Album Review – Eruption / Cloaks of Oblivion (2017)

Slam into the pit to the sound of the brand new album by five Slovenian thrash metallers who have always kept fast, guitar-based and infectiously melodic metal as their mission statement.

Formed in late 2004, Eruption are a Thrash Metal band from Ljubljana, Slovenia. Throughout the years, the band has always kept fast, guitar-based, and infectiously melodic metal as their mission statement, culminating in the releases of Lifeless Paradise in 2009 and Tenses Collide in 2012. These two full-lengths, accompanied by the 2014 EP Live Transmissions, saw the band explore classic machine-gun thrash riffing accompanied by the soaring melodic vocals and sci-fi musings of vocalist Klemen Kalin. The energetic blend of influences allowed the band to present its music in a dynamic, furious show that saw Eruption share the stage with names such as Nuclear Assault and D.R.I, perform on the main stage of festivals such as MetalDays and Underwall, as well as garner excellent live responses from Serbia to Germany.

Now in 2017 those Slovenian metallers return with their third full-length effort, titled Cloaks of Oblivion, aiming at expanding their musical range to include a darker edge the likes of Sanctuary, Helstar and Vicious Rumors, all the while never abandoning their original recipe for aggressive, precision-crafted Bay Area Thrash à la Forbidden and Testament. Displaying a kick-ass disquieting cover artwork by Romanian artist Alex Boca, the dynamic and electrifying Cloaks of Oblivion will certainly help Eruption reach new heights, which also means we can rest assured old school Trash Metal will keep shaking the foundations of our society for many years to come. In addition to that, just like other Slovenian bands such as Hellcats and ShadowIcon, Eruption are also helping carry the flag of their charming country everywhere they go, showing the world that although Slovenia is small in size, there’s an endless amount of hot heavy music flowing through its veins.

Many heavy bands like to provide us their version of a “calm before the storm”, like Eruption in the serene and melancholic intro Pharos, before sheer Thrash Metal hits us in Sanity Ascend, where guitarists Andrej Cuk and Grega Kamenšek begin their shredding attack while lead singer Klemen Kalin sounds like a thrashier version of Ripper Owens with hints of Joey Belladonna, nicely declaiming the song’s thoughtful lyrics (“Battling with the river of dreams / I’m lost in thought / Drowning in an intellectual stream / My mind adrift / The current carries me down to the sea of lunacy / By the waves of madness engulfed I can’t breathe / My lifeline’s been cut, no pharos in sight / I plunge into the darkness of my reflection”). In the title-track Cloaks of Oblivion a beautiful acoustic intro suddenly explodes into top-notch modern Thrash Metal, becoming a mid-tempo dark composition that reminds me of the great Forbidden. Once again, Klemen steals the spotlight with his vocal lines, with the gorgeous bassist Nika Krmelj and the talented drummer Ivan Cepanec bringing tons of groove to the overall musicality.

In Drones, the band puts the pedal to the metal in an ode to old school Bay Area Thrash, featuring slashing guitar riffs, spot-on backing vocals and infinite electricity. Hence, if they play this kick-ass tune live and you don’t crush your skull into the pit, I feel really sorry for your poor soul. Anyway, Reborn into Demise displays an imposing sonority crafted by Eruption bringing more flammable Thrash Metal for our avid ears, sounding like two songs in one due to the accelerated speed of its second half, and with the metallic bass by Nika together with the cutting sound of guitars by Andrej and Grega being beyond awesome. And the band has more devastating thrashing sounds to offer in the thrilling and very technical The Yearning, led by the band’s frantic guitar duo while Klemen keeps firing his demonic high-pitched screams.

A soulful solo ignites the obscure tune This Barren Existence, showcasing great lyrics (“Petrified I lost my speech / I can’t see my eyes are painted / Ruled by a voice that does not speak / I fear my mind is growing weak / Feel my spirit suffocating / The chords just keep coordinating”) despite the music itself never really taking off and going on for too long. The second to last thrashing hurricane engendered by Eruption, titled Seven Archons, brings more of their badass attitude and epic sonority featuring guest vocalist Simon Jovanović, with Ivan and Nika continuing to rumble in the background, therefore providing Klemen the exact ambience needed for his potent voice. Lastly we have The Prophet, which carries an old school name that matches perfectly with its  heavy, dark and straightforward sonority. Furthermore, its slashing riffs and headbanging rhythm are undoubtedly its main ingredients, with the music also exhaling epicness thanks to the poetic performance by Klemen on vocals.

