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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Album Review – Aephanemer / Prokopton (2019)

Blending the fury and harmony of Scandinavian metal with symphonic elements, here comes a French Melodic Death Metal unity ready to show the world what they got with their sophomore album.

If you’re a fan of modern-day Melodic Death Metal the likes of Arch Enemy, The Agonist, In Flames and Soilwork, I’m sure you’ll love the music found in Prokopton, the sophomore full-length album by French metallers Aephanemer. Blending the fury and harmony of the traditional Scandinavian sound from the Gothenburg scene with several distinct symphonic and epic elements, this talented French four-piece army will captivate your senses with the potency, speed and intricacy found in each one of the eight tracks of their brand new opus, positioning them as one of the most interesting and promising names not only of the current metal scene in their homeland France, but anywhere else in the world where the modernity and specially the intensity of Melodic Death Metal are truly appreciated.

Formed in 2013 in Toulouse, capital of France’s southern Occitanie region, as a one-man band by guitarist Martin Hamiche to release six instrumental pieces inspired by his Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal heroes (with the 2014 EP Know Thyself being forged of those six songs), Aephanemer, which is the merger of the French words “éphémère” (ephemeral) and “fânée” (folded), have been making a name for themselves since becoming a full-bodied group in 2015 when vocalist and guitarist Marion Bascoul, bassist Anthony Delmas (replaced by Lucie Woaye Hune in 2017) and drummer Mickaël Bonnevialle joined Martin in his quest for heavy music. Featuring a classy artwork by Niklas Sundin (Cabin Fever Media), mixed by Dan Swanö (Unisound AB) and mastered by Mika Jussila (Finnvox Studios), Prokopton is an amalgamation of everything the band stands for and what we can expect from them in the future, sounding as exciting as it can be from start to finish.

An epic, Arch Enemy-inspired intro morphs into a more symphonic version of Melodic Death Metal led by Martin’s razor-edged riffs and Marion’s demonic roars in the title-track Prokopton, flowing flawlessly like an arrow high in the sky until its grand finale; whereas  background orchestrations set the tone for the also inspiring The Sovereign, where Mickaël dictates the rhythm with his precise beats while Marion, Martin and Lucie offer the listener a feast of flammable sounds. Epicness keeps flowing from their music in Dissonance Within, another dense, multi-layered composition bringing the best elements from Symphonic and Melodic Death Metal where Marion growls its rebellious lyrics like a she-demon (“Time to fight, no backing down / For I will have no rest until my skill prevails / Disembodied, a whistling sound / The singing of my blade ravages the plain”), and flirting with Symphonic Black Metal at times, Snowblind is a fun headbanging extravaganza with highlights to the pounding drums by Mickaël and another thunderous performance by Marion on vocals, not to mention the song’s majestic atmosphere.

At Eternity’s Gate is an instrumental bridge the likes of Gamma Ray and Arch Enemy that sets the stage for the thrilling Back Again, perfect for slamming into the pit and enjoying a cold pint of beer while the quartet crushes our heads with their instruments, with the band’s stringed trio being in absolute (and totally awesome) sync. In the very progressive, intricate and exciting Bloodline, Marion takes the lead with her Black Metal-like gnarls while the rest of the crew doesn’t let the electricity go down, firing stunning guitar riffs and solos, thunderous bass punches and smashing beats. And last but not least, in the dark and imposing If I Should Die poetry flows majestically form its lyrics (“Maybe it is going to take me nowhere / But I reckon not having to go anywhere / I don’t keep any illusion to hold dear / I just need to be ready to disappear / Void comes from the self alone / Fear from what we believe we own / Stoics across time give an advice / May death be daily before our eyes”) while all band members showcase their refined skills, resulting in a hybrid of a metal opera with the devastation of extreme music.

In a nutshell, Aephanemer are ready to take you on a fun and thrilling music journey through the realms of contemporary Melodic Death Metal with Prokopton, and all you have to do to join them is following the band on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and obviously purchase their new album directly from their BandCamp page or from iTunes or Amazon, where by the way the album comes with instrumental versions for each and every song as a beyond special bonus from the band to you. Mr. Martin Hamiche had a dream when he started Aephanemer, and now based on the high quality of the music found in Prokopton we can say without a shadow of a doubt that dreams not only do come true, but sometimes they also kick some serious ass for our total delectation.

Best moments of the album: The Sovereign, Dissonance Within and Bloodline.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Primeval Records

Track listing
1. Prokopton 5:13
2. The Sovereign 5:17
3. Dissonance Within 6:12
4. Snowblind 4:24
5. At Eternity’s Gate 2:55
6. Back Again 5:50
7. Bloodline 5:29
8. If I Should Die 9:08

Band members
Marion Bascoul – vocals, rhythm guitar
Martin Hamiche – lead guitar
Lucie Woaye-Hune – bass
Mickaël Bonnevialle – drums

Album Review – Suffering Souls / In Synergy Obscene (2019)

After ten long years, Lord Esgaroth returns with a brand new album presenting a somber and satanic identity which will appeal to all of those who respect and love the Black Metal scene from the 90’s.

Forged in 1994 in the fires of Kümmersbruck, a municipality in the Amberg-Sulzbach district, in Bavaria, Germany under the name Dismal by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Tobias “Lord Esgaroth” Micko, Symphonic Black Metal one-man army Suffering Souls is ready to darken our hearts and minds once again with his epic and stylish extreme music found in his fourth full-length opus, entitled In Synergy Obscene, coming out exactly 10 years after the release of its predecessor Sadistic Goat Complex as if time had not stopped, with all new tracks following the path of the previous album, almost unchanged from the basic principle.

