Metal Chick of the Month – Annick Giroux

Emmène-moi dans ton monde… De lumière et d’ombre… Emmène-moi dans ton monde… Car ma nuit est longue…

Born in May 1986 in Orléans, a suburb of Canada’s national capital Ottawa, in the province of Ontario, our metal chick of the month of June is much more than just your average metalhead. Not only she’s the lead singer for Montreal-based Heavy/Doom Metal band Cauchemar, but she’s also a bass player, the author of a fantastic book entitled “Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook”, writer for UK’s Iron Fist magazine and for Morbid Tales fanzine, one of the promoters of the now defunct Wings of Metal festival in Montreal, and the co-founder of Temple of Mystery Records, not to mention she’s also a graphic designer who has already worked with the iconic Skyclad and countless underground bands. This might look overkill for any regular person, but not for the unstoppable Canadian superwoman Annick Giroux. Having said that, do you have what it takes to join Annick in her quest for metal music, good food and arts in general?

Annick’s life in metal and graphic design actually started when she was still a very young girl, at the age of 10, when her father brought home a floppy disk containing Paint Shop Pro 4.0, which she used with another software called Visual Page to make a primitive website about her favorite cartoon character. Almost at the same time, when she was 11 or 12 years old, she became pen-pals with a Vietnamese girl living in Belgium, who sent her some cassettes with the albums by Japanese Power Metal institution X-Japan. Annick immediately fell in love for their music, and that turned into an obsession to her to the point she even created an X-Japan fan site before eventually becoming a full metalhead. After that first contact with X-Japan, she started to properly explore the world of heavy music and to develop a deep passion for what she likes to call “Ancient Metal” (which includes Doom, Black, Speed, Thrash and NWOBHM), with bands such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Pagan Altar, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Anvil, Exciter, Mercyful Fate, Destruction, Sacrifice and Celtic Frost, among many, many others, changing the way she used to see music. She then started playing bass, joined a few different bands, designed their logos, demo layouts and flyers, ran the Morbid Tales fanzine for six issues, and even DJ’d weekly at a traditional Montreal metal/punk pub named Katacombes.

Owner of a potent voice, Annick founded the French-Canadian metal institution Cauchemar back in 2007 together with guitarist François Patry originally as a recording project, as performing live didn’t really appeal to them. Still, Cauchemar released in 2010 the five-track EP La Vierge Noire (which means “the black virgin” in English) and played live three Canadian shows before putting the band on hold in 2011 and embarking on an eighteen-month trip around the world. However, that plan lasted only until a friend of the band from Chile invited them to play in the country with local musicians, igniting their desire to keep the band alive and kicking and, consequently, taking them to the most distinct places like Peru, Japan, India and Thailand. All material they wrote during that insane trip ended up on their debut full-length album, entitled Tenebrario, released in 2013, and Annick even said in one of her interviews that trip was the richest and most inspiring experience of her life, as she had the unique pleasure of getting to know many different cultures, metal scenes, local cuisines, religions and social classes.

After Tenebrario, Cauchemar also released another full-length album, titled Chapelle Ardente (or “burning chapel” in English), in 2016, and as you might have already noticed Annick sings all songs from Cauchemar entirely in French, giving their music an extra touch of mysticism, delicacy and occultism. By the way, the name of the band, wihich means “nightmare” in English, stems from a series of violent nightmares Annick used to suffer, some described exactly like sleep paralysis. “I actually did some research into this in the past as some of my nightmares were rather troubling. In fact, the first meaning of the name Cauchemar, or cauquemaire, loosely translates to ‘ghost pressing down’, which surely derives from those very sleep paralyses. But I’m unsure if that’s what I experienced, I’ve been having dreams about dying ever since I was a child,” mentioned Annick in one of her interviews. If you want to feel that nightmare-sih vibe flowing from the music by Cauchemar and especially from Annick’s vocals, you should definitely take a listen at songs like Étoile D’Argent, Trois Mondes, Comme Un Poignard, Tête de Mort, and Le Fantôme, as well as several live performances by the band such as at the Nuclear War Now! Festival V in 2016, playing the song Sepolta Viva at the Magog, in Sherbrooke, in 2014 and the song L’Appel at Cafe Deckuf in Ottawa in 2013, and playing cover versions for Black Sabbath’s The Wizard at Montreal is Doomed in 2010 and Fleetwood Mac’s Green Manalishi in Montreal in 2016.

