Album Review – From Hell / Rats & Ravens (2020)

Are you ready for an excellent album of Horror Metal set in mid-13th Century Eastern Europe that weaves an eerie and epic tale of witchery?

Labeling themselves as a Horror Metal concept band in which each recording is intended to be its own horror story, San Francisco, California-based Thrash/Death Metal act From Hell are unleashing upon humanity the second chapter in their horror anthology since their inception in 2010, the dark and sinister Rats & Ravens, an album set in mid-13th Century Eastern Europe that weaves an eerie and epic tale of witchery throughout its ten original tracks. Produced by Greg Wilkinson (High on Fire, Necrot, Autopsy) and mastered by Maor Appelbaum (Faith No More, Annihilator, Cynic), Rats & Ravens is not only the natural follow-up to their 2014 effort Ascent From Hell, but an evolutionary step in the career of the quartet currently comprised of the band’s mastermind and founder Aleister Sinn (also known as George Anderson) on vocals and guitar, Steve Smyth also on the guitar, Stephen Paul Goodwin on bass and Wes Anderson on drums. “The story is about a witch who desires children of her own and steals them from the villages nearby,” Aleister explains. “When she kills them, she traps the ravens who come for their souls. She keeps the children on this earth, reanimates their corpses with rats and calls them ‘Lilium.’”

Right after a short and sinister intro entitled Dark Heart, From Hell come crushing in the modern-day Thrash Metal tune They Come At Night, with its dark lyrics being manically vociferated by Aleister (“Running through the forest as daylight starts to dim / Following close behind I hear them closing in / Demons of the forest. Spirits in the wind. / Whispering in the darkness. Whispering, ‘She comes again!’”) while Stephen brings the groove with his wicked bass, followed by Lilium, a song about the proclamations from the witch as to what she has done, where the band blasts a thunderous fusion of Thrash and Groove Metal the likes of Lamb of God and Overkill, and with Aleister and Steve being merciless with their venomous riffs. And after a brilliant drum intro by Wes it’s time to slam into the pit together with From Hell in the infernal The Witch, an old school thrashing extravaganza showcasing fulminating riffs and rumbling bass punches, or in other words, the whole package diehard fans of the genre are always searching for.

Venturing through darker and more demonic lands, From Hell brings to our ears a mid-tempo, spine-chilling tune titled Don’t Cry For Help, led by the rhythmic beats by Wes while the band’s guitar duo kicks some serious ass with their riffs and solos; whereas Three And Nine is a ritualistic Thrash and Groove Metal chant where the entire band makes the skies darker and the fires form the netherworld stronger and brighter with their refined techniques, therefore keeping the level of horror in the album extremely high, and with Wes once again smashing his drums in great fashion from start to finish. Then in Forest Of The Screaming Trees a sinister, uncanny background is gradually accompanied by acoustic guitars before all hell breaks loose, morphing into a movie score-inspired Thrash Metal beast where Aleister, Steve and Stephen are in absolute sync with their hellish strings.

In the excellent Room For One those four metallers deliver a classic thrashing riffage together with vicious, pounding beats, generating the perfect ambience for Aleister and his high-pitched, devilish roars and, as a result, living up to the legacy of bands like Exodus and Testament. It’s a true headbanger, I might say, and it’s time to put the pedal to the metal and blast our ears and skulls with the frantic Body Rats, a classic Thrash Metal composition for the masses where Aleister leads his horde with his inhumane screeches while Stephen and Wes keep the earth trembling with their respective weapons. Lastly, there’s nothing better than a straightforward, in-your-face thrashing tune with some good amount of shredding, soaring screams and intricate beats like Am I Dead to properly close the album, with Wes being once again insane on drums, providing his bandmates all they need to darken our hearts and souls in the album’s climatic finale.

If you’re a fan of horror movies and at the same time a longtime admirer of Thrash and Death Metal, I highly recommend you go grab a copy of Rats & Ravens either by clicking HERE (where you can also stream it in full on Spotify) or by visiting the Scourge Records webstore, and don’t forget to follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram for an additional share of horror, blood and mystery by keeping up to date with their news, releases and tour dates. From Hell did a fantastic job uniting their scorching metal music with witchcraft in Rats & Ravens, an album that doesn’t get tiresome nor bland at any given moment; quite the contrary, this is how heavy music should always sound. Heavy, dark, intricate and, above all that, absolutely evil.