You can take a nice shot at Cloaks of Oblivion in its entirety on YouTube or on Spotify, as well as follow Eruption on Facebook and purchase the album at their BandCamp page, at the Xtreem Music’s BandCamp or webstore, on iTunes or on Amazon. And may the force of old school Thrash Metal be with the Slovenian people forever and ever, thanks to the amazing music by Eruption.

Best moments of the album: Sanity Ascend, Drones and The Yearning.

Worst moments of the album: This Barren Existence.

Released in 2017 Xtreem Music

Track listing 
1. Pharos 1:25
2. Sanity Ascend 4:45
3. Cloaks of Oblivion 6:03
4. Drones 5:13
5. Reborn into Demise 6:14
6. The Yearning 5:23
7. This Barren Existence 6:00
8. Seven Archons 5:47
9. The Prophet 7:35

Band members
Klemen Kalin – vocals
Andrej Cuk – guitars
Grega Kamenšek – guitars
Nika Krmelj – bass
Ivan Cepanec – drums

Guest musicians
Simon Jovanović – additional vocals on “Seven Archons”
Anže Železnik, David Orehar, Matic Babič & Andrej Čuk – gang vocals

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Metal Chick of the Month – Sasha Zagorc

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Heavy metal lives in me!

If one day you have the pleasure of visiting the stunning country of Slovenia (in case you haven’t done so already), you’ll be able to admire several distinguished attractions such as the unique Postojna Cave, the awe-inspiring Lake Bled and the Bled Castle, the Škocjan Caves and, in case you have just one single day in the capital Ljubljana, you can have a relaxing walk through the city’s charming streets and savor the exquisite tastes offered by all of its fancy restaurants. Hence, as a tribute to this wonderful country, to its culture and its people, there’s nothing better than kicking off another year at The Headbanging Moose than with the gorgeous and “louder than hell” Slovenian bassist Sasha Zagorc (or Saša Zagorc in proper Slovene), the songwriter, manager and leader of Slovenia’s own all-female Heavy Metal band Hellcats.

Born on July 22, 1986 in the city of Ljubljana, Sasha started playing classical guitar at a very early age in music school together with her sister Sonja Zagorc, the drummer for Hellcats, who at that time was studying flute. When they finished music school, Sasha switched from classical guitar to bass guitar (also playing in a few local bands) and her sister from flute to drums (quite a change in terms of noise and impact), and then they decided to form their own all-female band. Well, I guess you know what happened next, and that’s where our tribute to this blonde bombshell will be focused on through the next few lines. Are you ready to rumble to the sound of the Heavy Metal by our headbanging diva Sasha and her kick-ass bandmates?

Apart from Sasha on bass guitar and backing vocals, and her sister Sonja on drums, the first all-female metal band from Slovenia is also formed by Katja Mavec on guitars and Dasha Makuc on vocals. The name of the band, which combines femininity with a strong Heavy Metal attitude, was suggested by a friend of Sasha who’s also a musician and an airplane aficionado. He named the band after the Grumman F6F Hellcat, a carrier-based fighter aircraft. Formed in their hometown Ljubljana in 2003, it wasn’t easy for the Hellcats to find many female musicians due to the small size of the Slovenian music scene, a country of only 2 million habitants. However, due to Slovenia’s high level of development, even metal music (a genre usually relegated to the underground as opposed to pop and folk music) has its space in the country’s rich culture, with MetalDays (formerly known as Metalcamp), a huge festival held annually in the city of Tolmin, being the driving force of Heavy Metal in Slovenian soil.

Despite being on the road for over 10 years, Sasha and the Hellcats have only recorded two albums so far, the first being their self-titled EP Hellcats, in 2011, followed by the full-length album Divja Pot (named Warrior Princess in the English version) in 2013. That doesn’t mean they don’t have enough material already for a powerful live concert, which seems to be the thing they love the most in life. The band has already performed in several festivals such as Metalcamp in Slovenia, Viva la Pola festival in Croatia, Metal Franconia in Germany, and several TV and radio shows. For instance, in 2012 the Hellcats were invited to tour Russia, where among all the cities they played their most memorable moments were being one of the main attractions at the female bands rock festival named Zheleznye Devy (or “Iron Girls”), in the city of Kaluga, and performing at the music festival named Jelen Demofest, in Banja Luka. Hellcats achieved 4th place among more than 400 groups, becoming the highest placed foreign band ever at the festival.

