cover) 4:24
5. Far Beyond The Stars (Piano Version) 5:08

Deluxe Digital Version bonus track
6. Dawn Of War (2009 Demo Version) 5:47

Band members
Simona – vocals
Derick – growls
LukeN – guitars
Viktor – bass
Jarthuusen – keyboards
Jan – drums

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Album Review – Down To Hell / V Zajatí Temnoty (2015)

Let’s brave the world of Melodic and Symphonic Black Metal created by this talented Slovak six-piece band who sings entirely in their mother tongue.

Rating5

coverFounded in 2006 in the city of Malaciek (or Malacky), Slovakia, around 35 km north from the capital Bratislava, what Melodic/Symphonic Black Metal band Down To Hell have to offer the fan of heavy music goes beyond your usual symphonic and extreme elements. Their music relies heavily on contrasts, as in singing as well as their instrumental and lyrics written in the form of stories, providing a more complete experience to the listener. In addition, although they say they play Symphonic Black Metal, which instantly brings bands such as Dimmu Borgir to your mind, they sound rawer and more inclined to old school Black Metal than that.

However, the most noteworthy characteristic in the music by Down To Hell is the fact they did not “surrender” to the English language, singing their songs entirely in their mother tongue, Slovak, which adds an extra touch of darkness to their 2014/2015 debut full-length album V Zajatí Temnoty, or “Captive Darkness” in English. The only thing in English ends up being the band’s own name, which makes me wonder why they’re not called “Dole Do Pekla” instead. Anyway, let’s get down to business and see what V Zajatí Temnoty is made of.

Ticho Pred Búrkou, or “calm before the storm”, is exactly what this piano intro represents, and you can get a sense of how symphonic their music is before the actual storm begins in Pán Vetra, Búrky A Mrakov (“lord of wind, storms and clouds”), with the growls by singer/guitarist “Kani” Miroslav Gajdár matching perfectly with the musicality proposed while the keyboards by “Lubo” Ľubomír Müller complement the havoc created by the song’s guitar riffs and drums in a very interesting way. Slightly darker than the previous tune, Skazení (“wicked”) sounds almost like raw Black Metal in some instances but pure symphony in others, with the nice job done on guitars enhancing its overall quality. It’s the first song of the album to showcase the clean vocals by the gorgeous “Maťa” Martina Bilkovičová, who has a very good chemistry with Kani and his screams.

Keeping up with the previous songs, Bosorské Sólo is another great mix of extreme music and melodic instrumental, where it’s interesting to notice how drummer “Beňo” Dušan Šelc can easily change from a more rhythmic drumming to furious blast beats, providing more progressiveness to the music; followed by the “sudden attack” offered by the band in Krvavé Jazero (“bloody lake”). This song, which has a solid flow from start to finish, is how dark music should always be, with the smooth voice by Maťa being like a dream amidst its nightmare-ish beats. Unfortunately, the band disappoints a little in Prízrak (“phantom”), which despite starting differently than the other songs in a thrashier way, it doesn’t know if it’s Melodic Black Metal, Pop Metal or Symphonic Metal. It’s still an enjoyable tune, but below the album average especially as it’s not very clear what its final goal was.

dth_allThe final triade in V Zajatí Temnoty couldn’t have started in a better way than with Smrť (“death”), where not only the guitar lines by Kani and “Ťapo” Martin Matlovič sound amazing, but Kani also does an awesome job ranging from high-pitched roars to truly deep guttural. Besides, pay attention to how the band is able to sound cruel and harmonic at the same time, just like what Extreme Metal icons Cradle of Filth perfectly do, and you’ll understand why this is one of the top moments of the album. Then we have the dark ballad/waltz Nemŕtva Nevesta (“undead bride”), where the clean vocals by Maťa steal the show, achieving an even more pleasant performance due to the keyboard notes by Lubo; and finally the excellent Drak (“dragon”), a fast and metallic tune that has that amazing European touch to increase its quality and cohesiveness, including elements from genres such as Folk and Viking Metal, with Lubo and bassist “Miro” Miroslav Hulka being responsible for building the whole ambience for the rest of the band.

