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”

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Album Review – Misteyes / Creeping Time (2016)

Which side will you chose in the never-ending battle between Light and Dark Metal brought forth by this distinct symphonic band from Italy?

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creeping-time-front-cover-artwork“Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony.” – Heraclitus

The never-ending battle between good and evil, day and night, light and dark, heaven and hell, life and death or whatever other philosophical depiction you want to give to the two opposite worlds that guide our thoughts and actions has just been transformed into high-end music by Italian Symphonic Death/Gothic Metal act Misteyes in Creeping Time, the debut full-length album by a band that definitely knows how to put together the best elements from Light and Dark Metal, enhancing their contrast and, consequently, their impact on the listener.

Misteyes started back in 2012 in the city of Turin, Italy as a five-piece group, playing what could be considered Melodic Death/Black Metal before changing their music direction in 2014 to what exists today, including the addition of a female vocalist and a keyboardist to the band. The next couple of years were very fruitful for Misteyes, who not only started working on Creeping Time, but also shared the stage with renowned names in the Gothic scene such as Cadaveria, Opera IX, Lunarsea and Elegy Of Madness. The band’s approach and musicality can already be sensed through the obscure artwork by Italian artist Alessandro Alimonti (Overload Design Studio), but it’s when the music starts that you’ll find yourself in the middle of the fight between light and dark, getting completely mesmerized by the music that flows through your ears.

The melancholic intro The Last Knell, which begins with the sound of a baby crying, grows in intensity until the title-track Creeping Time arises from the depths of hell in a feast of Symphonic Black and Gothic Metal. Denise “Ainwen” Manzi is the beauty on vocals while Edoardo “Irmin” Iacono provides his beastly growls, perfectly depicting what the band wants to say with the “Light and Dark Metal” concept, with keyboardist Gabriele “Hyde” Gilodi being the one responsible for giving the song its operatic vibe. Then it’s time for some heavier riffs by Daniele “Insanus” Poveromo and Riccardo “Decadence” Tremaioni in the dense Brains in a Vat, an amazing composition filled with passion, hate and agony featuring the creepy spoken words by guest musician Mattia Casabona (Aspasia), sounding like a hybrid of the music by the early days of Cradle of Filth with Epica, resulting in a masterpiece of underground Symphonic Metal. Moreover, it’s interesting how Hyde maintains the mystery in Misteyes’ music through his keyboards no matter how fast and heavy the music is, which is the case in Inside the Golden Cage, where the vocals by Ainwen are once again heavily inspired by the diva Simone Simons whereas Irmin leans towards pure Black Metal, not to mention the thrilling beats by Federico “Krieger” Tremaioni.

Lady Loneliness, a beautiful atmospheric power ballad focused on the gentle voice of Ainwen with some pianos notes giving it an extra touch of delicacy, showcases a good story told through its lyrics (“If you are here, I cannot be overtaken by fear / Only this eternal silence is what can soothe my pain / In darkness I can find you, this time will be forever / Come! Come to me, my lady! Lady Loneliness!”); followed by The Prey, with the whole band getting back to a more brutish mode. Irmin effectively enhances the song’s aggressiveness due to his deranged harsh growls, with Insanus, Decadence and Hyde delivering sheer madness while bassist Andrea “Hephaestus” Gammeri brings forward his share of insanity through his low-tuned punches. Their operatic and dark vein becomes evident once again in Destroy Your Past, a song full of progressive passages thanks to the intricate lines delivered through guitars and bass and all tempo changes led by Krieger, as well as in the operatic metal hymn The Demon of Fear, where guest musician Roberto Pasolini (Embryo) complements the menacing keyboards by Hyde with his enraged growling. This excellent song, displaying a Symphonic Black Metal vibe with hints of Gothic Metal and Melodic Metal, is another good example of the fight between good and evil proposed by Misteyes, proving one more time how connected to the concept of opposition all songs are.

misteyes-2016Special guest Mattia Casabona is back in action, this time with clean vocals, in the two-part aria entitled “Awake the Beast”, starting with the operatic A Fragile Balance (Awake the Beast – Part 1), with its eerie piano intro and Ainwen providing her Tarja-inspired vocals. Almost “a capella”, it sounds like a horror flick soundtrack, leading to the furious and blackened Chaos (Awake the Beast – Part 2), a high-octane tune tailored for fans of obscure and harmonious music where Progressive and Symphonic Black Metal are flawlessly united. Krieger and Hyde are yet again the architects of the musicality, generating the perfect ambience for the sick riffs by both Insanus and Decadence to shine.

