Album Review – Vanguard X Mortem / Amberosia (2018)

A blend of atmospheric and symphonic extreme music known as “Vampyric Metal”, highly recommended for all admirers of the underworld with an insatiable lust for fresh blood.

There are several amazing bands out there who play what fans like to call “Vampire Metal”, or that at least add a few strong elements of this idiosyncratic subgenre of heavy music to their sound, such as Powerwolf, Theatres Des Vampires, Lord Vampyr, Cain’s Dynasty, Draconian, Lacrimosa, Mandragora Scream, Type O Negative, and perhaps the biggest exponent of the genre, British titans Cradle Of Filth, just to name a few. Hailing from the French capital Paris, here comes a very interesting project named Vanguard X Mortem, also venturing through the realms of Vampyric and Baroque Metal and, consequently, joining all the aforementioned bands in the comfortable darkness where vampires reign supreme.

Formed in 2011 by guitarist and songwriter Christophe Florian (also known as L.C.F), from bands like Comédie Macabre and Lords of the Cemetery, Vanguard X Mortem birthed in stylistic blending of Atmospheric and Symphonic Extreme Metal to create their debut album titled [vanguardismortem], in 2012, followed by the full-length album Neptune Fragrance, in 2014, and the EP Anthropomorphism, in 2016. And Christophe returns now in 2018 with a brand new opus entitled Amberosia, a powerful and somber album of extreme music featuring a fiendish artwork by RectopusArt, highly recommended for all admirers of the underworld with an insatiable lust for fresh blood.

The phantasmagoric keys in the horror movie-inspired intro Séraphin set the stage for Christophe and his Vanguard X Mortem to darken our minds in Amberosia, where blazing riffs and an ominous aura permeate the air before Christophe begins firing his vampyric gnarls, accompanied by the ethereal voice by Alix Rousselet. Furthermore, its headbanging, heavy and somber pace is spiced up by elements from old school Cradle of Filth, therefore enhancing its impact on the listener. La Morte Amoureuse, which is French for “the dead woman”, is top-notch Gothic Metal bringing all elements we love in the genre such as theatrical keyboards, slashing riffs, sexy female vocals and huge doses of melancholy, with a fantastic job done by the band’s skillful trio with their instruments, in special Chrisophe with his devilish guitar; whereas Automn Orchard feels and sounds more romantic and melodic, but with the demonic vocals by Christophe giving it a harsher twist in a solid fusion of Gothic Rock and Metal with Atmospheric Extreme Metal. Alix once again embellishes the music with her delicate vocals, while drummer Marco De Barros keeps the pace as mournful and obscure as possible with his Doom Metal-ish beats.

In the excellent Parish of Disillusionment the band offers us orchestral and symphonic music thoroughly fused with Extreme Metal, resulting in a song perfect for breaking your neck headanging while its fiery keys penetrate deep inside your mind, feeling absolutely macabre from start to finish. Then we have L’Emperesse (or “the empress” in English) beautifully impersonated by Alix, who effectively tells us who the empress is and how evil and mischievous she can be, all embraced by nuances of epicness and mystery flowing from the band’s impactful Symphonic Gothic Metal, followed by Nocturne in the Moonlight, carrying a classic song name for a flammable hybrid of Gothic Metal and Symphonic Black Metal. In addition, the paradox between the hellish gnarls by Christophe and the operatic vocals by Alix brings a very interesting taste to the music, not to mention the song’s amazing guitar riffs and solos.

The Flower’s Blood is another song that puts together in a compelling way the more brutish sounds emanated by Christophe and Marco with the angelic voice of Alix, all boosted by its background symphonic elements; while Solstice, the second to last ode to vampirism by Vanguard X Mortem, sounds as dark as expected, but not as exciting as the rest of the album, falling flat after a while despite still bringing some interesting guitars and keys. And in the eerie outro If the End…, gracious and smooth lines make the perfect ambience for Alix to mesmerize us once again with her lecherous vocals, concluding the album on a high note.

If you’re one of those creatures who only come out at night and enjoy a good blend of atmospheric, symphonic and heavy music as the soundtrack of your never-ending nocturnal quest for blood, I highly recommend you go check what Vanguard X Mortem are up to on Facebook, YouTube, ReverbNation and SoundCloud, and of course purchase Amberosia through the Noir Carrousel Records Big Cartel as a regular CD or as a special CD + T-shirt bundle, as well as at other online retailers like Cultura and Fnac. And then you’ll become addicted not only to fresh human blood, but also to French Vampire Metal.

Best moments of the album: La Morte Amoureuse, Parish of Disillusionment and Nocturne in the Moonlight.

Worst moments of the album: Solstice.