On In Synergy Obscene, Lord Esgaroth presents a somber and satanic identity which will appeal to all of those who respect and love the Black Metal scene from the 90’s, sounding powerful and imposing thanks to the refined sound of all classic instruments, lead guitars and clean vocal passages, creating a new and interesting atmosphere never before seen in any of the works by Suffering Souls. Also feeling a bit more mature than its previous album, In Synergy Obscene brings forward a neat and unique musicality without sounding cheesy or repetitive, showcasing all of Lord Esgaroth’s abilities as a composer, musician and as a loyal servant to the most obscure side of Extreme Metal.

Idolised And Vilified, a melancholic, romantic and cinematic intro the likes of Cradle Of Filth, kicks off the album by setting the tone for the imposing title-track In Synergy Obscene, crushing our senses mercilessly with Lord Esgaroth’s demonic gnarls and his background orchestrations matching perfectly with his infernal Black Metal riffs and solos; and more epicness mixed with his flammable Black Metal hits us in the face in Inheritance Of Irony, where not a single space is left empty, with its guitars, keys and drums invading your senses in a full-bodied feast of symphonic sounds, ending with a long, melodic and extremely beautiful guitar solo for our total delight. That vile start is followed by In Death Reborn, perhaps the least Black Metal of all songs despite Lord Esgaroth’s old school growls and gnarls, sounding very modern and distinct from the rest of the album while its backing vocals feel a bit unstable.

Back to a more symphonic and violent mode, Lord Esgaroth fires a well-balanced fusion of classic Black Metal with melodic and modern nuances titled As The Truth Unfolds, living up to the legacy of bands like Cradle Of Fitlh and Dimmu Borgir and displaying an amazing job done on drums, being intricate and furious at the same time. Then we have The True Endless, another classic composition by Suffering Souls presenting a huge amount of epicness and delicacy coming from the keyboards while its guitars keep slashing our senses, maintaining the album’s ambience very impactful and electric before the most symphonic, melodic and introspective of all songs, The Cynic God, invites us to dance together with Lord Esgaroth, sounding at times like a fantasy movie score. The second to last breath of Symphonic Black Metal by Suffering Souls comes in the form of All You Little Devils, where Lord Esgaroth’s vocals get very close to what Shagrath does with Dimmu Borgir, elevating the song’s taste and potency considerably, whereas the closing hymn Unseen Phenomenon is a feast of blackened, melodic and symphonic sounds and tones led by Lord Esgaroth’s harsh vociferations and blast beats, with its piano and keys building a climatic ending for the album.

It might have taken 10 years for Tobias Micko to morph into his alter-ego Lord Esgaroth again and bring his Suffering Souls back from the underworld, but based on the high quality of the music found in In Synergy Obscene, which you can listen in full on Spotify and purchase from the Schwarzdorn Production’s BandCamp or webstore, from the Season of Mist webstore or from iTunes, the wait was definitely worth it. With that said, I’m sure we’ll start seeing Lord Esgaroth and Suffering Souls a lot more often than only every decade, spreading his darkness upon us and carrying the flag of Symphonic Black Metal high for years to come.

Best moments of the album: Inheritance Of Irony, As The Truth Unfolds and All You Little Devils.

Worst moments of the album: In Death Reborn.

Released in 2019 Schwarzdorn Production

Track listing
1. Idolised And Vilified 2:29
2. In Synergy Obscene 5:30
3. Inheritance Of Irony 9:23
4. In Death Reborn 5:13
5. As The Truth Unfolds 6:28
6. The True Endless 5:16
7. The Cynic God 6:28
8. All You Little Devils 4:49
9. Unseen Phenomenon 6:43

Band members
Tobias “Lord Esgaroth” Micko – vocals, guitars, strings, choirs, drums, programming

The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2018

“Chasing a dream as I go higher
Playing it mean, my heart’s on fire
Living my life, ain’t no pretender
Ready to fight with no surrender.” – No Surrender, by Judas Priest

Another year goes by and, as usual, we lost a lot of good people, including family and friends. In heavy music, 2018 was the year several amazing musicians passed away, such as Dave Holland (former drummer of Judas Priest), Ralph Santolla (former guitarist of Iced Earth, Deicide, Death and Obituary), Vinnie Paul (the talented drummer of Hellyeah, Pantera and Damageplan), Jill Janus (the stunning vocalist of Huntress), and “Fast” Eddie Clarke, one of the meanest guitarists in history and the last of Motörhead’s “Three Amigos”, signaling the definitive end of Motörhead’s classic lineup. Not only that, we also saw the one and only Glenn Tipton, the iconic lead guitarist for Heavy Metal giants Judas Priest and one of the most influential guitar players in the history of metal, opening up about his ongoing fight against Parkinson’s disease and, as a consequence, having to pull out of the 2018 tour due to his health issues. However, as the Metal Gods themselves sing in their new ass-kicking song No Surrender, we can’t surrender and should keep on fighting with our heads high, always listening to our good old Heavy Metal to inspire us to face our daily struggles.

Enough said already, how about we show the world that we metalheads are still here, always ready for a fight, and that metal music is alive and kicking with The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2018, excluding EP’s, best of’s and live albums? From classic bands like Judas Priest, Behemoth and Immortal, to underground bands from all four corners of the earth like Ukraine’s 1914, Australia’s Rise of Avernus and Canada’s Altars of Grief, we can say that 2018 was a damn good year for our beloved Heavy Metal, pointing to a promising future for all its genres and subgenres and proving once again that metal unites us all it doesn’t matter where we live, our culture, language, race or religion. So, get ready to raise your horns and bang your heads nonstop to our selection of best metal albums of the year, and always remember… NO SURRENDER!