Best moments of the album: Lilium, The Witch and Room For One.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Scourge Records

Track listing
1. Dark Heart 0:54
2. They Come At Night 5:49
3. Lilium 4:16
4. The Witch 5:50
5. Don’t Cry For Help 5:43
6. Three And Nine 5:29
7. Forest Of The Screaming Trees 5:49
8. Room For One 5:38
9. Body Rats 8:42
10. Am I Dead 6:56

Band members
Aleister Sinn – vocals, lead guitar
Steve Smyth – lead guitar
Stephen Paul Goodwin – bass guitar
Wes Anderson – drums

Album Review – Vampiric / The Magic of the Night (2019)

An insatiable lust for blood and passion for the night will grow inside you to the sound of the debut album by this American Symphonic Black and Thrash Metal one-man army.

My dear creatures of the night, it’s time to join a Symphonic Black/Thrash Metal one-man army formed in 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States that goes by the straightforward name of Vampiric in his quest for blood with the released of his debut full-length opus The Magic of the Night, offering us all nine original songs that exhale darkness and the sweet smell of fresh blood. As a matter of fact, the true beginnings of Vampiric can be traced back to 2008, when the band’s mastermind, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Nik Williams started writing music and recording demos at the young age of 14, eventually forming a full-bodied band and opening for renowned acts like Mayhem, Abigail Williams and Keep of Kalessin. This live lineup disbanded after a while, but Nik kept experimenting with music until the release of his debut EP Death Tore Through, in 2018, ranging from the project’s core Black and Thrash Metal to distinguished styles like Gothic, punk and classical, further developing all that depth and diversity this year with his newborn spawn The Magic of the Night.

The Cradle of Filth-inspired riffs and keys by Nik kick off the phantasmagorical opening track A Death in the Throne Room, an old school Extreme Metal tune reeking aggressiveness, madness and obscurity; and his slashing guitars keep dictating the rhythm in the faster and more exciting Vampire Blood, where not only we’re treated to poetic lyrics (“I wake from a deathlike slumber / And gaze at the harvest moon in the night sky / Bloodlust, the children of the night sing / As I fly above the land of broken hearts”), but once again Nik generates a cryptic paradox between his atmospheric keys and enraged growls. And if you’re still hungry for human flesh it’s time for over six minutes of pitch black darkness and blood in The Full Moon Rising, with his keys sounding as strident and piercing as usual, while at the same time he kicks ass on drums, resulting in sheer adrenaline in the form of Symphonic Black Metal that sounds and feels hypnotizing and ritualistic form start to finish.

Adding the frantic riffage of Thrash Metal and the complexity of Progressive Metal to his core obscurity, Nik delivers Gothic, This Masquerade, a true masquerade ball feeling like two or three songs in one where our dauntless one-man band goes full thrasher on vocals, reminding me of Exodus original singer Paul Baloff (R.I.P.) at times. Of Bloodlust and the Moon is another display of bestiality and insanity the likes of Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir and Marduk where Nik’s raspy gnarls and scorching riffs steal the spotlight, and with its last piece being an instrumental shredding extravaganza for our total delight; followed by Nosferatu, filling the airwaves with three minutes of an intense feast of Thrash and Black Metal by Vampiric where the guitars breathe fire while drums are played with tons of violence and rage, all spiced up by Nik’s demonic vociferations.

Then pounding his drums manically Nik offers another circle pit-catalyst entitled The Witch, with its heavier-than-hell riffs being perfectly complemented by somber and piercing background sounds, leaning towards classic Blackened Thrash Metal. And besides, songs about witches are always very enjoyable and fun to listen to, don’t you think? In Carpathian Lycan Curse our talented musician puts the pedal to the metal in a hurricane of cryptic keys and berserk shredding, also presenting elements from bands like Slayer and Misfits added to his traditional sonority, while its catchy chorus is an ode to all wolf-men of the world (“Carpathian lycan curse / Condemned to darkness and blood thirst / Carpathian full moon curse / The wolfs bane blooms to my return”). Lastly, closing the album we have the 11-minute aria of darkness titled The Magic of the Night, living up to the legacy of the emperors of long and intricate extreme music compositions such as Cradle of Filth and their infamous Bathory Aria. Nik does an amazing job throughout the entire song, elevating the electricity of all instruments to new heights and also making the whole ambience absolutely enfolding and Stygian until the very last second.

If you’re more than eager to join Nik’s Symphonic Black and Thrash Metal coven, simply go check what he’s up to on Facebook, and don’t forget to purchase your copy of The Magic of the Night directly from his own BandCamp page. After listening to such well-crafted, aggressive and melodic album of extreme music, you better be prepared to feel an insatiable lust for blood growing inside you, dragging you into an endless night and keeping you away from sunlight for all eternity. Well, in the end, who doesn’t want to be an immortal, bloodthirsty creature of the night, always accompanied by a good dosage of metal music, right?