Released in 2018 Noir Carrousel/Socadisc

Track listing     
1. Séraphin 1:51
2. Amberosia 6:45
3. La Morte Amoureuse 5:16
4. Automn Orchard 4:41
5. Parish of Disillusionment 4:34
6. L’Emperesse 4:32
7. Nocturne in the Moonlight 3:46
8. The Flower’s Blood 5:17
9. Solstice 4:48
10. If the End… 3:14

Band members
Christophe Florian – vocals, guitars, programming
Alix Rousselet – female vocals, violin
Marco De Barros – drums

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?

Rating4

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)”

Album Review – Rotting Christ / Rituals (2016)

The Greek gods of Black Metal return with a brand new opus that sounds more ritualistic and occult than ever, but as heavy and visceral as usual.

Rating4

rotting christ_ritualsI’m pretty sure most metalheads will agree with me when I say Rituals, the brand new opus by Greek Black/Dark Metal institution Rotting Christ, would be the perfect soundtrack to the most intense and gruesome epic movie of all time, making even classics like Gladiator look like a teen movie. Rituals does not offer just another selection of Extreme Metal songs crafted by this iconic band from Athens, Greece, but instead a sequence of ritualistic battle chants tailored to inspire us to grab our swords, shields and armors and be prepared to fight in this Holy War until our inevitable and sanguinary end comes.

In fact, this blend of Extreme Metal with History, religion and culture offered by Rotting Christ is not news to anyone. This has been a constant in the distinct career of this awesome Greek act since their inception in 1987, and with each and every new record they go deeper and deeper into the selected topics and themes, always improving the more contemporary blackened-Gothic style from their latest albums. Add to that the several guest musicians featured in Rituals and the band’s usual controversy in regards to their lyrics, and there you have another excellent album that will surely keep Rotting Christ more than relevant in the world of extreme music.

We already face a religious call to arms in the opening track, entitled In Nomine Dei Nostri (“In the Name of Our God”, from Latin), featuring guest vocalist George Zacharopoulos, who helps Rotting Christ in providing the album a solid start. Musically speaking, this tune is remarkably potent and imposing, a sonic battle that gradually grows within time and that gets even more impactful due to its demonic chorus. זה נגמר (Ze Nigmar), or “It’s Over”, is a dark and mysterious song about death and failure written in the official language of Jesus Christ (Aramaic) and is referred on his last 7 sentences on the cross, displaying the band’s trademark sonority with the guitar riffs by the band’s mastermind Sakis Tolis and the talented George Emmanuel creating a mesmerizing aura; while the high-octane tune Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie), or “Come Lord” from Greek, features Danai Katsameni (an actress of the National Hellenic Theater) vociferating some disturbing and desperate vocals which end up bringing a fantastic vibe to the music, not to mention those screams match flawlessly with the deeper growling by Sakis.

I simply love how many different languages and dialects are used by the band, always providing a fresh touch to their music, and in Les Litanies de Satan (Les Fleurs du Mal), or “The Litanies of Satan (The Flowers of Evil)” from French, that couldn’t be different, with the music generating a belligerent ambience that provides guest vocalist Vorph (Samael) all he needs to darkly declaim the song’s French lyrics (“Toi dont l’oeil clair connaît les profonds arsenaux / Où dort enseveli le peuple des métaux, / Toi dont la large main cache les precipices / Au somnambule errant au bord des edifices”). And as heavy and tribal as it can be, Ἄπαγε Σατανά (Apage Satana), the Greek for  “Begone, Satan”, brings forward a hellish march where its background noises and vociferations add an extra layer of obscurity to this disturbing chant, sounding like a satanic mantra at times.

rotting christIn Του θάνατου (Tou Thanatou), or “Death’s” from Greek, although you can hear straightforward Black Metal in the background, the music is at the same time very melodic and ritualistic, with hints of Symphonic Gothic Metal enhancing even more the quality of this beautiful cover version for a traditional Greek song by Nikos Xylouris. The initial and final narrations in For a Voice like Thunder (taken from the Prologue to “King Edward the Fourth” by William Blake) are obscurely amazing thanks to the fantastic contribution by the one and only Nick Holmes, who together with Sakis and his crew makes sure there are plenty of Gothic and Doom Metal elements from his band Paradise Lost added to the music.

Dark shadows continue to be over the music by Rotting Christ in Konx om Pax, which means  “Watch and do no harm” from Greek or “Light rushing out in a single ray” from Egyptian, another solid war-like composition where all instruments sound powerful, especially the sustained drumming by Themis Tolis and the song’s background keyboards. The same can be said about देवदेवं (Devadevam), or “God of Gods” from Sanskrit, a more melancholic and somber tune featuring guest singer Kathir which despite being very complex and dense, it lacks the Black Metal “venom” found in the other songs of the album. And the grand finale in Rituals comes in the form of a unique cover version for a psychedelic tune by Greek Progressive Rock band Aphrodite’s Child, entitled The Four Horsemen, where Themis and bassist Van Ace have exceptional performances while Sakis continues firing his bestial and effective growls.