In the gripping Decapitated Rose, guest vocalist Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork) steals the spotlight by blasting his infuriated declamation of the song’s dark lyrics (“When life is withered …There is no water which can bring it back! / Ivy smothers your soul! Petals fall and you are alone! / All beauty is gone! Only the thorn is what remains! / In this garden of madness … Decapitated rose! Decapitated rose!”), with Hephaestus firing some thunderous bass lines that end up increasing the song’s creepiness while the keyboard sounds by Hyde will pierce your head and haunt your soul. And last but not least, the talented Nicole Ansperger (Eluveitie) and the awesome sound of her violin add the word “epic” to the powerful Winter’s Judgement, a Symphonic Gothic Metal feast that blends elements from the music by Dimmu Borgir, Nightwish, Epica, Moonspell and other prominent bands. In addition, the growls by Irmin get deeper than ever, guiding the listener into a journey through the realms of darkness and light until the song’s soulful ending.

In summary, it doesn’t matter which side you choose in the battle between Light and Dark Metal proposed by Misteyes, you’ll certainly win due to the sensational quality of their music. Thus, you can get in touch with these Italian metallers and get to know more about their music through Facebook, YouTube, ReverbNation and SoundCloud, and acquire your copy of Creeping Time at several different places such as their BandCamp page, the Maple Metal Records’ BandCamp page or Big Cartel, on iTunes, Amazon or CD Baby.

Best moments of the album: Creeping Time, Brains in a Vat, The Prey and Decapitated Rose.

Worst moments of the album: Destroy Your Past.

Released in 2016 Maple Metal Records

Track listing
1. The Last Knell (Intro) 1:40
2. Creeping Time 6:29
3. Brains in a Vat 5:39
4. Inside the Golden Cage 5:24
5. Lady Loneliness 4:37
6. The Prey 7:03
7. Destroy Your Past 5:02
8. The Demon of Fear 6:55
9. A Fragile Balance (Awake the Beast – Part 1) 3:41
10. Chaos (Awake the Beast – Part 2) 5:26
11. Decapitated Rose 4:48
12. Winter’s Judgement 8:05

Band members
Edoardo “Irmin” Iacono – growl and scream vocals
Denise “Ainwen” Manzi – clean and operatic vocals
Daniele “Insanus” Poveromo – lead guitars
Riccardo “Decadence” Tremaioni – rhythm guitars
Gabriele “Hyde” Gilodi – piano, synth and orchestrations
Andrea “Hephaestus” Gammeri – bass and fretless bass
Federico “Krieger” Tremaioni – drums

Guest musicians
Björn “Speed” Strid – additional scream and clean vocals on “Decapitated Rose”
Nicole Ansperger – violin on “Winter’s Judgement”
Roberto Pasolini – additional growls and scream vocals on “The Demon of Fear”
Mattia Casabona – spoken words on “Brains in a Vat”, additional clean vocals on “A Fragile Balance (Awake the Beast – Part 1)”, and additional growls and scream vocals on “Chaos (Awake the Beast – Part 2)”

Concert Review – Rotting Christ (L’Astral, Montreal, QC, 09/08/2016)

No Marduk? No problem at all, as Montreal still got an incredible night of extreme music spearheaded by the best Greek band of all time, the one and only Rotting Christ.

OPENING ACTS: Necronomicon and Carach Angren

marduk-tourFinally back from a lengthy trip to Montreal and Quebec City, it’s time to get the ball rolling again at The Headbanging Moose, and let’s begin with an outstanding night of Extreme Metal this Thursday in Montreal. First and foremost, in my opinion it was a huge lack of respect to all fans who had bought their tickets to see Marduk, Rotting Christ, Carach Angren and Necronomicon Thursday night at L’Astral in Montreal (by the way, what an amazing venue) to inform that Marduk had not received their Canadian working visas on time and, therefore, could not perform together with the other three bands of the night, only a couple of hours before the doors actually opened. I don’t believe the organizers were expecting the decision to not provide the visas to Marduk reversed the same day of the show, and I’m pretty sure most of you will agree with me it looks a lot more like an attempt to avoid a significant loss of money due to tickets being returned and refunded.