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Apart from her career with Cauchemar, you can also enjoy her bass punches and vocal lines in several other bands and projects from different parts of the world. For instance, in 2008 she played bass for Japanese Black/Thrash Metal act Barbatos during their live concerts, which ended up having Annick as their bass player in the 2008 Barbatos/Bastardator split live album Live in Montreal; you can also see her playing keyboards (yes, she can also play keyboards) on the introduction from the brand new album Destiny Calls, by Finnish Heavy/Speed Metal band Chevalier; and playing synths and/or doing female vocals on the songs Nordkarpatenland, Keď Svetlonosi Započnú V Močariskách Nazeleno Svícit, Nedlho Po Púlnoci Opacha Sa Doplazila Z Dzíry, and V Rujnovej Samote Pocichu Dumá Lovecký Zámek Zvlčilého Grófa, all from the album Nordkarpatenland, released in 2017 by Slovakian Black Metal horde Malokarpatan.

As you can see, Annick has already been involved in very distinct projects and bands in her career so far, and if you include in that mix her work as a graphic designer, then the list of bands and styles grows considerably. Having obtained a degree in Graphic Design before moving to Montreal with her then boyfriend (and now husband) François Patry, she mentioned in an interview that she actually earns a living as a freelance graphic designer, and as the co-owner of the aforementioned Temple of Mystery Records since 2016 she said she designs absolutely everything for the label’s releases. Furthermore, Annick said she has trouble listening to an album if the artwork is ugly, tasteless or uninspired, as in her opinion metal and graphic design have always been in symbiosis for her. Apart from the album design for Cauchemar’s Tenebrario and the artwork for their Chapelle Ardente album, you can also find Annick’s lines, colors and designs in the albums by tons of excellent underground bands like Anatomia, Venin, Night Demon, Metal Grave, Diabolic Force, Chevalier and Disforterror, just to name a few. For example, how not to enjoy the artwork she provided for the 2013 album Necheshirion, by Canadian Black Metal act Gevurah? When you listen to the music, it matches perfectly with the cryptic art by Annick, proving her point that the cover art is and will always be a crucial part of a metal album.

Despite being a talented musician and graphic designer, let’s say the metal community got to know Annick a lot better mainly due to her book entitled “Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook”, which she signed as Annick “The Morbid Chef” Giroux, featuring a varied menu of over a hundred recipes from thirty countries, including Yorkshire Pudding from England, Beer Pizza Crust from Germany, Spaghetti Barracuda from Italy, Fårikål from Norway, Country Lamb Exohiko from Greece, Churrasco from Brazil, and Mushroom Steak à la Jack Daniel’s from the United States, among numerous other appetizer, breakfast, lunch, dinner, vegetarian, seafood, dessert and drink recipes, all with contributions by worldwide famous musicians from metal bands like Accept, Gwar, Tankard, Anthrax, Electric Wizard, Rotting Christ, Sepultura, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, Doro, U.D.O., Obituary, Mayhem, Gorgoroth, Uriah Heep, Kreator, Nuclear Assault, and a lot of underground acts. In the beginning, Hellbent for Cooking was just a section of the 6th edition of her Morbid Tales fanzine released in 2009, containing only around 20 recipes. However, the idea (originally conceived in 2007) for a metal cookbook by Annick became a reality when her editor Ian Christe picked up the 2009 fanzine and asked her if she was interested in having all recipes published as a book. Then for the pro-looking color cookbook itself that was released by Bazillion Points her deadline was only six months, and she took it seriously by dedicating herself entirely to research, writing, cooking, photographing and laying out the recipe pages. Our dauntless singer, bassist and chef said she contacted about 400 bands in total, and that she could never imagine that bands like Sepultura or Mayhem would actually respond to her. She even ended up discovering new bands during her research period, as for example a Death/Thrash Metal band from Pakistan named Dusk. Moreover, as an avid reader, Annick recommends apart from her own book a few other interesting Bazillion Points publications like Swedish Death Metal, by Daniel Ekeroth, Murder in the Front Row, by Harald Oimoen and Brian Lew, and and Only Death Is Real, by Tom Gabriel Fischer with Martin Eric Ain.