There are so many details, so much content and so much to absorb in Rituals (which can be listened in its entirety HERE) that it becomes extremely difficult for an occasional listener of Rotting Christ to understand and enjoy everything the band is offering. However, if you’re a fan of occult and extreme music with a robust production and a primeval background, I’m sure you’ll have a very productive time listening to each “ritual” of the album. Rituals will take you to a time where crossing the thin line between war and religion was just a matter of accepting or not that the world we live in is hopeless, and there’s nothing we can do to change its wretched destiny.

Best moments of the album: In Nomine Dei Nostri, Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie) and Του θάνατου (Tou Thanatou).

Worst moments of the album: देवदेवं (Devadevam).

Released in 2016 Season of Mist

Track listing
1. In Nomine Dei Nostri 4:57
2. זה נגמר (Ze Nigmar) 4:43
3. Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie) 4:49
4. Les Litanies de Satan (Les Fleurs du Mal) 3:55
5. Ἄπαγε Σατανά (Apage Satana) 3:50
6. Του θάνατου (Tou Thanatou) (Nikos Xylouris cover) 3:37
7. For a Voice like Thunder 6:11
8. Konx om Pax 6:21
9. देवदेवं (Devadevam) 5:18
10. The Four Horsemen (Aphrodite’s Child cover) 5:24

Special Digibox bonus track
11. Lok’tar Ogar 4:25

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

Guest musicians
George Zacharopoulos – additional vocals on “In Nomine Dei Nostri”
Danai Katsameni – additional vocals on “Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie)”
Vorph – additional vocals on “Les Litanies de Satan (Les Fleurs du Mal)”
Nick Holmes – additional vocals on “For a Voice like Thunder”
Kathir – additional vocals on “देवदेवं (Devadevam)”

Album Review – Charm Designer / Everlasting (2016)

An everlasting feeling of heaviness and obscurity in over 50 minutes of beautiful Doom and Gothic Metal forged in the dark flames of Colombia.

Rating4

front_cover640Although it might have taken almost 10 years for Colombian Gothic/Doom Metal act Charm Designer to release their first full-length album, entitled Everlasting, the final result is so compelling, professional and melodious it looks like these dark metallers have been doing this for ages. In its over 50 minutes of melancholy, Everlasting offers us metalheads everything we look for in obscure music, definitely putting the city of Bogotá, Colombia in the map of Gothic and Doom Metal, and obviously paving Charm Designer’s path to stardom in the always exciting underworld of Heavy Metal.

Formed in the year of 2006 and having released a demo named Manifested in 2006 and an EP named Blood sounds in 2008, Charm Designer are finally back with a new opus, having recorded Everlasting with legendary German producer Waldemar Sorychta, known for his work with Samael, Lacuna Coil, Moonspell, among other renowned bands, being the first time for him to produce a Latin American band. Featuring a beautiful artwork by Costin Chioreanu (Twilight13media), who has provided his art to bands such as Arch Enemy, Paradise Lost and Opeth, Everlasting will fulfill your needs for heaviness and heartache through its nine powerful chants, and when it’s over you’ll certainly hit play again from the beginning, feeling completely embraced by the band’s gentle darkness.

The title-track Everlasting ignites the dark flames of the album, reminding me of the latest installments by Dark Metal masters Moonspell, being heavy, dense and alluring at the same time. Lead singer/guitarist Andrés Herrera does a great job with both his growls and clean vocals a la Niilo Sevänen (Insomnium), which is also the case in the even more doom-ish and obscure The Replicant. Furthermore, this tune gets closer to the traditional Doom Metal from the UK due to its deeper growling, with drummer Diego A. Morales smashing his drum set while the bass lines by Diego M. Giorgi sound as infernal as possible.

Presenting a strong Gothic Metal/Hard Rock vein, these Colombian metallers deliver a beautiful composition full of melancholy and passion entitled Never After, another song inspired by the unique music by Moonspell and the best of the entire album in my humble opinion. Andrés is on fire with his somber vocals and powerful guitar riffs and solos, and albeit I have absolutely no idea who’s the woman doing the female vocals, she surely adds an additional layer of awesomeness to the musicality. Then we have Disruption, a feast of the most downhearted form of Doom Metal enhanced by its background keyboards and mesmerizing rhythm, where even the smoother passages offer heaviness in the form of the bass lines by Diego M.; followed by Mentors, a solid Doom Metal chant with hints of Gothic Rock where Andrés leads the sounding with his excellent riffs, thus inspiring Diego A. to increase his fierceness on drums.

CharmDesigner_03In Inertial Drain, an acoustic start grows into modern Symphonic Gothic Metal, with the Paradise Lost-inspired drumming by Diego A. and the song’s magnetic riffs enfolding the listener in an ode to grief and misery. In addition, no matter if its comfortless lyrics are screamed or darkly declaimed by Andrés, the final result is simply amazing. The next tune, Endowar, is a lot faster and more violent than most songs despite its symphonic keyboards, showcasing a great job done by Andrés who sounds like a hellish beast without exaggerating on his harsh screams.