Best moments of the album: The Full Moon Rising, Nosferatu and The Witch.

Worst moments of the album: A Death in the Throne Room.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. A Death in the Throne Room 6:27
2. Vampire Blood 3:33
3. The Full Moon Rising 6:16
4. Gothic, This Masquerade 7:22
5. Of Bloodlust and the Moon 4:20
6. Nosferatu 3:06
7. The Witch 4:40
8. Carpathian Lycan Curse 6:40
9. The Magic of the Night 10:53

Band members
Nik Williams – vocals, all instruments

Album Review – Necronomicon / UNUS (2019)

Canadian powerhouses of Blackened Death Metal return with the heaviest, most obscure and most infernal opus of their undisputed 30-plus-year career.

The gates to the underworld are open once again for another onslaught of Canadian Blackened Death Metal, courtesy of the most demonic and ancient horde hailing from the city of Montreal, the one and only infernal beast Necronomicon, and you better get ready for the searing cacophony of blistering riffs, machine-like drums and a symphonic ambiance found in their brand new album, titled UNUS, the Latin word for “one”. And the band founded by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Rob “The Witch” Tremblay back in the distant year of 1988 sounds better than ever in their newborn spawn, proving why Necronomicon have been on the road for such a long period of time and, more important than that, continuously producing high-quality metal that’s just as dark and brutal as it is elegant.

Recorded at Silver Wings Studio, mixed and mastered at Darth Mader Music, and featuring a grim cover art and layout by German artist Totleben (Metal Artworks), UNUS, the crushing and cinematic follow up to the band’s 2016 opus Advent of the Human God, flawlessly combines the most infuriated elements of Death Metal with the orchestral prowess of Black Metal, creating the perfect synthesis of both genres and being highly recommended for fans of the music by Dimmu Borgir, Septicflesh, Behemoth and Deicide. Accompanied by newcomer Divider on drums, Rob takes care of all vocal duties, guitars and bass on the album, which therefore creates a very powerful and honest connection between the band’s mastermind and the music found in his new album, also showcasing all his refined skills and passion for dark music.

And Rob begins his onrush of violence and darkness in From Ashes into Flesh, featuring cryptic, phantasmagorical piano notes by guest musician Geirlioz. From the very first second we can witness how sensational Divider is on drums, setting fire to the music with his hellish beats. Put differently, what a bestial display of Symphonic Black Metal to kick off the album, with that devilish aura going on in  Infinitum Continuum, where the slashing riffs by Rob dictate the rhythm while his vocals sound a lot more Death Metal than ever, bringing an extra dosage of rage to the music. Its flammable musicality is beyond perfect for slamming into the circle pit, not to mention Rob’s incendiary guitar solo, elevating the overall quality of the album to new heights. Then it’s time for Divider to crush our skulls with his rumbling drums in Paradise Lost, a lesson in Blackened Death Metal by Necronomicon, sounding as dense and obscure as it can be and with Rob growling and roaring like a true creature from the netherworld.

The cinematic instrumental bridge The Price of a Soul sets the stage for Rob and Divider to explode our senses in the fulminating Singularis Dominus, a grandiose display of Black and Death Metal showcasing nonstop blast beats, electrifying riffs and deep, harsh growls. Put differently, it can’t get any better than this, with all that devastation being embraced by an epic aura generated by the song’s  background keys and choir, flowing like an arrow on fire in pitch black darkness until its thunderous finale. And a mesmerizing intro evolves into an Arabian nightmare entitled The Thousand Masks, with its keys bringing an extra dosage of epicness to the overall musicality, while Rob is on fire with his demonic growls and Divider keeps smashing our skulls with his blast beats.

Arising from the underworld like a fiendish entity, Necronomicon blend the aggressiveness of their trademark Blackened Death Metal with the obscurity of Blackened Doom in Ascending The Throne of Baator, feeling utterly sluggish and disturbing from start to finish and with the strident sound of its guitars being perfect for haunting your damned soul during your sleepless nights. Fhtagn is another atmospheric instrumental piece emerging from the crypts of Hades, preparing the listener for the devastating anthem Cursed MMXIX, a thrash-death-black spawn that will rip your heart out and feed it to the demons, with Rob delivering sheer darkness through his Death and Black Metal riffs and monstrous guttural vocals, resulting in what’s by far one of the heaviest and most frantic of all songs of the album. And Vox Draconis, the last song in UNUS, is just as brutal and exhilarating than its predecessors, bringing forward insanely sharp and heavy guitar solos by Rob supported by Divider’s rhythmic and precise drumming. What an epic and thunderous ending fur such grandiose album of Extreme Metal, I might say, leaving us completely disoriented and eager for more of Necronomicon’s music in a not-so-distant future.