1. Judas Priest – Firepower (REVIEW)
The Metal Gods are firing on all cylinders with their majestic new album of pure and highly inspired Heavy Metal.
Best song of the album: Firepower

2. Blaze Bayley – The Redemption of William Black (REVIEW)
What does the future hold for Mr. William Christopher Black? Enjoy the dramatic conclusion to Blaze’s stunning Infinite Entanglement Trilogy.
Best song of the album: The Dark Side of Black

3. Behemoth – I Loved You at Your Darkest (REVIEW)
Poland’s most blasphemous metal institution returns after four years with a much more melodic and dynamic approach than before.
Best song of the album: Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica

4. Dragonlord – Dominion (REVIEW)
Exploring themes of darkness, here comes Eric Peterson’s Symphonic Black and Thrash Metal project with their first album in 13 years.
Best song of the album: Northlanders

5. Primal Fear – Apocalypse (REVIEW)
The Teutonic eagles of Power Metal return with another sensational opus showcasing the perfect amount of creativity and melody.
Best song of the album: The Ritual

6. Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods (REVIEW)
The Gates of Blashyrkh have finally opened again to the sound of the pulverizing new album by the Northern Chaos Gods of Black Metal.
Best song of the album: Mighty Ravendark

7. 1914 – The Blind Leading the Blind (REVIEW)
It’s time to head into the battlefields of the Great War together with these Ukrainian Blackened Death and Doom Metal infantrymen.
Best song of the album: Passchenhell

8. Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau (REVIEW)
Here come Australia’s own Rise of Avernus with their most symphonic, heaviest and darkest opus thus far.
Best song of the album: Eigenlicht

9. Altars of Grief – Iris (REVIEW)
A superb album of Canadian Blackened Doom narrating a tragic story of a deeply flawed man and his dying daughter.
Best song of the album: Broken Hymns

10. Marduk – Viktoria (REVIEW)
A furious and aggressive fusion of Marduk’s classic Black Metal with their more contemporary warlike sound.
Best song of the album: Viktoria

And here we have the runner-ups, completing the top 20 for the year:

11. Stormzone – Lucifer’s Factory (REVIEW)
12. Motorjesus – Race to Resurrection (REVIEW)
13. Borgne – [∞] (REVIEW)
14. SynlakrosS – Malice Murder (REVIEW)
15. Xenoblight – Procreation (REVIEW)
16. Kaoteon – Damnatio Memoriae (REVIEW)
17. Tamerlan Empire – Age of Ascendancy (REVIEW)
18. Coiled Around Thy Spine – Shades (REVIEW)
19. Chthonic – Battlefields of Asura (REVIEW)
20. NovaReign – Legends (REVIEW)

In addition, how about another round of awesome albums released this year, this time presenting to you our Top 10 EP’s of 2018? Those shorter-than-a-regular-album but still heavier-than-hell releases are like going to a fancy restaurant, where you might not get a humongous amount of food, but what’s served on your plate is more than enough to please your palate (or your ears, in this case). And, of course, you leave the place eager for more of that tasty and exquisite metal music.

1. Violent Life Violent Death – Come, Heavy Breath (REVIEW)
2. Strangle Wire – The Dark Triad (REVIEW)
3. Godless – Swarm (REVIEW)
4. The Black Swamp – Witches (REVIEW)
5. Progenie Terrestre Pura – starCross (REVIEW)
6. Lebowskii – Liquidators (REVIEW)
7. Geisterwald – Geisterwald (REVIEW)
8. Soul Dissolution – Nowhere (REVIEW)
9. Dark Archive – Cultivate Our Blood in Aeon (REVIEW)
10. Forte Ruin – Rebuilding the Machinery (REVIEW)

Do you agree with our list? What are your top 10 albums of 2018? Once again don’t forget to check Antichrst Magazine’s Top 10 Albums of 2018 (Editorial Staff), tune in to Timão Metal every Tuesday on Rádio Coringão for a sensational fusion of metal and soccer, and to The Headbanging Moose Show every Thursday on Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio for the best of the underground and independent metal scene!

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2019!

And last but not least, if you want to support Glenn Tipton and everyone else on their personal battles against Parkinson’s, you can purchase the official Glenn Tipton Parkinson’s Foundation Charity T-shirt by clicking HERE or make a direct donation following the instructions found HERE. You can always help your family, friends and fellow metalheads, as simple as that, and who knows, maybe we can make this world a better place to live.

Album Review – Tragacanth / The Journey of a Man (2018)

Follow the tale of a young man’s downward spiral into the abyss to the sound of the symphonic and progressive devastation blasted by this excellent Dutch quintet.

If you’re familiar with the work by Dutch Symphonic/Progressive Black/Death Metal act Tragacanth, having already listened to their 2015 debut full-length album Anthology of the East, you know how those five skilled metallers love to blend their entrancing melodies and symphonic sections with lyrical themes ranging from spiritual wars to mythical creatures, telling the tales of ancient Babylonian times. Now in 2018 it’s time for the band comprised of Terry Stooker on vocals, Erik Brouwer and Adrian Neagoe on the guitars, Mark Oosterbaan on bass and Jasper van Minnen on drums to strike once again with their sophomore opus entitled The Journey of a Man, this time showcasing a lyrical mix between mythological and purely personal topics, being recommended for fans of cult acts such as Nile, Carach Angren, Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth.

Formed in 2014 in Utrecht, a city in the central Netherlands that has been a religious center for centuries, Tragacanth are one of those bands that do not just create music, spicing up their creations with a fantastic storytelling, and their new album is the perfect depiction of their highly-developed musical and lyrical skills. “From the mystical, enigmatic Far East covered in Anthology of the East, this time we travel to Ancient Greek times where a young man finds out he is to perish soon. Wandering the complex maze of emotions and disease running through his veins, The Journey of a Man tells the tale of his downward spiral into the abyss,” commented the band about their newborn spawn, inviting us all to join this young man in his personal and very obscure journey.