However, it doesn’t take too long for Charm Designer to get back to what they do best, in other words, stunning Doom Metal as in the occult hymn By The Unmasked, where the whole band delivers what can be called “dark music under a starless night” (and what a beautiful guitar solo by Andrés, making this excellent tune even more enjoyable). Policy of Truth, , another tribute to the most melancholic form of heavy music, is the icing on the cake in Everlasting, bringing forward an exciting rhythm perfect for the vocal lines by Andrés, as well as more of those gorgeous (and mysterious) female vocals.

In order to truly experience the everlasting feeling of heaviness, sorrow and obscurity brought forth by Charm Designer in their brand new album, go visit their Facebook page, YouTube channel, SoundCloud and ReverbNation, and grab your copy of Everlasting at the Inverse Records webshop, on Amazon and several other locations. Your heart and soul will never be the same after tasting the puissant Doom and Gothic Metal by this talented Colombian band, I must warn you.

Best moments of the album: Never After, Disruption and By The Unmasked.

Worst moments of the album: Mentors.

Released in 2016 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Everlasting 5:00
2. The Replicant 5:12
3. Never After 6:52
4. Disruption 6:37
5. Mentors 4:51
6. Inertial Drain 7:04
7. Endowar 4:33
8. By The Unmasked 7:41
9. Policy of Truth 4:17

Band members
Andrés Herrera – vocals, guitars
Diego M. Giorgi – bass
Diego A. Morales – drums

Additional musician
Diego A. Hernández – guitars (live)

Metal Chick of the Month – Ailyn Giménez

ailyn01

Come sleep with me, I’ll set you free…

The name Pilar Giménez García might not make a lot of sense to you, especially if you’re not a fan of Symphonic/Gothic Metal. It might even sound like a name extracted from a Mexican “telenovela” for some people. However, when I say the stage name of our metal chick this month, you’ll probably connect to her and, of course, to her beautiful voice: please welcome the stunning Spanish singer Ailyn Giménez, or simply Ailyn.

Ailyn was born on May 29, 1982 in Esplugues de Llobregat, in Barcelona, Spain, a place so close to the Camp Nou stadium that many famous players such as Piqué and Iniesta reside there. She is the current female vocalist of Norwegian Symphonic Gothic Metal band Sirenia, and her story prior to becoming a professional lead singer for a Heavy Metal band is quite unique in comparison to many other female singers from both metal or non-metal bands.

However, before we talk about her path to stardom, let’s first focus on her beginnings, in other words when Ailyn was “just” Pilar and started her career in the world of music. Our Catalan diva started singing in school when she was around 11 or 12 years old, when her music teacher inspired her to sing by playing her the song Hero by Mariah Carey. Ailyn immediately fell in love with the song and Mariah’s voice, and from that day on she started trying to sing like her, something easy to notice in the pop/romantic songs Tu Voz Se Apagará and Una Flor En La Tempestad. As hard as it’s to believe, this blonde girl shaking her booty is our Ailyn!

Then at the age of 15 she started her musical career, studying solfege and classical singing at The Albéniz School of Music, with her professional debut taking place in 2002 in Cornellà de Llobregat, also in Barcelona, Spain, in an annual benefit fashion show the city held to raise money for Alzheimer’s sufferers. As weird as it might sound, her first music contract was as part of an Anime/J-Pop/J-Rock group named Charm, with whom she released an album entitled Konnichiwa, in 2003, before parting ways with the group and starting to invest in her solo career in 2004.

Things started to get really interesting for her in 2007, when she was chosen as one of the members of the “young team” in the Spanish version of X Factor, where in the four episodes she participated before being eliminated she sang Pop/Rock classics such as Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time and Evanescence’s Bring Me to Life, among others. Almost at the same time, her sister was looking for metal bands to add them as friends on the once useful MySpace, and that’s when she got to know Sirenia. They really enjoyed the dark and heavy music played by Norwegian multi-instrumentalist and composer Morten Veland and his crew, and as if by magic, a month later the band sent Ailyn an email asking her if she wanted to audition because they needed a new singer. Check her performances in songs such as The End of It All and Lithium (her cover version for one of Evanescence’s most famous songs), and you’ll understand why she was called to be the smooth female voice of Sirenia.