To sum up, if you want to brave the world of Symphonic Black Metal sung in its entirety in a language other than English, visit Down To Hell’s official Facebook page, YouTube channel, Bandzone.cz and, of course, buy their music at their BandCamp page. This six-piece Slovak band truly knows what they’re doing, and I’m sure their non-English words won’t restrain them from reaching new heights with their music so talented they are.

Best moments of the album: Pán Vetra, Búrky A Mrakov, Krvavé Jazero and Smrť.

Worst moments of the album: Prízrak.

Released in 2015 Independent

Track listing
1. Ticho Pred Búrkou 1:41
2. Pán Vetra, Búrky A Mrakov 5:26
3. Skazení 6:43
4. Bosorské Sólo 8:40
5. Krvavé Jazero 7:10
6. Prízrak 7:48
7. Smrť 6:39
8. Nemŕtva Nevesta 7:35
9. Drak 6:28

Band members
“Maťa” Martina Bilkovičová – clean vocals
“Kani” Miroslav Gajdár – guitar, screams, growls
“Ťapo” Martin Matlovič – guitar
“Miro” Miroslav Hulka – bass guitar
“Lubo” Ľubomír Müller – keyboards
“Beňo” Dušan Šelc – drums

Album Review – Broken Rain / Here Comes The Pain (2015)

Here come Broken Rain and their feast of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock.

Rating4

here comes the painWhat originally started as a cover band in 2006, playing classics from behemoths such as Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, has finally evolved into a much more compelling and original act who, above all things, remained loyal and true to the roots of Heavy Metal, their strongest passion in life and the essence of their powerful music. I’m talking about Slovakian Heavy Metal band Broken Rain and their debut full-length album, the ass-kicking metal extravaganza Here Comes The Pain.

After releasing a demo in 2009, which included some cover songs and three original tunes, and after sharing the stage with several metal bands in Europe in the past few years, including opening for British legends Uriah Heep in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia in October 2011, the band formed by Martin Rybár (lead vocals), Filip Prašovský (guitars, backing vocals), Vladislav Gális (bass, backing vocals), Imrich Šimig (keyboards, guitars) and Branislav Končír (drums) is more than ready to rock with their debut album. Combining the foundations of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal with elements of modern metal genres, Here Comes The Pain will guide you on a pleasant heavy music journey that will remind you why you became a metalhead many years ago, making you bang your head, raise the horns and sing together with the band.

With its spooky intro with wolves, wind, screams and so on, the opening track Burn The Witch takes the listener to the amazing kingdom of heavy music from the 70’s and 80’s, sounding like a tribute to Helloween, Deep Purple, Axel Rudi Pell and many other metal giants, especially due to the awesome riffs by Filip. It’s a very exciting tune with a simple and catchy chorus, and I don’t need to say the lyrics talk about how witches are mesmerizing and drag us to the dark side, right? In Seize The Fire, Martin delivers some solid Power Metal vocal lines inspired by the unique voice of Michael Kiske while Imrich enhances the overall musicality with his keyboards, followed by Forgotten Heroes and its true fighting vibe and rhythm. The lyrics are an ode to all our heroes in life (“In the night dark and cold / It was a sight to behold / When the final battle came / They were covered in blood / Lost in the enemy flood / But they still felt no pain”), with the final guitar solo by Filip truly representing what those words are saying.

There’s no way you will not enjoy Wanna Love My Girl, an awesome 70’s rock ballad with resonant keyboard notes, where Martin puts his heart and soul into singing it and deserves our recognition for such a good performance, as well as the Hard Rock party Burning Eyes, where once again the combination of riffs, keyboards and beats works really well. In addition, you will love how the music “rises” until its sing-along chorus (“Burning eyes / When you look in the mirror / And feel like you’re gonna cry / Just set the light / As it comes through the window / The chance is zero / But it may happen tonight”). Not only the title-track Here Comes The Pain focuses on traditional Heavy Metal with more modern elements such as harsher backing vocals, but it’s also time for drummer Branislav to have a whole lot of fun due to its faster rhythm, followed by the pure Heavy Metal found in So Far Away: inspired by the unparalleled music by Iron Maiden and Helloween, this song showcases great performances by Martin and Branislav, with highlights to the thunderous bass lines by Vladislav. Every single time I listen to a song like this I remember why I love metal music so much.