It was after her trip to different parts of the world, especially when she was in Europe and was able to enjoy many underground metal fests, that she returned to Montreal with the idea of organizing a festival of her own, naming it Wings of Metal. She said that as there was no such thing as an underground metal festival mixing styles in Canada, her idea was to do it in the European spirit with a lot of bands from overseas, focusing on the quality of sound and experience, and although the festival only lasted for four editions she’s still proud of her accomplishment. Known as somewhat of an archaeologist of obscure Canadian metal, Annick said that in her opinion Canadian metal often has a touch of something eccentric, mentioning renowned bands like Rush and Voivod as being uniquely bizarre, while other like Slaughter and Exciter are extremely violent, also mentioning that Montreal hosted the first ever international metal festival in North America, named World War III Festival, in 1985, featuring Voivod, Destruction, Celtic Frost, Possessed and Nasty Savage. In addition, when asked about the apparent division between Anglo-Canadians and French-Canadians in Montreal, Annick said she was not even aware of which local Anglophone bands were around, since they have their own shows and separate venues. However, she said that there’s no animosity between those two fronts, it’s just that people tend to stay in their own neighborhoods and feel more comfortable listening to music in their first languages. Well, it doesn’t actually matter if you’re an Anglo-Canadian, a French-Canadian or a complete foreigner to Montreal, whenever visiting the city try to stay updated about all metal concerts going on because, you know, you might be able to witness nightmares in the form of old school Doom Metal spearheaded by our multi-talented Annick Giroux.

Annick Giroux’s Official Instagram
Cauchemar’s Official Facebook page
Cauchemar’s Official BandCamp

“Canadian metal often has a touch of something eccentric. Being so far removed from the traditional music centres like New York City, Chicago, and LA made Canadian bands want to work even harder in developing something exceptional that could bring attention to them.” – Annick Giroux

Album Review – Helslave / Divination EP (2017)

Prepare yourself for a grim and murky fusion of old school and modern Swedish-inspired Death Metal by five Italian troopers in their path of destruction and killing.

Formed in 2009 by guitarist Jari, Italian Death Metal act Helslave is a Rome-based band taking its influences from the 90’s Death Metal and Melodic Death Metal Swedish scene, adding their personal twist to generate a mix of old and modern school metal music. After releasing a self-titled demo in 2010, followed by the EP Ethereal Decay in 2013 and their first full-length album An Endless Path in 2015, the band started playing shows all over Italy and Europe, sharing the stage with acts such as Grave, Asphyx, Havok, Hideous Divinity and Destroyer 666, also appearing at Metaldays in 2014, keeping themselves busy and always charged up to continue their path of destruction wherever they go.

In the beginning of the year, Helslave entered the studio to record a brand new EP titled Divination, comprised of four brand new tracks leaning towards darker and heavier sounds, playing their already traditional Swedish-inspired Death Metal in the vein of Grave, Entombed and Desultor, all embraced by the devilish artwork designed by Misanthropic Art. Prepare yourself for grim and murky old school Death Metal, the kind of stuff that doesn’t rely on triggered blast beats, light-in-the-loafers warbling, or anything but the crudest building blocks to construct its killing art. Hence, although Divination lasts for only around 16 minutes, that’s more than enough for Helslave to crush your spine mercilessly.

In the opening track, beautifully titled Summoning The Eternal Eclipse, an ominous intro morphs into sheer devastation by Jari and his henchmen, with drummer Francesco Comerci dictating the song’s demented rhythm in a solid display of Swedish Death Metal. In addition, newcomer Diego Laino and his Unleashed-inspired vocals keep the song’s ferocity at an extremely high level, perfect for declaiming the song’s menacing lyrics (“Silence falls, it freezes all around / the arrival of divine / ancestral ritual summon
/ Blinding lights, no human eye can see
/ let the plague fall on the weak”). And there’s no time to breathe, as the band rises from the pits of hell with another brutal carnage named Lord Of Lies, presenting old school, visceral Death Metal with hints of other extreme genres such as Black and Thrash Metal to add more dynamism to the musicality. The guitar duo Jari and Lorenzo Fabiani are simply fantastic, blasting scorching, darkened riffs through their instruments, not to mention the intricate beats by Francesco in this ode to obscurity.