You can get a very good sense of how somber and powerful the music found in UNUS is by listening to the full album on YouTube or on Spotify, but of course if I were you I would definitely purchase one of the best underground albums of 2019 from Necronomicon’s own BandCamp page, from the Season of Mist webstore, from the Napalm Records webstore, or from several other locations such as the FYE webstore, Waterloo Records, Apple Music or Amazon. Rob and his horde really stepped up their game in their 2016 opus Advent of the Human God, sounding extremely focused and professional back then, but there’s something about UNUS, which is by the way the “666th” album in their career,  that makes it absolutely addictive and evil, just like the fictional grimoire from H. P. Lovecraft’s horror stories that gives the band its classy name. It might be its absurd level of darkness and rage, its frantic speed, its epicness or everything at once. What really matters is that Necronomicon kicks ass in UNUS, cementing their name as one of the powerhouses of Canadian extreme music and, therefore, positioning them as the true leaders of extreme music in Canada hands down.

Best moments of the album: Infinitum Continuum, Singularis Dominus, The Thousand Masks and Cursed MMXIX.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Season of Mist

Track listing
1. From Ashes into Flesh 4:23
2. Infinitum Continuum 5:27
3. Paradise Lost 4:55
4. The Price of a Soul 1:56
5. Singularis Dominus 4:50
6. The Thousand Masks 3:20
7. Ascending The Throne of Baator 4:54
8. Fhtagn 1:59
9. Cursed MMXIX 4:13
10. Vox Draconis 4:13

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

Guest musician
Geirlioz – piano on “From Ashes into Flesh”

Album Review – Lordi / Monstereophonic (Theaterror vs. Demonarchy) (2016)

This Halloween let’s all eat, drink, be scary and listen to another kick-ass Rock N’ Roll party brought forth by the most awesome horde of hair-raising monsters in the universe.

Rating4

lordi-monstereophonicOnce again it’s Halloween, or All Hallows’ Evening as many people prefer, a day dedicated to remembering the dead and to many distinct activities such as trick-or-treating, attending costume parties and carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, and there’s nothing better to set fire to that amazing celebration than the top-notch Hard Rock and Heavy Metal played by the most awesome horde of scary monsters in the universe, Finnish icons Lordi. With that said, put on your most spine-chilling costume, grab some chocolate (or beer) and head to the nearest Halloween party blowing your speakers to the music by Mr. Lordi and his (were)wolfpack, who are back with another excellent release entitled Monstereophonic (Theaterror vs. Demonarchy), the eighth studio album in their solid career.

And let me tell you that Monstereophonic (Theaterror vs. Demonarchy) is different from everything these guys have done since their inception back in 1992, with the album being divided in two distinct parts. While the first half of the album (Theaterror) showcases their classic Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, the second half of the album (Demonarchy) is conceptual and includes 6 or more minute songs that sound a lot heavier than what we’re used to, talking about the unholy gathering of The Undead Son, The Bloodsucking Count, The She-Wolf and The Witch, and their story with a little girl named Lizzy. The band also announced that their new costumes would be split in half, representing the two sides of the album. The overall production of the album is outstanding as usual, enhancing the experience of listening to our beloved monstrosities transforming the fusion of fear, love and electricity into old school heavy music.

In THEATERROR, we’re treated to one of those wicked intros by Lordi, entitled SCG8: One Message Waiting, this time with a freak named Ruiz threatening a woman from right outside her house, before the band kicks off Let’s Go Slaughter He-Man (I Wanna Be the Beast-Man in the Masters of the Universe), showcasing that great Hard Rock from the 80’s with the crisp keyboards by Hella adding an extra touch of nostalgia to the song. Moreover, as cheesy as the song and its lyrics might sound, it ends up working extremely well, being fun and energetic in its entirety. Besides, who doesn’t want to see He-Man dead, right? Anyway, Hug You Hardcore is another mid-tempo classic composition displaying a fantastic main riff by Mr. Lordi’s right-hand man Amen (just don’t ask me to talk about the lyrics), whereas Down with the Devil can be considered a newborn Hard Rock hymn, from its hellish riffs and keyboards to its spooky lyrics (“They say the devil dressed me / They hear him speak when I speak / They say I’m lost and damned / But I know damn well just where I am”). It’s a mandatory choice for the soundtrack to the most awesome Halloween party you can think of (and the best song of the album in my opinion), with its catchier-than-hell chorus getting even more awesome due to the song’s classy backing vocals.