Enter the ominous realm of Tragacanth to the sound of the eerie opening track Survival: Stagnate Reality, a lot more progressive than symphonic I might say, with the band’s guitarists Erik and Adrian giving a lecture in Progressive Death Metal, sounding utterly insane, heavy and intricate. And their creepy guitars and bass lines dictate the rhythm in Denial: They are Mistaken, where Terry sounds diabolical with his gnarling in a brilliant fusion of the Symphonic Black Metal by Dimmu Borgir with the Progressive Death Metal by bands like Augury and Virulent Depravity; followed by Anger: Kitrine Chole, a beautiful devastation blasted by Tragacanth where its bass lines will tremble inside your head while Jasper smashes your skull with his complex and powerful beats, not to mention how demonically Terry vociferates the song’s insane lyrics (“A black haze thwarts / My vision’s blurred / Sever the chains / Composure can’t hold / This pent up energy / The rage breaking free / The walls imploding destroying all what once was”).

Their demented feast of Progressive Death Metal and Symphonic Black Metal goes on in the pulverizing Depression: Waning Light, featuring the angelical voice of Romanian vocalist Manuela Marchis, and where the drums by Jasper sound heavier than hell while Terry keeps growling and screaming rabidly, turning it into my favorite song of the album by far.  Then not ready to accept his fate, the man turns to the gods, with the path leading him to Hades, god of the underworld, Thanatos, the personification of death, and eventually to those cruel sisters of fate, the Moirai, resulting in the vibrant Bargaining: Will You Answer Me?, featuring guest vocalist Rik van Schaaik in the role of Hades and Thanatos, among other additional vocal lines, with the music being as infernal and complex as its predecessors thanks to the impressive job done by Erik, Adrian and Mark with their stringed weapons. And a cryptic, Middle-Eastern beginning evolves into a dense and impactful display of Progressive Metal in Nightmare: The Vision, with highlights to its mesmerizing bass punches and ass-kicking drums, ending in a very symphonic and captivating manner.

Once again drinking form the fountain of modern-day Progressive Death Metal, get ready to have your spinal cord broken in half to the brutal headbanging tune Acceptance: My Destiny Awaits, with the guitars by Erik and Adrian bringing a touch of delicacy to this sonic demolition, and their onrush of berserk and intricate sounds goes on in Suffering: The Essence Implodes, where Terry roars like a demon while Jasper shows no mercy for his drums (nor for our necks), also bringing the most pulverizing elements from Death and Black Metal thoroughly added to the musicality. Lastly, darker and more introspective than all previous songs we have Death: Journey’s End, closing the album on a Stygian note, with Erik and Adrian stealing the spotlight with their slashing riffs and soulful solos, not to mention all the poetry flowing form the song’s lyrics (“Let go / Enclaved by the river Styx / Lies a tomb for me / My celestial sanctuary / Let go / An eternal resting place / All alone and forgotten /The Asphodel Meadows”).

As already mentioned, Tragacanth are not your average metal band, being true masters in blending heavy music with a deep and detailed background story, always keeping in mind the band has only a couple of years of existence (which means they still have a lot to grow in the coming years). Hence, The Journey of a Man, available for a full listen on YouTube and on sale from several different locations such as their own BandCamp, the Pest Records’ BandCamp, the Loud Rage Music webstore, iTunes, Amazon and Discogs, is a fantastic materialization of that impressive ability by those four Dutch metallers, beautifully taking us down into the abyss together with the  album’s main character.

Best moments of the album: Anger: Kitrine Chole, Depression: Waning Light and Acceptance: My Destiny Awaits.

Worst moments of the album: Suffering: The Essence Implodes.

Released in 2018 Pest Records

Track listing  
1. Survival: Stagnate Reality 5:24
2. Denial: They are Mistaken 7:21
3. Anger: Kitrine Chole 4:25
4. Depression: Waning Light (feat. Manuela Marchis) 8:40
5. Bargaining: Will You Answer Me? (feat. Rik van Schaaik) 4:36
6. Nightmare: The Vision 4:54
7. Acceptance: My Destiny Awaits 5:18
8. Suffering: The Essence Implodes 4:55
9. Death: Journey’s End 6:34

Band members
Terry Stooker – vocals
Erik Brouwer – guitars
Adrian Neagoe – guitars
Mark Oosterbaan – bass
Jasper van Minnen – drums

Guest musicians
Manuela Marchis – vocals on “Depression: Waning Light”
Rik van Schaaik – vocals on “Bargaining: Will You Answer Me”

Album Review – Eternal Sacrifice / Ad Tertium Librum Nigrum (2018)

Relive the glory of 90’s Black Metal by listening to “the third black book” diabolically brought into being by one of the most important names from the Brazilian extreme music scene.

Forged in the already distant year of 1993 in the blazing fires of Salvador, the capital of Brazil’s northeastern state of Bahia, a malevolent Pagan/Black Metal unity that goes by the name of Eternal Sacrifice has been haunting our souls since their inception, aiming at delivering a detailed and obscure new concept inside the Pagan Black Metal genre and, therefore, creating their own unique sound from an amalgamation of influences and styles. Now in 2018 the horde comprised of M. T. L. H. Anton Naberius on vocals, Charles Lucxor Persponne on the guitar, Marquis Orias Snake also on the guitars and bass, Sado Baron Szandor Kastiphas on keyboards and Frater Deo Sóror Comite Ferro on drums is firing upon humanity their third concept album, entitled Ad Tertium Librum Nigrum, taking the Pagan Black Metal to a level never reached by another band in terms of sound and graphic production.

Featuring a Luciferian artwork by Brazilian designer Alan Luvarth and celebrating 25 years in the career of Eternal Sacrifice, Ad Tertivm Librvm Nigrvm, which by the way is Latin for “the third black book”, presents around one hour of malevolent sounds split into ten unrelenting new songs (all carrying fantastic names, by the way), consolidating the name of such distinct entity in the vanguard of the Brazilian Pagan Black Metal scene. “Ad Tertivm Librvm Nigrvm is the greatest proof that strength and perseverance always win; it is an album full of symbologies and spells, made exclusively for those who enjoy the songs of the left hand,” said the band’s frontman Naberius, positioning the album as an indispensable work for those who have experienced the glory of 90’s Black Metal, and for those who seek to know more about that golden age of extreme music.