In the beginning of 2008, our Spanish beauty headed to the wonderful country of Norway for a couple of auditions with Sirenia, before being selected as their new female singer in April 2008. Since then, Ailyn has recorded four full-length albums with Sirenia: The 13th Floor (2009), The Enigma of Life (2011), Perils of the Deep Blue (2013), and earlier this year the excellent The Seventh Life Path, as well as the singles The Path to Decay (2008), The End of It All (2010) and Seven Widows Weep (2013), and of course started touring around the world with the band. Moreover, it was during one of her first tours with Sirenia that she had the most memorable show of her life, at the always awesome festival Masters Of Rock, in 2008. According to Ailyn herself it was not because of her performance (as she was very nervous): she mentioned this specific concert was special because it was her first big show with Sirenia, and because she was able to enjoy all the energy and grandiosity of the festival.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Besides her career with Sirenia, Ailyn sang the song Needle Bites from the album Rejected Gods (2014), by Greek Symphonic Metal band Enemy of Reality, recorded additional vocals on the song Furia de Libertad from the album Argia (2014), by Spanish Symphonic Power/Gothic Metal band Diabulus in Musica, and female vocals on the songs The Chevalier and Prayer from the album Death & Legacy (2011), by Austrian Symphonic/Progressive Power Metal band Serenity. In addition, she performed live with German/Norwegian Symphonic Metal band Leaves’ Eyes at their 10th anniversary show in Wieze, Belgium in 2014., and she is also scheduled to take part on the Metal Opera album The Great Lie by Melted Space in October this year.

However, maybe none of her accomplishments as a metal singer would have been possible without the influence of Dutch Symphonic Metal band Within Temptation in her life. It’s not that she has ever been part of the band or anything like that, but it’s known that all her passion for heavy music started one day while she was watching TV and they played a video from Within Temptation, letting Ailyn eager for more of their music and of the music by any other band with a similar sonority. Of course, that led to Within Tempation’s lead singer Sharon Den Adel being one of her biggest idols in music, among other names such as Jared Leto (30 Seconds To Mars), Josh Groban and Sarah Brightman. Moreover, when asked about which artists she would like to sing with, our metal babe said she would love to perform a duet with  Roy Khan (ex-Kamelot), an amazing choice in my opinion.

Obviously, just as any other regular person in the world, Ailyn has her personal hobbies, including some very relaxing activities such as reading, drawing and sewing, especially sewing her stage clothes for her live performances with Sirenia, and of course she truly loves listening to music. Another interesting fact about Ailyn is that she has a condition called heterochromia iridis, meaning she has two different eye colours, one eye (right) is brown and the other eye (left) is green, which in my opinion only makes her even more attractive. And on a final note, one might ask how a Spanish woman named Pilar Giménez García ended up being called “Ailyn”, a Chinese name, and the answer to that is quite simple: not only she has always been attracted to the Asian culture, but mainly because Ailyn means “true love”. Do I need to say anything else?

Ailyn’s Official Facebook page
Sirenia’s Official Facebook Page

“Since I was a kid I dreamt about being in the music world, and as I grew up I dreamt about being part of a band, so I think my dreams have been accomplished. Of course I’ve got many dreams, but only time will tell if they become true or not.” – Ailyn Giménez

Album Review – Cradle of Filth / Hammer Of The Witches (2015)

The metallic coven instituted by one of the most important Extreme Metal bands of all time keeps haunting our world with their thrilling and malevolent music.

Rating3

CoF_Hammer of the WitchesI don’t understand why some people are so skeptical when British Extreme Metal behemoths Cradle of Filth are about to release a new album. Despite some very few letdowns, and I’m not talking about entire albums but just one or another song, Dani Filth and his sinful horde have always delivered first-class dark music, where the combination of symphony, heaviness, controversial themes and intricate and deranged lyrics goes beyond what almost all metal bands in the world can do. And now joining their collection of perversity, which includes masterpieces such as Cruelty and the Beast, Midian, Damnation and a Day and Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder, we have Hammer Of The Witches, the eleventh studio album in their distinguished career and, more important than that, another solid display of black magic by one of the most important extreme bands from the past decades.

The album is named after the Malleus Maleficarum, a medieval document of guidelines regarding the persecution and torture of witches, just for you to have an idea of how obscure Hammer Of The Witches is. In regards to the artwork, designed by Latvian artist Arthur Berzinsh, Dani mentioned in one of his interviews that it is “a lavish walk-through of the lyricism, drawing on rich renaissance themes and displaying them in beautiful-yet-unsettling scenarios. Half of the detailed pieces are totally original for the release, others are Berzinsh classics cunningly tailored to the themes of the album, which are themes rife with heady witchcraft, be it persecution, retribution or unfettered spiritual liberation. The female form is rampant throughout the artwork, unashamedly displayed in its classical rendition of beauty… and horror.” In my humble opinion, that stylish explanation summarizes not only the imagery, but also the music found in the album. You can also see Dani giving more details about it in this official interview on YouTube.