Slowing down and getting more obscure, Mary Is Dead tells the sad story of how the death of a woman was kept a secret by her lover (who was also her killer, by the way), with Hella kicking ass with her melancholic notes while Mana delivers his precise doomed beats; followed by Sick Flick, another old school Lordi chant offered to the listener.  The band makes a statement that the Rock N’ Roll party is just starting through the song’s upbeat rhythm and the excellent riffs and solos blasted by Amen. Once again we face cheesy lyrics inspired by classic Hard Rock from the 80’s with a horror movie twist, and once again that works perfectly. And the end of Theaterror couldn’t sound more Lordi than None for One, bringing forward all the elements we expect in their music. Furthermore, Lordi’s kitchen architects Ox, Mana and Hella craft such an inspiring ambience with their instruments it’s impossible to stand still to the beat of the song.

lordi-2016An eerie intro named SCG VIII: Opening Scene informs the listener the second part of the album, the conceptual DEMONARCHY, is about to begin, and it’s time for some brutal Heavy Metal with Demonarchy, with Mana pounding his drums while Amen is on fire with his riffs. This is by far the most aggressive composition of the whole album, a sensational display of what Mr. Lordi and his crew can do when they get truly heavy with the creepy keyboards by the sexy doll Hella embellishing the overall result even more. A lot more melodious, the slow-paced The Unholy Gathering continues from where the previous song stopped in the storyline, and when they speed up the musicality it becomes a heavy music extravaganza with highlights to the potent vocals by Mr. Lordi and the spooky notes by Hella. And it looks like the second half of the album is indeed dedicated to much heavier and darker material based on what the band delivers in Heaven Sent Hell on Earth, one of those headbanging badass compositions with a gripping story in the background and a chorus that is yet again a beautiful option to sing along with the band.

The final triumvirate of Hard Rock blasted by Lordi is pure awesomeness, starting with And the Zombie Says, a first-class Heavy Metal tune with brilliant guitar lines and keyboards, not to mention the thunderous drums by Mana and the song’s beautiful chorus. It’s a nonstop action-packed song that transpires adrenaline until its very last second, with Mr. Lordi providing an amazing performance on vocals as usual.  In the neck-breaking chant Break of Dawn, another song to scream the chorus together with Mr. Lordi and a song also played to perfection by all band members, Amen kicks some serious ass with his sharp riffs. And last but not least, The Night the Monsters Died is the perfect climatic ending to the story being told and to the whole album, full of breaks and soulful passages and solos, and having as its main element a more-than-addictive chorus (“It’s the morning after the night / The night the monsters died / Don’t have to be afraid / Cause we’re already dead / It’s the morning after the night / The night the monsters died / We’ll never say goodbye / For the final time”). Put differently, this is a full-bodied composition that will put a smile on the face of everyone that listens to it, no matter how angry or sad that person might be.

There’s that Halloween quote by an unknown author that says we should all “eat, drink and be scary”, but after listening to such an entertaining album of kick-ass melodic old school Hard Rock and Heavy Metal I guess we need to change the saying to something like “eat, drink, be scary and listen to Lordi”. It’s insanely hard for a band to top a once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece like The Arockalypse, but Mr. Lordi and his living-dead crew have been on a roll since their 2013 release To Beast or Not to Beast, constantly producing high-end material for the undead masses. Could it be the charming spell Hella put on Lordi when she joined the band back in 2012? Or has Mr. Lordi found a special full moon that fully recharges his monster power endlessly? Either way, it looks like it will need a lot more than just garlic, silver bullets, sunlight and any other known weapon to kill the music by this iconic herd of rockin’ monsters from Finland.

Best moments of the album: Down with the Devil, Demonarchy, And the Zombie Says and The Night the Monsters Died.

Worst moments of the album: The Unholy Gathering.

Released in 2016 AFM Records

Track listing
1. SCG8: One Message Waiting 1:10
2. Let’s Go Slaughter He-Man (I Wanna Be the Beast-Man in the Masters of the Universe) 4:30
3. Hug You Hardcore 3:40
4. Down with the Devil 4:29
5. Mary Is Dead 4:37
6. Sick Flick 4:00
7. None for One 4:15
8. SCG VIII: Opening Scene 1:22
9. Demonarchy 6:01
10. The Unholy Gathering 5:09
11. Heaven Sent Hell on Earth 5:43
12. And the Zombie Says 6:23
13. Break of Dawn 5:47
14. The Night the Monsters Died 7:13

Band members
Mr. Lordi – vocals
Amen – guitars
OX – bass
Hella – keyboards
Mana – drums