Somber, smooth piano notes kick things off in the intro curiously titled Introiro, before the guitars by Charles and Orias generate an embracing atmosphere in The Three Mashu’s Seals – The Conquest of the Ganzir and Arzir Gates (Hazred Area), bringing the most melodic elements from modern-day Black Metal without losing their raw old school sonority, feeling like a hybrid of the early days of Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth and Marduk, with the keys by Kastiphas adding an extra touch of malignancy to the musicality. And this Brazilian horde keeps invading our minds with their relentless and demonic music in the 8-minute Melodic Black Metal extravaganza The Vision of the Light of the Sculptures in the Monument of Mashu (The Black Book of Signs and Evil Spells), with Frater crushing his drums while Kastiphas keeps blasting ethereal sounds through his keys, all spearheaded by the Stygian and cryptic growls and vociferations by Naberius.

The Amulet, the Fire and the Seals of Wisdom in the Course of a Triple Life carries a stunning name for an Extreme Metal song, with the slashing riffs by Charles and Orias dictating its rhythm, while Naberius roars and gnarls like a true demonic entity throughout the entire song and Frater keeps the ambience as eerie and menacing as it can be with his drums. Then we have The Revelations of the First Sigil, Lucifer, After a Saga of Delusions and Battles, a mid-tempo tune where all band members fire blackened sounds and tones with highlights to the demented growls by Naberius, not to mention how in sync the band’s stringed duo is with Kastiphas’ phantasmagorical keys, and there’s no time to breathe as Eternal Sacrifice keep firing blasphemy in the form of Pagan Black Metal in When Angel of Light in Ur, in Invoking the Second Sign Agga, even more eccentric and devilish than its predecessors albeit not as gripping, despite getting back to a to a more violent and demolishing sonority in its final part.

Epic keys and guitars, unstoppable drums and a huge dosage of malignancy from Naberius’ otherworldly growls are the main ingredients in Nasha, Restitution of Double the Light (Luce) and Harmony (Fer) – Pagan’s Calls, a visceral fusion of Black and Pagan Metal setting fire to the atmosphere in a thrilling manner (not to mention how pulverizing Charles and Orias are with their infernal axes), followed by Interludium, an epic bridge that captivates our senses for their final blast of Epic and Pagan Black Metal titled The Emptiness, the Guard of the Sortileges and the Time in which the Dust Takes the Rites, starting with an acoustic guitar accompanied by the howling sound of the wind, and gradually morphing into some sort of obscure mass of old school Black Metal infused with Symphonic and Pagan Black Metal elements, with the music flowing like a frantic creature in the dark led by Naberius and his wicked vocalizations, until all fades into the Mephistophelian outro Prologum, an ode to Lucifer that puts a climatic, creepy and hellish end to such blasphemous album.

After all is said and done, Ad Tertium Librum Nigrum, available for a full listen on YouTube and on sale from the Hammer of Damnation’s BandCamp page or webstore, can indeed be considered a modern-day masterpiece in Pagan Black Metal, becoming even more important in the Brazilian scene due to the constant struggles every metal band has to face to survive in the country. Hence, don’t forget to show your support to Eternal Sacrifice by getting in touch with them through their Facebook page, by buying their new opus, and of course by enjoying reading (or I should say listening to) “the third black book” by this ruthless and demonic South American horde.

Best moments of the album: The Three Mashu’s Seals – The Conquest of the Ganzir and Arzir Gates (Hazred Area), The Amulet, the Fire and the Seals of Wisdom in the Course of a Triple Life and Nasha, Restitution of Double the Light (Luce) and Harmony (Fer) – Pagan’s Calls.

Worst moments of the album: When Angel of Light in Ur, in Invoking the Second Sign Agga.

Released in 2018 Hammer Of Damnation/Sangue Frio Records

Track listing    
1. Introiro 1:50
2. The Three Mashu’s Seals – The Conquest of the Ganzir and Arzir Gates (Hazred Area) 8:00
3. The Vision of the Light of the Sculptures in the Monument of Mashu (The Black Book of Signs and Evil Spells) 8:03
4. The Amulet, the Fire and the Seals of Wisdom in the Course of a Triple Life 6:27
5. The Revelations of the First Sigil, Lucifer, After a Saga of Delusions and Battles 5:12
6. When Angel of Light in Ur, in Invoking the Second Sign Agga 6:18
7. Nasha, Restitution of Double the Light (Luce) and Harmony (Fer) – Pagan’s Calls 7:59
8. Interludium 2:10
9. The Emptiness, the Guard of the Sortileges and the Time in which the Dust Takes the Rites 8:22
10. Prologum 3:08

Band members
M. T. L. H. Anton Naberius – vocals
Charles Lucxor Persponne – guitars
Marquis Orias Snake – guitars, bass
Sado Baron Szandor Kastiphas – keyboards
Frater Deo Sóror Comite Ferro – drums

Album Review – Bane / Esoteric Formulae (2018)

Conjuring visions of darkness, pain and frost, this Montreal-based Blackened Death Metal horde has poured their charred hearts into spawning their third and most complete opus to date.

Originally founded in 2006 in Novi Sad, a city in northern Serbia on the banks of the Danube River, but currently based out of Montreal, in the province of Quebec, Canada, Blackened Death Metal horde Bane has poured their charred hearts into this third full-length release, entitled Esoteric Formulae, a masterwork that leads many influences to an evil culmination, with each track being atmosphere-evoking, filling the soundscape with nocturnal melodies and conjuring visions of darkness, pain and frost. With several tours under their belts as well as countless concerts and festival performances in the United States, Canada, Germany, Austria and Poland, among several other countries, Bane continue to push the limits of their unique blend of Blackened Death Metal to the world of the underground, and Esoteric Formulae is the perfect depiction of where the band is headed to.