If you want to see the lovely Sasha in action together with the Hellcats, there are a few official videos on YouTube in both Slovene and English, those being the Power Metal tune Steelrider (or Divja Pot in Slovene), the sexy Demons Dreams (or Sanjam Demone), the high-octane song Now Is My Time (or Prerojena), and the kick-ass hymn I Am (or Naprej). As a huge admirer of old school Heavy Metal, I personally prefer their more straightforward compositions, which emanate electricity, blood and passion. How not to get thrilled to the sound of Proud To Be Loud or Hellcats, or even better, to their first ever single and best song to date, the awe-inspiring Heavy Metal? The song’s Manowar-inspired lyrics (“Heavy metal lives in me / The hell between will set me free / Heavy metal lives in me / The ones who fake it can just leave”) are a thing of beauty. In addition, there are even a few live videos of those awesome songs online, as for example these live versions of Hellcats and Heavy Metal, recorded in 2013, and if you want to have a delicious overdose of Sasha you can take a look at this YouTube playlist, where you’ll find all official videos, some live performances, interviews, and special covers by Hellcats of icons such as Judas Priest, Doro and AC/DC.

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Perhaps the most organic and crisp performance available online by the Hellcats is their participation in a radio show called Metalmorfoza on November 15, 2014 at the Studio Hendrix for a radio station named Radio Koper. In case you do not have enough time to watch the full show, you can get a taste of the amazing rumbling bass lines by Sasha in the song Vladar Noči, live at that same program. An alternative way to enjoy the music by the Hellcats is on a program called Na Sceni, recorded on October 29, 2013 at the Slovenian channel RTV 4, but let me warn you that if you do not speak Slovene the only thing you’ll be able to understand is the music and nothing else.

Our unstoppable bass player has always been a metalhead, always wearing her own black leather clothes anywhere she goes, being highly influenced by heavy, thrash and hard rock behemoths like Pantera, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica and AC/DC, among others. Shasa mentioned in one of her interviews that she and her sister grew up listening to those bands, helping them to become who they are today. She also mentioned her biggest motivation to write music is life itself, with their compositions being filled with optimism, energy, love, passion and strength. When asked about which language she prefers singing, if English or Slovene, Sasha said they let their emotions lead them, it doesn’t matter if it’s in one language or another, all depending on which one better suits the message and feeling of the music. As an example, she cited the single Heavy Metal, sung entirely in Slovene and being a big success among metalheads all over the world.

Having a band provides our blonde metaller some well-deserved relaxation, and she loves going on tour with her best friends. Sasha said it’s not hard for them to keep the band going forward, as they love what they do. That’s the main reason why during the auditions for the missing band members when the band started, she and Sonja were not only trying to find the right musicians, but they were also looking for good personalities to get along with and to become friends with as well. In her own words, she thinks this is very important for female bands, because “girls like to chat more than guys”. You can take a listen at a short clip with Sasha HERE, where she talks to BBC about how challenging it is to maintain an all-girl metal band, and if you want to know more about her role in the band and how she learned to headbang, among other topics, click HERE for a 30-minute interview with Sasha and the unparalleled bassist Doris Yeh (Chthonic). For instance, did you know Sasha is a professional architect and graphic designer, as at least for now Hellcats cannot make a living out of music itself?

When asked about how she envisions her career with the Hellcats in the next five to ten years, Sasha provided an answer that, albeit a little cliché, is exactly everything we want to hear from a true Heavy Metal band anytime, anywhere. “In the next five to ten years from now we see Hellcats touring and performing on big stages and to be more and more successful every year and to have more and more fans. Our biggest wish is to tour the Europe first and then go to the USA”, said our metal diva. Let’s hope her dreams come true, and that she includes Canada on her tour when the Hellcats come to North America, or we will riot.

Sasha Zagorc’s Official Facebook page
Hellcats’ Official Facebook page
Hellcats’ Official Twitter
Hellcats’ Official Instagram

“Our music is about love, desires, passion and strength. Our songs are filled with optimism and energy. We have a lot to tell and we want people to feel good when they listen to our music.” – Sasha Zagorc

Album Review – EvnaR / E.V.N.A.R. (2016)

Two high-skilled Spanish brothers and their loyal Slovenian sledgehammer deliver a lesson in Blackened Death Metal, spreading darkness and destruction all over the world through their purely demonic and extremely refined technique.

cover artworkConceived in the minds of Spanish blood brothers R.M. (vocals) and J.M. (guitars) before founding Black/Death Metal band Between the Frost in 1993, and reignited in 2010 with the help of the impressive Slovenian drummer Robert Kovačič (Belphegor, Obduktion, Nothnegal), Blackened Death Metal act EvnaR is releasing their debut full-length opus, curiously entitled E.V.N.A.R., with the main objective of spreading darkness and destruction all over the world through their purely demonic and extremely refined technique, which will certainly please all fans of Behemoth, Belphegor and God Dethroned, among others.