Is there a better way to start a Cradle of Filth album than with one of their traditional intros, like Walpurgis Eve? This is already a good sign that the album will be kick-ass, which is confirmed when the havoc begins in Yours Immortally…, a song that perfectly represents the mix of raw Black Metal and traditional Heavy Metal only Dani & Co. can provide us. In addition, while Dani delivers his trademark high-pitched demonic screams, Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka keeps improving his importance in the bestial sounding crafted by the band. Enshrined In Crematoria has its good and bad moments, the good ones happening when they speed up the rhythm and the guitar riffs by Richard Shaw and Marek “Ashok” Šmerda lead an awesome sonic attack, whereas its slow parts sound too bland and generic; followed by Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring The Goddess, with its musicality containing elements from Midian and The Manticore and Other Horrors boosted by some crazy guitar solos. Moreover, I guess I don’t need to say Dani is by far one of the best lyricists of all time (“Religion caw epistles / Twisted laws extend their thristles / A crown to justify / Our place atop this hellbound carriage”), and Lindsay Schoolcraft not only delivers some wicked keyboard notes but her smooth and powerful voice also adds a lot of passion to the song.

CoF 2015Blackest Magick In Practice showcases a beautiful and melancholic start, focusing on Symphonic Gothic Metal without losing the band’s characteristic ferociousness. Its guitar riffs couldn’t sound more amazing, and Dani’s vocals sound great during the entire track, it doesn’t matter if he’s simply screaming like a demon or delivering his deeper dark growls. Then the band offers us the calm but somber intro The Monstrous Sabbat (Summoning The Coven), right before the title-track Hammer Of The Witches comes ripping with its imposing sounding where the keyboards by Lindsay get a lot more focus. It’s the most symphonic of all tracks so far, an awesome feast of the Symphonic Black Metal that longtime fans of the band learned to love. I have to say the initial “electronic” seconds in Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych (check the uncensored version of the official video HERE, it’s much better than the censored one on YouTube) scared the hell out of me especially because this was the first single released, but fortunately that was just a quick intro as the music itself is simply outstanding, varying from sheer brutality to gentle piano passages. Dani is absolutely on fire with his diabolic screams as well as Marthus and his wicked blast beats, not to mention the band’s Stygian lyrics being a delight for fans of devilish music as always (“Unforgiving proof accrual begs this cruel rebirth / A living fuel for the blaze of renewal, razing the earth / Pariahs and Messiahs of the highest worth / Fodder for the denizens of risen, hissing Hell”).

It’s not a true Cradle of Filth release without a ghoulish song about vampires, and in Hammer Of The Witches that comes to light (or darkness) in The Vampyre At My Side, an old school Cradle of Filth tune where you can feel the music rising to its climax amidst rawer moments in which the guitar riffs get thrashier than usual. Do I need to say anything about yet another excellent performance by Dani and Marthus? Anyway, the organ intro in the next song, Onward Christian Soldiers, generates a somber atmosphere perfect for the dense and violent exhibit of modern Extreme Metal that follows. This is one of the best tracks of the album (if not the best), a stunning epic composition with lots of variations where its riffs remind me of some of their songs from the brilliant Dusk… and Her Embrace. And finally, Blooding The Hounds Of Hell is a more-than-suitable symphonic outro to close all the stories told throughout the album, transpiring sorrow and darkness.

You can choose your version of the album at the Nuclear Blast webstore, but if I were you I would definitely purchase one of the special editions that come with two bonus tracks, King Of The Woods and Misericord, as they’re both savage and erotic. Based on the magnificent witchcraft found in Hammer Of The Witches, it looks like the metallic coven instituted by Cradle of Filth, who are in their best shape of the past few years, will keep haunting our world with their thrilling music for many years to come.

Best moments of the album: Yours Immortally…, Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych, The Vampyre At My Side and Onward Christian Soldiers.

Worst moments of the album: Enshrined in Crematoria.

Released in 2015 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Walpurgis Eve 1:29
2. Yours Immortally… 6:00
3. Enshrined In Crematoria 5:46
4. Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring The Goddess 6:59
5. Blackest Magick In Practice 6:50
6. The Monstrous Sabbat (Summoning The Coven) 1:51
7. Hammer Of The Witches 6:28
8. Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych 5:54
9. The Vampyre At My Side 5:45
10. Onward Christian Soldiers 6:59
11. Blooding The Hounds Of Hell 2:10

Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
12. King Of The Woods 6:17
13. Misericord 6:19

Band members
Dani Filth – lead vocals
Richard Shaw – guitars
Marek “Ashok” Šmerda – guitars
Daniel Firth – bass
Lindsay Schoolcraft – female vocals, keyboards
Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka – drums

Album Review – Velaverante / My Dark Images EP (2015)

Try listening to the Symphonic Gothic Metal by this up-and-coming Russian band with your eyes blindfolded. You will love the experience.

Rating4

My_Dark_Images_coverIn case you don’t know (well, I’m pretty sure you don’t, and there’s nothing wrong with that), the Latin word “velaverunt” means “blindfolded”. For instance, you can find that word in the Bible, like in Lucas 22:64, “et velaverunt eum et percutiebant faciem eius et interrogabant eum dicentes prophetiza quis est qui te percussit?”, which in English means “and when they had blindfolded him, and smote him on the face, and asked him, saying: Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?” However, from now on Velaverante also means high-quality Symphonic Gothic Metal brought forth by this passionate band from the city of Kirov, Russia, located around 950km from the capital Moscow.