Broken Rain_Photo by Marius Sachtikus PhotographyWhen Broken Rain blend the metallic sounding by Judas Priest with the groovy music by Deep Purple in some sort of tribute to the power of Rock N’ Roll music, the result is I Want To Play Rock, where although the whole band seems very cohesive and energized, it’s Imrich who ends up stealing the show with his keyboards. The following track, Tonight, is a semi-ballad that sounds like it was recorded for a cigarette TV commercial, reminding me of the best tunes by Van Halen with Sammy Haggar on vocals, while Prisoners In The Wasteland is another fun and direct song full of energy, keeping the album at a high level even after “so many” songs.

Finally, Martin relies on some high-pitched screams to kick off Strong, an average song which is a little below the rest of the album in terms of quality (but that should sound better if played in front of a live audience), before the album closes with the self-titled bonus Broken Rain, and let me tell you this is an incredible Rock N’ Roll tune with a killer performance by Imrich. This song can be played on any rock n’ roll radio station in the world without a shadow of a doubt, and people will just love it.

In order to feel more of the high-quality sonic “pain” inflicted by Broken Rain, go check their Twitter account and their Bandzone.cz page, listen to a nice preview of Here Comes The Pain at their SoundCloud page, and obviously purchase the album  (available as a CD or a digital download) at their official webstore. If you are a heavy music lover, make yourself ready because here come Broken Rain and their feast of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock.

Best moments of the album: Burn The Witch, Wanna Love My Girl, So Far Away and Broken Rain.

Worst moments of the album: Seize The Fire and Strong.

Released in 2015 Independent

Track listing
1. Burn The Witch 5:24
2. Seize The Fire 5:14
3. Forgotten Heroes 5:51
4. Wanna Love My Girl 5:18
5. Burning Eyes 5:48
6. Here Comes The Pain 5:29
7. So Far Away 4:33
8. I Want To Play Rock 3:48
9. Tonight 4:50
10. Prisoners In The Wasteland 5:05
11. Strong 4:22

Bonus track
12.Broken Rain 3:34

Band members
Martin Rybár – lead vocals
Filip Prašovský – guitars, backing vocals
Vladislav Gális – bass, backing vocals
Imrich Šimig – keyboards, guitars
Branislav Končír – drums

Album Review – Sinners Moon / Atlantis (2015)

Directly from Slovakia, this young band shows that there is still plenty of room for creative Symphonic Metal in this world.

Rating4

Atlantis_CoverWhat started as a side project in 2010 has become the centre of all attentions of the promising Slovakian guitarist and composer LukeN. Back then, when he had another band in his hometown Sereď, he decided to form Sinners Moon along with his friend Derick to work on Symphonic Metal compositions – the kind of genre which was not easy to find in their country.

In 2011, LukeN started to write new songs while trying to find the best musicians to join them in the band. It was not an easy job: three drummers and two female vocalists had come and gone whether at recording sessions or during their first live concerts. It turns out 2014 was a great year for Sinners Moon as they shaped the line-up with Simona (female vocals), LukeN (guitars), Derick (growls), Jan (drums), Jarthuusen (keyboards) and Viktor (bass), and were finally ready to record their debut album, Atlantis. They could not have chosen a more heavy metal environment to do it: Grapow Studios, owned by the iconic guitarist Roland Grapow (Masterplan, ex-Helloween) was a perfect place to turn into good music all those themes that inspired LukeN and his bandmates such as life, death, dreams, mystery and hope.