The pitch-black artwork by Spanish artist César Valladares, whose pencils are also seen in the artworks for bands like Asphyx, Balmog and Graveyard, with the Reaper sitting on his throne waiting for the doomed to take unholy communion with him, not only represents the desire of the brothers to have a more primitive cover art based in the classic concept of the Grim Reaper, but it’s also a precise depiction of the unrelenting Blackened Death Metal discharged by this exciting band from Tarragona, Catalonia. As one final (but important) detail before all hell breaks loose, E.V.N.A.R. was recorded with a lot of patience and dedication for one year in different studios in Spain and Slovenia, being finally mastered by multi-instrumentalist and producer Tore Stjerna at Necromorbus Studio in Sweden, just to give you an idea of how crisp and ear-splitting the compositions by EvnaR sound.

The sharp and fast riffs by J.M. ignite the Blackened Death Metal extravaganza named Blasphemia Manifesta, a feast of extreme music from the netherworld where R.M. personifies the song’s demonic lyrics through his gruesome growling (“Darkness unites us beyond / All human will / We should be strong as the evil in whom believe / Denial praises / Utter darkness / This is our grim black cult, grim black cult of death”), while in Contemptus Vitæ we are able to witness why Robert was the perfect fit for the band, delivering complex and vicious beats and fills. Furthermore, the whole song leans towards pure Black Metal due to its frantic speed and to the hellish sound of the guitar by J.M., an extra hint of devastation to an already solid composition.

Then we have a fantastic composition from hell entitled Infinite Dark Hatred, which name epitomizes its sounding. There’s a gargantuan amount of hate and despair in R.M.’s vocals, barking like a rabid demon most of the time, whereas the intricacy found in the drumming by Robert gets closer to what we can normally find in more progressive heavy music. In Death In The Air (Stench Of The Slain), rumbling bass lines are quickly followed by more satanic riffs and bestial beats, getting even more blackened than the previous tracks and, consequently, resulting in a nonstop havoc highly recommended for fans of old school Black Metal with a more melodic approach. If you’re a true fan of guttural vocals, I bet you’ll be screaming the chorus together with R.M. every single time you listen to this amusing chant.

band photoKing Of The Grand Uruk has as its main ingredient its epic lyrics about a powerful entity of darkness (“Two parts god, one part man / King of the Grand Uruk / The envy of the gods / Carved his story in stone / Dreams and visions fighting both / Against demons and men”), which will surely grab the attention of any listener avid for a good storyline behind a sonic chaos. Musically speaking, it’s another potent blast of extreme music, where not a single space is left empty, and if you know Robert from his previous bands you can imagine how astonishing his drumming sounds in this savage composition. And embracing total fuckin’ darkness, the Spanish brothers and their loyal Slovenian sledgehammer deliver traditional Black Metal with the most poisonous elements from Death Metal in Torment of the Damned, showcasing an amazing combination of metallic riffs and rhythmic beats.

Conceived In Fire provides a quick break for us to recover our energies in the form of acoustic guitars and less devastating riffs, but that’s obviously for a very short while as their menacing sounding returns to torment our souls ruthlessly. Furthermore, the complexity displayed through the guitar lines by J.M. will put a smile in the face of any guitarist who loves extreme music or even the ones who have never had any contact with the furious uproar of Blackened Death Metal. And last but not least, it looks like EvnaR have absolutely no mercy on our souls based on the demented tune that closes the album, named My Cremation, where the unstoppable beats blasted by Robert complement the hurricane of darkness led by J.M., while R.M. keeps vociferating his putrid words vigorously.

Although it might have taken a considerable amount of time for EvnaR to become a reality in the world of extreme music, every second was worth the wait thanks to the brilliant job done by this power trio when recording E.V.N.A.R., and in order to know more about their blasphemous and cataclysmic music, go check their Facebook page and get your copy of E.V.N.A.R. at their BandCamp page, at The Vinyl Division’s BandCamp page, or at Discogs. I won’t be surprised if I see this album among several rankings listing the top releases of 2016, it doesn’t matter if it will be on a list built by an entity specialized in extreme music or not, so compelling the content of the entire album is.