In The Spawn Of Astaroth, the band slows things down a bit, but that doesn’t mean they don’t fire truly dismembering riffs and beats, with Diego growling like a beast while Francesco and bassist Luca Riccardelli maintain a dense ambience in the background. Moreover, the final guitar lines exhale pure Black Metal, not to mention the song’s insurgent lyrics (“The fate of a great battle / has to be faced / an indomitable army has to be defeated / We are the ones who walk the left hand path / As written in the blood of the prophecy / The only way to conquer this land”). And Desecration, their last spawn of vicious Death Metal, is fast, demonic and amazingly neck-breaking, again presenting traditional piercing riffs and solos by Jari and Lorenzo as well as the complex and vibrant drumming by Francesco, being highly recommended for fans of Unleashed and Obituary.

You can take a full listen at Divination on YouTube, and follow Helslave through their Facebook page, YouTube channel, ReverbNation and SoundCloud. And if you want to show your true support to high-end underground Death Metal, you can purchase the EP at Helslave’s BandCamp or Big Cartel, at the Black Market Metal’s Big Cartel, or at Discogs. The only “issue” with Divination is that it’s only 15 minutes long, but as aforementioned that doesn’t stop Helslave from shining and destroying with their unrelenting Death Metal, leaving us eager for more kick-ass extreme music by this hardworking Italian squad.

Best moments of the album: Summoning The Eternal Eclipse.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Black Market Metal

Track listing
1. Summoning The Eternal Eclipse 4:08
2. Lord Of Lies 3:32
3. The Spawn Of Astaroth 3:43
4. Desecration 4:35

Band members
Diego Laino – vocals
Jari – lead guitars
Lorenzo Fabiani – guitars
Luca Riccardelli – bass
Francesco Comerci – drums

Album Review – Arch Enemy / War Eternal (2014)

More melodic than ever, less brutal than usual: this is the new album from one of the most important Swedish bands of all time. But isn’t their music getting too melodic to the point it fails to deliver?

Rating5

CoverWhen Swedish Melodic Death Metal icons Arch Enemy released a statement earlier this year about the unparalleled and irreplaceable diva Angela Gossow stepping down as the lead singer of the band to become their business manager, I must say I was truly shocked, not to mention I felt really worried about the future of one of my favorite bands from the past decade. However, when they announced the also amazing Alissa White-Gluz (from Canadian Melodic Death Metal/Metalcore band The Agonist) as her replacement, I knew the band was going to be in very good hands, which is proven by the good War Eternal, their ninth studio album and, more important than that, the beginning of a new phase in their extensive history.

Another very significant change in the band was the departure (for the second time) of Michael’s brother, the superb guitarist Chris Amott, replaced by American guitarist Nick Cordle in 2012, because although Nick has been with the band for two years now, this is his first studio album with them. I’m a huge fan of the Amott brothers playing together, and again I was a worried about the final result in War Eternal. Guess what? Once again I was “happily wrong”, as Mr. Cordle showcases an excellent performance throughout the whole album. So this means there’s nothing wrong in War Eternal? Well, let’s say the album is far from being a failure, but it has lots of highs and lows which you’ll be able to notice as soon as you take your first listen to it.

War Eternal kicks off with the interesting intro Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F minor), which is the Latin for “Time Heals Nothing”, before the band strikes the listener with the reverberating havoc named Never Forgive, Never Forget. This song is way better than I expected, especially after listening to the singles released earlier this year: this is the true Melodic Death Metal we learned to love from Arch Enemy, with the always bestial riffs and solos from Mr. Michael Amott and a totally inspired Daniel Erlandsson pounding his drums. On the other hand, War Eternal shows us a more contemporary Arch Enemy, which means less brutal and more melodic than ever. Moreover, the lyrics and chorus are annoyingly cheesy (“Try to tell you what to do / They love to have control of you / Back against the wall / In danger of losing it all / Search deep inside / Remember who you are”), which is kind of the same issue found in Khaos Legions, but thanks to its traditional riffs and Alissa’s excellent performance the song is not a complete disaster.