Anyway, Necronomicon, Carach Angren and Rotting Christ didn’t disappoint at all and put up a sensational show from start to finish, minimizing the pain we all had to endure due to the absence of the main band of the night. The first band to hit the stage was Canadian Symphonic Black/Death Metal horde NECRONOMICON, who after over a month on the road were finally back to their hometown to once again spread darkness over their beloved city at a packed L’Astral. Promoting their latest (and kick-ass) album Advent of The Human God, the band led by the talented (and also really cool guy) Rob “The Witch” Tremblay played a well-balanced mix of old songs with new demolishing tunes such as I (Bringer of Light) and Crown of Thorns, letting every single fan at the venue with a darkened heart and a huge smile on their faces. After their performance, Rob stayed at the band’s merch booth taking pictures with fans and selling high-quality T-shirts (really good stuff for only $25 each) and CD’s, which by the way are being re-printed already due to the high demand by fans worldwide. It’s so good to see bands like Necronomicon succeeding like that in an era where very few people buy physical music, and even better to see that when they play live they can transfer all the obscurity and potency of their music to the stage.

Band members
Rob “The Witch” Tremblay – vocals, guitar
Mars – bass
Rick – drums

img_1735After a short break, it was time for Dutch Horror Metal act CARACH ANGREN to haunt L’Astral with their theatrical and blackened performance. In case you know nothing about this excellent band from the city of Limburg, in the Netherlands, I highly recommend you go after their material because it’s not only very professional, but also unique and exciting. Furthermore, things get even better live, as all band members make sure they offer their fans a true depiction of their diabolical music. While Namtar kept smashing his drums and Ardek built a Mercyful Fate-inspired atmosphere through his keyboard notes, it were frontman Seregor and guest guitarist Jack Owen (let me say the presence of the famous ex-Cannibal Corpse guitarist was a huge and awesome surprise for me) who stole the show with their precise performances. I believe everyone at the venue loved the concert by Carach Angren, with songs such as When Crows Tick on Windows and Killed and Served by the Devil proving once again the fusion of theatre and extreme music, like what Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir do, always has a very positive impact on any live audience. There was even a wall of death close to the end of their show, which always translates into greatness for fans of demolishing music like myself.

Band members
Seregor – vocals
Ardek – keyboards, orchestrations
Namtar – drums 

Guest musician
Jack Owen – guitars 

ROTTING CHRIST

img_1744As aforementioned, we did not get Marduk, but who said the night wasn’t superb even with that unforeseen letdown? Well, that was only possible thanks to the flawless performance by Greek Black/Dark Metal titans ROTTING CHRIST, a concert that I personally recommend to anyone who loves violence and groove blended with history in heavy music. Call it tribal, ritualistic or warlike music, what Mr. Sakis Tolis and his army delivered to the fans in Montreal was beyond magnificent, with Sakis inciting every metalhed at the venue to “fight” in the circle pit. It was a neck-breaking, mind-blowing metal extravaganza that only a distinguished band like Rotting Christ is capable of delivering, leaving every single person in the crowd absolutely thrilled during their entire show.

I simply loved their precise mix of old classics, like the infernal The Sign of Evil Existence and Non Serviam, more contemporary tunes like the bestial 666, and brand new songs from the excellent Rituals, such as the hypnotizing chant Ze Nigmar, the delivish and rhythmic Apage Satana and my favorite song of the new album, the aggressive and energetic Elthe Kyrie (even with the stunning female vocals by Danai Katsameni not being live for obvious reasons). Nobody seemed to care about the fact that very few parts of the songs were sung in English, with most of their setlist being sung in Greek and other languages. The ritualistic and demonic aura of each song, played to perfection by all band members (in special by guitarist George Emmanuel, who was on fire during the whole concert as if he was possessed by an evil entity), was all that Rotting Christ needed to dominate the hearts, minds and souls of every fan at L’Astral.

img_1749I already nurture a lot of respect for Rotting Christ, but after what I saw in Montreal that respect grew even bigger than before. When you see a gorgeous girl that unfortunately has to be on a wheelchair (probably for the rest of her life) due to reasons beyond our control having an absolute blast the entire concert, getting totally mesmerized by the band’s powerful and primeval music, you know the band has something special in them. There are things only heavy music is capable of doing, especially bringing together all types of people it doesn’t matter how the person looks, the gender, religion, race or anything else. Unfortunately as I was still in Montreal until yesterday I couldn’t see them in Toronto Friday night, but I’m sure their Torontonians fans got exactly what they paid for: a stupendous concert of extreme music, perfectly fired by the most important and influential Greek band of all times. Put differently, next time Rotting Christ visit your city, don’t even think about missing the chance of seeing them live. Period.

Setlist
Ze Nigmar
Kata ton Demona Eautou
Athanati Este
Elthe Kyrie
Apage Satana
Grandis Spiritus Diavolos
Konx om Pax
666
The Sign of Evil Existence
Noctis Era

Encore:
Non Serviam

Band members
Sakis Tolis – vocals, guitars
George Emmanuel – guitars
Van Ace – bass
Themis Tolis – drums