In a recent interview, LukeN said how important  Finnish music was as his musical influences and that Atlantis is a personal tribute to Nightwish. So, for those who like Finnish bands like Nightwish and Sonata Arctica, or even Epica from the Netherlands, this album has what it takes to entertain the listener. Speaking of Sonata Arctica, Tony Kakko was a special guest of one of the tracks, My Servant.

With 11 tracks, Atlantis has everything a good Symphonic Metal album must have: charming female vocals in duos with strong guttural vocals, keyboards making amazing orchestrations, virtuous guitar riffs, and bass and drums working in harmony to shape all the rhythm. A good example is the opening track, Inner Demons, which brings together all those elements perfectly to become one of the highlights of the album, with Memento Mori following the same music style. In Buried, the band changes the deep orchestrations to heavy guitars with an aggressive melody that contrasts with the smooth voice of Simona.

sm_band_promoThe next three songs can be seen as perfect tributes to their inspirations: Pray for the Child calms down the tempers and is a nice ballad that, respecting all the differences, reminds of Nightwish’s “Sleeping Sun”, but at the same time with its own personality. The next song, Falls of the Neverland, also resembles some old Epica songs, with the highlight here being the work on guitars making a beautiful melody. As mentioned before, My Servant has the contribution of Sonata Arctica’s frontman Tony Kakko, and this song is completely different from the rest of the album – in a good way. Kakko, Simona and Derick make an awesome vocal trio and the result has the same vibe as some of the Finnish band’s classics like “My Land”, from the 1999 album Ecliptica.

With more than 8 minutes, Fly to the Moon is intense and brings the orchestrations to another level with the addition of other instruments such as flutes. It also has a beautiful solo full of feeling that prepares the listener to what comes next in the song: pure heaviness led by Derick. Dark Episode is another example of a powerful Symphonic Metal song, with choirs, an amazing work on keyboards and Simona showing a lot of drama and mixed deep feelings through her voice. The next song, Sinners Moon, sounds very Folk Metal-ish and also has a stunning work full of rhythm on drums and bass, especially in the beginning when Simona starts to sing. The title-track Atlantis is a complex song with 11 minutes and it could easily be in a Nightwish album – at least it is easy to notice the influence of Tuomas Holopainen’s style in this track full of ups and downs, heavy and smooth moments, layers and more layers of keyboards, choirs and so on. The journey through Atlantis ends with a beautiful piano, violin and voice song, Upon a Star, a simple and perfect way to close such a deep and complex album.

If Symphonic Metal is your kind of music, Atlantis is definitely a must-hear album, and if you like what you see, keep your eyes on Sinners Moon by checking their official websiteFacebook page and YouTube channel, showing your support to them, and of course by purchasing their music at the Inverse Records webstore or at many other available locations. LukeN and Co. are working now to promote Atlantis through Europe and, with this first album produced with such dedication and good quality, we are curious to see what the future will bring to this promising band.

Best moments of the album: Inner Demons, Buried and My Servant.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Inner Demons 5:21
2. Memento Mori 4:01
3. Buried 4:38
4. Pray for the Child 4:26
5. Falls of the Neverland 5:22
6. My Servant (feat. Tony Kakko) 3:55
7. Fly to the Moon 8:15
8. Dark Episode 6:19
9. Sinners Moon 5:08
10. Atlantis 11:04
11. Upon a Star 2:49

Band members
Simona – vocals
Derick – growls
LukeN – guitars
Viktor – bass
Jarthuusen – keyboards
Jan – drums

Guest musician
Tony Kakko – vocals on “My Servant”

Album Review – Kilmara / Love Songs and Other Nightmares (2014)

An exciting Power Metal “gemstone”, full of heavy riffs, melody and all other elements we love in this type of music, nicely carved by this very competent band from Barcelona.

Rating4

kilmara_coverFor most of us, the word “kilmara” might mean only a semi-precious green stone (also known as jade) used for jewelry, but it has also become a synonym of high-quality Heavy Metal, especially in the past decade. After over 10 years of existence, Melodic Power Metallers from Spain and Germany Kilmara are releasing their third full-length album, Love Songs and Other Nightmares, another “gemstone” carefully polished and ready to shine in their discography.