Featuring a classy artwork by Indonesian graphic artist and illustrator Bahrull Marta (Abomination Imagery), Esoteric Formulae not only showcases a sharp and malevolent duo comprised of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Branislav and drummer Honza Kapak (Master’s Hammer), but also the additional (and very welcome) devilish touches by guest musicians Giulio Moschini (Hour Of Penance), Amduscias (Temple Of Baal) and Canadian composer Ophélie Gingras, enhancing the album’s taste and impact considerably. Put differently, if you’re a fan of the dark, blasphemous and very melodic music by iconic acts like Dissection, Behemoth and Rotting Christ, Esoteric Formulae will bring you a lot of (evil) joy without a shadow of a doubt, placing Bane as one of your top picks from the underground and independent Extreme Metal scene.

Invocation Of The Nameless One is a beautiful, ominous intro embraced by the epic orchestrations by Ophélie Gingras, setting the stage for Branislav and Honza to deliver sheer darkness in The Calling Of The Eleven Angles, a brutal Blackened Death Metal extravaganza where Branislav’s roars get deeper and more demonic while Honza provides a huge dosage of heaviness with his beats and fills; followed by Beneath The Black Earth, and such powerful name could only be accompanied by a crushing sonority, of course, with Branislav doing a fantastic job with his pulverizing riffs and rumbling bass lines, resulting in a vibrant, modern and obscure display of extreme music for admirers of the genre.

Then drinking form the same fountain of iconic bands like Behemoth and Dragonlord, Bane offer our avid ears Bringer Of Pandimensional Disorder, where Black Metal blast beats are intertwined with very melodic and strident guitar lines, all embraced by the cryptic, hellish words vociferated by Branislav (“I call upon the currents – of Wrathful Chaos / Let the oceans of formlessness – into this world / Awaken by the esoteric formulae / Open the gates to the Astral plane of the dark Water / Bringer of Pandimensional Disorder!”). Wretched Feast keeps the album at a sulfurous level, presenting gripping guitars and nonstop beats, and with guest Giulio Moschini adding his own personal twist to the music with his fiery guitar solo, whereas in Into Oblivion, featuring Amduscias as a guest vocalist, Bane summon all evil through their violent Blackened Death Metal, also bringing elements form Symphonic Black Metal the likes of Dimmu Borgir to their already dense musicality.

And they keep scorching our hearts and minds with their visceral Black Metal in Burning The Remains, a mid-tempo, infernal tune where the guitar lines alternate between sheer malignancy and hypnotizing lines, while Honza adds tons of intricacy and strength to the overall result with his bestial drumming. Putting the pedal to the metal, Bane deliver a violent and thrilling tune titled Reign In Chaos, presenting hints of Melodic Death Metal and of the music by Cradle of Filth, which obviously boosts the song’s impact and taste considerably and, therefore, turns it into one of the top moments of the album. Lastly, like a bulldozer smashing our heads, Honza ignites the also vile and metallic Acosmic Forces Of The Nightside, where the duo makes their devilish waves fill every single empty space in a feast of instrumental darkness, before the atmospheric outro Wrathful Reflections brings back a massive wall of orchestrations, finally fading into absolute darkness and void.

In a nutshell, the excellent Esoteric Formulae, available from Bane’s own BandCamp page as well as from the Black Market Metal Label’s Big Cartel, is definitely a must-have album for fans of contemporary and sulfurous Blackened Death Metal, consequently setting the bar really high for the band’s future releases. After purchasing such excellent album, you can also show your utmost support to Branislav and his horde by following Bane on Facebook and by subscribing to their YouTube channel, letting all the aforementioned darkness, pain and frost flowing from the music found in Esoteric Formulae guide you on a one-way journey to the depths of the netherworld.

Best moments of the album: Beneath The Black Earth, Into Oblivion and Reign In Chaos.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Black Market Metal Label

Track listing
1. Invocation Of The Nameless One 1:15
2. The Calling Of The Eleven Angles 3:46
3. Beneath The Black Earth 3:35
4. Bringer Of Pandimensional Disorder 3:49
5. Wretched Feast (feat. Giulio Moschini) 3:46
6. Into Oblivion (feat. Amduscias) 4:34
7. Burning The Remains 4:01
8. Reign In Chaos 3:30
9. Acosmic Forces Of The Nightside 5:27
10. Wrathful Reflections 1:59

Band members
Branislav – vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards
Honza Kapak – drums

Guest musicians
Giulio Moschini – guitar solo on “Wretched Feast”
Amduscias – vocals on “Into Oblivion”
Ophélie Gingras – orchestrations on “Invocation Of The Nameless One” and “Wrathful Reflections”

Current/live lineup
Branislav – vocals, guitars, keyboards
Max Allard – guitars, backing vocals
Stéphane Deschênes – bass
Nicholas Wells – drums

Album Review – Dragonlord / Dominion (2018)

Exploring themes of darkness owning and influencing these times we now live in, here comes Eric Peterson’s fantastic Symphonic Black and Thrash Metal project with their first album in 13 years.

After long and excruciating 13 years, San Francisco, California-based Symphonic Black/Thrash Metal horde Dragonlord, the brainchild of Testament’s own Eric Peterson where he’s able to showcase his darkened side, is finally back with a brand new opus, titled Dominion. Serving as the long-awaited follow-up to their 2005 release Black Wings of Destiny, but taking the fantasy and storytelling to a whole new level, Dominion explores themes of darkness owning and influencing these times we now live in, and things that have come to pass. In addition to Eric Peterson on vocals, guitar and bass, Dominion features the musical talents of Lyle Livingston (Psypheria) on orchestrated keys and pianos, Alex Bent (Trivium) on drums, and notable fantasy metal singer Leah McHenry (Leah) on female vocals and choirs, who has performed and recorded with members of renowned acts like Blind Guardian, Nightwish and Delain, among others.