And when you listen to their debut EP, the excellent My Dark Images, you’ll perfectly understand why I’m saying that about Velaverante. For a top to bottom independent band, the attention they paid to all details, including the sound production and mixing, their outfits and the album art, is truly remarkable. Even minor details like the blindfolds that appear on the artwork of My Dark Images and on some of their promotional pictures prove how much they care about their creation, and of course, that’s beyond good for everyone who takes a listen at Velaverante.

velaveranteThat high level of professionalism is latent in the first track of the EP, Too Late, where the band offers the listener a very symphonic sounding similar to what Nightwish and Epica have mastered doing, but with the melancholic atmosphere found in Black and Doom Metal. The keyboards by Max Seleznyov and the robust operatic vocals by Anna Egorova keep the music ominous and dark, whilst drummer Irina Kropotova and guitarist Gleb Uraev seem more inspired by old school Gothic Metal the likes of Tristania. The second track, Insomnia, begins as obscure as the previous one, once again showcasing a superb performance by Anna on vocals, especially during the song’s captivating chorus. It’s unquestionably a beautiful Gothic Metal tune for fans of the dark side of music.

In my humble opinion, the best of the four tracks is Jailed, where a smooth piano intro is suddenly surrounded by the band’s strong and mournful notes, with highlights to all the emotion found on vocals (yet again with an awesome chorus). Not only that, its somber rhythm is as amazing as the biggest dark classics from Norwegian and British Gothic music, with Max boosting the band’s energy with his keyboard notes. And lastly, we have the most symphonic of all tracks, Chained No More, with deeper riffs and stronger beats, almost like a Metal Opera mainly due to the vocal performance by Anna blended with interesting medieval/epic notes.

Unfortunately, My Dark Images has only 15 minutes of music, making us eager for more of their music in the form of a possible full-length album in a not-so-distant future. In the meantime, let’s all go check their Facebook page, VK profile, YouTube channel (where you can find some excellent live videos by the band), and more important than all that, listen to their profound and skillfully engendered music on their official SoundCloud page. And if you have the guts to appreciate My Dark Images blindfolded, amplifying your sense of hearing to a whole new level, do not think twice and just go do it.

Best moments of the album: Jailed.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Independent

Track listing
1. Too Late 4:20
2. Insomnia 3:10
3. Jailed 4:18
4. Chained No More 3:34

Band members
Anna Egorova – vocals
Gleb Uraev – guitar
Oleg Starikov – bass
Max Seleznyov – keyboards
Irina Kropotova – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Vibeke Stene

vibeke01

You make my tired heart sing, Vibeke…

I guess I don’t need to say that lots and lots of Gothic/Doom Metal fans got extremely excited back in June 2013, when our metal chick this month announced through her official Facebook page that she was finally coming out of her retirement to reignite her brilliant music career in Heavy Metal. I’m talking about one of the most beloved female singers of all time in heavy music, Norwegian soprano Vibeke Stene, known for her unparalleled contribution to making Norwegian Symphonic Gothic Metal band Tristania a true reference in Gothic Metal history.

Daughter of Steinar Stene and Sissel Bø Stene, Vibeke was born on August 17, 1978, in the municipality of Sokndal in Rogaland county, Norway, about 450km from the capital Oslo. Her personal life and her career seem to walk hand in hand, becoming even the same entity sometimes, as she’s been fully involved with music and singing since she was a little girl. For instance, at the age of three, our diva already performed for people that were not part of her family, evidencing how much she loved music and starting to build her successful career as a singer.

It was at the age of thirteen, when she started taking singing lessons after she moved to Stavanger (about 100km from Sokndal), that she got interested in classical singing, taking lessons until the age of 23 in order to become her own teacher. By the way, not only Vibeke is the owner of a unique vocal range and an incredible charisma when she’s performing live, but she also became a teacher, studying music and giving singing lessons in Stavanger, Kristiansand and Oslo.

In regards to her professional career as a singer, it’s more than obvious that she left her deepest mark and became a huge heavy music idol during her years with Tristania, which was actually the very first band she joined in her life. Speaking of which, when she was 18 years old Vibeke was invited to join Tristania after attending a live concert of the band, and although she was initially supposed to be only a guest musician in their first demo, she ended up becoming a permanent member due to her incredible performance. The other members of Tristania mentioned in some interviews that Vibeke wasn’t into Gothic Metal before joining the band, but a lot more into Classic Rock and Heavy Metal, which of course didn’t prevent her at all from perfectly blending her voice with the band’s musicality. Furthermore, her performances with Tristania were so good and so powerful it’s quite impossible not to associate the band with her name even today, and it’s hard to imagine Vibeke singing in a band that’s not Gothic or Doom Metal.