Best moments of the album: Blasphemia Manifesta, Death In The Air (Stench Of The Slain) and My Cremation.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Winter Demons/The Vinyl Division

Track listing
1. Blasphemia Manifesta 2:52
2. Contemptus Vitæ 3:49
3. Infinite Dark Hatred 4:36
4. Death In The Air (Stench Of The Slain) 3:25
5. King Of The Grand Uruk 3:10
6. Torment Of The Damned 4:44
7. Conceived In Fire 6:10
8. My Cremation 2:44

Band members
R.M. – vocals
J.M. – guitars
Robert Kovačič – drums

Album Review – ShadowIcon / Smoke & Mirrors EP (2015)

This Slovenian band proves an opera singer is not always needed to make great Symphonic Metal songs.

Rating5

SHADOWICON_SmokeMirrors_coverFounded in 2006 in Ljubljana, capital of the mysterious Slovenia, ShadowIcon possess the perfect features to make a Symphonic Metal band: heavy riffs, killer drums, powerful keyboards and orchestrations and a very talented and charismatic female vocalist. What makes them different from other Symphonic Power Metal bands we know is that the beautiful Ana Prijatelj Pelhan is not a lyric soprano like other European divas such as Tarja Turunen, Simone Simons or Floor Jansen. Instead, her vocals are a lot more Pop Rock than Metal, something closer to Gwen Stephani’s voice, which makes the whole difference in their sound.

After four years of the release of their debut album, Empire In Ruins, the band is releasing this year the EP Smoke & Mirrors, containing six tracks and with many special guests such as Sascha Gerstner, guitarist of Helloween; Stefan Schmidt, member of the a cappella metal band Van Canto; Olaf Senkbeil, guest studio musician of Blind Guardian; Betty Lenard contributing with backing vocals, among others.

shadowiconThe EP starts – and also ends – with the powerful and exciting (Now I See) Through a Mirror Darkly, full of imposing orchestrations and keyboards. The opening track also has a wonderful vocal duet between Ana and Sascha Gerstner, with its chorus being really catchy (which I consider one of the things that make a great metal song), and after days I have heard this song for the first time I was still singing “I’ll step into your dreams, I’ll find out where you’ve been, I’ll make you wish you were already dead”. The following track, If I Was the One, the first single of the EP (check its official video below), is a really nice track with several different layers, starting in a smooth way and ending a lot heavier. In addition, its backing vocals and keyboards are great, especially when combined with the guitar solos. By the way, the keyboards seem to be a crucial piece of their music, supporting all the heaviness and the drama throughout the EP.

The Edge is a good song, but not as heavy as the previous ones, just like The Beauty of a Rose, a very nice ballad which shows all the beauty of Ana’s voice – her vocals are definitely the highlights in both tracks – with an awesome work done in terms of backing vocals too. My Plea starts in a cool and calm way, with Ana singing accompanied only by a piano before all that symphonic thunder comes back, showcasing more heaviness and focusing a lot more on the guitar lines and orchestral moments than all previous songs. And finally, a version of (Now I See) Through a Mirror Darkly without Sascha closes this good EP. It is still a cool and intense song, but I hope during their live concerts one of the guys from the band can reproduce the amazing vocal duet with Ana because it really makes all the difference in the track.

Smokes & Mirrors is available on several online channels, such as iTunes, Amazon and others, being a solid preview of what can come next on their future full-length albums. Also, don’t forget to check their Facebook page for more news and updates: it’s indeed worthwhile to follow their growth and evolution, as ShadowIcon are a band that definitely proves Symphonic Metal is not a thing only for Northern European bands.

Best moments of the album: (Now I See)Through a Mirror Darkly and If I Was the One.

Worst moments of the album: The Edge.

Released in 2015 Independent

Track listing
1. (Now I See) Through a Mirror Darkly (feat. Sascha Gerstner) 5:35
2. If I Was the One 3:42
3. The Edge 3:42
4. The Beauty of a Rose 4:54
5. My Plea 3:26
6. (Now I See) Through a Mirror Darkly (reprise) 5:35

Band members
Ana Prijatelj Pelhan – vocals
Tomaž Lovšin – guitars
Bojan Kostanjšek – guitars
Matej Ravšelj – bass
Peter Smrdel – keyboards
Žiga Ravšelj – drums

Guest musicians
Sascha Gerstner – additional vocals in “(Now I See) Through a Mirror Darkly”
Stefan Schmidt – vocal choirs
Olaf Senkbeil – backing vocals
Betty Lenard – backing vocals
Jeffery Hayat – additional orchestrations and programming
Matthias Ulmer – additional orchestrations and programming