Featuring a stunning artwork painted by Berlin-based Israeli artist and designer Eliran Kantor (Testament, Iced Earth, Sodom), Dominion is a dark fantasy fan’s musical dream, exploring everything from Nordic history to Lord of the Rings, with its eight songs creating a deep and heady musical journey rife with meaning and menace, from the blackest and loudest recesses of Eric Peterson’s mind. If you’re a fan of the superb work done by Mr. Peterson with Thrash Metal titans Testament, you might be surprised by how visceral, epic and imposing his guitar sounds with Dragonlord, not to mention his devilish gnarls, turning Dominion into a must-have for fans not only of the Symphonic Black Metal genre, but also for anyone else who admires high-quality and vibrant extreme music.

The always mesmerizing sounds of thunder and rain open the gates of the underworld in the intro titled Entrance, before Eric comes ripping with his ass-kicking guitar, all embraced by an epic atmosphere and suddenly exploding into the fantastic title-track Dominion, presenting insane keys and an imposing background choir, while Alex proves why he’s one of the most talented drummers of the current metal scene and Eric sounds bestial with his enraged roars. Put differently, this full-bodied and very detailed lesson in Symphonic Black Metal is what Dimmu Borgir should be doing, and their sonic onslaught of piercing and Stygian metal music goes on in Ominous Premonition, getting faster, more demonic and absolutely amazing, with the keys by Lyle being a thing of beauty while Eric not only growls like a demon, but his riffs and solos are also majestic as usual.

In Lamia it’s quite impressive how Eric’s riffs and Lyle’s keys and orchestrations blend so perfectly, with guest vocalist Leha providing a touch of delicacy and passion amidst all devastation blasted by the rest of the band; whereas epicness and lust beautifully flow from all instruments in the stunning Love of the Damned, a Symphonic Black Metal ballad where Eric’s vocals get more introspective and deep (and I would simply love to see them performing this song live). Then it’s time for a journey to the mighty North in Northlanders, with the bitterly cold riffs by Eric and the gripping keys by Lyle being enhanced by Alex’s precise and potent beats, while the ambience remains as epic as possible in a flawless hybrid between Black Metal and Symphonic Metal.

Dragonlord Dominion Ultimate Dragonlair Merch Bundle

Then featuring Tilen Hudrap (Vicious Rumors, Wartune, Thraw) on bass, The Discord of Melkor is perhaps the most Black Metal of all tracks, a dark symphony of classic and vibrant metal music that sounds very dense thanks to the brutality blasted by Alex on drums, whereas Serpents of Fire, the last song in Dominion, is just as fantastic as the rest of this very detailed and thrilling album, with Eric growling and gnarling demonically while Alex and Lyle generate a massive wall of symphonic and violent sounds, resulting in over eight minutes of a captivating and bold sonority for our total delectation, not to mention how its climatic ending gets closer to the Thrash Metal by Testament, therefore adding an extra pinch of adrenaline to the overall result.

If you think that my words are not enough to describe the music in Dominion, I highly recommend you go watch “The Making of Dominion” video series on YouTube (split into parts one, two and three), and in order to get more details about Dragonlord simply go visit their official Facebook page. In addition, from all album versions and bundles available in the market, apart from the digital options you should definitely take a look at the physical combos available from the Spinefarm Records’ webstore, especially the beyond superb “Ultimate Dragonlair” merch bundle, featuring the LP gatefold version with a large-size 20-page lyric booklet, the CD digipack, a copy of the unparalleled “The Burner” comic book, and a stylish T-shirt. But be aware that, once you enter the dangerous dominion of Symphonic Black and Thrash Metal ruled by Eric Peterson and his Dragonlord, there’s no turning back.

Best moments of the album: Dominion, Love of the Damned, Northlanders and The Discord of Melkor.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Spinefarm Records

Track listing
1. Entrance 2:34
2. Dominion 5:36
3. Ominous Premonition 4:40
4. Lamia 4:15
5. Love of the Damned 5:21
6. Northlanders 6:45
7. The Discord of Melkor (feat. Tilen Hudrap) 7:09
8. Serpents of Fire 8:09

Band members
Eric Peterson – vocals, guitars, bass
Lyle Livingston – keyboards, piano, orchestrations
Alex Bent – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Leah McHenry – female vocals, choirs
Tilen Hudrap – bass “on Discord of Melkor”

Album Review – Behemoth / I Loved You At Your Darkest (2018)

Poland’s most blasphemous metal institution returns after four years with a much more melodic and dynamic approach than before, but still loyal to their devilish foundations.

“It doesn’t get more blasphemous than this.” Those are the words by the mastermind behind Polish Blackened Death Metal institution Behemoth, the iconic Adam “Nergal” Darski, regarding the title of their 11th studio album, I Loved You At Your Darkest, a beautiful, bold and captivating follow-up to their 2014 masterpiece The Satanist. And the band comprised of the aforementioned Nergal on lead vocals and guitar, Patryk Dominik “Seth” Sztyber on the guitar, Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski on bass and Zbigniew Robert “Inferno” Promiński on drums is not exaggerating when they say their new album reeks of sheer blasphemy. “It’s a verse from the Bible,” Nergal reveals. “It’s actually a quote from Jesus Christ himself. For Behemoth to use it as the basis of our record, it’s sacrilege to the extreme.”