Her awesome career as Tristania’s female singer includes the demo Tristania (1997), the full-length albums Widow’s Weeds (1998), Beyond the Veil (1999), World of Glass (2001), Ashes (2005) and Illumination (2007), as well as the singles Angina (1999) and Sanguine Sky (2007), two live albums, two compilations and three music videos, including the eerie official video for the excellent song Libre and the more than pleasant Equilibrium (which can be seen at the end of this text). All those albums are really good and sound very professional, but in my humble opinion the best one by far is Widow’s Weeds, where Vibeke’s smooth voice and Morten Veland’s harsh vocals, together with a very melancholic and obscure sonority, make this album a must-have in the collection of any fan of high-quality music. Songs like Evenfall, Pale Enchantress and My Lost Lenore are those things that deserve to be included in the “never before, never again” music category.

Vibeke and Tristania always had an outstanding live performance together. For instance, they were the headliners of the 4th edition of the Metal Female Voices Fest, which happened in Wieze, Belgium, in 2006, where they shared the stage with other great bands such as Theatre of Tragedy, Delain and Xandria. I had the pleasure to see them live twice with the goddess Vibeke on vocals during their World of Glass tour in January 2002, and in March 2005 during their Ashes tour, and in both occasions it was impossible not to be impressed by her voice and moves during the entire concert.

Unfortunately for all the fans of Tristania, Vibeke left the band in February 2007 first to finish her university degree, and also because she didn’t like the music direction the band was taking. And despite all the rumors about her replacing the one and only Tarja Turunen when she left Symphonic Power Metal band Nightwish, as both left their former bands almost at the same time, Vibeke was the first one to publicly confirm she was not going to be the new singer for Nightwish nor would ever be. However, we can say Tristania was not the only band in Vibeke’s life: she was also a guest vocalist in three tracks (In the Realm of the Midnight Sun, My Dark Reflections of Life and Death and Under Eternal Stars) from the 2000 album Journey to the End of the Night,  by Norwegian Gothic Metal band Green Carnation; guest vocalist in the interesting song Suspended Time, from the 2007 album Solar Soul by Swiss Industrial Metal band Samael; and more recently, Norwegian Electronic band Plutho released the song Queen of Broken Hearts, from their 2011 album Bob, You Don’t Wanna Go There!, which features Vibeke’s guest vocals. However, according to the group, this was recorded back in 1999, which means Vibeke was still officially “retired” when the song was released.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Although Vibeke still owes all her loyal and passionate fans her once promised solo album, at least we’re glad she’s back to the world of heavy music with her unique voice in the Extreme Metal project God of Atheists, by Norwegian musician Asgeir Mickelson, including musicians from Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Zyklon, among others. This project is still in the making, but should be available sometime in the second half of 2015. In addition, we’ll also be able to see her acting really soon, as she’s making her theatre debut on stage at Kilden in Kristiansand in October, playing the title role in a play entitled “Skammens Gissel” (or “Hostage of Shame” in English).

Vibeke has mentioned more than once that her biggest influences in music do not only come from the bands and artists she enjoys listening to, but also from all the people she’s been doing music together with since the beginning of her career. Besides that, among some of the greatest voices in her own opinion, we have many exceptional artists such as American diva Tori Amos, Icelandic singer and actress Björk, the unparalleled English “chameleon” David Bowie, American singer Tom Waits and American avant-garde artist Diamanda Galás. Our Gothic Metal countess also said in her interviews that she’s extremely critical to whatever she’s doing and she’s never satisfied if the final result is not the best she can provide, and I believe this is something we can always expect from Vibeke due to her strong character and all the perfectionism that emanates from her it doesn’t matter which band or project she’s involved with.

Talking about her personal life, our beautiful soprano loves doing what pretty much every normal person does too, which includes reading a book, travelling, spending time with her family and friends, and enjoying a good beer. Nonetheless, despite loving doing opera, mainly because she can sing and act at the same time, she said she just hates listening to it in her free time. Maybe that’s because while she’s listening to opera that means she’s not singing. Add to that her perfectionism, and it ends up making total sense: who can offer us a better operatic performance onstage than Vibeke, right?

If you’re one of those people who have always thought Vibeke had dark brown or black hair, you might be surprised to know that she’s actually a natural blond. She has however dyed her hair throughout the years, probably because dark hair has more to do with Gothic and Extreme Metal, and also because it looks like almost all blond Scandinavian girls simply love to have black hair. Finally, just as a complement to her personal profile, Vibeke is already a mother of two: she had a son in the summer of 2007, and a daughter a few years later. It’s still too early to know if both kids will follow their mother’s steps in life, but if they inherit at least 1% of her talent and charisma we can rest assured Norway will keep providing the world some dark and melancholic high-end heavy music.

Vibeke Stene’s Official Facebook page
God of Atheists’ Official Facebook page

“To sing is to be able to use and take control of your whole body to make the right sound, and not only one kind of sound, to dare to use all your weird thoughts and be able to tell something while you are singing. It’s art.” – Vibeke Stene