Let me start by saying that the new album by this Barcelona-based band was produced by none other than the exceptional Roland Grapow (Helloween, Masterplan) at Grapow Studios in Slovakia and published by Sony Music, and by that you can already have an idea of the professionalism you’ll find in each and every track from Love Songs and Other Nightmares. Only talent itself doesn’t bring any good results if not accompanied by a huge amount of dedication and hard work, and Kilmara are a great example of how putting those elements together translates into amusing and captivating music.

From the very first heavier-than-usual riffs of the opening track, Fantasy, Kilmara showcase a modern Power Metal, focusing on smoother and clearer vocal lines (very well done by singer Christian Wolfgang Kohl) instead of traditional high-pitched screams from other bands of the same genre. Not only this song has an awesome chorus, but the addition of some harsh vocals makes everything even more entertaining. Quick question: would Fantasy (or maybe Fantasy’s) be a gentlemen’s club in Spain or somewhere else? At least that’s what the lyrics seem to be talking about.

The galloping rhythm, conducted mainly by Javi Morillo’s excellent work on drums, and the soulful guitar solos keep the energy level up in The Devil’s Eye, followed by the soaring intro and thrilling riffs of The Break Up, another top moment of the album, with lyrics about ending a relationship. By the way, this song would be an awesome way to do so (or at least the break up would happen with an exciting soundtrack). Cold Rain sounds like a sequence to the previous track in terms of lyrics, with highlights to the way the band “prepares” the listener for the catchy chorus.

kilmaraThen Kilmara slow things down with Believe, a semi-ballad with nice instrumental, but not as exciting as the previous tracks, before accelerating everything again with Nothing to Me, a heavy tune with hints of Thrash Metal the likes of Anthrax, with its riffs and double bass dictating the rhythm plus some great lyrics to sing along (“There’s nothing you can say / There’s nothing you can do / There’s nothing that can take away / The damage that you do”). A more traditional Power Metal can be found in Usual Strangers, especially due to its good guitar duo and solos, while Alpha is more melodic, flirting with Symphonic Power Metal. And pay attention to its funny/sexist lyrics, you might see yourself in that situation one day (or maybe many times a week).

And at long last, Kilmara saved for the final part of Love Songs and Other Nightmares three completely different tracks for all types of fans: Insomnia is another good Power Metal track with some interesting lyrics; Play to Win focuses on a more Hard Rock sonority, with its excellent instrumental parts mixed with another good vocal performance by Christian; and finally we have the beautiful ballad Time Flies, with  its powerful chorus as the “main ingredient”. There’s also a German/Spanish version of this song as a bonus track that sounds even more emotive than the regular one, especially the awesome Spanish parts. I myself speak Spanish and, in my humble opinion, I would love to see more Spanish songs by Kilmara: they sound so amazingly powerful when singing in this language.

I guess I could not finish this review without mentioning how gorgeous the “cover girl”, created by Montreal’s own Jessica Allain, in Love Songs and Other Nightmares is. Is she even real? Anyway, this excellent Power Metal album is available at Amazon and iTunes, among other places online and at physical stores, so if you’re a true fan of Power Metal don’t waste your time and go grab this “gemstone” by Kilmara for your collection.

Best moments of the album: Fantasy, The Break Up and Nothing to Me.

Worst moments of the album: Believe and Alpha.

Released in 2014 Sony Music

Track listing
1. Fantasy 4:41
2. The Devil’s Eye 4:20
3. The Break Up 3:59
4. Cold Rain 6:01
5. Believe 4:31
6. Nothing to Me 4:01
7. Usual Strangers 4:51
8. Alpha 4:04
9. Insomnia 4:47
10. Play to Win 5:59
11. Time Flies 6:19

Bonus track
12. Time Flies (German/Spanish version) 6:19

Band members
Christian Wolfgang Kohl – vocals
Jonathan Portilo – guitar
Kike Torres – guitar
Raúl Ruiz – bass
Javi Morillo – drums