Musically speaking, I Loved You At Your Darkest, which features a stunning artwork by Italian artist Nicola Samori, is not too far from what they did in The Satanist, but that doesn’t mean it’s an extension of their previous album, sounding less ferocious, more polished, and with a much more melodic and dynamic approach. “I really wanted to redefine ourselves with this record,” Nergal explains. “I Loved You At Your Darkest is a more dynamic record. It’s extreme and radical on one hand, but it’s also more rock-oriented than any other Behemoth record.” Furthermore, the lyrics for each and every song of the album also reinforce that kind of religious provocation Behemoth have mastered through the years. “It’s very religion-driven, maybe more than anything we’ve done before,” Nergal offers. “But it’s not just cheap goading. I believe this is some deeper metal language. It’s art.” Hence, listening to I Loved You At Your Darkest is not a simple journey, as it will demand your full attention, seizing all your senses at once and inviting you to repeat that path over and over again, but never sounding or feeling the same.

A creepy and totally awesome children’s choir kicks off the album on a high (and devilish) note in the intro Solve, reciting some cryptic words (“Elohim, I shall not forgive! / Adonai, I shall not forgive! / Living God, I shall not forgive! / Jesus Christ, I forgive thee not!”) while the music grows slowly and darkly until Wolves ov Siberia comes crushing our heads, following a similar musical pattern from their previous album with Nergal and Seth piercing our souls with their guitars, while Inferno brings tons of intricacy to the music with his precise beats. And things only get better in God = Dog, a full-bodied lecture in modern-day Blackened Death Metal that will work fantastically when played live, with Nergal blasting haunting growls and roars while Orion slams his bass strings beautifully, not to mention those demonic, Damian-like kids who return in full force to intone the same words from the album’s intro, supporting Nergal’s vocals to perfection. And in the excellent Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica we’re treated to a very melodic and thrilling fusion of Black and Death Metal with nuances of Symphonic Black Metal, with its background organ bringing even more darkness to the the song’s already obscure, austere and blasphemous lyrics (“Eritis sicut dii / Thus sermonized the serpent ov Eden / Thus struck the breath ov the Earth / And thus flooded the blood ov the soil / Slither into the gaping void!”).

Then after such demolishing first batch of songs in I Loved You At Your Darkest, Behemoth deliver Bartzabel, perhaps the most Stygian, melodic and melancholic of all tracks, proving they don’t have to play at the speed of light to sound imposing and devilish, showcasing a beyond catchy and hypnotizing chorus while Orion and Inferno bring sheer heaviness to the sonority with their damned instruments. In the also thunderous If Crucifixion Was Not Enough… the band speeds things up a bit, with the guitars by Nergal and Seth sounding ferocious but very harmonious at the same time while Inferno brings the usual intricacy in his beats to a whole new level; and leaning towards classic Black Metal we have Angelvs XIII, a song where Nergal’s growls sound and feel truly enraged and demonic, with the band’s guitar duo slashing their strings mercilessly and leaving the listener completely disoriented. Moreover, there’s no time to breathe as Behemoth keep darkening our minds and souls in Sabbath Mater, another bestial display of Blackened Death Metal made in Poland bringing to our avid ears an excellent job done on the guitars while Inferno’s fast and complex beats will hammer your head in a vibrant way.

Then a serene, almost acoustic intro evolves into a full-bodied aria of darkness and blasphemy titled Havohej Pantocrator (and please note “Havohej” is simply “Jehovah” backwards), sounding even even more melancholic than “Bartzabel” thanks to a brilliant performances by all band members, all enfolded by first-class poetics lyrics (“Our father, who art in hell / Unhallowed be Thy name / Thy legions come / Thy enemies begone / On Earth as it is in the Netherworld / Embrace our souls untraveled / Let us sail to the farthest sea / Ignite our craving hearts / Illuminate our ageless will”). In Rom 5:8 the band gets back to a more traditional vibe, blasting their core Blackened Death Metal with highlights to the perfect sync between Orion and Inferno with their rumbling bass and demented beats, respectively, whereas We Are the Next 1000 Years, the second to last song in I Loved You At Your Darkest, once again sounds closer to what they did in The Satanist, which obviously means awesomeness in the form of extreme music. Nergal delivers another bestial vocal performance, while the sound of the guitars gets more electrified and menacing than ever, flowing majestically until the outro Coagvla puts an end to a fantastic (and utterly blasphemous, as already mentioned) album of Extreme Metal by Behemoth, sounding like the grand finale to a theatrical play from the depths of hell.

In summary, I Loved You At Your Darkest (available for a full listen on YouTube and on sale HERE) is still Behemoth, but maybe not the same Behemoth you got used to. Do not expect to listen to The Satanist, nor to any of their old records, but at the same time there’s no need to panic as the Behemoth we learned to love is still there. I personally think I Loved You At Your Darkest might cause some controversy among admirers of the band, as their diehard, old school followers and their post-The Satanist fans might never reach an agreement if the album is actually good or not, but I don’t fear for the future of the band. Quite the contrary, although I still consider The Satanist their best release to date, I must admit I enjoyed a lot the direction Nergal took with the band in I Loved You At Your Darkest, providing the listener something new, something very melodic and groovy, but still loyal to the blasphemy and heaviness of their foundations.

Best moments of the album: God = Dog, Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica, Bartzabel and Havohej Pantocrator.

Worst moments of the album: Rom 5:8.

Released in 2018 Mystic Production

Track listing
1. Solve 2:04
2. Wolves ov Siberia 2:54
3. God = Dog 3:58
4. Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica 4:49
5. Bartzabel 5:01
6. If Crucifixion Was Not Enough… 3:16
7. Angelvs XIII 3:41
8. Sabbath Mater 4:56
9. Havohej Pantocrator 6:04
10. Rom 5:8 4:22
11. We Are the Next 1000 Years 3:23
12. Coagvla (Instrumental) 2:04

Japanese Edition bonus track
13. O Pentagram Ignis 4:48

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

Guest musicians
Dziablas – backing vocals
Michał Łapaj – Hammond organs
Krzysztof “Siegmar” Oloś – samples