The following track, As the Pages Burn, is the Arch Enemy most fans want for sure: it is A LOT better than “War Eternal” in terms of rhythm, lyrics and creativity, with highlights to the beautiful solos by Michael and Nick at the end; while No More Regrets is the perfect example of how Michael Amott masters the art of starting songs with quick and efficient guitar solos, and by here you’ll be able to notice Alissa won’t use her clean vocals in Arch Enemy, at least not in this album, which in my opinion is completely understandable, expected and correct. Although I’m also a fan of The Agonist, simply remember the band here is and will always be Arch Enemy.

Then we have the biggest disappointment of the entire album, the unbearable You Will Know My Name, a song that cannot be considered Arch Enemy, but a totally disposable track that sounds like a rip-off of “No Gods, No Masters” with less intensity and horrible lyrics. Fortunately, after a traditional instrumental bridge called Graveyard of Dreams, the band gets back on track with the good Stolen Life, a song that reminds me of the musicality from their last two albums, especially its heavy groove, and the even better Time Is Black, with an excellent start, lots of shredding and some keyboard parts, sounding like some of their songs from Doomsday Machine.

arch enemyThe last part of the album is a music rollercoaster that starts with On and On, which despite its very cohesive sonority, lacks a lot of creativity and ends up falling flat; Avalanche, a good song with more keyboards and quick but awesome guitar solos, which should sound a lot better if played live; and the excellent Down to Nothing, where Daniel Erlandsson is kickin’ fuckin’ ass one more time. In addition, the bad chorus prevents it from being really awesome, but it’s one of the best songs of the album anyway (especially the guitar solos). Michael & Co. still have time for the instrumental Not Long for This World, a very traditional way to end an Arch Enemy album.

One might ask why I gave it only a 3.0 if I said so many good things about the album. Well, there are two main issues for me in War Eternal, which I do not expect everyone to agree 100% but at least acknowledge them: first of all, the lyrical themes are too cheesy and shallow again. Where’s all that obscurity and violence from their old records? And secondly, although some of the songs sound very strong, there isn’t a single one with that “wow factor” found in masterpieces such as “Enemy Within”, “Nemesis”, “Diva Satanica” or “I Am Legend/Out for Blood”. It’s not Alissa’s or Nick’s fault, though, it’s the lack of brutality that bothers me in War Eternal, not to mention the fact that the whole album seems to have been done a lot faster than it should, which probably hampered more in-depth and complex compositions.

Not only that, it looks like the main goal with their two official videos so far has been to literally showcase Alissa’s physical attributes to the fans instead of focusing on the music, as they were by far the worst songs of the whole album. Alissa is extremely hot, but I’m pretty sure all Arch Enemy fans prefer a more rampant musicality than fancy music videos. At least the excellent artwork for the album, created by Romanian artist Costin Chioreanu, lives up to Arch Enemy’s legacy.

To sum up, War Eternal is good, but not memorable, and I don’t believe that’s because Alissa is new to the band: she’s a superb singer and performer, and Arch Enemy couldn’t have found a better person to replace Angela. As I said a couple of times in this same review, it’s the extremely melodic (and sometimes too commercial) path the band has chosen to take that concerns me. For instance, I personally consider Johan Liiva just an average vocalist, but the music Arch Enemy used to play with him was so much more intense that lots of fans still miss him nowadays, even after the outstanding work done by Angela. I’ll keep loving Arch Enemy and headbanging to their music as always, but unfortunately most of the songs from War Eternal won’t be missed on my personal playlist in a couple of months.

Best moments of the album: Never Forgive, Never Forget, As the Pages Burn and Down to Nothing.

Worst moments of the album: War Eternal, You Will Know My Name and On and On.

Released in 2014 Century Media

Track listing
1. Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F minor) 1:12
2. Never Forgive, Never Forget 3:43
3. War Eternal 4:16
4. As the Pages Burn 4:01
5. No More Regrets 4:05
6. You Will Know My Name 4:37
7. Graveyard of Dreams (Instrumental) 1:10
8. Stolen Life 2:58
9. Time Is Black 5:23
10. On and On 4:04
11. Avalanche 4:38
12. Down to Nothing 3:47
13. Not Long for This World (Instrumental) 3:29

Band members
Alissa White-Gluz – vocals
Michael Amott – lead guitars
Nick Cordle – lead guitars
Sharlee D’Angelo – bass
Daniel Erlandsson – drums

Album Review – Vanhelgd / Relics Of Sulphur Salvation (2014)

Death Metal from Sweden has never been so amazingly tormenting.

Rating4

vanhelgd_relicsWhile some bands are on a mission to bring love and peace to our hearts, others were simply born to torment our souls with their dark and obscure music. That’s exactly the case with Swedish Death Metal band Vanhelgd, who have just released their third full-length album, the furious Relics Of Sulphur Salvation. And believe me, this Mjölby-based band reached such a bestial musicality in this album that they make all Melodic Death Metal bands from Sweden sound like Babymetal.

Recorded back in November 2013 at Studio Underjord and mastered in Necromorbus Studio, Relics Of Sulphur Salvation is a lesson in old school Swedish Death Metal. Let’s say there aren’t many music variations or creative breaks throughout the entire album, but the band’s powerful performance and the intensity found in each song will prevent the listener from getting tired after a while. Quite the opposite, it will be hard for you to not remain totally excited from start to finish.

To begin with, Vanhelgd couldn’t have chosen a better way to open the album: the strong and evil sonority found in Dödens Maskätna Anlete, with its devilish vocals, awesome riffs in the background and the addition of many Black Metal elements (moving its musicality closer to what’s known as Blackened Death Metal) is 100% effective in informing the listener this album is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Then we have the good The Salt in My Hands, which is even heavier due to its fast beats and a very raw instrumental; the extremely dark Where All Flesh is Soil, where it’s impossible not to love its obscure intro, Black Metal riffs and captivating rhythm; and Ett Liv I Träldom, another good song, albeit not as powerful as the previous ones, with a good chorus anyway.

vanhelgdThe sickness continues with another very traditional track “beautifully” named May the Worms Have Mercy on My Flesh, showcasing an excellent performance by drummer Björn Andersson and vocalist/guitarist Matttias Frisk, with highlights to the cool “slowdown” at the end of the song. And if you still think this album is not that heavy, simply listen to the title-track, Relics of Sulphur Salvation, the most demonic of all songs that will disturb the ears and minds of the less courageous for sure with its totally boisterous riffs, harsh vocals and thrilling chorus.

Lastly, Vanhelgd offer us another sonic massacre, Sirens of Lampedusa, one of the fastest songs of all with desperate vocals, drummer Björn Andersson truly on fire and a very melancholic ending. I’m pretty sure after 2 minutes or even less you’ll already feel tormented, in a good way of course, but in case you consider yourself a tough person you’ll have to face one last song, the fast and direct Cure Us from Life, full of Thrash Metal elements, which will surely leave you eager for more of Vanhelgd’s dark and evil music.

Even the album art, designed by Mattias Frisk himself, is very old school and represents what the band’s musicality is pretty well. In conclusion, if you’re a fan of that primeval Swedish Death Metal that conquered the world many years ago, Relics Of Sulphur Salvation (which is already available in different formats at Pulverised Records, 20 Buck Spin and Ljudkassett) is an awesome choice for you to go absolutely crazy and bang your head nonstop. As I mentioned before, their Death Metal was created to torment your life the best way you can imagine.

Best moments of the album: Where All Flesh is Soil,  Relics of Sulphur Salvation and Sirens of Lampedusa.

Worst moments of the album: Ett Liv I Träldom.

Released in 2014 Pulverised Records/20 Buck Spin

Track listing
1. Dödens Maskätna Anlete 5:43
2. The Salt in My Hands 4:25
3. Where All Flesh is Soil 4:22
4. Ett Liv I Träldom 6:07
5. May the Worms Have Mercy on My Flesh 5:24
6. Relics of Sulphur Salvation 5:23
7. Sirens of Lampedusa 6:21
8. Cure Us from Life 3:21

Band members
Mattias Frisk – vocals, guitar
Jimmy Johansson – guitar, vocals
Jonas Albrektsson – bass
Björn Andersson – drums